Greg Palast

Greg Palast and Ted Rall in Sag Harbor Live!

Greg Palast - Articles - Mon, 2012-06-18 19:17

Election Games: Billionaires and Ballot Bandits Canio's Cultural Cafe and WPKN Radio 89.5 FM present:

Friday June 22, 6:30PM - 8PM at the Unitarian Universalist Meeting House, 977 Sag Harbor - Bridgehampton Turnpike, Bridgehampton, NY. The meeting house is midway between Bridgehampton and Sag Harbor.

Get tickets here!

Who are the Billionaires and how do they plan to steal the election?
There will be a discussion followed by a Q&A session and a reception with a chance to talk with the speakers.

Election Games: Billionaires and Ballot Bandits is a benefit for Canio's Cultural Cafe and listener powered WPKN Radio (both are 501c3 non profit organizations)

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How Bain Capital helped BPblow up the Deepwater Horizon

Greg Palast - Articles - Sat, 2012-06-09 11:50

A Book Review by Greg Palast, for FireDogLake.com
on Poisoned Legacy: the Human Cost of BP's Rise to Power (St. Martin's Press) by Mike Magner.

Here's my bead on Magner's book....


I almost fell off the barstool when I read that it was Bain Capital (Mitt Romney, former CEO), that told oil giant BP it was a good idea to cut costs. The cuts would lead to death, mayhem and the destruction of the Gulf Coast (not to mention BP’s poisoning of Alaska, Africa, Central Asia and Colombia).

In 2007, after BP's criminal negligence and penny-pinching led to the explosion at the BP oil refinery on the Gulf Coast, in Texas City, Texas, the company brought in industry pooh-bah James Baker, their lawyer and former Secretary of State, to write a report. Baker is Big Oil's BFF, but in this case, he was horrified, and told BP to get its act together and spend some real money on operating safety.

BP didn't like Baker's recommendation nor did it like another report by its own consulting firm, Booz Allen Hamilton which advised the company to ...get its act together and spend money on safety.

When two respected industry voices agree that you'd better start spending and thinking while you're operating in a deadly business, a corporation's CEO has only one choice: find a consulting house of ill repute to contradict the others and tell you what you want to hear.

That's what BP's CEO Tony Hayward did. In 2008, he hired Bain Capital to say the company would be better managed if it spent less money. Bain used consulting BS terms like reducing "complexity," but it all meant the same thing: cut, cut, cut.

After all, Bain's motto is, "We like to fire people." The oil company then fired 5,000 employees in response to the Bain report.

To hell with safety.

BP read Bain's recommendations as the green light to chop funding. Of course, it was all done with Hayward's PR pronouncement that the company would now "focus like a laser on safety". (A laser, I'd note, is a thin beam surrounded by darkness.)

BP's Bain-blessed, deadly, insouciant cost-cutting was the deadly habit that federal regulators identified as a cause of the Deepwater Horizon blow-out.

That's just one of the ill-making stories in Magner's book which takes you through BP's poisonous history before, during and after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon blow-out.

Much of Magner's opus centers on the Texas City refinery explosion that was a loud, flaming warning about allowing BP to play with matches and oilrigs. He begins and ends with the story of another refinery, Amoco's long-closed plant at Neodesha, Kansas.

At first, that sounds weird for a book about BP––but it's an exceptionally important tale, explaining how the industry hits and runs. Amoco closed its refinery decades ago, took off and left the toxins there. It takes years for toxins to kill, and Amoco's poisons killed Lucille Campbell's baby in 1963. And it takes more years to figure that out, which Lucille did in 1999, after BP bought Amoco.

Lucille continues to this day to fight to stop the rash of cancers and poisonings still caused by BP's dump. The oil company has done the honorable thing: it's gone after Lucille and her little township, attempting to smear, discredit and bankrupt her and the company's victims.

Lucille's fight against the petro-saur corporation is the big story of the book that you should read––in fact, that you should memorize.

Greg Palast is the author of Vultures' Picnic, centering on Palast's own undercover investigation of BP and Big Oil around the planet. www.VulturesPicnic.org.
Palast's, reports can be seen on BBC-TV and Britain’s Channel 4.

You can read Vultures' Picnic, "Chapter 1: Goldfinger," or download it, at no charge: click here.

Subscribe to Palast's Newsletter and podcasts.
Follow Palast on Facebook and Twitter.

GregPalast.com

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Palast in London with Warren Ellis to launch Vultures' Picnic: June 26

Greg Palast - Articles - Wed, 2012-05-30 15:10

Greg Palast, Warren Ellis, Anna Chen, Laurie Penny
London - 26 June - ULU 'The Venue' at 7pm - 9 pm

Greg Palast will be joined by special guests Warren Ellis (Transmetropolitan, Crooked Little Vein), Anna Chen (Madam Miaow Says - Blog), Laurie Penny ( of The New Statesman, Penny Red), John Hilary (War on Want) and Nick Dearden (Jubilee Debt Campaign)

… for the launch of the UK edition of Palast's new book,
Vultures' Picnic: A Tale of Oil, High Finance and Investigative Reporting…

In association with Jubilee Debt Campaign, Greenpeace and Occupy London.

Seats are very limited, so reserve yours here now.

A minimum donation of £10 gets you admission and a signed copy of Palast's new book, Vultures' Picnic.
£5 minimum donation for admission only.

Vultures’ Picnic is an eye-opening, heart-pumping, mind-blowing experience that should not, MUST not, be missed. - Nomi Prins

Download and read Chapter 1: Goldfinger.
Or you can pre-order Vultures' Picnic here.

If you have friends in London make sure they don't miss this.

See you in London,
Greg

For media requests and review copies contact: olivershykles(at)gmail.com

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Killings, cancer, corruption and Azerbaijan: Eurovision in the Islamic Republic of BP

Greg Palast - Articles - Sat, 2012-05-26 11:35

by Greg Palast for Left Foot Forward
Saturday, 26. May, 2012

Palast's book Vultures' Picnic will be released in Britain June 26. Catch Palast with Special Guest Warren Ellis.
More info here.

Will “Beyond Petroleum” oil giant BP pick the winner of the Eurovision Song Contest today in Baku, Azerbaijan? If so, I wouldn’t be surprised.

When I was arrested by the military police of Azerbaijan during my investigation of BP for Channel 4′s Dispatches in 2010, one of the cops who surrounded our crew in the desert told us, with great pride:

“BP drives this country.”

Indeed it does.

In 1992, the newly independent former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan elected a kindly Muslim Professor, Abulfaz Elchibey, as President.

But the voters had made an error: Elchibey refused to give BP an exclusive contract to drill the nation’s massive Caspian Sea fields as the company wished. In 1993, with the assistance and, reportedly, guns provided by MI6, Elchibey was overthrown by the nation’s former Soviet KGB boss, Heydar Aliyev.

Within three months, Aliyev handed BP a sweetheart deal, called “The Contract of the Century”, to take Azerbaijan’s Caspian oil.

The way to the no-bid deal for BP was “greased”, to use the term applied by former BP operative Leslie Abrahams, with several million dollars in illicit payments and weekends with lap dancers in London for Azeri officials. I asked Abrahams, who was ordered by BP to provide military intelligence to MI6, whether he understood that he was paying “bribes on behalf of BP and the British government” – he replied, “absolutely, yes”.

When asked, BP would not directly deny paying bribes.

The company told us, tantalisingly, that:

“While there were some facts in [Abrahams] account that were accurate, we do not recognise most of it and regarded it as fantasy.” (Here is Abrahams in the BP office with his Kalashnikov).

Since BP has taken control of Azerbaijan’s oil, the nation has become fabulously wealthy – at least for those close to the Aliyev family and BP.

And they eat well. The daughters of the new President, Ilham Aliyev (son of Heydar), picked up the tab for dinner in London for a half dozen of their friends. It came to £300,000 (excluding tip and VAT).

According to Robert Ebel, the CIA’s former oil intelligence chief, the whereabouts of $140 million in BP and other oil industry payments are “totally unknown”.

This week, Eurovision Song Contest viewers will be treated to the images of the ancient city of Baku where the Silk Road streets are filled with Maseratis and Bentleys. The Bentley dealership, and much of the capital, is owned by Azerbaijan’s First Lady, Mehriban Aliyeva, the “Sexiest Muslim Woman in the World”.

That’s official, the vote was taken by Esquire Magazine. (She’s actually the twelfth “Sexiest Woman in the World”, but the other eleven, infidels all, can be ignored here.)
(Photo above with husband Ilham).

I’m not saying she doesn’t deserve the title: her fashion model face has been created at great expense by “so much plastic surgery”, according to the US State Department Manning/WikiLeaks cables, that Lady Mehriban “appears unable to show a full range of facial expression.”

