Thursday, 02 July 2015 / TRUTH-OUT.ORG

Speakout

SpeakOut is Truthout's treasure chest for bloggy, quirky, personally reflective, or especially activism-focused pieces. SpeakOut articles represent the perspectives of their authors, and not those of Truthout.

Internal records released by the US Bureau of Land Management concerning the armed stand-off with Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy give little clue of what led up to the confrontation and even less of what changed as a result. The records were given to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) as a result of its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against BLM.

In the year following a failed attempt by BLM to seize Bundy's cattle, which had been illegally grazing on 160,000 BLM and National Park Service acres for more than a decade, the agency has been largely silent and had not responded to a PEER FOIA request for explanatory documents.

Apr 23

Primary Season 2015: A Call to Action

By Mathias Quackenbush, Truthout | Op-Ed

With big money shaping our choice of candidate, Hillary Clinton's coronation as the 2016 Democratic presidential candidate is the measure of her likelihood of defending the interests of the corporatocracy. Now is the time to hold her accountable and shape the terms of debate via grassroots activism.

As readers are likely aware, Hillary Clinton recently announced her presidential candidacy. This may just reflect the viewpoint of a writer who operates in an activist echo chamber, but chances are that for most people reading, of interest was not the candidacy itself, but the fact that this announcement was treated as a somehow surprising or notable development. Hasn't #ReadyforHillary been a thing for years now? As Joseph Mulkerin notes in his recent op-ed, MSNBC started referring to her as the "presumptive nominee" as early as 2013.

A senior White House official has said that the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Michele Leonhart, isexpected to resign soon. The news comes as no surprise to drug policy reformers who say her opposition to reform made her out of step with the Obama Administration. 

"Leonhart's DEA reflects an outdated, disastrous approach that President Obama claims he wants to leave behind," said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. "If she leaves he has an opportunity to appoint someone who will overhaul the DEA and support drug policy reform."

In a scathing decision, a U.S. Department of Labor judge has ruled that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency improperly sought to conceal exonerating evidence and illegally retaliated against a whistleblower.  In the ruling posted today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), a U.S. Department of Labor administrative law judge catalogued a trove ofmisconduct by EPA lawyers covering years of litigation.

The April 15, 2015 ruling by Administrative Law Judge Linda Chapman involved EPA senior chemist Cate Jenkins, who had reported fraudulent agency limits on corrosive dust and improper testing and cover-up of the toxic properties of the dust emanating from the World Trade Center (WTC) disaster which contributed to deaths and illnesses of First Responders.  Judge Chapman found that EPA had "failed to produce literally thousands of documents" in a campaign of concealment. 

Israel's Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) has demanded that notoriously racist club Beitar Jerusalem, the bad boy of Israeli soccer, retract recent statements that it would maintain its policy of not hiring Palestinian players because of opposition by the team's militant, racist fan base.

The demand comes as Israel is fighting an attempt by the Palestine Football Association (PFA) to get the Jewish state suspended from FIFA at next month's congress of the world soccer body. The PFA charges that Israel hinders the development of Palestinian soccer by obstructing travel of Palestinian players between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as well as abroad.

As negotiations continue between the governments of the United States and Cuba over the normalization of relations, the U.S. State Department has claimed Cuba is willing to discuss the extradition of political refugee Assata Shakur. While it may seem that Cuba would gladly make such a seemingly minor concession in return for the promise of normalized relations, this would greatly underestimate the Cuban government's commitment to upholding its principles. Shakur need not worry that Cuba will cave for expediency's sake and send her back to the country she escaped from after being harassed and persecuted for years.

According to The Guardian, a State Department spokesman said Cuba had agreed to discuss fugitives, including Shakur, whose original name was Joanne Chesimard. She was granted political asylum by Cuba in 1984 after escaping from prison in New Jersey five years earlier.

Majorities hope that more transparency and data sharing by government will help journalists cover government and make officials more accountable, but very few think that government agencies are doing a great job of providing useful data, according to a new survey conducted by the Pew Research Center in association with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The representative survey of more than 3,000 U.S. adults finds there are public divisions about the possible impact of open-data initiatives by government that often are shaped by people’s levels of trust in government.  For instance, only 23% of the public trust the federal government to do the right thing most of the time.  In addition, people’s partisan views about the trustworthiness are a factor in their beliefs about government transparency and data initiatives: Democrats are more hopeful than Republicans.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wastewater permits issued recently on Indianlands are illegal and should be rescinded, according to an appeal filed today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The permits allow mass discharge of waters laced with toxic oil and gas drilling chemicals into a stream, for consumption by wildlife and livestock. The PEER petition to EPA's Environmental Appeals Board highlights EPA's approval of surface disposal of drilling wastewater without even identifying the chemicals in the hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") fluids, let alone setting effluent limits for the harmful contaminants contained within, contrary to its own regulations.

