Palladia TV has an awe full David Bowie tribute on now. See it if you'd like to see David one more time and at his best. It even has music from Lou Reed and the Stones. (And he announces that it's his last concert.)
"Billions," a new piece of art on "Showtime" kicks business/politics/finance ass.
It's the best I've seen in a very long time.
Right up there with "Borgen" and "MI-5."
Except it's American ass kicking.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _
It's not hard to figure out the players.
It's not hard to make the choice to be informed.
The respective appeals of the two men are similar only on the simplest and least consequential levels. On the most profound levels, the two campaigns couldn't be more different. Bernie Sanders is where he is because the positions and the policies he has been championing all his career have come back somewhat into favor ever since some grifters broke the world economy and then made off with the rubble. That is why he's different from Donald Trump and that is why Hillary Rodham Clinton is noticing that things in the rear-view window are closer than they appear.
. . . The basic appeal of He, Trump is that he is Donald Trump, and you're not, and neither are the rest of those losers on stage with him. He's a down-punching bully basking in the mindless adulation of people looking for someone close at hand to blame for what they believe has gone wrong with their lives and their country. The very strange thing is that Trump asks almost nothing from the people at his rallies except that they love him. He doesn't appeal to sacrifice or common purpose. All the problems will be solved because he's Trump and you're not, and he knows all the Top Men in their fields. But enough about him, let's talk about you. What do you think of him? He looks at his audience and he sees little more than a faceless mirror. He's not a democratic politician. He's freaking Napoleon.
Meanwhile, Sanders punches up at the elites that, frankly, have more power in our politics than he does, or than you do, or than any politician does. He tells his audiences that he can't do it alone, that the money power has grown too great for any one person to combat. He needs them more than they need him. He is not Napoleon, he is a democratic politician. And that makes all the difference and that's why the "populist anger" narrative is a shuck. Anyone who says they could vote for either Bernie Sanders or He, Trump has been living for the last nine months with their head in a laundry bag.
By Bruce Henderson
Legislators probed a question Wednesday that has bedeviled regulators and hundreds of North Carolina households: How can contaminants that are deemed safe in public water systems be labeled risky in private wells?
The state Health Department last spring advised more than 400 well owners, neighbors of Duke Energy power plants, not to drink their water. Most warnings cited detections of two substances that might come from Duke’s coal ash ponds.
But similar levels of the contaminants, hexavalent chromium and vanadium, also appear in the municipal water of Charlotte, other North Carolina cities and across the United States. That water is judged safe to drink under federal standards.
“We’re telling people that their water is unsafe, and now we’re telling them that maybe it might not be,” Sen. Andrew Brock, R-Mocksville, said as the Environmental Review Commission met Wednesday. “Nothing gets more personal than messing with somebody’s water.”
The state’s environment and health agencies sparred for months, internal records show, over how to assess contaminants in private wells in the absence of relevant standards.
Officials worried most about hexavalent chromium, a form of the metal that may cause cancer in people who drink tainted water. Hexavalent chromium figured in “Erin Brockovich,” the 2000 movie based on real-life groundwater contamination in California.
Research and the understanding of acceptable levels of toxic substances in the environment is evolving.
In 2008, the Environmental Protection Agency began considering whether to set limits on hexavalent chromium. The EPA has called it likely to cause cancer in humans if ingested in drinking water because of tumors found in rats and mice, and because of some evidence of stomach cancers in humans.
But North Carolina, like the federal government, has set no specific limit on how much hexavalent chromium in drinking water is safe. The state instead has a standard for total chromium that includes hexavalent chromium.
In North Carolina, as officials prepared to test nearly 500 wells near Duke’s power plants, they needed a benchmark by which to compare results. The Department of Health and Human Services used its own calculations: the level that might cause one cancer in 1 million people over a lifetime of exposure.
Department of Environmental Quality officials expressed alarm that the newly calculated screening level for hexavalent chromium in wells, 0.07 parts per billion, was too tough. Public water systems have only to meet a far higher federal standard for total chromium of 100 ppb, which includes hexavalent chromium.
