Monthly Archives: April 2013

Corexit BP Oil Spill Effects on Marine Life—Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill


Recent studies find that the chemical Corexit, used to clean the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, seem to have worsened the impact on marine life—from dolphins down to oysters

Three years ago, when BP’s Deepwater Horizon began leaking some 210 million gallons of Louisiana Crude into the Gulf of Mexico, the U.S. government allowed the company to apply chemical “dispersants” to the blossoming oil slick to prevent toxic gunk from reaching the fragile bays, beaches, and mangroves of the coast, where so much marine life originates. But a number of recent studies show that BP and the feds may have made a huge mistake, for which everything from microscopic organisms to bottlenose dolphins are now paying the highest price.

After the spill, BP secured about a third of the world’s supply of dispersants, namely Corexit 9500 and 9527, according to The New York Times. Of the two, 9527 is more toxic. Corexit dispersants emulsify oil into tiny beads, causing them to sink toward the bottom. Wave action and wind turbulence degrade the oil further, and evaporation concentrates the toxins in the oil-Corexit mixture, including dangerous compounds called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), known to cause cancer and developmental disorders

Three years ago, when BP’s Deepwater Horizon began leaking some 210 million gallons of Louisiana Crude into the Gulf of Mexico, the U.S. government allowed the company to apply chemical “dispersants” to the blossoming oil slick to prevent toxic gunk from reaching the fragile bays, beaches, and mangroves of the coast, where so much marine life originates. But a number of recent studies show that BP and the feds may have made a huge mistake, for which everything from microscopic organisms to bottlenose dolphins are now paying the highest price.

After the spill, BP secured about a third of the world’s supply of dispersants, namely Corexit 9500 and 9527, according to The New York Times. Of the two, 9527 is more toxic. Corexit dispersants emulsify oil into tiny beads, causing them to sink toward the bottom. Wave action and wind turbulence degrade the oil further, and evaporation concentrates the toxins in the oil-Corexit mixture, including dangerous compounds called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), known to cause cancer and developmental disorders.

When BP began spraying the Gulf, critics cried foul. They said Corexit is not only toxic to marine life on its own, but when combined with crude oil, the mixture becomes several times more toxic than oil or dispersant alone.

Not surprisingly, BP Chief Executive Bob Dudley defended use of the dispersant. “The toxicity of Corexit is about the same as dish soap, which is effectively what it is and how it works,” he told stockholders. “In hindsight no one believes that that was the wrong thing and it would have been much worse without the use of it. I do not believe anybody—anybody with almost common sense—would say waves of black oil washing into the marshes and beaches would have been a better thing, under any circumstances.”

BP says that Corexit is harmless to marine life, while the Environmental Protection Agency has waffled, saying both that “long term effects [of dispersants] on aquatic life are unknown” and that data “do not indicate any significant effects on aquatic life. Moreover, decreased size of the oil droplets is a good indication that, so far, the dispersant is effective.”

But many scientists, such as Dr. William Sawyer, a Louisiana toxicologist, argue that Corexit can be deadly to people and sea creatures alike. “Corexit components are also known as deodorized kerosene,” Sawyer said in a written statement for the Gulf Oil Disaster Recovery Group, a legal consortium representing environmental groups and individuals affected by the Deepwater Horizon spill. “With respect to marine toxicity and potential human health risks, studies of kerosene exposures strongly indicate potential health risks to volunteers, workers, sea turtles, dolphins, breathing reptiles and all species which need to surface for air exchanges, as well as birds and all other mammals.” When Corexit mixes with and breaks down crude, it makes the oil far more “bioavailable” to plants and animals, critics allege, because it is more easily absorbed in its emulsified state.

Sawyer tested edible fish and shellfish from the Gulf for absorption of petroleum hydrocarbon (PHC), believed to have been facilitated by Corexit. Tissue samples taken prior to the accident had no measurable PHC. But after the oil spill, Sawyer found tissue concentrations up to 10,000 parts per million, or 1 percent of the total. The study, he said, “shows that the absorption [of the oil] was enhanced by the Corexit.”

In April 2012, Louisiana State University’s Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences was finding lesions and grotesque deformities in sea life—including millions of shrimp with no eyes and crabs without eyes or claws—possibly linked to oil and dispersants.

The shocking story was ignored by major U.S. media, but covered in depth by Al Jazeera. BP said such deformities were “common” in aquatic life in the Gulf and caused by bacteria or parasites. But further studies point back to the spill.

A just-released study from the University of South Florida found that underwater plumes of BP oil, dispersed by Corexit, had produced a “massive die-off” of foraminifera, microscopic organisms at the base of the food chain. Other studies show that, as a result of oil and dispersants, plankton have either been killed or have absorbed PAHs before being consumed by other sea creatures.

Hydrocarbon-laden, mutated seafood is not the only legacy left behind by Corexit, many scientists, physicians, environmentalists, fishermen, and Gulf Coast residents contend. Earlier this week, TakePart wrote about Steve Kolian, a researcher and founder of the nonprofit group EcoRigs, whose volunteer scientists and divers seek to preserve offshore oil and gas platforms after production stops, for use as artificial reefs and for alternative energy production.

EcoRigs divers took water and marine life samples at several locations in the months following the blowout. Now, they and countless other Gulf residents are sick, with symptoms resembling something from a sci-fi horror film, including bleeding from the nose, ears, breasts, and even anus. Others complain of cognitive damage, including what one man calls getting “stuck stupid,” when he temporarily cannot move or speak, but can still hear.

