Published: Thursday 10 January 2013
Despite setbacks as recently as January 3, when a police-supervised cherry picker collected a tree-sitter from the pipeline right-of-way, the Tar Sands Blockade and other opposition groups kept their actions going with a non-violence training camp over the weekend.

 


Construction of the southern leg of TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline continues to march through East Texas toward the sea with the implacability of Sherman’s army in 1864, although with somewhat less scorched earth and fewer casualties in its wake during the past several months.  

 

So far, the Canadian pipeline corporation has faced and overcome opposition all along the way – from protestors, blockaders, and court challenges – and as of January 4, TransCanada reported that the 485 mile construction project  was roughly a third complete and pretty much on schedule for completion before the end of 2013. 

 

Despite setbacks as recently as January 3, when a police-supervised cherry picker collected a tree-sitter from the pipeline right-of-way, the Tar Sands Blockade and

other opposition groups kept their actions going with a non-violence training camp over the weekend.  

 

This led to ...

Published: Sunday 6 January 2013
NOAA will list as threatened the Beringia and Okhotsk populations of bearded seals, and the Arctic, Okhotsk, and Baltic subspecies of ringed seals.

Recognizing that the best available science suggests a significant loss of Arctic sea ice in the next few decades, federal biologists last week finalized Endangered Species Act protection for two species of ice-dependent seals.

NOAA will list as threatened the Beringia and Okhotsk populations of bearded seals, and the Arctic, Okhotsk, and Baltic subspecies of ringed seals. The Ladoga subspecies of ringed seals will be listed as endangered. The species that exist in U.S. waters (Arctic ringed seals and the Beringia population of bearded seals) are already protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

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Published: Sunday 23 December 2012
I have chosen to focus on the positive accomplishments brought to us in 2012 in hopes that they will inspire us to continue to strive for a more perfect nation.

As 2012 comes to an end I would like to take time to enumerate a few accomplishments of the American people towards creating a more perfect nation that you may have missed. These positives provide us with hope but not with wishful idealism. These positives illustrate to the American people that we are capable of making changes through strong, individual voices and direct action by the masses.

 

Corruption:

 

In a small step towards government reform, Former Governor of Illinois, Blagojevich gets sentenced to 14 years in prison for corruption charges. 

 

After JP Morgan reveals a 2 billion dollar training loss on May 10th, 2012, U.S. regulators begin investigating trades and the corporate decision making process while affirming the Volcker Rule, which puts limits on a bank’s ability to invest on themselves.

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Published: Tuesday 4 December 2012
On December 3, 2002, members of the Grassy Narrows First Nation blockaded the road used to haul logs out of the area. Ten years later, their persistence has paid off in the form of cleaner water and a healthier forest in which to live.

 

Ten years ago today, on December 3 of 2002, members of Grassy Narrows First Nation began a blockade to prevent the passage of logging equipment and trucks through their traditional territory.

Located fifty miles north of Kenora, a small Canadian city on the north shore of Lake of the Woods, Grassy Narrows is a semi-remote Anishinaabe community with a population of about 950 people who live on the reserve (reserves are the Canadian equivalent of reservations in the United States). For generations, the people of Grassy Narrows have hunted, trapped, fished, and gathered throughout the 14 square miles of their reserve, as well as a vast region of 2,500 square miles drained by northwestern Ontario’s English-Wabigoon river system. Their culture, language, and spirituality are all closely connected to their boreal forest homeland.

In the 1990s, as industrial logging intensified across Canada, Anishinaabe subsistence harvesters watched with unease as clearcuts grew larger and drew closer to their reserve. They wrote letters to logging companies and government officials, but received no substantive response. They conducted peaceful protests in Kenora, but the clearcutting continued.

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Published: Saturday 1 December 2012
“There’s the return to the nastiness and half-truths that buried productive conversation during the debate over ObamaCare.”

 

AARP's shot over the bow on the fiscal cliff talks is most unpleasant. Perhaps you've seen the ad on TV. As seniors go about their day, a stern female voice says of Medicare and Social Security, "We earned them." She goes on, "If Washington tries to cram decisions about the future of these programs into a last-minute budget deal, we'll all pay the price." She left out "down your throat."

Several unpleasantries here, in addition to the blatant threat. There's the return to the nastiness and half-truths that buried productive conversation during the debate over ObamaCare. Unlike Social Security, Medicare is only a partly earned benefit. The average two-earner couple retiring at 65 can expect about $351,000 in benefits after paying $116,000 in lifetime Medicare taxes. Medicare should be subsidized by other taxpayers, but don't pretend it's not.

The AARP ad was a bit unexpected in that the lobbying group for older Americans supported the Affordable Care Act — Medicare savings and all. Why it's running this ad now is unclear. Does anyone seriously believe that a cherished universal program like Medicare is going to be quickly chopped up just to get us past the fiscal cliff? Or is this about marketing?

Anyhow, one wishes that the elderly and those claiming to represent them would get over the idea — as AARP did during the ObamaCare brawl — that savings in Medicare spending automatically translate into benefit cuts. The elderly lost not a splinter of benefits in the reforms. They actually gained some. A more positive tone on the ways we can curb our rising health care costs is in order.

Think of replacing a 1975 refrigerator with a modern energy-efficient model. The new one does the same thing — and perhaps new tricks, like making ice — but costs less to run. No one would see this as any ...

Published: Saturday 1 December 2012
“If there is disagreement among scientists, based not on opinion but on hard evidence, it will be found in the peer-reviewed literature.”

 

Polls show that many members of the public believe that scientists substantially disagree about human-caused global warming. The gold standard of science is the peer-reviewed literature. If there is disagreement among scientists, based not on opinion but on hard evidence, it will be found in the peer-reviewed literature.

I searched the Web of Science for peer-reviewed scientific articles published between 1 January 1991 and 9 November 2012 that have the keyword phrases "global warming" or "global climate change." The search produced 13,950 articles. See methodology.

I read whatever combination of titles, abstracts, and entire articles was necessary to identify articles that "reject" human-caused global warming. To be classified as rejecting, an article had to clearly and explicitly state that the theory of global warming is false or, as happened in a few cases, that some other process better explains the observed warming. Articles that merely claimed to have found some discrepancy, some minor flaw, some reason for doubt, I did not classify as rejecting global warming. Articles about methods, paleoclimatology, mitigation, adaptation, and effects at least implicitly accept human-caused global warming and were usually obvious from the title alone. John Cook and Dana Nuccitelli also reviewed and assigned some of these articles; John provided invaluable technical expertise.

This work follows that of Oreskes (Science, 2005) who searched for articles published between 1993 and 2003 with the keyword phrase “global climate change.” She found 928, read the abstracts of each and classified them. ...

Published: Sunday 25 November 2012
“The lakes are improving and slowly cleaning themselves up.”

The Great Lakes hold 20 percent of the world’s fresh surface water. The good news is that legacy contaminants are decreasing more quickly than previously reported in three of the Great Lakes, but have stayed virtually the same in two other lakes, according to new research. Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), the pesticide DDT and other banned compounds dropped about 50 percent in fish in Lakes Michigan, Ontario and Huron from 1999 through 2009, although there were no significant changes in Lakes Superior and Erie fish, according to the study to be published this month in Science of the Total Environment.

“These are very positive results. The lakes are improving and slowly cleaning themselves up,” said Thomas Holsen, co-director of Clarkston University’s Center for the Environment and co-author of the study. “Even with the decreases, it will be 20 to 30 years until the decades-old contaminants in Great Lakes fish decline to the point that consumption advisories can be eliminated,” Holsen said.

All good news, except as we clean up the old chemicals like Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), the pesticide DDT and other banned compounds they are being replaced by newer ones, such as flame retardants that are building up in fish and wildlife and chemicals we are not yet even looking for from oil and gas development.

Today, the natural gas industry is beginning horizontal hydraulic fracturing all around the Great Lakes to extract gas. It is against the law to frack under the lakes but there are no laws about fracking near streams, creeks, rivers that empty into the lakes. This is insane. Hundreds of toxic chemicals are ...

Published: Tuesday 20 November 2012
“Since the Obama administration came to power in January of 2009, the Trans-Pacific Partnership has become a quiet priority for the U.S.”

In 2008, the United States Trade Representative Susan Schwab announced the U.S. entry into the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks as “a pathway to broader Asia-Pacific regional economic integration.” Originating in 2005 as a “Strategic Economic Partnership” between a few select Pacific countries, the TPP has, as of October 2012, expanded to include 11 nations in total: the United States, Canada, Mexico, Peru, Chile, New Zealand, Australia, Brunei, Singapore, Vietnam and Malaysia, with the possibility of several more joining in the future.

What makes the TPP unique is not simply the fact that it may be the largest “free trade agreement” ever negotiated, nor even the fact that only two of its roughly 26 articles actually deal with “trade,” but that it is also the most secretive trade negotiations in history, with no public oversight, input, or consultations.

Since the Obama administration came to power in January of 2009, the Trans-Pacific Partnership has become a quiet priority for the U.S., which overtook the leadership role in the “trade agreement” talks. In 2010, when Malaysia joined the TPP, the Wall Street Journal suggested that the “free-trade pact” could “serve as a counterweight to China’s economic influence,” with Japan and the Philippines both expressing interest in joining the talks.

