Sunday, December 01, 2013

PNN - 2013 in the RearView Mirror


7-7:10 -      rws
7:11-7:16 - Hans Myer
7:16-7:45 - Denis Campbell (PreRecorded) 
7:50-7:55 - Anthony Noel
7:57-8:02 - Gwen Holden Barry 
8:03-808 -   
8:09-8:15 - Steve Horn 
8:16-8:21 - Luis Cuevas 
8:22-9:00   GROUP



1. TEPCO too busy doing damage control to do science
 Bangkok Post, Nov. 24, 2013: There have been charges that both the government and Tepco have been too concerned with damage control and not been proactive enough in dealing with this crisis nor forthcoming with details of its magnitude. [...] In July, it was confirmed that some 300 tonnes of underground water, which included contaminated water, were flowing into the sea every day. [...] To be fair, Tepco has been dealing with an enormously complicated situation that is giving the best nuclear scientists in the world nightmares. [...]
Indian Country Today, Nov. 25, 2013: [...] How much you know about the situation on the ground at the crippled Daiichi plant depends on how much you are intentionally seeking the information. Many people I talk to still don’t seem to fully comprehend the scope of the problem, likely because it hasn’t dominated the evening news. There is a lot to know but the most troubling facts are 1) that 300 tons of radioactive water have been spilling into the Pacific Ocean every day and is seeping into the groundwater; 2) the clean-up process is so risky that it continues to be delayed and has been called [...] potentially the biggest ticking time bomb in human history. [...] what keeps me awake at night is the radioactive plume making its way across the Pacific. It worries me because I live in a Southern California beach community [...] I think also of the many Native nations in the US and Canada whose ancient ways of life depend on the “big waters” of the Pacific [...] The proliferation of nuclear energy is a symptom of the insanity of Western-based modern science. It is reflective of a people who have so little respect for life that they are willing to sacrifice their own grandchildren’s generation [...]
Tepco has recently revised the daily flow of contaminated water into the ocean from 300 tons per day to 400. See: Japan Times: Now 400 tons a day of toxic water is estimated to be entering Pacific from Fukushima plant; 100 more tons per day than wha

2. Strange Doings in the Pacific
. New York Times, November 24, 2013: It began with the anchovies, miles and miles of them [...] in the waters of Monterey Bay. Then the sea lions came, by the thousands [...] the pelicans [...] bottlenose dolphins [in groups of 100 or more have been spotted] [...] But it was the whales that astounded even longtime residents — more than 200 humpbacks [...] and, on a recent weekend, a pod of 19 rowdy orcas [...] the water in every direction roiled with mammals [...] For almost three months, Monterey and nearby coastal areas have played host to a mammoth convocation of sea life that scientists here say is unprecedented in their memories [...] never that anyone remembers have there been this many or have they stayed so long [...] Last month, so many anchovies crowded into Santa Cruz harbor that the oxygen ran out, leading to a major die-off. Marine researchers are baffled about the reason for the anchovy explosion. [...]
Baldo Marinovic, research biologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz: “It’s a very strange year [...] The $64,000 question is why this year? [...] Now [the anchovies are] all kind of concentrating on the coast.”
Just a few weeks ago similar sightings were reported along Canada’s Pacific coast:
Vancouver Sun, Nov. 6, 2013: An extraordinary string of recent whale encounters around Vancouver Island is likely due to luck, not one factor, experts say. “This has not been a typical year,” said John Ford, head of the cetacean research program at Pacific Biological Station in Nanaimo. [...] The “biggie” of the bunch is the endangered North Pacific right whale, spotted twice in B.C. waters for the first time in 60 years. [...] There have been other remarkable whale encounters [...]  passengers aboard the B.C. ferry between Galiano Island and Tsawwassen were treated to the sight of a superpod of about 1,000 Pacific white-sided dolphins [...]
Nick Claxton, Indigenous academic adviser at the University of Victoria: Recent whale encounters could have a deeper meaning, according to an Indigenous worldview [...] “We see them as our relatives, as ancestors. All of these occurrences remind us of our place here and our connection to the natural world. It’s for the better of all of us to listen.”

