Sunday, May 29, 2016

Silencing America as It Prepares for War

From:  Counter Punch

by John Pilger

shutterstock_324859283 (3)

Returning to the United States in an election year, I am struck by the silence. I have covered four presidential campaigns, starting with 1968; I was with Robert Kennedy when he was shot and I saw his assassin, preparing to kill him. It was a baptism in the American way, along with the salivating violence of the Chicago police at the Democratic Party's rigged convention.  The great counter revolution had begun.

The first to be assassinated that year, Martin Luther King, had dared link the suffering of African-Americans and the people of Vietnam. When Janis Joplin sang, "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose", she spoke perhaps unconsciously for millions of America's victims in faraway places.

"We lost 58,000 young soldiers in Vietnam, and they died defending your freedom. Now don't you forget it."  So said a National Parks Service guide as I filmed last week at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. He was addressing a school party of young teenagers in bright orange T-shirts. As if by rote, he inverted the truth about Vietnam into an unchallenged lie.  MORE

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Daily Kos Issues Call For Unity Among Democrats By Banning Talk Of Third Party Candidates

From:  MintPress News 
According to the site’s founder, users are still free to criticize Hillary Clinton, but not to link to right-wing news sources and may not mention their support for Jill Stein or other third-party candidates. 
Blogger with a Kos. The Daily Kos' Markos Moulitsas Zuniga.
 Blogger with a Kos. The Daily Kos’ Markos Moulitsas Zuniga.

MINNEAPOLIS — In yet another sign of the divisive nature of the 2016 race to the White House, in which both parties are struggling to unite behind their presumptive nominees, a popular liberal website wants to cut down on attacks on Hillary Clinton by Bernie Sanders supporters.

Markos Moulitsas, the founder and editor-in-chief of the Daily Kos, a liberal blogging site which supports the Democratic Party, told the site’s users in March that the site would soon be transitioning to “General Election footing.” 

According to his blog post, this meant bloggers would be banned from making “attacks on Hillary Clinton using right-wing tropes of sources.”MORE

Friday, May 27, 2016

Cell Phone Radiation Boosts Cancer Rates in Animals; $25 Million NTP Study Finds Brain Tumors

U.S. Government Expected To Advise Public of Health Risk

The U.S. National Toxicology Program (NTP) is expected to issue a public announcement that cell phone radiation presents a cancer risk for humans. The move comes soon after its recently completed study showed statistically significant increases in cancer among rats that had been exposed to GSM or CDMA signals for two-years.

Discussions are currently underway among federal agencies on how to inform the public about the new findings. NTP senior managers believe that these results should be released as soon as possible because just about everyone is exposed to wireless radiation all the time and therefore everyone is potentially at risk.

The new results contradict the conventional wisdom, advanced by doctors, biologists, physicists, epidemiologists, engineers, journalists and government officials, among other pundits, that such effects are impossible. This view is based, in part, on the lack of an established mechanism for RF radiation from cell phones to induce cancer. For instance, earlier this week (May 22), a medical doctor in Michigan wrote an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal stating that, “There is no known mechanism by which mobile phones might cause brain tumors.” He went on to argue that there is no need to warn the public about health risks. MORE


Chevron CEO says global warming could be good for business

Published: May 24, 2016 7:50 p.m. ET

BySarah Kent

John Watson says greenhouse-gas pacts futile, shift to natural gas may benefit company

John Watson, chairman and chief executive officer of Chevron Corp., speaks in Perth, Australia, in April.

SAN RAMON, Calif. — Chevron Corp. Chief Executive John Watson has a blunt message for investors, climate activists and anyone else listening: Fossil fuels aren’t going away.

But this stance increasingly sets him apart from his oil counterparts as they react to pressure from climate-change activists and concerned shareholders.