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Published: Sunday 18 November 2012
Global warming caused by our use of fossil fuels is already driving climate change and extreme weather events.

Hanging from an oil platform in the Russian Arctic one day last August, I was hosed by a jet of water from above so icy it almost cut through the skin on my face. My hands and feet were blue from the cold. Though I was wrapped in layers of waterproof gear, freezing water trickled into the small openings around my neck. My body was under extreme stress, and I was sinking into a state of confusion. Suddenly I wasn’t so sure that joining this Greenpeace action was the best decision I could have made. Then I thought of the supporters who joined Save the Arctic to tell the oil industry, with a united voice, not to drill in this pristine environment. They kept me warm.

Global warming caused by our use of fossil fuels is already driving climate change and extreme weather events. From drought in South Africa to severe flooding in the Philippines to the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, our planet is sending us warnings that could not be clearer. And the Arctic ice is melting, reaching a record summer low this year.

Scientists see that as evidence that the climate is changing faster than anyone predicted. Big Oil sees it as an opportunity to exploit.

“Cognitive dissonance” describes the response of our political leaders. They know we must quickly curb our addiction to fossil fuels to avoid a climate change tipping point. But they open up the Arctic, or the Tar Sands in Canada, to oil companies that want to squeeze out a few more billion in profits while the going’s good. They are selling our future and letting the next generation pick up the tab.

Fortunately, many people see the absurdity of actions like exploiting melting sea ice to drill for more oil. And some are taking action. Last year a major movement organized to delay approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would have carried dirty tar sands oil from Canada all the way to refineries in the Gulf of Mexico. Over a ...

Published: Tuesday 13 November 2012
Police arrested four people for refusing to move from in front of TransCanada’s lobbyist’s front door.

 

In Washington, DC, the day before the 2012 election, an Occupy action by dozens of protestors blocked the entrance to the law firm McKenna Long and Aldridge, a major law firm with the oldest government contract practice in the United States.  The firm also represents the Canadian corporation TransCanada, which is seeking U.S. government permission to build the Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta, Canada, to the Gulf Coast. 

 

Organizers  called this demonstration a “Tar Sands Solidarity Action,” in support of  the Tar Sands Blockade of the Keystone XL pipeline now under construction in East Texas.   Police arrested four people for refusing to move from in front of TransCanada’s lobbyist’s front door.  Increased non-violent direct action seems to be a harbinger of mounting pressure by environmentalists across the country to persuade President Obama to shut down the Keystone XL pipeline altogether for the sake of the health of the ...

Published: Sunday 4 November 2012
“Climate change is a reality,” said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo after Sandy swept through his state.

Killing nearly 200 people in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean and crippling much of New York City and surrounding areas earlier this week, Hurricane Sandy was the kind of extreme weather event scientists have long predicted will occur with global warming.

“Climate change is a reality,” said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo after Sandy swept through his state.

Sandy was twice the size of an average hurricane, and it hit the eastern coast of the United States, where sea levels have been rising the fastest, said Kevin Trenberth, senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado.

“All weather events are affected by climate change because the environment in which they occur is warmer and moister than it used to be,” Trenberth, an expert on extreme events, told IPS.

Whether climate change caused Hurricane Sandy is the wrong question to ask, added Trenberth. He explained that climate change helped make Hurricane Sandy more destructive than it otherwise would have been.

“This is the new normal,” Trenberth said. “It doesn’t make sense to rebuild in some regions – they’ll just be swept away again.”

Oceans and the earth’s atmosphere have warmed significantly in the last 50 years due to hundreds of millions of tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted from burning coal, oil and natural gas. CO2 acts as blanket, keeping the planet warm by trapping some of the sun’s heat.

The extra heat contained by the CO2 blanket is akin to exploding 400,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs every day, according to James Hansen, a climate scientist who heads the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

Most of that heat has gone into the oceans, so land temperatures around the world have ...

Published: Thursday 25 October 2012
How hard must we work to find alternatives to the folly of glorying counter productive, life taking hard work that destroys rather than serves life?

When Work is Not Salvation

What if the most enduring October scoop got waylaid, buried by campaign Rom-foolery and Obametrics, the tenacious Great Recession, bluster over Libya, or baseball playoffs? Two weeks ago Pew Research pinpointed an historic threshold: for the first time only 48% of Americans deemed themselves Protestant. Yes, the dominant majority since Puritan days has shrunk to minority status, alongside (one trusts) its perennial double: the White, Anglo-Saxon Protestant ruling class.  

With the Protestant hegemony fading, let us project a similar demise for the simplistic, planet-threatening credo known as the “Protestant Ethic.” That triumphant code consecrates hard work, prosperity and control over nature, complacently measuring progress by net profit and GNP numbers. Here's a conviction that unifies our two parties in love with the status quo, along with reactionaries and fundamentalists everywhere. For all proclaim the Divinity of Hard Work, that Hard Work Conquers All, even that Work is Salvation, as both sign and vehicle of “exceptionalism” and personal deliverance. 

For the hard right, does not the magic of hard work resolve crime, poverty, racial inequality, family shortcomings, economic stagnation and phantom enemies far and wide? The solution to all hard ...

Published: Thursday 18 October 2012
“Guatemalan Army lieutenant, Jorge Vinicio Sosa Orantes, sought asylum in Canada and became a citizen there. He eventually returned to the United States and became a U.S. citizen as well.”

In May 1985, a Guatemalan Army lieutenant named Jorge Vinicio Sosa Orantes deserted, flew to San Francisco and requested political asylum, asserting that leftist guerrillas in his war-torn homeland were gunning for him.

The 27-year-old officer described his combat exploits in his application for asylum. He said he had served as an instructor in the elite "Kaibil" commandos and as a "commanding officer" in Guatemala's bloody civil war.

"It is impossible for me and family to return as we have been sentenced to death due to my participation in the various combats in the conflictive area," he wrote in his asylum application.

Immigration officials rejected his request, but Sosa sought asylum in Canada and became a citizen there. He eventually returned to the United States and became a U.S. citizen as well.

Recently, Sosa's odyssey took an ...

Published: Tuesday 16 October 2012
There comes a time when we must say to the ruling elite: No more!

The next great battle of the Occupy movement may not take place in city parks and plazas, where the security and surveillance state is blocking protesters from setting up urban encampments. Instead it could arise in the nation’s heartland, where some ranchers, farmers and enraged citizens, often after seeing their land seized by eminent domain and their water supplies placed under mortal threat, have united with Occupiers and activists to oppose the building of the Keystone XL tar sand pipeline. They have formed an unusual coalition called Tar Sands Blockade (TSB). Centers of resistance being set up in Texas and Oklahoma and on tribal lands along the proposed route of this six-state, 1,700-mile proposed pipeline are fast becoming flashpoints in the war of attrition we have begun against the corporate state. Join them.

The XL pipeline, which would cost $7 billion and whose southern portion is under construction and slated for completion next year, is the most potent symbol of the dying order. If completed, it will pump 1.1 million barrels a day of unrefined tar sand fluid from tar sand mine fields in Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast. Tar sand oil is not conventional crude oil. It is a synthetic slurry that, because tar sand oil is solid in its natural state, must be laced with a deadly brew of toxic chemicals and gas condensates to get it to flow. Tar sands are boiled and diluted with these chemicals before being blasted down a pipeline at high pressure. Water sources would be instantly contaminated if there was a rupture. The pipeline would cross nearly 2,000 U.S. waterways, including the Ogallala Aquifer, source of one-third of the United States’ farmland irrigation water. And it is not a matter of if, but when, it ...

Published: Friday 12 October 2012
“We’re not alone in embracing this competitive drive to prove that collaboration not confrontation is the key to school improvement.”

 

“Faulty evidence and unwarranted claims.”

Not the strongest foundation for a major push of government policy, but that’s what the National Education Policy Center says about the rational for significant efforts aimed at school turnarounds in recent years.

In a report issued last week, NEPC said federal mandates for school improvement funding that include removing teachers and principals have little basis in research, are largely “an extension of the (No Child Left Behind) market-based approach,” and were implemented without input from educators or the families and communities involved.

It’s an interesting report and deserves to be closely read, but I have a slightly different take on the policies surrounding school improvement and their implementation.

Published: Monday 8 October 2012
At issue is the power of eminent domain, which allows the government to seize (for fair compensation) private property without the consent of the owner for projects considered to be for the public use or benefit.

 

The recent protests against the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline have reached a new height in Texas.  On Thursday, Eleanor Fairchild, a 78-year old great-grandmother, was arrested for trespassing after she stood in the path of bulldozers and machinery on her 300-acre ranch outside of Winnsboro, Texas that were tearing down trees to make the way for pipeline construction.

