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23 Jan

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

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Exclusive: Documents seen by the Guardian reveal questionable practices that mean people’s drinking water is at risk in ‘every major city east of the Mississippi’

The McGlynn: In studying history, one wonders why the mad hatters did not know that mercury causes brain damage, and wonder why the Romans did not realize that lead pipes were poisoning them.

What in the hell is our excuse when we know the above but choose to poison our children for filthy lucre? None. None at all. In fact, it makes the issue exponentially worse. Our ancestors had genuine ignorance as an excuse and we have none.

Our corrupt leaders again and again choose venal, illegal, duplicitous, unethical routes. Yes, even killing. And why? Because they are never held accountable.

Hold them accountable or continue to have our children suffer the consequences. One does not have to be a genius to know this.

Hold Them Accountable!

 

 The national guard hand out water testing jugs for residents at a fire station on Thursday in Flint, Michigan.

The national guard hand out water testing jugs for residents at a fire station on Thursday in Flint, Michigan. Photograph: Sarah Rice/Getty Images

Water authorities across the US are systematically distorting water tests to downplay the amount of lead in samples, risking a dangerous spread of the toxic water crisis that has gripped Flint, documents seen by the Guardian show.

The controversial approach to water testing is so widespread that it occurs in “every major US city east of the Mississippi” according to an anonymous source with extensive knowledge of the lead and copper regulations. “By word of mouth, this has become the thing to do in the water industry. The logical conclusion is that millions of people’s drinking water is potentially unsafe,” he said.

Documents seen by the Guardian show that water boards in cities including Detroit and Philadelphia, as well as the state of Rhode Island, have distorted tests by using methods deemed misleading by the Environment Protection Agency.

There is no suggestion that EPA regulations have been broken, but the agency’s guidelines have been systematically ignored.

The revelation comes as the growing crisis in Flint, Michigan, has prompted an emergency EPA order, the condemnation of Barack Obama and the resignation of a top agency official.

The documents show a pattern of behaviour in addressing public health concerns about water across the US where “gamed” tests help ensure that water utilities don’t breach federal lead and copper rules.

Dr Yanna Lambrinidou, a Virginia Tech academic, has disclosed what she considers to be evidence of deceptive practices by city water authorities after she sat on an EPA taskforce that reviewed federal rules on lead and copper poisoning that have been in place since 1991……………..

Suspect thought to have shot two brothers at home before killing two people at school in remote part of Canada

Canadian mounted police officer Maureen Levy gives a statement on the shooting at a school in northern Saskatchewan on Friday. Four people were killed in the shooting and two others injured. Speaking on Saturday, Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau, currently in Davos, described the shooting as a parent’s worst nightmare, adding that the alleged gunman was in custody

Four people have been killed and at least two others injured in shootings at a school and a property in northern Canada that prime minister Justin Trudeau described as “every parent’s worst nightmare”.

The gunman is suspected of first shooting his two brothers at home before opening fire at the remote community high school in La Loche, Saskatchewan, a family friend and the town’s acting mayor said on Friday.

The school was sealed off and one male was later taken into custody following the country’s worst gun violence in a decade.

Acting mayor Kevin Janvier told the Associated Press his 23-year-old daughter, Marie, a teacher, was among those killed by the shooter. “He shot two of his brothers at his home and made his way to the school,” Janvier was quoted as saying. “I’m just so sad.”…………….

Twenty-two senators send letter as fears mount among advocates that ‘aggressive’ removals of vulnerable people would resume this weekend

Protesters participate in an immigration rally in Washington calling on Barack Obama to end deportation raids.

Protesters participate in an immigration rally in Washington calling on Barack Obama to end deportation raids. Photograph: Susan Walsh/AP

Nearly half of all Senate Democrats on Friday urged President Obama to put an end to deportation raids on women and children, as advocates expressed fears that immigration raids could resume this weekend.

A multi-state round-up of Central American families three weeks ago caused alarm and anger in Latino communities and a political backlash which continues to resonate, with the Obama administration offering no indication that it would change course on its policy of prioritising recent border crossers even if they pose no apparent security threat.

On Friday, 22 Democratic senators sent a letter to the president in which they expressed “serious reservations about these ongoing immigration raids”, adding that they were “deeply concerned that in its eagerness to deter additional arrivals from this region, the Department [of Homeland Security] is returning vulnerable individuals with valid protection claims to life-threatening violence.”

The letter continues: “It is important to evaluate this as a humanitarian and refugee crisis involving a vulnerable population and not strictly as a border security and immigration enforcement matter. Targeting families contradicts the administration’s repeated commitment to focus its enforcement resources on removing felons not families… Given the particular risks faced by these mothers and children, the tactic of using widely publicised, aggressive removal operations – often in the wee hours of the morning – is shocking and misguided.”