On Wednesday, Chevron CHV, +1.45%  , like Exxon Mobil Corp. XOM, +0.13%  , is facing a shareholder-proposal campaign by activists who want the company to detail the risk climate change poses to its business. Exxon is opposed to the proposal, and so is Watson: He questions its entire premise, arguing that climate change might even prove positive for Chevron, if it spurs more of the planet to shift from coal to natural gas.  MORE

Exxon: An inconvenient truth

From:  BBC

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Students With Nowhere to Stay: Homelessness on College Campuses

From:  Truth-Out

Thursday, 26 May 2016 00:00  
By Eleanor J. Bader, Truthout | Report  

When the College Cost Reduction and Access Act took effect in 2009, neither lawmakers nor school administrators had any idea how many college students would check the box on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) -- the document that determines eligibility for Pell grants, subsidized loans and work-study awards that help students pay for college or vocational training -- to indicate that they were homeless.

At last tabulation, the number was 58,000, a small percentage of the 20.2 million students presently enrolled in both undergraduate and graduate study. Nonetheless, school counselors and advocates believe the number is starkly inaccurate and represents a mere fraction of university students who actually lack a permanent home.

Shirley Fan-Chan, director of U-ACCESS at the University of Massachusetts Boston, provides on-campus support to students who are experiencing food insecurity and homelessness. "Most students think of homelessness as being on the street, sleeping in doorways, and for the most part, college students don't do this," she told Truthout. "They hide out. They may stay in one place for a few days or a week, then move somewhere else, bouncing from friend to friend with no fixed place to stay. But they think to themselves, 'Well, this is college. As long as I have a roof over my head, I'm okay.'"  MORE

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Independent Political Report Poll for the Libertarian Nomination

From:  IPR

Independent Political Report 

IPR’s Second 2016 Libertarian Party Presidential Preference Poll Detailed Results


2016 candidates
Detailed statistics have been requested for IPR’s Second 2016 Libertarian Party Presidential Preference Poll, particularly, state-by-state results and ranked choice results for the National Convention delegates.  Both of these are provided below. Additionally, upon request, other statistics may be added.

Overall state-by-state results


DANS SHEETS - 6.28.2015 - What we published on June 28, 2015

Refugio Spill – Day One

Turn back the clock slightly more than one month -

May 19, 2015

There is a break in a pipe belonging to Plains All American Pipeline, headquartered in Houston Texas. Plains owns ten miles of pipeline in the Refugio area, the rest of which is owned by Exxon Mobil.

Plains employees are parked in the Refugio Camp Ground about to begin a drill with the Santa Barbara County Fire Department at 11:42am when a camper calls attention to the terrible smell coming from a broken pipe spewing crude oil into a culvert leading to the beach.

County Fire Fighters proceed to the location, attempting to keep the oil from entering the culvert but most of it, up to 100,000 gallons, escapes into the Pacific across the beach. DC, beginning at 17:56, ending at 18:03 Eastern Standard Time. California this was 2:56 in the afternoon Pacific Standard Time. (See attachment - USCG REFUGIO SPILL INITIAL INCIDENT REPORT, NATIONAL RESPONSE CENTER.)

Below are Models and graphs showing the areas which were hit by the gaseous content from the spill, all of which was emitted within the first hour and before any monitoring took place.

Modeling – Hydrogen Sulfide

Within that hour the crude oil in the pipe is no longer flowing. The gaseous contents, including high concentrations of Benzene, a carcinogen, and Hydrogen Sulfide, a poison, have dispersed over the area below.

 Marplot map of Hydrogen Sulfide from the spill point appears in purple, extending to the Threat Point 2 miles downwind (blue cross) and beyond, as indicated.

Modeling using chemical content, wind velocity and direction, show the concentration of Hydrogen Sulfide was probably above the level where most people could begin to suffer life threatening effects for about 10 minutes more than a mile downwind (northeast).

