Flake threatens judicial nominations, to force vote on special counsel

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Vandana Ravikumar

Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018

Flake threatens judicial nominations, to force vote on special counsel

WASHINGTON - Sen. Jeff Flake said Wednesday he will oppose all judicial confirmations until the Senate is allowed to vote on a bill to keep the White House from interfering in an investigation of possible Russian meddling in the 2016 election.The Arizona Republican was joined by Sen. Chris Coons, D-Delaware, on the floor of the Senate to demand a vote on the Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act, which won Judiciary Committee approval in April but has been blocked by Senate leaders since.Both Flake and Coons pointed to the recent ouster by President Donald Trump of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, whom the president had long criticized for not doing enough to rein in Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his Russia probe. Trump has repeatedly referred to the investigation as baseless and a witch hunt."Special Counsel Mueller was not in any danger" when the committee approved the bill in April, Flake said. "That clearly is not the case now."But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said earlier Wednesday that he has not changed his position that, while he agrees that the Mueller investigation should be allowed to continue, there is no need to for special legislation to protect it."We know how the president feels about the Mueller investigation, but he's never said he wants to shut it down, I've never heard anybody down there say they want to shut it down," McConnell said. "I think it's in no danger and so I don't think any legislation's necessary."After accepting Sessions' resignation the day after Election Day, however, Trump named Sessions' chief of staff, Matthew Whitaker, as acting attorney general. But critics have pointed to Whitaker's previous criticism of the Russia investigation.Coons criticized Whitaker as someone whose "legal ideas" are "well outside of the mainstream" and who lacks the experience to serve as attorney general."The larger issue that concerns me ... is public statements made a year ago by Matthew Whitaker, now the acting attorney general of the United States, questioning the validity and conduct of the special counsel's investigation," Coons said.Flake was also concerned that, besides being what he called an attempt to obstruct the Russia investigation, Trump's appointment of Whitaker was unconstitutional because he has not been confirmed by the Senate. Typically, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein - who is overseeing the Russia probe - would be named acting attorney general."When you have the Attorney General fired and when you have the oversight for the investigation is moved to someone who has not received Senate confirmation, who has expressed open hostility to the Mueller investigation, there's a problem, and I think most of our colleagues feel the same way," Flake said.He added that Whitaker's appointment "undercuts our entire system of justice here that we've enjoyed for a couple of centuries."Both senators said that if permanently appointed, Whitaker should be confirmed by the Senate first and then should recuse himself from overseeing the Russia investigation."I think that he shouldn't be in that position at all, to have oversight over the investigation," Flake said. "That's what feels unconstitutional."In the meantime, Flake said he plans withhold his vote for any judicial nominee in an effort to bring the bill to the Senate floor. He's confident that the bill, which passed the committee on a 14-7 vote, can pass the full Senate if brought up.Flake conceded that his vote alone may not be enough to block a nominee, but it's one of the few ways he can leverage his power before he leaves the Senate in January."I have committed not to advance any more nominees through the Judiciary Committee," Flake said, saying those who have already had hearings or whose nominations come to the floor will not get his vote. "With the margins we've had in the Judiciary Committee, it means that they will not move forward."Now, theoretically, if the vice president comes and breaks the tie and all Republicans for, Democrats against, they can still pass, so that's not where my leverage is, but I'll use what I have," he said."I'm fully prepared to carry through with this," Flake said. "We just need a vote." Read more

