Monday, August 18, 2014

INSIDE VIEW - Global Organ Trafficking

"Inside the growing global market of organ trafficking" PBS NewsHour 8/17/2014

Excerpt

HARI SREENIVASAN (NewsHour):  Here in the United States, nearly 4,000 people a year die waiting for a kidney.  And while it’s illegal almost everywhere in the world to traffic in organs, there is a thriving global market.  Yesterday, I spoke with Kevin Sack of The New York Times who’s been investigating the global organ trade.

So you’ve been looking at this for a year.  What did you find?

KEVIN SACK:  Well, we found that there’s organ trafficking really all over the world.  I don’t know that there’s a country that’s necessarily immune, including the United States.  We had a prosecution here a couple of years ago, the first prosecution of organ trafficking in this country.

So it happens everywhere and obviously it’s just because there’s this huge demand for kidneys.  People are desperate to get these organs and to save their lives.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  You focused on Israel, and you said that they actually have a disproportionate influence on the global demand.  How is that?  Explain.

KEVIN SACK:  Well, it’s kind of remarkable but over the last 15 years, just time after time, when there have been prosecutions of organ traffickers, Israel always seems to have some role.  Israelis are either the buyers or the sellers.  Often they’re the brokers.

And it has a lot to do with a view among orthodox rabbis that brain death, which obviously is the optimal circumstance for organ donation, is not actually death, and as a result organ donation rates in Israel are very low and people have few places to go other than the black market.

OPINION - Brooks and Marcus 8/15/2014, With Rand Paul Editorial

"Brooks and Marcus on police power in Ferguson, political change in Iraq" PBS NewsHour 8/15/2014

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  New York Times columnist David Brooks and Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus join Hari Sreenivasan to discuss the week’s top news, including the response to the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, by politicians and President Obama, as well as the political shift in Iraq and the prospect for additional American intervention.



AS REFERRED TO IN NEWSHOUR VIDEO:
"We Must Demilitarize the Police" by Sen. Rand Paul, Time Magazine 8/14/2014

Anyone who thinks race does not skew the application of criminal justice in this country is just not paying close enough attention, Sen. Rand Paul writes for TIME, amid violence in Ferguson, Mo. over the police shooting death of Michael Brown

The shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown is an awful tragedy that continues to send shockwaves through the community of Ferguson, Missouri and across the nation.

If I had been told to get out of the street as a teenager, there would have been a distinct possibility that I might have smarted off.  But, I wouldn’t have expected to be shot.

The outrage in Ferguson is understandable—though there is never an excuse for rioting or looting.  There is a legitimate role for the police to keep the peace, but there should be a difference between a police response and a military response.

The images and scenes we continue to see in Ferguson resemble war more than traditional police action.

Glenn Reynolds, in Popular Mechanics, recognized the increasing militarization of the police five years ago.  In 2009 he wrote:

Soldiers and police are supposed to be different. … Police look inward.  They’re supposed to protect their fellow citizens from criminals, and to maintain order with a minimum of force.

It’s the difference between Audie Murphy and Andy Griffith.  But nowadays, police are looking, and acting, more like soldiers than cops, with bad consequences.  And those who suffer the consequences are usually innocent civilians.

The Cato Institute’s Walter Olson observed this week how the rising militarization of law enforcement is currently playing out in Ferguson:

Why armored vehicles in a Midwestern inner suburb?  Why would cops wear camouflage gear against a terrain patterned by convenience stores and beauty parlors?  Why are the authorities in Ferguson, Mo. so given to quasi-martial crowd control methods (such as bans on walking on the street) and, per the reporting of Riverfront Times, the firing of tear gas at people in their own yards?  (“‘This my property!’ he shouted, prompting police to fire a tear gas canister directly at his face.”)  Why would someone identifying himself as an 82nd Airborne Army veteran, observing the Ferguson police scene, comment that “We rolled lighter than that in an actual warzone”?

Olson added, “the dominant visual aspect of the story, however, has been the sight of overpowering police forces confronting unarmed protesters who are seen waving signs or just their hands.”

How did this happen?

Most police officers are good cops and good people.  It is an unquestionably difficult job, especially in the current circumstances.

There is a systemic problem with today’s law enforcement.

Not surprisingly, big government has been at the heart of the problem.  Washington has incentivized the militarization of local police precincts by using federal dollars to help municipal governments build what are essentially small armies—where police departments compete to acquire military gear that goes far beyond what most of Americans think of as law enforcement.

This is usually done in the name of fighting the war on drugs or terrorism.  The Heritage Foundation’s Evan Bernick wrote in 2013 that, “the Department of Homeland Security has handed out anti-terrorism grants to cities and towns across the country, enabling them to buy armored vehicles, guns, armor, aircraft, and other equipment.

Bernick continued, “federal agencies of all stripes, as well as local police departments in towns with populations less than 14,000, come equipped with SWAT teams and heavy artillery.”

Bernick noted the cartoonish imbalance between the equipment some police departments possess and the constituents they serve, “today, Bossier Parish, Louisiana, has a .50 caliber gun mounted on an armored vehicle.  The Pentagon gives away millions of pieces of military equipment to police departments across the country—tanks included.”

When you couple this militarization of law enforcement with an erosion of civil liberties and due process that allows the police to become judge and jury—national security letters, no-knock searches, broad general warrants, pre-conviction forfeiture—we begin to have a very serious problem on our hands.

Given these developments, it is almost impossible for many Americans not to feel like their government is targeting them.  Given the racial disparities in our criminal justice system, it is impossible for African-Americans not to feel like their government is particularly targeting them.

This is part of the anguish we are seeing in the tragic events outside of St. Louis, Missouri.  It is what the citizens of Ferguson feel when there is an unfortunate and heartbreaking shooting like the incident with Michael Brown.

Anyone who thinks that race does not still, even if inadvertently, skew the application of criminal justice in this country is just not paying close enough attention.  Our prisons are full of black and brown men and women who are serving inappropriately long and harsh sentences for non-violent mistakes in their youth.

The militarization of our law enforcement is due to an unprecedented expansion of government power in this realm.  It is one thing for federal officials to work in conjunction with local authorities to reduce or solve crime.  It is quite another for them to subsidize it.

Americans must never sacrifice their liberty for an illusive and dangerous, or false, security.  This has been a cause I have championed for years, and one that is at a near-crisis point in our country.

Let us continue to pray for Michael Brown’s family, the people of Ferguson, police, and citizens alike.

ANNIVERSARY - Panama Canal, 100yrs Old

"Triumph of 100-year-old Panama Canal came with dangerous costs" PBS NewsHour 8/15/2014

Excerpt

GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  From shipping vessels to cruise liners to luxury yachts, over a million ships have passed through the Isthmus of Panama since its canal opened on August 15, 1914.  Spanning a strip of mountainous land between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, the canal is a conduit for business and sea power, shortening the trip from New York to San Francisco by nearly 8,000 miles.

The triumph of engineering, man’s harnessing of water and moving of mountains, took over 30 years to complete.

KIM STEENTOFT, Ship captain:  It’s a huge achievement they made when they produced 100 years back.  If you think about the locks are nearly the same today, and it’s what they built 100 years back, it’s a huge achievement.

GWEN IFILL:  The French broke ground on the project in 1881.  But soaring costs, engineering problems, and a steep death toll from yellow fever estimated at 22,000 people ended French involvement.

But where the French saw failure, President Theodore Roosevelt saw opportunity, a chance to unlock America’s economic power.  In 1903, Panama gained independence from Columbia, with U.S. support.  In return for Washington’s backing and recognition, the new government surrendered sovereignty over a portion of the country that would become known as the Canal Zone.

The U.S. officially took over in 1904, but yellow fever, one of the major hurdles to the project’s success, remained.  It wasn’t until Dr. Colonel William Gorgas targeted mosquitoes that health officials gained the upper hand.

The U.S. also came up with a new engineering approach, discarding plans for a sea level route, in favor of a series of locks that could lift ships as much as 85 feet through the complex mountain formations, before being lowered again to sea level.

But the massive excavation and construction process was still fraught with danger.

DIVERSITY - Why So Difficult in Police Forces

"Why it’s so difficult to retain a diverse police force" PBS NewsHour 8/15/2014

Excerpt

JEFFREY BROWN (NewsHour):  The city of Ferguson, with a population of 21,000, is more than two-thirds African-American, but just three of its 53 police officers are black.  It’s a factor in other communities across the country as well.

