State Department launches $40 million initiative to crack down on foreign propaganda and disinformation

On Monday the State Department announced that a deal had been signed with the Pentagon to move $40 million from the Defense Department’s coffers to bolster the Global Engagement Center. The effort was ordered by Congress last summer in response to Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election, and to counter Russian efforts to impact U.S. politics that continue to this day, but was awaiting funding from the Defense Department.

The new money that was transferred will be used, in part, to supply grants to civil society groups, media providers, academic institutions, private companies and other organizations that are working on projects to counter disinformation for the United States government.

The department said that it also plans to award an initial $5 million in grants from the so-called Information Access Fund. This fund will receive $1 million in initial seed money from the State Department’s public diplomacy coffers in order to get off the ground quickly, the department said.

The State Department’s first step to combatting Russia’s information operations is essentially to crowdsource how to do it. The Kremlin reportedly uses a range of methods, ranging from publishing inaccurate or misleading articles to employing people to create fake and automated social media accounts on Twitter, Facebook and other social media to sow confusion and discord in the U.S.

The U.S. intelligence community has publicly accused Russia of using cyberattacks and disinformation to interfere in the 2016 presidential election to sow discord, damage former Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and help elect now-President Trump.

All the evidence available at the time shows no signs that the online information being pushed could have swayed our election. They claim that these bots and pages were pushing anti-Hillary propaganda when so was the rest of the actual American population who opposed her establishment politics.

This hunt for other countries interfering in our elections while the CIA and friends topple regimes that stand in the way of United States policies. This has became a new red scare and they’re using the excuse of online Russian interference to suppress independent voices.

The Russia gate story didn’t start until after the 2016 election when Hillary Clinton lost the presidential election, and claimed she new about it and warned Sanders. Yet his campaign has stated that he was told very little on the matter and has sense publicly said the HRC campaign should have shared more details while campaigning.

But they didn’t, because Hillary Clinton thought she had the election in the bag so much that she skipped needed states to win the election. So what happens when you lose because you don’t understand the electoral college, you blame the Russians.

The revelation has gripped Washington for more than a year now, as Mueller presses forward with his investigation into Russian interference and possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow.


Dynegy Inc. facing suit for toxic waste from its ash pits leaking into a popular Illinois river

A new report shows that toxic waste from coal ash pits in southern Illinois is leaking into the Vermilion River, Illinois most scenic & traveled river. These pits are from a now closed Power Station that was owned by Dynegy Inc.

Back in January Prairie Rivers Network announced, citing problems documented in the Houston-based company’s own internal reports, that it plans to file a suit against Dynegy for repeatedly violating an Obama-era regulation, the Clean Water Act. The group said it decided to challenge the company on its own because federal and state regulators have failed to address well-known hazards at the shuttered plant near Oakwood, about 25 miles east of Urbana.

Pictures from the groups report showed orange colored goo around the river beds at the Middle Fork of the Vermilion River as it meanders just past the former Vermilion Power Station, which was a coal-fired facility built back in the 1950s by Illinois Power and later purchased by Dynegy.

In 2011 just shortly before Dynegy decided to close its plant, it deposited more than 3.3 million yards of ash next to the river. In comparison that would roughly be able to fill up the Empire State Building over 2 times.

Testing by Dynegy and the Prairie Rivers Network shows the multicolored waste oozing into the waterways contain dangerous levels of heavy metals found in coal ash, including arsenic, chromium, iron, lead and manganese.

Back in 2012, Dynegy Inc. was cited by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency for water pollution violations at the site. The case is still currently open in the court system.

The company has suggested it could solve the problem in Vermilion County by capping the waste pits to prevent rain and snowmelt from washing coal ash into the water.

But in a November report by Dynegy that they sent to state regulators, it estimated that the normal flow of the Middle Fork is eroding the river banks by up to 3 feet each year, making it even more likely that the toxic slurry would be exposed below the proposed caps in their plan.

The coal ash pits at the Vermilion Power Plant are called “legacy” ash pits, which are excluded from the protections of EPA’s federal coal ash rule because the power plant retired before the rule went into effect in 2015. Environmental groups, including Earthjustice and Prairie Rivers Network, have argued in a lawsuit pending before the federal appeals court in D.C. that EPA should not have left legacy pits out of the rule.

