PREVENT REPUBLICANS FROM GUTTING LAND AND WATER CONSERVATION FUND


Exerpt from CREDO:

Tell Congress: Don’t gut the Land and Water Conservation Fund

  • “Fully fund and permanently authorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund. It is America’s most successful conservation law and the principal program for acquiring land for public recreation, habitat preservation, wildlife refuges, and national parks.”

In April, we celebrated Earth Day. Many people spent the day doing things to preserve and protect our natural environment. But Republicans in Congress took a radically different approach.

They held a hearing to find ways to gut the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) – the 50-year-old law that’s considered by many to be America’s most important and successful conservation program.1

This is just the latest assault in the war on America’s public lands that Republicans have been waging since the start of the new Congress – one we’ve been fighting at every turn. We can’t let this latest attack go unanswered.

If you’re keeping count, this is “strike three” for Congressional Republicans this year. First we fought back against their attempt to abolish the Antiquities Act, a 100-year-old law that allows presidents to protect public lands by designating them national monuments.

Then we fought against an attempt to turn back ownership of all of America’s public lands to states for sale to the highest bidder – which would allow pristine public lands that would become future national parks and monuments to instead fall into the hands of dirty oil and fracking companies.

Now, they’ve set their sights on the LWCF, a 50-year-old program, set to expire in September, that’s been the principal means through which we’ve acquired and protected new lands for national parks, public recreation, wildlife refuges, and habitat protection.

Their plan is to divert funds away from the program and strip it of its ability to continue acquiring land for public use. It’s a cynical attempt to keep new lands out of public hands and available instead to fossil fuel drilling, mining, and real estate companies.2

Fortunately, Democrats like Sen. Maria Cantwell and Rep. Raul Grijalva have offered bills that directly challenge this assault by fully funding and permanently authorizing the LWCF so that it no longer faces threats from Republicans who are eager to gut this vital program. We have to step in and support these efforts before that happens.3

Tell Congress: Fully fund and permanently authorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Go to CREDO Action to sign the petition.

Thank you for your activism.

Josh Nelson, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets
Hearing on the reauthorization and potential reforms to the Land and Water Conservation Fund

“Political sparring over the Land and Water Conservation Fund,” High Country News, April 17, 2015.

Cantwell: ‘Permanently Authorize and Fully Fund Our Country’s Most Successful Conservation Program’

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Voting Rights Denied For The Majority of Americans

TELL PRESIDENT OBAMA TO HAVE MARY JO WHITE TO STEP DOWN AS CHAIR OF THE SEC


EXCERPT FROM CREDO:

Tell President Obama: Time for Mary Jo White to go
The Securities Exchange Commission (SEC), the federal agency responsible for enforcing securities laws and regulating Wall Street, is broken. President Obama’s chair, Mary Jo White, is a big part of the problem. It’s long past time for her to go.

Just this week, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO), a respected government watchdog group, sent a letter to President Obama requesting that he ask Mary Jo White to step down as Chair of the SEC, and that he designate a new head of the agency.1

This follows closely on the heels of a scathing 13-page letter Senator Elizabeth Warren sent directly to White. Sen. Warren called out the SEC chair for refusing to move forward crucial rules, letting corporate criminal activity go unpunished and even lying to the senator about the status of pending regulatory matters.2

We agree with POGO and Senator Elizabeth Warren. Mary Jo White has been a disaster as head of the SEC. President Obama must take action immediately. The evidence is clear. It is time to tell President Obama, loud and clear: No more business as usual – Mary Jo White needs to go.

From her time as a U.S. Attorney giving financial criminals a free pass, to her lucrative stint as a private corporate defense attorney, White’s entire career represents the worst of the revolving door between Wall Street and government.

