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Argentina fell in default on Wednesday following the collapse of negotiations between the country and “vulture funds” that are demanding full payment for the $1.3 billion in debt the funds bought up at bargain rates.

“We’re not going to sign an agreement that jeopardizes the future of all Argentines,” Argentina’s Economy Minister Axel Kicillof declared following the meeting in New York City. “Argentines can remain calm because tomorrow will just be another day and the world will keep on spinning.”

McClatchy reported that U.S. District Judge Thomas Griesa, the judge in the case,

“Unfortunately, no agreement was reached and the Republic of Argentina will imminently be in default,” court-appointed mediator Daniel Pollack said Wednesday.

President Cristina Kirchner’s cabinet chief, Jorge Capitanich, told press in Buenos Aires, “If there’s a judge who’s an agent of these speculative funds, if the mediator is their agent, what is this justice you’re talking about? There’s a responsibility of the state here, of the United States, to create the conditions for the unconditional respect of other countries’ sovereignty.”

The so-called “holdout creditors” are hedge funds NML Capital and Aurelius Capital Management. NML Capital is a subsidiary of Elliot Management run by billionaire Paul Singer, who has a history of vulture fund activity. Aurelius was founded by Mark Brodsky, who previously worked for Elliot Management.

The two hedge funds began buying Argentine debt in 2001, the year the nation was previously declared in default.

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Economist Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), writes that NML and Aurelius paid “a small fraction of [the debt’s] face value. Their intention was to use their political connections to get a favorable ruling from the courts, with the hope of being able to extract something close to the face value of the defaulted bonds from Argentina’s government. This is exactly what ‘vulture funds’ do.”

The Wall Street Journal reported in June that the two are noteworthy in the “world of distressed-debt investing because they are willing to take countries to court that fall behind on bond payments. The fact that so few investors are willing to take those risks allows Elliott and Aurelius to buy defaulted sovereign bonds at deep discounts.”

Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of the religious debt relief group, Jubilee USA Network, called the default outcome “unfortunate,” and said, “Because of the precedent this case sets there are a lot of losers and few winners. Legitimate investors and poor people lose the most.”

“These predatory actors are only able to operate because our financial system is too much like the wild west,” LeCompte added.

CEPR’s Baker joined over 100 economists including Nobel laureate Robert Solow in sending a letter to Congress on Thursday warning that Judge Griesa’s recent ruling forcing Argentina to pay the vulture funds, who are “seeking exorbitant profits in excess of 1,000 percent,” at the same time as its other creditors risked “unnecessary economic damage.”

“While individuals and corporations are granted the protection of bankruptcy law, no such mechanism exists for sovereign governments. As such, the court’s ruling would severely hamper the ability of creditors and debtors to conclude an orderly restructuring should a sovereign debt crisis occur. This could have a significant negative impact on the functioning of international financial markets, as the International Monetary Fund has repeatedly warned,” the letter states.

The letter urges the members of Congress to “seek legislative solutions to mitigate the harmful impact of the court’s ruling.”

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Police in Ferguson, Missouri on Wednesday arrested reporters and activists, launched tear gas at protesters, and used armored tanks and helicopters to force media out as residents continued to demand answers about the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old who was shot to death by an officer last weekend.

St. Louis alderman Antonio French, who had helped organize demonstrations and provide live updates on Twitter, was arrested for “unlawful assembly” after police forced him out of his car and told him he “didn’t listen,” according to French’s wife, Jasenka Benac French.

Two reporters, Wesley Lowery of the Washington Post and Ryan J. Reilly of Huffington Post, were also taken into custody in a foreboding encounter recorded on Lowery’s cell phone. An officer can be seen demanding that Lowery stop filming and refusing to answer questions. In a blog post about his experience, Lowery writes:

Photos and videos from Wednesday night show chaotic scenes as protesters run from police firing rubber bullets through thick clouds of smoke from tear gas canisters. Police also fired tear gas directly at an Al Jazeera camera crew, who had set up equipment to film the protests; after they ran to escape the fumes, officers broke down their cameras.

