0. Earth Day - Hello to all those who have an Interest in Climate,
I would like to invite you to Florida Earth Festival 2014 at The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Boca Raton, 2601 St. Andrews Blvd., Boca Raton, FL 33434 on April 19th and 20th. Programming for the festival was developed around specific recommendations of the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Action Plan (Policy Tie-Ins Attached). We hope you will be able to join us. Details on climate programming at the festival on April 19th and 20th can be found here
Please note that we are working to document urban gardening groups that have faced permitting obstacles; in support of recommendations AG-6 and PO-11 of the Regional Climate Action Plan. We have begun a short list as people contact us prior to the festival, but please let anyone you know who has run into problems in this regard to speak to a member of the Green Sanctuary Committee hosting the gardening programming on April 19th or 20th.
If you are able, please make arrangements to support County Staff as they recommend approval of the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Action Plan (RCAP) on April 15th at the Governmental Center, 6th floor Commission Chambers, 301 N. Olive Avenue, West Palm Beach. You can find the Agenda at this link http://www.pbcgov.com/countycommissioners/agenda.htm
The Regional Climate Action Plan is Agenda Item 5A-4 on page 30.
1. Findings That Fracking Causing Quaking Leads to Drilling Shutdown in Ohio
State regulators suspend gas drilling outside of Youngstown
- Common Dreams staff
Responding to geologists who claim they have made direct links between fracking operations and seismic activity in the state, Ohio regulators on Friday pulled permits for at least one drilling operation.
State Oil & Gas Chief Rick Simmers told The Associated Press on Friday that the state has halted drilling indefinitely at the site near Youngstown where five minor tremors occurred in March following investigative findings of a probable link to fracking.
A deep-injection well for fracking wastewater was tied to earthquakes in the region in 2012.
Simmers says Ohio will require sensitive seismic monitoring as a condition of all new drilling permits within three miles of a known fault or existing seismic activity of 2.0 or greater. Drilling will pause for evaluation with any tremor of 1.0 magnitude and will be halted if a link is found.
2. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a new rule Thursday that withdraws federal water quality standards for Florida. This means polluters will now only have to follow Florida’s rules.
Environmental advocates have been fighting the state’s limits for nutrient pollution in court for years.
Groups like Earthjustice have argued the state’s criteria favors polluters over stricter water regulations. A spokesperson for the EPA said in a statement, however, that “there is no need for overlapping federal criteria.”
Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection said in a statement the decision “paves the way for more protection of Florida’s waters." The state agency also said Florida’s criteria are more comprehensive than the federal government’s.
However, David Guest, an attorney for Earthjustice who has been fighting Florida’ nutrient criteria, said the state’s rules are not good because industries were too involved when the state wrote the standards.
“This is not a good day for us and our hope is that we can get the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta to re-instate federal rules and get this back on track,” he said.
Guest said Florida’s water quality needs stricter rules. He said increasing fish kills, toxic algae blooms, manatee and dolphin deaths, are all signs the state’s water is in trouble.
“In the face of that, the decision of the government is to abandon standard setting to try to stop it,” he said. “This is the worst face of bad government.”
Florida’s Agriculture Chief Adam Putnam said the decision will enable state officials to manage the state’s “unique and diverse waterways.”
davina meriricini public affair specialize - - public affairs specialist
federal standards -
revised their standard, loop hole
3. Crude Oil and Natural Gas Waste
Wastes generated during the exploration, development, and production of crude oil, natural gas, and geothermal energy are categorized by EPA as "special wastes" and are exempt from federal hazardous waste regulations under Subtitle C of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).
4. CIA and White House Under Pressure Over Torture After Leaked Senate Report
By Spencer Ackerman, Guardian UK
11 April 14
Senate committee found CIA interrogations and detentions to be 'brutal' and urges administration to release report as quickly as possible
leak of the major findings of a landmark Senate inquiry into the CIA’s post-9/11 torture of terrorism detainees led, on Friday, to intensified pressure on the White House and the CIA to release the inquiry speedily and with a minimum of redactions.
The classified study, prepared by the Senate select committee on intelligence, concluded that the CIA’s interrogations, secret detentions and outsourced torture sessions were “brutal, and far worse than the agency communicated to policymakers.”
More suspected terrorists underwent the agency’s post-9/11 treatment, which largely lasted from 2002 to 2006, than the CIA has publicly admitted, according to the report’s findings, which were first reported by McClatchy. Last week, committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein of California stated that the Senate investigated the cases of 100 detainees – dozens more than previously known to have gone through the CIA’s so-called “interrogation, detention and rendition” programs.
In addition to misleading policymakers, the Senate report charges the CIA with selectively and leaking classified and inaccurate information to journalists in order to portray the program in a positive light.
