In an alarming case that has received little to no attention, Deandre H. Rogers (pdf), a Black man aged 32, was found hanging in a carport in Grand Junction, Colorado on September 21, 2020. He had participated on June 1, 2020 with a group of local Black Lives Matter activists who met with G.J. Police Chief Doug Shoemaker in the lobby of the Grand Junction Police Department to protest unjust treatment they had experienced at the hands of local law enforcement. The discussion took place about a month after the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis Police on May 25, 2020.
Embattled Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters (R) has not complied with several Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) requests seeking a copy of a spreadsheet her office created containing the names of the 574+ disenfranchised voters whose ballots her office failed count in the November, 2019 general election.
The ballots were left in a collection box after the election and were not retrieved or counted. Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold called the oversight a “serious dereliction of duty.”
Clerk Peters ordered the creation of the list.
Several former Clerk’s office employees report that Ms. Peters asked Sandra Brown, another Clerk’s Office employee, to create a spreadsheet of the names of all the voters whose ballots weren’t counted so Ms. Peters could send them each a written apology.
Internal emails from the County Clerk’s office support claims that the list in fact exists. In the emails, Peters asks other employees not to distract Ms. Brown from the task of creating the list, so she could finish it quickly.
Certified Public Accountant Dennis Simpson, a long-time advocate for transparency in Grand Junction City and Mesa County government, discovered that in 2019 Mesa County purchased two new late model SUVs at a cost of $45,000 each, for the exclusive use of Commissioners Scott McInnis and John Justman. Before that time, Simpson noted, the County had provided a single passenger car for all three commissioners to share. He also noted that the decision to greatly increase this transportation expense for taxpayers was not made in public, and that while Commissioner Rose Pugliese tried to distance herself from the purchase, she failed to protest it publicly.
When Simpson raised these issues to Scott McInnis, McInnis deflected attention from the matter by asking Simpson to instead focus on coming up with financial suggestions for ways the County can cope with the COVID-19 pandemic rather than concerning himself with the purchase of the vehicles, which McInnis dismissed as unimportant.
Simpson obliged and produced the following suggestions, which he submitted to all three county commissioners on March 19, 2020.
A new video titled “Pay Scott” posted on social media highlights Senate District 7 candidate Chris Kennedy’s promise never to accept corporate PAC money and shows the extent to which incumbent District 7 State Senator Ray Scott is currently relying on corporate donors based outside his district, including big insurance and telecommunications companies, real estate companies and XCel Energy.
It’s an unfathomably bad day for religion, but a better day to be an atheist, if you already are one. If you’re not already, the news coming out about the Catholic church (again) this week may be enough to flip you, if not just grip you.
A Pennsylvania grand jury has dropped a devastating 1,356 page report (pdf) that describes in excruciating detail the child sexual abuse that has occurred within the Pennsylvania Catholic church, perpetrated by over 300 “predator priests” in that state alone. The grand jury names each priest and has identified over a thousand credible child victims who endured abuse at the hands of the Church over a period of 70 years. Some of the victims are in their 80s now.
While some stayed home dying Easter eggs Saturday, almost 300 western slope citizens turned out for the national Tax March to demand Donald Trump make his tax returns public. Marchers gathered at Grand Junction City Hall and listened to speeches before starting off on a figure 8-shaped route through downtown that took them along Main Street, Grand Avenue and by the Post Office, where they mailed post cards to Trump saying they want him to release his taxes.
On January 11, 2017, Trump dismissed the idea that voters were interested in his tax returns, claiming the only people who care about his tax returns are members of the media. But he was proved badly wrong when on April 15, thousands of people in hundreds of cities across across the country took to the streets to demand he make his taxes public. An ABC News/Washington Post poll (pdf) released on January 16,2017 showed 74% of Americans want to see Trump’s returns.
This 30 minute interview on KVNF Radio with Cidney Fisk and her parents about their experience with the Delta County School District was broadcast July 19, 2016. Host Ali Lightfoot interviews Cidney, her parents and Delta County School District officials about the religious speakers the school routinely brings in, other incidents of proselytizing occurring within the district, and the retribution Cidney faced from her teachers and counselors after voicing her opinions about that and what Cidney perceived as the district’s misguided financial priorities: Click this link to listen to the interview.
