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Judi Lynn

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Why is Congress Trying to Give Military Half a Wildlife Refuge it Doesn't Want?

Published on Thursday, April 28, 2016

by Common Dreams

Why is Congress Trying to Give Military Half a Wildlife Refuge it Doesn't Want?

The National Defense Authorization Act was amended to give the Air Force control over half of one of the largest wildlife refuges in the country

by Nika Knight, staff writer



A sage grouse. The House Armed Services Committee also added a rider to the NDAA stripping the sage grouse of its protections as an endangered species, a measure the DoD specifically urged the committee not to pass. (Photo: Bob Wick / U.S. Bureau of Land Management)

The U.S. House Armed Services Committee (HASC) added a rider late Wednesday evening to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that transfers control of more than half of Nevada's sprawling Desert National Wildlife Refuge to the U.S. Air Force.

"Here we go again on Desert National Wildlife Refuge," said Defenders of Wildlife president and CEO Jamie Rappaport Clark. "Another rider added last night undermines management of our largest national wildlife refuge in the lower 48 by transferring primary jurisdiction of more than 800,000 acres to the Air Force, a responsibility the Department of Defense has neither requested nor is necessary for continued training exercises on and adjacent to the refuge."

Committee members offered no explanation for the measure, and maps show that Air Force ranges are already within the refuge's borders.

The overreaching rider is part of a trend: this is only the latest attempt by the House Armed Services committee, long dominated by Republicans, to demolish endangered species protections through the NDAA, the annual "must-pass" legislation that authorizes annual military spending.

More:
http://www.commondreams.org/news/2016/04/28/why-congress-trying-give-military-half-wildlife-refuge-it-doesnt-want


Political Violence in Honduras

April 29, 2016
Political Violence in Honduras

by Vijay Prashad

On March 3, assassins entered the home of Berta Caceres, leader of Honduras’ environmental and indigenous movement. They shot her friend Gustavo Castro Soto, the director of Friends of the Earth Mexico. He pretended to be dead, and so is the only witness of what came next. The assassins found Berta Caceres in another room and shot her in the chest, the stomach and the arms. When the assassins left the house, Castro went to Berta Caceres, who died in his arms.

Investigation into the death of Berta Caceres is unlikely to be conducted with seriousness. The Honduran government suggested swiftly that it was likely that Castro had killed Berta Caceres and made false statements about assassins. That he had no motive to kill his friend and political ally seemed irrelevant. Castro has taken refuge in the Mexican embassy in Honduras’ capital, Tegucigalpa. He continues to fear for his life.

Berta Caceres led the Popular and Indigenous Organisations of Honduras (COPINH), one of the most important critics of government and corporate power in her country. Most recently, she and COPINH had taken a strong stand against the construction of the Agua Zarca dam on a river sacred to the indigenous Lenca community. This dam had occupied her work. It was not merely a fight against an energy company, it was a fight against the entire Honduran elite.

Desarrollos Energeticos, SA (DESA) is owned by the Atala family, whose most famous member is Camilo Atala, who heads Honduras’ largest bank, Banco Ficohsa. By all indications, the Atala family is very close to the government. When the military moved against the democratically elected government of Manuel Zelaya Rosales in 2009, the Atala family, among others, supported the coup with their means. The Honduran sociologist Leticia Salomon listed this family among others as the enablers of the coup. They backed the conservative National Party, which now holds the reins of power alongside the military. Berta Caceres’ fight against the Agua Zarca dam, then, was not merely a fight against one dam. It was a battle against the entire Honduran oligarchy. Her assassination had, as her family contends, been long overdue.

