Australian Town’s Air Pollution As Bad As Beijing’s Due To Coal Mine Fire

The fire at Victoria, Australia’s Hazelwood coal mine has burned for nearly a month now and blanketed the nearby town of South Morwell in hazardous smog, but the end seems to be near. A government advisory last week encouraged children, the elderly, and pregnant women to leave town until air quality improved, and they appear to have listened. Residents have abandoned more than half of the 750 homes in the worst-affected area of the Latrobe valley, as the air quality drops to the same level as smog-choked Beijing. Levels of PM 2.5 particles, the small variety that is most harmful to health, peaked at 565.3 micrograms per cubic meter of air on February 22 in Morwell South, about the same as Beijing’s peak. That’s well into the highest category of pollution, Hazardous, defined as any level over 300 micrograms.

Denver-Area High School Students Stage Walkout over History Course Censorship

Hundreds of Denver-area high school students have staged a walkout over an attempt to censor their history curriculum. A right-wing majority on the Jefferson County school board has pushed extensive changes to AP history courses to promote corporatism and deference to authority. Their proposed changes include the removal of all mentions of civil disobedience from textbooks and materials. The student walkout on Tuesday followed a similar action by teachers that shut down two high schools for a day last week.

React to the killing of innocents in Middle East

Also boycott following Israeli related companies

Intel, Motorola, Hewlett-Packard (HP),, IBM, Pampers, Coca-Cola, Caterpillar
GAP, Banana Republic, Calvin Klein, BOSS, M&S, DKNY which uses Delta-Galils textile
Gillette, Head & Shoulders, Vicks, Old Spice, Procter & Gamble (P&G), Johnson & Johnson, Revlon, McDonald’s, Nestle, Milkmaid, Maggi, KitKat, L’Oréal

Please reduce oil use as energy source as well as fertilisers, plastics etc in the chemical industry.
This list is not complete.

Posted in Education, Environment, News, Pollution | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

How Did the FBI Miss Over 1 Million Rapes?

Earlier this month, a 911 dispatcher in Ohio was recorded telling a 20-year-old woman who had just been raped to “quit crying.” After she provided a description of her assailant, the caller went on to say, “They’re not going to be able to find him with the information that you’ve given.” This incident had its viral moment, sparking outrage at the dispatcher’s lack of empathy. But it also speaks to the larger issue of how we are counting rapes in the United States. Sixty-nine percent of police departments surveyed in 2012 said that dispatchers like this one, often with little training, are authorized to do the initial coding of sexual assault crimes.

That’s important, because miscoding of such crimes is masking the high incidence of rape in the United States. We don’t have an overestimation of rape; we have a gross underestimation. A thorough analysis of federal data published earlier this year by Corey Rayburn Yung, associate professor at the University of Kansas School of Law, concludes that between 1995 and 2012, police departments across the country systematically undercounted and underreported sexual assaults.

Yung used murder rates—the statistic with the most reliable measure of accuracy and one that is historically highly correlated with the incidence of rape—as a baseline for his analysis. After nearly two years of work, he estimates conservatively that between 796,213 and 1,145,309 sexual assault cases never made it into national FBI counts during the studied period.

That’s more than 1 million rapes.

The estimates are conservative for two reasons. First, in order to consistently analyze the data over time, Yung looked only at cases defined by the FBI’s pre-2012 definition of rape (one established in 1927): “carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will.” This definition did not include anal or oral rape, cases involving drugging or alcohol, or the rape of boys and men. The Federal Criminal Code was recently broadened to include these categories. Second, the FBI and crime experts estimate that anywhere from 60 percent to 80 percent of rapes are never reported to the police.

Yung’s analysis, which focused on cities with populations of more than 100,000, found that 22 percent of the 210 studied police departments demonstrated “substantial statistical irregularities in their rape data.”

“It’s probably true that in all cities there is undercounting,” explains Yung. “However, forty-six outlier cities appear to be undercounting on a consistent, high level, which makes sense because you have to show [improved crime statistics] results year over year, and you get into a trap where you have to improve upon already low numbers.” Even worse, the number of jurisdictions that appear to be undercounting has increased by 61 percent during the period studied.

How are police departments undercounting sexual assault?

