Friday, June 25, 2010


The embattled homeless encampment, in Nashville known as Tent City, which has escaped several shutdown notices from Metro police, was washed away by the floods earlier this month. Most escaped with little more than the clothes on their backs. Reginald "Vegas" Watson, 45, a member of the residents council that helped organize Tent City, told the Tennessean after the floods resided that the camp was uninhabitable.

The property is covered with diesel fuel from a nearby ruptured storage tank and waste from overturned portable toilets.

I don't recall mention of this on CNN.

The following is from Real Changes News.

Submerged beneath the consuming waters
via: The Contributor Newspaper, Nashville, Tennessee

In Tennessee’s recent historic floods, a thriving tent city gets washed away

When Ronnie Smith lost two jobs and a house four years ago, he was left with only one option: Nashville, Tennessee’s largest year-round shelter space, the Nashville Rescue Mission.
Having never been homeless before, Smith struggled to adjust to such a chaotic and crowded environment. When he was finally able to move into an abandoned house with a friend, he felt relieved. But when that friendship dissolved, Smith tried another option: a tent. He spent his evenings setting up camp anywhere he could, often threatened by strangers or told by police to “move along.”

Overcome with the realities of camping alone, Smith headed to the place he had hoped he’d never wind up: Nashville’s Tent City. Having heard bad stories of the city’s largest homeless encampment — drugs, theft, violence — Smith carried his belongings toward the riverside encampment with trepidation.

But when Smith arrived at Tent City in late 2009, he found little confirmation of those rumors. Instead, he discovered something he hadn’t been able to claim in his years on the street: a community. “People were real helpful. They’d even watch out for your stuff when you were gone,” says Smith, one of approximately 140 residents of the camp who, up until the morning of May 2, 2010 when floodwaters completely destroyed the camp, were grateful to be able to call Tent City home.

Before the flood

The Tent City that Smith encountered eight months ago was not the same Tent City that had existed on the banks of the Cumberland River for more than 20 years. Not only had its population grown in that time from a mere handful of residents to over 140, it had also changed from a well-kept secret to a widely-recognized reality, appearing in local newspapers, countless television news stories, a few documentaries and even The Wall Street Journal.

Tent City’s change in exposure goes back to 2006, when then-Mayor Bill Purcell announced that Nashville would begin raising the “quality of life” in its downtown area. To many, the campaign appeared concerned with improving the city’s pleasant feel. Unfortunately, a direct result of this public policy was the criminalization of homelessness in Nashville, and the city’s court and arrest records prove it.

As Tent City grew, so did the Nashville city government’s awareness of it. Police officers showed up at the camp in 2008 and posted notices that the camp would be shut down in a matter of weeks and would therefore need to be cleared of all belongings as soon as possible; anything left standing would be razed and anyone remaining would be arrested. And so, once again, homeless individuals were told to “move along.”

That is, until local churches, advocates and outreach workers stepped in. Offering to clean up the premises, along with paying for dumpsters, port-o-potties and showers — and all while promising to stand face-to-face with any bulldozer that might tear down tents and well-designed wooden homes — Tent City’s allies worked to change the camp’s fate. Their efforts paid off, when word came down from current Mayor Karl Dean that the camp would not be demolished.

Since then, despite occasional and somewhat subtle attempts by the city’s police department to reverse Mayor Dean’s order, Tent City has gone from being a homeless encampment perpetually on the verge of destruction to the closest thing Nashville has to an officially-sanctioned “transitional housing” site. In a city that promised 2,000 units of low-income housing five years ago and has drastically failed to follow through, a place like Tent City remains inevitable.

But because it had grown so rapidly on land owned by the Tennessee Department of Transportation, city officials had no choice but to put a timeline on relocating Tent City. To that end, in February of this year, the Metropolitan Homelessness Commission formed two subcommittees charged with locating an alternative site for the camp.

But, to the shock of its residents, it wasn’t the cold machinery of bulldozers that leveled Tent City; it was the unexpectedly volatile Cumberland River rising over its banks.

