Truthout Stories http://www.truth-out.org Fri, 29 May 2015 16:19:51 -0400 en-gb NPR Tries to Scare People About the Deficit http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/31067-national-public-radio-tries-to-scare-people-about-the-deficit http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/31067-national-public-radio-tries-to-scare-people-about-the-deficit

Billionaire Peter Peterson is spending lots of money to get people to worry about the debt and deficits rather than focus on the issues that will affect their lives. National Public Radio is doing its part to try to promote Peterson's cause with a Morning Edition piece that began by telling people that the next president "will have to wrestle with the federal debt." This is not true, but it is the hope of Peter Peterson that he can distract the public from the factors that will affect their lives, most importantly the upward redistribution of income, and obsess on the country's relative small deficit. (A larger deficit right now would promote growth and employment.)

According to the projections from the Congressional Budget Office, interest on the debt will be well below 2.0 percent of GDP when the next president takes office. This is lower than the interest burden faced by any pre-Obama president since Jimmy Carter. The interest burden is projected to rise to 3.0 percent of GDP by 2024 when the next president's second term is ending, but this would still be below the burden faced by President Clinton when he took office.

Furthermore, the reason for the projected rise in the burden is a projection that the Federal Reserve Board is projected to raise interest rates. If the Fed kept interest rates low, then the burden would be little changed over the course of the decade. Of course the Fed's decision to raise interest rates will have a far greater direct impact on people's lives than increasing interest costs for the government. (The president appoints 7 of the 12 voting members of the Fed's Open Market Committee that sets interest rates.)

The reason the Fed raises interest rates is to slow the economy and keep people from getting jobs. This will prevent the labor market from tightening, which will prevent workers from having enough bargaining power to get pay increases. In that case, the bulk of the gains from economic growth will continue to go to those at the top end of the income distribution.

The main reason that we saw strong wage growth at the end of the 1990s was that Alan Greenspan ignored the accepted wisdom in the economics profession, including among the liberal economists appointed to the Fed by President Clinton, and allowed the unemployment rate to drop well below 6.0 percent. At the time, almost all economists believed that if the unemployment rate fell much below 6.0 percent that inflation would spiral out of control. The economists were wrong, inflation was little changed even though the unemployment rate remained below 6.0 from the middle of 1995 until 2001, and averaged just 4.0 percent for all of 2000. (Economists, unlike custodians and dishwashers, suffer no consequence in their careers for messing up on the job.)

Anyhow, if the Fed raises interest rates to keep the labor market from tightening as it did in the late 1990s, this would effectively be depriving workers of the 1.0-1.5 percentage points in real wage growth they could expect if they were getting their share of productivity growth. This is like an increase in the payroll tax of 1.0-1.5 percentage points annually. Over the course of a two-term president, this would be the equivalent of an 8.0-12.0 percentage point increase in the payroll tax.

That would be a really big deal. But Peter Peterson and apparently NPR would rather have the public worry about the budget deficit.

It is also worth noting that the five think tanks mentioned in this piece that prepared deficit plans were paid by the Peter Peterson Foundation to prepare defict plans. They did not do it because they considered it the best use of their time.

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News Fri, 29 May 2015 00:00:00 -0400
Leaked Treaty You've Never Heard of Makes Secret Rules for the Internet http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/31066-tisa-yet-another-leaked-treaty-you-ve-never-heard-of-makes-secret-rules-for-the-internet http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/31066-tisa-yet-another-leaked-treaty-you-ve-never-heard-of-makes-secret-rules-for-the-internet

A February 2015 draft of the secret Trade In Services Agreement (TISA) was leaked again last week, revealing a more extensive and more recent text than that of portions from an April 2014 leak that we covered last year. Together with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), TISA completes a trifecta of trade agreements that the administration could sign under Fast Track without full congressional oversight.

Although it is the least well-known of those agreements, it is the broadest in terms of membership. As far as we know, it presently includes twenty countries plus Europe (but notably excluding the major emerging world economies of the BRICS bloc), who, with disdainful levity, have adopted the mantle "the Really Good Friends of Services." Like its sister agreements, TISA will enact global rules that impact the Internet, bypassing the transparency and accountability of national parliaments. The only difference is that its focus is on services, not goods.

In our previous analysis, we focused our attention on two points from the leaked text. The first was a provision that would prohibit democratically-elected parliaments from enacting limits on the "free flow of information" to protect the privacy of their citizens - limits that, we argued, should be debated publicly, not behind closed doors. The second was text on net neutrality, that would lock in a particular set of global rules on net neutrality, including an open-ended exception for "reasonable network management" that could become a loophole for exploitation. Those provisions remain in the new leaked draft.

But the latest leak has revealed more. The agreement would also prohibit countries from enacting free and open source software mandates. Although "software used for critical infrastructure" is already carved out from this prohibition (and so is software that is not "mass market software", whatever that means), there are other circumstances in which a country might legitimately require suppliers to disclose their source code.

For example, one step that might be considered to improve the dire state of security of consumer routers might be to require that they be supplied with source code, so that their security could be more broadly reviewed, and third parties could contribute patches for critical vulnerabilities. Although that may sound radical, this is already required for many routers because they are based on software covered by the GNU General Public License. TISA would prohibit any such national initiative.

As in the TPP, and expanding on the earlier leaked draft, TISA also includes a prohibition on laws that require service providers to host data locally, which some countries have used to protect sensitive personal information, such as health data, from being snooped upon on foreign soil. There are arguments for and against such laws, and it is inappropriate that a secretive international agreement such as TISA should preempt these important debates.

The agreement would also require countries to introduce anti-spam laws. Although spam is bad, that doesn't necessarily make anti-spam laws good. In practice such laws have generally been ineffective at best, and ripe for abuse at worst. As such, we believe that it would be a legitimate choice for a country to decide not to tackle this blight through legislation - a choice that TISA would remove from them.

These examples only scratch the surface of TISA, yet they are enough to demonstrate a common problem that also affects the TPP and TTIP - that they are locking in a very specific rules for the Internet that the member countries may regret later. Locking in national laws through international law is something to be done sparingly. If it is done at all, then it should be through a transparent process that allows for users to have a voice - a process at least as open as that by which WIPO concluded the Marrakesh Treaty for the Blind.

What we have here is the very antithesis of that. The closed-door TISA negotiations are designed to set some very technologically-specific rules in stone - rules that will bind signatory countries for decades to come. Users and other stakeholders are completely excised from this process, and even our democratically elected representatives are being kept in the dark.

Activism around TISA is still very diffuse and limited, but there's one campaign that you can help us fight now, and it's the same action that we're taking to battle the TPP - it's opposing the Fast Track bill. The US administration is relying on Fast Track not only to streamline its accession to the TPP, but its future ratification of TISA as well. Even if you're on the fence about the TPP, TISA is a further reason for you to call on your representative to oppose Fast Track today.

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News Fri, 29 May 2015 00:00:00 -0400
Canadian Indigenous Community Appealing Pipeline Decision for Lack of Consultation http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/31064-canadian-indigenous-community-appealing-pipeline-decision-for-lack-of-consultation http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/31064-canadian-indigenous-community-appealing-pipeline-decision-for-lack-of-consultation

If Enbridge has their way, diluted tar sands bitumen and fracked oil will start flowing eastward through their Line 9 pipeline as early as June 1st. Yet on June 16th the Chippewas of the Thames First Nation's legal challenge to the National Energy Board's decision on the pipeline project will be heard in front of a federal appeal court in Toronto. The Anishinaabe community is opposing Enbridge's project at its base because, they argue, they were not consulted, as is their right and as is the duty of the Canadian government. Their legal challenge is one of many forms that opposition to Line 9 has taken, and it foregrounds the key messages of the opposition: Indigenous nations were not properly consulted, and the pipeline poses a grave threat to the environment.  

The prospect of the line being turned on while Chippewas of the Thames First Nation (COTTFN) is still objecting due to lack of consultation does not sit well with the community. On May 21st lawyers for the COTTFN filed an application with the NEB to stay the final Line 9 decision pending the results of their appeal. While affirming their opposition to Line 9 through the courts, their resistance is grounded in traditional knowledge and responsibilities, as band councillor Myeengun Henry explains, "[we] know it is our obligation to protect the land, the environment... our spiritual connection is strong in our community and [we] are strongly opposing this project."


The Line 9 project was initiated quietly and rather unremarkably, with a plan, according to Enbridge, to simply reverse the direction of the 40 year old pipeline's flow from west to east so it would transport oil from Sarnia to Montreal. Indeed, approval in July 2012 for reversing the flow of the first section of the pipeline (9A) passed with little opposition. But concern quickly arose that oil products being shipped west to east were likely going to be changed from light crude to diluted bitumen from the Alberta tar sands and fracked oil from North Dakota. Eventually, Enbridge was forced to confirm that this was to be the case for the whole of Line 9, and the prospect of tar sands bitumen being pumped through an aging pipeline across many rivers and through many communities spurred widespread opposition.

Along with concerns over the substances Line 9 would carry, opposition grew around the fact that the reversal project would impact 18 Indigenous communities--communities which were not consulted in the process of developing and approving this project. During the second round of NEB hearings for Line 9 in October 2013, which examined the reversal of 9B and a change in materials to be pumped through the whole line, the question of consultation was raised by multiple groups, including Indigenous and settler intervenors. Yet despite criticism over lack of consultation, as well as environmental impact, being voiced by groups ranging from band councils to residents' groups to the Ontario Ministry of Energy, in March 2014 the NEB approved the Line 9 project. COTTFN launched their appeal of the NEB's decision shortly thereafter.

