Tuesday, March 31, 2015

What the Frack Is Happening? Hailing the Major Activist Victories in the Anti-Fracking Movement

Published on Alternet (http://www.alternet.org)

What the Frack Is Happening? Hailing the Major Activist Victories in the Anti-Fracking Movement

By Reynard Loki [1] / AlterNet [2]

March 31, 2015

The nation's first federal regulations on fracking, unveiled [3] by the Obama administration last week, sparked immediate criticism from leading anti-fracking activists.

Americans Against Fracking, a coalition of 250 environmental and liberal groups that includes Greenpeace, 350.org [4], MoveOn.org, CREDO, Food & Water Watch, Rainforest Action Network and Friends of the Earth, issued a statement [5] characterizing the new rules—meant chiefly to reduce the threat of fracking-related water contamination—as "toothless."

Actor and activist Mark Ruffalo, who serves on the Americans Against Fracking advisory board, said that Obama's fracking regulations "are nothing more than a giveaway to the oil and gas industry." The group's goal is a complete fracking ban on federal land, where as many as 100,00 oil and gas wells have been drilled.

The new rules apply only to oil and gas drilling on federal lands, which represent about 25 percent of the national fossil fuel output and only some 10 percent of the nation's fracking. The rules don't apply to drilling on private or state-owned land. Currently, fracking occurs [6] in 22 states.

Since states are responsible for regulating most of the fracking in the U.S., the anti-fracking battlefield—a patchwork of communities around the nation taking a stand to protect their air, water and soil–is understandably a bit fractured. With that in mind, here's a brief look around the country at some recent fracktivist highlights at the state and local level.


February 6. Over 8,000 activists gathered in Oakland for the March for Real Climate Leadership [7], the largest anti-fracking demonstration in U.S. history.

February 24. Bolstered by an admission by California state regulators that oil companies are disposing toxic waste into protected aquifers in violation of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act, more than 150 [8] environmental and community groups filed a legal petition urging the governor to use his emergency powers to place a moratorium on fracking.

March 20. California state Senator Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) and other lawmakers sent a letter to Gov. Jerry Brown urging him to "stop [9] illegal injection into non-exempt aquifers" to protect the state's water from oil waste.


February 24. Coloradans Against Fracking activists crashed a state oil and gas task force meeting, launching [10] a campaign for a statewide fracking ban. "Our primary goal is to convince Governor Hickenlooper to ban fracking," said Karen Dike, a member of the new coalition. He can do that with an executive order."

March 18. WildEarth Guardians filed an appeal [11] to halt plans by the Bureau of Land Management to open up 36,000 acres of public lands along the Front Range of Colorado to fracking.
"Climate denial at the Interior Department is fueling a fracking rush on our public lands and undermining our nation's efforts to rein in carbon pollution," said Jeremy Nichols of WildEarth Guardians.


March 24. Maryland's House of Delegates passed a bill to ban [12] fracking for three years by a veto-proof 94 to 45. However, it's unclear whether HB 449 [13], currently under review in the state's Senate Committee on Education, Health and Environmental Affairs, has enough support in the Senate to become a law.

March 24. The Senate voted 29 to 17 in favor of a bill holding [14] energy companies financially liable for injury, death or property laws caused by their fracking activities.
Together these measures mark the legislature's most aggressive action to curb fracking in the state.

New Mexico

December 30. The BLM announced it was deferring [15] the issuance of five Navajo allotment parcels for fracking near Chaco Canyon, a World Heritage site, in response to a protest filed by a coalition of environmentalists and watchdog groups demanding a suspension of fracking on public lands in the northwest region of the state.

"Deferring these parcels was the right, and indeed, only legally defensible decision," said Kyle Tisdel, a program director for Western Environmental Law Center (WELC). "Necessary safeguards and analysis must be completed before any further leasing and development of the areas treasured landscapes can continue in compliance with the law."

March 11. A coalition of environmental groups including WELC, WildEarth Guardians and the Navajo organization Citizens Against Ruining Our Environment (Diné CARE) filed suit [16] against the BLM and the U.S. Department of the Interior to prevent fracking [16] from harming Chaco Canyon, the site of numerous ancestral Puebloan ruins and Navajo communities.

New York

December 17. About a month after his re-election, New York Governor [17] Andrew Cuomo imposed a statewide ban on fracking, citing health risks. The announcement made New York the second state in the country after Vermont to ban fracking. The decision, which ended years of debate in the Empire State, was by most accounts the biggest environmental story in the United States in 2014, and puts pressure on other states to consider similar bans.

"I've never had anyone say to me, I believe fracking is great," said Cuomo. "Not a single person in those communities. What I get is, I have no alternative but fracking."
Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund, called the move "a vindication [18] for communities around the country that have been hit hard by unconventional natural gas production."

North Carolina

March 17. On the first day natural gas drilling permits could have been legally accepted in North Carolina, a group of anti-fracking [19] state legislators called for a moratorium.
"We’ve been promised over the last five years that North Carolina would have the nation’s toughest fracking rules, and here we are at zero hour, and we do not have those rules," said Senator Mike Woodard (D-Durham). "The rules are simply insufficient for us to move forward with the issuing of permits."


March 18. In a rare moment of bipartisanship, Ohio's normally polarized House of Representatives voted unanimously to ban fracking [20] in state parks. While activists applauded the move, Ohio Sierra Club director Jen Miller said her group "will continue to work tirelessly to defend all state lands from industrial activities like fracking until they are set aside for generations to come, which starts with repealing bills like HB 133 [21] altogether."


March 12. The Oregon Community Rights Network (OCRN) launched a campaign to put a constitutional amendment on the November 2016 ballot that will affirm the right to local self-government in a move that would help anti-fracking activists in the state. If ratified, the amendment [22] would grant legal rights to communities and even natural environments that can be violated.

The initiative is joins a growing local-rights movement around the country that is frustrating oil and gas companies. Mary Geddry, a representative with OCRN, noted that more than 200 communities across the U.S. have passed ordinances protecting local rights. "Only nine have been challenged in court," she said.


January 29. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf fulfilled a campaign promise and signed an executive order reinstating a moratorium [23] on fracking in the state's public lands, protecting about a million acres that sit on the natural gas-rich Marcellus Shale formation.


December 25. Anti-fracking activist Cathy McMullen [24], who started the nonprofit Denton Drilling Awareness Group that launched a petition to enact a citywide fracking ban, was named a finalist for the 2014 Texan of the Year Award by Dallas Morning News. This followed an Election Day in which voters passed a ballot initiative making Denton, located near the birthplace of fracking, the first city [25] in Texas to pass a fracking ban.

March 23. Documentary filmmaker and Denton resident Garrett Graham released a new trailer for Don't Frack with Denton [26], his forthcoming film that tells the story of "how one tenacious Texas town managed to upstage the oil and gas industry with the power of music and community organizing."


March 18. WildEarth Guardians filed an appeal challenging [11] BLM's plan to auction off more than 15,000 acres of public land in southern Utah to fracking companies. A 2014 report by WildEarth Guardians found that the carbon emission [27] cost from oil and gas produced from public lands could exceed $50 billion.

Looking Ahead

While local fracking battles continue to rage around the nation, there has been interesting activity on the federal level, beyond the recent announcement from the White House.

House bill H.R. 5844 [28], the Protect Our Public Lands Act seeks to amend the Mineral Leasing Act to prohibit a lessee from conducting any activity under the lease for fracking purposes. It was introduced in early December by Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) during the last session of Congress and there are plans to reintroduce the bill in the current session.

On March 18, representatives Matt Cartwright (D-PA), Diana DeGette (D-CO), Chris Gibson (R-NY), Jared Polis (D-CO) and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) introduced the so-called Frack Pack [29], a set of five bills that aim to close loopholes in environmental laws that have been used by oil and gas companies to frack without proper oversight.

While state and local anti-fracking measures and federal bills to curb fracking have been making headlines, for fracktivists the big enchilada is a national ban.

"Communities that have already suffered from fracking, like Longmont, Colorado [30], are rising up to pass local bans," said Miranda Carter, a spokesperson at Food & Water Watch. "But we need to protect every community in the country by calling for a national ban [31] on fracking: to slow or stop the process where it's already happening, and elsewhere, to prevent it before it starts."

Report typos and corrections to 'corrections@alternet.org'. [32]
Source URL: http://www.alternet.org/fracking/what-frack-happening-hailing-major-activist-victories-anti-fracking-movement


[1] http://www.alternet.org/authors/reynard-loki
[2] http://alternet.org
[3] http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/21/us/politics/obama-administration-unveils-federal-fracking-regulations.html
[4] http://350.org
[5] http://www.americansagainstfracking.org/blog/mar-20-obama-admin-releases-toothless-fracking-rules-give-away-to-oil-and-gas-industry/
[6] http://insideclimatenews.org/news/20150120/map-fracking-boom-state-state
[7] http://www.contracostatimes.com/breaking-news/ci_27482290/thousands-march-and-rally-oakland-call-ban-fracking
[8] http://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/233947-greens-petition-california-to-ban-fracking
[9] http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/programs/public_lands/energy/dirty_energy_development/oil_and_gas/pdfs/Pavley_sign_on_ltr_to_Gov_Injec.pdf
[10] http://www.denverpost.com/environment/ci_27591553/colorado-anti-fracking-groups-launch-campaign-statewide-ban
[11] http://www.wildearthguardians.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=11357&news_iv_ctrl=1194#.VRUIg1xIC9o
[12] http://insideclimatenews.org/news/26032015/will-maryland-close-its-borders-fracking
[13] http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/2015RS/bills/hb/hb0449T.pdf
[14] http://www.environmentalhealthnews.org/t/8530597788433913555
[15] http://www.westernlaw.org/article/blm-defers-fracking-near-new-mexico%E2%80%99s-sacred-chaco-canyon-press-release-1615
[16] http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2015/03/12/groups-file-suit-protect-chaco-canyon-fracking-159576
[17] http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/18/nyregion/cuomo-to-ban-fracking-in-new-york-state-citing-health-risks.html
[18] http://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2014/12/22/new-york-has-outlawed-fracking-it-wont-be-the-last/
[19] http://www.wral.com/fracking-foes-call-for-pause/14520695/
[20] http://ecowatch.com/2015/03/19/no-fracking-ohio-state-parks/
[21] https://www.change.org/p/the-governor-of-oh-protect-ohio-s-state-parks-repeal-ohio-house-bill-133-and-153
[22] http://www.eugeneweekly.com/20150312/news-briefs/amendment-would-put-local-rights-local-hands
[23] http://articles.philly.com/2015-01-31/news/58629505_1_natural-gas-drilling-new-drilling-wolf
[24] http://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/texan-of-the-year/headlines/20141225-texan-of-the-year-finalist-anti-fracking-activist-cathy-mcmullen.ece
[25] http://ecowatch.com/2014/11/05/fracking-ban-passes/
[26] https://vimeo.com/122943445
[27] http://www.wildearthguardians.org/site/DocServer/2014-7-22_Interior_Climate_Costs_Report.pdf?docID=14222
[28] https://www.congress.gov/bill/113th-congress/house-bill/5844?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22pocan%22%5D%7D
[29] http://www.environmentamerica.org/news/ame/us-house-lawmakers-push-protect-families-frontline-fracking
[30] http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/04/us/heavyweight-response-to-local-fracking-bans.html
[31] http://act.foodandwaterwatch.org/site/MessageViewer?dlv_id=57269&em_id=36341.0
[32] mailto:corrections@alternet.org?Subject=Typo on What the Frack Is Happening? Hailing the Major Activist Victories in the Anti-Fracking Movement
[33] http://www.alternet.org/
[34] http://www.alternet.org/%2Bnew_src%2B

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

As Chaos in Yemen Continues, Air Strike Kills Dozens at Refugee Camp


Monday, March 30, 2015

As Chaos in Yemen Continues, Air Strike Kills Dozens at Refugee Camp

Roughly 500 new families had arrived in the camp over the last two days, escaping bombings in other parts of the country

Deirdre Fulton, staff writer

A displaced family at Al-Mazrak camp in northern Yemen. (Photo: UNHCR)

As a Saudi-led coalition continued to strike Houthi targets in Yemen for a fifth day, at least 45 people have been killed, and dozens more injured, in the northern part of the country after an air strike hit a camp for internally displaced people.

