Thursday, February 12, 2009

Tanker Threat to B.C. Coast and Waterways

A letter from Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline (Feb. 7) suggests that supertankers carrying crude oil through the Douglas Channel would be business as usual

by Ingmar Lee

To the editor of the Victoria Times-Colonist
Re: "Tankers won't be travelling Inside Passage route," letter,
Feb. 7.

image: Condensate laden tanker burns following a collision in February

Steven Greenaway, writing on behalf of the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline, uses an old-school propaganda trick to side-track concern about the giant supertanker traffic-jam that Enbridge envisions for the crystal clear fiords of the Central Coast.

Greenaway tosses out a confusing red herring, as though the chosen access route for hundreds of tankers was the issue here.

Of course it makes no difference to the 80 per cent of British Columbians who oppose super-tanker traffic off our coast, whether through the Inside Passage, or via Principe Channel, Caamano Sound or Douglas Channel.

British Columbians are very clear. We will not accept oil tanker activity in our coastal waters, no matter which route. Scientific consensus demands that we take action to drastically reduce greenhouse emissions. We are in a global ecological emergency and must not burn more dirty oil. And we don't want the inevitable Exxon-sized oil slick here.

People on the Central Coast are gearing up for the battle of our lives to oppose the Enbridge Gateway mega-project. We love our coast and will defend it, especially from giant corporations who try to hoodwink the public by tossing out red herrings.

Ingmar Lee


Monday, February 09, 2009

A Doctor's Examination of the Wounds of Gaza

The Wounds of Gaza
February 2nd 2009

Two Surgeons from the UK, Dr Ghassan Abu Sittah and Dr Swee Ang, managed to get into Gaza during the Israeli invasion. Here they describe their experiences, share their views, and conclude that the people of Gaza are extremely vulnerable and defenseless in the event of another attack.

The wounds of Gaza are deep and multi-layered. Are we talking about the Khan Younis massacre of 5,000 in 1956 or the execution of 35,000 prisoners of war by Israel in 1967? Yet more wounds of the First Intifada, when civil disobedience by an occupied people against the occupiers resulted in massive wounded and hundreds dead? We also cannot discount the 5,420 wounded in southern Gaza alone since 2000. Hence what we are referring to below are only that of the invasion as of 27 December 2008,

Over the period of 27 December 2008 to the ceasefire of 18 Jan 2009, it was estimated that a million and a half tons of explosives were dropped on Gaza Strip. Gaza is 25 miles by 5 miles and home to 1.5 million people. This makes it the most crowded area in the whole world. Prior to this Gaza has been completely blockaded and starved for 50 days. In fact since the Palestinian election Gaza has been under total or partial blockade for several years.

On the first day of the invasion, 250 persons were killed. Every single police station in Gaza was bombed killing large numbers of police officers. Having wiped out the police force attention was turned to non government targets. Gaza was bombed from the air by F16 and Apache helicopters, shelled from the sea by Israeli gunboats and from the land by tank artillery. Many schools were reduced to rubble, including the American School of Gaza, 40 mosques, hospitals, UN buildings, and of course 21,000 homes, 4,000 of which were demolished completely. It is estimated that 100,000 people are now homeless.

Israeli weapons
The weapons used apart from conventional bombs and high explosives also include unconventional weapons of which at least 4 categories could be identified.

* Phosphorus Shells and bombs

The bombs dropped were described by eye witnesses as exploding at high altitude scattering a large canopy of phosphorus bomblets which cover a large area.

During the land invasion, eyewitnesses describe the tanks shelling into homes first with a conventional shell. Once the walls are destroyed, a second shell - a phosphorus shell is then shot into the homes. Used in this manner the phosphorus explodes and burns the families and the homes. Many charred bodies were found among burning phosphorus particles.

