Sunday, June 28, 2015

PNN -Two Steps Forward

PNN -Two Steps Forward...

Rick Spisak - News Director
Brook Hines , Special Political Commentator
Meredith Ockman - SE Regional Director N.O.W. 
Cris Costello - Regional Organizing Representative at Sierra Club
Kartik Krishnaiyer - Political Commentator


[Stand with the Miccosukee -

What is the best available technology to reduce phosphorus?
Best available technology - improved farming practices to reduce phosphorus - and man-made treatment marshes - known as “green technology” - filter pollution from water entering the Everglades. To date, Florida's 45,000 acres of Stormwater Treatment Areas, combined with improved farming practices have prevented more than 3,200 metric tons of phosphorous from entering the Everglades
What is the plan for implementing best available technology?
Officially called the 2003 Everglades Protection Area Tributary Basins Conceptual Plan for Achieving Long-Term Water Quality Goals [pdf - 5.24 MB], the 13-year plan is designed to achieve 10 ppb in the Everglades and keep it there.
When will the entire Everglades attain 10 ppb?
Only nature knows. (Really?)  As less phosphorus enters the marsh, phosphorus embedded deep in the soil is released. This natural process, known as reflux, could cause phosphorus levels to rise above 10 ppb for years, perhaps even decades. Florida will continue to clean up water entering the system as well as explore scientific opportunities for cleaning up water within the natural system.


2. Too Little Too Late
May I gently slap your hand please)
At least that’s according to environmental advocates, after the state fined Duke Energy $2.5 million for spilling approximately 39,000 tons of toxic coal ash from a facility six miles upstream in North Carolina. The utility has admitted responsibility for the spill, and environmentalists had suggested a $50 million fine from the state.

“When you commit crimes that result in violations of Virginia’s environmental laws and you cause a catastrophic spill… when you have ignored years of warning about a problem you could easily have dealt with, and when you are the country’s biggest and richest utility, it takes more than a small rounding area — $2.5 million in their daily revenue report — to signal a deterrent,” Frank Holleman, senior attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center, told ThinkProgress.

According to court documents, Duke executives were warned — both by employees and by the state — that the drainage pipe at the unlined coal ash storage pond near the Dan River posed a risk. Coal ash is a byproduct of coal-fired power plants and contains a slew of toxins, including arsenic, selenium, chromium, mercury, and lead.

The State Water Control Board agreed with the recommendation of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) on the ruling Thursday.

“How big was the fish kill in this event?” Water Control Board member Thomas Van Auken asked the DEQ, the AP reported. When told there was no fish kill, Van Auken responded, “So this looked pretty bad, but maybe it wasn’t as bad as it looked.”

But fish kills are not the only signs of toxic pollution. In fact, mercury — which the Environmental Protection Agency wants to regulate in a rule currently before the Supreme Court — can be stored in fish and subsequently poison people who eat them. The neurotoxin is particularly dangerous for unborn children, and can cause significant mental deficiencies.
“The fine that Virginia has imposed is woefully inadequate,” Holleman said. “It’s undisputed now that this spill was caused by Duke’s criminal conduct.”

In the federal criminal case, Duke pleaded guilty in May to illegally discharging pollution from coal ash ponds in North Carolina. Those misdemeanor charges included the spill at the Dan River as well as several other locations.

In the plea agreement, Duke agreed to pay $102 million — $68.2 million in fines and restitution and $34 million for community service and projects to help mitigate the effects of the pollution.

According to Holleman, the company could still face federal natural resources fines for the Dan River spill. The money from those fines would likely go into a trust for the continued care of the two states’ natural resources that were damaged or put at risk by the company. Individual communities affected by the spill, such as Danville, VA, can also bring separate civil suits.

Separately, the company was fined $25 million in March by the state of North Carolina forallowing coal ash to seep into groundwater at another plant.
Duke vowed to contest that fine. “We cannot allow this level of regulatory overreach to go unchallenged,” Paul Newton, Duke’s state president for North Carolina, said at the time. “The actions by [the North Carolina government] send a chilling message to the North Carolina business community.”

The company, which is based in Charlottesville, reported an annual revenue of more than $24 billion last year.


3. Military Skepticism about
ALL-WAR,  ALL-The-Time

(Anti-Diplomacy Policy)

Officers have also directed criticism of counterinsurgency doctrines. Once deemed a daring innovation that would revolutionize warfare and foreign policy, counterinsurgency is judged to be a false hope -- one that threatens to become an ideological foundation for interventions around the world. (See Col Gian Gentile, Wrong Turn: America's Deadly Embrace of Counterinsurgency.)
Col Gregory Daddis (a West Point instructor like Gentile), has written that the expectation of war has become ingrained in our culture -- to the detriment of our support for diplomacy. The public is mostly detached from military service and less than critical in approaching wars that have no real cost to them. Americans are comfortable in the myths that war is ennobling and that their military can accomplish almost anything. Daddis decries the "relentless militarization afflicting our national mental health." (See "America: Addicted to War, Afraid of Peace.")

4. Essay - Let courts Decide Amendment 1 issue
(by Gayle Ryan)

 Objective third party needed to clarify intent of measure
This issue was headed for court the minute the special session of the Florida Legislature gaveled to a close June 19.
Last fall, 75 percent of Florida voters approved Amendment 1, which was supposed to set aside one third of “documentary stamp” taxes on real estate transactions over 20 years to preserve land and water.

Florida lawmakers had a different idea about the “intent” of the amendment, earmarking$192 million for general operating expenses.

A big chunk of this appropriation will go into salaries and benefits of employees at the state Department of Environmental Protection’s office of technology and information and boating and hunting law enforcement officers.

Amendment 1 dollars also are paying for new enforcement vehicles at the Florida Forest Service.

Sadly, of the $740 million appropriated this year from Amendment 1, less than 12 percent— $88.7 million — will be spent on land acquisition, including land for springs and Kissimmee River restoration.

Legislative leaders actually believe they adhered to the intent of the amendment.

“The Legislature complied with both the spirit and the letter of the constitution,” said House Speaker Steve Crisafulli.

Voters didn’t approve Amendment 1 to establish a separate — and lucrative — revenue source for lawmakers to supplement funding shortfalls in the state budget.

What was obvious to 75 percent of Florida voters (i.e. that Amendment 1 dollars would be spent primarily to preserve land and water resources) was opaqueto state lawmakers.

Either that, or legislators deliberately employed a “bait and switch” with the amendment’s revenues.

The bottom line? Confusion abounds, and a lot of environmentalists feel they’ve been duped by the Legislature.

Enter the attorneys.
Last week, the nonprofit Earthjustice filed a lawsuit on behalf of several environmental organizations against the Legislature. The lawsuit claims lawmakers misused almost half the money available through Amendment 1. 

It seeks guidance from the courts on how lawmakers should allocate money from the amendment next year — and 18 years after that.

“What we are saying simply to the court is to confirm boundaries and tell the Legislature what they can and cannot fund,” said Earthjustice attorney David Guest.

Right now, there don’t appear to be any boundaries. An objective third party — in this case, the courts — is needed to provide direction.

As a general rule, our Editorial Board is reluctant to endorse litigation. However, what lawmakers have done is such an affront to Florida voters, it may well take a legal decision to correct this travesty.


5. Taking it Down
(Moore pays bail)

JUST TODAY, a young woman named Bree Newsome scaled the 30 foot pole at the South Carolina State Capitol [1] to remove the flag. A flag that flew high even while slain State Senator Rev. Clementa Pinckney lay in state at the State Capitol. A flag that was also still flying more than a week after State Senator Pinckney and eight other mothers, fathers, and grandparents were gunned down in a vicious act of racial terrorism, the kind that has for too long been glorified by the iconography of the Confederate flag. 

Woman removes Confederate flag in front of SC statehouse | 28 June 2015 | The two people arrested for removing the Confederate flag from the front of the South Carolina Statehouse have been released from jail in the state capital. Officer L. Tucker of the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center said 30-year-old Bree Newsome and 30-year-old James Ian Tyson were released from jail Saturday after posting bond. Both Newsome and Tyson are from Charlotte.

6. Pacific Tidal Pools emptying of life 
(starfish disapear, urchins lose their spines)

Laguna Beach Independent, May 10, 2015 (emphasis added): Tide Pool Life Diminishes… an eerie new phenomenon, urchin balding, is attacking purple-spined sea urchins in Orange County tide pools, and local scientists are investigating this new mystery… tide pool conditions have worsened over the last year, said Jayson Smith, a Cal Poly Pomona marine biologist… Where once abalone, lobster and sea stars thrived, now sea hares, octopus, small fish, limpets and mussels seem to be leaving the scene, said Smith. The latest debacle leaves urchins with bald spots, where algae takes root, said Jennifer Burnaford, biology professor at Cal State Fullerton… Scientists have yet to understand the urchin-balding syndrome, said Smith… “Things are looking pretty poor right now,” he commented. Educators… report seeing fewer urchins at some tide pools and more empty shells. The once-prolific California blue mussels are also becoming increasingly sparse… “We appear to have more than just the sea-star wasting,” [Louise Thornton, chair of Laguna Ocean Foundation] said. “We appear to have something else going on. There’s something going on because the fish are disappearing.”

