Nicaragua Canal Could Wreak Environmental Ruin

The most likely route of the HKND’s canal is 286 kilometers long and would cut an approximately 90-kilometer swathe across Lake Nicaragua, requiring a major transformation of the lake bed and local rivers. To rival the expanded Panama Canal (slated for completion in 2015) by accommodating ships of up to 400,000 tons, the proposed Nicaraguan waterway will be 27.6 meters deep, and the HKND has claimed that it may be an implausible 520 meters wide.

Scientific American- “Last June, the Nicaraguan government granted a concession to a Hong Kong company to build a canal connecting the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean, through the Caribbean Sea. The HK Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Company (operating as HKND Group) signed a 50-year lease, renewable for another 50 years. It plans to break ground in December after spending this year establishing a route and conducting feasibility studies. Included in the concession are the rights to build and operate industrial centers, airports, a rail system and oil pipelines, as well as land expropriation and the rights to natural resources found along the canal route.

The Nicaraguan government says that the $40-billion project will boost economic growth in the country — the second-poorest nation in the Americas — from 4.5% in 2013 to 14.6% in 2016. No economic or environmental feasibility studies have yet been revealed to the public. Nicaragua has not solicited its own environmental impact assessment and will rely instead on a study commissioned by the HKND. The company has no obligation to reveal the results to the Nicaraguan public.

In our view, this canal could create an environmental disaster in Nicaragua and beyond. The excavation of hundreds of kilometers from coast to coast, traversing Lake Nicaragua, the largest drinking-water reservoir in the region, will destroy around 400,000 hectares of rainforests and wetlands.

The accompanying development could imperil surrounding ecosystems. Some 240 kilometers north of the most likely route of the canal lies the Bosawas Biosphere Reserve — 2 million hectares of tropical forest that is the last refuge of many disappearing species (see ‘Nicaragua carve-up‘). Less than 115 kilometers to the south is the Indio Maiz Biological Reserve, with more than 318,000 hectares of tropical dry forest. Worse still, the probable canal route cuts through the northern sector of the Cerro Silva Natural Reserve.

The project threatens multiple autonomous indigenous communities such as the Rama, Garifuna, Mayangna, Miskitu and Ulwa, and some of the most fragile, pristine and scientifically important marine, terrestrial and lacustrine ecosystems in Central America.

Nicaragua’s Indio Maiz and Bosawas biosphere reserves — key links in this corridor — sandwich possible canal routes. Hundreds of thousands of hectares of the forests and wetlands would be cleared for the canal, destroying the habitats and food sources of already endangered species such as the Baird’s tapir (Tapirus bairdii), the spider monkey (Ateles geoffroyi), the harpy eagle (Harpia harpyja) and the jaguar (Panthera onca), a creature of mystical importance to Mesoamerican cultures.

International action
The contract for an interoceanic canal in Nicaragua represents a classic example of the challenges faced by a developing country in balancing economic growth and environmental protection. More sustainable ways to raise revenue and employment from Lake Nicaragua could include expanded irrigation, tourism and aquaculture. The population of Nicaragua is expected to grow by 37% by 2050, so water shortages and pressure on natural resources are already set to increase, limiting sustainable growth and public welfare. In preparation for a future of climate change, food insecurity and biodiversity loss, Nicaragua must establish long-term measures for the protection of its environment, not sacrifice itself to speculators.

A loose coalition of more than 30 concerned groups filed legal complaints with the government of Nicaragua in the second half of last year. These included three communities — the Miskitu and Ulwa indigenous peoples and the Rama–Kriol territorial government in the South Atlantic Autonomous Region — arguing that the canal concession violates their land rights and legal autonomy (see go.nature.com/ttshoc). These legal petitions were overridden by the National Assembly in December.

Swift and decisive international action is called for. The Nicaraguan Academy of Sciences (of which one of us, J.A.H.-P., is president) is coordinating efforts with the InterAmerican Network of Academies of Sciences to carry out an independent impact assessment. We need more conservation groups and social organizations to lend their expertise and funds if we are to prevent the tragic devastation of indigenous communities along with terrestrial, marine and freshwater biodiversity and resources in Central America.”

Full Article & Breakdown of Specific Environmental Concerns Here - Scientific American

How Multinational Philips Profited From Illegal Cannabis Farms

Corporate Cannabis: The corporation that made millions from the illegal drug trade…

JourneyMan Pictures- “When Philips, a huge multinational company, started supplying lamps to the cannabis industry it wasn’t breaking the law. Growing is illegal, supplying lamps isn’t. But it was supporting a €1bn criminal network.

“I think his revenues are €5 to 6 million on Philips products alone. Philips is THE brand in the industry”, an insider says of the intermediary that Philips sold their lamps to the cannabis industry through. Nothing was put on paper with this intermediary and they were careful to filter their operations through a wholesaler, but his lawyer attests to his partnership with Philips and shows us an email in which Philips gave him advice on how the lamps were best used for growing cannabis. As criminologist Frank Bovenkerk points out, while it may not have been illegal, the morals are certainly questionable. “It is absolutely clear that a number of serious criminal organizations are dealing with this business. Very unpleasant people.” Now that the law is changing to outlaw the supply of lamps to the growing industry, Philips has changed its policy and left its intermediary badly in the lurch, but many say it is too little too late. “They’re in a position that is conductive to crime, often organised crime.” A fascinating look at how large companies make money at the fringes of the law and a warning of the kind of industries that can grow up around Cannabis legalisation.”

