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Matt Simmons Says Gulf Clean Up Will Cost Over $1 Trillion, Sees BP At $1


Says “We Have Now Killed The Gulf of Mexico”

Matt Simmons shares some startling revelations in his latest Bloomberg TV interview, in which he says none of the propaganda matters on TV 24/7 (photo-shopped or not) as the ultimate clean up cost will likely be well over $1 trillion, and a result he is unconcerned about his BP short. He ultimately see the stock going down to $1. What Simmons alleges however is far more startling and audacious: that this is a joint cover up effort between the administration and BP, in which both entities keep throwing sand in the eyes of observers while distracting everyone from the matter at hand: “What we don’t know anything about is the open hole which is caused by the drill bit when it tossed the blow-out preventer way out of the hole…and 120,000/day minimum of toxic poison has now covered the floor of the Gulf of Mexico. So what they’re talking about is the biggest environmental cover-up ever. And they knew that that well, that riser, would finally deplete. And then they could say it’s over.” On blaming the catastrophe on Trans-ocean: “For two days they kept saying it’s a rig fire. When the rig sank they could no longer call it a rig fire. It’s a riser leak…Because if they said the truth they would all go to jail.” The conclusion: “Unfortunately, we now have killed the Gulf of Mexico.”

On whether the well pressure should be a concern:

“No, it’s a total diversion – that’s the gas condensation that was trapped in the drilling riser which blew off the wellhead at 10:01 PM CT on April 20th, it’s a mile-long compressed natural gas.”

“What we don’t know anything about is the open hole which is caused by the drill bit when it tossed the blow-out preventer way out of the hole…and 120,000 minimum of toxic poison has now covered the floor of the Gulf of Mexico. So what they’re talking about is the biggest environmental cover-up ever. And they knew that that well, that riser, would finally deplete. And then they could say it’s over. And unfortunately, we now have killed the Gulf of Mexico.”

“Some 5-10 miles away is what the NOIA research vessels have now proved is a deep oil lake that is growing by the day and it’s very toxic oil and its gases are very lethal. Basically if we have a hurricane now, we would have to evacuate the Gulf Coast.”

On the financial implications for BP: “When people find out the magnitude of the story, I don’t know if we can technically clean up the Gulf but it would cost at least a trillion dollars.”

Simmons on his reaction to the rig explosion:

“First of all when I woke up, when my wife turned on the television at 7:00 AM on the 21st and I saw this shocking news, that one of the greatest deep-water rigs ever built by one of the great companies in the industry, Trans-ocean, was in the middle of this terrible fire, and then they said this was a rig fire, this is fuel on the rig, I know that there was 700 gallons of diesel on the rig, I said ‘This is a lie, the Gulf of Mexico is on fire. Why are they saying this?’ For two days they kept saying it’s a rig fire. When the rig sank they could no longer call it a rig fire. It’s a riser leak…Because if they said the truth they would all go to jail.”

On whether the blame lies squarely with BP:

“I think Trans-ocean need Congressional Medals of Hero for this…I am really disgusted. Other than John Hofmeister, the retired president of Shell America, he’s the only other person in the industry who I’ve seen to speak out.”

Simmons on why he is shorting BP stock:

“You bet I did. Because I thought BP was going to go under. I’ve been saying that for months and months and when I read that 20 of the 24 Wall Street analysts had a ‘buys,’ I said ‘ That’s ridiculous, I’m going to short them.’ I’ve never shorted a stock in my life before.

“I have patience. The stock will go to one.”

“They promised to clean up the Gulf, is that right? Do you know how much it will cost if they can technically do it? Well over a trillion dollars.”

On whether there is hope for a permanent solution now that the oil has stopped leaking:

“No, because that’s not the gusher. That was a little bit of condensation that would have ended anyways. There’s no way to fix the gusher because there’s no casing left in the hole other than doing a small diameter nuclear bomb…It’s the only way. With no casing left in the hole, the odds of the relief well working are zero. What the relief wells do– if they can find the casing, they then cut a 4 inch hole–and then they have something to capture the mud with. With no casing there, it’s like pouring oatmeal down a fire hydrant…The casing is not there. It’s scattered over the ocean floor. The government now has gamma ray images of the actual blow-out preventer, which is five stories high, weighs 325 tons and it has two sections of casing that pierced through five stories of metal.”


