Sunday, September 28, 2014

PNN 9/28/14 - PROGRESSIVE JOURNALIST ROUNDTABLE


PNN - 9/28/14
PROGRESSIVE JOURNALIST ROUNDTABLE
Steve Horn
Gwen H. Barry
Luis Cuevas
Dave Wilcox
Ruthann Amarietiio

Report: Treasury approved ‘excessive’ pay at bailed-out firms

1. Cleansing HISTORY… not in Orwell's Future but in Denver and Texas
Sanitizing history, removing unions, suffragettes, abolitionists, the steel strikers, the mine workers struggle, the red scare, the comstock raids, the triangle factory fire, Sinclair Lewis, Ida Tarbell, John Steinbeck and the brave Americans - Ronnie Reagan turned in when he was a unionist in Hollywood. This "cleaner" neater version of America cleansed of Selma and Ludlow is an affront to every American. It serves the Neo-monarchists and theocrats that would end once and all the experiment of American Liberty and self rule. We the people do not need a dumbed down faux-historie to love the country, we don't need to think no one protested the War to End All Wars, despite what Bernays thought. 
Stand for truth the ugly uneven truth of America, honor the struggle for a more perfect union. Respect the FACTS.


2. Senate Torture Report Vanishes
Philip Geraldi / OpEdnews
The crisis involving the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is a Godsend to politicians, which is probably why the threat actually posed by the group is being hyped as it is while the White House and Pentagon continue to change the meaning of commonly used English expressions to enable the attacking of just about anyone anywhere.
We are told that the United States will have a free hand in bombing Syria, an independent nation with which Washington is not at war. The Administration has warned that if Damascus attempts to defend itself from the air armada there will be consequences in the form of "retaliation," suggesting that the US would be striking back after being attacked. Oddly enough, my dictionary suggests that it would be the Syrians who would be retaliating, but one supposes that in the Emerald City everything is not as it seems and certain words have little or no meaning.
The welcome distraction afforded by ISIS means that the issue of Gaza, which was recently devastated by the Israelis, has largely disappeared from the mainstream media, enabling Benjamin Netanyahu to steal still more land on the West Bank for new settlements. And remember MH-17? Still a whodunit and nobody cares anymore.
Back here at home, the dispute over the Senate Intelligence Committee report on Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) torture, a hot button issue earlier this year, has also benefited, largely disappearing from sight. The meticulously researched Senate report, covering 6,000 pages and including 35,000 footnotes, apparently concluded that torturing terrorist suspects was not only illegal under the United Nations Convention on Torture, to which Washington is a signatory, it was also ineffective, producing no intelligence that was otherwise unobtainable.
Since a "forgive and forget" forward-looking White House has already indicated that no one will ever be punished for illegal actions undertaken in the wake of 9/11, why is the torture issue important beyond the prima facie case that a war crime that was authorized by the highest levels of the federal government? It is important because of its constitutional implications and its impact on rule of law in the United States, which is again being flouted by the Administration in its rush to "destroy" ISIS, which is little more than a terrorist group du jour being exploited to terrify the American public.
The crisis involving the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is a Godsend to politicians, which is probably why the threat actually posed by the group is being hyped as it is while the White House and Pentagon continue to change the meaning of commonly used English expressions to enable the attacking of just about anyone anywhere.
We are told that the United States will have a free hand in bombing Syria, an independent nation with which Washington is not at war. The Administration has warned that if Damascus attempts to defend itself from the air armada there will be consequences in the form of "retaliation," suggesting that the US would be striking back after being attacked. Oddly enough, my dictionary suggests that it would be the Syrians who would be retaliating, but one supposes that in the Emerald City everything is not as it seems and certain words have little or no meaning.
The welcome distraction afforded by ISIS means that the issue of Gaza, which was recently devastated by the Israelis, has largely disappeared from the mainstream media, enabling Benjamin Netanyahu to steal still more land on the West Bank for new settlements. And remember MH-17? Still a whodunit and nobody cares anymore.
Back here at home, the dispute over the Senate Intelligence Committee report on Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) torture, a hot button issue earlier this year, has also benefited, largely disappearing from sight. The meticulously researched Senate report, covering 6,000 pages and including 35,000 footnotes, apparently concluded that torturing terrorist suspects was not only illegal under the United Nations Convention on Torture, to which Washington is a signatory, it was also ineffective, producing no intelligence that was otherwise unobtainable.
Since a "forgive and forget" forward-looking White House has already indicated that no one will ever be punished for illegal actions undertaken in the wake of 9/11, why is the torture issue important beyond the prima facie case that a war crime that was authorized by the highest levels of the federal government? It is important because of its constitutional implications and its impact on rule of law in the United States, which is again being flouted by the Administration in its rush to "destroy" ISIS, which is little more than a terrorist group du jour being exploited to terrify the American public.
The constitutional issue, in its simplest terms, is that the CIA works for the president and when it operates without legally mandated oversight by the legislative branch and judiciary it does so in defiance of separation of powers, making the Agency little better than a secret army run by POTUS.
The inability of the Senate Committee to compel the Agency and White House to come up with an acceptable draft of its report and agreement over what parts of it can be made public is also important because it reveals that the best the US Congress can do to oversee the country's intelligence agencies is not very good at all. The past 22 months of delay in the report's release have demonstrated that the intel community, with the support of the White House, can stonewall any issue until the cows come home.
The latest account of the head-butting between the Agency and Congress reveals a bad working relationship between the Senate and CIA, while also suggesting that Langley is again closing ranks against its critics. At a top secret behind closed doors meeting on September 9, Agency Director John Brennan refused to divulge who at CIA authorized the actual intrusion into the computers being used by Senate staffers to compile their report. Brennan would also not address what the presumed legal authority to do so was. A shouting match with several Senators, all Democrats, ensued with several Senators demanding to know how Brennan could refuse to answer their questions.
The Agency had initially contended in its defense that the computer search was motivated by the alleged accessing and removal of restricted CIA reports by the Senate staffers, but it is no longer making that claim. Brennan reportedly refused to answer the two questions posed by the Senators because he did not want to "compromise" the ongoing investigations by the Justice Department and the CIA Inspector General into the computer hacking, but the committee felt he was stonewalling over questions that invited a relatively simple response. If he did not know the answers he could have said so. It might also be noted in passing that the two investigations are hardly independent, one being conducted in house by CIA and the other by a highly politicized Attorney General who will be inclined to protect the president.
CIA has also been working on its own rebuttal of the Senate report which is intended to demonstrate that torture actually worked and that no one at the Agency broke any laws. It is also reportedly seeking to redact major sections of the 60-page summary, which is the part most likely to see the light of day, an effort, which, if successful, will likely make the end product largely unreadable. It would probably also avoid including any blame or suggestion of "mission failure" which would be damaging to broader Agency political interests.
There also has been some speculation that the CIA would like to drag out the process in hopes that the Republicans will take control of the Senate in November, making any release of any part of the report unlikely. The White House has been brokering the review process between the intelligence community and Senate, but has been largely mum about its preferences. It would likely want the report to remain classified or in limbo as its release might increase pressure on President Barack Obama to do something about criminal activity that might be revealed, which would be politically dangerous ground.
CIA has also welcomed back former Director George Tenet to help in crafting its own rebuttal report that it hopes will exonerate it from any blame, or at least point the finger elsewhere. Tenet was in charge of the Agency when the torture took place, so on one hand he would be a logical choice to craft a defense, though on the other hand he would be keen to conceal any direct role on the part of himself and his accomplices, if only to preserve what remains of their reputations since there is no chance that any of them will be going to jail.
Let's review who George Tenet is. He is a Greek American from Queens who never was an actual spy or analyst but made his way upwards in the intelligence community through a series of staff positions in Congress. As senior staffer for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence he got to know many important politicians. George could talk the talk in an affable way with Bill Clinton, who eventually named him Director of Central Intelligence in 1997, and then went on to discuss baseball minutiae with George W Bush, cementing his tenure with the new Republican administration.
Tenet also presided over 9/11, which was a bit of an embarrassment for the Agency. He later utterly destroyed his own credibility when he declared that making a case for war with Iraq was a "slam dunk" before misleading both the United Nations and Secretary of State Colin Powell about the threat posed by Iraq's Saddam Hussein. Tenet later retired into some well remunerated directorships before writing a book called At the Center of the Storm whichreportedly earned him an advance of $4 million while demonstrating clearly that he is a great American hero.

