Friday, July 31, 2009

Author outs rape in US armed forces

Three Good Reasons to Liquidate our Empire
And Ten Steps to Take to Do So
Chalmers Johnson, in Tom Dispatch

3. We Need to End the Secret Shame of Our Empire of Bases
In March, New York Times op-ed columnist Bob Herbert noted, 'Rape and other forms of sexual assault against women is the great shame of the US armed forces, and there is no evidence that this ghastly problem, kept out of sight as much as possible, is diminishing.' He continued: 'New data released by the Pentagon showed an almost 9 percent increase in the number of sexual assaults -- 2,923 -- and a 25 percent increase in such assaults reported by women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan [over the past year].'...

The problem is exacerbated by having our troops garrisoned in overseas bases located cheek-by-jowl next to civilian populations and often preying on them like foreign conquerors. For example, sexual violence against women and girls by American GIs has been out of control in Okinawa, Japan's poorest prefecture, ever since it was permanently occupied by our soldiers, Marines, and airmen some 64 years ago...

The problem of rape has been ubiquitous around all of our bases on every continent and has probably contributed as much to our being loathed abroad as the policies of the Bush administration or our economic exploitation of poverty-stricken countries whose raw materials we covet...

It is fair to say that the US military has created a worldwide sexual playground for its personnel and protected them to a large extent from the consequences of their behavior. As a result a group of female veterans in 2006 created the Service Women's Action Network (SWAN). It's agenda is to spread the word that 'no woman should join the military.'

I believe a better solution would be to radically reduce the size of our standing army, and bring the troops home from countries where they do not understand their environments and have been taught to think of the inhabitants as inferior to themselves.

Chalmers Johnson is the author of Blowback (2000), The Sorrows of Empire (2004), and Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic (2006), and editor of Okinawa: Cold War Island (1999).
Image source here.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Iran: 'We can win this.'

For a few hours I saw a look in many people's faces that I had not seen since the week after the election -- a look that said, 'we can win this.'
-- Email from Tehran

Iran security forces retreat as huge numbers of mourners gather at cemetery
Los Angeles Times: Uniformed security forces initially clashed violently today with some of the mourners, supporters and leaders of the opposition, who were there to protest and grieve for those killed in recent unrest. Unsuccessful presidential candidates Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi attempted to attend the graveside ceremony marking the religiously significant 40th day since the death of [Neda] Agha-Soltan and others killed in the fighting...

According to one witness, who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisal, Mousavi stepped out of his car only to be surrounded by police, who forced him back into his vehicle and out of the cemetery. At first, mourners were confronted by security forces, who struck some with batons and made arrests in an attempt to bar them from gathering at Tehran's Behesht Zahra cemetery, the country's largest. The tree-lined streets leading to the graves of Agha-Soltan and others were blocked by riot police, the witness said.

The witness said protesters identified and violently confronted several plainclothes Basiji militiamen. 'Police, police, support us,' the crowd chanted. 'God is great!' But as people poured out of the nearby subway station and taxis along the highway, security forces retreated. One witness said police released detainees and began cooperating with the mourners, directing them to Section 257 of the cemetery, where Agha-Soltan and others were buried.

Videos here.
Image source here.

Human activity causing mass extinction

Human activity is driving Earth's 'sixth great extinction event'
The Guardian: Earth is experiencing its 'sixth great extinction event' with disease and human activity taking a devastating toll on vulnerable species, according to a major review... [The] report identifies six causes driving species to extinction, almost all linked in some way to human activity... Species are being threatened by habitat loss and degradation, invasive species, climate change, over-exploitation, pollution and wildlife disease...

The report sets out a raft of recommendations to slow the decline by introducing laws to limit land clearing, logging and mining; restricting deliberate introduction of invasive species; reducing carbon emissions and pollution; and limiting fisheries. It raises particular concerns about bottom trawling, and the use of cyanide and dynamite, and calls for early-warning systems to pick up diseases in the wild.

Dead and buried

Cretaceous-Tertiary: 65m years ago the dinosaurs were wiped out in a mass extinction that killed nearly a fifth of land vertebrate families, 16% of marine families and nearly half of all marine mammals. Thought to have been caused by asteroid impact that created Chicxulub crater in the Yucatan.

