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Welcome! "The Evening Blues" is a casual community diary (published Monday - Friday, 8:00 PM Eastern) where we hang out, share and talk about news, music, photography and other things of interest to the community.  

Just about anything goes, but attacks and pie fights are not welcome here.  This is a community diary and a friendly, peaceful, supportive place for people to interact.  

Everyone who wants to join in peaceful interaction is very welcome here.

Hey! Good Evening!

This evening's music features Chicago blues singer Valerie Wellington.  Enjoy!

Valerie Wellington - Independence Blues

"The fact of the Watergate cover-up is not nearly as interesting as the step into making the cover-up. And when you understand the step, you understand that Richard Nixon lied. That he was a criminal."

  -- Bob Woodward

News and Opinion

This is an article that should be read completely, I linked it last night, but it deserves a lot more attention.  Marcy Wheeler suspects that the reason for the current brewhaha between the CIA and its Senate overseers may be over protecting the secret source of authority for Obama's cherished drone murder program and, of course, protecting the presidential ass:

The White House Has Been Covering Up the Presidency’s Role in Torture for Years

Did the White House order the CIA to withdraw 920 documents from a server made available to Committee staffers, as Senator Dianne Feinstein says the agency claimed in 2010? Were those documents – perhaps thousands of them – pulled in deference to a White House claim of executive privilege, as Senator Mark Udall and then CIA General Counsel Stephen Preston suggested last fall? And is the White House continuing to withhold 9,000 pages of documents without invoking privilege, as McClatchy reported yesterday?

We can be sure about one thing: The Obama White House has covered up the Bush presidency’s role in the torture program for years. Specifically, from 2009 to 2012, the administration went to extraordinary lengths to keep a single short phrase, describing President Bush’s authorization of the torture program, secret. ...

The White House’s fight to keep the short phrase describing Bush’s authorization of the torture program hidden speaks to its apparent ambivalence over the torture program. Even after President Obama released the DOJ memos authorizing torture – along with a damning CIA Inspector General Report and a wide range of documents revealing bureaucratic discussions within the CIA about torture – the White House still fought the release of the phrase that would have made it clear that the CIA conducted this torture at the order of the president. And it did so with a classified declaration from Jones that would have remained secret had Judge Hellerstein not insisted it be made public.

As Aftergood noted, such White House intervention in a FOIA suit is rare. “The number of times that a national security advisor has filed a declaration in a FOIA lawsuit is vanishingly small,” he said. “It almost never happens.” But as ACLU Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer noted of the finding, “It was the original authority for the CIA’s secret prisons and for the agency’s rendition and torture program, and apparently it was the authority for the targeted killing program as well.  It was the urtext.  It’s remarkable that after all this time it’s still secret.”

President Obama’s willingness to go to such lengths to hide this short phrase may explain the White House’s curious treatment of potentially privileged documents with the Senate now – describing President Bush’s authorization of the torture program and its seemingly contradictory stance supporting publishing the Torture Report while thwarting its completion by withholding privileged documents. After all, the documents in question, like the reference to the presidential finding, may deprive the President of plausible deniability.

CIA vs. Senate: Who Is Obama Protecting?

JAY: [I]t seems to me President Obama is kind of so far avoiding being the target in all this. But if President Obama--and many people think he's been trying to protect John Brennan and perhaps other people in the CIA--but don't you think--at least I think, from what I'm learning of this, all of this, that there's someone else that President Obama is trying to defend, and it's more important to defend this person than to defend the principle of civilian oversight. And that person is President Obama, because if this thing goes public and people realize the extent of the illegality, who the heck has been protecting them and didn't--and who knew this, meaning the president, didn't turn this over to Holder, didn't prosecute, the same way he wouldn't prosecute Bush and Cheney, that this makes his whole lack of prosecution become greatly egregious, and he's protecting himself more than anyone, including protecting, as I say, the principle of civilian oversight.

