Thursday, May 31, 2012

U.S. - Canadian Cartel Setting Up to Mine Gold in Haiti - Who Will Benefit?

Rep. Dennis Kucinich Demands Suspension of Armed Drone Use and Asks Obama to Provide Legal Justification of His Drone Policy

From the office of Rep. Dennis Kucinich:

Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) has opposed the use of combat drones against suspected terrorists abroad since the first known attack in 2004. In February 2006, he asked the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency to suspend the use of Predator drones citing the “high toll in innocent civilian life.” In the 111th Congress, he sponsored a bill to prohibit the extrajudicial killing of U.S. citizens abroad in response to revelations that the Administration included U.S. citizens on its targeted killing list. Today, he is leading a growing number of Members of Congress to demand the President’s legal justifications for drone strikes.

The New York Times recently revealed a series of stunning revelations about the secretive U.S. drone campaign abroad. 

1) President Obama personally authorizes each drone strike.  

2) The White House continues to fail to provide its legal rationale for the killings which include Americans and civilians. 

3) Any male of fighting age killed by a drone is automatically assumed to be a militant. 

At the same time,The Washington Post has reported that our use of drones in Yemen has actually strengthened Al-Qaeda’s recruiting efforts and generating sympathy for our enemies.

“When Congress passed the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, it did not authorize endless war against countries we are not at war with.  These drone strikes are being conducted in the name of our national security and yet Congress and the American people have not been provided with the legal justification for such strikes.  The use of drones must be subject to the same legal constrains and oversight as any other weapon. 
“These attacks undermine the morals, values and the strategic goals of the United States. The fact that they are conducted with complete impunity and with no accountability threatens to set a dangerous precedent that could unravel the very laws and international standards the U.S. helped to create.  Even the most ardent supporter of the current President should consider the precedent created by granting the President the power to circumvent the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution,” said Kucinich.

Congressman Kucinich is currently inviting his colleagues to join him in writing to President Obama to request “the targeting criteria for ‘signature’ strikes (drone strikes where the identity of the person killed is unknown); mechanisms used by the CIA and JSOC to ensure that such killings are legal; the nature of the follow-up that is conducted when civilians are killed or injured; and the mechanisms that ensure civilian casualty numbers are collected, tracked and analyzed.” The letter, endorsed by Amnesty International, has already been signed by nine members of Congress.

See a copy of the letter circulating in Congress here

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimates that at least 2,292 people have been killed by U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan since 2004. The Bureau estimates that of that number, over 350 are civilians. A July 2009 Brookings Institution report stated ten civilians die for every one suspected militant from U.S. drone strikes. Yet another study by the New American Foundation concluded that out of 114 drone attacks in Pakistan, at least 32% of those killed by the strikes were civilians.

Here is Rep. Kucinich in a recent statement questioning the insane push toward war with Iran:

Japanese Experts Predict Major Earthquake Near Tokyo

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

DRONEY - by Tom Tomorrow

click to enlarge

Ask Obama to Create a “Do-Not-Kill” List — and to Put YOU On It

--- by Teddy Partridge

Our government has a “No-Fly” list and a “Do-Not-Call” list — and now some unknown enterprising citizens have asked the White House to create a “Do-Not-Kill” list.

Join us here.

It’s probably important for the government to have a “Do-Not-Kill” list; whether David Axelrod would ask the Assassination Czar Star Chamber to refer to the list is an open question. But elevating this question to the White House’s petition page might be one way to get this administration to admit — in some forum other than leaks to the New York Times — that meetings to assassinate US citizens do actually occur.

Join us here.

Here is the text of the petition:
Create a Do Not Kill List
The New York Times reports that President Obama has created an official “kill list” that he uses to personally order the assassination of American citizens. Considering that the government already has a “Do Not Call” list and a “No Fly” list, we hereby request that the White House create a “Do Not Kill” list in which American citizens can sign up to avoid being put on the president’s “kill list” and therefore avoid being executed without indictment, judge, jury, trial or due process of law.

Linda Kellen Biegel to Talk on April Muni Election at the Bartlett Club Thursday

Democracy Now Covers UK Supreme Court Ruling on Assange Extradition to Sweden

Part One: Part Two:

#Occupy Movement Being Labeled As "A Domestic Terror Organization" By FBI

Thom Hartmann Covers the Stanford Findings: Charlie the tuna glows in the dark?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Pacific Bluefin Tuna Migrating from Japan Contain Radioactivity

I am going to be testing all the fish I catch this summer for signs of radioactive contamination. I'll be testing in Katchemak Bay, the lower Kenai River, the Copper River canyon, Resurrection Bay and Prince William Sound. I will also be testing kelp and other sea vegetables for signs of contamination.

Friday, May 25, 2012

My New Geiger Counter Arrived

My new iRad Geiger counter arrived today via FedEx.  It plugs into the output jack of my iPhone 4.  I downloaded the free software from the Apple application store and checked it out.

I pulled out my old copy of Introduction to Radiological Monitoring, published by the Staff College of the Defense Civil Preparedness Agency, published in 1974.  I got the book in 1978, when I was the Civil Defense coordinator for Whittier, while serving as volunteer fire chief and harbormaster. 

I'm re-reading the book, designed for self study.  I lost my old geiger counter, a CDV 720, to James Acord, and it is sealed with his personal property, after his death in January, 2011.

After mounting the software and re-booting the iPhone, and reading the instructions, I did some tests.  It responded to the mildly radioactive materials in one of our smoke detectors, even clicking away.  I tested areas of the house, with the basement reading slightly higher background radiation.  The biggest readings I got were from the area around where a huge snow berm had been, and over the fire pit by the lake.

Nothing to freak out about.  It appears to work like it is supposed to: iRad Geiger counters played a role in the recent San Onofre leak discovery:
SAN MARCOS, CA, February 05, 2012 /24-7PressRelease/ -- The recent radiation leak at the San Onofre Nuclear Generation Station in Southern California is a tough reminder of the potential dangers of living close to a nuclear power plant. The technical team from Creative Electron, a small business located 30 miles from the San Onofre nuclear power plant, has been monitoring the situation.

"We have collected thousands of radiation readings around the plant and so far we have not seen any readings above background," said Dr. Bill Cardoso, an expert in radiation detection previously with the Department of Energy and currently the CEO of Creative Electron. "As seen in the radiological map produced by our iRad Geiger device, there is no imminent danger to residents around the plant at this point in time."

Daniel Hirsch, a lecturer on nuclear policy at the University of California, Santa Cruz, recently told the Associate Press that he was concerned that the leak in San Onofre occurred with recently installed equipment. "Edison has historically not been candid about the problems at San Onofre. That lack of transparency causes tremendous distrust and increases risk," Hirsch said. "It makes one wonder about the quality assurance for the replacement equipment," he added. "This is not due to old equipment breaking but new equipment that wasn't up to snuff in the first place."

