Sunday, January 19, 2014

PNN - National Progressive Journalists

PNN - 1 - 1/19/14

RWSS…………... 07pm - 07:15pm
Carl Gibson ..... 07:16 - 07:26pm
Steve Horn….…07:27 - 07:37pm 
Luis Cuevas…...07:38 - 07:48pm
Jerry Waxman. 07:49 - 07:59pm
Alan Maki ……..08:01 - 08:11pm

Round Table …08:12 - 8:55pm


1. Chelsey Manning gets a Sam 
The former US Army intelligence analyst who was found guilty of releasing the largest set of classified documents in US history will be honored in absentia for her role in exposing the dark nature of civilian casualties in Iraq.
Chelsea Manning (formerly Bradley Manning), currently incarcerated at Leavenworth Prison, will be recognized at a ceremony in absentia at Oxford University's prestigious Oxford Union Society “for casting much-needed daylight on the true toll and cause of civilian casualties in Iraq; human rights abuses by U.S. and “coalition” forces, mercenaries, and contractors; and the roles that spying and bribery play in international diplomacy,” according to the press release, published by activist and author David Swanson.
The award ceremony will be held on February 19, 2014, according to the statement.
The Sam Adams Award acknowledged Chelsea Manning, 26, for revealing to the world some of the atrocities of the Iraq War, including the "Collateral Murder" video – footage taken in July 2007 from inside the cockpit of a US Apache helicopter as US troops onboard cut down 12 unarmed civilians, including two Reuters reporters.
The video footage, together with some 500,000 Army documents that are now known as the Iraq War logs and Afghan War logs, was turned over to Wikileaks in early 2010.
Manning was sentenced in August 2013 to 35 years imprisonment.
Former senior NSA executive and SAAII Awardee Emeritus Thomas Drake commented that Manning "exposed the dark side shadows of our national security regime and foreign policy follies."
Drake writes that Manning's "acts of civil disobedience … strike at the very core of the critical issues surrounding our national security, public and foreign policy, openness and transparency, as well as the unprecedented and relentless campaign by this Administration to snuff out and silence truth tellers and whistleblowers in a deliberate and premeditated assault on the 1st Amendment." 
The Sam Adams Award is given annually by the Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence, comprised of retired CIA officers, to an intelligence professional who has taken a stand for integrity and ethics. It is named after Samuel A. Adams, a CIA whistleblower during the Vietnam War.
Last year, the Sam Adams award was presented to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, who recieved the award at an undisclosed location in Moscow. Other renowned recipients of the award in recent years were Thomas Drake, Julian Assange and Samuel Provance.
Jesselyn Radack, of the Government Accountability Project, told RT in October during a roundtable discussion “it’s a dangerous time for whistleblowers in the US.”
At the same time, however, Snowden’s revelations have had a big effect as “courage is contagious,” Radack noted.
“We have more and more whistleblowers coming to the Government Accountability Project than we have had before,” she said. “I really think [Snowden] has had a wonderful effect [on] the US and the world.”

2. Kevin Gosztoloa - on Obama NSA homili
The president delivered a speech on changes his administration would support to National Security Agency programs and policies, but what most stood out was not the announced reforms. It was how the speech focused on him and what he had done and how it seemed like he was lecturing Americans who have been outraged by what they have learned about massive government surveillance in the past six months.
President Barack Obama seemed deeply offended that anyone would think he had done an inadequate job or had enabled surveillance state policies.
…I was critical of several practices, such as warrantless wiretaps. And all too often new authorities were instituted without adequate public debate…Some of the worst excesses that emerged after 9/11 were curbed by the time I took office…
…I maintained a healthy skepticism toward our surveillance programs after I became President. I ordered that our programs be reviewed by my national security team and our lawyers, and in some cases I ordered changes in how we did business…
…What I did not do is stop these programs wholesale — not only because I felt that they made us more secure; but also because nothing in that initial review, and nothing that I have learned since, indicated that our intelligence community has sought to violate the law or is cavalier about the civil liberties of their fellow citizens…
…After an extended review of our use of drones in the fight against terrorist networks, I believed a fresh examination of our surveillance programs was a necessary next step in our effort to get off the open ended war-footing that we have maintained since 9/11. For these reasons, I indicated in a speech at the National Defense University last May that we needed a more robust public discussion about the balance between security and liberty. What I did not know at the time is that within weeks of my speech, an avalanche of unauthorized disclosures would spark controversies at home and abroad that have continued to this day… [emphasis added]
Obama’s version of his record as president sharply contrasted the history of support for spying as presented by The New York Times. Obama aides even anonymously told the Times that he had been “surprised to learn after the leaks…just how far the surveillance had gone.” So, it was fraudulent for him to claim to Americans that he was about to bring transparency and promote debate on government surveillance.
The narrative that Obama promoted in the part of his speech building up to announcement of reforms was starkly similar to what NSA director Gen. Keith Alexander has said when addressing members of Congress at hearings held in the aftermath of Snowden’s first disclosures. The narrative he used should make Americans even more skeptical of how substantive the changes to surveillance will be.
President Barack Obama’s historical overview, which he gave in the opening of his speech, described history of America being at war. All of those examples, including the one where Paul Revere was basically held up by the president as the nation’s first NSA analyst, involved needing to spy to know when and where to launch military attacks.
One might remember that just about one year ago Obama gave an inaugural speech after his re-election where he said a “decade of war is now ending” and later described how Americans believe there is no need for “perpetual war.” But the very premise of Obama’s speech involved a demand to recognize the value of militarized surveillance and this militarization keeps the US on a permanent war footing putting civil liberties of Americans at risk so long as this footing is maintained.
What Obama said the NSA consistently follows “protocols designed to protect the privacy of ordinary people” and “they are not abusing authorities in order to listen to your private phone calls, or read your emails,” that was false. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court found in a ruling in 2009, “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.”
Like Alexander and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, Obama took shots at journalists who had reported on documents released by Snowden, suggesting what had emerged over the past months consisted of “crude characterizations.” And, adding, “Fortunately, by focusing on facts and specifics rather than speculation and hypotheticals, this review process has given me — and hopefully the American people — some clear direction for change.”
Twenty minutes later, when Obama finally arrived at the part where he outlined the reforms he supports—what he was willing to support to placate civil liberties advocates while at the same time avoiding a ”backlash from national security agencies,” Americans would have been forgiven for feeling their president had just scolded them for being concerned about government surveillance run amok. It was abundantly clear that Obama wished he did not have to be there at the Justice Department giving this speech.
So what reforms did he say his administration would support?
Obama announced he had issued and signed a “signals intelligence” directive that would strengthen internal executive branch oversight of “intelligence activities.” He said he supported “greater transparency.” Specifically:
…I am directing the Director of National Intelligence, in consultation with the Attorney General, to annually review — for the purpose of declassification — any future opinions of the Court with broad privacy implications, and to report to me and Congress on these efforts. To ensure that the Court hears a broader range of privacy perspectives, I am calling on Congress to authorize the establishment of a panel of advocates from outside government to provide an independent voice in significant cases before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court…
This reform was couched in extremely disingenuous statements about how the administration has declassified information. All documents declassified by the government since Snowden’s disclosures were not released because Obama voluntarily wanted to give the public access but because the Electronic Frontier Foundation won a lawsuit and a court was going to order the information to be released.
One should be concerned that the Director of National Intelligence will have a very narrow view of what rulings by the FISA court have “broad privacy implications.” Also, while appearing to support a privacy advocate from outside government to argue before the court, he said this voice would be authorized for “significant cases.” What are “significant cases”? Presumably, those will be rare so as not to create the perception that the NSA is acting outside any boundaries.
How will the public know if this advocate is being permitted to defend rights before the secret surveillance court? Will that be disclosed? Will the public get to read his or her arguments?
These questions are important but largely irrelevant when considering the bigger issue. The secret surveillance court should not be deciding whether NSA spying is constitutional or not, a violation of Americans’ privacy or not. That should be decided publicly by courts in the judicial branch.
Obama said he would have the Attorney General and DNI institute “additional restrictions on government’s ability to retain, search, and use in criminal cases, communications between Americans and foreign citizens incidentally collected under Section 702″—a provision of the FISA Amendments Act he voted for as senator before he was elected, which legalized dragnet warrantless surveillance.
He indicated he would support a change to how FBI national security letters—requests for data of persons—are handled but did not adopt judicial review. What he was willing to support is some kind of change that would prohibit attaching an indefinite gag order to them so companies cannot talk about them (which a court had found unconstitutional last year).
Then, he arrived at the part where he addressed the collection of Americans’ phone records by the NSA—the bulk metadata program. He promoted national security state propaganda on how the government would have caught a 9/11 hijacker if this program would have been in place prior to the attacks.
“If a bomb goes off in one of our cities and law enforcement is racing to determine whether a network is poised to conduct additional attacks, time is of the essence. Being able to quickly review telephone connections to assess whether a network exists is critical to that effort,” Obama declared. But, to date, the program has prevented no imminent terrorist attacks. (In fact, being inundated with data may have inhibited the ability of NSA to prevent attacks by failing to understand what data the agency actually had on threats.)
Obama said government would “transition” away from this program:
…[W]e will only pursue phone calls that are two steps removed from a number associated with a terrorist organization instead of three. And I have directed the Attorney General to work with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court so that during this transition period, the database can be queried only after a judicial finding, or in a true emergency…
Positive, but he announced another review to come up with alternative approaches before program comes up for reauthorization under the PATRIOT Act on March 28. The intelligence community and Attorney General would be involved.
It appears highly likely that companies may eventually be required or contracted to keep some of this data for longer periods so the NSA can search metadata through requests made to them. Neither the government nor companies should keep the data.
Obama said the US should stop spying on world leaders in allied countries. Up to this point, the US has been rejecting the establishment of a no-spying agreement with Germany, which Chancellor Angela Merkel desires since she learned her phone had been tapped by NSA. He also claimed the US does not spy on ordinary citizens in foreign countries but the millions upon millions of pieces of data collected by NSA from countries, which has been revealed thanks to Snowden, suggests that is simply not true.
Where the speech failed tremendously was in its ignorance of issues that arise from the fact that NSA has weakened encryption. There was no part of the speech that addressed whether criminal defendants have a right to information collected against them during their criminal trials. He said nothing about how agencies are collecting information on targets illegally, arresting them for crimes and then going back and using parallel construction through the use of legally collected evidence to put a case together and prosecute them.
Obama bent over backward to celebrate the intelligence community. NSA whistleblower Kirk Wiebe said at the National Press Club afterward that NSA had been in existence for over sixty years. In that time, it had “blatantly violated its charter, the law, for some 41 years.” These policy recommendations, legal fixes, briefings, yearly reviews, etc, are all “fluff.” What he should do is have a group of IT people—maybe even hackers—come in and access the NSA’s computers and networks to verify that the databases do not contain information that should not be collected.
And, finally, Edward Snowden—President Barack Obama said this just before getting to the reforms we had all been waiting to hear him announce:
Given the fact of an open investigation, I’m not going to dwell on Mr. Snowden’s actions or motivations. I will say that our nation’s defense depends in part on the fidelity of those entrusted with our nation’s secrets. If any individual who objects to government policy can take it in their own hands to publicly disclose classified information, then we will never be able to keep our people safe, or conduct foreign policy. Moreover, the sensational way in which these disclosures have come out has often shed more heat than light, while revealing methods to our adversaries that could impact our operations in ways that we may not fully understand for years to come.
Snowden did not merely object to government policy. He objected to government conducting mass surveillance in secret without the consent of Americans. (Obama even said critics “rightly point out that although the telephone bulk collection program was subject to oversight by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and has been reauthorized repeatedly by Congress it has never been subject to vigorous public debate.”)
There was no recognition in Obama’s speech of the fact that his administration bears responsibility for this situation. If they did not want Snowden to flee the country and take secrets with him to blow the whistle, they should have taken steps to create actual whistleblower protections for employees in national security or intelligence agencies. However, instead of doing that, the administration has embraced witch hunts against leakers and zealous prosecutions, which discourage good government employees from engaging in acts of whistleblowing.

