South Africa – where climate change may trigger a toxic timebomb

From The Guardian UK:

Johannesburg’s mining industry has been a mainstay of the city for decades, but its vast waste dumps are a huge threat – and Mariette Lieferink is leading the charge for a clear-up

Posted by
Saturday 26 November 2011

We meet Mariette Lieferink in a McDonalds near Gauteng, on the edge of Johannesburg, buying a dozen sickly sweet drinks. She’s no one’s idea of a leading environmental activist. She wears a tight-fitting, scarlet, embroidered Chinese dress, high heels, and make-up. She is nearly 60, a mother of four, grandmother of two and she used to be a preacher. Now she is head of the Federation for a Sustainable Environment, and works flat out to clean up the massively polluted mining areas of Johannesburg.

Climate change, she says, is a potential disaster for Johannesburg and South Africa, liable to trigger the toxic timebomb left by 120 years of mining.

The city has been the centre of the giant South African mining industry since gold was found there in 1880, and it is surrounded by more than 400 sq m of waste dumps, tailing dams, toxic lakes, radiological hotspots, leaking pipelines, spillages, and gaping holes in the ground. More than 40,000 tonnes of gold has been mined from the Witwatersrand Basin in 120 years, as well as cadmium, uranium, cobalt, copper, zinc, manganese, titanium and other heavy metals.

Lieferink’s “toxic tour” starts on the main A28 road. The land we stand on is bright yellow and white, a deep crust of toxic waste from an old copper mine. In front of us is a brickworks making radioactive building blocks from the waste of another mine. In the distance are giant waste heaps from gold mines and below us run the shafts and tunnels of more than 120 deep mines, mostly brim full of millions of litres of some of the most toxic and hazardous waste in the world.

Climate change, she says, increases the volume of rainwater, allowing the mines to flood more frequently, and the water courses and rivers to become even more polluted. “The poorest [people] – who are confined to live near the dumps – are in the frontline. They are exposed to high concentrations of cobalt, zinc, arsenic, and cadmium, all known carcinogens, as well as high levels of radioactive uranium. In some cases, government-built houses are being erected next to radioactive dumps.”

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Mass genocide of Mohawk children by UK Queen and Vatican uncovered in Canada

National study finds LGBT seniors face harder old age

File this one under: No shit, Sherlock.

Why would old age be any different from the cradle onwards?

From Seattle Gay News:

by Shaun Knittel – SGN Associate Editor
November 25, 2011

A new study from the University of Washington’s School of Social Work released some startling news this week: LGBT seniors and baby boomers (a group whose numbers are expected to be more than 4 million by 2030) have greater rates of disability, depression, and loneliness compared with heterosexuals of similar ages.

The study, ‘The Aging and Health Report: Disparities and Resilience among LGBT Older Adults,’ surveyed 2,560 LGBT adults aged 50-95 across the United States, also highlighted the unique needs of this aging group – including fear of discrimination, the lack of children to depend on as caregivers, and less social support and financial security with age, as older LGBT adults are less likely to be partnered or married.

Karen I. Fredriksen-Goldsen, Ph.D., one of the study’s lead authors, reported, ‘Aging and health needs of LGBT older adults are rarely addressed in services, policies, or research, even though diversity is a defining feature of our global aging population.’

‘Although there have been tremendous gains in health during the last century, many historically disadvantaged groups within our aging population continue to experience higher levels of illness, disability, and premature death,’ summarized Fredriksen-Goldsen.

It is imperative to understand our diverse population of LGBT older adults in order to ensure a healthier aging population in the years to come, she said. ‘Health disparities must be eliminated to effectively respond to the aging crisis on the LGBT communities.’

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Black Friday Target Stampede People Trampled Upon 2010 Buffalo New York

The shocking truth about the crackdown on Occupy

From The Guardian UK:

The violent police assaults across the US are no coincidence. Occupy has touched the third rail of our political class’s venality, Friday 25 November 2011

US citizens of all political persuasions are still reeling from images of unparallelled police brutality in a coordinated crackdown against peaceful OWS protesters in cities across the nation this past week. An elderly woman was pepper-sprayed in the face; the scene of unresisting, supine students at UC Davis being pepper-sprayed by phalanxes of riot police went viral online; images proliferated of young women – targeted seemingly for their gender – screaming, dragged by the hair by police in riot gear; and the pictures of a young man, stunned and bleeding profusely from the head, emerged in the record of the middle-of-the-night clearing of Zuccotti Park.

But just when Americans thought we had the picture – was this crazy police and mayoral overkill, on a municipal level, in many different cities? – the picture darkened. The National Union of Journalists and the Committee to Protect Journalists issued a Freedom of Information Act request to investigate possible federal involvement with law enforcement practices that appeared to target journalists. The New York Times reported that “New York cops have arrested, punched, whacked, shoved to the ground and tossed a barrier at reporters and photographers” covering protests. Reporters were asked by NYPD to raise their hands to prove they had credentials: when many dutifully did so, they were taken, upon threat of arrest, away from the story they were covering, and penned far from the site in which the news was unfolding. Other reporters wearing press passes were arrested and roughed up by cops, after being – falsely – informed by police that “It is illegal to take pictures on the sidewalk.”

In New York, a state supreme court justice and a New York City council member were beaten up; in Berkeley, California, one of our greatest national poets, Robert Hass, was beaten with batons. The picture darkened still further when Wonkette and reported that the Mayor of Oakland acknowledged that the Department of Homeland Security had participated in an 18-city mayor conference call advising mayors on “how to suppress” Occupy protests.

