Saturday, 31 March 2012

Ask Japan to stop executing - my copy of Amnesty International's page

I have copied this page from


These copies on my on this posterous site and other sites might get you past censors in your own countries - I hope the form works - let me know if it doesn't - if nothing else, it will give you an idea about what to write - if you want their own page please go to


Ask Japan to stop executing

Amnesty International Japan action on World Day Against the Death Penalty 2008. The letters say 'Can death penalty really solve the problem? 


We are horrified that Japan chose to execute three prisoners on 29 March 2012, after nearly two years of no executions in the country.

2011 marked the first year in 19 that no executions were recorded in Japan. The Japan Federation of Bar Associations recommended in October 2011 that the government suspend executions and move towards a moratorium on the death penalty, and the two Justice Ministers serving during the year (Satsuki Eda and Hideo Hiraoka) did not sign any execution warrants.

The current Justice Minister, Toshio Ogawa, came to the role in January 2012. He gave consent for Tomoyuki Furusawa, Yasauki Uwabe and Yatsutoshi Matsuda to be executed on 29 March.

This is a distressing step backward for Japan, when world trends are showing fewer countries using the death penalty year-on-year. More information about the death penalty in Japan



Use the form below to write to Justice Minister Toshio Ogawa, urging that he refrains from signing any more execution warrants, and instead moves towards a moratorium on executions as a first step toward abolition. Feel free to amend the letter text if you wish.

We will fax your letter directly to the Justice Minister when you hit 'submit'.

REMEMBER - this is not Amnesty International's page for this IT IS A COPY the link in red below is their page

If you can't use either just use the text from this page to write an ordinary letter instead


Dear Minister,



Are you under 18?



Please untick if either statement is not correct.

If at any time you prefer not to receive updates from Amnesty, please email specifying which updates you do not wish to receive. We care about your details and unless you have agreed on this form we will never share your phone number or email address. Amnesty will not share the contact details of under 18s. For more information about how Amnesty processes personal data, see our privacy policy at




Heroic U.S. soldier and a father of three dies saving an Afghan girl from being run over by a truck

A U.S soldier was struck and killed by an armoured truck immediately after rescuing an Afghan girl who was about to be run over.

Sgt Dennis Weichel, a Rhode Island National Guardsman, was riding along as part of a convoy with his unit in Laghman Province in eastern Afghanistan when they spotted children on the road ahead.

The children were collecting empty shell casings to be recycled for money.

Weichel and the other soldiers quickly moved the children out of the way of the following trucks, which can weigh as much as 16 tons.

Weichel saw one girl dash back onto the road and managed to grab her to safety but was then struck by an armoured vehicle moments later.

The unnamed girl was unharmed but the heroic soldier died later that day from his injuries. His body is being flown back to the U.S on Saturday.

The father of three was due to get married to his girlfriend and had only arrived in Afghanistan a few weeks earlier.

On a Facebook page set up in his memory his young children have left a message that reads: ‘We are so proud of our daddy..we love and miss you. ..daddy you are our hero. Love you Nick, Hope and Madison.’

Heroic: The father of three had only been in Afghanistan for a few weeks when he diedHeroic: The father of three had only been in Afghanistan for a few weeks when he died
Heroic: Sergeant Dennis Weichel had three young children who have praised their daddy as 'our hero' Heroic: Sergeant Dennis Weichel had three young children who have praised their daddy as ‘our hero’

Army officials called Weichel’s actions the epitome of selfless service and sacrifice and U.S. and state flags in Rhode Island will be flown at half-mast until the soldier’s funeral on Sunday.

‘He would have done it for anybody,’ said Staff Sgt. Ronald Corbett, who was Weichel’s mentor and deployed with him to Iraq in 2005. ‘That was the way he was. He would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it.’

Friday, 30 March 2012

Free Schapelle Corby: The Show Trial Tue Mar 27 2012 23:46

First things first.... there is an outstanding blog, which introduces the issues here in simple and clear terms. Please do take the trouble to read it:

Schapelle Corby: An Introduction

It's frightening isn't it, that this sort of thing can actually happen? It HAS happened, and Schapelle is suffering desperately because of it.

[On her way to Indonesia. Hardly the face
of someone playing russian roulette with their life!]

But what about the 'trial'? Prepare yourself, because it was not a trial as you would expect at all: far from it.

Throughout the ordeal she pleaded for a more thorough investigation, begged for the marijuana to be analyzed (the Indonesian Government didn’t want this!), appealed repeatedly for specific evidence to be collected and not ignored. It was all futile. The kangaroo court was not listening to her (the judge even revealed that in the 500 drug related cases he had presided over he had never acquitted a defendant).

In practice, the function of defence lawyers there is to negotiate the best outcome for their client, not dispute the verdict. In refusing to plead guilty to a crime she didn't commit, Schapelle refused to play the game, and suffered so cruelly as a result. And just for good measure, to make the process even more torturous for her, she was under threat of death by firing squad throughout. Just a reminder: we are in the 21st century, not the middle ages.

Another Distraught Day In Court

For the legal minded, a Research Assessment demonstrates the daily breaches of Schapelle's legal and human rights with respect to both Indonesian law, and UN international conventions. It is a harrowing and extremely disturbing read.

If you can face it (and it is distressing) please take a look at an excellent case report by DJ Wolf: The Corby Case - Part 1 and The Corby Case - Part 2.

Schapelle wasn't listened to then, and she can't speak for herself now, but you can do it for her. Please visit our How To Help page.

3 “Pink Slime” Companies Have Shut Down Due to Consumer Outrage By Occupy Monsanto | March 26, 2012

Three factories that made so-called “pink slime” beef filler have shut down since public outcry about the ammonia-treated substance began last month, The Associated Press reported Monday.

Beef Products Inc. spokesman Craig Letch told AP that only one factory in the country, located in Dakota Dunes, South Dakota, is still producing the stuff. Three others, in Texas, Iowa and Kansas, have reportedly been shut down.

The product, known as “lean, finely textured beef” to industry insiders, is comprised of connective tissue and other pieces of cows generally considered not for human consumption, which are grated, filtered and mashed into a slimy, pink substance and treated with ammonia gas to kill off bacteria.  It is then mixed in with actual ground beef as a filler, although it is not labeled as containing such product in any way.

The goo was nicknamed “pink slime” by a U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) scientists who blew the whistle when regulators in the Bush Sr. administration chose to allow it in the human food supply, previously only allowed in products such as dog food.

U.S. government was revealed to have purchased tons of the stuff for use in school lunches, and that was when the “pink slime” really started to hit the fan, so to speak. USDA whistleblowers alleged that “pink slime” had become so prevalent that it existed in 70%  of ground beef sold in the U.S, whether through grocery stores or through the average restaurant.

Since the consumer outrage began, several major fast food chains have said they would no longer use the meat filler(pink slime) in their food products and the USDA has lifted the rules requiring schools to use the nasty stuff.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Family fury over U-turn on Gary McKinnon's risk of suicide if he is extradited By MICHAEL SEAMARK PUBLISHED: 00:41, 29 March 2012 | UPDATED: 00:41, 29 March 2012

Family fury over U-turn on Gary McKinnon's risk of suicide if he is extradited


PUBLISHED: 00:41, 29 March 2012 | UPDATED: 00:41, 29 March 2012

Anger: Gary McKinnon¿s family reacted with fury last night at medical reports claiming he is no longer a serious suicide risk if extradited. Mr McKinnon is pictured

Anger: Gary McKinnon's family reacted with fury last night at medical reports claiming he is no longer a serious suicide risk if extradited. Mr McKinnon is pictured

Gary McKinnon’s family reacted with fury last night at medical reports claiming he is no longer a serious suicide risk if extradited.

