Scientists Find 7,300-Mile Mercury Contamination ‘Bullseye’ Around Canadian Tar Sands

Oilsands development in northern Alberta, Canada.

Just one week after Al Jazeera discovered that regulatory responsibility for Alberta, Canada’s controversial tar sands would be handed over to a fossil-fuel funded corporation, federal scientists have found that the area’s viscous petroleum deposits are surrounded by a nearly 7,500-square-mile ring of mercury.

Canadian government scientists have found that levels of mercury — a potent neurotoxin which has been found to cause severe birth defects and brain damage — around the region’s vast tar sand operations are up to 16 times higher than regular levels for the region. The findings, presented by Environment Canada researcher Jane Kirk at an international toxicology conference, showed that the 7,500 miles contaminated are “currently impacted by airborne Hg (mercury) emissions originating from oilsands developments.”

Read more at ThinkProgress

US targets major drug cartel: Hezbollah – Ya Libnan

The Obama administration charged Hezbollah with operating like an international drug cartel and blacklisted two Lebanese money-exchange houses for allegedly moving tens of millions of dollars of drug profit through the U.S. financial system on behalf of the militant group.

The Treasury Department’s action Tuesday marked the latest salvo in a two-year U.S. government campaign against Hezbollah’s alleged drug-trafficking activities.

U.S. officials alleged that Hezbollah is using proceeds from this narcotics trade to fund international terrorist activities and to bolster the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in their fight against a widening political rebellion.

U.S. officials also said Hezbollah is increasingly reverting to illicit trade to offset diminished funding coming from Iran, the organization’s closest ally.

“Hezbollah is operating like a major drug cartel,” said Derek Maltz, a special agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration, who is overseeing the U.S. probe into Hezbollah. “These proceeds are funding violence against Americans.”

Bulgaria’s Interior Ministry concluded that Hezbollah operatives conducted last year’s bombing of a tourism bus at a Black Sea resort that killed five Israeli nationals. The European Union is considering imposing broadsanctions on Hezbollah as a result.

Read more at Ya Libnan.

This article is from the archives. I feel that it is worth republishing because it is of major historical importance and relevance to understanding current Middle East events. Broadly speaking, Hezbollah might be thought of as the Shi’ite equivalent of Sunni-based Al Qaeda. I know that’s a crude comparison. But in Syria, these two radical Islamist ideologies are principle players in a major, regional civil conflict that has resulted in the deaths of over 100,000 people.

Former minister killed in Beirut car bomb

Forensic experts check the site of explosion near a crater in Beirut, Friday, Dec. 27, 2013. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

BEIRUT: Former Minister Mohammad Shatah, a senior aide to former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, was killed along with five other people in a car bomb blast in Downtown Beirut Friday, a security source said.

The March 14 coalition, which is headed by the Future Movement, pointed the finger of blame at the regime of Syria’s President Bashar Assad, which swiftly denied the allegations.

Shatah’s vehicle was making its way in the capital’s bustling central district at the time of the explosion, which also killed Mohammad Tareq Badr, the former finance minister’s bodyguard, the source said, adding that 70 people were also wounded in the blast that struck at around 9.45 a.m.

The 62-year-old, who was also a close aide to former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, was headed to Hariri’s Downtown residence where a meeting of the March 14 coalition was under way.

His killing comes days before the U.N.-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon begins the trial of four Hezbollah suspects over the 2005 assassination of Hariri’s father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, the founder of the Future Movement.

Read more at The Daily Star-Lebanon

Prosecutor Overseeing Turkish Graft Inquiry Is Removed From Case

A departing Turkish minister, Erdogan Bayraktar, waved Thursday as he left his post. He has called on Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to resign.

ISTANBUL — An Istanbul prosecutor who had been overseeing a sprawling corruption investigation of the prime minister’s inner circle was removed from the case on Thursday, in a new sign of a profound power struggle over Turkey’s judiciary and police forces.

The prosecutor, Muammer Akkas, issued a condemnation of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government, accusing it of interfering in the judiciary and preventing him from carrying out his work.

Mr. Akkas said that the government had prevented the police forces from pursuing a new round of suspects in the widening inquiry. Among those suspects, according to several Turkish news media reports, is Mr. Erdogan’s son, whose name was on a summons that was leaked to the press on Thursday evening.

“The judiciary has clearly been pressured,” Mr. Akkas said in a written statement, charging his superiors with “committing a crime” for not carrying out arrest warrants, and saying that suspects had been allowed to “take precautions, flee and tamper with evidence.”

The prosecutor’s removal from the case came a day after the resignations of three ministers whose sons had been implicated. One of them, the environment and urban planning minister, Erdogan Bayraktar, broke precedent by calling for the prime minister to resign, too.

Read more at The New York Times

This is a huge story. Here we have shades of Nixon and Watergate in Turkey. This looks like the beginning of the unraveling of AKP’s power. For those of us who are deeply interested in human history and politics, this seems like one of those unique historic moments. Now would be a good time to start paying close attention.

Why the American Right Attacks the Poor

19th century engraving Via New York Public Library Digital Collection. Image from Wikipedia Commons.

The defining philosophical argument being made on the American political right today should not be surprising. And that is because the need to make that argument is also not new.

In every society in human history, in which so many have been forced to live in states of perpetual poverty, violence and despair–in the midst of obscene opulence and privilege for a very few–there has been a compelling need to explain the relationship of these facts.

There has also always been a need for a counter narrative to be created and promulgated in order to deflect attention from the most obvious causes of social and economic injustices.

Poverty has often been explained as a consequence of individual moral failures. And the exploitation of the weak and the poor by the powerful and wealthy has also been denied as a possible cause of human suffering in society.

