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‘The World May Conclude the US Is No Longer Capable of Diplomacy’

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Janine Jackson interviewed Murtaza Hussain about attempts to undermine the Iran nuclear deal for the September 15, 2017, episode of CounterSpin. This is a lightly edited transcript.

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Intercept: How Donald Trump Is Trying to Blow Up the Iran Nuclear Deal

Murtaza Hussain’s piece in The Intercept (9/10/17)

Janine Jackson: Americans don’t really need to be enjoined to “never forget” September 11, 2001. But what about February 5, 2003, when Colin Powell presented the UN Security Council with some blurry pictures and mistranslated intercepts he said proved that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction that the US should go to war over? Today, media acknowledge that George W. Bush just wanted to invade Iraq, and concocted a scenario that would make it seem justifiable.

Donald Trump hasn’t troubled to veil his hostile intentions toward Iran and his desire to undo the 2015 deal, in which Iran agreed to give up enriched uranium, destroy thousands of centrifuges, and allow for UN inspections, among other things, in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. Some say it’s a desire to please Saudi Arabia and Israel. Some say it’s just a desire to destroy whatever Barack Obama did. But whatever the causes, undoing the deal could have major negative consequence, and not just in Iran. Here to talk about the situation is Murtaza Hussain, a journalist for The Intercept. He joins us by phone from here in town. Welcome back to CounterSpin, Murtaza Hussain.

Murtaza Hussain: Thank you for having me.

JJ: The telegraphing began even before Nikki Haley, US ambassador to the UN, gave her recent speech at the American Enterprise Institute. Donald Trump, who has to recertify Iran’s compliance with the deal every 90 days, about a month ago simply said, “I think they’ll be noncompliant.” Coming from someone else, that might mean, I don’t think they’re actually complying, but from Trump, it sounds more like, I’m going to say they’re noncompliant. What, first of all, do we know about the reality of Iran’s fulfilling its end of the 2015 deal?

MH: The IAEA and European Union and Russia, China, have all indicated that they believe Iran will be compliant with the terms of the original nuclear agreement. And the Trump administration has not really provided any evidence in contravention of that. The American objection to the deal now seems to be framed around issues which never had anything to do with the deal—the general history of distrust and animosity that existed between Iran and the United States—and they’re using this as a means of reframing the deal retroactively about non-nuclear issues as a way of ultimately terminating it.

Nikki Haley at AEI

UN Ambassador Nikki Haley denouncing the Iran nuclear deal at the American Enterprise Institute.

JJ: We got that feeling from Nikki Haley’s speech, which was really quite something. What were some of the things that she said in that speech that tell us the hand that the state is trying to deal here?

MH: In Nikki Haley’s speech, she identified a long list of American grievances, acts of terrorism over the past two decades which had been sponsored by Iranian military in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. But the thing is, both Iran and the United States have a long history of grievances with each other that stretch back several decades.

Arms control agreements—and we have a long history of these during the Cold War—they are seldom if ever created to address political issues, issues between states extraneous to the strictly defined goal of controlling the proliferation of weapons. So when the nuclear deal was created, it was created very narrowly around the nuclear issue itself, basically because if they made it about all these other issues, it would be impossible to ever reach any agreements.

Now, in the attempt to retroactively reframe the deal, it seems very clear that it’s an attempt to torpedo it after the fact by saying, well, no, actually we have all these other problems with Iran that we want to deal with, and the deal must be restructured to accommodate that. But it’s simply impossible. There’s no way that it’s going to be able to reopen the deal. And the Iranians themselves have indicated that any attempt to do so would be a nonstarter.

LA Times: An Elegant But Unconvincing Attack on the Iran Nuclear Deal

LA Times editorial (9/9/17)

JJ: It certainly seems like moving the goalposts to say, we’re going to say they’re noncompliant for things that are not actually in the agreement itself. But nevertheless, the Los Angeles Times called Nikki Haley’s speech an “elegant but unconvincing attack” on the deal, which I found kind of surprising, especially given that one of the things she said was:

Judging any international agreement begins and ends with the nature of the government that signed it. Does it respect international law? Can it be trusted to abide by its commitments?

I mean, that just sounds like a howler to me. But there was this idea to say, Iran is just inherently law-breaking.

MH: Yeah. It was a very strange speech in some ways. And the idea that the entire problem is making a deal with Iran at all, then the only option, other than that, is to have a war, or to ratchet up tensions to the point where war becomes extremely possible. It seems very clear that they’re trying to sabotage the deal. But because the deal itself was negotiated, not just by the United States, but several other parties around the world, the so-called P5+1 negotiating parties, they’re all loath to reopen this issue. As far as they’re concerned, they’re happy with the deal. It’s opened Iran up to their own businesses, to potentially do business, a very lucrative, untapped market.

And for the Americans to very transparently try to undermine that deal that took a lot of effort to negotiate, it won’t be looked upon kindly by other countries. And especially under this administration, a very bellicose and you could say unprofessional administration, for them to try to paint this as anything other than what it is, which is an attempt to cancel the deal, it’s not going to have a lot of traction.

JJ: This certifying process, this thing about the president certifying compliance every 90 days, that wasn’t in the deal itself, that was something Congress imposed. So I understand that declaring Iran noncompliant kicks things back to Congress. What would that mean?

MH: This 90-day period is something which was imposed by Congress, so they could have very stringent oversight of the deal going forward. Now, if Trump decides to decertify, it will be Congress’s decision what it wants to do next. It could try to reimpose nuclear sanctions, it could impose new non-nuclear sanctions. But the thing is that Congress has been historically hawkish on the Iran nuclear issue, probably even more than the executive, and it seems extremely likely that they’ll try to impose new sanctions. And if they do impose new sanctions, Iran will also respond in some way, which you could very quickly see a dynamic created which just leads to the unraveling of the deal as a whole.

JJ: Finally, elite media generally support the Iran deal, even if they sometimes still refer falsely to “Iran’s nuclear weapons program,” which they’ve never been shown to have. Nima Shirazi noted that the Washington Post, just last month, had to run a correction on that.

But there’s editorial support for this deal, and it seems like reporters see the goalposts being moved, but they’re just sort of narrating it. The New York Times on August 31 led with:

The world’s nuclear inspectors complicated President Trump’s effort to find Iran in violation…[by] declaring that the…inspections found no evidence that the country is breaching the agreement.

I find it a weird way to cover it. They said, the reports from the IAEA that Iran is complying “make it harder to create an argument that Iran is in violation.” I don’t really understand that way of reporting it. But I wonder what, in general, you would like to see from the press, more or less of, when it comes to reporting on Iran and this deal.

Murtaza Hussain

Murtaza Hussain: “They’re willing to sacrifice nonproliferation, the core  US national security interest, in the service of their ideological crusade against Iran.”

