Sunday, August 31, 2014

Post Primary Predicament 8/31/14

PNN 8/31/14
Post Primary Predicament 

Luis Cuevas - Executive Director Progressive Push
Larry Aguilar - District 79's State Representative
Susan Smith - President Democratic Progressive Coalition
Will Rankin - Candidate for Florida's CFO (Chief Financial Officer)
Athena Ford - Outreach Coordinator Florida Chain

Here is the registration link for the Health Care Reform 101 webinar 
on Thursday, September 4th at 1:00 PM.

Here is a link to join the CHAIN ReActors 
and some more information about them:


1. Heavy equipment falls into Fukushima reactor pool
TOKYO, Japan – A 400-kilogram (880-pound) machine part fell into a nuclear fuel pool at Japan's crippled Fukushima plant Friday, August 29, the operator said.

Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) said it had not detected any significant changes in radiation readings or in the level of pool water at the No. 3 reactor.

A massive earthquake and tsunami in March 2011 ravaged Japan's northeastern coast and wrecked the plant, sparking meltdowns at 3 of its 6 reactors.
Friday's incident occurred shortly after noon during a remotely controlled operation to remove debris from the fuel pool at the unit where the broken reactor still lies untouched. The pool contains 566 fuel rods, most of which are spent.

The operating console of the fuel handling machine slipped loose and fell into the pool as it was about to be lifted by a crane, TEPCO said in a statement.
The console weighed 400 kilograms and measured 160 centimeter (63 inches) by 90 cm by 100 cm, a TEPCO official said.

Radioactivity readings at the pool remained unchanged at 3.2 millisieverts per hour after the incident, the statement said.

"The operation was being remotely controlled and there were no injuries caused to workers," the official said.

The meltdowns at Fukushima were the world's worst nuclear mishap since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, and forced hundreds of thousands of local residents to evacuate nearby areas.
In a vivid reminder of the fragility of the area, a magnitude-5.0 quake struck off the Fukushima coast hours after Friday's incident.

2. Surveillance on FACEBOOK
The U.S. Government Can Brand You a Terrorist Based on a Facebook Post
Innocent people’s lives are being ruined. Why isn’t anyone watching the watchlist?
(from The Guardian)

The US government’s web of surveillance is vast and interconnected. Now we know just how opaque, inefficient and discriminatory it can be.
As we were reminded again just this week, you can be pulled into the National Security Agency’s database quietly and quickly, and the consequences can be long and enduring. Through ICREACH, a Google-style search engine created for the intelligence community, the NSA provides data on private communications to 23 government agencies. More than 1,000 analysts had access to that information.
This kind of data sharing, however, isn’t limited to the latest from Edward Snowden’s NSA files.  It was confirmed earlier this month that the FBI shares its master watchlist, the Terrorist Screening Database, with at least 22 foreign governments, countless federal agencies, state and local law enforcement, plus private contractors.
The watchlist tracks “known” and “suspected” terrorists and includes both foreigners and Americans. It’s also based on loose standards and secret evidence, which ensnares innocent people. Indeed, the standards are so low that the US government’s guidelines specifically allow for a single, uncorroborated source of information – including a Facebook or Twitter post – to serve as the basis for placing you on its master watchlist.
Of the 680,000 individuals on that FBI master list, roughly 40% have “no recognized terrorist group affiliation”,  according to the Intercept. These individuals don’t even have a connection – as the government loosely defines it – to a designated terrorist group, but they are still branded as suspected terrorists.
The absurdities don’t end there. Take Dearborn, Michigan, a city with a population under 100,000 that is known for its large Arab American community – and  has more watchlisted residents than any other city in America except New York.
These eye-popping numbers are largely the result of the US government’s use of a loose standard – so-called “reasonable suspicion” – in determining who, exactly, can be watchlisted.
Reasonable suspicion is such a low standard because it requires neither “concrete evidence” nor “irrefutable evidence”. Instead, an official is permitted to consider “reasonable inferences” and  “to draw from the facts in light of his/her experience”.
Consider a real world context – actual criminal justice – where an officer needs reasonable suspicion to stop a person in the street and ask him or her a few questions. Courts have controversially held that avoiding eye contact with an officer, traveling alone, and traveling late at night, for example, all amount to reasonable suspicion.
This vague criteria is now being used to label innocent people as terrorism suspects.
Moreover, because the watchlist isn’t limited to known, actual terrorists, an official can watchlist a person if he has reasonable suspicion to believe that the person is a suspected terrorist. It’s a circular logic – individuals can be watchlisted if they are suspected of being suspected terrorists – that is ultimately backwards, and must be changed.
The government’s self-mandated surveillance guidance also includes loopholes that permit watchlisting without even showing reasonable suspicion. For example, non-citizens can be watchlisted for being associated with a watchlisted person – even if their relationship with that person is entirely innocuous. Another catch-all exception allows non-citizens to be watchlisted, so long as a source or tipster describes the person as an “extremist”, a “militant”, or in similar terms, and the “context suggests a nexus to terrorism”. The FBI’s definition of “nexus”, in turn, is far more nebulous than they’re letting on.
Because the watchlist designation process is secret, there’s no way of knowing just how many innocent people are added to the list due to these absurdities and loopholes. And yet, history shows that innocent people are inevitably added to the list and suffer life-altering consequences. Life on the master watchlist can trigger enhanced screening at borders and airports; being on the No Fly List, which is a subset of the larger terrorist watchlist, can prevent airline travel altogether. The watchlist  can separate family members for months or yearsisolate individuals from friends and associates, and ruin employment prospects.

3. Insurers Are Fleecing Us Out of Billions While Congress Looks the Other Way
A year-long investigation by the Center for Public Integrity has revealed that health insurers may have fleeced taxpayers out of $70 billion in just five years.
You would think members of Congress in both parties would be so outraged they'd be launching their own investigation and railing against the "fraud and abuse" they decry on the campaign trail.
But I'm not holding out much hope. That's because I know just how powerful and influential the health insurance industry is and how its lobbyists almost always get what they want out of Congress and the White House, regardless of who is sitting in the Oval Office.
The Center's Medicare Advantage Money Grab investigation, led by veteran reporter Fred Schulte, found that:
  • Federal officials made nearly 70 billion in "improper" payments to Medicare Advantage plans from 2008 to 2013, mostly overbillings, by manipulating or misusing a Medicare payment tool called a "risk score."
  • Federal health officials have long kept key financial records of Medicare Advantage plans in a "black box," inaccessible to the public and press.

The findings did not come as a shock to me. During my two decades in the industry, at both Humana and Cigna, I came to understand just how much of a cash cow the Medicare Advantage program has become to insurers participating in the program. Wall Street financial analysts devote considerable attention to determining how much insurers' Medicare Advantage business contributes to their bottom lines and how much of the money they take in from the government is actually paid out in medical claims. The less they spend on medical care, the better, from Wall Street's perspective.

This is a huge business, and it's growing rapidly. This year alone, the government is expected to pay private insurers $150 billion to cover about 16 million Medicare beneficiaries. Almost one of every three Medicare enrollees now belongs to a privately operated Medicare Advantage plan.
Because the business is so profitable, insurers spend millions of dollars on lobbying, advertising, PR and "grassroots" political activities to keep the money flowing unimpeded.
It's not been a secret that the government has been overpaying the private insurers. The Congressional Budget Office has provided lawmakers with estimates of the overpayments a number of times in the past. One health policy expert testified that the extra payments to Medicare Advantage plans averaged 13 percent -- or $1,100 per enrollee -- in 2009 alone. In an effort to fix the problem, lawmakers included a provision in the Affordable Care Act to reduce the overpayments by several billion dollars over the next several years.
That prompted the industry to launch an intensive campaign to try to forestall those reductions. Having served on the strategic communications committee of America's Health Insurance Plans, I can imagine how sophisticated and multi-pronged the industry's campaign really is.
As I noted last January, AHIP formed a front group call the Coalition for Medicare Choices to intimidate lawmakers by posting ads on Washington buses and subway trains and on TV stations serving the area. The ads, which were part of a seven-figure campaign, warned that seniors would face higher costs, fewer benefits and a loss of provider choice if Congress and the Obama administration didn't act to keep plan rate cuts from going into effect.
In a POLITICO story at the time, an industry source was quoted as saying that, "If CMS (the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) doesn't keep Medicare Advantage payment rates flat next year, it is going to create a huge political problem for members of Congress this fall when they have to face millions of angry seniors who just found out they are losing benefits and choices they were promised they could keep."
The industry has played the intimidation card many times over the years, and members of Congress, Democrats as well as Republicans, know it. When I was an industry executive, we used to joke about the "granny fly-ins" -- all expenses-paid trips for hundreds of seniors to DC for a day of lobbying -- coordinated by AHIP.
Even Charles Schumer of New York, who chaired the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee from 2005-2009 and is the third ranking Democrat in the Senate, has become a champion of the Medicare Advantage program. Schumer was among 40 members of Congress who signed a letter to CMS supporting the insurers' cause earlier this year. Schumer and his colleagues wrote that seniors who join the plans "enjoy better health outcomes and receive higher quality care than their counterparts in the Medicare fee-for-service program."
The effort paid off. Health plan executives and financial analysts were happy that the relatively minor reductions were "not material to earnings," to use Wall Street jargon.

