Police cover up - report on the shooting of civilians during Katrina in 2005 Mood:
don't ask Now Playing: Former New Orleans Detective Pleads Guilty in Katrina Shooting Cover-up Topic: FAILURE by the GOVERNMENT
Published on Thursday, February 25, 2010 by Pro Publica
Former New Orleans Detective Pleads Guilty in Katrina Shooting Cover-up
by A.C. Thompson
Former New Orleans Police Department Lt. Michael Lohman on Wednesday pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiring to obstruct justice, in connection with one of a string of violent encounters between police and civilians in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Police shot at least 10 people during the week after the storm made landfall. (We have been investigating the shootings, along with our partners the New Orleans Times-Picayune and PBS "Frontline.")
The FBI closed Danziger Bridge along U.S. 90 on Sept. 26, 2009, to further investigate the controversial shooting incident that occurred there in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. (Danny Bourque/The Times-Picayune)
Lohman's guilty plea stems from the so-called Danziger Bridge incident of Sept. 4, 2005. Responding to an emergency call that day, New Orleans police officers shot six citizens-killing two-on and around the span.
The Times-Picayune has been covering the Danziger Bridge shootings from the start and it has the latest.
Lohman helped orchestrate the police's investigation of the shooting, a probe portrayed in the bill of information as an attempted cover-up. The former lieutenant was involved in planting a handgun at the scene, drafted phony police reports, and lied to federal agents, according the court document. (The New York Times has good details on the alleged cover-up. And we at ProPublica have posted the bill of information in our easy-to-read document viewer.)
Lohman's plea is the clearest indicator yet that the federal government-which for more than a year now has been investigating the New Orleans Police Department's actions in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina-is mounting a two-pronged probe: federal prosecutors and the FBI are scrutinizing incidents in which police shot civilians in the chaotic days after the storm, as well as the alleged efforts of other officers to cover-up those shootings.
Defense attorneys familiar with the widening federal probe say the Justice Department is looking at the death of Henry Glover as a possible cover-up, as well. Glover was shot on Sept. 2. 2005-possibly by NOPD officer David Warren-and died, according to three witnesses, at a makeshift police compound in the Algiers section of New Orleans. His charred remains were later discovered in an incinerated car dumped on a Mississippi River levee.
Federal agents began examining Glover's death after ProPublica, in conjunction with The Nation magazine, reported on the case in late 2008.
In recent weeks, the Justice Department has begun looking at three other post-Katrina incidents-the shootings of Danny Brumfield, Matthew McDonald and Keenon McCann, all of whom were shot by NOPD officers in the week after the hurricane made landfall. Brumfield and McDonald died; McCann was injured but survived to file a lawsuit against the police department. He was shot to death by an unknown assailant in 2008 while the suit was pending.
The NOPD, like most police departments, conducts an investigation every time an officer opens fire on a citizen-the goal is to make sure the shooting was proper and justified. As a general rule, officers are allowed to use deadly force only when confronted by a person posing a physical threat, either to the officer or another civilian.
However, a joint effort by reporters with ProPublica, the New Orleans Times-Picayune and PBS "Frontline" found that NOPD investigators did little to determine whether officers acted appropriately when they shot Brumfield, McDonald and McCann. NOPD detectives collected little physical evidence, spoke to few civilian witnesses, and conducted brief interviews-ranging from seven to 12 minutes-with the officers involved in the shootings.
Get The Lobbiest Out - California's new beta ballot experiment Mood:
incredulous Now Playing: A test of a fair election in California, with lobbiest out of the way Topic: BIG MONEY PLAYERS
A report from
February 26, 2010
THIS WEEK IN THE BLOGOSPHERE
A Neat Little Ballot Experiment in California
There's an interesting initiative on the California ballot this June. It's called the California Fair Elections Act, and it's an attempt to get voters to approve public funding of statewide campaigns.
