The National Onion Association — which is “the official organization representing growers, shippers, brokers, and commercial representatives of the U.S. onion industry” — wrote to government officials earlier this year to resolutely support Shell Oil’s bid to drill for oil in the remote wilderness of the Arctic.
The letter does not list any direct benefits for the onion industry. Almost all of the letter consists of language lifted directly from the Consumer Energy Alliance, an “astroturf” group funded by the oil industry, including Shell Oil. Consumer Energy Alliance is managed by HBW Resources, a lobbying firm that represents a drilling trade association that includes Shell Oil as a dues-paying member.
In August, after years of lobbying, Shell received a controversial permit from the Obama administration that allows the company to drill for oil and gas in the Arctic. The permit was approved after a final comment period in April that allowed the public to weigh in on the decision one last time.
Environmentalists and local communities sent in hundreds of letters and signed petitions, arguing that Shell is incapable of controlling a spill in a remote region of the world with limited infrastructure, which is known for stormy seas.
But the docket for public comment also features a few letters of support, including the letter from the National Onion Association, a group that is dedicated to reminding citizens that onions contribute “layers of flavor, color, and texture to a wide variety of dishes and cuisines.” Its website also provides many delicious-sounding recipes prominently featuring onions.
No one picked up the phone at the National Onion Association, nor did Executive Vice President Wayne Mininger, who signed the Arctic drilling letter, respond to a request for comment.
According to an online plagiarism tool, the National Onion Association’s pro-drilling letter is 78 percent identical to language from a Consumer Energy Alliance petition to support drilling in the Arctic. It appears the onion farmer letter only added a few non-substantial lines, such as: “On behalf of U.S. onion producers, shippers and allied industry …”
HBW Resources has helped to manufacture support for drilling initiatives in the past. Metadata from a letter signed by several governors associated with the Outer Continental Shelf Governors Association, which backs increased oil and gas drilling in the Atlantic Ocean, revealed HBW Resources had produced the documents. HBW and the Consumer Energy Alliance, using money from oil refiners and drilling companies, also helped create “grassroots” efforts to build public support for the Keystone XL pipeline.
The decision to open up the Arctic for drilling is receiving renewed attention this week as President Obama travels to Alaska, becoming the first sitting president to visit the Arctic Circle and witness the impacts of climate change.
The post Onion Farmers’ Support of Arctic Drilling Copies and Pastes Language From Oil Lobby Group appeared first on The Intercept.
Sigmar Gabriel meldet sich lautstark in der Flüchtlingsdebatte zu Wort. Über die von ihm genehmigten Waffenexporte spricht er dabei nicht -
Von HANS BERGER, 01. September 2015 -
"Hunderttausende Menschen riskieren ihr Leben, um vor Terror und Krieg zu uns zu fliehen. Sie haben ein Recht darauf, ohne Angst ein menschenwürdiges Leben bei uns zu führen. Deutschland ist ein starkes und mitfühlendes Land." Mit diesem Statement beteiligte sich der Vizekanzler und SPD-Vorsitzende Sigmar Gabriel an der von der Springer-Presse inszenierten Kampagne "100 Stimmen gegen Flüchtlingshass". Eine Woche zuvor hatte er sich bereits in dem Dresdner Vorort Heidenau mit markigen Tönen zu Wort
(Warning: Some of the images in this story are graphic and disturbing.)
In the Islamic concept of qadar, your divine destiny is inescapable. If you try to cheat death it will find you. For two women on a dusty road in mid-June on the southwest corner of the Arabian Peninsula, their repeated attempts to dodge fate ended in tragic failure.
Leaving the war zone of Yemen’s southern port city of Aden on June 10, the women headed north in a Toyota Cressida driven by a male relative. The pair were escaping the violence that had already turned entire streets in Aden to rubble, left hundreds dead and thousands of civilians under siege, struggling to find food, water and medical care.
Driving ahead of them was a family of four in a Hilux pick-up truck, slowing at the numerous checkpoints along the road and weaving around potholes in the asphalt. Between 4:30 and 5 p.m., seemingly from nowhere, the first missile struck. The Hilux flipped into a cartwheeling fireball, killing the two children and their parents inside.
Before the women in the Toyota had a chance to compose themselves an ominous whistle preceded a second missile, which smashed into the ground beside them and sent their car careering off the road into the dusty scrubland. Twice in the space of just a few minutes the women had stared death in the face.