One of the primary ways is that officers discount victim testimony, categorizing complaints as “unfounded” or reclassifying allegations of rape as “noncriminal” minor offenses. In 2013, a 196-page report by Human Rights Watch documented widespread, systemic failures in the Washington, DC, police department’s handling and downgrading of sexual assault cases. Last month, an externally run audit of the New Orleans police department found that 46 percent of forcible rapes were misclassified. The New Orleans study indicted the department for having submitted rape statistics that were 43 percent lower than those from twenty-four comparable cities. And in Baltimore, reported rapes showed a suspicious 80 percent decline between 1995 and 2010, compared with a 7 percent national reduction. Yung also reveals that officers sometimes simply fail to write up reports after rape victims are interviewed.

Second, police departments have been found to destroy records and ignore or mishandle evidence, which leads not only to undercounting but dismissal of cases. Many of the jurisdictions showing consistent undercounting are also, unsurprisingly, those with rape kit backlogs (there are more than 400,000 untested kits in the United States). Many cities and states don’t even keep accurate track of the number of rape exams or of kits languishing, expired or in storerooms—but when they do, the numbers improve. The arrest rate for sex assault in New York City went from 40 percent to 70 percent after the city successfully processed an estimated 17,000 kits in the early 2000s. However, it is only in the past year, after embarrassing and critical news coverage, that most departments have begun to process backlogs. After being publicly shamed for having abandoned more than 11,000 rape kits, the Michigan State Police began testing them, identifying 100 serial rapists as a result.

Third, police departments continue to ignore rapes of women thought of as “fringe,” including prostitutes, runaways, trans women, drug addicts and people considered transient. Women of color in particular face difficulties. For example, for years, women repeatedly went to the police in Cleveland to report that Anthony Sowell had raped, beaten or otherwise violently assaulted them at his house. Little was done until 2009, when police finally found eleven decomposing bodies of women there.

Fourth, people making complaints are often harassed out of pursing them. In 2012, the police department of Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh, was held liable in a case in which police accused a reporting victim of lying during her interview, at one point telling her, “Your tears won’t save you now,” and failing to pursue the investigation. In St. Louis, victims were strongly urged by police to sign Sexual Assault Victim Waivers absolving police from responsibility to investigate or report the crime as a rape to the FBI. Yung points out in his report that until relatively recently, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department defied the law by using so-called “corroboration requirements” and reporting only those assaults deemed, in the words of LA police and prosecutors, “winnable” in court (“corroboration requirements,” referring to evidence supporting victims’ claims such as bloody clothes or bruises, have deep roots in jurisprudence but are no longer legal in most of the country, including California).

Victims of sexual assault still encounter hostility, doubt and aggressive questioning. When they do not conform to officers’ preconceived ideas about how rape victims “should” act, officers’ implicit biases come into play and, as a result, victims often feel they are the ones being investigated. These issues are often compounded by racism. Native American women, who suffer the highest rates of sexual assault in the country, describe being questioned about mental illness, drug use, alcohol abuse and more when reporting assaults. While some jurisdictions have substantially improved their policies, with many women reporting compassionate treatment by police, many others continue to report the opposite.

These preconceptions, rooted in myths about rape and a still-powerful cultural predisposition to blame victims, are serious and consequential. Police officers display the same implicit biases as the general public, a tendency also evident at colleges and universities, where campus police are often more focused on investigating the credibility of victims than in whether or not their vulnerability was exploited in a predatory way. Studies show a strong correlation among police officers between rape-myth acceptance, sexist attitudes and an unwillingness to process or investigate reported assaults.

Interestingly, the longer an officer has worked in a sexual assault unit, the less likely he or she is to believe in false claims. A majority of detectives with between one and seven years of experience believe that 40 percent of claims are false—in some cases that number is as high as 80 percent. But among officers with more than eight years’ experience, the rate drops precipitously, to 10 percent. On campus or off, these beliefs persist, despite the fact that rates of false allegations of rape are well understood by criminologists and other social scientists to be between 2 percent and 8 percent, in line with false allegations of other crimes.

The other aspect of bias is that it informs not only attitudes toward victims but also those regarding perpetrators. Racism and sexism conspire both in police assessments of the credibility of victims and in the targeting of potential perpetrators. Estelle Freedman describes the sex- and race-based historical roots and contemporary legacies of both of these biases in her sprawling examination of rape in America, Redefining Rape.