“It wasn’t all that unusual”

When Ronnie Smith arose Sun., May 2, to a small but steady stream of water running in front of his tent (a large tarp fastened over a wooden frame), he wasn’t terribly surprised. “It wasn’t all that unusual,” he says. “So I went back to sleep.” When he woke up 15 minutes later, however, with water halfway up his stack of two mattresses on top of two box springs, he began to worry. After a quick glance around his tent at his belongings floating like debris on the surface of the water, he grabbed the only dry items he had time to get: a t-shirt and a pair of shorts. When his feet hit the floor, the water was well above his waistline. Emerging from his tent, he started wading with other residents to higher ground.

One of those other residents was Ruth Simmons, a relative newcomer to Tent City. Waiting to receive word on her disability appeal, Simmons considered it a gift to be able to live there. “It was my home.” Even as the water rose, Simmons says, it didn’t quite sink in what, exactly, was happening. “I was kinda in denial.” Until she stepped outside her tent into waist-high water.

An hour or so later, residents began to gather together on higher ground where they met an outreach minister from a local church, who used a bus to transport residents to a Red Cross Shelter that had just been set up at Lipscomb University. The minister drove two busloads of residents — about 70 people and more than a dozen pets — to the university. Those Tent City residents and approximately 130 other people stayed at the university until May 18. Churches or friends offered most of the remaining Tent City residents temporary shelter. The rest straggled on the edges of the flooded camp until they found someplace else to go.

It had been nearly 100 years since Tennessee had seen anything close to the amount of rain that fell those first three days of May. Close to 18 inches of rain fell in some areas, leaving countless streams, rivers and waterways well above their capacity. Rescuers directed boats down the middle of roads that have never been underwater; homes and businesses were all but submerged; people hung onto trees and cars for dear life.

Ruth Simmons, holding back tears, says that she lost “everything:” her bed, a few bags of clothing, her personal identification, photos of her children and grandchildren. All of it now floats somewhere along the banks of the Cumberland River, while she strains her mind to figure out some way to start again.

The waters recede

For those living in Tent City the future remains especially uncertain. Metro has officially condemned the land on which Tent City stood for so many years; saturated with raw sewage, upturned port-o-potties, diesel fuel and other contaminants, it is no longer a place where humans can live in relative health and peace.

The immediate goal is to locate an alternate site for Tent City. Calls for land in the downtown vicinity have been sent throughout the city, but those calls have yet to be answered satisfactorily. Donations of tents and sleeping bags have, however, been plentiful. The long-term goal is to move the camp to a permanent location before the end of the year.

In the wake of the flood, many Tent City residents have received aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. In addition, a number of Tent City residents have been approved for Section 8 housing vouchers. As for the rest, some former Tent City residents have received hotel vouchers that will last for a few weeks, while others will take refuge inside the walls of a handful of area churches.

In the end, Nashville — with its churches, non-profits and government institutions — does not have to stand alongside the very poorest of its displaced flood victims. But there is the city’s slogan: “We Are Nashville.” If those words hold true, then the city’s doors — and its land — may be opened up as a Tent City for Ronnie Smith, Ruth Simmons and the others left with no place to go.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


A Filipino family in Belfast, Northern Ireland has joined the ranks of those suffering from racist attacks against a variety of ethnic groups. The Philippine Embassy in London said Ishis Calungsod and his family were targeted in a racially motivated arson in their street, which involved the burning of a car.

On Monday
 night a group of thugs forced their way into a house on the Donegall Road where they threw a small television out of the window and assaulted a man. The victim is Polish and police are treating it as a racial hate crime. 

Such assaults, largely carried out by Loyalists, are not new and not uncommon. The police are slow to respond and unionist politicians are just as slow with any condemnation.

The following is from the Guardian.