HTTP://OpeningMind.Blogspot.com

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Categories: Environment, US News

Chesapeake Bay Water Dirtier Than Your Toilet Water


Take Action!

Help spread the word…

Last week the Virginia Beach Department of Public Health issued a swimming advisory for the city’s north end from 83rd to 89th Streets because bacteria levels in the water exceed safe levels.

This week, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that: “Governor McDonnell’s administration says the federal government may be trying to make the James River too clean.” CAN A RIVER BE TOO CLEAN?!

The Washington Post reported on Tuesday that a group of biology students performed water quality tests on samples from the Chesapeake Bay against samples from a toilet that had been used, but not flushed in four hours. The Chesapeake Bay water was six times dirtier than that of the unflushed toilet!

Write a Letter to the Editor of your local newspaper!

With coverage of water quality on the front page of many newspapers around the state and on the minds of thousands of summer swimmers and anglers, now is an important time for us to take personal action. We need to remind our friends and leaders of the critical need for strong water quality programs and effective environmental leadership from our elected officials.

Please take three minutes of your time now and help keep this important water quality coverage going across Virginia. We need you to submit a brief personal letter to the editor of your local newspaper.
Your letter will remind decision makers across the Commonwealth of the strong level of support Virginians have for restoration and protection of water quality in all of our local streams, rivers and the Chesapeake Bay.

Conservation E-Action Virginia is a project of the Virginia League of
Conservation Voters Education Fund.

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Categories: Environment, US News

Dems Take on Supreme Court’s Giant Sell-Out of Our Democracy to Corporations


Editor’s note: Sign a petition urging Congress to address the unlimited corporate campaign spending ushered in by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling here.

Democrats in Congress are fighting to undo, or at least mitigate, the potential damage wrought by the Supreme Court in its Citizens United decision, an example of right-wing judicial activism that has the potential to put the final nail in the coffin of American self-governance and turn over our elections to multinational corporations.

Speaking at last week’s Netroots Nation conference, a gathering of liberal activists, Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Florida, put the threat posed by Citizens United in simple-to-understand terms. “We’re now in a situation,” he told the crowd, “where a lobbyist can walk into my office…and say, ‘I’ve got five million dollars to spend, and I can spend it for you or against you. Which do you prefer?’” That’s power.

The Citizens United ruling overturned key provisions of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, rules that kept corporations — and their lobbyists and front groups (as well as labor unions) — from spending unlimited amounts of cash on campaign advertising within 60 days of a general election for federal office (or 30 days before a primary). To get there, the court’s conservative majority stretched the Orwellian legal concept known as “corporate personhood” to the limit, and gave faceless multinationals expansive rights to influence our elections under the auspices of the First Amendment.

“They wanted to hear the possibility that that’s the way the constitution would read to them,” said Grayson. “So they picked an issue out of the air that nobody had conceived of [as a First Amendment case] because 100 years of settled law meant that corporations cannot buy elections in America, and they not only allowed corporations to buy those elections, but they made it a constitutional right.” He called the decision “a tragedy for us all,” as “corporations now have rights that human beings can never have.”

It’s hard to overstate the ruling’s potential to undermine American democracy. Robert Weisman, president of the watchdog group Public Citizen, offered “a reality check” for the court, and anyone else who agrees with its majority’s belief that unlimited corporate money for independent ad buys won’t corrupt our political class. “$5.2 billion [was] spent in the 2007-2008 election cycle by all federal candidates, including candidate Obama,” Weisman said. “Exxon in that same period made $85 billion in profit; Pfizer made $27 billion selling just Lipitor alone. Last year, Goldman Sachs spent $16.5 billion on executive compensation. So if they choose to, corporations can completely overwhelm the political process, and they’re going to choose to do it more and more.”

And when corporations do get into the game in force, voters won’t know who’s picking up the tab for the flood of campaign ads. The money won’t come directly from Exxon or BP or Goldman Sachs, it’ll be filtered through the Chamber of Commerce and other corporate front groups with benign-sounding names like the Center for Consumer Freedom, Citizens for a Sound Economy or the American Council on Science and Health.

Now members of Congress are fighting to push back against the ruling on a number of fronts. Grayson has introduced a flurry of legislation, including the Business Should Mind Its Own Business Act (HR 4431), which would impose a hefty tax on corporate campaign contributions in federal races; the Corporate Propaganda Sunshine Act (HR 4432), which requires financial firms to disclose any contributions to federal candidates that exceed $1,000, and the End the Hijacking of Shareholder Funds Act (HR 4487), which requires shareholders to vote on any corporate expenditures that are meant to influence public opinion about anything other than their products and services.

