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Trump Deutsche Bank Loans Underwritten By Russian State-Owned Bank
« Reply #4065 on: January 04, 2020, 01:35:11 PM »
Here's the original article. If you look at the docs, you can see why they call themselves, "Forensic News." They look at the metadata on digital docs to assess even more information.

Trump Deutsche Bank Loans Underwritten By Russian State-Owned Bank, Whistleblower Told FBI

January 3, 2020 8:44 pm

By Scott Stedman, Eric Levai and Bobby DeNault

Deutsche Bank’s loans to Donald Trump were underwritten by Russian state-owned VTB Bank, according to the whistleblower whose collection of thousands of bank documents and internal communications have captured the recent attention of federal investigators.

Val Broeksmit acquired the emails and files of his late father, Deutsche Bank executive William S. Broeksmit, after Broeksmit tragically took his own life in 2014.

Val informed the FBI in late 2019 about his knowledge of VTB’s underwriting of Trump’s loans, information he attributed to a network of sources connected to the bank he cultivated over the past five-plus years.

Underwriting is the process where financial institutions assess the ability of potential customers to fulfill their obligations. Underwriters have access to “credit and financial information, as well as the state of the [property],according to US News, though underwriters can sometimes be unknown to the person seeking the loan.

Forensic News is not confirming the underlying claim that VTB underwrote Trump’s loans from Deutsche Bank.

Forensic News can, however, confirm that at least some of Trump’s loans were issued by a bank subsidiary with business ties to VTB. That subsidiary owed more than $48 million to VTB in 2013 and documents suggest the subsidiary continued doing business with VTB even after the bank was sanctioned in 2014.

One federal agent working on the Deutsche Bank investigation indicated that VTB is under scrutiny in the FBI criminal probe. “We know VTB very well,” the investigator said on background. That person did not comment directly on the Trump loans.

Val Broeksmit’s full statement is below:

The Russian state bank VTB underwrote loans to Donald Trump via Deutsche Bank. Over the course of Trump’s relationship with DB, an inordinate amount of questionable, mismanaged & risky loans approved by Deutsche Bank to Trump required his Personal Guarantee which, over time, also lost its value.

Trump’s team at DB sought out creative ways to circumvent the varied protections DB’s compliance team institutionally implemented, & whether by happenstance or by design Trump’s loans became underwritten by Russia’s own VTB.

I informed the FBI of this in 2019.

Val Broeksmit

For Val, much has changed over the past half-decade. As the frontman and founder in the indie band Bikini Robot Army, Val never imagined spending his days combing through highly complex financial records of one of the world’s largest banks. But after his father’s passing, Val’s life took a radical turn.

Val’s search for justice and answers, fueled by personal vengeance against the bank, motivated him to dig through a cache of over 21,500 emails and other documents from his father’s accounts.

Inside, Val found thousands of emails between his father, Chief Risk Optimization Officer of Deutsche Bank, and other executives, along with attachments containing sensitive documents about Deutsche Bank’s financial operations.

Now, Val has decided to go on the record with Forensic News to share exclusive details about what he told federal investigators.

He says that a recent New York Timesprofile, written by Times Editor David Enrich, “completely fucked me over.” Multiple characterizations of Val as a fame-seeking opioid-user who allegedly sought cash for the documents shocked and surprised him, given that he and Enrich collaborated for nearly five years deciphering Deutsche Bank’s web. “Shocked and surprised doesn’t even begin to describe it. It felt like the rug was pulled out from under you and you fall, and fall, and fall,” Val said.

Enrich stands by his reporting, saying, “I think the article portrayed Val accurately and fairly. I know and feel badly that he didn’t like it, and I hope that he has a more positive reaction to his and his father’s prominent roles in my forthcoming book.

An FBI source called that New York Times article “not totally accurate,” though the person declined to comment further.

Forensic News met with Val over a period of several months and obtained some of Val’s documents and testimony.

Background

Val first contacted the DOJ in Spring 2016, stating, “I’m writing in hopes of speaking to someone at the DOJ in reference to the evidence I have showing major fraud at one of the World’s largest banks.”

More than two years later, Val got a response from the FBI, who immediately flew agents from New York to meet Val in Los Angeles in order to discuss his Deutsche Bank knowledge.

FBI officials are conducting an ongoing money-laundering investigation into Deutsche Bank.

Original email from Val to the DOJ in 2016.


Val met with agents multiple times in 2019. After handing over crucial documents, the FBI helped Val’s French girlfriend and her seven-year-old son obtain visas to stay in the United States.

The New York Fed, an institution tasked with examining suspicious financial transactions, fined Deutsche Bank $41 million for anti-money laundering lapses weeks after Val provided some of his father’s documents to the law firm BakerHostestler, who in turn gave them to the Fed.

Email between Val and the lawyer confirming the transfer of documents to the Fed.

Email between Val and the lawyer confirming the transfer of documents to the Fed. Edited for clarity.

Val also transmitted documents to Italian prosecutors shortly before the convictions of ex-Deutsche Bank executives for their role in a scheme involving the largest Italian bank, Monte dei Paschi.

Top officials from Deutsche Bank and Monte dei Paschi colluded to cover up losses at the Italian bank. Between the years 2008-2012, the misconduct evolved into a criminal misrepresentation of the bank’s finances, part of which Val’s files suggested.

Many of the files that Val sent to Italian prosecutors from his father’s account included messages with Michele Faissola, a senior Deutsche Bank executive who recently received a prison sentence of four years and eight months for his role in the Monte dei Paschi scheme.

VTB Bank

The bank that allegedly underwrote Trump’s loans is one of the largest banks in Russia, and is majority owned by the Russian government. VTB (Vneshtorgbank) was placed on a sanctions list by the U.S. and the European Union in July 2014 as punishment for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, ensuring anyone who continued doing business with the bank after that date could be subject to criminal liability.

VTB returned to headlines in 2018 when Donald Trump’s former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, admitted that both he and Trump were told in 2015 that VTB would be the funder of the now-infamous Trump Tower Moscow project. Trump associate Felix Sater reportedly arranged for VTB to fund the project and worked to approve passports for a planned trip to Russia. As the election heated up, the trip became politically unpalatable and never occurred.

US sanctions on VTB at the time of the negotiations would have made the proposed funding for Trump Tower Moscow potentially illegal under American law. Cohen later pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about the Trump Tower Moscow project. In the Mueller report (Vol I, p. 85), Cohen admits that he spoke directly to a Kremlin assistant about the project.

It has also been revealed that Trump signed a letter of intent for the project in October 2015, months after he officially started his presidential campaign.

Deutsche Bank

Val told FBI officials that an American subsidiary of Deutsche Bank, where his father worked as Chief Risk Officer and sat on the Board of Directors, had closer connections to VTB than previously understood.

The subsidiary, Deutsche Bank Trust Company Americas (DBTCA), is a New York bank whose clients include Trump and other high-profile individuals. Records show that as of 2014, DBTCA employed only 700 people, compared to Deutsche Bank’s 10,000 American employees, most of whom are also stationed in New York.

Documents provided by Val, including a 2013 DBTCA “breach report,” show that DBTCA owed VTB at least €35.8 million, or approximately $48.6 million. That liability has not been previously reported. Deutsche Bank had already provided a $1 billion structural loan to VTB in 2007, raising questions about why additional liabilities were being incurred to DBTCA by VTB in 2013.

Part of the Deutsche Bank breach report showing their liabilities to VTB Bank totaling more than 35.8 million euros.


Val also shared knowledge that Trump’s loans were issued by DBTCA, not the main bank, and underwritten by VTB, ensuring that the Russian-owned entity would take the financial hit if Trump defaulted.

Records show that DBTCA’s total assets are around $40 billion. At the time Trump took office, he owed DBTCA approximately $350 million – nearly 1% of DBTCA’s entire assets. Trump still owes $350 million to the bank, and his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner owe the bank up to $50 million.



Forensic News doesn’t have paywalls. We don’t take corporate cash. Instead, we are entirely funded by readers like you.

Please consider becoming a patron today to support truly independent investigative journalism.



Trump and Deutsche Bank

Trump’s relationship with Deutsche Bank goes back 30 years and includes successes, failures, and multiple lawsuits between the two. Trump received over $2 billion in loans from the bank, and used the money to build golf courses and high rises, selling a large portion of real estate to secretive LLC’s and Russian mobsters.

In 2008, Trump sued Deutsche Bank after he was unable to make a payment on a $640 million loan he had received for Trump Tower Chicago. His claim was that he should be absolved from payment because Deutsche Bank helped cause the 2008 financial crash. Trump ultimately lost the case, which was resolved by both parties agreeing to settle for an undisclosed sum Trump was required to pay. In order to do so, he turned to yet another division of Deutsche Bank–DBTCA–and asked for another loan to pay off the first loan, which he also owed to Deutsche Bank.

DBTCA agreed, an arrangement characterized as “unheard of” by financial experts, according to the Times. Senior bank officials were later surprised to learn of the depth of the Trump-Deutsche Bank relationship and were baffled that Trump was largely debt-free.

Documents provided to Forensic News by Val confirm that Trump obtained at least some loans through DBTCA, not the main Deutsche Bank office. A bank spokesperson denied that Trump’s loans were connected to VTB, telling Forensic News that “more responsible news outlets have either investigated and avoided, or retracted, similar allegations as there is no truth to them.” They did not comment on possible sanctions violations or other Deutsche Bank connections to VTB.


The original documents for Trump’s Chicago loans are seen below. The Deutsche Bank signatories did not respond to questions for comment.
Donald Trump Deutsche Bank
Trump’s signature on the Chicago Deutsche Bank loan
Donald Trump Deutsche Bank
Deutsche Bank executives signing off on the Chicago loan

The relationship between Trump and the controversial German bank is also littered with unorthodox financial agreements. In 2010, Rosemary Vrablic, an executive in the DBTCA division of the bank who worked with Trump and Kushner, approved a $106 million loan to purchase the Trump Doral Resort in Florida despite an internal banking team’s estimation that Trump was overvaluing his assets by as much as 70 percent.

The bank approved a separate loan for $19 million to fund the Doral transaction even though the original loan was more than enough to cover the Doral’s price tag of $105 million. Trump also purchased the Washington D.C. Old Post Office and converted it into a hotel in 2013 primarily using a loan approved by Ms. Vrablic, despite the fact DBTCA did not usually finance real estate transactions.


At the same time that Deutsche Bank was lending large amounts of money to Trump, regulators were investigating the bank for allegedly laundering huge sums of illicit Russian cash. In 2017, DBTCA was fined $425 million by the New York State Department of Financial Services as part of a mirror trading schemeout of Moscow. “The department said Deutsche was moving money out of Russia by using a stock “mirror trading” strategy, in which its London branch would sell a trade that the Moscow branch bought earlier in the day.”

The bank was identified in 2019 as a central part of another Russian money laundering scheme designed to benefit Russian oligarchs. The $20 billion scheme involved a series of fake loans in the UK from 2010-2014. “Deutsche Bank was used to launder the money via its corresponding banking network – effectively allowing illegal Russian payments to be funneled to the US, the European Union and Asia,” the Guardian reported.

VTB and DBTCA

Forensic News also obtained emails, documents, banking records, and other communications from Val and others showing a closer relationship between VTB and DBTCA than previously reported.

Additionally, a separate set of documents from companies with business in Russia indicates that DBTCA acted as a correspondent bank and intermediary bank for VTB 24 – a previous subsidiary of VTB – even after sanctions were implemented in 2014.

A correspondent bank is one established by a banking institution to receive deposits from or make payments on behalf of another, usually foreign, financial institution. DBTCA acting as a correspondent bank for a VTB subsidiary post-2014 may have been a violation of U.S. sanctions, according to experts.

One document, included in the recent 29leaks cache of files, shows a UK-based company stating that DBTCA was the correspondent bank for VTB 24. The leaked document is a letter from a principal (Ayub Khan) in the company, Quantum Business Partners Ltd, attempting to make payments totaling $73,000 to a Russian company account. “I understand that [the] VTB bank…funds are currently held in the correspondent bank account in New York” the man writes. The bank in question is DBTCA, as seen below:

Document showing Deutsche Bank (DBTCA) as correspondent bank for VTB 24. DBTCA has loaned Trump over $2 billion.

Though the letter is not dated, additional leaked emails from the same man, Ayub Khan, show him instructing a business formations company to “activate telephone and fax” for his business in early May 2015.

Additionally, metadata for the document shows that it was scanned on May 15, 2015, almost a year after the original sanctions on VTB:


There is no indication that Quantum Business Partners or Khan have done anything wrong. Their story simply presents evidence of a continued relationship between VTB 24 and DBTCA after sanctions were levied.

Two otherdocuments, from two other companies with business in Russia list DBTCA as an intermediary bank for VTB. Intermediary banks usually help facilitate transactions. By definition, they are a middleman between the beneficiary bank and the issuing bank.

Trump Deutsche Bank. DBTCA as intermediary bank for VTB.

Document 1 showing DBTCA as an intermediary bank for VTB 24.

Trump Deutsche Bank. DBTCA as intermediary bank for VTB.

Document 2 showing DBTCA as an intermediary bank for VTB 24.


The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) did not respond to requests for comment on whether these documents suggest a sanctions violation. As a whole, the documents show a closer relationship between DBTCA and VTB than publicly known.

Conclusion

Val’s documents remain in the hands of federal investigators. Their contents have bolstered cases resulting in millions of dollars in fines and prison sentences for some Deutsche Bank executives overseas.

American law enforcement investigations into Deutsche Bank continue, while Val continues to search for answers about Deutsche Bank and his father’s passing.

The Trump Organization, VTB, and Rudolph Giuliani, the President’s personal attorney, did not respond to requests for comment.

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Fresh Cambridge Analytica leak ‘shows global manipulation is out of control’
« Reply #4066 on: January 06, 2020, 06:06:31 AM »
Fresh Cambridge Analytica leak ‘shows global manipulation is out of control’
Company’s work in 68 countries laid bare with release of more than 100,000 documents


Brittany Kaiser, the then director of program development at Cambridge Analytica, takes part in a press briefing by Leave.EU in London on November 18, 2015.
Brittany Kaiser, the then director of program development at Cambridge Analytica, takes part in a press briefing by Leave.EU in London on November 18, 2015. Photograph: Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images

An explosive leak of tens of thousands of documents from the defunct data firm Cambridge Analytica is set to expose the inner workings of the company that collapsed after the Observer revealed it had misappropriated 87 million Facebook profiles.

More than 100,000 documents relating to work in 68 countries that will lay bare the global infrastructure of an operation used to manipulate voters on “an industrial scale” are set to be released over the next months.

It comes as Christopher Steele, the ex-head of MI6’s Russia desk and the intelligence expert behind the so-called “Steele dossier” into Trump’s relationship with Russia, said that while the company had closed down, the failure to properly punish bad actors meant that the prospects for manipulation of the US election this year were even worse.

The release of documents began on New Year’s Day on an anonymous Twitter account, @HindsightFiles, with links to material on elections in Malaysia, Kenya and Brazil. The documents were revealed to have come from Brittany Kaiser, an ex-Cambridge Analytica employee turned whistleblower, and to be the same ones subpoenaed by Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Kaiser, who starred in the Oscar-shortlisted Netflix documentary The Great Hack, decided to go public after last month’s election in Britain. “It’s so abundantly clear our electoral systems are wide open to abuse,” she said. “I’m very fearful about what is going to happen in the US election later this year, and I think one of the few ways of protecting ourselves is to get as much information out there as possible.”