Ethnic Minorities make easy scapegoats in Belfast

Working-class Protestants are lashing out and leadership is needed to address racism before someone is killed

Romanians forced from homes in Belfast
The sound of broken glass: Sorin Ciurar, 20, at his house in Belfast, which was attacked in a spate of racist incidents against Romanian families in 2009. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA

The latest race attacks in Northern Ireland are as depressing as they are predictable. Isolated families in loyalist areas having their homes ransacked, their belongings destroyed and their lives threatened is a phenomenon now occurring with sickening regularity.
In the latest incidents, a mob attacked two homes in the loyalist Village area of south Belfast and in Whiteabbey, cars belonging to Filipino and Indian families were burned. The attacks come a year after a hundred Roma people were forced to flee Northern Ireland after racist petrol bombings, also in south Belfast.
I was born in Belfast and I am black. I endured a barrage of racist abuse over decades from British soldiers and the police. With a Falls Road upbringing in a republican family and a seven-year jail term spent in the H-Blocks during the 1990s, I'd have thought my bona fides as an Irishman were pretty impeccable. To this day, though, the question I hear most is: "Where are you from?"
When I tell people I'm from Belfast, they invariably throw in the supplementary: "Where are you really from?" There's no way an Irish person could possibly be black is the unspoken subtext.
However, Northern Ireland is changing, slowly. Two major factors have been responsible: the first was the IRA ceasefire in 1994, and the second was the influx of EU citizens, especially from the accession states such as Poland. Foreign nationals from the Philippines, west Africa and elsewhere also arrived here in numbers for work or to study.
The rate of change has been alarming for some people and some communities including, in particular, the working-class loyalist communities in greater Belfast. The middle-class and economically active Protestants have fled to the satellite towns around the city, vacating houses in the process. Migrants, especially Poles, have filled these homes, leaving an ill-equipped, under-resourced Protestant community feeling abandoned.
Other old certainties (and sources of employment) – their shipyards and major engineering works – have closed, and their security forces have been reduced in number and thrown open to Catholic recruits. On TV, unionists see Sinn Féin in government and their sense of grievance is palpable.
It was only a matter of time before someone lashed out and, as ever, ethnic minorities make easy scapegoats. It feels like it's only a matter of time before someone gets killed. The BNP has been recruiting disaffected young loyalists who, in previous years, might have joined the UDA or UVF to attack nationalists. Many suspect that loyalists either orchestrate or acquiesce in many of the attacks.
The response from wider civic society, the police and the media has been patchy. Ever mindful of votes, unionist politicians have been slow in condemning some of the attacks. They have also indulged the worst excesses of the complaining loyalists.
The media response is often well-meaning but, occasionally, appalling. Phone-in presenters refer to migrant workers and foreign nationals as "these people".
My own nationalist and republican community has a healthier attitude. More progressive and open-minded, I would suggest, but by no means is it unblemished.
The picture of me was taken on the Falls Road a few years back at a wall adorned with republican and other leftwing murals. On the wall, two terraced houses are depicted. One is described as "London 1968" and bears the infamous legend: "No Blacks, No Dogs, No Irish". The second part of the mural shows a Belfast terrace in 2005 with the rather complacent claim: "Belfast 2005. No Racism, No prejudice, No Bigotry".
I asked some activists in which part of Belfast this multicultural idyll was to be found, as I'd certainly never spotted it. I didn't get a credible response.
Education and political leadership are needed to address the racists. In a recent TV interview, the presenter asked me if Irish people needed to show a little more "tolerance" to migrants and blacks in their midst. My response was unapologetic: "I'm not here to be tolerated."


Walls are making a big comeback these days. From the US/Mexico border, to Palestine, to wherever protesters might bother the rich and powerful...wall makers are drumming up more business then since the building of the Great Wall of China.

In Canada, at the G20 summit a razor tipped security wall has been put together b
y a Canadian company that will make big money for the wall maker SNC-Lavalin. SNC-Lavalin also happens to be Canada's largest private contractor in Afghanistan and they have the know how to turn downtown Toronto into a military zone...for around a billion dollars.

The following is from Rabble.