“The CIA manipulated the media by co-ordinating the leak of classified information, which inaccurately portrayed the effectiveness of the agency’s enhanced interrogation techniques,” the committee found.
The agency also, according to the report, provided factually inaccurate information to Bush administration lawyers, who relied on it to concoct the legal theories that underpinned an apparatus of torturous interrogations and detentions that quickly spread to US military facilities at Guantánamo Bay, Iraq and Afghanistan.
The study took four years and $40m to complete, and has brought the relationship between the CIA and the Senate panel overseeing it to perhaps its lowest ebb in history.
Not only does Langley contend that the committee has developed a factually inaccurate picture of the since-shuttered program, it has appealed to the Justice Department to open a criminal inquiry into Senate staffers for taking a classified agency document out of a secured facility – a move Feinstein has called an attempt at intimidation.
In March, on the Senate floor, Feinstein accused the CIA of breaching a network barrier on a system it set up to allow the agency to share documents with the committee electronically. She said the move meant the agency spied on the Senate staff, which she said violated the separation of powers outlined in the constitution.
Despite the acrimony, the White House announced last week that the CIA will lead the executive-branch panel that will recommend how much of the Senate report’s executive summary, findings and recommendations to make public, a decision blasted by human-rights groups and intelligence scholars as a conflict of interest.
On Thursday, 40 Democratic members of the House of Representatives wrote to President Obama urging him to declassify the committee’s executive summary and major findings “expeditiously and in their entirety.”
“The American people need and deserve a full account of the actions that were taken in their name through the use of torture and enhanced interrogations on detainees. As you have said publicly, the report must be declassified “so that the American people can understand what happened in the past’,” the legislators wrote.
After the committee voted last week to authorize declassification of aspects of its report, Feinstein challenged the administration to release the executive summary, findings and recommendations with minimal redactions and within 30 days. She said that the committee could hold a subsequent vote on declassifying the entire 6,000-plus page study, which some observers understood as a tactic to give the committee leverage in case the CIA’s redactions of the current portions up for review are extensive.
“Some ... do not want this report to become public and are seeking to discredit it,” Feinstein wrote on Thursday in the Washington Post, along with former committee chairman Jay Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat.
According to the leaked conclusions, the committee found that that the agency poorly managed its interrogation and detention efforts. It relied extensively on outside contractors for design and implementation, especially “two contract psychologists,” whom an earlier Senate Armed Services Committee investigation identified as Bruce Jessen and Jim Mitchell. Both men were influential in retrofitting techniques that had been designed to train captured US troops to survive and resist torture by foreign adversaries for use on detainees.
“Numerous internal critiques and objections concerning the CIA’s management and use of the Detention and Interrogation [sic] were ignored,” according to the committee findings. Those internal critiques include a now partially declassified 2004 inspector general’s report.
Human rights groups cited the leaked conclusions to pressure the administration to fully declassify the Senate report’s major aspects – and take responsibility for its release out of the CIA’s hands.
"The legal foundation for this program was always broken, but this also shows that it was resting on thin air. These conclusions only reinforce that torture is a brutal, unlawful practice that is unnecessary for protecting our national security,” said former navy general counsel Alberto Mora in a statement released by Human Rights First.
“It’s important to have as much of the report made public as possible to put these findings in context. The White House should lead the declassification process and ensure that the American people can understand the true costs of our experiment with torture.”
In a letter he sent to President Obama on Friday, Senator Mark Udall, a Democrat from Colorado, wrote, "[T]he most pressing reason for the White House to step in and manage this process is the CIA's clear conflict of interest on this issue and its demonstrated inability to face the truth about this program. … The CIA is certainly entitled to issue a public response to the Committee's study, but not to impede the declassification of the study itself."
5.Retiring Obama Administration Prosecutor Says the SEC Is Corrupt
Bloomberg News reported, on April 8th, that a Securities and Exchange Commission prosecuting attorney, James Kidney, said at his recent retirement party on March 27th, that his prosecutions of Goldman Sachs and other mega-banks had been squelched by top people at the agency, because they "were more focused on getting high-paying jobs after their government service than on bringing difficult cases." He suggested that SEC officials knew that Wall Street would likely hire them after the SEC at much bigger pay than their government remuneration was, so long as the SEC wouldn't prosecute those megabank executives on any criminal charges for helping to cause the mortgage-backed securities scams and resulting 2008 economic crash.
His "remarks drew applause from the crowd of about 70 people," according to the Bloomberg report. This would indicate that other SEC prosecutors feel similarly squelched by their bosses.
Kidney's speech said that his superiors did not "believe in afflicting the comfortable and powerful."
