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Take the Train: France Moves to Ban Short-Haul Domestic Flights

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 19/04/2021 - 2:25am in

In a bid to lower carbon consumption, France takes first step tpwards banning short-haul flights where rail alternatives exist.

Local Cops Said Pipeline Company Had Influence Over Government Appointment

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 17/04/2021 - 9:00pm in

As the Canadian oil pipeline company Enbridge awaited its final permits last summer to begin construction on the Line 3 tar sands oil transport project, Minnesota sheriff’s offices along the route fretted. With an Anishinaabe-led movement pledging to carry out nonviolent blockades and demonstrations to prevent the pipeline’s construction, local police worried they’d be stuck with the costs of policing and wanted Enbridge to pay instead.

As part of its permit to build Line 3, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, or PUC, created a special Enbridge-funded account that public safety officials could use to pay for policing Enbridge’s political opponents. The police were concerned about who state officials would hire to decide which invoices to pay or reject.

Last June, Kanabec County Sheriff Brian Smith wrote an email to other sheriffs along the pipeline route. “I think we need to let the PUC know that the person selected needs to be someone that we also agree upon,” Smith wrote. “Not a member of the PUC, not a state, county or federal employee, but someone that has an understanding of rioting and MFF operations” — referring to mobile field force operations, or anti-riot policing.

In response, Enbridge offered reassurances, according to other police on the email chain. “I had a discussion with Troy Kirby (Enbridge Chief of Security) this morning, and expressed concern over that position and the escrow account,” Aitkin County Sheriff Daniel Guida replied. “He indicated they have some influence on the hiring of that positon [sic] and he would be involved to ensure we are taken care of, one way or another.”

“They are being incentivized to carry out the goals of a foreign corporation, and they’re being taken care of for doing it.”

The exchange between the sheriffs is an example of the public-private collaborations between law enforcement and fossil fuel companies that have raised alarms for civil rights advocates and environmental activists across the U.S. Oil, gas, and pipeline corporations have forged a range of creative strategies for funding the police who respond to their political opponents, from paying elected constables for work as private security to creating an entire police unit dedicated to protecting infrastructure. Other industries have found ways to route money to police, but corporate law enforcement funding related to pipeline projects is among the most pervasive. Civil liberties advocates say the corporate cash raises troubling questions about private influence over the public institution of policing, noting that growing anti-pipeline protest movements have been met by heavy-handed police tactics.

With opposition to the Line 3 pipeline mounting, public records obtained by The Intercept shed new light on the depths of the cooperation between Enbridge and public safety officials in Minnesota — especially law enforcement agencies along the route. “They are being incentivized to carry out the goals of a foreign corporation, and they’re being taken care of for doing it,” said Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund’s Center for Protest Law and Litigation, which is representing Line 3 pipeline opponents. She said the dynamic was on view in the sheriff’s description of Enbridge influence over the escrow account hire: “That communication is defining of the relationship between the Enbridge corporation and law enforcement in Northern Minnesota.”

Guida, the Aitkin County sheriff, told The Intercept that, at the time of the email, sheriffs were concerned the account liaison appointment was taking too long and believed Kirby, the Enbridge security head, could speed up the process. Asked for comment, Enbridge directed questions about the account to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. In a statement, PUC spokesperson Will Seuffert said, “Enbridge had no input into the Escrow Account Manager selection.” The panel that made the appointment included two commission staff members and one from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety who worked “without any involvement from Enbridge, or any other parties,” he said.

In February, Richard Hart, a former official at the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office and a former deputy chief of police in Bloomington, Minnesota, was hired for the role. So far, he has approved more than $900,000 in Enbridge funding for law enforcement agencies and other public safety institutions.

For Indigenous water protectors, the cooperation between law enforcement and pipeline companies is part of a long history of public security forces being leveraged against Native tribes for private gain, going back to the violent westward expansion of the United States. Tania Aubid, an anti-Line 3 organizer and a member of the Rice Lake Band, which is part of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, said, “It’s keeping on with the Indian Wars.”

Money for Tear Gas

Chief among the law enforcement officers’ concerns about the escrow account, according to emails obtained through public records requests, was a rule in the Line 3 permit limiting how the funds can be used. Sheriff’s offices can use the account to pay for any public safety services “provided in and about the construction site as a direct result of the construction and removal of the pipeline,” but they cannot use it to pay for equipment, unless it’s personal protective gear.

