Is this who we are?

What do you feel about the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay?

In 2001, thirty-year-old Syrian Abu Wa’el Dhiab was in Kabul, running a food import business.

When 9/11 brought war to Kabul, Dhiab, his wife and four children left Afghanistan for Pakistan, hoping for safety. He was picked up by the Pakistani police. They turned him over to the American military, probably for a bounty. He was not charged with any crime. Dhiab was transferred to the prison at Bagram Airbase in June 2002. Two months later he was sent to Guantanamo Bay.

American taxpayers pay $2.7 million per prisoner per year  to keep Guantanmo running. Of the 149 prisoners still there, 79 are cleared for release.

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Photo Source: Global Issues

Dhiab was cleared for release in 2009.

Four years later, he joined other detainees in a hunger strike protesting their incarceration without charge.

Prisoners who are judged to be dangerously underweight are force-fed. If uncooperative, they are “forcibly extracted” from their cells, strapped down, a tube jammed down nose and throat. The procedure often causes choking and vomiting.

One U.S. Navy nurse at Guantanamo has refused to administer force-feedings, calling the practice a “criminal act.”

Guantanamo Bay Facility Continues To Serve As Detention Center For War Detainees

A restraint chair used to force-feed detainees on hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay. Photograph: Joe Raedle/Getty Images. Source: The Guardian

In 2013, Dhiab  filed a legal challenge to the force-feedings (Dhiab v. Obama).

This month, U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler rejected a Department of Justice’s bid to hold Dhiab’s hearing in secret, and in a separate decision ruled that videos showing Dhiab being force-fed, be released to the public.

The Department of Justice has appealed.

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U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler dismissed the DOJ’s bid to seal Dhiab’s hearing. Image source: Legal Times blog

Dhiab, now 44 and confined to a wheelchair, waits. The Uruguayan government offered to resettle him and five other prisoners, but the transfer is mired in politics, both American and Uruguayan.

His wife, Umm Wa-el writes:

More than a decade has passed since Abu Wa’el was taken from us in the night. I had just given birth to our fourth child; our other children were just toddlers. My husband is a kind man and a superb cook. I miss the dishes he learned to prepare in his father’s restaurant. He is guilty of no crime, has never been charged, and was told by President Obama five years ago that he would be released from Guantanamo.

This year has been one of the hardest to be without him. Last July we were still living in Syria. The civil war forced us to leave for Lebanon, and then to seek shelter in Turkey. I tried to rejoin my family in Jordan but was immediately taken in for questioning at the border and refused entry because of Abu Wa’el’s detention at Guantanamo. The stigma travels. We’ve made it back to Istanbul now. I’m proud that the children are registered in school, and that their teachers tell me that they have already caught up in their studies.

I had to do all that alone. Abu Wa’el is nearing his 13th year at Guantanamo Bay. When I speak to his American lawyers, I can tell that they are shocked and appalled by his case. I’m not so shocked. I was a teacher in Syria. The government locked me up twice in the past just because of Abu Wa’el’s detention, so I know what it means when politics disregards the law.

Excerpted fromThe Obama Administration Must Let the American People See Footage of My Husband Being Force-Fed in Their Name” 7/15/2014

 

 

In a May 23, 2013 speech, President Obama stated: “Look at the current situation, where we are force-feeding detainees who are holding a hunger strike. Is that who we are? … Is that the America we want to leave to our children? Our sense of justice is stronger than that.”

President Obama’s legal team is debating now about whether a treaty ban on “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment” applies to U.S. military prisons overseas. In 2005 President Bush said it did not apply, that torture overseas in prisons or by the CIA was legal. As a senator Barack Obama supported legislation making it clear that cruel and inhumane treatment of prisoners was not legal, anywhere. Since becoming President, however, he has never declared his position on the treaty ban.

What do you think? Have you been following Abu Wa’el’s case, or of any of the other Guanatamo prisoners? Seen any of the protests supporting the detainees?