So George will be reviewing what George did when he was good ol' George DCI. When I was with the government I once served in a foreign city where a new United States Consul General's residence was being built. It was so poorly constructed that there were holes in the ceilings and water running down inside the walls but the State Department Admin officer who was responsible left post before the project was completed. He came back a year later, after complaints, as the inspector to review the project. He determined that everything was just fine.

That is sort of like putting George in charge of investigating George, but if the ISIS thing continues to pick up steam everyone in the media and among the public will in any event forget that there was ever a Senate torture report. In intelligence slang, it will "be disappeared."


3.  Sampling Continues at Bayou Corne as Sinkhole Expands

Subra Company/Louisiana Environmental Action Network/Lower Mississippi River Keeper
The Assumption Parish Office of Emergency Preparedness has reported a series of expansions of the Bayou Corne sinkhole in recent days. Land and trees continue to disappear as the sinkhole grows in size. 
September 20, 2012: Approximately 25' of embankment on the east side fell into the sinkhole.
September 18, 2012: Texas Brine reported a slough-in of approximately 200' of embankment at the sinkhole.
September 17, 2012: Texas Brine reported a 20' x 20' growth of the sinkhole. 
The highest Volatile Organic Compounds concentrations were detected at Hwy 70 and Gumbo St. and Hwy 70 and Well Head Road on September 11, 2012.  Gator Stop was the location with the most frequent detectable concentrations of Volatile Organic Compounds.  All  locations tested, with the exception of Sportsman Landing, had detectable concentrations of VOCs during one or more days of the sampling period.  
Sludge Material Floating on Surface of Sink Hole
On September 8, 2012, DEQ sampled the sludge material floating on the surface of the sink hole.  The material consisted of 48.1 % Diesel Range Organics and 15% Oil Range Organics.
Boston Chemical Data received a sample of surface material from the Bayou Corne sinkhole collected on September18, 2012.  On arrival, a portion of the sample was analyzed for radiation using an alpha and beta radiation counter, and a gamma spectrometer(Oil and gas production often concentrates naturally occurring radioactive material). The remaining sample was prepared for analysis of petroleum hydrocarbons, particularly diesel fuels. The results of which are still pending.

The gamma spectral results found 5.9 picoCuries per gram of radioactive decay products of naturally-occurring uranium and thorium.   Testing of total alpha and total beta radiation showed that these were at levels about twice the natural background.
State of Louisiana data shows that hydrocarbons in the sink hole sludge are dangerously elevated, while radiation levels exceeded background by only a small amount.  Based on this limited testing, this sinkhole sludge is a hazard because of the presence of the diesel fuel, which can contaminate air and groundwater. Hydrocarbon levels may also be in the flammable range.  
Radiation is still a concern.  The State of Louisiana found much higher levels of radiation in deeper parts of   the sink hole than the place where we received our surface sample.  There is enough radiation present to show that natural underground radioactive material has been concentrated in the sink hole.  Even though the diesel hydrocarbons are currently the greater hazard, radiation testing should continue.


4. Stop Sugar Hill/Buy the Land Press Conferences
Wednesday, October 1
5-5:30 pm at both locations:
In Ft. Myers: FDEP South District Office, 2295 Victoria Avenue, Ft. Myers, FL 33902
In Ft. Pierce: FDEP Branch Office, 337 N. U.S. Hwy 1, Ft. Pierce, FL 34952
Next week is the deadline for FDEP and SFWMD comments to the Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) on the Sugar Hill Sector Plan - the DEO process is such that denial is impossible without negative comments from the agencies.
Despite what you may have seen/heard from Hendry County, all of the U.S. Sugar property in the Sugar Hill Sector Plan is included in the contract to buy U.S. Sugar land for Everglades restoration and the protection of the estuaries. Some of that property is for restoration projects and the rest of it is for swapping to get the non-U.S. Sugar lands in the EAA needed to send clean water south. Check out the attached map!
Join us to deliver a loud, clear message to FDEP, SFWMD and the Governor:
Stop the Harm
Buy the Land
Send Water South
Fund it Now
Save the Everglades
Please contact me for more information and to let us know if your organization would like to speak at the press conference.
--
Cris Costello
Regional Organizing Representative
Sierra Club
Cell: 941-914-0421
Office: 941-966-9508
cris.costello@sierraclub.org


