Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Crime Scene

Back in the formerly quiet town of Lac-Mégantic, thousands turned out for a mass and memorial service Saturday both inside and outside the church.

Photographs here of the victims.

MMA is still refusing to pay for the clean-up costs, saying that the insurance company should shoulder the responsibility.  Meanwhile costs are continuing to rise dramatically, now projected by some experts to climb into hundreds of millions, even a billion dollars.  Quebec law professor Daniel Gardner says he doubts MMA has the coverage to absorb their financial liability, and that he thinks the derailment could have "more financial consequences than any other land disaster in North American history."  He expects that the government will eventually shoulder the burden.

 Mourners gather in front of a memorial for the victims following a memorial service for the victims of the July 6 train derailment that killed an estimated 47 people Saturday, July 27, 2013 in Lac-Mégantic, Que.

United Steelworkers reports that MMA has laid off 1/3rd of its workforce since the derailment.

Other U.S. companies are implicated in legal actions started in Illinois, with at least one, World Fuel Services from Miami, also refusing to contribute to the clean up.  World Petroleum is another defendant.

 Massillon Laporte plays his trumpet outside of the church prior to a memorial service for the victims of the July 6 train derailment that killed an estimated 47 people Saturday, July 27, 2013 in Lac-Mégantic, Que.

Global Research describes the catastrophe as a social and ecological tragedy driven by a growing Canadian petro state with the three main political parties solidly hooked on oil logic (e.g. "see, pipelines are much safer") and when the disaster could instead be raising a sane alternative, i.e. energy transition.

Martin Lukacs at The Guardian compares Lac-Mégantic to a corporate crime scene, the incinerated town center a "human sacrifice zone," rooted in events rising out of deregulation and "an energy rush driving companies to take ever greater risks." 

Below, TommyT in Fear (Lac-Mégantic):

Photo credits/via Montreal Gazette - top, photographer: Alan McGinnis, Lac-Mégantic residents in shock and grief at the Saturday memorial; bottom, photographer: Paul Chiasson, Musician Massillon LaPorte plays the trumpet to mourners outside the church on Saturday. Via Global Research, middle, Derailed oil trains in Lac-Mégantic disaster.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

48th Anniversary

Today is the 48th anniversary of Medicare.  Single payer activist Dr. Margaret Flowers speaks about the importance of expanding an improved Medicare to the whole country.


Also, a Medicare birthday article here by Representative John Conyers (who coauthored H.R. 676 with Dennis Kucinichand Robert Weissman with Public Citizen.


Malcolm Minino reads Collateral Murder, a poem with introduction about Bradley Manning.  Uploaded July 9, 2013.

Bradley Manning was found not guilty today of "aiding the enemy," the most serious charge, but guilty of 19 other offenses, including 5 espionage counts, subjecting him to a possible maximum sentence of 136 years.  The sentencing phase begins Wednesday.

Julian Assange released a statement through wikileaks today saying that the "aiding the enemy charge" was "only included, it seems, to make calling journalism 'espionage' seem reasonable."  He decried the verdict pointing out the noticeable absence of any real victim beyond the government's "wounded pride" and the fact that the government never even claimed that Bradley Manning was working for a foreign power.

Cindy Cohn at the Electronic Frontier Foundation describes the case as part of an overall "Hacker Madness strategy," continuing "a trend of government prosecutions that use familiarity with digital tools and knowledge of computers as a scare tactic and a basis for obtaining grossly disproportionate and unfair punishments, strategies enabled by broad, vague laws like the CFAA and the Espionage Act."

Monday, July 29, 2013

We Are Bradley Manning arguments were completed in the Bradley Manning case with a verdict expected tomorrow around 1 P.M. eastern.  Presiding Judge Col. Denise Lind is deliberating 21 charges against the whistle blower including "aiding the enemy."  

Protesters around the world held demonstrations and rallies over the weekend demanding Manning's release;  and on July 25th, a $52,000 dollar ad ran in the New York Times featuring a large type bold statement, "We Are Bradley Manning" against a field of names (photo left, via Tales From Out In The 1960s Be Bop Night).   Those names included "American military veterans, artists, journalists, educators, homemakers, lawyers, and citizens" objecting to and outlining Bradley Manning's unjust imprisonment while demanding his freedom.

Also, 17 members of the European Parliament have signed an open letter to President Obama and U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel affirming support for Amnesty International's position that the most serious charges against Bradley Manning be dropped as he "reasonably believed he was exposing human rights and humanitarian violations." 

Manning faces up to life in prison for releasing 700,000 documents to Wikileaks and other news sources in what amounts to the largest leak in U.S. history.  Information included evidence concerning the routine killing of Iraqi and Afghan civilians by U.S. military, the shooting of two Reuters journalists, and facts around the indefinite detainment of prisoners in the notorious Guantanamo Bay prison.  

Bradley Manning has since been nominated three times for the Nobel Peace Prize while indefinitely detained in prison himself, and he is widely viewed around the world as a wrongly vilified political prisoner of conscience.

