These poems depict a journey through a dark landscape, where the political and personal are fused into a geography of disinformation, sex, betrayal and deadly technology. Phelan has produced verbal "snapshots" of a subterranean war-- with fronts in Los Angeles as well as Fallujah-- where the only defense is one's integrity and the stakes may be life itself.
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Janet Phelan - Reporter at Large
Drowning in Garbage
International corporations, seeking markets in developing countries, bring along with them a particular form of “baggage”—waste products and refuse. Coca Cola bottles, Frito bags, Twinkie wrappers—in large part, the packaging solution for multinationals is plastic. The developing world largely lacks the infrastructure in place to deal with this petrochemical polymer influx and plastic garbage has become a major environmental concern, with the impact felt world-wide.
Case in point is the Eastern Garbage Patch, so dubbed by oceanographer Curtis Ebbesmeyer. This patch of marine debris inhabits the Pacific Ocean and consists of small pieces of plastic, some floating and some suspended beneath the surface of the ocean. Estimates of the size of the patch range from 270,000 square miles to 5,800,000 square miles—or twice the size of the continental US.
The garbage patch is thought to have developed due to a gradual accumulation of plastic refuse and was formed over a period of time as a result of the oceanic gyre’s rotational pattern.
The effects on marine wildlife and by extension, all mammals which eat marine wildlife, is of grave concern. Jellyfish are known to indiscriminately consume plastic, and then are eaten by larger fish, which then may be consumed by humans. Endocrine systems may misread plastic as estradiol, resulting in hormone disruption, as well as other known toxic effects.
S. Africa's Dr. Death Again Evades Sentencing
In a last minute strategic move by counsel, Dr. Wouter Basson’s sentencing by the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) has again been delayed.
Basson, who was found guilty by the HPCSA in 2013 of acting unprofessionally as the director of the apartheid government’s biological and chemical warfare unit, Project Coast, may have had one of the longest running trials in history. The initial complaints against him were filed with the medical board in 2000, only to be delayed until the conclusion of his criminal trial in Pretoria High Court.
As director of Project Coast in the eighties and early nineties, Basson allegedly provided assassination chemicals to members of the South African Defence Force, and, according to testimony heard in the criminal case, was involved in 229 murders. In addition, he was charged with embezzlement, drug trafficking and possession of illegal drugs. When he was arrested in 1997, he had more than 1000 Ecstasy tablets in his possession.
The judge in the criminal matter, Willie Hartzenberg, acquitted Basson of all charges against him in 2002. There were over 150 witnesses who testified against Dr. Basson. Basson was the sole witness in his defense.
Last Updated (Saturday, 21 March 2015 21:46)
"Black Site" Reported in Norwalk, California
When the Guardian published its stunning expose on a black site interrogation center located in Chicago, the response from the mainstream US press was a profound vacuum: the story was met with a well of silence. There were a few scattered follow up stories—most notably in the Atlantic, but by and large the story was ignored by the US media.
Last Updated (Tuesday, 10 March 2015 07:37)
Did the US DOJ Just Lie to the UN?
Recent statements by David Bitkower, Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Criminal Division, United States Department of Justice to the United Nations Convention Against Torture, statements made during the review by that body of the US and its torture policies during the past five years, could be considered as subsumed under both of the above two categories. And sadly, Bitkower misrepresented actions taken by the US DOJ.
Social Media Giants Adopt "Mob Rule" Tactics
The recent decisions by social media giants Facebook and LinkedIn to adopt user crowd-censoring strategies may be less than benevolent.
According to its recent announcement, Facebook will employ an algorithm, based ostensibly on the numbers of user-generated flags, to reduce or mitigate the distribution of stories flagged as “false.” In addition, Facebook has announced that stories flagged in this manner will contain notice that the story has been determined to contain false information.
As stated in Facebook’s announcement this past week, “Today’s update to News Feed reduces the distribution of posts that people have reported as hoaxes and adds an annotation to posts that have received many of these types of reports to warn others on Facebook. We are not removing stories people report as false and we are not reviewing content and making a determination on its accuracy.”
According to Tweaktown, “This change will see posts that include links, photos, videos and general status updates affected – seeing it not limited to company news articles only.”
Fox News reports another angle on what constitutes “fake news.” According to Fox, “conspiracy theories” are also included. Reports Fox, “It’s launching a new feature that will let anyone report a post as being false. Those stories can include reports like celebrity deaths, conspiracy theories and promises of “free” products…”
Conspiracy theories? Like who killed JFK and who was behind the attacks of September 11? Suddenly, Facebook’s interest in controlling spam seems less altruistic.