PROFIT AND POWER – Salmon or Gold

The planned Alaskan Pebble Mining Project is greater in scale than anything ever seen.  The site  is estimated to be the  2nd richest mineral reserve in the world and the largest single bodied copper ore formation ever found. Northern Dynasty Minerals began exploring mineral deposits discovered  in 2007 and the UK based ‘Anglo American’ joined them to form the Pebble Partnership. In 2010 geologists claimed that the region contained around 80.6 billion pounds of copper, 107.4 million ounces of gold, and 5.6 billion pounds of molybdenum (Molybdenum is a metal used to make  missile and aircraft parts and used in the nuclear power industry. It is also used as a catalyst in the refining of petroleum.)

Northern Dynasty estimate that the site contained over $300 billion worth of recoverable minerals (2010 prices). The mining development creates formidable challenges. An open pit mine, which at its peak would be nearly 2 miles across and around 4,000 feet deep with an additional 2 dams, both of which would be the largest of their kind. The plan has been vehemently opposed by environmentalists. Solid waste estimated at around 10 billion tons must be stored while toxic muddy sediment called tailings, containing everything from cobalt, to nickel, antimony, arsenic, lead, selenium, mercury, cadmium, and copper remnants must be contained behind massive dams for the rest of time.

Copper mining produces a vast amount of sulphuric acid, which if drained into the environment would destroy wildlife, decimating nearby fresh water streams. The mine would need to be constantly pumping out ground water, to avoid the mine flooding. . (Pebble claims that they will pump the water back into the environment after it has been cleaned.)  The EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) has previously said a mine could destroy up to 94 miles of salmon-supporting streams and thousands of acres of wetlands, ponds and lakes. Polluted water from the mine site could enter streams, causing widespread damage in a region that produces nearly 50 percent of the world’s wild sockeye salmon and which is also home to bears, moose and caribou.

Many of the locals are members of various Native American tribes, reviving memories of  the 1898 Klondike rush for gold which brought profound social, economic and political change to the First Nation.  For thousands of years the Yupik have depended on salmon, along with pike, whitefish, beavers, caribou, moose, berries, and plants such as wild rhubarb.  Their sustainable lifestyle based upon community and sharing contrasts dramatically with the competitive world of market commodities. “We share with the whole village…. we give away our first big game. It always comes back.”  Some 7,500 people, rely on the wildlife for their livelihood, the elders warn that if creeks, rivers and lakes where salmon spawn are decimated  – “Once that’s gone “you can’t get it back.”.

The Profit motive continues to reign supreme in the battle between industrialism and conservation, even as the dire predictions made by environmental scientists are now being fulfilled. Copper, gold, and molybdenum are all vital minerals used in a device hungry society which feeds on modern technology. Yet there is ample existing production of all three throughout the world. In 2015 alone, the world produced an estimated 19,100,000 tons of copper, 2,500-3,000 tons of gold and 250,000 tons of molybdenum. The annual value of the salmon fishery is upwards of  $1.5 billion, this  sustainable industry, supports local employment and the global economy. Compare this with Pebbles estimated $300 billion worth of recoverable minerals (2010 prices) which once mined are gone forever, leaving a legacy of a decimated landscape with global consequences.

In 2014 President Obama halted the mining project, the Trump administration has cancelled or reversed many of the former environmental agreements, enabling the Pebble mining company to submit a new application. A surprise decision to leave the 2014 restrictions in place while it “receives more information on the potential mine’s impact on the region’s world-class fisheries and natural resources” caused initial jubilation by conservationists, this was however premature. The Environmental Protection Agency’s new EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt met withTom Collier CEO of Pebble to strike a deal to allow developers more time to submit a permit application to the Army Corps of Engineers. It will begin to roll back restrictions on large-scale mining in  Alaska. “Collier said the company spent nearly $750 million preparing to get the proper permits — spending that he said was without merit until Trump’s election in November.

Alaska sits on what is known as the Pacific Ring of Fire, a collection of global fault lines; 90% of all of the world’s earthquakes occur on the Ring of Fire with 22 of the 25 largest volcanic eruptions from the past 11,000 years in that region. The  fault lines spanning New Zealand, Malaysia, Indonesia, parts of of Russia and Alaska, cover all of North America and South America, ending in Southern Chile. At least 9 earthquakes in Alaska  have gone above the 7.5 magnitude limits on the proposed Pebble Mine tailings dams,

this includes the notorious 1964 earthquake with a magnitude of 9.2.