Gosar shouted down at right-wing groups’ event on social media access

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Alexis Egeland

Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018

Gosar shouted down at right-wing groups’ event on social media access

WASHINGTON - Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Prescott, had to call Capitol Police after protesters disrupted a forum he joined with right-wing groups complaining about their social media access being restricted over comments on immigration and Islamic law.Gosar said he was at the Middle East Forum event with representatives of Breitbart London and the English Defence League, among others, to support their right to free speech and dissent, but protesters shouted him and others down as racists and extremists.Code Pink protester Caroline Debnam said members of Congress should not support what she called anti-religious hate espoused by those like English Defence League founder Tommy Robinson."Shame on all of you for supporting this person," Debnam yelled at Gosar during the protest. "He's a racist."Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, has been identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a "British Islamophobe" and by the Anti-Defamation League as an "anti-Muslim extremist."Robinson was recently banned by PayPal for violating its prohibition against promoting "hate, violence, racial or other forms of intolerance," and has been banned by Twitter, according to published reports. He had to appear at Wednesday's event by videoconference after being denied a visa to visit the U.S.Gosar said in a statement Wednesday that it was the protesters who "expressed hatred and fear of freedom of speech.""Unfortunately during today's event, protesters decided to express their disagreement with a demonstration rather than engaging in dialogue," his statement said.Debnam was joined by fellow Code Pink protester Lily Tajaddini who said her Muslim upbringing left her scared by the discussion she heard in the forum."As someone who is of Middle Eastern descent and someone who grew up in a Muslim family, I felt very attacked by all of this," Tajaddini said after being escorted out of the event by police. "Seeing the rise in hate crimes in the U.S., I am worried and scared and I felt it is my duty to be here and to speak out." Debnam said that once she and Tajaddini stood up and voiced their opinions, they were written off as dangerous, nasty, bratty feminists."At first it was pretty standard, like, 'We just care about promoting peace in America and combating the threat that Islamism poses,'" she said. "But then once we stood up, it turned."Former Breitbart London editor Raheem Kassam said "de-platforming" is a symptom of the "greater sickness" of intolerance, which he believes could lead to the end of humanity as we know it.He accused social media organizations of blaming algorithms for the decision to remove groups' access, instead of holding individuals responsible."How do you prosecute or persecute an algorithm for discriminating and for taking someone's speech away?" Kassam asked. "And who gets held accountable in that process?"After calling police to remove the protesters, Gosar returned to the panel to claim that the country was headed in a totalitarian direction by "disarming society" and "controlling thought through censorship of citizens."He said the de-platforming of right-wing accounts is not about ending hate speech, but about silencing ideas the social media organizations disagree with."People don't like to tolerate our speech," he said, "but we're supposed to endure theirs." Read more

Wildfire Is Called Deadliest in U.S. in a Century

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Wildfire experts say the Northern California wildfire that has killed at least 56 is the deadliest in a century.

California officials say the fire burning in a rural area far north of San Francisco killed more people than any blaze in the state’s recorded history.

But the U.S. government doesn’t closely track civilian casualties and records from long ago are incomplete.

Stephen Pyne, a regent professor at Arizona State University’s School of Life Sciences and author of “Between Two Fires: A Fire History of Contemporary America,” and Crystal Kolden, a professor at the University of Idaho and expert in fire science, said 1918 was the last time more people were killed in a wildfire.

“For the modern era, this is definitely going to go down as the deadliest on record for the U.S.,” said Kolden, who has studied wildfires for 20 years since she worked as a wildland firefighter for the U.S. Forest Service.

A century ago, the Cloquet Fire broke out in drought-stricken northern Minnesota and raced through a number of rural communities, destroying thousands of homes and killing an estimated 1,000 people. The fire helped prompt the federal government to start developing firefighting practices and policies.

Pyne, who was a firefighter before he began researching wildfires in 1977, said U.S. government agencies still don’t keep good statistics on civilian casualties from wildfires.

“Fire statistics are not very good because they’re remotely generated,” he said. “It’s very hard to find out even how many houses burned in a year.”

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Indigenous Organizers Face Political Attack by Flagstaff Police for Anti-Columbus Day Demonstration

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.Indigen.ous Organizers Face Political Attack by Flagstaff Police for Anti-Columbus Day DemonstrationBy Indigenous Action Censored NewsOCCUPIED FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — Flagstaff police stalked and cited an Indigenous organizer in so-called Flagstaff, Arizona last night for their alleged role in a demonstration that took to the streets the previous month on what is now recognized as " Read more

PARIS — French Guïana Women Speak, Gold Mine Threatens Rainforest

Read more of this story here from CENSORED NEWS by Brenda Norrell.

GOLD MINE, STRUGGLE FOR IDENTITY AND FOR MOTHER EARTH: YOUNG WOMEN FROM FRENCH GUÏANA SPEAKAGAINST THE GOLD COMPANY 'MONTAGNE D'OR', THE DENIAL OF THEIR IDENTITY, AND THE STRUGGLE FOR MOTHER EARTH: YOUNG WOMEN FROM FRENCH GUÏANA SPOKE, ON OCTOBER 13, 2018, DURING THE 'SOLIDARITY DAY' OF THE CSIARecorded on October 13th, 2018Article and translation by Christine PratRead more