Philip Morris’ “Project Thunder” was public relations plan to construct and operate a wildly-luxurious, custom-built 20-car Marlboro train as a promotion for Marlboro cigarettes. The train was to consist entirely of double-decker cars and feature amenities such as a hot tub car, massage rooms and gambling. The train would stop at locations throughout the scenic southwestern U.S. and let passengers off to partake in iconically western activities like horseback riding, bicycling, river rafting, and paragliding. Philip Morris planned to give selected smokers the “trip of a lifetime” on a “deluxe train through Marlboro Country.”
The train was going to be used for only one season, from May-September 1996, at an estimated cost to Philip Morris of $44 million.
The train was built at tremendous expense to PM, but PM ultimately pulled the plug on the project very late as the train was close to completion. PM then ordered the train destroyed. The company made the rail car company workers who were manufacturing the train in Fort Collins, Colorado, sign nondisclosure agreements that forced them to stay silent about the project and its ultimate demise.
Plans for Project Thunder can be viewed at this link at University of California San Francisco’s Legacy Tobacco Documents Library: http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/neg36e00
If you need verification of the extent to which former juror Marilyn Charlesworth is being hung out to dry as a result of her service eleven years ago on the Blagg jury, look no further than how the District Attorney’s office handled another recent case of juror misconduct that also led to a new trial for the defendant.
To recap, Charlesworth currently has the distinction of being the most abused juror in modern U.S. history. Over the past eleven years, convicted murderer Michael Blagg’s defense team has forced her to defend herself against a number of allegations, including that while serving as a juror she withheld information from the Court about the extent of a vision problem, about a specific medication she was allegedly prescribed and, most recently, about whether she experienced an incident of domestic violence over two decades ago. The Mesa County DA has now filed contempt charges against her, is currently threatening her with 30 days in jail and fees in excess of $45,000, nominally to pay for Blagg’s first trial. That figure includes witness travel fees, hotel expenses, expert witness fees, subpoena service, the cost of transcripts for further hearings and additional costs not yet specified. Over the eleven years since Blagg’s first trial, the Court has made public Charlesworth’s medical, employment, DMV and IRS tax records and information from them has been published in the local paper, all without her consent. The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel now routinely features her name in articles about the Blagg case. Charlesworth and her husband now face thousands of dollars in legal bills for her defense from the two-pronged legal onslaught by Blagg’s defense team the Mesa County District Attorney’s office.
Contrast this with how the same D.A.’s office handled a second case of a juror accused of the exact same charge — misconduct — in another recent case, and whose actions resulted in a convicted defendant, a child molester, getting a new trial.
Different Cases, Same Charge
In 2010, Rodney Eddy, a former resident of Mesa and deacon at Mesa View Bible Church, was convicted of multiple felony counts of sexual assault on a teenage girl. A jury found him guilty on four counts each of sexual assault on a child by a person in a position of trust.
Eddy, now 73 years old, had two trials. The first ended in February, 2010, after jurors deadlocked on the charges against him. His next trial came six months later, in August of 2010. In that trial, jurors convicted Eddy of four counts of sexual assault on a child by a person in a position of trust and four more counts for a pattern of abuse. He was acquitted of eight additional charges and sentenced to 16 years to life in prison.
Fast-forward to February, 2015, when the Court awarded Eddy a third trial, this time due to juror misconduct.
In a screening questionnaire given to jurors before Eddy’s second trial, one unidentified juror answered “no” to the question of whether he or any of his family members had ever been a victim of sexual abuse. He later confessed that he had, in fact, been sexually abused by a priest in Grand Junction in 1965, at age 12. He told investigators that he had lied on his questionnaire to get on the jury after he learned sexual abuse allegations were central to Eddy’s case. He told investigators he was seeking “payback” for the wrongs allegedly committed against him by the priest when he was a child.
