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FBI Turns Up the Heat on Antiwar Activists: Common Dreams

FBI Expands ‘Witch Hunt’ Against Antiwar Activists

by Charles Davis

The FBI on Tuesday added four more names to the list of antiwar activists subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury as part of an investigation into whether members of the peace movement provided “material support” for terrorism.

[Photo Credit: Committee to Stop FBI Repression]Photo Credit: Committee to Stop FBI Repression

In all, 23 people have been subpoenaed since September 24, when the FBI raided the offices and homes of prominent activists in Chicago and Minneapolis. None has been charged with a crime. Several have also refused to testify in what they say is a witch hunt aimed more at intimidating those who dare speak out against U.S. foreign policy than uncovering actual ties to terrorists.

And they’re probably right.

Thanks to a Supreme Court ruling this past June, the definition of “material support” for terrorism is now so broad as to include any sort of “advice” to a State Department-designated terrorist group, even if that advice is “stop engaging in terrorism and embrace nonviolence.” Former President Jimmy Carter and groups such as the ACLU and Human Rights Watch have spoken out against the ruling.

Because the definition is so broad, though, it provides the perfect legal basis for the government to go after those opposed to its policies abroad. And as the Bush administration ably demonstrated, there are plenty of people in government who would be all too happy to equate opposition to the U.S. wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen – just to name a few – as de facto support for terrorism.

“We are being targeted for the work we do to end U.S. fundig of the Israeli occupation, ending the war in Afghanistan and ending the occupation of Iraq,” says Maureen Murphy, editor of the news outlet The Electronic Intifada and one of those subpoenaed on Tuesday. “What is at stake for all of us is our right to dissent and organize to change harmful US foreign policy.”

Meredith Aby, another prominent antiwar activist who had her home raided by the FBI, likewise believes she is being targeted for exercising her right to free speech, not because the government actually believes she and other committed pacifists would actually support terrorist violence. She says that the questions U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald wants activists to answer – like which activists they met with abroad and what ideas did they express – proves as much. And like other activists, she said she wasn’t interested in answering.

“I’ve never killed anyone,” Aby says in an interview. “I have no blood on my hands. The blood is on the hands of the U.S. government, on the Israeli government, on the Colombian government. I’m not interested in helping kill people, and so there’s no way that I can testify at a grand jury about what people’s political ideas in places as dangerous as Colombia and Palestine.”

“We need to send a message that this has gone far enough,” she said. “We need to send a message to politicians that they will understand.”

Her advice? Tell Attorney General Eric Holder, President Obama and U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald that you oppose using the law to intimidate committed, nonviolent peace activists whose only crime is exercising their right to dissent. Fitzgerald’s office can be reached at (312) 353-5300, while Obama and Holder can be contacted by signing this petition.

“At the end of the day, these men are politicians,” Aby says, “and they will make their decision in a political fashion about … how wide this investigation will go.”

2010: The Biggest Environmental Disasters

2010: The Year in Environmental Disasters

From Treehugger

bp gulf oil spill deepwater horizon photo

We wish we could say the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was the only horrific environmental disaster this year.

From red toxic sludge spewing through Hungary to floods in Pakistan and heatwaves in Russia, 2010 was a year of record-setting natural disasters — all of which were exacerbated by climate change.

As part of our Year in Review Series, here’s a sobering look back at the year’s worst environmental catastrophes.

bp gulf gulf oil spill photo explosion

The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

In one of the year’s biggest stories — environmental or otherwise — the Gulf of Mexico was flooded with more than 185 million gallons of oil after a rig contracted to BP exploded in April.Even now, the toll of the spill on sea life, plants, Gulf industry, and the lives of the residents is still accumulating…and we still wonder if the fish is safe for consumption.

hungary sludge photo

Toxic Sludge Spills into Hungary

In Ajka, Hungary, in October, a containment pond — which holds red toxic sludge, a “byproduct of bauxite refining for aluminum” — burst, sending 24 million cubic feet of the sludge over the town.The poisonous material killed all the fish in the Marcal River, destroyed villages, and could take years to clean up.