Legal and medical experts have argued for several years about whether the Asperger’s sufferer might kill himself if sent to the United States, where he faces up to 60 years behind bars after hacking into Nasa and Pentagon computers looking for the existence of ‘little green men’. 

But fresh evidence commissioned by Home Secretary Theresa May suggests Gary is mentally strong enough to be extradited, Channel 4 News reported.

It detailed two medical reports on the hacker – from the same psychiatrist but giving a very  different evaluation.

The first report in 2009 from Professor Declan Murphy, after interviewing Gary in person, stated that if he did not get  continual one-to-one observation the 46-year-old ‘is likely to make a serious attempt at suicide’.

He added: ‘Mr McKinnon stated that he would kill himself ... He now has a fixed idea, which is  currently unshakeable, that his best outcome is to take his own life if deported.’ 

But the professor’s new assessment for the Home Office, carried out without any further interview, says: ‘We judge the risk of suicide to be moderate.’


Channel 4 claims a Home Office official said the fresh evidence – which Theresa May will consider before making a final decision on Gary’s case in the coming weeks – gives the minister little option but to extradite him.

Gary’s mother, Janis Sharp, attacked Dr Murphy’s report, pointing out that it goes against the opinions of other eminent psychiatrists that Gary’s legal team are preparing to submit to Mrs May in response to the Home Office.

She said: ‘What basis could he possibly have to go against the expert opinion of four of the top people in the country, who say that Gary will absolutely take his own life?

Controversial: Fresh evidence commissioned by Home Secretary Theresa May suggests Gary is mentally strong enough to be extradited, it has been reported

Controversial: Fresh evidence commissioned by Home Secretary Theresa May suggests Gary is mentally strong enough to be extradited, it has been reported

‘It’s an in abstentia report and  it contradicts his previous face-to-face report. What did he base this on? It’s a mystery to me.’ 

Shami Chakrabarti – director of Liberty which is campaigning on Gary’s behalf – said: ‘If all the Home Office has got to say that Gary McKinnon is fit for extradition is the evidence of an expert who contradicts his earlier evidence on (his) vulnerability, I think it’s impossible for the Home Office to extradite this man.’ 

Gary, whose case is backed by a Daily Mail campaign, has always agreed to stand trial for hacking in a British court.

U.S. president Barack Obama agreed earlier this month to top-level negotiations on cutting the number of Britons extradited for trial in America after David Cameron raised the plight of Gary during his official visit to Washington.

A Home Office spokesman said: ‘The Home Secretary will consider the report alongside all other relevant material and aims to reach a decision as soon as is consistent with dealing fairly and properly with this case.’

Read more:

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Face transplant patient beginning to look himself again By Michael MosleyBBC - 25 November 2011 Last updated at 10:55

Face transplant patient beginning to look himself again

By Michael MosleyBBC

Earlier this year soldier Mitch Hunter underwent a face transplant that promises to transform his life.

Strangers would stare at him in the street and children would say the monster was coming and run away, but earlier this year Mitch Hunter underwent a face transplant that promises to transform his life.

When I knocked on Mitch Hunter's door in the suburbs of Indianapolis, I really didn't know what to expect.

I had seen photos of him as a young soldier and photos of him after 10 years of plastic surgery, but now I was about to meet him - four months after he had received one of the world's first full face transplants.

He opened the door with his 18-month-old son, Clayton, in his arms and I was stunned.

US Army private Mitch Hunter before the accident and how he looked before the face transplant

Young Mitch before the accident and how he looked after plastic surgery and before the face transplant

Mitch is not the handsome young man he once was, but the transformation from the face he had just six months ago is astonishing. Looking from Mitch to his young son, I could even see the family resemblance.

Mitch was 20 years old when a car he was a passenger in crashed into a pole containing a 10,000 volt electrical cable.

He tried to rescue a fellow passenger, but while doing so got the full blast from the electrical cable through his leg and face. He lost the leg and most of his face was burnt off. Over the next 10 years, surgeons tried to rebuild his face, but the results were patchy.

Scaring children

It was the birth of his son Clayton that made Mitch finally decide to have a full face transplant, only the third ever performed in the United States.

"I've had kids hide and run behind their moms because they were so scared when they saw me," he explained.

Michael Mosley

"That was hard to cope with because my friends started having kids, then my brother had a kid. Then I had Clayton and I didn't want kids to be afraid of me any more."

Mitch's operation was funded by an unusual collaboration between the Brigham and Women's hospital in Boston and the US military.

There are so many soldiers coming back home from the conflicts in Afghanistan with severely mutilated faces and bodies that the military has decided to fund research into novel ways of repairing them. This includes paying for hand and face transplants.

Dr Bohdan Pomahac, who works at the Brigham and Women's hospital, has now done three full face transplants and, with military funding, is preparing to do another five. Mitch, who he operated on in April 2011, was his second patient.

To qualify for the surgery the patient must be missing at least 25% of their face. Dr Pomahac thinks there must be at least 200-300 veterans who would be eligible and he is hoping some will put their names forward.


  • A major problem with face and hand transplants is patients have to take drugs to suppress their immune system or the body will reject the organ. This makes patients more vulnerable to infection and can precipitate conditions like diabetes.
  • A new technique aims to re-educate the body's immune system to accept the transplanted organ by an infusion of bone marrow from the donor.
  • Known as the Pittsburgh Protocol, it was developed at the University of Pittsburgh.
  • London's Royal Free Hospital is keen to adopt the technique, with director of surgery and trauma Professor Peter Butler hoping to establish UK expertise in arm and face transplants.

Finding a donor is, surprisingly enough, not that difficult. Dr Pomahac said he would prefer the donor to be young and of the same sex, though computer reconstructions suggest that a female face transplanted onto a male would look all right, although it has not yet been tried.

The full thickness of the face is transplanted, but what really determines how a patient will look afterwards is the underlying bone structure of their faces.

The operation itself went smoothly. A team of surgeons removed Mitch's old face before the new face was carried into the operating theatre by Dr Pomahac.

They joined up arteries from Mitch's body to the new face, and also connected three nerves. Finally the new face, with nose, lips and muscle, was stitched into place. The whole operation took 14 hours, somewhat less than his first.

"We have planned on simplifying it, making it more reproducible and easier for people to do and I think we have accomplished that goal," said Dr Pomahac. "But with every operation we learn an enormous amount."

Recovering senses

Initially there was a lot of swelling. "It looked like the face of a 200lb (90kg) guy, it was that swollen," Mitch told me, but as the swelling went down, his old features started to come through.

Continue reading the main story

“Start Quote

I think it's just crazy - the fact that medical science has come this far”

Mitch's partner Katrina

Mitch's brother Mark, who is older by a year, says he could see the old Mitch from day one.

"I didn't know how I was going to react, but when I walked through the door of the hospital it was him, my brother."

Katerina, Mitch's partner, is an old school friend, and they got together several years ago, long before the transplant.

She said she quickly got used to the fact that he had a damaged face and accepted him for who he was, though she realised Mitch was unhappy and avoided going out.

Her reaction to the transplant? "I think it's just crazy - the fact that medical science has come this far, what they are able to do. It's just amazing."

When I asked her if it was strange kissing the lips of a dead man, she replied: "I had never kissed him with lips before."

Mitch says sensation is returning and he can now do things like raise his eyebrows, purse his lips and smile. He expects these improvements to continue.

"There is still a little extra skin in places," he said, "but I'm told that when everything is said and done and finalised, I will look a lot like I used to."

Dr Pomahac agrees that things should steadily improve, particularly sensation. "The first sensation develops within a month or two. It's very crude. But it continues to improve and in about 18 months I would expect that Mitch is going to be feeling near normal."