But that's not why it's interesting. Public campaign funding is hardly a fresh idea after all. The basic idea behind Proposition 15 isn't that fresh, either. In a nutshell, it would require all state-registered lobbyists to pay an annual fee of $350, which supporters estimate would raise about $2 million per year. (This is a funding mechanism that, if not interesting, is certainly cheeky: The idea of making lobbyists pay the bill for a system that would undermine the influence of lobbyists is, at the very least, sort of a delicious irony.)
Candidates who want access to this money would first have to raise five dollars from at least 7,500 registered voters. Candidates who do this would receive enough money from the CFEA fund to run a statewide campaign, but only if they agree not to raise money from any other source. This is designed to eliminate the need to raise money from special interests, and it's similar to public funding laws passed in other states, including Arizona.
But that's still not why I find Proposition 15 sort of fascinating. What's new and different about it is that it's basically a beta test. It applies only to one office—secretary of state—and only to the elections in 2014 and 2018. On January 1 of the following year, it automatically disappears for good unless voters decide they like it and want to extend it.
I'm generally not a fan of ballot initiatives. They tend to be badly written, they've long since been captured by wealthy corporate interests, and they routinely expend money that doesn't exist. Proposition 15 falls into none of those traps, but what really makes it appealing to me is that I like the idea of short-term experiments. If Prop 15 fails, not much harm is done. If it works, it will have proven itself in the toughest arena of all: real life. It's a small-bore way of allowing voters to find out if they like the idea before committing themselves to a sweeping and permanent change. We could use more initiatives like this.
Peace - War - ...how about some cooperation for Peace by everyone Mood:
a-ok Now Playing: Can the Right and Left Work Together to Oppose War and Empire? Topic: WAR
Can the Right and Left Work Together to Oppose War and Empire?
By Kevin Zeese
There has to be a better way to stop wars and reduce military spending. Polls show U.S. voters at worst divided on current wars and more often show majority opposition to them. Yet, when Congress “debates” war the widespread view of Americans is muffled, not usually heard.
For the last decade, with President Bush in office the peace movement has been politically left and Democratic leaning. The right wing has been kept off the stage as a result the anti-war movement does not reflect the breadth of American opposition to war. For too long the peace movement has been like a bird with only a left wing. It can barely fly and when it does it seems to go in circles. Perhaps a bird with two wings will fly better?
This past weekend Voters for Peace sponsored a meeting of 40 people from across the political spectrum who oppose war and Empire. The people attending see the U.S. military as too big and too expensive and recognize spending $1 million to keep a soldier in Afghanistan for one year is a symptom of mistaken militarism that weakens U.S. economic and national security.
The purpose of the meeting was to see if we could work together. Could we put aside our differences on other issues and focus on reducing American militarism and in the long run ending reliance on war?
The conversation began with discussions of the history of anti-war advocacy in the United States and what we can learn from it. One point repeatedly made by people on the left and right was that historically there have been conservatives who opposed war and empire. Today those voices are heard in a whisper, if at all. Before the Spanish American War, World War I and World War II, strong opposition to foreign intervention not only came from progressives but also from traditional conservatives rooted in the recommendation of George Washington’s farewell address – ‘avoid foreign entanglements.’ How can we re-awaken that common sense conservatism and forge a broad based anti-war movement?
What would a broad based anti-war movement look like? Some of the conservatives in the room warned against this 21st Century movement looking like the anti-Vietnam war protests of the 60s. Many on the left and right acknowledged that the mass weekend protests against Iraq were large in size but ineffective in result. While there is a role for such protests, they are not sufficient for the task at hand. Some conservatives warned against describing the United States as imperialist – that would get up the hackles of many Americans. But, they were comfortable describing the United States as an Empire.
Personally, I found that of interest. Americans never hear discussed in the media whether or not our country is an Empire. And, if we were to have such a discussion the critical questions would be is Empire good for us, for our national security, for our economy, for our democracy? Having those questions debated would be a breakthrough in political dialogue.
