Truthout Stories Fri, 24 Oct 2014 11:21:36 -0400 en-gb California, the Golden State, Is Actually the Poorest of All

California, the home of Silicon Valley and more billionaires than any other state, is the poorest state in the country.

That's according to an Oct. 16 report from the Census Bureau, which also finds that Mississippi – typically ranked among the poorest states – has a poverty rate below the national average.

The report out last week is not the official census poverty measure, which came out a month earlier. But after decades of criticism that the official measure is broken and outdated, federal officials in 2011 began quietly piloting an alternative approach to measuring poverty.

Called the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM), the report has no official bearing on policy. The latest SPM report puts the 2013 national poverty rate at 15.5 percent, one point higher than the official measure. But the regional differences are dramatic, upending some long-held notions about the distribution of poverty in the U.S.

Those notions are based largely on the official poverty measure, a formula that has changed little since the 1960s.

"It is antiquated," said Mark Levitan, the former director of poverty research for New York City, which in 2008 threw out the official federal measure and devised an alternative for city poverty reports.

But for the most part, nonprofit organizations, community groups and the private charity world continue to rely on the official statistics.

"Since the SPM data are relatively new (at least, newly released), I suspect that not many nonprofits use it," Carol J. De Vita, senior fellow at the Urban Institute's Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy, said in an email.

There's little comprehensive data on which measure private charities use, but De Vita notes that nonprofit groups operating a government-funded program such as Head Start must follow government-proscribed eligibility definitions. But, she said: "If the nonprofit is creating a program on its own, then it is free to use whatever measure of poverty it likes."

So should more nonprofit and community groups be using the new supplemental measure?

To understand the official measure's limitations — and how it can be used as a political weapon against anti-poverty programs — it's important to understand how the official measure works.

A Broken Yardstick?

Simply put, the official measure sets a single national poverty threshold by multiplying the cost of a basic subsistence diet by three, adjusting for family size and updating annually for inflation.

Last year, for a family of two adults and two children, the official poverty threshold was roughly $23,600.

That is regardless of whether the family lived in Cheyenne, Wyoming or in San Francisco – where average housing costs run 225 percent higher than Cheyenne, according to a comparison tool from CNNMoney.

In addition to the lack of regional adjustments, experts point to two critical flaws with the official measure. The first is a simple anachronism in household economics. When the formula was created in the 1960s, roughly a third of the average family budget went toward food.

But advances in agricultural technology have made food relatively cheaper, while skyrocketing housing and health care costs have become bigger strains on many low-income household budgets.

Recent estimates from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics put the average household food spend at 16 percent of the family budget for the bottom quintile of wage earners. The same group spends 40 percent of their income on housing – a massive share of household budget, but not that much higher than the 33 percent average share that Americans in all income brackets devote to housing.

The second issue with the official measure is subtler. It defines income strictly as pre-tax wages. This means that assistance programs such as tax credits and food stamps have — by definition — no direct impact on official poverty levels.

A family benefiting from housing tax credits or subsidized health insurance looks as destitute on paper as another family with the same gross income and no access to the same programs.

Opponents of those programs frequently use that fact to attack anti-poverty programs, on the grounds that they aren't making a dent in official numbers. In March, Congressman Paul Ryan issued a blistering report on social assistance programs titled, "The War on Poverty: 50 Years Later."

"Right now, the federal government spends nearly $800 billion a year on 92 different programs to fight poverty," Ryan, a Republican from Wisconsin, said in remarks introducing the report. "Yet the official poverty rate is the highest in a generation."

But only five of the U.S. government's 92 anti-poverty programs are cash-based. Over 70 percent of the $800 billion spent fighting poverty goes to non-cash programs. That assistance doesn't show up in official numbers at all.

A Different Approach

The Supplemental Poverty Measure aims to bridge that gap by counting food stamps, tax refunds and other public assistance toward a family's income, illuminating the impact of such programs. The SPM report found, for example, that 23 percent of children would be living in poverty if refundable tax credits were eliminated, as opposed to the current supplemental rate of 16 percent.

The SPM also offers a dramatically different geographic picture of poverty. Mississippi, which has one of the highest poverty rates under official measures, drops below the national average in the SPM. By contrast, California's poverty rate jumps from 16 percent under the official measure to 23 percent — making the Golden State the poorest in the country under the new measure.

The differences at the state level are due mainly to regional variations in housing costs, according to Kathleen Short, the Census Bureau economist who authored the latest SPM report.

Choosing The Right Measure

Despite its advantages as a statistical tool, the SPM is unlikely to replace the official poverty measure. For one thing, as Short pointed out, it would be "circular logic" to count food stamps as income when setting eligibility thresholds for food stamps.

But even regional cost-of-living adjustments to the official measure face a seemingly impossible hurdle in Congress. Because billions in federal funding to the states are tied to state poverty levels, any change to the official formula would likely divert dollars from states like Mississippi to places like California.

New York City's revised poverty definition, for example, found that 46 percent of its residents were at or near poverty, versus 31 percent under the official measure, according to the most recent of the reports.

"There would be winners and losers," Levitan, the poverty expert from New York City who teaches at Hunter College, said of changes to the official poverty measure. "Going down that road would create a real political donnybrook in Congress."

Groups and organizations that aren't reliant on government funds can focus on the SPM.

"Overall, research finds that the poverty thresholds under SPM are slightly higher than under the traditional measure," De Vita of the Urban Institute said. "This means that more people would be eligible for poverty programs and services."

"The adjustment that the SPM makes for geographic location, especially as it relates to housing costs, can be an important factor for nonprofits that provide or support place-based programs and services," she said.

Because it accounts for health care costs, the supplemental measure may be particularly useful for groups that focus on older populations, which typically have higher average health care costs, De Vita added.

The SPM also uses a broader definition of households, including same-sex couples with children.

In future years, Short, the economist at the Census Bureau, hopes to release the supplemental report in tandem with the official poverty report. That would give policy makers, researchers and the public a more complete picture of poverty in one shot.

"The official poverty measure gets a lot of criticism from many quarters," she said. "There are a lot of ways we could improve, to get a closer look at families in poverty, and better understand the difficulties they're going through."

News Fri, 24 Oct 2014 10:34:17 -0400
History of Key Document in IAEA Probe Suggests Israeli Forgery

Washington - Western diplomats have reportedly faulted Iran in recent weeks for failing to provide the International Atomic Energy Agency with information on experiments on high explosives intended to produce a nuclear weapon, according to an intelligence document the IAEA is investigating.

But the document not only remains unverified but can only be linked to Iran by a far-fetched official account marked by a series of coincidences related to a foreign scientist that that are highly suspicious.

The original appearance of the document in early 2008, moreover, was not only conveniently timed to support Israel's attack on a U.S. National Intelligence Estimate on Iran in December that was damaging to Israeli interests, but was leaked to the news media with a message that coincided with the current Israeli argument.

The IAEA has long touted the document, which came from an unidentified member state, as key evidence justifying suspicion that Iran has covered up past nuclear weapons work.

In its September 2008 report the IAEA said the document describes "experimentation in connection with symmetrical initiation of a hemispherical high explosive charge suitable for an implosion type nuclear device."

But an official Iranian communication to the IAEA Secretariat challenged its authenticity, declaring, "There is no evidence or indication in this document regarding its linkage to Iran or its preparation by Iran."

The IAEA has never responded to the Iranian communication.

The story of the high explosives document and related intelligence published in the November 2011 IAEA report raises more questions about the document than it answers.

The report said the document describes the experiments as being monitored with "large numbers of optical fiber cables" and cited intelligence that the experiments had been assisted by a foreign expert said to have worked in his home country's nuclear weapons programme.

The individual to whom the report referred, Ukrainian scientist Vyacheslav Danilenko, was not a nuclear weapons expert, however, but a specialist on nanodiamond synthesis. Danilenko had lectured on that subject in Iran from 2000 to 2005 and had co-authored a professional paper on the use of fiber optic cables to monitor explosive shock waves in 1992, which was available online.

Those facts presented the opportunity for a foreign intelligence service to create a report on high explosives experiments that would suggest a link to nuclear weapons as well as to Danilenko. Danilenko's open-source publication could help convince the IAEA Safeguards Department of the authenticity of the document, which would otherwise have been missing.

Even more suspicious, soon after the appearance of the high explosives document, the same state that had turned it over to the IAEA claimed to have intelligence on a large cylinder at Parchin suitable for carrying out the high explosives experiments described in the document, according to the 2011 IAEA report.

And it identified Danilenko as the designer of the cylinder, again basing the claim on an open-source publication that included a sketch of a cylinder he had designed in 1999-2000.

The whole story thus depended on two very convenient intelligence finds within a very short time, both of which were linked to a single individual and his open source publications.

Furthermore, the cylinder Danilenko sketched and discussed in the publication was explicitly designed for nanodiamonds production, not for bomb-making experiments.

Robert Kelley, who was the chief of IAEA teams in Iraq, has observed that the IAEA account of the installation of the cylinder at a site in Parchin by March 2000 is implausible, since Danilenko was on record as saying he was still in the process of designing it in 2000.

And Kelley, an expert on nuclear weapons, has pointed out that the cylinder would have been unnecessary for "multipoint initiation" experiments. "We've been taken for a ride on this whole thing," Kelley told IPS.

The document surfaced in early 2008, under circumstances pointing to an Israeli role. An article in the May 2008 issue of Jane's International Defence Review, dated Mar. 14, 2008, referred to, "[d]ocuments shown exclusively to Jane's" by a "source connected to a Western intelligence service".

