FBI’s 37 secret pages of memos about Russia, Clintons and Uranium One | The Hill

By John Soloman

Eight years after its informant uncovered criminal wrongdoing inside Russia’s nuclear industry, the FBI has identified 37 pages of documents that might reveal what agents told the Obama administration, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and others about the controversial Uranium One deal.

There’s just one problem: The FBI claims it must keep the memos secret from the public.

Their excuses for the veil of nondisclosure range from protecting national security and law enforcement techniques to guarding the privacy of individual Americans and the ability of agencies to communicate with each other.

Sound familiar?

It’s a lot like the initial reasons the bureau was reluctant to turn over documents in the Russia collusion investigation, such as former FBI agent Peter Strzok’s “stop Trump” texts or the revelation that Clinton and the Democrats funded the Steele dossier.

The FBI’s declaration and list of withheld documents — entitled simply “Uranium One Transaction” — were posted recently inside its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) online vault.

The bureau actually released a handful of documents, but it wasn’t a big stretch of either freedom or information. It actually just released already public letters from members of Congress demanding answers in the Uranium One case.

I was the reporter who first disclosed last fall that a globetrotting American businessman, William Douglas Campbell, managed to burrow his way inside Russian President Vladimir Putin’s nuclear giant, Rosatom, in 2009 posing as a consultant while working as an FBI informant.

Campbell gathered extensive evidence for his FBI counterintelligence handlers by early 2010 that Rosatom’s main executive in the United States, Vadim Mikerin, orchestrated a racketeering plot involving kickbacks, bribes and extortion that corrupted the main uranium trucking company in the United States. That is a serious national security compromise by any measure.

The evidence was compiled as Secretary Clinton courted Russia for better relations, as her husband former President Clinton collected a $500,000 speech payday in Moscow, and as the Obama administration approved the sale of a U.S. mining company, Uranium One, to Rosatom.

The sale — made famous years later by author Peter Schweizer and an epic New York Times exposé in 2015 — turned over a large swath of America’s untapped uranium deposits to Russia.

Mikerin was charged and convicted, along with some American officials, but not until many years later. Ironically, the case was brought by none other than current Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein — a magnet for controversy, it turns out.

But the years-long delay in prosecution mean that no one in the public, or in Congress, was aware that the FBI knew through Campbell about the Russian bribery plot as early as 2009 — well before the Obama-led Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) approved Uranium One in fall 2010.

Since the emergence of Campbell’s undercover work, there has been one unanswered question of national importance.

Did the FBI notify then-President Obama, Hillary Clinton and other leaders on the CFIUS board about Rosatom’s dark deeds before the Uranium One sale was approved, or did the bureau drop the ball and fail to alert policymakers?

Neither outcome is particularly comforting. Either the United States, eyes wide open, approved giving uranium assets to a corrupt Russia, or the FBI failed to give the evidence of criminality to the policymakers before such a momentous decision.

Campbell tells me his FBI handlers assured him they had briefed Obama and then-FBI Director Robert Mueller, now the Russia special prosecutor, on Rosatom’s criminal activities as part of the president’s daily briefing and that agents suggested to him that “politics” was the reason the sale was allowed to go through.

After I broke the Campbell story, a predictable pattern occurred. President Trump and the Republicans took note. On the flip side, Democrats attacked the credibility of the informer — despite evidence the FBI had given him a hefty $50,000 award of thanks after the case was finished.

And the Jeff Sessions-Rod Rosenstein Justice Department, likely feeling the heat of President Trump’s watchful eye, announced that a prosecutor from Utah was named to look into the matter.

Campbell was interviewed by the FBI, but that was 10 months ago. Since then, nothing has been made public to address the overriding public interest issue.

Perhaps the FBI’s unexpected “release” — and I use that word loosely, since they gave up no public information of importance — in the FOIA vault was a warning flare designed to remind America there might be evidence worth looking at.

One former U.S. official, who had access to the evidence shared with CFIUS during the Uranium One deal, said this to me: “There is definitely material that would be illuminating to the issues that have been raised. Somebody should fight to make it public.”

That somebody could be President Trump, who could add these 37 pages of now-secret documents to his declassification order he is considering in the Russia case.

Or, those Republicans leading the charge on exposing failures in the Russia probe could use their bully pulpits to pressure for the release.

From what we now know, either the CFIUS process was corrupted or broken, or the FBI dropped the ball.

Either outcome is a matter of national interest.

Source: The Hill

Author: John Solomon is an award-winning investigative journalist whose work over the years has exposed U.S. and FBI intelligence failures before the Sept. 11 attacks, federal scientists’ misuse of foster children and veterans in drug experiments, and numerous cases of political corruption. He is The Hill’s executive vice president for video.

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Big tech’s censorship of conservative users is alive and well | The Hill

By Christie-Lee McNally

study released by the Pew Research Center in late June has once again brought to the surface a key issue of the Obama-era Title II net neutrality regulations: America’s concern about big tech’s approach to privacy, censorship and political bias and how Obama ignored it.

The study found that “seven-in-ten Americans think it likely that social media companies intentionally censor political views they find objectionable.”

The majority of us Americans agree that it is necessary for online platforms to regulate hate speech or intervene when users are engaging in harassing or threatening behavior. However, big tech companies like Facebook, Google and Twitter have taken this practice too far and have created their own definitions of hate speech, censoring political viewpoints that differ from the left-leaning ideologies of the companies’ leadership.

The Pew study found that 72 percent of the American public thinks it “likely that social media platforms actively censor political views that those companies find objectionable.” Well, unfortunately for consumers, it isn’t “likely” happening — it is happening.

In January, Project Veritas exposed Twitter for “shadow banning” conservative profiles, meaning the users were blocked from the platform without even being notified. Further, a shadow-banned user’s followers won’t even know they’ve been blocked, as they will still appear to exist, but won’t show up in search results or anywhere else on Twitter. “Although Twitter presents itself as politically neutral, its culture behind closed doors is one of blatant censorship, systematic bias, and political targeting,” said Project Veritas President James O’Keefe.

In June, Google listed “Nazism” as the ideology of the California Republican party, blaming “vandalism” at Wikipedia for the search results. Immediately after apologizing for the California issue, Google again found itself in hot water when a top search result for North Carolina Republican state senator yielded a photo labeling her a bigot.

The list goes on and on. Another list that seems endless is the stream of attacks on Federal Communications Commission (FCC)  Chairman Ajit Pai and his family that continue to be published on Twitter to this day.

The deep pockets in Silicon Valley have focused their efforts to paint Pai in a negative light, claiming he killed the internet and so-called net neutrality. Unfortunately, those false claims stuck and users have taken to social media to support big tech’s sentiment toward Pai, even taking it to horrifying levels in posts that threaten his life and those of his family, yet still remain publicly posted on the platform.

Just last month, one user asked “Kim Jong Un, Russian spies, or any rich person whatsoever to kill Ajit Pai and take him to Hell.” Other users suggested Pai be hanged, forced to gurgle hot bleach, and develop cancer, among other things that are better left unsaid.

It is rich for Silicon Valley firms to assert that the aforementioned examples are not hate speech that should be removed from the internet, but Michigan state Senate candidate Aric Nesbitt’s campaign video that references his pro-life beliefs or Diamond and Silk’s pro-Trump vlogs are “unsafe to the community.”

This is not a hypothetical issue and it is not the least bit surprising that the majority of Republicans think major technology companies as a whole support the views of liberals over conservatives.

What’s more, these companies are growing increasingly negligent when it comes to privacy. For years, big tech has watched our every move online, selling our information to advertisers and political campaigns and have been held accountable to no one. To ensure that they are able to continue to operate unchecked, Silicon Valley is now lobbying Congress under the guise of so-called net neutrality to support a Congressional Review Act (CRA), which would effectively exempt Facebook and Google from any obligation to protect consumers online.

While net neutrality might be an abstract and complicated issue, privacy is not lost on the American people. A meager 24 percent of the public thinks tech companies “do enough to protect the personal data of users.”

It is clear that technology goliaths can no longer remain self-regulated entities. But unfortunately for consumers, the Senate, pushed by the deep pockets of Silicon Valley lobbyists, jammed through the harmful, politically-motivated CRA and sent it to the House.

Now, members of the House of Representatives must oppose this net neutrality CRA and, instead, work with the Senate to pass real consumer internet protection legislation.

It is high past time for Congress to hear the concerns of their constituents and step up to protect us against the dangers that could come from allowing these companies to continue blocking and censoring content.

Source: The Hill

Scientists warn of toxic chemical cocktail sprayed on food | GM Watch


As the number of chemicals applied to vegetables sold in supermarkets goes up 17-fold, experts say pesticides must be phased out of food production. Report by Claire Robinson

The number of chemicals applied to vegetables sold in supermarkets has increased by up to 17-fold over 40 years, according to data presented at a conference organized by the Epidemiology and Public Health Section of the Royal Society of Medicine in London on 20 November, which I attended on behalf of GMWatch.

Just as disturbing as the data on our escalating exposure to toxic pesticide mixtures was the evidence presented at the conference that the regulatory system for pesticides is failing.

Scientists explained that while the system tests the single active ingredients in pesticides, it fails to test the many accompanying chemicals (adjuvants) used in pesticide formulations to enhance the effectiveness of the active ingredients. It also fails to test the combined effects of the formulations of chemicals used in commercial pesticides, let alone the cocktail effect of being exposed to multiple pesticides, as most farmers, rural residents and consumers are.

Indeed, as one scientist pointed out, there are simply too many potential combinations of chemicals to test and regulate. Nor, we heard, does the regulatory system test low, realistic doses of these chemicals that may give rise to endocrine (hormone) disruption, which can in turn lead to serious illnesses that are increasing in the population.

Because of these facts, there is simply no way of ensuring the safe use of pesticides in agriculture.

Chemical cocktails increasing

Figures released for the first time at the conference showed that the number of toxic chemicals applied to onions, leeks, wheat and potatoes has been steadily increasing since the 1960s.

This is despite industry data showing that the volume of pesticides applied to supermarket vegetables has halved since the 1990s.

The number of pesticides applied to onions and leeks has risen 17-fold from 1.8 in 1966 to 32.6 in 2015, the data showed.

In 1974, fewer than two chemicals were applied to the average wheat crop, but this rose more than 10-fold to 20.7 in 2014. Potatoes are now sprayed with five times more chemicals than in 1975, with the number rising from 5.3 to 30.8 in 2014.

The figures were compiled by the data firm Fera Science and were only made public after the Soil Association, which certifies organic food in the UK, paid for them to be released. While Fera did not measure actual residues present in the produce, the fact that so many pesticides were applied to the growing crops suggests that at least some residues would be found if they were looked for.

Anne_Marie_Vinggaard

The conference followed the publication of an article in the journal Science by Prof Ian Boyd, chief scientific advisor to the UK government’s department of agriculture (DEFRA). Prof Boyd wrote that the assumption by regulators around the world that it is safe to use pesticides at industrial scales across landscapes is false.

Scientist Prof Anne Marie Vinggaard of the National Food Institute in Denmark warned that chemicals that have no effect in isolation can have a pronounced toxic effect when found in mixtures. In real life we are exposed not to one chemical at a time but to mixtures. In addition, commercial pesticide formulations, many of which are endocrine disruptors, are themselves mixtures of active ingredients and adjuvants. “We are exposed to a lot of chemicals acting together,” said Prof Vinggaard. “We must take account of this cocktail effect.”

But pesticide regulations fail to do so.

Carlo Leifert

Pesticides linked to low sperm quality

Prof Carlo Leifert, director of the Centre for Organics Research at Southern Cross University in Australia, cited research showing higher sperm counts and density in men working for the Danish organic farming association and a separate US study showing that high levels of dietary pesticide exposure were linked to low sperm quality in men.

Prof Leifert’s presentation came soon after the publication of a study implicating pesticide-treated foods in fertility problems in women. In the study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, Harvard researchers followed 325 women at an infertility clinic and found that women who regularly ate pesticide-treated fruits and vegetables had lower success rates getting pregnant with IVF, while women who ate organic food had reduced risk of pregnancy loss and increased fertility.

Eat organic to minimize exposure

Dr Michael Antoniou

Dr Michael Antoniou, head of the Gene Expression and Therapy Group at King’s College London, told the Royal Society of Medicine conference that the adjuvants in commercial pesticide formulations can be toxic in their own right and in some cases more toxic than the declared active ingredients. Yet only the active ingredients are tested and assessed for long-term health effects in the regulatory process.

Dr Antoniou also said that research on hormone-disrupting chemicals, including pesticides, shows that very low realistic doses can be more toxic than higher doses. As pesticides are not tested for low dose effects for regulatory purposes, these effects can be missed by regulatory agencies, leading to a situation in which the public can be exposed to hormone-disrupting levels of these chemicals. This is a matter of concern because hormone disruption is implicated in a large number of diseases that are becoming increasingly widespread, such as hormone-related cancers, obesity, and diabetes.

Dr Antoniou said that regulators around the world have been slow to keep up with the scientific knowledge of harm from low doses of endocrine disrupting chemicals. These effects are not controversial in the scientific community and yet the EU has still not decided how to define endocrine disruptive chemicals, let alone how to regulate them.

Dr Antoniou described his research showing that long term exposure to very low doses of Roundup herbicide far below regulatory permitted levels caused non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) in rats. NAFLD has now reached epidemic proportions in the US and Europe, with around 25% of the population suffering from it.

Dr Antoniou told the audience, which included doctors who treat chemically damaged people, “As a precaution, you should minimise your exposure to pesticides. The only way to guarantee that is by eating organically.”

Industry perspectives

Sarah Mukherjee

Occasions like this are often interesting from the point of view of finding out the industry line on the scientific and public relations challenges it is facing, and this event was no exception. One such line was offered by Sarah Mukherjee, CEO of the Crop Protection Association (CPA). Mukherjee is a former BBC journalist who began her presentation by stating that she had no scientific background. Her presentation consisted of emotive stories of her deprived childhood, with the implication that organic food is a luxury that only the affluent can afford and that pesticides were needed to ensure an affordable food supply for all. She did not address any of the scientific points presented by the earlier speakers. In fact, she was not present for those sessions and only arrived later in the day.

The tone and content of her presentation did not sit well with the detailed information on the proven effects of low-dose pesticides provided by the scientist speakers in the morning sessions. It was remarkable for its failure to offer any evidence at all to back up Mukherjee’s premise that we are better off with pesticides.

Glyphosate and cancer

Mukherjee’s closest brush with science was an attempt to exonerate glyphosate herbicides from suspicion of carcinogenicity by quoting the latest updated findings from the Agricultural Health Study (AHS) in the US. These found no link between glyphosate and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a type of cancer. Mukherjee used these findings as a stick to beat IARC, the World Health Organization cancer agency that upset the pesticide industry by concluding that glyphosate was a probable carcinogen.

But what Mukherjee failed to mention was that the study update did find a link between glyphosate and another type of cancer, acute myeloid leukemia (AML) – a link that the researchers said should be followed up with further research. She also did not mention a fact pointed out by the scientist Dr Jennifer Sass – that while the link did not reach statistical significance at the 95% confidence level (a 95% certainty that the findings are not by chance but point to a real effect of glyphosate), at the 90% confidence level it would have been significant. As Sass commented, “With a deadly form of cancer like AML, pesticide applicators, farmers, and other highly exposed people may want to take protective measures, even if studies are only 90% confident in the link to AML cancer.”

Mukherjee also failed to mention that IARC took the AHS’s “no effect” finding from glyphosate into consideration in its assessment of glyphosate, since previous findings from the AHS that were already published at the time of IARC’s review had also found no effect. Other epidemiological studies did find a link between glyphosate and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. This contradictory evidence is why IARC said there was only “limited” proof of a glyphosate link with cancer from epidemiological studies. However, it classified glyphosate as a probable carcinogen on the basis of “sufficient” evidence in controlled laboratory studies on animals. These types of study, unlike epidemiological studies, demonstrate a causal link and are therefore a far stronger form of evidence.

I was not the only audience member to conclude that Mukherjee was seriously out of her depth among a speaker line-up of heavyweight scientists, addressing an audience of scientists, medics, and experts from relevant fields. One scientist told me he was shocked that the CPA chose to send Mukherjee as its representative to such an event: “Couldn’t they find a scientist who was willing to take this on?”

Is organic food elitist?

Mukherjee’s “organic food is elitist” meme did not play well with me. I speak as someone who at one point in my life lived in a partnership in which neither of us had any income or savings and we had to survive off very meagre state benefits. Yet we ate organic 100% of the time. We did it by cooking fresh food from scratch each day (it didn’t take much time), buying via farm box delivery schemes rather than from supermarkets, eating mostly vegetarian, and – obviously – not spending money on luxuries.

On our occasional forays to the supermarket to buy loo rolls and cleaning fluids, we were gobsmacked at the large amounts of money being spent on the weekly shop by families with trolleys full of processed food. Even without getting into discussions about the “externalized” costs of eating pesticide-contaminated food, such as getting sick, we simply could not afford that type of food. So who exactly were the elite in this situation? Certainly not us. This is just one example among many of Mukherjee’s irrational and frankly insulting approach to the vital topic of food security.

Dr Chris Hartfield

Speakers in support of pesticide safety

The other people speaking in support of the safety and benefits of pesticides were Dr Chris Hartfield of the National Farmers Union (NFU) and Dave Bench of the UK government’s Health and Safety Executive.

Mr Bench described the regulatory system for pesticides, which he portrayed as robust and as balancing the risks of pesticides against the benefits to society.

Dr Hartfield showed a long list of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) techniques, in which pesticides are only sprayed as a last resort as and when absolutely necessary. He said that 16,820 farmers in the UK are using these techniques on 4.4 million hectares of land.

Dave BenchHowever, members of the audience were skeptical of this claim. Guy Watson, an organic farmer from Riverford Farm in Devon, said that his conventional farmer neighbour laid out his spraying schedule well in advance of the growing season and that all the pesticides were sprayed in accord with the schedule, whether they were needed or not. He suspected that farmers’ practice of IPM was confined to a paper exercise that was not borne out by the reality in the fields.

Mr Watson’s skepticism about UK farmers’ use of IPM was amply supported by the data presented at the conference showing the increasing numbers of pesticides sprayed on our food.

Some members of the audience who suffered repeated exposures to pesticide spraying because they lived near treated fields agreed that a cavalier attitude to the use of pesticides seemed to be the norm among conventional farmers.

Georgina Downs of the UK Pesticides Campaign, which represents rural residents affected by pesticides sprayed in their localities, commented after the conference: “There was the usual gross misinformation stated by the CPA and the NFU – most importantly their insistence that there is a rigorous regulatory system in place for pesticides. There simply is not, and this lie cannot continue to be peddled.

“The conventional chemical farming system has been an untested, unregulated, and unlawful experiment with human health and the environment that has caused untold damage.”

Is farming without pesticides possible?

Agro-industry lobbyists would have us believe that farmers cannot manage without pesticides. What is more, they claim that even organic farmers regularly spray a vast array of pesticides permitted under organic standards. But this picture is far from the reality. Most organic farmers do not spray because they take other measures to protect their crops, such as rotating crops to prevent attacks from over-wintering pests, using barrier methods against pests, cultivating hedges and plants to attract insects and animals that eat pests, and planting cover crops to suppress weeds.

Peter Melchett

This was confirmed by the final speaker at the conference, Peter Melchett, who has been an organic farmer for 19 years and a conventional farmer before that. He said that since converting to organic he has only had to spray a single field once. The one lapse was due to his mistake in planting two related crops in the same field two years running. A pest over-wintered in the field, only to emerge the following year to devour the new crop. Mr Melchett said he never repeated his mistake – and has never had to spray again.

Take-home message

The take-home message from the non-industry speakers at the conference was that the regulatory system for pesticides has failed and cannot be reformed in a way that renders these chemicals safe. As we’ve seen, the system does not test the adjuvants, or the commercial pesticide formulations, or the chemical cocktails to which we are exposed. Neither does it test low, realistic doses that may give rise to endocrine disruption. Therefore pesticides must be eradicated from food production and farming must be entirely converted to proven-successful organic and agroecological practices.

Source: GM Watch

Reporters, Don’t Let Trump Make You Cry | POLITICO

By Jack Schafer

Journalists play better offense than defense. Give them the ball, and they’ll sleuth out the hidden crumbs of information, filling the scoreboard with touchdowns. Assign them to a dangerous story, and they’ll exhibit the bravery associated with U.S. Marines. Ask them to work late, and they’ll labor all night and file copy at dawn, rat-eyed from exhaustion yet happy and ready for the next story.

But criticize them and ask them to justify what they do and how they do it? They go all go all whiny and preachy, wrap themselves in the First Amendment and proclaim that they’re essential to democracy. I won’t dispute that journalists are crucial to a free society, but just because something is true doesn’t make it persuasive. The chords that aggrieved journalists strike make them sound as entitled as tenured professors. This behavior was on display last Friday after President Donald Trump disparaged the press at CPAC and on Twitter. Later that day, Trump’s press secretary, Sean Spicer, amplified the CPAC insult by excluding CNN, Politico, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and others from an off-camera briefing.

Almost immediately, the press protests went off like a battalion of popguns. “Free media access to a transparent government is obviously of crucial national interest,” said New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet. “This is an undemocratic path that the administration is traveling,” chimed Washington Post Executive Editor Marty Baron. Others in the press scrum called for retaliation. MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski demanded that the press boycott the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner “until the White House’s abhorrent behavior towards members of the press stops.” Her Morning Joe co-host, Joe Scarborough, likewise insisted, “All news organizations must refuse to attend briefings where major outlets are excluded because of critical coverage.”

On and on it went. Former New York Times labor reporter Steven Greenhouse tweeted that White House reporters should “show some solidarity (and spine) & boycott briefings if Trump Admin excludes certain media.” Writer Simon Schama tweeted for a boycott of “the tinpot dictator’s briefings.” Public radio host Maria Hinojosa (Latino USA) reprised Jay Rosen’s recent idea that the press protest the administration’s behavior by sending interns to White House briefings instead of credentialed reporters. The Washington Post adopted a dreadfully overwrought masthead slogan, “Democracy Dies in Darkness,” for its online edition and the New York Times produced a sanctimonious “truth is hard” commercial, which aired during the Oscars. By Sunday morning, Brian Stelter’s guests on Reliable Sources had adopted the wounded theme, which was almost enough to cause me to start rooting against the home team and throw in with Trump.

I understand the press corps’ fury, but does the reaction make sense? As excluded New York Times reporter Glenn Thrush tweeted, there was a deliberate method to Spicer’s madness. It allowed the press secretary to avoid on-camera goofs; it got the press to “whine”; it sowed internal strife among reporters; and it prevented Trump—not Spicer’s biggest fan—from watching his performance. As a piece of lion-taming, the Spicer move was a great success. The lions may still be roaring, but he’s cracking the whip.

There’s nothing Trump and Spicer would love more than a press walkout from gaggles, press briefings, press conferences and assemblies like the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner. Boycotts would change the subject from Trump and Spicer’s original insults to the bruised egos of the boycotters—and really, how much sympathy should we expect the masses to have for the gang that brings them reams of bad news every morning? Besides, a boycott would be doomed. To be effective, a boycott must enlist almost everybody. Good luck with that. As candidates for adopting a one-for-all ethos, journalists must rank last. The only organizational principle most of them understand is competition.

For the sake of argument, imagine journalists pulling off a principled boycott after Spicer repeats his Friday stunt. Actually, you don’t have to imagine it—we’re halfway there. The Associated Press and Time boycotted the Friday briefing when they learned of the limitations he had placed on participation. Bloomberg, the Christian Science Monitor, the Wall Street Journal and other outlets have already vowed to shun future closed briefings. But as “principled” reporters peel off to paint protest placards, won’t Spicer merely tilt the briefings toward Trump-friendly media like Breitbart and One America News Network? Remember, Breitbart and OANN’s reporters attended Spicer’s controversial briefing, and they’ll never boycott. Spicer and Trump have already demonstrated a preference for calling on friendly media and will happily shovel interesting news to the pro-Trump outlets who attend. This will create an incentive for news organizations to hold their noses and ditch the boycott. Cozying up to power—writing “beat sweeteners” to gain access and publishing an administration’s planted leaks—has made more than one career in Washington. A boycott will only make the pro-Trump media stronger.

What would I have the press do? Words of protest and pushback, of which we’ve seen plenty, can’t hurt. But the best response, and one that wouldn’t require much in the way of press corps solidarity, would be to make Spicer answer the exiled questions. If, say, Spicer deletes Thrush from another briefing, Thrush can distribute his questions to the invited reporters. When Spicer calls on one, the reporter can say, “Glenn Thrush of the New York Times, who couldn’t be here today, has this question …” And then read it. A couple of rounds of “Thrush questions” and questions from other exiled reporters would not constitute an “I am Spartacus” moment, but it would convey that Spicer can evade news organizations but not their questions. If he can’t stop the reporters’ questions, what’s the point of exiling them?

Reporters have become pawns in Trump’s political strategy. In recent weeks, he’s trotted them out for sacrifice whenever the seeping wound of Russia news gets too moist for him, something NBC News’ Chuck Todd explained Sunday. Instead of taking it personally, I want journalists to take it professionally and continue to report like hell. A great story is always the best revenge.

Source: POLITICO

Despite his lies, Donald Trump is a potent truth-teller | The Guardian

fools

By James S. Gordon

Donald Trump evokes a wily and resilient mythic figure: the joker, the trickster, the fool, the one the Lakota people call the Heyoka, the contrary. Had his opponents – such as Hillary Clinton – understood this quality in him, the electoral outcome might have been different. The sooner the rest of us understand this side of him, the better.

In the European tradition, the fool holds up the mirror to the monarch and to all of us, mocking our faults and pretensions. He (the fool is almost always a man) is not constrained by deference or allegiance to truth. The Heyoka, one of the purest forms of fool, pretends to shiver when everyone else is sweating and takes off his clothes in winter.

The fool is a potent truth-teller and commands attention. Shakespeare knew this. Lear’s Fool, a gentle version of the species, skewered the arrogance and pride that were his master’s downfall, even as he comforted him. The “scabrous” Thersites in Troilus and Cressida speaks with relentless, scene-stealing venom. He paints Achilles, the Greeks’ greatest hero, as a petulant adolescent; King Agamemnon is a blowhard, Helen of Troy a hooker.

The fool is always addressing us, his audience, as well as his high-ranking targets. He performs a vital social function, forcing us to examine our own preconceptions, especially our inflated ideas about our own virtue. Trump was telling all of us – women and minorities, progressives, pillars of the establishment, as well as his supporters – that we were just like him.

The appropriate, time-honored response to the fool’s sallies is to take instruction from them. Only after we’ve acknowledged and accepted our own shortcomings do we have the integrity that allows us to keep him in his place. Perhaps if Secretary Clinton had been a more skillful, poised and humble warrior, she could have done this.

Fools serve the collective order by challenging those whose ignorance and blindness threaten it. They are meant to be instruments of awareness, not rulers. Impossible to imagine Lear’s Fool succeeding him or Thersites commanding the Greek army. Trump will not address his own limitations, cannot tolerate criticism, and takes himself dangerously seriously. This makes him a seriously flawed fool. He believes his own hyperbole and threatens democratic order.

In the weeks since his election, Trump has continued to act the fool. Now, however, the underdog’s challenges have become a bully’s beatdowns. His attack on the steelworkers’ union leader, Chuck Jones, exactly the kind of man whom he claimed to champion, was a vicious and painful lie. Unfunny, purely ugly. His more recent rants, including boasts about the crowds at his inaugural and the millions of imaginary illegal Clinton voters, illuminate his own troubled insecurity: the all-powerful winner acting the petulant, powerless loser.

Many of President Trump’s cabinet choices are like the punchlines of jokes, but punchlines with potentially devastating real-world consequences: an education secretary who disparages public education and badly botched her own effort at creating an alternative; men charged with responding to climate change who deny its existence; and a national security adviser who purveys paranoid fantasies.

There are glimmers of hope that the jester might mature to majesty. Gen James Mattis, the defense secretary, inspired a Trumpian epiphany that waterboarding might be counterproductive. Conversations with Al Gore or, more likely, ones with his daughter Ivanka could persuade him to open his eyes to the reality of climate change.

Or perhaps President Trump will implode, brought down by the damage done by perverse cabinet choices, or words and actions so intemperate and ill-advised that Congress and the courts call him to a terminal account. His challenged immigration order could be a harbinger.

Meanwhile, what are the rest of us to do? The fact that this question is even being asked is healthy, a residual benefit of his fool’s vocation. Trump’s grand and vulgar self-absorption is inviting all of us to examine our own selfishness. His ignorance calls us to attend to our own blind spots. The fears that he stokes and the isolation he promotes goad us to be braver, more generous.

Already, people all over the US – Republicans I know as well as Democrats – are beginning to link inner awareness to small and great political action.

The day after Trump’s inauguration, hundreds of thousands of women of all ages, ethnicities and political affiliations affirmed their rights, celebrated their community and slyly poked at the joker: “if I incorporated my uterus,” read one demonstrator’s sign, “would you stop trying to regulate it”.

The joker who is now our president has served an important function, waking us up to what we’ve not yet admitted in ourselves or accomplished in our country. He is, without realizing it, challenging us to grow in self-awareness, to act in ways that respect and fulfill what is best in ourselves and our democracy.

It’s time for us citizens, who’ve watched the performance, to take the stage.

Source: The Guardian

Court Rules Against Monsanto, Allows California To Put Cancer Warning On Roundup | CBS Sacramento

California can require Monsanto to label its popular weed-killer Roundup as a possible cancer threat despite an insistence from the chemical giant that it poses no risk to people, a judge tentatively ruled Friday.

California would be the first state to order such labeling if it carries out the proposal.

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Monsanto had sued the nation’s leading agricultural state, saying California officials illegally based their decision for carrying the warnings on an international health organization based in France.

Monsanto attorney Trenton Norris argued in court Friday that the labels would have immediate financial consequences for the company. He said many consumers would see the labels and stop buying Roundup.

“It will absolutely be used in ways that will harm Monsanto,” he said.

After the hearing, the firm said in a statement that it will challenge the tentative ruling.

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Critics take issue with Roundup’s main ingredient, glyphosate, which has no color or smell. Monsanto introduced it in 1974 as an effective way of killing weeds while leaving crops and plants intact.

It’s sold in more than 160 countries, and farmers in California use it on 250 types of crops.

The chemical is not restricted by the U.S. Environmental ProtectionAgency, which says it has “low toxicity” and recommends people avoid entering a field for 12 hours after it has been applied.

But the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a Lyon, France-based branch of the U.N. World Health Organization, classified the chemical as a “probable human carcinogen.”

Shortly afterward, the most populated U.S. state took its first step in 2015 to require the warning labels.

St. Louis-based Monsanto contends that California is delegating its authority to an unelected foreign body with no accountability to U.S. or state officials in violation of the California Constitution.

Attorneys for California consider the International Agency for Research on Cancer the “gold standard” for identifying carcinogens, and they rely on its findings along with several states, the federal government and other countries, court papers say.

Fresno County Superior Court Judge Kristi Kapetan still must issue a formal decision, which she said would come soon.

California regulators are waiting for the formal ruling before moving forward with the warnings, said Sam Delson, a spokesman for the state Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment.

Once a chemical is added to a list of probable carcinogens, the manufacturer has a year before it must attach the label, he said.

Teri McCall believes a warning would have saved her husband, Jack, who toted a backpack of Roundup for more than 30 years to spray weeds on their 20-acre avocado and apple farm. He died of cancer in late 2015.

“I just don’t think my husband would have taken that risk if he had known,” said Teri McCall, one of dozens nationwide who are suing Monsanto, claiming the chemical gave them or a loved one cancer.

But farmer Paul Betancourt, who has been using Roundup for more than three decades on his almond and cotton crops, says he does not know anyone who has gotten sick from it.

“You’ve got to treat it with a level of respect, like anything else,” he said. “Gasoline will cause cancer if you bathe in the stuff.”

Source: CBS Sacramento