The DISCLOSE Act (HR 5175), sponsored by Chris Van Hollen, D-Maryland, passed the House last month, but was killed by a unified GOP this week. DISCLOSE would have “required organizations involved in political campaigning to disclose the identity of the large donors, and to reveal their identities in any political ads they fund. It would also bar foreign corporations, government contractors and TARP recipients from making political expenditures.” After the vote, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, said, “This is a sad day for our democracy. Not only does the Supreme Court give those special interests a huge advantage, but [now the Senate] says they should do it all in secret without any disclosure. That … eats at the very fabric of our democracy. It makes our people feel powerless and angry.”

Because the Supreme Court has made campaign issue advertising a constitutional right for corporations, these efforts, while laudable, can only work at the margins. Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Maryland, has taken a much bolder approach, offering a constitutional amendment that would grant Congress the explicit power to regulate expenditures for “political speech by any corporation, limited liability company, or other corporate entity.”

The Citizens United decision, said Edwards, “is another reminder that the Court has gotten it wrong, the Congress has gotten it wrong and that we need to do something serious to restore fairness in our elections, and one of the ways that we do that is setting the balance right in terms of our constitutional protection of real people, and not just of corporate interests and corporate money.”

Edwards’ amendment has attracted 24 co-sponsors to date, but her bill isn’t the only one. Congressmen Paul Hodes of New Hampshire (HJ Res 82) and Leonard Boswell of Illinois (HJ Res 68) have introduced variations in the House, and on Tuesday Max Baucus, D-Montana, one of the most conservative Dems in the upper chamber, joined Chris Dodd, D-Connecticut, and Tom Udall, D-New Mexico, in introducing similar amendments in the Senate. ( Here is a summary of the differences between the various amendments.)

It’s an uphill climb — amending the U.S. Constitution requires a two-thirds majority in both chambers of Congress, and then must be ratified by 38 state legislatures. It’s been done only 27 times in the history of the Republic. And with both chambers of Congress in the hands of what David Sirota terms “the Money Party,” skeptics rightly point out that passing it would be a steep uphill climb.

Yet the Right has long used unlikely constitutional amendments to raise awareness of an issue and rally the Republican base (think: flag-burning). And even a losing effort to amend the constitution can have a significant impact on the political scene. “If we don’t seize it as an opportunity because it’s so discouraging, they win,” said Lisa Graves, executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy. Graves added that losing efforts like the proposed Victim’s Rights Amendment had nevertheless had a profound effect on the law. “A constitutional amendment is a powerful organizing tool,” she said, “and we must embrace it … we need to learn that we can win when we lose.”

Not surprisingly, there’s plenty of support for Citizens United on the Right. This week, the Tea Party Patriots — the well-heeled corporate lobby group that pulls the strings of much of the “grassroots movement” — sent its rubes an “urgent alert” about the DISCLOSE Act, which it called an “effort to silence us before the elections.” They described it as being “tantamount to a witch-hunt.”

Ultimately, it will require a massive grassroots effort to overcome that narrative — and a hopelessly deadlocked Congress — to get either a constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United or a legislative fix to lessen its harm enacted into law.

It appears to be taking shape. A coalition of progressive groups has created a petition calling on lawmakers to push back against the Supreme Court’s activism (which you can sign here), and People for the American Way and Public Citizen have launched a campaign to get active citizens to urge lawmakers and candidates for Congress to pledge that they’ll vote with the American people on the issue if they get the chance. (You can find out more about that effort here.)

American democracy has taken a beating, but it’s still possible to save it. It certainly won’t be an easy task in this climate, but promoting and maintaining a robust democracy has never been easy.

Joshua Holland is an editor and senior writer at AlterNet.
© 2010 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/147664/

By Joshua Holland, AlterNet
Posted on July 29, 2010, Printed on July 30, 2010
http://www.alternet.org/story/147664/

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Categories: Business/Markets

Pharmaceutical Industry and Psychiatry – Conjoined Twins Joined at the Wallet

July 30, 2010 1 comment

“Unlimited spending! Schedule all the programs you can.” That was the management directive announced at the regional business meeting I attended when I first became a pharmaceutical rep. When I heard the announcement I felt like I was on an Enron train that was roaring down the tracks, and the company expected everyone to be on board. The company was giving its sales force unlimited funds to hire physicians as paid speakers, sometimes to influence other physicians to prescribe the company’s drugs, at other times to simply financially reward physicians who wrote high volumes of prescriptions every month for the company’s drugs.