Michael Mosley presents the second episode of Frontline Medicine on BBC Two at 21:00 on Sunday 27 November 2011. Watch via iPlayer (UK only) and catch up on episode one at the above link.

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US face transplant gives man new jaw, teeth and tongue

US face transplant gives man new jaw, teeth and tongue

Pictures of Richard Norris before (L) and after his face transplant

Richard Norris received a new jaw and teeth in the 36-hour operation

US doctors have carried out what they say is the most extensive face transplant ever performed.

The operation at the University of Maryland gave Richard Norris a new face, including jaw, teeth and tongue.

The 37-year-old has lived as a recluse for 15 years after being severely injured in a gun accident, and wore a mask whenever he went outside.

The surgery was funded by the US Navy, which hopes the techniques will help casualties from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Surgeons who carried out the 36-hour operation say it was part of a series of transplant operations lasting 72 hours, using organs from one donor in five patients including Mr Norris.

He lost his lips and nose in the accident, and only had limited movement of his mouth.

The lead surgeon says Mr Norris will now get his life back.

"Our goal is to restore function as well as have aesthetically pleasing results," said Eduardo Rodriguez.

The team at the University of Maryland say Mr Norris is now brushing his teeth and shaving, and has regained his sense of smell.

The US government estimates that 200 wounded troops might be eligible for face transplants.

The first face transplant was performed in France in 2005, on a woman who was mauled by her dog.

In 2010 surgeons in Spain carried out the world's first full face transplant.

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An Open Letter from Singer Sinead O’Connor About Trayvon Martin, Racism Pop Culture & Music 25MAR Sinead O’Connor

An Open Letter from Singer Sinead O’Connor About Trayvon Martin, Racism Pop Culture & Music


Singer/ activist Sinead O’Connor just penned a powerful piece about Trayvon Martin, Racism, Loving ourselves and Hip Hop Music… It comes from her blog which is located at:

Here’s what she wrote the other day:

I would like to extend my very deepest sympathies to the family and other loved ones of murdered teenager, Treyvon Martin. I am very sad today (and am certain the whole of Ireland is) to learn of poor Treyvon’s terrifying ordeal and horrified by the fact his known and named and admitted killer has not been arrested, despite the crime having taken place a month ago. This is a disgrace to the entire human race.

For those out there who believe black people to be less than pure royalty, let me inform you of a little known, but scientifically proven, many times over, FACT. Which after reading, you will hopefully feel both very stupid and very sorry. For you dishonor your own mothers and grandmothers.

EVERY human being on earth, no matter what their culture, creed, skin colour, or nationality, shares one gene traceable back to one African woman. Scientists have named it ‘The Eve Gene’. This means ALL of us, even ridiculously stupid, ignorant, perverted, blaspheming racists are the descendants of one African woman.

One African woman is the mother of all of us. Africa was the first world. You come from there! Your skin may be ‘white’.. because you didn’t need it to be black any more where you lived. But as Curtis Mayfield said.. “You’re just the surface of our dark, deep well”. So you’re being morons. And God is having the last laugh at your ignorant expense.

If you hate black people, its yourself you hate. And the mother who bore you. If you kill or wish ill on black people, its yourself you kill and wish ill on. As well as the mother who bore you.

When you dishonor the the utter glory and majesty of black people, you lie. Your heart lies to you and you let it. Despite seeing every day, all your life, how you and your country would be less than wonderfully functioning and inspiring to the world, without the manifold and glorious contributions made by the descendants of African slaves, who did not by the way actually ask to go to America and leave their future families there to be disrespected for eternity.

What are you doing hating yourself by hating your brothers and sisters who daily show you nothing but inspiration and love, despite having NOTHING, in their own country? Despite having barely a chance of anything, because of racism. Despite being granted no ‘permission’ for proper self-esteem.

These beautiful people continue to believe in and even manifest Jesus Christ better than you do. That alone could stand as the greatest reason your racism is blasphemy, were it not for all the other reasons.

These people you hate and fear ARE the body of Christ, just as we all are. Every child, woman or man. And they know it. Maybe thats why you cant bear to look at them. Because you see Jesus Christ and you cant stand the light.

Stop this ridiculous and uneducated attitude. You would be dead without black people. Think of all the greatest music ever composed. The greatest songs. The greatest inspirational heroes.. Muhammad Ali, Mandela, Martin Luther King, Harriet Tubman, Soujourner Truth, Bob Marley, Nina Simone, Curtis Mayfield. So many absolute angels, sent from God.

Without the inspiration of these people many millions of so-called ‘white’ people, including myself would not have had the strength to pay the price of life.

And black youth in America. I’m talking to you here too. I love you. So I don’t mean to sound cross, I’m just being a mother.. Why are you killing each other? Why are you hating yourselves? You are the most important people God ever sent to this earth, every man, woman and child among you! Don’t let uneducated people win and take your self-esteem or your esteem for each other, and make you kill each other. over guns, drugs, bling, or any other nonsense.

You are now entering YOUR version of a sort of civil rights movement and you’re gonna see history being made in what has certainly the profoundest potential to become THE most wonderful country on earth. Because soon ALL ‘isms’ and ‘sits” will end. including racism, as the people of the earth begin to understand, we are all one.

We came from one mother. We are all brothers and sisters. And we CAN get beyond this ILLUSION of separateness. With prayer and love. It CAN change. It WILL change. And YOU guys (young people of all kinds) are the ones who are gonna GENTLY change it. And you know where it starts? With MUSIC.

Don’t be guided by rap. Gangsta or otherwise. Sure.. enjoy it.. adore I do.. but realize this.. rap ain’t about your civil or spiritual rights, baby boys and girls. It.. along with most music nowadays.. is about falsenesses and vanities. Bling, drugs, sex, guns and people- dissing. Its giving you the message you ain’t ‘good enough’ if you don’t have bling and ting.. and money. Or if you’re not what it deems ‘sexy’.

(This is true of all popular music not rap alone. I know. Its tragically true of all popular youth culture the world over).

Poor Curtis Mayfield must be crying all day and night ALL day and night in heaven, every day and night.. To see what has been so successfully achieved by those who sent guns, drugs, and bling to squash the civil rights movement. Now you all don’t have to be murdered by racists any more.. you’re murdering each other FOR them! And your parents and grandparents are left crying.

Go back to strong black musical guides who left you information in the 60s and 70s. when they were living through the civil rights struggle. Curtis Mayfield. The Impressions. Nina Simone, Mahalia Jackson. Sing back the Holy Spirit ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, as those artists did.

Forget bling. Forget “Get Rich Or Die Trying”. That is an evil message. Evil my dears is only life backwards. Turn it the right way up. With music. The messages American black youth are being given through music are not about the spiritual and therefore strong and conquering but PEACEFUL making of YOUR country into the wonderful place it secretly is and can be.. BECAUSE OF YOU, and BY YOU!!

You know not how you are adored, appreciated, valued, loved, cried for,smiled for, prayed for, all over the world. You know not how much inspiration and uplift-ment of heart you give to millions just by your presence on earth.

These musical guides will give you self-esteem. When you have self-esteem you can achieve anything. You can stand in the street as many did yesterday and change your country peacefully and with song. Chant down Babylon as the Rastas say. Rastafari will also give you self esteem. Investigate it.

You will notice, my beautiful sons and daughters, when you study, as you must, footage of all civil rights gatherings, how singing and music and sound and voice and the Holy Spirit were all employed and were so much part of the energy which moved things along.. just as running was in the South African gatherings I saw on tv in my own childhood, which inspired me to survive my own horrors.