The reasonable probability of significant impact on an Indigenous community should trigger a full consultation process, and since Enbridge and the federal government shirked this responsibility, COTTFN are taking the matter to court. The rights they are asserting are protected in treaties and the Canadian Constitution, and echoed in international agreements including the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which emphasises the need for free, prior, and informed consent. Section 35 of the Constitution affirms the treaty rights of Indigenous peoples, which include consultation regarding projects that would impact upon these rights.

In order to uphold these laws and principles, Enbridge and the federal government would have had to undertake a process of consultation and have obtained the consent of every Indigenous community whose land would be impacted by the Line 9 project. COTTFN maintains in their legal challenge that this was not done, and thus that their rights have been violated, submitting that the NEB "erred in law by approving Enbridge's application before such an assessment [regarding duty to consult] had been undertaken."

In their submission to the court, COTTFN notes parallels to the land rights victory of the recent Tsilhqot'in ruling. In that decision, consultation was upheld as essential "where the Crown has real or constructive knowledge of the potential or actual existence of Aboriginal title, and contemplates conduct that might adversely affect it," with due consideration for accommodation and consent. Referring to the precedent set in that ruling, they suggest that the duty to consult here for Line 9 is on the high end of the spectrum.

At the October 2013 NEB hearings, COTTFN filed documents including a traditional land use study, with the First Nation's Chief Joe Miskokomon asserting inherent and treaty rights within the same territory occupied by Line 9. As COTTFN filed with the NEB, "Line 9 is located within [COTTFN's] traditional territory and treaty lands crossing underneath the Thames River, a watershed that [their] members and their ancestors have inhabited and harvested resources from since time immemorial."

Yet the NEB did not respond to these outstanding concerns regarding consultation. Instead, in their "Reasons for Decision" of the Line 9 approval, the NEB wrote "the Board's hearing process itself is part of the overall consultative process," despite the fact that in order to participate, intervenors had to submit a lengthy form and meet approval, with many being denied this opportunity. Additionally, the NEB evidently accepted the process of notification Enbridge undertook as a substitute for consultation.

On May 6th, in responding to a shareholder question at Enbridge's AGM in Toronto, CEO Al Monaco said, "through this [Line 9] project and all other projects," the corporation "make[s] it a point of making sure that we're consulting and engaging communities all along the right of way, particularly for First Nations." However, their track record demonstrates otherwise. Notification is far from equal to consultation, and Enbridge has come under fire in the past for neglecting to consult.

In 2013, Amnesty International released statement regarding Enbridge's Northern Gateway project. Amnesty explained that the approval of the project "has ignored crucial protections for Indigenous rights set out in both the Canadian Constitution and international human rights law." The statement continued "if consultation is based on the premise that the project will proceed regardless, it will not meet the standard of human rights protection required by [law]."

Amnesty's statement added that "The Supreme Court of Canada have repeatedly stated that there is a mandatory minimum legal duty for governments to carry out meaningful, good faith consultations with Indigenous peoples prior to any decision with the potential to affect their rights" (emphasis added).

Even though these principles have been tested repeatedly at the Supreme Court, they are being rehearsed once again over another industrial project. "Time and time we have to fight, but it is a different day and age now with our understanding. We keep referring back to Section 35 of the Constitution, which is a constitutional responsibility for them to talk to us," Henry reflects. "Our case is really against the government of Canada for their lack of responsibility."

The environmental implications are equally concerning, given Line 9's substantial potential to devastate the land and rivers it crosses. As Henry explains, "The land here in southern Ontario is our spiritual responsibility. The Thames River is one of our major factors, we still hunt, we still fish, we still gather medicines in that region," adding that other First Nations in the vicinity, even though not directly traversed by Line 9, would be affected by a spill.

Indeed, the prospects for the ecosystems crossed by Line 9 have been cast as dire. Pipeline safety expert Richard Kuprewicz has predicted an over 90% chance of failure in the first 5 years of operation, a statement of risk that, as he tells Desmog Canada, he does not make lightly or often. And a failure of a line carrying dilbit is demonstrably more devastating than of conventional crude. In short time, bitumen sinks in water, while the condensate used to dilute it evaporates, leaving a toxic cloud.

The first test case of a dilbit spill into water was seen in the 2010 spill of Enbridge's line 6B into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan. Five years and over a billion dollars later, the watershed is still not cleaned up. Earlier this month, Enbridge agreed to add 75 million dollars more to the clean-up costs. There is still no reliable remediation process for dilbit, making any spill a likely disaster. Immediately, when the condensate - a slurry of chemicals concealed as a proprietary secret used to dilute the bitumen - evaporates, it poses a health risk to anyone in the vicinity.

Line 9 has already suffered at least 35 significant spills in its operational history. The switch to dilbit does not bode well for keeping that number where it is. Keystone 1, a tar sands pipeline which has been operational only 2 years, already has up to 95% corrosion, leaving it as thin as a third the thickness of a dime, suggesting that dilbit is particularly corrosive. This potential level of corrosion on top of the 12,000 "anomalies" (defects) already identified on the pipeline propel the chances of another spill on Line 9 into the range of certainty. As concerns COTTFN, this could mean a spill into the Thames River, central to their community and water source for over half a million people. Such potential belies the NEB's ruling that "any potential Project impacts on the rights and interests of Aboriginal groups are likely to be minimal and will be appropriately mitigated."

Nonetheless, COTTFN remains optimistic. As Henry considers, "What we are seeing is they know the importance of consultation now, and they are a bit worried. That is why we have this case and we have a good chance of winning it." In conclusion, Henry states, "When we win this case, it's going to challenge everybody else who's trying to do things that will hurt the environment here in our region. We are going to be protectors of our traditional territory and we are going to make the corporations understand that, that they have duties and responsibilities along with the government of Canada."

On June 16, the rights of Indigenous nations to consultation and free, prior, and informed consent will be asserted in the courts of the settler government of Canada. Indigenous and settler supporters are expected to rally outside the Queen street courthouse.

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News Fri, 29 May 2015 12:21:23 -0400
The UN's 15-Year Goals Ignore LGBTQ Rights Yet Again http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/31063-the-un-s-15-year-goals-ignore-lgbt-rights-yet-again http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/31063-the-un-s-15-year-goals-ignore-lgbt-rights-yet-again

Negotiations on the UN's 15-year development strategy, which involve all 193 member states, have at last produced a set of ambitious Sustainable Development Goals. These focus on social justice, poverty, human rights, development, and other related areas that require concerted effort over the coming years.

The goals incorporate strategies to protect and ensure the equality of individuals belonging to vulnerable groups - all individuals, that is, except those who belong to sexual orientation or gender identity minorities.

The international human rights treaties on eliminating discrimination against women and upholding the rights of the child are two of the most widely ratified by countries across the globe, with only a handful of countries yet to sign up to those provisions.

While the discrimination these treaties target goes on, simply getting countries to sign up has a very noticeable effect on their behaviour, which in turn helps set an international standard for what's acceptable. Even states that routinely discriminate against women and children - who fail to ban underage marriages, refuse to allow married women to own property, or allow widespread ‎child labour - are reticent to admit that they are discriminating against those individuals. By and large, countries don't like to concede that they discriminate against vulnerable groups, even when they do so systematically.

Other vulnerable groups are afforded similar treatment. Few states would dare to admit publicly to disliking or hating racial or religious minorities, people with disabilities, the elderly, and so on. That would shame them in the international arena, and would also cause uproar among many national populations.

But the last bastion of seemingly "acceptable" discrimination among member states is discrimination against LGBT people. And the UN has done precious little to change this.

Softly, Softly

Time and again, the UN has failed to take positive action to protect sexual orientation and gender identity minorities. More perniciously, there have been repeated steps backwards in terms of UN actions that condone or even encourage ‎such discrimination within member states' own territories.

The latest move to keep LGBT people out of the Sustainable Development Goals was reported by the website Pass Blue, which covers developments at the UN. It's not yet clear which countries spearheaded the move.

Countries such as Russia and some of its allies from the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation, of which it is a member, have worked hard to stop other recent UN initiatives from protecting the rights of LGBT people. They successfully blocked the development of an international LGBT human rights treaty, which would have brought that vulnerable group's rights into the same protection sphere as other such groups.

That was followed by a move to protect the values of "traditional families" - an agenda being pushed at the UN Human Rights Council by those very same countries.

Insidious moves are also underway on other fronts. In March 2015, Russia tried to block the UN from treating same sex marriages of its employees on an equal footing as heterosexual marriages, despite the advancement of equal marriage across the globe occurring at the same time that Russia called for that vote.

No Surprises

In many ways, we ought not to be surprised‎ at the way so many UN member states react to the very idea of LGBT rights. More than 70 countries legally discriminate against and/or criminalise LGBT people, including many politically and economically powerful Islamic, African, Caribbean, and Eastern European states across four of the five UN regional groups. This means a sizeable minority of the UN's members can easily flex its collective muscle whenever it wants to make sure that gay rights are kept off the table.

This, sadly, is to be expected. What is far more shocking is that the majority of states - global north countries, Latin American states, ‎and social moderates in Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe - so often keep silent when it comes to LGBT issues, and fail to speak up when they could make a difference.

It is time the majority of UN states put aside trifling economic and political considerations and joined together to ensure that LGBT issues are no longer sidelined. That means standing up to the bullying holdouts who are still allowed to thwart progress at every turn.

Disclosure: Rosa Freedman receives funding from the British Academy, the Society of Legal Scholars, and the ESRC

The Conversation

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News Fri, 29 May 2015 00:00:00 -0400
Electric Industry Created Their Own Air Pollution Permits, Held Private Meetings With Texas Regulators http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/31062-electric-industry-created-their-own-air-pollution-permits-held-private-meetings-with-texas-regulators http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/31062-electric-industry-created-their-own-air-pollution-permits-held-private-meetings-with-texas-regulators

Emails obtained and released by the Environmental Integrity Project show that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) worked behind closed doors with the state's electric power trade association and utility companies to weaken standards for air pollution control permits.

