Category Archives: Government

EPA Decided Preventing a West,Texas-Style Accicdent Wasn’t a Priority. So 11 AGs Are Suing

‘The Trump EPA continues to put special interests before the health and safety of the people they serve,” said New York Attorney General Schneiderman

By Andrea Germanos, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-24-2017

The West Chemical and Fertilizer Company plant after the explosion. Photo: Occupy.com

Eleven states filed suit against the Environmental Protection Agency and its chief, Scott Pruitt, in federal court on Monday over the agency’s decision to postpone implementation of a rule aimed at lessening the risk of a chemical plant disaster such as the deadly one that rocked West, Texas in 2013.

“Protecting our workers, first-responders, and communities from chemical accidents should be something on which we all agree. Yet the Trump EPA continues to put special interests before the health and safety of the people they serve,” said New York Attorney General Schneiderman, who’s leading the lawsuit. Continue reading

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Connecting McCain’s Tragic Diagnosis to Trumpcare ‘Is the Goddamn Point’

“The personal hell that John McCain and his loved ones are walking through right now is the point of it all,” writes pastor in viral blog post

By Jon Queally, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-23-2017

“It isn’t in poor taste, and it isn’t political opportunism—it’s the goddamn point.”

That’s what Jon Pavlovitz, a pastor from North Carolina, writes regarding the importance of talking about the recently-announced cancer diagnosis of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)—which he calls “tragic” and “horrific”—in the midst of a raging national debate over healthcare.

On Thursday, McCain’s doctors confirmed the 80-year-old senator and former presidential nominee had been diagnosed with an aggressive and malignant form of brain cancer. In the wake of the news there was an outpouring of support and well-wishes from across the political spectrum aimed at the senator and his family. Continue reading

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Amid Ongoing Israeli Crackdown, Three Palestinians Killed in Al-Aqsa Mosque Protests

Thousands of Palestinians and Israeli forces clashed Friday during protests against security devices recently installed at one of the world’s holiest sites

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-21-2017

Photo: @firstqiblah/Twitter

At least three Palestinians reportedly have been killed by gunfire, and more than a hundred injured, in clashes with Israeli forces on Friday, during large-scale protests against enhanced security measures at the Al-Aqsa mosque, according to reports from the Ma’an News Agency and Al-Jazeera.

“An Israeli settler killed an 18-year-old Palestinian man in the Ras al-Amud neighborhood,” Al-Jazeera reports. Hospital officials confirmed a second Palestinian was killed by live fire during the demonstrations after Friday prayer, and a third man died during clashes in the West Bank. Continue reading

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Protests in Poland as Right-Wing Ruling Party Dismantles Democracy

‘This is a blatant attack by Poland’s government on the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law’

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-21-2017

Protesters across Poland have flooded the streets for the past week, condemning judicial reforms that will give the right-wing ruling party control over judge selections. (Grzegorz Żukowski/Flickr/cc)

Tens of thousands poured into the streets in Poland Thursday night, condemning proposed laws that would dramatically weaken the nation’s judicial system, just two weeks after U.S. President Donald Trump visited the country and praised its commitment to freedom and democracy, speaking to “an audience of close to 15,000 enthusiastic, flag-waving Poles—many of them bused in by Poland’s ruling right-wing” party.

The pending judicial reform is just the latest in a series of anti-democratic measures adopted in Poland since the far-right Law and Justice Party (PiS) came to power in 2015. As the New York Times noted, the party has “increased government control over the news media, cracked down on public gatherings, and restricted the activities of nongovernmental organizations.” It has also limited female reproductive rights. Continue reading

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After Exxon Fined for Sanctions Violations, Calls for Rex Tillerson to Resign

When secretary of state was CEO of ExxonMobil, says Treasury, the oil giant showed a “reckless disregard” for sanctions

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-20-2017

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was CEO of oil giant ExxonMobil when the company violated U.S. sanctions against Russian officials in 2014. (Photo: Greenpeace/PolluterWatch)

“It’s time Rex Tillerson step down or be removed,” said Gigi Kellett of Corporate Accountability International, following an announcement on Thursday that ExxonMobil will pay $2 million for violating U.S. sanctions against Russian officials while the now-secretary of state was the company’s CEO.