THE LIBRARY

When was the last time you visited a public library?

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Stairway of our library, looking up. Photo source: WBDG

Fifteen years ago, ours was packed to the gills and falling apart. For every new book purchased, one had to be discarded because the storage area was full.

People fought for years over whether to build a new library. No one reads. Waste of taxpayer’s money. The Internet will make libraries obsolete. Boondoggle.

Finally, voters approved a bond. A new library was completed in 2002.

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Photo source: WBDG

People line up at the door every morning before it opens. Kids fill the teen and children’s wings after school, on weekends and during vacations. The 100 computers are in constant use.

The Internet has made libraries better. Librarians spend less time doing chores and more time helping people.

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Poetry reading by Billy Collins at the Eugene Public Library. Photo source: Poetry Loft

The only braille printer in town is at the library.

Book groups can check out sets of books.

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There are DVDs, puppets, music CDs, community classes, concerts, resources for job hunters, electronically searchable microfiche, tax forms. The library provides online access to to e-books, audiobooks, consumer reports, magazines, homework help, genealogy websites. It puts on over 1000 programs a year.

Bummed out about the state of human kind?

Support the library.

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The library stairs, looking down. Photo credit: Eckert Photography

How is your library doing? 

Wise Ones Correspond About Monsanto and GMO’s

Where do you stand in the GMO debates?

Oregon (my home state) and Colorado, will vote this fall on whether or not genetically modified foods should be labeled.

 

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The vote is not, of course, about labeling, but about how easy it should be for people to opt out of the grand GMO experiment.

In 2012 and 2013, Pepsi, Monsanto, DuPont, General Mills, Kellogg, Dow, BASF, Cargill, ConAgra, PepsiCo, Coca Cola, Hormel, Syngenta, Bayer, and other corporations donated $68 million to defeat similar labeling measures in California and Washington.

It’s no wonder. Eighty percent of the foods produced by these companies contain genetically engineered ingredients.

Also, these companies no doubt would like to keep the focus on whether or not to label, rather than on whether or not messing with the gene pool and saturating the soil and water with glyphosate is a good idea.

The issues aren’t simple. Genetic engineering is credited with saving the papaya industry, and almost all of the sugar beets in the US are genetically engineered — how that happened is a whole other story.

Scribbler relies heavily on friends and family to help untangle sticky wickets like this. Professor M and Judge A, who are in their mid 80’s (and request anonymity), agreed to share part of their e-mail discussion on the subject.

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Aug. 22

M –

I feel hornswoggled, bamboozled, deceived. Monsanto, in its latest reincarnation, proposes to become a universal ag. extension agent, advising its customers how to cash in on carbon credits.

They will do this by farming with new GM products while using carefully selected, superficial, organic methods; methods to reduce but not significantly eliminate environmental, biological and soil degradation. Run-off, water pollution and erosion caused by glyphosate, pesticides and manufactured fertilizers will be less troublesome. Promise! A little improvement will be better than none, I guess, but hardly worth further experimentation on us by bio-fuel manufacturers, junk food producers and cattle feeders.

As before, Monsanto has produced zero science that proves its products (as distinguished from sound agronomy), will benefit yields or crop quality beyond a few years. Soil improvements it promises are likely to be near the surface rather than deeper down where needed. Great PR though.

Most countries outside the US are not buying this latest, cynical ploy and there has been vigorous opposition here also. But Monsanto is now too big in the US to fail? Right?

Have a pastry made with GM flour. Protect yourself against agent orange.

*

August 23 2014. 8:35 PM

A –
We agree the world is going to the dogs. They made the catastrophic error of not letting you and me run it when we were younger.

Monsanto has indeed significantly replaced the ag. schools in dealing with the farmers. Not quite sure why. They cost much more, but maybe they also more often deliver what the farmer wants?

Data on CO2 impact of deforestation in today’s Economist. Not as bad as I thought. Comparable to international flying, such as we do next week. Much less than auto use.