3. Court: Bloggers have First Amendment protections 

 GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) -- A federal appeals court ruled Friday that bloggers and the public have the same First Amendment protections as journalists when sued for defamation: If the issue is of public concern, plaintiffs have to prove negligence to win damages.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered a new trial in a defamation lawsuit brought by an Oregon bankruptcy trustee against a Montana blogger who wrote online that the court-appointed trustee criminally mishandled a bankruptcy case.

The appeals court ruled that the trustee was not a public figure, which could have invoked an even higher standard of showing the writer acted with malice, but the issue was of public concern, so the negligence standard applied.

Gregg Leslie of the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press said the ruling affirms what many have long argued: Standards set by a 1974 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Gertz v. Robert Welch Inc., apply to everyone, not just journalists.

"It's not a special right to the news media," he said. "So it's a good thing for bloggers and citizen journalists and others."

Crystal L. Cox, a blogger from Eureka, Mont., now living in Port Townshend, Wash., was sued for defamation by Bend attorney Kevin Padrick and his company, Obsidian Finance Group LLC, after she made posts on several websites she created accusing them of fraud, corruption, money-laundering and other illegal activities. The appeals court noted Padrick and Obsidian were hired by Summit Accommodators to advise them before filing for bankruptcy, and that the U.S. Bankruptcy Court later appointed Padrick trustee in the Chapter 11 case. The court added that Summit had defrauded investors in its real estate operations through a Ponzi scheme.

A jury in 2011 had awarded Padrick and Obsidian $2.5 million.

"Because Cox's blog post addressed a matter of public concern, even assuming that Gertz is limited to such speech, the district court should have instructed the jury that it could not find Cox liable for defamation unless it found that she acted negligently," judge Andrew D. Hurwitz wrote. "We hold that liability for a defamatory blog post involving a matter of public concern cannot be imposed without proof of fault and actual damages."

The appeals court upheld rulings by the District Court that other posts by Cox were constitutionally protected opinion.

Though Cox acted as her own attorney, UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh, who had written an article on the issue, learned of her case and offered to represent her in an appeal. Volokh said such cases usually end up settled without trial, and it was rare for one to reach the federal appeals court level.

"It makes clear that bloggers have the same First Amendment rights as professional journalists," he said. "There had been similar precedents before concerning advocacy groups, other writers and book authors. This follows a fairly well established chain of precedents. I believe it is the first federal appeals court level ruling that applies to bloggers."
An attorney for Padrick said in an email that while they were disappointed in the ruling, they noted the court found "there was no dispute that the statements were false and defamatory."
"Ms. Cox's false and defamatory statements have caused substantial damage to our clients, and we are evaluating our options with respect to the court's decision," wrote Steven M. Wilker.