Graph One – Hydrogen Sulfide

Modeling using chemical content, wind velocity and direction, show the concentration of Hydrogen Sulfide was probably above the level where most people could begin to suffer life threatening effects. This threat lasted for about 10 minutes and extended more than a mile downwind (northeast). If this pipeline had burst nearer to a larger population or if the wind direction had shifted the effects could have been remembered as a disaster which killed hundreds or thousands of people.

The impact on people and animals decreased as the gas grew less concentrated. But, as shown in the graph, was still concentrated enough to be life threatening.

Closer to the spill point the likelihood of death or life-threatening conditions increased during the period immediately after the spill occurred.

Source of Information on Health Impact: Venoco Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS)

The health impact on life used for reference is from the MSDS prepared by Venoco, one of the three petroleum companies operating in the coastal area near Santa Barbara. Venoco runs fracking operations in the Central Valley, which are selling produced water (water containing toxic materials from the fracking process) to farmers in the Central Valley. Venoco Inc., operating as Venoco Oil, is presently seeking to extend their Monterey Shale operations off the Central Coast.


Graph Two – Hydrogen Sulfide

The concentration of Hydrogen Sulfide was probably above the level where most people could begin to suffer life threatening effects for about 10 minutes more than a mile downwind (northeast). The contents of the crude oil released, though not released by Plains, was available through DANS sources.

The concentration of Hydrogen Sulfide and its dispersal in the gaseous material released provides the locations where people and animals were impacted. This information is essential for treatment and to provide links to the party responsible for creating the conditions which impact the health of individuals. 


The MSDS provided by Venoco includes the potential impact of Hydrogen Sulfide under Other Comments, cited below. Source, Venoco MSDS, Extract - Health

Other Comments: This material may contain or liberate hydrogen sulfide, a poisonous gas with the smell of rotten eggs. The smell disappears rapidly because of olfactory fatigue so odor may not be a reliable indicator of exposure. Effects of overexposure include irritation of the eyes nose, throat and respiratory tract, blurred vision, photophobia (sensitivity to light) and pulmonary edema (fluid accumulation in the lungs) . Severe exposures can result in nausea, vomiting, muscle weakness, or cramps, headache, disorientation and other signs of nervous system depression, irregular heartbeats convulsions, respiratory failure, and death.


Map Two - Benzene

Creating models for the dispersal of gaseous materials requires the use of software designed for the purpose by the United States government through the Department of Commerce. This is in the public domain and is readily available to oil companies and to the public. The maps and graphs used by DANS were created using the same software which companies such as Plains All American Pipeline or ExxonMobil would use. The specific information on the chemical profile of the crude oil in the line at the time the spill took place was found in Canada.

These models, showing areas threatened by potentially fatal levels of Benzene and Hydrogen Sulfide were not made public by Plains, but they had in their possession the means of doing so. Such information provides to individuals who were in the impacted area a link between any resulting health problems experienced as a result of exposure caused by the spill.

Graph One – Benzene

The relationship between exposure to Benzene and cancer is acknowledged in the MSDS produced by Venoco. The section below is copied from the Venoco MSDS Extract, already cited.

Carcinogenicity: Benzene is an animal carcinogen and is known to produce leukemia in humans Benzene has been identified as a human carcinogen by NTP, IARC, and O.S.H.A.
Target Organs: Prolonged or repeated exposures to benzene vapors has been linked to bone marrow toxicity which can result in blood disorders such as leukopenia, thrombocytopenia and aplastic anemia. All of these diseases can be fatal.
Developmental: Exposure to benzene during pregnancy demonstrated limited evidence of developmental toxicity in laboratory animals. The effects seen include decreased body weight and increase skeletal variations in rodents. Alterations in hematopoiesis is have been observed in the fetuses and offspring of pregnant mice.
Warning: This material contains the following chemicals which are known to the State of California to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm and are subject to the requirements of California Proposition 65 (California Health and Safety Code section 25249.51.