End of Triassic: About 200m years ago, lava floods erupting from the central Atlantic are thought to have created lethal global warming, killing off more than a fifth of all marine families and half of marine genera.

Permian-Triassic: The worst mass extinction took place 250m years ago, killing 95% of all species. Experts disagree on the cause.

Late Devonian: About 360m years ago, a fifth of marine families were wiped out, alongside more than half of all marine genera. Cause unknown.

Ordovician-Silurian: About 440m years ago, a quarter of all marine families were wiped out by fluctuating sea levels as glaciers formed and melted again.
Image source here.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Iran rallies tomorrow in memory of Neda

New York Times: Mr. Moussavi and other opposition leaders have asked permission [which was denied] to hold a public mourning ceremony for the dead on Thursday. That day has great symbolic importance, because it is 40 days after the shooting of Neda-Agha-Soltan, the young woman whose death ignited widespread outrage in Iran and beyond. Commemorating the 40th day after a person's death is an important mourning ritual in Shiite Islam; similar anniversaries for dead protesters were essential in the demonstrations that led to the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

Time: Phase 2 has begun. Six weeks after millions took to the streets to protest Iran's presidential election, their uprising has morphed into a feistier, more imaginative and potentially enduring campaign. The second phase plays out in a boycott of goods advertised on state-controlled television... It includes calls to switch on every electric appliance in the house just before the evening TV news to trip up Tehran's grid. It features quickie 'blitz' street demonstrations, lasting just long enough to chant 'Death to the dictator!' several times but short enough to evade security forces. It involves identifying paramilitary Basij vigilantes linked to the crackdown and putting marks in green -- the opposition color -- or pictures of protest victims in front of their homes. It is scribbled antiregime slogans on money. And it is defiant drivers honking horns, flashing headlights and waving V signs at security forces.

The tactics are unorganized, largely leaderless and only just beginning. They spread by e-mail, websites and word of mouth. But their variety and scope indicate that Iran's uprising is not a passing phenomenon... Iranians are rising above their fears... Today's public resolve is reminiscent of civil disobedience in colonial India before independence or the American Deep South in the 1960s. Mohandas Gandhi once mused that 'even the most powerful cannot rule without the cooperation of the ruled.' That quotation is now popular on Iranian websites... The public is defining its own agenda, with Rafsanjani, Mousavi and other opposition figures responding to sentiment on the street rather than directing it. After meeting on July 20 with the families of people detained following the election, Mousavi warned the power structure, 'You are facing something new: an awakened nation, a nation that has been born again and is here to defend its achievements.'
Image source here.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Heat to spike soon at 150% of predicted rate

World will warm faster than predicted in next five years
New estimate based on the forthcoming upturn in solar activity and El Niño southern oscillation cycles is expected to silence global warming sceptics

The Guardian: The research to be published in Geophysical Research Letters... is the first to assess the combined impact on global temperature of four factors: human influences such as CO2 and aerosol emissions; heating from the sun; volcanic activity, and the El Niño southern oscillation, the phenomenon by which the Pacific Ocean flips between warmer and cooler states every few years.

The analysis shows the relative stability in global temperatures in the last seven years is explained primarily by the decline in incoming sunlight associated with the downward phase of the 11-year cycle, together with a lack of strong El Niño events. These trends have masked the warming caused by CO2 and other greenhouse gases.

As solar activity picks up again in the coming years, the research suggests, temperatures will shoot up at 150% of the rate predicted by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change... The study comes within days of announcements from climatologists that the world is entering a new El Niño warm spell. This suggests that temperature rises in the next year could be even more marked.
Image source here.

Monday, July 27, 2009

High water temperatures kill Fraser sockeye

Sockeye salmon numbers crash as bust replaces anticipated bounty on BC coast
Pacific Salmon Commission cuts estimates of spawning salmon almost in half

Vancouver Sun: What was supposed to be a bountiful year for the Fraser River Sockeye salmon fishery -- the height of the four-year cycle -- is beginning to look like a bust... Instead of the 165,000 projected before the season started, the commission now expects 85,000... The commission has also downgraded its pre-season projection of 739,000 early summer sockeye by 64 per cent to 264,000.