One area of concern is the phosphorus seems to be in a special stabilizing agent. This results in the phosphorus being more stable and not completely burning out. Residues still cover the fields, playground and compounds. They ignite when picked up by curious kids, or produce fumes when farmers return to water their fields. One returning farming family on watering their field met with clouds of fumes producing epistaxis. Thus the phosphorus residues probably treated with a stabilizer also act as anti-personnel weapons against children and make the return to normal life difficult without certain hazards.

Surgeons from hospitals are also reporting cases where after primary laparotomy for relatively small wounds with minimal contamination find on second look laparotomy increasing areas of tissue necrosis at about 3 days. Patients then become gravely ill and by about 10 days those patients needing a third relook encounter massive liver necrosis. This may or may not be accompanied by generalized bleeding , kidney failure and heart failure and death. Although acidosis, liver necrosis and sudden cardiac arrest due to hypocalcemia are known to be a complication of white phosphorus it is not possible to attribute these complications as being due to phosphorus alone.

There is real urgency to analyze and identify the real nature of this modified phosphorus as to its long term effect on the people of Gaza. There is also urgency in collecting and disposing of the phosphorus residues littering the entire Gaza Strip. As they give off toxic fumes when coming into contact with water, once the rain falls the whole area would be polluted with acid phosphorus fumes. Children should be warned not to handle and play with these phosphorus residues.

* Heavy Bombs

The use of DIME (dense inert material explosives) were evident, though it is unsure whether depleted uranium were used in the south. In the civilian areas, surviving patients were found to have limbs truncated by DIME, since the stumps apart from being characteristically cut off in guillotine fashion also fail to bleed. Bomb casing and shrapnel are extremely heavy.

* Fuel Air Explosives

Bunker busters and implosion bombs have been used . There are buildings especially the 8 storey Science and Technology Building of the Islamic University of Gaza which had been reduced to a pile of rubble no higher than 5-6 feet.

* Silent Bombs

People in Gaza described a silent bomb which is extremely destructive. The bomb arrives as a silent projectile at most with a whistling sound and creates a large area where all objects and living things are vaporized with minimal trace. We are unable to fit this into conventional weapons but the possibility of new particle weapons being tested should be suspected.

* Executions

Survivors describe Israeli tanks arriving in front of homes asking residents to come out. Children, old people and women would come forward and as they were lined up they were just fired on and killed. Families have lost tens of their members through such executions. The deliberate targeting of unarmed children and women is well documented by human right groups in the Gaza Strip over the past month.

* Targeting of ambulances

Thirteen ambulances had been fired upon killing drivers and first aid personnel in the process of rescue and evacuation of the wounded.

* Cluster bombs

The first patients wounded by cluster were brought into Abu Yusef Najjar Hospital. Since more than 50% of the tunnels have been destroyed, Gaza has lost part of her lifeline. These tunnels contrary to popular belief are not for weapons, though small light weapons could have been smuggled through them. However they are the main stay of food and fuel for Gaza. Palestinians are beginning to tunnel again. However it became clear that cluster bombs were dropped on to the Rafah border and the first was accidentally set of by tunneling. Five burns patients were brought in after setting off a booby trap kind of device.

Death toll
As of 25 January 2009, the death toll was estimated at 1,350 with the numbers increasing daily. This is due to the severely wounded continuing to die in hospitals. 60% of those killed were children.

Severe injuries
The severely injured numbered 5,450, with 40% being children. These are mainly large burns and polytrauma patients. Single limb fractures and walking wounded are not included in these figures.

Through our conversations with doctors and nurses the word holocaust and catastrophe were repeatedly used. The medical staff all bear the psychological trauma of the past month living though the situation and dealing with mass casualties which swamped their casualties and operating rooms. Many patients died in the Accident and Emergency Department while awaiting treatment. In a district hospital, the orthopaedic surgeon carried out 13 external fixations in less than a day.

It is estimated that of the severely injured, 1,600 will suffer permanently disabilities. These include amputations, spinal cord injuries, head injuries, large burns with crippling contractures.