According to Middle East Eye, Al-Mazrak Camp is home to at least 17,000 people displaced by previous fighting between the Houthis and Yemeni government as well as more recent arrivals who have fled this week's attacks.

An International Organization for Migration spokesman said at least 65 people were injured in the bombing, which reportedly hit a medical facility in the camp and the camp management building.
Doctors Without Borders said Monday that roughly 500 new families arrived in the camp over the last two days, escaping bombings in the western area of Sa'dah.

"People in Al Mazraq camp have been living in very harsh conditions since 2009, and now they have suffered the consequences of an airstrike on the camp," said Pablo Marco, the Doctors Without Borders operational manager for Yemen. "We call all parties to spare civilians from violence, respect the neutrality of medical facilities and staff, and allow unhindered access to medical assistance for the wounded."

For updates on the unfolding situation, Common Dreams has curated a Twitter feed of trusted voices.

Tweets from https://twitter.com/commondreams/lists/trusted-voices-on-yemen

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Monday, March 30, 2015

Update on Annapolis legislation

Please see a summary update of the bills Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility has been working on this legislative session Thank you to everyone who has helped through your testimony and support. I'd like to give a special shout out of thanks to Gina, Sara, Al and Rachel.

I have also attached a letter we wrote to President Miller at the end of the week asking for his support in having the NOx bill released from the Rules Committee.

Bill tracking as of 3/29/15
Green = Still Active
Red = Not Active


Fracking Moratorium (HB449/SB409): This bill, as amended, would impose a three-year moratorium on fracking in Maryland to allow for further health studies. Prior to being amended, it provided for an eight-year moratorium.

Dr. Gina Angiola testified in support of the bill before the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee. CSPR submitted written testimony and organized a letter from over 120 health professionals in support of a moratorium.

This bill passed the House of Delegates. The Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee has not voted on the bill.

Fracking Chemical Disclosure and Studies (HB952): This bill would require companies to conduct health studies on the chemicals and chemical formulas used in fracking prior to their use, creates a state data base for that information, allows doctors and health professionals to access and share that information for professional purposes, and creates a compensation fund for those harmed by fracking.

Tim Whitehouse and Dr. Al Bartlett provided testimony in support of this bill before the House Committee on Environment and Transportation – with the caveat that CPSR supported this legislation in the event the General Assembly decides to allow fracking in Maryland. CPSR also submitted written comments.

There is a hold on this bill and will not come to a vote this year.

Bill to Address NOx emissions from Coal-fired Power Plants (HB1042/SB892): This bill would largely codify a regulation that Governor Hogan refused to publish, but that Governor O'Malley had signed prior to leaving office. This bill would require that all coal-fired power plants in Maryland install and operate Select Catalytic Reduction technology to reduce Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) pollution.

Both Dr. Sara Via and Dr. Al Bartlett testified in support of this bill before the House Environment and Transportation Committee and CPSR submitted written comments. Our lobbyist, Darrell Carrington, has been very involved in this bill.

SB892 is in Rules Committee and CPSR wrote asking President Miller for his support in releasing the bill from this Committee.

Cleaning up the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) (SB7060): This bill would limit the amount of combustible energy sources allowed in the RPS to 2013 levels. Under the current law, certain dirty energy, such as incineration and "black liquor," are considered renewable energy and can get subsidies.

This bill has not moved out of Rules Committee and therefore will not pass this year. There have been no hearings or opportunity for public comments.

Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) to 25% (HB 377/SB373): This bill, as amended, increases Maryland’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) to 25% by 2020. Prior to being amended, the bill would have required 40% renewables by 2025.

We signed on to testimony by the Maryland Climate Coalition. Hearings have been held. We also signed on to a coalition letter urging the leadership of the General Assembly to support this bill. Darrell has been working on this.

Hearings have been held in both the House and the Senate.

Community Solar (HB 1087/SB481): This bill would allow the Public Service Commission to establish a program on community shared solar energy generating systems.

We submitted written testimony
Passed the House of Delegates. Hearing in the Finance Committee – 4/2

Cumulative Impacts (HB987/SB693): This bill seeks to change the way we consider issuing air permits for new facilities in areas that are already overburdened by air pollution. This bill would require additional air monitoring by the industry, as well as an enhanced public participation process.

Chesapeake PSR submitted written comments and Rachel Abbott testified in support of the bill before the House Environment and Transportation Committee.

Hearings have been held in both the House and the Senate. The bill would have received an unfavorable recommendation from the House Environment and Transportation Committee, and thus has been withdrawn by the sponsor.


Pollinator Protection Act (SB163/HB 605): This bill places restrictions and labeling requirements on entities selling seeds, material, and plants that have been treated with a neonicotinoid pesticide.

Chesapeake PSR signed on to written testimony developed by the Maryland Pesticides Network in support of this legislation.

This bill will not be voted on this year. The House is forming a committee to look at the science.

Bill to Limit Pesticides Application of Child Care Facilities, Schools (HB995): This bill would prohibit a person from applying a lawn care pesticide on the grounds of any child care center, school, or recreation center, or on any other recreational field that is used by a child under the age of 18, unless an emergency application of a lawn care pesticide is necessary to eliminate an immediate threat to human health.

Dr. Dana Beyer testified in support of this legislation and we submitted written testimony.

The bill will not be considered this year.

Montgomery County Bill 52-14 - This bill would limit the use of certain pesticides on lawns that cause or are likely to cause cancer or are known endocrine disrupters.

Chesapeake PSR submitted written comments on this bill.

The Montgomery County Council is considering the bill. A work session is being held on March 30th.


Paid Medical and Sick Leave (SB40/HB385): This bill would require employers with more than 10 employees to provide paid medical leave for workers.

Chesapeake PSR will send out an action alert on 3/29/15 allowing members to contact representatives in support of this bill.

This bill will probably not move this session.

Reforms of Maryland Public Information Act (SB695/HB755):
This bill would address a number of issues related to fees, enforcement and exemptions to the Maryland Public Information Act. These reforms have been developed by a coalition civil liberties, press, health and environmental groups concerned about the lack of transparency in Maryland.

Chesapeake PSR signed on to joint testimony drafted by a coalition of groups and will send out an alert on 3/29/15 allowing members to contact representatives in support of this bill.

Unanimously passed the Senate and is being considered in Health and Government operations.

Tim Whitehouse
Executive Director
Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility
325 East 25th Street
Baltimore, MD 21218

TPP Opponents Mobilize as Powerful Forces Seek to Ram Through 'Fast Track' Trade Authority


Monday, March 30, 2015

TPP Opponents Mobilize as Powerful Forces Seek to Ram Through 'Fast Track' Trade Authority

Lawmakers in favor of the pro-corporate trade deals hope to vote on Fast Track legislation in mid-April
Deirdre Fulton, staff writer

Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. (Photo: Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg)

With Congress "dangerously close" to ramming through trade promotion authority, or Fast Track, by mid-April—in turn smoothing the way for passage of corporate-friendly trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership—lawmakers and activists are scrambling to sway key figures in the debate.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) reportedly said last week that he wants the Senate Finance Committee to approve a Fast Track bill "very quickly after we come back" from the Easter recess on April 13.

Committee chair Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who has been leading the effort to gather legislative support for Fast Track, suggested he was coming close to an agreement with the committee's ranking member, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

Wyden is seen as a crucial player in Fast Track negotiations, with the New York Times suggesting in early March that the fate of President Barack Obama's trade agenda "appears to rest on the narrow, somewhat wobbly shoulders of Mr. Wyden, a position acknowledged by both parties and the White House with some trepidation."

Meanwhile, House Ways and Means Committee chair Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) pointed to two upcoming events—a visit to Washington, D.C., in late April by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and a ministerial meeting of the 12 Trans-Pacific Partnership countries in May—as reasons to push full steam ahead with Fast Track.

"We've got exterior deadlines that I think we need to be mindful of," Ryan told reporters last week.

As Agri-Pulse reports:

Abe is scheduled to address a joint session of Congress, and it would be awkward for lawmakers if the TPA talks are stalled. Ryan brought up the Abe visit in discussing the TPA timeline with reporters, but he stopped short of promising to have a bill ready by then.

Aware that the window is swiftly closing, opponents continue to mobilize against the Fast Track authority that they fear would allow pro-industry trade deals like the TPP to sail through Congress without amendments.

According to The Hill, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) met last week with House Democrats "to discuss the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) process, one of the most controversial issues in two trade deals that the Obama administration is negotiating."

As Common Dreams reported Thursday, ISDS was at the center of last week's WikiLeaks revelations, which showed that if the secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership goes through as written, it will dramatically expand the power of corporations to use closed-door tribunals to challenge—and supersede—domestic laws protecting consumers, the environment, and public health.

"The meeting with Warren underscores the deep rift between the Democratic base and the administration on trade and highlights Warren's growing influence in the House among progressive members," writes The Hill journalist Kevin Cirilli.

One of those members, Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.), penned an op-ed published Monday in The Hill. In it, Sanchez declared: "Assessing what we know of the massive TPP only affirms what we’ve learned the hard way through past broken promises on trade pacts—it's a bad deal for American workers."

Of the debate over trade promotion authority, she continued:

Congress should not take, or cede, their responsibility lightly. The Trans-Pacific Partnership is too secretive and potentially too damaging to be rushed through Congress via "fast track" authority. Based on the past two decades of broken trade promises and "trust me" assurances from past presidents, our country can no longer take that chance.

Meanwhile, the internet activism group Fight for the Future on Monday parked a giant video screen near Capitol Hill highlighting Wyden's role in the Fast Track debate, calling on the senator to stand up for the internet protections and transparency by opposing "anti-democratic and outdated Fast Track legislation."

And a more local campaign is advancing in Seattle, where the city council will vote Monday night on a resolution expressing concern about the TPP and opposing Fast Track authority.

