Archive for May, 2010

What Are We Fighting For?

May 17, 2010

by Dr. Steve Best
As a response to: Be thankful that our growing numbers in the Animal Rights Movement are still relatively small….

Relatedly, Kathleen Marquardt — founder of the ridiculously redundant organization, Putting People First, and author of Animal Scam: The Beastly Abuse of Human Rights — vents hysterically in her apocalyptic warning to fellow speciesists: “The real agenda of [the animal rights] movement is not to give rights to animals, but to take rights from people—to dictate our food, clothing, work, recreation, and whether we will discover new medications or die.”

Marquardt rehearses a standard objection, which approaches animal rights as if it were a zero sum game where advances for nonhuman animals spell losses for humans – –  fails to see that for the most part (the Animal Liberation Front, the Animal Rights Militia, and other underground groups aside) the animal rights movement adopts legal tactics with the goal to educate and persuade, not force, people to adopt a cruelty-free lifestyle. Hardly against medical progress, moreover, animal rights advocates advance strong critiques of biomedical research and offer concrete and viable alternatives to testing and experimenting on animals……

By Dr. Steve Best


Euro Falls against Dollar, Asian Markets Retreat

May 17, 2010

17/05/2010 The European unified currency is facing more risks as it has fallen to four-year low against the dollar, after being hit by renewed fears over the strength of the Eurozone country and as the global stock markets mostly retreated on Monday, with the heaviest falls in Asia .

Despite the huge sums of money pledged in support for Eurozone countries, the Euro fell to $1.2237, while one pound was worth 1.1702 Euros. Thus, severe austerity measures are needed to cut budget deficits and debt.
This is affecting the value of the euro as analysts worry the cuts will hold back economic growth in the Eurozone.

Asian equity markets tumbled on Monday, with Shanghai diving five percent to reach the lowest level in more than a year. Tokyo fell 2.17 percent, hitting an 11-week low, Hong Kong shed 2.14 percent and Sydney slumped 3.12 percent.
The picture was brighter in Europe, with London managing to rise 0.44 percent and Frankfurt up 0.16 percent in morning trade, although Paris fell 0.45 percent.

This situation is affecting the value of the euro as analysts worry the cuts will hold back economic growth in the Eurozone.
John Kyriakopoulos, from the National Australia Bank in Sydney, said: “Concerns that severe fiscal austerity in the eurozone will crush growth in the region continues to weigh (on the euro).”

The debt crisis began when Greece teetered towards default triggering fears that other weak Eurozone economies such as Portugal, Spain and Italy may be next.
Athens is now paying a painful price for its past overspending with the government forced to slash civil servant pay and pensions while raising taxes as a condition for a 110-billion-euro EU-IMF bailout.

The IMF and EU agreed the Greek bailout only at the beginning of May, and a week later were forced to put together a trillion-dollar –750 bn euro- a rescue plan to the unified currency as investors continued to dump the currency and European shares.




Plane Crashes in Afghanistan with 43 on Board

May 17, 2010

17/05/2010 An Afghan passenger plane carrying 43 people in an internal flight between Kunduz and Kabul has crashed Monday in bad weather in mountainous area of northern Afghanistan. It was not immediately clear whether there were any survivors.

The government said the aircraft lost radio contact in the Hindu Kush mountains about 30 kilometers from the capital. It was carrying 38 passengers and five crew, said interior ministry spokesman Zemarai Bashary. Six passengers were foreigners.

“I can confirm that a Pamir Airways plane has crashed over the Salang mountains with 38 passengers and five crew members on board,” Bashary said.
The Antonov 24, which is a Soviet-made turboprop plane, crashed because of bad weather, said Yalda Natiq, director of communications at the Afghan transport ministry.

According to a passenger list obtained by AFP from the Pamir Airways office in Kunduz, six foreigners, including a woman, boarded the plane. There were 35 men and three women, according to the name list.
The Afghan authorities said the nationalities of the foreigners were unclear. The US embassy was “investigating” their identities, a spokesman said.
The Afghan government dispatched a team to the mountains to find the wreckage and search for survivors.

NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said it was assisting, but that poor weather made the search difficult.
“A manned ISAF fixed-wing aircraft has been dispatched to the last known position of the missing plane. However, the poor weather conditions in the area are hampering the aerial search,” the military said.
“Two ISAF helicopters are en route to the area. Other ISAF helicopters are also on standby… to assist in any rescue effort,” it said.



BP has ‘systematic’ safety problems: U.S. official- FT

May 17, 2010

LONDON, May 17 (Reuters) – Energy giant BP <BP.L><BP.N> has a “systematic safety problem” at its refineries, a U.S Labour Department official told the Financial Times in its Monday edition. “BP executives, they talk a good line.
They say they want to improve safety,” Jordan Barab, a senior official at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, known as OSHA, told the paper. “But it doesn’t always translate down to the refineries themselves.
They still have a systematic safety problem,” Barab said. Last year U.S. safety regulators hit oil giant BP with a record $87.4 million fine for failing to fix safety violations at its Texas City, Texas, refinery after a deadly 2005 explosion.
Barab’s comments come as the company struggles to contain a massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico caused by a deadly oil rig explosion last month. (Reporting by Caroline Copley; Editing by Jan Paschal)

AlertNet news is provided by
17 May 2010 01:15:35 GMT

Source: Reuters


Arizona’s War on Immigrants

May 17, 2010

“Most immigrants are economic refugees,” Bob Kee explained as we drove across the rolling arid hills of south-central Arizona towards the border of Mexico. “US policy in the post-9/11 world states that the government knew there would be ‘collateral damage,’ meaning more dead migrants because of the increasing militarization of the borders. But when people are desperate, they’ll do what they need to do to feed their families. It’s a survival situation, and that’s where we’re at.”

