Sunday, July 13, 2014


PNN - 7/13/14
Edwin Enciso     …. 7:17pm
Walter Barasch      7:33pm
Karen Dwyer          7:54pm
Charles Messina     8:25pm

0. You can't just say "you are open and transparent. You actually have to do it.""
A judge struck down Florida's congressional map Thursday, ruling the Republican-drawn lines violate an amendment to the state constitution designed to curb gerrymandering.
Circuit Judge Terry Lewis said in his decision that the 5th and 10th congressional districts, represented by Reps. Corrine Brown (D) and Daniel Webster (R), run afoul of the Fair Districts amendment passed in 2010. Lewis said that the problems with the two districts make the entire map unconstitutional, even if many districts do not need to be redrawn.
Lewis's decision is expected to be appealed and it is not clear whether it will impact the 2014 elections by forcing new lines to be drawn before the election. The League of Women Voters of Florida brought the lawsuit forward.
David King, one of the lawyers for the plaintiffs said, "It's a pretty historic ruling," according to the Associated Press, adding, "It just doesn't work to say you are open and transparent. You actually have to do it."
In his decision, Lewis writes that Republican consultants "did in fact conspire to manipulate and influence the redistricting process" and "they made a mockery of the Legislature's proclaimed transparent and open process of redistricting."
The new lines were drawn by the Republican-controlled legislature in 2012 following the release of decennial Census data.

1. Florida is a prime example of Democrats' frustration. President Barack Obama carried the state twice, but Florida's U.S. House delegation has 17 Republicans and 10 Democrats.

A Florida judge has ruled that the GOP-controlled state legislature illegally drew congressional districts to primarily benefit the Republican Party, and ordered them redrawn. The legislature is expected to appeal the ruling, and this fall's elections are unlikely to be affected.

Republicans haven't controlled the White House or U.S. Senate for more than five years. Yet their House majority - now 234 to 199 - looks safe this fall. Redistricting episodes in Florida and North Carolina help explain why.

2. Get out your erasers - kiddies
WASHINGTON, July 11 (UPI) --Florida may be forced to redraw its congressional map after a judge ruled Thursday evening two of its districts were so gerrymandered that they make a "mockery" of the state's law.
Voters in the Sunshine State passed a law in 2010 that requires districts to be drawn without trying for partisan advantage.
Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis found two of the state's 27 districts -- the 5th and 10th, represented by Democrat Corrine Brown and Republican Dan Webster, respectively -- violated the Fair Districts standards as they were drawn in 2012 by the Republican-controlled state legislature.
"Republican political consultants or operatives did in fact conspire to manipulate and influence the redistricting process," Lewis writes in the opinion. "They made a mockery of the Legislature's proclaimed transparency and open process of redistricting by doing all of this in the shadow of that process, utilizing the access it gave them to the decision makers, but going to great lengths to conceal from the public their plan and their participation in it."
Lewis said the 5th District, which snakes from Jacksonville to Orlando and at one point narrows to just the width of a highway, was drawn to pack in as many Democratic voters as possible so as to improve Republican chances in the surrounding districts.
Each of the six districts with which the 5th shares a boundary -- the 3rd, 4th, 6th, 7th, 10th and 11th -- are all currently represented by Republicans.
The 10th District, meanwhile, was drawn according to state law, but was modified to add "an odd-shaped appendage which wraps under and around District 5."
Republicans hold 17 of the state's congressional seats, compared to Democrats' 10, despite the Democrats having an overall registration advantage.
Lewis ordered the districts, and those they touch, be redrawn to accommodate state law, although the state legislature is expected to appeal the decision to the State Supreme Court.
Democrats are expected to pick up seats in 2014, but depending on the appeal and how the districts are eventually redrawn, the decision may not have much of an effect on this year's election outcome.
But in 2016, and after the next census in 2020, the shift could be permanent and profound.

2.TISA - if you didn't like (NAFTA, CAFTA, TPP,) they are secret for a REASON
TISA is conceived to surpass General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) and free trade agreement (FTA) rules in restricting governments’ right to regulate and invest for the common good.
Public Services International General Secretary Rosa Pavanelli says, “We call on our affiliates to urge their national governments to withdraw from talks on this proposed Trade in Services Agreement and to mobilize workers and communities against this deal which is an assault on the public interest.

“We believe this deal is about transferring public services into the hands of private and foreign corporations motivated only by profit. This will undermine people’s rights and affordable access to vital public services such as healthcare, water and sanitation, energy, education, social services and pensions, and exploit common goods and natural resources.”

The negotiating countries are all World Trade Organization (WTO) members who represent most of the membership of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), plus eight developing countries, self-defined as “Really Good Friends of Services.” The proposed agreement aims to substantially liberalize all trade in services including in construction, financial services, public services as well as business and professional services. The agreement will decrease regulation across the board.

