Sunday, August 30, 2015

PNN - Take the Fifth

Progressive News Network - 8-30-15  - Take the Fifth

Brook Hines
Lillian Stanbajher
Jayson Ttvp Casta  (

Lillian Taylor's heart and soul is in creative arts.  Lillian is a columnist writing on industrial hemp  and hemp fashions for Freedom Leaf Magazine.  She released a book of short stores last year, has a novel coming out in a couple of months, and has already started the process of producing a movie based upon the screenplay, KRYMEA RIVER OF BLOOD.  But we're going to talk to her about another screenplay she wrote, filming later this year called BREATHING.  It's based upon the short story CARNIVORE, available online in the e-book The MERMAID CHRONICLES.
I should mention that Lillian is also a well-respected trademark attorney practicing in South Florida, representing some of the largest corporations in the world to protect their trademark portfolios both domestically and abroad.  She doesn't hesitate to help the little guys too, so if you need help protecting your brand or content , give her a call.  954-925-1100.

After we interview Lillian, I'll turn the process over to her to interview Jayson Casta of Talent TV Productions.  Any artist and anyone who knows an artist knows that success requires a marriage between creativity and good business decisions.  The business of being an artist starts at creating content within a framework that reflects professionalism, and extends to having clean ownership and entitlement to rights, and promoting to gain recognition.  The business of being an artist is hard work, and that's where Jayson steps in, facilitating a learning platform by artists for artist.

Marty Baum RiverKeeper
The Indian Riverkeeper a non-profit organization. funded solely by members, citizens,              businesses, foundations and grants. a membership organization. an independent voice for the Indian                River Lagoon. 
...board is composed of unpaid volunteers            who have a desire to protect our waters.
...Is a member of Waterkeeper Alliance.

The densely populated megalopolis of South Florida is losing it's water wells as sea water intrudes into the Biscayne Aquifer. Salt water has already moved 6 miles inland in Broward County and is likely to continue to creep westward. Ninety percent of South Florida gets its drinking water from underground supplies, most from the Biscayne aquifer.

This inland movement observed in Broward County is due to urban withdrawals from the Biscayne Aquifer, ocean water moving sideways into the aquifer and seepage of saltwater from surface sources.

Governor Scott, this is threatening the habitability of a region of close to 6 million of your fellow Floridians. Your inaction and hostility towards climate issues and sustainability now threatens funds and other aid from FEMA as they will not give money to any state that does not plan for climate change. Where is the disaster relief going to come from if not from Federal sources?
A report titled Climate Change AND Sea-Level Rise IN Florida notes the hellish calamity that will affect Florida's urban populations, economy, ecosystems and coasts.
Florida‘s Biscayne Aquifer, the principal water supply to southeastern Florida and the Florida Keys, is recharged by rainfall and the freshwater Everglades. Surficial coastal aquifers are already experiencing saltwater intrusion. 

Rising sea level will increase the hydraulic backpressure on coastal aquifers, reduce groundwater flow toward the ocean, and cause the saltwater front to move inland, thus threatening to contaminate water-supply wells in coastal areas with seawater. In the low-lying southernmost Everglades, sea-level rise will cause brackish waters to encroach farther
The Pensacola Bay and St. Johns River watersheds and southern Florida from Palm Beach to Miami, the Florida Keys, Naples, and Fort Myers are especially vulnerable to saltwater intrusion into municipal freshwater supplies as sea levels rise (Dausman and Langevin, 2005; Freed et al., 2005; Murley et al., 2008).
The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan’s main purpose is to increase freshwater flow to the southern Everglades. This will help offset the effect of sea-level rise and help preserve Everglades ecologies and southern Florida’s water supply (South Florida Water Management District, 2009a). The South Florida Water Management District already spends millions of dollars per year to prevent Miami’s Biscayne Aquifer from becoming brackish (Miller et al., 1989). Rising sea level will cause groundwater near the coast to become more saline and groundwater levels to increase.

As sea level continues to rise, these effects will increase the extent of saltwater intrusion especially during periods of drought and the dry winter/spring season (Heimlich et al., 2009).

Sea-level rise of 15 centimeters (about 6 inches) and more will require implementing adaptation strategies such as water conservation, wastewater reuse, recovery and recharge, stormwater storage, alternative water supplies including desalination, and other advanced water-management strategies in order to assure adequate water supplies (Heimlich et al., 2009).

If the saline waterfront moves far enough north, it could contaminate the headwaters of the Biscayne Aquifer and southern Miami-Dade County’s water supply Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2007; Heimlich et al., 2009; Karl et al., 2009).

This contamination would increase the salt content of leakage into sewer collection systems and complicate wastewater treatment operations. Water and wastewater treatment facilities that are located at low elevations in coastal regions may be subject to more frequent flooding during spring tides and storm surges (Bloetscher et al., 2009).

Interior regional hydrologic systems of Florida should not be significantly affected (Trimble et al., 1998).

Municipal sewer systems will have to be tightened to significantly reduce groundwater seepage in order to protect wastewater treatment operations (Bloetscher et al., 2009).

Jayson Ttvp Casta's venture - to become a non-profit ...

"Entertainment social networking community focused on educating, guiding and helping up and coming talent in all fields by giving them something as simple as education and an opportunity to break into the business. Designed for entertainers in all fields of the music, fashion, film and art industry to connect, interact and help each other get to the next level as well as finding opportunities to receive exposure."


0. Martin County Votes on Fracking 9/1/15

from Floridians Against Fracking

Need your help here in Martin County, where FPL is headquartered and fracked gas is a commodity to be bought and sold from all over the United Sates and proposed to be shipped via Sabal Trail natural gas pipeline to here.

We need citizen support to ask BOCC to support a ban on fracking in FL. also, please share with folks in the Indian River Lagoon area:

Here’s a one liner: for phone or email use: 

On Tuesday, September 1st, the Commission will be voting to adopt a Resolution in support of a statewide ban on hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking.  I am calling to encourage you to support adopting this Resolution.                   
The following is a link to contact all of the Martin County Commissioners by email:

Here are the phone numbers for the Commissioners:

Chair – Ed Fielding 772-288-5421
Vice Chair – Ann Scott (772) 221-2357
John Haddox (772) 221-1357
Sarah Heard (772) 221-2358

Doug Smith (772) 221-2359

1. Documents: Workers had no way to issue warning after spill
August 28, 2015

Matthew Brown | The Associated Press
BILLINGS, Mont.— Members of a federal cleanup crew were initially trapped and unable to warn downstream communities that they had accidentally unleashed toxic waste water from a Colorado gold mine, according to government documents released Thursday.
During that time, a trickle of water started by excavation work at the site grew to a torrent and 3 million gallons eventually poured out of the remote Gold King Mine near Silverton, fouling downstream rivers in Colorado, Utah and New Mexico.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency released the documents after coming under increasing political pressure to explain how the Aug. 5 accident occurred and why it took so long to issue the warning.
The documents show the site outside the mine was largely destroyed just 20 minutes after the spill began, with the rust-colored water also washing out the sole access road and submerging a Chevrolet Suburban used by the workers.
With no satellite phone or cellphone service, workers had to use a two-way radio to notify a state regulator inspecting another mine in the area. The state worker notified outside authorities 96 minutes after the spill was first triggered, according to the documents.
However, some downstream communities in New Mexico were not notified about the late morning spill of the water laced with lead, arsenic and other heavy metals until the next day.
Another report on Wednesday summarizing the EPA’s internal investigation appeared to minimize the agency’s responsibility by suggesting a blowout was inevitable and likely could not have been avoided.
Information released so far by the EPA indicates few extra safety precautions were taken.

