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Judi Lynn

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Member since: 2002
Number of posts: 142,662

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Can Ecuador bring Chevron to justice?

Can Ecuador bring Chevron to justice?
A US appeals court may decide fate of a $9.5 billion fine imposed on the company for environmental damage
April 24, 2015 2:00AM ET
by Miguel Tinker Salas - @mtinkersalas

On Monday, judges in New York began hearing arguments in one of the biggest and longest-running environmental justice cases of all time. At stake is whether a developing country that happens to have oil can enforce its judgments against a multinational company. The results may tell Americans something about what the rule of law is worth in their own country.

In 1993 a group of public interest lawyers, working on behalf of indigenous people in eastern Ecuador filed a class action lawsuit against Texaco over millions of gallons of oil and toxic wastewater that it released into groundwater, rivers and streams. Texaco (which was acquired by Chevron in 2001) fought for nearly a decade to have the case tried in Ecuador, probably thinking that it would be easier to influence the outcome in a developing country. It was mistaken: In 2011 an Ecuadorean court found that Chevron was responsible for the pollution, and after appeals, the company was found liable for $9.5 billion in damages. Since Chevron has no assets in Ecuador, the plaintiffs were forced to sue in the United States and other countries with a Chevron presence to collect the judgment.

The case had enormous implications for the global oil industry. If poor, indigenous people could team up with environmental activist lawyers and win a legal judgment against a multinational corporation, the balance of power between Big Oil and its normally powerless victims might change forever. Although Chevron, valued at over $200 billion, didn’t need any help with legal expenses, it probably could have raised hundreds of millions from other oil companies hoping to maintain corporate dominance over local populations and national governments.

Having lost in Ecuador, Chevron brought the case to the U.S., where it went on the offensive and sued the plaintiff’s lead attorney, Steven Donzinger, and his legal team. Invoking the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act — a statute designed to prosecute organized crime — the corporation accused the indigenous plaintiffs and their lawyers of bribing an Ecuadorean judge.


Colombia close to legal euthanasia

Colombia close to legal euthanasia
by Michael Cook | 25 Apr 2015 |

Colombia’s Health Ministry has finally drawn up guidelines for voluntary euthanasia, 18 years after the country’s supreme court ruled that it was a constitutional right. Health Minister Alejandro Gaviría told media that only competent adults would be able to request the procedure, that only patients with a terminal illness would be eligible, and that if the patient is unconscious, relatives must present audio, video, or written proof that he wanted to be euthanased. Minors and patients with degenerative diseases will not be able to receive a lethal injection.

Despite the 1997 ruling, Colombian law-makers dragged their heels on the issue and never drafted protocols. As a result, doctors feared that they could be charged with homicide if they helped someone to die.

The Catholic Church, one of the principal opponents of euthanasia in Colombia, was scathing in its comments. It told the Health Ministry that legalisation “is a grave attack against the dignity of the ill and against the sanctity of the basic right to life, enshrined in Article 11 of the Constitution.”

“It would be good, Mr. Minister,” it said in a letter, “if your ministry, so interested in regulating euthanasia and abortion, put the same effort into finding an effective solution to the crisis in the health-care sector and the needs of the poorest”.


(Short articles, no more at link.)

Roswell Park intrigued by Cuban vaccine for lung cancer treatment

Roswell Park intrigued by Cuban vaccine for lung cancer treatment
By Henry Davis | News Medical Reporter
on April 23, 2015 - 3:39 PM

The lung cancer vaccine from Cuba that Roswell Park Cancer Institute wants to study in the United States offers intriguing hope in extending the life of patients.

A small trial of the vaccine in Cuba for patients who failed chemotherapy and radiation found that it significantly increased life expectancy, and larger studies are underway in Cuba and other countries. The vaccine also appears to have few side effects and is inexpensive to produce. But any optimistic expectations must be put into perspective.

The potential improvement in survival in late-stage cancer patients is a matter of months. And, like other lung cancer vaccines in clinical trials, it will have to prove itself effective in larger studies in this country, a process that will take years.
“This is an interesting vaccine because of its novel approach. And, because it has such mild side effects, the possibility of using it for prevention is exciting,” said Dr. Kelvin Lee, chairman of the cancer center’s department of immunology.

Roswell Park struck a deal with the Center for Molecular Immunology in Cuba to bring into the U.S. for study two vaccines developed at the Cuban organization – CIMAvax and racotumomab. The announcement came Tuesday at the conclusion of a two-day state foreign trade mission to Havana. The delegation with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo included Lee; Candace Johnson, Roswell Park’s chief executive officer; and Howard Zemsky, president and chief executive officer of Empire State Development Corp.


