Nigeria’s agony dwarfs the Gulf oil spill; The US and Europe totally ignore it

The Deepwater Horizon disaster caused headlines around the world, yet the people who live in the Niger delta have had to live with environmental catastrophes for decades

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A ruptured pipeline burns in a Lagos suburb after an explosion in 2008 which killed at least 100 people. (Reuters)

We reached the edge of the oil spill near the Nigerian village of Otuegwe after a long hike through cassava plantations. Ahead of us lay swamp. We waded into the warm tropical water and began swimming, cameras and notebooks held above our heads. We could smell the oil long before we saw it – the stench of garage forecourts and rotting vegetation hanging thickly in the air.

The farther we travelled, the more nauseous it became. Soon we were swimming in pools of light Nigerian crude, the best-quality oil in the world. One of the many hundreds of 40-year-old pipelines that crisscross the Niger delta had corroded and spewed oil for several months.

Forest and farmland were now covered in a sheen of greasy oil. Drinking wells were polluted and people were distraught. No one knew how much oil had leaked. “We lost our nets, huts and fishing pots,” said Chief Promise, village leader of Otuegwe and our guide. “This is where we fished and farmed. We have lost our forest. We told Shell of the spill within days, but they did nothing for six months.”

That was the Niger delta a few years ago, where, according to Nigerian academics, writers and environment groups, oil companies have acted with such impunity and recklessness that much of the region has been devastated by leaks.

In fact, more oil is spilled from the delta’s network of terminals, pipes, pumping stations and oil platforms every year than has been lost in the Gulf of Mexico, the site of a major ecological catastrophe caused by oil that has poured from a leak triggered by the explosion that wrecked BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig last month.

Read moreNigeria’s agony dwarfs the Gulf oil spill; The US and Europe totally ignore it

Amnesty International condemns ‘weak’ EU over human rights

Amnesty International has accused the EU being “weak” and failing to protect human rights, citing the bloc’s tolerance of the CIA’s rendition flights and secret detention programme.

The group said several European countries had repeatedly violated rulings by the European Court of Human Rights against the return of terror suspects to countries where they are at risk of torture.

The human rights group’s annual global report, released on Thursday, also noted “clear accountability gaps” in the EU’s foreign policy.

It cited the bloc’s “weak and incoherent” response to a UN report which found that Israel had committed war crimes in Gaza in 2009, and to similar allegations against government forces in Sri Lanka.

Amnesty also criticised the UN for its failure to intervene during the fighting in Sri Lanka. Thousands were killed during the war, and the UN at the time described the conflict as a “bloodbath”.

Amnesty also accused the EU and the US of using their influence with the UN Security Council to “shield” Israel from accountability in Gaza.

Read moreAmnesty International condemns ‘weak’ EU over human rights

Al Gore takes cash for ‘Life Earth’ water campaign from Dow Chemical

Al Gore is an elite puppet like Bush and Obama. He has been selected by the elite to brainwash the people with the global warming scam in order to push through with the elite agenda of world government, the ‘New World Order’.

It’s all about money, power and control.

Al Gore could become world’s first carbon billionaire


Environmentalists condemn former vice-president for letting controversial company fund Life Earth

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Shyam Babu, 10, lives close to the Dow-owned Union Carbide Factory in Bhopal, India

Al Gore, the self-styled squeakiest-clean and deepest-green politician in American history, has some explaining to do this weekend. His environmental organisation has taken money to raise awareness about the need for clean water from a controversial chemicals company.

Dow Chemical, the US firm, is sponsoring Life Earth events in 150 cities today. The event aims to raise money for clean water programmes. Research by environmental organisations has found dangerous levels of highly toxic chemicals in rivers, lakes and other water supplies close to several other factories owned by Dow and its subsidiaries in countries including the United States, Brazil and South Africa.

Dow’s factories at its global headquarters in Midland, Michigan, have been accused of contaminating the region, including the Tittabawassee River floodplains, with high levels of dioxin – one of the “dirty dozen” most dangerous chemicals. In 2007, the highest level of dioxin contamination ever measured by the US Environmental Protection Agency was found in the Michigan Saginaw River. Residents are advised to avoid contact with river sediments and not to eat locally caught fish.