4.TPP - Sacrificing the Environment for Corporate Interests
Wednesday, 15 January 2014
The leaked secret draft of the TPP´s (Trans-Pacific Partnership) Environment Chapter, published today by WikiLeaks, underscores how multinational corporate interests rule the negotiating process of this important 12-nation treaty, representing more than 40 per cent of the world's GDP and one-third of world trade.
On 13 November last year, WikiLeaks released the secret draft text of the Intellectual Property Rights Chapter, which showed how nations were forced to change laws and to prosecute in defence of the biggest corporate interests in the field of IP rights.
In sharp contrast, the Environment Chapter does not include enforcement mechanisms serving the defence of the environment; it is vague and weak, and adheres to the lowest common denominator of environmental interests.
The word “appropriate” is found in various forms in 43 places in the draft text, in such contexts as: “Where possible and appropriate, the Parties shall seek to complement and utilise their existing cooperation mechanisms and take into account relevant work of regional and international organizations.” The word “may” is also found 43 times in the 23-page draft.
In the draft Consolidated Text, governments are urged to “...make every effort to arrive at a mutually satisfactory resolution...”, “ any technological means available agreed by the consulting Parties...”, “...on the basis of objectivity, reliability and sound judgment...”, “...provided that the disputed Parties so agree...”, “...take measures to prevent...”, “...shall make best efforts...”, “...exercise restraint in taking recourse...”, “ recognition of the importance...”, “...each Party retains the right to make decisions...”, “...adopt or maintain appropriate measures...”.
A selection of other favourite words in the draft include: “enhance” (12), “consider” (12), “encourage” (11), “address” (10), “endeavour” (9) and “seek” (9).
The Environment Chapter clearly shows the intention to first and foremost protect trade, not the environment. The principle is spelled out in this draft that local environmental laws are not to obstruct trade or investment between the countries. Furthermore, there is great emphasis on the self-regulatory principle when it comes to environmental protection, and emphasis on “...flexible, voluntary mechanisms, such as voluntary auditing and reporting, market-based incentives, voluntary sharing of information and expertise and public-private partnership”. But even such measures should be designed in a manner that “...avoids the creation of unnecessary barriers to trade”.
The Consolidated Text of the Environment Chapter of the TPP Agreement was drafted by Canadian officials after bilateral consultations with other TPP Parties. It is dated November 24, 2013, the last day of the TPP Chief Negotiators' summit in Salt Lake City, Utah. It outlines what the Chairs of the TPP Environment Working Group evaluate as a compromise of the Parties' different positions across issues. In a separate four-page document the Chairs of the Environment Working Group outline the main obstacles to agreement between the negotiating countries.
It is noteworthy in the assessment by the Chairs that the US government is isolated in its interest in placing enforcing mechanisms into the treaty to protect the environment. Without access to the negotiating table, it is hard to assess if the US representatives fought for this principle with the same vigour as they did for policing and enforcement on behalf of intellectual property interests, as can be seen in the leaked IP Chapter.
The TPP negotiations have been shrouded in secrecy during the three years the treaty has been in the making. The United States, as the largest of the 12 economies party to the negotiations, had originally pushed for the closure of the agreement before the end of 2013. According to recent reports quoting Andrew Robb, the Australian trade minister, the negotiations are in the final stages and the treaty is “ready to be sealed”.
The Obama administration wants to fast-track the TPP treaty through the US Congress, preventing Congress from amending or discussing any part of it. A bill to this effect was released last Thursday, 9 January, by the leaders of the Congressional committees with jurisdiction over US free trade agreements.
With the WikiLeaks release of the drafts of two of the most controversial chapters of the TPP, the media has now an opportunity to critically dissect the issues with the public interest in mind.
The TPP negotiations have wider implications than for the 800 million people in the 12 negotiating countries because the US administration, the dominant Party at the table, has declared that the principles outlined in the TPP will be a benchmark in the equally secretive US-EU trade talks for the TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) initiated in January 2013.
Current TPP negotiation member states are the United States, Japan, Mexico, Canada, Australia, Malaysia, Chile, Singapore, Peru, Vietnam, New Zealand and Brunei.
by Kristinn Hrafnsson, WikiLeaks Spokesperson

5. Supreme Court Sides With 'Notorious Patent Bully Monsanto'
'Monsanto's reign of intimidation is allowed to continue in rural America,' says Food Democracy Now!'s Dave Murphy
- Andrea Germanos, staff writer

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday denied a group of farmers the right to challenge Monsanto's seed patents, a decision critics charge allows the biotech giant's "reign of intimidation" to continue.

The plaintiffs in the suit, Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA) et al v. Monsanto, sought to protect themselves from lawsuits by the corporation for patent infringement should Monsanto's genetically engineered seed contaminate the farmers' crops.

Monsanto has sued over 100 farmers for patent infringement.

Jim Gerritsen, president of lead plaintiff OSGATA, previously explained, "We are not customers of Monsanto. We don't want their seed. We don't want their gene-spliced technology. We don't want their trespass onto our farms. We don't want their contamination of our crops. We don't want to have to defend ourselves from aggressive assertions of patent infringement because Monsanto refuses to keep their pollution on their side of the fence. We want justice."

The farmers' and seed producers' battle to preemptively to protect themselves began in 2011 with a case filed in a federal district court in Manhattan. Then, as we previously reported,

    Their case was dismissed in February 2012 by Federal Judge Naomi Buchwald, but attorney Dan Ravicher of the not-for-profit Public Patent Foundation [which is representing the plaintiffs] said, "The District Court erred when it denied the organic seed plaintiffs the right to seek protection from Monsanto's patents."

    In July of 2012 the group filed an appeal to reverse the lower court's decision.

In June of 2013, a three-judge panel at the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit dealt the farmers a blow in dismissing the case.

"In light of the Court of Appeals decision, Monsanto may not sue any contaminated farmer for patent infringement if the level of contamination is less than one percent," Daniel Ravicher, Executive Director of the Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT) and lead counsel to the plaintiffs, said in a statement on Monday. But the Supreme Court's decision is "disappointing," Ravicher said, and "it should not be misinterpreted as meaning that Monsanto has the right to bring such suits."

Organic dairy farmer and plaintiff Rose Marie Burroughs of California Cloverleaf Farms adds that "GMO contamination levels can easily rise above 1% and then we would have zero protection from a costly and burdensome lawsuit."

OSGATA's Gerritsen slammed the Court's decision as putting a "notorious patent bully" above family farmers.

"The Supreme Court failed to grasp the extreme predicament family farmers find themselves in," stated Gerritsen. "The Court of Appeals agreed our case had merit. However, their safeguards they ordered are insufficient to protect our farms and our families."

"This high court which gave corporations the ability to patent life forms in 1980, and under Citizens United in 2010 gave corporations the power to buy their way to election victories, has now in 2014 denied farmers the basic right of protecting themselves from the notorious patent bully Monsanto," Gerritsen stated.

Dave Murphy, founder and executive director of Food Democracy Now!, another plaintiff in the case, added, "Once again, America's farmers have been denied justice, while Monsanto's reign of intimidation is allowed to continue in rural America."

6. GOOGLE - what ever happened to DON'T BE EVIL
Post-Citizens United, corporate donors are still shy enough that they shield themselves behind undisclosed corporate donations to non-profits rather than direct candidate contributions. Now the Center for Public Integrity has released a detailed report of top corporations and their donations to those nonprofits. They were able to identify direct contributions of at least $185 million.
They gleaned the information from financial statements and other public records to the extent they were available. Some companies chose to make a full disclosure while others disclosed nothing, and still others only disclosed the name of the organization without the amount given.
Google falls into that last category, where we know who they donated to, but not how much. The list is damning. Not only did Google drop contributions onto lots of political non-profits on the right and the left, they aligned completely with the Koch side of the right-wing nonprofits.
For example, they were the only company to disclose a donation to Heritage Action, the Jim DeMint shut-down-the-government-kill-Obamacare group. Also on their list? The Texas Public Policy Foundation, ALEC, American Action Forum, Federalist Society, Washington Legal Foundation, Competitive Enterprise Institute, US Chamber of Commerce, Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform, The Constitution Project, American Conservative Union (CPAC sponsor), American Enterprise Institute, Cato Institute, Mercatus Center (the Koch-sponsored economic think tank at George Mason University), National Taxpayers Union and the Free State Foundation.
By contrast, the only identifiable left-leaning organizations on their list were the Center for American Progress Action Fund and NAACP Action. The rest were neutral or trade associations connected with the internet.
Just in case there's some dispute about what's evil and what isn't, Google should note the well-documented case against Heritage Action and their evil crusade to shut millions out of access to health care, the damage that the Koch-built Cato, Mercatus, AEI and CEI-derived policies wreak on ordinary people, and how all of these organizations work in concert to do harm to the middle class and working people.
Simply put, they do evil to ordinary people.
Google didn't do this by accident. They've decided to toss their lot in with extremists while using our data to buy their donations. There's something really, really evil about that.

