Tag Archives: Barack Obama

Frustrated Tribal Leaders Urge Biden to Immediately Restore Bears Ears Monument

“We have tried to be patient and respectful as we await your decision on restoration. However, the longer action is not taken, real harm, much permanent, is occurring on this sacred landscape.”

By Brett Wilkins, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 9-28-2021

Bears Ears National Monument in Utah is home to more than 100,000 Native American archaeological and cultural sites. (Photo: Bob Wick/U.S. Bureau of Land Management/Flickr/cc)

Amid increasing frustration, leaders of two Native American tribes are calling on President Joe Biden to “take immediate action” to restore and enlarge Bears Ears National Monument in Utah, according to a letter published Tuesday by The Washington Post.

In the letter, Hopi Tribal Vice Chair Clark W. Tenakhongva and Navajo Nation representative Henry Stevens Jr. note that eight months have passed since Biden, on his first day in office, signed an executive order directing the U.S. Department of the Interior to conduct a comprehensive review of former President Donald Trump’s 85% reduction of the 1.35 million-acre reserve, the result of a December 2017 presidential proclamation. Continue reading

Share Button

‘Dismaying’: Human Rights Groups Blast Biden Plan to OK Millions in Military Aid for Egypt

A coalition of 18 organizations called the administration’s decision “a terrible blow to its stated commitment to human rights and to the rule of law.”

By Brett Wilkins, staff writer for Common Dreams.  Published 9-14-2021

Members of the women-led peace group CodePink, including co-founder Medea Benjamin (center), protest against Egyptian human rights abuses in this undated photo. Photo: CodePink

Left-leaning Democratic lawmakers joined human rights groups Tuesday in decrying the Biden administration’s reported decision to withhold a small portion of the $1.3 billion in annual U.S. military aid to Egypt over human rights crimes perpetrated by the government of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

A U.S. official speaking on condition of anonymity—the administration’s decision had not yet been announced—told multiple media outlets Tuesday that of the $300 million in military aid to Egypt that is subject to human rights conditions, $170 million will be initially authorized. Continue reading

Share Button

In Pre-Sentencing Letter, Drone Whistleblower Daniel Hale Says Crisis of Conscience Motivated Leak

“I came to believe that the policy of drone assassination was being used to mislead the public that it keeps us safe… I began to speak out, believing my participation in the drone program to have been deeply wrong.”

By Brett Wilkins, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-25-2021

Whistleblower Daniel Hale faces sentencing after pleading guilty to violating the Espionage Act by leaking classified information about the U.S. targeted drone assassination program. (Photo: Bob Hayes/handout)

Attorneys for drone whistleblower Daniel Hale—who faces sentencing next week after pleading guilty earlier this year to violating the Espionage Act—on Thursday submitted a letter to Judge Liam O’Grady in which the former Air Force intelligence analyst says a crisis of conscience drove him to leak classified information about the U.S. targeted assassination program.

The 11-page handwritten letter (pdf) begins with a quote from U.S. Admiral Gene La Rocque, who said in 1995 that “we now kill people without ever seeing them. Now you push a button thousands of miles away… Since it’s all done by remote control, there’s no remorse.” Continue reading

Share Button

‘Subsidizing the Climate and Ecological Crisis’: Biden Approving Fossil Fuel Permits Faster Than Trump or Obama

AP’s findings run counter to the president’s campaign vow to end oil and gas extraction on public lands.

Andrea Germanos, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-13-2021

Photo: Sunrise Movement/Facebook

Flying in the face of the White House’s reference to the climate crisis as an “existential threat” and President Joe Biden’s campaign pledge, his administration has so far approved fossil fuel drilling permits on public and tribal lands at a faster rate than his two immediate predecessors, a new Associated Press analysis has found.

“We’re not only subsidizing the climate and ecological crisis,” climate activist Greta Thunberg tweeted in response to the new reporting, “we’re speeding it up.” Continue reading

Share Button

‘This Is a Scandal’: Documents Reveal Obama’s EPA Approved Toxic Chemicals for Fracking in 2011

“We still don’t know the full extent of toxic chemicals that companies are using in their fracking operations. Why is the EPA allowing them to poison our communities without consequence?”

By Kenny Stancil, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-12-2021

A fracking rig behind a housing development Photo: WildEarth Guardians/flickr/CC

Between 2012 and 2020, fossil fuel corporations injected potentially carcinogenic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), or chemicals that can degrade into PFAS, into the ground while fracking for oil and gas, after former President Barack Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency approved their use despite agency scientists’ concerns about toxicity.

The EPA’s approval in 2011 of three new compounds for use in oil and gas drilling or fracking that can eventually break down into PFAS, also called “forever chemicals,” was not publicized until Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) obtained internal records from the agency through a Freedom of Information Act request, the New York Times reported Monday after reviewing the files.