7. Canadian Defense Ministers - Visiting Ukraine, 
NO NAZI's UNDER THE BED HERE... Canadian defense minister dismisses concerns over training extreme-right paramilitaries

KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s ultra-nationalist Azov regiment is nothing more than “small number of bad apples” who should not be allowed to define the embattled eastern European country’s image, Defence Minister Jason Kenney said Friday.

In an interview with The Canadian Press, Kenney underlined earlier reassurances that the paramilitary group would not receive Canadian training or support, but — unlike in the U.S. — that guarantee won’t be enshrined in law. That’s in part because Parliament has risen and won’t reconvene until after the federal election in October. But it’s also one of those touchy subjects both here and in Canada’s large, politically active Ukrainian diaspora.

While opinions are divided, many see the 1,500-man Azov unit as being populated not with neo-Nazis and white supremacists, but with patriots willing to fight in order to rollback Russian-backed separatists.

Earlier this week, the group, which says it’s the victim of a Russian smear campaign, called on Canada to refute claims that it is a haven for fascists. Spokesman Alexander Alferov told The Canadian Press that his group believes Canada has shown leadership and moral clarity on the issue of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the war in the eastern regions.

Conservatives have doggedly courted the Ukrainian vote back home, both with its strident, sometimes personal, anti-Putin rhetoric. They ensure high-profile members like junior defence minister James Bezan are photographed delivering relief and military hardware.

The spillover effect of such endeavours, of course, is that they attract the applause and admiration of the same ultra-nationalists Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko must court.

It is only one snapshot of the complicated political terrain Canadian troops are about to inhabit.

Canada is indeed providing moral leadership, but that doesn’t mean the Harper government will back those with extremist views, Kenney said. “We should not allow a small number of bad apples in one battalion to characterize the new Ukraine,” he said. “The new Ukraine which is western-oriented, focused on democratic values.”

He also seems to believe the country’s standing would be improved if Ukraine joined the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, and he intended to suggest the country “redouble its efforts against anti-Semitism.”

The impression that he keeps close tabs on the issue was highlighted when he referred to the chief rabbi of Kyiv as his “friend” and said the Jewish community in Ukraine not only supported the uprising in 2014, but feels “more comfortable politically and socially in post-Maidan Ukraine than they have ever felt.”

Kenney sat down Friday with leaders of the persecuted Muslim Tatar minority, who’ve been displaced and marginalized by Russia’s annexation of Crimea. He’s also meeting Poroshenko before checking out training centres where Canadians troops will be based later this summer.

The Ukrainian Defence Department intends to screen the hundreds of national guardsmen being sent for training at a NATO friendship centre along the Polish border, a process the minister says he’s confident will weed out extremists.

Alferov says the Azov regiment, which started life as a national socialist group called “Patriots of Ukraine” known for praising the concept of white supremacy, also conducts screening of its recruits. But it does not ask questions about politics and chooses members based upon their willingness to fight for Ukraine, he said.

Whether his unit receives any western military training is irrelevant, Alferov said. “Ukraine could use more weapons.”

Azov fighters have started to receive more heavy equipment during the last few months as a ceasefire in the breakaway eastern region appears to be crumbling.

8. Banning Russia Media Critics
 By James Carden, The Nation, May 19, 2015 (print edition of June 8)

As a result of the civil war that has raged in Ukraine since April 2014, at least 7,000 people have been killed and more than 15,400 wounded, many of them grievously. According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, 1.2 million eastern Ukrainians have been internally displaced, while the number of those who have fled abroad, mainly to Russia and Belarus, has reached 674,300. Further, the United Nations has reported that millions of people, particularly the elderly and the very young, are facing life-threatening conditions as a result of the conflict. Large parts of eastern Ukraine lie in ruins, and relations between the United States and Russia have perhaps reached their most dangerous point since the Cuban missile crisis of 1962.

And yet a special report published last fall by the online magazine the Interpreter would have us believe that Russian “disinformation” ranks among the gravest threats to the West. The report, titled “The Menace of Unreality: How the Kremlin Weaponizes Information, Culture and Money,” is a joint project of the Interpreter and the Institute for Modern Russia (IMR), a Manhattan-based think tank funded by the exiled Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Cowritten by the journalists Michael Weiss and Peter Pomerantsev, this highly polemical manifesto makes the case for why the United States, and the West generally, must combat what the authors allege to be the Kremlin’s extravagantly designed propaganda campaign. If implemented, the measures they propose would stifle democratic debate in the Western media.

The report seeks to awaken a purportedly somnolent American public to the danger posed by the Kremlin’s media apparatus. According to Weiss and Pomerantsev, the Russian government—via RT, the Kremlin-funded international television outlet, as well as a network of “expatriate NGOs” and “far-left and far-right movements”—is creating an “anti-Western, authoritarian Internationale that is becoming ever more popular…throughout the world.”

While it would be easy to dismiss the report as a publicity stunt by two journalists attempting to cash in on the Russophobia so in vogue among American pundits, their thesis has gained wide acceptance, nowhere more so than in the halls of Congress. On April 15, Pomerantsev testified before the House Foreign Relations Committee on the supposed threat posed by “Russia’s weaponization of information.” Committee chair Ed Royce and ranking member Eliot Engel are now expected to reintroduce a 2014 bill to reform the Voice of America, which fell into disarray following the collapse of the Soviet Union. In his opening statements at the hearing, Royce argued that the bill “will help us fight Putin’s propaganda,” though some critics believe it would turn the federal government’s international broadcasting service into “something fundamentally not American.”

Who Are These Guys?

Weiss and Pomerantsev are an unlikely pair. Weiss, youthful yet professorial in manner, has become a nearly constant presence on cable news because of his supposed expertise on, among other things, Russia, Syria, and ISIS. A longtime neoconservative journalist, he began his rise to cable-news ubiquity as a protégé of the late Christopher Hitchens. After working with Hitchens, he made his way to the Henry Jackson Society (HJS), a London-based bastion of neoconservatism that, according to a report in The Guardian, has “attracted controversy in recent years—with key staff criticised in the past for allegedly anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant comments.”

The historian Marko Attila Hoare, who resigned in protest from the HJS in 2012, has written that the organization publishes “polemical and superficial pieces by aspiring journalists and pundits that pander to a narrow readership of extreme Europhobic British Tories, hardline US Republicans and Israeli Likudniks.” According to Hoare, Weiss reinvented himself at the HJS “as an expert on Russia—about which he has no more academic expertise than he does about the Middle East.” Weiss served as HJS communications director before moving on to found the Interpreter under the auspices of the US-based IMR in 2013. Solidifying his mainstream-media credentials, he will join the Daily Beast as a senior editor on June 1.

Where Weiss’s moderate demeanor belies a deep commitment to neoconservative ideology, Pomerantsev exudes a kind of louche nonchalance. A British citizen of Russian extraction, this rumpled television producer has parlayed his career in the less-than-reputable districts of the Russian media landscape into a role as a kind of latter-day Cassandra, sounding a clarion call about the danger that Russian state propaganda poses to the West.

An assiduous self-promoter, Pomerantsev chronicled his journey into the belly of the Russian media beast in a recent book, Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible. A launch party in early 2015 at the Legatum Institute, a London-based research organization with close links to the IMR, offered a glimpse of the esteem that Pomerantsev enjoys. At the event, the American director of the institute’s Transitions Forum, Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum, told the audience that she believes his book is “an extraordinary achievement.”

Pomerantsev, it turns out, is an experienced lobbyist too. In his book he recalls visiting the British Parliament in 2013 to make the case for “why Europe needs a Magnitsky Act.” The original version of the bill, pushed by British hedge-fund magnate Bill Browder and passed by the US Congress in 2012, imposed bans on a group of Russian officials deemed responsible for the prison death of Russian whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky. This in itself is notable, since Browder was an enthusiastic supporter of Vladimir Putin’s decision to jail Khodorkovsky in 2003.

Like Weiss, Pomerantsev has become a frequent presence in the US media. He appeared on the op-ed page of The New York Times last December to inform readers that at the core of the Kremlin’s information strategy is “the idea that there is no such thing as objective truth.” Two months later, he was the subject of a fawning Times profile in which he described his book as being “about the Faustian bargain made by an ambitious youngster working in Russia’s medialand of opportunity.” In joining forces with the editor of a Khodorkovsky-funded webzine, he seems to have traded one Faustian bargain for another.

Because of his decade-long imprisonment, Khodorkovsky has attained the stature of a secular saint in some circles. But it should not be forgotten that the oil tycoon made his fortune in a spectacularly corrupt and sometimes violent fashion. Indeed, in 2000, Foreign Affairs described him and his fellow oligarchs as “a dangerous posse of plutocrats” who “threaten Russia’s transition to democracy and free markets” as well as “vital US interests.”

According to a recent profile of Khodorkovsky in The New Yorker, staff members of a Riga-based news outlet in which he planned to invest objected. “He’s a toxic investor,” said a person “close to the project.” The article added that “his views of journalists haven’t changed much since the nineties, when reporters could be bought and sold, and ‘hit’ pieces could be ginned up for the right price.” Khodorkovsky’s agenda—to bring regime change to Russia—is faithfully reflected in the work of IMR, the Interpreter, and the “Menace of Unreality” report.