MH: I think I had read something in the New York Times, an editorial a few months back, cautioning these efforts to tank the deal. They’re steeped in diplomatic language, which is the phraseology you identified, sort of an example of passive narration of what’s going on here. I think that as the efforts by the administration to tank the deal intensify, which seems very clear that they will, there should not be any equivocating about what’s going on here, and the risks of what’s happening here, and the fact that this is being done for completely spurious reasons. The United States has an interest in stopping nuclear proliferation. This deal stops proliferation. Even if Iran didn’t have a nuclear program before, it precludes them from choosing to have one in the future, through the stringent monitoring.

So why is this deal being destroyed? It’s being destroyed because of the interests of donors or pressure groups who are ideologically invested in a conflict between Iran and the United States, and they don’t care about nonproliferation. They’re willing to sacrifice nonproliferation, the core  US national security interest, in the service of their ideological crusade against Iran, which has been going on for quite some time. And not to say that Iran is blameless in the situation, but at this present juncture, Iranians negotiated a deal in good faith, which they seem to be adhering to, and it’s the United States which is trying to renege on it.

I think that the press should talk about the very real risks of war and the completely irrational nature of what’s happening right now. But they should also talk about why this is happening, what interest is being served by destroying a very critical US diplomatic achievement. And if they do succeed in tanking the nuclear deal, how is America going to be able to do diplomacy in the future? The world may reasonably conclude that the US is no longer capable of doing diplomacy as it has been since the era of the Cold War.

JJ: We’ve been speaking with Murtaza Hussain from The Intercept. You can find his recent piece, “How Donald Trump Is Trying to Blow Up the Iran Nuclear Deal,” on TheIntercept.com. Murtaza Hussain, thank you very much for joining us this week on CounterSpin.


MH: Thank you for having me.

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Outlets That Scolded Sanders Over Deficits Uniformly Silent on $700B Pentagon Handout

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Fox News Insider: Report: Sanders' 'Free College' Plan Would Cost $70 Billion Per Year

$70 billion a year seemed like a lot of money when all it would pay for was college education (Fox News Insider, 2/6/16).

Where did all the concern over deficits go? After two years of the media lamenting, worrying and feigning outrage over the cost of Bernie Sanders’ two big-budget items—free college and single-payer healthcare—the same outlets are uniformly silent, days after the largest military budget increase in history.

Monday, the Senate voted to increase military spending by a whopping $81 billion, from $619 billion to $700 billion–an increase of over 13 percent. (The House passed its own $696 billion Pentagon budget in July—Politico, 7/14/17.) The reaction thus far to this unprecedented handout to military contractors and weapons makers has been one big yawn.

No write-ups worrying about the cost increase in the Washington Post or Vox or NPR. No op-eds expressing concern for “deficits” in the New York Times, Boston Globe or US News. No news segments on Fox News or CNN on the “unaffordable” increase in government spending. All the outlets that spent considerable column inches and airtime stressing over Sanders’ social programs are suddenly indifferent to “how we will afford” this latest military giveaway. The US government votes 89–9 to add $81 billion extra to the balance sheet—the equivalent of the government creating three new Justice Departments, four more NASAs, seven Treasury Departments, ten EPAs or 546 National Endowments for the the Arts—and there’s zero discussion as to “how we will pay for it.”

F35 fighters (photo: US Air Force/Madelyn Brown)

With the cost of just one weapons system–the F35 fighter–you could pay all state college tuition for 21 years. (photo: US Air Force/Madelyn Brown)

As FAIR has noted for decades (e.g., 2/23/11, 5/8/16), the media’s deficit discourse has always been a PR scam. A rhetorical bludgeon used to cry poverty any time a left-wing politician wants to help the poor or people of color that somehow is never an issue when it comes to pumping out F-22s and E3 AWACS, which evidently pay for themselves with magic.

The increase alone in military spending—over a budget that was already bigger than the next eight countries combined—is greater than the total amount spent annually on state university tuition by every student in the United States: $81 billion vs. $70 billion. This is to say that if the budget for the US military had just stayed the same for 2018, the US could have paid the tuition for every public college student this year, with $9 billion left over for board and books.

Where, one is compelled to ask, are those who dismissed Sanders’ free college plan (a mere $47 billion a year, because it only covered two-thirds the costs) as “unaffordable”? Where is Kevin James of US News who did so (3/27/15)? Vicki Alger of the Washington Examiner (2/8/16)? Where is Abby Jackson of Business Insider (6/20/16) or AEI’s Andrew Kelly hand-wringing in the New York Times (1/20/16) and NPR (1/17/16)? Where are David H. Feldman and Robert B. Archibald in the Washington Post (4/22/16)?

CNN: Free College and Healthcare for All: How Would Bernie Sanders Pay for It?

A question that didn’t need to be asked when it came to the largest military hike in history (CNN, 1/14/16).

Where are the “detailed” Urban Institute or Brookings Institution studies showing a massive sticker-shock tax hike will be needed to pay for the Pentagon budget increase—the kind of studies that CNN can mindlessly repeat when they bring on DOD-boosters John McCain or Jack Reed?

Where are the Charles Lanes, Joe Scarboroughs, Wall Street Journal editorial boards and other “deficit hawks” in the media to condemn this? The answer is they’re nowhere. And they’re nowhere because no one in the media really cares about deficits, they only care about Deficits™, a clever marketing term used by those charged with keeping government money out of the hands of the poor—and in the coffers of weapons makers, banks and other wealthy interest groups.

http://ift.tt/2hmHwIU Source: http://fair.org

NYT Lets Think Tank Funded by Gov’t and Arms Industry Claim Huge US Military Budget Isn’t Huge Enough

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New York Times: Senate Passes $700 Billion Pentagon Bill, More Money Than Trump Sought

The New York Times (9/18/17) quoted CSIS’s Anthony Cordesman saying that Sen. John McCain “has lived with underfunding of the military, seen the impact on readiness, seen the strains that impact the force.”

The New York Times (9/18/17) gave an enormous platform to a hawkish think tank that is funded by the US government and by top weapons corporations, letting it absurdly claim, without any pushback, that the gargantuan US military—by far the largest in the world—has been “underfunded.”

On September 18, the Senate voted overwhelmingly (89 to eight) to pass an enormous, record-breaking $700 billion Pentagon bill, giving far-right President Donald Trump even more money for war than he had requested.

Times reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg effectively helped to sell the bill in an extremely sympathetic article, headlined “Senate Passes $700 Billion Pentagon Bill, More Money Than Trump Sought.”

Stolberg’s story also doubled as a kind of puff piece for hyper-hawkish Sen. John McCain, whom it lionized as an intrepid hero boldly taking the lead on the Pentagon legislation.

The Times report all but openly applauded the bill, describing it as “a rare act of bipartisanship” that “sets forth a muscular vision of America as a global power.”