Special factors
The death and injury toll is especially high in this recent assault due to several factors:

* No escape: As Gaza is sealed by Israeli troops, no one can escape the bombardment and the land invasion. There is simply no escape. Even within the Gaza Strip itself, movement from north to south is impossible as Israeli tanks had cut the northern half of Gaza from the south. Compare this with the situation in Lebanon 1982 and 2006, when it was possible for people to escape from an area of heavy bombardment to an area of relative calm - there was no such is option for Gaza.
* Gaza is very densely populated. It is eerie to see that the bombs used by Israel have been precision bombs. They have a hundred percent hit rate on buildings which are crowded with people. Examples are the central market, police stations. Schools, the UN compounds used as a safety shelter from bombardment, mosques (40 of them destroyed), and the homes of families who thought they were safe as there were no combatants in them and high rise flats where a single implosion bomb would destroy multiple families. This pattern of consistent targeting of civilians makes one suspect that the military targets are but collateral damage, while civilians are the primary targets.
* The quantity and quality of the ammunition being used as described above.
* Gaza’s lack of defense against the modern weapons of Israel. She has no tanks, no planes, no anti-aircraft missiles against the invading army. We experienced that first hand in a minor clash of Israeli tank shells versus Palestinian AK47 return fire. The forces were simply unmatched.
* Absence of well constructed bomb shelters for civilians. Unfortunately these will also be no match for bunker busters possessed by the Israeli Army.

Taking the above points into consideration, the next assault on Gaza would be just as disastrous. The people of Gaza are extremely vulnerable and defenseless in the event of another attack. If the International Community is serious about preventing such a large scale of deaths and injuries in the future, it will have to develop a some sort of defense force for Gaza. Otherwise, many more vulnerable civilans will continue to die.

Dr Ghassan Abu Sittah and Dr Swee Ang

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This entry was posted on Monday, February 2nd, 2009 at 3:25 pm and is filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can trackback from your own site.
6 Responses to “The Wounds of Gaza”

1. Dr Swee Ang Says:
February 2nd, 2009 at 7:57 pm

Since we wrote this account, we have spoken to senior Palestinian surgeons who described to us strange “penetrating wounds without shrapnels”. The wound track in such patients also has clean sharp margins. Some of them treated the wounds as clean wounds but after several days - mostly 3 days onwards there is necrosis of tissue around the wound track. In the case of skin, it can take the form of abscesses. In the abdomen there are extension of organ necrosis around the track such as liver necrosis, gangrenous bowel and kidney damage. We suspect these wounds are caused by Tungsten DIME explosives.

In experimental animals tungsten is highly carcinogenic, malignant tumours appearing around 5-7 months. However the long term carcinogenic effect on human is not known yet.

The Ministry of Health in Gaza is calling for any one who has shrapnel wounds which are unusual or does not heal to present themselves to any Health clinic.
2. Dr Swee Ang Says:
February 2nd, 2009 at 8:15 pm

The lesson from these wounds without shrapnel is that Tungsten toxicity should always be suspected and primary wide excision of the wound track is mandatory to minimise tissue reaction to it. They must not be confused with what is traditionally thought to be clean cut wounds and merely washed out and closed.

Tissue biopsies are crucial if we are to understand more about these wounds. There is a pressing urgency given that there is a potential carcinogenic effect. DIME as an explosive is highly anti-personnel and can be used safely by an invading neighbouring army without the fear of the side effect of radioactive fallout which other radioactive warheads might carry. Its effect is localised to the target population only - in this case the people of Gaza, with no danger to its neighbour, cf nuclear weapons.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Free Palestine Protest: Vancouver Jan. 3, 2009

Harper Budget: A Profound Lack of Vision for Forestry

Federal Budget - A Profound Lack of Vision for Forestry

By Peter Ewart & Dawn Hemingway
Sunday, February 08, 2009 03:45 AM

Federal budget – A profound lack of vision for forestry
By Peter Ewart & Dawn Hemingway

It is ground zero for forestry in this country. Tens of thousands of jobs have been lost, over 200 mills have been closed, and many companies are teetering on the edge of shut down or bankruptcy.