Journalist Alexa O'Brien and attorney Michael Ratner discuss the ramifications of the case in the video below, with Alexa O'Brien having been in the courtroom since the beginning.


Saturday, July 27, 2013

Jackpine Mine

Community activists continue to speak out as Alberta's energy regulator approves the expansion of Shell Oil's Jackpine Mine, 70 kilometers (about 43 miles) north of Fort McMurray.  The decision would significantly expand the poisonous tar sands - and as only one of ten new tar sands projects awaiting approval.  Now it goes to the provincial and federal levels.

The decision came down within days of the 4th Annual Tar Sands Healing Walk and in spite of a designated Joint Review Panel finding that the project would likely cause "irreversible" environmental impacts with "adverse cummulative effects on wetlands; old-growth forests; traditional plant potential areas; wetland reliant species; old-growth reliant species at risk and migratory birds; caribou; biodiversity; and Aboriginal Traditional Land Use, rights, and culture."  

Scientists have linked tar sands expansion to climate change, and activists report high rates of cancer in local indigenous communities around the tar sands facilities, along with similar reports in the U.S.  

Photo credit, top, via It's Getting Hot In Here, Sept. 2012, Activists protest Jackpine Mine expansion.

Occupy Florida

A very comprehensive interview with Dream Defender Phillip Agnew as activists continue to converge upon and occupy the Florida State capitol in Tallahassee demanding repeal of Stand Your Ground and an end to racial profiling and the schools to prison pipeline.

Protesters were joined Friday by the legendary American civil rights activist and singer Harry Belafonte who is urging other high profile performers to join a Florida boycott apparently kicked off by a Stevie Wonder announcement in Québec City during Le Festival d'été de Québec

Here is Stevie Wonder telling viewers that he will not perform in Florida until Stand Your Ground is repealed:


Mr. Belafonte praised Mr. Wonder's statement saying,  “To boycott is an important thing for people to do; it touches the economic nerve; it touches the way people are sustaining themselves. And if we interrupt the machine; if we interrupt the economic flow, then I think we can make a difference."  

American singer, songwriter, actor and social activist Harry Belafonte, center, reacts as Dream Defenders Executive Director Phillip Agnew, bottom left, leads a chant Friday in the Capitol rotunda.
Photographer: Phil Sears
"American singer, songwriter, actor and social activist Harry Belafonte, center, reacts as Dream Defenders Executive Director Phillip Agnew, bottom left, leads a chant Friday in the Capitol rotunda."

Mr. Belafonte said that he had come down to Florida "to be at the disposal of young people. Not only to tell the history from whence we’ve come; but to talk for a host of artists who are very high profile, a number of leaders who are very high profile, who are waiting to hear, ‘How do we look at a strategy in the immediate future?’”

Friday, July 26, 2013

Watoto's Warning

Watoto From The Nile - Warning.


Walk For Dignity

Juror B29 steps forward in an interview, stating that she was the person who wanted a second degree murder conviction and thinks that George Zimmerman got away with murder.  Trial observer and attorney Seema Iyer says that, based on the juror's interview, she thinks the juror did not understand that she could have held out for a hung jury, if necessary.  

Also, in the video below, discussion about a 5 day Walk For Dignity march against the much-referenced 20 year Florida conviction of an African American woman, Marissa Alexander - and for firing warning shots into her ceiling to defend herself against an abusive former spouse.  She tried to use Stand Your Ground laws, but the jury found her guilty after deliberating for 12 minutes with Angela Corey, who prosecuted George Zimmerman, handling the prosecution of Ms. Alexander's case, as well.   

Walk For Dignity is calling for Marissa Alexander's release, Justice for Trayvon Martin, and the resignation of Angela Corey.  The march started in Jacksonville and culminates in Sanford, with activists representing a coalition of civil rights voices including, among others, the New Jim Crow Movement, Project South, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, the Coalition for Justice for Trayvon, and Southerners on New Ground.


Sûreté du Québec investigator carries a box away from the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway Inc. office in Farnham, Que., on Thursday.As mourners prepare for a Saturday mass and memorial service for those who were literally incinerated to death in the Lac-Mégantic disaster, police raided the Canadian head office of the MMA rail company in Farnham, roughly 2 1/2 hours west of Lac-Mégantic.

(Photo left, via The Star, photographer: Ryan Remiorz, Investigator leaves with confiscated material from MMA rail company during Farnham raid.)

Inspector Michel Forget told reporters in Lac-Mégantic, "We will be in Farnham as long as it takes to gather all the evidence we’re looking for there." 
Via Global News, video image 
Inspector Michel Forget
The 15 member Farmham investigative team reportedly has uncovered evidence in the raid but is not discussing it at this time.

Inspector Forget said that Lac-Mégantic police would be working with other police forces in Canada or the U.S., and that while there are no other raids at the moment, other organizations are investigating.

MMA chairman Ed Burkhardt (shown right, Financial Post, photographer: Ryan Remiorz) was questioned for hours by provincial police during his infamous visit to Lac-Mégantic.