“If we are getting sick, then you know the marine life out in the Gulf is too,” Kolian said. The diver and researcher completed an affidavit on human and marine health used in GAP’s report.

Kolian’s team has done studies of their own to alarming results. “We recently submitted a paper showing levels of hydrocarbons in seafood were up to 3,000 times higher than safety thresholds for human consumption,” he said. “Concentrations in biota [i.e. all marine life] samples were even greater.”

Kolian’s friend and colleague, Scott Porter, described in his affidavit to GAP how Corexit had caused dispersed crude to coat the bottom of the sea in a sickening, deadly film. In July 2011, he and other divers traveled to a part of the Florida Panhandle, known as the Emerald Coast for its pristine seawater, to collect samples for the Surfrider Foundation.

“When we went diving, however, the water had a brownish white haze that resembled what we saw in offshore Louisiana at 30 feet below sea level,” Porter’s affidavit stated. “I have never witnessed anything like that since I began diving in the Emerald Coast 20 years ago. We witnessed…a reddish brown substance on the seafloor that resembled tar and spanned a much larger area than is typical of natural runoff.”

In areas covered with the substance, “we noticed much less sea life,” Porter continued. “There were hardly any sand dollars or crabs and only some fish, whereas we would normally see an abundance of organisms. It was desolate.”

via Corexit BP Oil Spill Effects on Marine Life—Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.

via Corexit BP Oil Spill Effects on Marine Life—Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.

WikiLeaks revelations on Bhopal gas tragedy: NGOs demand fresh probe


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Bhopal: The social organisations fighting for justice to the surviving victims of the Bhopal gas tragedy have demanded a fresh probe into the tragedy and the delay in their settlement of claims based on a recent Wikileaks revelations here on Wednesday.

The whistleblower website has release controversial cables related to Indian government‘s communications with US and other countries some of which were related to Bhopal gas tragedy in December 1984.

Quoting from the whistleblower website’s releases, Satinath Sarangi, one of the activists said “it is clear that the Federal government was hand in glove with the Union Carbide Company and the Dow Chemicals under the pressure from the United States of America (USA) government”.

The unholy alliance, he said was there even before the world’s worst industrial disaster and thus, its victims were denied compensation and other basic facilities for a restarting their lives, he told media persons.

Citing from recently released documents from Wikileaks’ “Kissinger Cables,” leaders of the organisations said former Commerce Minister Kamal Nath and Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia welcomed Dow investments in India and contradicted the Government of India’s stated position on Dow’s liabilities in India.

A cable sent by Deputy Chief of Mission in New Delhi Steven J White on July 27, 2007 says “During the CEO forum event in October 2006, GOI officials including Commerce Minister Nath and Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia stated that they welcomed further Dow investment in India and did not believe that Dow was responsible for the disaster site clean-up.”

US Ambassador David Mulford is reported to be urging the Government of India to “drop its claims against Dow” in a cable sent on September 18, 2007. In reply Ahluwalia assures the Ambassador that the Government of India does not hold Dow responsible for the cleanup but is unable to withdraw its claims against Dow because of “active and vocal” NGOs.

According to the cable Ahluwalia then advised the Ambassador to discuss the issue of Dow Chemical’s Bhopal liabilities with Finance Minister Chidambaram.

These cables among many clearly indicated that the Federal government consistently betrayed the interests of the Indians and gas victim of Bhopal in particular and served the interests of Union Carbide Corporation, said another activist Rachna Dhingra.

According to her, as early as in the 1970s, the Federal government compromised on principles related to foreign exchange to help Union Carbide retain majority control over Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL).

This was substantiated from a cable sent by Deputy Chief of Mission David T Schneider from the US Embassy in New Delhi on February 4, 1975 shows that the Federal government allowed Union Carbide, USA to bypass the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act (FERA) and obtain loans from American Exim Bank instead of an Indian financing agency.

via WikiLeaks revelations on Bhopal gas tragedy: NGOs demand fresh probe – daily.bhaskar.com.

via WikiLeaks revelations on Bhopal gas tragedy: NGOs demand fresh probe – daily.bhaskar.com.

Meet Kolya Lukashenko, A Nine-Year-Old Dictator In Training


f5d15d25d7fe13384c4a1b61327bbef2_lukashMINSK – At the age of nine he has already met a pope and a few presidents. He likes guns and carries around a gold-plated pistol he was given by former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

Wearing his mini-uniform, he attends military parades and takes part in high-level meetings. Meet Kolya, the youngest son of Belarusian President, Alexander Lukashenko.

The nine-year-old ranks 43rd on the list of Belarus’ top 100 most influential people, according to the local independent weekly magazine Nasza Niwa. He sits higher on the list than the head of the Orthodox Church, the vice-chief of president’s administration — and all the opposition politicians.

President Lukashenko rarely goes anywhere without his son, so Kolya – the diminutive of Nikolas – has already attended an audience with Pope Benedict XVI and meetings with Hugo Chavez, Raul Castro, and the presidents of Russia, Ukraine and Armenia, among others.

A little prince

In April 2008, President Lukashenko appeared for the first time in public in the company of a young boy. They worked side-by-side on the construction of a huge sport hall, mixing and pouring concrete. The next day, a photo of them was on all the front pages, accompanied by the title “Who is the boy?” No one had the answer, and the presidential press office denied knowing anything.