But the big question is what will happen to the summer sockeye, which are supposed to make up 83 per cent of the 10.5 million salmon the Pacific Salmon Commission had predicted would make their way up the Fraser River this year. The summer sockeye run so far has been 'well below expectations,' said a fishery notice released by Fisheries and Oceans Canada...

The Fisheries and Oceans Canada report is not optimistic, noting: 'Fraser River water temperatures are forecast to reach approximately 21 C by Aug. 1. Water temperatures exceeding 20 C may cause high en route mortality of Fraser River sockeye.' As a result of the low returns, the sockeye fishery on the Fraser River has been closed until further notice, raising concerns that first nations may not be able to catch enough for their food fishery...

Last year's sockeye salmon catch was 1.7 million fish, Fisheries and Oceans Canada salmon team leader Paul Ryell said last September. That was well below the average return of 4.4 million fish. In October, the International Union for the Conservation of nature went so far as to label BC's sockeye salmon a threatened species.
Image source here.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Fireworks? I'll show you fireworks!

It was the second night of Vancouver's Celebration of Light, the international fireworks competition, and South Africa was up. They did a great job, once we got to them, but the opening and collaborative act was the combination of a long and powerful thunderstorm coinciding with a glorious sunset.

First, the 1) Thunderstorm! Seen from Kitsilano, blue and white bolts striking behind downtown and the West End, stalking into North Shore Mountain valleys and finally moving west into the 2) Sunset! Cloud to ground, cloud to cloud, some of the bolts more like fireballs, their paths curving. People gathering on rooftops and balconies for the evening's fireworks shouting and oohing. Sheet lightning, bolts, the whole kit, and meanwhile a mist of fine rain dispersing all the light so that half the sky is amber/apricot from the sunset, half is blue/indigo, the blurred boundary a mauve/gray, indigo gradually moving across the sky until the sunset is a band on the horizon, but the lightning continues, no wind, the storm is basically sitting on us, and then the 3) Fireworks! By the time those started the rain had stopped and the storm had settled into sheet lightning outlining the mountains, but one sheet of blue covered the entire sky, its thunderclap-and-roll overwhelming the boom and crack of the fireworks. Even after the human display was over the sheet lightning continued. The storm lasted more than two and a half hours. 'Fireworks, eh? I'll show you fireworks!'

Image by Frank Eerdt, Vancouver Sun; photo gallery here.

Earth beauty for the day

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Ahousaht Shawn Atleo new AFN chief

New AFN chief from BC
The Canadian Press: The Assembly of First Nations has chosen a fresh-faced, worldly man with a reverence for traditional ways to be its next leader. Shawn Atleo at age 42 is the first national leader from British Columbia in 33 years...

Married to wife Nancy for the past 23 years and with two adult children, Tyson and Tara, he was named 'A-in-chut' and seated by his people as hereditary chief of the house of Glakishpittl of the Ahousaht First Nation in 1999. Before announcing his plans to run for national chief, he travelled home to seek the blessing of fellow chiefs, elders and community members...

Like his predecessor Phil Fontaine, Atleo has spent time on the international stage, participating in the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. He also led a delegation to support the recovery and rebuilding of indigenous communities following the tsunami in Indonesia and marched in Gwalior, India, to advocate for 80 million landless indigenous people. He talks of his people returning to 'healthy, economically sustainable and balanced communities, with everyone having a say, sharing responsibility and a role, and all able to pursue educational, work and entrepreneur dreams.'

The Canadian Press: Atleo becomes the public face of aboriginal negotiations with the federal government and will have to try to balance often-conflicting priorities of natives across the country, both on and off reserve. He'll also have to decide whether to take the organization in a new direction as it struggles for relevance in far-flung communities still waiting for a share of wealth from traditional lands and resources that were never ceded or sold...

Atleo has a background in education. He holds a master's degree in adult learning and global change and was named the first chancellor of Vancouver Island University in Nanaimo, BC. He at one time was the executive director of a First Nations family addictions treatment facility. He promised to make youth an important part of his agenda...

