Thursday, October 30, 2014

USDA sells out organics

http://www.courier-journal.com/story/opinion/contributors/2014/10/29/usda-sells-organics/18111573/

USDA sells out organics

Bruce Friedrich, Special to The Courier-Journal

When you think about an organic farm that raises animals, what do you picture?
I'll bet you think about animals who are allowed to root in the soil and feel sun on their backs. I'll bet, more generally, that you assume the animals are treated fairly well, from birth to death.

But if that's how you think about organic, you're mistaken, because good animal welfare is not a requirement of USDA's organic standards, which certify as "USDA organic" factory farms with tens of thousands of chickens crammed into massive sheds. These birds have no access to soil and extremely limited outdoor access.

And as the National Organic Standards Board wraps up its meetings in Louisville this week, they won't be talking about farm animal welfare during their three full days of meetings. It appears that they have given up in the face of USDA's unwillingness to follow their recommendations.

That's too bad, because Americans care about farm animal welfare — fully 95 percent of Americans say that it matters to them how farm animals are treated. I'll bet that percentage is even higher among organic consumers.

The concern about farm animal welfare makes sense: Farm animals feel pain just like we do. And scientists report that chickens and pigs are more cognitively and behaviorally complex than dogs or cats. So barren conditions affect chickens and pigs just like such conditions would affect our pets.

Unfortunately, standard anti-cruelty laws exempt practices that are common on modern farms; that means that cramming pigs and chickens into tiny crates where they cannot even turn around is both the norm and legal. To ensure that they only support better animal welfare, consumers should be able to count on the organic label. But if they are, they're being deceived.

Since 2002, the Organic Standards Board has made recommendations on poultry outdoor access; animal transport and slaughter; and animal welfare and stocking densities. The USDA has ignored all of it, much to the Organic Standards Board's annoyance.

The Board stated unanimously that lack of regulation has "restricted the welfare of animals to a considerable degree" and noted that its recommendations were just a "first step" that would "not provide for a comprehensive review in favor of animal welfare." But USDA won't even take this first step.

It will come as a shock to most organic consumers that there are not already legal requirements for organic where basic animal welfare issues are considered. Indeed, the USDA was charged by Congress with developing standards, yet it announced without meaningful explanation that it will make no progress on any of it.

USDA's announcement was brief, and it cited only an "economic impact analysis" done by a third-party consulting firm and "other urgent priorities."

I don't know what the "other urgent priorities" are and USDA didn't say, but the economic report considers only the poultry guidelines, which have been sitting on a shelf for 12 years, and indicates that implementing the board's recommendations would involve a significant cost for only the five "organic" farms (not five percent — five farms) that are cramming more than 100,000 hens into their barns.
These five so-called organic mega-farms represent one percent of organic egg farms but 16 percent of organic egg production, and they would have to allow access to soil and sunlight and reduce stocking densities. In other words, they would have to do what organic consumers expect.

Instead, USDA is allowing the worst producers to stamp "organic" on their products and is thereby encouraging hundreds of organic farmers that are already in compliance with the proposed regulations to treat animals worse, in order to compete with the few massive farms that provide the worst animal welfare.

USDA is also telling organic farmers and consumers that it doesn't care about animal space allowances, bedding and environmental concerns, environmental enrichment, pain relief for mutilations — or the enforcement of any of it.
Something stinks in the organic hen house, it's the hen house regulators, and USDA's Organic Standards Board should be talking about it and demanding change.

Bruce Friedrich is director of advocacy and policy for Farm Sanctuary, a national farm animal protection organization, farmsanctuary.org

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

U.S. Sends Planes Armed with Depleted Uranium to Middle East

U.S. Sends Planes Armed with Depleted Uranium to Middle East
By David Swanson

http://warisacrime.org/content/us-sends-planes-armed-depleted-uranium-middle-east

The U.S. Air Force says it is not halting its use of Depleted Uranium weapons, has recently sent them to the Middle East, and is prepared to use them.

A type of airplane, the A-10, deployed this month to the Middle East by the U.S. Air National Guard's 122nd Fighter Wing, is responsible for more Depleted Uranium (DU) contamination than any other platform, according to the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons (ICBUW). "Weight for weight and by number of rounds more 30mm PGU-14B ammo has been used than any other round," said ICBUW coordinator Doug Weir, referring to ammunition used by A-10s, as compared to DU ammunition used by tanks.

Public affairs superintendent Master Sgt. Darin L. Hubble of the 122nd Fighter Wing told me that the A-10s now in the Middle East along with "300 of our finest airmen" have been sent there on a deployment planned for the past two years and have not been assigned to take part in the current fighting in Iraq or Syria, but "that could change at any moment."

The crews will load PGU-14 depleted uranium rounds into their 30mm Gatling cannons and use them as needed, said Hubble. "If the need is to explode something -- for example a tank -- they will be used."
Pentagon spokesman Mark Wright told me, "There is no prohibition against the use of Depleted Uranium rounds, and the [U.S. military] does make use of them. The use of DU in armor-piercing munitions allows enemy tanks to be more easily destroyed."

On Thursday, several nations, including Iraq, spoke to the United Nations First Committee, against the use of Depleted Uranium and in support of studying and mitigating the damage in already contaminated areas. A non-binding resolution is expected to be voted on by the Committee this week, urging nations that have used DU to provide information on locations targeted. A number of organizations are delivering a petition to U.S. officials this week urging them not to oppose the resolution.

In 2012 a resolution on DU was supported by 155 nations and opposed by just the UK, U.S., France, and Israel. Several nations have banned DU, and in June Iraq proposed a global treaty banning it -- a step also supported by the European and Latin American Parliaments.

Wright said that the U.S. military is "addressing concerns on the use of DU by investigating other types of materials for possible use in munitions, but with some mixed results. Tungsten has some limitations in its functionality in armor-piercing munitions, as well as some health concerns based on the results of animal research on some tungsten-containing alloys. Research is continuing in this area to find an alternative to DU that is more readily accepted by the public, and also performs satisfactorily in munitions."

"I fear DU is this generation's Agent Orange," U.S. Congressman Jim McDermott told me. "There has been a sizable increase in childhood leukemia and birth defects in Iraq since the Gulf War and our subsequent invasion in 2003. DU munitions were used in both those conflicts. There are also grave suggestions that DU weapons have caused serious health issues for our Iraq War veterans. I seriously question the use of these weapons until the U.S. military conducts a full investigation into the effect of DU weapon residue on human beings."

Doug Weir of ICBUW said renewed use of DU in Iraq would be "a propaganda coup for ISIS." His and other organizations opposed to DU are guardedly watching a possible U.S. shift away from DU, which the U.S. military said it did not use in Libya in 2011. Master Sgt. Hubble of the 122nd Fighter Wing believes that was simply a tactical decision. But public pressure had been brought to bear by activists and allied nations' parliaments, and by a UK commitment not to use DU.

DU is classed as a Group 1 Carcinogen by the World Health Organization, and evidence of health damage produced by its use is extensive. The damage is compounded, Jeena Shah at the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) told me, when the nation that uses DU refuses to identify locations targeted. Contamination enters soil and water. Contaminated scrap metal is used in factories or made into cooking pots or played with by children.
CCR and Iraq Veterans Against the War have filed a Freedom of Information Act Request in an attempt to learn the locations targeted in Iraq during and after the 1991 and 2003 assaults. The UK and the Netherlands have revealed targeted locations, Shah pointed out, as did NATO following DU use in the Balkans. And the United States has revealed locations it targeted with cluster munitions. So why not now?

"For years," Shah said, "the U.S. has denied a relationship between DU and health problems in civilians and veterans. Studies of UK veterans are highly suggestive of a connection. The U.S. doesn't want studies done." In addition, the United States has used DU in civilian areas and identifying those locations could suggest violations of Geneva Conventions.

Iraqi doctors will be testifying on the damage done by DU before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commissionin Washington, D.C., in December.

Meanwhile, the Obama Administration said on Thursday that it will be spending $1.6 million to try to identify atrocities committed in Iraq . . . by ISIS.
--
David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is director of WorldBeyondWar.org and campaign coordinator for RootsAction.org. Swanson's books include War Is A Lie. He blogs at DavidSwanson.org and WarIsACrime.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio.

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

When the Public Has a Right to Classified Information

http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/26658-when-the-public-has-a-right-to-classified-information

Edward Snowdwn in Moscow. (photo: Washington Post)
When the Public Has a Right to Classified Information

By Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic
29 October 14

The anonymous whistleblower who leaked details about the terror watchlist served the national interest.

Months ago, The Intercept reported that "nearly half of the people on the U.S. government’s database of terrorist suspects are not connected to any known terrorist group." Citing classified documents, Jeremy Scahill and Ryan Devereaux went on to report that "Obama has boosted the number of people on the no fly list more than ten-fold, to an all-time high of 47,000—surpassing the number of people barred from flying under George W. Bush." Several experts were quoted questioning the effectiveness of a watch list so expansive, echoing concerns expressed by the Associated Press the previous month as well as the ACLU.

The Intercept article offered a long overdue look at one of the most troubling parts of the War on Terrorism. Being labeled a suspected terrorist can roil or destroy a person's life—yet Team Obama kept adding people to the list using opaque standards that were never subject to democratic debate. Americans were denied due process.
Innocent people were also put on a no-fly list with no clear way to get off.

As the ACLU put it, "The uncontroversial contention that Osama bin Laden and a handful of other known terrorists should not be allowed on an aircraft is being used to create a monster that goes far beyond what ordinary Americans think of when they think about a 'terrorist watch list.' If the government is going to rely on these kinds of lists, they need checks and balances to ensure that innocent people are protected." The status quo made the War on Terror resemble a Franz Kafka novel.