The boy’s identity didn’t stay secret for long. A few days later, during a television documentary, the child was seen addressing the president as “dad.” That is how Belarus learned the existence of the Lukashenko’s third – and secret – son.

Kolya was born in 2004 to Iryna Abelskaja, Lukashenko’s former personal doctor. So why did Belarus only learn of the child in 2008? At that time, the president had just enlisted the services of Lord Timothy Bell, a famous British PR expert who was tasked with improving the perception of Belarus in the West.

Exposing the child to the public was one of Bell’s ideas to soften the image of Lukashenko – who has been called the “last European dictator.” Lukashenko has denied the speculations: “This is not a PR campaign. Am I the only president with children? Yes, Kolya belongs to politics. That is his destiny as a presidential child.”

Like father, like son

Since his first public appearance, Kolya has accompanied his father everywhere. Together they regularly visit workplaces, meet with World War II veterans and attend cultural events. During military parades, the child is saluted by soldiers and generals alike. “When he learns on the television that I have been somewhere without him, he makes a scene,” says Lukashenko.

Kolya’s strong personality manifested itself early. The president revealed that in kindergarten, his son would never want to take his mandatory afternoon nap. He would ask the director for authorization to play, which would be granted immediately. For the past two years he has been home-schooled – but it is unclear why. Kolya has his father’s difficult character, as the president himself once confessed.

The boy has never been seen with his mother. The Russian press speculates that Lukashenko doesn’t let her see her son, something that the president has never addressed publicly.

Special forces

President Lukashenko, 59, who has been in power since 1994, has declared that he considers Kolya as his successor – a statement he later recanted, saying the whole idea of a political dynasty had been invented by the opposition to scare Belarusians.

Meanwhile the Belarusian’s contempt for their long-ruling president has now partially shifted to Kolya. There has been a lot of criticism of the fact that the boy was born out of wedlock and various rumors on the Internet have said that he was the son of a stewardess, or that he bit and spat at a police officer. The general belief is that Kolya is allowed to do whatever he wants.

“Society reacts negatively toward Kolya because his presence during official meetings is obviously inappropriate,” says AleÅ› Ancipienka, a media expert. The country’s antipathy toward his son worries President Lukashenko. If he loses power, he has said he hopes that no one will “victimize my children, especially the youngest ones. I hope they will be able to live and work peacefully, without being stigmatized about their father.”

Kolya’s future is difficult to predict. Lukashenko’s two other sons, who are older, are public officials. Wiktor is a presidential adviser for security and supervises all the related ministries. The second son, Dzmitryj, is the head of the presidential sport club.

In an interview with a Latvian TV station, Kolya said that he would like to join Spetnaz – military special forces – to defend his homeland

via Meet Kolya Lukashenko, A Nine-Year-Old Dictator In Training – All News Is Global |.

via Meet Kolya Lukashenko, A Nine-Year-Old Dictator In Training – All News Is Global |.

Native American Society


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Native American Society – StumbleUpon.

via Native American Society – StumbleUpon.

An open letter (to Minister Hogan and the Kildare County Manager) on the Local Property Tax


Brian M. Lucey

Dear Minister Hogan

So, I have paid my local property tax. I belive as I have said on numerous times that some form of tax on real property is a good economic idea. I have severe concerns about how this particular property tax is implemented but I guess it’s a start.

What I wonder however is this : it is billed as being for local authorities (which I think you are rationalizing anyhow so we might see a reduction….?) but I am unsure what, exactly, I get from Kildare County Council.

On their website they have a number of departments, which I guess correspond mostly to the activities they undertake. Let me go through them…

  • Community : this seems to be about festivals and apparently we have joint policing committees. The latter are of course powerless. It also seems to cover the county development board. I wonder if that is…

View original post 887 more words

Coillte forests sale to be put on back burner


THE government is preparing to row back on plans to raise €800m by selling the harvesting rights to Coillte’s forests for 80 years.

A number of senior government sources said Brendan Howlin, the public expenditure minister, would “find enough barriers” to the sale to ensure it could not go ahead.

“There’s huge opposition to it, from TDs and from the general public,” said one source close to Howlin. “It won’t be confirmed publicly for a while, but the intention is not to go ahead with the sale.”

In recent weeks, a number of government TDs have made speeches in the Dail or tabled parliamentary questions opposing the sale of Coillte. Among them are Emmet Stagg, the Labour chief whip, and Fine Gael TDs Andrew Doyle, Joe McHugh, Terence Flanagan and Billy Timmins.

via Coillte forests sale to be put on back burner | The Sunday Times.

via Coillte forests sale to be put on back burner | The Sunday Times.

Coffin Ships and The legendary Jeanie Johnston


jeaniejohnstonA coffin ship was the name given to the ships that carried Irish immigrants escaping the effects of the potato famine. These ships, crowded and disease ridden, with poor access to food and water, resulted in the deaths of many people as they crossed the Atlantic. While coffin ships were the cheapest way to cross the Atlantic, often more than half of the passengers died during the voyage. It was said that sharks could be seen following the ships in packs because so many bodies were thrown overboard.

There are always going to be exceptions to the rule and in the case of the Jeanie Johnston we have a ship with a record that by 19th century standards was to be envied. A coming together of a ship’s doctor, a ships master/captain and a ship’s owner who tried their best to deliver their passengers to the new world and never lost a life.