6. FREEDOM INDUSTRIES - whats Under the Shell Company
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Freedom Industries, the company that fouled thousands of West Virginians' water with a chemical leak into the Elk River last week, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy Friday.

Freedom owes $3.6 million to its top 20 unsecured creditors, according to bankruptcy documents. The company also owes more than $2.4 million in unpaid taxes to the Internal Revenue Service, and the IRS has placed at least three liens on Freedom's property, demanding payment.

The unpaid taxes date back to at least 2000, according to a lien filed in 2010.
Under the bankruptcy code, Chapter 11 permits a company to reorganize and continue operating.

The filing also puts a hold on all of the lawsuits filed against Freedom Industries. Since the leak last week, about a mile and a half upriver from West Virginia Water American's plant in Charleston, about 25 lawsuits have been filed against Freedom in Kanawha Circuit Court. The company also faces a federal lawsuit.

The company's assets and liabilities are each listed as between $1 million and $10 million in the bankruptcy filing. Chemstream Holdings Inc. is the sole owner of Freedom Industries, according to the filing. Gary Southern, who is identified as Freedom's president, signed all of the bankruptcy documents.

On Thursday, a source close to Freedom Industries, who asked to remain anonymous because of pending lawsuits, told The Charleston Gazette that Chemstream Holdings is owned by J. Clifford Forrest of Kittanning, Pa.

Forrest is listed as "manager" of Freedom affiliates Etowah River Terminal and Poca Blending in a merger filing from Dec. 31, 2013.

About an hour after its bankruptcy filing, Freedom filed an emergency motion for what's called "debtor-in-possession," or DIP, financing, which would allow it to secure up to a $5 million loan to continue to function in some capacity. The loan would, according to the filing, "provide additional liquidity to [Freedom] in order to allow it to continue as a going concern."

The lender in a debtor-in-possession case generally gets first priority when it comes time for the debtor, in this case Freedom, to pay money back.

"Under the bankruptcy code, when there is DIP financing from a DIP lender, 99 percent of the time, they get priority over all the other creditors," said Bob Simon, a prominent bankruptcy lawyer with the Pittsburgh firm Reed Smith. "You're putting your money in at risk, and the debtor is not going to have a lot of options, so the bankruptcy clerk permits the DIP lender to get priority over all the other lenders."

Freedom's proposed lender is a company called WV Funding LLC. That company does not exist in West Virginia, according to business records on file with the West Virginia secretary of state. Pennsylvania's secretary of state also has no records online for it.

The DIP agreement has places to sign for Freedom Industries and for WV Funding "by Mountaineer Funding LLC."

Mountaineer Funding was incorporated with the West Virginia secretary of state on Friday. Its one listed member is J. Clifford Forrest, Freedom Industries' owner.

The DIP agreement states that the terms "were negotiated by the parties in good faith and at arm's length."

The West Virginia Bureau of Employment Programs has placed at least two liens on Freedom's property, for about $4,000 in unpaid unemployment compensation insurance. Those liens were filed in 2002 and 2003.

On Jan. 9, the day the leak contaminating the Elk River was discovered, Freedom and its subsidiary, Etowah River Terminal, also owed nearly $93,000 in Kanawha County property taxes, about half of which was due on Oct. 1, 2013, and had become delinquent.

Freedom paid the full amount, $92,694.98, to Kanawha County on Jan. 10, the day after the leak was discovered. Of that amount, $47,618.87 had been overdue since Oct. 1.

A Freedom spokesman said Friday that, on the advice of legal counsel, the company would make no comment. Mark Freedlander, of McGuireWoods LLP in Pittsburgh, is representing Freedom.

Topping the list of Freedom's unsecured creditors, at $648,221, is Atlanta-based FloMin Coal Inc. Freedom owes Silverlake Holding LLC, of Evansville, Ind., $615,954.

Eastman Chemical, the maker of "Crude MCHM," the chemical that spilled into the Elk River, is owed $127,474, documents show.

Eastman, headquartered in Tennessee, is named, along with Freedom and West Virginia American Water, in the federal lawsuit filed this week.

Charleston-based Liberty Tank Lines is owed $117,812, according to the bankruptcy documents.

Documents in the bankruptcy filing allege that a water line break adjacent to the Barlow Drive facility might have contributed to the ground beneath a storage tank freezing during frigid temperatures in the days immediately preceding the incident.

The debtor and investigative authorities have taken note of the hole in the affected storage tank that appears to have come from an object piercing upwards through the base of the affected storage tank. Investigations by multiple agencies are ongoing with full cooperation by the debtor," bankruptcy documents state.

Freedom and its Etowah subsidiary own four parcels of land along the Elk River, with a total appraised value of about $1.6 million, according to Kanawha County tax filings.

Freedom and Etowah own personal property -- in the form of machinery and equipment -- with a total appraised value of about $3.7 million, according to tax filings.

A full account of filings that Freedom and its subsidiaries have made with the West Virginia secretary of state helps reveal a little bit more of the company's opaque corporate history. Since 1992, Freedom and its associates have made 12 filings, to found companies, dissolve companies, merge companies and change officers.

The company, as currently constituted, has existed for less than three weeks. On Dec. 31 2013, four companies merged under the umbrella of Freedom Industries: Freedom Industries Inc., Etowah River Terminal LLC, Poca Blending LLC and Crete Technologies LLC.

Of those four companies, Freedom was the oldest. It was founded by Carl L. Kennedy II, a longtime Charleston businessman, on Feb. 10, 1992. Its listed address at that time was 8 Capitol St.

Seven years later, on Oct. 13, 1999, Kennedy was listed as the incorporator of Poca Blending, with partners listed as Freedom Industries and SD Asset Partners. Poca Blending is the facility in Nitro where chemicals were moved a few days after the leak on the Elk River was discovered.

Four years after that, on Sept. 27, 2001, Etowah River Terminal was founded by Dennis P. Farrell. Etowah River Terminal is the tank farm on the Elk River where the leak occurred. The facility was formerly owned by Pennzoil-Quaker State.

On July 27, 2005, Kennedy, the founder of Freedom and Poca, pled guilty to federal income tax evasion for not paying the government more than $1 million he had withheld from employee paychecks.

A week later, on Aug. 3, 2005, Etowah and Poca Blending had their licenses revoked by the secretary of state for failing to file annual reports.

Two months after that, on Oct. 5, 2005, Farrell replaced Kennedy as president of Freedom Industries.

On March 1, 2007, Andrew G. Fusco, a Morgantown partner in the law firm Bowles Rice, was listed in a secretary of state filing as "agent of service of process" for Freedom Industries.

Six months after that, on Oct. 8, 2008, Crete Technologies was established as a limited liability corporation in Delaware. Dennis P. Farrell was listed as the organizing agent, and Freedom Industries was the sole owner of Crete.

On Nov. 15, 2011, Etowah River Terminal, which had its license revoked six years earlier, was reorganized as an LLC for the purposes of "providing investment advice" and "acting as owner of a river terminal facility." Dennis P. Farrell was listed as the organizer.