Senator Elizabeth Warren’s recent letter details a pattern of failure and misleading statements by SEC Chair Mary Jo White. While White immediately attacked Warren’s “mischaracterization” and said she is “very proud of the agency’s achievements under my leadership,” if anything Senator Warren did not go far enough.3 As the Project on Government Oversight and Center for Effective Government make clear, Mary Jo White needs to go. She has:

  • Backed “get out of jail free” cards for criminal banks, repeatedly voting to give big banks waivers allowing them to keep special perks despite breaking the law.4 White has even butted heads with reform-minded commissioner Kara Stein, who objects to these free giveaways to admitted criminals.5 As the fifth and tie-breaking vote on many issues, White regularly sides with Wall Street, not Main Street.
  • Overseen a paralyzed, Wall Street-friendly SEC. Reports describe White’s SEC as plagued “by discord and paralysis” and her office as “the cheese cellar: It’s where policy goes to age.”6 Rules have taken years to finalize, and her frequent need to recuse herself due to her background as a private defense attorney – and her husband’s current job as a corporate lawyer – has empowered Republicans to demand lighter punishments for corporate lawbreakers.7 In fact, White’s biggest fans appear to be Republicans, with Senator Mike Crapo praising her “flexibility” and rabidly pro-Wall Street commissioner Daniel Gallagher offering additional plaudits.8
  • Hired a Goldman Sachs managing director and Romney donor as her new Chief of Staff. After overlooking Wall Street fraud as the Director of Investment at the SEC in the run-up to the financial crash, Andrew Donohue was later richly rewarded as managing director at Goldman Sachs, where he oversaw the firm’s legal matters. In 2012, he made a generous donation to Mitt Romney.9 And now, in a disgusting example of the revolving door, he’s about to return to the SEC in the highly influential position of Chief of Staff to Mary Jo White.10
  • On top of it all, the Securities and Exchange Commission has settled the majority of its cases without requiring companies to admit guilt, breaking a key promise Mary Jo White made in her confirmation hearing. And not only has the SEC not finalized a rule to force companies to disclose how much more they pay CEOs than average employees despite overwhelming pressure from tens of thousands of CREDO members, White actually lied to Senator Warren about the timeline for releasing the rule.11 We’ve given Mary Jo White enough time to prove her detractors wrong. Her time at the SEC should now come to an end.

Mary Jo White has many defenders among the powerful and well-connected, and they won’t like us calling for her to go. When Senator Elizabeth Warren dared to criticize White, bank lobbyists took to the press to declare that Warren had finally gone too far.12 But CREDO members have never been shy about taking on big fights when that fight is important. Mary Jo White has had nearly two years to live up to her promises to get tough on exploitative banks and criminal corporations, and she has failed to do so.

As POGO wrote in its letter to President Obama, he has the power to name a new Chair of the commission, while letting Mary Jo White know that her services on the SEC are no longer desired. He could promote Kara Stein, “Elizabeth Warren’s ally on the inside.”13 Or he could replace Luis Aguilar, whose term is up soon, with a proven reformer and champion of Main Street who he also nominates as Chair. The Securities and Exchange Commission, with its wide-ranging responsibilities for overseeing private equity, hedge funds, Wall Street banks, and big corporations, is simply too important an institution to leave in her charge.

Petition to President Barack Obama:
“Replace Mary Jo White as Chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission with someone who will stand up to Wall Street.”

Go to the CREDO site below to sign the petition:

http://act.credoaction.com/sign/Mary_Jo_White?t=7&akid=14729.7785905.cUdxyb

Thank you for speaking out,

Becky Bond, Political Director
CREDO Action from Working Assets
Project On Government Oversight, “POGO Asks President Obama to Replace SEC Chair Mary Jo White, pogo.org, June 8, 2015.
Zach Carter, “Elizabeth Warren Has Had It With The SEC’s Aid To Wall Street Lawbreakers,” HuffingtonPost, June 2, 2015.
Patrick Temple-West and Ben White, “Did Elizabeth Warren go too far this time?,” Politico, June 2, 2015.
Elizabeth Warren, “Letter to the Honorable Mary Jo White,” Senate.Warren.Gov, June 2, 2015.
Patrick Temple-West, “Elizabeth Warren’s ally on the inside,” Politico, May 18, 2015.
David Michaels and Robert Schmidt, “The Agency That Barely Moves,” Bloomberg, May 21, 2015.
Ben Protess and Peter Eavis, “Political Fights Throw Sand in Gears of S.E.C.,” New York Times, May 28, 2015.
Alec MacGillis, “Mary Jo White Doesn’t Scare Anybody,” The New Republic, May 4, 2015.
“Andrew Donohue Donor Lookup,” OpenSecrets.org, Retrieved June 6, 2015.
Kevin G. Hall, “Goldman lawyer becomes SEC chief of staff,” McClatchy, May 28, 2015.
Warren, “Letter to the Honorable Mary Jo White.”
Temple-West and White, “Did Elizabeth Warren go too far this time?”
Temple-West, “Elizabeth Warren’s ally on the inside.”

Tell HHS and USDA: Don’t Cave to Big Meat on Nutrition Guidelines


Tell the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture:

  • “Don’t cave to the meat industry on sustainability in new dietary guidelines. Move forward with your recommendation that Americans reduce meat consumption as a way to improve health while also achieving environmental sustainability and food security.”

The U.S. government’s top dietary council is about to do something it’s never done before: Issue a set of dietary guidelines for Americans that seeks to improve public health while also taking into account the impact of dietary choices on our environment.

As a result, it has drafted an initial set of recommendations that includes one crucial piece of new dietary advice that it hasn’t made before: That Americans should reduce their meat consumption.

That advice has sent corporate meat industry behemoths into a lobbying frenzy, hoping to strip those recommendations out before the guidelines are finalized. And as we’ve seen before, major progressive victories can be lost in a last-minute push of corporate pressure. That’s why we need to step in now and show that Americans stand behind these bold new guidelines.

The new draft guidelines were released in a report by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, run jointly by the U.S. Department Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.1

While these recommendations are a major step in the right direction, they are also long past overdue. Researchers and experts have been citing a link between high meat consumption and diseases like obesity and heart disease for decades.2 And in global rankings of meat consumption per capita, the U.S. consistently ranks near the top of the list at number two, with the average American eating more than 200 pounds of meat every year.3

Those dietary choices not only imperil the health of Americans, but also the environment. The resource-intensive, carbon-producing impact of industrial meat has long been a major threat to natural resources, the climate, and sustainable food production, while plant-based diets lower in meat have been shown to have a significantly reduced environmental impact.4

And linking dietary choices to environmental impact is absolutely crucial for public health. As the report makes clear, Americans’ long-term food security is at risk when our food choices degrade the very environment and climate that are crucial for food production.

That’s why it’s long past time to implement these recommendations. But the corporate meat industry and its lobbyists have already spent millions to influence Congress and wage a dishonest PR pressure campaign on the dietary council.5 That’s why we need to fight back until these guidelines are made official.

Thank you for your activism.

Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines.
“Meat consumption is associated with obesity and central obesity among US adults,” International Journal of Obesity, June, 2009.
“Kings of the Carnivores,” The Economist, April 30, 2012.
Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines: Food Sustainability and Safety.
“Meat industry has a cow over US dietary guidelines,” The Guardian, May 19, 2015.

CREDO Action is a publication of Working Assets | credomobile.com

Contact CREDO Action to Make your voice heard in Washington

DON’T LET PEABODY COAL STICK US WITH ITS BILLION DOLLAR CLEANUP BILL


Petition to the Department of Interior:
“Strictly enforce cleanup insurance requirements for Peabody Energy and other coal companies. Any coal company that can’t pay for its mine cleanup costs should not be allowed to mine, with no exceptions.”

  • Where there’s coal mining, there’s toxic clean up. And coal companies are supposed to pay for it.