Referring to the agency's public-relations tactic of defending its prosecution-record by use of what he considered to be misleading statistics, Kidney said, "It's a cancer" at the SEC.
Two recent studies have provided additional depth to Kidney's assertions, by showing that Obama and his Administration had lied when they promised to prosecute Wall Street executives who had cheated outside investors, and deceived homebuyers, when creating and selling mortgage-backed securities for sale to investors throughout the world.
President Obama personally led in this lying.
On May 20, 2009, at the signing into law of both the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act and the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act, Obama said: "This bill nearly doubles the FBI's mortgage and financial fraud program, allowing it to better target fraud in hard-hit areas. That's why it provides the resources necessary for other law enforcement and federal agencies, from the Department of Justice to the SEC to the Secret Service, to pursue these criminals, bring them to justice, and protect hardworking Americans affected most by these crimes. It's also why it expands DOJ's authority to prosecute fraud that takes place in many of the private institutions not covered under current federal bank fraud criminal statutes -- institutions where more than half of all subprime mortgages came from as recently as four years ago."
Then, in the President's 24 January 2012 State of the Union Address, he said: "Tonight, I'm asking my Attorney General to create a special unit of federal prosecutors and leading state attorneys general to expand our investigations into the abusive lending and packaging of risky mortgages that led to the housing crisis. (Applause.) This new unit will hold accountable those who broke the law, speed assistance to homeowners, and help turn the page on an era of recklessness that hurt so many Americans. Now, a return to the American values of fair play and shared responsibility will help protect our people and our economy."
However, two years later, the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Justice issued on 13 March 2014 its "Audit of the Department of Justice's Efforts to Address Mortgage Fraud," and reported that Obama's promises to prosecute turned out to be just a lie. DOJ didn't even try; and they lied even about their efforts. The IG found: "DOJ did not uniformly ensure that mortgage fraud was prioritized at a level commensurate with its public statements. For example, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Criminal Investigative Division ranked mortgage fraud as the lowest criminal threat in its lowest crime category. Additionally, we found mortgage fraud to be a low priority, or not [even] listed as a priority, for the FBI Field Offices we visited." Not just that, but, "Many Assistant United States Attorneys (AUSA) informed us about underreporting and misclassification of mortgage fraud cases." This was important because, "Capturing such information would allow DOJ to ... better evaluate its performance in targeting high-profile offenders."
Privately, Obama had told Wall Street executives that he would protect them. On 27 March 2009, Obama assembled the top executives of the bailed-out financial firms in a secret meeting at the White House and he assured them that he would cover their backs; he promised "My administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks". It's not on the White House website; it was leaked out, which is one of the reasons Obama hates leakers. What the DOJ's IG indicated was, in effect, that Obama had kept his secret promise to them.
Here is the context in which he said that (from page 234 of Ron Suskind's 2011 book, Confidence Men ):
The CEOs went into their traditional stance. "It's almost impossible to set caps [to their bonuses]; it's never worked, and you lose your best people," said one. "We're competing for talent on an international market," said another. Obama cut them off.
"Be careful how you make those statements, gentlemen. The public isn't buying that," he said. "My administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks."
It was an attention grabber, no doubt, especially that carefully chosen last word.
But then Obama's flat tone turned to one of support, even sympathy. "You guys have an acute public relations problem that's turning into a political problem," he said. "And I want to help. But you need to show that you get that this is a crisis and that everyone has to make some sacrifices." According to one of the participants, he then said, "I'm not out there to go after you. I'm protecting you. But if I'm going to shield you from public and congressional anger, you have to give me something to work with on these issues of compensation."
No suggestions were forthcoming from the bankers on what they might offer, and the president didn't seem to be championing any specific proposals. He had none: neither Geithner nor Summers believed compensation controls had any merit.
After a moment, the tension in the room seemed to lift: the bankers realized he was talking about voluntary limits on compensation until the storm of public anger passed. It would be for show.
He had been lying to the public, all along. Not only would he not prosecute the banksters, but he would treat them as if all they had was "an acute public relations problem that's turning into a political problem." And he thought that the people who wanted them prosecuted were like the KKK who had chased Blacks with pitchforks before lynching. According to the DOJ, their Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (FFETF) was "established by President Barack Obama in November 2009 to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes." But, according to the Department's IG, it was all a fraud: a fraud that according to the DOJ itself had been going on since at least November 2009.
