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Timbisha Shoshone to Obama: Adopt UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Timbisha Shoshone to Obama: Adopt UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

November 5, 2009

The Honorable Barack Obama
The President of the United States of America
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20500-0004

Dear Mr. President,

Greetings. Upon this historical event, we wish to thank you for your commitment and dedication to bring forth meaningful change for our Peoples. On behalf of the Timbisha Shoshone of the Western Shoshone Nation and the many other Nations and Pueblos of Indigenous Peoples of North America, we call upon the government of the United States of America (USA) to act in due haste to adopt and implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which was adopted by the UN General Assembly Resolution #61/295 at its 107th plenary on September 13, 2007.
We are confident that through your leadership and peacemaking goals as exemplified in your membership on the UN Human Rights Council, you will adopt this historic human rights instrument. We ask for this action immediately.

Mr. President, we write this in recognition of what we believe is your sincere commitment to uphold and strengthen the relationships with the US government and American Indian Nations. In keeping with your invitation to meet leaders of the Nations and Pueblos of Indigenous Peoples of North America which brings us to Washington DC, we offer our greetings to you and extend our hands in the spirit of a renewed and re-visioned expression of this relationship. A critical part of this relationship is recognizing that the time has come to break the chains from centuries of racism, colonization and ongoing oppression across North America. This can begin to be accomplished by the US adopting the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

We have entered a new age – a time of reflection and correcting the wrongs of previous eras. Let us set forth on a positive pathway together. As you know, thousands of Indigenous Peoples here in the US, and indeed throughout the world, stood up with trust and faith in your message of equity and justice for all, during your campaign. As Indigenous Peoples are equal to all other Peoples, it is time that the relationship of our Nations and Pueblos with the US must be redefined. This is more than a matter of honor. It is a matter of doing what is right and it is critical to our continuing and ever evolving relationship with the US federal government.
Mr. President, we believe in your commitment for real and systemic change that can imprint upon our future generations and lead the world in a good and honorable way. This can be accomplished by finally and for the first time ever, fully recognizing the rights of the Indigenous Nations.
Although an apology for the oppression of US policies that brutalized our homelands and have devastated our peoples, cultures and ecosystems, is well in order and in fact long overdue, it is not enough. Adopting the UNDRIP is a meaningful and responsible step toward long-term reconciliation that can resonate across the globe with Indigenous Peoples of the World.

The implementation of the UNDRIP institutes a new systemic standard that calls for complementary readjustment among entities of the government states and the Nations of the Indigenous Peoples, normalizing peaceful relations and creating partnerships based on mutual respect and cooperation.
Hopefully, this letter prompts the United States’ immediate attention to and adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We know this will produce a positive and constructive diplomatic venue to advance the recognition, respect, and protection of the Human Rights and Self-Determination of Indigenous Peoples, both within the domestic and international arenas.
Sincerely,
Joe Kennedy
Chairman, Timbisha Shoshone of the Western Shoshone Nation

Posted by brendanorrell@gmail.com at 6:00 PM

Latest guest blog – the Chernobyl Children’s Project

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Linda Walker, from the Chernobyl Children’s Project (UK), reveals the ongoing legacy of the world’s worst nuclear disaster. Almost 24 years on, time has not been a healer for those living in the regions most heavily affected by radiation.

In Belarus, the country which received the heaviest fall-out, those who were babies or very young children at the time of the accident are now having children of their own. In many cases their babies are born with genetic defects. For some, babies who appear to be healthy at birth are soon afterwards diagnosed with cancer or leukaemia.

However, it is very difficult to get hold of statistics on these and many other health problems. Not only does the government of Belarus prefer to give the impression that all is well, but the attachment to nuclear power by governments across the world has resulted in little enthusiasm for researching or publicising the ongoing effects of the accident. And the recent resurgence of nuclear power has brought about redoubled effort to show that the only real health consequences have been psychological, contemptuously referred to as ‘radiophobia’.