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg testifies to Congress after it was reported 87 million Facebook users had information harvested by Cambridge Analytica.
Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg testifies to Congress after it was reported 87 million Facebook users had information harvested by Cambridge Analytica. Photograph: Yasin Öztürk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The documents were retrieved from her email accounts and hard drives, and though she handed over some material to parliament in April 2018, she said there were thousands and thousands more pages which showed a “breadth and depth of the work” that went “way beyond what people think they know about ‘the Cambridge Analytica scandal’”.

Steele made a rare public intervention to comment on the leaks. He said that while he didn’t know what was in them, the context couldn’t be more important because “on our current trajectory these problems are likely to get worse, not better, and with crucial 2020 elections in America and elsewhere approaching, this is a very scary prospect. Something radical needs to be done about it, and fast.”

He said authorities in the west had failed to punish those practising social and other media manipulation, and “the result will be that while CA may have been exposed and eventually shut down, other, even more sophisticated actors will have been emboldened to interfere in our elections and sow social divisions”.

Kaiser said the Facebook data scandal was part of a much bigger global operation that worked with governments, intelligence agencies, commercial companies and political campaigns to manipulate and influence people, and that raised huge national security implications.

The unpublished documents contain material that suggests the firm was working for a political party in Ukraine in 2017 even while under investigation as part of Mueller’s inquiry and emails that Kaiser says describe how the firm helped develop a “sophisticated infrastructure of shell companies that were designed to funnel dark money into politics”.

Christopher Steele, the former MI6 agent, said the failure to properly punish bad actors meant prospects for manipulation of the election this year were worse.
Christopher Steele, the former MI6 agent, said the failure to properly punish bad actors meant prospects for manipulation of the election this year were worse. Photograph: Victoria Jones/PA

“There are emails between these major Trump donors discussing ways of obscuring the source of their donations through a series of different financial vehicles. These documents expose the entire dark money machinery behind US politics.” The same machinery, she says, was deployed in other countries that Cambridge Analytica worked in, including, she claims, Britain.

Emma Briant, an academic at Bard College, New York, who specialises in investigating propaganda and has had access to some of the documents for research, said that what had been revealed was “the tip of the iceberg”.

“The documents reveal a much clearer idea of what actually happened in the 2016 US presidential election, which has a huge bearing on what will happen in 2020. It’s the same people involved who we know are building on these same techniques,” she said.

“There’s evidence of really quite disturbing experiments on American voters, manipulating them with fear-based messaging, targeting the most vulnerable, that seems to be continuing. This is an entire global industry that’s out of control but what this does is lay out what was happening with this one company.”

"Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief. Do justly now, love mercy now, walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it."

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Iran probe finds Ukrainian plane turned back after 'problem'
« Reply #4067 on: January 09, 2020, 05:12:53 AM »
Follow the link for other images and video.

Ukrainian Flight 752 was on fire and seemed to be turning back before it crashed in Iran and killed 176 people, the first report into the disaster said



Sinéad Baker
1 hour ago
  • The first report into the Ukraine International Airlines disaster in Iran said that the aircraft was on fire in the air before it crashed and had turned back towards Tehran Airport, suggesting it was trying to return.
  • Iran's aviation authority released its preliminary report on Thursday, just one day after Ukrainian Flight 752 crashed in Iran and killed all 176 people on board.
  • The report said the plane encountered a technical problem, but did not specify what kind.
  • Other Iranian authorities had blamed a technical problem in the hours after the crash, but later walked back their statements.
  • Speculation is mounting that something else may have happened to the plane amid military tension between the US and Iran and as the airline defends its plane, maintenance, and crew.
  • The final investigation into the causes of the crash is likely to take many more months.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The initial report into the crash of Ukrainian Flight 752 in Iran, that killed all 176 people on board, concluded that the plane was on fire before it crashed, and that it appeared to be trying to turn back as it plunged to the ground.

Iran's Civil Aviation Organization's report into Wednesday's crash said that the jet encountered technical problems soon after it took off en route to Kyiv, Ukraine.

It did not elaborate on what sort of technical problem the plane may have suffered, but the idea that the plane was brought down by technical problems, rather than being shot down or facing another problem, is in line with those that had been released by Iranian authorities in the hours after the crash.

But some of those statements have been walked back since.

The preliminary report was released on Thursday, just one day after the crash, and is not intended as the final report into the disaster. Final reports into aviation disasters tend to take many months, or even years, to be published.

Thursday's report said the plane changed direction after encountering the unidentified technical problem and was facing the direction of Tehran airport when it crashed, suggesting it was trying to go back.

Ali Abedzadeh, the head of Iran's Civil Aviation Organization, said the plane did not make any distress calls.

The Ukraine International Airlines plane, a Boeing 737 800-NG, crashed just minutes after takeoff from Imam Khomeini airport. The airline has defended the plane's maintenance, saying it was only delivered in 2016 and had been inspected just two days before the crash.

In a statement released Wednesday, the airline also pointed to the experience of the crew. Ukraine International Airlines said the pilots on the flight both had a minimum of 7,600 hours of flight experience on Boeing 737 planes.

The report, which cited eyewitnesses on the ground, said that Ukraine International Airlines flight 752 created a massive explosion when it crashed. That was likely due to the fuel on board for the journey combusting, it added.

The report is in line with video footage that was shared by the semi-official Iranian Students' News Agency on Wednesday, which appeared to show the plane on fire in the air before it hits the ground, filling the sky with flames.

The content of the video, which can be seen below, and its connection to this crash has not yet been verified.

خبرگزاری ایسنا@isna_farsi

نخستین ویدئو از سقوط هواپیمای اوکراینی اطراف شهریار

Embedded video
1,304 people are talking about this

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky said it was Ukraine's priority to find the cause of the crash, while Canada's Justin Trudeau vowed to said: "Our government will continue to work closely with its international partners to ensure that … [the crash] is thoroughly investigated, and that Canadians' questions are answered."

63 of the people on board were Canadian citizens, Ukraine's foreign minister said.

But their vows come as speculation mounts over the cause of the crash, and Iranian authorities walking back initial assertions that a technical fault was definitely to blame.

Speculation is rampant as to the cause of the crash, and the investigation might not be totally straightforward

Speculation has mounted as to what caused the crash, and the investigation is already showing signs of political friction.

Iranian authorities said in the hours after the crash that it had been caused by technical problems, dismissing the idea that it could have been caused by a terrorist or military attack.

But Abedzadeh later told the Iranian news outlet Mehr that there was no evidence of technical problems, according to reporting by The New York Times. This was contradicted again by the report.

" data-content-type="image/jpeg" data-srcs="{"https://image.businessinsider.com/5e17027ef442311585685704":{"contentType":"image/jpeg","aspectRatioW":900,"aspectRatioH":599}}" alt="Iran crash" />
Relatives of the victims of the Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737-800 crash in the Iranian capital Tehran, react by a memorial at the Boryspil airport outside Kiev on January 8, 2020.
SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP via Getty Images

A spokesperson for Iran's military said the crash was not caused by Iranian military action: "They are spreading propaganda that the Ukrainian flight was targeted. This is ridiculous. Most of the passengers on this flight were our valued young Iranian men and women."

Ukraine's embassy in Tehran initially dismissed the idea of terrorism or a rocket attack soon after the crash, blaming an engine failure instead. That statement was later deleted and replaced by one that said the cause is unknown and is being investigated.

According to Reuters, the embassy said the earlier statement was based on preliminary information but was not official, and that Iranian authorities had asked the embassy to remove it.

Suspicion over what might have caused the crash has been heightened due to the increased tensions in Iran after the US assassinated its top general and Iran subsequently attacked bases housing US troops in Iraq.

Iran attacked two Iraqi military bases that housed US and coalition forces with ballistic missiles hours before the crash on Wednesday, but there is currently no suggestion that the two incidents are linked.

Ukraine said on Thursday that its investigators want to search the crash site for possible missile debris from a Russian missile, Reuters reported.

Peter Goelz, a former managing director of the US' National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), told The New York Times that: "Investigators should put consideration of an attack." 

Zelensky said on Facebook that "All possible versions of what occurred must be examined."

Iran, where the crash occurred, must mount an investigation under international law.

But such investigations also typically involve countries where many victims are from — in this case, Ukraine and Canada — as well as the plane's manufacturer.

In this case, political tensions between the US and Iran may prevent the NTSB, which often assists international investigations that involve Boeing, from getting involved.

It said on Wednesday that it is "monitoring the developments" and is working with US agencies to "determine the best course of action." 

Boeing, one of the US's biggest companies, may struggle to get involved.

Abedzadeh said that Iran's Civil Aviation Organization would not give the plane's black boxes to the company. He said the initial findings had been sent to the US, alongside other countries.

Sahar Esfandiari contributed reporting to this story

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Boeing's fired CEO had $62 million payout on the day 2,800 laid off
« Reply #4068 on: January 11, 2020, 03:45:55 AM »
Boeing's fired CEO got his $62 million payout confirmed the same day
2,800 people in the 737 Max supply chain were laid off




Kieran Corcoran
9 hours ago
  • Dennis Muilenburg, the recently-ousted CEO of Boeing, is leaving with a $62 million payout, the company said Friday.
  • The substantial award comes despite being fired for poor handling of the fatal crashes, aftermath, and continued suspension from service of the 737 Max.
  • Also on Friday other workers lost their jobs because of the 737 Max: 2,800 employees of Boeing supplier Spirit AeroSystems.
  • Spirit said the workers had to go because there was no work for them in light of Boeing suspending production of the 737 Max while it is grounded.
  • Unlike Muilenburg, they did not get large exit packages, and will instead receive 60 days' pay.
  • Visit Business Insider's home page for more stories.

The recently-fired CEO of Boeing is leaving the company with a package worth $62 million, the company said Friday — just hours after 2,800 workers lost their jobs over the 737 Max disaster.

Payout details for Dennis Muilenburg, who was ousted from Boeing in late December, were made public in a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

Muilenburg lost his job over Boeing's disastrous handling of two fatal crashes by the 737 Max in which 346 people died.

The jet was grounded ten months ago, in March 2019. It has no firm date to return to service and Boeing has stopped building new ones.

On his departure, Boeing stripped him of his bonus, any severance pay, and other incentives worth nearly $15 million.

However, that still left him with a parting package of $62 million made up of Boeing stock, pension payments, and other deferred contributions.

Meanwhile, rank-and-file aviation workers in Boeing's supply chain were cut lose without anything like that kind of compensation.

Earlier on Friday, Spirit AeroSystems, a Kansas-based manufacturer, which gets more than half its revenue from the 737 Max, announced layoffs for 2,800 workers at its Wichita facility.

When Boeing froze the 737 Max production line, it promised not to lay off any of its own staff.

But the loss of work proved devastating for suppliers like Spirit, which said in a statement that the grounding and production freeze left them little.

"Spirit is taking this action because of the 737 MAX production suspension and ongoing uncertainty regarding the timing of when production will resume and the level of production when it does resume," the statement said.

Spirit said it plans to lay off an unspecified number of workers at two plants in Oklahoma, and may also have to shed more workers at its Wichita base if 737 Max production does not recommence.

The laid off are due to receive 60 days' pay, Spirit said.

"Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief. Do justly now, love mercy now, walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it."

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You knew after the USA PATRIOT Act was passed that this was as inevitable as sunrise.

Revealed: US listed climate activist group as ‘extremists’ alongside mass killers
DHS listed activists engaged in non-violent civil disobedience targeting oil industry alongside white supremacists in documents



Pipes for the proposed Dakota Access oil pipeline, that would traverse North and South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois. Photograph: Nati Harnik/AP

A group of US environmental activists engaged in non-violent civil disobedience targeting the oil industry have been listed in internal Department of Homeland Security documents as “extremists” and some of its members listed alongside white nationalists and mass killers, documents obtained by the Guardian reveal.

The group have been dubbed the Valve Turners, after closing the valves on pipelines in four states carrying crude oil from Canada’s tar sands on 11 October, 2016, which accounted for about 15% of US daily consumption. It was described as the largest coordinated action of its kind and for a few hours the oil stopped flowing.

The five climate activists, members of Climate Direct Action, cut their way through fencing and turned the valves. The activists notified the energy companies whose pipelines were being disrupted and posted videos of their protest online and waited patiently to be arrested.

They’ve since been dubbed the “Valve Turners,” profiled in the New York Times magazine, and featured in a recent documentary titled The Reluctant Radical. Their trials have also tested the willingness of courts to allow climate activists to make use of the necessity defense – the idea that a criminal action is justified if it helps to prevent greater future harm–as part of a legal strategy.

But the group’s actions attracted the attention of the DHS.

In a recent intelligence bulletin evaluating domestic terrorism threats between 2018 and 2020, the department included the Valve Turners and described the group as “suspected environmental rights extremists”.

The document also listed two of the group’s members alongside violent white supremacists and other extremists who have engaged in mass killings, including the man behind the racist 2015 slaying of 9 black church-goers in Charleston, South Carolina.

The document obtained by the non-profit Property of the People through a Foia request defines domestic terrorism as “any act of violence that is dangerous to human life or potentially destructive of critical infrastructure or key resources” and that is intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population or government body. The assessment is directed at departmental leadership and is based on a review of roughly 80 violent incidents between 2014 and 2017, according to the document.

The document points to an uptick in “sabotage attacks” conducted by anarchist extremists, environmental rights and animal rights extremists against the Dakota Access pipeline in 2016 at the height of the pipeline protest. Nearly 800 activists have been tried on a variety of North Dakota state charges, in relation to the pipeline protests, according to Water Protector Legal Collective, a legal support organization.

This activity was met with heavy law enforcement presence, FBI and DHS surveillance, and aggressive military style tactics deployed by pipeline security contractors.

In addition to providing an overview of domestic terrorism threats the document includes an appendix summarizing select incidents over the past few years. Two of the Valve Turners are listed alongside violent white supremacists such as Dylann Roof and James Fields who have both been convicted of murdering innocent civilians. Roof killed 9 black churchgoers in a rampage in South Carolina. Fields drove his car into a group of activists protesting a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, VA killing one and injuring at least 19 others.

The document also states that “racial and environmentally themed ideologies” were among the primary drivers of terrorist attacks in the United States during this time.

Mike German, a former FBI agent who is now a fellow with the Brennan Center for Justice, wrote in an email that

the DHS framing is “highly misleading because white supremacists are responsible for the bulk of this violence and almost all of the fatalities that result,” German said in an email. “There is little evidence,” he added, “that environmentalists have engaged in the types of deadly violence that would meet the statutory definition of domestic terrorism, as codified by Congress”.

The Department of Homeland Security did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Sam Jessup, one of the activists named in the document, said the bulletin sheds light on the role law enforcement and intelligence agencies have played in suppressing dissent.

“Equating mass murder by white supremacists with what Michael and I did is totally obscene,” Jessup said in an email. “This whole infrastructure of so-called security has done little more than secure the future of the fossil fuel industry by terrorizing people into silence.”

Jessup, a 34-year-old who had served as a driver and videographer live streaming the action in North Dakota. Michael Foster, a former family therapist who lives in Seattle, turned the valve.

Foster said even though the action involved a high level of legal risk, it was a small price to pay in light of the cascading impacts of climate change.

“The only way to force society to change fast enough is to refuse to participate and fill the jails,” Foster said.

