Sunday, May 04, 2014

PNN - 5/4 - The Arts Show

PNN - 5/4/14

SEIU …………………...7:13pm
Stephanie McMillan  7:46pm - Stephanie's Cartoons
Randy Emerick         8:00pm

Donate to PDA - tim carpenter Fund
DPCF - conference May 16/17 in Tampa

1. “We cannot tolerate expanded industrial drilling activities that pose a threat to the drinking and surface water so close to the Florida Everglades,” Nelson wrote Thursday in a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “The recent discovery of a fracking-like incident there raises serious concerns about whether outside wildcatters would soil one of the world’s great environmental treasures.”

For the first time ever, Collier County is challenging the DEP on oil drilling. The Collier County Commissioners voted unanimously to challenge the DEP's Consent Order on the Collier-Hogan well that was illegally fracked near Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. They're calling for a revocation of the Dan A. Hughes permit, because no amount of regulation will make it safe if the company won't obey the regulations. 
They accused Hughes of misrepresentation and lying and registered alarm and anger that the DEP failed to disclose the criminal wrongdoing at the recent public hearings. Failing revocation, they're calling for permit conditions that include stronger 1) oversight, 2) monitoring, 3) direct communication with the DEP as well as a list of 10 staff recommendations submitted by Dan Summers, Director of Emergency Management earlier in the year. They also intend to seek the Legislative Delegations help. 
Time to thank the Commissioners for decisive action. As MLK King says, "the time is always right to do right." We are also asking them to expand their petition, as Donna Fiala called it, to include excellent permit conditions recommended by the Conservancy at the meeting.
The DEP Big Cypress Swamp Advisory Committee reconvened for the first time in decades and recommended that the Judge and DEP deny the Golden Gate permit.

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2. For years, the government has upheld the principle of “Net neutrality,” the belief that everyone should have equal access to the web without preferential treatment.
But now, Tom Wheeler, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission and a former cable and telecommunications top gun, is circulating potential new rules that reportedly would put a price tag on climbing aboard the Internet. The largest and richest providers, giant corporations such as Verizon and Comcast – in mid-takeover of Time Warner Cable — like the idea. They could afford to buy their way to the front of the line. Everyone else — nonprofit groups, startups and everyday users – would have to move to the rear, and the Net would be neutral no more.
“For most Americans, they have no choice for all the information, data, entertainment coming through their house, other than their local cable monopoly. And here, we have a situation where that monopoly potentially can pick and choose winners and losers, decide what you see,” Crawford tells Moyers.
Carr adds: “People have a close, intimate relationship with the web in a way they don’t other technologies … they have the precious propriety feelings about it. And I’m not sure if the FCC really knows what they’re getting into.”
Yes, the Internet -- your Internet. Our Internet. The electronic public square that ostensibly allows everyone an equal chance to be heard. This democratic highway to cyberspace has thrived on the idea of "net neutrality” -- that the Internet should be available to all without preferential treatment. Without preferential treatment. But net neutrality is now at risk. And from its supposed guardian, the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC chairman Tom Wheeler is circulating potential new rules that reportedly would allow Internet service providers to charge higher fees for faster access, so the big companies like Verizon and Comcast could hustle more money from those who can afford to buy a place in the fast lane. Everyone else -- nonprofit groups, startups, the smaller, independent content creators, and everyday users – move to the rear. The net, neutral no more.
A final decision on the new rules isn’t expected until later this year. Meanwhile, you have the chance to be heard during an official "comment period." We'll tell you more about that later in the broadcast, but first let's listen to two people who monitor this world and strive to explain it to the rest of us. Susan Crawford is a visiting professor at Harvard Law School, a contributor to Bloomberg View and author of this essential book, “Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the New Gilded Age.”