The emails and documents reveal that Association of Electric Companies of Texas (AECT) and utility employees held private meetings with state regulators to discuss revisions to the permits and provided language that was incorporated verbatim by the regulations into the final text of the revised permits. The language ended up nullifying the federal Clean Air Act hourly limits on particulate pollution during the startup, shutdown, and maintenance periods (SSM) at the coal plants.

These changes to the permits allowed electric utility companies in Texas to emit more particulate pollution than allowed by federal standards. In one case, for example, the coal plants are allowed to emit 30 times more pollution than the previous limit. Particulate pollution is the fly ash emitted from power plants, which can cause serious health effects such as lung cancer and heart disease.

It is possible that the reason AECT and its members sought to revise the permits was to avoid changing the emission limits in the EPA approved State Implementation Plan (SIP), because doing so would have required public notices and re-approval from the EPA.

In fact, the EPA stated in 2010:

"If the State wishes to issue a NSR [new source review] SIP permit that does not meet the applicable requirements of the Texas SIP, then any such alternative limits would need to be submitted to EPA for approval as a source-specific revision to the SIP, before they would modify the federally applicable emission limits in the approved SIP."

An email from Sean O'Brien, a technical specialist in the Air Permits Division at TCEQ, to other employees at the TCEQ shows awareness of EPA's re-approval requirement:

"It is not sufficient to say that the emissions are not new to avoid a federal new source review (NSR). You may treat the authorization of maintenance, start-up, and shutdown (MSS) at your site as a project and determine federal NSR applicability as follows."

A statement from Terry Clawson, a spokesperson from TCEQ, said, because there is less than "de minimis increase" in annual emissions (an increase less than 50 tons of carbon monoxide, 10 tons of sulfur dioxide, or a five ton increase of any other air contaminant) the public notice for the permits was not required.

The emails also show that the utility industry set the agenda for the private meetings. On March 22, 2010, Craig Eckberg, a senior manager at NRG Energy, sent an email to Erik Hendrickson, a technical specialist in the Air Permits Division at TCEQ, and other regulators, with the proposed agenda to discuss the air permits. The documents show additional meetings took place throughout the year, including a July meeting where the draft language for the permits was discussed. And a memo from AECT to Hendrickson directs any questions TCEQ might have to Usha Turner of Luminant, Craig Eckberg of NRG Energy, or Keith Courtney of Winstead PC, a law firm based in Texas.

"The purpose of the meetings was to provide direction to regulated entities and address questions prior to submittal of planned MMS applications," said TCEQ in the released statement.

In addition to this discovery, Texas community and public interest organizations have petitioned the US EPA to overturn the decision to exempt the coal power plants, 19 to be precise, from federal limits on particulates during SSM.

"These exemptions for coal-fired power plants are evidence of the state's chronic disregard of federal Clean Air Act standards," said Eric Schaeffer, executive director of the Environmental Integrity Project, in a press release. "EPA should now step in and force Texas to tighten up these permits to protect public health."

The coal plants that have received the revised permits without approval from the EPA are operated by American Electric Power, Luminant, NRG Energy, San Antonio Public Service Board, San Miguel Electric Cooperative, and Texas Municipal Power Agency.

Brad Watson, a spokesperson for Luminant, told Republic Report, "Regardless of the forum, EIP's claims still collapse under the weight of the facts. These emissions are unavoidable and de minimis emission events.  EIP and other environmental groups have already sued over these emissions in at least two cases and lost both times, including a case filed by EIP that Luminant won last year involving Luminant's Big Brown Power Plant in Freestone County."

The image below is from the Environmental Integrity Project and shows the increase in revised limits for the coal plants.

Texas Coal Plant Hourly Particulate Matter Emission Limits

Utility Industry's Influence Increasing Across The Country

The collaboration between Texas regulators and the utility industry is just the latest in an expanding list of examples showing the influence power companies have with state regulators and decision-makers.

A report released this month from Greater Birmingham Ministries (GBM) finds that from 2007 to 2014, the Alabama Public Service Commission (PSC) approved rate increases for Southern Company's subsidiary, Alabama Power, allowing the subsidiary to increase retail revenues by 18.6%. The average annual cost for residential customers has risen by $250 a year even though customers are using less electricity. Another rate hike for Alabama Power customers was approved in December 2014 by the PSC, which will add another $75 to the average residential customer's bill.

Alabama Power has said the reoccurring rate increases are the cost of doing business and updating power plants, but GBM reveals that earnings have been spent partially on boosting the salaries and other compensation for the company's top executives, as well as increasing dividends for shareholders.

In Wisconsin, it was revealed that the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC) was behind the push to have the Joint Committee on Finance defund the Citizens' Utility Board, the state's consumer advocate in the utility regulatory process. Gale Klappa, CEO of We Energies, the state's largest utility, is vice-chairman of the MMAC board. MMAC has stated that We Energies was not involved.

And just last week, new evidence was publicized suggesting Arizona Corporation Commissioner Bob Stump has been coordinating with an executive from the state's largest utility, Arizona Public Service (APS), as well as a "dark money group" involved in the elections for commissioners. This in addition to a whistleblower letter alleging former commission chairman Gary Pierce held secret meetings with APS' chief executive, Don Brandt, as well as helped steer money that targeted two Democratic candidates for the ACC in 2012. The attorney general's office is now investigating the accusations.

Republic Report is an investigative news blog dedicated uncovering the corrupting influence of money in politics.

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News Fri, 29 May 2015 00:00:00 -0400
ICWatch Uses LinkedIn Information to Out Officials Who Aided Assassination Program http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/31061-icwatch-uses-linkedin-information-to-out-officials-who-aided-assassination-program http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/31061-icwatch-uses-linkedin-information-to-out-officials-who-aided-assassination-program

WikiLeaks has begun hosting a new database called ICWatch, built by Transparency Toolkit. The site includes a searchable database of 27,000 LinkedIn profiles of people in the intelligence community. Organizers say the aim of the site is to "watch the watchers." WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange talks about how the database could be used to help identify individuals connected to the US kill list, formally known as the Joint Prioritized Effects List, or JPEL.

TRANSCRIPT:

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Julian Assange, can you talk about ICWatch and what it is?

JULIAN ASSANGE: Well, ICWatch is a database of more than 27,000 profiles of people associated with the US intelligence community or intelligence industry, so that includes people who work for government and people who work for private industry. It was created by a little journalism startup, a great bunch of guys, called Transparency Toolkit. And so they launched this a couple of weeks ago. This information was all originally in the public domain, or seemingly in the public domain, from LinkedIn, so these are CVs of people involved in various intelligence activities. By searching LinkedIn for key works, so they used, for example, the National Security Agency documents or names of special task forces or the, say, Joint Priority Effects List, the assassination program in Afghanistan, these were scraped out and then linked together so you can easily see, for example, who claims that they had worked at the National Security Agency at some stage or on various code-worded projects that the National Security Agency uses. As a result of doing that, they faced counterattack. And the counterattack was some quite serious death threats from -

AMY GOODMAN: This is for Intelligence Community Watch, ICWatch -

JULIAN ASSANGE: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: - for creating it, for indexing what already is in the public domain.

JULIAN ASSANGE: Indexing what was already public. An example of one of those death threats, from Washington, DC, from a counterintelligence operative, who was also a former marine, saying that he would hunt them down and kill them no matter where they were in the world, and there's no place in the world that they can hide.

AMY GOODMAN: As specifically what is quoted in your press release, "I promise [that] I will kill everyone involved in your website. There is nowhere on this earth that you will be able to hide from me."

JULIAN ASSANGE: Yes. So I think that - and there was a number of other such threats.

AMY GOODMAN: How do you know who this is?

JULIAN ASSANGE: We have the email that it was sent from. Now, I think this - it actually perfectly explains why the US intelligence community must itself be scrutinized. What do we have in that statement? Murderous criminal arrogance, and it's somewhat megalomaniacal, as in "there's nowhere in the whole world you can hide," and vengeful. So - and I should add one further point: and deeply incompetent to, A, send such a message at all, but, B, this is a counterintelligence person. This is a person whose job it is to not allow secret information out. That's their job. But they let that information - they themselves put that information on LinkedIn. They themselves are irritated about their own incompetence, to the degree where they get threatening to kill people involved with a journalism project.

AMY GOODMAN: So, this is an intelligence analyst, you say, in the Washington, DC, area who put this information, his own, on LinkedIn. Have you handed this email over to the federal authorities in the United States to investigate the death threats?

JULIAN ASSANGE: They have handed the information over to their lawyers to take the next step. And there's a question about whose side of the matter the federal authorities might be on, and would they use the investigation as, in fact, a way to investigate the criminal death threat, or would they actually use it as an excuse to investigate ICWatch.

AMY GOODMAN: And so, talk about - you have something like 140,000 entries here. So what are you doing with this, and how are people using it?

JULIAN ASSANGE: Well, as a result of those death threats, ICWatch came to us and said, "Can you make sure that this information will be protected?" They were also attacked electronically. So we, if you like, put ICWatch into the WikiLeaks system. It's merged with all the other 8.3 million records. And so now it's really quite powerful, and it is providing information on a lot of very serious programs that we didn't know anything about. It's also a great way for journalists to get people to talk to, because these are individuals, named individuals, saying that this year they worked in this particular program. And so, as a source of witnesses for prosecutions and for journalists, it's a great resource.

I'll give you an example, JPEL. If you search, go to WikiLeaks-dot - sorry, go to ICWatch.WikiLeaks.org and search for JPEL, or Priority Effects List. And that's a name that is used for the US assassination program in Afghanistan. We first revealed that in 2010, that that name was being used, and a task force associated with it, Task Force 373, but it has continued on and expanded in various ways. It has also brought in some NATO partners. That's the joint aspect of it. But in the ICWatch information are individuals saying that they nominated 600 people to the JPEL. As a result, 37 of them were killed or captured. Others saying that they were directly involved in nomination for the purpose of kinetic targeting.