It is hard to deny the American Empire. The U.S. has more than 2,500,000 DoD personnel deployed across the planet and 761 military bases on foreign soil not counting more than 100 in Iraq and more than 400 American and NATO bases in Afghanistan. U.S. troops are now stationed in 148 countries and 11 territories according to DoD’s “Active Duty Military Personnel Strengths by Regional Area and Country.” America has spawned a military network larger than the Roman Empire, which at its height had 37 major military bases, and the British Empire which had 36. More bases are planned; billions spent building bases in far off lands while large swaths of American cities degrade into impoverished zones and the infrastructure of the nation crumbles.
When the Cold War ended, rather than reducing troops in Germany, Japan, Korea, Italy, the Philippines, and so many other nations; ending the NATO alliance which was designed to combat the now non-existent Soviet Union; and shrinking the weapons and war budget, the U.S. decided to seek to become the sole superpower on Earth. U.S. military spending is now as much as the whole world combined. The U.S. Navy exceeds in firepower the next 13 navies combined. When all the budgets are accounted for – the Pentagon, the wars, the 16 intelligence agencies, the super-sized embassies – total Empire spending is more than $1 trillion annually.
And, the Empire has deep roots. General Smedley Butler, the most decorated Marine in history joined the Marines in 1898 and served 34 years in China, Nicaragua, Haiti, Cuba, Mexico and other nations as part of the early American Empire. When Butler retired and thought about his career he described himself as a “racketeer” for U.S. business interests around the world and said “war is a racket.”
But, this massive Empire is not discussed. It is the elephant in the living room of American foreign policy. And, the entrenched military-industrial complex that President Eisenhower warned us about in 1961 is now so powerful that cutting the military budget is off the table in Washington, DC – despite cost over-runs of hundreds of billions in weapons contracts, the GAO consistently describing the Pentagon as un-auditable and budgets filled with waste, fraud and abuse. The war budget grows and grows despite a fragile if not collapsing economy at home.
After a long day of discussion it became evident that people from across the political spectrum, despite differences on other issues, could in fact work together to challenge American militarism. Some in the room who had been working on these issues for forty years thought such a coalition was decades past due. Some of the students in attendance had their eyes opened to the history of traditional conservative anti-war efforts as in their lifetimes it had not been heard from.
In discussing this publicly, so far I have only heard from one person on “the left” who opposes it. He was a co-founder of Progressives for Obama and he lumps everyone on the conservative side into what he calls “racist populism.” Such broad stroke descriptions of people are prima facie evidence of prejudice and certainly not consistent with people I have met from across the spectrum. But, his opposition shows the challenge on “the left” – too many are unwilling to stop their support for the Democrats and Obama.
The challenge on the right is also difficult. The Neocons have taken over almost all significant conservative organizations. How can we attract traditional conservatives to anti-war advocacy? The day after the conference, the surprise land slide victory of the anti-war conservative, Ron Paul, at the CPAC convention gave hope that there were more right wing peaceniks than we may have imagined.
While our task is urgent – something which the 1000th death of a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan and the weekend’s killing of two dozen more civilians in an aerial attack brings home – our job is immense. Undoing a century old Empire that is larger than any that ever existed, is no easy task, but for citizen patriots it is an essential one for the survival of the nation and the benefit of the world.
Rocks, protesting, black block , and police provocateurs Mood:
irritated Now Playing: I'm A Better Anarchist Than You - Email from David Rovics Topic: PROTEST!
I'm A Better Anarchist Than You
Some Thoughts on Vancouver and the Black Bloc
I love a good riot. The distant sound of things breaking, the smoke billowing from whatever is burning, the young men and women busily smashing whatever they can find into fist-sized pieces, launching the objects overthe heads of their fellow rioters (if all goes well) and into the ranks ofthe black-clad police with their Ninja Turtle armor, translucent plastic shields and their array of far more sophisticated weaponry.