It said the documents showed that Iran had "actively pursued the development of a nuclear weapon system based on relatively advanced multipoint initiation (MPI) nuclear implosion detonation technology for some years...."

The article revealed the political agenda behind the leaking of the high explosives document. "The picture the papers paints," he wrote, "starkly contradicts the US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) released in December 2007, which said Tehran had frozen its military nuclear programme in 2003."

That was the argument that Israeli officials and supporters in the United States had been making in the wake of the National Intelligence Estimate, which Israel was eager to discredit.

The IAEA first mentioned the high explosives document in an annex to its May 2008 report, shortly after the document had been leaked to Janes.

David Albright, the director of the Institute for Science and International Security, who enjoyed a close relationship with the IAEA Deputy Director Olli Heinonen, revealed in an interview with this writer in September 2008 that Heinonen had told him one document that he had obtained earlier that year had confirmed his trust in the earlier collection of intelligence documents. Albright said that document had "probably" come from Israel.

Former IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei was very sceptical about all the purported Iranian documents shared with the IAEA by the United States. Referring to those documents, he writes in his 2011 memoirs, "No one knew if any of this was real."

ElBaradei recalls that the IAEA received still more purported Iranian documents directly from Israel in summer 2009. The new documents included a two-page document in Farsi describing a four-year programme to produce a neutron initiator for a fission chain reaction.

Kelley has said that ElBaradei found the document lacking credibility, because it had no chain of custody, no identifiable source, and no official markings or anything else that could establish its authenticity—the same objections Iran has raised about the high explosives document.

Meanwhile, ElBaradei resisted pressure from the United States and its European allies in 2009 to publish a report on that and other documents – including the high explosive document — as an annex to an IAEA report. ElBaradei's successor as director general, Yukia Amano, published the annex the anti-Iran coalition had wanted earlier in the November 2011 report.

Amano later told colleagues at the agency that he had no choice, because he promised the United States to do so as part of the agreement by Washington to support his bid for the job within the Board of Governors, according to a former IAEA official who asked not to be identified.

News Fri, 24 Oct 2014 10:20:09 -0400
The Post-Michael Brown Agenda Provides Goals For The Movement To End Racist, Militarized Policing

Throughout the nation the issue of police brutality, including killings of unarmed people, is a common problem. It is part of a criminal enforcement system that has pitted police against people in ways that are very destructive to the fabric of the nation. DOJ is taking or has taken action involving three dozen law enforcement agencies during the Obama era.

To turn this moment of awareness and activism into an effective movement, we need an agenda to transform policing so police play a constructive role in the community. At the inspiring FergusonOctober actions, protesters put forward a list of demands that provide an agenda for a movement to fix policing in America, including:

1: Body cameras on all police.
2: Empowered civilian review boards.
3: Independent review of fatalities.
4: End of military surplus going to police.

Long-time Washington, DC community activist Kymone Freeman, a co-founder of We Act Radio, has been participating in organizing a series of powerful protests in Washington, DC around Michael Brown and police abuse. Freeman testified before the DC City Council on behalf of #DCFerguson and put forward an agenda consistent with the Ferguson one, adding one more: police should live in the communities where they serve. He also wants police who are involved in a shooting of an innocent civilian to be automatically prosecuted.

Police Know That Racist Militarized Policing Is Destructive

Many police officials recognize the destructive nature of the current militarized policing that is often racially unfair. Former Seattle police chief Norm Samper, writes in The Guardian:

"It's difficult to view citizens as partners when you're looking at them through a Kevlar helmet and a riot shield – or when you have failed to build a culture of trust and then you add military equipment and tactics to a combustible mix of racial discrimination and little police accountability. This explosive combination makes policing significantly less effective, and dramatically less safe for everybody."

Samper should know because he was the chief during the 1999 'Battle of Seattle' and admits he mishandled that protest in part because "the way we looked – and the way we behaved – provoked and exacerbated the violence." Military-policing was just one of the problems; in addition rights to Freedom of Speech and Assembly were not respected. Often violent conflicts can be avoided if police respect constitutional rights as we saw recently with an antiwar protest in New York City, which for the first time in three years was not marred by the presence of threatening police.

The Post Michael Brown Proposals

Cameras: There is a lot of promise in requiring police to wear body cameras and on police vehicles. One California city, Rialto in San Bernadino County, saw an 88% drop in claims of police misconduct in one year with police wearing cameras along with a 59% drop in use of force incidents. Police should recognize the benefit as they will have videotape to prove their innocence. And, people will feel more confident in the police knowing that their encounter is being recorded.

However, there have been multiple incidents where the police have failed to have the camera on at critical moments. There is a need for written policies on the use of video cameras, currently one-third of police forces that use cameras have no written policy. The failure to turn on the camera during an encounter should raise doubt regarding the officer's version of events. Written policies should also require the video be made available to a victim, if deceased to their family and attorney. And, they should require the video and any data associated with it be destroyed in a specific amount of time. Police cameras should not be an excuse to create a data base of citizens.

People should not wait for the police to be required to wear cameras, Cop Watch programs, where people are trained to videotape police encounters should be organized. People should be trained to use a video camera in a legal, credible and safe way, e.g. 7 rules for recording police. Police officers need to understand it is legal for someone to film them while they are performing their duty and there should be no retaliation against people who film police encounters.

Citizen Review Board: There are citizen review boards in many cities across the country but as Freeman testified, they are usually a "paper tiger." There are three things that are essential to make review boards effective (1) The power to initiate investigations of police on their own; (2) The power to subpoena witnesses to testify under oath; (3) The power to indict police officers who have committed crimes or abused their power.

An empowered citizen review board will make it clear that police work for the people and are accountable to the people. A letter sent to President Obama this summer by civil rights, good government and democracy activists this summer said: "Police departments should not be solely responsible for investigating themselves. These departments are funded by the public and should be accountable to the public."

Relying on the police to investigate themselves is insufficient. Relying on prosecutors who work closely with the police to indict police officers often results in no indictment for actions that are 'on their face' criminal. The grand jury process, conducted in secret by a prosecutor is too easy to manipulate in favor of the police (which is why I urged the Wilson family to file a civil lawsuit now). An indictment by a Citizens Review Board means there is probable cause, not guilt. Police officers will still have the right to defend themselves in court and it will remain difficult to convict police for a variety of reasons.

Beyond a citizen review board more citizen involvement is needed. Norm Samper urges local political leadership to "put together a large, representative, credible crisis team to work with the police, communicate systematically with the community and, most importantly, elicit grassroots suggestions for resolution of the conflict." Further he urges "a group of citizens, officers, politicians and civic leaders to craft and quickly implement a statement of non-negotiable standards for the performance and conduct of each and every police officer: for example, any officer should be fired if found to be using racial or ethnic slurs or excessive force."

While we urge people to push for these actions, people should organize now to develop standards for police conduct as well as crisis management. Too often we wait for government to solve these problems when we have the power to take action ourselves.

Independent Review of Fatalities: Whenever there is fatality as a result of a police shooting there should be an independent review outside of police and prosecutors. Civilian review boards can be equipped and directed to take on this responsibility or cities can create an independent investigator to do so.

In addition, guidelines should be enacted for routine response, i.e. removal of the officer from patrol, taking away weapons; depending on the circumstances, e.g. if the person killed was unarmed there should be immediate procedures to follow that would be different from cases where the person is armed. Kymone Freeman of #DCFerguson calls for automatic action against police who shoot at innocent civilians testifying including them being automatically fired and indicted.

These procedures should be developed by a cross section of the community including elected officials, police and members of the community.

Demilitarization: The militarization of US police is a new phenomena that is being routinely misused. In the early 1970s there were no paramilitary police units, now they are common in every police force, even in many small towns. They are used routinely to serve search warrants, respond to protests and even to patrol neighborhoods. Radley Balko, author of Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces, wrote in the ABA Journal in 2013that SWAT teams "smash into private homes more than 100 times per day."

The militarization has been spurred by federal policy that makes military equipment available to local police, even school police. Colin Jenkins reports in Coming Home to Roost: American Militarism, War Culture, and Police Brutality, that military equipment has flowed to police across the country: "They possess everything from body armor to high-powered weaponry to tanks, armored vehicles, and even drones." The ACLU reports $4.3 billion in equipment has been transferred to 17,000 law enforcement agencies from all states and territories.

It is time to demilitarize US police and create stringent standards that make the use of paramilitary units are rarity rather than the rule. A letter to President Obama by more than 120 institutions says:

"Deterring crime and protecting communities should not involve military weaponry. Effective policing strategies and community relationships will not be advanced if police departments continue to act as an occupying force in neighborhoods. The Administration must suspend programs that transfer military equipment into the hands of local police departments and create guidelines that regulate and monitor the use of military equipment that has already been distributed."

Samper urges police to immediately begin demilitarization and greatly limit the use of paramilitary units writing: "prohibit SWAT operations for anything other than school shootings, armed hostage situations and other immediate crises when negotiations fail and lives are at stake."

The Obama administration should take three immediate steps to advance demilitarization of police (1) Stop providing military equipment to police by suspending the program; (2) Direct police who received military equipment to limit their use and provide guidelines for when to use paramilitary units; (3) Let local governments know they can return military equipment to the federal government.