Pavanelli adds, “If governments are so confident that they are working in the interests of the people they represent, why do they continue to conduct these secret and undemocratic negotiations? This deal is rotten on so many fronts. It is unacceptable that our own governments are excluding us from discussion of laws and policies that will impact social and economic justice, equality and living condition for billions of people.

“Further, it appears that government leaders have learned nothing from the financial crisis: instead of adopting stronger financial regulation and supporting public investment, they surrender to the greed of corporate interests and markets in selling out our communities.”

TISA also promotes the liberalisation of so-called temporary movement of natural persons, who are actually migrant workers, without guaranteeing legal protections for their human rights. Workers are not a commodity; migration is outside the competence of trade agreements and must be dealt with through the tripartite framework of the International Labour Organization (ILO).

Public Services International is not alone in demanding that negotiating countries exclude all public services from the scope of any such agreement. The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) are supporting the demand and more than 340 major civil society organisations are united in speaking out against the deal. The groups, representing tens of millions of people in countries around the world, have signed a joint letter calling on governments and the World Trade Organization to abandon the talks.

“It’s time to call for transparency. It’s time for the media to highlight what is happening in secret. It’s time for people and workers to decide what’s best for our communities. It’s time for democracy - not for business greed,” Pavanelli says. 

One of the most underrated benefits of Edward Snowden's leaks was how they forced the US Congress to shelve the dangerous, privacy-destroying legislation– then known as Cispa – that so many politicians had been so eager to pass under the guise of "cybersecurity". Now a version of the bill is back, and apparently its authors want to keep you in the dark about it for as long as possible.
Now it's called the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (Cisa), and it is a nightmare for civil liberties. Indeed, it's unclear how this kind of law would even improve cybersecurity. The bill was marked up and modified by the Senate intelligence committee in complete secrecy this week, and only afterward was the public allowed to see many of the provisions passed under its name.
Cisa is what Senator Dianne Feinstein, the bill's chief backer and the chair of the committee, calls an "information-sharing" law that's supposed to help the government and tech and telecom companies better hand information back and forth to the government about “cyberthreat” data, such as malware. But in reality, it is written so broadly it would allow companies to hand over huge swaths of your data – including emails and other communications records – to the government with no legal process whatsoever. It would hand intelligence agencies another legal authority to potentially secretly re-interpret and exploit in private to carry out even more surveillance on the American public and citizens around the world.
Under the new provisions, your data can get handed over by the tech companies and others to the Department of Homeland Security (not exactly a civil liberties haven itself), but then it can be passed along to the nation's intelligence agencies … including the NSA. And even if you find out a company violated your privacy by handing over personal information it shouldn’t have, it would have immunity from lawsuits – as long as it acted in "good faith". It could amount to what many are calling a “backdoor wiretap”, where your personal information could end up being used for all sorts of purposes that have nothing to do with cybersecurity.
But it's not just privacy advocates who should be worried: transparency also takes a huge hit under this bill. Cisa would create a brand-new exception to the Freedom of Information Act (which is already riddled with holes), all the better to ensure everything in this particular process remains secret. 
In typical intel-committee fashion, the Foia amendment wasn't even made public until after it was passed by committee.
And despite the current administration’s unprecedented use of the Espionage Act to go after sources and whistleblowers, the intelligence committee apparently wants to give the government even more power to go after journalists' sources, indicating in the bill that the government could use data obtained beyond anything to do with actual cybersecurity to go after anyone charged under the Espionage Act. That's why the Sunshine in Government coalition sent a letter to the intelligence committee, calling on Senators to reject the bill as a clear danger to press freedom.
Given how much we've learned about the US government's willingness to re-interpret the law in secret, these two secrecy provisions don't exactly inspire confidence that Cisa won't turn into yet another mass surveillance vehicle. This is why civil liberties groups are already mobilizing against it, imploring constituents to call their representatives before the bill gets any further. Last time Cispa came around the even the White House issued a veto threat based on privacy protections. But will they have the courage to do it again?
For tech companies, it's unclear why they should trust the government on cybersecurity issues at this point. Tellingly, Google recently refused to share the code behind the now-infamous Heartbleed bug with the government before telling the public about it. The answer to why is probably linked to aNew York Times story on the Snowden documents from last year that reported the NSA has, in the past, invited companies to share information with the goal to improve cybersecurity … only to turn around and use that information to weaken it.
Even agency programs ostensibly intended to guard American communications are sometimes used to weaken protections. The NSA’sCommercial Solutions Center, for instance, invites the makers of encryption technologies to present their products to the agency with the goal of improving American cybersecurity. But a top-secret NSA document suggests that the agency’s hacking division uses that same program to develop and “leverage sensitive, cooperative relationships with specific industry partners” to insert vulnerabilities into internet security products.
No one doubts cybersecurity and the risk of criminals breaking into computer systems is a problem, but by using unprovable numbers and ridiculous fear-mongering catch-phrases like cyber-Pearl Harbor or cyber-Armegeddon, the government hopes it can approve extraordinary new powers for itself, and untold windfalls for the massive cybersecurity industrial complex. Yes, the networks at many companies have been compromised, but equating every low-level hacker or prankster with cyberwar has become a lesson in absurdity. As cybersecurity expert Peter Singer has pointed out, squirrels are a far bigger threat to take down power grids in the United States than foreign hackers.
The best thing the government could probably do for cybersecurity is get its own house in order, starting with upgrading its terribly old computer systems that, in some agencies, are running a version of Windows that’s so old, Microsoft doesn't even update it for the public anymore. Many agency websites don’t use basic HTTPS encryption, others, like the FBI, don’t use other basic forms of encryption to protect their emails. Why does the NSA continue to stockpile software vulnerabilities that could be disclosed to companies like Microsoft to make all of us safe?
The fact of the matter is the Snowden leaks have done more for cybersecurity than any info-sharing bill ever could. The major tech companies have leapt forward and are now competing on who is moresecure because of worries that the NSA, and other intelligence agencies for that matter, are snooping wherever they can. Certainly there is more to do, but eviscerating privacy rights in the process is not the solution.