3. Can't afford safety / cannot afford to know what's going on
With the first plume of water carrying radionuclides from Fukushima due to hit the U.S. West Coast any day now, [Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Senior Scientist Ken] Buesseler’s latest project is to convince the federal government to monitor radiation levels in the sea water. [...] He predicts the radiation will be so diluted after the long journey across the Pacific that it will pose no threat [...] But he knows that’s not enough to reassure the public. [...] he knows people are concerned [...] he fields regular phone calls from surfers and salmon fishermen as well as congressmen. [...]

4. BANKING Cayman Islands & Costa Rica - Now Open
The United States has signed agreements with the Cayman Islands and Costa Rica to help those countries' banks comply with an anti-tax evasion law starting next year, the Treasury Department said on Friday.
The deals are part of the US effort to enforce the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), which was enacted in 2010 and is set to take effect in July 2014. FATCA requires foreign financial institutions to tell the US Internal Revenue Service about Americans' offshore accounts worth more than $50,000. It was enacted after a Swiss banking scandal showed that 17,000 US taxpayers had hidden substantial fortunes overseas. On Thursday a former UBS banker, Raoul Weil, agreed to be extradited to the US to face charges arising from that scandal.
With these two deals, both signed this week, the Treasury has now finished 12 FATCA "intergovernmental agreements" (IGAs), which help countries' financial institutions comply with the law.
The FATCA agreement with the Cayman Islands was initially agreed to in August. The island territory of 53,000 people has no income tax and is frequently labelled as a tax haven by critics. It is one of the world's most popular destinations for investment funds to organise for tax purposes.
Costa Rica was one of three Central American countries the Organisation for Economic Development and Co-operation (OECD) has tagged as a tax haven. Panama and Belize were the other two. Significantly, the Costa Rica deal is reciprocal, meaning the Costa Rican government can get tax information about its citizens with assets in the United States.
The trading of financial information, though not part of the Cayman Islands deal but included in many of the other 11 FATCA agreements, has rankled US banks. In April, the Texas Bankers Association and the Florida Bankers Association, both industry groups, filed a lawsuit attempting to block a Treasury Department rule that would allow the IRS to send certain bank account information to foreign governments.
The case, filed in the US district court for the District of Columbia, is awaiting a judge's ruling on whether the bankers' associations have standing.

5.ethnic cleansing of the Negev - by Israel 
More than 50 public figures in Britain, including high-profile artists, musicians and writers, have put their names to a letter opposing an Israeli plan to forcibly remove up to 70,000 Palestinian Bedouins from their historic desert land – an act condemned by critics as ethnic cleansing.
The letter, published in the Guardian, is part of a day of protest on Saturday in Israel, Palestine and two dozen other countries over an Israeli parliamentary bill that is expected to get final approval by the end of this year.
The eviction and destruction of about 35 "unrecognised" villages in the Negev desert will, the letter says, "mean the forced displacement of Palestinians from their homes and land, and systematic discrimination and separation".
The signatories – who include the artist Antony Gormley, the actor Julie Christie, the film director Mike Leigh and the musician Brian Eno – are demanding that the British government holds Israel to account over its human rights record and obligations under international law.
According to Israel, the aims of the Prawer Plan – named after the head of a government commission, Ehud Prawer – are economic development of the Negev desert and the regulation of Palestinian Bedouins living in villages not recognised by the state.
The population of these villages will be removed to designated towns, while plans for new Jewish settlements in the area are enacted.
But Adalah, a human rights and legal centre for Arabs in Israel, says: "The real purpose of the legislation [is] the complete and final severance of the Bedouin's historical ties to their land."
The "unrecognised" villages in the Negev, whose populations range from a few hundred to 2,000, lack basic services such as running water, electricity, landline telephones, roads, high schools and health clinics. Some consist of a few shacks and animal pens made from corrugated iron; others include concrete houses and mosques built without necessary but unobtainable permission.
The Bedouin comprise about 30% of the Negev's population but their villages take up only 2.5% of the land. Before the state of Israel was created in 1948 they roamed widely across the desert; now, two-thirds of the region has been designated as military training grounds and firing ranges.
Under the Prawer Plan, between 40,000 and 70,000 of the remaining Bedouin – who became Israeli citizens in the 1950s – will be moved into seven over-crowded, impoverished, crime-ridden state-planned towns. The Israeli government says it is an opportunity for Bedouins to live in modern homes, take regular jobs and send their children to mainstream schools. They will be offered compensation to move, it adds.
Miranda Pennell, a film-maker and one of the letter's signatories, said: "Citizenship counts for nothing in Israel if you happen to be an Arab. Tens of thousands of Palestinian Bedouin are being forcibly displaced from their homes and lands. At the same time, there are Israeli government advertisements on the web that promise you funding as a British immigrant to come and live in 'vibrant communities' in the Negev – if you are Jewish. This is ethnic cleansing."