Police Living Where they Work: The debate over police living in the communities where they serve is a long one. The issue has been raised anew because, as CityLab notes, Officer Darren Wilson did not live in Ferguson, but lived a half hour away in a community that was 96% white. When the governor sought to calm the unrest he brought in Missouri State Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson who came in saying "This is my neighborhood," as he grew up in Ferguson and lived nearby in the bordering city of Florissant.

It used to be common for police to live in the cities where they worked but Pew reports residency requirements are increasingly rare: "Philadelphia police several years ago negotiated a contract provision that allows them to live outside the city after five years on the job. Minnesota repealed the Minneapolis residency requirement in 1999, and Missouri lifted residency requirements for St. Louis police in 2005."

CityLab reports "Detroit is one example of what can happen when cops are freed from these requirements. After the state of Michigan eliminated the city's residency restrictions in 1999, many officers started moving out. By 2011, incoming mayor David Bing noted, more than half of the city's police lived outside of Detroit."

The benefits of police living in the community are obvious; police get to know the community and build relationships. A 2012 report by the Abell Foundation of Baltimore found "many residents like the idea of police officers living in their communities because they view them as a deterrent to crime and because they believe officers would have a better understanding of neighborhood problems if they had homes in the area."

While it may not be possible to have all police live in the communities they patrol, because housing may not be available or affordable, or the communities may be fragmented into small towns as in the St. Louis area, there are steps that can be taken to increase police living within the city limits. The Abell Foundation suggests incentives like rental subsidies or assistance with home down payments. They report "Over a period of 14 months, a police housing incentive in Atlanta, for example, attracted 71 participants in the program, or about 6 percent of all the officers living outside the city."

Abell argues that even a modest increase in the number of officers living in the city could improve public safety in their neighborhoods and foster better relations between the department and local residents.

Do Not Forget the Root Cause Issues

The proposals coming forward in the aftermath of the killing of Michael Brown would make a tremendous difference if implemented but there are underlying issues that must also be faced. These include the long history of racism, especially in policing, going back to enforcement of slavery through the era of Jim Crow and continuing today. But racism in the United States continues despite Civil Rights laws and this has a big role in police abuse in Ferguson and the rest of the nation. Training, education and strong action against racism are central to remaking policing.

Another underlying issue is the wealth divide and unfair economy that has people protesting the wealthiest Americans and big business interests. Too often police take the side of protecting the wealthy against the people. Police need to make protecting the people and their exercise of constitutional rights a priority. Prosecutors across the country and at the Justice Department need to increase prosecutions of people who rip-off the economy, workers and undermine the environment for extreme profits. There has been a corporate crime wave without a response from law enforcement.

One of the comments on Popular Resistance about Ferguson connected the dots on the issues of police abuse and rebuilding communities, it is worth quoting in full:

"Part of rebuilding communities is having local control and local medical clinics and doctors, local teachers and school boards with power, and local police who live in communities and know the people. We also need better educated police and prison guards. Those who police or wield power over others need to be psychologically fit, and well educated, with ongoing programs of education. The laws protecting police put in place since the 80´s should be repealed, and they should be held more accountable for their lapses in judgment and actions, not less. Violations of law should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, along with counts of failure to follow procedure, abuse of public trust, and abuse of authority. We need to stop legal harassment for the crime of being poor, and start community based job creation via community banks. Legal charges and brutality up to and including murder for jaywalking or minor offenses are crazy. Police need to be more broadly educated on what constitutes justice, and be more willing to fulfill a social service role of warning or advising, referring people to services, and hey! maybe serve their communities in a non-threatening fashion."

People need to unite around the resulting agenda from the killing of Michael Brown and so many others across the country. At the same time, people need to act on their own to create the world we want to see, e.g. instituting Cop Watch and forming citizen groups to define the police they envision. Finally, we need to recognize the connections between police abuse with the broader issues of an unfair economy, environmental destruction, racism and government corruption. Uniting to build a mass transformative movement is the only path to the changes that are needed.

Opinion Fri, 24 Oct 2014 09:48:35 -0400
Pacific Climate Change Warriors Block World's Largest Coal Port

United Nations - Climate Change Warriors from 12 Pacific Island nations paddled canoes into the world's largest coal port in Newcastle, Australia, Friday to bring attention to their grave fears about the consequences of climate change on their home countries.

The 30 warriors joined a flotilla of hundreds of Australians in kayaks and on surfboards to delay eight of the 12 ships scheduled to pass through the port during the nine-hour blockade, which was organised with support from the U.S.-based environmental group

The warriors came from 12 Pacific Island countries, including Fiji, Tuvalu, Tokelau, Micronesia, Vanuatu, The Solomon Islands, Tonga, Samoa, Papua New Guinea and Niue.

Mikaele Maiava spoke with IPS about why he and his fellow climate change warriors had travelled to Australia: "We want Australia to remember that they are a part of the Pacific. And as a part of the Pacific, we are a family, and having this family means we stay together. We cannot afford, one of the biggest sisters, really destroying everything for the family.

"So, we want the Australian community, especially the Australian leaders, to think about more than their pockets, to really think about humanity not just for the Australian people, but for everyone," Mikaele said.

Speaking at the opening of a new coal mine on Oct. 13, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said that "coal is good for humanity."

Mikaele questioned Abbott's position, asking, "If you are talking about humanity: Is humanity really for people to lose land? Is humanity really for people to lose their culture and identity? Is humanity to live in fear for our future generations to live in a beautiful island and have homes to go to? Is that really humanity? Is that really the answer for us to live in peace and harmony? Is that really the answer for the future?"

Mikaele said that he and his fellow climate warriors were aware that their fight was not just for the Pacific, and that other developing countries were affected by climate change too.

"We're aware that this fight is not just for the Pacific. We are very well aware that the whole world is standing up in solidarity for this. The message that we want to give, especially to the leaders, is that we are humans, this fight is not just about our land, this fight is for survival."

Mikaele described how his home of Tokelau was already seeing the effects of climate change,

"We see these changes of weather patterns and we also see that our food security is threatened. It's hard for us to build a sustainable future if your soil is not that fertile and it does not grow your crops because of salt intrusion."

Tokelau's coastline is also beginning to erode. "We see our coastal lines changing. Fifteen years ago when I was going to school, you could walk in a straight line. Now you have to walk in a crooked line because the beach has eroded away."

Mikaele said that he and his fellow climate change warriors would not be content unless they stood up for future generations, and did everything possible to change world leaders' mentality about climate change.

"We are educated people, we are smart people, we know what's going on, the days of the indigenous people and local people not having the information and the knowledge about what's going on is over," he said.

"We are the generation of today, the leaders of tomorrow and we are not blinded by the problem. We can see it with our own eyes, we feel it in our own hearts, and we want the Australian government to realise that. We are not blinded by money we just want to live as peacefully and fight for what matters the most, which is our homes."

Tokelau became the first country in the world to use 100 percent renewable energy when they switched to solar energy in 2012.

Speaking about the canoes that he and his fellow climate warriors had carved in their home countries and bought to Australia for the protest, he talked about how his family had used canoes for generations,

"Each extended family would have a canoe, and this canoe is the main tool that we used to be able to live, to go fishing, to get coconuts, to take family to the other islands."

Another climate warrior, Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, from the Marshall Islands, brought members of the United Nations General Assembly to tears last month with her impassioned poem written to her baby daughter Matafele Peinam,

"No one's moving, no one's losing their homeland, no one's gonna become a climate change refugee. Or should I say, no one else. To the Carteret islanders of Papua New Guinea and to the Taro islanders of Fiji, I take this moment to apologise to you," she said.

The Pacific Islands Forum describes climate change as the "single greatest threat to the livelihoods, security and well-being of the peoples of the Pacific."

"Climate change is an immediate and serious threat to sustainable development and poverty eradication in many Pacific Island Countries, and for some their very survival. Yet these countries are amongst the least able to adapt and to respond; and the consequences they face, and already now bear, are significantly disproportionate to their collective miniscule contributions to global emissions," it says.

Pacific Island leaders have recently stepped up their language, challenging the Australian government to stop delaying action on climate change.

Oxfam Australia's climate change advocacy coordinator, Dr Simon Bradshaw, told IPS, "Australia is a Pacific country. In opting to dismantle its climate policies, disengage from international negotiations and forge ahead with the expansion of its fossil fuel industry, it is utterly at odds with the rest of the region."

Dr. Bradshaw added, "Australia's closest neighbours have consistently identified climate change as their greatest challenge and top priority. So it is inevitable that Australia's recent actions will impact on its relationship with Pacific Islands.

"A recent poll commissioned by Oxfam showed that 60 percent of Australians thought climate change was having a negative impact on the ability of people in poorer countries to grow and access food, rising to 68 percent among 18 to 34-year-olds," he said.

News Fri, 24 Oct 2014 09:14:16 -0400
Beating Climate Change by Retooling the Economy: The Story Begins in Navajo Country

2014 1024 solar fwSolar panels in the Nevada desert. (Photo: jsmoorman)

Do you want media that's accountable to YOU, not to advertisers or billionaire sponsors? Invest in independent media - donate to Truthout today!

This story is part of the Climate in Our Hands collaboration between Truthout and YES! Magazine.

“I grew up without running water,” Nichole Alex, a young woman from Dilkon, Ariz., says in a video released by the activist group Black Mesa Water Coalition. Alex grew up on the Navajo reservation in the rural Black Mesa region of Arizona, where for decades a controversial coal mine emptied the region’s aquifer, leaving local wells dry.

“I grew up traveling 20 miles to gather water,” Alex continues. “That’s not fair, that my community is being sacrificed to power the valley here.”