Tyler Anderson/National Post Lac-Mégantic Mayor Collette Roy-LaRouche (shown left, via National Post, photographer: Tyler Anderson) who has been praised for efforts in uniting the town said the town was left with a 4 million dollar environmental clean-up tab because MMA failed to pay companies it hired to remove the crude oil.  The mayor said the crews would have left, so the community had no choice but to pay for it.  The mayor sent a letter demanding reimbursement with a deadline that passed yesterday.

Dario Ayala/Postmedia News

In the photo above (via National Post, photographer: Daria Ayala), Mayor Collette Roy-LaRouce and associates publicly present the town's letter insisting upon the millions of dollars originally promised by the rail company to remove the crude oil contaminating the environment.

Meanwhile millions in various other bills continue to pile up and the lawsuits are starting to mount including wrongful-death actions in an Illinois court against Rail World, MMA, Burkhardt and several U.S. petroleum companies connected to the disaster; also, a motion in a Quebec court to file a class action. 

The Saturday memorial service will be broadcast live with the governor of Maine also attending.  Search crews have found 42 bodies at this point, with 5 more believed missing.  Authorities say that their remains may never be recovered and that they are investigating whether trains still operating are safe. 

The Edmonton Journal reported on Wednesday that 5.6 million liters of oil spilled in Lac Megantic, though journalists write that it may be weeks before the extent of the damage is even known.   From the Montreal Gazette:
Of the 72 tankers, which were carrying 100,000 litres each, only nine withstood the impact. Twenty tankers were completely emptied, and an additional 43 — with an estimated 670,000 residual litres of crude oil among them — were drained and moved in the cleanup efforts following the deadly explosion.
Heading Into Town

APRIL 19, 2013 FILE PHOTOThe Maine governor Paul LePage (shown left via NY Daily News, photographer: Robert F. Bukaty) is a republican who was elected in 2010 with the support of Florida's Jeb Bush and Tea Party organizers.  He is known for making controversial statements, such as attacking his democratic opponent in the last election with a sexually vulgar phrase, comparing the I.R.S. to Nazis, publicly describing government managers as "corrupt," telling the Portland, Maine branch of the N.A.A.C.P. to "kiss my butt," and calling protesters "idiots."  (More here.)  He recently made a radio address to the people of Lac-Mégantic in both English and French becoming the first Maine governor to ever do this (and instead) with language.  Governor LePage said that he was invited by Pauline Marois to attend the services.  He is described as advocating newer train models to transport oil.  The governor is slated to visit the town and meet with the Quebec premiere and other Canadian officials prior to the mass and memorial services.  Governor LePage is running for reelection with a Democratic Party poll showing him doing poorly against Democrat Michael Michaud but for the independent candidacy of Eliot Cutler.  

A large number of Maine residents have family and roots in Quebec;  the train was bound into the state while docked overnight in Lac-Mégantic which is close to the Maine border.  Rail World is based in Chicago where Ed Burkhardt hails from.  Below, two walkers follow along the train tracks leading into the now fully decimated town center (via CTV/photographer Jacques Boissinot).

Ben Harper in his original Power of the Gospel, as blogged in Witness.

Thursday, July 25, 2013


An audio recording of the great contemporary American poet Langston Hughes reading The Dream Keeper and Dreams (the second poem starting at about 0:37).

Dream Defenders

Dream Defenders director Phillip Agnew, center in the black T-shirt and hat, addresses reporters during a news conference in Tallahassee on Tuesday, July 23. Courtesy of Tampa Bay Times
Photographer:  Steven Pargett
"Dream Defenders director Phillip Agnew, center in the black T-shirt and hat, addresses reporters during a news conference in Tallahassee on Tuesday, July 23, as activists occupy the state capitol." The group wants a Trayvon Martin Act passed repealing Stand Your Ground and abolishing policies promoting racial profiling and the schools to prison pipeline.  Activists state they will stay until they win, inviting other concerned citizens to join them in the occupation of the Florida state capitol.

Looks like there's hope for the state of Florida after all.  (We may not need Bugs to kick it off into the Atlantic?)  A group of righteous activists called The Dream Defenders are occupying the state capitol in Tallahassee at the offices of Governor Rick Scott "to present a way forward" for the state, demanding that Governor Scott consider and help pass the Trayvon Martin Act to address racial profiling, repeal Florida's Stand Your Ground gun law, and end zero tolerance policies towards minority youth that have led to a schools to prison pipeline. 

Meet some of the Dream Defenders in the video below:


Here too:

Below, listen to a Roland Martin interview with Dream Defenders Executive Director Phillip Agnew, and from about two days ago in Florida.  

Currently, the group has been occupying at the state capitol for about 9 days and 17 hours (with a time count at their website).  Those heading down to join in are told to bring a blanket, sweatshirt, t-shirt/tank tops, underwear, socks, comfortable shoes (gym shoes recommended), toiletries (deodorant, soap, toothbrush, etc.), vitamins, pain reliever (ibuprofen, etc.), muscle rub, phone charger.  