The original Jeanie Johnston was built in 1847 on the banks of the St. Lawrence River in Quebec City, Canada.  Its architect was the Scottish-born shipbuilder and master craftsman John Munn.

The 408 ton cargo ship was purchased in Liverpool by John Donovan and Sons of Tralee, Co. Kerry.  As the famine gripped Ireland, the company ran a successful trade bringing emigrants from Ireland to North America and returning with timbers bound for the ports of Europe.

The Jeanie Johnston made her maiden voyage on 24th April 1848 from Blennerville, Co. Kerry to Quebec with 193 passengers on board.  Over the next seven years the ship made 16 voyages to North America carrying over 2,500 emigrants safely to the New World.  Despite the seven week journey in very cramped and difficult conditions, no life was ever lost on board the ship – a remarkable achievement which is generally attributed to the ship’s captain, Castletownshend-born James Attridge and the experienced Ship’s Doctor, Dr Richard Blennerhassett.

he Jeanie Johnston boasted just a single main deck and a poop deck, housing its travellers in very cramped bunks. It offered few comforts on the hazardous journey, which usually lasted about two months, but it was also far removed from the infamous “coffin ships” most notably associated with the thousands of emigrants who perished on the transatlantic voyages in 1847.

The emigrants on the Jeanie Johnston were berthed below deck in the steerage area, where temporary accommodation was rigged up for them, and they were expected to provide their own bedding. They were pressed tightly together in tiny spaces – four to a six foot-square bunk, with two children counting as one adult! It is difficult to visualise that, on one trip, the stalwart ship carried a total of 254 passengers. These brave Irish souls paid the fare of £3.10 shillings to make the heroic journey to the “New World”.

The makeshift quarters used by the emigrants were removed when they disembarked in North America, enabling the ship to perform its secondary role of transporting vital supplies of food and timber back to Ireland on its return journey.

The passengers onboard the Jeanie Johnston has to make do with very limited food provisions during their treacherous journey. They were expected to bring some food on board with them, and also required to provide their own cooking utensils and to cook for themselves. This meant queuing up for a turn on the only stove, located on the main deck, and if the weather was bad, the family would go hungry that day or be reduced to eating raw flour or meal.

The shipping legislation of the times shows how meagre were the weekly provisions allocated to the emigrants onboard:

21 quarts water

2½ lbs bread or biscuit

1lb flour

5 lbs oatmeal

2lbs rice

2 ouzes tea

½lb sugar

½ lb molasses

Despite the extremely cramped and primitive conditions by today’s standards, the Jeanie Johnston was a well run and humanely operated ship which cared as best it could, in the most difficult circumstances, for the fleeing emigrants.

Its enviable record (in the context of 19th century transatlantic voyages) of not having lost a single life to either disease or illness at sea was largely due to the great efforts of Dr. Richard Blennerhassett, supported by the humanitarian attitude of the ship’s master, Captain James Attridge. The doctor would ensure that hatches were open every day when possible, that the bedding was aired, the accommodation below deck was kept as clean as possible and that everyone would be encouraged to take a walk on deck each day unless the weather was too rough.

In this regard, the Jeanie Johnston differed from many other ships of the time in that it employed a highly reputable and experienced doctor. In their frequent letters of appreciation to Captain Attridge following their voyage, the passengers also singled out Blennerhassett for praise.

It is also worth remembering that even when the ship met its final end, no lives were lost. In 1856, she was sold as a cargo ship to William Johnson of North Shields in England, and two years later when en route from Quebec (Canada) to Hull (England) with a cargo of timber, she ran into trouble in the mid-Atlantic.  Overloaded and waterlogged she sank, but not before all aboard were rescued by a passing Dutch ship. The Sophie Elizabeth, preserving her unblemished safety record.

The Jeanie Johnston holds a powerful spot in Irish folklore because in a time when many people died on immigrant boats, she never lost a passenger.

via IrishAbroad | Blogs.

via IrishAbroad | Blogs.

– Emigrants are ‘delighted to go’ – Perry


Sligo’s junior minister John Perry TD has been harshly criticized after he claimed in the Dáil that many Irish were “emigrating by choice.”

The TD said he knew people who were “delighted” to be emigrating to the US and Canada for work.

His own south Sligo town, Ballymote, has seen many ‘American wakes’ in recent years with one weekend last year seeing the emigration of six young men followed the following weekend by another four forced to move.

Local GAA clubs have lost a signicant number of young players to the scourge of emigration with some having to suspend under-manned teams.

According to official CSO figures, over 87,000 people left Ireland in the year leading up to April 2012, with emigration surging to levels not experienced since the famine. 1,600 people are emigrating every single month. That is nine people leaving the country every single hour.

Perry, the Minister of State for Small Business, was answering questions from the opposition and specifically claims from Sinn Féin that nine people are emigrating from the State every hour when he said, “There are people emigrating by choice. I know several young people who will be quite delighted to go to the United States if they can get in, or to Canada if they have the required qualifications.”

Opposition TDs said most workers would be happier at home but Perry argued that there was a certain balance “for highly educated people, emigration was a matter of choice.”

Perry said the Government was doing its best to sort out the economy but “one cannot just wave a magic wand.”

His comments were described as offensive and disingenuous by opposition TDs with Fianna Fáil’s Dara Calleary saying that most of those who had emigrated “would be happier here at home”.

Personal Choice

Sinn Féin jobs spokesman Peadar Tóibín criticized Perry’s comments, saying: “Most emigration is forced emigration.”

