Sunday, October 27, 2013

PNN - Progressive Voices Sing Out!

PNN NEWS 10/27/13

New MercuryMedia Presents
PNN - Progressive Voices Sing Out!
Join us News Director Rick Spisak Interviews 
Diana Demarest Democratic Strategist and Campaign Consultant
Emine Dilek Publisher Progressive Press
Denis Campbell Producer WorldView You Tube Channel & Publisher UK Progressive
Susan Bucher Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections
Frank Day - Democratic Chairman and National Delegate

1. Diane Feinstein who is member of the senate committee of US and the lawmaker has said that she supports NSA and its surveillance programs. The agency has faced many allegations after Edward Snowden has released a lot of documents that show that NSA has been spying on the telephonic data of millions of US citizens.
StateWeekly reports that Feinstein gave a statement while talking to Wall Street Journal that if the surveillance programs of NSA have been in motion beforehand, the 9/11 incident would have been prevented. She wrote in the journal that:
  • “We would have detected the impending attack that killed 3,000 Americans.”
She also said that the collection of telephonic records is not actually surveillance but a tool to counter any sort of terrorism activity. She gave this statement in an op-ed which has been published today.
She also stressed that the operations of NSA has prevented many terrorists attacks against both the USA and its allies.
Mark Udall and Roy Wyden who are the members of senate committee for intelligence have criticized the NSA’s head Keith Alexander by writing a letter which says that:
  • “Saying that ‘these programs’ have ‘disrupted dozens of potential terrorist plots’ is misleading if the bulk phone records collection program is actually providing little or no value.”
They also provided detail that only a few terrorist plots have been avoided by NSA and is not as effective as Diane Feinstein has said.
The Guardian has also published a report that Sen. Diane is anticipating to introduce a legislation which would punish all those who make any critical statements against NSA.
The bill would come up at the right time for NSA as the agency is facing lawsuits from EFF and EPIC for their unjustified and non-constitutional surveillance programs.

2. Fracking Activist Silenced for Doing EPA's Work
walter barash

Monday morning, Oct. 21, 2013: Vera Scroggins, a retired real estate agent and nurse's aide, was in Common Pleas Court for Susquehanna County, Pa., to explain why a temporary injunction should not be issued against her.
Before her were four lawyers and several employees of Cabot Gas and Oil, who accused her of trespassing and causing irreparable harm to the company that had almost $1 billion in revenue in 2012. They didn't want her on their property they owned or leased in the Marcellus Shale.
Scroggins is an anti-fracking activist, someone who not only knows what is happening in the gas fields of northeastern Pennsylvania, but willingly devotes much of her day to helping others to see and understand the damage fracking causes. Since 2010, she had led visitors, government officials, and journalists on tours of the gas fields, to rigs and well pads, pipelines, compressor stations, and roads damaged by the heavy volume of truck traffic necessary to build and support the wells.
As part of her tours, she introduces the visitors to those affected by fracking, to the people of northeast Pennsylvania who have seen their air and water polluted, their health impacted. The visitors come from New York, which has a moratorium on fracking; from Pennsylvania, which doesn't; from surrounding states and from foreign countries, who want to see what fracking is, and what it does.
And now in a court room in Montrose, she was accused of trespassing and forced to defend herself.
She asked Judge Kenneth W. Seamans for a continuance. She explained she only received by mail the papers the previous Thursday and was told she had 20 days to respond. She explained on Friday a sheriff's deputy came to her house with copies of the same papers that ordered her to court three days later. She explained she had tried to secure an attorney, but was unable to do so over the weekend.
Judge Seamans told her he wouldn't grant a continuance because she didn't give the court 24 hours notice. "He said that to grant a continuance would inconvenience three of the lawyers who had come from Pittsburgh, and I might have to pay their fees if the hearing was delayed," says Scroggins.
In four hours, Cabot called several witnesses—employees, security personnel, and subcontractors—to testify they saw her trespassing. They claimed her presence presented safety risks. "What we've seen is an increase in frequency and also the number of visitors she is putting in harm's way," Cabot's George Stark had told Staci Wilson of the Susquehanna County Independent.
In her defense, Scroggins called three friends who had accompanied her to court. They testified she was always polite and never posed a safety risk. She says when she went onto a Cabot location, she always reported to the security or field office, and never received any written warnings or demands in the two years she was at the sites. "When I was asked to leave, I left," she says.
Cabot personnel replied she was never a visitor, even though she frequently had amicable chats with on-site managers since 2009. They claim she was on company-owned access roads; she replied she primarily used public roads and the times her car or a chartered bus might have been on access roads they never blocked them—unlike gas industry vehicles that often keep drivers bottled up in traffic jams or set times when residents can't use public roads, even leading to their own homes, because of heavy frack-truck traffic.
"I was blocked after going on sites and access roads several times since 2009, and kept up to an hour," says Sroggins, "but then allowed to leave." No police were called, she says. "If I'm trespassing, then charge me," she remembers saying. Cabot had never charged her, nor sent her any written demands to cease her visits.
For Cabot personnel, it had to be frustrating to have to deal with what they may have thought was a nosy pest who kept showing up at their work sites, possibly endangering herself, her own guests, and the workers. For Scroggins, she was there, explaining drilling to many who had never seen a rig or well pad, videotaping what was the truth about Cabot's operations and fracking in the Marcellus Shale.
In court, she tried several times to explain that she had documented health and safety violations at Cabot sites, many of which led to fines and citations. She tried to explain that she has put hundreds of videotapes online or at YouTube to show the damage the company, and other companies, are doing to the people. Every time she tried to present the evidence, a Cabot lawyer objected, and the judge struck the testimony from the record.
However, when Judge Seamans asked her if she wished to take the stand to testify, stated she could be charged under criminal law and advised her she had the right to not speak and possibly incriminate herself—"I stopped talking."
That afternoon, Judge Seamans granted Cabot its preliminary injunction.
The injunction forbids her from going onto any Cabot property. It forbids her to go onto any property where Cabot has a mineral lease, even if the owner of the surface rights grants her permission. That restriction may violate the rights of the owner who retains surface rights. About 40 percent of Susquehanna County is under lease to the gas and oil companies.
"I have a lot of friends who have leased mineral rights," says Scroggins, "this means I can't even go to their homes if invited." She also can't go to the recycling center—Susquehanna County leased 12.2 acres of mineral rights to Cabot.
There may be one advantage, however. If Scroggins is ever arrested, she won't be able to go to the Susquehanna County jail. The jail is also on those 12.2 leased acres.
(Photo: Joshua Doubek)