What you listen to musically and whether or not you employ the Holy Spirit’s highest will for your life is whats gonna make you transcend all you’re having to suffer (the worst of which is low self-esteem.. or esteem based upon material ‘success’ or ‘sexiness’)) as a result of being the descendants of people who didn’t ask to be stolen and leave you where you are. Delete bling. Get conscious with your music. Demand conscious music from your artists. Go back to the artists who left you proper guidance.

This is some serious stuff and we (all manner of musical artists) are too silent on matters of enormous spiritual importance. Lemme ask you.. Jayzee and Eminem et al. Why was it always the black people only worked in the post rooms of record companies, which was always in the basement? Why was it that as each floor went up the skins got paler till it was fuckin ghosts at the top? And all us artists.. even me.. said nothing? Those buildings (record companies) always struck me as being a microcosm or painting of America, racially speaking. Christ almighty.. if its like that in the music business how is anything ever going to change?

We, musical artists are too silent on important stuff. And it is our job to be the gate-keepers of truth. ALL the people of this earth must come together eventually and see that we are one. ALL artists must stand up. Black, white, yellow, green, pink, fucking polka dot.. and be a light in these times.

The world is going to shift massively this year.. spiritually speaking. Musical artists are to be a massive part of that shift. Get up, lets all of us. And light Jah fire.. and BE lights.

Where’s the fire gone from music? Where is the love? the oneness? The knowing that music CAN and WILL move things in the right spiritual direction without hatred or violence? We must box clever. Sing the devil to sleep at your feet. Thats what Curtis teaches. He is the master of ALL musical masters. forget, forget, forget and forget again bling and guns and drugs and the worship of fame and money. Its time to wake up. We KNOW the power of music. Why aren’t we using it to change anything important?

Musicians all over the world should now gently demand this child’s killer be arrested immediately and the family of Treyvon Martin be immediately apologized to upon bended knee. Frankly. I myself would like an apology! America is a country I love and adore. what this man has done is un-American in the most horrific extreme.

Him not being arrested is extremely embarrassing and does absolutely NOT paint the true picture of of a country and a people who for the 90% majority are the kindest, most loving, intelligent, and wonderful people you could know.

Please.. ALL Americans should deplore this crime. As should ALL people of ALL nations. And deplore the fact this man has not been arrested. All Irish people should do the same. And I ask that we here in Ireland should express through our American embassy that we would like to see this man arrested this very minute. Because racism is not acceptable. Nor is vigilantism. And this was very clearly in no way at all a case of self-defense.

I leave you with some lyrics of Curtis Mayfield’s which I feel are appropriate for this situation. I am certain Curtis would have wanted to contribute to discussion on the issue of Treyvon’s murder and the condition of young black people in America today.. so here goes.. the song is called This Is My Country.. from the album of the same name.

Some people think we don’t have the right
to say its my country
before they give in
they’d rather fuss and fight
than say its my country
I’ve paid three hundred years or more
of slave-driving sweat and welts on my back
This is my country

Too many have died in protecting my pride
for me to go second class
We’ve survived a hard blow and I want you to know
that you must face us at last
And I know you will give consideration
shall we perish unjust or live equal as a nation?
This is my country.

written by

-Sinead O’Connor-

House arrest for all Tibetans till March 31 Rajat Arora , Hindustan Times New Delhi, March 28, 2012

A day after a man set himself ablaze to protest against the Chinese President’s visit to India for the BRICS summit, the Delhi Police started cracking down on Tibetan activists with the detention of prominent Tibetan activist and poet Tenzin Tsundue from a seminar being held at the Indian Habitat

Centre on Tuesday.

After that, scores of activists were detained from several locations across Delhi.

Cops also issued orders of house arrest for all Tibetans till March 31. They said that this was a precautionary measure since Tibetans had come out on the streets despite being denied permission for protest.

The police have also sealed areas populated by Tibetans including Majnu ka Tila, Budh Vihar and Tibetan youth hostel in Rohini.

To curb protests by Tibetan activists and suicide bids on the streets of Delhi, the police have also locked up Tibetans inside seminar halls.

One such incident took place at Ambedkar Bhawan near Videocon tower where a seminar was organised by the Tibetan Youth Congress. Two Tibetan activists were also picked up from the Press Club of India.

“They have told us that we can’t step out of our hostel till the 31st. Our voices have been gagged and we can’t even attend college,” said Dorjee Tseten, a Delhi University student.

Tibetans worldwide are taking to self immolation to protest against the Chinese rule.

“In Tibet, our people live under the repressive system imposed by the Chinese government, with no space for protest. Tibetans living in the free world have space for conventional means of protests that should be utilised to the fullest,” said Youdon Aukatsang, member of Tibetan parliament in exile.

The police also detained hundreds of Tibetan Youth Congress members. Tibetans living in India have termed the detention as an attack on their freedom of speech.

The Delhi Police, however, said that these were just preventive measures to avoid any more suicide bids on the streets of Delhi. “The law and order shouldn’t deteriorate in the Capital during the BRICS summit,” said Dharmendra Kumar, special commissioner of police, law and order.

Simmy SyphDig BrickNine Gordon - Trayvon Martin, my son, and the Black Male Code

Simmy SyphDig BrickNine Gordon 

Trayvon Martin, my son, and the Black Male Code

Published: Mar 24, 2012

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - I thought my son would be much older before I had to tell him about the Black Male Code. He's only 12, still sleeping with stuffed animals, still afraid of the dark. But after the Trayvon Martin tragedy, I needed to explain to my child that soon people might be afraid of him.

We were in the car on the way to school when a story about Martin came on the radio. "The guy who killed him should get arrested. The dead guy was unarmed!" my son said after hearing that neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman had claimed self-defense in the shooting in Sanford, Fla.

We listened to the rest of the story, describing how Zimmerman had spotted Martin, who was 17, walking home from the store on a rainy night, the hood of his sweatshirt pulled over his head. When it was over, I turned off the radio and told my son about the rules he needs to follow to avoid becoming another Trayvon Martin - a black male who Zimmerman assumed was "suspicious" and "up to no good."

As I explained it, the Code goes like this:

Always pay close attention to your surroundings, son, especially if you are in an affluent neighborhood where black folks are few. Understand that even though you are not a criminal, some people might assume you are, especially if you are wearing certain clothes.

Never argue with police, but protect your dignity and take pride in humility. When confronted by someone with a badge or a gun, do not flee, fight, or put your hands anywhere other than up.

Please don't assume, son, that all white people view you as a threat. America is better than that. Suspicion and bitterness can imprison you. But as a black male, you must go above and beyond to show strangers what type of person you really are.

I was far from alone in laying out these instructions. Across the country this week, parents were talking to their children, especially their black sons, about the Code. It's a talk the black community has passed down for generations, an evolving oral tradition from the days when an errant remark could easily cost black people their job, their freedom, or sometimes their life.

After Trayvon Martin was killed, Al Dotson Jr., a lawyer in Miami and chairman of the 100 Black Men of America organization, told his 14-year-old son that he should always be aware of his surroundings, and of the fact that people might view him differently "because he's blessed to be an African-American."

"It requires a sixth sense that not everyone needs to have," Dotson said.

Dotson, 51, remembers receiving his own instructions as a youth, and hearing those instructions evolve over time.

His grandparents told Dotson that when dealing with authority figures, make it clear you are no threat at all - an attitude verging on submissive. Later, Dotson's parents told him to respond with respect and not be combative.

Today, Dotson tells his children that they should always be respectful, but should not tolerate being disrespected - which would have been recklessly bold in his grandparents' era.

Yet Dotson still has fears about the safety of his children, "about them understanding who they are and where they are, and how to respond to the environment they are in."

Bill Stephney, a media executive who lives in a New Jersey suburb that is mostly white and Asian, has two sons, ages 18 and 13. The Martin killing was an opportunity for him to repeat a longtime lesson: Black men can get singled out, "so please conduct yourself accordingly."