Don't Do It, Hillary! Joining Forces With Neocons Could Doom Democrats
from Salon (Paul Rosenberg)
as Hillary Clinton forgotten why she’s not president?  In light of her headline-making Atlantic interview with Jeffrey Goldberg, in which she seemingly echoed the neocons’ “who lost Syria/who lost Iraq” line, it would seem that she has. There are numerous folks around to remind her how foolish such saber-rattling is in terms of foreign policy effectiveness, but  given how smart Clinton is, she has to already know this herself — as the Atlantic’s own James Fallows noted in a typically savvy and well-crafted piece just a few days later:
Of course everyone including Clinton “knows” that you should only do something when it’s smart and not when it’s stupid. In her books and speeches, she is most impressive when showing commanding knowledge of the complexities and contradictions of negotiating with the Russians and Chinese, and why you can’t just “be tough” in dealings with them….
But in this interview — assuming it’s not “out of context” — she is often making the broad, lazy “do something” points and avoiding the harder ones. She appears to disdain the president for exactly the kind of slogan — “don’t do stupid shit” — that her husband would have been proud of for its apparent simplicity but potential breadth and depth. (Remember “It’s the economy, stupid”?)
But the problem isn’t  just that Clinton was acting deliberately stupid in foreign policy terms, for whatever reason. She was also acting deeply foolish in terms of domestic politics as well. Even if she can’t actually lose the Democratic nomination this time, such belligerent hawkishness could utterly wreck the Democratic Party, just as Lyndon Johnson wrecked it with his pursuit of the Vietnam War.
Of course it’s not popular to blame LBJ in that regard, but it’s impossible to ignore. Johnson won one of the most lopsided landslides in history in 1964, running as an anti-war candidate, and then, thanks to pursuing a war he didn’t even want, was driven out of office four years later, to be followed by 46 years now, in which Democrats have controlled the White House and both houses of Congress for a total of just eight years. Yes, it’s always been fashionable to blame anti-war forces for the wreckage Johnson wrought, but Johnson, as president, was the one who set it all in motion — by embracing a moral crusade that he didn’t even believe in.  The question is — why?  And what does this tell us about Hillary?
The most comprehensive answer I know to these questions comes from Robert Mann’s 2001 book, “A Grand Delusion: America’s Descent Into Vietnam.” Mann, a professor at LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication, is a former Senate staffer, and his book is the only account of the Vietnam War to focus substantially on the role of the Senate, beginning in the Truman administration, as the “loss of China” and the unexpected outbreak of the Korean War suddenly thrust the Democrats into the minority for the first time in 20 years. Not only were Kennedy and Johnson both shaped by their Senate experiences in the aftermath of this loss, so were many other key actors as well — but none as much as Johnson, who unexpectedly became Senate minority leader in 1952.
The quickest way I can summarize Mann’s main thrust is to quote from my own Denver Post review of the book:
[Mann’s] approach illuminates a fundamental axis of power, because the Senate long has been the primary counterweight to the presidency in foreign affairs. If it proved an especially weak counterweight in preventing the war’s often secretive and deceptive escalation, Mann’s treatment of the early Cold War era makes it clear just how strong Senate influence was in establishing the basic parameters that later led to presidential secrecy and duplicity.
…. A majority of Senate Republicans, still isolationist at least as far as Europe was concerned, voted against NATO and the Marshall Plan, but enthusiastically rallied around Joe McCarthy’s anti-communist crusade against the Truman Administration, especially after the Korean War began.
The opportunistic hypocrisy of their posturing crippled Truman’s congressional support in 1950, and captured both houses of Congress when Eisenhower swept into office two years later. But it left Eisenhower boxed in with no practical alternative but to continue Truman’s containment policies he and other Republicans had so mercilessly attacked.
The Truman-Eisenhower prelude takes up almost a third of the book, but it is time extremely well spent. Lyndon Johnson’s Senate leadership was defined by the struggle to reverse Democratic losses stemming from alleged softness toward communism, particularly in Asia. Mike Mansfield’s Senate leadership was shaped in reaction to Johnson’s style, as well as in deference to his role as President and party leader. By following the story through this formative period we gain unique insight into later behavior, such as the obsessive blindness that repeatedly prevented John F. Kennedy and Johnson from heeding the growing chorus of warning voices from Vietnam itself, from inside their administrations and from Capitol Hill.
But that’s only a brief summary. The real story has different layers of moving parts. Mansfield, for example, was so knowledgeable, Mann notes, he had been teaching Asian history as early as 1933, and in 1954, he saw everything wrong with the direction in which America eventually headed:
In his most prescient of moments, Mansfield warned that sending the American military to enter China would involve the nation “in every sense” in a “nibbling war.” “The terrain of the Indochinese conflict – the flooded deltas, the thousands of scattered villages, the jungles – is made to order for the nibbling of mechanized forces,” he said. “The French have been nibbled and chewed for years.”
The heart of the problem, Mansfield believed, was that Eisenhower continued to apply military solutions to a political problem.… Mansfield faulted the administration for having placed too much emphasis on the military power of Western nations. “Asian freedom,” he insisted, “must be defended primarily by Asians. A people whether in Asia or in the Americas, can preserve their independence only if they have it in the first place and if they are willing to fight to keep it.”
This reveals what I’m really afraid of — not so much that Clinton will swagger into quicksand over her head, like Johnson did, but more likely that she, like Mansfield, could nonetheless end up trapped into doing something that she could once have foreseen as folly.
Having been so concerned with Clinton’s reckless talk, I decided to do the sensible thing, and see if Mann saw things similarly. Unfortunately, he did.
In an interview, Mann first reaffirmed some major themes of his book. “The Truman and Democratic Party, in general, and congressional Democrats, in particular, took huge beatings at the polls in 1950 and 1952 and most of their problems involved the advance of Communism — particularly in Asia — and national security,” he said. “The public was persuaded — first by Joseph McCarthy and then by Eisenhower and Nixon — that they were weak on both.” As a result, Republicans won control of both the White House and Congress for the first time in 20 years.
“Democrats paid dearly,” Mann said. “Their defeat was catastrophic and the painful memories of it were long lasting for some leaders, particularly Lyndon Johnson. Future presidents Johnson, Kennedy, and Nixon were all in Congress at the time and the lesson was abundantly clear — don’t be weak on national security and don’t allow an inch of Asian soil to fall to the Communists.”
Mann pointed to the tapes of LBJ’s phone conversations with Georgia Sen. Richard Russell in 1964 and 1965. “It’s clear that Johnson is persuaded that he might lose his presidency unless he takes the strongest stance possible on fighting Communism in Southeast Asia,” he said. But it was a deeply misguided form of “political realism.”
“What Johnson didn’t realize is that the public had much shorter memories than the politicians,” Mann observed. “For Johnson, the electoral punishment the Democrats took in 1952 was severe and personal” — which is rather the opposite of realism. “Among his many mistakes in Vietnam was assuming the public still cared deeply about fighting Communism in Asia,” Mann continued. “It’s always perplexed me that Johnson forgot that by 1952 the public was already tired of fighting in Korea. In fact, one of the reasons the Democrats lost the 1952 elections was that Eisenhower promised to go to Korea and end the war,” which, of course, he did.
Of course, there is one line of counter-argument which Mann’s own book would support — that the Republicans  were unsurpassed in opportunistically switching positions, while keeping their moral outrage intact. Eisenhower, after all, didn’t have Nixon accusing him of treason when he made peace — just as Nixon didn’t have Nixon calling himself a traitor when he went to China. Just to underscore how convoluted and opportunistic the Republicans were during this era, consider Mann’s account of how a leading Republican senator — and presidential hopeful — responded to the 1950 elections:
The 1950 elections only confirmed [Ohio Senator Robert] Taft’s  decision to strike an even more partisan, hard-line position against Truman and the new 82nd Congress…
Taft wasted no time. In January, he launched his renewed campaign against Truman by embracing the nationalistic “Fortress America” sentiments of former Pres. Herbert Hoover, who had only recently advocated a drastic reduction of America’s military commitments around the world, especially in Europe and Asia. “We Americans alone,” Hoover said, “with sea and air power, can so control the Atlantic and Pacific oceans that there can be no possible invasion of the Western Hemisphere by Communist  armies.”
Taft, of course, had long held that the Far East was “more important to our future peace than is Europe.” He demonstrated just how much he agreed with Hoover when he formally opposed Truman’s plans to implement the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1949. Taft voted against NATO and now he stood adamantly opposed to Truman’s plan to send four divisions to protect Western Europe from the Soviet Union. In early January 1951, Taft told the Senate that the US should “commit no American troops to the European continent at this time.” When Illinois Democrat Paul Douglas reminded Taft that the fall of Western Europe would leave the Continent’s industrial potential in Soviet hands, Taft replied that, in that event, the United States could destroy those industrial facilities with bombs. Taft’s extraordinary logic was too much for J. William Fulbright of Arkansas, who interrupted to say that it was “a very shocking thing for Europeans to realize that we are willing to contemplate their destruction.”
Those who may think that today’s neocons are unprecedentedly unhinged should take note. If Republicans could make such whack-job “policy” work for them even then, the argument might go, then perhaps Clinton isn’t so crazy after all?  But that sort of thinking ignores the Democrats’ real advantages — most notably the deep popularity of their domestic political agenda. Even in 1952, Democrats still won slightly more House votes than Republicans did, and they quickly retook Congress. Eisenhower embraced the New Deal programs that earlier GOP candidates had opposed, and even Richard Nixon, two decades later, signed so many Democratic domestic bills that he’s often held up as a secret liberal — not because he was, but because he had to go along, in order to survive and focus on what mattered to him most. In the long run, Nixon was able to start bending politics in a whole new direction — but only because Johnson, acting out of fear, had opened the door for him by fracturing his own party.
And that’s what Clinton could be doing once again — only she would be undermining an emerging majority that hasn’t even gelled yet, rather than one that’s been around for a generation.
“I think you could argue that Clinton is still operating from a mindset that once influenced many Democrats to support war in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Mann said. “They got beat up badly in the early 1990s for opposing GHW Bush in Iraq and they vowed never to be caught being weak on terrorism (and use of military force) again. After 9-11, there was nothing to be gained, and everything to be lost, by appearing weak on terrorism/Iraq.”
But isn’t ISIS really evil? Well, yes, they are. Maybe even evil enough to make it clear how over the top some earlier claims of absolute evil were. And certainly evil enough to be at war with half a dozen other Muslim outfits. Which bring us to another lesson Mann points out.
“Another key lesson from my book is the mistake of looking at communism as a monolithic worldwide force,” Mann said “There were Soviet Communists, Chinese Communists, Vietnamese Communists, Yugoslavian Communists, etc. Fulbright spent a lot of time talking about how we needed to take a more sophisticated, nuanced approach to the communists. Some of his colleagues and Johnson thought he was crazy.”
And now? “Fulbright’s lesson applies to terrorists and the Muslim world,” Mann pointed out. “Not every radical Muslim is an enemy of the U.S. Not every terrorist is out to attack the U.S. Not every Muslim is radical and violent, etc. We never seem to have the capacity for any kind of sophisticated, informed assessment of the world around us. Like George W. Bush, you’re either with us or with the people who want to destroy us.” That sort of mindset is what created most of the enemies we’re facing in the first place.
In his article, Fallows made a very similar point:
Yeah, we should have “done something” in Syria to prevent the rise of ISIS. But the U.S. did a hell of a lot of somethings in Iraq over the past decade, with a lot more leverage that it could possibly have had in Syria. And the result of the somethings in Iraq was … ? A long story in the NYT tells us that the current leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the caliph himself, drew his political formation from America’s own efforts to “do something” in Iraq….
Here’s the dirtiest of dirty little secrets — and it’s not really a secret, it’s just something no one ever talks about: The entire jihadi mess we’re facing now all descends from the brilliant idea of “giving the Soviets their own Vietnam” in Afghanistan. How’s that for learning a lesson from Vietnam? Well, that’s the lesson that Jimmy Carter’s crew learned — and Ronald Reagan’s gang was only too happy to double down on.
“Finally,” Mann told me, “is the unwillingness to learn much if anything about our foes. We failed to learn about Vietnam, its people, culture and history. We refused to understand that we were fighting a nationalist insurgency that cared more about independence (mostly from China hegemony) than it did about Communism.”  Tragically, Mann quotes Kennedy on several occasions clearly seeing this — at a time when we were still merely assisting the French.
“Ho took help from the Communists because they were willing to help him fight for independence,” Mann continued. “He eventually became a committed Communist, I believe, but I don’t think he started out as one. He tried to get us to help him, because he actually thought we were serious about self determination.”
Something very similar happened when we missed the opportunity to fully support the Arab Spring. If we don’t have the courage of our own convictions, it’s folly to expect others to believe in them for us. That goes for voters here in America, too.

