The Canadian Press
WASHINGTON — Evan Liberty was reading in the top bunk of his cell one evening late last month when a prison supervisor delivered news he had hoped for.“He says, ‘Are you ready for this?'” Liberty recalled. “I said, ‘Uh, I’m not sure. What is going on?’ He said, ‘Presidential pardon. Pack your stuff.’”Liberty is one of four former Blackwater contractors pardoned by President Donald Trump in one of Trump’s final acts in office, freeing them from prison after a 2007 shooting rampage in Baghdad that killed more than a dozen Iraqi civilians. Even for a president who has repeatedly exercised his pardon power on personal associates and political supporters, Trump’s clemency for the contractors was met with especially intense condemnation, both in the United States and the Middle East.Historically, presidential pardons have been reserved for nonviolent crimes, not manslaughter or murder, and the traditional process led by the Justice Department values acceptance of responsibility and remorse from those convicted of crimes. The Blackwater contractors meet none of that criteria. They were convicted in the killings of unarmed Iraqi women and children and have long been defiant in their assertions of innocence.In an interview with The Associated Press, his first since being released from prison, Liberty, 38, again expressed little remorse for actions he says were defensible given the context.“I feel like I acted correctly,” he said of his conduct in 2007. “I regret any innocent loss of life, but I’m just confident in how I acted and I can basically feel peace with that.”The Blackwater rampage marked one of the darkest chapters of the Iraq war, staining the U.S. government reputation and prompting an international outcry about the role of contractors in military zones. The guards have long maintained they were targeted by insurgent gunfire at the traffic circle where the shooting occurred. Prosecutors argued there was no evidence to support that claim, noting that many victims were shot while in their cars or while taking shelter or trying to flee.After a monthslong trial in 2014, a jury convicted the men in the deaths of 14 civilians and of injuring even more. A judge called the shootings an “overall wild thing” that cannot be condoned.Liberty said he understands many may view him undeserving of clemency but attributes it to what he insists is a misguided narrative of the shooting. In the interview, he maintained that he did not shoot in the direction of any of the victims. “I didn’t shoot at anybody that wasn’t shooting at me,” he said.He said he and the others would “never take an innocent life. We responded to a threat accordingly.”Liberty, whose 30-year sentence was cut by roughly half last year, isn’t certain how he came to be pardoned and said he has not spoken with Trump. But the group does have supporters, some with ties to the White House. The Blackwater firm, whose name has since changed, was founded by former Navy SEAL Erik Prince, a Trump ally whose sister, Betsy DeVos, is education secretary. Their cause also was championed by Fox News personality Pete Hegseth, an Army veteran.Trump’s approach to pardons has been heavily influenced by personal appeals from allies. Throughout his presidency, including in his most recent round of pardons, he’s wiped away punishments for political backers, including former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and a pair of Republican congressmen who were early supporters of his 2016 campaign. Trump has also shown a willingness to intervene on behalf of service members accused of war crimes.In announcing the Blackwater pardons, the White House cited the men’s military service, the support they received and the tangled history of a case that zigzagged for years in Washington’s federal court, turning on radically different interpretations of the shooting.Criticism was swift. A Washington Post editorial called the pardons a “unique threat to national security” and suggested the guards had committed “astonishing acts of inhumanity.” Iraqi citizens who spoke to reporters described old wounds being reopened. Soon after the announcement, a photograph of a smiling 9-year-old victim circulated widely online. The boy’s father told the BBC that Trump “broke my life again.”“They haven’t denied doing what they did,” said Paul Dickinson, who represented victims in a lawsuit over the shootings. “They haven’t apologized for what they did. They haven’t admitted any wrongdoing in what they did.”Blackwater guards, who as State Department contractors were responsible for providing diplomatic security, were already seen as operating with impunity in Iraq. The rampage further escalated international scrutiny of them, prompted multiple investigations and strained U.S.