While police departments are not immune from these legacies, change is possible. In 1999, the Philadelphia Police Department improperly handled 2,300 out of 2,500 rape cases. As late as 2003, the unit investigating sex crimes was jokingly referred to as “the lying bitch unit.” In the wake of widespread criticism and protest, the department began a partnership with the Women’s Law Project to improve response to sex crimes, in an approach that subsequently became known as “the Philadelphia Model.” Both Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey and WLP executive director Carol Tracy testified at a 2010 Senate hearing that reviewed police handling of sex crimes, and in 2011, Ramsey convened a Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) summit. The resulting 2012 report, Improving the Police Response to Sexual Assault, which included research and commentary from multiple jurisdictions and advocacy groups, concluded that while progress is being made, many of the problems that existed in Philadelphia persist in other police jurisdictions.

Two weeks ago, Tallahassee police chief Michael DeLeo agreed to allow PERF to review and analyze his department’s policies, largely because of critical coverage of his department’s egregious mishandling of the 2012–13 sexual assault case involving Florida State University football player Jameis Winston. Almost all of the common procedural failures responsible for undercounting were illustrated in that case, so it is unlikely the complaints against Winston were included in the FBI’s annual count.

If we are to improve the handling and reporting of sexual assault crimes, external audits are critical, as is training of police departments by advocacy groups like the WLP. The fundamental approach of most police departments hasn’t change much in thirty years: training is not uniform or reliable, and often comes only at the behest of community advocates. Last year, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, whose membership comprises 21,000 departments, received a $450,000 grant from the federal Office on Violence Against Women to conduct training. While heartening, that comes out to roughly $22.50 per department.

In the meantime, as Yung puts it, “the sheer magnitude of the missing data…is staggering.” Of course, we need far more than improved police work, and undercounting is only part of the problem. Even when cases are properly recorded and investigated, the patterns evidenced in Yung’s analysis and the PERF report are reproduced in courtrooms, where rapists in most states still have the right to sue for custody of the children born of their assaults. And only 3 percent of rapists are ever imprisoned—that’s a crime we aren’t talking about.

Yung believes that these statistical distortions have significantly altered the nation’s historical record and understanding of rape in America. Accurate counts are vitally important—not only for the historical record, but because the data are used by academics, analysts, legislators, law enforcement officials, social justice advocates and media to determine trends, analyze crime, set policy and allocate resources. Law enforcement officials who are dedicated to addressing these problems understand that higher reporting numbers are a sign of trust in police departments.

— source

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Israeli Writer Gideon Levy: If Netanyahu Wants to Stop the Rockets, He Needs to Accept a Just Peace

Israeli journalist Gideon Levy talking:

You just have to look at the record. I mean, sure, Israel wants peace. Israel just doesn’t want a just peace. And it’s all about justice. You look backwards, and you ask yourself: In which stage, in which moment, was Israel willing to give up the occupation? Give me one example in which there was a genuine readiness to put an end to the occupation. It was never there. It was all about gaining time and maintaining the status quo. And it’s also now about gaining time and maintaining the status quo—namely, the West Bank occupied, Gaza under siege, peaceful life in Israel. This formula cannot last forever. And I wish I’ll be wrong, but I cannot recall one example in which there was a genuine willingness to put an end to the occupation. This was never. There were all kind of—we had Oslo. We had other peace talks. But it was never there.

And if you want the most ultimate proof for it, it’s the settlements. Nobody is saying we’ll continue to build settlements if he has an intention to return those lands. But Israel never stopped building settlements. And as Israel never stopped building settlements, Israel said to the Palestinians and to the world, “I have no intention to give up this piece of land.”