Challenging Toronto's corporate security walls

Police lunch at the G20 security fence in Toronto. Photo: Kristen Hanson.
Toronto's winding razor-sharp tipped security walls surrounding the upcoming G20 summit centre certainly have inspired controversy and critiques across the political spectrum.
Behind the immediately pressing story of security checkpoints cutting up downtown Toronto, intrusive CSIS interrogations targeting social justice activists, and a government-driven security atmosphere aiming to intimidate social movements working to challenge the G20, is a corporate-driven narrative of profit by any means.
In Toronto this week, contract workers are putting final touches on the three-metre high and six-kilometre long $5.5 million dollar concrete and metal security fence encompassing the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Total security bill for the G20 in Toronto and G8 in Huntsville is expected to reach over $1 billion, the most expensive in history. Within and around this armed camp are 20,000 law enforcement officials, 1,000 private security guards, closed circuit TV cameras, military-style checkpoints along with sound and water cannons.
Behind these steel cages is a corporate-driven narrative of profiteering. An open conspiracy that fuses Canadian state security agencies and one of Canada's key multinational corporations, directing millions in public funds towards private accounts.
Montreal-based engineering giant SNC-Lavalin has been awarded the contract for the construction and conceptualization of the militarization of downtown Toronto. SNC-Lavalin's history is global in reach and politically fascinating as a corporation that has quickly moved to seek global contracts in occupied lands with minimal public controversy.
In 2004, SNC Technologies, a subsidiary, secured a deal to manufacture 300-500 million bullets for the U.S. military in the months after the Bush administration launched the "shock and awe" invasion of Iraq. Protests in Toronto targeted SNC-Lavalin's annual general meeting in 2005, bringing attention to the role of Canadian corporations in the U.S. occupation of Iraq. In 2006, SNC-Lavalin dropped the bullet-making division as public critique towards the Iraq arm contract compounded.
SNC-Lavalin is also the largest Canadian private contractor in Afghanistan, working in close co-ordination with the Canadian military in Kandahar. With hundreds of employees in the country, SNC-Lavalin works to develop infrastructure that normalizes the reality of a NATO-lead military occupation, under which torture, poverty, and violence have come to shape contemporary life for many Afghans.