Former Merck regional sales manager, Gene Carbona, told the New York Times that the only thing the company considered when selecting physicians to provide presentations was “the volume or potential volume of prescribing that the doctor could do.” This is true of all pharmaceutical companies. According to The Wall Street Journal (August 31, 2009), Eli Lilly alone paid physicians $22 million dollars in just the first quarter of 2009.

The higher a physician is on the influential ladder, the greater the financial rewards to be reaped. Pharmaceutical companies pay influential leaders who can sway public opinion and influence research. And the area of medicine receiving the greatest amount of pharmaceutical money is psychiatry. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) is the most drug industry financially supported medical association. In July 2008, Senator Charles Grassley’s demands that the APA provide an accounting of its finances revealed that in 2006 the pharmaceutical industry accounted for about 30 percent of the APA’s financing; more than $20 million dollars.

The New York Times found psychiatrists were paid more by drug companies than any other medical specialty in Minnesota, the only state requiring full reporting of financial relationships between physicians and drug companies. Between 1997 and 2005 psychiatrists in Minnesota collected $6.7 million from drug companies. The New York Times also found drug companies were not selective about psychiatrists paid to conduct clinical trials of drugs. At least 103 of the physicians had been disciplined, criticized, or had their license to practice revoked by the Minnesota state medical board. In the case of one psychiatrist, the FDA concluded he had violated the protocols of every drug study he led that the FDA had audited. The FDA found he had reported inaccurate data to the drug makers. Despite all this, drug makers continue to hire this psychiatrist.

Senator Grassley continues to investigate the strong financial ties between the pharmaceutical industry and influential physicians. His efforts have disclosed drug industry payments to individual psychiatrists in extremely influential positions. Such as former Director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and former radio host, Dr. Frederick K. Goodwin, who was taking money from drug companies and promoting their psychiatric drugs on his weekly National Public Radio (NPR) program, “The Infinite Mind.” Dr. Goodwin never warned the public about the extremely dangerous side effects of psychiatric drugs. When the head of NPR learned of Dr. Goodwin’s financial relationships to pharmaceutical companies, the program was ended.

Based on his investigations, Senator Grassley accused the APA current president-elect, Alan F. Schatzberg, MD, chairman of psychiatry at Stanford University, of failing to disclose ownership of about $6 million in shares in Corcept Therapeutics. Dr. Schatzberg is listed as principal investigator of a government-funded trial of a drug Corcept is trying to commercialize.

In October 2008, Sen. Grassley discovered that Charles Nemeroff, M.D., Chairman of Psychiatry at Emory University, had earned more than $2.8 million in consulting fees from pharmaceutical companies from 2000 2007. During that time Dr. Nemeroff was researching drugs with government money in the form of NIH grants. He failed to report this income to Emory and violated federal research rules.

Another influential psychiatrist at Emory Senator Grassley’s investigations disclosed had strong relationships with drug companies is Dr. Zachary Stowe. Senator Grassley uncovered an email that demonstrates the degree of control that drug companies have with physicians in influential positions. The email was sent to the pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) from a public relations firm that worked for them. GSK is the manufacturer of Paxil, an antidepressant drug with severe side effects, including suicide. The email was titled “For Your Review/Paxil Breast Milk Press Release.” The email states:

“Please review the attached press release and forward me anycomments/edits. As you may know, Dr. Stowe is on boardfor publicity efforts and name withheld and I are coordinatingtime to meet with him next week to arm him with the keymessages for this announcement, which is slated for earlyFebruary. We are sending the release for your review at thesame time in efforts to secure distribution on Emory letterhead(as you know, would provide credibility to data for the media)”

GSK paid Dr. Stowe at least a quarter of a million dollars in 2007 and 2008 according to Sen. Grassley’s investigations. Dr. Stowe also received money to promote psychiatric drugs from Eli Lilly, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Pfizer, and Wyeth. (See my website to learn about the severe health risks to fetus and infants when pregnant women and nursing mothers take antidepressant drugs.)

