Merilee Malwitz-Jipson ( Santa Fe River )
Jay Alexander ( CCC II )
Elizabeth Tetrault (BIG YELLOW ENGAGEMENT VAN)
Lori Price ( Citizens for Legit Government )
1. Silence is Golden
Two retirees from the Pennsylvania Department of Health say its employees were silenced on the issue of Marcellus Shale drilling.
One veteran employee says she was instructed not to return phone calls from residents who expressed health concerns about natural gas development.
“We were absolutely not allowed to talk to them,” said Tammi Stuck, who worked as a community health nurse in Fayette County for nearly 36 years.
Another retired employee, Marshall P. Deasy III, confirmed that.
Deasy, a former program specialist with the Bureau of Epidemiology, said the department also began requiring field staff to get permission to attend any meetings outside the department. This happened, he said, after an agency consultant made comments about drilling at a community meeting.
In the more than 20 years he worked for the department, Deasy said, “community health wasn’t told to be silent on any other topic that I can think of.”
Companies have drilled more than 6,000 wells into Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale over the last six years, making it the fastest-growing state for natural gas production in America.
Amid the record-breaking development, public health advocates have expressed concern that Pennsylvania has not funded research to examine the potential health impacts of the shale boom.
Doctors have said that some people who live near natural gas development sites – including well pads and compressor stations – have suffered from skin rashes, nausea, nosebleeds and other ailments. Some residents believe their ill health is linked to drilling, but doctors say they simply don’t have the data or research – from the state or other sources – to confirm that.
A state Department of Health spokesperson denied that employees were told not to return calls. Aimee Tysarczyk said all complaints related to shale gas drilling are sent to the Bureau of Epidemiology. Since 2011, she said, the agency has logged 51 complaints, but has found no link between drilling and illness.
“A list of buzzwords”
Tammi Stuck has been retired for just over two years. She still remembers a piece of paper she kept in her desk after her supervisor distributed it to Stuck and other employees of the state health center in Uniontown in 2011.
It was not unusual, Stuck said, for department brass to send out written talking points on certain issues, such as the H1N1 or “swine flu” virus, meant to guide staff in answering questions from the public.
This was different.
“There was a list of buzzwords we had gotten,” Stuck said. “There were some obvious ones like fracking, gas, soil contamination. There were probably 15 to 20 words and short phrases that were on this list. If anybody from the public called in and that was part of the conversation, we were not allowed to talk to them.”
Normally, when fielding calls, Stuck would discuss the caller’s problem, ask about symptoms, and explain what services the department or other agencies could offer.
However, for drilling-related calls, Stuck said she and her fellow employees were told just to take the caller’s name and number and forward the information to a supervisor.
“And somebody was supposed to call them back and address their concerns,” she said, adding that she never knew whether these callbacks occurred.
Sometimes, Stuck said, people would call again, angry they had not heard back from anyone from the department.
Stuck did not usually answer the phone at the Uniontown office. But on the few occasions when she did pick up and the caller was making a drilling-related complaint, she never found out what happened after she passed the information on to her supervisor.
Stuck said she has spoken to employees working in other state health centers who received the same list of buzzwords and the same instructions on how to deal with drilling-related calls.
“People were saying: Where’s the Department of Health on all this?” Stuck said. “The bottom line was we weren’t allowed to say anything. It’s not that we weren’t interested.”
Marshall Deasy worked in the Bureau of Epidemiology in Harrisburg for more than 20 years, retiring last June. Deasy was a primary investigator of food- and waterborne outbreaks and his work put him in contact with community health nurses across the state, such as Tammi Stuck.
He said some nurses told him they were not allowed to respond to complaints about gas drilling.
In his office in Harrisburg, Deasy said the subject of natural gas development was considered “taboo” and was not openly discussed among fellow employees.
However, he was aware that a colleague in the Bureau of Epidemiology was maintaining a list of drilling-related calls. When reached by StateImpact Pennsylvania, that person declined to comment.
The Department of Health confirmed that all complaints related to natural gas drilling are sent to the Bureau of Epidemiology where they are logged in a database.