In 1970, the Peabody Coal Company began mining on the reservation. Although tribal members were initially enthusiastic about the jobs the mine would provide, over time the relationship grew rocky. The company built a coal slurry pipeline that cut straight through the reservation and pumped billions of gallons of water from the Navajo Aquifer. Peabody mixed the water with coal and pumped the fluid mixture to a power plant in Nevada where the coal was burned to generate electricity for the nearby cities of Phoenix and Tucson, as well as other parts of the Southwest. But local people like Alex were left without access to water.

It’s a story echoed around the country: From the East Bay in California to the mountains of Appalachia, fossil fuel companies have drilled, burned, and mined their way into towns, cities, and rural areas—especially communities of color, as well as indigenous and low-income ones—disrupting the lives of people and damaging the environment.

But local residents have fought back. In 2001, Navajo and Hopi youth created the Black Mesa Water Coalition to stop the depletion of the Navajo Aquifer. They educated their peers and neighbors about the problem, and eventually persuaded the Navajo Tribal Council to cut off Peabody Coal’s access to the aquifer. That work, combined with a lawsuit that charged Peabody with violation of the Clean Air Act, helped to force the shutdown of the Black Mesa coal mine in 2005.

The problem with that outcome was that it left many residents of the reservation without jobs. About 300 Navajo and Hopi people had worked for Peabody, according to the advocacy group Cultural Survival . Efforts by the Black Mesa Water Coalition and its allies to create green jobs through traditional livelihoods, like wool-making and farming, have made only a small dent in the unemployment rate, which hovers around 50 percent. Furthermore, the land where the coal mine had been is not suitable for living or farming.

The story of Black Mesa illustrates a realization that is sweeping through the network of organizations, individuals, and coalitions working to fight global warming: While the burning of fossil fuels causes climate change, simply shutting down these industries leaves workers and their families behind, and often result in a familiar conflict over “jobs versus the environment.” That in turn prevents many workers and low-income groups from joining the fight against climate change—something movement leaders say they cannot afford.

The late Tony Mazzocchi, a labor leader with roots in the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers International Union, advocated the rejection of this dichotomy and called on environmentalists to lobby for what he deemed a “just transition” in situations when environmental policies eliminate jobs. As the Institute for Policy Studies’ Chuck Collins recently wrote in YES!, a just transition “would offer benefits far beyond the pitiful job retraining programs included in trade agreements like NAFTA.”

Now, many climate justice activists are picking up on Mazzocchi’s idea and refusing to be limited by the “jobs or the environment” dichotomy. Among them is Michelle Mascarenhas-Swan, co-director of the Movement Generation Justice & Ecology Project and co-chair of the Climate Justice Alliance. The alliance is a network of 35 organizations working at the intersection of job creation and environmental protection in places like Black Mesa, where residents have been resisting oil rigs, gas wells, and coal plants, in some cases for decades. These organizations create projects that provide stable livelihoods, protect fragile environments, and, ultimately, help speed the transition away from fossil fuels.

“The central solutions to address the climate crisis are not actually going to come from looking up and counting carbon in the atmosphere,” Mascarenhas-Swan said. “They are going to come from remaking the economy, which is the root of this struggle.”

Few have thought more about just how to go about doing that than the 130 member organizations in the New Economy Coalition, which are a part of some would call the “new economy movement.” For many years, these groups have been building worker-owned cooperatives, land trusts, and community financial institutions, all designed to keep wealth local and provide good jobs. Eli Feghali, the coalition’s director of communications and online organizing, says that his members are starting to converge on the same vision as climate justice organizers.

“Folks have been imagining alternatives to capitalism for centuries,” Feghali said. “But a new context is emerging, the center of which is the climate crisis. Our economic system is fundamentally opposed to a livable future.”

Feghali says new economy groups can contribute to the push for a just transition by helping groups like the Black Mesa Water Coalition start worker-owned cooperatives and by lobbying for policies that support cooperative economies.

The new economy movement has some work to do in the way of diversity and representation of people of color and those from low-income areas, Feghali acknowledges. But, he says, “the good news is that these groups are already building alternatives and providing leadership.”

That leadership can been seen back in Arizona, where the Black Mesa Water Coalition is moving forward on a 1- to 5-megawatt solar power plant proposed for the site of the abandoned coal mine. And here’s where new economy ideas come in: The coalition hopes the facility will be owned and controlled by the Navajo people and will provide reliable jobs.

“We were once the battery for the Southwest [with our coal production],” said Roberto Nutlouis, the Black Mesa Water Coalition’s green economy coordinator. “Why not convert these reclaimed lands into something more sustainable and healthy for our community?”

The proposed project would use the money made from the utility-scale solar plant to create local reinvestment funds that would then support wool production and food sovereignty projects, whereas Peabody’s profits mostly benefitted faraway shareholders.

“There’s a deeper way of valuing things, beyond a capitalist way,” Nutlouis said. “We need an economy that restores the health of our people and the health of our land.”

If efforts like this work in Black Mesa, they could help to blaze a trail out of the climate crisis that workers can get behind.

News Fri, 24 Oct 2014 11:09:48 -0400
Economic Update: Capitalism, Inequality and Martin Luther King

This episode looks at Detroit's water shut-offs, corporations prioritizing profit at people's expense, US Senators making money, the economics of Ebola and hedge funds that pay fines with pensioners' money. We also interview Dr. Obery Hendricks, Jr., who discusses Martin Luther King, Jr.'s lifelong criticism of capitalism and preference for democratic socialism. Finally, we respond to listeners' questions on the economics of the disabled (productivity and wages) and a reduced 2014 deficit in the US.

To listen in live on Saturdays at noon, visit WBAI's Live Stream

Economic Update is in partnership with

Your radio station needs Economic Update! If you are a radio station, check this out. If you want to hear Economic Update on your favorite local station, send them this.

Visit Professor Wolff's social movement project,

Permission to reprint Professor Wolff's writing and videos is granted on an individual basis. Please contact to request permission. We reserve the right to refuse or rescind permission at any time.

News Fri, 24 Oct 2014 10:54:27 -0400
Why There's a Real Chance My Texas Town Might Ban Fracking

2014 1024 fra 1Local organizers hold electric lights in support of the fracking ban at the courthouse square in Denton, October, 2014. (Photo: Candice Bernd)

The history of the quirky Texas town of Denton's struggle with fracking reveals why the gas industry's propaganda about "responsible drilling" is deceitful and why a total ban on fracking is necessary. Denton residents understand this from years of personal experience.

2014 1024 fra 1Local organizers hold electric lights in support of the fracking ban at the courthouse square in Denton, October, 2014. (Photo: Candice Bernd)

The support of readers like you got this story published - and helps Truthout stay free from corporate advertising. Can you sustain our work with a tax-deductible donation today?

I live on Denton Street, in Denton, Texas, in Denton County, so I know a thing or two about the city of Denton - and its ongoing struggle with the gas drilling technique of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) within city limits.

I live a little more than a mile from McKenna Park, where, in 2009, Range Resources sparked the city's anti-fracking movement when the company announced plans to erect five gas wells on Denton's Rayzor Ranch development, one of which would be across the street from the park, residential neighborhood and hospital.

Even though that particular gas well is long gone from the park, the condensation tanks remain, and so do the increased levels of benzene and other carcinogens that linger in the air in the aftermath of large-scale industrial fracking operations, which may engage in refracturing in perpetuity.

"My children still don't play outside in the backyard. They still cough at night," Maile Bush told me, pausing to cough herself a couple times. "I think people think it's over when the rigs move out, but that's completely not true."

She is one of Denton's many residents impacted by the endless fracking of our town. Her home sits between two EagleRidge Energy drilling sites in Denton's Vintage neighborhood. The rigs have moved out of the sites, but her family is still dealing with a compression station and remaining infrastructure.

She is one of Denton's many residents who have been implicated in the gas industry's suggestion that the people who are struggling to protect their health and safety from the impacts of fracking in Denton are "insurgents,"  and are being monitored as terrorists by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Like my neighbors, I too, have been affected by living close to an industrial gas well. Living near the well and participating in the community's efforts to protect themselves from it brought me radically into political consciousness. As we struggled against the well, I saw with my own eyes the reality of how local governments and corporations value profit over the well-being of people.

In 2010, when the McKenna Park gas well was fully operational, I lived a little closer to it than I do now, just off Fry Street and Scripture Street, only about 4,500 feet from the well. I was in college, and wanted to be close to the University of North Texas (UNT) campus to ride my bike to class.

2014 1024 frac 2A view of the barrier from the playground at McKenna Park, where condensation tanks and other gas-drilling infrastructure remain hidden at the site just behind the wall across the street. (Photo: Candice Bernd)

The first time I met activist Cathy McMullen was when she came over to my former partner's house to discuss organizing the neighborhood with us. We needed to do very basic things - set up an email listserv and list our concerns to take to city council. That summer, we organized several rallies  at the park and went door-to-door with a petition to demand that city council members deny Range Resource's special-use permit to drill at the site.

My former partner, Andrew Teeter, and I both were in a very formative stage in our lives. I was only 19, in my second year of college. The fight against that gas well would prove to be a catalyst for the growth of our own personal politics. Andrew would go on to unsuccessfully run for city council that year, with solving the city's fracking problem as one of his major campaign pledges.

For five long years she's been fighting fracking in this town, and despite her dogged and determined spirit, the struggle has taken its toll. ... The push for a ban is personal for her.