Zelaya’s Honduras

Dario Euraque had been the Director of the Honduran Institute of Anthropology and History from June 2006 to the coup of September 2009. President Zelaya appointed Euraque with a clear mandate to change the culture of Honduras. He wanted to widen the cultural boundaries of the country to put the indigenous people at its centre and address their needs and ambitions. Euraque, a historian of Honduras, had already immersed himself in the world of the indigenous people. In his 2010 memoir of the coup, titled El golpe de Estado del 28 junio de 2009, Euraque explains that with encouragement from Zelaya he “advanced a more novel and democratic cultural policy” which “explicitly linked cultural heritage with strengthening the national identity of our country”.

More:
http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/04/29/political-violence-in-honduras/

The Washington Post Reaches New Low in Calls for Political Intervention in Venezuela

The Washington Post Reaches New Low in Calls for Political Intervention in Venezuela

 April 14, 2016 COHA

By Peter Bolton, Research Fellow at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs

The Washington Post, in an op-ed issued yesterday by its Editorial Board, suggests that the remedy for the “accelerating spiral toward an economic and political crash” that now awaits Venezuela is “political intervention by its neighbors.” It recommends intervention by the Organization of American States’ (OAS) Inter-American Democratic Charter, which, the Post claims, “provides for collective action when a regime violates constitutional norms.” Amongst these allegations of constitutional violations, the Post accuses the government of President Nicolás Maduro of waging “scorched-earth warfare with the National Assembly,” which since December of last year has been controlled by the opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), and of illegally packing the Supreme Court with government supporters in order to “strip the opposition majority of its constitutional powers and reject every measure it has passed.”

The Post could have added some balance to the discussion by mentioning, for instance, that upon winning their two-thirds majority the opposition’s first order of business was passing an amnesty law that, in addition to including a worryingly broad set of crimes, has unsettled victims of right-wing violence, some of whom view it as sanctioning impunity. In addition to open acts of provocation such as taking down all symbols of the Bolivarian cause from the walls of the legislature and immediately laying out a plan to ensure Maduro will be out of office within six months, the opposition have wasted no time in introducing legislation to privatize the public housing mission and roll back progressive labor law.

The Post’s proposal of this neighborly intervention does not appear all that credible given that Secretary General Luis Almagro, who is firmly in the Venezuelan opposition’s corner, will not find it easy to rally the OAS to invoke the Democratic Charter, even with a new right wing ally in Argentina to bolster his case. But more to the point, what the Editorial Board seems to forget is that the OAS’s political legitimacy has been severely eroded in favor of organizations such as the Community of Latin American Countries (CELAC), a trade association that does not include the United States and Canada, and the Union of South American Nation (UNASUR). Unlike the OAS, these new regional institutions have served as a bulwark against interference into Venezuela’s internal affairs. UNASUR, for instance, forcefully repudiated President Obama’s executive order declaring Venezuela an extraordinary threat to the national security of the United States. Whereas the OAS represents the old “back yard” mentality of the past, they embody the decades-long push for deeper Latin American integration and, as Bolivian President Evo Morales puts it, “a weapon against imperialism.”

Bypassing them in favor of the OAS’s Inter-American Democratic Charter would likely advance a one-sided anti-government view of the problems facing the country. There is indeed an economic crisis in Venezuela that will require broad cooperation from all sectors and throughout the country. And, to be sure, Venezuelans are divided on how to solve the crisis. But the Post all too easily places the blame squarely on Maduro for failing to “accommodate and negotiate” with the opposition. It fails to mention, however, that he has in fact already set in motion the Commission on Truth and Justice, which invites participation by the opposition, to investigate the violence that took place during the guarimbas (the violent demonstrations that took place in the first quarter of 2014), and which it is hoped will serve as a vehicle for dialogue and reconciliation. Again, the new regional organizations are proving valuable in this regard, with UNASUR’s Secretary General Ernesto Samper agreeing to accompany the commission in its work.

More:
http://www.coha.org/the-washington-post-reaches-new-low-in-calls-for-political-intervention-in-venezuela/

APNewsBreak: South Dakota tribe sues feds over ER closure

Source: Associated Press

APNewsBreak: South Dakota tribe sues feds over ER closure

Regina Garcia Cano, Associated Press

Updated 4:50 pm, Thursday, April 28, 2016

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — A Native American tribe in South Dakota sued the federal government Thursday over the nearly five-month closure of the only emergency room on its reservation.