But when I left the Old City and its Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana stores and headed off to Sangachal, the town where BP’s terminal operates, I found a nation heading full speed into the 14th century…

Baku, once the world’s leading manufacturer of oil drilling equipment, is now one of the world’s leading centers of oil-toxin cancers. Walking along the main street of Sangachal, the aptly nicknamed, “Terminal Town”, was like doing the rounds in a cancer ward.

The local shoemaker, Elmar Mamonov - who hasn’t sold a shoe in two years - told me:

“This one’s daughter has breast cancer; there, Rasul had a brain tumor. Cancers we had never seen. His funeral was last week.”

Azlan, afraid to give his last name, paid to have a cancerous lung cut out, because employer BP wouldn’t pay. He says the oil company fired him after he could not keep up with his work.

And there was Shala Tageva, a schoolteacher, who has ovarian cancer. She needs treatment soon, but how to pay for it, Mamonov can’t imagine. Shala is Mamonov’s wife.

Suddenly, Mamonov stopped himself.

“If I am arrested, you will help me, yes?”

Sorry, sir, not in the Islamic Republic of BP.

Oil, their main industry, has seen employment drop about 90 per cent according to journalist Khadija Ismayilova. Her father, the former oil production minister, was fired by Aliyev when the minister suggested bribery was behind the destruction of the industry, bribes which allegedly allowed BP to avoid “local content” laws that would have saved those jobs.

Throughout the nation, we heard the same refrain: nostalgia for the old days of freedom and prosperity under Soviet rule; under BP rule, the people’s health, income and freedoms have decayed rapidly, as pollution has turned their Caspian fisheries into a dead, chemical toilet.

But Azeris are well entertained. The massive expenditure for the Eurovision Song Contest follows the government’s spending of $1 million for an Elton John concert during a depression.

Today, only one in seven dollars of GDP is paid in salaries (versus four of five dollars in the US and UK). Where have the billions gone? No one dare look for it, nor the source of the First Lady’s wealth. The last journalist who asked about the funds, Elmar Huseynov, was gunned down in his home. A journalist who questioned what happened to Huseynov was jailed. No third journalist is investigating what happened to the first two.

Azerbaijan is, nominally, a democracy. Indeed, the First Lady won a convincing election to Parliament (as did every other candidate supporting her husband’s regime - there was not a single member of the opposition elected). But it doesn’t, in the end, matter who is voted in, as long as “BP drives”.

Within hours of our arrest, my crew and I were released by the Deputy Chief of the Security Ministry: Imprisoning a Channel 4 reporter would have been an embarrassment for BP. But our witnesses to BP’s horrific drilling practices didn’t do so well. One made it out of the country, but others disappeared.

When you watch the Euro-warblers compete this Saturday, just remember that in Azerbaijan, the winners are already chosen: BP and the family of the Sexiest Muslim Woman in the World. And that’s not a pretty sight.

——–

Re-prints permitted with credit to Greg Palast.

Here’s a clip from my interactive book

Greg Palast’s book on BP, “Vultures’ Picnic: A Tale of Oil, High-Finance and Investigative Reporting”, will be released in Britain on June 26th; click here for tickets and details of the launch event at ULU (the University of London Union) on June 26th..

You can read Vultures' Picnic, "Chapter 1: Goldfinger," or download it, at no charge: click here.

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Vote like an Egyptian?

Greg Palast - Articles - Wed, 2012-05-23 16:26
  by Mark Bebawi
  It’s rare for us to have guest articles, but Pacifica Radio host of The Monitor, Mark Bebawi, has insight into an issue where to be dumb is to be deadly.  Mark, born and raised in Cairo, wrote his master’s dissertation at Oxford on the Egyptian Brotherhood.  George Bush sent me his copy.  (Or was that The Pet Goat?)
 
So, to cut through the crapola about doings in Cairo, I’ve asked Bebawi to write a short “Egypt for Idiots” about the election today, a special for our readers.  
  For all the talk of revolution and the Arab Spring, what happened last year in Egypt was not regime change. It was more of a clothing change – a suit was removed and a military uniform was donned in a country that went from a nominally civilian dictatorship to a military council. But fundamentally the same people are in charge now as were during the Mubarak presidency.
  In spite of this, the presidential election in Egypt is historic. It is the first time the outcome is not predetermined.  There are 13 candidates on the ballot and none of them will get a Mubarak-like 90 plus % of the vote. So who will people be voting for and what will a new president be able to do? And, perhaps more importantly, what will this mean for Egyptians and the rest of the region? The answers to these vital questions are not yet known and it is very possible there will be run-off round next month. Having said that, there are some things we can predict with some certainty.
  First and foremost among these: It is not who does the voting but who does the counting that is most important. The last five decades have entrenched a regime that has gotten very good at manipulating elections. At both the presidential and parliamentary levels there has been clear evidence of election fraud. Videos that would be comedic gold, were it not for the underlying fraud, have surfaced showing election officials working their way through, and casting, dozens of votes each. We have no way of knowing if this election will be free and fair but recent history should at least throw up a couple of caution flags. 
  If the votes are fairly counted it is likely that Islamist candidates will get the majority of the votes. Yet even this is not what it may seem to outside observers. The Muslim Brotherhood and the Nour Party (a backward looking Salafi cadre looking to re-establish the mythical golden age of Islam in Egypt) appear to have cleanly won two thirds of the seats in recent parliamentary elections. The reality behind this victory is more complicated than Egypt suddenly turning into a fundamentalist Muslim country. The Brotherhood has had decades to prepare for elections. It has a powerful and organized electoral infrastructure and has been involved in politics for over two generations. So, while the uprising and the demonstrations in Tahrir Square were not started, coordinated or maintained by Islamists it was the Islamist who were predictably positioned to take advantage of any elections. Their weakness in the presidential round is that their votes will be split because of the multitude of candidates running on their Islamic credentials.
  Secondly, Egypt does not have a functioning constitution at present. The committee that was drafting one was disbanded by the courts and suffered from a deep conflict of interest. It was made up of members of parliament and was supposed to draft a constitution that, among other things, was going to establish the separation of powers between parliament, president and judiciary. So we have a presidential election in which all candidates, and any eventual winner, will not know on their first day in office what exactly their office will be able to do. This plays into the hands of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) because it can still exert its influence through the courts to help craft a constitution that is in keeping with its aims of maintaining control of the country. If the new president is allied with the SCAF it is likely the constitution will grant the president wide-ranging powers and Egypt will see more years of little real change. If the new president is inimical to the SCAF it is likely we will see a new push for a constitution that restricts the president’s powers and enough holes that the SCAF can fill through constitutional vagueness and the continued exercise of undue military control over civilian life.
  Thirdly, what of the regional and international dimensions to this election? Egypt’s position as a key regional ally of both Israel and the US will continue to have a long term impact on Egyptian politics. Israel fears a change to a more Islamist Egypt as much as the US does. Both countries will want to maintain a close relationship with Egypt and ensure that policies and regional stances do not change. These external pressures, coupled with a SCAF that stands to lose a lot of power if a new constitution and president force them back into their barracks and out of political life, will mean that the Tahrir Square revolutionaries who dreamed of a democratic change in Egypt will have to wait a little while longer to see their dream realized. 
  There is reason to be positive in spite of all this. A new generation of politically active youth has grown up in Egypt. They are more aware of the world, more connected to each other, and no longer frightened of their rulers. They have seen that, through sheer weight of numbers, they can force change in their country and stand up to dictatorship. They are equally aware of the agendas of the Islamists and the desire for status quo in the corridors of power in other countries. However, because of decades of externally funded and supported dictatorship they find themselves in a position of being a disorganized majority that will not win in the short term. The good news is that they are in it for the long term.
  If we can learn one thing from what is going on in Egypt it is that supporting dictatorship is a dangerous game. It has helped fuel the rise of Islamist parties and leaves us facing an uncertain future that could lead to one of three outcomes: future wars between an Islamist Egypt and Israel; more of the old tyranny and oppression; or a long and troubled road to peace and stability. The last of these is only possible if enough people are aware and informed.  

Mark Bebawi grew up in Cairo, Egypt. He hosts a weekly current affairs hour-long radio show on KPFT, Pacifica Radio, Houston, holds a master’s degree in Middle East Studies from Oxford University and wrote his thesis on Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. 
 

Mark and The Monitor are in our group of “Media Resources” in our upcoming book/voter-guide/comic book:  Billionaires & Ballot Bandits:  Election Games 2012.  
If you believe your radio program, website, newsletter or organization should be listed in our section on Experts, Action Groups and Media Resources, contact me, Greg Palast, at BallotBandits-[at]-gmail.com.
  Join with Bebawi, Brad Friedman, League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), Election Defense Alliance plus many more and protect the vote.  Believe it or not, it’s not only Egyptians that have to worry about the vote count.