5. PUTTING JUSTICE ON "HOLD-er"
If you ask an attorney if torture is OK, if broad based warrantless wiretapping is allowed, if wealthy private corporations can be absolved of felonies just because they are wealthy corporations, if American citizens can be executed with a no charges leveled against them or trial – it really doesn’t matter what political party they are affiliated with – a member of the bar will generally agree that none of the above statements make sense, and in fact, these statements actually contravene our laws, our treaties and our constitution.
But, if you are asking these questions of a member of the personal staff of the President of the United States, who happens to be an attorney, you can expect to get answers that turn your concepts of fair treatment under the law, constitutional guarantees and international law into shredded and masticated gloppy pulp.
Over the past decades the nation’s top attorneys, using the magic and misleading mumblings and deliberately deceptive diatribes of their clients, presidents of our United States, our Attorneys General have navigated into new territory as they justify clearly unlawful actions for their clients and set precedents, which have gone unchallenged by our elected officials, that will serve to deform the legal landscape in America for decades, generations.
As in:
“The Constitution doesn’t say every individual in the United States or every citizen is hereby granted or assured the right of habeas.”
- Alberto Gonzales, US Attorney General, Congressional hearing, 01.17.2007
“Due process and judicial process are not one in the same.”
- Eric Holder, US Attorney General, Northwestern University Law School, 03.06.2012
The retiring US Attorney General, Eric Holder, has recently claimed, after six years, that he believes that cannabis should be considered for rescheduling, removing the substance from the Department of Justice’s list of most dangerous drugs. No useful purpose, susceptible to being abused, a designation that (oddly) also applies to the drug LSD but (oddly) not to the drugs heroin, meth and cocaine.
As is obvious to any sentient being – torture is always wrong and always at the apogee of immoral human behavior, recording and storing forever the private conversations of our citizens with no judicial order violates the Constitution, killing our citizens with no trial, no judge, no jury, no charges, no right to even articulate a defense makes a mockery of the basic principles that are woven into American law as it grew out of fundamental rights recognized by humans since before our country was founded, and cannabis is essentially benign and medically important, the prohibition of which has resulted in life changing arrests for over 600,000 Americans every year that Holder has held his appointed position as US Attorney General – that’s over 3 million Americans since Barack Obama became president, 3 million Americans who are overwhelmingly African Americans and Latino Americans.
I wonder, now that he soon will be no longer ‘retained’ by his former client, if Holder will eventually confide to Katie Couric that, he really, really believes, like all moral humans, that torture is wrong, warrantless surveillance violates our rights, corporations can be charged with crimes and every person deserves a fair trial before being executed.


6. LAT and the CRUSHING  Journalistic Independence and dissent
This is old news to those of us who followed it in the 1990s and early ‘Oughts, but in light of a new film coming out about it, it’s still interesting to see The Intercept‘s Ryan Deveraux detail the orchestrated assault that destroyed Gary Webb:
Eighteen years after it was published, “Dark Alliance,” the San Jose Mercury News’s bombshell investigation into links between the cocaine trade, Nicaragua’s Contra rebels, and African American neighborhoods in California, remains one of the most explosive and controversial exposés in American journalism.
The 20,000-word series enraged black communities, prompted Congressional hearings, and became one of the first major national security stories in history to blow up online. It also sparked an aggressive backlash from the nation’s most powerful media outlets, which devoted considerable resources to discredit author Gary Webb’s reporting. Their efforts succeeded, costing Webb his career. On December 10, 2004, the journalist was found dead in his apartment, having ended his eight-year downfall with two .38-caliber bullets to the head.

Who were the perps? Reporters from the LAT, acting on orders from above – and with CIA help:
… newspapers like the Times and the Post seemed to spend far more time trying to poke holes in the series than in following up on the underreported scandal at its heart, the involvement of U.S.-backed proxy forces in international drug trafficking. The Los Angeles Times was especially aggressive. Scooped in its own backyard, the California paper assigned no fewer than 17 reporters to pick apart Webb’s reporting. While employees denied an outright effort to attack the Mercury News, one of the 17 referred to it as the “get Gary Webb team.” Another said at the time, “We’re going to take away that guy’s Pulitzer,” according to Kornbluh’s CJR piece. Within two months of the publication of “Dark Alliance,” the L.A. Times devoted more words to dismantling its competitor’s breakout hit than comprised the series itself.
The CIA watched these developments closely, collaborating where it could with outlets who wanted to challenge Webb’s reporting. Media inquiries had started almost immediately following the publication of “Dark Alliance,” and [former CIA Directorate of Intelligence staffer Nicholas] Dujmovic in “Managing a Nightmare” cites the CIA’s success in discouraging “one major news affiliate” from covering the story. He also boasts that the agency effectively departed from its own longstanding policies in order to discredit the series. “For example, in order to help a journalist working on a story that would undermine the Mercury News allegations, Public Affairs was able to deny any affiliation of a particular individual — which is a rare exception to the general policy that CIA does not comment on any individual’s alleged CIA ties.”
The attacks worked. Reporters who could get away with the sloppiest stuff so long as they attacked the approved targets (hint: nobody ever lost a 1990s gig at the WaPo, LAT, or NYT for going after Bill Clinton or Al Gore, no matter how questionable the evidence), suddenly found themselves holding Webb’s work to much higher standards than they themselves observed.
Webb’s career collapsed, and his mental state collapsed along with it. In December of 2004, unable to make a living as a journalist, having been made a pariah by persons not fit to carry his laptop, he was found dead of two gunshot wounds to the head.