But an autopsy of every historic incidence of social decay and human degradation has revealed the same shockingly obvious and simple truth: that it is the poverty of the many that has always subsidized the wealth of a privileged few.

© 2013 by Paul Kennedy

“Dark Money” Funds Climate Change Denial Effort

A Drexel University study finds that a large slice of donations to organizations that deny global warming are funneled through third-party pass-through organizations that conceal the original funder

A shift to untraceable donations by organizations denying climate change undermines democracy, according to the author of a new study tracking contributions to such groups.

Image: Wikimedia Commons/Carol M. Highsmith

The largest, most-consistent money fueling the climate denial movement are a number of well-funded conservative foundations built with so-called “dark money,” or concealed donations, according to an analysis released Friday afternoon.

The study, by Drexel University environmental sociologist Robert Brulle, is the first academic effort to probe the organizational underpinnings and funding behind the climate denial movement.

It found that the amount of money flowing through third-party, pass-through foundations like Donors Trust and Donors Capital, whose funding cannot be traced, has risen dramatically over the past five years.

In all, 140 foundations funneled $558 million to almost 100 climate denial organizations from 2003 to 2010.

Meanwhile the traceable cash flow from more traditional sources, such as Koch Industries and ExxonMobil, has disappeared.

The study was published Friday in the journal Climatic Change.

“The climate change countermovement has had a real political and ecological impact on the failure of the world to act on global warming,” Brulle said in a statement. “Like a play on Broadway, the countermovement has stars in the spotlight – often prominent contrarian scientists or conservative politicians – but behind the stars is an organizational structure of directors, script writers and producers.”

“If you want to understand what’s driving this movement, you have to look at what’s going on behind the scenes.”

Read more at Scientific American

When Oklahoma Was Socialist

Oklahoma state flag 1911 ( public domain )
Oklahoma state flag 1911
( public domain )

I think that it would surprise most modern progressives to know that Oklahoma was once the epicenter of American socialism and the Progressive movement. Though it is one of the most conservative Republican states in the Union today, Oklahoma was once politically dominated by an agrarian Christian Socialist movement. In the early 1900s, Oklahoma socialists were among the first in the nation advocating equal rights for women and African Americans. Indeed, one of the first acts of the Oklahoma legislature was the creation of a public university for the education of women. And this was at a time when American women had not yet achieved the right to vote.

How can we help Dasani’s family?

Most of the money the government spends subsidizing housing doesn’t even go to the poor — much less the homeless.

My first foray into social services was as a night volunteer in a homeless shelter. I particularly remember one bright and vivacious 12-year-old girl. The two of us sometimes talked during dinner. As we talked, her little brother would buzz around us, using language and gestures more suited to the Navy than to his preschool. Her parents were puzzlingly limited. I would sometimes help them with simple tasks such as assembling their children’s Christmas toys. They angered easily, with predictable results. In the middle of all this family chaos was this calm and resilient young girl. She made me a fantastic playful picture depicting a punked-out teenager with multiple piercings. I had no idea how to help her.

I thought about her as I read the initial installments of Andrea Elliott’s amazing, heartbreaking New York Times profile of another middle-schooler named Dasani, who lives in a homeless shelter called Auburn Family Residence, in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene section. Dasani shares a 520-square-foot room with her parents and her seven siblings. She’s one of 280 children in this huge and forbidding structure. I don’t know that we’re sure how to help her, either.

Homelessness raises many issues that don’t fit cleanly into the grooves of any political parable. Their lives – and their problems — are complicated and particular.

Dasani’s story is often cited to symbolize New York’s glaring inequality and the shortage of affordable housing in the Big Apple. Fort Greene is one of New York’s most rapidly gentrifying communities. Dasani and her family regularly pass million-dollar row-houses, in streets where low-end groceries coexist with places offering $740 bottles of wines. In a time of unparalleled wealth, rents have been rising while the bottom has fallen out of the low-wage economy. Not coincidentally, the number of homeless New York children has swelled to 22,000. Dasani’s destitute mother, Chanel, and her step-father, Supreme, certainly can’t afford market-rate housing.

Read more at The Washington Post / Wonkblog

For Republicans, a Homeless, 11-year-old Black Girl Named Dasani is a ‘Useless Eater’ Who Should Die

The right’s politics of cruelty would have the poor, the brown and even children ‘disappeared.’

December 12, 2013 |

Al Sharpton did some great work on Monday’s PoliticsNation where he further exposed the politics of cruelty that have possessed the Republican Party.

Republicans want to cut food stamps, believe that kicking people off of unemployment insurance who cannot find a job in an economy where there are 3 people for every available job, and that a particularly evil and twisted version of “Christian faith” justifies punishing and hurting poor people as righteous deeds and acts that mark conservatives as the elect who are destined for heaven.

I am not a “Christian.” But my understanding of the “historical” Jesus was that he was a man who died fighting State tyranny and would do anything to help the poor, the weak, and the vulnerable. The Tea Party GOP’s bastardization of Jesus Christ remakes him into a figure who puts his foot on the throats of the hungry, weak, the vulnerable, and the needy, in order to motivate them into self-sufficiency–or alternatively die from a lack of breath.

Read more at AlterNet

Egypt’s White December: First Snowfall in Cairo in 100 Years

(Credit: Twitter user @omarsa2r)

In the early morning of Friday the 13th 2013, parts of Cairo witnessed the first snowfall in more than 100 years. The city known for its hot weather and historical monuments amazed both Egyptians and foreigners. This cold snap is not limited to Egypt, with snowfall across the Middle East.

Below are a few of the best photographs from Cairo and elsewhere taken today.

Read more at Egyptian Streets