'We will arrive at that place of health and prosperity, of treaties that are recognized and respected, of the honour of the Crown that's upheld,' Atleo said. 'A place where no longer we will be plagued by suicides, no longer we will be plagued by deep poverty or incidents of health... Together we will make sure that the country of Canada makes good on the apology offered to the survivors of the residential school system.'

The prime minister signalled the need for co-operation when he congratulated the tough-talking new chief... Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff and NDP boss Jack Layton also offered their best wishes and said they were looking forward to an open and meaningful relationship.
Image source here.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Summer trees, Vancouver

Looking down 3rd West from Vine Street, Kitsilano

'Honour killing is patriarchy, not religion'

Rise in Canadian 'honour killings' should not be ignored
National Post: As many as 5,000 women and girls lose their lives -- mostly at the hands of their family members -- in 'honour killings' around the world each year, according to the United Nations.

Up to a dozen have died for the same reason in Canada in the last decade, and it's happening more often, says Amin Muhammad, a psychiatrist who studies honour killings at Memorial University in Newfoundland...

Honor killings can be sparked by a woman talking to a man, having a boyfriend, wearing makeup or revealing clothing, or even seeking a divorce, says Diana Nammi, founder of the London-based International Campaign Against Honour Killings. Ms. Nammi, originally from Iran, says children of immigrants who grow up in western nations take those freedoms for granted, which can throw them into conflict with their parents' rigid standards.

'When people are moving to another country, they leave everything they have, all their possessions, behind. But what they can bring with them is what they believe, their culture, their traditions, their religion... Unfortunately, they are choosing to show the worst part of that, and the worst and criminal part of that is controlling women.'

Honour killing is most prevalent in nations with large Muslim populations, but Aysan Ms. Sev'er, a professor of sociology at the University of Toronto Scarborough and author of an upcoming book on the subject, says there's nothing in Islam that sanctions the practice. Some perpetrators use religion as a 'cloak,' she says, but honour killing is about patriarchy, not religion.

'A few women are really sacrificed to terrorize all women, to push them into submission.'
Image: Aqsa Parvez, left, Shemina Hirji, top right, and Amina Yaser Said and Sarah Yaser Said, bottom right, were all killed by men in their lives in crimes described as 'honour killings'; source here.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Sun, Moon, and Earth

Across Asia yesterday, millions of people watched the longest solar eclipse of the century. The Japanese broadcaster NHK posted some of the clearest and most spectacular video of the event.
Image source here.

The Canada-US border between Saskatchewan and Montana. The border is drawn along a line of latitude rather than following the landscape, so there is no basic difference in the land itself on either side. What's different is the consequences of land-use policy. Scroll left and right to travel hundreds of miles in either direction.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Canada about to repeat US mistakes?

CANADA: Afghanistan Exit Could Bring Escalated Air War
Paul Weinberg, IPS: Amid reports that the Barack Obama administration is quietly lobbying the Conservative government in Ottawa to keep Canadian troops in Afghanistan's Kandahar province beyond 2011, Stephen Harper is finding himself in an increasingly awkward dilemma.

The Canadian prime minister needs to appease a popular US president who just deployed 4,000 Marines in a new Afghan offensive in Helmand, and at the same time avoid further alienating a war-weary electorate. One recent national poll revealed that 54 percent of Canadians oppose the Canadian military contribution to the NATO mission in Afghanistan.

The Conservatives are looking pretty unsteady on this file. A few weeks back, the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs made haste to contradict Defense Minister Peter MacKay when he suggested the government was considering lifting Canada's decade-old arms embargo against Pakistan...

But Steven Staples, president of the Rideau Institute in Ottawa and a defence analyst, told IPS it is quite possible that the Harper government already has a clear idea of its post-2011 mandate -- and that air strikes, which the Canadians haven't used so far, could be a major component.

Case in point, Staple said, is the March announcement that the Canadian Department of National Defence will be spending half a billion dollars on new armed drones (unmanned aerial vehicles, UAVs) to be available in 2012 and similar to the Predators and Reapers used by the US in its air strikes in Pakistan.

'While the role of ground troops may diminish simply because the army is exhausted from years of war, the air force could be called upon to support the US-led combat mission through air strikes by CF-18 fighter bombers or armed drones,' Staples said.

