Sunday, March 26, 2017

PNN - The Unwealth of Nations

1. Grahams Crumbled Crackers
“Judge Gorsuch was one of the finest people, I think, President Trump could’ve chosen," he said. "I am going to enthusiastically support him, and if the Democrats try to filibuster him, they will be making a huge mistake.”
As the crowd began to boo, Graham tried to list off his reasons for supporting Gorsuch. But as they continued to boo, Graham said that the crowd was not persuading him and that if they don't believe Gorsuch is qualified then they're "not listening."
“To everybody that boos Judge Gorsuch, you’re not persuading me at all,” he said. “As a matter of fact, if you can’t understand that he is a qualified nominee, then you’re not listening. If you don’t understand that elections matter, then you don’t understand America.”
"If you think only liberals only can get their nominees and conservatives can't, then you don't understand American," he said. "I don't think that the Constitution was written so that you get everything you want and I get nothing."
Graham has been a vocal supporter of Gorsuch, even threatening to use the "nuclear option" if Democrats choose to filibuster him. But at the town hall, he said a filibuster would "turn the country upside down."
Yet as he ducked senators' questions, a multi-million dollar campaign backing Gorsuch's nomination was underway. It includes TV ads, over a million postcards and organizing events at mega-churches, among other outreach efforts. The campaign is targeting Democratic senators up for reelection in 2018 in states that Trump carried, since they're more likely to vote for Gorsuch's nomination.
While Republicans hold a 52-48 advantage in the Senate, Gorsuch's nomination will need 60 votes to overcome a pledged Democratic filibuster. That is, unless Republicans change the rules and allow a simple majority to cut off debate on Supreme Court nominations (known as the "nuclear option").
Judicial Crisis Network
Helping lead this effort is a little-known group, the Judicial Crisis Network, which pledged to spend at least $10 million to back Gorsuch's nomination. This 'dark money' group doesn't list its donors, but appears to be tied into the network led by oil barons Charles and David Koch.
Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democratic senator from Rhode Island, asked Gorsuch if he knew who was behind the effort.
"Senator," he replied, "I could speculate based on what I've read and what I've heard, but I don't know individuals who are contributing. I don't know that."
"He probably knows who he owes the favor to," The New Yorker's Jane Mayer told Democracy Now.
"The thing about dark money is, often the person who it's benefiting knows; it's just the public that's not allowed to know," said Mayer, who wrote the must-read book Dark Money.
Once on the divided Supreme Court, Gorsuch could be the deciding vote in decisions effecting the wealthy interests who supported his nomination. But with his backers' identity hidden, the public will be in the dark about his potential conflicts of interest.
Merrick Garland
Prior to backing Gorsuch, the Judicial Crisis Network spent $7 million in 2016 to (successfully) thwart President Obama's Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, from even getting a confirmation hearing. Now Trump has tapped Gorsuch for the seat Garland was nominated to fill, which has been vacant since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia last year. Curious what the Judicial Crisis Network saw in Gorsuch that it didn't see in Garland, Whitehouse put the question to Gorsuch.
Whether glyphosate, the active ingredient of a popular herbicide, causes cancer has been the subject of heated debate. About a year ago, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) briefly published information on its website indicating that glyphosate was not carcinogenic, but deleted it after less than a week.
That left enough time for Monsanto, which uses glyphosate in its popular weed-killing product Roundup, to tout the findings of the study on its website. It also prompted U.S. Right to Know, a food safety advocacy group, to use the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to find out how the EPA arrived at this conclusion.
But the agency, which is obligated to respond to such a FOIA request in a timely manner, has been dragging its feet. This has caused U.S. Right to Know, together with the Public Citizen Litigation Group, to sue for access to the documents. The delay in responding has led to speculation that the agency is intentionally dragging their feet on this particular issue.
“I file a lot of FOIAs [with the] EPA; I consider them, typically, to be pretty good,” Carey Gillam, research director of U.S. Right to Know, told WhoWhatWhy. “Better than the other federal agencies in terms of timeliness and responsiveness. They don’t redact things nearly as heavily as the FDA generally. But on this response, trying to get these documents [about glyphosate], they have been very reticent to respond.”
Gillam said that the EPA’s standards for responding to FOIA’s in general have been eroding over the last couple of years. Overall, the Obama administration had a checkered record on complying with such requests.
In this case, however, the subject matter itself could be at the root of the delay.
“I think there have been so many red flags raised over the years, even from the 1980’s,” she said, “and when we try to get information out of the EPA about it, it’s very difficult to do so. And it’s become more difficult over the last year or two since [this issue] became really controversial [and the court cases began].”
Gilliam is referring to an archived report from 1985 where the EPA classified glyphosate as a class C carcinogen, indicating a lack of studies in humans and animals to confirm the links with cancer. This finding was reversed in 1991. Herbicides are routinely investigated by the EPA in 15-year rotations. The latest reregistration investigation into glyphosate resulted in the 2015 report that prompted the FOIA.
Because Monsanto’s Roundup is so widely used, the carcinogenicity of glyphosate is of crucial importance. The debate has heated up since the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2015 labeled the chemical a probable human carcinogen.
It appears, however, that EPA’s experts reached a different conclusion.
An internal memorandum titled “GLYPHOSATE: Report of the Cancer Assessment Review Committee (CARC)” was posted on the agency’s website on April 29, 2016, along with a separate report on atrazine, another investigated herbicide. That report concluded that glyphosate was “not likely to be carcinogenic to humans,” but it vanished from the EPA website days later.
Last week, the European Chemicals Agency also concluded that glyphosate should not be classified as a carcinogen.
While the EPA report was available online, Monsanto had copied the document and referenced it in a lawsuit filed by workers in the agricultural sector who claim that Roundup gave them cancer.
Coincidentally or not, Jess Rowland, the chair of CARC and an EPA deputy division director, resigned shortly after.
On May 12, 2016, less than two weeks after the document was withdrawn, U.S. Right to Know submitted a FOIA request to access the EPA’s records “referring or relating to the CARC report on glyphosate” from January 1, 2015. It also requested access to its records of communication between Monsanto and the EPA “that discuss or relate to glyphosate.”
Under FOIA, the agency had 20 days to comply with the request. According to the lawsuit, the EPA stated in a May 26, 2016, letter “that it had initiated a search for responsive records that ‘could take up to 2-3 weeks to complete.’” However, when the lawsuit was submitted earlier this month, it had been over 205 days since the request and the EPA had neither submitted any documents nor made a determination on the request.
Gillam noted that the delay could simply be part of a troubling trend.
“Freedom of Information has been a real problem in the United States of late,” she told WhoWhatWhy. “This certainly isn’t an isolated incident by any means — the US federal agencies have been failing to comply with FOIA, repeatedly, for several years. In the last few years, particularly.”
The EPA received over 10,000 FOIA requests in the last fiscal year. Granted requests took on average 163 days and up to 2011 days to process. By comparison, the average processing time for granting requests in 2012 was 44 days, with the maximum of 851 days.
The agency has not responded to a request for comment.
Because of the ongoing litigation, which was triggered by the 2015 IARC report, it would appear that the delay is helping Monsanto.
Earlier this month, presiding Judge Vince Chhabria of the San Francisco federal court unsealed files from both Monsanto and the EPA.
One email from Monsanto executive William F. Heydens, as detailed by The New York Times, suggested that the company did some ghostwriting for the agency. Another email from Monsanto executive Dan Jenkins claims that Jess Rowland, the EPA official who left last year, had told him, in reference to the agency’s review: “If I can kill this, I deserve a medal.”
Monsanto refutes the New York Times story on this new information, claiming that the article had “cherry picked data,” made “misleading claims,” and “overlooked the benefits of GMOs for farmers in the developing world.”
“The allegation that glyphosate can cause cancer in humans is inconsistent with decades of comprehensive safety review by the leading regulatory authorities around the world,” Daphne Dorsey, a Monsanto spokesperson, told WhoWhatWhy.
For now, the activists are still willing to give the EPA the benefit of the doubt.
“Maybe they’re just overwhelmed but maybe there’s something else there,” Gillam said. “But legally, they are required to make this information public and to be responsive to the Freedom of Information Act and they haven’t been so we’re trying to hold them responsible.”