Members of Congress and Colorado’s attorney general have said they’re not satisfied with the explanations by the agency.
“This new report cannot excuse their liability in causing the spill and the negative impact it is having downstream,” said U.S. Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyoming. “The EPA will have to explain to the American people how this happened.”
Barrasso chairs the Senate Indian Affairs Committee and has scheduled a Sept. 16 hearing on the spill. It’s one of a series of hearings on the accident planned by Republicans once Congress returns from recess.
The EPA investigation also determined that federal and state regulators mistakenly concluded water pressure inside the mine was not high enough to cause an accident.
That turned out to be wrong, and the pressure blew when the government cleanup team started cleanup work on the site.
EPA Deputy Administrator Stan Meiburg said Wednesday that underestimating the water pressure inside the mine workings “was likely the most significant factor relating to the blowout.”
The internal investigation also revealed that regulators could have drilled into the mine to get a better gauge on how much pressure had built up but did not.
The Associated Press reported Saturday that EPA managers knew that a release of “large volumes of contaminated mine waters” was a possibility as early as June, 2014. The concerns were repeated in a May work plan from an agency contractor.

Other investigations are being done by the EPA’s inspector general and the U.S. Interior Department. But Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman said an outside review “is a must.”
I don’t trust the EPA or this administration to investigate itself,” said Coffman, a Republican. “It would never have allowed BP to investigate the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.”

The toxic sludge released from the mine prompted the temporary shutdown of some public drinking water and irrigation systems and tainted hundreds of miles of rivers.

Some farmers on the Navajo Nation who draw water from one of the affected rivers, the San Juan, want to keep irrigation systems shut down for at least a year to avoid contaminated sediments that experts say likely settled onto river bottoms.

EPA water testing has shown contamination levels returning to pre-spill levels, though experts warn some of the contaminants likely sunk and mixed with bottom sediments and could someday be stirred back up.

2. Some black bass and sunfish in North Carolina rivers have eggs in their testes; 
researchers suspect chemical exposure as culprit and are concerned for populations
August 19, 2015
By Brian Bienkowski
Environmental Health News

Male black bass and some sunfish in North Carolina rivers and streams are developing eggs in their testes, which can cause reproductive problems and potentially threaten populations, according to unpublished research.

The research adds to growing evidence that exposure to estrogen compounds is feminizing male fish across the U.S. and suggests that North Carolina fish might be particularly at risk.
“It’s a very interesting study and certainly adds to our understanding of what’s potentially going on in our rivers and with the intersex fish,” said Vicki Blazer, a U.S. Geological Survey fish biologist who was not involved in the study.
North Carolina State University researchers tested 20 streams and rivers throughout North Carolina during the 2012 spawning season for contaminants known to disrupt endocrine systems, such as industrial chemicals and pesticides. They also tested black bass—largemouth and smallmouth bass—and sunfish in the rivers for “intersex” characteristics, looking for eggs in the testes of males.

More than 60 percent of the 81 black bass tested intersex, while 10 percent of the 185 sunfish were intersex. 

They detected 43 percent of the 135 contaminants they were looking for throughout the state. Crystal Lee Pow, a Ph.D. student at North Carolina State University who helped lead the work, said they are still analyzing differences between waterways so aren’t yet disclosing the impacted rivers.

The results are worrisome. In past studies, male fish with eggs have had reduced fertility and sperm production. In addition, male fish are critical for the survival of developing black bass and sunfish.

“Males guard the nest, create spawning nests for young, and guard fertilized eggs,” Lee Pow said. “ Males are crucial for hatching success, and their male behavior could be altered by exposure to contaminants and the presence of the intersex condition.”

The research was in part spurred by a U.S. Geological Survey study in 2009 that showed intersex male fish in nine U.S. river basins and found that the Pee Dee River basin—which spans North Carolina and South Carolina—had the highest rate of intersex fish (80 percent).
The suspected culprits of the sex changes are endocrine disrupting compounds. 
This includes hormones, industrial chemicals and pesticides that are or mimic estrogen hormones. These compounds enter rivers and streams via permitted effluents, stormwater and agricultural runoff, and wastewater treatment plants, where excreted birth control and natural estrogens pass through relatively un-altered.

“There are also a lot of concentrated animal feeding operations in North Carolina,” Lee Pow said, adding that previous research at North Carolina State found that waste from pigs, which is held in lagoons, can run off into streams after it is applied to land. “The [pig] waste is chock-full of estrogens,” she said.
It’s unclear why the black bass had such a higher intersex rate, but it’s an important finding that shows not all species are impacted the same, said Dana Kolpin, a U.S. Geological Survey research hydrologist.
Blazer, who has been investigating intersex fish in the Potomac River basin and Chesapeake Bay drainage area, said Lee Pow’s findings are similar to hers—bass seem more prone to intersex characteristics.

“We’ve compared bass to white suckers, brown bullhead, and we rarely see intersex in the suckers and bullhead, even at the same sites where we see bass that are intersex,” Blazer said.
Researchers don’t know why the bass are more susceptible, however, it is probably either the timing and location of where they spawn, or something about their physiology that is more sensitive, Blazer said.
Donald Tillitt, a U.S. Geological Survey toxicologist, said he and colleagues dosed adult largemouth bass with a synthetic estrogen found in birth control pills with levels commonly found in the environment and were able to induce intersex fish.
“The dominant idea has been that intersex is instigated in early life exposures as the gonads are developing,” Tillitt said about the unpublished research. “But this suggests they’re still susceptible as adults.”
The presence of intersex black bass in North Carolina was linked to chemicals that are hydrophobic, meaning those that prefer separating from water such as the common contaminant polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).
But Blazer cautioned that it is “important for people to understand that what could be inducing intersex at one site might be different than at another site.”
The concern with an impacted reproductive system is the overall fish population and ability to properly reproduce. Blazer said bass are a long-living fish and produce a lot of sperm, so it would take a few years for population impacts to take place.
Susan Massengale, a spokesperson for the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources, said in an emailed response that the new study was “useful for understanding what may potentially affect aquatic life,” adding that it would be interesting to know the rivers tested and whether the tested fish had reduced ability to reproduce.
She said “this is one part of a picture that will emerge over time” as research fills in the blanks on the levels of these compounds that impact the fish and how to stop or treat the compounds before they affect species.
Kolpin said, with a growing body of evidence of endocrine disrupting compounds in U.S. waterways impacting fish, there may soon be action in trying to curb the problem.
“The next five years we should gain even more knowledge and eventually I think there will be something done to prevent contaminants getting into these waterways in the first place,” he said. “It’s better to prevent them than trying to treat water after the fact.”

EHN welcomes republication of our stories, but we require that publications include the author's name and Environmental Health News at the top of the piece, along with a link back to EHN's version.
For questions or feedback about this piece, contact Brian Bienkowski at

3. What WikiLeaks Teaches Us About How the US Operates
By Julian Assange, Newsweek
29 August 15

In an introduction to a new book, The WikiLeaks Files: The World According to U.S. Empire (Verso, 2015), Wikileaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange explains how the leaked U.S. documents have lifted the veil on the imperialist nature of American foreign policy.

ne day, a monk and two novices found a heavy stone in their path. “We will throw it away,” said the novices. But before they could do so, the monk took his ax and cleaved the stone in half. After seeking his approval, the novices then threw the halves away.
“Why did you cleave the stone only to have us throw it away?” they asked. The monk pointed to the distance the half stones had traveled. Growing excited, one of the novices took the monk’s ax and rushed to where one half of the stone had landed. Cleaving it, he threw the quarter, whereupon the other novice grabbed the ax from him and rushed after it. He too cleaved the stone fragment and threw it afield.
The novices continued on in this fashion, laughing and gasping, until the halves were so small they traveled not at all and drifted into their eyes like dust. The novices blinked in bewilderment. “Every stone has its size,” said the monk.
At the time of writing, WikiLeaks has published 2,325,961 diplomatic cables and other US State Department records, comprising some two billion words. This stupendous and seemingly insurmountable body of internal state literature, which if printed would amount to some 30,000 volumes, represents something new.
Like the State Department, it cannot be grasped without breaking it open and considering its parts. But to randomly pick up isolated diplomatic records that intersect with known entities and disputes, as some daily newspapers have done, is to miss “the empire” for its cables.
Each corpus has its size.
To obtain the right level of abstraction, one which considers the relationships between most of the cables for a region or country rather than considering cables in isolation, a more scholarly approach is needed. This approach is so natural that it seems odd that it has not been tried before.
The study of empires has long been the study of their communications. Carved into stone or inked into parchment, empires from Babylon to the Ming dynasty left records of the organizational center communicating with its peripheries.
However, by the 1950s, students of historical empires realized that somehow the communications medium was the empire. Its methods for organizing the inscription, transportation, indexing and storage of its communications and for designating who was authorized to read and write them, in a real sense constituted the empire. When the methods an empire used to communicate changed, the empire also changed.