On Tuesday, Michael Isikoff reported that the FBI has identified a federal contractor suspected of leaking the classified documents The Intercept cited in its story:

The FBI recently executed a search of the suspect's home, and federal prosecutors in Northern Virginia have opened up a criminal investigation into the matter, the sources said. But the case has also generated concerns among some within the U.S. intelligence community that top Justice Department officials—stung by criticism that they have been overzealous in pursuing leak cases—may now be more reluctant to bring criminal charges involving unauthorized disclosures to the news media, the sources said. One source, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter, said there was concern "there is no longer an appetite at Justice for these cases."

That quote is hard to parse. Was anonymity granted to government sources so that they could offer unauthorized leaks complaining about disinterest in prosecuting unauthorized leaks? Or was this an authorized leak from an intelligence community trying to pressure the Justice Department using the cover of anonymity? Either way, the concerns of these intelligence sources should be ignored. If the DOJ is reluctant to prosecute here, it's absolutely right to be.

The information revealed by The Intercept should never have been treated as a state secret. Federal authorities are trying to figure out who leaked a classified document, but they ought to be identifying whoever was responsible for wrongly classifying it in the first place. Its contents do not threaten national security. Suppressing them was an affront to democracy that undermined accountability in government.

The bad actors are the ones who kept it secret.

The opaque watch lists of the Bush and Obama administrations are flagrant examples of the over-classification long thought to be endemic in Washington, D.C. Exposing them as such served the public interest. As with Watergate, the Pentagon Papers, and FBI persecution of anti-Vietnam protestors, whistleblowers and journalists have once again proved better than government at judging how best to navigate the tension between state secrets and democracy.

Most self-described advocates of law and order who insists on the need to prosecute Edward Snowden and this second leaker ignore a key feature of their civil disobedience: These whistleblowers leaked in part to expose more serious lawbreaking.

It is perverse to target them while ignoring the lawbreakers they exposed.

The only reasonable argument for prosecuting the whistleblower who leaked this watch-list document is that, regardless of the salutary consequences, a duly enacted law was broken. Some people maintain that the rule of law is threatened if any lawbreaking goes unpunished, regardless of context. But that is not an argument that the intelligence community or its apologists can credibly make until they also begin advocating for the punishment of all perjurers, torturers, and civil-rights violators in their midst, as well as leakers who talk to reporters while advancing an establishment line. Does anyone take that internally consistent position? Anyone who surveys lawbreaking in the national-security bureaucracy and insists on legal consequences only for its whistleblowers makes a mockery of the rule of law.

© 2014 Reader Supported News

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Meet The Hedge Fund Wiz Kid Who’s Shrinking America’s Pensions

Published on Portside (https://portside.org)

Meet The Hedge Fund Wiz Kid Who’s Shrinking America’s Pensions

http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2014/10/28/3585128/arnold-pensions-retirement-manufactured-crisis/

Alan Pyke

Tuesday, October 28, 2014
ThinkProgress

When longtime private equity analyst Gina Raimondo won her bid to become treasurer of her home state in 2010, Rhode Island’s public pension system was in such disarray that federal regulators were sniffing around to make sure the state was reporting the funding levels accurately.

Within two years, Raimondo (D) would push through the most significant cuts to public worker retirement benefits [1] in the country and begin a campaign for the Governor’s mansion. The changes she masterminded in 2011 shrank the state’s pension funding gap by billions of dollars almost overnight, an achievement that would have taken years under the more moderate reforms other states have tried. But the rapid, aggressive approach came at a steep cost for the 66,000 men and women who teach, fight fires, and administer public programs in the state.

After years of paying into a retirement system that promised fixed annual payments in their golden years, Rhode Island’s public workforce got herded into [2] a new, far riskier system. Raimondo’s policy is what’s known as a “hybrid pension,” where the system of guaranteed payments to retirees was replaced by a combination of individual investment accounts and a much smaller version of the traditional pension payments. The change amounted to a large benefit cut for thousands of workers.

“She knew what she wanted to do and it was all just a facade of engagement,” said John Adler, Retirement Security Campaign Director for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). “She steamrolled it. The process was a fake process.”

Raimondo’s urgency carried the day in Providence. “It has to be done,” said state Rep. Nicholas Mattiello on the day the legislature approved the bill. “We have no choice [3].”

Such sweeping changes would be hard for someone with years of political experience and connections. For a person holding her first-ever political office, they should have been even harder. But Raimondo didn’t do it alone. Her campaign to rewire the smallest state’s pension system got a huge, quiet boost from one of the largest states, thousands of miles away.

The Man, The Money, And The Message

In Texas, a man named John Arnold is a few years into a sort of third career.

After earning a reputation as the smartest trader at Enron and walking away with several million dollars [4] before that notorious firm’s collapse, Arnold launched a hedge fund. He excelled, turned his millions into billions, and recently began a philanthropic career with his wife Laura that spans a diversity of interests and crosses some traditional political divides. The Laura and John Arnold Foundation and other Arnold-financed donation centers are backing everything from [5] bleeding-heart causes like sweeping reform of the criminal justice system and improved research on public health and diet to corporate-oriented projects like education reform that shifts control of public schools into private hands.

But Arnold has made his biggest splash in the pension fight, and not always in the way he wants. After his multi-million dollar donation to New York’s PBS affiliate for a series of reports on pensions was made public [6] by reporter David Sirota, the station returned the money[7]. Though the series was discontinued, WNET stands by [8] what The Newshour Weekend reported on public pension funding in “Pension Peril” — a name Sirota argued biases audiences toward Arnold’s favored position that pension promises should be revised urgently rather than honored in full.

“In many cases they’re forgoing better pay in the private sector”
Some of Arnold’s money found its way into Rhode Island too. There, an outside group called EngageRI that spent over $700,000 helping to drive Raimondo’s pension reform proposal through in 2011 received much of that money from the Arnolds [9] — “less than half a million,” a spokesman told the Wall Street Journal. When Raimondo moved on from her pension triumph to run for governor, Arnold was there again. Raimondo’s super PAC has gotten $200,000 [10] from the Arnolds in recent years.

Arnold’s spokespeople bristle at the suggestion that the billionaire is out to cut pensions, insisting that he only wants a realistic accounting of the under-funding problem. But the similarities between what Raimondo did in Rhode Island and what the Arnold Foundation advocates nationwide are striking.

A white paper [11] on the Arnold Foundation’s website depicts all forms of defined benefit pensions for public workers as doomed to failure, and lays out four principal ideas for addressing “this looming crisis” in public pension funding. As with Raimondo’s Rhode Island push, the Arnold vision of pension reform is motivated by a sense of impending disaster and unpayable obligations.

The paper proposes either wholly replacing traditional pensions with defined-contribution 401(k)-style plans, radically reforming the way traditional pensions are funded, or shifting to the sort of hybrid approach that Gina Raimondo employed.

In Rhode Island, the bulk of the money that Ocean State workers contributed to their old pension fund now goes to the new 401(k) system. That form of retirement savings requires workers to decide how they want their money invested by advisers who charge a wide variety of esoteric, poorly-disclosed [12] fees. Instead of being assured of a certain level of money coming in each year of their retirement, workers now count on a set amount of cash going out of their checks and into the 401(k) accounts in perpetuity. Fees extractas much as a third [13] of the investment gains a typical 401(k) earns over a person’s working career, according to research from Demos. Even if the remainder is well managed, a 401(k) balance can shrink drastically due to simple bad luck, as workers nearing retirement age learned when the financial crisis wiped out over $3 trillion [14] in savings in 2008.

The changes “completely screwed mid- and late-career workers,” said SEIU’s Adler. For someone with 20 years of public service under his belt and a decade to go before hitting retirement age, “you’re losing 10 years of wage increases and 20-plus percent of whatever that final average salary [used for calculating pension payments] was going to be. So it’s an enormous reduction.” (Earlier this year, the state struck a deal [15] that allows workers with at least 20 years on the job to pay significantly more to stay in the old system, but everyone else will still be placed into the new hybrid system.)

“Many folks take public sector jobs because they have good pensions and benefits, and in many cases they’re forgoing better pay in the private sector,” Adler said. “That got thrown out the window on a dime. If you’re late in your career you’re going to get the bulk of what you had coming to you, and if you’re early in your career you have time to decide if this job is still worth it. But if you’re mid-career, you’re stuck.”

Searching For A Crisis

Claims about the scope and immediacy of pension funding problems are seriously overblown, according to economists at the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR). While would-be pension reformers are fond of citing multi-trillion-dollar raw figures for future retirement system obligations, CEPR’s Dean Baker and David Rosnick wrote in 2012, “the numbers actually don’t seem that large [16]expressed relative to future GDP.” The year before, Baker crunched state-level pension numbers and found that those multi-trillion-dollar shortfalls are “less than 0.2 percent [17] of projected gross state product over the next 30 years for most states,” and less than 0.5 percent of projected future economic output even in the states with the worst-funded pensions.
Economists at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities have also found claims of a multi-trillion-dollar pension shortfall to bemisleading and overblown [18], and say that a more accurate and “still troubling” figure is $700 billion [19]. Center for American Progress (CAP) research also cites that figure [20] in policy papers that argue for retaining defined-benefit pensions.

“Most of the time minor tweaks are all that’s required”

When journalists at McClatchy tried to sort out conflicting claims about the severity and urgency of the pension funding problem in 2011, they also concluded that the systems are not in crisis [21]. Some are more distressed than others, Boston College researchers told McClatchy, but none is on the brink of collapse or poised to devour state budgets entirely.

The Center for American Progress’s David Madland, who studies economics and pension issues, agrees. “For most plans it’s not a crisis. It’s something they can, over the longer run, get out of,” he told ThinkProgress. “When you have these shortfalls, yes there are tweaks you can make, but most of the time minor tweaks are all that’s required to get plans back on track.”

The key is for lawmakers to make the payments they’re supposed to make when they’re supposed to make them, Madland said. Trying to use past failures to make pension payments as a reason to ditch traditional pensions entirely is “saying we can’t really trust ourselves to do the right thing so we won’t really do the optimal thing in the first place.”

