Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Continue reading the main storyShare This Page
Continue reading the main story
Continue reading the main story
NYT Now
This story is included with an NYT Now subscription.
Learn More »
WASHINGTON — In a major victory for the Obama administration, the Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate the smog from coal plants that drifts across state lines from 27 Midwestern and Appalachian states to the East Coast.
The 6-to-2 ruling bolsters the centerpiece of President Obama’s environmental agenda: a series of new regulations aimed at cutting pollution from coal-fired power plants. Republicans and the coal industry have criticized the regulations, which use the Clean Air Act as their legal authority, as a “war on coal.” The industry has waged an aggressive legal battle to undo the rules.
Legal experts said the decision, written by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, signals that the Obama administration’s efforts to use the Clean Air Act to fight global warming could withstand legal challenges.
In June, the E.P.A. is expected to propose a sweeping new Clean Air Act regulation to cut emissions of carbon dioxide, the heat-trapping greenhouse gas that scientists say is the chief cause of climate change. Coal plants are the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.
“It’s a big win for the E.P.A., and not just because it has to do with this rule,” said Jody Freeman, director of the environmental law program at Harvard. “It’s the fact that it’s setting the stage and creating momentum for what’s to come.”
If the Supreme Court had decided against the Obama administration in Tuesday’s decision, Ms. Freeman said, “It would have been a shot across the bow to the E.P.A. as it takes the next steps” toward putting out the climate change regulations.
The Supreme Court decision is only the latest blow to coal. Also on Tuesday, a Federal District Court ordered the E.P.A. to propose by Dec. 1 a new nationwide regulation to rein in smog pollution from coal-fired power plants and other major polluters. This rule would come on top of the regulation covering cross-state air pollution.
The E.P.A. had been preparing to issue that regulation in 2011, but President Obama told the agency to delay it after his advisers warned that it could hurt his re-election chances in coal-reliant swing states like Ohio.
Two weeks ago, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld another major E.P.A. Clean Air Act rule that would cut coal-plant pollution from mercury.
“Today’s Supreme Court decision is a resounding victory for public health and a key component of E.P.A.’s efforts to make sure all Americans have clean air to breathe,” Gina McCarthy, the E.P.A. administrator, said in a statement. She added that “the court’s finding also underscores the importance of basing the agency’s efforts on strong legal foundations and sound science.”
The interstate air pollution regulation, also known as the “good neighbor” rule, has pitted Rust Belt and Appalachian states like Ohio, Michigan and Kentucky against East Coast states like New York and Connecticut.
In its arguments before the court, the E.P.A. said the rules were necessary to protect the health and the environment of downwind states. East Coast states in particular are vulnerable to pollution blown by the prevailing west-to-east winds of the United States. The soot and smog produced by coal plants are linked to asthma, lung disease and premature death.
In her decision, Justice Ginsburg noted that in reining in interstate pollution, regulators must account for the vagaries of the wind. “Some pollutants stay within upwind states’ borders, the wind carries others to downwind states, and some subset of that group drifts to states without air quality problems,” she wrote, adding a biblical quotation from the Book of John: “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth.”
In a dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia, joined by Justice Clarence Thomas, said the regulation was unwieldy and suggested it was Marxist. As written, the regulation will require upwind polluting states to cut pollution in relation to the amounts of pollution each state produces, but also as a proportion of how affordably a state can make the cuts. In other words, states that are able to more cost-effectively reduce pollution will be required to cut more of it.
“I fully acknowledge that the proportional-reduction approach will demand some complicated computations where one upwind state is linked to multiple downwind states and vice versa,” Justice Scalia wrote.
“I am confident, however, that E.P.A.’s skilled number-crunchers can adhere to the statute’s quantitative (rather than efficiency) mandate by crafting quantitative solutions. Indeed, those calculations can be performed at the desk, whereas the ‘from each according to its ability’ approach requires the unwieldy field examination of many pollution-producing sources with many sorts of equipment,” he said, paraphrasing Karl Marx in “The Communist Manifesto.”
Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. recused himself from the case.
The utilities and 15 states opposed to the regulations argued that the rules, as written by the Obama administration, gave the E.P.A. too much authority and placed an unfair economic burden on the polluting states.
The decision will force coal plant owners to install costly “scrubber” technology to curb smokestack pollution of smog-forming chemicals. Many owners have said the regulation would be so expensive to carry out that they expected to shut down their oldest and dirtiest coal plants.
Republicans in Congress denounced the decision.
“This is just the latest blow to jobs and affordable energy,” Representative Fred Upton, Republican of Michigan and the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Representative Edward Whitfield, Republican of Kentucky, said in a statement. Both are from states that rely heavily on cheap coal-fired electricity.
They added: “The administration’s overreaching regulation will drive up energy costs and threaten jobs and electric reliability. We cannot allow E.P.A.’s aggressive regulatory expansion to go unchecked. We will continue our oversight of the agency and our efforts to protect American families and workers from E.P.A.’s onslaught of costly rules.”