Speech has a short temporal range, but stone has a long one. Some writing methods, such as engraving into stone, suited the transmission of compressed institutional rules that needed to be safely communicated into future months and years. But these methods did not allow for rapidly unfolding events, or for offi- cial nuance or discretion: they were set in stone.
To address the gaps, empires with slow writing systems still had to rely heavily on humanity’s oldest and yet most ephemeral communications medium: oral conventions, speech.

Other methods, such as papyrus, were light and fast to create, but fragile. Such communications materials had the advantage of being easy to construct and transport, unifying occupied regions through rapid information flow that in turn could feed a reactive central management. Such a well connected center could integrate the streams of intelligence coming in and swiftly project its resulting decisions outwards, albeit with resulting tendencies toward short-termism and micromanagement.

While a sea, desert, or mountain could be crossed or bypassed at some expense, and energy resources discovered or stolen, the ability to project an empire’s desires, structure and knowledge across space and time forms an absolute boundary to its existence.
Cultures and economies communicate using all manner of techniques across the regions and years of their existence, from the evolution of jokes shared virally between friends to the diffusion of prices across trade routes.
This does not by itself make an empire. The structured attempt at managing an extended cultural and economic system using communications is the hallmark of empire. And it is the records of these communications, never intended to be dissected, and so especially vulnerable to dissection, that form the basis for understanding the nature of the world’s sole remaining “empire.”

Anatomy of the U.S. Empire
And where is this empire?
Each working day, 71,000 people across 191 countries representing twenty-seven different US government agencies wake and make their way past flags, steel fences and armed guards into one of the 276 fortified buildings that comprise the 169 embassies and other missions of the US Department of State.
They are joined in their march by representatives and operatives from twenty-seven other US government departments and agencies, including the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the various branches of the US military.

Inside each embassy is an ambassador who is usually close to domestic US political, business or intelligence power; career diplomats who specialize in the politics, economy and public diplomacy of their host state; managers, researchers, military attachés, spies under foreign-service cover, personnel from other US government agencies (for some embassies this goes as far as overt armed military or covert special operations forces); contractors, security personnel, technicians, locally hired translators, cleaners and other service personnel.

Above them, radio and satellite antennas scrape the air, some reaching back home to receive or disgorge diplomatic and CIA cables, some to relay the communications of US military ships and planes, others emplaced by the National Security Agency in order to mass-intercept the mobile phones and other wireless traffic of the host population.

The US diplomatic service dates back to the Revolution, but it was in the post–World War II environment that the modern State Department came to be.
Its origins coincided with the appointment of Henry Kissinger as secretary of state, in 1973. Kissinger’s appointment was unusual in several respects. Kissinger did not just head up the State Department; he was also concurrently appointed national security advisor, facilitating a tighter integration between the foreign relations and military and intelligence arms of the US government.
While the State Department had long had a cable system, the appointment of Kissinger led to logistical changes in how cables were written, indexed and stored. For the first time, the bulk of cables were transmitted electronically. This period of major innovation is still present in the way the department operates today.
The US Department of State is unique among the formal bureaucracies of the United States. Other agencies aspire to administrate one function or another, but the State Department represents, and even houses, all major elements of US national power. It provides cover for the CIA, buildings for the NSA mass-interception equipment, office space and communications facilities for the FBI, the military and other government agencies and staff to act as sales agents and political advisors for the largest US corporations.

One cannot properly understand an institution like the State Department from the outside, any more than Renaissance artists could discover how animals worked without opening them up and poking about inside. As the diplomatic apparatus of the United States, the State Department is directly involved in putting a friendly face on empire, concealing its underlying mechanics.
Every year, more than $1 billion is budgeted for “public diplomacy,” a circumlocutory term for outward-facing propaganda. Public diplomacy explicitly aims to influence journalists and civil society, so that they serve as conduits for State Department messaging.

While national archives have produced impressive collections of internal state communications, their material is intentionally withheld or made difficult to access for decades, until it is stripped of potency. This is inevitable, as national archives are not structured to resist the blowback (in the form of withdrawn funding or termination of officials) that timely, accessible archives of international significance would produce.
What makes the revelation of secret communications potent is that we were not supposed to read them. The internal communications of the US Department of State are the logistical by-product of its activities: their publication is the vivisection of a living empire, showing what substance flowed from which state organ and when.

Diplomatic cables are not produced in order to manipulate the public, but are aimed at elements of the rest of the US state apparatus and are therefore relatively free from the distorting influence of public relations. Reading them is a much more effective way of understanding an institution like the State Department than reading reports by journalists on the public pronouncements of Hillary Clinton, or [White House Communications Director] Jen Psaki.
While in their internal communications State Department officials must match their pens to the latest DC orthodoxies should they wish to stand out in Washington for the “right” reasons and not the “wrong” ones, these elements of political correctness are themselves noteworthy and visible to outsiders who are not sufficiently indoctrinated.

Many cables are deliberative or logistical, and their causal relationships across time and space with other cables and with externally documented events create a web of interpretive constraints that reliably show how the US Department of State and the agencies that inter-operate with its cable system understand their place in the world.

Only by approaching this corpus holistically—over and above the documentation of each individual abuse, each localized atrocity—does the true human cost of empire heave into view.

National Security Religiosity and the International Studies Association
While there exists a large literature in the structural or realpolitik analysis of key institutions of US power, a range of ritualistic and even quasi-religious phenomena surrounding the national security sector in the United States suggests that these approaches alone lack explanatory power.
These phenomena are familiar in the ritual of flag-folding, the veneration of orders and elaborate genuflection to rank, but they can be seen also in the extraordinary reaction to WikiLeaks’ disclosures, where it is possible to observe some of their more interesting features.
When WikiLeaks publishes US government documents with classification markings—a type of national-security “holy seal,” if you will—two parallel campaigns begin: first, the public campaign of downplaying, diverting attention from and reframing any revelations that are a threat to the prestige of the national security class; and, second, an internal campaign within the national security state itself to digest what has happened.
When documents carrying such seals are made public, they are transubstantiated into forbidden objects that become toxic to the “state within a state”—the more than 5.1 million Americans (as of 2014) with active security clearances, and those on its extended periphery who aspire to its economic or social patronage.

There is a level of hysteria and non-corporeality exhibited in this reaction to WikiLeaks’ disclosures that is not easily captured by traditional theories of power. Many religions and cults imbue their priestly class with additional scarcity value by keeping their religious texts secret from the public or the lower orders of the devoted. This technique also permits the priestly class to adopt different psychological strategies for different levels of indoctrination.
What is laughable, hypocritical, or Machiavellian to the public or lower levels of “clearance” is embraced by those who have become sufficiently indoctrinated or co-opted into feeling that their economic or social advantage lies in accepting that which they would normally reject.

Publicly, the US government has claimed, falsely, that anyone without a security clearance distributing “classified” documents is violating the Espionage Act of 1917. But the claims of the interior “state within a state” campaign work in the opposite direction. There, it orders the very people it publicly claims are the only ones who can legally read classified documents to refrain from reading documents WikiLeaks and associated media have published with classification markings on them, lest they be “contaminated” by them.

