Ecuadoran Amazon Poisoned for 50 Years; Chevron Refuses to Pay Judgment Despite Having Lobbied for Ecuadoran Legal Venue that Awarded It

Chevron Arbitration Ruling Against Ecuador ‘Completely Off Base’

By Yves SmithSeptember 18, 2018

Yves here. Due to having limited resources, we don’t spend as much time on smaller economies as I wish we could. This Real News Network story on Ecuador’s loss against Chevron seemed important in and of itself, and is also a compact illustration of how much the international order is skewed to favor multinationals.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: This is Dimitri Lascaris, reporting for The Real News from Montreal, Canada.

As the Real News has previously reported, in 2011, the courts of Ecuador rendered a nine point five-billion-dollar judgment against Chevron, one of the world’s largest fossil fuel companies. The Ecuadorian plaintiffs persuaded the Ecuadorian courts that from 1964 to 1992, Texaco, which was later purchased by Chevron, dumped polluted wastewater into open pits across vast swaths of Lago Agrio in the Ecuadorian jungle, contaminating the water used by locals. Locals call the area the Amazon Chernobyl.

Indigenous tribes have seen their cultures decimated by the pollution. Ecuador’s environmental judgment against Chevron is thought to be the highest ever to emerge from a court, but Chevron is doing everything it can possibly do to block collection. After Chevron sold off its assets in Ecuador during the trial there, the Ecuadorian plaintiffs sought to enforce the judgment and jurisdictions in which Chevron owns, directly or indirectly, substantial assets. Chevron has threatened the villagers with a “lifetime of litigation” and has vowed never to pay the judgment. So far, it has been true to its word. The plaintiffs’ attempts to enforce the judgement in The United States failed.

Early this year, the Ontario Court of Appeal rejected the plaintiffs’ attempt to enforce their massive judgment in Canada, another country in which Chevron indirectly owns substantial assets. Then, on September 7, an international tribunal found that Ecuador violated a treaty with the United States by allowing its court system to issue a nine point five-billion-dollar judgment against Chevron in this case. Now here to discuss this with us is Steven Donziger, a human rights attorney based in New York who has been representing these indigenous and farmer communities in Ecuador’s rainforest for more than two decades. He joins us today from New York.

Thank you for coming back on The Real News, Steven.

STEVEN DONZIGER: Sure, it’s good to be here.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: So, Stephen, echoing earlier U.S. court rulings, this international tribunal, which rendered a five-hundred-page decision in this case on September 7, said the Ecuadorian case was tainted by fraud and corruption and that the nine point five-billion-dollar judgment cannot therefore be enforced lawfully. The tribunal detailed conduct by a judge they called “grossly improper by any moral, professional and legal standards.” How do you respond to those statements by the tribunal?

STEVEN DONZIGER:They’re just, in my opinion, completely off base. If there’s improper court proceedings it was done by the tribunal itself. I think we need to take a step back and understand the big picture here. The communities in Ecuador won the case in their home country courts because Chevron insisted the trial take place there and accepted jurisdiction there and promised to pay any adverse judgment. As the evidence in that case mounted against the company- and I’m talking about tens of thousands of chemical sampling results from water and soil samples that showed massive amounts of pollution that were and continue to cause a slow genocide in Ecuador to the indigenous groups.

Thousands of people have been affected. Many have

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Turtles Have 22% Chance of Death from Eating One Piece of Plastic; Balloon Litter also a Problem — Don’t Let Your Child Participate in Balloon Releases

How much plastic does it take to kill a turtle? Typically just 14 pieces.

We know there is a lot of plastic in the ocean, and that turtles (and other endangered species) are eating it. It is not uncommon to find stranded dead turtles with guts full of plastic.

But we weren’t really sure whether plastic eaten by turtles actually kills them, or if they just happen to have plastic inside them when they die. Another way to look at it would be to ask: how much is too much plastic for turtles?Continue

This is a really important question. Just because there’s a lot of plastic in the ocean, we can’t necessarily presume that animals are dying from eating it. Even if a few animals do, that doesn’t mean that every animal that eats plastic is going to die. If we can estimate how much plastic it takes to kill a turtle, we can start to answer the question of exactly how turtle populations are affected by eating plastic debris.


Read more: Eight million tonnes of plastic are going into the ocean each year


In our research, published today in Nature Scientific Reports, we looked at nearly 1,000 turtles that had died and washed up on beaches around Australia or were found in nets. About 260 of them

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Russian Perspective, Relations with U.S.

 

Russia and the United States Don’t Need New Summits

13.09.2018

The first full-fledged summit between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump held in late July has not improved and, indeed, could not have improved the general atmosphere of Russia-US relations. And it has nothing to do with the US president’s indiscreet words about mistrusting his own intelligence agencies or seeing no reason to mistrust Moscow regarding its alleged meddling in the 2016 election, which made Russia even more of a domestic political football in the United States and further eroded the ability of the White House to pursue any policy toward the Kremlin other than confrontation. 