The IG's report continued by pointing out the Attorney General's lies, noting that on 9 October 2012, "the FFETF held a press conference to publicize the results of the initiative," and:
"The Attorney General announced that the initiative resulted in 530 criminal defendants being charged, including 172 executives, in 285 criminal indictments or informations filed in federal courts throughout the United States during the previous 12 months. The Attorney General also announced that 110 federal civil cases were filed against over 150 defendants for losses totaling at least $37 million, and involving more than 15,000 victims. According to statements made at the press conference, these cases involved more than 73,000 homeowner victims and total losses estimated at more than $1 billion.
"Shortly after this press conference, we requested documentation that supported the statistics presented. ... Over the following months, we repeatedly asked the Department about its efforts to correct the statistics. ... Specifically, the number of criminal defendants charged as part of the initiative was 107, not 530 as originally reported; and the total estimated losses associated with true Distressed Homeowners cases were $95 million, 91 percent less than the $1 billion reported at the October 2012 press conference. ...
Despite being aware of the serious flaws in these statistics since at least November 2012, we found that the Department continued to cite them in mortgage fraud press releases. ... According to DOJ officials, the data collected and publicly announced for an earlier FFETF mortgage fraud initiative -- Operation Stolen Dreams -- also may have contained similar errors."
Basically, the IG's report said that the Obama Administration had failed to enforce the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act of 2009. This bill had been passed overwhelmingly, 92-4 in the Senate, and 338-52 in the House. All of the votes against it came from Republicans. The law sent $165 million to the DOJ to catch the executive fraudsters who had brought down the U.S. economy, and it set up the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, and had been introduced and written by the liberal Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy. President Obama signed it on 20 May 2009. At that early stage in his Presidency, he couldn't afford to display that he was far to the right of every congressional Democrat, so he signed it.
Already on 15 November 2011, Syracuse University's TRAC Reports had headlined "Criminal Prosecutions for Financial Institution Fraud Continue to Fall," and provided a chart showing that whereas such prosecutions had been running at a fairly steady rate until George W. Bush came into office in 2001, they immediately plunged during his Presidency and were continuing that decline under Obama, even after the biggest boom in alleged financial fraud cases since right before the Great Depression. And, then, on 24 September 2013, TRAC Reports bannered "Slump in FBI White Collar Crime Prosecutions," and said that "prosecutions of white collar criminals recommended by the FBI are substantially down during the first ten months of Fiscal Year 2013." This was especially so in the Wall Street area: "In the last year, the judicial District Court recording the largest projected drop in the rate of white collar crime prosecutions -- 27.8 percent -- was the Southern District of New York (Manhattan)."
Another recent report documents lying by the Administration regarding its promised program to force banks to compensate cheated homeowners for fraud in their mortgages, and sometimes even for evictions that were based on those frauds. The investigative journalist David Dayen headlined on 19 March 2014, "Just 83,000 Homeowners Get First-Lien Principal Reductions from National Mortgage Settlement, 90 Percent Less Than Promised." He documented that, "the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development sold the settlement on a promise of helping 1 million homeowners, and the final number missed the cut by over 916,000. That ... shows the essential dishonesty [Obama's HUD Secretary Shaun] Donovan displayed in his PR push back in 2012. ... We're used to the Obama Administration falling far short of their goals for homeowner relief, whether because of a lack of interest or a desire to foam the runway for the banks or whatever. Even still, the level of duplicity is breathtaking."
Historians will have a hard time deciding whether Obama was the most corrupt President -- even more corrupt than Grant, Harding, and G.W. Bush -- but certainly he is one of the four most corrupt. The evidence that he is presiding over an Administration in which aristocrats can do anything they want and commit any crime with total impunity, extends not just to Obama's protection of George W. Bush from prosecution, but to his protection of Wall Street CEOs from prosecution. Only blue-collar crooks are pursued by him; white-collar ones get off easy, and mega-corporate CEOs (as well as torturers and their masters in the former Administration, and the traitors who lied this nation into invading Iraq) are totally immune from prosecution by him.
Perhaps there will be a positive side to his Presidency, maybe Obamacare or some other major policy he has introduced, but none of the other three super-corrupt Presidents is rated by historians above the very bottom of the U.S. Presidential barrel; and Obama's Presidency seems extremely likely to be rated somewhere in that league: among the all-time worst U.S. Presidents.
I say this as a historian with the values of a progressive Democrat, and not at all as any sort of conservative. Conservatives favor corrupt leaders; fascism is inherently corrupt and is the extremity of conservatism. By contrast, no progressive can accept corruption. Whereas corruption is acceptable to conservatives, it's a violation of the most basic progressive value, which is accountability. Whereas conservatives believe only in responsibility (such as of employees to their employer), progressives believe in that plus, especially, in accountability (such as of an employer to his employees). In the view of a progressive, obligations run both ways -- up and down the power-hierarchy -- and not only downward. Obama is fundamentally a conservative, who parades in Democratic rhetoric. The reports and studies that have been presented here are convincing proof of that.