There's a large march and rally planned for tommorow:
 Embedded image permalink

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Bermuda Triangle of Justice

Laugh To Not Cry takes on the state of Florida with The Bermuda Triangle of JusticeLike my favorit wabbit, she also suggests giving this state the heave-ho into the Atlantic.

The "Angry Trayvon" murder game LTNC mentions was released by Trade Digital Inc.  The game was reportedly removed from the market but a TYT host in the July 11th youtube below says that people are still buying it, and according to the link at the time of this July 24th post, google still hasn't taken it down. 

The revolting video depicts a cartoon image of Trayvon Martin in a hoodie going around the neighborhood and killing people with a large knife.  (I also notice, at least in the selected clip below, that all the murder victims are white.  But racism is getting a little more *sophisticated* these days, so who knows.)  TYT reports Trade Digital reps apologizing "for the inconvenience," and asserting that the game is "by no means a racist game."  As one TYT host (who also predicts a no justice verdict with concurring nods among the college students) comments, "You can't just say it's not racist.  It also has to be not racist."  (And, of course, you are also supposed to take it down from the internet if it's no longer for sale.)


Thursday, July 18, 2013

The People Speak

A sampling of citizen reporter videos from the nationwide Justice 4 Trayvon Martin protests.  From Detroit:

Portland, Oregon:

Seattle marchers with speaker coverage here at Citizen Media.






New York,


A recorded livestream from Washington D.C. in Malcolm X Park:


Speaking at length with a protester at the demonstration in Saint Petersburg, Florida, who pointedly asks, at one point, with respect to the historic injustice of the American court system, "When did evidence ever work?" 


Disgraceful behavior of L.A.P.D. captured by citizen reporting, showing police stopping non-violent protesters from continuing to march down the street and beating them with batons,


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

For Justice For Everyone

In the video below, Benjamin Jealous, President of the NAACP, speaks about pressing forward with federal civil rights charges in the case against George Zimmerman. NAACP Department of Justice petition is back online here if you haven't signed yet.  That petition quickly gathered 275,000 signatures in the first evening, the hits so numerous that the website shut down;  now that it is back up and running, last official reports put signings at over 1 million. 

One of the jurors in the Zimmerman case has now given an Anderson Cooper interview (part one here, part two here) talking about, incidentally, among other things in the case, plans to write a book about it.  This juror was decidedly in favor of Zimmerman's acquittal, describing Trayvon Martin's killer as a man "with a heart in the right place."

Mr. Jealous speaks about that interview, the exclusion of African American jurors, as well as the preclusion of any evidence of or discussion about racial profiling by the court - including evidence of racial profiling by Zimmerman (for example, a cousin reportedly told police that Zimmerman had a history expressing racist sentiments;  the jury wasn't allowed access to this information) - and the impact of those decisions on the outcome of the jury's verdict.  The interviewed juror said that 3 jurors were originally in favor of a guilty verdict, with two in favor of manslaughter and one in favor of 2nd degree murder.  Yet they were swayed to an extremely different verdict, and in relatively short period, 16 hours.  (With the juror saying they didn't discuss race issues at all during that period - and that she didn't see race playing any role in Zimmerman's perceptions as neighborhood watchman.)  Mr. Jealous touches on these points, along with what he describes as a highly effective defense strategy consisting of, basically shutting out the entire context of the incident, and bringing everything to bear on this so-called lawn tussle.  Creating a tunnel vision jury, in a manner of speaking, blogger-wise.

In another video below, Jaisal Noor reports on nationwide protests against the verdict, speaking to demonstrators in Baltimore where organizers called for 3 days of protests decrying the acquittal.  Protesters talked about similar cases, being parents, a teacher or a child affected by the court outcome, as well as racial profiling, gun laws, Trayvon's right to self-defense, and being there "for all the Trayvon Martins."

One African American mother standing with her sons, described the outcome as “a step backward” for the nation.  Eventually unable to hold back her tears while speaking to the reporter about the injustice of the verdict, she declared, “it’s going to take the People, the citizens of the United States of America to get past this.”  


Many demonstrators expressed fears and concerns about Zimmerman still carrying his gun, along with a perceived message sent by the court system that it was now “open season on black boys.”  Another mother at the Baltimore demonstrations stated, “the verdict set a precedent for anyone with hate in their heart to go out and methodically set up a situation where they can kill someone and then call it ‘self-defense.’”  Pointing to her Justice 4 Trayvon protest sign with a photograph of Trayvon along with 3 other young men of color, the demonstrator continued, “These three young men are my sons.  And they are Trayvon Martin. […] And that’s why I’m here.  For justice.  For everyone.”

*Photo credit/Via Baltimore Brew/Photographer: Fern Shen/Children from Chesapeake, Virginia protest the verdict in Baltimore. 

7.16.2013 Update

4 other jurors have signed a statement submitted to press through the court saying that the juror who provided an interview to Anderson Cooper spoke only for herself, and did not speak for them.  