The nearly 700-word article quoted three people, only one of whom was not an elected official. Not a single person or organization that opposes the Defense Department budget expansion was cited in the story.

CSIS's Anthony Cordesman (C-SPAN)

Anthony Cordesman on C-SPAN (6/25/17)

The lone non-official voice quoted by the Times was Anthony H. Cordesman (incorrectly identified as Anthony N. Cordesman), a national security analyst at the influential, bellicose think tank, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

The Times gave no background information about Cordesman, failing to disclose that—as his CSIS bio clearly notes—he previously served as McCain’s national security assistant, and that he formerly worked for the Pentagon, the State Department and NATO. (He was even awarded the Pentagon’s distinguished service medal.)

Naturally, Cordesman used his space as a putatively independent expert in the US newspaper of record to claim that the Senate’s gigantic Pentagon bill was a response to years of supposed underfunding of the US military.

Cordesman’s notoriously pro-war employer CSIS, which in January boasted of being “named the world’s number one Defense and National Security think tank for the sixth year in a row,” also just so happens to be generously funded by the governments of the US and its military allies, along with leading corporations in the arms industry (Extra!, 10/16)—although the New York Times left that out of its report as well.

The Times merely quoted Cordesman saying, in reference to the bill’s top supporter Senator McCain, “He’s someone who has lived with underfunding of the military, seen the impact on readiness, seen the strains that impact the force.”

The notion that the US military has suffered in any way from “underfunding” would surprise the 95 percent of the world outside of the United States.

With a $611 billion budget in 2016, the US already spent more on defense than the next eight largest countries combined (and six of those eight are US allies):

Moreover, “defense” already accounts for more than half of US federal discretionary spending:



But, again, Cordesman’s employer, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, is not just any old think tank. Readers might not be able to tell this from the New York Times story, however, as it did not provide any details other than that it is “in Washington.”

Top corporate donors to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)

CSIS states clearly on its website that the think tank’s top corporate donors include the most influential arms companies, such as Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Boeing and General Dynamics. Another significant contributor is Raytheon.

All of these military technology contractors stand to profit directly from an expanded Department of Defense budget.

Fossil fuel companies Chevron, ExxonMobil and Saudi Aramco are likewise some of the biggest donors to CSIS. These corporations also will likely profit from an expanded Pentagon budget, given that the US military is the world’s largest consumer of oil.

Top government donors to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)

Top government donors to CSIS, moreover, include the United States and its close allies the United Arab Emirates, Japan and Taiwan, which coordinate with the US military. The UAE is also the second-largest customer for US arms.

Other significant CSIS donors include Saudi Arabia, the top purchaser of US weapons; Sweden, one of the world’s leading exporters of arms per capita; and Turkey, a NATO member that works closely with the US military, and is the third-largest customer for US weapons.

All of these states have a direct vested interest in pushing for more US military spending.

According to the think tank’s website, the US government funds CSIS’s research on technology policy, national security and regional studies (including research on the Middle East, Russia, Asia and more).

The New York Times failed to disclose any of these glaring conflicts of interest, leaving readers clueless that the one “independent” expert in the piece is actually bankrolled by the government and weapons industry.

John McCain Hagiography

In addition to helping sell the gargantuan Defense Department budget to cash-strapped taxpayers, the Times story also comes off as hagiography for one of Congress’ most avowed war hawks.

Reporter Stolberg characterized the bill as

a point of personal pride for Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, and who has spent the past week shepherding the bill on the Senate floor as he battles brain cancer.

Stolberg went on to describe the legislation as a reflection of “McCain’s expansive vision of the role of the United States in world affairs.” The only other person the Times story quoted was top Democratic Sen. Richard J. Durbin—who voted for the bill—who called it “a grandiose spending plan.”

None of the eight senators who voted against the legislation — such as Bernie Sanders and Rand Paul — were quoted in the New York Times article. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand was mentioned, in reference to her opposition to President Trump’s attempt to ban transgender troops, but even then, she was only named in the last paragraph.

Double Standards

The Times story noted the Senate bill “also includes a string of provisions to streamline the management of the Defense Department.” But the US newspaper of record failed to mention the Pentagon’s notorious inability to keep track of its bloated  budget.

A 2016 Department of Defense inspector general report found that the Pentagon was unable to document what had happened to a staggering $6.5 trillion in funds.

The Senate’s new record-breaking Defense Department bill also comes at a time when the Republican-dominated Congress is trying to dismantle the Affordable Care Act and reduce taxes on the rich.

With the help of corporate media, pundits have constantly insisted the US supposedly cannot afford basic social programs like single-payer healthcare (Newsweek, 9/13/17; Chicago Tribune, 9/15/17). Yet the same corporate media leading the charge against the attempt to institute a Medicare for All system are effectively cheering on an additional $0.7 trillion for Defense Department warmongering.

The 1,215-page Senate bill, a version of which was approved by the House, allots $640 billion for Pentagon operations and $60 billion for war operations abroad. The legislation also designates $705 million for Israeli missile programs, $500 million for Ukraine and $100 million for anti-Russian operations in the Balkans.

The United Nations and anti-poverty organizations have estimated it would cost just $30 billion per year to end world hunger.

http://ift.tt/2yfZfsa Source: http://fair.org

Is Facilitating a Paid Informant Program Part of Journalism’s Job?

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NY1: Search underway for escaped parolee on Staten Island

New York City news channel NY1 (7/20/17) aired a segment on a parolee from a narcotics conviction who was “seen committing some type of violation, although it’s not clear exactly what.” Nevertheless, the segment urged viewers to call into the Crime Stoppers hotline with tips.

To say that the criminal justice system is a huge, dehumanizing conveyor belt of punishment and surveillance might be an understatement. As the role of cops and prosecutors in America has been under increasing scrutiny over the last few years since the growth of the Black Lives Matter movement, we’ve been made privy to all sorts of interesting tidbits: the transfer of military surplus equipment to local police, the rise of “predictive policing” and Stingray technology that cops use to spy on us, to name a few.

However, another questionable police tool has developed in plain sight—and is being dutifully pushed forward by some in the press. Crime Stoppers USA is a national organization, founded by a cop, whose local affiliates provide rewards for tips that lead to arrests. If you live in an urban city, chances are you’ve seen ads for Crime Stoppers, or similar programs, at bus stops or in the street. You’ve also likely seen Crime Stoppers in the media, because that’s one of its main goals, as stated on the  website:

Crime Stoppers is publicized on a regular basis by all media outlets including print, broadcast and web-based partners. Special attention is given to unsolved crime re-enactments, “Crimes of the Week,” cold cases, narcotics activity, wanted fugitives, and suspected terrorist and gang activity.