All the recent wars or operations in the recent 30 years were finally aimed at civilian populations, with horrifying scenes, with unproportional means, like in those days in Gaza. Finally, a war between Israel and Palestinians, in the recent—and Israel and Lebanon—in the recent 30 years looks always the same: Israelis killing many, many civilians, unproportionally, and the resistance, the Palestinian resistance, is trying to fight back. But, as I wrote in this article, it’s a meeting between an elephant and a fly, in terms of capabilities and equipment. And it always ends up the same, with hundreds and hundreds civilian casualties on the Palestinian or Lebanese side, with, thanks God, many, many fewer or much fewer casualties—and many times not at all—in Israelis’ side. And here we go to the next circle, to the next cycle, to the next confrontation.

watching at all those horrible scenes in Gaza—and, believe me, there are horrible scenes there, because watching the Israeli TV, you see none, or almost none, but watching international networks, you can see the real tragedy there—someone has to be taken accountable for this. Someone is responsible for this. And I thought that the pilots, who are the best of our sons, the most intelligent ones and the most highly appreciated ones—really, the elite of Israeli society—they take part in this, and they cannot remain out of any kind of responsibility, or at least some kind of moral doubts about what they are doing. Yes, they don’t see their victims: They sit in the cockpit. But I thought they should see and confront their victims, the civilian victims, the whole families which were exterminated in the recent days. And I aimed it to them, and I succeeded, at least, in creating a huge public debate in Israel.

I just say that in 2003, 27 very courageous pilots did not participate, wrote a letter of refusal and said they don’t want to take part in this. I say that this time there is even not one. I didn’t go further than this. We don’t know yet all the details, but I would expect at least some kind of awareness and public discussion about this issue, because they cannot be above, above discussion or above doubts. Also, pilots can be doubtful.

I’m quite experienced with threats, but now it’s becoming really unpleasant and maybe dangerous. I don’t know. But too many people warned me that my life is in danger. I don’t know if it’s true. But Ha’aretz, my newspaper, decided not to take risks, and I had to take a bodyguard.

I am one of those who believe that the only way to get out of this vicious circle is by international intervention, because Israel will not change by itself. And the only way is also by making Israel pay a price for the crimes of the occupation. And for this, there must be a wake-up call for the international community, which is rather passive—and especially so, the American administration, the administration of the United States, who could do—who could have done so much more and is doing so little, so little. So any kind of step toward this direction, hopefully, will be a wake-up call for Israel, first of all, and for the international community.

Gideon Levy, Ha’aretz columnist and a member of the newspaper’s editorial board. His latest article is “What Does Hamas Really Want?” and he is author of The Punishment of Gaza.

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Shutdown WallStreet now

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Merger of state and corporate power

Mussolini Would Call It Fascism

The definition of fascism used by Mussolini is the “merger of state and corporate power“.

Government and the big banks are in a malignant, symbiotic relationship. And our economy now exhibits a merger of state and bank power.

Prominent economist Robert Kuttner said in 2009:

What we have is something perilously close to a dictatorship of the Fed and the Treasury, acting in the interests of Wall Street.

The government and banks use anti-terror laws to stifle dissent.

As Naomi Wolf reports, they joined efforts to violently crush the occupy protests:

The violent crackdown on Occupy last fall … was not just coordinated at the level of the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and local police. The crackdown, which involved, as you may recall, violent arrests, group disruption, canister missiles to the skulls of protesters, people held in handcuffs so tight they were injured, people held in bondage till they were forced to wet or soil themselves –was coordinated with the big banks themselves.

[A newly-released document] shows a terrifying network of coordinated DHS, FBI, police, regional fusion center, and private-sector activity so completely merged into one another that the monstrous whole is, in fact, one entity: in some cases, bearing a single name, the Domestic Security Alliance Council. And it reveals this merged entity to have one centrally planned, locally executed mission. The documents, in short, show the cops and DHS working for and with banks to target, arrest, and politically disable peaceful American citizens. ….

Plans to crush Occupy events, planned for a month down the road, were made by the FBI – and offered to the representatives of the same organizations that the protests would target ….

The FBI – though it acknowledges Occupy movement as being, in fact, a peaceful organization – nonetheless designated OWS repeatedly as a “terrorist threat”….

[The executive Director of The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund - the group which obtained the document] points out the close partnering of banks, the New York Stock Exchange and at least one local Federal Reserve with the FBI and DHS, and calls it “police-statism”:

“This production [of documents], which we believe is just the tip of the iceberg, is a window into the nationwide scope of the FBI’s surveillance, monitoring, and reporting on peaceful protestors organizing with the Occupy movement … These documents also show these federal agencies functioning as a de facto intelligence arm of Wall Street and Corporate America.”

