Saturday, April 30, 2016

ELECTION SUGGESTION

Election Suggestion 2016

Americans are broadly rejecting "business as usual solutions" and standard issue politicians. 
Yet some Americans are still mesmerized and even today, seem to support yet one more princeling, from the ruling billionaire tribe. (Trump) 

And on the other hand :

The political malpractice of blocking and limiting voters and the use of sleight of hand registrations and "Teflon roots" attacks and extensively well documented MSM exclusionary tradecraft, that has (purchased) assured the DLC Corporo-Dems one more "SureShot" (tm) will undoubtedly prove to be a Pyrrhic Victory.

(Even if) out of fear of a Trump presidency, a temporary "victory" is snatched. The energized followers of the good Senator's agenda* - will not sit idly by as Monsanto is ensconced at the EPA, the frackers are perched in the Energy Department and yet another carte Blanche charge card handed off to the NEOCON WAR MACHINE and to the heartless imperial occupiers of Palestine. 

Watch and think carefully about what you wish for Madam Secretary...

History is not as easily fooled as the ill-educated American electorate. They may find the dish served at table, indeed little more than a bitter pill. 

RW Spisak
PNN


*The People's Civic Agenda that Senator Sanders has Championed is undefeatable : 

* Healthcare for All
* Money out of Politics 
* Fair Wages for All Workers
* an End to outsourcing Of American Manufacturing, 
* A Fair Voting Systems
* an End to the "All War"  Economy 
* an End to the revolving door between regulators and their corporate counterparts
* a Real Raise for Social Security Recipients, 
* a Higher Minimum Wage "$15 - the new floor"
* an End to Citizen United. 

THE SANDERS CANDIDACY MAY END,  BUT THE FIGHT FOR A FAIRER FUTURE, MUST CONTINUE. 

By RW SPISAK
4/30/16

Sunday, April 24, 2016

PNN - Fabulous Fearsome Foursome of Florida's Finest Fems



PNN
4/24/16

Brook Hines - Associate Producer / Political Commentator 
Susan Smith  - President of the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida
Lillian Taylor - Author, Activist Attorney
Nicole Williams - Water Keeper / Environmental Activist

=================================


1. Big doings in Big Cypress.

Nine Collier County landowners have applied to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) for an exemption from the Endangered Species Act for the impact their proposed development of 45,000 acres in Big Cypress would have on the 16 endangered species that live there. The applicants intend to develop a city the size of Washington, D.C.—roughly twice as large as Miami—that would support 329,000 people in an area that includes 10% of what remains of the core habitat of the Florida panther. The Eastern Collier Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) involves residential and commercial development, oil and gas development and mining.

The FWS is taking public comments for the Environmental Impact Statement it will write in response to this proposal through Monday, April 25th. FWS will review all impacts the proposed development would have on elements of the human environment, including habitat loss and impacts on wildlife, air quality, water quality and supply, loss of agricultural lands, traffic and roads, climate change, and economics. 

But its primary focus is on the Endangered Species Act, specifically whether or not to grant the applicants an Incidental Take Permit (ITP). The ITP would absolve the developers of responsibility for any harm incidentally done to any of the protected species living in the area as a result of the development of their habitat for a period of 50 years. This would include animals dying and species going extinct.

The covered lands encompass roughly 152,124 acres in northeastern Collier County surrounding the town of Immokalee. They’re bordered to the south by the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge and Big Cypress National Preserve; to the north and east by the Okaloacoochee Slough State Forest; and to the northwest by the Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary.

State officials estimate the current panther population as 100 to 180 individuals. But as the population has expanded due to the species’ listing as an endangered species, its habitat has shrunk as a result of the development of new towns, stores and two colleges. A study by top panther experts that was published in July, 2015 calls for protecting what's left. "Because there is less panther habitat remaining than previously thought, we recommend that all remaining breeding habitat in south Florida should be maintained," concluded the authors of "Landscape Analysis of Adult Panther Habitat."

The options FWS will consider include: issuing the ITP, denying the ITP, and varying the scope and/or location of covered activities. We want them to deny the ITP. Because FWS is a lot more comfortable granting permits than it is denying them, it’s critical that those of us who appreciate the stakes involved submit a comment. I’ve outlined the key variables below in order to assist you in writing your comments, which you can make as long or short, focused or comprehensive, as you like. Please use your own words so that all our comments aren’t dismissed as the work of one person.

Comments can be submitted by email to comments-eastcollierhcp@fws.gov. If FWS doesn’t confirm its receipt of your comment, contact Brenda Tapia at 703.358.2104.

You can find the HCP, which is 300 pages long, here. Oil and gas development is mentioned on page 20 if you’re going by the numbers at the bottom of the page.

Loss of primary panther habitat. The HCP fails to protect the panther. Panther habitats are classified into three zones: primary, secondary, and tertiary. The panther has already lost 95% of its historical range and can’t afford any further loss of its primary habitat. The HCP calls for the development of 25,000 acres within the panther’s primary habitat despite the recommendation of the ranchers’ own review team, which is comprised of six panther biologists. Their 2009 report stated that development could easily be moved out of primary and into secondary habitat zones.

Narrow corridors. Panther corridors in the current proposal are too narrow. The Plan includes corridors that are hundreds of feet wide, but panthers need corridors over a mile wide.

New roads and increased traffic. The Plan calls for the development of nearly 60 miles of new roads, some of which will bring over 60,000 cars to the area daily, resulting in the vehicular deaths of many more panthers. As it is, 16 panthers have been found dead so far this year, 14 of them killed by vehicles. It’s estimated that the level of development that the Plan involves would increase vehicular trips on roads that are presently rural by six to eight times, and that traffic on Corkscrew Road, where several panther-vehicle collisions have occurred, would increase by more than 23 times.

Inadequate attention to the 15 other species at risk: The applicants are seeking incidental take authorization for the following federally-listed species: the (1) Florida scrub-jay, (2) Audubon’s crested caracara, (3) wood stork, (4) red-cockaded woodpecker, (5) Everglade snail kite, (6) eastern indigo snake, (7) Florida bonneted bat, and (8) Florida panther. The gopher tortoise, which is a candidate species, would also be included, as would the following state-listed and unlisted species: (10) the burrowing owl, (11) eastern diamondback rattlesnake, (12) Florida Sandhill crane, (13) little blue heron, (14) Southeastern American kestrel, (15) tricolored heron, and (16) Big Cypress fox squirrel. The Plan virtually ignores the unique habitats of all the species except the panther.

Land preservation. The Plan sets aside 107,000 acres for conservation in exchange for intense development of 45,000. But much of this land is already set aside for conservation, meaning that the same acreage would be counted twice in the mitigation process. Furthermore, this “conserved” acreage could be used for conventional farming, oil exploration, and fracking, intensive and highly polluting activities that are incompatible with conservation and would render meaningless the applicants’ attempt to mitigate the damage development would do.

Length of the permit. The length of the permit—50 years—is unacceptable. If populations begin to decline or fail to meet recovery goals, which they’re liable to do in the midst of intensive development, it would be nearly impossible to reverse development allowances once the permit is in place.

Air and water quality and water supply. The proposal specifies oil exploration and drilling and leaves the door wide open for fracking, acidizing, and other forms of extreme extraction (which I’ll refer to as “fracking” for the sake of brevity, but it’s important to reference all the processes mentioned above because technically, this area wouldn’t be fracked; it would be acid-fracked). In fact, the Department of Environmental Protection has already issued a permit for seismic testing in the area.

Research has shown that no amount of oversight can make fracking safe. The majority of concrete well casings and all pipes leak. Frackers drill right through aquifers with dirty drill bits. The EPA found evidence of more than 36,000 oil spills in the U.S. in six years’ time. Excess gas is released directly into the atmosphere, polluting air and increasing already-spiraling temperatures, [with alarming implications for the sea level rise and saltwater intrusion with which South Florida is already having to contend.] Fires, blowouts, explosions, trucking accidents, and bomb trains are common.

Research has found that two counties in Pennsylvania that were fracked experienced a 49% increase in cancer-related hospitalizations in four years’ time. Other studies have found that the rate of birth defects increases significantly within 10 miles of a single fracked well, livestock in the vicinity of fracking die in large numbers, and fracking increases infant mortality.

Not to mention that one average fracked well uses enough water to last seven Floridians their entire lives.

Or that well over 1,000 cases of fracking-related water contamination have been documented.

Or that Colorado has over 100,000 fracked wells, and on a summer day the air in Denver looks like that in Beijing. It turns out that fracked gas isn’t the “bridge fuel” it was held out to be because fracking generates methane, and methane is about 82 times as potent a greenhouse gas as carbon dioxide.

In October, 2015 Physicians for Social Responsibility released research that summarizes hundreds of peer-reviewed studies of fracking. It concludes that “fracking poses significant threats to air, water, health, public safety, climate stability, seismic stability, community cohesion, and long-term economic vitality.”

As of this writing, 85 Floridian cities and counties, representing 74% of the state’s population, have passed resolutions, ordinances, or both against fracking. Not only is it clear that fracking does grave damage to air, water, and soil; it’s equally clear that Floridians adamantly oppose it.

Mining should be mentioned in this context as well. The mining that would be done in this area would be limestone rock and/or sand mining. In fact, the sand might be fracking sand quality. All mining is seriously damaging to land, air, water, and public health. Fracking requires a special silica sand the mining of which causes erosion and does damage that is more or less irreparable. People living in the vicinity of these mines see the nearby forest disappear, hills get flattened, and the air become hazy with silica dust, which can cause permanent lung damage.

Climate change. In May, 2015 the EPA released a report on the impacts of climate change on public health in the U.S. that lent new confidence to the conclusion that we have a very narrow window of time in which to drastically reduce our emissions if we are to have any hope of slowing climate change. We’re perilously close to two degrees of warming on an ongoing basis, at which point we’ll see increased ocean acidification and other habitat loss that will kill off 30-50% of the species on earth, tropical diseases exploding out of control, the irreversible thaw of the ice caps leading to between five and nine meters of sea level rise, and intensified heat waves that cause thousands to tens of thousands of deaths each summer in the U.S.

Nowhere in the U.S. will this be more of a crisis than in Florida, where we’re already dealing with routine flooding and salt water intrusion into our drinking water supplies. Meanwhile, the Turkey Point Nuclear Generating Station sits ominously on the coastline threatening to contaminate the Atlantic Ocean the way Fukushima has the Pacific if it isn’t moved or remediated in time.

It’s critical for us to avoid degrading healthy ecosystems or those in the process of being restored because their soils store carbon very efficiently. It’s critical that we refrain from further oil and gas development because it’s such a potent source of greenhouse gases. It’s critical that we conserve the water supplies we have. And it’s critical that work to preserve our endangered species rather than subjecting them to 50 years’ worth of incidental take.