Both he and Jessup were convicted on felony conspiracy charges and Foster spent six months in jail. During closing arguments the prosecutor compared Foster to the Unabomber and the 9/11 hijackers. He’s now on probation and barred from engaging in direct action protest for another two years.

In the more than three years since the action , several states have passed legislation making it a crime to trespass on property containing critical infrastructure.The Trump administration has advocated for stiffer penalties against activists who engage in non-violent direct action targeting fossil fuel infrastructure.

Carl Williams, executive director of the Water Protector Legal Collective, which has defended a number of DAPL protesters, says the push to criminalize dissent is part of a larger right wing strategy that has also targeted the BDS movement and Black Lives Matter.

“I think there is a strategy that right wing forces are using to criminalize dissent,” Williams said. “This bulletin shows that dirty hand.”

But Williams also says it shows that these same movements are making inroads. “Liberation movements know that this is happening and we’re fighting against it,” he said. “They’re doing this because they’re afraid of the power of these movements.”
"Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief. Do justly now, love mercy now, walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it."

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Deaths From Drugs and Suicide Reach a Record in the U.S.
« Reply #4070 on: January 15, 2020, 06:41:50 AM »
Home of the Brave, Land of the Free,™ etc.

Deaths From Drugs and Suicide Reach a Record in the U.S.
A look at an analysis of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and what it means.



More than 150,000 Americans died from alcohol and drug-induced fatalities and suicide in 2017. Credit...Todd Heisler/The New York Times

The number of deaths from alcohol, drugs and suicide in 2017 hit the highest level since the collection of this type of federal mortality data started in 1999, according to an analysis by two public health nonprofits, the Trust for America’s Health and the Well Being Trust. To reach their conclusion, the two groups parsed the latest available data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

These causes killed more than twice as many as they did in 1999.

More than 150,000 Americans died from alcohol and drug-induced fatalities and suicide in 2017. Nearly a third — 47,173 — were suicides.

“There are two crises unfolding in America right now,” said Dr. Benjamin Miller, the chief policy officer for Well Being Trust and the founding director of the Eugene S. Farley Jr. Health Policy Center in Aurora, Colo. “One is in health care, and one is in society.”

Dr. Miller attributed the increasing disparities in health care and inequalities in income as crucial factors in the feelings of despair, loneliness and a lack of belonging that contributed to suicides among many Americans.

The grim statistics are fueled by synthetic opioid deaths.

Twenty years ago, less than 1,000 deaths a year were attributed to fentanyl and synthetic opioids. In 2017, more than 1,000 Americans died from synthetic opioid overdoses every two weeks, topping 28,000 for the year.

Most of the increase was concentrated in the preceding five years, when such deaths rose tenfold and the opioid epidemic became the leading cause of deathfor Americans under 55.

West Virginia and New Mexico had the highest number of deaths, the analysis showed, with Mississippi and Texas the lowest. By region, the Northeast had the highest opioid death rates followed by the Midwest. The South’s rate was nearly half that of the Northeast.

“The numbers are driven in no small way by pharmaceutical companies creating addicting drugs and clinicians inappropriately oversubscribing opioids,” said John Auerbach, president and chief executive of Trust for America’s Health.

Though doctors and drug companies have been taking steps to control opioid addictions, Mr. Auerbach said, patients who are addicted to prescription opioids often shift to synthetic ones, like fentanyl, which is 50 times more potent than heroin. Fentanyl has also snaked its way into other drugs like cocaine, Xanax and MDMA, widening the epidemic.

Suicides by gun increased 22 percent over the last decade.

Guns, which remain plentiful and accessible, were used in nearly half of the nation’s 47,173 suicides in 2017, the analysis showed.

Though most common with Caucasians, suicide by gun increased proportionally more among racial and ethnic minority groups, the study showed, especially among African-Americans and Latinos.

The rate among children and adolescents increased 16 percent.

Suicides can be the result of trauma that goes unrecognized or unaddressed — the loss of a job, home or death of a loved one, Mr. Auerbach said.

“Without the social cohesiveness and social support built within family,” he said, “people are experiencing trauma without what gave them resilience historically.”

While state legislatures passed 69 gun control measures in 2018, the measures are not reflected in this data, which were collected before 2018.

Suicide by suffocation rose 42 percent in the last decade.

There were 13,075 such deaths in 2017. Dr. Miller and Mr. Auerbach attributed this increase to copycat suicides.

“People get the idea from high-profile celebrities who die by hanging,” Dr. Miller said. In addition, the materials used in a hanging suicide are much more available than firearms.

On Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration approved a prescription treatment intended to help the 16 million adult Americans living with depression. Experts in treating depression said they were encouraged by the news, but remained cautious about the development.

Five states reported a dip in these types of deaths.

Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Utah and Wyoming saw decreases. In some instances, the numbers in these state were high to begin with, according to Mr. Auerbach, a former Massachusetts health commissioner.

He said that in response to the crisis, Massachusetts had begun to limit prescriptions of opioids; increase patient beds; focus on quality of care for patients who had suffered trauma; create suicide prevention programs for veterans; and reduce the stigma of suicide through public information campaigns.

“The old way was, ‘Don’t talk about it,’” he said. “The new way is, ‘Let’s talk about it.’”

Dr. Miller said: “It’s hard not to be discouraged. But I’m on the road a lot and what brings me hope is the innovation that’s coming up from local communities. We see communities rising to the challenge, and that’s what gives me hope.”

"Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief. Do justly now, love mercy now, walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it."

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Often Wrong But Never In Doubt
« Reply #4071 on: January 17, 2020, 10:33:24 AM »
Trump Melted Down at a Meeting With Military Leaders and Called Them Dopes, Babies, and Losers
Can you be impeached for knowing nothing about anything and caring less?




Win McNamee Getty Images


While even his most prodigious spokespeople teeter under Fox News questioning (!) about his relationship to Rudy Giuliani's Ukraine henchman Lev Parnas, it's worth considering that the scheme that led to the president's impeachment is just one of his various foibles. He could have been impeached, after all, for relentlessly obstructing justice in the Mueller probe. He could have been impeached for his blatant public corruption, which has reached the point where people have started renting large blocs of rooms in his hotels and not even bothering to stay in many of them. Gee, I wonder what they're getting out of it. Oh, and can you be impeached for knowing nothing about anything and caring less?

It's a question worth asking as a new book from Washington Post reporters Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig, A Very Stable Genius, begins to trickle out via excerpts. A New York Times review calls it "a comic horror story." The latest section published in the Post details a meeting Trump had at the Pentagon where he unwittingly laid out his attitude towards, well, everything, but specifically American military power: We can make some money off this. That was the only through-line as his senior defense and diplomatic and national-security advisers tried to tutor him in basic geopolitics and American history. Money. They owe us. We can get them to pay us.

“We should charge them rent,” Trump said of South Korea. “We should make them pay for our soldiers. We should make money off of everything.”
Trump proceeded to explain that NATO, too, was worthless. U.S. generals were letting the allied member countries get away with murder, he said, and they owed the United States a lot of money after not living up to their promise of paying their dues.
“They’re in arrears,” Trump said, reverting to the language of real estate. He lifted both his arms at his sides in frustration. Then he scolded top officials for the untold millions of dollars he believed they had let slip through their fingers by allowing allies to avoid their obligations.
“We are owed money you haven’t been collecting!” Trump told them. “You would totally go bankrupt if you had to run your own business.”

The president appears to view American military alliances as some kind of protection racket. He has openly mused recently about having Saudi Arabia straight-up pay for American troops. This is not the vision of service to the American republic and its Constitution most people have in mind with respect to our military service members. This is reportedly part of a general pattern in the book wherein Trump basically does not know anything about American history, the values and institutions of a democratic republic, or even geography.

President Donald J. Trump Watches Raid On Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s Compound
Everything’s under control. Just look at this staged picture.

HandoutGetty Images

In fairness, Trump offered some refreshing pushback against military brass who insist we must have bases everywhere, all over the world, always. The map of our installations abroad is mind-blowing. They're everywhere. Do we really have business deploying our troops and assets all over the place? Do we think there have been some negative consequences for our relentless meddling and interventionism?

The Adults in the Room in this scene talked a lot about The Post-War International Order, and that's been mostly good for us, but has it been good for everyone? Are their elements of it we might, uh, revisit? (Not that this president is the one to do it. That would require some capacity for strategic thinking.) We have Iran boxed in with bases all around and we wonder why they're getting twitchy, particularly after Trump shredded the Iran Deal because Obama—despite the fact they were complying—and re-instituted crushing sanctions on their economy.

Speaking of, that came up.

Trump then repeated a threat he’d made countless times before. He wanted out of the Iran nuclear deal that President Obama had struck in 2015, which called for Iran to eliminate its uranium stockpile and cut its nuclear weaponry.
“It’s the worst deal in history!” Trump declared.
“Well, actually . . .,” Tillerson interjected.
“I don’t want to hear it,” Trump said, cutting off the secretary of state before he could explain some of the benefits of the agreement. “They’re cheating. They’re building. We’re getting out of it. I keep telling you, I keep giving you time, and you keep delaying me. I want out of it.”

I don't want to hear it! the president said of dissenting information. And that right there, folks, is a nice microcosm of this presidency, which took the Bush-era disdain for inconvenient expertise and shifted it into overdrive. Who cares if they're abiding by the deal, reached in coordination with the other Western powers over many long years? I want it gone! The repercussions for this spasm of impulsive stubbornness was merely a war narrowly avoided, at least partly due to Iran's restraint.

US-POLITICS-TRUMP
Trump is pictured with then-Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford, with whom he shared some minor points of disagreement.

JIM WATSONGetty Images

Later on, Trump circled another decent point, demanding to know why we are still in Afghanistan. But of course he had to call it a "loser war" and attribute the attrition to military incompetence, rather than, as an ex-Navy SEAL once said on Fox News: "If you remember what Osama bin Laden said, he's willing to fight this for generations. Is the American people, and the western world, are we as committed as they are to this battle? I doubt that, highly." At some point, we will have to accept that the people who live there are more invested in the outcomes of our conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq than we are, not least because only a small slice of our population is truly fighting these wars.

Anyway, here's the president.

“You’re all losers,” Trump said. “You don’t know how to win anymore.”
Trump questioned why the United States couldn’t get some oil as payment for the troops stationed in the Persian Gulf. “We spent $7 trillion; they’re ripping us off,” Trump boomed. “Where is the f---ing oil?”

Even the Bush ghouls used to pretend this was about freedom and democracy.

It was at this point that the descriptions of the president went closer and closer to what you'd expect to hear about a large baby. This is a common trope in Presidential Coverage, wherein the president's staff and advisers talk bout him like he's a toddler and stories are framed around The Presidential Mood—as if he has no obligation to get his emotions in check and run the country. Surely, these outbursts of emotion would be similarly tolerated coming from a woman.

Trump by now was in one of his rages. He was so angry that he wasn’t taking many breaths. All morning, he had been coarse and cavalier, but the next several things he bellowed went beyond that description. They stunned nearly everyone in the room, and some vowed that they would never repeat them. Indeed, they have not been reported until now.
“I wouldn’t go to war with you people,” Trump told the assembled brass.
Addressing the room, the commander in chief barked, “You’re a bunch of dopes and babies.”

The emotional meltdowns and irrational spasms from the world's most powerful man are, according to the Times review, littered throughout the book. He reportedly considered awarding himself the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He suggested staff secretary Rob Porter's ex-wife, who accused him of assaulting her, had given herself a black eye to shake Porter down for cash. Nothing sticks out more consistently than the venality. Everything is a transaction, everything is about leverage, everything is about getting ahead no matter what the cost or what the rules are.

“It’s just so unfair that American companies aren’t allowed to pay bribes to get business overseas,” the president once whined to a group of aides. All that matters is money and power. How can I use one to get the other? But Times reviewer Dwight Garner really nailed the situation while bouncing off an incident at Pearl Harbor. Trump seemed to have no idea what'd happened in Honolulu. "Throughout," Garner says of the book, the president "is misinformed and confused while at the same time utterly certain of himself."

"Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief. Do justly now, love mercy now, walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it."

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National Archives exhibit blurs images critical of Fat Orange
« Reply #4072 on: January 18, 2020, 03:31:37 AM »
More government Newspeak in the Age of Trump. NARA, whose mission statement proclaims that public access to records "strengthens democracy" and allows citizens to "claim their rights of citizenship," explains that it "altered" these public records to "to keep the focus on the records.” Takes me back to the good old days of, "We had to destroy the village in order to save it."

National Archives exhibit blurs images critical of President Trump


The original, unaltered photo of the 2017 Women’s March in the District. An altered version appears in an exhibit at the National Archives. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Joe Heim


The large color photograph that greets visitors to a National Archives exhibit celebrating the centennial of women’s suffrage shows a massive crowd filling Pennsylvania Avenue NW for the Women’s March on Jan. 21, 2017, the day after President Trump’s inauguration.

The 49-by-69-inch photograph is a powerful display. Viewed from one perspective, it shows the 2017 march. Viewed from another angle, it shifts to show a 1913 black-and-white image of a women’s suffrage march also on Pennsylvania Avenue. The display links momentous demonstrations for women’s rights more than a century apart on the same stretch of pavement.

But a closer look reveals a different story.

The Archives acknowledged in a statement this week that it made multiple alterations to the photo of the 2017 Women’s March showcased at the museum, blurring signs held by marchers that were critical of Trump. Words on signs that referenced women’s anatomy were also blurred.

In the original version of the 2017 photograph, taken by Getty Images photographer Mario Tama, the street is packed with marchers carrying a variety of signs, with the Capitol in the background. In the Archives version, at least four of those signs are altered.

A placard that proclaims “God Hates Trump” has “Trump” blotted out so that it reads “God Hates.” A sign that reads “Trump & GOP — Hands Off Women” has the word Trump blurred out.

Signs with messages that referenced women’s anatomy — which were prevalent at the march — are also digitally altered. One that reads “If my vagina could shoot bullets, it’d be less REGULATED” has “vagina” blurred out. And another that says “This Pussy Grabs Back” has the word “Pussy” erased.

The Archives said the decision to obscure the words was made as the exhibit was being developed by agency managers and museum staff members. It said David S. Ferriero, the archivist of the United States who was appointed by President Barack Obama in 2009, participated in talks regarding the exhibit and supports the decision to edit the photo.

“As a non-partisan, non-political federal agency, we blurred references to the President’s name on some posters, so as not to engage in current political controversy,” Archives spokeswoman Miriam Kleiman said in an emailed statement. “Our mission is to safeguard and provide access to the nation’s most important federal records, and our exhibits are one way in which we connect the American people to those records. Modifying the image was an attempt on our part to keep the focus on the records.”

Archive officials did not respond to a request to provide examples of previous instances in which the Archives altered a document or photograph so as not to engage in political controversy.

Kleiman said the images from the 2017 and 1913 marches were presented together “to illustrate the ongoing struggles of women fighting for their interests.”

The decision to blur references to women’s genitals was made because the museum hosts many groups of students and young people and the words could be perceived as inappropriate, Kleiman said in the statement.

Kleiman said the National Archives “only alters images in exhibits when they are used as graphic design components.”

“We do not alter images or documents that are displayed as artifacts in exhibitions,” she said. “In this case, the image is part of a promotional display, not an artifact.”

When told about the action taken by the Archives, prominent historians expressed dismay.