In 2011, the Obama administration issued the “good neighbor” rule, which was to apply to 27 states east of Nebraska — half of the country — but the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia struck it down, ruling that the E.P.A. had not followed the Clean Air Act when it calculated how to assign responsibility for cross-state air pollution. The Supreme Court’s ruling overturned that decision.
Governors from East Coast states have for more than 15 years been subject to tougher air pollution requirements than other parts of the country.
The East Coast governors have long criticized the Appalachian and Rust Belt states for their more lenient rules on pollution from coal plants, factories and tailpipes — allowing those state economies to profit from cheap energy while their smog and soot has been carried eastward by prevailing winds.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Marshall Islands sues nine nuclear powers over failure to disarm

Marshall Islands sues nine nuclear powers over failure to disarm

Pacific nation that was site of 67 nuclear tests between 1946 and 1958 accuses states of 'flagrant denial of human justice'
Mushroom Cloud of Operation Castle-Bravo
Bikini Atoll, Marshall Islands, where a 15-megaton device equivalent to a thousand Hiroshima blasts, detonated in 1954. Photograph: US Air Force - digital version
The Marshall Islands is suing the nine countries with nuclear weaponsat the international court of justice at The Hague, arguing they have violated their legal obligation to disarm.
In the unprecedented legal action, comprising nine separate cases brought before the ICJ on Thursday, the Republic of the Marshall Islands accuses the nuclear weapons states of a "flagrant denial of human justice". It argues it is justified in taking the action because of the harm it suffered as a result of the nuclear arms race.
The Pacific chain of islands, including Bikini Atoll and Enewetak, was the site of 67 nuclear tests from 1946 to 1958, including the "Bravo shot", a 15-megaton device equivalent to a thousand Hiroshima blasts, detonated in 1954. The Marshallese islanders say they have been suffering serious health and environmental effects ever since.
The island republic is suing the five "established" nuclear weapons states recognised in the 1968 nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) – the US, Russia (which inherited the Soviet arsenal), China, France and the UK – as well as the three countries outside the NPT who have declared nuclear arsenals – India, Pakistan and North Korea, and the one undeclared nuclear weapons state, Israel.
The NPT, which came into force in 1970 is essentially a compact between the non-weapon states, who pledged to not to acquire nuclear weapons, and the weapons states, who in return undertook to disarm under article VI of the treaty.
Although the size of the arsenals are sharply down from the height of the cold war, the Marshall Islands' legal case notes there remain more than 17,000 warheads in existence, 16,000 of them owned by Russia and the US – enough to destroy all life on the planet.
"The long delay in fulfilling the obligations enshrined in article VI of the NPT constitutes a flagrant denial of human justice," the court documents say.
The Marshall Islands case draws attention to the fact that the weapons states are currently in the process of modernising their nuclear weapons, which it portrays as a clear violation of the NPT.
The case against Britain, which has an estimated total inventory of 225 warheads and is in the process of replacing its submarine-launched Trident arsenal, states that: "The UK has not pursued in good faith negotiations to cease the nuclear arms race at an early date through comprehensive nuclear disarmament or other measures, and instead is taking actions to improve its nuclear weapons system and to maintain it for the indefinite future."
The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament's general secretary, Kate Hudson, said: "The nuclear-armed states continue to peddle the myth that they are committed to multilateral disarmament initiatives, while squandering billions to modernise their nuclear arsenals. The UK government's plans to replace Trident make a mockery of its professed belief in multilateral frameworks – and now in addition to huge public opposition in the UK, it will also face an international legal challenge to expose its hypocrisy."

Friday, 18 April 2014

Former Salvadoran defense minister faces deportation from U.S. for role in killings, torture

Former Salvadoran defense minister faces deportation from U.S. for role in killings, torture