Philips stops selling lamps to cannabis growers: employees threatened at home

HortiDaily Publication date: 2/4/2014 – “Staff of Philips Netherlands are daily harassed and threatened by a buyer of the greenhouse lamps, used for cannabis cultivation. Philips stopped supplying these lamps and the buyer is not amused.  The harassment and threats have been going on for months now and aren’t only addressed to the company buildings. Some employees are even being harassed at home.

The electronics group announced this news in a broadcast of the Dutch news program, Brandpunt. This broadcast revealed that Philips earned a lot of money by supplying lamps for cannabis cultivation. Two years ago, the company says, they  stopped the supply of lamps when there were suspicions that the lamps would not be used for greenhouse horticulture, but for cannabis cultivation.

Legally it isn’t forbidden to supply to the weed industry. Currently a legislation to criminalize this is in the making.

The Breathing Lands

The Elders of Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation say the water flows through their blood and their bodies are built of the trout that swim in these clean rivers and lakes. Taking care of their watershed is a relationship at the core of who they are as an Indigenous Nation, it is a responsibility handed down to them from the Creator through the teachings of their Elders.

Also known as Big Trout Lake First Nation or KI for short, is a First Nations community in Northwestern Ontario.

Source -“The Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) people have governed and cared for their Indigenous Homeland — Kitchenuhmaykoosib Aaki — since time before memory, passing on their way of life from one generation to the next. Human remains found in Wapekeka have been carbon dated from over 7,000 years ago. Similar remains found within the KI village were dated to be over 5,000 years old — evidence that Indigenous peoples have occupied these exact village sites for over 350 generations.

But things are changing rapidly in KI and the elders are struggling to prepare the youth to meet these challenges. KI is located at a relatively high latitude, which means they are likely to experience the impacts of global climate change early and more severely than most other places. The close connection of the KI people to the land and climate means that the disrupted weather patterns and increasing incidents of extreme weather will hit particularly hard on the people of KI.

KI’s territory is also rich in minerals and precious metals, which has attracted various mining and exploration companies who have attempted to operate on KI lands without the Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) of the community. The elders feel that passing on their traditional knowledge to the younger generations is vital to providing them with the tools to adapt to the ongoing social and environmental changes they see happening around them…” 

How Antidepressants Affect Selfhood, Teenage Sexuality, and Our Quest for Personal Identity

Brainpickings – “Great art was born of great terrors, great loneliness, great inhibitions, instabilities, and it always balances them,” Anaïs Nin famously wrote. But what if it doesn’t balance out? What if the emotional excess, believed to be essential to creativity, was of the negative and crippling kind? One need only look at such tragic heroes as Sylvia PlathDavid Foster WallaceMarilyn Monroe, and Kurt Cobain to grasp the gravity of the proposition. And yet we remain ever so culturally ambivalent about alleviating the anguish of mental illness with the same arsenal we use against physical pain: drugs.

In Coming of Age on Zoloft: How Antidepressants Cheered Us Up, Let Us Down, and Changed Who We Are (public library), Katherine Sharpe explores the heart of this ambivalence through an intersection of her own experience, conversation with medical and psychiatric experts, and in-depth interviews with forty young adults who grew up on psychopharmaceuticals. Having spent a fair portion of my own life on antidepressants, and having recently resumed treatment, I was instantly fascinated, both as an observer of culture and a living sample size of one.

Sharpe begins with an anecdote from her college days, in which she and her six roommates arrived at the accidental and highly self-conscious realization that each one of them was, or had been, on one form of psychoactive drug or another — an incident emblematic of the pervasive and profound cultural pattern at the heart of Sharpe’s book. She writes:

It is strange, as a young person, to realize that you have lived through something that can be considered a real historical change, but that’s exactly what we had done. When I was a child, in the early 1980s, taking psychiatric medication was decidedly a fringe phenomenon. Prozac came onto the market in 1987, the year I was eight. The first member of a family of drugs called SSRIs (for “selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors”), it quickly became the leading edge of a psychopharmaceutical revolution. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, Americans grew ever more likely to reach for a pill to address a wide variety of mental and emotional problems. We also became more likely to think of those problems as a kind of disease, manifestations of an innate biochemical imbalance. Depression, social anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and the like went from being strange clinical terms or scrupulously hidden secrets to constituting acceptable topics of cocktail party conversation — talk that was often followed up by chatter about the new miracle drugs for despair.

Artwork by Bobby Baker from ‘Drawing Mental Illness.’

But more than a mere statistically swelling phenomenon — less than two decades after the introduction of Prozac, SSRIs had outpaced blood pressure medication to become America’s favorite class of drugs, popped by about 10% of the nation — Sharpe points out a troubling corollary: In permeating everyday life so profoundly, antidepressants also embedded themselves in youth, with an ever-growing number of teenagers taking psychopharmaceuticals to abate depression, ADHD, and other mental health issues. And while relief from the debilitating and often deadly effects of adolescent depression is undoubtedly preferable over the alternative, it comes with a dark side: Antidepressants confuse our ability to tell our “true self” from the symptoms of the disease, and from the effects of the medication, at a time when the search for selfhood and the construction of personal identity are at their most critical and formative stages. And given the teenage brain responds so differently to life than the adult’s, the implications are even more uneasy:

Rightly or wrongly, antidepressants command powerful emotions; they can lead people to examine their deepest assumptions about themselves and the world.