Conflicting standards, DEQ argued, would mislead the public.
“Directing people to undertake certain mitigating activities with perhaps negligible health benefit is very different than alerting them to their risk in an understandable way,” Jessica Godreau, chief of the state’s public water supply section, wrote another DEQ official last March.
DEQ eventually consented to the tougher standard. While 424 of 476 well owners got don’t-drink advisories, only 12 wells broke federal water standards.
Nearly a year later, Assistant Environment Secretary Tom Reeder told the commission, “It’s incredibly confusing to the consumer.”
“Decide which agency is in charge,” said Sen. Ronald Rabin, a Harnett County Republican. “It can’t be two different agencies in charge of water or it’s chaos.”
Municipal, Private Water
Health officials say they followed protocol in developing the screening levels on which their recommendations were based.
DEQ eventually consented to the tougher standard. While 424 of 476 well owners got don’t-drink advisories, only 12 wells broke federal water standards.
“One reason it’s complex is that we have municipal water, groundwater, new wells and old wells. You’ll hear different (standards) for all those things,” said Dr. Randall Williams, deputy secretary of health services. “We’re aware that different agencies and different parts of the government look at each of these four entities in different ways.”
While public systems have to comply with federal standards, private well owners are essentially on their own to ensure their water is safe. The state investigation of Duke’s groundwater contamination followed a 2014 ash spill into the Dan River and state legislation that ordered a broader look at ash issues.
The health agency will reassess its recommendations when more groundwater test data are reported in the next month, he said.
Amy Brown, a neighbor of Duke’s Allen plant in Gaston County, said she appreciated Williams’ personal visit after Christmas. But after eight months on bottled water, she added, her neighborhood is “in limbo. We have no real answer. We can’t sell our houses. And we didn’t ask for this, not one bit of it.”
Duke says groundwater data indicate the well contaminants come from natural sources, not ash ponds.
Similar levels of hexavalent chromium and vanadium occur in soil and rock miles from ash ponds, Duke says. With one exception, it says, the boron that serves as an indicator of ash has not been found in private wells.
“We strongly agree that clarity is needed on state drinking water standards so plant neighbors and others across the state who have been told not to drink their water get this issue resolved soon,” spokeswoman Erin Culbert said by email.
Hexavalent chromium is used to make stainless steel and tan leather and to preserve wood. Pacific Gas & Electric, which settled a class-action lawsuit over groundwater contamination in California, used it to reduce corrosion at a power plant.
North Carolina officials, in calculating a screening level for the substance, relied on California’s work with hexavalent chromium.
In 2011, California set the nation’s first “public health goal” for hexavalent chromium in drinking water: 0.02 ppb, even lower than North Carolina’s screening level. A public health goal is not an enforceable standard but represents the level that does not pose a significant health risk.
But in setting a regulatory standard in 2014, California set a much higher bar of 10 ppb after weighing the technical feasibility of detecting the contaminant at low levels and treatment costs.
Jacqueline MacDonald Gibson, who specializes in risk assessment at UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, said North Carolina’s screening level is “extremely, extremely, extremely conservative.” Among other assumptions, she said, it makes the leap that humans will develop tumors as rats did.
“It’s kind of unfair to ask homeowners to answer what does 1 in a million mean,” she said. “If it were just me, it’s a judgment call,. But if it were my well and the standard is much below what California says is acceptable, I would go ahead and drink the water.”
Whether the level is too conservative, she added, is for policymakers to decide.
January 15, 2016
Though it's undeniable Big Philanthropists have done some good work, large-scale philanthropy is largely about letting billionaires feel better about themselves, a form of "conscience laundering”" that simultaneously functions to "keep the existing system of inequality in place." (Photos: Getty)
Whenever I hear a powerful philanthropist piously proclaim, “I just wanted to give something back,” my first reaction is “Why not give it all back?” I say that because “giving back” is all about first taking away.
Immense fortunes are derived from random luck, class background, tax avoidance schemes, off-shoring jobs, publically-funded research, inheritance, a low-federal minimum wage, and especially, from the labor of countless men and women who produced it. In Chris Rock’s pithy words, “Behind every great fortune is a great crime.”