Spokesperson Aimee Tysarczyk said that a “buzzwords” list was never circulated and disputed Stuck’s account that nurses were instructed not to return calls.
“Typically, the protocol is that when a call comes in, they log the information and they contact the Bureau of Epidemiology here who follows up directly with that individual,” Tysarczyk said. “If there’s a physician involved, then they will follow up with the physician.”
Putting the lid on meetings
Both Marshall Deasy and Tammi Stuck recall an incident that had a chilling effect on employees.
In 2011, a consultant for the department was attending a community meeting in an official capacity. The subject of gas drilling came up and her comments on the matter got back to officials in Harrisburg.
According to Deasy, the consultant still works for the department, but she “was made plain that wasn’t going to be repeated, that nobody’s going to be out discussing shale or drilling from the Department of Health.”
Not long afterwards, the agency instituted a new policy: To attend any meetings, on any topic, all nurses, consultants and other employees of state health centers and district offices would have to get permission from the office of the director of the Bureau of Community Health in Harrisburg.
“There was a form that had to be filled out at least a month ahead of time,” Stuck said.
For instance, to go the meeting of the local diabetes task force, a community health nurse would be required to submit a form detailing the topics to be discussed, who would be attending and the role of the nurse at that meeting.
Stuck said another nurse she knew was forced to step down from the infection control committee at a local hospital. She was no longer allowed to attend the meetings.
Tysarczyk, the department spokesperson, said employees are not required to fill out a form to get permission, but “it’s not unusual to know where our staff is going to ensure that the appropriate resources are being allocated and that they’re speaking on behalf of the department and our priorities from a public health standpoint.”
Sneaking the topic through
That did not stop Marshall Deasy from bending the rules.
Last spring, just a few weeks shy of his retirement, Deasy invited Dr. Bernard Goldstein, professor emeritus with the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health, to speak to more than 100 employees at their Quarterly Epidemiology meeting about his work on shale drilling and health.
2. Drone Action - fly First Ask Questions Later
First, the memorandum recognizes that any information collected by drones must be "gathered, used, retained, and disseminated" in accordance with the Constitution and federal law and regulations. This is good, although it is hard to imagine a presidential memorandum not at least paying lip service to the Constitution and federal law. The devil is, as usual, in the details.
For example, the memorandum observes that federal agencies must comply with the Privacy Act, which it describes as "restrict[ing] the collection and dissemination of individuals' information that is maintained in systems of records." This is accurate as far as it goes, but in the context of drones collecting data, it's incomplete.
For a database to be a "system of records" under the Act, the information must be retrievable through some unique, personal identifier: a name, a Social Security number, a phone number, an email address, or something similar. It seems unlikely that drone footage will be retrievable with one of these types of personal identifiers, except perhaps in the case of the pursuit of an identified individual (e.g., a block of footage tagged with the title "drone chase of suspected fleeing felon John Smith"). While footage may be less likely to be misused if it is not searchable by name, it is also less likely to be subject to the Privacy Act.
Of course, as we explore below, other types of data that drones will pick up, such as faces and walking styles, are likely to become searchable in the future. It is an open question whether those characteristics will count as personal identifiers (and even the definition of "retrievable" is a subject of much dispute — indeed, it is not clear whether even the ability to search for a specific license plate number qualifies). Coverage by the Privacy Act is thus likely to be an evolving, and contested, matter.
Second, the memorandum sets out a framework for agencies' privacy policies and procedures, stipulating that they must incorporate certain restrictions on collection and use, retention, and dissemination.
These provisions have two glaring omissions. As an initial matter, they do not address the government's use of drone data collected by a third party. Government entities increasingly rely on private databases to obtain sensitive personal information, and these private databases are not governed by the Privacy Act or other privacy laws. Although the language of the memorandum is not crystal clear, it appears designed to address the treatment of information collected directly by an agency, not obtained from a private company. Given the lucrative data market, it is nearly inevitable that private companies will launch drones to capture individual interactions, crowd shots, license plate numbers, traffic information, and more — and this information will be packaged to be attractive to law enforcement and other governmental agencies. The memorandum's failure to address this eventuality, and to set guidelines for access to and use of this information, is a major deficiency.