Just two months ago, on Nov. 26, 2013, Poca Blending reorganized as an LLC. The manager was Dennis P. Farrell and the organizer was Daniel J. Cohn, an attorney with Bowles Rice in Charleston.

There is no record of Chemstream Holdings, the company listed as Freedom's owner on the bankruptcy filing, with either the West Virginia secretary of state or the Pennsylvania secretary of state.

Freedom owed federal taxes for the years 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008.

The total amount owed to the IRS is $2,433,449.15, according to the three liens.

Harry Bell, whose law firm has filed lawsuits on behalf of plaintiffs, said Freedom's bankruptcy filings puts all the lawsuits on hold.

"[The filing] stays the litigation until bankruptcy court addresses the matters involved," Bell said.

West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Randy Huffman said Friday night: "At this point, Freedom has committed to continuing its cleanup effort. Any contingency to that would consist of a plan developed by many parties, including [the] DEP.  Funding determination would be part of that planning process.

"While details have not yet been fully developed regarding how to fund the remediation in such a scenario, the remediation efforts will still continue as long as necessary."

Reach Kate White at or 304-348-1723.

Reach David Gutman at or 304-348-5119.

7. Fuke News New High
A record high level of beta rays released from radioactive strontium-90 has been detected at the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant beneath the No. 2 reactor's well facing the ocean, according to the facility’s operator.
Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) measured the amount of beta ray-emitting radioactivity at more than 2.7 million becquerels per liter, Fukushima’s operator said as reported in Japanese media. The measurements were taken on Thursday.
There has been a spike of radiation in this area since the beginning of the year. The measurements taken on Monday showed 2.4 million Bq/l, while the results taken on January 9 indicated the amount of beta rays at 2.7 million Bq/l, according to TEPCO’s Friday announcement.
Strontium-90 is a radioactive isotope of strontium produced by nuclear fission with a half-life of 28.8 years. The legal standard for strontium emissions is 30 becquerels per liter.
In March 2011 an earthquake triggered a tsunami that hit Japan’s coast, damaging the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The catastrophe caused the meltdown of three nuclear reactors at the facility, leading to the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.
The water used to cool the reactors has been leaking into the soil and contaminating the ground water ever since. Some of the radioactive water has been escaping into the Pacific Ocean.

TEPCO plans solve the problem by setting up special equipment to freeze the ground around the reactors. The works which are to start this month include plunging tubes carrying a coolant liquid deep into the ground. The coolant would freeze the ground solid so that no groundwater could pass through it.
Japan plans to restart world’s biggest nuclear plant
While the company struggles to contain the contaminated water, TEPCO’s president has voiced the possibility of spinning off the clean-up project at the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant from the rest of the company. This would be an option in the future if the decommissioning runs smoothly, Naomi Hirose said in an interview to Reuters on Saturday.

A spin-off was also proposed by the ruling Liberal Democratic party’s committee overseeing the government bailout of TEPCO in October.

Hirose noted that currently TEPCO has to work on improving the workers conditions at the plant.

"Paying compensation (to evacuees), decontamination, and the work at the Fukushima plant; there is a lot of work to be done ... We have to continue doing this, while maintaining workers' safety, their sense of responsibility, duty and keeping up their morale," he said.

The company’s head added that he was against hiving off the Fukushima decommissioning from the rest of the business until working conditions improve significantly.

On January 15 the government approved TEPCO’s plan to restart four reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant, the biggest nuclear power plant in the world. The utility aims to resume operations at the plant's No. 6 and 7 reactors as early as July.

The plan was met with criticism from the administration of the Niigata Prefecture, where the plant is located. The local governor has repeatedly called for the company’s liquidation.

TEPCO argued that the company may have to raise electricity prices by as much as 10 percent if Kashiwazaki restart is further delayed.


7. Fuke News New High
A record high level of beta rays released from radioactive strontium-90 has been detected at the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant beneath the No. 2 reactor's well facing the ocean, according to the facility’s operator.
Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) measured the amount of beta ray-emitting radioactivity at more than 2.7 million becquerels per liter, Fukushima’s operator said as reported in Japanese media. The measurements were taken on Thursday.
There has been a spike of radiation in this area since the beginning of the year. The measurements taken on Monday showed 2.4 million Bq/l, while the results taken on January 9 indicated the amount of beta rays at 2.7 million Bq/l, according to TEPCO’s Friday announcement.
Strontium-90 is a radioactive isotope of strontium produced by nuclear fission with a half-life of 28.8 years. The legal standard for strontium emissions is 30 becquerels per liter.
In March 2011 an earthquake triggered a tsunami that hit Japan’s coast, damaging the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The catastrophe caused the meltdown of three nuclear reactors at the facility, leading to the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.
The water used to cool the reactors has been leaking into the soil and contaminating the ground water ever since. Some of the radioactive water has been escaping into the Pacific Ocean.

TEPCO plans solve the problem by setting up special equipment to freeze the ground around the reactors. The works which are to start this month include plunging tubes carrying a coolant liquid deep into the ground. The coolant would freeze the ground solid so that no groundwater could pass through it.
Japan plans to restart world’s biggest nuclear plant
While the company struggles to contain the contaminated water, TEPCO’s president has voiced the possibility of spinning off the clean-up project at the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant from the rest of the company. This would be an option in the future if the decommissioning runs smoothly, Naomi Hirose said in an interview to Reuters on Saturday.

A spin-off was also proposed by the ruling Liberal Democratic party’s committee overseeing the government bailout of TEPCO in October.

Hirose noted that currently TEPCO has to work on improving the workers conditions at the plant.

"Paying compensation (to evacuees), decontamination, and the work at the Fukushima plant; there is a lot of work to be done ... We have to continue doing this, while maintaining workers' safety, their sense of responsibility, duty and keeping up their morale," he said.

The company’s head added that he was against hiving off the Fukushima decommissioning from the rest of the business until working conditions improve significantly.

On January 15 the government approved TEPCO’s plan to restart four reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant, the biggest nuclear power plant in the world. The utility aims to resume operations at the plant's No. 6 and 7 reactors as early as July.

The plan was met with criticism from the administration of the Niigata Prefecture, where the plant is located. The local governor has repeatedly called for the company’s liquidation.

TEPCO argued that the company may have to raise electricity prices by as much as 10 percent if Kashiwazaki restart is further delayed.

8. Secret 2-Way Radio Spynet installed by NSA 
N.S.A. Devises Radio Pathway Into Computers to Conduct Surveillance, Launch Cyberattacks 15 Jan 2014 The National Security Agency has implanted software in nearly 100,000 computers around the world that allows the United States to conduct surveillance on those machines and can also create a digital highway for launching cyberattacks. While most of the software is inserted by gaining access to computer networks, the N.S.A. has increasingly made use of a secret technology that enables it to enter and alter data in computers even if they are not connected to the Internet, according to N.S.A. documents, computer experts and American officials. The technology, which the agency has used since at least 2008, relies on a covert channel of radio waves that can be transmitted from tiny circuit boards and USB cards inserted surreptitiously into the computers.

9. A New kind of Limitation (Its... Its... An expansion)

Obama's proposed changes will allow N.S.A. to continue - or expand - vast collection of personal data 17 Jan 2014 President Obama said Friday, in his first major speech on electronic surveillance, that "the United States is not spying on ordinary people who don’t threaten our national security." Obama placed restrictions on access to domestic phone records collected by the National Security Agency, but the changes he announced will allow it to continue -- or expand -- the collection of personal data from billions of people around the world, Americans and foreign citizens alike.