6. ship up or sheep out
Bighorn sheep are skilled mountain climbers. But one group recently made it over the peaks of the Sierra Nevada crest in record time.
As part of an ongoing effort to return endangered Sierra Nevada bighorns to more of their historic range, state and federal wildlife workers captured 14 of the animals in the Inyo National Forest and transported them by helicopter to the Big Arroyo area of Sequoia National Park on the range’s west side.
The four rams and 10 ewes, all but one of which was pregnant, were moved in late March to a part of the Sierra that bighorns have not occupied for more than a century.
Before settlement, more than 1,000 of the animals are thought to have roamed high elevations of the range from Sonora Pass in the north to Olancha Peak in the south.
Their numbers plunged when ranchers started grazing domestic sheep in the Sierra, spreading disease to the bighorn herds. Commercial hunting also contributed to their decline and by the 1970s, only three herds could be found in some of the steepest and most rugged portions of the Eastern Sierra.
Sierra Nevada and desert bighorns are the two bighorn subspecies found in California. The Sierra population has grown to about 500 animals from a low of roughly 100 in 1995.
Last month’s operation took place over several days. Workers with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife captured the bighorns one at a time by dropping a net over them from a helicopter.
The animals, which sport large curling horns, were blindfolded, hobbled and transported to a processing site. There they were examined and each sheep was fitted with a radio collar and a GPS collar.
They were trucked in aluminum boxes down Highway 395 to near Lone Pine and then flown about 25 miles over the crest to the release site.
Although rams can weigh more than 200 lbs. and females more than 100 lbs., the bighorns were not sedated after capture. Instead they were kept calm with blindfolds and hobbles.
Both were removed for the helicopter ride and when the boxes were opened to let the sheep scamper into their new home, “they’re all just lying in there like there’s nothing in the world wrong,” said Tom Stephenson, leader of the Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep Recovery Program.
Despite the drought, Stephenson said there is adequate forage and water for the sheep in their high elevation habitat. And the low snowpack has eliminated the danger of deep snow and avalanches.
7. GMO Labeling Would Be Outlawed by New Bill in Congress
By John Upton, Grist - April 14
State-led efforts to mandate GMO labels are blossoming like a field of organic tulips, but members of Congress are trying to mow them down with legislative herbicide.
Maine and Connecticut recently passed laws that will require foods containing GMO ingredients to be clearly marked as such — after enough other states follow suit. And lawmakers in other states are considering doing the same thing. The trend makes large food producers nervous — nervous enough to spend millions defeating ballot initiatives in California and Washington that also would have mandated such labels. They worry that the labels might scare people off, eating into companies’ sales and profits.
So a band of corporate-friendly members of Congress has come riding in to try to save the day for their donors. A bipartisan group led by Reps. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) and G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.) has signed onto legislation introduced Wednesday that would run roughshod over states’ rules on GMO labels. Reuters reports:
The bill, dubbed the “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act,” was drafted by U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo from Kansas, and is aimed at overriding bills in roughly two dozen states that would require foods made with genetically engineered crops to be labeled as such.
The bill specifically prohibits any mandatory labeling of foods developed using bioengineering.
Large business groups cheered the legislation, which could receive its first hearings in the summer. “The GMO labeling ballot initiatives and legislative efforts that many state lawmakers and voters are facing are geared toward making people wrongly fear what they’re eating and feeding their children,” said the American Farm Bureau Federation’s president.
But groups that believe Americans have a right to know what they’re eating and which farming technologies they’re supporting are of course opposed, characterizing the bill as a desperate salvo by Big Food in the face of overwhelming support for GMO labels. The opponents have dubbed the bill the Deny Americans the Right to Know Act.
“If the DARK Act becomes law, a veil of secrecy will cloak ingredients, leaving consumers with no way to know what’s in their food,” said the Environmental Working Group’s Scott Faber. “Consumers in 64 countries, including Saudi Arabia and China, have the right to know if their food contains GMOs. Why shouldn’t Americans have the same right?”
Whatever you choose to call it, the bill is unlikely to have success beyond the GOP-controlled House.
8. Celebrate Earth Day this year by joining one of the largest environmental battles taking place in Florida today.
Tell Hendry County Commissioners and FPL/NextEra to stop their plans of building a massive fossil fuel power plant in the Everglades.
Monday April 21
Press Conference and Rally, 4am - 6pm
At the Hendry County Courthouse, 25 E Hickpoochee, LaBelle, FL
On the Corner of SR 80 and SR 29.