Kee is a volunteer with the group the Samaritans, a migrant advocacy organization whose stated goals include “to save lives and relieve suffering of migrants in southern Arizona” and “to encourage elected leaders to humanize border policy.”

The Samaritans have their hands full, and while they are, from what Truthout saw, doing a great job on the former, clearly every group or person sympathetic to the plight of immigrants in that state are shocked by the recent legal machinations of Arizona Governor Jan Brewer.

Arizona’s new anti-immigrant law (SB1070), signed on April 19 and granting Arizona law enforcement personnel to detain people based on the “reasonable suspicion” that they are undocumented immigrants, recently elicited strong condemnation from six UN Human Rights experts, who on May 11 claimed that law could violate international standards that are binding in the US.

The experts said, “A disturbing pattern of legislative activity hostile to ethnic minorities and immigrants has been established with the adoption of an immigration law that may allow for police action targeting individuals on the basis of their perceived ethnic origin.”

Isabel Garcia, an immigration advocate and Federal Public Defender, told CNN on April 20 that the legislation “legalizes racial profiling” and added, “I think this bill represents the most dangerous precedent in this country, violating all of our due process rights. We have not seen this kind of legislation since the Jim Crow laws.”

Brewer also singed a controversial bill that bans ethnic studies in Arizona schools. just three weeks after signing SB1070. The more recent law banning ethnic studies affects specialized courses in African American and Native American studies, as well as possibly shutting down a popular Mexican-American studies program in the Tucson school district.

These draconian measures come on the heels of others, like migrant women in US custody being shackled during childbirth (as reported by Inter Press Service this March), and reports by the same agency a year ago that human and civil rights organizations charged that migrant women, while in Arizona’s Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office jails, suffered broken arms, dislocated jaws, intimidation and other vulgarities.

The mild-mannered Kee, who has been doing this work for four years, was taking me to see the trails immigrants coming across the border into Arizona use on their long, dry march towards economic opportunity. (Even the US Border Patrol [BP] admits that more than 90 percent of immigrants come to the US due to economics.)

As we passed scrub brush, dry creek beds, and various desert cactus while driving down the Altar Valley that most migrants use to enter Arizona, Kee told me how he comes out a few times each month to walk the trails with his first aid kit, extra water and food, looking for people in need – whether they be migrants from Mexico or Central and South America, or anyone else in this barren landscape in need of assistance.

People are dying in our backyard.

“The BP, as part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), has really stepped up their presence and policies here since 9/11,” Kee explained, “So their increasing militarization of our border has forced migrants into more remote and mountainous regions to avoid getting caught. That has caused a dramatic increase in the number of deaths, and we’re seeing it firsthand.”

Sealing traditional crossing areas and forcing migrants into more isolated, remote, and deadly areas is known as the “Funnel Effect,” as documented by the Bi-National Migration Institute.

The “collateral damage” from the BP and overall DHS policy comes in the form of what are referred to as “recovered remains.” When people die from exposure in the desert, it is extremely difficult to determine when they died if the body is not found quickly. So county medical examiners in the area (Pima, Yuma, Cochise counties) tally the number of “recovered remains” brought to them each month.

This March, the Tucson-based human rights group Coalicion de Derechos Humanos announced that the number of recovered remains on the Arizona-Sonora border since October 1, 2009 had reached 85, a 60 percent increase from last year. And this does not accurately reflect the total extent of the crisis, as numbers of recovered remains in neighboring states are not available. But the increasing numbers are indicative of a failed policy.

Kat Rodriguez is the Coordinator of Derechos Humanos. “We also continue to see the tragic trend of the recovery of remains of unknown gender, which make up about 24.7% of the numbers this year,” she wrote in a March press release about the dramatic increase in the number of recovered remains, “This means that approximately one in four individuals recovered are of unknown gender, making identification all the more difficult.”

Her group maintains a list of recovered remains in an effort to assist family members to identify their loved ones.

Kee drove us up a dirt road. We parked, and each put on a backpack filled with water, extra clothing, and snacks. He had a GPS and first aid pack, as well as extra water, in case we crossed paths with some migrants.

“Sometimes we come out and set jugs of water along their trails,” he explained, “Often when BP find them, they are confiscated or knifed. Not always, but this happens, along with the fact that we’ve had two Samaritans arrested and tried for putting out water.”

There are also numerous stories of the BP providing life-saving medical aid to stranded migrants, and their efforts to save the lives of groups that have been abandoned by their less-than-trustworthy guides (coyotes).

As we hike up a well-used trail, there are, periodically, empty water bottles and water jugs strewn along the way. It’s an ongoing cat and mouse game – as coyotes are paid large sums of money (by immigrant standards) to lead teams ranging from 3 to 30 migrants into the US across treacherous terrain.

Immigrants must trek across 20 to 60 miles of open desert, depending on where they get picked up on the US side. Then, if they are lucky enough not to be abandoned by their coyote, they are often loaded into a truck or van that takes them to an apartment, from which they find a way to a job, or relative who may be awaiting their arrival.