"Seattle's deep-rooted values in democracy and environmental sustainability, and its recognition of the urgent need to act on climate change, are inconsistent with Fast Tracking a massive trade agreement like the TPP," said Selden Prentice of 350 Seattle, one of more than 50 groups supporting the resolution. "We ask that the Seattle City Council stand behind its citizens and not behind the giant multinational corporations who negotiated this treaty outside of the public view."

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Fracking Town’s Desperate Laid-off Workers: ‘They Don’t Tell You It’s All a Lie’

Published on Alternet (http://www.alternet.org)

Fracking Town’s Desperate Laid-off Workers: ‘They Don’t Tell You It’s All a Lie’

By Evelyn Nieves [1] / AlterNet [2]

March 28, 2015

WILLISTON, N.D.—From the looks of it, the nation’s boomtown is still booming. Big rigs, cement mixers and oil tankers still clog streets built for lighter loads. The air still smells like diesel fuel and looks like a dust bowl— all that traffic — and natural gas flares, wasted byproducts of the oil wells, still glare out at the night sky like bonfires.

Not to mention that Walmart, still the main game in town, can’t seem to get a handle on its very long lines and half¬ empty shelves.

But life at the center of the country’s largest hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, boom has definitely changed. The jobs that brought thousands of recession¬-weary employment¬-seekers to this once peaceful corner of western North Dakota over the last five years have been drying up, even as the unemployed keep coming.

Downtown, clutches of men pass their time at the Salvation Army, watching movies or trolling Craigslist ads on desktop computers. The main branch of the public library is full, all day, every day, with unemployed men in cubbyholes. And when the Command Center, a private temporary jobs agency, opens every morning at 6am, between two and three dozen people are waiting to get in the door.
Some of these job seekers are sleeping in their trucks, in utility sheds, behind piles of garbage by the railroad tracks, wherever they can curl up.

Only a year ago, Williston’s shale oil explosion was still gushing jobs. From 2010 to 2014, thanks to the Bakken shale oil patch, it was the fastest growing small city in the nation. Williston nearly tripled in size, from 12,000 to 35,000 people. But the number of active rigs used to drill new wells in the Bakken dropped to 111 in March, the lowest number since April 2010, according to state figures. Low oil prices have prompted drilling to slow down, and companies big and small have been laying off workers and cutting hours.

City officials paint a rosy picture. They cite North Dakota Job Service reports that maintain there are 116 jobs in Williston for every 100 residents, point to North Dakota’s ranking among oil¬-producing states (number two, after Texas), call the oil production slowdown a blip and say the oil patch is still growing.

But the city’s job numbers do not match the reality on the ground. At the Command Center, oil jobs have dropped by 10 percent since last Fall, said Kyle Tennessen, the branch manager. Compounding the job shortage, laid-¬off oil workers were competing with others for construction jobs and everything else, Tennessen added.

Some migrants have already left, or are planning to, according to the local U¬Haul companies. They report fewer people renting vans and trucks to move into town and more laid¬-off workers renting vehicles to move out.

The rest are becoming Williston’s version of day laborers. They compete for low¬-paying jobs such as picking up trash, doing laundry and mopping floors, that make enough for them to eat, but not enough to afford a place to live. (The average one¬-bedroom apartment in Williston costs $2,395 a month.)

Some live in one room with several other men, pooling resources and splitting costs. Others don’t know where they’ll sleep from one night to the next.

The Salvation Army has offered stranded workers a one¬-way ticket back home. But many job seekers seem unwilling to leave—at least not until they can make a success out of their sacrificial move to a place with six months of winter, the worst traffic they’ve ever seen, and a disgruntled, if not miserable, populace.

“You just have to cowboy up and expect things to get better,” said Terry Ray Cover, a 56¬-year-¬old farmer and jack¬-of-¬all-¬trades who came from southeast Iowa on a Greyhound bus in November. He’d heard North Dakota was raining jobs.

“They don’t tell you it’s all a lie,” he said, sipping coffee in the Salvation Army on a frigid day in early March. “Places advertise jobs and then tell you they’re not hiring.”
The jobs he sees ads for, Cover said, require certifications and degrees, “like engineering.” He had found odd jobs, one at a cattle ranch, since he arrived in Williston. But he hadn’t worked in four weeks, despite daily treks to the Command Center.

Cover, bundled in a ski suit, had spent the most frigid nights of winter (¬20 Fahrenheit) in a tin shelter he discovered within walking distance of the Command Center, his best hope for work. He was relying on the Salvation Army for his daily bread and new friends for his daily smokes.

The men—they are all men—hanging out at the Salvation Army for coffee, bread and whatever donated goods there might be on a given day (from 9am to 3pm) have come from all over, including Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Louisiana, New Jersey and Washington, D.C. They include a number of African immigrants originally from Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Senegal.

But their stories are close to the same. They heard Williston had jobs, and they weren’t having any luck back home. So they hopped in their truck, or a Greyhound bus, and hopped off to a rude awakening.

Most of the men, who range in age from their early 30s to late 50s, have spent 10 nights, the maximum allowed, at a 10¬-bed emergency shelter the Salvation Army and a local church set up, leasing 10 beds at a camp for oil workers (a so-¬called man camp). More than 100 men applied to stay at the emergency shelter since it resumed operating for the second year in November. (It was set to close March 31 but has extended its season due to demand.)

Although there is camaraderie among the migrants, they are openly frustrated, and the room where they hang out at the Salvation Army is often tense and gloomy. Men who have been sleeping outside in the elements, or trying to, fold themselves into corners to get real sleep. The African immigrants tend to hang together, but a lot of loners fill the room.

Ali Singa, who moved to North Dakota from Nashville nine months ago, started out in Fargo, making $11 an hour the day after he arrived in shipping. He stayed for three months before heading to Williston, where he heard he could make more money, enough to send to his wife and three children in Sierra Leone.

He found work in a nearby oil patch town, Watford City, hauling water, but he was laid off in December and has not been able to land another job.

“A lack of a job has trapped me here,” Singa said. “Right now, I’m staying with friends. I’m in a very bad situation. You must put this down in your report: At the same time that they’re advertising jobs, they’re laying people off, and people keep coming and keep coming.”

Singa, a high school French teacher in his native country, moved to Washington, D.C. from the Sierra Leone 10 years ago, seeking a better life for his family back home. But after being laid off from a baggage handler job, he has not had much luck with his relocations.

“Had I stayed home I would’ve been better off by now,” he said. “But hope has kept me here, because hope is the poor man’s bread. Why can’t I get a job? I don’t have any felonies, no arrests. I am a good person. It’s the strangest thing. Is it because of the color of my skin? I tell people back home to not come here.”

Singa leaves to find work every morning at 5:30, and is usually the first one to arrive at the Command Center. But jobs are not doled out on a first¬-come basis. They are handed out based on qualifications, and rankings workers have received from employers, Kyle Tennessen said. That works against the newest workers, without a hiring history.

On a recent typical morning, Tennessen doled out seven day jobs—restaurant work, construction site clean¬up, maintenance¬¬—leaving 22 people who’d arrived before daybreak with no work for another day. One of them happened to be a woman. Louise Provus, 50, moved from Spokane to Williston two years ago with her husband, Randy Fleming, 57. “For the first two years,” she said, “I had a job at the local dry cleaners. In April, I started working for a cleaning company as a domestic. But that’s just once a week now, so I’m still looking.”

Fleming, who lost an automotive shop in Spokane to fire, has been looking for work doing anything. But he has not landed a permanent job. “I’ve got like 40 applications out there,” he said. “I’ve been in here all week. And some days, I’ve been in here all day, just in case. We’ll come here at six and I’ll stay till two or three in the afternoon. Then I’ll take the heel¬toe express home.”
He and his wife are among the luckier regulars at the Command Center. They found an apartment in subsidized senior housing for $600 a month. Even so, Provus said, they struggle to pay the rent. “I think I’ll go to the library after this and put in an application at Walmart,” she said.

Walmart has had the same sign out front advertising jobs at $17 an hour for three years, despite hiring freezes.

 “I know it’s a long shot,” Provus said. “Make sure you tell people that if you get any job out here, no matter how bad, you’d better take it, because it’s the best you’re going to get.”
Evelyn Nieves is a senior contributing writer and editor at AlterNet, living in San Francisco. She has been a reporter for both the New York Times and the Washington Post.

Report typos and corrections to 'corrections@alternet.org'. [3]
Source URL: http://www.alternet.org/fracking-towns-desperate-laid-workers-they-dont-tell-you-its-all-lie


[1] http://www.alternet.org/authors/evelyn-nieves-0
[2] http://alternet.org
[3] mailto:corrections@alternet.org?Subject=Typo on Fracking Town’s Desperate Laid-off Workers: ‘They Don’t Tell You It’s All a Lie’
[4] http://www.alternet.org/
[5] http://www.alternet.org/%2Bnew_src%2B

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

The Folly of Machine Warfare

Andrew Cockburn's "Kill Chain"

The Folly of Machine Warfare



Caveat emptor: Andrew Cockburn, the author of Kill Chain: the Rise of the High-Tech Assassins, is a friend of thirty-five years, so I am biased, proudly so in this case. While I know what Cockburn can do, I must admit I was literally blown away by this book. And I am no stranger to this subject, having worked as an engineer-analyst in the Office of the Secretary of Defense in the Pentagon for 28 years.

What makes Cockburn’s book so powerful, in my opinion, is not only his sourcing and detail (which are amazing), but the fact that he has written a book that is at once overwhelming in terms of information, yet so well written, it is accessible to the general reader. It is a page turner. He dissects the rise of drone warfare and examines its conduct in fascinating detail from the point of view of the targeteers in the CIA and the White House, to the controllers in front of video screens, and to the effects on the victims at the receiving end.
In so doing, he shows how the ideology of drone warfare is really old wine in a new bottle: it is a natural evolution of three interconnected mindsets: (1) the flawed ideas underpinning the now-discredited theory of strategic bombing in WWII; (2) the search for perfect information embodied in disastrous all-knowing, all-seeing electronic battlefield (starting with McNamara’s electronic line of Vietnam); and (3) the search for surgical precision in both conflict and coercive diplomacy embodied, for example, in the naive targeting theories underpinning the drug war and the escalate-the-pressure tactics of precision targeted sanctions. At the roots of all these theories, I would argue, is an unchanging three-part set of propositions woven together in the 1930s by the evangelical instructors in the Army Air Corps Tactical School. They preached the theory of victory thru airpower alone, and they believed that only strategic bombing could justify an independent Air Force on a par with the Army and the Navy, and with comparable or even higher budgets.

These future leaders of the AF constructed a seductive tautological argument, based on the fallacious assumptions of having extensive a priori knowledge of the enemy’s inner workings coupled to perfect combat intelligence. It remains unchanged to this day and goes like this: (1) The enemy is a physical system or network made up of critical linkages and nodes, be they ball bearing works in Schweinfurt, or Salafi fanatics in Iraq with access to cell phones and the internet, or tribal warlords in the hills of Afghanistan. (2) The enemy system can be reliably analyzed and understood from a distance, making it possible to exactly identify those specific nodes or links that are vital to the functioning of the adversary system, be it an industrial power like Germany, a tribal alliance in Yemen, or the financial links of a terrorist network or foreign oligarchy. (3) That technology provides the wherewithal to attack and destroy these vital nodes or links with precision strikes and thereby administer a mortal wound to the adversary.