As part of the 3D -- defence, diplomacy, development -- paradigm touted by the Canadian military, in 2009 the corporation was selected to rebuild a major dam on the Arghandab River. Billed as one of Canada's "signature projects," today the $50-million Dahla Dam project in the northern Kandahar province is heading towards a political disaster.
SNC-Lavalin operates directly within the militarized compound of Ahmed Wali Karzai, younger half-brother of Afghani leader Hamid Karzai, and recent paramilitary clashes over the project facing a ballooning budget have forced Canadians guarding the project to flee Afghanistan.
Reports indicate that U.S. investigators are currently probing the possibility that Karzai-linked security officials "may be colluding with insurgents to maximize profits," in securing a "development" project that is on the brink of becoming a national controversy, pointing to blurry lines between corporate interests in Afghanistan, Canadian military activities and interchanging local political alliances, all forces playing politics for greater influence and capital gains within a war zone. Disaster capitalism at ground zero of the first major U.S. military strike point post 9/11.
SNC Lavalin is a direct beneficiary of the global security industry that has been rapidly ballooning in the post 9/11 climate. Private security and engineering contractors have crafted a niche market that relies on escalating conflict and perpetuating fear.
A deliberate manipulation of fear, supported by government and media sound-bytes on terrorism, has meant the mass introduction of mass surveillance systems. An atmosphere that allows countries like Israel to normalize its daily illegal occupation of Palestine, and the U.S. to justify its construction of the anti-migrant U.S.-Mexico border wall, both inherently unjust realities cloaked in security. It has also meant deep pockets for pioneering companies like Boeing and Elbit Systems who produce related security technologies. In the years after 9/11, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security handed out $130 billion to private contractors.
In Toronto, the summit perimeter walls are similarly rooted in post 9/11 security concepts. A security fence that is also a strong ideological reminder of the contradiction of the G20 process: select global leaders having closed-door meetings that exclude voices of dissent, while simultaneously extolling political rhetoric promoting the "free flow of ideas," "removal of barriers," and "global community," language standing in stark contrast to thousands of armed police silencing dissenting voices. Democracy is rooted in dialogue and engagement, not militarization.
In 2009, Barack Obama delivered a major address in Europe, pointing towards nuclear disarmament, advocating that "voices for peace and progress must be raised together," political language pointing to the violent contradiction of advocating for global justice from behind kilometres of razor wire fence as militarized police repel voices advocating for change from the streets.
As the G20 convention centre is shrouded in two tight rows of welded wire, as armed police flank street check points and state-issued photo ID is the only ticket into the Toronto's downtown core, it is clear that security preparations towards the G20 summit, as previously with the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, are testing limits on security culture in Canada.
Certainly fences are becoming a symbol our era, locally and globally, as security doctrines often conflate terrorism with political protest, walls silencing dissent become politically possible.
CSIS has itself admitted that the risk of "terrorism" is low, hence the tired-old stereotype of "violent anarchists." This has resulted in intrusive CSIS and RCMP interrogations targeting and intimidating social justice activists of all stripes and efforts to demonize protestors in the eyes of Toronto residents. Tips in the G20 Summit Resident Information Guide include not engaging in conversations with protesters.
Currently in Toronto, the main rationale for the $1 billion security apparatus is apparently an incredibly dangerous form of domestic terrorism: protestors.
Over the past decades, countless thousands advocating for global justice have gathered on the streets every year to protest the closed door meetings of both G8 and G20 summits, as global inequalities continues to rise protests have grown; never at these mass convergences has a single protester serious harmed anyone.
It was in Genoa, Italy, at the G8 summit in 2001 when the first lethal gunshot rang out, and Carlo Giuliani, a young Italian anarchist, was shot in the face by Italian police. Giuliani died on that Italian street surrounded by police. In Quebec City, as tens-of-thousands gathered to protest U.S.-driven efforts to establish the hemispheric Free Trade Area of the Americas Agreement (FTAA), street protesters suffered multiple injuries on the part of police, one young activist from Montreal was permanently disabled, a rubber bullet crushing his larynx, forever silencing one voice of dissent in Canada.
Today in Toronto, police rule the day on downtown boulevards, while SNC-Lavalin is laughing all the way to the bank at having perfected the equation between militarization and profit. Mainstream political rhetoric revolving around the G20 remains a surface level discussion on security, silencing real global issues of poverty, war and displacement facing so many throughout the global south.
So the question for those caged within Fortress Toronto is a simple one: will we capitulate to this cultivated culture of fear and the normalization of an Orwellian police state? Today, let us see past the smoke and mirrors of security and join thousands on the streets in the daily struggles against the violence of G20 policies locally and globally.
Harsha Walia is a Vancouver-based writer and activist who is at Stefan Christoff is a Montreal-based writer and activist who is at

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Recently a few eyes turned toward Rwanda when an American professor of law was arrested and jailed accused of genocide ideology and negationism, the same crimes of which his client was also accused. The charges were ludicrous. The professor, Peter Erlinder is a member of the National Lawyers Guild and an advocate for human rights. The other day he was freed from prison on medical grounds.

The bigger problem is that things have been going back downhill in Rwanda for a while now and few give a damn. It took the arrest of a white American to get any attention turned toward Rwanda at all.

How soon the world forgets.

The following is from the SF Bay View.