He predicted that Canada is about to repeat the mistakes made by its NATO allies, whose aircraft killed more than 500 Afghan civilians in 2008 alone, and by the US in particular, whose drones used for assassination attempts in Pakistan are also responsible for hundreds of civilian deaths...

Some experts think it's plausible that DND could decide to join the air war... said James Fergusson, head of the Centre for Defence and Security Studies at the University of Manitoba. 'What does it mean when we day we're going to end our combat mission? It doesn't mean we can't do other things out of Kandahar.'
Image source here.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Vancouver in top five best-run cities

Metro Vancouver cities among best run in Canada
Vancouver Sun: Three Metro Vancouver cities are among the top five best-run cities in Canada, according to a new survey of 31 urban centres. Burnaby is number one on the list, according to Maclean's magazine, with Surrey coming in third and Vancouver fourth. The survey was undertaken by the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, based in Halifax. It does not 'try to measure quality of life' or determine the 'best place to live,' the magazine says. 'Rather, it focuses on the contribution of local governments to this end.' The survey judges cities' effectiveness at providing services and producing results in such areas as road maintenance, park services, garbage pick-up and firefighting... Saskatoon, Sask. and Longueil, Quebec are in the top five along with the BC cities.

Image source here.

Israel in Gaza: 'We'll tell them they're lying'

Rattling the Cage: Our sons are lying again
Larry Derfner, The Jerusalem Post: Now comes 'Breaking the Silence,' an organization of IDF combat reservists, with the testimonies of 26 soldiers who served in Operation Cast lead, and the stories are very, very familiar, only they're much more detailed than what we've heard before. Over 100 pages of testimony about the extraordinary scale of destruction ('like in those World War II films where nothing remained'); the vandalism ('In one house we entered I saw guys had defecated in drawers'); the shoot-'em-up spirit ('The atmosphere was not one of fear but rather people too eager to shoot other people'); the elastic definition of 'legitimate target';... the firing of napalm-like white phosphorus in thickly-populated area; the killings of unarmed civilians in no-go zones; the rabbi' anti-Arab pep talks; and much, much more...

One soldier, a reserve combat medic, told me his unit spent a week in an abandoned rural village where 'about 50' houses had stood; by the time they left, most of the houses were rubble. 'I saw every kind of destruction I could think of. Houses were blown up by airplanes, helicopters, artillery, D-9 bulldozers, machine guns, mortars,' he said. The plan was to raze them all, he added, but the army had to leave Gaza early, what with Barack Obama getting inaugurated... It doesn't matter who tells us the truth about what we did in Gaza -- we'll deny it. If the entire IDF General Staff called a news conference and admitted that the evidence were true, we'd say they're leftists, they're kissing up to Obama, they're lying. Even if our own sons tell us it's true, we'll tell them they're lying.

Gershom Gorenberg, The American Prospect: 'We didn't see a single house that was not hit. The entire infrastructure, tracks, fields, roads -- was in total ruin,' an anonymous soldier says... 'Nothing much was left in our designated area... A totally destroyed city... The few houses that were still inhabitable were taken by the army... There were lots of abandoned, miserable animals.' The destruction continued daily, he testifies, though Palestinians -- fighters and civilians -- had fled the area.

So much lay in ruins, says another Israeli soldier, that it was hard to navigate. 'I entered Al Atatra after seeing aerial photos and couldn't identify anything... I remembered that 200 meters further on down the track there should be a junction, with two large houses at the corners, and there wasn't. I remembered there was supposed to be a square with a Hamas memorial... and there wasn't. There was rubble, broken blocks.' Later, he says, he was in an operations room where soldiers were directing air strikes. Landmarks that were supposed to serve the pilots as reference points had already been destroyed...

The Israel Defense Forces spokesman's office has argued consistently since the war that if any moral problems arose in Israel's conduct in Gaza, they were due to 'delinquent soldiers.' The soldiers' testimony presents a very different picture -- of a policy set by top commanders that led to unnecessary civilian deaths and massive physical damage.
Image source here.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Eagle landed, thanks to Canadians

Canadians played integral part in getting Apollo 11 crew to moon -- and back

The Canadian Press: When the world marks the 40th anniversary Monday of [the] first landing on the moon, it will be paying tribute to American ingenuity and what is arguably one of that country's finest moments. But it was one of Canada's proudest moments, too.