As we observe the repeated  corporate decisions placing Profit and Power before People and Nature it is perhaps the Earth itself which will teach us humility and to respect the manifest gifts of nature if we refuse to learn. We cannot turn the clock back yet if we are to ensure a future for our children we can perhaps reset it by adopting principles which served indigenous peoples for so long.

 

 

Letter to Pope Francis – Contradicts his denial

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Catholic Christian Brothers and Sexual Abuse

Hearing impairment is by its very nature not only disabling but isolating as communication is compromised. Prior to advances in technology many profoundly deaf children were also mute, unable to speak, making them among the most vulnerable in society. The idea that anyone might take advantage of this disability is repugnant however historical child abuse in its many forms has been perpetrated by a minority of staff in residential care settings. This  is increasingly being revealed as an international problem, a sad commentary on society as a whole.

See http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2011/10/113_96847.html

Saint Josephs School for the Deaf opened in Dublin Ireland in 1845, run by the Catholic Christian Brothers, a teaching Order known for its strict and sometimes harsh discipline. The school gained a reputation for a high standard of education and vocational skills training boys as cobblers and tailors as preparation for financial independence.

Language is the foundation of culture, historically used, knowingly or unknowingly as  a powerful tool of Continue reading

ALL ROADS LEAD TO ROME – Sexual abuse of disabled children by priests

As Pope Francis’ continues to defend the Bishop of Chile, long identified as covering up abuse by a fellow priest who was later found guilty by the Vatican, we might remember the famous quote: “All that is necessary for the forces of evil to triumph is for enough good men to remain silent”. The growing scandal of pedophile Catholic priests reveals the magnitude of institutionalised sexual abuse of children over decades, perhaps the greatest shock is the lengths to which the church hierarchy have gone to conceal and deny the abuse. Under the spotlight of the ‘Me Too’ movement, a pause to consider the survivors who do not have the privilege of a celebrity platform from which to speak…who did not in fact even have a voice to speak with…. those who were hearing impaired or mute.  In considering the depth of depravity of pedophile priests we need look no further than the Provolo Institute for the Deaf in Verono Italy and the filmed confession of Father Nicholas Corradi:

“I never screamed..I could not speak”   
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wFDqSuUOLR8   

Corradi worked in the Provolo Institute for deaf and mute children in Italy for many years and was one of several priests accused of sexual abuse by disabled children. When the church hierarchy failed to respond to their disclosures the children went public, naming their abusers. In 2012 (during the pontificate of Pope Benedict) The Congregation for the Defense of the Faith determined that Corradi had sexually abused deaf and mute children in Italy. The Vatican sanctioned four priests but Carradi went unpunished and relocated to Argentina where he  took up employment at the Argentine Antonio Provolo Institute for hearing impaired children. Continue reading

Weapons for Peace?

The text message received by residents of The State of Hawaii  warning of a ballistic missile threat, confirmed as ‘This is not a test’,  sent thousands  rushing for cover and sending final messages to family and friends. Thirty eight interminable minutes later they were informed that ‘someone clicked the wrong button on a shift change’ Most experts agree that human error is the most likely trigger for a nuclear engagement, an event to which the opposing side should be expected to respond. The awesome military power which now rests in the hands of leaders who have repeatedly demonstrated their instability coupled with the spectre of fallible technology raises risk factors exponentially.

The farewell speech of President Eisenhower, a former general,  as he prepared to hand over power to President Kennedy on January 17th 1961 was “a solemn moment in a decidedly unsolemn time’, He warned a nation “giddy with prosperity, infatuated with youth and glamour, and aiming increasingly for the easy life.’ to be vigilant of the potential rise of the military industrial complex and potential abuse of power. Continue reading

ELEMENTARY: Global Warming on Planet Trump

‘Climate change and global warming  are two different phenomena, but are interlinked, and each affects the other. Climate change is change in the climate of a region. Global warming is the rise in average temperature of the Earth. Human interference is the common factor, which is accelerating both’

For the nomadic herders of Siberia, climate change is not an illusion a joke or a scam. Scientific data confirms that Russia is already warming at one and a half times the rate of other parts of the world, leaving  reindeer, Russia’s cattle of the Arctic regions, under threat from climate change. Nomadic reindeer herders living near the north-west coast of Siberia where the sea freezes nine months of the year state that  the snow is melting sooner, and faster than before.