In time, I came to know Cathy, and to this day, I can't recall a city council meeting or any other kind of forum germane to Denton's fracking problem in which she wasn't in attendance. Today, she is one of the leaders of Frack Free Denton and the  Denton Drilling Awareness Group  (DAG), responsible for landing the city's proposed fracking ban on November's ballot.

Cathy is usually seen at meetings in a pair of nondescript nursing scrubs, her thickly-framed glasses attached around her neck, and always in a pair of comfortable tennis shoes. Like my mother, she is a home-health nurse. She often finds herself up late finishing up her patient charting after a full day's work as a nurse and a local fracktivist.

Cathy and her husband moved from the city of Decatur earlier that same year in 2009, after fracking operations started there - only to learn that Range Resources was planning a new gas well near her new home in Denton's North Bonnie Brae neighborhood a few months later.

For five long years she's been fighting fracking in this town, and despite her dogged and determined spirit, the struggle has taken its toll. Her feathered blonde hair frames the contours of a gentle, but tired face.

"There was a lot of soul-searching going into [deciding to pursue a referendum for a fracking ban], and when I weighed that against the total arrogance of an industry hell-bent on destroying us for a cost, then there was no question about what had to be done," she told me.

The push for a ban is personal for her. The outcome of the vote could determine whether or not she stays in Denton. Either way, she's sacrificed so much over the years that she's ready to take a step back from organizing after the election. "I am burned out," she's says simply. While many other Denton residents will continue to organize against fracking if the ban doesn't pass, Cathy's feelings aren't surprising.

Dentonites like her have literally exhausted every single institutional avenue available to reform the practice of hydraulic fracturing in this city, and none of those paths have prevented other residents like Bush and her children from suffering the dirty laundry list of direct impacts of Denton's 281 gas wells, some of which are only 200 feet from homes.

This is why there is a real chance that Denton could be the first town in Texas to ban fracking.

The gas industry has poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into this election to convince us that this referendum is "irresponsible," but the history of our struggle with the industry lays bare a tale that has proved much the opposite - an irresponsible industry that has backed residents into a corner with its violent drilling operations.

McKenna Park: Then and Now

As the public outcry over the McKenna Park fracking gas well grew that year in 2009, Denton's then-city council members became anxious over a steady stream of calls, questions and concerns from their constituents. The council members delayed voting on Range Resource's special-use permit to drill at the McKenna park site by tabling the issue three times through the month of September. Each time they tabled the decision, we grew angrier.

Former council member Chris Watts, now Denton's mayor, said Range Resources and surface owner Allegiance Development had put a "gun to [his] head," by threatening legal action against the city if it denied the permit.

Each meeting, my neighbors and I came out to tell the council members to deny the company's permit, signing up to speak on unrelated agenda items to demand a park and neighborhood free of noise, which can exceed 90 decibels, glaring lights during all hours of the night, heavy trucks congesting neighborhood streets and exposure to carcinogens, including benzene. Today, benzene is still present in the air at the park at levels exceeding the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality's (TCEQ) long-term limits according to a report  by ShaleTest.

The council approved Range's permit in a 6-1 vote on October 6, 2009. Former council member Chris Watts, now Denton's mayor, said Range Resources and surface owner Allegiance Development had put a "gun to [his] head," by threatening legal action against the city if it denied the permit. The threat of lawsuits would prove to be a recurring theme council members and the community would struggle over in the coming years.

Only one individual spoke in favor of the gas well during the October 6 meeting: David Poole, a lawyer representing Range Resources.

The battle over the well achieved 21 stop-gap measures to regulate how Range Resources could operate at the site. Heavy sound barriers, protective enclosures, atmospheric monitoring and alternative traffic routes for trucks provided only some relief to us in the end. The city mandated that the fracking at McKenna Park must occur within two years of the initial start of drilling in December 2009.

Range Resources would go on to violate regulations at other drilling sites across North Texas, with the Texas Railroad Commission issuing violation notices and the Environmental Protection Agency issuing an order of protection after the company's drilling activities in Parker County had led to the contamination of at least two drinking water wells. The company would also go on to break the law at our park.

In April of 2010, toxic drilling mud was illegally spilled from travel trailers parked at the site, and outside of the prescribed barrier imposed by the city. The company did not initially report the spill to the Texas Railroad Commission. Drilling mud contains several carcinogens, including benzene, ethylbenzene, trimethylbenzne, isopropylbenzne and many others.

In 2011, an appeals court upheld a 2009 ruling that allowed Range Resources more time to complete its drilling at McKenna Park. Range Resources sold the site for $900 million that spring to Legend Natural Gas. Company heads at Range Resources blamed citizen participation in a city drilling review process that took longer than expected.

Today, the park is quieter except for the faint clanking of metal ringing out from the infrastructure still at the site. The sound carries on the wind over the top of the remaining barrier. The city's water tower, emblazoned with the city's Texas flag logo, looms above the landscape. Before the gas well, and even before George McKenna donated $8,000 for the park's construction in 1964, longhorn cattle grazed the fields at J. Newton Rayzor's ranch. Much has changed since then.

2014 1024 frac 3Denton's water tower at McKenna Park. (Photo: Candice Bernd)

A couple of weeks ago I got a glossy mailer from Denton Taxpayers for a Strong Economy depicting a care-free child on a swing with the word "responsible" written across the image. An adjacent image shows a broken swing with the word "irresponsible" written across it. Beneath the images is the following sentence: "Denton's irresponsible drilling ban proposition will hurt our parks and recreation areas." The mailer argues the city will lose revenue that would go to parks if the ban passes.

My jaw literally dropped at the Orwellian mailer, turning our more than year-long struggle to protect McKenna Park, and the children who play there, on its head. The gas well at the site continues to vent pollution that is toxic to the people who live close by. Not only is that "irresponsible" - it's violent. The only thing that kept me from immediately tearing the mailer in two was knowing I'd need to refer to it later to write this paragraph.

My neighbors also don't seem to be buying their argument. Dozens and dozens of light blue and red "for the ban" yard signs dot my neighborhood. The closer you get to the park, the more "for" signs you see.

The battle over the McKenna Park gas well prompted the city to review its entire drilling ordinance in a process that would begin in December of 2009 and end with an entirely new drilling ordinance in 2013.

When the Industry and City Governments Collide: Denton's Drilling Task Force

After six months of review and countless hours of public input and testimony, in July of 2010 the city approved a slew of changes to its ordinance in its first phase of addressing concerns over gas well drilling within city limits.

The ordinance was amended to include a minimum 1,000-foot setback distance for gas wells from homes, additional noise limitations, higher fees for gas well permits and shorter expiration times for those permits, among other changes. These changes were designed to ensure "responsible drilling," but the gas industry fought the changes throughout the process.

That same month, city officials announced they were assembling a task force to advise councilors in the second phase of the city's drilling ordinance overhaul.

The formation of Denton's drilling task force lacked transparency from the outset. Updates regarding the city's selection process for task force members were not presented during public meetings and instead, were communicated internally via confidential memos - until the Denton Record-Chronicle obtained the memos through an open records request.

From the very beginning of the assembly process, it was clear city staff had prioritized the selection of members who worked for the gas industry. Council member Dalton Gregory asked City Manager George Campbell to hold a council meeting for the purpose of discussing and addressing citizen representation on the task force. Gregory was worried the task force still needed Denton residents to offset the industry representatives already selected.

Meanwhile, a real citizen research committee, free of oil and gas industry representatives, was in the works. Council Member Kevin Roden facilitated the formation of DAG, which involved several UNT professors in researching various aspects of gas drilling in Denton. DAG's research would incorporate public input and suggest ordinance changes based on its feedback. Roden and DAG members hoped the council and city staff would officially include DAG's research and suggestions in its formal ordinance deliberations.

When it was all said and done, the city's official voting task force members included: Ed Ireland, executive director of the industry-funded public relations group Barnett Shale Energy Education Council; John Siegmund, a former petroleum engineer; Don Butler of New Tech Global, a gas industry operations consulting firm; Tom LaPoint, an environmental researcher; and Vicki Oppenheim, an urban planner.

She stared out at us from the dais at city hall, silently communicating her helplessness as the panel's three industry representatives shot down recommendation after recommendation she presented.

This arrangement ensured a consistent 3-2 vote in favor of the gas industry on task force agenda items meant to bolster "responsible drilling" regulations and protections for our community. DAG's work was never incorporated into the city's ordinance deliberations in an official capacity. Task force members Ireland and Butler weren't residents of Denton.

Of all the voting task force members, Oppenheim was the community's most steadfast and ardent defender, voluntarily meeting with DAG members to put forward task force agenda items that reflected the group's research and concerns. In addition to her more than 15 years as an urban planner, she founded Green Leaf Environmental Planning and serves as a board member of Denton's Community Market.

Oppenheim is a short woman whose intense gaze hits you through her small round glasses in a way that belies her height altogether. I remember the intensity of that gaze during task force meetings, when her glare would take on a different meaning as she stared out at us from the dais at city hall, silently communicating her helplessness as the panel's three industry representatives shot down recommendation after recommendation she presented.

She sat with me on a bench this month outside Denton's iconic courthouse on the square, and reflected about her experience on the task force. To this day, she still thinks nonresident members should have only been on the task force in an advisory role in which they wouldn't have had voting power.

"There were people who had other interests on the task force, other than the benefits of the city, and perhaps they went on wanting to create the best ordinance possible, maybe those were their intentions, but they just had different interests," she says. "It wasn't the same as someone who lives here."

