Wednesday, May 26 Nine Circles of Hell!

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Secretly recorded grisly dairy farm video emerges
The Associated Press
(5/25/10)

Welfare group: Hidden video shows Ohio cows beaten

An animal welfare group said Tuesday that a graphic video it secretly recorded shows workers at a dairy farm beating cows with crowbars, stabbing them with pitchforks and punching them in their heads.

The video was recorded in an undercover investigation at Conklin Dairy Farms Inc., said Mercy For Animals, a not-for-profit group that publicizes what it calls cruel practices in the dairy, meat and egg industries and promotes a vegan diet.

The video shows workers holding down newborn calves and stomping on their heads. It shows one worker wiring a cow’s nose to a metal bar near the ground and repeatedly beating it with another bar while it bleeds.

40% of dietary supplements tested contain pesticides over legal limits
The New York Times
(5/25/10)

Study Finds Supplements Contain Contaminants

Nearly all of the herbal dietary supplements tested in a Congressional investigation contained trace amounts of lead and other contaminants, and some supplement sellers made illegal claims that their products can cure cancer and other diseases, investigators found.

The levels of heavy metals — including mercury, cadmium and arsenic — did not exceed thresholds considered dangerous, the investigators found. However, 16 of the 40 supplements tested contained pesticide residues that appeared to exceed legal limits, the investigators found. In some cases, the government has not set allowable levels of these pesticides because of a paucity of scientific research.

Investigators found at least nine products that made apparently illegal health claims, including a product containing ginkgo biloba that was labeled as a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease and a product containing ginseng labeled as a treatment to prevent diabetes and cancer. They also described a salesperson at a supplement specialty store who claimed that a garlic supplement could be taken instead of blood pressure medication.

Any product that claims to treat, cure, prevent or mitigate a disease is considered a drug and must go through strict regulatory reviews.

Yet another oil spill
CNN
(5/25/10)

North Slope crude spills from Alaska pipeline

Several thousand barrels of North Slope crude oil spilled into a containment area along the Alaska pipeline Tuesday when an open valve at a pump station allowed oil to overflow a tank, the Alyeska Pipeline Service Company said.

Alyeska said the incident took place about 10:30 a.m. (2:30 p.m. ET) during a planned pipeline shutdown while the company was conducting fire command and valve leak testing at the pump station.

The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation said a battery failed to control the valve when power was switched from the main grid during Alyeska’s tests. The valve has been closed, shutting off the flow, the department said, but the pipeline remains shut down.

The department said the next steps would be to clean up the oil in the containment area, determine the cause of the problem and restart oil flowing in the pipeline. No oil has been reported outside the containment area.

Mexican government’s pollution fighters assassinated
The Associated Press
(5/22/10)

3 environmental inspectors, aide killed in Mexico while investigating mining complaint

Three Mexican environmental inspectors and a local man were shot to death in Central Mexico as they checked on a complaint about pollution from mine tailings, authorities reported Friday.

The inspectors were investigating a complaint about chemical pollutants from a metal mine in the Valle de Bravo area, a wooded area surrounding a lake just west of Mexico City, on Thursday when they were reported missing …

Two of the victims worked for the Attorney General’s Office for Environmental Protection. Rene Carmona, a spokesman for that office, said the agency had received a complaint from the public about vapours and other pollutants coming from the mine tailings of a metals mine.

He said it was the first killing of an agency inspector in at least 2½ years …

Several environmental activists have been killed in Mexico, but their killings have often gone unresolved.

Anti-mine activist Mariano Abarca was shot to death on Nov. 27 in southern Chiapas state, a slaying that fellow activists blame on officials of a Canadian-owned mine that operated in the area. The mining company has denied any involvement in his death.

Goldcorp doesn’t respect indigenous rights, environment
BBC News
(5/21/10)

Goldcorp mining company accused over human rights

A human rights assessment report has painted a harsh portrait of the Canadian gold mining giant Goldcorp …

The assessment found that Goldcorp had failed to respect the rights of indigenous peoples in Guatemala …

The company has always insisted that it has carried out full and informed consultation with the Mayans (living in the area).