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Kennedy, The New York Post and the truth

Greg Palast - Articles - Wed, 2012-05-23 03:15

What a terrible task to take on at such a dark moment when I would prefer to keep my thoughts private, but someone must speak.
I am, and I hope you are, sickened to see Rupert Murdoch's New York Post savage our colleague Robert F. Kennedy Jr. while he and his children are in great distress.
I will not answer, and thereby repeat, the cruel libels thrown at Kennedy by the Post.
But let me get this on the record: Kennedy is, and this is no exaggeration, the most committed family man I know. Every single day, he shuts down work, no matter the flood of urgent demands from around the world, for family time, for his kids. He is deeply religious, with a piety and intelligence he communicates with his family so impressive it makes me doubt my atheism.
Kennedy uses his family name, not to further his career, but to widen his children's understanding and involvement in the world and to try to teach our ignorant nation lessons in moral conduct that his kids have already learned well.
To blame Kennedy for his wife's illness is just further proof of the conclusion of Britain's Parliament that Murdoch is "unfit to run a newspaper."  But then, no one would say the NY Post is a newspaper.
Again, I want to extend the condolences of the entire Palast crew to Mary Richardson Kennedy's family.
When Bobby's grief and mourning pauses––because it will never end––we look forward to resuming our partnership with him.

- Greg Palast

No worst, there is none. Pitched past pitch of grief,

More pangs will, schooled at forepangs, wilder wring.

Comforter, where, where is your comforting?

 

...O the mind, mind has mountains; cliffs of fall

Frightful, sheer, no-man-fathomed. Hold them cheap

May who ne’er hung there. Nor does long our small

Durance deal with that steep or deep. 
 

- Gerard Manley Hopkins




Journalist Greg Palast, with Bobby Kennedy Jr., investigated the threat to voters' civil rights for Rolling Stone magazine and BBC Television. www.GregPalast.com

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Condolences

Greg Palast - Articles - Wed, 2012-05-16 19:45

Our deepest sympathy goes out to the family of our friend and colleague, Bobby Kennedy, and his children, on the tragic death of his wife and their mother, Mary.

Our thoughts tonight are with your family.

- Greg, Leni & Zach 

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Greg Palast at Chicago GreenFestival Tomorrow

Greg Palast - Articles - Sat, 2012-05-05 12:13
Greg Palast at Chicago GreenFestival this Sunday - Invitation Greg wants to thank you for your support with a special gift. He will be the featured speaker this Sunday and would love to meet you in person and say hi. We have arranged for 20 free guest spots for our supporters. If you would like one or two complimentary tickets you must reply to this note before Sunday. Additional tickets can be purchased at the door. Greg would love to meet with you at the book signing station after his presentation. The presentation will be: Billionaire Ballot Bandits: The Theft of 2012 Greg tells weird, hilarious and sick stories of the billionaires who are bankrolling the GOP; with hot new info on the Koch Brothers as well as the filthy rich you've never heard of ––from his new "kick ass" [Nomi Prins] book Vultures' Picnic. When and Where: Sunday, May 6, 2012 1 pm Main Stage Navy Pier (Hall A) located at 600 East Grand Avenue Chicago Click here for more info about the Chicago GreenFestival Here's what Greg has been up to recently: - BP Cover-up 'They Knew.' - Part 1 - BP Cover-up: Bribery, George Bush and WikiLeaks - Part 2 Best wishes, The Palast Team

If you're in Chicago this weekend - please stop by at the Main Stage at the Navy Pier for Greenfest

I'll be the featured speaker this Sunday and would love to meet you in person and say hi.

I've arranged for 10 free guest spots for our supporters (first come first serve).

If you would like one or two complimentary tickets please send an e-mail to palastreport[at]gmail.com before Sunday 10.

Additional tickets can be purchased at the door or online for $10.

I'd love to meet with you at the book signing station after my speech.

The presentation will be:

Billionaire Ballot Bandits: The Theft of 2012

Weird, hilarious and sick stories of the billionaires who are bankrolling the GOP; with hot new info on the Koch Brothers as well as the filthy rich you've never heard of ––from my new "kick ass" [Nomi Prins] book Vultures' Picnic.

When and Where:

Sunday, May 6, 2012

1 pm

Main Stage

Navy Pier (Hall A)

located at 600 East Grand Avenue

Chicago

Click here for more info about the Chicago GreenFestival

If you haven't seen this already... here's what I've been up to recently:

- BP Cover-up 'They Knew.' - Part 1

- BP Cover-up: Bribery, George Bush and WikiLeaks - Part 2

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Sneak Peak: Why We Occupy Live! DVD

Greg Palast - Articles - Thu, 2012-05-03 10:08

Greg Palast from the oil soaked heart of America, Houston TX. Greg Palast live DVD - Coming Soon.

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Arrest of BP Scapegoat:Real Killers Walk

Greg Palast - Articles - Tue, 2012-04-24 21:01

by Greg Palast – Special for Buzzflash at Truthout

The Justice Department went big game hunting and bagged a teeny-weeny scapegoat.  More like a scape-kid, really.

Today, Justice arrested former BP engineer Kurt Mix for destroying evidence in the Deepwater Horizon blow-out.

I once ran a Justice Department racketeering case and damned if I would have 'cuffed some poor schmuck like Mix––especially when there's hot, smoking guns showing greater crimes by BP higher ups.

Last week, I released evidence we uncovered that BP top executives concealed evidence of a prior blow-out.  Had they not covered up the 2008 blow-out in then Caspian Sea, then the Deepwater Horizon probably would not have blown out two years later in 2010. [Watch the film and read the stories.]

I urge you to read the affidavit of FBI agent Barbara O'Donnell which the government filed in arresting Mix.  His crime is deleting texts from his phone indicating that the blown-out Macondo well was gushing over 15,000 barrels of oil a day, not 5,000 as BP told the public and government.  If true, it's a crime, destruction of evidence.  But Mix is a minnow.  What about the sharks?  The texts were obviously sent to someone (named only "SUPERVISOR" by the FBI).  If "Supervisor" knew, then undoubtedly so did BP managers higher up.  Presumably, even CEO Tony Hayward would have gotten the message on his racing yacht.

Support The Palast Investigative Fund and keep our work alive!

Destruction of evidence is not nice, but concealment of evidence and fraud by corporate bigs, is the bigger crime.  I hope, I assume, I demand that we find out what Supervisor's supervisors knew and when they knew it––and didn't tell us.

And far, far, far more important:  when is the Justice Department going to go after the greater wrongdoing? Let's begin with the cover-up before the spill that the drilling methods used on the Deepwater Horizon had led to a blow-out nearly two years earlier.

Let's face it:  to go after the bigger crime means going after the entire industry.  The earlier blow-out was concealed by BP as well as its partners Exxon and Chevron and, by the US State Department under Condoleezza Rice.  [If you want to get that story, please check out Part II:  BP Covered Up Prior Oil Spill at Ecowatch.org.]

One point in Mr. Mix's defense.  During my investigation of the Deepwater Horizon, I found that employees who provide evidence against BP find their careers floating face down in the Gulf.

BP and other oil companies punish troublemakers by writing "NRB" on their record.  That means "Not Required Back"––and the worker is banned from the offshore rigs.  No doubt, Mr. Mix thought long and hard about what would happen to his career if his texts came to light.  Not an excuse for crime, but it's a fact.  It's the guys on top putting on this kind of pressure that should be doing the perp walk:  the Big Bad BP Wolves, not their mixxed-up scapegoat.

****

Re-prints permitted with credit to Greg Palast

Greg Palast is the author of Vultures’ Picnic, which centers on his investigation of BP, bribery and corruption in the oil industry. Palast's, reports can be seen on BBC-TV and Britain’s Channel 4.

You can read Vultures' Picnic, "Chapter 1: Goldfinger," or download it, at no charge: click here.

Subscribe to Palast's Newsletter and podcasts.
Follow Palast on Facebook and Twitter.

GregPalast.com

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BP Cover-upPart 2: Bribery, George Bush and WikiLeaks

Greg Palast - Articles - Fri, 2012-04-20 10:00

by Greg Palast - Exclusive for EcoWatch.org
Friday, 20. April, 2012

Evidence now implicates top BP executives as well as its partners Chevron and Exxon and the Bush Administration in the deadly cover-up –– which included falsifying a report to the Securities Exchange Commission.

Yesterday, Ecowatch.org revealed that, in September 2008, nearly two years before the Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf of Mexico, another BP rig had blown out in the Caspian Sea––which BP concealed from U.S. regulators and Congress.