[…]

The notion that depression distorts the true self and that antidepressants merely restore what was there all along has often been invoked against the fear that by taking antidepressants, we might somehow be betraying our true natures. But that belief in particular is one that people who start medication young cannot fall back on. Worries about how antidepressants might affect the self are greatly magnified for people who begin using them in adolescence, before they’ve developed a stable, adult sense of self. Lacking a reliable conception of what it is to feel “like themselves,” young people have no way to gauge the effects of the drugs on their developing personalities. Searching for identity — asking “Who am I?” and combing the inner and outer worlds for an answer that seems to fit — is the main developmental task of the teenage years. And for some young adults, the idea of taking a medication that could frustrate that search can become a discouraging, painful preoccupation.

Coming of Age on Zoloft is fantastic and pause-giving in its entirety, embodying the rare bravery of asking important, complex questions in a society that fetishizes simplistic, sensationalistic answers. In a culture where just about the most embarrassing thing is not to have an opinion, Sharpe invites us to form one that is truly our own, however inconclusive and full of what Keats called“negative capability,” rather than a borrowed one that is easier to don but devoid of true understanding.” Full Article + More Artwork on Brainpickings

When Corporations Pay What They Owe

I’m sure that most everyone is familiar with the commercials concerning mesothelioma-“If you or a loved one has been harmed, call 1-800-Jackpot and we’ll help you get your $$$ today!” Okay, so I paraphrased a bit but that’s the gist of the commercials. The impression given is that corporations now realize a terrible wrong was done and they are more than happy to set things to right…to monetarily atone for their crime(s) against humanity, the earth & the Average Joe Worker…

Uh-huh. Well now…back here in the Real World of lawyers, depositions and corporate ass-hattery, it seems that those heartfelt commercials are just a teensy-weensy bit misleading. Last week my dad had to give his depositions for his Meso claim. Because of the nature of his work, his claim cannot be pinned down to one company or location…in other words, he worked on multiple construction sites for multiple employers; he didn’t work for one company or in one shipyard so his claim is harder to prove or trace to just one corporation that could be held liable.

Before he went into the depositions, we figured that no matter what, it wouldn’t be that bad…I mean, this is just one little old man trying to get a few thousand dollars…how hard would they fight this? It’s already been established that asbestos exposure causes mesothelioma; precedent is set, agreements were reached years ago that settled all of this so what could they argue about? Depositions are just standard, routine, nothing to really worry about. Surely, the corporate lawyers would be courteous…go easy on him…he’s just one small man, right?

Or not. What he thought would be a few hours turned into one solid week of being grilled for several hours of each day. “I was under attack, man! One lawyer was downright vicious…” he said. He sounded so exhausted, so wrung out…and so stressed from feeling like he got too tripped up trying to answer their endless streams of questions. Questions precisely designed to trip him up.

Mind you, he’s not out for millions of dollars here. For his age, his case isn’t really worth as much as a younger man diagnosed in his 50’s would be, for instance. We got that. Understood and well, understood. But there ARE extra medical costs being incurred and considering that the ‘safety masks’ approved by his industry were filled with asbestos, there should be something due to him for what he’s suffering now. Surely they won’t fight too hard about all of this..?

Except, they are. They did. The lawyers tore an old man up as if he had all the power in the world.

To be fair, not all of the companies involved in his case are fighting…one of them has made a settlement already. Sweet, eh? Uh-huh. They settled for a whopping $125,000. Now, for our family & my dad’s financial position, that is one HELL of a deal and certainly not something to bitch about. Except, here’s the back-end of the settlement…the corporation filed for bankruptcy and under all of the legal gobbledy-gook of the Superfund arrangement, what that means is that they only have to pay 1/8 of a penny on every dollar of each settlement. By the time the fiat-dust settles & lawyers take their fee, Dad will net just under $700. But on paper, the company shows they’ve paid out $125,000 in blood money. My, my, don’t they look like a generous bunch of roses?

My head is still reeling. Even with everything I know about corporations…the lobbying, the shitty deals, misdeeds, destruction, tax-evasion…even still, I am sitting here just stunned by how this is playing out. It’s one thing to know about in the abstract, “Corporations are immoral entities” but it’s entirely another thing when you watch someone you love get bitch-slapped by a corporate hand.

Unmotherfuckingbelievable. Inconceivable that a corporation would bother pissing on a dying man in his mid-70’s. And yet, after stumbling across this video about the history of asbestos claims…I’m only really surprised that I can still be surprised by the lengths these corporate monsters will go to in order to protect their profit lairs…er, shares…

Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance

NFB“On a July day in 1990, a confrontation propelled Native issues in Kanehsatake and the village of Oka, Quebec, into the international spotlight. Director Alanis Obomsawin spent 78 nerve-wracking days and nights filming the armed stand-off between the Mohawks, the Quebec police and the Canadian army. This powerful documentary takes you right into the action of an age-old Aboriginal struggle. The result is a portrait of the people behind the barricades…”

Wiki- “The Oka Crisis was a land dispute between a group of Mohawk people and the town of Oka, Quebec, Canada which began on July 11, 1990 and lasted until September 26, 1990. One person died as a result. The dispute was the first well-publicized violent conflict between First Nations and the Canadian government in the late 20th century. 