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3. We're all spied on Now! - Edward Snowden
People's privacy is violated without any suspicion of wrongdoing, former National Security Agency contractor claims

he US intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden has warned that entire populations, rather than just individuals, now live under constant surveillance.
“It's no longer based on the traditional practice of targeted taps based on some individual suspicion of wrongdoing,” he said. “It covers phone calls, emails, texts, search history, what you buy, who your friends are, where you go, who you love.”
Snowden made his comments in a short video that was played before a debate on the proposition that surveillance today is a euphemism for mass surveillance, in Toronto, Canada. The former US National Security Agency contractor is living in Russia, having been granted temporary asylum there in June 2013.
The video was shown as two of the debaters – the former US National Security Administration director, General Michael Hayden, and the well-known civil liberties lawyer and Harvard law professor, Alan Dershowitz – argued in favour of the debate statement: “Be it resolved state surveillance is a legitimate defence of our freedoms.”
Opposing the motion were Glenn Greenwald, the journalist whose work based on Snowden’s leaks won a Pulitzer Prize for the Guardian last month, and Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of the social media website Reddit.
The Snowden documents, first leaked to the Guardian last June, revealed that the US government has programs in place to spy on hundreds of millions of people’s emails, social networking posts, online chat histories, browsing histories, telephone records, telephone calls and texts – “nearly everything a typical user does on the internet”, in the words of one leaked document.
Greenwald opened the debate by condemning the NSA’s own slogan, which he said appears repeatedly throughout its own documents: “Collect it all.”
“What is state surveillance?” Greenwald asked. “If it were about targeting in a discriminate way against those causing harm, there would be no debate.
“The actual system of state surveillance has almost nothing to do with that. What state surveillance actually is, is defended by the NSA's actual words, that phrase they use over and over again: 'Collect it all.’ ”
Dershowitz and Hayden spent the rest of the 90 minutes of the debate denying that the pervasive surveillance systems described by Snowden and Greenwald even exist and that surveillance programs are necessary to prevent terrorism.
“Collect it all doesn't mean collect it all!” Hayden said, drawing laughter.
Greenwald sparred with Dershowitz and Hayden about whether or not the present method of metadata collection would have prevented the terrorist attacks on 11 September, 2011.
While Hayden argued that intelligence analysts would have noticed the number of telephone calls from San Diego to the Middle East and caught the terrorists who were living illegally in the US, Greenwald argued that one of the primary reasons the US authorities failed to prevent the attacks was because they were taking in too much information to accurately sort through it all.

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4. Skepticism about Ice Wall
Experts question ice wall at Japan nuclear plant
Experts on Friday expressed skepticism about a plan to build a costly underground frozen wall at Japan's crippled nuclear plant, a development that could delay the start of construction on the project.
Experts on Friday expressed skepticism about a plan to build a costly underground frozen wall at Japan's crippled nuclear plant, a development that could delay the start of construction on the project.
The experts and Japanese nuclear regulatory officials said during a meeting in Tokyo that they weren't convinced the project can resolve a serious contaminated water problem at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant, which suffered multiple meltdowns following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
The frozen wall is a 32 billion yen ($320 million) government-funded project to surround the plant's four crippled reactors and their turbine buildings with an underground ice wall to block groundwater from flowing into the buildings' basements and mixing with highly radioactive water leaks from the melted cores.
Government officials say a feasibility test at the plant, run by Tokyo Electric Power Co., proved successful and that they hope to start construction in June, though the project could be delayed because of the experts' concerns.
Toyoshi Fuketa, a commissioner with Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority, said the hydrological impact of a frozen wall to the area was unclear.
"We need to know if a frozen wall is really effective, and more importantly, we need to know whether a frozen wall may cause any trouble," Fuketa said.
International experts have raised similar concerns.
Dale Klein, a former U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission chairman who now heads a supervisory panel for TEPCO, said he was not convinced the frozen wall is the best option and is worth the high cost. He also suggested that the government and TEPCO review the plan to balance risk and benefit and see whether they should spend the money elsewhere.
"Any time you make a decision, it should be based on current, relevant science, and you have to strike a balance between science and policy," Klein said in an interview Thursday in Tokyo. "At the end of the day, it may be a good alternative. But I'm just not convinced."
Experts have said that while a frozen wall is a proven technology, the size and planned duration of use at Fukushima is unprecedented.
TEPCO is setting up a bypass system to pump up groundwater before it hits the contaminated reactor area as a way to reduce the amount of underground contaminated water. The plant is also installing another groundwater drainage system around the reactor buildings, which some experts say could serve as a sufficient alternative to an ice wall.
More than three years after the March 2011 meltdowns, the plant is still plagued by a massive amount of contaminated water. Repeated water leaks from storage tanks and other mishaps at the plant have hampered a decommissioning effort that is expected to take decades and caused environmental concerns among local fishermen.

