Sunday, November 03, 2013

PNN [11/3/13] - "A MAN and A WOMAN" -

PNN
11/3/13
"a man and a woman"

Anthony Noel Communications Director NPA
Meredith Ockman VP NOW of Florida
Isobel Sousa-Rodreiguez of FLIC 

0. PNN Contributor Steve Horn sends us this story he's published at DESMOG BLOG

Never Before Seen Photos of Tesoro Fracked Oil Spill in North Dakota, Pipeline Restarted Today

A month after over 865,200 gallons of oil spilled from Tesoro Logistics' 6-inch pipeline near Tioga, North Dakota, the cause of the leak is still largely unknown to anyone but Tesoro. The pipeline resumed operations today.

Carrying oil obtained via hydraulic fracturing ("fracking"), the controversial horizontal drilling method used to capture oil and gas found embedded in shale rock basins worldwide, the Bakken Shale pipeline spill on September 29 was the largest fracked oil spill in U.S. history. Oil spill experts say the spill may be even bigger than originally estimated
Yet few details of what caused the spill - and how to prevent it from happening again - have arisen in the month since it occurred. 
The U.S. Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) believes a lightning strike may have created the quarter inch hole in the pipeline, leading to the spill. 
PHMSA says it will carry out a rigorous investigation into the cause of the spill, but allowed the restart after Tesoro agreed to the agency's safety order mandating aerial monitoring of the pipeline over the next three days during the restart and then weekly for the next year, along with 20 other things.
The safety order also mandates Tesoro provide a documented updated within six months indicating how it enhanced its control room monitoring, instructs Tesoro to finish the final mechanical and metallurgical testing report of the failed pipe within 30 days and dictates that within "90 days complet[ion of] a root cause failure analysis for the Line that contains a detailed timeline of events."
Documents obtained by Greenpeace USA under North Dakota's Open Records Statute show the oil has settled over 12 feet below the ground layer of the soil. The oil that settled on the surface was burned off.   
"At 10-12 feet below surface, there is a extensive clay layer that underlies the entire hill top," Kris Roberts, Environmental Response Team Leader for the North Department of Health's Division of Water Quality, explained in an October 3 field report.

1. Radiation from Fukushima arrives on Alaska coast — University scientists concerned — “Is the food supply safe?… I don’t think anyone can really answer that”

CBC News, Nov. 2, 2013: Radiation from Japan nuclear plant arrives on Alaska coast [...] Scientists at the University of Alaska are concerned about radiation leaking from Japan’s damaged Fukushima nuclear plant, and the lack of a monitoring plan. Some radiation has arrived in northern Alaska and along the west coast. That’s raised concern over contamination of fish and wildlife. More may be heading toward coastal communities [...]
John Kelley, professor emeritus at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks: “The data they will need is not only past data but current data, and if no one is sampling anything then we won’t really know it, will we? The general concern was, is the food supply safe? And I don’t think anyone can really answer that definitively.”
Douglas Dasher, researcher at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks: “The levels they are projecting in some of the models are in the ballpark of what they saw in the North Pacific in the 1960s.”
Recent reports have noted health problems in Alaskan wildlife, including seals, polar bears, walruses, whales, and sea stars.

****

David Suzuki is an award-winning scientist, environmentalist and broadcaster. [...] Dr. Suzuki is a geneticist [...] He held a research associateship in the Biology Division of Tennessee’s Oak Ridge National Lab [...]
Wikipedia: Suzuki was awarded the Right Livelihood Award in 2009 [...] In 2004, David Suzuki was selected as the greatest living Canadian in a CBC poll.
David Suzuki at the University of Alberta, October 30, 2013 (At 2:45 in): Fukushima is the most terrifying situation I can imagine. You ask, what can we do? First of all you have got a government that is in total collusion with Tepco, they’re lying through their teeth. […] The fourth one has been so badly damaged that the fear is if there’s another quake of a 7 or above that that building will go, and then all hell breaks loose. And the probability of a 7 or above quake in the next 3 years is over 95%. […] They don’t know what to do. We need to get a group of international experts to go in with complete freedom to do what they suggest. Right now the Japanese government has too much pride to admit that. I’ve seen a paper which says that if in fact the fourth plant goes under an earthquake and those rods are exposed, it’s bye-bye Japan, and everybody on the West Coast of North America should evacuate. Now if that isn’t terrifying, I don’t know what is.