Nigerian born spoken artist Bassey Ikpi in her poem, Diallo, dealing with racial profiling and unmet justice in the death of Amadou Diallo in New York.  Speaking of the mothers of young men killed because of racial profiling, and courtrooms that acquit their killers, she asks the audience, "Who will acquit her [the mother] of her grief?"  Uploaded by kfc123 in January 2007.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

What Racial Profiling Looks Like

Scriptonite has the following video well-portraying the influence of racial profiling on people's perceptions of events in her blog piece on the Trayvon Martin case.

In the video, three young actors - one white male, one African American male, and one blonde female - separately go through motions of "trying to steal" the same locked-up yet abandoned bicycle in a local park. 

Residents pretty much ignore the shenanigans of the white male and white female, with a few pedestrians making inquiries and even offering to help the young woman in a couple of instances.  When the black male youth tries to do the same thing, however, one person after another objects, with an angry crowd starting to gather, some snapping photos for evidence, and one man phones 911, as collective outrage erupts. 

(Don't try this yourselves without major planning, back-up, and protection.)

The point being, the pedestrians' perceptions of the exact same incident change drastically with the race and gender of the individual in question.  They see the African American male youth as engaging in an objectionable crime, yet the white male and female youths - engaged in the exact same behavior - are seen as doing nothing that out of the ordinary - even understandable in a few instances - since the bike has been left for days.  

Of course, in the case of Trayvon Martin, as opposed to this recorded social experiment, Trayvon wasn't doing anything that could be construed as the least bit illegal.  He was simply walking home from the store after purchasing some candy and an ice tea.

But he was a young African American male, so he was perceived by George Zimmerman as a "hoodlum" and "thug," although his actions were fully innocent and he was a very nice young person - some have tweeted he was also an honors student.

This is what racial profiling looks like, even among the most ordinary people who don't have any known unusual inclinations towards using guns and violence.  So now imagine racial profiling by someone more off-balance than these otherwise good folk (and by even just a little bit) out strolling on a sunny day in the park.  

(Now imagine handing that individual a gun.)

Another Dark Day For U.S. Justice

Participants held signs and chanted "No justice, no peace!" during the march protesting police handling of the Trayvon Martin shooting in Sanford, Fla.
Photographer: Kevin Hagen
Trayvon Martin supporters in Sanford, Florida.

Protesters started hitting the streets Saturday and Sunday in a nationwide response to a Florida jury finding George Zimmerman "not guilty" in the shooting death of unarmed African American teenager Trayvon Martin, and what bloggers and tweeters agreed was "another dark day for U.S. justice."

Under Florida law, Zimmerman will even get his gun back - and in a state in which - as Zimmerman walked off scot-free - a Florida mom had been sentenced to 20 years in prison for firing warning shots in the air in response to an abusive husband (a May 2012 article pointed out in a related tweet by CBS).

The NAACP is asking the Department of Justice (DOJ) to prosecute Zimmerman on civil rights charges.  From Huffington Post:
"We are outraged and heartbroken over today's verdict," NAACP President Benjamin Jealous said in a statement. "We will pursue civil rights charges with the Department of Justice, we will continue to fight for the removal of Stand Your Ground laws in every state, and we will not rest until racial profiling in all its forms is outlawed."
Buzzfeed reports a massive instant response to an NAACP petition to the DOJ, with 275,000 people signing in one evening, as well as hoods going up on instagram.  Numerous threads were "a twitter" with Justice For Trayvon supporters.

The Justice Department reportedly confirms that it is indeed looking into the matter to determine "whether federal prosecutors should file criminal civil charges now that Zimmerman has been acquitted in the state case."

Legal analysts and observers have debated the way in which the prosecution and court handled the Zimmerman case - most notably pointing out a lack of diversity among the jurors.  An all female jury was composed of 5 whites and one Hispanic - and no African American men or women.  Also, Zimmerman was never compelled to take the stand and face cross-examination.  In addition, the judge did not allow testimony concerning technical evidence showing the scientific likelihood that recorded 911 screams matched Trayvon's voice.  Hence, the courtroom drama, so to speak, devolved into the subjectively competing testimonies of two mothers, one for the minor victim, the other for the adult killer, each claiming that the cries were her son's. 

Blogger speaking, a judge is supposed to prevent this type of spectacle from becoming the basis for a trial, and especially when there is empirically valid evidence to be admitted  - versus whose mother is the most emotionally compelling - and, to an all female, mostly white jury.  With a number of papers reporting that the jury's decision was going to "come down to" whose screams they *believed* (a very subjective term) were heard that night.

Writers on twitter shared their shock, dismay, and grief, but also a lack of surprise with the American "justice" system. Many wrote words of support and condolence to the Trayvon Martin family, along with words of social and political protest.

Below, CNN video of an interview with Benjamin Jealous, during which he poignantly states, "When they say this is a country with liberty and justice for all, we yearn to be in that place."


7.14.2013 Update Via Occupy Wall Street:

Live stream of NYC Justice For Trayvon march; at present, one protester estimates 5,000 people.   Marina Portnaya with RT tweeted a huge crowd chanting, at one point, "Off the sidewalks, into the streets!"