5. Hilary (LOVES GM FOODS)
In her June 25 keynote address to the BIO International Convention in San Diego, Calif., Hillary Clinton voiced strong support for genetic engineering and genetically engineered crops. She earned a standing ovation that day by statingthat the biotech industry suffers from a public perception problem and that it just needs “a better vocabulary” in order to persuade GMO skeptics who don’t understand “the facts” about genetic engineering.
And then Hillary proceeded to get the facts wrong.

Why does it matter what Hillary, who holds no public office and has not (yet) declared her candidacy for president, says or believes about genetic engineering and genetically modified crops and foods?
It doesn’t. Unless she throws her hat in the ring for the Democratic nomination. And then it matters not just what her position on GMOs is, not just how deep her financial ties with the biotech industry run, not just how much she distorts the facts about the “promise” of biotech crops.
It matters, deeply, to more than 90 percent of Americans, what her position is on GMO labeling laws.

If elected, will Hillary support consumers’ right to know? Or will she support the DARK Act, a billintroduced in Congress earlier this year, that would preempt state GMO labeling laws?
Hillary has been coy about announcing her candidacy. On clarifying her position on GMO labeling laws, she’s been dead silent.

As she soon heads to Iowa—the testing ground for presidential candidates—Hillary’s presidential aspirations will no doubt become more clear. If she runs, as the pundits predict, it will be up to the GMO labeling movement to demand that she take a stand on GMO labeling laws.
Meanwhile, here’s why Hillary’s speech to the BIO convention was just plain wrong.