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Missouri Governor Jay Nixon made his first comment on the events on Thursday morning after five days of demonstrations and police brutality. “The worsening situation in Ferguson is deeply troubling, and does not represent who we are as Missourians or as Americans,” Nixon said in a press release. “While we all respect the solemn responsibility of our law enforcement officers to protect the public, we must also safeguard the rights of Missourians to peaceably assemble and the rights of the press to report on matters of public concern.”

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri) also said she plans to speak with Attorney General Eric Holder on Thursday. The FBI joined the investigation into Brown’s death earlier this week to determine whether there had been civil rights violations.

Brown was killed over the weekend when a police officer shot him multiple times. Brown was unarmed.

Tensions between police and residents were high throughout the weekend, particularly as officers responded to peaceful demonstrations by dressing in riot gear and holding rifles and attack dogs. But the protests reached a turning point when the department suddenly refused to release the identity of the officer who fatally shot Brown, despite police chief Tom Jackson’s promise to announce the name on Tuesday. Jackson claimed the officer’s safety was at risk.

The ACLU of Missouri sent a letter (PDF) to Jackson on Wednesday warning him that his officers violating the First Amendment by preventing media access to the city and demanding that residents “limit themselves to assembling during daylight hours and protest in a ‘respectful manner.'”

“Government agencies do not get to demand respect from protesters,” the letter read. “Respect is something that government officials earn from citizens, and citizens are entitled to express their lack of respect by protest on public streets and sidewalks.”

Residents were also angered and demoralized by the militarization of the police response, as officers crack down on demonstrations with tanks, helicopters, and rifles, setting a scene that resembles a war zone more than a town in the U.S. Lowery told NPR that many Ferguson officers “are in riot gear, SWAT gear, carrying very heavy weapons… not standard-issue stuff. This is the type of stuff that you see National Guards employ, not what you expect to see from a police officer in suburban St. Louis.”

On Twitter, Gaza residents sent messages to Ferguson protesters with instructions on how to escape and recover from tear gas.

Howard University students also shared a powerful image of their solidarity, as thousands of students gathered into a single photo with their empty arms raised in the air.

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An EU-U.S. trade deal currently being negotiated behind closed doors puts corporate profits and trade interests above fair and safe food for consumers, a trio of groups charged Wednesday.

Friends of the Earth Europe, Minnesota-based Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), and UK-based Compassion in World Farming outline their concerns in a letter (pdf) sent to EU Trade Commissioner De Gucht because, they write, “the European Commission has failed fully to appreciate European and US civil society concerns.”

The letter begins:

Sparking their warning was a draft (pdf) of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) chapter on Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) issues, which covers food safety measures and animal welfare in the trade deal, leaked last month by IATP.

In his analysis of that leaked text, IATP’s Dr. Steve Suppan wrote that though the chapter “doesn’t tell us everything about where negotiations are headed on food safety, […] it tells us enough to raise serious concerns.”

Among these concerns is that if the TTIP is implemented, the import re-inspection at port of entry would no longer happen because the U.S and EU food safety systems would be recognized as “equivalent,” which, for example, could inadvertently allow genetically modified agricultural products into the EU food supply. From the letter:

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The groups stress that the emphasis on “least trade restrictive” measures stated in the draft “will continue to put agribusinesses in the driving seat.” They continue:

The letter concludes by urging more transparency in what have so far been secretive trade negotiations that appear to be working for corporations rather than public interest.

“European concerns that the free trade agreement with the USA would undermine public safeguards were scoffed at by the Commissioner in charge of the negotiations. Now leaked documents show that the public has every right to be concerned,” said Adrian Bebb, food, agriculture and biodiversity campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe, in a statement issued Thursday. “Behind closed doors, negotiators appear to be dismantling Europe’s food safety net in order to allow big business to make more profits.”