 During the autumn period between 2006 and 2013 sea ice began to melt instead of thickening. Traditionally the Nenet nomads cross the frozen Ob River in November with their reindeer herds to set up camp in the southern forests. Higher temperatures are delaying the annual winter trek  until late December  when the ice is finally thick enough to cross the frozen river. Continue reading

AID and ‘undue influence’

The dictionary definition of undue influence: “influence by which a person is induced to act otherwise than by their own free will or without adequate attention to the consequences.”

President Trumps threat to withdraw Aid from the  countries  who chose to vote against the US and the US Ambassador’s statement that ‘we will not forget and are taking names’  sent a collective global shudder though the halls of power. Through these actions the long standing but previously obscured  abuse of power becomes transparent. The spectacle of the ‘leader of the free world’  supported by  a mere handful of vulnerable nations, each of which have an inherent dependency on access to US Aid has caused many to question the degree of pressure they faced.

Guatemala with a weaker and more corrupt state and a more impoverished society than that of Mexico has a growing public debt. President Perez Molina is looking to Washington for military aid to support the Guatemalan army to root out corruption. Honduras has the world’s highest murder rate  and high levels of sexual violence despite a population of a little over 9 million. An estimated 1 million Hondurans reside in the United States, 600,000 of whom are believed to be undocumented; consequently, immigration issues are an important item on the bilateral agenda.

Micronesia: (A Federation of small island states, formerly a United Nations Trust Territory under U.S. administration until gaining independence in 1986.) The US will provide $100 million annually over the next 20 years. Guam – 210 sq. mi.; population 186,000 Guam is the largest single island in Micronesia. A territory of the United States and one of its primary military bases in the Pacific. Nauru : 8 sq. mi.; population 9,000. An independent nation; single island. The United States is a major financial contributor to international and regional organizations that assist Nauru, Palau – 177 sq. mi.; population 21,000  an archipelago  of over 300 islands, only 8 of which are inhabited.Palau is the largest recipient of aid per capita from the US, receiving more than $852 million over the last 15 yerars.

Marshall Islands70 sq. mi.; population 68,000. The United States conquered the islands in 1944. The Marshall Islands served as a test theatre for American nuclear weapons from 1946 to 1958 with 67 weapon tests  conducted, These including the 15-megaton  hydrogen bomb test  on Bikini Atoll which was 1,000 times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Bikini Atoll became uninhabitable. Prior to nuclear testing, the residents had initially accepted resettlement voluntarily to Rongerik Atoll, believing that they would be able to return home within a short time. Rongerik Atoll could not produce enough food and the islanders starved and were again relocated. In 1970  islanders returned to the Bikini Island, advised it was now safe, until further testing revealed dangerous levels of strontium-90.    Today the Marshall Islands, relies on nominal access to U.S. based health agencies and is, like so many of the islands states of Micronesia, dependent upon US Aid  which represents a large percentage of the islands’ gross domestic product.

TOGO West Africa: Amid a diplomatic drive by Israel to extend its influence in West Africa, Togolese President Faure Essozimna Gnassingbe  met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu twice in 2017. This  included a conference hosted by the Togo President where Netanyahu stated “Israel is coming back to Africa, and Africa is coming back to Israel,” The President has visited Israel three times since 2012 and Lome the capital, consistently sides with Jerusalem in international organisations,”

While congratulating the moral victory of the 129 nations who chose to ignore the threat, at the UN Council we might also consider the 35 who chose to abstain and why, among them Canada for example, walking a political tightrope with one eye on current NAFTA negotiations.

AID: Which country gives the most?

Aid to countries in need comes in many forms, economic, military, developmental etc. it almost always has strings attached and can intentionally or unintentionally create permanent indebtedness. Aid should never be used as a weapon. Figures can be misleading and confusing, with the  richest nations appearing to give more generously as might be expected. We are frequently reminded that the US is by far the greatest donor of global Aid but when measured against Gross National Product, ie the country’s total wealth, Greece, a country struggling to survive gives proportionately more.  The Chart below shows Overseas Development Assistance in millions for 2015 as measured by the World Economic Forum. The US heads the list of donors.