With the report’s publication, Weiss and Pomerantsev have joined the long line of Western journalists who have played to the public’s darkest suspicions about the power, intentions, and reach of those governments that are perceived as threats to the United States. In his seminal essay on McCarthyism, “The Paranoid Style in American Politics,” the historian Richard Hofstadter wrote that in the worldview of these opportunists, “very often the enemy is held to possess some especially effective source of power: he controls the press; he has unlimited funds; he has a new secret for influencing the mind (brainwashing).” There exists no better précis of Weiss and Pomerantsev’s view of Putin and the Russian government’s media apparatus.

The report asserts that Putin’s Russia is “arguably more dangerous than a communist superpower.” Any effective response to the virus of Russian propaganda, Weiss insists, must combine “the wisdom of Orwell…with the savvy of Don Draper.” Readers will certainly cede that the duo has led by example, since the report and its set of “modest recommendations” are nothing if not Orwellian.

The authors call for the creation of an “internationally recognized ratings system for disinformation” that would furnish news organizations and bloggers with the “analytical tools with which to define forms of communication.” While they throw in an obligatory caveat that “top-down censorship should be avoided” (exactly how is left unexplained), they nonetheless endorse what amounts to a media blacklist. “Vigorous debate and disagreement is of course to be encouraged,” the authors write, “but media organizations that practice conscious deception should be excluded from the community.”

What qualifies as “conscious deception” is also left undefined, but it isn’t difficult to surmise. Organizations that do not share the authors’ enthusiasm for regime change in Syria or war with Russia over Ukraine would almost certainly be “excluded from the community.” Weiss, for instance, has asserted repeatedly that Russia is to blame for the July 2014 downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17. But would a news organization like, say, The Atlantic or Der Spiegel be “excluded from the community” for writing about a German intelligence report that indicated the missile in question did not come from Russia? Would journalists like Robert Parry be blacklisted for questioning the mainstream account of the tragedy? Would scholars like the University of Ottawa’s Paul Robinson be banned from appearing on op-ed pages and cable-news programs for challenging the notion that there is, in the words of Ukraine’s ambassador to the United States, “no civil war in Ukraine,” but rather a war “started and waged by Russia”?

Weiss and Pomerantsev accuse the Kremlin of “making deception equivalent to argumentation and the deliberate misuse of facts as legitimate as rational persuasion.” Maybe so. But these tactics are hardly unique to the Kremlin. In December, a group of Kiev parliamentarians presented photographs to the Senate Armed Services Committee purporting to show Russian troops and tanks invading eastern Ukraine. Subsequent reports revealed that the images had been taken during the Russian-Georgian war in 2008. Did the Interpreter denounce the Ukrainian delegation for trying to pass off doctored photos? No. Its warnings about disinformation cut only one way.

So do its oft-expressed concerns about transparency. Time and again, the authors call on pundits and think tanks to be more transparent with regard to their affiliations, financial interests, and funding. But the Interpreter doesn’t necessarily practice what it so ardently preaches. In addition to the support provided by Khodorkovsky, the publication identifies its other initial source of funding as the Herzen Foundation of London. Weiss responded to a query asking about the provenance of the foundation by admitting, “I don’t know Herzen’s current organizational status, board of directors, etc. You are most welcome to inquire with the Charities Aid Foundation in the UK.” Multiple requests to the Charities Aid Foundation, with which Herzen had claimed to be registered, have all gone unanswered. Indeed, there is no evidence Herzen exists.

The authors believe active measures must be taken to shield gullible Americans from the depredations of Putin’s propaganda. That American newspapers employ public editors to monitor their news reports isn’t enough; they should also staff “counter-disinformation editors” who “would pick apart what might be called all the news that is unfit to print.” Such professional censors are necessary, we are told, because the Kremlin “exploits systemic weak spots in the Western system, providing a sort of X-ray of the underbelly of liberal democracy.” Worse, the authors charge, are the legions of “senior Western experts” providing aid and comfort to the enemy, whether by appearing on RT, accepting positions on the boards of Russian companies, or simply attending Russian-sponsored forums. “The blurring of distinctions between think tanks and lobbying helps the Kremlin push its agenda without due scrutiny,” they write.

According to Weiss and Pomerantsev, the most severe threat is the one posed by RT, a network to which they impute vast powers. They are hardly alone. In January, Andrew Lack, then chief executive of the Broadcasting Board of Governors—the federal agency that oversees the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and other US-funded media outlets—likened RT’s threat to those posed by “the Islamic State in the Middle East and groups like Boko Haram.” (Lack was recently named chairman of NBC News.)

RT is allegedly so skillful at masking its nefarious message that “anyone tuning in would not immediately know it is Kremlin-run or even associate it with Russia,” the authors write—even though the network’s news broadcasts begin with the statement “Coming to you live from Moscow, this is RT.”

The Phantom Menace

The leading authority on Soviet and Russian mass media, Duke University professor Ellen Mickiewicz, disputes the entire premise of Weiss and Pomerantsev’s report. She told me that the hypodermic model of media effects (in which messages are “injected” into the audience simply by virtue of being disseminated) was scientifically disproved decades ago. “It’s the most simpleminded mistake you can make in evaluating media effects,” she said.

It would be hard, then, not to conclude that Weiss and Pomerantsev’s overwrought fears are just a pretext for whatever they and Khodorkovsky have truly set out to do. Their real goal is not to fight Russian “disinformation” but to stigmatize and marginalize—even exclude from American discourse—anyone with a more nuanced view of Russia’s role in the Ukraine crisis. They are waging this war against enemies real and imagined, and by doing so they are helping to create an atmosphere in which dissenting opinion on US policy toward Russia becomes impermissible. Two pieces in the Interpreter are worth examining in this context.

In early November, the Interpreter published a piece by former National Security Agency analyst John Schindler with the headline “Is a Top American Diplomat a Russian Agent?” Recycling a story that had appeared on a Ukrainian news site, Schindler repeated the claim by Putin critic Konstantin Borovoy that the Kremlin has “agents of influence” within the NATO hierarchy. According to Borovoy, an unnamed ex–US ambassador to Russia had “established an unprecedented intimacy with former top officials of the KGB and the current leaders of the Russian FSB.” This intimacy, Borovoy claimed, “was one reason for his leaving Russia.” Schindler wasted little time letting readers know that he believes the unnamed ambassador is NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander “Sandy” Vershbow, who served as ambassador to Russia from 2001 to 2005.

Typically, such a scurrilous accusation against a career Foreign Service officer would be met with a chorus of protest from the Washington establishment. After all, Vershbow helped to steer and subsequently enact the Clinton administration’s policy of NATO expansion in the late 1990s. As recounted in the memoirs of Brookings Institution president Strobe Talbott, a leading proponent for sending arms to Kiev, Vershbow helped shape NATO and American policy during the Kosovo War in 1999. Recently, Vershbow declared that he saw Russia “as more of an enemy than a [NATO] partner,” and in March he delivered a speech in Latvia in which he decried “Russia’s aggressive actions in Ukraine.” Yet his establishment credentials could not protect him from the Interpreter.

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Moreover, it seems the Interpreter’s crusade is having some effect. Few of Vershbow’s former colleagues were willing to comment for this article on the allegations, still fewer to defend him—perhaps fearing they would be tarred with the same McCarthyite brush. One of the few who did talk, a former high-ranking official in the Bush administration, vehemently disputed Schindler’s story. “Sandy wasn’t pushed out,” the official insisted. “In fact, by the end of his time there, the Kremlin wouldn’t even grant him meetings because he was seen to be too close to dissident groups.”

Another former associate and friend of Vershbow’s, professor Robert Legvold, former director of Columbia University’s Harriman Institute, told me that Schindler’s story was little more than a “crackpot accusation which displayed a monumental ignorance of what were actually difficult years for Vershbow in Moscow.”

The Interpreter tried to pass off another McCarthyite smear as journalism last February, when one of its bloggers, Catherine Fitzpatrick, published a story headlined “Former Russian Intelligence Officers Behind Boisto ‘Track II’ Talks—and Now the Flawed Minsk Agreement.” The Boisto Track II talks were a series of discussions between Russian and American policy hands that took place in Finland last June. They produced a 24-step plan that sought to resolve the Ukraine crisis. Track II talks—unofficial diplomacy between individuals acting in a private capacity—have long been a staple of US diplomacy.

In her article, Fitzpatrick cites an interview given by a Russian intelligence operative, Leonid Reshetnikov, in which he claims he met with the American participants before the talks took place. He says the proposal formed the basis for the first Minsk cease-fire in September 2014. For Fitzpatrick, Reshetnikov’s comments are proof that the group was colluding with Russian intelligence.

Though Fitzpatrick tries to paint the Americans as dupes, her story unravels quickly. Among other things, her chronology is all wrong. While it’s true that two of the six American participants met with Reshetnikov, they met him three weeks after the talks (and well after the Track II proposal had been finished) at a completely unrelated event. This information was available to Fitzpatrick, who, according to my sources, never bothered to ask any of the American participants for comment. Why clutter up a good piece of fiction with facts?

The irony, of course, is that Fitzpatrick does what she accuses the American group of doing: taking what a Russian intelligence operative says at face value and falling for his version of events, as one participant told me, “hook, line, and sinker.”

Slouching Towards McCarthyism

One might expect that such neo-McCarthyism, reeking as it does of a barely concealed attempt to censor and intimidate, would have touched off protests, if not condemnation, in the establishment media. But the Interpreter has been given a rapturous reception on both sides of the Atlantic.