The practice of encouraging people to provide incriminating information for money, however, raises questions. The Justice Department’s inspector general released a report last year that called into question the Drug Enforcement Agency’s use of paid informants, because “poor oversight” led to “an unacceptably increased potential for waste, fraud and abuse.” Lawyers and advocates against the drug war told the Washington Post (9/30/16) that “paying informants creates incentives to lie or fabricate evidence.”

With those concerns being raised about a federal agency, which can be audited, what kind of protections or protocols do local, private nonprofits use when they dangle money in front of us in exchange for crime tips?

NY1: Vandals Target Trump Golf Course in the Bronx

NY1 (9/12/17) urged viewers to call Crime Stoppers with tips about protesters who “spray-painted a poem about immigration onto the grass” at a Trump golf course.

The New York City iteration of Crime Stoppers is likely the most developed of these types of programs in the country. And while it doesn’t seem to be connected to the national Crime Stoppers program, it’s run by a controversial organization for the same purposes of making informants out of us.

Established in the 1970s to raise private money for the NYPD, the New York City Police Foundation provides technology and other resources for police, but operates somewhat inconspicuously in the shadows. The Foundation’s financials, for example, aren’t very transparent, raising concerns about how money is spent and whether donors—which include CIA-linked Palantir (founded by controversial Gawker-slaying tech mogul Peter Thiel)—are given questionable access to the police department.

But the New York City Police Foundation doesn’t operate completely off the radar, either. With a propensity for throwing lavish gala fundraisers, its central purpose seems to be direct money from wealthy donors, like billionaire investor Carl Icahn and mega-developer Bill Rudin, to fund a public/private piggy bank for the NYPD.

The Foundation’s board of trustees is chaired by a real estate developer and reads like a who’s who of developers and financiers. At its 2014 fundraiser, Rudin, former police commissioner Bill Bratton and other attendees received keepsake bullets from the Foundation. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio was also there and rejoiced over rising property values in Brooklyn that he suggested were the result of declining crime rates.

Clearly, New York’s elite have a vested interest in the police department, but what, some may ask, does their money get them?

Former CBS anchor Dan Rather, a foundation donor, has been rewarded for his generosity with ride-alongs and even the chance to join a “search for a robber at a housing project.” The “charity” has funded studies buttressing zero-tolerance policing of squeegee men (aka the Broken Windows theory of policing), and even perks and political consulting work for former NYPD leader Ray Kelly, who once considered a run for mayor. There have also long been questions of cronyism, as Foundation money has been used to pay consulting fees to friends of ex–NYPD chief Bratton.

CSUSA areas of activity: Community, Media, Law Enforcement

From the national Crime Stoppers website

The most well-known Police Foundation project, however, might be NYC Crime Stoppers, which offers rewards of up to $2,500 to anonymous tipsters. NY1 News, a popular 24-hour local news channel in the city, has for years extensively featured Crime Stoppers features in its everyday programming.

A search of NY1‘s coverage shows hundreds of segments this year, thousands over the past few years, that encourage viewers to send tips to the Police Foundation’s Crime Stoppers hotline. Segments air footage showing not only people who’ve been accused of violent crimes, but also those accused of things like stealing five bucks and tossing coffee on someone, robbing toothbrushes and vandalizing a Trump golf course. Most, if not all, of NY1‘s Crime Stoppers stories finish with these exact instructions:

Anyone with information on the case should contact the Crime Stoppers hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS, or text CRIMES and then enter TIP577, or visit http://ift.tt/17IHIZe.

NY1: NY1 Gets Award From Police Foundation

NY1 reporter Clodagh McGowan (6/7/17) accepts an award from New York Police Commissioner James O’Neill.

This past summer, NY1 was honored by the Police Foundation and NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill for featuring Crime Stoppers coverage. Local reporter Clodagh McGowan accepted the “Chief of Detectives” award from O’Neill on behalf of NY1 News and its parent company, Spectrum. Said McGowan:

I think it’s so important that we have this partnership with the NYPD where they can impart, share with us, some of the media, of the videos, the pictures that they collect, and we can turn it around, get the information and get it on the air.

This cozy arrangement between NY1, Crime Stoppers and the NYPD means that the lines between law enforcement and journalism are significantly, if not completely, blurred. What are the ethical questions and privacy concerns raised when identities of alleged criminals are put on thousands of television screens before anyone has even been charged? What are the details of NY1‘s apparent arrangement with the Police Foundation and the NYPD? Do NY1‘s producers have any research-based evidence that paid informants actually help solve crimes—without leading to wrongful convictions? What are the effects of inundating the viewing public with images of alleged crimes?

The most compelling question may be whether aiding police investigations by publishing Crime Stoppers information on a daily basis conflicts with NY1’s journalistic mission. (When FAIR attempted to ask these questions of NY1, PR manager Nikia Redhead’s response was, “We’ve chosen to decline the request to participate in this story.”)

Just as local prosecutor’s reliance on police makes it difficult to convict or even indict violent cops, local news channels that become appendages to a police department will find it difficult to report independently on brutality or corruption. Perhaps NY1 and its reporters are comfortable sacrificing their independence to catch criminals—even golf course vandals—but many others may not be. The very least that NY1 can do is be clear and transparent about its collaboration with the NYPD, and tell the public why it’s working with the controversial, billionaire-funded Police Foundation.

If you have any tips about NY1 or the Police Foundation, tweet Josmar Truillo at @Josmar_Trujillo.

You can send a message to NY1 here (or via Twitter: @NY1). Remember that respectful communication is the most effective.


http://ift.tt/2fATi22 Source: http://fair.org

Media ‘Extremes’ on Healthcare: Universal Coverage or Taking Healthcare From Millions

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For many years, corporate media have largely ignored a single-payer system as a possible solution to the United States healthcare crises (FAIR.org, 3/6/09). This silent treatment, however, is increasingly hard to justify now that the most popular politician in the country has forced the issue into the mainstream of the Democratic Party.

Sen. Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All bill now has 16 cosponsors, up from zero when he introduced a similar bill in 2013. Meanwhile, in the House of Representatives, a record 119 of 194 Democrats are cosponsors of HR676, John Conyers’ single-payer legislation. The math is simple enough: 135 of 242 Democrats in Congress (and counting) are on the record as supporting the federal government assuming responsibility for the costs of healthcare.

Unable to continue ignoring the policy, corporate media have, with predictable uniformity, undermined it as utopian nonsense.  The typical elite narrative since Sanders’ bill was announced last Wednesday has been to amplify the same kind of scare tactics that have been injected into the national discourse for decades (at a considerable expense) by the for-profit health industry, the American Medical Association (AMA) and right-wing think tanks.

