Sunday, February 22, 2015

PNN - Progressive Roundtable - 2-22-15

RWS - Host and Producer
Mark Pafford - Progressive Democratic Leader in Florida's Legislature
Emine Dilek - Publisher Progress Press 
Denis Campbell - Producer and Host of Three Muckrakers on iTUNES, and Publisher of UK Progressive
Prof. Wendy Lynn Lee - Anti-Fracking Activist, Publisher of the Wrench
Gwen Holden Barry - Producer and Host of There Be Monsters Webcast
Brian Stettan - Producer and Host of Progress for Democracy
Luis Cuevas - Director Progressive Push

1. The Oil Co. and the Activist- 
Cabot Continues Legal Fight Against Fracking Activist

Houston, Texas-based Cabot Oil & Gas is headed back to court again next week in an ongoing legal battle with an anti-fracking activist.
The year-and-a-half long feud between Cabot and 64-year-old Vera Scroggins appeared to be over last fall, when Susquehanna County judge Kenneth Seamans ruled she would be permanently barred from Cabot sites and must observe buffer zones ranging from 25 to 100 feet.
But Cabot is continuing to challenge her movements and wants her to be punished for allegedly coming too close to a wellpad access road last month. The two sides will meet again in a Susquehanna County courtroom on February 25th.
The legal battle made international news last year when Cabot got a sweeping court injunction against Scroggins– effectively barring her from half the county. Last March, the order was revised to be much less restrictive.
She could face fines or jail time, although her attorney Jerry Kinchy doubts she would be imprisoned.
“If there’s any merit to what they claim, the judge would hold her in contempt of court,” he says. “That could involve reimbursing them for their legal fees. In this case it would be substantial, because they fly their legal team on a private jet out of Pittsburgh.”
Scroggins is a vocal anti-fracking activist who frequently hosts unofficial tours of Susquehanna County and brings visitors to Cabot sites. The company says she has repeatedly trespassed and poses a safety risk.
Scroggins feels she’s being treated like a criminal, for allegedly coming too close to driveways.
“It must be hard work for them, because they have a whole team of lawyers getting paid big bucks, and this is as far as they’ve gotten,” she says. “How desperate can you get to go after a senior citizen?”
“We’re just trying to continue to enforce those rules– that she need not put herself or others in harm’s way,” says Cabot spokesman George Stark.
In a separate matter, the court will also consider whether Scroggins must adhere to the permanent settlement agreement, which restricts her movements near Cabot sites. Although she initially agreed to the deal, she later changed her mind and refused to sign the settlement documents.
Last fall, Cabot argued her signature was unnecessary and said the agreement should stand. In a November 6th ruling, Judge Seamans sided with the company and found that Scroggins had, in fact, agreed to the deal through her attorneys.
Kinchy argued that she had not had the opportunity to present her side. The judge later agreed and will hear her testimony at the upcoming hearing.

2. Fukushima FollowUp
However, the nearly 160 million gallons of contaminated water stored on-site pose massive logistical challenges, and examiners strongly urged Japan to consider controlled discharges of the liquid into the Pacific Ocean once it is treated.
Most of the nuclear power plants are discharging treated water. This is accomplished with negligible impact on the environment and the safety of the people.
- Juan Carlos Lentijo, leader of International Atomic Energy Agency inspection team

The situation at the crippled plant remains “very complex” and “the benefits [of discharges] could be very, very huge” said Juan Carlos Lentijo, who led the team of 15 inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency on a nine-day mission that follows surveys in April and November 2013.
Japanese officials have been reluctant to take such a step at the plant 160 miles northeast of Tokyo, fearing it might further antagonize local fishermen and other residents affected by the initial accident and its aftermath.
In the past year, Japan has succeeded in removing spent and fresh fuel from one reactor, Unit 4, and reduced the inflow of groundwater into the facility. It has also taken steps to clarify which entities are responsible for particular jobs, the IAEA team noted.
But about 80,000 gallons of groundwater continue to enter the plant per day, and building and maintaining storage tanks is increasingly taxing for the 7,000 workers toiling at the site, Lentijo’s team noted. In January, a laborer in his 50s who was inspecting an empty, 33-foot-tall storage tank fell into the vessel and died.
In wake of that accident, Japan’s nuclear regulator called on plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. to move toward discharges of treated water.
About half of the water stored on-site has been treated to remove most radioactive contaminants, the IAEA team noted, though current technology does not allow for the easy removal of tritium, an isotope of hydrogen.
Unlike other contaminants, which are suspended or dissolved in water, tritium actually modifies the water molecules and therefore is difficult to separate out. Still, tritium is considered one of the least hazardous radioactive materials produced by nuclear power plants, and Lentijo said “controlled discharges are a normal practice in the industry.”
“Most of the nuclear power plants are discharging treated water,” he said at a news conference in Tokyo. “This is accomplished with negligible impact on the environment and the safety of the people.”
Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry has solicited demonstration projects from several companies for technology that might effectively treat the tritiated water. Orange County-based Kurion said it was awarded a $10-million grant in November for a pilot programs of its technology in Japan to see if it would be effective at Fukushima.
Among its other recommendations, the IAEA team encouraged Japan to narrow down the number of options being considered for the overall decommissioning plan and to reinforce “safety leadership and safety culture” systems.
A final report from the IAEA team is expected in late March.