****

Transcript Excerpts

Jean Enersen, King 5 News: The Mysterious die off of West Coast sea stars is spreading.

Dennis Bounds, King 5 News: The so-called melting sea stars were first noticed in Vancouver, then in Seattle, and now in California. King 5 environmental specialist Gary Chittim has more on the rapidly spreading disease, and why scientists are so concerned. And a warning, the video of the sea stars might be disturbing. […]
Heidi Ebel, Seattle Aquarium: There is a huge unknown as to why there is currently a die off happening […]
Gary Chittim, KING 5 News: They’re in quarantine […] At least 3 of the aquarium’s captive sea stars were melting. […] And the scene out there is worse. Aquarium divers found a much more serious situation in the wild population along the Seattle waterfront. […] The estimates of infected sea stars has grown from 30% to 50%-60% in just a few days. And now biologists in California are finding it too.
Dr. Lesanna Lahner, Seattle Aquarium: Something is causing sea stars to be diseased along the coast at different locations. […]
Chittim: Is it a natural disease, is it triggered by environmental factors? […]

*****
Professor: There are fuel rods probably ‘fused’ in Fukushima Unit 4; Pool now on bent legs, and lateral supports were not put in when first built — AP: International concern about “catastrophic open-air meltdown”
Associated Press, Nov. 1, 2013: The [No. 4] reactor building was damaged by hydrogen explosions, and remains a source of international concern about a catastrophic open-air meltdown in case of a pool collapse, despite TEPCO’s repeated reassurance that it has reinforced the pool and that the building can withstand another major earthquake.

ABC News Radio, Oct. 31, 2013 — Richard Broinowski, adjunct professor at University of Sydney, Australia’s former ambassador to South Korea, Mexico and several other countries: Cooling pond 30 meters above the ground on bent legs — it’s been flawed and damaged by the earthquake, by the tsunami as well. It was badly constructed in the first place; the lateral support rods were not put inside when they should have been. It holds 256 tons highly radioactive spent fuel. [...] No one knows the condition of the spent fuel rods, probably some are fused. There has been a leakage of cooling water. How the heck you get them out with proper safety requires enormous feats of engineering.

*****

KING 5 News, Nov. 1, 2013: Hanford whistleblower: ‘I was now the enemy’ [...] [Dr. Walt] Tamosaitis determined that the mixers, as designed, would not be able to mix the waste sufficiently, posing a risk that heavy radioactive elements would collect at the bottom of the tanks and begin a nuclear chain reaction. The reaction, in turn, would generate large amounts of explosive hydrogen gas (a similar hydrogen build up at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan caused large explosions after the 2011 Tsunami damaged that facility). [...] “The worst case scenario would be a criticality and trapping of hydrogen gas which could lead to a hydrogen explosion,” said Tamosaitis. [...] URS moved Tamosaitis to another building where he was assigned to a makeshift office in the basement. He sat alone in a cramped space full of storage boxes, rat poison feeders and copy machines. He was not assigned any work and had no boss to report to. “The message was, ‘Don’t do what Walter did. Don’t raise issues. Shut up (and) do what we say,’” said Tamosaitis. [...]  The Defense Nuclear Facility Safety Board and the Government Accountability Office both issued reports highlighting Tamosaitis’ work. And in early 2012 Energy Secretary Steven Chu ordered a halt to WTP construction.


2. KOCH Bros and Denver School Board
It isn’t often that the Koch brothers’ political advocacy group gets involved in a local school board race.
But this fall, Americans for Prosperity is spending big in the wealthy suburbs south of Denver to influence voters in the Douglas County School District, which has gone further than any district in the nation to reshape public education into a competitive, free-market enterprise.
The conservatives who control the board have neutered the teachers union, prodded neighborhood elementary schools to compete with one another for market share, directed tax money to pay for religious education and imposed a novel pay scale that values teachers by their subjects, so a young man teaching algebra to eighth graders can make $20,000 a year more than a colleague teaching world history down the hall.
Conservatives across the U.S. see Douglas County as a model for transforming public schools everywhere. But with four of seven seats on the board up for grabs in Tuesday’s election, reformers find themselves fending off a spirited challenge from a coalition of angry parents and well-funded teachers unions. The race has been nasty and pricey, too; spending from all parties is likely to hit at least $800,000.