But the report which the company itself commissioned, now says otherwise. It notes that by failing to involve the Guatemalan government in the consultation process “the company could not, and cannot, adequately respect indigenous people’s rights” …

Other areas of the 229-page report detail the failure to adequately protect workers’ rights, noting that Montana dismissed staff who attempted to form a union.

It says the company “continues to infringe on the rights of all workers by allowing this climate of intimidation to persist”.

The report criticises Goldcorp for a “systematic failure to address grievances in the communities, allowing them to accumulate and exacerbate”.

The authors also criticise the company for what they call the weakest aspect of the mine’s plans – what happens to the people and the environment of the region when it closes?

Goldcorp, according to the report, has not set aside sufficient funds for closure and post-closure plans …

A separate report released on Tuesday by environmental health scientists from the University of Michigan shows that people living in the vicinity of the mine have higher levels of potentially toxic heavy metals in their blood and urine than a sample of persons living 7km away.

Water samples taken immediately above and below the mine also showed what researchers called “significantly higher” levels of manganese, cobalt and arsenic.

Brazilian environmental officials behind illegal logging
BBC News
(5/22/10)

Brazil environment officials arrested for logging

Police in Brazil have arrested at least 70 people suspected of illegal logging in the Amazon – including officials employed to protect the rainforest.

Several environmental officials in Mato Grosso state are accused of providing false licences for the extraction of timber from protected areas …

Much of the timber was taken from national parks and protected indigenous territories.

Officials in the environmental secretariat of Mato Grosso are accused of providing false documents that helped the loggers avoid controls on illegal deforestation.

Humanitarian flotilla set to crash Israeli naval blockade of Gaza
The Sydney Morning Herald
(5/24/10)

Flotilla aims to break Israel’s grip on Gaza

A global coalition of Palestinian support groups is taking protest to a dangerous new point of brinkmanship this week, with an attempt to crash through Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip in a flotilla of cargo and passenger boats now assembling in the eastern Mediterranean.

Converging at an undisclosed rendezvous in international waters, the four small cargo boats and four passenger vessels – ranging from cruisers carrying 20 to a Turkish passenger ferry for 600 – are a multimillion-dollar bid to shame the international community to use ships to circumvent Israel’s tight control on humanitarian supplies reaching war-ravaged Gaza.

As the first boat in the flotilla sailed from Dundalk, Ireland, to link up with others being readied at ports in Turkey and in Greece, Israel announced that it would bar the boats from landing …

Celebrity names include the Swedish crime writer Henning Mankell and (past This is Hell! guest) Denis Halliday, a former United Nations humanitarian co-ordinator who in 1998 resigned, protesting that economic sanctions on Iraq amounted to genocide.

On Saturday evening, attempts were under way to find a berth on the over-subscribed manifest for the activist American philosopher (past This is Hell! guest) Noam Chomsky, who Israeli authorities last week barred from entering the West Bank where he had been invited to speak at a Palestinian university.

Five of eight previous protest boats have managed to land in Gaza. But most recently one was rammed at sea by an Israeli navy ship, and another was captured, with all on board being held in Israeli jails for up to a week before they were deported.

As many as 60,000 Chinese kids are abducted, enslaved each year
Der Spiegel
(5/21/10)

China’s Child-Trafficking Epidemic

Stealing children is a common problem in the People’s Republic, which explains why grandparents or parents pick up children from school throughout the country. They are determined not to make it any easier for the human traffickers.

It’s one of the saddest aspects of modern China. Experts estimate that between 30,000 and 60,000 babies, children and adolescents disappear each year. They are kidnapped and then sold, often ending up as slaves in workshops and brickworks, or being forced to work in brothels.

On the way to the buyer, the human traffickers often sedate the kidnapped children to prevent them from screaming. Sometimes they don’t survive their ordeal, as evidenced by periodic media reports of dead children found on buses or trains …

Sons are particularly important in the villages. It has long been a tradition in rural areas for male offspring and daughters-in-law to care for elderly parents.