The aftermath of the nuclear disaster at the Japanese Fukushima Daiishi nuclear power plant showed us that authorities are not always willing to timely share vital information with the public. As a result, there is a growing number of people using devices like the iRad Geiger to measure the radiation levels in their neighborhoods. With Geiger detectors mounted on their cars, a large amount of data is being collected to map the true radiological environment in Japan. "Devices like our iRad transform your iPhone, iPad, and Android smartphones into very sophisticated radiation detection instruments capable of measuring and sharing information in the cloud," added Dr. Cardoso. "We are experiencing a revolution on the way nuclear public policy is implemented worldwide. The information monopoly previously held by governments and energy companies is over. The public now has the ability to measure radiation levels better than some governments can. The public will know what happens when it happens, and the public relation problems seen in Fukushima, Three Mile Island, and Chernobyl are a thing of the past."

Every government has lied to its citizens about the seriousness or radiological accidents, tests and other nuclear messes.  In these days of increasing governmental secrecy, and at a time when our own House of Representatives seeks to enshrine lying and propaganda about government conduct into our laws, only a very robust global network of citizens with mobile communication devices linked to radiological monitoring equipment can be relied upon to provide us with important information in a timely way.

That is what I like about the iRad.  Too bad they don't cost $29.99 and are available at Radio Shack.

Marcy Wheeler Discusses Obama's Assassination Czar on Democracy Now

Obama's One-Man Death Panel: John Brennan

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Disgustingly Dishonest Resanctification of St. Ted

Ted Stevens - primary night 2008.  The last picture I took of him
The recent release of more information and admonishments regarding the unprofessional conduct of prosecutors on the 2008 corruption trial of Sen. Ted Stevens has brought out a few instances of myth making by prominent figures in the Alaska media.  Two today struck me as inherently dishonest and at least as unprofessional as what the U.S. prosecutors have been accused of having done or not done.

Driving back from meetings in Palmer today, I caught Dave Stearin, not noted for his fact checking, spouting the following falsehood (hour 2, after 26:10), related to government misconduct:
If you're Ted Stevens, you're cast as some sort of criminal, and you're running for reelection under this incorrect cloud of corruption, you're ont reelected...

Of course, you pass away tragically in a plane crash - nothing to do, except maybe a little bit to do with the bungled prosecution - and I wouldn't even say bungled.  I would say trumped up prosecution. [emphasis added]
Dave, you piece of rightwing slime, Ted Stevens was killed in a plane crash on August 9, 2010, on his way to a place he had been many times before, doing something he loved passionately.  I wrote about it at the time, you dumb fuck.  Also, for your historically challenged moldy mind:
By tradition and by law, Congress recesses for the month of August.
That is from the web site of the U.S. Senate.  Had Stevens still been a member, he probably would have been fishing somewhere in Alaska.

Stearin is predictably dishonest.  It happens every day I listen to his program, which is not very often.

Far more disappointing was a comment by Amanda Coyne, in an article on the DOJ suspensions she penned today for The Alaska Dispatch:
Stevens had served Alaska for 40 years, making him the longest-serving Republican senator in history. He wielded tremendous power. He lost his seat because of the prosecution -- which came during an election year -- and Alaska arguably lost billions of dollars as a result.
OK, Amanda.  I'm game.  Name the so-called "arguable" projects that have cost us "billions."  I followed Sen. Stevens far longer than you did.  What were they?

Stearin is a serial liar, one of the job qualifications for being a daytime rightwing talk radio host anywhere in the USA.  If he wasn't a serial liar, he would be doing other work. 

Unfortunately, he's all but accusing the prosecutors - who do deserve rebuke - of murder.  Not just of Stevens, but of the others that perished that cloudy, dismal evening.

But Coyne is one of the most highly respected journalists in Alaska, and deservedly so. 

What is it about the memory and legacy of Ted Stevens that makes people jump the shark so easily when they genuflect about his so-called "legacy"?

Obama Taps Allison MacFarlane as New Head of Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Allison MacFarlane with daughter on Easter egg hunt
--- by Gregg Levine

President Barack Obama has nominated Allison Macfarlane to be the new head of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Macfarlane is currently an associate professor at George Mason University in Fairfax, VA, and was part of Obama’s Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future, a panel that was, among its responsibilities, asked to examine how the country should deal with its growing nuclear waste storage crisis. She holds a PhD in Geology from MIT.

If confirmed by the Senate, Macfarlane will replace Gregory Jaczko, who announced his resignation Monday after months of pressure from the nuclear industry and their friends in government.

As predicted, in choosing Macfarlane, Obama tapped someone who is on record as opposed to the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository. Macfarlane quite literally wrote the book on the subject–she is the editor (along with Rodney Ewing) of Uncertainty Underground: Yucca Mountain and the Nation’s High-Level Nuclear Waste, a review that is predominantly very critical of the choice of the Yucca site. Because confirmation has to move through the Senate, it would need the consent of Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), a longtime opponent of the Yucca project.

But Macfarlane could not be labeled an opponent of nuclear power. Indeed, Kate Sheppard of Mother Jones cited MacFarlane’s own words in which she called herself a nuclear “agnostic”:
In terms of nuclear energy, I would describe myself as an agnostic. I’m neither pro-nuclear or anti-nuclear. I think nuclear has been doing a good job in the United states and some other industrial countries at providing a good, reliable energy, and they’ve been improving on that. At the same time, I think I think in terms of an expansion in nuclear power over the next 50 years or something, nuclear has lot of liabilities and I don’t know if it can get over them.
If Macfarlane has objections to the expansion of commercial nuclear power, it would seem to be based on the cost–as she explained in a 2007 MIT lecture–and issues of waste storage.

To that second problem, Macfarlane is on record as favoring so-called interim solutions. As explained to me by Beyond Nuclear’s Kevin Kamps, who has met with Dr. Macfarlane, the NRC nominee thinks dry cask storage is “good enough” for now, and is in favor of “centralized interim storage”–a plan to collect spent fuel form the nation’s nuclear plants and move it to a handful of regional, above-ground storage facilities until some unspecified time in the future when a long-term program is completed.

Sites rumored for possible interim storage facilities include the Utah desert, the Savannah River Site in South Carolina, and the Dresden nuclear facility in Illinois. The state governments of New Mexico and Arizona have also made moves to request they be considered as repositories for nuclear waste.

The problems with dry casks and centralized interim storage are many. Kamps, a longtime critic of standard dry cask storage, notes that current dry casks are built to shield workers from radiation, but not designed to withstand long-term exposure to the environment or to survive a hostile attack. Some of the nation’s casks already show signs of wear, cracking, and corrosion. Beyond Nuclear recommends hardened dry casks–something different from standard casks–for this level of storage.

Kamps was unsure what Macfarlane’s position was on requiring hardened dry casks.