With respect to their own drone deployment, agencies can gather or use information if it is "consistent with and relevant to an authorized purpose." That sounds like a limiting principle — but what is an "authorized purpose?" The memorandum includes a section on definitions, but this phrase doesn't appear, making it seem as though the administration is kicking the can a little further down the road with respect to when drones can actually be used. If construed broadly, this phrase might do little more than duplicate the requirement that agencies act within the law.
This brings us to the second major omission: the collection and use provisions, which are problematic on their own, do not distinguish between law enforcement agencies and other federal entities — even though the purposes for drone use by different kinds of agencies can diverge widely. Thus, if one of the authorized purposes of the Environmental Protection Agency is to track the effect of climate change on waterways, sending a drone overhead during a flash flood to gauge the increase in water levels and erosion may well be consistent with that purpose and in the public interest. Similarly, the Bureau of Land Management may be able to use drones to count the number of wild horses grazing on a particular tract of land — indeed, it may be less expensive, more efficient, and less alarming to the horses.
That is far different, however, from using a drone to carry out an "authorized purpose" of a law enforcement or intelligence agency. Law enforcement agencies are meant to serve and protect, but they also exercise the coercive power of the government in investigating crimes, arresting suspects, and prosecuting and imprisoning offenders. It is axiomatic that these purposes alone do not empower police to act without constraint, including by engaging freely in surveillance activities. Instead, procedural hurdles ensure that police power is balanced against the intrusion on individuals and society.
Thus, government agents may enter a home to search for evidence of a crime, but only with a warrant that shows probable cause that a crime has been committed and particularly describes the things to be seized. Police may attach a wiretap to listen in on a phone call, but only with a "super-warrant" that meets an even higher standard. Police may stop cars to check for evidence of impaired drivers, but only under certain tightly controlled circumstances that limit the discretion of the police officers involved.
Similarly, a law enforcement agency generally should be required to obtain a warrant before using a drone (as one bill introduced in the Senate last week would compel). Granted, the Supreme Court historically permitted surveillance in public places without a warrant on the grounds that people largely can't expect privacy in public. Recently, however, the Court has signaled that tracking people in public and scooping up reservoirs of digital information without a warrant may be a step too far for the Fourth Amendment. (Even if a warrant is necessary, law enforcement will still be able to act without one under well-established exceptions to the warrant requirement, such as in an emergency or in a small set of "special needs" circumstances.)
Moreover, "domestic airspace" is a capacious category. Even if a law enforcement agency can dispatch a drone to loiter over a public road without running afoul of constitutional limitations — an increasingly dubious proposition — the same might not be true for a drone hovering over, say, an individual's backyard or next to their window. While a single presidential memorandum can't address everything, the failure to acknowledge that the use of drones by law enforcement poses special privacy risks is a major omission.
This is to say nothing of the intelligence agencies, which are likely to want to get in on the action with drones as well. While international-facing agencies such as the NSA and CIA are not reported to be flying drones over American airspace, one (or more) of the other 17 member agencies of the US Intelligence Community will surely find a reason to launch a drone, particularly once the ground is softened by other federal agencies. Indeed, many of the IC's member agencies — the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), among others — unite law enforcement and intelligence goals, and often work in tight coordination with each other. The FBI collaborates closely with the NSA. The DEA is reportedly "laundering evidence" from the NSA and other agencies. And the CIA assisted the Justice Department in developing its domestic airborne spying technology. Because intelligence activities are usually conducted in secret, agencies carrying out such functions have often been able to evade oversight, making strict rules and accountability even more critical.
The memorandum does set limitations on the retention and sharing of information collected by drones, though the exceptions may prove to swallow the rule. To wit, data that contains personally identifiable information must be destroyed after 180 days — unless it is "necessary to an authorized mission" of the agency, is maintained in a database covered by the Privacy Act, or is required to be kept for longer "by any other applicable law or regulation." Similarly, data that is not within a Privacy Act-covered database may not be disseminated outside the agency — unless sharing is legally required or "fulfills an authorized purpose and complies with agency requirements." Again, the restrictions on retention and sharing are laudable, but requiring an "authorized purpose" may prove to be an ineffectual limitation.
