Vera ScrogginsNortheast Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale is ground zero for the impact of hydraulic fracturing — fracking — on rural communities. The process involves injecting millions of gallons of water and sand laden with toxic and carcinogenic chemicals deep into underground shale formations to release natural gas.Marcellus Shale is typical of many economically depressed regions in the U.S. where fracking has occurred. With no sustainable industries to provide jobs, local economies were severely depressed. By offering monetary incentives to residents willing to lease their land for drilling, oil and gas companies have driven a wedge between residents who oppose drilling and those who see it as a ticket out of their impoverishment, regardless of the cost to their health and the environment. While some see fracking as a panacea, others see it as a force of devastation in the heart of their communities.One who has long held the latter view is Vera Scroggins, a resident of Silver Lake Township and a longtime vocal community activist. For the last five years, Scroggins, a 63-year-old grandmother, has organized tours of frack sites to raise awareness of their environmental impact. She is a frequent caller to health and environmental regulators when violations occur.Scroggins has posted around 500 videos on YouTube documenting contamination of creeks from drilling, destruction of forest lands for pipelines, nighttime flares from drilling rigs, air contamination from compressors and more. One of Scroggins’ primary targets is the Houston-based Cabot Oil & Gas Corp., which was fined for permanently contaminating residential water wells in Dimock, Pa., in 2010.It was only a matter of time before Scroggins’ efforts to expose the harmful environmental and health impact of Cabot’s operations led to a backlash from the company. In October 2013, Cabot filed an injunction against Scroggins, prohibiting her from setting foot on any land where Cabot holds drilling leases. This covers 312.5 square miles and includes nearly 40 percent of Susquehanna County, where Scroggins lives.Given less than 72 hours’ notice of the injunction hearing, Scroggins was unable to secure an attorney to face off against Cabot’s bevy of four lawyers and nine witnesses. Scroggins did have three witnesses at the hearing, who testified that she followed safe practices while conducting her site tours.Judge Kenneth Seamans granted a temporary injunction on Oct. 21, yet did not require Cabot to identify any of the lands where it holds leases. Scroggins was left to figure out for herself what areas she was legally barred from. A hearing scheduled for March 24 will determine if the ban will be permanent.It turns out that Scroggins risks fines and arrest if she goes to the new county hospital or visits her health clinic. She cannot enter the supermarkets or drug stores where she shops, take her grandchildren to a favorite Chinese restaurant, do business at her bank, visit the animal shelter, or go to the bowling alley, recycling center, golf club or lake shore. These facilities all lie on land Cabot leased for drilling.A paid spokesperson for “Energy in Depth,” Tom Shepstone, had the audacity to portray Scroggins as a public menace for “trespass[ing] on the soul of the community.” EID is a pro-oil and pro-gas drilling industry front group whose practice is to malign the anti-fracking movement. Scroggins noted that Shepstone, who once made the outrageous statement that “natural gas drilling is not only environmentally responsible, but essential to health,” doesn’t even live in her community.Cabot’s injunction accused Scroggins of exposing the company and workers on the sites to potential safety hazards. It’s hard to escape the irony that the drilling company is clearly the source of potential and existing safety risks.Attorney George Kinchy, who has since been retained as Scroggins’ lawyer, questioned Cabot’s legal right to restrict her access solely based on leases they hold in the county. “They have no proof that they had the right to exclude her. They didn’t present evidence of leases that gave them the right to treat the property as their own,” he said. (Mother Jones, Jan. 29) Kinchy also noted that this was the first time a company has used the courts to go after an individual anti-fracking activist.The injunction is clearly intended to silence dissent against corporations like Cabot. Scroggins told Workers World, “This is an intense form of abuse of my civil rights and shows the arrogance of the gas industry in wanting to trump the Constitution to promote their agenda and to stop any citizen objections and resistance.”Scroggins will be filing an appeal to vacate the injunction, and received notice on Feb. 3 that the Pennsylvania American Civil Liberties Union will provide support for her case.FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare this
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Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan in China’s central Hubei province.Shortly after the Dec. 30, 2019, announcement by the Wuhan Municipal Health Authority that a dangerous new respiratory infection had been detected in the Chinese city, conspiracy theories began to spread faster than the novel coronavirus itself. One which is receiving renewed attention claims the virus was created at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) and was either leaked or deliberately released. This conspiracy theory, supported only by wild speculation with no hard facts, represents one part of a broader offensive by the U.S. government against China, one which looks more and more like a new Cold War. It is supported by both U.S. capitalist parties, which aim to indefinitely preserve Western imperialism’s grip on the global order. The first tweet mentioning the lab-leak