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5. No, you can't know about that
Senate Agrees: US People Can't Know Overseas Drone Death Toll
At behest of intelligence chief, Senate removes "modest" provision that would reveal number of people killed by US attacks overseas

The Senate Intelligence Committee and the Obama administration agree on this: the American people should not know the number of people killed by U.S. drone attacks overseas, nor should they hope to understand the circumstances under which such lethal killings are authorized or executed.

This high-level agreement was confirmed on Monday after a "modest" provision designed to add transparency to the US drone assassination program was killed in the Senate committee following objections by the Obama administration's intelligence chief.

    At the behest of the director of national intelligence, US senators have removed a provision from a major intelligence bill that would require the president to publicly disclose information about drone strikes and their victims.

    The bill authorizing intelligence operations in fiscal 2014 passed out of the Senate intelligence committee in November, and it originally required the president to issue an annual public report clarifying the total number of “combatants” and “noncombatant civilians” killed or injured by drone strikes in the previous year. It did not require the White House to disclose the total number of strikes worldwide.

    But the Guardian has confirmed that Senate leaders have removed the language as they prepare to bring the bill to the floor for a vote, after the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, assured them in a recent letter that the Obama administration was looking for its own ways to disclose more about its highly controversial drone strikes.

Critics of the Obama administration's use of drones and ongoing assassination program say that even though the language of the provision was mild, it was at least a step towards transparency and oversight.

“Congress is charged with oversight of the administration and this is a matter of life and death,” Steven W. Hawkins, executive director of Amnesty International USA, told the New York Times. “A basic report on the number of people killed shouldn’t be too much to ask.”

And Hawkins' colleague Zeke Johnson, Zeke Johnson, who directs the group's security and human rights program asked:
“How many people have to die for Congress to take even a small step toward transparency? It's stunning that after all these years we still don't know how many people the Obama administration has killed with drones."

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by Steve Horn
Right before the champagne bottles began popping for activists engaged in a grassroots struggle to halt the construction of Williams Companies' prospective Bluegrass Pipeline project — which the company suspended indefinitely in an April 28 press release — Williams had already begun raining on the parade.
The pipeline industry giant took out the trash on Friday, April 25, announcing its intentions to open a new Louisiana pipeline named Gulf Trace.
Akin to TransCanada's ANR Pipeline recently reported on by DeSmogBlog, Gulf Trace is not entirely “new,” per se. Rather, it's the retooling of a pipeline system already in place, in this case Williams' Transco Pipeline system
The retooling has taken place in the aftermath of Cheniere's Sabine Pass LNG export facility receiving the first ever final gas export permit from the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) during the fracking era.
Both ANR and Gulf Trace will feed into Sabine Pass, the Louisiana-based LNG export terminal set to open for business in late 2015. Also like ANR, Transco will transform into a gas pipeline flowing in both directions, “bidirectional” in industry lingo.
Bluegrass, if ever built, also would transport fracked gas to the Gulf Coast export markets. But instead of LNG, Bluegrass is a natural gas liquids pipeline (NGL)
“The project…is designed to connect [NGLs] produced in the Marcellus-Utica areas in the U.S. Northeast with domestic and export markets in the U.S. Gulf Coast,” it explained in an April 28 press release announcing the project's suspension. 