Deeply rooted domestic political processes in the US (the clash between old and new elites, the fierce opposition of the establishment and bureaucracy, bordering on sabotage, to any attempt to deviate from the foreign policy mainstream, and the use of Russia as a pawn in this conflict) as well as global trends (Washington’s reluctance and inability to accept the reality of a multipolar world and Russia as an independent global centre), which in the near future will only get worse – all this guarantees that the confrontation between Moscow and Washington will continue for at least several more years. In fact,

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Serious Russian Preparations in Syria to Interdict American Interference in Terrorist Wipeout Ops

Moscow Has Upped the Ante in Syria

From Consortium News https://consortiumnews.com/2018/09/09/moscow-has-upped-the-ante-in-syria/

As Syrian forces backed by Russia launch the final showdown in Syria against jihadist extremists in Idlib province, the potential for a U.S.-Russia confrontation has never been greater, as VIPS warns in this memo to the president. September 9, 2018

MEMORANDUM FOR: The President

FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity

SUBJECT: Moscow Has Upped the Ante in Syria

Mr. President:

We are concerned that you may not have been adequately briefed on the upsurge of hostilities in northwestern Syria, where Syrian armed forces with Russian support have launched a full-out campaign to take back the al-Nusra/al-Qaeda/ISIS-infested province of Idlib.  The Syrians will almost certainly succeed, as they did in late 2016 in Aleppo.  As in Aleppo, it will mean unspeakable carnage, unless someone finally tells the insurgents theirs is a lost cause.

That someone is you. The Israelis, Saudis, and others who want unrest to endure are egging on the insurgents, assuring them that you, Mr. President, will use US forces to protect the insurgents in Idlib, and perhaps also rain hell down on Damascus.  We believe that your senior advisers are encouraging the insurgents to think in those terms, and that your most senior aides are taking credit for your recent policy shift from troop withdrawal from Syria to indefinite war.

Big Difference This Time

Russian missile-armed naval and air units are now deployed in un-

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Will World War III Start this Week?

Will World War III Start This Week?

Bikini baker explosion

by Willy B

report posted by the Wall Street Journal, late yesterday, gives reason to ask that question. “President Bashar al-Assad of Syria has approved the use of chlorine gas in an offensive against the country’s last major rebel stronghold, U.S. officials said, raising the prospects for another retaliatory U.S. military strike as thousands try to escape what could be a decisive battle in the seven-year-old war,” it begins. “In a recent discussion about Syria, people familiar with the exchange said, President Trump threatened to conduct a massive attack against Mr. Assad if he carries out a massacre in Idlib…” After this hearsay, it does go on to say that while the US miltary has developed attack options, “Trump hasn’t decided what exactly would trigger a military response or whether the U.S. would target Russian or Iranian military forces aiding Mr. Assad in Syria, U.S. officials said.” The US administration could, instead, rely on economic sanctions or unspecified political tools, but I doubt the neo-cons who have hijacked U.S. Middle East policy would be satisfied with such measures.

The Journal article otherwise repeats ad nauseum all of the propaganda about Assad and chemical weapons, including quotes from Bob Woodward’s latest book, demonstrating how deeply entrenched it has become, like the “intelligence” about Saddam Hussein’s WMD in the run up to the Iraq invasion. “I will not comment on U.S. military plans, but Assad’s use of chemical weapons, sarin and chlorine, and disregard for civilian lives is well documented and contrary to regional stability,” Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said. Clearly, the Al Qaeda terrorists that run Idlib are getting a free pass.

The propaganda and the pressure for war is apparently getting results in Germany. The German Bild tabloid reported yesterday (here in English translation) that the German government is now considering joining any US-UK-French offensive against Syrian government troops. Previously, Angela Merkel has rejected German participation in such military actions “But now a radical change is being discussed in the ministry.” Ursula von der Leyen, the defense

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Awful Chinese Impact on SE Asian Wildlife

China Wolfs Down Southeast Asia’s Wildlife

September 5, 2018

There is a monster chewing its way through the wildlife of its smaller, weaker Southeast Asian neighbors. The monster can change forms—like a shape-shifter—but it goes by one name: China. The region’s wildlife is rapidly disappearing, being sucked into the vortex of the illegal wildlife trade that leads to China.

In the Burmese border town of Mong-La, everything from tree-dwelling civets to clouded leopards, from tiger claws to elephant skin, and from pangolin scales to bear gall bladder is on sale, with the vast majority of customers coming over the border from Yunnan. National Geographic just this month ran a stunning if disturbing article on the plight of the “dinosaur of the skies”—the majestic Helmeted Hornbill.

The Hornbills’ numbers are crashing and in a few short years have been downgraded from Vulnerable to Critically Endangered by the IUCN. The Chinese are after their heads, literally. Their solid red casques are considered “red ivory” They are actually made of keratin, the same stuff as your fingernails and, incidentally, rhino horn, and rhinoceros are another species which have been virtually wiped off the face of the Southeast Asian map thanks to a misplaced belief that ground rhino horn can cure cancer and a host of other human ailments.