But things often go wrong. Minutemen sometimes take shots at migrants. There are stories of BP pushing migrants into cactus before taking them into custody (BP tend to call migrants “tonks” because that is the sound their flashlights make when they strike the skull of a migrant), and coyotes sometimes rape their female clients, in addition to the aforementioned deaths.

“We find folks with blisters you would not believe, ankle injuries, extremely dehydrated and hungry,” Kee explained as we hiked along the rugged trail, “Nobody should die out here. We’re simply trying to prevent that from happening.”

We come upon on old adobe house that has long since been abandoned. It’s filled with burned mattresses, garbage, bullet casings, and empty beer cans. “I’ve never found a migrant carrying beer,” Kee said with a smirk.

Further along the trail there are more empty water jugs, and old empty bottles of electrolyte drinks. Kee continued talking to me.

“If there was a poor family in Kentucky, and the father ventured to California to find a job to support them, he’d be a hero,” Kee explained, “What’s the difference here? Only that somebody drew a line in the sand.”

Any report on the immigration issue would be remiss if it failed to mention NAFTA as the root cause. Locals in Mexico and other countries in Central America struggle to earn a living due to neoliberal economic policies that undercut their ability to do so – hence, turning them into economic refugees who then look north for salvation.

Our hike failed to produce an encounter with any migrants, so Kee took me to a camp maintained by the group No More Deaths near the small town of Ruby.  The group, whose slogan is “Humanitarian aid is never a crime” maintains an ongoing humanitarian presence in this desert migration corridor south of Tucson. They do so by keeping a fixed base camp and intermittent mobile camps, and concentrate on upholding “the most fundamental human right – life itself – by providing basic humanitarian assistance to those in need.”

No More Deaths also works in Mexico by maintaining aid centers for deported immigrants in border towns of the Sonora, where they provide medical care, recovery of confiscated belongings, and work to document human rights violations. Their volunteers are “committed to bearing public witness to the injustices taking place on the border” and in 2008 published a detailed report, “Crossing the Line: Human Rights Abuses of Migrants in Short-Term Custody on the Arizona/Sonora Border.”

There are two large tents-comprised of tarps strapped to PVC pipes. Under one of these sit 13 students sharing lunch together. These, from University of Vermont, Notre Dame, Gilford College, and Northern Arizona University are part of a larger contingent of 42 students doing internships with No More Deaths. In total, 150 students volunteered their spring breaks with No More Deaths.

“I’d want to know someone cared if I was walking around out there, lost and hurting,” Christa Sadler, a student from Flagstaff, told Truthout. “If I can just work with one person, bandage one blister, at least I can do that.”

Gene Lefebure, a volunteer of six years who helped start No More Deaths, sat nearby eating a sandwich. When I asked him why he does this work, he looked me deep in my eyes and said, “People are dying in our backyard.”

I don’t hate the agents, I hate their policies.

A few days later, in Tucson, Kat Rodriguez from Derechos Humanos agreed to drive me to see the border wall erected by the US National Guard near the Arizona town of Sasabe, 71 miles southwest of Tucson.

“Many people, even Mexican-American documented citizens of the United States, are too afraid to access medical services because of fear of deportation/harassment,” Rodriguez explained as she drove us south across the desert. The conversation then shifted back to her core work, documenting recovered remains and human rights abuses.

“We get calls from families asking about their loved ones who crossed if they haven’t heard from them,” she said. “We also get calls from workers who come here, then don’t get paid by their employer. They hire them, work them hard, then don’t pay them, and often get away with it since the workers are undocumented.”

According to Rodriguez, the level of anti-immigrant sentiment in Arizona is so high that these types of abuses and violations are rampant. “BP claims that 10 percent of the migrants are criminals, but they don’t have any data to back their claim,” she added.

She explained how migrants are often robbed by their coyotes, or handed over to bandits to do the same. If a migrant sprains an ankle, they are often left behind to die.

Rodriguez, like Kee, told Truthout that there are plenty of instances where the BP has saved migrants lives, but her focus is on BP abuses.

“Most of these stories aren’t officially recorded because of fear,” she said as we approached the small border town of Sasabe, “But there are plenty of stories of men being caught and thrown into cactuses, not given medical attention, and one woman who was stuck with the butt of a gun by a BP agent. Then they just say she fell and hit a rock.”

“The militarization of the border is imposing this oppression,” Rodriguez continued passionately. “Half the BP agents are Chicano, and they are more heavy-handed with the migrants because they feel like they need to prove themselves. There is an economic draft with the BP, like that with the military.”

She added, “I don’t hate the agents, I hate their policies.”

We arrived at the tiny border town of Sasabe. After a few winds in the road, Rodriguez guns the engine and we hop onto a dirt road and bump alongside the 14 foot high metal border fence erected by the Arizona National Guard. “Once we get to the end, we’ll have about six or seven minutes before the BP show up,” Rodriguez said as we sped up and down steep ravines.

At the end of the 2.2-mile dirt road (the fence runs approximately two miles the other direction as well), we stopped and got out to look at the end of the wall, which ceased abruptly as it entered more hilly terrain. I laughed to find immediately at the end of the wall a bumper sticker attached to one of the wall bars that read ‘No Border Wall,’ and a large, well-worn path used by migrants. The path was akin to many I’ve hiked in large US National Parks, except that it was strewn with empty water bottles. The presence of the path less than five feet from the end of the wall underscores the futility of the wall.