4. Meet TISA: Another Major Treaty Negotiated In Secret Alongside TPP And TTIP
from the really-good-friends dept
This Wednesday evening there is to be a "Public Information Session and Discussion" (pdf) about TISA: the Trade in Services Agreement. If, like me, you've never heard of this, you might think it's a new initiative. But it turns out that it's been under way for more than a year: the previous USTR,Ron Kirk, informed Congress about it back in January 2013 (pdf). Aside from the occasionallaconic press release from the USTR, a page put together by the Australian government, and a rather poorly-publicized consultation by the European Commission last year, there has been almost no public information about this agreement. A cynic might even think they were trying to keep it quiet.
Perhaps the best introduction to TISA comes from the Public Services International (PSI) organization, a global trade union federation representing 20 million people working in public services in 150 countries. Last year, it released a naturally skeptical brief on the proposed agreement (pdf):
At the beginning of 2012, about 20 WTO members (the EU counted as one) calling themselves "The Really Good Friends of Services" (RGF) launched secret unofficial talks towards drafting a treaty that would further liberalize trade and investment in services, and expand "regulatory disciplines" on all services sectors, including many public services. The "disciplines," or treaty rules, would provide all foreign providers access to domestic markets at "no less favorable" conditions as domestic suppliers and would restrict governments' ability to regulate, purchase and provide services. This would essentially change the regulation of many public and privatized or commercial services from serving the public interest to serving the profit interests of private, foreign corporations.
The Australian government's TISA page fills in some details:
The TiSA negotiations will cover all services sectors. In addition to improved market access commitments, the negotiations also provide an opportunity to develop new disciplines (or trade rules) in areas where there has been significant developments since the WTO Uruguay Round negotiations. There negotiations will cover financial services; ICT services (including telecommunications and e-commerce); professional services; maritime transport services; air transport services, competitive delivery services; energy services; temporary entry of business persons; government procurement; and new rules on domestic regulation to ensure regulatory settings do not operate as a barrier to trade in services.
If that sounds familiar, it's because very similar language is used to describe TAFTA/TTIP, which aims to liberalize trade and investment, to provide foreign investors with access to domestic markets on the same terms as local suppliers, to limit a government's ability to regulate there by removing "non-tariff barriers" -- described above as "regulatory settings" -- and to use corporate sovereignty provisions to enforce investors' rights.

Those similarities suggest TISA is part of a larger plan that includes not just TAFTA/TTIP, but TPP too, and which aims to cement the dominance of the US and EU in world trade against a background of Asia's growing power. Indeed, it's striking how membership of TISA coincides almost exactly with that of TTIP added to TPP:
The 23 TiSA parties currently comprise: Australia, Canada, Chile, Chinese Taipei, Colombia, Costa Rica, European Union (representing its 28 Member States), Hong Kong, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Liechtenstein, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Republic of Korea, Switzerland,, Turkey and the United States.
Once more, the rising economies of the BRICS nations -- Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa -- are all absent, and the clear intent, as with TTIP and TPP, is to impose the West's terms on them. That's explicitly recognized by one of the chief proponents of TISA, the European Services Forum:
the possible future agreement would for the time being fall short of the participation of some of the leading emerging economies, notably Brazil, China, India and the ASEAN countries. It is not desirable that all those countries would reap the benefits of the possible future agreement without in turn having to contribute to it and to be bound by its rules.
The Australian government's page reveals that there have already been five rounds of negotiations -- all held behind closed doors, of course, just as with TTIP and TPP. The Public Information Session taking place in Geneva this week seems to mark the start of a new phase in those negotiations, at least allowing some token transparency. Perhaps this has been provoked by the growing public anger over the secrecy surrounding TPP and TAFTA/TTIP, and fears that the longer TISA was kept out of the limelight, the worse the reaction would be when people found out about it.