Live Video streaming by Ustream

No Justice No Peace

From JMDM53, No Justice No Peace.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Bought And Paid For Positions

Democracy Now! has footage of speakers at what is becoming widely known as North Carolina's "Moral Mondays," demonstrations at the state capitol against a Republican led agenda and lock-down on (what is supposed to be, but increasingly isn't) the People's government. the video shown below, Terry Van Duyn of Asheville, North Carolina, also spotted among arrested protesters led onto a bus, says to the crowd, "How many of our legislators think that they have bought and paid for their positions - and they don't have to listen to us anymore?  And I'm here to tell them - this is not their house!  This is our house!"

Wayne Bostick, a North Carolina resident who is unemployed, tells the crowd, "I stand here with you today to let our terminator legislators know that their day of recall will come.  And I hope that you show them the same apathy at the voting polls that they have shown us here in North Carolina!"  

Speakers urge "all good women" to stand up and speak out, and also declare that the extremist legislative agenda has "not divided us, but united us."  

"Some of us are here because of women's rights," says one woman at the podium.  "Some of us are here because of unemployment - or fracking.  But no matter what the issue - we are standing together!"

 A protester carries a cutout of millionaire Art Pope, who serves as Gov. Pat McCrory's budget director, at the June 3 Moral Monday demonstration.

Protesters in the video can be seen holding signs about issues like unemployment, healthcare and expansion of Medicaid, the environment, immigration, and notably, women's reproductive rights - and as a grassroots movement spreads to Texas in response to lawmakers' more recent efforts to close women's clinics in that state.  

Over the past 10 weeks, over 700 people have been arrested on Moral Monday, protests organized by the NAACP and what is described by leadership as growing out of eight years of shared organizing with the Historic Thousands On Jones Street as well as Planned Parenthood.

In the video, Rev. William Barber, President of the North Carolina NAACP speaks about the moral imperative behind the Monday actions - i.e. actions neither Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal, but based on an understanding of what is moral or immoral - and as the North Carolina legislature recently cut 500,000 people from Medicaid, and denied unemployment to 170,000 people who lost their jobs.

Rev Barber says, "[...] we’ve known for quite some time that the real fight in this country is at the state capitols, particularly in the South, because in the state capitols, that’s where election laws are passed, educational laws, labor rights. All of those issues grow out of legislation that come through state capitols. And this particular Legislature is really a reaction to our success." 

Photo credits/top, via, photographer: Travis Long, Moral Monday protesters arrested at the North Carolina legislature in May, 2013/bottom, via indyweek, photographer: D.I. Anderson, "A protester carries a cutout of millionaire Art Pope, who serves as Gov. Pat McCrory's budget director, at the June 3 Moral Monday demonstration."

Thursday, July 11, 2013


George Zimmerman on trial in death of Fla. teen 
Photographer: Gary W. Green
A crime scene technician for the Sanford Police Department shows the jury in the George Zimmerman murder trial the bag of Skittles Trayvon Martin was carrying home when he was killed.

News organizations Thursday reported prosecutors in the George Zimmerman trial blasting the defendant's self-defense claim in closing arguments on behalf of second degree murder charges.  The jury could also find Zimmerman guilty of manslaughter, with the maximum sentencing for manslaughter, 30 years - and the maximum for 2nd degree murder, life.  They could also find him "not guilty" for killing the teenager, letting him walk.  The defense is scheduled to make its closing arguments on Friday.

The prosecutor called Zimmerman a liar who should be held accountable for his actions as a wannabe policeman.  "A teenager is dead," said Bernie de la Rionda.  "He is dead through no fault of his own.  He is dead because another man made assumptions."

Young Trayvon Martin was on his way home with a bag of Skittles and ice tea to watch a sports show with family and friends.  He was followed by a self-annointed neighborhood watchman named George Zimmerman who found him suspicious for no justifiable reason.  Zimmerman phoned the police who told him not to follow Trayvon, yet Zimmerman continued to follow the teenager, and eventually, killed him minutes from his destination by shooting him at point blank range through the heart.  During the incident, Trayvon was talking on the phone with a childhood friend who stayed with him on the line as he described being followed by this (then unknown) individual, and as he fled home in fear.


More video footage has emerged in the Lac-Mégantic disaster.  Quebec blues singer Adrien Aubert, a Lac-Mégantic resident, was on his way to the popular Musi-Café in the epicenter when the oil trains exploded, leaving him just about 200 meters from the incineration zone.  "Listen," he says in a phone conversation, "all of downtown is on fire."  He tapes at the perimeter and then further back at higher elevation with other residents. 

Footage of Adrien Aubert performing Power of the Gospel by Ben Harper (lyrics here) at Les Soirées MRG, and which he uploaded in January 2013.