6. TPP and secret corporate Courts
alternet/democracy center
Last week the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement leapt from behind the closed doors of negotiations to the front pages of major newspapers, thanks to  information from Wikileaks revealing previously unpublished details of the proposed intellectual property chapter of the deal.

If you hadn't yet heard about the TPP, there is a reason for that. Not even members of the US Congress have been allowed to see the negotiating text. Thanks to a set of leaks however, we´re beginning to get glimpses of exactly how dangerous the agreement is. The Wikileaks revelations have shone an urgent public light on the agreement’s onerous implications regarding intellectual property.
In 2012, however,  another leak uncovered what may be an even more dangerous aspect of the TPP. The proposed investment chapter of the deal revealed plans to expand the system of international investment tribunals that deal with what is called ‘investor-state dispute settlement’. These are closed-door courts that take direct aim at the ability of governments across the world to enact environmental, public health and other protections for their citizens.
We don’t need much help to imagine what a world under these provisions of the TPP would look like. We need look no further than some of the current investor-state dispute cases in which powerful international corporations are demanding millions – sometimes billions – of dollars in claims, against countries both poor and wealthy, for the sin of protecting their citizens.
This is the very same system that the Bechtel Corporation used to attempt to drain $50 million from the Bolivian public treasury after the corporation had been thrown out during the  Cochabamba Water War.
This is the same system that Canadian mining firm Pacific Rim, recently taken over by Oceana Gold, is using to try to extract over $300 million from the people of El Salvador for having rejected mining operations that threaten to contaminate their drinking water.
And it’s the same system that Philip Morris, the tobacco giant, is using against Uruguay and Australia to try to eliminate important public health regulations designed to reduce tobacco consumption.
The number of these investment cases has exploded in recent years, with 2012 breaking all  records. Cases such as these, with serious implications for government ability to regulate for public health, environmental protection and access to water, are now being heard far away from domestic legal systems in international investor-state arbitration courts. Decisions in these closed door tribunals are made by three investment lawyers working on a for-profit basis with no obligation to balance the public interest with the profit-making interest of corporations. Governments, meanwhile, have no corresponding right to bring legal action against corporations in these arbitration tribunals when they breach national environmental regulations or human rights laws. It’s all one-way traffic.
The evidence is there to show how the investment rules system is poisoning our democracies; its huge expansion under the guise of the TPP threatens to serve up this toxic dish to millions more citizens. The proposed investment rules chapter will grant more rights to corporations, expand their access to this system of international investment tribunals and open the door for many more of these cases.
The conflict of interest between corporations hard wired to maximize profit – even if it comes at the cost of our fresh water sources, our public health laws and our basic services – and policy making designed to serve the public interest is nowhere more apparent than in these arbitration cases. The means of mediating this conflict of interest and blocking unbridled profit-making is the democratic process.