In addition, the reference to personally identifiable information raises more questions than it answers. Any drone that captures an image of a person is in possession of personally identifiable information — or information that may become personally identifiable in the future. Facial recognition technology is advancing rapidly and biometric identification mechanisms that were once assumed to require close proximity to a subject, such as fingerprint capture, can now work at an increasingly further remove (and even be recreated from photographs). Scientists are even developing ways to identify people by their gait. And information such as license plate numbers is viewable and easily correlated with an individual driver or owner. In short, unless a drone is capturing not a single piece of individual-related data, it is likely to record footage that contains some personally identifiable information.
With respect to information retention and sharing, the fact that the data must be necessary to an authorized purpose, not just relevant, should help cabin some agency overreach. Nevertheless, the provisions also highlight the weak link in information sharing restrictions, which is that some agencies have multiple missions and there are few limitations on intra-agency sharing. For instance, DHS houses multiple branches with different focuses and both civil and criminal enforcement authorities. Because it is one organization, however, there are fewer restrictions on sharing among the elements. Moreover, the provisions do not impose any additional limitations on the recipients of the information. The sharing and retention guidelines thus beg the question again: what constitutes an authorized purpose or mission, and how easily will data be shared within large agencies?
Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Protections
Third, agencies must put into place fairly robust protections for civil rights and civil liberties. The memorandum requires agencies to "prohibit the collection, use, retention, or dissemination of data in any manner that would violate the First Amendment or in any manner that would discriminate against persons based upon their ethnicity, race, gender, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity." (Emphasis added.) This language is different from the usual restrictions on the FBI, which can generally collect intelligence or initiate an investigation on the basis of First Amendment-protected activity as long as that is not the sole reason for doing so. It remains to be seen whether the new language will be interpreted as being more restrictive, or if it is the same standard repackaged in new language. Under the memorandum, agencies also have to establish procedures to handle any complaints that an individual's privacy, civil rights, or civil liberties were violated.
In addition, agencies that use drones must reexamine their policies and procedures — on privacy as well as civil rights and civil liberties — at least every three years. It remains to be seen whether this is frequent enough, but it shows recognition that technology is changing so quickly that some policies may be out of date almost as soon as they're approved.
Accountability and Transparency
Fourth, the memorandum requires that agencies implement certain accountability and transparency measures. The accountability provisions require that agencies have in place oversight procedures, rules of conduct and training, oversight of individuals with access to personally identifiable information, and mechanisms to ensure that governmental recipients of grant funding have their own privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties policies and procedures in place.
On the transparency front, agencies using drones are required to provide notice of where their drones are authorized to operate (which presumably could mean an area as broad as the entire southern border of the United States); "keep the public informed" about their drone program along with any "changes that would significantly affect privacy, civil rights, or civil liberties;" and publish an annual summary of their activities. In addition, agencies are expected to publish information within a year about how to access their policies and procedures. It is critical that agencies publish this information in an accessible, effective interface — for instance, on a user-friendly website — rather than in an obscure manner that meets the letter of the regulations but is easily overlooked, such as in the Federal Register.
These transparency and accountability measures are a good start, but only a start. While the requirement that agencies establish policies and procedures is laudable, there must be strong oversight to ensure that the policies have teeth and that noncompliance is met with consequences. Fusion centers, for instance, are required to have policies in place, but the quality of those policies varies widely, DHS exercises little oversight, and the fusion centers are left to operate in a state of "organized chaos." The lesson from fusion centers suggests that we need to add teeth to any mandate that agencies put policies in place.
Similarly, the agreements regarding sharing of drone data — which could presumably be between different federal agencies; between federal and local, state, or tribal agencies; or between federal agencies and private third parties — should be required to be made public to the extent possible. Memoranda of understanding tend to hide details that are necessary to a full understanding of government initiatives, and it is critical that they be publicly available. Similarly, making the amount and type of expenditures on drones accessible would help the public understand how much money is spent for what kind of benefit. (DHS's Inspector General recently issued a blistering report about the drone program run by the Customs and Border Protection service, concluding that it does not achieve its intended results or reflect the true costs of operation.)