Americans for Prosperity has begun investing more heavily in local elections in the past two years, including statehouse races in Arkansas and Kansas, judicial contests in Florida and North Carolina, and mayoral ballots in Lakeville, Minn., and tiny Coralville, Iowa. Promoting education reform has emerged as a priority, spokesman Adam Nicholson said — so AFP headquarters “fully supported” its local chapter’s decision to engage in the Douglas County race.
The AFP Foundation’s Colorado chapter will spend more than $350,000 on the school board campaign, State Director Dustin Zvonek said.
“Douglas County has started to show that you can shake up the status quo” even in a successful suburban school district, Zvonek said.“We don’t want them to go backward.”
Douglas County would seem an unlikely place for an education revolution. One of the country’s richest counties, with a median household income above $100,000, it’s a deeply conservative stretch of suburbia, blanketed with look-alike homes in muted earth tones. Its schools are well-regarded and parent satisfaction has traditionally been high. Yet since the reformers took control of the 65,000-student school district in 2009, the changes have come fast and furious.
The board’s first step was to abolish tenure. Then it sidelined the local teachers’ union by refusing to negotiate a collective contract, instead working out deals one-on-one with each employee. “That really freed us up,” said Doug Benevento, a board member running for reelection on the reform slate.


The board launched the first voucher program in the U.S. to subsidize private and parochial school tuition for wealthy families in a top-ranked public school district. (The schools, including some touting a Bible-based, creationist curriculum, received a down payment of funds in 2011, but the program is on hold pending court challenges.) Douglas County has also added more charter schools and directed public funds to subsidize books and classes for home-schooled children.

Pushing the free market farther still, the board has urged district elementary schools to compete with one another for enrollment, rather than simply serving all students in the neighborhood. Principals are encouraged to budget creatively so they can develop a marketable niche, a practice that has left some schools without art or music teachers as they build up science programs or bring in foreign-language classes. Then there’s the market-pay system, in which a first grade teacher is valued, and paid, more than a second grade teacher and teaching physics far outweighs teaching art.

Politicians and educators from as far as Arizona, North Carolina and Texas have looked to model their own reforms on Douglas County.

But parents dismayed by the changes see Tuesday’s election as their best chance to reverse course. They have put up four candidates and promoted them in scores of house parties. These insurgent candidates haven’t raised much money on their own, but have been buoyed by independent expenditures of at least $150,000 from the American Federation of Teachers and its Colorado affiliate, plus $70,000 from a committee that has not identified its donors.
The reform slate — two incumbents and two allies running for open seats — has its own prominent backers.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who has donated $1,000 to each of the reform candidates, not only endorsed the board at his national education summit earlier this month, but also urged the crowd to contribute. Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler, a Republican who is running for governor, directed his own campaign machine to spend the week working for the Douglas County reform slate.

The Americans for Prosperity spending has boosted their cause. And the reformers have raised more than three times as much as the insurgents, thanks to $140,000 in donations from two wealthy Coloradans who have long been active in promoting vouchers.

The board’s policies also received a boost — and a splash of national publicity — from two conservative scholars hired as consultants by the Douglas County Educational Foundation, a nonprofit organization that raises funds for district schools. Former Education Secretary William Bennett, who was paid $50,000, produced a laudatory paper praising the board’s actions as “perhaps the most promising array of education reforms underway in America today.”

Fredrick Hess, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute who was paid $35,000, entitled his paper “The Most Interesting School District in America?” and promoted it in an online discussion last month with Bennett and the Douglas County superintendent, Elizabeth Fagen. The district also emailed Hess’ report to tens of thousands of parents.

Hess didn’t disclose in the paper that he was paid by the Douglas County foundation, but said he didn’t see a conflict in calling attention to the board’s “ambitious and energetic” reforms, especially since he wasn’t passing judgment on their efficacy. “It’s a huge open question,” Hess said, “whether this is going to work.”

Most available metrics show the district’s academic performance, already high, has at least held steady during the reforms.

District scores on state math, reading and writing tests are stable, and science scores have improved, even though the county has absorbed an online school serving 3,0000 low-performing students. On the other hand, Douglas County no longer outperforms the state by as much as it used to, as other Colorado districts have made bigger strides.

The high school graduation rate is up, though that could be in part because the board cut the number of credits required for a diploma. (Douglas County used to require more credits than neighboring districts; now it’s on par.) ACT scores have inched up. More students are taking Advanced Placement tests, but the pass rate has dipped. Class sizes have grown.