The task force and ordinance process taxed Oppenheim emotionally and physically. She spent countless sleepless nights researching the voluminous technical details associated with the drilling process and participated in weekly, long-running task force and council meetings.

But through it all, she never gave up fighting for us. By my own experience as well as independent academic research studying Denton's task force process in its aftermath, Oppenheim raised about 60 percent of all agenda items the task force discussed and voted on.

Two of my friends, also UNT students at the time, arranged a meeting with the city manager to discuss the task force and our community petition calling for the removal of its nonresident members. We sat down with George Campbell in his office. Yellowed, aging photos hung from the walls. Over and over, he recited a mantra about the nonresident task force members' "technical expertise" to us. "Technical expertise" supposedly justified their voting power, he told us.

It's hard to make any kind of an argument favoring why someone like Ed Ireland should have even been on our task force in the first place. Ireland is a gas industry-funded PR man. He is paid to promote industry talking points in the media, and his group is funded by some of the very same companies engaged in drilling operations currently harming Denton residents.

Today, his group continues to send shiny anti-ban mailers to our homes on behalf of the industry, with headers like "Just the Facts" - touting an industry-funded impact study on the ban's supposed economic harms. Fracking's economic externalities, measures that include lower quality of life assessments, aren't factored into the analysis. Ireland's mailers also neglect to mention the fact that the  biggest economic beneficiaries  of fracking are the out-of-town gas companies that fund his group's mailers.

Throughout the second phase of the ordinance overhaul process, we protested and organized. In February of 2012, the council took a cue from a DAG recommendation and passed a 120-day moratorium on new gas drilling permits to allow city officials time to finish adopting new rules. The moratorium was extended  for another 120 days the following June.

As the task force meetings wore on during the moratorium period, the community became increasingly frustrated with the ordinance overhaul process. City staff continuously offered draft after draft of rewrites to the drilling rules based on the task force's recommendations, but Dentonites became embittered by the short times allowed for public review and by city leaders' many closed meetings.

In January of 2013, the council approved the city's new gas drilling ordinance, making several amendments to address remaining concerns. Most of the amendments councilors passed were items that had been rejected by the task force in 3-2 votes, Oppenheim recalled.

The amendments addressed concerns over setbacks, upping the distance a well can be from a home, schools and churches to 1,200 feet from 1,000 feet. They also dealt with issues regarding compression stations, insurance liability, and air and water quality monitoring, making what many Dentonites see as only slight improvements.

But since the new rules were passed, gas companies have returned to Denton to resuscitate the hydraulic fracturing of Denton's more than 270 old gas wells. As the gas companies returned, it became clear the ordinance had failed to protect my neighbors.

The returning gas companies continue to claim they have vested rights in their property and their prior permits mean the city's new ordinance can't apply to their old wells.

"That's why I support the fracking ban," Oppenheim tells me. "After over a year of work improving the ordinance to the best of everyone's ability, and fully my ability, having put in hours and weeks of time ... and now we find out this ordinance won't even apply to many of the wells in Denton, and the industry, on top of it, is unwilling to work with the community."

Oppenheim understands first-hand why the industry isn't concerned with "responsible drilling." Not a single gas company will even consider applying the city's new ordinance to a well if vested rights allow the company to follow old rules.

In the past five years, gas companies have operated wells illegally within city limits, with wells experiencing spills, blowouts and violations of every shape, size and color - affecting Denton residents in many ways.

After an EagleRidge gas well experienced a blowout in April of 2013, thousands of gallons of undisclosed and toxic chemicals and carcinogens were released into an area near homes and businesses for more than 14 hours. Residents living near the well were told not to do anything that could cause a spark, including even turning on their lights, before they were eventually ordered to evacuate.

Denton residents also suffer the worst air quality in the state. Denton County's average of ozone readings was 87 parts per billion in 2013, according to TCEQ measurements, tying only with Houston as the highest average in the state. The Clean Air Act of 1997 mandates that ozone pollution should not exceed 75 parts per billion.

Denton's "responsible drilling" industry has also decreased residential property values, resulting in lawsuits against companies like EagleRidge for $25 million in damages.

Dentonites Fight for a Frack-Free Future Despite Industry's Scare Tactics and Propaganda

DAG soon morphed into Frack Free Denton, launching their campaign for a fracking ban within city limits in February of this year.

I can't recall another city council meeting like it. More than 600 residents and dozens of industry representatives packed city council chambers as well as two overflow rooms at City Hall and the Civic Center, just next door.

The push for a ban comes primarily in the context of the group having tried everything else. It is the next logical step for our community to seek protection from the gas industry. DAG leaders like Cathy have gone from Denton to Austin and back again, pursuing drilling reforms within the established governmental channels. Each time, they've been told by officials that their "hands are tied."

Denton residents have been calling for a total ban on fracking for years now, and city leaders have continually punted the issue down the field due to legal issues. The threat of a state lawsuit, which may become an inevitable outcome of the ban, is a price many agree is worth paying to protect our community's health and well-being.

The council's final punt on the issue came in the form of a 5-2 vote at about 3:30 in the morning on Wednesday, July 16, 2014, rejecting a voter-initiative petition signed by more than 2,000 Denton residents, and sending the matter to voters to decide November 4.

I can't recall another city council meeting like it. More than 600 residents and a dozen industry representatives packed city council chambers as well as two overflow rooms at City Hall and the Civic Center, just next door. Council members heard testimony from statewide elected officials, former Railroad Commission officials and many of the same tried and true Denton residents who've been speaking about the issue before council for years.

The elected officials spoke first and left first, prompting council members to ask where they've been over the past few years while the city has been seeking their help on this issue. An overwhelming majority spoke in favor of the fracking ban, and an additional 161 people submitted comment cards in support, with only 46 cards submitted in opposition.

Council member Roden moved to accept the petition, appealing to concerns over the amount of money already spent on anti-ban mailers and a nonbinding petition, proffered by employees paid $2 per signature by the oil and gas industry and signed by many nonresidents.

After much back-and-forth between council members, the council finally voted to reject the ban, reasoning that it's more important to let Denton voters decide the matter. Only Roden and Gregory voted against rejecting the petition, raising concerns about whether or not a fair vote could occur when the gas industry was already spending so much money to sway the ultimate outcome.

"[Fracking in Denton] has become a symbol of what's wrong with capitalism as an entity," Roden told me at Denton's Oak Street Draft House. "The only reason why I think [fracking] is such an issue is because there's hell of a lot of money to be made."

The Denton Record-Chronicle reported on the first round of campaign finance reports, which show that both specific-purpose committees, for and against the fracking ban, have raised $280,000 in the city's most expensive election. The vast majority of that money, $231,000, has gone to opponents of the ban - from three gas companies - contributing $75,000 each: Oklahoma-based Devon Energy, Fort Worth-based XTO Energy and Houston-based EnerVest.

According to the Chronicle, of the $1,060 in individual contributions to the opposition, only two came from people with Denton addresses. Those two are Bobby Jones and Randy Sorrells, leaders with Denton Taxpayers for Strong Economy, the specific-purpose committee against the ban. Funding for the campaign in favor of the ban overwhelmingly came from Denton residents: About $14,000 raised in individual contributions reported by the ban's proponents was given by 45 people with Denton addresses. Another $30,000 was contributed by Earthworks, a national environmental organization.

Roden recently left the Denton Chamber of Commerce after the chamber adopted a resolution against the ban that was subsequently used in industry-funded, anti-ban mailers, without the chamber's permission.

But in addition to the vast amounts of money the industry is spending on this election as a cost of doing business, the industry's tactics go well beyond fake petitions and glossy mailers.

I have no reason to believe this election will be any different than every other forum I've been to in this city on this topic - a majority will stand against turning our town into an industrial drilling zone.

In 2011, Earthworks' Sharon Wilson, who has been organizing against fracking in Denton the past few years, attended a Houston gas industry conference for PR professionals. During the conference, she recorded Matt Pitzarella, director of corporate communications and public affairs at Range Resources, giving a presentation in which he stated that Range Resources had hired Army and Marine veterans with experience in military-style psychological operations to influence communities like Denton, where the company drills for gas.

During the conference, another PR professional, Matt Carmichael, external affairs manager at Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, suggested that his colleagues download the Army's Counterinsurgency Manual, calling residents fighting fracking in their local municipalities an "insurgency."

That "insurgency" includes people like me and my friends as well as Denton moms like Bush, who live only 200 feet from gas wells.

The industry has also resorted to other kinds of scare tactics, which include the suggestion that Denton residents organizing against fracking are terrorists who have been included on a DHS watch list.

2014 1024 frac 4Frack Free Denton organizers created a satirical skit making light of the gas industry's talking points during a rally and concert at Denton's Quakertown Park meant to coincide with the start of early voting October 20, 2014. Activists held up a gas industry "puppet" and a mock "propaganda machine." (Photo: Candice Bernd)But despite the industry's violence against my neighbors, and the industry's many coercive, cruel and despotic intimidation tactics in its ongoing psychological war against my community, the organizers here are a resilient bunch, always pushing back no matter what the industry throws at them - and they're giving it their all in the run-up to this vote.

Despite the industry's threats of lawsuits, despite their attempts at corporate control of my city government, the vast majority of my neighbors are in favor of this fracking ban. I've seen them speak against drilling at every city council meeting I've been to. They've come out time and time again to stand up for themselves. I have no reason to believe this election will be any different than every other forum I've been to in this city on this topic - a majority will stand against turning our town into an industrial drilling zone.