Like basic financial management for any working-class person, maintaining a healthy pension system requires getting into good habits and sticking with them. States that fund their pensions appropriately rather than reneging on the obligations “generally do it because that has been the practice in the state, but generally not because of state law,” according to SEIU’s Adler.

If a state can stay in the habit of funding its pension system adequately, that will pay bigger dividends for taxpayers than shifting risks to workers through a 401(k) plan. “There are lots of advantages of defined-benefit pensions. They’re actually less expensive for states to operate and they provide workers with more security,” Madland said. “You want to be providing as good of a system for the workers, as efficiently for the taxpayers [as you can].” A paper Madland co-authored explains how the defined-contribution plans that Arnold and other reformers favor are almost twice as costly for states to maintain [19] as traditional defined-benefit pensions.
“[Pension] opponents make it sound like every public pension is in crisis, unsustainable, providing lavish benefits to workers,” SEIU’s Adler said. “That’s malarkey.”

“The vast majority of public pension funds are looking at problems that are 30 or 40 or 50 years down the road,” said Adler, “and that means that we have 30 or 40 or 50 years to carry them.’ The weakness in pension funds from decades of underfunding by state governments needs to be addressed and there’s no reason not to start now, he said, but the radical revisions and abandoned retirement promises Raimondo and Arnold support are unnecessary.

‘Give Them Credit For Innovation’

Billionaires helping elect people they like to promote policies they favor is fairly normal in American politics. But Arnold’s money didn’t stop with Raimondo and her allies within the political system. It’s also funding those research organizations whose work conveys a sense of crisis around public pension funding.
The severe reforms Rhode Island adopted drew praise from the Brookings Institution, one of the old lions of the Beltway think tank business. A Brookings report [22] praised Raimondo’s political efficacy and legislative boldness, and even quoted someone from Arnold-backed EngageRI praising her work.

Brookings’ pension research is funded in part by John and Laura Arnold, who have given over $1.6 million [23] to the group for pension research and analysis since 2012. As Sirota notes, the Arnolds have a policy foundation that could have issued its own analysis of pension reform efforts in Rhode Island and elsewhere, but they chose to fund research from Brookings instead. The Arnolds also fund [23]pension research at the libertarian Reason Foundation, which also praised Raimondo’s efforts [24].

In an email, Arnold Foundation Vice President of Public Accountability Josh McGee called it “inaccurate to say that the Brookings report ‘praised’ the reforms in Rhode Island” and defended the foundation’s funding of “highly reputable, independent, and moderate think tanks to analyze our nation’s retirement security problems and propose solutions.” But in addition to extensively quoting praise of Raimondo’s efforts from a spokesman from the Arnold-backed EngageRI, The Brookings report says in its own voice that “one of the most important factors in the success of comprehensive pension reform in RI was the political courage and effective leadership of the state treasurer.”

On top of citing Arnold-funded political operatives, the Brookings report draws upon pension research from the Pew Charitable Trusts. Pew has received “up to $4,850,000 [23]” for its pension work from the Arnolds since 2012 according to the Arnold Foundation’s website.

"We're getting by with rubber bands and chewing gum”

Reporters who talk to Arnold usually ask how much he has spent on the pension reform fight. In 2013, he told Reuters the figure was $10 million [25]. In August, he told Bloomberg it was $12 million [26]. A spokeswoman for Arnold told ThinkProgress that out of $515 million in charitable giving, “approximately $10 million” has gone to pension reform work, and declined to provide a specific figure for separate, non-charitable political contributions tied to that policy area. Whatever the exact total amount the Arnolds have spent on pension causes would “pale in comparison to the $1.1 billion the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics estimates unions have spent on political activities between 2005 and 2011,” she said.

“I wish I had billions of dollars to spend on this,” SEIU’s Adler said when pressed on the comparison between Arnold’s spending and union activism. Compared to the major research departments Arnold supports at Pew and Brookings, the union official said, “we’re getting by with rubber bands and chewing gum.”

With union members now making up just 12 percent of the American workforce, and barely half that ratio of the private-sector workforce, Adler said, the balance of power between labor groups and arch-capitalists is roughly the opposite of how Arnold’s team paints things.

“They depict us as big labor, billions of dollars,” he said, “and the reality is that we are fighting desperately to maintain the rights of our members under a furious, multifaceted right-wing assault.”

The political contributions Arnold’s staff declined to tabulate are listed on the Arnolds’ website [27], though only at imprecise ranges rather than exact dollar figures. According to that list, though, the Arnolds have spent as much as $53.1 million on pension-related research and advocacy. Much of that money goes to education reform groups that specifically target teacher pensions as a source of problems within the public education system. Much of it goes to places like Brookings and Pew that have traditionally been viewed as either at the political center or just to the left of it.

“I give them credit for innovation,” Adler said of the Arnolds. “You would expect someone with those views on pensions would fund the Heritage Foundation and Reason or Cato. His network is Pew and Brookings and Urban and public television. It’s brilliant.”

Arnold’s money has reached a variety of other pension policy showdowns around the country. In Ventura County, California, the Arnolds spent $150,000 [28] supporting a ballot initiative that would have pulled the county out of the state pension funding system they agreed to decades ago and replaced county workers’ pensions with a 401(k) system. They gave another $200,000 [29] to the mayor of San Jose, who was trying to put a similar initiative on the statewide ballot. The push to use ballot initiatives to break up the state pension systemgot the blessing of the Reason Foundation [30], which has received just over a million dollars [23] from the Arnolds for pension research since 2013.

A judge recently struck the Ventura initiative from the ballot [31] on a technicality. San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed has abandoned his own Arnold-backed ballot initiative, at least for the time being.

Elsewhere, the innocuously-named Colorado Pension Project held a panel discussion of how pension rules influence teacher hiring and school performance. Panelists from Bellwether Education Partners, the National Council on Teacher Quality, and the New Teacher Project all argued that traditional pensions hurt school districts’ [32] ability to attract the best teachers.

All three groups are funded by John and Laura Arnold, whose foundation has given them a total of nearly $7 million.

Keeping Promises In The Garden State

For an example of the kind of pension reform deal that unions can endorse, Adler says, look no further than New Jersey.

After decades of underfunding by successive administrations in New Jersey, the state’s pension funds face one of the largest shortfalls in the country. After the 2010 elections, workers agreed to a pension overhaul that required higher contributions from employees but left their defined-benefit pensions otherwise unimpaired.

In exchange for those concessions, Gov. Chris Christie (R) promised to make large annual payments to the pension funds to put the state on track to close the gap over the coming decades. For workers, higher payments out of their own checks were an acceptable price for stabilizing the system in general.

“We have generally been willing to support negotiated increases in employee contributions in exchange for the employer making good on its contribution,” Adler said, pointing to dozens of similar state reforms enacted with union support. “It’s in our interests to make sure these funds are sustainable and are paid for and are there for generations to come,” provided that reforms “protect current employees who have made life decisions based on this pension being in place.”

“He’s replicating the kinds of problems that got the plan into trouble in the first place”

The pension fix was a fiscal feather in Christie’s political cap. But Christie is more committed to tax cuts, it turns out, and when the $3.4 billion in business tax breaks he’s handed out failed to produce enough economic activity to fill the state’s coffers, the pension payments he had promised workers became a liability.
Faced with a choice between sticking with his tax policy and living up to the 2013 pension deal, the governor opted to revoke the bulk of the retirement system payments [33]. Instead of $3.8 billion in 2014 and 2015, he will now put $1.4 billion into the plans — far less than promised, and too little to achieve the sort of major improvement in the funds’ finances that both sides wanted.

The episode is a prime example of what not to do in the face of a genuine underfunding problem created by years of missed payments, according to CAP’s Madland. “You create this supposed deal that’s going to get the pension up to reasonable funding levels, and Christie walks away from the obligations,” he said. “He’s replicating the kinds of problems that got the plan into trouble in the first place.”

To Adler, the union analyst, the episode illustrates how much more influence wealthy investors have in the debate over public retirement funds. Christie “said he wasn’t going to pay for the sins of his predecessors. But he didn’t say that I’m not going to pay the bond obligations that my predecessors took on,” he said.
“If you stiff your bondholders they won’t lend you money. So they have power. Workers, what are they going to do?” Adler asked. “They’re powerless.”

When Christie announced the pension reversal in May, he depicted the broken promise in ways that might be familiar to Rhode Island’s public servants. New Jersey, according to the business-friendly governor, simply has no other choice.

“Given the circumstances that we’ve been confronted with,” Christie said, “I believe this is not only the best but the only decision we’re left with [34] to deal with the magnitude of the problem that we have.”

Four months later, John Arnold found time to tweet mild criticism of the New Jersey governor. “Shame on Gov. Christie [35],” he wrote in September. At the time of the announcement in May, though, Arnold said Christie’s move proved his team’s point. “[Defined-benefit] pensions always enable politicians to abuse the system [36],” he tweeted.

Arnold expounded on that thought in an email to ThinkProgress. “By reneging on his promise to close the funding gap in New Jersey’s public pension system, Chris Christie showed once again why the design of most public pension systems is fatally flawed,” he wrote. “Politicians can and frequently do divert money that is meant to fund long-term worker retirements to solve their own short-term political problems.”

He seems skeptical that the good financial management habits that have kept other states out of pension funding trouble can be transferred to states that have failed to make full and timely payments in the past. A healthy pension system “won’t be achieved by simply slashing worker benefits, as some on the right propose, or by feeding more money into a broken system, as advocated by some on the left,” Arnold wrote. “Our foundation will continue to support local efforts to fix public pension systems because we believe this is a policy issue of significant importance.”

“I don’t have a crystal ball,” SEIU’s Adler said, ‘but I think in 2015 Christie is going to push for something like the Raimondo approach.”