Two child psychiatrists from Harvard Medical School, Dr. Joseph Biederman and Dr. Timothy E. Wilens, reported to Senator Grassley that they each earned several hundred thousand dollars from drug companies from 2000 to 2007. However it was found they each earned at least $1.6 million. Dr. Bierderman’s support of the use of powerful antipsychotic drugs in children led to a sharp increase in the use of these dangerous drugs in children as young as three years old.

While psychiatrists are being paid by pharmaceutical companies to promote psychiatric drugs, people who are taking the drugs are dying. One in 145 adults died in clinical trials of those taking the antipsychotic drugs Zyprexa, Risperdal, or Seroqual according to FDA data. Dr. Biederman has financial ties with Johnson and Johnson, owners of the company that makes Risperdal.

“We know the drug companies are throwing huge amounts of money at medical researchers, and there is no clear-cut way to know how much and exactly where,” Senator Grassley said in a news release.

The public and practicing physicians cannot trust the research results and the promotion of drugs by what appears to be eminent sources. The pervasive financial control by the pharmaceutical industry has destroyed their credibility, and left us in a position where:

Hearing the truth about drugs is like trying tohear a mouse tap dance during a hurricane.

References:

“Eli Lilly’s Payments to Doctors Revealed” by Shirley S. Wang, The Wall Street Journal, July 31, 2009.

Minnesota psychiatrists is from “After Sanctions, Doctors Get Drug Company Pay,” by Gardiner Harris and Janet Roberts, The New York Times, June 3, 2007.

“Radio Host Has Drug Company Ties” by Gardiner Harris, The New York Times, Nov. 21, 2008.

“Grassley Seeks More Info on Conflict of Interest Policies at Medical Schools” by Evelyn Pringle, website lawyersandsettlements.com, June 25, 2009.

“Psychiatric Group Faces Scrutiny Over Drug Industry Ties,” by Benedict Carey and Gardiner Harris, The New York Times, July 12, 2008.

FDA data for deaths in clinical trials is from Allen Jones’ whistle-blower article, http://psychrights.org.

Author’s Website: http://www.kcarlson.com

Author’s Bio: Former pharmaceutical rep. turned whistleblower, K.L. Carlson is author of the compelling expose, Diary of a Legal Drug Dealer – One Drug Rep. Dares to Tell You the Truth. Carlson was included in the documentary film, Making a Killing.

July 30, 2010

By K.L. Carlson

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Categories: Uncategorized

In Defense of President Obama


I don’t know if I should even come to the defense of President Obama because he has let so many of us down re the environment, allowing the continued mismanagement of the BLM re the wild horses of the West, and a seeming indifference generally to the causes of animals who suffer at our hands – – especially in Confined Animal Farm Operations (CAFOs). However, these are my priorities and sadly they do not seem to be for the majority of people of our nation.

Before launching into a defense of President Obama, I had to mention that despite having access to cabinet advisers and others, I realize that as a mortal being he will make judgments which will not please everyone and some of them may even hurt our nation. However, this is part of the human condition. We are ALL imperfect and realizing that, we should try to give the president as much latitude and leeway as possible. We should also give him due credit for any good he has done. Sadly, I see so much carping and criticizing of him on blogs and in emails that I believe that the good he has done is either forgotten or obscured at least momentarily.

I was really quite shocked how differently I and a person I emailed viewed the president. Admitting that the president was an improvement on Bush, she didn’t have much good to say about him either. She wrote me -“I just don’t like that Obama seems to not care about a lot of the things that this country was founded on. He seems to want to shortcut everything and that’s worrisome.” I scratched my head and wondered what in the world was she talking about? Specifics please, I thought.

She continued: “He made a lot of promises during his campaign, as all politicians do but just seems like he’s done a really 180 degree flip on those promises. I don’t think he’s careful with our money and his whole thing of meddling in private industry isn’t cool.”

The last remark made me realize that she was clueless of how our hands- off policy re Wall Street and the Banks almost brought us to our knees but for the remedies Pres. Obama and his financial advisers put into place at the critical time of his first month as President.

I did respond to her e-mail and said: Thank you for your forthrightness. We do see him very differently. He came in with a huge deficit, the country spiraling from the breakdown of Wall Street and banking institutions, the housing market in turmoil and a huge debt from the two wars. God bless him. Even ONE of those problems would have been much for a new president. He tried to stimulate job growth with a stimulus package and he helped bailout General Motors. This man should be gray-haired by now.