Like Dotson, Stephney mentioned an ultra-awareness - "a racial Spidey sense, a tingling" - that his sons should heed when stereotyping might place them in danger.

One night in the early 1980s, while a student at Adelphi University on Long Island, Stephney and about a dozen other hip-hop aficionados went to White Castle after their late-night DJ gig. They were gathered in the parking lot, eating and talking, when a squadron of police cars swooped in and a helicopter rumbled overhead.

"We got a report that a riot was going on," police told them.

Stephney and his crew used to talk late into the night about how black men in New York were besieged by violence - graffiti artist Michael Stewart's death after a rough arrest in 1983; Bernhard Goetz shooting four young black men who allegedly tried to mug him on the subway in 1984; Michael Griffith killed by a car while being chased by a white mob in 1986; the crack epidemic that rained black-on-black violence on the city. They felt under attack, as if society considered them the enemy.

This is how the legendary rap group Public Enemy was born. Their logo: A young black man in the crosshairs of a gun sight.

"Fast forward 25 years later," Stephney said. "We've come a long way to get nowhere."

But what about that long road traveled, which took a black man all the way to the White House? I can hear some of my white friends now: What evidence is there that Trayvon Martin caught George Zimmerman's attention - and his bullet - because of his race? Lynching is a relic of the past, so why are you teaching your son to be so paranoid?

There is a difference between paranoia and protection. Much evidence shows that black males face unique risks: Psychological studies indicate they are often perceived as threatening; here in Philadelphia, police stop-and-frisk tactics overwhelmingly target African-Americans, according to a lawsuit settled by the city; research suggests that people are more likely to believe a poorly seen object is a gun if it's held by a black person.

Yes, it was way back in 1955 when 14-year-old Emmitt Till was murdered in Mississippi for flirting with a white woman. But it was last Wednesday when a white Mississippi teenager pleaded guilty to murder for seeking out a black victim, coming across a man named James Craig Anderson, and running him over with his pickup truck.

Faced with this information, I'm doing what any responsible parent would do: Teaching my son how to protect himself.

Still, it requires a delicate balance. Steve Bumbaugh, a foundation director in Los Angeles, encourages his 8- and 5-year-old sons to talk to police officers, "and to otherwise develop a good relationship with the people and institutions that have the potential to give them trouble. I think this is the best defense."

"I don't want them to actually think that they are viewed suspiciously or treated differently," Bumbaugh said. "I think that realization breeds resentment and anger. And that can contribute to dangerous situations."

His sons are large for their age, however.

"I'm probably naive to think that they won't realize they're viewed differently when they're 6-4 and 200 pounds," Bumbaugh said, "but I'm going to try anyway."

I am 6-4 and more than 200 pounds, son. You probably will be too. Depending on how we dress, act and speak, people might make negative assumptions about us. That doesn't mean they must be racist; it means they must be human.

Let me tell you a story, son, about a time when I forgot about the Black Male Code.

One morning I left our car at the shop for repairs. I was walking home through our quiet suburban neighborhood, in a cold drizzle, wearing an all-black sweatsuit with the hood pulled over my head.

From two blocks away, I saw your mother pull out of our driveway and roll towards me. When she stopped next to me and rolled down the window, her brown face was full of laughter.

"When I saw you from up the street," your mother told me, "I said to myself, what is that guy doing in our neighborhood?"

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Waiting to exhale Afghan women exult but wonder if freedom will last Ilana Ozernoy, Chronicle Foreign Service Saturday, November 17, 2001 Read more:

Waiting to exhale

Afghan women exult but wonder if freedom will last

Read more:


(11-17) 04:00 PDT Kabul, Afghanistan -- Nurull Haq used to be a busy merchant. Every day at his stall in the bazaar, he would sell 10 to 12 burqas -- the head-to-toe garment women were forced to wear in public under the Taliban regime.

But since U.S. air strikes began last month, he hasn't sold a single one.

"When America started bombing, people thought it was the end for the Taliban," said Nurull, theorizing on why his sales have plummeted.

Odds are he won't sell off his remaining merchandise, since the women of Kabul are too busy celebrating the departure of the Taliban.

"When I heard the Taliban was gone, I danced around my house," said Nasri, 30, a former bank employee forced by the Taliban to quit her job. "I was so happy, I blasted music from a cassette player."

Like all Kabul women, Nasri fell victim to restrictive social laws implemented by the fundamentalist Islamic government. Women were not only required to wear the burqa, which forced them to peer at the world through a 5- inch-square mesh opening, but were banned from working or from venturing outside the home unless accompanied by a male relative. If they broke the rules, they were subject to beatings by the "religious police."

War widows -- there are an estimated 30,000 in Kabul alone -- were particularly hard hit. Unable to work and as sole providers for their families,

many were forced to beg on the streets to feed their children.

Tradition and fear instilled from years of Taliban rule may keep Nasri and many other women in Kabul from throwing away their burqas just yet. Nevertheless, it is evident that changes are taking place since the Northern Alliance army rolled into Kabul.

Some alliance officials have said schools for girls will be reopened. On crowded streets, women now stroll unescorted, with their sockless feet in sandals peeking out from beneath their robes. They ride alone in taxis, and some have even returned to work.

Radio announcer Awa Nurstani, 29, gave her first broadcast in five years yesterday, reading the news for Pashtun listeners of Radio Afghanistan. She is one of three women hired this week by the station.

"I want to tell women that they should go to work and help rebuild Afghanistan," said Nurstani, who wore a black scarf atop a stylish hairdo.

Kabul was once a cosmopolitan city. Artists and hippies flocked to the capital. Women studied agriculture, engineering and business at the city's university. Afghan women held government jobs -- in the 1980s, there were seven female members of parliament. Women drove cars, traveled and went on dates. Fifty percent of university students were women.

But when the mujahedeen -- the "holy warriors" who were the forerunners of the Northern Alliance -- arrived in 1992, life slowly began to change.

For the next four years, warring factions fought among themselves, reducing half of Kabul to rubble. They closed schools and raped hundreds of girls. Amnesty International reported that the mujahedeen used rape and sexual assault as "a method of intimidating vanquished populations and rewarding soldiers."

When the Taliban took over in 1996, they established law and order but turned Afghanistan's 12 million women into virtual prisoners in their own homes.

Masuri, 50, is an obstetrician and one of the few women allowed to work under the Taliban -- health care workers and teachers of girls under 8 were exempt from their ban on work. At her home, Masuri proudly showed a visitor a photo of herself as a young woman dressed in a miniskirt.

"I felt like a bird trapped in a cage" during the past five years, said Masuri. "We were worried for our daughters, for whom there were no schools. The Taliban took away our rights. It was their culture. It was not our religion."

Masuri then produced a poem she had written about the religious police, who were known officially as the Ministry for the Prevention of Vice and Promotion of Virtue. The poem is aptly titled "Death."

"Women, in their burqas, had no voice under the whip," wrote Masuri.

"Everyone was starving, while the Taliban walked around with resentment and whips."

The Taliban's religious police used brown, foot-long leather whips, three inches wide and half an inch thick, to punish those who committed infractions of their strict code.

The Kabul physician recalled an incident when she shared a cab with three female friends and was stopped by a police officer, who whipped both the driver and the women.

"We escaped out the other side, and tried to pay the fare, but the Talib was still whipping the driver. I was so scared."

Limitations were also placed on Masuri's medical practice. She could not treat male patients, deliver babies or enter a male stranger's house. If a woman in labor sent her husband to fetch the doctor, Masuri couldn't even come to the door. As a result, she opened a small clinic for women across the courtyard from her house.

Masuri has not shed her burqa, waiting for the alliance to introduce new policies regarding women. She is worried that the more conservative factions within the alliance could crack down on women, just as the Taliban did.