Among its most visible proponents has been the Legatum Institute. As Mark Ames recently reported in the online publication PandoDaily, Legatum is the brainchild of billionaire venture capitalist Christopher Chandler. Like Browder and Khodorkovsky, Chandler made his billions in post-Soviet Russia. According to Ames, he and his brother “reportedly were the single biggest foreign beneficiaries of one of the greatest privatization scams in history: Russia’s voucher program in the early 1990s.”

To mark the publication of the “Menace of Unreality” report, Legatum hosted a panel discussion that featured such luminaries as Anne Applebaum, US Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt, former US ambassador John Herbst, and Ukrainian Ambassador at Large Olexander Scherba. All expressed grave concern over the threat that Putin’s propaganda machine poses to the West.

The event was followed by similar sessions hosted by the Harriman Institute and the National Endowment for Democracy. At the latter event, Weiss and Pomerantsev were joined by Freedom House director David Kramer; a young functionary of the neoconservative Foreign Policy Initiative; and the NED’s International Forum executive director, Christopher Walker, who touted the endowment’s “close ties” with both the Interpreter and the Institute for Modern Russia.

Two of the report’s most visible supporters have been Applebaum and Edward Lucas, a senior editor at The Economist. Soon after the launch party at Legatum, Applebaum took to the pages of The Washington Post and The New York Review of Books to plug Weiss and Pomerantsev’s crusade. In an essay for the former, she warned that “for democracies,” Russian disinformation poses “a serious challenge.” Russia’s use of what Weiss and Pomerantsev refer to as Internet “trolls” is especially worrying to Applebaum, who fears readers will be unduly influenced by their “negative or mocking remarks.”

Lucas praised “The Menace of Unreality” on Twitter as a “sizzling new report on Kremlin disinformation.” He later made headlines at this year’s Munich Security Conference, where he went to great lengths to denounce both RT and the Russian government’s Internet news outlet Sputnik.

A number of high-profile officials count themselves as admirers of the Interpreter as well. In February, on the first anniversary of the Maidan coup, Geoffrey Pyatt tweeted: “@Interpreter_Mag With thanks for your relentless focus on the fast evolving Russia-Ukraine crisis & appreciation for the windows you provide.” Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves pitched in as a special guest editorialist to mark the occasion. Meanwhile, NATO Commander Philip Breedlove has taken to complaining publicly that “Russia has embarked on a deliberate strategy to confuse using disinformation and propaganda.” Indeed, he has called it “the most amazing information-warfare blitzkrieg we have ever seen in the history of information warfare.”

The “Menace of Unreality” report is dangerous not only because it lends an intellectual sheen to what amounts to a censorship campaign, but because it further pollutes the already toxic atmosphere that has enveloped the debate over the crisis in Ukraine. Indeed, as one leading political scientist told me: “The atmosphere here in the US created by the Ukraine crisis is poisonous—and I say this having been in academe for 37 years.”

Insinuations of unpatriotic disloyalty on the part of critics of US policy toward Russia are numerous, but consider a few examples. For much of the past year, Princeton and New York University professor emeritus Stephen F. Cohen, a leading scholar of Soviet and post-Soviet Russia and a Nation contributing editor, has been routinely castigated in The New Republic, the Daily Beast, The Boston Globe, New York, and Slate as “a toady,” “Putin’s best friend,” and a “Putin apologist.” The latest such attack came on May 6, courtesy of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, which published a story claiming, without evidence, that “Cohen is essentially defending the Kremlin’s agenda in the West.” Hurling such barbs at a prominent scholar seems to be an attempt not only to marginalize Cohen, but also to silence other critics—including, and perhaps especially, younger ones.

Similarly, in June 2014, the Daily Beast ridiculed a conference attended by Columbia University’s Robert Legvold; Jack Matlock, former ambassador to the Soviet Union during the Reagan administration; and a leader of a Russian opposition party as a gathering of “anti-Semites and ‘truthers’” that amounted to little more than “a pity party for the Kremlin’s die-hard American apologists.”

Then, in August, Anders Aslund of the Peterson Institute for International Economics launched a screed against David Johnson, the proprietor and editor of a listserv that aggregates Russia-related articles. “What I find most surprising,” Aslund wrote, “is that you have several items from RT every day, which is to Putin’s rule what Julius Streicher’s Der Stürmer was to Nazi Germany.”

Thanks in part to the Interpreter’s penchant for reckless accusations and the widespread promotion of “The Menace of Unreality,” the atmosphere of censorship and intimidation has grown worse in the months following the report’s publication. In mid-December, The Washington Post ran a letter from former US ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor accusing Henry Kissinger, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and Brookings Institution scholars Michael O’Hanlon and Jeremy Shapiro of wanting to “appease” Russia. “Appeasement” in this context is a very loaded term, meant to castigate those who would cave in to Putin’s allegedly Hitlerian revanchism.

In the end, apart from being a frontal attack on the core tenets of free speech, the Weiss-Pomerantsev crusade lets Western pundits and policy-makers off the hook for their complicity in the Ukraine crisis by discouraging any kind of critical thinking or reconsideration of US policy. The incessant focus in “The Menace of Unreality” on the Kremlin’s media apparatus obscures the humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in Ukraine, as well as the growing danger of a larger US-Russia war. The policy of belligerence toward Russia that Weiss and Pomerantsev so staunchly support has been one of the primary culprits in the Ukraine crisis. The fact that they now seek to silence, smear, and even blacklist critics of that policy makes their project all the more egregious.

One would have hoped that journalists, of all people, would object to this project in the strongest possible terms. That no one has yet done so is an ominous sign.


9.  BBC: ECB to Stop Emergency Support
     of Greek Banks on Monday; 
     Bank Holiday Likely

Posted on June 28, 2015 by Yves Smith
The ECB has decided to lower the boom on Greece.

As we’ve mentioned, the ECB was well outside the intended use of the program that has served as the backstop to the Greek banking system, the Emergency Liquidity Assistance program. As its name suggests, the ELA was meant to provide support only for solvent banks, and then only for short-term liquidity crunches (this is why the ELA has to be re-approved every two weeks, but the voting rules favor continuation, since it takes a two-thirds vote of the current voting members to cut off the ELA).

The ECB has continued to deem the Greek banks as solvent when they clearly weren’t. The presumed justification was that Greek banks had run up huge tabs on the ELA in the 2012 debt restructuring (the so-called second bailout) and had weaned itself off it after the refinancing was in place and contagion fears in the Eurozone had receded. The ECB was clearly uncomfortable with the continued credit extension and kept the increases to the bare minimum necessary to keep the Greek banks afloat. This practice was coupled with the ECB also apparently stoking the bank run by publicizing information about the sorry state of the Greek banks, while during the financial crisis, it kept detrimental information under wraps. The ECB might have been trying to force the Greek government to request permission to impose capital controls, which would have been damaging to the economy and thus could have hurt the Greek government’s support. It appears that the ECB was trying to throw a spanner in the works, but far short of what they were capable of doing. The past ECB moves look to have been a shot across the Greek bow that the government either did not understand or chose to ignore.

But remember the critical fact: that the ELA support was premised on the idea that Greece and the creditors might come to a deal and Greece would get its bailout money. Once that matter was settled, the 2012 case showed that the cash that had been pulled out of the banks came back and the ELA use plummeted.So as long as negotiations were underway, the ECB was duty bound to keep extending ELA support. In fact, we’ve suspected that that was the biggest reason Greece kept the talks going despite the overwhelming evidence that they were going nowhere.

The European officials have interpreted the announcement of the Greek referendum on July 5 as tantamount to the termination of negotiations. As the Guardian reported:

Saturday night’s eurogroup meeting said the governments “stand ready to do whatever is necessary to ensure financial stability of the euro area”. Their meeting was the fifth to be held in 10 days. The decision to end the bailout, shunning the Greek requests to extend the rescue until after the national referendum, means that Greece is likely to go bust.

“Greece ended the negotiations unilaterally. There is no basis for further negotiations,” said Wolfgang Schäuble, the hawkish German finance minister. “I don’t see any possibility for doing anything. On Tuesday the programme ends.”

Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Dutch finance minister who chaired the meeting in Brussels, said with his referendum decision Tsipras had “closed the door” for talks with the creditors.

The Greek government, astonishingly, appears not to have considered the possibility that the Eurozone nations would not extend the bailout, let alone the ramifications. We stated that the odds were in fact high that the request would be rejected, given the very late hour, the lack of any advanced warning, and the unpopularity in many nations, most importantly Germany, of cutting Greece slack, particularly given that they had ample opportunity to schedule a referendum prior to the bailout expiration. From the Financial Times:

Mr Tsipras stunned his nation and its international creditors by announcing the referendum, arguing only the Greek people should decide how to respond to what he called the creditors’ ultimatum. He urged a rejection at the polls, but two eurozone officials said Mr Varoufakis predicted a “yes” vote in the plebiscite during the eurogroup meeting.

Negotiators for the creditors had been preparing to present a new compromise offer to the Greek authorities that, according to one EU diplomat, included “lots of things they could sell”. But Mr Tsipras’s move dashed hopes of striking a deal at Saturday’s meeting, meaning there will be no programme in place when Greek voters go to the polls to offer a verdict on the creditors’ proposal…

In the clearest sign yet that eurozone officials are anticipating significant economic upheaval in Greece, Mr Dijsselbloem said “the situation in Greece will deteriorate very rapidly” without a bailout agreement in place.