Linda Cooper  James Hodge  |  National Catholic Reporter  Apr. 17, 2014

A former Salvadoran defense minister faces deportation after a U.S. judge in Miami found that atrocities committed by troops under his command were not fully investigated, much less prosecuted. Those atrocities include the killings of Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero, four U.S. churchwomen, and more than 1,000 peasants at El Mozote, the worst massacre of civilians in contemporary Latin American history.
In a lengthy 66-page ruling that covers several years of the country's bloody history, Immigration Judge Michael C. Horn found Feb. 26 that former Gen. Jose Guillermo Garcia protected death squads and "assisted or otherwise participated in" torture and assassinations during his tenure as defense minister from October 1979 to April 1983.
The decision was released April 11 as the result of a New York Times Freedom of Information Act request.
The judge concluded that as the head of the armed forces and the most powerful person in the country, Garcia took no measures to stop the atrocities that he "knew or should have known" were being committed, given that "dead bodies bearing signs of torture were heaped in piles on the streets of the capital city, along well-traveled highways, in shopping centers, and in parking lots of prestigious hotels. Tortured corpses, some beheaded, some dismembered, were left to decay in the Playon Body Dump, accessible only with the consent of the military."
Garcia, 80, is appealing the decision. He has been living in Miami since 1989 after he claimed he feared for his life and was granted asylum.
DescripciĆ³n: mail-graphic.jpgThe latest news... right to your inbox.Sign up for NCR email alerts.
The ruling is a detailed and scathing indictment of Garcia, but it doesn't convey the extent of the massive involvement of the United States in the training, arming and advising of Garcia's military.
While the ruling does describe Garcia's military training, it fails to mention his graduation from the U.S. Army's School of the Americas (SOA), then based in Panama. The school was moved in 1984 to Fort Benning, Ga., and in 2000, the Pentagon renamed it the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation.
A recipient of the U.S. Legion of Merit Award, Garcia once argued that he was only carrying out an anti-communist campaign with Washington's blessing.
The judge concluded, however, that Garcia allowed the Salvadoran military "to prey upon defenseless civilians under the guise of fighting a war against communist subversives" by creating "an atmosphere of impunity in which members of the armed forces would not be investigated, prosecuted, sanctioned, or discharged for atrocities visited upon civilians."
The magnitude of the killings and the torture by the military, coupled with Garcia's failure to try to stop or seriously investigate them, led the court to conclude that the atrocities formed part of Garcia's "deliberate military policy."
The court ruled that Garcia "assisted or otherwise participated in" 14 assassinations, six specific massacres, and the torture of three specific individuals in addition to the torture and killings of countless civilians by forces under his command.
The court found that during Garcia's tenure as minister of defense, the military was behind 59 massacres, at least 1,800 killings of civilians, 920 disappearances and the torture of 580 people.
Homeland Security Department lawyers initiated the proceedings against Garcia in 2009 under a 2004 law aimed at denying asylum to terrorists. The evidence was based in part on the landmark 1993 U.N. Truth Commission report, U.S. State Department documents and diplomatic cables, and testimony by Robert White, the former U.S. ambassador to El Salvador.
The court notes that Garcia plotted with others to overthrow Gen. Carlos Humberto Romero, another SOA graduate, in October 1979, a coup carried out by a group of young reformist military officers.
But what is not suggested is the view of Cornell University historian Walter LaFeber in Inevitable Revolutions: The Jimmy Carter administration had encouraged the coup in the months after Anastasio Somoza Debayle was toppled in neighboring Nicaragua in July 1979.
The court does note that while Garcia was not a reformist, he gained reformists' backing to become defense minister in part by highlighting his connections to United States officials, but the court never spells out what those connections were.
As defense minister, the court said, Garcia gained "operational control of the armed forces and became, in effect, the power behind the throne."
He not only refused to pursue an investigation of Romero's assassination, but two months later, the court noted, Garcia freed 11 hardliners who had been arrested by troops loyal to a reformist military officer on the junta as they plotted "an elaborate death squad operation aimed at bringing about 'total war.' " One of the seized documents was a notebook containing the payments and plans to assassinate Romero.
Among the conspirators Garcia released were Maj. Domingo Monterrosa, who a year later would command the troops that slaughtered the village of El Mozote, and Maj. Roberto D'Aubuisson, the organizer of the death squad that killed the archbishop and whom Garcia secretly kept on the payroll even though he had been cashiered from the military for his involvement in the 1979 coup.
Garcia's actions, the court found, resulted in "advancing the violent activities of this group of officers and Major D'Aubuisson by sending the message that they would be protected from investigation and prosecution."
"What followed was a period of mass state terror in which torture, murder, and disappearance threatened the entire population," the court concluded. The 11 officers "went on to commit vile acts, including: organization and participation in death squads; torture; the Sheraton Hotel murders; the assassinations of the four American churchwomen; the FDR murders; the El Mozote massacre; and the Las Hojas and Agua Santa massacre and cover-up."
