Wednesday, October 27 Nine Circles of Hell!


The Nine Circles of Hell! – all the news that gives you fits in print – for Wednesday, October 27, 2010, including bonus stories on BP oil, the Afghan war and Arundhati Roy, are:

“People are already dying” from Gulf spill’s toxic mix

Entire police force quits after Mexican drug gang attack

Iraq invasion inquiry wants Blair to explain conflicting evidence

“Americans” pass on Russian secrets to Wikileaks

Gorbachev: “Victory is impossible in Afghanistan”

US on track to set new monthly drone attack record in Pakistan

Arundhati Roy could face sedition charges over Kashmir comments

Israeli towns may get right to discriminate based on sex, religion

Tutu calls Cape Town Opera’s Tel Aviv performance “unconscionable”

“People are already dying” from Gulf spill’s toxic mix
Al Jazeera

BP dispersants ‘causing sickness’

Past This is Hell! guest Dahr Jamail writes …

Two-year-old Gavin Tillman of Pass Christian, Mississippi, has been diagnosed with severe upper respiratory, sinus, and viral infections. His temperature has reached more than 39 degrees since September 15, yet his sicknesses continues to worsen.

His parents, some doctors, and environmental consultants believe the child’s ailments are linked to exposure to chemicals spilt by BP during its Gulf of Mexico oil disaster.

Gavin’s father, mother, and sister, Shayleigh, are also facing serious health problems. Their symptoms are being experienced by many others living along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico.

Injected with at least 4.9 million barrels of oil during the BP oil disaster of last summer, the Gulf has suffered the largest accidental marine oil spill in history. Compounding the problem, BP has admitted to using at least 1.9 million gallons of widely banned toxic dispersants, which according to chemist Bob Naman, create an even more toxic substance when mixed with crude oil. And dispersed, weathered oil continues to flow ashore daily.

Naman, who works at the Analytical Chemical Testing Lab in Mobile, Alabama, has been carrying out studies to search for the chemical markers of the dispersants BP used to both sink and break up its oil.

According to Naman, poly-aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) from this toxic mix are making people sick. PAHs contain compounds that have been identified as carcinogenic, mutagenic, and teratogenic.

Fisherman across the four states most heavily affected by the oil disaster – Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida – have reported seeing BP spray dispersants from aircraft and boats offshore.

“The dispersants are being added to the water and are causing chemical compounds to become water soluble, which is then given off into the air, so it is coming down as rain, in addition to being in the water and beaches of these areas of the Gulf,” Naman added.

“I’m scared of what I’m finding. These cyclic compounds intermingle with the Corexit [dispersants] and generate other cyclic compounds that aren’t good. Many have double bonds, and many are on the EPA’s danger list. This is an unprecedented environmental catastrophe” …

“The dispersants used in BP’s draconian experiment contain solvents such as petroleum distillates and 2-butoxyethanol,” Dr. Riki Ott, a toxicologist, marine biologist, and Exxon Valdez survivor, told Al Jazeera.

“Solvents dissolve oil, grease, and rubber,” she continued, “Spill responders have told me that the hard rubber impellors in their engines and the soft rubber bushings on their outboard motor pumps are falling apart and need frequent replacement.”

“Given this evidence, it should be no surprise that solvents are also notoriously toxic to people, something the medical community has long known,” Dr. Ott added.

“In ‘Generations at Risk’, medical doctor Ted Schettler and others warn that solvents can rapidly enter the human body. They evaporate in air and are easily inhaled, they penetrate skin easily, and they cross the placenta into fetuses. For example, 2- butoxyethanol (in Corexit) is a human health hazard substance; it is a fetal toxin and it breaks down blood cells, causing blood and kidney disorders.”

Pathways of exposure to the dispersants are inhalation, ingestion, skin, and eye contact. Health impacts include headaches, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pains, chest pains, respiratory system damage, skin sensitization, hypertension, central nervous system depression, neurotoxic effects, genetic mutations, cardiac arrhythmia, and cardiovascular damage.

Even the federal government has taken precautions for its employees. US military officials decided to reroute training flights in the Gulf region in order to avoid oil and dispersant tainted-areas.

And Al Jazeera is finding a growing number of illnesses across the Gulf Coast.

Denise Rednour of Long Beach, Mississippi, has been taking walks on Long Beach nearly every day since the disaster began on April 20, and she is dealing with constant health issues.

“I’ve had health problems since the middle of July,” she said. “At the end of August, I came home from walking on the beach and for four days had bloody, mucus-filled diarrhea, dry heaves, and blood running out of my ear.”