There are massive security concerns around the idea of centralized interim storage, too. Not only would the facilities themselves be potential targets for terrorist attack, the transportation of nuclear waste would be vulnerable. And, it should be noted, as currently conceived, centralized sites would necessitate transport of waste through densely populated areas over insecure stretches of rail lines.

Kamps was also dismayed over Macfarlane’s enthusiasm for the Onkalo spent nuclear fuel repository in Finland. The underground facility, still under construction on Onkiluoto Island, has come under scrutiny by nuclear watchdogs for some of the same reasons critics worry about Yucca Mountain.

Macfarlane is on record, however as concerned about the overcrowded spent nuclear fuel pools that sit next to the nation’s fleet of aging reactors. In a 2003 paper, co-authored with Bob Alvarez and others (PDF), she issued this dire warning:
Because of the unavailability of off-site storage for spent power-reactor fuel, the NRC has allowed high-density storage of spent fuel in pools originally designed to hold much smaller inventories. As a result, virtually all U.S. spent-fuel pools have been re-racked to hold spent-fuel assemblies at densities that approach those in reactor cores. In order to prevent the spent fuel from going critical, the fuel assemblies are partitioned off from each other in metal boxes whose walls contain neutron-absorbing boron. It has been known for more than two decades that, in case of a loss of water in the pool, convective air cooling would be relatively ineffective in such a “dense-packed” pool. Spent fuel recently discharged from a reactor could heat up relatively rapidly to temperatures at which the zircaloy fuel cladding could catch fire and the fuel’s volatile fission products, including 30-year half-life 137Cs, would be released. The fire could well spread to older spent fuel. The long-term land-contamination consequences of such an event could be significantly worse than those from Chernobyl.
Of course, recent events in Fukushima have shown Macfarlane et al to be eerily on target. No doubt, Macfarlane would at least like to see spent fuel moved out of pools (even if it is to dry casks) to bring the density down to original design parameters. Whether Macfarlane will feel inclined to push the nuclear industry in this direction is another matter. Kevin Kamps estimates that moving spent fuel from pools to dry casks would cost roughly $100 million per facility, and cost has been a principle reason nuclear operators have dragged their heels on transferring older spent fuel to dry storage. To date, about 75 percent of the nation’s spent fuel remains in liquid pools.

Heartening, too, when it comes to this mother lode of radioactive waste, is word that Allison Macfarlane has been critical of nuclear fuel reprocessing. As discussed here many times, reprocessing is expensive, energy intensive, and actually creates more nuclear waste, not less.

The nomination of Macfarlane no doubt signals a deal between Sen. Reid and the White House. Reid, for his part, praised Macfarlane, and announced plans to hold confirmation hearings alongside those for Kristine Svinicki, the sitting NRC commissioner re-nominated by Obama but publicly opposed by Reid. According to the Majority Leader, both nominations will be considered next month.

Given that Macfarlane has not given her unwavering support to everything the nuclear industry wants, questions remain about the ease with which Macfarlane’s nomination will move through the Senate. While it is hard to dismiss the possibility that some GOP Senator will place a hold on Macfarlane–it is, like with the scorpion, in their nature–it should be noted that the nuclear industry’s biggest lobbying group has called for both Svinicki and Macfarlane to be confirmed:
The Nuclear Energy Institute, an industry group, called Macfarlane “an active contributor to policy debates in the nuclear energy field for many years” and urged the Senate to confirm her nomination as soon as possible.
“It would not serve the public interest to have her nomination linger,” the group said.
“We urge the Senate to confirm both Commissioner Svinicki and Professor Macfarlane expeditiously.”
Watch this space, as they say.

As noted with the news of Jaczko’s resignation, the problems of nuclear power transcend the role of any individual. The dirt and danger–and most notably the costs–that come with nuclear power do not change with the personnel of the NRC. And, though it seems hard to imagine, the problems of regulatory capture loom even larger. The only reason Macfarlane is being discussed is because the nuclear industry grew tired of Gregory Jaczko. That the industry and their political pals were successful in pushing out one regulator cannot bode well for another that is in the least bit inclined to regulate.

Fukushima Radiation Spreads Inexorably in Japan

Likud MK Danny Danon Wants to Put African Migrants in Israel into Concentration Camps

As violence against illegal and legal African migrants to Israel has escalated this past week in Israel, so has the rhetoric coming out of recently elevated figures in Netanyahu's new coalition power structure:
Following Wednesday's violent protest against African migrants in Tel Aviv, Likud MK Danny Dannon called to remove African asylum seekers from population centers in Israel. Speaking to Haaretz, Dannon said that the immediate solution for calming the situation and for putting a stop to the violence requires the evacuation of the African migrants from south Tel Aviv. "The infiltrators must be distanced immediately," he said. "We must expedite the construction of temporary detention facilities and remove Africans from population centers."
He doesn't seem to mean "some" Africans.  He means all of them. Signs that the country almost 100% of America's national legislators claim to love even more than our own is becoming increasingly racist at an alarming rate are growing.  The meme that the ultra-Orthodox of Jerusalem and the illegal settlements are the problematic ones in respect to racism and eliminationist rhetoric, and that places like Tel Aviv are much more like the USA, is being revealed in these demonstrations to be nothing more than bullshit.

In the run-up to this week's rampage in south Tel Aviv, there was this encounter:

The violence began escalating in April, with a series of fire bombings of  dwellings and shops of African migrants and refugees.  As it has gotten more out of hand, some politicians seem to be participating in feeding the violence.  Here is Interior Minister Eli Yishai, speaking at  conference in April:

And here is more from extremist MK members:
Earlier, Knesset members spoke at the event. Some blamed government inaction for the “infiltration problem,” while others heaped accusations on human rights organizations helping the refugees. Knesset Member Miri Regev called the refugees “a cancer in our body.” Regev, a member of Netanyahu’s Likud party, said that “leftists” are preventing the state from deporting the refugees back to Africa. Knesset Member Danny Danon (Likud), who also spoke at the event, wrote in a Facebook status tonight that “Israel is at war. An enemy state of infiltrators was established in Israel, and its capital is south Tel Aviv.”
According to one of the eyewitnesses, the most inflammatory speaker was MK Michael Ben-Ari, a former member of Meir Kahane’s racist Kach party, who was a resident of south Tel Aviv himself before moving to a settlement. “The police commissioner wants to give the African jobs,” said Ben-Ari, referring to a statement by Chief of Police Yochanan Danino, who recently urged the government to allow the refugees to work in Israel, in order to prevent the crime rate from rising. “This will bring another 50,000 people here,” said Ben Ari.
The growing evidence of racist violence by Israelis may be what finally brings American liberals who have somehow managed to keep their faith in that country warm, away from support for the Zionist cause.  Back in mid-2009, when author and videographer Max Blumenthal produced the controversial video, Feeling the Hate in Jerusalem, many were shocked at the open racism, particularly toward Obama: In the 35 months since Blumenthal posted the video, the examples of virulent racism in Israeli society have multiplied.  Yet can anyone name an American politician who has spoken up about this, even an African American one?