Widespread Health Impacts

Work on the ground, however, tells a different story. 800,000 people, known as liquidators, were involved in the clean up after the accident. According to the ‘Chernobyl Union’ of liquidators about 60,000 of their number have since died and many more suffer health problems and disabilities.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have analysed health statistics in Belarus and found increases between 1990 and 1994 of between 30 and 60% in a wide range of illnesses – cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, and disorders of the bones or nervous system.

In the 1990’s, scientists in Belarus looked at the build up of radiocaesium in the organs of the body, particularly the heart, and concluded that this could account for the recorded rises in heart disease in both children and adults.

It has also been reported that the incidence of juvenile-onset diabetes is markedly higher in the contaminated parts of the country, compared to the period before the accident. In the scientific literature, it has been suggested that this could be a consequence of exposure of the pancreas to radioactive iodine. Certainly the Association of Parents of Diabetic children in Gomel, Belarus, believe that their children are likely to have been affected by radiation.

Thyroid Cancer & Leukaemia

But far and away the most obvious and widespread health problem in the early years after the accident  was thyroid cancer. In the ten years before 1986, just seven children contracted thyroid cancer in Belarus. Within four years of the accident, this level had risen by 30 times. But it was not until 1995 that the World Health Organisation (WHO) officially recognised the link between radiation from Chernobyl and thyroid cancer.

It was the Gomel Region which was most heavily affected by the fallout of Iodine-131 and children under 4 years old ingested the highest doses. The greatest number of thyroid cancers have occurred in this region and the WHO has predicted that one third of all the children from the area around Gomel aged between 0 and 4 at the time of the accident will develop thyroid cancer during their lifetime.

But thyroid cancer has been largely dismissed as unimportant by the nuclear community because it is very unusual for anyone to die from it. If your child contracted a disease which meant that he would have to have a major operation and then take hormones every day for the rest of his life, you would not consider this unimportant.

Leukaemia statistics have been the most controversial of all the health effects of the accident. In the Gomel region, an increase in leukaemia cases of about 50% compared to the period before the disaster, was recorded in both children and adults, in the early years following the accident, according to the clinics responsible.

When I first visited Belarus in 1995, doctors in Gomel told me of significant rises in leukaemia. Yet just two or three years later they were saying that there was no rise. I have never been able to establish whether there was an initial rise, which later levelled out, or whether doctors were instructed to play down the effects.

Genetic Defects & Childhood Disability

Whilst it is impossible to establish whether any particular child has been affected by Chernobyl, it is clear that the fall-out was responsible for a considerable rise in the numbers of disabled children.

The rapidly dividing cells of a foetus are particularly prone to damage from radiation. Within a short time after the nuclear disaster, a sharp increase in reproductive disorders – predominantly affecting pregnancy – was seen in Ukraine and Belarus. For the 1986-1990 period, the Ministry of Health in Ukraine recorded an increased number of miscarriages, premature births and stillbirths, as well as three times the normal rate of deformities and developmental abnormalities in newborns.

In 2001 the Belarusian Ministry of Statistics stated that there had been a 60% rise in the number of children deemed to be disabled over the previous seven years.

And in the same year Vladislav Ostapenko, head of Belarus’ radiation medicine institute, told a news conference: “It is clear that we are seeing genetic changes, especially among those who were less than six years of age when subjected to radiation. These people are now starting families.” Ostapenko said that within seven years of the accident, mortality rates were outstripping birth rates.

Girls in affected areas had five times the normal rate of deformations in their reproductive systems and boys three times the norm. Each year, 2,500 births were recorded with genetic abnormalities and five hundred pregnancies were terminated after abnormalities were found during testing.

How We Are Helping

Chernobyl Children’s Project (UK) brings diabetic children for recuperative holidays in the UK every summer and also helps the association to fund the purchase of test strips and other support for their families.