Fairchild, who was joined in her civil disobedience by actress and activist Darryl Hannah, explained her actions in a video saying:

Get off my land.  Period.  I don’t want tar sands anywhere in the United States. I am mad.  This land is my land. It’s been our land since ’83, our home is on it.  They are going to destroy the woods, and also they could destroy the springs.  It’s devastating, but it also is not very good to have tar sands anywhere in the United States.  This is not just about my land, it’s about all of our country.  It needs to be stopped.

Watch it:

At issue is the power of eminent domain, which allows the government to seize (for fair compensation) private property without the consent of the owner for projects considered to be for the public use or benefit.  Steve Mufson of the Washington Post reported earlier this summer that:

The vast majority of landowners have signed agreements with TransCanada, the pipeline owner. But where necessary, the Calgary, Alberta-based company is busy going to state courts to exercise ...

Published: Thursday 4 October 2012
Forecasts of Abundance Collide with Planetary Realities

 

Last winter, fossil-fuel enthusiasts began trumpeting the dawn of a new “golden age of oil” that would kick-start the American economy, generate millions of new jobs, and free this country from its dependence on imported petroleum.  Ed Morse, head commodities analyst at Citibank, was typical.  In the Wall Street Journal hecrowed, “The United States has become the fastest-growing oil and gas producer in the world, and is likely to remain so for the rest of this decade and into the 2020s.”

 

Once this surge in U.S. energy production was linked to a predicted boom in energy from Canada’s tar sands reserves, the results seemed obvious and uncontestable.  “North America,” he announced, “is becoming the new Middle East.”  Many other analysts have elaborated similarly on this rosy scenario, which now provides the foundation for Mitt Romney’s plan to achieve “energy independence” by 2020.

By employing impressive new technologies -- notably deepwater drilling and hydraulic fracturing (or hydro-fracking) -- energy companies were said to be on the verge of unlocking vast new stores of oil in Alaska, the Gulf of Mexico, and shale formations across the United States.  “A ‘Great Revival’ in U.S. oil production is taking shape -- a major break from the near 40-year trend of falling output,” James Burkhard of IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA) 

Published: Tuesday 25 September 2012
A review essay on human origins and contemporary crises.

We label as “crazy” those members of the human species whose behavior we find hard to understand, but the cascading crises in contemporary political, economic, and cultural life make a bigger question increasingly hard to ignore: Is the species itself crazy? Has the process of evolution in the hominid line produced a species that is both very clever and very crazy?

Paleoanthropologist Ian Tattersall ends his recent book about the Masters of the Planet with such reflection:

[A]part from death, the only ironclad rule of human experience has been the Law of Unintended Consequences. Our brains are extraordinary mechanisms, and they have allowed us to accomplish truly amazing things; but we are still only good at anticipating -- or at least of paying attention to -- highly immediate consequences. We are notably bad at assessing risk, especially long-term risk. We believe crazy things, such as that human sacrifice will propitiate the gods, or that people are kidnapped by space aliens, or that endless economic expansion is possible in a finite world, or that if we just ignore climate change we won’t have to face its consequences. Or at the very least, we act as if we do (p. 227).

 

We humans routinely believe crazy things, but are we a crazy species? Does the big brain that allowed us to master the planet have a basic design flaw? Given the depth of the social and ecological crises we face -- or, in some cases, refuse to face -- should we be worried about whether we can slip out of the traps we have created?

Reading Tattersall along with recent books by two thoughtful analysts on resource depletion and ecological degradation, those answers seem quite obvious: yes, on all counts. We’re in more trouble than we want to believe, and we are not as well equipped to deal with our troubles as we imagine. But I find some consolation in thinking about our current troubles in ...

Published: Sunday 9 September 2012
“The implications for global climate and weather, and for animals and people in the North, are enormous.”

Arctic sea ice has already melted to a record low this year, in thickness and extent. And summer’s not over yet. According to the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center, record melt has occurred for the past six years. Both the NSIDC and the European Space Agency say ice is thinning at a rate 50 percent faster than scientists predicted, mainly because of global warming and that summer Arctic ice could soon disappear altogether.

 

The implications for global climate and weather, and for animals and people in the North, are enormous. One would think the urgency of this development would draw a swift and collaborative response from government, industry, media and the public. Instead, news media have downplayed the issue, the only mention made of climate change at the recent Republican National Convention was to mock the science, and many government and industry leaders are rubbing their hands in glee at the thought of oil and gas extraction opportunities and shipping routes that will open up as the ice disappears.

 

We just don’t get it. As ice melts, more of the sun’s energy, which would normally be reflected back by the ice, is absorbed by the dark water, speeding up global climate change and warming the oceans. The Arctic is now heating at almost twice the rate as the rest of Earth. There’s also the danger that methane could be released as ice and permafrost melt. It’s a greenhouse gas far more potent than carbon dioxide, so this would accelerate global warming even further. ...

Published: Tuesday 4 September 2012
“Politicians, including Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, serve the demented ends of corporations that will, until the final flicker of life, attempt to profit from our death spiral.”

I retreat in the summer to the mountains and coasts of Maine and New Hampshire to sever myself from the intrusion of the industrial world. It is in the woods and along the rugged Atlantic coastline, the surf thundering into the jagged rocks, that I am reminded of our insignificance before the universe and the brevity of human life. The stars, thousands visible in the night canopy above me, mock human pretensions of grandeur. They whisper the biblical reminder that we are dust and to dust we shall return. Love now, they tell us urgently, protect what is sacred, while there is still time. But now I go there also to mourn. I mourn for our future, for the fading majesty of the natural world, for the folly of the human species. The planet is dying. And we will die with it.

The giddy, money-drenched, choreographed carnival in Tampa and the one coming up in Charlotte divert us from the real world—the one steadily collapsing around us. The glitz and propaganda, the ridiculous obsessions imparted by our electronic hallucinations, and the spectacles that pass for political participation mask the deadly ecological assault by the corporate state. The worse it gets, the more we retreat into self-delusion. We convince ourselves that global warming ...

Published: Tuesday 4 September 2012
“If you want to see what the country would look like without unions, watch re-runs of the Republican convention.”

 

In polite circles in Washington it is common to view unions as a quaint anachronism. They may have made sense back when most workers had little education and worked in factories, but there really is no place for them in a 21st century economy. From this perspective, the sharp decline in union membership that we have seen in the last three decades is simply a natural process, sort of like the development of more powerful computers.

There is evidence that suggests otherwise, most notably that many other wealthy countries still have very high rates of unionization. The share of the workforce represented by unions is 80 percent or higher in many European countries. While some may want to attribute the eurozone crisis to factors such as high unionization rates (as opposed to inept central bankers) they face the problem that non-eurozone countries like Denmark and Sweden seem to be doing just fine. In Denmark 80 percent of the workforce is represented by a union and in Sweden the share is 91 percent. According to the most recent OECD data, their unemployment rates are both 7.8 percent. That isn’t great, but it’s still half a percentage point below ours. And, both countries are able to borrow at the same or lower interest rates than the U.S. Clearly, high unionization rates have not led to catastrophe. 

But many still view Europe as being fundamentally different than the United States. And of course they don’t speak English in Denmark and Sweden, or at least not as a first language. This is why it is useful to look at Canada, a country that is culturally and economically very similar to the United States, and a place ...

Published: Thursday 2 August 2012
“In a letter sent to member states, the 15 organizations said that as ‘governments aggressively pursue false solutions to the environmental and economic crises, the situation will only deepen the water injustices that our organisations and communities have been fighting for decades.’”

 

When the 193-member General Assembly, the U.N.’s highest policy-making body, declared water and sanitation a basic human right back in July 2010, the adoption of that divisive resolution was hailed by many as a “historic” achievement.

But as the international community commemorated the second anniversary of that resolution last week, there was hardly any political rejoicing either inside or outside the United Nations.

“This human right is yet to be fully implemented,” complained a coalition of 15 international non-governmental organizations (NGOs), whose members describe themselves as “water justice activists”.

Demanding concrete action by individual governments, the coalition said, “As members of the global water justice movement, we are deeply concerned to see little progress being made towards the full implementation of this right.”

In a letter sent to member states, the 15 organizations said that as “governments aggressively pursue false solutions to the environmental and economic crises, the situation will only deepen the ...

Published: Tuesday 31 July 2012
Does less money mean more equality?

 

Canadians are now officially earning more than Americans. Did this happen while we were too busy making fun of our neighbors to the north? Let’s take a closer look: the Canadian system of governance isn’t all that different from the American system:

These two former British colonies are both large nations that have federal systems in which national elections are regulated by the national government, but where state or provincial elections are regulated by those governments.

In both nations, political parties are not uniform across jurisdictions, and field candidates who compete in single member districts. Both have well-developed campaign finance regulations, and an independent agency to implement those ...

Published: Monday 30 July 2012
“Charter schools also can take money away from the public system, and their teachers have fewer years of experience and a higher turnover rate.”

 

The privatization of public goods and services turns basic human needs into products to buy and sell. That's more than a joke, it's an insult, it's a perversion. It generally benefits only a privileged group of businesspeople and their companies while increasing inequality and undermining the common good. 