In mid-March, EPA finalized new water discharge permits for nearly a dozen oil fields on or abutting the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming (EPA has Clean Water Act jurisdiction on tribal lands). 

Apr 22

A Day for Our Mother Earth

By Tom H Hastings, Truthout | Op-Ed

How many holidays do we have? MLK Day in January, Valentines Day in February, Easter in March or April, Earth Day in April, Memorial Day in May, and so forth. Of those few examples, two were declared in my adulthood. New holidays take time to catch on and embed themselves in the culture. They can stray from their roots. Christmas is for consumerism. Veterans Day is to promote war. Thanksgiving is for football.

The first Earth Day, in 1970, was the launch of a new holiday with deep challenger social meaning for many of us. I was 19. I was excited that this new holiday reflected my values, the ones I was raised to hold, the ones that had worked forward from many indigenous leaders to John Muir to Aldo Leopold to Rachel Carson. My Dad taught me the number one value and tactic in life: always leave the campsite a bit nicer than when you found it. We camped across the country and that was our ritual; we broke camp and made sure the site was free of garbage but also had a bit more firewood left for the next ones than what we found.

The 55-point headline in Slate blares, "Letter from Prominent Doctors Implies Columbia Should Fire Dr. Oz for Beinga Quack." The story by Ben Mathis-Lilly is based on a letter by a group of doctors who want Columbia University to relieve Dr. Oz of his position as vice chair of the department of surgery at Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons.

"Dr. Oz has repeatedly shown disdain for science and for evidence-based medicine, as well as baseless and relentless opposition to the genetic engineering of food crops," states the letter, which was sent soon after Dr. Oz aired a show about glyphosate, the herbicide associated with most genetically engineered crops that was recently designated as a probable human carcinogen by the World Health Organization.

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Speakout

SpeakOut is Truthout's treasure chest for bloggy, quirky, personally reflective, or especially activism-focused pieces. SpeakOut articles represent the perspectives of their authors, and not those of Truthout.

Internal records released by the US Bureau of Land Management concerning the armed stand-off with Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy give little clue of what led up to the confrontation and even less of what changed as a result. The records were given to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) as a result of its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against BLM.

In the year following a failed attempt by BLM to seize Bundy's cattle, which had been illegally grazing on 160,000 BLM and National Park Service acres for more than a decade, the agency has been largely silent and had not responded to a PEER FOIA request for explanatory documents.

Apr 23

Primary Season 2015: A Call to Action

By Mathias Quackenbush, Truthout | Op-Ed

With big money shaping our choice of candidate, Hillary Clinton's coronation as the 2016 Democratic presidential candidate is the measure of her likelihood of defending the interests of the corporatocracy. Now is the time to hold her accountable and shape the terms of debate via grassroots activism.

As readers are likely aware, Hillary Clinton recently announced her presidential candidacy. This may just reflect the viewpoint of a writer who operates in an activist echo chamber, but chances are that for most people reading, of interest was not the candidacy itself, but the fact that this announcement was treated as a somehow surprising or notable development. Hasn't #ReadyforHillary been a thing for years now? As Joseph Mulkerin notes in his recent op-ed, MSNBC started referring to her as the "presumptive nominee" as early as 2013.

A senior White House official has said that the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Michele Leonhart, isexpected to resign soon. The news comes as no surprise to drug policy reformers who say her opposition to reform made her out of step with the Obama Administration. 

"Leonhart's DEA reflects an outdated, disastrous approach that President Obama claims he wants to leave behind," said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. "If she leaves he has an opportunity to appoint someone who will overhaul the DEA and support drug policy reform."

In a scathing decision, a U.S. Department of Labor judge has ruled that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency improperly sought to conceal exonerating evidence and illegally retaliated against a whistleblower.  In the ruling posted today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), a U.S. Department of Labor administrative law judge catalogued a trove ofmisconduct by EPA lawyers covering years of litigation.