Tuesday April 22
Rally for International Earth Day, 4pm - 6pm
At the Hendry County Courthouse, 25 E Hickpoochee, LaBelle, FL
On the Corner of SR 80 and SR 29.
All are invited!
Bring signs, banners, bull horns, drums, etc.
These rallies are being called for by members of the Independent Traditional Seminole Nation and Everglades Earth First!
There will be a camp out at Fisheating Creek on Monday night, April 21. Participants must bring their own food, water and tents.
Why we must fight
FPL calls their plan the "Hendry County Clean Energy Center." This is a greenwashing lie. To give some examples, the plant will:
- Use 22 million gallons of water a day
- Release millions of tons of pollution in into the air and water
- Harm the health of neighboring Seminole communities
- destroy habitat of the Florida panther
In February, the Seminole Tribe of Florida announced a 68 mile march from the Big Cypress Reservation to the Hendry County Courthouse in response to the County's rezoning of land on the border of Big Cypress. The march was being planned to coincide with an April 21 court date, but the court date has now been changed to July 14 and the march postponed.
A coalition of groups including the Seminole Tribe, the Independent Seminole Nation, Sierra Club, Everglades Earth First!, Save Our Creeks, and others have joined together to support the Tribe's lawsuit against rezoning the land and to build a groundswell of grassroots opposition to this power plant.
Simultaneously, there is a movement growing to oppose the new FPL gas pipeline which would cross Florida from north to south and is needed to fuel such a massive plant.
Here's a bit about the re-framing of Earth Day:
More background with right-wing slant from Fox News.. But still interesting to hear it from another angle:
More on the Sabal Trail pipeline:
9. GLOBAL DAY of ACTION - Anti WAR
Well, you don't have to dream - there is a movement, and PDA is part of it: GDAMS!
Every year, on April 15th, Tax Day in the U.S., people all over the world take action to educate their neighbors about the reality of runaway, corrupt, wasted military spending. Current U.S. military spending accounts for at least 40% of global military spending, and drives most of the other 60% as other countries try to keep up, so we in this country have a critical role to play in order to change these dangerous, dystopian priorities.
The Global Day of Action on Military Spending (GDAMS) is a special day when we ask you to take action where you live. There are 61 GDAMS actions already planned around the U.S., and more being added all the time. Please click on GDAMS to find an action near you.
PDA's End War and Occupations team works on these issues all year round. We support an immediate return to a peacetime military budget, as in the 1950s, 1970s and 1990s. That would cut 40% or $250 billion per year from our present war budget to create jobs building windmills, solar panels and a new peacetime economy with free healthcare and education for all. Please click here visit our team web page to see what else we're working on.
Another world is possible! See you at a GDAMS action on Tuesday!
10. Roberts Court - Ignore Constitution
The Supreme Court's decision in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission was not about aggregate limits on individual campaign donations to candidates in federal elections. The case was about what constitutes a bribe, how big that bribe has to be, and whether an electoral system can be corrupt even in the absence of a legally demonstrable cash payment to an office holder or candidate for an explicitly specified favor. The Roberts court, or five of its nine members, adopted the misanthrope's faux-naïve pose in ruling that private money in politics, far from promoting corruption, causes democracy to thrive because, money being speech, the more speech, the freer the politics. Anatole France mocked this kind of legal casuistry by saying "The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread."
James Fallows has reminded us that during Chief Justice John Roberts' confirmation hearing, the nominee described his own judicial approach as "Humility. Modesty. Restraint. Deference to precedent. 'We're just calling balls and strikes.' " Fallows goes on to say that that Roberts is cynical for adopting that pose to get through the hearing. It is true that he is cynical, no doubt in the same way that prostitutes are cynical women, but I don't think that term quite captures the key quality that makes Roberts decide legal cases the way he does. Nor does his cynicism differentiate him from his jurisprudential clones named Thomas, Scalia, Alito and Kennedy.
There is unquestionably a bit of role playing on the court - Scalia, the opinionated blowhard at your local saloon; Thomas, the total cipher; Alito, the professional Catholic who might have come from the curia at Rome; Kennedy, the guy who purports to be a swing vote when his mind is already made up. Roberts' role is that of chief justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. He can't very well clown around in the manner of Scalia, who acts like Bill O'Reilly in judicial robes. The five justices' bedrock beliefs may well be as identical to one another's as those of the creepy alien children of Village of the Damned. Roberts is different only insofar as he is the more strategic front man.(1)
Roberts knows he was appointed to be a Supreme Court justice for one reason: to decide relevant cases on behalf of corporate interests. This explains why he made a political move to salvage the Affordable Care Act: The case was a matter of partisan politics before the court.
