http://www.wikio.co.uk Sodium Haze: Ten stories more important than phone hacking

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Ten stories more important than phone hacking

This phone hacking thing IS important – immoral and criminal activities have been exposed in a major UK media organisation and the political landscape of the UK has changed as the Murdoch empire has lost its grip on the politcal class of this country…

…and much more important things are happening all around the world that don’t involve the media’s obsession with itself and the tabloid drama of the UK westminister village. Here are just 10 examples.

1. DEC East Africa Crisis Appeal – [DEC UK]



LEADING UK humanitarian agencies are launching a joint appeal to help more than 10 million people in East Africa parts of which are suffering their worst drought in over half a century.

Caught up in the crisis are thousands of families trekking for days across parched scrubland from Somalia to Kenya – including barefoot children with no food or water.
DEC Chief Executive Brendan Gormley said: “Slowly but surely, these people have seen their lives fall apart – crops, livestock and now their homes have been taken by the drought.

2. UN Peacekeepers stand by as Sudanese forces kill Civillians [Independent]


The UN mission in Sudan stands accused of serious failures in its duty to protect civilians who have been killed in their hundreds during a month-long campaign of violence by the Khartoum government on its restive
southern border.

Eyewitnesses described to The Independent how they saw peacekeepers standing by while unarmed civilians were shot dead outside the gates of a UN base before being dragged away “like slaughtered sheep”. They also said that local leaders have been handed over to government forces after seeking shelter with UN officials.

The violence has driven tens of thousands of civilians into hiding in the Nuba Mountains, which are controlled by rebel fighters and where public anger at the UN has left peacekeepers afraid to leave their bases, according to officers from the mission’s Egyptian contingent.

3. Less than one third in France, UK support Nuclear Power [NHK English]



A survey in 5 European countries shows that less than one third of French and British people support nuclear power generation.

On Saturday, the French newspaper Le Monde reported on the results of the survey.

Support for nuclear power was the highest in France and Britain –each at 32 percent. The figure was still below one third of the total despite the countries’ policies to promote the use of nuclear energy.

The lowest support was seen in Germany and Italy, whose governments have decided to break with nuclear energy. 17 percent of Germans and 20 percent of Italians approved of nuclear energy.

Those who oppose nuclear power totaled 58 percent in Italy, 55 percent in Germany, 28 percent in Spain, 21 percent in Britain, and 20 percent in France.

4. My Children have been poisoned [Human Rights Watch]



A 75-page report draws on research in heavily lead-contaminated villages in Henan, Yunnan, Shaanxi, and Hunan provinces.

The report documents how, despite increasing regulation and sporadic enforcement targeting polluting factories, local authorities are ignoring the urgent and long-term health consequences of a generation of children continuously exposed to life-threatening levels of lead.
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5. Denying reality and demonising scientists [Irish Times]



THE RECENT removal of some of Australia’s leading climate scientists to safer accommodation, to protect them against death threats, was a shocking illustration of the virulent campaign now being waged by climate change deniers — often the same people who want the biblical story of creation taught in schools as a counterpoint to evolution.

After all, hadn’t that scary right-wing US media star Rush Limbaugh called for all those promoting the “global warming hoax” to be “named and fired, drawn and quartered” while Britain’s Lord Monckton branded them as “evil pseudo-scientists [who] should stand trial alongside Radovan Karadzic” because they were equally “guilty of genocide”?

This demonisation of climate scientists, as James Lawrence Powell writes, is not dissimilar to what Galileo faced when he endorsed the “heretical” thesis that the Earth moves around the sun. It is a “modern inquisition conducted . . . on the front pages of newspapers, on right-wing radio and television, on the blogosphere and on denier websites”.


6. Bond Vigilantes’ Could Trigger U.S. Sovereign Debt Crisis [IBT]



Economist Ed Yardeni, who now runs Yardeni Research Inc. of Great Neck, N.Y., coined the term 'bond vigilante' in the 1980s to describe the institutional investor practice of selling bonds and shorting bonds of governments when they see unsustainable fiscal policies and/or other actions by governments or companies that the institutional investors believe will lower the value of the bonds issued.

Further, the decline and fall of financial giants Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers, although without question rooted in dubious, high-risk business practices and extreme leverage, were nonetheless pushed to quicker demises by the bond vigilantes. In the financial crisis that reached its acute stage in the fall of 2008, they shorted those infamous subprime mortgage-backed securities, many of which were vastly overvalued prior the waves of vigilante selling and shorting.

Now it's the selling/shorting, and in some cases the failure to 'rollover' investments in sovereign debt -- the bonds issued by the debt-plagued governments of Greece, Portugal, and Spain.

7. Bahrain's soccer stars tortured in custody [The Times via BCHR]

BAHRAINI footballers, including stars of the national team, were tortured while in custody during a crackdown on anti-government protesters this year, The Times has learnt.
The testimony given to The Times directly contradicts assurances given to FIFA, football’s governing body, by the Bahrain Football Association that no players had been suspended or mistreated.

In fact, friends and relatives said a number of players were subjected to beatings in prison after they were arrested for taking part in a demonstration against the ruling al-Khalifa family in March.


Other sportsmen have told of long interrogations and ritual humiliation in jail. The victims included A’ala Hubail, a striker, his brother Mohammed and goalkeeper Ali Saeed, all members of the Bahraini football squad.

Sitting in a community centre in the Shia village of Sitra, near the capital, Manama, they were too afraid to speak about their treatment and would say only that they did not know whether they would be allowed to play football again. The Hubail brothers had had their heads shaved. Mohammed had bruises on his feet.


