In the Beginning was/is Consciousness*
From Dr. Seyyed Hossein Nasr
In the Beginning was/is Consciousness*
From Dr. Seyyed Hossein Nasr
Monsanto Forced to Pay $46mn to Victims*
By Claire Bernish
Three plaintiffs have been awarded $17.5 million in damages caused by Monsanto and three other companies for negligence in the production of PCBs.
A jury voting 10-2 in St. Louis found Monsanto, Pfizer, Solutia, and Pharmacia must pay the plaintiffs and assessed an additional $29 million in punitive damages against Monsanto for its continued selling of polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, after the compound had been banned, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. Plaintiffs in this case — three of nearly 100 involved in litigation, some of whom died — said they developed non-Hodgkin lymphoma from exposure to PCBs.
“All of us could pretty much agree that Monsanto was negligent,” said juror Nathan Nevius in the Post-Dispatch.
Ashley Enochs, a second juror, noted, “I think it goes to show that large companies can put stuff out there that’s harmful and they can do it for a long time but that justice is going to be served whether it’s a year after the products are put out, or in this case, 80 years.”
Used in food packaging, paints, and to insulate electronics, among other things, PCBs were manufactured exclusively by Monsanto from 1935 through 1977 and were banned by the Environmental Protection Agency in 1979 after being linked to cancer and birth defects in lab animals — but they also can adversely affect humans’ skin and livers, EcoWatch notes.
According to the lawsuit, Monsanto knew about the dangers of PCBs but continued to sell the product even after the government ban — while maintaining they were safe to the public. PCBs are particularly insidious as they persist in the environment for long periods of time. EcoWatch cited the emergence of internal company documents showing Monsanto knew about problems caused by PCBs long before the ban.
“We know Aroclors [PCBs] are toxic but the actual limit has not been precisely defined,” stated one document, dated September 20, 1955, EcoWatch reported.
Victories in litigation over PCBs have not been met with much success. A Los Angeles jury denied claims of non-Hodgkin lymphoma from exposure, and in July, a different jury in St. Louis County failed to find Monsanto liable for deaths and injuries plaintiffs claimed were caused by PCBs. Over the past three decades a voluminous number of lawsuits against Monsanto over the compound, cited by ThinkProgress, haven’t been successful in holding the now-agrichemical giant responsible for its chemical past. Eight cities — Long Beach, Portland, Seattle, Berkeley, Spokane, San Diego, San Jose, and Oakland — now have pending litigation against Monsanto over PCBs.
“This is the future,” plaintiff’s attorney Steven Kherkher told EcoWatch, explaining his law firm had to ‘pool resources’ to initiate the lawsuit.
“The only reason why this victory is rare is because no one has had the money to fight Monsanto.”
However, he added, mentioning his firm has around 1,000 plaintiffs surrounding PCBs,
“It’s not going to be rare anymore.”
Kherkher also explained as more cases against the company come to court,
“every judge allows us to acquire more and more information from Monsanto and discover their documents. There is a lot more information out there yet to be mined.”
Though many remain unaware of the harm caused by PCBs — partly due to the fact the ban is now decades old, and until recently, the compound hasn’t made headlines — as Kherkher explained, it is an ubiquitous substance:
“A lot of people just don’t know that … Monsanto’s PCBs are in the orange juice you drank this morning and the pizza you’ll eat tonight. The air that you’re breathing has PCBs in it. Monsanto has discounted it, saying it’s only parts per billion or parts per trillion, but it adds up.”
Monsanto issued a callous but typical statement about the jury’s findings, which said,
“We have deep sympathy for the plaintiffs but we are disappointed by the jury’s decision and plan to immediately appeal today’s ruling […]
“Previous juries in four straight similar trials rejected similar claims by attorneys that those plaintiffs contracted non-Hodgkin lymphoma as a result of eating food containing PCBs. The evidence simply does not support today’s verdict, including the fact that scientists say more than 90 percent of non-Hodgkin lymphoma cases have no known cause.”
The Case for Reparations to Africa: Britain Apology is Cheap*
By Ricky Riley
In an address to the Oxford Union, Ugandan and librarian in the union Ssuuna Golooba-Mutebi makes the case for reparations to its former imperial territories.
Golooba-Mutebi is currently a student at St. John’s College, and he delivered his address almost a year ago in July. However, the speech and the topic is timely.