An eye-opening database publicly available on Google Docs lists known major organized crimes implemented globally by the Catholic church and other religions. The list includes systematic child abductions by the Church (the seizure of millions of babies from unmarried women and girls from the mid 1940s to the mid 1970s who were then adopted out for profit), child and female enslavement, sexual abuse, child pornography, abuse of deaf victims, beatings, severe punishments and use of orphans as “guinea pigs” in human experimental and clinical trials. All entries are documented to authoritative sources or reporting. One example of crimes committed by the Catholic church is the so-called “Baby Scoop Era,” in which unwed pregnant girls were “disappeared” into Catholic “Mother-Baby Homes.” There the girls and young women were fed and housed with minimal attention until they gave birth in rooms alone, without support, assistance, counseling or coaching. The new young mothers were then coerced or forced to surrender their babies for adoption. This human rights crime against women is backed up with a link to a one hour investigative news program by Dan Rather titled “What the Catholic Church failed to tell you: Abominations of the Catholic Church in USA and Canada” that details how from the 1950s to the mid-1970s, Catholic nuns coerced over one million American women and girls to give up their babies. The Church then sold them into illegitimate adoptions for “astronomical profits.”
Updated December 22, 2013
A lawsuit (pdf) was filed against the Grand Junction Regional Airport Authority and its former director December 18, 2013, by a former employee of the airport. Former Grand Junction Mayor Bill Pitts, who has knowledge of the case, appeared at a small gathering of local citizens at a bagel shop on Main Street Friday morning, December 20, to talk about the case.
Asked about the fraud at the heart of the case, Pitts explained part of it involves the long, black, electrified security fence constructed on three sides of the airport in 2011. The fence hurt airport-related businesses economically, forcing them to close or relocate. Pitts pointed out that a fault in the fence project is that it exists on only three sides of the airport, leaving an entire two-mile stretch along the north edge of the airport unprotected. When former airport manager Rex Tippets filled out a form required for the fencing project, Pitts said, there were numerous boxes that needed to be checked. One of them asked “Will any of the public be affected by the fence?,” and Tippets answered “No.” Despite how the public was affected by it, Pitts said no public hearing about the fence was ever held.
A new YouTube video features big-name stars and historical figures soliciting public support for Private Bradley Manning, the military whistleblower who turned over a classified U.S. military video made public by WikiLeaks called “Collateral Murder” that shows an airstrike in Baghdad in which the U.S. targeted two Reuters war correspondents after mistaking their cameras for weapons. U.S. forces killed one of the journalists and injured the other in the strike. After a van appeared and unarmed people emerged and tried to carry the wounded correspondent to the van, the U.S. helicopter crew repeatedly begged for permission to open fire on the van and its occupants. Permission was granted, and U.S. forces killed the surviving correspondent and wounded two children who were sitting in the van’s front seat. Manning also turned over footage showing similar war crimes in Afghanistan. For exposing the truth about U.S. military actions in Baghdad and Afghanistan, Manning was imprisoned in solitary confinement for three years and charged with “aiding the enemy,” a capital crime. Manning’s trial is currently ongoing, and the prosecution is seeking a life sentence for Manning. The video is a project of the Bradley Manning Support Network.
In this 1991 outline, Karen Daragan, Administrator of Media Affairs for Philip Morris USA, describes PM’s secret “Ninja Program,” in which PM recruited individual smokers across the country to act as seemingly independent media spokespeople who would oppose smoking restrictions and cigarette taxes. Daragan described the rationale for the program:
“Smokers can respond better than we can to these zealots’ positions on smoking restrictions and excessive taxation. Basically, we can get them [smokers] to deliver our messages for us and it works beautifully because they don’t represent big bad tobacco co[mpany], have more credibility [and] can relate to the public better and talk about issues that are affecting them rather than have us talk for them like we did in the past. But they can also go a step beyond. They can…get the antis reacting to them which puts the antis on the defensive for a change.”
Daragan calls PM’s Ninja Program “a proactive media relations tool for us,” and describes how PM’s method of recruiting smokers as spokespeople differs from those of other cigarette companies:
“We don’t manage smokers rights clubs and organize meetings like our competitors do. What we do is go out and find the most articulate and devoted activists. We call them our ninjas. We feed them with our most powerful information and arguments, media train them and then have our public relations agency go out and pitch stories and set up interviews for them…”
She continues, describing how PM finds their ninjas:
“Right now we have about 30 trained media ninjas across the country…We find them through correspondence with PM, through phone surveys and written surveys among the 12 million people on our database, through word of mouth, LTE’s, and visible activists among the already existing smokers rights clubs across the states.”