by Alice Gatebuke

Protesters who “greeted” Rwandan President Paul Kagame when he spoke on April 30 at Oklahoma Christian University were led by Claude Gatebuke, brother of Alice Gatebuke, who wrote this commentary. – Photo: Kendall Brown
People often say, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” As a Rwandan Genocide survivor, I would not be alive if not for good people who stood up, advocated for and protected me, facilitating my ultimate survival amidst the deafening silence of the international community. I was 9 years old when I found myself caught in a maelstrom of violence that threatened to destroy everything I knew and held dear. And in many ways, all of those things, including family, friends, neighbors, home and communities were destroyed.
I remember having a group of men wrap me in a blanket and smuggle me to a safe house in a different neighborhood. Petrified, I watched as these men accosted and negotiated with my would-be killers on a daily basis to save my life. I watched in horror and helplessness as my mother and brother were taken from my sister, young cousin and me to be killed. My mother and brother were told they had reached the end of their lives and were then given tools to dig their own graves. Through the intervention of old friends, strangers and new allies, my mother and brother’s lives were spared, and our family was reunited.
I cannot imagine how my life would have been different had these individuals not intervened. They placed themselves and their families in danger by advocating for us. In our darkest moments I witnessed the zenith of human compassion. I saw the beauty and potential of the human spirit when good people unite for a good cause. Farmers, street kids, courageous women with children raised their voices against a group of evil doers. Through their acts of solidarity, lives were spared. My faith in humanity was reassured even in the midst of so much violence, death and destruction. Sadly though, the international community remained silent about what was taking place in my country.
As I watch today the increasingly disturbing downward spiral in my country of birth, I am once again reminded of the international community’s complicity and silence in the destruction of an entire nation. In recent times, when the first woman ever to run for president in my country was attacked by a mob, there was silence. While local newspapers were shut down, their writers exiled and others incarcerated, I witnessed nothing but shrugs from the international community. When Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International reported on the growing repression and jailing of an increasing number of people based on vague laws applied to political opponents of the ruling regime, I saw nothing but rationalization from the international community.
Recently, an American lawyer and professor, who is representing a hopeful presidential candidate, was jailed in Rwanda. His arrest and subsequent charges were based on his work as a defense lawyer at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha, Tanzania. He stands accused of genocide ideology and negationism, the same crimes of which his client is also accused.
As a genocide survivor, I take genocide crimes very seriously and strongly believe that each and every perpetrator of these crimes should be brought to justice and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. I also believe that each accused deserves and must be accorded a fair trial. The right to a fair trial and due process is a highly valued universal principle. Therefore, I am perplexed by the silence around the professor’s arrest and the length of time it took the international community to intervene.

Claude Gatebuke is interviewed by an Associated Press reporter at the April 30 protest. A growing chorus of young exiles from Rwanda and Congo, many of them students, are demanding real democracy and freedom from the rape of the land and the people and the slaughter of millions fueled by the greed of U.S. and European corporations and their customers. All of us who carry a cell phone or laptop – almost certainly containing Congolese coltan exported by Rwanda – are benefiting from these crimes and must join the young exiles’ chorus. – Photo: Kendall Brown
Due to Rwanda’s economic progress, some of which is unfortunately derived from Congolese minerals and “supply side economics,” human rights abuses are mere inconveniences to those strictly focused on economic growth. While Rwanda has become one of the most praised and progressive economies in Africa, the international community has watched it ravage neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo with impunity. An estimated 6 million Congolese lives have been claimed and, tragically, half of those deaths are children under the age of 5.
The Rwandan Genocide was catastrophic. I know … I was there. And I survived. However, it should not be used as a pretext for repressing freedom of others and destroying innocent lives. Although the international community still remains silent in the face of all these grotesque abuses and human rights violations within and outside of Rwanda, the potential positive impact the international community could have on the situation should not be underestimated.
I witnessed first hand the power of good people who cared for a frightened 9-year-old girl and her family. Everyday people opened their mouths and raised their voices. My family, especially my mother and brother, were spared because of ordinary people’s courageous acts of generosity. I am eternally grateful to have lived to share my story. With all that is taking place in Rwanda today, especially the present-day eerie similarities to the pre-1994 genocide period, will the international community intervene now? One can only imagine the millions of lives that could be saved.
Alice Gatebuke is a Rwandan Genocide and war survivor, Cornell University graduate and human rights activist. She can be reached at To learn more about the resource wars that are slaughtering millions in Congo and threatening renewed violence in Rwanda, visit and join Friends of the Congo, at


Ocean chemist John Kessler of Texas A&M University says he and a group of oceanographers made measurements of methane levels 10,000 to 100,000 times above normal and in some places "we saw them approaching 1 million times above" what would be normal.

"What those measurements at sea tell us is that concentration of metha
ne and some of the other components of natural gas specifically, ethane and propane in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico are astonishingly high," Kessler, Ph.D., a Texas A&M Oceanography Assistant Professor, told a local news outlet in College Station.

If the huge amounts of methane believed to be below the damaged rig ever breaches the ocean floor and explodes into the gulf waters en masse, well, some say the results could be almost apocalyptic.

Of course, some of those who say so are right wing tea party types, but hey, who knows.

The following is from World Environment News.

