PNN - 7/22 Guests and Show Stories Featured
RWS 07:00:00 PM 07:10:00 PM
Steve Perman 07:11:00 PM 07:26:00 PM
Diana Demarest 07:27:00 PM 07:42:00 PM
Kristin Jacobs 07:57:00 PM 08:12:00 PM
Mario Piscatella 08:13:00 PM 08:30:00 PM
[Steve Perman: Elected 2010 Dist. 78/81
Florida House of Representatives, District 78 (elected 2010)
House HHS Subcommittee for Health Access—Ranking Member
Economic Affairs Committee
Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee
Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee
Select Committee on Water Policy]
1. Revealed: Key Files on Big-Ticket Political Donations Vanish at Federal Election Commission
Top money and politics researchers discover that the FEC is quietly deleting information on fat-cat funders.
The Federal Election Commission has long been the go-to source for tracking political money. So when it starts cleansing politically hot contributions from its files, it matters. Big time.
We have discovered that sometime after January of this year, the FEC deleted a whole set of contributions totaling millions of dollars made during the 2007-2008 election cycle. The most important of these files concern what is now called “dark money” – funds donated to ostensible charities or public interest groups rather parties, candidates or conventional political action committees (PACs). These non-profit groups – which Washington insiders often refer to generically as 501(c)s, after the section of the federal tax code regulating them – use the money to pay for allegedly educational “independent” ads that run outside conventional campaign channels. Such funding has now developed into a gigantic channel for evading disclosure of the donors’ identities and is acutely controversial.
In 2008, however, a substantial number of contributions to such 501(c)s made it into the FEC database. For the agency quietly to remove them almost four years later with no public comment is scandalous. It flouts the agency’s legal mandate to track political money and mocks the whole spirit of what the FEC was set up to do. No less seriously, as legal challenges and public criticism of similar contributions in the 2012 election cycle rise to fever pitch, the FEC’s action wipes out one of the few sources of real evidence about how dark money works. Obviously, the unheralded purge also raises unsettling questions about what else might be going on with the database that scholars and journalists of every persuasion have always relied upon.
Why the FEC Was Created
Federal regulatory agencies are often the offspring of epic scandals. The Federal Election Commission is no exception. It was created in the aftermath of Watergate to do for political money what the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) did for securities markets in the New Deal: End an anything-goes saturnalia of corruption through a mix of tough new regulations and “sunlight” – in this case, open, transparent publication of who is trying to buy whom with campaign contributions.
The FEC was supposed to inform the public and curb abuse in our democracy. But like the SEC in the post-Reagan era, the FEC’s reach soon exceeded its grasp. Virtually from the beginning, dark forces of law and politics combined to render the agency almost impotent as a regulator. Today a generation of legal loopholes, court decisions and bipartisan foot-dragging has wrecked spending limits, destroyed the promise of public funding and spawned a new Gilded Age of money in politics.
As the actual situation of money and politics slid from bad to worse, the FEC adjusted by trumpeted its public reporting functions. Given the vast holes in coverage, calling its data reports and archives the “gold standard” of reporting about money in politics would be a stretch. Yet for a generation, we and virtually everyone who tracks political money have benefited hugely from the agency’s labyrinthine data collections as well as the patience and kindness of its staff in explaining them. While you knew FEC data was unlikely to be the last word, you could be confident that whatever the agency did report was as true as it could make it. That the FEC would ever delete true reports of politically relevant money was literally unthinkable.
Something now appears to have changed at the FEC. We are dismayed to find that at some point between January and July 8, 2012, the FEC deleted a whole set of contributions totaling millions of dollars made during the 2007-2008 election cycle.
2. Nuclear operator to release secret Fukushima tapes
Source: ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
Author: North Asia correspondent Mark Willacy
Date: July 16, 2012
Former Japanese prime minister Naoto Kan, who was in office during the Fukushima nuclear meltdowns, has told the ABC he believes the plant’s operator has been hiding key evidence.
[Tepco] now says it will bow to months of pressure from Mr Kan and the government and release the many hours of teleconference video taken in the days after last year’s meltdowns.
But it has confirmed crucial audio of a heated exchange with Mr Kan is missing, claiming its hard drive was full.
