Friday, April 29, 2011

Natural Gas Drilling Is at a Crucial Turning Point

by Abrahm Lustgarten ProPublica,

ProPublica has been covering gas drilling since 2008. When The Guardian asked us to participate in a series it is running about hydraulic fracturing and natural gas, we wrote this analysis of how Europe might learn from the problems we’ve uncovered in the United States.

First, a wave of new natural gas drilling swept across the United States. Mountain and pastoral landscapes were transformed into landscape-scale factories that optimistically promised a century's worth of clean-burning fuel and a risk-free solution to dependence on imported oil. In 2008, it seemed the ultimate win-win in an era of hard choices.

Later, more sobering facts began to complicate things. The drilling relies on an invasive process called hydraulic fracturing, [1] or "fracking," that uses brute force and dangerous chemicals to crack open the Earth and extract the gas from previously unreachable deep deposits.

Where the drilling and fracturing happened, water wells sometimes became contaminated. Waste pits leaked into aquifers. Large quantities of fresh water were used. Mountain glaciers and Wyoming valleys became shrouded in smog. Reports began to emerge that natural gas might cause almost as much greenhouse gas pollution as coal [2].

Now the industry is at a crucial point. Even as the hard lessons have come into focus, the myriad opportunities presented by this vast fuel source have made its development inevitable.

In the United States, President Barack Obama stands firmly behind expanded natural gas use and the local economic development it brings. In the next 10 years, the United States will use the fracturing technology to drill hundreds of thousands of wells in cities, rivers and watersheds. Drilling – along with fracking – is fast expanding across Europe, South Africa and Russia. And it will not stop while oil prices are at record highs, the Middle East is in turmoil and nuclear energy is bogged down by global distrust after the Fukushima crisis.

The industry and governments need to figure out how to scale up gas drilling safely and how to learn from the mistakes in the United States where the fracturing technology was first put to commercial use. The problem is that despite their head start, U.S. scientists and regulators have not answered crucial questions about the risks.

Where will the vast amounts of water for fracturing come from, and how will the waste water be safely disposed of?

Are regulations in place to make sure the industry extracts the gas as safely as possible and that underground sources of drinking water are protected?

And what, exactly, happens when bedrock is shattered and filled with chemicals deep underground?

It remains unclear, for example, how far the tiny fissures that radiate through the bedrock from hydraulic fracturing might reach.

Or whether they can connect underground passageways or open cracks into groundwater aquifers that could allow the chemical solution to escape into drinking water, as methane from these wells has been proven to have done.

And it is not certain that the chemicals – some, such as benzene, are known to cause cancer – are adequately contained by either the well structure beneath the Earth or by the people, pipelines and trucks that handle it on the surface. Almost no research exists into these issues.

Rather than learning from the environmental problems, the drilling industry has insisted they are not its fault. It maintains the fracturing happens thousands of feet from water supplies and below layers of impenetrable rock that seal the world above from what happens down below. There is no reason for concern, they say.

Yet there is. And the frequent cases of contamination and well control problems across the United States that have come to light through several ProPublica investigations [3] prove it. Even if layers of rock can seal water supplies from the layer where fluid is injected, the gas well itself creates an opening in that layer.

The well bore is supposed to be surrounded by cement, but often there are large empty pockets or the cement cracks under pressure. In many instances, the high pressure of the fluids being injected into the ground has created leaks of gas – and sometimes fluids – into surrounding water supplies..

This is partly why the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has undertaken a nationwide study [4] into the lifecycle impacts of fracking, for the first time. The next step will be to use the findings to inform a rigorous system of oversight so drilling happens in the best, most technologically advanced and safest way possible.

In the United States that is going to be tough, because the federal government does not regulate hydraulic fracturing. Oversight is left to states where regulations vary widely. Europe, where disparate governments oversee a shared continuous natural landscape, may face similar challenges.The energy industry already knows how to prevent water pollution and how to sharply reduce toxic air emissions, for example. Drilling companies have figured out how to drill wells with fewer toxic chemicals, so it can enclose wastewater. In the US, legislators are considering a baseline set of rules with higher standards which would make fracturing slightly more expensive than the industry has wanted, but also offer an opportunity for consistency, predictability and the streamlining of operations.

For places already coping with the environmental consequences of drilling, that will boost confidence that natural gas can be harvested safely. It will also lead to political and regulatory stability that will end up saving the industry money. And only then can drilling for gas be the win-win it was promised to be.

Follow on Twitter: @AbrahmL [5]


 

Movie times this weekend





The Super

Saturday, April 30th - 3:00, 6:00, 8:00
Sunday, May 1st - 3:00, 6:00, 8:00
Monday, May 2nd - 6:00 and 8:00
Tuesday, May 3rd - 6:00 and 8:00
Wednesday, May 4th - 3:00, 6:00, 8:00
Thursday May 5th - 6:00 and 8:00

When his wife (Liv Tyler) falls in league with a drug dealer, average guy Frank D'Arbo (Rainn Wilson) dons the guise of a superhero, dubs himself the Crimson Bolt and tries to keep a tagalong comic-book store clerk (Ellen Page) from becoming his sidekick. But it's hard to be a superhero when all you've got to work with is a pipe wrench. Kevin Bacon co-stars in this action-driven dramedy from writer-director James Gunn.



 

Regal Columbia Cinema 7

3400 Forest Drive Suite 3000, Columbia, SC 29204

Dylan Dog: Dead of Nightnew! (PG-13)

2:25 4:55 7:30 10:10

Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evilnew! (PG)

2:15pm

Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil 3D new! (PG)

4:30 7:00 9:30

Water for Elephants (PG-13)

2:00 4:40 7:20 10:00

Hanna (PG-13)

2:20 4:50 7:35 10:15

Soul Surfer (PG)

2:10 4:35 7:10 9:40

Your Highness (R)

2:30 5:00 7:40 10:20

The Lincoln Lawyer (R)

2:05 4:45 7:25 10:05

More movies available on future dates. Coming Attractions

Carmike Wynnsong 10

5320 Forest Drive, Columbia, SC 29206

Fast Five new! (PG-13)

12:30 1:05 3:30 4:05 6:30 7:05 9:40 10:05

Prom new! (PG)

1:10 4:10 7:10 9:45

Tyler Perry's Madea's Big Happy Family (PG-13)

1:00 2:00 4:00 5:00 7:00 8:30 9:35

The Conspirator (PG-13)

1:10 4:10 7:10 10:05

Rio The Movie (G)

1:30 4:35 7:00

Rio The Movie 3D (G)

Digital 3D

1:15 4:05 6:35 9:05

Scream 4 (R)

1:15 4:05 7:05 9:45

Hop (PG)

1:05 4:00 6:45 9:10

Insidious (PG-13)

9:40pm

More movies available on future dates. Coming Attractions

 

AMC Dutch Square 14

800 Bush River Rd., Columbia, SC 29210

 

Fast Five new! (PG-13, No Passes)

10:10am 11:00am 11:50am 1:10 2:00 2:50 4:10 5:00 5:50 7:10 8:00 8:50 10:10 11:00

 

Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evilnew! (PG, No Passes)

10:45am 1:00 3:20 5:40 7:50

 

Prom new! (PG, No Passes)

10:55am 1:40 4:20 7:00 9:40

 

Tyler Perry's Madea's Big Happy Family (PG-13, No Passes)

10:30am 11:30am 12:30 1:30 2:30 3:30 4:30 5:30 6:30 7:30 8:30 9:30 10:30 11:05

 

Water for Elephants (PG-13, No Passes)

10:50am 1:55 4:50 7:40 10:20

 

The Conspirator (PG-13, No Passes)

6:55 9:50

 

Rio The Movie (G)

11:20am 12:40 1:50 3:10 4:25 5:40 8:10 10:25

 

Scream 4 (R)

10:15pm

 

Hanna (PG-13)

10:40am 1:35 7:20

 

Soul Surfer (PG)

11:10am 1:45 4:15 6:45 9:15

 

Hop (PG)

10:00am 11:40am 2:10 4:40 7:15

 

Insidious (PG-13)

4:35 10:00

 

Source Code (PG-13)

9:35pm

 

 

St. Andrews Cinema 5

527 St Andrews Road, Columbia, SC 29210

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Map

Online Ticketing Not Available for this Theater

Red Riding Hood (PG-13)

4:30 9:35

 

The Adjustment Bureau (PG-13)

2:30 7:20

 

Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son (PG-13)

2:10 4:15 7:10 9:15

 

I Am Number Four (PG-13)

4:10 9:10

 

Gnomeo and Juliet (G)

2:15 4:00 7:15 9:00

 

Just Go With It (PG-13)

4:40 9:30

 

The King's Speech (PG-13)

2:20 7:25

 

Tangled (PG)

2:00 7:00

 

 

Columbia Stadium Cinemas

7201/802 Two Notch, Columbia, SC 29223

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Showtimes are currently not available for this theater. Please check back later.