During the Round Table
I will ask for your reaction to subjects like these 

W.Virginia Spill, 
the NSA Speech of Big O,
the Peace talks with Iran 
and the Palestinian & Israel efforts
The Monsanto ruling
The weekly school shooting
GM Foods
Pope Francis "the Surprise" Pope
Governor Christie's real problem

Snowden's release of classified material was called the most significant leak in US history by Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg. A series of exposés beginning June 5, 2013 revealed Internet surveillance programs such as PRISM, XKeyscore andTempora, as well as the interception of US and European telephone metadata. The reports were based on documents Snowden leaked to The Guardian and The Washington Post while employed by NSA contractor Booz Allen Hamilton. By November 2013, The Guardian had published one percent of the documents, with "the worst yet to come".

A federal judge in December 2013 ruled that the government had "almost certainly" violated the US Constitution by collecting metadata on nearly every phone call within or to the United States. Ten days later, a different federal judge ruled the surveillance program was legal, raising the likelihood that the constitutionality of the program would ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court. In early 2014, numerous media outlets and politicians issued calls for leniency in the form of clemency, amnesty or pardon, while others called for him to be imprisoned.[17]
Snowden's passport was revoked by US officials on June 22 and he landed at Moscow's Sheremetyevo International Airport on June 23. According to Snowden and his traveling partner, Sarah Harrison, he was en route to Ecuador from Hong Kong but was unable to leave the airport transit zone until the Russian government granted him a one-year temporary asylum on August 1.

NON INTERNET CONNECTED MACHINES commanded by Internal Software or USB Antennae
Gaming Machines
Pre-Installed SPYWARE-Malware
ALL TEXT (SMS) Collected

The three, Thomas Drake, William Binney and Kirk Wiebe, along with attorney Jesselyn Radack, the director of the non-profit public interest law firm Government Accountability Project, were asked pointedly about their reactions to what many are claiming were Snowden’s illegal and even traitorous acts of disclosure of the surveillance state constructed by the NSA. To a man, they supported Snowden:

The president sets the task
Our task is greater than repairing the damage done to our operations
or preventing more disclosures from taking place in the future or 
INSTEAD we have to make some important decisions 
about how to protect ourselves, and sustain our leadership in the world
while upholding the civil liberties and privacy protections that our ideals and our constitution require.
We need to do so, not only because it is right.  


Sunday, January 12, 2014

PNN - 1/12/14

RWS - 
ED Buckner President of American Atheists (Author)
Rob Boston Communications Director Americans United for the Separation of Church and State
Joe Beck Founder of Treasure Coast Humanist Association 
Greg Wilson Unitarian Universalist Minister

1.No Water for you - just say NO WATER to 300,000 plus
On Thursday,  an estimated 300,000 residents of nine counties in West Virginia were told they could not use or drink their tap water after a chemical used to wash coal of impurities spilled from a holding tank into the Elk River. The spill prompted Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin to declare a state of emergency, and 9-1-1 received  more than 1,000 calls in the hours after a spill, with  four or five people transported to the hospital by ambulance. According to the  National Library of Medicine, repeated or prolonged exposure to the chemical, 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol, can “cause headaches, irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, and can also cause a skin rash.

2. No one knows when the leak started or how much has leaked into the Elk River. It was complaints of an odor coming from communities near the river that triggered city and county officials to investigate. They found the source of the spill at 4 p.m. Thursday, but had no way of knowing how long the chemical had been leaking. McIntyre also said he didn’t think the chemical was still leaking, but didn’t know the current status of the spill for sure. According to a  Department of Environmental Protection spokesman, the state is “confident that no more than 5,000 gallons escaped,” but only knows that “a certain amount of that got into the river. Some of that was contained.”

3. The water company has had no contact with Freedom Industries, the company that manufactures the spilled chemical. According to McIntyre, the company provided no notice of the spill and hasn’t been in communication with the water company since.

4. There is no standard process for testing the toxicity of the spilled chemical in water. When the water company found out about the spill, it was originally told it was a different chemical than the 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol, that had spilled into the water. But even when the company found out what the chemical was, it couldn’t answer many questions about it. “This not a chemical that’s typical to be in water treatment process,” McIntyre said during the press conference. 

Almost exactly two years after national protests defeated the so-called Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and one year after information activist Aaron Swartz took his own life, Washington is in the midst of another fight about democratic freedoms, the free flow of information, civil liberties and limits on government power.

In this debate about reforming the National Security Administration, the Beltway is (in typical fashion) busy talking primarily to itself, as if nobody else matters. Dominating the conversation are loyal NSA defenders, who are now ramping up their efforts to shield the agency from any accountability whatsoever. Meanwhile, there are signs that White House officials are hostile to the most minimal reform proposals, even the ones from its own NSA panel.


    1. Visit

    2. Sign up to indicate that you’ll participate and receive updates

    3. Sign up to install widgets on websites encouraging its visitors to fight back against surveillance.

    4. Use social media tools on the site to announce your participation

    5. Develop memes, tools, websites, and do whatever else you can to participate and encourage others to do so.

A hermetically sealed D.C. echo chamber, a public left out of anti-democratic policies being made in its name — this is what led up to the explosive SOPA protests, and if key players in the anti-SOPA coalition are successful, it will now be the story of early 2014. With a hard-hitting new film about Swartz set to release at the Sundance Film Festival, and with tech firms suddenly scrambling to recast themselves as critics of mass spying, those anti-SOPA activists this morning announced a major grassroots mobilization against NSA surveillance on February 11th.

Dubbing it “The Day We Fight Back,” the coalition includes Access, Demand Progress, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Fight for the Future, Free Press, BoingBoing, Reddit, Mozilla and ThoughtWorks. According to the press release about the February 11th mobilization, the groups aim to “bring pressure to bear against American lawmakers and the National Security Agency, to demand an end to mass surveillance of Americans and the citizens of the whole world.” Here’s the coalition’s specific call to action:

3. Rove says - "bridge-gate make christie more presidential" 
Republican strategist Karl Rove asserted on Sunday that New Jersey's Gov. Chris Christie's (R) handling of the George Washington Bridge Scandal showed he had the right qualities to be president of the United States.

During a panel segment on Fox News Sunday, host John Roberts pointed out that many Republicans were praising Christie for firing one of his top aides after a newspaper exposed his administration's role in closing part of the busiest bridge in the world as part of political retribution plot, but President Barack Obama had not fired anyone over the health care reform law.


The framers of the Constitution were wise to  include Congress  in the process of framing and approving trade agreements made by presidents. That authority to provide advice and consent should, the wisest legislators have always argued, be zealously guarded.

Unfortunately, in recent decades, Congress has frequently surrendered its authority when it comes to the shaping of trade agreements. By granting so-called "fast-track authority" to the White House, Congress opts itself out of the process at the critical stage when an agreement is being struck and retains only the ability to say "yes" or "no" to a done deal.

The result has been a framing of US trade agreements that is great for multinational corporations but lousy for workers, communities and the environment. Instead of benefitting the great mass of people in the United States and countries with which it trades, deals such as the North American Free Trade Agreement and the permanent normalization of trade relations agreement with China de-emphasize worker rights, human rights, environmental and democracy concerns and clear the way for a race to the bottom.

Candidate Barack Obama recognized this. In 2008, he told Pennsylvania labor activists...

    "The current Fast Track process does not mandate that agreements include binding labor and environmental protections nor does it give an adequate role to Congress in the selection and design of agreements. I will work with Congressional leaders to ensure that any new TPA authority fix these basic failings and open up the process to the American people for their participation and scrutiny."

That reference to opening up the process to the American people is key. When members of the House and Senate are engaged with the negotiation process, they can bring the concerns of citizens -- not just those of corporations with powerful lobbyists and connections -- to the fore. That's how representative democracy is supposed to work, and this is especially vital when it comes to debates about economic policy.