Sunday, March 12, 2017

PNN - Stands with FIST



PNN brings you a powerful show featuring our Senior Political Commentator Brook Hines, whose work has empowered progressives across America.
We also welcome Mindi Slavin Fettermen founder and director of INNER TRUTH PROJECT

The Inner Truth Project believes every woman and man should have the opportunity to feel safe and free from shame while speaking their truth. We exist because there is no shame in living through any type of sexual abuse, violence or rape or in bravely sharing the truth about those experiences to build strength, hope and health. This project will offer opportunities to speak out, gather and unite... the community in creative ways. ( ) + ( )
We also are very happy to present Denis Campbell former WhiteHouse correspondent, Producer and Co-Host of the 3Muckrakers podcast on iTunes and Publisher of the U.K. Progressive - ( )
Solidarity & Peace
TUNE IN 7pm Eastern / 4pm Pacific


The Deep State, Donald Trump and Us
By John Kiriakou, Reader Supported News
12 March 17

One of the things that most observers don’t understand is that the CIA will do anything – anything – to survive. All CIA officers are taught to lie. They lie all the time, about everything, to everybody. And they justify it by trying to convince themselves that they are doing it in the national interest, for national security. From my very first day in the CIA, it was drilled into me, as it is into every other employee, that “the primary mission is to protect the Agency.” That was the mantra. Couple that with the CIA’s ability to intercept and take over virtually any communications device, and you have a Frankenstein monster. Is it really hard to believe that such an organization would resist a president who challenged it? Is it hard to believe that it would do so surreptitiously? I don’t think so.

We can say pretty much the same things about the NSA. Thanks to Ed Snowden, and despite NSA protestations to the contrary, that agency has been spying on American citizens at least since the September 11 attacks. Again, is it so hard to believe that if NSA officials didn’t like a new president or his politics that they would spy on that new president, whom they may believe was a threat to their continued work?
And then there’s the FBI, an organization that has the power to utterly ruin anybody it wants just by initiating an investigation or leaking that somebody is a “person of interest,” whatever that means. The FBI is or can be the deep state’s secret police. After the Hoover years, COINTELPRO, spying on American peace and civil rights activists, are we just supposed to let them go about their business without wondering if, perhaps, they are part of a movement to undermine our democracy?