Karen Hopkins, in Grand Isle, Louisiana, has been sick since the middle of May. “I started feeling exhausted, disoriented, dizzy, nauseous, and my chest was burning and I can’t breath well at times,” she said.

Dean Blanchard, who runs a seafood distribution business in Grand Isle, is Hopkins’ boss. He too is experiencing similar symptoms.

“They [BP] are using us like lab rats,” he explained, “I’m thinking of moving to Costa Rica. When I leave here I feel better. When I come back I feel bad again. Feeling tired, coughing, sore throat, burning eyes, headaches, just like everyone around here feels.”

Lorrie Williams of Ocean Springs says her son’s asthma has “gotten exponentially worse since BP released all their oil and dispersants into the Gulf.”

“A plane flew over our house recently and sprayed what I believe are dispersants. A fine mist covered everything, and it smelled like pool chemicals. Noah is waking up unable to breath, and my husband has head and chest congestion and burning eyes,” Williams said.

Like others, when Lorrie’s family left the area for a vacation, they immediately felt better. But upon coming home, their symptoms returned.

Wilma Subra, a chemist in New Iberia, Louisiana, recently tested the blood of eight BP cleanup workers and residents in Alabama and Florida. “Ethylbenzene, m,p-Xylene and Hexane are volatile organic chemicals that are present in the BP Crude Oil,” Subra said,

“The blood of all three females and five males had chemicals that are found in the BP Crude Oil. The acute impacts of these chemicals include nose and throat irritation, coughing, wheezing, lung irritation, dizziness, light-headedness, nausea and vomiting.”

Subra explained that there has been long enough exposure so as to create chronic impacts, that include “liver damage, kidney damage, and damage to the nervous system. So the presence of these chemicals in the blood indicates exposure.”

Testing by Subra has also revealed PAHs present “in coastal soil sediment, wetlands, and in crab, oyster and mussel tissues.”

Trisha Springstead, is a registered nurse of 36 years who lives and works in Brooksville, Florida.

“What I’m seeing are toxified people who have been chemically poisoned,” she said, “They have sore throats, respiratory problems, neurological problems, lesions, sores, and ulcers. These people have been poisoned and they are dying. Drugs aren’t going to help these people. They need to be detoxed” …

Dr Ott said: “People are already dying from this… I’m dealing with three autopsy’s right now. I don’t think we’ll have to wait years to see the effects like we did in Alaska, people are dropping dead now. I know two people who are down to 4.75 per cent of their lung capacity, their heart has enlarged to make up for that, and their esophagus is disintegrating, and one of them is a 16-year-old boy who went swimming in the Gulf.”

  • CNN’s “Alaska’s untapped oil reserves estimate lowered 90 percent,” reports:
    The U.S. Geological Survey says a revised estimate for the amount of conventional, undiscovered oil in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska is a fraction of a previous estimate.
    The group estimates about 896 million barrels of such oil are in the reserve, about 90 percent less than a 2002 estimate of 10.6 billion barrels.
    The new estimate is mainly due to the incorporation of new data from recent exploration drilling revealing gas occurrence rather than oil in much of the area …

Entire police force quits after Mexican drug gang attack
The Associated Press

Every cop in town quits after Mexico attack

The entire police force of a small northern Mexican town quit after gunmen attacked their recently inaugurated headquarters, according to local reports on Wednesday.

Los Ramones Mayor Santos Salinas said nobody was injured in Monday night’s attack, during which gunmen fired more than 1,000 bullets at the building’s facade, according to Noroeste newspaper’s website. Six grenades, of which three detonated, were also flung at the building, the newspaper reported.

“Fortunately, those who were inside the building threw themselves on the ground and nobody was hurt,” Salinas told the newspaper.

All 14 members of the force reportedly resigned Tuesday. Nobody answered the phones at Salinas’ offices, according to The Associated Press.

The new police headquarters had been inaugurated three days earlier.

Los Ramones is in Nuevo Leon, a state torn by fighting between the Gulf and Zetas drug gangs. Police stations in small northeastern Mexican towns are frequently attacked, and several mayors have been assassinated.

Mexico’s ill-equipped municipal forces often quit after cartel attacks. President Felipe Calderon has proposed eliminating Mexico’s municipal forces and replacing them with one force per state.

Iraq invasion inquiry wants Blair to explain conflicting evidence
The Guardian

Tony Blair summoned back to Chilcot inquiry into Iraq war

Tony Blair is to be summoned back to the official inquiry into the Iraq invasion in light of damaging and conflicting evidence revealed since he appeared as a witness in January.