So, the US has kind of made a bit of a legal - the Pentagon has made a bit of a legal ruse in terms of how it describes these assassination lists. They always say it's a kill/capture list. And this is to create some kind of ambiguity, which is you go in to capture them, but they resist, and then they're killed. But, in fact, in practice, it has come out that they're destroying them; there's no actual attempt to capture. And here we have evidence, confessions even, because it's the individual concerned who has written the information, saying that, no, the purpose was always kinetic targeting involved in hundreds of nominations. There's around 50 entries talking about - you know, bragging on their CV about how they were involved in these programs to assassinate people. Similarly with interrogations and detainee operations, people bragging on their CVs about how they oversaw 3,000 different interrogations, including of high-value detainees, high-value targets.

And new National Security Agency programs that we had not previously been aware of, even in the Snowden documents, because they give a list of codewords which they worked on. We know these ones, which is how we found the entry, but these programs we don't know about. The CVs are great. I mean, you read a CV, and it's all in context - the individual, what they did at the key dates, and giving the range of their work. So it's not just some information about a particular keyword, but in context of the rest of the work they did that year and how the process integrates, what agencies they dealt with. So they brag about that they were liaising with the CIA and the DIA in relation to these assassinations.

AMY GOODMAN: And they talk about drone programs, being involved with drone targeting.

JULIAN ASSANGE: Thousands of references to - and some 8,000 references to people involved in UAVs, which is unmanned aerial vehicle, which is what is used inside the military to describe drones. There are more than 8,000 people involved in various aspects, from maintenance, manufacturing, targeting, intelligence feedback from drones.

AMY GOODMAN: Spying?

JULIAN ASSANGE: And spying, yeah, visual spyings, spying on radio signals, telephone signals.

AMY GOODMAN: So perhaps if you have job openings, you might be concerned that someone actually who's applying for a job might actually be a spy.

JULIAN ASSANGE: Well, I think that there's a real question. If you look at some of these CVs, OK, for some people, they were involved in assassinating people, interrogating people, and then they've moved on. And where have they moved on? So they've moved into police. They've moved into careers advice at universities. So, you could be, you know, faced with a police interrogation, and that interrogator is someone who tortured people in Guantánamo Bay. I think there's a real question about what the effect is on US society, when you have all these people who have become used to torturing and killing people coming back and integrating back into society. And as far as I'm aware, no program to help them reintegrate and help them mobilize as they come back in. There's a lot of debate about whether Guantánamo detainees could be brought to New York to be trialed. Are they too dangerous after the way that they've been treated in Guantánamo Bay? Or they're an irritation to the United States. Are they too dangerous to have on US soil? But I think the same question needs to be asked: Are Guantánamo Bay interrogators, are black site interrogators, are people involved in assassination programs too dangerous to be brought back in and enter into the police force or enter into university administrations or enter into the DOJ?

AMY GOODMAN: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, talking about ICWatch - that's Intelligence Community Watch - speaking inside the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, where he has taken political refuge for the past three years. Coming up, Julian Assange will talk about the inside story about why the US forced down the plane of Bolivian President Evo Morales in 2013 during the hunt for NSA contractor Ed Snowden. Stay with us.

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News Fri, 29 May 2015 00:00:00 -0400
FIFA's Upheaval, From Corruption Arrests to Rising Death Toll in Qatar http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/31060-fifa-s-upheaval-from-corruption-arrests-to-rising-death-toll-in-qatar http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/31060-fifa-s-upheaval-from-corruption-arrests-to-rising-death-toll-in-qatar

In what's been described as the largest scandal in modern sports history, nine high-ranking soccer officials, including two current vice presidents of soccer's world governing body, FIFA, were indicted along with five sports marketing executives on federal corruption charges by the US Justice Department. Among those arrested in connection with the probe is Jack Warner, former vice president of FIFA, who is accused of taking a $10 million bribe to cast his ballot for South Africa to host the 2010 World Cup. Despite the arrests, FIFA is holding an election today to pick the next president of the organization. FIFA President Sepp Blatter is seeking re-election for the post he has held since 1998. Many commentators have predicted he will be re-elected, though some nations, including the United States, have vowed to vote against him. We speak to sportswriter Dave Zirin and Jules Boykoff, former professional soccer player who represented the US Olympic soccer team.

TRANSCRIPT:

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: We turn now to what some have described as the largest scandal in modern sports history. Earlier this week, nine high-ranking soccer officials, including two current vice presidents of soccer's world governing body, FIFA, were indicted along with five sports marketing executives on federal corruption charges by the US Justice Department. Early on Wednesday, Swiss authorities made a series of arrests at a five-star hotel at the request of the the US authorities.

AMY GOODMAN: Among those arrested in connection with the probe is Jack Warner, former vice president of FIFA, who is accused of taking a $10 million bribe to cast his ballot for South Africa to host the 2010 World Cup. US Attorney General Loretta Lynch said the corruption dates back to at least 1991.

ATTORNEY GENERAL LORETTA LYNCH: The 14 defendants charged in the indictment we are unsealing today include high-ranking officials of FIFA, the international organization responsible for regulating and promoting soccer, leaders of regional and other governing bodies under the FIFA umbrella and sports marketing executives who, according to the indictment, paid millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks to obtain lucrative media and marketing rights to international soccer tournaments. The 47-count indictment against these individuals includes charges of racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies spanning two decades.

AMY GOODMAN: On Thursday, the chief of the IRS Criminal Investigation [unit], Richard Weber, described the corruption within FIFA.

RICHARD WEBER: As the best financial investigators in the world, IRS-CI special agents exposed complex money-laundering schemes, uncovered millions of dollars in untaxed income, and discovered tens of millions of dollars hidden away in offshore accounts in countries like Hong Kong, the Cayman Islands and Switzerland. This really is the World Cup of fraud. And today we are issuing FIFA a red card.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Despite the arrests, FIFA is holding an election today to pick the next president of the organization. FIFA President Sepp Blatter is seeking re-election for the post he has held since 1998. Many commentators have predicted he will be re-elected, though some nations, including the United States, have vowed to vote against him. Earlier today, protesters in Zurich called for Blatter to step down. This is Alaphia Zoyab of the group Avaaz.

ALAPHIA ZOYAB: If Blatter doesn't go despite giving the World Cup to a country that has slave labor, if Blatter doesn't go despite the fact that his sponsors are starting to wobble, and if Blatter doesn't go despite the fact that half his board has been arrested, it's not just Blatter that needs to be axed, the FIFA Congress itself needs to be questioned.

AMY GOODMAN: This week's FIFA arrests are just the latest scandal within the international soccer community. FIFA has also come under criticism for selecting Qatar to host the 2022 games despite the country's poor human rights record. According to the International Trade Union Confederation, 1,200 migrant workers have died since the World Cup was awarded in 2010.

To talk more about FIFA and the soccer scandals, we're joined by two guests. Jules Boykoff is with us, former professional soccer player who represented the US Olympic soccer team. He now teaches political science at Pacific University in Oregon, joining us from Portland. And in Washington, D.C., sportswriter Dave Zirin. His latest book, Brazil's Dance with the Devil: The World Cup, the Olympics, and the Fight for Democracy.

Well, Dave, you've been covering this for a long time. We were interviewing you in Brazil when the World Cup was there. Are you surprised?

DAVE ZIRIN: Not surprised at all, about as surprised as I'd be if I fell in a pool and emerged wet. The only thing that is surprising here is that we're now dealing with charges that have actual teeth. That's the only surprise. I mean, we are talking about the Enron of sports and a hubris and arrogance that is bringing down a multibillion-dollar corporation. The only difference between FIFA and Enron is that FIFA has been designated a nonprofit by the Swiss government, which makes looking at its books and finding the extent of the corruption all the more difficult.

Now, for Democracy Now! listeners and viewers, I could understand why people would look at the US Justice Department and say, "Why can't they be this aggressive towards the Wall Street bankers? Why can't they be this aggressive towards police brutality?" And those viewers are absolutely correct. But people should also realize that this is a day that people should celebrate, because it is crippling one of the most corrupt multinationals that we have, sports or otherwise.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Dave, could you tell us a little bit about Sepp Blatter, the president of FIFA? He wasn't among those who was indicted, and today he's running for president, for re-election for president of FIFA.

DAVE ZIRIN: Yes, Sepp Blatter, as you said, he has been in charge of FIFA for 17 years. The thing about Sepp Blatter that distinguishes him from the people who were indicted is that Sepp Blatter uses his power and influence to attain more power. He's less interested in personal enrichment than he is in influence, and this is what has allowed him to remain free of prison these last many years. Although Sepp Blatter is also - he will not get off a plane in the United States, for fear that he will be arrested. That is true. There are also people saying that he might not attend the Women's World Cup in Canada, for fear that he might be arrested. So, you're talking about somebody who is effectively a stateless actor, somebody who is under investigation, who will probably be re-elected for a fifth term to head FIFA.

AMY GOODMAN: Are there any US Justice Department Blatter leaks? What will happen to Blatter next, Dave?

DAVE ZIRIN: That's a terrific question. What is very clear is that Lorreta Lynch has Blatter in her sights. That's why she said she wanted to uproot corruption going back 20 years. That's Blatter's term. And let's be clear about this, too: The US Justice Department is going after FIFA very simply because the US was not awarded the 2022 World Cup. If they had been, I don't think this investigation would be taking place. And also let's keep in mind that the Justice Department has only gone after, at this point, a small part of the world - North America, Central America, these confederations. What it says to us is that this is just the tip of the iceberg, and if some of these FIFA vice presidents begin to talk, begin to flip, if you will, to use Mafia parlance, what we could be looking at is the bringing down of Sepp Blatter and perhaps the beginning of the end of FIFA itself.