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3. The Great SIM CARD HACK
Sim card database hack gave US and UK spies access to billions of cellphones. International row likely after revelations of breach that could have given NSA and GCHQ the power to monitor a large portion of world’s cellular communicationsAmerican and British spies hacked into the world’s largest sim card manufacturer in a move that gave them unfettered access to billions of cellphones around the globe and looks set to spark another international row into overreach by espionage agencies.
The National Security Agency (NSA) and its British equivalent GCHQ hacked into Gemalto, a Netherlands sim card manufacturer, stealing encryption keys that allowed them to secretly monitor both voice calls and data, according to documents newly released by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The breach, revealed in documents provided to The Intercept, gave the agencies the power to secretly monitor a large portion of the world’s cellular communications, which experts said violated international laws.
Mark Rumold, staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said there was no doubt that the spy agencies had violated Dutch law and were in all probability violating laws in many other territories when they used the hacked keys.
“They have the functional equivalent of our house keys,” he said. “That has serious implications for privacy not just here in the US but internationally.”
The scale of the hack and its international reach will likely reopen wounds in the diplomatic community. The Obama administration faced intense criticism from Germany, Brazil and other nations following the Snowden leaks and has been working hard recently to repair the damage.
Previous documents disclosed by the Guardian showed Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, was the target of an NSA spying campaign, a revelation that has soured US-German relations. Brazil’s president Dilma Rousseff has already accused the NSA of violating international law.
“It’s a big breach,” Matthew Green, a cryptologist at the Johns Hopkins Information Security Institute, told the Guardian. “The problem is that the attacks could still be ongoing.”

Gemalto, the company targeted by the spy agencies, produces 2bn sim cards per year for clients including AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon. The Netherlands company operates in 85 countries around the world and provides cards to some 450 wireless network providers globally.
The stolen encryption keys would allow intelligence agencies to monitor mobile communications without the approval or knowledge of telecom companies and foreign governments.
Chris Soghoian, principal technologist at the American Civil Liberties Union, told the Guardian the hack would allow spies to “put an aerial up on the embassy in Berlin and listen in to anyone’s calls in the area”.
Calls made on 3G and 4G mobile networks are encrypted. But with the keys, which a GCHQ slide described as living “in the phone”, spies could access any communication made on a device unless its owner uses an extra layer of encryption.

4. AUMF - 

President Obama has asked Congress for a three-year war authorization to combat “ISIL or associated persons or forces,” regardless of where those forces may be. There are no geographic limitations in Obama’s proposal.
The White House has a straightforward explanation for why: “…if we pass a piece of legislation that says Congress has authorized the President to carry out the use of military force against ISIL targets in Iraq and in Syria, we don’t want anybody in ISIL to be left with the impression that if they moved to some neighboring country that they will be essentially in a safe haven and not within the range of United States military capability,” said White House press secretary Josh Earnest. “So that is why we’ve been clear about not including a geographic limitation in this proposal.”
By that logic, United States military capability could be employed anywhere ISIL is deemed to exist. As the above map shows, this is not a theoretical issue, and it’s not just countries that “neighbor” Iraq and Syria. The New York Times reported Sunday that US intelligence officials claim ISIL is moving outside Syria and Iraq “to establish militant affiliates in Afghanistan, Algeria, Egypt and Libya” and that extremists have organized under the ISIS banner in Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Yemen. Elsewhere, Agence France Presse has reported that in the Philippines, two rebel groups have pledged allegiance to ISIL. (The United Nations has alternately claimed there is no real ISIL presence there.)