 

Various studies have identified the 'benefits' of privatization as profitability and productivity, efficiency, wider share ownership and good investment returns. These are business benefits. More balanced studies consider the effects on average people, who have paid into a long-established societal support system for their schools and emergency services, water and transportation systems, and eventually health care and retirement benefits. These studies have concluded that: 

 

-- Privatization has generated large profits for new owners but these have not been shared with the general public. 

 

-- The potential benefits of privatization are often outweighed by high contracting costs and opportunism. 

 

-- Most

Published: Sunday 29 July 2012
“If produce is certified USDA-organic, it’s non-GMO (or supposed to be!)”

Genetically modified foods have been shown to cause harm to humans, animals, and the environmental, and despite growing opposition, more and more foods continue to be genetically altered. It’s important to note that steering clear from these foods completely may be difficult, and you should merely try finding other sources than your big chain grocer. If produce is certified USDA-organic, its non-GMO (or supposed to be!) Also, seek out local farmers and booths at farmer’s markets where you can be assured the crops aren’t GMO. Even better, if you are so inclined: Start organic gardening and grow them yourself. Until then, here are the top 10 worst GMO foods for your “do not eat” GMO foods list.

Top 10 Worst GMO Foods for Your GMO Foods List

1. Corn: This is a no-brainer. If you’ve watched any food documentary, you know corn is highly modified. “As many as half of all U.S. farms growing corn for Monsanto are using genetically modified corn,” and much of it is intended for human consumption. Monsanto’s GMO corn has been tied to numerous health issues, including weight gain and organ disruption.

2. Soy: Found in tofu, vegetarian products, soybean oil, soy flour, and numerous other products, soy is also modified to resist herbicides. As of now, biotech giant Monsanto still has a tight grasp on the soybean market, with approximately 90 percent of soy being genetically engineered to resist Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup. In one single year, 2006, 96.7 million pounds of glyphosate was sprayed on soybeans alone

3. Sugar: According to NaturalNews, ...

Published: Monday 16 July 2012
“Released in June, the four-year plan will introduce Canada’s first integrated law enforcement team to fight trafficking; boost front-line training to identify and respond to human trafficking and enhance prevention in vulnerable communities; offer more support to Canadian and newcomer victims of the crime; and improve coordination with domestic and international partners combating the activity.”

 

 The arrests last week of the three remaining perpetrators of the alleged Opapa human trafficking ring, which forced 19 people recruited from Hungary to endure long work days, poor living conditions and no pay in the Canadian construction industry, has cast a light on Ottawa’s new measures to combat the crime.

While some advocates argue the one-month-old program is the most well-coordinated anti-trafficking effort among all stakeholders, others label certain aspects contentious and unfair.

For years, World Vision Canada urged a sweeping initiative targeting the crime both within Canadian borders as well as overseas because the two components are tied together, said Carleen McGuinty, a child protection policy adviser for the NGO based in Toronto.

The international development organization also asked for a policy addressing labour trafficking because “for every person forced into sexual exploitation, nine are forced into labour,” said McGuinty.

As well, she told IPS, it was important that the government include boys and girls, the “most vulnerable to human trafficking”.

In the end, World Vision Canada was satisfied with a final product containing much of the “language” which will serve as a first step to tackling the crime, she added.

Released in June, the four-year plan will introduce Canada’s first integrated law enforcement team to fight trafficking; boost front-line training to identify and respond to human trafficking and enhance prevention in vulnerable communities; offer more support to Canadian and newcomer victims of the crime; and improve coordination with domestic and international partners combating the activity.

Technically, human trafficking differs from human smuggling because the transported individual has given no consent and is further exploited on ...

Published: Thursday 12 July 2012
“How do you sell a rotten bag of goods? Rule number one of effective propaganda: repackage it into something seemingly less grotesque.”

 

How do you sell a rotten bag of goods? Rule number one of effective propaganda: repackage it into something seemingly less grotesque.

In that spirit, the Houston Chronicle recently reported the American Petroleum Institute (API) has created yet another front group, this one to promote tar sands crude, one of the dirtiest sources of fuel in the world, as a safe and secure energy resource.

It's name? "Oil Sands Fact Check" (OSFC).

READ FULL POST 6 COMMENTS

Published: Wednesday 11 July 2012
“The cost of the spill has reached $800 million and is rising, the NTSB said, making the pipeline rupture the most expensive on-shore oil spill in U.S. history.”

The National Transportation Safety Board blamed multiple corrosion cracks and “pervasive organizational failures” at the Calgary-based Enbridge pipeline company for a more-than-20,000-barrel oil spill two years ago near Michigan’s Kalamazoo River. [Washington Post]

The cost of the spill has reached $800 million and is rising, the NTSB said, making the pipeline rupture the most expensive on-shore oil spill in U.S. history. The pipeline’s contents — heavy crude oil from Canada’s oil sands — have made the spill a closely watched case with implications for other pipelines carrying such crude.

The NTSB also blamed “weak federal regulations” by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration for the accident, which spilled at least 843,444 gallons of oil into a tributary of the Kalamazoo in Marshall, Mich. The oil spread into a 40-mile stretch of the Kalamazoo and a nearby wetlands area.

Corn prices soared toward new highs on Monday amid growing fears that the drought scorching the U.S. Midwest will prove to be the harshest in decades. [Wall Street Journal]

Climate change researchers have been able to attribute recent examples of extreme weather to the effects of human activity on the planet’s climate systems for the first time, marking a major step forward in climate research. [Guardian]

The influence of manmade global warming on the climate system continues to grow, with human fingerprints identified in ...

Published: Sunday 8 July 2012
Published: Friday 6 July 2012
Continued extraction of oil from the tar sands of Alberta, Canada destroys caribou habitat.

 

Over the last several years, Alberta has killed more than 500 wolves using aerial sharpshooters and poisoned bait in order to conceal the impact of rapid industrial development on Canada’s iconic woodland caribou. 

Independent scientists say that declining caribou health stems chiefly from habitat destruction caused by the encroachment of the tar sands and timber industries. But in a perverse attempt to cover industry’s tracks, the Alberta government is ignoring the science and shifting the blame to a hapless scapegoat: the wolf. 

As DeSmogBlog reported earlier this year, the Alberta Caribou Committee, tasked with the recovery of the province’s dwindling caribou populations, is ...
Published: Monday 2 July 2012
Companies like Monsanto, the original producer of Posilac (an rBST) product had to reluctantly put safety warnings on the sides of their packages—admitting that it has about 20 “toxic effects” on the cows.

 

Breast-feeding mothers are often cautioned against eating and drinking certain things; it’s because some of these things can find their way into their breast milk and then their baby. Wouldn’t it make sense, then, that some of the hormones and antibiotics given to dairy cattle would make their way into your milk carton? One hormone, recombinant bovine somatotropin, or rBST, is given to about 20% of dairy cattle in the United States, having unknown effects on individuals who consume their milk.

Is rBST safe?

IS rBST safe? That depends on who you ask. Companies like Monsanto, the original producer of Posilac (an rBST) product had to reluctantly put safety warnings on the sides of their packages—admitting that it has about 20 “toxic effects” on the cows.

It’s a hormone that forces cows to produce more milk. More milk = more money, but the hormone makes the cows sick. Among other things, it causes mastitis which is an infection of the udder. This infection causes pus to be released into the milk. Yes, pus is in your milk.

In turn, large scale dairy operations that use rBST must use more antibiotics in the cows to counter the infection causing effects of the hormones.

According to the Organic Consumers Association, Dr. Samuel S. Epstein of the Cancer Prevention Coalition warns:

  • rBST milk is chemically and nutritionally different than natural milk.
  • Milk from cows injected with rBST is contaminated with the hormone, traces of which are absorbed through the gut into the blood of people who consume this milk or products made from it.
  • rBST milk is supercharged with high levels of the natural growth ...
Published: Monday 2 July 2012
Now, after the latest Supreme Court decision, with conservative Chief Justice John Roberts siding with the four alleged “liberal” members of the court to uphold the Affordable Health Care Act (Obamacare), the new cry from these dopes is that they want to move to Canada “because the US is too socialist.”

 

Let me preface this column by saying that I don’t think all conservatives and right-wingers are stupid. In fact I have some right-leaning friends of a libertarian bent who are really smart, and a lot of fun to argue with. They may have an unquestioning faith, bordering on religious zealotry, in the wonders of the “market,” but like Jesuit-trained Catholics defending the existence of God, debating that faith with them can be entertaining and even challenging.

Having said that, I have to say that the so called “rock-ribbed” conservative crowd -- let’s change that to “rock-headed” -- that serves as the foot-soldiers for the Koch-brothers-funded Tea Party “movement” are really low-wattage.

Back in 2008-2010, their incredibly inane rallying cry was: “Keep your government hands off my Medicare!”

Never mind that the Medicare these bozos were trying to protect is a government program.

Now, after the latest Supreme Court decision, with conservative Chief Justice John Roberts siding with the four alleged “liberal” members of the court to uphold the Affordable Health Care Act (Obamacare), the new cry from these dopes is that they want to move to Canada “because the US is too socialist.”

I kid you not!

Wally Weldon (@WallyWeldon), is a classic of the genre. In a Tweet, he declares, “I’m moving to Canada, the US is entirely too socialist.”