To Europeans, the enormity of this breach may not be obvious at first. Our system of government prohibits the creation of a federalised police force, and forbids federal or militarised involvement in municipal peacekeeping.

I noticed that rightwing pundits and politicians on the TV shows on which I was appearing were all on-message against OWS. Journalist Chris Hayes reported on a leaked memo that revealed lobbyists vying for an $850,000 contract to smear Occupy. Message coordination of this kind is impossible without a full-court press at the top. This was clearly not simply a case of a freaked-out mayors’, city-by-city municipal overreaction against mess in the parks and cranky campers. As the puzzle pieces fit together, they began to show coordination against OWS at the highest national levels.

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Occupying Society: How the Movement Hashes Out Race, Class and Privilege in Real Time

From Alternet:

When encampments are shut down, it’s not just the physical turf that’s lost; a social experiment in working out the issues that have divided people for centuries gets crimped.

By Latoya Peterson
November 25, 2011

Since Occupy Wall Street lost its stronghold in Manhattan’s financial district last week, thanks to a long-threatened raid by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, discussion swirls about the fate of the movement — especially in light of similar evictions of Occupy encampments in other cities.

But the loss of encampment space is about more than the movement’s physical presence; it threatens the loss of the most compelling story, a hybrid of breaking news and reality TV show. This couldn’t have been dreamed up by MTV, but the premise feels familiar: An organic, ad hoc society springs from encampment village, hashing out in real time tensions around class, race and competing priorities that have gripped the progressive movement for decades — essentially the early seasons of “The Real World” for change agents and social activists. (The comparison wasn’t lost on MTV producers, who created a special called True Life: I’m Occupying Wall Street, which aired earlier this month.)

Occasionally, the competing priorities of the movements made headlines, but the stories aired and published usually focused on tensions that arise when resistance to the state meets the need for police authority, as evidenced in ongoing battles over dealing with sexual assault in some encampments. Matters of diversity, homelessness and conversational direction draw less attention from media, but are fiercely debated in the Occupy communities — and those conversations are instructive in the quest to create a new type of society.

Busting a Stereotype

Back in October, responding to Bloomberg’s first threat of eviction to the OWS camp, I found myself prepping to head down to Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park at dawn. (Bloomberg said that the park needed to be cleaned.) The night before, I had gotten lost and ended up on Wall Street, gawking at the police brigades, barriers and officers on horses. I wasn’t planning on getting caught in any kind of sweep (and I wasn’t, though there is a disturbing pattern of journalists being arrested covering OWS protests), but as a life-long resident of Washington, DC, I know protests can go from peaceful to nuclear in seconds.

So, I took to Twitter, asking folks who had been down to Zuccotti to help me decide between a business-casual hybrid outfit (sneakers, professional dress) or the I-may-end-up-incarcerated gear of sneakers, jeans and multiple layers.

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Big Carbon’s Sock Puppets Declare War on America and the Planet

From Huffington Post:

President, Waterkeeper Alliance; Professor, Pace University
Posted: 11/25/2011

It’s now become de rigueur among the radical right wing rhetoricians to characterize any government support of America’s green energy sector as wasteful, fruitless, and scandalous. They greeted with glee the collapse of the government supported solar company, Solyndra, America’s first major casualty in our race with China to dominate the “new energy” economy. With Solyndra dying on the battlefield — its marketplace choking on inexpensive Chinese solar panels — the right wing’s response was to hoist the white flag and declare defeat in the war for global cleantech leadership. That brand of “Can’t Do” cowardice is a boon to the carbon and nuclear power incumbents who fund so much of the right wing’s activities — but it’s bad for America.

Leveraging the aberrant Solyndra bankruptcy, these groups have launched an orchestrated series of attacks against the renewables sector by trying to discredit other companies, even those that are driving America forward with innovative solutions that actually do compete on a global basis. For example, last month, Fox News ran a story insinuating that SunPower received a loan guarantee for its Central Valley Solar Ranch project because of its political connections Congressman George Miller. The story also suggested that SunPower was struggling financially and posed another risk to taxpayers — a la Solyndra. The truth is that SunPower is one of America’s strongest solar manufacturing companies and Mr. Miller had nothing to do with the company receiving a loan guarantee for its Central Valley Solar Ranch Project. To Fox News and other right wing media sources, the facts meant very little. Their intent is only to suggest wrong-doing in an attempt to undermine the Obama Administration and its clean energy goals.

Last week found the right wing echo chamber, from Fox News to the New York Post, and the conservative blogosphere in an anti-green frenzy based on faux facts from a new book, Throw Them All Out. The author of this far-fetched screed is Peter Schweizer, Sarah Palin’s foreign policy guru, currently employed by the Hoover Institution, a think tank funded largely by oil interests (e.g., Exxon, ARCO, Transamerica, and Richard Mellon Scaife’s oil and banking fortune) to craft the philosophical underpinnings for unregulated pollution, unrestricted corporate profit taking, and massive corporate welfare for the carbon/nuke incumbents.

Thanks to a mention in Schweizer’s far-fetched opus, I got a shout out, last week from most of these crackpot gas bags. The Daily Mail summarized my supposed crimes in its headline: “JFK’s nephew received $1.4 billion dollar taxpayer bailout for his struggling green energy firm.”

All of the reported “facts” in this blogosphonic barrage were Schweizer’s inventions. Schweizer claims that BrightSource Energy received a government bailout due to political influence exerted on behalf of VantagePoint Capital Partners, where I am a partner and which is the largest institutional shareholder of BrightSource.

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