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Ignoring the concerns of scientists, doctors, food safety advocates, environmentalists, and more than half a million U.S. citizens, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Wednesday issued their final approval for what has been dubbed Dow AgroSciences’ ‘Agent Orange’ herbicide.

In a press statement, the agrochemical giant said that their Enlist Duo herbicide is now registered for use on Dow Enlist-brand genetically engineered corn and soy crops, which the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) approved less than a month ago.

The herbicide is made from a combination of glyphosate, the main ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, and 2,4-D, a component of the toxic Agent Orange herbicide used during the Vietnam War, which has been linked to numerous health issues including increased risks of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Parkinson’s and immune system problems.

Groups say that decision will only embolden campaigns to “promote organic, regenerative agriculture over an industrial model that is destroying our health, and polluting our environment.”

Organic advocates and environmental groups were quick to condemn the move, saying that the use of Enlist Duo will threaten the health of humans and environment, promote the expanded use of genetically modified seeds (or GMOs) and spur the growth of more herbicide-resistant weeds.

By the USDA’s own estimate, approval of the herbicide and crop system will increase the annual use of 2,4-D from 26 million pounds to 176 million pounds.

“The EPA’s approval of this highly toxic herbicide flies in the face of scientific evidence that not only are these chemicals toxic to humans and the environment, but that the escalation of their use will only lead to the evolution of a whole new crop of herbicide-resistant superweeds,” said Ronnie Cummins, international director of the Organic Consumers Association.

Scientists and food safety experts have long warned that such herbicides will only worsen the problem of “superweeds” while at the same time creating a more toxic and less sustainable agriculture system. As the agrochemical giant itself noted, “tens of millions of acres of American farmland are infested with glyphosate-resistant weeds, and the problem has grown worse every year.” Weed infestation doubled between 2009 and 2013, it says.

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“The EPA has failed in its mission to protect the environment, just as the biotech industry’s toxic, chemical-intensive industrial agriculture has failed to deliver on its promises of higher yields and higher profits for farmers, and fewer poisons for the environment,” Cummins continued.

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Further, conservation watchdog groups charge that the EPA is “ignoring its legal duty” to protect key animal species in their expeditious approval of “two known dangerous pesticides.”

“Once again the EPA has turned a blind eye to endangered species, clean water and human health in its apparently endless desire to placate multinational pesticide companies.”
—Brett Hartl, Center for Biological Diversity

“This was an unbelievably foolish decision — Enlist Duo will harm dozens of endangered species, and is another nail in the coffin for the monarch butterfly,” said Brett Hartl, endangered species policy director at the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD). “Once again the EPA has turned a blind eye to endangered species, clean water and human health in its apparently endless desire to placate multinational pesticide companies.”

Violating the Endangered Species Act, the EPA failed to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on the negative impacts to such species before issuing their approval, Hartl added. CBD estimates that the approval now puts over 20 endangered species in harm’s way.

Over half a million people submitted public comment this summer urging the EPA not to green light the pesticide mix. In the past two weeks alone an additional quarter of a million people signed a White House petition calling on President Obama to block the approval.

Condemning the federal office for “turn[ing] its back on those it purports to protect —the American people and our environment,” the Center for Food Safety is vowing to take legal action “to stop the commercialization of these dangerous crops.”

Meanwhile, Organic Consumers Association and other groups say this will only embolden their state-by-state campaigns to pass mandatory GMO-labeling laws and other agriculture policies “that promote organic, regenerative agriculture over an industrial model that is destroying our health, polluting our environment, and has been identified as one of the leading causes of global warming.”

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In the largest of such efforts by a single university’s faculty to date, 245 Boston University professors and instructors on Tuesday called on the President and Board of Trustees to divest its endowment from oil, gas, and coal companies. 

“Because it is unlikely that fossil fuel interests (the major source of this crisis) will stop of their own accord their unrelenting drive to burn these fuels at current rates, we must find strategies to induce them to stop,” the letter reads. “We have a moral obligation to align our financial interests with the future of our planet. It is wrong to use our endowment to commission the destruction of a hospitable climate for our students, our children and—as is increasingly evident—ourselves. The wake up call has sounded. It is time to act!”