Van Summers (@VanSummers) chirps back, “Screw this commie country, I’m moving to Canada.”

Problem: Canada has what might best be described as socialized health care. Way back in 1947, Tommy Douglas, a social-democratic provincial leader of the prairie province of Saskatchewan, introduced the first public hospital insurance program in Canada. ...

Published: Wednesday 27 June 2012
A just-released in-depth report from Inside Climate News shows that this massive cleanup effort was in fact a debacle—a failure that reinforces the reputation of tar sands as the dirtiest oil on earth, exposes the weakness of regulatory oversight, and casts an ominous shadow across the thousands of rivers and streams that millions of Americans who live downstream of proposed tar sands pipelines depend on.

 

The irony is sharp enough to hurt. Americans are driving less and using less gas when we do drive. U.S. carbon pollution is down. Just about every car dealership in America is offering affordable, practical high gas mileage or zero gas mileage cars. Automakers are making them and the sales numbers show that Americans are buying them. Meanwhile, the Obama administration and automakers are poised to do even better with new standards that will double mileage again and slash pollution from our cars and trucks.

America is on the road to moving beyond oil, but the oil industry hasn’t gotten the message, and there’s no better evidence than its obsession with tar sands.

We don’t need tar-sands oil from Canada, yet Big Oil is determined to force it down our throats anyway—or at least force us to let them pipe through our nation so they can export it abroad. And now we’ve got some pretty shocking evidence of just how high a price we could end up paying for their greed.

In 2010, more than 30 miles of the Kalamazoo River was transformed into an environmental disaster zone by a cracked tar sands pipeline and a tar sands pipeline company that neglected to turn off its pumps. Since then, a monumental $700 million cleanup effort has removed more than a million gallons of tar sands crude, along with 17 million gallons of polluted water, and 190,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil and debris. Last week, after two years, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officially reopened the affected section of the river.

Now, though, a just-released in-depth report from Inside Climate News today shows that this massive cleanup effort was in fact a debacle—a failure that reinforces the reputation of tar sands as the dirtiest oil on earth, exposes the weakness of regulatory oversight, and casts an ominous shadow across the thousands of rivers and ...

Published: Wednesday 13 June 2012
The Arctic Council is the only international body that gives indigenous people a seat at the table, noted Tony Penikett, former premier of the Yukon, one of Canada’s three Arctic territories, and a contributor to the report.

The best way to protect the Arctic is for all nations with an interest in the region to participate in its governance – including non-Arctic nations like China, Brazil, and Singapore – suggests a new report.

As global warming creates new opportunities for shipping and resource extraction in the vast Arctic region, non-Arctic nations should be considered for membership as observers on the influential inter-governmental Arctic Council.

However, there is a growing realization that governments too often put economic interests first and management of the fragile region should be more widely shared.

Granting observer status should be conditional on a public declaration of their “respect for the sovereignty of Arctic states and the rights of Arctic indigenous peoples”, recommends the report “Canada as an Arctic Power”.

The report derives from a special two-day summit convened by the Munk-Gordon Arctic Security Program, one of Canada’s foremost initiatives on Arctic issues.

The Arctic Council is the only international body that gives indigenous people a seat at the table, noted Tony Penikett, former premier of the Yukon, one of Canada’s three Arctic territories, and a contributor to the report.

“Indigenous peoples have a strong voice and it is very important this continues to be recognized,” Penikett told IPS.

As observers, indigenous peoples have a voice but they don’t have a vote, nor do they have funding to participate in the various activities of the Council, he said. “We are also recommending that the Arctic indigenous people receive more funding so they can participate more fully.”

Singapore is a major shipping nation and has an interest in the opening up of the shipping lanes through the Arctic, while Brazil is interested in the natural resources of the region, he ...

Published: Friday 8 June 2012
While the northern Alberta-to-Cushing segment has been punted until after election season by President Barack Obama’s U.S. State Department, the Cushing-Port Arthur segment has been rammed through in a secrective manner by various Obama regulatory agencies.

 

TransCanada was once in the limelight and targeted for its Keystone XL pipeline project. Now, with few eyes watching, it is pushing along two key pipeline projects that would bring two respective forms of what energy geopolitics scholar Michael Klare calls “extreme energy” to lucrative export markets.

Pipeline one: The southern segment of the originally proposed TransCanada Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, popularly referred to as the Cushing Extension, but officially referred to as either the Gulf Coast Project or the Cushing. This pipeline will carry tar sands crude, or “dilbit,” extracted from Alberta, Canada’s Athabasca oil sands project southward first to Cushing, Okla., and then to Port Arthur, Texas, where it will be shipped.

While the northern Alberta-to-Cushing segment has been punted until after election season by President Barack Obama’s U.S. State Department, the Cushing-Port Arthur segment has been rammed through in a 

Published: Monday 4 June 2012
Given this long-standing neglect of Canada, maybe it’s no shock that it took some 100 days of massive, concerted protest before the student strike in Québec finally started getting traction in the U.S. media.

 

It’s always interesting to watch a social movement become a mass media phenomenon, as the Québec student strikes have started to become in the last week. It is rarely remembered that Occupy Wall Street was a virtual non-story through its first week, even in most of the alternative press. Many of the stories that did run sentenced that movement to irrelevance. It was only around day nine or ten of the occupation in New York City, after some startling video of police abuse started circulating online, that journalists decided that this was something they should be paying attention to. The movement snowballed from there.

I think we are now witnessing the same sense of escalating momentum with regard to the Québec students. The details of the protests against rising tuition fees and mounting student debt, which began in February, have long been available. Yet, as of late April, one of the few stories on the subject in the United States accurately dubbed the protests “The Biggest Student Uprising You’ve Never Heard Of.”

The lack of attention wasn’t due to a lack of numbers. Hundreds of thousands in Québec had rallied on March 22. That’s more than either the Tea Party or Occupy ever turned out for their protests—and the Québécois were drawing from a much smaller population.

Nor was the neglect a product of insufficient confrontation. As the Chronicle of Higher Education hadreported:

The strike has been supported by near-daily protest actions ranging from family-oriented rallies to building occupations and bridge blockades, and, more recently, by a campaign of political and economic disruption directed against government ministries, crown corporations, and private industry. Although generally peaceful, these actions have met with increasingly brutal acts of police violence: Student protesters are routinely beaten, ...

Published: Saturday 2 June 2012
“As protesters have in Argentina, in Chile, in Spain and now in Canada, they banged pots and pans as they marched — a practice called casseroles or cacerolazo.”

 

Occupy Wall Street activists took to the streets of New York to march for affordable education and against police repression, in solidarity with the massive, ongoing student uprising taking place in Quebec and now spreading across the world. As protesters have in Argentina, in Chile, in Spain and now in Canada, they banged pots and pans as they marched — a practice called casseroles or   cacerolazo. Manissa McCleave Maharawal and Zoltán Glück, who recently wrote for WNV about their experience among the students in Montreal, discuss the aims and meaning of this kind of protest.

Over the course of the night, the march made its way from Washington Square Park up to Times Square, often stopping traffic in the middle of the street, and then ended at the Quebec government’s office at Rockefeller Center. For more details on the march see this collection of tweets and photos by WNV editor Nathan Schneider.

Published: Monday 14 May 2012
“Koch Industries has produced its own video claiming it doesn’t deserve the label of a secretive Big Oil corporation.”

The Obama campaign and the super PAC Priorities USA recently fired back at Americans for Prosperity, highlighting Mitt Romney’s ties to a funding source of $18.5 million in energy attack ads: Koch Industries.

Koch Industries has produced its own video claiming it doesn’t deserve the label of a secretive Big Oil corporation.

Shockingly, Factcheck.org and the Washington Post have taken up Koch’s argument.  Factcheck.org wrote that despite Koch’s $100 billion revenue, the corporation’s diverse holdings mean “it is hardly in the league of the truly ‘big oil’companies.” The Washington Post Fact checker took the same angle.

While it’s true the most profitable U.S. corporations — ExxonMobil and Chevron — are larger than Koch, using this standard to claim the company isn’t Big Oil is incorrect. Let’s take a look at some key facts:

·       The Koch brothers’ net worth tops $50 billion and they have pledged to spend $60 million to defeat President Barack Obama, according to the Huffington Post.

·       The Koch PAC is the largest oil and gas contributor — donating more than even ExxonMobil — spending over $1 million in each of the last two cycles. This cycle, it has spent 

Published: Saturday 5 May 2012
There’s been a general perception that climate change is a future problem but with all the extreme weather disasters and weather records the public is being to realise that climate change is here, says Henn.

 

Nix will be joined by dozens of people near White Rock, British Columbia on May 5. They will be in good company as tens of thousands of people around the world participate in global day of action to "connect the dots" between climate change and extreme weather. 


"There will be at least 1,200 actions in more than 100 countries," says Jamie Henn, communications director for 350.org, a U.S.-based environmental group. 


There's been a general perception that climate change is a future problem but with all the extreme weather disasters and weather records the public is being to realise that climate change is here, says Henn. 