The crisis developed from a local dispute between the town of Oka and the Mohawk community of Kanesatake. The town of Oka was developing plans to expand agolf course and residential development onto land which had traditionally been used by the Mohawk. It included pineland and a burial ground, marked by standing tombstones of their ancestors. The Mohawks had filed a land claim for the sacred grove and burial ground near Kanesatake, but their claim had been rejected in 1986.

Historical background

In 1717, the governor of New France granted the lands encompassing the cemetery and the pines to the Society of the Priests of Saint Sulpice or Sulpician Fathers Seminary, a Roman Catholic order based in Paris. The Mohawk claimed that the original grant included about nine square miles reserved exclusively for their use. Although the Sulpician Seminary was supposed to hold the land in trust for them, the seminary expanded this agreement to grant itself sole ownership rights.[citation needed]

In 1868, one year after Confederation, the chief of the Oka Mohawk people, Joseph Onasakenrat, wrote a letter to the seminary condemning it for illegally holding the land and demanding its return.[citation needed] The petition produced no results for the Mohawks. In 1869 Onasakenrat attacked the seminary with a small armed force, after giving the missionaries eight days to hand over the land. Local authorities ended this stand-off with force.

In 1936, the seminary sold the remaining territory for development and vacated the area, under protest by the local Mohawk community. At the time they still kept cattle on the common land.

In 1961, the city built a private nine-hole golf course, the Club de golf d’Oka, on a portion of the land. The Mohawk filed suit against its construction but, by the time the case was heard, much of the land had already been cleared. Construction also began on a parking lot and golf greens adjacent to the Mohawk cemetery.

In 1977, the band filed an official land claim with the federal Office of Native Claims regarding the land. The claim was accepted for filing, and funds were provided for additional research of the claim. Nine years later, the claim was rejected, on the grounds of failing to meet key legal criteria.

In March 1989, the Club de golf d’Oka announced plans to expand the golf course by an additional 9 holes. Protests by Mohawks and others, as well as concern from the Quebec Minister of the Environment, led to negotiations and a postponement of the project by the municipality in August.

The Crisis

On July 11, the mayor asked the Sûreté du Québec (SQ), Quebec’s provincial police force, to intervene with the Mohawk protest. He claimed there had been criminal activity at the barricade. The Mohawk people, in accordance with the Constitution of the Iroquois Confederacy, asked the women, the caretakers of the land and “progenitors of the nation”, whether or not the arsenal which the warriors had amassed should remain. The women of the Mohawk Nation decided that the weapons should only be used if the SQ fired on the barricade and to use them as defensively as possible.

At the peak of the crisis, the Mercier Bridge and Routes 132, 138 and 207 were all blocked, creating substantial disruption to traffic and anger as the crisis dragged on. A group of Châteauguay residents started building an unauthorized, unplanned four-lane[citation needed]highway around the Kahnawake reserve. After the crisis, the highway was completed and is now part of Quebec Autoroute 30.

The federal Crown-in-Council agreed to spend $5.3 million to purchase the section of the pines where the golf course expansion was to take place, to prevent any further development. This proposal left the Mohawks outraged, as the problems that led to the situation had not been addressed. Stewardship of the land had simply moved from one government to another, and not to the Mohawk.

When it became apparent that the Sûreté du Québec had not contained this escalating situation, the government brought in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), who were also unable to contain the mobs and chaos associated with the blocked traffic; ten RCMP constables were hospitalized on August 14.

On August 8, Quebec premier Robert Bourassa announced at a press conference that he had, as per Section 275 of the National Defence Act, requisited military support in “aid of the civil power”. Prime Minister Brian Mulroney was reluctant to have the federal government and, in particular, the Canadian Army, so involved. Under the act, however, the Solicitor General of Quebec, under direction from the Premier of Quebec, had the right to requisition the armed forces to maintain law and order as a provincial responsibility; this move had precedent in Canada, including two decades earlier during the October Crisis.

Resolution

On August 29, at the Mercier Bridge blockade, the Mohawks negotiated an end to their protest with Lieutenant-Colonel Robin Gagnon, the ‘Van Doo’ commander responsible for monitoring the blockades along the south shore of the St. Lawrence River west of Montreal. This action further resulted in the resolution of the original siege on the Kahnawake reserve.

Mohawks at Oka, however, felt betrayed at the loss of their most effective bargaining chip in the Mercier Bridge: once traffic began flowing again, the Quebec government rejected further negotiations pursuant to their original dispute concerning the Oka golf course expansion. September 25 witnessed the final engagement of the crisis: a Mohawk warrior walked around the perimeter of the blockade area with a long stick, setting off flares that had been originally installed by the Canadian Forces to alert them to individuals fleeing the area. The army turned a water hose on this man, but it lacked enough pressure to disperse the crowd surrounding him. This crowd taunted the soldiers and began throwing water balloons at them, but the incident did not escalate further. The following day the Mohawks laid down their arms, dismantled their guns and threw them in a fire, ceremonially burning tobacco and returning to the reserve. Many, however, were detained by the Canadian Forces and arrested by the SQ.