Mr Kan has described the missing audio of his speech as “extremely strange”.
“The speech was filmed and broadcast to all TEPCO sites. Surely they recorded the sound at one of those sites.
“It would appear the company is trying to hide something inconvenient.”
MORE FUKU - I don’t know if it’s because of the fear for radiation, but some of the workers in my company are really tempered. They use violence sometimes, I was lucky to be able to talk to my boss about that. If you are worried about radiation, you are not suitable to be a nuclear worker.
This NHK video below has no sound but does include onscreen captions in English.
Though not labeled in English in the video, it appears the river to the south is the Naka and north is the Kuji.
The hotspot appears nearby Fukushima Daiichi in NHK’s map, however it’s actually over 100km south. In reality, the hotspot is almost directly in front of Tokai nuclear power plant:
3. Antinuclear rally draws 170,000 people at central Tokyo park
An anti-nuclear power plant rally called for by a group led by Nobel literature laureate Kenzaburo Oe and other celebrities drew a crowd of around 170,000 people Monday at Tokyo’s Yoyogi Park, according to organizers.
At the assembly held under a scorching sun, dubbed “100,000 People’s Assembly to say Goodbye to Nuclear Power Plants,” journalist Satoshi Kamata said at the opening event, “We want to bring an end to nuclear power plants immediately.”
Oe criticized the government’s stance of trying to restart nuclear reactors when the Fukushima nuclear crisis has not yet fully been resolved. “I feel we’re being insulted by the government” due to the recent rebooting of a reactor, a move he described as “a plot by the government.”
4. Oil Prices might be Rigged? - London Daily Telegraph
You’ll be shocked to learn that “A report commissioned by the G20 group of the world’s biggest economies has warned oil prices could be vulnerable to a Libor-style rigging scandal.”
Concerns are growing about the reliability of oil prices, after a report for the G20 found the market is wide open to “manipulation or distortion”.
Traders from banks, oil companies or hedge funds have an “incentive” to distort the market and are likely to try to report false prices, it said.
Politicians and fuel campaigners last night urged the Government to expand its inquiry into the Libor scandal to see whether oil prices have also been falsely pushed up.
They warned any efforts to rig the oil price would affect how much drivers pay at the pump, which soared to a record high of 137p per litre of unleaded earlier this year.
Robert Halfon, who led a group of 100 MPs calling for lower fuel prices, said the matter “needs to be looked at by the Bank of England urgently”.
This is one of the major concerns raised in the G20 report, published last month by the International Organisation of Securities Commissions (IOSCO).
In the study for global finance ministers, including George Osborne, the regulator warns that traders have opportunities to influence oil prices for their own profit.
It points out that the whole market is “voluntary”, meaning banks and energy companies can choose which trades to make public.
IOSCO says this “creates opportunity for a trader to submit a partial picture in order to influence the [price] to the trader’s advantage”.
In an earlier report, the regulator concluded: “It is open to companies to report only those deals that are in their own best interests for the rest of the market to see.”
96% of participants - said INVESTIGATE
5. EFF Urges Congress to Protect Privacy in Face Recognition
Today, EFF Staff Attorney Jennifer Lynch urged Congress to limit the collection of biometrics and protect privacy with respect to the use of face recognition technology. Jennifer’s testimony [PDF] in a Senate hearing on “What Facial Recognition Technology Means for Privacy and Civil Liberties” outlined the privacy and security concerns that are inherent to automatic face recognition.
This is a pressing issue because, as we've noted before here and here, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security are already incorporating face recognition technology into their extensive biometric databases, which are accessible in real-time by state and local law enforcement, the Department of Defense, the State Department and other federal agencies. Moreover, companies like Facebook, Google, Apple, and various mobile app providers have already started to index faces for private face recognition databases.
The use of face recognition technology raises important First and Fourth Amendment concerns, though the scope of Constitutional protections in this area is unclear. Jennifer testified that “[f]ace recognition allows for covert, remote and mass capture and identification of images—and the photos that may end up in a database include not just a person’s face but also how she is dressed and possibly whom she is with.” While people cannot participate in society without showing their faces in public, they still have an expectation of privacy in their biometric data. Jennifer therefore stated that there should be “a warrant requirement based on probable cause for police to use this technology.” At the same time, the use of social media to communicate with family and friends has become an important practice. Automatic connection between peoples’ faces and their use of social media is therefore troubling.