“ExxonMobil demonstrated reckless disregard for U.S. sanction requirements,” according to enforcement filing released by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), which issued the penalty. Though the fine is reportedly the maximum penalty allowed, it’s pittance to one of the world’s most profitable and powerful corporations, which last year reported a profit of $7.8 billion. Continue reading

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Study Calls for Rapid “Negative Emissions” as Scientist Warns “Shit’s Hitting the Fan”

New study, led by James Hansen, is meant to bolster climate kids’ case against the federal government

By Andrea Germanos, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-19-2017

If “large fossil fuel emissions are allowed to continue[…] the burden placed on young people and future generations may become too heavy to bear,” the researchers write. (Photo: Takver/flickr/cc)

The “shit is hitting is the fan,” said noted climate scientist James Hansen, countering “this narrative out there…that we have turned the corner on dealing with the climate problem.”

Hansen is lead author of a new study that warns that there “is no time to delay” on climate change efforts and argues that they must go beyond just slashing emissions of CO2—”the dominant control knob on global temperature”—to extracting CO2 from the air, or “negative emissions.”

The team of international researchers writes that “the world has overshot appropriate targets”—a conclusion that “is sufficiently grim to compel us to point out that pathways to rapid emission reductions are feasible.” Continue reading

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The Defiant, Refugee-Loving History of New Mexico

How the state’s unique and open relationship with Mexico is overshadowing Trump’s immigration policies.

By . Published 7-11-2017 by YES! Magazine

“We’ve been known, historically, to welcome the stranger and offer refuge to persecuted individuals.”
YES! Illustration by Jennifer Luxton.

After two hours of public testimony, Ralph Nava was the last of 60 speakers to testify in favor of the Santa Fe City Council’s resolution to reaffirm and strengthen its welcoming policies toward immigrants. As a native of northern New Mexico whose family’s presence in the region dates back generations, he implored the audience and council members to consider the history. “All of this area was Mexico just a few generations back,” Nava said. “All of a sudden, we’re trying to make all of these artificial barriers and walls that don’t make sense.”

He went on to tell a story about taking his grandmother to Mexico. On their way back over the border, she kept telling the U.S. border agents she was Mexican even though she had lived her entire life in New Mexico. “She wouldn’t say she wasn’t Mexican,” laughs Nava, who insists that for her, it was not a symbolic stand. “She genuinely thought of herself as Mexican.” Continue reading

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US Inequality Crisis Worst in Industrialized World. Trump Will Make It Worse.

If the policies favored by the Trump administration—including massive tax cuts for the rich and reductions in spending on Medicaid and education—go into effect, the U.S. will only fall further in the global rankings

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-17-2017

“Policymaking processes dominated by elites undermine democracy,” Max Lawson and Matthew Martin write. (Photo: Dean Chahim/Flickr/cc)

The United States is already the most unequal industrialized nation in the world, and a new report published on Monday shows that President Donald Trump’s agenda would only make matters worse.

“The Commitment to Reducing Inequality Index,” developed by Oxfam in partnership with Development Finance International (DFI), uses several factors to “measure the commitment of governments to reducing the gap between the rich and the poor.”

Compared to other wealthy nations, the report concludes, the U.S. is doing “very badly” in the fight against income and wealth inequality. Continue reading

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Poll: Most Americans Oblivious, But Not Uncaring, to Overseas Suffering

“Near-famine, which is affecting 20 million people in Africa and the Middle East, is likely the least reported but most important major issue of our time.”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-14-2017

The Trump administration has proposed drastic cuts to humanitarian aid programs in the midst of the worst humanitarian crisis since 1945. (Photo: Gerry & Bonni/Flickr/cc)

The vast majority of Americans are “oblivious” to the fact that more than 20 million people are on the brink of starvation in Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan, and Nigeria, according to a recent survey conducted by the International Rescue Committee (IRC).

A “staggering” 85 percent of Americans simply don’t know that these nations are facing such dire shortages of food and other necessary resources, IRC discovered. Continue reading

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Will global warming change Native American religious practices

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What does the shrinking of the Colorado River mean for Native American religions? Ken Lund, CC BY-SA

Rosalyn R. LaPier, Harvard University

The Colorado River, one of the longest rivers in the United States, is gradually shrinking. This is partly a result of overuse by municipalities and seasonal drought. The other reason is global warming.

The decline in the river reservoir will have serious implications for large U.S. cities, such as Los Angeles, that depend on the Colorado River as their water source. In addition, this will also have an impact on the Native American tribes who view the Colorado River as sacred to their religions.