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Faculty representatives, along with a member of the DivestBU student group with which the faculty has formed a coalition, brought their petition to the office of university President Robert Brown on Tuesday afternoon. Brown accepted the letter personally and spoke with the group for about half an hour.

“We are very pleased to hear that President Brown shares with the faculty a deep concern over the threat of climate change,” biology professor Ed Loechler said in a statement. “He also concurs that climate change will be the most important investment issue for the university in the next few years and will thus encourage the institution to engage in open dialogue on this matter.”

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Brown said he would forward the petition to the trustees when they meet in two weeks and to the University’s Advisory Committee on Socially Responsible Investing, which was created last year. According to BU Today, the university’s news site, the board has divested due to social pressures “at least twice before: in 1979, when it pulled BU’s money from companies with ties to South Africa to protest apartheid, and in 2006, when it divested from companies directly tied to or supporting businesses in Sudan, to protest that government’s genocide in Darfur.”

BU Today reports that Brown, “who is a chemical engineer, confessed to being personally ambivalent about whether divestment was the best strategy for ‘a very complicated issue.'” He has claimed the best way to combat climate change is to reduce consumption of fossil fuels; to that end, the university has adopted a plan to cut its emissions by focusing on conservation, retrofitting older buildings, and switching from oil to natural gas for energy needs. 

The group says its action builds on the momentum of previous higher education divestment calls, most recently from last April when 93 members of Harvard University’s faculty urged the university to divest from fossil fuels.  According to the website gofossilfree.org, more than a dozen colleges and universities have already pledged to divest from fossil fuels. There are active divestment campaigns on many more campuses across the country.

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Obama Creates World's Largest Marine Reserve

October 13, 2020 | News | No Comments

President Barack Obama announced on Thursday the creation of the world’s largest marine reserve.

The action expands the biodiversity-rich Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, which covers seven atolls and islands, from roughly 87,000 square miles to 490,000 square miles.

That expansion falls short of what Obama proposed in June, which would have created a 782,000 square mile-reserve.

The action bans commercial fishing and “any appropriation, injury, destruction, or removal of any object” from the reserve. The Marine Conservation Institute outlines some of what will be protected:

  • 130 seamounts: undersea mountains which can provide essential rest-stops for tunas and sea turtles migrating across thousands of miles of Pacific Ocean.
  • Several million seabirds representing 19 species, many of which find the fish and squid they eat in the now-expanded marine monument waters.
  • Habitat for whales and dolphins, including the newly discovered Palmyra beaked whale.
  • Nearly-pristine coral reef ecosystems.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services states that the areas within the Monument “represent one of the last frontiers and havens for wildlife in the world, and comprise the most widespread collection of coral reef, seabird, and shorebird protected areas on the planet.”

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The Marine Conservation Institute joined a number of ocean conservation groups cheering the expansion.

“This unprecedented protection is an important step to rebuilding fishery abundance in the Pacific Ocean, which will in turn help to feed the world’s growing population,” stated Jacqueline Savitz, vice president for U.S. oceans at Oceana.

Emily Woglom, vice president for Conservation and Policy at Ocean Conservancy, said that “we all win by the Obama Administration creating the world’s largest marine monument, because protecting our ocean now is the investment that will pay dividends for generations to come. Science shows that protected areas in the ocean help rebuild fish populations, which is good for fishermen, and provide habitat for many unique ocean animals, including whales, sharks, tuna and corals.”

While the marine reserve is receiving accolades, the administration’s decision to allow exploration activities for oil and gas, including the use of seismic cannons, off the East Coast has been denounced as a potential “death sentence” for marine mammals.

“I just can’t understand how anybody would propose something that’s going to be just a rape of the East Coast, endangering whales and dolphins and turtles and fish,” McClatchy quotes Nags Head Mayor Bob Edwards as saying.