It seems appropriate, then, that the unexpected unveiling of this new global agreement should be greeted not only by an updated and more in-depth critique from the PSI -- "TISA versus Public Services" -- but also the first anti-TISA day of protest. Somehow, I don't think it will be the last.
Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or, and +glynmoody on Google+

5. Mother Arrested
At the beginning of July, 26-year-old Mallory Loyola gave birth to a baby girl. Two days later, the state of Tennessee charged her with assault. Loyola is the first woman to be arrested under a new law in Tennessee that allows the state to criminally charge mothers for potentially causing harm to their fetuses by using drugs.
The legislation, which officially took effect about a week ago, stipulates that “a woman may be prosecuted for assault for the illegal use of a narcotic drug while pregnant, if her child is born addicted to or harmed by the narcotic drug.” However, this may not actually apply to Loyola’s case. So far, there’s no evidence the young woman either used a narcotic drug or caused harm to her newborn child.
According to local news reports, Loyola tested positive for methamphetamine and admitted that she smoked that drug several days before giving birth. Meth is not considered to be a narcotic, which is a legal class of drugs that refers to opiates like heroin and prescription painkillers. Tennessee’s new law was passed specifically in response to fears about babies being exposed to opiates in utero, something that can lead to “Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome.”
“This law was sold as if it were just about illegal narcotics. But sure enough, the first case has nothing to do with illegal narcotics — and nothing actually to do with harm to anybody,” Lynn Paltrow, the executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW), one of the groups that’s firmly opposed to laws that criminalize drug use during pregnancy, told ThinkProgress. “There’s no injury. There’s just a positive drug test.”

The opposition to the new state law, which is the first of its kind in the country, isn’t driven solely by Paltrow’s group. Every major medical organization — including the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the American Public Health Association — has come out againstefforts to arrest pregnant women who use drugs. A diverse coalition of reproductive rights and criminal justice groups in Tennessee launched a huge campaign against the proposed legislation, called “Healthcare Not Handcuffs,” to point out that threatening women with criminal charges dissuades them from coming forward to get the medical help they need.

6. Jeb's Legacy cracked & fracked
Now, as the Sun Sentinel reported last week, oil companies are taking advantage of Florida's chronically lax environmental laws to begin a form of fracking — fracturing of underground rock to release oil — in sensitive areas close to the Everglades. Republicans who dominated the Legislature since Jeb's tenure have failed to approve rules to protect the Everglades from fracking and other techniques such as horizontal drilling. Jeb's Everglades pillar is cracked and fracked. -

7. Strong earthquake hits Japan, triggers tsunami near Fukushima
A magnitude-6.8 earthquake hit Japan's northern coast early Saturday morning, triggering an 8-inch tsunami and shaking buildings in Tokyo, but reportedly causing no damage. TOKYO — A strong earthquake hit Japan's northern coast Saturday near the nuclear power plant crippled in the 2011 tsunami. At least one person was injured and a small tsunami was triggered, but no damage was reported.
Japan's Meteorological Agency said the magnitude-6.8 quake struck 6 miles below the sea surface off the coast of Fukushima. The 4:22 a.m. quake shook buildings in Tokyo, about 120 miles southwest of the epicenter.
An 8-inch tsunami reached the coast of Ishinomaki Ayukawa and Ofunato about 50 minutes after the quake. Smaller waves were observed at several other locations along the coast, but changes to the shoreline were not visible on television footage aired by public broadcaster NHK. - JUST REMEMBER TEPCO SAYS - "EVERYTHINGS OK!"
8. STILL TIME TO TELL THE FCC - We Need NetNeutrality, You Need Need NetNeutrality
647,000 is the most public comments the FCC has ever received on a policy proposal. Unfortunately, Tom Wheeler is also the one pushing the plan to destroy a free and open Internet. He's clearly listening. It's time for progressives around the country to let him know that we oppose his plan and want him to instead save Net Neutrality.

In May, Vermont passed the first-ever law requiring labeling of genetically engineered foods in the U.S. And now Monsanto's suing the state of Vermont to stop the law from ever going into effect.1
This fight is crucial for the whole country, not just Vermont, because dozens of other states are poised to require labeling too—they just want someone else to go first because of the inevitable legal fight.2
And that's why Monsanto is going to war to stop Vermont dead in its tracks.
A small, rural state like Vermont doesn't have the budget for a long, drawn-out legal fight against a multinational giant like Monsanto. So they've created a legal defense fund where people can donate to help defend the law in court. 
With the help of MoveOn members, we're fighting back against Monsanto. So far, we've given a $53,000 grant to the state of Vermont's legal defense fund—which is more than half the money in the fund so far. And we're supporting dozens of MoveOn member-led campaigns pushing for GMO labeling nationwide, with organizing support, newspaper ads and more. Can you chip in $3 to help take our GMO labeling campaign to the next level?