The U.S. Government installed in February 2014 the current Ukrainian Government, which started Ukraine's civil war against the residents in Ukraine's southeast, who reject this Government. The U.S., and the Ukrainian Government that the U.S. installed, call the residents there "terrorists," for refusing to be ruled by the people that the U.S. imposed in February to lead Ukraine.
According to the man whom we installed to lead Ukraine, "by now about 50 thousand soldiers and officers appear participants in the antiterrorist operation: 'Thousands are wounded. Many families were left without a breadwinner'." That quotation is from an article that was published on August 11th by the Press Service of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Ukrainian Government. Their press release was quoting Arseniy Yatsenyuk, whom Obama's agent Victoria Nuland had selected on February 4th (18 days before the overthrow) to become the Prime Minister of Ukraine. (The transcript of the complete phone call in which the EU came to know that the U.S. had engineered this regime-change is in italics here.)
And here is the result of the bombs that our people have been dropping on those 'terrorists.'
And here is what these 'terrorists' themselves have to say about that.
Western 'news' media don't report this news, which is why all of it might come as a shock to 99% of Americans, and of the residents of other NATO countries. (That's why I provide those links: so that you can easily verify these things for yourself.)
We call this a "free press" and a "democracy." This is what America is trying to impose worldwide. But there is lots of resistance to it, not only in Ukraine, but worldwide.
People throughout the world believe overwhelmingly that the United States is the greatest threat to world peace; and if our invasion and corrupt and disastrous occupation of Iraq don't suffice to make the point, then our coup and installation of nazis into controlover Ukraine certainly should.
Why Are We Doing This?
It's not by happenstance; it's by careful design. A reader-comment at the site of a specialist on Ukraine described in the following words the February coup:
7. European Nuclear News
Spurred into action by an EU directive, and after decades of apparent inactivity, EU members are finally tackling the vexed issue of how to deal with nuclear waste.

The favoured solutions involve stocking the ultra-toxic material deep underground and it is those that we turn the spotlight on in this edition of Reporter, produced by Hans Von der Brelie.

We visit two sites where work is already underway and at which billions of euros have literally been poured into holes in the ground.

At the ANDRA facility in eastern France work has begun on entombing the country’s 80,000 cubic metres of waste in a layer of clay half a kilometre below the ground where, it is argued, it will be safe for all time. Back on the surface local villagers are very concerned, their own research having fuelled their fears.

We look at both sides of the argument.

In Finland they take a slightly different approach; drilling deep into the bedrock to bury the waste.

We also get privileged access to the site on a remote Finnish peninsula where this work is taking place.

Our reporter sees the silos where the material will be stored after being encased in copper. What he saw gives rise to some troubling questions.

Take a look at the video.

Esa Härmälä, Director General of the Energy Department in the Finnish Ministry of Economy, explains the pro-nuclear energy decision of Finland and the Finnish concept of the nuclear waste repository to be built. Euronews met him in Helsinki, to listen to the full interview (English language), please use this link.
Bonus interview: Esa Härmälä

Interview with the French anti-nuclear activist Corinne Francois (Bure Stop 55), fighting against the planned nuclear waste repository in Bure (Meuse/Haute-Marne). Euronews met her in Bar-le-Duc, to listen to the full interview (French language), you can use this link.
Interview bonus : Corinne François, militante anti-nucléaire

Interview with the French anti-nuclear activist Francois Mativet (Bure Zone Libre), fighting against the planned nuclear waste repository in Bure (Meuse/Haute-Marne). To listen to the full interview (French language), please use this link.
Interview bonus : François Mativet, militant anti-nucléaire

Here is a link you can use to listen to the interview with Alain Rolland, Technical Director of ANDRA/Bure, explaining to euronews the reasons why France wants to put its nuclear waste into a deep underground repository. Use this link (Interview in French language).
Interview bonus : Alain Rolland, directeur technique de l’ANDRA

Sunday, August 24, 2014

PNN - Footfalls of Democracy and a Kick at Cancer

PNN 8/24/14
Footfalls of Democracy and a Kick at Cancer

Ann Fonfa       cancer research
Rachel Pienta     democratic policy
Dierdre McNab   league of women voters
Drew Martin     water issues

1. Discipline and Punish Dissidents
In the wake of the Great Crash, there was no accountability for the Wall Street cheats and liars and their filthy rich clients who crashed the economy. Federal prosecutors at the Department of Justice did nothing. The US Attorneys like Preet Bahara of the Southern District of New York, Jenny Durkan of Seattle (home of WaMu) and André Birrote, Jr. of LA (home of Countrywide) made no real effort to investigate. There were no phalanxes of FBI agents deployed to figure things out, no assignment of forensic accountants, and no grand jury proceedings. The richly detailed findings of the Final Report of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, and the report of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations headed by Senators Levin and Coburn were ignored by every single US and State agency. It all worked out just as Michel Foucault said it would in his book Discipline and Punish:

"But this delinquency of wealth is tolerated by the law and, when it does find its way into the courts, it can depend upon the indulgence of the judges and the discretion of the press."

It’s over. Nothing to see here. We can’t look back. There is a difference between greed and criminality. Time to move forward together. We all have to have skin in the game. Too bad you lost yours, but that’s the great Capitalist System in action.

Not a single leader of either political party demanded prosecutions.

Black men are gunned down by police or vigilantes at an astonishing rate, one every 28 hours according to this Alternet article although as Digby says, there are no government figures on such killings. This is just the most visible part of the assaults on African-Americans. The abuse ranges from everyday harassment, stop and frisk and constant disrespect from the police and the system generally to roustings, jail arrests for driving while Black and constant fear of being killed for being while Black. How do our fellow citizens cope with this assault? Check the internets for discussions of what parents have “the talk” with their kids, as here and here. Note the media’s use of the benign phrase “the talk”, as if racism were just a fact of life, like sex. Note that “the talk” is about one-way communication, as though the young aren’t entitled to input. And note the advice the kids get: be polite, keep your hands in view, do as the cop or the authority figure tells you.

And when the kid gets killed, either by a cop or a vigilante or by a gang, there are rituals for healing: Pile up flowers, teddy bears, candles, notes, and go grieving through a burial. The shamanic advice didn’t work that time, but just go on believing it will work in the future. Be polite. Do as the authorities say, keep your hands in view. The authorities smear the dead person, and blame the dead person and muddy the evidence and do a lousy job of prosecuting.

By 2011, it was clear that the Obama Administration had no intention of jailing the Wall Street criminals, and that the Attorney General of New York, enforcer of the Martin Act (a state securities law that sets lower standards for proof in a criminal case) was going to let the crooks walk. The Occupy Movement was one response. It was purposefully nonviolent, but it was met with overwhelming militarized police force. Occupiers kept their hands in view, and they were polite but firm with authority figures, but they got pepper-sprayed, beaten, rousted, and jailed. Then? Nothing. No criminals went to jail. The occupiers were scattered, disappeared like the Amadou Diallo protesters and those who protested at every other killing of a Black person by a cop or vigilante or gangster. The cops who killed Diallo were acquitted. We’re already hearing that it won’t be possible to convict Michael Brown’s killer.

In exactly the same way, millions of people were crushed by the Great Crash. Instead of help from the authorities, they got hammered by the likes of Foam the Runway Geithner, do-nothing prosecutors, and incompetent securities law enforcement, and they got blamed for the disaster, as if it were normal for working people to be able to fool thousands of profession loan officers about their income and assets. The settlements that are being announced six years later are a big fat joke. We are all in this together, say the authorities in the economics game, including academic economists, CEOs, jackass TV commentators, Congress, the White House, the banks, the financial sector. Heal up, you slugs and get the economy going by yourselves. And give us our tax cuts and screw Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid.

The people of Ferguson aren’t sick or injured. They are outraged and they are saying so in word and deed. They don’t need to heal. They need massive changes in their lives, and at least in my opinion, that means changes in the power of entrenched authorities in both the public and private sector. Instead they get sleeping potions like a demand for healing. The 99%, crushed by the Great Crash, need changes in the power of entrenched authority too.

Healing doesn’t help. It validates the status quo. And it’s the status quo that’s sick.

2. The Torture Report

The recent revelations came as no surprise. However, now there can be no doubt that the United States tortured people. What are the repercussions? The Senate Team spent five years researching and putting the CIA torture report together. Apparently, it is quite thorough. What now?

Knowing this puts us in quite a bind. We can’t simply say (or at least we shouldn’t say), as Obama did a few years ago, that we need to look forward, not back. The flaws in this thinking are obvious, as all crimes necessarily happen in the past. With this logic, the defense of a bank robber or rapist would be very simple: “hey, that was last week. Why are you bringing it up now?”