It was widely understood — and a particular source of frustration — that so-called less-lethal munitions, such as tear gas, would not be reimbursed through the account. “We do know for absolute certain that munitions will NOT be an allowable expense,” noted Carlton County Sheriff Kelly Lake in a November 19 email to fellow members of the Northern Lights Task Force, a coalition of law enforcement and public safety officials set up primarily to respond to anti-pipeline demonstrations.

“So, we can get reimbursed for trafficking but not equipment needed to protect our community’s? [sic]” wrote Cass County Sheriff Tom Burch a few days later, in reply to an email that said Enbridge funds could be used to address an expected increase in human trafficking related to the arrival of hundreds of temporary workers.

A Native American environmental activist stands in front of the construction site for the Line 3 oil pipeline near Palisade, Minnesota on January 9, 2021. - Line 3 is an oil sands pipeline which runs from Hardisty, Alberta, Canada to Superior, Wisconsin in the United States. In 2014, a new route for the Line 3 pipeline was proposed to allow an increased volume of oil to be transported daily. While that project has been approved in Canada, Wisconsin, and North Dakota, it has sparked continued resistance from climate justice groups and Native American communities in Minnesota. While many people are concerned about potential oil spills along Line 3, some Native American communities in Minnesota have opposed the project on the basis of treaty rights. (Photo by Kerem Yucel / AFP) (Photo by KEREM YUCEL/AFP via Getty Images)

Water protectors protest at a construction site for Enbridge’s Line 3 oil pipeline near Palisade, Minn., on Jan. 9, 2021.

Photo: Kerem Yucel/AFP via Getty Images

The funding gap for less-lethal munitions was important enough that law enforcement officials raised it with Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz. In early October, Walz set up a phone call with the sheriffs along the Line 3 route. Ahead of the calls, Lake, the Carlton County sheriff, distributed a handful of talking points to the group. Among them was the problem of tear gas funding.

“One identified resource we know that will aid in response should the protests become violent and out of control is the use of less lethal munitions such as gas,” the talking points said. “We have been told by the PUC that this absolutely will not be an allowable expense for reimbursement through the Public Safety Escrow Account. Enbridge has said they would not directly reimburse this expense as they have put funds aside into the Public Safety Escrow Account already to be utilized to reimburse public safety for response.”

It continues, “If counties along the pipeline route face mass crowds of violent protests that are prolonged events, the small resources of munitions that we may have will be very quickly depleted. Without these less lethal options, there is an incredibly increased risk for responders, protestors, and the community as a whole.”

The governor apparently offered words of comfort. “Dave’s assessment is that it went very well and he believes that the Governor will figure out the funding piece and the munitions,” Lake said in an email after the call, referring to Dave Olmstead, a retired Bloomington police commander who serves as Minnesota’s special events preparedness coordinator for Line 3, overseeing the public safety response to the project. “It sounds like his staff was already trying to line up a meeting internally for them to discuss it.”

A spokesperson for the governor’s office did not answer a question about the phone call and directed all queries about state funding to the Department of Public Safety, which did not respond to a request for comment. Guida told The Intercept that his department has received no additional funding from the state to pay for less-lethal weapons.

Enbridge Funding Equipment

Regardless of what funding the governor arranged, less-lethal weapons, including tear gas, are baked into law enforcement’s plans for Line 3.

A Northern Lights Task Force document laying out the overarching police strategy for Line 3 protests, also obtained through a public information request, repeatedly notes the importance of protecting free speech rights, urging officers to “make reasonable efforts to employ ‘non-arrest’ methods of crowd management” and to target leaders and agitators, rather than detaining people en masse.

If targeted arrests fail to disperse a group, according to the document, then chemical weapons are allowed, including smoke, pepper spray, or a combination of the two, followed by longer-range pepper spray, pepper blast balls, and tear gas. Impact munitions, firearms-fired projectiles in the less-lethal category like sponge rounds, marking rounds, and pepper spray-tipped rounds can only be targeted at individuals whose actions put others in danger of injury. The use of dogs requires permission from local law enforcement commanders.

Guida justified planning for the use of less-lethal munitions by comparing the Line 3 opposition to the movement against the Dakota Access pipeline at the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. “It seemed that without less than lethal munitions, when they lost control, that things would have continued to spiral out of control,” Guida said.

Verheyden-Hilliard is part of the legal team representing Dakota Access pipeline opponents in a class-action civil rights lawsuit against law enforcement officials in North Dakota, including a woman who lost vision in one eye after police shot her in the face with a tear gas canister. “If we want to look at what happened with DAPL, I think that’s a good idea,” she said. “The lesson we can learn from there is in fact that equipping all these local sheriffs with these very powerful and very indiscriminate and very dangerous weapons causes substantial injury and harm to people.”