Had BP, Chevron, Exxon or the Bush State Department revealed the facts of the earlier blow-out, it is likely that the Deepwater Horizon disaster would have been prevented.

Days after the Deepwater Horizon blow-out, a message came in to our offices in New York from an industry insider floating on a ship in the Caspian Sea. He stated there had been a blow-out, just like the one in the Gulf, and BP had covered it up.

To confirm this shocking accusation, I flew with my team to the Islamic republic of Azerbaijan.  Outside the capital, Baku, near the giant BP terminal, we found workers, though too frightened to give their names, who did confirm that they were evacuated from the BP offshore platform as it filled with explosive methane gas.

Support The Palast Investigative Fund and keep our work alive!

Before we could get them on camera, my crew and I were arrested and the witnesses disappeared.

Expelled from Azerbaijan, we still obtained the ultimate corroboration: a secret cable from the U.S. Embassy to the State Department in Washington laying out the whole story of the 2008 Caspian blow-out.

The source of the cable, classified "SECRET," was a disaffected US soldier, Private Bradley Manning who, through WikiLeaks provided hot smoking guns to The Guardian. The information found in the U.S. embassy cables is a block-buster.

The cables confirmed what BP will not admit to this day: there was a serious blow-out and its cause was the same as in the Gulf disaster two years later: the cement ("mud") used to cap the well had failed. Bill Schrader, President of BP-Azerbaijan, revealed the truth to our embassy about the Caspian disaster:

“Schrader said that the September 17th shutdown of the Central Azeri (CA) platform… was the largest such emergency evacuation in BP’s history. Given the explosive potential, BP was quite fortunate to have been able to evacuate everyone safely and to prevent any gas ignition. … Due to the blowout of a gas-injection well there was ‘a lot of mud’ on the platform.”

From other sources, we discovered the cement which failed  had been mixed with nitrogen as a way to speed up drying, a risky process that was repeated on the Deepwater Horizon.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., president Waterkeeper Alliance and senior attorney for Natural Resources Defense Council, calls the concealment of this information, "criminal. We have laws that make it illegal to hide this."

The cables also reveal that BP's oil-company partners knew about the blow-out but they too concealed the information from Congress, regulators and the Securities Exchange Commission.

BP's major US partners in the Caspian Sea drilling operation were Chevron and Exxon. The State Department got involved in the matter because BP’s U.S. partners and the Azerbaijani government were losing over $50 million per day due to the platform’s shutdown.  The Embassy cabled Washington:

“BP’s ACG partners are similarly upset with BP’s performance in this episode, as they claim BP has sought to limit information flow about this event even to its ACG partners.”

Kennedy is concerned about the silent collusion of Chevron, Exxon and the Azerbaijani government.  “The only reason the public doesn’t know about it is because the Azerbaijani government conspired with them to disappear the people who saw it happen and then to act in concert, in collusion, in cahoots with BP, with Exxon, with Chevron to conceal this event from the American public.” – To read the full story go to EcoWatch.orgCheck out the Youtube video

______

Re-prints permitted with credit to EcoWatch.org and the author.

Greg Palast is the author of Vultures’ Picnic (Penguin 2011), which centers on his investigation of BP, bribery and corruption in the oil industry. Palast, whose reports are seen on BBC-TV and Britain’s Channel 4, will be providing investigative reports for EcoWatch.org.

You can read Vultures' Picnic, "Chapter 1: Goldfinger," or download it, at no charge: click here.

Subscribe to Palast's Newsletter and podcasts.

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BP Cover-up 'They Knew.'Part 1

Greg Palast - Articles - Thu, 2012-04-19 10:27

by Greg Palast – Exclusive for EcoWatch.org
Thursday, 19. April, 2012

Two years before the Deepwater Horizon blow-out in the Gulf of Mexico, another BP off-shore rig suffered a nearly identical blow-out, but BP concealed the first one from the U.S. regulators and Congress.

This week, EcoWatch.org located an eyewitness with devastating new information about the Caspian Sea oil-rig blow-out which BP had concealed from government and the industry.

The witness, whose story is backed up by rig workers who were evacuated from BP’s Caspian platform, said that had BP revealed the full story as required by industry practice, the eleven Gulf of Mexico workers “could have had a chance” of survival. But BP’s insistence on using methods proven faulty sealed their fate.

One cause of the blow-outs was the same in both cases:  the use of a money-saving technique—plugging holes with “quick-dry” cement.

By hiding the disastrous failure of its penny-pinching cement process in 2008, BP was able to continue to use the dangerous methods in the Gulf of Mexico—causing the worst oil spill in U.S. history. April 20 marks the second anniversary of the Gulf oil disaster.

There were several failures in common to the two incidents identified by the eyewitness. He is an industry insider whose identity and expertise we have confirmed. His name and that of other witnesses we contacted must be withheld for their safety.

The failures revolve around the use of “quick-dry” cement, the uselessness of blow-out preventers, “mayhem” in evacuation procedures and an atmosphere of fear which prevents workers from blowing the whistle on safety problems.

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Robert F. Kennedy Jr., president of Waterkeeper Alliance and senior attorney for Natural Resources Defense Council, said, “We have laws that make it illegal to hide this kind of information. At the very least, these are lies by omission. When you juxtapose their knowledge of this incident upon the oil companies constant and persistent assurances of safety to regulators, investigators and shareholders, you have all the elements to prove that their concealment of the information was criminal.”

The first blow-out occurred on a BP rig in the Caspian Sea off the coast of Baku, Azerbaijan, in September 2008. BP was able to conceal such an extraordinary event with the help of the ruling regime of Azerbaijan, other oil companies and, our investigators learned, the Bush Administration.

Our investigation began just days after the explosion and sinking of BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig on April 20, 2010 when this reporter received an extraordinary message from a terrified witness—from a ship floating in the Caspian Sea:

“I know how …. Would not be wise for me to communicate via [official] IT system, ….”

When the insider was contacted on a secure line, he stated that he witnessed a blow-out and the panicked evacuation of the giant BP “ACG” drilling platform.

To confirm the witness’ story, British television’s premier investigative program, Dispatches, sent this reporter under cover into Baku, Azerbaijan, with a cameraman. While approaching the BP oil terminal, the Islamic republic’s Security Ministry arrested the crew.

To avoid diplomatic difficulties, we were quickly released. However, two new witnesses suddenly vanished, all communication lost with them, after they confirmed the facts of the 2008 blow-out. Both told us they had been evacuated from the BP off-shore platform as it filled with methane.

Furthermore, witnesses confirmed that, “there was mud (drill-pipe cement) blown out all over the platform.” It appears the cement cap failed to hold back high-pressure gases which, “engulfed the entire platform in methane gas,” which is highly explosive.

In both cases, the insider told us, BP had used “quick-dry” cement to cap their well bores and the cost-saving procedure failed catastrophically.

We have learned this week that BP failed to notify the International Association of Drilling Contractors (IADC) about the failure of the cement. (British companies report incidents as minor as a hammer dropped.) Notification would have alerted Gulf cement contractor Halliburton that the process of adding nitrogen to cement posed unforeseen dangers.

In fact, this past December, BP attempted to place the blame and costs of the Gulf disaster on Halliburton, the oil services company that injected quick-dry cement into the well under the Deepwater Horizon. BP told a federal court that Halliburton concealed a computer model that would show that, under certain conditions, the cement could fail disastrously.

Following the Deepwater Horizon explosion, it became clear that nitrogen-laced mud can leave “channels” in the cement, allowing gas to escape and blow out the well-bore cap. However, that would have become clearer, and risks better assessed, had Halliburton and regulators known of the particulars of the Caspian blow-out.

We have also just learned that the cement casing itself appears to have cracked apart in the Caspian Sea. The sea, we were told, “was bubbling all around [from boiling methane]. You’re even scared to launch a life boat, it may sink.”

This exposed another problem with deepwater drilling. BP had promoted Blow-Out Preventers (BOPs) as a last line of defense in case of a blow-out. But if the casing shatters, the BOPs could be useless.

BP has gone to extraordinary lengths to conceal the story of the first blow-out, and for good reason:  If the company deliberately withheld the information that it knew “quick-dry” cement had failed yet continued to use it, the 11 deaths on its Gulf rig were not an unexpected accident but could be considered negligent homicide.

Kennedy told me, “This is a critical piece of information. The entire government is basing its policy on the assurances of this company that this process can be done safely and it never failed before. This is what they were telling everybody. Yet, the whole time they knew that this was a process that had failed disastrously in the Caspian Sea.”

Why haven’t these stories come out before? This week our witness explained that in Azerbaijan, “People disappear on a regular basis. It’s a police state.”