Even absent strong federal protections for legacy coal ash sites, however, Dynegy still must comply with environmental laws such as the Clean Water Act, which prohibits discharges of pollutants into rivers such as the Middle Fork without a proper permit or that violate Illinois health and environmental standards.

Just a mile away from the closed plant is an entrance to the river where kayakers and rafters go to see the scenic route every summer. This 74.8 mile stretch of river was protected back in 1989 under the National Wild and Scenic Rivers act, which was put in place to protect dozens of endangered species living in the water and surrounding woodlands.

This is sure to be a dragged out battle once again being a fight between the corporations and protecting the environment around.

Featured photo via Prairie Rivers Network Report

Corporate Democrat Diane Feinstein Loses California Democratic Party endorsement

Diane Feinstein being one of the most known faces in California Politics, but on Sunday Senator Feinstein failed to get her state party’s endorsement. She has been in Senate since 1992 and has recently came under fire from the progressives in the Democratic party.

In convention balloting results released Sunday State Sen. Kevin de Leon lead Feinstein 54% to 37%, according the California Democratic Party. Neither candidate met the threshold of 60% , which required for the party’s endorsement.

These recent numbers continue to show the push for the Democratic party to go further left instead of center like the party has been heading to gain more votes. Feinstein has always been a little to the right of where the party’s activists are.

Now, in her final campaign, Feinstein is once again at odds with progressives in the party, despite her efforts to move left by more strongly opposing President Donald Trump’s agenda.

A recent move by Feinstein that could have pushed away her voters could be when she said that the Senate Appropriations Committee, which she currently sits on, would never approve $25 billion for Trump’s wall along the Mexico border. But just minutes later, de León’s team sent texts noting that Feinstein had just voted for exactly that as part of the “Common Sense Coalition” immigration plan that failed to get through the Senate.

This bill would not only have provided a path to citizenship for so-called Dreamers, people in the U.S. illegally who were brought here as children, but it also included $25 billion for the wall.

So its another repeat of the public and private opinions by an elected official. The easy way to avoid this happening is to not vote people in who are paid to have two views.

Her opponent made it very clear at the states convention, that they won’t have to wonder or dig to find out where he stands. de León reminded the crowd that his opponent hasn’t always been a reliable liberal. “Democrats, you’ll never have to guess where I stand,” de León said before noting that he has championed issues such as raising the minimum wage, single-payer health care and the environment.

He also noted that Feinstein once urged Democrats to rally around Donald Trump, and said that she believed he could be “a good president” if he was willing to “learn and change.” “I’m running for US Senate because the days of Democrats biding our time, biding our talk, are over,” de León said. “Leadership comes from human audacity, not from congressional seniority.”

It will be an uphill battle for de León since he failed to get the parties endorsement, but it should shone light on the rest of the Democratic party that people are done supporting career politicians that continue to have two sides.

Illinois school district looks at arming teachers

A school district in southern Illinois is reportedly looking at becoming the first district in the state to arm its teachers, according from a report coming from WSILTV. Century School District 100 is located just outside of Ullin in Pulaski County and has a student population of about 360.

A Century School board member, said that the district asked its legal team to review Illinois law, to see if a provision that allows districts to hire some employees to carry guns, like school security guards, would also allow teachers and other staff members to do the same, providing they received the proper training.

The district needs to get legal clearance first from the Illinois Attorney General’s office before teachers, administrators, janitors or even cafeteria workers would be allowed to carry guns on school grounds.

Landon Sommers, Century’s superintendent, said that the district has already invested in metal detectors, additional cameras and new emergency doors.

He thinks all options should be on the table and open to discussion before shutting any ideas down.

In a statement from WSILTV Sommers said:

“Some people feel very strongly both ways about it, but I feel it’s something we at least have to consider to make sure our kids are safe. It’s disheartening being in education having this conversation, but with everything going on it’s a conversation we have to have.”

Illinois Education Association President Kathi Griffin said that arming teachers is a terrible idea in a statement from a WSILTV article:

“We need to stop repeating history and tackle the school shooting epidemic head on, but arming our teachers is not the answer. Our teachers and support staff members did not sign up to carry guns! They are not law enforcement. They became teachers and support staff because they wanted to help students learn and succeed.