The False Equivalency of Sanders’ Bill and GOP Plans

Newsweek: Bernie Sanders’s ‘Medicare for All’ Plan Can’t Work, and Here’s Why

It can’t work because “tearing down the current health care system rather than buttressing Obamacare is ambitious and profoundly risky,” says Newsweek‘s Matthew Cooper (9/13/17).

Many of these smears—seen in both news and opinion sections of major newspapers—are old tropes at this point, and have been countered many times.  The most common: it is unaffordable, politically impossible, a reckless electoral strategy and doesn’t work in other nations. Some even warn of the dreaded “government takeover,” recalling the days when Ronald Reagan declared national healthcare as some kind of Bolshevik conspiracy that would “invade every area of freedom” in America.

The media, however, are now peddling a new and particularly dubious angle: equating Sanders’ bill with GOP efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act as similarly “extreme” alternatives. This is particularly disingenuous, given that a single-payer system, which would provide universal coverage, is supported by a slight majority of the public in recent polling (Quinnipiac, 7/27/17–8/1/17 ; Kaiser Family Foundation, 6/14–19/17), while every recent GOP proposal would throw millions of Americans off insurance (Congressional Budget Office, 5/24/17, 6/26/17, 7/27/17) and is wildly unpopular (Washington Post, 6/30/17).

Consider  the New York Times’ “Medicare for All or State Control: Healthcare Plans Go to Extremes” (9/13/17), which compares Sanders’ Medicare for All with the regressive  “Cassidy/Graham” policy. Reporter Robert Pear’s premise is that the Sanders proposal is the left-wing “extreme,” the mirror image of the the GOP’s equally radical proposal to repeal the ACA.

On the one hand, you have a bill that establishes healthcare for all, which is a norm in the industrialized world (OECD, 7/22/16). On the other hand is yet another regressive version of  Trumpcare (Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, 9/13/17), the Republican proposal to slash Medicaid and repeal requirements that protect patients with pre-existing conditions.  Given these dramatic differences, this comparison seems to be doing readers a disservice.

If these plans represent the ideological extremes, as the Times suggests, what would be a rational, non-extreme proposal? The status quo, which leaves us with 28 million uninsured, and the most expensive, wasteful system on the planet? Some minor tweaks to it? Pear doesn’t say. This is a classic dilemma when you treat the world, as the Times often does, as if the Democratic Party represents the left, the GOP represents the right, and magical solutions exist in some undefined center.

Pear’s sourcing is also rather lopsided, with the following people quoted: Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R.-S.C.) and a representative of the major insurance lobby, American Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), who capped off the article with a warning that “government-run healthcare won’t work.” In other words, Sanders, three militant opponents of single-payer and a false equivalency.

Another piece about how “single-payer healthcare could trip up Democrats” (New York Times, 9/11/17) quotes former Obama administration appointee Andy Slavitt comparing single-payer to the GOP’s promise to “repeal and replace” Obamacare, saying it “could be the Democrats’ version of the thing that they promised to do for seven years and couldn’t do.” Again, the distinction is lost that one policy would provide healthcare to all while the other would take it from millions.

NYT: Politicians, Promises and Getting Real

Paul Krugman (New York Times, 9/15/17): “If rigid support for single-payer—as opposed to somewhat flexible support for universal coverage, however achieved—becomes a litmus test…Democrats could eventually find themselves facing a Trumpcare-type debacle, unable either to implement their unrealistic vision or to let it go.”

The Times’ Paul Krugman—who was frequently dismissive of Sanders during the 2016 presidential campaign (FAIR.org, 11/27/16)—also compared Sanders’ single-payer bill to the GOP’s health and tax proposals.  In his column “Politicians, Promises and Getting Real” (9/15/17), he warned that Sanders’ bill could lead the Democrats to a “Trumpcare-type debacle.”

Krugman, who used to be supportive of single-payer (New York Times, 7/25/05, 3/23/06), has wavered recently in favor of private plans, falsely suggesting the ACA is a pathway to universal care. “It more or less achieves a goal—access to health insurance for all Americans—that progressives have been trying to reach for three generations,” he wrote (New York Times, 1/18/16).  In Krugman’s worldview, a bill that leaves 28 million uninsured, does not cut costs and has no pathway to universal coverage (CBO, 3/20/10; Truthout, 6/9/16) is “more or less” the same thing as actual guaranteed care for all.

Krugman says he doesn’t “mean to suggest that these cases are comparable,” but this seems disingenuous,  given that the article is structured around the very comparison he claims he is not making.

The tone of the Washington Post’s coverage was clearly evident to those who saw the giant headline “Healthcare for All, and Higher Taxes,” on the Kindle version of one of its articles (9/13/17).  The emphasis on higher taxes is telling. It is true that single-payer would require higher taxes. But studies (and the experience of other nations) show new taxes would be offset by dramatic administrative and out-of-pocket savings that would decrease overall spending (BMC Health Services, 11/14).  If only the press chose to be so judgmental  about past endeavors: Would “A War in Iraq, and Countless Corpses” have made it past editors when the paper helped enable that tragedy years ago (FAIR.org,  3/19/07)?

Another Post article (9/14/17) about Sanders praising the Canadian health system also links Sanders’ Medicare for All bill to GOP policies. The article quotes the libertarian Cato Institute’s health analyst Michael Cannon arguing, “If Bernie wants the United States to move in the direction of Canada’s healthcare system, he should be advocating not ‘Medicare for all’ but ‘Medicaid block grants for all,” Cannon said:

Interestingly, it is actually Senate Republicans who are proposing to move in the direction of Canada’s healthcare system, while Bernie Sanders wants even more federal control.

It is hard to make sense of this comment, given how radically different the two proposals are in purpose and design. While it’s true the Canadian Health Transfer channels healthcare funds through the provinces, it does so with a principle of “universality” that guarantees that each Canadian citizen gets comparable coverage, no matter where they live or how much they earn, which is not the case with the GOP proposals for Medicaid block grants.

The false comparisons continue. An op-ed in the Post by Catherine Rampell, headlined “Sanderscare Is All Cheap Politics and Magic Math” (9/14/17), argued the bill proves that the “lesson the Democrats seem to have taken from the 2016 electoral trouncing is that they need to become more like Republicans,” and described “single-payer” as a catchphrase no different from “repeal and replace.”  “Will Mexico pay for it?” she quips, comparing Sanders’ bill to Trump’s proposed border wall.

Where Are the Medicare for All Advocates?

Also glaring is how few advocates of Medicare for All are quoted or published in major media outlets. The New York Times did publish an op-ed by Sanders (9/13/17) on the day his bill came out; but outside of that, finding an article that is not dismissive or hostile, let alone supportive of the plan, proves difficult. This is despite popular support for Medicare for All, according to numerous polls (e.g., Economist/YouGov, 4/2/17).

Boston Globe: Single-Payer Snake Oil

Michael Cohen (Boston Globe, 9/13/17): “The great irony of the push for single payer is that it ignores the lesson from the GOP’s recent failure to repeal Obamacare — don’t rock the boat.”