The federal lawsuit filed Thursday by the Rosebud Sioux Tribe asks that federal officials be forced to re-open the emergency room at the hospital administered by the Indian Health Service. The agency shuttered the ER in early December, two weeks after federal inspectors uncovered serious failures that they said put patients' lives at risk.

The lawsuit, which The Associated Press obtained ahead of it being filed, contends that the Indian Health Service — an arm of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services — broke the law because an evaluation of the impact of the closure wasn't submitted to Congress at least a year before it was shutdown, as required by the Indian Health Care Improvement Act.

That evaluation must include several factors, including the quality of health care that would remain after such a closure, as well as the views of the tribe affected. It also requires the government to take into account how far tribal members would have to go to get care.


Read more: http://www.chron.com/news/us/article/APNewsBreak-South-Dakota-tribe-sues-feds-over-ER-7381821.php

Puerto Rico: a Junta By Any Other Name

April 28, 2016
Puerto Rico: a Junta By Any Other Name

by Miguel A. Cruz Díaz

Empire is once again fashionable. The financial crisis that is presently gutting the island of Puerto Rico plays out like the world’s worst case of botched assisted suicide. The sell of its municipal funds and its constitutionally guaranteed promise of repayment to investors has plunged the island into a very precarious situation for its millions of citizens and the opportunity of a lifetime for hedge fund vultures. While it is laudable that the current economic meltdown on the island has made some headlines, including a mostly well-thought out piece by comedian John Oliver, the same cannot be said for the congressional knee-jerk legislative reaction to it. The bill, H.R. 4900, was designed to impose an oversight board meant to administer the fiscal responsibilities of the Puerto Rican people and has unleashed a firestorm of opposition that was glossed over by Oliver’s otherwise on-point observations. The controversy surrounding this bill has served as a catalyst underscoring the deep disregard bordering on contempt that frames the question of self-determination and complete lack of sovereignty afforded to islanders.

The attempted passage of this bill was a response by congress to the impending default by Puerto Rico on its loan payments, and the island’s current insolvency has attracted a modicum of national attention from a nation that is by and large oblivious to the fact that Puerto Rico is not only a part of the United States but that its inhabitants are actually U.S. citizens. Hedge funds, nothing more than vulture capitalists, finally sobered up after a decades-long bond-buying frenzy that enabled the Puerto Rican ruling class to forfeit the island’s already precarious economic situation for the foreseeable future. They are standing in the wings, ready to feast on the island’s financial carcass. The seeming inevitability of defaulting on the coming May 1st repayment and the inability of legally declaring bankruptcy due to the island’s colonial status are a veritable godsend to speculators and disaster capitalists.

Under this climate of uncertainty and the promise of benefits to disaster capitalists doesn’t it seem quite fitting that the bill came to be known as “PROMESA”, the Spanish word for promise? It should not be a surprise to anyone that the H. R. 4900 sponsored by a Republican hailing from the neoliberal stronghold of Wisconsin, Representative Sean P. Duffy. This bill has all the expected subtlety of a surgeon operating on a brain with a meat cleaver. Any neoliberal assault against the working class is capitalism’s promise and should, of course, be expected, but the naked aggression against Puerto Rican’s limited degrees of self-determination and its insistence of pillaging the island for the benefit of investors and speculators represents a blatant escalation of American colonialism not seen since the early years of its overseas imperial expansion at the turn of the twentieth century.