Torture Treaties

The United States is a signer on treaties that make it clear that, should a country find out that torture has occurred, they are required to prosecute the responsible parties and impose appropriate punishment. In fact, should a government opt to not prosecute, it obligates all other countries who are a party to the treaty, to take legal action to bring the perpetrators to justice. Spain took this to heart but their efforts have thus far been subverted by U.S. pressure.


The CIA was given the right to redact the report. I’m unclear why the agency being accused of serious wrongdoing would be the one chosen for this responsibility. Not surprisingly, the report was so severely redacted that the word is, it is all but useless. No names of the torturers or the countries that allowed us to do the deeds within their borders. No names of who ordered/approved these crimes. All blacked out. As some have described, it is only a collection of verbs.

In fact, even the identities of the people tortured are redacted. Really? Why would the government care if we know the names of the people we brutalized? I suppose, one could argue that it would create additional civil liability problems for the CIA, or even worse, in the cases where the individuals were tortured to death.

The Obama Administration has said the current redactions are fine. The Senate Intelligence Committee has cried foul, stating that redactions are only supposed to be for information, that if released would harm National Security. Its purpose is not intended to hide the names of criminals or save an agency of the government from embarrassment. As for civil liability, shouldn’t we expect and even welcome paying damages to those we have damaged? Wouldn’t it be the right thing to do?

In Our Name

We should be outraged. I know I am. It brings me to tears and turns my stomach. As representatives of you and me, people did heinous, despicable, and sadistic things. Then they lied about the effectiveness of using these cruel methods to extract actionable information. Isn’t it other countries that get people to confess to crimes they did not commit with electric wires on genitals, simulated drowning (real drowning only you stop before the person dies), and beatings, etc? Not us, not my country.

People will do or say anything to make the pain stop. They will even make false statements, like Saddam Hussein was involved with al Qaeda in the attacks of September 11th. All it takes is being drowned dozens of times.

Everyday, all across this country, people get harsh sentences for minor non-violent crimes. Yet, our representatives don’t have the political will, or the stomach to bring the torturers to justice, let alone the people who approved these methods. No, the criminals are free, the media invites them on talk shows as they pretend to be elder statesmen, pursue their hobbies, and travel on book signing tours. In some cases having bragged in writing about what they did. Granted, they are occasionally inconvenienced by not being able to travel to some countries for fear of arrest. All things considered, a very small price to pay for their crimes.


What does it mean when power and money makes someone immune from prosecution? The fact is, if you are a member of the elite class and have enough power, you can torture people, you can lie us into a war and hence be responsible for thousands upon thousands of lives being cut short and suffer absolutely no consequences. You won’t even have to endure a punishment comparable to what we commonly mete out to people for simple drug possession. Is this fair? Is it just? Are we still a democracy where no one is above the law? Sadly, the answers are no, no, and no.

3.Corporations Spy on Nonprofits With Impunity

Here’s a dirty little secret you won’t see in the daily papers: corporations conduct espionage against US nonprofit organizations without fear of being brought to justice.

Yes, that means using a great array of spycraft and snoopery, including planned electronic surveillance, wiretapping, information warfare, infiltration, dumpster diving and so much more.

The evidence abounds.

For example, six years ago, based on extensive documentary evidence, James Ridgeway reported in Mother Jones on a major corporate espionage scheme by Dow Chemical focused on Greenpeace and other environmental and food activists.

Greenpeace was running a potent campaign against Dow’s use of chlorine to manufacture paper and plastics. Dow grew worried and eventually desperate.

Ridgeway’s article and subsequent revelations produced jaw-dropping information about how Dow’s private investigators, from the firm Beckett Brown International (BBI), hired:

    An off duty DC police officer who gained access to Greenpeace trash dumpsters at least 55 times;

    a company called NetSafe Inc., staffed by former National Security Agency (NSA) employees expert in computer intrusion and electronic surveillance; and,

    a company called TriWest Investigations, which obtained phone records of Greenpeace employees or contractors. BBI’s notes to its clients contain verbatim quotes that they attribute to specific Greenpeace employees.

Using this information, Greenpeace filed a lawsuit against Dow Chemical, Dow’s PR firms Ketchum and Dezenhall Resources, and others, alleging trespass on Greenpeace’s property, invasion of privacy by intrusion, and theft of confidential documents.

Yesterday, the D.C. Court of Appeals dismissed Greenpeace’s lawsuit. In her decision, Judge Anna Blackburne-Rigsby notes that “However Greenpeace’s factual allegations may be regarded,” its “legal arguments cannot prevail as a matter of law” because “the common law torts alleged by Greenpeace are simply ill-suited as potential remedies.” At this time Greenpeace has not decided whether to appeal.

The Court’s opinion focused on technicalities, like who owned the trash containers in the office building where Greenpeace has its headquarters and whether the claim of intrusion triggers a one year or three year statute of limitations. But, whether or not the Court’s legal analyses hold water, the outcome – no legal remedies for grave abuses – is lamentable.

Greenpeace’s lawsuit “will endure in the historical record to educate the public about the extent to which big business will go to stifle First Amendment protected activities,” wrote lawyer Heidi Boghosian, author of Spying on Democracy. “It is crucially important that organizations and individuals continue to challenge such practices in court while also bringing notice of them to the media and to the public at large.”

This is hardly the only case of corporate espionage against nonprofits. Last year, my colleagues produced a report titled Spooky Business, which documented 27 sets of stories involving corporate espionage against nonprofits, activists and whistleblowers. Most of the stories occurred in the US, but some occurred in the UK, France and Ecuador. None of the US-based cases has resulted in a verdict or settlement or even any meaningful public accountability. In contrast, in France there was a judgment against Electricite de France for spying on Greenpeace, and in the UK there is an ongoing effort regarding News Corp/News of the World and phone hacking.

Spooky Business found that “Many of the world’s largest corporations and their trade associations – including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Walmart, Monsanto, Bank of America, Dow Chemical, Kraft, Coca-Cola, Chevron, Burger King, McDonald’s, Shell, BP, BAE, Sasol, Brown & Williamson and E.ON – have been linked to espionage or planned espionage against nonprofit organizations, activists and whistleblowers.”

Three examples:

    In 2011, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, its law firm Hunton & Williams, and technology and intelligence firms such as Palantir and Berico were exposed in an apparent scheme to conduct espionage against the Chamber’s nonprofit and union critics.

    Burger King was caught conducting espionage against nonprofits and activists trying to help low-wage tomato pickers in Florida.

    The Wall Street Journal reported on Walmart’s surveillance tactics against anti-Walmart groups, including the use of eavesdropping via wireless microphones.

Here’s why you should care.

This is a serious matter of civil liberties.

The citizen’s right to privacy and free speech should not be violated by personal spying merely because a citizen disagrees with the actions or ideas of a giant multinational corporation.

Our democracy can’t function properly if corporations may spy and snoop on nonprofits with impunity. This espionage is a despicable means of degrading the effectiveness of nonprofit watchdogs and activists. Many of the espionage tactics employed appear illegal and are certainly immoral.

Powerful corporations spy on each other as well, sometimes with the help of former NSA and FBI employees.

How much? We’ll never begin to know the extent of corporate espionage without an investigation by Congress and/or the Department of Justice.

While there is a congressional effort to hold the NSA accountable for its privacy invasions, there is no such effort to hold powerful corporations accountable for theirs.

Nearly 50 years ago, when General Motors hired private investigators to spy on me, it was held to account by the U.S. Senate. GM President James Roche was publicly humiliated by having to apologize to me at a Senate hearing chaired by Senator Abraham Ribicoff (D-CT). It was a memorable, but rare act of public shaming on Capitol Hill. GM also paid substantially to settle my suit for compensation in a court of law (Nader v. General Motors Corp., 307 N.Y.S.2d 647).

A public apology and monetary settlement would have been a fair outcome in the Greenpeace case too.

But in the intervening half-century our Congress has been overwhelmed by lethargy and corporate lobbyists. Today, Congress is more lapdog than watchdog.

Think of the Greenpeace case from the perspective of executives at Fortune 500 companies.

They know that Dow Chemical was not punished for its espionage against Greenpeace, nor were other US corporations held to account in similar cases.