In short, the conduct of war is an engineering problem: In the current lexicon of the Pentagon and its defense contractors, the enemy is a ‘systems of systems’ made up of high value targets (HVTs) that can be identified and destroyed without risk from a distance with unmanned systems. The reasoning is identical to that described in the preceding paragraph. Yet despite its stridently confident predictions of decisive precision effects, from the days of the Norden bombsight in B-17s to those of the Hellfire missile fired by drones, this theory has failed to perform as its evangelists predicted and are still predicting.

Viewing war as an engineering problem focuses on technology (which benefits contractors) and destructive physical effects, but ignores and is offset by the fundamental truth of war: Machines don’t fight wars, people do, and they use their minds. Our technology’s physical effects can be — and often are — offset by our opponent’s mental counters or initiatives, reflecting both his adaptability and unpredictability, and his moral strengths, like resolve and the will to resist. Combat history has proven this over and over that mental and moral effects can offset physical effects, for example, when the destruction of ball bearing factories did not have its predicted effects in WWII, when bicycles carrying 600 pounds of supplies were used to by pass destroyed bridges on the Ho Chi Minh Trail, and when the Serbs used microwave ovens to fool expensive anti-radiation missiles in Kosovo. And as Cockburn shows, this has proven true again in the ongoing war on terror, and its mirror image, the war on drugs.

Any one who doubts that this critique applies to drones used in a counter-terror strategy should be asked to explain the collapse of in Yemen — the place where drones reached their apotheosis as the centerpiece of American counter-terror strategy.

Cockburn has provided a highly readable, and logically devastating story, written from a bottom-up empirical perspective. He explains why our strategy in Yemen was doomed to fail, as indeed it has in recent weeks. His meticulously referenced historical and empirical research makes this book hard to pick apart. No doubt, there are some small errors of fact. For example, not all the drone/bombers deployed in ill starred Operation Aphrodite (which blew up JFK’s elder brother) in 1944 were B-24s as Cockburn incorrectly suggests; the operation also used B-17s. But I defy anyone to find a single thread or family of threads that can be used to unravel his tapestry.

Franklin “Chuck” Spinney is a former military analyst for the Pentagon and a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. He be reached at chuck_spinney@mac.com

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/
"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Baltimore Activist Alert - March 31 - April 1, 2015

28] Get your animal friend in the Maryland SPCA 2016 calendar – Mar. 31
29] Peace vigil – Mar. 31
30] ADC-Women's Empowerment Forum – Mar. 31
31] No JHU Drone Research -- Mar. 31
32] See the film NIGHTFALL – Mar. 31
33] See the film CHRISSY – Mar. 31
34] Laverne Cox at GWU – Mar. 31
35] Chris Dixon at Red Emma’s – Mar. 31
36] See the film ON THE SIDE OF THE ROAD – Apr. 1
37] CISPES bicycle ride – Apr. 1
38] Skillshare on the need for multilingual spaces and the need for interpretation – Apr. 1
39] Ultimate Peace programs - Apr. 1
40] Janet Mock at AU – Apr. 1
28] – Enter a photo of your animal friend in the Maryland SPCA 2016 Calendar before the end of March and save! Participants who enter before Mar. 31 will pay only $40 (reg. $50) per photo. Each entry also includes one (1) free calendar! Participants can send photos after registration, so don't worry if you need a little extra time to find the purr-fect photo of Fluffy! To enter, go to www.mdspca.org/photo and use discount code "SPCAcalendar" during checkout, or contact Jennifer Mion at petcalendar@mdspca.org or 410-235-8826, ext. 133.

The 2016 Pet Calendar will be a full-color wall calendar, released in the fall of 2015. Thirteen of the best photos will be selected for the cover and pet-of-the-month pages. Photographs must be of animals, no people, and must be in color. High-resolution horizontal photos are preferred. Small photos, especially those taken by phones, are difficult to enlarge. All entered photos will appear in the calendar. A maximum of 400 photos will be accepted through May 15, 2015. The calendar is an important fundraiser for the Maryland SPCA. Proceeds benefit the needy and homeless animals in our care!

29] – Each Tuesday from 4:30 - 5:30 PM, the Catholic Peace Fellowship-Philadelphia for peace in Afghanistan and Iraq gathers at the Suburban Station, 16th St. & JFK Blvd., at the entrance to Tracks 3 and 4 on the mezzanine. The next vigil is Mar. 31. Call 215-426-0364.

30] – Go to the Ritz Carlton Hotel, 1150 22nd St. NW, WDC on Tues., Mar. 31 at 5 PM for a "Women for Peace" panel discussion as part of the ADC-Women's Empowerment Forum. This 2015 International Women’s Day celebration will consist of a panel seminar, awards ceremony and keynote dinner. The awards dinner begins at 6:30 PM. Tickets are $125 per person. Contact Jala Naguib at 202.244.2990 or wef@adc.org.

31] – Vigil to say "No Drone Research at JHU" each Tuesday at 33rd & North Charles Sts. Join this ongoing vigil on Mar. 31 from 5:30 to 6:30 PM. Call Max at 410-366-1637.

32] – On Tues., Mar. 31 from 6 to 7:30 PM at the Jerusalem Fund, 2425 Virginia Ave. NW, WDC, see the film NIGHTFALL, director Mohamed Soueid draws from his diaries, recounting the time he spent in the Student Squad of the Palestinian Resistance Movement, Fatah, during the Lebanese civil war. He recounts stories, both happy and sad, of old friends fallen during the war, and of others still living with their memories and solitude. Attendance is free and open to the public. Go to http://www.thejerusalemfund.org/contactus. Call the Jerusalem Fund at 202-338-1958 or email info@thejerusalemfund.org.

33] – At Bloombars, 3222 11th St. NW, WDC 20010, on Tues., Mar. 31 from 7 to 9 PM, BloomBars and Africa World Now Project will commemorate Women's History Month. See “Chrissy” (2012, 90 min), by Marcia Weekes, an inspirational film about a disadvantaged school girl who is bullied and discriminated against, but who fought the odds and triumphed securing much needed help from her family and her school. See http://tinyurl.com/chrissy-trailer. The screening will be followed by audience discussion and Q&A with Mwiza Munthali, host of the radio show "Africa Now" on WPFW 89.3FM. The suggested donation is $10. Proceeds support both the Africa World Now Project and BloomBars. Enjoy free organic popcorn. BloomScreen Indie Film Night is a weekly series of independent and foreign films, accompanied by discussions with filmmakers, experts and other guests. Go to https://www.facebook.com/events/805077479572255/.

34] – On Tues., Mar. 31 at 7 PM at Lisner Auditorium, George Washington University, WDC, Allied in Pride, Program Board, Student Association, the LGBT Alumni Association, the Feminist Student Union, Lambda Law, the Elizabeth J. Somers Women’s Leadership Program, the Global Women’s Institute, and the Association of Queer Women and Allies are very excited to announce that Laverne Cox is coming on International Transgender Day of Visibility! The event is FREE for GW students, and $10 for others. Cox is a transgender advocate and critically acclaimed actress, writer, and producer. She is the first African-American trans woman to produce and star in her own television show (VH1's TRANSform Me), the first trans person to ever appear on the cover of Time magazine, and the first openly trans person to be nominated for an Emmy in an acting category for her portrayal of Sophia Burset on the Netflix original series Orange is the New Black.

In her talk, "Ain't I A Woman? My Journey to Womanhood," Cox explores how the intersections of race, class, and gender uniquely affect the lives of trans women of color. Go to https://www.facebook.com/events/864512470280144/.

35] – On Tues., Mar. 31 at 7:30 PM @ Red Emma's Bookstore Coffeehouse, 30 W. North Ave., Baltimore 21201, Chris Dixon presents his book “Another Politics: Talking Across Today's Transformative Movements,” which engages the anti-authoritarian current, a political tendency including abolitionists, anarchists, anti-racist feminists, autonomists, and many other radicals. Cutting across a wide range of left social movements in North America, this current is distinguished by its commitment to directly democratic structures, anti-oppression politics, explicit organization-building, prefigurative political practices, working for reforms while also pursuing revolution, and grassroots organizing. The book draws on dozens of interviews with experienced organizers across the U.S. and Canada. It traces the strands of movement and struggle that have led into the anti-authoritarian current, explores the defining principles and practices of another politics, and examines the visionary political approaches and questions that are emerging from the activities of this current.

Chris Dixon, originally from Alaska, is a longtime anarchist organizer, writer, and educator with a PhD from the University of California at Santa Cruz. His writing has appeared in numerous book collections as well as periodicals such as Anarchist Studies, Clamor, Left Turn, and Social Movement Studies. He serves on the board of the Institute for Anarchist Studies and the advisory board for the activist journal Upping the Anti. He lives in Ottawa, Canada, on unceded Algonquin Territory, where he is involved in anti-poverty organizing. Find him at writingwithmovements.com. Call 443-602-7585. Go to http://www.redemmas.org.

36] – On Wed., Apr. 1 from 6 to 10 PM at the Real News Network, 231 Holliday St., Baltimore 21202, see ON THE SIDE OF THE ROAD. It is a film about Israel's biggest taboo - the nation’s collective denial of the ethnic cleansing of 1948 told by those who perpetrated it. This special screening of this award winning film will include a livestream.com Q&A with director Lia Tarachansky, moderated by host and founder of The Real News Network, Paul Jay. See a trailer: https://vimeo.com/65278501. Go to https://www.facebook.com/events/418427121669266/.The Program in Latin American Studies invites you the round table discussion WHY NOT. Panelists will analyze the emergence and possibilities of anti-violence protest movements #yamecansé and #Ican’tbreathe. The round table features speakers James Dator, (Goucher College.), Mariana Mora (CIESAS, MX), Deborah Poole (JHU), and Lester Spence (JHU). It will take place on Wed., Apr. 1 at 6 PM on the JHU Homewood Campus, Shaffer Hall 3. Contact Emma Cervone at .

37] – Come to the CISPES Office, 1525 Newton St. NW, WDC on Wed., Apr. 1 at 6:30 PM and learn about the upcoming 2015 Solidarity Cyclers Ride! You don’t need to be a professional cyclist to join this ride – you just have to be willing to take on the challenge and to help raise money for the Salvadoran struggle. Invite your friends and cycling enthusiasts! On May 23, a group of intrepid cyclists and international solidarity enthusiasts will embark on an exciting 3-day long, 180-mile journey through the beautiful trails and hills of Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia to raise money to help CISPES challenge US-pushed policies and US-funded mega projects that threaten the environment and worker rights in El Salvador. Challenge yourself and challenge imperialism! Register at https://www.facebook.com/events/441008646057132/.