At a post-meeting news conference, Mr Varoufakis appeared taken aback that his colleagues had cut off talks and allowed the programme to expire, saying he had anticipated negotiating up until the referendum vote so that his government could eventually campaign in favour of the deal.

It is hard to reconcile Tsipras’ defiant remarks (he and Syriza officials said they would campaign for a “no” vote) with Varoufakis’ claim that the government wanted to continue negotiations with the hope of securing a package that they could recommend. It appears that the Greek side thought that the Greek referendum would be seen as a powerful countermove and would force eleventh-hours concessions from the creditor side. As we’ve said repeatedly, it has been evident for some time that the lenders are not afraid of a default, nor are they swayed by Greek opinion (Tsipras has had approval ratings as high as 80%). Thus the Greek gambit looks to have been a serious miscalculation.

Bloomberg reports that the team that was working on the negotiations in Brussels was in the dark:

No one was more surprised about Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras calling a referendum than his team of negotiators in Brussels.

Shortly before midnight on Friday in the Belgian capital, the Greeks and representatives of the European Union and International Monetary Fund, tucked away in the EU Commission’s Charlemagne building, learned via Twitter that their efforts were in vain, according to an EU official….

Up until that moment, the mood on both sides had been fairly positive, the official said. They were reaching agreement on a joint proposal to be presented to a meeting of finance ministry officials set for the next morning.

Since negotiations have broken down, the ECB has a great deal of difficulty arguing that it continues extending ELA support, particularly since powerful hardliners like Bundesbank president Jens Weidmann have been pressing for some time to restrict ELA advances. The bailout will not be extended, Greece will lose the opportunity to get €7.2 billion in bailout funds, and an arrearage on the €1,6 IMF payment due June 30 and a default on the ECB payment of €3.5 billion due July 20 is certain.

The well-connected Robert Peston of the BBC tells us that the ECB will act on Monday which will virtually force Greece to impose a bank holiday. From the BBC:

The European Central Bank is expected to end emergency lending to Greece’s banks on Sunday, the BBC understands.

The country’s banks depend on the ECB’s Emergency Liquidity Assistance (ELA). Its governing council is meeting later.

Greece will probably have to “announce a bank holiday on Monday, pending the introduction of capital controls”, a source told the BBC’s Robert Peston…

Austria’s Finance Minister Hans Jorg Schelling said a Greek exit from the euro now “appears almost inevitable”.

This report is clearly from a single source, but Peston would not run the story unless he thought his interlocutor had a good reading on how this was likely to play out. If this contact’s take pans out, a bank holiday will be a major blow, particularly coming at the start of the peak tourist season. As Nathan Tankus observed in a post earlier this month:

Two years ago in Cyprus, an emergency bank holiday was declared and capital controls installed. The bank holiday only lasted for twelve days yet supply chains started drying up instantly. An ex-Cyprus central bank governor told the Guardian:

Supplies of food are being exhausted and there are cases of raw materials like iron and timber being held up in customs because importers don’t have the cash to pay for them … No one expected, myself included, that the EU, ECB md IMF, would behave like this. Cyprus has been treated very badly … Where is the solidarity principle that is supposed to underline Europe?

Even 6 months later after the banks had reopened and capital controls were loosened, businesses were still having trouble getting basic supplies. This happened because their working capital was largely frozen and/or written down in the bail-in, or they had made payments but their suppliers were frozen because their own working capital had been largely frozen and/or written down. It is important to emphasize that their nearly two-week bank holiday was only to resolve insolvent institutions, not to build or significantly modify the payments system. Cyprus experienced a storm. It is not an exaggeration to say that freezing the Greek payments system would be like a financial hurricane and this one certainly looks to be a category five.

We will know soon enough if the ECB takes the drastic move that Peston’s contact suggests. But even if they do not take in on Monday, I had thought it was very likely that they’d end or restrict ELA support no later than June 30, when Greece goes into arrearage with the IMF. And even if Greece decided only to impose capital controls, they’d likely need to be stringent, and thus would also badly crimp business activity.

Despite the belief of some readers that the Eurocrats would find a way to finesse the June 30 deadline, consistent with their past “extend and pretend” practices, we’d warned this was a hard deadline and would be very difficult to circumvent, particularly given the lack of good will on the side that would need to find the fix, that of the lenders. The endgame of the Greek negotiations is under way.

"We look forward to working with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in developing numeric criteria to keep our waters safe," Earthjustice attorney David Guest said. 
The change in federal policy comes 13 months after five environmental groups filed a major lawsuit to compel the federal government to set strict limits on nutrient poisoning in public waters.
Nutrients like phosphorous and nitrogen poison Florida's waters every time it rains; running off agricultural operations, fertilized landscapes, and septic systems. The poison runoff triggers algae outbreaks which foul Florida's beaches, lakes, rivers, and springs more each year, threatening public health, closing swimming areas, and even shutting down a southwest Florida drinking water plant.
In a 2008 report, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection concluded that half of the state's rivers and more than half of its lakes had poor water quality. The problem is compounded when nutrient-poisoned waters are used as drinking water sources. Disinfectants like chlorine and chloramine can react with the dissolved organic compounds, contaminating drinking water with harmful chemical byproducts.
Exposure to these blue-green algae toxins—when people drink the water, touch it, or inhale vapors from it—can cause rashes, skin and eye irritation, allergic reactions, gastrointestinal upset, serious illness, and even death.  In June 2008, a water treatment plant serving 30,000 Florida residents was shut down after a toxic blue-green algae bloom on the Caloosahatchee River threatened the plant's water supply.
The public interest law firm Earthjustice filed the suit in the Northern District of Florida on behalf of the Florida Wildlife Federation, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, the Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida, St. John’s Riverkeeper, and the Sierra Club in July 2008.  The suit challenged an unacceptable decade-long delay by the state and federal governments in setting limits for nutrient pollution.  EPA's agreement to set enforceable nutrient limits settles that lawsuit.
Today's action has nationwide implications. Currently, Florida and most other states have only vague limits regulating nutrient pollution. The U.S. EPA will now begin the process of imposing quantifiable—and enforceable—water quality standards to tackle nutrient pollution.
Three environmental groups filed a lawsuit this afternoon against the Florida legislature, claiming lawmakers misappropriated funds intended for land and water conservation and land purchases to protect the environment.

The 10-page lawsuit was filed by EarthJustice, a non-profit public interest law firm that has represented environmental groups in more than 20-years of lawsuit over restoration of the Everglades. The groups who launched the lawsuit are the Florida Wildlife Federation, St. Johns Riverkeeper, the Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida and Manley Fuller, president of the Florida Wildlife Federation.

The Water and Land Conservation Amendment requires that, for the next 20 years, thirty-three percent of the proceeds from real estate documentary-stamp taxes go for to manage, protect and acquire land and water for conservation purposes. For the upcoming year, the share of the real-estate tax is projected to bring in more than $740 million.

“The constitutional amendment is clear,” said Earthjustice attorney David Guest. “A third of the tax on real estate deals is to be used to prevent every last inch of Florida land from getting chewed up by development. But most lawmakers are simply not listening. That’s why we have to go to court.”

The lawsuit was filed in Leon County Circuit Court in Tallahassee.

Florida is a water state, known for its rivers, creeks, mangrove swamps and wetlands. But what was once pristine has become sullied by fluorescent green slime—the toxic result of sewage, manure and fertilizer pollution, which triggers outbreaks of algae. As a result, health officials continually warn Floridians and tourists not to come into contact with the algae-choked water.
The Clean Water Act is intended to protect people against exactly this kind of preventable pollution. In 2008, Earthjustice sued the EPA to force the agency to set standards to protect Florida’s waters from outbreaks of toxic slime.
In 2009, the EPA agreed as part of a settlement to set enforceable, legal limits on the pollution that generates toxic slime in Florida’s waterways. The agency set limits, but the state of Florida issued its own weaker limits in an attempt to displace the federal rules. Earthjustice challenged these limits, but a Florida judge sided with industry.
Now, the EPA is considering ceding control over much of Floridian waters to the state and its toothless, industry-created pollution plan. Earthjustice is challenging the EPA in an attempt to ensure that federal, enforceable standards are put in place to protect Floridians and their precious water resources.
1773, 2148, 2278, 2460


David Guest

Florida Wildlife Federation
Sierra Club

Clean Water


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Sunday, June 21, 2015

PNN - Progressive Round Table

PNN 6/21/15

RWS News Director
Brook Hines Political Commentator
Drew Martin Palm Beach Soil & Water Board
Wendy Lynn Lee Philosophy Professor / Civic Rights Activist [TPP Report]
Steve Horn Journalist Fellow DeSmog Blog
Gwen Holden Barry Progressive Journalist

1. The Topics for tonights show, will be:

Part I 
What part will the primary Environmental Issues play in the 2016 Campaign . GMOs, Wildlife Extinction, Fracking, Nuclear Waste, Storage Off-shore drilling, Alternative Energy Investment WHICH IF ANY WILL GET A HEARING? WHICH IS WORTH MENTIONING????. 