As I have come into adulthood and reconciled my own personal beliefs, so too has Denton's anti-fracking movement. It has grown enough over the years that it now stands a very real chance of making Denton the first town on the Barnett Shale - where the technique of hydraulic fracturing was invented - to ban fracking.

News Fri, 24 Oct 2014 09:45:19 -0400
Official Sources May Be the Only Sources

New York Times investigative reporter James Risen is taking a stand. Despite being hounded by both the Bush and Obama administrations to reveal his sources, he has vowed to go to jail rather than abandon his pledge of confidentiality.

As fellow journalists and journalism advocacy groups rush to his side, many fear that the US Department of Justice within the self-proclaimed “most transparent administration in history” is preparing to deliver a body blow to the First Amendment’s promise of press freedom.

“This case is the closest we’ve come to the edge of the precipice, to reporter/source privilege being banned,” said Jesselyn Radack, director of national security and human rights for the Government Accountability Project, in a phone interview.

Risen, a Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter, has been ordered by the DoJ to testify in the prosecution of former CIA employee Jeffrey Sterling, who is accused of leaking information about a botched Clinton-era CIA mission to give Iran phony nuclear information—which ended up giving Iran real information on how to build a bomb. Risen wrote about the failed operation in his 2006 book State of War.

Risen was initially subpoenaed by the Bush administration in 2008, but the order expired as the reporter fought against it through the courts. To the surprise of many, the subpoena was renewed under President Obama in 2010—despite repeated calls to drop the pursuit.

“Risen informed the public about the dangerous stupidity of a CIA operation and seriously embarrassed the agency in the process,” said Norman Solomon, a longtime FAIR associate and co-founder of, an online advocacy group, in an email exchange. “Evidently a pair of unforgivable sins in the eyes of both the Bush and Obama administrations.”

If the government does uphold its subpoena and Risen is punished for taking his stand, journalists and free press advocates say that this would set a dangerous precedent for the interpretation of press freedom under the First Amendment.

“Functionally, a reporter will no longer be able to promise source confidentiality,” Radack explained. “This will impact people who want to disclose wrongdoing,” she said. “Whistleblowers disclosing fraud, waste, abuse and illegality will no longer go to the press.”

Robust investigative journalism has already suffered from budget cuts and waning interest in long-form journalism, and this “chilling effect” on sources will provide the “final nail in the coffin of the free press as we know it,” Radack added.

In 2011, a federal District Court ruled that Risen could not be compelled by the government to reveal his sources. “A criminal trial subpoena is not a free pass for the government to rifle through a reporter’s notebook,” wrote District Court Judge Leonie Brinkema, adding that Risen was protected by a limited “reporter’s privilege” under the First Amendment.

The government challenged that decision, and in 2013, the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Virginia, reinstated the subpoena, arguing that the First Amendment did not protect Risen from being forced to testify against his source.

In June 2014, Risen’s legal battle reached an insurmountable barrier when the US Supreme Court refused to take up his case, affirming the lower court ruling. Now Risen will have to testify or face contempt of court charges, which can lead to either imprisonment or up to $1,000 a day in fines.

After the high court passed on the case, Risen’s attorney, Joel Kurtzberg, told the Committee to Protect Journalists (6/2/14) that he hopes the government won’t hold Risen in contempt “for doing nothing other than reporting the news and keeping his promise to his source.” He noted that the “ball is now in the government’s court.”

On August 14, a coalition of journalists, media advocacy groups and independent media outlets delivered over 100,000 signatures to the Department of Justice, calling on the Obama administration to drop its subpoena.

The petition—organized by Roots Action along with FAIR, the Center for Media and Democracy, Freedom of the Press Foundation, The Nation Institute and The Progressiveargues that “without confidentiality, journalism would be reduced to official stories—a situation antithetical to the First Amendment.”

On the day the petition was turned in, Risen was joined by a number of free press advocates, including Radack and Solomon, at a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. Speaking before the roomful of reporters, Risen said, “The real reason I’m doing this is for the future of journalism.”

“Freedom of the press is the most important freedom,” agreed Delphine Halgand, director of Reporters Without Borders’ Washington office, who also spoke at the press conference. “It is the freedom that allows us to verify the existence of all other freedoms.”

When asked about the Risen case at a closed-door meeting with a group of journalists, Attorney General Eric Holder (New York Times5/28/14) reportedly declared, “As long as I’m attorney general, no reporter who is doing his job is going to go to jail.”

Despite this pronouncement, the prosecution of whistleblowers has become a mainstay of Obama’s presidency (Extra!9/11; FAIR Media Advisory,8/27/13). During his time in office, the DoJ has pursued eight prosecutions of leakers under the Espionage Act, more than double the total number of such prosecutions since the law was enacted.

McClatchy News (6/20/13) also revealed the existence of a government employee “tattletale” program. By having government employees spying and reporting on each other, the Obama initiative, dubbed “Insider Threat,” aims to thwart future leakers.

According to the Reporters Without Borders’ annual Press Freedom Index (2/12/14), the US dropped 14 positions from 2013 to 2014, and now ranks 46th worldwide. The report notes:

In the US, the hunt for leaks and whistleblowers serves as a warning to those thinking of satisfying a public interest need for information about the imperial prerogatives assumed by the world’s leading power.

Advocates say to ensure the protection of journalists in this post-9/11 surveillance state, it is critical to pass a federal shield law that will protect reporters from being forced to disclose confidential information or sources in court. (Most states have some sort of law or protection in place.)

There is a shield bill currently making its way through Congress—S. 987, known as the Free Flow of Information Act—though there is concern that the legislation has too many loopholes that allow the government to claim broad “national security” exceptions and leave some whistleblowers 
without protection (Dissenter5/12/14).

In a recent interview with Times colleague Maureen Dowd (8/17/14), Risen referenced Obama’s “most transparent administration” claim.

“It’s hypocritical,” Risen said. “A lot of people...don’t want to believe that Obama wants to crack down on the press and whistleblowers. But he does. He’s the greatest enemy to press freedom in a generation.”

Among those who have come to Risen’s defense are 21 fellow Pulitzer Prize–winning reporters, who each signed the Roots Action petition and issued personal statements on his behalf.

Included in the testimonies is one from Risen’s New York Times colleague Barry Bearak, who wrote that Risen “is carrying the banner for every American journalist.”

“If he goes to jail,” Bearak continued, “a good bit of our nation’s freedom will be locked away with him.” 

 New York Times Has Benefitted From Leakers—but Not Vice Versa

As the Department of Justice doggedly pursues Pulitzer Prize–winner James Risen, the New York Times has been forced to enter the fray of the government’s so-called “war on information.”

The Times, like many mainstream publications, has openly acknowledged its practice of seeking government approval for sensitive stories (2/6/13), and often serves as a government mouthpiece by publishing sanctioned “leaks” of information.

And although the Times has benefitted enormously from actual leaks of government secrets that were vital for the public to know, it has historically maintained a cautious—if not skeptical—distance from those who risked their careers and liberty to reveal such truths.

Despite publishing the invaluable Pentagon Papers, which exposed government deceptions about the Vietnam War, the Times refused to provide leaker Daniel Ellsberg with any help in his criminal case. According to Ellsberg, then–executive editor Abe Rosenthal told the whistleblower that the paper had no policy for supporting a source who is being prosecuted for leaking information.

“The Times,” Ellsberg explained, “thinks of leakers, wrongly, as having clearly broken the law.”

The paper has given even less support to Chelsea Manning, despite having partnered with Wikileaks in July 2010 to release important revelations from the hundreds of thousands of classified war logs and State Department cables revealed by Manning.

In addition to disparaging her character and questioning her motives in a Bill Keller column (3/11/13), the Times treated Manning’s trial as a nonevent—not sending a single reporter, and only running one AP wire story (12/30/12) on it.

Later, New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan (5/12/12) wrote that the paper had “missed the boat” by not covering Manning’s pretrial testimony.

The paper did run an editorial (1/1/14) supporting NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden; however, that was months after an earlier editorial (8/6/13) essentially calling for Snowden to be extradited for prosecution.

In a January 2013 column about the prosecution of Chelsea Manning, journalist Glenn Greenwald warned corporate media that they “might want to take a serious interest” in the case and “marshal opposition to what is being done to Bradley Manning.”

He continued: “If not out of concern for the injustices to which he is being subjected, then out of self-interest, to ensure that their reporters and their past and future whistleblowing sources cannot be similarly persecuted.”

It seems that time has come. 

News Thu, 23 Oct 2014 12:04:44 -0400
Noam Chomsky at United Nations: It Would Be Nice if the United States Lived up to International Law

After world-renowned scholar Noam Chomsky gave a major address on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the hall of the United Nations General Assembly last week, Amy Goodman interviewed the world-renowned linguist and dissident before an audience of 800 people. Chomsky spoke at an event sponsored by the United Nations Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People. “One important action that the United States could take is to live up to its own laws. Of course it would be nice if it lived up to international law, but maybe that’s too much to ask,” Chomsky said.


AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, as we return to MIT professor Noam Chomsky, world-renowned political dissident, linguist and author. Last week, he spoke before over 800 people in the hall of the United Nations General Assembly, before ambassadors and the public alike, on the issue of Israel and Palestine. After his speech, I conducted a public interview with Professor Chomsky.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you think is the most—the single most important action the United States can take? And what about its role over the years? What is its interest here?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, one important action that the United States could take is to live up to its own laws. Of course, it would be nice if it lived up to international law, but maybe that’s too much to ask, but live up to its own laws. And there are several. And here, incidentally, I have in mind advice to activists also, who I think ought to be organizing and educating in this direction. There are two crucial cases.