Dressed in black abiyas — the uniform dress code of women in Yemen — they clambered out of their sand-bound car. Seeing the two stranded women, Mohammed Ahmed Salem pulled over in his bus. Salem was taking his 25-year-old daughter to the province of Lahj and had filled his bus with passengers to help pay for the fuel. The passengers made room for the two women, who left their male relative to wait for a family member to help recover the crashed Toyota. But as they thanked God for their narrow escape, the third and final missile came out of the sky. The bus and some 10 passengers were obliterated.
The names of the dead did not even make news in the local press in Aden. This form of death is now commonplace amid a war so hidden that foreign journalists are forced to smuggle themselves by boat into the country to report on an ongoing conflict that the U.N. says has killed more than 4,500 people and left another 23,500 wounded.
On one side of the conflict is the U.S.-backed coalition of nations led by Saudi Arabia supporting Yemen’s president-in-exile, Abd Rabu Mansour Hadi. Their adversaries are the predominantly Shiite Houthi fighters who hail from the northern province of Saada that abuts the Saudi border, along with soldiers from renegade military units loyal to the country’s former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh.
From visiting some 20 sites of airstrikes and interviews with more than a dozen witnesses, survivors and relatives of those killed in eight of these strikes in southern Yemen, this reporter discovered evidence of a pattern of Saudi-coalition airstrikes that show indiscriminate bombing of civilians and rescuers, adding further weight to claims made by human rights organizations that some Saudi-led strikes may amount to war crimes and raising vital questions over the U.S. and Britain’s role in Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen.
(The number of civilian casualties has not been officially collated or recorded by NGOs or aid agencies. Only a handful of humanitarian and independent human rights organizations have had a presence on the ground in Aden, while nationwide just a small fraction of the strikes have even been independently documented. The death tolls for the eight strikes, which include five on public buses, were given by witnesses, or those who collected the dead after the strikes, and are necessarily imperfect; the total ranges from 142 up to 175.)
“The Obama administration needs urgently to explain what the U.S.’s exact role in Saudi Arabia’s indiscriminate bombing campaign is,” said Cori Crider, strategic director at the international legal group Reprieve. “It very much looks like there is a case to answer here — not just for the Saudis, but for any Western agencies who are standing behind them. International law shuns the intentional targeting of civilians in war — and in the United States it is a serious federal crime.”
These civilian deaths occurred in strikes that account for just a handful of the thousands of bombing raids carried out by the Saudi-led coalition since its aerial campaign began. Of particular concern are the U.S.-style “double tap” strikes — where follow-up strikes hit those coming to rescue victims of an initial missile attack — which became a notorious trademark of covert CIA drone strikes in Pakistan. On July 6, for instance, at least 35 rescuers and bystanders were killed trying to help scores of traders hit in a strike five minutes earlier on a farmers market in Fayoush, in Yemen’s Lahj province.
Abdul Hamid Mohammed Saleh, 30, was standing on the opposite side of the road when the first missile hit the gathering of more than 100 men who had been arriving since before 6 a.m. to trade goats and sheep at the daily market. The initial blast, he told me, killed around a dozen men and injured scores more. Body parts flew through the air, and an arm landed next to Saleh. He said he began to flee, but hearing the screams of the injured he turned back and crossed the road to try and help. The second strike landed less than 30 yards from him, sending shrapnel flying into his back.
On June 12, six days after an airstrike split a large public transport bus in two on the edge of Aden’s Dar Saad district, Lami Yousef Ali, 23, found the decomposing body of his 28-year-old brother, Abdu, still entangled in the wreckage. Lami and Abdu had been chatting via WhatsApp moments before the bus was bombed, and their father, Yusef Ali, also died in the strike, which killed at least 16 civilians. According to witnesses, this bombing also hit two cars carrying Houthi fighters. (This is the only case of the eight strikes investigated in which Houthi fighters appear to have been the target rather than civilians.) Although no remnants of the cars are visible at the strike site, the twisted metal of the bisected bus still lies in the sand, rusting in the scorching heat of Aden’s summer sun. In the background the familiar sound of distant bombings resonates from the shifting front lines as the battle moves on.