This crisis began long before the current economic downturn, and, as a result, many workers and forestry-based communities in Canada have been facing this grim situation for two or three years, or even longer.

They have made repeated calls for assistance over these last several years, but little has been forthcoming from the Federal Government. Now the Government says that, with its new budget, it is ready to take “action.”

Why has it taken so long to respond while thousands of laid-off workers and dozens of forestry communities have been “twisting in the wind” over these last several years? Only Stephen Harper and his government know the answer to that one.

In any case, the Federal Government has now put forth its much anticipated budget. So what is the verdict on it?

The first thing that we would say is that there is a profound lack of vision for the forest industry as a whole. This is reflected in the fact that the amount designated for “forestry” is a paltry $170 million (allocated mainly for research into new products and marketing) out of a total budget, according to the Ministry of Finance, of over $50 billion . That amounts to less than ½ of 1%. Looking at the budget document itself, the section devoted to forestry is barely ½ page in length, contained within a 360 page document. Is there a message being sent here?

In any case, if the Government had a genuine vision for forestry, it would start with the workers, contractors and truck drivers who every day work hard, in often difficult and dangerous conditions, shipping, planting, harvesting, and processing forest products.

These workers who, through their labour over many decades, are the source of a substantial part of the wealth of the country, have been decimated by massive, unprecedented layoffs. These layoffs have caused great hardship for many workers and their families, resulting in loss of homes, property, savings, and well-being.

Various economic analysts are suggesting that this crisis could go on for several years or more. Yet, the Government has only increased the maximum Employment Insurance coverage for these laid-off workers by five weeks to 50 weeks (for the Workshare Program, the weeks have been extended by 14 weeks to 52). Furthermore, the Government has not removed the two week waiting period nor has it raised benefits even by one penny, even though it is well aware that being laid off is a time of great economic dislocation and need for workers and their families.

For forestry based communities, the lack of vision is just as apparent. Several years ago, the Federal Government promised $1 billion over ten years to help communities cope with the devastating effects of the massive pine beetle infestation in the Interior and North of British Columbia.

But, poof! Now you see it, now you don’t. As Gord Hoekstra notes in the PG Citizen (Jan. 28), the Federal Government has indicated in its new budget that the pine beetle funding “will be put on hold for the next two years” and folded into a $1 billion “Community Adjustment Fund” which will be open to all communities across the country. So it appears that, contrary to what Conservative MPs are saying, communities in Northern BC affected by the pine beetle will get little or no new benefit from this Community Adjustment Fund, just repackaged old funding.

The fact that the Federal Government can arbitrarily and so easily suspend an entire ten year, $1 billion forestry funding program that is already in place reveals that it had no vision in the first place as to where forestry communities and the industry itself should go.

A further problem with the “new” funding to communities is that a lot of it requires that municipalities and provincial governments also put up funding for projects. How are communities like Mackenzie, Fort St. James, Kapuskasing and Grand Falls that are already reeling from several years of mill closures supposed to raise substantial amounts of money? Indeed, it appears that the Federal Government is not only planning to go into massive debt over five years ($84 billion), it wants to drag municipalities and provinces down with it. No wonder a number of mayors across the country are worried.

We have entered volatile even tumultuous times, when the livelihood of entire communities and future of entire industries could be at stake. The one lesson that comes out of this Federal Government budget debacle, is that forestry workers and forestry-based communities need to develop their own vision for the years ahead and fight for it. There is no other way forward.

Peter Ewart is a writer and college instructor who can be contacted at: Dawn Hemingway is a writer and university professor who can be contacted at: . They are both based in Prince George, BC.