M

 *

August 23, 2014,. 10:04 PM

M –

I expect you will enjoy your flight even more now that Monsanto will take care of your plane’s CO2.
What a brilliant marketing tool: use faux extension agents to sell product! Much better than writing mortgages for people with no money.

A

Monsanto at Oregon State University? Using organic methods? Hiring themselves out as — expensive — extension agents?

Clearly more investigation is called for.

Where have your inquiries on GMOs led you?

 

 

The NSA’s best excuse ever to play War Craft

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Be afraid. Be very afraid.

What do you think about Edward Snowden’s release of classified documents?

Go ahead. Sound off. The National Security Agency couldn’t possibly be listening.

Whatever your feelings, you have to admit, Snowden got people talking. Other whistle blowers using legal channels were forced to give up their careers, and aren’t exactly household names.  William Binney, a 30 year NSA veteran who tried to raise red flags, was greeted one morning by FBI agents pointing guns at his head as he stepped out of the shower. Who has heard of William Binney?

Snowden at least got noticed.

My favorite revelation: the NSA’s decision to target online games.

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Is that a camera in your cleavage?

A 2008 NSA memo warned that virtual games might seem innocuous, but actually, they are a “target-rich communication network” allowing intelligence suspects “a way to hide in plain sight.” Because terrorists, like gamers, assume fake identities and make financial transactions, online games “are an opportunity!” Agents adopted avatars (make believe characters), collected data and communications, and attempted to recruit informers.

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Check out Pro Publica’s slide show on NSA, CIA and British spying in online games

So many agents were playing online games, one memo declared that “deconfliction” was needed so that spies wouldn’t spy on each other.

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Happy ever after on Second Life

Was the mission successful? Were terrorists found using Second Life or World of War Craft to launder money and plot bomb attacks? No.

There will be a flurry of media stories about Snowdon this month when Glenn Greenwald, a constitutional lawyer and, until October 13, 2013, journalist for the Guardian, releases his book, No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Security State.

Expect more fun and games.

“I want to spark a worldwide debate about privacy, Internet freedom, and the dangers of state surveillance. I’m not afraid of what will happen to me. I’ve accepted that my life will likely be over from my doing this. I’m at peace with that. I know it’s the right thing to do. I want to identify myself as the person behind these disclosures. I believe I have an obligation to explain why I’m doing this and what I hope to achieve.

“I only have one fear in doing all of this, that people will see these documents and shrug, that they’ll say, ‘We assumed this was happening and don’t care.’ The only thing I’m worried about is that I’ll do all this to my life for nothing.” Edward Snowden 

 

What’s your favorite leaked secret from the NSA documents? Do you play online games? If so, have you noticed any suspicious characters hanging around?

Read more:

World of Spycraft: NSA and CIA Spied in Online Games

Spies Infiltrate a Fantasy Realm of Online Games

Xbox Live among game services targeted by US and UK spy agencies
NSA and GCHQ collect gamers’ chats and deploy real-life agents into World of Warcraft and Second Life

 

 

 

 

Score One for Pollinators

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Image source: kfjmiller via morguefile

Are you following the news about the collapse of bee colonies? If so, you probably know that neonicotinoid insecticides (dinotefuran, imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam) were linked in a recent Harvard study to bee deaths.

This spring our town, Eugene, Oregon, passed a ban on neonicotinoids, the first community in the country to do so.

In Oregon we had our share of bee wipeouts last summer, including one in June, when an estimated 50,000 bumblebees were killed after a licensed pesticide applicator violated the label and sprayed blooming linden trees with the neonicotinoid dinotefuran (brand name Safari). The intended victims were aphids, and the site was a Target parking lot. Within weeks, another massive bee die-off was reported in Hillsboro, where trees had been sprayed with the same pesticide.

Other states and communities are trying to pass laws restricting neonicotinoids, which is good, because not much is happening at the national level. The EPA is studying the issue, and their study is not scheduled to be completed until 2018.