10. Bulldoze a Florida Rain Forest for WalMart - NO PROBLEM 
ne of the world’s rarest forests, a section of Miami-Dade County’s last intact tracts of endangered pine rockland, is getting a new resident: a Walmart.
About 88 acres of rockland, a globally imperiled habitat containing a menagerie of plants, animals and insects found no place else, was sold this month by the University of Miami to a Palm Beach County developer. To secure permission for the 185,000-square-foot box store, plus an LA Fitness, a Chik-fil-A, a Chili’s and about 900 apartments, the university and the developer, Ram, agreed to set aside 40 acres for a preserve. Ram also plans to develop another 35 adjacent acres still owned by the school.
But with less than 2 percent of the vast savanna that once covered South Florida’s spiny ridge remaining, the deal has left environmentalists and biologists scratching their heads.
“You wonder how things end up being endangered? This is how. This is bad policy and bad enforcement. And shame on UM,” said attorney Dennis Olle, a board member of Tropical Audubon and the North American Butterfly Association, who wrote Florida’s lead federal wildlife agent Friday demanding an investigation.
The university said in a statement it is committed to protecting the forests — only about 2,900 acres of rockland are left outside Everglades National Park — and helped execute plans for the preserve, but would not respond to questions.
Ram, which has built dozens of strip malls and dense residential projects across Florida and the Southeast, chose the land at Coral Reef Drive and Southwest 127th Avenue because it provided a “unique chance to create … a place where people can easily walk from the neighborhood to shops and elsewhere,” CEO Casey Cummings said in a written response to questions. The site also provided easy access to highways and jobs and met a growing demand for “high-quality rental housing, shopping, fitness and dining options.”
Cummings also pointed out that the company could have built even more housing — 1,200 apartments — and added 2,000 square feet of retail to the 370,000 it has planned.
The land, originally part of the 2,100-acre Richmond Naval Air Station, has remained largely undeveloped since UM opened its South Campus in 1946 in buildings left standing after a 1945 hurricane battered the base and blew down blimp hangars. The university built primate cages on about nine acres. A half dozen buildings totaling about 70,000 square feet housed malaria research, studies on food and sound and provided storage.
Over the years, the university floated plans to build offices and apartments, but none ever materialized until 2003, when the school suggested creating an academic village. By then, the county had recognized the significance of the critical rockland that provides habitat for several endangered species including the bald eagle and indigo snake, the Florida bonneted bat, which was given federal protection last year, and two rare butterflies expected to be protected this summer. A 1984 ordinance required preserving at least 80 percent of rockland for an owner to build on land.
When the university proposed the academic village plan, county biologist John Tim Joyner said he was the only biologist working in the forest division. The UM tract, totaling 138 acres, was far more than he could manage, so the county signed off on a private survey ordered by UM.
“I agree more could have been preserved. But what they preserved complied with the code,” Joyner said. “And that was a big selling point. [UM was] not managing the land and we had no way to get them to manage the land.”
Plans for the academic village ultimately fell through, but the 2004 survey survived, becoming the basis for the conservation plan at Coral Reef Commons, the Ram project proposed in 2011 that includes the Walmart. As part of its forest preservation ordinance, the county requires land owners to allow biologists and wildlife organizations to rescue plants before construction. And that’s when concerns started circulating.
To their surprise, rescuers picking their way through the forest in June and earlier this month found a trove of rare plants outside land staked off for preservation, including the tiny endangered polygala smallii, a small flowering herb. They also spotted rare butterflies, including the Bartram’s hairstreak, one of the butterflies expected to be named to the endangered species list this summer, and the Atala hairstreak, which nearly went extinct in the middle of the 20th century.
“There was so much material there that we had to kind of prioritize. It was acres and acres,” said Jennifer Possley, a field biologist with Fairchild Tropical Garden, who has been allowed to collect as much as she can.
Federal officials say they are closely watching the project, given the pending protection of the Bartram’s hairstreak butterflies, which need a host plant, the pineland croton, that was found in the area. But officials say they are limited in what they can do. Habitat for endangered wildlife can be protected only if federal money or property is involved. And sanctions can be issued only if endangered animals — say, the eggs of a butterfly left on a croton — are killed.
“Our listed plants are very rare and a lot of that has to do with the fact that so little habitat remains. So we certainly place a great value on these species’ conservation,” said Craig W. Aubrey, South Florida Field Supervisor for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
