Sunday, June 16, 2013

BIG D and little d - the Activists and the Party

PNN 6/16 - click to Listen 
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Dr. Rachel Pienta - 7:21pm
Ed Matson - 7:36pm
Edwin Enciso - 7:52pm
Tabitha Frazier - 8:07pm
Sally Phillips - 8:22pm
Alan Clendenin - 8:37pm

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Events - click to Listen
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Protests in South Africa - lack of proper sanitation
and waste processing services - obviously they sequestered the funds, to improve the quality of life for far too many people. As part of their protest activists  were bring samples of the problem to local government offices. Samples were shared or "thrown" at opposition leader Helen Zille as she toured the poorer areas of the city.
Former ANC councillor Andile Lilli expelled from the party for other matters - The protesters had reportedly travelled by train from townships near Cape Town with bags of human waste before they were detained.
Former ANC councillor Andile Lili, who has been expelled from the party over a separate matter, is among those to have been arrested.
"We are emptying our toilets there because our toilets have smelled for three months," he told South Africa's Eyewitness News.
- Luckily here (guided by the hand of the tea party) we maintain the proper civic investment in infrastructure like sewer and water systems, bridges, highways, and schools.

New York Cross Roads 6/17/13 - East Capitol Lawn
Albany New York - NYAGAINSTFRACKING.ORG
No Fracking / Yes Renewable Energy


Why not end hunger, rather than force it on more poor children? That was the message that Rep. Jim McGovern took to the House floor in early June, the 13th year in a row he has stood up to call for the richest nation that ever existed to take the steps to end hunger.
But rather than heeding his call, the mean-spirited Republicans in the House are threatening $20M in cuts to the current food stamp program. They want to cut 2 million people from the anti-hunger safety net. They want to knock 210,000 hungry kids out of free school meals.
Really? Can they really believe that there is enough money to subsidize the oil companies, the wealthiest corporations that have ever stalked the earth, but not enough to help poor kids get enough to eat?

In PDA's view, that's just cold; it's mean; it's wrong.
If you agree, join PDA for our upcoming letter drop at your local Congressional office on Wednesday, June 19th! And call and write your elected officials to tell them no cuts to anti-hunger programs, no cuts to food stamps--or else vote NO on the Farm Bill.

Join us as we march in the Stonewall Pride Parade to support equality and the LGBTQ community. March with us and get a Planned Parenthood t-shirt! Click here for more information.
Saturday, June 22 at 7:00pm
Meet at Tropics Restaurant & Piano Bar
2000 Wilton Drive, Wilton Manors 33305
RSVP to public_affairs@ppsoflo.org

Broward County Legislative Delegation Town Hall on Health Care
Planned Parenthood will be attending a town hall meeting to discuss the failure of the Florida Legislature to pass health care expansion for working families. We need volunteers to ask questions in order to show support for women’s health care. We will prepare you with information and questions, and a Planned Parenthood shirt.
Tuesday, June 25 at 6:00pm
Broward County Governmental Center
115 S Andrews Ave, Ft Lauderdale 33301
RSVP to public_affairs@ppsoflo.org

National HIV Testing Day
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1. JJ Weekend Conference & Fundraiser
Among the many meetings and panels there was Charter and Bylaws Revision committee
When rules and the charters are under examination. When public input is solicited, it is an example of realtime democracy life and untamed. Good ideas were hurt long simmering concerns are raised, and the occasion axe is invariable ground a bit. One by one in 3 minute segments concerns were raised. The ideas many of them of great significance were heard and recorded, and I was reminded of what must been a rollicking series of meetings in both the Continental Congress and the conferences that ultimately resulted in the birthing of this great experiment in democracy and self rule. Not a government of the princes and the elite but a government of the people. I left the meeting feeling quite patriotic. Thanks Democratic Party, you provided a service to the people by holding in an open forum a request for comments to review the nuts and bolts, the structure and rules that govern the party were opened for review and debate.

1.01. Al Gore says Obama must veto 'atrocity' of Keystone XL tar sands pipeline

Former vice-president says oil pipeline is 'really a losing proposition' and demands climate plan promised at inauguration. Al Gore has called on Barack Obama to veto the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, describing it as "an atrocity".
The former vice-president said in an interview on Friday that he hoped Obama would follow the example of British Columbia, which last week rejected a similar pipeline project, and shut down the Keystone XL.