So dire is the situation of the Helmeted Hornbill that governments in this species range (Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, Thailand, and Myanmar) have recently formed a joint management and conservation plan to attempt to ensure that this otherworldly bird has a future outside of China’s markets. Asia Sentinel also published a story specifically about the hornbill hunters of Sumatra last year, and how those hornbill heads are sold to Chinese middlemen in the city of Medan.

Mainland Chinese investors in Singapore and Chinese Singaporeans are buying—mostly illicitly—so much sand from Cambodia’s coastal Koh Kong provincethat irreparable environmental damage is now becoming manifest. A well-informed source told me that one sand barge was so enormous that it took eight tugboats to pull it to Singapore. Activists from the NGO Mother Nature were arrested after filming illegal sand barges in Cambodia, and some of this group’s members had to flee to Thailand. The removal of riverbed sand—which is prized construction material—annihilates the river’s ecology, decimating fish populations and the wildlife that depends on them, such as river dolphins, otters, and fishing cats. Chinese investors are also behind the recent clearing of mangrove forests in Koh Kong, another nefarious activity that will cause significant environmental degradation.

Chinese developers, backed by Beijing, have begun the initial stages of construction on a highly controversial hydroelectric dam in Sumatra’s Batang Toru forest, which is home to a Critically Endangered population of Sumatran Orangutan, as well as Sumatran tigers and Helmeted Hornbills—all listed by the IUCN as Critically Endangered, with the last two being Critically Endangered largely due to Chinese demand for their carcasses. Now they are all even more endangered as a result of this dam, which will flood prime forest habitat and put the 800 or so orangutans—as well as other species—at immediate risk of extinction (in the case of this sub-species orangutan, which is only found in Batang Toru) and local extinction (for tigers and helmeted hornbills).

Over in Kalimantan in Indonesian Borneo, China Power Investment, a hydroelectric company, is investing US$17 billion in a massive dam project on the Kayan River, a project which will flood primary forest in the Heart of Borneo and put a myriad of wildlife species at risk and will forever change the ecology of this region. Chinese companies are also connected with illegal logging in prime Bornean orangutan habitat in West Kalimantan’s Sungai Putri Landscape, a debacle which has been ongoing for over two years’ now.

The ghastly trade in elephant skins from Myanmar has been driven largely by Chinese demand, as is so often the case for wildlife products from the region, and Burmese timber continues to make its way into Yunnan. Much has already been written about the Chinese enclave in northern Laos where casinos also serve up barbecued tiger, bear, and

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China Reprises IMF in Belt and Road Initiative (Surprise!)

Five years in, China’s Belt and Road looks like a giant debt trap


 Gwadar Port in Pakistan, strategically located on the Arabian Sea. ( Photo: Wikipedia )

Gwadar Port in Pakistan, strategically located on the Arabian Sea. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Malaysia canceled China-funded projects worth billions of dollars last week

There’s a provocative quote attributed to the second President of the United States, John Adams, that’s been circulating on the internet lately. “There are two ways to conquer and enslave a nation,” the quote goes, “One is by the sword. The other is by debt.” While the John Adams Historical Society attributes the saying to Adams, no precise documentary source for the language has been identified, at least that we’ve seen.

Regardless of its provenance, the idea that debt and war are the two primary ways to control a nation is a great insight into the current geopolitical situation, especially the rise of China. China has benefited from the world order created by American military dominance, with its 11 carrier groups and hundreds of military bases straddling the globe. China is motivated by national pride and economic self-interest to extend its sphere of influence, but many of its thinkers are ideologically opposed to replicating the American model, a militarism that they still call ‘Western imperialism’.

While yes, China has built an aircraft carrier and continues to flex its muscles in the South China Sea, it’s also using soft power, like establishing thousands of Confucius Institutes across the developing world to teach Chinese language and culture. But surely the largest, most ambitious play to expand China’s power is its Belt and Road Initiative, also called the New Silk Road. The Belt and Road seeks to connect to Europe, Central Asia, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and East Africa through a vast network of highways, high speed railroads, tunnels, bridges, and ports.

The Belt and Road Initiative, if it’s fully realized, would cover more than 68 countries, including 65% of the world’s population and 40% of global GDP. The total invested capital could reach $1T, but crucially this isn’t simply spent by China and the multilateral development banks hatched in Beijing, but would be loaned to governments of the nations hosting the infrastructure. China has already played a fairly heavy-handed role in dictating credit terms favorable to itself, and there’s increasing reason to believe that the BRI, as it’s called, could function as a huge debt trap to bring developing countries further under China’s heel.

The premise is simple: China finances an expensive, ambitious infrastructure project in a poor country, and when that country can’t meet its debt payments, China essentially repossesses the facilities and uses them how it wishes.

“We do not want a situation where there is a new version of colonialism happening because poor countries are unable to compete with rich countries,” said Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. Just last week, Mahathir cancelled his country’s China-funded projects, including a $3.1B project backed by the China Petroleum Pipeline Bureau.

Earlier this month, Reuters reported on pushback against 

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