Police ruled the death a suicide. Yet one of the persons who helped wreck his career copped to feeling something approaching remorse for his role in Webb’s death:

As [investigative journalist Nick] Schou reported for L.A. Weekly, in a 2013 radio interview L.A. Times reporter Jesse Katz recalled the episode, saying, “As an L.A. Times reporter, we saw this series in the San Jose Mercury News and kind of wonder[ed] how legit it was and kind of put it under a microscope. And we did it in a way that most of us who were involved in it, I think, would look back on that and say it was overkill. We had this huge team of people at the L.A. Times and kind of piled on to one lone muckraker up in Northern California.”
[...]
As much as it’s true that he suffered from a clinical depression for years and years — and even before ‘Dark Alliance’ to a certain extent — it’s impossible to view what happened to him without understanding the death of his career as a result of this story,” he explained. “It was really the central defining event of his career and of his life.”
“Once you take away a journalist’s credibility, that’s all they have,” Schou says. “He was never able to recover from that.”


7. There is no such thing as EXCESSIVE COMPENSATION when it comes to Executive Salary? [NOW - Minimum wage is another matter]
The Treasury Department approved “excessive compensation” for top corporate executives while their companies were still on the hook for the taxpayer-funded bailout, the bailout’s official watchdog SIGTARP said Wednesday, going against the pay limits that the White House had previously set.
Under the bailout legislation that Congress passed during the financial crisis, firms that received taxpayer-funded bailout money were subject to certain limits on executive compensation. In early 2009, the White House took additional steps to restrict executive pay for bailed-out firms, limiting executive pay to $500,000. Treasury went too far in making exceptions to those new rules for top-earning employees at General Motors and Ally Financial, the bailout’s Special Inspector General concluded in a new report
President Obama originally announced the executive pay restrictions with great fanfare, vowing to prevent “executives being rewarded for failure.” At the time, the Treasury Department said that compensation in the form of stocks couldn’t be paid out until after the company had repaid the government for the bailout money.  
However, it was up to Treasury to enforce the rules, and TARP’s watchdog says that officials were too lenient in making exceptions to the rules at GM and Ally. 
“Treasury approved at least $1 million in pay for every Top 25 employee in 2013 and increased compensation by 28% for GM and Ally Top 25 employees from 2009 to 2013. Treasury tripled the number of GM and Ally employees who received cash salaries exceeding $500,000 from 2009 to 2013,” the inspector general said in the report.
What’s more, the report added, “Treasury approved $3 million in pay raises, ranging from 4% to 20%, for nine GM employees in 2013, most of whom received raises in consecutive years.”
The Treasury Department pushed back strongly against the report’s findings. SIGTARP’s report “unfortunately contains many inaccuracies and omissions.,” Treasury Special Master Patricia Geoghegan said in a statement. “The record shows that the Office of the Special Master has fulfilled its obligation to balance limiting executive compensation with allowing companies to repay taxpayer assistance.”
Treasury added that executive compensation at both Ally and GM were average for their industries, about 4% below the median cash salary and 56% below the median for “total cash compensation for similar positions at similar companies,” the department said in a letter to SIGTARP. It added that there was no legislative cap on executive pay at TARP-assisted firms in the law originally passed by Congress.
But SIGTARP pointed out that Treasury had approved the exceptions to executive pay at a time when GM and Ally still had not fully repaid the government for the TARP funds they received. Ultimately, Treasury sold stock in both companies at a loss to help the companies exit the program. In December 2013, GM exited TARP after Treasury sold its shares of GM stock at a loss, ultimately costing taxpayers $11.2 billion for the bailout, the report notes. A month later, Treasury sold Ally stock at a $845 million loss. 
“Loosening limits on executive compensation for companies unable to repay TARP subjects Treasury to criticism that is rewarding top executives at companies that are losing taxpayers’ money over the interests of the taxpayers already shouldering billions of dollars in losses on those investments,” the report concludes. 
The Treasury Department said taxpayers have recovered the vast majority of the $440 billion spent on TARP and that only one of the seven companies is still under its jurisdiction. That company is Ally Financial.