 

 

If we measure per capita ie the amount of Aid divided by the income of the number of people in the donor country, the picture changes.  Europe and Scandinavia consistently giving most.The US, France, Japan and Canada fall off the list. Sweden moves from the mid range to first place and The United Arab Republic moves from the bottom to 2nd place, followed by Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands. Additional countries, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Turkey and Finland appear. Continue reading

JERUSALEM: A Pocket History for Trump

The audacity of President Trumps decision to change the status of Jerusalem without consultation and in the face of complete opposition from world leaders suggests a degree of ineptness or a callous disregard for the deepest feelings of those concerned. King Abdullah of Jordan, currently Custodian of the Holy Sites in Jerusalem, has warned of the dangerous repercussions. Perhaps a glance at history is appropriate. 

 Whatever our faith we tend to view Jerusalem from our own  perspective. While  sacred to Jews, Muslims and Christians, the site is however much older than any of these religious traditions, artifacts show  it was first settled between 4500–3500 BCE. The original inhabitants of Jerusalem were  Phoenician Canaanites, their culture is believed to have pioneered the Mediterranean system of agriculture, intensive horticulture, grain growing and commercial olive cultivation. Old Testament scripture states that the land is named after Canaan, a son of Ham, a son of Noah, the ancestor of the Canaanite people. The Canaanites of the southern Levante worshipped a panoply of gods; the first known mention of the city of Jerusalem was in c. 2000 BCE. The name Jerusalem is of Canaanite origin, meaning “Founded by Shalem”: Originally ‘Urushalim’ or ‘Urushalem’the prefix uru means ‘founded by’, and the suffix salem or Shalem refers to the Canaanite ‘god of dusk, of the setting sun and of health and perfection’. The Sumero-Akkadian name for Jerusalem (1330 bce) uru-salim, means “foundation of [or by] the god  ‘Shalim‘  from Hebrew/Semitic meaning ‘to found, to lay a cornerstone’.

According to the Old Testament  Abraham, the patriarch of Judaism was a native of  Ur of the Chaldeans, in Mesopotamia, now south eastern Iraq. He was led by God to settle in Haran. The Torah traces his  lineage through his grandson Jacob and through his twelve sons who became the ancestors of the twelve tribes of Israel. The name Israel comes from the renaming of Jacob following a heroic struggle when he wrestled with an angel. The Hebrew bible states the name is derived from ‘yisra’ meaning ‘to prevail over; and el referring to ‘God, the divine’.

Following a famine Jacobs descendants, the Hebrews, migrated to Egypt and under the patronage of Joseph, Jacobs son, established a thriving community which in time became viewed as a threat to the indigenous population. After Josephs’s death they were enslaved in Egypt for  400 years until Moses led them to freedom. The  Hebrews were directed through the Sinai Peninsula to Canaan, the ‘land flowing with milk and honey’  promised  to them by their God. Canaan had an  indigenous population of both settled and nomadic groups; the  Israelites were commanded  by their god to conquer Canaan. The  conquest occurred  under Joshua in c.1406BC, the  Book of Joshua states that Canaanites are included in a list of nations to exterminate, and later described as a group which the Israelites had annihilated. Today this has been equated with genocide.

PHILISTIA  (present day Gaza on the Mediterranean coast of Israel) was the name of a region between Egypt and Canaan believed to be founded  c 2,100BC.  The Old Testament states that the inhabitants, Philistines are also descendants of Noah, through another of Ham’s sons. In Hebrew, Philistine literally means ‘of  Palestine (Phillistia). Though not a part of Canaan and never conquered by the Israelites, Phillistia was in the area promised by God to the Israelites. The two nations were initially on peaceful terms but eventually warred for centuries. Goliath the giant was the Philistine  from Gath, who was killed by David (later King of Israel) with a slingshot stone. Under the later Roman occupation of Judea, Phillistia was renamed  Palaestina,  the name Palestine and the Arab word Filistin originate from the Romanized Palaestina.