conspiracy came Jan. 5, 2020, from @GarboHK, a self-described “British-HongKonger” who regularly retweets figures like Trump’s former secretary of state, Mike Pompeo. “Today the evil regime strikes again with a new virus,” his tweet read in part. It also blamed the 2002 SARS outbreak on China. A few weeks later, on Jan. 23 the Daily Mail chimed in. This British tabloid, with a notable right-wing bias and of dubious credibility, nevertheless enjoys Britain’s highest circulation. It is a textbook example of how privately owned media operate under capitalism.Far-right politicians in the U.S., including Sen. Tom Cotton and former Trump officials Mike Pompeo, Steve Bannon and Peter Navarro, quickly jumped on the conspiracy theory bandwagon. Navarro once faked a source in an anti-China book he authored. (New York Times, Oct. 16, 2019) Many scientists and health experts around the world roundly rejected the lab-leak conspiracy theory when it first appeared, noting that a natural origin is far more likely. If previous epidemics are any indication, finding the exact origin of the virus could take a long time. The origins of most Ebola virus outbreaks remain unknown, and it took scientists 14 years to discover the route SARS took from bats to civets to humans. (nature.com, May 27) The exact origin of the COVID-19 virus remains unknown, a year and a half after it was first described — but that doesn’t make the lab-leak conspiracy theory any more likely. Now, over a year since the conspiracy theory began to gain traction among far-right politicians and media outlets, it’s still spreading — and not just in right-wing tabloids. The Biden administration and liberal-leaning corporate media are lending it credence. On May 25, the Jeff Bezos-owned Washington Post (a regular critic of the Trump administration) ran a headline: “Fact check: How the Wuhan lab-leak theory for pandemic origin suddenly became credible.” On May 30, CBS News interviewed Scott Gottlieb, introducing him as a former Food and Drug Administration commissioner “who sits on the board of Pfizer,” without noting that he was a former Trump administration official taking full advantage of the “revolving door” between Washington and the corporate world. Gottlieb claimed in the interview that despite “an exhaustive search” for an animal that could have spread the virus to humans, “We have not found such an animal.”Much of the renewed interest in the “lab leak conspiracy” revolves around two articles recently published in the Wall Street Journal. One referred to an undisclosed document from an anonymous official, who allegedly served in former U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration; this nebulous source claimed three WIV researchers were sick in November 2019. The second article alleged Chinese authorities had stopped a journalist from entering an abandoned mine, where WIV researchers had recovered coronaviruses from bats in 2012. The researchers have long maintained that none of the viruses were SARS-CoV-2.” (nature.com, May 27)So the current wave of interest in the conspiracy theory is not due to any new evidence. An undisclosed document from an anonymous former Trump administration official is hardly a bombshell, and the accusation that Wuhan Institute of Virology researchers were sick in November 2019 was addressed months ago by a World Health Organization investigative team that traveled to China earlier this year. Dr. Marion Koopmans, a virologist with the WHO team, told NBC News on March 11 that “there were occasional illnesses, because that’s normal. There was nothing that stood out.” She added that the number of researchers who reported cold-like symptoms was “maybe one or two. It’s certainly not a big, big thing.” A few researchers reporting cold-like symptoms in late autumn is not a smoking gun for the virus’ source.Several other members of the WHO team disputed the reportage from papers such as the New York Times, which has accused China of obstructing the team and lacking transparency. Peter Daszak, a British zoologist on the team, said on twitter: “[t]his was NOT my experience on @WHO mission. As lead of animal/environment working group I found trust & openness w/ my China counterparts. We DID get access to critical new data throughout. We DID increase our understanding of likely spillover pathways.”Nearly a year ago, the magazine Scientific American published an extensive article June 1, 2020, detailing the work of Shi Zhengli, a leading researcher at the WIV. In 2016 she was part of a team investigating a mine where six miners had come down with a respiratory illness and two died. While researchers identified coronaviruses in six bat species inhabiting the mine, a fungus was identified as the source of the miners’ illness. Conspiracy theorists assert, without evidence, that they actually had the novel coronavirus, which the researchers sampled and brought back to the lab, and that it later escaped or was deliberately released.When the novel coronavirus’ spread became known in Wuhan in late December 2020, Shi and her team immediately began testing patient samples and found that five of seven patients had genetic material common to all coronaviruses. Tests were repeated, and samples were sent off for a full genomic sequence, which was completed in just 40 hours — this process generally takes weeks — and immediately uploaded to the U.S. National Center for Biotechnology Information database Jan. 5. Meanwhile, Shi reviewed her lab’s records to check for any mishandling of materials, especially during disposal, and whether any of the samples her team had brought from mines or caves matched those of the new coronavirus. Everything came back normal, and no samples matched. “That really took a load off my mind. I had not slept a wink for days,” she said. So far, no lab in China has found samples of the novel coronavirus in its inventory.Yet these facts do not deter those committed to attacking China. A change in leadership in Washington has only given new life to the lab-leak conspiracy, while the Biden administration keeps in place a “coronavirus fact sheet” hastily issued by the State Department during the Trump administration’s last days. At the time this “fact sheet” was released in late January, Secretary of State Pompeo was busy telling reporters that Trump would be the next president, despite having lost the election. However, while Democrats attack conservatives for supporting the “Big Lie” that Trump won the 2020 election, they seemingly embrace the false accusations made against China. FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare this