But even in the U.S. and Europe, BP and other industry workers are afraid to complain for fear their files will be marked “NRB,” for Not Required Back­­—which will end a workers’ offshore career. Jake Malloy, head of the Offshore Oil Workers Union, reached in Aberdeen, Scotland, independently confirmed statements of the whistleblowers. He noted that companies create an atmosphere of fear for one’s job with the “NRB” system and its latest variants, which discourage reports on safety problems.

BP refused an interview for this investigation, though the company responded to our written questions regarding the Caspian blow-out. Notably, the company does not deny that the blow-out occurred, nor even that it concealed the information from U.S. and UK regulators. Rather, the company says there was a “gas release”—a common and benign event, not a blow-out. As to the accusation of concealment, BP states:

While BP says it issued a press release at the time of the September 2008 Caspian blow-out, the company did not tell the whole truth as reported by workers and witnesses. The BP press release of that day admitted only that, “a gas leak was discovered in the area of” the platform when, in fact, it was an explosion of cement and methane, say our witnesses, “which engulfed the platform.”

BP later stated that all operations on the platform were suspended as a “precautionary measure,” suggesting a distant, natural leak. In fact, the workers themselves said that, like the workers on the Deepwater Horizon, they were one spark away from death, with frightened minutes to escape.

While BP called the evacuation a by-the-textbook procedure, in fact, said our witness, “It was total mayhem,” and that a lifeboat rammed a rescue ship in the chaos. U.S. government investigators in the Gulf cite BP’s confused and chaotic evacuation procedures for possibly adding to the Deepwater Horizon’s death toll. Information about the 2008 blow-out should have led to improved procedures and possibly could have saved lives.

More seriously, BP PLC’s official filing to the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission, which requires reporting of all “material” events in company operations, again talked about a “subsurface release,” concealing that the methane blew out through its drilling stack.

Both the safety of quick-dry cement (which some drillers won’t use) and deep water drilling itself were in contention before the April 20, 2010 Gulf blow-out. In fact, the U.S. Department of Interior was refusing BP, Chevron and Exxon the right to expand the area of their deep water drilling in the Gulf over safety questions.

However, BP and the industry conducted a successful lobbying campaign to expand deep water drilling. BP’s Vice-President for operations in the Gulf, David Rainey, testified before Congress in November 2009, five months before the Deepwater Horizon explosion that, “Releases from oil and gas operations are rare.” Rainey assured Congressmen that reliable “well control techniques” such as cement caps will prevent a deep water disaster. Rainey made no mention to Congress of the blow-out in the Caspian Sea which occurred a year before his testimony.

BP itself states that if not for Halliburton’s quick-dry cement failures, the Deepwater Horizon would never have blown out.  Halliburton defends itself by saying that BP’s methods created air channels in the cement that caused it to fail. Notably, BP’s court Motion states, “Halliburton has deprived the Court and parties of uniquely relevant evidence.” BP claims that hiding the information about problems with the cement caused the loss of lives.

Kennedy suggests that if Halliburton’s withholding evidence was deadly, so was BP’s concealment of the cement failure in the Caspian. Stefanie Penn Spear, editor of EcoWatch.org, says that BP’s hiding evidence ultimately led to, “The biggest oil spill in U.S. history. It entirely turned the Gulf Coast economy upside down and threatened—and continues to threaten—the health and livelihoods of the people in the Gulf region.”

How is it that a major oil disaster, a blow-out that shut down one of the world’s biggest oil fields and required the emergency evacuation of 211 rig workers could be covered up, hidden from U.S. regulators and Congress?

The answer:  pay-offs, threats, political muscle and the connivance of the Bush Administration’s State Department, Exxon and Chevron.

For that story, read Part 2 of Greg Palast’s investigation BP Covers up Blow-Out—Bush, Big Oil and WikiLeaks.

——–

Re-prints permitted with credit to EcoWatch.org and the author.

Greg Palast is the author of Vultures’ Picnic (Penguin 2011), which centers on his investigation of BP, bribery and corruption in the oil industry. Palast, whose reports are seen on BBC-TV and Britain’s Channel 4, will be providing investigative reports for EcoWatch.org.

You can read Vultures' Picnic, "Chapter 1: Goldfinger," or download it, at no charge: click here.

Subscribe to Palast's Newsletter and podcasts.

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Billionaire Ballot Bandits - I've caught'em

Greg Palast - Articles - Tue, 2012-04-17 19:33

Karl Rove has you by the ballots.  With a $200 million war chest from a coven of billionaires, don't count on getting your vote counted.

There's only one thing to stop him:  A COMIC BOOK.

Please help us raise the cash to get this printed. The nation’s top elections-heist investigators can publish our new voter-protection comic book, BILLIONAIRES & BALLOT BANDITS.

Donate $99 today and we'll list your name in the special thanks of the book for the 99% - plus a signed copy!

Or, if you can't swing that, at least get a signed DVD which you can pre-order.

In 2008, you helped us put out the amazing Steal Back Your Vote comic book which went to over a quarter million threatened voters.  We are proud that one is in the Native-American museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Genius pen-man Ted Rall, crusading voting rights attorney Bobby Kennedy Jr., gonzo photographer Zach Roberts (Friday is his trial date from his arrest covering the Occupation for us) and the rest of the Palast Investigation crew will be putting together another comic book PLUS a film short series PLUS a booklet.

The comic book, films and booklet will combine our investigation of vote theft with the names and blood-soaked sources of the super-PACs.

We know the billionaires, open and hidden, behind Restore Our Future, the Kochs and Rove’s Crossroads GPS. Shouldn’t you know who’s buying the White House and how they got their loot?

Help us get out the story right now.

We are a not-for-profit project and strictly non-partisan: it’s about saving our democracy from a coup d’état of moneyed ballot-burglars.

We MUST get this information out and soon. Help us right now and get your name in the film credits and in the book.

Are you an Angel?  We need heavenly agents to donate $1,000 each -- and get film co-producer credits and book co-publish credit ... 20 copies to give to the Occupation, civil rights or non-profit group of your choice.

Since 1996, when I was the first journalist to film a documentary exposé on the Koch Brothers, I've been building the files that no one has yet seen.  HELP ME GET OUT THE EVIDENCE.

In 2000, we uncovered how Katherine Harris purged 56,000 African-Americans from Florida’s voter rolls.  It's gotten worse––I kid you not––and we need to expose the Right's latest ballot burglary scheme.

And we got it to the activists: we made it available for free and published it in The Nation. All from donations.

Our publisher, Seven Stories Books, is willing to put the book/comic out for a dirt cheap price, online and in print. We need to get this onto the streets and into the media before the election.

Not one dime goes to Greg Palast.  I will donate my time and files.  But we can’t get to the scenes of the ballot-box crimes by flapping our arms.  We need travel money.

We already have hair-raising film in the can. That too needs editing so we can shine it on those who wreck our civil rights.

By the way: If you have ever donated to our Fund and NOT received the expected gift, please let us know immediately.  Everyone of our supporters is our soulmate.

You know I don't ask often.  But now I have to. Join me in supporting this defense of our democracy.

There are many levels at which you can support us - even for as a little as a $1.

"Journalism is just a gun. It's only got one bullet in it, but if you aim right, that's all you need. Aim it right, and you can blow a kneecap off the world." - Warren Ellis

Load our weapon.

With respect,

Greg Palast

******

Greg Palast is the author of Vultures' Picnic: In Pursuit of Petroleum Pigs, Power Pirates and High-Finance Carnivores.

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Gulf still slimed by BP oil

Greg Palast - Articles - Mon, 2012-04-09 01:20

by Kert Davies, Research Director, Greenpeace USA

Read the Greenpeace blog and listen to the Greenpeace Radio Podcast with Greg Palast, author of Vultures' Picnic: In pursuit of petroleum pigs, power pirates and high-finance carnivores.

Then read this.  It's my soul on a plate.  Then pass it on so others can taste it.
-- gp

"Occupy," Big Oil and the U.S. Media
with Muckraking Journalist Greg Palast
By Kevin J. Kelley [12.07.11]
Seven Days Magazine

Greg Palast was floating in a kayak off the Alaska coast in 1997 when he had an epiphany. He was working at the time as an investigator for the Chugach native people, whose lands had been slimed by the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill. In the course of his study, Palast uncovered information about Exxon’s culpability for the disaster, but he had no way of publicizing it. So he decided to become a journalist.

It’s proven a successful second career for Palast, 59, who studied business at the University of Chicago under right-wing economist Milton Friedman. He’s won six Project Censored awards for reporting important stories ignored by the mainstream press. He’s also the author of two international best sellers, Armed Madhouse and The Best Democracy Money Can Buy.