But buyers for stolen children can also be found in cities like Beijing or Shanghai. Many Chinese desperately want a baby but are unable to conceive a child of their own. Adoptions are complicated, and most of the children now being handed over to orphanages are disabled.

Beijing’s one-child policy doesn’t impede the business. On the contrary, families that already have one child sometimes buy another son or daughter. It is lucrative business for the kidnappers, who can charge up to €4,000 for a boy and usually about half as much for a girl. They sometimes even offer special deals to less affluent customers, selling babies for as little as €80.

The police have created a special force to combat the kidnapping of children and women, and the unit breaks up human trafficking rings every year. But according to official statistics, in 2009 the police only managed to rescue 3,400 children from the clutches of dealers and buyers. In many places, a child is only considered missing after 24 hours. By then, the kidnappers are usually long gone.

Desperate parents repeatedly stage protests against police passivity. One such protest was held in the southern migrant worker city of Dongguan, where about 1,000 children disappeared between 2008 and 2009. The local police only listed 200 victims in their files. They rejected the remaining cases, claiming that there was no proof that a crime had been committed.

The chances of tracking down an abducted child are miniscule. Family clans often control things in the villages, and “they are as thick as thieves,” says shoemaker Li. Local officials are part of the system, including the representatives of women’s organizations, party leaders and local police officers. “Everyone knows when a new child has suddenly arrived in the village,” says Li, “and no one asks any questions.”

And then there is the corruption, China’s fundamental flaw, without which human trafficking on such a large scale would not be possible. When things are done according to the rules, every child has to be registered with the relevant authorities, something which should not in fact be possible without a birth certificate and other documents. But with the right connections and a handsome bribe for officials, this hurdle is easily surmounted.

It is not just unscrupulous gangs that engage in human trafficking, as one might expect, but sometimes the parents themselves. Some farmers are so poor that they cannot or are unwilling to feed another mouth, and so they sell their newborns instead. Others view giving birth to and selling additional children as a source of income — and more lucrative than toiling in the fields. There is a saying among farmers in the southwestern province of Yunnan: “If you want to make money, you should bear children instead of raising pigs.”

Indian honor killing trial forces lawmakers to revisit marriage traditions
The Washington Post
(5/25/10)

5 sentenced to death in honor killing of Indian couple from same clan

No one in this village visits Chanderpati Banwala’s home, which stands at the end of a lane full of sleeping buffaloes and overturned wooden carts. The boycott began three years ago when her son eloped with his sweetheart, a neighbor from his clan.

But the marriage was short-lived. Village elders declared the relationship incestuous, a violation of ancient Hindu rules of marriage because the two were descendants of a common ancestor who lived thousands of years ago. As the couple tried to flee town, the young woman’s family chased them down and dragged them out of a bus on a busy highway. The groom, Manoj, was strangled, and his bride, Babli, was forced to drink pesticide. Their bodies were dumped in a canal.

“My son did the honorable thing by marrying the girl he loved. But the village council said the boy and girl belong to the same clan and are siblings. They said the couple had brought dishonor,” said Banwala, sitting on her porch kneading dough. “It has been three years, nobody invites us to marriages or funerals, and no shop sells us groceries.”

Despite pressure from villagers to remain quiet, Banwala took the case to court here in the northern state of Haryana. In March, five defendants were sentenced to death, the first time in India that capital punishment has been ordered in an honor killing.

The case has sparked ire on both sides of the issue, forcing lawmakers to revisit India’s complicated system of marriage restrictions. Some Indians say the strict taboos are outdated in a rapidly urbanizing country, where old identities are fragmenting and young couples are asserting their right to choose whom they marry.

But many others are demanding new laws that ban marriages like Manoj and Babli’s. In villages across northern India, the landmark verdict sparked an uproar, with clan councils fiercely defending prohibitions on unions within the same clan or gotra, a Sanskrit word, which each clan uses to trace its lineage. To these villagers, romantic love breaches codes passed down many generations.

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Wednesday, May 26
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