Tagged: United States

Indigenous communities in Peru win settlement from Occidental Petroleum


What Occidental oil operations originally gave the Achuar communities

The Peruvian Achuar indigenous community announced…it reached a settlement from a U.S. oil giant over contamination of the Corrientes River. The river runs through Achuar land in the Amazon rainforest.

The company accused of the contamination is Occidental Petroleum, which is one of the largest U.S. oil producers, with operations in four continents. The lawsuit started nine years ago, and the agreement was reached in September 2013, but the Achuar were only able to make it public now.

Under this settlement, most stipulations are confidential but it was revealed that the transnational, also known as Oxy, will have to pay for community development projects chosen by the Achuar communities affected by the contamination.

Marco Simons, a lawyer representing Achuar communities…concluded by saying that this case sets a precedent that will help future communities affected by pollution, and it is already being quoted in courts.

Achuar representative Pablo Kukush Sandi, explained the process by which the communities will decide how to use the development funds:

“The five communities will decide on their desires at a general assembly. As their representatives, we will fulfil the objectives they have and in accordance with the needs of each community. At the moment, in the most recent assemblies, they only focused on projects for the creation of fish farms.”

The fish farms will provide a much-needed source of protein that the contaminated river no longer can supply. Other projects these communities are looking at are education and technological services for the youth and an on site health care system and infrastructure.

Overdue.

Still – benefits and compensation are a start – after nine years.

The War with Radical Islam – Viewpoint by Jeffrey Sachs

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls was not speaking metaphorically when he said that France is at war with radical Islam. There is, indeed, a full-fledged war underway, and the heinous terrorist attacks in Paris were part of it. Yet, like most wars, this one is about more than religion, fanaticism, and ideology. It is also about geopolitics, and its ultimate solution lies in geopolitics as well.

Crimes like those in Paris, New York, London, and Madrid – attacks on countless cafes, malls, buses, trains, and nightclubs – affront our most basic human values, because they involve the deliberate murder of innocents and seek to spread fear throughout society. We are wont to declare them the work of lunatics and sociopaths, and we feel repulsed by the very idea that they may have an explanation beyond the insanity of their perpetrators.

Yet, in most cases, terrorism is not rooted in insanity. It is more often an act of war, albeit war by the weak rather than by organized states and their armies. Islamist terrorism is a reflection, indeed an extension, of today’s wars in the Middle East. And with the meddling of outside powers, those wars are becoming a single regional war – one that is continually morphing, expanding, and becoming increasingly violent.

From the jihadist perspective – the one that American or French Muslims, for example, may pick up in training camps in Afghanistan, Syria, and Yemen – daily life is ultra-violent. Death is pervasive, coming as often as not from the bombs, drones, and troops of the United States, France, and other Western powers. And the victims are often the innocent “collateral damage” of Western strikes that hit homes, weddings, funerals, and community meetings.

We in the West hate to acknowledge – and most refuse to believe – that our leaders have been flagrantly wasteful of Muslim lives for a century now, in countless wars and military encounters instigated by overwhelming Western power. What is the message to Muslims of the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003? More than 100,000 Iraqi civilians – a very conservative estimate – died in a war that was based on utterly false pretenses. The US has never apologized, much less even recognized the civilian slaughter.

RTFA – for there is beaucoup sense and understanding of history. Regular readers of my personal blog often are aware of this level of content on the Web. Many aren’t. Many are wandering by for the very first time.

Understand that Project Syndicate is a review of science and society, economics and events, how they are interrelated, and attempts to direct a positive end. It is part and parcel of a number of men and women who very often are published in the Economist, a conservative journal [at least in my mind] published in the UK, global in scope.

In the time when American conservatism was concerned with science instead of the King James Bible, when American liberalism was dedicated to standing up for folks who work for a living, both of these magazines and what they offer would be considered a valuable resource. Nowadays, in a nation consumed with hatred and fear, led by fools and cowards, governed by creatures designed equally by Madison Avenue and Wall Street – those standards have evaporated.