“It makes them [politicians, BP, etc.] feel warm and fuzzy and safe,” mocked Rodriguez. “I wouldn’t say this increases BP’s chances of catching people. I bring people here because it’s so obvious what this is. It’s a joke.”

We climbed back into her truck and started driving back out the bumpy road, as Rodriguez continued, “I don’t see things getting better. The Obama administration is listening to previous advisers on this. This policy has been a complete failure.”

A BP agent pulled us over when we were on our way back to Tucson and asked us where we were from. After hearing our accents and profiling us, he let us go without asking to see our IDs, and Rodriguez kept talking.

“I think there are some things you can’t un-witness and unlearn,” she said, “So for me not to do this work, I don’t think I could live with myself. And I also think about how much worse it would be if I did not do this.”

She admitted that sometimes rewards for her work only come in grim form. “Every so often we ID a body and give a family closure,” she said in a lowered voice as we neared Tucson. “I’ve had to be the one to tell somebody their loved one is dead. I have heard the hope literally be breathed out of their body when they heard that their person is dead.”

Rodriguez told Truthout that since the border policies were implemented in the 1990’s, there have been more than 5,000 recovered remains found, and “who knows how many more are out there?”

Rodriguez explained that 52 percent of all the migrants from Mexico use this corridor in south-central Arizona. “So this is ground zero,” she said. “1,000-1,500 immigrants a day are processed through the Federal Court in Tucson.”

Operation “Streamline Taxpayer Money into the Private Prison Industry”

The $67 million edifice that is the Evo DeConcini (former Arizona Attorney General) Federal Courthouse in Tucson stands as a monument to corruption.

Every weekday at 1 p.m., around 75 undocumented immigrants, freshly caught by the BP, are paraded into a cavernous courtroom on the third floor. The clinking from their manacles and leg irons echoes around the room while they are led to their seats, all of them wearing the same dirty clothes they were wearing in the desert when they were picked up by BP. More clinking as each stands when their name was called, as they each answered “presente.” Then clinking again as they were taken, five at a time, to stand in front of the Judge Tom Ferraro to plead guilty, in a simultaneous “Si,” for entering the country illegally.

Thus is immigration criminalized by a vulgar display of inhumanity.

The maximum sentences, as explained by the judge, are six months in jail and a $5,000 fine. After more information is imparted to them by the judge, five at a time, the migrants are asked if they signed their plea agreements, to which they all answer “Si” simultaneously. To this Judge Ferraro replies, “All plead guilty.” Any who incurred legal infractions during previous stays are given more time in jail.

There is a short period after this when each of their lawyers (who are paid between $6,000 and $12,000 of US taxpayer money per day), standing behind their immigrant “clients,” make brief requests from the judge for their clients. A husband and wife asked to be sent to the same jail so that when they are released they will be together. Another asked if he could be held in Tucson so he can be near his three daughters who live there.

To these Judge Ferraro responded that he would make a recommendation towards this, but the final decision would be up to the prison. After this, he announced, “That’s all gentlemen. Thank you and good luck to you.”

As another group of five migrants shuffle their way out of the courtroom, I notice a shorter man wearing a dirty yellow and white shirt, with a particularly anguished look on his face. His eyes catch mine just as he exits the courtroom.

The total amount of time it takes from when Judge Ferraro began calling their five names to his dismissal of them is five minutes and 17 seconds, roughly one minute and three seconds per migrant for their “trial.”

Isabel Garcia, the aforementioned Federal Public Defender, is not amused by these ongoing show-trials at the US District Court of Arizona.

“All pretense of any justice is removed, aside from having a judge and lawyer present,” she told Truthout before we entered the courtroom. “The entire criminal case happens before your eyes. My position is that DHS controls everything – these judges and courts are doing what the BP wants. This is just a show trial, but with real consequences for the immigrants and taxpayer.”

Operation Streamline was created by George W. Bush’s DHS in 2005, on the theory provided by BP that by recording migrants illegal entries, they would be deterred from returning over the border. Since the program was launched in 2008, it has not functioned as a deterrent in any way. Instead, it has served as a generator of millions of taxpayer dollars into Arizona’s economy. BP agents, federal marshals, criminal defense attorneys, judges, and especially Arizona’s private prison industry, are all on the receiving end of these funds.

Garcia told Truthout that it costs taxpayers between $20 and $22 million per month “to run this courthouse, not including lawyers or the private prison complex that locks up the immigrants.”

Many of the migrants do their time in nearby Eloy, Arizona, at the Eloy Detention Center that is operated by the private prison firm Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). In addition to the Eloy Detention Center, the CCA has brought three more detention facilities to the small town, adding 1,500 new jobs. David Gonzalez, Arizona’s US marshal, said taxpayers shell out between $9 and $11 million every month to incarcerate migrants at Eloy alone.

CCA has pulled off this money-making scheme by the usual methods.

Former Arizona Democratic Senator Dennis DeConcini, (whose father the courthouse is named after), is on the board of directors of CCA, and is also friends with former Arizona governor Janet Napolitano, who left that post to become DHS Director.

In Mexico

The next day, Truthout visited the border town of Nogales, where immigrants are usually dumped by another profiteer of the movement to criminalize immigration – Wackenhut transportation services. The port of entry here is also named “DeConcini.”