“The butterflies that we’re evaluating are very rare, so any kind of loss to their population would certainly be concerning,” he said.
County officials say they, too, are hamstrung by an ordinance that allows them to require forest protection only when the land is developed.
“That land, until development is triggered, simply sits there. The designation [of protected forest] doesn’t automatically trigger any management or maintenance of the land,” said Craig Grossenbacher, chief of Miami-Dade County’s Natural Resources Planning Section.
And getting some land under management is better than none, he said. The 40-acre preserve is the largest since the county started the program, he said.
Grossenbacher also said large swaths of the Ram property no longer qualify as forest. Over the years UM owned it, exotics invaded much of the land or slash pines, allowed to flourish without the control of natural fires, became too thick, blocking out sunlight needed for the fragile rockland plants like the deltoid spurge, a tiny herb that grows in the crevices of the forest’s limestone floor.
In Florida, native plants are under siege. The last 50 years were particularly harsh, according to a 2002 study by the Institute for Regional Conservation that found only 23 percent of native plants are now considered safe. About 40 species grow only in the pine rocklands, which before development gobbled them up ran from Homestead north to the Miami River.
The largest remaining stretch of rockland, about 19,000 acres, exists in Everglades National Park. Outside park boundaries, the county’s Environmentally Endangered Lands Program has bought about 630 acres since 1990 and about 40 small stands are preserved with the help of Fairchild and the Institute for Regional Conservation.
Restoring more of the Walmart land would not be hard, said U.S. Fish and Wildlife biologist Mark Salvato, who pointed to the success of nearby forests maintained by Zoo Miami and the county.
“A goodly portion of that site could probably be restored given the opportunity,” he said. “We’re going to have bona fide listed species there. And if the project were taking place a few years from now, it would be open and shut. We’ve got people photographing Bartram’s hairstreak on the very terra firma they’re going to bulldoze.”
11. Native Americans and encroaching Oil Development
For many Native Americans on Fort Berthold Indian Reservation — a land that accounts for 300,000 of the 1 million barrels of oil produced by North Dakota daily — there is a difficult balance between the potential prosperity that oil and gas development can bring and the preservation of a land considered by cultural and religious tradition to be sacred. That dilemma has been brought to the fore this month since 1 million gallons of saltwater, a byproduct of oil and gas production, spewed from an underground pipeline into the badlands near Mandaree.
Crestwood Midstream Partners LP, whose subsidiary Arrow Pipeline LLC owns the pipeline, says the toxic fluid travelled a snaking, nearly 2-mile path down into a ravine, eradicating a 200-yard stretch of vegetation along its way. But the company says there is no evidence the saltwater made its way into Lake Sakakawea, which provides drinking water for the reservation.
Among residents of the reservation, there is an environmental concern not often exhibited elsewhere in North Dakota's booming oil patch. Roadside signs at Mandaree's entrance invoke the wisdom of the elders, encouraging tribal members and visitors to the reservation to respect the land and air around them.
"The elders say land is our mother," reads one. "Don't litter on our mother! Protect our mother!"
Another reads "Water and air is life! Protect our future generation!"
The leadership of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation says oil and gas development in recent years has rescued the reservation from the poverty that afflicts many reservations across the United States.
But prosperity is difficult to see in Mandaree, which had a population of just under 600 in the 2010 census. Unkempt grass rises in most lawns, some cradling abandoned vehicles or rusting propane tanks. Mangy dogs traipse the streets. The windows of some homes are boarded up or cracked.
"We should all be basking in wealth, but we're not," said 60-year-old Mandaree resident Katherine Young Bear. "We still have poverty — huge, horrible poverty — on the reservation."
"As far as I'm concerned they should take it away and be done with it because it's killing our mother earth," she added, referring to oil and gas extraction.
The only shop in town is a small gas station convenience store. Harriet Goodiron, who works there, says radioactive oil filter socks — the tubular nets that strain liquids during the oil production process — were found near her home last year. Oil companies are supposed to haul them to approved waste facilities in other states.
Goodiron is concerned about the lasting impact of oil development on the land and its people.
"Once this is all over they're going to up and leave, with frack socks laying all over and saltwater spills in our water that we drink," she said. "Now, after that spill happened, whenever I brush my teeth, do I know that the water I'm drinking, is it safe? Is it going to give me cancer one day?"