Even that bastion of conservatism, The Wall Street Journal, said on Friday that James Comey, the FBI’s director, has to go. The Journal editorial board said, “Mr. Comey seems to regard himself as the last independent man in Washington, whose duty is to stand his ground amid undeserved slings from the Democrats and arrows from the Republicans. And especially so now amid the controversy over allegations of Russian intervention in the 2016 election. Something larger is at stake here than Mr. Comey completing his tenure. The decisions he made as director during the election damaged the credibility of the FBI in the eyes of the American public. The bureau’s institutional integrity needs to be repaired. He should step down now so that the nation does not have to wait 6-1/2 years to begin the process of getting unstuck from the Comey years.”

This is not a traditional conservative/liberal, Republican/Democrat issue. Again, it’s possible to believe one side while not necessarily liking him or it and vice versa. James Carafano of the conservative Heritage Foundation probably encapsulated it best. He told the Times, “Just because you see things like leaks and interference and obstruction doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a deep state. That’s something we’ve seen before, historically, and it’s nothing new. What would be different is if there were folks from the previous administration that were consciously orchestrating, in a serious way, inside opposition to the president. It’s hard to know: is this Trump using some strong political rhetoric or an actual thing?”
Notes for PNN

BANNON = Cromwell in the court of the Tudors
“Darkness is good,” he told The Hollywood Reporter. “Dick Cheney, Darth Vader. Satan. That’s power.”
Steven K. Bannon, quotes from the Hollywood Reporter.
“What we need to do is bitch-slap the Republican Party.”
But before he gets gluttonous with power, Bannon should remember what happened to his historical doppelgänger. Henry turned on him. Thomas Cromwell was executed in 1540, without trial, and his severed head was displayed on a spike on London Bridge.

That veil of secrecy has quickly emerged as the hallmark for this shadowy administration.
It's important to note that while President Trump's ongoing war on the press has received most of the attention this year as he threatens journalists and restricts their access, there are plenty of indications that the rampant secrecy and disdain for transparency is widespread. "The retreat from the press has taken place administration-wide," Politico noted.

Monday 3/6
    Tillerson, along with Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, held an event with journalists to announce the administration's latest attempt to restrict travel to the U.S. from six Muslim-majority countries. But none of the men responded to press questions about the controversial initiative.

The next day, NBC reporter Andrea Mitchell was escorted from a photo-op with Tillerson and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin after trying to ask several questions. The questions were "met with silence."

This, of course, comes after the White House's radical move to banish several major news outlets from a press "gaggle," likely because the administration was unhappy with what the organizations were reporting. What followed was a highly unusual, weeklong blackout in terms of televised press briefings from White House press secretary Sean Spicer.

On Tuesday, bureau chiefs for major news organizations held a conference call
to discuss the fact that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is not going to allow the press to travel with him on his plane during an upcoming trip to Asia. According to, which reported on the call, not allowing reporters on Tillerson's government plane would be would be "very unusual, if not unprecedented, certainly in recent annals, with substantial access given by recent Secretaries of State, including John Kerry, Hillary Clinton and Condoleezza Rice."

Their letter, which was printed in full by Poynter, is below:

Dear Mr. Hammond and Ms. Peterlin,

We are the Washington bureau chiefs and editors of major print, wire, television and radio news organizations. We are writing to request a meeting with both of you as soon as possible to discuss press access to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and coverage of American foreign policy going forward.
We were deeply concerned to hear that Secretary Tillerson plans to travel to Beijing, Seoul and Tokyo to hold key meetings about some of the most important foreign policy issues for the United States without any traveling press.

Not only does this situation leave the public narrative of the meetings up to the Chinese foreign ministry as well as Korea's and Japan's, but it gives the American people no window whatsoever into the views and actions of the nation's leaders. And the offer to help those reporters who want to travel unilaterally is wholly unrealistic, given the commercial flight schedules, visa issues and no guarantee of access once they are there.

But the issues go beyond just the March 14-19 trip and affect the day-to-day coverage of the nation's top diplomat and U.S. relations with the rest of the world.
Please let us know when a small group of us could come by to see if we can work out an arrangement that suits all of us.

Thank you,

Wendy Benjaminson
Acting Washington Bureau Chief
The Associated Press
Bryan Boughton
Fox News Channel
Washington Bureau Chief
Elisabeth Bumiller
Washington Bureau Chief
New York Times
Edith Chapin
Executive Editor
Paul Danahar
BBC Americas Bureaux Chief
Sam Feist
CNN Washington Bureau Chief
Peter Finn
National Security Editor
The Washington Post
Keith Johnson
Acting Managing Editor, News
Foreign Policy
Weston Kosova
Washington Bureau Chief
David Lauter
Washington Bureau Chief
Los Angeles Times/Chicago Tribune
Yolanda Lopez
Central News Director
David Millikin
North America bureau chief