"There's no reason for the National Archives to ever digitally alter a historic photograph," Rice University historian Douglas Brinkley said. "If they don't want to use a specific image, then don't use it. But to confuse the public is reprehensible. The head of the Archives has to very quickly fix this damage. A lot of history is messy, and there's zero reason why the Archives can't be upfront about a photo from a women's march."

Wendy Kline, a history professor at Purdue University, said it was disturbing that the Archives chose to edit out the words "vagina" and "pussy" from an image of the Women's March, especially when it was part of an exhibit about the suffragist movement. Hundreds of thousands of people took part in the 2017 march in the District, which was widely seen as a protest of Trump's victory.

"Doctoring a commemorative photograph buys right into the notion that it's okay to silence women's voice and actions," Kline said in an email. "It is literally erasing something that was accurately captured on camera. That's an attempt to erase a powerful message."

The altered photograph greets visitors to "Rightfully Hers: American Women and the Vote," an exhibit that opened in May celebrating the centennial of women's suffrage. The 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which was ratified in 1920, prohibits the federal government and states from denying the right to vote on the basis of sex.

"This landmark voting rights victory was made possible by decades of suffragists' persistent political engagement, and yet it is just one critical milestone in women's battle for the vote," reads a news release announcing the exhibit on the Archives website.

Archives spokesman John Valceanu said the proposed edits were sent to Getty for approval, and Getty "then licensed our use of the image."

A Getty spokeswoman, Anne Flanagan, confirmed that the image was licensed by the National Archives Foundation but said in an email Friday evening that Getty was still determining whether it approved alterations to the image.

Karin Wulf, a history professor at the College of William & Mary and executive director of the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, said that to ensure transparency, the Archives at the very least should have noted prominently that the photo had been altered.

"The Archives has always been self-conscious about its responsibility to educate about source material, and in this case they could have said, or should have said, 'We edited this image in the following way for the following reasons,' " she said. "If you don't have transparency and integrity in government documents, democracy doesn't function."
"Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief. Do justly now, love mercy now, walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it."

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Republicans Don’t Even Know What They’re Covering Up
« Reply #4073 on: January 19, 2020, 04:58:51 AM »
Republicans Don’t Even Know What They’re Covering Up

Photo: U.S. House of Representatives

By the time the House voted to impeach Donald Trump in mid-December, a grim anti-climactic feel had settled upon the proceedings. Senate Republicans, unimpressed by hundreds of pages of testimony and documents establishing the president’s scheme to extort Ukraine to smear his domestic opponents, would dispatch the articles of impeachment quickly and — as these things go — quietly. This was their strategy all along: Strip away the drama and turn impeachment into yet another partisan squabble, rather than a historic judgment on Trump’s unfitness for office. Their plan is to smother it with sheer boredom.

They may still succeed. But a series of revelations in the intervening month has opened up surprising new avenues of inquiry, forcing Republicans either to allow new evidence at the Senate trial or to openly cooperate in a cover-up.

So far, Republicans have dismissed the new evidence with juvenile logic games. “If the existing case is strong, there’s no need for the judge and jury to reopen the investigation. If the existing case is weak, House Democrats should not have impeached in the first place,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. (Obviously, the strength of evidence is a continuum, not a binary choice of either “strong” or “weak.” It can be strong enough to satisfy House Democrats yet not strong enough for Senate Republicans, in which case the higher bar merits additional evidence.) Senator Susan Collins expressed her lack of interest in new documents furnished in January by wondering “why the House did not put that into the record and it’s only now being revealed.” When a reporter replied that the documents had been blocked until then, she shot back, “Well, doesn’t that suggest that the House did an incomplete job, then?” The more new evidence of guilt that is revealed, the more evidence there is that the prosecution is weak. Therefore, it should be ignored.

Trump’s impeachment articles have two counts: First, abuse of power by manipulating foreign policy for personal gain, and second, obstruction of Congress by wholesale stonewalling. House Republicans essentially used the second count to negate the first. By seizing on tiny gaps in the evidentiary record — gaps that existed because Trump refused to release any testimony or documents — they denied Trump had withheld a meeting and military aid from Ukraine in order to force investigations.

Since then, evidence, some pried loose by lawsuits, has dismantled those defenses. A batch of emails released in late December showed the Office of Management and Budget ordered a freeze on aid almost immediately after Trump’s phone call with Ukraine’s president. Then, in January, another tranche of emails found the Defense Department raising concerns about the freeze’s legality. Weeks later, the Government Accountability Office deemed the freeze illegal, making moot the defense that Trump hadn’t technically violated laws. Also this month, former national-security adviser John Bolton, who had refused to testify before the House, announced his willingness to testify in a Senate trial.

The most explosive revelations came from a trove of documents turned over by Lev Parnas, a small-time hustler who was recruited by Rudy Giuliani to help run Trump’s extortion scheme. Parnas’s documents — thousands of pages of texts, WhatsApp messages, notes, and letters — widen the scope of suspected misconduct in Ukraine. They show him explicitly discussing firing the U.S. ambassador, Marie Yovanovitch, in return for then Ukrainian prosecutor general Yuriy Lutsenko’s supplying dirt on Biden, whom Lutsenko describes frankly and revealingly as “your opponent.”

The texts also introduce another participant in the scheme: Robert Hyde, a former Marine, whose texts with Parnas indicated he was surveilling Yovanovitch (“this bitch,” he called her in one) and hinted at plans to threaten or commit violence. Hyde, a Republican congressional candidate from Connecticut, has a history of erratic behavior, including alleged stalking and harassment, and was involuntarily committed to psychiatric treatment after an incident at the Trump National Doral resort in May. Parnas has dismissed those texts as unserious boasts —­ perhaps because they were, or perhaps because they incriminate him in a violent plot. Yovanovitch fled Ukraine on the next plane after being warned of an imminent threat. Hyde has also visited Trump’s White House and been photographed with the president at least eight times. The unresolved details of how Parnas got involved, and who paid for his work if he did any, might be illuminating.

Parnas’s physical evidence also corroborates his claims in the media that Trump approved his activities. “President Trump knew exactly what was going on,” he said in a prime-time interview with Rachel Maddow on January 15. Based on his sensational claims alone, Parnas may come off as an unreliable narrator, someone looking for a life raft after a federal indictment. But Parnas’s WhatsApp messages prove he was in the loop. He sent the text of an op-ed by John Solomon (a right-wing journalist who worked closely with Trump’s allies) to Lutsenko four days before it was published and knew about Yovanovitch’s firing a day in advance. (“The bomb is dropping tomorrow,” he wrote in a message to another Giuliani associate, GOP donor Harry Sargeant III.) He has a letter from Trump attorney Jay Sekulow to former Trump lawyer John Dowd saying, “The president consents to allowing your representation of Mr. Parnas.”

The White House has predictably dismissed Parnas’s credibility in the same terms it uses when other Trump flunkies rat him out. “This is a man who is under indictment and who’s actually out on bail,” said White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham. “This is a man who owns a company called Fraud, Inc.” (On a federal political-contributions form, Parnas actually listed his employer as “Fraud Guarantee” rather than “Fraud, Inc.,” which sounds only slightly more savory.) Perhaps the most damning specimen in the Parnas collection is a letter of introduction from Giuliani to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky. Giuliani wrote that he was representing Trump “as a private citizen, not as President of the United States,” and that he was doing so “with his knowledge and consent.” Perhaps sensing that the arrangement would strike Zelensky as untoward, Giuliani assured him it is “quite common under American law.”

It is, of course, extremely uncommon under American law for the president to have a private attorney negotiate on his behalf with a foreign head of state. One reason is that a personal lawyer might use the foreign-policy capital of the U.S. government not on behalf of the national interest but for the president’s personal gain. Another reason is that a private lawyer, not being paid or vetted by the government, might be beholden to some other financial interest. Giuliani represented Trump for “free” but was paid half a million dollars by Parnas’s company. In turn, Parnas received a million dollars from Dmytro Firtash, a Ukrainian oligarch closely linked to Vladimir Putin and the Russian mob.

At one point during the Watergate scandal, President Nixon discussed funneling hush money to the burglars. White House counsel John Dean cautioned him, “People around here are not pros at this sort of thing. This is the sort of thing Mafia people can do: washing money, getting clean money, and things like that … we are not criminals and not used to dealing in that business.” Trump is not so encumbered. His career was spent working with New York mobsters, bringing in mobbed-up figures like Michael Cohen and Felix Sater and relying on money launderers for cash. The Republican Party’s boredom strategy requires its members to maintain an aggressive, almost fanatical lack of curiosity about the growing roster of goons surrounding the president and a money trail that leads to Moscow. There have always been plenty of lowlifes hanging around Trump. His hangers-on seem to absorb his character. One thing the impeachment trial will measure is the degree to which this process has taken hold of the entire Republican Party.

*This article appears in the January 20, 2020, issue of New York Magazine. Subscribe Now!


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Re: National Archives exhibit blurs images critical of Fat Orange
« Reply #4074 on: January 19, 2020, 05:05:09 AM »
This didn't take long.


National Archives exhibit blurs images critical of President Trump


The original, unaltered photo of the 2017 Women’s March in the District. An altered version appears in an exhibit at the National Archives. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)


National Archives Apologizes for Censoring Protest Signs From Women’s March

Photo: Handout/The National Archives and Records Administration

The National Archives apologized on Saturday for using a censored image from the 2017 Women’s March on which it had digitally obscured mentions of President Trump and women’s anatomy on marchers’ protest signs. The non-partisan federal agency — which is tasked with documenting, preserving, and providing public access to U.S. government and historical records — had installed the altered photograph outside an exhibit looking back at the women’s suffrage movement. An agency spokesperson had originally defended the use of the photo as an attempt to avoid political controversy. That plan didn’t work out very well, and the ensuing scandal struck just as the fourth annual Women’s March returned to the capital.

The fallout began on Friday night, when the Washington Post called attention to a large lenticular image introducing the National Archives exhibit, “Rightfully Hers: American Women and the Vote,” which has been open since May and “examines the relentless struggle of diverse activists throughout U.S. history to secure voting rights for all American women.” In the display, depending on their viewing angle, visitors would see either a photograph of a women’s suffrage march up Pennsylvania Avenue in 1913, or of protesters marching up Pennsylvania Avenue during the Women’s March on Washington, as seen in its unaltered form below:

Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

The 2017 Women’s March on Washington was widely seen and experienced as a mass demonstration against the newly inaugurated President Trump and the threat he and his political allies represented to women’s rights. That cause was evident from many of the signs protesters carried that day, but in the image displayed at the National Archives, at least four signs were altered so that “Trump” and terms regarding women’s anatomy like “vagina” and “pussy” were obscured.

As a result, one protester’s sign said “God Hates [     ]” while another’s warned, “This [     ] Grabs Back.”

Archives spokeswoman Miriam Kleiman initially defended the changes in a statement to the Post, insisting that the agency removed Trump’s name from signs “so as not to engage in current political controversy” and in an attempt “to keep the focus on the records.” The agency also obscured the anatomy terms out of fear they could be seen as inappropriate for children visiting the museum.

Kleiman pointed out that the Women’s March image was not an artifact the agency was tasked with preserving, but part of a promotional display. She insisted the Archives “only alters images in exhibits when they are used as graphic design components” — but the agency did not provide the Post with any examples of previous alterations.

Historians and archivists who were reached by the Post and New York Times for comment about the image were aghast over the agency’s actions — as were many more instant experts on Twitter. The National Archives “foolishly compromised the public’s sense of its independence,” insisted a Post editorial, while Rinku Sen, the president of the Women’s March board, called agency’s move a “symbol of the degradation of democracy.”

By Saturday afternoon, less than 24 hours since the original Post report, the Archives had done a complete about-face. “We made a mistake,” the agency announced, emphasizing a commitment “to preserving our archival holdings, without alteration.” Though the Women’s March image was not an “archival record,” agency officials acknowledged that “we were wrong to alter the image,” and said they had removed the display and would replace it as soon as possible with the unedited original photograph.

“We apologize, and will immediately start a thorough review of our exhibit policies and procedures so that this does not happen again,” the statement concluded.

Afterwards, historian Douglas Brinkley told the Post he was relieved to hear that the National Archives was “out of the Photoshop business.” But other critics were less satisfied:

And now that the controversy had gained widespread media coverage, the man god originally hated on that uncensored sign may soon want to weigh in with a sign of his own protest.

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Worst People on the Planet Plan Richmond Event
« Reply #4075 on: January 20, 2020, 01:49:51 AM »
Richmond braces for giant gun rights rally on Monday




The Virginia State Capitol building is surrounded by fencing in preparation for a giant rally Monday by gun rights advocates. (Bob Brown/AP)

RICHMOND — The convoys and militias are coming, if social media posts are to be believed, headed to Virginia's capital to take a stand for gun rights — or, in the words of some, to fan the flames of a civil war.

“I’ll be rolling into town early. I can’t give you my exact time for security reasons,” said Christian Yingling, head of the Pennsylvania Light Foot Militia and a leader at the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville in 2017.

“I organized a convoy, places we can meet up and drive up together. I’ll be leading it,” said Tammy Lee, a militia activist in Oklahoma.

Both Lee and Yingling were members of groups that signed consent decrees never to return to Charlottesville while armed, part of a lawsuit settlement over the violence there. But there is no restriction against coming to Richmond.

Thousands will join them, they say, for a rally Monday on Capitol Square to protest plans by the new Democratic majority in the General Assembly to pass gun-control laws. State and federal officials were preparing for a volatile mix of weapons, passions and anti-government fervor. Central Richmond was braced for road closures and extensive police presence.

That was before President Trump decided to weigh in Friday afternoon on Twitter.

“Your 2nd Amendment is under very serious attack in the Great Commonwealth of Virginia,” Trump tweeted. “That’s what happens when you vote for Democrats, they will take your guns away. Republicans will win Virginia in 2020. Thank you Dems!”

Gov. Ralph Northam (D) last week declared a state of emergency and issued a ban on firearms or other weapons on Capitol grounds. The state Supreme Court upheld the ban after a challenge by two gun rights groups. The Federal Aviation Administration has issued temporary flight restrictions for Richmond airspace, making it illegal to fly planes or drones above the city on Monday. Northam has said officials are concerned about threats from weaponized drones.

On Thursday, the FBI arrested three alleged members of a white-supremacist group on gun charges, in part out of concern that they planned to attend the Richmond rally and incite violence.

The Virginia Citizens Defense League, a pro-gun advocacy group, sponsors what has always been a peaceful rally every year on Lobby Day, which coincides with the state’s Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. With children out of school and state offices closed, it is a time for citizens to come to the Capitol and lobby lawmakers on a variety of issues.

The pro-gun rally is always the most visible event, but this year it has virtually wiped out everything else. The Virginia Citizens Defense League has appealed for 10,000 supporters to show up unarmed to fill Capitol Square and asked several times that many stand outside with weapons.

Northam told all nonessential staff to stay home, and many lawmakers urged aides to stay away, though committees will still meet and both chambers will convene floor sessions. The young pages who run errands in the House and Senate were given the day off for safety.

The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence canceled its annual vigil and lobbying day, announcing the decision on Twitter “with a heavy heart.” The organization’s state director, Lori Haas, said it was because of “ongoing, credible threats to public safety that have been promoted … by gun extremists.”

One of Richmond’s staunchest gun rights Republicans, who needled Northam over the ban earlier in the week, closed ranks with the governor after a closed-door briefing on the security threats Friday.