In the future, three words may well spring to their minds when contemplating whether to go after nonprofits with espionage: Go for it. Unless the buying public votes with its pocketbook to diminish the sales of these offending companies.

Read more:

4. Microsoft - just one of the offshore PIRATES - they like the country they just don't want to pay the rent

Microsoft Corp. is currently sitting on almost $29.6 billion it would owe in U.S. taxes if it repatriated the $92.9 billion of earnings it is keeping offshore, according to disclosures in the company’s most recent annual filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The amount of money that Microsoft is keeping offshore represents a significant spike from prior years, and the levies the company would owe amount to almost the entire two-year operating budget of the company’s home state of Washington.

The company says it has "not provided deferred U.S. income taxes" because it says the earnings were generated from its "non-U.S. subsidiaries” and then "reinvested outside the U.S.” Tax experts, however, say that details of the filing suggest the company is using tax shelters to dodge the taxes it owes as a company domiciled in the United States.

In response to a request for comment, a Microsoft spokesperson referred International Business Times to 2012 U.S. Senate testimony from William J. Sample, the company’s corporate vp for worldwide tax. He said: “Microsoft’s tax results follow from its business, which is fundamentally a global business that requires us to operate in foreign markets in order to compete and grow. In conducting our business at home and abroad, we abide by U.S. and foreign tax laws as written. That is not to say that the rules cannot be improved -- to the contrary, we believe they can and should be.”

The disclosure in Microsoft’s SEC filing lands amid an intensifying debate over the fairness of U.S.-based multinational corporations using offshore subsidiaries and so-called "inversions" to avoid paying American taxes. Such maneuvers -- although often legal -- threaten to signficantly reduce U.S. corporate tax receipts during an era marked by government budget deficits.

White House officials have called the tactics an affront to "economic patriotism" and President Obama himself has derided "a small but growing group of big corporations that are fleeing the country to get out of paying taxes." In a July speech, he said such firms are "declaring their base someplace else even though most of their operations are here."

"I don't care if it's legal; it's wrong," Obama said. Meanwhile, Democratic lawmakers have been pushing legislation they say would discourage U.S. companies from avoiding taxes through offshore subsidiaries. The proposals are being promoted in advance of the 2014 elections, as polling suggests the issue could be a winner for the party. In Illinois, the issue has already taken center stage in the state’s tightly contested gubernatorial campaign.

Because Microsoft has not declared itself a subsidiary of a foreign company, the firm has not technically engaged in an inversion. However, according to a 2012 U.S. Senate investigation, the company has in recent years used its offshore subsidiaries to substantially reduce its tax bills.

That probe uncovered details of how those subsidiaries are used. In its report, the Senate's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations described what it called Microsoft’s “complex web of interrelated foreign entities to facilitate international sales and reduce U.S. and foreign tax.” The panel’s report noted that “despite the [company’s] research largely occurring in the United States and generating U.S. tax credits, profit rights to the intellectual property are largely located in foreign tax havens.” The report discovered that through those tax havens, “Microsoft was able to shift offshore nearly $21 billion (in a 3-year period), or almost half of its U.S. retail sales net revenue, saving up to $4.5 billion in taxes on goods sold in the United States, or just over $4 million in U.S. taxes each day.”

U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., said at the time: “Microsoft U.S. avoids U.S. taxes on 47 cents of each dollar of sales revenue it receives from selling its own products right here in this country. The product is developed here. It is sold here, to customers here. And yet Microsoft pays no taxes here on nearly half the income.”

Apple and General Electric, which also employ offshore subsidiaries, are the only U.S.-based companies that have more money offshore than Microsoft, according to data compiled by Citizens for Tax Justice. In all, a May report by CTJ found that “American Fortune 500 corporations are likely saving about $550 billion by holding nearly $2 trillion of ‘permanently reinvested’ profits offshore.” The report also found that “28 these corporations reveal that they have paid an income tax rate of 10 percent or less to the governments of the countries where these profits are officially held, indicating that most of these profits are likely in offshore tax havens.” 

Microsoft’s use of the offshore subsidiary tactics has exploded in the last five years, with the amount of Microsoft earnings shifted offshore jumping 516 percent since 2008, according to SEC filings.

According to Microsoft’s filings, if the company repatriates the $92.9 billion it is holding offshore, it would face a 31.9 percent U.S. corporate tax rate. U.S. law generally permits companies to deduct the foreign corporate taxes they’ve already paid from the U.S.’s official 35 percent corporate tax rate. According to CTJ's Richard Phillips, that means Microsoft's disclosure implies the company is paying just 3.1 percent in the locales where it is currently holding the cash. Phillips says such an extremely low rate strongly suggests the firm is keeping the earnings not just in relatively low-tax locales like Ireland, Singapore and others the company has disclosed, but also in smaller countries like Bermuda that are considered true tax havens.

According to a Wall Street Journal report in 2012 about companies reducing transparency about their subsidiaries, Microsoft “once disclosed more than 100 subsidiaries [but] reported just 13 in its 2003 annual report and 11 in its 2012 report.”

5.  Just a little more WAR… and we'll have PEACE

Call on President Obama and Congress to stop bombing and start asking questions.
Too often when the United States intervenes in another country it ignores the contextual and regional dynamics at its own peril. President Bush made this mistake when we invaded Iraq in 2003, and President Obama is making it again.
It’s about geopolitics.
Just as the 2003 invasion ignored the outsized role of Iran in Iraq and its influence on the Shiite political parties, the current intervention is ignoring the geopolitical dynamics of the entire region. The enemy the U.S. is fighting in Iraq today is the same enemy that Bashar Al-Assad is fighting in Syria. Yet in Syria the U.S. is arming anti-government groups working alongside the Islamic State to overthrow Al-Assad. Furthermore, U.S. allies in the region – Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Qatar –are all responsible for funding the Islamic State’s effort to overthrow President Assad.
Whether we like it or not – choose to ignore it or not – it is Iraq’s powerful and wealthy neighbors who will ultimately play a large role in deciding Iraq’s fate not American air strikes. The only way to support a positive, long-term outcome is through robust regional diplomacy that includes imposing a regional arms embargo.
It’s also about Russia.
While Russia may have plenty of its own reasons for its role in the Middle East – specifically its unwavering support for President Assad – the current state of U.S.-Russia relation is abysmal at best. Russia’s influence on Iraq’s neighbors, particularly Syria and Iran, should not be underestimated. The Obama administration should redouble its efforts to fix its ties with Russia vis-à-vis Ukraine, Edward Snowden, etc. If Russia and the United States were on talking terms, it could go a long way toward improving Middle Eastern crises.
And it is about Iraq.
The current spate of violence is largely symptomatic of Iraq’s political and economic turmoil of the last decade. The 2003 U.S. invasion dismantled Iraq’s political and security institutions and replaced them with a largely sectarian Shiite majority government that systematically disenfranchised the Sunni minority both politically and economically.
The quick advance and capture of Iraqi territory by the Islamic State would have been impossible if not for the tacit support from Sunni leaders who felt excluded from governance in Iraq. The only way forward is for the U.S. to support an inclusive Iraqi government that represents the interests of all Iraqis including the Sunnis and other minority groups.
Tell President Obama and Congress: Don't repeat the same mistakes of the past decade.
There are no simple, quick fixes to the violence in Iraq, and U.S. influence is limited. If the United States is serious about building a stable and secure Iraq, then it would immediately end the tried and failed approach of air strikes and military action and commit to a long-term strategy that would work for the benefit of all Iraqis.

6. SWAT Lobby to Congress: Hands Off Our Mine-Resistant Vehicles!

Congressional lawmakers aren’t so hot on the idea of military equipment going to local cops anymore, and that makes national police organizations nervous.

n an attempt to counter widespread concern over “militarized” local police departments, law enforcement groups are pressing Capitol Hill to not cut off the supply of armored vehicles, body armor and other military equipment to the nation’s cops.

This week, the National Tactical Officers Association, the lobbying group for 1,600 SWAT teams across the country, emailed all legislative staffers in the House and Senate to express that they shared in “our nation’s grief” over the events in Ferguson, Missouri.

