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Carson to declare emergency stemming from Carousel tract contamination


July 2013

by John Donovan.
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No one disputes that cancer-causing benzene, explosive methane and other hazardous compounds are present in the abandoned oil waste. But while Shell’s testers argue the chemicals don’t pose major health risks, residents and the investigators representing them say that people and pets have become sick and died from a spectrum of illnesses as a result of living in the community.

Screen Shot 2013-07-20 at 12.06.12

By Sandy Mazza, Staff Writer: Posted: 07/19/2013

Carson is on the verge of declaring a local emergency to spur more rapid cleanup of its environmentally contaminated Carousel housing tract, which sits on a former oil tank farm that left untold amounts of petroleum just a few feet below the neighborhood’s 285 homes.

The city filed a claim for damages this week in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleging that Shell Oil Co. is trespassing and creating a public nuisance that is causing injury. On Thursday night, council members told staff to prepare an emergency resolution seeking immediate remediation of the problem.

“Five years is long enough,” Councilman Mike Gipson said. “The people of Carousel tract need some answers now. When will this be resolved? And how? No one is answering that. Everyone is passing the buck while people’s lives are hanging in the balance. It’s not fair.”

It isn’t clear how the regulatory agency overseeing the cleanup — the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board — will respond to Carson’s declaration. Officials have known about the problem for five years and, as it stands now, actual cleanup won’t begin until next year at the earliest.

“It’s really expressing the city’s concern about the state of the current environmental investigation,” Carson Planning Officer Sheri Repp-Loadsman said. “We’re looking at the best ways to use the (local emergency) resolution as a tool.”

The council will consider adopting the emergency resolution at or before its Aug. 6 meeting, Repp-Loadsman said.

Two years ago, the regional water board ordered Shell to clean the soil to a depth of 10 feet below the residential community. Since then, the company has conducted extensive testing inside homes and below ground to determine whether the oil is turning into hazardous vapors.

No one disputes that cancer-causing benzene, explosive methane and other hazardous compounds are present in the abandoned oil waste. But while Shell’s testers argue the chemicals don’t pose major health risks, residents and the investigators representing them say that people and pets have become sick and died from a spectrum of illnesses as a result of living in the community.

The oil was discovered during soil testing in 2008 near the 50-acre community on the city’s southernmost boundary, near Wilmington. Soon after it was found, Shell investigators began tests to determine how bad the contamination was.

The crude stems from the tank farm that occupied the land from the 1920s through 1966, when construction began on the Carousel tract. Shell used the area to store crude oil and, when the company vacated the property, it demolished oil reservoirs and left the rubble and waste petroleum in the ground. Though the tanks reached a below-ground depth of roughly 10 feet, the oil has leaked at least 50 feet below ground, investigators said.

Since 2008, residents have been warned not to let their children play in backyards. Rigorous testing has temporarily displaced homeowners while investigators take over their homes to test the air quality and sub-slab vapors. In the past year, Shell’s pilot tests have dug up front yards, exposing smelly, oil-soaked soil. The water board has required Shell to submit a so-called Remedial Action Plan by the end of this year to outline the steps it will take to clean the soil and its time line. The actual cleanup is scheduled to begin once the water board approves that plan.

However, attorneys representing the residents and the city argue that Shell’s tentative plan to clean soil to a depth of 10 feet below some homes — and only on land that isn’t developed — is extremely flawed.

The July 16 complaint was filed on behalf of the city by Girardi and Keese, the same law firm representing residents suing Shell. Girardi and Keese and its investigator, Erin Brockovich, battled PG&E in a contamination case involving the desert town of Hinkley, Calif., that was dramatized in a 2000 feature film.

The complaint demands “full and total abatement of the contamination down to approximately 40 feet below the Carousel neighborhood.”

Bob Finnerty, an attorney with Girardi and Keese, said several complaints have already been filed on behalf of 1,008 clients who say they have been physically and financially harmed by living in the neighborhood.

“The soil is contaminated down to 50 feet,” Finnerty said. “The water board is exploring the removal of 10 feet to determine whether or not that would be sufficient. The reality is that would be a simple Band-Aid procedure and, in a few years, residents would have the identical problem of vapor intrusion into their homes.”

sandy.mazza@dailybreeze.com

@sandymazza on Twitter

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Irish court told woman ‘being forced to have abortion’


The judge has allowed time for the woman to take legal advice.

The Irish high court has been asked to order a psychiatric assessment of a young woman to establish if she is travelling to the UK for an abortion against her will.

The woman’s boyfriend claims she is being forced to have an abortion by her parents.

The judge said she would not proceed until the woman had received legal advice.