“Any group that comes to Richmond to spread white supremacist garbage, or any other form of hate, violence, or civil unrest isn’t welcome here,” House Minority Leader Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) said in a written statement Saturday. “While we and our Democratic colleagues may have differences, we are all Virginians and we will stand united in opposition to any threats of violence or civil unrest from any quarter.”

Gilbert declined to discuss the content of the briefing, but his statement referred to efforts to “infuse” the event with a “twisted or extreme worldview.”

Outside the Capitol, authorities used tall chain-link barriers to create a pie-shaped pen for the rally. The area takes up about a third of Capitol Square, a manicured park dotted with monuments to historical figures ranging from Native Americans and George Washington to a segregationist governor and civil rights leaders. The monuments were protected with additional fencing, as was the Executive Mansion to the east.

The square is usually open on all sides to foot traffic. Under Northam’s emergency order, access is restricted to one spot, at Ninth and East Grace streets. Just inside that entrance, the crowd will be split into 17 lines for screening with metal detectors.

Anyone attempting to bring in weapons will be turned away, but police will not confiscate those items, officials have said. Demonstrators who do not want to part with their guns may remain armed on city streets. Authorities say they will cut off admission to the rally once the crowd hits a certain number, which they have declined to disclose.

Police expect rallygoers to start lining up Sunday night, despite freezing temperatures. Authorities are setting up two medical tents in the area in case of injuries.

The hoopla is focused on promises by Northam to enact sweeping gun control this year, including limiting handgun purchases to one per month, banning military-style weapons and silencers, allowing localities to ban guns in public spaces and enacting a “red flag” law so authorities can temporarily seize weapons from someone deemed a threat.

Democrats across Virginia ran on the promise of gun control in last year’s legislative elections, winning majorities in both the House of Delegates and state Senate for the first time in a generation. That gives them the power to act — and has inspired outrage from pro-gun activists.

More than 110 counties, cities and towns around the state have passed some type of resolution in support of gun rights, many of them “Second Amendment sanctuary” proclamations in which local officials pledge not to enforce laws they see as unconstitutional.

National militia and extremist groups have mobilized, with some making threats against elected officials. Many promise to use Virginia as the place to take a stand against what they see as a rising tide of anti-gun sentiment, invoking language of insurrection and civil war.

Not all of the heated rhetoric has come from outsiders.

Sen. Amanda F. Chase (R-Chesterfield), who plans to speak at the rally, warned on Facebook that authorities might send a troublemaker into the crowd — a “government plant,” she said — to cause a disruption as an excuse to arrest attendees on “domestic terrorist” charges.

Some far-left organizations have also expressed sympathy with the cause. A coalition of groups at the site Richmondcommunists.org issued a statement Friday slamming gun control as a means of keeping down the working class.

Antifa Seven Hills, a Richmond-based anti-fascist group, said in a recent email interview that it also opposes gun control. But although it claimed no interest in disrupting the rally, it called on the Virginia Citizens Defense League to “prevent racists and fascists from attending” and promised to “always confront fascist ideology when it shows up in our city.”

Yingling, the Pennsylvania militia activist, said he believes turnout will be big. “God, I hope it happens,” he said in a telephone interview. “Like it or not, the governor’s trampling on the rights of millions of gun owners. . . . People are upset, and they should be. He’s talking about people’s right to defend themselves.”

Yingling led his militia on the streets of Charlottesville for the rally there in 2017. He said they were not backing the neo-Nazis who defended the statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee, but were protecting the rights of all involved to exercise free speech. Monday’s rally is another case of the Constitution under siege, he said — this time over gun rights.

And yes, Yingling anticipates violence. He blamed Northam for pushing to limit access to guns.

“Let me make one thing unequivocally clear: I do not advocate for violence ever, ever,” Yingling said. “But if he [Northam] keeps pushing people, people are going to feel that they’re not going to have another choice.”

Yingling said law enforcement has been in contact with him ahead of the rally, but he declined to disclose what they talked about.

Lee, the convoy leader from Oklahoma, has promoted the Richmond rally in Facebook live videos. “I can absolutely not wait,” she said in one. “This may possibly be the first time that almost the entire patriot movement is there.”

But in a video posted Friday, she also expressed dread. “If you’re not apprehensive about going to this event, then I would worry about you and your mental state and your thought process,” she said.

In an interview, Lee said the convoy would kick off in Oklahoma on Saturday morning and swing through 10 states before its scheduled arrival in Richmond on Sunday afternoon. She declined to say how many vehicles or people would be involved.

Lee said she has participated in nearly 50 rallies in the past five years. That includes Charlottesville, which she attended as a member of the American Freedom Keepers. She later cut ties with that group.

In a recent video, she indicated that the gun rights movement was fractured over whether the out-of-state militias would help or hinder their cause in Richmond.

“While some don’t want outsiders coming in, it’s too late for that,” she said. “There are so many people woke to what’s happening … that I don’t think you could keep people away if you wanted to.”

Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, said he toured the grounds with Capitol Police on Friday to get a sense of the layout. He said he was hoping for a peaceful rally.

“The frustrating thing to me is, if something does happen, that’ll be all people talk about,” Van Cleave said. “My view is, we have no control. We’re telling police everything we know about and trusting them to do their job.”

"Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief. Do justly now, love mercy now, walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it."

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Terrifying graph shows how fast the Wuhan virus has spread so far
« Reply #4076 on: January 22, 2020, 04:09:04 AM »
Now landed with cases reported in Australia and the US.

This terrifying graph shows how fast the Wuhan virus has spread so far, and how close it is to becoming a global pandemic



An alarming graph shows how fast the Wuhan coronavirus has spread in the past two weeks alone and highlights how soon it could become a pandemic.

The bar graph was posted on Twitter by Cate Cadell, the China correspondent for Reuters, on Wednesday. 

It shows that in the last three days, the number of infections has risen sharply, as have the number of deaths, and the number of countries discovering infected people.

"Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief. Do justly now, love mercy now, walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it."

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Fracking fluids, NOW With Vitamin R
« Reply #4077 on: January 22, 2020, 04:54:26 AM »
Fracking brine is radioactive, and franking field workers are radiation workers. Who don't know it.

America’s Radioactive Secret

Oil-and-gas wells produce nearly a trillion gallons of toxic waste a year. An investigation shows how it could be making workers sick and contaminating communities across America



Justin Nobel is writing a book about oil-and-gas radioactivity for Simon & Schuster. This story was supported by the journalism nonprofit Economic Hardship Reporting Project

In 2014, a muscular, middle-aged Ohio man named Peter took a job trucking waste for the oil-and-gas industry. The hours were long — he was out the door by 3 a.m. every morning and not home until well after dark — but the steady $16-an-hour pay was appealing, says Peter, who asked to use a pseudonym. “This is a poverty area,” he says of his home in the state’s rural southeast corner. “Throw a little money at us and by God we’ll jump and take it.”

In a squat rig fitted with a 5,000-gallon tank, Peter crisscrosses the expanse of farms and woods near the Ohio/West Virginia/Pennsylvania border, the heart of a region that produces close to one-third of America’s natural gas. He hauls a salty substance called “brine,” a naturally occurring waste product that gushes out of America’s oil-and-gas wells to the tune of nearly 1 trillion gallons a year, enough to flood Manhattan, almost shin-high, every single day. At most wells, far more brine is produced than oil or gas, as much as 10 times more. It collects in tanks, and like an oil-and-gas garbage man, Peter picks it up and hauls it off to treatment plants or injection wells, where it’s disposed of by being shot back into the earth.

One day in 2017, Peter pulled up to an injection well in Cambridge, Ohio. A worker walked around his truck with a hand-held radiation detector, he says, and told him he was carrying one of the “hottest loads” he’d ever seen. It was the first time Peter had heard any mention of the brine being radioactive.

The Earth’s crust is in fact peppered with radioactive elements that concentrate deep underground in oil-and-gas-bearing layers. This radioactivity is often pulled to the surface when oil and gas is extracted — carried largely in the brine.

In the popular imagination, radioactivity conjures images of nuclear meltdowns, but radiation is emitted from many common natural substances, usually presenting a fairly minor risk. Many industry representatives like to say the radioactivity in brine is so insignificant as to be on par with what would be found in a banana or a granite countertop, so when Peter demanded his supervisor tell him what he was being exposed to, his concerns were brushed off; the liquid in his truck was no more radioactive than “any room of your home,” he was told. But Peter wasn’t so sure.

“A lot of guys are coming up with cancer, or sores and skin lesions that take months to heal,” he says. Peter experiences regular headaches and nausea, numbness in his fingertips and face, and “joint pain like fire.”

He says he wasn’t given any safety instructions on radioactivity, and while he is required to wear steel-toe boots, safety glasses, a hard hat, and clothes with a flash-resistant coating, he isn’t required to wear a respirator or a dosimeter to measure his radioactivity exposure — and the rest of the uniform hardly offers protection from brine. “It’s all over your hands, and inside your boots, and on the cuticles of your toes, and any cuts you have — you’re soaked,” he says.

So Peter started quietly taking samples of the brine he hauled, filling up old antifreeze containers or soda bottles. Eventually, he packed a shed in his backyard with more than 40 samples. He worried about further contamination but says, for him, “the damage is already done.” He wanted answers. “I cover my ass,” he says. “Ten or 15 years down the road, if I get sick, I want to be able to prove this.”

Through a grassroots network of Ohio activists, Peter was able to transfer 11 samples of brine to the Center for Environmental Research and Education at Duquesne University, which had them tested in a lab at the University of Pittsburgh. The results were striking.

Radium, typically the most abundant radionuclide in brine, is often measured in picocuries per liter of substance and is so dangerous it’s subject to tight restrictions even at hazardous-waste sites. The most common isotopes are radium-226 and radium-228, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission requires industrial discharges to remain below 60 for each. Four of Peter’s samples registered combined radium levels above 3,500, and one was more than 8,500.

“It’s ridiculous that these drivers are not being told what’s in their trucks,” says John Stolz, Duquesne’s environmental-center director. “And this stuff is on every corner — it is in neighborhoods. Truckers don’t know they’re being exposed to radioactive waste, nor are they being provided with protective clothing.

“Breathing in this stuff and ingesting it are the worst types of exposure,” Stolz continues. “You are irradiating your tissues from the inside out.” The radioactive particles fired off by radium can be blocked by the skin, but radium readily attaches to dust, making it easy to accidentally inhale or ingest. Once inside the body, its insidious effects accumulate with each exposure. It is known as a “bone seeker” because it can be incorporated into the skeleton and cause bone cancers called sarcomas. It also decays into a series of other radioactive elements, called “daughters.” The first one for radium-226 is radon, a radioactive gas and the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. Radon has also been linked to chronic lymphocytic leukemia. “Every exposure results in an increased risk,” says Ian Fairlie, a British radiation biologist. “Think of it like these guys have been given negative lottery tickets, and somewhere down the line their number will come up and they will die.”

Peter’s samples are just a drop in the bucket. Oil fields across the country — from the Bakken in North Dakota to the Permian in Texas — have been found to produce brine that is highly radioactive. “All oil-field workers,” says Fairlie, “are radiation workers.” But they don’t necessarily know it.

Tanks, filters, pumps, pipes, hoses, and trucks that brine touches can all become contaminated, with the radium building up into hardened “scale,” concentrating to as high as 400,000 picocuries per gram. With fracking — which involves sending pressurized fluid deep underground to break up layers of shale — there is dirt and shattered rock, called drill cuttings, that can also be radioactive. But brine can be radioactive whether it comes from a fracked or conventional well; the levels vary depending on the geological formation, not drilling method. Colorado and Wyoming seem to have lower radioactive signatures, while the Marcellus shale, underlying Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and New York, has tested the highest. Radium in its brine can average around 9,300 picocuries per liter, but has been recorded as high as 28,500. “If I had a beaker of that on my desk and accidentally dropped it on the floor, they would shut the place down,” says Yuri Gorby, a microbiologist who spent 15 years studying radioactivity with the Department of Energy. “And if I dumped it down the sink, I could go to jail.”

October 2, 2019: The Red Bird Injection well seen in the distance from Co Rd 3 in Vincent, OH. George Etheredge for Rolling Stone

Brine storage tanks at an injection well near Belpre, Ohio. The state is home to 225 injection wells. Felicia Mettler, a resident of Torch, Ohio, started a volunteer group that monitors brine trucks. One injection well sees more than 100 trucks a day, she says. Photograph by George Etheredge for Rolling Stone

The advent of the fracking boom in the early 2000s expanded the danger, saddling the industry with an even larger tidal wave of waste to dispose of, and creating new exposure risks as drilling moved into people’s backyards. “In the old days, wells weren’t really close to population centers. Now, there is no separation,” says City University of New York public-health expert Elizabeth Geltman. In the eastern U.S. “we are seeing astronomically more wells going up,” she says, “and we can drill closer to populations because regulations allow it.” As of 2016, fracking accounted for more than two-thirds of all new U.S. wells, according to the Energy Information Administration. There are about 1 million active oil-and-gas wells, across 33 states, with some of the biggest growth happening in the most radioactive formation — the Marcellus. And some regulations have only gotten weaker. “Legislators have laid out a careful set of exemptions that allow this industry to exist,” says Teresa Mills of the Buckeye Environmental Network, an Ohio community-organizing group. “There is no protection for citizens at all — nothing.”

In an investigation involving hundreds of interviews with scientists, environmentalists, regulators, and workers, Rolling Stone found a sweeping arc of contamination — oil-and-gas waste spilled, spread, and dumped across America, posing under-studied risks to the environment, the public, and especially the industry’s own employees. There is little public awareness of this enormous waste stream, the disposal of which could present dangers at every step — from being transported along America’s highways in unmarked trucks; handled by workers who are often misinformed and underprotected; leaked into waterways; and stored in dumps that are not equipped to contain the toxicity. Brine has even been used in commercial products sold at hardware stores and is spread on local roads as a de-icer.

“Essentially what you are doing is taking an underground radioactive reservoir and bringing it to the surface where it can interact with people and the environment,” says Marco Kaltofen, a nuclear-forensics scientist at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. “Us bringing this stuff to the surface is like letting out the devil,” says Fairlie. “It is just madness.”

The extent of any health impacts are unknown, mostly because there hasn’t been enough testing. Many doctors just aren’t aware of the risks. For a time, in Pennsylvania, doctors were even banned from discussing some toxic fracking exposures with patients — the controversial “medical gag rule” was struck down by the state’s Supreme Court in 2016. Also, cancer from radiation often emerges years after exposure, making it hard to pinpoint a cause. “It’s very difficult,” says Geltman, “to say the exposure is from the oil industry and not other things — ‘You smoke too much, drink too much’ — and the oil-and-gas industry is a master of saying, ‘You did this to yourself.’”

But a set of recent legal cases argues a direct connection to occupational exposure can be made. Expert testimony in lawsuits by dozens of Louisiana oil-and-gas industry workers going back decades and settled in 2016 show that pipe cleaners, welders, roughnecks, roustabouts, derrickmen, and truck drivers hauling dirty pipes and sludge all were exposed to radioactivity without their knowledge and suffered a litany of lethal cancers. An analysis program developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention determined with up to 99 percent certainty that the cancers came from exposure to radioactivity on the job, including inhaling dust and radioactivity accumulated on the workplace floor, known as “groundshine.” Their own clothes, and even licking their lips or eating lunch, added exposure. Marvin Resnikoff, a nuclear physicist and radioactive-waste specialist who served as an expert witness, says that in every case the workers won or the industry settled. “I can tell you this industry has tremendous resources and hired the best people they could, and they were not successful,” he says. “Once you have the information, it is indisputable.”