The Americans for Prosperity ads focus on the positive metrics. The tagline: “It’s working.” The ad from the union-backed Committee for Better Schools counters, “Under this school board, we’ve fallen behind.”

But performance data isn’t all that matters to parents like Stefania Scott, who has two children in Douglas County elementary schools. To her, the reforms’ biggest impact has been the splintering of her community.

Five years ago, Scott said, all the kids on the block walked together to the local elementary school. Now, each family goes their own way — some to charters, some to private schools and some to public schools across town that have successfully marketed themselves as worth the drive. She has stuck with her neighborhood school, but often thinks of pulling up stakes.

“It’s truly broken up the community,” Scott said, “and it’s sad.”

If the reformers retain control of the board, more jolting changes are likely.
The district has revamped its curriculum and no longer considers “knowing and understanding large amounts of information” a key goal for students.
Instead, teachers are told to focus on nurturing “21st century skills” like creativity, communication and critical thinking. One high school is even talking about abolishing traditional classes and instead having kids with common hobbies get together to explore topics — so avid skateboarders, for instance, might study physics by deconstructing their best stunts.

The district is also developing a huge new database to track students’ and teachers’ progress. Principals will be able to upload videos of teachers at work and photos of student projects to help determine which educators deserve raises. Student assessment data will be entered as well — not just test scores, but also teacher evaluations of skills such as creativity and collaboration.
Fagen, who was hired by the board in 2010 and is the highest-paid superintendent in the state, with a base salary of $270,000, said she believes most in the community back the reforms. But she is prepared for continuing dissent, no matter the election’s outcome.

“I don’t think anyone expected to change a 100-year-old institution as dramatically as we have,” she said, “… and not experience some turbulent waters.”



3. HR  992
The U.S. House just passed a bill called H.R. 992 — the Swaps Regulatory Improvement Act — that was literally written by mega-bank lobbyists. It repeals the laws passed in 2010 to prevent another meltdown like the one that crashed our economy in 2008. The repeal was cosponsored by a former Goldman Sachs executive and passed with bipartisan support from some of the House’s largest recipients of Wall Street cash. It’s so appalling… so unbelievable… so blatantly corrupt… that you’ve got to see it to believe it:
In 2010, Congress passed the “Dodd-Frank” law to clamp down on risky “derivatives trading” that led to the financial collapse of 2008. Dodd-Frank was weakened by banking lobbyists from the start and has been under attack by those lobbyists ever since. Now a new law written by Citigroup lobbyists (we couldn’t make this stuff up if we tried) exempts derivatives trading from regulation, and was passed this week by the House of Representatives with broad bipartisan support.

It sounds bad… but don’t worry, it gets much, much worse:
  • The New York Times reports that 70 of the 85 lines in the new House bill were literally written by Citigroup lobbyists (Citigroup was one of the mega-banks that brought our economy to its knees in 2008 and received billions in taxpayer money.)
  • The same report also revealed “two crucial paragraphs…were copied nearly word for word.” You can even view the original documents and see how Citigroup’s lobbyists redrafted the House Bill, striking out ideas they didn’t like and replacing them with ones they did.
  • The bills are sponsored by Randy Hultgren (R – IL), and co-sponsored by Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT) and others. Himes is a former Goldman Sachs executive, and chief fundraiser for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
  • Maplight reports that the financial industry is the top source of campaign funding for 6 of the bills’ 8 cosponsors.
  • Maplight’s data shows that members of the House received $22,425,740 million from interest groups that support the bill — that’s 5.8 times more than it received from interest groups opposed.
  • “House aides, when asked why Democrats would vote for this proposal even though the Obama administration opposes it, offered a political explanation. Republicans have enough votes to pass it themselves, so vulnerable House Democrats might as well join them, and collect industry money for their campaigns.” — New York Times
Yep, it’s actually that bad. For the full story, check out this revealing piece by Represent.Us Communications Director Mansur Gidfar. You can also find out if your Rep. voted for H.R.992 here.
We elect Representatives to the House to represent us, the people — but both parties now refuse to do the job we elected them to do. And they won’t until we force them to. The American Anti-Corruption Act would stop this corruption, and Represent.Us is the movement behind the Act. Together, we can make blatant corruption illegal with simple reforms. It’s common sense that elected officials should be barred from collecting money from the industries they regulate.