A native Californian, Palast reports regularly for Britain’s Guardian newspaper and for the BBC. Nation magazine writer Jim Hightower calls Palast “a cross between Sam Spade and Sherlock Holmes.” Corporate executives he’s outed as wrongdoers call Palast other things.

Palast spoke with Seven Days in advance of his scheduled talk next week at Burlington’s Main Street Landing Film House.

Seven Days: You must be sympathetic to Occupy Wall Street. Do you think it will have a lasting impact on U.S. politics?

Greg Palast: It’s not a setback for Occupy to no longer be occupying. No one gives a shit about Wall Street. It’s just a piece of tarmac. It was never the point of the movement.

The point has been to expose the 1 percent, the movers and shakers who are moving and shaking us, all those rich motherfuckers. Now we know their names, where they live, how they made their billions.

So yeah, the impact has been huge. And it’s just starting. I’m deeply involved with Occupy.

SD: You’ve got a new book out: Vultures’ Picnic: In Pursuit of Petroleum Pigs, Power Pirates, and High- Finance Carnivores. Can you summarize what it’s about?

GP: Vultures are financial speculators who seize the assets of the poorest nations by claiming these countries owe money that the speculators try to collect through intimidation, bribery and theft. One guy associated with this is Paul Singer; he’s Mitt Romney’s top economic adviser. I’ve been investigating how Romney’s “job creator” makes his money, and that’s a story Singer doesn’t want you to hear.

By the way, I’m totally nonpartisan. Even though Singer owns the Republican Party, I point out that he rents the Democratic Party.

Most of the book is a five-continent investigation of British Petroleum. I’m bringing you the stuff you don’t get from CNN or the Petroleum Broadcasting System.

BP’s blowout in the Gulf in 2010 was actually the second big disaster it had. There was also a blowout in the Caspian Sea in Azerbaijan in 2008, but BP covered it up with a combination of bribery, beatings and blow jobs. [Azerbaijani officials] kept their lips closed and their zippers open.

SD: So your talk in Burlington is part of a book tour?

GP: I’m on a troublemaking tour. My talks are platforms for Occupy activists in their transition away from their fixation with real estate.

SD: You obviously come at stories from a left-wing perspective. Do you ever worry that your ideology might blind you to facts?

GP: I don’t have an ideology. There’s really only the truth and the not-truth. I’m just an old-fashioned gumshoe reporter.
The worst fucking thing about American journalism, by the way, is its “on-the-one-hand-this, on-the-other-that” approach. It really distorts or omits truth.

I exposed [Florida Secretary of State] Katherine Harris for purging thousands of black voters from the electoral rolls. That cost [Al] Gore the 2000 election. It was stolen from him. I documented it.

I could not get that story into the U.S. media. There was a total news blackout of what had happened. It finally got picked up by the L.A. Times, and they played the story as “Democrats accuse Republicans of removing black voters from the rolls; the Republicans deny that.”

Jesus Christ! We don’t have balanced news in the United States; it doesn’t fucking exist. News here isn’t reporting; it’s repeating.

SD: Hang on. You write mostly for British outlets. Are you saying the British press is less influenced by corporate interests than the American press? The same financial dynamics are at work, right?

GP: Wrong. The Guardian is owned by a not-for-profit charitable trust. That’s allowed it to become the most influential English-language paper in the world.

SD: More influential than the New York Times?

GP: The New York Times is influential in New York. People elsewhere see that it’s — what shall we say? — incomplete.

The BBC is the gold standard of journalism. It’s important to know it’s neither corporate owned nor government owned. It’s owned by subscribers, the people who pay £100 a year for a TV license.

SD: Yeah, but Britain doesn’t have a First Amendment or a Freedom of Information Act.

GP: That’s true, but the Brits could borrow our First Amendment, because we’re not using it. And have you tried using FOIA lately? Good luck.

It’s also true that I don’t have any legal protection for stories in the British press. The resulting degree of self-censorship by some reporters is just astonishing.

But it’s still not as bad as it is here. The entire front page of the Guardian last week had my coverage of Singer, Romney’s biggest funder. There wasn’t one mention of his role in the U.S. press.

SD: Staying with journalism for a minute, do you have a journalist hero? George Orwell, maybe?

GP: Only Christopher Hitchens is pompous enough to compare himself with Orwell. My model is Jack Anderson [a Pulitzer Prize-winning modern muckraker who broke scandals involving both Democrats and Republicans].

I also always admired Ron Ridenhour, the soldier who revealed the My Lai massacre [in which 500 Vietnamese villagers were killed by U.S. troops on March 16, 1968]. Ridenhour was the greatest investigative reporter of the last century. He died way too young [of a heart attack in 1998 at age 52].

The TV show “Columbo” had a big influence on me, too. I learned a lot from it about how to do investigations. Lt. Columbo was just totally dogged.

SD: How about Hunter Thompson? You’ve got an image like his.

GP: People make that connection all the time because we have Rolling Stone in common. But Thompson was a brilliant social analyst, and I’m just a gumshoe guy.

SD: You do look like an old-school reporter with that Humphrey Bogart hat of yours.

GP: I wear the hat because I’m bald and I’ll get painfully sunburned otherwise.

SD: Matt Drudge wears the same kind of hat.

GP: Yeah, some people say I’m a left-wing Matt Drudge, but there’s a big difference: Drudge is full of shit, and I’m full of information.

SD: You must be embarrassed that one of the first things on Google for “Greg Palast” is a 2009 piece you wrote saying what a great job Obama is doing.

GP: It was right after he took office. And it was nice to see him acting for one week like a real president.

SD: So what happened?

GP: Obama was reminded of who elected him. He brought into power guys like Tim Geithner and Larry Summers — Wall Street operatives and protégés of Robert Rubin, who was Clinton’s Treasury secretary [and a Goldman Sachs and Citigroup executive].

Remember, it wasn’t Bush who destroyed the economy; it was a guy named Bill Clinton.

They put the arm on Obama. They reminded him he’s just a tenant.

SD: Do you worry about your safety?

GP: I very much fear for the safety of my sources. Some of them do end up in jail and/or beaten up. It’s insanely dangerous for some of them to talk to me. One of my great sources was just charged with sedition. These guys are insanely courageous. But please don’t give the impression that your life will be threatened if you become my source. That wouldn’t be helpful.

SD: You’re talking about incidents in other countries, right? You haven’t had sources jailed or beaten up in the U.S., have you?

GP: Look at Bradley Manning, America’s most heroic political prisoner [the U.S. Army soldier accused of supplying a cache of secret diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks]. Lots of Americans are facing the ruin of their careers for whistle-blowing.

******

Greg Palast will talk about “Why We Occupy: How Wall Street Picks the Bones of America,” on December 12 at 7 p.m. in Burlington’s Main Street Landing Film House. Palast's One-Percent Tour travels this week to Houston on Thursday, Baltimore Friday and next week to Burlington VT (Monday), and Atlanta (Thursday).

Greg Palast is the author of Vultures' Picnic: In Pursuit of Petroleum Pigs, Power Pirates and High-Finance Carnivores, released in the US and Canada by Penguin.

You can read Vultures' Picnic, "Chapter 1: Goldfinger," or download it, at no charge: click here.

Subscribe to Palast's Newsletter and podcasts.
Follow Palast on Facebook and Twitter.

GregPalast.com

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UPDATE: Cops beat our cameraman ZD Roberts

Greg Palast - Articles - Sun, 2012-03-18 00:13

[New York Monday March 19]

Our photographer ZD Roberts was beaten by New York City cops with nightsticks while covering Occupy Wall Street's attempt to re-take Zuccotti Park Saturday night.

Zach yelled several times, “I’m PRESS! PRESS!” yet was slammed on the head twice after he’d been thrown to the ground when the police shoved back the protesters. Zach, whose photos of Occupy Wall Street have been seen all over the world on the front page of The Guardian, showed his press badge, an act for which his hair was grabbed, head pulled back and slammed again with a club.

If you remember, Zach was arrested while covering the story three months ago. His trial is coming up (he refused to cop a plea).

We’ve covered the world … but who thought that the toughest combat assignment would be New York?

Here’s Zach story and comment in his own words and photos:

My head hurts. The NYPD did this to me.

3 months after my arrest during an Occupy Wall St. protest on #D17 and two days away from my meeting with the Assistant DA about said arrest - I got beaten by cops just outside of Zuccotti Park.

I wasn't the only one, and I have no doubt I won't be the last. The NYPD has complete authority in this town - I hate using the word police state, but when I saw a girl thrown from a bus, in handcuffs, having a seizure being tossed to the ground - I really am at a loss for any other words.

Cameras documented it. Here's one of the photos I took. There's tons of video. I can tell you from being there that there wasn't a single police officer with a look of concern on his/her face as the girl continued having a seizure on the hard pavement of Broadway.

It took 15 minutes for an ambulance to arrive. I'm told 5 minutes is the usual response time in this part of town.

This is Commissioner Ray Kelly's city, we just live here.

There was no ambulance needed for me. I was lucky… or maybe just stupid.

After the second cleansing of Zuccotti Park, Saturday night, the police continued their pushback under the guise of 'safety concerns' - basically a standard operating procedure to keep protesters and journalists from being allowed to witness arrests and to disperse the crowd in different directions.

It works quite well, that is until it doesn't. The thing is, when you're pushing back with billy clubs and metal barricades, sometimes people can't move back quick enough. Or sometimes, people refuse to move from a public sidewalk. Well as a photographer, I get caught in the middle quite often - usually I'm deft enough to get out of the way - this time I wasn't.

I fell back, and while trying to get up - there was another push from the police - they saw me fall, mind you. Just didn't care.

Two or three people made it over me without falling as well, using me as their sidewalk (they didn't have any other choice) - but then came the rush - four or five people fell on top of me.

The police kept pushing. Then came the batons. I couldn't see if the people that were on top of me previously got hit at all but I certainly did, twice to the back and once on the head.

I'm not quite sure what the logic is of literally beating a man when he's down. But once he saw that his baton beating wasn't getting me going he decided to try to pick me up by my hair. That didn't work either - but by then I was up enough to get my footing under me as I continued screaming "PRESS!!! PRESS!!!" That was enough to get the beating to stop - but I still was pushed/thrown back into the crowd, again almost losing my footing as I had to leap over a pile of garbage into the street.

Checking my bag and camera for damage I moved outside of the crowd to compose myself before pushing back in.

Read the rest at SuicideGirlsblog.com later tomorrow and visit our facebook page for some exclusive photos from the raid.

Please support our kickstarter campaign to support the research and filming of a DVD and book on Billionaires and Ballots.

Greg Palast is the author of Vultures' Picnic: In Pursuit of Petroleum Pigs, Power Pirates and High-Finance Carnivores.

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The Fukushima story you didn't hear on CNN

Greg Palast - Articles - Thu, 2012-03-08 01:50

"Completely and Utterly Fail in an Earthquake"

by Greg Palast
for FreePress.org

I've seen a lot of sick stuff in my career, but this was sick on a new level.

Here was the handwritten log kept by a senior engineer at the nuclear power plant:

Wiesel was very upset. He seemed very nervous. Very agitated. . . . In fact, the plant was riddled with problems that, no way on earth, could stand an earth- quake. The team of engineers sent in to inspect found that most of these components could "completely and utterly fail" during an earthquake.

"Utterly fail during an earthquake." And here in Japan was the quake and here is the utter failure.

The warning was in what the investigations team called The Notebook, which I'm not supposed to have.  Good thing I've kept a copy anyway, because the file cabinets went down with my office building ....

WORLD TRADE CENTER TOWER 1, FIFTY-SECOND FLOOR
NEW YORK, 1986

[This is an excerpt in FreePress.org from Vultures' Picnic: In Pursuit of Petroleum Pigs, Power Pirates and High-Finance Fraudsters, to be released this Monday.  Click here to get the videos and the book.]

Two senior nuclear plant engineers were spilling out their souls and files on our huge conference table, blowing away my government investigations team with the inside stuff about the construction of the Shoreham, New York, power station.

The meeting was secret. Very secret. Their courage could destroy their careers: No engineering firm wants to hire a snitch, even one who has saved thousands of lives. They could lose their jobs; they could lose everything. They did. That’s what happens. Have a nice day.

On March 12 this year, as I watched Fukushima melt, I knew:  the "SQ" had been faked.  Anderson Cooper said it would all be OK.  He'd flown to Japan, to suck up the radiation and official company bullshit.  The horror show was not the fault of Tokyo Electric, he said, because the plant was built to withstand only an 8.0 earthquake on the Richter scale, and this was 9.0.  Anderson must have been in the gym when they handed out the facts.  The 9.0 shake was in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, 90 miles away.  It was barely a tenth of that power at Fukushima.

I was ready to vomit.  Because I knew who had designed the plant, who had built it and whom Tokyo Electric Power was having rebuild it:  Shaw Construction.  The latest alias of Stone & Webster, the designated builder for every one of the four new nuclear plants that the Obama Administration has approved for billions in federal studies.

But I had The Notebook, the diaries of the earthquake inspector for the company.  I'd squirreled it out sometime before the Trade Center went down.  I shouldn't have done that.  Too bad.

All field engineers keep a diary. Gordon Dick, a supervisor, wasn’t sup- posed to show his to us. I asked him to show it to us and, reluctantly, he directed me to these notes about the “SQ” tests.

SQ is nuclear-speak for “Seismic Qualification.” A seismically qualified nuclear plant won’t melt down if you shake it. A “seismic event” can be an earthquake or a Christmas present from Al Qaeda. You can’t run a nuclear reactor in the USA or Europe or Japan without certified SQ.

This much is clear from his notebook: This nuclear plant will melt down in an earthquake. The plant dismally failed to meet the Seismic I (shaking) standards required by U.S. and international rules.

Here’s what we learned: Dick’s subordinate at the nuclear plant, Robert Wiesel, conducted the standard seismic review. Wiesel flunked his company. No good. Dick then ordered Wiesel to change his report to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, change it from failed to passed. Dick didn’t want to make Wiesel do it, but Dick was under the gun himself, acting on direct command from corporate chiefs. From The Notebook:

Wiesel was very upset. He seemed very nervous. Very agitated. [He said,] “I believe these are bad results and I believe it’s reportable,” and then he took the volume of federal regulations from the shelf and went to section 50.55(e), which describes reportable deficiencies at a nuclear plant and [they] read the section together, with Wiesel pointing to the appropriate paragraphs that federal law clearly required [them and the company] to report the Category II, Seismic I deficiencies.

Wiesel then expressed his concern that he was afraid that if he [Wiesel] reported the deficiencies, he would be fired, but that if he didn’t report the deficiencies, he would be breaking a federal law. . . .

The law is clear. It is a crime not to report a safety failure. I could imagine Wiesel standing there with that big, thick rule book in his hands, The Law. It must have been heavy. So was his paycheck. He weighed the choices: Break the law, possibly a jail-time crime, or keep his job.

What did Wiesel do? What would you do?

Why the hell would his company make this man walk the line? Why did they put the gun to his head, to make him conceal mortal danger? It was the money. It’s always the money. Fixing the seismic problem would have cost the plant’s owner half a billion dollars easy. A guy from corporate told Dick, “Bob is a good man. He’ll do what’s right. Don’t worry about Bob.”

That is, they thought Bob would save his job and career rather than rat out the company to the feds.

But I think we should all worry about Bob. The company he worked for, Stone & Webster Engineering, built or designed about a third of the nuclear plants in the United States.

From the fifty-second floor we could look at the Statue of Liberty. She didn’t look back.

***

Greg Palast is the author of Vultures' Picnic: In Pursuit of Petroleum Pigs, Power Pirates and High-Finance Carnivores.

Get it now!

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********

5 years ago, we published out first report on the Vultures with BBC TV and Democracy Now! - in the UK it set London MP's to action - the former Prime Minister Gordon Brown called them "morally outrageous” and pledged to make them illegal in that country.

In the US it was two Congressman, Donald Payne and John Conyers that stormed the White House with our report and told the President that he must act.

Congressmen Donald Payne, tirelessly fought against Vulture Funds in this country, calling hearings, pushing the Washington beltway to take notice of this practice. He died this week, he will be missed. State Senator Richard Codey said it best "He was bigger than life but never conducted himself that way, If you were violating somebody’s rights, you better get out of the way.”

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BP Settlement Sells Out Victims - UPDATEDeal buries evidence of oil company willful negligence

Greg Palast - Articles - Sun, 2012-03-04 16:26

by Greg Palast
for TheMudflats

See Greg Palast on Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman on the BP Settlement.

Following the Deepwater Horizon explosion, Greg Palast led a four-continent investigation of BP PLC for Britain's television series Dispatches. From 1989-91, Palast directed the investigation of fraud charges in the Exxon Valdez grounding for Alaska Native villages.

Some deal. BP gets the gold mine and the public gets the shaft.

On Friday night, the lawyers for 120,000 victims of the Deepwater Horizon blow-out cut a deal with oil company BP PLC which will save the oil giant billions of dollars. It will also save the company the threat of a trial that could expose the true and very ugly story of the Gulf of Mexico oil platform blow-out.