3. The Lies That Will Kill America
Here in Manhattan the other day, you couldn’t miss it — the big bold headline across the front page of the tabloid New York Post, screaming one of those sick, slick lies that are a trademark of Rupert Murdoch’s right-wing media empire. There was Uncle Sam, brandishing a revolver and wearing a burglar’s mask. “UNCLE SCAM,” the headline shouted. “US robs bank of $13 billion.”
Say what? Pure whitewash, and Murdoch’s minions know it. That $13 billion dollars is the settlement JPMorgan Chase, the country’s biggest bank, is negotiating with the government to settle its own rip-off of American homeowners and investors — those shady practices that five years ago helped trigger the financial meltdown, including manipulating mortgages and sending millions of Americans into bankruptcy or foreclosure. If anybody’s been robbed it’s not JPMorgan Chase, which can absorb the loss and probably take a tax write-off for at least part of it. No, it’s the American public. In addition to financial heartache we still have been denied the satisfaction of seeing jail time for any of the banksters who put our feet in cement and pushed us off the cliff.
This isn’t the only scandal JPMorgan Chase is juggling. A $6 billion settlement with institutional investors is in the works and criminal charges may still be filed in California. The bank is under investigation on so many fronts it’s hard to keep them sorted out – everything from deceptive sales in its credit card unit to Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme to the criminal manipulation of energy markets and bribing Chinese officials by offering jobs to their kids.
Nor is JPMorgan Chase the only culprit under scrutiny. Bank of America was found guilty just this week of civil fraud, and a gaggle of other banks is being investigated by the government for mortgage fraud. No wonder the camp followers at Fox News, The Wall Street Journal, CNBC and other cheerleaders have ganged up to whitewash the banks. If justice is somehow served, this could be the biggest egg yet across the smug face of unfettered, unchecked, unaccountable capitalism.
One face in particular: Jamie Dimon, the chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase. One of Murdoch’s Fox Business News hosts, Charlie Gasparino, claims the Feds are on a witch hunt against Dimon for criticizing President Obama, whose administration, we are told, “is brutally determined and efficient when it comes to squashing those who oppose their policies.” But hold on: Dimon is a Democrat, said to be Obama’s favorite banker, with so much entree he’s been doing his own negotiating with the attorney general of the United States.
But that’s crony capitalism for you, bipartisan to a fault. Rupert Murdoch has been defending Dimon in his media for a long time. Last spring, when it looked like there might be a stockholders revolt against Dimon, Murdoch was one of many bigwigs who rushed to his defense. He tweeted that JPMorgan would be “up a creek” without Dimon. “One of the smartest, toughest guys around,” Murdoch insisted. Whether Murdoch’s exaltation had an effect or not, Dimon was handily reelected.
Over the last few days, The Wall Street Journal, both Bible and supplicant of high finance as well as one of Murdoch’s more reputable publications — at least in its reporting — echoed the “UNCLE SCAM” indignation of the more lowbrow Post. The government just wants “to appease their left-wing populist allies,” its editorial writers raged, with a “political shakedown and wealth-redistribution scheme.” Perhaps, the paper suggested, the White House will distribute some of the JPMorgan Chase penalty to consumers and advocacy groups and “have the checks arrive in swing congressional districts right before the 2014 election.” We can hear the closet Bolsheviks panting for their handouts now and getting ready to use their phony ID’s to stuff the box on Election Day with multiple illegal ballots.
Such fantasies are all part of the Murdoch News Corp. pattern, an unending flow of falsehood and phony populism that in reality serves only the wealthy elite. Fox News is its ministry of misinformation, the fake jewel of the News Corp. crown, a 24/7 purveyor of flimflam and the occasional selective truth. Look at the pounding they’ve given Obama’s healthcare reform right from the very start, whether the non-existent death panels or claims that it would cause the highest tax increase in history.
While it’s true that the startup of Obamacare has been plagued by its website nightmare and other problems, Fox News consistently has failed to mention Republican roadblocks that prevented the program from getting proper funding or the fact that so many states ruled by Republican governors and legislatures — more than 30 — have deliberately failed to set up the insurance marketplaces critical to making the new system work. Just the other day, Eric Stern at fact-checked a segment on Sean Hannity’s show. “Average Americans are feeling the pain of Obamacare and the healthcare overhaul train wreck,” Hannity declared, “and six of them are here tonight to tell us their stories.”
Eric Stern tracked down each of the Hannity Six and found that while their questions about health reform may have been valid, the answers they received from Hannity or had decided for themselves were not. “I don’t doubt that these six individuals believe that Obamacare is a disaster,” Stern reported. “But none of them had even visited the insurance exchange.”
And there you have the problem: ideology and self-interest trump the facts or even caring about the facts, whether it’s banking, Obamacare or global warming. Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists say that climate change is happening and that humans have made it so, but only four in ten Americans realize it’s true. According to a new study in the journal Public Understanding of Science, written by a team that includes Yale University’s Anthony Leiserowitz, the more that people listen to conservative media like Fox News or Limbaugh, the less sure they are that global warming is real. And even worse, the less they trust science.
Such ignorance will kill democracy as surely as the big money that funds and encourages the media outlets, parties and individuals who spew the lies and hate. The ground is all too fertile for those who will only believe whatever best fits their resentment or particular brand of paranoia. It is, as an old song lyric goes, “the self-deception that believes the lie.” The truth will set us free; the lie will make prisoners of us all.

4. Harry Reid: No Grand Bargain in the Near Future
On Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) ruled out the possibility that a budget conference committee convening next week will reach a “grand bargain” that would cut Social Security and Medicare, raise taxes and reduce spending. “We are not going to have a grand bargain in the near future,” he said. Instead, he suggested negotiators should focus on a replacement for sequestration and forget “happy talk” about a grand bargain. The comments came a week after the deal he reached with Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling.
A House-Senate budget conference will be established to come up with long-term spending plans by December 13, 2013. Congress faces a Jan. 15 deadline to fund the government again to prevent a shutdown, and a Feb. 7 deadline to raise the debt ceiling. Reid said a wider deal could happen next year if mainstream Republicans can take control of the GOP away from the Tea Party. Mr. Reid signaled that he could be open to minor trimming of some Medicare or Social Security spending as part of deal that involves tax revenue. More at
 “We still have to mobilize vigorously to make sure that seniors’ programs are not cut as part of the budget conference deal,” said Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance.

5. Troubling Trade Deal on the Horizon
Have you heard of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Free Trade Agreement? If not, you’re not alone – the American people, by design, know very little about what U.S. negotiators are promising in closed-door talks with Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and other countries. 600 corporate advisors have access to the text, but the rest of us do not. “What has come to light is that in addition to corporate-favored terms that would send American jobs offshore and decrease environmental and health safeguards, the TPP could undermine the ability of states or the federal government to moderate escalating prescription drug, biologic drug and medical device costs in public programs,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. “That includes limiting the government’s ability to negotiate lower prices for prescription drugs through Medicaid and the Veterans Administration.”
The Alliance is joining with labor, public interest groups and others in urging Congress and the President to make the process of these negotiations transparent, allow public input, and ensure that the TPP agreement and future trade agreements do not limit the tools of states or the federal government to manage pharmaceutical and medical device costs in public programs or bind the U.S. to a 12-year exclusivity period for brand-name biologic drugs. More at

Here's a job for you for Monday!
The Budget Control Act or "sequester" requires that $109 billion be cut equally from military and non-military programs in FY2014, but in FY2013, the Pentagon got a free pass and all the cuts fell on social programs.  57,000 kids were kicked off Head Start, and everything from Medicaid to the EPA to Meals on Wheels for seniors was slashed.
Now Reps Jared Polis and Barbara Lee have written a sign-on letter to the Chairs of the House and Senate Budget Committees, demanding that the Pentagon face the same cuts as other programs in FY 2014, as required by the BCA.
Please call your Representative's office tomorrow (Monday) and ask him or her to sign on to the Polis-Lee letter.
7. Genetically Engineered Trees
Friday November 1, 7 p.m. Global Justice Ecology Project & the International Campaign to Stop
Genetically Engineered Trees
A teach-in and campaign-building workshop on The Growing Threat: Genetically Engineered Trees and the Future of Forests
Genetically Engineered (GE) trees pose an enormous risk to the biodiverse forests of the southeastern US. GE trees are being promoted for use in industrial monoculture plantations for timber, pulp and bioenergy. GE trees like the highly invasive, flammable eucalyptus are being pushed as 'climate solutions' despite the enormous human health and ecological risks. Native pine and poplar are being engineered to replace more conventional varieties, running the risk of genetic contamination, herbicide-producing trees and increased plantations. Right now there are GE test plots all over the southeast and the USDA is currently considering commercializing them for the first time in history. It's not too late to stop it in its tracks!
Come learn about the important work being done to stop this threat, share you knowledge and let's work together in the global fight to protect forest biodiversity.

Quaker Meeting House
823 North A Street
Lake Worth, FL

8. 28 Signs That the West Coast Is Being Absolutely Fried with Nuclear Radiation from Fukushima
1. Polar bears, seals and walruses along the Alaska coastline are suffering from fur loss and open sores…

Wildlife experts are studying whether fur loss and open sores detected in nine polar bears in recent weeks is widespread and related to similar incidents among seals and walruses.

