Category Archives: Politics

Chile: Was Valparaíso fire a “natural disaster”?

April 20, 2014. Source: Weekly News Update on the Americas

The central Chilean port city of Valparaíso remained under military control as of Apr. 15, three days after forest fires began sweeping into some of the city’s working-class neighborhoods, leaving at least 15 people dead and destroying 2,900 homes. Interior Minister Rodrigo Penailillo said the government hoped to have the fires under control by Apr. 16, but the national forestry agency indicated that it might take the 5,000 firefighters and other personnel in the city as long as 20 days to extinguish the fires completely. Some 12,500 people are now without homes in Valparaíso; this disaster follows an 8.2-magnitude earthquake in northern Chile that killed five people on Apr. 1 and made 2,635 homes uninhabitable.

Declared a World Heritage City in 2004 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Valparaíso is located in an area prone to forest fires. But experts and reporters said the extent of the devastation resulted less from natural conditions than from political failures. Witnesses reported that the firefighters–all unpaid volunteers, according to Chilean historian Sergio Grez–were slow to arrive when the fires started on the afternoon of Apr. 12, and they were equipped only with shovels and one truck. Driven by strong winds, the fires spread quickly through the close-packed wooden structures in the poorer neighborhoods, made vulnerable by decades of unplanned growth. Roads were often too narrow for fire engines, and there was no running water for fire hoses in the affected areas. Helicopters came with water hours later.

“We have been the builders and architects of our own dangers,” Valparaíso mayor Jorge Castro admitted on Apr. 13. Chilean president Michelle Bachelet told the national daily El Diario de Cooperativa on Apr. 15 that her government would try “to rebuild in a more orderly manner.” “It’s not enough to reinstall houses or support families,” she said. “We have to do something more substantive.” (El Mostrador (Chile) 4/14/14Les InRocks (France) 4/14/14US News & World Report 4/15/14 from AP)

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Poland uses Ukraine crisis to push coal

By Claudia Ciobanu, April 20, 2014. Source: Inter Press Service

 Environmentalists protesting against coal outside the Polish Ministry of Economy. Photo: Claudia Ciobanu/IPS.

Environmentalists protesting against coal outside the Polish Ministry of Economy. Photo: Claudia Ciobanu/IPS.

A European ‘energy union’ plan proposed by Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk as an EU response to the crisis in Ukraine could be a Trojan horse for fossil fuels.

On account of Poland’s proximity and deep historical ties to Ukraine, the country’s centre-right government led by Donald Tusk has assumed a prominent position in attempts to ease the crisis in Ukraine. Notoriously, Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski helped negotiate a February deal between then Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych and opposition leaders of Euromaidan, the name given to the pro-EU protests in Kiev.

 The Polish government’s assertiveness came with quick electoral gains. According to a poll conducted in early April by polling agency TNS Polska, Tusk’s Civic Platform for the first time in years took a lead in voters’ preferences over the conservative Peace and Justice Party of Jaroslaw Kaczynski.

“Not only is Civic Platform back in the lead, but also more Poles are ready to vote and vote for the government,” Lukasz Lipinski, an analyst at think tank Polityka Insight in Warsaw, told IPS. “All opposition parties now want to move the debate [ahead of the May 25 European elections] to domestic issues because on those it is much easier to criticise the Civic Platform after six years of government.”

Yet Tusk’s executive insists on Ukraine because of the benefits the topic can still bring. In the last weekend of March, the prime minister announced a Polish proposal for a European energy union that would make Europe resilient to crises like the Russian-Ukrainian conflict.

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Filed under Climate Change, Coal, Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, Green Economy, Politics

Colombia’s breadbasket feels the pinch of free trade

By Helda Martínez, April 8, 2014. Source: Inter Press Service

The home of a poor farming family in the mountains of Cajamarca, in the central Colombian department of Tolima. Photo: Helda Martínez/IPS

The home of a poor farming family in the mountains of Cajamarca, in the central Colombian department of Tolima. Photo: Helda Martínez/IPS

“Things are getting worse and worse,” Enrique Muñoz, a 67-year-old farmer from the municipality of Cajamarca in the central Colombian department of Tolima, once known as the country’s breadbasket, said sadly.