Source URL: https://portside.org/2014-10-28/meet-hedge-fund-wiz-kid-who%E2%80%99s-shrinking-america%E2%80%99s-pensions

Links:

[1] http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/looting-the-pension-funds-20130926
[2] http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/23/business/for-rhode-island-the-pension-crisis-is-now.html?pagewanted=all
[3] http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9B03E6D81E3EF93BA25752C1A9679D8B63
[4] http://lubbockonline.com/stories/072403/bus_072403001.shtml
[5] http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424127887323372504578466992305986654
[6] http://pando.com/2014/02/12/the-wolf-of-sesame-street-revealing-the-secret-corruption-inside-pbss-news-division/
[7] http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/15/business/media/wnet-to-return-3-5-million-grant-for-pension-series.html
[8] http://www.pbs.org/ombudsman/2014/02/tensions_over_pensions_1.html
[9] http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424127887324339204578171340979593744?mod=googlenews_wsj&mg=reno64-wsj
[10] http://wpri.com/2014/10/15/arnold-donates-another-100k-to-pro-raimondo-super-pac/
[11] http://www.arnoldfoundation.org/sites/default/files/pdf/LJAF-Pension%20Solution%20Paper%20%284-22%20v2%29.pdf
[12] http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2014/04/11/3425842/retirement-account-labels/
[13] http://www.demos.org/publication/retirement-savings-drain-hidden-excessive-costs-401ks
[14] https://www.bettermarkets.com/sites/default/files/Cost%20Of%20The%20Crisis_2.pdf
[15] http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/15/us/rhode-island-reaches-deal-to-soften-pension-changes.html
[16] http://www.cepr.net/documents/publications/pensions-2012-01.pdf
[17] http://www.cepr.net/documents/publications/pensions-2011-02.pdf
[18] http://www.cbpp.org/cms/?fa=view&id=3372
[19] http://www.nirsonline.org/storage/nirs/documents/Bang%20for%20the%20Buck%20Report.pdf
[20] http://cdn.americanprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/issues/2012/02/pdf/defined_benefit.pdf
[21] http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2011/03/06/109649_why-employee-pensions-arent-bankrupting.html?rh=1
[22] http://www.brookings.edu/%7E/media/research/files/papers/2014/02/26%20public%20pension%20reform/pension%20politics_final_225.pdf
[23] http://www.arnoldfoundation.org/grants
[24] http://reason.org/news/show/pension-reform-rhode-island
[25] http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/06/25/usa-pensions-arnold-idUSL2N0F01Z820130625
[26] http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-08-22/billionaire-arnold-s-pension-push-makes-him-workers-bane.html
[27] http://www.lauraandjohnarnold.com/charitablegiving/
[28] http://capitalandmain.com/domino-effect-pension-cutters-gamble-on-a-california-ballot-measure/
[29] http://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/the-state-worker/article2593133.html
[30] http://reason.org/files/ventura_county_pension_reform_actuarial_analysis.pdf
[31] http://www.vcstar.com/news/local-news/county-news/tentative-ruling-removes-pension-initiative-from-ballot_47085281
[32] http://co.chalkbeat.org/2014/10/16/advocates-pension-systems-a-disincentive-for-many-teachers/#.VEWusvldWSo
[33] http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2014/05/28/3442305/new-jersey-pensions-christie/
[34] http://www.nj.com/politics/index.ssf/2014/05/christie_defends_decision_to_cut_pension_payments_democrats_unions_and_wall_street_fume.html
[35] https://twitter.com/JohnArnoldFndtn/status/507535108740370433
[36] https://twitter.com/JohnArnoldFndtn/status/469835817175621632

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Oregon Poised to Mandate GMO Labeling

http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/271-38/26667-oregon-poised-to-mandate-gmo-labeling

Ben & Jerry's co-founder Jerry Greenfield unveiled the company’s new flavor, “Food Fight Fudge Brownie,” in Oregon, in support of the state’s GMO labeling campaign. (photo: Ben & Jerry's)

Oregon Poised to Mandate GMO Labeling

By Jane Ayers, Reader Supported News
30 October 14

Oregon’s organic farmers and consumers won a major victory earlier this year, when citizens in Southern Oregon voted to stop the introduction of GMO seeds in their pristine growing valleys. Even though Syngenta and Monsanto funded huge television campaigns to try to stop the grass-roots organizing, the majority of Oregonians voted to protect their land, farmers’ rights, and their own healthy food sources and seeds.

This week in Oregon the current campaign, Measure 92, is heating up with another show of force. The citizen initiative to be voted upon will mandate labeling of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) and protect the public’s right to know when food they purchase contains GMOs. As the November 4th vote nears, Oregon’s early polling results are showing a very close margin (with “Yes for Labeling” in the lead, 49 to 44).

As expected, big agri-business companies are flooding Oregon with millions of dollars of marketing in an attempt to defeat the citizens’ concerns. This week Dupont donated a whopping $7.5 million ($4.5 million in Oregon and $3 million in Colorado, which has a similar measure) against labeling. This last-minute contribution has now trumped the record for the largest political campaign contribution in Oregon.
Dupont, Dow, and Monsanto have already spent three times more money to defeat this measure than companies have donated to mandate the GMO labeling. In the national arena, Monsanto and the Grocery Manufacturers Association had previously spent $100 million from 2012-2014 to block GMO labeling nationwide. In the first six months of 2014 alone, Dupont spent $27.5 million on lobbying to try to stop any such mandates.

In an effort to prevent anti-GMO labeling measures from passing in Oregon and Colorado, Monsanto has spent $8.8 million, adding to Pepsi ($3 million), Coke ($2 million), Kraft Foods ($1.5+ million), General Mills ($1.5 million), and others such as Land O’Lakes, Snickers, Kellogg’s, Hormel Foods, and Bumble Bee, all contributing large amounts under $1 million.

In Oregon’s battle with the GMO issue, retired EPA scientist Dr. Ray Seidler has played a key role in educating the public. Seidler, a micro-biologist who started the first federal research program on biosafety issues of GMOs, states, “Back then we only wanted to regulate GMOs because we didn’t know anything about them. Now we see what damage they can cause.” Seidler emphasizes, “The pure vitamin-laden seeds grown here in Oregon (swiss chard and table beets) are now exported internationally to the 66+ countries that have banned GMOs in their countries.

The seeds grown in the Southern Oregon Valley are in demand worldwide. So Oregonians want to protect that too.”
Seidler has also focused on the widespread failure of the Bt insecticidal trait in genetically engineered corn, and especially on the rapidly emerging resistance in insects. Because of this resistance, there have been huge increases in coating seeds with insecticides and injecting insecticides into the soil nationwide. Seidler recently teamed up with David Bronner, president of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, to coauthor a white paper on the dangers of GMOs entitled “Pesticide Use on Genetically Engineered Crops.” Bronner, who has a Biology degree from Harvard, has been one of the biggest contributors in Oregon and Colorado to the effort to demand GMO labeling.
Over the past two weeks, Bronner has placed advertorials in major publications such as Scientific American, The New Yorker, Harper’s, The Nation, Harvard, Progressive Magazine, and Mother Jones. However, the two leading scientific journals, Science and Nature Magazine, refused to publish the ad focusing on the dangers of GMOs. A Science magazine rep stated in an email to Dr. Bronner’s staff, “We’re concerned about … getting into a battle with the GMO industry.”

In a press release issued this week, Mr. Bronner stated:

The truth of the matter is the chemical industry has bought the seed industry and both political parties in this country, has pulled the wool over our media, political and scientific elites, and taken a page from Enron – gaming our food and agricultural systems in plain light of day. Unfortunately, prominent journalists and scientists are running interference, bamboozled and blind to their own bias focusing on irrational elements and straw men in the anti-GMO movement, while celebrating commercially insignificant or nonexistent applications of GE agriculture and ignoring the plain facts in US soil and the regulatory pipeline.

Over 99% of GMO crops in US soil are engineered to produce insecticide and/or tolerate heavy herbicide use, which like overdosing antibiotics in factory farms has rapidly created resistance in target weed and insect populations, which are now saturated with ever more toxic pesticides, including neonicotinoid insecticides banned in the EU due to suspected link to massive bee die-offs and Colony Collapse Disorder. GMO crops are not ‘feeding the world’: over 40% of GMO corn kernels are inefficiently converted to ethanol in another Big Ag boondoggle, and most of the rest is factory farm animal feed, as is the vast majority of GMO soy.

We have to transform our agricultural policies and dietary choices and eat more sustainably, which requires that citizens are properly informed and empowered to make wise choices. It’s embarrassing that in the land of the free we don’t even know whether our food is engineered to be saturated in pesticide, unlike 64 other countries including every country in the EU, and Japan.

Meanwhile in Oregon, the citizen’s initiative, Measure 92, has grown stronger, with its own influx of financial backing to counter the negative effects of Big Agriculture’s corporate donations.

Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps and the Center for Food Safety have each donated $1 million for GMO labeling. Grassroots donations have been matched by Mercola.com, and other healthy food companies such as Nature’s Path, Bob’s Red Mill, Nutiva, Stonyfield Farms, and Amy’s Organics have contributed as well. The Organic Consumers Association, Presence Marketing, Food Democracy Now, and the Consumers Union have also contributed substantially to the labeling initiative.

To counter a move by the Hormel Foods Company (which donated $170,000 against labeling), Tom Hormel, heir of the Hormel Foods fortune, donated $500,000 in favor of the crucial GMO labeling, citing concerns about the high health risks from eating GMO foods.

Sixty-six countries around the world have banned all use of GMO seeds and food products. Many independent scientific studies have been conducted that show the dangers and health risks of eating foods with GMOs, and consumers are now asserting a ‘right to know’ what is in their foods.

The GMO Labeling vote in Oregon and Colorado on November 4th will be instrumental in raising the standards for a healthy future in the U.S., for consumers, for farmers, and for the soil itself. The late President Dwight D. Eisenhower once stated, “The nation that destroys its soil, destroys itself.” The soil, the seed, and the harvest are all at stake in this effort to label GMOs.

Jane Ayers, director of Jane Ayers Media, is an independent journalist (stringer) with USA Today and Los Angeles Times, and has been published in The Nation and SF Chronicle. She is a regular contributor to Reader Supported News. She can be reached at JaneAyersMedia@gmail.com.