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The fiery derailment of a train carrying petroleum products and other hazardous chemicals in Saskatchewan on Tuesday puts yet another “spotlight” on the dangers posed to people and planet by transporting oil and other hazardous materials, environmental groups charged on Wednesday.

Residents described the scene as a “flash of light,” after 26 of the train’s 100 cars went off the rails. According to a CN Rail representative, six of those cars carried hazardous materials: two laden with petroleum distillates, while the other four either held hydrochloric acid or caustic soda.

The accident occurred at roughly 10:40 AM CST. Nearby residents, including all those living in the town of Clair, Saskatchewan, were evacuated until Wednesday morning while school children were kept indoors because of concern over the hazardous smoke, which continued to billow from the site hours after the crash.

Tim Tschetter, who farms near the wreckage, described seeing the crash while driving nearby. “We seen a flash of light,” he told CBC. “It didn’t really make sense until we seen the smoke. Then we realized it was a fire or an explosion.”

No one has been reported injured. On Wednesday, investigators with Canada’s Transportation Safety Board arrived on the scene to determine a cause for the crash.

“The municipalities themselves, the communities have no power, no control, and in this case no information even over what’s being run through the rail lines.”
—Adam Scott, Environment Defence

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Environmental advocacy groups were quick to note that the crash serves to highlight the dangers of poor rail safety and the overall risks in transporting such hazardous materials—even as the oil and rail industries push to further degrade those standards.

“The freight rail lines actually go right through the center of almost every major urban center in the entire country, including small towns, communities across the country, so the risk of accidents is significant,” said Adam Scott of Environment Defence. Scott said that in Canada, rail companies, like CN Rail, are not required to publicly disclose the types of hazardous materials being transported on trains. 

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“It’s unacceptable,” Scott continued. “The municipalities themselves, the communities have no power, no control, and in this case no information even over what’s being run through the rail lines.”

The crash occurred days after it was made public that two train industry groups had petitioned the U.S. government to drop the already-weak requirement to notify local emergency responders about the transport of hazardous materials through communities. The U.S. Department of Transportation, for the time being, chose to uphold their May 7 emergency order requiring such notification.

Mollie Matteson, senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity, said that this accident is but “another reminder” of the risks posed to people and wildlife by “rail shipment of flammable products, such as crude oil.”

“We know trains will continue to derail and we know we still stand unprotected from these types of dangerous accidents in the U.S.,” Matteson said. In July, the U.S. DOT proposed new rail safety regulations—which environmental groups decried for being too “weak”—calling for a two-to-five-year phase-out of older tank cars, including the widely used, puncture prone DOT-111 cars. Last week, top oil and railroad lobbyists pressed for those regulations to be even further loosened.

CBD notes that it wasn’t until the Lac-Mégantic disaster in July 2013, which killed 47 people, that any real government attention had been paid to the hazards of shipping dangerous goods by rail.  On Wednesday, the coroner reports for the 47 victims were finally released. In the reports, Quebec coroner Martin Clavet slammed the poor regulations of the rail industry, saying the deaths were “violent” and “avoidable.”

These cautions come as politicians and energy industry groups continue to hold a public and, as many say, “false debate” over the merits of pipeline versus rail transport of fossil fuels. However, environmental groups and a growing sector of society say that both pose a grave threat to our planet and ought to be discarded in favor of more renewable energy options.

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Despite strong support in the U.S. for abortion rights, lawmakers over the past three years have dramatically cut access to reproductive health care, state by state. This Tuesday, ballot measures in Colorado, North Dakota, and Tennessee escalate this state-level chipping-away strategy by proposing “personhood” provisions and constitutional amendments that, if passed, would open the door to even more extreme abortion bans and health cuts for millions of people.

Some of these initiatives have a shot at passing.