If you’re following the fight to protect pollinators, check out Saving America’s Pollinator Act, H.R 2692, introduced by Reps. John Conyers (D-MI) and Earl Blumenauer (D- OR). It would limit the use of neonicotinoids until a review of scientific evidence and a field study demonstrates no harmful impacts to pollinators.

Meanwhile, restrictions need to be put in place locally, town by town. Hopefully, Eugene is the first of many.

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Photo source: playfuldragon via morguefile

Know any beekeepers, or have you kept bees yourself? What’s happening in your area regarding bees and other pollinators?

Good news on climate change: Garlic

Good news on climate change? Anyone?

It’s probably progress in the right direction that the issue has started appearing regularly on the front pages. It only took five rounds of being taken to the woodshed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Still, it’s not clear how we’re to fix things, or if that’s even possible. Politicians sure aren’t jumping on the bandwagon. In Oregon’s Voter’s pamphlet for the upcoming election, only one out of 48 candidates even mention the topic. And, on a gorgeous day like today it’s particularly hard to wrap my head around the idea. It’s too big, and too depressing.

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Things look fine. Three Sisters, Bend, Oregon

When good news about climate change surfaces, I glom onto it like cling wrap to a bowl.

For example:

Garlic can cut emissions of methane gas.

When it comes to global warming, methane is 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide, and methane gas emissions have increased by 150% in the last century. Cows produce methane in their manure, and when they fart and burp. Each cow produces between 30 and 50 gallons of methane a day. With about 1.4 billion cows in the world, that’s a lot of gas.

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Photo source: Yvonne Parijs-Bosman via Queen of the Cows

And garlic? A three-year study at the University of Wales in Aberystwyth demonstrated that cows fed garlic produce 50% less methane than non-garlic eating cows.  “Garlic directly attacks the organisms in the gut that produce methane.” Still unknown: whether garlic affects the flavor of the milk, but we’ll take that as it comes. For now, bravo Aberystwyth scientists. Yay.

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Image source: hotblack via morguefile

Is climate change on your mind? Have you done anything to change your lifestyle or are you politically involved in climate change issues? Do you know of any leaders we can vote for, or innovators who are inventing/promoting solutions?

Sources: Do Cow Farts Actually Contribute to Global Warming?

Garlic May Cut Cow Flatulence

How Garlic May Save the World

Let’s MRAP the holidays

Hurry! Get your Mine Resistant Ambush Protection Vehicle today!

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Merry Christmas from Kabul. U.S. Navy photo by Capt. Jane Campbell via Wikimedia Commons

Available now at your local military surplus outlet, this 19 ton vehicle can travel through three feet of water, and is built to withstand ballistic arms fire, minefields, IEDs, nuclear, biological, and chemical environments. Just the thing for the local law enforcement agencies or campus police.  Now available for the unbelievably low price of — FREE!

A hundred and sixty five happy law enforcement customers have already taken advantage of this amazing offer, including the campus police of Ohio State University. OSU campus police chief Paul Denton looks forward to using it for officer rescues, hostage situations and bomb calls. When asked if a bomb-proof, machine gun turreted vehicle might make campus police more like military police, Denton, replied — not at all! Mostly it will be used to drive officers around on game days.  Besides, the gun turret is being removed.

Better hurry! Unclaimed MRAPs are “cost prohibitive to retrograde and reset,” according to an assistant secretary of defense for logistics and materiel readiness, and will be dismantled and sold to Afghan scrap metal dealers. Not that the Afghans won’t put the scraps to good use.  They call it ‘gold dust.’ And so will you!  As one OSU,  student mused, “while giving campus police the authority to operate a vehicle designed for war is incredibly intimidating,” the bottom line? “This thing is really cool and I want to drive it.”

This holiday, buy something your favorite law enforcement official will really love. Head down to your local military surplus outlet and get your MRAP today!

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Grab Your Growler: Four Things We Don’t want to Know about Recycling

In 1984 the local garbage hauler launched curbside pick-up of recyclables in our town. We were issued a small blue box for glass, big blue bin for co-mingled recyclables, gray bin for yard waste, green bin for garbage. It’s a good feeling to get everything all sorted out.