Many Canadians are unaware that a group of their countrymen working at NASA was instrumental in delivering the Apollo 11 astronauts to the lunar surface on July 20, 1969 -- and getting them safely back home to Earth.

In fact, even before Neil Armstrong's booted feet stepped onto the rocky, crater-pocked surface of the moon, Canadian-made legs on the lunar landing module had settled into the satellite's dust first. The splayed legs were produced using a honeycomb design by Quebec's Heroux-DEVTEK, which won the NASA contract.

The landing module was primarily designed by Sarnia, Ont.-born Owen Maynard, an engineer who worked on the famed Avro Arrow before the federal government under Diefenbaker abruptly cancelled the supersonic jet program in February 1959.

Maynard and about 25 others laid off from Toronto's A.V. Roe aircraft on what was dubbed Black Friday were quickly snapped up by the Americans to help them fulfill President John F. Kennedy's 1961 edict that the country land a man on the moon within the decade.

'Canadians contributed a massive amount to the space race and Apollo,' says Robert Godwin, a curator for the Canadian Air and Space Museum in Toronto... 'Very few know about it,' says the British-born Godwin, who has lived in Canada for 31 years. 'I think that Canadians are very low-key about their accomplishments and they shouldn't be, because Canadians have done things that people in the rest of the world have never done.'
Image source here.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Tehran on Friday

A Sea of People
'After the sermon ended, people started filing towards Valiasr square, and I was pulled along by the current. I can't say at all how many people there were -- I didn't even close to make it all the way around the circumference of campus and even if I had it would have been impossible to estimate -- all I can say is that there were a lot. A lot. It took at least 20 minutes to make it, packed body to body, maybe a hundred meters down the road to where there was at least breathing room. Good Samaritans splashed water from bottles onto the crowd or wet keffiyahs and scarves and then swung them around overhead for a sprinkler effect.'

'The day was scorching hot and I heard fellow Mousavites saying that just by being present on the streets, we oblige security forces to stand for hours in the hot sun in their heavy uniforms, helmets, vests, masks... the best revenge we can muster nonviolently!'

Dadbeh Gudarzi, in The Independent: A great many of the millions who came out on to the streets in the aftermath of the stolen election weren't just releasing their outrage at Ahmadinejad or his plain-clothes thugs. They were expressing a message far more dangerous to the mullahs: the Islamic Republic does not legitimately represent the Iranian nation... But even if they won't admit it, our rulers must be worried. They know that after last month's unrest and the violent suppression that followed, the nation is still in deep crisis. And they also know that something profound has changed. Because never at any time since the revolution has public criticism been as open and bitter as now... Until recently, it was almost unheard of to utter criticism and the name of the Supreme Leader in the same breath. But now, even Ayatollah Ali Khamenei does not escape, and I don't mean just in conversations between trusted friends. My own father, seriously mistrustful of talking about anything meaningful on the telephone, has given up observing his own cautious rules after almost three decades.

Robert Dreyfuss, The Nation: Tohidi said women in Iran had been engaged in many years of quiet educational and organizational work, and today the women's movement in Iran is the 'strongest in the Middle East.' ... Jaleh Lackner-Gohari added that during the 1980s and 1990s, many women went into higher education and the professions precisely because they were barred from politics and, she joked, 'had nothing better to do.' Quietly, they built networks, professional organizations, and channels for communications -- including, lately, blogs.

Updates and videos:
Image source here.

Friday, July 17, 2009

'This might be another Clayoquot'

Stop Glacier Howser
AXOR, under subsidiary Purcell Green Power, has proposed the controversial 100 MW Glacier/Howser private hydro project for the Duncan Valley and the heart of the Purcells. It is the largest run-of-river project proposed in the Kootenays. It includes 92km of new power lines across the Purcell Mountains stretching from the West to the East Kootenay. These power lines would cut through old growth forest, old growth management areas off limits to logging companies and important grizzly bear habitat. It also includes the damming and diverting of water from four creeks into a combined 16km of tunnels large enough to drive a dump truck through. The water diverted would never return to the original creeks, leaving up to 12km of both streams with dramatically reduced water flow. The Environmental Assessment Office has now initiated the final public comment period for the project, which ends July 27. This includes a final round of open houses/public meetings. Copy of the application is available here.