While a given document can be read by cleared staff when it issues from classified government repositories, it is forbidden for the same staff to set eyes on the exact same document when it emerges from a public source. Should cleared employees of the national security state read such documents in the public domain, they are expected to self-report their contact with the newly profaned object, and destroy all traces of it.
This response is, of course, irrational. The classified cables and other documents published by WikiLeaks and associated media are completely identical to the original versions officially available to those with the necessary security clearance, since this is where they originated. They are electronic copies.
Not only are they indistinguishable—there is literally no difference at all between them. Not a word. Not a letter. Not a single bit.

The implication is that there is a non-physical property that inhabits documents once they receive their classification markings, and that this magical property is extinguished not by copying the document but by making the copy public. The now public document has, to devotees of the national security state, not merely become devoid of this magical property and reverted to a mundane object, it has been inhabited by another non- physical property: an evil one.

This kind of religious thinking has consequences. Not only is it the excuse used by the US government to block millions of people working for the “state within a state” from reading more than thirty different WikiLeaks domains—the same excuse that was used to block The New York Times,Guardian, Der Spiegel, Le Monde, El País and other outlets publishing WikiLeaks materials.

In fact, in 2011 the US government sent what might be called a “WikiLeaks fatwa” to every federal government agency, every federal government employee, and every federal government security contractor:
The recent disclosure of US Government documents by WikiLeaks has caused damage to our national security ... Classified information, whether or not already posted on public websites, disclosed to the media, or otherwise in the public domain remains classified and must be treated as such until such time it is declassified by an appropriate US government authority ...
Contractors who inadvertently discover potentially classified information in the public domain shall report its existence immediately to their Facility Security Officers. Companies are instructed to delete the offending material by holding down the SHIFT key while pressing the DELETE key for Windows-based systems and clearing of the internet browser cache.

After being contacted by an officer of the US Department of State, Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs warned its students to “not post links to these documents nor make comments on social media sites such as Facebook or through Twitter. Engaging in these activities would call into question your ability to deal with confidential information, which is part of most positions with the federal government.”

A swathe of government departments and other entities, including even the Library of Congress, blocked internet access to WikiLeaks. The US National Archives even blocked searches of its own database for the phrase “WikiLeaks.”
So absurd did the taboo become that, like a dog snapping mindlessly at everything, eventually it found its mark—its own tail. By March 2012, the Pentagon had gone so far as to create an automatic filter to block any emails, including inbound emails to the Pentagon, containing the word “WikiLeaks.”
As a result, Pentagon prosecutors preparing the case against US intelligence analyst PFC Manning, the alleged source of the Cablegate cables, found that they were not receiving important emails from either the judge or the defense.
But the Pentagon did not remove the filter— instead, chief prosecutor Major Ashden Fein told the court that a new procedure had been introduced to check the filter daily for blocked WikiLeaks-related emails. Military judge Col. Denise Lind said that special alternative email addresses would be set up for the prosecution.

While such religious hysteria seems laughable to those outside the US national security sector, it has resulted in a serious poverty of analysis of WikiLeaks publications in American international relations journals. However, scholars in disciplines as varied as law, linguistics, applied statistics, health and economics have not been so shy.

For instance, in their 2013 paper for the statistics journal Entropy, DeDeo et al.—all US or UK nationals—write that WikiLeaks’ Afghan War Diary “is likely to become a standard set for both the analysis of human conflict and the study of empirical methods for the analysis of complex, multi-modal data.”
There is even an extensive use of WikiLeaks materials, particularly cables, in courts, including domestic courts, from the United Kingdom to Pakistan, and in international tribunals from the European Court of Human Rights to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

Set against the thousands of citations in the courts and in other academic areas, the poverty of coverage in American international relations journals appears not merely odd, but suspicious. These journals, which dominate the study of international relations globally, should be a natural home for the proper analysis of WikiLeaks’ two-billion-word diplomatic corpus.

The US-based International Studies Quarterly (ISQ), a major international relations journal, adopted a policy against accepting manuscripts based on WikiLeaks material—even where it consists of quotes or derived analysis. According to a forthcoming paper, “Who’s Afraid of WikiLeaks? Missed Opportunities in Political Science Research,” the editor of ISQ stated that the journal is currently “in an untenable position,” and that this will remain the case until there is a change in policy from the influentialInternational Studies Association (ISA).

The ISA has over 6,500 members worldwide and is the dominant scholarly association in the field. The ISA also publishes Foreign Policy Analysis, International Political Sociology, International Interactions, International Studies Review, and International Studies Perspectives.

The ISA’s 2014–15 president is Amitav Acharya, a professor at the School of International Service at the American University in Washington, DC. Nearly half of the fifty-six members on its governing council are professors at similar academic departments across the United States, many of which also operate as feeder schools for the US Department of State and other internationally- oriented areas of government.

That the ISA has banned the single most significant US foreign policy archive from appearing in its academic papers—something that must otherwise work against its institutional and academic ambitions—calls into question its entire output, an output that has significantly influenced how the world has come to understand the role of the United States in the international order.
This closing of ranks within the scholar class around the interests of the Pentagon and the State Department is, in itself, worthy of analysis. The censorship of cables from international relations journals is a type of academic fraud. To quietly exclude primary sources for non-academic reasons is to lie by omission.

But it points to a larger insight: the distortion of the field of international relations and related disciplines by the proximity of its academic structures to the US government. Its structures do not even have the independence of the frequently deferent New York Times, which, while it engaged in various forms of cable censorship, at least managed to publish over a hundred.
These journals’ distortion of the study of international relations and censorship of WikiLeaks are clear examples of a problem. But its identification also presents a significant opportunity: to present an analysis of international relations that has not been hobbled by the censorship of classified materials.

The World According to U.S. Empire
The WikiLeaks Files: The World According to U.S. Empire (Verso, 2015) begins to address the need for scholarly analysis of what the millions of documents published by WikiLeaks say about international geopolitics. The chapters use a constellation approach to these documents to reveal how the United States deals with various regional and international power dynamics.
It is impossible to cover the wealth of material or relationships in this first volume, but I hope that this work will stimulate long- form journalists and academics to eclipse it.
Chapter 1 reflects on America’s status as an “empire,” and considers what this means, seeking to characterize US economic, military, administrative and diplomatic power with reference to the long sweep of global history over the last century.
The chapter establishes the “imperialism of free trade” framework that the rest of Part II then develops—a framework wherein American military might is used not for territorial expansion but to perpetuate American economic preeminence. Both themes are considered in more detail in Chapter 2 and Chapter 3. Chapter 1 also situates WikiLeaks in the context of an unprecedented growth in American official secrecy, and the evolution of US power following the commencement of the “war on terror.”
Chapter 2 examines the WikiLeaks materials on the so-called “war on terror.” Besides providing a keen summary of the war crimes and human rights abuses documented in WikiLeaks publications, along with a detailed historical overview of the US invasion and occupation of Iraq and the consequent unfolding disaster there, the chapter also draws conclusions about the ideological and conceptual substructure of America’s “war on terror,” and investigates how an aspect of the imperial prerogative of the United States is to exercise decisive power to ensure that terms like “just war,” “torture,” “terrorism” and “civilian” are defined in its own favor.

The argument adduces evidence from the full range of WikiLeaks publications, along with other sources, such as the recent CIA torture report. In the process, the chapter also examines the double standards and problems arising from the misuse of these concepts (including the attempt to delegitimize and marginalize WikiLeaks itself).

Chapter 3 embarks on a thoroughgoing discussion of the “empire of free trade”—the relationship of the American form of empire with the worldwide promotion of neoliberal economic reform, providing American corporations with access to “global markets.”