GOITEIN: I would agree that he's protecting himself, but for a slightly different reason. I think if this report were to be made public, there would be real issues of legal jeopardy for CIA officials, potentially, anyway, and, you know, far beyond the potential, you know, criminality that has come up before and the Justice Department has decided not to investigate. This report could sort of blow the lid on that. And to the extent that there might be legal jeopardy for CIA officials, the CIA is going to revolt, I think, if that is made public. And if President Obama's protecting himself because a revolt by the intelligence community is not something he wants on his hands, you can hardly blame him for that. ... I mean, the intelligence community is sort of the 800-pound gorilla in the room. It's--to mix my metaphors, it's sort of the tail that wags the dog of the government, of national security policy, and there's no president that wants to stand up to the intelligence community. It's too powerful, it's too--.

JAY: Yeah. I take your point and I agree with you, but I would just add: knowing what's in that report--and more or less, President Obama has to have known all of this--he still appoints John Brennan to be head of the CIA. So, you know, there's political fallout here as well.

GOITEIN: He's involved. He's trying to say he's not involved. He even said the other day, well, I'm not going to wade into this. He's in it. He's very much in it. It's his CIA. And the reason why--apparently, the reason why the CIA apparently believes that the staffers were not supposed to have this document is because it was subject to executive privilege. Executive privilege is a presidential privilege. It has to be asserted by the president. So this is all in his wheelhouse, whether he likes it or not.

White House refuses to hand over top-secret documents to Senate committee

The White House is refusing to hand over top-secret documents to a Senate investigation into CIA torture and rendition of terrorism suspects, claiming it needs to ensure that “executive branch confidentiality” is respected.

In the latest development in the spiralling clash between Congress and the administration over oversight of the intelligence agencies, Barack Obama’s spokesman Jay Carney confirmed that certain material from the George W Bush presidency was being withheld for fear of weakening Oval Office privacy.

“This is about precedent, and the need, institutionally, to protect some of the prerogatives of the executive branch – and the office of the presidency,” said Carney.

“All of these documents pertain to and come from a previous administration, but these are matters that need to be reviewed in light of long-recognised executive prerogatives and confidentiality interests.”

Will campaign politics begin to color the Senate-CIA dispute?

The furor over the CIA’s alleged unauthorized searches of Senate committee computers hasn’t had much of a political impact.


But small signs emerged Thursday that the issue could become part of the 2014 campaign debate.

The GOP has railed for months about big, intrusive government. They’ve cited the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservative groups. Some leading Republicans also have complained that the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records shows a federal government out of control.

Republicans, though, also have to be careful with the CIA-Senate Intelligence Committee issue; at the center of the controversy is a committee investigation of controversial interrogation tactics of suspected terrorists that were used under the administration of former President George W. Bush, a Republican. ...

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., called for “an investigation conducted by people who are viewed as objective.”

Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., vice chairman of the Intelligence Committee, hinted during comments on the floor Wednesday night that he might agree.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has said such a probe is several steps away, if it happens at all. Most senators also wanted more time to gauge any political impact.

The CIA Is Not a Fourth Branch of Government

Throughout the course of its 67-year history, the CIA has perfected the techniques of election rigging, overthrowing governments, arming mercenaries, propaganda, money laundering, "Psy-Ops," sabotage, and, more recently, targeted assassinations and torture. Now we learn that the CIA won't even balk at spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee, the nation's only "check" on the Agency's power.

In the 1970s, events related to the Watergate scandal forced the CIA to take what its officials privately called a "modified limited hang-out" and admit to some wrongdoing in order to ensure that its "family jewels" remained concealed from the public. (We still don't really know what those "family jewels" were.) Then CIA Director Richard Helms had no choice but to admit that in the early 1960s there existed CIA collusion with Mafia hit men to assassinate Fidel Castro. The revelation was so shocking that a public outcry ensued that was loud enough to compel Congress to form the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) to look into the John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. assassinations.

The 6,300-page Senate Intelligence Committee study (that has languished for years outside public view), along with key sections of the "Internal Panetta Report" about the CIA's torture program, must be made public so We the People can engage in a much delayed exercise akin to a Truth and Reconciliation commission.

A congressional investigation into the actions of the CIA officials responsible for this overreach must be done during this session of Congress because the whole matter will be probably dropped if the Republicans win control of the Senate this November. Senator Mitch McConnell and Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, currently the Vice-Chair of the Intelligence Committee, will have little incentive as we move into 2016 to look into these egregious criminal abuses since they occurred under a Republican Administration. It will be bad optics. The shadow of George W. Bush has proven to be both dark and long.