One of them is what’s called the Leahy Law. Patrick Leahy, Senator Leahy, introduced legislation called the Leahy Law, which bars sending weapons to any military units which are involved in consistent human rights violations. There isn’t the slightest doubt that the Israeli army is involved in massive human rights violations, which means that all dispatch of U.S. arms to Israel is in violation of U.S. law. I think that’s significant. The U.S. should be called upon by its own citizens to—and by others, to adhere to U.S. law, which also happens to conform to international law in this case, as Amnesty International, for example, for years has been calling for an arms embargo against Israel for this reason. These are all steps that can be taken.

The second is the tax-exempt status that is given to organizations in the United States which are directly involved in the occupation and in significant attacks on human and civil rights within Israel itself, like the Jewish National Fund. Take a look at its charter with the state of Israel, which commits it to acting for the benefit of people of Jewish race, religion and origin within Israel. One of the consequences of that is that by a complex array of laws and administrative practices, the fund pretty much administers about 90 percent of the land of the country, with real consequences for who can live places. They get tax-exempt status also for their activities in the West Bank, which are strictly criminal. I think that’s also straight in violation of U.S. law. Now, those are important things.

And I think the U.S. should be pressured, internationally and domestically, to abandon its virtually unique role—unilateral role in blocking a political settlement for the past 40 years, ever since the first veto in January 1976. That should be a major issue in the media, in convocations like this, in the United Nations, in domestic politics, in government politics and so on.

AMY GOODMAN: The role of the media, can you talk about that, and particularly in the United States? And do you think that the opinion in the United States, public opinion, is shifting on this issue?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, the role of the—the media are somewhat shifting from uniform support for virtually everything that Israel does to—and, of course, silence about the U.S. role—that’s not just in the case of Israel, that’s innumerable other cases, as well—but is slowly shifting. But nevertheless, about, say, Operation Protective Edge, one can read in news reporting, news reporting in The New York Times, major journal, a criticism of Hamas’s assault on Israel during Protective Edge. Hamas’s assault on Israel—not exactly what happened, but that’s what people are reading, and that’s the way it’s depicted. Israel is—over and over it’s pointed out, "Look, poor Israel is under attack. It has the right of self-defense." Everyone agrees to that. Actually, I agree, too. Everyone has a right of self-defense. But that’s not the question. The question is: Do you have a right of self-defense by force, by violence? The answer is no for anyone, whether it’s an individual or state, unless you have exhausted peaceful means. If you won’t even permit peaceful means, which is the case here, then you have no right of self-defense by violence. But try to find a word about that in the media. All you find is "self-defense." When President Obama rarely says anything about what’s happening, it’s usually, "If my daughters were being attacked by rockets, I would do anything to stop it." He’s referring not to the hundreds of Palestinian children who are being killed and slaughtered, but to the children in the Israeli town of Sderot, which is under attack by Qassam missiles. And remember that Israel knows exactly how to stop those missiles: namely, live up to a ceasefire for the first time, and then they would stop, as in the past, even when Israel didn’t live up to a ceasefire.

That framework—and, of course, the rest of the framework is the United States as an honest broker trying hard to bring the two recalcitrant sides together, doing its best in this noble endeavor—has nothing to do with the case. The U.S. is, as some of the U.S. negotiators have occasionally acknowledged, Israel’s lawyer. If there were serious negotiations going on, they would be led by some neutral party, maybe Brazil, which has some international respect, and they would bring together the two sides—on the one side, Israel and the United States; on the other side, the Palestinians. Now, those would be possible realistic negotiations. But the chances of anyone in the media either—I won’t even say pointing it out, even thinking about it, is minuscule. The indoctrination is so deep that really elementary facts like these—and they are elementary—are almost incomprehensible.

But to get back to your—the last point you mentioned, it’s very important. Opinion in the United States is shifting, not as fast as in most of the world, not as fast as in Europe. It’s not reaching the point where you could get a vote in Congress anything like the British Parliament a couple days ago, but it is changing, mostly among younger people, and changing substantially. I’ll just illustrate with personal experience; Amy has the same experience. Until pretty recently, when I gave talks on these topics, as I’ve been doing for 40 years, I literally had to have police protection, even at my own university, MIT. Police would insist on walking me back to my car because of threats they had picked up. Meetings were broken up, and so on. That’s all gone. Just a couple of days ago I had a talk on these topics at MIT. Meeting wasn’t broken up. No police protection. Maybe 500 or 600 students were there, all enthusiastic, engaged, committed, concerned, wanting to do something about it. That’s happening all over the country. All over the country, Palestinian solidarity is one of the biggest issues on campus—enormous change in the last few years.

That’s the way things tend to change. It often starts with younger people. Gradually it gets to the rest of the population. Efforts of the kind I mentioned, say, trying to get the United States government to live up to its own laws, those could be undertaken on a substantial scale, domestically and with support from international institutions. And that could lead to further changes. I think that the—for example, the two things that I mentioned would have a considerable appeal to much of the American public. Why should they be funding military units that are carrying out massive human rights violations? Why should they be permitting tax exemption? Meaning we pay for it—that’s what a tax exemption means. Why should we be paying, compelled to pay, for violations of fundamental human rights in another country, and even in occupied territories, where it’s criminal? I think that can appeal to the American population and can lead to the kinds of changes we’ve seen in other cases.

AMY GOODMAN: Final question, before we open it up to each of you: Your thoughts on the BDS movement, the boycott, divest, sanctions movement?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, BDS is a set of tactics, right? These are tactics that you employ when you think they’re going to be effective and in ways that you think will be effective. Tactics are not principles. They’re not actions that you undertake no matter what because you think they’re right. Tactics are undertaken, if you’re serious, because you think they’re going to help the victims. That’s how you adjust your tactics, not because I think they’re right in principle, but because I think they will be beneficial. That ought to be second nature to activists.

Also second nature should be a crucial distinction between proposing and advocating. I can propose now that we should all live in peace and love each other. I just proposed it. That’s not a serious proposal. It becomes a serious proposal when it becomes advocacy. It is given—I sketch out a path for getting from here to there. Then it becomes serious. Otherwise, it’s empty words. That’s crucial and related to this.

Well, when you take a look at the BDS movement, which is separate, incidentally, from BDS tactics—let me make that clear. So, when the European Union issued its directive or when the—that I mentioned, or when, say, the Gates Foundation withdraws investment in security operations that are being carried out, not only in the Occupied Territories, but elsewhere, that’s very important. But that’s not the BDS movement. That’s BDS tactics, actually, BD tactics, boycott, divestment tactics. That’s important. The BDS movement itself has been an impetus to these developments, and in many ways a positive one, but I think it has failed and should reflect on its, so far, unwillingness to face what are crucial questions for activists: What’s going to help the victims, and what’s going to harm them? What is a proposal, and what is real advocacy? You have to think that through, and it hasn’t been sufficiently done.

So, if you take a look at the principles of the BDS movement, there are three. They vary slightly in wording, but basically three. One is, actions should be directed against the occupation. That has been extremely successful, in many ways, and it makes sense. It also helps educate the Western populations who are being appealed to to participate, enables—it’s an opening to discuss, investigate and organize about the participation in the occupation. That’s very successful.

A second principle is that BDS actions should be continued until Israel allows the refugees to return. That has had no success, and to the extent that it’s been tried, it’s been negative. It just leads to a backlash. No basis has been laid for it among the population. It is simply interpreted as saying, "Oh, you want to destroy the state of Israel. We’re not going to destroy a state." You cannot undertake actions which you think are principled when in the real world they are going to have a harmful effect on the victims.

There’s a third category having to do with civil rights within Israel, and there are things that could be done here. One of the ones I mentioned, in fact—the tax-free status for U.S. organizations that are engaged in civil rights and human rights violations. And remember, a tax exemption means I pay for it. That’s what a tax exemption is. Well, that’s an action that could be undertaken. Others that have been undertaken have had backlashes which are harmful. And I won’t run through the record, but these are the kinds of questions that always have to be asked when you’re involved in serious activisms, if you care about the victims, not just feeling good, but caring about the victims. That’s critically important.

AMY GOODMAN: MIT professor, world-renowned linguist, dissident, Noam Chomsky, speaking last Tuesday in the hall of the United Nations General Assembly before 800 people in an event hosted by the U.N. Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People. If you’d like a copy of today’s show, you can go to our website at

We wish a very happy birthday to our video producer, Robby Karran. For all our New York viewers, Democracy Now! co-host Juan González will be one of the journalists questioning the New York gubernatorial candidates in tonight’s debate. The debate will be broadcast live at 8:00 p.m. on PBS stations across New York. I’ll be speaking in Vienna, Austria, Friday at an event hosted by ORF, Austria’s public broadcaster, then on Saturday speaking at the Elevate Festival in Graz, Austria. Again, you can go to for more details.

News Thu, 23 Oct 2014 11:29:32 -0400
That Film About Money

What is the real value of a dollar?

You think that a dollar bill is money and that banks are where your cash is stored and safeguarded. Well, you’re wrong. Like, really wrong.

That Film About Money, Part I:

What do banks do with our deposits?

You think that banks are where your cash is stored and safeguard and that a dollar bill is money. Well, you’re wrong. Like, really wrong.

The Second Part of That Film About Money:

News Thu, 23 Oct 2014 11:11:41 -0400