You haven’t gone into specifics as I have. I think he was just what we needed. As for the two wars -he inherited them. I will give him the benefit of the doubt until he really misfires. Obviously, you think he has but you are too general in your condemnations.

In my opinion he has done a helluva job for the nation as a whole. He only disappoints me in is lack of care for the animal issues which I espouse. And I forgot to mention that I believe health care reform was much needed and sadly his appeal to the Republicans of Congress for bipartisanship was ignored. I also do not feel he has threatened our Christian beliefs as you do. Is so how?

Thus far I’ve gotten no response from her. One thing I have learned in my three-quarter century of living on planet earth is that we should give everyone their just due and most of all we should be grateful for any good we perceive in them. President Obama has been good for the country in many ways. I hope he will be good in the ways which are important to all of us and the nation as a whole. This is a humongous task and please -let us praying people pray for him and his administration every day. Criticizing is so easy to do – but understanding the problems which President Obama faces daily requires that we try to support him as best we can. I also try to be as positive as I can. We seem to only zero in on our perceived negatives. What is that song– “Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative.” Wow -how far back does this song go? Some of you probably weren’t even born yet. But the message is good. Heed it America!

Yes, of course you political pundits know a lot more about politics than I. I’m not saying that we should all wear rose-colored glasses, but I think we should think twice before launching into wholesale criticism which MAY not have any merit and perhaps very little truth.

Author’s Bio: I have been concerned about animal suffering ever since I received my first puppy Peaches in 1975. She made me take a good look at the animal kingdom and I was shocked to see how badly we treat so many animals. At 77, I’ve been a vegan for the past 30 years and I thank God every day that I am. I am most disturbed at how little the Catholic Church and Christian churches generally give to concern re animal suffering in their ministry. I wrote to 350 bishops in 2001 and only 10-13 responded. I feel that the very least they can do is to instruct that the priests give one sermon a year on compassion to animals. I am still waiting for that sermon. I also belong to Catholic Concern for Animals – founded in England in 1929. (They are on the internet) I recently sent a sample copy of their bi-monthly publication called the ARK to the 8 Catholic bishops of Ohio. Only ONE kindly responded. Somehow we have to reach the Christian teaching magisterium. There is next to nothing re animal concerns and compassion for them. They basically believe that animals are the lesser of God’s creation and that gives us the right to do anything we want to them. Way wrong. We need to change their mindsets. The animals are God’s first and He expects us to treat them compassionately.

Original Content at http://www.opednews.com/articles/In-Defense-of-President-Ob-by-Suzana-Megles-100730-580.html

July 30, 2010
By Suzana Megles

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Categories: Political Opinion

U.N. rights body tells Israel to end Gaza blockade


Palestinian children fly kites on the beach of Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip during a summer camp organised by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) July 29, 2010. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

Palestinian children fly kites on the beach of Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip during a summer camp organised by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) July 29, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Mohammed Salem

GENEVA | Fri Jul 30, 2010 9:57am EDT

GENEVA (Reuters) – Israel must lift its military blockade of the Gaza Strip and invite an independent, fact-finding mission to investigate its raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla, a United Nations rights body said on Friday.

The U.N. Human Rights Committee also told Israel to ensure that Palestinians in the occupied territories can enjoy the fundamental civil and political freedoms that Israel had pledged to uphold in the main international human rights treaty.

Israel maintains that the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights does not apply to the occupied West Bank and Gaza, although it says that the treaty does apply to Jewish settlers there, committee member Christine Chanet said.

There are no Israeli settlers in Gaza itself.

“In Israel’s written responses to the committee, one could see a total discrimination in the sense that settlers benefited from the pact,” she told a news briefing.

“We have maintained our position on the applicability of the covenant. We are stronger because the International Court of Justice has said we were right on this position,” she added, referring to the World Court’s 2004 advisory opinion.

Chanet, a former French judge and international human rights expert, said: “It is very difficult to have a real dialogue (with Israel).”

AID FLOTILLA

The committee’s non-binding recommendations add to pressure on Israel to explain what happened in its attack on May 31 on an aid flotilla in which nine Turkish pro-Palestinian activists were killed, damaging relations between Israel and Turkey.

Israel admitted errors in planning the raid but justified the use of lethal force saying its marines came under attack from activists wielding knives and clubs. Activists deny this.