H.R. 4900’s description states that its goal is to “establish an Oversight Board to assist the Government of Puerto Rico, including instrumentalities, in managing its public finances, and for other purposes”. This bill is predicated on the need to regulate not just the finances of the debt-ridden island but also its economic policies. The specified arguments and noticeable silences found in this bill’s wording are key, as in all pieces of legislation, in understanding not only its stated goal but also its ultimate ideological and economic intent. In the case of H.R. 4900 the true intent of establishing an oversight board is to completely bypass all forms of autonomous political agency in Puerto Rico and to subject the island to the most dramatic historical reversal of its relationship with the federal government since the granting of Commonwealth status in 1952. This economic junta would in turn reduce its little over three million inhabitants to a voiceless source of cheap indentured labor.

More:
http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/04/28/a-junta-by-any-other-name/

Honduras: 59 journalists murdered since US-backed coup

Honduras: 59 journalists murdered since US-backed coup

Monday, April 18, 2016

Since the 2009 US-backed coup that removed elected President Manuel Zelaya, 59 journalists have been assassinated in Honduras, with four murdered this year. Last year, 12 journalists were murdered.

In April last year, the Honduras National Congress approved the Journalist Protection Law, which included measures like providing police protection when a journalist receives a threat. The law also planned the creation of a centre monitoring threat follow-ups, although the government has not yet approved the budget.

In four years of former president Profirio Lobo's government, 30 journalists were murdered. In the current government headed by President Juan Orlando Hernandez, 22 journalists have been assassinated in just over two years since he took office. These two post-coup presidencies have been accused of systematic human rights abuses and corruption.

The attorney-general's office has only processed six cases, while only four people have been prosecuted and sent to jail. There has not been any investigation into who ordered these crimes and the motivations behind each one.

https://www.greenleft.org.au/node/61568

(Short article, no more at link.)

Brazil: Social movements reject coup, take to streets

Brazil: Social movements reject coup, take to streets
Saturday, April 23, 2016

In response to a recent vote in the lower house of Brazil's parliament in favour of impeaching Workers' Party (PT) President Dilma Rousseff, Brazil's two main coalitions of social movements issued the statement below on April 17.

Rousseff is under attack over a series of corruption scandals, but the forces allied against her — the political, media and corporate elite — have themselves been implicated in corruption. Many in Brazil, including left opponents of Rousseff's government, see the impeachment as an institutional coup by the right wing.

In response to a recent vote in the lower house of Brazil's parliament in favour of impeaching Workers' Party (PT) President Dilma Rousseff, Brazil's two main coalitions of social movements issued the statement below on April 17. Rousseff is under attack over a series of corruption scandals, but the forces allied against her — the political, media and corporate elite — have themselves been implicated in corruption. Many in Brazil, including left opponents of Rousseff's government, see the impeachment as an institutional coup by the right wing.

. . .

This April 17, a date in which we remember the massacre of Eldorado dos Carajas (when 19 landless peasants were killed by police in 1996), will once again enter into the history of the Brazilian nation as a day of shame. This is because a circumstantial majority of a Chamber of Deputies stained by corruption, dared to authorise the fraudulent impeachment of a president of the republic who has not been accused of committing any crime of responsibility.

Conservative and reactionary economic and political forces that have promoted this farce hope to wipe out the labour and social rights of the Brazilian people. They include corporate entities, politicians such as Eduardo Cunha, who are facing charges of corruption in the Supreme Court, parties that have been defeated at the ballot box such as the Brazilian Social Democracy Party, and forces from outside Brazil who are interested in pillaging our resources, privatising state companies such as (oil company) Petrobras.

They do so with the help of a coup-plotting media, in which Rede Globo plays a central role in the dissemination of coup-plotting ideological propaganda, and through their coverage of a judicial-police operation that is aimed at attacking certain parties and leaders, but not others.

More:
https://www.greenleft.org.au/node/61613

Palestine sends 19 rescuers to Ecuador, US sends nobody

Palestine sends 19 rescuers to Ecuador, US sends nobody

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Palestine has sent 19 rescuers to Ecuador in the aftermath of the South American country's devastating earthquake — which is 19 more than the US, who have sent none at all, TeleSUR English said on April 21.