On April 25 a fighter jet bombed a public bus towing another bus carrying Somali refugees from the isolated Kharaz refugee camp, 93 miles northwest of Aden. Forced to take a winding back route to Aden because of fighting on the main road, the shambling convoy was hit around 11 a.m by at least two strikes in the remote desert scrublands of Lahj.
Mustafa al-Abd Awad said he lost his brother, Mohammed, a father of seven. When Awad went to the site to recover his brother’s body, he counted more than 30 others in the ashes of the two burnt-out buses. Other relatives who went to collect their dead said the total killed was as high as 52. “They take everything from us,” shouted Awad, gesturing toward a cloudless sky. “Why? Tell me why.”
Along with the Saudi coalition’s bombing campaign, American warships have also helped to enforce a naval blockade that the Saudis say is necessary to prevent weapon shipments to the Houthis, whom they claim are supported by Iran. According to the U.N., this collective punishment has left the country “on the brink of famine,” with desperate shortages of food, medical supplies and fuel — vital not only for transportation but for pumping increasingly scarce water from the depths of the country’s depleted water tables. Four out of five Yemenis are now in need of humanitarian assistance.
To add to the worsening humanitarian crisis, on August 18 Saudi-led fighter jets bombed the port in the northern city of Hodeidah, a main supply route for aid agencies, while on the outskirts of Aden white sugar spills into shredded sacks of flour. Hundreds of pounds of vital food supplies lie ruined in bombed-out warehouses.
While protesters have taken to the streets of the capital, Sanaa, in the thousands to demonstrate against the bombings, in Aden green Saudi flags flutter in the sea breeze at checkpoints, and street vendors sell posters of Saudi Arabia’s King Salman in acknowledgement of the Kingdom’s support in the battle to remove the Houthi Saleh forces from their city. Unlike northern Yemen, where sympathy for the Houthis is strongest, many southerners are reluctant to blame their Saudi neighbors for the civilian casualties.
Some observers, such as Human Rights Watch, say evidence shows many of the Saudi-led strikes appear to be “serious laws-of-war violations,” while others stress that the many civilian deaths are a result of error. In Aden, where scores of civilians have also been killed in a ground war that raged for over four months, Southern Resistance fighters place blame for the deaths on the poor coordination between the anti-Houthi militias and their coalition partners in Riyadh. “It was not organized,” said tax director and Southern Resistance supporter Mohammed Othman of the Saudis’ first attempt at managing a modern war. “Those calling in the strikes were old commanders who don’t know the recent layout of the city.” (A day after our meeting, Othman was shot dead by a Houthi sniper.)
Brig. Gen. Ahmed Assiri, spokesperson for the Saudi-led coalition forces, denied air strikes had targeted civilians and rescuers, or civilian infrastructure. When asked to comment, he said that “It is not a good story to talk about,” and also that he welcomed any United Nations investigation into the strikes.
Last week, 23 human rights organizations called on the United Nations Human Rights Council to create an international commission of inquiry to investigate alleged violations of international laws by all sides in the ongoing conflict. This includes the U.S. and Britain. Some 45 U.S. advisers are currently assisting the Saudi coalition from joint operations centers in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, while the American government has also supplied intelligence, in-flight refueling of fighter jets, and weapons, including, according to rights organizations, banned U.S. cluster munitions.
America’s continued support of Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen comes as Saudi-U.S. relations have been strained by President Obama’s pursuit of a nuclear deal with the Kingdom’s regional nemesis, Iran. Adam Baron, a visiting fellow with the European Council on Foreign Relations, suggests that the U.S. has been more eager to conciliate Saudi Arabia than usual, “because they want them and the other Gulf States to at least not actively oppose the Iran deal.”
A U.S. Department of Defense spokesperson responded: “We take all accounts of civilian deaths due to the ongoing hostilities in Yemen seriously. We continue to provide logistical and intelligence support to the Saudi-led coalition in response to ongoing aggressive Houthi military actions. We have asked the Saudi government to investigate all credible reports of civilian casualties and to undertake urgent steps in response if these reports are verified.”
Meanwhile, the U.S.-backed bombing campaign continues into its sixth month and Yemen’s largely hidden war endures; its civilians struggle to survive, with little influence over their fate. “We don’t know when or where death will come, where the next bullet or bomb will drop,” said Itisam, staring at a picture of her dead son’s gray, dismembered body wedged under the undercarriage of a bus. “Only God knows.”
Reporter Ryan Devereaux contributed to this report.