Through the port, a short walk down a hill brings one to the building of Grupo Beta, a Mexican group that provides first aid and assistance to returned migrants. Sitting outside I am surprised to see two men I recognized from inside the DeConcini courthouse from Operation Streamline the day before. One of them is the fellow with the dirty yellow and white shirt, still wearing the same anguished look on his face.

His name is Victor Rodriguez and he is 45 years old. He is an unemployed plumber who was caught by the BP while trying to make is way across the border en route to Chicago to see his 3-year-old daughter. He’d lived and worked in the US for 13 years, before he was caught by immigration authorities and sent back to Mexico.

He was one of a group of 15 who had paid their coyote $2,800 for the trip over the border, and now he is broke, without even fare for a bus ride home.

When asked what he would do now, he took a deep breath, exhaled, and said, “Nada.” After a pause, he added, “Maybe in two months I will try again, because I have no money and no work. It’s my only option.”

Sitting beside him was Royal Mendoza, 35 years old, who was also in Operation Streamline the day before. Like Rodriguez, Mendoza had lived in the US. He was in Philadelphia for four years, working as a mechanic, but was caught without papers and sent back to Mexico. He has made seven attempts to cross back into the US, and plans now to try again.

“My family is there and I need to be with my family,” he explained. “My wife is a waitress in Philadelphia, and I have a 1-month-old daughter there.”

Every person Truthout spoke with explained that they had tried to enter the US before, and will try again.

Javier Hernandez explained that he could “write a book” about his experiences while trying to cross the border to get back to his wife, who lives in Nashville and is studying at a community college. He, like many others, had lived in the States before. “I have had so many experiences and so many stories,” he explained. “But now I have no money, so I have troubles.”

Irena Bargas, 38 years old, lived and worked for seven years in Houston “at a plastic company,” and has a 7-year-old daughter there.

“I’ve been back in Mexico for one week now,” she said tiredly, “I will try again to go back. Who could live without being near their child? All of us will try again, because many of us have family in the United States, and none of us have jobs here. We stay here separated from our families and starve because there is no work, or we try again.”

** Dahr Jamail’s MidEast Dispatches **
** Visit Dahr Jamail’s website **

Dahr Jamail’s new book, The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, is now available.

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As one of the first and few unembedded Western journalists to report the truth about how the United States has destroyed, not liberated, Iraqi society in his book Beyond the Green Zone, Jamail now investigates the under-reported but growing antiwar resistance of American GIs. Gathering the stories of these courageous men and women, Jamail shows us that far from “supporting our troops,” politicians have betrayed them at every turn. Finally, Jamail shows us that the true heroes of the criminal tragedy of the Iraq War are those brave enough to say no.

Sunday 16 May 2010

by: Dahr Jamail, t r u t h o u t | Report

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Giant Plumes of Oil Forming Under the Gulf

May 17, 2010


Scientists are finding enormous oil plumes in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico, including one as large as 10 miles long, 3 miles wide and 300 feet thick in spots. The discovery is fresh evidence that the leak from the broken undersea well could be substantially worse than estimates that the government and BP have given.

Officials Ask BP to Assure It Will Cover Spill Claims (May 16, 2010) Times Topic: Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill (2010)“There’s a shocking amount of oil in the deep water, relative to what you see in the surface water,” said Samantha Joye, a researcher at the University of Georgia who is involved in one of the first scientific missions to gather details about what is happening in the gulf. “There’s a tremendous amount of oil in multiple layers, three or four or five layers deep in the water column.”

The plumes are depleting the oxygen dissolved in the gulf, worrying scientists, who fear that the oxygen level could eventually fall so low as to kill off much of the sea life near the plumes.

Dr. Joye said the oxygen had already dropped 30 percent near some of the plumes in the month that the broken oil well had been flowing. “If you keep those kinds of rates up, you could draw the oxygen down to very low levels that are dangerous to animals in a couple of months,” she said Saturday. “That is alarming.”

The plumes were discovered by scientists from several universities working aboard the research vessel Pelican, which sailed from Cocodrie, La., on May 3 and has gathered extensive samples and information about the disaster in the gulf.

Scientists studying video of the gushing oil well have tentatively calculated that it could be flowing at a rate of 25,000 to 80,000 barrels of oil a day. The latter figure would be 3.4 million gallons a day. But the government, working from satellite images of the ocean surface, has calculated a flow rate of only 5,000 barrels a day.

BP has resisted entreaties from scientists that they be allowed to use sophisticated instruments at the ocean floor that would give a far more accurate picture of how much oil is really gushing from the well.

“The answer is no to that,” a BP spokesman, Tom Mueller, said on Saturday. “We’re not going to take any extra efforts now to calculate flow there at this point. It’s not relevant to the response effort, and it might even detract from the response effort.”

The undersea plumes may go a long way toward explaining the discrepancy between the flow estimates, suggesting that much of the oil emerging from the well could be lingering far below the sea surface.

The scientists on the Pelican mission, which is backed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the federal agency that monitors the health of the oceans, are not certain why that would be. They say they suspect the heavy use of chemical dispersants, which BP has injected into the stream of oil emerging from the well, may have broken the oil up into droplets too small to rise rapidly.

BP said Saturday at a briefing in Robert, La., that it had resumed undersea application of dispersants, after winning Environmental Protection Agency approval the day before.