As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stressed, “Philanthropy is commendable, but it must not cause the philanthropist to overlook the circumstances of economic injustice that make philanthropy necessary.” And that’s the rub. The one thing that Big Philanthropy must overlook is the green elephant astride the boardroom’s conference table, the economic system that causes and extends these injustices in perpetuity.
We know that the munificence of the rich is rarely directed toward those most in need but to donor alma maters and limited access cultural institutions. This enhances the giver’s status among his or her peers while providing generous tax advantages. According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, in New York State not one of the top 49 gifts of at least $1million went toward improving the lives of needy people. More typical was a gift of $190 million for Columbia University’s business school and another of $40 million for an indoor cycling track. Often the donor’s name is attached to the edifice.
Private philanthropic mega-foundations are tax exempt which means 40 percent of their wealth has been siphoned off. The top seventy foundations have assets in excess of seven hundred billion dollars and in one recent year the tax subsidies amounted to a loss of $53.7 billion dollars to the U.S. Treasury (Bob Reich, Boston Review, 2013).
For example, as recounted in Mark Dowie’s book American Foundations, billionaire financier George Soros was conducting an executive session of his foundation when a spirited exchange occurred about grant-making priorities. Soros allegedly declared “This is my money. We will do it my way.” At that, a junior staffer pointed out that half the money didn’t belong to Soros because if not placed in the foundation “it would be in the Treasury.” The staffer’s employment was short-lived (Reich)
Just to be clear, some Big Philanthropists have done some good work. However, as Peter Buffet (Warren Buffet's son) has argued, philanthropy is largely about letting billionaires feel better about themselves, a form of “conscience laundering” that simultaneously functions to “keep the existing system of inequality in place...” by shaping the culture.
Gara Lamarche, a veteran grants administrator for large foundations, comes closer to candor than most by advocating forms of giving that go beyond laudatory volunteering at soup kitchens or reading books to under-served children. Echoing Dr. King, he says we need to “expose the root causes and structural conditions that result in hunger or lack of access to education in the first place.”
Tellingly, Lamarche goes no further. Why not? Because philanthro-capitalists believe and want us to believe they’re indispensable, that only their fundamentalist, free market system can save us. Above all, we should never look to a democratically accountable government to insure every citizen has a social right to quality health care, first-public schools, free universities, employment security, dignified retirement, and an environmentally safe planet. This anti-government narrative is prompted by fear that a robust government pursuing these ends could also curb their control of the nation’s resources.
Finally, it’s terminally naive to expect the new Gilded Age plutocrats, 16,000 individuals or .01 percent with as much wealth as eighty percent of Americans will commit class suicide. Their wealth won’t midwife a world into existence in which they and their progeny no longer rule. The rest of us shouldn’t hesitate in undertaking this long overdue transformation.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License_ _ _ _ _ _ _
Gary Olson, Ph.D. Is chair of the Political Science Department at Moravian College in Bethlehem, PA. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
From my mentor Mark Crispin Miller we learn all about that infamous spy (a woman!) in jail in Italy:
As with all things CIA, there is more to this story than meets the eye.
And I suspect she is very much “former.”
De Sousa has always denied involvement, and years later, did an interview exposing what happened.
Ex-CIA Officer Speaks Out: The Italian Job
“De Sousa, a dual US and Portuguese citizen, said she had nothing to do with the cleric’s abduction and has been wrongly accused. For the past decade, she has been on a global quest to clear her name. VICE News met up with De Sousa in Lisbon, Portugal – and other key figures connected to the case – for an exclusive interview about the steps she’s now taking in an effort to hold the CIA accountable for one of the most notorious counterterrorism operations in the history of the agency.”
You might want to watch this interview with de Sousa (Nov. 15, 2015). Her first words may pique your interest:
“But thing is, anyone who jails me at this point is only going to be complicit in this cover-up. That’s the way to get rid of me, right?”