The chapter draws on State Department cables published by WikiLeaks, as well as WikiLeaks publications dating back to 2007 concerning the “private sector,” including material on banks and global multilateral treaty negotiations. The chapter provides luminous examples of how the drive toward economic integration buttresses the position of the United States as an arms-length empire, and provides the underlying rationale for the patterns of intervention, military or otherwise, pursued in Latin America and beyond.

Chapter 4 is a do-it-yourself guide on how to use Wiki- Leaks’ Public Library of US Diplomacy (PlusD), written by investigations editor Sarah Harrison. At the time of writing, PlusD contains 2,325,961 cables and other diplomatic records. The State Department uses its own logic to create, transmit and index these records, the totality of which form its primary institutional memory.
Harrison explains how to get started searching, reading and interpreting cable metadata and content, from the infamous CHEROKEE restriction to the use of State Department euphemisms such as “opposing resource nationalism.”
The history of US policy regarding the International Criminal Court (ICC) is a rich case study in the use of diplomacy in a concerted effort to undermine an international institution.

In Chapter 5, Linda Pearson documents what the cables reveal about the efforts of successive US administrations to limit the ICC’s jurisdiction. These include the use of both bribes and threats by the George W. Bush administration to corral states signed up to the ICC into providing immunity from war crimes prosecutions for US persons—and, under the Obama administration, more subtle efforts to shape the ICC into an adjunct of US foreign policy.
Japan and South Korea have been epicenters of US influence within East Asia for decades. The cables document nearly a decade of US efforts to affect domestic political outcomes within these two countries in line with its own long-term interests.

In Chapter 14, investigative journalist Tim Shorrock examines the geopolitical triangle created by US relations with both countries, including its attempts to play one off against the other, as part of long- term efforts to undermine left-wing governments and policies within the region.

Of global GDP growth over the last decade, over 50 percent has been in Southeast Asia. This understanding has led to an explicit reassignment of military, diplomatic and surveillance assets to Southeast Asia, epitomized by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as a strategy of “forward deployed diplomacy.” In Chapter 15, Richard Heydarian examines the cables on Southeast Asia and situates his findings within a broader historical critique of US influence in the region.

The critique of Western imperialism is most contentious in regions of the world that have historically been US protectorates, such as western Europe. So indoctrinated are European liberals in modern imperialist ideology that even the idea that the United States might be administering a global empire is routinely dismissed with references to concepts like “right to protect,” demonstrating a willful deafness not only to the structure of US power around the world, but also to how it increasingly talks about itself as an “empire.”

In Chapter 6, Michael Busch examines the broad patterns of influence and subversion pursued by the global superpower on the political systems of Europe and its member states. Themes include European government collusion with the CIA’s rendition and torture programs, the subversion of European criminal justice and judicial systems to rescue alleged US government torturers from prosecution and the use of US diplomacy to open up European markets to US aerospace companies, or to invasive, monopolistic technologies and patents, such as Monsanto’s genetically modified organisms.

In Chapter 13, Phyllis Bennis opts for a broad overview of WikiLeaks’ publications on Afghanistan—including not just the State Department cables, but also the Significant Action Reports (SIGACTs) published by WikiLeaks as the Afghan War Diary, and Congressional Research Reports and other documents on Afghanistan published by WikiLeaks prior to 2010.

What emerges is a stark assessment of the folly of US military involvement in Afghanistan since 2001 and its cost in terms of human life and societal well-being.

Geopolitics is complicated, and all the more so in relation to a country like Israel. Israel’s military dominance in the Middle East; its diplomatic relations with other regional players such as Egypt, Syria, Iran, Lebanon and Turkey; its role as an avatar for US imperial policy within the area; its wayward exploitation of its protected status in pursuing its own genocidal policies toward the Palestinian people—all of these themes are brought to the fore in Chapter 9, by Peter Certo and Stephen Zunes, which carefully interrogates the relevant State Department cables.

In Chapter 11, on Iran, Gareth Porter provides an excellent companion to the chapter on Israel, choosing to focus on what the cables reveal about the tripartite geopolitical standoff between the US, Israel and Iran, and the shadow this structure casts on the rest of the Middle East.

In particular, Porter focuses on the P5+1 talks about Iran’s nuclear enrichment program, on US efforts to misrepresent intelligence in order to tip the international consensus against Iran, and on the role of Israel as both a catalyst for and an agent of US policy in the Middle East.

The conflict in Iraq is the focus of Chapter 12, by journalist Dahr Jamail, which draws on a wide range of WikiLeaks materials to argue that the United States had a deliberate policy of exacerbating sectarian divisions in Iraq following its invasion and occupation, in the belief that the country would be easier to dominate in such circumstances.

The consequent devastation is documented in painstaking detail using WikiLeaks materials, including US cables, Congressional Research Reports dating between 2005 and 2008 and the Iraq War Logs from 2010.

Jamail pays specific attention to the “Sahwa” movement— the US-sponsored program of counter-insurgency that was implemented to respond to the growing influence of al-Qaeda affiliates among Sunni Iraqis disaffected by the Shia-dominated US-client government of Nouri al-Maliki.

The United States paid large numbers of Iraqis to defect from the Sunni insurgency and instead fight against al-Qaeda, on the promise of receiving regular employment through integration into the Iraqi military. As Jamail argues, the failure of the Maliki government to honor this promise saw huge numbers of US-trained, US-armed and US-financed—but now unemployed—Sunni militants return to the insurgency, eventually swelling the ranks of the former al- Qaeda affiliate in Iraq, which in 2014 became known as ISIS, or the “Islamic State.”

Across Iraq’s northeastern border, in Syria, the cables also describe how the scene was set for the emergence of ISIS. Since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011, warmongers in the media have demanded the Western military pounding of Syria to depose Bashar Al-Assad—presented, in typical liberal-interventionist fashion, as a “new Hitler.”

The emergence of the Islamic State, to which the Assad government is the only viable counterweight within Syria, has thrown this propagandistic consensus into disarray. But US government designs on Syrian regime change, and its devotion to regional instability, long pre-date the Syrian civil war, as is demonstrated in the cables.

Chapter 10, by Robert Naiman, offers a careful reading of the Damascus cables, pointing out important historical presentiments of the current situation in Syria, and unpicking the benign-sounding human rights constructions of US diplomats to bring into focus the imperialist inflection of US foreign policy and rhetoric toward Syria—including concrete efforts within the country to undermine the government and bring about the chaos of recent months during the entire decade preceding 2011.
Clichés abound about Turkey being a “bridge between East and West,” but it cannot be denied that this country of some seventy-five million people occupies an important position— both as a regional player within Middle Eastern geopolitics and as a large and economically powerful nominal democracy on the fringes of Europe.

As Conn Hallinan argues in Chapter 8, State Department cables illustrate US efforts to exploit the rich geopolitical significance of Turkey. Hallinan uses the cables as a pretext to provide a tour of Turkey’s regional alliances, strategic concerns and internal affairs. Among the topics he covers are the complex strategic energy calculations that necessitate Turkey’s delicate relations with Iran and Russia, even as it cultivates the United States, Europe and Israel in its efforts to gain access to Western markets.

The chapter also examines Turkey’s bargaining power, demonstrated in its use of a veto against the election of former Danish prime minister Anders Rasmussen as the head of NATO, in order to force the United States to pressure the Danish government into suppressing a Denmark-based Kurdish television channel.

The essay also deals with Turkey’s internal issues, such as government policy toward Kurdish separatist groups, and the extraordinary underground political conflict and intrigue between Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the expatriate political figure Fethullah Gülen.

Since the end of the Cold War, and especially during the so- called “war on terror,” US diplomacy has leaned toward South, Central and East Asia. Except in the case of one or two flare-ups, US-Russian relations receded from the popular consciousness as the main geopolitical dynamic.