© 2014 Reader Supported News

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Hidden Story of How America and Britain Overthrew the Government of Their 'Ally' Australia

Published on Alternet (http://www.alternet.org)

AlterNet [1] / By John Pilger [2]

The Hidden Story of How America and Britain Overthrew the Government of Their 'Ally' Australia

October 23, 2014 |

Across the political and media elite in Australia, a silence has descended on the memory of the great, reforming prime minister Gough Whitlam, who has died. His achievements are recognised, if grudgingly, his mistakes noted in false sorrow. But a critical reason for his extraordinary political demise will, they hope, be buried with him.

Australia briefly became an independent state during the Whitlam years, 1972-75. An American commentator wrote that no country had “reversed its posture in international affairs so totally without going through a domestic revolution”. Whitlam ended his nation’s colonial servility. He abolished Royal patronage, moved Australia towards the Non-Aligned Movement, supported “zones of peace” and opposed nuclear weapons testing.

Although not regarded as on the left of the Labor Party, Whitlam was a maverick social democrat of principle, pride and propriety. He believed that a foreign power should not control his country’s resources and dictate its economic and foreign policies. He proposed to “buy back the farm”. In drafting the first Aboriginal lands rights legislation, his government raised the ghost of the greatest land grab in human history, Britain’s colonisation of Australia, and the question of who owned the island-continent’s vast natural wealth.

Latin Americans will recognise the audacity and danger of this “breaking free” in a country whose establishment was welded to great, external power. Australians had served every British imperial adventure since the Boxer rebellion was crushed in China. In the 1960s, Australia pleaded to join the US in its invasion of Vietnam, then provided “black teams” to be run by the CIA. US diplomatic cables published last year by WikiLeaks disclose the names of leading figures in both main parties, including a future prime minister and foreign minister, as Washington’s informants during the Whitlam years.

Whitlam knew the risk he was taking. The day after his election, he ordered that his staff should not be “vetted or harassed” by the Australian security organisation, ASIO – then, as now, tied to Anglo-American intelligence.

When his ministers publicly condemned the US bombing of Vietnam as “corrupt and barbaric”, a CIA station officer in Saigon said: “We were told the Australians might as well be regarded as North Vietnamese collaborators.”

Whitlam demanded to know if and why the CIA was running a spy base at Pine Gap near Alice Springs, a giant vacuum cleaner which, as Edward Snowden revealed recently, allows the US to spy on everyone. “Try to screw us or bounce us,” the prime minister warned the US ambassador, “[and Pine Gap] will become a matter of contention”.
Victor Marchetti, the CIA officer who had helped set up Pine Gap, later told me, “This threat to close Pine Gap caused apoplexy in the White House. … a kind of Chile [coup] was set in motion.”

Pine Gap’s top-secret messages were de-coded by a CIA contractor, TRW. One of the de-coders was Christopher Boyce, a young man troubled by the “deception and betrayal of an ally”. Boyce revealed that the CIA had infiltrated the Australian political and trade union elite and referred to the Governor-General of Australia, Sir John Kerr, as “our man Kerr”.

Kerr was not only the Queen’s man, he had long-standing ties to Anglo-American intelligence. He was an enthusiastic member of the Australian Association for Cultural Freedom, described by Jonathan Kwitny of theWall Street Journal in his book, ‘The Crimes of Patriots [3]‘, as, “an elite, invitation-only group… exposed in Congress as being founded, funded and generally run by the CIA”. The CIA “paid for Kerr’s travel, built his prestige… Kerr continued to go to the CIA for money”.

When Whitlam was re-elected for a second term, in 1974, the White House sent Marshall Green to Canberra as ambassador. Green was an imperious, sinister figure who worked in the shadows of America’s “deep state”. Known as the “coupmaster”, he had played a central role in the 1965 coup against President Sukarno in Indonesia – which cost up to a million lives. One of his first speeches in Australia was to the Australian Institute of Directors – described by an alarmed member of the audience as “an incitement to the country’s business leaders to rise against the government”.

The Americans and British worked together. In 1975, Whitlam discovered that Britain’s MI6 was operating against his government. “The Brits were actually de-coding secret messages coming into my foreign affairs office,” he said later. One of his ministers, Clyde Cameron, told me, “We knew MI6 was bugging Cabinet meetings for the Americans.” In the 1980s, senior CIA officers revealed that the “Whitlam problem” had been discussed “with urgency” by the CIA’s director, William Colby, and the head of MI6, Sir Maurice Oldfield. A deputy director of the CIA said: “Kerr did what he was told to do.”

On 10 November, 1975, Whitlam was shown a top secret telex message sourced to Theodore Shackley, the notorious head of the CIA’s East Asia Division, who had helped run the coup against Salvador Allende in Chile two years earlier.

Shackley’s message was read to Whitlam. It said that the prime minister of Australia was a security risk in his own country. The day before, Kerr had visited the headquarters of the Defence Signals Directorate, Australia’s NSA where he was briefed on the “security crisis”.

On 11 November – the day Whitlam was to inform Parliament about the secret CIA presence in Australia – he was summoned by Kerr. Invoking archaic vice-regal “reserve powers”, Kerr sacked the democratically elected prime minister. The “Whitlam problem” was solved, and Australian politics never recovered, nor the nation its true independence. [4]

Source URL: http://www.alternet.org/world/hidden-story-how-america-and-britain-overthrew-government-their-ally-australia

Links:

[1] http://alternet.org
[2] http://www.alternet.org/authors/john-pilger
[3] http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0393336654/counterpunchmaga
[4] mailto:corrections@alternet.org?Subject=Typo on The Hidden Story of How America and Britain Overthrew the Government of Their 'Ally' Australia

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

The Movie That Completely Exposes the Myth of the 'Free Press'

Published on Alternet (http://www.alternet.org)

Truthdig [1] / By Chris Hedges [2]

The Movie That Completely Exposes the Myth of the 'Free Press'
October 27, 2014 |

There is more truth about American journalism in the film “Kill the Messenger,” which chronicles the mainstream media’s discrediting of the work of the investigative journalist Gary Webb, than there is in the movie “All the President’s Men,” which celebrates the exploits of the reporters who uncovered the Watergate scandal.

The mass media blindly support the ideology of corporate capitalism. They laud and promote the myth of American democracy—even as we are stripped of civil liberties and money replaces the vote. They pay deference to the leaders on Wall Street and in Washington, no matter how perfidious their crimes. They slavishly venerate the military and law enforcement in the name of patriotism. They select the specialists and experts, almost always drawn from the centers of power, to interpret reality and explain policy. They usually rely on press releases, written by corporations, for their news. And they fill most of their news holes with celebrity gossip, lifestyle stories, sports and trivia. The role of the mass media is to entertain or to parrot official propaganda to the masses. The corporations, which own the press, hire journalists willing to be courtiers to the elites, and they promote them as celebrities. These journalistic courtiers, who can earn millions of dollars, are invited into the inner circles of power. They are, as John Ralston Saul [3] writes, hedonists of power.

When Webb, writing in a 1996 series [4] in the San Jose Mercury News, exposed the Central Intelligence Agency’s complicity in smuggling tons of cocaine for sale into the United States to fund the CIA-backed Contra rebels in Nicaragua, the press turned him into a journalistic leper. And over the generations there is a long list of journalistic lepers, from Ida B. Wells to I.F. Stone to Julian Assange.

The attacks against Webb have been renewed in publications such as The Washington Post since the release of the film earlier this month. These attacks are an act of self-justification. They are an attempt by the mass media to mask the collaboration between themselves and the power elite. The mass media, like the rest of the liberal establishment, seek to wrap themselves in the moral veneer of the fearless pursuit of truth and justice. But to maintain this myth they have to destroy the credibility of journalists such as Webb and Assange who shine a light on the sinister and murderous inner workings of empire, who care more about truth than news.

The country’s major news outlets—including my old employer The New York Times, which wrote that there was “scant proof” of Webb’s contention—functioned as guard dogs for the CIA. Soon after the 1996 exposé appeared, The Washington Post devoted nearly two full pages to attacking Webb’s assertions. The Los Angeles Times ran three separate articles that slammed Webb and his story. It was a seedy, disgusting and shameful chapter in American journalism. But it was hardly unique. Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair, in the 2004 article [5] “How the Press and the CIA Killed Gary Webb’s Career,” detailed the dynamics of the nationwide smear campaign.

Webb’s newspaper, after printing a mea culpa about the series, cast him out. He was unable to work again as an investigative journalist and, fearful of losing his house, he committed suicide in 2004. We know, in part because of a Senate investigation led by then-Sen. John Kerry, that Webb was right. But truth was never the issue for those who opposed the journalist. Webb exposed the CIA as a bunch of gunrunning, drug-smuggling thugs. He exposed the mass media, which depend on official sources for most of their news and are therefore hostage to those sources, as craven handmaidens of power. He had crossed the line. And he paid for it.

If the CIA was funneling hundreds of millions of dollars in drugs into inner-city neighborhoods to fund an illegal war in Nicaragua, what did that say about the legitimacy of the vast covert organization? What did it tell us about the so-called war on drugs? What did it tell us about the government’s callousness and indifference to the poor, especially poor people of color at the height of the crack epidemic? What did it say about rogue military operations carried out beyond public scrutiny?

These were questions the power elites, and their courtiers in the press, were determined to silence.
The mass media are plagued by the same mediocrity, corporatism and careerism as the academy, labor unions, the arts, the Democratic Party and religious institutions. They cling to the self-serving mantra of impartiality and objectivity to justify their subservience to power. The press writes and speaks—unlike academics that chatter among themselves in arcane jargon like medieval theologians—to be heard and understood by the public. And for this reason the press is more powerful and more closely controlled by the state. It plays an essential role in the dissemination of official propaganda. But to effectively disseminate state propaganda the press must maintain the fiction of independence and integrity. It must hide its true intentions.