Part II
We face a variety of WAR ISSUES - 
Syria and the ongoing disaster which we have in large part helped to create, Iraq where we are sending in ADVISORS. Yemen where our allies the Freedom Loving Human Rights Promoting Saudi's are bombing daily. The slow motion disaster in the Ukraine and the growing confrontation with the Saudis.

2. TPP
 We won a small victory on June 12, 2015. House Democrats used a tactical maneuver to derail a bill giving fast-track authority to President Obama to negotiate the TPP, the Trans-Pacific Partnership. That victory will be short-lived.
What House Democrats did was fail to pass a bill linked to the fast-track authorization called Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA). In that the two bills had been linked by the Senate. the demise of TAA in the House prevented, at that time, passage of fast-track authorization.
The TPP treaty at the heart of this drama is a game-changing agreement. Everyone and everything will be affected. The TAA bill, however, is a red herring. It’s a meaningless publicity stunt not worth, to any American worker, the paper it is written on.
The real purpose of TAA is to provide political cover to Democrats who sell out their voters and workers in their home districts. It gives them something they can hold aloft as proof that they got a concession for American workers. In fact, it’s a fig leaf to make selling out somewhat safer. It’s also something the commercial press can use in selling the package to the American public.
What the TAA bill did do is give the democrats a way to politely derail fast-track authorization. It gave them an option for passive resistance which, to their credit, they passively opted to exert.
TAA having failed and fast-track authority having passed in the House, both bills are now back in the Senate, with President Obama and Senate GOP leaders looking for a way, any way, to move fast-track authority to Obama’s desk.
To understand why they are likely to succeed, follow the money. Yes, that TPP agreement is a game-changer. It is also of, for, and by the Multinational Corporations. The politicians ramrodding it through Congress are paid, and paid well, to make sure it becomes law.
At stake is control of global resources and production on a staggering scale. In terms of natural resources, it’s everything from fossil fuels to precious metals to old growth timber and ivory. In addition, every facet of global production would be affected. From consumer electronics to clothing, from aerospace to shipbuilding, if it can be produced by man, the Multinational Corporations and investors backing the TPP agreement have every intention of controlling it – whatever that takes.
Would that include bribing and manipulating spineless American politicians to sell out their country and their communities? Bet your life on it...

What You Can Do
The day before the June 12 TPP vote, Elizabeth Warren posted a simple request to her website. It said, “I need you to make a phone call.” Her page provides a link to look up your Congressional representatives and a sobering explanation of what TPP means to you and the the country. Visit her pagemake the call.
You should also contact the AFL-CIO and let them know you support their position that they will not contribute to the campaign of any publicly elected official who votes to promote the TPP agreement.
The time has come to make your voice heard, loud and clear. Try it, you’ll like the results.

TPP Part 2

Congress' upheaval over trade has exposed turmoil within a House Democratic caucus that's grown smaller and more liberal in recent years as moderates have been ousted in successive election bloodlettings.

Those who remain must answer to ideologically driven voters and labor unions fighting their own battles for survival, even if it means sidelining their own leaders and humbling their president in the process. - THE AGENDA NOT THE PEOPLE

The result is a minority caucus dominated by some of its most liberal members, leaving the few remaining centrists to question whether that will make it harder for their party to retake the seats they need to regain the House majority anytime in the next decade.

Just as the tea party wing of the Republican Party has pulled the entire GOP to the right and hampered attempts at compromise on Capitol Hill, some now fear a similar dynamic is taking shape on the left.

"The real question is, are we going to try to broaden our caucus," said Rep. Gerry Connolly of Virginia, who unlike most Democrats is an outspoken supporter of President Barack Obama's trade agenda. "That means listening more to some of these swing districts and suburban districts which have a different economic outlook."

House Democrats celebrated earlier this month after they derailed Obama's bid for expedited trade negotiating authority by voting down a linked worker retraining program they long had supported. But now it looks like their victory may have been fleeting. 

Obama maneuvered with congressional Republicans to get the trade package back on track, clearing a key House hurdle Thursday and setting up make-or-break votes in the Senate in coming days.

The revival of the trade package inflamed labor unions and liberal groups that had fought ferociously to block it, including by running ads against otherwise friendly House Democrats and threatening to mount primary campaigns against them. Unions say past trade deals bled American jobs and tanked wages. They argue that granting Obama the power to finalize trade deals that Congress can accept or reject, but not amend, would lead to more of the same, including the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership the White House has worked on for years.

"Democrats who allowed the passage of fast-track authority for the job-killing TPP, should know that we will not lift a finger or raise a penny to protect you when you're attacked in 2016, we will encourage our progressive allies to join us in leaving you to rot, and we will actively search for opportunities to primary you with a real Democrat," Jim Dean, head of Democracy for America, said in a statement following Thursday's House vote.

It's the kind of vicious infighting that has characterized GOP politics since the tea party rose in 2010 and began trying to oust anyone who disagreed with its conservative tenets. Few believe that the fissures within the Democratic Party are as stark, noting that trade is an unusually divisive issue for the party. Yet leaders are openly alarmed at the internal conflict and are warning that Democrats must move on quickly to more harmonious topics — or possibly face even more election losses.

"We risk marginalizing ourselves if we dominate our discourse with divisions and process arguments," said Rep. Steve Israel of New York, a member of the House Democratic leadership team. "At the end of the day we have the responsibility to find common ground that's going to allow us to win back this majority."

Democrats lost their majority in 2010 and now number 188 in the House, compared with 246 Republicans, with one seat vacant. Many more lawmakers in both parties represent safe seats, and there are fewer swing seats nationally than in years past, said Matt Bennett of the centrist Democratic group Third Way.

For Democrats, "the caucus has become smaller in every way, both physically and ideologically," Bennett said.

House Democrats also rely on an aging generation of leaders and have not seen new blood at the very top in years.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who is 75, has led the caucus since 2002, into the majority and out again. She has been known for ruling with an iron fist, yet her unpredictable moves on the trade package raised eyebrows around the Capitol. She announced at the last minute she would side with her caucus' liberals and vote against the legislation even after working with Republican leaders toward compromise and conferring privately with Obama.

Still, Pelosi's position is secure, and many Democrats dispute the suggestion that their caucus has grown more ideologically uniform — or they simply argue that it's no cause for alarm.

"People who pretended to be Democrats but actually were voting with the Republicans got wiped out because the voters decided they'd rather have real Republicans in those seats," said liberal Rep. Alan Grayson of Florida. "What it's allowed us I think is to show the unity that the people who are relying upon us deserve, rather than have people working against Democratic principles from within."

3. I KRAINE - Ukraine
(We all crane for Ukraine)

Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko has sent to the Constitutional Court of Ukraine a query concerning the constitutionality of the law of Ukraine on depriving Viktor Yanukovych of the title of the president of Ukraine, the court's press service reported.
"Since the law, whose constitutionality is challenged, does not have a regulative nature, having passed it, the Verkhovna Rada acted contrary to the norms of the Constitution of Ukraine, which means that this contradicts Part 2 of Article 19 of the Constitution, which obliges the parliament to act within the powers and in the manner provided by the Constitution of Ukraine. In this connection, I request recognizing the law of Ukraine on depriving Viktor Yanukovych of the title of the president of Ukraine dated February 4, 2015, as such which does not meet the Constitution of Ukraine, that is unconstitutional," the president's query reads.

4. UKRAINE CRISIS has lead to WAR
The vicious circle that resulted from the Ukrainian crisis and the economic sanctions must be broken as soon as possible, says Alexis Tsipras, Greece's Prime Minister.
"The Ukrainian crisis has opened a new wound at the heart of Europe - a wound of instability, and this, of course, is a very bad sign, a bad sign for international relations. Because instead of thriving economic cooperation the region is now seeing processes that have led to war, militarization and sanctions," Tsipras said at a plenary session at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.
He added: "This vicious circle must be broken as soon as possible. Diplomatic initiatives in this field, in the field of implementation of the Minsk agreements, deserve all kinds of attention and support."


5. Whats McCAin got to McGain?
U.S. Republican Senator John McCain has said that the supply of defensive weapons from the United States to Ukraine is needed to stop the Russian aggression from getting further into Ukraine's east.
"Right now the weapons are a critical issue in preventing Vladimir Putin from further encroachment in eastern Ukraine," he said during a televised conference at the Ukraine Crisis Media Center at a briefing in Kyiv on Saturday.
According to him, Ukraine is now fighting with the 20th century weapons against the 21st century weapons.
The Republican senators will continue to urge the U.S. government to authorize the dispatch of defensive weapons to Ukraine, that can help Ukrainians defend their sovereign country, McCain said.
McCain recalled that the Senate was defending the need for providing defensive weapons Ukraine, but this decision was up to President Barack Obama's administration.
The U.S. has a tradition of helping the people who are fighting for freedom against the occupation of other countries, he said.
"Frankly it's shameful that our European friends wouldn't be of more assistance but more shameful that the United States won't lead," McCain said.
"Vladimir Putin I believe yesterday or the day before talked about Ukraine and Russia being one country. Is there any doubt about what his ambitions are? Is there any doubt what he's trying to achieve by force of arms that he could never achieve by free and open election and other democracy?" the senator said.


The Obama administration knows that the current war in Iraq is on very shaky legal ground. That's why they asked Congress for a new AUMF months ago. 
Congress has refused to act -- up until now.