None of the weapons have yet been deployed, but counties have stocked up. Beltrami County, which is located near but not on the pipeline route, even submitted an invoice requesting reimbursement from the Enbridge-funded escrow account for more than $10,000 in less-lethal weapons, including batons, pepper spray, impact munitions, and tear gas grenades, despite the restriction.

Hart rejected those requests but approved $911,060 in other reimbursements, including approximately $170,00 worth of equipment: mostly tactical and crowd control gear, as well as miscellaneous items. Reimbursements, for example, were made for port-a-potty rentals, which are considered personal protective equipment because, according to Hart, “the toilets protect jail employees from biological exposure during jail overcrowding.” Among other approvedpersonal protective equipment” are baton stops, which attach a baton to officers’ duty belts, and gas masks, which protect officers from the tear gas they deploy.

Shanai Matteson, an opponent of the Line 3 who is from Guida’s county, said it feels inevitable that tear gas and other munitions will be used. “What you practice for, and the mindset you have, is what you bring. They’re soldiering up to protect a private company’s assets, so what do we think is going to happen?” Matteson said. “Stopping work on a project that’s destroying the place that we live is not the same as violence that would warrant this kind of a response.”

The post Local Cops Said Pipeline Company Had Influence Over Government Appointment appeared first on The Intercept.

Chemical Industry Lobbyist in Trump EPA Suppressed Evidence of Cancer Risk

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 17/04/2021 - 12:28am in

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Environment

Trump administration officials withheld information about carcinogenic pollution from Illinois communities, according to a report released yesterday by the Environmental Protection Agency’s inspector general. Bill Wehrum, who served as assistant administrator of the office of Air and Radiation until 2019, kept information from residents of Willowbrook, Illinois, about results of air monitoring that showed they had an elevated risk of cancer due to ethylene oxide from a local sterilizing plant, according to the report, “EPA Delayed Risk Communication and Issued Instructions Hindering Region 5’s Ability to Address Ethylene Oxide Emissions,” which was produced in response to a request from Congress.

Measurement of the levels of ethylene oxide around the facility, which was owned by Sterigenics and has since closed, was conducted in May 2018 and showed an elevated risk of cancer due to the gas. In June, the regional administrator responsible for the area was briefed on the monitoring results and was preparing to release them to the public by posting them to the agency’s website. According to the report, “the then-Region 5 regional administrator expressed concern about the monitoring results and wanted to immediately release them to the public to avoid another public health emergency like the Flint, Michigan drinking water crisis.”

But Wehrum, who was not mentioned by name but referred to as “then-assistant administrator for air and radiation,” directed the regional administrator not to release the results to the public, according to the report. Before serving as head of EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, Wehrum was a lobbyist who represented chemical and oil companies. He left the post in 2019, while under scrutiny from the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the EPA’s inspector general. The Senate report found Wehrum was instituting changes that would increase air pollution and benefit his former clients at the lobbying firm Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP.

Wehrum did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In August 2018, the regional office of the EPA that covers Illinois did post the results of the monitoring on its website, but only briefly. “The Region 5’s webpage on Sterigenics facility monitoring was online for about an hour before the then-deputy assistant administrator for Air and Radiation directed Region 5 to take the webpage down,” according to the report.

The inspector general’s report also notes that the EPA did not meet with residents of Lake County who were exposed to the same gas.

The report does not explore the role of Wehrum or other EPA staff in deciding not to inform residents of dozens of other communities exposed to ethylene oxide of the dangers they faced. In a 2019 investigation, The Intercept found that more than 100 census tracts had elevated cancer risk due to ethylene oxide pollution. The vast majority of the people in these communities were not notified of the risk they faced. In an investigation published in March, The Intercept found that the Trump EPA encouraged companies to change their reported ethylene oxide emissions to a publicly available database called the Toxics Release Inventory. That story also found that the agency had conducted modeling that revealed ethylene oxide emissions from a plant in Port Neches, Texas, caused elevated cancer risk in an area around the plant that stretched more than 1,000 square miles, but the agency didn’t inform residents living there.

The inspector general’s report concludes that the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation “senior leaders issued instructions that hindered Region 5’s efforts to address ethylene oxide in a timely manner,” and the “EPA did not act consistently with its mission or guidance on risk communication.” The report requests a written response from the agency within 60 days.

The post Chemical Industry Lobbyist in Trump EPA Suppressed Evidence of Cancer Risk appeared first on The Intercept.