Voters in North Dakota and Colorado face proposed constitutional amendments that would grant full “personhood” rights to a zygote at the moment of fertilization. Not only would this eliminate abortion rights in the state—including in cases of rape, incest, and health risks—but it would also ban certain forms of widely-used birth control and fertility treatments. The vaguely worded amendments, reproductive health advocates say, could result in far-reaching health care consequences, including limitations to pregnancy care and even investigations of miscarriages.

National anti-choice organizations, including Personhood USA, are pressing for the measures in both states, where they are up against diverse coalitions of community organizations, health care workers and advocates, and civil rights and faith leaders.

The Measure 1 “personhood” proposal in North Dakota, where sweeping abortion restrictions were instated last year, could pass. A recent poll conducted by the University of North Dakota College of Business and Public Administration found that 49.9 percent of voters are in favor, 33 percent are opposed, and 17.1 percent are undecided. Opponents say the measure is worded to confuse voters, because it doesn’t specifically mention abortion or reproductive rights. For this reason, analysts warn, it is slipping by largely unnoticed, despite its potentially severe repercussions.

In Colorado, voters have rejected two previous attempts to pass similar personhood provisions. But this time, proponents of Amendment 67 have sought to frame the proposal as a “protection” for pregnant woman, because it would allow for fetal homicide charges. The No on 67 coalition charges that the “misleading language of this far-reaching measure would actually harm pregnant women, and impede them from being able to seek medical treatment. It would also criminalize doctors and other medical professionals who treat pregnant women.” The latest poll, conducted by Suffolk University Political Research Center, finds that the measure is likely to fail, with 55.4 percent of Colorado voters opposing, 30.8 percent in favor, and 13.4 percent undecided.

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“For the Latina community, we have already unequal access to health care. More barriers create more imbalance and inequality for Latinos and African Americans in Colorado,” Corrine Rivera-Fowler of the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR) told Common Dreams. COLOR members, along with the No on 67 coalition, are canvassing, phone-banking, and conducting media interviews to mobilize against the proposed measure. “It’s a tremendous loss of resources to our community to have to again defeat something that has been defeated twice before,” said Rivera-Fowler.

Pro-choice campaigners in Tennessee also face a fight to defend abortion rights.

The state’s proposed Constitutional Amendment 1, if passed, would amend the state’s constitution to say, “Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion.” For more than ten years, Tennessee Republicans have sought to enact the measure, following the Tennessee Supreme Court’s ruling in the year 2000 to strike down a state anti-abortion measure. “If Amendment 1 passes, anti-abortion politicians are poised to pass the same draconian laws and regulations that have forced facilities providing abortion to close in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Virginia,” warns Planned Parenthood.

The latest poll from Middle Tennessee State University finds that the outcome is “too close to call,” with 39 percent of voters in favor of the measure, 32 percent opposed, and a whopping 29 percent undecided. “We stand today because pending legislation has the potential to send women back to the back alleys where we died from unsafe and unsanitary abortions,” Cherisse Scott, founder and CEO of SisterReach, declared at a Thursday press conference in Memphis. “We assemble today to impress upon Black women and women of color, many of whom are heads of households, to get out and vote.”

Elizabeth Nash, senior state issues associate for the Guttmacher Institute, told Common Dreams that, while this is not the first time similar ballot initiatives have been introduced at the state level, it is unusual to see three measures in one election. “Over the past three years, what we have seen is incredibly voluminous,” said Nash. “There were about  230 abortion restrictions enacted between 2012 and 2014. These three initiatives are continuing this trend. If there was some success, if one of these measures was approved, it could spark additional interest in other states.”

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Violence against children is a global epidemic in which a young person is killed by violent conflict every five minutes, according to a new study released Tuesday by U.K. branch of UNICEF.

The global assessment—titled “Children in Danger: Act to End Violence Against Children”—reveals that an estimated 345 children under the age of twenty-years-old die nearly every day across the world. According to the report, the vast majority of these young victims are killed outside war zones, indicating that physical, sexual and emotional abuse is widespread with millions of children unsafe in their homes, schools and communities.