 

Regal Columbiana Grande Stadium 14

1250 Bower Pkwy, Columbia, SC 29212

Add to My TheatersMap

Print at Home tickets available!

Click on RED SHOWTIMES to Buy Tickets

Fast Five new! (PG-13, No Passes)

1:40 4:30 7:20 10:10

 

 

2:10 3:50 5:00 6:40 7:50 9:30 10:40

African Cats (G)

12:30 2:40 4:55 7:10 9:25

Tyler Perry's Madea's Big Happy Family (PG-13)

1:45 2:15 4:15 4:45 7:00 7:30 9:30 10:00

 

 

2:45 5:15 8:00 10:30

The Conspirator (PG-13)

1:20 4:25 7:15 10:05

Rio The Movie (G)

2:00 4:20 6:55 9:20

Rio The Movie 3D (G, No Passes)

 

12:25 1:30 2:50 5:05 7:35 9:50

Scream 4 (R)

 

12:35 2:55 5:25 7:55 10:20

Hop (PG)

 

12:50 3:00 5:10 7:25 9:35

Insidious (PG-13)

1:50 4:35 7:05 9:45

Source Code (PG-13)

 

2:20 5:20 7:45 10:15

More movies available on future dates. Coming Attractions

 

Carmike 14

122 Afton Court, Columbia, SC 29212

Add to My TheatersMap

Click on RED SHOWTIMES to Buy Tickets

Dylan Dog: Dead of Night new! (PG-13)

 

2:15 4:50 7:30 10:10

Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil 3D new! (PG)

Digital 3D

12:45 2:55 5:00 7:05 9:10

Prom new! (PG)

 

1:30 4:00 6:45 9:15

Water for Elephants (PG-13)

 

1:15 4:15 7:10 10:00

Arthur (PG-13)

 

1:40 4:30 7:05 9:35

Hanna (PG-13)

 

1:00 4:00 7:15 9:50

Soul Surfer (PG)

 

1:20 4:05 6:50 9:15

Your Highness (R)

 

2:20 4:55 7:30 10:05

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules (PG)

 

2:00 4:25 6:40 9:00

Limitless (PG-13)

 

2:10 4:45 7:15 9:45

The Lincoln Lawyer (R)

 

1:10 4:10 7:00 9:45

Paul (R)

 

1:45 4:35 7:25 9:55

Red Riding Hood (PG-13)

 

1:50 4:20 6:55 9:30

Unknown (PG-13)

 

1:35 4:20 6:55 9:30

More movies available on future dates. Coming Attractions

 

Regal Sandhill Stadium 16

450 Town Center Place, Columbia, SC 29229

 

The Metropolitan Opera: Il Trovatore new! (NR)

1:00pm

Fast Five new! (PG-13, No Passes)

1:00 1:30 4:00 4:30 7:00 7:30 10:00 10:30

 

 

11:30am 2:00 2:30 5:00 8:00 8:30 11:00 11:30

Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil new! (PG)

12:10pm

Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil 3D new! (PG)

 

2:10 4:20 7:10 9:30

Prom new! (PG)

12:05 2:35 5:05 7:40 10:10

Memphis Broadway Musical new! (NR)

7:30pm

African Cats (G)

12:20 2:10 4:20 7:10 9:30

Tyler Perry's Madea's Big Happy Family (PG-13)

11:45am 2:15 4:45 6:45 7:15 9:15 9:45 11:45

 

 

12:15 12:45 2:45 3:15 5:15 5:45 7:45 8:15 10:15 10:45

Water for Elephants (PG-13)

1:15 4:10 7:20 10:05

Rio The Movie (G)

12:30 5:10 7:35 9:55

 

Open Captioned & Descriptive Audio

2:50pm

Rio The Movie 3D (G, No Passes)

 

12:00 2:20 4:40

Scream 4 (R)

 

10:25pm

Arthur (PG-13)

 

7:55pm

Soul Surfer (PG)

12:20 2:50 5:20 7:50 10:20

Hop (PG)

12:00 2:15 4:30

Insidious (PG-13)

 

5:30pm

More movies available on future dates. Coming Attractions

 

Regal Pastime Pavilion 8

929 North Lake Drive, Lexington, SC 29072

 

Fast Five new! (PG-13, No Passes)

 

2:00 4:45 7:30 10:15

Prom new! (PG)

2:20 4:55 7:15 9:45

Tyler Perry's Madea's Big Happy Family (PG-13)

 

2:30 5:00 7:40 10:00

Water for Elephants (PG-13)

2:10 4:40 7:10 9:55

Rio The Movie 3D (G, No Passes)

 

2:50 5:20 7:35 9:40

Scream 4 (R)

2:35 5:10 7:25 10:05

Soul Surfer (PG)

2:45 5:15 7:50 10:20

Hop (PG)

 

2:05 4:30 7:00 9:30

 

In Gitmo Opinion, Two Versions of Reality

 


by Dafna Linzer, Propublica

 

On Sunday night, a number of news outlets and WikiLeaks published a trove of classified documents [1] on detainees at Guantanamo Bay. ProPublica has been reporting on Gitmo [2] and the issues surrounding indefinite detention for more than two years. In October 2010, Dafna Linzer revealed how the Obama administration censored one federal judge's Gitmo decision [3] that had questioned the government's evidence against a detainee.

 

This story was co-published with The National Law Journal [4].

When Judge Henry Kennedy Jr. ordered the release of a Guantánamo Bay detainee last spring, the case appeared to be a routine setback for an Obama administration that has lost a string of such cases.

But there turns out to be nothing ordinary about the habeas case brought by Uthman Abdul Rahim Mohammed Uthman [5], a Yemeni held without charges for nearly eight years. Uthman, accused by two U.S. administrations of being an al-Qaida fighter and bodyguard for Osama bin Laden, is among 48 detainees [6] the Obama administration has deemed too dangerous to release but "not feasible for prosecution."

A day after his March 16 order [7] was filed on the court's electronic docket, Kennedy's opinion vanished. Weeks later, a new ruling [8] appeared in its place. While it reached the same conclusion, eight pages of material had been removed, including key passages in which Kennedy dismantled the government's case against Uthman.

In his first opinion, Kennedy wrote that one government witness against Uthman had been diagnosed by military doctors as "psychotic" with a mental condition that made his allegations against other detainees "unreliable." But the opinion the public sees makes no mention of the man's health and discounts his testimony only because of its inconsistencies.

The alterations are extensive. Sentences were rewritten. Footnotes that described disputes and discrepancies in the government's case were deleted. Even the date and circumstances of Uthman's arrest were changed. In the first version, the judge said Uthman was detained on Dec. 15, 2001, in Pakistan by Pakistani authorities. Rewritten, Kennedy said in the public opinion that Uthman admitted being captured "in late 2001 in the general vicinity of Tora Bora," the cave complex where bin Laden was thought to be hiding at that time.

The creation of the additional opinion stemmed from a mishap inside the Justice Department: Kennedy's first opinion was accidentally cleared for public release before government agencies had blacked out all the classified information it cited.

While the government privately took responsibility for the error, it initially refused to correct it. Two people familiar with the discussions said prosecutors in the Justice Department's Civil Division gave Kennedy a choice: his entire decision would remain classified or he could write a new version that did not reference classified evidence.

Justice Department sources offered a different account. They said the department later relented and gave Kennedy a properly redacted version of the opinion, in which classified material had been blacked out. The sources said this opinion was meant to be published. But for reasons that remain unclear, the edited opinion became the starting point for the creation of an entirely new version.

Matthew Miller, a spokesman with the Justice Department, said "the department's practice in all of these cases is to propose release of a properly redacted opinion."