“Over the past five decades, the situation took a radical turn for the worse,” activist Miguel Gordillo commented to IPS, referring to what is happening in Tolima, whose capital is Ibagué, 195 km southwest of Bogotá.

“Fifty years ago, Ibagué was a small city surrounded by crops – vast fields of cotton that looked from far away like a big white sheet,” said Gordillo, head of the non-governmental Asociación Nacional por la Salvación Agropecuaria(National Association to Save Agriculture).

“In Tolima we planted maize, tobacco, soy, sorghum and fruit trees, and the mountains that surrounded Cajamarca were covered with green coffee bushes protected by orange trees, maize and plantain, and surrounded by celery,” Muñoz said.

His voice lost in the past, he said the farms in the area also had “piggies, chickens, mules, cows; everything was so different.”

Gordillo said, “In the north of the department we had fruit trees of all kinds, and the rivers were chock full of fish. There’s still rice, some maize, coffee…but even the fish have disappeared.

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Filed under Biodiversity, Food Sovereignty, Industrial agriculture, Land Grabs, Latin America-Caribbean, Political Repression, Politics, Rights, Resilience, and Restoration

Towards an ecological general strike – The Earth Day to May Day assembly and days of direct action

By Elliot Hughes and Steve Ongerth, April 4, 2014. Source: Indy Bay

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

ecostrikeDirect actions are planned in the Bay Area between Earth Day on April 22 and May 1st to raise awareness about the intersections of labor rights, immigration rights, and environmental issues. Actions may include sit-ins, tree sits, guerrilla gardening, pickets, marches, blockades, and strikes. Our goal is to challenge the “Jobs vs Environment” myth, to unite workers and environmentalists against the bosses, and rapidly transition unsustainable industries through direct action. The process in which we would achieve so, is through directly democratic workers assemblies and Environmental Unionist Caucuses within our existing unions where we would organize actions to halt the destruction of the planet. We seek to live up to our IWW Preamble which states that we must “abolish wage slavery and live in harmony with the Earth.”

We know that the workers, the community, and the planet are exploited by the state and capitalist forces that rule over our lives, but now the ruling class is escalating that attack on the working class and the planet we inhabit. We must come together to fight back or our planet will be completely destroyed. Recently the concentration of CO­2 in the Earth’s atmosphere exceeded 400 ppm. It greatly surpasses the 350 ppm that scientists argue is the limit to avoid run away global warming. As the capitalist class continues their “extreme energy” rampage including offshore oil drilling, tar sands mining, mountain removal, and fracking, a mass movement to oppose these forms of energy is rapidly growing and radicalizing. Recently, there has been an increased amount of oil spills, pipeline ruptures, oil train derailments, refinery fires, and chemical dumps. These disasters have not only destroyed the environment, but they have also injured and/or killed the very workers whom the capitalists depend on to extract these “resources”.

The same capitalist economic system destroying the Earth destroying the lives of the workers. Some of their methods of class warfare include eroding health and safety standards, downsizing and outsourcing the workforce, establishing a “blame the worker” safety culture, and creating dangerous labor conditions all around. These conditions that endanger the workers are also directly harming the communities around them, for example while the company towns develop cancers and asthma from air pollution, the workers often breathe in a higher density of these toxins because they work in close proximity with them. Yet, the bosses, through their use of propaganda are able to convince many exploited workers that environmentalists are their enemy are threats to their jobs. We must debunk this myth and come together to take direct action for health and safety and a halt to the destruction of our world.
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Filed under Actions / Protest, Climate Change, Climate Justice, Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, Politics, Rights, Resilience, and Restoration, Solutions

Defending the earth in Argentina: From direct action to autonomy

By Marina Sitrin, April 6, 2014. Source: Tidal

argentina1While corporations continue to land grab, exploit and privatize the little we still hold in common – people around the globe have been rising up. Women are preventing dams from being built in India; indigenous are Idle No More, defending the earth; entire town and villages have organized to prevent airports, roads and mines from being developed in France, Italy and Greece; thousands in the US have used their bodies to block the construction of pipelines intended for fracking; and throughout the Americas there are struggles everywhere against mining and the exploitation of land and water. Not only are people fighting back – but in many places, such as the one in Corrientes, Argentina described below, people are creating horizontal and self organized ways of being in the space of the resistance. Not only are people collectively shouting  No! and using direct action en mass to prevent the destruction of the earth, but together they are finding ways to autonomously recreate their relationships with one another, to work and with the land.