7. trannsylvannian anti-frackers
“Do you think they're about to have sex?” one of the activists whispers. I'm in Transylvania, in central Romania, crouched in the bushes with a bunch of hardcore anti-frackers in balaclavas, spying on a car that's crept to a halt close to where we are hiding. “No, it must be the cops, you can see the light from the mobile phone,” another one says. Time to move on.
It has been over an hour since the group started trashing equipment owned by the gas exploration company Prospectiuni, playing a game of cat and mouse with the security teams and police vehicles that are now sweeping the hilltops looking for us. Another light tears around the bend on the road and the shout goes through the team to hide. I throw myself down in the cool, damp grass of a Transylvanian meadow. It's going to be a long night.
In recent weeks, the sleepy Saxon communities and protected forests of Sibiu county in Transylvania have become the battleground of a new war, one that has pitted gas exploration companies, the Romanian government, and international investment firms against a small band of environmental activists. The activists, who have come here from across Romania, are working side by side with local farmers to resist the gas and oil exploration they claim is taking place illegally on their land.
The Romanian gas company Romgaz has had a long-stated desire to explore the low-lying hills of Transylvania, but it's only this month that it has started exploration in earnest. Thirty-four-ton seismic testing trucks—used by drilling companies to create artificial earthquakes in order to see what's under the groud—soon growled along the muddy tracks to the villages accompanied by cohorts of security guards and busloads of workers.
Today the villages and fields are laced with strips of ribbon, which stretch like spaghetti across the ancient landscape of beech forests, beehives, and the harvested stubs of cornfields. The ribbons indicate where the companies plan to lay their cables and plant the explosives for the seismic fracking tests. Locals told me that they awoke to find ribbons being laid across their land, with some even attached to their garden fences.
All the seismic tests are taking place inside Romania’s largest EU Natura 2000 site, which is strange, given that the stated aim of the Natura 2000 program is "to assure the long-term survival of Europe's most valuable and threatened species and habitats." These remote communities now resemble a territory occupied by a hostile army. When I arrive in one village, I watch as a team of workers prepares a hole with dynamite a few yards from the village soccer pitch. On the high street, private security jeeps are parked up at a crossroads, black uniformed men filming and following our every move.
My guide for the day, community activist Hans Hedrich, says such intimidation tactics are typical for Romania. “You must understand that in Romania, people are still afraid to speak out. All this security makes it seem as though the people have no right to object to what is going on. You could easily be forgiven for forgetting that this is the 21st century, and that we are within a democratic country and in the EU,” he says, exasperated.
At the end of the road an elderly orthodox priest ushers me inside nervously, asking not to be identified. “They told me not to talk with you,” he says. “The bishops say it is not the role of a priest to get involved in community affairs.” He pauses, a flash in his eyes, almost thinking aloud, “We thought they had come to rebuild the playground—then the earthquake happened, shaking the houses here, causing cracks and breaking ornaments inside the houses. The people were scared. Nobody asked us permission, they didn't even tell us what they were doing.” He is interrupted by the shrill ringtone of his mobile. Fifteen minutes later, he returns to the kitchen, having been told again by his superiors to keep quiet. The interview is over. “They know you are here,” he says, showing us the door.
We keep moving out of the village, following the ribbons and the intermittent booming sounds of controlled explosions echoing through the valleys. Away from the security guards, a woman speaks up, “They are thieves,” she hisses. Her neighbor comes over, begging for answers. “We’ve heard the land will be poisoned, is this true? We live from this land, we don’t have salaries!”
At the top of a hill I find a giant geological lab on wheels, antennae dangling from the top and men poring over electrical equipment inside. A small, portly man introduces himself as is Gheorghe Daianu, a seismologist and director of operations for Prospectiuni, the exploration company that has been subcontracted for 40 million euros ($54 million) to carry out tests in the region. Daianu condemns the protests against his work, calling opponents of gas exploration “neo-fascists.” He is insistent that the company has permission to be on every square foot of land where the tests are taking place, a claim he says can be backed up with paperwork, before he orders us to leave the area.
I head to the nearby village of Mosna, to the home of farmer Willy Schuster and his wife Lavinia, who've invited me to stay while covering the next day's anti-fracking protests. Chickens cluck, fires roar, and cheese is made in the kitchen as a dozen activists begin to arrive from across the country, checking Facebook and charging their cameras for the following day. This will be the first protest against gas exploration in Transylvania, they explain, urging me to get an early night's sleep. But first I have another appointment to keep.