I love the scent of tear gas (if I'm just on the outskirts of the cloud), it's exhilarating, the scent of possibility, of the situation's volatility, the thrilling uncertainty. The excitement of seeing the barricades get lit on fire, knowing that no police vehicle, no matter how well-armored, is going to drive through that.
They're going to have to put the fire out first, and until they manage to get some big hoses to the scene (which might require the participation of the fire department, which might not want to participate), this is our block. Maybe the police even retreat a couple times under particularly heavy volleys of rocks and bottles, the crowd surges and cheers, meanwhile the more experienced rioters stay busy gathering wheelbarrows full of morethings to throw at the cops, knowing they'll be back soon.
My neighbor says it's because I'm an Aries, but whatever it is, if I find myself in the midst of such a situation, the memories are all fond ones of the rush and the togetherness of the moment. It's a warm, fuzzy feeling, really.
However, most people in most of the countries with which I'm fairly familiar – the US, Canada, England, Germany, Denmark, Australia, Japan – don't feel that way. For most people I meet riots are scary things and they don't care or notice much whether it was a chain store's windows smashed or a local one, whether only SUV's were torched or hybrids, too, whether any passersby got hurt in the process or not. The major news outlets don't pay much attention to what the underlying reasons for the rioting is – just enough about the situation for people to associate the riot with the cause and the cause with scary people who aren't like them.
I've been home in Portland over the past couple weeks, not in Vancouver for the Olympics and the accompanying protests that tend to materialize when a gigantic corporate event and the international media covering it rolls into (and over) the town.
By European standards the event the media was focusing on sounds like it was a pathetic little riot, a few smashed windows and overturned newspaper boxes, but it managed to attract the lion's share of Canadian and even international media coverage, as usual – it's sensational, but more than that it serves the purposes of corporate media outlets who, for political reasons, want to make most protesters look bad and don't want people going out to rock the boat in the first place.
By my informal count traveling around, I'd say that most people in many countries are afraid to go to protests, even if their sympathies are with those protesting. They're afraid of what they've heard in the media about how things get out of control. They'd rather avoid lines of police in riot gear, and they feel unsafe at the thought that what they believed was going to be a nonviolent event might suddenly get scary when a small group of people decide to start throwing rocks through store windows.
Some of the rock-throwing anarchists (as opposed to the far more numerous non-rock-throwing variety of anarchists) will now ask, who cares? Who cares if lots of people are afraid to come to protests because of us. They're “liberals” anyway (anyone who doesn't support your right to riot is a liberal, in case you didn't know).
But here's the thing: we need a mass movement, and contrary to what certain popular primitivist authors like to say, a few thousand dedicated people are not going to accomplish much of anything, let alone revolutionary change, without the support of a mass movement. That is, whatever tactics you're using to organize resistance groups of any kind, the tactics need to be ones that don't completely alienate the general public (very much including the “liberals”). And the general public tends to be freaked out by groups of people committing acts of violence (or forms of property destruction that seem violent to them).
In recent decades lots of people in lots of places have embraced all kinds of militant and often effective tactics – strikes, bus boycotts, sit-ins, building take-overs, nonviolent civil disobedience of all kinds. Those of any political persuasion who would say that tactics like these are universally ineffective are simply ignorant.
Equally, there have been some pretty darn effective movements that have employed violence around the world over the past few decades and centuries, and you'd have to be an extremely ideological pacifist not to recognize that. But these movements that have employed violent means have used a lot more than rocks.
It takes a pretty desperate situation (say, Cuba in 1959) for movements like that to garner popular support, and there's not a serious guerrilla movement anywhere that wouldn't admit that the fish need the sea in which to swim, or they quickly die.
