Oct
20

GOP Registration Worker Charged with Voter Fraud

By Michael Isikoff, NBC News

A campaign worker linked to a controversial Republican consulting firm has been arrested in Virginia and charged with throwing voter registration forms into a dumpster.

The suspect, Colin Small, 31, was described by a local law enforcement official as a “supervisor” in a Republican Party financed operation to register voters in Rockingham County in rural Virginia, a key swing state in the Nov. 6 election. He was arrested after a local business owner in the same Harrisonburg, Va., shopping center where the local GOP campaign headquarters is located spotted Small tossing a bag into the trash, according to a statement Thursday by the Rockingham County Sheriff’s office. The bag was later found to contain eight voter registration forms, it said.  The arrest was reported Thursday night by WWBT-TV in Richmond.

Colin Small

The case comes on the heels of a controversy last month over the activities of Strategic Allied Consulting, an Arizona based consulting firm that was paid $3 million by the Republican National Committee this year to register voters in five battleground states, including Virginia. The firm, run by veteran GOP operative Nathan Sproul, was recently fired by the RNC following reports that its workers had submitted hundreds of suspicious voter registration forms in Florida.

Sean Spicer, communications director for the RNC, told NBC News Thursday night that Small has now been fired as well, and that he had been directly employed by a payroll company called Pinpoint, which was previously used by Strategic Allied Consulting to pay workers for the GOP registration drive being run by the consulting company.

Related: RNC cuts ties with firm over voter fraud allegations

Small lists  himself on his LinkedIn resume as a  “Grassroots field director at Republican National Committee” from August 2012 to the present. But Spicer denied that Small was ever directly employed by the RNC and said he will be “told to take that down.” Small was reportedly in jail Thursday night and could not be reached for comment.

Strategic Allied Consulting also tried to distance itself from the arrested campaign worker. “The relationship between Strategic Allied and Colin Small ended on September 27th, when our firm stopped running voter registration programs in Virginia and other states. We had no contact with Small or any other voter registration worker at any point thereafter,” a spokesman for the firm said in a statement emailed to NBC News. “The reprehensible conduct it appears Small engaged in happened nearly three weeks later. Strategic Allied had nothing to do with such regrettable, illegal activity. We hope he is prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

Spicer, the spokesman for the RNC, said that after the RNC and the Republican Party of Virginia severed their relationships with Strategic Allied Consulting, the state party continued to use some of the firm’s same workers, including Small, by paying them through Pinpoint.

“The actions taken by this individual are a direct contradiction of both his training and explicit instructions given to him,” said Pat Mullins, the chairman of the Virginia Republican Party, in a statement Thursday night. “The Republican Party of Virginia will not tolerate any action by any person that could threaten the integrity of our electoral process.”

The Rockingham County Sheriff’s office said that, after an investigation and “lengthy” consultations with local prosecutors, Small was arrested and charged with eight felony counts and four misdemeanors under Virginia voter fraud laws and one misdemeanor count of obstruction of justice. “There is no indication that this activity was widespread in our jurisdiction; it appears to be very limited in nature but there is the possibility that additional charges may be filed in the future if it is deemed appropriate,” said the statement from Rockingham County Sheriff Bryan Hutcheson.

It is not clear what motive Small might have had for throwing away the registration forms. Voters in Virginia do not register by party so there is no way to know whether the recovered registration forms were from Democratic or Republican voters. One GOP source said that a campaign worker could be tempted to throw away forms that have incomplete information since there are penalties under Virginia law for not submitting completed registration forms within 15 days after they are signed. It could not be determined Thursday night if the forms allegedly tossed by Small were incomplete.

Sproul’s companies have been accused by Democrats in the past of engaging in tactics aimed at suppressing voter turnout, including throwing away Democratic registration forms.  Sproul has denied any wrongdoing and no charges against his companies have been filed. But authorities in Florida said they are conducting a statewide investigation of Strategic Allied’s operations there following reports of suspicious registration forms submitted by its workers, including forms with phony addresses and similar looking signatures. Sproul blamed the suspicious forms on a few “bad apples” who were working for him.