SB air dispersion models

SB oil trajectory simulation model

SB oil composition - Env Canada, MSDS (Plains, Exxon, Venoco)

SB oil degradation and evaporation

Plains Core Oil Spill Response Plan

EXXON Pacific Region Oil Spill Response Plan

Venoco Oil Spill Contingency Plan South Elwood Field

Tides and winds for the week of May 19



Software Suites Used






END DANS SHEETS - 6.28.2015

Refugio Retrospective – One Year Later

For More Information:
Contact – Melinda Pillsbury-Foster


Refugio Retrospective – One Year Later

      One year ago, through our former organization, DANS, we provided modeling, analysis, correlations and background on the oil industry in the immediate aftermath of the Refugio Spill.  (From DANS SHEET 1, one of multiple models supplied)
         This is one of the worst oil spills in Santa Barbara history. Therefore, we, now EcoAlert, prepared this review for what we knew then and what actions we recommended. This could impact some of the indictments revealed this week and perhaps expand the criminal investigation to hold all responsible parties accountable.
      Shortly after the spill we asked about the locations and timelines of the 5 Plains employees who reportedly worked out of EXXONMobil’s Las Flores Canyon Facility. We recommended that each of the workers involved provide signed affidavits as to their whereabouts and actions. We emphasized that all correspondence including emails, telephone logs and faxes by the operator in the first 24 hrs. be included in the body of evidence in case criminal action is eventually pursued. We provided an article with, time line from the available information. This went out as a news release on July 7th .

We argued that,
“Plains knew the names and whereabouts of all of their employees during the first few hours of the spill incident. We further claimed that they knew the condition of their little ten miles of pipe. They surveyed it in 2012 and again in 2015, and they made numerous repairs and external inspections. We know it does not take months to pull up these records on a 10-mile stretch of their 18,000 mile pipeline network. So, if they failed to release this information voluntarily, they should have been subpoenaed.”

        We also questioned EXXONMobil’s role in creating and responding to the pressure anomalies in the Plains Line 901 pipeline located only a short distance from their temporary storage tanks at the oil treatment center. We pointed out that Plains owned only ten miles of pipeline in the Refugio area, the rest of pipeline upstream from the spill is owned by EXXONMobil, who also controlled the offshore platforms where the oil originated.
          Secondly, we criticized the function of the Unified Command in providing explanations and public relations for Plains actions which might have been criminal. We pointed this out at the time. This has been borne out by the 46 count indictment against Plains and their Environmental and Regulatory Compliance officer.
         One year ago we recommended alternatives to the way spills and other similar disasters be handled. We were right and strongly suggest our proposal be adopted.
      Furthermore, we expressed concern for the health of clean-up workers and recommended a list of names and contacts for everyone who was involved with clean-up or remediation be obtained.
      Nothing has been done about this. At the time, we sent information on the symptoms of petroleum poisoning to the Santa Barbara County Medical Society, asking they distribute the information, by email, to their members. The information supplied was based on the BP Gulf Spill and supplied by Science Corp. It was prepared by Michael R. Harbut, MD ,Professor, Clinical Medicine Director, Environmental Cancer Initiative, Chief, Center for Occupational & Environmental Medicine. Petroleum poisoning follows patterns. We wanted local physicians to know what to look for.
     Finally, we recommended 21st century technologies (like drones and modeling) to monitor and track the initial stages of the spill dispersal. We had supplied some of these for the first hours after the Refugio Spill.
       Few of these recommendations have been implemented so far, but it is not yet too late. The Attorney General can still subpoena all communications between Plains and EXXONMobil in the region within 24 hours of the spill in the region. The Unified Command can be pressured to release all of its monitoring and modeling data of the spill and its associated air and water pollution dispersal. The health department still needs to collect medical histories on all cleanup workers who are potential victims.
      Ultimately, the entire spill response bureaucracy needs to be updated with the latest technologies and modernized with geospatial real-time assessment and decision making. Grounds existed for criminal indictments immediately after the spill. Essential upgrades and improvements for all of their facilities, including refineries, are long over due, as we have witnessed in California and across our country. (Graph from our article)

Graph by Company 

        We emphasize, ExxonMobil should also be charged.
       The best way to protect innocent people and minimize the environmental impacts on the ecosystem is to ensure those who ignore the obligation to carry out maintenance and deliberately but people and the environment at risk are held accountable to the full extend of the law, paying reparations which make the victims whole.