Consider the Boston Globe, which conservatives would have you believe is the ideological equivalent of the Socialist Worker.  Its search engine shows three major articles about Sanders’ proposal. The headlines alone leave little doubt as to the tone of the coverage. “Single-Payer May Sound Appealing, but It’s Complicated,” reads one (9/13/17). The same day, the paper ran a column by former Clinton speechwriter Michael Cohen, headlined “Single-Payer Snake Oil” (9/13/17). The third (and so far final) major article it published was called “Not Everyone Agrees on Bernie Sanders’ Healthcare Plan. But Everyone Wants to Vote on It” (9/15/17), which emphasized the GOP’s eagerness to run against the bill.

There is, of course, nothing wrong with writing skeptically, or even critically, of single-payer. Every plan has winners and losers, and the public has a right to know about these scenarios: job churn for those in the insurance industry, the trade-off between tax increases and overall savings, and so on. But the coverage focuses almost entirely—sometimes hysterically—on the potential losers, and very little on who would win: the vast majority of Americans, who would pay less overall and never have to worry about losing their insurance due to job loss or lack of income.

And the lack of pro-single-payer voices is glaring. The Globe coverage reflects this bias; as of this writing, there are  no positive op-eds or editorials in favor of the bill to counter the mostly negative news coverage or Cohen’s angry retort, which made the same comparison as others to GOP repeal efforts: “The great irony of the push for single-payer is that it ignores the lesson from the GOP’s recent failure to repeal Obamacare — don’t rock the boat.”

Cohen offered that “if the goal is to get America to universal coverage there are plenty of ways—other than single-payer—to achieve that goal.” But none of the proposals he mentions—a Medicaid buy-in/public option, stabilizing the individual market with government funds or extending CHIP—would do that.

The CBO scored a public option (11/13/13), for example, and found it to have “minimal effects” on access or the number of the uninsured. The Medicaid buy-in or public option is widely believed to lead to “adverse selection” (Urban Institute, 9/16), or a disproportionate amount of poor and sick people joining the public plan, making it less efficient.

When progressives pushed for the retention of a public option in the healthcare reform plan of 2009–10, they were told by President Obama that it was an unessential “sliver” of his proposal (New York Times, 8/17/09).  When progressives lamented Obama’s decision to drop this policy (Extra!, 4/10), they were portrayed by the Times (12/17/09) as ideological militants who were “smacking the pragmatic president in the face.”  Now Krugman and Cohen would have you believe it is the obvious, viable solution to our healthcare problems.

It seems that in the dominant media narrative, anything progressives want —regardless of specifics—is extreme and reckless. Anyone who offers this point of view, and pursues less bold changes, is “pragmatic.”

This is also a curious departure from how the dominant media covered much of the GOP health reform efforts. When the House version of Trumpcare was being debated, the media focused on right-wing critics of the bill who claimed the proposal was too generous (FAIR.org, 3/15/17). Left critics of the ACA who pushed for single-payer were virtually ignored by the press when that bill was being made.

When All Else Fails, Resort to Mockery

Chicago Tribune: Bernie Sanders' Medicare for all is a delusional promise

“Americans distrust any ambitious change in the realm of medical care,” says the Chicago Tribune‘s Steve Chapman (9/15/17)–ignoring the polls that show majority support for single-payer.

The current debate over Sanders bill is not all that different from the debate over his proposals during his presidential campaign. At that time, the New York Times (2/15/16) quoted Ezra Klein and others who mocked Sanders’ plans as  “wishful thinking,” “fairy tales,”   “puppies and rainbows” and “magic flying puppies with winning Lotto tickets tied to their collars.”

It seems some things never change. Steve Chapman recently wrote an op-ed for the Chicago Tribune (9/15/17) where he echoed this tired joke: “[Sanders’] proposal really should be called Medicare for All and a pony. It’s everything you could want and then some.”

Maybe some people find that funny. But given the extent of our healthcare problems, there is little to laugh about.

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Media’s Instinct to Rehabilitate the Powerful Has Not Changed Under Trump

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Former Trump spokesperson Sean Spicer at the Emmys. (photo: Trae Patton/CBS)

Former Trump spokesperson Sean Spicer at the Emmys. (photo: Trae Patton/CBS)

When Stephen Colbert introduced a surprise guest at the end of his Emmys opening monologue on Sunday night, the audience didn’t seem to expect to see former Trump administration press secretary Sean Spicer. The Late Night host shocked most of the crowd—Veep actress Anna Chlumsky was particularly amazed—with the selection of one of comedy’s favorite targets of the last year.

Colbert brought on Spicer, complete with the rolling press office podium that Melissa McCarthy made famous in her Saturday Night Live impression, to mock President Donald Trump. From the New York Times transcript:

SPICER: This will be the largest audience to witness an Emmys, period. Both in person and around the world.

COLBERT: Wow, that really soothes my fragile ego. I can understand why you would want one of these guys around.

As the night went on, pictures emerged on social media of Spicer enjoying himself backstage and at parties. Spicer was photographed schmoozing with late night hosts Seth Meyers and James Corden (the latter was caught giving Spicer a kiss on the cheek), actor Alec Baldwin (who won an Emmy for his performance on Saturday Night Live mocking Spicer’s former boss) and other entertainment industry figures. By Monday night, Late Night With Stephen Colbert was using the gag in sponsored posts on Facebook. It was quite the turnaround for Spicer, whose reputation for lying in service of the president included downplaying the Holocaust and defending the administration’s Muslim ban.

NYT: The Shameful Embrace of Sean Spicer at the Emmys

To Frank Bruni (New York Times, 9/18/17), Spicer’s appearance was “a ringing, stinging confirmation that fame truly is its own reward and celebrity really does trump everything and redeem everyone.”

Given Spicer’s recent history representing Trump, reaction to the joke decidedly mixed. On Monday morning, New York Times columnist Frank Bruni (9/18/17) frowned on the whole affair, writing that “Colbert abetted Spicer’s image overhaul and probably upped Spicer’s speaking fees by letting him demonstrate what a self-effacing sport he could be.”

An unnamed source close to the decision to include Spicer told entertainment outlet Vulture (9/18/17) that it was only a joke, though one not intended for everyone: “There was no expectation everyone would love this,” the source said.

Yet for all the outrage over the appearance, and for all the distaste over Spicer’s relatively quick public rehabilitation (Spicer left the White House less than three weeks ago, on August 31), the fact is that it’s par for the course in how the corporate media—both in news and entertainment—treat those in power when they leave Washington.