In that sense, the hard-right Zionists and their blind supporters here in the USA seem to never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.  More than the rantings pushing for a war against Iran, more than the struggle for Palestinian rights, more than the billions upon billions we give away to Israel every year, the almost daily mushrooming of racial hatred by Israelis may be what finally disgusts us out of our stupor.

[emphases in quotes added by author]

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Putting In the Vegetable Garden - Phase One

Today I planted fava beans, soy beans, Chinese red long beans, purple bush beans, yellow bush beans, Contender bush beans, fennel, dill, three kinds of squash, four kinds of beets, rainbow chard and corn.  Tomorrow will see the cabbage, broccoli and spinach go in.  All of these are from seeds I planted in transplant containers in the greenhouse.

Judy's rock garden is starting to show its first flowers:

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Max Planck Institute: Expect a Fukushima or Chernobyl Every Decade or So

Imagine a situation within 100 years in which Japan, the northeastern USA and most of western Europe are all but uninhabitable because of one reactor disaster or meltdown after another, every 15 years.  Researchers at the Max Planck Institute have arrived at conclusions along those lines:
Catastrophic nuclear accidents such as the core meltdowns in Chernobyl and Fukushima are more likely to happen than previously assumed. Based on the operating hours of all civil nuclear reactors and the number of nuclear meltdowns that have occurred, scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz have calculated that such events may occur once every 10 to 20 years (based on the current number of reactors) -- some 200 times more often than estimated in the past. The researchers also determined that, in the event of such a major accident, half of the radioactive caesium-137 would be spread over an area of more than 1,000 kilometres away from the nuclear reactor. Their results show that Western Europe is likely to be contaminated about once in 50 years by more than 40 kilobecquerel of caesium-137 per square meter. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, an area is defined as being contaminated with radiation from this amount onwards. In view of their findings, the researchers call for an in-depth analysis and reassessment of the risks associated with nuclear power plants. [emphases added]
These findings are not surprising to me.  How ironic that this assessment comes in the same pack of headlines that has one read:
Why Jaczko Leaving The NRC Is Good for America
I doubt the American MSM will reflect much upon the findings of the Planck Institute, which conclude with this:
The team in Mainz found that in Western Europe, where the density of reactors is particularly high, the contamination by more than 40 kilobecquerels per square meter is expected to occur once in about every 50 years. It appears that citizens in the densely populated southwestern part of Germany run the worldwide highest risk of radioactive contamination, associated with the numerous nuclear power plants situated near the borders between France, Belgium and Germany, and the dominant westerly wind direction. If a single nuclear meltdown were to occur in Western Europe, around 28 million people on average would be affected by contamination of more than 40 kilobecquerels per square meter. This figure is even higher in southern Asia, due to the dense populations. A major nuclear accident there would affect around 34 million people, while in the eastern USA and in East Asia this would be 14 to 21 million people. "Germany's exit from the nuclear energy program will reduce the national risk of radioactive contamination. However, an even stronger reduction would result if Germany's neighbours were to switch off their reactors," says Jos Lelieveld. "Not only do we need an in-depth and public analysis of the actual risks of nuclear accidents. In light of our findings I believe an internationally coordinated phasing out of nuclear energy should also be considered ," adds the atmospheric chemist.
I doubt the NRC or any U.S. government or nuclear industry lobbying group is capable of such brutally honest reevaluation of the true costs of this awful, awful form of energy.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Afghanistan and Iraq War Vets Throw Their Medals at NATO Summiteers

For KRAB FM, on May 5, 1970, I covered one of the first instances of a large number of U.S. veterans throwing their medals at the U.S. courthouse in downtown Seattle, during the big post-Kent State shooting demonstration.  Tens of thousands took part.  No part of the demonstrations that day were more wrenching than watching disabled veterans fling their Purple Hearts, Bronze Stars, Air Medals and such up against the cold concrete walls of the old Federal Building.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Stinging Nettle Pesto

Our daughter tried making this last week, and passed it on during a Mothers' Day call.

Bringing a bagful of spring debris to dump over the edge of the steep hill above our marsh today, I saw hundreds of fresh nettles emerging from the leftover stalks of last year's fireweed, devil's club and dandelion.  I got some rubber gloves and a colander, and went to work.

We have been making our own pesto from homegrown basil for almost thirty years. Recently, we've started making cilantro pesto, and two weeks ago I made some arugula pesto.  Pestos are a great way to put perfectly ripe but overly abundant spicy greens into long-term storage.

You need to take care handling the nettles until they have been blanched.  After that, they are of no concern, but wash all the bowls and such that come into contact with the raw nettles. For this batch, I combined what was about four cups of uncooked leaves (cooked down to a cup and a half of blanched, drained and de-moisterized nettles), a third of a cup of olive oil, two large garlic cloves, two-thirds of a cup of pine nuts, and two teaspoons of sea salt.

It passed the taste test.  It tastes more like blanched spinach than anything else I can think of.  It is less fragrant than the pestos I've made before, as they are uncooked, whereas this is blanched.

We will try it tonight, mixed with Bulgar wheat, alongside barbecue roasted Ling cod.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau Passes

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau was perhaps the greatest singer of lieder of all time.

He passed away yesterday at the age of 86.

He was certainly the most important male singer of art songs of the second half of the 20th century.  He recorded all the lieder of Franz Schubert for male voice, in a legendary series with his longtime accompanist, Gerald Moore.

He sang operas and other vocal music in German, Italian, English, French, Hungarian, Hebrew and Russian.

He was the baritone soloist in many famous premieres, perhaps most notably, in Benjamin Britten's War Requiem, in 1962: I always show this amazing 1951 video of Fischer-Dieskau singing Franz Schubert's Die Erlkonig to my music appreciation classes at UAA: His earliest success with orchestra in the concert hall was with songs of Gustav Mahler.  Here he is, singing Mahler's Songs of a Wayfarer in 1960, with the NHK Orchestra of Japan, performing in Paris, and directed by Paul Kletzki:

5.5 and 5.8 Quakes off Pacific Coast of Northern Honshu This Morning

Friday, May 18, 2012

Fukushima Japan in DIRE Straits

This is a compilation from many sources, some very recent, some from the past several months or weeks:

My New Geiger Counter

It should arrive Monday. My old one, kept from when I was volunteer fire department chief and harbormaster in Whittier, is locked in a room filled with the late James L. Acord's personal property, in Indianola, Washington. I've given up on getting it back.

Is Nuclear Catastrophe Imminent at San Onofre, CA?

Interesting Flowers and Canola Plant from Fukushima Prefecture

Above, a rose in Gunma.