Now, however, President Obama is seeking "fast-track" authority that activists and trade specialists say does not guarantee the sort of congressional oversight and citizen involvement that candidate Obama recognized as essential. And on Thursday, Obama's choice to become the US ambassador to China, Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus, D-Montana, joined with House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Michigan, to introduced legislation to clear the way for the president and his aides to negotiate sweeping new trade deals, such as the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, with limited congressional oversight.

“For nearly four years, the U.S. Trade Representative and TPP negotiators have purposely restricted participation and information, keeping members of Congress and citizen groups, unions, environmental and consumer organizations in the dark," said Communications Workers of America President Larry Cohen. "There has been no opportunity for public interest groups to meaningfully participate in the negotiations, and under fast track authority, there will be no opportunity for our elected representatives to amend the deal and make it better for Americans."

Said Charles Chamberlain, Executive Director, Democracy for America, "The Trans-Pacific Partnership would be an unmitigated disaster for everything from the environment to internet freedom and working families."

He added, "Let's be clear: A vote for fast track authority on the TPP is a vote for a deal that will hurt hardworking Americans and haunt every single member of Congress, Republican or Democrat, who votes for it.". 

5. faux news expose - 
Gabriel Sherman's new book on Roger Ailes - "the loudest voices in the room"

6. Fracking we don't need to worry about franking
    — Pennsylvania has confirmed at least 106 water-well contamination cases since 2005, out of more than 5,000 new wells. There were five confirmed cases of water-well contamination in the first nine months of 2012, 18 in all of 2011 and 29 in 2010. The Environmental Department said more complete data may be available in several months.

    — Ohio had 37 complaints in 2010 and no confirmed contamination of water supplies; 54 complaints in 2011 and two confirmed cases of contamination; 59 complaints in 2012 and two confirmed contaminations; and 40 complaints for the first 11 months of 2013, with two confirmed contaminations and 14 still under investigation, Department of Natural Resources spokesman Mark Bruce said in an email. None of the six confirmed cases of contamination was related to fracking, Bruce said.

    — West Virginia has had about 122 complaints that drilling contaminated water wells over the past four years, and in four cases the evidence was strong enough that the driller agreed to take corrective action, officials said.

    — A Texas spreadsheet contains more than 2,000 complaints, and 62 of those allege possible well-water contamination from oil and gas activity, said Ramona Nye, a spokeswoman for the Railroad Commission of Texas, which oversees drilling. Texas regulators haven't confirmed a single case of drilling-related water-well contamination in the past 10 years, she said.

7. from Patrick Murphy - his non-answer on does he support FAST TRACK

As your Congressional representative, I am greatly concerned about the impact of unbalanced trade on Florida's economy.  Done wrong, trade can cost talented and hardworking employees to lose their jobs.  We agree that American workers and farmers should not have to compete with countries like China that pay little or no attention to environmental and labor standards.  I have been working to shift the conversations surrounding the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations towards leveling the playing field for America workers and address currency manipulation.  I strongly believe that American workers can compete against workers across the globe so long as the competition is fair.  America boasts the most educated and most productive workforce with an innovative and entrepreneurial spirit unmatched worldwide.  Done right, trade ought to mean exporting U.S. products - not U.S. jobs.

In order for the millions of small business owners across the country to compete in the global economy, our trade policy should promote the ingenuity and superior craftsmanship of American businesses large and small.  That is why I support legislation to promote American manufacturing and infrastructure development.  In fact, the first bill I introduced as a Member of Congress would boost small businesses' manufacturing capability by promoting the use of clean, high-tech, and efficient processes.  I continue to believe that free trade that is fair will mean more jobs for Americans, and I will continue to fight efforts to ship U.S. jobs overseas.

8. Why TPP must be stopped
from crooks and liars - joshua holland

The post-NAFTA era has been marked by growing inequality, declining job security and new leverage for corporations to attack government regulations enacted in the public interest.

But it wasn’t supposed to be that way. Back in 1986, when the leaders of the US, Canada and Mexico began talks on a regional trade deal that eight years later would culminate in the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), they sold the pact to the public as an economic win-win for all parties involved.

On signing the treaty in 1994, then-President Bill Clinton said, “NAFTA means jobs. American jobs, and good-paying American jobs. If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t support this agreement.” He promised that NAFTA would result in “an export boom to Mexico,” and claimed that such trade deals “transcend ideology” because support for them “is so uniform that it unites people in both parties.”

Twenty years later, we can test how those claims panned out in the real world. And Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch did just that, releasing a comprehensive study of NAFTA’s impacts.

Last week, Global Trade Watch Director Lori Wallach spoke to Moyers & Company about NAFTA at age 20, and what it portends for other trade treaties like the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Below is a transcript of the conversation, edited for clarity.

Joshua Holland: Last Wednesday was the twentieth anniversary of NAFTA going into effect. Has it at least led to an increase in the trade of goods and services between the US, Canada and Mexico?

Lori Wallach: That is the only measure where you can show that the promises of NAFTA’s proponents were met. The flow of goods has increased. Unfortunately, that flow has been a huge surge of imports into the United States, from Mexico, and, interestingly, from Canada, so that we’ve seen the displacement of one million jobs on net because of the huge increase — a 450 percent increase — in our trade deficit in the 20 years since NAFTA went into effect.

Holland: They said that it would be a net job winner. At the time, the conventional wisdom was that there would be some job displacement but the vast majority of us would be winners in this.

What about Canada and Mexico? I know Mexico’s agricultural labor market was devastated by NAFTA, as subsidized corn and other products flooded into the country, and it certainly spurred a huge wave of immigration from the south, as all those agricultural workers lost their jobs. But in terms of employment in other sectors, did it end up a net winner or loser for them?

Wallach: Mexico is probably the saddest story ofNAFTA’s effect because, 20 years into the agreement, the level of employment in manufacturing there is actually down relative to its pre-NAFTA economy.

Part of that is the result of NAFTA having wiped out a lot of the small and medium size production: food processing and small textile and apparel plants, and other plants that were supplying the independent mom and pop stores which were devastated by the invasion of the Wal-Marts and other big US chains. There’s a whole movement called El Barzón of folks who had been the owners of those factories or of those small retail stores, who had been for NAFTA in the beginning but are now very strong NAFTA opponents.

Also, if you look at Mexico, the level of poverty has stayed the same, but income inequality has increased, and industrial wages are actually down in real terms.

One statistic that really shows the failure of the free trade model is that the price paid to Mexico’s farmers for their corn dropped 80 percent within the first three years of NAFTA, as a huge flood of subsidized US corn started flowing in. But the price Mexicans pay for tortillas—a staple food—has increased almost 300 percent. Under free trade theory, some folks lose — those corn farmers lose — but everyone is supposed to get richer because prices go down. That is the theory of free trade — the consumer benefits, and the producer who loses should be compensated — and the tortilla shows how that promise has been proven false.

There are many reasons for this. NAFTA wasn’t just about trade. It set up all these rules that, for instance, allowed Archer Daniels to buy up not only the processing plants for corn, but also to buy a stake in one of the biggest tortilla makers, Bimbo, which is sort of the Wonder Bread of Mexico. And as a result, you have Archer Daniels and other companies selling to themselves, and marking up the profit margin each time. So with this “competition” that free trade is supposed to create, with all these corporate rights to acquire and basically monopolize sectors, the consumer is the loser.

Holland: Let’s return to the United States. We were told before NAFTA — and we hear this with every single trade deal — that this is all about opening overseas markets for our exports. But we’ve seen the opposite of that in the NAFTA context – as you mentioned, our trade deficit has exploded.

Is it because our trading partners don’t like our products, or is this evidence that US multinationals move their production overseas to save on labor costs and regulations but then just re-import the products for sale right here at home?