8. peoples budget
Monday's public forum in front of the St. Petersburg City Council over the funding of a future police headquarters, St. Pete's latest civic headache, brought a passionate crowd out, upset with what they felt was the misuse of the funds that should be intended for neighborhood projects.

The move prompting the forum was city official's plans to take $4.77 million from the referendum approved Penny for Pinellas fund, which covers capital improvements in the county, and put it towards the funding of the headquarters. The police headquarters, a major aspect of the 2007 referendum campaign, is currently without a plan but will be estimated to cost between $40 and $68 million.
Largely represented by the People's Budget Review, members of the audience spent two hours making clear that while they understand the need for a new headquarters, it should not come at the expense of the more community focused initiatives.
"I would like to express our strong opposition against this council's proposal to take roughly 4 million from funds meant for neighborhoods, local recreation projects, and cultural facilities, to be used for the construction of a new police facility,” said Louis Brown. “This transfer will further reduce the balances of both the neighborhood and citywide infrastructure and recreations project funds, which have suffered sharply reduced revenues as a result of the recession … As with any budget decision this is a matter of priorities. In the past two years, thousands of residents have made their vision and values in St. petersburg known and they are expressed time and time again, the longing for critical investments into our neighborhoods and into our youth. This decision, if it is approved, does not represent that vision. In fact it is turning a deaf ear on two years of unprecedented public engagement to this body and dialogue on the future of our city.”
Brown and other members of the People's Budget Review pointed out projects covered by Penny for Pinellas that could be scrapped due to the transfer of funds, including the acquisition of property for new affordable housing, street-scaping, landscaping and green-scaping for neighborhoods, recreation center improvements and enhancements, library additions, improvements and replacements, the Chiles Park corridor, the arts maintenance program, improving streets, roads, sidewalks and ramps, storm water drainage improvements, improvements of pedestrian walkways and bike lanes, historical renovations and new park facilities and playground equipment.
While the audience was in a clear majority of opposition towards the diversion of funds, there were some who felt that the new headquarters was necessary.
“While we owe the residents to respond to the People's Budget Review,” said one woman who CL was unable to identify, "the referendum where we promised the voters that we would support a police headquarters I think is a greater obligation. Most of the speakers who have gotten up so far say they do not oppose building a police department and certainly for the fourth largest city in the state of Florida, we have an obligation to the public safety of our citizens. We have fine officers sitting over here. I'm sure if they had the opportunity to speak, they would also voice the opinion that they need the resources to do their job.”

9. Pig Protection
Whistleblower Jim Schrier never would have thought that speaking out for the welfare of pigs would land him 120 miles away from his family, but it did. Sometimes doing the right thing isn’t easy – especially when you’re a whistleblower brave enough to take a stand against Big Ag. Whistleblowers not only take professional risks such as demotions and terminations, but truth-telling and subsequent retaliation can exact great tolls on their personal lives. 

On Giving Tuesday, your generous contribution can help the Government Accountability Project's Food Integrity Campaign (FIC) support whistleblowers like veteran meat inspector Jim Schrier, truth-tellers who make sure that the food at your table is produced in a way that is consistent with your family’s values and beliefs. 