Jennifer therefore asked Congress “to limit unnecessary biometrics collection; instill proper protections on data collection, transfer, and search; ensure accountability; mandate independent oversight; require appropriate legal process before government collection; and define clear rules for data sharing at all levels.”
We would like to thank Senator Al Franken for holding a hearing on this important issue.
6. Affordable Care Act today
Now that the Supreme Court has upheld the Affordable Care Act, former insurance company executive Wendell Potter’s appeal to single-payer advocates to “bury the hatchet,” http://www.thenation.com/article/168843/healthcare-advocates-time-bury-hatchet">recently published in The Nation, is both misdirected and shortsighted.
Potter argues that insurance industry pirates will exploit left critiques of the ACA to subvert implementation of the law. He calls on proponents of more comprehensive reform to forgive and forget, embracing the massive concessions made by the Obama administration and its liberal allies.
But there are some gaping holes in this thinking.
First, the insurers hardly need to rely on the single-payer movement to sabotage elements of the law they don’t like. They have office towers full of high-priced lawyers who are adept at identifying loopholes in the much-touted consumer protection provisions, like the bans on pre-existing condition exclusions or dropping coverage when patients get sick, or limiting how much money can be siphoned off for profits and paperwork.
Second, let’s not have illusions about the history of the ACA.
Before he was elected, President Obama, an advocate of single-payer when he was in the Senate, called on progressives to push him. Instead, most of the liberals reduced themselves to cheerleading while all the pressure came from the right.
So when the healthcare bill was introduced, the president, with the active encouragement of groups like Health Care for America Now, blocked single-payer from consideration. Persuading people through consent, rather than coercion, to accept inadequate solutions for societal needs has long been a key feature of the neoliberal agenda. It’s one reason so many people vote against their own interests.
To get any hearing from Senator Max Baucus, who was running the Senate side of the debate, nurses, doctors, and single-payer healthcare activists had to get arrested in a Senate Finance Committee hearing. On the House side, Democrats who proposed single-payer amendments endured heavy-handed threats from then–White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. Meanwhile, then–Press Secretary Robert Gibbs publicly attacked the “professional left” who will only “be satisfied when we have Canadian healthcare and we’ve eliminated the Pentagon.”
It should not come as a surprise that negotiating with your supporters before engaging political opposition, and lecturing, hectoring and seeking to silence healthcare activists who have worked for years for real reform, Obama and the Democrats ended up with a weaker bill. That bill lacked the public option HCAN and other liberals had claimed would be their bottom line, while HCAN and other liberals embraced the individual mandate—the brainchild of the right-wing Heritage Foundation—as high principle.
Even with its positive elements—yes, it does have some—the Affordable Care Act uses public money to pad insurance profits (the subsidies to buy private insurance), prevents the government from using its clout to limit price gouging by the pharmaceutical giants, does little to effectively control rising healthcare costs for individuals and families that have made medical bankruptcies and self-rationing of care a national disgrace, and falls far short of the goal of universal coverage.
We can, as Michael Moore has said, acknowledge that the Supreme Court decision was a defeat for the opponents of any reform of our healthcare system without pretending that our nation’s healthcare crisis is over.
For three weeks in June and July, the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United sponsored a tour that drew about 1,000 people to free basic health screenings and another 2,000 to town hall meetings in big cities and rural communities across California. We heard a lot of stories like this one, from Carolyn Travao of Fresno:
I worked for Aetna health insurance for 15 years. When I took early retirement, I thought my Cobra would be manageable. Then they sent me a bill in January for $1,300 a month and I couldn’t pay it.
I had a heart attack. I knew I didn’t have health insurance. I have a mortgage. I had a 401(k) that I knew would get wiped out, so I didn’t go to the hospital. I stayed at home for 16 hours, suffering chest pains, praying that I would die because my son would be left homeless and I do have insurance to pay off my mortgage so if I die he would at least have a home. I couldn’t take the pain any longer and I kept passing out, and he kept saying “Mom, you’re going to die.”