38] – On Wed., Apr. 1 at 7 PM, the Washington Peace Center, 1525 Newton St., WDC, as part of April is Language Accessibility Month, will do a skillshare on the need for multilingual spaces and the need for interpretation. During this skillshare, you will also learn about the Peace Center's interpretation equipment. This skillshare will be facilitated by Sapna Pandya and Catalina Nieto.

39] – A dynamic multicultural group of 20 youth leaders from the Middle East will be visiting the USA this spring. Arab Israelis, Jewish Israelis, and Palestinians from the West Bank will share their experiences and insights as emerging leaders within the Ultimate Peace programs and in their communities. The Friendship Tour offers the rare opportunity for US audiences to meet and interact with exceptional and diverse teenagers from the Middle East. Come to the Washington Hebrew Congregation, 3935 Macomb St. NW, WDC on Wed., Apr. 1 at 7:30 PM and meet the travelers. Visit https://www.facebook.com/UltimatePeace.

40] – At Ward 1, University Center, American University, WDC on Wed., Apr. 1 at 7:30 PM, the AUSG Women's Initiative and KPU present Janet Mock, a transgender rights activist, author and contributing editor at Marie Claire. Mock has been on the cutting edge of change whether it be through social media and her #GirlsLikeUs twitter campaign, or promotion of her memoir called “Redefining Realness” which made the New York Times best-seller list. She was featured in The OUT List, an LGBT documentary, and has been honored on Out Magazine’s 100 most compelling people of the year list. Look at https://www.facebook.com/events/1425274627772684/.

To be continued.

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/.

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Teen Kept in Solitary Confinement for 143 Days Before Even Facing Trial


Steiger writes: "A federal review conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice found that Baltimore City Detention Center was illegally putting teens in psychologically damaging solitary confinement as they awaited trial for adult charges. One detainee was kept in solitary confinement for 143 days."

Teens are being kept in solitary confinement. (photo: shutterstock.com)

Teen Kept in Solitary Confinement for 143 Days Before Even Facing Trial

By Kay Steiger, ThinkProgress

29 March 15

A federal review conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice found that Baltimore City Detention Center was illegally putting teens in psychologically damaging solitary confinement as they awaited trial for adult charges. One detainee was kept in solitary confinement for 143 days.

The report, released on Friday, found that in addition to a detainee identified as RC who was detained for 143 days, another detainee, EM, spent 53 of the 105 days spent in detention in solitary. Furthermore, the rules at the facility mandated that violators must spend 7 to 14 days for a first offense and must wait around 80 days for a disciplinary review.

The DOJ review found that though the detention center, put under federal review for previous civil rights violations, was still violating state and federal law by exceeding the limits for solitary confinement, failing to provide teens with drugs and other prescribed treatments, and some detainees were even denied the right to exercise. They also concluded that many of the staff were poorly trained.

“This is grossly excessive and violates basic principles of Due Process,” the Justice Department report read. “It is even more troubling for the 24 percent of juveniles in seclusion who are ultimately found not guilty under the disciplinary process.”

Solitary confinement — particularly when an inmate is subjected to it for more than a few days — is known to be psychologically damaging, and it is especially problematic to subject teens to this kind of punishment because their brains are still developing. A 2012 report released jointly by the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch, which interviewed youths subjected to the punishment, found it could be extremely damaging to their mental health and development. One former prisoner said, “It’s like mind torture.” Other former detainees described hair and weight loss, stunted growth, and halted menstruation.

The report also found that the decisions behind when and for how long to house inmates in solitary confinement were widely at the discretion of the facility staff. Sometimes staff would place LGBT inmates in solitary confinement to “protect” them from the risk of sexual assault.

ACLU and HRW concluded that inmates under the age of 18 are frequently subjected to solitary confinement for extended periods of time and “the conditions that accompany solitary confinement frequently fail to meet the psychological, physical, social, and developmental needs of adolescents. These failures constitute violations of fundamental rights in a number of circumstances.”

A 2011 United Nations report said that “the imposition of solitary confinement, of any duration, on juveniles is cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and violates article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and article 16 of the Convention against Torture.”

An editorial in the Washington Post last year pleaded with the state of Maryland to reform its solitary confinement practices, as New York City has recently done, writing, “Prisons should isolate inmates only in rare cases when that is the singular way to prevent violence. The General Assembly should ensure that Maryland abides by this principle, rather than hiding behind euphemisms.”

© 2015 Reader Supported News

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Swedish MPs Meet Snowden, Talk Mass Surveillance/How America and the Rest of the World Ruined Haiti


Edward Snowden. (photo: unknown)

Swedish MPs Meet Snowden, Talk Mass Surveillance

By Agence France-Presse
28 March 15

Three Swedish members of parliament met with fugitive US intelligence agent Edward Snowden at a secret location in Moscow on Friday to discuss mass surveillance, Swedish media reported.
The visit was organised by the Right Livelihood Award Foundation, a Stockholm-based organisation that honoured Snowden with a human rights prize in September 2014.

"We discussed his journey and he gave us a nuanced account of how mass surveillance works and what doesn't work," MP Jakop Dalunde of the Greens Party told public broadcaster SVT.

"He also gave us his point of view on what constitutes effective anti-terrorism measures and what doesn't," he added.

Dalunde was joined at the meeting by Liberal Party MP Matthias Sundin and Cecilia Magnusson of the conservative Moderate Party.

"I was invited by the Right Livelihood Foundation and for me it was self-evident to say yes," Sundin said.

Their meeting lasted two hours.

Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor, has lived in exile in Russia since 2013 after revealing the unprecedented extent of US state surveillance.

© 2015 Reader Supported News

Published on Alternet (http://www.alternet.org)

How America and the Rest of the World Ruined Haiti

By Amy Wilentz [1] / The Nation [2]

March 25, 2015

How does a state fail?

It’s a question you can’t help asking yourself as you make your way in Haiti, through the chaos left by four severe tropical storms in 2008 and the destruction wrought by the 2010 earthquake—some of which is still evident on the streets of Port-au-Prince today, five years later. It’s not just the unrebuilt infrastructure that raises this question, but also the human and political waste caused by so many years of corrupting collaboration with the United States, the United Nations and outside nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).
A state doesn’t fail because of some innate inferiority in its people. I make this obvious point only because people who don’t know Haiti often try, as subtly as they know how, to claim this is the case. They’re wrong: a state fails because of its history.

Haiti from its inception has been a peculiarly globalized entity. The slavery with which the French colony enriched itself was a global labor and agricultural phenomenon, bringing people from Africa to the Americas in order to serve as free labor on plantations owned by Europeans. Haiti’s revolution, too, was a global phenomenon, linking those same three continents. Haiti’s early debt was global; its economics under slavery and, later, the US occupation were global as well—and still are.

Many readers of The Nation may know something of the remarkable history of this country, since the magazine has been following it for more than a century. But for those of you coming to it cold: Haiti had unbelievably promising beginnings. Though tarnished by centuries of slavery, the country was the creation of some of the great geniuses of the 1700s. But the enormous potential of these singular men was destroyed by France, which kidnapped and killed some of Haiti’s ablest leaders, most notably Toussaint Louverture. In 1825, a scant two decades after Haitian independence was declared, France demanded an indemnity of 150 million francs (roughly estimated at $20 billion in today’s dollars) for the property lost by French plantation owners during the quite bloody, quite fiery revolution—one that Haiti had won.

Haiti was to compensate France not only for lost plantation lands and crops, but also for the loss of the Haitians themselves—i.e., for the right to be masters of their own bodies—since Haitian slaves had been France’s most valuable Caribbean asset. France backed up this demand with the threat of a full-blown blockade, and Haiti agreed to pay in exchange for France’s recognition. As a result, France duly recognized Haiti as an independent country (the United States, still a slave-owning nation and too geographically close for its own comfort, did not do so until 1862, in the midst of the Civil War). The huge debt payments were delivered assiduously by the Haitian government with money borrowed—conveniently—from French banks. Haiti also paid the interest on those loans in a timely fashion.

These reparations to France depleted Haiti’s already starved coffers and led to repeated financial crises within the country. They also led to privations, to an inability to develop domestically and to political instability—indeed, political turmoil, with presidents entering and leaving office sometimes biannually. France, in collusion with the United States, continued to bleed Haiti until related debts were finally paid off—in 1947!

This is how Haiti began to be a failed state.

France was not the only country to force Haiti down the road to failure. In 1909, US financiers began to lay the groundwork for an American occupation of Haiti. It was around that time that the National City Bank, based in New York, acquired a stake in Haiti’s central bank and created a railway to support American exploitation of Haitian resources, especially cheap labor (a little more expensive than out-and-out slavery, but…) and a variety of agricultural products for American consumption, such as sugar (and, later, the industrial production of baseballs and women’s undergarments).

As Graham Greene wrote in The Comedians, his novel about Haiti in the 1960s: “It is astonishing how much money can be made out of the poorest of the poor with a little ingenuity.”

There was never any real excuse for the occupation. Haiti was unstable, the Americans said, after a sitting president was dragged from the French embassy by a mob and killed; shortly after, the marines descended. Well, Haiti had been unstable for years. The occupation was simply a mechanism to control Haiti while American businesses sucked value out of the country and made sure nationals of other countries could not. A year after the occupation’s end, Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler, the marine in charge of establishing and securing control, wrote: “I spent most of my time being a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism…. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in.”

Nothing that the occupation built was meant to benefit Haitians. As Ernest H. Gruening wrote in 1922 in this very magazine: “nobody, be he ever so kindly and human, can wholly transmute a military occupation into a lawn party.” During the nineteen-year occupation, periodic rebellions and uprisings were brutally put down by the marines. Finally, in 1929, another massacre of Haitians provoked a review of the occupation by Congress, as well as an eventual pullout in 1934.

Nineteen years of occupation left enduring scars on Haitian society. The racism and segregation enforced by the marines led directly to the reactionary black-power rhetoric employed by François “Papa Doc” Duvalier as he rose to power in Haiti. The brutality and kleptocratic behavior of Duvalier’s administration, while not unknown in pre-occupation Haiti, had been honed to a fine point under the Americans’ regime. The nightmarish Duvalier and his corrupt son and successor, Jean-Claude (“Baby Doc”), fertilized the terrain on which Haiti as a failed state would grow.
Haiti has never existed in a vacuum. In fact, Haiti today is a creation of the world, its failures often purposefully molded by outsiders, though almost always in collusion with the Haitian elite, who stand to profit from these failures. In this, it is not dissimilar to other corrupt countries with a history of colonial exploitation.

Here is a contemporary example of how this works: under Bill Clinton, Haiti’s leaders were pressured to reduce the country’s longstanding tariffs on imported food (including rice) from 50 percent to about 3 percent. The United States then began dumping cheap, taxpayer-subsidized surplus rice on the Haitian market, ostensibly for humanitarian reasons, but actually so that it could dispose of an otherwise unsellable product.