The documents show stunning range: in Denver, Colorado, that branch of the FBI and a “Bank Fraud Working Group” met in November 2011 – during the Occupy protests – to surveil the group. The Federal Reserve of Richmond, Virginia had its own private security surveilling Occupy Tampa and Tampa Veterans for Peace and passing privately-collected information on activists back to the Richmond FBI, which, in turn, categorized OWS activities under its “domestic terrorism” unit. The Anchorage, Alaska “terrorism task force” was watching Occupy Anchorage. The Jackson, Michigan “joint terrorism task force” was issuing a “counterterrorism preparedness alert” about the ill-organized grandmas and college sophomores in Occupy there. Also in Jackson, Michigan, the FBI and the “Bank Security Group” – multiple private banks – met to discuss the reaction to “National Bad Bank Sit-in Day” (the response was violent, as you may recall). The Virginia FBI sent that state’s Occupy members’ details to the Virginia terrorism fusion center. The Memphis FBI tracked OWS under its “joint terrorism task force” aegis, too. And so on, for over 100 pages.

Eric Zuesse notes:

The FBI was organizing against the OWS movement even before it was known to the general public, and they kept on their campaign against it, until it was dead.


The FBI’s police-state snooping and tracking of Occupy Wall Street … had begun even before most Americans knew that there was any such movement for the FBI to snoop against.

In other words, the reason why Barack Obama’s “Justice” Department refuses to prosecute even a single one of the mega-bank executives who profited so enormously from having defrauded both mortgagees and the investors in mortgage-backed securities, and who were bailed out by future U.S. taxpayers whose government purchased those remaining “toxic assets” at 100 cents on the dollar, is clear: we live in a police state, and these elite crooks control it. This is not real democracy.

Voters were given a choice in November between a President like that but whose liberal rhetoric is condemnatory of “Wall Street,” versus a professional stripper of corporations, whose rhetoric was overtly supportive of Wall Street. And voters chose the former. But this nonetheless is a police state, not an authentic democracy.

Mussolini would recognize it as fascism.

— source

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New York Sees the Biggest Climate March in History

More than 300,000 people turned out today for the People’s Climate March in New York City, making it the largest recorded demonstration calling for a response to climate change.

Organizers instructed marchers to line up to 86th Street, but the larger-than-expected attendance had some would-be marchers waiting on the side streets.

The march was one of several held today around the world, including a march in London that drew an estimated 40,000 people and one in Melbourne, Australia, where 10,000 demonstrated.

The events are being held to raise a voice for global action two days before the United Nations Climate Summit, where more than 120 world leaders will meet, beginning the work to draw up a new global climate treaty by the end of 2015.

The march began with a silent protest as thousands of marchers walked through Times Square with their fists in the air without making a sound.

Activists were organized into community groups and carried signs and chanted.

Actor Leonardo DiCaprio, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio were also among the marchers.

— source

Van Jones, former White House environmental adviser, celebrity activists like Mark Ruffalo and prominent community leaders like Mari Rose Taruc, a Filipina organizer from the Bay Area, prepared to lead nearly 30 blocks of jam-packed marchers through midtown Manhattan.

An official count conducted at the march showed over 310,000 participants — more than triple pre-march estimates of 100,000. Around the world, hundreds of thousands more joined 2,646 events in 156 countries.

Between 9:30 a.m. and noon, before the march started moving, Central Park West filled to capacity with supporters of action on both ends. Signs waved, drums beat, and cheers erupted. There were stickers and t-shirts and pamphlets. On one side of the marchers tall buildings lined the street, on the other the open space of Central Park cast a long, green reflection.

— source

Posted in Climate Change, Environment, Social | Tagged , , | 1 Comment


First Electric School Bus Hits The Road In California

The first-ever electric school bus, introduced in November, started picking up students in Central California’s Kings Canyon Unified school district this week. And three more should be operating soon, according to a press release from developers Trans Tech and Motiv Power Systems. Buses are available with 80 or 100 miles of range, and hold 25 students, or 18 students and a wheelchair lift.

Summer of 2014 was the Hottest on Record

This summer is officially the hottest summer ever recorded. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, global temperatures reached an all-time high for the June-August period. Last month was also the hottest August since records began in 1880.