Conclusion. The Plan thus falls short of FWS requirements for Incidental Take Permit approval. It ignores pertinent scientific findings, the recommendation of the ranchers’ own panther biologists, and the opposition of local citizens. The fate of the Florida panther, one of the world’s most endangered mammals, depends upon denial of this permit. Ultimately, the fate of the Floridian depends in part upon it too.

Thank you for all you do,
Michelle


==================================
3. Censored

Unilever -- maker of big brands like Magnum ice-cream and Dove soap -- claims to be a leader in the fight against climate change. But it is sneakily one of the biggest members of FoodDrinkEurope, a massive, pro-corporate lobby group pushing to get negotiators to pass TTIP -- a massive trade deal between Europe and the United States, with eerie similarities to the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
If passed, TTIP will spell disaster for our climate.
The Canadian corporation TransCanada, is suing the US government for a whopping $15 billion. And it's all because Obama stopped a controversial, climate-wrecking oil pipeline.
Worst of all, climate-friendly laws all over the world could never end up seeing the light of day if this trade deal passes. The pact grants business lobbyists the right to challenge laws they don't like -- before our leaders in parliament have even seen them.
We can stop this massive trade deal by destroying the power of those lobbying hard for it. And that means making Unilever withdraw from FoodDrinkEurope.
We’re shaking things up for Unilever from the inside by mobilising its employees to ask questions, and therefore forcing senior executives to hear our demands. But right now, we need your help being heard.
Unilever is vulnerable -- it has invested too much in its image as a climate-saviour. This is what makes this campaign winnable. Unilever’s CEO, Paul Polman, has talked publicly and passionately about the devastating effects of climate change.
Winning this campaign could be a gamechanger. Unilever is one of FoodDrinkEurope’s biggest members. An exit would seriously damage FoodDrinkEurope's credibility -- forcing it to reconsider its TTIP lobby efforts.
But we can’t do this without you.
Already, over 150,000 members of the SumOfUs community have demanded that Unilever take its commitment to climate change seriously, and drop out of FoodDrinkEurope. In our palm oil campaigning, SumOfUs members are also pressuring Unilever to clean up its palm oil policy -- and we're making huge progress.
It’s now time to take the campaign to the next level, so that Unilever knows that we won’t be letting this one go until it stops complicitly supporting one of the biggest corporate power grabs of a generation.
Thanks for all that you do,
Kat and the team at SumOfUs



5. A Peace Candidate
We have met in the past.
I am running for office as Florida's Peace Candidate.
If this interests you, please call me.
Basil Dalack (561) 746-1544 Tequesta

6. Online Debate 
Tomorrow, we will conduct the first-ever Internet-based Senate debate in Florida, where We, the People choose the questions.
Today, and through noon tomorrow, you can suggest debate questions, or vote for questions, at www.FloridaOpenDebate.com. And then, at 7 pm, you can watch the debate there, live.
I opened up the SuperDelegate system to We, the People, and now I’m opening the debates as well. Please make a contribution of $30 or more to our We, the People campaign >>
I took a look at the questions that people have submitted for the debate tomorrow, and frankly, I’m impressed. These are good, solid questions that embody the important issues of the day. They are questions that anyone who hopes to serve in the Senate ought to answer. And I’m ready to do that.
I also noticed a distinct lack of “gotcha” questions, and I respect that. We live in a time when every “journalist” looks in the mirror and sees either Woodward or Bernstein. They all think that it’s somehow heroic to ask inane questions like whether Bernie Sanders has dual citizenship with Israel. (Answer: no, and what the heck is wrong with you for even asking that question?) We’re taking the debates away from the ADHD media.


7   Elizabeth Warren's Big Win: The New, Much-Needed Rule That Could Rein in Wall Street
By Andrew Burstein and Nancy Isenberg, Salon
24 April 16

A new Labor Department requirement is giant victory for consumer advocates over Wall Street and financial advisers

re you in the market for some good news? While everyone is being told to follow the excitement of the 2016 campaign to the exclusion of all else, out of the spotlight but not far away, the Obama administration is calmly trying to enact lasting progressive change. In the Labor Department earlier this month, consumer advocates won a big battle, as the vast middle class was “gifted” with a new requirement being placed on the financial services industry. As Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren explained, a glaring conflict of interest has been resolved in the favor of people saving for retirement. No longer can investment advisers recommend funds to their clients that reward them or their firms; instead, they must, without exception, direct customers into the best financial products, with lower or, sometimes, zero fees.
In her inimitable style, Warren crowed: “No more pushing products that generate financial benefits for advisers, while draining the customer’s savings.” It’s a very simple principle: “No more free vacations, cars, bonuses, fees, and other kickbacks.” Her mantra, as we know, is fairness. Her legislative agenda is to introduce new legal protections for consumers. She is quick to point out that most financial advisers are ethical, and work hard to help their clients. But these individuals have, for many years, been forced to compete with “slick-talking” advisers whose recommendations reflect personal incentives and produce “terrible results” for middle-class savers, amounting, the Labor Department says, to many billions of dollars.
Firms must now make a full disclosure. Facing the music, the largest independent company that manages retirement savings, with $450 billion in retirement assets, right away cut account fees for investors by “up to 30 percent.” Retirees win. The system can adapt. As Warren stated: “Americans are tired of a Washington that works great for the big guys and doesn’t work for anyone else.”
You know who she sounds like? Frances Perkins, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s secretary of labor for the entirety of his presidency, and the first female cabinet member in U.S. history. She should never be forgotten. Having personally witnessed the Shirtwaist Triangle fire of 1911, a tragedy in New York’s Greenwich Village that took the lives of 146 garment workers, a young and inspired Fannie Perkins resolved to devote herself to the cause of the American worker. As the accomplished business journalist Kirstin Downey lays out in her 2009 biography, Perkins pushed constantly for child labor laws, for safety regulations and a host of other fair labor practices. To prevent workers from descending into poverty, she urged compensation for workplace injury; she saw to the imposition of a minimum wage for the first time–which in the mid-1930s was around 45 cents an hour–and she pioneered unemployment insurance as we know it.
As compellingly up-front, if perhaps less pleasantly in-your-face than Warren is, Perkins told FDR when he was president-elect to think twice about naming her to the cabinet: “If you don’t want these things done…, I’d be an embarrassment to you.” She fed public demand. Fortunately for Roosevelt’s own historical reputation, he was not afraid of a strong woman. It is arguable that, were it not for Secretary Perkins, Social Security would never have happened.
At the same event at which Warren spoke, Sen. Cory Booker put in his own two cents when it came to the resistance of established financial firms to the “best interest standard” that the DOL has given life to. The New Jersey senator called the previous system that for so long “bilked” investors of their retirement saving “an assault on the ideals of this country.” Under the old rules, brokers only had to honor a level of ethical performance that was euphemistically called a “suitability standard,” and Republicans predictably complained that the Obama administration was trying to place “an undue burden” on finance professionals. Booker, like Warren, would have none of that. “We’re not surrendering to cynicism in this country,” he challenged.
With many billions of dollars now saved through the new requirement on financial advisers, we should all be giving renewed attention to the fight for a fairer minimum wage. California and New York have announced a raise from the current federal minimum of $7.25/hour to $15.00/hour. Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti explained the common-sense thinking that went into the decision: “Poverty is bad for business.” CEOs and small business owners alike, he said, “understand the impact economic justice can have on the workforce and the local economy—better paid employees are more likely to stay on the job, and when folks have more money in their pockets, they spend it.”
Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, who previously led the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department, has been acting in the best tradition of his hard-charging predecessor in standing up for the American worker and for all retirees. In fact, in his blog on the DOL website he states that a portrait of Frances Perkins hangs proudly above his desk. She brought about the Fair Labor Standard Act of 1938, which continues to set minimum wage and overtime pay standards. The old rationale that minimum-wage jobs are for teenagers, or a stepping-stone for adults, and therefore should not be tampered with too severely, is misleading. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 80 percent of hourly wage workers are over age 25; and the Economic Policy Institute states that 26 percent of the workforce earns less that $10.55/hour. Of the 22.9 million American workers who stand to be affected by a prospective increase in the federal minimum wage, over 80 percent are at least 20 years old; one-quarter are either single parents or married parents. The emotional, as well as financial, health of families is at risk.
For quite some time, our flat minimum wage has not reflected gains in worker productivity. President Obama and Senator Warren have been pressing for an increase for three solid years now. The family values voters out there–that is, if we define “family values” the way it should be done–are clearly in favor of a sensible minimum wage hike. Warren tells the story of how, when she was 12, her father suffered a heart attack and her mother was forced to take a minimum-wage job at Sears; at that time, it was enough to save the family from losing their home.
For all kinds of reasons, Warren has been out on the front lines, constantly reminding all who will listen that we need watchdogs in government. And like Secretary Perkins before him, Perez is helping to realize the progressive reforms President Obama is intent on accomplishing in his final year in office. Booker said it best: “This fight ain’t over.”



8. Stonewalled by the NSA, Members of Congress Ask Really Basic Question Again
By Dan Froomkin, The Intercept
23 April 16

 bipartisan group of lawmakers is none too happy that the executive branch is asking them to reauthorize two key surveillance programs next year without answering the single most important question about them.
The programs, authorized under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, are called PRISM and Upstream. PRISM collects hundreds of millions of internet communications of “targeted individuals” from providers such as Facebook, Yahoo, and Skype. Upstream takes communications straight from the major U.S. internet backbones run by telecommunications companies such as AT&T and Verizon and harvests data that involves selectors related to foreign targets.
But both programs, though nominally targeted at foreigners overseas, inevitably sweep up massive amounts of data involving innocent Americans.
The question is: How much? The government won’t answer.
Fourteen members of the House Judiciary Committee sent a letter to Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper on Friday asking for at least a rough estimate.
“In order that we may properly evaluate these programs, we write to ask that you provide us with a public estimate of the number of communications or transactions involving United States persons subject to Section 702 surveillance on an annual basis,” said the letter. Signatories included ranking Democrat John Conyers Jr. and a senior Republican member, James Sensenbrenner.
Sen. Ron Wyden has asked for a number since 2011; the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board recommended in July 2014 that the government provide several. In October, more than 30 privacy groups asked for an estimate and explained how easy it would be to come up with one.
“House Judiciary Committee members have lent their voices to the growing chorus demanding hard facts about how foreign intelligence surveillance affects Americans,” said Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the Brennan Center’s Liberty and National Security Program, in a statement. “The NSA will soon be asking Congress to reauthorize the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, and it will repeat its past claims that any collection of Americans’ communications is merely ‘incidental.’”
But, Goitein said, “We still don’t have this basic information.”