Clinton’s policy was brilliant and double-edged. The Haitian politician who had to approve it was none other than the overthrown Jean-Bertrand Aristide, arguably the first freely elected president of Haiti. Aristide had been ousted in 1991, less than a year after his election, while George H.W. Bush (Papa Bush) looked the other way. Doubtless in return for Aristide’s acceptance of the lower tariff, as well as for other promises made, Clinton returned him to power. But once back in the National Palace, Aristide saw his authority undermined by the havoc and unrest that this very policy was causing in the countryside. The cheaper US rice undercut and effectively destroyed Haitian rice farming. A country that was largely self-sufficient in this staple in the 1980s was importing 80 percent of its rice by 2012.

So if Haiti can no longer feed itself, is this because it is a failed state? Haitians have rarely been fat, but the food crisis and food dependency began when weak Haitian leaders agreed to open the country’s markets to predatory global forces. This is the ugly face of “free trade.”

The crisis in rice farming also initiated a huge flow of rural people to the capital, because rice cultivators and their families could no longer survive in the countryside. The resulting overpopulation of the capital was a factor in the large number of people killed in the 2010 earthquake. After the quake, Clinton—by then the UN special envoy to Haiti, helping to run the reconstruction effort—apologized to the Haitian people. “It may have been good for some of my farmers in Arkansas, but it has not worked. It was a mistake,” he told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2010. “I have to live every day with the consequences of the lost capacity to produce a rice crop in Haiti to feed those people because of what I did; nobody else.” He has called the policy a “devil’s bargain.”

Nonetheless, imports of subsidized American rice only increased after the earthquake. Haiti imports as much as 50 percent of its food now, mostly from the United States. Today, Haiti is the second-biggest importer of US rice in the world.

Now let’s look at politics. In 1991, Aristide was overthrown. In 1994, Bill Clinton reinstated him. Aristide served out his truncated five-year term and was elected president once more in 2000, only to be overthrown again, in 2004, this time under Baby Bush (George W.).

For seven years after that second coup, Aristide lived in US-imposed exile in South Africa. He was allowed back into Haiti only in 2011, when President Obama, given various factors, could no longer reasonably prevent his return.

Though Aristide was, for at least two decades, the overwhelming choice of the Haitian people, his support has dissipated in the chaos caused by two anti-democratic coups and a barrage of natural disasters, as well as the generational shift that has come with new voters who simply don’t remember him. Even so, the current Haitian president, a conservative Duvalierist who is another puppet of the United States, has recently put Aristide under illegal house arrest, fearing his potential as a disrupter as Haiti begins the long-overdue slog to a new round of elections.

That Haitian president is Michel Martelly, a pop singer whose slender victory in 2011 was engineered with the collusion of the United States, the UN and the Organization of American States (OAS). With his pro-business stance, Martelly is a lot more to the liking of American corporate interests in Haiti than Aristide. Among his greatest achievements as president: diverting earthquake-relief money to help extend and modernize transportation in northern Haiti, far from the earthquake’s path, as well as expanding the incentives to seduce low-wage light industry to Haiti (mainly in the north) and freeing up gold-, silver- and copper-mining contracts for giant multinational extraction companies to begin excavating (also in the north).

Is the failure of the democratic experiment in Haiti the fault of a people who cannot govern themselves? No, it’s the fault of outside interests and their Haitian collaborators, who together continue to hold the reins of power in Haiti.

By the way, I don’t mean to suggest that Aristide was democracy personified. He was flawed, but so what? Let’s put it this way: unlike Aristide, the Duvaliers—both Papa Doc and Baby Doc—were grotesque violators of free speech, honest elections and human rights, but still they managed, in the shadow of the United States, not to be overthrown for almost thirty years. Aristide, in that same shadow (Haiti hasn’t moved!), was overthrown within eight months of taking office, and then overthrown a second time. This is not about a state’s failure; it’s about failure imposed on a state.

Let’s also consider corruption, another symptom of failed states. Many say the Haitian government is disorganized, but no one is fooled: actually, the Haitian kleptocracy has been carefully organized—especially during the occupation—to be porous and incompetent, to allow for corruption. It exists to feed those politicians who kowtow to outside interests. It is a mechanism into which money is poured and then siphoned off. The Duvaliers merely perfected what the occupation handed down.

Since 1915, the United States has treated Haitian governments as, at best, rubber stamps for US policy, American businesses working in Haiti, and Haitian-run businesses friendly to American interests. For almost the entire twentieth century, only US-approved Haitians could be president. The embassy looked the other way at internal political repression, to say nothing of continuing starvation in the countryside, as long as Haitian governments were friendly—or at least anticommunist, like Papa Doc’s. Any leader who seemed to have an agenda that put the Haitian people first was thrown out, including Daniel Fignolé, a wildly popular political figure who was in office less than a month in 1957, shortly before the Duvalier dictatorship; and, of course, Aristide, who slipped in during a moment of change in Haiti and the world (post-Duvalier and post–Cold War, respectively) but was quickly sent packing.

Ever since Aristide was deposed for the second time, in 2004, there has been another occupation of Haiti, this time by the United Nations. A decade later, some 7,000 international military and police personnel still operate from the huge, modern UN Logistics Base near the airport (which is no longer named for François Duvalier but for Louverture, another coup victim sent summarily overseas). From “Log Base,” as it is called, peacekeepers have been sent out to quell dissent, resulting in many casualties. They’ve rounded up the discontented and they’ve developed informants within progressive and popular movements. They ride around town in casual pickup trucks with gunners in the back, facing the trailing traffic.

All of this is done with the ostensible motivation of protecting the Haitian people and keeping things secure. As The Nation’s Gruening wrote concerning the marine occupation in 1922: “this proceeds under the guise of benevolence…. Colonel Russell [the head of the occupation at the time] told me that it was the two million Haitian country people that he wanted to help, and that he was very fond of them but [that he was] against the ‘three hundred agitators in Port au Prince….’ The Occupation’s affection for the Haitian proletariat is truly touching. Obviously if the [agitators are] eliminated, the most docile and the cheapest labor supply that a concessionnaire ever dreamed of will be easily available. Twenty cents a day is the current Haitian wage.” Today, thanks to the machinations of American businesspeople in Haiti and colluding legislators in Washington, the minimum wage has been kept low: to less than $5 a day. Haitians’ 1922 pay comes to roughly $2.82 in today’s dollars. So, in ninety-three years, the value of a Haitian’s labor has increased by little more than $2.

One final problem must be understood in picking apart the failure of the Haitian state, and that is the overwhelming presence in Haiti—especially in Port-au-Prince and in Cap-Haïtien—of nongovernmental organizations, usually foreign-based. Unscientific estimates suggest there are some 10,000 NGOs operating in a country smaller than Maryland with a population of 10 million.

These NGOs, each with its own projects, don’t operate under any kind of umbrella; nor are they truly regulated. What they do, unintentionally, is substitute their own services for the services that a government should provide. They prop up the kleptocratic state, a mechanism for distribution of corruption. Over the years, the United States has spent billions through the Agency for International Development, a principal funder of NGOs, in an attempt to “develop” Haiti—and has achieved effectively nothing. A report by the World Bank on its own role in Haiti from 1986 through 2002 stated that “the outcome of the [World Bank] assistance program is rated unsatisfactory (if not highly so), the institutional development impact, negligible, and the sustainability of the few benefits that have accrued, unlikely.”

The end of Haiti, its utter ruin, has been predicted since the state was declared in 1804. The outside world believed a country run by former slaves could never survive; Haitians looked around and sometimes agreed. In 1944, the legendary Haitian novelist Jacques Roumain published Gouverneurs de la rosée (Masters of the Dew), set in a deforested, drought-plagued landscape. When I first arrived in Haiti in 1986, the environmental end of the country was already considered imminent. Everyone would starve and die; AIDS, too, was about to take its toll.

Today, Haiti is still deforested, the environment abused and ignored. Much of this has to do with dire poverty and government negligence, as well as foreign and domestic exploitation. But in spite of deforestation and drought, despite mudslides and hurricanes and earthquakes, despite the destruction of rice cultivation, the collapse of Haiti’s sugar industry, the neglect of its coffee cultivators, the ongoing crisis of AIDS, tuberculosis and, now, cholera—Haitians survive.

Is this because they have a special resilience, that “dignity in poverty” that visitors like to rattle on about? Nope. It’s because the situation has been so bad for so long that almost every tiny Haitian village has sent at least one person out of the country into the huge diaspora, and those wanderers (equal to about 20 percent of the on-island population) have been sending their dutiful remittances back, even over generations. This immense brain drain has adversely affected everything on the island, but it has also been crucial to Haiti’s survival as a failed state.

Many small, formerly agricultural countries survive this way in the globalized world. The Philippines is another good example: its government, like Haiti’s, provides few services and little employment for its growing population, and instead sends its people out to participate in a global economy from which, although poorly paid by employers abroad, they can send home enough money to keep people alive on the islands. Sri Lanka, Vietnam and many other countries survive in a similar fashion.

Living off such remittances, those who still reside in the home country are less likely to find themselves at that edge of desperation where political organization and unrest become urgent and necessary. Grassroots change is abortive or endlessly deferred, a situation that is much preferred by the small local elite, which provides nothing and thereby gains everything. Haiti’s ongoing crisis is the product of global forces, and only huge, unlikely changes in international behaviors—especially on the part of the biggest, most abusive nations and organizations—will allow the Haitians themselves to turn things around.

Report typos and corrections to 'corrections@alternet.org'. [3]
Source URL: http://www.alternet.org/world/how-america-and-rest-world-ruined-haiti


[1] http://www.alternet.org/authors/amy-wilentz
[2] http://www.thenation.com
[3] mailto:corrections@alternet.org?Subject=Typo on How America and the Rest of the World Ruined Haiti
[4] http://www.alternet.org/
[5] http://www.alternet.org/%2Bnew_src%2B

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Baltimore Activist Alert - March 29 - 30, 2015

18] “Race and Ethical policing” – Mar. 29
19] Spring Garden Party – Mar. 29
20] Water scarcity – Mar. 29
21] Pentagon Vigil – Mar. 30
22] Marc Steiner on WEAA – Mar. 30 – Apr. 3
23] Protest Exelon CEO – Mar. 30
24] Support Dr. Aafia Siddiqui – Mar. 30
25] Benefit for Maryland League of Conservation Voters – Mar. 30
27] Pledge of Resistance/FOC meeting – Mar. 30
18] – Usually, the Baltimore Ethical Society, 306 W. Franklin St., Suite 102, Baltimore 21201-4661, meets on Sundays, and generally there is a speaker and discussion from 10:30 AM to noon. On Mar. 29, however, this program BES Dialogue: “Race and Ethical policing” will begin with screening several statements excerpted from a December 2014 The Real News Network (TRNN) broadcast of a town hall meeting that addressed the question “Should the Community Control the Police?” Then the program will switch to a community dialogue to discuss issues surrounding “Black Lives Matter,” ethical policing, and the topics raised during the platform addresses this month. Watch the town hall meetings.