The second opinion, drafted after a contentious exchange between Kennedy and the prosecutors, did not refer to the earlier version and gave no indication material had been removed.

Legal scholars and classification experts said the drafting of a second opinion was a deception. All previous opinions in Guantánamo habeas cases have noted when material has been blacked out or removed to protect security.

Stephen Gillers, who teaches legal ethics at New York University School of Law, said Kennedy may well have had a legitimate concern about "national security issues."

"But that concern then inspired him to participate in the creation of a parallel universe that fools everyone except a small circle of judges. We don't allow the justice system to create false impressions," Gillers said.

ProPublica obtained the original version of Kennedy's opinion when it appeared briefly in the court record and conducted a line-by-line comparison with what was published five weeks later. That comparison, highlighting information that was removed, can be found here [9].

Reporting for this story was complicated by the fact that much of the evidence is classified, and judges, lawyers and prosecutors are barred from discussing most aspects of the litigation. But an examination of the opinions and additional documents, as well as interviews with government and intelligence officials, former military prosecutors and key players in the habeas cases, makes it possible for the first time to publicly examine the evidence against a detainee designated for indefinite detention.

To justify Uthman's incarceration, the government relied on statements from five current or former detainees [10] who were previously discredited by judges in other cases, questioned by internal Obama administration assessments or found unreliable by military psychiatrists because they were mendacious, mentally ill or subjected to torture.

Kennedy's first opinion reveals that some of the government's evidence came from a detainee who committed suicide at Guantánamo three years ago after months of hunger strikes. In the second opinion, the detainee's name is concealed, making it impossible for the public to know he is dead.

DOJ's Miller said witness testimony is thoroughly reviewed before it is presented. "In every habeas case where we ask the court to rely upon detainee statements, we do so because we believe courts can and should consider their accounts based on the totality of the evidence," Miller said.

The Justice Department has appealed Kennedy's ruling and officials there declined to say what they might do if the government does not prevail.

Uthman, according to senior government officials, is on the secret list of 48 Guantánamo detainees who the Obama administration designated for indefinite detention and, officials said, he is the first of those men to win his habeas petition.

Further complicating matters, Uthman hails from Yemen -- a country the White House has deemed too unstable to handle such a transfer. Should he send Uthman home, President Obama risks a fierce political backlash from Republican lawmakers eager to portray the president as weak on terrorism.

Disclosure of the Uthman case comes at a pivotal moment in the government's complicated efforts to prosecute detainees and close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. On Oct. 6, a federal judge in New York barred the government from using its main witness [11] against a terrorism defendant because the information that led investigators to the witness was obtained through torture.

Botched Classification

When Kennedy, who serves on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, ruled in February that Uthman was being improperly detained, his 27-page opinion was turned over to a court security officer for classification review.

The judges themselves have very little insight into the process and no sway over what is redacted. Government security officials review filings in the habeas litigation and other cases involving classified evidence and remove sensitive information.

In the Uthman case, that clearance process took three weeks. Kennedy's decision was stamped "Redacted," by the court's security officer and returned to his chambers on March 16. The deletions were minimal. For the first 16 pages, the only word blacked out was "secret," stamped at the top and bottom of each page.

Kennedy's clerk added the document to the electronic court file late in the day. Twenty-five hours later, the security office sent out urgent notices to attorneys and the judge that the opinion had not been ready for release and needed additional deletions. The decision was promptly removed from the public docket.

In a closed hearing in his courtroom four days later, Kennedy lashed out at the government for releasing classified information. He and Justice Department attorneys then argued over what to do, according to three sources familiar with the discussion.

Kennedy insisted that the reasoning behind his first habeas ruling be made public. But the Justice Department resisted releasing it in redacted form, arguing that blacked out portions would call attention to the exact material the government wanted to conceal.

With Uthman slated for indefinite detention, the stakes were high.

During the next month, government lawyers scoured the Internet for the original decision; the legal database Westlaw was asked to remove it from archives; defense attorneys were instructed to destroy their electronic copies.

Even the court docket was altered. When the opinion was originally posted on March 16, the docket noted Kennedy's grant of the writ of habeas corpus to the petitioner. Today, the entry for March 16 simply reads: "Document Entered In Error Erroneously."

Kennedy ordered the Justice Department to explain how the information was released and to suggest solutions. In the written response, according to three people who saw it, the department took responsibility for the error. Kennedy rejected the government's initial attempt to keep the opinion classified, insisting on other options, according to three people with knowledge of the matter.

One Justice Department source said the department relented, gave Kennedy a properly redacted copy of his opinion, and expected him to publish it. But two others said no such intention was conveyed to Kennedy.

Classification experts could not recall another case in which a second decision was secretly created.

"Reconstituting and replacing a judicial opinion without public notice is active deception," said Steven Aftergood, a classification expert with the Federation of American Scientists in Washington. "There is a role for classification and there are things that need to be redacted, but there is never a justification for deception in the judicial process and that's what this is," Aftergood said, after reviewing both versions of Kennedy's ruling in the Uthman case.

Two senior officials in the Obama administration and two others with direct involvement in habeas cases were surprised to learn that Kennedy's final opinion was a different version than the original.

Changing the Record

Uthman was 21 years old and traveling with about 30 other men when he was taken into custody by Pakistani police in the town of Parachinar, near the Afghan border. It was Dec. 15, 2001, and U.S. troops were in the middle of a five-day battle against an al-Qaida stronghold known as Tora Bora, where bin Laden was believed to have taken shelter. Parachinar and Tora Bora are 12 miles apart but separated by a treacherous mountain range that takes two to three days to traverse.

The government maintains that Uthman was in Afghanistan to fight for bin Laden; Uthman has claimed he went there to teach the Quran to children. Some facts of his story are not in dispute, some critical ones are. They look different depending on which of Kennedy's two opinions you read.

Kennedy's original opinion noted that Uthman was seized in Parachinar; that he reached the town after an eight-day trek from the Afghan town of Khost, nowhere near Tora Bora; and that his journey to Pakistan began around Dec. 8, 2001. Those facts make it difficult to portray Uthman as a fighter in a battle that took place between Dec. 12 and Dec. 17 at Tora Bora. Two footnotes in the original opinion note that the government does not contest that Uthman was taken into custody in Parachinar.

Both were removed in the second opinion and Kennedy substituted wording to write instead that Uthman admitted he was seized "in late 2001 in the general vicinity of Tora Bora, Afghanistan."

The intent of this editing may have been to conceal the role of the Pakistanis in capturing al-Qaida fighters although those details were long ago declassified. But the effect was to link Uthman more closely to the retreat of bin Laden and his inner circle through Tora Bora.

It is unclear precisely what restrictions or classification requests guided Kennedy's alterations. Neither the judge nor the Justice Department would say.

Gillers said such editing has an effect on public opinion, even when it doesn't change the outcome of the case.

"The ability to influence Kennedy's opinion gives the government a public relations advantage," Gillers said. "These battles are fought outside the court system as well as within it."

Another advantage has been the government's ability to largely conceal the identities of its witnesses.

In ordinary federal proceedings, from mob cases to white-collar crime, prosecutors would be loath to attempt such strategies because repeated use of a discredited witness would provide a significant opening to defense attorneys. In the habeas cases, it is difficult for defense lawyers and judges to learn of the roles played by flawed witnesses in previous cases.

The issue arose in a separate habeas case in May 2009, when Judge Gladys Kessler of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia noted that a government witness had been diagnosed by Guantánamo medical staff as suffering from "psychosis." In a footnote, she said she was troubled that the diagnosis had come to her attention "through the diligent work" of the defense attorney "and not as a result of the government's obligation to provide" it.

Attorneys with security clearances can access classified information the government plans to raise in court at a secure facility near the Pentagon. But the material is not easy to use.

The facility is staffed by court security officers and Justice Department officials who determine what information the lawyers can remove from the facility, including, in some cases, their own notes. No classified information can be shared over the telephone or Internet, a significant burden for lawyers who reside outside the Washington area.

"It's monumentally difficult to fight these battles when the government holds all the cards," said David Remes, one of the attorneys representing Uthman. Neither Remes nor Uthman's other Washington attorneys, including William Livingston at Covington & Burling, would discuss the details of the Uthman case.