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5.  Fresh nuclear leak detected at Fukushima plant in Japan
Tokyo: Sensors at the Fukushima nuclear plant have detected a fresh leak of highly radioactive water to the sea, the plant's operator announced on Sunday, highlighting difficulties in decommissioning the crippled plant.
Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) said the sensors, which were rigged to a gutter that pours rain and ground water at the Fukushima Daiichi plant to a nearby bay, detected contamination levels up to 70 times greater than the already-high radioactive status seen at the plant campus.

TEPCO said its emergency inspections of tanks storing nuclear waste water did not find any additional abnormalities, but the firm said it shut the gutter to prevent radioactive water from going into the Pacific Ocean.

The higher-than-normal levels of contamination were detected at around 10 am (local time), with sensors showing radiation levels 50 to 70 times greater than usual, TEPCO said. Though contamination levels have steadily fallen throughout the day, the same sensors were still showing contamination levels about 10 to 20 times more than usual, a company spokesman said.
It was not immediately clear what caused the original spike of the contamination and its gradual fall, he added. "With emergency surveys of the plant and monitoring of other sensors, we have no reason to believe tanks storing radioactive waste water have leaked," he told.
"We have shut the gutter (from pouring water to the bay). We are currently monitoring the sensors at the gutter and seeing the trend," he said. The latest incident, one of several that have plagued the plant in recent months, reflects the difficulty in controlling and decommissioning the plant, which went through meltdowns and explosions after being battered by a giant tsunami in March 2011, sparking the world's worst nuclear disaster in a generation.
TEPCO has not been able to effectively deal with an increasing amount of contaminated water, used to cool the crippled reactors and molten fuels inside them and kept in large storage tanks on the plant's vast campus.
Adding to TEPCO's headaches has been the persistent flow of groundwater from nearby mountains travelling under the contaminated plant before washing to the Pacific Ocean. The International Atomic Energy Agency recently said TEPCO has made "significant progress" in cleaning up the plant, but suggested that Japan should consider ways to discharge treated waste water into the sea as a relatively safer way to deal with the radioactive water crisis.

6. Turkish Troops in Syria
Hundreds of Turkish forces in armoured vehicles have entered war-torn northern Syria to evacuate troops guarding a historic tomb, demolishing it and moving the remains to a different site.
The remains of Suleyman Shah, who died in the 13th Century, were moved to a site in Syria closer to the border. 
Turkey considered the shrine sovereign territory. 
Islamic State (IS) militants in the area had threatened to attack it last year.
The government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which has lost control over much of northern Syria as a result of the country's civil war, condemned the incursion as "flagrant aggression".
It said that Turkey had informed its Istanbul consulate about the operation but had not waited for Syria's consent.
Suleyman Shah, who lived from about 1178 to 1236, was grandfather of the founder of the Ottoman empire, Osman I.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his government and the armed forces had carried out a "successful operation which is beyond all kinds of appreciation". 

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7. John Kiriakou - Out of Prison talks

Posted: 21 Feb 2015 04:00 PM PST

John Kiriakou’s advice to future national security whistleblowers: ‘Get a lawyer first.’
Out of prison and living at home under house arrest for the remainder of a suspended prison sentence, former CIA operative John Kiriakou, convicted and sent to jail for blowing the whistle on agency torture under the Bush administration, has been speaking to major media outlets this week about the brutal tactics and depraved abuse administered by the U.S. government in the name fighting terrorism as well as his prosecution and conviction under the Espionage Act for speaking out against such crimes.
In a two-part interview aired over as many nights this week, Kiriakou spoke with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes at length about his case and its implications on national security, the ongoing and so-called ‘war on terror,’ and what it means to be a government whistleblower in the post-9/11 age.

Earlier this week, Kiriakou had a conversation, via Skype, with HuffPost Live anchor Alyona Minkovski during which he said that though the government has been very willing to target CIA whistleblowers like himself and the more recently-convicted Jeffrey Sterling who expose government ineptitude or criminality, the Obama adminstration has prove totally cowardly when it comes to prosecuting those who committed war crimes or authorized tortured.
“I don’t think our government, no matter who is president, would ever have the guts to charge someone at the level of a Dick Cheney or of a CIA director … with crimes against humanity,” Kiriakou told Minkovski.

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8. TV or Not TeeVee
Have you changed your conversation in front of your TV yet?
Samsung SINGS OUT!