In late 2012, Jim – who has dutifully served as a USDA meat inspector for 30 years – blew the whistle on inhumane handling of pigs at a Tyson Foods slaughter plant in Columbus Junction, Iowa. He witnessed improper stunning of pigs before slaughter, a direct violation of federal humane handling regulations that require pigs to be completely unconscious and unable to feel pain prior to shackling. Jim thought he was simply doing his job when he brought these concerns to his supervisor, but instead of enforcing the regulations, management became angry and moved Jim to another slaughterhouse more than 120 miles away. The action forced Jim to often stay in a hotel near work and miss time with his family, an unfair and unacceptable punishment for speaking the truth! 

The Campaign took on Jim's case, worked with media to cover his story, and supported a Change.org petition launched by his wife, Tammy, to bring her husband back to his original post. She collected more than 200,000 petition signatures urging the agency to return Jim home! 

The good news is, with public pressure from FIC supporters like you, the USDA finally agreed to negotiate, and by late 2013, the agency moved Jim back to work at a facility near his home and family. It’s been quite a year for Jim, but we're glad he can now spend time with his loved ones over the holidays. 

Assisting whistleblowers like Jim and protecting them from retaliation is no easy feat, and we need your help to bring success stories to more brave truth-tellers! On December 3rd, you can double the push for food transparency by making a gift to FIC for Giving Tuesday. Your donation will be matched by the CS Fund* and help whistleblowers freely speak out against threats to food integrity.

Your friends, 
GAP President Louis Clark & FIC Director Amanda Hitt


10. 8 reasons to OPPOSE NSA Spying
  • Point out how mass surveillance leaves you at the mercy of not only the NSA, but also to the DEA, the FBI and even the IRS. We know that the government claims that any evidence of a "crime" can be sent to the appropriate law enforcement agencies. 
  • Tell them that, even if you don't think you have something to hide, it's possible the government thinks you do, or can create some concern about you (or your friends or loved ones). There are so many laws and regulations on the books, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner said the Congressional Research Service did not have the resources to count them all.  One legal expert has argued that the average person likely commits three felonies a day without ever realizing. So, you may be technically breaking a law you have no idea about.
  • We all benefit from a system that allows privacy. For example, when journalists can speak to sources without the specter of surveillance, helping fuel investigative journalism and the free flow of information. And this is not just a hypothetical--the Department of Justice subpoenaed the phone records of Associated Press journalists in an effort to track down government whistleblowers. And it's not just journalists. Activists, political organizers, lawyers, individuals conducting sensitive research, businesses that want to keep their strategies confidential, and many others rely on secure, private, surveillance-free communication.


11. Church Group Trying to Feed the Homeless Ordered to Stop
Story by Israel Balderas / CBS 12 News
LAKE WORTH, Fla. -- Happy Thanksgiving to all, but apparently not for the homeless living at Palm Beach County’s John Prince Park in Lake Worth, FL.

This holiday is supposed to be a day to think of others, which is exactly what church members from Acts 2 Worship Center in Loxahatchee, FL wanted to do.

But when the small group tried to deliver food to the homeless living at the park, a park ranger ordered them to stop.

"God takes care of us,” said Steven Griffin, who’s homeless. “We don't starve. We're grateful."

Griffin and his wife Dominique have lived at John Prince Park in Lake Worth for years, and they're not the only ones.

"You get all these other people coming in,” said Griffin, as his wife nodded in agreement. “I guess it’s because of the economy.”

For that reason, a dozen church members like Tereza Del Rio from Acts 2 showed up with packaged Thanksgiving meals.

"We do a lot of mission trips and helping the homeless and stuff like that,” said Del Rio. “I do whatever I can.”

"We brought our kids out here so they could see what it’s really like for people that are struggling,” said church member Brian Oakes.

And this act of kindness was greatly appreciated. 

“We’re grateful you know,” said Kevin Rudd, who’s also homeless. “They hand out; we meet the guys and stuff. They give us a prayer and everything.”

But then, just as the homeless like Kevin were being fed, a Palm Beach County park ranger came up to the church group and ordered them to stop and leave!

“And everybody just went, ‘huh?’” said a confused Rudd.

“It’s very disappointing,” said Brian. “We didn’t intend for this today. We just wanted to give the food and be able to bless people.”