Palestine is the only country outside of Europe and Latin America that has sent rescue experts to Ecuador. Latin America far surpasses any region in sending humanitarian aid and rescue experts to Ecuador for earthquake relief, with Venezuela sending almost a third of all rescue specialists.

Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa said on April 19 that South America should have its own Secretary of Natural Disasters, since no one country has enough resources to mobilise in such large-scale emergencies.

Ecuador is one of the smallest countries in the continent, with a population barely above 16 million. It could only send 18 trained rescuers to affected areas, compared to Venezuela's 212.

https://www.greenleft.org.au/node/61617

One woman’s victory against a mining giant in Peru

One woman’s victory against a mining giant in Peru
Published on April 27, 2016 by Sian Cowman |
Web exclusive

Máxima Acuña has just won the Goldman Prize for her resistance against a gold mine – but why are women’s bodies on the frontlines of resistance to extractivism? asks Sian Cowman.




Máxima Acuña, a farmer from Peru’s northern highlands, recently won the 2016 Goldman Environmental Prize for her resistance against the mining consortium Yanacocha in Cajamarca, Peru.

At the prize acceptance ceremony in San Francisco on 18 April, in lieu of a speech Máxima sang her story: ‘Because I defend my lakes, they want to take my life.’

Goldman Environmental Prize

Yanacocha is the largest gold mine in Latin America and fourth largest in the world, operating since 1993. The mine is now owned by the US Newmont Mining Corporation, a Peruvian mining company, and the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation.

Gold mining causes ‘toxic mine drainage’ – when you break up rock that’s been underground for a long time chemical reactions cause it to release toxic metals and acids. And at Yanacocha cyanide-laced water is used to separate the gold from the rock.

Locals have been complaining for years of contaminated water and the disappearance of fish in the rivers, lakes and streams. Reinhard Seifert, an environmental engineer who spent years investigating the effects of the Yanacocha mine on the area’s water quality found traces of lead, arsenic, cyanide and mercury in the drinking water, linked to the rising rates of gastrointestinal cancer amongst residents of Cajamarca.

More:
http://newint.org/features/web-exclusive/2016/04/27/one-womans-victory-against-a-mining-giant-in-peru/

The Future of US / Cuban Relations

April 26, 2016
The Future of US / Cuban Relations

by Jack Smith

Washington’s partial rapprochement with Havana, symbolized by President Barack Obama’s recent visit to Cuba, is more advantageous to the United States than the neighboring country it has ostracized, sanctioned and subverted for over five decades.

This is not to say that the small island nation of 11.3 million people has gained nothing from President Obama’s efforts to mitigate over 56 years of Yankee hostility, beginning overtly a year after the 1959 armed revolution that freed Cuba not only from a vicious dictatorship but 467 years of foreign domination — by Spain from 1492, replaced by the U.S. from 1899. It ended with the Cuban Revolution on New Year’s Day 1959.

Despite Obama’s significant visit to Havana March 21-23, his cordial dialogue with President Raul Castro, and the declaration that “I have come here to bury the last remnant of the Cold War in the Americas,” the principal contradiction between Washington and Havana has not changed substantially: The Cuban revolutionary government is committed to retain a socialist system, including a measure of private enterprise and foreign investment. The U.S. government is committed to eliminating socialism in the Western Hemisphere, though a modification in methodology now will seek to attain that goal with honey, not acid. It will take a more leftist White House and Congress to allow a truly equal and friendly relationship to develop — and that’s not on the present horizon.

President Castro alluded to U.S. intentions in his opening report to the 7th Communist Party congress April 16 when he noted: ” We are not naive nor do we ignore the aspirations of powerful external forces that are committed to what they call the ’empowerment’ of non-state forms of management, in order to create agents of change in the hope of putting an end to the Revolution and socialism in Cuba by other means.”

More:
http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/04/26/the-future-of-us-cuban-relations/
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