Slate‘s Jamelle Bouie pointed out as much on Twitter on Monday. “The expectation this time will be different is wrong,” Bouie said, debunking the idea that that Trump was too toxic to preclude his acolytes from being offered redemption. And MSNBC‘s Chris Hayes tweeted on Sunday night shortly after Spicer’s appearance that “power is all about who gets forgiven. Who gets fresh starts.”

MSNBC's Deadline: White House

Nicolle Wallace: From George W. Bush’s communications director to anchor of MSNBC‘s Deadline: White House.

Hayes should know. The network he works for has repeatedly given airtime to George W. Bush administration speechwriter and Iraq War booster David Frum, whose image has undergone its own rehabilitation since the advent of the Obama administration. And it’s not only Frum who’s benefited from MSNBC‘s selective memory of the early 2000s. Bush White House communications director Nicolle Wallace hosts a show, Deadline: White House, on the network every weekday; officials like Bush Chief of Staff Andrew Card and election strategist Steve Schmidt frequently appear on any one of the shows that fill out the week’s lineup.

Of course, MSNBC isn’t alone in scrubbing clean the images of those whose political careers have resulted in war, austerity and mass surveillance. In March, FAIR (3/7/17) reported on how George W. Bush was being feted by newspapers and morning television— and how the nostalgia around Bush’s time in office was part of a longstanding media tradition of normalization for political figures.

Stephen Colbert and Henry Kissinger (Comedy Central)

Stephen Colbert enlists Henry Kissinger’s help for a Daft Punk parody. (image: Comedy Central)

During Bush’s book tour, he was welcomed with delight by Ellen Degeneres, a woman whose marriage would have been impossible under Bush’s administration. As the host of the satirical Colbert Report, Colbert in 2013 included war criminal Henry Kissinger—conservatively estimated to be responsible for at least 3 million deaths—in a quirky dance video. Kissinger appeared on the Report for a softball interview the following year. Trump himself appeared on SNL in late 2015, well after his racist and misogynistic comments had become part and parcel of his campaign.

But even though this practice is a time-honored tradition, the 17 days between Spicer leaving the White House and his arrival onstage at one of Hollywood’s biggest events is notable for how swiftly the worm has turned for the former press secretary. If this is what Spicer’s post–White House career looks like, expect Trump to be back on the Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon less than 48 hours after he resigns from office.

“It’s a big club,” the late comedian George Carlin once said of the elite in America, “and you ain’t in it!” It’s hard to imagine looking at Spicer’s appearance at the Emmys, and the intersection between the entertainment industry and the politicians they claim to #resist, and not understand that the world the corporate media inhabit is a world where the regular social and moral rules don’t apply. Once you’re in, you’re in.

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‘Climate Change Is Making These Facilities Even More Dangerous’

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Janine Jackson interviewed Shaye Wolf about Hurricane Harvey’s toxic aftermath for the September 8, 2017, episode of CounterSpin. This is a lightly edited transcript.

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Texas petrochemical facility flooded by Hurricane Harvey (photo: US Coast Guard/Patrick Kelley) 

“The South Texas coast where Harvey hit…is just littered with hundreds of fossil fuel and industrial facilities that store large amounts of dangerous chemicals.” (photo: US Coast Guard/Patrick Kelley)

Janine Jackson: The story of devastating weather events like hurricanes is many stories, really. There’s no need to compete; they’re all critical. But there is something about the oil industry spurring climate disruption, lobbying against preventative or preparatory measures, and then adding to its harmful impact with their methods of operation. As Texas continues to reel under the effects of Harvey, it’s been noted that besides massive flooding, some communities were also faced with dangerous chemicals released into the air by refineries and petrochemical plants.

How did that happen, and what can prevent it from happening again? Our next guest has been investigating that. Shaye Wolf is climate science director for the Center for Biological Diversity. She joins us now by phone from Oakland. Welcome to CounterSpin, Shaye Wolf.

Shaye Wolf: Thank you for having me.

JJ: Most of us are not scientists, of course, but we do understand that not every multisyllable word is dangerous. So it isn’t just that “chemicals” were released in South Texas; it really matters what those chemicals were. Fill us in on what your analysis found. What were the emissions, and what caused them to be released?

SW: The South Texas coast where Harvey hit, just to kind of set the context, is just littered with hundreds of fossil fuel and industrial facilities that store large amounts of dangerous chemicals. We looked at the amounts of air pollutants that refineries and petrochemical plants in South Texas reported releasing, either during Harvey or after Harvey, into surrounding communities, and it was a staggering amount. Our analysis, which was as of August 31, and the number has only grown—we totaled more than 5-and-a-half million pounds of air pollutants.

Shaye Wolf

Shaye Wolf: “These communities shouldn’t be having to live with this toxic burden.”

And of that, we looked at seven particularly dangerous chemicals that were released to the air, all of which are documented to have serious health impacts, and some that cause cancer. And we totaled almost a million pounds of those seven particularly dangerous chemicals. So those are things like benzene and butadiene, which are carcinogens, cancer-causing chemicals. And we also included sulphur dioxide and hydrogen sulfide. Those are chemicals that really cause a lot of respiratory irritation. So you’ve heard reports of people complaining about difficulty breathing, or burning eyes, burning lungs, in the Houston area. And that’s very concerning, because these are communities living in some of the worst air conditions in the country, because of all of these facilities, and then during storms, they get hit with an extra load of toxins. And that’s just not fair; these communities shouldn’t be having to live with this toxic burden.

JJ: What happened at the refineries and plants that caused these chemicals to be released?

SW: Yeah, that’s a really good question. There are several sources. Some of the chemicals were released because of leaks due to storm damage. So there were six facilities that reported that the roofs on their tanks that are holding chemicals failed during the storm, and released toxins onto the roof, and a lot of those escaped into the air. So things like benzene, that carcinogen.

Many of the chemicals came from routine industry practice during storms. When they do quick shutdowns, either before or in some cases during the actual storm—which is dangerous for workers, having to go out and do the shutdown during Harvey—the industry uses flaring and these pressure release valves that release a lot of the toxins to the air. And the problem is that’s allowed. There are pollution-control technologies that should and could be implemented on these facilities to reduce the toxic burden during the shutdown, and then the startup of the plants during storms.

Coverage of chemical fire in Arkema, Texas (CBS Evening News, 9/1/17)

(CBS Evening News, 9/1/17)

JJ: Let me just ask you: The media coverage that we’ve seen on this issue seems to be overwhelmingly focused on one company, on Arkema, where emergency workers had to move things around, and were made ill. But even when those stories were good, and some were, they kind of suggested that this company was an outlier, or maybe even unique. But you seem to be saying that these sorts of problems are really not confined to Arkema.

SW: Oh, absolutely not. I mean, Arkema was very dramatic because of the explosions that were very dangerous. But in our analysis, those 5.5 million pounds of air pollutants — and growing; there are many more now as companies continue to report — that came from 40 facilities, so 40 refineries or petrochemical plants. And there are many more now that are reporting, so it’s a widespread problem.