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PNN - Fabulous Foursome of Florida's Finest Fems, Lillian Taylor, Susan Smith, Nicole Williams, Brook Hines

PNN - Fabulous Foursome of Florida's Finest Fems, Lillian Taylor Author, Susan Smith Pres. DCPS, Nicole Williams WaterKeeper and Brook Hines Associate Producer


PNN - Fabulous Foursome of Florida's Finest Fems, Lillian Taylor Author, Environmentalist and , Susan Smith President Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida, Nicole Williams Water Keeper, Wildlife Activist and Ecologist, Brook Hines Associate Producer and Political Columnist
Brook Hines Associate Producer and Political Columnist discussing the latest Political News
Lillian Taylor Environmental Attorney, Human Rights Activist and Author will provide her take on the choices facing Democrats today.
Nicole Williams Florida Waterkeeper and Environmentalist will discuss the New FPL Project in Hendry County which with impact native lands and waters of of the Seminole and Miccousukee,  the Wildlife Corridor, and the waters feeding south. The ongoing damage done to Fish Eating Creek by backpumping Lake Okeechobee waters into the Creek. And the recently exposed problems of FPL's Turkey Point Nuclear Plant expansion damaging not only Biscayne Bay but the water resources of Miami Dade, and Monroe  County. 
Susan Smith President of the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida will talk about the upcoming Democratic Progressive Caucus Conference
TUNE IN LIVE Sunday 7pm Eastern / 4pm Mountain time or Anytime
http://www.blogtalkradio.com/newmercurymedia/2016/04/24/pnn--florida-fabulous-feminist-foursome



http://www.blogtalkradio.com/newmercurymedia/2016/04/24/pnn--florida-fabulous-feminist-foursome

Sunday, April 17, 2016

PNN - “DUDE WHERE’S MY 02”



PNN - “DUDE WHERE’S MY 02
[Subtitled: We're Human too, Out Source CEOs not JOBs]
4/17/16


0. RE The Disaster of an Interview
Going back to that Daily News interview—the supposed proof of Sanders’ lack of seriousness—columnist Juan Gonzales, who participated, later reported on “Democracy Now!”, that he didn’t get the impression it was a disaster at all. “The editorial board is notorious, especially our editorial page editor, Arthur Browne, for his laser-like one question after another, and he bombarded, as several others of us also asked questions. I, overall, thought that Bernie Sanders handled the exchange very well. And I think that there were a few places where he stumbled, and—but I was amazed at his ability to parry the questions that were thrown at him…. I thought his performance was excellent.”  
Candidates the media deem to be serious do not get these policy pop quizzes, because it is believed (accurately) that they can hire experienced advisers who can work out the details. But if they were pressed, there’s no doubt a studied reporter could make them look silly.


1. FUNGUS AMONG US
For defense against the fungal pathogens that attack crops—think the blight that bedeviled Irish potato fields in the 19th century—farmers turn to fungicides. They're widely sprayed on fruit, vegetable, and nut crops, and in the past decade, they've become quite common in the corn and soybean fields (see here and herefor more). But as the use of fungicides has ramped up in recent years, some scientists are starting to wonder: What are these chemicals doing to the ecosystems they touch, and to us?
A new paper in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Communications adds to a disturbing body of evidence that fungicides might be doing more than just killing fungi. For the study, a team of University of North Carolina Neuroscience Center researchers led by Mark Zylka subjected mouse cortical neuron cultures—which are similar in cellular and molecular terms to the the human brain—to 294 chemicals "commonly found in the environment and on food." The idea was to see whether any of them triggered changes that mimicked patterns found in brain samples from people with autism, advanced age, and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's.
Eight chemicals fit the bill, the researchers found. Of them, the two most widely used are from a relatively new class of fungicides called "quinone outside inhibitors," which have surged in use since being introduced in US farm fields in the early 2000s: pyraclostrobin and trifloxystrobin.
Now, it's important to note, Zylka told me in an interview, that in vitro research like the kind his team conducted for this study is only the first step in determining whether a chemical poses risk to people. The project identified chemicals that can cause harm to brain cells in a lab setting, but it did not establish that they harm human brains as they're currently used. Nailing that down will involve careful epidemiological studies, Zylka said: Scientists will have to track populations that have been exposed to the chemicals—say farm workers—to see if they show a heightened propensity for brain disorders, and also test people who eat foods with residues of suspect chemicals to see if they show up in their bodies at significant levels. 



2. Debbie Wasserman-Destruction
DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz just signed onto a bill that would gut the agency conceived by progressive icon Elizabeth Warren.
Rep. Schultz (D-Florida) is cosponsoring H.R. 4018, which, among other things, delays the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s regulations on payday lenders for two years. The regulations are meant to stop the practice of “turned” loans, which are additional loans borrowers are forced to take on to pay back the abnormally-high interest rates attached to payday loans, which then leads to a cycle of debt for the borrower.
According to an internal memo obtained by the Huffington Post, Schultz is not only cosponsoring the bill, but is enlisting Democratic support for the measure.
While Schultz maintains she wants to model the CFPB’s regulations on payday lenders on a Florida payday lending law, advocates maintain that the Florida law is toothless, and that it is backed by the industry it was supposedly meant to regulate. But in fact, groups like the NAACP, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the National Council of La Raza, among many others, have signed onto a letterurging Congress to vote NO to H.R. 4018. In this letter, they claim a typical APR interest rate on a payday loan in Florida is around 300 percent — and yes, you read that correctly. Furthermore, they also state that interest rates such as these were illegal until “relatively recently.”
“Florida’s law is a sham,” Gynnie Robnett, of Americans for Financial Reform (AFR), told the Huffington Post. AFR estimates that 76 percent of payday loans issued in the Sunshine State are taken out to pay back previous payday loan interest, meaning the law Schultz says should be a model for national reform is essentially ineffective. The aforementioned letter from consumer group calls the industry in its current form a “payday debt trap.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren is on the opposite side of the issue. In fact, she’s openly called for payday lenders to be replaced by the U.S. Postal Service in a 2014 bill. In an op-ed to the Huffington Post, Warren expressed many reasons for supporting the bill, including those below.
“The report found that 68 million Americans don’t have bank accounts and spent $89 billion in 2012 on interest and fees for the kinds of basic financial services that USPS could begin offering. The average un-banked household spent more than $2,400, or about 10 percent of its income, just to access its own money through things like check cashing and payday lending stores. USPS would generate savings for those families and revenue for itself by stepping in to replace those non-bank financial services companies.”
Bernie Sanders has also endorsed the idea of postal banking, as six out of ten post offices are in ZIP codes with either one or zero bank branches.
Campaign finance records show it’s not inaccurate to say Debbie Wasserman Schultz is a friend of the financial industry. The securities/investment industry is Schultz’s fourth-biggest donor demographic according to OpenSecrets.org, having given $23,000 to her campaign committee in the 2016 cycle. The industry has given Schultz over $267,000 throughout the course of her 12-year Congressional career.
Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s office did not respond to a request for an interview.



3. Wiretap Who
SKOPJE (Reuters) – Macedonia’s president pardoned 56 government and opposition figures on Wednesday in a wiretapping scandal despite protests against the move at home and abroad, with the United States warning it could protect “corrupt politicians”.
A day after causing uproar in Macedonia by announcing he planned a blanket amnesty over the affair, President Gjorge Ivanov published notices in Macedonia’s official gazette exempting former prime minister Nikola Gruevski – a political ally – and other prominent politicians from prosecution.
Also pardoned were opposition leader Zoran Zaev, who revealed the existence of the recordings last year, and former security service official Zoran Verusevski, who Gruevski accused of giving the wiretaps to Zaev in an attempt to bring down his government.
Macedonia, a poor Balkan country of two million people on the front line of Europe’s refugee crisis, has been in turmoil since Zaev accused Gruevski and his counter-intelligence chief, Saso Mijalkov, in February last year of orchestrating the wiretapping of more than 20,000 people.
The opposition said the phone-taps exposed government control over journalists, judges, public sector recruitment and the manipulation of elections in Macedonia, which aspires to join both the European Union and NATO.
The opposition branded Ivanov’s action a “coup d’etat” on Tuesday and demanded his resignation, while the EU said the move appeared contrary to the rule of law. Hundreds of protesters took to the streets of the Macedonian capital on Tuesday.
Thirty-seven opposition legislators signed a petition on Wednesday demanding a parliamentary inquiry into Ivanov’s action but the assembly was dissolved last week pending elections and the speaker said there were no grounds to recall it.
Ivanov explained his move on Tuesday by saying the scandal had reduced Macedonian politics to a crippling competition of criminal investigations and charges, and that it had become “so tangled that nobody can untangle it”.
U.S. Ambassador Jess Baily joined foreign criticism of Ivanov’s action, saying on Twitter: “A blanket pardon without due process protects corrupt politicians and their associates. Let the special prosecutor and courts do their jobs.”
In Washington, the U.S. State Department urged Ivanov on Wednesday to reconsider his decision so as to ensure “justice for the people of Macedonia”.
The EU commissioner in charge of relations with would-be member states, Johannes Hahn, said on Tuesday he doubted whether credible elections were possible following Ivanov’s decision. The opposition had already pledged to boycott the election.
Ali Ahmeti, head of the Democratic Union for Integration party which forms part of the ruling coalition, called on Ivanov to withdraw his decision, saying it violated an EU-brokered deal reached last year to try to end the crisis.
Under that accord, a special prosecutor was appointed to investigate the wiretap revelations and Gruevski agreed to an early election, expected in June.
Gruevski’s own party also criticised Ivanov’s decision.
Other officials who received presidential pardons on Wednesday were Mijalkov, the former counter-intelligence chief, and former ministers Gordana Jankulovska and Mile Janakievski, against whom the special prosecutor had opened a case on suspicion of intimidating voters.
(Additional reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic and Ivana Sekularac in Belgrade, Lesley Wroughton in Washington; Writing by Adrian Croft; Editing by Mark Heinrich)



4. OUTSOURCED EXPERTISE
Thom Hartmann said his MRI was “read & interpreted” by a Dr in India? - will all our medical analysis be done in the third world or just those for the middle class & for the poor



5. FRACKING AND DOWN STREAM  IMPACTS
Approximately 36,000 oil and gas frack disposal wells are currently in operation across the United States... 
Before all the Oil & Gas workers go off half-cocked, the "act" of injecting fracking wastewater is not same thing as the act of fracking; technically they are separate acts in the practice of fracking. 
So is illegal dumping, toxic spills, toxic air venting, property damage and fifty other nasty things these "professionals" do when they violate the "very limited regulations" placed upon them.
Guys... you're all fracked up!