Read more:

Afghanistan opens first women-only Internet café Friday, 09 March 2012 08:20 by AMIE FERRIS-ROTMAN

Afghanistan opens first women-only Internet café

Friday, 09 March 2012 08:20 by AMIE FERRIS-ROTMAN



First published here. 

photo: Associated Press

Afghanistan opened its first female-only Internet café on Thursday, hoping to give women a chance to connect to the world without verbal and sexual harassment and free from the unwanted gazes of their countrymen.

Swarms of hijab-wearing young visitors poured into the small café on a quiet street in central Kabul on International Women’s Day in a country where women still face enormous struggles even though the Taliban were toppled more than a decade ago.

“We wanted women to not be afraid, to create a safe place for women to use the Internet,” said Aqlima Moradi, a 25-year-old medical student and member of Afghan activist group Young Women for Change, which set up the café.

Spray-painted in bright colours with smiles, birds and Facebook and Yahoo logos, the modest café was named after Sahar Gul, a 15-year-old Afghan girl who was brutally tortured last year by her in-laws for refusing to become a prostitute.

“There are a lot of Sahar Guls in Afghanistan. There are women every day facing violence,” said Mohammad Jawad Alizada, 29, who oversaw the creation of the café and is a volunteer from the male advocacy wing of the group.

“For as long as I can remember, Afghan women have had no rights. She [Ms. Gul] is a brave girl who stood up for herself. It is her bravery and her courage that we want to honour here,” Mr. Alizada, who also works as a social research analyst at a U.S. company in Kabul, said.

While Afghan women have gained back basic rights in education, voting and work since the Taliban were toppled in 2001, their future remains highly uncertain as Afghan and U.S. officials seek to negotiate with the Taliban to ensure stability after foreign combat troops leave by the end of 2014.

At the Internet café’s opening, high-school student Sana Seerat bemoaned the lack of attention given to women: “We never have things that are just for women, everything in Afghanistan is always for men. But we are the same, equal.”

Project manager Zainab Paiman applauded the café initiative, but said dividing the sexes could lead to further oppression of women. “We should work on harassment together. If we do things separately then we will have to continue this in future,” she said, sporting a polka dot head scarf and long floral skirt.

Organizers said a British charity donated the café’s 15 used laptops, which sit on low wooden tables surrounded by cushions where women can sit and work for the reduced fee of 50 Afghanis ($1) an hour, much less than the rates in other Internet cafés.

Fundraising both at home and abroad secured the approximate $1,000 a month needed for the near future to run the café, purposely situated near a girls’ high school, although it hopes to become self-sustaining in the future.

Like other projects designed to help women in Afghanistan, from business to culture and education, there is fear of threats and violence from the Taliban, who banned women from most work and forbade them to leave their homes without a male relative.

“There will always be threats. We’re not going to say we are not worried. But we can’t stop because of that,” Mr. Alizada said of the café, which has painted windows and is discreetly marked.

There is now concern among some Western officials, activists and female Afghan lawmakers that women’s rights in Afghanistan could be compromised under any power-sharing deal between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

Activists were outraged this week when President Hamid Karzai backed recommendations from his powerful clerics, the Ulema Council, to segregate the sexes and allow husbands to beat wives under certain circumstances, reminiscent of Taliban rule.

“We were so shocked by this. Karzai is an educated man, he should know that men and women are equal,” Ms. Seerat said.

Young Women for Change (YWC) - Empowering Women across Afghanistan

About Us

Sunday, 13 November 2011 23:05 by Webmaster


Young Women for Change (YWC), founded in April 2011, is an independent non-profit organization consisting of dozens of volunteer women and male advocates across Afghanistan who are committed to empowering Afghan women and improving their lives through social and economical participation, political empowerment, awareness and advocacy.
YWC was co-founded by Noorjahan Akbar and Anita Haidary.

Members of Young Women for Change are committed to promoting gender equality, empowering women and increasing Afghan women's social participation.

What makes YWC different?
YWC is one of the premier Afghan women’s advocacy movements founded by Afghan women for Afghan women. We are a growing grassroots feminist movement with a long-term vision for women in Afghanistan. It was established to empower women across the country and recruit them to the struggle for gender equality. YWC members are all volunteers.
In addition to awareness programs, we have held the very first anti-street harassment march in Afghan history, and will be conducting the first ever large-scale study of sexual harassment in Afghanistan soon.
We also work towards women's empowerment and increasing their access to education.


Young Women for Change (YWC) - Empowering Women across Afghanistan

I will Define Myself and Fight for Myself

Monday, 26 March 2012 18:23 by Fariha Faqiri


Written by: Fariha Faqiri, YWC Member

In a society where 30 years of civil war did no justice to its own nation, it also left its people travelling back in time instead of moving forward with the rest of the world. The world knew who had come into Afghanistan and who was chased out, however what the rest of the world was unaware of was in the midst of all these wars there were a group of people who have always been considered no more than dust. Women, Afghan women were being used in the name of religion, in the name of culture and in the name of tradition to have their rights tarnished and their voices silenced. For generations on end it was the women of this civil war society who were abandoned and forgotten about by the rest of the world and by its own people. Afghan women were beaten, raped, tortured, burned by oil, acid sprayed, buried alive, stoned to death, had their body parts cut off, and the list could go on, but you would never be able to bare all this.

When an animal is beaten or killed in the Western world it hits headlines, it brings echoes and cries but when thousands of innocent little girls in the Eastern world is raped every day, when women are beaten and stoned to death, the world sits and watches. What the rest of the world cannot even bare to hear, Afghan women experience and go through every day of their living lives.

You hear it, we go through it. When an image of an Afghan girl in the media is shown the world finally reacts but does it do much? Do we get up and say to ourselves, I have to do something? Do we know what to do? Does the men in the society that see it with their eyes, feel shame towards themselves? Do the men of any society, of any religion, of any culture rise up to take action against such horrifying acts? The simple answer is NO! We might feel anger, hate, and enraged but yet those feelings maybe last only ten minutes, then we move on and forget anything ever happened.

Society has turned us women into dolls. They make what they want of us, put what they want on us, and make us feel what they want us to feel. We women have become another invention, like many other man-made machines. We, ourselves have forgotten “who we are.” Our traditional characteristics, our values, our morals have all been taken away from us; until we are made into a creature society wants. With centuries of such treatment, women have accepted to wear a mask to replace and hide their real image. We have been rid the right to decide for ourselves. We have been robbed of our independence.

Afghan women unlike any other women have been called ‘the weak one,’ ‘servant of her husband,’ ‘mother of the child,’ and even a ‘goat.’ Women for generations on end have been preserved by walls and chains, have been considered as not human – who can think, nourish common sense and become aware of her own surroundings. The image of women in Afghanistan and many eastern countries is that of an animal who cannot be tamed, who is incapable of being disciplined therefore one needs to keep her in a cage. Like an unclean creature she is not counted as a human being by society but those who are considered human beings are men.

Today, I, as sister, a daughter and a woman in society stand before you and ask for my rights to be respected, for my image to be returned, for my title as a ‘human being’ to be given back to me. If society does not still want to accept my image as a pillar that can rebuild its country and bring its people a peaceful life, I will not remain silent. Silence has overtaken my body and has brought me to fight. It has made me realize that tomorrow YOU will never be able to see life as I have seen, experience life as I have experienced. Tomorrow you will not be living in my shoes and seeing life through my eyes. Tomorrow it will not be you who will be locked up in the four walls of her so called “house” seeing life through rays of light that pities my being and wants to grant me life. Tomorrow it won’t be you sacrificed in the name of religion and honor. It will be me, it will be an Afghan girl. To change this tomorrow, I have stepped out of my cage, I have left my blue bars behind and have my head held up high to fight for my better tomorrow.