Facebook What we’re reading: Chauvin found guilty in Floyd case, Xi to attend Biden’s climate change summit ReddIt Mitchell Lefevrehttps://www.tcu360.com/author/mitchell-lefevre/ Better Together learns new ways to improve interfaith dialogue on campus Facebook Linkedin Abortion access threatened as restrictive bills make their way through Texas Legislature Michael Cohen headlines a heavy week of White House-related news. Photo by Julie Jacobson, Associated Press. Mitchell Lefevre is a sports broadcasting major from Los Angeles, California. A very big sports fan, he would love to one day be an announcer or sports show talent. Twitter + posts What we’re reading: Another impending shutdown printWe’re back and we’re reading everything from “Fox News” to the “Washington Post.” We’re trying to help you keep up with the rapid pace of politics and everyday news. Today, we’ve got a lot of White House and President Trump-related things, with Michael Cohen, Paul Manafort and Bill Shine all making headlines.Cohen sues Trump OrganizationAccordingto the AssociatedPress, Michael Cohen filed a lawsuit against the Trump Organization.The president’s former lawyer claimed the Trump Organization did not pay his legal bills like they promised. Cohen said he is owed at least $1.9 million.Cohen’slawsuit said the Trump Organization had stopped paying his legal bills after hestarted cooperating with federal prosecutors in the Russia investigation.The TrumpOrganization has not yet commented on the lawsuit.Paul Manafort sentenced to 47 monthsin prisonPresidentDonald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort was sentenced to almostfour years in prison after he was found guilty on eight accounts of bank andtax fraud, according to FoxNews.Theconviction made Manafort the first campaign associate of Donald Trump to befound guilty during the Robert Mueller probe.The nine months Manafort has already served will be counted toward the sentence, and he was also given a $50,000 fine.This is notit, however, for Manafort, as he is still facing prison time from another casein which he plead guilty to foreign lobbying violations and witness tampering. It is possible he could be sentenced to 24years in prison with a $24 million fine for the second case.Facebook announces plans to blockanti-vaccination contentFacebooksaid it is going to start blocking the spread of misinformation about vaccines,according to CBSNews.The companyfaced a lot of criticism for being a vessel to spread false information aboutvaccinations during the measles outbreak in the Pacific Northwest.Facebookhas said it will start rejecting ads with vaccine misinformation, as well ascutting down on posts that contain incorrect data.Additionally,the tech giant said it will share educational material on vaccinations to userswho have come across false information.House of Representatives passesresolution condemning anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim discriminationOnThursday, the House of Representatives passed a resolution that condemnsanti-Semite and anti-Muslim hate and intolerance, according to CNN.The resolutionpassed with a 407-23 vote, with all 23 ‘no’ votes coming from Republicans.SomeRepublicans, however, are not happy with the resolution because it did not addresscondemning Ilhan Omar, D- Minn., who was criticized recently for makinganti-Semitic comments on Twitter.DemocraticRep. Eliot Engel, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said hewished there was a separate resolution just about anti-Semitism, but at least somethingwas passed to address hatred and bigotry.White House Communications DirectorBill Shine resignsAccordingto the WashingtonExaminer, White House Communications Director Bill Shine has resigned. President Trumpaccepted Shine’s resignation Thursday evening, and Shine will join Trump’scampaign as a senior adviser. Thepresident praised Shine and said he looks forward to working together on the2020 campaign.Shine wasthe co-president of Fox News before becoming the White House Commutations Directorin July 2018.Kentucky school districts close duringprotestsAccordingto ABCNews, at least four Kentucky school districts had to close as hundreds ofteachers called in sick to protest public education proposals by the statelegislature.This is thethird time in the past week that a school district has had to close because ofteachers not going to work.Kentuckyhas joined California, Colorado, and West Virginia as states where publicschool teachers have gone on massive strikes.In all cases, the teachers say there is not enough money going to support public education.That’s all we have for today. Previous articleWomen’s basketball to rely on senior leadership in Big 12 tournamentNext articleReview: ‘Alita: Battle Angel’ tells a meandering story with stunning visuals, anime action Mitchell Lefevre RELATED ARTICLESMORE FROM AUTHOR Linkedin Mitchell Lefevre Twitter Mitchell Lefevrehttps://www.tcu360.com/author/mitchell-lefevre/ What we’re reading: Former Vice President dies at 93, Chad President killed on frontlines ReddIt