In the context of most modern, relatively well-off countries, it seems quite evident that rioting – even if it's not much of a riot – only impedes anyone's efforts at building a movement. It is, in fact, a much-used strategy of the police, as we've seen time and time again certainly throughout North America, Europe and elsewhere.
I have no doubt that the first rock thrown is thrown by an undercover cop at least half the time in most situations. I also have no doubt that most of the young people participating in Black Bloc and advocating for “diversity of tactics” (translation: “don't tell me not to throw rocks, you oppressive, ageist liberal carnivore!”) are well-meaning people doing a lot of good work in their communities when they're not throwing rocks through windows. But whether or not they want to believe it, when they start throwing rocks during a march they are doing exactly the same work as the police provocateurs – I mean literally, not figuratively.
Black Bloc: doesn't this make you wonder about what the fuck you're doing?
Local videographer Joe Anybody has filed suit against the police today over being pepper sprayed during March 2008 protests over the U.S.Invasion of Iraq. Anybody, whose real name is Mike Tabor, has a history of being harassed by police, as he videotapes police actions and protests. The bureau even made policy changes following a prior incident.
Tabor's new suit involves the pepper-spraying of people on the sidewalk during a protest in front of the Wells Fargo Tower on March 19, 2008, the 5th anniversary of the U.S. Invasion of Iraq. From his attorney, Aaron Vahola:
Michael Tabor, aka “Joe Anybody”, a freelance videographer, was videotaping the protest from the sidewalk. While there was some confrontation with the police elsewhere in the protest, there was no resistance to the police in his area. Lt. Mike Lee was walking through the crowd, and had his back turned to some protesters without incident.
Lee started pushing protesters without provocation, then directed Officer Aaron Schmautz to pepper-spray the crowd. Tabor was hit by the pepper spray, even though he was on the sidewalk and no threat to the police line.
This spraying was against PPB policy, handed down that same day, prohibiting use of broadcast spraying in most instances. See the attached memo from Chief Sizer, particularly Section 635.10(f)(3). The PPB violated this memo in this instance, broadcast spraying a crowd that was not surging at the police lines, including my client, Mr. Tabor.
Also note: Ronald Frashour, the officer who killed Aaron Campbell, was sued for Tasering a videographer several years ago. This is a pattern and practice of the Portland Police Bureau, and it is my opinion that a lack of accountability and punishment for officers who commit misconduct leads to repeat offenses, liability for the city, and even deaths, such as those of Campbell and Raymond Gwerder, who was killed in a manner shockingly similar to Campbell by an officer (Leo Besner) with a history of unprovoked violence against citizens.
We'll have video of the alleged incident around 5pm today. In the meantime it is against police bureau policy to comment on open lawsuits.
ByBee & his sick Torture Laws "has got to go!" Mood:
lyrical Now Playing: News From the Underground: Jay Bybee must resign! Topic: TORTURE
News From the Underground: Jay Bybee must resign!
2.22.10 at 12:32pm
From: Mark Crispin Miller
(copied from Facebook to post here on the Zebra 3 report)
Date: Mon, 22 Feb 2010 06:56:51 -0500 To: <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: [MCM] Jay Bybee must resign!
Watchdog Group Calls On Lawyers Practicing In The Ninth Circuit Court Of Appeals To Reject Judge Jay Bybee
Newly Released Department of Justice Report Further Discredits the Former Bush Administration Torture Lawyer
Washington, DC: On Friday, Department of Justice Associate Deputy Attorney General David Margolis found that Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Jay Bybee exercised "poor judgment" when preparing legal memos advocating torture of detainees in US custody. Mr. Margolis also released a report from the DOJ's Office of Professional Responsibility, which found that Mr. Bybee engaged in "unprofessional conduct." That 300-page OPR report is a blistering indictment against Mr. Bybee, accusing him of ethical transgressions such as intentionally ignoring established case law--including that from the Supreme Court--that directly contradicted his position.