AMY GOODMAN: Could you talk about the revelations regarding the Clinton Foundation -

DAVE ZIRIN: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: - having received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Qatari World Cup Committee -

DAVE ZIRIN: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: - when Bill Clinton was serving as the US World Cup delegate with the US cup world delegation - the World Cup delegation?

DAVE ZIRIN: Yes. Not only has the Clinton Foundation received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Qatar World Cup Committee, it has also received millions of dollars from the Qatari government over the last several years. And the Clintons are going to have to answer this question, because, as you said in the intro, the Qatari World Cup construction has an absolutely monstrous body count - 1,200 deaths - slavery, and even the prevention of Nepalese migrant workers of going home to Nepal after the recent earthquake to go to funerals for members of their family. Now, there is this lore that's out there in the media that Bill Clinton was so angry after the US did not get the World Cup bid for 2022, he broke a mirror, and that signaled that the United States was going to get serious about corruption in the World Cup. This is mainstream media hooey. What you see much more clearly is a very bizarre, very unexplained connection between the Qatari royal family, the Qatari World Cup bid and the Clinton Foundation, which allegedly was to facilitate less labor abuses, when in reality we have not seen that at all.

AMY GOODMAN: The Guardian has an amazing figure: Despite Qatar's promises to improve conditions, Nepali migrants have died at a rate of one every two days in 2014 in Qatar.

DAVE ZIRIN: Yeah, and that blood is on Sepp Blatter's hands, as well. Even though, ironically, Sepp Blatter was not in favor of the Qatari bid, he has said that this World Cup will go on in 2022, quote-unquote, "over his dead body" - that's his words - even though it's 125 degrees during the summer in Qatar, even though they're going to have to have the World Cup in 2022 in the fall, which will effectively cut into, if not completely reorganize, the European soccer leagues, which are the world's most popular. And that's why I think 2022, if Blatter is re-elected and if we have a situation where he's not imprisoned, where we could be looking at the crack-up of FIFA in the years to come, because the splits are really profound. And the splits are unclear. Voting against Blatter today will not only be the United States, as you mentioned, but also the Palestinian Football Association. So, if Blatter and FIFA have done nothing else, they have brought the interests of Palestine and the interests of the United States together for once.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, could you talk about that, Dave? Your recent piece talks about the Palestinian Football Association's bid to have the Israeli Football Association, you know, somehow sanctioned for the way it treats Palestinian football players. Could you talk about that?

DAVE ZIRIN: Yes, sanctioned or expelled. It would be the first time since apartheid South Africa that a country was asked to leave FIFA because of its practices. But this news is changing as I'm speaking to you. There are negotiations going on. Israel, from what I hear from news reports, is already relenting on what has been a blockade preventing players in Gaza from traveling freely to the West Bank. And that's what the Palestinian Football Association is charging Israel with. They're saying they are choking out their ability to develop soccer because of the way that they get in the way of free movement of players, free movement of coaches. And perhaps the most damning accusation towards the Israeli Football Association is that they have created and formed five or six, depending on reports, clubs in the Occupied Territories, in the settlements of the West Bank, so it's Israeli Football Association using soccer as a way to take land that should rightfully be part of a possible Palestinian state. And they're saying that the Israeli Football Association should be removed from FIFA unless they agree to cease these practices. And there are furious negotiations going on, as we speak, to try to head that off.

AMY GOODMAN: Russian President Vladimir Putin has come out in defense of the embattled FIFA president, Sepp Blatter. Russia is due to host the World Cup in 2018. Putin drew comparisons between the alleged attempt to oust Blatter and the charges brought against National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, who's got political asylum in Russia, and WikiLeaks founder and editor Julian Assange. He accused the US of meddling outside its jurisdiction.

PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN: [translated] With regard to the arrests that have been made, it looks very strange, to say the least, because the arrests have been made at the request of the American side on charges of corruption. And who were charged? International officials. We can assume that some of them may have violated something. I don't know. But it's clear that the US has nothing to do with that anyway. Those officials are not US citizens. And if some event indeed happened, and it happened not on the United States territory, and the US has nothing to do with that, this is yet another blatant attempt to extend its jurisdiction to other states.

AMY GOODMAN: Dave Zirin, your response?

DAVE ZIRIN: Well -

AMY GOODMAN: That was, of course, Vladimir Putin.

DAVE ZIRIN: Well, I mean, Vladimir Putin will also be having to answer, in the weeks and months to come, new allegations about the use of prison labor to create World Cup facilities in Russia. But that being said, one thing that Putin is saying which is true is that the United States Justice Department is using statutes that they - that was granted to it by law after 9/11 as a way to conduct international antiterror arrests in other countries that they have extradition agreements with. So this was a post-9/11 arrest using antiterror statutes as a way to arrest foreign officials and bring them to the United States for trial. And these antiterror statutes are so broad that if someone even tries to send money through a computer server in the United States, it dings off a server in the US, then the US Justice Department has jurisdiction to go into another country, conduct an arrest and bring people back to the US for trial. So this is the United States playing globocop. That is irrefutable.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Jules Boykoff, I want to ask you - you've played competitively for the US in international soccer tournaments. What was your response when this scandal broke with FIFA? And can you say a little about the way in which soccer has changed from the time that you played to now?

JULES BOYKOFF: Absolutely. Well, corruption in FIFA has been an open secret for a long time. I actually was a little bit surprised when the allegations came out, and I was surprised that the Justice Department would pursue this using the legal means at its disposal. Soccer has changed a lot over the years, and it's become a big-time money enterprise, and there's a whole lot at stake. FIFA is supposedly a nonprofit organization, yet it sure is profitable. It has holdings of about $1.5 billion. It made nearly $5 billion off the Brazil World Cup. And so, when you have that kind of money floating around, we shouldn't be surprised about stories regarding envelopes full of tens of thousands of dollars, or we shouldn't be surprised by stories like Chuck Blazer, the US soccer honcho, who was renting an apartment at Trump Tower, not too far from you, at $18,000 a month. In fact, the guy had an apartment for his cats at $6,000 a month. So when you have that kind of money floating around, we shouldn't be surprised that we see these kind of corrupt activities.

What's interesting to me, too, though, beyond that, beyond the actual illegal corruption, is the corruption that's sort of imbedded in everyday practice for FIFA. So, for example, since 1999, under Sepp Blatter, he's distributed funds through various programs, including the Goal Project, Football for Hope, to various small countries, and that's how he's gained their allegiance. So your listeners and viewers might be wondering how the heck is this guy going to possibly get re-elected shortly. Therein lies the answer. He's distributed money, he's farmed it out, and he's gained the allegiance from people across the world this way. So he may well get the two-thirds he needs in the first vote today. That's 140 votes. And if he doesn't, he may well get the majority required in the second round of voting.

AMY GOODMAN: Dave Zirin, before you go, I wanted to ask you about, you know, what's being said is Loretta Lynch's first big move as US attorney general. Now, she took this with her from being US attorney here in New York. But before this, of course, the indictments against the banks were announced, or the settlement. Now, that was banks, not individuals. What about that comparison, that you see all these people hauled off, but when it comes to the banks, no one is named?

DAVE ZIRIN: Yeah, I think it's disturbing. And another one is the real timidity to go after local police departments, as well, by the Justice Department, given some of the cases like, for example, the one that you discussed at the top of the show that's so horrifying, about the woman who was pregnant and brought to the ground. I think this is something that people need to demand and press the Justice Department about. And frankly, I think it is happening because FIFA is such low-hanging fruit. I mean, if you think about it, it's not people from the United States. It looks extremely aggressive. And FIFA's reputation has been terrible for about 20, 25 years. And so, this idea of, oh, people are actually doing something about FIFA, especially at a time when soccer is growing in popularity in the United States, this is a very, very popular, bipartisan move for the United States to do. And for the right wing, it also looks very muscular, because it's going overseas to play globocop and make an arrest and bring people then back to the United States for trial. Yet lost in all of this is the precedent, first of all, that the US is setting by going overseas on a non-terror case to make an arrest and bring people back. And what's being lost is that you have bankers in this country who facilitated the largest theft in the history of thieves back in 2008, and yet they remain free. I think that's something people need to continue to press and ask this Justice Department: If they're this muscular with FIFA, why not with the Wall Street bankers?

AMY GOODMAN: Jules Boykoff, talk about the women's cup.

JULES BOYKOFF: Well, that's one of the sad facts of all this, is that the Women's World Cup is going to start on June 6, and it's getting totally overshadowed by this FIFA corruption scandal. It's going to be a terrific tournament. Canada is hosting it. We're going to see women from across the world play some terrific soccer in front of us. Unfortunately, they're going to be playing on artificial turf fields, which has been a point of major disagreement from the women players who will be coming to Canada, because of the possibility of injury increasing and because it changes the game, makes it a bit faster and different than it is on grass.

But certainly, FIFA has a long history of flinging misogyny in every direction. Back in 2004, Sepp Blatter stated quite clearly, when asked how we could make the women's game more popular in the world, he suggested that they wear tighter shorts. For real. Ten years later, he didn't even recognize Alex Morgan, one of the top three players in the world, up for the FIFA Player of the Year award. He didn't even recognize her at the gala banquet dinner. A couple - also, beyond that, he walked up to Abby Wambach's wife, Sarah Huffman, and thought she was Marta, the Brazilian star who had won the FIFA award five times. So, misogyny in FIFA, sexism in FIFA runs deep. And this has been one of the sad side effects, is that we're not talking about what's going to be a terrific tournament.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we want to thank you both for being with us. Jules Boykoff teaches political science at Pacific University in Oregon, author of Activism and the Olympics: Dissent at the Games in Vancouver and London, as well as Celebration Capitalism and the Olympic Games. In the '80s and '90s, he represented the US Olympic soccer team in international competition. And thanks to Dave Zirin, sports columnist for The Nation.