The bill is sponsored by Republican and Democratic members—Randy Hultgren (R-Ill.), Jim Himes (D-Conn.), Richard Hudson (R-NC), and Sean Patrick Mahoney (D-NY)—and its passage would be great news for Citi and other financial titans. Five banks—Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo—control more than 90 percent of the $700 trillion derivatives market. "The big banks support [the bill] because it means that they'll get to keep the public subsidy"—FDIC insurance and the implicit promise of a taxpayer bailout—"to their derivatives-dealing business," explains Marcus Stanley, the policy director at Americans for Financial Reform.

The origins of the Citigroup proposal date back to 2011, when several large banks fought to repeal the push-out rule entirely. When it became clear that full repeal couldn't pass, Citigroup pitched an alternative: allow banks to use FDIC-insured money to bet on almost anything they wanted. It proposed letting banks keep most types of derivatives trading in-house, requiring only that derivatives based on certain pools of assets, such as mortgages, be moved into separate entities. Citigroup was not able to get the measure passed before the end of the last Congress, but its allies on Capitol Hill reintroduced it this year.
Citi's move to expand the types of derivatives it can trade comes as banks have increasingly been shifting derivatives out of their investment banking divisions (which aren't backed by FDIC insurance) and into taxpayer-backed entities. "The rule is needed more than ever," says Mike Konczal, an expert on financial reform at the Roosevelt Institute. The financial services committee passed the Citi-written bill on a 53-to-6 vote; all the no votes came from Democrats.
This is certainly not the first time that the financial industry has shaped financial reform laws for Congress. Citigroup was a central player in the 1999 repeal of the Depression-era law called the Glass-Steagall Act that forced banks not to engage in investment activities. Its lobbyists flooded Capitol Hill for that fight. "Citigroup was of course the bank that administered the coup de grace to Glass-Steagall," says Stanley.
Citigroup's drafting of the anti-push-out measure fits into "a long history of things being written by industry—and that generally has not worked out very well," says Konczal. "This is very bad news."
See how the Citigroup proposal allows more risky dealings by taxpayer-backed banks:
What's Allowed
What's Not Allowed
  • All interest rate swaps
  • All foreign exchange swaps and forwards
  • Gold and silver swaps
  • Swaps on US government securities
  • Swaps on investment grade corporate debt securities
  • Swaps on general state obligations
  • Cleared CDs
  • Commodity and agricultural swaps
  • Equity swaps
  • Energy swaps
  • Metal swaps (excluding gold and silver)
  • Agricultural swaps
  • Commodity and agricultural swaps
  • Equity swaps
  • Energy swaps
  • Metal swaps (excluding gold and silver)
  • Agricultural swaps
  • Certain credit default swaps, which are derivatives that act as insurance for loans

4. More details - on the sellout  
First, let's begin with the important question: What is the Retail Investor Protection Act? The bill delays a new Department of Labor rule that would prevent financial advisers from stealing from your 401(K) plans or IRAs. Allowing financial advisers to rip you off is a great complement to that other plank in the Republican-Conservadem retirement insecurity platform, cutting Social Security.
The Labor Department proposal, known as the “fiduciary rule,” would change the ethical standards by which employer-based retirement products like 401(k)’s and IRAs are marketed and sold. The rule has not been updated since 1975, before 401(k)’s and IRAs even existed. The Labor Department wants to broaden the definition of a “fiduciary” to cover all financial advisers who offer individual investment advice for a fee. Under the rule, they would be legally required to work in the best interest of their clients. For example, a fiduciary would not be able to push investment products on customers in which they have a financial stake. The agency defines the goal of the proposal as “to ensure that potential conflicts of interest among advisers are not allowed to compromise the quality of investment advice that millions of American workers rely on, so they can retire with the dignity that they have worked hard to achieve.”
...
Currently, it is depressingly common for financial advisers, more than 80 percent of whom are not fiduciaries, to self-deal when offering advice. First off, they obtain large fees from the retirement products they sell. According to the think tank Demos, a median-income, two-earner household will pay $155,000 during their lifetime to financial advisers on average. (The lifetime gains for two-earner households from retirement accounts are around $230,000, meaning that nearly two-thirds of the profits go to the industry.) Second, non-fiduciary financial advisers can enjoy kickbacks; right now there is no rule against an adviser from a mutual fund company encouraging clients to put their money in specific funds sold by that company. In fact, that’s the norm, and the adviser typically receives a commission for the sale.
Conflicts of interest like this cost retirement investors at least $1 billion a month, because the funds they get channeled into underperform the alternatives. Financial advisers also encourage rollovers into high-cost IRAs when an individual changes jobs. None of these schemes have to be disclosed to the customer, under the current standard. The National Bureau for Economic Research found in a recent study that “adviser self‐interest plays an important role in generating advice that is not in the best interest of the clients.”
So in the middle of a retirement crisis, when the majority of Americans already aren’t accumulating the savings they need to maintain their standard of living, sellers of retirement products are skimming close to $60 billion a year off the top through deceptive practices, making a bad situation even worse.