The bears were among 33 spotted near Barrow, Alaska, during routine survey work along the Arctic coastline. Tests showed they had “alopecia, or loss of fur, and other skin lesions,” the U.S. Geological Survey said in a statement.

2. There is an epidemic of sea lion deaths along the California coastline…

At island rookeries off the Southern California coast, 45 percent of the pups born in June have died, said Sharon Melin, a wildlife biologist for the National Marine Fisheries Service based in Seattle. Normally, less than one-third of the pups would die. It’s gotten so bad in the past two weeks that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration declared an “unusual mortality event.”

3. Along the Pacific coast of Canada and the Alaska coastline, the population of sockeye salmon is at a historic low. Many are blaming Fukushima.

4. Something is causing fish all along the west coast of Canada to bleed from their gills, bellies and eyeballs.

5. A vast field of radioactive debris from Fukushima that is approximately the size of California has crossed the Pacific Ocean and is starting to collide with the west coast.

6. It is being projected that the radioactivity of coastal waters off the U.S. west coast could double over the next five to six years.

7. Experts have found very high levels of cesium-137 in plankton living in the waters of the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and the west coast.

8. One test in California found that 15 out of 15 bluefin tuna were contaminated with radiation from Fukushima.

9. Back in 2012, the Vancouver Sun reported that cesium-137 was being found in a very high percentage of the fish that Japan was selling to Canada…

• 73 percent of mackerel tested
• 91 percent of the halibut
• 92 percent of the sardines
• 93 percent of the tuna and eel
• 94 percent of the cod and anchovies
• 100 percent of the carp, seaweed, shark and monkfish

10. Canadian authorities are finding extremely high levels of nuclear radiation in certain fish samples…

Some fish samples tested to date have had very high levels of radiation: one sea bass sample collected in July, for example, had 1,000 becquerels per kilogram of cesium.

11. Some experts believe that we could see very high levels of cancer along the west coast just from people eating contaminated fish…

“Look at what’s going on now: They’re dumping huge amounts of radioactivity into the ocean — no one expected that in 2011,” Daniel Hirsch, a nuclear policy lecturer at the University of California-Santa Cruz, told Global Security Newswire. “We could have large numbers of cancer from ingestion of fish.”

12. BBC News recently reported that radiation levels around Fukushima are “18 times higher” than previously believed.

13. An EU-funded study concluded that Fukushima released up to 210 quadrillion becquerels of cesium-137 into the atmosphere.

14. Atmospheric radiation from Fukushima reached the west coast of the United States within a few days back in 2011.

15. At this point, 300 tons of contaminated water is pouring into the Pacific Ocean from Fukushima every single day.

16. A senior researcher of marine chemistry at the Japan Meteorological Agency’s Meteorological Research Institute says that “30 billion becquerels of radioactive cesium and 30 billion becquerels of radioactive strontium” are being released into the Pacific Ocean from Fukushima every single day.

17. According to Tepco, a total of somewhere between 20 trillion and 40 trillion becquerels of radioactive tritium have gotten into the Pacific Ocean since the Fukushima disaster first began.

18. According to a professor at Tokyo University, 3 gigabecquerels of cesium-137 are flowing into the port at Fukushima Daiichi every single day.

19. It has been estimated that up to 100 times as much nuclear radiation has been released into the ocean from Fukushima than was released during the entire Chernobyl disaster.

20. One recent study concluded that a very large plume of cesium-137 from the Fukushima disaster will start flowing into U.S. coastal waters early next year…

Ocean simulations showed that the plume of radioactive cesium-137 released by the Fukushima disaster in 2011 could begin flowing into U.S. coastal waters starting in early 2014 and peak in 2016.

21. It is being projected that significant levels of cesium-137 will reach every corner of the Pacific Ocean by the year 2020.

22. It is being projected that the entire Pacific Ocean will soon “have cesium levels 5 to 10 times higher” than what we witnessed during the era of heavy atomic bomb testing in the Pacific many decades ago.

23. The immense amounts of nuclear radiation getting into the water in the Pacific Ocean has caused environmental activist Joe Martino to issue the following warning…

“Your days of eating Pacific Ocean fish are over.”

24. The Iodine-131, Cesium-137 and Strontium-90 that are constantly coming from Fukushima are going to affect the health of those living the the northern hemisphere for a very, very long time. Just consider what Harvey Wasserman had to say about this…

Iodine-131, for example, can be ingested into the thyroid, where it emits beta particles (electrons) that damage tissue. A plague of damaged thyroids has already been reported among as many as 40 percent of the children in the Fukushima area. That percentage can only go higher. In developing youngsters, it can stunt both physical and mental growth. Among adults it causes a very wide range of ancillary ailments, including cancer.

Cesium-137 from Fukushima has been found in fish caught as far away as California. It spreads throughout the body, but tends to accumulate in the muscles.

Strontium-90’s half-life is around 29 years. It mimics calcium and goes to our bones.

25. According to a recent Planet Infowars report, the California coastline is being transformed into “a dead zone”…

The California coastline is becoming like a dead zone.

If you haven’t been to a California beach lately, you probably don’t know that the rocks are unnaturally CLEAN – there’s hardly any kelp, barnacles, sea urchins, etc. anymore and the tide pools are similarly eerily devoid of crabs, snails and other scurrying signs of life… and especially as compared to 10 – 15 years ago when one was wise to wear tennis shoes on a trip to the beach in order to avoid cutting one’s feet on all the STUFF of life – broken shells, bones, glass, driftwood, etc.

There are also days when I am hard-pressed to find even a half dozen seagulls and/or terns on the county beach.

You can still find a few gulls trolling the picnic areas and some of the restaurants (with outdoor seating areas) for food, of course, but, when I think back to 10 – 15 years ago, the skies and ALL the beaches were literally filled with seagulls and the haunting sound of their cries both day and night…

NOW it’s unnaturally quiet.

26. A study conducted last year came to the conclusion that radiation from the Fukushima nuclear disaster could negatively affect human life along the west coast of North America from Mexico to Alaska “for decades”.

27. According to the Wall Street Journal, it is being projected that the cleanup of Fukushima could take up to 40 years to complete.

28. Yale Professor Charles Perrow is warning that if the cleanup of Fukushima is not handled with 100% precision that humanity could be threatened “for thousands of years“…

“Conditions in the unit 4 pool, 100 feet from the ground, are perilous, and if any two of the rods touch it could cause a nuclear reaction that would be uncontrollable. The radiation emitted from all these rods, if they are not continually cool and kept separate, would require the evacuation of surrounding areas including Tokyo. Because of the radiation at the site the 6,375 rods in the common storage pool could not be continuously cooled; they would fission and all of humanity will be threatened, for thousands of years.”