-Iraqi relations.On Sept. 16, 2007, the guards were summoned to create an evacuation route for a diplomat after a car bomb explosion.By prosecutors’ account, the shooting began after the guards’ four-vehicle convoy took up positions at Baghdad’s crowded Nisour Square, where the contractors launched an unprovoked attack using sniper fire, machine-guns and grenade launchers. Liberty says he fired only in the direction of an Iraqi police post; the guards had been concerned by infiltration by insurgents of police ranks. But prosecutors say he and the others fired indiscriminately.Defence lawyers say the shooting began only after a white Kia broke from the traffic and moved toward the convoy in ways the guards perceived as threatening and a potential car bomb. In a narrative disputed by prosecutors, the guards say they fired in response to insurgent gunfire. One contractor who received immunity described hearing the incoming “pop” of what sounded like AK-47 rounds shortly before another guard fired.The case was bitterly contested for more than a decade, with the Justice Department reviving the prosecution after an original indictment was dismissed because of government missteps and flying in dozens of Iraqi witnesses to testify. Liberty and two others, Paul Slough and Dustin Heard, were convicted of manslaughter. Another, Nicholas Slatten, was convicted of first-degree murder.A fifth guard, Jeremy Ridgeway, pleaded guilty and testified against the others. He admitted firing multiple rounds into the Kia — which actually contained a medical student and his mother — but denied having seen Iraqis pointing guns or that he felt threatened. Defence lawyers sought to undercut his credibility by noting that he’d previously told a different story.The lawyers challenged the verdict, citing in part newly discovered evidence — an Iraqi witness statement — they said contradicted what the jury was told.Slatten’s murder conviction was thrown out but he was retried and convicted. The 30-year sentences for the others were shortened after a federal appeals court said the punishments were excessive even though what happened “defies civilized description.”After six years behind bars, Liberty had tried to not get his hopes up about a pardon. “Dumbfounded” when the news came, he grabbed a photograph of his grandfather, a list of Spanish vocabulary he’d been studying and a motivational book on discipline, leaving the rest behind.The New Hampshire native and Marine veteran said he is uncertain of future plans, though he’s passionate about physical fitness and interested in assisting veterans’ organizations. He says he’s grateful to his supporters and to Trump for what he calls a “second chance at life.””I feel like it’s my duty to go out and do something positive and live a good life because they gave me a second chance, so that’s basically my goal.”Eric Tucker, The Associated Press
Three more COVID-19 cases at GRT – KitchenerToday.com
Grand River Transit is confirming three more COVID cases.
All the affected employees are bus drivers.
Two of them last worked on January 15, while the third was last on the job on Jan. 11.
GRT points out all three are now self-isolating at home.
So far in Janaury, nine employees have tested positive for the virus.
Grand River Transit lists COVID-19 cases on its website for transparency purposes, but some details are not released due to privacy concerns.
Since the on-set of the pandemic, multiple safety precautions have been put in place to protect drivers and riders, including barriers and mandatory masks.
Microplastics could be eliminated from wastewater at source – E&T Magazine
A team of researchers from the Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS), Quebec, Canada, have developed an electrolytic process for treating wastewater, degrading microplastics at the source.
Microplastics are fragments of plastic less than 5mm long, often contained in toiletries or shedding from polyester clothing. They are present in virtually every corner of the Earth, and pose a particularly serious threat to marine ecosystems. High concentrations of microplastics can be carried into the environment in wastewater.
There are no established degradation methods to handle microplastics during wastewater treatment; although some techniques exist, these involve physical separation as a means of filtering the pollutant. These techniques do not degrade microplastics, which requires additional work to manage the separated fragments. So far, research into degradation of microplastics has been very limited.
The INRS researchers, led by water treatment expert Professor Patrick Drogui, decided to try degrading plastic particles through electrolytic oxidation – a process that does not require the addition of chemicals.
“Using electrodes, we generate hydroxyl radicals to attack microplastics,” Drogui said. “This process is environmentally friendly because it breaks them down into CO2 and water molecules, which are non-toxic to the ecosystem.”
Drogui and his colleagues experimented with different anode materials and other parameters such as current intensity, anode surface, electrolyte type, electrolyte concentration and reaction time. They found that the electrolytic oxidation could degrade more than 58 ± 21 per cent of microplastics in one hour. The microplastics appeared to degrade directly into gas rather than breaking into smaller particles.
Lab-based tests on water artificially contaminated with fragments of polystyrene showed a degradation efficiency as high as 89 per cent.
“This work demonstrated that [electrolytic oxidation] is a promising process for degradation of microplastics in water without production of any waste or by-products,” the researchers wrote in their Environmental Pollution report.