But a new investigation by Reuters reveals that America’s largest coal company, Peabody Energy, doesn’t have sufficient funds or insurance to clean up and reclaim its own mines.

If federal coal regulators don’t act, we could get stuck with the bill for billions of dollars in toxic cleanup costs.

Tell the Department of Interior: Don’t let Peabody Energy stick us with its toxic-clean up bill.

The report found that, after posting a $787 million loss in 2014, Peabody no longer qualifies for a policy known as “self-bonding” – in which coal companies are allowed to forgo private cleanup insurance if they possess sufficient financial resources.

This policy is in effect a massive subsidy to the coal industry, allowing them to reap substantial savings over buying insurance on the open market, and trusting that coal companies will act in good faith to clean up their mess in a timely manner.

It’s hard to think of an industry that is less deserving of our trust. The coal industry has already abandoned $4 billion worth of mines still in need of cleanup. And if the four largest coal companies alone were to file for bankruptcy, they would saddle taxpayers with $2.7 billion in mine cleanup costs, and no insurance to defray the costs.

Astonishingly, Peabody is pushing back, saying that it should still qualify for the program. But if federal regulators don’t force them to buy insurance, we’ll be on the hook for their mess if the company continues struggling financially in the face of declining coal prices and demand.

Regulators at the Department of Interior’s Office of Surface Mining and Reclamation and Enforcement are currently reviewing the self-bonding policy. And with the Obama Administration’s recent decision to open up vast new quantities of coal for mining in the Powder River Basin, this is a vital moment to make sure coal companies are held fully accountable

  • Tell the Department of Interior: If a coal company can’t afford to pay for mine cleanup, that company shouldn’t be allowed to mine.

Thank you for fighting to hold the coal industry accountable.

Elijah Zarlin, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets

GO TO CREDO ACTION AND MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD
“The U.S.’s Biggest Coal Company Can’t Pay To Clean Up Its Own Mines,” Think Progress, 6/8/15
“Coal giant Peabody faces federal scrutiny over clean-up insurance,” Reuters, 6/4/15
“Exclusive: U.S. examining coal cleanup program for shortfalls,” Reuters, 4/27/15
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PATRIOT ACT REFORM CURBED NSA; CYBERSECURITY BILL WOULD EMPOWER IT


BY LEE FANG @lhfang YESTERDAY AT 9:43 AM
INSIDE THE SECRET WORLD OF NSA ART

NSA BACKDOOR SEARCHES WOULD END IF HOUSE AMENDMENT SURVIVES

Only a week after Congress passed reforms to the Patriot Act ending the National Security Agency’s metadata phone collection program, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, with the help of big business allies, is moving to expand domestic surveillance of a different type.

On Tuesday, McConnell and Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., announced plans to attach the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act to the National Defense Authorization Act. (Update: On Tuesday afternoon, McConnell failed to get the 60 votes necessary to proceed with that particular way of passing the act.)

Though touted as a measure strictly to enhance cybersecurity through information sharing, privacy advocates say CISA is actually about cyber surveillance. The bill provides liability protection for businesses that voluntarily share “cyber-threat” data with the government. Big business has lobbied for CISA because companies see it as a way to shift some anti-hacking defenses onto the government, which would save them money.

But critics say CISA would not have prevented the high-profile hacks its supporters cite as evidence of the need for action. And Burr’s version of the bill creates a back-door channel for the government, including the NSA, to vacuum up huge new tracts of consumer data.

“Last week, the Senate made history when it passed the USA Freedom Act, taking a major step forward for Americans’ privacy,” said Robyn Greene, Open Technology Institute’s policy counsel in a statement. “Passing CISA would be like taking two steps back. CISA is essentially a cyber-surveillance bill that would empower the NSA and FBI by giving them access to vast new troves of Americans’ information, and let them use that information for investigations that have nothing at all to do with cybersecurity.”