I am an Afghan woman who since time, humanity has stolen everything from me. A living dead walking amongst thorns bare feet, confined in a cage whose wings society broke, stepped over and left forever scared. My rights as a human, my freedom, my individuality, my name, my origin, my image were veiled by society with words such as 'honor' and 'reputation.' I, a woman was made into NOTHING.

When darkness surrounded my cage they kept me behind blue bars and raped me of my Identity.

A girl, a sister, a daughter, a wife, a friend...a MOTHER whose children stood up and robbed everything that made me a WOMAN and left me known to the rest of the world as the 'WOMAN IN BURQA.' Today, we WOMEN will fight for our rights back, our freedom back, our IDENTITY BACK.

It’s your turn to decide what you want when that sun rises tomorrow…

This blog is a platform for women and their supporters to share their thoughts and stories and Young Women for Change organization does not necessarily agree with content of all blogs.

Emerald Energy Exploits Colombian Andes Written by Elias Cabrera Tuesday, 20 March 2012 09:41

Emerald Energy Exploits Colombian Andes PDF Print E-mail
Written by Elias Cabrera   
Tuesday, 20 March 2012 09:41

Emerald Energy oil well in Colombia. Photo by Elias Cabrera.Source: CorpWatch

A thick fog flows over the eastern range of the Colombian Andes. Here and there, the constant wind lifts the clouds to reveal lagoons, cloud forests, and páramo, an Andean alpine ecosystem known as a “mountain-top sponge” for its massive water-holding capacity. Descending lower into the Upper Magdalena Valley, about 400 kilometers southwest from Bogotá, rural communities farm a wide variety of fruit and vegetable crops, and raise animals that not only sustain families, but help feed Colombia´s major cities. 

In the municipal districts of Gigante and Garzón in the department (province) of Huila, the bucolic setting is interrupted by the platforms of several oil wells belonging to Emerald Energy PLC. 

“Emerald Energy is destroying the land and water,” Armando Acuña, a municipal council member from Garzón, told CorpWatch. “Their exploration, with underground explosions is causing landslides and the ground to sink, homes, and crops are being destroyed and we are losing our water.” 

Emerald Energy, founded in London in 1996, was awarded its first exploration permit for the Matambo Bloc in Gigante. (Governments typically auction off oil exploration rights on specific parcels of land known as blocks or blocs) After drilling the first well in 1998, the company began a rapid expansion: It built multiple platforms in Matambo, and opened up new well sites in the Llanos Basin and Middle Magdalena River Valley in Colombia, as well as in other countries including Peru and Syria.

On August 9, the Colombian Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development issued Environmental License 1609 to Emerald Energy, allowing it to install five new platforms and three oil wells in the VSM 32 Bloc, adjacent and uphill of the Matambo Bloc. This territory is vital to the region´s food security, provides water for more than 200,000 people, and contains unique and sensitive ecosystems that are supposed to be protected as part of the Páramo Regional Natural Park and the Amazon Forest Reserve.

Four months after the permit was authorized, campesinos opposing the project gathered in the farming village of Zuluaga. “I believe we are all united here because of the Emerald´s crude behavior within our region,” said Luis Jorge Sanchez Garcia, Huila’s former governor. “It is vital that we unite to protect our natural resources from oil development, [and] in particular protect our water. If some disaster happens, it will not affect just the countryside where the operations are; it will affect our entire region. With the information we have available now, Emerald´s presence in the region is not to our benefit.” 

Transferring Emerald

Although Emerald Energy is ostensibly a UK company, it is no longer controlled in Britain. In 2009, the company was purchased by the Chinese energy and chemical giant, Sinochem Corporation for U$875 million, a year after Emerald declared revenues of $86 million in 2008.

Founded in 1950, Sinochem, China´s largest trading company, was initially operated by the Chinese state. During the year of the Emerald Energy acquisition, Sinochem became a joint-stock company, which now comprises more than 100 affiliates globally, and includes major shareholders such as JPMorgan, Standard Life, and Legal & General.  In 2011 Fortune Global 500 put Sinochem´s revenue at $49.535 billion employing over 50,000 people.

After becoming Sinochem’s wholly-owned subsidiary, Emerald’s willingness to share information with the public changed. In early 2010, Emerald Energy’s website was purged, leaving only a single page with contact information and the note: “Emerald does not provide comment on company activities.” 

The pre-Sinochem site had included a detailed history, information, and maps of all Emerald’s operations. It described the Matambo Bloc as extending over an area of 69 square kilometers, noting that Emerald holds exclusive rights through the year 2024. 

The Footprint on Matambo´s Face 

How the company exercises those rights will impact major and sensitive páramo ecosystems: the high altitude, tropical mountain tundra above the forest line, and below the permanent snowline. Unique to the Americas, páramo are mostly found in the Andes Mountains, with more than 60 percent occurring in Colombia. The vegetation, a unique mixture of lichens, mosses, algae and grasses, has incredible water retention capacity, birthing major rivers such as the Orinoco, Magdalena and Amazon. 

The Matambo Bloc, which sits below the páramo in the Magdalena Valley, gets its name from a mountain in the shape of the face of a giant who, according to local legend, will one day arise from the earth. Adjacent to the Matambo Bloc, the mountain Matambo is named for a native warrior who participated in uprisings led by the woman warrior, la Gaitana, against the Spanish in the 1530s in Huila.  

Since the Matambo Bloc was opened, the region encompassed by the operations has seen a steady deterioration of its land and water, according to the Intersectorial Association of Gigante & Garzón (AISEG). In 2000, two years after the Gigante 1 well was drilled to 4,815 meters, “there was an explosion that resulted in a fire that burned for 25 days with a flame that was about 30 meters high, shutting down operations,” Jorge Enrique Alvarado, a municipal council member, told CorpWatch. “This whole area had a dense hazy cloud over it during that whole month and the area nearby had all sorts of burnt oil and ash accumulated on their crops, cattle and fish ponds.”

Alvarado, a young and newly elected politician, spends much of his time traveling the region’s countryside by motorcycle organizing with campesinos who are resisting Emerald’s activities, notably by protesting against “resolutions” issued by the Colombian Ministry of Environment in support of the company’s extractive operations almost every year. 

Alvarado and other activists are particularly critical of Resolution 0647, issued in the 2008 by the Ministry of Environment. The ruling allows Emerald to construct three new platforms, each with capacity of up to four oil wells. It also updated the requirements for waste disposal, water use, maintaining of local roads, and for investing 1 percent of project costs in environmental and water conservation projects to benefit the community.

“As part of that Resolution,” Alvarado explained, “the company was supposed to work directly with the community to implement a community education project on environmental stewardship and with the CAM (Regional Autonomous Environmental Corporation),  and reforest an area no less than 11 hectares. Neither of these requirements has been fulfilled. The repairs and expansion for the overused roads that were mandated for that year are just starting now, three years after the fact,” he said.

One example of the consequences of the watered-down regulation can be seen in the countryside of Cascajal, which sits on the Loro River, a waterway that is vital to the region’s ecosystems and agriculture.

In 2009, Resolution 0479 provided another example of how the government buoyed company prospects. In it, the Ministry of Environment changed Emerald´s environmental license to permit it to take a larger amount of surface directly from the Loro River to be injected into Cascajal Well 1. 

The well created so much erosion and noise that the rural community was forced to abandon its new school, built 50 meters from the oil platform, and return to a decrepit building situated by an eroding cliff. 

“The oil company has pushed us back to our old school,” said a shy, strikingly sincere fifth-grade girl, “because we could not focus with all noise from the flame and all that happens over there [at the new school].” 