This is Democracy Now! When we come back, we go to Texas, where floods have killed many people. We'll talk about climate change, from Texas to India. Stay with us.

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News Fri, 29 May 2015 00:00:00 -0400
WikiLeaks Releases US Cables From 1978 on Iran, Sandinistas, Afghanistan, Israel http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/31058-wikileaks-releases-us-cables-from-1978-on-iran-sandinistas-afghanistan-israel http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/31058-wikileaks-releases-us-cables-from-1978-on-iran-sandinistas-afghanistan-israel

On Wednesday, WikiLeaks added more than half a million US diplomatic cables from 1978 to its Public Library of US Diplomacy database. The documents include diplomatic cables and other diplomatic communications from and to US embassies and missions in nearly every country. "1978 actually set in progress many of the geopolitical elements that are playing out today," Assange said. "1978 was the beginning of the Iranian revolution … the Sandinista movement started in its popular form … the war period in Afghanistan began in 1978 and hasn't stopped since."

TRANSCRIPT:

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We return to our exclusive interview with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. I spoke to him inside the Ecuadorean Embassy on Memorial Day, where he's taken refuge for the past almost three years. On Wednesday, WikiLeaks added more than a half a million US diplomatic cables from 1978 to its Public Library of US Diplomacy database. The documents include diplomatic cables and other diplomatic communications from and to US embassies and missions in nearly every country. I asked Julian Assange to talk about the significance of the documents.

JULIAN ASSANGE: The US State Department cables. 1978 was a very interesting period. These cables have come through the State Department system, international archives. We have sucked them all out and put them into our system, where we now have more than two million cables in the collection, all indexed. So, 1978, a very interesting time period. We have deliberately released all 400,000 at once to everyone. So, no one's had an opportunity to cherry-pick, and we haven't done that, either. What we have done is identified broad areas which are very interesting.

For example, 1978 actually set in progress many of the regional elements, the geopolitical elements, that are playing out today. For example, 1978 was the beginning of the Iranian revolution. It wasn't until 1979 that it succeeded, but the push against the Shah started in 1978, with demonstrations and killings in response. Similarly, Nicaragua in 1978, the Sandinista movement started in its popular form as a result of a killing of a newspaper editor and was complete within two years. Afghanistan, the war period in Afghanistan began in 1978 and hasn't stopped since. It was - the Soviet-friendly government came in in 1978, the assassination of the previous president, the rival of Soviet special forces towards the end of the year.

1978 saw the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia. And while you might think, "Oh, well, that just concerns Vietnam and Cambodia," no, this is an important consequence of the Vietnam War and how Cambodia was used and became a Chinese and American proxy in relation to Vietnam. So China, the U.K., US supported Cambodia against the Vietnamese. The Vietnamese prevailed, but the conflict also led to a finalization of what had started under Kissinger's rapprochement with China - a decisive move to configure China against the Soviet Union and onto the US side of the Cold War conflict. And this war with Vietnam is something that facilitated Brzezinski's visit to China and the eventual normalization of relations which occurred shortly after.

AMY GOODMAN: When it comes to Afghanistan, Zbigniew Brzezinski, in an interview with a French newspaper, talked about the arming of the mujahideen, of Osama bin Laden and others, saying, "What's a few riled-up Muslims?"

JULIAN ASSANGE: It was Brzezinski's - the moment of history that Brzezinski is the proudest of is in fact Afghanistan and creating a Vietnam for the Soviet Union in Afghanistan by arming the mujahideen and bin Laden. And that -

AMY GOODMAN: So that the Soviets would have their own quagmire.

JULIAN ASSANGE: So the Soviets would have their own quagmire, which they did. And that started in 1978.

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News Fri, 29 May 2015 00:00:00 -0400
"United States vs. Davis" - Wrestling With the Third Party Doctrine http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/31057-united-states-vs-davis-wrestling-with-the-third-party-doctrine http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/31057-united-states-vs-davis-wrestling-with-the-third-party-doctrine

(Photo: Wires via Shutterstock: Edited: LW / TO)(Photo: Wires via Shutterstock: Edited: LW / TO)

In the excitement over the Second Circuit's ruling on the NSA's bulk collection program, another very significant appellate decision that was issued last week has been largely overlooked: the Eleventh Circuit's en banc decision in United States v. Davis. A majority of the eleven judge panel held that the government did not need a warrant to collect 67 days' worth of cell site location information on Quartavious Davis, who was suspected of involvement in several armed robberies.

On first glance, the panel's holding appears to answer in the negative the question that the Second Circuit punted: whether telephony metadata receives protection under the Fourth Amendment. On closer examination, however, the fractured ruling, with its many separate opinions, highlights a fundamental lack of consensus over the reach of the third party doctrine.

Majority Opinion and Pryor Concurrence

Writing for the court, Judge Hull concludes that the case is controlled by United States v. Miller (1976) and Smith v. Maryland (1979), which together stand for the proposition that a person has no reasonable expectation of privacy in information that he or she voluntarily conveys to a third party. Below, Davis attempted to distinguish Smith - which involved the government's use of a pen register to acquire phone numbers - by arguing that cell phone users do not voluntarily disclose their location in the same way that they disclose numbers they dial. Judge Hull dismisses this notion, noting that cell phone users are surely aware that their calls are routed through cell phone towers and that phone companies keep records of these transmissions.

Privacy advocates, academics, lawmakers, and judges have questioned whether the third party doctrine makes sense in the digital age. People today are effectively forced to convey a broad range of highly personal information to third parties, such as internet service providers and mobile carriers, on a daily basis. Judge Hull's opinion is striking in its refusal to pay even lip service to these concerns. She does not chafe at the restraints ofSmith and Miller; she is happy to be bound by them, and heaps scorn on the dissent for questioning whether their rule is suited to modern life. 

Judge Hull's dismissal of the arguments raised by Davis and the dissenting judges is much too facile. At the outset, she emphasizes that Davis did not own or possess the business records he sought to suppress. Whether a person has a "reasonable expectation of privacy," however - thus triggering the Fourth Amendment's protections - does not turn on ownership. The government may not freely search a rented apartment or tap a telephone wire the caller does not own. Judge Hull's characterization of the cell site data as company-generated information that merely "concerns" Davis misses the mark. The information contained in the phone records is entirely a byproduct of Davis's communications. Davis generated the information; the phone company merely recorded it.

Judge Hull is also too quick to find that Davis willingly sacrificed any privacy rights he might have. While she is probably correct that most cell phone users know they are disclosing some location information, a knowing disclosure is not the same thing as a voluntary disclosure. The advice Judge William Pryor gives in his concurring opinion - "If a telephone caller does not want to reveal [information] to the telephone company, he has another option: don't place a call" - is wildly unrealistic. It was probably unrealistic even when Smith was decided, but the ability to limit third party disclosures and still carry on a normal life has declined dramatically since the 1970s.

Judge Hull's opinion also fails to grapple with the fact that sophisticated computer algorithms today can extract a wealth of detailed personal information from long-term location tracking. Noting that "[h]istorical cell tower location does not identify the cell phone user's location with pinpoint precision," Judge Hull concludes that "[h]istorical cell site location data does not paint the 'intimate portrait of personal, social, religious, medical, and other activities and interactions' that Davis claims." In fact, Davis's own case proves that cell site location data can be quite precise: the prosecutors asserted that "Mr. Davis's phone [was] literally right up against the America Gas Station immediately preceding [the robbery]" and pointed to "the presence of his cell phone literally … right next door to the Walgreen's just before and after that store was robbed." In any event, the rule embraced by Judge Hull's opinion - i.e., there can be no privacy interest in location information shared with a third party - would apply to highly precise GPS tracking as well.

Jordan and Wilson Concurrence

Judges Jordan and Wilson take a markedly different approach. Their concurrence acknowledges that "Smith does not fit this case like a glove" because "cellphones and smartphones (and the vast amounts of information they contain and can generate) are qualitatively different from land-line phones." They accordingly assume that Davis had a reasonable expectation of privacy without expressing a definitive opinion on the matter.

Judges Jordan and Wilson nonetheless conclude that the warrantless search was permissible because it met the Fourth Amendment's "reasonableness" standard. They assess the legislative scheme for obtaining phone records under the Stored Communications Act and find that it reasonably balances the government's interest in obtaining evidence in criminal investigations against the "diminished" privacy interest phone users have in non-content data. (This reasoning also appears in Judge Hull's majority opinion as an alternative basis for upholding the search.)

There is a surprisingly basic flaw in this approach. While it is true that the touchstone of the Fourth Amendment is reasonableness, the Supreme Court has held that warrantless searches are per se unreasonable "except in a few 'jealously and carefully drawn' exceptional circumstances." Examples of such exceptional circumstances include exigency, searches incident to arrest, and the "plain view" exception. The cases on which Judge Hull, Jordan, and Wilson primarily rely are the so-called "special needs" cases, in which the Supreme Court has allowed warrantless searches where a special need other than law enforcement would render a warrant impracticable. Clearly, however, the search of Davis's phone records was conducted for law enforcement purposes, so this exception does not apply - nor do any of the other recognized exceptions.

Rosenbaum's Concurrence

The most interesting opinion by far is Judge Rosenbaum's concurrence. He begins by observing that the third party doctrine has never served as an unyielding rule. When Smith was decided, he points out, telephone users voluntarily exposed the contents of their calls to the operators who could (and often did) listen in. Similarly, occupants of hotel rooms voluntarily expose their personal objects to the view of hotel housekeepers. Despite these third party disclosures, the government clearly needs a warrant to install wiretaps or search hotel rooms.