“OK,” I said, “take me to emergency.” So we went to emergency. But when I got home, my bill was $135,000. I have $13,000 left in my 401k. I don’t think I can even start [paying]. I never thought I would lay there and want to die. But I would have rather died knowing that my son would be left homeless with no job.
Since the ACA’s cost-control mechanisms for insurance companies are so weak—for example permitting insurers to charge far more based on age and where you live—and hospitals will still largely have free reign to impose unpayable bills, will Carolyn and millions like her really have guaranteed healthcare under the ACA?
Sadly, nurses who have seen far too many patients like Carolyn know the answer all too well. That is why nurses and our organization will never stop fighting for guaranteed healthcare based on a single standard of quality care for all that is not based on ability to pay and is not premised on protecting the profits of healthcare corporations that long ago wrote off patients like Carolyn Travao.
Unlike Wendell Potter and many of the liberals, nurses see the ACA as a floor, not a ceiling. It’s time now for those who say they recognize its limitations and believe in genuinely universal healthcare to join us in pushing for an improved and expanded Medicare for all.
Nurses respect the president. But they love their patients far too much not to go the distance for their patients’ health and survival.
Link to the original article on The Nation
7. A SUBCONTRACTOR at Japan's crippled Fukushima nuclear plant told workers to lie about radiation exposure.
An executive at construction firm Build-Up in December told about 10 of its workers to cover their dosimeters, used to measure cumulative radiation exposure, with lead casings when working in areas with high radiation, the Asahi Shimbun newspaper and other media said.
The action was apparently designed to under-report their exposure to allow the company to continue working at the site of the worst nuclear disaster in a generation, media reports said.
A 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011 crippled cooling equipment at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, triggering meltdowns that spewed radioactivity and forced tens of thousands of residents to flee.
The Asahi urged plant operator Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) to strictly manage the safety of work crews.
The influential daily also called on the government to conduct a thorough survey of work conditions at the site, which has been off limit to the public, except for occasional visits by journalists guided by TEPCO officials.
Several workers at Build-Up told the Asahi that a senior official from the firm who served as their on-site supervisor said in December he used a lead casing and urged them to do the same.
Without faking the exposure level, the executive told the workers they would quickly reach the legally permissible annual exposure limit of 50 millisieverts, according to the Asahi.
The workers had a recording of their meeting, the newspaper said.
"Unless we hide it with lead, exposure will max out and we cannot work," the executive was heard saying in the recording, the Asahi reported. Some workers refused to wear it and left the company, the Asahi said.
The workers were hired for about four months through March to insulate pipes at a water treatment facility, Kyodo News said.
The ministry of health, labour and welfare was starting to investigate the matter, newspapers and Jiji Press reported. Health ministry and Build-Up officials could not be reached for comment.
8. Lawyer: Treatment of Bradley Manning 'Should Shock the Court'
By Dan De Luce, Agence France-Presse
20 July 12
Evidence showing the mistreatment of WikiLeaks suspect Bradley Manning at a military brig should "shock the conscience" of the court, his lawyer said Thursday.
The US Army soldier accused of handing over a trove of secret documents to the WikiLeaks website was subjected to harsh, "unlawful" conditions for nine months at the brig even though psychiatrists concluded he was not at risk of committing suicide, said David Coombs, his defense counsel.
Manning was placed under "maximum custody" at the US Marine Corps Brig in Quantico, Virginia as "the result of a direct order" from a commanding officer, witnessed by two colonels, Coombs alleged at a pre-trial hearing.
Other cases have revealed excesses but "this one should shock the conscience of this court," the lawyer added.
After his solitary confinement from July 2010 to April 2011, which sparked outrage by rights activists, Manning was transferred to a prison at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas, where he was placed under less restrictive conditions after he was evaluated by mental health professionals.
Judge Denise Lind agreed to a defense request to have the commander of the Fort Leavenworth brig at the time, Lieutenant Colonel Dawn Hilton, testify next month about how Manning was evaluated and why he was not placed in solitary confinement.