Let us further note the rather different fate of then CIA chief of station in Milan, Robert Seldon Lady, who was arrested in Panama on July 18, 2013 for the same operation. He was released the next day and boarded a flight to the US:
“U.S. officials had been negotiating with Panamanian authorities to get the retired spy, Robert Lady, released and returned to the U.S., according to a source familiar with the efforts. It was not immediately clear why Lady was in Panama.”
Panama frees ex-CIA official detained in Italy ‘rendition’ case
other/panama-frees-ex-cia- official-detained-italy- rendition-case-f6C10689419
November 4, 2015
Sabrina De Sousa is one of nearly two-dozen CIA officers who was prosecuted, convicted, and sentenced by Italian courts in absentia in 2009 for the role she allegedly played in the rendition of a radical cleric named Abu Omar. It was the first and only criminal prosecution that has ever taken place related to the CIA's rendition program, which involved more than 100 suspected terrorists and the assistance of dozens of European countries.
But De Sousa, a dual US and Portuguese citizen, said she had nothing to do with the cleric's abduction and has been wrongly accused. For the past decade, she has been on a global quest to clear her name. VICE News met up with De Sousa in Lisbon, Portugal--and other key figures connected to the case--for an exclusive interview about the steps she's now taking in an effort to hold the CIA accountable for one of the most notorious counterterrorism operations in the history of the agency.
Watch: The Architect
Read: Former CIA Officer Detained in Europe While Trying to Clear Her Name in Rendition Case
Read: A Radical Imam, His Alleged CIA Kidnapper, and Their 10-Year Hunt for Justice
By Juan Cole, Informed Comment
16 January 2016
atthew Weaver of the Guardian reports retired MIT linguist Noam Chomsky’s reply to a personal attack by Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan.
Erdogan criticized Chomsky and other international scholars who signed a petition against the Turkish government’s current vendetta against Kurdish-Turkish citizens in the country’s southeast. Erdogan demanded that Chomsky come to southeast Turkey to see the terrorism committed by the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) with his own eyes, implying that Chomsky and other signatories of the petition are mere armchair scholars.
Chomsky replied via an email to "The Guardian:"
“Turkey blamed Isis [for the attack on Istanbul], which Erdoğan has been aiding in many ways, while also supporting the al-Nusra Front, which is hardly different. He then launched a tirade against those who condemn his crimes against Kurds – who happen to be the main ground force opposing Isis in both Syria and Iraq. Is there any need for further comment?”Chomsky points out that the Turkish air force has bombed the Syrian Kurds of the YPG, who are distantly linked to the PKK. They are post-Marxists with an anarchist bent – i.e., their ideology is close to Chomsky’s own. Those Syrian Kurds have been the most effective fighters against Daesh (ISIS, ISIL). So for Turkey to attempt to weaken the Syrian Kurds inevitably helps Daesh.
PKK fighters have also helped against Daesh in Iraq. Turkey has also been bombing them. But the PKK has killed dozens of Turkish troops and police in eastern Anatolia since Erdogan broke off the peace talks last summer.
Erdogan’s government is supporting the Syrian Army of Conquest, a Saudi-backed Salafi movement of rebels against the government of Bashar al-Assad in Syria. One component of the Army of Conquest is the Nusra Front or al-Qaeda in Syria. So Chomsky is reminding Erdogan that, iimplicitly, his government backs al-Qaeda while bombing Kurds who are the best hope for a victory over Daesh.
I doubt if Erdogan’s government is helping Daesh. But it is clear that Turkish and American armaments have been leaking from “vetted” groups to al-Qaeda and Daesh. And, there isn’t much evidence of Erdogan having taken Daesh very seriously– the Turkish air force has flown a hundred times more missions against the PKK than against Daesh.
The dispute began when over a thousand academics in Turkey and abroad signed a petition directed at Erdogan and his prime minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, saying they would not be party to the crimes committed against innocent Kurdish-Turkish villagers in the country’s southeast, who were being harmed and even starved by arbitrary curfews. The letter said:
“As academics and researchers of this country, we will not be a party to this crime!This deliberate and planned massacre is in serious violation of Turkey’s own laws and international treaties to which Turkey is a party. These actions are in serious violation of international law.