The below conversation is with Emilio Spataro, an organizer in Corrientes, who has been active in various movements in Argentina since his teen years. He was a part of the popular rebellion in December of 2001 and the subsequent neighborhood assemblies, building occupations and horizontal self organized projects. Since 2009 he has been living in Corrientes, collaborating with territorially based movements. He is currently on tour in the US with another movement participant from Guardians of Iberá ( One of the targets of their most recent campaign is Harvard University. Harvard owns massive timber plantations in Corrientes and the movements together with students, faculty and staff at Harvard have been organizing to hold them accountable.

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Corporate Globalization, Forests, Latin America-Caribbean, Political Repression, Politics, Rights, Resilience, and Restoration, Solutions

It’s very easy to get onto the terrorist database, and impossible to get off it

By Mary O’hara, March 29, 2013. Source: Vice

The Department of Justice released an audit of the FBI’s Terrorist Watchlist protocol on Tuesday. This claimed that while the agency has improved its speed when it comes to adding — and removing — names to the Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB), it still isn’t adding them fast enough.

The heavily redacted report makes clear that individuals who are not being officially investigated by the FBI can be, and often are, added to terrorist lists. What the audit doesn’t make clear is why. And that’s causing a growing unease among civil liberties groups, lawyers, and activists.

A week earlier, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) released a paper claiming that the TSDB grew from about 158,000 listings in 2004 to over 1.1 million in 2009. That was before the “underwear bomber,” a 2009 incident that greatly increased monitoring.

The “no-fly list” more than doubled in one year after that failed bombing attempt. But that is just one of eleven lists that include the Consular Lookout and Support System, the Interpol list, and the Violent Gang and Terrorist Organization File (VGTOF).

“There’s no due process for the watchlists,” Lauren Regan, executive director of Oregon’s Civil Liberties Defense Center, told VICE News. “The information about who’s on them isn’t available and there’s no process for countering or getting yourself off them.”

Regan says her law office receives a lot of calls from individuals that are surprised to discover themselves listed. “Like a woman who calls sobbing because she tried to fly home for her child’s wedding and was stopped at the airport.”

The ACLU report is packed with stories of everyday people being mistakenly, or mysteriously, placed on no-fly lists that led to detainment, incarceration, and interrogations, including a group of US military vets that ended up suing the government.

The audit also does not make clear what distinction, if any, is made between “gang” and “terrorist” activity, and how those two definitions intersect on the TSDB.

‘The reasonable suspicion standard is below the probable cause standard. It’s one step above a hunch.’
Regan has noticed that low-level activists in environmental protest are now being listed under an “Eco Warrior” gang designation.

Kyle Odness, a 24-year-old environmental activist from Oklahoma, was arrested last June during a demonstration against the Keystone XL pipeline. All charges were dropped against him, but this January Odness noticed strange things happening.

“I was on a camping trip in Texas. On our way out, we had to drive through a border patrol checkpoint. They ran our IDs, then came back and asked if any of us was a known gang member,” Odness told VICE News. “A friend of mine had already been told twice that she was flagged as part of a gang called Eco Warriors, so I asked if it was Eco Warriors and he said ‘something like that.’”

A month later it happened again, this time in Florida. “The sheriff’s office ran our ID’s and told me, ‘so you’re a gang member?’ I asked again if it said Eco Warriors, and he said ‘yeah, it’s some gang I’ve never heard of.’”

VICE News contacted the FBI about the so-called Eco Warrior gang, but was told that the bureau would not release information about specific gangs.

Ryan Shapiro, an MIT researcher described by the DOJ as the “most prolific” Freedom of Information Act requester, told VICE News that among the 40,000 pages he’s managed to get from the FBI, he’s never seen “Eco Warriors” listed as a gang.