Radioactivity was first discovered in crude oil, from a well in Ontario, as early as 1904, and radioactivity in brine was reported as early as the 1930s. By the 1960s, U.S. government geologists had found uranium in oil-bearing layers in Michigan, Tennessee, Oklahoma, and Texas. In the early 1970s, Exxon learned radioactivity was building up in pumps and compressors at most of its gas plants. “Almost all materials of interest and use to the petroleum industry contain measurable quantities of radionuclides,” states a never-publicly released 1982 report by the American Petroleum Institute, the industry’s principal trade group, passed to Rolling Stone by a former state regulator.

Rolling Stone discovered a handful of other industry reports and articles that raised concerns about liability for workers’ health. A 1950 document from Shell Oil warned of a potential connection between radioactive substances and cancer of the “bone and bone marrow.” In a 1991 paper, scientists with Chevron said, “Issues such as risk to workers or the general public…must be addressed.”

“They’ve known about this since the development of the gamma-ray log back in the 1930s,” says Stuart Smith, referencing a method of measuring gamma radiation. A New Orleans-based lawyer, Smith has been trying cases pertaining to oil-and-gas radioactivity for 30 years and is the author of the 2015 book Crude Justice. In Smith’s first case, in 1986, a six-month-pregnant Mississippi woman was sitting on the edge of her bathtub and her hip cracked in half. Tests showed the soil in her vegetable garden had become contaminated with radium from oil-field pipes her husband had cleaned in their yard. “They know,” Smith says. “All of the big majors have done tests to determine exactly what risks workers are exposed to.”

“Protecting workers, individuals, and the community who are near oil and natural-gas operations is of paramount importance to the industry,” says Cornelia Horner, a spokeswoman with the American Petroleum Institute. But the organization did not reply to specific questions about workers’ exposure to radioactivity. ExxonMobil and Chevron recommended Rolling Stone direct its questions to the American Petroleum Institute.

Curtis Smith, a spokesman with Shell, says, “This subject is the focus of litigation that at least one Shell expert recently testified to as part of a formal deposition.…Our top priorities remain the safety of our employees and the environment. While the risk of exposure to radioactive elements in some phases of our operations is low, Shell has strict, well-developed safety procedures in place to monitor for radioactivity as well as a comprehensive list of safety protocols should radioactivity be detected.”

disposal problems

Oil-and-gas waste pits like this one in Lycoming County, Pennsylvania, vent radioactive radon gas, the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. Two recent studies show elevated levels of radon in homes near fracking operations. Photo credit: Joshua B. Pribanic/”Public Herald”

But the radioactivity in oil-and-gas waste receives little federal oversight. “They swept this up and forgot about it on the federal side,” says Smith, the attorney. When asked about rules guarding oil-and-gas workers from contamination, the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration pointed to a set of sparse letters and guidance documents, some more than 30 years old. OSHA conducted “measurements of external radiation doses to workers in the oil-and-gas industry,” a representative says. “The agency’s experience is that radiation doses” are “well below the dose limits” that would require the agency’s regulation.

“The Nuclear Regulatory Commission does not have statutory authority to regulate naturally occurring radioactive material,” says NRC spokesman David McIntyre. The agency has authority over “materials stemming from the nuclear fuel cycle,” he says, adding, “My understanding is that the Environmental Protection Agency is the federal regulator for…oil-and-gas wastes.”

“There is no one federal agency that specifically regulates the radioactivity brought to the surface by oil-and-gas development,” an EPA representative says. In fact, thanks to a single exemption the industry received from the EPA in 1980, the streams of waste generated at oil-and-gas wells — all of which could be radioactive and hazardous to humans — are not required to be handled as hazardous waste.

In 1988, the EPA assessed the exemption — called the Bentsen and Bevill amendments, part of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act — and claimed that “potential risk to human health and the environment were small,” even though the agency found concerning levels of lead, arsenic, barium, and uranium, and admitted that it did not assess many of the major potential risks. Instead, the report focused on the financial and regulatory burdens, determining that formally labeling the “billions of barrels of waste” as hazardous would “cause a severe economic impact on the industry.” Effectively, the EPA determined that in order for oil-and-gas to flourish, its hazardous waste should not be defined as hazardous.

So responsibility has been largely left to the states — a patchwork of laws that are outdated, inconsistent, and easy for the industry to avoid. Of 21 significant oil-and-gas-producing states, only five have provisions addressing workers, and just three include protections for the public, according to research by Geltman, the public-health expert. Much of the legislation that does exist seems hardly sufficient. For example, in Texas, the nation’s largest oil-and-gas producer, Department of State Health Services spokeswoman Lara Anton says the agency “does not monitor oil-field workers for radiation doses,” nor are workers, including brine haulers, required to wear protective equipment like Tyvek suits or respirators.

The first state to enact any protections at all was Louisiana, in the late 1980s. “It was the only environmental issue in Louisiana anyone ever sprang on me I didn’t know anything about,” says chemical physicist Paul Templet, who as the state’s lead environmental regulator at the time ordered a study on oil-and-gas radioactivity. The results horrified him.

disposal

Brine-spreading is used to suppress dust on dirt roads, but “there appears to be a complete lack of data indicating the practice is effective,” a 2018 study found. Photo courtesy of Babst Calland

The levels of radium in Louisiana oil pipes had registered as much as 20,000 times the limits set by the EPA for topsoil at uranium-mill waste sites. Templet found that workers who were cleaning oil-field piping were being coated in radioactive dust and breathing it in. One man they tested had radioactivity all over his clothes, his car, his front steps, and even on his newborn baby. The industry was also spewing waste into coastal waterways, and radioactivity was shown to accumulate in oysters. Pipes still laden with radioactivity were donated by the industry and reused to build community playgrounds. Templet sent inspectors with Geiger counters across southern Louisiana. One witnessed a kid sitting on a fence made from piping so radioactive they were set to receive a full year’s radiation dose in an hour. “People thought getting these pipes for free from the oil industry was such a great deal,” says Templet, “but essentially the oil companies were just getting rid of their waste.”

Templet introduced regulations protecting waterways and setting stricter standards for worker safety. The news reverberated across the industry, and The New York Times ran a front-page story in 1990 headlined “Radiation Danger Found in Oil Fields Across the Nation.” Another Times story that year reported that the radiation measured in oil-and-gas equipment “exposes people to levels that are equal to and at times greater than workers receive in nuclear power plants,” and that pending lawsuits “may ultimately decide whether oil companies can be held responsible for billions of dollars in expenses associated with cleaning up and disposing radioactive wastes at thousands of oil-and-gas sites around the nation.”

But the issue soon faded from the news. Discussion around it has remained mostly in the confines of arcane reports by regulators. Even in academia, it is an obscure topic. “There’s no course that teaches this,” says Julie Weatherington-Rice, an Ohio scientist with the environmental-consulting firm Bennett & Williams who has tracked oil-and-gas waste for 40 years. “You literally have to apprentice yourself to the people who do the work.” The lack of research and specialization has made it hard to reach a consensus on the risks and has facilitated the spread of misinformation. There is a perception that because the radioactivity is naturally occurring it’s less harmful (the industry and regulators almost exclusively call oil-and-gas waste NORM — naturally occurring radioactive material, or TENORM for the “technologically enhanced” concentrations of radioactivity that accumulate in equipment like pipes and trucks). But the radioactivity experts Rolling Stone spoke to dismiss the “naturally occurring” excuse. “It makes no sense,” says Kaltofen, the nuclear-forensics scientist. “Arsenic is completely natural, but you probably wouldn’t let me put arsenic in your school lunch.”

As for the “banana red herring,” as Kaltofen calls it — the idea that there’s no more radioactivity in oil-and-gas waste than in a banana — “I call bullshit,” he says. They emit two different types of radiation. The potassium-40 in bananas predominantly emits beta particles that barely interact with your body; radium emits alpha particles, which are thousands of times more impactful and can swiftly mutate cells. He compares them this way: “If I pick up a .45-caliber bullet and throw it at you, or if I put the same bullet in a .45-caliber pistol and fire it at you, only one of these things will cause you serious harm.”

An oft-cited 2015 study on TENORM by Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection determined there are “potential radiological environmental impacts,” but concluded there was “limited potential for radiation exposure to workers and the public.” But Resnikoff, the nuclear physicist, wrote a scathing critique of the report, saying it downplayed the radioactive gas radon, misinterpreted information on radium, and ignored the well-documented risks posed by the inhalation or ingestion of radioactive dust.

And this past summer, Bemnet Alemayehu, a radiation health physicist with the Natural Resources Defense Council, toured oil fields in Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania with Rolling Stone, taking samples, including some of Peter’s brine. Alemayehu’s report is due out later this year, but he says, “The data I am seeing is that some oil-and-gas workers” — including maintenance workers and haulers like Peter — “should be treated as radiation workers.”

disposal problems

A brine-truck crash near Carrolton, Ohio. Photo credit: Anonymous Carrolton Resident/Fractracker Alliance/Fractracker.org

Brine haulers are a ghost fleet. No federal or state agency appears to know how many drivers like Peter are out there, how long they’ve been working, how much radioactivity their bodies have accumulated, or where this itinerant workforce might be living.

But the Department of Transportation does have jurisdiction over the roads, and there are rules on hazardous materials. Any truck with a load that contains more than 270,000 total picocuries of radium-226 must be placarded with a radioactivity symbol, meet strict requirements for the container carrying the radioactive substance, uphold hazmat-training requirements for drivers, and travel only on approved routes. “That would generally mean not driving near a waterway or source of drinking water, or on routes through areas that may be more populated, or a school,” says a DOT spokesman. Resnikoff, who assessed the DOT rule in 2015, said the standard brine truck in Pennsylvania would be “1,000 times above DOT limits.” Which would mean they’re breaking the law. “There isn’t anything specifically preventing them from doing that,” says the DOT spokesman. Testing, he said, is the responsibility of the operator at the wellhead who dispatches the brine to the hauler, and so the system mostly relies on self-reporting.

Ted Auch, an analyst with the watchdog group FracTracker Alliance, estimates there are at least 12,000 brine trucks operating in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. He says he has never seen one with a radioactivity placard. “There are all sorts of examples for how often these things crash,” says Auch. In 2016, a brine truck overturned on a bad curve in Barnesville, Ohio, dumping 5,000 gallons of waste. The brine water flowed across a livestock field, entering a stream and then a city reservoir, forcing the town to temporarily shut it down. (The EPA safe drinking-water limit for radium is 5 picocuries per liter). In a 2014 crash in Lawrence Township, Ohio, a brine truck traveling south on Bear Run Road flipped over a guardrail and rolled down a steep bank, striking a home.

In the tiny town of Torch, Ohio, elementary school archery instructor Felicia Mettler founded Torch CAN DO, a volunteer group that monitors for spills and crashes of brine trucks. One injection well they track in the area sees more than 100 brine trucks a day, about one every 14 minutes. “This is why it’s so important we document everything,” she says. “I don’t think we’re gonna stop it today, I don’t think we’re gonna stop it five years from now, but someday it’s gonna help.”

Even without crashing, the trucks are a potential hazard. Haulers often congregate at local restaurants and truck stops where half a dozen or more brine trucks may be lined up in the parking lot, says Randy Moyer, a former brine hauler in Pennsylvania who says he quit the job when burning rashes and odd swelling broke out across his body after only four months. “I warn waitresses who serve guys getting out of these waste trucks,” says Gorby, the former DOE engineer — a driver sloshed with brine could be shedding dust particles with radium. “The consensus of the international scientific community is that there is no safe threshold for radiation,” says Resnikoff. “Each additional exposure, no matter how small, increases a person’s risk of cancer.”

In Pennsylvania, regulators revealed in 2012 that for at least six years one hauling company had been dumping brine into abandoned mine shafts. In 2014, Benedict Lupo, owner of a Youngstown, Ohio, company that hauled fracking waste, was sentenced to 28 months in prison for directing his employees to dump tens of thousands of gallons of brine into a storm drain that emptied into a creek that feeds into the Mahoning River. While large bodies of water like lakes and rivers can dilute radium, Penn State researchers have shown that in streams and creeks, radium can build up in sediment to levels that are hundreds of times more radioactive than the limit for topsoil at Superfund sites. Texas-based researcher Zac Hildenbrand has shown that brine also contains volatile organics such as the carcinogen benzene, heavy metals, and toxic levels of salt, while fracked brine contains a host of additional hazardous chemicals. “It is one of the most complex mixtures on the planet,” he says.

Officials found the creek in the Lupo incident to be “void of life” after the contamination, prosecutors said. But downstream, no one notified water authorities or tested water supplies for possible radioactivity, says Silverio Caggiano, a near 40-year veteran of the Youngstown fire department and a hazardous-materials specialist with the Ohio Hazmat Weapons of Mass Destruction Advisory Committee. “If we caught some ISIS terrorist cells dumping this into our waterways, they would be tried for terrorism and the use of a WMD on U.S. citizens,” says Caggiano. “However, the frac industry is given a pass on all of this.”

In Ohio, laws that enabled local communities to enforce zoning of oil-and-gas activities were systematically stripped during the 2000s and 2010s. Language snuck into one 2001 Ohio budget bill exempted the oil-and-gas industry from having to disclose safety information to fire departments and first responders. “A truck carrying brine for injection is the worst of the worst,” says Caggiano. “And it is going through your freeways, through your neighborhoods, through your streets, past your homes, past your schools, and the drivers are not trained in how to handle hazardous waste and don’t have to have a single piece of paper telling a fire chief like me what the hell they are carrying — it scares the fuck out of me.”

October 3, 2019: A portrait of Siri Lawson. George Etheredge for Rolling Stone

Siri Lawson became ill after brine was spread on the road near her home in rural Pennsylvania. Photograph by George Etheredge for Rolling Stone

In the summer of 2017, Siri Lawson noticed a group of Amish girls walking down the side of a dirt road near the horse farm where she lives with her husband in Farmington Township, Pennsylvania. The girls, dressed in aprons and blue bonnets, had taken off their shoes and were walking barefoot. Lawson was horrified. She knew the road had been freshly laced with brine.

Radioactive oil-and-gas waste is purposely spread on roadways around the country. The industry pawns off brine — offering it for free — on rural townships that use the salty solution as a winter de-icer and, in the summertime, as a dust tamper on unpaved roads.

Brine-spreading is legal in 13 states, including the Dakotas, Colorado, much of the Upper Midwest, northern Appalachia, and New York. In 2016 alone, 11 million gallons of oil-field brine were spread on roads in Pennsylvania, and 96 percent was spread in townships in the state’s remote northwestern corner, where Lawson lives. Much of the brine is spread for dust control in summer, when contractors pick up the waste directly at the wellhead, says Lawson, then head to Farmington to douse roads. On a single day in August 2017, 15,300 gallons of brine were reportedly spread.

“After Lindell Road got brined, I had a violent response,” reads Lawson’s comments in a 2017 lawsuit she brought against the state. “For nearly 10 days, especially when I got near the road, I reacted with excruciating eye, nose, and lung burning. My tongue swelled to the point my teeth left indentations. My sinus reacted with a profound overgrowth of polyps, actually preventing nose breathing.”