Finally, the memorandum directs the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to convene a "multi-stakeholder engagement process" in order to "develop and communicate best practices for privacy, accountability, and transparency issues" in domestic drone use. The NTIA stakeholder process has been criticized for producing watered-down standards that are solely voluntary, though some advocates have noted that the negotiated process can produce a rough consensus. (In addition, the process is specifically focused on commercial and private drones, not those operated by law enforcement or intelligence, so the concerns raised above will not be addressed through the NTIA process.) The NTIA recently published a formal request for comment, as well as an announcement of an upcoming public meeting, so it remains to be seen how that process will play out.
The administration can be commended for recognizing that the introduction of drones into the domestic airspace brings with it concerns related to privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties. And during a time of near-total gridlock in Congress, a presidential memorandum may be the most practical way to lay out guiding principles and practices for agencies. Unfortunately, this memorandum has too many conspicuous holes. It must be the start, not the end, of the discussion.
3. What’s Up Frack
The Environmental Protection Agency released an analysis of frack water on Friday, based on data that drillers supplied to the website FracFocus. The EPA’s report is just one part of the agency’s long awaited fracking study, which will assess the impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water supplies. The full report is due out this spring.
The EPA researchers say less than one percent of frack fluid in their analysis of 39,000 wells contained additives, while water made up 88 percent of the fluid, and sand, or quartz, made up ten percent. The agency identified 692 separate frack water ingredients. Maximum concentrations of these chemicals were usually below 2 percent of the total mass, while half of the chemicals were below 0.3 percent of mass. EPA science advisor Tom Burke told reporters on a press call that the chemical additives and volumes of water varied greatly from well to well. Water usage for each fracked well ranged from 35,000 gallons to 7.2 million gallons.
“While these maximum concentrations [of chemical additives] are low percentages of the overall fracturing fluid,” said Burke, “more than half the wells had water volumes greater than 1.5 million gallons. So a small percentage may mean hundreds or thousands of gallons of chemicals could be transported to, and present on, the well pad prior to mixing on the fracking fluid. Remember one percent of a million gallons is a large number — 10,000 gallons.”
The three top chemicals used in the frack fluid were hydrochloric acid, methanol, and hydro-treated light petroleum distillates. Hydrochloric acid is used to keep the well casings free of mineral build-ups, while methanol is used to increase viscosity. Petroleum distillates are refined products like diesel, kerosene, or fuel oil, and are used to make the fluid “slick,” or soapy, and thereby reduce friction.
Producers have steered away from using distillates in their fracking fluids in recent years to avoid stricter federal regulations. The so-called Halliburton Loophole in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 exempts chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing from federal oversight. But diesel is an exception. That’s because it moves quickly through water, and even small amounts of the neurotoxins within the liquid fuel cause liver and kidney damage.
The agency analyzed the information provided to FracFocus for a two-year time frame stretching from January, 2011 to February, 2013. During that time, the reports show that drillers in Pennsylvania used about 11 billion gallons of water to frack 2,483 wells.
4. Fracking opponents at a 2012 rally in New York's Legislative Office Building in Albany.
With funding from industry trade groups, FracFocus launched in April 2011 as an optional disclosure tool. The effort was a response to criticism regarding industry exemptions from several federal environmental regulations, which would have required chemical disclosure, among other things. More than 200 operators voluntarily uploaded their fracking fluid recipes for each well – with the exception of those ingredients companies deemed “trade secrets.”
FracFocus is run by the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission and the Groundwater Protection Council, both based in Oklahoma City. The IOGCC is a multi-state government agency and the GWPC is a nonprofit group of state regulators who oversee water quality and oil and gas development. Pennsylvania is a member of both organizations.