June 23
More than 1,000 turn out to oppose Kootenay project

Rafe Mair, The Tyee: The government representatives and proponent Axor Group -- a Montreal-based construction giant -- had refused myriad requests from citizens and local politicians to hold one of the meetings in nearby Nelson, the unofficial capital of the region, which would have afforded access to a much larger population base. The move clearly backfired... Local environmental groups banded together to provide bus transportation and other means for getting people to the Kaslo meeting. The result was staggering... As local NDP MLA Michelle Mungall gold the company to rousing applause. 'These people are not uneducated about your project. They understand it. They don't like it. They don't want it.'... The people of the Kootenays, famous for their love of nature and commitment to protecting it, are once again leading by example.

Gwen Barlee, National Policy Director with the Wilderness Committee: People started to trickle into the parking lot: young families with children, kayakers from Nelson, concerned Kaslo residents, local BC Wildlife Federation members, loggers, fishers, hunters, hippies and business people. People came with signs and petitions, and an urgent concern about the fate of Glacier Howser Creeks and the 600 other creeks and rivers in BC that have been staked by private power companies. The crowd swelled to the point that people who couldn't fit into the parking lot spilled onto the grass, up the hill and onto the street. And people still kept coming... Then, just before the rally started, a cheer erupted from the crowd as three buses from Nelson pulled up... For more than three hours, people voiced their opposition to the project, condemning the BC government's rubber-stamp process and demanding that the environmentally destructive project be stopped.

Arrow Lakes News: Marilyn James asked those in attendance to speak for those who can't speak for themselves. 'Those caribou don't have a voice. Those grizzly bears walking those alpine meadows do not have a voice. They can't come down here and tell you, 'enough is enough.' That is for us. That is our responsibility and we better start accepting that that's a responsibility.'

It soon became plain that the audience was not interested in having the terms of the meeting dictated to them, and that attempts to do so were pointless... The majority of the speakers were there to state plainly, and often very enthusiastically, their very vehement and total opposition of the plan...

More than half of the speeches, verbal protests and catcalls from the protesters were aimed squarely at the table where the federal and provincial environment representatives sat, as opposed to the representatives from proponent AXOR... Several speakers made the point that the meeting amounted to an environmental 'approval' process rather than an application process.

Eyewitness report: The rally was organized and passionate... There was a corps of drummers which helped set the tone and keep order, too, as we started filing into the school. The general tone of the rally had not prepared me for what it would be like when we got inside... The crowd did not comply with the sign requesting us to leave our signs at the door, nor was it willing to follow the agenda for the evening. There was no patience to sit through the planned powerpoint presentations... At one point, one of the speakers from the audience asked if there was anyone present who trusted the environmental process. I saw two people raise their hands. The speaker noted four.

One of the strongest themes of the evening was the question of whether how the local people felt was even a factor in the government's decision, and whether there was any point in going through this exercise since the government had not demonstrated that it would ever reject a proposal. The threat of civil disobedience was never explicitly voiced but was constantly in the air. 'Do not bring this fight to us,' several people said. 'We don't want to have to fight you.' But the unspoken resolve was clear -- we will fight you with everything we've got.

July 16
Nelson Star: 'You have to keep fighting,' Rafe Mair told the 450 people in Nelson for a public meeting... Mair, a former Socred Environment Minister who is now the spokesperson for Save our Rivers, [said] 'They're going to bankrupt BC Hydro by allowing these private companies to control the energy in this province. But you can stop it, and you must.'

Eyewitness report: It was a totally different experience from Kaslo. Instead of anger, the audience expressed grim resolve. Blockades and civil disobedience were referred to in a matter of fact way. Rafe Mair told us that the rest of BC was looking to us in the Kootenays and if we could defeat this project, it would give everyone else heart. Joe Foy from the WCWC told us that in over 20 years of fighting environmental battles, the IPPs were the worst -- in terms of ecology, economics and democracy. Michelle Mungall noted that people were coming up to her on Baker Street and telling her they were prepared to 'go all the way.' Someone said, 'This might be another Clayoquot.'