The senators also called for those from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala to be granted the temporary right to remain in the US because of the increased rates of violence in the countries from which they fled. John Kerry, the secretary of state, announced this month that the US would expand its refugee programme for the three countries…………………

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Angela Merkel says tragedy underlines need for EU partners and countries in region to address causes of conflicts

Migrants who survived after their wooden boat sank near the Greek island of Farmakonisi arrive at the harbour of Piraeus.

Migrants who survived after their boat sank near the Greek island of Farmakonisi arrive at the port of Piraeus. Photograph: Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP/Getty

At least 45 people have died after their boats sank near two Greek islands, the latest tragedy on the border of a continent still riven by seemingly intractable disagreements over how to deal with its refugee crisis.

In a double shipwreck that made this month the deadliest January on record for migrants trying to cross the sea, two wooden boats sank in the eastern Aegean off the islands of Kalymnos and Farmakonisi.

Speaking in Berlin after a meeting with the Turkish prime minister, Ahmet Davuto?lu, the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, said the deaths underlined the need to ensure that immigration could happen “in a legal way”.

“Today we have heard of the terrible deaths in the Aegean. We cannot allow that between Turkey and Greece people smugglers and traffickers are running their operations,” she said, making another plea for unity on the issue.

“Deep inside, I’m convinced that the question of illegal migrants can only be solved if we first fight together against the causes … and we as a union have a great interest in keeping Schengen together,” Merkel said, referring to the passport-free EU zone………………

Coalition’s internal assessments of civilian casualties is markedly lower than other independent estimates during the 18-month war over Iraq and Syria

US military Islamic State air strikes civilians

Members of Iraq’s elite counter-terrorism service patrol as smoke billows in the background following a reported air strike by a US-led coalition on 29 December 2015 on the outskirts of Ramadi, the capital of Iraq’s Anbar province. Photograph: Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images

The US-led military coalition has called its war against the Islamic State the “most precise air campaign in history” despite having identified 16 civilians mistakenly killed and another nine injured in strikes last summer.

Colonel Patrick Ryder, a spokesman for the coalition, told reporters on Friday he expects “additional announcements” about civilian casualties in the “near future”, pending ongoing internal investigations.

Ryder said the coalition currently has 14 allegations of casualty incidents left to sift through, five of which have prompted active investigations, after it closed 19 investigations and rejected 87 other allegations for what Ryder said was a lack of credibility.

The coalition’s internal assessments of civilian casualties it has inflicted is also markedly lower than other independent estimates during the 18-month war over Iraq and Syria………………..

US politics 

 

Opinion

The crisis has exposed the failure of the Environmental Protection Agency to protect the public. When will they be held to account?

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Flint residents have been let down by local, state and federal governments. Photograph: Jake May | MLive.com/AP

Is it extreme to posit that local and state officials and the Environmental Protection Agency knowingly allowed the poisoning of tens of thousands of Flint residents? Perhaps. But it is irrefutable that they knew that residents – primarily African Americans and the working class – were drinking, bathing and cooking with poisonous water for six months before authorities warned them of risks.

This story will not end well – lead poisoning is irreversible. There is little hope for Flint’s predominantly black children who have ingested, drunk or absorbed dangerous levels of lead. This is a tragedy laced with criminal negligence. Had Isis poisoned a US water supply it would be decried as an act of terror with a weapon of mass destruction. Why not hold US officials to the same standard?

The government knows that lead is a potent, irreversible neurotoxin – especially in children. That it chose to ignore scientific evidence and straight up lie to the victims with reassurances that their water was safe is a crime against humanity. Yet it comes as no surprise to those familiar with the EPA’s history of playing fast and loose with the innocent and the lives of people of color.

I felt EPA’s lash after blowing the whistle on a corporation’s poisoning of vanadium miners in Brits, South Africa. I was the EPA representative to the Gore-Mbeki Commission after South Africa gained its independence. I reported the miners’ symptoms of green tongues, bleeding from every orifice and cancers. The agency’s response? Shut up.

When I refused, the agency retaliated, discriminated and created a hostile work environment. When I prevailed in Coleman-Adebayo v Carol Browner, the agency promoted the very managers identified as offenders in my trial.

The EPA has yet to clean up its act. The Detroit News reports a top official at the Environmental Protection Agency’s midwest office knew about the toxic water. Instead of sounding the alarm, EPA official Susan Hedman “quietly fought” with Michigan’s department of environmental quality (DEQ) for about six months.

The article reveals that “EPA water expert, Miguel Del Toral, identified potential contamination problems with Flint’s drinking water last February and confirmed the suspicions in April. He authored an internal memo about the problem in June, according to documents obtained by Virginia Tech”. The ACLU has accused Hedman, who resigned on Thursday night in connection to the crisis, of downplaying the significance of the Del Toral investigation.

Marc Edwards, a Virginia Tech researcher whose work exposed the lead contamination in Flint, told The Detroit News: “There was no sense of urgency at any of the relevant agencies, with the obvious exception of Miguel Del Toral (an EPA water expert) and he was silenced and discredited”…………………

 

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