The mass media, as C. Wright Mills [6] pointed out, are essential tools for conformity. They impart to readers and viewers their sense of themselves. They tell them who they are. They tell them what their aspirations should be. They promise to help them achieve these aspirations. They offer a variety of techniques, advice and schemes that promise personal and professional success. The mass media, as Wright wrote, exist primarily to help citizens feel they are successful and that they have met their aspirations even if they have not. They use language and images to manipulate and form opinions, not to foster genuine democratic debate and conversation or to open up public space for free political action and public deliberation. We are transformed into passive spectators of power by the mass media, which decide for us what is true and what is untrue, what is legitimate and what is not. Truth is not something we discover. It is decreed by the organs of mass communication.

“The divorce of truth from discourse and action—the instrumentalization of communication—has not merely increased the incidence of propaganda; it has disrupted the very notion of truth, and therefore the sense by which we take our bearings in the world is destroyed,” James W. Carey wrote in “Communication as Culture.”

Bridging the vast gap between the idealized identities—ones that in a commodity culture revolve around the acquisition of status, money, fame and power, or at least the illusion of it—and actual identities is the primary function of the mass media. And catering to these idealized identities, largely implanted by advertisers and the corporate culture, can be very profitable. We are given not what we need but what we want. The mass media allow us to escape into the enticing world of entertainment and spectacle. News is filtered into the mix, but it is not the primary concern of the mass media. No more than 15 percent of the space in any newspaper is devoted to news; the rest is devoted to a futile quest for self-actualization. The ratio is even more lopsided on the airwaves.

“This,” Mills wrote, “is probably the basic psychological formula of the mass media today. But, as a formula, it is not attuned to the development of the human being. It is a formula of a pseudo-world which the media invent and sustain.”

At the core of this pseudo-world is the myth that our national institutions, including those of government, the military and finance, are efficient and virtuous, that we can trust them and that their intentions are good. These institutions can be criticized for excesses and abuses, but they cannot be assailed as being hostile to democracy and the common good. They cannot be exposed as criminal enterprises, at least if one hopes to retain a voice in the mass media.

Those who work in the mass media, as I did for two decades, are acutely aware of the collaboration with power and the cynical manipulation of the public by the power elites. It does not mean there is never good journalism and that the subservience to corporate power within the academy always precludes good scholarship, but the internal pressures, hidden from public view, make great journalism and great scholarship very, very difficult. Such work, especially if it is sustained, is usually a career killer. Scholars like Norman Finkelstein [7] and journalists like Webb and Assange who step outside the acceptable parameters of debate and challenge the mythic narrative of power, who question the motives and virtues of established institutions and who name the crimes of empire are always cast out.

The press will attack groups within the power elite only when one faction within the circle of power goes to war with another. When Richard Nixon, who had used illegal and clandestine methods to harass and shut down the underground press as well as persecute anti-war activists and radical black dissidents, went after the Democratic Party he became fair game for the press. His sin was not the abuse of power. He had abused power for a long time against people and groups that did not matter in the eyes of the Establishment. Nixon’s sin was to abuse power against a faction within the power elite itself.

The Watergate scandal, mythologized as evidence of a fearless and independent press, is illustrative of how circumscribed the mass media is when it comes to investigating centers of power.

“History has been kind enough to contrive for us a ‘controlled experiment’ to determine just what was at stake during the Watergate period, when the confrontational stance of the media reached its peak. The answer is clear and precise: powerful groups are capable of defending themselves, not surprisingly; and by media standards, it is a scandal when their position and rights are threatened,” Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky wrote in “Manufacturing Consent [8]: The Political Economy of the Mass Media.” “By contrast, as long as illegalities and violations of democratic substance are confined to marginal groups or dissident victims of U.S. military attack, or result in a diffused cost imposed on the general population, media opposition is muted and absent altogether.

This is why Nixon could go so far, lulled into a false sense of security precisely because the watchdog only barked when he began to threaten the privileged.”

The righteous thunder of the abolitionists and civil rights preachers, the investigative journalists who enraged Standard Oil and the owners of the Chicago stockyards, the radical theater productions, such as “The Cradle Will Rock,” that imploded the myths peddled by the ruling class and gave a voice to ordinary people, the labor unions that permitted African-Americans, immigrants and working men and women to find dignity and hope, the great public universities that offered the children of immigrants a chance for a first-class education, the New Deal Democrats who understood that a democracy is not safe if it does not give its citizens an acceptable standard of living and protect the state from being hijacked by private power, are no longer part of the American landscape. It was Webb’s misfortune to work in an era when the freedom of the press was as empty a cliché as democracy itself.

“The Cradle Will Rock,” [9] like much of the popular work that came out of the Federal Theatre Project, addressed the concerns of the working class rather than the power elite. And it excoriated the folly of war, greed, corruption and the complicity of liberal institutions, especially the press, in protecting the power elite and ignoring the abuses of capitalism. Mister Mister in the play runs the town like a private corporation.
“I believe newspapers are great mental shapers,” Mister Mister says. “My steel industry is dependent on them really.”

“Just you call the News,” Editor Daily responds. “And we’ll print all the news. From coast to coast, and from border to border.”

Editor Daily and Mister Mister sing:

O the press, the press, the freedom of the press.
They’ll never take away the freedom of the press.
We must be free to say whatever’s on our chest—
with a hey-diddle-dee and ho-nanny-no
for whichever side will pay the best.

“I should like a series on young Larry Foreman,” Mister Mister tells Editor Daily. “Who goes around stormin’ and organizin’ unions.”

“Yes, we’ve heard of him,” Editor Daily tells Mister Mister. “In fact, good word of him. He seems quite popular with workingmen.”

“Find out who he drinks with and talks with and sleeps with. And look up his past till at last you’ve got it on him.”

“But the man is so full of fight, he’s simply dynamite, why it would take an army to tame him,” Editor Daily says.

“Then it shouldn’t be too hard to tame him,” Mister Mister says.

“O the press, the press, the freedom of the press,” the two sing. “You’ve only got to hint whatever’s fit to print; if something’s wrong with it, why then we’ll print to fit. With a he-diddly-dee and aho-nonny-no. For whichever side will pay the best.”
[10]

Source URL: http://www.alternet.org/media/movie-completely-exposes-myth-free-press

Links:

[1] http://www.truthdig.com/
[2] http://www.alternet.org/authors/chris-hedges
[3] http://www.johnralstonsaul.com/biography/
[4] http://www.narconews.com/darkalliance/shock/start.htm
[5] http://www.counterpunch.org/2004/12/17/how-the-press-and-the-cia-killed-gary-webb-s-career/
[6] http://infed.org/mobi/c-wright-mills-power-craftsmanship-and-private-troubles-and-public-issues/
[7] http://normanfinkelstein.com/biography/
[8] http://www.amazon.com/Manufacturing-Consent-Political-Economy-Media/dp/0375714499/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1414270234&sr=1-1&keywords=%22Manufacturing+Consent%3A
[9] http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/cultureshock/flashpoints/theater/cradlewillrock.html
[10] mailto:corrections@alternet.org?Subject=Typo on The Movie That Completely Exposes the Myth of the 'Free Press'

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Texas Election Judge Had to Turn Away 93-Year-Old Veteran Due to Strict Voter ID Law

http://readersupportednews.org/news-section2/319-67/26647-texas-election-judge-had-to-turn-away-93-year-old-veteran-due-to-strict-voter-id-law

A 93-year-old veteran was not allowed to vote in Texas because his driver's license had expired. (photo: Dallas Morning News)

Texas Election Judge Had to Turn Away 93-Year-Old Veteran Due to Strict Voter ID Law

By Emily Atkin, ThinkProgress

29 October 14

In the six days that early voting has been underway in Texas, election judge William Parsley on Sunday said he has only seen one potential voter turned away at his polling location, the Metropolitan Multi-Services Center in downtown Houston.

“An elderly man, a veteran. Ninety-three years old,” Parsley, an election judge for the last 15 years, told ThinkProgress. “His license had expired.”

Under Texas’ new voter ID law, one of the strictest in the nation, citizens are required to present one of seven forms of photo identification to vote. The identification can be a Texas-issued driver’s license, a federally-issued veteran’s ID card, or a gun registration card, among other forms. Licenses can be expired, but not for more than 60 days.

The man Parsley said he had to turn away was a registered voter, but his license had been expired for a few years, likely because he had stopped driving. Parsley said the man had never gotten a veteran’s identification card. And though he had “all sorts” of other identification cards with his picture on it, they weren’t valid under the law — so the election judges told him he had to go to the Department of Public Safety, and renew his license.

“He just felt real bad, you know, because he’s voted all his life,” Parsley said.

As of Sunday evening, almost 137,000 Harris County voters had cast early in-person ballots. Those ballots were cast just days after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the state’s controversial voter ID law, crafted to prevent in-person voter fraud, could be implemented for the election.

That ruling also came with a fiery dissent from Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who said voter fraud was not a real problem in Texas and that the law seemed “purposefully discriminatory,” making voting harder for low-income, minority, and elderly populations. Indeed, as Ginsburg wrote, “there were only two in-person voter fraud cases prosecuted to conviction in Texas” from 2002 until 2011, while at the same time it’s been estimated that the law could disenfranchise approximately 600,000 mostly black and Latino voters.
With the voting process in such early stages, it’s hard to say how many people will be affected this time around. But poll monitors in Houston say they’ve already encountered problems with some registered voters not being allowed to cast their ballots.

“We had a voter show up with her Mississippi ID, and it’s a valid ID with a picture and name,” said Marianela Acuña Arreaza, the Texas coordinator for VoteRiders, a non-profit that helps people obtain their voter ID so they can vote. “Her name matched her voter registration, but it’s not one of the IDs that the law requires.”
“She was offered a provisional ballot, but she refused,” Acuña Arreaza continued. “She came out and told the poll monitors.”

In partnership with Common Cause, another non-profit that lobbies for voting rights, Acuña Arreaza is organizing and dispatching poll monitors in Houston who seek to help people who are turned away at the polls. From the time early voting started in Houston, Acuña Arreaza said she’s seen about 10 cases of registered voters not being allowed to vote — a number that was less than she expected, but “still too many.”