Below, a double-headed mutation from Nagareyama city Chiba. The area is known to be hot spot:

And a new plant, speculated to be a mutated canola plant:

Spectacular Eruption Thursday at Sakurajima Volcano on Kyushu

Sakurajima is a very active stratovolcano on the southern end of  the most southerly of Japan's main islands.  The nearest well-known city is Kagoshima, which is less than 25 kilometers from the center of the volcano.  I believe Thursday's eruption was its biggest since March, 2010.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Sibel Edmonds: US Government Needs to Keep the Fear Factor Alive

Usibelli Coal Agrees to Suspend Wishbone Hill Operations

Yesterday, as a result of intense negotiations between attorneys for the plaintiffs and defendant, Federal District Court Judge John Sedwick issued the following order:

Pursuant to the stipulation of the parties, it is hereby ORDERED:

1.    Usibelli Coal Mine, Inc. (Usibelli) will not conduct surface coal mining operations (as defined in AS 27.21.998(17)) under permits 01-89-796 and 02-89-796 at Wishbone Hill (except for any reclamation activities required by the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, or any best management practices required under the stormwater permit) without 30 days prior written notice to plaintiffs’ counsel and without filing such notice with the Court.

2.    Plaintiffs, Friends of Mat-Su et al., (collectively referred to as “FoMS”)’s Motion for Preliminary Injunction (Dkt. 9) is stayed until such time as Usibelli provides the written notice described in paragraph 1. Concurrent with providing FoMS and the Court with the written notice described in paragraph 1, Usibelli shall file its opposition to FoMS’ motion for preliminary injunction. FoMS may file a reply in accordance with the local rules.

3.    The parties may jointly request the Court’s expedited consideration of FoMS’ Motion for Preliminary Injunction, following completion of briefing.

DATED this 15th day of May 2012.
Friends of Mat-Su Executive Director Jeremiah Millen states:
Usabelli will not be allowed to conduct any surface coal mining operations while the briefing of the case moves forward.  This includes activities related to road building, topsoil or overburden removal, etc.

If Usibelli changes its mind, it must give 30 days notice of intent to re-commence operations, and reply to our motion for a preliminary injunction.
Speaking for all the plaintiffs, Millen states further:
We believe that Usibelli Coal Company continues to operate without a valid permit at Wishbone Hill. If allowed to move forward, Wishbone hill will result in negative impacts to local residents, property values, fish and wildlife habitat and overall quality of life throughout the valley.  We are encouraged by this decision which guarantee that the interests of the public remain protected while our concerns about the validity of the permit is properly addressed.
[note:  Philip Munger is secretary of the Board of Directors for Friends of Mat-Su]

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Weasel Zippers Responds to the Execution of Majid Jamali Fashi in Iran

Andy Greenberg, editorializing at Forbes, sums it:
Since WikiLeaks first released its flood of classified State Department memos in December of 2010, the secret-spilling site’s critics have been searching for evidence that Julian Assange’s disregard for official secrecy would directly hurt some innocent bystander. On Wednesday, those critics seemed to have found their best evidence yet of that harm. Nevermind that the facts didn’t agree with them.
In a story Wednesday morning, The Daily Mail headlined a story“WikiLeaks cable ‘led Iran to hang kick-boxer it claims was Israeli spy who assassinated nuclear scientist,’” a story that was soon picked up by other sites in Israel and around the world, finally ending up on the Drudge Report with the headline “REPORT: ‘Mossad spy’ hanged by Iran was doomed by WIKILEAKS…” linking to a story at the Times of Israel.
Those stories point to the execution of Majid Jamali Fashi, a kick-boxer who was hanged in Iran Tuesday for allegedly assassinating Iranian nuclear scientist Masoud Ali-Mohammadi in January of 2010. The Daily Mail story cited a redacted cable released by Der Spiegel and WikiLeaks in December 2010 described a briefing between a State Department official in the Iranian town of Baku and an unnamed ‘licensed martial arts coach and trainer’ who opposed the Iranian government’s attempts to recruit local militiamen. Though the cable doesn’t mention Israel or any assassinations, Fashi, a martial artist who had been in the town of Baku days before the cable was released, was soon arrested.
But here’s where the Mail’snotorious snafu last summer that led to the accidental publication of its entire database, names that martial arts trainer and State Department informant. His name, though I won’t cite it here, is not Majid Jamali Fashi. And his branch of martial arts, which was also redacted in the initial release, is not kick boxing. story falls apart: The unredacted State Department memo, released after WikiLeaks’ and the Guardian’s 
Listening to midweek coverage of the story of why Fashi was hanged, there has been a noticeable absence of denial from the Israeli government of any relationship to Fashi.  Take it for what it is worth. The Drudge Report coverage of this inspired commenters at blogs hooked on Ziocane to go nuts. One commenter at Weasel Zippers seems to want Manning's and Assange's flayed skins, uh, available to be crafted into something that has been made lampshade by others:
Would love to remove his skin with a pair of pliers, then let him bleed to death. The Mossad should take him out as an enemy of the people.
Another commenter was more detailed in his loathing:
I hope bridget Manning and Ass-flang both get put down for dirtnaps. Lil fag boy was pissed off he couldn’t be openly flaming, so he’ll have hundreds or thousands of other people killed, indirectly to soothe his ego. As I said before, most faggots are narcissists. Please, let’s put this chocolate cha cha dancer in general population in leavenworth. I’m trying to figure out how the guys in his unit didn’t deal with him “indirectly” before it got to this point. I know some of the stories I”ve been told by my brother of things that happened during his 2 tours in Iraq and 2 in Afghan, NCOs have been known to be creative in their NJP. Now, all that said.. Manning should have been room temperature a long time ago and the morons in his chain of command who enabled him and toleratd him sitting in prison.
Too bad they ddn’t leave him at the Marine disciplinary barracks. I knew 2 guys when I was in the military who were busted in Turkey. We didn’t have a Correcional Custody Facility and the one in Germany was too far away, so they were sent to the one in Spain… run by the Marines. They came back “changed men” in more ways than one.
As for Assange, I’m sure he’s one of Oblowhole’s secret campaign contributors. It’s the only reason he hasn’t been extraordinarly renditioned. Nothing would make me happier to see him in an orange jumpsuit on trial in Cuba.
The comments at the post lack charity, let alone common sense.  It is appalling how many consecutive remarks propose illegal responses to the premise that Assange or Manning might have had a role in how this has played out.

Lack of interest in the illegal war the United States and Israel are actually carrying out against Iran in news reports and blog posts on this from the Right isn't surprising.  Nor is incuriosity by the legacy corporate media.

More progressive outlets need to beat back against the meme that Assange or Manning are responsible for the execution of Majid Jamali Fashi.

PlumeGate: Does Fukushima Threaten the World? - A Canadian View

A few young Canadian men sitting around, wondering about the ramifications of Fukushima on their internet radio program: I watch a lot of Fukushima videos. What is unique and quite good about this one is the depth and shallowness of dialogue. I suppose part of their schtick is parodying Canucks. The point of view of their exchanges and rhetorical questioning drew me in.

These guys are good, eh?