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9. Car Talk, Car Stop, Car listen?
In trying to figure out what kinds of attacks enemies might be plotting on American soil, government agencies are learning the same techniques. To wrest the controls from Stahl, a hacker dialed in through the vehicle’s OnStar system to first busy up the computer, then planted code that allowed it to reprogram the control systems. Kaufman stood by giving driving orders to the hackers.
The demonstration underscored what Clarke, counterterrorism chief under both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, said after Hastings’ crash. “You can do some really highly destructive things now, through hacking a car, and it’s not that hard,” he said. “So if there were a cyber attack on the car—and I’m not saying there was—I think whoever did it would probably get away with it.” Clarke added that the LAPD was unlikely to have the tools necessary to detect such an attack, particularly after a fire.
No Crowbar Needed, Just an iPad
One thing is clear: Drivers are at risk.
In a stinging report released this week, Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Edward Markey slammed car companies for their failure to protect car owners  from hackers and intrusive data collectors who might seize control of increasingly computerized vehicles. “Automakers haven’t done their part to protect us from cyber-attacks or privacy invasions,” he said.
Much of the report focuses on how car computers can be used to collect driving history, from where a car is parked to where it traveled. But it also reveals hackers’ ability to remotely turn, stop and accelerate cars. Markey’s report notes that car companies can now disable vehicles if owners fall behind on their payments. Burglars can exploit the same vulnerabilities.

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10. Tax the Rich? Are you kidding?
States Consider Increasing Taxes for the Poor and Cutting Them for the Affluent
By Shaila Dewan, The New York Times
21 February 15

A number of Republican-led states are considering tax changes that in many cases would have the effect of cutting taxes on the rich and raising them on the poor.
Conservatives are known for hating taxes but particularly hate income taxes, which they say have a greater dampening effect on growth. Of the 10 or so Republican governors who have proposed tax increases, nearly all have called for increases in consumption taxes, which hit the poor and middle class harder than the rich.
Favorite targets for the new taxes include gas, e-cigarettes, and goods and services in general. Gov. Paul R. LePage of Maine, who wants to start taxing movie tickets and haircuts, is also proposing a tax break for the lowest-income families to relieve some of the pressure.

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11. War Fever on the Potomac... for other peoples Children

The Mission be creppin ya'll

Quite frankly, this has been one of the more depressing weeks we have seen in a very long time. The country seems to be sliding down some very familiar tracks into a military engagement in the Middle East -- an engagement that, at the moment, seems to be cloudy in its objectives, vague in its outlines, and obscure on the simple fact of what we are supposedly fighting for, and who we will be fighting with. Can we fight the Islamic State generally without help from (gasp!) Iran? Can we fight the Islamic State in Syria without a de facto alliance with Hafez al-Assad, who was Hitler only a year or so ago? And the most recent polling seems to indicate that all the institutions that are supposed to act as a brake on war powers within a self-governing republic are working in reverse again. The Congress is going to debate how much leeway it should give the president to make war, not whether he should be allowed to do it at all. The elite media, having scared Americans to death by giving the barbarians and their slaughter porn the international platform the barbarians so desired, is jumping on board with both feet. (To cite only one example, Chris Matthews is suiting up again.) The country has been prepared to give its children up again. At the very least, public opinion on what we should do is a muddle, which means that any plan that looks "bold" likely will carry the country with it, unintended consequences be damned.With the intelligence all pointing toward bin Laden, Rumsfeld ordered the military to begin working on strike plans.

Amid more executions by the militant group ISIS, Americans increasingly see the group as a threat to the U.S. Now, 65 percent of Americans view ISIS as a major threat - up from 58 percent in October - while another 18 percent view it as a minor threat. Majorities of Republicans (86 percent), Democrats (61 percent) and independents (57 percent) view ISIS as a major threat. Support for sending U.S. ground troops to fight ISIS has risen among all partisans, but particularly among Democrats and independents. Back in October, 56 percent of Democrats and 49 percent of independents disapproved of using ground troops - now 50 percent of Democrats approve and 53 percent of independents favor using ground troops.
You can see the logical canyon, can you not? The Islamic State is no more an actual threat to the United States than it was in October. But there have been more garish executions and more events elsewhere, so the perceived threat -- real or not -- has begun to work its dark magic on the national imagination, the way that aluminum tubes and mushroom clouds once did. The more bellicose of our leaders are openly shilling for a general engagement on the ground; the inevitable John McCain inevitably has called for a "mere" 10,000 ground troops, and he wants those troops to help fight against both the Islamic State and Assad. something!