9. Big Pharma Paid To Attend Meetings Of FDA’s Panel Of Advisors
A scientific panel that shaped the federal government’s policy for testing the safety and effectiveness of painkillers was funded by major pharmaceutical companies that paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for the chance to affect the thinking of the Food and Drug Administration, according to hundreds of e-mails obtained by a public records request.
The e-mails show that the companies paid as much as $25,000 to attend any given meeting of the panel, which had been set up by two academics to provide advice to the FDA on how to weigh the evidence from clinical trials. A leading FDA official later called the group “an essential collaborative effort.”
Patient advocacy groups said the electronic communications suggest that the regulators had become too close to the companies trying to crack into the $9 billion painkiller market in the United States. FDA officials who regulate painkillers sat on the steering committee of the panel, which met in private, and co-wrote papers with employees of pharmaceutical companies.
The FDA has been criticized for failing to take precautions that might have averted the epidemic of addiction to prescription drugs including Oxycontin and other opioids.“These e-mails help explain the disastrous decisions the FDA’s analgesic division has made over the last 10 years,” said Craig Mayton, the Columbus, Ohio, attorney who made the public records request to the University of Washington. “Instead of protecting the public health, the FDA has been allowing the drug companies to pay for a seat at a small table where all the rules were written.”
Even as the meetings were taking place, the idea of FDA officials meeting with firms that had paid big money for an invitation raised eyebrows for some. In an e-mail to organizers, an official from the National Institutes of Health worried whether the arrangements made it look as if the private meetings were a “pay to play process.”
FDA officials did not benefit financially from their participation in the meetings, the agency said. But two later went on to work as pharmaceutical consultants and more than this, the critics said, the e-mails portray an agency that, by allowing itself to get caught up in a panel that seemed to promise influence for money, had blurred the line between the regulators and the regulated.
In a statement, the FDA said “we take these concerns very seriously.” But, it said, “we are unaware of any improprieties” associated with the group.
Douglas Throckmorton, a deputy director of the agency, said in an interview that strict rules of transparency and funding apply to the public-private partnerships that the agency engages in and that these efforts are important for the government and the industry.
But the group in this case was not initiated by the FDA, he said, and so was a private partnership to which those rules did not apply.
“There are rules in place for us to have these discussions,” Throckmorton said. This group “was set up as a private group.”
The group was organized by two medical professors, Robert Dworkin of the University of Rochester and Dennis Turk of the University of Washington, and the e-mails for the most part describe their efforts at financing and organizing the group’s meetings.
The two professors received as much as $50,000 apiece for a meeting, money that went to their academic research accounts and paid for research assistants and expenses “or to cover a small percentage of faculty effort,” they said. At one point in the e-mails, they proposed that they receive honoraria of $5,000 apiece for a four-hour meeting at a hotel near the FDA offices.
The meetings, typically held around the Washington metropolitan area, focused on the best methods for measuring the effectiveness of painkillers.
“The intent was to help everybody develop better drug trials,” Dworkin said in a phone interview. He and Turk responded to questions via e-mail, as well. A spokeswoman for Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, an industry group, declined to comment, saying the organization was unfamiliar with the e-mails.
Exactly how to judge when a painkiller is effective has been a long-running problem for drug companies that believe that some of their products are effective but that their benefits are missed in standard clinical drug trials.One goal of the group was to design clinical trials that would illuminate the benefits of new drugs that might be missed in standard tests, avoiding what the academics called “false negatives.”
The meetings, which involved about 30 to 40 people, included academics, FDA and NIH officials, and often as many as 14 representatives from pharmaceutical companies. Only the companies paid fees to attend.
Dworkin said the scientific guidelines the group produced were of high quality and that “we are not aware of a single negative comment that has been published.” The goal of the group was to publish “consensus” statements on scientific matters related to testing the drugs.
Bob Rappaport, the chief of the FDA’s analgesic division and an attendee at many meetings of the group, did not respond to e-mails or phone calls.
But he has touted the influence of the group, known by the acronym IMMPACT. A 2007 ­PowerPoint presentation he put together was called “The Impact of IMMPACT” and recognizes the group’s influence on FDA thinking. The presentation describes the committee as “a wealth of opportunity for communication” that was advancing the science and “approving new analgesic drug products.”
While science was the subject of the meetings, the subject of money runs through the e-mails.
Even for a pharmaceutical company, the $20,000 price for an invitation to a Washington meeting seemed high.
When some drug companies balked at the fee, the organizers of the meeting, Dworkin and Turk, were firm.
“20k is small change, and they can justify it easily if they want to be at the table,” Dworkin wrote to Turk in July 2003, after an Eli Lilly representative bridled at the price. “Everybody has been very happy with [the meetings] and they are getting a huge amount for very little money (impact on FDA thinking, exposure to FDA thinking, exposure to academic opinion leaders and their expertise, journal article authorship, etc.) and they know it.”

“Do they really expect it to be any less than 20K per meeting for all this?” Dworkin wrote.
At another point, a company representative called to say that he could come up with $10,000 to attend and was “trying to find more,” as Dworkin told Turk in the e-mail.
“He didn’t realize we were inflexible on the 25k, and then asked, a bit testily, how many companies were already on board and when I said 10 he then asked whether it costs 250K to hold a meeting in DC,” Dworkin wrote. “I gave our standard response to this, which appeared to mollify him fine.”
And in another: “The native(s) is (are) restless regarding finances for IMMPACT,” Turk tells Dworkin in late 2002.
“I don’t know how we will bury the post doc funds if we are too specific,” Turk says in another.
In the interview, Dworkin said that the costs of running such a meeting could run as high as $150,000, and because they never knew how many sponsors they could attract, it was difficult to know where to set the price. To make its gatherings more transparent, the group posted to its Web site copies of meeting presentations.
Even so, at least a few of the government officials attending the meetings seemed to be nervous about appearances.
At one point, an NIH staffer indicated that given the fees paid by drug companies, as well as that the meetings were private, IMMPACT could be criticized because it was “paid for by a few large pharmaceutical firms who are assumed to be influencing the outcomes.”

The NIH staffer suggested holding the meetings on the NIH campus and opening the meeting to all interested parties to “avoid the stigma that this initiative is a ‘pay to play process.’ ”
Dworkin responded in an e-mail: “It is difficult to imagine how an open meeting would develop consensus recommendations.”

10. Congress Spends Several Hours Pretending to Understand Internet

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—In an impressive white-knuckle performance on live television today, members of Congress spent several hours in a hearing room pretending to understand the Internet.
Beginning this morning, members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee devoted four hours to grilling Web-site contractors about site architecture, Web traffic, software, and other I.T. concepts about which their ignorance is nearly complete.
“As members of this committee, we are supposed to have a deep understanding of the technology involved in the health-care Web site,” said Chairman Fred Upton (R-Michigan). “So it was absolutely imperative for us to fake that we do.”
For the duration of the hearings, the Web contractors offered detailed testimony about “end-to-end testing,” “enterprise identity management,” and other technical concepts to a group of elected officials who can barely use e-mail.
“I would say that, to a man, we did not understand ninety-nine per cent of that computer nonsense they were going on about,” Chairman Upton said. “To me it was a whole lot of blahbitty-blahbitty-blah. I hope it wasn’t too obvious.”
Rep. Upton said that “looking serious and nodding our heads a lot” contributed to the illusion that committee members had even scant comprehension of what was being discussed.
“At the end of the day, a lot of it came down to not asking the questions you really wanted to ask,” he said. “Like, ‘What exactly is a Web site?’”

11. Fuke News
Jeff Christiansen, Seattle Aquarium biologist: We’ve got some sea stars that look like they’re melting on the bottom.
Amy Moreno, KING 5 News: The same thing is happening in the waters near Canada and nobody’s sure why. The cause could be environmental or perhaps driven by disease.
Lesanna Lahner, veterinarian: We often think viral when we think of sea star disease. At this time, we don’t have a good idea of what’s causing it [...]
Moreno: Just a few weeks ago, the populations in Puget Sound waters looked healthy. [...] The news is not good [...] They estimate close to half appear to be sick or dying.
Christiansen: There are a lot of melting sea stars out there, more than even a couple days ago. There would be an apparently  healthy animal in really close proximity to a sick animal — no concentration of sick ones and concentration of good ones.
Moreno: The picture becomes more serious when the bags are opened inside of the lab.
Lahner: This animal has a classic appearance of a melting sea star [...] It’s concerning, it’s concerning — and it’s concerning to hear that in a short time period of under a week we’re seeing roughly 60% of this species diseased in this area. [...]

The Guardian, Oct. 27, 2013: For decades, the 62-year-old horse breeder [Tokue Hosokawa] barely registered that his farm was just 40 kilometres north-west of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. [...] Like several other farmers in Fukushima, Hosokawa ignored a government order to exterminate all of his horses and cows. [...] “Just after the accident one of the horses gave birth. When I saw that foal get to its feet and start feeding from its mother, I knew there was no way I could leave.” [...] in January this year, he noticed that several among the 30 that remained, mainly foals, had become unsteady on their feet. [...] Within weeks, 16 had died in mysterious circumstances. Autopsies on four of the horses found no evidence of disease and tests revealed caesium levels at 200 becquerels per kilo – four times higher than the government-set safety limit for agricultural produce, but not high enough to immediately threaten their health. [...] “I’m worried that we’ll find more dead horses this winter.” [...]