8. Ray McGovern LISTED for INSULTING MADAME SECRETARY CLINTON with the BACK of his RESPECT
f you don’t know Ray McGovern yet, you probably should.
You see, Ray just beat down, in court, Hillary Clinton, the State Department, and a small part of Post-Constitutional America.
Who is this Guy?
McGovern is a changed man. He started out in the Army, then he worked for the CIA from the Kennedy administration up through the first Bush presidency, preparing the president’s daily intel brief. He was a hell of a spy. McGovern began to see the evil of much of the government’s work, and has since become an outspoken critic of the intelligence world and an advocate for free speech. He speaks on behalf of people like Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden.
Ray McGovern was put on the State Department’s Diplomatic Security BOLO list– Be On the Look Out– one of a series of proliferating government watch lists. What McGovern did to end up on Diplomatic Security’s dangerous persons list and how he got off the list are a tale of our era, Post-Constitutional America.
Offending the Queen
Ray’s offense was to turn his back on Hillary Clinton, literally.
In 2011, at George Washington University during a public event where Clinton was speaking, McGovern stood up and turned his back to the stage. He did not say a word, or otherwise disrupt anything. University cops grabbed McGovern in a headlock and by his arms and dragged him out of the auditorium by force, their actions directed from the side by a man whose name is redacted from public records. Photosof the then-71 year old McGovern taken at the time of his arrest show the multiple bruises and contusions he suffered while being arrested. He was secured to a metal chair with two sets of handcuffs. McGovern was at first refused medical care for the bleeding caused by the handcuffs. It is easy to invoke the words thug, bully, goon.
The charges of disorderly conduct were dropped, McGovern was released and it was determined that he committed no crime.
But because he had spoken back to power, State’s Diplomatic Security printed up an actual wanted poster citing McGovern’s “considerable amount of political activism” and “significant notoriety in the national media.” Diplomatic Security warned agents should USE CAUTION (their emphasis) when stopping McGovern and conducting the required “field interview.” The poster itself was classified asSensitive but Unclassified (SBU), one of the multitude of pseudo-secret categories created following 9/11.
Violations of the First and Fourth Amendments by State
Subjects of BOLO alerts are considered potential threats to the Secretary of State. Their whereabouts are typically tracked to see if they will be in proximity of the Secretary. If Diplomatic Security sees one of the subjects nearby, they detain and question them. Other government agencies and local police are always notified. The alert is a standing directive that the subject be stopped and seized in the absence of reasonable suspicion or probable cause that he is committing an offense. Stop him for being him. These directives slash across the Fourth Amendment’s prohibitions against unwarranted search and seizure, as well as the First Amendment’s right to free speech, as the stops typically occur around protests.
You Don’t Mess with Ray
Ray McGovern is not the kind of guy to be stopped and frisked based on State Department retaliation for exercising his First Amendment rights in Post-Constitution America. He sued, and won.
The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund took up the case pro bono on Ray’s behalf, suing the State Department. They first had to file a Freedom of Information Act demand to even get ahold of the internal State Department justifications for the BOLO, learning that despite all charges having been dropped against McGovern and despite having determined that he engaged in no criminal activity, the Department of State went on to open an investigation into McGovern, including his political beliefs, activities, statements and associations.
The investigative report noted “McGovern does seem to have the capacity to capture a national audience – it is possible his former career with the CIA has the potential to make him ‘attractive’ to the media.” It also cited McGovern’s “political activism, primarily anti-war.” The investigation ran nearly seven months, and resulted in the BOLO.
With the documents that so clearly crossed the First Amendment now in hand, the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund went to court. They sought, and won, an injunction against the State Department to stop the Be On the Look-Out alert against McGovern, and to force State to pro-actively advise other law enforcement agencies that it no longer stands.
McGovern’s constitutional rights lawsuit against George Washington University, where his arrest during the Clinton speech took place, and the officers who assaulted and arrested him, is ongoing.
Watch Lists in Post-Constitutional America
McGovern’s case has many touch points to the general state of affairs of post-9/11 government watchlists, such as No-Fly.
The first is that it is anonymous interests, within a vast array of government agencies, that put you on some list. You may not know what you did to be “nominated,” and you may not even know you are on a list until you are denied boarding or stopped and frisked at a public event. Placement on some watchlist is done without regard to– and often in overt conflict with– your Constitutional rights. Placement on a list rarely has anything to do with having committed any actual crime; it is based on the government’s supposition that you are a potential threat, that you may commit a crime despite there being no evidence that you are planning one.
Once you are on one watchlist, your name proliferates onto other lists. Getting access to the information you need to fight back is not easy, and typically requires legal help and a Freedom of Information Act struggle just to get the information you need to go forward. The government will fight your efforts, and require you to go through a lengthy and potentially expensive court battle.
We’ll address the irony that the government uses taxpaying citizens’ money to defend itself when it violates the Constitutional rights of taxpaying citizens another time.
Donating to The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund
Persons wishing to donate to The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund may do so online. I have no affiliation with the organization and do not benefit in any way from donations.
Full Discloure: I do know and respect Ray McGovern, and was once the subject of a State Department Be On the Lookout Alert myself, following these remarks I made about Hillarly Clinton. I have been unable to ascertain the status of my own BOLO alert but believe it is no longer in force. The State Department refuses to disclose any information to me about my status.


9. runaway gmo experiment
The discovery of rogue genetically modified wheat plants growing in an Oregon field last year was officially deemed an unsolved mystery by the U.S. Agriculture Department on Friday, even as it revealed that a similar incident in Montana is under investigation.
The new discovery involves unapproved genetically engineered (GE) wheat plants found growing at a University of Montana research center, adjacent to fields where the herbicide-resistant plants were field tested from 2000 to 2003.

While the new discovery raises questions about the regulation of such authorized tests, it is unlikely to generate the same level of alarm as the Oregon find on May 3, 2013, which involved a commercial wheat field. That prompted Japan, South Korea and Taiwan to temporarily suspend purchases of western white wheat grown throughout the Pacific Northwest.
The USDA says that while GE wheat has not been approved for sale or commercial production in the U.S., it does not pose a food safety threat. But foreign markets have rejected GE wheat, even as they have embraced other genetically engineered crops like corn, perhaps because it is so ubiquitous in processed food products.
The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) said in a news release that the two U.s. appearances of the GE wheat in the wild do not appear to be linked, as genetic testing showed the plants were from different stocks.
In the Oregon case, a small number of wheat plants genetically modified to resist the Monsanto herbicide Roundup were found growing on a single field. The service said its “thorough and scientifically detailed “ investigation had been closed without determining how they got there.
“After exhausting all leads, APHIS was unable to determine exactly how the GE wheat came to grow in the farmer’s field,” it said.

The release said that the presence of the “volunteer” plants was apparently an isolated incident and that more than 100 laboratory tests of seeds and wheat harvested from the unidentified farmer’s field found no evidence that the genetically engineered wheat had made its way into commercial products.
The agency also indicated that the wheat plants apparently were not descendants of genetically engineered wheat plants field tested in Oregon as recently as 2001, saying they bore “genetic characteristics … (that) are representative of a wheat breeding program.”
Ed Curlett, a spokesman for APHIS, explained that wheat breeders generally cross varieties to accentuate certain beneficial traits, such as resistance to a certain disease or bug, specific to the region. During such experimentation, he said, the plants initially exhibit “a lot of genetic diversity,” which is reduced as the researchers focus in on specific desirable traits. The Oregon plants appeared to be in the early stages of that process, he said.
The genetically engineered wheat plants found on July 14 at the University of Montana’s Southern Agricultural Research Center in Huntley were scattered over 1 or 2 acres adjacent to fields where Roundup-resistant wheat was field tested from 2000 to 2003 under a contract with Monsanto, according to university spokesman Tracy Ellig.
He said that scientists at the center carefully followed the USDA’s research compliance requirements, including monitoring after the field test concluded.
“This entire time we’ve always been in compliance with what USDA dictates with field testing,” he said. “We’re cooperating fully and whatever recommendations they make we will certainly follow them going forward.”
Related

Charla Marie Lord, a spokeswoman for Monsanto, said that the APHIS investigation of the Oregon incident “affirms that no genetically modified wheat is in commerce and that the commercial seed and grain supply does not contain genetically modified wheat.”
As for the Montana discovery, she likewise pointed to APHIS’ conclusion that there is no indication the wheat was used in any commercial product and said “Monsanto is fully cooperating with that investigation.”
In a statement provided to NBC News, Philip Miller, head of Monsanto’s global regulatory affairs division, said the company also continues to refine its field test practices.
“While we believe our compliance program is best in class, we continuously review our processes and procedures to improve them, including site selection, field trial isolation and verification and auditing of field trial locations,” he said.
Follow NBC News Investigations on Twitter and Facebook.