According to PSR’s new reportFracking with “Forever Chemicals, oil and gas companies including ExxonMobil, Chevron, and others engaged in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, have since 2012 pumped toxic chemicals that can form PFAS into more than 1,200 wells in Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Texas, and Wyoming.

While the Times noted that the newly released documents constitute some of the earliest evidence of the possible presence of PFAS in fracking fluids, PSR’s report warns that “the lack of full disclosure of chemicals used in oil and gas operations raises the potential that PFAS could have been used even more extensively than records indicate, both geographically and in other stages of the oil and gas extraction process, such as drilling, that precede the underground injections known as fracking.”

“It’s very disturbing to see the extent to which critical information about these chemicals is shielded from public view,” Barbara Gottlieb, PSR’s Environment & Health Program director, said Monday in a press release. “The lack of transparency about fracking chemicals puts human health at risk.”

As the Times reported:

In a consent order issued for the three chemicals on Oct. 26, 2011, EPA scientists pointed to preliminary evidence that, under some conditions, the chemicals could “degrade in the environment” into substances akin to PFOA, a kind of PFAS chemical, and could “persist in the environment” and “be toxic to people, wild mammals, and birds.” The EPA scientists recommended additional testing. Those tests were not mandatory and there is no indication that they were carried out.

“The EPA identified serious health risks associated with chemicals proposed for use in oil and gas extraction, and yet allowed those chemicals to be used commercially with very lax regulation,” Dusty Horwitt, a researcher at PSR, told the newspaper.

In a statement released Monday, Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, called the PSR report “alarming,” and said it “confirms what hundreds of scientific studies and thousands of pages of data have already shown over the last decade: fracking is inherently hazardous to the health and safety of people and communities in proximity to it, and it should be banned entirely.”

As PSR notes, PFAS—highly potent toxins that accumulate in the body and persist in the environment—pose a threat to human and environmental well-being. Negative health effects linked to PFAS include low infant birth weights, disruptions of the immune and reproductive systems, and cancer.

“The potential that these chemicals are being used in oil and gas operations should prompt regulators to take swift action to investigate the extent of this use, pathways of exposure, and whether people are being harmed,” said Linda Birnbaum, board-certified Ph.D. toxicologist and former director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

Hauter added that “this says nothing of the dreadful impact fossil fuel extraction and burning is having on our runaway climate crisis. Fracking threatens every person on the planet, directly or indirectly.”

According to the Times:

In a 2016 report, the EPA identified more than 1,600 chemicals used in drilling and fracking, or found in fracking wastewater, including close to 200 that were deemed carcinogens or toxic to human health. The same EPA report warned that fracking fluid could escape from drill sites into the groundwater and that leaks could spring from underground wells that store millions of gallons of wastewater.

Communities near drilling sites have long complained of contaminated water and health problems that they say are related. The lack of disclosure on what sort of chemicals are present has hindered diagnoses or treatment. Various peer-reviewed studies have found evidence of illnesses and other health effects among people living near oil and gas sites, a disproportionate burden of which fall on people of color and other underserved or marginalized communities.

“The Obama-Biden administration approved the use of toxic PFAS chemicals for fracking a decade ago,” said Hauter, “and all these years later, President Joe Biden’s practices haven’t seemed to change a bit.”

“The Biden administration has claimed to be concerned about PFAS contamination throughout the country,” Hauter said. “Biden himself pledged during the campaign to halt new fracking on federal lands. Meanwhile, this administration is approving new fracking permits at a pace similar to Trump, with no letup in sight.”

Earlier this month, whistleblowers at the EPA accused the Biden administration of continuing the “war on science,” with managers at the agency allegedly modifying reports about the risks posed by chemicals and retaliating against employees who report the misconduct.

As Common Dreams reported, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility filed a formal complaint on behalf of four scientists with the EPA’s Office of the Inspector General, demanding an investigation into reports that high-level employees routinely delete crucial information from chemical risk assessments or change the documents’ conclusions to give the impression that the chemicals in question are safer.

Calling Monday’s revelations about the Obama administration’s decision to greenlight the use of PFAS in fracking “a scandal that should lead every nightly news program,” Jamie Henn, co-founder of 350.org and director of Fossil Free Media, noted that “we still don’t know the full extent of toxic chemicals that companies are using in their fracking operations.”

“Why is the EPA allowing them to poison our communities without conscience?” he asked.

Hauter called on Biden “to immediately make good on his promise to halt new fracking on federal lands,” adding that “his administration must take urgent action to contain the use of PFAS chemicals and their deadly spread into our water and our communities.”