Campaigners are outraged by what they call Dow’s “blatant attempt” to paint itself as a green company and divert attention from the Bhopal scandal, where 25 years after the 1984 disaster at the plant (then owned by Union Carbide) thousands of villagers are still forced to use contaminated water which causes birth defects, cancer and skin disorders.

Live Earth, which has accumulated celebrity supporters and thousands of activists worldwide since its climate change concert in 2007, has been criticised by campaigners for joining forces with a company which has a track record of, at best, being slow to clean up toxic spills that pollute water, damage ecosystems and endanger lives.

Three weeks ago, Amnesty International asked Live Earth to reconsider the sponsorship unless Dow publicly agreed to clean up Bhopal. Live Earth did not respond.

Read moreAl Gore takes cash for ‘Life Earth’ water campaign from Dow Chemical

Amnesty International: Too Many Women Dying in US While Having Babies

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Amnesty International may be best known to American audiences for bringing to light horror stories overseas such as the disappearance of political activists in Argentina or the abysmal conditions inside South African prisons under apartheid. But in a new report on pregnancy and childbirth care in the U.S., Amnesty details the maternal health care crisis in this country as part of a systemic violation of women’s rights.

The report, titled “Deadly Delivery,” notes that the likelihood of a woman dying in childbirth in the U.S. is five times greater than in Greece, four times greater than in Germany, and three times greater than in Spain. Every day in the U.S., more than two women die of pregnancy-related causes, with the maternal mortality ratio doubling from 6.6 deaths per 100,000 births in 1987 to 13.3 deaths per 100,000 births in 2006. (And as shocking as these figures are, Amnesty notes that the actual number of maternal deaths in the U.S. may be a lot higher since there are no federal requirements to report these outcomes and since data collection at the state and local levels needs to be improved.) “In the U.S., we spend more than any country on health care, yet American women are at greater risk of dying from pregnancy-related causes than in 40 other countries,” says Nan Strauss, the report’s co-author, who spent two years investigating the issue of maternal mortality worldwide. “We thought that was scandalous.” (See the most common hospital mishaps.)

Read moreAmnesty International: Too Many Women Dying in US While Having Babies

America’s Secret ICE Detention Castles: Jailed Without Justice

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“If you don’t have enough evidence to charge someone criminally but you think he’s illegal, we can make him disappear.”

Those chilling words were spoken by James Pendergraph, then executive director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Office of State and Local Coordination, at a conference of police and sheriffs in August 2008.

Also present was Amnesty International’s Sarnata Reynolds, who wrote about the incident in the 2009 report “Jailed Without Justice” and said in an interview, “It was almost surreal being there, particularly being someone from an organization that has worked on disappearances for decades in other countries. I couldn’t believe he would say it so boldly, as though it weren’t anything wrong.”

ICE agents regularly impersonate civilians–OSHA inspectors, insurance agents, religious workers–in order to arrest longtime US residents who have no criminal history. Jacqueline Stevens has reported a web-exclusive companion piece on ICE agents’ ruse operations.

Pendergraph knew that ICE could disappear people, because he knew that in addition to the publicly listed field offices and detention sites, ICE is also confining people in 186 unlisted and unmarked subfield offices, many in suburban office parks or commercial spaces revealing no information about their ICE tenants–nary a sign, a marked car or even a US flag. (Presumably there is a flag at the Veterans Affairs Complex in Castle Point, New York, but no one would associate it with the Criminal Alien Program ICE is running out of Building 7.) Designed for confining individuals in transit, with no beds or showers, subfield offices are not subject to ICE Detention Standards. The subfield office network was mentioned in an October report by Dora Schriro, then special adviser to Janet Napolitano, secretary of Homeland Security, but no locations were provided.