But critics say that field tests of GE crops have frequently led to contamination of natural crops. And in the case of wheat, such accidental escapes would damage farmers’ livelihoods and cripple the U.S. export market, they say.
“Just as the USDA closes one fruitless investigation, it tries to bury the story of yet another contamination,” Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety, a nonprofit public interest and environmental advocacy organization, said Friday in a statement. “USDA cannot keep treating these as isolated incidents; contamination is the inevitable outcome of GE crop technology. It’s time for Congress to take definitive action.”
10.GMOs not just for PLANTS and more
Cornell University wants to use new GMO moths on crops without a full safety review. These moths — engineered to kill off non-GMO moths on crops like cabbage, cauliflower and brussels sprouts — could have unintended effects on our health, our food system and our environment.


The USDA hasn't yet figured out what impact these GMO moths might have on areas outside the test site. And let's face it — once released, these moths are going to fly, and there is no way to control where they're going to go, or what impact they might have on plants, animals or people outside the test area. If these GMO moths change the local population of moths (like they are supposed to), what does that mean for the ecological balance of the field trial and surrounding areas? The USDA doesn't know the answer to that question, but wants to release them anyway.

Cornell's plan for this proposed field test is lacking some important precautions — they don't have a plan to ensure that the plants these GMO moths touch are kept out of the supply chain, or to monitor the area outside the test area for stray GMO moths, or a plan to destroy all GMO moths in case of an emergency.

We cannot allow the release of these insects and their manipulated DNA into the world until we know how they will impact our food system and the environment.


Thanks for taking action with us,

Sarah Alexander
Deputy Organizing Director
Food & Water Watch
act(at)fwwatch(dot)org


10. TECH CORPSE DROP ALEC??? CHANGE POLICIES?
Major Tech Companies Cut Ties With The Secretive Conservative Lobbying Organization
Several tech giants announced this week that they are dropping out of ALEC, the conservative free-market lobbying group, partly over their spread of misinformation about climate change and lobbying against efforts to curb it.
ALEC, or the American Legislative Exchange Council, works by connecting corporations with conservative legislatures and drafts conservative model legislation on everything from health policy to education. It’s also been exposed as the designer of voter suppression laws used as models in various states.
The exodus started in August, when Microsoft announced that it would cease dealings with ALEC. This Monday, Google did the same, followed in quick succession by Facebook on Tuesday, Yelp on Wednesday, and Yahoo on Thursday. Google Chairman Eric Schmidt explicitly called out the group’s climate denialism as the motivating factor for the tech giant’s separation from ALEC: “Everyone understands climate change is occurring and the people who oppose it are really hurting our children and our grandchildren and making the world a much worse place,” he said. “They’re just literally lying.” ALEC has worked to kill renewable energy programs and teach climate denial in schools.
This isn’t the first time that high-profile companies have fled from ALEC en masse. In 2012, Coca-Cola, McDonalds, Wal-Mart and others left suddenly after the revelation that ALEC supports so-called “Stand Your Ground” laws like the one used to justify Trayvon Martin’s death in Florida. How those laws relate to corporations’ business interests is anybody’s guess.



11. FBI Director Equates Protecting Personal Privacy with Lawlessness
James Comey says that moves by tech giants to offer encryption to customers allows cell phone users to "place themselves beyond the law."
FBI Director James Comey has responded to recent moves by tech giants Apple and Google to offer better encryption services on their handheld devices by suggesting that giving people the ability to protect their private communications from state law enforcement agencies is akin to lawlessness.
In recent weeks both companies have rolled out new software enhancements for their respective smartphones that make it harder for police or federal agents to obtain emails, photos, or call information that may be stored on the devices. The encryption is also designed to protect against fraud, theft, and other digital invasions. The move was widely applauded by privacy rights advocates, who in the wake of revelations about NSA surveillance practices on the U.S. population made possible by whistleblower Edward Snowden say that the American people are rightly concerned about the ways in which government agencies and law enforcement are using digital means to spy on their personal lives.
But in statements on Thursday, Comey criticized the companies. The head of the FBI said that his offices have already been in touch with Apple and Google to express the government's dismay and told reporters he could not understand why companies would “market something expressly to allow people to place themselves beyond the law.”
The Washington Post reports:
Comey’s remarks followed news last week that Apple’s latest mobile operating system, iOS 8, is so thoroughly encrypted that the company is unable to unlock iPhones or iPads for police. Google, meanwhile, is moving to an automatic form of encryption for its newest version of Android operating system that the company also will not be able to unlock, though it will take longer for that new feature to reach most consumers.
Both companies declined to comment on Comey’s remarks. Apple has said that its new encryption is not intended to specifically hinder law enforcement but to improve device security against any potential intruder.
Though Comey may not understand why such devices are increasingly appealing to customers, Apple's CEO Tim Cook seems to understand the reason very well.
In an open letter that accompanied the company's announcement of the new encryption service last week, Cook was explicit about understanding his customers' desires for increased privacy.
At Apple, Cook wrote, "we respect your privacy and protect it with strong encryption, plus strict policies that govern how all data is handled."
He also addressed the concerns raised over corporate complicity with government agencies that have been raised in the last 16 months, stating, "I want to be absolutely clear that we have never worked with any government agency from any country to create a backdoor in any of our products or services. We have also never allowed access to our servers. And we never will."
In a blog post that followed both Apple and Google's announcements to ramp up encryption, the ACLU's Chris Soghoian called decisions a "step in the right direction." He explained:
Apple's new move is interesting and important because it's an example of a company saying they no longer want to be in the surveillance business–a business they likely never intended to be in and want to get out of as quickly as possible.
This was a big step for Apple, and one that likely required significant engineering work. What is so interesting and smart about this move is that rather than telling the government that they no longer want to help the government, they re-architected iOS so they are unable to help the government. Think of it as Apple playing a game of chicken, and the company has just thrown the steering wheel out of the window.