Drogui envisions this technology being used to treat microplastic-rich wastewater emerging from sources such as commercial laundries.
“When this commercial laundry water arrives at the wastewater treatment plant, it is mixed with large quantities of water, the pollutants are diluted and therefore more difficult to degrade,” he explained. “Conversely, by acting at the source, i.e. at the laundry, the concentration of microplastics is higher, thus more accessible for electrolytic degradation.”
Next, the researchers will move on to experimenting with degrading microplastics on water outside the artificial laboratory environment. Real commercial laundry water contains other materials that can affect the degradation process, such as carbonates and phosphates, which can trap radicals and limit degradation. If the technology is effective under these circumstances, the researchers plan to conduct a study to determine the cost of scaling up this treatment to implement in laundries.
Last week, researchers from the University of Barcelona published a study suggesting that encouraging a greater proliferation of seagrass meadows in the shallows of oceans could help trap, extract and carry marine plastic debris to shore.
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Eliminating microplastics in wastewater directly at the source – EurekAlert
A research team from the Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS) has developed a process for the electrolytic treatment of wastewater that degrades microplastics at the source. The results of this research have been published in the Environmental Pollution journal.
Wastewater can carry high concentrations of microplastics into the environment. These small particles of less than 5 mm can come from our clothes, usually as microfibers. Professor Patrick Drogui, who led the study, points out there are currently no established degradation methods to handle this contaminant during wastewater treatment. Some techniques already exist, but they often involve physical separation as a means of filtering pollutants. These technologies do not degrade them, which requires additional work to manage the separated particles.
Therefore, the research team decided to degrade the particles by electrolytic oxidation, a process not requiring the addition of chemicals. “Using electrodes, we generate hydroxyl radicals (* OH) to attack microplastics. This process is environmentally friendly because it breaks them down into CO2 and water molecules, which are non-toxic to the ecosystem,” explains the researcher. The electrodes used in this process are more expensive than iron or steel electrodes, which degrade over time, but can be reused for several years.
An effective treatment
Professor Drogui envisions the use of this technology at the exit of commercial laundries, a potential source of microplastics release into the environment. “When this commercial laundry water arrives at the wastewater treatment plant, it is mixed with large quantities of water, the pollutants are diluted and therefore more difficult to degrade. Conversely, by acting at the source, i.e., at the laundry, the concentration of microplastics is higher (per litre of water), thus more accessible for electrolytic degradation,” explains the specialist in electrotechnology and water treatment.
Laboratory tests conducted on water artificially contaminated with polystyrene showed a degradation efficiency of 89%. The team plans to move on to experiments on real water. “Real water contains other materials that can affect the degradation process, such as carbonates and phosphates, which can trap radicals and reduce the performance of the oxidation process,” says Professor Drogui, scientific director of the Laboratory of Environmental Electrotechnologies and Oxidative Processes (LEEPO).
If the technology demonstrates its effectiveness on real commercial laundry water, the research group intends to conduct a study to determine the cost of treatment and the adaptation of the technology to treat larger quantities of wastewater. Within a few years, the technology could be implemented in laundry facilities.
About the study
The article “Treatment of microplastics in water by anodic oxidation: A case study for polystyrene”, by Marthe Kiendrebeogo, Mahmoodreza Karimiestahbanati, Ali Khosravanipour Mostafazadeh, Patrick Drogui and Rajeshwar Dayal Tyagi, was published in the Environmental Pollution journal. The team received financial support from the Fonds de recherche du Québec – Nature et technologies (FRQNT), the CREATE-TEDGIEER program, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and the Canadian Francophonie Scholarship Program (CFSP).
INRS is a university dedicated exclusively to graduate level research and training. Since its creation in 1969, INRS has played an active role in Quebec’s economic, social, and cultural development and is ranked first for research intensity in Quebec and in Canada. INRS is made up of four interdisciplinary research and training centres in Quebec City, Montreal, Laval, and Varennes, with expertise in strategic sectors: Eau Terre Environnement, Énergie Matériaux Télécommunications, Urbanisation Culture Société, and Armand-Frappier Santé Biotechnologie. The INRS community includes more than 1,400 students, postdoctoral fellows, faculty members, and staff.
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