Source: Photographer Kazuma Obara
KEYSTONE, July 25, 2013: Since the beginning of 2013, 16 horses including foals died in succession within 6 months. Experts performed autopsies on dead carcasses, but they couldn’t find a main cause of the horses’ sudden deaths. The health center of Fukushima inspected the horses and took blood tests, and the results showed that the causes were neither infectious deseases nor parasitic worms. But the symptoms were all very similar. Once the horses became unable to walk, they died within several weeks. [...] “I live here thanks to my horses, so I can’t leave here without them. I’m very sad when they die. My daughter tried to kill herself feeling depressed about their deaths. There is no future in this life,” he says. The word “Restoration of Fukushima” has spread around Japan, but reality is somewhat different.
Photographer Kazuma Obara, Sept. 16, 2013: This May, he tried to reveal the cause of their sudden death, and he decided to euthanize a horse whose symptom was similar to the other dead horses. And femoral muscle was detected cesium 200 becquerel/ kg by the researcher veterinarian Dr.Hiroyuki Ichikawa. They are studying this data tying to find the effect for their sudden death. [...] Japan becomes such a pathetic country. After the accidents, my family fell apart. My daughter tried to commit suicide… I am relieved that she survived. When I saw the foals, I entertained a flicker of hope. but even these foals died… There is no future. Nobody want to live without future. Here is Japan. Do you think it is really okay with this situation in Japan?” He said. [...]

New York Times, Oct. 24, 2013 (Emphasis Added):  For months now, it has been hard to escape the continuing deluge of bad news from the devastated Fukushima nuclear power plant. [...] [Scientists] say there are worrisome problems that may be the result of new leaks. [...] [Tepco] says the source of the increased contamination appears to be highly radioactive water that had been trapped since the accident in conduits around the reactor buildings and had slowly found its way out.
Michio Aoyama, oceanographer at a Japanese government research institute: The magnitude of the recent spike in radiation, and the amounts of groundwater involved, have led , to conclude that radioactive cesium 137 may now be leaking into the Pacific at a rate of about 30 billion becquerels per year [Actually PER DAY], or about three times as high as last year. He estimates that strontium 90 may be entering the Pacific at a similar rate.
Blair Thornton, associate professor at University of Tokyo’s Underwater Technology Research Center: hot spots [are] spread across at least 150 square miles of the ocean bottom [...] Radiation levels there should naturally weaken over time [...] The fact that radiation levels are still up to hundreds of times as high as they are in other areas of the sea floor raises the possibility that the spots are being blanketed in new contamination from the plant [...] particles could work their way into the food chain [...]
Jota Kanda, oceanographer at Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology: “Obviously, there is some continuing source of cesium 137. We are not sure exactly what is happening, but we are seeing a bigger than expected effect on the environment.” [...]
See also: AP: Experts fear giant underground reservoir of extremely contaminated water on verge of entering Pacific at Fukushima -- In contact with melted nuclear fuel? A race against the clock -- Nobody knows when this will end

I know this is terribly radical, but 1) the privacy rights of Americans matter, and 2) the privacy rights of non-Americans do, too.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

PNN - A Progressive Press ROUND-UP


A Progressive Press ROUND-UP
Listen in as News Director Rick Spisak
questions these fine Progressive Journalists

Frank Day - North Florida Progressive Activist / Long-Time Democratic Leader

Steve Horn - is a Madison, WI-based investigative journalist, Research Fellow at DeSmogBlog, and contributing editor at CounterPunch. 

Rob Abston - Executive Director and Founder of P.L.A.N. (Progressive Leadership Action Network

Gwendolyn Holden Barry - Progressive Journalist / Activist / Sr. Producer at There Be Monsters

Hans Meyer - Tallahassee Progressive Journalist


1. Japan Physician: Radiation level was 100 times higher in Fukushima than gov’t reported 50 days after 3/11 — Geiger counter ‘off the scale’ at train station 60km from plant — Blatant concealment of data

2. Last Sunday, October 6th Sacramento Food Not Bombs was kicked out of the Cesar Chavez Park by the Sacramento police. Volunteers were greeted by about 15 officers when they arrived at the park when they normally do in time to start sharing the meal they created by 1:30pm. They were told that our stuff would be confiscated and we would get a summons due to an ordinance that has yet to even be passed that would prevent any group from handing out free hot meal in the park.

Last week advocates for the poor were told to stop sharing meals with the hungry in Sacramento and Santa Monica, California, Taos, New Mexico, and Olympia, Washington.

Groups were confronted and threatened with arrest in Boulder, Colorado; Raleigh, North Carolina, Portland, Oregon, Seattle, Washington and other cities across the United States this summer. In all over 50 cities in the United States have passed laws banning or limiting the sharing of meals with the hungry in the past two years with enforcement on the increase this fall.

Our food is vegan, organic and no one has ever reported being made ill eating with Food Not Bombs. The goal of giving the public the impression we are required to get a permit is to justify forcing us to stop.  We have no paid staff and our food is a gift  and unregulated by the authorities.  Like all acts of commission no permission from the government is necessary.

Please support Sacramento Food Not Bombs. We will be risking arrest on  Sunday, October 13, 2013 at Cesar Chavez Park at 1:30 PM

Keith McHenry
co-founder of the Food Not Bombs Movement
P.O. Box 424
Arroyo Seco, NM 87514 USA