As Ka-Voka Jackson, a member of the Hualapai tribe and a graduate student working to address climate change on the Colorado River and restoring native plant species along its banks, stated,

“The Colorado River is so sacred not just to my tribe, but to so many others.”

As a scholar of Native American religions and the environment, I understand how indigenous people’s religions and sacred places are closely tied to their landscape. For the past 100 years, indigenous peoples have been forced to adapt to changes in their environments and modify their religious rituals in the United States. The U.S. government made certain Native American religious practices illegal in the 19th and early 20th century. Although these policies have since been rescinded, they led to changes in many indigenous practices.

Global warming, however, is different. The question is whether indigenous people will be able to adapt their beliefs all over again due to the impact of global warming on the natural world.

Adapting to change

The Blackfeet tribe in Montana brought changes in their relationship with the natural world as a result of the policies of the U.S. government from the 1880s to the 1930s.

For example, the Blackfeet purposefully moved religious ceremonies from one time on their liturgical calendar to completely different times to avoid the U.S. government penalizing native people for dancing or participating in religious ceremonies.

The Blackfeet moved their annual O’kan, or sundance festival, from late summer (usually held at the end of August) to the Fourth of July celebration. They avoided U.S. government punishment by masking their ceremonies within state-sanctioned public events.

Policies related to the mining of natural resources and damming of rivers on indigenous lands have also led to changes in Native Americans’ religious practices.

Historian David R. M. Beck interviewed elders and researched how the Menominee tribe in Wisconsin adapted to the loss of their sacred fish, the sturgeon, after a paper mill built a dam across the Wolf River.

Lake sturgeon on Bad River in Wisconsin. USFWSmidwest, CC BY

The sturgeon disappeared after the dam was built in 1892, because they could no longer swim upstream to spawn. For over 100 years, the Menominee tribal members continued to pray and conduct their annual “returning of the sturgeon” ceremony in the spring – even though there were no more sturgeon in the river. The Menominee ultimately won the right to return the sturgeon to the Wolf River in 1992 and the tribe revitalized the full ceremony and celebration of their sacred fish.

In all these situations, Native American tribes learned to adapt to the challenges placed before them, modify their religious practice and embrace a different relationship with the natural world.

Global warming and religion

When it comes to global climate change, it affects everyone, not just specific groups in specific places. But for many indigenous peoples, natural resources are closely linked to religious beliefs and practices.

Historically, indigenous peoples used the natural seasonal cycles of weather, plants and animals as part of their liturgical or religious calendar. The Blackfeet held their annual “beaver bundle ceremony” in the early spring as ice melted off rivers and beavers returned to the open waters. In Blackfeet mythology, a beaver served as a deity who taught humans how to cultivate tobacco, which the tribe used for important religious ceremonies and as a peace offering to their enemies.

What would the movement of beavers mean? Bryn Davies, CC BY-NC-ND

There are signs, though, that beavers are now moving north due to global warming. Biologists are currently studying both beavers and the birch and alder shrubs
that beavers eat, as both move north into new regions. Scientists worry that as a keystone species, the movement of beavers will change the northern ecosystems as they cut off waterways and build beaver dams. And shrubs will change the local waterways that they grow by. This will affect local animal species.

What will happen when there are no more beaver in Blackfeet territory? Will their religious traditions adapt similar to the Menominee when they faced the loss of their sacred sturgeon?

Religion and resiliency

From the arctic tundra to the American desert southwest, and places worldwide, indigenous peoples will be facing the impact of global climate change.

Regarding the shrinking of the Colorado River, researchers Brad Udall and Jonathan Overpeck have concluded that, “Failing to act on climate change means accepting the very high risk that the Colorado River basin will continue to dry up into the future.”

If this river faces a drier future, it will likely affect the Mojave, a people indigenous to the Colorado River basin, who believe the river was created by their ancient deity Mastamho as part of their sacred landscape.

As the G-20 convenes in Germany this week to discuss global issues including climate change, indigenous scholars, such as myself, are wondering what the future holds for indigenous peoples, their environments and their religions.

The ConversationIndigenous communities can be resilient and adapt their internal religious beliefs to outside challenges, as Native American tribes from the turn of the 20th century have proven. Climate change presents yet another challenge.

Rosalyn R. LaPier, Research Associate of Women’s Studies, Environmental Studies and Native American Religion, Harvard Divinity School, Harvard University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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