Students and Faculty Reject Idea of Bush-era War Criminal as Honoree

Outrage at Rutgers University grows over plan to have disgraced Bush official Condoleezza Rice receive honory degree, give commencement

As individual professors called her a "war criminal" whose mere presence would tarnish the school's reputation, the body that represents the interests and concerns of faculty members at Rutgers University in New Jersey is slamming the administration's decision to invite Condoleezza Rice to give this year's commencement address and receive an honorary degree.

Both students and faculty at separate campuses have now signed off on resolutions calling for Rice to be disinvited.

“At the outset, we wish to record our concern that this decision was made in secret — outside of the traditional Rutgers procedures for selecting commencement speakers,’’ the executive board of the Rutgers University New Brunswick Faculty Council said in a statement on Wednesday. “Instead of soliciting nominations, the university community was simply informed last November that there was no need to make any suggestions because the decision on who would speak at commencement had already been made. We are concerned that the decision was made in a way that essentially denied free speech and open discourse to the university community.’’

Rutgers faculty board questions 'secret' selection of Condoleezza Rice as commencement speaker

In response to Rutgers President Robert L. Barchi’s letter to the campus community last week that reaffirmed the selection of Condoleezza Rice as commencement speaker, faculty members on Wednesday criticized a “secret’’ nomination process and said there is concern that the former Secretary of State’s selection “is part of a broader political agenda and will tarnish the image of Rutgers.’’ ...

University officials said last week Rice was chosen from a Board of Governors committee composed of members of the school’s two governing boards and people in the university community. After the Board of Governors on Feb. 4 unanimously voted to award Rice the commencement duty for a fee of $35,000 as well as give the national security adviser under former President George W. Bush an honorary degree, the faculty council’s executive committee approved a resolution on Feb. 28 that denounced Rice’s actions leading into and during the Iraq War.

Researchers Confirm: When NSA Watches Your Metadata, It Is Watching You

Stanford researchers prove what civil liberties advocates have warned since NSA scandal broke

Stanford University researchers have confirmed what civil liberties advocates have warned since the NSA scandal broke: metadata surveillance is a window to highly sensitive personal information, including medical issues, financial history, and even marijuana cultivation.

Two Stanford graduate students proved this by doing the snooping themselves. Since November, they have surveyed the phone records of 546 volunteers and consulted Yelp and Google Places directories to determine how much sensitive personal information metadata can reveal. Participants installed a “MetaPhone” app on their Android phones to enable the surveillance. ...

Using phone metadata, the researchers inferred sensitive information about people's lives, including: neurological and heart conditions, gun ownership, marijuana cultivation, abortion, and participation in Alcoholics Anonymous. ... As the researchers point out, this study directly contradicts the repeated assurance by President Obama that the NSA "is not looking at people's names, and they're not looking at content."

They warn that the metadata they had access to is dwarfed by what the amount the NSA has access to.

Is our childrens learning how to spell, "pariah?"
US criticised by UN for human rights failings on NSA, guns and drones

The US came under sharp criticism at the UN human rights committee in Geneva on Thursday for a long list of human rights abuses that included everything from detention without charge at Guantánamo, drone strikes and NSA surveillance, to the death penalty, rampant gun violence and endemic racial inequality. ...

The experts raised questions about the National Security Agency’s surveillance of digital communications in the wake of Edward Snowden’s revelations. It also intervened in this week’s dispute between the CIA and US senators by calling for declassification and release of the 6,300-page report into the Bush administration’s use of torture techniques and rendition that lay behind the current CIA-Senate dispute.

The committee is charged with upholding the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), a UN treaty that the US ratified in 1992. The current exercise, repeated every five years, is a purely voluntarily review, and the US will face no penalties should it choose to ignore the committee’s recommendations, which will appear in a final report in a few weeks’ time.

But the US is clearly sensitive to suggestions that it fails to live up to the human rights obligations enshrined in the convention – as signalled by the large size of its delegation to Geneva this week. And as an act of public shaming, Thursday’s encounter was frequently uncomfortable for the US.