3. As the Food & Water Watch blogger who seems to cover the depressing update beat, it was up to me to talk about what the federal government shutdown means for the food system. And the other food news that barely registered last week – the Farm Bill expired. Again.
First the shutdown. Obviously, the list of impacts of the federal government not being fully operational is a long one.
Food Safety: This is one is getting a lot of coverage, but it’s a mixed bag of who is at work and who isn’t, which has caused some confusion. Ron Nixon helped sort it out in yesterday’s New York Times.
USDA meat and poultry inspectors are on the job but under extremely challenging conditions – like their supervisors and other USDA employees they work with on a daily basis not being available and the stress caused by not knowing when they will get paid or whether or not they can take a sick day. The current salmonella outbreak linked to Foster Farms chicken plants in California started before the government shutdown and reflects several serious flaws in USDA management’s policies on what triggers a recall and when to crack down on plants that show food safety lapses.
Inspections for other foods regulated by the Food and Drug Administration are not happening, except for inspections of imported foods. But before you breathe that sigh of relief, remember that in a normal year, FDA only looks at less than 2 percent of imported food (including seafood).
Another piece of the food safety system that is getting some attention because of the salmonella outbreak is the system for tracking foodborne illnesses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention works to figure out if illnesses reported to state governments are part of a bigger outbreak that has crossed state lines. CDC plays a key role in the investigations to find the source of what is making people sick. And a lot of the CDC employees who do that were not at work last week. After media coverage of the salmonella outbreak this week, some of them were called back into work, but they are still not at full force.
There are lots of other ways that the shutdown impacts the food system beyond food safety. I’m not going to try to list them all here. But even a partial list shows how many ways agriculture and the food industry rely on some type of government program, and why we need those programs to work well (or this week, at all).
  • Ranchers in South Dakota and other states that were hit with a blizzard that has killed large numbers of cattle can’t get advice or access any USDA programs that might help them, because the USDA’s local offices are closed (they also can’t access any disaster programs that used to exist for farmers because the Farm Bill has expired again, but more on that later).
  • States are calculating how long they will be able to fund the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition assistance program for low-income mothers and young children without more funding from the federal government.
  • Meat companies that have a new product to sell cannot get their labels approved by USDA (craft beer companies are having the same problem with seasonal beer labels that need to be approved by the Treasury Department).
  • The National Organic Standards Board will not hold its bi-annual meeting at the end of October to vote on what materials are allowed to be used in organic agriculture and food, including a vote that could potentially end the use of an antibiotic called streptomycin in organic apple and pear orchards.
  • Farmers can’t sign up for federal conservation programs  designed to protect environmentally sensitive farmlands.
  • USDA isn’t reporting data about crop yields and other market data used by farmers and ranchers to decide when and where to sell their crops and livestock.
The list goes on and on. And I didn’t even get to the Environmental Protection Agency, which took a huge hit with the vast majority of its employees off the job. But it boils down to the fact that there are a lot of federal programs that make the food system work that are affected by this shutdown and right now most of them are not working. The Republic majority in the House is using food safety as a piece of its negotiating strategy of trying to open the government bit by bit. We’ll see how that strategy plays out. But it’s worth remembering all of the other programs that need to run too.
And almost lost in the craziness of the shutdown was the fact that on October 1, the Farm Bill expired. If that sounds familiar, it’s because we’ve been down this road before. Because I’m a big believer in recycling, I’ll let you read what we had to say when this happened last year here. This time around, drastic things aren’t likely to happen until the end of the year when some of the rules USDA has to follow for pricing commodities like milk will change.
So Congress has some time to finally finish this tortured process. But it’s not clear if there is enough time in the world to bridge the gap between the different bills passed by the House and Senate. The biggest difference is in nutrition programs – the House bill would not only take a huge cut in the funding for SNAP ($40 billion) but would also put the program on a different legislative schedule than the Farm Bill, which is an unprecedented step that could make the program vulnerable to attacks that being part of a bigger Farm Bill package has usually prevented.
There are other differences too, ranging from commodity programs to crop insurance to how catfish are inspected. But the core issue of what kind of nutrition assistance the government provides to low-income families is a huge one that the conference committee will have to figure out.
Or there is scenario B, in which some version of the Farm Bill gets attached to the debt ceiling/re-open the federal government/budget extravaganza that will have to happen eventually. If this sounds familiar too, that’s because the last time a Farm Bill passed at the end of 2012, it was attached to the “fiscal cliff” bill that was the result of a similar showdown in Congress.
So that is probably enough news on the dysfunction in D.C. for now. We will know more about the Farm Bill in coming weeks, including who will be on the conference committee that is supposed to figure out how to finish the process. We’ll tell you then who you need to contact to make sure they make the right choices between the House and Senate versions.

4. International Monetary Fund strongly suggests countries tax the rich to fix deficit
Tax the rich and better target the multinationals: The IMF has set off shockwaves this week in Washington by suggesting countries fight budget deficits by raising taxes.
Tucked inside a report on public debt, the new tack was mostly eclipsed by worries about the US budget crisis, but did not escape the notice of experts and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).
“We had to read it twice to be sure we had really understood it,” said Nicolas Mombrial, the head of Oxfam in Washington. “It’s rare that IMF proposals are so surprising.”
Guardian of financial orthodoxy, the International Monetary Fund, which is holding its annual meetings with the World Bank this week in the US capital, typically calls for nations in difficulty to slash public spending to reduce their deficits.
But in its Fiscal Monitor report, subtitled “Taxing Times”, the Fund advanced the idea of taxing the highest-income people and their assets to reinforce the legitimacy of spending cuts and fight against growing income inequalities.
“Scope seems to exist in many advanced economies to raise more revenue from the top of the income distribution,” the IMF wrote, noting “steep cuts” in top rates since the early 1980s.
According to IMF estimates, taxing the rich even at the same rates during the 1980s would reap fiscal revenues equal to 0.25 percent of economic output in the developed countries.
“The gain could in some cases, such as that of the United States, be more significant,” around 1.5 percent of gross domestic product, said the IMF report, which also singled out deficient taxation of multinational companies.
In the US alone, legal loopholes deprive the Treasury of roughly $60 billion in receipts, the global lender said.
The 188-nation IMF said that it did not want to enter into a debate on whether the rich should pay more taxes.
But, it said: “The chance to review international tax architecture seems to come about once a century; the fundamental issues should not be ducked.”
The IMF managing director, Christine Lagarde, kept up the sales pitch for a more just fiscal policy.
“It’s clearly something finance ministers are interested in, it’s something that is necessary for the right balance of public finances,” said Lagarde, a former French finance minister, in a panel discussion Wednesday.
“There are lot of wasted opportunities,” she added.
After the French Socialist government’s proposal of a 75 percent tax on the wealthy was overturned by the country’s highest court last year, France’s finance minister cautiously welcomed the Fund’s new direction.
“If the core idea is that fiscal policy is a policy that aims to reduce inequalities, I wouldn’t know how to protest against that,” Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici said at a news conference in Washington.
The minister said it was a “positive development” but he downplayed that it marked a “significant change” for the IMF.
The Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development, which is leading the global battle against tax havens and tax evasion by multinationals, welcomed the IMF at its side.
“We’re happy to see this. There is a place for everyone. The Fund can bring a real contribution on economic analyses,” Pascal Saint-Amans, head of the OECD’s center for tax policy, told AFP.
In the corridors, however, a quiet skirmish is underway between the two organizations for the leadership of the tax-haven offensive ordered by the Group of 20 major economies.
The IMF’s Copernican revolution is still in the twilight stage. In its report, the IMF continued to push for a wider scope for value-added tax (VAT), a tax consumption tax that some say is inherently unfair, and on reductions in public spending.
“These proposals are heading in the right direction, but a lot remains to be done,” said Oxfam’s Mombrial, calling notably for the IMF to do more against illegal capital flows which, according to the NGO, cost billions of dollars in fiscal revenues in the developing countries.