NBC News Story and Video

Oct
14

Vote Yes on Prop 37 in California

Illustration: Bill Mayer

You’d be forgiven for not noticing—unless you live in California, where you’ve likely been bombarded by geotargeted web ads and TV spots—but this election could spur a revolution in the way our food is made. Proposition 37, a popular Golden State ballot initiative, would require the labeling of food containing genetically modified (GM) ingredients. The food and agriculture industries are spending millions to defeat it, and with good reason: As we’ve seen with auto emissions standards and workplace smoking bans, as California goes, so goes the nation.

At least 70 percent of processed food in the United States contains GM ingredients. Eighty-eight percent of corn and 93 percent of soybeans grown domestically are genetically modified. Soda and sweets are almost guaranteed to contain GM ingredients, either in the form of corn syrup or beet sugar. Canola and cottonseed oils also commonly come from GM crops. But if those stats make you want to run and examine the labels on the boxes and cans in your pantry, you’re out of luck. Unlike the European Union, the US government doesn’t require food manufacturers to disclose their use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
Californians appear ready to change that: An August poll found voters in the state favoring Prop. 37 by a margin of 3-to-1. And if they do approve the measure, food companies might well start disclosing GMOs nationwide, since it would be expensive and cumbersome to produce one set of labels for California, home to 12 percent of the nation’s population, and another for the remaining 49 states. California voters already have a record of being leaders in food reform: When they passed a ban on tight cages for egg-laying hens in 2008, the egg industry initially fought it. But by 2011, it had begun working with animal welfare groups to take the California standards national.
Why the push to label GMOs? After all, these crops have been marketed as environmental panaceas, and some prominent greens have been convinced. By opposing GMOs, environmentalists have “starved people, hindered science, hurt the natural environment, and denied our own practitioners a crucial tool,” Stewart Brand wrote in his 2009 book, Whole Earth Discipline: An Ecopragmatist Manifesto. So far, biotech giants like Monsanto, DuPont, and Syngenta have commercialized two main GM “traits,” engineering crops with the bug-killing gene from the insecticide Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) and crops that can withstand Monsanto’s Roundup and other herbicides. Yet GM crops’ herbicide resistance has caused a 7 percent net increase in pesticide use in the United States since 1996, according to a recent paper by Washington State University researcher Charles Benbrook.
The industry swears genetically engineered foods are safe even though their potential risks have not been fully studied. Back in 1992, the Food and Drug Administration declared GM foods essentially equivalent to foods derived from non-GM plants, and it has implemented no requirements for safety testing. GMOs have been in the food supply since 1996, which isn’t long enough to tell whether they are having subtle negative effects on our health. Plus, as the advocacy group Food & Water Watch recently reported (PDF), long-term safety studies have been limited because the biotech industry uses its patent power to prevent independent scientists from cultivating GM seeds for research purposes.
In the EU, where labeling has been required since 1997, most consumers have rejected GMOs. No wonder the GM seed industry has been shoveling cash into fighting Prop. 37.
Some independent, peer-reviewed research has suggested trouble, however. GMOs are capable of creating novel proteins that can turn out to be allergenic, as Australian scientists found when they tested a pea variety that had been engineered to express an otherwise harmless protein from the common bean. A 2009 study by French researchers found that rats fed Bt and Roundup-tolerant corn for three months showed declines in kidney and liver function. While such findings don’t establish that GMOs are unsafe, they do leave the question wide open—and validate demands for labeling. GMOs are a “massive experiment on the American people,” says Stacy Malkan, media director for the pro-labeling group Yes on 37 for Your Right to Know If Your Food Has Been Genetically Engineered. “We absolutely have a right to know and choose for ourselves if we eat genetically engineered foods.”
If Prop. 37 wins and the food industry eventually takes labeling nationwide, will it present a serious challenge to GMOs? One possibility is that consumers will simply ignore the labels and continue shopping as usual. Or not: A 2010 Thomson Reuters poll (PDF) found 93 percent of respondents in support of labeling; 40 percent indicated they wouldn’t choose to eat genetically engineered vegetables, fruits, or grains. In the European Union, where labeling has been required since 1997, most consumers have rejected GMOs, essentially killing the market for them. Hostility toward the technology is so strong that the German chemical giant BASF recently announced it would stop producing GM seeds for the European market.
No wonder the GM seed industry has been shoveling cash into the No on 37 Coalition Against the Deceptive Food Labeling Scheme. As of early fall, it had raised $32 million, eight times as much as the pro-labeling group. Its list of funders reads like a Big Food and Ag trade group: Major donors include Monsanto ($7.1 million), DuPont ($4.9 million), Dow ($2 million), and PepsiCo ($1.7 million). The parent companies of major organic brands have also lined up against Prop. 37, including Coca-Cola (Honest Tea), General Mills (Cascadian Farm), Kellogg (Kashi), and Dean Foods (Horizon Organic). The No on 37 campaign’s treasurer is Thomas Hiltachk, a prominent Republican lawyer and former tobacco industry lobbyist who has served as outside counsel to Philip Morris and helped lead the failed 2010 ballot initiative to repeal California’s climate law.
The group’s main strategy has been to portray the labeling measure as a needless burden and waste of money. An image on its website shows a farmer with his mouth taped shut and his body crisscrossed by red tape—never mind that the proposal imposes no requirements on farmers. The group has funded studies purporting to show that Prop. 37 would impose an additional $1.2 billion in annual production costs on California food processors and would increase household food prices by as much as $400 a year.