The US came under sustained criticism for its global counter-terrorism tactics, including the use of unmanned drones to kill al-Qaida suspects, and its transfer of detainees to third countries that might practice torture, such as Algeria. Committee members also highlighted the Obama administration’s failure to prosecute any of the officials responsible for permitting waterboarding and other “enhanced interrogation” techniques under the previous administration.

Mark Zuckerberg: US government surveillance is a threat to the internet

The billionaire CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, criticised US government surveillance in a Facebook post on Thursday, saying it was a “threat” to the internet – and revealed he had called Barack Obama personally to air his concerns. ...

“The US government should be the champion for the internet, not a threat,” Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post on Thursday. “They need to be much more transparent about what they’re doing, or otherwise people will believe the worst.”

In the post, Zuckerberg said he had called Obama to express his “frustration over the damage the government is creating for all of our future” and said he was confused by the government’s actions.

“The internet works because most people and companies do the same. We work together to create this secure environment and make our shared space even better for the world,” he wrote.

He went on: “This is why I’ve been so confused and frustrated by the repeated reports of the behavior of the US government. When our engineers work tirelessly to improve security, we imagine we’re protecting you against criminals, not our own government.”

McCain: ‘It’s Tragic’ There’s No U.S. Military Option In Ukraine

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) on Friday lamented the lack of a military option for the United States in Ukraine against Russia and criticized President Obama for thinking the Cold War is over. ...

[I]n the interview, when host Andrea Mitchell asked if there is a military option for the U.S. in Ukraine, the Arizona Republican sounded despondent. “I’d love to tell you that there is Andrea, but frankly I do not see it,” he said, adding, “I wish that there were. … I do not see a military option and it’s tragic.”

I wonder if McCain will be posing for photos with Neo-fascists again this time...
McCain To Lead Delegation To Ukraine

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) will lead a large bipartisan delegation to Ukraine Thursday to meet with government leaders as the Russian occupation of Crimea continues and Crimeans prepare to vote in referendeum on seceeding from Kiev.

“They’re traveling to Ukraine show Congress’ support for the interim government and for the Ukrainian people’s aspirations for freedom, democracy and territorial integrity,” McCain spokesman Brian Rogers told The Daily Beast.

The delegation will also include Sens. Richard Durbin (D-IL), John Barrasso (R-WY), John Hoeven (R-ND), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Christopher Murphy (D-CT), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).

In a short interview, Whitehouse said the primary purpose of the trip was to “learn more about the circumstances on the ground.”

U.S. weighs request for military aid from Ukraine

russia wants warThe United States is “reviewing” a request from Ukraine’s leaders for arms and other military assistance, officials said Thursday, denying reports they had rejected Kiev’s appeal.

The requests cover a range of both lethal and non-lethal aid, including intelligence support, ammunition and weapons, administration officials said.

“We are reviewing and working through a series of requests that they have made,” a defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP.

But no final decision had been made, two officials said.

The US administration had agreed to one of the requests, pledging to provide the Ukrainians with supplies of military rations known as MREs, or “meals ready to eat,” the officials said.

The appeal to the Pentagon coincided with a visit to the United States by the country’s new premier, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who addressed an emergency session of the UN Security Council on Thursday.

CEOs of biggest Russian firms could be hit by sanctions

The CEOs of Russia's two largest firms are on a list of those who may be hit next week with European and U.S. sanctions over the Crimea crisis, a German newspaper said on Friday, suggesting tougher than expected measures against Russia's elite.

Moscow shipped more troops and armor into Crimea on Friday and repeated its threat to invade other parts of Ukraine, showing no sign of heeding Western pleas to back off from the worst East-West confrontation since the Cold War.

Russia's stock markets tumbled and the cost of insuring its debt soared on the last day of trading before pro-Moscow authorities in Crimea hold a vote to join Russia, a move all but certain to lead to U.S. and European Union sanctions on Monday.

European officials told Reuters the EU was working on a five page list of 120-130 Russians who could be subjected to asset freezes and travel bans. Officials were still debating whether to hit a large number of Russians when the measures take effect at the start of next week, or target a smaller number initially and expand the list if the crisis continues.

Germany's Bild newspaper reported that Alexei Miller, boss of natural gas monopoly Gazprom, and Igor Sechin, head of Russia's biggest oil firm Rosneft, would be among those targeted, along with senior ministers and Kremlin aides. ...

Although Russian public opinion, fed by overwhelmingly state-controlled media, is still solidly behind the plan to annex Crimea, Western countries believe sanctions could undermine support for Putin among the wealthy elite.

Western objection to Crimea referendum falls against many precedents

Ukraine crisis: John Kerry and Sergey Lavrov meet in London for talks

Russia's foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, and the US secretary of state, John Kerry, are meeting in London on Friday for talks on Ukraine before Sunday's planned referendum in Crimea.

The meeting is taking place at the US ambassador's residence in central London as Kerry attempts to head off a vote that could lead to Crimea – now under the control of Russian troops – deciding to become part of Russia.

Both the US and the EU say that if the referendum – which they have declared illegal – goes ahead, Moscow will face the prospect of fresh sanctions being imposed.

Western diplomats expressed little optimism ahead of the London talks. Nothing resembling a peace plan has been sketched out between the two sides, one said. Kerry and Lavrov have spoken almost daily as the Ukraine crisis has unfolded but have yet to find any common ground. ...

As part of a series of moves aimed at displaying solidarity with Ukraine, Nato was planning on Friday to meet representatives of the Tatar population in the Crimea who are largely hostile to a Russian takeover. Nato's deputy secretary general, Alexander Vershbow, will meet the Ukrainian MP and leader of the Crimean Tatars, Mustafa Cemilev Kirimoglu.

Turkey protests: two more deaths feed growing discontent

Two deaths in two days have highlighted the deepening polarisation of Turkish politics, as tension soared at the funerals of a young man and a teenage boy.

Following the burial of Berkin Elvan – a teenager who died after being hit in the head by a teargas canister during last summer's protests – two more deaths have set the mood in Turkey further on edge.

The government has been under pressure since widespread demonstrations targeting the increasingly authoritarian rule of prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan rocked the country last June. A corruption scandal involving senior government politicians and the prime minister and his family has fed a growing undercurrent of discontent. After Thursday's funeral, violent clashes broke out in several cities, with riot police deploying water cannon and teargas against mourners in Istanbul.

In the eastern province of Tunceli a police officer suffered a heart attack during protests. In Istanbul the death of Burakcan Karamanoglu, 22, followed clashes between police and protesters on Wednesday night. He was allegedly killed by a bullet to the head in his neighbourhood of Okmeydani, a few metres from the house of Elvan's family.

Venezuelan police crack down as anti-government protests rage on

Police in Venezuela stepped up a campaign of arrests and raids, as authorities said the death toll from more than a month of anti-government demonstrations had risen to 28.

President Nicolas Maduro has vowed to take “drastic measures” to quell the student-led protest movement launched on February 4, fueled by public fury over deteriorating living conditions in the oil-rich country. ...

Police on Thursday arrested six people in a pre-dawn raid in the city of Valencia, where two civilians and a police officer were shot dead on Wednesday. In the evening, about 30 people were detained in the capital Caracas. ...

Authorities seized weapons, plastic explosives and incendiary devices in Valencia, Maduro said, adding that searches were ongoing. ...

“I am going to take drastic measures against those who are attacking and killing the Venezuelan people,” Maduro warned Wednesday.

Maduro, who says the protests are part of a U.S. plot to overthrow him, repeated calls for the opposition to join talks organized by the authorities.

Obama administration threatens economic sanctions on Venezuela

In the latest move by the U.S. to topple the progressive, democratic Venezuelan government, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz announced on March 3 that President Barack Obama was considering economic sanctions on Venezuela. Schultz, who represents a district in south Florida and who chairs the Democratic National Committee, made the disturbing announcement on the heels of a proposed Venezuela sanctions bill introduced and sponsored by Florida's two senators, Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson. ...

According to Schultz, the proposed sanctions considered by Obama would target many individuals in the Venezuelan government. Senators Rubio and Nelson's bill would restrict individuals in the Venezuelan government and many leaders of the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) from traveling to the U.S., freeze assets in U.S. and U.S.-allied banks and treasuries, and restrict access to credit markets.

These sanctions represent the latest episode in the U.S. government's long campaign to topple the democratically elected government of Venezuela and stop the Bolivarian revolutionary process. In 2002, U.S. and Venezuelan business elites supported a military coup against then-President Hugo Chavez, who was returned to power within 47 hours by a mass uprising of working people. Less than a year later, rich Venezuelan oligarchs linked to the oil industry halted petroleum production in order to force Chavez from office. The oil bosses locked out the oil workers and threatened violence. Despite support from the U.S., their plot failed due to the continued popularity of the Venezuelan government among the majority of people. Even now, Wikileaks documents show far-reaching connections between the CIA and the right-wing opposition leaders, like Leopoldo Lopez, and instigator of protests and street violence.

Additionally, the U.S. government spends an incredible amount of money funding the far-right opposition groups protesting President Nicolas Maduro's government today. Estimates by the Center for Economic and Policy Research found $90 million reaching these groups since 2000. In 2014 alone, the U..S Congress passed a budget containing $5 million in funding for the Venezuelan opposition. While the Obama administration funds the right-wing opposition in Venezuela, they also signed $8.7 billion in cuts to food stamps into law, highlighting how imperialist meddling also hurts the U.S. working class.

There ought to be an investigation of this! No... wait, there's been an investigation.  There ought to be some accountability for this!  (Don't hold your breath!!!)
U.S. Says One Thing, Does Another on Mortgage Fraud, Watchdog Says

Four years after President Obama promised to crack down on mortgage fraud, his administration has quietly made the crime its lowest priority and has closed hundreds of cases after little or no investigation, the Justice Department’s internal watchdog said on Thursday.

The report by the department’s inspector general undercuts the president’s contentions that the government is holding people responsible for the collapse of the financial and housing markets. The administration has been criticized, in particular, for not pursuing large banks and their executives.

“In cities across the country, mortgage fraud crimes have reached crisis proportions,” Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said at a mortgage fraud summit in Phoenix in 2010. “But we are fighting back.”

The inspector general’s report, however, shows that the F.B.I. considered mortgage fraud to be its lowest-ranked national criminal priority. In several large cities, including New York and Los Angeles, F.B.I. agents either ranked mortgage fraud as a low priority or did not rank it at all.

The F.B.I. received $196 million from the 2009 to 2011 fiscal years to investigate mortgage fraud, the report said, but the number of pending cases and agents investigating them dropped in 2011.

“Despite receiving significant additional funding from Congress to pursue mortgage fraud cases, the F.B.I. in adding new staff did not always use these new positions to exclusively investigate mortgage fraud,” the report says.

Wells Fargo made up on-demand foreclosure papers

In a filing in New York’s Southern District in White Plains for a local homeowner in bankruptcy, attorney Linda Tirelli described a 150-page Wells Fargo Foreclosure Attorney Procedures Manual created November 9, 2011 and updated February 24, 2012. According to court papers, the Manual details “a procedure for processing [mortgage] notes without endorsements and obtaining endorsements and allonges.”

Those are the technical terms for the paperwork proving that the company that’s foreclosing owns the loan, and therefore has the right to kick a family out of its home. ...

Attorneys, forensic accountants and consumer advocates have long suspected that banks were systematically creating improper documents to prove ownership of loans. Foreclosure defense lawyers use the term ‘ta-da’ endorsement to describe situations in which they say a document appears, as if by magic, in the bank’s possession as needed in a foreclosure case—even though the proper endorsement was not included in the original foreclosure filing. It might sound like a technicality, but correct proof of ownership lies at the heart of the foreclosure crisis for securitized loans, which were sold by the lender that originally issued the mortgage. To legally transfer a securitized loan, the endorsements and allonges have to be created in a very specific way and within a specific time frame, usually 90 days after a residential mortgage trust closes. For many loans in foreclosure now, which were originated years ago and then sold, it’s way too late to correct incomplete documents, experts said.