12. STOP ISRAELI BOMBING with American Supplied Weapons

Second, CALL, CALL, CALL. Every five minutes the Israeli military drops more US-supplied weapons on the people of Gaza, we want her staff to answer as many phone calls demanding a “renegade for peace and justice” to ACT like a “renegade for peace and justice”, and to adhere to US and international law. Call Lee’s Washington office is (202)225-2661 or her Oakland office at (510) 763-0370. So far Barbara Lee has, so far as we know, said nothing about Israel’s current escalation against Palestinian civilians, not even her usual “expression of concern”. Keep your messages strong and polite.

Third, especially if you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, please consider writing letters to the editor to local newspapers and media outlets sharing your concerns. Keep the messages simple and to the point. This is not a political campaign against (or for) Barbara Lee, this is a campaign to demand respect for human rights and a rational policy. 

Share what you have done and any responses you get from Barbara Lee’s staffers, or links to letters to the editor.

13. Obama administration drops investigation into CIA spying on US Senate

The US Department of Justice announced Thursday that it would not investigate charges that the CIA had spied on members of the staff of the Senate Intelligence Committee, whitewashing the brazenly illegal actions of the US intelligence apparatus. "The department carefully reviewed the matters referred to us and did not find sufficient evidence to warrant a criminal investigation," read the Justice Department statement.
The department will also not investigate countercharges by the CIA that Senate staffers had gained unauthorized access to CIA documents, effectively equating the two and prompting the corporate-controlled media (which has largely buried the story) to portray the action as a neutral, "hands-off" position in a murky dispute between the Senate and the CIA.
The CIA surveillance of the activities of the Senate committee -- which is charged by law with oversight of the CIA -- was such a flagrant violation of the constitutional separation of powers that the panel's chairman, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, took the extraordinary step of denouncing the agency in an hour-long speech on the Senate floor on March 11.
A longtime hardline defender of the intelligence apparatus, Feinstein was visibly disturbed by what she had learned of the CIA's actions, which she said "may well have violated the separation-of-powers principle embodied in the United States Constitution," and also "the Fourth Amendment, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, as well as Executive Order 12333, which prohibits the CIA from conducting domestic searches or surveillance."
The conflict arose over the four-year campaign by the CIA to stall the Senate committee's inquiry into torture of prisoners at secret CIA-run prisons ("black sites") between 2002 and 2006 under the Bush administration. Dozens of prisoners captured in Afghanistan, Iraq and other countries were taken to these secret prisons in a half dozen countries -- Thailand, Romania and Poland among them -- and subjected to waterboarding and other forms of torture.
Bush ordered the "black sites" shut down and most of their prisoners transferred to Guantanamo in 2006, after the existence of the secret prisons became public knowledge. The Senate Intelligence Committee began an investigation in 2009 and has drafted a voluminous report, comprising more than 6,300 pages, including extensive details of both the torture operation and the efforts by the CIA to cover it up and lie to Congress and the American people.
The report was completed in 2012, but its publication has been repeatedly delayed by CIA stonewalling. At some point in 2013, staff members of the Senate committee became aware of an internal CIA document, dubbed the "Panetta review" after Leon Panetta, the CIA director who commissioned it, giving a summary of the evidence of torture. The review contradicted the official CIA position that the operations at the black sites conformed to international and US law.
When the Senate committee pressed for official release of the "Panetta review," they were told that the document was privileged material for executive branch use only. CIA Director John Brennan told Feinstein in January 2014 that the CIA had conducted a search of the Senate committee's computers in an effort to determine how the staff had obtained the document.
This search was a flagrant violation of the separation of powers set down in the US Constitution, which bars the executive branch from interfering in the internal operations and deliberations of the legislative branch.
Even more ominously, after the CIA inspector general filed a criminal referral to the Justice Department over the surveillance of the Senate committee staff, the CIA general counsel retaliated with its own criminal referral, seeking federal prosecution of the Senate staff members for alleged illegal access to classified documents. In other words, the CIA sought to criminalize any effort by Congress to supervise the CIA's own operations.
Feinstein's March 11 speech was a protest against this second referral, but it has been followed by four months of silence, both from congressional leaders, Democratic and Republican, and from the Obama administration. The Senate Intelligence Committee voted to declassify its torture report, but the White House handed over responsibility for declassification to the CIA itself -- allowing the agency to decide what portions of the report criticizing its actions should be made public. No date has yet been set for final publication of what will be a severely redacted document.
Even the way the Justice Department announced its decision underscores the supremacy of the intelligence apparatus over the elected institutions that nominally hold sway in Washington. The department informed the CIA Wednesday that it would not investigate either criminal referral, but it waited to tell the Senate committee until Thursday.
The response of leading Senate Democrats was a further demonstration of their prostration before the intelligence agencies. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid declared, "I think what the CIA did to my senators is wrong. I'm going to drop it at that."
Feinstein issued no official statement, but commented briefly to reporters, calling the Justice Department decision "good," because it ended the possibility of prosecution of her staff: "We have a lot of young people, with families, and with this it's a very hard thing to have hanging over your head. And they've done a very good job. It's just a good day."
The California senator said nothing about the whitewash of the constitutional issues involved in the CIA spying on the Senate committee, which she had made the axis of her Senate speech four months before.
The two leading "critics" of the CIA on the Senate panel did address that issue, although in terms that indicated they accepted the refusal of the Obama administration to investigate.
Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon said the CIA "still has some very serious questions to answer about the unauthorized search of Senate files and whether CIA officials believe they have the authority to do this again."
Senator Mark Udall of Colorado said, "The Justice Department's decision is troubling and draws a false equivalency between congressional staff fulfilling their constitutional obligations and an executive branch agency potentially breaking the law."
However, Udall made it clear that his concern was to restore credibility to the CIA torturers, assassins and spymasters, not to hold them accountable for their crimes. "Independent oversight of our intelligence agencies is essential for the American people to trust what they're doing to protect our national security," he concluded.
The Justice Department action was greeted by most of the press with a yawn. There were perfunctory accounts published Friday by the New York Times (on page 8) and the Washington Post (a four-paragraph wire service story). The television networks ignored the issue.
When Feinstein made her speech on the Senate floor, the World Socialist Web Site pointed to the significance of the fundamental constitutional issues raised. We wrote: "The trajectory of this conflict is an ominous warning: the criminality of the military-intelligence apparatus is metastasizing into an open onslaught on constitutional principles, including such fundamental precepts as the separation of powers."
But we warned, "Neither Feinstein nor any other capitalist politician in Washington, Democratic or Republican, is capable of serious resistance to the emergence of a police state in the United States... democratic rights are increasingly incompatible with the capitalist profit system, characterized by rampant social inequality and deepening economic crisis."
This warning has been amply vindicated in the whitewash announced by the Obama administration, and the virtual silence that has followed it. The defense of democratic rights, abandoned by every representative and faction of big business politics, must be taken up by the working class, fighting in its own class and social interests.