WHEELING -Researchers from the University of Missouri and Duke University say they found high levels of chemicals downstream from a West Virginia fracking wastewater disposal site, but industry leaders said this contamination is likely due to a surface spill rather than an injection well failure.
"Approximately 36,000 of these disposal wells are currently in operation across the U.S., and little work has been done to evaluate their potential impacts on nearby surface water," said Christopher Kassotis, a postdoctoral fellow at Duke. "Given the large number of disposal wells in the U.S., it is critical for further investigation into the potential human and environmental health impacts."
Kassotis and Susan Nagel, associate professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Women's Health in the School of Medicine at the University of Missouri, studied an injection well site along Wolf Creek near Fayetteville, W.Va. This creek eventually leads to the New River, which is widely known for its New River Gorge Bridge.
"Surface water samples collected on the disposal facility site and immediately downstream exhibited considerably greater endocrine disrupting chemicals activity than surface water samples collected immediately upstream and in a nearby reference stream," Nagel said. "The level of EDC activity was within the range or higher than the level known to impact the health of aquatic organisms."
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, endocrine disruptors are chemicals that may interfere with the body's endocrine system and produce adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune effects in both humans and wildlife. Some of these substances may be found in products as common as plastic bottles, metal cans, detergents, flame retardants, food, toys, cosmetics, and pesticides.
The banned chemical DDT is an example of an endocrine disruptor, as is the industrial byproduct, dioxin.
Some widely used chemicals frackers add to their millions of gallons of water when working include hydrochloric acid, ethylene glycol, isopropanol, glutaraldehyde, petroleum distillate, guar gum, ammonium persulfate, formamide, borate salts, citric acid, potassium chloride and sodium carbonate. Once fracking is complete, many companies work to recycle their water so that it can be used multiple times onsite.
However, frackers will eventually need to transport the water for disposal at an injection well site. By this time, the water can contain radioactive elements released from the shale formation such as radium and uranium, in addition to the chemicals added to the fracking fluid.
According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the state features 233 injection wells classified as either active or being drilled, mostly in the northeastern and southeastern quadrants. In the Upper Ohio Valley, these include one in the Barnesville area; one in the area of Piedmont Lake; and one in Monroe County. Previously, a 2.6-mile deep injection well at the top of Kirkwood Heights also accepted brine, but this is no longer an active operation.
However, there are numerous injection wells located along the Ohio River in Washington, Athens and Meigs counties that serve as dumping areas for water used in both Ohio and West Virginia, in addition to several injection wells in Guernsey and Noble counties.
Data from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection show that most of the state's 36 active brine disposal wells are in the southern part of the state.
Energy In Depth is a research and public relations organization founded by the Independent Petroleum Association of America in 2009. Writing on behalf of Energy In Depth, Seth Whitehead said the study by Nagel and Kassotis "offers up more of the familiar exaggerations and myths that have long been debunked."
"Spills are obviously bad, so it's not all that surprising that the researchers found some environmental impacts at this site. But by focusing on a problem area that is much more the exception than the rule, the researchers fail to provide any insight on increasing knowledge about the risks of responsible development," Whitehead stated.




http://www.theintelligencer.net/page/content.detail/id/658584/Water-Contamination-Found-Downstream-of-West-Virginia-Injection-Well.html?nav=515


PNN - We're Human too

(The Refugee Crisis) born in Shock and Awe and nurtured by War Profiteers

See also

Further Eurostat information

Publications

Data in focus
News releases

Main tables

Asylum and new asylum applicants - monthly data (tps00189)
Persons subject of asylum applications pending at the end of the month - monthly data (tps00190)
Asylum and new asylum applicants - annual aggregated data (tps00191)
First instance decisions on applications by type of decision - annual aggregated data (tps00192)
Final decisions on applications - annual data (tps00193)
Asylum applicants considered to be unaccompanied minors - annual data (tps00194)

Database

Asylum and Dublin statistics (migr_asy)
Applications (migr_asyapp)
Decisions on applications and resettlement (migr_asydec)
'Dublin' statistics (migr_dub)

Dedicated section

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External links

Sunday, April 10, 2016

PNN - THE FULLY QUALIFIED SHOW


PNN
4/10/16
Producer / News Director Richard W Spisak Jr.
Brook Hines Associate Producer
Professor Wendy Lynne Lee Human Rights Activist / Fracktivist / Nuclear Power Activist
Drew Martin Palm Beach County Soil and Water Board 
Betty Oseola of the Otter Clan of the Miccosoukee Nation and Everglades Activist


News Director Rick Spisak and PNN Present you a wonderful new show with fresh information from the Six senses, the five corners and the four dimensions

Brook Hines Political Columnist and Commentator brings you her fresh Progressive Democratic perspective from a special place beyond Regional Betrayals and National Missteps, Confusions and Contusions and Unconventional Dramatic Successes

Professor Wendy Lynn Lee of Bloomsburg University (Philosophy Professor/ Human Rights and Anti-Fracking Activist)  will discuss the Medieval Throwback Candidates on the Right and the “Two” Progressive Candidates offered us by the National Democratic Party and the continuing threat posed by Nuclear Power and the relentless thirst for Fracked Petroleum products.

We are also joined by  Ms Betty Oseola who has lived in her ancestral homeland: the Everglades in Florida. Ms Oseola a members of the Miccosukee tribe, and her family maintain as many traditions as possible--such as living in chickee huts, thatched-roof homes made of cypress wood and cabbage palm leaves. She speaks to the varied threats to Florida, the danger to all those who depend on the Everglades for their food and waters.

And we welcome the return of Drew Martin long time guardian of Florida’s Lands and Waters. Who speaks about the Legislature dangerous plan to sell off state lands from the Georgia border to Florida Bay.

TUNE IN Sunday 7pm Eastern/4pm Mountain time  


1. the n.s.a. has its little secrets
National Security Agency has never been particularly forthcoming. But its latest tight-lipped refusal to share information with the public is egregious, even for the NSA.
Now, in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, the National Security Agency is withholding its own ethical and legal guidelines, calling them "top secret." This is ridiculous.
This all began with a 2013 press release issued by the agency, in which it sought to "clarify" troubling issues swirling around XKEYSCORE, a secret spy tool first revealed by Marc Ambinder and me, and later confirmed by the Edward Snowden documents. XKEYSCORE is basically the NSA's Google, used for searching through the agency's myriad databases and servers. Because of the sheer volume of data collected by the agency, the program is enormously flexible and allows data to be sliced and cross referenced with other agency tools.
The potential for abuse of such a system is obvious, and amid such Snowden revelations in 2013 as LOVEINT, a practice by some NSA employees in which the awesome power of the "panopticon" is used to spy on ex-lovers, the agency sought to set the record straight.
"Allegations of widespread, unchecked analyst access to NSA collection data are simply not true," wrote the agency. "Access to XKEYSCORE, as well as all of NSA's analytic tools, is limited to only those personnel who require access for their assigned tasks. Those personnel must complete appropriate training prior to being granted such access — training which must be repeated on a regular basis. This training not only covers the mechanics of the tool but also each analyst's ethical and legal obligations."
If those claims to such rigorous training are true, that would be a very good thing. And so Jeff Stein, a national security correspondent at Newsweek, had a simple question: What kind of legal and ethical training do NSA employees receive? Through his attorney, Kel McClanahan of National Security Counselors, a non-profit law firm that specializes in issues of privacy and government secrecy, he filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the agency, and waited. Almost three years after he filed the paperwork, the NSA finally had an answer.

The material responsive to your request has been reviewed by this Agency . . . and remains classified TOP SECRET as provided in Section 1.2 of Executive Order 13526. The documents are classified because their disclosure could reasonably be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security. [NSA]

"The funniest part of this entire thing," said McClanahan, "is that they put out a press release saying, 'We obey all laws and ethical obligations,' and then you ask them which laws and ethical obligations and they say, 'We can't tell you.'"
If XKEYSCORE were so highly classified that the NSA couldn't even acknowledge its existence, then its response would at least be defensible. Discussing the ethical guidelines related to a program would imply that the program is real. This line of argument was first put forth by the Central Intelligence Agency in 1975, when it rejected a request for records on Project Azorian, claiming that any response to the request would imply the existence of something it could "neither confirm nor deny." But that's not the case of XKEYSCORE. The program has not only been extensively covered, but revealed and explained by the National Security Agency in apress release.
There is no reason to believe that NSA guidance to employees on the handling of XKEYSCORE data should be inextricably intertwined with operational details of XKEYSCORE (which they might legitimately withhold), McClanahan says. "Ethical and legal guidelines are broad stroke authorities or statements that say, 'Don't disseminate this outside your office,' or 'Don't use this for personal reasons.' Or 'Be aware that the Fourth Amendment applies.' If they're really saying that the ethical and legal limitations they place on their analysts are classified, then that's really bizarre."
If the agency is correct in its assertion that revealing its employees' knowledge of ethics and how to obey the law will cause grievous injury to national security, then it is necessary to ask why that is.
The NSA did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

The possible explanations for the NSA's refusal to disclose the sort of information one might expect them to be positively eager to discuss are troubling at best. Is it not the nature of the limitations, but the number? Are so few legal and ethical limitations placed on analysts that the agency fears disclosure of this might spark calls for tighter regulation?
"A lot of people are worried about the idea of 'secret law,'" said McClanahan. "What if there is an executive order out there that nobody knows about because it's classified? What if that is the legal obligation the NSA is talking about? If so, then by all accounts, technically speaking, the ethical obligation training would be classified." The documents related to ethics and legal guidelines were not heavily redacted, page after page of solid black lines; they were withheld in their entirety. Not one syllable of their ethical obligations were deemed safe for public consumption.
"You're telling me the only training that these people are being given on legal and ethical obligations is set forth in a classified piece of law?" McClanahan said. "There are no other legal obligations? There are no other ethical obligations that are not classified? That's huge if that is the case."
Indeed, just as scientists can only infer the existence of new planets by discovering tiny gravitational anomalies, the limits of a hypothetical secret law might be discovered only by records requests such as this one, and by the concerted efforts of sunlight activists like McClanahan and his colleagues. Something big is certainly orbiting the sun of the government secrecy apparatus. Remember, the NSA is directly stating that its ethics and legal guidelines are top secret because "their disclosure could reasonably be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security." That sounds pretty big to me.
When people worry about NSA analysts using the agency's capabilities for questionable reasons, the NSA brags about how super-trained its analysts are about their ethical and legal obligations. But revealing those ethical and legal obligations would devastate national security. Why?


2. Wells Fargo Just Admitted To Robbing Us Citizens By Deceiving The Govt And No One Was Charged
Top megabank, Wells Fargo & Co just admitted to defrauding the United States government for nearly an entire decade, which subsequently led to the housing market collapse, and no one is going to be punished.
On Friday, the largest US mortgage lender and third-largest US bank admitted to deceiving the U.S. government into insuring thousands of risky mortgages.
According to the settlement, Wells Fargo “admits, acknowledges, and accepts responsibility” for having from 2001 to 2008 falsely certified that many of its home loans qualified for Federal Housing Administration insurance, reports Reuters.