Near Total Secrecy

Although President Obama inherited many aspects of U.S. detention policy from his predecessor, Guantánamo detainees have been fighting their detentions in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia almost entirely on his watch.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June 2008, as Obama was campaigning for president, that detainees could challenge their detentions in federal court under the constitutional doctrine of habeas corpus, which protects individuals from unlawful imprisonment by the government.

Obama, still a senator then, issued a statement calling the ruling "an important step toward re-establishing our credibility as a nation committed to the rule of law, and rejecting a false choice between fighting terrorism and respecting habeas corpus. Our courts have employed habeas corpus with rigor and fairness for more than two centuries, and we must continue to do so as we defend the freedom that violent extremists seek to destroy." The first challenges were decided on Nov. 20, just three weeks after Obama's election.

Lawyers from the Justice Department's Civil Division handle the Guantánamo litigation in coordination with intelligence agencies and the Department of Defense, which acts as warden of Guantánamo. The litigation process was built around the government's assertion that the bulk of the evidence is classified, a claim that has enabled the government to operate under a cloak of near total secrecy, with judges and defense attorneys barred from publicly discussing most aspects of the litigation. Court filings that reveal details about the cases undergo classification review before they are made public.

Intelligence and military officials take the lead in determining what can be released. As this story was going to publication, the Justice Department released an unclassified version of its appeal brief [12] in the Uthman case. A number of details that were excised from Kennedy's final opinion appear in the appeals brief.

Justice Department spokesman Miller said, "as a general matter, Justice Department litigators are not responsible for classification or declassification decisions in habeas cases."

Officials at other agencies said they had a fairly free hand in removing information supplied for the government's case. "Whenever a court security officer identifies a document slated for posting on the court's public docket as potentially containing classified information, the officer refers that document to appropriate agencies for classification review," Maj. Tanya Bradsher, a spokeswoman for the Pentagon, said.

One government official who spoke on the condition of anonymity acknowledged that the classification process has been plagued with inconsistencies and that no one is coordinating the effort. In most declassified habeas filings, the names of all detainee-witnesses are removed; in others, a name or two slips past the redaction process.

Some government-ordered deletions clearly appear designed to conceal names of confidential informants, associations with foreign intelligence services and the identities of certain federal agents. But the Uthman case shows that many of the deletions go further.

"This censorship has nothing to do with protecting 'national security' and everything to do with covering up government mistakes and malfeasance," said Jonathan Hafetz, a professor at Seton Hall University School of Law who has represented a number of detainees in habeas litigation. The practice, he said, allows the government to "mislead the American public on issues of profound importance to the country by skewing the perception of who really is at Guantánamo."

There have been some attempts, but with limited results, to make more of the habeas proceedings public. Nearly two years ago, as the litigation was getting under way, three media organizations -- The Associated Press, The New York Times and USA Today -- sought access to the court filings in which the government argued for holding the detainees.

The government fought the request but Judge Thomas Hogan, then the chief judge of the U.S. district court in Washington, ordered the government to release redacted, unclassified versions of its filings within 14 days [13].

David Schulz, a First Amendment attorney who is representing the media group, said the government is flouting Hogan's order.

"The frustrating thing about this litigation is that the judge in no uncertain terms upheld the public's constitutional right to inspect the records of the habeas proceeding and yet, nearly two years after the documents were supposed to be filed and publicly available, we are still waiting to get properly redacted filings," Schulz said.

The government is now seeking to amend Hogan's order to include six new broad categories of information that it can restrict without review by a judge unless the detainee objects. Schulz has opposed this idea [14]. Both sides are waiting to hear from Hogan.

When the media group first fought for access, just weeks after the 2008 presidential election, the Bush administration was still in office. But Schulz said the election has had no impact on the department's position in this area.

Said Schulz: "The Obama Justice Department has fought as hard and resisted as strongly the right that the public has to see these court records."

Follow on Twitter: @dafnalinzer [15]

Latest Afghan Attacks Highlight Challenges of Training, Vetting Afghan Security Forces



 

by Marian Wang ProPublica,

The news out of Afghanistan seems to be almost all doom and gloom: 8 NATO soldiers and one civilian [1] were killed today by a veteran Afghan army pilot who reportedly turned on his trainers.

The Taliban has claimed credit for the shooting, playing into fears of Taliban sleeper agents infiltrating Afghan security forces. Those fears have been stirred by a series of recent attacks as well as the escape of nearly 500 Taliban fighters from the largest prison in Afghanistan earlier this week. Reuters has a rundown of recent attacks [2] by rogue Afghan soldiers, police and insurgents dressed in army uniforms.

As for the prison break, the Afghan government has called it a disaster [3] and blamed it on NATO-trained Afghan security forces as well as [4] the Canadian and U.S. security officials who have helped to oversee the jail, according to the Times:


Since the Taliban engineered a major break at the same prison [5] in 2008 — freeing 1,200 prisoners — Canadian forces have mentored the Afghans who run the prison and NATO countries have spent several million dollars upgrading and training the prison administration, according to a Western official in Kabul.


The Afghan defense ministry announced last week that it would apply new scrutiny to Afghan army enrollment “in order to prevent enemies taking advantage [6],” Reuters reported. NATO has also been touting its efforts to stop the illegal sale of army uniforms and equipment [7].

News about the Afghan police force hasn’t been much better. This week the U.S. special inspector general for Afghanistan issued a report noting that recordkeeping by the Afghan interior ministry was so disorganized that the ministry “cannot accurately [8]determine the size [8]” of the Afghan National Police force. [PDF]

As we’ve noted, the United States has spent billions [9] to train the dysfunctional police force, which has been riddled with high turnover and continued corruption. The report noted that, while other countries also contribute to funding the police, the United States has been the single largest contributor, providing about a third of all contributions since 2002.

“The Afghan government has taken many steps to address [Afghan National Police] accountability, but significant risks of fraud, waste, and abuse of donors’ funds will continue unless controls are improved [10],” [PDF] the acting Special Inspector General, Herbert Richardson, told a wartime contracting panel this week.

Follow on Twitter: @mariancw [11]

 

State of Denial


S.C. denies it workers dignity and safety

By Will Moredock

If you have never heard of Workers Memorial Day, you are not alone. I had never heard of it either, until last week. That was when I read the story in the Post and Courier about Tina and David Williamson, who lost their 18-year-old son Matthew six years ago in an accident at Detyens Shipyard, in North Charleston.

“I felt like my son had been murdered because of the way he had been taken from me,” Tina Williamson said in that story. Last week she organized a candlelight vigil in Summerville for the friends and loved ones of workers who have died on the job.

The day of the vigil was April 28 – Workers Memorial Day. The date was chosen because it is the anniversary of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, in 1971. The first Workers Memorial Day was observed in 1989.

Every year, people in hundreds of communities and work places around the country recognize those workers who were killed or injured on the job. The day is recognized by national governments in scores of countries, including the U.S., and a number of states. It is observed by trade unions around the world.

In 2001, the United Nations recognized Workers Memorial Day, declaring it World Day for Safety and Health at Work.

Never heard of Workers Memorial Day? That's probably because you are in South Carolina.

This state has had a long and ugly relationship with its workforce. You have probably heard of the those first workers. They were called slaves – and you know how that ended. Things didn't get much better for workers after the Civil War. Any attempt to organize, to create unions or cooperative stores, were met in much the same way as slave rebellions of the past: by police or militia or mob violence, or some combination of the three.

State and municipal governments and law enforcement were universally allied with employers to maintain order and keep dissidents out. Events came to a tragic head in Honea Path, during the Great Textile Strike of 1934, when a specially deputized mob of 125 men fired on striking workers in front of Chiquola Mill. Seven workers were killed and some 30 injured. Frank Beacham, the man who deputized the gunmen, was the mayor of Honea Path and the superintendent of Chiquola Mill.

In recent weeks, Gov. Nikki Haley's anti-union rhetoric prompted a lawsuit by the AFL-CIO and the National Labor Relations Board. Two weeks ago, Haley, Mayor Joe Riley, Sen. Lindsay Graham and other politicos stood shoulder-to-shoulder at a news briefing in North Charleston to declare that they intended to keep unions out of the new Boeing plant under construction in North Charleston, and to keep South Carolina a right-to-work state.