The Oka Crisis lasted 78 days, and gunfire early in the crisis killed SQ Corporal Marcel Lemay. The golf course expansion which had originally triggered the crisis was cancelled by the mayor of Oka. The Oka Crisis galvanized, throughout Canada, a subsequent process of developing an First Nations Policing Policy to try to prevent future such events.” More On Wiki

USGIF: Where Our National Security Begins

While I was searching for more information (specifically about James R. Clapper Jr.) to add to the The Menace of the Military Mind post last night, I stumbled across a rather interesting corpo-government website that provides a nice behind-the-scenes look at some of the movers, shakers and decision makers who are responsible for our ever-growing World Wide Spy Machine. Here are some bits & pieces of what I’ve browsed through so far…Enjoy! ~Reb

 United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation, Inc

USGIF - “In 2003, a group of leading authorities realized an inherent need for a unified vision and approach to promoting the geospatial intelligence tradecraft. This group created the successful GEO-INTEL 2003 conference—the predecessor to the annual GEOINT Symposium—and in early 2004 established USGIF. The Foundation’s mission was, and continues to be, to bring together government, industry, academia, professional organizations and individuals for the advancement of the geospatial intelligence tradecraft as it relates to national security.

Being the first and only organization of its kind, USGIF has helped to advance the tradecraft through its many events and programs, such as the highly acclaimed GEOINT Symposium and technology focused Tech Days. The Foundation currently has more than 200 sustaining member organizations supporting and assisting in executing the Foundation’s objectives. The Foundation also has made education a top priority, exemplified by its scholarships, college and university accreditation programs, grants to underprivileged K-12 schools and other initiatives.

USGIF is dedicated to bringing together the many disciplines involved in the geospatial intelligence sector to exchange ideas, share best practices and promote the education and importance of a national geospatial intelligence agenda.”

USGIF is located at 2325 Dulles Corner Boulevard, Suite 450, Herndon, VA 20171.

Download USGIF Fact Sheet

ProjectGEO- “Oct 23, 2012 In this special coverage interviewing USGIF President Keith Masback we dive into detail on several topics including what the USGIF is, it’s mission, and it’s impact on the GEOINT community. Keith also talks about the Young Professionals Group (YPG) and the GEOINT symposium. Watch the video to get exciting insight into the USGIF.

Keynote Speakers At GEOINT

(National Snitch-N- Snoop Convention?)

Keynotes for GEOINT 2013*

January 9, 2014 -Several speakers have reconfirmed their keynote addresses for the rescheduled GEOINT2013* Symposium, to be held April 14-17, 2014, at the Tampa Convention Center in Tampa, Fla.

Confirmed speakers include:

• The Honorable James R. Clapper, Director of National Intelligence (DNI)
• LTG Michael T. Flynn, U.S. Army, Director, Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA)
• Ms. Letitia A. Long, Director, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA)
• ADM William H. McRaven, U.S. Navy, Commander, U.S. Special Operations
Command (USSOCOM)
• Ms. Betty J. Sapp, Director, National Reconnaissance Office (NRO)
• Mr. Robert Scoble & Mr. Shel Israel, Co-Authors, “Age of Context”

The annual GEOINT Symposium is the nation’s premier intelligence event. It offers a wealth of quality information, cutting-edge technologies, and top-notch activities that keep attendees coming back year after year. In addition to insightful keynote addresses and though-provoking panels with leaders from the Defense and Intelligence communities, the GEOINT Symposium provides attendees with an unparalleled opportunity to network at various social events and explore new technologies in a 100,000-square-foot exhibit hall.

GEOINTv 2012-Booth Tour Northrop Grumman (Video)

USGIF ACCOUNT LEVELS AND PRICING 

MEMBERSHIP DIRECTORY

USGIF released its 2013 Membership Directory in the Q1 issue of trajectory magazine.

The directory contains brief descriptions and contact information for all 224 USGIF sustaining member organizations. The directory is also complemented by an online capabilities index, which lists more than 50 products and services the membership organizations provide.

Download the 2013 USGIF Membership Directory

USGIF BOARD MEMBERS

USGIF’s Africa Working Group Hosts First Event

Project Geo – S2 E6 – Apocalyptic Maps

Corporation Raiding Algonquin Territory for Minerals, Selling to Toyota for Prius Battery Production

DRG - “Eco-consciousness” and “green living” are centrepieces of product branding for the Toyota Prius. But that feel-good packaging has rapidly worn thin for members of the Algonquin Nation and residents of Kipawa, Quebec, who are now fighting to protect traditional Algonquin territory from devastation in the name of hybrid car battery production.

In 2011, after nearly two years of negotiations, Matamec Explorations, a Quebec-based juniormining exploration company, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Toyotsu Rare Earth Canada (TRECan), a Canadian subsidiary of Japan-based Toyota Tsusho Corporation. The memorandum confirmed Matamec’s intention to become “one of the first heavy rare earths producers outside of China.” In pursuit of this role, the company plans to build an open-pit Heavy Rare Earth Elements (HREE) mine directly next to Kipawa Lake, the geographical, ecological, and cultural centre of Kipawa.