The case was adjourned until Friday.

The boyfriend has applied for injunctions to prevent the woman from having an abortion or travelling outside the country.

He says his girlfriend’s family are unhappy with the fact she is in a relationship with someone of non-European origin.

The couple are not Irish citizens but live in Ireland.

The man’s lawyer said his client discovered that his girlfriend has been booked into a clinic in the UK and was due to have an abortion on Thursday.

In a sworn statement, the man told the court that his girlfriend was “happy to be pregnant” was looking forward to having a scan and had bought baby clothes.

The man said he had no desire to prevent her from travelling if it was of her own free will, and that a member of the girlfriend’s family had threatened to kill him if he tried to come near her.

via BBC News – Irish court told woman ‘being forced to have abortion’.

Protests Mar Opening of Barbie Dreamhouse in Berlin


For some, it’s a dream in pink. For others, it’s a monument to misogyny. The Barbie Dreamhouse opened its doors in Berlin on Thursday, and demonstrators and journalists were out in force. Femen also made an appearance — to burn Barbie on the cross.

In the end, someone did get hurt — and in the center of the events at the Barbie Dreamhouse Experience on Thursday afternoon stood a gigantic, pink high-heeled shoe. The pump was actually a fountain of sorts, and the emblem of the life-sized dollhouse that opened its doors to the public on Thursday near Berlin’s Alexanderplatz square.

In the weeks before its opening, various groups voiced their disapproval of the temporary theme park. And on Thursday, demonstrators finally got their chance to show just how furious they are. In the early afternoon, an activist with the women’s rights group Femen climbed onto the gigantic shoe dressed only in a mini-skirt. She was carrying a burning cross on which a Barbie doll had been crucified. Parents and children stood nearby. The women screamed over and over again: “Being Barbie is not a career!”

When another protester became involved, going after a security guard, a brief scuffle ensued, a stroller tipped over and an elderly woman fell to the ground. According to police, the woman was slightly injured and went to the hospital for treatment.

It may sound relatively banal, but Barbie Dreamhouse personnel didn’t find it funny at all. “They were standing at the fence and chanting ‘Burn it down! Burn it down!'” one employee said. And then the Femen activist started running around with her burning cross. The employee said he thought she was going to light the building on fire.

‘Sexist Propaganda’

And the building is not made out of bricks and mortar — it is nothing but a tent. Almost nothing here is real: The walls are made of canvas, the columns of plastic, and the windows and curtains are merely painted on.

The answer to many a young girl’s dream was put up by EMS Entertainment not far from Alexanderplatz in the heart of Berlin, a theme park in pink and white. Children must pay €12 ($15), their adult companions €3 more. Berlin will be just the first stop on a larger tour for the exhibit, remaining in the German capital until the end of August.

The organizers had likely hoped the grand opening would make a different sort of headline. But protesters grabbed the limelight even before the opening. The place is nothing but “sexist propaganda” for children, a spokesman for the group Occupy Barbie Dreamhouse told the left-wing daily Die Tageszeitung. The famous doll and her modelesque figure merely services misogynistic clichés, critics say. Some 2,000 people have joined the Facebook group since it was launched.

As such, media interest on Thursday was high. Hordes of journalists wandered through the pink Barbie tent to take a closer look at the miracles inside and, more to the point, to convince one of the relatively few families present despite school and summery weather to be interviewed on camera.

The inside of the Dreamhouse is poignantly harmless. There is a pink kitchen where children can bake virtual cupcakes using a touch-screen. A pink piano with colorful buttons instead of keys that must be pushed to make music. A sled in which they can sit to race through a virtual winter landscape. A table with pens where children can color in Barbie pictures and decorate them with glitter. And everywhere, in display cases, there are Barbies, all stylishly dressed, blonde and, of course, super-thin.

‘Totally Off Base’

Is it really all that harmful? “This house is only about beauty, cooking and baking,” says Susa Bruha, 34, one of the dozen members of the anti-sexist group Pinkstinks that showed up on Thursday for the opening, well before the crucified doll went up in flames.

“It is simply a very one-dimensional view of women,” Bruha says about the exhibit. The message, she says, is that girls can become either models or pop stars — and nothing else. “But there are other girls who are perhaps small or fat but can do other things super well.”

Christoph Rahofer, head of EMS Entertainment, sees things differently. “Personally, I think they are totally off base,” he says about the protesters. “I really can’t understand how playing with a Barbie doll is problematic.” There are, he says, certainly problems in the world that are more pressing than his exhibit.