As we noted earlier this year, CISA’s vague definition of a cybersecurity threat that triggers information sharing with the government includes “an imminent threat of death, serious bodily harm, or serious economic harm,” or information that is potentially related to threats relating to weapons of mass destruction, threats to minors, identity theft, espionage, protection of trade secrets, and other possible offenses.

The Center for Democracy & Technology also criticized McConnell’s move, noting that by attaching CISA to the defense authorization bill, he was moving to close debate and force it through Congress. The bill as currently written, CDT warned, risks “turning the cybersecurity program it creates into a back door wiretap by authorizing sharing and use of cyber threat indicators for law enforcement purposes that have nothing to do with cybersecurity.”

Unlike the debate around the Patriot Act last week, McConnell’s hand is strenghened by much of the corporate lobbying establishment. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and dozens of other major lobbying groups have partnered with the NSA to make CISA a priority for this Congress.

Though Democrats, including supporters of CISA, have come out against McConnell’s legislative maneuver, business groups moved swiftly to endorse his effort. The Financial Servicees Roundtable and Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, two major trade groups for big banks including Bank of America and Goldman Sachs, quickly released statements endorsing the strategy to attach CISA to the NDAA

Email the author: lee.fang@theintercept.com

PROPOSED TORTURE BAN AN IMPROVEMENT BUT STILL FALLS SHORT OF INTERTNATIONAL LAW


THE SENATE IS ABOUT TO VOTE ON LEGISLATATION WHICH WILL CHANGE SOME OF THE “BUSH-ERA ENHANCED INTERROGATION” TECHNIQUES. BUT, AS YOU WILL SEE IN THE ARTICLE BELOW, IT WILL NOT BRING THE U.S. INTO CONFORMITY WITH INTERNATIONAL LAW ON TORTURE.

PROPOSED TORTURE BAN INCLUDES NEW TRANSPARENCY AND OVERSIGHT MECHANISMS
BY SAM SACKS WEDNESDAY AT 11:54 AM
The Senate is poised to vote on a measure imposing a government-wide ban on torture — a prohibition that would be bolstered by provisions to bring detainee interrogation policy out of the shadows.

The move, proposed by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., would require the Pentagon and all federal agencies to conduct interrogations in accordance with the Army Field Manual, which forbids the worst of the Bush-era “enhanced interrogation” techniques documented last year by the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the post-9/11 torture program.

Senators could vote on the legislation, an amendment to the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), as early as Wednesday, as they consider a long list of related proposals.

The measure includes transparency and oversight mechanisms that would subject the field manual’s section on human intelligence to public scrutiny, and would compel the army to publicly release proposed changes to the guidelines 30 days before they take effect.

The White House-created High Value Detainee Interrogation Group would be required to determine “best practices” for interrogation. And the Pentagon, Justice Department, Director of National Intelligence and FBI would be required to reassess the field manual every three years.

The amendment would mandate that agency heads provide the International Committee of the Red Cross with access to prisoners.

The battle over torture has become a highly partisan and, as McCain described it, “very combustible issue” on Capitol Hill. McCain, himself a torture victim while a prisoner of war in Vietnam, has enlisted one fellow Republican, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, to co-sponsor the amendment along with Feinstein and Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I.

Human rights and transparency organizations are applauding the effort.

The group OpenTheGovernment.org released a statement calling the amendment a “meaningful step in the right direction.”

Human Rights Watch Senior National Security Counsel Laura Pitter said: “Requiring the CIA and other U.S. agencies to abide by one uniform set of interrogation rules will help prevent torture.”

She added, however, that these reforms wouldn’t be as effective in the future “if those responsible for torture in the past aren’t brought to justice.”

The amendment may fall short of a complete ban on torture since under the current version of the field manual, U.S. interrogators are still allowed to employ tactics that many would consider torture, including the use of stress positions, sleep interruption and sensory deprivation. A taskforce of medical ethicists urged the administration in 2013 to make changes to the manual, noting that it permits techniques that are “recognized under international law as forms of torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.”

Email the author: samsacks@districtsentinel.com