The leaders of the discussion follow. Laura Griffin, a member of the BES Ethical Action Committee, and Mr. Omari Jeremiah are former leaders of Community Conversations, a 2013 project to facilitate Baltimore community dialogues on welcoming immigrants in Baltimore, addressing topics such as race, prejudice and community response. Mr. Angad Singh is a member of the BES Executive Board and co-chair of the Program Committee. He is an activist for social justice and campaign finance reform, and is the father of Jaisal Noor, a TRNN host, producer, and reporter. Call 410-581-2322 or email ask@bmorethical.org.

19] – Celebrate the start of our 2015 growing season by attending a Spring Garden Party on Sun., Mar. 29 at 12:30 PM at the Platform Gallery, 116 W. Mulberry St. There will be a silent auction of seedlings potted in beautiful handmade pottery and more, to help and inspire you to do some of your own growing this season! Learn about upcoming projects, and enjoy coffee and light fare! Call 443-433-6294. Go to www.platformbaltimore.com. Advance tickets are $7, and $10 for two; and at the door a ticket is $10 or two for $15. Go to http://allevents.in/baltimore/garden-party-a-spring-fundraiser-for-desert-farm-initiative/1632729110279203#.

20] – Go to the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, 641 D St. NW, WDC 20004 on Sun., Mar. 29 from 2 to 4 PM for Water Day. Attend this performance and panel discussion about water scarcity and what you can do to end this problem. See https://www.facebook.com/events/1603671153180801/.

21] -- There is a weekly Pentagon Peace Vigil from 7 to 8 AM on Mondays, since 1987, outside the Pentagon Metro stop. The next vigil is Mon., Mar. 30, and it is sponsored by the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker. Email artlaffin@hotmail.com or call 202-882-9649. The vigil will be outside the Pentagon's south Metro entrance and in the designated "protest zone" behind bicycle fences across from the entrance to the Metro. By Metro, take Yellow Line and get out at the "Pentagon" stop. Do not go to the Pentagon City stop! Go up south escalators and turn left and walk across to protest area. By car from D.C. area, take 395 South and get off at Exit 8A-Pentagon South Parking. Take slight right onto S. Rotary Rd. at end of ramp and right on S. Fern St. Then take left onto Army Navy Dr. You can "pay to park" on Army Navy Dr., and there is meter parking one block on right on Eads St. Payment for both of these spots begin at 8 AM. No cameras are allowed on Pentagon grounds. Restrooms are located inside Marriott Residence Inn on corner of S. Fern and Army Navy Dr.

22] – The Marc Steiner Show airs Monday through Friday from 10 AM to noon on WEAA 88.9 FM, The Voice of the Community, or online at www.weaa.org. The call-in number is 410-319-8888, and comments can also be sent by email to steinershow@gmail.com. All shows are also available as podcasts at www.steinershow.org.

23] – On Mon., Mar. 30 at 10 AM, Exelon CEO Chris Crane will testify before the DC Public Service Commission about his company’s effort to take over Pepco. Be at 1333 H St. NW, Suite 200, West Tower City, WDC to keep Crane and Exelon honest! Crane’s company, Exelon, has a history of playing fast and loose with the truth. In a brief filed to the Maryland Public Service Commission, Maryland’s Attorney General called the testimony of an Exelon official “unreliable”, “not credible” and “fundamentally flawed.” The proposed merger is a bad deal for DC residents. It means higher electric bills, lower reliability and less renewable energy. The Public Service Commission, and DC’s elected officials, especially Mayor Bowser, need to know that we’re watching! Go to https://www.eventbrite.com/e/dont-let-dc-get-a-bad-deal-let-exelon-know-were-watching-tickets-16323576256?utm_campaign=new_event_email&utm_medium=email&utm_source=eb_email&utm_term=eventurl_text.

24] – Get over to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, 320 First St. NW, WDC on Mon., Mar. 30 at noon. The objective of the March 30 Mobilization will be to demand that federal authorities allow an Independent Medical Team (IMT) to enter FMC Carswell in Fort Worth, TX to examine Dr. Aafia Siddiqui – to determine: (a) she is still alive; (b) the exact state of her physical and mental health. For information on Dr. Siddiqui, her case, and the international campaign for her release and repatriation. Go to www.aafiamovement.com.

To contribute financially to this campaign, send a check or money order to The Peace Thru Justice Foundation, 11006 Veirs Mill Road, STE L-15, PMB 298, Silver Spring 20902 or make an online contribution at www.civilfreedoms.org - designate your donation "For Aafia" and send an email (at: peacethrujustice@aol.com ) to let them know a donation made.

Dr. Siddiqui, a Pakistani-born, U.S. educated neuroscientist was widely known and respected for her work in the area of dawahand humanitarian relief. She has been so cut off from the outside world that her family doesn’t even know (with certainty) whether she is alive or dead. On March 30, 2003, shortly after her return to Pakistan, Dr. Siddiqui and her three young children (ages 6, 4, and six months) were the targets of a rendition operation carried out by Pakistani and American agents. In 2008, after it was discovered that Aafia was a secretly-held prisoner at the American controlled “detention center” in Bagram, Afghanistan, she was released in a severely weakened state, reunited with her son Ahmed, and set up to be killed. Aafia was shot by a U.S. soldier (while awaiting re-interrogation); brought back to the United States and later put on trial in a federal courthouse in New York City (2010); and found guilty of “attempting to murder US personnel” in Afghanistan (despite all of the evidence in her favor); and given a sentence of 86 YEARS (Life without the possibility of parole)!

25] – Maris St. Cyr and Sam Bleicher invite you to a reception to benefit Maryland League of Conservation Voters featuring guest speaker, Brian Frosh, Maryland Attorney General. He will discuss current 2015 legislative session issues including fracking and storm water, and how the Maryland League of Conservation Voters is advancing comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation. It takes place on Mon., Mar. 30 from 6 to 7:30 PM at 2515 Boston Street, #1002, Baltimore 21224. The expected donations are as follows: friend--$250 or individual--$75. RSVP to Karen Doory at 410-280-9855 ext. 208 or kdoory@mdlcv.org.

26] – Beyond the Classroom: University of Maryland, 1102 South Campus Commons, Building 1, 4230 Knox Road, College Park 20742, on Mon., Mar. 30 from 7 to 9 PM, see LIVING DOWNSTREAM as part of a Seminar Series on People Power: Activism for Social Change. The film is based on the acclaimed book by ecologist and cancer survivor Sandra Steingraber, Ph.D., which is an eloquent and cinematic documentary film. This poetic film follows Sandra during one pivotal year as she travels across North America, working to break the silence about cancer and its environmental links. After a routine cancer screening, Sandra receives some worrying results and is thrust into a period of medical uncertainty. Thus, we begin two journeys with Sandra: her private struggles with cancer and her public quest to bring attention to the urgent human rights issue of cancer prevention.

But Sandra is not the only one who is on a journey—the chemicals against which she is fighting are also on the move. We follow these invisible toxins as they migrate to some of the most beautiful places in North America. We see how these chemicals enter our bodies and how, once inside, scientists believe they may be working to cause cancer. Several experts in the fields of toxicology and cancer research make important cameo appearances in the film, highlighting their own findings on two pervasive chemicals: atrazine, one of the most widely used herbicides in the world, and the industrial compounds, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Their work further illuminates the significant connection between a healthy environment and human health. Go to https://www.umd.edu/fyi/index.cfm?id=237966.

27] – The Pledge of Resistance-Baltimore usually meets on Mondays at 7:30 PM, and the meetings take place at Max’s residence. The next meeting will be on Mon., Mar. 30. The proposed agenda will include anti-drone activities, lobbying in Annapolis, a march from the EPA to the Pentagon, May Day and dealing with US warmongering. Call 410-366-1637 or email mobuszewski at verizon.net.

To be continued.

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/.

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Why on Earth Did the Feds Approve a High-Pressure Gas Pipeline Near a Nuke Plant?

Published on Alternet (http://www.alternet.org)

Why on Earth Did the Feds Approve a High-Pressure Gas Pipeline Near a Nuke Plant?

By Alison Rose Levy [1] / AlterNet [2]

March 27, 2015

A gas explosion leveled two buildings in New York’s East Village this past week, with two neighboring structures damaged, one still at risk for collapse, and 22 people injured, four of them severely. The fire raged from early afternoon into the next morning with more than 250 firefighters responding. Just over a year ago, a gas explosion leveled two buildings in Harlem, killing eight people. The National Transportation Safety Board has not yet released its conclusions as to what caused the Harlem fire.

While fires, explosions, plane crashes and others disasters are considered newsworthy, drawing people and the media to the scene, the quiet dramas of government policy, approval and planning that set the stage for—or can prevent—disastrous events are every bit as riveting.

Many accidents occur due to unavoidable human or material error, such as inadequate inspection, corroded pipes or faulty valves. But some accidents arise when two things never meant to happen at the same time and place just do. Like the tsunami that overwhelmed inadequate safety protections at the aging Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. That deadly event exemplifies what the National Transportation Safety Board defines as “interactive threats,” two or more high-risk conditions that unpredictably meet and produce an outcome far worse than the risks of either one acting alone.

Since March 3, 2015, three high-risk conditions have begun converging north of the New York metro area: the aging Indian Point nuclear power plant; a high pressure, high-volume gas pipeline; and an authorization by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to build a new segment of the pipeline in close proximity to the nuclear plant. In the few weeks since the authorization, apart from some felled trees in Yorktown Heights, there have been few visible signs that millions of New Yorkers may soon be living with the increased risk of a fiery, pipeline-triggered nuclear accident, 37 miles north of the City.

In its ruling, with the approval of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, FERC granted the pipeline company, Spectra Energy a “conditional certificate of public convenience and necessity” to build the Algonquin Incremental Market (AIM) pipeline, one segment of the extended pipeline slated to carry fracked shale gas from Pennsylvania into New England. It will go directly along the outer perimeter of the Indian Point nuclear power plant.

A 2015 NTSB safety report [3] detailed 119 “incidents” in gas transmission pipelines last year. The report also noted a mounting frequency of these incidents in what it called areas of “high consequence.” The NSTB found that “inadequate evaluation of interactive threats” leads pipeline operators to “underestimate the true magnitude of risks to a pipeline.”
In close proximity to one of this country’s major cities, Indian Point is certainly a “high-consequence” location. The quartet of organizations responsible for safety guarantees, which include the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, FERC, Entergy (the plant owners) and Spectra (the pipeline company) all claim the pipeline poses no risk to the nuclear power plant.

“Because of the distance of the proposed Project from the IPEC (Indian Point Energy Center) generating facilities and the avoidance and mitigation measures that it would implement, the proposed route would not pose any new safety hazards to the IPEC facility,” states the FERC-issued [4] Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS).

In line with the above, no emergency response plan has been submitted, say two independent safety experts. The experts claim to have uncovered evidence that the approval was based on unsupported safety promises, misused data and circumvented safety regulations, all provided by the NRC and Entergy. The closest point between the pipeline and plant infrastructures, according to one of the two engineers who assessed the plans, would be 105 feet from nuclear power structures in a significant seismic zone and densely populated region. An accident or failure of the new pipeline could result in a catastrophic explosion and release of the facility’s 40 years of radioactive spent fuel, rendering all of Westchester County, New York City and much of Connecticut and Long Island uninhabitable for generations.