“It is astonishing that a minister in the Department of Jobs is that detached from reality to claim that those emigrating do so from personal choice.”

Bríd O’Brien of the Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed responded, “People of all age groups are emigrating because there’s no work here.

“We’ve lost an awful lot of jobs. I think a lot are leaving because they feel they have to.”

Apologise

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Youth Affairs Senator Kathryn Reilly has called on Minister of State John Perry to apologise to those young people and their families who have been forced to emigrate to find work.

Senator Reilly said, “The majority of emigrants are under 25 years of age. They are leaving in search of work. They are leaving because Fine Gael and Labour have failed to invest in job creation.

“For Minister of State Perry top suggest that these people are choosing to leave is an insult to them and to their families.

“Minister of State Perry should apologise to these young people and to their families, not only for his insulting comments, but also for his Government’s failure to address the youth unemployment and emigration crisis.”

 

Tomorrow Is Perry the worst Minister of State Ever?

via Sligo Today News for Sligo County – Emigrants are ‘delighted to go’ – Perry.

via – Emigrants are ‘delighted to go’ – Perry.

 

Argentina Takes on Vulture Funds in “Debt Trial of the Century”


For years, “vulture funds” have preyed on struggling nations by purchasing their debt for a pittance. Could an upcoming U.S. court decision put an end to the extortion of poor countries?

Last October, soldiers from the West African nation of Ghana boarded an Argentine naval ship called the Libertad. They overtook the crew and brought the ship to port in the town of Tema. This was not an act of piracy, at least not in the sense we normally understand it. The detaining of the Libertad took place after hedge fund NML Capital convinced a Ghanaian court that the ship, which was sailing in Ghanaian jurisdiction, should be held ransom for a debt the hedge funds claimed Argentina owed them.

The saga began in 2001, when Argentina was thrown into economic crisis and defaulted on its loans. Hedge funds swooped in and bought Argentine debt for almost nothing and circled until the country was in recovery to collect the debt in full.

The case is set to be decided in the coming days in the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court, the jurisdiction in which the original loans were contracted. The decision will impact whether certain hedge funds commonly known as “vulture funds”—funds that buy a struggling country’s debt for pennies on the dollar and then sue for the full amount when a country is in recovery—will continue to extort poor countries.

The long 2nd Circuit Court proceedings between Argentina and hedge funds NML Capital and Aurelius has propelled the international debt crisis into the spotlight. It’s been called the “debt trial of the century,” and the proceedings could have the most far-reaching impacts on global poverty in our lifetime.

The U.S. 2nd Circuit Court is the case’s last stop before the U.S. Supreme Court, and if the vulture funds win, it will mean these funds will be allowed to more aggressively target poor countries in financial recovery. Argentina would possibly default. But if Argentina wins, it will be much harder for these types of hedge funds to exploit poor countries in the future, destabilize emerging economies, and target assets that should be improving the lives of the world’s most vulnerable people.

Because the U.S. government acknowledges that this behavior hurts legitimate investors and poor people, the Obama Administration filed a friend-of-the-court brief that argued that a ruling against Argentina could make it much harder for poor countries or countries in financial recovery to access credit and restructure debts. The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank are similarly critical of vulture funds.

How they work

Vulture funds create an international version of a situation that often takes place on the individual level: You lose your job and you can’t pay your debts. You file for bankruptcy and restructure your debts, but the owners of your hospital debt and credit card debt refuse to negotiate. Instead, these debts are sold for almost nothing to collection agencies when it could have been resolved directly with you. The collection agencies hover while you are trying to get back on your feet. When they find out a relative gave you 200 hundred dollars to take your daughter to the dentist, the collection agencies seize the money.

The equivalent impacts on a poor country just getting on the other side of a financial crisis are devastating. In 1999, a vulture fund called Donegal International bought a debt owed by Zambia for a knock-down price of $3.3 million. Most of Zambia’s debt was canceled and the country began saving $40 million a year when they stopped repaying loans to the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. After Zambia received this debt relief, Donegal sued the African nation for $55 million and in April 2007, the court ruled that Zambia must pay $15.4 million—roughly 65 percent of the debt relief that was specifically directed for development projects. A huge profit for the vulture fund and a theft from the poorest Zambians.

Typically, vulture funds refuse to negotiate with countries who are indebted to them. They often make 400 percent profits with their legal proceedings, which often take place in New York or London courts where previous contracts on the loans were signed. “These funds are among the very worst actors in our international financial system,” notes Dr. Collins Magalasi, executive director of the Zimbabwe-based African Forum and Network on Debt and Development. “They are aggressive, selfish, and greedy. In fact, they are so egregious that most legitimate investors won’t stand in the same room with them.”

And those running the funds continue to lobby for even greater powers.

Last June, the organization I work for, Jubilee USA Network, along with our partners at American Jewish World Service, put enough pressure on New York legislative bodies to stop proposed legislation that would allow vulture funds to sue a struggling country, even after a court had rejected their claims.

Then in November, Argentina’s case was brought to the U.S. District Court, which ruled in favor of the hedge funds. Argentina was ordered to pay $1.3 billion to NML Capital and other creditors it represented. When Argentina appealed, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals froze the payout to hear new arguments from both sides.

In February, the federal appeals court heard the arguments and ultimately asked Argentina to outline a payment plan. The plan the country laid out would essentially give the holdout creditors the same deal as 92 percent of the creditors that had previously restructured after Argentina’s default. It still offered a significant profit to the “vulture” funds.