Wells Fargo also admitted to having from 2002 to 2010 failed to file timely reports on several thousand loans that had material defects or were badly underwritten, a process that Kurt Lofrano, a former Wells Fargo vice president, was responsible for supervising.
The intentional deception by this corrupt bank led to an insurmountable debt liability for American taxpayers as the FHA was forced to pay out insurance claims on all the defective loans.
As Reuters reports, Friday’s settlement is a reproach for “years of reckless underwriting” at Wells Fargo, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in Manhattan said in a statement.
“While Wells Fargo enjoyed huge profits from its FHA loan business, the government was left holding the bag when the bad loans went bust,” Bharara added.
However, Bharara’s words ring hollow when looking at the bank’s punishment. For robbing the public through defrauding the US government, not one single Wells Fargo employee will face criminal charges. The bank was merely ordered to pay a $1.2 billion fine. This is barely a slap on the wrist considering the turmoil that ensued from such criminal practices.
This punishment is also a kick in the teeth to the American public who are the ones who suffer most from these megabanks fleecing the country through irresponsible and fraudulent actions only to be ‘quantitatively eased’ back into profitable standing.
Franklin Codel, president of Wells Fargo Home Lending, in a statement, said the settlement “allows us to put the legal process behind us, and to focus our resources and energy on what we do best — serving the needs of the nation’s homeowners.”
Imagine for a moment that a rapist, responsible for raping thousands of women, was just let off with a fine and responded with a similar statement. Wells Fargo, who financially ‘raped’ the public for nearly a decade, is essentially saying, “I have been raping women for years, but we can put that behind us now and focus our energy on moving forward.” And the government thinks this is okay.
With their track record of letting megabanks run amok in the US, this settlement comes as no surprise.
Bank of America Corp (BAC.N), Citigroup Inc (C.N), Deutsche Bank AG (DBKGn.DE) and JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N), have all previously settled similar federal lawsuits — again, with no one being held criminally responsible.
Until the people wake up to the atrocities being carried out against them by criminal bankers who control the government, this fleecing of the citizenry will continue. To all those who bank with any of these huge banks — pull your money out today, move it to a local bank, or find another alternative.
Failing to do so only sustains their criminal behavior. Please share this story with your friends and family as it will most assuredly be a mere blip on their televisions and deliberately easy to miss.
Matt Agorist is the co-founder of TheFreeThoughtProject.com, where this article first appeared. He is an honorably discharged veteran of the USMC and former intelligence operator directly tasked by the NSA. This prior experience gives him unique insight into the world of government corruption and the American police state. Agorist has been an independent journalist for over a decade and has been featured on mainstream networks around the world. Follow @MattAgorist


3. Roll Out the Panama Papers
The U.S. government has publicly and privately pressured countries that act as offshore havens for hiding money, while this barren, sparsely populated state offers the same secrecy.
The Cowboy State isn’t as notorious as the Cayman Islands for cloaking millions. But, like Nevada and Delaware, this unlikely haven offers the same anonymity the federal government has been trying to end abroad. America and Americans are part of the offshore problem.
A massive leak of documents from the global law firm Mossack Fonseca & Co., which has offices in Wyoming and Nevada, exposes how two Western U.S. states are tied to foreign scandals, and how middlemen in far-flung places are taking advantage of the anonymity they provide.
Through this law firm, Wyoming, a state that has twice as many head of cattle as it has people, and Nevada, a state known to embrace a gamble, are tied to a scandal that threatens the government in Brazil, and to Russian middlemen who establish paper-thin companies called shells for the wealthy.
Wyoming?

Wyoming had 128,000 active business entities at the end of 2015. That’s roughly one entity per every 4.5 residents in a state of about 586,000.
U.S. law allows foreigners to create shell companies that have no revenue or actual business activity in the United States. It’s akin to what foreign offshore tax havens offer Americans, some of whom use them as a tax dodge, or worse.
“There is no question that the United States serves as one of the biggest tax havens in the world for people outside the United States,” said Daniel Reeves, now a consultant after retiring three years ago from the Internal Revenue Service, where he helped create its offshore compliance program.
Wyoming and its competitors do not distinguish between foreigners and Americans who open businesses. Anonymity is a selling point.
State officials prefer the word “privacy,” and say they do insist that a living, breathing contact is required for every entity created.
Because of that, said Deputy Secretary of State Karen Wheeler, Wyoming statutes “don’t ask for information such as, ‘Are you from a foreign country?’ ” She adds, “we wouldn’t have any way of knowing.”
Such anonymity means regulators are essentially in the dark.
“What those companies enable people to do is put their wealth outside the reach of the legal system of the country they’re in,” said Jack Blum, a former Senate investigator and a lawyer specializing in white-collar crime.
Nevada shell company Murray Holdings LLC is a good example. It existed without notice until it became a centerpiece in Brazil’s political crisis, which threatens to overshadow this summer’s Olympic Games. Prosecutors there allege the Nevada firm had no assets or business in the United States, yet was used to hide embezzled funds from Brazil’s state oil company, which was then funneled into luxury real estate.
Murray Holdings is found in a trove of Mossack Fonseca documents analyzed by McClatchy that shows how foreign nationals establish U.S. shell companies to camouflage assets or money abroad.
Known by the initials MF, for Panamanian founders Jurgen Mossack and Ramón Fonseca, the law firm is a world leader in creating business entities. For a fee, the firm offers customers everything from simple preparation of incorporation documents almost anywhere in the world to supplying – on paper at least – managers, shareholders and corporate directors for shell companies.
For an added price, the firm will create a website, a virtual office and even run a call center to sustain the appearance of a brick-and-mortar company.
What emerges from the 11.5 million secret emails, PDFs, spreadsheets and other electronic records are actors of every imaginable profession using shells to hide money and assets. Some of the firm’s clients have criminal records; some are known to have accumulated spoils from corruption. This has long been suspected but now there are documents – lots of them – to confirm it.

There’s nothing inherently illegal with forming a limited liability company most anywhere – and Wyoming now has about 70,000 of them. Often called an LLC or Ltd, the designation limits the owners’ liability to what they have invested in their company. Similar entities abound abroad.
When Americans open an LLC in the United States, they provide a Social Security or taxpayer ID number. It’s a murkier picture when foreigners open U.S. shells.
Having tax haven states seems at odds with the U.S. multi-year crackdown on Swiss banks that hide American money. It also stands out against “name and shame” efforts by the State Department, which publishes an annual narcotics-control report that includes sections on money laundering. It designates countries like the Cayman Islands as Jurisdictions of Primary Concern.
“There remains a lack of penalties for failing to report ownership and identity information (on trust companies),” the 2015 report said of the Cayman Islands.

Open Doors, Dirty Floors
Consider how Nevada and Wyoming are tied to scandal in Brazil. Former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was hauled in for questioning by that country’s Federal Police on March 4 as part of an investigation into money stolen from state-owned oil giant Petróleo Brasileiro SA, or Petrobras.
Prosecutors told judges that stolen money first flowed through shell companies in Nevada and was then used to buy seaside real estate in Guaruja, a resort town in the state of São Paulo. The shells hid the names of the true property owners.
Murray Holdings LLC opened in Nevada in 2005, and Brazilian prosecutors said they are aware of 10 properties it owns in Brazil. The “owner” of the shell was a humble Brazilian woman Eliana Freitas, who police said “opened” a Nevada shell even though her most recent valid passport expired in 1991. She said she just signed documents on behalf of friend Nelci Warken, a publicist, who like Freitas, seemed unlikely to have the income for multiple luxury properties.
The tie to the former president, a longtime union activist from humble roots, is that his new seaside condo was next door to the one owned, at least on paper, by Warken.
Brazilian law enforcement raided Mossack Fonseca’s office in Sao Paulo earlier this year, and prosecutor Carlos Fernando dos Santos Lima called the law firm a “money-laundering machine.”
In response to the leak, Mossack Fonseca has described itself as merely an agent that files paperwork for clients. It also said in a statement earlier this year that its Brazil office “operates with its own administration, resources, and staff that are independent of our group.”
The Panama Papers, as the leak has come to be known, shed a different light, however. They show how closely Mossack Fonseca’s Brazil office worked with headquarters and MF Nevada to accommodate a little-known middleman named Ademir Auada. Records show he traveled to Panama frequently to meet Mossack Fonseca executives and was wined and dined. He opened at least 19 offshore companies with the law firm, including Murray Holdings, and was arrested by Brazilian police in January and questioned for five days.
Murray Holdings was registered in 2009 by MF Corporate Services (Nevada) Ltd. on behalf of Auada (pronounced Ah-WAH-da), who as a client of the Panamanian law firm was acting on behalf of others. But the structures Auada established in his U.S. shell companies for Brazilians then served as a model when Mossack Fonseca’s Nevada operation expanded into Wyoming in 2012, the documents show.
Dozens of shell companies tied to Brazil’s broad corruption probe are in the Panama Papers, including a U.S. shell companybelonging to Carlos Queiroz Galvao, who was also questioned by police in Brazil. He turned to the law firm to establish a Delaware offshore on July 1, 2014, called Recife Coral Arts Ltd., and opened a similarly named offshore in the Caribbean island of Anguilla. That year Mossack Fonseca also worked to create a family trust in the British Virgin Islands which would allow his children to take the reins of the family empire. The family company, Queiroz Galvao Engineering, had already been named in Brazilian investigations of secret Swiss bank accounts and the blossoming corruption probe.