So CBS 12 news walked around Prince Park and followed the church members who just wanted to deliver the remaining Thanksgiving packages. This despite being told by the park ranger they had to leave or else be ticketed.

“Thank you very much,” said a family receiving the food.

“Mr. Park Ranger,” said CBS 12 reporter Israel Balderas, “how are you sir?” 

CBS 12 tracked down the park ranger that witnesses say was kicking out the church members.

“I'm not allowed to talk with you,” said the park ranger, also identified as Mark. “You have to take your questions to the administration building.”

“They’re saying that you told some church people to leave,” said the reporter to the park ranger.

“Hi,” waved the park ranger to the camera. “I can’t talk to you; my bosses don't want me to talk.”

Park Ranger Mark said he was ordered to warn the church members that they were violating county ordinances. When he was asked to cite the specific law that gave him the authority to kick out church members from a public park, he couldn’t do it. So he called dispatch to ask for help. 

“Channel 12 is here, wants to talk to me about previous activities gone on here,” said the park ranger to dispatch. “And I’m not allowed to talk to them.”

The previous activity being referred to was the ranger telling the church group that they couldn't feed the homeless.

At first, CBS 12 was told only the director of parks would talk on camera, but he wasn't available today.

Dispatch said that feeding the homeless was not a permitted activity by a large group. But CBS 12 asked, “What constitutes an activity and what size is too large?” 

CBS 12 waited for Mark’s supervisor, Max Steward, to show up at Prince Park. But that never happened.

“And I’m sorry I couldn't talk with you but they put strict orders,” said the park ranger.

“Mark, you were following orders, is that fair?” asked reporter Israel Balderas

“Yes sir!” said the park ranger, with a sigh.

By the time CBS 12 finished talking with the park ranger, Acts 2 church members were done passing out the food they had. The homeless at the park were thankful for people giving of their Thanksgiving Day to think of others.

Tomorrow, they’ll be hungry again, and if someone tries to feed them, that activity could be a violation of the law. For now…

12 WikiLeaks
In the face of the US government¹s three-year attack on WikiLeaks, an anonymous Department of Justice official talking to the Washington Post now claims that there is little possibility of prosecuting Julian Assange for publishing, but that a Grand Jury remains empaneled and the situation may change. So, we have a much-hedged statement by someone who cannot be identified claiming that the government may not indict Julian Assange for publishing. This is hardly the assurance that WikiLeaks and Julian Assange need. It is hardly the assurance that others who seek to reveal material that might offend the government need to carry on their activities. The damage to a free press by this heavy-handed, unwarranted and continued investigation into a publisher is severe.
The anonymous assertion that Julian Assange may not be indicted for publication of classified documents, even if true, only deals with a small part of the grand jury investigation. That investigation has been primarily concerned with trying to prove somehow that Julian Assange and WikiLeaks were involved, not merely in publication, but in a conspiracy with their sources. There is also the question as to the status of the DoJ investigations into WikiLeaks involvement in the Stratfor and Snowden matters.
For three years WikiLeaks and its publisher and founder Julian Assange have faced an unprecedented and wide-ranging Grand Jury investigation into its publishing and sourcing activities, with claims that somehow these activities might constitute a conspiracy to commit espionage, theft or access violations. That investigation, which has involved paid informers, unlawful interrogations in Europe and subpoenas to WikiLeaks supporters and social media companies, has caused untold damage to the free press. It has chilled other publishers and journalists from publishing articles and documents to which the public ought to have access. It has made many fearful of association, including PayPal, Visa, Bank of America and other financial services companies, who continue to blockade transfers from us, from our supporters and even donations to our political party in Australia. Despite these and many other efforts, the US government has failed to destroy WikiLeaks, which remains a vigorous publishing organization.
The formal position of the US Department of Justice is that the investigation continues. Rather than caveat riddled claims from anonymous officials with undefined motivations, the government ought to do the right thing: close the investigation and formally and unequivocally tell WikiLeaks that no charges will be brought. Despite our lawyers’ repeated requests, they refuse to do so. Presently, the situation for WikiLeaks and its publisher Julian Assaunge remains unchanged. Perhaps with such an assurance this dark chapter for freedom of the press can be closed.
Hours prior to receiving a copy of this statement, I published a post commenting on the significance of the grand jury investigation into WikiLeaks and how it is still ongoing. The entire investigation into Assaunge and WikiLeaks has always been motivated by the lawful publishing of documents, which Justice Department officials are now apparently ready to admit is not criminal conduct.
What that means is the investigation has been purely political, a fishing expedition to find and uncover some kind of aspect of WikiLeaks’ operations, which they could focus upon to bring charges against Assaunge and its staffers/volunteers. They appear to have come up empty-handed after three years, but that does not change the fact that the Justice Department should never have exercised its discretion and launched an investigation into everyone tied to the organization in the first place