Senator Ron Wyden, at a conference on National Security Agency surveillance sponsored by the CATO Institute, articulated many of the frustrations he had experienced in his patient effort to unveil to citizens the true scope of what the agency thought it had the authority to do. He also offered a preview of the upcoming battle in Congress to pass real comprehensive reform that is not only “skin deep.”
Wyden described bipartisan legislation he had introduced to set the bar for what “really constitutes real intelligence reform.” It would end the bulk data collection program under a provision of the PATRIOT Act known as section 215. It would create a “constitutional advocate” to ensure the process before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court or secret surveillance court that authorizes NSA surveillance is no longer as “one-sided.” It would close a loophole allowing for “backdoor searches” and prohibit the collection of communications “about” a target instead of just communications to and from a target. And it would halt the practice of “reverse targeting,” where a foreigner is targeted in order to collect the communications of an American without a warrant.
“We wanted to put this marker down early because we know in the months ahead we will be up against a “business-as-usual brigade” – made up of influential members of the government’s intelligence leadership, their allies in think tanks and academia, retired government officials, and sympathetic legislators,” Wyden explained.
He added they will “try mightily to fog up the surveillance debate and convince the Congress and the public that the real problem here is not overly intrusive, constitutionally flawed domestic surveillance but sensationalistic media reporting. Their end game is ensuring that any surveillance reforms are only skin-deep.”
The arguments from this crowd, Wyden noted, “have something of an Alice in Wonderland flavor.” For example, “We have heard that surveillance of Americans’ phone records, AKA metadata, is not actually surveillance at all – it’s simply the collection of bits of information.” (This is what chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Dianne Feinstein, has suggested in her effort to help save NSA surveillance powers.)
“We’ve been told that codifying secret surveillance laws and making them public surveillance laws is the same as actually reforming these overreaching surveillance programs. It’s not,” Wyden stated.
Wyden provided a glimpse at some of the work he and Sen. Mark Udall had done to hold NSA accountable. He mentioned the NSA ran a “bulk email records program under the authority of the PATRIOT Act, and intelligence officials spent years telling both Congress and the FISA Court that this program was vital to US counterterrorism efforts.” That was not true at all.
“Senator Udall and I spent most of 2011 pressing the NSA to provide actual examples of the bulk email records program’s effectiveness, but NSA officials were unable to do so. The bulk email records program was shut down that year. It was a big win for supporters of privacy and constitutional liberties, even though Senator Udall and I weren’t able to discuss it publicly until two years later,” he added.
This experience also demonstrated the importance of forcing intelligence officials to actually provide evidence to back up their statements, the way other government officials are expected to do.
Wyden’s speech to attendees highlighted some of the key outcomes that had resulted because former NSA contractor Edward Snowden took the step and blew the whistle.
Initially, in June, members of Congress reintroduced legislation that was “newly relevant” as a result of disclosures on secret surveillance programs or policies. “I was among them, offering my bill with Senator Udall to end bulk collection.”
The next phase that unfolded involved “new ideas” being proposed, such as reforming the secret surveillance court or allowing private companies to disclose much more information on their cooperation with the government. And then there was another phase where those ideas were melded into one package that could be called “comprehensive reform.”
Though Wyden did not explicitly name Snowden, what he said tacitly acknowledged that those in Congress interested in reform were in a better position now because of the action he decided to take.
Wyden highlighted how the “business-as-usual brigade” has argued “vociferously that any intelligence agency employee who is alarmed about surveillance activities that may be illegal, harmful or ineffective already has plenty of avenues for raising concerns.” He countered, “Even if an employee had a reason to think that raising concerns through official channels would do some good, the fact is that the whistleblower laws are deeply flawed and it doesn’t make much sense to speak up if you have to take your complaint to the people you’re complaining about.”
It will take a groundswell of public support for real reform to be passed, if it is going to be passed at all. There is quite a bit of cynicism, some of it debilitating even if reasonable. This is what Wyden said citizens can expect going forward.
The intelligence leadership can be expected to “argue for limiting the advocate’s mandate and resources” when arguing cases before the secret surveillance court. They will argue that these advocates should not be “allowed to appeal cases or assist private companies and individuals that want to challenge overly broad surveillance orders.”
“Defenders of the status quo” will “attempt to codify the surveillance authorities that reformers want to repeal,” he said. The Executive Branch is also likely to oppose more openness and transparency for the intelligence community.
However, there is a reason why any “trust us” arguments should be rejected.
The Founding Fathers wrote the Fourth Amendment to prohibit general warrants. Rules governing NSA do not “involve individual review by a judge,” which means “if the NSA decides that it wants to look through the bulk phone records database or conduct a backdoor search for a particular American’s emails it can do so without getting the approval of anyone outside the NSA.”
The intelligence agencies have “broken the rules and they have been broken a lot.”
In 2009 the FISA Court itself ruled that, and I quote: “The minimization procedures proposed by the government in each successive application and approved as binding by the orders of [the FISA Court] have been so frequently and systematically violated that it can fairly be said that this critical element of the overall [business records] regime has never functioned effectively.” What does that legal jargon mean? That’s legalese for a serious smack down of the government by the court. Even if these rules were somehow written in a way that totally erased the privacy impact of bulk records collection – which I don’t think is possible – the fact is that the routine violations of these rules over the years clearly demonstrate that trying to rely on them is a flawed approach.
“It’s going to take grassroots support from lots of Americans across the political spectrum who let their members of Congress know that they want about both their security and their liberty to be protected, and that business as usual is no longer okay,” Wyden further suggested. But he maintained that now more than ever there will be “reformers” in Congress willing to listen to Americans if they make their concerns about surveillance known.

By: Kevin Gosztola Tuesday October 8, 2013 4:58 pm
Individuals who engaged in civil disobedience during “Moral Monday” protests are on trial in North Carolina. During the first trial of one of the protesters arrested, it came out in testimony that police for the state’s legislature conducted undercover surveillance and collected intelligence on “anarchists.”
“Moral Monday” protests were organized throughout the summer by the North Carolina chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). They were held to challenge a Republican state legislature that had rejected federal funds for Medicaid that would have helped a half million poor people, promoted policies to defund public education, cut tax credits for hundreds of thousands of poor and working people while giving tax breaks to the wealthiest people in the state, rolled back environmental protections, increased limits on a woman’s right to choose an abortion and for introducing a voter suppression law on April 4th, the same day that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.
General Assembly Police Chief Jeff Weaver told a district court, according to The Charlotte Observer, that there were people in the region they considered to be “anarchists” and had “collected intelligence on them.” He did not identify who these “anarchists” were or how many individuals his department had labeled “anarchists” because officers considered them to be “against government.” He did admit that, of the more than 930 individuals arrested during the summer, his officers had “scanned the many ‘Moral Monday’ rallies with eyes trained for ‘anarchists.’”
It also came out that an officer in the department had attended meetings ahead of “Moral Monday” protests at Davie Street Presbyterian Church on May 6 and 13. Weaver claimed the officer was there to “determine how many people were expecting to be arrested to allow the department to gauge the sufficiency of the logistical support, such as transport vehicles, available at the Legislative Building.”
Weaver added, “When it was determined that accurate information could be obtained without attending the meetings, the officer’s presence was discontinued.”
At both of these meetings, the officer could have collected intelligence by singling out anyone in attendance that might have seemed like an “anarchist.” Speech and appearance could have been documented to create a watch list of individuals to monitor at the demonstrations.
This intelligence collection on supposed anarchists should be alarming to anyone who values the right to assembly and free speech. Law enforcement should not be making lists of individuals that should be watched simply because they might be anarchists.
First off, chances are those in the North Carolina General Assembly Police Department have little understanding of what it means to be an anarchist. Their views are likely similar to those in the FBI.
This 2011 presentation shows the FBI thinks current characteristics of the “Anarchist Extremism” movement are “not dedicated to a particular cause,” “criminals seeking an ideology to justify their activities,” “generally unorganized and reactive,” and “made up of younger, educated, middle to upper class individuals.” They are “paranoid/security conscious,” “distrustful/resentful of authority figures,” and “non-cooperative.” They’ll engage in ‘passive’ civil disobedience and active or ‘offensive’ attacks.”
Also, “anarchist extremists” will choose their tactics “based on willingness to face arrest.” They’ll stage actions for “maximum media attention” and use tactics to “cause maximum amount of disruption to the target.” They will use tactics to “create image of ‘aggressive’ law enforcement.”—Which could be used to describe everyone involved in organizing “Moral Mondays” protests inside of the state legislature but no one would say with a straight-face, unless they were a conservative blowhard on the radio, that NAACP leaders were “anarchists.”
What is stopping the General Assembly police from providing intelligence they have gathered on individuals they perceive to be anarchists to the FBI?
A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) filed by the American Civil Liberties Union revealed documents that showed the Joint Terrorism Task Force of the FBI was conducting political surveillance of groups like Food Not Bombs, which gives out vegetarian food to hungry people and regularly participates in protests. They also indicated the FBI will interview individuals for the simple purpose of intimidating groups ahead of political conventions or meetings.
For example, after interviewing two student activists, the FBI noted that, “although they did not obtain information about criminal activity from either student, it was unnecessary to contact others in the area as the ‘purpose of the interviews was served.’”
Finally, being raided by the JTTF paramilitary forces and subpoenaed by a grand jury is the extreme of what can happen to alleged anarchists in this country. They are often aggressively pursued as the first suspects when any crimes occur in the vicinity of demonstrations and the pursuit happens regardless of whether there is probable cause.
It is near impossible to distinguish from First Amendment-protected activity and non-violent civil disobedience actions who may or may not engage in violence, criminal activity or domestic terrorism.
When police single out individuals they think are anarchists for placement on some watch list, they are not simply targeting anarchists, who have a right to free speech and assembly like all citizens, but they are also violating the rights of citizens who may have no such political beliefs at all.
As Reverend William Barber, head of the state’s NAACP said, his group would have had no problem with police introducing themselves formally at meetings for the purpose of getting a head count of who would engage in civil disobedience. Police obviously wanted to do something more than facilitate protest.
Additionally, Weaver, the police chief, may say he is not going to discuss intelligence gathering or “operational issues,” but this kind of domestic spying activity by law enforcement is precisely the kind of conduct that should be forced out into the open by the press and the public.