David Lincoln & Melinda Pillsbury-Foster
May 19, 2016

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Company charged in oil spill that fouled Santa Barbara beaches

 By BRIAN MELLEY / The Associated Press

In this May 21, 2015, file photo, an oil-covered bird flaps its wings amid at Refugio State Beach, north of Goleta, Calif. Plains All American Pipeline said in a statement Tuesday that a California grand jury has indicted the company and one of its employees in connection with the pipeline break. 

LOS ANGELES – A Texas pipeline company responsible for spilling more than 140,000 gallons of crude oil on the California coast last year was indicted on dozens of criminal charges in the disaster that closed popular beaches and killed sea lions and birds, prosecutors said Tuesday.

Plains All American Pipeline and one of its employees face 46 counts of state law violations in the May 19, 2015, spill that initially went undetected until oil began pouring onto a pristine beach on the Santa Barbara coastline and running into the ocean.

Initial investigations by federal regulators found the 2-foot-wide underground pipeline was severely corroded where it broke on land. MORE

Friday, May 13, 2016

Panama Papers Reporters Trace Global Financial Scandals

by Andrew Kreig 

 Three journalists who helped break the "Panama Papers" secret asset scandal last month described May 12 at the National Press Club their year-long secret investigation of hidden assets, as well as their  innovative methods and future implications.  
ICIJ at NPC May 12, 2016 Noel St. JohnIn the largest leak probe in journalism history, some 376 investigative journalists from 80 countries worked collaboratively to report stories beginning April 3 on 11.5 million financial records from the Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca. The firm is one of the world's top creators of shell companies that hide the assets of the wealthy. The probe has prompted official resignations and ongoing investigations in several nations.
Also, the probe coordinated by International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) has created hope that a new model can augment the traditional investigative reporting, which is so expensive and otherwise difficult that many if not most news organizations have abandoned ambitious projects.
"Collaboration is the way to go," said ICIJ deputy director Marina Walker Guevara, "not the 'lone wolf' model." She is shown with her ICIJ colleagues Will Fitzgibbon (at left) and Kevin Hall (at far right), the chief economics correspondent for McClatchy chain of newspapers. Panel moderator Thomas Burr, press club president and Washington correspondent for the Salt Lake Tribune, is at center in the photo republished courtesy of photographer Noel St. John.
"The Panama Papers," she said, "show an array of behavior far beyond tax evasion," and include traffic in drugs, arms, and people (for sex).
Burr opened the discussion by noting that one of ICIJ's first meetings on its scoop occurred in secret nearly a year previous at the club in the room right behind where the panel was sitting. "Honestly," he said,"we at the club had no idea what they were talking about. Until now. That was one of the first meetings of the consortium of journalists who are investigating what we now call 'the Panama Papers.'"
Charles "Chuck" Lewis (American University)ICIJ, founded in 1997 by the American University journalism professor, best-selling author and former ABC and CBS News producer Charles Lewis (shown in a file photo), began breaking its story April 3 on its site with a story headlined, Giant leak of offshore financial records exposes global array of crime and corruption.
Partner news organizations around the world published or broadcast their own versions under a plan whereby ICIJ controlled the timing, but participating outlets controlled the subject and approach.

ICIJ's story began:
A massive leak of documents exposes the offshore holdings of 12 current and former world leaders and reveals how associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin secretly shuffled as much as $2 billion through banks and shadow companies. The leak also provides details of the hidden financial dealings of 128 more politicians and public officials around the world.
The cache of 11.5 million records shows how a global industry of law firms and big banks sells financial secrecy to politicians, fraudsters and drug traffickers as well as billionaires, celebrities and sports stars.
These are among the findings of a yearlong investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and more than 100 other news organizations.