They are fairly new - just over a month old.   Here's how they introduced themselves on Youtube on April 14th:
Welcome to our very first podcast. The Free Radio Revolution team are: Dave B. Greg M. Paul M. and Jeff. C. We invite you to join us as we discuss all important issues facing our world today. We are located in Canada and have a very open perspective on what is transpiring globally (especially in the USA)
I've bookmarked their Youtube niche.

What a May

Out on Neklason Lake yesterday afternoon.  Looking toward Lazy Mountain and Matanuska Peak.  Below, Strider sees something in the water:

It was some kind of little kid's ball, in the water.  I picked it up.
Back ashore, we looked at some moose poop, fertilizing the upcoming rhubarb crop:
A row of tomatoes, growing in the greenhouse:
Soy beans, fava beans, red Chinese long beans and corn, getting big.  I'll transplant them into the garden next week.
Three kinds of green beans, growing for transplant:
Lettuces, mustard greens, arugula and beet greens, outside the greenhouse:

6 in 10 children under 12 have diabetes in Fukushima

[As translated here]

Dr. Miura, the director of Iwase general hospital conducted health checkup for people in temporary dwellings in Sukagawa city Fukushima. The result showed 6 in 10 children under 12 years old have diabetes.

Dr. Miura states this is abnormal situation, but is guessing it’s because of the lack of exercise or stress.

Strontium90 (half life time 28.79 y) has beta decay to become yttrium90 (half life time 64 h).
Strontium90 and yttrium90 come to have radiative equilibrium within a month and strontium90 : yttrium90 becomes 3900 : 1 stably.
Yttrium90 is stocked in pancreas to cause pancreatic cancer or diabetes.

Dr. Miura is concerned about the mental problem of children in Fukushima, but the hospital is recruiting doctors and medical staff. The slogan is “To let citizens live longest in Japan.”


ストロンチウム90は半減期64時間のイットリウム90にベータ崩壊します。純粋なストロンチウム90は徐々にイットリウム90の比率を増やし、およそ一ヶ月で放射平衡になります。その結果、ストロンチウム90とイットリウム90は3900:1を定常的に保ちます。 このイットリウム90はすい臓に蓄積し、すい臓がんや糖尿病を引き起こすことが分かっています。


Alaska Airline Attendants Getting Sick - Is It From Exposure to Fukushima Radiation?

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Occupy Wild Salmon Mic Check at AMHTA Meeting Last Week - Wow!

Blog Changes: - New Category: Fukushima and Radiation Updates

There is a new category at the upper right hand column at Progressive Alaska 

Fukushima and Radiation Updates provides links to sites that attempt to provide the latest information about the ongoing and probably deteriorating situation at the Fukushima nuclear reactor sites.  As I obtain links to more information and news sites, I'll add them. 

If you know of others that are reliable, please let me know in the comments.

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Noble Beast in Spring

Our dog Strider is 11.   He's starting to age fairly rapidly.  But this past April energized him after the long, trying winter. 

The lake is almost ice-free, with much of its most persistant remnants clinging to our shore.

Looking east:

Looking west:

Looking north:

Fukushima Reactor 4 Release Would Doom Western USA

--- by Stephen Alexander

If Reactor 4 at Fukushima becomes unstable and releases 10 times the amount of Cesium-137 (CS-137) released at the time of the Chernobyl nuclear accident, then the prevailing winds could carry it all the way to the Western USA – that means California.

On April 30, 2012, 72 NGO organizations sent a request to the United Nations and the Japanese government urging fast-action to stabilize the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant Unit 4 spent nuclear fuel. Experts in the nuclear field from both Japan and the world endorsed the letter.

The letter contained warnings that the damaged Unit 4 spent nuclear fuel pool contains Cesium-137. If that pool were exposed to an earthquake or other event that drained that pool, then the result could be a catastrophic radiological fire. The letter urged the United Nations to create a Nuclear Safety Summit to find a solution to the problem of the Fukushima Daiichi Unit 4 spent nuclear fuel pool.

The proposal stated that the United Nations should create an independent assessment team on Fukushima Daiichi Unit 4 and organize international assistance to stabilize the unit's spent nuclear fuel and prevent the impending catastrophe. The letters were delivered to both the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda. The second letter asked that Japan officially ask for the United Nations' help.

Numbering in excess of 10,000, the spent fuel assemblies at the Fukushima Daiichi plant lie in pools vulnerable to future earthquakes. The radioactivity is around 85-times more long-lived than the radioactivity released at Chernobyl.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Two Videos on Israeli Pinkwashing and the 20th Annual Global LBGT Summit in Philadelphia

This year's ongoing 20th anniversary Global LBGT Summit in Philadelphia has chosen to honor Israel as its featured nation, and asked Israel's ambassador to the USA, Michael Oren, to keynote the conference. One of the conference's past important participants, Dr. Katherine Franke, Director, Columbia Center for Gender and Sexuality Law, decided to boycott the conference as an attendee, but to instead deliver a video address. 

Here is her video address:

Here's what I regard as the most important part of her statement:
To uncritically celebrate Israel at a conference organized around notions of equality and liberty, and have Michael Oren serve as the keynote speaker at the “international equality dinner,” is taken as a slap in the face by our queer brothers and sisters in Palestine as well as by the queers within Israel who are actively seeking a just resolution of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. By avoiding any programming that offered a balanced view of the human rights record of its “featured nation” the Equality Forum lost an important opportunity to be a leader in the international gay human rights movement, and instead allowed itself to be used as a part of Israel’s larger efforts to deflect criticisms of its human rights record.

I say these things mindful that when I have talked in other venues about our trip in January and have tried to paint a picture of the complexity of gay rights in the region my comments have been met with some of the most intense criticism in my career – I have discovered how hard it is to express any criticism of Israeli state policy or any sympathy toward the plight of the Palestinians without being called anti-semitic. There must be some room in our community to have a mindful and critical conversation about the politics of this region that does not get immediately labeled racist or hateful.
Here's a short video showing one attendee denouncing ambassador Oren during his keynote  speech:

Disruptions of talks, presentations, speeches or other events by Israeli officials or spokepeople are getting more commonplace every week.  And the frequency of these protests will continue to accelerate unless the US Congress passes a law or laws making it criminal to express any criticism of that increasingly racist government and society. 

Don't count that out in this country.