I have been to the Gulf and seen the damage — and the oil that BP says is gone.  Miles of it.  As an economist who calculated damages for plaintiffs in the Exxon Valdez oil spill case, I can tell you right now that there is no way, no how, that the $7.8 billion BP says it will spend on this settlement will cover that damage, the lost incomes, homes, businesses and boats, let alone the lost lives — from cancers, fetal deformities, miscarriages, and lung and skin diseases.

Two years ago, President Barack Obama forced BP to set aside at least $20 billion for the oil spill's victims.  This week's settlement will add exactly ZERO to that fund.  Indeed, BP is crowing that, adding in the sums already paid out, the company will still have spent less than the amount committed to the Obama fund.

There's so much corrosion, mendacity and evil covered up by this settlement deal that I hardly know where to begin.

So, let's start with punitive damages.

I was stunned that there is no provision, as was expected, for a punishment fee to by paid by BP for it's willful negligence. In the Exxon Valdez trial, a jury awarded us $5 billion in punitives - and BP's action, and the damage caused in the Gulf, is far, far worse.

BP now has to pay no more than proven damages. It's like telling a bank robber, "Hey, just put back the money in the vault and all's forgiven."

This case screamed for punitive damages. Here's just a couple of facts that should have been presented to a jury:

For example, the only reason six hundred miles of Gulf coastline has been slimed by oil was that BP failed to have emergency oil spill containment equipment ready to roll when the Deepwater Horizon blew out. BP had promised the equipment's readiness in writing and under oath.

And here's the sick, sick part. This is exactly the same thing BP did in the Exxon Valdez case. It was BP, not Exxon, that was responsible for stopping the spread of oil in Alaska in 1989. In Alaska, decades ago, BP told federal regulators it would have oil spill "boom" (the rubber that corrals the spreading stuff) ready to roll out if a tanker hit. When the Exxon Valdez struck Bligh Reef, BP's promised equipment wasn't there: BP had lied.

And in 2010, BP did it again. Instead of getting the oil contained in five hours as promised as a condition of drilling, it took five days to get the equipment in place (and that was done by the US Navy on orders of the President).

This was more than negligence: it was fraud, and by a repeat offender. Now BP is laughing all the way to the bank.

And there's more. BP mixed nitrogen into the cement which capped the well-head below the Deepwater Horizon. BP claimed to be shocked and horrified when the cement failed, releasing methane gas that blew apart the rig. BP accused the cement's seller, Halliburton, of hiding the fact that this "quick-set" cement can blow out in deep water.

But, in an investigation that took me to Central Asia, I discovered that BP knew the quick-set cement could fail - because it had failed already in an earlier blow-out which BP covered up with the help of an Asian dictatorship.

The lack of promised equipment, the prior blow-out — it all could have, should have, come out in trial.

Think about it: BP knew the cement could fail but continued to use it to save money. Over time, the savings to BP of its life-threatening methods added up to billions of dollars worldwide. BP will get to keep that savings bought at the cost of eleven men's lives.

Other investigators have uncovered more penny-pinching, life-threatening failures by BP and its drilling buck-buddies, Halliburton and TransOcean. These include bogus "blow-out preventers" and a managerial system that could be called, "We-Don't-Care Chaos."

BP partners and contractors will have to pay $5.4 billion as part of the deal — and BP, not the victims, will keep the entire $5.4 billion. If TransOcean and Halliburton follow suit, BP could walk without paying another dime to victims.

BP had no choice but to pay proven damages and conceded as much. I have learned from inside the plaintiffs' legal team that this judge was just not going to allow punitive damages; and the Bush-burdened US Supreme Court is just as hostile. (The Supremes cut the Exxon Valdez punitive award by 90%.)

So BP walks without the civil punishment that tort law should provide and justice demands, grinning and ready to do it again: drill on the cheap with the price paid by its workers and the public.

But stopping a trial denies the public more than the full payment due: it denies us the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. There are 72 million pages of evidence from inside BP and industry files obtained by legal discovery in the case which are now likely to follow the rig to the bottom of the sea.

That's not good. We need the real story.

The lawyers for plaintiffs got all they could get for their clients given the rightward march of the law. Also, there is no doubt that the control of the “$20-billion” spill fund by Kenneth Feinberg, known here in New York as “The Reptile,” the back room choice of Obama and BP, shafted victims by the thousands. Getting the Fund out of his saurian hands is probably the best part of the settlement deal.

But we need to widen the idea of “victim” to beyond those measurably harmed individuals. We are all BP’s victims: because of BP’s and the industry’s addiction to safety fakery from Alaska to the Caspian.

The President has just opened up the arctic waters of Alaska for drilling, has reopened the Gulf to deepwater platforms, and is fiddling with the idea of allowing the XL Pipeline to slice America in half.

So we need to know: Can we trust this industry?

The states of Louisiana and Mississippi could still haul BP into court. Fageddaboudit: neither Louisiana's Governor Bobby Jindal nor Mississippi's Phil Bryant, both of the Grand Oil Party, will expose BP. The Obama Administration must be pushed to bring the case to trail in the public interest. Though the history of federal complicity and Obama's fear of looking like a whale-hugging drill buster suggests a sell-out is in the offing.

Without a trial in the Deepwater Horizon case, we may never get the answer, never get the full story of the prior blow-outs, the fakery in the spill response system, and other profits-first kill-later trickery that bloats the bottom line of BP and the entire drill-baby-drill industry.

***

For more on Palast's worldwide investigation of BP and the industry in Central Asia, the Gulf, Alaska and the Amazon, read Palast's new book, Vultures' Picnic: In Pursuit of Petroleum Pigs, Power Pirates and High-Finance Carnivores at www.VulturesPicnic.org.

You can read Vultures' Picnic, "Chapter 1: Goldfinger," or download it, at no charge: click here.

Support the Palast Investigative Fund and keep our work alive.
Subscribe to Palast's Newsletter and podcasts.
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GregPalast.com

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Billionaire Ballot Bandits

Greg Palast - Articles - Wed, 2012-02-29 13:26

They're stealing it again.

In 2000, my team uncovered how Katherine Harris illegally purged thousands of African-Americans from Florida's voter rolls.

In 2004, for BBC, we uncovered the Karl Rove GOP "caging scheme" that swiped that election.

In 2008, we uncovered, for Rolling Stone and BBC, with co-investigator Bobby Kennedy, the GOP attack on voters who lost their homes to foreclosure.

This year, there's a new danger: Behind the election games are billionaires Super-PAC-ing the ballot box.

But we have something they fear: deep file cabinets filled with confidential information on the billionaires behind Restore Our Future and other PAC-rats.

(We broadcast the first investigative report of the Koch Brothers in 1996. And they're not the worst. We MUST get this information out and soon.)

Now, our team is prepared to dig in again, to write about and to film the scams against our civil rights -- and this time, we have TV networks and major print outlets ready to take our reports.

BUT, they can't finance the basic detective work that gives our reports their powerful weight of undeniable facts.

For that, we count on you.

Please, right now, make a tax-deductible donation to the Palast Investigative Fund for our Billionaires and Ballots investigation.
If you join up with us to help fund the completion of our investigation, for your tax-deductible donation, we'll be happy to send you, in thanks:

- $150 - The Billionaires & Ballots Pack: includes a signed copy of Palast's latest, highly acclaimed book, Vultures' Picnic, the Election Files DVD and 5 copies of the Steal Back Your Vote comic plus the new Elections Games film when released. - $75 - Get two DVDs: Election Files and Palast Investigates: from 8-Mile to the Amazon (which includes the 2008 election shenanigans), both signed by Palast - $25 - Get 5 print copies of Steal Back Your Vote: The Graphic Election Guide (one SIGNED by Greg Palast).

Would you consider becoming an Associate Producer (minimum donation $500) or an Executive Producer (minimum donation $1000) of our film on the election games of 2012?

Producers will get a film credit, a dozen signed copies of the new Election Games: Billionaires and Ballots DVD and companion book when released in July. And copies of the book, film, and comic book election guides to the activist or civil rights group of your choice (we have suggestions).

We have lots of film from all over the USA already in the can. We have the files on the billionaire boys club. What we need are the funds to complete the work to get it on the air, into the hands of policy-makers, voters, the voting rights movement and waiting media outlets.

We don't come to you often. Now is the moment.
And we can't tell you how much we appreciate your support.

Yours,
Greg Palast and the team

****

Greg Palast is the author of Vultures' Picnic: In Pursuit of Petroleum Pigs, Power Pirates and High-Finance Carnivores, released in the US and Canada by Penguin.

You can read Vultures' Picnic, "Chapter 1: Goldfinger," or download it, at no charge: click here.

Support the Palast Investigative Fund and keep our work alive.
Subscribe to Palast's Newsletter and podcasts.
Follow Palast on Facebook and Twitter.

GregPalast.com

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