Judge Rosenbaum's approach to reconciling these seeming anomalies is original and thought-provoking. He summarizes it as follows:

I believe that Supreme Court precedent fairly may be read to suggest that the third-party doctrine must be subordinate to expectations of privacy that society has historically recognized as reasonable.

Historically, privacy in one's communications and one's dwelling place were nearly sacrosanct; indeed, they formed the basis for the Fourth Amendment. These privacy interests therefore survive limited incursions by the third parties who provide facilities for communications or habitation.

Judge Rosenbaum next posits that long-term location tracking may violate just such a core, historical expectation - "the expectation of privacy in not being subject to constant, longer-term surveillance." In support, he cites Justice Alito's concurrence in United States v. Jones, which notes the practical limitations that historically constrained surveillance in public spaces. Disclosure to a mobile service provider, he asserts, cannot vitiate this longstanding expectation. He nonetheless concludes that Davis's privacy interest was not violated because the cell towers at issue had a mile-and-a-half radius. In his view, "that is not precise enough to rival the invasion of privacy that point-longer-term surveillance represents."

Even though Judge Rosenbaum ultimately agrees with the warrantless search, the most significant and influential part of the panel's 102-page opinion is likely to be this concluding paragraph of his concurrence:

For all of these reasons, I believe that Smith (and therefore, the third-party doctrine) inescapably governs the outcome of this case. But when we must necessarily expose information to third-party technological service providers in order to make use of everyday technology, and the technological service merely allows us to engage in an activity that historically enjoyed a constitutionally protected privacy interest, Supreme Court precedent can be viewed as supporting the notion that the historically protected privacy interest must trump the third-party doctrine for purposes of Fourth Amendment analysis. If the historically protected privacy interest does not, then with every new technology, we surrender more and more of our historically protected Fourth Amendment interests to unreasonable searches and seizures.

Martin and Pryor Dissent

After Judge Rosenbaum's provocative concurrence, the familiar arguments put forward by Judges Martin and Jill Pryor in their dissent are almost a let-down - persuasive as they are.

The judges distinguish the transmission of cell site location data in Davis's case from the voluntary disclosure of phone numbers in Smith on the ground that a cell phone transmits data even when the user is not making a call. Even more important, they argue, the amount and sensitivity of the information disclosed to third parties through technologies like cell phones "has increased by orders of magnitude since the Supreme Court decidedMiller and Smith." Like Judge Rosenbaum, the dissent highlights several cases in which limited exposures to third parties did not nullify privacy interests; Judges Martin and Pryor conclude that the third party doctrine "has its limits," and that "[s]ixty-seven days of near-constant location tracking of a cell phone - a technological feat impossible to imagine when Miller and Smith were decided - is an application of the doctrine that goes too far."

Having decided that the third party doctrine does not control the outcome of the case, the dissenting judges apply the "reasonable expectation of privacy" test. They find that Davis had such an expectation and that society was prepared to accept it as reasonable, largely because long-term location tracking can reveal "quintessentially private" information, as explicated by five justices in Jones.

Most people likely would agree that long-term location tracking and analysis, using modern technology, can reveal highly sensitive information; the harder question is whether Smith can be distinguished or whether the Supreme Court must overrule it. The dissent missed an opportunity to explain how the government's ability to derive personal information from location data affects the third party doctrine's applicability. Even if it were true that cell phone users "voluntarily" disclose their location, it strains credulity to argue that, simply by virtue of putting a cell phone in their pocket, they voluntarily disclose "a wealth of detail about their familial, political, professional, religious, and sexual associations." Yet this is exactly the information the government can deduce, as characterized by Justice Sotomayor in her Jones concurrence. This disconnect between what the subject of the search may have voluntarily disclosed and what the search itself may reveal should call into question whether cell site data searches implicate the third party doctrine as articulated in Smith.

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News Fri, 29 May 2015 00:00:00 -0400
Bill Moyers: The Challenge of Journalism Is to Survive in the Pressure Cooker of Plutocracy http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/31056-bill-moyers-the-challenge-of-journalism-is-to-survive-in-the-pressure-cooker-of-plutocracy http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/31056-bill-moyers-the-challenge-of-journalism-is-to-survive-in-the-pressure-cooker-of-plutocracy

The following remarks were made by Bill Moyers at the presentation of the Helen Bernstein Book Awards for Excellence in Journalism. The ceremony took place at the New York Public Library on May 26, 2015.


Thank you for allowing me to share this evening with you. I'm delighted to meet these exceptional journalists whose achievements you honor with the Helen Bernstein Book Award.

What happens to a society fed a diet of rushed, re-purposed, thinly reported "content?" Or "branded content" that is really merchandising - propaganda - posing as journalism?

But I gulped when [New York Public Library President] Tony Marx asked me to talk about the challenges facing journalism today and gave me 10 to 15 minutes to do so. I seriously thought of taking a powder. Those challenges to journalism are so well identified, so mournfully lamented, and so passionately debated that I wonder if the subject isn't exhausted. Or if we aren't exhausted from hearing about it. I wouldn't presume to speak for journalism or for other journalists or for any journalist except myself. Ted Gup, who teaches journalism at Emerson and Boston College, once bemoaned the tendency to lump all of us under the term "media." As if everyone with a pen, a microphone, a camera (today, a laptop or smartphone) - or just a loud voice - were all one and the same. I consider myself a journalist. But so does James O'Keefe. Matt Drudge is not E.J. Dionne. The National Review is not The Guardian, or Reuters The Huffington Post. Ann Coulter doesn't speak for Katrina vanden Heuvel, or Rush Limbaugh for Ira Glass. Yet we are all "media" and as Ted Gup says, "the media" speaks for us all.

To see more stories like this, visit Moyers & Company at Truthout.

So I was just about to email Tony to say, "Sorry, you don't want someone from the Jurassic era to talk about what's happening to journalism in the digital era," when I remembered one of my favorite stories about the late humorist Robert Benchley. He arrived for his final exam in international law at Harvard to find that the test consisted of one instruction: "Discuss the international fisheries problem in respect to hatcheries protocol and dragnet and procedure as it affects (a) the point of view of the United States and (b) the point of view of Great Britain." Benchley was desperate but he was also honest, and he wrote: "I know nothing about the point of view of Great Britain in the arbitration of the international fisheries problem, and nothing about the point of view of the United States. I shall therefore discuss the question from the point of view of the fish."

So shall I, briefly. One small fish in the vast ocean of media.

I look at your honorees this evening and realize they have already won one of the biggest prizes in journalism - support from venerable institutions: The New Yorker, The New York Times, NPR, The Wall Street Journal and The Christian Science Monitor. These esteemed news organizations paid - yes, you heard me, paid - them to report and to report painstakingly, intrepidly, often at great risk. Your honorees then took time - money buys time, perhaps its most valuable purchase - to craft the exquisite writing that transports us, their readers, to distant places - China, Afghanistan, the Great Barrier Reef, even that murky hotbed of conspiracy and secession known as Texas.

And after we read these stories, when we put down our Kindles and iPads, or - what's that other device called? Oh yes - when we put down our books - we emerge with a different take on a slice of reality, a more precise insight into some of the forces changing our world.

Although they were indeed paid for their work, I'm sure that's not what drove them to spend months based in Beijing, Kabul and Dallas. Their passion was to go find the story, dig up the facts and follow the trail around every bend in the road until they had the evidence. But to do this - to find what's been overlooked, or forgotten, or hidden; to put their skill and talent and curiosity to work on behalf of their readers - us - they needed funding. It's an old story: When our oldest son turned 16 he asked for a raise in his allowance, I said: "Don't you know there are some things more important than money?" And he answered: "Sure, Dad, but it takes money to date them." Democracy needs journalists, but it takes money to support them. Yet if present trends continue, Elizabeth Kolbert may well have to update her book with a new chapter on how the dinosaurs of journalism went extinct in the Great Age of Disruption.

You may have read that two Pulitzer Prize winners this year had already left the profession by the time the prize was announced. One had investigated corruption in a tiny, cash-strapped school district for The Daily Breeze of Torrance, California. His story led to changes in California state law. He left journalism for a public relations job that would make it easier to pay his rent. The other helped document domestic violence in South Carolina, which forced the issue onto the state legislative agenda. She left the Charleston Post and Courier for PR, too.

These are but two of thousands. And we are left to wonder what will happen when the old business models no longer support reporters at local news outlets? There's an ecosystem out there and if the smaller fish die out, eventually the bigger fish will be malnourished, too.

A few examples: The New York Times reporter who rattled the city this month with her report on the awful conditions for nail salon workers was given a month just to see whether it was a story, and a year to conduct her investigation. Money bought time. She began, with the help of six translators, by reading several years of back issues of the foreign language press in this country… and began to understand the scope of the problem. She took up her reporting from there. Big fish, like The New York Times, can amplify the work of the foreign language press and wake the rest of us up.

A free press, you see, doesn't operate for free at all. Fearless journalism requires a steady stream of independent income.
 
It was the publisher of the Bergen Record, a family-owned paper in New Jersey who got a call from an acquaintance about an unusual traffic jam on the George Washington Bridge. The editor assigned their traffic reporter to investigate. (Can you believe? They had a traffic reporter!) The reporter who covered the Port Authority for the Record joined in and discovered a staggering abuse of power by Governor Chris Christie's minions. WNYC Radio picked up the story and doggedly stuck to it, helped give it a larger audience and broadened its scope to a pattern of political malfeasance that resulted in high-profile resignations and criminal investigations into the Port Authority. Quite a one-two punch: WNYC won a Peabody Award, the Record won a Polk.

A Boston Phoenix reporter broke the story about sexual abuse within the city's Catholic Church nine months before the Boston Globe picked up the thread. The Globe intensified the reporting and gave the story national and international reach. The Boston Phoenix, alas, died from financial malnutrition in 2013 after 47 years in business.