سميح شقير - هي يا سجاني

hat tip - Max Blumenthal

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Two May Day Recaps: Cenk Uygur on RT TV and Amy Goodman on Democracy Now

Cenk Uygur on RT TV:
Amy Goodman on Democracy Now:

Julian Assange Interviews Tunisia's Post-Spring President, Moncef Marzouki

Friends of Mat-Su v. Usibelli Coal Mine Inc. -- The Legal Filing Parts I and II

Here is the brief of the legal filing against Usabelli Coal Mine, Inc, regarding the legality of the Wishbone Hill project's operating status:



Case No. 3:12-cv-00093-JWS

 Plaintiffs FRIENDS OF MAT-SU, CASTLE MOUNTAIN COALITION, COOK INLETKEEPER, ALASKA COMMUNITY ACTION ON TOXICS, and the ALASKA CHAPTER OF THE SIERRA CLUB (collectively “Friends of Mat-Su”), by and through their undersigned counsel of record, file this Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief, and hereby allege:


1.  This is a citizen enforcement action brought by Friends of Mat-Su on behalf of themselves, their members and supporters, and the general public against Defendant Usibelli Coal Mine, Inc. (“Usibelli”) for conducting surface coal mining operations at the Wishbone Hill Mine (“Wishbone Hill” or “Mine”) without a valid permit in violation of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (“SCMRA” or “the Act”), 30 U.S.C. §1201, et seq., and of the rules and regulations that comprise the approved state regulatory program for Alaska (“the Alaska Program”), 30 C.F.R. Part 902.

The Alaska Program consists of the Alaska Surface Coal Mining Control and Reclamation Act (“ASCMCRA”), AS 27.21, and its implementing regulations, 11 AAC 90. Friends of Mat-Su seeks declaratory and injunctive relief and litigation expenses pursuant to the citizen suit provision of SMCRA, 30 U.S.C. § 1270.

Usibelli is the operator at the Wishbone Hill Mine and lessee of the two state coal leases that cover the Mine area, ADL 32144 and ADL 309947.

Usibelli is currently conducting surface coal mining operations at the Wishbone Hill Mine without a valid permit in violation of SMCRA and the Alaska Program. See 30 U.S.C. § 1256(a); AS 27.21.060(a); 11 AAC 90.002; 11 AAC 90.007.


2. This Court has subject matter jurisdiction over the parties and subject matter of this action pursuant to Section 520(a) of SMCRA, 30 U.S.C. § 1270(a), and 28 U.S.C. § 1331 (federal question jurisdiction).

3.  On January 9, 2012, Friends of Mat-Su gave written notice to Usibelli of its violations of SMCRA and the Alaska Program, and of Friends of Mat-Su’s intent to file suit with regard to those violations; Friends of Mat-Su also notified the Secretary of the Interior, the Director of the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (“OSM”), the Regional Director of OSM, and the Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources (“DNR”) pursuant to 30 U.S.C. § 1270(b)(1)(a) and 30 C.F.R. § 700.13.

A true and correct copy of the notice letter is attached as Exhibit 1.

4. More than sixty days have passed since notice was served on Usibelli and the state and federal agencies. Friends of Mat-Su is informed and believe, and thereon allege, that neither DNR nor OSM has commenced, or is diligently prosecuting, a civil or criminal action against Usibelli for violations of SMCRA or the Alaska Program. Therefore, Friends of Mat-Su is not precluded from bringing this citizen suit. See 30 U.S.C. § 1270(b).

5. Venue is proper in the District of Alaska under § 520(c) of SMCRA, 30 U.S.C. § 1270(c), because the Mine is located within the District of Alaska, in Sutton, Alaska.

 6. In addition, venue is proper in the District of Alaska under 28 U.S.C. § 1391 because Usibelli resides within the District of Alaska and a substantial part of the events giving rise to the claims occurred within the District of Alaska.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Usibelli Mine Company Challenged for Mining Illegally

Looking toward Wishbone Hill from my house
A press release from Strategies 360:

Groups seek to protect Mat-Su families from dangerous coal mine

Palmer, AK – As the summer work season approaches, local groups have taken action to hold Usibelli Coal Mine, Inc.  responsible for mining without a valid permit at Wishbone Hill. The Wishbone Hill project would be Alaska’s first coal strip mine to operate in the middle of a residential neighborhood.  Communities throughout the Mat-Su are concerned about public safety, noise and light pollution, toxic coal dust, and impacts to property values. Today’s lawsuit follows unsuccessful attempts by the groups to compel state and federal agencies to enforce the prohibition against unpermitted mining.

“The fact that is has taken so long for the agencies to address our concerns lead us to believe that the complaint has merit,” said Kirby Spangler, President of the Castle Mountain Coalition.   “Thousands of residents have voiced valid concerns and we don’t want to continue waiting on regulators as another construction season approaches.”

According to state and federal law, mining permits expire automatically if the permit holder fails to begin mining within three years, or fails to secure an extension of that deadline. A company first acquired permits for mining at Wishbone Hill in 1991. Those permits expired in 1996 when the company had not begun mining and had not secured an extension. But since June 2010, Usibelli has started operating at Wishbone Hill: constructing the haul road, clearing vegetation and logging, and beginning to stockpile topsoil.  In the more than 20 years that have passed since the permits were first issued, the region surrounding the mine has changed drastically, becoming a residential community.  In fact, the access road joins the Glenn Highway directly across from a local elementary school.

“My family has firsthand experience dealing with the coal industry,” said Bonnie Zirkle, local resident, hunting guide and business owner.  “This coal project is already impacting the property values in our community. Coal is dirty and dangerous to the water, air and health of our community.”

“If Usibelli Coal Company wishes to be a responsible company and good neighbor they must follow the rules, including the most basic- obtaining a valid permit to operate,” Said Jeremiah Millen, Executive Director of Friends of Mat-Su.   “We believe the scale and location of what is being proposed at Wishbone Hill will result in negative impacts to local residents, property values, fish and wild life habitat and overall quality of life throughout the valley.  We look forward to working with the agencies and the company when and if they obtain valid permit.”

[disclaimer:  I am secretary of the board of directors for Friends of Mat-Su, one of the community groups litigating this issue]

"Shame on You!" - Medea Benjamin Shames Obama's Drone Czar

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Occupy May Day at the Anchorage Town Square Park

October 2011 occupier - Anchorage - image by AKM
There will be a gathering at Anchorage's Town Square Park today:

What Is A Semi-Spontaneous Gathering?

A gathering to bring communities together to share in the joy of life.







Help us provide these for FREE by donating something to share with us!

See you this MAY DAY! #M1GS
(5/1/2012) @ 1pm
@ Towne Square Park
General Assembly at 5:30 pm

Help us pass on the word here on Facebook or anywhere and everywhere:

"Occupy Anchorage again, at Towne Square Park this May Day (5/1/2012) @ 1pm!

Bring something to share for our MAY DAY: Semi-Spontaneous Gathering!

Expect to find FREE Food, Expression, Books, Clothes & Gifts, Skill Shares, and Games!

UN Special Rapporteur Visits Chickaloon Village

Chickaloon mining devastation in the early 1920s
Chickaloon Village Tribal Council  Press Release:

Professor James Anaya, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, visited Chickaloon Village on Saturday April 28, 2012, to take testimony on the human rights concerns of Indigenous People throughout the U.S. and Alaska.