“There are a number of official monikers used as subject headers like eco-extremism, animal rights, and animal extremism,” Shapiro said, “It’s not a gang designation, it’s basically a sub-header of domestic terrorism.”

Yet Shapiro added: “At the local level there’s a lot of weird stuff that happens in terms of gang information.” He recalled the 2009 indictment of animal rights activist Kevin Olliff, in which the State of California claimed that the Animal Liberation Front was a “gang.” Convicting Olliff under gang charges would have increased his sentence from two years to more than 20 years. At a 2010 pre-trial hearing, a judge ruled that ALF did not qualify as a gang.

According to law professor Jeffrey Kahn, author of the book Mrs. Shipley’s Ghost: The Right to Travel and Terrorist Watchlists, federal watchlists can trickle down to local law enforcement. Kahn believes that these authorities then don’t always comply with the directive not to share them. “So information leaks out of the system,” he said.

Kahn explained to VICE News that police officers can check the TSDB during a traffic stop. While they won’t be able to see any classified information, if your name is in the database the officer may be told to call the Terrorist Screening Center (TSC). “The TSC may then connect the officer to the holder of the intelligence about you to decide what to do — whether to arrest or detain you, or to try to get more information from you.”

The DOJ audit explains that subjects are nominated to watchlists if they meet a “reasonable suspicion” standard. “The reasonable suspicion standard is below the probable cause standard. It’s one step above a hunch,” Kahn said. “It’s like Stop and Frisk: an officer doesn’t need probable cause to do that, he just needs a reasonable suspicion based on articulable facts that you might be a threat.”

According to court documents the FBI sent to VICE News, Debra Lubman of the TSC told a court last year that nominations to terrorist watchlists “must not be made solely based on… the exercise of First Amendment protected activities such as free speech, the exercise of religion, freedom of the press, or freedom of peaceful assembly.” Lubman did not clarify which criteria are used to add individuals to the VGTOF gang list.

Regan is concerned that watchlisting is being used to intimidate even first-time activists. “In the last several years, you see young, very young activists who are 19 years old and doing their first protest, those people now have an FBI number.”

Regan said that in her 17 years of experience, she rarely saw federal involvement in low-level cases until recently.

“One of the biggest impacts on civil liberties is the chilling effect on normal people,” she added. “Putting everyday people on these watchlists, the effect of that is ‘be afraid of being branded a terrorist if you go to a single protest.’” Regan believes this is the point of the operation: “The volume of the information they’re collecting, most of that information isn’t useful to the feds, but the paranoia that the collection instills is useful.”

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Political Repression, Politics

Doubling tar sands production for imperial war

By MacDonald Stainsby, March 11, 2014. Source: Counterpunch

TransCanada_Energy_East_Pipeline_ProjectThe continuation of the North American master plan for energy continues unabated. The newest pipeline– along with the corridor pipeline through Toronto to Montréal and the Atlantic Coast in Maine that Line 9 is a component part of–could facilitate the doubling of tar sands crude available to distribute daily in a short number of years. Well over a million barrels a day (1.1 according to the proposals) alone would flow through the “Energy East” pipeline to a Saint John terminal –including the refinery owned by Irving, the traditional oligarchy that believe they own large sections of the Maritimes.

Current geopolitical struggles involving western imperial nation-states are demanding a re-shuffling of the global energy deck. Tar sands are looking more and more like the Fortress North America strategic military reserves– enough crude to ride out the next phase of US imperial strategy. Russia–and perhaps Venezuela–are on a collision course with the West, and Canada is not impartial nor hiding in the wings on either front. Continue reading

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Filed under Climate Change, Corporate Globalization, Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, Politics, War

U.S. hopes boom in natural gas can curb Putin

By Coral Davenport and Steven Erlanger, March 5, 2014. Source: The New York Times

About 80 percent of Russian gas exports to Europe pass through Ukraine. Europe, in turn, depends on Russia for 40 percent of its imported fuel. According to Mikhail Korchemkin, head of East European Gas Analysis, a consulting firm in Pennsylvania, the most important pipelines that run through Ukraine are the ones leading to Slovakia. They will eventually take gas to Germany, Austria and Italy.  Sources: East European Gas Analysis, National Gas Union of Ukraine

About 80 percent of Russian gas exports to Europe pass through Ukraine.  Sources: East European Gas Analysis, National Gas Union of Ukraine

WASHINGTON — The crisis in Crimea is heralding the rise of a new era of American energy diplomacy, as the Obama administration tries to deploy the vast new supply of natural gas in the United States as a weapon to undercut the influence of the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, over Ukraine and Europe.