But their ultimate message was unmistakable: Don’t take away our gear.

“The police have to be one step ahead of the criminal element, have to be prepared for the worst-case scenario. You don’t want a community to be taken over by one or many criminals,” NTOA Executive Director Mark Lomax explained to The Daily Beast. “We’re definitely for equipping our law enforcement officials out there properly, with proper training and proper policies.”

So far, most of the conversation in Washington, D.C., has tended in the other direction, and a number of lawmakers say they want to curtail or eliminate the transfer of military equipment to civilian law enforcement.

Republican Sen. Rand Paul’s office is considering introducing a bill that would prohibit all transfers of weapons from the military to law enforcement officials, establishing a kind of church-state boundary that couldn’t be crossed. Elsewhere in the Capitol, the idea of having House Republicans defund the Pentagon’s weapons transfer program is also being mulled over.

Democrats have also expressed concern over the issue. Rep. Hank Johnson is rallying his colleagues behind a bill that would reform the Pentagon’s 1033 program, which facilitates the transfer of equipment to law enforcement, while Sen. Carl Levin said that the Senate Armed Services Committee would reassess it the program.

“Congress established this program out of real concern that local law enforcement agencies were literally outgunned by drug criminals,” Levin said in a statement. “We will review this program to determine if equipment provided by the Defense Department is being used as intended.”

One broad criticism emerging from the unrest in Ferguson, including from the National Black Police Association, concerns the deployment of tank-like Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles by local police.

“There [is] no need to roll in urban warfare equipment anticipating and wanting a battle with citizens who only demand answers,” said Malik Aziz, national chair of the NBPA. “In many cities the acquisition of these MRAPs and other tools are almost useless… Most of these MRAPs are too big and bulky and not designed for urban environments.”

The MRAPs have garnered nationwide attention due to their imposing size, with some critics arguing that they set a confrontational tone and invite violence. But other law enforcement groups rallied to justify the usefulness of MRAPs.

“The presence of an MRAP for defensive positioning should not unnerve a law-abiding citizen,” responded Jon Adler, the national president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association. “Police officers are human and bleed like everyone else. They deserve the best protection from violent assaults, and providing them with MRAPs or advanced body armor minimizes their exposure to serious injury or death.”

Mike Willis, executive director of the United States Deputy Sheriff’s Association, ticked off possible uses for MRAPs: protection in an active shooter situation, transportation in extreme flooding, defense against Molotov cocktails during a riot, and rescue scenarios.

Law enforcement groups worry that, with all the talk of law enforcement “militarization,” a congressional response may overcompensate, depriving them not only of armored vehicles but other vital equipment offered through the 1033 program like rescue boats, generators, body armor and ATVs.

“The appropriate compromise is, let’s talk about training, which is not part of the original 1033 program,” Lomax said. “[Let’s not] throw the baby out with the bathwater… We believe that the 1033 program has done a lot for law enforcement over the last 20 years, and that it should continue, with reservations.”

7. Warrantless cell phone tracking ruled unconstitutional in federal court

Judges say Americans have an expectation of privacy in their movements and that warrantless tracking violated fourth amendment

Investigators must obtain a search warrant from a judge in order to obtain cellphone tower tracking data that is widely used as evidence to show suspects were in the vicinity of a crime, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday.

A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals determined people have an expectation of privacy in their movements and that the cell tower data was part of that. As such, obtaining the records without a search warrant is a violation of the Fourth Amendment's ban on unreasonable searches and seizures, the judges ruled.

"While committing a crime is certainly not within a legitimate expectation of privacy, if the cell site location data could place him near those scenes, it could place him near any other scene," the judges wrote. "There is a reasonable privacy interest in being near the home of a lover, or a dispensary of medication, or a place of worship, or a house of ill repute."

The ruling does not block investigators from obtaining the records — which show which calls are routed through specific towers — but simply requires a higher legal showing of probable cause to obtain a search warrant rather than a less-strict court order.

"The court soundly repudiates the government's argument that merely by using a cellphone, people somehow surrender their privacy rights," said ACLU attorney Nathan Freed Wessler, who argued the case.

The U.S. Supreme Court, while not yet ruling on cellphone tower records, in 2012 decided that attachment of GPS devices to suspects' vehicles also constituted a search under the Fourth Amendment. The justices did not, however, decided that investigators must always obtain a search warrant.

The 11th Circuit decision, which relied heavily on the GPS decision, applies in Florida, Georgia and Alabama. The judges said other circuit courts had considered similar arguments, but not in a criminal case. Ultimately the issue will likely have to be resolved by the Supreme Court.

The ruling came in the Miami case of Quartavious Davis, who is serving a 162-year prison sentence for a string of violent armed robberies. The judges refused to overturn his convictions and sentence over the cellphone tracking issue. They applied a "good faith" exception preventing authorities from being punished for relying on a law later found unconstitutional.

The cellphone tower data used at trial placed Davis near six of the armed robberies for which he was ultimately convicted.

The appeals court did agree to a separate argument by Davis that his sentence was improperly enhanced for "brandishing" a firearm, sending the case back to Miami district court for resentencing on that issue alone.


The plaintiff in a lawsuit challenging the use of the "no fly list" to bar a US citizen from boarding an aircraft said last week that he would introduce a leaked copy of the government's Watchlisting Guidance "to show just how objectionable and evidence-free Defendants' watch listing process is."

The government said it did not acknowledge the authenticity of the leaked document, and that the case should be dismissed since the Attorney General had invoked the state secrets privilege concerning core issues that it raised.

The lawsuit was filed by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) on behalf of Gulet Mohamed, who said his constitutional rights had been violated by placing him on the no fly list.

In May 2014, Attorney General Eric Holder filed a declaration asserting the state secrets privilege over documents and information that it said would be needed to litigate the case, and the government moved for dismissal of the entire matter.

Among other things, the Attorney General said that the state secrets privilege extended to the current Watchlisting Guidance that spells out the criteria and procedures for placing an individual on the no fly list.

"The Guidance sets forth, in detail, the Government's comprehensive watchlist scheme related to the identification and placement of individuals in terrorism screening watchlists," AG Holder wrote in his May 27, 2014 declaration asserting the privilege.

"If the Guidance were released, it would provide a clear roadmap to undermine the Government's screening efforts, a key counterterrorism measure, and thus, its disclosure reasonably could be expected to cause significant harm to national security," he wrote.

But then last month, the online publication The Intercept reported on the Watchlisting Guidance and published the document itself. (The Secret Government Rulebook for Labeling You a Terrorist by Jeremy Scahill and Ryan Devereaux, July 23.)

In an August 15 statement to the Court, the CAIR attorneys for Gulet Mohamed said that they would file a copy of the Guidance and another leaked document in a Notice this week.

"Plaintiff will argue that this document is relevant, not only to show just how objectionable and evidence-free Defendants' watch listing process is, but also to how this Court handles Defendants' state secrets privilege," the attorneys wrote.

In the same August 15 statement, the government said it would not confirm that the documents to be filed by CAIR are authentic, or even that they had actually been leaked.

"Defendants do not acknowledge the authenticity of the purportedly leaked documents, and will respond to the proposed Notice in due course," attorneys for the government stated.

While withholding confirmation, however, they have stopped short of affirmatively disputing that the documents are authentic.

The Gulet Mohamed case is believed to be the most recent instance of the government's use of the state secrets privilege.

In a 2011 report to Congress, the Justice Department had said it would try not to employ the privilege in a way that would require dismissal of an entire complaint.

"While invocation of the privilege may result in the dismissal of some claims, the Department's policy seeks to avoid that result whenever possible, consistent with national security interests."

But in this case, the government told the Court that nothing short of complete dismissal would do.

"If the Attorney General's privilege assertion is upheld, as it should be, the law requires that the Court then consider the consequences of the exclusion of the privileged information," the Department said in a May 28 memo elaborating its position. "Here, because properly protected national security information would go to the core of the claims and defenses, this case cannot proceed in the absence of that information, and, under established Fourth Circuit authority, the case must be dismissed."

Attorneys for the plaintiff disputed that view, and said the case could and should proceed.