Oil Spill in Michigan

Canadian company Enbridge took the blame for a major oil spill in Michigan.The spill sent 800,000 gallons of oil into a creek connected to the Kalamazoo River (the Kalamazoo also connects to Lake Michigan), was “called the worst in Midwest history,” and reportedly “soaked” local wildlife.

russia heatwave smog photo

Heatwaves in Russia

Record high temperatures — of up to 100 degrees F — and forest fires in Russia combined to lower a mask of smog over Moscow this summer, while a heavy drought impacted the agricultural industry.Even president Dmitry Medvedev pointed to climate change as a cause, saying, “This means that we need to change the way we work, change the methods that we used in the past.”

pakistan flooding underwater weather photo

Floods in Pakistan

Monsoons and rising water flooded more than 1/5 of Pakistan, resulting in the deaths of more than 1,400 residents and the homelessness of 14 million others.The floods were believed to be the worst in more than 80 years — and considered a result of climate change. According to NASA, “the frequency of extremely heavy rain and floods increases as global warming increases.”

deforestation in haiti photo

Deforestation in Haiti

In Haiti, deforestation isn’t a new problem: The country has a reported 22% drop in forests in the last two decades, and 99.2% of the country’s original forests are gone.The lack of trees can make the country more susceptible to the effects of other natural disasters — including earthquakes and mudslides.

coral bleaching 95 percent photo

Coral Bleaching in the Philippines

The 2009-2010 El Nino weather pattern raised the temperature of ocean water in Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean — but the long-term effect of that boost on coral could be permanent.Up to 95% of the coral in that region is bleached, and it may not recover.

china copper mine spill photo

Copper Mine Spill in China

Hungary wasn’t the only company facing a toxic mining spill: In China, a top mining company killed almost 1,900 tons of fish.But this one didn’t appear to be accidental; the “320,000 cubic feet of ‘leaked’ waste water actually flowed from a sludge point to the TIng river through an ‘illegally built passage’,” according to investigators.

Navy Expanding Operations in NW Training Range Complex: Will This Effect the Orca Population?

An adult female and her calf

Image via Wikipedia

Is Navy Plan a Threat to World’s Oldest Killer Whales?

by Rob Hotakainen (Full article at above link)

At 59, Ruffles is the oldest known male orca in the world, one of an estimated 150 orcas known to inhabit the Puget Sound and the coast of Washington state.

The U.S. Navy prepares to expand its operations in its Northwest Training Range Complex, which stretches from the coastline of Washington state to northern California.

The proposal, which has already been approved by the Obama administration, calls for increased sailor training and weapons testing on the site. It also includes the development of an underwater training minefield for submarines.

“We are not even permitted to kill even one marine mammal. … What people don’t seem to understand is we share the environment with everybody,” said Sheila Murray, a Navy spokeswoman. “It’s our environment, too. Of course we want to take care of it. The Navy goes to great lengths to protect the marine environment.”

Opponents fear that missile and sonar testing and the dumping of depleted uranium could hurt the whales.

In a letter to the Navy, the Natural Resources Defense Council said the plan “would pose significant risk to whales, fish and other wildlife.” And the council said the plan would release a variety of hazardous materials into coastal waters, including “thousands of rounds of spent ammunition and unexploded ordnance containing chromium, chromium compounds, depleted uranium” and more.

The NRDC also said the mid-frequency sonar the Navy uses to detect submarines and underwater objects interferes with whales’ ability to navigate and communicate, and that the chronic noise can disrupt whales’ brain development and depress reproductive rates.

The Supreme Court ruled two years ago that the Navy could use sonar in training exercises off the Southern California coast without heeding restrictions imposed by a lower court to protect whales and dolphins. The Navy voluntarily adopted some protective measures.

He said the Orca Network will try to monitor how the whales fare, difficult as it might be.

Polar Bear Protection Takes A Hit

Polar Bear

Image via Wikipedia

Obama Gives ‘Lump of Coal’ to Polar Bears: Activists

Obama’s administration has failed to ensure the survival of polar bears by not listing the animals as endangered.

Kassie Siegel of the Center for Biological Diversity, who has led legal efforts to protect the polar bear, said that the Obama administration “sacrificed sound science for political expediency.”

The US Fish and Wildlife Service, responding to a legal suit, agreed Wednesday that climate change posed “serious threats” to the polar bears by melting their Arctic habitat in the northernmost state of Alaska.

But the service said the threat was “in the foreseeable future” and that polar bears were not “in danger of extinction.” A listing as endangered would likely lead to federal protection of areas rich in oil and gas.

This decision has left in place a 2008 decision by the Bush administration.  This administration did not favor protection of animals under the Endangered Species Act.

The Obama administration has pledged to become more active in fighting climate change, and it incurred the wrath of the oil industry on Thursday by announcing it would regulate greenhouse gas emissions by power plants.

Last month, the Fish and Wildlife Service set aside 187,000 square miles (484,000 square kilometers) off Alaska’s northern shore as a bear habitat, which means any project that could impact the animals’ way of life must undergo careful review.

The northern polar cap has shrunk between 15 and 20 percent over the last 30 years. But a recent study in the British journal Nature said that the melting was not inevitable and could be reversed.