Methane In Gulf "Astonishingly High": U.S. Scientist

As much as 1 million times the normal level of methane gas has been found in some regions near the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, enough to potentially deplete oxygen and create a dead zone, U.S. scientists said on Tuesday.
Texas A&M University oceanography professor John Kessler, just back from a 10-day research expedition near the BP Plc oil spill in the gulf, says methane gas levels in some areas are "astonishingly high."
Kessler's crew took measurements of both surface and deep water within a 5-mile (8 kilometer) radius of BP's broken wellhead.
"There is an incredible amount of methane in there," Kessler told reporters in a telephone briefing.
In some areas, the crew of 12 scientists found concentrations that were 100,000 times higher than normal.
"We saw them approach a million times above background concentrations" in some areas, Kessler said.
The scientists were looking for signs that the methane gas had depleted levels of oxygen dissolved in the water needed to sustain marine life.
"At some locations, we saw depletions of up to 30 percent of oxygen based on its natural concentration in the waters. At other places, we saw no depletion of oxygen in the waters. We need to determine why that is," he told the briefing.
Methane occurs naturally in sea water, but high concentrations can encourage the growth of microbes that gobble up oxygen needed by marine life.
Kessler said oxygen depletions have not reached a critical level yet, but the oil is still spilling into the Gulf, now at a rate of as much as 60,000 barrels a day, according to U.S. government estimates.
"What is it going to look like two months down the road, six months down the road, two years down the road?" he asked.
Methane, a natural gas, dissolves in seawater and some scientists think measuring methane could give a more accurate picture of the extent of the oil spill.
Kessler said his team has taken those measurements, and is hoping to have an estimate soon.
"Give us about a week and we should have some preliminary numbers on that," he said.


For years it was known that the mine near Libby, Montana was an asbestos hell hole.  The federal and state governments knew it.  WR Grace, which ran the mine, new it. Yet, for decades it stayed open until 1990 anyway.  Many modern mines "allow" miners to shower after work.The mines of Libby did not offer showers or clothes to their employees. This means that every miner took his or her own clothes home at the end of the day, after they had been used in the mines all day. While dirt may be one issue, the bigger issue is that the clothes had been contaminated by asbestos while they were in the mines all day. Once the clothes were contaminated, the fibers were trapped and taken home to be "shared" with other members of the family, particularly those that did the laundry.

Libby has been so contaminated by asbestos that individuals who do not have any connection to the mines are now turning up with asbestos-related disease symptoms. So far, more than 2,600 people have been treated at the free asbestos clinic in town since it was opened. The town's population is only about 2,700.

The following is from the High Country News.


The environmental health disaster in Libby, Mont. -- where decades of vermiculite mining and milling spread deadly asbestos fibers throughout the community -- continues. In May, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finalized a plan to dig up or cap asbestos-laden soil at two more sites where the ore was processed. And thanks to Montana Sen. Max Baucus, D, the nation’s health insurance reform law has begun providing Medicare coverage for Libby victims, regardless of their ages. These updated statistics show why the town of 3,000 is considered "the deadliest Superfund site in the nation’s history."
At least 400 Number of people who have died of asbestos -- related lung ailments linked to the Libby mining, a number that continues to grow.
About 1,500 Number of people -- both current and former residents -- whose chest X-rays reveal "the faint, cloudy shadows of asbestos scarring on their lungs" due to exposure in Libby.
15 to 20 Number of people newly diagnosed each month with illnesses related to Libby asbestos; the illnesses appear to be "particularly ... virulent" and new diagnoses are expected to continue for 10 more years.
$333 million Amount spent on cleaning up the pollution in Libby since the effort began 10 years ago; the total, paid by the most recent mining company, W.R. Grace, and the federal government, continues to grow.
1,250 Number of homes and businesses that have been at least partially cleaned up.
850 Number of homes the EPA plans to revisit to do additional cleanup.
2 Number of asbestos-related funerals attended so far this year by Gayla Benefield, a leading victims’ advocate; her mother died of asbestos-  caused illnesses, and "every adult member of her family more than 47 years old (including Benefield herself) has been diagnosed with asbestos scarring. The latest, her older daughter, got the news in February."
0 Number of people who have been convicted of any criminal charges related to the spread of the asbestos. 