Rare earths are a group of 17 elements found in the earth’s crust. They are used to produce electronics for cell phones, wind turbines, and car batteries. Rare earths are notorious for their environmentally costly extraction process, with over 90 per cent of the mined raw materials classified as waste.

Toyota has guaranteed purchase of 100 per cent of rare earths extracted from the proposed Kipawa mine, for use in their hybrid car batteries, replacing a portion of Toyota’s supply currently sourced out of China.

Over the last seven years, China has reduced the scale of its rare earths exports via a series of annual tonnage export caps and taxes, allegedly out of concern for high cancer rates, contaminated water supply, and significant environmental degradation. Despite China’s stated intention to encourage manufacturers to reduce their rare earths consumption, the US, the EU and Japan have challenged China’s export caps through the World Trade Organization (WTO) and are seeking new deposits elsewhere for exploitation. Toyota and Matamec are seeking to make Kipawa part of this shift.

Kipawa is a municipality located on traditional Algonquin territory approximately 80 kilometres northeast of North Bay, Ontario, in what is now known as western Quebec. The primarily Indigenous municipality is home to approximately 500 people, including members of Eagle Village First Nation and Wolf Lake First Nation, of the Anishinaabeg Algonquin Nation. The town of Kipawa lies within the large Ottawa River Watershed, a wide-branching network of lakes, rivers and wetlands. Lake Kipawa is at the heart of the Kipawa region.

Lifelong Kipawa resident and Eagle Village First Nation member Jamie Lee McKenzie told The Dominion that the lake is of “huge” importance to the people of Kipawa. “We drink it, for one….Everyone has camps on the lake [and] we use it on basically a daily basis.” This water network nourishes the richly forested surroundings that make up the traditional hunting and trapping grounds of the local Algonquin peoples.

“Where the proposed mine site is, it’s my husband’s [ancestral] trapping grounds,” said Eagle Village organizer Mary McKenzie, in a phone interview with The Dominion. “This is where we hunt, we fish, I pick berries…We just want to keep our water.” Jamie Lee & Mary McKenzie also emphasized the role of lake-based tourism in Kipawa’s economy.

The Kipawa HREE project would blast out an open-pit mine 1.5 kilometres wide and 110 meters deep, from the summit of a large lakeside hill. It would also establish a nearby waste dump with a 13.3 megatonne capacity. Rock containing the heavy rare earth elements dysprosium and terbium would be extracted from the pit via drilling and explosives, processed at an on-site grinding and magnetic separation plant, and then transported by truck to a hydrometallurgical facility 50 kilometers away for refining.

Matamec confirmed in its Preliminary Economic Assessment Study that some effluence caused by evaporation and precipitation is inevitable, especially during the snowmelt period. A community-led presentation argued that this could create acid mine drainage, acidifying the lake and poisoning the fish.

“There’s going to be five [truckloads of sulfuric acid transported from pit to refinery] a day….[I]n a 15-year span, that’s 27,300 truckloads of sulfuric acid,” said Mary McKenzie. “We’re worried about spills and the environment….They’re talking about neutralizing [the acid], when a spill does occur, with lime. I have [sources that say] lime is also a danger to the environment.” Full Story On DGR News

Soldiers Burn Down Cambodian Homes for Chinese Company

Cambodia1

TruthLoader – “Soldiers representing the Chinese company Tianjin Union Development Group have forcefully evicted 29 families in the Koh Kong province of Cambodia and burned down their homes and crops. In 2008 the Tianjin Union Development Group was granted 36,000 hectares of land by the Cambodian government in order to construct a multi-billion-dollar tourism zone in the previously protected Botum Sakor National Park, complete with hotels, casino, golf course, seaport and highway.

What development means in Cambodia — “The Playground”

“We’ve heard of China’s buying sprees. That it’s plowed billions of dollars into some of the poorest nations in the world. But the story we don’t know is what this money means for the people there. In Cambodia, the cost has been devastating. More than 700,000 people have lost their homes — others their lives — while China buys the former killing fields for resorts, hotels, and exclusive residences. And as this country of genocide descends into another era of chaos and violence, some whisper it’s the second coming of Pol Pot.

But one woman has fought back. In this fast-paced narrative, Terrence McCoy follows Vanny Tep’s quest to save Cambodia from China’s money. Leading a small, fiery group of women, Vanny has sparked a grassroots movement from one of the most daunting slums in Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital. Her battles are against the Cambodian government, Chinese companies, and a male-dominated society. Powerful and profound, “The Playground” takes us across Cambodia to discover the true meaning of a global Chinatown.”

America’s Dangerous Pipelines

Center for Biological Diversity “This time-lapse video shows pipeline incidents from 1986 to 2013, relying on publicly available data from the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. Only incidents classified as “significant” by the agency are shown in the video. “Significant” incidents include those in which someone was hospitalized or killed, damages amounted to more than $50,000, more than 5 barrels of highly volatile substances or 50 barrels of other liquid were released, or where the liquid exploded or burned.

According to the data, since 1986 there have been nearly 8,000 incidents (nearly 300 per year on average), resulting in more than 500 deaths (red dots on the video), more than 2,300 injuries (yellow dots on the video), and nearly $7 billion in damage.
Since 1986 pipeline accidents have spilled an average of 76,000 barrels per year or more than 3 million gallons. This is equivalent to 200 barrels every day.”