“It appears that the application of the subsea dispersant is actually working,” Doug Suttles, BP’s chief operating officer for exploration and production, said Saturday. “The oil in the immediate vicinity of the well and the ships and rigs working in the area is diminished from previous observations.”

Many scientists had hoped the dispersants would cause oil droplets to spread so widely that they would be less of a problem in any one place. If it turns out that is not happening, the strategy could come under greater scrutiny. Dispersants have never been used in an oil leak of this size a mile under the ocean, and their effects at such depth are largely unknown.

Much about the situation below the water is unclear, and the scientists stressed that their results were preliminary. After the April 20 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon, they altered a previously scheduled research mission to focus on the effects of the leak.

Interviewed on Saturday by satellite phone, one researcher aboard the Pelican, Vernon Asper of the University of Southern Mississippi, said the shallowest oil plume the group had detected was at about 2,300 feet, while the deepest was near the seafloor at about 4,200 feet.

“We’re trying to map them, but it’s a tedious process,” Dr. Asper said. “Right now it looks like the oil is moving southwest, not all that rapidly.”

He said they had taken water samples from areas that oil had not yet reached, and would compare those with later samples to judge the impact on the chemistry and biology of the ocean.

While they have detected the plumes and their effects with several types of instruments, the researchers are still not sure about their density, nor do they have a very good fix on the dimensions.

Given their size, the plumes cannot possibly be made of pure oil, but more likely consist of fine droplets of oil suspended in a far greater quantity of water, Dr. Joye said. She added that in places, at least, the plumes might be the consistency of a thin salad dressing.

Dr. Joye is serving as a coordinator of the mission from her laboratory in Athens, Ga. Researchers from the University of Mississippi and the University of Southern Mississippi are aboard the boat taking samples and running instruments.

Dr. Joye said the findings about declining oxygen levels were especially worrisome, since oxygen is so slow to move from the surface of the ocean to the bottom. She suspects that oil-eating bacteria are consuming the oxygen at a feverish clip as they work to break down the plumes.

While the oxygen depletion so far is not enough to kill off sea life, the possibility looms that oxygen levels could fall so low as to create large dead zones, especially at the seafloor. “That’s the big worry,” said Ray Highsmith, head of the Mississippi center that sponsored the mission, known as the National Institute for Undersea Science and Technology.

The Pelican mission is due to end Sunday, but the scientists are seeking federal support to resume it soon.

“This is a new type of event, and it’s critically important that we really understand it, because of the incredible number of oil platforms not only in the Gulf of Mexico but all over the world now,” Dr. Highsmith said. “We need to know what these events are like, and what their outcomes can be, and what can be done to deal with the next one.”



Economic Power: Avoid Arizona and Boycott BP

May 17, 2010

Joel S. Hirschhorn

Money is power.  Each of us has it to varying degrees.  Our challenge is to use our spending to advance worthy goals.  Right now we see economic power being used against the state of Arizona because of the awful legislation recently passed that makes it all too easy for police there to seek proof of citizenship from virtually anyone they choose.  Many groups and government entities have already cancelled conferences and other activities in Arizona, sending state and business leaders into a frizzy.  They deserve to suffer as do the vast majority of Arizona citizens that supported the legislation.  Every American that professes love and respect for the Constitution should avoid spending their tourism and other kinds of spending in Arizona.

Economic boycotts can be very powerful and change the world for the better.  Sadly, too few Americans use their personal spending power to advance worthy goals.  An immediate opportunity is for people to stop buying BP gasoline.  After all, it is clear that BP acted irresponsibly and likely criminally in using offshore oil drilling technology that posed enormous risks to public and worker safety as well as our natural environment in the Gulf of Mexico and possibly far beyond.

Make BP suffer where it hurts, where it can truly harm them.  Send a clear signal that we will get revenge as consumers with an environmental conscience.  An immediate boycott of BP could do much to make the company compensate the incredible number of people that will suffer very much because of the humongous oil spill that should have been prevented.  We cannot depend on BP acting responsibly; nor can we count on the government or the courts for delivering timely justice.

So simple.  While you may not have opportunities to stop spending in Arizona you are more likely to stop spending at BP outlets.  If you can influence decisions by others to stop spending in these two ways, then do it with strength and passion.

There is a Boycott BP page on Facebook.  Show your support.  Over at the Public Citizen website you can sign a petition: “Take the Beyond BP Pledge! Drive a car? Like the occasional fountain drink? Send a clear message to BP by boycotting its gas and retail store products. Don’t spend a cent of your hard-earned money to feed the bottom line of a corporation that has a sordid history of negligence, willfully violates environmental regulations, and is spewing thousands and thousands of barrels of oil a day into the Gulf of Mexico.  I pledge to boycott BP for at least three months.”  Public Citizen has also created a Facebook group “1,000,000 Strong to Boycott BP.”

“Boycott BP into bankruptcy” – said Cindy Sheehan.  Amen.

A short while back John Antczak on Huffington Post complained that there is “no apparent sign of a consumer backlash at the pump like the boycott triggered by the Exxon Valdez spill 21 years ago.”  He also noted that “owners interviewed by The Associated Press across the country say it’s been business as usual since the April 20 explosion on a rig off Louisiana began unleashing 200,000 gallons of crude a day.”  However, this too must be noted: It took 40 days for outrage to coalesce into a one-day national boycott of Exxon stations.

Note that n the West, BP sells gas under the long-established Arco brand.