We also bring many children in remission from cancer for holidays, with a special focus on two age groups, the very young and older teenagers. When a mother has been through the trauma of supporting her toddler through chemo or radiotherapy, they are both very much in need of a holiday when they come out the other side. Children of four to seven years old travel with their mums for four week holidays which give them both the recuperation they need.

Children who develop cancer at 12 or 13 years old are well enough to travel about two years later. By this time they are beyond the age when most charities will invite them. We bring young people up to 19 years of age, who get a tremendous psychological boost as well as the other health benefits from their holiday in Britain.

We work closely with the Belarusian Children’s Hospice, which supports children whose cancer treatment has failed, but also have in its care many babies and young children with genetic anomalies. Much of our work is in support of children with disabilities, with projects aimed at helping to improve the social and educational opportunities for children and young people with special needs.

Continuing Need

The line taken by governments and UN agencies today tends to be that there are no significant ongoing health effects from Chernobyl. It is possible for scientists to insist that there is no proof that radiation has affected the rate or severity of any illnesses because in recent years there have been no serious studies to settle the matter one way or the other.

For those of us working in Belarus and supporting its children, it is clear that the shadow of Chernobyl will hang over them for many years to come.  www.chernobyl-children.org.uk

After working for ten years for CND in Manchester, Linda Walker worked with the City Council to organise an International Peace Festival in 1994. As a direct result of that festival, Chernobyl Children’s Project (UK) was launched the following year. Linda has been its National Co-ordinator ever since and makes regular trips to Belarus to supervise the many projects the charity runs there to improve the lives of children and their families.

I’m really pleased that Linda took the time to write this piece for the Tenner Films site. It’s a moving first-hand testament to the continuing effects of the Chernobyl meltdown and I encourage you to read it and distribute it.

take care and I’ll be in touch with more film-related updates soon (the animation is taking shape nicely!),
Vicki
Tenner Films
26 Richborne Terrace, London, SW8 1AU
020 7735 0807
07939 061006
www.tennerfilms.com
Vicki Lesley Ltd. Registered in England & Wales No: 5746681

Hiroshima & Nagasaki-Original 1945 Documentary 1/5

The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were nuclear attacks during World War II against the Empire of Japan by the United States of America at the order of U.S. President Harry S. Truman. After six months of intense firebombing of 67 other Japanese cities, the nuclear weapon "Little Boy" was dropped on the city of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, followed on August 9, 1945 by the detonation of the "Fat Man" nuclear bomb over Nagasaki. These are to date the only attacks with nuclear weapons in the history of warfare.
The bombs killed as many as 140,000 people in Hiroshima and 80,000 in Nagasaki by the end of 1945, roughly half on the days of the bombings. Since then, thousands more have died from injuries or illness attributed to exposure to radiation released by the bombs. In both cities, the overwhelming majority of the dead were civilians.
Six days after the detonation over Nagasaki, on August 15, Japan announced its surrender to the Allied Powers, signing the Instrument of Surrender on September 2, officially ending the Pacific War and therefore World War II. (Germany had signed its Instrument of Surrender on May 7, 1945, ending the war in Europe.) The bombings led post-war Japan to adopt Three Non-Nuclear Principles, forbidding that nation from nuclear armament.
The Target Committee at Los Alamos on May 10--11, 1945, recommended Kyoto, Hiroshima, Yokohama, and the arsenal at Kokura as possible targets. The committee rejected the use of the weapon against a strictly military objective because of the chance of missing a small target not surrounded by a larger urban area. The psychological effects on Japan were of great importance to the committee members. They also agreed that the initial use of the weapon should be sufficiently spectacular for its importance to be internationally recognized. The committee felt Kyoto, as an intellectual center of Japan, had a population "better able to appreciate the significance of the weapon." Hiroshima was chosen because of its large size, its being "an important army depot" and the potential that the bomb would cause greater destruction because the city was surrounded by hills which would have a "focusing effect".
Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson struck Kyoto from the list because of its cultural significance, over the objections of General Leslie Groves, head of the Manhattan Project. According to Professor Edwin O. Reischauer, Stimson "had known and admired Kyoto ever since his honeymoon there several decades earlier." On July 25 General Carl Spaatz was ordered to bomb one of the targets: Hiroshima, Kokura, Niigata, or Nagasaki as soon after August 3 as weather permitted and the remaining cities as additional weapons became available.