Members of the Chilcot inquiry are believed to be concerned about evidence in documents released in July showing that the former prime minister was warned by his government’s chief law officer that an invasion of Iraq would be illegal the day before he privately assured George Bush he would support US-led military action.

The Guardian first reported in February shortly after Blair testified that the inquiry team planned to question him again in light of evidence which it was already clear contradicted that given by Lord Goldsmith, the attorney general at the time.

“Americans” pass on Russian secrets to Wikileaks
The Christian Science Monitor

WikiLeaks ready to drop a bombshell on Russia. But will Russians get to read about it?

The Kremlin had better brace itself for a coming wave of WikiLeaks disclosures about Russia, the website’s founder, Julian Assange, told a leading Moscow newspaper Tuesday.

“We have [compromising materials] about Russia, about your government and businessmen,” Mr. Assange told the pro-government daily Izvestia. “But not as much as we’d like… We will publish these materials soon.”

He then dropped a hint that’s likely to be nervously parsed in Russia’s corridors of power: “We are helped by the Americans, who pass on a lot of material about Russia,” to WikiLeaks, he said …

Assange and another WikiLeaks spokesperson, Kristinn Hrafnsson, who talked to the daily Kommersant Tuesday, refused to provide details. “Russians are going to find out a lot of interesting facts about their country,” Ms. Hrafnsson told Kommersant, adding that WikiLeaks would soon be targeting “despotic regimes in China, Russia, and Central Asia” in a series of fresh document dumps …

But nobody should expect the tightly-controlled Russian media to report on any WikiLeak revelations about Russia in the thorough manner that Western media have analyzed the huge troves of documents about Afghanistan and Iraq, says Sergei Strokan, foreign affairs columnist with Kommersant.

“You can expect minimal coverage, without any dangerous details, from major Russian news organizations,” he says. “Of course there are independent print publications, and the Internet, where it might get picked up and discussed. But there will be no national discussion, no wider repercussions. This is not a country where media disclosures can lead to political changes.”

In fact, a US-based website recently published a huge trove that purported to be secret operational documents of Russia’s FSB security service, and no one in Russia even noticed, says Andrei Soldatov, editor of, an online journal that reports on the secret services …

Mr. Strokan says it’s not surprising that “American sources” might be ready to dish up Russian secrets for publication on WikiLeaks.

“It’s a whole new world of kompromat [a Russian expression meaning 'compromising materials'] out there,” he says. “There are political interests all over the world watching this, and it’s dawning on them that WikiLeaks is a powerful new tool for wielding influence or undermining a competitor.

“We’re going to see a lot more of this.”

Gorbachev: “Victory is impossible in Afghanistan”
BBC News

Gorbachev: Nato victory in Afghanistan impossible

The former leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, has warned Nato that victory in Afghanistan is “impossible”.

Mr Gorbachev said that the US had no alternative but to withdraw its forces if it wanted to avoid another Vietnam.

As Soviet leader, he pulled his troops out of Afghanistan more than 20 years ago after a 10-year war.

“Victory is impossible in Afghanistan. Obama is right to pull the troops out. No matter how difficult it will be,” Mr Gorbachev said.

He said before the Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan, an agreement had been reached with Iran, India, Pakistan and the US.

“We had hoped America would abide by the agreement that we reached that Afghanistan should be a neutral, democratic country, that would have good relations with its neighbours and with both the US and the USSR.

“The Americans always said they supported this, but at the same time they were training militants – the same ones who today are terrorising Afghanistan and more and more of Pakistan,” Mr Gorbachev said …

“But what’s the alternative – another Vietnam? Sending in half-a-million troops? That wouldn’t work” …

“I am very concerned, we’re only half way down the road from a totalitarian regime to democracy and freedom. And the battle continues. There are still many people in our society who fear democracy and would prefer a totalitarian regime.”

He said the ruling party, led by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, “has been doing everything it can to move away from democracy, to stay in power”.