Manning's lawyer said he planned to file a 100-page motion arguing his client suffered illegal detention conditions while awaiting his court-martial, and said his improved treatment at Fort Leavenworth made clear that he had endured an injustice at the Quantico brig.
"Either the water at Fort Leavenworth has amazing mental health healing properties or he was subject to unlawful pre-trial confinement (at Quantico)," Coombs said.
But the judge rejected a request from Manning to have UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendez appear as a witness. Prosecutors had argued that Mendez's testimony was not relevant as he never visited Manning during his detention at Quantico.
Mendez requested a visit with Manning but US military authorities would not allow him to conduct an "unmonitored" meeting with the accused, Coombs said.
The judge also ruled Thursday that prosecutors have to meet a defense request to produce in court a tear-proof smock, blanket and mattress similar to those issued to Manning during his detention at Quantico.
The blanket was essentially "a large piece of sand paper," Coombs said.
The trial for Manning is tentatively due to begin in September but may be pushed back as late as February next year, the judge said.
Manning, 24, was a low-ranking intelligence analyst deployed in Iraq when he was arrested in May 2010 and accused of releasing hundreds of thousands of classified diplomatic cables and military logs from Iraq and Afghanistan.
If convicted of aiding the enemy, he faces a possible life sentence.
9. Does targeted killing of a US citizen violate the Constitution? “Things got a little crazy when the Senate Judiciary Committee FISA Amendment Markup turned to targeted killing.” John Cornyn wanted an amendment forcing the administration to reveal its authorization. Chuck Grassley was in support, but “Democrats prevented Cornyn and Grassley from attaching legislation mandating the Administration share the authorization with Congress.”
10. The One Percent Want Your Social Security and Medicare and Steven Pearlstein Is Trying to Help
Steven Pearlstein, the Washington Post business columnist, often writes insightful pieces on the economy, not today. The thrust of his piece is that we all should be hopeful that a group of incredibly rich CEOs can engineer a coup.
While the rest of us are wasting our time worrying about whether Barack Obama or Mitt Romney are sitting in the White House the next four years, Pearlstein tells us (approvingly) that these honchos are scurrying through back rooms in Washington trying to carve out a deficit deal.
The plan is that we will get the rich folks’ deal regardless of who wins the election. It is difficult to imagine a more contemptuous attitude toward democracy.
The deal that this gang (led by Morgan Stanley director Erskine Bowles) is hatching will inevitably include some amount of tax increases and also large budget cuts. At the top of the list, as Pearlstein proudly tells us, are cuts to Social Security and Medicare. At a time when we have seen an unprecedented transfer of income to the top one percent, these deficit warriors are placing a top priority on snatching away a portion of Social Security checks that average $1,200 a month. Yes, the country needs this.
The most likely cut to Social Security is a reduction in the annual cost of living adjustment of 0.3 percentage points. While that might sound trivial, the effect accumulates through time. After ten years, a typical check will be about 3 percent lower, after 20 years it will be 6 percent lower, and after 30 years it will be about 9 percent lower.
Social Security amounts to 90 percent or more of the income for one-third of seniors. For this group, the proposed cut in benefits would be a considerably larger share of their income that the higher taxes faced by someone earning $300,000 a year as a result of the repeal of the Bush tax cuts on high income earners. The latter is supposed to be a big deal, therefore the proposed cuts to Social Security are also a big deal.
10. The New Eminent Domain RIPOFF - THE NEXT WALL STREET FLAVORED FIX
MT - "While seizing land with compensation to build a highway for public use is one thing, seizing property for the private profit of others is quite another."
The biggest problem though, is surely the danger of corruption. How many municipalities will end up using these opaque procedures to enrich well-connected insiders? How many will buy junk at inflated prices, or seize and sell to a well-connected insider at far below value? Who polices such transactions? Where is the transparency? How do we make sure that this is not just an excuse for bad lenders to offload junk to the taxpayer at inflated prices and cream a profit when they were set to reap a loss?
That is the new way of business: steal from the taxpayers. Anyone who thinks this is not what’s going to happen needs to pull their heads out of the sand and look at recent history (or even the not so recent history) in this country.
People should know this is going to be a scam. Another one. If you let parasites into the plan, don’t be surprised when they start sucking, what’s left of us that is, completely dry.