"Recent opinion surveys show the more than 60 percent of the U.S. public are connecting extreme weather to climate change," Henn told IPS. 


The U.S. public is not wrong, say scientists. 


"All weather events are affected by climate change because the environment in which they occur is warmer and moister than it used to be," Kevin Trenberth, senior scientist at the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research, told IPS previously. 


Last year the U.S. endured 14 separate billion-dollar-plus weather disasters including flooding, hurricanes and tornados. 


This year, most of the U.S. and Canada experienced summer in winter with record-shattering heat waves in March. More than 15,000 temperature records were broken in the U.S. which had its first billion-dollar weather disaster of the year. In most places, the spring month of April was colder than March. 


"What kind of future are we leaving for our children if we keep putting more carbon into the atmosphere?" asks Nix. 


As a former scientist who used to work for the oil industry in Canada's tar sands, he has a pretty good idea of what's ...

Published: Thursday 3 May 2012
“In reality, climate change is actually the biggest thing that’s going on every single day. If we could only see that pattern we’d have a fighting chance.”

The Williams River was so languid and lovely last Saturday morning that it was almost impossible to imagine the violence with which it must have been running on August 28, 2011. And yet the evidence was all around: sand piled high on its banks, trees still scattered as if by a giant’s fist, and most obvious of all, a utilitarian temporary bridge where for 140 years a graceful covered bridge had spanned the water.The YouTube video of that bridge crashing into the raging river was Vermont’s iconic image from its worst disaster in memory, the record flooding that followed Hurricane Irene’s rampage through the state in August 2011. It claimed dozens of lives, as it cut more than a billion-dollar swath of destruction across the eastern United States.

I watched it on TV in Washington just after emerging from jail, having been arrested at the White House during mass protests of the Keystone XL pipeline. Since Vermont’s my home, it took the theoretical -- the ever more turbulent, erratic, and dangerous weather that the tar sands pipeline from Canada would help ensure -- and made it all too concrete. It shook me bad.

And I’m not the only one.

New data released last month by researchers at Yale and George Mason universities show that a lot of Americans are growing far more concerned about climate change, precisely because they’re drawing the links between freaky weather, a climate kicked off-kilter by a fossil-fuel guzzling civilization, and their own lives. After a year with a record number of ...

Published: Wednesday 25 April 2012
Published: Tuesday 24 April 2012
“Yet another key tar sands export pipeline is in the works, this one making a voyage to New England: the Enbridge Line 9 Reversal pipeline.”

TransCanada’s Keystone XL Pipeline permit hangs in the balance, up for a potential Senate vote this week, having already passed the House as part of the Transportation Bill last week. Other companies, meanwhile, are wasting no time pushing their own respective tar sands pipeline proposals while that drama unfolds.

Last week, DeSmogBlog noted that for example, Oneok is pushing a pipeline proposal that would bring oil and gas obtained via the hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) process in North Dakota’s Bakken Shale down to “the pipeline crossroads of the world” in Cushing, OK, where it would be refined and sent further southward to Port Arthur, TX and then shipped off to the global export market.

Now yet another key tar sands export pipeline is in the works, this one making a voyage to New England: the Enbridge Line 9 Reversal pipeline.

Enter Enbridge’s Line 9 Pipeline

Enbridge, overseer of the controversial proposed Northern Gateway tar sands pipeline which would send tar sands crude westward from Alberta, Calgary to Kitimat, B.C., has yet another pipeline in the works: the already existing Line 9 Pipeline.

Line 9 currently takes oil Middle Eastern/African oil ...

Published: Friday 20 April 2012
“The oil and gas industry gets what it wants - higher profits from overseas buyers.”

The controversy over TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline has raged on for years now, with no end in sight.

The Keystone XL pipeline would carry tar sands crude from the tar sands epicenter of the world in Alberta, Canada, take it down to Cushing, OK, and then eventually down to Port Arthur, TX, where it will be refined and placed on the lucrative oil export market.

While Republicans continue to try to make Keystone XL a campaign issue, President Obama has officially put the fate of the pipeline on the backburner until after the November 2012 U.S. elections.

But this has not stopped other key pipelines and pipeline extensions from being built "in the meantime, in between time," as the song lyrics made famous by the classic novel, The Great Gatsby, go.

Most ...

Published: Friday 17 February 2012
“Concerned about Wall Street’s devastating impact on communities? Then invest in yourself—the most local investment of all.”

Americans’ long-term savings in stocks, bonds, pension, life insurance, and mutual funds total about $30 trillion. But not even 1 percent of these savings touches local small businesses, the source of half the economy’s jobs and output. Is it possible to beat Wall Street’s 5 percent long-term performance by investing in your community? The answer is a resounding yes!

Co-op members who lent to the Weaver Street Market in North Carolina and to the Seward Co-op in Minneapolis earned well over 5 percent per year. Many outside investors who bought preferred shares of the Coulee Region Organic Producers Pool, a co-op of organic farmers, are still receiving an annual dividend of 6 percent. Equal Exchange has paid a dividend to its preferred shareholders averaging above 5 percent for 22 years. Investors who participate in New Markets Tax Credits automatically get a tax credit equal to 5 percent of their capital for each of the first three years and 6 percent for the next four—even if the investment generates ...

Published: Monday 13 February 2012
While the Harper government has so far not released specific figures on the cost of Bill C-10, one study estimates that it will cost Canadians 19 billion dollars to implement the bill.

As the Senate debates the merits of the Canadian government's newly-passed omnibus crime bill, organizations across the country have raised serious issues with the legislation, particularly when it comes to amendments relating to the treatment of young offenders.

"The course we were on for young people was working, was contributing to public safety. There isn't evidence to show that putting more young people in jails, for lesser crimes, for longer periods of time, works," said Kathy Vandergrift, chair of the Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children (CCRC).

"We have too many young people falling through the cracks of fragmented support systems across provincial lines. Paying attention to that, we argue, would be a better investment and a much better contribution to public safety," she added.

Tabled as the "Safe Streets and Communities Act", or Bill C-10, the new crime legislation was passed in the Canadian House of Commons on Dec. 5, 2011. It bundles together nine separate bills on issues ranging from migrants entering Canada to organized crime and child sexual exploitation.

Among other provisions, the law would increase mandatory minimum sentences and pre-trial detention, instate harsher prison sentencing for young offenders and longer wait times for individuals applying for pardons, and make it more difficult for Canadians detained abroad to serve the remainder of their sentence at home.

According to Vandergrift, some components of Bill C-10 contradict Canada's responsibilities as a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, including the state's obligations to protect the privacy of youth offenders, and to prioritize the well-being of children above all else.

"We would like to see Part 4 (of Bill C-10), which deals with the youth criminal justice system, taken out of the bill and discussed separately. Youth justice should be substantially ...

Published: Tuesday 31 January 2012
“Corporate power is global, and resistance to it cannot be restricted by national boundaries.”

What happened to Canada? It used to be the country we would flee to if life in the United States became unpalatable. No nuclear weapons. No huge military-industrial complex. Universal health care. Funding for the arts. A good record on the environment.

But that was the old Canada. I was in Montreal on Friday and Saturday and saw the familiar and disturbing tentacles of the security and surveillance state. Canada has withdrawn from the Kyoto Accords so it can dig up the Alberta tar sands in an orgy of environmental degradation. It carried out the largest mass arrests of demonstrators in Canadian history at 2010’s G-8 and G-20 meetings, rounding up more than 1,000 people. It sends undercover police into indigenous communities and activist groups and is handing out stiff prison terms to dissenters. And Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper is a diminished version of George W. Bush. He champions the rabid right wing in Israel, bows to the whims of global financiers and is a Christian fundamentalist.

The voices of dissent sound like our own. And the forms of persecution are familiar. This is not an accident. We are fighting the same corporate leviathan.

“I want to tell you that I was arrested because I am seen as a threat,” Canadian activist Leah Henderson wrote to fellow dissidents before being sent to Vanier prison in Milton, Ontario, to serve a 10-month sentence. “I want to tell you that you might be too. I want to tell you that this is something we need to prepare for. I want to tell you that the risk of incarceration alone should not determine our organizing.”

READ FULL POST 10 COMMENTS

Published: Thursday 19 January 2012
“But the Obama administration’s decision to reject the project isn’t likely to end investment in controversial fuel.”

The Obama administration's decision Wednesday to reject a pipeline that would have carried crude from Canada’s tar sands deposits to Texas oil refineries isn’t likely to end investment in the carbon-rich fuel, industry analysts say.

In killing the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, President Obama blamed congressional Republicans, who he said “forced this decision” by requiring an expedited 60-day review of the pipeline as a provision of the recent payroll tax extension.

Obama also reaffirmed his support for domestic oil and gas exploration and expanding fossil fuel infrastructure. “In the months ahead, we will continue to look for new ways to partner with the oil and gas industry to increase our energy security,” he said.

But industry analysts question this rationale. “If your objective is improving our energy security, then Keystone should have been built,” said Sarah Emerson, president of Energy Security Analysis, Inc., an energy forecasting firm.