And we explore the issue Tracie Keesee, the co-founder of the UCLA Center for Policing Equity.  She’s also a 25-year veteran of the Denver Police Department.  And Commander Malik Aziz, chairman of the national black police association.  He is deputy chief of the Dallas Police Department and has 23 years experience in law enforcement.

Tracie Keesee, let me start with you.  And I do want to start with a question about today’s news, because there’s still a lot of confusion and even anger over the issue of when the officer involved in the shooting was named and the release of the video of Michael Brown.

What’s your reaction to that today?

TRACIE KEESEE, UCLA Center for Policing Equity:  Well, I think there is a couple of things going on here.

First of all, if you want to have the trust of the community, transparency is always going to be key.  And the faster you can get information out to the community is going to be helpful.

I think, in addition to that, you have to balance the safety of the officer at the time, before we knew his name, to make sure that they were safe, and he was receiving threats.  But I think you also have to that balance, but I think you also have to be mindful of the community that you serve and that they really deserve to hear who is involved in what and what’s going on with in the investigation.

FERGUSON MISSOURI - A Militarized Zone?

"Why doesn’t Ferguson’s police force reflect the community?" PBS NewsHour 8/14/2014

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Judy Woodruff talks to Yamiche Alcindor of USA Today in for a closer look at the drama unfolding over the police killing of Michael Brown, as well as local reaction to the governor’s order for State Highway Patrol to take over security.  Former Ferguson Mayor Brian Fletcher and Tony Messenger of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch weigh in on Ferguson’s disproportionately white police force.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  For a look at what’s happening on the ground in Ferguson, we turn to USA Today reporter Yamiche Alcindor, who was there last night.  She regularly covers social issues relating to criminal justice. I spoke to her a short time ago.

Yamiche Alcindor, we thank you for talking with us.

First of all, reaction to the governor’s announcement that the Missouri Highway Patrol is going to be taking over law enforcement there?

YAMICHE ALCINDOR, USA Today:  Residents here for the last two days that I have been here have really been complaining about what they consider military-style policing.

People are welcoming this announcement.  I just talked to a woman who said she was scared to have her child out in the street and that she was going in extra early.

I think people are really excited about.  And even though they don’t know exactly what’s coming and they — and they’re still kind of worried about what the Highway Patrol is going to do, people think, if it’s not going to be tanks or tear gas, that may something will be better.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  Well, you were very much there last night.  You were reporting on it, tweeting about it.  What did you see?  Because, as you know, officials are saying people in the crowd were throwing rocks, throwing firebombs.

YAMICHE ALCINDOR:  So, I didn’t see people throwing rocks and firebombs.  But I know that there are some images of people doing that, so I continue — I think that that might have actually happened.

What I saw mostly were people crowding in different areas, picking up their arms, saying, don’t shoot, hands up.  People were in some ways aggressively walking up to police and kind of taunting them.  At about 2:00 in the morning, I was at the Ferguson Police Station, and a group of six to seven people actually walked on to the Ferguson police property and were kind of taunting the police there.

Soon after, the Saint Louis County police showed up with about four trucks and about 60 officers in riot gear.  So I think — I saw that.  And I also saw officers with rifles drawn kind of pointing at people that they thought were either taunting them or — or that they thought might be shooting at them.



"Why military equipment is in the hands of local police" PBS NewsHour 8/14/2014

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Violent clashes between local police and protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, has highlighted the distribution of military equipment to police departments around the country from the U.S. Defense Department.  Hari Sreenivasan talks to Matt Apuzzo of The New York Times about the concerns over the militarization of domestic law enforcement.

GAZA - Dutch 'Righteous Among the Nation' Returns Award in Protest

"Dutch Nonagenarian Returns ‘Righteous Gentile’ Medal to Protest IDF Killing of Gaza Relatives" by Boruch Shubert, Jewish Political News 8/15/2014

As reported in Ha’aretz, a 91-year-old Dutch man who was honored with the special status of Righteous Among the Nations for going out of his way to rescue a Jew during the Nazi takeover of his country returned his medal and certificate on Thursday to protest the killing of six of his relatives by an Israeli bombing in the Gaza Strip last month.

In 2011, Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust museum declared Henk Zanoli and his late mother, Johana Zanoli-Smit, as members of the elite group known as Righteous Among the Nations for having saved a Jewish child, Elhanan Pinto, during the Nazi occupation of Holland.  Pinto, who was born in 1932, was hidden by the Zanoli family from the spring of 1943 until the Allies finally liberated Holland in 1945.  The boy’s parents perished in Nazi death camps.

In hiding a Jewish child, the Zanoli family knowingly took a double risk, because it was already being closely watched by the Nazi authorities for having opposed the German occupation.  Zanoli’s father was sent to the Dachau concentration camp in 1941 because of his opposition to the occupation, and he eventually died at the Mauthausen concentration camp in February 1945.  The Nazis executed Henk Zanoli’s brother-in-law because of his participation in the Dutch resistance, and one of his brothers had a Jewish fiancée, who was also murdered by the Nazis.

Zanoli’s great-niece, Angelique Eijpe, is a Dutch diplomat who currently works as deputy head of the Netherlands’ diplomatic mission in Oman.  Eijpe’s husband, economist Isma’il Ziadah, was born in the al-Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza; the couple has three children.  Ziadah’s parents were born in Fallujah, the area that now hosts the town of Kiryat Gat.

On Sunday, July 20, during its ongoing military action against Hamas targets, an Israeli fighter jet dropped a bomb on the Ziadah family’s home in al-Bureij.  The bomb killed the family matriarch, Muftiyah, age 70; three of her sons, Jamil, Omar and Youssef; Jamil’s wife, Bayan; and their 12-year-old son, Shaaban.  The bombing thereby orphaned Jamal and Bayan’s other five children, four daughters and a son, while orphaning Omar’s two sons, and Youssef’s three sons and a daughter, of their fathers.  The bombing additionally killed Mohammed Maqadmeh, who was visiting the family that day.

Zanoli, an attorney, learned of the killing of the Ziadah family from his niece.  As a means of expressing his shock and anguish, he decided to return the medal and certificate that honored him and his mother (posthumously) as Righteous Among the Nations.  Due to his age and poor health, Zanoli did not do so in person, but instead sent them by messenger to the Israeli Embassy in The Hague – the same place where he had been presented with them in an official ceremony three years ago.

In the accompanying letter, addressed to Israeli Ambassador Haim Davon, Zanoli began by describing the price his family paid for resisting the Nazis and their successful attempt to save a Jewish child.  “Against this background it is particularly shocking and tragic that today, four generations on, our family is faced with the murder of our kin in Gaza.  Murder carried out by the State of Israel,” the elderly Dutchman wrote.

“The great- great grandchildren of my mother have lost their [Palestinian] grandmother, three uncles, an aunt and a cousin at the hands of the Israeli army,” he further stated.  “For me to hold on to the honor granted by the State of Israel, under these circumstances, will be both an insult to the memory of my courageous mother who risked her life and that of her children fighting against suppression and for the preservation of human life as well as an insult to those in my family, four generations on, who lost no less than six of their relatives in Gaza at the hands of the State of Israel.”

Commenting that Israel’s actions in Gaza “have already resulted in serious accusations of war crimes and crimes against humanity,” he went on, “as a retired lawyer it would be no surprise to me that these accusations could lead to possible convictions if true and unpoliticized justice is able to have its course.  What happened to our kin in Gaza will no doubt be brought to the table at such a time as well.”

The Israel Defense Forces Spokesperson’s Unit did not respond to Haaretz’s questions about whether the Ziadah home was bombed in error, or if not, who in the house was considered a target and whether the IDF’s legal department considers the death of six civilians to be legitimate collateral damage.  The unit’s response said only that the IDF invests great efforts in trying to avoid civilian casualties, is currently working to investigate all allegations of irregular incidents and will publish its conclusions after this investigation has been completed.

WALL STREET - 60 Minutes Exposè

Is the U.S. stock market rigged?
60 Minutes

Friday, August 15, 2014

MUSIC - One of My Favorite Versions of "Waters of March"

Waters of March
Al Jarreau & Oleta Adams ( Tom Jobim )

ENVIRONMENT - Drillers Using Diesel Fuel For Fracking

"Report:  Drillers Illegally Using Diesel Fuel to Frack" by Naveena Sadasivam, ProPublica 8/14/2014

A new report charges that several oil and gas companies have been illegally using diesel fuel in their hydraulic fracturing operations, and then doctoring records to hide violations of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.