JJ:  I have read industry officials describe the situation during Harvey as “unprecedented,” and Arkema officials said, “We’ve never experienced anything that would have given us any indication that we could have that much water.” You note, though, that they certainly had ample warning of hurricane risk, so what’s the disconnect there? Are they asking us to accept “unprecedented” as meaning the same thing as “unpredictable”? What’s going on?

SW: I think that statement is a real problem, because we know that the Gulf Coast is very vulnerable to hurricanes and major storms that can cause damage to these petrochemical plants and refineries. And we also know that climate change, climate disruption, is intensifying the power of these storms. So the fossil fuel industry is inherently unsafe to public health and to our climate, and then climate change is just making these facilities even more dangerous, because the damage from storms can be more intense. This is a problem that’s not going to go away; it’s just getting worse as climate disruption increases.

JJ: There seems to be a problem with, also, the status of just access, public access, to information. Matt Dempsey from the Houston Chronicle has spoken about the difficulty he had getting a chemical inventory out of Arkema. And apparently these companies can use the threat of terrorism, of terrorists learning what these chemicals are, as a way to defeat or get around the public’s right to know. How are you able to get what information you can get?

SW: I think you’ve identified a really critical problem, and that is, in its short time in office, the Trump administration has really increased community vulnerability to the pollution from fossil fuel industries during storms like Harvey, and it’s done that in a number of ways. And one way is that there have been several rollbacks of really important public safety protections, right-to-know protections.

And one big mistake that the Trump administration made was to delay the implementation of a chemical safety rule that required companies to make information about the dangerous chemicals at their plants more easily accessible to the public, and also that increased the enforcement of company safety plans in worst-case scenarios like we saw at Arkema. And even though that rule wouldn’t have in itself prevented that explosion in Crosby from happening, it would have given the public and first responders better information about what was going into the air, and what the risks were.

So it is very disturbing and troubling that the Trump administration has delayed the implementation of this right-to-know, really important public safety rule. Our information, from some reporting that chemical companies are doing—the rules have been suspended and relaxed on reporting during and after Harvey, which is a problem, but some companies are reporting. So once again, our numbers are probably a vast underestimate of what’s actually going into the air.

And another thing that was very worrisome is what’s going into the water. We have seen initial reports of companies reporting wastewater outflows and overflows, sometimes onto the ground. One company reported wastewater flowing into San Jacinto River. So these are wastewater from refineries and petrochemical companies. They’re most of the time not reporting how much and what’s in the water, but some companies have reported 100,000 gallons, 350,000 gallons of wastewater flowing out of their facilities. And that’s tremendously disturbing, because as we know, a lot of communities are dealing with homes that have been soaked in flood water, and there could be a problem with dangerous chemicals getting into the flood waters that have soaked their homes and their communities.

JJ: I just saw a story in which an official was saying, yeah, don’t let your children play in the flood water. You know, don’t let them touch it. And if they touch it, then wash them off. It just seems not tenable, really.

SW: It’s very frightening to know that your neighborhood has been soaked in water, and in many places the flood water still surrounding your home, that could be dangerous, not only from the petrochemical facilities and refineries, but also from all of the Superfund sites that have toxic chemicals, that have been flooded. And there’s been a lot of reporting on 13 flooded Superfund sites in the Houston area, Corpus Christi area, that may have damage, where chemicals can be leaking out. And that’s really scary for the communities around those sites. I saw some reporting this morning of globs of mercury washing up in Houston, and they’re not sure where those globs of mercury are coming from, so—

JJ: Wow, wow. You get the sense from media that there is a problem, but that the problem is that these companies didn’t submit to the regulatory system as it currently exists, where the implication is that would have prevented this. A New York Times story talked about how this is going to “bring fresh scrutiny on whether these plants are adequately regulated.” Is it your sense that we have all the necessary rules in place, and they just need to be followed, or they just need to be enforced?

SW: No, I think there’s a multifold problem. And one is that the fossil fuel industry is exempt from the provisions of many of our foundational environmental laws. So just to give you an example, there’s an Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act that required industrial facilities to report big releases of toxins, so that the community can know, and the oil and gas industry is largely exempt from that requirement. So that has to change. The oil and gas industry should not have exemptions from protections provided by environmental laws.

So in some cases, many cases, the rules and regulations aren’t sufficient, need to be stronger, and in other cases, there is not proper enforcement. So we already know that under the Trump administration, there have been tremendous cuts of staffing and funding for environmental protection agencies like the EPA or OSHA. And so we have agencies with the mission of helping protect Americans from toxic pollutants, and their staff and budgets are being cut, and the enforcement then isn’t there.

So we know, for example, during Harvey that a lot of the air quality-monitoring devices were turned off. So during the most intensive part of when pollutants are being put into the air, we don’t have a lot of independent verification of what went into the air, beyond what the chemical companies are self-reporting. And then we need a lot of comprehensive monitoring on the ground of what went into the air, the water, the soil, so we can comprehensively clean up communities. And then we need more prevention in the future, so these things don’t happen again. And it’s worrisome, that is not happening on the level, at the scale that it should be.

Storms  Irma, Jose and Katia

Satellite image from the National Hurricane Center (9/7/17) showing three major storm centers in the wake of Harvey.

JJ: Finally, we still have those talking about the “climate change agenda.” But in large part, media have moved; they acknowledge that human-driven climate disruption is real, and they’re reporting the impacts—in the United States, anyway. But this never-ending call for “fresh scrutiny” makes me nuts. At some point, I guess we have to ask whether a journalist’s job is satisfied by simply narrating destruction, or are they charged with really naming the causes and naming the ways toward solutions?

SW: Yes, and I think that’s really important: setting a different vision, laying out what this really looks like in practice on the ground. And then it has to be, we need to make change on a more rapid scale. We know from all of the hundreds of thousands of scientific studies, and what we’re seeing just with our own eyes, that in order to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, we need to phase out fossil fuels very quickly. And we need to phase in clean energy, from rooftop solar and wind, that creates clean, good jobs, and it protects our climate and protects people and the environment.

And having more recognition of what that looks like in practice, and the absolute need for that—it could not be a more critical point to be talking about, over and over again, because this is our future. This is our present, our present and our future. What’s happening now with the storms, and other climate change-related damage, is unacceptable, it’s just getting worse, and there couldn’t be a more critical issue to be talking about with our friends, with our neighbors, in the media, with our colleagues, all the time.

JJ: We’ve been speaking with Shaye Wolf, climate science director for the Center for Biological Diversity. They’re on line at BiologicalDiversity.org. Shaye Wolf, thank you so much for joining us this week on CounterSpin.

SW: Thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it.



http://ift.tt/2wqjiaL Source: http://fair.org