12. Veteran Seeks Answers on Depleted Uranium
I served as a Hospital Corpsman with 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines in Operation Phantom Fury in Fallujah, Iraq. The fighting was heavy, and it was the bloodiest Marine battle since Iwo Jima. The city itself was left as a wasteland worse than anything you’d see in a Mad Max film.  There was enough loss of life, both civilian and military, to deal with without worrying about being exposed to toxic airborne chemicals. We never wore gas masks and our day-to-day clothing was barely enough to protect us from the sand, much less any chemical contamination. Fallujah, Najaf, and Basra account for almost a fourth of the chemical contamination that has been found across Iraq. 
One of the war's toxic legacies was our use of depleted uranium (DU), used to pierce through armor in different battles across Iraq. DU creates a fine dust upon impact that, when inhaled, settles into people’s bones and internal organs.  I know veterans who are unexplainably ill and have been refused testing for exposure to depleted uranium. When veterans who have been in the line of fire come home with failing health and the cause cannot be pinpointed, psychiatrists often ascribe it to mental problems.  We need to know what we were exposed to in Iraq to better understand our health problems and get the necessary treatment.
That is why my organization, Iraq Veterans Against the War, and the Center for Constitutional Rights today filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Department of Defense to get more information about where and when DU was fired in Iraq. With this information, I and other veterans can make better conclusions and decisions about our health.
This information is not only critical for veterans but for Iraqi civilians as well. It’s no secret that large numbers of birth defects have been reported across the country, and recent studies suggest that DU leads to interference with the development of a fetus during pregnancy. Reports from Basra – another site of heavy fighting where, by experts’ estimation, DU was used on a large scale – are stark. Childhood leukemia rates in Basra more than doubled between 1993 and 2007.  Local authorities estimate that in the Basra area alone, 46,000 tons of weapons debris remains, which the wind picks up and blows into people’s homes, food, and lungs.
DU is also believed to be a carcinogen, and cancer rates in Iraq are spiking. We still don’t know everything about the effects of DU, but without knowing where it was used, there is no scientific way to study them.
Our government cannot expect us to accept unexplained sickness as part of the job or to let Iraqis continue to be exposed to depleted uranium remnants. The only thing the government has to do is own up to the locations where depleted uranium was fired in Iraq so that it can be cleaned up and we can have more information about whether or not we were exposed. They are not the ones who have to live with mysterious illnesses, PTSD, amputated limbs, crippling addictions, and a distrust of the very people we risked our lives for.  With new military actions in Iraq, questions about the use of weaponized depleted uranium become even more urgent.
I, and many veterans like me, would like to see Iraq cleaned up for the current and future citizens who live there. My brothers and sisters (even two biological sisters) have bled to ensure that the country was stable at the urging of the past and present administrations, to say nothing of the fact that it didn’t remain that way. It says a lot about this country’s veterans that we are committed to getting the necessary information to help humanitarian organizations clean up the toxic sites that continue to sicken Iraqis. 


Over the last several decades, the Pentagon,conservative forces, and corporations have been systematically working to expand their presence in the K-12 learning environment and in public universities. The combined impact of the military, conservative think tanks and foundations,  and of corporatization of our public educational systems has eroded the basic democratic concept of civilian public education.  It is a trend that, if allowed to continue, will weaken the primacy of civilian rule and, ultimately, our country’s commitment to democratic ideals.
The signers of this statement believe it is urgent for all advocates of social justice, peace and the environment to recognize the dangerous nature of this problem and confront it with deliberate action.
THE THREAT TO CIVILIAN EDUCATION
The most aggressive outside effort to use the school system to teach an ideology with ominous long-term implications for society comes from the military establishment. Over the last two decades, with relatively little media coverage or public outcry, the Pentagon’s involvement in schools and students’ lives has grown exponentially. Now, for example:
  • Every school day, at least half a million high school students attend Junior ROTC classes to receive instruction from retired officers who are handpicked by the Pentagon to teach its own version of history and civics. These students are assigned “ranks” and conditioned to believe that military and civilian values are similar, with the implication that unquestioning obedience to authority is therefore a feature of good citizenship.
  • Armed forces academies are being established in some public schools (Chicago now has eight), where all students are given a heavy dose of military culture and values.
  • A network of military-related programs is spreading in hundreds of elementary and middle schools. Examples are the Young Marines and Starbase programs, and military programs that sneak into schools under the cloak of Science / Technology / Engineering / Math (STEM) education.
  • Military recruiters are trained to pursue “school ownership” as their goal (see: “Army School Recruiting Program Handbook”). Their frequent presence in classrooms, lunch areas and at assemblies has the effect of popularizing military values, soldiering and, ultimately, war.
  • Since 2001, federal law has overridden civilian school autonomy and family privacy when it comes to releasing student contact information to the military. Additionally, each year thousands of schools allow the military to administer its entrance exam — the ASVAB — to 10th-12th graders, allowing recruiters to bypass laws protecting parental rights and the privacy of minors and gain access to personal information on hundreds of thousands of students.
THE THREAT TO PUBLIC EDUCATION
Efforts by groups outside the school system to inject conservatism and corporate values into the learning process have been going on for a number of years. In a recent example of right-wing educational intervention, The New York Times reported that tea party groups, using lesson plans and coloring books, have been pushing schools to “teach a conservative interpretation of the Constitution, where the federal government is a creeping and unwelcome presence in the lives of freedom-loving Americans.”


14.'His Life Is Our Life': Tribal Elders Want Buffalo Back in the Ecosystem
By Nate Schweber, Al Jazeera America

Pact signed on Blackfeet territory establishes alliance among Native American groups to revive bison population