8. ‘The true cost of Chevron’ [LINKS]



2010 was not an outstanding year for the communities where Chevron operates.
The campaigns undertaken by communities around the world to hold Chevron accountable for its actions were outstanding.

The acknowledgements of Chevron’s wrongdoings by government entities in locations around the globe were outstanding. The hard fought victories achieved by citizens uniting to change the Chevron Way were outstanding.

After nearly 18 years of litigation, the Indigenous people and campesinos of the Ecuadorian Amazon achieved a critical milestone in 2010. An Ecuadorian court ordered Chevron to pay $9.5 billion for cleanup, clean water, health care and other reconstruction efforts for the tens of thousands of people affected by the company’s widespread contamination in the region.

Environment Texas, the Sierra Club and the National Environmental Law Center reached a settlement in 2010 with Chevron Phillips Chemical requiring the company to pay a $2 million penalty and implement major changes at its chemical plant in Baytown, Texas. The plant had violated its clean air permits hundreds of times since 2003, leading to more than one million pounds of illegal emissions.

In an unprecedented victory for the community of Richmond, California, in 2010 the State Court of Appeals upheld the majority of findings in a lower court decision that the Environmental Impact Report for the expansion of Chevron’s Richmond refinery violated state environmental law.

After decades of campaigning against Chevron’s highly polluting coal operations, communities in Alabama, New Mexico and Wyoming welcomed — with cautious optimism — Chevron’s announcement that 2010 would be the year the corporation would exit the coal industry.

We celebrate these triumphs and the many courageous individuals whose refusal to be silenced has been instrumental in bringing Chevron’s egregious actions to light.

Even so, there is much work to be done. Chevron is vigorously contesting the landmark verdict in the Ecuador case and is continuing flagrant violations of environmental and human rights around the globe. As Luis Yanza, coordinator for the Affected People’s Assembly in Ecuador, writes, “the struggle will continue today stronger than before … to ensure that justice triumphs over impunity.”

We invite you to read our report of the true cost of Chevron’s operations in communities from Alaska to Thailand, to decide for yourself if Chevron displayed an outstanding record in 2010, and to join with the growing international movement to hold Chevron accountable for its abuses around the globe.

Download the full report HERE



9. France becomes first country to ban Fracking [ukprogressives]



This week, France, believed to have some of the biggest natural gas reserves in Europe, has become the first country in the world to put an outright ban on Hydraulic Fracturing (fracking).

France’s bill to ban fracking, but not shale gas exploration itself, was drafted by the country’s ruling UMP party after months of protests by environmental activists concerned that the process contaminates drinking water. Earlier this year, France’s government granted energy giants exploration permits for work without public consultation, but announced a temporary freeze on shale gas exploration in February.

A report by Scientific American said, the French vote was split along party lines, but the opposition largely came from the Socialist Party, which did not think the ban went far enough because it contains loopholes that allow the exploitation of oil shale deposits by other means.

France’s ban on fracking came on the heels of reports that the US state of New York was about to lift its de facto moratorium on fracking, which has had an informal ban on the process since 2008. In a surprising move, New York is soon expected to lift the ban in most places. New York’s new rules will ban the practice in state parks and watershed areas, but otherwise allow it. Andrew Cuomo’s office is thought to be on board with the plan, but has not said so publicly.

Hydraulic Fracturing, involves injecting water and sand mixed with a cocktail of poisonous chemicals, dangerous to human health and polluting drinking water, deep into underground oil shale deposits, to force out hidden reserves of natural gas that cannot be extracted any other way. Pioneered in the early years of the twenty-first century by companies like Halliburton, fracking has dramatially increased estimates of the amount of natural gas that could be recovered for fuel in the US and other countries throughout the world.

Most energy companies in the US are not required to disclose what chemicals they use while fracking, and widely use compounds include the carcinogen benzene, and more than sixty other chemicals that cause cancer or other serious health problems. Fracking also frees underground deposits of methane gas that can seep groundwater or escape into the air. In some parts of the US where fracking is widespread, water from an indoor tap can actually become flammable due to methane released by nearby fracking projects. The image of water from a faucet being lit on fire with a match has become a rallying point for environmentalists concerned with the dangers of fracking.


10. Rights groups push U.S to apply pressure on Burma [Washington Post]

Seeking to capitalize on recent developments in the perennially thorny U.S.-Burmese relationship, a coalition of more than 20 human rights organization is sending a letter to President Obama today, calling on him to apply more aggressive pressure to push the country’s leaders toward democracy.

After a lull in the U.S.-Burmese relationship, the past few weeks have seen the defection of a top-ranking Burmese diplomat to the United States, the confirmation hearing of a new U.S. envoy to Burma, and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s first travels outside Rangoon since her release from house arrest last year.
According to Aung Din, a former Burmese political prisoner who helped draft the letter to Obama, the coalition of human rights activists hopes to push U.S. officials toward a tougher stance against the military-controlled government.

“The U.S. has been trying this same policy of engagement for two years already,” said Aung Din, director of U.S. Campaign for Burma. “But such engagement should be time-bound and with clear benchmarks and combined with stronger pressure.”

The letter was signed by organizations including Human Rights Watch and the Carter Center, as well as pro-labor and pro-student activist groups such as the AFL-CIO and the American Federation of Teachers.
It calls on the Obama administration to support two specific measures against Burma, also known as Myanmar: banking sanctions against similar to those that were imposed against Libya and a United Nations commission of inquiry to investigate war crimes and human rights abuses.

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