There have been recent debates coming out of Jamaica, other Caribbean nations, and Africa demanding restitution for the atrocities committed by the British Empire.
The Oxford Union librarian starts by addressing these debates and giving a quick history lesson. The British empire was the largest in the world, ruling over one-fifth of the world’s population at one time. The size and scope of the empire created various — yet still awful — conditions for people in the Caribbean, India and Africa.
He says colonialism was a selfish endeavour that allowed the white colonists to take land and amass more wealth. They believed they were civilizing savages, but there were already advanced cultures in the places they conquered.
“All the advantages and disadvantages gained by the colonizer and the colonized continue to trickle down the generations, leaving a huge inequality that is rooted in the past… how much wealth exactly do you think Britain received from the oil, the minerals, ivory, precious metals and stones in which it — let’s be frank — stole from other people? … The British government apologizing is just not enough.”
Indigenous Communities Forcefully Removed for U.N. Sponsored Panama Dam*
Today the floodgates were opened on the contentious U.N. backed Barro Blanco hydro dam in Panama, sparking forced removal by authorities of indigenous Ngäbe communities that are living in protest camps near the dam site. With construction finished, GENISA, the company that owns and operates the dam, has begun to flood the reservoir today, which will inundate six hectares of indigenous territories.
According to the Movimiento 10 de Abril (M10)—a group representing indigenous peoples directly affected by the project—35 community members, including women and children, were arrested and are currently being held in police custody in the Missionary Centre of Tolé. Following the arrests, backhoes moved into the area to tear down their encampments.
Local Ngäbe organizations are now on high alert and are planning on taking further actions to oppose the dam, which is financed by the German and Dutch national development banks (DEG and FMO) and the Central American Bank for Economic Integration. Already fearing that the situation will escalate, international NGOs launched a petition in April 2016, calling on President Juan Carlos Varela to ensure that the affected Ngäbe people are free from intimidation and repression. The petition has been signed by 84,000 people to date.
“We, the affected communities, have never given our consent to Barro Blanco. This project violates the Panamanian Constitution and our indigenous rights. ASEP has not warned us about the imminent flooding that will destroy our crops, some of our houses and kill our livestock,” declared Manolo Miranda, spokesperson of the M10.
National and international organizations are deeply concerned for the personal safety and security of the Ngäbe people and call on Panama to protect their rights including the rights to security and peaceful assembly.
“Panamanian authorities must protect the rights of the Ngäbe people who have not consented to this project,” said Alyssa Johl, Senior Attorney at the Center for International Environmental Law. “We urge the Panamanian government to ensure the personal safety and security of the Ngäbe people and otherwise fulfil their human rights obligations. The world is watching.”
In 2015, Panama recognized that the Barro Blanco project had been approved in violation of the Ngäbe’s social and cultural rights and the government temporarily suspended the construction of the project. A few months later, the government fined the project developer $775,000 for failing to adequately consult, relocate and compensate those adversely affected by the dam. To this day, the government has not reached an agreement with the communities.
Barro Blanco is an U.N.-sponsored project that is designed to support sustainable development in poorer countries while enabling wealthier countries to achieve emissions reductions cost-efficiently. However, Barro Blanco demonstrates how climate mitigation projects can have adverse impacts on peoples and communities and the environments on which they depend.
The Paris Agreement recognized the need for human rights protections in climate action and created a new Sustainable Development Mechanism (SDM) under which all countries will be able to generate and/or use credits to offset emissions. Parties of the UNFCCC are currently meeting in Bonn to discuss the modalities and procedure of the new SDM.
“Barro Blanco is a clear example of why human rights protections must be included in the newly established SDM. The SDM must learn from the CDM’s mistakes. As the Paris Agreement committed to protect human rights, Parties must ensure that another Barro Blanco never happens again” said Pierre-Jean Brasier, Network Coordinator at Carbon Market Watch.
A report to be published this week by Carbon Market Watch and Misereor also highlights the need to incorporate human rights into climate action, including the case of Barro Blanco.
Call for War Criminal Tony Blair to Face Trial gets Louder*
By Neil Clark
With just over six weeks to go before the long-awaited release of the Chilcot report into the Iraq War, the calls for former Prime Minister Tony Blair to be properly held to account for the lies he told us in the lead up to the illegal invasion are increasing by the day.