At this time, Canadian news stations are reporting 24 confirmed fatalities, including a 93 year old resident, with 50 feared dead.  Pauline Marois has pledged 60 million dollars in government aide;  residents angrily criticized Edward Burkhardt, CEO of the railroad's parent company, Rail World, Inc., during and following a visit he made to the town.  Mr. Burkhardt now tells CNN reporter Anna Coren that he will "not return to Lac-Mégantic until he is welcome."  In the video at this link (and, as a CBC reporter notes, after the company unsuccessfully blamed the firefighters for doing something to the train when they put out a fire on one of the vehicles earlier in the evening), the CEO blames the engineer, claiming that he could not have applied all of the brakes as he says he did.  

The company reportedly has a long history of accidents.  An investigation is still underway.

As for the water supply, blogged earlier, residents are still under various advisories, including neighboring locales, with the banks of the Chaudiere River and Lake Megantic, the drinking water, as well as the town's sewage system, contaminated.  Globalpost reports 100,000 litres of oil dumped in the Quebec waterways, the shorelines "enveloped by the smell of used motor oil."


From The Underground, poets Steve Connell and Sekou Andrews take on the surveillance state in Monster Among Us.


Tuesday, July 9, 2013


Glenn Greenwald reports talking with Edward Snowden on Saturday.


Before (And) After

Keystone XL supporters now capitalize on the still-unexplained Lac-Mégantic disaster to advocate speeding up approval of new pipeline construction in North America.

Meanwhile, a former railroad machinist asks if oil muck can be safely transported at all, by rail or pipeline.

The fire stopped burning late Sunday, and, with the downtown "literally incinerated," there are now 13 confirmed fatalities, 2,000 evacuated (more than 1/2 now being allowed home), and 40 still missing.  Railroad officials are denying negligence.  Fire officials report putting out a fire on the train earlier that evening.  

About 26,000 gallons of oil spilled in the course of events, oil then flowing into the local Chaudière River, (thereby) turning it orange (and) contaminating the drinking water supply downstream in Saint Georges, 80 km (50 miles) northeast, among other locations.  Nature World News reports that 10 municipalities draw their drinking water from the Chaudière River, with problems also described in Saint Martins, upstream to Saint Georges.

 Chaudière River Basin
Via Nature World News
Reporter holds up orange-colored, oil-contaminated water from the Chaudière River.

The oil trains derailed and exploded July 6th causing a massive fire in the small Canadian town of 6,000 near the Maine U.S. border.  The trains are owned by the Montreal Maine & Atlantic Railway Company, Ltd, with more than 800 km (500 miles) of track serving Maine, Vermont, Quebec and New Brunswick.  BBC reports the train had been traveling with 72 oil laden vehicles from Bakken Field in North Dakota to a refinery in Saint John, New Brunswick. 

Here is a Montreal Maine & Atlantic map showing lines from Montreal through Lac-Mégantic to Saint John; here is a Canadian Pacific detail (overview here) of Bakken Shale rail connections. 

Transportation Board Safety (TSB) photos here.

Via the National Post,


Sunday, July 7, 2013

Escarpment Blues

Sarah Harmer plays Escarpment Blues at Kingston Unplugged 2012.


GOP Headquarters

From Occupy Detroit, protesters with Michigan United occupy the Lansing GOP headquarters.



On the heels of the 4th Annual Tar Sands Healing Walk, Common Dreams reports an oil laden train explosion in Quebec on July 6th, causing a massive fire with over 60 people missing from the small town eastern location of Lac-Mégantic in the Appalachian Mountains near the U.S. border.

Footage below of the giant fireball engulfing the town; Quebec's Environment Ministry reports that 73 cars were filled with crude oil, and at least four exploded in a series. 

A CBC update from 6 hours ago, as of this post, with 5 confirmed fatalies:

A report here, as of 4 hours ago.  1,000 people have been evacuated, and the fire is still burning.

Healing Walk

The 4th Tar Sands Healing Walk at Syncrude, 
near Mildred Lake Tailings Pond

Hundreds of activists and concerned citizens converged near Fort McMurray in Alberta, Canada, July 5th and 6th, for the 4th Annual Tar Sands Healing Walk.  Intended to highlight the human and environmental cost of Canada's energy policy, the 14 kilometre walk (roughly 8.7 miles) was planned to include an opening pipe ceremony, with First Nations elders and ceremony leaders then taking participants through tar sands operations and tailings ponds, with prayers for healing the land, air, water, and all living things harmed by tar sands expansion.  Participants in previous Tar Sands Healing Walks have also asked for the healing of the hearts belonging to those "harming Mother Earth through extreme energy extraction."

A clip from this year's walk:

Jesse Cardinal, a co-organizer with Keepers of the Athabasca, spoke about a special significance to the 4th Annual Healing Walk because of the importance of the number four in many indigenous cultures.  In addition to four seasons, four directions, and four human aspects (mental, physical, emotional, spiritual), Mr. Cardinal said, "The fourth Healing Walk is significant because it indicates the ending of one cycle and the beginning of another."  (Incidentally, 4 cross-country treks from Canada and the U.S. were planned to converge upon the event, as well.)