According to the Bible, the Israelite history of the city of Jerusalem began c.1000 BCE when the city of David was sacked by King David who later united the 12 tribes of Israel. Solomon his son built the Temple of Jerusalem, however following his death the kingdom was split into two parts, 10 tribes of Israel and  2 of Judah.  The Jewish people were  exiled in the Assyrian conquest (740 BCE)  and in the Babylonian conquest (587/6 BCE) . After the Fall of Babylon  to the Persians, King Cyrus the Great allowed the descendants of the  tribes of the Kingdom of Judah  to return to Israel. The 10 tribes who never returned are referred to as ‘the Ten lost tribes of Israel’ who were  scattered globally in the diaspora.

Recent History: In 1917 in response to  the  Zionist political movementGreat Britain recognized the rights of the Jewish people to establish a “national homeland for the people of Palestine”.  Zionism is not a religious term, it defines the political movement coined in 1890 to promote the return of the Jewish people and the resumption of Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel. The name comes from the hill  Zion, on which the Temple of Jerusalem was built.  In 1947 the UN voted for the Partition of Palestine, in 1948 Britain withdrew when their  Mandate for Palestine as a Protectorate ended. The  Zionist movement immediately declared a State of Israel in Palestine, triggering the Arab invasion and later the Arab/Israeli war and the eventual  Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. Since that time  Palestinians have been dispossessed of their rights and remain stateless. The restoration  of East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital has been an inherent part of endless Peace negotiations for a two State solution until the recent declaration by President Trump.

Post script: Palestinians are now seeking a non partisan peace broker to replace the US in negotiations.

(Note:Previous blog: Errata/Tribes of Israel corrected)

HUMAN RIGHTS AND PAPER TIGERS

Human Rights Day 10 December, commemorates the day on which, in 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

It states: “Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,….. it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,”  

Article 1.
 All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Article 2.
 Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.

For Palestinians ‘Nakba Day‘ (the Day of Catastrophe) commemorates the event when thousands of Palestinians were forcibly evicted or fled from their homeland following the Declaration of the State of Israel by the Zionist Party (Zionism is a political and not a religious movement) triggering an attack by adjacent Arab States. Some 750,000 Palestinians  were scattered across refugee camps in the occupied West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and Palestine’s neighbouring countries, most never returned home. Now, over five million Palestinian refugees are estimated to be still displaced.

Israeli comment: “A Jewish state would not have come into being without the uprooting of 700,000 Palestinians. Therefore it was necessary to uproot them. There was no choice but to expel that population. It was necessary to cleanse the hinterland and cleanse the border areas and cleanse the main roads. It was necessary to cleanse the villages from which our convoys and our settlements were fired on” …..”Even the great American democracy could not have been created without the annihilation of the Indians.” Benny Morris

 The 1967 6 day Arab-Israeli War followed a  supposed rise of Arab unification and a further failed attempt to restore Palestinian lands. This resulted in the occupation  by Israel of   The Golan Heights, The Sinaii Peninsula and the Gaza Strip. The  United Nations Security Council Resolution 242   called for “the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East” to be achieved by “the application of both the following principles: … Withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict … Termination of all claims or states of belligerency and respect for the right of every state in the area to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries.” Part of the Golan Heights and the Sinaii Peninsula were ceded in the Camp David Peace Accord between Egypt and Israel  in 1978, leaving the West  Bank and Gaza Strip under Israeli occupation.

Israel  prefers the term  ‘disputed territories’ denying its occupation.  The United Nations, Human Rights Watch and many other international bodies consider Israel to be the occupying power  as it controls Gaza Strip’s airspace, territorial waters and  the movement of people or goods in or out of Gaza by air or sea.  Gaza remains one of the most densely populated places on Earth with a total area of 365 km, a population of over 1.7 million and eight over-crowded, under-resourced refugee camps. Its economy is at a standstill, half of its children are malnourished and people do not have  access to adequate medical care.

The Israeli occupation of Palestine is the longest military occupation in modern history.  Israeli illegal blockades, indiscriminate bombing, torture and imprisonment without trial are considered by many as war crimes. Palestinians continue to live in the shadow of the wall erected by Israel with restricted access to their holy shrines. Today Israeli settlements  which have been declared  illegal by the impotent United Nations continue the policy of land dispossession.