The hedge funds rejected this plan; now we wait for the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court to issue a final ruling.

Last October, the Libertad was returned to Argentine waters by Ghana. We hope to see a similar outcome in the case of NML Capital LTD, v. The Republic of Argentina. The legal outcome will either offer more devastation or greater protections for the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people.

via Argentina Takes on Vulture Funds in “Debt Trial of the Century”.

via Argentina Takes on Vulture Funds in “Debt Trial of the Century”.

The Faulty Logic Behind the Defense of Divinely Inspired Biblical Massacres


The Faulty Logic Behind the Defense of Divinely Inspired Biblical Massacres

Dave E. Matson

Bible-believers obstinately argue that the divinely sanctioned massacres in the Bible were morally justified–even an example of God‘s goodness and mercy! The logic behind their reasoning is as follows:

The biblicist is working under two assumptions: 1) God is good and all-powerful; 2) God, in fact, ordered massacres as described in the Bible. Therefore, there must have been some reason for God’s actions, no matter how bad they seem, a reason on which we can only speculate. The skeptic is asked to rule out every conceivable loophole, but how can he do that if he lacks the mind of God?

What has been overlooked is that the biblicist has already assumed everything, leaving nothing for rational debate! If we begin with the biblicist’s two assumptions then, of course, the massacres were morally justified! But it’s an empty claim, a bald-faced claim by fiat, not a compelling conclusion reached by reason and evidence. Skeptics, of course, don’t begin with both of these assumptions. That would beg the question.

If we assume that God is good (and all-powerful) then the question is whether God, in fact, ordered those massacres. If this is to be a reasoned inquiry, we must begin with the idea that God may or may not have been responsible. We must begin with both possibilities on the table! The data must guide us–not preconceived doctrine. Which view best fits the data? Are these massacres of men, women and children more likely the work of a god who is morally perfect or a god who is morally defective? If Chemosh or Baal were depicted as slaughtering children in some pagan manuscript, what would you conclude? I doubt you would cite it as evidence of superior morality!

The question is not whether we can shoehorn these deeds into a god of goodness. That approach reflects an a priori assumption, without benefit of evidence, that God performed those deeds. Rather, we are weighing the two possibilities on a balance. Are those deeds what we would expect from a god of goodness or are they not? Certainty is not possible and, thus, not a requirement! We need only observe whether the balance leans predominantly in one direction or the other. From that perspective the answer is obvious. Only a defective brain could suppose that such massacres are best interpreted as acts of moral perfection.

What Bible-believer would not gladly ditch these passages, this albatross about the neck, if only an inerrant Bible could be retained! It’s not by accident that conservative theologians do backflips through flaming hoops to explain why God must act so badly! The moral stench is pretty obvious, that being the cause of mighty efforts to make it go away.

The best conclusion, by far, is that if God is good then he did not order those massacres. He did not order the taking of young women in a battle to serve sexually. That is, if God is good then biblical inerrancy goes out the window.

If we begin with the assumption that God did, in fact, order those biblical massacres, then let us ask if God is truly good. If this is to be a reasoned inquiry, then we must begin with the possibility that God may or may not be morally perfect. There is no point in asking that question if our mind is already made up! All possibilities must be on the table at the start of an objective inquiry; the evidence must decide, not preconceived doctrine. Are these massacres more likely the work of a morally perfect god or are they more likely the work of a morally defective god?

Once again certainty is not possible and, therefore, not a requirement. Once again, the question is not whether we can shoehorn such deeds into a god of goodness but, rather, which way the balance leans. Anyone with a rudimentary understanding of morality knows that, all things being equal, the slaughter of women and children is immoral. It’s a no-brainer. The balance tips heavily in favor of a god lacking in moral perfection. Such deeds (without the influence of preconceived doctrine) would never be attributed to a god of moral perfection! If the slaughter of children (and the rape of young women) were seen as evidence of high moral behavior, we would not find apologetic tomes dedicated to explaining why a God of goodness must act so!

The best conclusion, by far, is that if God ordered and supported these massacres then he lacks moral perfection. That is, if the Bible is the inerrant word of God then God’s goodness goes out the window.

Once we understand the logic behind the argument over the massacres in the Bible, we may dispense with certain confusions. The skeptic need not have the mind of God or close every loophole in order to draw a sound and robust conclusion. He or she need only follow the evidence and draw the best, the most natural conclusion. If the Bible-believer were to do that, he would find himself in a serious quandary. Either he must give up God’s goodness or give up an inerrant Bible. Liberal Christians have decided that God’s goodness is the sounder theological position. Conservative Christians have never worked out the logic or, else, are in deep denial.

The Bible-believer may, of course, assume both points. No logical contradiction is entailed, though it does propel one into a kind of Alice-In-Wonderland world. Nevertheless, one should be up front about it and not pretend to be reaching a conclusion based on evidence and reason. It’s a case of burying your head in the sand and declaring that all contrary views–and evidence–are irrelevant! Obviously, there is no point in having a debate with such a person. Without appeal to evidence and reason, an honest believer can only say “Believe me, I’m right!” to a potential recruit. Fanatical believers in a flat earth, Zeus, or Cinderella are all on the same, logical plane with such a person. Once we admit that evidence and reason do not apply, then the knot that holds us to reality is slipped, and it’s off to fantasyland! For most of us, that is unacceptable.