Environmentalists have reason to temper their excitement over the pipeline's defeat. They opposed pipeline builder TransCanada's project because of fears about spills and the climate-change implications of refining tar sands, which give off more carbon dixoide than traditional crude oil. But Obama threw his support behind additional U.S. drilling. And analysts say production of tar sands in Canada will continue.

“Is it a setback? Yes,” Emerson said. “Does it spell the end of the oil sands development? No.”

She predicts that America’s northern neighbor will go forward with a stalled pipeline to its Pacific coast. “I suspect that [Canada looks] at this as a ...

Published: Monday 16 January 2012
“Americans’ thirst for oil probably will push the administration and TransCanada Corp. to find a way to transport Canadian crude across the United States even if it’s not through a pipeline called Keystone XL, industry analysts said.”

 

A provision attached to the recent payroll tax bill requires President Barack Obama to decide by Feb. 21 on the construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to the United States.

But even if the administration rejects the project, it may not be enough to kill it, industry analysts said. Americans' thirst for oil probably will push the administration and TransCanada Corp., the pipeline's sponsor, to find a way to transport Canadian crude across the United States even if it's not through a pipeline called Keystone XL, industry analysts said.

"We think it will be built," said Jamie Webster, senior manager for markets at PFC Energy, a Washington consulting firm. "The interesting bit is, what is 'it'? The future of the pipeline could go a couple of different ways."

TransCanada said it had already started to work with Nebraska authorities to find an alternative route. Once one has been determined, the environmental review could take about nine months, TransCanada said.

Over the next six weeks, TransCanada could pull the Keystone application to avoid deepening the political fight over the permit and submit it later with a new route through Nebraska, said Frank Verrastro, director of energy and national security at the Center for ...

Published: Friday 6 January 2012
“Time to stop being cynical about corporate money in politics and start being angry.”

My resolution for 2012 is to be naïve -- dangerously naïve.

I’m aware that the usual recipe for political effectiveness is just the opposite: to be cynical, calculating, an insider. But if you think, as I do, that we need deep change in this country, then cynicism is a sucker’s bet. Try as hard as you can, you’re never going to be as cynical as the corporations and the harem of politicians they pay for.  It’s like trying to outchant a Buddhist monastery.

Here’s my case in point, one of a thousand stories people working for social change could tell: All last fall, most of the environmental movement, including 350.org, the group I helped found, waged a fight against the planned Keystone XL pipeline that would bring some of the dirtiest energy on the planet from Canada through the U.S. to the Gulf Coast. We waged our struggle against building it out in the open, presenting scientific argument, holding demonstrations, and attending hearings.  We sent 1,253 people to jail in the largest civil disobedience action in a generation.  Meanwhile, more than half a million Americans offered public comments against the pipeline, the most on any energy project in the nation’s history.

And what do you know? We won a small victory in November, when President Obama agreed that, before he could give the project a thumbs-up or -down, it needed another year of careful review.  (The previous version of that review, as overseen by the State Department, had been little short of a crony capitalist farce.)  Given that James Hansen, the government’s premier climate scientist, had ...

Published: Wednesday 4 January 2012
“Comparing this to the Keystone Pipeline, we could say that a 10 percent reduction in the value of the dollar would have roughly the same impact on employment as 500 Keystone Pipelines.”

The new Great Hope for job creation in Washington is the Keystone Pipeline, a plan to create a pipeline that would transport oil from Alberta, Canada, as far as New Orleans. According to the Republican leadership and other proponents of the pipeline, it is expected to create 20,000 jobs in construction and supplier industries.

There have questions raised about this number by the State Department, which must approve the pipeline, and other analysts. It seems that this 20,000 number refers to “job years,” not jobs. This means that if a construction worker is employed for two years working on the pipeline, she would count as holding two jobs in the 20,000 jobs number. The number of jobs created at a point in time would likely be closer to half of this figure, perhaps less than 10,000.

It’s also likely that many of these jobs will go to Canadians. This is good for them, but beside the point if the goal is to create jobs for people in the United States.

But even 10,000 jobs would be better than nothing, the question is how much better? Without some context the public is not well-positioned to assess the economic argument for the pipeline.

One basis of comparison is the economy’s normal rate of job creation. Back in the late 1990s the economy created 3 million jobs a year for four years. At this pace, the jobs created by Keystone ...

Published: Monday 12 December 2011
Private sources explicitly include carbon markets as governments from the rich countries frequently cited the financial crisis has tied their purse strings.

The world is increasingly committed to dangerous levels of global warming with yet another failure by nations of the world to agree to needed reductions in carbon emissions here in Durban. However, as the 17th Conference of Parties ended early Sunday morning, members did agree to talk about a new global treaty to reduce emissions.

After two weeks and an additional 29 hours of intense and even bitter negotiations, the 193 nations participating in the United Nations climate talks agreed to a complex and technical set of documents called the "Durban Platform." These include the continuation of the Kyoto Protocol, a formal structure for a Green Climate Fund, new market mechanisms, and more. 

The biggest development reached at dawn Sunday is an agreement to negotiate a new global treaty to reduce emissions by 2015. While this may look like simply agreeing to more meetings, it is the first time all nations have agreed to be governed by a new global emission reduction treaty under the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Currently the promised emission reductions by industrialized countries and those of China, Brazil, South Africa, India and others under the 2009 Copenhagen Accord guarantee a world that is at least 3.5 degrees Celsius warmer on average according to climate science. It will be double that over large parts of ...

Published: Wednesday 23 November 2011
“California, which up until now has remained out of the fray in the fight over tar sands oil, would be key to such a northern pacific route.”

The Obama Administration’s recent decision to delay the approval process for the controversial Keystone XL pipeline has shifted attention to alternate routes for bringing a glut of tar sands oil in Canada to refineries and ports abroad.

Last week, Canadian firms bought up thousands of miles of existing pipeline in the U.S. Midwest, intending to reverse oil flows southward to Gulf Coast refineries – a “workaround” that would get oil flowing in the right direction, but still not enough to accommodate the volume of crude being produced.

A second – lesser known -- alternative involves piping tar sands oil westward across Canada to Vancouver, where it would reach West Coast refineries by tanker. California, which up until now has remained out of the fray in the fight over tar sands oil, would be key to such a northern pacific route.

“California is the prize,” said Greg Karras, senior scientist with Oakland-based Communities for a Better Environment. “It’s where the [Canadian tar sands] industry is going. They have this gigantic reserve of fundamentally dirtier oil that they want to exploit, sitting above the best refining country in the world.”

The Golden State is well-positioned to take in tar sands oil, a heavier, lower quality crude that requires intensive processing, Karras said. Its oil refineries, in the last few years, have undergone upgrades to process heavier crude, and the state’s ports provide an easy gateway to Asia.

California’s sources of crude from within the state and Alaska are dwindling, leading to increased reliance on imports of heavier forms of crude to meet demand. The state currently imports half of its crude from the Middle East and Latin America, according to Karras, and that number could grow to three-fourths in the next 10 years.

Severin Borenstein of UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business and co-director of the UC Energy ...

Published: Sunday 13 November 2011
“The Occupiers are adamant they will not be co-opted, by the president or anyone else.”

The bursting to life of the Occupy Wall Street movement is the most hopeful development in American politics since Barack Obama was elected president three years ago this month. Obama's election has turned out to be largely a false hope. But that false hope might still be redeemed - and the president motivated to become the reformer he once pledged to be - if the Occupy movement grows into the kind of massive, broad-based, relentless movement no president can afford to ignore.

Already, the Occupy Wall Street website claims that the movement has spread to 100 cities in the United States and inspired sympathy actions in 1,500 cities around the world. Momentum appears to be building in other ways as well. Activists in other progressive movements - environment, labour, anti-poverty and housing - are beginning to collaborate with Occupy. TV commercials are airing on mainstream media outlets, even Fox News, spreading Occupy's message that the US political and economic system is rigged in favour of the top one per cent. And opinion polls are indicating that a sizeable majority of Americans agree with this analysis, though there seems to be less support for the Occupy activists themselves.

The latest big protest targeted the White House itself, when an estimated 12,000 people physically surrounded the home of the US president last Sunday to urge rejection of a ...

Published: Tuesday 8 November 2011
“Oil from the tar sands of Alberta is the dirtiest in the world, and its extraction is already causing problems. If Keystone is built, there will be increased efforts to expand oil production there, making a bad situation much worse.”

On Sunday, November 6, thousands of people encircled the White House as part of the ongoing effort to press US President Barack Obama to stop the Keystone XL pipeline. If the nearly 1,700-mile pipeline were to be built, it would run from the tar sands of Alberta, Canada, through the heartland of the US, all the way to the Texas coast on the Gulf of Mexico. Should the project go ahead, Obama will have made one of the single most disastrous decisions of his presidency concerning climate change and the very future of our planet.

In August, some 1,250 people were arrested in front of the White House while protesting against Keystone. One of them was James Hanson, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, who has been studying for decades the impact of fossil fuels on the environment. Hanson argues that the pipeline would sound the death knell for the world’s climate. Oil from the tar sands of Alberta is the dirtiest in the world, and its extraction is already causing problems. If Keystone is built, there will be increased efforts to expand oil production there, making a bad situation much worse.