During his visit, Professor Anaya was briefed by Tribal Elders, leaders and community members on the proposed Wishbone Hill coal strip mine and the Mental Health Trust’s coal mine proposal. Professor Anaya expressed that he was moved by the many concerns shared by the Chickaloon Village Traditional Council, the governing body of Chickaloon Native Village, which addressed these issues and expressed particular concern that the state’s permitting process lacked meaningful consultation with local residents as required by international standards. Much of the construction associated with these projects will occur in sensitive cultural areas and will have dangerous health and safety consequences. Similarly, the Traditional Council expressed concern about the impacts of mining projects on their successful and award-winning salmon restoration program, which the Tribe has invested more than $1.2 million dollars and thousands of hours rehabilitating the Tribe’s traditional waters from the destruction caused by previous coal mining activities.

“The Rapporteur saw the devastation right across the road from our Tribal Ya Ne Dah Ah School,” said Kari Shaginoff, Project Manager for Chickaloon Village’s Ahtna Language Program. “Our Tribe has a right to teach our children and future generations our language, traditional values, ethics, and cultural traditions. Our children have their own right to culturally appropriate education under the UN Declaration. There is a real possibility that we may be forced to close our school – the danger to our children is real.”

Shawna Larson, a Tribal citizen and community resident explained the discrimination they face and the disparate treatment of Alaskan Native Tribes and Tribes in the lower 48: “[Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act] was designed to separate us from our land, our subsistence and ability to govern ourselves,” she explained. “Tribes in the lower 48 are able to maintain their rights to hunt, fish and gather on their own land. But ANCSA turned over our aboriginal title to the State and its Native Corporations. In Chickaloon our culture has been criminalized and we could be arrested for living as we have for thousands of years.”

“The State of Alaska has not met a coal mine it doesn’t like,” said Chief Gary Harrison, with regard to the Wishbone Hill coal mine. “Both the Federal and State governments approve mining permits without any real consultation or consideration of health and safety, or of the well being of people directly affected. The federal government says it has a policy of consultation with federally recognized Tribes, but we haven’t seen it. Sometimes they come and listen, however they always just do what they want anyway. There are those in power that wish we would go away, but the international community recognizes that Native Peoples have rights, to land, to culture, to healthy lives and a continued existence. We belong to this land and have since time immemorial. We’re not going away.”

Mr. Anaya, the present Special Rapporteur is a law professor at the University of Arizona in his 4th year of a 6-year term as the United Nations Rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous Peoples. Among his activities in this formal mission, he met with Native representatives at the Native Village of Port Graham, the Alaska Native Heritage Center in Anchorage and the Native Village of Curyung (Dillingham).

He will present his report to the UN Human Rights Council in September 2012.

New Collaborations in Anchorage Arts

Philip Munger & Dr. Lee Wilkins conferring at Friday's ACO/AYP dress rehearsal - image by Emily Weaver
I.  Saturday evening I had the pleasure and honor of directing the first collaboration between the Anchorage Civic Orchestra and the Anchorage Youth Philharmonic.  The AYP is the junior youth ensemble of the Anchorage Youth Symphony.  We held a joint concert at the Sydney Laurence Theatre at which the AYP performed two works first.  Then we joined forces for our new concertmaster and AYP director Lee Wilkins' new work, The American 1812 Overture.  Then, with our principal horn Dan Heynen, we played Mozart's Horn Concerto No. 1.  We concluded with Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 1, which may have gotten its first local airing in our rendition. 

Mike Dunham reviewed the concert for today's Anchorage Daily News:
The ACO itself accompanied Dan Heynen in Mozart’s two movement Horn Concerto K. 412 before wrapping up their season with a commendable performance of Tchaikovsky’s First Symphony, “Winter Dreams.” Phillip Munger was listed in the program as “interim conductor,” but he owned the orchestra in this reading and they owned the music. It ranked with the best playing I’ve heard from the group — and the piece is by no means easy music. 

There’s a lot of brass in the piece, and that section came through with few mistakes. The lower strings, which usually manage well, were particularly good. Even the violins, which can be problematic, hung together, which speaks to the attentions of Munger and Wilkins, the ACO concertmaster, as well as the players themselves. 

The winds deserved high praise, particularly oboist/English horn player Emily Weaver, whose solo in the slow movement was entrancing. The symphony was performed in three movements so that enough time would be available to rehearse. It was surely a difficult decision to drop a movement, but it was the right one. Nobody missed the omitted section, but had the orchestra stretched too far by trying to get it all in, everyone would have missed the precision and excitement that came with the finale.
 Although I'm gratified and members of the ACO must be pleased that the Tchaikovsky was so well played and received, I wish Mike had spent more space describing the collaboration between the two ensembles.  He does note that when we played together, there were almost 100 performers on the Laurence stage, which may have been a first.  It was almost too much sound for that small hall to bear, but we worked on crispness during our Friday dress rehearsal, as it seemed the force of sound from so many hit the ceiling above the stage a bit too hard.

And even though Dunham didn't seem to be impressed by Dr. Wilkins' overture, the combined group performed it admirably.  My main goal in conducting our part of the concert was to deliver a credible performance of Lee's new piece, as several ensembles across the country are contemplating or planning a performance of it.  (I'm also going to be helping Lee edit the score and parts, putting in what we've learned from its audition.)  We certainly did that, bringing out both the similarities and differences between the Wilkins and Tchaikovsky 1812's.

Dr. Lee Wilkins, Harrison Greenough, Philip Munger
And I wish Mike had been able to spend some time with 15-year-old Harrison Greenough after the concert.  Harrison made his conducting debut with the first movement from Mozart's Symphony No. 25.  He's the same age I was when I made my conducting debut in Federal Way Washington, directing Bela Bartok's Rumanian Dances.  Yikes!  I've been conducting for 50 years.  Let us hope young Harrison can look forward to 50 years of directing instrumental groups in Alaska and elsewhere.  He's talented and seems to want to work hard.

II.  This coming weekend, the Anchorage Youth Symphony will collaborate with the Anchorage Concert Chorus and local vocal soloists in a performance of Beethoven's Choral Symphony, No. 9.  As in Saturday's collaboration between the Civic and Youth Philharmonic, this next Saturday's between the ACC and AYS will feature one of the groups alone - the chorus - before they band together for the main event.  Chorus director Dr. Grant Cochran has chosen to present choral works by four Alaska composers, Dr. George Belden, John Luther Adams, Victoria Fraser and me.

These collaborations point toward a musical future in the area that seeks to engage our young musicians more fully in local musical life.  Hopefully, as a result, a higher percentage of local kids will remain in Alaska to study college-level music, and more will remain as Alaska residents.  Dr. Wilkins is a person who grew up here as a kid, went off to college and professional musical life down below, only to finally return here recently, partially to care for his parents. 

So many of us - my wife Judy and I included - have seen our talented young kids head off out of state for school and musical life, only to get fully involved outside Alaska in ways that might have been difficult up here because of limited opportunities.  There are only so many real jobs up here for performers. 

Maybe that will change.