“The Turkish state has effectively condemned its citizens in Sur, Silvan, Nusaybin, Cizre, Silopi, and many other towns and neighborhoods in the Kurdish provinces to hunger through its use of curfews that have been ongoing for weeks. It has attacked these settlements with heavy weapons and equipment that would only be mobilized in wartime. As a result, the right to life, liberty, and security, and in particular the prohibition of torture and ill-treatment protected by the constitution and international conventions have been violated.
We demand the state to abandon its deliberate massacre and deportation of Kurdish and other peoples in the region. We also demand the state to lift the curfew, punish those who are responsible for human rights violations, and compensate those citizens who have experienced material and psychological damage. For this purpose we demand that independent national and international observers to be given access to the region and that they be allowed to monitor and report on the incidents.
We demand the government to prepare the conditions for negotiations and create a road map that would lead to a lasting peace which includes the demands of the Kurdish political movement. We demand inclusion of independent observers from broad sections of society in these negotiations. We also declare our willingness to volunteer as observers. We oppose suppression of any kind of the opposition.
We, as academics and researchers working on and/or in Turkey, declare that we will not be a party to this massacre by remaining silent and demand an immediate end to the violence perpetrated by the state. We will continue advocacy with political parties, the parliament, and international public opinion until our demands are met.”
The Turkish state responded heavy-handedly, arresting nearly two dozen academics on charges of signing the petition, most of whom were released after questioning. The petition does not support the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a designated terrorist organization, but rather supports the human rights of Turkish citizens of the southeast. But Erdogan and his partisans accused the petitioners of supporting terrorism. It is a ridiculous charge, similar to the tactics of the Likud Party of Israel, which equates opposition to Occupation and oppression of Palestinians with support for terrorism.
The Committee on Academic Freedom of the Middle East Studies Association of North America wrote a letter to the Turkish government protesting these moves:
“Dear Prime Minister Davutoğlu:
We write on behalf of the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) of North America and its Committee on Academic Freedom to express our serious concern over reports that the Higher Education Council (Yüksek Öğretim Kurulu, or YÖK) had an emergency meeting to commence an investigation against scholars who signed a petition for peace in the Kurdish regions of the country (“Peace Petition”). YÖK officials are reportedly treating this petition as pro-PKK “terrorist propaganda” that falls outside of the protections of academic freedom. Further, there are reports that YÖK plans to convene university rectors to take additional action against signatories at their universities. These actions by YÖK represent a violation of academic freedom and are consistent with broader efforts on the part of the state to punish critics of state policies.
MESA was founded in 1966 to promote scholarship and teaching on the Middle East and North Africa. The preeminent organization in the field, the Association publishes the International Journal of Middle East Studies and has nearly 3000 members worldwide. MESA is committed to ensuring academic freedom and freedom of expression, both within the region and in connection with the study of the region in North America and elsewhere.
The government’s actions against the Peace Petition signatories are distressing for at least three reasons. First, investigating the signatories after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan criticized the campaign in a public address, calling the signatories “traitors,” suggests that YÖK’s actions are inappropriately politicized. As we noted in our letter sent on January 7, 2016, the government has enhanced YÖK’s regulatory authorities in ways that are inimical to university autonomy. In this environment, it is hardly surprising that universities are proactively taking punitive measures in anticipation of your government’s actions. Within a day of President Erdoğan’s speech and the announcement of the YÖK investigation several universities initiated punitive measures against their faculty. Assistant Professor Hülya Doğan at Bartın University is reportedly under investigation by her university for being a signatory of the petition. Likewise Sivas Cumhuriyet University has reportedly launched an investigation against Professor Ali Çeliksöz for having signed the petition.