The Web – more than anywhere else – still offers an opportunity for sane discussion, progressive change. The alternative pressed by useless two-party politics, I’m afraid, remains a cul-de-sac crammed full of rhetoric and little else.

Again, please read the article. Jeff Sachs is worth discovering for many of you. He’s walked away from a couple of rewarding potential careers to dedicate his intellect and understanding to the betterment of life for our unremarkable species. He’s turned out to be damned good at it. Worth listening to.

Here’s his conclusion:

It is time for the West to allow the Arab world to govern itself and to choose its path without Western military interference. And there are heartening reasons to believe that a self-governing Arab Middle East would wisely choose to become a peaceful global crossroads and a partner in science, culture, and development.

The Arab world has played that beneficent role in the past, and it can do so again. The region is filled with talented people, and the overwhelming majority in the region want to get on with their lives in peace, educate and raise their children in health and safety, and participate in global society. Their objectives – prosperity and human security – are our own.

Palestine becomes a member of the International Criminal Court


Click to enlargeREUTERS/Francois Lenoir

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has confirmed that the Palestinians will officially become a member of the International Criminal Court on April 1…

On Friday the Palestinians delivered to U.N. headquarters documents on joining the Rome Statute of the ICC and other international treaties, in a move that has heightened tensions with Israel and could lead to cuts in U.S. aid.

Israel will say, Jump! Obama and Congress will ask, “How high?”

The official announcement of the date of the Palestinian accession to the ICC, in the form of a letter from Ban, was posted on a U.N. website. The United Nations is the official depositary of the Rome Statute and many other treaties.

Under ICC rules, Palestinian membership would allow the court, based in The Hague, to exercise jurisdiction over war crimes committed by anyone on Palestinian territory, without a referral from the U.N. Security Council. Israel, like the United States, is not a party to the Rome statute, but its citizens could be tried for actions taken on Palestinian land…

Momentum to recognize a Palestinian state has built since Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas succeeded in a bid for de facto recognition of Palestinian statehood at the U.N. General Assembly in 2012, which made Palestinians eligible to join the ICC.

Overdue.

Also overdue is prosecution of Israel for apartheid, all the fascist practices that government has instituted in territory acquired by force of arms.

French post office intends to use drone delivery

Amazon and Google may have some catching up to do. It turns out the mail service of France, La Poste, has already successfully field-tested a service that can fly a package to a remote area, drop it off and return home…

News reports say from France say the test took place near the town of Pourrières, which is in the southern region of Provence. La Poste has not specified when the service will be in full swing, but suggested that it anticipates using Géodrone to provide service to residents in remote mountainous and maritime regions.

The Géodrone project represents another impressive achievement for France’s emerging unmanned aircraft industry. Earlier this year, drone enthusiasts in the Alps conducted a Star Wars-style pod race in a French forest with the permission of the local government. Meanwhile, a researcher in Holland has showed how an ambulance drone can deliver a defibrillator to a heart attack victim in under two minutes.

Such experiments stand in marked contrast to what is occurring in the United States, where a dysfunctional rule-making process at the Federal Aviation Administration has brought drone deployment to a virtual stand-still, even as American companies are clamoring to use them for business purposes. The U.S. approach also differs markedly from Canada, where authorities have issued hundreds of permits to use drones in everything from farming to real estate to TV production.

The FAA has claimed that go-slow approach is essential to ensure the safety of civilization.

OK, I changed that last word. You get the idea.

Infrastructure advances worldwide — US politicians stick with crumbling bridges

While our politicians debate whether torture is really torture, is affordable access to basic health care necessary for people who work for a living, is climate change important [if it exists] – the rest of the world is simply advancing national and regional infrastructure beyond anything in the richest nation in the world.

In Switzerland, the world’s longest rail tunnel — straight through the Alps — is about to open.