There was no immediate reaction from Israel on the eve of the Jewish Sabbath but the government has repeatedly condemned the U.N. human rights bodies in Geneva as biased.

The recommendations are the latest in a series of reports and sessions in which Israel has been on the defensive at the United Nations over its policies in Gaza and the West Bank.

On July 23, another U.N. rights forum, the Human Rights Council, appointed a team of international experts to investigate the raid on the flotilla and called on all parties to cooperate.

The committee is a body of 18 independent experts, mainly prominent in international and human rights law, that monitors the implementation of the Covenant by the 166 countries including Israel that have signed up to it.

The recommendations on Israel’s regular report to the committee on its compliance included calls for investigations into human rights abuses including killings in Israel’s military offensive in Gaza between December 27, 2008, and January 18, 2009.

Israel should also refrain from holding criminal proceedings against children in military courts, the committee said.

“There are hundreds of children (being held),” Chanet said.

The committee also told Israel to end extra-judicial executions of terrorist suspects, make torture illegal, end construction of settlements in the occupied territories, stop building a wall cutting off some of the territories from other regions, and stop destroying homes as a collective punishment.

It asked Israel to say in its next report due by July 2013 what action it had taken on these and other recommendations.

(Reporting by Jonathan Lynn and Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Elizabeth Fullerton)

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Categories: Middle East

Top court endorses monetary damages for breach of charter rights

July 30, 2010 1 comment

The Supreme Court has ruled that a Vancouver man's charter rights were violated when police arrested him and seized his automobile.

The Supreme Court has ruled that a Vancouver man’s charter rights were violated when police arrested him and seized his automobile.

Photograph by: Geoff Robins, Handout

OTTAWA — Canadians are entitled to monetary compensation when their charter rights are violated even if there has been no misconduct by authorities, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled Friday.

In a unanimous decision, the nine justices upheld an award of $5,000 in damages against the B.C. government after a Vancouver lawyer was arrested and strip-searched in 2002 in the mistaken belief he intended to throw a pie at then-prime minister Jean Chretien.

The ruling said Alan Cameron Ward’s charter rights were breached in an “egregious fashion” when he was strip-searched at a jail operated by the province, and that compensation of $5,000 was an appropriate remedy.

“Strip searches are inherently humiliating and degrading, regardless of the manner in which they are carried out,” Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin said in the written ruling.

Ward cheered the finding. “I’m relieved that the eight-year odyssey is over and I’m pleased with the decision,” he said in an interview from Vancouver.

Ward said the ruling is significant because it’s the first time the Supreme Court has said monetary compensation might be an appropriate remedy when someone’s charter rights have been violated.

By laying out conditions under which such financial compensation might be warranted, he added, it provides valuable guidance to lower courts.

The Supreme Court said monetary damages have to be proportional to the seriousness of the rights breach.

On that basis, it overturned a $100 judgment won by Ward in the lower courts as compensation for having his car towed as part of the police investigation. In its place, the Supreme Court substituted a declaration that the seizure violated Ward’s right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure.

“While the seizure was wrong, it was not of a serious nature,” McLachlin wrote, adding that the car was “never searched.”

Ward’s “odyssey” began on Aug. 2, 2002. Vancouver police received a tip that an individual — a white man in his 30s in a white and red t-shirt — intended to throw a pie at Chretien during a ceremony at the entrance to Vancouver’s Chinatown.

Based on his appearance, police mistakenly identified Ward as the would-be-pie-thrower, and chased him down and handcuffed him. Ward, who protested loudly, was arrested for breach of peace and taken to the police lockup where he stayed for 4 1/2 hours before being released without charge.

Ward sued the city and provincial governments. The trial judge ruled the city and province did not act in bad faith but that Ward’s charter right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure had been violated. Ward won damages of $100 for the car seizure and $5,000 for the strip search.

The two governments appealed, arguing that in the absence of misconduct or bad faith by authorities, the victim of a charter violation should win only a declaration to that effect, not financial compensation.

Ward said the ruling could have application in a variety of cases down the road.

“For example, if people prove their arrests at the G-20 (summit in Toronto) recently were violations of their charter rights, this case could have some application to that,” Ward said. “It could have some application to the case of someone who has been wrongly convicted and in prison for a period of time.”

By Norma Greenaway, Postmedia NewsJuly 23, 2010
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