The President has said repeatedly that there is no military solution to ISIS, yet, it seems nearly all our resources are spent on military strategies.  It’s time for Congress to debate this war and to lift up other strategies such as starving ISIS of resources from illegal oil, antiquities and food commodities; cracking down on access to foreign forces and military supplies; and working to end the civil war in Syria.


It’s time for a new strategy in Iraq and Syria. It begins by admitting that the old borders are gone, that a unified Syria or Iraq will never be reconstituted, that the Sykes-Picot map is defunct.
We may not want to enunciate that policy officially. After all, it does contradict the principle that colonial borders be maintained no matter how insanely drawn, the alternative being almost universally worse. Nonetheless, in Mesopotamia, balkanization is the only way to go.
Because it has already happened and will not be reversed. In Iraq, for example, we are reaping one disaster after another by pretending that the Baghdad government -- deeply sectarian, divisive and beholden to Iran -- should be the center of our policy and the conduit for all military aid.
Look at Fallujah, Mosul, Ramadi. The Iraqi army is a farce. It sees the enemy and flees, leaving its weapons behind. “The ISF was not driven out of Ramadi. They drove out of Ramadi,” said the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Our own secretary of defense admitted that the “the Iraqi forces just showed no will to fight.” 

We can train them forever. The problem is one of will. They don’t want to fight. And why should they? They are led by commanders who are corrupt, sectarian and incompetent.
What to do? Redirect our efforts to friendly forces deeply committed to the fight, beginning with the Kurds, who have the will, the skill and have demonstrated considerable success. This year alone, they have taken back more than 500 Christian and Kurdish towns from the Islamic State. Unlike the Iraqi army, however, they are starved for weapons because, absurdly, we send them through Baghdad, which sends along only a trickle. 


Sunday, June 14, 2015

PNN - Night Music


RWS News Director & Host
Brook Hines Political Commentator
Peter Graves Band Leader / Compose Arranger / Producer
Ruti Celli Performer / Composer  / Arranger

1. Smile your on Candid Surveillance
Cops caught on surveillance video - eating MJ Brownies  and harassing a handicapped store manager at a Dispensary

2. Moderately Interested in your Welfare
Patrick Murphy the “moderate” republican or independent voted against you knowing whether the meat you are eating came from Honduras or China or Fukushima - 

3. Net Neutrality In Effect
The new federal rules for net neutrality were allowed to take effect on Friday after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit denied a motion to stay the regulation.

"Petitioners have not satisfied the stringent requirements for a stay pending court review," the three-judge panel said in its Thursday decision, which allowed the rules to kick in Friday at 12:01 a.m.

The court denied a request for a stay that would have put the regulation on hold until a broader court battle is settled, though it decided that it would expedite the underlying case.

The ruling is not on the final merits of the challenge, but it hands an early victory to net neutrality advocates.
The regulations reclassify Internet service providers as utility companies, giving the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) more power to regulate them. That includes stopping providers from selectively slowing the speed of online data.

“This is a huge victory for Internet consumers and innovators,” FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said. “Starting Friday, there will be a referee on the field to keep the Internet fast, fair and open.”

Rep. Anna Eshoo (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee, called the ruling “critical validation that the new rules to protect an open Internet are grounded in strong legal footing and can endure future challenges by broadband providers.”

But Thursday evening, Republican lawmakers said the ruling was creating "uncertainty."

“Unfortunately, we are now in for a long, unnecessary wait while the courts determine if the commission was out of bounds," House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.), communications subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.), and subcommittee Vice Chairman Bob Latta (R-Ohio) said in a statement.

Industry groups expressed disappointment at the decision not to stay the rules but cheered the ruling that the case should receive faster consideration. “While we’re disappointed the court declined to grant our stay request, we recognize that the bar for obtaining a stay is exceptionally high,” said Walter B. McCormick Jr., the president of the trade group U.S. Telecom, which brought a suit against the law.

“However, the court’s decision to grant expedited briefing shows the gravity of the issues at stake, and will facilitate a quicker path to determining the proper legal treatment for regulating broadband Internet access service.”
The head of CTIA, the main trade group for the wireless industry and a critic of the order, said the group looked “forward to presenting our full case to the court.”

While many in the telecom industry hoped that the rules would be stayed, providers have been taking steps to avoid becoming the targets of complaints when the rules take effect.

Many have signed new interconnection agreements with the "backbone operators" that control the core pathways of the Internet. Many of those operators have said service providers are slowing traffic and have threatened to file complaints with the FCC.

4. SETBACK for Fast Track

Amazing news: Today, the House rejected the Fast Track package.

A key procedural vote failed in the House. This means that the package that would have put the Trans-Pacific Partnership on the fast track to approval did not pass today. This huge win is due to the tremendous public opposition to the TPP that Food & Water Watch supporters were instrumental in communicating to key members of Congress.

Let me be clear: this fight is not over. The threat of TPP — a trade pact that could undermine key consumer, public health and environmental protections — is not gone for good. But we can take a deep breath and know that our hard work paid off today. 

Thanks for being there. So, you can hear me, I hope, Glenn Greenwald. But how much of the mass surveillance operations Edward Snowden exposed have actually been wound back or curtailed?

GLENN GREENWALD, JOURNALIST: Not very much. The first program that we reported on at The Guardian was the one that caused a huge controversy in the United States, which was the program whereby the US Government was collecting every record of every American’s communications, knowing with whom they communicated, for how long, where physically they were when they were having the communication. That program has been significantly limited as a result of this new law that says the Government shall no longer collect and store this information. But the other programs that we reported on, especially ones involving the central collection of all internet communications for non-Americans, which happened to compose 95 per cent of the planet, remains unaffected by this law.

6. Edward Snowden - noted
Two years on, the difference is profound. In a single month, the N.S.A.’s invasive call-tracking program was declared unlawful by the courts and disowned by Congress. After a White House-appointed oversight board investigation found that this program had not stopped a single terrorist attack, even the president who once defended its propriety and criticized its disclosure has now ordered it terminated.

This is the power of an informed public.

Ending the mass surveillance of private phone calls under the Patriot Act is a historic victory for the rights of every citizen, but it is only the latest product of a change in global awareness. Since 2013, institutions across Europe have ruled similar laws and operations illegal and imposed new restrictions on future activities. The United Nations declared mass surveillance an unambiguous violation of human rights. In Latin America, the efforts of citizens in Brazil led to the Marco Civil, an Internet Bill of Rights. Recognizing the critical role of informed citizens in correcting the excesses of government, the Council of Europe called for new laws to protect whistle-blowers.

Without public notice or debate, the Obama administration has expanded the National Security Agency’s warrantless surveillance of Americans’ international Internet traffic to search for evidence of malicious computer hacking, according to classified NSA documents.

In mid-2012, Justice Department lawyers wrote two secret memos permitting the spy agency to begin hunting on Internet cables, without a warrant and on American soil, for data linked to computer intrusions originating abroad — including traffic that flows to suspicious Internet addresses or contains malware, the documents show.

The Justice Department allowed the agency to monitor only addresses and “cybersignatures” — patterns associated with computer intrusions — that it could tie to foreign governments. But the documents also note that the NSA sought to target hackers even when it could not establish any links to foreign powers.

The disclosures, based on documents provided by Edward J. Snowden, the former NSA contractor, and shared with the New York Times and ProPublica, come at a time of unprecedented cyberattacks on American financial institutions, businesses and government agencies, but also of greater scrutiny of secret legal justifications for broader government surveillance.

While the Senate passed legislation this week limiting some of the NSA’s authority, it involved provisions in the U.S.A. Patriot Act and did not apply to the warrantless wiretapping program.

Government officials defended the NSA’s monitoring of suspected hackers as necessary to shield Americans from the increasingly aggressive activities of foreign governments. But critics say it raises difficult trade-offs that should be subject to public debate.

The NSA’s activities run “smack into law enforcement land,” said Jonathan Mayer, a cybersecurity scholar at Stanford Law School who has researched privacy issues and who reviewed several of the documents. “That’s a major policy decision about how to structure cybersecurity in the U.S. and not a conversation that has been had in public.”

It is not clear what standards the agency is using to select targets. It can be hard to know for sure who is behind a particular intrusion — a foreign government or a criminal gang — and the NSA is supposed to focus on foreign intelligence, not law enforcement.

The government can also gather significant volumes of Americans’ information — anything from private emails to trade secrets and business dealings — through Internet surveillance because monitoring the data flowing to a hacker involves copying that information as the hacker steals it.

One internal NSA document notes that agency surveillance activities through “hacker signatures pull in a lot.” Brian Hale, the spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, said, “It should come as no surprise that the U.S. government gathers intelligence on foreign powers that attempt to penetrate U.S. networks and steal the private information of U.S. citizens and companies.” He added that “targeting overseas individuals engaging in hostile cyberactivities on behalf of a foreign power is a lawful foreign intelligence purpose.”

The effort is the latest known expansion of the NSA’s warrantless surveillance program, which allows the government to intercept Americans’ cross-border communications if the target is a foreigner abroad. While the NSA has long searched for specific email addresses and phone numbers of foreign intelligence targets, the Obama administration three years ago started allowing the agency to search its communications streams for less-identifying Internet protocol addresses or strings of harmful computer code.