"I certainly hope that he will veto that now that the Canadians have publicly concluded that it is not safe to take a pipeline across British Columbia to ports on the Pacific," he told the Guardian. "I really can't imagine that our country would say: 'Oh well. Take it right over parts of the Ogallala aquifer', our largest and most important source of ground water in the US. It's really a losing proposition."
Campaigners have cast Keystone XL as the most important decision of Obama' presidency. The State Department, which has say over the project because it crosses the US-Canadian border, is to announce its decision later this year.
But Gore said an even larger environmental decision loomed for Obama next month. The White House has indicated Obama could offer a long-awaited climate plan, the first concrete proposals since his inauguration in January when the president suggested it was a religious and patriotic duty to deal with the challenge
"This whole project [Keystone XL] is an atrocity but it is even more important for him to regulate carbon dioxide emissions," Gore said. He urged Obama to use his powers as president to cut carbon dioxide emissions from new and existing power plants – the biggest since source of global warming pollution.
"He doesn't need Congress to do anything," Gore said. "If it hurts the feelings of people in the carbon polluting industries that's too bad."

2a. Fireworks erupted early at the anxiously awaited Palm Beach County Republican Executive Committee meeting Wednesday night, when Chairman Ira Sabin took the microphone after days under fire for failing to raise the funds needed to keep the party afloat.
A blame game erupted between Sabin and former chairman of the party Sid Dinerstein, with Dinerstein saying he wasn’t going to be the George Bush to Sabin’s Barack Obama. Sabin’s daughter became so enraged, she screamed at Dinerstein to “shut up,” which prompted Sabin to publicly chastise his adult daughter. And, in an example of why the party may be out of money, a longtime big donor vowed to never give the party another dime while Sabin was chairman.
The cash-strapped Republican Party of Palm Beach County had abruptly closed its West Palm Beach office days earlier, laying off its two full-time employees, Political Director Mark Hoch and Executive Director Cathy Brandenburg


click to Listen

2. Palm Beach County GOP runs out of money,

staff laid off

Ira Sabin, Chairman of the Republican Party of Palm Beach County, said the party is “downsizing.”

Cash-strapped and crippled by poor fundraising efforts, the Republican Party of Palm Beach County has closed its West Palm Beach office and laid off its two full-time employees, Political Director Mark Hoch and Executive Director Cathy Brandenburg, party Chairman Ira Sabin confirmed Sunday to BizPac Review.

“We’re downsizing,” Sabin said.

After serving as treasurer of the county party for two years, Sabin was narrowly elected chairman in a close race six months ago.

Now, the Republican Party of Palm Beach County is out of money.

Sabin has been plagued by controversy since taking the reins from former 10-year Chairman Sid Dinerstein.

Rumors have circulated for months that Sabin’s abrasive personality had alienated the party’s major long-time donors. Now, those donors have stopped giving, and the party has no income to pay its monthly expenses, a source within the party told BizPac Review.

Evidence of the local GOP’s fundraising inexperience began early this year, when at the height of planning the annual, all-important Lincoln Day Dinner, Sabin abruptly fired then-Executive Director Susanna Barasch and replaced her with Brandenburg.

Multiple sources told BizPac Review the long-standing practice of selling Lincoln Day tickets by the table to bigger donors was pretty much ignored this year, helping to explain why the local party made little money at its biggest fundraiser.

Other signs of fiscal ineptitude included the surprise cancellation of the party’s annual golf tournament, and to date, there has been no word on when the ever-popular Lobsterfest will be held.

These events have been solid moneymakers for the Republican Party of Palm Beach County for decades.

According to insiders, the party has hired two fundraisers who will begin work immediately on a commission basis to find ways to bring income to the cash-strapped organization.

Since there’s no money to pay its staff, calls to party headquarters are answered by a recorded message from Sabin that stings with irony: “No one is available.”

Scary words to hear with an election year approaching in 2014.

3. FUKE ME! - Leaks Continue Contamination grows

(NaturalNews) The tsunami-caused nuclear accident at the Fukushima power station in Japan is the disaster that never ends, as new reports indicate that a wealth of new radioactive materials have been spewed into the atmosphere.

According to Singapore-based news outlet AsiaOne, the Tokyo Electric Power Co., which owns the multi-nuclear reactor power station at Fukushima, announced April 6 that some 120 tons of water that had been contaminated with radioactive substances had leaked from an underground storage facility at the No. 1 atomic power plant site.