“This epidemic of violence against children feeds off silence. It grows when we soundlessly accept that this is just the way things are. Every five minutes, somewhere across the globe, a family loses a son or daughter to violence. This is intolerable – it must stop.” —Baroness Doreen Lawrence, justice campaigner

“We live in a world where some children are too scared to walk out of their own front doors or play on their streets,” said David Bull, executive director of UNICEF UK. “We want children living in fear to have a chance of feeling safe and secure.”

Among its findings, the report reveals that:

  • children who are victims of violence have brain activity similar to soldiers exposed to combat 
  • a third of children who are victims of violence are likely to develop long-lasting symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. 
  • those living in poverty are more likely to be victims of violence, wherever they live in the world. 
  • over 75 percent of child deaths due to violence each day are the result of interpersonal violence, rather than conflict 
  • a girl or boy aged between 0-19 dies as a result of violence every five minutes

The release of the study coincides with the launch of a new global effort by UNICEF, called the campaign, designed to curb the assault on young people by placing formalizing protocols that all nations can adopt. According to the group, only 41 countries have implemented an explicit legal ban on violence against children, while only two percent of countries have a comprehensive legal framework to prevent violence. 

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Lizze Cook, a UNICEF campaigner, says millions of children are threatened each day by violence, disease, hunger, and the chaos of war and disaster. However, she argues, a concerted global effort could help end such suffering by making a commitment to end violence against children and ensuring every child’s right to “grow up in a world without fear.”

Though the group highlights that a majority of the overall violence experienced by children happens outside of what would be considered official war zones, the role of war and military-scale violence can have a potent impact on those populations exposed to it.

Earlier this year, Israel’s sustained attack on the civilian population of the Gaza Strip was condemned globally for the shocking number of children killed in weeks of airstrikes and bombing raids on the civilian population. According to Defense of Children International in Palestine, more than 500 children were killed and thousands more were wounded during the attack.

“Children were killed in their homes as they slept, with their parents as they fled for safety, and in UN shelters where they were told they would be safe,” declared DCIP in a recent statement. The group is now running demanding justice for those children killed, maimed, and terrified by the violence. 

As Baroness Doreen Lawrence, a long term campaigner for justice in the UK, said in her forward to the UNICEF report, “This epidemic of violence against children feeds off silence. It grows when we soundlessly accept that this is just the way things are. Every five minutes, somewhere across the globe, a family loses a son or daughter to violence. This is intolerable – it must stop.”  

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A plume of radiation from the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan has voyaged through the Pacific Ocean and reached the west coast of North America, scientists confirmed in a new article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal.

The radiation, which is expected to peak at the end of 2015, will remain well below levels deemed safe for drinking and “does not represent a threat to human health or the environment,” say the researchers.

Lead author John N. Smith, research scientist at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, and several colleagues conducted what they say is the “first systematic study to our knowledge of the transport of the Fukushima marine radioactivity signal to the eastern North Pacific.”

The researchers collected data between 2011 and 2013 from 26 sites, looking for radioactive substances Cesium-134 and Cesium-137 from the Fukushima meltdown, which was touched off by Japan’s March 2011 earthquake and tsunami and is believed to be the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.

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By June 2012, radiation from Fukushima had arrived 1,500 kilometers west of British Columbia, Canada, and by June 2013, had spread to the Canadian continental shelf, say the scientists. By February 2014, radiation levels had increased, and scientists expect them to peak at 3 to 5 Becquerels per cubic meter of water, before declining.

Even at peak levels, however, this radiation is nowhere near Canada’s drinking water standard for Cesium-137, which stands at 10,000 Becquerels per cubic meter.

Radiation levels near the wrecked Fukushima plant, however, reached much higher levels immediately following the incident, at 50 million Becquerels per cubic meter, a very dangerous level, according to senior scientist Ken Buesseler of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Months after the crisis, radiation near Fukushima had fallen to the lower thousands, Buesseler told the Washington Post—a level still considered dangerous for food consumption.

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