The surveillance activity traces to changes that began after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The government tore down a so-called wall that prevented intelligence and criminal investigators from sharing information about suspected spies and terrorists. The barrier had been erected to protect Americans’ rights because intelligence investigations use lower legal standards than criminal inquiries, but policy makers decided it was too much of an obstacle to terrorism investigations.

The NSA also started the warrantless wiretapping program, which caused an outcry when it was disclosed in 2005. In 2008, under the FISA Amendments Act, Congress legalized the surveillance program so long as the agency targeted only noncitizens abroad. A year later, the new Obama administration began crafting a new cybersecurity policy — including weighing whether the Internet had made the distinction between a spy and a criminal obsolete.

“Reliance on legal authorities that make theoretical distinctions between armed attacks, terrorism and criminal activity may prove impractical,” the White House National Security Council wrote in a classified annex to a policy report in May 2009, which was included in the NSA’s internal files.

About that time, the documents show, the NSA — whose mission includes protecting military and intelligence networks against intruders — proposed using the warrantless surveillance program for cybersecurity purposes. The agency received “guidance on targeting using the signatures” from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, according to an internal newsletter.

In May and July 2012, according to an internal timeline, the Justice Department granted its secret approval for the searches of cybersignatures and Internet addresses. The Justice Department tied that authority to a pre-existing approval by the secret surveillance court permitting the government to use the program to monitor foreign governments.

That limit meant the NSA had to have some evidence for believing that the hackers were working for a specific foreign power. That rule, the NSA soon complained, left a “huge collection gap against cyberthreats to the nation” because it is often hard to know exactly who is behind an intrusion, according to an agency newsletter. Different computer intruders can use the same piece of malware, take steps to hide their location or pretend to be someone else.

So the NSA, in 2012, began pressing to go back to the surveillance court and seek permission to use the program explicitly for cybersecurity purposes. That way, it could monitor international communications for any “malicious cyberactivity,” even if it did not yet know who was behind the attack.

The newsletter described the further expansion as one of “highest priorities” of the NSA director, Gen. Keith B. Alexander. However, a former senior intelligence official said that the government never asked the court to grant that authority.

Meanwhile, the FBI in 2011 had obtained a new kind of wiretap order from the secret surveillance court for cybersecurity investigations, permitting it to target Internet data flowing to or from specific Internet addresses linked to certain governments.

To carry out the orders, the FBI negotiated in 2012 to use the NSA’s system for monitoring Internet traffic crossing “chokepoints operated by U.S. providers through which international communications enter and leave the United States,” according to a 2012 NSA document. The NSA would send the intercepted traffic to the bureau’s “cyberdata repository” in Quantico, Virginia.

8. FBI may not be listening but they sure are WATCHING

WASHINGTON (AP) — Scores of low-flying planes circling American cities are part of a civilian air force operated by the FBI and obscured behind fictitious companies, The Associated Press has learned.

The AP traced at least 50 aircraft back to the FBI, and identified more than 100 flights in 11 states over a 30-day period since late April, orbiting both major cities and rural areas. At least 115 planes, including 90 Cessna aircraft, were mentioned in a federal budget document from 2009.

For decades, the planes have provided support to FBI surveillance operations on the ground. But now the aircraft are equipped with high-tech cameras, and in rare circumstances, technology capable of tracking thousands of cellphones, raising questions about how these surveillance flights affect Americans' privacy.

"It's important that federal law enforcement personnel have the tools they need to find and catch criminals," said Charles Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. "But whenever an operation may also monitor the activities of Americans who are not the intended target, we must make darn sure that safeguards are in place to protect the civil liberties of innocent Americans."

The FBI says the planes are not equipped or used for bulk collection activities or mass surveillance. The surveillance equipment is used for ongoing investigations, the FBI says, generally without a judge's approval.

The FBI confirmed for the first time the wide-scale use of the aircraft, which the AP traced to at least 13 fake companies, such as FVX Research, KQM Aviation, NBR Aviation and PXW Services.

"The FBI's aviation program is not secret," spokesman Christopher Allen said in a statement. "Specific aircraft and their capabilities are protected for operational security purposes."

The front companies are used to protect the safety of the pilots, the agency said. That setup also shields the identity of the aircraft so that suspects on the ground don't know they're being followed.

The FBI is not the only federal law enforcement agency to take such measures.

The Drug Enforcement Administration has its own planes, also registered to fake companies, according to a 2011 Justice Department inspector general report. At the time, the DEA had 92 aircraft in its fleet. And since 2007, the U.S. Marshals Service has operated an aerial surveillance program with its own fleet equipped with technology that can capture data from thousands of cellphones, the Wall Street Journal reported last year.

In the FBI's case, one of its fake companies shares a post office box with the Justice Department, creating a link between the companies and the FBI through publicly available Federal Aviation Administration records.

Basic aspects of the FBI's program are withheld from the public in censored versions of official reports from the Justice Department's inspector general, and the FBI also has been careful not to reveal its surveillance flights in court documents. The agency will not say how many planes are currently in its fleet.

The planes are equipped with technology that can capture video of unrelated criminal activity on the ground that could be handed over to prosecutions. One of the planes, photographed in flight last week by the AP in northern Virginia, bristled with unusual antennas under its fuselage and a camera on its left side.

Some of the aircraft can also be equipped with technology that can identify thousands of people below through the cellphones they carry, even if they're not making a call or in public. Officials said that practice, which mimics cell towers and gets phones to reveal basic subscriber information, is used in only limited situations.

"These are not your grandparents' surveillance aircraft," said Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst with the American Civil Liberties Union. Stanley said the flights are significant "if the federal government is maintaining a fleet of aircraft whose purpose is to circle over American cities, especially with the technology we know can be attached to those aircraft."

The Justice Department recently published a privacy policy for its agencies' use of drones and unmanned aircraft systems. But that policy does not apply to piloted aircraft. An FBI spokesman said the FBI's flights comply with agency rules.

Those rules, which are heavily redacted in publicly available documents, limit the types of equipment the agency can use, as well as the justifications and duration of the surveillance.

Evolving technology can record higher-quality video from long distances, even at night, and can capture certain identifying information from cellphones using a device known as a "cell-site simulator" — or Stingray, to use one of the product's brand names. These can trick pinpointed cellphones into revealing identification numbers of subscribers, including those not suspected of a crime.

The FBI has recently begun obtaining court orders to use this technology. Previously, the Obama administration had been directing local authorities through secret agreements not to reveal their own use of the devices, even encouraging prosecutors to drop cases rather than disclose the technology's use in open court.

Officials say cellphone surveillance from FBI aircraft was rarely used.

Details confirmed by the FBI about its air force track closely with published reports since at least 2003 that a government surveillance program might be behind suspicious-looking planes slowly circling neighborhoods.

One such plane was spotted during the recent disturbance in Baltimore that followed the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, who sustained grievous injuries while in police custody. In that instance, the FBI was helping local police with aerial support, which it occasionally does when asked. Those types of requests are reviewed by senior FBI officials.

During the past few weeks, the AP tracked planes from the FBI's fleet on more than 100 flights over at least 11 states plus the District of Columbia, most with Cessna 182T Skylane aircraft. These included parts of Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Minneapolis, Phoenix, Seattle and Southern California.

Some flights orbited large, enclosed buildings for extended periods where aerial photography would be less effective than electronic signals collection. Those included above Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota.

David Gomez, a former FBI agent who oversaw parts of the aviation surveillance program over the course of his career, said the FBI surveillance aircraft are used to assist surveillance on the ground. For example, if a plane is following a suspect in a vehicle, an FBI ground surveillance team can lag behind so as not to blow their cover, Gomez said.

After The Washington Post revealed flights by two planes circling over Baltimore in early May, the AP began analyzing detailed flight data and aircraft-ownership registrations that shared similar addresses and flight patterns. That review found that some FBI missions circled above at least 40,000 residents during a single flight over Anaheim, California, in late May, according to Census data and records provided by the website

Most flight patterns occurred in counter-clockwise orbits up to several miles wide and roughly one mile above the ground at slow speeds. A 2003 newsletter from the company FLIR Systems Inc., which makes camera technology such as seen on the planes, described flying slowly in left-handed patterns.

Gomez said the aircraft circle to the left because the pilot sits on the left side. He said different flight formations are used depending on circumstances on the ground, such as whether a suspect is on the move.

The FBI asked the AP not to disclose the names of the fake companies it uncovered, saying that would saddle taxpayers with the expense of creating new cover companies to shield the government's involvement, and could endanger the planes and integrity of the surveillance missions. The AP declined the FBI's request because the companies' names — as well as common addresses linked to the Justice Department — are listed on public documents and in government databases.

Recently, independent journalists and websites have cited companies traced to post office boxes in Virginia, including one shared with the Justice Department.

Included on most aircraft registrations is a mysterious name, Robert Lindley. He is listed as chief executive and has at least three distinct signatures among the companies. Two documents include a signature for Robert Taylor, which is strikingly similar to one of Lindley's three handwriting patterns.

The FBI would not say whether Lindley is a U.S. government employee. The AP unsuccessfully tried to reach Lindley at phone numbers registered to people of the same name in the Washington area.

Law enforcement officials said Justice Department lawyers approved the decision to create fictitious companies and that the Federal Aviation Administration was aware of the practice. The FBI has been doing this since at least the late 1980s, according to a 1990 report by the then-General Accounting Office.