FL SELLOUTS - VOTED WITH REPUBLICANS TO LOOSEN WALL STREETS LAWS

Ted Deutch (FL-21)
Patrick Murphy (FL-18)
Joe Garcia (FL-26)

cont'd

The Labor Department proposal, known as the “fiduciary rule,” would change the ethical standards by which employer-based retirement products like 401(k)’s and IRAs are marketed and sold. The rule has not been updated since 1975, before 401(k)’s and IRAs even existed. The Labor Department wants to broaden the definition of a “fiduciary” to cover all financial advisers who offer individual investment advice for a fee. Under the rule, they would be legally required to work in the best interest of their clients. For example, a fiduciary would not be able to push investment products on customers in which they have a financial stake. The agency defines the goal of the proposal as “to ensure that potential conflicts of interest among advisers are not allowed to compromise the quality of investment advice that millions of American workers rely on, so they can retire with the dignity that they have worked hard to achieve.”

The short version here is that when the country turned away from guaranteed pensions in the 1980s and started encouraging individual employees to gamble with their retirement nest eggs on the stock market, it also threw them into the arms of a predatory financial services industry. And it’s a big business; IRAs and 401(k) plans hold roughly $10.5 trillion in total assets.
Currently, it is depressingly common for financial advisers, more than 80 percent of whom are not fiduciaries, to self-deal when offering advice. First off, they obtain large fees from the retirement products they sell. According to the think tank Demos, a median-income, two-earner household will pay $155,000 during their lifetime to financial advisers on average. (The lifetime gains for two-earner households from retirement accounts are around $230,000, meaning that nearly two-thirds of the profits go to the industry.) Second, non-fiduciary financial advisers can enjoy kickbacks; right now there is no rule against an adviser from a mutual fund company encouraging clients to put their money in specific funds sold by that company. In fact, that’s the norm, and the adviser typically receives a commission for the sale.
Conflicts of interest like this cost retirement investors at least $1 billion a month, because the funds they get channeled into underperform the alternatives. Financial advisers also encourage rollovers into high-cost IRAs when an individual changes jobs. None of these schemes have to be disclosed to the customer, under the current standard. The National Bureau for Economic Research found in a recent study that “adviser self‐interest plays an important role in generating advice that is not in the best interest of the clients.”
So in the middle of a retirement crisis, when the majority of Americans already aren’t accumulating the savings they need to maintain their standard of living, sellers of retirement products are skimming close to $60 billion a year off the top through deceptive practices, making a bad situation even worse.
The Labor Department, which has jurisdiction under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), sought to put a stop to this in 2010, when it proposed a new fiduciary rule. Since ERISA rules hadn’t been updated since 1975, it seems reasonable to broaden the definition of investment adviser to fit the modern, 401(k)-led retirement marketplace, protecting a new class of investors. But the financial services industry bared its teeth, sending enough comment letters and imposing enough pressure to get the agency to withdraw the rule. Now that the Labor Department plans to re-submit the proposal, the industry has shifted to attack it in Congress.
H.R. 2374, the dubiously named “Retail Investor Protection Act,” passed the House Financial Services Committee in June. It would delay the Labor Department’s rule until 60 days after the Securities and Exchange Commission completes its own rule (both Labor and the SEC have jurisdiction over different parts of the investment adviser industry). Though the SEC released a study in 2011 recommending stronger protections for investors, it has said publicly that their fiduciary rule would not be ready this year, so this is merely a stall tactic. (In addition, Wall Street probably thinks it has more pull with the SEC than the Labor Department to bend the rule to their will.) Moreover, H.R. 2374 would force agency rule-writers to prove that retail investors are “systematically disadvantaged” under the current rules. The goal there is to make it impossible to write a new rule at all, and to protect the financial services industry from losing tens of billions of dollars.