The crisis has escalated a State Department initiative to use a new boom in American natural gas supplies as a lever against Russia, which supplies 60 percent of Ukraine’s natural gas and has a history of cutting off the supply during conflicts. This week, Gazprom, Russia’s state-run natural gas company, said it would no longer provide gas at a discount rate to Ukraine, a move reminiscent of more serious Russian cutoffs of natural gas to Ukraine and elsewhere in Europe in 2006, 2008 and 2009.

“We’re engaging from a different position because we’re a much larger energy producer,” said Jason Bordoff, a former senior director for energy and climate change on the White House’s National Security Council. Continue reading

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No end in sight yet for Trans-Pacific trade pact

By Rachel Armstrong and Masayuki Kitano, February 25, 2014. Source: Reuters

U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman (C) speaks next to Japan's Economics Minister Akira Amari (centre L) and Singapore's Trade Minister Lim Hng Kiang (centre R), amongst trade ministers representing Canada, Peru, Malaysia and Mexico during a news conference at the end of a four-day Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Ministerial meeting in Singapore February 25, 2014.  Photo: REUTERS/EDGAR SU

U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman (C) speaks next to Japan’s Economics Minister Akira Amari (centre L) and Singapore’s Trade Minister Lim Hng Kiang (centre R), amongst trade ministers representing Canada, Peru, Malaysia and Mexico during a news conference at the end of a four-day Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Ministerial meeting in Singapore February 25, 2014. Photo: REUTERS/EDGAR SU

Ministers in 12-nation Trans-Pacific trade talks said on Tuesday they had yet to reach agreement on tariffs and other market access issues, with the timing of a completed deal looking increasingly unclear.

Ministers said they had made significant progress during four days of meetings in Singapore, but the talks ended with no clear indication of a time frame to clinch the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) agreements.

“Market access is in some respects the heart and soul of any trade agreement so until that’s done, we don’t have an agreement,” New Zealand Trade Minister, Tim Groser told a news conference after the talks.

The U.S.-backed deal aims to cut tariffs and set common standards on other trade issues across a dozen countries that cover almost 40 percent of the global economy. Continue reading

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No conflict of interest found in favorable review of Keystone pipeline

By Coral Davenport, February 26, 2014. Source: New York Times

Obama spoke at the TransCanada Stillwater pipe yard in Cushing, Oklahoma about the Keystone XL pipeline and his energy policies on March 22, 2012. Photo: Mandel Ngan/Getty Images.

Obama spoke at the TransCanada Stillwater pipe yard in Cushing, Oklahoma about the Keystone XL pipeline and his energy policies on March 22, 2012. Photo: Mandel Ngan/Getty Images.

WASHINGTON — A State Department contractor who prepared an environmental analysis of the Keystone XL pipeline did not violate conflict-of-interest rules, even though the contractor had previously done work for TransCanada, the company seeking to build the pipeline, a State Department inspector general’s investigation concluded on Wednesday.

The results of the investigation could further pave the way for the Obama administration to approve the 1,700-mile, $5.4 billion pipeline, which would move oil from forest in Alberta, Canada, to the Gulf Coast. The pipeline has become a critical cause to environmentalists, who view President Obama’s ultimate decision as a reflection of his commitment to fight climate change. They have rallied, protested and been arrested by the thousands in an effort to pressure him to reject the project.

Supporters of the pipeline, particularly Republicans and the fossil fuel industry, hailed the new report, saying it further strengthened their case.

“Another day and another government report that finds no reason to continue blocking this common-sense, job-creating project,” Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio, said in an email. “It’s long past time the president stop pandering to his extremist allies and just approve it so we can get people back to work.” Continue reading

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Filed under Climate Change, Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, Energy, Politics, Tar Sands