There has been many representatives on the right that have pushed the idea of arming teachers and staff at schools since last weeks shooting at a high school in Florida that took 17 lives. President Donald Trump also pushed the idea in his meeting with the victims parents and survivors of the shooting last Friday.

This will likely be an uphill battle for any district that tries to arm its teachers, as many parents have also voice in opposition to the idea as well.

Featured photo via CumberLink

19 House Republicans call for stricter background checks

On Friday afternoon nineteen House representatives called for Paul Ryan to hold a vote on a bill that would push for stronger background checks. These calls come a week after the most recent school shooting at a high school in Florida where 17 students and staff died.

Rep. Leonard Lance (R-N.J.), one of the signers of the letter to Ryan, said in astatement:

“Background checks are the first line of defense in law enforcement’s efforts to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, domestic abusers and those deemed dangerously mentally ill.”

The letter refers to a bill that was proposed last year after a fatal shooting at a Texas church that left 25 people dead. The bill focuses primarily on background checks, but conservatives are unwilling to back it unless it includes so-called concealed-carry legislation which is backed by the NRA.

A bill that combined the two proposals passed the House last year in mid-December, setting up a possible fight with Republicans in the Senate. The House GOP leaders have promised that the concealed-carry provision wouldn’t be removed, meaning that the bill would actually loosen gun restrictions instead of strengthening them.

The letter concludes that the bill would improve communication between state and local agencies when handling background checks, which some are blaming for the shooting in Florida after the shooter was reported to police and the FBI over 19 times and was still able to legally purchase a firearm.

The cries for common sense gun laws has been ringing since last Wednesday, all around the countries students have staged walk out and planned marches for next month. Many wondering if this will be that last school shooting before something is done by the government.

School Resource officer resigns after Parkland school shooting

The armed school resource officer who was at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 18-year old Nikolas Cruz killed 17 people last week, stood outside the building, didn’t intervene and now has resigned, according to Sheriff Scott Israel. “I am devastated. Sick to my stomach that he never went in,” Sheriff Israel said.

Sheriff Israel said that officer Peterson was the school resource officer at the High School, and was on site, armed and in uniform, when the shooting took place.

He also said video footage showed Peterson arriving at the building right after the shooting broke out, “and remained outside for about four minutes,” with the attack lasting six minutes.

Peterson was seen on video arriving at the west side of a building, but “he never went in,” Israel said.

Israel said Peterson should have gone in and “addressed the killer, killed the killer.”

Israel added that after seeing the video, hearing witness accounts and getting a statement from Peterson, he suspended the officer without pay pending an internal investigation. But Peterson then resigned, he said.

Sheriff Israel said Peterson didn’t give a reason as to why he didn’t go in the building, and it’s unclear if he’ll face charges.

Companies drop the NRA after cries for gun control

Since the most recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida took place. Companies have been having to make a decision: let their name be connected to the NRA, or stop donating and supporting their fight against common sense gun laws.

On Thursday, the First National Bank of Omaha which the nation’s largest privately owned bank said it will not renew its contract with the NRA for a branded Visa card. The bank had a relationship with the NRA for more than a decade, and the card rewarded a $40 cash-back bonus, which shockingly is enough to reimburse a one-year NRA membership.

On Twitter the bank has received multiple messages at them saying to cut ties with the company. As always money talks and the company listened to the people.

On Thursday Enterprise Holdings Inc., which is the parent company of the Enterprise, Alamo and National car rental brands, announced that it will be ending its partnership with the NRA, which gave NRA members discounts. In tweets, Enterprise and its companies said that program will end next month, effective March 26th.

In a report in Tuesday, ThinkProgress detailed how 22 corporations were making membership to America’s premier gun lobbying group more enticing by offering a range of discounts. A few car rental companies still offer discounts to members, including Hertz and Avis Budget Group, which offer NRA members “up to 25 percent off everyday base rates at participating locations.”

There are many companies still supporting the National Rifle Association, but how long will they continue if their customers voice in opposition. Money talks and consumer based companies cannot survive without their consumers.