How are we doing? Official statistics look good. In 1992, 9 million pounds of material was “repurposed.” This past year, 62 million pounds. Yeah!

Wait. What does “repurposed” mean?

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Saint Lucia and her gouged out eyes. Sometimes I’d rather not see, either. Photo: wikicommons

1. Glass: The machines which sort glass are expensive. Our town doesn’t have one.  Best case: glass is crushed and used as drainage material or for roads. Usually it goes to the dump.

2. Plastic:  Most is sent to China for recycling. Last year China announced a new Green Fence policy, and stopped taking all but the cleanest, tidiest bales of plastic, and only certain types.  If it there is a number 3, 4, 5, 6 or 7 on the bottom of a container, China won’t take it, so it’s probably getting dumped in a landfill.

3. Cardboard: Has to be clean.  Greasy pizza boxes with cheese stuck on them? To the dump.

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Not to diss the pie chart, or the efforts, but what this shows is a lot of stuff not recovered. Source: The Portland Mercury, “Oregon Knows Its Garbage”

4. Block styrofoam.  This has never been picked up curbside, but for awhile there were places willing to take it. Not now. Everybody’s storage spaces are full of the stuff.

Luckily, several local breweries offer a waste-free option to drown our sorrows with while we contemplate next moves.

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Beer jug, refillable at local breweries.

How goes the recycling efforts in your town?  Time to lose ourselves in the Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch?

We Need a (better) Sign!

To the Traffic Sign Wizards in Eugene: We’re still waiting…

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Spot the “bicycle crossing” signs:

Sign #1:

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See it? The orange one. Bicycle crossing. But where?  

Sign #2:

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The crossing is here. See the sign? Hint: it’s green, on a gray signpost, after the big tree. Directly across the street is a mid-block curb cutout.

Curb cutout for bicyclists:

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Would you be on the lookout for bicycles crossing here?

Time for the annual appeal to the city Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator and the Assistant Traffic Engineer to beg for better signage on this bicycle route. Join me! It just takes a few clicks. Here’s a link to the City of Eugene’s Transportation Department web page, with e-mail links for bicycle and transportation coordinators:  https://www.eugene-or.gov/index.aspx?NID=487

Previous appeals: http://jbw0123.blogspot.com/2011/12/bicycling-advocates-needed-part-ii-want.html http://jbw0123.blogspot.com/2011/11/civic-activism-save-me-from-this.html

Democracy at work: Score One for the Seed Farmers

Canola ban clears Legislature

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I’m flag waving today because round 1 in the Willamette Valley canola battle went to the specialty seed farmers, a group that consists largely of smaller-scale operations.  Grass roots politics work!

Canola is an all right crop — just don’t bring it here. Businesses from all over the world order Willamette valley seeds, many varieties of which are organic. Canola was banned in a 3.6 million acre portion of the valley because it cross-breeds with other plants in the same genus (mustard, cabbage, kohlrabi, turnips, broccoli, brussel sprouts and kale and more),  and is susceptible to, and spreads, disease and pests.  Also, 95% of it is genetically modified, although this wasn’t part of the official fight against it.  The other problems were enough.

I wrote earlier (Rapeseed, Gas vs. Grass) about an underhanded attempt by the Oregon Farm Bureau (good friends of Dow Chemical, Syngenta and Monsanto) and the Department of Agriculture to pass an under-the-wire “temporary exception” to the ban on canola.  Temporary, of course, would haven meant an opportunity for canola to spread and become permanent.

Thanks to farmers who showed up for hearings, organizations like the Friends of Family Farmers who spread the word, and volunteers who wrote to legislators and attended rallies, the Oregon State Legislature just banned canola in the valley until 2019, and allocated money to study the effects of canola on other crops.

A sweet victory for Oregon seed farmers, and for those of us who fear we can’t make a difference. We can.