A few days ago, the foreign affairs spokesperson for the Scottish National Party (SNP) Alex Salmond MP, told RT’s Going Underground program that he would like to see Blair impeached by the British Parliament and also stand trial at the International Criminal Court, if the families of those killed and the wider public agreed.
Other MPs have also expressed their support for Salmond’s initiative.
“If it’s proved that Tony Blair misled everyone, I personally am determined to see justice prevail and to see him impeached,” said Conservative Sir David Amess.
Meanwhile, it’s been reported that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn will not be backing down from his earlier calls for Blair to be investigated for war crimes depending on what Chilcot’s conclusions are. Last year Corbyn said:
“I think it was an illegal war, I’m confident about that, indeed [former UN Secretary- General] Kofi Annan confirmed it was an illegal war, and therefore he has to explain that.”
Tony Blair is clearly in deep trouble. But what are the practical chances of a trial of some sorts taking place?
In “Where R those WMDs?” a new anti-war satirical play written and performed by myself and my fellow RT contributor Dan Glazebrook, Blair is flying to South Africa when his plane has to make an emergency landing in Zimbabwe. He’s arrested and put on trial for war crimes. The great ‘progressive’ shows his true colonialist colours when he says that African countries have no right to pass judgment on what he did and that only Africans, Serbs and other ‘official enemies’ of Western elites should be subject to international law.
Well, the chances of an airplane carrying Tony Blair having to make an emergency landing in Zimbabwe are remote, but thankfully there are other more plausible scenarios for seeing the war criminal getting his just deserts.
The ICC is one route and certainly has jurisdiction as the U.K. signed up to the founding Rome statute. A problem though is that the court – most conveniently for Blair – has still to decide on a definition of ‘war of aggression’.
Let’s remind ourselves what was said at the post-World War Two Nuremberg trial of leading Nazis regarding the launching of a war of aggression.
“War is essentially an evil thing. Its consequences are not confined to the belligerent states alone but affect the whole world. To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”
Bush and Blair clearly initiated a war of aggression against Iraq in 2003 and therefore committed ‘the supreme international crime’. Although we may have to wait a while for Blair to be tried under this count at the ICC, he could still be tried there on other charges relating to the war, such as failing to prosecute the war in a ‘disproportionate manner’ and the deaths of civilians in bombing raids.
Then there’s the impeachment route.
According to law, any British citizen, former Prime Minister or not, can be prosecuted or tried by Parliament.
But we’ve got to go back to 1806 to find the last time Parliament impeached anybody (a certain Lord Melville) and to 1848 for the last attempted impeachment of Lord Palmerston. “The procedure has never been abolished but is obsolete”, noted Downing Professor of Law at Cambridge University S. A. de Smith in his 1970s work ‘Constitutional and Administrative Law’. However, a 1977 Select Committee on Privileges report held impeachment to be ‘of continuing validity’.
The Iraq war has brought the issue of impeachment back to life.
In 2004, there were moves to impeach Blair for High Crimes and Misdemeanors over Iraq, and a motion was tabled in the House of Commons by Plaid Cymru MP Adam Price.
“The evidence for Blair’s duplicity is overwhelming,” Price said.
His move was backed by over 20 MPs from across the political spectrum.
“The time has come to look again at whether impeachment should form part of the constitutional process…That the Prime Minister has misled the Commons is not in doubt in most people’s mind,” anti-war Labour MP Peter Kilfoyle told The Guardian.
The bigwigs of the ‘Big Three’ parties were horrified at the prospect of impeachment proceedings of the British Prime Minister, so worked together to kill the initiative. Peter Hain, the Leader of the House, who voted for the Iraq war, cited a 1999 committee which held impeachment to be ‘obsolete’.
“I bitterly regret not supporting the impeachment of Tony Blair,” the Labour MP Alice Mahon later wrote. I’m sure she wasn’t the only one.
Now, though, with Chilcot looming, things could be very different. The mood towards Tony Blair is much more hostile than in 2004 and it’s worth mentioning that one of the MPs who supported Adam Price twelve years ago, Boris Johnson, could well be the next Tory leader if Cameron loses the EU referendum or only just scrapes home.
It’s not just that Blair lied to Parliament and the country about Iraq having WMDs which could be used within 45 minutes, he also told whopping great ‘porkies’ about Saddam having the power to avert war by disarming.