This of course has changed as a result of the conflict in the Ukraine. But popular consciousness is not reality. As Russ Wellen shows in Chapter 7, in the decade following the century’s turn the US has pursued a policy of aggressive NATO expansion, challenging Russia’s regional hegemony within Eastern Europe and the former Soviet area and seeking to subvert nuclear treaties to maintain its strategic advantage.

As the cables show, these efforts have not gone unnoticed by Russia, and are recurring points of conflict in US-Russian diplomatic relations, even during the most cordial of periods. The chapter provides the necessary context for recent East-West tensions centering around Syria, Ukraine and the granting of asylum to Edward Snowden, and yields critical insight into a geopolitical relationship that, if mishandled, threatens the survival of our civilization and even of our species.

Perhaps no region of the world demonstrates the full spectrum of US imperial interference as vividly as Latin America. Since the 1950s, US policy in Central and South America has popularized the concept of the CIA coup d’état, deposing democratically elected left-wing governments and installing US-friendly right- wing dictatorships; inaugurating legacies of brutal civil war, death squads, torture and disappearances; and immiserating millions to the benefit of the American ruling class.

As Alexander Main, Jake Johnston, and Dan Beeton note in the first of their chapters on Latin America, Chapter 17, the English-speaking press saw no evil in the State Department cables, concluding that they did not fit “the stereotype of America plotting coups and caring only about business interests and consorting with only the right wing.”

The exact opposite is true: the cables demonstrate a smooth continuity between the brutal US policy in Latin America during the Cold War and the more sophisticated plays at toppling governments that have taken place in recent years.

Chapter 17 offers a broad overview of the use of USAID and “civil society” astroturfing, as well as other, more direct methods of pursuing “regime change” in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Ecuador and Haiti.
Chapter 18, by the same authors, focuses on Venezuela, the socialist enemy of the day, and specifically on US efforts to undermine the country as a regional left-wing bulwark in the wake of the failed US-backed coup against the Chávez government in 2002.

The response of the United States to the release of the WikiLeaks materials betrays a belief that its power resides in a disparity of information: ever more knowledge for the empire, ever less for its subjects.

In 1969, Daniel Ellsberg—later famous for leaking the Pentagon Papers—had a top-secret security clearance. Henry Kissinger had applied for his own top-secret clearance. Ellsberg warned him of its dangers:

[I]t will ... become very hard for you to learn from anybody who doesn’t have these clearances. Because you’ll be thinking as you listen to them: “What would this man be telling me if he knew what I know? Would he be giving me the same advice, or would it totally change his predictions and recommendations?” You will deal with a person who doesn’t have those clearances only from the point of view of what you want him to believe and what impression you want him to go away with, since you’ll have to lie carefully to him about what you know. In effect, you will have to manipulate him. You’ll give up trying to assess what he has to say. The danger is, you’ll become something like a moron. You’ll become incapable of learning from most people in the world, no matter how much experience they may have in their particular areas that may be much greater than yours.

Freed from their classified seals, the WikiLeaks materials bridge the gulf between the “morons” with security clearances and nothing to learn, and us, their readers.


On July 28, 2014, the CIA director wrote a letter to senators Dianne Feinstein and Saxby Chambliss — the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee (SSCI) and the panel's ranking Republican, respectively. In it, he admitted that the CIA's penetration of the computer network used by committee staffers reviewing the agency's torture program — a breach for which Feinstein and Chambliss had long demanded accountability — was improper and violated agreements the Intelligence Committee had made with the CIA.
The letter was notable in part because Brennan initially denied the January 2014 search of the Senate's computer network even took place. And later, when it became clear that it had — and that he had known of it while publicly denying that it happened — he refused to acknowledge that it was wrong. For months, Feinstein and other committee members were clamoring for a written apology to make part of the official record.

Brennan's mea culpa was prompted by a memo he'd received 10 days earlier from CIA Inspector General David Buckley. After the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) was tasked with looking into the intrusion, it found that the CIA employees who broke into the Senate's computer network in hopes of tracking down CIA documents the Senate wasn't allowed to see (according to the agency) may have broken federal laws.

"I recently received a briefing on the [OIG's] findings, and want to inform you that the investigation found support for your concern that CIA staff had improperly accessed the [Intelligence Committee] shared drive on the RDINet [an acronym for rendition, detention, and interrogation] when conducting a limited search for CIA privileged documents," Brennan wrote. "In particular, the [OIG] judged that Agency officers' access to the… shared drive was inconsistent with the common understanding reached in 2009 between the Committee and the Agency regarding access to RDINet. Consequently, I apologize for the actions of CIA officers…. I am committed to correcting the shortcomings that this report has revealed."

But Brennan didn't sign or send the apology letter.

Instead, four days later, he sent Feinstein and Chambliss a different letter — one without an apology or admission that the search of their computer network was improper. He did say, however, that he was going to "stand up" an "independent" accountability review board, whose members would be appointed by Brennan, to look into the OIG findings and determine whether the CIA employees who conducted the search should be punished.

Last December, that accountability board issued a report and overturned nearly all of Buckley's findings and conclusions. It also exonerated Brennan and the CIA personnel who searched the Senate's computer network.

Brennan did verbally apologize to Feinstein and Chambliss during an in-person briefing about the findings of the OIG report, but Intelligence Committee members told VICE News it was unacceptable because there was not a written record of it. The lawmakers also noted that Brennan should have apologized to them — and to the Senate staffers who the CIA referred to the Justice Department for criminal prosecution.

* * *

The draft apology letter Brennan wrote to Feinstein and Chambliss are two of more than 300 pages of documents [pdf at the bottom of this story] 

VICE News obtained in response to a joint Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed against the CIA with Ryan Shapiro, a historian and doctoral candidate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who specializes in national security research. We sued the CIA seeking a wide range of documents related to the allegations that the agency had spied on the Intelligence Committee and hacked into their computer network. While the CIA turned over some records, it also withheld thousands of pages, citing nearly every exemption under FOIA.

After VICE News received the documents, the CIA contacted us and said Brennan's draft letter had been released by mistake. The agency asked that we refrain from posting it.

We declined the CIA's request. But the agency's appeal mirrors what may be the central question behind the ongoing fight between the Senate Intelligence Committee and the CIA: Did the CIA mistakenly give the committee access to internal documents about the detention and interrogation program that the Senate was never supposed to see?

Annie Appleseed Project Anonymous Supporters Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida Humanists
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Sunday, August 23, 2015

PNN - Aloha

PNN - Aloha - Surrounded Islands of Sanity

RWS                     7:01pm
Brook                   7:14pm
3 Muckrakers      7:30pm
Annie Orlando    8:26pm
Alice Carr            8:44pm

1. Unexplained Pacific Whale Die-Off
Whales are dying off the coast of Alaska and no one knows why. Yesterday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) officially declared the recent deaths of 30 large whales in the western Gulf of Alaska an “unusual mortality event,” triggering an investigation into the cause of the mass die off. NOAA defines an unusual mortality event as “a stranding event that is unexpected, involves a significant die-off of a marine mammal population, and demands immediate response.”

Since May, 11 fin whales, 14 humpback whales, one gray whale and four unidentified cetaceans have stranded around the islands of the western Gulf of Alaska and the southern shoreline of the Alaska Peninsula. The uptick is nearly three times the average for the area. Last year, there were only five whale strandings for the entire year. There were also six dead stranded whales reported along British Columbia’s north coast in the last few months, which is a significant increase above annual seasonal numbers for that area as well.

“NOAA Fisheries scientists and partners are very concerned about the large number of whales stranding in the western Gulf of Alaska in recent months,” said Dr. Teri Rowles, NOAA Fisheries’ marine mammal health and stranding response coordinator. “While we do not yet know the cause of these strandings, our investigations will give us important information on the health of whales and the ecosystems where they live.”
NOAA is encouraging the public to help out by immediately reporting any sightings of dead whales or distressed live animals they discover, but warns people not to get close or touch the animals.