How the Scoop Started

An individual known as "John Doe" approached the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) with an offer to leak the documents. The source remains anonymous even to journalists on the investigation. "My life is in danger," he wrote them.
ICIJ Kevin Hall NPC May 12,2016 Noel St. John"Pay attention to whistleblowers," said the ICIJ's Walker Guevara in describing lessons learned from the project. She praised the newspaper SZ for following that procedure even though newsrooms are increasingly busy during an era of decreased income. She praised the organization also for realizing that the data and story possibilities were too massive for one news organization.
Even ICIJ, with 12 staffers and a base in Washington, DC, was far too small to handle the workload. Therefore it went beyond its usual 190 partners to organize approximately twice that many for this project.
Hall, shown in another photo by Noel St. John, said his employer McClatchy has detailed him for a year on the project virtually full time. He said two of his McClatchy colleagues have been working on it full-time for a half-year even though the company has been undergoing significant cost-cutting and management changes, like most mainstream news organizations.
ICIJ's website describes how it has been organized to overcome such financial difficulties:
ICIJ was launched as a project of the Center for Public Integrity to extend the Center’s style of watchdog journalism, focusing on issues that do not stop at national frontiers: cross-border crime, corruption, and the accountability of power. Backed by the Center and its computer-assisted reporting specialists, public records experts, fact-checkers and lawyers, ICIJ reporters and editors provide real-time resources and state-of-the-art tools and techniques to journalists around the world....
The need for such an organization has never been greater. Globalization and development have placed extraordinary pressures on human societies, posing unprecedented threats from polluting industries, transnational crime networks, rogue states, and the actions of powerful figures in business and government.
The news media, hobbled by short attention spans and lack of resources, are even less of a match for those who would harm the public interest. Broadcast networks and major newspapers have closed foreign bureaus, cut travel budgets, and disbanded investigative teams. We are losing our eyes and ears around the world precisely when we need them most.
Our aim is to bring journalists from different countries together in teams - eliminating rivalry and promoting collaboration. Together, we aim to be the world’s best cross-border investigative team.
What we do

The leaked data covered nearly 40 years, from 1977 through the end of 2015. It permits an unprecedented view of the world of offshore finances. Panelists said some journalists have faced litigation threats but none have been sued so far. Also, they said that Panama's government strongly discourages use of the name "Panama Papers" for the scandal and instead prefers that it reference only the law firm Mossack an Fonseca. ICIJ note that sanctions against the media are different around the world, thus providing another reason to empower local news outlets to publish information according to their best judgment regarding the facts and also their audience temperment.
Although some critics might speculate that the concept of "collaborative" journalism might create gatekeepers with too much control over sensitive topics, ICIJ's deputy director emphasized that local partners can emphasize what they think important, with the benefit of both local knowledge of the players and expected audience reaction.
The panelists stressed also that the many stories already published around the world about the financial disclosures are just the beginning.
"This is the gift," Hall said, "that's going to keep on giving for a long time."

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Profits are down at ExxonMobil, but don’t cry for CEO Rex Tillerson

by Steven Mufson April 29
After 10 years at the helm of the world’s biggest publicly owned oil company, Exxon Mobil chief executive Rex W. Tillerson has had mostly gloomy news for shareholders lately. Profits were down by half last year, and down 63 percent in the first-quarter financial results announced Friday. 

Buffeted by low petroleum prices, the oil giant has tightened its spending belt, slashing capital outlays by 33 percent in the first quarter. And it has been forced to borrow money to meet dividend payments, mortgaging a bit of tomorrow to pay shareholders today. 

This week Standard & Poor’s downgraded the stock’s gold-plated triple A credit rating to double A plus, the first time Exxon lost its triple A rating since Harry Truman was president, the communists took over China, and the advent of color television