Acuña Arreaza and Parsely are both hopeful that the voters turned away for early voting will be able to get some form of acceptable ID by Election Day. But one thing that worries Acuña Arreaza is that the process of getting turned away can sometimes be so embarrassing that people get dejected — they don’t want to come back, and they don’t want to tell anyone what happened.

“We try to encourage people to come back, but what we’re worried about is that we may just lose that ballot as a whole,” she said. “A lot of people are ashamed of being rejected, and they just don’t want to talk about it. We have so many cases, but not everyone wants to come out and speak about it.”
Parsley, however, said the process of some people getting rejected at the ballot always happens in Texas, mostly because of how often state the voting laws are amended and changed. So far, he said, the amount of rejections haven’t been more than normal.

“At this location [in Downtown Houston], the people rejected are a drop in the bucket. Maybe a tenth of a percent,” he said. “If we were near an old folk’s home, maybe that’d be a different story.”

© 2014 Reader Supported News

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Baltimore Activist Alert October 29 - 31, 2014

37] "Preventing Nuclear Terrorism Globally: Results and Remaining Challenges" – Oct. 29
38] Get Green – Oct. 29
39] Morality of nuclear weapons – Oct. 29
40] Reed Broody at AU – Oct. 29
41] Colombia’s LGBTI community – Oct. 29
42] Zimbabwe Human Rights – Oct. 29
43] Webinar on Carbon Pollution – Oct. 29
44] Webinar: Faith Perspectives on Pentagon Spending – Oct. 29
45] Racism and the U.S. Immigration Enforcement System – Oct. 29
46] Film “Koch Bros. Exposed” – Oct. 29
47] "Love Like the Prophet" – Oct. 29
48] National Day of Remembrance for Nuclear Weapons Program Workers – Oct. 30
49] Labor trafficking abuses – Oct. 30
50] Protest on behalf of Mexican students – Oct. 30
51] "A Nuclear Deal with Iran? – Oct. 30
52] Turkish foreign policy – Oct. 30
53] The 9/11 Unity Walk dinner – Oct. 30
54] Mario Cardozo, Colombian Conscientious Objector – Oct. 30
55] The genocide case in a holding pattern – Oct. 31
--
37] – On Wed., Oct. 29 from 9 to 11 AM at the Foreign Policy Initiative, the topic of conversation will be "Preventing Nuclear Terrorism Globally: Results and Remaining Challenges" with five speakers at SAIS, 1717 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Room 500, WDC. Register at http://www.eventbrite.com/e/preventing-nuclear-terrorism-globally-tickets-13734994739.

38] – On Wed., Oct. 29 from 9 AM to 9 PM at Ebenezers Coffeehouse, 201 F St. NE, WDC, move your congregation forward this fall! Whether you’ve just started taking leadership at your congregation or you’re well into a decade of hard work, Interfaith Power & Light-DMV wants to help with whatever project you’re implementing or whatever problem you’re facing. With years of experience helping green leaders work with their congregations, Joelle sets aside time each month to meet with green leaders and provide dedicated 1-on-1 support. Book a time to talk with Joelle Novey by phone or in person now! Email Maria Langholz at maria@gwipl.org.

39] – On Wed., Oct. 29 from 9:30 to 11:30 AM, John Steinbruner, University of Maryland, Richard Pates, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Stephen Colecchi, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, are taking on "U.S.-Iranian Religious Leaders’ Dialogue: The Relevance of Moral Questions Related to Nuclear Weapons." The panel is sponsored by Arms Control Association and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and takes place at the Carnegie Endowment, Choate Room, 1779 Massachusetts Ave. NW, WDC. RSVP at https://events.r20.constantcontact.com/register/eventReg?oeidk=a07e9yg15ax47b9.

40] – In the McDowell Formal Lounge, American University Center, WDC, on Wed., Oct. 29 at noon, Reed Brody, Counsel and Spokesperson for Human Rights Watch, will speak. His work as lead counsel for the victims in the case of the exiled former dictator of Chad, Hissène Habré – who faces trial in Senegal – and in the cases of Augusto Pinochet and Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier has been featured in four films, including “The Dictator Hunter.” He is author of four Human Rights Watch reports on U.S. treatment of prisoners in the “war on terror” and the book “Faut-il Juger George Bush?” Visit http://www.wcl.american.edu/faculty/brody/. RSVP at LibEvents@american.edu or call 202-885-3847.

41] – Get over to Global Rights, 1200 18th St. NW, Suite 602, WDC, on Wed., Oct. 29 from noon to 1:30 PM, hear the discussion, “The Greater the Visibility, the Greater the Risk,” with Caribe Afirmativo. The 50-year-old Colombian conflict has had a disproportionately negative effect on the country’s minority groups, including Colombia’s LGBTI community. Almost since the conflict erupted in the mid-1960s, LGBTI people have been subject to violence, mass displacement and other forms of persecution. Caribe Afirmativo, an influential LGBTI-rights organization based in Cartagena, has issued a new report that details the continued state- and non-state-sponsored violence against LGBTI people and the impunity with which perpetrators operate. Go to https://www.facebook.com/events/845965215434820/?ref=6&ref_notif_type=plan_user_invited.

42] – At the Kay Spiritual Life Center, American University, 4400 Massachusetts Ave. NW, WDC, on Wed., Oct. 29 at noon, Arthur Gwagwa, a human rights attorney who heads the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, based in London, will speak. In the nineties, he was among the first lawyers to offer pro bono representation to victims of rights violations through the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights network. In 2002, Arthur fled to the United Kingdom, into exile, when his work of representing the politically persecuted and excluded during elections and the dispossessed commercial farmers during the land invasions brought him to the adverse attention of the authorities. Email kslc@american.edu. The event is sponsored by the National Endowment for Democracy and the University Chaplain at the American University.

43] – On Wed., Oct. 29 at 1 PM EST, people around the world are coming together in a digital day of action to remember these super storms, discuss the impacts of carbon pollution on our weather, and demand solutions to climate change. As part of this day of action, The Climate Reality Project is hosting a free informational webinar Carbon Pollution, Our Changing Climate, and What You Can Do to highlight the connection between dirty energy from fossil fuels and the extreme weather devastating our cities. You will be informed how you can speak out against carbon pollution that gives this “weather on steroids” its strength. Register at https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/674988378.

44] – On Wed., Oct. 29 from 3 to 4 PM, there is a webinar: Faith Perspectives on Pentagon Spending. The Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL, the Quakers) will host this event. Join policy experts from national faith advocacy organizations in a discussion about U.S. Pentagon spending and federal budget priorities. As members of the faith community, FCNL’s engagement with policy is rooted in spiritual conviction. In seeking a world that is free from war and the threat of war, its true costs must be examined. Register at https://pbucc.webex.com/mw0401l/mywebex/default.do?service=1&siteurl=pbucc&nomenu=true&main_url=%2Fmc0901l%2Fe.do%3Fsiteurl%3Dpbucc%26AT%3DMI%26EventID%3D170007792%26UID%3D1332013%26Host%3D50303f5c7a2a3f3f0a750f27282511705e5a0b1e1e5d4153%26FrameSet%3D2.

45] – Elizabeth Vaquera, University of South Florida, will speak about Living in Fear: Latino/a Undocumented Young Adults' Experiences with Racism and the U.S. Immigration Enforcement System on Wed., Oct. 29 at 4 PM in Mergenthaler 266 on JHU’s Homewood Campus. Mergenthaler is on the north side of the upper quadrangle, between the library and Gilman Hall (the building with the clock tower). It is sponsored by the JHU Program in Latin American Studies (PLAS). Email .

46] – See the film “Koch Bros. Exposed” on Wed., Oct. 29 at 5:45 PM at the Roland Park Library, 5108 Roland Park Ave., Baltimore 21210. RSVP at rdbtenor@gmail.

47] – At Busboys & Poets, 1025 5th St. NW, WDC, on Wed., Oct. 29 from 6 to 8 PM, enjoy the "Love Like the Prophet" Dinner + Discussion presented by Karamah: Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights. This is a pay-for-your-own dinner, discussion and celebration of the Prophet's (PBUH) traditions of love and harmonious families. A scholarly perspective of the prophetic model of relationships in Islam will be provided, focusing on ways to discuss problems, take action, and resolve conflicts. Also to be discussed will be the available social services in the Washington, DC area. See http://busboysandpoets.com/events/event/dinner-discussion-presented-by-karamah-muslim-women-lawyers-for-human-right.

48] – October 30 is National Day of Remembrance for Nuclear Weapons Program Workers.

49] – A new report from the Urban Institute and Northeastern University documents labor trafficking abuses occurring in major US industries: agriculture, domestic work, hotels, restaurants, and construction. The report finds that loopholes in labor and immigration laws and gaps in local and federal law enforcement are part of the problem. Join the Urban Institute and its panel of experts on Thurs., Oct. 30 from 9:30 to 11 AM at 2100 M St. NW, 5th floor, WDC, to discuss labor trafficking in America and next steps for policy and practice. Breakfast is served at 9 AM. Go to https://www.eventbrite.com/e/hidden-in-plain-sight-labor-trafficking-in-america-registration-13851192289.

50] – At the Inter-American Commission, 1889 F St. NW, WDC, on Thurs., Oct. 30 at 11 AM, JOIN Mexican demonstrators once again to make your presence felt this to send a message to the Mexican government, which will have a series of hearings at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. They will be there just 30 minutes before heading into the hearings, so arrive right at 11 AM.

Mexican demonstrators continue to demand the government immediately locate the 43 students from the Ayotzinapa teaching school in Guerrero, Mexico. The students disappeared after police ambushed a caravan of students heading to a march. A total of six persons were killed immediately, and one was with visible signs of torture. The investigations (a result of massive public pressure) have unearthed nearly a dozen mass graves nearby and a deep level of collusion between the government and drug cartels. Visit https://www.facebook.com/events/831660410187305/?ref=6&ref_notif_type=plan_user_invited.