So once again: How can strong independent journalism thrive when independent outlets can't afford to pay reporters, writers or producers a living wage; or when websites ask them to post four or five items a day; or when they leave journalism school and take jobs logging algorithms at Facebook (what does that even mean?). What happens to a society fed a diet of rushed, re-purposed, thinly reported "content?" Or "branded content" that is really merchandising - propaganda - posing as journalism?

And what happens when PR turns a profit and truth goes penniless? One of my mentors told me that "News is what people want to keep hidden, everything else is publicity." So who will be left to report on what is happening in the statehouse or at the town hall? In the backrooms of Congress, the board rooms of banks and corporations, or even the open and shameless bazaar of K Street where the mercenaries of crony capitalism uncork bottles of champagne paid for by "dark money" from oligarchs and PACs? What happens when our elections are insider-driven charades conducted for profit by professional operatives whose spending on advertising mainly enriches themselves and the cable and television stations in cahoots with them? We know the answer, we know that a shortage of substantial reporting means corruption remains hidden, candidates we know little about and even less about who is funding them and what policy outcomes they are buying. It also means even more terrifying possibilities. As Tom Stoppard writes in his play Night and Day, "People do terrible things to each other, but it's worse in the places where everybody is kept in the dark."

A free press, you see, doesn't operate for free at all. Fearless journalism requires a steady stream of independent income. Allow me to speak from personal experience. After I left government in 1967 - including a stint as White House press secretary - it took me a while to get my footing back in journalism. I can assure you: I found the job of trying to tell the truth about people whose job it is to hide the truth almost as complicated and difficult as trying to hide it in the first place. Unless you're willing to fight and re-fight the same battles until you go blue in the face, drive the people you work for nuts going over every last detail again and again to make certain you've got it right, and then take hit after hit accusing you of "bias," there's no use even trying. You have to love it, and I have. And still do.

Forty years ago my team and I produced the first documentary ever about the purchase of government favors by PACs - political action committees. For the final scene, we unfurled yard after yard of computer printouts across the Capitol grounds, listing campaign contributions to every member of Congress - including several old friends and allies with whom I had worked during my time in government. You could hear the howls all the way to kingdom come. Even members of Congress who had just recently voted to create PBS were outraged. This and other offenses by kindred journalists in public television prompted Richard Nixon and his communications director Pat Buchanan to try to shut off the oxygen.

Nevertheless, early in the Reagan years, we produced a documentary called The Secret Government. Our reporting exposed an interlocking network of official functionaries, spies, mercenaries and predators, ex-generals and profiteers working outside the legitimate institutions of government to carry out foreign follies without regard to public consent or congressional approval. We followed that one with High Crimes and Misdemeanors about the Iran-Contra scandal. Republicans accused public television of committing - horrors! - journalism. Well into the next decade they invoked both documentaries as they threatened PBS funding. When we documented illegal fundraising by Democrats in 1996 - in a documentary we called Washington's Other Scandal because it wasn't about sexual antics in the White House - this time it was the Clinton administration that howled.

But taking on political scandal is nothing compared to what can happen if you raise questions about corporate power in Washington. Working on a Frontline documentary about agriculture we learned that the pesticide industry was behind closed doors trying to dilute the findings of a National Academy of Sciences study on the effects of their chemicals on children. When word of our investigation got around the industry, they mounted an extensive and expensive campaign to discredit our reporting before it aired. A Washington Post TV columnist took a dig at the broadcast on the morning before it was to air that evening. He hadn't even seen the film and later confessed to me that his source had been a top lobbyist for the chemical industry. Some public television managers were so unnerved by the blitz of misleading information about the documentary that they had not yet broadcast or even watched, that they protested its production to PBS with letters that had been prepared for them by the industry!

We spent more than a year working on another documentary called Trade Secrets which revealed how big chemical companies had deliberately withheld from workers and consumers information about toxic chemicals in their products. We weren't peeking through the keyhole; we had the documents. We confirmed that major American companies were putting human lives at risk. We showed what the companies knew, when they knew it and what they did with what they knew - they deep-sixed it.

Our reporting portrayed pervasive corruption in the chemical industry and raised profound policy implications from living under a regulatory system designed by the industry itself. The attack on us was well-funded, deceitful and vicious. To complicate matters, the single biggest recipient of campaign contributions from the chemical industry - over 20 years in the House of Representatives - was the very member of Congress who had jurisdiction over PBS appropriations. Fortunately, we hadn't used any public funds to produce the documentary, the leadership of PBS again held firm, our report aired - and won an Emmy for investigative journalism.

But remember: I had an independent stream of income - from a handful of foundations that believe democracy needs journalism, and from my sole corporate sponsor of almost 30 years, Mutual of America Life Insurance Company.

Before Mutual, I had lost three corporate funders because of broadcasts that offended their CEOs, directors, customers or their cronies in high office. Now, I can tell you that losing your underwriter can send an independent producer to the showers, end your career and - more deadly - unconsciously distort your intuition about what is permissible the next time you think about producing another documentary. Self-censorship is all the more insidious when you don't recognize that you have been infected. But Mutual of America had my back. Not once in almost three decades of reporting from the intersection where corporate influence touches political power did I have a single complaint from anyone at the company, even when I knew they were getting an earful from others. Consider yourself blessed if you are backed by capitalists with courage.

Once upon a time the networks supported muscular investigative reporting into betrayals of the public trust. But democratic values lost out to corporate values when media giants merged news and entertainment and opened the throttle on what Edward R. Murrow called their "money-making machine." Mind you, there was no "golden age" of broadcasting at any network, but there were enough breakthrough moments that we could imagine a future in which subjects treated in the books being honored here this evening - subjects that extend the moral reach of journalism - might be staples in the schedule.

It wasn't to be. And the challenge of journalism today is to survive in the pressure cooker of plutocracy. Where, in this mighty conglomeration of wealth and power, when for all practical purposes government and rich interests are two sides of the corporate state - where is the moral center of the commonwealth? How does journalism serve the endangered ideals of democracy? Can we find the audience that will dive deep - the audience that rebels against being treated as a branded market identified by the price tag on it? How do we report on the creeping dystopia of a cynically frivolous society with a political class that has made an ideology of ignorance, demoralizes workers and disdains the future? Can journalists be both patriotic and subversive - will we cover those who seek to disrupt the workings of a dominant and ruthless over-class with the attention and enthusiasm we accord the powers that be - by whom so many journalists appear mesmerized?

In an oligarchic era, you can be quickly marginalized by a corporate media and political class so comfortable in the extravagantly blended world of money, politics and celebrity that they don't bark at the burglars of democracy, much less bite the hand that feeds them.

Wrestling with these questions is unavoidable. It requires on the part of journalists a high tolerance for public or private cuffing, as well as qualities of inquiry, observation and understanding that are either supported by the organization you work for or assured by an independent stream of income.

We still find great investigative reporting at certain legacy organizations. And the Web boasts some superb truth-telling. But everyone knows the digital future is precarious. As Clay Shirky once wrote: "That is what real revolutions are like. The old stuff gets broken faster than the new stuff is put in its place." For an optimistic forecast of the possibilities I urge you to read the speech Martin Baron, executive editor of The Washington Post, delivered in April at the University of California, Riverside. For a dazzling trip to new media's cutting edge, read the current edition of the Columbia Journalism Review, reported and written by 14 of the school's own students. For a sobering perspective, consider the Knight Foundation's recent third report on the status of nonprofit news ventures. Of the 14 nonprofits that it followed since the last report, three have been able to grow, four have cut staff and seven have held steady. Only one could be called a stand-out success - the Texas Tribune, with 42 full-time employees and an operating budget four times larger than any of the other organizations in the study. For the rest of the organizations in the study, however, the growth in staffing and traffic seem stalled, prompting the Columbia Journalism Review to say that if the report was a weather forecast, the prediction for nonprofit news would be partly cloudy with a chance of sun.

In the face of such chaos and uncertainty, some of us have been talking a lot about how to pay for independent journalism. In moments of reverie we even imagine there are sympathetic billionaires worried about how other billionaires are buying up the political system and wonder if that concern runs deep enough to fund a multi-billion trust fund for investigative journalism - say, a new Carnegie or Rockefeller Foundation devoted exclusively to encouraging continuous scrutiny of how America is working - and for whom? Both Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller were rapacious capitalists who nonetheless invested much of their fortunes in the improving of democracy. Carnegie funded libraries all across the country - including one in my hometown of Marshall, Texas - to serve the public thirst for knowledge. Why not a modern Carnegie - even a Google - that would spread independent journalistic websites dedicated to the public's need to know?

We know that contributions from individuals, not institutions, make up most of American philanthropy, and we think some of that should be directed toward nonprofit journalism. An FCC report in 2011 found that if Americans spent one percent of their charitable giving on nonprofit media it would generate $2.7 billion a year. If community foundations put five percent of their spending toward local journalism it would generate $130 million annually. And if the foundations of the top new media corporations and their founders put five percent of their spending toward local accountability journalism it would generate $220 million annually.

But we need more than money to sustain independent journalism. We need laws to ensure that reporters can protect their sources. We need to hound government at every level to respond to public records requests. We need stronger reporting requirements for corporations so that they can be held accountable.

Above all, we need journalists and writers like those you honor tonight. They participate in what the iconic filmmaker John Grierson called "the articulation of our time." No matter the technology employed, it is the deeply moved and engaged individual who can transcend the normal province of journalistic convention to see and speak truths others have missed in all that is hidden in plain sight.

I am privileged to be in your company. Thank you again for inviting me. And congratulations to the recipients of the Helen Bernstein Award. Thank you for keeping the flame burning.

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Opinion Fri, 29 May 2015 00:00:00 -0400