The report, published this week by the Environmental Integrity Project, found that between 2010 and July 2014 at least 351 wells were fracked by 33 different companies using diesel fuels without a permit.  The Integrity Project, an environmental organization based in Washington, D.C., said it used the industry-backed database, FracFocus, to identify violations and to determine the records had been retroactively amended by the companies to erase the evidence.

The Safe Drinking Water Act requires drilling companies to obtain permits when they intend to use diesel fuel in their fracking operations.  As well, the companies are obligated to notify nearby landowners of their activity, report the chemical and physical characteristics of the fluids used, conduct water quality tests before and after drilling, and test the integrity of well structures to ensure they can withstand high injection pressures.  Diesel fuel contains a high concentration of carcinogenic chemicals including benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene, and they disperse easily in groundwater.

FracFocus is an online registry that allows companies to list the chemicals they use during fracking.  At least 10 states, including Texas, Colorado and Pennsylvania, mandate the use of the website for such disclosures.

The report asserts that the industry data shows that the companies admitted using diesel without the proper permits.  The Integrity Project's analysis, the report said, then showed that in some 30 percent of those cases, the companies later removed the information about their diesel use from the database.

"What's problematic is that this is an industry that is self-reporting and self-policing," said Mary Greene, senior managing attorney for the environmental organization.  "There's no federal or state oversight of [filings with FracFocus]."

The FracFocus website currently has no way to track changes to disclosures.  The Integrity Project noticed the changes when it compared newer disclosures to those in older FracFocus data purchased from PIVOT Upstream Group, a consulting firm in Houston.

Energy In Depth, the communications and research arm of the Independent Petroleum Association of America, published a lengthy response to the Integrity Project's report and criticized it for including diesel use that occurred prior to a 2014 Environmental Protection Agency rule clarifying the types of chemicals considered "diesel fuels."

Energy In Depth said the Integrity Project was "retroactively changing the definition of diesel fuel in order to malign more operations for engaging in an activity (a "diesel frack") that did not occur."

The EPA first listed kerosene as a type of diesel fuel in May 2012 when it released a draft version of the rule finalized this year.  Kerosene is also listed as a type of diesel fuel in the definition of the Toxic Substance Control Act, which controls the production, use and disposal of chemicals.

In its response, Energy In Depth also pointed out that in some cases companies may have provided incorrect data to the FracFocus website and were seeking to correct it, not skirt the law.

"We no longer use the contract completions crews that used very small trace amounts of kerosene and a hydrocarbon distillate on five wells more than three years ago," said John Christiansen, director of external communications at Anadarko Petroleum Corp., one of the companies listed in the report.  "Since 2011, there has been no re-occurrence, and we remain in compliance with EPA regulations," he said in an email to ProPublica.

The report found that six companies had changed disclosures for wells; Pioneer Natural Resources accounted for 62 of the changes.  Tadd Owens, vice president of governmental affairs at Pioneer said most of these changes were made because of "coding errors" while submitting data to FracFocus.

"We did use trace amounts of kerosene in 2011 prior to when the EPA issued guidance.  The rest of the wells on the list are coding errors and we have an ongoing internal quality control process [to identify them]," he said.

For many years fracking industry groups insisted their member companies never used diesel fuels in their operations.  Then, in 2011, a congressional investigation found that in fact between 2005 and 2009, 12 companies had injected 32 million gallons of diesel fuel or fracking fluids containing diesel fuel in wells in 19 states.

The industry groups then shifted their argument, declaring that they could not be in violation of federal regulations in their use of diesel fuels because the EPA had never adequately spelled out exactly what exact kinds of fuels were barred.

Indeed, in a 2011 email to ProPublica, Halliburton, a company listed in the congressional investigation as having used 7.2 million gallons of diesel fuel, said it had not violated any laws "because there are currently no requirements in the federal environmental regulations that require a company to obtain a federal permit prior to undertaking a hydraulic fracturing project using diesel."

The EPA then acted to make its enforcement authority explicit, and earlier this year finalized more detailed regulations governing the use of diesel fuels in fracking operations.

In February 2014, after the EPA released its rule, Lee Fuller, the vice president of government affairs at the Independent Petroleum Association of America, stated that the rule was "a solution in search of a problem."

"Based on actual industry practices, diesel fuel use has already been effectively phased out of hydraulic fracturing operations," Fuller said.

Yet energy companies have continued to produce fracking fluids containing diesel fuels.  The Environmental Integrity Project's report identified 14 well fracturing products – commercially called emulsifiers, dispersants, additives and solvents – sold by Halliburton that contain diesel fuels.  Halliburton's own safety data sheets for these products list diesel as a chemical in these products.

"Halliburton is working with state regulators and customers to be sure all [FracFocus] reports are accurate," said Emily Mir, a spokeswoman for the company.  Mir would not comment on whether Halliburton informs drillers that purchase its products that they are required to obtain a permit before diesel fuel can be used for fracking.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

NATIONAL SECURITY - NSA Fatigue?

I am getting 'Snowden fatigue.'  Snowden IS A TRAITOR!

"Snowden and supporters fear Americans will lose interest from ‘NSA fatigue’" PBS NewsHour 8/13/2014

Excerpt

GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  Now to the new revelations from a fresh interview with NSA leaker Edward Snowden.

The extensive profile, in “Wired” magazine is based on hours of interviews conducted over three days, including audio that captures Snowden’s voice.

EDWARD SNOWDEN (traitor):  What I did wasn’t to benefit myself.  I didn’t ask for money.  I gave this information back to public hands.  And the reason that I did that wasn’t to gain a label, but to give you back a choice about the country you want to live in.

GWEN IFILL:  Snowden discloses that the U.S. government ran a top secret cyber-war program code-named MonsterMind.  He said it could accidentally start a war.  And he reveals that, in 2012, NSA hackers mistakenly shut down all of Syria’s Internet service.

ENVIRONMENT - Doing Enough to Safeguard Drinking Water

"Are we doing enough to safeguard drinking water?" PBS NewsHour 8/13/2014

Excerpt

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  ..... The state of our drinking water and how two major problems in American cities these past few months are calling new attention to concerns over supply and protection.

Hari Sreenivasan in our New York studios has our conversation.

HARI SREENIVASAN (NewsHour):  The most recent case, Toledo, Ohio, where contamination from an algae bloom in Lake Erie temporarily made the water supply unsafe for 400,000 people and stirred new worries throughout the Great Lakes region.

That followed a major disruption earlier this year in West Virginia, after chemicals leaked into the Elk River around Charleston.

David Beckman wrote about these matters in an op-ed for The New York Times.  He’s with the Pisces Foundation, an environmental philanthropy based in San Francisco, and joins me now.

So, Mr. Beckman, I know that we’re better off than 800 million people or so on the planet who don’t have access to clean drinking water on a daily basis, but what do these two events start to make you think about?

DAVID BECKMAN, Pisces Foundation:  Well, Hari, they make me think about the fact that, while we have come a great distance in terms of water in the United States since the early 1970s, when we had rivers catching on fire, that water pollution is not a set-it-and-forget-it situation.

And we have to be cognizant all the time and vigilant to address new threats that come on the horizon, so that we can continue to enjoy safe and reliable drinking water and clean lakes and rivers.

IN MEMORIAM - Lauren Bacall

"Lauren Bacall, 89, lit up stage and screen with glamour and strength" PBS NewsHour 8/13/2014

Excerpt

JEFFREY BROWN (NewsHour):  Ann Hornaday is a film critic for The Washington Post, and joins me now.

Well, Ann, what’s interesting about that first performance for me is, it seems to start with a kind of Hollywood construct.  That famous director Howard Hawks, he’s looking for, trying to shape a type, but Lauren Bacall manages to make it more than that, right?

ANN HORNADAY, The Washington Post:  Oh, it’s mythic in all of its contours, because you’re right.  It was that kind of straight from Shraff kind of narrative about, you know, get me the right girl.

And, of course, it was his wife Slim who suggested then Betty Perske, Betty Bacall, that he look at her.  And then he did mold her.  And I think one of the contradictions of her career is that she did come to personify this ideal of independence and flintiness underneath this amazing panther-like sensuality.

And a lot of that was created by Hawks.  He was the one who suggested that she lower her voice, which she exercised every day to lower.  He was the one who helped her perfect the look.  So it was very much a collaboration.

POLITICS - How To Rig the Game

"States stretch the limits of geography for politically uniform districts" PBS NewsHour 8/12/2014

Excerpt

GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  No matter what the polls tell us about how unpopular Congress is, 90 percent of them are reelected every time.  It’s no accident.  Their districts are drawn that way.

For proof, look no further than the state of Florida.  Last month, a federal judge said two key districts there designed to protect the incumbents representing them were illegal.  So, yesterday, the state legislature came up with new maps, two weeks before the next round of primary elections, and even though a million voters have already cast ballots.

Florida is not the only state where the lawmakers from both parties have stretched the limits of geography to create politically homogeneous districts.

Here to explain what’s up and why is NewsHour political editor Domenico Montanaro.

So much of what happens, Domenico, in the midterms doesn’t have to do with what voters themselves are voting for directly.

DOMENICO MONTANARO, Political Editor:  A lot of it has to do with how the table is set before the voters actually go into the polls.

You think that you’re voting directly for direct election of your congressman.  And what actually has been happening is that the cake kind of gets baked.  And over the last couple of decades — and it’s really gone back to even our founding fathers in certain instances, but really over the past decade or so, they — both sides have really perfected the game, perfected an art almost of how to draw some of these districts to either pack in a lot of voters of one party, to — in order to keep districts safe outside of that, or to exclude them in other ways.

IN MEMORIAM - Robin Williams

"Out-of-this-world wit: Famed performer Robin Williams dies at 63" PBS NewsHour 8/12/2014

GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  A fast-talking space alien, a manic genie with a gift for improv, an inspirational teacher with a love of literature, and a blazing stand-up comedian, all just a handful of the roles that propelled Robin Williams into the entertainment stratosphere.

Jeffrey Brown has our look at the work of the Oscar-winning actor.

JEFFREY BROWN (NewsHour):  This afternoon, the Marin County, California, Sheriff’s Department said that Robin Williams had died by asphyxia by hanging.

LT. KEITH BOYD, Marin County Sheriff’s Office:  Mr. Williams’ personal assistant became concerned at approximately 11:45 a.m., when he failed to respond to knocks on his bedroom door.

At that time, the personal assistant was able to gain access to Mr. Williams’ bedroom and entered the bedroom to find Mr. Williams clothed, in a seated it position, unresponsive, with a belt secured around his neck.

JEFFREY BROWN:  Word of his death broke yesterday evening and led to an outpouring of shock and sadness from fans, friends and colleagues.

On Twitter, comedian Steve Martin wrote:  “I could not be more stunned by the loss of Robin Williams, mensch, great talent, acting partner, genuine soul.”

Friend and colleague Billy Crystal wrote simply:  “No words.”

And late-night host Conan O’Brien appeared shaken as he announced the news during his show.

CONAN O’BRIEN, Host, “Conan”:  I’m sorry to anyone in our studio audience that I’m breaking this news.  This is absolutely shocking and horrifying and so upsetting on every level.

JEFFREY BROWN:  President Obama released this statement, saying:  “Williams made us laugh.  He made us cry.  He gave his immeasurable talent freely and generously to those who needed it most.”

Robin Williams began his career in stand-up comedy and was known from the beginning for his almost out-of-this-world improvisational wit, speed, and energy.

ROBIN WILLIAMS, Comedian:  I’m melting.

(LAUGHTER)

ROBIN WILLIAMS:  Help me.  Help me.

You’re not going to help me, are you?

(LAUGHTER)

ROBIN WILLIAMS:  Nanu nanu.

JEFFREY BROWN:  His big break, in fact, came in the late ’70s, playing an alien on the television show “Mork & Mindy,” where his character would often check in with his outer space superior.

ACTOR:  A spaceship from the planet Necroton landed on Earth.

ROBIN WILLIAMS:  Oh, no, not the Necrotons.  Our arch enemies?

ACTOR:  No, they’re a hockey team.

(LAUGHTER)

ACTOR:  Of course they’re our arch enemies.

ROBIN WILLIAMS:  Good retort, sir.  That’s one for you, eight million for me.

(LAUGHTER)

JEFFREY BROWN:  Williams moved to film, sometimes combining his frenetic comedic style with more serious subject matter, as when he played a rebellious armed services deejay in the 1987 movie “Good Morning Vietnam.”

ROBIN WILLIAMS:  Hey, this is not a test.  This is rock ‘n’ roll.  Time to rock it from the Delta to the DMZ.  Is that me, or does that sound like an Elvis Presley movie?  Viva Da Nang.

JEFFREY BROWN:  In 1989's “Dead Poets Society,” he was an unconventional English teacher at a boarding school attempting to inspire his students.

ROBIN WILLIAMS:  Medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits necessary to sustain life.  But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.

JEFFREY BROWN:  More hits came in the 1990s in a variety of roles, including “Mrs. Doubtfire,” where he played a father pretending to be a British nanny in order to see his children.

ROBIN WILLIAMS:  Euphegenia Doubtfire, dear.  I specialize in the education and entertainment of children.

Surprise.

JEFFREY BROWN:  And Williams won an Oscar for his supporting role as a South Boston psychiatrist in 1997's “Good Will Hunting.”

ROBIN WILLIAMS:  You’ve never held your best friend’s head in your lap, and watch him gasp his last breath looking to you for help.

JEFFREY BROWN:  Through the years, Williams returned to stand-up comedy, performing for U.S. troops overseas, winning a Grammy for a comedy album in 2002, and appearing multiple times at the Kennedy Center’s Annual Mark Twain Awards.

ROBIN WILLIAMS:  Some of you are under indictment.  You know who you are.

(LAUGHTER)

ROBIN WILLIAMS:  So, we ask you please to turn off your cell phones and your ankle bracelets.  Enjoy the evening.

(LAUGHTER)

JEFFREY BROWN:  Yet, throughout the many highs, he struggled with alcohol and drug addiction and with depression, and would make reference to it in his comedy routines.

Just this summer, he checked himself into a rehab clinic to help maintain his sobriety.  And, today, the coroner said Williams had been seeking treatment for depression.

Robin Williams was 63 years old.


"Robin Williams made transformation look effortless" PBS NewsHour 8/12/2014

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  The death of Robin Williams, beloved American comedian and actor, has sparked an outpouring of shock and sadness.  Jeffrey Brown joins A.O. Scott of The New York Times and Budd Friedman, founder of Improv Comedy Club, to look back at the “exuberance, sweetness and generosity” of William’s talent.



Robin Williams - Live on Broadway (New York 2002)

MEDIA - Goodbye to Multiple Platforms

"Why media companies are ditching their newspaper operations" PBS NewsHour 8/11/2014

Excerpt

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  .... The latest turn in the evolving business of newspapers.

After years of being one part of the media’s broader strategy to grow and diversify, companies now are shedding print altogether.  Gannett, which owns USA Today and many other papers, became the latest to spin off its print operations last week, that a day after The Tribune Company made a similar move, and days after E.W. Scripps and Journal Communications announced similar plans as part of a merger.

Ken Doctor covers media for his website, Newsonomics, and his column for the Nieman Journalism Lab.

Ken Doctor, welcome to the program.

And I have just named some of the spinoffs that have happened.  Why is this happening now?

KEN DOCTOR, Newsonomics:  Well, it’s financial.  It’s Wall Street.

If you look at what’s happened with the newspaper industry, it’s been really a long dissent.  Profits are down, work forces are down, products are thinner.  And the broadcast industry is much healthier.  So, on Wall Street, you want a healthy business.  You don’t want the distressed business.

Essentially, the newspaper business is being sequestered or separated out from these better broadcast assets.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  So, this idea of having multiple platforms with television, with print and digital, that’s just gone goodbye?

KEN DOCTOR:  It is kind of ironic now, because we heard from the CEOs of these diversified companies that synergy was very important.

And, of course, on our smartphones and our tablets, we expect video from newspaper companies and we expect stories from broadcast companies.  And one idea here was multiplatform, multidevice.  But now these companies are separate.

So, importantly, this is a financial move.  It’s not a strategic one and may not really be in the best interests of the communities they serve or their readers.



Greed Personified

HEALTH CARE - Experience of an American Doctor in UK

"An American Doctor Experiences an NHS (UK) Emergency Room" by
Dr Jennifer Gunter, Huffington Post Blog 8/14/2014

You know it's going to be one of those days when one of the first tweets on vacation (in UK) inquires about the closest hospital.

Victor, one of my 11-year-olds, had something in his eye courtesy of a big gust of wind outside of Westminster Abby.  He was complaining enough to let me flip his eyelid and irrigate his eye on the square in front of Big Ben.  (I'm sure several people thought I was torturing him).  Despite an extensive search and rinse mission no object or relief was to be found.  I fretted about going to the hospital.  It wasn't the prospect of navigating a slightly foreign ER, but simply the prospect of the wait.  While I am a staunch supporter of the British NHS in the back of my mind I envisioned a paralyzingly full emergency room and an agonizing 18 hour wait only to find he had nothing in his eye (the basic antechamber of Hell scenario).  To ensure we really needed to go I gave Victor a choice between the emergency room and a toy store (Gunter's third rule), but he declined the toys so off we went to St. Thomas hospital, conveniently right over the bridge.

The hospital was on the aging side and a little drab, but clean and well-marked.  I didn't have to ask anyone for directions.  We had to take a number to be registered, but waited less than five minutes.  I gritted my teeth a bit in preparation for the we-are-not-from-the-UK conversation, but it wasn't an issue at all.  I offered my US insurance number for billing, but was told they didn't need it.  The clerk was, however, impressed with the fact that I flipped his eyelid and irrigated his eye before coming.  "Well, you did all the right things," and looking at his red and watering eye she smiled and said.  "Looks like you are in the right place."

Registration completed, we waited to be seen by the children's part of the ER.  A registrar (resident) did a quick triage within five minutes of our registering (also impressed with the eye irrigation) and then a nurse did his vitals and took a history.  After that we waited less than 15 minutes for the registrar to do a formal assessment.  He wanted ophthalmology to do the evaluation.  I was a bit surprised the ER doc wouldn't do it, but every facility is different and when they found out that Victor was born at 26 weeks and had retinopathy of prematurity they got a bit jumpy.  Everyone does.  I was OK with ophthalmology checking him out.  What I have learned from years of medicine is don't mess with the local order.

We were walked over to the urgent care clinic and were warned that the ophthalmology registrar was covering the whole hospital so it might be a while.  This was our longest wait, about 20-30 minutes.  She was very nice (also working on her PhD).  Dr. Katie Williams (she gave me permission to use her name and her photo) diagnosed Victor with a corneal abrasion and easily snagged the offending speck of dirt wedged under his eyelid.  Once removed Victor exclaimed, "It's gone!," and within a minute or two the redness cleared up.  She put in antibiotic ointment and gave us a tube to use at home.

"So where do I pay?" I asked Dr. Williams.

The answer, you don't.  Perhaps they might bill us, she just wasn't sure.

I was about as dumfounded at her answer as she was at my asking.

I protested that it wasn't fair.  We had used services and I was very prepared to pay.  I also have insurance that covers emergencies when out of network, so I was pretty sure I would be reimbursed at least some of the visit.  However, we were just sent away.  They do have my address so it is possible I will get a bill in the mail.

I am very curious what similar care would have cost in the US.  The saddest commentary of all is that it is really impossible to tell as billing practices are so bizarre and opaque.  My guess is it would be a minimum of $1000 in America for cash (which is egregious).  If I ever get a bill from the UK, I'll post a follow-up.  If anyone has had similar care in the US and received a bill please do post in the comments.

But what of this idea that national health care means DMV-purgatory worthy waits, Dementor-staffed death panels, Saxon-age medical equipment, and incompetent care?  Well, I can tell you we had great care at St. Thomas and Dr. Williams was fantastic.  The slit lamp wasn't brand new, but it worked just fine.  Sure it's an N of one, but I've been to the ER more times than I can count with my other son and this was as smooth as the best care we've had in the United States.

We could have hit the ER at an opportune time, but to expand my N I've also asked many people about their medical care while I've been in the UK.  Not one person wanted to abandon the NHS.  I've heard of excellent care and some care that was lacking, but the bad care has nothing to do with the "national" part.  Rather it was diagnostic errors or a full hospice unit, things that I hear about with the same incidence back in the world of commercial insurance.  Take away the accents and I could easily have been listening to a group of Americans discussing their care.  With one exception, no one in the UK is left wondering what the price will be or gets an egregious bill.

It makes you wonder exactly what frightens Americans about the NHS?

My answer, the cause is Republican propaganda paid for my Big Pharma.

MONTANA - From Climate Perspective, Things Worse

"Montana:  Big Sky Country, Big Climate Problems" by Elliott Negin, Huffington Post Blog 8/14/2014

Excerpt

No matter how far you go on vacation, sometimes you can't get away -- especially if you write about science policy for a living.

I recently escaped the steamy confines of Washington, D.C., for the mountains of Montana for some sorely needed R & R.  The last time I set foot in Big Sky Country was 10 years ago, when I attended a grizzly bear conference at a ranch just outside of Yellowstone National Park.  And the first and only other time I visited the state was 35 years ago, when I backpacked in Glacier National Park.

From a climate perspective, things there have gotten worse.

The glaciers I marveled at on my backpacking trip have shrunk considerably, and even then they were a pale approximation of what they once were.  The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that there were approximately 150 glaciers in the area in 1850, and most of them were still there in 1910 when the park was established.  In 1979, when I was fending off mosquitoes at the Continental Divide, the official National Park Service estimate was down to 75 glaciers, and now, according to the USGS, there are only 25 glaciers larger than 25 acres.

At that 2004 conference, I learned that global warming is making it harder to keep a key item in the grizzly bear pantry in stock.  The bears like to feast on high-protein seeds from whitebark pine cones in the fall to fatten up before hibernation time, but the tree is being ravaged by the mountain pine beetle, which develops faster and survives winter more easily thanks to warmer temperatures.

To be sure, the beetles have been around for a long time, and they aren't the whitebark pine's only problem.  The trees also have been suffering from white pine blister rust -- a disease accidentally introduced via imported seedlings nearly a century ago -- and fire pattern changes have enabled other tree species to invade their territory.  But over the last 10 years, beetle outbreaks have intensified.  According to a 2012 U.S. Forest Service study, they "are occurring more rapidly and dramatically than imagined a decade ago."  Since my last visit, the Forest Service estimates the beetle has killed more than 4.5 million whitebark pine trees in Montana alone.

This grim state of affairs prompted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to determine in 2011 that the whitebark pine is in "imminent" risk of extinction due to, among other things, global warming -- the first time the federal government identified climate change as a contributing factor in a tree species' demise.  Budgetary constraints and more pressing agency priorities, however, have kept the tree off the endangered species list.

The fate of the Yellowstone region's grizzlies, meanwhile, has teetered back and forth in recent years.  In 2007, the FWS concluded that they had recovered sufficiently and took them off the threatened species list, which they had been on since 1975.  Two years later, however, a federal district court in Montana put them back on, citing concerns about the whitebark pine.  Regardless, the FWS is again considering delisting the roughly 700 bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, contending they are supplementing their diet with more meat.

Montana Scientists Sound the Alarm

If anyone gets climate in Montana, it's scientists.  During my recent visit I picked up a copy of the Missoulian, Missoula's daily newspaper, and came across an op-ed titled "Climate change is a scientific reality."  Written by University of Montana entomologist Diana Six and five other Montana-based scientists, the July 30 column was essentially a public version of a letter they and 96 other scientists across the state sent to Montana's governor and the state's congressional delegation in late June.

The scientists cited some of the severe impacts global warming is already having on the state -- including longer wildfire seasons and the aforementioned pine beetle -- and warned that the consequences of doing nothing to curb carbon emissions would be dire indeed.

They also chastised Montana politicians for turning a blind eye to empirical evidence.

"Some of Montana's political leaders continue to ignore the most basic scientific findings about climate change," they wrote.  "We hear them say:  'I'm not a scientist so I cannot be sure.'  We are scientists and let us be clear:  The scientific evidence that Earth's climate is warming is overwhelming.  We need to move from debate to solutions."

POLICING - War on Your Doorstep

"To Terrify and Occupy" by Matthew Harwood, Huffington Post Blog 8/14/2014

Excerpt

How the Excessive Militarization of the Police Is Turning Cops Into Counterinsurgents

Jason Westcott was afraid.

One night last fall, he discovered via Facebook that a friend of a friend was planning with some co-conspirators to break in to his home.  They were intent on stealing Wescott's handgun and a couple of TV sets.  According to the Facebook message, the suspect was planning on “burning” Westcott, who promptly called the Tampa Bay police and reported the plot.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, the investigating officers responding to Westcott’s call had a simple message for him:  “If anyone breaks into this house, grab your gun and shoot to kill.”

Around 7:30 p.m. on May 27, the intruders arrived.  Westcott followed the officers’ advice, grabbed his gun to defend his home, and died pointing it at the intruders.  They used a semiautomatic shotgun and handgun to shoot down the 29-year-old motorcycle mechanic.  He was hit three times, once in the arm and twice in his side, and pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital.

The intruders, however, weren’t small-time crooks looking to make a small score.  Rather they were members of the Tampa Bay Police Department’s SWAT team, which was executing a search warrant on suspicion that Westcott and his partner were marijuana dealers.  They had been tipped off by a confidential informant, whom they drove to Westcott’s home four times between February and May to purchase small amounts of marijuana, at $20-$60 a pop.  The informer notified police that he saw two handguns in the home, which was why the Tampa Bay police deployed a SWAT team to execute the search warrant.

In the end, the same police department that told Westcott to protect his home with defensive force killed him when he did.  After searching his small rental, the cops indeed found weed, two dollars' worth, and one legal handgun -- the one he was clutching when the bullets ripped into him.

Welcome to a new era of American policing, where cops increasingly see themselves as soldiers occupying enemy territory, often with the help of Uncle Sam’s armory, and where even nonviolent crimes are met with overwhelming force and brutality.

The War on Your Doorstep

The cancer of militarized policing has long been metastasizing in the body politic.   It has been growing ever stronger since the first Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams were born in the 1960s in response to that decade’s turbulent mix of riots, disturbances, and senseless violence like Charles Whitman’s infamous clock-tower rampage in Austin, Texas.

While SWAT isn’t the only indicator that the militarization of American policing is increasing, it is the most recognizable.  The proliferation of SWAT teams across the country and their paramilitary tactics have spread a violent form of policing designed for the extraordinary but in these years made ordinary.  When the concept of SWAT arose out of the Philadelphia and Los Angeles Police Departments, it was quickly picked up by big city police officials nationwide.  Initially, however, it was an elite force reserved for uniquely dangerous incidents, such as active shooters, hostage situations, or large-scale disturbances.

Nearly a half-century later, that’s no longer true.

In 1984, according to Radley Balko's Rise of the Warrior Cop, about 26% of towns with populations between 25,000 and 50,000 had SWAT teams.  By 2005, that number had soared to 80% and it’s still rising, though SWAT statistics are notoriously hard to come by.

As the number of SWAT teams has grown nationwide, so have the raids.  Every year now, there are approximately 50,000 SWAT raids in the United States, according to Professor Pete Kraska of Eastern Kentucky University’s School of Justice Studies.  In other words, roughly 137 times a day a SWAT team assaults a home and plunges its inhabitants and the surrounding community into terror.

Upping the Racial Profiling Ante

In a recently released report, “War Comes Home,” the American Civil Liberties Union (my employer) discovered that nearly 80% of all SWAT raids it reviewed between 2011 and 2012 were deployed to execute a search warrant.

Pause here a moment and consider that these violent home invasions are routinely used against people who are only suspected of a crime.  Up-armored paramilitary teams now regularly bash down doors in search of evidence of a possible crime.  In other words, police departments increasingly choose a tactic that often results in injury and property damage as its first option, not the one of last resort.  In more than 60% of the raids the ACLU investigated, SWAT members rammed down doors in search of possible drugs, not to save a hostage, respond to a barricade situation, or neutralize an active shooter.

On the other side of that broken-down door, more often than not, are blacks and Latinos.  When the ACLU could identify the race of the person or people whose home was being broken into, 68% of the SWAT raids against minorities were for the purpose of executing a warrant in search of drugs.  When it came to whites, that figure dropped to 38%, despite the well-known fact that blacks, whites, and Latinos all use drugs at roughly the same rates.  SWAT teams, it seems, have a disturbing record of disproportionately applying their specialized skill set within communities of color.

Think of this as racial profiling on steroids in which the humiliation of stop and frisk is raised to a terrifying new level.

Everyday Militarization

Don’t think, however, that the military mentality and equipment associated with SWAT operations are confined to those elite units.  Increasingly, they’re permeating all forms of policing.

As Karl Bickel, a senior policy analyst with the Justice Department’s Community Policing Services office, observes, police across America are being trained in a way that emphasizes force and aggression.  He notes that recruit training favors a stress-based regimen that’s modeled on military boot camp rather than on the more relaxed academic setting a minority of police departments still employ.  The result, he suggests, is young officers who believe policing is about kicking ass rather than working with the community to make neighborhoods safer.  Or as comedian Bill Maher reminded officers recently:  “The words on your car, ‘protect and serve,’ refer to us, not you.”

This authoritarian streak runs counter to the core philosophy that supposedly dominates twenty-first-century American thinking: community policing.  Its emphasis is on a mission of “keeping the peace” by creating and maintaining partnerships of trust with and in the communities served.  Under the community model, which happens to be the official policing philosophy of the U.S. government, officers are protectors but also problem solvers who are supposed to care, first and foremost, about how their communities see them.  They don’t command respect, the theory goes, they earn it.  Fear isn’t supposed to be their currency.  Trust is.

Nevertheless, police recruiting videos, as in those from California’s Newport Beach Police Department and New Mexico’s Hobbs Police Department, actively play up not the community angle but militarization as a way of attracting young men with the promise of Army-style adventure and high-tech toys.  Policing, according to recruiting videos like these, isn’t about calmly solving problems; it’s about you and your boys breaking down doors in the middle of the night.

SWAT’s influence reaches well beyond that.  Take the increasing adoption of battle-dress uniforms (BDUs) for patrol officers.  These militaristic, often black, jumpsuits, Bickel fears, make them less approachable and possibly also more aggressive in their interactions with the citizens they’re supposed to protect.

A small project at Johns Hopkins University seemed to bear this out.  People were shown pictures of police officers in their traditional uniforms and in BDUs.  Respondents, the survey indicated, would much rather have a police officer show up in traditional dress blues. Summarizing its findings, Bickel writes, “The more militaristic look of the BDUs, much like what is seen in news stories of our military in war zones, gives rise to the notion of our police being an occupying force in some inner city neighborhoods, instead of trusted community protectors.”

CENSORSHIP - As Practiced by Google Gmail

"Gmail scanning becomes censorship" by Alexander Hanff, Privacy Beyond Compliance Blog 1/5/2014

Earlier this weekend I was asked by a journalist friend of mine if I would mind answering a few questions for an article he was writing about the draft Data Protection Regulation and Safe Harbour.  The comments were for a feature article in the first 2014 print edition of Infosecurity Magazine.  Needless to say, I was happy to comment on the issue which, I know well and have worked on for the better part of the last 4 years; so this morning I sent my response - a little wordy but relevant none the less and hopefully useful for his article.

To my surprise, just seconds after hitting the send button, I received the following email back from Google's Gmail servers:

Our system has detected that this 550-5.7.1 message is likely unsolicited mail.  To reduce the amount of spam sent 550-5.7.1 to Gmail, this message has been blocked.  Please visit 550-5.7.1 http://support.google.com/mail/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=188131 for 550 5.7.1 more information. c2si3563013wie.0 - gsmtp (in reply to end of DATA command)

Obviously, the first thing I did was visit the link which provided me with the following information:

Why has Gmail blocked my messages?

Here at Gmail, we work very hard to fight spam.  While in some cases we may classify a message as spam and deliver it to the spam folder, we also try to find ways to reduce the amount of spam being sent to Gmail in general.  If we detect that a message has a strong likelihood of being spam, we’ll block the message from being sent to Gmail.

A message might be blocked if it contains suspicious-looking or spammy text or if the sending IP has had a history of sending unsolicited messages.

Is all of the mail I’m sending being blocked?

It’s likely that only a subset of the messages which have a strong likelihood of being spam are being blocked and not all of your messages.  However, to help improve your deliverability, we recommend reviewing our Bulk Sender Guidelines.

If you’re forwarding mail to Gmail and your domain also forwards spam, we recommend reviewing our mail forwarding best practices.

As you can see there is no information on how to have your emails removed from Google's filters.  Thinking that maybe the IPv4 address of my mail server was perhaps caught in some sort of RBL from the past (before I was provisioned with it for my server) I pointed my browser to http://mxtoolbox.com to check.  Neither my domain or my IP address were included in any blacklists on the site (which granted is not a definitive list but is pretty well populated).

This leads me to believe that the only reason the email was rejected by Google's Gmail servers was based on the content of the email and I have a couple of issues with this.

1.  I am deeply opposed to Google's scanning of emails - I have argued for a number of years that this is a breach of privacy and probably illegal - although trying to get a regulator to take action has been impossible.

2.  Even if we accept scanning of email content for the purpose of preventing spam, there were a number of key elements to my email which should have made it clear the email was not spam as listed below:

a.  The email was a reply to an email with my response inline.  The previous email I was responding too was indicated with ">" in the left margin next to each original line.  It should have been clear to any automated scanning system that this was a reply and therefore probably not unsolicited.

b.  The email requested both a delivery receipt and read receipt (I wanted to make sure the journalist received and read the email before their indicated deadline so I could phone them before that time if it was clear they hadn't).  Most spammers do not request delivery/read receipts as it uses up technical resources to process them as well as significantly increases their bandwidth usage - imagine if a spammer received two receipts for every single mail they sent to a list of millions.  So again any automated scanning system should have been configured to "understand" this.

c.  My email was signed with my PGP key.  Now granted this might not seem like an obvious reason not to mark something as spam, but have you ever received spam which is signed with a PGP key?  I certainly haven't.

d.  Neither my domain or my mail server's IP address are listed on any blacklist that I could find, so really it was unlikely that my server had suddenly started sending out bulk spam emails.

Google's filtering system for spam is completely arbitrary and quite simply doesn't work.  All four of the individual points above should have indicated to Google's systems that the email was probably not spam but for all four of those points to have existed together and yet the email was still marked as spam, illustrates a complete failure of Google's filters, which seem to be acting more as a form of censorship that anything else.

What makes this even more ironic, is the email content was all about an EU Regulation of which Google would be one of the corporations it impacts most - an email about privacy, scanned by a filter which goes against privacy and run by a company that has declared war on privacy because this single, fundamental right interferes with their illegitimate and unethical revenue model.

AMERICA - Who Rules? Answer, the Rich

"Who rules America?" by Allan J. Lichtman, The Hill 8/12/2014

"The public be damned!"
— William H. Vanderbilt, railroad magnate, 1882


A shattering new study by two political science professors has found that ordinary Americans have virtually no impact whatsoever on the making of national policy in our country.  The analysts found that rich individuals and business-controlled interest groups largely shape policy outcomes in the United States.

This study should be a loud wake-up call to the vast majority of Americans who are bypassed by their government.  To reclaim the promise of American democracy, ordinary citizens must act positively to change the relationship between the people and our government

The new study, with the jaw-clenching title of "Testing Theories of American Politics:  Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens," is forthcoming in the fall 2014 edition of Perspectives on Politics.  Its authors, Martin Gilens of Princeton University and Benjamin Page of Northwestern University, examined survey data on 1,779 national policy issues for which they could gauge the preferences of average citizens, economic elites, mass-based interest groups and business-dominated interest groups.  They used statistical methods to determine the influence of each of these four groups on policy outcomes, including both policies that are adopted and rejected.

The analysts found that when controlling for the power of economic elites and organized interest groups, the influence of ordinary Americans registers at a "non-significant, near-zero level."  The analysts further discovered that rich individuals and business-dominated interest groups dominate the policymaking process.  The mass-based interest groups had minimal influence compared to the business-based interest groups.

The study also debunks the notion that the policy preferences of business and the rich reflect the views of common citizens.  They found to the contrary that such preferences often sharply diverge and when they do, the economic elites and business interests almost always win and the ordinary Americans lose.

The authors also say that given limitations to tapping into the full power elite in America and their policy preferences, "the real world impact of elites upon public policy may be still greater" than their findings indicate.

Ultimately, Gilens and Page conclude from their work, "economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence."

Rich individuals and business interests have the capacity to hire the lobbyists that shadow legislators in Washington and to fill the campaign coffers of political candidates.  Ordinary citizens are themselves partly to blame, however, because they do not choose to vote.

America's turnout rate places us near the bottom of industrialized democracies.  More than 90 million eligible Americans did not vote in the presidential election of 2012 and more than 120 million did not vote in the midterm elections of 2010.

Electoral turnout in the United States is highly correlated with economic standing:  The more affluent Americans vote in much higher proportion than the less affluent.  A study by Ellen Shearer of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern found that 59 percent of 2012 voters earned $50,000 or more per year, compared to 39 percent of non-voters.  Only 12 percent of non-voters earned more than $75,000, compared to 31 percent of voters.

Ordinary citizens in recent decades have largely abandoned their participation in grassroots movements.  Politicians respond to the mass mobilization of everyday Americans as proven by the civil rights and women's movements of the 1960s and 1970s.  But no comparable movements exist today.  Without a substantial presence on the ground, people-oriented interest groups cannot compete against their wealthy adversaries.

Average Americans also have failed to deploy the political techniques used by elites.  Political Action Committees (PACs) and super-PACs, for example, raise large sums of money to sway the outcome of any election in the United States.  Although average Americans cannot match the economic power of the rich, large numbers of modest contributions can still finance PACs and super-PACs that advance our common interests.

If only they vote and organize, ordinary Americans can reclaim American democracy and challenge the politicians who still echo the view of old Vanderbilt that the public should be damned.

Lichtman is distinguished professor of history at American University in Washington.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

REMINDER - War, What is it Good For? Absolutely Nothing!

War, huh yeah
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing
, oh hoh, oh
War huh yeah
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing, say it again y'all
War, huh good God
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing, listen to me

Oh, war, I despise
'Cause it means destruction of innocent lives
War means tears to thousands of mothers eyes
When their sons go off to fight and lose their lives

- By Edwin Starr

NEW YORK - Automatically Deleting State Employee Emails

I retired from my last workplace as an IT Technician and have a comment that is not addressed in this article.

Microsoft's Office 365 email system is an online system that keeps eMails on Microsoft computers, not your companies, and by default includes user archives (saved eMails).  This means there is an extra security consideration when you have company data on someone else's system.  Also, Microsoft can charge by amount of storage used depending on the agreement, the 50gb is just a maximum limit.

I'm no lawyer, but on the policy of allowing employees to determine which eMails are legal 'records' (not to be deleted) is opening the New York and the employee to lawsuits.

"Why is the Cuomo Administration Automatically Deleting State Employees’ Emails?" by Theodoric Meyer, ProPublica 8/11/2014

Excerpt

New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s administration — which the governor pledged would be the most transparent in state history — has quietly adopted policies that allow it to purge the emails of tens of thousands of state employees, cutting off a key avenue for understanding and investigating state government.

Last year, the state started deleting any emails more than 90 days old that users hadn't specifically saved — a much more aggressive stance than many other states.  The policy shift was first reported by the Albany Times Union.

A previously unpublished memo outlining the policy raises new questions about the state's stated rationale for its deletions policy.  What's more, the rules on which emails must be retained are bewilderingly complex – they fill 118 pages – leading to further concern that emails may not be saved at all.

"If you're aggressively destroying your email, it looks like you're trying to hide something," said Benjamin Wright, a Dallas lawyer who has advised companies and government agencies on records retention.

ProPublica obtained the memo through a public records request.

In the June 18, 2013, memo, Karen Geduldig, the general counsel of the state's Office of Information Technology Services, described New York's decision to automatically delete emails as a way to cut down on the state's "enormous amount of email data."

But the state implemented the policy as part of a move to Microsoft's Office 365 email system, which offers 50 gigabytes of space per email user — enough to store hundreds of thousands or even millions of emails for each state worker.  The state's version of Office 365 also offers unlimited email archiving.

The Office of Information and Technology Services declined to comment on the record.  An official in the office said even though the state can store large quantities of email, it can still be difficult to manage.

"Just because you have a big house doesn't mean you have to shove stuff in it," the official said.

Geduldig's memo also pointed out that some federal government agencies and corporations automatically purge employees' email.  "Such a system will aid the State in improving its email management," Geduldig wrote.

But many states take a different tack.

Florida, for instance, requires state employees to keep routine administrative correspondence for at least three years, and emails dealing with policy development for at least five years.  Connecticut requires employees to keep routine emails for at least two years.  Washington State requires workers to keep emails dealing with public business for two years, and emails to and from top officials for four years.  Those states also do not automatically delete email.

"It shouldn't be an automatic process," said Russell Wood, the records manager for the Washington State Archives.  "There should be some point of review in there."

Emails that qualify as "records" are supposed to be preserved under New York's policy.  But determining which emails qualify and which don't — a task left up to individual state employees — can be mind-numbingly complicated.

Monday, August 11, 2014

MUSLIM WORLD - ISIL Megalomaniac Leader Mirrors the Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge

This is dangerous, very dangerous to the U.S. and the world.  You can bet-the-farm that they will not stop with just Iraq.

Their leader is definitely a megalomaniac, who has declared he wants the Muslim World to follow his leadership.

"Beyond Iraq, what’s next for the Islamic State?" PBS NewsHour 8/10/2014

Excerpt

HARI SREENIVASAN (NewsHour):  For more about this we are joined once again tonight from Washington by Douglas Ollivant.  He is a Senior and National Securities Studies Fellow at the New America Foundation and a partner at Mantid International.

So this might be a semantic question, we’ve referred to them as militants, as fighters, as jihadists, but considering some of the brutality that we are hearing reports of essentially burying people alive in mass graves and indiscriminately shooting them, it seems that these people are different.

DOUGLAS OLLIVANT:  They are different.  They are Islamist terrorists, they are Islamic fighters, but there is this core brutality to them, (that reminds us of Khmer Rouge like extermination), their tactics, their terror, the destruction of cultural heritage, the rape, the slave markets we hear, the burying alive.

We haven’t heard any stories of crucifixions in Iraq but certainly we’ve seen it in Syria by this group.  The Islamic State of Iraq in Syria, or ISIL or the Islamic State, whatever you prefer to call them, they are something very different than what we’ve seen before.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  And they’ve been very clear about exactly who they want to target and even the geographic area of what they want, I mean, this is the caliphate and empire that they want to resurrect.

DOUGLAS OLLIVANT:  Right, well they declared the Islamic State a few weeks ago so now evidently they think they rule all Muslim areas from the west end of East Africa and Spain all the way to Indonesia.

But even before that they were the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant and when you look at a map of the Levant, they’re very clear; they want Jordan, they want Lebanon, they want Israel, the northern part of Saudi Arabia, the southern part of Turkey.  They’re very clear about their war aims.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  And you know the French foreign minister had a quote that was in the press release he said “We’re not fighting a terrorist organization we’re fighting a terrorist state.”  So does that change how the international community responds to this?

DOUGLAS OLLIVANT:  I think it absolutely has to, that’s absolutely right.  This is no longer a terrorist safe haven within a state, it’s a de facto state that is a terrorist safe haven.

And again, given the brutality of this group and their clear, long-term aims, we do need to take this seriously.  Now right now they’re focused on what they call the near enemy–the Maliki and the Assad regimes but this turn up to the Kurds in the northeast demonstrates that that’s not all they’re focused on.

Today it was Kurdistan, if I were Jordan or Lebanon, I’d be very concerned.

OPINION - Shields and Brooks 8/8/2014

"Shields and Brooks on Iraq reluctance, Nixon’s legacy" PBS NewsHour 8/8/2014

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week’s top news, including U.S. airstrikes against the Islamic State militant group in Iraq, how Americans are grading President Obama’s foreign policy performance, plus how men and women are hoping for different outcomes in November’s election, and looking back at Richard Nixon.

NEW ENGLAND - Employees Strike to Save Job of Company President

Form the annals of greed vs doing what is right.

"Bare shelves for Market Basket as employees and shoppers unite in profit-sharing fight" PBS NewsHour 8/8/2014

Excerpt

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  You almost never see employees hit the streets to save the job of their company’s president.  But that scene is playing out in a most unusual battle in New England this summer, one involving a supermarket chain, a deep family feud, and set against the backdrop of big debates over wages, benefits, corporate profits and inequality.

Our economics correspondent, Paul Solman, has the story, part of his ongoing reporting Making Sense of financial news.

PAUL SOLMAN (NewsHour):  In Tewksbury, Massachusetts, it was hellishly hot the other day, but that didn’t deter a holy ruckus.

MAN:  Heavenly Father, thank you for giving us today as a new day, even though we find ourselves in the same situation as yesterday, without our true leader, Arthur Demoulas.

PAUL SOLMAN:  That’s Arthur T. Demoulas, former president of Market Basket supermarkets, one of New England’s most successful retailers, with 71 stores, sales of $4.6 billion last year, 25,000 employees with above-average compensation and profit-sharing, and two million customers who enjoy below-industry prices.

But Arthur T. was fired in June by a board of directors controlled by Arthur S. Demoulas, who seems to think his cousin, Arthur T., was spending stockholder money too liberally.  Neither cousin is giving interviews, but the basic fact is clear enough.  The family-owned business has ground to a halt.

In mid-July, truck drivers and warehouse workers walked off their jobs, a non-union strike in support of their employee-friendly leader.

HISTORY - The Legacy of Freedom Schools 50yrs Later

"Need persists for new generation of Freedom Schools, 50 years after first summer" PBS NewsHour 8/8/2014

Excerpt

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  And it’s been 50 years since Freedom Summer galvanized the civil rights movement, registering voters in Mississippi and urging them to the polls.

But the young volunteers focused on the children as well, creating Freedom Schools that still exist in another form today.

Gwen reports for our American Graduate series.  It’s a public media initiative funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  Marian Wright Edelman was a young lawyer when she headed south half-a-century ago determined to change the world.

Were you breeding young activists?

MARIAN WRIGHT EDELMAN, Children’s Defense Fund:  Absolutely.

And this — when you begin to teach people about the importance of reading — and Frederick Douglass talked about the importance of literacy to anything.  Once you know how to read, it’s very hard to make you a slave.

And, secondly, once you learn about your history, and learn to question, rather than just to accept, you create a new child.

JUSTICE - Rehabilitation as a Way to Lower Recidivism

Gee... What a novel idea.... DUH.

"Debating criminal justice reforms to improve rehabilitation and lower recidivism" PBS NewsHour 8/7/2014

Excerpt

JEFFREY BROWN (NewsHour):  Across the U.S., as inmate populations keep growing, calls to address prison crowding, conditions and other problems continue to be heard.

Just this week, the Justice Department issued a scathing report on abuse of teenage inmates at New York’s Riker’s Island.  It spoke of a — quote — “culture of violence that encouraged beatings and excessive use of solitary confinement.”

In California, state officials are under federal court orders aimed at reducing severe overcrowding of prisons.  And U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is pushing to shorten prison terms for many nonviolent offenders.

On the NewsHour recently, he cited a fundamental unfairness in drug sentencing.

ERIC HOLDER, Attorney General:  If you are basing a sentence on something other than the conduct of the person who was involved, and the person’s record, if you’re looking, for instance, at factors of what educational level the person has received, what neighborhood the person comes from…

GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  Which, to be clear, some states are doing already.

ERIC HOLDER:  They are, right.  And using that as a predictor, though, of what — how likely this person, this individual, is going to be a recidivist, I’m not at all certain that I’m comfortable with that.

JEFFREY BROWN:  The concerns have sparked bipartisan efforts.

In the Senate, Republican Rand Paul of Kentucky and Democratic Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey are focused on several issues, including drugs and racial disparities in prison.

INTERNET - Criminals Steal 1.2 Billion Web Credentials

"After criminals steal 1.2 billion web credentials, how to protect personal info from data breaches" PBS NewsHour 8/6/2014

Excerpt

GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  Computer hacking and the breaches of privacy that come with them are becoming a regular and unwelcome feature of our wired world.

Now The New York Times and a security firm based in the Midwest are reporting a massive one that includes the collection of more than a billion username and password combinations and more than 500 million e-mail addresses.  What’s more, the perpetrators appear to be a shadowy Russian crime ring.

Details, including the names of the victims, are hard to come by.  But the news has raised eyebrows around the world.  So, how serious is it?

For that, we turn to Dmitri Alperovitch, co-founder and chief technology officer of CrowdStrike, a Web security firm.

Mr. Alperovitch, tell us just in context of all these other breaches we have had in the past year, say, how — relative to those, how big is this?

DMITRI ALPEROVITCH, CrowdStrike:  Well, the number is certainly striking; 1.2 billion credentials is a lot.  In the past, we have seen some big breaches that numbered in the hundreds of millions.

But this is certainly the biggest one that I — that I can remember.

AFRICA - Summit in Washington DC

"Turning a narrative of struggle into success story in Africa" PBS NewsHour 8/5/2014

Excerpt

GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  We turn now to the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit happening this week in Washington.

The main event today was a business forum, where leaders focused on what they see as a wealth of untapped opportunities in one of the world’s fastest growing markets.

President Obama’s appearance highlighted day two of the summit, as he announced billions of dollars in new public and private investment.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:  We want to build genuine partnerships that create jobs and opportunity for all our peoples and that unleash the next era of African growth.

That’s the kind of partnership America offers.  I want Africans buying more American products.  I want Americans buying more African products.  I know you do, too, and that’s what you’re doing here today.

(APPLAUSE)

GWEN IFILL:  U.S. companies plan to spend about $14 billion on everything from construction to banking to clean energy initiatives like wind and solar power.

Former President Bill Clinton, also appearing at the conference, played up business prospects in Africa.  In 2000, he signed the African Growth and Opportunity Act.  The measure aimed to expand U.S. trade with African countries while encouraging free markets.  It is up for renewal next year.

Today, he said investment in the continent remains — quote — “a massive opportunity.”