51] – On Thurs., Oct. 30 from 2 PM until 3 PM, David Albright, Institute for Science and International Security, and George Perkovich, Carnegie Endowment, take on "A Nuclear Deal with Iran? Weighing the Possibilities “at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), 1150 17th St. NW, 12th Floor, WDC. RSVP at http://www.aei.org/events/nuclear-deal-iran-weighing-possibilities/.

52] – On Thurs., Oct. 30 at 2:30 PM, the Center for Turkish Studies at The Middle East Institute is pleased to present Dr. Özgür Özdamar (Bilkent University) at The Middle East Institute, 1761 N St. NW, WDC, for a discussion about the current direction of Turkish foreign policy and competing visions of Turkey's role in the region going forward. In recent years, Turkey has sought to be a regional power, serving as "the bridge between east and west" and acting as a regional mediator. Look at http://www.mei.edu/events/turkeys-foreign-policy-aspiring-regional-powers-quest-status.

53] – The 9/11 Unity Walk brings together people of all ages, backgrounds and faiths to learn to respect each other through a framework of experiential education, compassionate leadership and intentional service. Unity Walk seeks to create a world where everyone is united, rather than divided, by many faiths. Whether you're a first time walker or a long time volunteer, on Thurs., Oct. 30 from 7 PM at 2815 36th St. NW (at Garfield), WDC, join Unity Walk as they meet face-to-face, share a meal and walk stories. This is also a time to thank the volunteers and community groups that made the Unity Walk possible. RSVP to rychliks@gmail.com.

54] – On Thurs., Oct. 30 from 7 to 9 PM, the Center on Conscience & War, the Peace Tax Foundation, and FOR Peace Presence invite you to a talk and performance with Mario Cardozo, Colombian Conscientious Objector and winner of the 2014 Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Award, at the Friends Meeting of Washington, 2111 Florida Ave. NW, WDC.

Cardozo declared himself as a Conscience Objector at the age of 18 and in June 2014. After completing political science and law degrees, he became the first Conscientious Objector recognized in Colombia for non-religious reasons. Together with Acción Colectiva des Objetores y Objetoras de Concernía (ACOOC), he was awarded the Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Award 2014 for promoting “the right to be a conscientious objector in one of the most militarized countries in the world, while generating life-affirming, creative, nonviolent collective actions to promote peace and social justice.” You can check out this video by Mario about his work and the tour through the US this fall: Go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tgDWqxEMDHM. Call 202-483-2220.

55] – On May 10, 2013, the ex-dictator of Guatemala José Efraín Ríos Montt was sentenced to 80 years in prison for genocide and crimes against humanity for his role in the extrajudicial execution of 1,771 indigenous Ixil Mayans between 1982 and 1983. Just ten days later, the Constitutional Court, under pressure from business and military sectors, overturned part of the proceedings, thereby nullifying the verdict. Since then the genocide case has been in a holding pattern. The tribunal now in charge of the case announced last year that it would reopen the case in January 2015. The world will be watching as Guatemala struggles to pursue accountability for the crimes of the past.

At the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2nd floor, Room B and C, 1779 Massachusetts Ave. NW, WDC, on Fri., Oct. 31 from 9:30 AM to noon, members of Guatemalan civil society and former Attorney General of Guatemala Claudia Paz y Paz will speak. She created space in the Public Prosecutor’s Office for victims of Guatemala’s armed conflict to access truth and justice after more than three decades. The speakers will discuss the legal status of the genocide proceedings, the political environment and how it influences the legal situation, the effects of the stalled proceedings on the victims, and the status of the petition filed by the victims before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. RSVP to Ashley Davis at +1 (202) 797-2171 or adavis@wola.org. The event will be held in Spanish.

To be continued.

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/. "The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles.

The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The FBI Has Identified Suspected 'Second National Security Leaker'

http://readersupportednews.org/news-section2/318-66/26634-the-fbi-has-identified-suspected-second-national-security-leaker

Has the FBI found a second Edward Snowden? (photo: Citizenfour)

The FBI Has Identified Suspected 'Second National Security Leaker'

By Michael Isikoff, Yahoo! News
28 October 14

The FBI recently searched a government contractor's home, but some officials worry the Justice Department has lost its 'appetite' for leak cases

The FBI has identified an employee of a federal contracting firm suspected of being the so-called "second leaker" who turned over sensitive documents about the U.S. government's terrorist watch list to a journalist closely associated with ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden, according to law enforcement and intelligence sources who have been briefed on the case.

The FBI recently executed a search of the suspect's home, and federal prosecutors in Northern Virginia have opened up a criminal investigation into the matter, the sources said.

But the case has also generated concerns among some within the U.S. intelligence community that top Justice Department officials — stung by criticism that they have been overzealous in pursuing leak cases — may now be more reluctant to bring criminal charges involving unauthorized disclosures to the news media, the sources said. One source, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter, said there was concern "there is no longer an appetite at Justice for these cases."

Marc Raimondi, a spokesman for the Justice Department, declined to comment on the investigation into the watch-list leak, citing department rules involving pending cases.

As for the department's overall commitment to pursue leak cases, he added: "We're certainly going to follow the evidence wherever it leads us and take appropriate action."

Another source familiar with the case said: "Investigators are continuing to pursue it, but are not ready to charge yet."

The case in question involves an Aug. 5 story published by The Intercept, an investigative website co-founded by Glenn Greenwald, the reporter who first published sensitive NSA documents obtained from Snowden.

Headlined "Barack Obama's Secret Terrorist-Tracking System, by the Numbers," the story cited a classified government document showing that nearly half the people on the U.S. government's master terrorist screening database had "no recognized terrorist affiliation."

The story, co-authored by Jeremy Scahill and Ryan Devereaux, was accompanied by a document "obtained from a source in the intelligence community" providing details about the watch-listing system that were dated as late as August 2013, months after Snowden fled to Hong Kong and revealed himself as the leaker of thousands of top secret documents from the NSA.
This prompted immediate speculation that there was a "second leaker" inside the U.S. intelligence community providing material to Greenwald and his associates.
That point is highlighted in the last scene of the new documentary about Snowden released this weekend, called "Citizenfour," directed by filmmaker Laura Poitras, a co-founder with Greenwald and Scahill of The Intercept.

Greenwald tells a visibly excited Snowden about a new source inside the U.S. intelligence communitywho is leaking documents. Greenwald then scribbles notes to Snowden about some of the details, including one briefly seen about the U.S. drone program and another containing a reference to the number of Americans on the watch list.
"The person is incredibly bold," Snowden says. Replies Greenwald: "It was motivated by what you did."
In an interview on the radio show "Democracy Now,"

Scahill, who also briefly appears in "Citizenfour," says the new source described in the film provided him with a document that "outlines the rulebook for placing people on a variety of watch lists." The source is "an extremely principled and brave whistleblower" who made his disclosures "at great personal risk," Scahill says in the interview.

Contacted Monday, Scahill declined any comment about his source, but said neither he nor The Intercept had been notified by federal officials about the investigation. He added, however, that he is not surprised to learn of the probe: "The Obama administration in my view is conducting a war against whistleblowers and ultimately against independent journalism."

John Cook, editor of The Intercept, said the website's stories had revealed "crucial information" about the excesses of the U.S. watch-listing system. "Any attempt to criminalize the public release of those stories benefits only those who exercise virtually limitless power in secret with no accountability," he told Yahoo News.

Sources familiar with the investigation say the disclosures prompted the National Counterterrorism Center to file a "crimes report" with the Justice Department — an official notification that classified material has been compromised and a violation of federal law may have taken place.

The documents in question disclose multiple details about how federal intelligence agencies provide entries and track suspects on the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment, or TIDE — a master database with over 1 million names that provides the basis for watch-listing individuals and placing them on "no fly" lists when there are sufficient links to terrorism.

The FBI recently searched a government contractor's home, but some officials worry the Justice Department has lost its 'appetite' for leak cases

One document is stamped as "Secret" and "NOFORN," meaning it cannot be shared with foreign governments. These, however, are far less sensitive than some of the NSA materials leaked by Snowden.

During Obama's first five years as president, the Justice Department and the U.S. military broughtseven criminal prosecutions for national security leaks — more than twice as many as all previous presidents put together.

But the Obama administration's aggressive anti-leak efforts triggered a firestorm of criticism last year after disclosures that, in pursuing these cases, prosecutors had secretly subpoenaed phone records from the Associated Press and filed a search warrant identifying a Fox News reporter as a potential "co-conspirator" under the Espionage Act for his efforts to coax information from a confidential source.
Since September of last year, when a former FBI agent pleaded guilty to disclosing details about an al-Qaida bomb plot to the AP, the Justice Department has brought no further leak cases. Attorney General Eric Holder — who sources say was personally stung by the criticism — has also unveiled new "guidelines" that restrict how the Justice Department would seek information from the news media in leak cases.

Holder, who recently announced his plans to step down, also appeared to signal that he was eager to avoid further confrontations with the press when he was asked whether he would seek to incarcerate New York Times reporter James Risen if he refused to testify in an upcoming trial of a former CIA officer accused of leaking him information about a covert effort to disrupt Iran's nuclear program. Risen has vowed he will never testify about a confidential source.

"As long as I am attorney general, no reporter who is doing his job will go to jail," Holder said at a meeting with news media representatives when asked about the Risen case.

But Steve Aftergood, who closely tracks government secrecy efforts, said, "It's an open question at this point whether the administration will indict any other leakers or pursue other prosecutions."

He noted that, despite Holder's comments, Justice Department prosecutors had yet to formally inform a federal judge whether they will call Risen at the trial of the former CIA officer — a move that could result in a direct confrontation with the reporter if he is asked to identify his source.

"These leaks are taken extremely seriously," he said. If prosecutors have sufficient evidence against the suspected new leaker, "I don't think they will let it slide."

© 2014 Reader Supported News

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs