At least 37 wolves have been killed in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming since the Bush Administration illegally delisted gray wolves from the Endangered Species Act, on March 28. The death toll could be even higher since kills are not required to be reported immediately. With the abolition of federal protection, the wolves are now being targeted under state laws that still classify wolves as "vermin" and allow unregulated wolf killing anywhere, anytime, for any reason. A dozen conservation groups have asked a federal court to immediately reinstate Endangered Species Act protections and to declare illegal the federal government's wolf delisting decision which was based on manipulated, outdated and fraudulent science and which threatens the long-term survival of the species.
"Until now the reintroduction of gray wolves to the Northern Rockies was one of our greatest endangered species success stories," said Louisa Willcox, Director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's (NRDC) office in Livingston, MT. "Today it's a national disgrace. The region has become a killing field for wolves, just as we predicted."
The first casualty in the orgy of lupicide was "Hoppy" the eight-year-old celebrity wolf nicknamed for a limp (caused by an injury from a fight with another wolf pack). A rare black wolf Hoppy was one of the most recognizable members of Yellowstone's famous Druid Peak pack. People snapped his photograph and shot video as he and his pack mates played, hunted and snoozed. Later, he became the first wolf to step foot into Utah in over 75 years and established his own pack in Grand Teton National Park. He was shot the day after delisting on an elk feeding ground in Wyoming.
"In delisting the wolves, the Bush Administration simply ignored the country's leading wildlife biologists and two decades of scientific evidence showing that wolf populations are still too fragmented to survive. According to NRDC scientist, Dr. Sylvia Fallon, a minimum population of 2,000 to 5,000 animals is needed to ensure the genetic diversity necessary for the grey wolf's long-term survival. At the time of delisting there were about 1,500 wolves in the region. All but 300 can be killed under President Bush's current minimum recovery standard virtually assuring the gray wolf's ultimate extinction.
The reintroduction of wolves by the federal government 12 years ago has been widely hailed as a major success story. It has measurably improved the natural balance in the Northern Rockies and benefited bird, antelope and elk populations. Many thousands of visitors flock to Yellowstone National Park each year to see and hear wolves in the wild, contributing at least $35 million to the local economy each year.
Thousands of gray wolves roamed the Rocky Mountains before being slaughtered and eliminated from 95 percent of the lower 48 states by the 1930s. The gray wolf was listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act in 1973. Reintroduction efforts placed 66 wolves in Yellowstone National Park and part of Idaho in 1995-96.
Hundreds of Federal Scientists Ordered to Lie by Bush Administration
Hundreds of Environmental Protection Agency scientists say they have been pressured by superiors to skew their findings, according to a survey conducted by the Center for Survey Statistics & Methodology at Iowa State University, commissioned by the Union of Concerned Scientists.
One half of the nearly 1,600 EPA staff scientists who responded online to a detailed questionnaire reported they had experienced incidents of political interference in their work.
The report said 60 percent of those responding, or 889 scientists, reported personally experiencing political interference in their work over the last five years. Nearly 400 scientists said they had witnessed EPA officials misrepresenting scientific findings, 284 said they had seen the "selective or incomplete use of data to justify a specific regulatory outcome" and 224 scientists said they had been directed to "inappropriately exclude or alter technical information" in an EPA document. Nearly 200 of the respondents said they had been in situations where they or their colleagues actively objected to or resigned from projects "because of pressure to change scientific findings." The University sent an online questionnaire to 5,500 EPA scientists and received 1,586 responses, a majority of them senior scientists who have worked for the agency for 10 years or more. The survey included chemists, toxicologists, engineers, geologists and experts in the life and environmental sciences.
The highest number of complaints about political interference came from scientists who are directly involved in writing regulations and those who conduct risk assessments such as determining a chemicals cancer risk for humans.
"The investigation shows researchers are generally continuing to do their work, but their scientific findings are tossed aside when it comes time to write regulations," UCS said.
In the survey, the EPA scientists described an agency suffering from low morale as the agency's political appointees and the White House Office of Management and Budget frequently second-guess scientific findings and change work conducted by EPA's scientists.
EPA managers initially instructed employees not to participate in the survey, but the EPA's general counsel's office later sent an e-mail to employees saying they could participate in their private time.
White House Gives Industry More Influence over Science Process
Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) chastised the Environmental Protection Agency for giving industry the ability to directly input information into the EPA's influential database that catalogues chemical risk information, known as the Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS). The new process lets "the White House and federal polluters derail EPA's scientific assessment of toxic chemicals," she charged. The new policy, announced April 10 on the agency's website, will allow industry to contribute its own biased information to the IRIS database, which was previously compiled solely by agency scientists. The new policy also allows for earlier and more extensive involvement by the White House and federal agencies that pollute the environment, such as the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy.
According to the watchdog group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, the changes mean that:
• Affected corporations will be intimately involved in each step of EPA's risk assessment and will be able to know what staff are assigned to which work, making the agency "research plan" vulnerable to political manipulation through the appropriations process;
• The Defense and Energy Departments, two of the world's largest polluters, will have a formal role on how pollutants, such as the chemical perchlorate, are evaluated. In addition, these agencies could declare a particular chemical to be "mission critical" that would allow them to control how "data gaps" are to be filled. All their alterations will be made in secret. All intra-and inter-agency communications on risk assessments are deemed "deliberative" and thus confidential.
The new policy gives polluters power to determine which chemicals get assessed and how those assessments are conducted. It also formalizes a new process to be run by the White House and polluters behind closed doors and exclude the public.
Federal, state and international agencies use these assessments to create public health protections, including drinking water standards, toxic waste cleanup levels, air pollution limits, controls on dangerous chemicals in food and consumer products, worker protections and other safeguards.
Green Building: Applause for Seattle's Mayor
Seattle is now the nation's leader in green building with 41 LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified buildings. LEED buildings, which are certified by the U.S. Green Building Council, are designed to use less water, energy and building resources, and often incorporate recycled materials. Besides Seattle, the top five cities with the most LEED certified projects include Portland, Oregon, Chicago, Washington, DC, and Grand Rapids, MI. Ten of Seattle's LEED certified buildings are owned by the City of Seattle, demonstrating the city's commitment to lead in this area. In February, Mayor Greg Nickels announced an effort to make Seattle America's Green Building Capital by improving energy efficiency in all commercial and residential buildings by 20 percent.
RIGHT WING NEWS
Flat Earth Family
Demonstrating that deliberate ignorance may be genetic, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush told a group of several hundred business people in Texas that he is skeptical that humans are causing global warming. Bush accused those who advocate action to fight climate disruption of acting like religious zealots. "I don't think our policies should be based on emotion; they should be based on sound science." Bush's two terms as governor ended in 2007. His successor, Republican governor Charlie Crist has said Florida should become a leader on this issue because its low elevation makes it vulnerable to sea level rise.
Menage a Trois - A Criminal Act
The Pentagon announced that it has suspended its illegal Retired Military Analyst Program. The program described in The New York Times exposé involved an illegal ménage a trois including: 1) the corporate television news broadcasters; 2) media military analysts employed by arms dealers and military, and 3) neocon Pentagon big wigs. The program violates federal "covert propaganda" laws.
Despite the official suspension of the illegal program, Fox News is continuing to feature these compromised mercenaries in its war mongering propaganda broadcasts. Last Sunday, a week after the Times published its finding, Fox aired jingoistic commentary by disgraced pundit Thomas McInerney without disclosing his affiliation to the illegal Pentagon group or the war profiteering arms dealers that pay his salary.
McInerney is a director of NetStar Systems, a technology firm which described itself in 2005 as "a prime contractor for the Department of Defense." NetStar lists government clients including:
* Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA)
* Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI)
* National Security Agency (NSA)
* Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
* Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
* Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
* Department of the US Army
* Marine Corps Intelligence Association (MCIA)
* Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA)
In 2000, McInerney founded his own arms dealership firm called "Government Reform Through Technology (GRTT)" to market advanced weapons and government agencies.
McInerney appeared April 28, 2008 on the 11am hour of FOX NEWS LIVE. On April 23, another compromised contractor Robert H. Scales promoted the war on the 6:00 PM "FOX Special Report with Brit Hume." Thousands of Americans are calling on Congress and federal prosecutors to launch criminal investigations and Congressional hearings and hold accountable the Pentagon criminals and corporate media moguls who staged this propaganda pitch.
Samples of the high quality analysis offered to Fox News viewers by Pentagon's propaganda poodles
The Pentagon's military media mercenaries who continue to appear shamelessly on Fox News played key roles in marketing the Iraq War to the U.S. public. Some samplings:
During a February 3, 2003, edition of On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, Robert H. Scales claimed that since "this operation is going to go so quickly," and would "be over so fast," the U.S. military wouldn't have to worry about "suicide attack[s] or even a conventional defense, for that matter." Additionally, Scales asserted that "[o]nce the campaign starts," it would last "weeks, certainly not months," and "[t]he only thing that would cause the campaign to last any length of time are the distances that are involved" between Iraqi cities.
During the December 20, 2002, edition of Fox's On the Record, Thomas McInerney predicted that, should U.S. forces invade, "I think he's [Saddam] going to use chemical weapons and biological" weapons on the Iraqi people because "he wants the collateral damage on his own people." During the January 3, 2003, edition of On the Record, McInerney declared that "in the final analysis, France and Russia roll in" to assist in the Iraq war "even if it's outside the U.N." He concluded: "There's no question if it's inside the U.N., they'll be there."
McInerney also asserted during the same episode that invading Iraq and overthrowing Saddam would actually improve public opinion of America in the Arab world, and predicted that the "jubilation in Mosul, Basra, and Baghdad" after the invasion "will silen[ce] the Arab street." According to McInerney: "There has not been a family in Iraq who has not been hurt by that man [Saddam], and so, once that is opened up, once those weapons of mass destruction that are exposed over there, once all this evil that this man has done, they're going to go dead quiet, as will the critics in the United States." Further, McInerney claimed on the February 3, 2003, edition of On the Record that the Iraq war would last "at the most one month," but it would "probably [be] a two-week campaign."
Rumsfield Propaganda Push Violates Federal Anti Propaganda Statutes
Donald Rumsfeld's military analyst program violated federal anti propaganda statutes. Federal law prohibits the use of federal funds to propagandize the American people.
According to laws officially enacted in 1951 and affirmed by every appropriations bill since, "No part of any appropriation contained in this or any other Act shall be used for publicity or propaganda purposes within the United States."
The Government Accountability Office's definition of "publicity or propaganda" includes [PDF] "'covert propaganda' (i.e., the communication does not reveal that Government appropriations were expended to produce it)."
The White House's own Office of Legal Council further clarified the law in a 2005 memorandum following the controversy over the Armstrong Williams scandal (when it was discovered that the Bush administration had actually paid willing to publicly endorse its No Child Left Behind Law):
"covert attempts to mold opinion through the undisclosed use of third parties" would run afoul of restrictions on using appropriated funds for "propaganda."
As Sheldon Rampton points out, the key passage here is the phrase, "covert attempts to mold opinion through the undisclosed use of third parties." As David Bartow's excellent New York Times report demonstrated in detail, the Pentagon's military analyst program did exactly that.
1. It was covert. As Barstow's piece states, the 75 retired military officers who were recruited by Donald Rumsfeld and given talking points to deliver on Fox, CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS and MSNBC were given extraordinary access to White House and Pentagon officials. However, "The access came with a condition. Participants were instructed not to quote their briefers directly or otherwise describe their contacts with the Pentagon."
2. It was an attempt to mold opinion. According to the Pentagon's own internal documents (which can be downloaded and viewed from the New York Times website), the military analysts were considered "message force multipliers" or "surrogates" who would deliver administration "themes and messages" to millions of Americans "in the form of their own opinions." According to one participating military analyst, it was "psyops on steroids."
3. It was done "through the undisclosed use of third parties." In their television appearances, the military analysts did not disclose their ties to the White House, let alone that they were its surrogates. The military analysts were used as puppets for the Pentagon. In the words of Robert S. Bevelacqua, a retired Green Beret and for Fox News military
analyst, "It was them saying, 'We need to stick our hands up your back and move your mouth for you."
In a February 1, 1988 memorandum by the White House Office of Legal Council. Conservative lawyer Charles Cooper (then head of the OLC), explaining the legal limitations to White House efforts to win support for the Contra War in Nicaragua. Cooper declared that the Reagan Administration "can make available to private groups, upon request, printed materials that explain and justify the Administration's position on Contra aid. These materials must be items that were created in the normal course of business and not specifically produced for use by these private groups." Cooper continues:
It would be unwise, however, for the Administration to solicit the media to print articles by or interviews with anyone not serving in the government. And, of course, the Administration cannot assist in the preparation of any articles or statements by private sector supporters, other than through the provision of informational materials as described in the preceding paragraph.
In the case of the current Pentagon pundit scandal, however, the Pentagon clearly was assisting in the preparation both of articles and statements by private sector supporters. It did not simply provide "informational materials" that had been "created in the normal course of business." Rather, it sat down with the retired military analysts, many employed by arms dealers in business with the Pentagon and worked closely with them to draft talking points and script language to deploy them as message amplifiers and surrogates without disclosure.
Rumsfeld knew he was breaking the law
Donald Rumsfeld was evidently told by advisors that his propaganda program was illegal and insisted to go forward anyway. In a transcript of one his meetings with his propaganda team of military media analysts, Rumsfeld complains that he has been warned that his "information operations" directed at U.S. citizens are "illegal or immoral":
"This is the first war that's ever been run in the 21sth Century in a time of 24-hour news and bloggers and internets and emails and digital cameras and Sony cams and God knows all this stuff. ... We're not very skillful at it in terms of the media part of the new realities we're living in. Every time we try to do something someone says it's illegal or immoral, there's nothing the press would rather do than write about the press, we all know that. They fall in love with it. So every time someone tries to do some information operations for some public diplomacy or something, they say oh my goodness, it's multiple audiences and if you're talking to them, they're hearing you here as well and therefore that's propagandizing or something."
This transcript demonstrates that Rumsfeld was aware of federal prohibitions on domestic propaganda operations. Although it is illegal to target propaganda at the America people, the law does not forbid propaganda aimed at foreign audiences. Rumsfeld has been warned, however, that in today's world with "bloggers and internets and emails," even information operations overseas reach "multiple audiences" including U.S. citizens who are "hearing you here as well and therefore that's propagandizing." Rumsfeld, however, made these statements during a conference with military pundits whom he had recruited specifically for information operations targeting U.S. audiences. Yet he went ahead and did it anyway. In another part of the transcript, he explained why. In fighting the war on terror, Rumsfeld said, the "center of gravity's here in Washington and in the United States." In other words, he intended specifically to break the law by targeting the American public to put pressure on Washington law makers to go along with his war. That transcript alone provides the smoking gun with clear enough evidence for any prosecutor to convene a grand jury.
More Corporate Contracts, More Incompetence
The government is scrapping a $20 million prototype of its highly touted "virtual fence" on the Arizona-Mexico border because the system doesn't work. The move comes just two months after Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff announced his approval of the fence built by the Pentagon military contractor, Boeing, which was awarded an $860 million contract to provide the technology, physical fences and vehicle barriers. The highly acclaimed project, a series of towers, equipped with high tech cameras and communication systems was supposed to transmit pictures of illegal aliens crossing the border in time for border agents to detain them. Unfortunately the contraption didn't work. But no worries, Boeing will get to keep the money while it comes up with some new ideas.
2008 election likely to go unsupervised
Congressional gridlock over controversial FEC nominees has paralyzed the Federal Elections Commission (FEC), which currently lacks the quorum it to effectively referee elections. A seven-month deadlock over the appointment of four FEC nominees may spell disaster for the 2008 election cycle. If Congress fails to staff the FEC in time, the 2008 elections could go virtually unregulated for the first time since the FEC was founded more than 30 years ago.
Currently, the FEC is unable to pursue investigations into alleged electoral violations, including a recent challenge lodged by right-leaning legal group Judicial Watch which filed a new FEC complaint against John McCain alleging that a London fundraiser may have involved illegal in-kind contributions from foreign nationals. A growing list of complaints that will go uninvestigated by the broken FEC.
At the heart of the Senate impasse is one of the two Republican nominees, an extreme right wing former Justice Department lawyer and Karl Rove lapdog named Hans von Spakovsky. The Democrats consider him a deal breaker and view him as one of the leading forces in the Republican Party's efforts to use the nonexistent fear of voter fraud as a means to disenfranchise minority--and largely Democratic--voters. The Democrats have been unwilling to vote for a group of nominees that includes von Spakovsky--and the Republicans have refused to withdraw his nomination.
Supreme Court helps to curtail Democrats from voting
States can require voters to produce photo identification, the Supreme Court ruled in a split decision along party lines on April 28th, upholding a Republican-inspired law intended to disenfranchise poor, elderly, urban and minority voters. The court's 6-3 decision rejecting a challenge to Indiana's strict voter ID law means the ID requirement will be in effect for this week's presidential primary in Indiana. The ruling is also expected to encourage Republican controlled state governments to adopt similar measures. As part of Karl Rove's master strategy to disenfranchise democratic voters, Republicans have already passed statutes in twenty-five states requiring a photo ID to cast a ballot in person.
Justice Stevens said that Indiana's desire to prevent fraud and to inspire voter confidence in the election system are important even though Indiana has never experienced a single report or incidence of the kind of fraud the law was designed to combat, i.e. someone imitating another voter in order to vote twice. The Indiana rule is designed to severely inconvenience voters, those who don't possess driver's licenses who tend to be elderly, poor, young, and inner city residents who tend to vote Democrat.
Ken Falk, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, said the court was willing to burden "tens of thousands of eligible voters who lack a government-issued identification while accepting at face value Indiana's unsubstantiated claim of voter fraud." The ACLU brought the case on behalf of Indiana voters.
Rush lies again
Rush Limbaugh applauded the Supreme Court voter I.D. ruling, telling his audience that it represents "a huge, huge, huge move forward to undercut Democrat efforts to commit voter fraud this fall."
"Anti-voter fraud efforts this fall will be easier," Limbaugh assured his audience, adding that "the Democrats shut down the FEC, largely to get away with more voter fraud."
Both the Department of Justice and the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC), say voter fraud is virtually non-existent. A recent Department of Justice review found "virtually no evidence of any organized effort to skew federal elections, according to court records and interviews," which turned up only 86 convictions on voter fraud charges.
Voter ID laws "disenfranchise the poor, members of minority groups and the elderly, who are less likely to have photo IDs and are more likely to be Democrats."
Senate Committee Votes to Throw Out FCC Rules
On April 24, the Senate Commerce Committee unanimously approved the "resolution of disapproval" that would veto the Federal Communications Commission's latest attempt to dismantle longstanding media ownership limits.
It's the first step toward an official congressional "veto" of the Federal Communications Commission's new rules that gut media ownership limits.
This vote couldn't have come at a more important moment. Just this week, Rupert Murdoch announced plans to buy his third New York newspaper -- Newsday. (Murdoch already owns the New York Post, the Wall Street Journal and two television stations in this one media market!)
Huge newspaper conglomerates like Murdoch's News Corp. and Tribune Co. are spending heavily to convince Congress that the FCC rules don't go far enough. They want to swallow up even more local media.
The New York Times braces for further staff cuts
The New York Times' news room is bracing for a bloodbath in the next 10 days including cuts of 100 writers made necessary by the dismal newspaper advertising sales. Approximately 50 unionized journalists and 20 non-union editorial employees have accepted a buyout proposal. But with just 70 people stepping forward for buyouts, the ax must fall on as many as 30 editorial people in the company's first-ever mass firing of journalists in its 156-year history.
Scalia Defends Bush v. Gore At Oxford Union
In a clip broadcast last week on 60 Minutes, an Oxford Union student posed Justice Antonin Scalia the following questions:
"Supposing yourself as a Supreme Court justice were granted the power to appoint the next president of the United States. Who would you pick and why? And would he or she be better than your last choice?" a student asked Scalia.
"You wanna talk about Bush versus Gore. I perceive that," he replied. "I and my court owe no apology whatever for Bush versus Gore. We did the right thing. So there!"
Scalia Defends Bush v. Gore On 60 Minutes
Leslie Stahl, "People say that that decision was not based on judicial philosophy but on politics,"
Scalia: "I say nonsense," Scalia says.
Stahl: Was it political?
Scalia: "Gee, I really don't wanna get into - I mean this is - get over it. It's so old by now. The principal issue in the case, whether the scheme that the Florida Supreme Court had put together violated the federal Constitution, that wasn't even close. The vote was seven to two," Scalia says.
Stahl didn't challenge this claim. The actual vote was 5-4 on party lines.
Scalia Blames Gore For Bush v. Gore
Scalia also told 60 Minutes that the Bush v. Gore decision was not the court's fault. It was Al Gore's.
Scalia: "It was Al Gore who made it a judicial question. It was he who brought it into the Florida courts. We didn't go looking for trouble. It was he who said, 'I want this to be decided by the courts.' What are we supposed to say? 'Oh, not important enough.'"
Stahl: "It ended up being a political decision"
Scalia: "Well you say that. I don't say that."
Stahl: "You don't think it handed the election to George Bush?"
Scalia: "Well how does that make it a political decision?"
Stahl: "It decided the election."
Scalia: "If that's all you mean by it, yes."
Stahl: "That's all I mean by it."
Scalia: "Oh, ok. I suppose it did. Although you should add to that that it would have come out the same way, no matter what."
Stahl failed to challenge Scalia on this bold misstatement of fact. The media pool, led by the New York Times that? finally counted all the Florida votes found that Gore had decisively won the election.
Scalia Defends Torture Being Not Cruel And Unusual Punishment And Therefore Not Unconstitutional
Scalia: "I don't like torture. Although defining it is going to be a nice trick. But who's in favor of it? Nobody. And we have a law against torture. But if the - everything that is hateful and odious is not covered by some provision of the Constitution."
Stahl: "If someone's in custody, as in Abu Ghraib, and they are brutalized by a law enforcement person, if you listen to the expression 'cruel and unusual punishment,' doesn't that apply?"
Scalia: "No, No,"
Stahl: "Cruel and unusual punishment?"
Scalia: "To the contrary, has anybody ever referred to torture as punishment? I don't think so."
Stahl: "Well, I think if you are in custody, and you have a policeman who's taken you into custody...."
Scalia: "And you say he's punishing you?"
Scalia: "What's he punishing you for? You punish somebody..."
Stahl: "Well because he assumes you, one, either committed a crime...or that you know something that he wants to know."
Scalia: "It's the latter. And when he's hurting you in order to get information from you...you don't say he's punishing you. What's he punishing you for? He's trying to extract..."
Stahl: Because he thinks you are a terrorist and he's going to beat the you-know-what out of you..."
Scalia: "Anyway, that's my view. And it happens to be correct."
While 60 Minutes included extensive biographical information on Justice Scalia and his family, they identify his father as "a professor of romance languages at Brooklyn College" and failed to disclose that he was a member of the American-Italian Fascist Party during Mussolini's regime in the 1930s.
This backdrop may reveal something about Justice Scalia's apparent comfort with enlarging corporate and government power, including the use of torture - so long as it's not punishment.
According to Alan Dershowitz who knew Scalia's father at Brooklyn College, Scalia got his doctorate at Casa Italiano at Columbia at a time when in order to get your doctorate you had to swear an oath to Mussolini.