The oil-and-gas industry has “found a legal way to dispose of waste,” says Lawson, 65, who worked as a horse trainer but is no longer able to ride professionally because of her illnesses. Sitting in her dining room, surrounded by pictures she has taken to document the contamination — brine running down the side of a road, an Amish woman lifting her dress to avoid being sprayed — she tells me the brine is spread regularly on roads that abut cornfields, cow pastures, and trees tapped for maple syrup sold at a local farmer’s market.

“There is nothing to remediate it with,” says Avner Vengosh, a Duke University geochemist. “The high radioactivity in the soil at some of these sites will stay forever.” Radium-226 has a half-life of 1,600 years. The level of uptake into agricultural crops grown in contaminated soil is unknown because it hasn’t been adequately studied.

“Not much research has been done on this,” says Bill Burgos, an environmental engineer at Penn State who co-authored a bombshell 2018 paper in Environmental Science & Technology that examined the health effects of applying oil-field brine to roads. Regulators defend the practice by pointing out that only brine from conventional wells is spread on roads, as opposed to fracked wells. But conventional-well brine can be every bit as radioactive, and Burgos’ paper found it contained not just radium, but cadmium, benzene, and arsenic, all known human carcinogens, along with lead, which can cause kidney and brain damage.

And because it attaches to dust, the radium “can be resuspended by car movement and be inhaled by the public,” Resnikoff wrote in a 2015 report. Research also shows that using brine to suppress dust is not only dangerous but pointless. “There appears to be a complete lack of data indicating the practice is effective,” reads a 2018 paper published in the European Scientific Journal. In fact, it notes, the practice is “likely counterproductive for dust control.” As Lawson puts it, “It is a complete fucking myth that this works. After brine, the roads are dustier.”

But the new buzzword in the oil-and-gas industry is “beneficial use” — transforming oil-and-gas waste into commercial products, like pool salts and home de-icers. In June 2017, an official with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources entered a Lowe’s Home Center in Akron and purchased a turquoise jug of a liquid de-icer called AquaSalina, which is made with brine from conventional wells. Used for home patios, sidewalks, and driveways — “Safe for Environment & Pets,” the label touts — AquaSalina was found by a state lab to contain radium at levels as high as 2,491 picocuries per liter. Stolz, the Duquesne scientist, also had the product tested and found radium levels registered about 1,140 picocuries per liter.

“AquaSalina is 400-million-year-old ancient seawater from the Silurian Age” that “contains a perfect natural balance of chlorides uniquely suited for snow and ice management,” Dave Mansbery, owner of Duck Creek Energy, the Ohio-based company that produces AquaSalina, tells Rolling Stone. “We recycle and repurpose this natural water to a higher purpose.” He told regional news station WKRC that he soaked his sore feet in AquaSalina.

Mansbery said that he tested for heavy metals and saw “no red flags.” Asked if he tested for radioactive elements, he stated, “We test as required by the state law and regulatory agencies.”

“Every time you put this solution onto your front steps you are basically causing a small radioactive spill,” says Vengosh, the geochemist, who has examined AquaSalina. “If you use it in the same place again and again, eventually you will have a buildup of radioactivity in the sediment and soil and create an ecological dead zone.” But Ohio’s Department of Health concluded AquaSalina poses a “negligible radiological health and safety risk.”

“Reading their study shows it’s about equal to eating a banana a week,” says Mansbery. “Sorry, AquaSalina does not fit the narrative sought by many haters of the oil-and-gas industry.”

CPI Road Solutions, an Indianapolis-based snow- and ice-management company, sells hundreds of thousands of gallons of AquaSalina each winter to the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission and Ohio Department of Transportation, says Jay Wallerstein, a company VP. Supporters tout that the product has been approved by Pacific Northwest Snowfighters, the nation’s most-respected organization for evaluating de-icing products. But Snowfighters official Jay Wells says, “PNS has not tested AquaSalina for radioactive elements” and that “radium-226 is not a standard test for de-icing products.”

Meanwhile, Ohio is pushing forward with legislation to protect the practice of brine-spreading. State Senate Bill 165 would slash environmental safeguards and make it easier for products like AquaSalina to be developed. In Pennsylvania, Lawson’s case had led the state’s DEP to acknowledge brine-spreading violated environmental laws, and the practice was halted last year. But Pennsylvania House Bill 1635 and Senate Bill 790 unsuccessfully tried to greenlight brine-spreading again, and even restrict the DEP’s ability to test products. In October, the state Senate passed the bill without debate; its fate remains up in the air in the state’s House of Representatives.

On a sunny day in September 2018, I meet with Kerri Bond and her sister, Jodi, at an injection well next to a shopping plaza in Guernsey County, Ohio. As people dine on fast food and shop for the latest iPhone, trucks unload brine into giant tanks where it will wait to be shot back into the earth. The sisters, both nurses, had grown up wandering the region’s woods and creeks. “We thought it was Shangri-la,” says Kerri. In 2012, a leasing company held a meeting at a church in town, she recalls. “They told everyone they were going to be millionaires. People were high-fiving.” Residents signed documents enabling the Denver-based energy company Antero Resources to begin fracking on their land. As with many people who live near fracking operations, which involve storing and mixing toxic chemicals plus a torrent of carcinogenic emissions when drilling begins, Kerri and Jodi quickly started to notice problems.

October 3, 2019: A portrait of Fire Chief Sil Caggiano at the Youngstown, OH, Fire Department. George Etheredge for Rolling Stone

“A truck carrying brine for injection is the worst,” says Ohio fire chief Silverio Caggiano. “Drivers don’t have to have a single piece of paper telling me what they are carrying. It scares the f— out of me.” Photograph by George Etheredge for Rolling Stone

Animals on Kerri’s farm dropped dead — two cats, six chickens, and a rooster. A sheep birthed babies with the heads fused together. Trees were dying. One evening Kerri was watching a show about Chernobyl’s radioactive forests, and she felt like she recognized Ohio. She bought a hand-held radiation detector on Amazon and recorded radiation three to seven times the normal level for southeastern Ohio in her backyard, she says. In 2016, an Ohio Department of Health official visited and said not to worry as long as people weren’t exposed to these levels on a regular basis, she recalls. “Hey, dude,” Bond told him, “we are living here.”

Ohio, because of its geology, favorable regulations, and nearness to drilling hot spots in the Marcellus, has become a preferred location for injection wells. Pennsylvania has about a dozen wells; West Virginia has just over 50. Ohio has 225. About 95 percent of brine was disposed of through injection as of 2014. Government scientists have increasingly linked the practice to earthquakes, and the public has become more and more suspicious of the sites. Still, the relentless waste stream means new permits are issued all the time, and the industry is also hauling brine to treatment plants that attempt to remove the toxic and radioactive elements so the liquid can be used to frack new wells.

In Ohio, no public meetings precede the construction of these treatment facilities, many locals remain unaware they exist, and the Ohio Department of Health does not regularly monitor them. They are under the exclusive oversight of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

To store radioactive waste, or recycle, treat, process, or dispose of brine and drill cuttings, companies simply submit an application that is reviewed by the chief of the ODNR. They’re called “Chief’s Order” facilities, and Ohio has authorized 46 of them. Companies have to submit a radiation protection plan as part of the application, and ODNR spokesman Steve Irwin says all facilities are inspected regularly. But worker protections and knowledge of the risks still seem to be lacking.

In 2014, at a now-defunct Ohio company operating under Chief’s Order, EnviroClean Services, inspectors discovered a staff clueless of basic radiation safety, operating without protective gear, with no records or documentation for the waste they were receiving, and no instrument to measure it except a pocket Geiger counter that appeared to have never been used. One entry on the form documenting the inspection asks for an “Evaluation of individuals’ understanding of radiation safety procedures.” The inspector noted: “Unable to evaluate — no radiation safety procedures being used.”

Last April, I met with an oil-and-gas waste-treatment-plant operator at a restaurant beside a dusty truck stop in the panhandle of West Virginia. Cody Salisbury left Las Vegas as a teenager and bartended his way across the country before ending up in the Texas oil fields, he says, chowing down barbecue wings as we talk in a quiet corner booth, his phone buzzing repeatedly. “It comes as a sludge, a nasty mess, and we separate the solids, the oil, and the water,” says Salisbury, not divulging other treatment details but alluding to a secret sauce. He is upgrading a waste plant and has helped build two others in Ohio. The opening of one, just a few hundred feet from a nursing home, was attended by Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, who applauded the “regulatory relief” that made it possible.

Salisbury and all of the workers at his plants wear dosimeter badges, which measure external radiation exposure, and they’ve always registered low numbers, he says. Most oil-and-gas waste facilities in Ohio issue dosimeters to their workers, says an ODNR representative, and they haven’t observed anyone that’s exceeded the annual occupational-exposure limit. But dosimeters, says Kaltofen, the nuclear-forensics scientist, don’t register alpha particles — the type of radiation emitted by radium — and aren’t able to track what a person may have inhaled or ingested. So they aren’t providing insight into the key exposures these workers are likely incurring.

“These guys are so proud of their jobs,” says Weatherington-Rice, the Ohio-based scientist, “and they’re working with this stuff and they go home and they’ve got this on their clothes — they can end up contaminating their family as well. This is how this stuff works.”

I ask Salisbury if he and the workers have to wear radiation protective gear, and he shakes his head: “There’s not enough radioactivity in it — I ain’t never seen anyone wearing a respirator.” When asked if he is concerned about radon, he says he has never heard anything about it. “There’s more radioactivity coming off a cigarette, a banana, a granite countertop,” he says.

Even at facilities touted to be the best of the best, there still could be risks. Peter, the Ohio brine hauler, tells me about the Clearwater plant in West Virginia, a $300 million fracking-waste treatment facility completed in 2018 and run by a partnership between Antero and the French water- and waste-management company Veolia. Kevin Ellis, an Antero vice president, described the facility as the “best project like this in the world. Bar none. Period.”

The plant was abruptly “idled” in September after less than two years of operation because of a steep drop in gas prices. One day last year, before it closed, Peter and I drove out toward the hulking facility. As we approached, I saw thick plumes of whitish-gray steam rising out of a series of cooling towers. An engineering report the plant filed with the state showed emissions from treatment tanks were being vented to the atmosphere, after first being routed to a thermal oxidizer, a piece of equipment that can destroy hazardous pollutants — but not radon, says Resnikoff.

Neither Veolia nor Antero replied to questions on whether they were testing the steam for radioactivity. When asked if the agency was monitoring for such things, West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection official Casey Korbini said, “The WVDEP permits are in accordance with federal and state air-quality statutes, and radionuclides are not a regulated pollutant under these statutes.” He added, “This does not mean that radionuclides are prohibited; they are simply not regulated.”

“Son of a bitch, he’s loaded,” says Jack Kruell on a rainy evening this past spring. Kruell, a 59-year-old contractor, is watching a dump truck headed toward Pennsylvania’s Westmoreland Sanitary Landfill, just down the road from his home in Belle Vernon, about 25 miles from Pittsburgh. It’s been accepting fracking waste since 2010.

The end of the line for much of the radioactive solid waste produced from extraction, like drill cuttings and the sludge filtered out of brine, is the local dump. Kruell used to keep a pair of Geiger counters on the spice rack in his kitchen to monitor the regularly above-normal levels.

There are facilities that treat drill cuttings and sludges, “downblending” them with less-radioactive waste to obtain a brew with a radiation content low enough to be accepted at regional landfills. Otherwise, they have to be sent to a low-level radioactivity waste site out in Utah, says Troy Mazur, a radiation safety officer I speak to from Austin Master Services, a downblending facility in Martin’s Ferry, Ohio. “I would not like to divulge too much about our process internally,” says Mazur. “There is waste that comes in that goes directly to a low-level radioactivity site,” he says. “It is all based on an economic decision.”

October 2, 2019: A portrait of Jack Kruell in Belle Vernon, PA. George Etheredge for Rolling Stone

Pennsylvania resident Jack Kruell kept a pair of Geiger counters on his spice rack to monitor the radioactivity from a dump near his home outside Pittsburgh. Photograph by George Etheredge for Rolling Stone

A 2013 report co-authored by Resnikoff calculated that sending solid oil-and-gas waste like drill cuttings to a low-level radioactive-waste facility could mean as much as a 100-fold increase in cost, so there’s an incentive for companies to get the waste into a regional landfill.

A letter from a whistle-blowing employee of Westmoreland to one of Kruell’s neighbors last April told of “numerous overlooked DEP violations” and “dumping of frackwater material and sludge in excess of legal limits.”

The company “is getting away with everything that they can,” the letter said. “I am writing to you because I know your quality of life is being affected and I don’t want you to get a raw deal.” The Westmoreland Sanitary Landfill did not reply to questions from Rolling Stone.

But what worries Kruell most is a metallic dust he has noticed speckling his bushes and grass, and the pain he gets when he mows his lawn. “The day after I cut the grass, I have pain in my bones so bad I can’t move,” says Kruell. “Like someone taking a drill bit and drilling into your bone without anesthetic.”

“These are the people who I worry about most,” says Weatherington-Rice, because metals like radium can easily become airborne with small clay particles in dust. “You put it up on top of the landfill and put a wind over it, what do you think is going to happen?” she says. “Radioactive metals and other heavy metals are going to settle out over communities and people downwind. They are all hazardous, and they will all kill you eventually if you get enough of them in you.”

There are at least five landfills in West Virginia that accept drill cuttings, at least five in New York, 10 in Ohio, and 25 in Pennsylvania. Most of the drill cuttings are from fracking and can be radioactive. “We have never knowingly buried very large quantities of known low-level radioactive waste in a generic, municipal solid-waste landfill originally designed for household garbage,” Bill Hughes, an industrial electrician who served 15 years on a board overseeing the municipal landfill in West Virginia’s Wetzel County, wrote to the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection. The dangers involved, he said, “might not be known for generations.” In 2018, when I met Hughes, who is now deceased, he told me the issue of dealing with the industry’s radioactive drill cuttings “blindsided” state agencies. “They really weren’t sure how to regulate this,” he said.

The foul discharge of water passing through Westmoreland, called “leachate,” flowed downhill through a sewer pipe and into the Belle Vernon sewage-treatment plant, where superintendent Guy Kruppa says it was killing the microbes needed to digest the sewage. His facility has no ability to remove the radioactivity, he says. This means, as long as his plant was receiving the contaminated leachate, insufficiently treated sewage and radioactivity was being spewed into the Monongahela River, which runs through downtown Pittsburgh.

“What this place is, essentially, is a permit to pollute,” says Kruppa. “It’s a free pass to go ahead and dump it in the river, because we don’t test for that stuff, we don’t have to. It’s a loophole. They found a way to take waste that no one else will take to the landfill and get rid of it in liquid form. Essentially, we are the asshole of the fracking industry.”

Kruppa tried for months to make the Pennsylvania DEP act on the dilemma, but to no avail. “DEP has no evidence…that would indicate levels of heavy metals or radioactive elements in leachate,” says spokeswoman Lauren Fraley. The agency is not worried about the leachate entering Pennsylvania rivers. She says the DEP concluded there was “no immediate or significant harm to human health or the environment, given the enormous volume of water in the receiving river.”

But in May, a county judge ordered the landfill to stop sending the sewage plant its leachate. And there are risks even when there’s a large body of water to dilute the contamination: A 2018 study found that in Pennsylvania’s Allegheny River, oil-and-gas waste was accumulating in the shells of freshwater mussels.

“We are putting things in the river and don’t know what we’re doing, and we might be putting people at risk,” says Kruppa. “At times it seems like I am the only one not playing ball here, and everyone else, including the DEP, is turning their heads and telling us there’s no problem.”