Hiding in Plain View
Just as in Murray Holdings, the true purpose of shell companies is not obvious from the outside. McClatchy contacted several South Americans who appeared in the documents tied to shell companies with the law firm in Wyoming and Nevada. Their names don’t show on incorporation documents, and their stories changed when presented with leaked evidence.
“We don’t have any companies abroad. This is a small accounting office,” Edgardo Branca declared in a telephone interview from Buenos Aires. “This sounds like a bad joke.”
Documents show that Branca and partner Claudio Picasso in mid-2013 established Num Trading Ltd. and Sokar Trading Ltd. in Nevada. They directed Mossack Fonseca officials along the way, originally asking the firm to provide its own directors residing in Hong Kong.
A day after McClatchy’s call, Branca forwarded an email he’d just received from Mossack Fonseca headquarters confirming he indeed had companies in Nevada. He’d told the law firm that a reporter was asking questions. Lawyer Alexandra Kourany advised him, “For now I’d suggest not answering.”
But Branca did answer, insisting a day later that: “I have nothing to hide.”
The shell company in his name is not his, he said, but actually belongs to an Argentine who appears nowhere in the documents. The man, an acquaintance, works for a Spanish company with offices in Argentina. The shell was never actually used, he said, and has probably lapsed.
Nevada records show that Num Trading’s incorporated status was reinstated on Sept. 29, 2015. Sokar Trading’s has been revoked by the state. Using the Auada model, these companies had shareholders listed in Anguilla, a British territory in the Caribbean. The “shareholders” were actually another shell.
Why would an Argentine subsidiary of a Spanish food exporter establish a shell company in Nevada if it had no business or revenue in the United States? Branca said he didn’t know, but offered that perhaps it was to pay commissions, forbidden in Argentina, with one salesman rewarding another for steering business.
Brazilian Flavio Sami Gebara had an evolving storyline about the Wyoming shell company Worldwide Assest (sic) LLC. The Sao Paulo owner of a plastics business, he first said he’d established it on the advice of his lawyer, whom he declined to name. That lawyer, Gebara acknowledged, had introduced him to the middleman Auada. The documents show Auada brought Gebara’s business to Mossack Fonseca, but Gebara denied knowing him personally.
Gebara said he’d intended to purchase a company in Brazil, and for reasons he declined to explain, needed a partner. He was trying to create the appearance that he had a partner, Gebara said, by opening a Wyoming shell.
In a follow-up call, he admitted his plastics company faced financial problems and he wanted to shield assets from his creditors.
Who Knows What?
Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, banks have faced increasingly strict know-your-customer requirements. Not so for lawyers, Realtors or registered agents. It means that in Wyoming and most U.S. states, Brazilian, Russian, Chinese or other foreign nationals legally fly under the cover of paperwork.
“I never deal with any of the people,” said Greg Goddard, a partner in the law firm Goddard & Vogel in the northern Wyoming town of Buffalo, population 4,585.
His address is listed on a document for A Street Solutions, a Russian company that creates shells in Wyoming for Russian customers. It’s run by Vladimir Koltoun, and on paper he occupies Suite 100 at Goddard’s small-town law office.
There is no such suite. It’s a mail drop.
Wyoming forbids registered agents from listing P.O. boxes as their place of business. However, pseudo-suites in the office of a registered agent are OK.
“We get a paid a small amount of money. We sort the junk mail – anything that looks important we send off,” Goddard said.
A Street Solutions lists, in the Panama Papers, a home address in Moscow and another in the Russian banking haven of Cyprus. It also lists Wyoming addresses in Cheyenne and Buffalo. Its newest address is in the small city of Sheridan, near the Montana border, with registered agent Wyoming Corporate Office, in an empty building under repair, housing two solitary desks.
The manager there spoke on condition that her name not be used, and confirmed she has no idea who the Russians’ end-customers are.
“We don’t know. We don’t verify that,” she said.
Who does?
“Perhaps the Better Business Bureau, or Dun & Bradstreet?” she responded with a shrug.
Reached by phone in Moscow, Vladimir Koltoun said in broken English that “international businessmen” are owners of the U.S. shell companies he creates.
Why Wyoming?
“We search all states and one of the states with privileged conditions for business was Wyoming, and Delaware,” he said.
Layers of the Onion
Mossack Fonseca’s office in Wyoming lists a Cheyenne address, but you won’t find its name on any building. The address actually belongs to AAA Corporate Services, another registered agent. Manager Linda Grayson said she incorporates businesses on behalf of M.F. Corporate Services Wyoming LLC, collecting a small fee for registering a competitor’s business.
“It’s money, so who cares,” she shrugs.
Because neither federal nor state law requires it, registered agents don’t much care about the ultimate owners of a company. It’s not their job.
“Who actually owns the company? I have no idea,” admits Angelica Espinosa of WyomingRegisteredAgent.com.
She added, “They can even order it online. So sometimes we’re not involved at all. You go to the website and order, and all we do is file paperwork and give it back to them.”
One of the few work requirements for a registered agent in Wyoming is to be physically in the office during working hours in case a court order is served. It costs about $100 to file for incorporation as a limited liability company in Wyoming, another $50 for a required annual report.
“Anybody can say they are anybody, and submit an order and get it processed,” said Jason Lars Debraal, manager of Registered Business Center LLC in Cheyenne, a registered agent who favors stricter rules. “I think the state needs to change a little bit to validate that people are themselves.”
That idea doesn’t sit well with the director of the Delaware Division of Corporations, who says it’s the federal government’s job to handle any verification of identity.
An unprecedented look at offshores
A database leak at the Mossack Fonseca law firm in Panama exposes how it hides money for its clients.
THE LEAK:Munich’s Suddeutsche Zeitung newspaper was given the files, which were shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
ITS SIZE:11.5 million emails and client records. It would take 24 hours to download the 2.6 terabytes at normal internet speeds.
THE MEDIA PARTNERS:More than 350 journalists, including a U.S. McClatchy reporting team, in 77 countries examined the data.
WHO WAS FOUND:12 current and former heads of state and government, 61 relatives and associates of leaders, and 128 other public officials.
“I mean, I know what the Delaware driver’s license looks like, but I frankly don’t know what the other 49 (state) driver’s licenses look like,” said Richard Geisenberger, who is also Delaware’s chief deputy secretary of state. “I don’t even know what a passport from Nigeria looks like.”
In response to criticism during 2006 Senate hearings, Wyoming and Delaware tightened their laws to require that registered agents keep records of a contact person for the companies.
But both Branca and Gebara had shell companies with shareholders in Anguilla, a small island east of Puerto Rico. Who was the contact person, should the Wyoming Secretary of State’s office, with 32 full-time employees, have decided to reach out? That’s unclear; those shareholders were actually another shell company. If the registered agent lacks real contacts, the maximum penalty is $1,500.
The U.S. Treasury Department in 2005, in its first-ever National Money Laundering Threat Assessment, devoted a chapter to shell companies and decried the lack of information globally that’s collected about true owners.
A decade later in 2015, the Treasury Department noted in its second assessment report that the problem of anonymity remained because there are “ample case examples of individuals who own or control a legal entity hiding behind nominees who serve as officers and directors, and as signatories for bank accounts.”
It’s why the Obama administration, in its most recent budget proposal, calls for imposing on registered agents the requirement of knowing an ultimate owner.
But the administration has failed to pursue legislation, complained Carl Levin, a longtime Democratic senator from Michigan who retired in 2014. Levin led the 2006 hearings that spotlighted the issue and tried unsuccessfully for years to pass legislation requiring true ownership disclosure.
“And what you need is a secretary of the Treasury who’s going to come to the Hill with the FBI arm in arm … and say, ‘Folks, quitting dragging your feet on this,’ ” said Levin, interviewed in Detroit.
Officials in Delaware and Wyoming are fine with making it easier to see tax IDs, but oppose having to seek and keep information on beneficial ownership.
“And as far as finding a commonality of a definition of beneficial ownership, there hasn’t been one. And I have been at this for 12 years, and there hasn’t been one,” said Wheeler, Wyoming’s deputy secretary of state.


4.CIA's Venture Capital Arm Is Funding Skin Care Products
That Collect DNA
Skincential sciences , a company with an innovative line of cosmetic products marketed as a way to erase blemishes and soften skin, has caught the attention of beauty bloggers on YouTube, Oprah’s lifestylemagazine, and celebrity skin care professionals. Documents obtained by The Intercept reveal that the firm has also attracted interest and funding from In-Q-Tel, the venture capital arm of the Central Intelligence Agency.
The previously undisclosed relationship with the CIA might come as some surprise to a visitor to the website of Clearista, the main product line of Skincential Sciences, which boasts of a “formula so you can feel confident and beautiful in your skin’s most natural state.”
Though the public-facing side of the company touts a range of skin care products, Skincential Sciences developed a patented technology that removes a thin outer layer of the skin, revealing unique biomarkers that can be used for a variety of diagnostic tests, including DNA collection.
Skincential Science’s noninvasive procedure, described on the Clearista website as “painless,” is said to require only water, a special detergent, and a few brushes against the skin, making it a convenient option for restoring the glow of a youthful complexion — and a novel technique for gathering information about a person’s biochemistry.
In-Q-Tel, founded in 1999 by then-CIA Director George Tenet, identifies cutting-edge technology to support the mission of the CIA and other intelligence agencies, and provides venture funding to help grow tech firms to develop those solutions.
“Our company is an outlier for In-Q-Tel,” Russ Lebovitz, the chief executive of Skincential Sciences, said during an interview with The Intercept. He conceded that the relationship might make for “an unusual and interesting story,” but said, “If there’s something beneath the surface, that’s not part of our relationship and I’m not directly aware. They’re interested here in something that can get easy access to biomarkers.”
Still, Lebovitz claimed he has limited knowledge of why In-Q-Tel selected his firm.
“I can’t tell you how everyone works with In-Q-Tel, but they are very interested in doing things that are pure science,” Lebovitz said. The CIA fund approached his company, telling him the fund shares an interest in looking at DNA extraction using the method pioneered by Skincential Sciences, according to Lebovitz.
Beyond that, Lebovitz said he was unsure of the intent of the CIA’s use of the technology, but the fund was “specifically interested in the diagnostics, detecting DNA from normal skin.” He added, “There’s no better identifier than DNA, and we know we can pull out DNA.”
Perhaps law enforcement could use the biomarker extraction technique for crime scene identification or could conduct drug tests, Lebovitz suggested.
Carrie A. Sessine, the vice president for external affairs at In-Q-Tel, declined a media interview because “IQT does not participate in media interviews or opportunities.”
(Officials at the venture capital firm have, in fact, given interviews in the past.)
Though In-Q-Tel operates in the open, it has often kept key details of its activities out of public view, beyond required annual reports. After a SecureDrop source told The Intercept about a gathering in San Jose for In-Q-Tel executives and start-up companies backed by the fund, The Intercept attempted to attend, but was denied access.
Skincential Sciences was among several presenting companies.
The shroud of secrecy around In-Q-Tel belies a 17-year effort to build ties between the CIA and the biggest names in Silicon Valley. Gilman Louie, a video game executive known for publishing best-sellers such as Tetris, Falcon, and Civilization II, was brought on as the first chief executive of In-Q-Tel. The popular mapping tool Google Earth was created around technology developed by Keyhole Corp., an In-Q-Tel-backed company that was later acquired by Google.
Still, little is publicly revealed about the use of In-Q-Tel-backed ventures and their relevance to the goals of intelligence agencies. Many of the fund’s investments are not publicly revealed. The fund isreviewed by the CIA’s inspector general and reports directly to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, which frequently conducts business through classified briefings.
David Petraeus, while serving as the director of the CIA in 2012, remarked, “Our partnership with In-Q-Tel is essential to helping identify and deliver groundbreaking technologies with mission-critical applications to the CIA and to our partner agencies.”
Despite the association with computer and satellite technology, In-Q-Tel also maintains a long-running interest in developing advanced genetic analysis, biological technologies for detection and diagnostics, as well as research into what is known as physiological intelligence, which, in a 2010 article, the fund described as “actionable information about human identity and experience that have always been of interest to the Intelligence Community.”
The article, which is no longer available on the fund’s website but is preserved by a cache hosted by the Internet Archive, argues that advances in medical research into biomarkers can be leveraged by intelligence agencies for a variety of uses, from airport security to next-generation identification tools.
A diagram in the article calls human skin the body’s largest organ and a “unique, underutilized source for sample collection.” The author, Dr. Kevin O’Connell, then a “senior solutions architect” with In-Q-Tel, notes, “The DNA contained in microorganisms in a person’s gut or on a person’s skin may contain sequences that indicate a particular geographical origin.”
In-Q-Tel has invested in several companies working in this realm, in addition to Skincential Sciences. In 2013, In-Q-Tel publicly announced a strategic partnership with Bio-NEMS, a firm that developed a semiconductor device used to analyze DNA for a variety of diagnostic and human identification applications. Claremont BioSolutions, a diagnostics firm, and Biomatrica, a firm that specializes in preparing biological samples for DNA testing, are also backed by In-Q-Tel.
Skincential Sciences did not start out as a beauty company. The firm was founded in 2010 as DX Biosciences, which was developed around a patent by a team of scientists including Dr. Samir Mitragotri of the University of California, Santa Barbara. Mitragotri has published research into the use of biomarkers as a “window to body’s health.”
The company gained early backing from Frontier, a venture capital company, among other investors.
While the technology has potential for a variety of medical diagnostics, including early melanoma detection, Lebovitz said the company quickly realized it had immediate value as a cosmetic. The application of the detergent developed by the firm could be used easily to diminish blemishes and dark patches on the skin. And unlike similar treatments at aesthetic spas, the technology developed by Dr. Mitragotri and his colleagues did not require acid or any discomfort.
In 2013, the firm relaunched and recapitalized as Skincential Sciences, with Clearista as its primary brand of beauty products.
Lebovitz says he intends to continue developing the technology so that it may be medically relevant, but he is also focusing on breaking into the multibillion-dollar skin care market. While Skincential has won measured success for its Clearista brand products by landing coverage on television and through social media, the company has not yet been able to compete with mainstream skin care companies.
Jamie Walsh, a blogger who runs Glam Latte, a beauty website, endorsed a Clearista product on her YouTube channel, noting that with only one application of the cream, her skin improved and was “glowing.” Walsh said Skincential Sciences sent her the product for a testimonial, and noted that like many independent brands, she did not know about the company’s funding.
Skincential hopes to license its product with a major distributor, or even one day become acquired by a larger beauty company. “We’ll take any of those,” said Lebovitz.
The chief executive noted that he is proud of the In-Q-Tel support, calling the fund “great partners.”
At the gathering in February for In-Q-Tel portfolio companies, Lebovitz joined a crowd that included a number of In-Q-Tel executives, along with senior members of the intelligence community. Presenting speakers included Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey, Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work, and John Maeda, design partner of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, a leading Silicon Valley investment firm.
“Not only was I the odd man out,” Lebovitz said, “but almost every woman at the conference wanted to come up to me to talk about skin care.”