If the allegations in Tirelli’s court filing are true, this manual represents the first time ‘ta-da’ endorsements are “being described and admitted to be a procedure” at a major bank, as Tirelli claimed to The Post.

Lawsuits claiming wage theft by McDonald’s could be expanded to include 30,000 workers

McDonald’s workers filed lawsuits this week in three states claiming the fast-food giant stole wages from them.

Two-dozen employees were named as plaintiffs in six lawsuits filed in California, Michigan, and New York against McDonald’s Corp. and its franchises, but about 30,000 workers could be added if the suits are granted class-action status.

Lawyers said the labor violations alleged in the lawsuits are not specific to McDonald’s, reported the Associated Press, but they targeted the company because it’s an industry leader. ...

The suits claim McDonald’s, which has control over staffing at all locations, uses software to monitor labor costs against revenue, and workers are forced to wait around before clocking in when that cost ratio climbs above a specific target set by the company.

“There are a number of ways the two seem to work together,” said attorney Joseph Sellers.

Lawyers said workers in Michigan must pay for their own uniforms, which cuts into their already low wages.

“With $28 billion in revenue in 2013 alone, McDonald’s can certainly afford to provide its minimum-wage workers with this money to clean their uniforms, as required by law, instead of making them pay for the privilege of wearing McDonald’s advertising,” said attorney Jim Reif.

Tony Benn, veteran Labour politician, dies aged 88

During his 50-year parliamentary career, Benn served as minister for technology, industry and energy under Harold Wilson and James Callaghan. He also campaigned against EU membership and oversaw the development of Concorde.

After a successful cabinet career under Wilson in the 70s, he swung to the left politically and challenged Denis Healey for the Labour deputy leadership – only losing by the narrowest of margins after one of the key unions switched sides at the last minute. ...

He became known for his campaign against the invasion of Iraq, addressing the UK's biggest ever demonstration during the Stop the War rally of 2003.

Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, said: "The death of Tony Benn represents the loss of an iconic figure of our age. He will be remembered as a champion of the powerless, a great parliamentarian and a conviction politician.

"Tony Benn spoke his mind and spoke up for his values. Whether you agreed with him or disagreed with him, everyone knew where he stood and what he stood for.

"For someone of such strong views, often at odds with his party, he won respect from across the political spectrum.

"This was because of his unshakeable beliefs and his abiding determination that power and the powerful should be held to account."

Remembering British MP Tony Benn, a Lifelong Critic of War and Capitalism

The Evening Greens

General James Jones Didn't Disclose Industry Ties Before Testimony at Keystone XL Hearing

The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing today (March 13) on the U.S. State Department's national interest determination for the northern half of the proposed TransCanada Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

Four witnesses will testify: Keystone XL proponent Karen Alderman Harbert, the president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Institute for 21st Century Energy; retired NASA climatologist James Hansen, an adjunct professor at Columbia University's Earth Institute and Keystone XL opponent; and Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune, another critic of the Keystone XL.

And then there's James Jones. He's set to testify on behalf of the pipeline, with his affiliation listed as President of Jones Group International. He won't be testifying at the request of the committee's Democrats, but rather its Republicans, even though he formerly served as national security advisor to President Barack Obama.

Described as offering "high level advisory and consulting services in the areas of international energy policy," Jones Group — which doesn't list its clients — is far from Jones' only career gig.

A DeSmogBlog investigation has revealed Jones has several oil and gas industry ties that weren't disclosed to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee before the hearing.

Among other ties, BuzzFeed recently revealed Jones currently serves as a consultant for the American Petroleum Institute (API), which has spent over $22 million lobbying on behalf of Keystone XL since 2008. Environmental Resources Management, Inc. (ERM Group) — the contractor chosen by the State Department to conduct the environmental review for the pipeline — is an API member.

"Utah’s Carbon Bomb": State Plots Massive Tar Sands & Oil Shale Projects Despite Climate Concerns

Alberta Doctor: Canada Is "Lying" About Health Impacts of Tar Sands

Last month, a doctor from Northern Alberta asked a group of U.S. Senators to "keep up the pressure" on the Canadian government about an "ongoing tragedy" he has witnessed firsthand: a health crisis provoked by tar sands development.