The Disbar Torture Lawyers campaign, www.disbartorturelawyers.com, consisting of scores of government accountability groups representing over a million members, last year filed a disciplinary complaint against Jay Bybee with the Washington, DC Bar seeking his disbarment. Today, the campaign supplemented that complaint with the DOJ and OPR reports.
The campaign now calls on Jay Bybee to resign. "Judge Bybee can no longer pretend to be fair, impartial, or to exercise good judgment," said attorney and campaign spokesperson Kevin Zeese. "He has been found to possess all the qualities that people do not want in a judge - bias, poor judgment, predetermination, failure to follow established law, and professional misconduct. Add that to his intentional withholding of information from the Senate during his confirmation hearings and it is clear that he cannot effectively serve as a judge, nor even as an attorney. He should resign or be impeached. Until Bybee resigns or is removed from the bench, we call on all lawyers of the Ninth Circuit Court Of Appeals to file motions to disqualify Judge Bybee, should be assigned to their cases, on the basis of these official findings of poor judgment and professional misconduct. No plaintiff or defendant should be subjected to the authority of a judge who has been so thoroughly discredited. We call on every plaintiff and defendant whose case is assigned to Judge Bybee to demand that their lawyer file a motion to disqualify him, and if the lawyer refuses, to take action against the lawyer for failing to protect their interests and the integrity of the judicial process."
Lawyers can find the DOJ and OPR documents as well as dozens of other documents related to Judge Bybee and other torture lawyers on the DisbarTortureLawyers.com site. The campaign has filed disciplinary complaints against 15 Bush Administration lawyers who advocated torture of US detainees.
Hidden spy-like gadgets - Cameras and listening devices Mood:
caffeinated Now Playing: spy cameras and the hidden camera equipment Topic: TECHNOLOGY
The Spies Have It: Sneaky Gadgets You Should Know About
February 18, 2010 5:54 PM (Thursday) Author: andrew
Did you know there are hundreds of spy-like gadgets that can record you at any given moment, without your knowledge? You don’t have to be in a James Bond film to get spied on. Spy gadgets could be hiding in your workplace, your car, or even your front yard.
Although it’s illegal in most places to record someone without their consent, that probably wouldn’t stop some people from using one of these readily available devices to make a video or audio recording of someone without their knowledge, and we thought it was high time someone talked about it.
We looked around and found some spy gadgets that illustrate this point. Some of these are pretty creepy while others are mildly amusing in an off-beat sort of way. In any case, if you weren’t feeling paranoid before, these devices may give you reason to be more suspicious in the future.
You’ll Never Look at a Power Strip the Same Way Again Here's a power strip from DPL Surveillance Equipment that has a hidden compartment for plugging in a SIM card that can turn the power strip into a listening device. It can be called like a phone allowing someone to eavesdrop on a conversation or it can initiate a call when it detects audio. It costs $1,209 to buy or it can be rented for $175 per week. A surge protector version also "taps" land lines plugged into the strip. It also looks like there are many other SIM-based surveillance products that come in all kinds of packages. You can watch a video of it here.
Bird House Cam
If you see a bird house like this in your neighbor’s yard, chances are, you’re being watched. It looks like a bird house but it's really a video camera disguised as a bird house. The camera is activated by heat and motion. It records video to an SD card and costs $699 from Spygadgets.com.
Key FobCam Here's a video camera disguised as a key fob. We suppose it could just as easily be used for making legitimate recreational videos but in this creepy video someone lays down his key fob on a counter and starts recording video of the woman behind the counter. Chinavision.com sells it for $47.
SunglassesCam We think it wouldn’t be too hard to spot these obvious looking, spycam sunglasses but for $120 someone can buy a pair for recording whatever they happen to be looking at.
ID CardCam The next time you see a stranger wandering around your company with a badge hanging from their neck you might want to pull out your hidden camera detector (below) and give their badge a quick scan.