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A group of psychologists who have been outspoken in opposing the use of U.S. medical professionals in interrogations have released a letter to President Barack Obama and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel condemning the ongoing use of interrogation techniques amounting to torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of prisoners.
The use of such techniques are found in the current Army Field Manual (PDF), and in particular in its special Appendix M, which summarizes a set of techniques, under the label “separation,” that are only meant to be used on prisoners who the U.S. government claims don’t meet the additional Prisoner of War protections of the Geneva Conventions — prisoners like those held in indefinite detention at Guantanamo.
Even so, most human rights and legal groups have found the techniques under question — solitary confinement, sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation, manipulation of diet and environment, use of fear and emotional abuse of prisoners — to be against Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, the UN Convention Against Torture, and other international and domestic laws. (See “Contrary to Obama’s promises, the US military still permits torture,” The Guardian, Jan. 25, 2014).
Not mentioned in the letter, signed by Steven Reisner, President of Psychologists for Social Responsibility (PsySR), on behalf of his organization, is the recent discovery that the use of torture techniques derived from a government program to help military personnel resist torture (the “SERE” program), was never totally removed from the military’s Army Field Manual. Instead, the Pentagon used obfuscating language and obscure references to hide that fact from the casual onlooker.
Indeed, the current Army Field Manual on interrogations, including its Appendix M, was the subject of an Office of Legal Council 2006 memorandum by “torture memo” author Steven Bradbury. While President Obama rescinded most of the Bush-era torture memos when he first came into office, he never rescinded the Bradbury memo on Appendix M.
To this day, the use of methods amounting to torture in the Army Field Manual continues, and while this is opposed by nearly every human rights group that has looked at the torture question — from Amnesty International to Physicians for Human Rights, from Center for Constitutional Rights to The Constitution Project — Congressional oversight personnel at the Senator Carl Levin’s Armed Services Committee (SASC) state the procedures in the Army Field Manual and its Appendix M are not abusive.
The procedures in the Army Field Manual currently are backed by presidential executive order, and its methods are used by both the Department of Defense and the CIA.
A SASC staffer was quoted recently as saying, “We are comfortable that Appendix M of the Army Field Manual no longer permits the use of interrogation techniques that are cruel and inhuman, or are a violation of our obligations under international law.”
“No longer permits…”? Does SASC admit Appendix M once did permit torture? If it “no longer permits” such use of cruel and inhuman techniques, nor violate international obligations, can someone at SASC inform us of when that change took place? And what did that change consist of?
I don’t think we’ll ever get an answer to these questions. As long as the mainstream media, including so-called alternative outlets, continue to ignore the current use of torture by the United States, government apologists and those who cover for use of torture have nothing to lose by keeping mum.
History will not treat such cowardice and dishonesty kindly.
Below is the full text of the letter from PsySR. The link to the letter is here.
April 29, 2014
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
As an organization of health professionals dedicated to human rights advocacy, Psychologists for Social Responsibility strongly objects to practices that violate the ethics of health professions and lie outside the norms of international law and practice. The recent Report of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence confirms that, beginning during the Bush Administration, interrogation and detention practices were put in place by the CIA that constituted torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. Practices once condemned under law and international treaty were soon redefined by the Justice Department to permit a “culture of torture” to proliferate under U.S. policy. These practices quickly spread to the detention centers of the Department of Defense and throughout the theaters of war. While legal progress has been made to limit these policies and practices, significant remnants remain under your authority. We write to you today to urge you to eliminate all existing procedures allowing for torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of detainees.
In 2009, via Executive Order 13491, your administration officially announced its intention to end the torture practices developed and instituted under the Bush Administration. Interrogation practices that did not conform to the Army Field Manual were abolished. However, as documented by numerous legal and human rights groups, as well as by former interrogators,[1] the Army Field Manual still includes abusive techniques in violation of these standards.
We concur with the recent recommendation of the Institute on Medicine as a Profession (IMAP)/Open Society Foundations report [2] calling for you to issue a new executive order banning interrogation techniques using isolation, sleep deprivation, exploitation of fear, and other methods that violate international standards regarding torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment. We, too, urge you to remediate the ethical standards of the Army Field Manual via executive order.
The current edition of the Army Field Manual (2006) officially supports interrogations using “approach techniques,” including the creation, manipulation, and intensification of phobias and fears in prisoners (“Fear Up”) and the calculated psychological attack against ego or self-esteem (“Emotional Pride and Ego Down”). The “Emotional Futility” approach intends to create a perception in a prisoner that “resistance to questioning is futile.” The manual describes the purpose of this technique as engendering “a feeling of hopelessness and helplessness” in a detainee and notes the “potential for application of the pride and ego approach to cross the line into humiliating and degrading treatment of the detainee.”
Also problematic on both basic health and human rights grounds is Appendix M, added to this most recent version of the Army Field Manual (2-22.3). This special annex proposes a technique known as “Separation,” which includes the use of solitary confinement, sleep deprivation, forms of sensory deprivation, and environmental manipulations — all of which could theoretically be extended indefinitely — as ostensibly legitimate forms of treatment on “unlawful combatants.” The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture [3] and independent human rights organizations describe such practices as torture and/or cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment. As health professionals and human rights advocates, we are disturbed that such techniques are conducted under an official capacity and by executive order.
We are particularly concerned that health professionals, including psychologists, have been engaged to support such efforts, directly or indirectly, in violation of their ethical obligations and in violation of the policies of their professional associations.
As you must be aware, these practices are not only cruel, but also yield questionable intelligence and contribute to a perception of our country as a systematic violator of human rights. It would serve as a strong and principled legacy of your Administration if these remaining practices of torture, cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment were finally and definitively ended.
We look forward to your timely response.
Steven Reisner, PhD
Psychologists for Social Responsibility
cc: Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel

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8. Fuke Noose
Newspapers: Alarm as record numbers of young seals & sea lions starving to death along California coast — “So many unhealthy sea lions are washing ashore” — “In the last month it’s just spiked… calls started coming in nonstop” — “Extremely complex issue… a multitude of factors that come in to play” — “It’s definitely a mystery, we’re hoping it’s not the new norm”
Coastline Pilot, May 1, 2014: “In the last month we’ve seen the rescues spike,” [Executive Director Keith Matassa] said. [...] Researchers are still trying to determine why so many unhealthy sea lions are washing ashore. “The reasons behind the animal strandings are an extremely complex issue,” Matassa said. “Although there is a leading theory that their food source is playing a significant role, there are a multitude of factors that come in to play, and each one is being investigated.”
Orange County Register, May 2, 2014: Sea lions are [...] washing ashore, many of them pups dehydrated, malnourished and on the brink of death. The year started off quieter than last year, and the Pacific Marine Mammal Center’s director of development, Melissa Sciacca, thought they were in the clear – until about a month ago, when the calls started coming in nonstop. [...] “We thought it was going to be a nice calm year; in the last month it’s just spiked,” she said. “The rescues just keep coming in at a steady pace.” It’s the second year stranded sea lions have been reported in alarming numbers. [...] Last year, scientists tested for radioactivity, and it was determined that wasn’t the cause, and infectious disease was also ruled out.
San Francisco Chronicle, May 2, 2014: Young seals, sea lions starving in record numbers — Rescuers are scrambling to save a record number of young sea lions and seals along California’s northern and central coast while scientists work to understand why the animals are beaching themselves [...] The emaciated and dehydrated pups are turning up along the 600 miles of coastline from Mendocino to San Luis Obispo monitored by the Marine Mammal Center. Many are too weak to move after washing ashore [...] As of Wednesday, the center had brought in 429 California sea lions, elephant seals, harbor seals and fur seals this year. That’s well above the 291 animals admitted by the same date last year [...] Southern California witnessed an almost 70 percent die-off of young sea lions – those born in summer 2012 – near the Channel Islands, where most American sea lions breed.
Sharon Melin, a wildlife biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association: “In 2013, it was only the young animals that tried to do it on their own [...] this year there’s lots of stranding going on, but those are a different age-class of pups.”
Dr. Shawn Johnson, Marine Mammal Center director of veterinary sciences: “The ones we are seeing are basically starving to death [...] It’s definitely a mystery. We’re hoping it’s not the new norm.”