The April 15, 2015 ruling by Administrative Law Judge Linda Chapman involved EPA senior chemist Cate Jenkins, who had reported fraudulent agency limits on corrosive dust and improper testing and cover-up of the toxic properties of the dust emanating from the World Trade Center (WTC) disaster which contributed to deaths and illnesses of First Responders.  Judge Chapman found that EPA had "failed to produce literally thousands of documents" in a campaign of concealment. 

Israel's Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) has demanded that notoriously racist club Beitar Jerusalem, the bad boy of Israeli soccer, retract recent statements that it would maintain its policy of not hiring Palestinian players because of opposition by the team's militant, racist fan base.

The demand comes as Israel is fighting an attempt by the Palestine Football Association (PFA) to get the Jewish state suspended from FIFA at next month's congress of the world soccer body. The PFA charges that Israel hinders the development of Palestinian soccer by obstructing travel of Palestinian players between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as well as abroad.

As negotiations continue between the governments of the United States and Cuba over the normalization of relations, the U.S. State Department has claimed Cuba is willing to discuss the extradition of political refugee Assata Shakur. While it may seem that Cuba would gladly make such a seemingly minor concession in return for the promise of normalized relations, this would greatly underestimate the Cuban government's commitment to upholding its principles. Shakur need not worry that Cuba will cave for expediency's sake and send her back to the country she escaped from after being harassed and persecuted for years.

According to The Guardian, a State Department spokesman said Cuba had agreed to discuss fugitives, including Shakur, whose original name was Joanne Chesimard. She was granted political asylum by Cuba in 1984 after escaping from prison in New Jersey five years earlier.

Majorities hope that more transparency and data sharing by government will help journalists cover government and make officials more accountable, but very few think that government agencies are doing a great job of providing useful data, according to a new survey conducted by the Pew Research Center in association with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The representative survey of more than 3,000 U.S. adults finds there are public divisions about the possible impact of open-data initiatives by government that often are shaped by people’s levels of trust in government.  For instance, only 23% of the public trust the federal government to do the right thing most of the time.  In addition, people’s partisan views about the trustworthiness are a factor in their beliefs about government transparency and data initiatives: Democrats are more hopeful than Republicans.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wastewater permits issued recently on Indianlands are illegal and should be rescinded, according to an appeal filed today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The permits allow mass discharge of waters laced with toxic oil and gas drilling chemicals into a stream, for consumption by wildlife and livestock. The PEER petition to EPA's Environmental Appeals Board highlights EPA's approval of surface disposal of drilling wastewater without even identifying the chemicals in the hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") fluids, let alone setting effluent limits for the harmful contaminants contained within, contrary to its own regulations.

In mid-March, EPA finalized new water discharge permits for nearly a dozen oil fields on or abutting the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming (EPA has Clean Water Act jurisdiction on tribal lands). 

Apr 22

A Day for Our Mother Earth

By Tom H Hastings, Truthout | Op-Ed

How many holidays do we have? MLK Day in January, Valentines Day in February, Easter in March or April, Earth Day in April, Memorial Day in May, and so forth. Of those few examples, two were declared in my adulthood. New holidays take time to catch on and embed themselves in the culture. They can stray from their roots. Christmas is for consumerism. Veterans Day is to promote war. Thanksgiving is for football.

The first Earth Day, in 1970, was the launch of a new holiday with deep challenger social meaning for many of us. I was 19. I was excited that this new holiday reflected my values, the ones I was raised to hold, the ones that had worked forward from many indigenous leaders to John Muir to Aldo Leopold to Rachel Carson. My Dad taught me the number one value and tactic in life: always leave the campsite a bit nicer than when you found it. We camped across the country and that was our ritual; we broke camp and made sure the site was free of garbage but also had a bit more firewood left for the next ones than what we found.

The 55-point headline in Slate blares, "Letter from Prominent Doctors Implies Columbia Should Fire Dr. Oz for Beinga Quack." The story by Ben Mathis-Lilly is based on a letter by a group of doctors who want Columbia University to relieve Dr. Oz of his position as vice chair of the department of surgery at Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons.

"Dr. Oz has repeatedly shown disdain for science and for evidence-based medicine, as well as baseless and relentless opposition to the genetic engineering of food crops," states the letter, which was sent soon after Dr. Oz aired a show about glyphosate, the herbicide associated with most genetically engineered crops that was recently designated as a probable human carcinogen by the World Health Organization.