  • Meanwhile, The Washington Post story, “U.S. military campaign to topple resilient Taliban hasn’t succeeded,” says the war ain’t goin’ well for anybody:
    An intense military campaign aimed at crippling the Taliban has so far failed to inflict more than fleeting setbacks on the insurgency or put meaningful pressure on its leaders to seek peace, according to U.S. military and intelligence officials citing the latest assessments of the war in Afghanistan.
    Escalated airstrikes and special operations raids have disrupted Taliban movements and damaged local cells. But officials said that insurgents have been adept at absorbing the blows and that they appear confident that they can outlast an American troop buildup set to subside beginning next July.
    “The insurgency seems to be maintaining its resilience,” said a senior Defense Department official involved in assessments of the war. Taliban elements have consistently shown an ability to “reestablish and rejuvenate,” often within days of routed by U.S. forces, the official said, adding that if there is a sign that momentum has shifted, “I don’t see it.”
    One of the military objectives in targeting mid-level commanders is to compel the Taliban to pursue peace talks with the Afghan government, a nascent effort that NATO officials have helped to facilitate.
    The blunt intelligence assessments are consistent across the main spy agencies responsible for analyzing the conflict, including the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency, and come at a critical juncture. Officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
    The Obama administration’s plan to conduct a strategic review of the war in December has touched off maneuvering between U.S. military leaders seeking support for extending the American troop buildup and skeptics looking for arguments to wind down the nation’s role.

US on track to set new monthly drone attack record in Pakistan
The Associated Press

Suspected US missile strikes kill 7 in Pakistan

Suspected U.S. drones fired missiles at a house and a vehicle in a militant-infested area of northwestern Pakistan near the Afghan border Wednesday, killing seven people, intelligence officials said.

The strikes were nearly 12 hours apart in the North Waziristan tribal area. They were the latest attacks in an intensifying campaign by the U.S. to use unmanned aircraft in Pakistan to wage war against militants who regularly target foreign troops in Afghanistan.

There have now been at least 19 suspected U.S. missile strikes in Pakistan this month, many of them in North Waziristan. There were 21 such attacks in September, nearly double the previous monthly record …

One of the suspected reasons the U.S. has increased drone strikes in Pakistan is that the country’s government refuses to launch an offensive against militants in North Waziristan.

Pakistan’s army says it can’t launch such an offensive now because it is stretched thin by other operations along the Afghan border. But many analysts believe it is reluctant to target Taliban militants with whom it has historical ties and could be useful allies once foreign troops withdraw from Afghanistan.

Many of the militants in North Waziristan are also more focused on attacking NATO and U.S. forces in Afghanistan rather than targets within Pakistan, so they are viewed as less of a threat by the government …

Also Wednesday, a bomb apparently targeting a police patrol in Pakistan’s southwest Baluchistan province killed two civilians and wounded 9 other people, including four police officers, said Hamid Shakeel, chief of police in the provincial capital, Quetta.

No group immediately claimed responsibility. But Baluchistan has long been the scene of a low-level insurgency which aims to win more autonomy for the province and a greater share of the money from its natural resources.

  • As for the bombings NOT by the West in Pakistan, the Agence France Presse story, “Pakistan appeals over Danish embassy bombing suspects,” claims Islamist bombers are getting away with their crimes:
    Pakistan has appealed the acquittal of three men over a deadly suicide car bombing near the Danish embassy in Islamabad two years ago, prosecutors said Wednesday.
    The appeal was filed in a high court in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, which runs into Islamabad, senior prosecutor Mohammad Tayyab told AFP.
    A trial court in Rawalpindi last month acquitted the trio, ruling that the prosecution had failed to prove the charges against them.
    Six people were killed, including a Dane, when a car bomb exploded outside the embassy in June 2008 amid anger in the Muslim world over cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed first printed in Danish newspapers in 2005.
    About 27 people were wounded. The bomb damaged the mission, the residences of the Indian and Dutch ambassadors, and almost destroyed a nearby UN agency.
    No one has been sentenced to death over any Islamist militant bombing in Pakistan and suspects in high-profile terror plots are frequently acquitted by the courts, which cite lack of evidence …
    Islamist bombers have killed more than 3,700 people and fanned instability across nuclear-armed Pakistan since July 2007.
    In May, a Pakistani court freed four men put on trial over the 2008 bombing of the five-star Marriott hotel in Islamabad that killed at least 60 people.

Arundhati Roy could face sedition charges over Kashmir comments

Arundhati Roy could face ‘sedition’ trial over Kashmir comments

Arundhati Roy, the Booker Prize-winning author, could face trial for ‘sedition’ over her call for Kashmir’s independence.

The government’s home ministry, which videotaped her speech in Delhi last week, immediately launched an inquiry after her comments were criticised by both government and opposition leaders.

In her speech, Ms Roy, the author of The God of Small Things, dismissed her country as “bhooke nange (hungry, naked) India” and a “hollow super power.” India, she said, needs freedom from Kashmir, and Kashmir [freedom] from India.” Her comments coincide with growing concern about the number of civilian deaths in Kashmir since a wave of protests began in June this year. At least 98 people have been killed, many from police bullet wounds.