Hunt for ancient royal tomb in Mexico takes mercurial twist

Hunt for ancient royal tomb in Mexico takes mercurial twist
Source: Reuters - Fri, 24 Apr 2015 16:51 GMT

By David Alire Garcia

TEOTIHUACAN, Mexico, April 24 (Reuters) - A Mexican archeologist hunting for a royal tomb in a deep, dark tunnel beneath a towering pre-Aztec pyramid has made a discovery that may have brought him a step closer: liquid mercury.

In the bowels of Teotihuacan, a mysterious ancient city that was once the largest in the Americas, Sergio Gomez this month found "large quantities" of the silvery metal in a chamber at the end of a sacred tunnel sealed for nearly 1,800 years.

"It's something that completely surprised us," Gomez said at the entrance to the tunnel below Teotihuacan's Pyramid of the Plumed Serpent, about 30 miles (50 km) northeast of Mexico City.

Some archeologists believe the toxic element could herald what would be the first ruler's tomb ever found in Teotihuacan, a contemporary of several ancient Maya cities, but so shrouded in mystery that its inhabitants still have no name.


Honduran judges throw out single-term limit on presidency

Honduran judges throw out single-term limit on presidency

Ruling revives tensions that led to coup and ouster of Manuel Zelaya six years ago when he sought to change constitution so officeholders could stand again

Associated Press in Tegucigalpa
Friday 24 April 2015 00.22 EDT

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The current Honduran president, Juan Orlando Hernandez, would be able to stand for a further term after judges
threw out part of the country’s constitution. Photograph: Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

The supreme court in Honduras has voided a single-term limit for the country’s presidency — the issue at the heart of the political conflict that led to the ouster of socialist incumbent Manuel Zelaya six years ago when he sought to hold a referendum on rewriting the constitution.

The push by the governing National party to make the change, which would permit President Juan Orlando Hernandez to seek a second term, has drawn widespread criticism from the opposition, which notes the same politicians behind it were involved in the 2009 coup against Zelaya.

Forces that united to remove Zelaya from office, including some members of his own party, had contended he wanted to end the ban on second terms so he could remain in power.

The supreme court initially voted 5-0 on Thursday to strike down the prohibition on presidential re-election but judge Elmer Lizardo, a member of the opposition Liberal party, reversed his vote later in the day.


Brasil to host first Indigenous Games

Brasil to host first Indigenous Games
By Staff Writers, teleSUR
Thursday, Apr 23, 2015

A year after hosting one of the most memorable football World Cups in history, and one year away from the Summer Olympics, Brazil will be the scene of the brand new Indigenous Peoples World Games.

The first edition of the games will take place Sept. 18-27 in the northern Tocantins state.

"It's a very important moment for Brazil," Brazil's Sports Minister, George Hilton, told Reuters. "It's a time of exchanging knowledge and it's a good time to promote the indigenous peoples through the games."

According to the minister, 4,000 athletes from 22 countries would compete, representing around 48 ethnicities.

Included in the competitions are unique sports such as rokra, a kind of lacrosse according to Reuters, which uses coconuts instead of a traditional ball. Xikinahity is similar to soccer, but using just the head.

"Now we have the U.N. declaration of the rights of indigenous peoples. This event will be a cultural interchange among the tribes and it's very important for all involved," Hilton said. "It's not only about the games but they are also going to be showing their culture through food, through their art and they are bringing their own interpreters so that one tribe can communicate with the other."


Protecting the World's Last Isolated Communities From Above

Protecting the World's Last Isolated Communities From Above

Advances in satellite technology mean that untouched villages can remain that way

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A 2013 satellite view of a settlement of uncontacted people in Acre, Brazil. (Satellite image by Digital Globe)
By Catherine Elton
Smithsonian Magazine | Subscribe
May 2015

Robert Walker is making innovative use of satellite imagery to assess the last remaining Amazon tribes that have limited or no contact with the outside world. Walker, a University of Missouri anthropologist who previously did field work in the Amazon, has analyzed 27 communities of “uncontacted” people in Brazil, and one each in Colombia and Peru. Poring over high-resolution images purchased from commercial satellite companies, he sizes up each village, measuring gardens and counting huts. His goal is to share data with governments and advocates so they can better protect villages from threats such as logging, mining, violent drug traffickers and encounters with outsiders who carry infectious diseases against which natives have no immunity. One village, Walker found, is only 19 miles from a newly built road.