5.Destroy Greece: IMF and Europe Disagree on the Method!
Today, 2nd April 2016, WikiLeaks publishes the records of a 19 March 2016 teleconference between the top two IMF officials in charge of managing the Greek debt crisis – Poul Thomsen, the head of the IMF’s European Department, and Delia Velkouleskou, the IMF Mission Chief for Greece.  The IMF anticipates a possible Greek default co-inciding with the United Kingdom’s referendum on whether it should leave the European Union (‘Brexit’).
“This is going to be a disaster” remarks Velkouleskou in the meeting.
According to the internal discussion, the IMF is planning to tell Germany that it will abandon the Troika (composed of the IMF, European Commission and the European Central Bank) if the IMF and the Commission fail to reach an agreement on Greek debt relief.
Thomsen: “Look you, Mrs. Merkel, you face a question: you have to think about what is more costly, to go ahead without the IMF–would the Bundestag say ‘The IMF is not on board?’, or [to] pick the debt relief that we think that Greece needs in order to keep us on board?”
Remaining in the Troika seems an increasingly hard sell internally for the IMF, because non-European IMF creditor countries view the IMF’s position on Greece as a violation of its policies elsewhere of not making loans to countries with unsustainable debts.
In August the IMF announced it would not participate in last year’s €86 billion Greek bailout, which was covered by EU member states. IMF Chief Christine Lagarde stated at the time that the IMF’s future participation was contingent on Greece receiving “significant debt relief” from creditors. Lagarde announced that a team would be sent to Greece, headed by Velkouleskou.
Thomsen said internally that the threat of an imminent financial catstrophe is needed to force the other players into a “decision point”. For Germany, on debt relief, and In the case of Greece, to accept the IMF’s austerity “measures,” — including raising taxes and cutting Greek pensions and working conditions. However the UK “Brexit” referendum in late June will paralyse European decision making at the critical moment.
“I am not going accept a package of small measures. I am not…” said Thomsen. “What is going to bring it all to a decision point? In the past there has been only one time when the decision has been made and then that was when [the Greeks] were about to run out of money seriously and to default. […] And possibly this is what is going to happen again. In that case, it drags on until July, and clearly the Europeans are not going to have any discussions for a month before the Brexits…”
Last year Greek Finance Minister Tsakalotos accused the IMF of imposing “draconian measures,” including on pension reform. While Velkouleskou concedes in the meeting that “What is interesting though is that [Greece] did give in… they did give a little bit on both the income tax reform and on the…. both on the tax credit and the supplementary pensions.”
But Thomsen’s view is that the Greeks “are not even getting close [to coming] around to accept[ing] our views.”  Velkouleskou argues that “if [the Greek government] get pressured enough, they would… But they don’t have any incentive and they know that the Commission is willing to compromise, so that is the problem.”
Velkouleskou: “We went into this negotiation with the wrong strategy, because we negotiated with the Commission a minimal position and we cannot go further [whereas] the Commission is just starting from this one and is willing to go much further. So, that is the problem. We didn’t negotiate with the Commission and then put to the Greeks something much worse, we put to the Greeks the minimum that we were willing to consider and now the Greeks are saying [that] we are not negotiating.”
While the Commission insists on a Primary Government Budget Surplus (total tax minus all government expenditure excluding debt repayments) of 3.5%; the IMF thinks that this target should be set at 1.5% of GDP. As Thomsen puts it, “if [Greece] come around to give us 2.5% [of GDP in tax hikes and pension-wage-benefits cuts]… we should be fully behind them.” — meaning that the IMF would, in exchange for this fresh austerity package, support the reduction of the Primary Surplus Target imposed upon them from the 3.5% that the European Commission insists on to 1.5%.
These targets are described as “very crucial” to the IMF. The IMF officials ask Thomsen “to reinforce the message about the agreement on the 2.5%, because that is not permeating and it is not sinking very well with the Commission.”
At one point, Velkouleskou refers to an unusual solution: to split the problem into two programs with two different targets: “The question is whether [the Europeans] could accept the medium term targets of the Commission, for the purposes of the program, and our targets for the purposes of debt relief.” Thomsen further explains that “They essentially need to agree to make our targets the baseline and then have something in that they hope that will overperform. But if they don’t, they will still disburse.”
The EWG [Euro Working Group] needs to “take a stand on whether they believe our projections or the Commission’s projections.” The IMF’s growth projections are the exact opposite of the Commission’s. The Commission projects a GDP growth of 0.5%, and the IMF a GDP decline of 0.5% (even if Greece accepts all the measures imposed by the IMF).


6. A Media Unmoored From Facts
By Robert Parry, Consortium News
09 April 16

Mainstream U.S. journalism has completely lost its way, especially in dealing with foreign policy issues where bias now overwhelms any commitment to facts, a dangerous development, writes Robert Parry.