Robin Simcox’s Racist and Anti-Semitic Links

Further respect to Zelo Street for adding a few more details about Robin Simcox and his membership of some very nasty right-wing organisations. Simcox is professional smirking slime-bucket Priti Patel’s choice for head of the Commission for Countering Extremism. I put up a piece about him yesterday, based on a piece about him in the latest issue of Private Eye noting that Simcox has some views himself that many might consider extreme. Like he’s a Neocon member of the Heritage Foundation, who backs sending terrorist suspect to countries where they can be tortured and further infringement on the rule of law. But that’s not all. According to Wikipedia, the Heritage Foundation denies the reality of climate change and is funded by the American oil giant, Exxon Mobil. It also promoted the false claims of voter fraud. This was done through Hans von Spakovsky, the head of the Heritage Foundation’s Electoral Law Reform Initiative, who made such fears mainstream in the Republican Party. Von Spakovsky’s work, you won’t be surprised to hear, has been completely discredited according to Wikipedia.

The Heritage Foundation, according to the Byline Times, have on their board Rebekah Mercer and her father, Robert Mercer, who funded Breitbart News, which in turn supported Cambridge Analytica. And it was Cambridge Analytica that introduced Donald Trump to Steve Bannon, who founded Parler. But it was Simcox’s links to the racist extreme right that was more worrying to that authors of the Byline Times’ article. In 2019 Simcox spoke at a meeting of the Centre for Immigration Studies. The CIS has been identified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Centre. The CIS has for ten years circulated anti-Semitic and White nationalist materials, included articles written by supporters of eugenics and Holocaust deniers. According to Wikipedia, the CIS’ reports have been criticised as false or misleading and with poor methodology by experts on immigration. The Byline Times stated that in his work for the Heritage Foundation, Simcox promoted the work of several racist and anti-Muslim conspiracy theorists, including a supporter of the ‘Great Replacement’ theory, which has inspired many of the extreme right-wing terror attacks in recent years. He’s also been criticised for falsely equating British Islamic organisations with the Muslim brotherhood.

Simcox therefore has links to people, whose views could be described as genuinely Nazi. But as the Street notes, the self-appointed opponents of anti-Semitism are curiously silent about all this.


So who’s making their feelings known about this appointment? “Lord” Ian Austin? “Lord” John Mann? Wes Streeting? Stephen Pollard? John Woodcock? Margaret Hodge? Daniel Finkelstein? Crickets. If only Simcox had been pals with Jeremy Corbyn.

Zelo Street: Tory Anti-Semitism Link – No Problem! (zelo-street.blogspot.com)

Quite. But the above weren’t opponents of anti-Semitism per se. They were simply determined to destroy the Labour left and protect Israel and its persecution of the Palestinians. And as Tony Greenstein has shown ad nauseam, Israel has no problem collaborating with real Nazis if it will serve its interests.

Sunlight to solve the world’s clean water crisis

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 16/04/2021 - 11:30am in

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Environment

University of South Australia Media Release Researchers at UniSA have developed a cost-effective technique that could deliver safe drinking water to millions of vulnerable people using cheap, sustainable materials and sunlight. Less than 3 per cent of the world’s water is fresh, and due to the pressures of climate change, pollution, and shifting population patterns,…

The post Sunlight to solve the world’s clean water crisis appeared first on The AIM Network.

‘Money for nothing and my Tweets for free’ is out today

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 15/04/2021 - 6:02am in

Today is the launch day for my new ebook, 'Money for nothing and my Tweets for free'.

The book can be downloaded from here. There is deliberately no charge as all costs have been covered by those donating to this blog. Those donations covered, in particular, the work of designer David Mullins who produced the cover and was patient in the layout of the book - which is always a big task, in which Jacqueline Murphy also played a big role.  My thanks to them both.

There are three other reasons why there is no charge. First, much of the context in the book has already been published. The book deliberately brings together Twitter threads that I posted between November 2020 and March 2021 on themes around economics, quantitative easing, modern monetary theory, the Green New Deal and tax justice.

Second, although already published separately  I felt there was good reason to pull this collection together because many of the Twitter threads which underpin much of it have proved to be so popular.  One has now reached more than 1.75 million people and been interacted with more than 130,000 times. To show that there was a theme and continuum to the thinking between each of the threads seemed to be of value.