You develop a strategy and elements of the strategy are American boots on the ground and not the 82nd Airborne, the president keeps setting up these straw man saying we want to send in masses of American troops, we don't, but we need to have American..air controllers, special forces, many others. I'm talking about about ten thousand in Iraq. Then we need to say our objective is to eliminate Bashar Assad as well as ISIS in Syria and we recruit a other Arab nations with Americans but not too many to fight against ISIS and Bashar Assad in Syria and coordinate those movements with air power guided by air controllers.
So the mission already is creeping; hell, Congressman Ed Royce, who only chairs the House Foreign Relations Committee, wants the proposed authorization for the use of military force to include Iran. And god only knows what happens if the Islamic State grabs a couple of those 10,000 American ground troops and uses them for another snuff film.

The mission already is creeping. I wonder if anyone else notices how similar Royce's request is in spirit to that contained in the famous notes taken by Donald Rumsfeld in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks: "And at 2:40 p.m., the notes quote Rumsfeld as saying he wanted "best info fast. Judge whether good enough hit S.H." - meaning Saddam Hussein - "at same time. Not only UBL" - the initials used to identify Osama bin Laden. Now, nearly one year later, there is still very little evidence Iraq was involved in the Sept. 11 attacks. But if these notes are accurate, that didn't matter to Rumsfeld. "Go massive," the notes quote him as saying. "Sweep it all up. Things related and not." The mission already is creeping.

The more bellicose -- and the more desperate -- of our presidential aspirants also are openly shilling for a general engagement; Marco Rubio says that, if we'd only listened to Marco Rubio, we wouldn't be in this mess today, and how we simply cannot have a rookie like Jeb (!) Bush learning foreign policy on the job.

The Florida Republican senator, who sits on the Foreign Relations Committee, is beginning an aggressive effort to sell voters on his judgment and foresight on matters like Syria, Iran, Libya, Russia and Ukraine, making the case there should be no doubt he has the wherewithal to lead the country at a time of war. It's a necessary push for a first-term senator and potential presidential hopeful who is trying to convince GOP voters that he isn't a policy lightweight lacking executive experience, but rather a deep thinker who is fully engaged in complex foreign affairs and can manage the country's sprawling national security apparatus...As you look around the world," Rubio said at the time, "you start to see the need for American leadership."
Leadership! Deep thinking.

The mission already is creeping. I wonder if anyone else notices how similar Rubio's vainglory is in spirit to all those members of Congress, young and old and of both parties, who voted as though they believed all those neocon fairy tales about how the wildfire of democracy would spread throughout the region if only the United States would "lead" by overthrowing Saddam Hussein, thereby sweeping it all up. And I wonder if anyone else notices how similar it is in spirit to the position taken by presidentially ambitious Democratic politicians, like the last two Secretaries of State, one of whom was the party's nominee in 2004 and the other of whom is the odds-on favorite to be the party's nominee next year, who didn't want to be left behind by the glory train when it rolled through Baghdad. The mission already is creeping.

There is only one difference that I can see, and that is the guy in the White House. The president wants his AUMF to face the regional threat, it is true. But he wants a limitred one, and he has been consistently against a general engagement. He has been resolute against the rising and distasteful call for an authentic "clash of civilizations" motive for American action. (So, to be fair, was the last guy. It perhaps was the only thing he did right.) The pressure for him to do so is growing overwhelming; Rudy Giuliani is only the most garish member of the rising chorus. He has stood firm on the nonsensical "controversy" about what he should call the activities of the Islamic State.

But it may not be enough. The next presidential election is gearing up, and what is going on in the Middle East has changed the dynamic of that race utterly. People may be running for president with American troops in harm's way, whether the engagement there is general or not. The opinion of the country has been manufactured again to demand a war with no clear goals and no clear endpoint. Voices of reason and moderation -- Hi, Marie Harf! -- are being shouted down by conservatives and only tepidly supported by liberals. Nearly 100 years ago, rising in the Senate to oppose the entry of the United States into World War I, Senator Robert LaFollette of Wisconsin called the bluff of every hawk who ever called for a blind punch at a designated enemy.

We should not seek to hide our blunder behind the smoke of battle to inflame the mind of our people by half truths into the frenzy of war in order that they may never appreciate the real cause of it until it is too late. I do not believe that our national honor is served by such a course. The right way is the honorable way.
The ground already is prepared, the soil tilled. The mission already is creeping.

Walmart Wage Increase?
too little? Symbolic? Head-fake?
500,000 - get a raise

greek Debt talks
6 month extension  for loan program Greece - renegotiate terms, no unilateral decision, reduce damage on poor
300 billion euros - supervised by the troika

Ukraine Ceasefire
pullout de-bolt-si-bah
whats next  - worried about Putin and the Baltic States
Russian/Nato expansion
Russian planes sighted and escorted away from British and California costs
sighted near Baltic nations as well
Rega - capitol of Latvia

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