Too many deals will make drought plan unworkable, Ducey warns

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Bret Jaspers

Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018

Too many deals will make drought plan unworkable, Ducey warns

PHOENIX – Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has written an opinion piece outlining some requirements he has for Arizona’s internal deal on drought. It came two days ahead of an important meeting of the board of the agency that runs the Central Arizona Project canal system.The other six Colorado River Basin states and Mexico are waiting – mostly – on Arizona to finish its internal deal before they can sign a basin-wide Drought Contingency Plan meant to keep Lake Mead from falling to disastrously low levels.Ducey’s op-ed, published Tuesday in the Arizona Capitol Times, criticized recent proposals to help various stakeholders deal with the cutbacks, what’s known as mitigation.“In recent stakeholder meetings, demands for water and money to mitigate reductions are growing to insurmountable proportions – more than 1 million acre-feet of water and over $200 million through 2026 – creating an unsustainable precedent for mitigating water reductions in the future,” Ducey wrote.The Op-Ed sends a signal about what the governor won’t accept. He said Arizona’s internal plan must reaffirm a goal of conservation, recognize drought “may be the new normal,” and not set expectations that cutbacks in Colorado River water will continue to be mitigated without end.On Thursday, the board of the Central Arizona Water Conservation District, which runs the CAP canal system that delivers Colorado River water to central Arizona, will meet to discuss the Drought Contingency Plan. The agenda includes a proposal for so-called “mitigation.”This story is part of Elemental: Covering Sustainability, a multimedia collaboration between Cronkite News, Arizona PBS, KJZZ, KPCC, Rocky Mountain PBS and PBS SoCal.Follow us on Instagram. Read more

Too many deals will make drought plan unworkable, Ducey warns

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Bret Jaspers

Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018

Too many deals will make drought plan unworkable, Ducey warns

PHOENIX – Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has written an opinion piece outlining some requirements he has for Arizona’s internal deal on drought. It came two days ahead of an important meeting of the board of the agency that runs the Central Arizona Project canal system.The other six Colorado River Basin states and Mexico are waiting – mostly – on Arizona to finish its internal deal before they can sign a basin-wide Drought Contingency Plan meant to keep Lake Mead from falling to disastrously low levels.Ducey’s op-ed, published Tuesday in the Arizona Capitol Times, criticized recent proposals to help various stakeholders deal with the cutbacks, what’s known as mitigation.“In recent stakeholder meetings, demands for water and money to mitigate reductions are growing to insurmountable proportions – more than 1 million acre-feet of water and over $200 million through 2026 – creating an unsustainable precedent for mitigating water reductions in the future,” Ducey wrote.The Op-Ed sends a signal about what the governor won’t accept. He said Arizona’s internal plan must reaffirm a goal of conservation, recognize drought “may be the new normal,” and not set expectations that cutbacks in Colorado River water will continue to be mitigated without end.On Thursday, the board of the Central Arizona Water Conservation District, which runs the CAP canal system that delivers Colorado River water to central Arizona, will meet to discuss the Drought Contingency Plan. The agenda includes a proposal for so-called “mitigation.”This story is part of Elemental: Covering Sustainability, a multimedia collaboration between Cronkite News, Arizona PBS, KJZZ, KPCC, Rocky Mountain PBS and PBS SoCal.Follow us on Instagram. Read more

Too many deals will make drought plan unworkable, Ducey warns

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Bret Jaspers

Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018

Too many deals will make drought plan unworkable, Ducey warns

PHOENIX – Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has written an opinion piece outlining some requirements he has for Arizona’s internal deal on drought. It came two days ahead of an important meeting of the board of the agency that runs the Central Arizona Project canal system.The other six Colorado River Basin states and Mexico are waiting – mostly – on Arizona to finish its internal deal before they can sign a basin-wide Drought Contingency Plan meant to keep Lake Mead from falling to disastrously low levels.Ducey’s op-ed, published Tuesday in the Arizona Capitol Times, criticized recent proposals to help various stakeholders deal with the cutbacks, what’s known as mitigation.“In recent stakeholder meetings, demands for water and money to mitigate reductions are growing to insurmountable proportions – more than 1 million acre-feet of water and over $200 million through 2026 – creating an unsustainable precedent for mitigating water reductions in the future,” Ducey wrote.The Op-Ed sends a signal about what the governor won’t accept. He said Arizona’s internal plan must reaffirm a goal of conservation, recognize drought “may be the new normal,” and not set expectations that cutbacks in Colorado River water will continue to be mitigated without end.On Thursday, the board of the Central Arizona Water Conservation District, which runs the CAP canal system that delivers Colorado River water to central Arizona, will meet to discuss the Drought Contingency Plan. The agenda includes a proposal for so-called “mitigation.”This story is part of Elemental: Covering Sustainability, a multimedia collaboration between Cronkite News, Arizona PBS, KJZZ, KPCC, Rocky Mountain PBS and PBS SoCal.Follow us on Instagram. Read more