According to BP’s website, there are more than 10,000 BP-branded gas stations in the U.S. and 1,500 under the Arco name.  BP says it sells more than 15 billion gallons of gasoline in the U.S. every year, second only to Shell.

Americans seem to find far too easy to justify buying at BP or Arco because of convenience or low price.  But everyone should see this choice as a moral one.  If you continue to pump money into the BP coffers you are acting immorally, stupidly and anti-environmentally.  Either you have a conscience or not.  Make the marketplace work to punish those that deserve to be punished.

[Contact Joel S. Hirschhorn at]


Less Toxic Dispersants Lose Out in BP Oil Spill Cleanup

May 16, 2010

BP PLC continues to stockpile and deploy oil-dispersing chemicals manufactured by a company with which it shares close ties, even though other U.S. EPA-approved alternatives have been shown to be far less toxic and, in some cases, nearly twice as effective.

After the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded and a deepwater well began gushing crude in the Gulf of Mexico three weeks ago, BP quickly marshaled a third of the world’s available supply of dispersants, chemicals that break surface oil slicks into microscopic droplets that can sink into the sea.

But the benefits of keeping some oil out of beaches and wetlands carry uncertain costs. Scientists warn that the dispersed oil, as well as the dispersants themselves, might cause long-term harm to marine life.

So far, BP has told federal agencies that it has applied more than 400,000 gallons of a dispersant sold under the trade name Corexit and manufactured by Nalco Co., a company that was once part of Exxon Mobil Corp. and whose current leadership includes executives at both BP and Exxon. And another 805,000 gallons of Corexit are on order, the company said, with the possibility that hundreds of thousands of more gallons may be needed if the well continues spewing oil for weeks or months.

But according to EPA data, Corexit ranks far above dispersants made by competitors in toxicity and far below them in effectiveness in handling southern Louisiana crude.

Of 18 dispersants whose use EPA has approved, 12 were found to be more effective on southern Louisiana crude than Corexit, EPA data show. Two of the 12 were found to be 100 percent effective on Gulf of Mexico crude, while the two Corexit products rated 56 percent and 63 percent effective, respectively. The toxicity of the 12 was shown to be either comparable to the Corexit line or, in some cases, 10 or 20 times less, according to EPA.

EPA has not taken a stance on whether one dispersant should be used over another, leaving that up to BP. All the company is required to do is to choose an EPA-approved chemical, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson told reporters yesterday during a conference call aimed at addressing questions about dispersants being used in efforts to contain the Gulf spill.

“Our regular responsibilities say, if it’s on the list and they want to use it, then they are preauthorized to do so,” Jackson said.

One explanation for BP’s reliance on Nalco’s Corexit, which its competitors say dominates the niche market for dispersants because of its industry ties, was its availability in large quantities at the time of the Gulf spill.

“Obviously, logistics and stockpiles and the ability for the responsible party to pull the materials together,” Jackson said. “I’m sure that has a lot to do with the ones that they choose.”

Nonetheless, experts question BP’s sustained commitment to Corexit, given apparently superior alternatives.

“Why wouldn’t you go for the lesser toxic formulation?” said Carys Mitchelmore, an assistant professor of environmental chemistry and toxicology at the University of Maryland’s Center for Environmental Science. Mitchelmore testified on Capitol Hill this week about dispersants and co-authored a 2005 National Academy of Sciences report on the chemicals.

BP spokesman Jon Pack defended the use of Corexit, which he said was decided in consultation with EPA. He called Corexit “pretty effective” and said the product had been “rigorously tested.”

“I’m not sure about the others,” Pack said. “This has been used by a number of major companies as an effective, low-toxicity dispersant.”

BP is not considering or testing other dispersants because the company’s attention is focused on plugging the leak and otherwise containing the spill, Pack said.

“That has to be our primary focus right now,” he said.

Nalco spokesman Charlie Pajor said the decision on what to use was out of his company’s hands. He also declined to comment on EPA comparison tests, saying only that lab conditions cannot necessarily replicate those in the field. “The decision about what’s used is made by others — not by us,” he said.

Nalco’s connections

Critics say Nalco, a joint partnership with Exxon Chemical that was spun off in the 1990s, boasts oil-industry insiders on its board of directors and among its executives, including an 11-year board member at BP and a top Exxon executive who spent 43 years with the oil giant.

“It’s a chemical that the oil industry makes to sell to itself, basically,” said Richard Charter, a senior policy adviser for Defenders of Wildlife.

The older of the two Corexit products that BP has used in the Gulf spill, Corexit 9527, was also sprayed in 1989 on the 11-million-gallon slick created by the Exxon Valdez grounding in Alaska’s Prince William Sound.

Cleanup workers suffered health problems afterward, including blood in their urine and assorted kidney and liver disorders. Some health problems were blamed on the chemical 2-butoxyethanol, an ingredient discontinued in the latest version of Corexit, Corexit 9500, whose production Nalco officials say has been ramped up in response to the Gulf of Mexico disaster.

Among Corexit’s competitors, a product called Dispersit far outpaced Corexit 9500, EPA test results show, rating nearly twice as effective and between half and a third as toxic, based on two tests performed on fish and shrimp.

Bruce Gebhardt, president of the company that manufactures Dispersit, U.S. Polychemical Corp., said BP asked for samples of his company’s product two weeks ago. Later, he said, BP officials told him that EPA had wanted to ensure they had “crossed all their T’s and dotted all their I’s” before moving forward.