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Bangladesh factory owners say they'll reopen factories with government help which have been shut down by workers demanding a living wage and living working conditions.

Over the last few days, thousands of workers took to the streets and attacked many factories in Ashulia. Hundreds have been injured in clashes with polic
e, who are trying to remove them from streets and stop the violence.The workers are demanding that the minimum wage rise to 5,000 takas ($73) a month. The current average monthly salary is 2,000 takas ($29) — that makes them the world's most poorly paid garment workers, according to the International Trade Union Confederation, a Vienna-based labour rights group.



Policeman calls his comrades for help in front of a truck burnt by garment workers in AshuliaPolice say thousands of workers clashed with security forces at Ashulia
Owners have shut all 250 garment factories at one of Bangladesh's main manufacturing zones after violent protests by workers over wages.
Employers say production at Ashulia near Dhaka has stopped indefinitely.
Thousands of workers reacted angrily to the news, burning tyres and smashing vehicles in a third day of protests.
Bangladesh relies heavily on textile exports. Among factories shut were ones supplying Walmart, H&M, Zara, and Carrefour, manufacturers said.
Pay and working conditions in factories in Bangladesh have long been a source of concern.
The BBC's Mark Dummett in Dhaka says the industrial unrest is the worst Bangladesh has seen in several years.
Workers want three times the current minimum wage of $25 (£17) a month. The rate, set by the Bangladesh government, was last raised in 2006.
The latest unrest over pay began on Saturday, since when there has been a wave of violent demonstrations.
Manufacturers say they cannot keep their factories open because of the violence.
On Monday, tens of thousands of workers walked out of factories and held protests in Ashulia, about 30km (20 miles) north of Dhaka.
Police fired rubber bullets and tear gas. Workers pelted them with stones and set vehicles alight.
Thousands of protesters returned to the streets again on Tuesday when they heard about the factory closures.
"Striking workers picketed on the street, by burning tyres and smashing vehicles and set fire to a truck," Dhaka district police chief Iqbal Bahar told the BBC.
He said the situation had later been brought under control. At least 30 people were reported to have been injured in the latest unrest.
Siddiqur Rahman, vice-president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters' Association (BGMEA), told the BBC there was now "a state of anarchy" in Ashulia's garment factories.
"In the past few weeks, angry workers vandalised around 200 garment factories," he said.
"We feel insecure and unable to run the factories for the collapse of the law and order situation. So we closed down all 250 factories in Ashulia."
Mr Rahman said that garment factories inside another key manufacturing area - the Export Processing Zone - were still working.
Poorly paid
Garments are easily Bangladesh's biggest export, accounting for more than 80% of annual export earnings worth $15bn.
Our correspondent says food and property prices have risen sharply since the minimum wage was last raised in 2006. The current salary means Bangladeshi garment workers are among the lowest paid in the world.
This has led to a boom in recent years as factory owners have won hundreds of new contracts.
Factory owners say growth will be damaged if they increase salaries, but workers say they are not being paid a living wage.


I'm sorry but there is no excuse for the kind of racist anti-Jew hatred being displayed lately in Amsterdam. Please don't start talking to me about Israel and the Palestinians. Different issue, folks.

I am happy to point out that the initiative on the action being taken below to combat anti-semitism was brought fort
h by a Dutch Labour MP Ahmed Marcouch, himself of Moroccan parentage.  



Acting Amsterdam mayor Lodewijk Asscher is considering using police offcers posing as Jews in an attempt to stamp out anti-semitic violence, the Parool reports on Monday.

A spokesman said the suggestion, made last week by Labour MP Ahmed Marcouch, fits in with Asscher's decision to take unorthodox measures to try to reduce verbal and physical attacks on Jews in the capital.

Secret tv recordings by the Jewish broadcasting company Joodse Omroep broadcast on Sunday showed young men shouting and making Nazi salutes at a rabbi when he visited different areas of the city.

The city's police already use people posing as pensioners and gay men in an effort to catch muggers and gay-bashers.