everal weeks ago, I received a phone call from legendary investigative reporter Seymour Hersh who had seen one of my recent stories about Syria and wanted to commiserate over the state of modern journalism. Hersh’s primary question regarding reporters and editors at major news outlets these days was: “Do they care what the facts are?”
Hersh noted that in the past – in the 1970s when he worked at The New York Times – even executive editor Abe Rosenthal, who was a hard-line cold warrior with strong ideological biases, still wanted to know what was really going on.
My experience was similar at The Associated Press. Among the older editors, there was still a pride in getting the facts right – and not getting misled by some politician or spun by some government flack.
That journalistic code, however, no longer exists – at least not on foreign policy and national security issues. The major newspapers and TV networks are staffed largely by careerists who uncritically accept what they are fed by U.S. government officials or what they get from think-tank experts who are essentially in the pay of special interests.
For a variety of reasons – from the draconian staff cuts among foreign correspondents to the career fear of challenging some widely held “group think” – many journalists have simply become stenographers, taking down what the Important People say is true, not necessarily what is true.
It’s especially easy to go with the flow when writing about some demonized foreign leader. Then, no editor apparently expects anything approaching balance or objectivity, supposedly key principles of journalism. Indeed, if a reporter gave one of these hated figures a fair shake, there might be grumblings about whether the reporter was a “fill-in-the-blank apologist.” The safe play is to pile on.
This dishonesty – or lack of any commitment to the truth – is even worse among editorialists and columnists. Having discovered that there was virtually no cost for being catastrophically wrong about the facts leading into the Iraq invasion in 2003, these writers must feel so immune from accountability that they can safely ignore reality.
But – for some of us old-timers – it’s still unnerving to read the work of these “highly respected” journalists who simply don’t care what the facts are.
For instance, the establishment media has been striking back ferociously against President Barack Obama’s apostasy in a series of interviews published in The Atlantic, in which he defends his decision not to bomb the Syrian government in reaction to a mysterious sarin gas attack outside Damascus on Aug. 21, 2013.
Though The Atlantic article was posted a month ago, the media fury is still resonating and reverberating around Official Washington, with Washington Post editorial-page editor Fred Hiatt penning the latest condemnation of Obama’s supposed fecklessness for not enforcing his “red line” on chemical-weapon use in Syria by bombing the Syrian military.
Remember that in 2002-03, Hiatt penned Post editorials that reported, as “flat fact,” that Iraq possessed hidden stockpiles of WMD – and he suffered not a whit for being horribly wrong. More than a dozen years later, Hiatt is still the Post’s editorial-page editor – one of the most influential jobs in American journalism.
On Thursday, Hiatt reported as flat fact that Syria’s “dictator, Bashar al-Assad, killed 1,400 or more people in a chemical gas attack,” a reference to the 2013 sarin atrocity. Hiatt then lashed out at President Obama for not punishing Assad and – even worse – for showing satisfaction over that restraint.
Citing The Atlantic interviews, Hiatt wrote that Obama “said he had been criticized because he refused to follow the ‘playbook that comes out of the foreign-policy establishment,’ which would have counseled greater U.S. intervention.” Hiatt was clearly disgusted with Obama’s pusillanimous choice.
The No ‘Slam Dunk’ Warning
But what Hiatt and other neocon columnists consistently ignore from The Atlantic article is the disclosure that Director of National Intelligence James Clapper informed Obama that U.S. intelligence analysts doubted that Assad was responsible for the sarin attack.
Clapper even used the phrase “slam dunk,” which is associated with the infamous 2002 pledge from then-CIA Director George Tenet to President George W. Bush about how “slam dunk” easy it would be to make the case that Iraq was hiding WMD. More than a decade later, brandishing that disgraced phrase, Clapper told Obama that it was not a “slam dunk” that Assad was responsible for the sarin attack.
In other words, Obama’s decision not to bomb Assad’s military was driven, in part, by the intelligence community’s advice that he might end up bombing the wrong people. Since then, evidence has built up that radical jihadists opposed to Assad staged the sarin attack as a provocation to trick the U.S. military into entering the war on their side.
But those facts clearly are not convenient to Hiatt’s neocon goal – i.e., how to get the United States into another Mideast “regime change” war – so he simply expunges the “slam dunk” exchange between Clapper and Obama and inserts instead a made-up “fact,” the flat-fact certainty of Assad’s guilt.
Hiatt’s assertion of the death toll – as “1,400 or more people” – is also dubious. Doctors on the ground in Damascus placed the number of dead at several hundred. The 1,400 figure was essentially manufactured by the U.S. government using a dubious methodology of counting bodies shown on “social media,” failing to take into account the question of whether the victims died as a result of the Aug. 21, 2013 incident.
Relying on “social media” for evidence is a notoriously unreliable practice, since pretty much anyone can post anything on the Internet. And, in the case of Syria, there are plenty of interest groups that have a motive to misidentify or even fabricate images for the purpose of influencing public opinion and policy. There is also the Internet’s vulnerability as a devil’s playground for professional intelligence services.
But Hiatt is far from alone in lambasting Obama for failing to do what All the Smart People of Washington knew he should do: bomb, bomb, bomb Assad’s forces in Syria – even if that might have led to the collapse of the army and the takeover of Damascus by Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front and/or the Islamic State.
Nationally syndicated columnist Richard Cohen, another Iraq War cheerleader who suffered not at all for that catastrophe, accused Obama of “hubris” for taking pride in his decision not to bomb Syria in 2013 and then supposedly basing his foreign policy on that inaction.
“In an odd way, Obama’s failure to intervene in Syria or to enforce his stated ‘red line’ there has become the rationale for an entire foreign policy doctrine – one based more on hubris than success,” wrote Cohen in a column on Tuesday.
Note how Cohen – like Hiatt – fails to mention the relevant fact that DNI Clapper warned the President that the intelligence community was unsure who had unleashed the sarin attack or whether Assad had, in fact, crossed the “red line.”
Cohen also embraces the conventional wisdom that Obama was mistaken not to have intervened in Syria, ignoring the fact that Obama did, in violation of international law, authorize arming and training of thousands of Syrian rebels to violently overthrow the Syrian government, with many of those weapons (and recruits) falling into the hands of terror groups, such as Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Climbing into Bed with Al Qaeda.”]
Neocon Ideologues
So, it appears that these well-regarded geniuses don’t appreciate the idea of ascertaining the facts before charging off to war. And there’s a reason for that: many are neocon ideologues who reached their conclusion about what needs to be done in the Middle East – eliminate governments that are troublesome to Israel – and thus they view information as just something to be manipulated to manipulate the public.
This thinking stems from the 1990s when neocons combined their recognition of America’s unmatched military capabilities – as displayed in the Persian Gulf War in 1990-91 and made even more unchallengeable with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991– with Israel’s annoyance over inconclusive negotiations with the Palestinians and security concerns over Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia.
The new solution to Israel’s political and security problems would be “regime change” in countries seen as aiding and abetting Israel’s enemies. The strategy came together among prominent U.S. neocons working on Benjamin Netanyahu’s 1996 campaign for Israeli prime minister.
Rather than continuing those annoying negotiations with the Palestinians, Netanyahu’s neocon advisers — including Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, David Wurmser and Mevray Wurmser — advocated a new approach, called “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm.”
The “clean break” sought “regime change” in countries supporting Israel’s close-in enemies, whether Iraq under Saddam Hussein, Syria under the Assad dynasty or Iran, a leading benefactor of Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas.
Two years later, in 1998, the neocon Project for the New American Century called for a U.S. invasion of Iraq. PNAC was founded by neocon luminaries William Kristol and Robert Kagan. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “The Mysterious Why of the Iraq War.”]
After George W. Bush became president and the 9/11 attacks left the American people lusting for revenge, the pathway was cleared for implementing the “regime change” agenda, with Iraq still at the top of the list although it had nothing to do with 9/11. Again, the last thing the neocons wanted was to inform the American people of the real facts about Iraq because that might have sunk the plans for this war of choice.
Thus, the American public was consistently misled by both the Bush administration and the neocon-dominated mainstream media. The Post’s Hiatt, for instance, was out there regularly reporting Iraq’s WMD threat as “flat fact.”
After the U.S. invasion of Iraq in March 2003 and months of fruitless searching for the promised WMD caches, Hiatt finally acknowledged that the Post should have been more circumspect in its confident claims about the WMD. “If you look at the editorials we write running up [to the war], we state as flat fact that he [Saddam Hussein] has weapons of mass destruction,” Hiatt said in an interview with the Columbia Journalism Review. “If that’s not true, it would have been better not to say it.” [CJR, March/April 2004]
Yet, Hiatt’s supposed remorse didn’t stop him and the Post editorial page from continuing its single-minded support for the Iraq War — and heaping abuse on war critics, such as former U.S. Ambassador Joe Wilson who challenged President Bush’s claims about Iraq seeking yellowcake uranium from NIger.
The degree to which the neocons continue to dominate the major news outlets, such as The Washington Post and The New York Times, is demonstrated by the lack of virtually any accountability on the journalists who misinformed their readers about an issue as consequential as the war in Iraq.
And, despite the disaster in Iraq, the neocons never cast aside their “clean break” playbook. After Iraq, the “regime change” strategy listed Syria next and then Iran. Although the neocons suffered a setback in 2008 with the election of Iraq War opponent Barack Obama, they never gave up their dreams.
The neocons worked through Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other Iraq War supporters who managed to survive and even move up through the government ranks despite Obama’s distaste for their military solutions.
While in office, Clinton sabotaged chances to get Iran to surrender much of its nuclear material – all the better to keep the “regime change” option in play – and she lobbied for a covert military intervention to oust Syria’s Assad. (She also tipped the balance in favor of another “regime change” war in Libya that has created one more failed state in the volatile region.)
But the most disturbing fact is that these war promoters – both in politics and the press – continue to be rewarded for their warmongering. Hiatt retains his gilded perch as the Post’s editorial-page editor (setting Official Washington’s agenda); Cohen remains one of America’s leading national columnists; and Hillary Clinton is favored to become the next President.
So, the answer to Sy Hersh’s question – “Do they care what the facts are?” – is, it appears, no. There is just too much money and power involved in influencing and controlling Washington and – through those levers of finance, diplomacy and war – controlling the world. When that’s at stake, real facts can become troublesome things. For the people who wield this influence and control, it is better for them to manufacture their own.


7. CIA WITHDRAWS EMAIL DESTRUCTION PROPOSAL
The Central Intelligence Agency has formally rescinded its widely-criticized plan to destroy the email records of all but 22 senior agency officials, the National Archives said last week.

The CIA proposal generated controversy when it became public in 2014 because of its surprisingly narrow scope, which would have precluded preservation of vast swaths of CIA email records. Such records have proved invaluable not only for historical purposes, but also for contemporary accountability and congressional oversight.

"The agency has withdrawn this schedule effective March 21, 2016, due to the agency's reorganization," wrote Margaret Hawkins, director of records appraisal and agency assistance at the National Archives and Records Administration, in an email message to the Federation of American Scientists.

"In our last communication on this schedule, it was conveyed that a public meeting would be held to address all comments received. With the schedule's withdrawal, this meeting will not be held."

In any case, CIA is still obliged to present a plan to the National Archives to explain how it will preserve or dispose of its email records. CIA can either adopt the standard template known as the Capstone General Records Schedule, or it can devise a specific plan of its own for approval by the National Archives.

"If the agency chooses to submit a new agency-specific records schedule, it will be available for request and comment to the public through the Federal Register process," Ms. Hawkins wrote.


8. FBI Offers Crypto Assistance to Local Cops: "We Are in This Together"
By Cyrus Farivar, Ars Technica
03 April 16

In a new two-paragraph letter to state and local law enforcement partners, the FBI reiterated its commitment to helping those agencies unlock seized encrypted devices.
The letter was first reported Friday evening and published by BuzzFeedbefore being sent to Ars and presumably other media outlets.
Earlier this week, government prosecutors formally asked a federal judge in California to cancel her prior order that would have compelled Apple to assist efforts to unlock a seized iPhone linked to the San Bernardino attacks in late 2015. US Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym did so on March 29.
Apple had publicly said in court that it would resist all efforts to force its compliance. Last week, however, the hearing between prosecutors and Apple was postponed less than 24 hours before it was set to take place because the Department of Justice said it was evaluating a new method to access the phone's data.
The government will disclose neither the specific technique that unlocked the phone nor what if any meaningful data was accessed. More than likely, Apple does not have a legal way to compel the government to disclose the iPhone's vulnerability either.
The letter, in its entirely, follows as below:
Since recovering an iPhone from one of the San Bernardino shooters on December 3, 2015, the FBI sought methods to gain access to the data stored on it. As the FBI continued to conduct its own research, and as a result of the worldwide publicity and attention generated by the litigation with Apple, others outside the US government continued to contact the US government offering avenues of possible research. In mid-March, an outside party demonstrated to the FBI a possible method for unlocking the iPhone. That method for unlocking that specific iPhone proved successful.
We know that the absence of lawful, critical investigative tools due to the "Going Dark" problem is a substantial state and local law enforcement challenge that you face daily. As has been our longstanding policy, the FBI will of course consider any tool that might be helpful to our partners. Please know that we will continue to do everything we can to help you consistent with our legal and policy constraints. You have our commitment that we will maintain an open dialogue with you. We are in this together.
Kerry Sleeper
Assistant Director
Office of Partner Engagement
FBI

Betty Oseola - Warns Us

They are : Drying out of some portions of the Everglades,   Back Stacking Water with zero consideration for all the flooding and … there is no progress on pollution reduction, And now the polluters are to supervise their own ongoing discharges

TUNE IN TONIGHT
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=========================================


News Director Rick Spisak and PNN Present you a wonderful new show with fresh information from the Six senses, the five corners and the four dimensions

Brook Hines Political Columnist and Commentator brings you her fresh Progressive Democratic perspective from a special place beyond Regional Betrayals and National Missteps, Confusions and Contusions and Unconventional Dramatic Successes

Professor Wendy Lynn Lee of Bloomsburg University (Philosophy Professor/ Human Rights and Anti-Fracking Activist)  will discuss the Medieval Throwback Candidates on the Right and the “Two” Progressive Candidates offered us by the National Democratic Party and the continuing threat posed by Nuclear Power and the relentless thirst for Fracked Petroleum products.

We are also joined by  Ms Betty Oseola who has lived in her ancestral homeland: the Everglades in Florida. Ms Oseola a members of the Miccosukee tribe, and her family maintain as many traditions as possible--such as living in chickee huts, thatched-roof homes made of cypress wood and cabbage palm leaves. She speaks to the varied threats to Florida, the danger to all those who depend on the Everglades for their food and waters.

And we welcome the return of Drew Martin long time guardian of Florida’s Lands and Waters. Who speaks about the Legislature dangerous plan to sell off state lands from the Georgia border to Florida Bay.

TUNE IN Sunday 7pm Eastern/4pm Mountain time  

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