Gebhardt says he could make 60,000 gallons a day of Dispersit to meet the needs of spill-containment efforts. Dispersit was formulated to outperform Corexit and got EPA approval 10 years ago, he said, but the dispersant has failed to grab market share from its larger rival.

“When we came out with a safer product, we thought people would jump on board,” he said. “That’s not the case. We were never able to move anyone of any size off the Corexit product.”

He added, “We’re just up against a giant.”

Copyright 2010 E&E Publishing. All Rights Reserved.

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By PAUL QUINLAN of Greenwire


Codependency Leads to Unhealthy Relationships – Part 1

May 16, 2010
More than ever before, people speak in terms of ‘working on’ relationships. This means if they are not happy in the relationship, be it a marriage, friendship or family connection, they care enough to try to make it better. This is a good thing, most of the time. No one can argue with putting some energy into making it work. If both people are emotionally healthy, respectful of the individuality of the other, and able to maintain healthy boundaries, they should see good results.

Unfortunately, sometimes the best of intentions can backfire, for reasons beyond your control. This can happen when you are involved with someone who needs to use you to fulfill deep emotional needs, but may or may not be consciously aware of it.

Let’s look at an example. You meet someone with whom you have a lot in common. A friendship develops, and you feel very positive about it. Things go well for a while, but then slowly at first, your friend may become cold and distant. At first, there may be denial that anything is wrong. Ultimately, you find that the friend is hurt or angry, because you did not meet some expectation that they had. You may feel badly, and redouble your efforts to be a good friend. You then start to anticipate how the friend will feel about things, and alter your behavior accordingly.

You are now trapped in the sticky web of codependency. This web requires one person who truly wants others to be happy, perhaps even more than they want that for themselves, and another who expects others to make him or her happy. Resentment begins to build within you, because what once was freely given, now seems to be demanded, and in even greater amounts. Because you are one who likes to make things work, you find yourself spending more and more time ‘processing’ the relationship with this person.

What neither of you may recognize is that you have become the unwitting victim of another’s need to play out unresolved hurts from the past. When you begin to feel the frustration of the unrealistic expectations placed upon you, and try to pull back from the relationship, you enter another level of craziness. The codependent may suddenly become very friendly, loving, even remorseful. You may even be told that you are the only one who really understands him or her. There is a promise that things will be different. They will: but just until you are lulled into falling back into the trap again.

The cycle repeats again and again, often with more intense confrontation each time. You may not understand why, but the codependent thrives on the confrontation with you. It gives them the opportunity to vent all of their hurts and anger from the past. For some, emotional entanglement is better than feeling ignored.  Look for Part 2 of this article next week.

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and award-winning Psychotherapist.  For permission to reprint this article, or to obtain books or cds, visit


Burnout and Quick Fixes

May 16, 2010

I once gave a talk on the subject of “burnout”,  and afterward one of the participants indicated that what she had really been hoping for was a quick fix. I thought about this, and the only quick fixes I could come up with were winning a lottery, or a frontal lobotomy.

Burnout is a little like the process of gaining weight. It happens little by little, over time. Crash diets don’t work, and what is really required is a change in dietary habits and lifestyle. Sure, you might lose some weight by starving yourself  for a few weeks, but unless you have made major changes, the weight will come back. Well, think about burnout as the result of “bingeing” on work,  or stressful situations. Yes, you could escape to an island getaway for a time. But unless you do something about the day to day stress in your real life, you can feel burned out again only weeks after your vacation.

The quick fix mentality may actually make burnout worse, just as the crash diet exacerbates the weight problem. If we are satisfied with quick fixes, we may never address the real issues. And often the quick fixes we want involve changes in other people or situations. So I suppose I must settle for being an advocate of the slow, steady fix.

Life,  for most,  is a long term proposition. It’s worth the effort to learn to live it in a way that feels good, and that honors both ourselves and others. However, doing so involves many challenges. The biggest challenge just might be self-honesty.  It can be hard to discern how we really feel in the face of a lifetime of conditioning as to how we should feel.  It can be difficult to face up to the fact that our views are very different from those of our parents, our partners, our friends or our children.  Even more difficult is expressing those differences, particularly  if  we fear that expressing them will create discomfort in those relationships.  Burnout is ignited in that space between what we really want,  and what we feel is expected of us.  The bigger the space, and the longer it exists, the more we get burned.

This is the level at which burnout must be addressed, and not at the level of its symptoms. Massaging those tense muscles is wonderful.  Meditating to find inner peace is beautiful.  But consider the possibility of being peaceful and relaxed as a way of life.  Can you imagine signing up for trip where a “cope kit” was included to help you survive, and to deal with all of the unpleasantness? Perhaps if you had a burning desire to climb Mt. Everest, then the discomfort might be worth it. You certainly would not choose that otherwise.

If we are merely “coping” with life, if we are living at the emotional  “survival” level, then perhaps we are on a wrong  path. Or on the right path, but doing it the wrong way.  If our house were burning down, we would call for help to douse the flames.  If our energy, our life, laughter and spirit are burning out, there is a tendency to suffer in silence.  We must remember though, there are always choices.  Doing nothing is a choice.  Going for a quick fix is a choice. Dipping into the deep wisdom of your own Soul is also a choice. Choose carefully;  the quality of your life depends upon it.

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and award-winning Psychotherapist. For permission to reprint this article, or to obtain books or cds, visit