Autonomous ‘Killer Robots’ Could Replace Drones Soon

RT“What was science fiction a couple of decades ago is now everyday reality. But it’s not only computers and smartphones — the progress has brought us new war machines — unmanned drones striking from the skies are no surprise for anyone today. But what has the progress of warfare prepared for us in the coming years?” 

Jody Williams is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning woman, who has fought against landmines — and won. Now she is on a crusade against the new deadly threat — killer robots.

The Water Front

Coming soon to a city near you..?

What if you lived by the largest body of fresh water in the world but could no longer afford to use it?

The People’s Tribune-

“People need to know how much they are charging for every 1,000 cubic feet of water and for the sewage. My bill is $8 shy of $2,500 and $1,900 is for sewage. On my block alone, bills are almost $50,000. There are a lot of people here that receive only one check a month. They can’t afford to pay these bills.”

The Highland Park Human Rights Coalition joined forces with The Citizens for Highland Park Public schools to fight both the water crises and the dismantlement of the children’s educational system in Highland Park.

For more information, contact the Highland Park Human Rights Coalition at Michigan Welfare Rights, 313-964-0618.

Highland Park Water Crisis (doc)

“For the past several years in the city of Highland Park, thousands of residents and small businesses have had their water shut-off or have been threatened with water shut-off notices because they are unable to pay their exorbitantly high water and sewage bills. This situation has put many residents at risk of losing their home or children. In particular, many low-income seniors have had their water bills attached to their home property taxes as a lien. If this large bill—often thousands of dollars—is not paid, the home can be foreclosed upon and the senior can lose his or her home. For parents receiving Family Independence Agency assistance for their children, having no water in the home is cause for removal of the children.

The typical bill for most households is several hundred dollars every three months—far higher than the average national cost (see note below[1]). However, because of extensive billing delays by Highland Park financial managers, residents have been receiving water bills every six to nine months. Water bills recipients are then expected to pay these huge “estimate” water bills—again, often thousands of dollars—within a few days or risk shut-off. Furthermore, city clerks will not allow residents to make partial payments or payment arrangements, and repeatedly have been disrespectful and rude to these customers.

* Note:  According to a survey cited by the Environmental Protection Agency, the average annual household cost for water and sewer in the U.S. is $474. Highland Park residents pay nearly four times this amount! (http://www.epa.gov/ow/infrastructure/pricing/index.htm)”

Full Document Available Here

20 Years of NAFTA Show Why TPP Must Be Stopped

Excerpts, The Raw Story – ” The post-NAFTA era has been marked by growing inequality, declining job security and new leverage for corporations to attack government regulations enacted in the public interest.

But it wasn’t supposed to be that way. Back in 1986, when the leaders of the US, Canada and Mexico began talks on a regional trade deal that eight years later would culminate in the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), they sold the pact to the public as an economic win-win for all parties involved.

On signing the treaty in 1994, then-President Bill Clinton said, “NAFTA means jobs. American jobs, and good-paying American jobs. If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t support this agreement.” He promised that NAFTA would result in “an export boom to Mexico,” and claimed that such trade deals “transcend ideology” because support for them “is so uniform that it unites people in both parties.”

Twenty years later, we can test how those claims panned out in the real world. And Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch did just that, releasing a comprehensive study of NAFTA’s impacts…

Shortly after NAFTA, we did a very detailed dig to find all the promises of US producers who made very specific claims before the treaty was signed that ‘if NAFTA passes, we will add X number of jobs.’ So we went and looked at the federal government’s Trade Adjustment Assistance database and we found that company after company — big US manufacturers like Chrysler, GE, Caterpillar — that promised to create specific numbers of US jobs instead were offshoring thousands and thousands of US jobs to Mexico, and then they were bringing the product back into the country and selling it. It was still their US brand name, but made with much lower wages in Mexico.

The trade data are very telling. The year before NAFTA, the United States had a small trade deficit with Canada — about $20 billion dollars — and a slight surplus of $2 billion dollars with Mexico. Now, 20 years later, we have almost a $200 billion dollar trade deficit with those countries. So the surplus with Mexico turned into a huge, huge deficit, as all those companies relocated there to produce goods with lower wages.

And this Trade Adjustment Assistance database is really fascinating. There are 845,000 specific US workers who are certified under just this one narrow program as having lost their jobs since NAFTA to trade with Mexico and Canada. And you’d be surprised at the kinds of companies you see. In the beginning it was a huge wipeout of the auto sector, textiles and apparel, and appliances. But now it’s computers, it’s clean manufacturing of computer chips, high-end electronics, aircraft – these are high-end, high-tech, well-trained, well-paid jobs. The so-called jobs of the future are all being offshored.

Even if you didn’t lose a job, what we’ve found with this study, and, more importantly, what economists, including those who supported NAFTA originally, found is that shifting a million well-paying jobs out has an effect economy-wide on wage levels and on income inequality.” Full Article on The Raw Story

Related Content & Links

The Council of Canadians – “The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is 12-nation (and counting) free trade and corporate rights deal that is being led by the United States but also includes Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. Thailand, The Philippines and South Korea have also expressed interest in joining the talks, which would eclipse the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in the ways democracy would be constrained in the interests of multinational corporations.