It’s a noninvasive way of knowing what is going on on the ground,” he said. “If people leave a village, or a village has been attacked, we want to know as soon as possible.”

The Amazon holds the world’s largest concentration of isolated communities, with 50 to 100. Some are so small they face another threat: a shortage of healthy mating partners. In research published in the journal Royal Society Open Science, Walker identified three villages that “face an imminent threat of falling below a minimum viable population.” Those villages consist of no more than nine huts on nine acres of cleared land.

The Brazilian and Peruvian governments rely on satellite images to monitor isolated Indians, but the findings aren’t made public, leaving advocates in the dark. FUNAI, the Brazilian agency that oversees territories inhabited by uncontacted tribes, “is under constant attack from the ‘agribusiness bloc’ of politicians in Congress who are determined to overturn hard-won indigenous rights,” says Fiona Watson, of Survival International.

Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/protecting-worlds-last-isolated-communities-from-above-180954958/#IglrShyoJGS7GWr6.99

(Protecting, or spying for entities wanting their land?)

Professional liars are undermining justice in Colombia

Professional liars are undermining justice in Colombia
Apr 23, 1:37 PM EDT
Associated Press

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) -- Sen. Luis Fernando Velasco's life began to unravel in 2008 when a lawyer appeared before prosecutors and accused him of conspiring with leftist rebels to coerce voters to support him.

His good name tarnished, Velasco was forced to temporarily abandon his Senate seat and was behind bars when his father suffered a heart attack. After four months in jail, prosecutors determined it was all a set up and his accusers had been paid by his political enemies to testify against him. Velasco was set free, and the lawyer and his accusers were arrested.

The senator's ordeal highlights a spreading problem undermining trust in Colombia's criminal justice system: professional liars paid and often groomed by corrupt lawyers to testify in court. Authorities have taken to calling it the "cartel of false witnesses," with paid liars sometimes testifying in dozens of cases at a time, parading from courtroom to courtroom.

So entrenched is the problem, the country's chief prosecutor set up a special task force two years ago to comb over the evidence in 3,000 cases where perjury is suspected. So far, around 100 cases have been overturned.


The Diplomat Who Wouldn’t Lie

The Diplomat Who Wouldn’t Lie

Robert White was the rare official who chose to lose his job to keep his integrity.

April 19, 2015

An ambassador is a gentleman sent to lie abroad for the good of his country.” It was an English poet, as well as diplomat, Sir Henry Wooten, who coined this aphorism, over four hundred years ago. Through the ages, many a diplomat—too many—has observed the maxim. Robert White was not one. White, who worked for seven presidents, served America by refusing to lie—holding firm even when pressured to sweep murder under the rug by the Reagan Administration—an act of principle and integrity that cost him his career.

White, who died in January at the age of 88, was sent by President Carter to El Salvador in 1980. As hard as it is to fathom today, at that time the tiny nation—White was fond of observing that it was possible to see the entire country from a helicopter at 9000 feet—was on the front burner of American foreign policy, as Syria, Iraq, ISIS, are today. The fear then was Communism. In neighboring Nicaragua, the Sandinistas had overthrown the dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza, whose family had ruled and looted the country for decades, with American acquiescence.

Washington was now worried that El Salvador would be the next domino to fall into the Moscow-Havana-Managua orbit. The country had long been ruled by an alliance of the military and the oligarchy. With support from the country’s peasants, a leftist-revolution led by students was growing.

Carter tasked White with preventing a civil war by assembling a political center, something between the extremist right and revolutionary left. During White’s confirmation hearings, Senator Jacob Javits, the moderate Republican from New York, urged him to be more than a traditional ambassador. “You really have to be an activist and take a chance with your career,” Javits told White. He was and he did.


Chilean Media Mogul Expelled From Journalists Association

Chilean Media Mogul Expelled From Journalists Association
Published 21 April 2015

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Agustin Edwards gives a speech to the Horse Breeders Association of Chile | Photo: Las Condes Municipality
Agustin Edwards, owner of the largest newspaper in the country actively helped the far-right military dictatorship.

Chile's National Journalists Association announced Tuesday it would expel Agustin Edwards Eastman, president and owner of El Mercurio, the country's largest newspaper.

The decision was ratified by the association's President Javiera Olivares, who described it as “historic” and is based on the businessman's role before and during the military dictatorship in Chile that extended from 1973 to 1989.

Edwards and his newspaper received money from the United States' Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to promote the 1973 coup against democratically elected President Salvador Allende.


About time, wouldn't you say?

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