It's time to raise your voice. You have until July 27 to let the BC Environmental Assessment Office and Premier Campbell know how you feel about Glacier and Howser Creeks staying wild.

Premier Gordon Campbell, West Annex, Parliament Buildings, Victoria, BC V8V 1X4, email, phone 250-387-1715, fax 250-387-0087

Garry Alexander, Project Assessment Director, Environmental Assessment Office, PO Box 9426 Stn Prov Govt, Victoria, BC V8W 9V1, email, fax 250-356-6448

Five points of concern:
1. The water diverted from the creeks is never returned to the original water bodies, damaging instream health and downstream ecosystems.
2. The transmission corridor would cut through important old-growth management areas: areas of forest which are off-limits to the logging industry.
3. The project would negatively impact habitat for threatened and endangered species including grizzly bears, mountain goats and mountain caribou, and destroy the habitat of a genetically unique population of bull trout found only in the Glacier Howser watershed.
4. The project would include 16km of tunnels large enough to drive a dump truck through, and would create a massive amount of waste rock material.
5. The environment throughout the region is under increasing pressure from 70 proposed private power project applications and other major developments like the nearby Jumbo Glacier Resort.
Image sources here and here.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Afghanistan: Resistance to denial

Britain must tell Obama: the alliance of denial has to end
Simon Jenkins, The Guardian: Diplomacy, your hour has come. There is no way soldiers will find an exit from Afghanistan. They can deliver defeat or they can deliver bloody stalemate. They cannot deliver victory and every observer knows it. This conflict will end only when the courage being daily demanded of soldiers is also shown by politicians...

The president now owns Afghanistan. As a result, he and his British ally, Gordon Brown, are sucked into mendacity... Ministers know this. Why do they lie? The answer is because they are trapped in an alliance with America, a country also in denial...

After 9/11, local intelligence in Afghanistan screamed for America to be patient. An immediate 1,000-strong clerical shura in Kabul declared sympathy with the dead Americans and voted for Bin Laden and al-Qaida to be told to leave the country... Instead George Bush attacked and cemented their alliance, making Bin Laden the region's hero... The Taliban has never shown any interest in international terrorism, only in ridding their country of foreigners...

For progress to be made down this messy road, the gung-ho militarism of Petraeus and the British Army must be countered... The hyping of British casualties is wrong, as it suggests any withdrawal will be defeat. The Canadians, who have suffered terrible losses, have shown their sovereignty by signalling their intention to leave in 2011. Why not Britain?

EKOS: Canadians have turned decisively against Canada's participation in the military mission in Afghanistan... 'We have been polling on this question since the mission began,' said EKOS President Frank Graves... 'Opposition has grown from a trivial mid-teen level to nearly well over 50 per cent. Support has collapsed from more than 2 in 3 at the outset to just 1 in 3 now. And none of this is an ephemeral, excited response to news headlines; it has been a steady and gradual shift in public judgment of the mission.'

Dahr Jamail, Truthout: US Army Specialist Victor Agosto served a 13-month deployment in Iraq... 'What I did there, I know I contributed to death and human suffering.'... His experience in Iraq, coupled with educating himself about US foreign policy and international law, has led Agosto to refuse to deploy to Afghanistan... 'I'm not willing to participate in this occupation, knowing it is completely wrong.'...

In November 2007, the Pentagon revealed that between 2003 and 2007 there had been an 80 percent increase in overall desertion rates in the Army... Between 2000 and 2006, more than 40,000 troops from all branches of the military deserted, more than half from the Army. Army desertion rates jumped by 42 percent from 2006 to 2007 alone...

Agosto stands willing to face the consequences of his actions. 'Yes, I'm fully prepared for this. I have concluded that the wars [in Iraq and Afghanistan] are not going to be ended by politicians or people at the top... They're responsive to corporate America. The only way to make them responsive to the needs of the people is for soldiers to not fight their wars. If soldiers won't fight their wars, the wars won't happen.'...

'One who breaks an unjust law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.' -- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Image source here.