On 25th February 2002, for instance, the Prime Minister told Parliament
“I detest his [Saddam’s] regime. But even now he [Saddam] can save it by complying with the UN’s demand. Even now, we are prepared to go the extra step to achieve disarmament peacefully. I do not want war… But disarmament peacefully can only happen with Saddam’s active co-operation.”
Yet, in 2009, Blair told a television interviewer that he would have supported war with Iraq to get rid of Saddam regardless of the WMDs issue.
Chilcot is expected to confirm that Blair made the decision to go to war after meeting with George W. Bush at the President’s ranch in Texas in April 2002.
In other words, whatever Saddam had done or pledged to do, he and his country were going to be hit with ‘Shock and Awe’. This was a ‘regime change’ war that already had been planned by hard-right US neocons who had been gunning for Saddam for years: WMDs were merely the pretext for the invasion. Blair, in addition to the other serious charges against him, is accused of secretly committing Britain to going to war against its own national interests at the behest of a foreign power. Some might even go so far as to call that treason.
Almost ten and half years ago, General Sir Michael Rose, the British former commander of the U.N. protection force in Bosnia, wrote:
“A clear justification for the war in Iraq was never sufficiently made by Tony Blair. No one can undo the decision to go to war. But the impeachment of Mr. Blair is now something I believe must happen if we are to rekindle the democratic process.”
Rose was predictably attacked by the pro-war neocons for his intervention (‘Don’t Impeach Mr. Blair for Iraq, Commend him!’ was the response of the Henry Jackson Society), but of course, Sir Michael was right.
All things considered, the impeachment of Tony Blair really can’t come soon enough. Those who still defend/support the Iraq war will try and argue that it can’t take place as no one has been impeached since the 19th century. But they need to be overruled. Parliament’s ancient right to impeach has never been formally abolished, however, much Blair’s defenders might wish it had been.
Alas, we can’t bring back the lives of more than one million people killed since the illegal invasion, but we can make sure that one of the most important players in the criminal enterprise is brought to book. As the late and much missed Ken Coates, writing in The Spokesman, the journal of the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation, put it in 2007:
“Until accountability is re-imposed, we cannot establish honest, political discourse. Evidently politicians have told lies before. But now we live with untruths that cannot be corrected, with falsehoods that have become official. Where the lie rules, logic gives way to unreason.”
France is running out of gasoline thanks to massive strikes at all the refineries.
The strike spread to air traffic control and many flights have been cancelled. Hundreds of thousands of people are stranded.
The strike is now about to spread to nuclear power plants.
I offer this quote of the day: “One cannot just turn off a nuclear plant, it is not like a thermal or hydro plant.”
View original post 1,469 more words
Catholic Nun Arrested for Obstructing Kenya’s Vaccination Program*
By Carol Adl
A Catholic nun was arrested on Monday evening for obstructing an ongoing immunisation campaign against measles and rubella in Nakuru County in Kenya.
The ministry of health had announced that the campaign launched by the Kenyan government was targeting 19 million children aged between 9 months and 14 years.
Sister Cecilia Kamau, the headmistress of the Catholic sponsored St Anthony Academy was arrested after obstructing the immunisation of over 700 pupils.
According to Truth Kings:
“Nakuru County public health official Samuel King’ori and a fleet of police presence stormed the place where vaccines were to be administered and arrested the Kamau. They based their arrest on that of “complaints” regarding the nun’s blockage of the measles vaccine program.
The health official said he wanted to take the 91% vaccination rate to 100%. It would seem they are using any means necessary, including that of jailing innocent nuns.”
The Catholic Church has condemned the arrest of sister Cecilia Kamau,
Nakuru Catholic Diocese Bishop Maurice Muhatia called her arrest as an “unfortunate act”.
“We Catholics are Kenyans and, according to the Constitution, we are entitled to freedom of choice and speech,” said Bishop Muhatia.
“I condemn what the medical personnel are doing…..How can they lock children in a room and inject them with the vaccine like animals?”
The Daily Nation reports:
The bishop claimed children in their institutions had been left traumatised after medics forcibly conducted the vaccination.
He challenged the Ministry of Health and the county government to explain why they were using force in the vaccination.
His remarks come after it emerged that members of the church have been resisting the administration of the vital immunisation, claiming it is not safe.
Mr King’ori on Tuesday said that, while some members of the church allowed their children to be vaccinated, some schools run by the Catholic Church were hiding their pupils to avoid the vaccination.