Wallach: That is what’s happening. Shortly after NAFTA, we did a very detailed dig to find all the promises of US producers who made very specific claims before the treaty was signed that ‘if NAFTA passes, we will add X number of jobs.’ So we went and looked at the federal government’s Trade Adjustment Assistance database and we found that company after company — big US manufacturers like Chrysler, GE, Caterpillar — that promised to create specific numbers of US jobs instead were offshoring thousands and thousands of US jobs to Mexico, and then they were bringing the product back into the country and selling it. It was still their US brand name, but made with much lower wages in Mexico.

The trade data are very telling. The year before NAFTA, the United States had a small trade deficit with Canada — about $20 billion dollars — and a slight surplus of $2 billion dollars with Mexico. Now, 20 years later, we have almost a $200 billion dollar trade deficit with those countries. So the surplus with Mexico turned into a huge, huge deficit, as all those companies relocated there to produce goods with lower wages.

And this Trade Adjustment Assistance database is really fascinating. There are 845,000 specific US workers who are certified under just this one narrow program as having lost their jobs since NAFTA to trade with Mexico and Canada. And you’d be surprised at the kinds of companies you see. In the beginning it was a huge wipeout of the auto sector, textiles and apparel, and appliances. But now it’s computers, it’s clean manufacturing of computer chips, high-end electronics, aircraft – these are high-end, high-tech, well-trained, well-paid jobs. The so-called jobs of the future are all being offshored.

Even if you didn’t lose a job, what we’ve found with this study, and, more importantly, what economists, including those who supported NAFTA originally, found is that shifting a million well-paying jobs out has an effect economy-wide on wage levels and on income inequality.

The statistic that is most important is what happens when those folks whose jobs were lost are reemployed. According to the Department of Labor, they lost more than 20 percent of their previous wages. So when we say that wages in real terms are flat—we’re at 1979 levels of median income, but we’re obviously not at 1979 prices — it is in large part the result of the downward pressure of this kind of trade on all of our wages.

What was really different with NAFTA is that it had a whole chapter that included investor protections — special rights and privileges for companies that relocate production.

Before NAFTA they wouldn’t go. They were afraid that they might get expropriated. They were afraid that they might end up with some new policy that they’d have to adjust to. And they were afraid of having to rely on the Mexican courts. But under NAFTA’s investor rules, the famous Chapter 11, there is “a minimum standard of guaranteed treatment” for any investor who moves to another country. It guaranteed compensation for regulatory changes and costs, and it created a system of tribunals, with corporate lawyers as the so-called judges. So they can easily dodge domestic courts.

It was an incentive to relocate that production, make it for those low wages, then slap on the US brand and sell it back here. That’s the NAFTA trade deficit.

Holland: Those investor-state tribunals are what many critics say is the most anti-democratic aspect of these trade deals. Can you tell us a little bit about their record in these first two decades of NAFTA?

Wallach: Over the 20 years of NAFTA, $400 million dollars have been paid out in these investor-state lawsuits. In these cases, corporations have directly sued governments, dragging them in front of extrajudicial tribunals presided over by corporate lawyers who are empowered to order any amount of damages. There is no outside appeal


10. Fukushima News

    … Tokyo Electric Power Company says it detected 300,000 bequerels of iodine-131 per 1 cubic centimeter, or 7.5 million times higher than the legal limit in samples taken around the water intake of the No. 2 reactor at 11:50 AM on Saturday.

    It also found 200,000 bequerels or 5 million times higher than the limit in samples taken at 9AM on Monday.

    Monday’s sample also shows 1.1 million times higher than the national limit of cesium-137 whose half-life is 30 years. …

11. Japanese Media
Asahi Shimbun, Jan. 10, 2014 (emphasis added): [TEPCO] withheld 140 measurements of radioactive strontium levels taken in groundwater and the port of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant between June and November last year. [...] strontium levels exceeded the all-beta readings in some instances, leading the utility to decide they were “wrong” and to withhold them from public releases, TEPCO officials said Jan. 8. Previously, TEPCO officials said they had not released the data because the numbers were not confirmed. Company officials on Jan. 8 insisted the utility had no intention to conceal information. [...]

NHK, Jan. 10, 2014 (emphasis added): Nuclear regulators will discuss measures to prevent the increase of radiation levels around the crippled Fukushima Daiichi plant. The level of radiation at the plant’s border rose to more than 8 milisieverts in annualized figures in December, from less than 1 milisievert in March in the same year. The regulators say that’s due to the increasing number of storage tanks for radioactive water at the plant [...] They explained that the water basically emits beta-rays, which are too weak to penetrate the steel tanks. But they say, when beta-rays hit metals, stronger X-rays come out of the tanks [...] On Friday, the regulators are holding a meeting of experts to discuss measures against the increase. The officials say they have been aware of the problem for a certain period of time, but could not deal with it as they were occupied with the issue of contaminated water. [...]

Asahi Shimbun, Jan 10, 2014 (emphasis added): Radiation levels around the boundary of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant have risen to eight times the government standard of 1 millisievert per year [TEPCO] said. The Nuclear Regulation Authority is scheduled to hold a meeting Jan. 10 to discuss countermeasures [...] Beta rays released from radioactive strontium and other substances in the water reacted with iron and other elements in the storage tank containers to generate the X-rays, the officials said. [...] With a succession of high radiation levels reported on the plant premises and elsewhere, the NRA set up radiation monitoring devices at an additional 400 locations [...]

12. radiation on the rise
Nuclear radiation at the boundaries of the stricken Fukushima power plant has now reached 8 times government safety guidelines, TEPCO has said. The firm has been struggling to contain radioactive leaks at Fukushima since the onset over the crisis in 2011.

The levels of nuclear radiation around Fukushima’s No. 1 plant have risen to 8 millisieverts per year, surpassing the government standard of 1 milliseviert per year, reports news site Asahi Shimbun citing Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO).

The Nuclear Regulation Authority held a meeting on Friday aimed at curbing the rising levels of radiation to the south of the plant, which has long been a problem area.

TEPCO told press that the predominant reason behind the sharp increase in radiation at the plant was X-rays coming from storage tanks holding radioactive water that has been leaking from the Fukushima facility.

The water in the tanks contains traces of radioactive strontium along with other substances that react with the materials the tank is composed of, producing X-rays, said officials.

Strontium-90 is a radioactive isotope of strontium produced by nuclear fission with a half-life of 28.8 years.

Radioactive water leaking from the nuclear site at Fukushima has been a pressing concern to the international community, as well as the Japanese population since the outbreak of the crisis in March 2011.

After the discovery of water leaks from the Fukushima plant’s underwater tanks, TEPCO has been siphoning off the contaminated liquid and storing it in tanks.

In an attempt to neutralize the stored water, TEPCO is using a system known as the Advanced Liquid Processing System, or ALPS. The system itself is composed of 14 steel cylinders through which the radioactive water is filtered. The radioactive sludge left behind after the water is cleaned is then transferred to high-integrity containers which are in turn transported to a secure storage facility.

TEPCO plans to clean up all of the tainted water through ALPS by the end of March 2015, but the operation has already run into some difficulties. On Tuesday the crane that lifts the containers to and from the ALPS system stopped working for several days before resuming on Friday.

The Japanese government has so far shelled out $473 million to contain the fallout from the beleaguered plant. Officials have also criticized TEPCO’s “whack-a-mole” to dealing with the nuclear crisis.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party has put forward the idea of divided the contamination operation between TEPCO and the government. Under the proposal TEPCO would hand over the water purifying operation and the decommissioning of the reactors to a government-affiliated organization, thus allowing the electric power company to concentrate on its management and compensation payments.