13. Insiders: State secrets bill meant to suppress Fukushima news — Japan public stunned, citizens could face years in prison — Man has mouth “stuffed with cloth” after voicing opposition — Toxic leaks into ocean seem unstoppable, gov’t must plug the information instead
Mainichi, Nov. 27, 2013: The ruling coalition’s ramming of a controversial special state secrets bill [...] through the House of Representatives on Nov. 26 has stunned the public. [...] it could discourage citizens as well as journalists from seeking access to such information for fear of harsh punishment, blocking government information from circulating in society [...]

Japan-based Investigative Journalist Jake Adelstein, Nov. 29, 2013: [...] even politicians inside the ruling bloc are saying, “It can’t be denied that another purpose is to muzzle the press, shut up whistleblowers, and ensure that the nuclear disaster at Fukushima ceases to be an embarrassment before the Olympics.” [...] And most tellingly, Masako Mori, the Minister of Justice, has declared that nuclear related information will most likely be a designated secret. For the Abe administration this would be fantastic way to deal with the issue of tons of radiated water leaking  [...] There seems to be no end to stopping the toxic waste leaks there but the new legislation would allow the administration to plug the information leaks permanently. As [it] continues to pour into the ocean and our food supply, it is an ominous sign that the Japanese government refuses to disclose information about the levels of pollution [...]

Mainichi, Nov. 27, 2013: Under the bill, ordinary citizens who aid and abet or conspire with others in leaking information classified as special state secrets could face up to five years in prison even if the information were not actually revealed. If citizens were indicted for obtaining special secrets under the legislation, they could be convicted without the content of the information being clarified.

Mainichi, Nov. 27, 2013: One of the [Fukushima] residents angrily said, “How far are they going to go in fooling us?” [...]  a member of the Diet’s investigation committee on the Fukushima nuclear disaster, said, “I hope information involving the lives of residents will not be made secret.”

14. no news
The Japanese government, which already has a long history of cover-ups and opaqueness, is on its way to becoming even less open and transparent after the lower house the Diet, Japan’s parliament, passed the Designated Secrets Bill on Tuesday. With new powers to classify nearly anything as a state secret and harsh punishments for leakers that can easily be used to intimidate whistleblowers and stifle press freedom, many in Japan worry that the if the bill becomes law it will be only the first step towards even more severe erosions of freedom in the country.
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Even politicians inside the ruling bloc are saying, “It can’t be denied that another purpose is to muzzle the press, shut up whistleblowers, and ensure that the nuclear disaster at Fukushima ceases to be an embarrassment before the Olympics.”
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The new law would enact harsher punishment to leakers and ominously would allow journalists who obtained information by “inappropriate means” and whistleblowers to be jailed for up to ten years. The law would also allow the police to raid the offices of media organizations and seize evidence at their discretion.
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The bill has even grants no longer existent agencies the power to classify secrets.
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Despite the bill’s enlargement of the state’s power over information, it contains no oversight process to act as a check on ministries and government agencies designating large amounts of information as ‘secret’ for capricious or self-interested reasons.
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