“I have consistently had migraines ever since the company started operating near the school,” said lead teacher, Amparo Montealegre, as she stood in front of a cracked wall. “This school, as old as it is and with the seismic tests the company does, is even more dangerous near this cliff.”       

Communities Defend their Territory 

In early January, the communities affected by Emerald Energy PLC joined other environmental movements in Huila to create the Regional Movement for the Defense of the Territory. The group targeted the Quimbo Hydroelectric Project, a dam currently under construction in central Huila that, the activist organizations say, will threaten the region´s environment, food security, economic and social fabric, and will displace campesino communities. For two weeks beginning January 3, about 1,000 people from the Regional Movement blocked the highway to the Quimbo dam construction site.

A similar protest was set up to try to stop Emerald’s expansion. “As of November 2011 we have been blocking the entrance to all operations in VSM 32 Bloc, and do not intend to allow any machinery to enter,” said Alberto Calderon, a member of Intersectorial Association of Gigante & Garzón (AISEG) at a public roundtable that followed the blockade.

The middle-aged farmer lives with his wife, two children and some cows and chickens on a small, self-sufficient farm that produces coffee, avocados, onions, and cacao. His land borders Emerald’s oil well Iskana 1. 

That proximity drew Calderon and his family into a struggle, repeated across the globe, between locally-controlled sustainable culture, and the machinery of national progress and corporate profit.

“Nothing they have brought us has helped us,” he said of Emerald. “Our rivers are drying. They foment divisions within the community, and our youth do not want to work the land after they have worked for the company. We are campesinos, and to work the land is what we know, and it is our culture. The oil companies are bringing in cultures and practices that we do not know and we do not want. We the people of Miraflores have become aware of what is going on and we will not let them kick us out of our home,” Calderon said. 

In public meetings with Huila’s Governor Cielo Gonzalez in late January, Emerald Energy Legal Issues Representative Juan Manuel Cuellar defended the company’s commitment to affected communities. “Emerald participated in the building of the school in Alto Corozal and the renovations of the cafeterias in the schools of Los Medios, Bajo Corozal, and the Silvania Educational Insitute. The company has also invested nearly $3 million in repairing the region´s roads.” 

On February 15, Cuellar held another public meeting in the city of Neiva with Gonzalez. “The environmental license that was granted for the operations in the VSM 32 Bloc is one of the strictest in the country,” Cuellar told the gathering. “The company will respect it with responsibility and vigor, and there will be no exploration activities within Regional Natural Park Páramo of Miraflores Peak boundaries.” 

Cuellar described other ways Emerald was helping the local communities, including road maintenance, repairing buildings, and making other investments that help offset its impact. “Matambo Bloc includes three oil wells in production, three more wells being drilled and daily produces about 2,500 barrels of crude oil of which a 20 percent is paid to the Municipality of Gigante,” he said. 

Cuellar did not respond to requests from CorpWatch to explain what measures the company was taking to minimize negative environmental impacts, how far the five oil wells in that bloc were from the national park boundary, and the situation facing the school in Cascajal.

The Struggle for Miraflores

FARC threatens to force Emerald Energy out of Caqueta

Just over the Oriental Mountain chain of the Colombian Andes, south of Huila, Emerald Energy operates in the Amazonian oil-rich departments of Putumayo and Caqueta where the company’s 12-well field in the region of San Vicente del Caguan, Caqueta produces about 600 barrels a day.

Security concerns in this region have repeatedly plagued Emerald Energy’s operations. In November 2011 the company temporarily halted activity in Los Pozos, Caqueta. In June the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) kidnapped four Chinese contract workers from Los Pozos, and is still holding them for ransom. Two months later in the same region, the FARC attacked and incinerated six Emerald Energy tanker trucks leaving the region with crude oil.

In September a similar attack left one person dead and five trucks destroyed along the same route, prompting the company to suspend operations temporarily. And on March 5, an attack from the FARC's Teofil Foreo Mobile Column caused the company to suspend activities in the San Vicente del Caguan Bloc for four days. 

Energy and Mines Minister Mauricio Cardenas and governor of Caqueta, Victor Isidro Ramirez, have offered Colombian Army troops to provide greater protection to Emerald Energy. Nonetheless, on March 14, the two local transportation companies contracted by Emerald to transport the crude oil out of the Caqueta, Rapientrega and Cootransamazonía areas announced an indefinite strike owing to the deaths of the truck drivers. Protests against the violence were scheduled for March 16. 

Uphill from the area of the Matambo Bloc, the climate cools and the crops and ecosystems adapt to the different environmental conditions. This is the area of the Miraflores Park and the VSM 32 Bloc, where activists are trying to block Emerald´s five new wells.

The Miraflores Park was established in 2005, after years of activism to support maintaining essential ecosystems. It is home to an array of biodiversity that includes endangered species such as the spectacled bear Tremarctos ornatus, puma Puma concolor, the endemic rufous-fronted parakeet Bolborhynchus ferrugineifrons and a variety of plant, fungi, bird, and butterfly species.

Rigoberto Urriago, a campesino, environmentalist and local hero fought to save Miraflores, and served as a member of the commission that helped establish the park. After Urriago was murdered in 2010, the park took his name as part of its title. His killers have not been brought to justice. 

In the lower altitudes of this area sits the village of Silvania within a massive sea of coffee plants. “This area supports the food security of all of Colombia. The coffee, plantain, lulo, grenadilla and other fruit crops that are produced here are exported all over the country to cities like Bogotá, Medellin, and Cali,” explains Edgar Quintero, a local shopkeeper and board member of the Intersectorial Association of Gigante & Garzón (AISEG), as he sips a cup of locally grown coffee in front of his corner store in Silvania’s small, nearly empty central plaza.

“This new license allows Emerald exploration and extraction rights up to 1,900 meters above sea level,” says Quintero.  Because the aqueducts for Gigante and Garzón are below 1,800 meters, “If any sort of spill or explosion were to happen, it would be a disaster since our water for drinking and irrigation comes from a source that is downhill and downstream from these new oil wells,” he says.

Higher up from of the agricultural zone, no more than three kilometers past the Iskana 1 oil well, is the border of the Miraflores Park. “The company and the Ministry of Environment are falsely saying that only the highest area of the páramo is protected” said activist Calderon. “[But] all of the cloud forests around the páramo are also [supposed to be] protected according to Intersectorial Association of Gigante & Garzón (AISEG). We the local farmers fought for years with illegal loggers and poppy growers, to protect this region. People were killed in that process. After all of that, the government just hands it over to a multinational company.”

“Within the Matambo Bloc, Emerald Energy has destroyed the land and water, devastated community self-reliance and done little to remediate any of this,” added Calderon. “Already the Iscana wells are too close to the Guadaleja creek and the park´s buffer zone. We are seeing that if we do not stop Emerald Energy, the VSM 32 Bloc will be just as bad if not worse than Matambo.”   

Governor Gonzalez has offered little hope to the region´s inhabitants. In announcing upcoming meetings with the Minister of Environment Frank Pearl in Neiva, the governor echoed the minister´s pronouncement-- that there “will be no way to revoke the environmental license,” Gonzalez said. “Changes or modifications may only be possible with complaints that are backed with evidence.”    

Last year´s Resolution 1609 granted new exploration rights to Emerald Energy for 23 hectares that includes protected páramo and cloud forests ecosystems, as well as an agricultural area that is rich in lulo, grenadilla, coffee, avocado, tamarillo, blackberries, and other fruits. 

As the last rays of sunlight lit the western slope of the mountain, Calderon looked across the fertile landscape of fruits and vegetables and into an uncertain future:  “This struggle for the land, the water, the forests and the páramo, it is not just for us and the earth. It is so our children have something to live from as the earth´s climate continues to change.”

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