This work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0).
Share Button

Conviction of Dam Company Executive for Murder of Berta Cáceres Hailed as ‘Step Towards Justice’

“However, justice for Berta will never be truly complete until everyone who took part in the crime, including those who planned it, is brought to justice.”

By Brett Wilkins, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-5-2021

Berta Cáceres. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Human rights advocates on Monday welcomed the conviction of Roberto David Castillo Mejía, a Honduran businessman and former military intelligence officer, for the March 2016 assassination of Indigenous environmental activist Berta Cáceres, while calling on authorities in the Central American nation to bring everyone involved in planning the murder to justice.

The Guardian reports the Tegucigalpa high court found Castillo—formerly head of the dam company Desarrollos Energéticos, or DESA—guilty of collaborating in Cáceres’ murder. The court ruled that Cáceres was killed for leading the campaign to stop construction of the $50 million Agua Zarca dam, a local grassroots effort which caused delays and monetary losses for DESA. Continue reading

Share Button

House Passes Resolution to Reverse ‘Reckless’ Trump-Era Methane Rule

“Biden should direct the EPA to use the full power of the Clean Air Act to reduce methane emissions from oil and gas by 65% by 2025,” said one advocate.

By Kenny Stancil, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 6-25-2021

Gas well flaring in the Marcelus Shale. Screenshot: YouTube

Progressive advocates celebrated the U.S. House’s passage Friday of a resolution to reinstate federal regulations on methane pollution, while also emphasizing that confronting the climate emergency requires implementing stronger safeguards.

The resolution reversed the Trump administration’s rollback last August of the Environmental Protection Agency’s rules governing oil and gas companies’ emissions of the potent greenhouse gas. Continue reading

Share Button

US and Israel Vote ‘No’ as 184 Nations Condemn American Blockade of Cuba

“The U.N. vote… on Cuba was a chance for President Biden to show global leadership,” said CodePink co-founder Medea Benjamin. “He failed miserably.”

By Brett Wilkins, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 6-23-2021

New York City, April 2021. Photo: The All-Nite Images/flickr/CC

Peace and human rights advocates joined the United Nations General Assembly Wednesday in their annual condemnation of the United States’ disastrous economic embargo against Cuba.

For the 29th straight year, the members of the General Assembly voted overwhelmingly in favor of a resolution demanding an end to the 60-year U.S. economic blockade on Cuba. This year, 184 nations voted in favor of the resolution, while the U.S. and Israel voted against it. Three nations—Brazil, Colombia, and Ukraine—abstained. Continue reading

Share Button

Washington Post Publisher Says Biden DOJ ‘Intensified’ Trump-Era Attacks on Press Freedom

“The egregious acts by the outgoing Trump Justice Department, and the apparent doubling down on them during the Biden administration, should alarm all Americans, regardless of political persuasion.”

By Kenny Stancil, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 6-7-2021

The entrance to the Washington Post on 15th street Northwest DC. Photo: Dion Hinchcliffe/flickr/CC

In an opinion piece, the Washington Post‘s publisher on Sunday accused President Joe Biden’s Justice Department of exacerbating the Trump administration’s assault on press freedom and called for a “full accounting” of the Biden DOJ’s recent practices in order to prevent such a “brazen infringement of the First Amendment rights of all Americans” from happening again.

Recent reporting revealed that during the last days of then-President Donald Trump’s term, DOJ officials authorized subpoenas to secretly obtain the phone and email records of reporters at the PostCNN, and the New York Times. In the wake of the revelations, Biden last month condemned the unconstitutional actions taken by his predecessor’s Justice Department and vowed that his administration would protect the rights of journalists and, by extension, those of the public. Continue reading

Share Button

106 years and 44 days of the Armenian Genocide

The US decision to recognise the Armenian Genocide has urgent relevance for the country in the wake of last year’s war in Nagorno Karabakh

By Avetis Harutyunyan  Published 5-7-2021 by openDemocracy

A view of Yerevan, the capital city of the Republic of Armenia, with the backdrop of Mount Ararat (locally known as Masis). Photo: Serouj Ourishian/Wikimedia Commons

“You have not seen Mount Ararat how I saw it growing up. I promise, one day I will take you back home.”

Since childhood, my grandfather grew up listening to these words of his great-grandfather, Baghdasar, who fled to Armenia with his family during the 1915 genocide.

My grandfather recollects how Baghdasar would tell stories of their home in Bayazet, or Doğubeyazıt in modern Turkey, in the shadow of Mount Ararat, and promise his grandchildren that one day they would return to their home. In 1915, to save his family from the massacres, Baghdasar closed the doors of his house, crossed the Araks River, which flows along the borders of Armenia and Turkey, and ended up in the Armenian city of Gavar. According to my grandfather, when Baghdasar died, he still had the key to his old house in his pocket. Continue reading

Share Button