Jeanne Briskin, coordinator for the EPA’s frack study, praised both the Groundwater Protection Council and the IOGCC for their cooperation. A recent report by Inside Climate News revealed that the EPA’s fracking study has been stymied by industry players who have thwarted efforts to collect good data.
“This is one source of data to help us understand the frequency of chemical use, and the amounts of water used,” said Briskin.
But the report also has limitations. Tom Burke told reporters that the information is underestimated due to the fact that not all states required companies to report their water and chemical usage, and industry could refrain from reporting anything it deemed a “trade secret.”
Seventy percent of all well reports included at least one undisclosed entry due to trade secret claims.
Susan Phillips/ StateImpact Pennsylvania
5. Kim McEvoy of Butler County is among the people who believe gas drilling ruined their drinking water.
StateImpact has reported on the difficulties associated with how FracFocus makes their data available to the public. Each report is in a PDF file, which makes it difficult to do any type of analysis. PDFs are not “machine-readable.” In other words, computers can’t understand the documents, so it’s harder to tell machines to pull the data out and organize the information as a table or a spreadsheet. (An Excel spreadsheet is one example of a “machine-readable” document.)
But FracFocus recently announced plans to improve the site. Pennsylvania requires its drillers to report the contents of frack water to the site, but reports have shown that the state provides little oversight over whether the reports are timely and accurate.
The EPA would not answer questions on the toxicity of the chemicals listed, but said that analysis would be forthcoming along with the broader report due out within the next couple of months.
6. Don’t Regulate Me Bro’
Representatives from the state’s Marcellus Shale industry are criticizing the way the Wolf administration has handled proposed changes to drilling regulations.
At a meeting of the state Department of Environmental Protection’s Oil and Gas Technical Advisory Board (TAB) Friday, industry groups questioned the level of transparency around new draft rules.
Kevin Moody, of the Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association, was among the critics.
“I’m not going to go all ‘Al Pacino’ here, but this whole proceeding is out of order,” he told DEP staff .
Since 2011, the agency has been revising its Chapter 78 regulations, which govern the oil and gas industry. In December 2013, the rules became available for public comment. The agency held nine hearings across the state and received more than 24,000 comments. Shortly after Governor Wolf took office, the DEP made a slew of significant changes– imposing more stringent rules for things like waste, noise, and streams.
Jim Welty is vice president of government affairs for the trade group, the Marcellus Shale Coalition.
“The MSC submitted extensive and detailed comments, the vast majority of which appear to have been ignored,” he said. “In our view [these regulations] are designed to increase costs and threaten continued development of this industry.”
Wolf’s environmental chief questioned on gas tax, new drilling rules
With new draft rules, DEP steps up oversight of drilling waste
Chapter 78: A guide to the proposed oil and gas regulations
Pa. DEP seeks input on overhaul of drilling regulations
7. DEP: The Department That Regulates and Oversees Drilling
Moody also questioned why the DEP quickly disbanded its former TAB.
“For an administration that campaigned on transparency on accountability, the purging of former TAB members and the appointment of new ones was shrouded in secrecy,” he said.
“I disagree with the criticism,” said DEP’s Deputy Secretary for Oil and Gas, Scott Perry. “The governor appoints new board members. This is the process. The governor and acting secretary John Quigley have gone far beyond what minimal level of public participation is called for in the law.”
The DEP is planning to release its newly revised rules for a 30-day public comment period on April 4th but will not hold any more hearings.
The agency must finish the regulations by March 2016, or risk starting all over again. Perry says they don’t plan to hold more hearings or extend the comment period beyond 30 days in order to make that deadline. He says the agency also added four non-voting TAB members in order to get a broader array of interests– including representatives from academia and the environmental community.
