Sunday, June 11, 2017

PNN - POETS WHO KNOW NO SPHERE



PNN_NOTES: 6/11/17

1. When was the last time we had a sitting president and a former FBI director calling each other liars? And something like 100 per cent of the population seems to believe that at least one of the accused liars is a real liar. That’s the new American normal.

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The Comey circus produced a holiday atmosphere in DC, with bars open for business before the live hearings came on. And the TV audience for the Comey show was an apparently impressive 19 million-plus viewers. But that’s pallid next to the presidential inauguration’s 30 million-plus, or the Super Bowl’s typical 110 million-plus in the US. Here you may insert the appropriate comment about how these numbers reflect American priorities, with football being five times more engaging than a game where the republic is an underdog.

In this kind of carnival atmosphere, it is little wonder little attention is paid when the director of National Intelligence stonewalls the Senate Intelligence Committee rather than answer questions about presidential law-breaking. Little attention was paid when the director of the Central Intelligence Agency stonewalled rather than answer questions about presidential law-breaking. Even the Senate Intelligence Committee’s Republican majority paid little attention to the stonewalling by top national intelligence community officials, both Trump appointees. Some Democrats paid a little attention, albeit decorously

2. The hearing didn’t begin to get close to testy until Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who was instrumental in getting Comey fired, refused again and again to answer a simple question. The question from Democratic senator Kamala Harris of California (where she was state attorney general) was whether Rosenstein would assure the independence of the independent counsel, former FBI director Robert Mueller, who is investigating the relationship between the Trump campaign and Russian power brokers. Rosenstein would not give a direct answer, choosing to stonewall by filibuster. Senator Harris interrupted:

Sir, if I may, the greater assurance is not that you and I believe in Mueller’s integrity … it is that you would put in writing an indication based on your authority as the acting attorney general that he has full independence.

Again Rosenstein rambled unresponsively and again Harris intervened. At that point, two Republican senators, chairman Richard Burr of North Carolina and John McCain of Arizona, intervened and curtly lectured the senator from California on the need for “courtesy.” It looked for all the world like Republicans playing to their base by trying to put the uppity black woman in her place. As a result, Rosenstein was granted the courtesy of being allowed to stonewall like the others, not even giving lip service to future independence, integrity, or justice.


3. Comey's Successor
The White House’s tweeted choice for James Comey’s successor is Christopher Wray, who has been greeted by largely respectful, if muted acceptance, in the words of The New York Times:
In choosing Mr. Wray, the president is calling on a veteran Washington lawyer who is more low key and deliberative than either Mr. Mueller or Mr. Comey but will remain independent, friends and former colleagues say…. [He] would bring a more subtle management style to the FBI…. [He] is a safe, mainstream pick….


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To emphasize that point, the Times ran a picture showing Mueller and Comey, with Wray slightly behind them. The picture was taken in 2004, when Wray was in the Justice Department helping to craft torture policy for President Bush. Wray is overtly political, having given consistently and only to Republican candidates. In 2004, Wray’s testimony about the homicide of a CIA detainee was characterized as “less than truthful” by Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy of Vermont. Wray’s most recent high-profile success was helping to keep New Jersey governor Chris Christie from being indicted for the criminal closing of the George Washington Bridge as political payback. A court allowed Wray to withhold potential evidence against his client.

If being a dishonest Republican torture-promoter isn’t enough to disqualify, maybe his legal work as a partner in the 900-lawyer King & Spalding international law firm would serve. His clients have reportedly included Trump family members. Another partner is the ethics advisor to the Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust. And then there are Wray’s apparent Russian connections reported by USA Today (but not the Times). Wray’s firm has a Moscow office. It “represents Rosneft and Gazprom, two of Russia’s largest, state-controlled oil companies.” Rosneft also has ties to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson who, as Exxon CEO made a $500 billion oil drilling deal with Rosneft, a deal suspended by sanctions imposed by the Obama administration.


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4. Tainted Waters
Since the Florida Legislature has in many instances pre-empted the ability of local governments to make environmental policy, local citizens are at the mercy of federal and state administrations to protect their health. But even as the concerns grow, government protection is eroding.
In Washington, President Trump has proposed eliminating monies for the South Florida Geographic Initiative, the federal body that monitors the threat of phosphorous, mercury and other pollutants seeping into the Everglades and other regional waters. The proposed cut is part of the president’s wholesale downsizing of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, based on a belief that environmental regulation undermines economic growth. Whether Congress will go along with the elimination of the program is still in question.