Running out of storage room?
TEPCO officials announced the leak late in the day April 5, a Friday, "but said measures to address the problem had not been taken for two days because the cause had not been identified," AsiaOne reported. The company "assumed the water was still leaking."

According to company officials TEPCO estimates that the leaked water contains about 710 billion becquerels of radioactive substances, making it the largest leak of radioactive materials ever at the plant. Discovery of the leak led the company to transfer about 13,000 tons of polluted, radioactive water in the questionable storage area to a neighboring underground storage unit.

That storage unit, TEPCO said, is 60 meters long, 53 meters wide and six meters deep. It is pool-like in structure and has a three-layer waterproof sheet with a concrete cover.

According to the company, water that has leaked from damaged nuclear reactors is run through filters and additional devices in order to remove radioactive elements. The water is then stored in facilities for low-level contaminated water.

TEPCO began using the storage facility Feb. 1. As of April 5, 13,000 tons of radioactive water was being stored there - very close to the 14,000-ton limit.

More leaking contamination
AsiaOne reported that water samples taken by TEPCO from soil surrounding the damaged facility a few days later showed 35 becquerels per cubic centimeter of radioactive substances, which is abnormal. "Safe" levels of becquerels is 300 per kilogram of water, according to New Scientist.

However, TEPCO officials did not publicly announce their findings right away after not finding any other unusual changes in water quality data, such as chloride concentration.

On April 5, the report said, two days after the problem was first noticed, water with 6,000 becquerels per cubic centimeter of radioactive substances was located between the first and second layers of the waterproof sheet, which alerted TEPCO engineers and plant officials that a leak had occurred.

Learn more: http://www.naturalnews.com/040058_Fukushima_radioactive_nuclear_leak.html#ixzz2WPX7JC1s
    
3.a. Study: Fukushima radiation fallout has devastated health of US babies on West Coast and in other areas

Monday, April 15, 2013 by: Jonathan Benson, staff writer

Learn more: http://www.naturalnews.com/039923_Fukushima_radiation_hypothyroidism.html#ixzz2WPXHAxRQ

 (NaturalNews) New peer-reviewed research published in the Open Journal of Pediatrics raises fresh concerns about the health effects of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster on American children and babies. As has long been suspected by those with an understanding of the widespread reach of radioactive fallout from Fukushima, newborns living in California, Hawaii, Washington, and other West Coast states appear to have been directly affected by Fukushima fallout in a serious way, which is reflected by the disproportionate rate of hypothyroidism observed amongst this demographic.

Conducted by a duo of scientists from the Radiation and Public Health Project, a non-profit education and scientific organization that seeks to understand the relationship between nuclear radiation exposure and public health, the research evaluated average rates of hypothyroidism both before and after the Fukushima disaster. In their findings, Joseph J. Mangano and Janette D. Sherman reported that, compared to one year earlier, babies born between one week and 16 weeks after the nuclear meltdowns in Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington were 28 percent more likely to suffer from congenital hypothyroidism.

2,110 percent increase in iodine-131 on US West Coast following Fukushima linked to hypothyroidism
Each of these states and the Pacific Ocean, according to the study, experiences significantly elevated levels of radioactive iodine-131 (I-131), as well as various other radioactive isotopes, in the days and weeks following the March 11, 2011, disaster. Based on the data, the 2,110 percent increase in detectable I-131 all along the U.S. West Coast following the disaster appears to be directly correlated with the higher-than-average rates of congenital hypothyroidism.

"After entering our bodies, radioactive iodine gathers in our thyroids," explains John Upton, writing for Grist.com, about how radioactive isotopes interfere with proper thyroid function. "Thyroids are glands that release hormones that control how we grow. In babies, including those not yet born, such radiation can stunt the development of body and brain. The condition is known as congenital hypothyroidism."

Learn more: http://www.naturalnews.com/039923_Fukushima_radiation_hypothyroidism.html#ixzz2WPXONEGZ


4. BIG OIL COMES TO FLORIDA’S EVERGLADES

--INTENT TO DRILL AND “FRACK” 1,000 FEET FROM HOMES
Tampa, Florida
June 10, 2013

Homeowners are alarmed over plans now afoot to drill and frack a 13,900-feet deep exploratory well within 1,000 feet of their residences in the Golden Gate Community outside of Naples, Florida.  Residents living within a square mile of the intended site first learned about this when they received a frightening notice from a company called Total Safety, Inc., requesting emergency contact information from each household so they could formulate an evacuation plan in the event of an explosion or a toxic chemical release.