Third, I want the book to reach as many people as possible. Some have said that the content is 'mind-blowing', simply because it demands that we reverse much of our order of thinking about the way the government, and its finances work. Others have seen in what I have suggested answers to issues that have long perplexed them. And I hope teachers might use this to provoke debate, whether in classrooms or in more general debate.

Comment is welcome.

If any typos still survived, please let me know: we did our best.

And please feel free to spread the book far and wide. That’s precisely what it is for.

Indoor Dust Contains PFAS and Other Toxic Chemicals

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 15/04/2021 - 4:29am in

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Environment

Indoor dust contains dangerous, endocrine-disrupting chemicals, according to a study published today in Environmental Health Perspectives. The study of 46 dust samples from 21 buildings at a U.S. university found that all 46 samples contained hormonally active compounds that can lead to health effects, including infertility, diabetes, obesity, abnormal fetal growth, and cancers.

The study helps explain how industrial chemicals known as PFAS and flame retardants, which are found in the blood or urine of over 90 percent of Americans and are already known to cause widespread health and reproductive effects, enter the body. PFAS, which first came to light as ingredients in Teflon, are also used to coat carpets, furniture, and clothing. Despite a lack of evidence that they prevent fires, flame retardants are added to furniture, carpet, electronics, and building insulation. While we don’t eat these products, this study makes it clear that we breathe in tiny bits of them that have entered the air as dust.

“We don’t realize we’re taking this dust into our bodies all day every day,” said Anna Young, a postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Environmental Health at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and lead author of the study. According to Young, people ingest an average of 20 milligrams of dust each day.

While the health effects of PFAS and flame retardants have been known for years, the Environmental Protection Agency has been ineffective at curbing exposure to the chemicals. One class of flame retardants found in the dust — polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs — was phased out in 2013 after they were found to cause infertility, thyroid dysfunction, and other health problems. But those compounds remain in many products and have been recycled into many others. Meanwhile, a class of chemicals now used to replace PBDEs, organophosphate esters, has also been found to cause reproductive problems, impair behavioral and cognitive development, and lead to pregnancy loss.

The health effects of PFAS are also well known and include impaired fetal development, obesity, decreased vaccine response, preeclampsia, testicular cancer, immune dysfunction, kidney cancer, and elevated cholesterol levels. But while two compounds in the class, PFOA and PFOS, were voluntarily phased out as of 2015, those two compounds remain in many products, and thousands of other PFAS, including some that present clear health dangers, are still in use.

“They’ve shown there’s a lot of bioactivity in dust,” Linda Birnbaum, former director and scientist emeritus of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Toxicology Program, said of the study’s authors. “People don’t understand that we are being exposed all the time to a multitude of chemicals that impact our endocrine systems. Things that are in our products don’t stay put. They get into our dust, whether house or office dust. And if they get into our house or office dust, they get into us.” Birnbaum pointed out that the study didn’t look for many other chemicals that have already been found in dust, including PCBs, heavy metals, pesticides, and phthalates.

While regulators have so far failed to prevent exposure to the PFAS and flame retardants that were identified in the study, some companies have begun to get rid of these chemicals on their own. In 2016, Ikea phased out textiles that contain PFAS. Three years later, the Home Depot stopped purchasing and distributing carpets that contain the chemicals. In 2020, Lowe’s made a similar commitment. Furniture makers have also begun to make couches and chairs without flame retardants.

A study by Young published last year showed that dust in rooms where furniture and rugs that were free of these chemicals contained lower levels of the contaminants. Consumers concerned about the toxicity of their homes can check out the quickly evolving list of PFAS-free products. And people worried about whether their couches contain flame retardants can even send samples to scientists at Duke University, where scientists will test them to see if the chemicals are present.

But making indoor air safe to breathe will ultimately require regulatory action. “It can’t be on consumers to figure out what products are safe when there are thousands of these chemicals and manufacturers don’t have to disclose them,” said Young. “We need to send the market a signal that we want healthy products to be the default and not the exception.”

The post Indoor Dust Contains PFAS and Other Toxic Chemicals appeared first on The Intercept.

Experts Lay Out Their Case Against Carbon Pricing

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 14/04/2021 - 11:55pm in

Climate change policy advocates have turned against market approcaches like carbon offsets, which have clearly failed. But what next?

Lessons from the First New Deal for the Next One

Whether it is called “Build Back Better” or a Green New Deal, it is imperative to reject the false dichotomy of “jobs against climate.”

It’s Time For a Green Social Contract

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 12/04/2021 - 11:55pm in

The green transformation will have far-reaching socio-economic implications. Action is needed to ensure domestic and international social equity and fairness.

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