Dr. John O'Connor doesn't just claim that the Canadian government is willfully ignoring the impacts of the tar sands on the environment and human health—drastically higher incidence of some rare cancers linked to contaminants released into the air and water by tar sands development, for instance—he claims that in their blind rush to make Canada an energy superpower, Canadian offiicals have been deliberately misleading the public.

O'Connor did not mince words. As the Vancouver Observer reported:

[O'Connor] sighted [sic] statistics for rare cancers – of the bile duct for example – that have shot up 400 times for what is considered normal for a tiny community, such as Fort Chipewyan – which is downstream, to the north of the oil sands.

“These are published, peer-reviewed studies that indicate that the government of Alberta and Canada have been lying, misrepresenting the impact of industry on the environment,” said O’Connor.

The Alberta government has long denied cancer links with the province's multi-billion-dollar crown energy jewel. It states on its website that there is "insufficient evidence to link the incidence of cancer in Fort Chipewyan to oil sands operations" and rates of cancer are "within the expected range."

O'Connor finds that hard to believe.

“All of the scientific studies that have accumulated, it’s almost like they don’t exist,” he said.

BP is run by a bunch of despicable thugs who don't give a damn about anything but keeping the money flowing into their accounts.  Their unfitness to be trusted to treat the environment with respect and care is legendary.  The EPA says that it can "corexit" ...
BP closer to restoring US operations after deal with government agency

BP is closer to restoring its operations and reputation in the US after agreeing a deal with environmental protection authorities that it will enable the oil firm to bid for new drilling rights in the Gulf of Mexico.

The British-based group had started legal proceedings against the US environmental protection agency (EPA) which had banned BP from new contracts on the grounds that it had failed to correct problems properly since the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010.

BP said it had now dropped its law suit after resolving outstanding problems with the EPA but the firm will have to abide by monitoring arrangements with the agency for the next five years. ...

BP, which claims to have invested almost $50bn (£30bn) in the US over the past five years, is still awaiting a court ruling about whether it was grossly negligent when it caused the biggest sea-borne pollution incident in American history.

BP no longer banned from federal contracts

BP will once again be allowed federal contracts and oil leases, with the Environmental Protection Agency agreeing to drop an order declaring the oil company an unfit business partner for the U.S. government in the wake of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The government suspended BP from winning new federal leases and contracts on November 2012, saying the company had shown a "lack of business integrity."

The debarment came after BP agreed to plead guilty and pay a $4.5 billion penalty for criminal charges resulting from the disaster, which killed 11 workers and led to a massive spill in the gulf.

The Environmental Protection Agency said Thursday it’s reached an agreement with BP to allow the company to resume doing business with the federal government.

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Paris makes public transport free to tackle severe pollution

Paris authorities said Thursday they would make public transport free for three days to encourage drivers to leave their vehicles behind due to severe pollution caused by unusually warm weather and lack of wind.

The French capital has been under maximum pollution alert for several days, as have many other regions in the country.

The air pollution has also affected other nearby countries, including Belgium where authorities have reduced the maximum speed allowed on main roads in a bid to reduce the strong concentration of polluting particles in the atmosphere.

Jean-Paul Huchon, head of the organisation that oversees transport in Paris and neighbouring areas, said transport would be free from Friday morning to Sunday evening due to the “significant risks to the health of residents” posed by the pollution.

“I am asking all residents in Paris and neighbouring areas to favour the use of public transport,” he said.

A lack of wind, coupled with cold nights followed by balmy days, has contributed to the severe air pollution.

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It's National Pie Day!

The election is over, it's a new year and it's time to work on real change in new ways... and it's National Pie Day.  This seemed like the perfect opportunity to tell you a little more about our new site and to start getting people signed up.  

Come on over and sign up so that we can send you announcements about the site, the launch, and information about participating in our public beta testing.

Why is National Pie Day the perfect opportunity to tell you more about us?  Well you'll see why very soon.  So what are you waiting for?!   Head on over now and be one of the first!

Originally posted to DFH writers group on Fri Mar 14, 2014 at 05:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by Team DFH.

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