Under Indian law it is an offence to “bring into hatred or contempt, or excites orattempts to excite disaffection towards the government established by law in India.” Those found guilty of sedition can be imprisoned for between three years to life.

P. Chidambaram, India’s home minister, confirmed he had ordered an investigation into her comments after opposition leader Arun Jaitley said “democracy and freedom of expression does not give anybody a right to demand sedition.”

  • The Guardian story, “Arundhati Roy faces arrest over Kashmir remark,” has a whole bunch of extra quotes from Roy:
    The 48-year-old author refused to backtrack. In an email interview with the Guardian, she said: “That the government is considering charging me with sedition me has to do with its panic about many voices, even in India, being raised against what is happening in Kashmir. This is a new development, and one that must be worrisome for the government.”
    More than 100 people are estimated to have died in violence in the Kashmir valley since June amid continuing protests against Indian rule in a territory where many of the Muslim majority favour independence or a transfer of control to Pakistan. Hundreds of young protesters have been imprisoned in a string of clashes with security forces.
    “Threatening me with legal action is meant to frighten the civil rights groups and young journalists into keeping quiet. But I think it will have the opposite effect. I think the government is mature enough to understand that it’s too late to put the lid on now,” Roy said.
    Earlier the author, who is currently in Srinagar, Kashmir, said in a statement: “I said what millions of people here say every day. I said what I, as well as other commentators, have written and said for years. Anybody who cares to read the transcripts of my speeches will see that they were fundamentally a call for justice.
    “I spoke about justice for the people of Kashmir who live under one of the most brutal military occupations in the world; for Kashmiri Pandits who live out the tragedy of having been driven out of their homeland; for Dalit soldiers killed in Kashmir whose graves I visited on garbage heaps in their villages in Cuddalore; for the Indian poor who pay the price of this occupation in material ways and who are now learning to live in the terror of what is becoming a police state.”
    After describing her meetings with people caught up in the Kashmir violence, she said: “Some have accused me of giving ‘hate speeches’, of wanting India to break up. On the contrary, what I say comes from love and pride. It comes from not wanting people to be killed, raped, imprisoned or have their fingernails pulled out in order to force them to say they are Indians. It comes from wanting to live in a society that is striving to be a just one.
    “Pity the nation that has to silence its writers for speaking their minds. Pity the nation that needs to jail those who ask for justice, while communal killers, mass murderers, corporate scamsters, looters, rapists, and those who prey on the poorest of the poor roam free.”

Israeli towns may get right to discriminate based on sex, religion

Knesset panel approves controversial bill allowing towns to reject residents

The Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee on Wednesday unanimously approved a bill which gives the right to absorption committees of small communities in Israel to reject candidates if they do not meet specific criteria.

The bill has sparked wide condemnation and many believe it to be discriminatory and racist, since it allows communities to reject residents if they do no meet the criteria of “suitability to the community’s fundamental outlook”, which in effect enables them to reject candidates based on sex, religion, and socioeconomic status.

The bill is due to be presented before the Knesset plenum in the coming weeks …

MK Talab al-Sana (United Arab List – Ta’al) called the bill racist and said it was meant to prevent Arabs from joining Israeli towns. MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List – Ta’al) compared the bill to racist laws in Europe during World War Two, and the two told the committee members before leaving the hall: “We will not cooperate with this criminal law – you have crossed the line.”

The committee’s chairman, David Rotem (Yisrael Beiteinu), responded to claims the bill was meant to reject Arabs from joining Israeli towns. “In my opinion, every Jewish town needs at least one Arab. What would happen if my refrigerator stopped working on a Saturday?”

Tutu calls Cape Town Opera’s Tel Aviv performance “unconscionable”
The Associated Press

South Africa opera rejects Archbishop Tutu’s call to boycott Israel

Cape Town’s renowned opera troupe is rejecting a call from retired Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu to cancel a performance in Israel scheduled next month.

The opera’s managing director Michael Williams said in a statement Wednesday that the opera would not take a political position and cut cultural ties with Israel or the Palestinian territory.

Tutu, who earned a Nobel for his peaceful opposition to apartheid, on Tuesday compared Cape Town Opera’s planned visit to international artists performing in apartheid South Africa. He said Israel is “luring” international artists to the Tel Aviv Opera House to advance its “fallacious claim to being a ‘civilized democracy.’”

Tutu said it would be “unconscionable” to perform “Porgy and Bess,” in Israel, which he said has a “universal message of nondiscrimination.”