PM instructed its “ninjas” to carry specific, corporate-defined messages to the media: “accommodation,” civil liberties, fairness and self-determination.
Newsweek magazine published a scathing expose’ this week about BP’s behind-the-scenes efforts to limit what the public saw and understood about the company’s disastrous 2010 Deepwater Horizon gulf oil spill. BP assured thousands of fishermen, on-shore residents and workers they hired to help with spill cleanup operations that the proprietary oil dispersant they used called “Corexit” was as safe as dish soap, but people exposed to the Corexit/oil mixture subsequently fell ill with a range symptoms that mimic Gulf War Syndrome, including muscle spasms that rendered their hands unusable, neurological problems like short term memory loss, painful skin inflammation and breathing problems. A Government Accountability Project (GAP) investigation done after the fact found BP purposely withheld manufacturer’s safety manuals for Corexit from the fishermen and other workers. In interviews after the disaster, cleanup workers said BP had threatened to fire any workers who complained about the lack of protective clothing and respirators. Airplanes spraying Corexit also indiscriminately sprayed the substance over the fishing boats BP hired to help contain the spill, exposing the fishermen to multiple doses of the chemicals. Nineteen months after the Deepwater Horizon explosion, the peer-reviewed scientific journal Environmental Pollution published a study that found that crude oil becomes 52 times more toxic when mixed with Corexit than it would otherwise be if left alone. GAP representatives asked BP to pay for the medical treatment of victims of Corexit-and-crude poisoning but BP has refused. BP’s cover up demonstrates the huge amount of power corporations wield and the inability or unwillingness of governments to restrict that power. Eleven people were killed in the Deepwater Horizon disaster, but no one has yet faced any criminal charges. What’s worse, the BP spill and its after-effects haven’t prompted any changes in public policy towards big corporations and their activities. It’s as though the U.S. government has gleaned no wisdom at all from the disaster and BP’s subsequent actions.
Source: Newsweek, “What BP Doesn’t Want You to Know about the 2010 Gulf Oil Spill,” April 22, 2013 (Accompanying photo is from the University of South Florida study “Findings of Persistency of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons in Residual Tar Product Sourced from Crude Oil Released During the Deepwater Horizon M252 Spill of National Significance,” [PDF], April 14, 2012)
A lawsuit in Rhode Island brought by the niece of a wealthy, deceased widow has cracked open thousands of previously secret documents of the Legion of Christ, a disgraced Roman Catholic order of priests and young men studying to enter the priesthood. The lawsuit charges that the Legion of Christ unduly influenced a wealthy banker’s widow named Gabriel Mee, who died in 2008 at the age of 96, to alter her trust and will to bequeath $30 million to the Legion, while the Legion withheld from Ms. Mee information that the order’s founder, the Reverend Marcial Maciel Degollado, had sexually abused underage seminarians and secretly fathered three children by two women. The documents in the case were under seal until The Associated Press, the New York Times, the National Catholic Reporter and the Providence Journal petitioned the court to have them unsealed, saying they were in the public interest. A Rhode Island Superior Court judge agreed, and ordered the documents released to the public. Pope John Paul II praised and supported Rev. Maciel through the years, calling Maciel an “efficacious guide to youth,” even after 1998, when Maciel was formally accused of sexually abusing Legion seminarians. Pope Benedict, who is retiring from the papacy this month, continued the coverup until he finally pushed Maciel to retire “to a private life of penance and prayer” in May of 2006. Pope Benedict failed to involve legal authorities in the Maciel case, nor did Benedict acknowledge Maciel’s sexual transgressions or his victims. The Legion of Christ only officially acknowledged Father Maciel’s sexual transgressions on March, 25, 2010, when the order issued a formal communique’ titled, “Regarding the current circumstances of the Legion of Christ and the Regnum Christi Movement.” The Legion of Christ has branches all over the world and is still operating.