Business interests were roughly divided on the law - some disliked its mandates and provisions that might drive up their costs, while others saw its potential for allowing them to dump insured employees into pools, or, alternatively to benefit from tax subsidies. Still others may have seen it as a license to mint money. ACA was a costly and convoluted way to insure more people, but Republican hacks saw only one aspect: It was Obama's initiative, so it must be opposed. Roberts saw it as a political squabble involving the other two branches, but on which there was no unified business position. It was a law whose philosophy had a Republican pedigree - the Heritage Foundation had proposed something like it more than a decade before. If a Republican were president, he might have proposed a similar bill; after all, the president who nominated Roberts engineered the Medicare Prescription Drug Act.
Roberts perceived the deeper dynamic beneath the ideological posturing over ACA, and that is why he had to be the deciding vote of a divided court to save the act. Overturning it would cause millions to question the court's legitimacy on a matter that was not crucial to business interests. Best to save one's powder for more relevant fights. That said, the four dissenting votes also had to vote as they did to render the decision subjectively moot in the minds of Republican jihadists, who would continue to fight the act tooth and nail. As it was, Roberts threw a valuable bone to the Republicans by vitiating the Medicaid mandate to the states. This made it harder to implement the law and permitted Republican governors and legislatures to work all manner of mischief.
McCutcheon was a more relevant fight, and here we see Roberts the avatar of corporations rather than Roberts the tactician. Viewing other justices' decisions through this lens also tightens the focus on an otherwise blurry image. Observers wondered why, during oral arguments in the Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby case, Scalia’s questions implied he was taking a position on religious views in the workplace opposite to the one he had taken in the 1990 Employment Division v. Smith case. In that case, Scalia ruled against employees whose firing for smoking peyote caused them to sue based on alleged violation of their first amendment right to free exercise of religion. But Scalia was perfectly consistent: In the Smith case, and as he appears likely to do in the Hobby Lobby case, Scalia upholds the rights of employers.(2) Neither one is a case about religion per se; they are cases about the superior prerogatives of employers over employees. In like manner, McCutcheon and Citizens United are not cases about campaign finance laws, nor are they, despite the artful smokescreen about free speech on the part of the court's majority, cases about free speech and whether money constitutes speech. They are cases about upholding the superior political privileges of rich interests in society as opposed to poorer ones.
We now have an algorithm to crack the Enigma Code of the Supreme Court. Once there are five members of the court who accept as self-evidently valid the 19th century concept of "freedom of contract," other issues become subsidiary. This framework explains hundreds of cases before the court and clarifies the seeming anomalies like ACA. It explains the court's position in Vance v. Ball State, which made it more difficult to sue employers for harassment, and Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., which barred remedy for pay discrimination (even Congress subsequently saw fit to redress the bias of the court’s decision). In Wal-Mart v. Dukes, the court rejected a class-action suit of women denied raises and promotions. The Roberts court also took the side of corporations against consumers in Mutual Pharmaceutical Company v. Bartlett and AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion. The Roberts Court declared unconstitutional a 1988 law that subjected corporate officers to fraud charges if they could be shown to have deprived clients of honest services.
As Oliver Wendell Holmes stated in his dissenting opinion on the 1902 Lochner case, which established as virtual court theology the freedom of contract notion (without government restrictions), from which many subsequent pro-corporation decisions have flowed, the court's majority was basing its decision on economic ideology rather than constitutional interpretation. Roberts is wise enough to know that and is wise enough to conceal his hand with occasional strategic references to the free speech or free exercise clauses in the first amendment.
A friend once complained to me about a basketball game in which the referee consistently called fouls on one team where none existed and failed to call fouls on the other team, which blatantly and repeatedly committed them. This being only a high school-level game, I asked him if he thought the referee had taken a cash bribe. "Of course not," was his answer, "he was just blatantly biased." "Is that also corruption?" was my response. Sometimes, like Humbert Wolf's British journalist, judges can be corrupted even in the absence of what Justice Roberts narrowly defines as "quid pro quo corruption." Fallows recommends that Congress enact a fixed term of office for Supreme Court justices. I think that is a good idea, although not just to obviate senescence on the court. It might also wake up citizens to the whole sorry con game if they were forced to contemplate retired honorable justices giving speeches at $500,000 a pop to corporations eager for enlightenment on the finer points of judicial interpretation.
11. The House Appropriations Committee approved a three-part revision of the Florida Retirement System Thursday, along with a plan to give state employees some skin in the game when making their health-insurance choices.
The Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee, meanwhile, revived a pension bill from last year -- offering new employees a reduction of their pension contributions, if they choose the investment plan. The 2011 Legislature imposed a 3 percent payroll tax on employees in the FRS, but that would be lowered to 2 percent for those who go the investment route.