This is the history of labor in South Carolina. Less than five percent of this state's work force is organized and powerful forces are working to reduce that number. So it is not surprising that Workers Memorial Day has never gotten much ink here. But that very fact demonstrates how much we need strong unions in South Carolina and throughout the nation.

In 2009 (the latest figures available), 4,340 workers were killed on the job in the U.S. – an average of 12 workers a day. An estimated 50,000 died of occupational diseases. More than 4.1 million workplace injuries and illnesses were reported in private and state and municipal workplaces, according to AFL-CIO.

Last year’s string of major workplace tragedies demonstrates the need for stronger safety and health rules, coupled with tougher enforcement. Those disasters included the Upper Big Branch Mine explosion, which killed 29 miners in West Virginia; an explosion at the Kleen Energy plant in Middletown, Conn., which killed six workers; another at the Tesoro Refinery in Washington State,  which killed seven workers; and the BP/Deepwater Horizon Gulf Coast oil rig explosion, which killed 11 and caused a massive environmental and economic disaster.

In South Carolina, attempts to have the governor or General Assembly recognize Workers Memorial Day have failed. No effort was made this year.

But the fact is that union workers get better training, which makes them safer workers, and most union workers take advantage of  OSHA classes that unions provide at no cost, said Erin McKee, president of the Greater Charleston Labor Council. And with a union contract they are not afraid to speak out as  nonunion workers are.

Those who work with their hands have never been respected in this state. Just as it is popular to deny the role of slavery in launching the Civil War, so it is also popular in wide circles to deny the role of labor in building our state and our nation. And when dozens of these workers die each year, the people who run our state government and economy would deny them a day of recognition.

 

 

 

 

Friday, April 22, 2011

Collaborative effort making USC sustainable

By Judit Trunkos

Sustainable Carolina’s Learning Center for Sustainable Futures stands out not only in the South but nation-wide with its green educational and outreach events.  Thanks to the campus-wide collaborative effort to make USC sustainable, USC is ranked top five on the list of top LEED-certified buildings, and is one of the greenest campuses in the country.

In fact, the Darla Moore School of Business is pursuing a net-zero status and LEED Platinum rating for its new building. A net-zero building produces as much energy as it uses over the course of a year. USC expects to break ground on the new business school this fall.  The Ernest F. Hollings Special Collections Library will also celebrate its award of a LEED Gold rating this year.

“If the Moore School reaches its goals, it will become the largest net-zero building in the world and the most energy-efficient building in the country. To see South Carolina ranked among the top states in the country is gratifying, as it shows that our commitment to sustainability and education is producing results,”  said Michael Koman, Director of the Office of Sustainability.

USC is committed to sustainable principles and is helping others build green. On campus these projects include a LEED Gold rating for Honors Residence in 2010.

According to Koman, USC has constructed three LEED buildings that comprise 517,983 square feet of space.

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) was created by the U.S. Green Building Council and it is internationally recognized green building certification system, providing verification that a building or community is designed and built using strategies aimed at improving performance in energy savings.

The university’s Columbia campus will more than double that figure in the next two years with the completion of several projects, including the renovation of  a residence hall, and a building on the historic Horseshoe.

USC does not get extra money to build LEED certified facilities, and they have to find ways to build green within the traditional budget. The goal is to save money down the road on things like maintenance, water and electricity. The fact that USC was able to build Green Quad at the same cost as traditional design shows that green does not have to be more expensive.

“Building green is more than bricks and mortar at USC. These buildings are teaching tools,” explained Koman.  “In our residence halls, we meter energy consumption down each room, so students can understand what they consume.”

 

Sustainable Carolina

Sustainability is becoming a life style and a basic philosophy of sustaining our environment in order to preserve it for our children and grandchildren. Institutions of sustainability do not limit themselves to environmental issues only, as they prepare students to live a more sustainable life and empower students to implement plans and take control of projects.

“The vital role of Sustainable Carolina is to explore and implement the social, economic, and environmental changes required to create a sustainable campus and community.  Our strength has been our ability to promote collaborative relationships among students, staff, faculty, and community members.” Said Dr. David Whiteman, Principal of Green Quad and Director of the Learning Center for Sustainable Futures.

It is important for USC to develop productive partnerships between schools and industry to understand and address global issues, and to train effective and knowledgeable leaders. President Pastides regularly promotes the concept of merging the economics, environment, energy and ethics into the academics and research to solve problems faced across the state.

Masters in Earth and Environmental Management (MEERM) program has been working towards this concept for years.  Recently the program has added a Capstone track in lieu of the traditional thesis.  Capstone students participate in year-long internships where they are required to take on and solve an existing problem for clients in the state.  This not only provides real life experience for the students, but helps USC engage the community in supporting sustainability related initiatives.

As there were already numerous departments working on sustainability, it became the next step to have an umbrella organization to coordinate the efforts.  Sustainable Carolina was formed, and assists the Office of Sustainability, Green Quad and the Learning Center for Sustainable Futures. It also includes student organizations such as Net Impact, SAGE, Student Government, and Residence Hall Association.  This interconnected structure allows them to work together and make more progress.

The sustainability goals of the Campus are coordinated and guided by the Office of Sustainability, which office uses the STARS (Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System).  Each Semester, the staff creates specialized project teams that work toward implementing and tracking progress of these goals.

This year sustainability peaked with over 50 events including Earth Week which is a week-long celebration surrounding Earth Day. Hundreds of students participate in these educational events and learn not only about sustainability but also practice important leadership skills that they will be able to use in their jobs in the future.

Great Power Race

As a result of Sustainable Carolina’s great events and outstanding students,  USC became ranked no.1 in the United States together with Berkeley and fifth in the world defeating thousands of American and international universities in last year’s competition. Sustainable Carolina competed with its 21 projects teams and with over 100 projects and events against 980 other teams.  Two volunteer students named Myoung Su Ko and Anjana Sukumar helped lead USC to no. 1 by signing up for the competition and reporting the projects and events.

This race shows students and community members that climate change is not “too big” of an issue for one person. The Great Power Race makes clear that individuals do not have to wait for the government to make the big decisions and tell us the solutions; each student or community member can change the world today by working together and do what they can to build a sustainable community.

 

RecycleMania

RecycleMania is an 8-week competition among over 500 college and university campuses across the US and Canada to collect the most recyclables.  From February 7 until April 1, students compete in “RecycleMania” events including phone book throwing, plastic bottle recycling and aluminum can stacking competitions.

Margaret Bounds, the project coordinator of the event was still proud even though USC fell short of no. 1 for this event, “We recycled 7.31 pounds per person and a total of 229,574 pounds over the 8 weeks of competition and finished 84th in the Gorilla Prize.  The event gives us an opportunity to educate the entire student population about recycling and its fun to play against our rivalry, Clemson!”

The last major event of the Spring Semester is Earth Week, which is a one-week celebration starting April 18 through April 22.   It kicked off on Monday with a presentation by Dr. Kevin Elliott, an award-winning teacher and associate professor of philosophy, on his new book entitled “Is a Little Pollution Good For You?” This book has been described as “a must read for researchers, scholars, and students who are interested in the relationship between science, industry, and society.”

The day before Earth Day, Thursday, April 21st, Professor Rudy Mancke will lead a nature walk, with those interested meeting at McKissick Museum at 1pm.   Friday is Discovery Day, and it is open to the general public.  There will be student projects, theatre, arts, & music presentations throughout the day at Russell House Theatre, and it concludes with a reception and awards ceremony starting at 3:30pm.   The rest of the week, there will be many activities including freecycling, crafts and seeds, and a green facts trivia game where students will ask sustainability questions and award prizes.

 

Blarney's Version at The Nick

Movie times listed are for the weekend of  April 8. Please confirm times with theater.

Nickelodeon Theatre | 937 Main Street | 803.254.3433

BARNEY’S VERSION



Golden Globe winner Paul Giamatti stars as Barney Panofsky, a Jewish Cana

dian television producer who reflects in flashbacks on three strange decades -- and three wives -- in this adaptation of Mordecai Richler’s acclaimed novel. There’s Clara (Rachelle Lefevre), a free-spirited proponent of free love; “Mrs. P” (Minnie Driver), a self-centered princess; and Miriam (Rosamund Pike), the right woman who comes along at the wrong time.