Photo: The aftermath of an April 27 Saudi-led bombing on the residential Crater district in the heart of Yemen’s southern port city of Aden, which killed at least 18 civilians, including seven members of one family.
The post Yemen’s Hidden War: How the Saudi-Led Coalition Is Killing Civilians appeared first on The Intercept.
Civil Rights Group Backed by Telecom Industry Seeks to Block Net Neutrality, Instantly Contradicts Itself
The Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council, an organization that says its purpose is to advance “equal opportunity and civil rights” in the media, has faced criticism in the past that the organization acts as little more than a corporate front group.
Two positions taken recently by MMTC suggest that such criticism is accurate: The positions contradict one another, but both reflect the desires of MMTC’s funders.
In August, MMTC joined an industry-led lawsuit against net neutrality, filing a brief in support of the U.S. Telecom Association’s lawsuit to overturn net neutrality. The MMTC brief claims that net neutrality will deepen the digital divide, causing millions of disadvantaged communities to continue to lack Internet service because purported lower-cost solutions that violate open Internet principles will be blocked.
But just months ago, MMTC lobbied for a radio industry-backed rule that rests on the assumption that Americans already enjoy equal access to the Internet. In an April 13 letter to the Federal Communications Commission, MMTC supported a petition by radio station companies that would allow broadcasters to move sponsorship information from on-air announcements to an Internet database.
How can MMTC claim that citizens can simply go online for radio sponsorship information in one breath, then claim it is fighting net neutrality on behalf of millions of Americans without Internet access in another? I asked MMTC for comment, but have not heard back.
It’s not the first time MMTC has offered seemingly contradictory policy proposals.
MMTC leader David Honig has said on multiple occasions that one of his primary goals is to combat “threats to minority ownership” in the media industry.
However, in 2013, MMTC explicitly asked the FCC to disregard women and minority media ownership as the agency debated loosening a rule regarding restrictions on media consolidation, claiming in a study that minority ownership concerns should not be a “material justification for tightening or retaining the rules.” The media ownership rule, originally created in the 1970s in part because television stations in the South censored coverage of the civil rights movement, prevents a single company from owning a newspaper and a television or radio station in a single major media market.
As MMTC asked the FCC to disregard minority concerns, the group received significant funding from CBS, Clear Channel Communications (now known as iHeartRadio), News Corporation and the National Association of Broadcasters, all companies and organizations that had lobbied to repeal the media ownership rule, according to a report from the Center for Public Integrity.
Similarly, the chair of MMTC, Julia Johnson, has long claimed to be a tireless advocate for helping minority communities gain access to telecommunications services. But in 2006, she testified against a bill that would require telephone companies to “build out” services to poor and minority neighborhoods. Under questioning by then-Congressman Ed Markey, D-Mass., Johnson eventually admitted that telephone companies were paying her.
MMTC has gone to bat for other major media companies, arguing in 2011 that minority communities would benefit from the Comcast-NBC Universal merger. After urging support for the deal, MMTC received at least $350,000 from Comcast.
Notably, the lead plaintiffs in the MMTC-backed lawsuit to overturn net neutrality, including the National Cable and Telecom Association and AT&T, have helped bankroll MMTC, according to recent tax filings and MMTC event sponsorship information.
I have a prediction: Charles and David Koch will soon announce they’re backing Bernie Sanders for president.
Here’s my logic, which is irrefutable:
We know the Koch brothers, and the organizations they fund, hate corporate welfare more than anything. They hate it!
The top priority of Freedom Partners, which oversees the Koch network of donors, is “tackling ‘rent-seeking,’ ‘corporate welfare,’ and other forms of cronyism.”
Charles Koch himself just told Politico’s Mike Allen that “We have to show that this corporate welfare and cronyism is unjust.” Sure, said Koch, it makes their friends unhappy, but “so what? You’ve got to do the right thing.” So as Allen wrote, “Rolling back corporate welfare is one of the top issues Koch is pursuing.”
Similarly, when Koch spoke recently to 450 of his fellow big donors at a recent Koch event in California, he demanded that “they have to start opposing, rather than promoting, corporate welfare.” In the Wall Street Journal, Koch wrote that “I have spent decades opposing cronyism and all political favors, including mandates, subsidies and protective tariffs.”