In recent weeks, there has been no shortage of critique and insults aimed at Rahofer and the Barbie Dreamhouse, a fact which likely explained the watchful eye his personnel kept on the press. They followed journalists throughout the exhibition to ensure that no photos were made of Barbie’s four-poster bed, her bathroom or her tub.

Burned on the Cross

They had plenty of work to do. Journalists from around the world — from Poland, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden and the US were present. All of them wanted to see if Barbie Dreamhouse is really that bad — and if something newsworthy might happen outside.

For a long time, it didn’t. Until midday, the Pinkstinks people were the only ones holding their posters up to the cameras. “Barbie is not my baby,” reads one. And “Don’t just bake cupcakes, eat them too!”

The scene was almost idyllic. Leftist demonstrators, feminists and other anti-Barbie protesters sat peacefully on the artificial grass or on pink chairs enjoying the warm May sun while small children crawled around in front of the display tent.

And then, Barbie was burned on the cross.

ARTICLE…

via Protests Mar Opening of Barbie Dreamhouse in Berlin – SPIEGEL ONLINE.

Jobless rate hits new record in Portugal


These figures, relevant to the first three months of 2013, show that more than 165,000 people aged 15 to 24 currently claim unemployment benefits.

During the first quarter of 2012, this figure stood at 36.2 percent, but had risen to 40 percent by the end of the final quarter of last year.

Overall, unemployment in Portugal rose to 17.7 percent in the first quarter of the year from 16.9 percennt at the end of last year with over 952,000 people out of work the National Statistics Institute (INE) said.

The unemployment rate was up 0.8 percentage points from one quarter to another and 2.8 percentage points on 12 months earlier.

The figures from the first quarter of 2013 were the highest ever, with the numbers rising constantly since the second half of 2008 when 7.3 percent, equivalent to about 410,000, were jobless.

Carlos Silva, general secretary of the UGT trade union confederation appealed to the government Thursday to analyse the documents that are on the table for the social agreement to promote job creation measures.

“The documents have to be compiled to encourage ways of creating growth and jobs”, Silva said following the unemployment numbers released earlier in the day.

The opposition Socialist party said the number of job seekers was proof the government’s

policies were “destroying the economy and society”.

via Jobless rate hits new record – The Portugal News.

via Jobless rate hits new record – The Portugal News.

Walmart Strikers Prepare For Black Friday Protests Across Country


DALLAS — On Thanksgiving afternoon, as freshly stuffed Americans prepared for the shopping bacchanal known as Black Friday, hundreds of Walmart workers readied themselves for a wholly different experience: joining strikes and labor actions planned for the next two days at some 1,000 Walmart stores around the country.

Here in Dallas, as well as in Miami and the San Francisco area, Walmart employees were planning to walk off work and demonstrate early Thursday evening, as shoppers began to arrive in pursuit of the ultra-cheap deals known as doorbusters. The strikers sought to protest low wages and a lack of benefits, while also challenging what they allege has been a pattern of Walmart’s retaliation against workers who try to organize. They hoped to use the Black Friday spotlight to sway shoppers to their side.

“It’s a question of education,” said Josue Mata, a maintenance worker at Walmart in Wheatland, Texas, and a member of OUR Walmart, the labor group that is coordinating the strikes. “We have to show people that we’re not just a crazy bunch of protesters.”

But Walmart, the world’s largest retail chain, was banking on the labor actions amounting to not much in the face of enormous consumer demand for what it provides best: a wide array of products at some of the very lowest prices available. “We don’t expect this to have a significant impact,” Walmart spokesperson Kory Lundberg told The Huffington Post in a phone interview. “The overwhelming majority of our associates are excited for our Black Friday events.” (The company calls its workers “associates.”)

In short, the protests aimed at Walmart on what is traditionally the busiest shopping day of the year may constitute a test of the nation’s sympathy for low-wage workers — many of whom earn so little that they qualify for food stamps — against the powerful American yearning for a great deal.

In Dallas, about 200 people were expected to protest Thursday night, according to Colby Harris, a three-year employee in the produce department of the nearby Lancaster, Texas, store who has become a public face for the workers’ movement. “This is only getting bigger,” he said over breakfast at Waffle House on Thursday morning.

Despite a notoriously unfriendly attitude toward unions, Dallas has become a main center for the strikes, along with Los Angeles and Chicago. Harris’ store was one of the first to host protests back in October, when, for the first time in Walmart history, its retail workers in 28 states went on strike.

Around 6 p.m. Thursday, Harris, Mata and 200 others — including Walmart employees, organizers from the United Food and Commercial Workers Union and activists from the local Occupy chapter — planned to meet at a hotel in South Dallas. The group would then split up to picket at multiple stores and regather around 10 p.m. at the Walmart Supercenter in Wheatland. In Miami and San Leandro, Calif., protesters were planning flash mobs complete with dance routines.