Despite dire climate warnings, the U.S. oil-and-gas industry is in the midst of an epic boom, what a 2018 Department of Energy paper calls an “oil-and-gas production renaissance.” Pipelines, power plants, and shipping terminals are being developed across the nation at a dizzying pace.

But in the excitement of this boom there is little mention of the pipes, pumps, and filters in these plants that will become coated with radioactivity. Or of the fountain of radioactive brine and drill cuttings spewing forth from wells. Or of the workers being exposed, the land being contaminated.

“One question I ask these companies,” says Smith, the New Orleans lawyer, “‘What have you done to go out and find all the radioactive waste you have dumped all over the United States for the past 120 years?’ And the answer is nothing.”

A 2016 lawsuit by environmental groups forced the EPA to reassess its monitoring of oil-and-gas waste, which it had not done since before the fracking boom. But in 2019 the agency concluded “revisions…are not necessary at this time.”

When I checked in with Peter around the holidays he had collected a new batch of samples and said anxiety levels among brine haulers were at an all-time high. “The other drivers are getting scared,” he says. “Guys are wanting to get tested.”

“The workers are going to be the canaries,” says Raina Rippel of the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project, a nonprofit public-health organization that supports residents impacted by fracking. “The radioactivity issue is not something we have adequately unpacked. Our elected leaders and public-health officials don’t have the knowledge to convey we are safe.”

But knowledge is out there. Radium can be detected in urine; a breath test can pick up radon. Because radium builds up in bone, even a body buried in a cemetery could convey details of someone’s exposure, says Wilma Subra, a Louisiana toxicologist who first started tracking oil-and-gas radioactivity in the 1970s.

“There is a massive liability that has been lying silently below the surface for all these years,” says Allan Kanner, one of the nation’s foremost environmental class-action lawyers, whose recent cases have included PFAS contamination and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. “The pieces haven’t all really been put together, because the industry has not really been telling the story and regulators haven’t been telling the story and local doctors aren’t informed, but at some point I expect you will see appropriate and reasonable litigation emerge on this.”

If so, it could have a devastating impact on the fossil-fuel industry, especially if tighter regulations were put in place and oil-and-gas waste was no longer exempted by the EPA from being defined as hazardous waste. “The critical component of the profit margin for these companies is that they can get rid of the waste so cheaply,” says Auch of FracTracker Alliance. “If they ever had to pay fair-market value, they wouldn’t be able to exist.”

“It has been argued,” says Liz Moran, with the New York Public Interest Research Group, “that if you close the loophole, you would put the industry out of business.” When asked what would happen to the industry if the EPA exemption were removed, University of Cincinnati legal scholar Jim O’Reilly, author of 53 textbooks on energy development and other topics, replied with a single word: “Disaster.”

Radioactivity “is the way into the Death Star,” says Melissa Troutman, an analyst with the environmental group Earthworks. The industry is afraid of two things, she says, “losing money, and losing their social license.” The high cost of drilling relies on a continual infusion of capital, and “the number of operational risks and bottlenecks continues to grow,” states a 2018 article by the energy consultancy group Wood Mackenzie. But while the industry is continuously supported by Wall Street cash, social license may be a more difficult coffer to refill.

Paul Templet, the former secretary of the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality and the first state official to tackle oil’s radioactivity issue, is now 79 years old and lives with his wife in an adobe house in New Mexico. But he has to return to Louisiana once every couple of months to serve as an expert in lawsuits over oil-field contamination. In recent years, a growing group of landowners has discovered that the oil-and-gas wells that brought them riches also tarnished their property with heavy metals and radioactivity. “Almost everywhere we test we find contamination,” says Templet. There are now more than 350 of these legacy lawsuits moving forward in the state. Proceedings are sealed, and it is difficult to tally sums across all cases, but Templet says it’s fair to say that what began as a little nibble on the industry’s pocketbook has turned into a forceful tug. “They’ve known for 110 years, but they haven’t done anything about it,” says Templet. “It’s the secret of the century.”


"Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief. Do justly now, love mercy now, walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it."

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Re: Fracking fluids, NOW With Vitamin R
« Reply #4078 on: January 22, 2020, 05:27:15 AM »
Fracking brine is radioactive, and franking field workers are radiation workers. Who don't know it.

America’s Radioactive Secret

Oil-and-gas wells produce nearly a trillion gallons of toxic waste a year. An investigation shows how it could be making workers sick and contaminating communities across America



Justin Nobel is writing a book about oil-and-gas radioactivity for Simon & Schuster. This story was supported by the journalism nonprofit Economic Hardship Reporting Project

In 2014, a muscular, middle-aged Ohio man named Peter took a job trucking waste for the oil-and-gas industry. The hours were long — he was out the door by 3 a.m. every morning and not home until well after dark — but the steady $16-an-hour pay was appealing, says Peter, who asked to use a pseudonym. “This is a poverty area,” he says of his home in the state’s rural southeast corner. “Throw a little money at us and by God we’ll jump and take it.”

In a squat rig fitted with a 5,000-gallon tank, Peter crisscrosses the expanse of farms and woods near the Ohio/West Virginia/Pennsylvania border, the heart of a region that produces close to one-third of America’s natural gas. He hauls a salty substance called “brine,” a naturally occurring waste product that gushes out of America’s oil-and-gas wells to the tune of nearly 1 trillion gallons a year, enough to flood Manhattan, almost shin-high, every single day. At most wells, far more brine is produced than oil or gas, as much as 10 times more. It collects in tanks, and like an oil-and-gas garbage man, Peter picks it up and hauls it off to treatment plants or injection wells, where it’s disposed of by being shot back into the earth.

One day in 2017, Peter pulled up to an injection well in Cambridge, Ohio. A worker walked around his truck with a hand-held radiation detector, he says, and told him he was carrying one of the “hottest loads” he’d ever seen. It was the first time Peter had heard any mention of the brine being radioactive.

The Earth’s crust is in fact peppered with radioactive elements that concentrate deep underground in oil-and-gas-bearing layers. This radioactivity is often pulled to the surface when oil and gas is extracted — carried largely in the brine.

In the popular imagination, radioactivity conjures images of nuclear meltdowns, but radiation is emitted from many common natural substances, usually presenting a fairly minor risk. Many industry representatives like to say the radioactivity in brine is so insignificant as to be on par with what would be found in a banana or a granite countertop, so when Peter demanded his supervisor tell him what he was being exposed to, his concerns were brushed off; the liquid in his truck was no more radioactive than “any room of your home,” he was told. But Peter wasn’t so sure.

“A lot of guys are coming up with cancer, or sores and skin lesions that take months to heal,” he says. Peter experiences regular headaches and nausea, numbness in his fingertips and face, and “joint pain like fire.”

He says he wasn’t given any safety instructions on radioactivity, and while he is required to wear steel-toe boots, safety glasses, a hard hat, and clothes with a flash-resistant coating, he isn’t required to wear a respirator or a dosimeter to measure his radioactivity exposure — and the rest of the uniform hardly offers protection from brine. “It’s all over your hands, and inside your boots, and on the cuticles of your toes, and any cuts you have — you’re soaked,” he says.

So Peter started quietly taking samples of the brine he hauled, filling up old antifreeze containers or soda bottles. Eventually, he packed a shed in his backyard with more than 40 samples. He worried about further contamination but says, for him, “the damage is already done.” He wanted answers. “I cover my ass,” he says. “Ten or 15 years down the road, if I get sick, I want to be able to prove this.”

Through a grassroots network of Ohio activists, Peter was able to transfer 11 samples of brine to the Center for Environmental Research and Education at Duquesne University, which had them tested in a lab at the University of Pittsburgh. The results were striking.

Radium, typically the most abundant radionuclide in brine, is often measured in picocuries per liter of substance and is so dangerous it’s subject to tight restrictions even at hazardous-waste sites. The most common isotopes are radium-226 and radium-228, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission requires industrial discharges to remain below 60 for each. Four of Peter’s samples registered combined radium levels above 3,500, and one was more than 8,500.

“It’s ridiculous that these drivers are not being told what’s in their trucks,” says John Stolz, Duquesne’s environmental-center director. “And this stuff is on every corner — it is in neighborhoods. Truckers don’t know they’re being exposed to radioactive waste, nor are they being provided with protective clothing.

“Breathing in this stuff and ingesting it are the worst types of exposure,” Stolz continues. “You are irradiating your tissues from the inside out.” The radioactive particles fired off by radium can be blocked by the skin, but radium readily attaches to dust, making it easy to accidentally inhale or ingest. Once inside the body, its insidious effects accumulate with each exposure. It is known as a “bone seeker” because it can be incorporated into the skeleton and cause bone cancers called sarcomas. It also decays into a series of other radioactive elements, called “daughters.” The first one for radium-226 is radon, a radioactive gas and the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. Radon has also been linked to chronic lymphocytic leukemia. “Every exposure results in an increased risk,” says Ian Fairlie, a British radiation biologist. “Think of it like these guys have been given negative lottery tickets, and somewhere down the line their number will come up and they will die.”

//

Hey, but we're Number One in FF exports!

The final looting of the commons, combined with permanent lethal pollution.

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Inside the Religious Death Cult That Massacred Seven in Panama
« Reply #4079 on: January 23, 2020, 03:17:24 AM »
Inside the Religious Death Cult That Massacred Seven in Panama
A fundamentalist sect sacrificed multiple victims, including a pregnant woman and six children, in a remote jungle village. Its extremism was imported direct from the USA.




Jeremy Kryt

CALI, Colombia—At first glance, the story looks almost too twisted to be true, like some Heart of Darkness spin-off for the post-post-colonial age.

Joseph Conrad himself couldn’t have dreamed up an episode more gruesome and vile than the one Panamanian police stumbled onto last Tuesday, deep within a semi-autonomous indigenous comarca (district) of the Ngäbe-Buglé people. Authorities had been alerted by a handful of villagers who turned up at a hospital outside the comarca showing signs of violent beatings, their mouths and tongues roasted with burning sticks, telling tales as best they could of strange rituals going on in the jungle.

So the cops were prepared to find something bad out there in the selva, District Prosecutor Rafael Baloyes told local journalists. They just didn’t know how bad it would be.

Upon arriving at the hamlet of Alto Terrón—situated in northwestern Panama and lacking both electricity and phone service—investigators found at least 15 people being tortured in a thatch-roofed structure belonging to a sect called “Nueva Luz de Dios” (New Light of God). The victims, including two pregnant women, were bound on the floor before a ritually slaughtered goat. At least one woman was naked, and had likely been raped. Meanwhile, some nine “priests” were exhorting the prisoners to accept “the word of God,” while striking them with knives and machetes.

“All these rites were meant to kill them if they did not repent of their sins,” Prosecutor Baloyes said. Armed officers broke up the ceremony, cuffed the crazed clergy, and freed the detainees. Because the area was so remote, helicopters had to be called in to evacuate the wounded.

About a mile from the “church,” police found a shallow grave that held seven bodies, apparently belonging to victims who had not repented fast enough. One of these was Bellin Flores, 33, who had been six months pregnant when she was murdered. Five of the others were Flores’ children, aged 1 to 11. 

The five slain kids were the grandchildren of Mario González, 60, who stands accused of their deaths. The self-described “messiah” of the sect, González was also the father of the pregnant Flores, and allegedly killed her as well. The sixth victim in the grave, also a minor, apparently belonged to a family of the messiah’s unfortunate neighbors.

“One of [the priests] said that God had given them a message,” Baloyes said. It supposedly came in a dream, demanding that they cleanse the village through exorcism.

But others claimed the death cult wasn’t working on God’s behalf, at least not their God’s, at all.

A police officer photographs residents of the Ngabe Bugle indigenous jungle community of El Terron, Panama, on Jan. 17, 2020.

Arnulfo Franco/AP

An elected leader of the Comarca Ngabé Buglé, Ricardo Miranda, issued a statement decrying the Alto Terrón sect as demonic and saying it went against the Christianity traditionally practiced in the region.

“We demand the immediate eradication of this satanic sect, which violates all practices of spirituality and coexistence found in the Holy Scriptures,” Miranda said. 

Witnesses said the “New Light” group was relatively new to the area, having been active locally for about three months

Satanic rites. Child sacrifices. A messianic leader who slays his own family. These are the wicked and depraved parts of the story that have been making headlines throughout the hemisphere–the sensational angles that may give Trumpistas and Wall Builders fresh fuel for fearmongering, new talking points, under their breaths of course, about “savage brown people” south of the border.

Burned clothes of people killed in a religious ritual in the jungle community of El Terron, Panama, on, Jan. 17, 2020.

Arnulfo Franco/AP

But there’s another side to this tale that makes it even more Conradian, involving as it does traditional people’s cultural degradation, harsh economic conditions, and a hard-line, extremist version of Christianity exported to Panama straight from the good old U.S. of A.

Maybe the Ngäbe-Buglé are the ones who need the wall.

Theirs is the largest and most populous of Panama’s five indigenous districts. Some 96 percent of its 214,000 residents live in extreme poverty. There are few schools, clinics, and roads. Little local law enforcement. Almost no administrative infrastructure. 

“These people are forgotten by the state,” says Kevin Sánchez, a professor of anthropology at the University of Panama, who has lived and worked extensively among the Ngäbe-Buglé. Government presence, he says, "is practically nonexistent.”

Sánchez describes the area where the sect was located as extremely isolated, inhabited by an ethnic subgroup who speak a distinct dialect of the Buglé language and refer to themselves as the Uga Chere (We People).

Since the colonial era groups like the Uga Chere have been hounded by land- and resource-hungry outsiders driving them ever deeper into the bush.

EVANGELICAL EXTREMISM

During the 1970s, the region was targeted by a wave of zealous evangelical missionaries who came Bible-thumping down from the States, according to Sánchez. They proselytized a dogmatic brand of Christianity that allowed little room for native people’s ancestral beliefs and cultural traditions. Already isolated by language and rugged terrain, the Uga Chere proved particularly vulnerable to such foreign influence.

“The missionaries pushed them to forget their own history. They confused the people, and destroyed their cultural memory,” Sánchez said.

In place of an age-old belief system, the Uga Chere began to practice a “fundamentalist, highly conservative religion” based on a literal interpretation of the Bible “that radicalized the people.”

In the absence of a strong state presence, indigenous religious figures in outlying communities eventually assumed de facto authority to settle disputes and distribute land and property. Ambitious leaders also used their newfound power for personal gain, in some cases ruling communities like the priest-kings of old.

“And now seven people are dead, and many more are hurt,” Sánchez said. “This is the ultimate consequence of abandonment [by the state] and exploitation [by the missionaries].” 

As Conrad once wrote: “The belief in a supernatural source of evil is not necessary; men alone are quite capable of every wickedness.”

To that point, this self-proclaimed messiah and his fellow fanatics can’t hide behind their past religious victimization, nor pretend that the teachings of false prophets from afar exonerate their crimes.

Even so, said Sánchez, certain factors must be acknowledged by Panamanian prosecutors going forward, such as the fact that many of the Alto Terrón villagers—including victims, witnesses, and maniacal zealots alike—speak little or no Spanish. They will have limited understanding of a modern judicial system and how it differs from traditional methods of indigenous justice.

“Cultural roots need to be properly understood by authorities,” Sánchez said. “History must be taken into account.”

"Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief. Do justly now, love mercy now, walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it."

 

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