APRIL 22-28, Friday-Thursday
Friday, April 22 - 3:00, 5:30 and 8:15
Saturday, April 23 - 3:00, 5:30 and 8:15
Sunday, April 24 - 3:00, 5:30 and 8:15
Monday, April 25 - 5:30 and 8:15
Tuesday, April 26 - 5:30 and 8:15
Wednesday, April 27 - 3:00, 5:30 and 8:15
Thursday, April 28 - 5:30 and 8:15



Regal Columbia Cinema 7

3400 Forest Drive Suite 3000, Columbia, SC 29204

Water for Elephants new! (PG-13)

DP (Digital Projection)

2:10 4:50 7:30 10:10

Arthur (PG-13)

2:05 4:40 7:10 9:40

Hanna (PG-13)

2:40 5:10 7:45 10:15

Soul Surfer (PG)

2:00 4:30 7:00 9:30

Your Highness (R)

2:40 5:05 7:35 10:00

Source Code (PG-13)

4:55 9:50

Limitless (PG-13)

2:30 7:20

The Lincoln Lawyer (R)

2:15 5:00 7:40 10:20

Carmike Wynnsong 10

5320 Forest Drive, Columbia, SC 29206

Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Big Happy Family new! (PG-13)

DP (Digital Projection)

1:00 2:00 4:00 5:00 7:00 7:45 9:35 10:10

The Conspirator new! (PG-13)

DP (Digital Projection)

1:10 4:10 7:10 10:05

Rio The Movie new! (G)

DP (Digital Projection)

1:40 4:10 6:45 9:15

Rio The Movie 3D new! (G)

Digital 3D

1:10 2:00 3:40 5:00 6:15 7:50 8:45

Scream 4 new! (R)

DP (Digital Projection)

1:15 2:00 4:05 5:15 7:05 8:30 9:45

Hop (PG)

DP (Digital Projection)

1:05 4:00 6:45 9:10

Insidious (PG-13)

DP (Digital Projection)

1:15 4:00 7:15 9:50

AMC Dutch Square 14

800 Bush River Rd.,

Columbia, SC 29210

 

Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Big Happy Family new! (PG-13, No Passes)

11:50am 2:30 5:10 7:50 10:30

 

Regal Columbiana Grande Stadium 14

1250 Bower Pkwy, Columbia, SC 29212

African Cats new! (G)

12:30 2:40 5:00 7:15 9:25

Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Big Happy Family new! (PG-13)

1:45 2:15 4:15 4:45 7:00 7:30 9:30 10:00

DP (Digital Projection)

1:15 3:45 5:15 6:30 8:00 9:00 10:30

The Conspirator new! (PG-13)

1:30 4:30 7:20 10:05

Rio The Movie new! (G)

2:00 4:20 6:55 9:20

Rio The Movie 3D new! (G)

12:45 2:30 3:10 4:50 5:30 7:35 8:05 9:50 10:25

Scream 4 new! (R)

1:10 1:40 4:10 5:05 7:10 7:40 9:40 10:20

Hop (PG)

12:50 3:00 5:10 7:25 9:35

Insidious (PG-13)

1:50 4:35 7:05 9:45

Source Code (PG-13)

2:20 5:20 7:45 10:10

Rango (PG)

1:20pm

Carmike 14

122 Afton Court, Columbia, SC 29212

Water for Elephants new! (PG-13)

DP (Digital Projection)

1:15 4:15 7:10 10:00

Arthur (PG-13)

DP (Digital Projection)

1:40 4:25 7:05 9:35

Hanna (PG-13)

DP (Digital Projection)

1:10 4:00 7:15 9:50

Soul Surfer (PG)

DP (Digital Projection)

1:30 4:05 6:50 9:15

Your Highness (R)

DP (Digital Projection)

2:20 4:55 7:30 10:05

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules (PG)

DP (Digital Projection)

2:00 4:25 6:50 9:10

Limitless (PG-13)

DP (Digital Projection)

2:10 4:45 7:15 9:45

The Lincoln Lawyer (R)

DP (Digital Projection)

1:20 4:10 7:00 9:45

Paul (R)

DP (Digital Projection)

1:45 4:35 7:25 9:55

Red Riding Hood (PG-13)

DP (Digital Projection)

1:00 2:30 3:45 5:00 6:55 8:00 9:30

The Last Lions (PG)

DP (Digital Projection)

2:15 4:30 6:45 9:00

Unknown (PG-13)

DP (Digital Projection)

1:45 4:20 6:55 9:30

Gnomeo and Juliet (G)

DP (Digital Projection)

2:20 4:40 6:45 8:50

Regal Sandhill Stadium 16 450 Town Center Place

African Cats new! (G)

12:30 2:40 4:50 7:00 9:20

Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Big Happy Family new! (PG-13)

11:00am 12:00 1:30 2:30 4:05 5:05 6:40 7:40 10:15 11:30

DP (Digital Projection)

11:30am 12:30 2:00 3:00 4:35 5:35 7:10 8:10 9:45 10:45 11:45

Water for Elephants new! (PG-13)

11:10am 1:50 4:30 7:20 10:00

Atlas Shrugged: Part 1 new! (PG-13)

2:25 7:25

Rio The Movie new! (G)

12:25 2:50 5:15 7:35 9:55

Rio The Movie 3D new! (G)

11:55am 12:55 2:20 3:20 4:45 5:45 7:05 8:05 9:25 10:25

Scream 4 new! (R)

12:10 12:40 2:35 5:00 5:30 7:30 10:05 10:35

Arthur (PG-13)

12:15 2:45 5:20 7:45 10:10

Hanna (PG-13)

2:55 7:55

Soul Surfer (PG)

2:45 5:15 7:50 10:20

Open Captioned & Descriptive Audio

12:15pm

Hop (PG)

12:05 2:15 4:40 7:15 9:30

Insidious (PG-13)

12:20 2:55 5:25 8:00 10:30

Source Code (PG-13)

12:05 5:10 9:50

Limitless (PG-13)

9:15pm

 

St. Andrews Cinema 5 527 St Andrews Road (803) 772-7469

Please call

Regal Pastime Pavilion 8 929 North Lake Drive, Lexington, SC 29072

Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Big Happy Family new! (PG-13)

DP (Digital Projection)

2:30 5:00 7:40 10:15

Water for Elephants new! (PG-13)

2:00 4:40 7:20 10:00

 

Rio Review


Rio is an animation from the same people that brought us Ice Age and so it has a fair amount to live up to. It follows the tale of a blue macaw, Blu (Jesse Eisenberg) who is bird-napped as a chick and smuggled into the USA to be sold. During the move though, he falls from the back of the truck and is found by Linda (Leslie Mann) who takes him in and looks after him.

The years pass by until Tulio (Rodrigo Santoro), a extremely bird obsessed ornithologist pays them a visit and offers them a chance to come to Brazil as Blu is the last male of his species and the last female, Jewel (Anne Hathaway), resides in Rio. Blu (who cannot fly) has lived a sheltered, comfortable life with Linda and is all the more happy for it whereas Jewel is the stark contrast and longs to be free from the cage that restricts her as she has tasted freedom before. So when the two meet, the fun starts to happen.

First off, Blue is one happy bird with the animation and his characteristics reflecting that. You immediately like him and this feeling doesn’t fade with time. In fact each character has their unique quirks which enables the comedy to flow seamlessly. I was never gulping for air but the jokes are well written and non-stop with the movie certainly having its moments.

Rio, the movie, brings alive the carnival nature and flamboyant mood that one normally associates with Rio, the city, by including a couple of musical numbers into the story. Unfortunately they are not up to the standard of Disney- they are not very catchy or memorable. It’s more pop music and rap with Will.I.Am lending his talents to the vocals than the traditional song associated with animations. The background music however certainly get across the energy and vibrancy of Rio with plenty of samba flooding your ears from the off.

The visuals of Rio are impressive (though not quite as good as Rango) and during the flying scenes in particular the city and its surroundings are well captured with many of the iconic landmarks easy to spot. It probably helped that the director Carlos Saldanha was born and raised in the city and so was able capture the true feeling of the place that other directors would not have been able to.

Did this live up to Ice Age then? Very nearly and I wouldn’t mind watching it again to see how it handles a second viewing.