"Simply put, just as federal courts in Latif and Ibrahim [other cases involving the no fly list] found a way to litigate the merits of No Fly List claims without imperiling state secrets, this Court can do so here as well," the CAIR attorneys wrote in a July 7 rejoinder. "Though Plaintiff will seek additional non-privileged information from Defendants, it is important to note at the outset that Plaintiff can, if need be, litigate this case without further discovery from Defendants," they wrote.

The case is being heard by Judge Anthony J. Trenga of the Eastern District of Virginia. He has yet to rule on the pending Government motion for dismissal on state secrets grounds.

In a move that may imply a degree of skepticism concerning the proposed application of the privilege, Judge Trenga ordered the government to submit for in camera review a copy of all documents and a summary of all testimony relevant to the case that it asserts fall under the state secrets privilege. The materials are to be provided to the Court under seal by September 7, Judge Trenga wrote in an August 6 order.

For further background, see 2008 Obama Would Have Slammed 2014 Obama for This Government Secrecy Case by Nick Baumann, Mother Jones, July 14, 2014; and Over Government Objections, Rules on No-Fly List Are Made Public by Charlie Savage, New York Times, July 23, 2014.

9. In Santa Barbara County, oil firms and environmentalists square off In Santa Barbara County, 

Seen from U.S. 101, northern Santa Barbara County looks to be mostly vineyards and cattle ranches, with majestic oak trees scattered across the dry rolling hills.

But up a narrow road, spread across the chaparral between Orcutt and Los Alamos, wells drilled deep into the shale have yielded more than 180 million barrels of oil in the 113 years since Union Oil Co. geologist William Orcutt first surveyed the area that would soon bear his name.

The bobbing pump jacks, pipelines and tanks on Orcutt Hill, not visible from the highway, now produce 3,500 barrels of oil a day for Pacific Coast Energy Co. But company managers say the 6,000-acre operation, like similar ones nearby, is threatened by a November ballot measure that would ban "high-intensity petroleum operations" in the county.

"It will, in fact, shut down onshore oil production in Santa Barbara County," said Dick Hart, who oversees Orcutt Hill for Pacific Coast Energy. "Thousands of people are going to lose their jobs."

Supporters of Measure P say it would have no effect on conventional oil drilling and leave all existing operations intact. What it would ban, they say, are aggressive oil and gas extraction methods that can trigger earthquakes, contribute to global warming, pollute aquifers and, at a time of severe drought, waste rapidly depleting groundwater supplies.

"We can't afford to let these companies use our water," said Rebecca Claassen, co-founder of Santa Barbara County Water Guardians, the group that petitioned to put the measure on the ballot.

Energy companies have fought similar measures around the country. But Santa Barbara's long history of tension between oil companies and their critics gives the Measure P campaign a symbolic weight that has not been lost on energy executives.

In 1969, the county's scenic coastline was befouled by an oil spill that served as a catalyst for the modern environmental movement and spawned some of the nation's core anti-pollution laws.

Chevron Corp. and other energy companies have hired a team of California's top political consultants to fight the measure. It would constrain land-based drilling, mainly in the hills around Lompoc, Orcutt and Santa Maria, but have no effect on platforms offshore.

The campaign has barely begun, but the two sides already are trading accusations as each tries to frame public debate on a proposal with technical aspects that can be easily misunderstood.

The most controversial procedure the measure would ban is fracking, or hydraulic fracturing — the cracking of deep underground rock formations and injection of chemical fluids to ease the extraction of oil or gas. Communities across the nation, including Los Angeles, are weighing fracking bans.

Fracking has occurred in recent years in the hills between La Cienega Boulevard and West Los Angeles College, in the Santa Susana Mountains near Porter Ranch, in the mountains around Ventura and Fillmore, and under the seafloor off Ventura.

Venoco Inc. has acknowledged fracking in late 2009 and early 2010 in the winemaking area between Los Olivos and Vandenberg Air Force Base. A rancher's chance discovery that it was taking place under his vineyards led Santa Barbara County to start requiring permits for fracking. Oil companies say the county's shale is poorly suited to fracking, and none has taken place there in the last four years.

Much of the Middle East gets water from DESAL plants. Hundreds of millions of people and 2 - 3 inches of annual rainfall...Makes the SOCAL coast look like rainforest in comparison. Santa Barbara has a DESAL plant too, but it hasn't been used in 25 years - though it is being maintained on...

But the industry has stepped up its use of steam injection in Santa Barbara County — a process Measure P would also prohibit. It involves heating water to produce steam, then shooting it into rock a mile or two deep to loosen heavy crude deposits. The Orcutt Hill site includes 100 steam wells, and Pacific Coast Energy has applied to drill 96 more.

Alarmed by efforts in Santa Barbara, San Benito and Butte counties to ban fracking, steam injection and other drilling methods, petroleum trade groups formed a campaign committee, Californians for Energy Independence. Its initial source of money — $464,483 — was Freeport-McMoRan Oil & Gas, which is planning a steam project near Lompoc. Other companies — Pacific Coast Energy and a related business, Breitburn Energy, among them — recently donated nearly $1.4 million more. Chevron's $1.2-million donation was the biggest.

Nearly a third of Santa Barbara County's 1,167 active onshore wells already use steam injection, and the ballot measure would exempt those from the ban, according to the county.

To produce steam, some operators heat recycled wastewater. But others use fresh water, so Measure P's supporters argue that oil companies are squandering scarce groundwater.

Environmentalists also say the danger of groundwater contamination was underscored last month when the state shut down 11 wells in Kern County that were used to dispose of drilling wastewater. State inspectors are checking whether toxics leaked into the underground drinking water supply. They believe acid well stimulation — which the Santa Barbara measure would also ban — was used to drill some of the oil.

"We can't afford to keep doing this in this state until we're absolutely sure that it isn't creating havoc for public health and the environment," said Kathryn Phillips, director of Sierra Club California. "The last thing you want is water that is unpotable and could never be cleaned up."

Energy companies say those fears are unfounded. Aquifers, they say, are relatively shallow, and wells that pass through them to reach deeper oil and gas deposits are sealed in concrete.

"This is a red herring," said Bob Poole, government and public affairs manager at Santa Maria Energy, a company expanding its steam drilling at the Orcutt oil field. "It's a false argument."

Critics of steam injection also cite the greenhouse gas emissions that come from burning gas to heat water. But California's cap-and-trade program to fight global warming, Poole said, requires Santa Maria Energy and other oil companies to offset increased emissions by paying for greenhouse gas reductions elsewhere.

Oil production in Santa Barbara County dates to 1886, when drilling started in Summerland. The industry has faced periodic resistance ever since, including a 1929 protest against drilling within the city of Santa Barbara, by then a popular beach getaway for the well-to-do.

The industry's biggest setback came with the uncontrolled 1969 blowout on Union Oil's Platform A, six miles off Santa Barbara. It remains the largest oil spill in California waters. It blackened beaches from Ventura to Goleta, filled Santa Barbara harbor with thick crude and killed birds, dolphins and other sea life.

County officials have been cautious in estimating Measure P's potential effect. If it passes, they say, an immediate drop in tax collections is unlikely, but a gradual decline over 20 years would occur. In 2013, oil companies paid $16 million in local property taxes, 3% of the total.

In the campaign ahead, a key focus will be whether the measure's wording might require the county to deny new permits even for conventional drilling, as oil companies contend.

"The way it's written, I would say there's some ambiguity," said Kevin Drude, deputy director of the county's Energy Division.

The measure's supporters say the county Board of Supervisors can pass legislation affirming that conventional drilling is not covered by the ban on "high-intensity" operations. The industry, they say, is overstating the measure's effect as a scare tactic.

In the fall campaign, energy companies are widely expected to outspend Measure P's supporters. Both sides agree the proposal's most receptive audience is in the prosperous coastal areas around Santa Barbara and Montecito, while strong opposition is likely in more rural, Republican and blue-collar areas around the onshore oil fields.

"People have pretty strong feelings about oil here," said Linda Krop, chief counsel of the Environmental Defense Center in Santa Barbara, "and it hasn't really changed."

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