DOT sued over oil train copout rules

Advocacy groups said they filed a lawsuit against the Department of Transportation for not responding to calls to pull crude oil rail cars out of service.

The Department of Transportation in July published a 200-page proposal calling for the eventual elimination of older rail cars designated DOT 111 used to ship flammable liquids, “including most Bakken crude oil…”

DOT-111 rail cars carrying crude oil have been involved in a series of disastrous derailments, including the deadly incident in Lac-Megantic, Quebec in 2013.

Earthjustice, ForestEthics and the Sierra Club filed a lawsuit against the Department of Transportation for not responding to a petition filed in July calling for a ban on shipping Bakken crude using DOT-111 cars.

Matt Krogh, campaign director with ForestEthics, said DOT-111 cars are “tin cans on wheels.”

“We can’t run the risk of another disaster like Lac-Megantic,” Earthjustice attorney Patti Goldman said in a statement Thursday.

U.S. regulators in January issued an advisory warning Bakken crude oil may be more prone to catch fire than other grades.

“Eventual” somehow doesn’t sound like “timely” or any other term that puts human life at a higher priority than profits from shipping oil.

Canada – with a committed Conservative government – has already banned these archaic tin cans for the carriage of Bakken crude. Obama, his DOT and obedient head, Anthony Foxx, seem to have a problem coming to the same conclusion.

Elite Israeli veterans refuse to continue serving Apartheid government

boycott

Denouncing Israel’s treatment of Palestinians under occupation, a group of veterans from an elite, secretive military intelligence unit have declared they will no longer “take part in the state’s actions against Palestinians” in required reserve duty because of what they called “our moral duty to act.”

In a letter sent Thursday night to their commanders as well as Israel’s prime minister and army chief, 43 veterans of the clandestine Unit 8200 complained that Israel made “no distinction between Palestinians who are and are not involved in violence” and that information collected “harms innocent people.” Intelligence “is used for political persecution,” they wrote, which “does not allow for people to lead normal lives, and fuels more violence, further distancing us from the end of the conflict.”

The letter, revealed Friday in Israel’s Yediot Aharonot newspaper as well as The Guardian in Britain, echoes similar periodic protests by reservists over the years, including a group of 27 pilots who refused to participate in what Israel calls targeted assassinations, and 13 members of the vaunted commando unit known as Sayeret Matkal, both in 2003. But it is the first public collective refusal by intelligence officers rather that combat troops. Unit 8200 has a special role in Israeli society as a coveted pipeline to its high-technology industry.

“After our service we started seeing a more complex picture of a nondemocratic, oppressive regime that controls the lives of millions of people,” said one of the group’s organizers, a 32-year-old sergeant major who was on active duty from 2001 to 2005. He spoke on the condition of anonymity because the military prohibits Unit 8200 members from being publicly identified.

“There are certain things that we were asked to do that we feel do not deserve the title of self-defense,” he added in a telephone interview. “Some of the things that we did are immoral, and are against the things we believe in, and we’re not willing to do these things anymore.”

The new refuseniks said their group began a year ago and was not motivated by Israel’s battle with Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip this summer, which a member said was “just another chapter in this cycle of violence.”

RTFA. Please. A rare divergence from US/Israel foreign policy. Our own government exhibits no concern whatsoever for the lot of Palestinians living under the heel of brutal colonial repression – in the name of Lebensraum for Israel.

The 80-20 rule persists, whether discussing markets or military. Though the whole of participants may appear to come from a homogeneous population, there generally is a small percentage with perception and the ability to decide to wander away from the herd in search of something better. In this case, honesty, loyalty to a standard of democracy ignored by Israel’s government for decades, ignored by a United States government more than satisfied with a nation of legionnaires prepared to commit any crime to satisfy policies natural only to the greediest of elites.

Of course, as in the US military, fear of political and criminal retaliation reduces that percentage of those willing to act publicly, to speak out as citizens of decency. The pressure to live whatever passes for a normal life is usually sufficient to quiet most dissent. Especially in a time and place that treats dissent as the greatest enemy of governance.

These members of Unit 8200 deserve recognition for their courage.

Thanks, Mike

Gay widower entitled to benefits despite official Arizona bigotry


Fred McQuire and George Martinez, love and marriage

A judge handed a victory on Friday to a gay man who lost his spouse to cancer last month and was denied death benefits because Arizona does not recognize same-sex marriage.

Fred McQuire and George Martinez were partners of 45 years who got married in California this summer, fulfilling one of their final wishes as they both dealt with serious health issues.

Martinez died in late August, but McQuire was unable to receive social security and veteran benefits because Arizona bans gay marriage.

McQuire went to court on Friday as his lawyers asked US District Judge John Sedwick to let McQuire be listed as Martinez’s spouse on the death certificate, which they believed would help qualify him for the benefits. The judge quickly issued a ruling in favour of McQuire…

Sedwick ruled that McQuire demonstrated that he faced irreparable harm on the basis of the loss of his dignity and status while he was in the midst of his grief…

Without ruling on the larger issues of whether the ban is unconstitutional, the judge said the state’s argument that its marriage laws do not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation lacks merit, pointing out that the reason same-sex couples do not marry is because of their sexual orientation.

Martinez was a Vietnam war veteran who died late last month of pancreatic cancer that is blamed on his exposure to Agent Orange. While in the throes of the illness and chemotherapy, he and McQuire travelled to California to get married, calling it “demeaning and unfair” to have to go out-of-state to exchange their vows.

“I feel frightened and worried about what will happen to Fred after I die,” Martinez wrote in an August court filing just two weeks before he died. “Although Fred and I are legally married under the laws of California, the fact that the US government honours our marriage while Arizona does not is confusing and stressful.”

James Campbell, a lawyer arguing on behalf of the state, said blah, blah, blah!.

More details in the article.

You know, being an old fart, I can actually remember when being conservative didn’t require you to be a bigot or stupid. I think the credit should go to Nixon for the change. Though, old George W. certainly tried hard for the stupid part.