Of the 26 chapters currently being negotiated in the TPP, only two have to do with trade. The other 24 deal with issues as diverse as how a government regulates corporate activity, what Crown corporations can and cannot do, how long pharmaceutical patents or copyright terms should be, how the Internet is governed, the sharing of personal information across borders, banking and taxation rules, and when a company or investor should be compensated when environmental or public health policies interfere with profits.

The TPP is also considered a geopolitical weapon of the U.S. government, which is trying to isolate China in the Asia-Pacific region, and to block alternative, and more successful, forms of development than the “free trade” model has to offer. But the TPP is being resisted by people across all participating countries because of how it will lock-in a myopic type of corporate globalization that is the main cause of runaway climate change and which has done little to create good, sustainable jobs or reduce poverty worldwide. People working across borders fought and defeated the Free Trade Area of the Americas. Our goal is to make sure the TPP suffers the same fate.”

via MÉDECINS SANS FRONTIÈRES (MSF)

Trans-Pacific Partnership

The most harmful trade pact ever for access to medicines.

While I was searching for more information on the TPP and work that is being done at our local Santa Teresa point of entry, I came across this interesting pdf from the White House…

U.S. – Mexico
21st Century Border Management

Realizing the Strategic
National Value of our Trade,
Tourism and Ports of Entry
with Mexico

“A renewed focus by the United States and Mexico on economic cooperation and efforts by Congress to facilitate legitimate trade and tourism with Mexico offer a number of opportunities. The proposed Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 proposes the addition of 3,500 additional Customs and Border Protection officers to staff the ports of entry to be funded by a newly created Comprehensive Immigration Reform Trust Fund. In addition, S. 178 and H.R. 1108, the Cross Border Trade Enhancement Act of 2013, aim to facilitate enhanced staffing but also infrastructure improvements at ports of entry via alternative financing mechanisms such as public-private partnerships. Legislation such as this is necessary in order for the United States to take full advantage of NAFTA’s potential as well as the next generation of trade agreements, including the Trans Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, which have the potential to significantly enhance North American competitiveness for decades to come.” Full Report Available Here

More information on the planning/development and work along the US-MX border can also be found here -

Take Action Against The Trans-Pacific Partnership

via Sum Of Us – “Congress is preparing to sign away its authority on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade deal that reads like a corporate lobbyist’s wildest dream.

The TPP would make it easier for corporations to sue our government, prevent regulation of GMOs, and keep people in impoverished countries from accessing life-saving medicines. And worst of all, the full text of the deal has been kept secret from the public, and even Congress doesn’t have full access — even though hundreds of corporate lobbyists who have helped write the agreement do!

Now President Obama is trying to ram this deal through by seeking “fast-track” authority, which would prevent Congress from making any changes to the deal and stifle any debate. Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle have spoken out against fast track authority, and if we can get more Democrats to join them, we’ll have a real chance to stop this corporate power grab.

Rep. Sandy Levin is key. He’s the top Democrat on the congressional committee that’s responsible for trade policy, but he’s breaking with most of the party to support a fast-track bill. Can you call his office today and tell him to stop fast-track?

Our government is negotiating right now to lock a deal. Call Rep. Levin and tell him not to sign off on a deal the American people can’t read!

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is called a trade deal, but it’s really a corporate wish-list aimed at attacking everything from environmental protections to affordable medicines to internet freedoms.

If the deal is signed, future laws designed to protect consumers, our health or our environment could be challenged by corporations that claim that the law reduces their profit — and there is nothing we or our governments could do to stop them.

Corporate lobbyists and government insiders are keeping the text of the deal secret because they know that if the full details got out into public view, we wouldn’t like what we saw. Even Congress can’t see the bill, but the Obama administration wants authority to negotiate without any oversight. But we already know enough through leaks to know it’s really bad. We can’t let this sail through without public scrutiny, and the only way we can give the public time to review the bill is by stopping fast track now!

Our government is negotiating right now to lock a deal. Call Rep. Levin and tell him not to sign off on a deal the American people can’t read!

Here’s what we need to do:

  1. Call Rep. Levin’s office at (202) 225-4961
  2. When you get someone on the line, give your name and say you’re calling to oppose fast-track authority for the negotiation of the TPP. You can make up your own comment, or just use this sample comment:

    Sample quote:

    I’m deeply concerned that trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership are undermining our democracy to enrich corporations. Congress should not sign off on a deal that has been kept secret from the American people. Leader Pelosi should oppose fast-track authority for the TPP and call on her colleagues to do the same.

Here are some additional talking points if you’re looking for more to say:

  • The agreement would expand secret tribunals where corporations can sue governments for profits lost due to environmental or consumer protection legislation.
  • In addition to being NAFTA-on-steroids, the TPP is SOPA-Redux: it would let media corporations censor the internet to protect their profits. It could even make you liable for criminal penalties for downloading a song.
  • The deal would strengthen Big Pharma’s IP monopolies and make it impossible for poor people around the world to get lifesaving generic drugs.
  • The TPP could force countries to scrap regulations on GMO crops.
  • The deal would drive down wages and undermine workers’ right to organize, speeding up the global race to bottom.

These are just a few reasons we need to stop the TPP. Make a call today and tell Rep. Sandy Levin not to sign off on this massive corporate power grab.”

Thanks for all you do,
Kaytee, Paul, Rob, and the team at SumOfUs