Read moreAmerica’s Secret ICE Detention Castles: Jailed Without Justice

Afghanistan: New 67-Million-Dollar US Prison At Bagram

“All detainees in Afghanistan are entitled to minimum protections, including the right to legal counsel, and to be able to challenge the legal and factual basis for the detention before an independent and impartial tribunal,” three leading rights groups said in a statement.

“The U.S. reforms still fall short of providing detainees with those rights,”
Amnesty International, Human Rights First and Human Rights Watch said in the statement.

Source: Reuters

Change you can believe in!


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A U.S. Public Affairs officer stood in the recreation yard in the newly constructed “Detention Facility in Parwan” during a media tour in Bagram, Afghanistan, Nov. 15, 2009. (Wall Street Journal)

BAGRAM AIR FIELD — The new US prison for captured insurgents lies in the middle of a former Soviet minefield, on the northeastern side of the main American military base in Afghanistan.

Cleared of a deadly menace which still lurks elsewhere along Bagram’s perimeter, the complex of cinderblock, containers, Quonset huts and high barbed-wire fences will hold 675 inmates by the year end.

This number can be increased to 1,140 inmates.

The 67-million-dollar facility will be run by around 700 military personnel working for the Joint Task Force 435, created by US Defence Secretary Robert Gates “to take responsibility for all US detainee operations in Afghanistan”.

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U.S. helicopter took off from the Bagram Air Base. (Wall Street Journal)

Officially known as Detention Facility in Parwan, after the surrounding province, the prison will replace that now run by only 200 guards in the centre of Bagram, a rapidly growing garrison city of 24,000.

Most inmates will be held in communal cells with a capacity of 20 detainees with, on average, 40 square feet (3.7 square metres) of individual space. On arrival, each will be issued a green blanket, a prayer mat, a white prayer cap and a copy of the Koran.

Detainees may, however, be segregated into individual cells for disciplinary reasons, but for never more than 30 days at a stretch.

Read moreAfghanistan: New 67-Million-Dollar US Prison At Bagram

Israel: Government proposes work camps for illegal migrants

Work camps! Looks like the Israeli government has learned from history.


The government is considering establishing work camps in the south of the country, where illegal migrant workers will receive shelter, food and medical care, Army Radio reported Wednesday. In exchange, illegal migrants would perform manual labor outside the camps, but would not earn a salary.

They would stay at the camp until their asylum claims are decided, which could take months or years.

The proposal, part of the effort to address the problems posed by illegal migrants, would place asylum seekers at jobs in communities in the Negev and Arava. Their salaries would go to the state, in order to fund the camps.

Read moreIsrael: Government proposes work camps for illegal migrants

Amnesty International Report: Israel Is Denying Palestinians Access To Water

Israel accused of denying Palestinians access to water (Independent)

Paul Craig Roberts: Israel and the Goldstone Report – War Criminals Are Becoming Arbiters of the Law


A girl stands next to a water tank near Nablus, West Bank. Photo: October 2009 Some Palestinians only get 20 litres of water a day, Amnesty says

Israel is denying Palestinians access to even the basic minimum of clean, safe water, Amnesty International says.

In a report, the human rights group says Israeli water restrictions discriminate against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.

It says that in Gaza, Israel’s blockade has pushed the already ailing water and sewage system to “crisis point”.

Israel says the report is flawed and the Palestinians get more water than was agreed under the 1990s peace deal.

‘Basic need’

In the 112-page report, Amnesty says that on average Palestinian daily water consumption reaches 70 litres a day, compared with 300 litres for the Israelis.

Israel must end its discriminatory policies, immediately lift all the restrictions it imposes on Palestinians’ access to water
Donatella Rovera
Amnesty International
Gaza thirsts as sewage crisis mounts Water shortages plague West Bank

It says that some Palestinians barely get 20 litres a day – the minimum recommended even in humanitarian emergencies.