Hidden Camera Detector
Starting to feel a little paranoid? For about $90 you can buy this device from BrickHouseSecurity.com that uses light reflected off a camera lens to detect hidden cameras. It might give you some peace of mind next time you find yourself at some discount motel.
Cell Phone Eavesdropping Conspiracy
We don't know how real this is but we've heard it from enough sources to make it sound credible. The idea is that many cell phones can be manipulated through firmware modifications to transmit whatever the microphone hears when the phone is in use, not in use or even if it's turned off. We've read that big executives routinely remove the batteries from their phones before they go into important meetings. As they say here in the valley, "only the paranoid survive."
Here's a video describing how it works and how you can detect it in your phone.
Video from the U-Spy Store We have to say if this stuff wasn’t so strange it might be funny. Actually, the U-Spy store has some novel and even useful products for hiding your valuables.
There You Have It… Okay, now that you know how easy it can be for someone to record you without your knowledge it’s time to get back to the wholesome side of gadgets and gizmos. We don't think we'll be returning to this topic anytime soon, but you have to admit, it makes you wonder about this stuff and how it’s being used.
PEACE OF THE ACTION LETTER FROM CINDY SHEEHAN TO VFP
Veterans For Peace (the organization and the members) and I go way back--way before Camp Casey in the Summer of 2005.
Exactly five weeks after Casey was killed in Iraq, his dad and I traveled six hours down the coast to attend Arlington West in Santa Barbara after I saw a report on CNN that featured the monument and Veterans for Peace.
The night before I went to Crawford to demand a meeting with George Bush, I spoke at the VFP convention and you all know what happened next--Bush did not meet with me, and we set up Camp Casey. I could not have done that or the rest of my activities since then without the help of you Vets and Veterans for Peace.
Now, my new organization,
Peace of the Action, is setting up and anti-war camp on the lawn of the Washington Monument in DC called, Camp OUT NOW. Camp OUT NOW (named by VFP member, Ward Reilly from Baton Rouge) will be a sustained camp and we will perform daily acts of civil resistance until our demands are heard and met.
I am writing to invite you to all or part of this courageous and audacious action.
I am once again honored by the support of Veterans For Peace and I look forward to being involved in Camp OUT NOW with you all.
In love, peace and solidarity, Cindy Sheehan and the Peace of the Action Team
Making Water - Science Research and Saline Solutions Mood:
incredulous Now Playing: Drinking Water Harvested From Thin Air Topic: TECHNOLOGY Drinking Water Harvested From Thin Air
Not a plant to be seen, the desert ground is too dry. But the air contains water, and research scientists have found a way of obtaining drinking water from air humidity. The system is based completely on renewable energy and is therefore autonomous.
Cracks permeate the dried-out desert ground, the landscape bears testimony to the lack of water. But even here, where there are no lakes, rivers or groundwater, considerable quantities of water are stored in the air. In the Negev desert in Israel, for example, annual average relative air humidity is 64 percent – in every cubic meter of air there are 11.5 milliliters of water.
Research scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology IGB in Stuttgart working in conjunction with their colleagues from the company Logos Innovationen have found a way of converting this air humidity autonomously and decentrally into drinkable water. "The process we have developed is based exclusively on renewable energy sources such as thermal solar collectors and photovoltaic cells, which makes this method completely energy-autonomous. It will therefore function in regions where there is no electrical infrastructure," says Siegfried Egner, head of department at the IGB. The principle of the process is as follows: hygroscopic brine – saline solution which absorbs moisture – runs down a tower-shaped unit and absorbs water from the air. It is then sucked into a tank a few meters off the ground in which a vacuum prevails. Energy from solar collectors heats up the brine, which is diluted by the water it has absorbed.