“Total Safety” had been hired by the Dan A. Hughes Company, which had recently signed a leasing agreement from the Collier family, which owns the mineral rights to this massive onshore oil reserve known as the Sunniland Trend.  The Trend stretches from Ft. Myers to Miami and intersects one of the most pristine protected preserves and natural areas in the nation, the beloved Everglades.

“Transparency is key to a government by and for the people,” stated Anita Stewart, Co-chair of the Green Party of Florida.  “They have been planning this and getting their permits for months now, all in secret.  Then they spring it on people as they are ready to start drilling.”

Residents have organized an emergency grassroots effort to stop the drilling and fracking before it begins, and to shut down permitting process. They have planned an Emergency Town Hall Meeting for Tuesday, June 11, 2013 at 5PM and have created a website called Preserve Our Paradise, a Facebook page, and a petition on Change.org.

Organizer Joe D. Mule stated that while the permit does not mention activities consistent with hydraulic fracturing or “fracking,” the toxic chemicals routinely used are probably the same or similar to what will be used at the planned site, and they are kept secret under the guise of proprietary restrictions. The end result will be the same — illness and death, the die-off of flora and fauna, and the poisoning of our air, soil and water.

From the Platform of the Green Party of the United States:  “We believe that no one — including people of color and the poor — should be poisoned nor subjected to harmful levels of toxic chemicals and that no group of people should bear a disproportionate share of the pollution from industrial, governmental and commercial sources or policies…Uphold the precautionary principle, requiring polluters to bear the burden of proof in demonstrating the safety of their practices. Expand the application of the precautionary principle from chemicals and health to land use, waste, energy, food policy and local economic development...Facilitate procedural justice, ensuring the public's right to know. Ensure rules and regulations are transparent to help communities employ their rights and participate in decision-making. Provide information in languages appropriate to the affected communities.”

The Green Party of Florida calls for an immediate switch to alternative sources of energy such as Solar, Wind, and Geothermal.

5. SENATOR WARREN ON TPP

“I appreciate the willingness of the USTR to make various documents available for review by members of Congress, but I do not believe that is a substitute for more robust public transparency,” Warren wrote to Froman, who is now an assistant to the president. “If transparency would lead to widespread public opposition to a trade agreement, then that trade agreement should not be the policy of the United States.”

The letter, dated yesterday, was provided to Bloomberg. It doesn’t link the request to Froman’s Senate pending confirmation.

6. LOCKBOX just the phone number, no names, nothing else
debate, debate… you can't handle a debate (now its just your phone & email - that will be protected by the lockbox

7. Hong Kong Protesters Rally for Snowden

VoA - News Saturday 15th June, 2013
Hundreds of demonstrators staged a rally at the U.S. consulate in Hong Kong Saturday to urge the city's government not to extradite Edward Snowden, the American who leaked top-secret information about U.S. surveillance programs.
The protesters gathered in a heavy rain to also speak out against the U.S. National Security Agency's monitoring of communications traffic in other countries and cities, including Hong Kong.
The U.S. launched a criminal investigation after Snowden, leaked details of Washington's secret Internet and telephone surveillance programs.
Snowden has gone underground in Hong Kong after traveling from his home in the U.S. state of Hawaii.

8.in accordance with the law.
June 15, 2013
Chief Executive CY Leung says the Government will handle the Edward Snowden case in accordance with the law.

He issued the statement tonight, saying: "When the relevant mechanism is activated, the Government will handle the case of Mr Snowden in accordance with the laws and established procedures of Hong Kong.

"The Government will follow up on any incidents related to the privacy or other rights of institutions or people in Hong Kong being violated.”

9. MAINELY GMO

Yesterday, Maine's state senate easily passed a bill that may one day mandate the labeling of foods containing genetically modified organisms. The law passed 35-0, but before labels are required, five consecutive states must also pass labeling laws.

For Maine, that means the GMO labeling will only go into effect if New Hampshire, the only state with which it shares a border, passes a similar law.

The bill may face even greater challenges from the food industry, the Kennebec Journal reports:

    "Monsanto has threatened to sue states that pass similar labeling laws, which is one reason why lawmakers in several states are passing labeling legislation dependent on other states doing the same. The state compacts could help defray costs of a lawsuit."