Opposition to the pipeline throughout the US is growing in intensity – from the activists arrested in Washington, DC, to the governor of Nebraska, who is seeking state legislation to stop the pipeline from running through America’s biggest aquifer, to members of the US Congress, who have petitioned Obama about the project. The outpouring of opposition surprised the oil industry, its highly paid lobbyists, and especially TransCanada Corporation, which would build the pipeline. So, like many huge corporations facing public criticism, they and their allies are responding with a dubious new marketing effort.

"Follow Project Syndicate on Facebook or Twitter. For more from Jody ...

Published: Monday 7 November 2011
The authors of the report wrote that “access to health care (has) significantly eroded since 2006.”

Support for ObamaCare has fallen to just 34 percent of the American public, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s most recent tracking poll.  That’s down from 41 percent in just one month.

Can’t say I’m surprised. Just as they did during the debate on health care reform in 2009 and 2010, the special interests who profit from the status quo have been winning the messaging battle in their ongoing effort to scare people away from the new law. They have a well-planned and executed strategy to mislead people so thoroughly they will vote next year for candidates who promise to repeal the law, even if that means they will be voting against their own best interests. The strategy of the law’s backers—if indeed there is one —is simply not working.

One reason reform advocates cite for the decline in support:  relentless attacks on the law by GOP presidential candidates, especially during those free-for-all debates. At one of the recent get-togethers, Newt Gingrich even resurrected the biggest of the big lies —  that the law creates government-run death plans that will decide when to pull the plug on sick Medicare beneficiaries. Supporters can’t expect debate moderators to challenge the candidates on such baseless accusations, and they don’t have comparable forums to communicate how the law is helping millions of Americans. At least not yet.

Another factor in falling support for ObamaCare is that opponents are outdueling  supporters in placement of op-ed commentaries and letters to the editor. While I haven’t seen detailed analyses of the op-ed placement war, my own observation, as someone who reads a lot of newspapers, is that the critics have gotten way more ink than the ...

Published: Monday 7 November 2011
“A two-week anti-pipeline sit-in outside the White House in August resulted in 1,524 arrests, but there were no arrests Sunday.”

On a sunny, cloudless day, thousands of protesters encircled the White House Sunday in a show of numbers intended to persuade President Barack Obama to stop a proposed oil pipeline from being built.

The Keystone XL pipeline would stretch 1,661 miles from Alberta, Canada, to Texas' Gulf Coast and requires a presidential permit because it crosses the U.S.-Canada border. Environmentalists say the project is a key test of Obama's green credentials.

Wearing orange vests with the message "Stop the pipeline #noXL," protesters first heard from prominent environmentalists, a preacher, a Nobel laureate, and a movie star, and then gathered to hold hands in a ring that stretched in front of the White House and several blocks down side streets before joining up behind the White House lawn. Organizers estimated that the crowd exceeded 10,000 people.

"You can't occupy the White House, but you can surround it," said environmentalist and protest organizer Bill McKibben in a reference to the Occupy Wall Street movements spreading around the country.

With the failure of climate change legislation on Capitol Hill last year, environmentalists have made stopping the Keystone pipeline their major focus in recent months. They want the president to reject the pipeline because of the risks of spills and what they say is the likely ...

Published: Tuesday 4 October 2011
“Suppose a pipeline spill poisoned this precious source of water for irrigation and drinking. The proposed Keystone XL would corrosive oil over shallow aquifers under sandy soil.”

In Washington, D.C., conference rooms, the proposed pipeline running from Alberta, Canada, to Texas refineries on the Gulf of Mexico may look rather attractive. The 1,700-mile Keystone XL pipeline would supply the United States with abundant crude from a friendly neighbor. It would create 20,000 jobs, says owner TransCanada. And it would be reasonably safe for the environment, according to a U.S.  READ FULL POST 7 COMMENTS

Published: Saturday 1 October 2011
The worst places in the world to be a woman, “with almost no legal rights,” is: Niger, Mali, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Yemen.

The top and the bottom of the list of countries in Newsweek’s recent cover story, “The 2011 Global Women’s Progress Report,” evoke images of two different worlds.

At the top of the list – the “Best Places to be a Woman” – we see the usual suspects: Iceland and the Scandinavian countries, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Canada. On that planet, we see rankings in the upper 90’s for the survey’s five categories: justice, health, education, economics, and politics. Women are out-earning men in college degrees (United States), domestic abusers are being banned from their homes and tracked with electronic monitors (Turkey), and female prime ministers are being elected (Denmark and Australia).

Now look at the ...

Published: Wednesday 28 September 2011
The normally placid and polite Canadians demanded the closure of the multi-billion-dollar tar sands oil extraction projects in northern Alberta to protect the global climate and the health of local people and environment.

More than 200 Canadians engaged in civil disobedience, with 117 arrested in Canada’s quiet capital city on Monday. The reason? To protest the Stephen Harper right-wing government’s open support for the oil industry and expanding production in the climate-disrupting tar sands.

The normally placid and polite Canadians shouted, waved banners and demanded the closure of the multi-billion-dollar tar sands oil extraction projects in northern Alberta to protect the global climate and the health of local people and environment.

“People are here because they know that if we don’t turn away from the tar sands and fossil fuels soon it will be too late,” Peter McHugh, a spokesperson for Greenpeace Canada, told IPS.

“The tar sands are unsustainable. Canadians are willing to shift away from fossil fuels but our government isn’t,” Gabby Ackett a university student and protester, told IPS as she stood in front of a long line of police.

In what was proudly touted as “civil” civil disobedience, protesters aged 19 to 84 were arrested for using a step-stool to climb a low barrier separating them from the House of Commons, the seat of Canadian government. The police were friendly and accommodating because the organizers had promised there would be no violence.

“We live downstream and see the affects of tar sands pollution on the fish and the birds,” said George Poitras, a former chief of the Mikisew Cree First Nation in northern Alberta.

“Some our young people have rare forms of cancer,” Poitras told more than 500 protesters.

“Expanding the tar sands is not the way to go in a world struggling with climate change,” he said.

Carbon emissions from the tar sands production have increased 300 percent since 1990 and, at 45 to 50 million tons annually, are greater than most countries. And that does not include the carbon contained in the oil ...

Published: Monday 29 August 2011
“Can opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline bring conservatives back to conservation?”

Several months ago, John Stansbury, a soft-spoken professor from Omaha, Neb., took his 12-year-old grandson to a public meeting to discuss Keystone XL, the proposed mega-pipeline that would carry oil from Canada across his home state to the Gulf of Mexico. At the time, Stansbury knew almost nothing about the pipeline and had never done anything particularly political. “I'm not really an activist,” he says, a bit sheepishly. But he wanted his grandson to “see democracy at work.”

The 61-year-old civil engineer also happens to be an expert in the transport of hazardous materials. And as he learned more about Keystone XL, he saw a disaster in the making. After the meeting, Stansbury began poring over official risk assessments of the pipeline and thought they grossly underestimated the probability of a spill. He was so troubled that he did something he’s never done before—he courted media attention. He drafted an independent report on the pipeline, asked the organization Friends of the Earth to help announce his findings, and held a press conference. He predicts the pipeline could have approximately 91 significant spills over the next 50 years—eight times as many as the energy company TransCanada estimated.

Keystone XL has enough strikes against it to turn political neophytes like Stansbury into first-time activists, and to compel some unusual alliances between conservatives and progressives. ...

Published: Saturday 20 August 2011
“Why developing the tarsands has been called “world's most destructive project.””

What does it mean to live in an energy sacrifice zone? For many First Nations of Canada, it means that the land and water your families have lived on for generations is no longer safe. Nearly every major oil company in the world is participating in making the homelands of indigenous peoples unsafe by investing in the Athabascan tar sands.

In what is called by the Environmental Defense Fund the “world’s most destructive project,” an area the size of Florida is slated for various forms of mining. Locked up in sand, clay, and bitumen, tar sands oil is one of the hardest to mine and refine and is also one of the dirtiest: extracting it creates three times more greenhouse gases than conventional oil. Mining the tar sands means not only deforestation but also the creation of massive lagoons filled with toxic wastewater. These ponds are leaking 11 million liters of toxic water each day and by 2012 are expected to leak 72 million liters a day.

The project’s carbon footprint is global. Mining the tar sands requires special equipment that is manufactured in Korea, shipped across the ocean, and barged through Portland, Oregon, up the Columbia and Snake Rivers through the Nez Perce reservation and on to Idaho. The current plan is to haul it on massive trucks to northern Alberta. American highways have never seen trucks of this size, and the haul will require major modifications to roadways along the way.

Oil giant TransCanada hopes to expand the project even further by building a pipeline that will pump dirty oil from northern Alberta, across the headwaters of major rivers, and down to the Gulf of Mexico where special refineries exist to handle the lower-grade oil. The pipeline, named Keystone XL, is expected to actually raise gas prices in the states it crosses because the refined oil will have to be shipped back up from the Gulf. This rise will be the equivalent of a “$4-billion-a-year tax on oil we already get from ...

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