The Yes on 37 side is playing hardball, too. By early September, it had raised $4 million, mostly from the pro-organic, anti-corporate Organic Consumers Fund, independently owned food companies like Clif Bar and Nature’s Path, and a supplements distributor run by the quackish natural-health guru Joseph Mercola. In late August, it released a 30-second TV ad linking the GM seed industry to past chemical industry scandals, pointing out that Monsanto and Dow once staunchly defended infamous poisons such as DDT and Agent Orange.
If Prop. 37 passes, will it threaten the GMO giants’ bottom line? So far, the market seems unfazed about the prospect of mandatory labeling. Two months from Election Day, Monsanto’s share price was up more than 25 percent over last year’s, significantly outperforming the broader market and showing no evidence of investors’ fretting over the California ballot initiative. But Wall Street’s hyperfocus on the short term sometimes blinds it to major shake-ups approaching on the horizon.
By cutting fat checks and hauling out an old tobacco hand to defeat California’s labeling proposition, Monsanto and its peers are no doubt taking the long view. The US market for genetically engineered crops is by far the world’s largest, accounting for two-thirds of global annual GM seed sales of about $13.3 billion. This fight isn’t just about keeping consumers in the dark in a single state; it’s about keeping GMOs in farm fields and on supermarket shelves nationwide.

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Sep
30

Greg Palast’s “Billionaires and Bandits” New York Times Best Seller

 

Click here for New York Times List and Link to Purchase

Sep
28

Top Secret Cold War Activities Revealed

Sep
27

VOTE Yes on Prop 37 to Label Genetically Engineered Food

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Sep
14

Monsanto Stops GMO Distribution

Occupy Monsanto Stops GMO Seed Distribution
By Occupy Monsanto

OXNARD, Calif., Sept. 12, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — On Wednesday, September 12 activists calling themselves the Genetic Crimes Unit (GCU) shut down shipping and receiving access points at Monsanto’s Oxnard seed distribution facility located at 2700 Camino Del Sol. By peacefully blockading the exit and access points the group effectively shut down the distribution of genetically engineered (GMO) seeds for a day.