Main Source: The National Catholic Reporter, February 18, 2013
This tobacco industry document from the Philip Morris collection is a translation of a letter written by a German scientist named Dietrich Schmaehl, who was performing biological research for Philip Morris in 1979 in a quest to find a “safer cigarette.” Schmaehl was doing experiments to determine the carcinogenic effect of the smoke condensates, so-called “tar,” from specific brands of cigarettes. Philip Morris performed such research overseas to help prevent any findings from being discoverable in American courts.
Philip Morris had threatened to cut off funding for Schmaehl’s research. After finding this out, Schmael wrote to PM consulting scientist Dr. Franz Adlkofer (presumably his boss), saying, “In our conversation it was argued that the Industry could not support such experiments since this might prove that the previously manufactured products have a carcinogenic effect and that such experiments could especially not be supported because they would be financed with Industry funds. I am totally unable to follow these arguments.”
In no uncertain terms, Schmaehl threatened that if his funding was cut off, he would continue performing the investigations on his own and publish the results, naming the brands (currently on the market) that he used in the experiments:
“I want to tell you again that in case this project . . . is refused support by the Industry, I will carry out such investigations in my Institute on my own account; in that case I will, in my publication of this work, call a ‘spade a spade’; this means I will name the brands currently on the market which were used to prepare the smoke condensates.”
A related internal memo about Schmael’s letter from Alexander Holtzman, PM’s Assistant General Counsel, to Thomas Osdene, PM’s Director of Research, shows that PM clearly considered Schmaehl’s threats blackmail, but decided to fund his work anyway to keep him quiet. Holtzman says, “I do feel that this letter is tantamount to blackmail by Schmaehl. I am very much afraid that unless financial support be provided to Schmaehl he will chastise the industry.”
Salon.com reports a new “youth” front group has appeared consisting of young people who have ostensibly joined together to fight the federal debt. The group, called “The Can Kicks Back,” issued a press release November 12 announcing its creation and casting itself as a “nationwide grassroots campaign.” The Can Kicks Back gives no physical address on its website, but Salon.com reports the group shares the same address as the New America Foundation, which receives funding from the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, among other foundations and big corporations. Peter Peterson is a Wall Street hedge fund billionaire who, according to Huffington Post, has “has personally contributed at least $458 million to the Peter G. Peterson Foundation to cast Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and government spending as in a state of crisis, in desperate need of dramatic cuts.” Other prominent funders of the New America Foundation include Google, Microsoft, Nike, Merck, and Aetna insurance. Interestingly, Kick the Can’s advisory board consists mostly of older politicians like Alan Simpson, 81, former Republican senator from Wyoming, Erskine Bowles, 67, former Clinton chief of staff, Mickey Edwards, 75, former Republican congressman from Oklahoma. Salon.com reports that this isn’t Pete Peterson’s first attempt to form an astroturf “youth group” to agitate for cutting entitlement programs. In the 1990s Peterson funded two groups, one called “Third Millennium” and another called “Lead…or Leave,” basically to do the same thing. In fact, Jonathan Cowan, who headed up Lead…or Leave, now is on The Can Kicks Back’s advisory board.
Karl Rove, whom Vanity Fair called “one of the most powerful unelected officials in the United States,” is facing criticism and derision after his two well-funded super pacs, American Crossroads and the more secretive Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies (“Crossroads GPS”), proved surprisingly ineffective after Democrats largely emerged victorious in the 2012 general election. Rove, a Republican political strategist who famously once dreamed of creating a “permanent Republican majority” in U.S. government, helped create the two groups which together sucked in over $300 million in the last election cycle, mostly from billionaires hoping to influence the election’s outcome. Crossroads GPS, which refused to make public the names of it’s super-wealthy donors, blanketed the U.S. with attack ads against Democratic candidates in which the group made notably false and misleading claims against candidates. Despite spending vast amounts of money, however, Rove’s groups were ultimately unable to influence the outcomes of the November 6 elections. Rove has spent the last week defending his super PACs and scrambling to devise a new strategy for boosting Republicans’ fortunes in elections nationwide. Rove served as former president George W. Bush’s deputy chief of staff. Since leaving the government, he has worked as a political strategist, consultant and a paid speaker. Rove’s normal speaker’s fee in 2010 was $60,000, but he has had his appearances canceled on several occasions due to protests.