“The prevailing theory is that a large toxic algae bloom off the West Coast might be to blame,”reports CBC News. “However, scientists have been unable to make a concrete connection.”

The West Coast has experienced the largest toxic algae bloom in a decade, forcing the closure of fisheries from California to Washington. This isn’t the first time scientists have linked algae blooms and whale die offs. 

A toxic algae bloom this spring off the coast of Chile is the suspected cause of death for 20-30 sei whales.

“When algae that produces toxins overtakes a body of water, those toxins make it into the food chain by way of the tiny creatures that feed on it,” reports the Washington Post. “In the case of these sei whales, the scientists studying them hypothesize, sardines poisoned by the algae could have given the whales deadly food poisoning.”

NOAA cautions that these investigations often take months, even years, of data collection and analysis to reach a conclusive answer. So far, scientists working in Alaska have only been able to take the tissue sample of one of the carcasses, which NOAA described as a “less than ideal” sample. That sample tested negative for a type of toxin produced by algae, but the carcass was so decomposed that it may not be reliable, The Alaska Dispatch News reported. The scientists did not find a clear cause of death from that sample and many of the other carcasses have been unretrievable, or too badly decomposed to study.

“Alaska has an awful lot of coastline and much of it is difficult to reach,” NOAA adviser Dr. Bree Witteveen told CBC News. “We can’t get to those carcasses more often than not.” They also have to deal with “predator competition” for sample sizes from the likes of bears and other animals.

NOAA said in an online FAQ that it’s “highly unlikely” that radiation from Fukushima is playing a role, but “further testing is under way.” Some have speculated that warmer temperatures may be to blame. The Alaska Dispatch News reported in June that surface temperatures in the Gulf of Alaska were running 0.9 to 3.6 degrees above average. There is no doubt that Alaska is rapidly warming due to climate change. Alaska’s glaciers are melting even faster than most places along with the rest of the Arctic, which is warming at twice the rate of other regions.

The fortress-like mill, circa 1910, later became a hazardous waste dump.

Still reeling from a disaster it created at a Colorado gold mine, the EPA has so far avoided criticism for a similar toxic waste spill in Georgia.

In Greensboro, EPA-funded contractors grading a toxic 19th-century cotton mill site struck a water main, sending the deadly sediment into a nearby creek. Though that accident took place five months ago, the hazard continues as heavy storms — one hit the area Tuesday — wash more soil into the creek.

The sediment flows carry dangerous mercury, lead, arsenic and chromium downstream to Lake Oconee and then to the Oconee River —  home to many federally and state protected species .

Lead in the soil at the project site is 20,000 times higher than federal levels established for drinking water, said microbiologist Dave Lewis, who was a top-level scientist during 31 years at the Environmental Protection Agency.

He became a whistleblower critical of EPA practices and now works for Focus for Health , a nonprofit that researches disease triggers

An EPA project results in a broken water main, which flooded toxic dirt into a nearby creek.

“Clearly, the site is a major hazardous chemical waste dump, which contains many of the most dangerous chemical pollutants regulated by the EPA,” Lewis wrote in a 2014 affidavit for a court case filed by local residents that failed to prevent the EPA project: creating a low-income housing development.

The mill site contains 34 hazardous chemicals, 30 of which are on the EPA’s list of priority pollutants because of “high toxicity, persistence, lack of degradability, and harmful effects on living organisms,” Lewis wrote.

But while the nation is transfixed by the bright orange waterways in otherwise pristine Colorado wilderness, little attention has been paid to the unfolding Greensboro disaster

The four-acre site features the abandoned Mary Leila Cotton Mill, which produced sheeting until the early 2000s. Looking like a ghostly fortress, the 135,000-square-foot building with turrets and a water tower was covered in lead-based paint that flaked off and covered the grounds along with ash produced by its coal-burning generators. High levels of cancer-causing chemicals, such as benzo(a)pyrene , are also buried there. And neighboring farmers dumped pesticides on the vacant grounds back when arsenic was used to kill bugs.

The Environmental Protection Agency has denied — but now admits — that it funded the cleanup and development project the triggered the catastrophe.


The EPA issued a grant around 2005 to turn the mill and surrounding grounds into a housing complex for the mentally ill, homeless and indigent. Contractors working with the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GEPD) have started digging and tearing down the buildings — despite objections by the city of Greensboro and the absence of a plan to deal with the hazardous waste.

EPA and GEPD documents reviewed by Watchdog show proposals to move the dirt elsewhere or to cover it with concrete. In the latter case, the government agencies promise to monitor and repair any potholes, cracks or foundation breaks.

But for Lewis, any excavation would send large amounts of toxic soil into the creek.

Despite the manmade pollutants, Mother Nature has managed to hold her own against further degradation. The toxic soil was mainly confined to densely packed lower levels held in check by a clay barrier near the creek. EPA/GEPD contractors destroyed that barrier with a backhoe.

Now groundwater and other contaminants can flow freely, Lewis said.

The EPA did not respond to a request for comment. The agency has offered conflicting statements about its involvement in the project, alternating between knowing nothing, providing only data and guidance, and acknowledging, finally, that it funded cleanup and development at the site through a grant to the state.

Lewis says his former employer, the EPA, never showed any concern in several responses to his ongoing pleas regarding hazards around the old mill.

In letters to Lewis and David Kopp, who represented the residents in their court case, the EPA downplayed toxicity in the land, pointing to low levels in a 2010 sampling. Lewis says he tested his own samples at the University of Georgia, where he worked for a time as a marine biologist. The results staggered him.

But the EPA told him it knew nothing about Mary Leila Cotton Mill.

“There is no federal agency involved with this project at the mill property,” EPA Regional Administrator Heather McTeer Toney wrote Lewis on Jan. 9. “This property does not warrant federal action at this time.”

Five months later, in a May 28 letter to Lewis, Toney admitted the program was an “EPA brownfields grant-funded project” and that “remediation must be conducted in a manner that is protective of human health and the environment.” The state directed the developer to “maintain the mill property in a manner that protects humans from exposure to hazardous constituents while the property is undergoing corrective action.”

The EPA’s website says brownfields projects are part of the agency’s mandate “to make environmental justice an integral part of every program, policy and activity by…. Applying EPA’s regulatory tools to protect vulnerable communities.”

And involving lead, it appears that the EPA is violating its own standards. The agency prohibits release of untreated lead-laden water into the waterways and cites the Clean Water Act , saying: “The CWA prohibits anyone from discharging pollutants, including lead, through a point source into a water of the United States unless they have a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit.”

Researcher Earl Glynn contributed to this report. 

5. The Chicago Police Are Seeking to Destroy Hundreds of Thousands of Records of Police Misconduct
The great bonfire of documents FOP wants to ignite would erase knowledge necessary to establish a credible regime of police accountability. Having finally broken through official secrecy and gained access to information needed to diagnose patterns of police abuse and impunity, the public would see the bulk of those documents go up in smoke.

The FOP challenge takes the form of a lawsuit seeking an injunction to stop the city from releasing information about police misconduct sought by the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act.

Soon after the settlement of Kalven v. Chicago, the two newspapers submitted FOIA requests seeking the disciplinary history of every Chicago police officer since 1967. The documents sought are not the underlying investigative files, but rather a list of every complaint and its disposition over the last 48 years. According to the city, the requested information comes to more than 7,000 pages.

In a striking demonstration of the reach of its new transparency policy, the city did not contest these requests but agreed to provide the information to the newspapers.

At that point, the FOP intervened. The union claims that releasing the list would do harm to its members, because the list includes information the city should not have had in its possession. Under the terms of its contract, the FOP argues, misconduct files should be destroyed after five or seven years, depending on the category of file.

The FOP’s lawsuit strikes at the heart of the principle of freedom of information. It asserts, in effect, that the extent of public access to information we need as citizens to hold the police and the city accountable should be determined by the police and the city.