In case you have gotten lost in all this logic, here is a synopsis. If the Bible-believer must reach deep into “creative” explanations, into the merely possible rather than the natural, to justify the divinely inspired massacres of the Bible, then it is clear that he or she is effectively operating under the assumption that a moral God, in fact, is responsible. An objective mind, bringing no such a priori baggage, would hardly go to such extremes to defend one position over the other. Once we understand that the Bible-believer actually begins with the assumption of God’s goodness and with the assumption that God wrote an inerrant Bible, we rightly wonder why there is a debate at all–the key points have already been assumed by the believer! A mountain of data will not persuade those believers as long as there is a single loophole to hide in, and there will always be loopholes to hide in.

The skeptic is saying that if the Bible-believer wants to seriously debate this point, then the debate must begin with objective neutrality. All possible outcomes must be on the table at the start! The opposing conclusions must be weighed for truth and the best one selected. In reaching for the best conclusion, the most natural conclusion, certainty is not a factor. Loopholes are not a consideration. We are not required to plumb the depths of God’s mind. When objective neutrality is enforced, the conclusion is a no-brainier and the Bible-believer has the unsavory choice of choosing between God’s goodness and an inerrant Bible. The liberal Christian has chosen to take his or her stand with God’s goodness. The conservative Christian seems to have gone into deep denial. The atheist, of course, rejects both assumptions. A nonexistent God does not contradict what we know best about our universe. Nor do we have the problem of pretending that an error-riddled Bible is somehow his word to us.

Cartoonish form of despotism’ – Assange on Bahrain activist Rajab’s imprisonment


rajab

If Bahrain really wants to improve its human rights record, then it should free Nabeel Rajab, says Julian Assange. In an interview with RT, the WikiLeaks founder called Rajab the most prominent voice in the Bahraini Spring.

Anti-government protests have been breaking in Bahrain since February 2011, resulting in dozens arrested and over 80 people killed. The protests have again intensified ahead of the Formula 1 racing event, resulting in violent clashes, arrests, and police using teargas on demonstrators including schoolchildren.Anti-government protesters stand in front of  a teargas cloud fired by riot police during a demonstration in the village of Diraz west of Manama

Amnesty International has accused authorities of using the event as a platform to “show progress, with claims that the human rights situation has improved, whilst stepping up repression in order to ensure nothing disturbs their public image.” Nabeel Rajab’s tweets against the government and its bureaucracy, as well as the king, the PM and other top figures, back in 2012 were seen as an attempt to incite a revolution by organizing protests, and that was with what Rajab had been charged.tweet

Julian Assange recalls that while Rajab was on his program The World Tomorrow, he already knew that a prison cell was waiting for him back home. He was detained at Bahrain’s international airport on his return.  Yet he told Assange:

“Well, I’ve got to go back. I’ve got to face these people. I’ve got to go back.” During the interview, the activist told Assange he had already been detained, kidnapped and beaten in front of his family due to his sharp criticism of the regime.

While in prison, Rajab was subjected to inhuman treatment and degrading conditions, as he was thrown into solitary confinement on the first day of his imprisonment, according to his wife. He’s is solitary confinement, although he was supposed to be there for three months.

Julian Assange  said in the interview to RT that the key human rights figures in the region and a real force to call attention to Bahrain’s problems.ja

RT: You interviewed Nabeel Rajab for your show the World Tomorrow on RT. Why did you invite him?

Julian Assange: Bahrain has 900,000 people. Nabeel Rajab has 150,000 Twitter followers comprised predominantly of the population of Bahrain. Since the arrest of a number of other activists in the Bahraini Spring in 2011, Nabeel Rajab became the president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) and was the most prominent voice for the Bahraini spring.

RT: What were your impressions of him?

JA: Nabeel… a very courageous forthright man. On the show I asked him… Nabeel explained to me that as he was driving to the location in London – the secret location where I was under house arrest where we were going to film his interview – that he’d received a call saying that his house was surrounded by the police, from his wife. I said: “What are you going to do?” And he said: “Well, I’ve got to go back. I’ve got to face these people. I’ve got to go back.” And I thought to myself: “Um… doesn’t sound like such a good idea to me.” But he’s very much of the view that that is his homeland. That’s where his family is. That’s where his community is and his life is. Even though he was facing a risk – he would go back and face it.

I mean as time goes by, his calculation may well be right. I mean what has happened to him, it’s a cartoonish form of despotism where he’s been sentenced to three years of imprisonment for a number of tweets in relation to bureaucrats and authorities, the king, the prime minister and so on – as well as organizing protests. It’s not like you see in more sophisticated regimes where you find a convenient excuse to put someone in prison. Here they wanted to make sure – very nakedly – what it was that the Bahraini regime didn’t want people to do. And what they didn’t want people to do is to criticize the regime. So they directly charged him for criticizing the regime. What they didn’t want people to do is organize protests and so they charged him directly for organizing protests.rajab2

RT: What do you think Rajab’s prospects are now?

JA: I think his long-term prospects are quite good. He has stood by the courage of his convictions. Even when he was imprisoned and then briefly released, he did not [give up] …. He kept the same stand of criticizing the authority. It’s hard to find people with that much courage, who can’t be a coward. So I think his long-term prospects are quite good, provided the international pressure keeps up.