Connecticut is the only other state to have passed GMO labeling legislation, and similarly requires that four other state pass GMO labeling laws.

Advocates of GMO labeling remain tentatively optimistic about such progress. "Neither bill is perfect," the Organic Consumer's Association wrote in an update about the bill. "But it just could turn out that the trigger clauses prompt other nearby states, including Vermont whose bill H.112 will be taken up in January, to follow suit."

10. Monsanto has spent the past three decades wrecking our planet


poisoning our bodies, and pushing species of crops to the verge of extinction with a wide array of toxic products.
And Monsanto's signature herbicide, Roundup, does all these things at once -- but Monsanto has lied over and over and said that the product is perfectly safe. Yet independent research has found the chemical is creating herbicide-resistant superweeds, making a species of butterfly extinct, and disrupting normal human body functions.
Monsanto has inflicted awful damage upon the Earth and its inhabitants, but the company is finally facing significant blowback. Now, while the tide in the ongoing war of consumers vs. the agriculture giant is swinging our way, it is the time to call on Monsanto to tell the truth about the effects of Roundup.

Tell Monsanto: Stop ignoring the deadly effects of your top herbicide. Provide more information about the real effects of Roundup.

After years of lobbying European governments to allow the cultivation of Monsanto GMO plants and seeds, Monsanto finally quit lobbying because the company could not gain support on the continent. This week, an American appeals court has prevented Monsanto from suing farmers that might inadvertently grow Monsanto laced crops.

We're standing as consumers, shareholders and citizens of the world to say “enough is enough” and demanding Monsanto stop lying that Roundup is safe and start putting strict limits on the amount of Roundup it sells to any one area until we know more.

Every day we delay is another species near extinction, another superweed created, another child who falls sick. But every signature we get brings us one step closer to stopping Monsanto from destroying our planet with Roundup -- and showing Monsanto that we won't let it continue leading us down that path of destruction.


face - preserve our paradise - fb- ellen hemerick occupy naples

11. Iraq is POISONED
from Sandy Davies
an excerpt written by
Mozhgan Savabieasfahani


Dr Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, a native of Iran, is an environmental toxicologist based in Michigan. She is the author of over two dozen peer reviewed articles and the book, Pollution and Reproductive Damage (DVM 2009).


A 2012 World Health Organization study on congenital birth defects in Iraq has still not been released to the public.

Iraq is poisoned. Thirty-five million Iraqis wake up every morning to a living nightmare of childhood cancers, adult cancers and birth defects. Familial cancers, cluster cancers and multiple cancers in the same individual have become frequent in Iraq. 
Sterility, repeated miscarriages, stillbirths and severe birth defects - some never described in any medical books - are all around, in increasing numbers. Trapped in this hellish nightmare, millions of Iraqis struggle to survive, and they call for help.
At long last, public pressure and media attention to this public health catastrophe prompted a joint study by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Iraqi Ministry of Health to determine the prevalence of birth defects in Iraq. This study began in May-June 2012 and was completed in early October 2012.
The WHO website says that this large-scale study was conducted in Baghdad (Karkh and Rasafa), Diyala, Anbar, Sulaymaniyah, Babel, Basrah, Mosul and Thi-Qar, with 10,800 households from 18 districts and a sample size of 600 households per district. 
The Independent (UK) reported that this study was due to be released in November 2012. But the report has not yet come out.
Report kept secret
In March 2013, a high-ranking official at the Iraqi Ministry of Health in Baghdad discussed the issue with the BBC and said that "all studies done by the Ministry of Health prove with damning evidence that there has been a rise in birth defects and cancers" in Iraq.
During the same BBC documentary, called "Born under a bad sign", two other Ministry of Health researchers discussed the unpublished study. They confirmed that that cancers and birth defects constitute a major crisis for the next generation of Iraqi children. They specifically confirmed simultaneous increases in cancers and congenital anomalies in three governorates - Nineveh, Anbar and Najaf - linking those increases to munitions used during the war.
Why should such an important report be kept secret?
 Inside Story Americas - Did the US cause Fallujah's birth defects?