At 57 kilometres, the Gotthard Base Tunnel, which will travel through the Alps between the northern portal of Erstfeld and Bodio in the south, will become the longest rail tunnel in the world once complete, stripping the title from Japan’s 53.85 kilometre Seikan Tunnel…

Italy now boasts Europe’s fastest high-speed train — capable of speeds up to 400 km/h (249 mph) — that will cut travel times between Rome and Milan — about the distance between Washington, D.C. and Providence — to two hours and some change…

Even as Americans are stuck traveling on the MegaBus, China has agreed to finance construction of a new high-speed line — through the formerly war-torn Balkan states — from Belgrade to Budapest — by 2017.

China has signed an agreement with the governments of Serbia, Hungary and Macedonia for the construction of a new high-speed railway between Belgrade and Budapest.

Speaking after the signing ceremony, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said the railway would be complete within the next two years. Feasibility studies are expected to to be carried out by June next year and the project completed by June 2017.

The new 200km/h line will reduce travel times from eight to around two-and-a-half hours between the two capital cities…

Continue reading

Quiet heroes of the US-Cuba deal: Pope Francis and Canada

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The historic deal to begin normalizing relations between the US and Cuba, after 50-plus years of hostility, is being credited primarily to President Obama and Raul Castro, Cuba’s current de facto leader and the brother of Fidel. That is with good reason: Obama has been working on this issue throughout much of his presidency and Castro is taking a significant risk by allowing wider Internet access into Cuba as part of the deal.

But there are two actors that quietly played a major role in this: Canada and Pope Francis.

The negotiations that led to today’s announcement, in which the US and Cuba will take major steps toward normalization, took 18 long months, according to a report in the New York Times. And many of those negotiations were held in Canada, formally but secretly hosted by the Canadian government.

Canada was helping to solve two crucial problems. First, the talks needed to remain secret to have any hope of succeeding — had they leaked, the political backlash in the US would have almost certainly killed the deal.

Second, for diplomatic reasons, the talks could not be held on US or Cuban soil, but the negotiators needed a physical meeting place. The Canadian government, which unlike the US does have ties with Cuba but is also extremely close to the US government, was an obviously attractive broker for the US. While Canadian officials did not officially participate in the talks, their role in providing a secret and official channel was crucial, according to US officials.

If Canada was essential for providing the Americans with a safe and secure forum for talks, then Pope Francis played a similar role in helping to bring the Cuban leaders to the negotiating table. And, unlike Canadian officials, who did not sit at from the formal talks, Vatican officials participated actively in discussions.

Pope Francis’ role included sending a personal letter to both Obama and Raul Castro over the summer urging them to reach a deal (talks were already ongoing at that point). Francis also reportedly raised the issue repeatedly in his meeting with Obama in March. And Francis hosted the final negotiation session at the Vatican, where Vatican officials participated in the talks…

Nice to see a couple of competent, worldly participants take the lead in bringing the United States into reforming a diplomatic and political stance originated by thugs like the United Fruit Company in the era of Banana Imperialism. A half-century of embargo and blockade hadn’t dragged Cuba into subservience. Continuing the policy only reinforced the world’s perception of the United States as a bully.

Pope Francis continues to impress. I hope he has as much success bringing the Roman Catholic church into the modern era as he has – individually – as a representative of Christianity beginning to discover a bit of enlightenment.

Nice at least to see that Harper’s mean-spirited conservatism hasn’t yet affected Canada’s traditional leadership role in diplomacy among the Americas and beyond.

The New Yorker illustrates the racial divide in Ferguson, Missouri and the USA

Cover-Story-Ferguson-Arch
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The NewYorker has long had the courage to take sides against bigotry and racism. Especially important in a nation that rationalizes away lynching-by-cop with sophistry about “two sides to every question”.

Vox has a short note about the magazine and Bob Stake who did this cover for next week’s edition.