5. NC Moral Monday activists call on governor to convene special legislative session

Moral Monday activists in North Carolina are inviting the public to sign a letter asking Gov. Pat McCrory (R) to convene a "Special Redemption Session" of the legislature to reverse recent decisions denying Medicaid expansion and cutting unemployment benefits.

The letter was written by clergy who were among the over 900 people arrested earlier this year during the Moral Monday protests organized by the state NAACP. Those weekly protests began in April and drew thousands of citizens to the state legislature to rally against an agenda that included cuts to social safety net programs and restrictions on voting rights.

The letter's original authors -- state NAACP President Rev. Dr. William Barber; Rev. Dr. William Turner, a Duke University professor and pastor of Mount Level Baptist Church in Durham, N.C.; Rev. Dr. Rodney Sadler, a professor at Union Presbyterian Seminary and a pastor at Mount Carmel Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C.; and Elder Carrie Bolton of the United Holy Church and a former professor at Livingstone College in Salisbury, N.C. -- brought the letter to the NC NAACP's annual convention, where it was unanimously endorsed by over 600 delegates and friends.

They are now circulating the letter publicly and inviting all North Carolinians who agree with its requests to sign on. They plan to deliver it to McCrory on Nov. 27 -- the day before Thanksgiving and the first night of Hanukkah.



6. SPECIAL REPORT - In Louisiana, a former Army commander goes to war against Big Oil

By Sue Sturgis

With the trial of BP for its 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil disaster still underway, and with controversy raging over a lawsuit filed against oil companies for eroding Louisiana's coast, the industry is facing growing scrutiny for its impact on the region.

Among those speaking out in surprisingly strong terms about the need to rein in out-of-control oil companies is a man who might seem an unlikely messenger for environmental justice: retired Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré, a Point Coupee Parish native and Republican since the Reagan administration who gained national fame for serving as commander of Joint Task Force Katrina following the 2005 disaster. He now works to promote disaster preparedness.

Earlier this month, Honoré gave a talk before two dozen civic and environmental leaders who gathered at a New Orleans restaurant to talk about how to hold the industry responsible for the damage it's done.

Mark Moseley of The Lens, a public-interest news website, reports that Honoré's talk was "about the nuts and bolts of building a successful political movement" by bringing disparate groups and individuals together to work toward a common goal:

    Like a general plotting battlefront logistics, he pinpointed the enemy's points of vulnerability and used military metaphors to illustrate strategies that could lead to victory.

Honoré gave a related speech in September at Rising Tide, a conference on the future of New Orleans held at Xavier University. His delivery was folksy, but his message was radical: an out-of-control oil industry was ruining Louisiana's air, water, and land, and it must be stopped.

He encouraged participants to return home and recruit others to the cause, but he warned that they would likely be ignored because of cultural deference to the industry:

    They'll say, "Why you worry about that? You know Louisiana runs on the oil and gas business. We can't do without the oil and gas business. Don't you know how much they do for the state of Louisiana?" Well, if they do so much, why are we the poorest damn state in America? Why everybody down here not driving a brand new GMC Silverado Bayou Edition? Why all our kids don't get to go to $15,000-a-year private schools? Why everybody down here don't have their own private jet, if we're doing that well?

Honoré went on to talk about the inadequacy of current laws and regulations to protect people and the environment from the industry's irresponsibility, sharing a disturbing story he heard from a man helping him with his baggage at the airport whose friend was decapitated by an abandoned oil well while boating on the Gulf of Mexico. There are over 28,000 wells in the Gulf that have been abandoned by oil and gas companies, some dating back as far as 1948. Many are leaking oil.

Given the severity and urgency of the problem, Honoré called for what sounds like civil disobedience:

    Ladies and gentlemen, the legislature in the state of Louisiana is going to have to deal with this. Because of our form of government and constitution the way it's written, we can't create a Proposition 200, for instance, that says all the wells must be capped, all areas must be mitigated by the oil companies. In order for us to create a proposition like this, we'd have to take it through the legislature of Louisiana. And they're not going to pass it. So we've got a couple choices. We can do what? Create some change. Or we can go down there and make it very miserable for them. And I'm afraid that we're going to have to do the latter. We're going to have to make it very miserable for them to be able to operate by continuing to pass the rules the way they are now. This is our time. This is our battle.

THIS WEEKS SHOW



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