ate in the afternoon, dozens of young Native American children arrived in a yellow school bus and galloped across a sunny field on Montana’s Blackfeet Reservation while wearing buffalo robes as if they were superhero capes.
They play-acted a long-gone Blackfeet practice of stampeding buffalo off cliffs to harvest their meat. But the only leap on this day was taken by Landen Ground, 6, who belly-flopped onto a pile of buffalo robes as if they were autumn leaves.
“Whoo! It felt like a trampoline,” he said. “You just imagine me as a buffalo.”
But buffalo are not just a figment of the imagination. Inside a large white teepee rising from a grassy hill nearby Ervin Carlson, president of the InterTribal Buffalo Council, told a crowd gathered for atreaty ceremony that bringing buffalo herds back to North America was a vital task for Native Americans — whatever the difficulties that lie ahead in ambitious plans to restoring their place in the landscape.
“We slowly have to work on it and work it out,” said Carlson, whose group has helped coordinate the return of some 20,000 buffalo to tribal land in the U.S., including the Blackfeet’s herd of about 250 that was celebrated on Tuesday at the signing of a multitribal treaty calling for even more buffalo restoration.
The group’s work has been successful. The buffalo has long been saved from extinction, and buffalo ranches are commonplace. But conservationists say that buffalo need what they call a second recovery, a return to their historic role in the ecology of North America. Buffalo till soil with their hooves and fertilize plants and spread seeds with their waste. They create living spaces for birds, prairie dogs and other small animals and feed apex predators like bears, wolves and people.
“The buffalo is a fantastic environmentalist. We want to respect them,” said Leroy Little Bear, a member of the Blood Tribe, part of the Blackfeet Nation in Alberta, Canada, and a professor emeritus at the University of Lethbridge.
When buffalo (technically bison, not buffalo, but the name persists in common usage) were all but annihilated, from an estimated 30 million to about 1,000 by 1889, the survivors were penned in a few zoos, ranches and wildlife preserves. By the 1930s, their numbers had grown to some 20,000, though many were inbred. Conservationists call this the first recovery of the buffalo because it kept the species from dying out. But it also seeded the notion that buffalo must be kept fenced like cattle and other domestic livestock. From an ecological perspective, scientists say, buffalo went extinct.
“We need restoration in a scale and management level that allows bison to be bison, that allows bison-ness,” said Keith Aune, bison program director for the Wildlife Conservation Society.
While millions of acres that could support the return of roaming buffalo remain in western North America, cultural opposition is fierce. Ranchers and farmers in the sparsely populated parts of the rural West where buffalo restoration is most feasible have long railed against it. They argue that buffalo restoration has been accomplished by private ranchers in the U.S. and Canada, who now raise about 400,000 domesticated buffalo for meat.
The overarching problem, conservationists say, is that the opportunity was lost for communities in the West to learn to co-exist with wild buffalo. Before Western states and Canadian provinces were created and just before homesteaders settled there, the landscape was wiped clean of buffalo by unregulated hunters who killed them with the tacit support of Army commanders who were waging war on Native tribes that depended on the buffalo. Other animal populations were devastated too — including elk, deer, antelopes, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, moose and bears — but none as thoroughly as buffalo. In the 1900s, other species recovered naturally in the wild and are today a part of the cultural fabric of the West. Buffalo, conservationists say, never had that chance.
“We have a failure of the imagination in treating buffalo as a wild animal in North America. I I believe we have a historic wrong to right,” said Harvey Locke, 55, founder of the Canadian group Bison Belong, which is working to restore a wild herd of bison in Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada.
Momentum has grown in the last 15 years for ecological bison restoration. New conservation herds were founded in Grasslands National Park in Canada and to the south in Montana on land owned by a private nonprofit, the American Prairie Reserve. Bison from Yellowstone National Park were transplanted to the Fort Peck and Fort Belknap reservations in Montana, and plans are underway to reintroduce herds on the Wind River reservation in Wyoming and Badlands National Park in South Dakota.
The U.S. Department of the Interior released a report this year in support of more bison restoration, and last week three dozen scientists sent a letter to the governor of Montana that urged him to support the same. “If you’re looking at a bigger vision, you have to get people to work together,” said Arnie Dood, a native species biologist with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
Last week’s signing of a Northern Tribes Buffalo Treaty was the first of its kind since 1855, when indigenous people from the northern U.S. and southern Canada met to establish boundaries for their buffalo hunting grounds. On Tuesday tribal elders shared a pipe while seated on buffalo robes and talked of their people’s ancient connection with the animal. This connection was noted in the 1890s by pioneering ethnologist and wildlife conservationist George Bird Grinnell, who visited Blackfeet country and translated from an elder a story about how of all the animals, the earth’s creator made the buffalo the most Nat-o’-ye, meaning sacred.
“The buffalo — we call him the Iinnii — he’s our brother, our sister,” said Larry Ground, 50, a member of the Blackfeet tribe’s Crazy Dog Society, who began the treaty ceremony with drums and song. “His life is our life.”
Around a campfire, attendees agreed that ecological buffalo restoration need not be accomplished by a single sweeping act. Separate herds of buffalo could be established in different places. The buffalo could be allowed to roam as naturally as possible on as many acres as is feasible, even in fenced areas. Herd managers could work to improve the genetics of their animals. Some herds could be managed by ranchers, others by hunters, others by natural predators and some by a mix of all three.
“It’s a gradual thing. It’s not going to happen overnight,” said Peter Weaselmoccasin, 59, a member of the Blood tribe from Standoff, Alberta. “But we feel it’s time.”
Most crucial to any buffalo restoration project is the support of surrounding communities. A fine example of that, tribe members and conservationists say, happened on the Blackfeet Reservation.
“The tables have turned,” said Angela Grier, a member of Piikani Nation, part of the Blackfeet Confederacy in Alberta. “We’re here trying to take care of these animals like they once took care of us.”


15. THASHING "PUBLIC" UNIVERSITIES with KOCH funded Meglamania and THEOCRACY
When Republicans can’t spread their crazy around the government enough, they head back to college. Florida State University has announced it has hired Florida State Senator John Thrasher as its new president. A Republican running a university is not shocking news in itself, but when asked about evolution, Sen. Thrasher talked about his religious beliefs, saying: "I have a great faith in my life that has guided me in my life in a lot of things I believe in." Thus, Thrasher implied that faith and science cannot exist side by side.
When Thrasher was pressed about climate change and whether he accepted the science behind it, he would not give an answer. This appeared to induce laughter from a few students in the front row. At this, Thrasher threatened to leave the podium, declaring that he "would not be heckled."  Congratulations FSU, the new person in charge of your public institution of higher learning is a climate change-denier and creationist, who can’t enjoy the irony of it all.


16. Please Join 
AWAKE Palm Beach County 
for coalition building and progressive action! 

Sunday, October 5th, 2014 
4:00pm 
Ironworkers Hall, 1001 West 15th St. Riviera Beach, FL 33404 

Please come, bring a friend and an idea for an action project for which you are willing to take the lead, or just a willingness to jump on a couple of action projects and help out. If you have an action project you would like to see on our agenda, please send an email with "AWAKE agenda" in the subject line 



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