8. Walk for Mother Earth - a PNN Special
It’s time! Let’s defend the Everglades from further destruction and protect the rights of the Independents, Miccosukees, Seminoles, and glades people. Join Bobby C. Billie, Betty Osceola, Houston Cypress, and allies for the March 28 - April 2 Walk for Mother Earth. This Saturday, March 28 at 1:00 p.m. we set-up base camp at Trail Lakes Campgrounds and Sunday, March 29 at 9:00 a.m. we begin our five day Walk for Mother Earth to oppose the River of Grass Greenway Project (ROGG), a proposed 76-mile, 14-foot wide paved multi-purpose road across the Everglades that would destroy invaluable wetlands, disrupt watersheds, fragment critical habitat, encroach on indigenous lands, desecrate burial grounds, disturb historic battlefields, undermine Everglades Restoration, commercialize the Everglades, and potentially open the door to new Everglades drilling.
This event is being organized by Bobby C. Billie -- Spiritual Leader and Clan Leader, Council of the Original Miccosukee Simanolee Nation Aboriginal Peoples. Love The Everglades Movement is honored to assist in the event planning.
March 28 - Public Check-in and Setup Campsite at Trail Lakes Campground
March 29 - Walk Day 1 - Opening Ceremony
March 30 - Walk Day 2
March 31 - Walk Day 3
April 1 - Walk Day 4
April 2 - Walk Day 5 - Closing Ceremony
Trail Lakes Campground, 40904 Tamiami Trail E., Ochopee, FL -- (239) 695-2275
9. SAUDI in YEMEN (Which Side Are We On? ... YES)
10. Schuman replaces Reid?
11. No Opponent for HILARY -
Who's got the ovaries to take on the clin-TON
Who's got the ovaries to take on the clin-TON
12. MISSING EMAILS… its not just for Democrats
Debby Comes Clean - DaDue Romney scrapes his clean
CIA Videos Missing / NSA/CIA scraping the Intelligence Committee’s Computers
13. DEA/CIA/Secret Service & Prostitutes
- Not Ready for Prime Time Press Coverage
An 800-page independent report commissioned by the US-friendly Colombian government and the radical left rebel group FARC found that US military soldiers and contractors had sexually abused at least 54 children in Colombia between 2003 and 2007 and, in all cases, the rapists were never punished–either in Colombia or stateside–due to American military personnel being immune from prosecution under diplomatic immunity agreements between the two countries.
The report was part of a broader historical analysis meant to establish the “causes and violence aggravators” of the 50-year-long conflict between the government and rebels that’s presently being negotiated to an end. As Colombia Reports(3/23/15) would spell out:
In his report, the historian [Renan Vega] cited one 2004 case in the central Colombian town of Melgar where 53 underage girls were sexually abused by nearby stationed military contractors “who moreover filmed [the abuse] and sold the films as pornographic material.”
According to Colombia’s leading newspaper, El Tiempo, the victims of the sexual abuse practices were forced to flee the region after their families received death threats.
Other Americans stationed at the Tolemaida Air Base allegedly committed similar crimes, but possibly also never saw a day in court due to an immunity arrangement for American soldiers and military contractors agreed by Washington and Bogota.
One case that has called most attention in Colombian media was that of a 12-year-old who in 2007 was raped by a US Army sergeant and a former US military officer who was working in Melgar as a military contractor.
Colombian prosecutors established that the girl had been drugged and subsequently raped inside the military base by US sergeant Michael J. Coen and defense contractor Cesar Ruiz.
However, prosecution officials were not allowed to arrest the suspected child rapists who were subsequently flown out of the country.
Thus far, however, these explosive claims seem to have received zero coverage in the general US press, despite having been reported on Venezuela’s Telesur (3/23/15), the British tabloid Daily Mail (3/24/15) and Russian RT (3/25/15).
But why? These aren’t fringe claims, nor can the government of American ally Colombia be dismissed as a peddler of Bolivarian propaganda. Indeed, the Miami Herald (9/3/09) documented the case of US Sgt. Michael Coen and contractor César Ruiz in 2009:
The US government has made little effort to investigate a US Army sergeant and a Mexican civil contractor implicated in Colombia in the raping of a 12-year-old girl in August 2007, according to an El Nuevo Herald investigation.
The suspects, Sgt. Michael Coen and contractor César Ruiz, were taken out of Colombia under diplomatic immunity, and do not face criminal charges in the United States in the rape in a room at Colombia’s Germán Olano Air Force Base in Melgar, 62 miles west of Bogotá.