Associate Professor Latife Akyüz has been suspended by Düzce University administration, and a criminal investigation has been opened against her for “terrorism propaganda” — all for being a signatory of the petition. The rector of Abdullah Gül University in Kayseri, has reportedly demanded the resignation of Professor Bülent Tanju solely on the grounds that he is a signatory of the Peace Petition. The local prosecutor in Kayseri, taking note of the rector’s action, has also initiated a criminal investigation against Professor Tanju under Articles 216 and 301 of the Penal Code. The mere act of signing the Peace Petition has left Professor Tanju facing possible charges for “inflaming hatred and hostility among peoples” and “denigration of the Turkish nation” under these penal provisions. Lecturer Ümran Roda Suvağcı from Hakkari University has been taken into custody for having signed the petition. Further disciplinary investigations have reportedly been initiated by the rectors of four universities — Samsun Ondokuz Mayıs University, Antalya Akdeniz University, Abant Izzet Baysal University, and Ankara Hacettepe University — against members of their faculties who are signatories. Many more universities are likely to follow suit, amounting to a wave of punitive actions against academics solely on the grounds that they have criticized the government’s policies in the southeastern provinces. In a university system in which rectors are appointed by the state and YÖK is free to initiate politicized investigations of academics, the actions being taken against signatories of the Peace Petition are a stark reminder that restrictions on academic freedom have become a matter of state policy in Turkey.
Second, among the signatories of the petition are scholars whose research is on the Kurds, other minorities, politics, history, and other related fields. That is, their scholarly work is related to the concerns raised in the text of the petition. By treating the Peace Petition as treasonous and launching an investigation of signatories, the government is effectively interfering with the ability of these academics to conduct their research. President Erdoğan suggests that the petition calls for foreigners to intervene to correct the situation in Turkey. In fact, the petition called for national and international independent observers to monitor the situation in the Kurdish region. This is not a call for foreign intervention, but rather an invitation to engage in the kind of independent observation that is the hallmark of both human rights monitoring and academic research. To investigate and criminalize a petition in which scholars call for independent observers to monitor areas under siege and curfew where civilian deaths have been reported is to strike at the heart of the academic enterprise — the ability to conduct independent research.
Finally, since the general elections in 2011, this is our twentieth letter calling upon your government to protect academic freedom in Turkey. Unfortunately, more often than not these letters have identified instances in which members of your government have used their authority to silence critics within Turkish academic circles by branding them terrorists or traitors for engaging in academic research or exercising their right to free speech to call for peaceful political change. Equally, these cases have often arisen in the context of academics’ conducting research or publishing findings critical of your government’s policies with respect to Kurdish citizens or the Kurdish regions of the country. The politicization of regulatory powers over higher education to punish dissent and silence critics of your government’s policies on various issues, including Kurdish rights, represents a serious violation of academic freedom, freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, and has cast a long shadow over the democratic credentials of your government.
As a member state of the Council of Europe and a signatory of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, Turkey is required to protect freedom of thought, expression and assembly. Turkey is also a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), all of which protect the rights to freedom of expression and association, which are at the heart of academic freedom. These rights are also enshrined in articles 25-27 of the Turkish Constitution. We urge your government to take all necessary steps to ensure that these rights are protected.
We respectfully ask that your government take immediate steps to ensure that YÖK drop any investigation of or action against the signatories of the Peace Petition and that any actions — including university, YÖK or criminal investigations or charges — against Professors Bülent Tanju, Hülya Doğan, Latife Akyüz, Ümran Roda Suvağcı and others be reversed.
As of this writing reports are emerging about additional disciplinary investigations as well as an independent criminal investigation launched by the Istanbul Public Prosecution Office against all the signatories under Article 301 of the Penal Code and Article 7 of Anti-terror Law alleging “terrorist organization propaganda”; we respectfully demand that any such investigations also be dropped. Against a backdrop of mounting international condemnation of the erosion of democratic rights and freedoms under your administration, taking steps to protect academic freedom and the right to education would be an important step to address concerns about human rights in Turkey.
Thank you for your attention to this matter. We look forward to your positive response.
Professor, City University of New York
Amy W. Newhall
MESA Executive Director
Associate Professor, University of Arizona ”
Press TV: “Chomsky accuses Turkish president of hypocrisy”