7. Azerbaijan released election results before voting had even started
Azerbaijan's big presidential election, held on Wednesday, was anticipated to be neither free nor fair. President Ilham Aliyev, who took over from his father 10 years ago, has stepped up intimidation of activists and journalists. Rights groups are complaining about free speech restrictions and one-sided state media coverage. The BBC's headline for its story on the election reads "The Pre-Determined President." So expectations were pretty low.
Even still, one expects a certain ritual in these sorts of authoritarian elections, a fealty to at least the appearance of democracy, if not democracy itself. So it was a bit awkward when Azerbaijan's election authorities released vote results – a full day before voting had even started.
The vote counts – spoiler alert: Aliyev was shown as winning by a landslide – were pushed out on an official smartphone app run by the Central Election Commission. It showed Aliyev as "winning" with 72.76 percent of the vote. That's on track with his official vote counts in previous elections: he won ("won"?) 76.84 percent of the vote in 2003 and 87 percent in 2008.

8. France's highest legal body upholds ban on fracking
France's highest legal body, the Constitutional Council, on Friday approved a 2011 ban on fracking passed by the parliament over environmental concerns. US firm Schuepbach Energy challenged the ban after its exploration permits were cancelled.
France’s constitutional council rejected on Friday a challenge to a law banning hydraulic fracturing for exploration and production of the country’s shale gas and oil.
The ruling is a boost for President Francois Hollande, who has opposed the technology alongside ecologist Greens in his ruling coalition - to the dismay of some allies who believe France is sacrificing access to a cheap source of energy.
U.S-based firm Schuepbach Energy had challenged on four counts a ban introduced in 2011 due to potential risks to the environment, which led to two of its exploration permits being cancelled in southern France.
“The constitutional council threw out these four complaints and ruled that the disputed components of the July 13, 2011 law comply with the constitution,” the court said in a statement.
The Constitutional Council, made up of judges and former French presidents, has the power to annul laws if they are deemed to be unconstitutional.
The International Energy Agency has named France as a European country with some of the most plentiful underground reserves of shale gas.
However “fracking” was banned in France under former President Nicolas Sarkozy on concerns it could pollute groundwater and trigger earthquakes, bringing to a halt the nascent shale oil and gas industry in France.
After France put the ban in place, Schuepbach Energy said it had no alternative way to carry out the exploration, which led to the suspension of its two permits in the south of France.
French oil major Total is still awaiting a ruling after it separately appealed at the end of 2011 the government’s decision to ban its own exploration permit by the southeastern town of Montelimar.
Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg stirred debate earlier this year when he suggested creating a state-backed company to examine alternative exploration techniques.

9. Malala Yousafzai may not have won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, but she enjoyed a private Oval Office audience with President Obama and the first family.
Yousafzai, the 16-year-old Pakistani student who was shot in the head by Taliban gunmen for speaking out in support of the right of girls to go to school, met Friday with Obama and his wife, Michelle. A photograph issued by the White House shows the Obamas' 15-year-old daughter, Malia, also present during the visit.
The Obamas welcomed Yousafzai to the Oval Office "to thank her for her inspiring and passionate work on behalf of girls education in Pakistan," according to a statement issued by the White House.
The statement added, "The United States joins with the Pakistani people and so many around the world to celebrate Malala's courage and her determination to promote the right of all girls to attend school and realize their dreams."
Yousafzai said she was honored to meet Obama and that she raised concerns with him about the administration's use of drones, saying they are "fueling terrorism."
"I thanked President Obama for the United States' work in supporting education in Pakistan and Afghanistan and for Syrian refugees," Yousafzai said in a statement published by the Associated Press. "I also expressed my concerns that drone attacks are fueling terrorism. Innocent victims are killed in these acts, and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people. If we refocus efforts on education it will make a big impact."

10.You know what they say. You can’t fool mom.
When a group of pro-labeling moms in Washington State figured out that the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) was breaking the state’s campaign finance disclosure laws, they did something about it. They formed a grassroots group, Moms for Labeling, and they sued the GMA.
Their complaint? The GMA is concealing the identities of out-of-state corporations, namely Big Food companies, which are funneling donations to the NO on I-522 campaign through the multi-billion dollar Washington D.C.-based lobbying group. The Moms had a whistleblower lined up to testify. But then the judge dismissed their case, on a technicality.
You’d think that would have been enough to make the GMA happy, but no. The lobbying giant went after the Moms with a countersuit, prompting a judge to slap the Moms with a $10,000 fine, under a law that is supposed to protect citizens from frivolous suits by big companies.
End of story? Not yet. In dismissing the suit, the judge ruled that under the circumstances, only the state attorney general now has the authority to sue the GMA for violating Washington’s Public Disclosure Act.
The NO on I-522 campaign has so far raised $17.1 million to blanket the airwaves with lies, as it tries to scare voters into voting against the I-522 GMO labeling initiative. The GMA, which represents over 300 corporations including Kraft, Kellogg’s, Monsanto, Dupont, Starbucks, PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, ConAgra and General Mills, has kicked in $7.2 million so far – $5 million more than the lobbying group spent last year in California, to defeat a similar GMO labeling initiative.
Who’s missing from the NO on I-522 donor roster this year? The junk food giants who spent millions last year, but this year, are hiding their donations from public view.
Let’s pick up where the Moms for Labeling left off, by insisting that Washington’s attorney general force the GMA to comply with the state’s campaign disclosure laws.


Washington, D.C. - Today,  U.S. Representatives Patrick E. Murphy (FL-18), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL-27), Ted Deutch (FL-21), and Trey Radel (FL-19) led a bipartisan Florida delegation letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Marilyn Tavenner urging her to make sure that Medicare open enrollment is not impacted by the government shutdown.  Medicare open enrollment, the period during which seniors can make changes to their Medicare plan, begins on October 15 -- potentially during an ongoing government shutdown.  Joining this letter are Reps. Corrine Brown (FL-05), Vern Buchanan (FL-16), Kathy Castor (FL-14), Mario Diaz-Balart (FL-25), Lois Frankel (FL-22), Joe Garcia (FL-26), Alcee L. Hastings (FL-20), John L. Mica (FL-07), Jeff Miller (FL-01), Rich Nugent (FL-11), Bill Posey (FL-08), Tom Rooney (FL-17), Steve Southerland (FL-02), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-23), and Frederica Wilson (FL-24), and Ted Yoho (FL-03). (Please find the text of the letter below and attached).

"Seniors have earned their Medicare benefits and the flexibility that comes during open enrollment.  While Congress continues to work to reopen the government, one thing is certain.  Medicare must remain strong," said Murphy. "I am proud to stand with my fellow Floridians to insist that even with such uncertainty in Washington, seniors should be able continue to count on their Medicare.”
Please join us at one of the upcoming Screenings and Discussions of the Documentary “Shored up.” Shot before, during, and after the devastation of Superstorm Sandy, the film follows communities in New Jersey and North Carolina where politics, economics, and science collide to reveal the difficulties of planning for sea level rise and increasing uncertainty due to climate change – a familiar issue!

Meet Director & Producer Ben Kalina – Q & A to follow film!

There are two screenings: of Shored UP!
Date: Tuesday, October 15 
Time: 6:00 p.m. reception; 7:00 p.m. screening & discussion
Location: Museum of Art-Fort Lauderdale, 1 East Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301
Date: Friday, October 18
Time: 5:30 p.m. reception; 6:00 p.m. screening & discussion
Location: First Baptist Church of Fort Lauderdale, 301 E. Broward Blvd, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301
Both screenings are free and open to the public but a limited number of seats are available and RSVPs are required. Go to the Shored Up event website to RSVPDownload the flyer now! Please forward this message to your friends and colleagues!

LISTEN IN LIVE -Sunday Oct. 13th -  7pm (Eastern Time) or ( [Listen live or Anytime] )