Keepers of the Athabasca are "an alliance of First Nations, Inuit, Metis, environmental groups and other concerned citizens advocating effective stewardship of the Athabasca River and Athabasca Lake Watershed."  The Athabasca River, as seen in the map below via DeSmog Canada, is less than 10 kilometres from key industrial sites polluting the waters with toxins

Notable activists in attendance at this year's healing walk included Bill McGibben of, Naomi Klein, Winona Duke, environmental activist Tzeporah Berman, Idle No More co-founder Sylvia McAdam, Patrick Bonin of Greenpeace, and Montreal student strike organizer Gabriel Nadeau DuboisAlberta premier Allison Redford and federal Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver were invited to attend, but neither reportedly accepted the invitation.  

Cree organizer Clayton Thomas-Muller wrote a personal and moving account of the 2012 Tar Sands Healing Walk in "the region of the most controversial energy project on earth."  He described the Syncrude site as "something straight out of a science fiction movie," with "shattered landscapes" and "glimmering stainless steel cracking towers that separate bitumen into synthetic oil, a massive tank farm, lego-like worker sleeping facilities stacked upon one another, and two half-built pyramids of sulfur (a by-product of the bitumen upgrading process) being built toward the sky like modern Towers of Babel." Adding further perspective, he says,
Then comes what is probably the most absurd element of insanity on the Highway 63 loop: the buffalo demonstration project and reclamation site.
Yeah, you heard right. Some executive from Syncrude got it into their head that having live buffalo living under the stacks of their tar sands upgrader would be a good thing for the image of the tar sands industry. A herd of the most symbolic animals of our native heritage is subject to a slow poisonous death, its members grazing in toxic fields with an apocalyptic backdrop of tailings ponds and smoke stacks billowing white clouds of toxic death overhead.
But the absurdity doesn’t end there. A few years back, some of these poor beasts were culled and distributed to elders in local First Nations. Instead of eating it, they had it sent away and tested. The tests came back showing that the meat was poisoned with heavy metals and other toxic compounds, which was present in concentrations hundreds of times above what is deemed acceptable for human consumption.
Mr. Thomas-Muller also describes the air pollution in the area so hazardous that 2012 participants quickly developed flu-like symptoms.  

Some of this year's walkers wore gas masks:

Mr. Thomas-Muller writes that community members and tar sands workers have been among the Healing Walk's biggest supporters, honking their horns in passing.  

And via Le Devoir, the following photo of Fort McMurray oil sands by Jeff McIntosh.  "The Alberta basement contains no less than 167 billion barrels of oil that operators seek to export."

iExploitation de sables bitumineux à Fort McMurray. Le sous-sol albertain contiendrait pas moins de 167 milliards de barils de ce pétrole, que les exploitants cherchent à exporter. 

On June 29, 2013, Le Devoir reported that while the Marois government studies the possibility of routing Alberta oil to Quebec, a Quebec delegation of community activists, labor organizers, and aboriginal artists planned travel to participate in the Alberta event organized by aboriginal communities who suffer the direct impacts of tar sands.  Patrick Bonin of Greenpeace, director Dominic Champagne, and student organizer Gabriel Nadeau DuBois - among the Quebec attendees.  Mr. Bonin said, "[...] now that Quebec wants to import Alberta oil, this is no longer a foreign matter to Quebecers."

On Friday, at this year's event and also among the various speakers, Lionel Lepine of the Fort McMurray First Nation described impacts on communities living near the Alberta oil fields, saying, "In Fort Chip we live at ground zero. Our people are dying. Cancer rates are skyrocketing.  They call Fort McMurray 'boomtown'. I call it doom town."  And key notables like Bill McGibbon and Tzeporah Berman spoke about oil's corroding effect on democracy, the need to create green jobs, and "game over for the planet" if development in Canada's oil sands continue.

"This is a fight between a few wealthy men and the future," said Mr. McGibbon.

Below, a portion of the 2012 Healing Walk from FierceLightFilm's Occupy Love:

Another video in solidarity with the 2013 Tar Sands Healing Walk from the Nobel Women's Initiative that led an October 2012 delegation to investigate the impact of oil sands on women and their communities;  the video "documents some of the powerful voices we heard along the way."

Near the Walk's conclusion, the Vancouver Observer reported an elder standing by the tar sands and simply weeping, and as the crowd hushed to complete silence, listening to her profound expression of grief.  Reporter Linda Solomon wrote that the leader's tears, carrying across the hundreds of people in attendance, "said more than all of the passionate and powerful speeches that had taken place over the last 24 hours combined."

Photographer: Bill Weaver
On the edge of the tar sands, 4th Annual Healing Walk

Photographer: @redman0380/Ben Powless
July 6, 2013, The Healing Walk - "A picture of everyone at the end of the walk."

More photos here from Censored News.


Currently, an Athabasca River oil spill is under investigation, and about 60 kilometres north of Fort McMurray;  news here and here. “We could see the oil residue from a plane up above on that stretch over 100 kilometres long,” Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Chief Allan Adam told CTV News.

July 9th update:

More stories and photos from the 2013 Tar Sands Healing Walk here.