While Israeli settlers in the West Bank enjoy lush gardens and swimming pools, Amnesty describes a series of Israeli measures it says are discriminating against Palestinians:

  • Israel has “entirely appropriated the Palestinians’ share of the Jordan river” and uses 80% of a key shared aquifer
  • West Bank Palestinians are not allowed to drill wells without Israeli permits, which are “often impossible” to obtain
  • Rainwater harvesting cisterns are “often destroyed by the Israeli army”
  • Israeli soldiers confiscated a water tanker from villagers who were trying to remain in land Israel had declared a “closed military area”
  • An unnamed Israeli soldier says rooftop Palestinian household water tanks are “good for target practice”
  • Much of the land cut off by the West Bank barrier is land with good access to a major aquifer
  • Israeli military operations have damaged Palestinian water infrastructure, including $6m worth during the Cast Lead operation in Gaza last winter
  • The Israeli-Egyptian blockade of Gaza has “exacerbated what was already a dire situation” by denying many building materials needed for water and sewage projects.
  • The report also noted that the Palestinian water authorities have been criticised for bad management, quoting one audit that described the sector as in “total chaos”.

    “Water is a basic need and a right, but for many Palestinians obtaining even poor-quality, subsistence-level quantities of water has become a luxury that they can barely afford,” Amnesty’s Donatella Rovera said.

    “Israel must end its discriminatory policies, immediately lift all the restrictions it imposes on Palestinians’ access to water.”

Water consumption graph

Recommended for short-term survival: 20 litres For the medium term: 70 litres Recommended for the long term: 100 litres (Source: WHO)

Read moreAmnesty International Report: Israel Is Denying Palestinians Access To Water

Obama Breaks Major Campaign Promise as Military Commissions Resume, Says Amnesty International

Human Rights Organization Reiterates Call for Detainees to be Tried in U.S. Federal Courts

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WASHINGTON, May 15 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — In response to President Barack Obama restarting the military commissions at the U.S.-controlled detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Amnesty International’s executive director Larry Cox issued the following statement:

“President Obama is reinstating the same deeply-flawed military commissions that in June 2008 he called an ‘enormous failure.’ In one swift move, Obama both backtracks on a major campaign promise to change the way the United States fights terrorism and undermines the nation’s core respect for the rule of law by sacrificing due process for political expediency.

Related articles:
Obama orders tribunals restarted for some Guantanamo detainees

Obama administration seeks indefinite detention for terror suspects

“Whatever revisions the Obama administration has made to the commissions do not change the fact that the commissions do not provide an adequate standard of justice for the detainees nor the victims of terrorism — they merely mock the U.S. Constitution, international laws and undermine fundamental human rights standards.

Read moreObama Breaks Major Campaign Promise as Military Commissions Resume, Says Amnesty International

U.S. shipped 989 munitions containers to Israel week before Gaza invasion

In the dying days of the Bush administration, and a week before Israel launched an aerial bombing campaign, followed by a land invasion of the Gaza Strip, the U.S. military shipped 989 containers of munitions to Israel.

Each container was 20-feet long with a total estimated net weight of 14,000 tonnes. The shipment reportedly reached Israel last month at Ashod, 40 kiometres north of Gaza. The huge arsenal of munitions will replenish those expended in the Gaza War.

According to Amnesty International in the UK, the shipment included white phosphorous.

The international organization says 300 of the containers had been unloaded at Ashod in March by a German cargo ship, Wehr Elb.

“We are sure that the consignment contained arms and munitions.” We have a strong suspicion that it contained white phosphorous which has been used against civilians in Gaza,” Brian Wood, head of Arms Control Campaign at Amnesty International in London said late this week.

“The cargo ship had been chartered and controlled by US Military Sealift Command. It left the USA for Israel on December 20, one week before the start of Israeli attacks on Gaza. The vessel was carrying 989 containers of munitions, each of them 20-feet long with a total estimated net weight of 14,000 tonnes,” he said.

“The world community including the Palestinians should be able to know where the remaining 680 containers on board the Wehr Elbe have gone and why the US is not transparent about the final destination of the dangerous cargo.

“A Pentagon spokesperson confirmed to Amnesty International that “the unloading of the entire US munitions shipment was successfully completed at Ashdod on March 22,” Wood pointed out.

Read moreU.S. shipped 989 munitions containers to Israel week before Gaza invasion