Australian gene-patent case dismissed

An Australian federal court has thrown out a lawsuit challenging a patent on the cancer-associated gene BRCA1. The decision, issued 5 September, is the latest setback for patient advocates who argue that the patent limits genetic-testing options for Australian cancer patients. The Australian case is an echo of a previous legal challenge to patents on BRCA1 and BRCA2 in the United States. That case culminated last year in a unanimous, landmark Supreme Court decision that overturned decades of practice by the US Patent and Trademark Office, invalidating all patents on naturally occurring human genes. The implications of that decision for other US patents on natural products are still being worked out.

US Hacked Arab-Americans’ Phones and Gave Transcripts to Israel

National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden has accused the US of regularly sharing personal information about its citizens of Arab and Palestinian descent with Israel. In an interview with the New York Times, Snowden said the NSA “routinely passed private, unedited communications to Unit 8200, a secretive Israeli intelligence department”.

Trees saving 850 human lives a year in US

Trees are saving over 850 human lives and preventing 670,000 incidences of acute respiratory symptoms every year in the US. This has emerged from a study done by the US Forest Service on the removal of air pollution by trees. The study says that in monetary terms, the health benefits amount to $ 6.8 billion a year. “trees and forests in the conterminous United States” removed 17.4 million tonnes of air pollution in 2010. The study was done for four pollutants nitrogen dioxide, ozone, sulfur dioxide, and particulate matter less than 2.5 microns (PM2.5) in aerodynamic diameter.

Traffic-related air pollution is bad for heart

Exposure to high levels of traffic-related air pollution is associated with changes in the right ventricle of the heart that may contribute to the known connection between air pollution exposure and heart disease, according to a new study. The findings were published online ahead of print publication in the American Thoracic Society’s American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. “Using exposure to nitrogen dioxide as a surrogate for exposure to traffic-related air pollution, we were able to demonstrate for the first time that higher levels of exposure were associated with greater right ventricular mass and larger right ventricular end-diastolic volume. Greater right ventricular mass is also associated with increased risk for heart failure and cardiovascular death.”

Posted in Electric Vehicle, Global Warming, Health, News, Patent, Police, Tree | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Brazil’s GM corns no more resistant against bugs

Brazilian corn farmers say genetically modified (GM) crops are no more resistant to tropical bugs, according to media reports. As a result, farmers are demanding compensation from four major manufacturers of BT corn seeds —Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta, and Dow companies —for their losses.

The Association of Soybean and Corn Producers of the Mato Grosso region (Aprosoja-MT), in a press release, said farmers first noticed in March that their GM corn crops were less resistant to the destructive caterpillars that Bt corn is supposed to protect against. In turn, farmers were forced to apply extra coats of insecticides, leading to additional environmental and financial costs.

“The caterpillars should die if they eat the corn, but since they did not die this year producers had to spend on average 120 reals ($54) per hectare … at a time that corn prices are terrible,” said Ricardo Tomczyk, president of Aprosoja.

Seed companies, however, told Reuters they had warned farmers to plant part of their corn fields with conventional seeds to prevent bugs from mutating and developing resistance to GM seeds.
Dow Agrosciences, a division of Dow Chemical Co, has programmes in Brazil to help corn farmers develop “an integrated pest management system that includes, among other things, the cultivation of refuge areas,” it told the news agency in an email. DuPont and Monsanto Co said they had not received any formal notification from Aprosoja.

The problem that Brazil is facing of bugs getting resistant to GM crops is becoming increasingly common. Earlier this year, scientists in the US confirmed that corn-destroying rootworms had evolved to be resistant to the GM corn seeds engineered to kill them.

There was another development related to GM crops. China called for an emergency meeting on Wednesday after it was reported that GM rice was being illegally sold in a supermarket in China’s Hubei province. Despite having a strict policy on GM crops, illegal cultivation and sale of GM crops is becoming common in China, said media reports. Media quoted Chinese agriculture ministry statement that said that there would be zero tolerance towards those who grow or sell GM crops.

— source

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River In China Mysteriously Turns Bloody Red Overnight

A waterway in eastern China has mysteriously turned a blood red color.

Residents in Zhejiang province said the river looked normal at 5 a.m. Beijing time on Thursday morning. Within an hour, the entire river turned crimson. Residents also said a strange smell wafted through the air.

