Elections are about more than who wins and who loses. The New York Times reporter Astead Herndon takes us beyond the horse race to explore how we got to this fraught moment in American politics.
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Chevron set out to destroy Steven Donziger, to make an example of a human rights lawyer that dares take on the petroleum pirates. But the oil giant also went after journalists, in one case, filing a complaint against the BBC Television reporter that broke the story that Chevron had destroyed key evidence in the case. I was that reporter — and survived with my job after a year of hearings. But Chevron’s prosecution did a good job of scaring off other journalists. Some were scared off; some bought off. PBS News Hour wouldn’t touch the death-by-oil story. The official chief sponsor of the PBS News Hour? Chevron. Here’s the story, broadcast by BBC (https://youtu.be/W1FIXwtfvBs) and, in the US, by Democracy Now!, the story you won’t find on the Petroleum Broadcast System. I’ve gone way out of my way to get ChevronTexaco’s side of the story. I finally chased them down in Ecuador’s capital, Quito. I showed them a study of the epidemic of childhood leukemia centered on where their company dumped oil sludge. (https://chevroninecuador.org/assets/docs/childhood-leukemia.pdf) Here’s their reply: “And it’s the only case of cancer in the world? How many cases of children with cancer do you have in the States?” Texaco’s lawyer, Rodrigo Perez, was chuckling and snorting. “Scientifically, nobody has proved that crude causes cancer.” OK, then. But what about the epidemiological study about children with cancer in the Amazon traced to hydrocarbons? The parents of the dead kids, he said, would have some big hurdles in court: “If there is somebody with cancer there, they must prove it is caused by crude or by the petroleum industry. And, second, they have to prove that it is OUR crude.” Perez leaned over with a huge grin. “Which is absolutely impossible.” He grinned even harder. Maybe some guy eating monkeys in the jungle can’t prove it. And maybe that’s because the evidence of oil dumping was destroyed. Deliberately, by Chevron. I passed the ChevronTexaco legal duo a document from their files labeled “Personal y confidential.” They read in silence. They stayed silent quite a while. Jaime Varela, Chevron’s lawyer, was wearing his tan golf pants and white shoes, an open shirt and bespoke blue blazer. He had a blow-dried bouffant hairdo much favored by the ruling elite of Latin America and skin whiter than mine, a color also favored by the elite. Jaime had been grinning too. He read the memo. He stopped grinning. The key part says, “Todos los informes previos deben ser sacados de las oficinas principales y las del campo, y ser destruidos.” “. . . Reports . . . are to be removed from the division and field offices and be destroyed.” It came from the company boss in the States, “R. C. Shields, Presidente de la Junta.” Removed and destroyed. That smells an awful lot like an order to destroy evidence, which in this case means evidence of abandoned pits of deadly drilling residue. Destroying evidence that is part of a court action constitutes fraud. In the United States, that would be a crime, a jail-time crime. OK, gents, you want to tell me about this document? “Can we have a copy of this?” Varela asked me, pretending he’d never seen it before in his life. I’ll pretend with them, if that gets me information. “Sure. You’ve never seen this?” The ritual of innocence continued as they asked a secretary to make copies. “We’re sure there’s an explanation,” Varela said. I’m sure there is. “We’ll get back to you as soon as we find out what it is.” I’m still waiting. Learn more about #StevenDonziger and why he's facing prison for fighting Chevron: https://www.gregpalast.com/facing-prison-for-fighting-chevron/ #StevenDonziger #FreeDonziger #BigOil #Pollution #Environment #ClimateChange #ClimateCrisis #Activism