Cynics might suspect that the Kochs are talking up this part of their stated agenda because it’s one of the few things on it that’s genuinely popular with Americans — unlike most of their other treasured goals, like gutting Social Security and Medicare and radically slashing taxes on billionaires like themselves.
I, however, choose to believe.
And if you hate corporate welfare like I believe the Koch brothers do, it’s obvious that Bernie’s your candidate. He’s been railing against it for decades, and way back in 2002 estimated that it’s costing us $125 billion per year. Corporations “line up for billions in corporate welfare from the federal government,” Bernie says, because of a “greed culture.” And he specifically hates the Export-Import Bank, just like the Kochs.
By contrast, take a look at the presidential candidates whom the Kochs invited to audition for them a few weeks ago, like Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and Scott Walker. They LOVE corporate welfare. Scott Walker just committed $400 million in taxpayer money to build a new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks. Bush and a business partner got a bailout worth over $4 million in 1990 during the Savings & Loan Crisis, and Bush has said the 2008 Wall Street bailout was “probably the right thing to do.” Rubio defends his support for subsidies for sugar farmers in Florida because they somehow protect our national security.
Sure, there are some issues on which Bernie and the Koch brothers disagree. But Bernie’s also the best fit with their purported beliefs about ending the war on drugs, gay marriage, and a less militaristic foreign policy. And the Kochs obviously disagree with all the GOP candidates on tons of things too.
The alternative to taking the Koch brothers at their word is to conclude that all the stuff they say that progressives love is just a scam — that when it’s time to get out their checkbooks to put people in office, the only thing they actually care about is whether those politicians will make them richer. (This is what free market economists call “revealed preference.”)
But I do take the Koch brothers at their word, so I look forward to seeing them sitting proudly in the front row when Bernie Sanders takes the presidential oath of office on January 20, 2017. Unless they decide to go with Jill Stein.
The post Why the Koch Brothers Will Pour All Their Money Into Making Bernie Sanders President appeared first on The Intercept.
Press Release Conference on „NATO and Russia in the Baltic Sea Area“ Hotel Arthur, Helsinki, 4-6- September 2015
Conference on „NATO and Russia in the Baltic Sea Area“
Hotel Arthur, Helsinki, 4-6- September 2015
A new confrontation is arising: an increase of military spending, failure of progress in the abolition of nuclear weapons, saber-rattling via military exercises are its expressions. NATO’s expansions to the East, Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and the war in East Ukraine have led to a much tenser situation in the Baltic Sea where Russia and NATO states border. Military activities in the region have escalated. Poland and the three Baltic states have been alarmed at the perceived threat from Russia and have been clamoring for a stronger NATO presence in the region. With new partnership agreements between NATO and Sweden as well as Finland these former neutral countries become increasingly a part of this rising conflict.
The conference “NATO and Russia in the Baltic Sea Area” wants to analyze the rise of this new confrontation, the expansion of NATO and the conflict in Ukraine and wants to highlight and discuss alternatives to militarization and the building of a new cold war area, namely forms of cooperation and neutralism as well as non-violent bottom-up processes for peace and understanding.
The conference is organized by the international network No to War – No to NATO together with Committee of 100 in Finland, Finnish Peace Committee, Finnish Psychologists for Social Responsibility, Artists for Peace (PAND), Peace Education Institute, Peace Union of Finland, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Svenska Kvinnors Vänsterförbund/ Swedish Women of the Left, WILPF Finland, Women for Peace, Finland, Women for Peace, Sweden, and the support of the European Left.
Speakers include among others: Maj Britt Theorin (Sweden), Sven Hirdman (former Swedish Ambassador in Moskva), Kimmo Kiljunen (Special Representative for Mediation of Foreign Minister of Finland), Ingeborg Breines (Norway, International Peace Bureau), Tarja Cronberg (Finnish Peace Union, Middle Power Initiative, former MEP), Urve Randmaa (Estonia), Nikita Lomagin (Russia, Baltic Center of International Studies) Sergei Kirichuk (Ukraine, Borotba) and Nina Potarskaya (Ukraine, Center for Social and Labor Research)
For more information please see: www.no-to-nato.org
Please find the program attached or here: http://no-to-nato.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/NATO-and-Russia-in-the-Baltic-Sea-Area.pdf.
Lucas Wirl (Co-Chair ICC No to War – No to NATO, Germany: email@example.com, 0049 176 64103500)