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In largely party-line votes, the powerful House budget committee advanced Rep. Jim Boyd's pension bill (HB 7173), which he steered through his House State Affairs Committee last Friday. The bill does three things:
-- Requires newly hired Senior Management and elected officers to join the 401(k)-style investment plan, rather than the traditional "defined benefit" pension plan.
-- Increases the "vesting" period for benefits in the traditional pension plan from eight years to 10.
-- Changes the "default" rule so that employees who don't make a pension choice would automatically go into the investment plan rather than the FRS, as now provided. Those employees would have nine months to change their minds and opt into the traditional pension plan, instead of six, but the investment plan would offer vesting in one year rather than 10.
"It's time to modernize our retirement system," Boyd, R-Bradenton, told the appropriations panel. He said the FRS has an "unfunded actuarial liability" (UAL) of about $21 billion, costing taxpayers a half-billion dollars a year to maintain its 86 percent ratio of assets to liabilities.
"Detroit thought its UAL was OK, not a problem," Boyd said. "But this is not about the UAL. This is about modernizing a system that needs to be brought into the 21st century."
Boyd said about 60 percent of public employees don't stay 10 years in their jobs, so most would not get vested even under the current eight-year qualifying period. The investment option would give them some retirement fund they could roll to a new employer's plan, he said.
Democrats on the committee said the FRS is in fine financial shape -- that any funding level over 80 percent is considered healthy.
"There is no issue," said Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach. "There is a system that is not broken. This is a retirement system we should take great pride in, not dismantled."
Boyd and other Republicans emphasized that no current employees would be affected, as the changes would only apply to those hired after July 1, 2015. Also, employees could still take the "defined benefit" pension plan, if they wanted it.
The committee also approved a state employee insurance package (HB 7157) by Rep. Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford, that directs the Department of Management Services to develop a four-tier array of insurance offerings. Brodeur said the state would provide the same per-employee subsidy of premiums, but workers could choose a cheaper policy and use the excess funding for extra benefits -- like optional vision, dental or catastrophic coverage.
They could also shop around for lower hospital charges on common procedures and split the savings with the state.
Earlier Thursday, the Senate governmental operations committee approved a bill (SB 1114) by Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, similar to Boyd's House measure. In addition to making Senior Management and elected officers sign up for the investment plan, Simpson's bill would give rank-and-file employees the incentive of lowering their payroll deductions from 3 percent to 2 percent, if they choose the investment plan.
Boyd's plan does not have the reduction in the employee payment to the pension fund.
Both of the bills would affect only new hires next year, not current retirees or active employees in the FRS.
no soup for you - you "voters"
Remember how bad the voter lines were on Election Day in 2012? In Florida, some stayed in line for over six hours.
And now, they won’t be able to use the bathroom. The Miami-Dade County Elections Department has quietly implemented a policy to close the bathrooms at all polling facilities.
Make no mistake about it. This is a political scheme to depress voter turnout in a heavily Democratic county, and it’s also probably illegal for violating basic disability law.
Urge U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate this new Florida voting rule which closes all restrooms at polling places on Election Day. SIGN THE PETITION HERE: http://wefb.it/7C1C98
PNN's host and News Director Rick Spisak welcomes three very special guests
Karina Veaudry, Former Executive Director for the Florida Native Plant Society. Landscape Ecologist and Landscape designer for 26 years Involved in statewide efforts to balance development with conservation.
Catherine Bowman, Ecologist and Biologist for 30 years. Former President of the Central Florida Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society. Ecosystem restoration specialist
And we'll welcome one of our favorite guests: Meredith Ockman, Vice President at SoHo Dogs, President of the Board at Women's Health Foundation of South Florida and Vice President at Florida National Organization for Women who is now in the running for South East Regional Director for the National Organizatoin of Women.
TUNE IN SUNDAY 7pm [Eastern] LIVE or Anytime
I apologize for the delay in getting back to you. If you haven’t already done so, I recommend you review EPA’s website for a more thorough history of the agency’s involvement in the numeric nutrient criteria issue in Florida: http://water.epa.gov/lawsregs/rulesregs/florida_index.cfm
Florida has now adopted - and EPA has approved - numeric nutrient criteria for its waters. There is no need for overlapping federal criteria and, on January 7, 2014, the court agreed that EPA is no longer obligated to promulgate such criteria for any of Florida’s waters.
Therefore, EPA is proposing to withdraw federal numeric nutrient criteria applicable to Florida’s inland and flowing waters. EPA also intends to cease action on two proposed rules applicable to other waters of the state of Florida— one addressing remanded portions of the inland rule and the other for coastal and estuarine waters.
Public Affairs Specialist
U.S. EPA Region 4