The pipeline would be located approximately 2,500 feet (about half a mile or 10 city blocks) from the nuclear reactors themselves.

In a February 2015 letter, both New York senators, Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, asked FERC to delay its final decision until a “thorough, independent review of all the project’s potential impacts is completed and made available to the public, with full opportunity for comment and review, including additional public meetings.”

Schumer, who is the ranking member of the Committee on Rules and Administration, also sits on the powerful Senate Finance and Judiciary Committees. However, FERC overruled the senators’ request and went on to issue its final ruling a few weeks later.

Safety Experts

According to Susan Van Dolsen, a co-founder of SAPE2016, an advocacy group opposing the pipeline, many residents of Westchester county, with its upscale bedroom communities of high-earning professionals, are dismayed at the expected plummet of their quality of life and property values due to the pollution, noise and industrial activity the pipeline and the compressor stations along its pathway will bring.

The town of Courtlandt engaged the services of two independent scientific experts to determine the validity of concerns about whether the new pipeline increases the odds of a nuclear event. Richard Kuprewicz is a pipeline regulatory and safety advisor, incident investigator, and expert witness on gas pipeline risk analysis, while Paul Blanch is an engineer with 45 years of experience in nuclear safety, engineering operations and federal regulatory requirements. Each has the expertise (and the appropriate security clearances) to probe what Kuprewicz calls the main question: “In the event of a pipeline rupture, can the nuke plant be failsafe shut down?”

Danger of Fiery Explosions Due to Pipeline Ruptures

The primary pipeline safety risk is ruptures. When a gas pipeline ruptured in San Bruno, California in 2010, it leveled a Bay Area neighborhood and killed eight people, incurring $1.4 billion in damages. The San Bruno pipeline was much smaller and carried less gas at a lower pressure than the proposed Spectra pipeline in Westchester County.

With nearly 300,000 miles of gas pipelines in the U.S. (according to the National Transportation Safety Board [5]), “the management of gas transmission pipelines requires expert knowledge and integration of multiple disciplines to detect potential problems.”

A recent NTSB study focused specifically on “high consequence areas, where an accident could cause the most damage and loss of lives.” From 2010–2013, gas pipelines were “over-represented in documented incidents in such high consequence areas.” When the NTSB investigated three major gas transmission pipeline accidents— in Palm City, FLA (2009), San Bruno, CA (2010) and Sissonville, WVA (2012)— it attributed them to “deficiencies” in the operators’ plans and oversight.

At Indian Point, neither the Nuclear Regulatory Commission nor FERC will require electronic safety features to automatically shut down the pipeline in the event of leaks, ruptures or explosions. Instead, Spectra, the pipeline company, will monitor the pipeline from Houston, with the promise that “upon viewing a drop in pressure within the distant pipeline, the Houston employees could close safety valves within three minutes.”

Spectra’s report gives “the impression that [they] will actually stop the gas burning, or the gas explosions, within a three-minute time period,” says Kuprewicz. “But they won't see pressure drop alarms for quite a while in the control room 1,000 miles away.”

The actual sequence of events following a pipeline rupture make the delay nearly inevitable, says Kuprewicz. In the aftermath of a rupture, there are big blasts and multiple explosions, as one or more huge fireballs rise a couple of hundred feet into the air.

“The tonnage releases on these large diameter pipelines are such that you can expect to see multiple detonations, multiple blasts,” he notes. These “cast out pipe steel in all directions and the steel forms these huge craters.” The gas roars out of the pipe at a velocity higher than the speed of sound. Given the confusion at the site in the aftermath of a rupture, “it's going to be a while before somebody in a control room gets the word that you might have a rupture.”

In the aftermath of a rupture, there are often delays in pressure monitoring devices in the control room, he says.

Long after the wait for valve closure, which Kuprewicz says could take a minimum of 20 minutes, and sometimes up to several hours, high temperature fires can continue to burn. “In the San Bruno pipeline rupture, a slightly different animal, smaller line, lower pressure, that burned for over 90 minutes,” says Kuprewicz. “The gas will explode and burn for quite a period of time.”

The pipeline valves are three miles apart, so that shut down or not, at the minimum three miles of gas (if the rupture occurred between two valves) and possibly as many as six miles of gas (if the rupture occurred at a valve site) could be released to fuel the fire.

Given his experience with rupture-precipitated fires, Kuprewicz is concerned about “the tremendous amount of heat flux generated from these high-tonnage release gas transmission pipeline ruptures that have ignited…The higher the heat flux, the longer the duration, the more damage that can occur. I have seen the heat fluxes so high that they will liquefy steel at a distance and vaporize aluminum.”

Kuprewicz adds, “I would expect extensive damage to auxiliary equipment such as transmission pipelines and equipment that might be related to fail-safe shutdown of the reactor facilities themselves.”

How near would a rupture-triggered fire be to nuclear plan structures? Paul Blanch, the nuclear safety expert, explained, “we have the gas turbine fuel oil tanks that are located in a very close proximity to the pipeline. They hold hundreds, maybe millions of gallons of burning jet fuel oil which would ignite and flow downhill into safety-related structures, including the switchyard, transformers, as well as vital tanks that are used for cooling which are in the high-heat flux and blast radius.”

In this scenario, a rupture “would disable all emergency generators, and then we have compounding problems. The fire takes out incoming power, and we wind up with no AC power on unit 2. Even backup generators would be inoperable. This scenario is similar to Fukushima. The primary reason they had a meltdown is because they lost all power. Batteries just last so long and they won’t cool the reactor,” Blanch explains.

Inadequate Safety Evaluation

Blanch initiated a FOIA request to evaluate the basis for the NRC’s assurance of a three-minute shutdown. In carefully studying the NRC analysis, and evaluating the accompanying data and references, Blanch found nothing to support a three-minute shutdown. Instead it turned out that the NRC had based its evaluation on an old 1986 EPA methodology, called the ALOHA program. As a result, the NRC vastly underestimated the risks.

“The ALOHA program itself says that it is not be used for this type of pipeline,” Blanch explains. “It applies to a gas line connected to a gas tank. It does not apply to a break in a continuous gas transmission line. You can’t use it where there are chemical leaks or fires. But the NRC used it to determine the safety of the Spectra pipeline.”

There were other errors and unsupported conclusions in the analysis, Blanch says.

For example, the determination of the statistical likelihood of a total rupture. According to the documents Blanch evaluated, the NRC analysis assumes that a total pipe rupture will occur in only 1% of the pipeline accidents. However, according to Blanch, the references accompanying that analysis clearly state that total ruptures occur in 20% of such accidents.

Another question remains “what are the odds of a pipeline rupture triggering a nuclear event?” According to Blanch, the NRC estimated those odds as approximately seven in 100 million years, which, according to NRC regulations, is considered an acceptable level of risk. However when Blanch recalculated the risk projection based on a 20% rate of pipeline accidents and the corrected size and velocity of the planned pipeline, the risk turned out to be one in 1000 years. This Blanch calls, “an unacceptable probability and a clear violation of NRC regulations.”

Blanch says that the evaluation done by the NRC is not commonly needed because “there just aren’t that many nuclear power plants in the vicinity of high speed gas transmission pipelines.” He wrote to the NRC engineer who prepared the safety analysis to point out that the rationale for the approval failed to follow NRC regulations. The NRC engineer told Blanch that he was not “familiar with the regulations and that is the responsibility of a different division within the NRC.”

From the evidence, both safety experts expressed concern that two federal agencies, the NRC and FERC, signed off on the three-minute shutdown promise, and underestimated the likelihood of an accident, based on miscalculations and inapplicable data.

“What you have in this matter are the agencies (including FERC) not having the specialized expertise and/or the willingness to challenge bogus information [concerning safety] near a nuclear plant— it’s unbelievable,” said Kuprewicz.

“The NRC is not an independent agency,” Blanch says. “They are so tied to the nuclear industry and so concerned that the industry will die, that they will minimize the impact of any possible event to lessen damage to the nuclear industry.”

Interactive Threats

“We have significant safety issues, and we're not talking about [California] where it killed seven people. We are talking tens of millions of people who could be endangered by releases from Indian Point,” says Blanch, who describes himself as “pro-nuclear.” “I’m not one of those environmentalists,” he said. “In my opinion, we need both nuclear power and this gas pipeline.” Blanch recommends that the pipeline be re-routed away from Indian Point, which he estimates would cost $2 to $3 billion.

Blanch has filed a petition alleging wrongdoing by Entergy in submitting inaccurate and incomplete information. He says it also “appears to me that the NRC has already made a determination in its inspection report that this information is accurate.”

For Blanch, this raises the question, “how can we be assured of an independent assessment of this petition if it's the same chain of command that has already approved and said this information is accurate?”

“It is irresponsible to take a recommendation from a company like Spectra that wants their business to be here, and not independently validate it. The safety of the people in the region should take precedence over the interests of two energy production companies,” says New York State Assemblywoman Sandy Galef. “There is no other place in this country where a gas pipeline comes as close to a nuclear power plant as it does here, so it requires above and beyond oversight and analysis.”

With the “inadequate evaluation of interactive threats” in “high consequence zones” now aimed at this country’s largest urban population, Blanch is repeating the call for an independent review, similar to the one that Senators Schumer and Gillibrand have already requested.

“Failure of any of these gas pipelines could result in a total loss of cooling to the reactor cores and the inventory of spent fuel. Spectra Energy and Entergy have made no provisions to address this type of event,” Blanch wrote to New York governor Andrew Cuomo.

“Some of the possible consequences of a gas pipeline fire or explosion at Indian Point include loss of power to the entire site, secondary fires from liquid fuel storage tanks, reactor core damage and melting, asphyxiation of site personnel, spent fuel radioactivity release, and massive social and economic damage for generations. None of these possible outcomes are being addressed.”

Alison Rose Levy @alisonroselevy writes on health, food and the environment. Her website is healthjournalistblog.com [6] and her weekly radio program on Progressive Radio is Connect the Dots [7].

Report typos and corrections to 'corrections@alternet.org'. [8]
Source URL: http://www.alternet.org/environment/why-earth-did-feds-approve-high-pressure-gas-pipeline-near-nuke-plant

[1] http://www.alternet.org/authors/alison-rose-levy
[2] http://alternet.org
[3] http://www.ntsb.gov/news/events/Documents/2015_Gas_Transmission_SS_BMG_Abstract.pdf
[4] https://www.ferc.gov/industries/gas/enviro/eis/2015/01-23-15-eis.asp
[5] http://www.ntsb.gov/news/press-releases/Pages/PR20150127c.aspx
[6] http://www.healthjournalistblog.com/
[7] http://prn.fm/category/archives/connect-the-dots/
[8] mailto:corrections@alternet.org?Subject=Typo on Why on Earth Did the Feds Approve a High-Pressure Gas Pipeline Near a Nuke Plant?
[9] http://www.alternet.org/
[10] http://www.alternet.org/%2Bnew_src%2B

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