“The really weird thing is that we have been able to catch fish because the water is normally so clear,” one local villager commented on China’s microblogging site Weibo.

Inspectors from the Wenzhou Environmental Protection Bureau said they have not found the cause of the incident, although water samples seem to indicate the suspicious color was a result of illegal dumping in the river.

“We suspect that somebody dumped artificial coloring in the water because he thought the typhoon yesterday would cause heavy rain, and nobody would notice [the color],” Jianfeng Xiao, Chief of the bureau told China News.

“It turned out there wasn’t heavy rainfall yesterday, so the evidence is left behind,” Xiao said.

Xiao said there is a paper manufacturer, a food coloring company and clothing-maker a long the river. The bureau is still investigating the incident.

— source

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Man Hating

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How the West Chose War in Gaza

Nathan Thrall talking:

I would step back a little bit further to the last fight between Hamas and Israel, which occurred in November 2012. That was brought to a close after several days with a ceasefire brokered by Egypt. At that time, Hamas had an ally, Egypt, in power. And basically, that ceasefire, the terms of that ceasefire included various concessions to Gaza and to Hamas. And although Israel implemented some of them in the immediate days and weeks afterward, very shortly later those were retracted, and we once again went back to a situation where exports were all but nonexistent, imports were reduced, and there were severe restrictions on travel for Gazans. Nevertheless, that ceasefire basically held, and during 2012 and ’13—I’m sorry, during 2013, following the ceasefire, Israel had one of the quietest years, if not the quietest year, it had had since rockets started coming from Gaza, which, by the way, began before the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in the fall of 2005.

Fast-forward to July 2013, when there is a coup in Egypt, and there is a new leader who’s very hostile both to the Muslim Brotherhood, of which Hamas is the Palestinian chapter, and hostile to Hamas, as well, of course. And there was a radical change in policy on the part of Egypt and a radical change in the closure regime that was imposed on Gaza. Very, very few Gazans were able to exit through the Rafah crossing to Egypt. This is the main exit of Gazans to the outside world. There are some Gazans who are permitted to leave via Israel, but it’s really not available to most Gazans. It’s for exceptional medical cases and high-level VIP businessmen and so forth. So, the exit was closed, and pressure started to build.

In addition, the tunnels, through which many goods were coming, particularly construction materials and fuel—were coming into Gaza through these tunnels crossing the Gaza-Egypt border. And the Sisi regime, following the July 2013 coup, basically eliminated these tunnels. And with that elimination of those tunnels, almost complete elimination, Hamas no longer had these goods coming through and could no longer tax them. They relied on those tax revenues in order to pay the roughly 40,000 employees who run Gaza and have been running Gaza even without pay for the last several months.

So, what you had was a pressure cooker inside of Gaza, and this began to build and build to the point where, December 2013, we had a massive storm here and sanitation plants started to shut down for lack of power. There was radical reductions in electricity, which are already at very, very low levels within Gaza. Sewage is being dumped in the sea. There’s sewage in the middle of the streets in Gaza. And Hamas is looking at the situation in Egypt, and they’re hoping that there’s going to be a change in regime there and they will at least if not have a Muslim Brotherhood president again, somebody who’s less hostile to them and is going to allow some kind of easing of the closure of Gaza.

And as they came to the conclusion earlier this year that that really was not going to happen in the near term, they realized that they had to do something to get out of their predicament—and in particular, the predicament of not being able to pay the employees who are running Gaza. These employees, by the way, are not simply Hamas members. Many of them are Hamas members, but many of them are members of other factions, as well. And as soon as they came to this conclusion, they decided that what they would do as a way out of this was to form a reconciliation agreement with the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah. And this was a years-long process of debating the various points of implementing Palestinian reconciliation. It’s a very distant dream. But Hamas basically caved on all of the demands that they had previously been making.

And I don’t want to overstate the nature of this reconciliation. This was not a reconciliation of the political programs of Fatah and Hamas. It wasn’t calling for disarming Hamas in Gaza. It wasn’t addressing the massive problems dealing with the security forces and so forth. But it was a step towards Palestinian unity, and an important one. And what it allowed for was to have a single authority, with the ministries controlled by Ramallah controlling Gaza once again.