In a serious health emergency, as we see in Iraq, such an extensive survey of public health must be widely publicised to attract international support and expertise. Medical experts, epidemiologists, environmental toxicologists, remediation staff and environmental cleanup specialists must be summoned to address this crisis and save lives.
A delay of six months in the release of such a critical report has left many of us anxious and fearful that it may be suppressed.
In response to this costly delay in releasing the WHO report, 58 scientists, health professionals and human rights advocates recently wrote to the WHO and the Iraqi Health Ministry, asking for the immediate release of their report. We requested that this globally significant report be released at once. We received no response to this letter.

12. Ft. Lauderdale Mayor Jack "JACKie-O Seiller says fl dem candidates too radical


Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler thinks the Democratic Party needs to nominate moderate candidates if wants to win statewide elections.

Seiler, a former state representative and former Wilton Manors mayor, is one of those moderate Democrats. He considered running for governor in 2014, but has signaled any statewide candidacy isn’t likely in next year’s election.

He’s obviously thought about what it takes to win statewide elections, something his party hasn’t been very good at in recent decades.

Here’s what he said in an interview last month:

“I think at times we are picking our most extreme candidates, and I think we’ve got to try to make sure we get back to the more moderate Democrats that have succeeded in the past. Florida is a very moderate state. It is not a state that is extreme left or extreme right. It’s a moderate state.  We need to move to the middle. We need to be that big tent in the middle.

“We tend to kind of have our most extreme candidates come out of the primary and then can’t get back to the middle to win the general.

“The party can be more to the left in certain states and do very well. The party in Florida needs to be moderate. At any given time you’ve basically got 40 percent of this population Democratic, 40 percent of this population Republican, and 20 percent in the middle that are going to go either way. That middle 20 is who’s going to decide those elections.”

I don't know whether he means Ms. Sink or McBride but I don't think he means Nelson he's an extreme moderate - infect he's such a radical moderate he votes with the repubs 80% of the time -

13. Did Bank of America Push Homeowners Towards Foreclosure?

Former employees have alleged that Bank of America  deliberately denied eligible home owners loan modifications and lied to them about the status of their mortgage payments and documents, in a report by Reuters. The strategy was used to push homeowners towards foreclosure and in-house modifications, both of which produced more profits for the bank than the government sponsored Home Affordable Modification Program.

The former employees also allege that those who successfully herded customers towards foreclosure were rewarded through cash bonuses and gift cards. An employee who placed ten more accounts into foreclosure in one month could get a $500 bonus while those who didn’t make the numbers or objected to the business practices would get disciplined or fired.

Twice a month, the bank would carry out an operation called “blitz,” in which they would decline thousands of backlogged HAMP requests because they were more than sixty months old. Testimony from one former employee alleged that the bank handed the government false information, giving the impression that they had given out HAMP loan modifications when it hadn’t.

14. “Chilling Phenomena”:
Fungus emitting radiation 70 times higher than nearby asphalt — “A boy sitting on that patch to watch a baseball game could do real damage to his gonads”

One of the first demonstrations conducted by [Kevin Wang]’s team was at a Japanese school still in routine use. The contamination was widespread and included troubling accumulations of radiation in biological materials. While the asphalt driveway was contaminated, the grass next to it was four times as radioactive as the asphalt. The worst were the patches of fungus on the bleachers at the school’s baseball field, which had sucked-up radionuclides to such a degree that they were emitting radiation at 70-times the contaminated asphalt.

[Sam Engelhard, an industrial hygenist and certified radiation protection technologist] described the chilling phenomena of the fungus-turned-radiation-sponge as, “a remarkable example of biological amplification.”

Wang said it more bluntly, “A boy sitting on that patch to watch a baseball game could do real damage to his gonads.” [...]

15. DEP lawyer says clashes over enforcement led to his firing

Lawyer Chris Byrd had just won a court victory on behalf of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. After a four-day trial, a jury had ruled that a Marion County couple had illegally filled in wetlands by an aquatic preserve along the Rainbow River. Instead of celebrating, the DEP attorney felt worried.

"As soon as the verdict came back, I had a sinking feeling," he said. "I thought, 'When (Florida Department of Environmental Protection Deputy Secretary) Jeff Littlejohn hears about this, I'm probably going to lose my job.' "

Sure enough, Littlejohn met with the defendants and listened to their complaints about Byrd. Five months after his win, Byrd was one of four DEP lawyers ousted from their jobs.

Byrd and colleague Kelly Russell believe they were terminated because they frequently clashed with Littlejohn over how — and whether — to enforce state laws protecting the environment.