RT: In terms of international pressure… Why do you think the response from the US in relation to the human rights abuses in Bahrain has…

JA: Has been quite muted? It’s disgraceful and the British involvement is even worse. You had the former organizational chief of Scotland Yard coming over to Bahrain to help them control Bahrain in the same way that London is controlled in relation to police and control of demonstrations. The muted behavior by the United States has to do with the US naval base that’s in Bahrain. And geopolitically Bahrain is very close to Iran, it’s close to the straight where a lot of oil shipping is done. The US wants to keep its naval base in order to control this area. And that’s all.ja2

RT: You mentioned that it was almost a cartoonish imprisonment, which happened to Nabeel Rajab. Can you give an assessment of the regime in Bahrain altogether?

JA: I was born in 1971. The prime minister of Bahrain [Khalifah ibn Sulman al-Khalifah] was put in power in 1971.

RT: So, is there absolutely no democracy in Bahrain?

JA: That’s the answer to your question. There’s 42 years this man has been in power in Bahrain. There’s no significant democracy. The Shia group is very significant, people argue – slight minority or a slight majority of the population, kept out of political life. The relationship between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia – the two countries face each other and they share a border with each other. And the Saudis are economically dominant to Bahrain, and are worried about any sort of resistance gaining power in Bahrain because the political movements in Bahrain have a habit of seeping over into the Saudi Arabia and into the Shia populations in Saudi Arabia. That’s why you saw during the uprising a desperate measure by the Bahraini regime of pulling in Saudi troops, to crack down on their own population.  The Bahraini regime sold its sovereignty in order to crack down on its own domestic population.

RT: You mentioned: “provided if the international pressure keeps up” in relation to Rajab. Do you think there’s been enough international pressure on the Bahraini regime?

JA: There’s obviously hasn’t been enough in the West. I mean look at the example of the US and the UK. There has been some, and it’s interesting to look at what Bahrain has done in response. Well, it’s flown in Kim Kardashian and these other people, who will sell their soul to promote the Bahraini regime. You see Kim Kardashian putting tweet after tweet about how wonderful it is thanks to the sheik and so on. It’s disgusting. These people are disgusting. Everyone should know that their loyalties are for sale, similarly, with the Formula 1, exactly, the same thing.

Bahrain has just bought that in order to cover up its human rights abuses and its bad reputation. There’s another way of dealing with things, which is – you can improve your reputation by actually stopping what you’re doing. Instead, Bahrain if it really wanted to improve its reputation it could release Nabeel Rajab. Until it releases Nabeel Rajab, no serious organization should have any involvement with the Bahraini regime. No organization who’s involved with Bahrain can be seen to be credible when Nabeel Rajab is in prison.

BAHRAIN-POLITICS-UNREST-DEMO-AUTO-PRIX

Via RT

http://leaksource.wordpress.com/2013/04/19/cartoonish-form-of-despotism-assange-on-bahrain-activist-rajabs-imprisonment/

Atos Are Just Medical Mercenaries Leeching off the Vulnerable… News


Atos Are Just Medical Mercenaries Leeching off the Vulnerable…

John Mackintosh a so-called Manager for the WCA Process at Atos thinks his company is compassionate, this poor fellow has obviously been taking some medication which changes his perception of Compassion.

Any employee who stands up and defends this companies actions are idiots, how can this man defend the indefensible, how can he defend his company’s total lack of compassion, something which if he bothered to research he would know about, his companies appalling treatment of severely sick & disabled people is well documented for all to see.

Mr.Mackintosh said

“We run a large, highly complex, national operation, with around 1,400 doctors, nurses and physiotherapists assessing around 15,000 people each week.”

The so-called Doctors, Nurses, Physiotherapists that are employed by Atos only do the job because it’s easy money especially If you don’t have a caring bone in your body, no ethical Doctor/Nurse/Physio would ever take employment with Atos, it’s impossible to decide a person’s ability by a system that was devised by an Insurance company to deny disabled people their rightful entitlement to benefits, it’s a complete fraud of an assessment.

Those who work for Atos are not medical professionals but medical mercenaries who’ve sold themselves to the highest bidder, lining their pockets at the expense of those who cannot defend themselves.

If it wasn’t so serious I may laugh but it is very serious indeed, Atos are trying to defend themselves by saying that it is not them who decides who get’s benefits etc, we know that but in reality the DWP continues to rubber stamp their ludicrous and fraudulent so-called medical/functionability reports, how can any report about a person’s ability to perform certain tasks be made without looking at the individuals medical problems/diseases, being able to hold a carton of milk doesn’t mean a person can work in an office, being able to use ones legs doesn’t mean you are capable of getting to work, the whole assessment process is NOT about making sure the money goes to the right people, it’s all about the political elite trying to REDEFINE DISABILITY?

The profits that Atos are making have increased 36%, sure it’s not all from assessing disabled people but a percentage of it is, the mortuaries are starting to get backed up with the victims of the persecution carried out by Atos, the smoke is billowing from the crematoria more and more, the air is being filled with the toxic excuses of a fraudulent & disreputable company who cares little about its reputation so long as it makes money, money from the deaths of innocent vulnerable people, destroying families lives in its wake.

Atos has caused more damage to society than any oil leak into the sea, when a ship leaks its oil there’s a clean up, with the Atos WCA Assessment process there’s only one outcome, death or continual reassessment by a bunch of disgusting unethical individuals…

via Atos Are Just Medical Mercenaries Leeching off the Vulnerable… | Atos Victims Group News.

via Atos Are Just Medical Mercenaries Leeching off the Vulnerable… | Atos Victims Group News.

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