So why no coverage? Certainly one of Washington’s stanchest Latin American allies co-authoring a blistering report about systemic US military child rape of a civilian population should be of note–if for no other reason than, as the report lays out, it undermined American military efforts to stop drug trafficking and fight leftist rebels:
However, prosecution officials were not allowed to arrest the suspected child rapists who were subsequently flown out of the country.
The case has caused major indignation among Colombians for years….
The special envoy will possibly have to deal with the role of the US military and its members in the alleged victimization of Colombians.
Yet here we are, over 72 hours since the Colombian and foreign press first reported on the allegations, and there’s a virtual media blackout in America over the case.
Nothing on CNN, nothing on MSNBC, nothing in the New York Times orMiami Herald. Nothing in Huffington Post. Nothing in Fusion or Vice. Why?
As UK authorities and NATO officials stress the importance of clamping down on“false Russian” narratives in the media, perhaps our own media could stop providing a shining example as to why such anti-Western narratives are so often the only outlet for certain ugly truths.
14. PROTESTS IN MONTREAL - OH CANADA
28 March 2015 |
Riot police in Montreal used tear gas and flash-bangs to disperse hundreds of students rallying in the city's downtown in protest against the Quebec government's anti-austerity measures. Following dispersal, barricades have been put up at Montreal's Carré Phillips and protesters are regrouping, according to various reports on the ground...Earlier on Friday, about 100 activists stormed into the Université du Québec à Montréal wearing masks and protesting against the potential expulsion of nine students for their involvement in 2012 protests.
15. BEHAVIOR CHECKLIST - Does not include ignoring Presidential Threats
TSA's Secret Behavior Checklist to Spot Terrorists | 27 March 2015 | ...Arrogance, a cold penetrating stare, and rigid posture, two points. These are just a few of the suspicious signs that the Transportation Security Administration directs its officers to look out for -- and score -- in airport travelers, according to a confidential TSA document obtained exclusively by The Intercept.
The checklist is part of TSA's controversial program to identify potential terrorists based on behaviors that it thinks indicate stress or deception -- known as the Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques, or SPOT. The program employs specially trained officers, known as Behavior Detection Officers, to watch and interact with passengers going through screening.
16. Pop PROP-A GANDER AT THIS
Pentagon drops grisly leaflets in Syria | 26 March 2015 | The Pentagon has dropped 60,000 leaflets warning people in the Syrian town of Ar-Raqqa not to join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The leaflets depict a grisly image: An ISIS recruiting office with new recruits lining up to join, but then being put through a meat-grinder. The Pentagon said the leaflets were dropped over the town by a U.S. Air Force F-15E fighter jet on March 16, to dissuade new recruits living in the ISIS stronghold from joining.[Yeah, USociopaths only want their contractors and team involved (to overthrow Assad) not actual militants.]
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Merilee Malwitz-Jipson - Anti Fracking Clean Water Activist who is working with volunteers across Florida to engage cities and counties and groups to endorse an ANTI-FRACKING PLEDGE to oppose the destruction of our Groundwater. Citizens across the country are facing real water access issues. Some states have made collection of rainwater a CRIME - Do not let the lobbyists of BIG ENERGY be the only voices our state officials hear.
Jay Alexander JOBs/Infrastructure Advocate - Jay has been fighting for a new CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps.) - for over a decade. We need jos for unemployed cast away workers. Our country has bridges and roadways and parks and tunnels that are in desparate need for upgrades ahead of the catastrophe that is coming due. Jay will give us his update..
Elizabeth Tetrault - will talk about the new Knight Foundation Project - "Empowerment Vans" - taking a page from the BookMobile - the Empowerment Vans will provide information about the importance of Participation in Civic Affairs - providing a hands on, Front Row Seat for Citizens to gain access to the levers of power that too rarely are made so available!
Lori Price - Producer and Publisher of LEGITGOV.ORG an uncensored clear eyed look at our world with important stories about what is moving below the veneer and the shallow spin.
TUNE IN Sunday 3/29/15 - 7pm (Eastern)