Although he's in charge of regulatory programs, "Littlejohn doesn't like enforcement," Byrd said. "He doesn't want the department to do any high-profile enforcement cases."

Russell, in an email to the Times, contended they were fired "because of direct or indirect encounters in which our legal advice — which was specifically sought and provided — was not well received by the deputy secretary, his appointees, or outside influences, including in interactions . . . with certain opposing counsel representing private property or development interests."

Another longtime DEP attorney who was let go, Teresa Mussetto, declined to comment.

The fourth of the ousted lawyers, Chris McGuire, said he got along fine with Littlejohn but had problems with Littlejohn's deputy, Mike Halpin, when Halpin oversaw the air pollution permitting section and McGuire was in charge of attorneys in that field.

"He expressed some dissatisfaction with the air attorneys," McGuire said. "They would say, 'You can't do things,' and he didn't want to hear that."

A Times request to interview Littlejohn and DEP Secretary Herschel Vinyard was declined by DEP press secretary Patrick Gillespie. He said the firings had nothing to do with officials' disagreements with the attorneys.

Instead, Gillespie said, the firings were the work of the new DEP general counsel, Matthew Z. Leopold. Vinyard hired Leopold earlier this year from the U.S. Justice Department, where he worked on the 2010 BP oil spill. His resume includes no mention of any experience trying cases in Florida.

Leopold decided to get rid of four of his 42 attorneys because of a decline in his department's workload, Gillespie said.

"These staffing decisions were made as Matt came in as a new manager and assessed his team," Gillespie said. Because the agency is doing more to assist companies in complying with the law rather than punish them, "there have been fewer enforcement cases" needing attorneys.

Gillespie said that in 2010 DEP attorneys handled 2,289 enforcement cases. By 2012, that number dropped to 799, and as of the end of May, only 145 new ones have been filed this year.

Part of the reason for that decline, Byrd said, is the number of inspectors looking for violations has been "slashed and burned" in recent years. The other reason, he said, is because Littlejohn and Halpin control which cases reach the attorneys, even though neither has a law degree.

Littlejohn spent more than 10 years working as a consulting engineer getting state and federal permits for his clients. Vinyard hired him in March 2011 to oversee the DEP's regulatory programs, and he picked Halpin as his assistant deputy secretary.

Before any cases get to attorneys, Byrd said, they now must go through Halpin, and many are rejected. Before, when people failed to get permits for filling in wetlands or other activities, the agency went after them, he said. Now the approach is to grant them an after-the-fact permit and let it slide.

"It's like Alice in Wonderland up there now," Byrd said.

Even when cases did make it to the attorneys, "we were routinely overruled by Jeff Littlejohn," Byrd said. "Attorneys would be called to his office to brief him on cases that were not under (his division), and we were constantly having him argue with us over legal principles."

The four fired attorneys had all received stellar job reviews in recent years. One of them, Mussetto, had won a major victory in the U.S. Supreme Court in 2009.

But as Byrd learned, victory in court is no guarantee of future employment.

After the Marion County jury ruled for the DEP in its wetland-filling case against John and Mona Rondolino of Dunnellon, Byrd was ready to push for the maximum penalty — until one of Rondolino's consultants invited Littlejohn to visit.

"He was on my property for 3 ½ hours," John Rondolino said. No lawyers were present, he said.

Rondolino said he told Littlejohn that the DEP attorney was a crook and a liar. He said Littlejohn seemed upset that Byrd had spent four years prosecuting a case involving a small residential lot but made no promises about what he would do.

On April 25, Leopold asked Littlejohn if it would be all right to "re-engage" with Rondolino's attorney on working out a settlement. Byrd was not included. So far no settlement has been reached.

Documents the DEP released in response to a records request included a May 13 email that Littlejohn sent to Leopold saying he needed to discuss a Pensacola court case — the one Russell and Byrd were working on when they were fired.

Leopold sent back an email to Littlejohn and Halpin that said thanks, adding, "I need input from you guys on the best role" for an attorney he had just hired, Fred Aschauer Jr. Added to the payroll just nine days before Leopold fired the four, Aschauer had spent the previous decade challenging DEP permit decisions.

"I suggest having him head up our permitting group, in charge of defending our permit decisions," Littlejohn replied. So that's the job Leopold gave him.


http://www.blogtalkradio.com/newmercurymedia/2013/06/16/pnn--big-d-little-d-democratic-grass-roots


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