Remember Hiroshima

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Navajos Observe 30th Anniversary of Uranium Spill

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CHURCH ROCK, N.M.—Community members and environmental activists commemorated July 16 as the 30th anniversary of a massive uranium tailings spill that Navajo President Joe Shirley Jr. called “the largest peacetime accidental release of radioactive contaminated materials in the history of the United States.”

The accident occurred when an earthen dam, operated by the United Nuclear Corp., failed and let loose 94 million gallons of toxic wastewater into the north fork of the Rio Puerco on Navajo Nation lands. Within days, contaminated tailings liquid was found 50 miles downstream in Arizona.

About 100 Navajos and non-Navajos, including members of the Multicultural Alliance for a Safe Environment (MASE) and other environmental groups, walked a five-mile stretch through the remote mesa lands of Church Rock to the site of the July 16, 1979 spill. They stopped at Larry King’s ranch along New Mexico Highway 566 for a speech by the Navajo president.

http://www.reznetnews.org/article/navajos-observe-30th-anniversary-uranium-spill-36890

Atomic veterans gather to remember their shared past as ‘guinea pigs’

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LEBANON — Fifty years after watching dozens of atom bombs explode as a young Navy engine man, Larry Wickizer uses a two-word phrase to describe himself and the others who share his past.

“Guinea pigs,” he says, looking out over a room of veterans gathered Thursday at American Legion Post No. 51 to observe the National Day of Atomic Remembrance.

Gray heads nod in agreement. Virtually all of them bore witness to the weapons tests conducted by the U.S. government in the North Pacific during the 1950s and 1960s

http://www.oregonlive.com/news/index.ssf/2009/07/atomic_veterans_gather_to_reme.html

Missouri man remembers nuclear blast -

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COLUMBIA, Mo. — On the Fourth of July weekend of 1957, Darrell Robertson was on a train from Fort Lewis, Wash., to southern Nevada. He was one of hundreds of young men with orders in hand to take part in a training exercise that they were told was crucial to the fight against communism.

The native of Lamar was headed deep into the burnt landscape of the Mojave Desert, to a place called Camp Desert Rock. There, between 1945 and 1958, the U.S. military conducted 106 atmospheric nuclear tests.

At the time, Robertson said, military brass believed a nuclear confrontation with the Soviets was likely. They were intent on developing a group of troops hardened by repeated exposure to radiation. They thought exposure to radiation was like sunning on the beach: First you burn, then you tan.

http://www.bnd.com/336/story/813781.html

UK urged to ban uranium in weapons

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THE United Nations Association Edinburgh has called on the UK government to follow Belgium’s lead on banning depleted uranium weapons.

Belgium’s decision has been praised by European military unions who are concerned about the impact the weapons may have on their members.

Opposition to uranium weapons in Belgium has been spearheaded by a group of more than 20 NGOs, including Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth.

http://news.scotsman.com/uk/UK-urged-to-ban-uranium.5385867.jp

DOE transfers WIPP water line to city

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CARLSBAD — The U.S. Department of Energy announced Thursday that the Carlsbad Field Office will transfer the DOE-owned Waste Isolation Pilot Plant water line to the city of Carlsbad.The move will provide the city with an additional water supply while saving the Department of Energy thousands of dollars. DOE first installed the water line in 1984 to support the ongoing operations of the department’s disposal facility. It now transports water from the city-owned Double Eagle Water System wells to the plant.

Under the finalized bill of sale, the city will take over complete responsibility for maintaining and repairing the pipeline in exchange for the water line. The city of Carlsbad also agrees to maintain WIPP’s existing priority water use and will supply WIPP with up to 6.6 million gallons of water a year.

http://www.currentargus.com/ci_12625663

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