And what happened after this agreement, Hamas expected two things at a minimum for basically caving on all of their demands. The first thing they expected was an easing in the closure imposed particularly by Egypt on the Rafah crossing. The official reason for that closure being in place was that Egypt had this campaign against the Muslim Brotherhood and against Hamas, and security threats in Sinai and so forth. And they said, “Look, if we’re no longer manning the border and now you have PA security forces loyal to the leadership in Ramallah at the border,” as Hamas agreed would be the case, “then there should at least be some significant easing, and people should be able to exit Gaza.” The second thing that they expected was that the civil servants, whom they could no longer pay, would begin to be paid. And neither of those things happened.

In fact, life in Gaza just became worse. And months went by without any solution to this building crisis, of Hamas having made these concessions in order to find a solution out of the predicament in Gaza—and also, you know, for their own self-interested reasons, as well. They didn’t want to be overthrown by the population in Gaza at a time of great turmoil and instability in the region when they couldn’t provide for their people. So they handed the responsibility for that over to the government in Ramallah. Presumably, that would be something that’s in the interest of the West, which always states how much they want to strengthen the leadership in Ramallah and strengthen Fatah. And if indeed that was what they desired, then the day that this government was formed, there should have been increases in electricity in Gaza, the Rafah crossing should have been opened significantly. Major changes should have taken place. The salaries should have been paid on the day that government was formed. And nothing of the sort took place. And nothing—if it had taken place, nothing would greater strengthen the leadership in Ramallah and Fatah.

And so, what happened subsequently were the kidnappings and murders of the three Yeshiva students, the three Israeli students at Yeshiva in the West Bank, followed by the revenge, torture and killing of the 16-year-old Palestinian boy in East Jerusalem, Mohammed Abu Khdeir. And Hamas found itself in a campaign in the West Bank, an Israeli campaign, to arrest hundreds of Hamas members in a search for the perpetrators of the kidnapping and murder. Hamas did not claim responsibility for the kidnappings and the murder, but it did say that it supports such kidnappings as a means of getting prisoners out of jail. And it essentially found an opportunity—with rising protests particularly in the wake of the killing of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, rising protests particularly in Jerusalem and in Israel proper, it saw an opportunity to do what it felt it was going to be forced to do in any event. Plan A for Hamas out of the predicament it and Gaza found themselves in was reconciliation. That was thwarted. And so Plan B is the crisis that we’re dealing with today.

The step that the U.S. took was opposed by Israel. And it has to be said that the reason the U.S.—one of the main reasons that the U.S. actually took this extraordinary step of recognizing this unity government was, first of all, their frustration with Israel during the Kerry-led peace process. If that had not happened and that Kerry-led peace process had received an extension, the U.S. almost certainly would have opposed much more strongly the reconciliation agreement than it did.

But the second reason, of course, that the U.S. recognized the government was that it basically was a form of capitulation by Hamas. There was not a single Hamas member within this government, not a Hamas-affiliated minister within the government. The government looked basically identical to the U.S.-backed government in Ramallah that it was replacing. And so, there was not even really a legal reason for the U.S. to oppose the new government.

But behind the scenes, the U.S. did act to ensure that true reconciliation did not take place, that further steps toward reconciliation did not take place. The U.S. very strongly told President Abbas that, for example, the Palestinian Legislative Council could not convene. Why? Because the Palestinian Legislative Council, because of the 2006 elections in the West Bank and Gaza, which Hamas won in both places, has a majority, a strong majority, of Hamas parliamentarians. And if that Legislative Council were to convene—and Hamas saw that as a critical part of this reconciliation agreement: If they were giving up the power that they had won through elections to a group of people who had not been elected, then at the very least they expected to have some kind of legislative check on this government. And the U.S. told Abbas very clearly that there would be a cut in American funding and there could be no support for this unity government, if the Legislative Council were to convene. And there were numerous other steps towards reconciliation that could not take place because of European and U.S. opposition.

And it should be said also that the Palestinian Authority itself was very reluctant to implement the agreement and was dragging its feet considerably. You can say, partly, they were doing it because of these threats from the U.S. and Europe, but there was certainly a lot of foot dragging on their part, as well.

Nathan Thrall, senior analyst at the International Crisis Group, covering Gaza, Israel, Jordan and the West Bank. His article for The New York Times is headlined “How the West Chose War in Gaza.”

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