Unthinkable? On the contrary. On Dec. 15, Judge Peter Flynn enjoined the city from releasing the information sought by the newspapers pending a labor arbitrator’s decision in the dispute between the union and the city over the contract provision regarding destruction of police misconduct files.

There is thus a very real danger that fundamental issues of human rights and freedom of information will be decided in the context of a labor arbitration from which advocates for the public interest are wholly excluded. Under the circumstances, the one sure way to avoid this outcome is for the state Legislature to pass a law requiring police departments to preserve police misconduct records.

Police officers are not ordinary citizens. They are public officials vested with extraordinary powers. A strong line of appellate court decisions, culminating with Kalven, has established the principle that police officers do not have a personal privacy interest in information regarding allegations they have abused their powers. Such documents are quintessential public information.

The passage of time does not dilute the public interest in such information. Destruction of these records would inflict blindness on the institutions charged with supervising, monitoring, and when necessary, disciplining the police. And it would equally diminish our ability as citizens to assess the quality of investigations performed by those institutions.

Moreover, misconduct files may be of great importance long after the events that occasioned them. To take the most dramatic but far from the only example, documented instances of police torture by Commander Jon Burge and officers under his command extend back more than 30 years. There remain individuals in prison who claim their confessions were coerced by Burge and his team. The FOP position, if upheld, would destroy evidence they might use to challenge their convictions.

The city has appealed Judge Flynn’s ruling. It has strong arguments, in view of Flynn’s disregard for the precedents of the appellate court. Even if it prevails, though, the underlying problem remains. The lists of disciplinary records at issue in the case could be released, and there could be a bonfire of the police misconduct files from which those lists were derived. Hence, the urgent need for legislative action.

At a time when citizens across the nation are calling on their elected officials to address patterns of police abuse and impunity, Illinois legislators have the opportunity — and responsibility — to protect the Freedom of Information Act and thereby ensure a solid foundation for enduring police reform.

Public Records Settlement Hits Taxpayers Hard

Taxpayers will be one point three million dollars poorer after Governor Rick Scott’s office settles several public records lawsuits. As Mike Vasilinda tells us, the costs have public records advocates fuming.

Behind this law office sits the home of former Governor Leroy Collins. It’s soon going to be a museum. The Attorney..Steve Andrews, supported Governor Rick Scott’s opponents. And after Scott was elected, a dispute erupted over who had rights to buy the law firm property…Andrews or the state. In requests for public records, Andrews discovered Scott had two non state email accounts used for state business. Law suits followed. This is what Andrews told us last year.
“One of the most important rights in the Florida Constitution is the right to public records. In any form. Private emails, cell phones “ said Andrews last August.

A year later, the state is settling with Andrews for 7 hundred thousand dollars. A 120,000 check was ordered by the Governor;s office on Monday. The exchange is set for 10 am Friday morning.

We talked with Andrews off camera. He wants to wait until the case settles Friday before saying anything publicly.

Documents also show the Governor is paying 304 thousand dollars to outside law firms to defend himself against Andrews and against media outlets in a separate case.

Media Attorney Carol Locicero says its a shame taxpayers are on the hook for the Governor’s actions.

“Transparency starts with the right attitude and its really not been a priority of this Governor’s office.”

In agreeing to settle the case, Andrews is giving up 1.2 million in legal fees. T
The future of whether the law office every becomes part of the museum entrance remains up in the air.   

Public records requests made of the Governor often take a month or more to fulfill. And under a new policy, the office posts every response to a records request online.

7. Charlotte Water: Contaminants detected but water is safe 

Chemicals used by Duke Energy to curb air pollution appear to have caused a spike in contaminants in Charlotte’s drinking water.

Charlotte Water reported Thursday elevated levels of disinfection byproducts called trihalomethanes. THMs may cause liver, kidney or central nervous system problems and may increase cancer risks.

The levels detected came close to federal and state limits but do not make the water unsafe, authorities said.

THM levels in drinking water began to rise in mid-2014. The compounds are more likely to form as water warms.

But it was also about a year after Duke began using calcium bromide, in 2013, to wash coal at its Marshall and Allen power plants on lakes Norman and Wylie. The bromide wash reduced releases of toxic mercury into the air when coal is burned.

Bromide reacts with chlorine, which is used to disinfect drinking water, to form THMs.

“It appears that may have been the triggering event,” Duke spokeswoman Erin Culbert told reporters Thursday.

Duke stopped using calcium bromide at the plants in May, but the region’s drought has kept it from being flushed out of the lakes. That’s expected to improve when rainfall returns and water cools this fall.

Duke acknowledged earlier this year that bromide releases from power plants could cause THM problems in water systems downstream.

In a $102 million settlement of federal charges over coal ash contamination, Duke agreed to set up a claims process for water utilities who felt harmed by bromide released by power plant scrubbers, which also clean air emissions.
Duke had already paid two cities that draw water downstream of its Belews Creek power plant, Eden and Madison, $2.3 million and $770,000 respectively to modify their treatment systems.

Other factors can also form THMs, including warm, still water. Charlotte Water director Barry Gullet said the city will change treatment processes and operating practices, such as flushing hydrants more often and reducing the pH of water, to reduce those risks.

Those changes could cost $1 million to $1.5 million, Gullet said. It’s unclear whether the city will seek reimbursement from Duke.
“We know, and Duke agrees, that at least some of this is coming from the Duke plant,” Gullet said.

Gullet said York, S.C., has also seen high THM levels. Officials there could not be reached Thursday.

The utility’s announcement Thursday was triggered by results this week that found high THMs at eight of 12 sampling sites on the fringes of the city.
Individual readings ranged as high as 116 parts per billion, well above the federal standard of 80 ppb. Because results are averaged over time, none constituted a violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Customers at the sampling sites – mostly businesses or county buildings – were notified of the results Thursday.

“It would take someone ingesting large, large amounts over 20 to 30 years to get the same effects found in (lab) animals,” said Dr. Stephen Keener, the Mecklenburg County Health Department’s medical director. “We feel very comfortable in reassuring citizens that use the water that this is not a situation that causes concern.”

8. A big Gator Goodbye to Dr. Guilette

Our hero and a great man has left this plane of existence.  He advocated for the farmworkers who worked on the farms on Lake Apopka.  He was a scientist, but also an amazing human being.  We will miss him terribly!

t is with great sadness that we report that Louis Guillette, Jr., Ph.D., died from complications of cancer treatment on Thursday, August 6. He was 62. Lou was an incredible inspiration, communicator, researcher, and teacher. And, beyond that, he was a truly good guy and beloved among students, researchers, and environmental and public health advocates.


PNN concludes its forth year of webcasting and spends some time amidst this silly worlds troubles with some Islands of Sanity.

Our Political Commentator Ms Brook Hines dissects the latest charades of what passes for a Legislative body . See the Legislature  continue their unconstitutional GERRYMANDERING WAYS

Then we welcome from the ancient nation of Wales the journalists called The Three MuckRakers. Who bring us their insight on the  American political scene and views of politics in the UK as well as their vantage point of Europe. (The UK has a progressive, Jeremy Corbyn) who out of nowhere, is bucking the austerity meme that sends everything to the 1%. 

They also address the MidEast and the death dance that opposes the Iran Treaty.  Reflecting on American politics with a decidedly UK perspective. The Three Muckrakers; Dennis Campbell, Prof. Dario Llinares, and Phil Perry bring a century of political acumen. 

We also welcome Progressive Atheist Alice Carr from Austrailia, who talks about the issues that engage the progressive humanists across the pacific, from theists crowding out liberty, to refugees  to environmental insults to the Great Barrier Reef, she provides very powerful voice from a leader in the progressive atheist community overseas. A voice you should hear.

And a special guest Annie Orlando a political activist in the north Florida college town of Gainesville who will bring us her tale of political malfeasance that stains too much of Florida's political landscape. Tune in Sunday at 7pm (Eastern)