Mata acknowledged that approaching the bargain-hungry might be difficult. “The classic question [from local reporters] is, ‘Why don’t you just accept what you have?’ They say, ‘You should be thankful you have a job.'”

Like other strikers, Mata said many Walmart jobs pay barely enough to survive. According to the company’s internal pay plan, recently obtained by The Huffington Post, employees can work at Walmart for decades before they make much above minimum wage. And as the largest private employer in the U.S., Walmart has an outsized influence on working conditions in the retail industry as a whole.

Walmart says it has done little beyond the norm to prepare for the Black Friday strikes, which it expects to be minimal. But a handful of sources around the country as well as news reports claimed that Walmart managers were intimidating workers into not protesting. Vanessa Ferreira, an Orlando, Fla., Walmart worker, was charged with trespassing when she went on strike this week. Another worker in Oklahoma told The Nation that managers at his store informed workers they would see smaller bonuses if protests disrupted Black Friday shopping.

On Tuesday, OUR Walmart filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) accusing Walmart of retaliating against striking workers. The previous Friday, Walmart had filed its own complaint with the NLRB, alleging that the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, which supports OUR Walmart financially, has illegally picketed in order to gain union recognition. Walmart has repeatedly denied that it has ever retaliated against its workers.

Fearing police and security confrontations, the strikers adjusted their plans to go inside the stores, according to Alan Morrisette, a field organizer for the union’s Making Change at Walmart Campaign. All demonstrations on Thursday and Friday would be held outside the stores, he said.

Walmart did not comment on how it plans to handle striking workers. “Each store has an individualized plan of how they will get customers in and out of stores and deal with large crowds,” said Lundberg. “If a walkout does happen at an individual store, the store management will judge that on a case-by-case basis. We think there are going to be so few of these it’s best to be handled individually.”

One worker in the Chicago area, who asked that her name not be mentioned for fear of losing her job, told The Huffington Post that managers earlier this week covered up her store’s employee rights notice, which informs workers of their right to concerted action. Her managers also implemented a new program that would give workers an extra 10 percent discount on Walmart purchases for working on Black Friday, she said.

Harris and Mata said the program, dubbed “associate appreciation day,” had been recently implemented in their Dallas-area stores as well. “They’re trying to get on our good side to get us to forget what it’s like most of the time,” said Harris.

In an ideal world, Harris said, Walmart would meet all of the strikers’ demands by publicly committing to raise pay, improve benefits and not impede workers’ efforts to unionize. But even if the company simply reached out to OUR Walmart to express an interest in compromise, he would be happy, Harris said.

“We already consider this a victory,” said Harris. “People are hearing us, and Walmart knows we’re not going to stop.”

via Walmart Strikers Prepare For Black Friday Protests Across Country.

via Walmart Strikers Prepare For Black Friday Protests Across Country.

Marijuana dispenser machine company’s stock gets really, really high, man


Medbox (MDBX), a firm that makes medical marijuana dispensing machines, says its stock “is getting way too high.” Shares spiked 3,000% this week (from about $4 Monday to $215 Thursday), “prompting executives to try and dampen investor enthusiasm.” The surge was caused by a MarketWatch story about how to invest in legalized marijuana.

via Marijuana dispenser machine company’s stock gets really, really high, man – Boing Boing.

via Marijuana dispenser machine company’s stock gets really, really high, man – Boing Boing.

Greek poverty so bad families ‘can no longer afford to bury their dead’ | Machholz’s Blog


Vanna Mendaleni is a middle aged Greek woman who until now has not had vehement feelings about the crisis that has engulfed her country. But that changed when the softly spoken undertaker, closing her family-run funeral parlour, joined thousands of protesters on Thursday in a mass outpouring of fury over austerity policies that have plunged ever growing numbers of Greeks into poverty and fear.

“After three years of non-stop taxes and wage cuts it’s got to the point where nothing has been left standing,” she said drawing on a cigarette. “It’s so bad families can no longer afford to even bury their dead. Bodies lie unclaimed at public hospitals so that the local municipality can bury them.”

As Greece was brought to a grinding halt by its second general strike in less than a month, Mendaleni wanted to send a message to the Greek prime minister, Antonis Samaras, and other EU leaders meeting in Brussels……………………………………………….

full article at source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/oct/18/greece-protests-general-strike-austerity

via Greek poverty so bad families ‘can no longer afford to bury their dead’ | Machholz’s Blog.

via Greek poverty so bad families ‘can no longer afford to bury their dead’ | Machholz’s Blog.

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