Monsanto is the largest producer of GMO seeds and is being called out for their genetic crimes by a network called Occupy Monsanto. Today’s protest is the beginning of a series of over 65 different autonomous actions that officially start on September 17, a year since Occupy Wall Street movement began. Actions are planned throughout the world including the US, Germany, Canada, India, Paraguay, Philippines, Poland, Argentina, Australia, Spain, Russia, and Japan. More info as well as video available for media use of today action can be found at http://Occupy-Monsanto.com.

After occupying all three shipping and receiving entrances to the Monsanto facility using flashy theatrics including a car with a giant “fish-corn” on top of it and a 6-foot high jail cell complete with someone dressed up like the CEO Hugh Grant of Monsanto inside. Eventually after 5.5 hours the fire department was called in and 9 anti-GMO activists were arrested and charged with trespassing.

“The reason I am occupying Monsanto and willing to put myself at risk of arrest is because Monsanto has genetically engineered food crops to contain novel untested compounds that result in more weed killer sprayed on our food, without informing consumers. Unlike most industrialized countries including every country in Europe, Japan and even China, in America right now there are no labels on our food informing us whether we are eating GMOs or not. We have a right to opt out of this experiment: it’s not up to chemical companies what I feed myself and my family. Monsanto has bought and sold both parties and has handpicked henchmen at FDA and USDA making sure we are kept in the dark. Monsanto is also currently fighting the California Prop 37 GMO labeling initiative that would give consumers the right to know if they are eating GMO foods,” said GCU member Ariel Vegosen.
The GCU arrived onsite wearing bio-hazmat suits and with giant banners saying the “99% V. Monsanto” and “Seminis and Monsanto bringing weed killer GMO food to your table.” Next week there will be more protests all over the nation.

“In the name of Wall Street profits, chemical corporations such as Monsanto genetically engineer crops to withstand high doses of their toxic weed killers that contaminate our food and water, and have not been proven safe. We deserve to know what we are eating and we should put the GMO crops back in the lab and off the kitchen table. The US chemical lobby has so far made sure Americans are kept in the dark and we are tired of inaction by Obama, ” said GCU unit member Rica Madrid.

“We are here today in civil disobedience because we believe strongly that we have no other option,” said GCU unit member David Pillar. “Its time for healthy food now.”

On Sept. 17, 2012 Occupy Monsanto is calling for hundreds of actions internationally, http://occupy-monsanto.com.

SOURCE Occupy Monsanto

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2012/09/12/4814249/occupy-monsanto-stops-gmo-seed.html#storylink=cpy

Sep
11

The Deafness Before the Storm

By KURT EICHENWALD – Op-Ed Contributor New York Times

On Aug. 6, 2001, President George W. Bush received a classified review of the threats posed by Osama bin Laden and his terrorist network, Al Qaeda. That morning’s “presidential daily brief” — the top-secret document prepared by America’s intelligence agencies — featured the now-infamous heading: “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” A few weeks later, on 9/11, Al Qaeda accomplished that goal.

On April 10, 2004, the Bush White House declassified that daily brief — and only that daily brief — in response to pressure from the 9/11 Commission, which was investigating the events leading to the attack. Administration officials dismissed the document’s significance, saying that, despite the jaw-dropping headline, it was only an assessment of Al Qaeda’s history, not a warning of the impending attack. While some critics considered that claim absurd, a close reading of the brief showed that the argument had some validity.

That is, unless it was read in conjunction with the daily briefs preceding Aug. 6, the ones the Bush administration would not release. While those documents are still not public, I have read excerpts from many of them, along with other recently declassified records, and come to an inescapable conclusion: the administration’s reaction to what Mr. Bush was told in the weeks before that infamous briefing reflected significantly more negligence than has been disclosed. In other words, the Aug. 6 document, for all of the controversy it provoked, is not nearly as shocking as the briefs that came before it.

The direct warnings to Mr. Bush about the possibility of a Qaeda attack began in the spring of 2001. By May 1, the Central Intelligence Agency told the White House of a report that “a group presently in the United States” was planning a terrorist operation. Weeks later, on June 22, the daily brief reported that Qaeda strikes could be “imminent,” although intelligence suggested the time frame was flexible.

But some in the administration considered the warning to be just bluster. An intelligence official and a member of the Bush administration both told me in interviews that the neoconservative leaders who had recently assumed power at the Pentagon were warning the White House that the C.I.A. had been fooled; according to this theory, Bin Laden was merely pretending to be planning an attack to distract the administration from Saddam Hussein, whom the neoconservatives saw as a greater threat. Intelligence officials, these sources said, protested that the idea of Bin Laden, an Islamic fundamentalist, conspiring with Mr. Hussein, an Iraqi secularist, was ridiculous, but the neoconservatives’ suspicions were nevertheless carrying the day.

In response, the C.I.A. prepared an analysis that all but pleaded with the White House to accept that the danger from Bin Laden was real.

“The U.S. is not the target of a disinformation campaign by Usama Bin Laden,” the daily brief of June 29 read, using the government’s transliteration of Bin Laden’s first name. Going on for more than a page, the document recited much of the evidence, including an interview that month with a Middle Eastern journalist in which Bin Laden aides warned of a coming attack, as well as competitive pressures that the terrorist leader was feeling, given the number of Islamists being recruited for the separatist Russian region of Chechnya.

And the C.I.A. repeated the warnings in the briefs that followed. Operatives connected to Bin Laden, one reported on June 29, expected the planned near-term attacks to have “dramatic consequences,” including major casualties. On July 1, the brief stated that the operation had been delayed, but “will occur soon.” Some of the briefs again reminded Mr. Bush that the attack timing was flexible, and that, despite any perceived delay, the planned assault was on track.

Yet, the White House failed to take significant action. Officials at the Counterterrorism Center of the C.I.A. grew apoplectic. On July 9, at a meeting of the counterterrorism group, one official suggested that the staff put in for a transfer so that somebody else would be responsible when the attack took place, two people who were there told me in interviews. The suggestion was batted down, they said, because there would be no time to train anyone else.

That same day in Chechnya, according to intelligence I reviewed, Ibn Al-Khattab, an extremist who was known for his brutality and his links to Al Qaeda, told his followers that there would soon be very big news. Within 48 hours, an intelligence official told me, that information was conveyed to the White House, providing more data supporting the C.I.A.’s warnings. Still, the alarm bells didn’t sound.

On July 24, Mr. Bush was notified that the attack was still being readied, but that it had been postponed, perhaps by a few months. But the president did not feel the briefings on potential attacks were sufficient, one intelligence official told me, and instead asked for a broader analysis on Al Qaeda, its aspirations and its history. In response, the C.I.A. set to work on the Aug. 6 brief.

In the aftermath of 9/11, Bush officials attempted to deflect criticism that they had ignored C.I.A. warnings by saying they had not been told when and where the attack would occur. That is true, as far as it goes, but it misses the point. Throughout that summer, there were events that might have exposed the plans, had the government been on high alert. Indeed, even as the Aug. 6 brief was being prepared, Mohamed al-Kahtani, a Saudi believed to have been assigned a role in the 9/11 attacks, was stopped at an airport in Orlando, Fla., by a suspicious customs agent and sent back overseas on Aug. 4. Two weeks later, another co-conspirator, Zacarias Moussaoui, was arrested on immigration charges in Minnesota after arousing suspicions at a flight school. But the dots were not connected, and Washington did not react.

Could the 9/11 attack have been stopped, had the Bush team reacted with urgency to the warnings contained in all of those daily briefs? We can’t ever know. And that may be the most agonizing reality of all.

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http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/11/opinion/the-bush-white-house-was-deaf-to-9-11-warnings.html

Aug
29

Stop Monsanto in Ground Zero Hawaii

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