Because of the vacuum, the boiling point of the liquid is lower than it would be under normal atmospheric pressure. This effect is known from the mountains: as the atmospheric pressure there is lower than in the valley, water boils at temperatures distinctly below 100 degrees Celsius. The evaporated, non-saline water is condensed and runs down through a completely filled tube in a controlled manner. The gravity of this water column continuously produces the vacuum and so a vacuum pump is not needed. The reconcentrated brine runs down the tower surface again to absorb moisture from the air.
"The concept is suitable for various sizes of installation. Single-person units and plants supplying water to entire hotels are conceivable," says Egner. Prototypes have been built for both system components – air moisture absorption and vacuum evaporation – and the research scientists have already tested their interplay on a laboratory scale. In a further step the researchers intend to develop a demonstration facility.
Adapted from materials provided by Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft
Representatives from 16 Latin American countries will join an equal number of representatives from North American SOA Watch grassroots groups.
This South-North SOA Watch Encuentro will connect activists from both sides of the Rio Grande to find ways to work together to close the SOA, while opening new doors of relating to one another with dignity.
This gathering builds upon the efforts of SOA Watch’s Partnership America Latina (PAL), an initiative that seeks to connect the SOA Watch movement in North with those affected by the school in the South. From 2006 to 2009, PAL organized SOA Watch delegations to 16 Latin American countries that were sending troops to the SOA. These visits led to meetings with 8 Latin American presidents, 13 Defense Ministers and with scores of individuals who had suffered at the hands of SOA graduates. It also led to profound connections with grassroots groups working against militarization in their countries.
These visits had significant results. Five countries announced the withdrawal of their troops from the SOA/ WHINSEC, a sixth announced a significant reduction of students, and two other countries expressed openness to withdrawing their troops in the near future. This energized the SOA Watch movement and affirmed the importance of working together - South and North, to close the school.
It also brought the attention of those who run the SOA. Pressure from the U.S. government was put on one country to reconsider their public commitment of withdrawal. Activists from the South saw this as a call to organize rather than lament, stating that while politicians, presidents and promises come and go, a strong grassroots movement is far more difficult to erase.
Bertha Oliva of COFADEH will be part of the Encuentro
Among those who will represent their country at the Encuentro is Bertha Oliva. Bertha is the director of the Committee of the Families of the Disappeared (COFADEH), a human rights organization that she helped to found after her husband was “disappeared” in Honduras by SOA graduates in the 80’s. Thirty years later, Bertha finds herself once again accompanying families who are burying their dead, killed at the hands of SOA graduates who recently orchestrated a coup in her country. The urgency that Latin Americans feel about closing the school will find expression in the participation of representatives such as Bertha.
One of the representatives of grassroots SOA Watch groups in the North is Laura Slattery. After studying war for 4 years at West Point, then working as an Army officer for several years more, Laura decided to devote her life to peace. This commitment to peace led her to leave her military uniform at the gate of the SOA and cross the line, resulting in a six-month sentence in a federal prison. Laura’s presence at the Encuentro, and that of other prisoners of conscience, will be a powerful witness to the level of personal commitment of many to the struggle to close the SOA.
At a recent PAL delegation to Paraguay, a meeting took place with the Defense Minister. Accompanying the group was Dr. Martin Almada, an educator who was tortured and imprisoned for several years at the hands of Paraguayan SOA graduates. His wife died of a heart attack after listening to his screams as he was being tortured. As the meeting began, Dr. Almada quietly told the Defense Minister: “between you and me lies a river of blood.”
As I listened to his words, I realized that a similar river of blood has also separated the Americas for too many years. And, it has been made deeper, wider and bloodier by the existence of the SOA. Perhaps the South-North SOA Watch Encuentro might be one small step towards purifying those waters, and laying a few stones for the foundations for a bridge.
At the same meeting, Dr. Almada added: “It´s not enough to just close the SOA.We must now open another kind of School of the Americas, or better yet, Schools of the Americas. So much money, so much effort, to teach others how to torture. Now, we need to teach one another how to live. I will bring these words and this hope to the Encuentro.”