Not mentioned in the ruling was the fact that nine of the 11 freed conspirators were SOA graduates, as were 10 of the 12 officers cited by the Truth Commission for the massacre at El Mozote; the only officer cited for the Rio Sumpul massacre; three of the five officers cited for the murders of the churchwomen; two of the three cited for Romero's killing; and the three officers cited for the Sheraton Hotel murders.
Nor is there any mention that Garcia was getting U.S. military advisers and mixed messages from Washington. Romero had sent President Jimmy Carter a letter asking him to cut off U.S. aid, but the Carter administration rebuffed him and right after his assassination pushed through a $5.7 million military aid package to El Salvador, conveying the clear message to Garcia that not even an archbishop's death would reduce U.S. support.
Similarly, Carter kept the aid flowing after the four churchwomen were killed, shutting it off only for a brief two-week period.
The court did note that White, the former U.S. ambassador to El Salvador, was dismissed by the Ronald Reagan administration after he refused to send a telegram to the State Department "asserting that the Salvadoran military was making a good-faith effort to find and punish the people who killed the four American churchwomen." But it does not mention that Secretary of State Alexander Haig Jr. helped Garcia downplay the churchwomen's murders by suggesting they were armed and ran a road block.
Nor did it mention that, like Garcia, the Reagan administration dismissed reports of the massacre at El Mozote as "not credible" and went on to certify that the Salvadoran junta was making a "concerted and significant effort" to comply with international human rights standards. At the same time, the Reagan administration encouraged the Salvadoran military to adopt Low Intensity Warfare tactics that advocated using almost any means necessary to achieve political ends.
Carlos Vides Casanova -- another Salvadoran defense minister and recipient of the Legion of Merit award who faces deportation for overseeing massive human rights violations, including torture and assassinations -- has argued that his actions were supported and funded by U.S. government officials.
White has said that Vides Casanova's actions are indefensible, but "it would be useful for us to examine our own record because it keeps coming back to haunt us."
Charges against Gen. Jose Guillermo Garcia:
Former Salvadoran defense minister Gen. Jose Guillermo Garcia faces deportation after a Miami court ruling found Garcia protected death squads and "assisted or otherwise participated in" 14 assassinations, six specific massacres, and the torture of three specific individuals in addition to the torture and killings of countless civilians by forces under his command, including:
·                The March 24, 1980, assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero, which Garcia failed to investigate, releasing officers who had been arrested with incriminating documents;
·                The May 14, 1980, Rio Sumpul massacre of approximately 600 civilians in which children and babies were thrown into the air and slashed to death with machetes, which Garcia denied and never investigated;
·                The May 29, 1980, San Francisco Guajoyo Massacre in which 10 members of a cooperative and two agrarian reform workers were shot at close range; Garcia made no effort to identify and punish those responsible;
·                The Nov. 27, 1980, assassinations of six leaders of the Frente Democratico Revolucionario (FDR), an umbrella group for the unarmed civilian opposition, who were abducted from a Jesuit school and mutilated by security forces. The court cites a U.S. government cable stating, "Most military officers were highly pleased with the assassination ... [and] believe that other leaders and members of the FDR should be eliminated in a similar fashion ... [and that Garcia] supported this line of thinking."
·                The Dec. 2, 1980, murders of four U.S. churchwomen, who had been raped and shot at close range. The court concluded that Garcia made no serious effort to conduct an investigation;
·                The Jan. 3, 1981, assassinations of three labor union leaders at the Sheraton Hotel, including two Americans. Garcia, under pressure from the United States, ordered two investigations that resulted in no action, even though the gunmen stated they were following orders of National Guard commanders.
·                The April 7, 1981, Soyapango Massacre in which at least 24 civilians were killed by Treasury Police, who were under the command of Francisco Moran, a Garcia appointee. Under mounting U.S. pressure, the Salvadoran government acknowledged the role of the security forces, but Garcia refused to remove Moran.
·                The Dec. 10, 1981, El Mozote massacre in which the Atlacatl Battalion systematically executed 1,000 villagers, including more than 250 children under the age of 12. Garcia denied the massacre, telling the U.S. ambassador it was a fairy tale and a pack of Marxist lies, and he refused to order an investigation.
·                The Aug. 22, 1982, El Calabozo massacre in which the Atlacatl Battalion machine-gunned more than 200 men, women and children and threw acid on some of the bodies to dissolve them, making an exact death toll impossible to confirm. The court found that Garcia did not investigate this massacre, denying it ever occurred.
·                The Feb. 23, 1983, Las Hojas and Agana Santa Massacre in which 16 civilians from a cooperative were shot at close range, their arms tied behind their backs. Under pressure from the United States, Garcia appointed a colonel to conduct an inquiry that the court found to be a cover-up.
In sum, the court found that during Garcia's tenure as minister of defense from October 1979 to April 1983, the military was behind 59 massacres, at least 1,800 killings of civilians, 920 disappearances, and the torture of 580 people.
[Linda Cooper and James Hodge are the authors of Disturbing the Peace: The Story of Father Roy Bourgeois and the Movement to Close the School of Americas.]