But it is the state that has the more immediate, hands-on role to play in protecting Florida’s natural resources. Any discussion of possible long-term effects requires a balance between overreaction and a commitment to gather accurate, relevant information that provides what the public needs to know about those threats. Scientists interviewed said it was precisely the state’s failure in recent years to address the potential dangers of algae contamination that has heightened their concerns.


Martin County had suffered a serious algae outbreak in 2013 and, in 2016, some residents saw another one coming. One of those watchdogs was Mark Perry, executive director of the Florida Oceanographic Society, based in Stuart. He is also co-chairman of the Rivers Coalition — a consortium of local environmental groups, homeowners’ associations, business owners and fishing clubs.


Perry recounts how the crisis unfolded. He says in the second week of May, 2016, a scientist for the South Florida Water Management District identified an algae mat 33 square miles in area floating in Lake Okeechobee. At the same time, the Army Corps of Engineers was forced to continue releasing the rising waters into the St. Lucie Canal which leads to the St. Lucie River.
GET THE REPORT


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https://aclufl.org/report-tainted-waters-threats-to-public-health-and-the-peoples-right-to-know/

4. Tainted Water -2 Stand Down
On May 26, state scientists sampled water in Lake Okeechobee and found levels of microcystin that were considered dangerous. Nonetheless, releases of lake water increased dramatically from 420 million gallons per day to 1.2 billion.

Neither the state nor local health departments responded to calls for this report, but according to local press accounts it was May 31 that the scourge reached the main channel of the river, in Stuart, and that was also the day signs were first posted to warn people about the dangers of the water.
That same day, state scientists took more samples. Three days later the reported they had found no toxins, but many locals didn’t believe it.


The Martin County residents say a major aggravation was that the local health department employees were ordered by their superiors in Tallahassee not to do or say anything without word from above. The response was taken out of their hands.


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Lippisch remembers a call she received during the crisis. It came from a frightened mother.
“’Should I let my children go outside?’ she asked me. I said, ‘Don’t do it until we know more about this.’ No one warned us it was coming. During those weeks, there was panic. It was like a house being on fire but there was no warning and suddenly the fire was everywhere.’’
According to local news reports, it wasn’t until June 24 that Florida Department of Health, through its local office, contacted local media and issued a health warning.
5. INDIAN GIVER... Rubber Bullets - GAS - TANKS - SONIC CANNONS
On a freezing night in November, as police sprayed nonviolent Dakota Access Pipeline opponents with water hoses and rubber bullets, representatives of the FBI, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, North Dakota’s U.S. Attorney’s Office, and local law enforcement agencies frantically exchanged emails as they monitored the action in real time.


“Everyone watch a different live feed,” Bismarck police officer Lynn Wanner wrote less than 90 minutes after the protest began on the North Dakota Highway 1806 Backwater Bridge. By 4 a.m. on November 21, approximately 300 water protectors had been injured, some severely. Among them was 21-year-old Sophia Wilansky, who nearly lost her arm after being hit by what multiple sworn witnesses say was a police munition.


The emails exchanged that night highlight law enforcement efforts to control the narrative around the violent incident by spreading propaganda refuting Wilansky’s story, demonstrate the agencies’ heavy reliance on protesters’ social media feeds to monitor activities, and reveal for the first time the involvement of an FBI informant in defining the story police would promote.


The exchange is included in documents obtained by The Intercept that reveal the efforts of law enforcement and private security contractors to surveil Dakota Access Pipeline opponents between October and December 2016, as law enforcement’s outsized response to the demonstrators garnered growing nationwide attention and the number of water protectors living in anti-pipeline camps grew to roughly 10,000. Although the surveillance of anti-DAPL protesters was visible at the time — with helicopters circling overhead, contingents of security officials watching from the hills above camp, and a row of blinding lights illuminating the horizon along the pipeline’s right of way — intelligence collection largely took place in darkness.


In addition to the email communications, The Intercept is publishing 15 internal situation reports prepared by the private security firm TigerSwan for its client, Dakota Access parent company Energy Transfer Partners, as well as three PowerPoint presentations that TigerSwan shared with law enforcement. The documents are part of a larger set that includes more than 100 internal TigerSwan situation reports that were leaked to The Intercept by one of the company’s contractors and more than 1,000 Dakota Access-related law enforcement records obtained via public records request.


Last week, The Intercept published an exclusive report detailing TigerSwan’s sweeping enterprise, over nine months and across five states, which included surveillance of activists through aerial technology, social media monitoring, and direct infiltration, as well as attempts to shift public opinion through a counter-information campaign. The company, made up largely of special operations military veterans, was formed during the war in Iraq and incorporated its counterinsurgency tactics into its effort to suppress an indigenous-led movement centered around protection of water.


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