For further reviews feel free to check out: http://www.fanaticalaboutfilms.com

Written by James

http://www.moviefilmreview.com/author/fanaticalaboutfilms

 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Lots of Memories, But No Pulitzers




[caption id="attachment_866" align="alignleft" width="169" caption="By Will Moredock"][/caption]

Your humble columnist pledges to keep up the fight

 

They handed out the Pulitzer Prizes last week. The ritual sounded much as it  usually does. The New York Times picked up two. The Los Angeles Times won for Public Service, and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel won its third in four years. And for the 85th year in a row, no newspaper or journalist in the great State of South Carolina received a medallion.

One important change was that, for the first time, reporters from a non-print medium – Pro Publica – received a Pulitzer. We will surely see more of this as traditional newspapers grow smaller and may eventually become extinct.

One change in the industry I do not welcome is the loss of Frank Rich at The New York Times. After  30 years as theater critic and op-ed columnist, Rich is moving on to New York magazine. I hope he is happy there, but his departure – like so many other signs – seems to auger ill for the newspaper business.

Rich and I never met face-to-face, but I first encountered him before he became one of the most celebrated opinionators in print. We were both starting our writing careers. He followed his star to The New York Times. My star, well, my star didn't rise quite so high.

In 1974, I wrote a 2,000-word story about a demonstration I attended on the Mall in D.C., demanding the impeachment of President Richard Nixon. It was sardonic, poking fun as much at the dysfunctional demonstration with its brawling factions as at the besieged president. On a lark I sent it off to New Times, the long-defunct, but once-edgy news and feature magazine.

With remarkable swiftness I got a letter back. It was a rejection, but it was so complimentary and encouraging that it felt almost as good as a sale. The senior editor complimented my writing profusely and encouraged me to make future submissions. It was signed: Frank Rich. Of course, I didn't know who Frank Rich was in 1974. I just knew that he liked my writing and that might be a ticket to bigger things. Later, when I started seeing Rich's name in Time magazine and in The New York Times, the letter meant all the more to me. I still have it squirreled away among nearly 40 years  of notes and mementos. Unfortunately, it did not lead to a sale to New Times.

In Rich's farewell column  last month, he wrote, “For me...the point of opinion writing is less to try to shape events, a presumptuous and foolhardy ambition at best, than to help stimulate debate and, from my particular perspective, try to explain why things got the way they are and what they might mean and where they might lead.”

I couldn't have said it better.  For years I have used this column to try to connect the dots between the past and present, or as Rich said,  “to explain why things got the way they are.” For this reason I have used the Civil War Sesquicentennial as a teachable moment for those who are willing to learn. The South will never get four wheels on the road as long as it remains mired in Confederate romance and mythology.

And while I am expounding, let me say that I am not a political activist. I have tried it and I was never comfortable with the cynicism and amorality which seems to infuse all politics. I will continue to think of myself as a journalist, regardless how cynical and amoral my critics take me to be.

I write about things I find interesting and I hope that my readers share my enthusiasm. I receive at least four or five suggestions for columns each week and I do not wish to discourage them. Friends and associates have given me some great ideas over the years. But I am not here to provide a public service. I am not ready to produce copy for anyone with an ax to grind or a yearning to hold public office. I hate being told to attend public meetings or write about certain candidates by people I do not work for. I really hate having some politico call me up -- as one did last week when I was at the library – and scream at me for 15 minutes to cover one of his pet projects. This fool needs to hire a PR guy. Even my editors do not tell me what to write about.

This isn't The New York Times and I am not likely to win a Pulitzer spinning out columns on our crazy politicians and dysfunctional state government. But it is a lot of fun and if it stopped being fun, I would stop doing it. So let's keep having fun and I will keep writing.

 

Regional News



AIKEN

Elderly smoker sparks fire
Firefighters say an elderly smoker accidentally dropped a lit cigarette onto her plastic oxygen tube, igniting a fire in her home.

When the cigarette burned through the tubing and came into contact with pressurized oxygen, the resulting flame ignited the carpet. The fire quickly spread throughout the house, authorities said. Responding firefighters were able to combat the blaze and all residents were evacuated without injury. The family has been temporarily displaced by the blaze.

FLORENCE
Following complaint, school district bans religious messages

Florence School District 1, responding to a complaint from a constitutional rights group, has banned staff members from sending religious messages to co-workers via district email or memoranda.

The ban came in response to a complaint letter from Americans United for Separation of Church and State. According to a report by the Florence Morning News, the letter charged that messages from the interim district superintendent and a school principle both contained “religious messages and, at times, overt religious proselytization.”

Delmae Principle, Roy Ann Jolley’s, emails to staff reportedly contained daily scriptures and other Christian theological writings. Florence District 1 Interim District Superintendent, Dr. Allie Brooks Jr., reportedly sent emails containing scripture, quotes from televangelist T.D. Jakes, and suggested that staff sing hymns during times of distress.

“I do declare,” board member Pat Gibson-Hye Moore said in the meeting, “I’ll go before a firing squad if they make me give up the one who has always been with me.”

Moore eventually agreed, with the rest of the board, that the messages needed to cease.

“We are public officials and we have a responsibility to follow the law and we will follow the law,” Brooks said.

ORANGEBURG

Woman accuses pastor of raping her during exorcism
The Orangeburg Dept. of Public safety is investigating allegations that a visiting preacher raped a woman while performing exorcism rites on her unborn child.

According to a report in the Orangeburg Times Democrat the woman said that an out-of-county minister asked if he could “pray the demons out of her unborn child and her house.”

During the exorcism, the man allegedly asked the woman to lie on her side, so he could “pray the demons out of her side” at which point he engaged in sexual intercourse with her. Following the sex, he reportedly declared her free of demons.

In the days following the exorcism, the pastor allegedly urged the woman to keep the incident to herself and at one point offered to buy her a car.

Quarrel turns into full neighborhood fiasco
Jamison Avenue residents engaged in a weeklong dispute stemming from a simple argument over a cell phone conversation, police say.

According to the Orangeburg Times Democrat police responded to a group of women screaming at each other in the street. The whole thing started, they said, a week prior when a neighbor yelled at a woman’s daughter for talking too loud on her cell phone. Later, a person mowing the woman’s yard hit a piece of debris that flew into the neighbor’s yard, causing further confrontation.

The lawnmower confrontation allegedly led the neighbor to bend over in the middle of the street, drop her pants, and suggest that the woman kiss her bare buttocks.

Following a third confrontation, the nearby houses cleared of women, all of whom ended up in the street arguing about the feud. Police were called when a combatant kicked another’s car.

Police said all was calm when they finally left the scene, according to the report.

ROCK HILL

Argument claims breathalyzer ignition, leaves couple stranded
An arguing couple found themselves stranded at a motel after one of them smashed and disabled the breathalyzer ignition system on their car.

Breathalyzer ignitions are installed on cars to prevent drunk driving and require drivers to give a breath sample to before the car will start.

According to police, the couple were arguing in the car and slinging water and other beverages at each other. At some point, the ignition system was damaged, rendering the couple unable to separate and furthering the confrontation.

Police were called to calm the situation.

Thief stuffs 14 bottles of body wash in pants
That a Rock Hill man would want to steal 14 bottles of body wash is special enough; that he was somehow able to stuff them all into his pants is truly amazing.

A day shift manager at an area Bi-Lo called police to report that a man had stuffed $118 worth of body wash into his trousers and attempted to waddle out the door. After several employees unsuccessfully tried to stop him, the manager was finally able to detain him until police arrived.

The incident marked the man’s ninth shoplifting arrest since 2007.

Experts: Emergency Preparedness Cuts in Budget Deal Threaten U.S. Security

by Sasha Chavkin ProPublica,

The budget agreement being finalized this week by Congress includes cuts that could place the country at increased risk in an emergency such as the one that’s unfolding in Japan, disaster preparedness experts say.

They’re particularly troubled by a $786 million cutback in grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to support first responders, a 19 percent reduction from the 2010 budget.

“The cuts undermine the security of the country, as far as disaster preparedness is concerned,” said Dr. Irwin Redlener, director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University. “A very significant cutback is really inexplicable given what we’re observing unfold now in Japan.”

The FEMA first responder grants have been the primary source of funding for state and local agencies to train for major disasters, according to William Banks, director of the Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism and a Syracuse University law professor. State and local officials are responsible for initiating the critical first response in the U.S. preparedness system, which calls for the lowest possible level of government to manage to an emergency.