14. Collier Hogan - Questions abound
A source says David “It’s not a fine” Blackmon doesn’t want anyone on the Collier-Hogan site in the aftermath of the decision by Collier Resources to end their relationship with Dan A. “Stratfor” Hughes…mostly.
Blackmon had put out that he was planning a media tour for July 15th, but it’s already been cancelled.
Why are we even waiting until the 15th? Shouldn’t we be on the site now? So we can see why Collier Resources is kicking them out?
If Dan A Hughes is poisoning the aquifer, don’t we need to verify this and not rely on their word which even Collier Resources and the DEP finds suspect?
Are we going to decide that Christian “Not Gonna Frack” Spilker and Herschel “411″ Vinyard have us covered here?
It ain’t over until the frack lady sings.

15.  Confirm whether Hughes took samples of the flowback material that was trucked off the Collier-Hogan site prior to June 23, 2014, when DEP arrived to inspect the site. If samples exist, immediately provide those samples to DEP. If Hughes did not take samples of the flowback material, prior to trucking off-site, provide an explanation as to why and who, specifically at Dan A. Hughes, made the decision not to sample these materials and why DEP was not notified of this action. — Herschel Vinyard demand on letter to Dan A. Hughes, July 3, 2014
By Carl-John X. Veraja
Although dual acid frackings occurred at the Collier-Hogan site at the end of last year, the DEP waited until April 18th, 2014 before it acknowledged it. At the same time, Dan A. Hughes finally singed a consent order.
Shortly before all this, the DEP changed its surface waters standards, on March 21, 2014.  Things are crossed out, like when is a waterbody considered impaired.
On an April 16, 2014, DEP domestic wastewater documents were released. Things were crossed out on drafts, like pre-existing standards.
Also, stormwater is similarly recently addressed. The permit for the Collier-Hogan site details how these things are issues, referring to a form 14 which I have yet to locate.
Despite objections to the contrary, the DEP has only tested what was called “surficial” waters at the Collier-Hogan site.
Dan A. Hughes and Collier Resources have just announced that Dan A. Hughes will be vacating the state, except at the Collier-Hogan site.
The Collier-Hogan was drilled down to around 12,000 feet, according to DEP documents. The Conservancy of Southwest Florida has objected to the DEP’s focus on surficial waters, as well as raising other objections.
The Stonecrab Alliance and other activists want the permit revoked.
Daniel Irwin said, at a recent conference call, that flowback was still being produced at the well, 7 months later.
She said the flowback was being processed by Raider Environmental Services, Inc. of Opa Locka, Florida.
On June 5, 2014, the DEP update records pertaining to the Collier-Hogan site.
On June 6, 2014, Raider Environmental Services, Inc. formed a holding company  This generally protects the interests of the holding company from lawsuits, creditors, and debtors.
Steve Obst is listed as the owner, and Bob Mulholland is elsewhere the manager, with a Plantation, Florida location. One document possibly involved can not be retrieved at this time, not sure why, just pointing it out because I’d like to see it.
On, Bob Mulholland is also connected with EQ Florida.
Raider Environmental Services Inc. was also part of a team under the Langan Group. Perhaps there are more than one? I couldn’t determine that from state records. The Langan Group also includes Earth Tech Drilling. They repair sinkholes.
Daniel Irwin sidestepped, directing me to the EPA concerning the Raider Environmental Services.
A DEP document shows a Final FFY 2014 RCRA Work Plan and Grant Application was completed, detailing hazardous material handling, on July 30, 2013, it included Raider Environmental Services, Inc., for “used oil” among other items.
Raider Environmental Services is listed as having Department of Defense contracts. I.E. Navy. Atlantic Marine is listed as federally contracted here.
Atlantic Marine was owned by JFL-AMH Partners, LLC, a portfolio company of the private equity firm J.F. Lehman & Company. They are headed by Dr. John F. Lehman, former Sec. of the Navy under Pres. Reagan, who once quipped: “Power corrupts. Absolute power is kind of neat.”
Neat, huh?
Where is the wastewater?
Vinyard profited from Atlantic Marine, and BAE Systems, which was technically a conflict of interest as pertains him becoming head of the DEP, a public institution. It was claimed that he actually worked for Classic Act. Classic Act and Atlantic Marine have the same address according to Sec. of State documents. Also, Vinyard is listed as VP of Atlantic Marine in 2007.

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