“States have very little resources for this of their own—they have relied on the federal government from the beginning,” Banks said. “They have essentially been able to stand up their preparedness activities in the last decade on the shoulders of federal support.”

The federal government is supposed to step in if a crisis is too big for local responders to handle – but as we reported last week, preparedness plans aren’t always clear about how and when federal authorities get involved.

FEMA did not comment on the cutbacks. Since FEMA administers grants for much of the Homeland Security department, including areas such as port and railroad security, it is still unclear how much of the reductions will affect state and local emergency planning. The summary of cuts provided by the House Appropriations Committee does not specify which FEMA first responder grant programs the $786 million reduction is taken from.

A majority staffer with the House Appropriations Committee, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that the cuts come from “FEMA first responder grants.” But the staffer said the assertion that the cuts would threaten national security is unfounded.

Several cuts came from programs that weren’t performing well or had failed to spend most of the previous grants they had received, including Port and Transit Security and Emergency Operations Centers, according to information provided by the staffer. The agreement also cut $50 million from FEMA’s National Predisaster Mitigation Fund and $38 million from a fund to modernize flood maps.

Redlener, the disaster preparedness expert, said that while the appropriations committee is obligated to ferret out waste, the cuts were reckless and overly broad.

“I don’t think anyone proposed these particular cuts based on a finely tuned, nuanced analysis of which programs are working and which aren’t,” Redlener said. “This is much more of a sledgehammer set of reductions within FEMA.”

Redlener said the disaster in Japan indicates that the United States has much more work to do to be adequately prepared for a major emergency. This week, the Japanese government reluctantly decided to evacuate some areas outside the initial 12-mile evacuation zone surrounding the crippled Fukushima reactors. Redlener cited that decision as evidence that U.S. nuclear emergency plans, which emphasize preparedness within a 10-mile radius of nuclear plants, need to be retooled – which would require an increase rather than a decrease in support for emergency planning.

One of Redlener’s greatest concerns is that the budget agreement could indicate the beginning of a trend toward defunding emergency preparedness programs.

“These proposals and the bipartisan agreement to move them forward potentially represent where we’re going in future budgets, including 2012,” he said. “If this is the direction we’re going in, I think the country is in for a lot more trouble.”

Entertainment Tips


By KingPin

Peace and blessings!!! Back with another edition of The Vocal Booth which is currently approaching its fourth year.  Last issue we celebrated the life and great music of Nate Dogg and covered the Mash Out Posse coming to Columbia, SC this past April 16th (look out for the full follow-up to the show interview with M.O.P. member Billy Danze next Vocal Booth).  This volume, we are going to list a few tips that will help any artist or group thinking about diving head first into the world of entertainment.  Let’s get it!!!!

ENTERTAINMENT TOOLS OF THE TRADE TIPS

Entertainment is an integral part of any discipline.  One must know how to put on show if your goal is to seek supporters.  Entertainment, as with any life choice, has both a good and bad side.   Here are 5 tips to use if you feel that entertainment is for you and success or happiness is what you are after….

TIP 1--- Be you.  How can you expect for people to subscribe to and support what it is you are if you do not subscribe to and support yourself.  Being you means that you are comfortable in your own skin regardless of whether or not someone feels you are not cut out.  Confidence can do much for success.

TIP 2--- Be original.  As time has proven this world is filled with ‘knockoffs’.  Any product you can imagine, like Crunch & Munch, has a knock off; in this case Fiddle Faddle.  The reason why knockoffs are so common is because the first or original person, product, or even idea made such a huge impact on society that others just want to ride the wave.  In music this is definitely a common trend.  Most one hit wonders are just that because of the blueprint laid down by others… Lil Wayne is simply a knockoff of a Jay-Z.

Tip 3--- Be assertive.  Too many times people are labeled simply as stepping stones for other peoples wants.  The slave will never be the master if he or she accepts the title, position, and responsibilities of a slave.  In order to tilt the odds in your favor, you must be assertive in your talent, assertive in your self-belief, and assertive enough to know when you are in over your head.  The entertainment industry has done extreme amounts of damage to the lives of people everywhere (add any name of anyone from anywhere here_____________________) because instead of speaking their minds, they handed over the wheel to others to do the driving.  One of the greatest things about being an artist is that you are the resource everyone is after.  If you decide to give your wealth away, there will always be somebody in the wings waiting on you with open arms.  Knowing that your worth and ability matter more means people will see only what you show.

Tip 4--- Study, practice, and research your craft. There is truly no way around this one.  To be the best you must push yourself.  The saying is that ‘ignorance is bliss’; believe that propaganda IF YOU WANT!!!

Tip 5--- Know your limits.  Having a good idea of when you should throw in towel should always resonate in your mind.  Entertainment is as unforgiving a discipline that is present.  Here today, gone tomorrow.  Prepare your exit plan as you begin to prepare your business plan.  Know your limits in dealing with others.  Every success story was successful because of the people you do not see; the people in the background.  Make sure you team is tight; meaning that everyone has the betterment of all on their radar.

---the importance of these tips can and will vary throughout your time in the spotlight.  Knowing your limits, practicing your craft, staying assertive, being an originator, and never downplaying yourself are tips that should serve you well on your journey.  SALUTE!!!

WORDS OF WISDOM

Time is limited, be sure to keep following your dreams.  Look out for the follow-up Mash Out Posse interview next issue.  Stay Free!!!

DJ KINGPIN-Villain of Vinyl (kingpinvillianofvinyl@gmail.com)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Live music this weekend



Thursday April 21

Hunter Gatherer

Jazz Night

New Brookland Tavern

East North

Pray For Triangle Zero

Wizard Of Oz.

Wall & Void

Nikoliai K. Oskolkov

Black Mind Saturnine

 

Utopia

Open Mic w Brett Mello

 

White Mule

Emily Lynch w/ tba

 

Friday April 22

 

Macs on Main

Soul Patrol

New Brookland Tavern

Octopus Jones

(Album Release Show)

Wylie

The Sea Wolf Mutiny

Dead Canaries

Utopia

Sounds of Suburbia

 

White Mule

 

Susan Taylor w/ Trent Jeffcoat (early show)

Taylor Moore w/ Tyler Boone Trio & Sarah Hunter

 

Saturday April 23

 

Macs on Main

Fatback & The Groove Band

New Brookland Tavern

Into The Depths

Full Color Guilt

Carolina Chupacabra

Homicyde

 

Tin Roof

Barefoot Renegades

Utopia

Reggae Infinity

 

White Mule

Ned Durrett w/ The Black Lillies

 

Sunday April 24

 

New Brookland Tavern

Dave Hause (Loved Ones)

Mikey Erg (The Ergs)

Ian Graham (Cheap Girls)

Danny Lyons (Of Anges & Lions)

 

White Mule

The Dirt Daubers w/ tba

 

Monday April 25

 

New Brookland Tavern

The Dangerous Summer

Sparks The Rescue

The Graduate

The Scenic

 

Tuesday April 26

 

New Brookland Tavern

For Today

Chelsea Grin

Motionless In White

For The Fallen Dreams

In The Midst Of Lions

 

Utopia

Open Blues Jam w Vic Scaricamazza

 

The White Mule

Suzy Skuralis w/ Len Lye, Megan Slankard, & Joel Ackerson

 

Wednesday April 27

 

New Brookland Tavern

New Music Night w/:

Bitterseed

East From West

TBA

 

Utopia

Lucia & Levi (The Little Zippers)

 

The White Mule

Open Mic w/ Greg Rue & Nikki Lee

 

Thursday April 28

 

Hunter Gatherer

Jazz Night

New Brookland Tavern

Versus The Robot

A Brighter Life

Clever Words

TBA

 

Utopia

Open Mic w Keith Bates

 

The White Mule

South Carolina Wildlife Federation fundraiser w/ Bryson Jennings

 

Friday April 29

 

Macs on Main

Natural Desire

New Brookland Tavern

The Unawares

DaiKaiju

Jurassic Heat

Bu Hao Ting

 

Utopia

The Dirty Lowdown

 

Saturday April 30

Art Bar

Gritz (Miles Franco & Reggie Paxton), Cooter Scooters, Grand Ole Uproar

Macs on Main

Essential Elements

New Brookland Tavern

The Restoration

The Lovely Few

Efren

 

Utopia

Darren Woodlief & Friends