There's a new player in the game that is pro-Israel lobby hasbara in the United States: The Emergency Committee for Israel, which is running an ad attacking House Representative Joe Sestak for his positions on Israel.
The Committee has arisen just in time for the 2010 mid-term elections campaign season, and right in the middle of what have been, albeit weak and mostly a public relations stunt, a push for peace talks, mediated by the Obama Administration, between the Benjamin Netanyahu-lead Likud coalition of the Israeli government, and the Palestinians. Even the facade of Obama pushing for negotiations for a two-state solution and holding both sides of the conflict accountable, though, is too much for this new committee, which explains why it has arisen from the dust.
Energy in Depth and the gas industry are deploying spin doctors to counter a new documentary being aired nationwide on HBO. This time around, the truths unearthed about what the impacts would be of methane gas drilling into the Marcellus Shale unveiled by the film Gasland, by scientists, and by investigative journalists, are all victims of a prolific oil industry smear campaign.
Quick refresher: Marcellus Shale is an extensive underground formation of shale in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and other states in the region that has received renewed attention both because of new estimates of the quantity of methane gas believed to be under these rocks, and because of the significant environmental concerns that have been raised about the method of extracting the gas from the shale. "Hydrofracking" is a process in which a fluid is injected at high pressure into oil or methane gas deposits to fracture the rock above and release the liquid or gas below. The process uses enormous amounts of drinkable water, along with toxic chemicals. It also releases radioactive materials and other hazardous substances within the shale deposits, a fact that has raised significant environmental and health concerns.
The celebrity chef Alice Waters is probably the world's most famous advocate of growing and eating local, Organic food. In February 2010 her Chez Panisse Foundation chose as its new Executive Director the wealthy "green socialite" and liberal political activist Francesca Vietor. Vietor's hiring created a serious conflict of interest that has married Waters and her Foundation to the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) and its scam of disposing of toxic sewage sludge waste as free "organic Biosolids compost" for gardens.
For the first time, thanks to an ongoing "open records" investigation by the Food Rights Network, the public and the press have easy online access to dozens of internal SFPUC files (SFPUC Sludge Controversy Timeline), documenting the strange tale of Chez Sludge, or how the sewage industry bedded Alice Waters.
On May 13, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer appointed a task force to address flagging tourism amid the backlash created by Arizona's strict new law on immigration enforcement.
Front group king Rick Berman, who has worked in the shadows for years, is starting to draw closer scrutiny from the IRS, the media and the public for the unique, self-dealing business model he developed to champion for big business. Berman, a former lobbyist, set up six nonprofit organizations with innocuous names like the Center for Consumer Freedom, the American Beverage Institute and the Employment Policies Institute. Despite their nonprofit designation, together these groups provide as much as 70 percent of the revenues of his for-profit enterprise, Berman and Company. The Center for Consumer Freedom, for example, took in $1.5 million in revenues in 2008, of which 93 percent went to Berman and his firm. The American Beverage Institute took in $1.7 million, of which 82 percent went to Berman and his firm. None of his non-profit groups have independent offices or staff, and all of them pay Berman's for-profit business for services like accounting, copying, writing, operating Web sites, placing opinion-editorials, and bookkeeping, which is managed by Berman's wife, Dixie Lynn Berman. Rick Berman sits on the boards of his organizations, holds a total of 24 positions within them, and he serves as Executive Director for most of them. Sounds fishy, right?
As the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico continues to dominate headlines around the world, public outrage is being focused more intensely upon BP and its gaffe-prone CEO Tony Hayward. But amidst this crisis, the public should not forget the atrocities committed by other massive oil companies. For example, Royal Dutch Shell's drilling operations have been spilling oil into the Niger Delta in Nigeria since 1958. Because Nigeria is an impoverished nation and oil revenues fund a majority of government operations, Shell and other companies have been able to drill and pollute without serious oversight for all these years. It is estimated that 13 million barrels of oil have spilled into the delta, making life even more difficult for the region's destitute residents. Shell blames the constant spills on attacks from "rebels," who are in fact minority ethnic groups who feel they have been exploited and displaced by foreign oil companies. But Shell would never consider pulling out of the region or finding ways to avoid ethnic strife. Instead, Shell has proceeded with business as usual, and spilled a record 14,000 tons of crude oil into the delta last year.
As per usual, when push comes to shove, the right-wing Israeli government, along with the Israel Defense Forces spinmeisters, have gone back to the simple formula: when they do something illegal and barbaric, blame the victim, for the United States will obligingly agree and stand by that narrative. Like always, while the rest of the world protests in condemnation and speaks out against Israel's actions and crimes, the U.S. government stands by complicitly, continuing to shower Israel with over $3 billion per year in military aid into perpetuity.
BP, now officially responsible for the worst oil spill disaster in U.S. history, has hired former Vice President Dick Cheney's campaign press secretary, Anne Womack-Kolton, to head its American public relations efforts. Womack is a former employee of the PR firm APCO Worldwide, perhaps best known for its work on behalf of the tobacco industry. In 1995, Philip Morris hired APCO to orchestrate a massive national "tort reform" movement, and in 1993, PM hired APCO to organize the front group The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition to attack the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency after it rated secondhand smoke a Group A Human Carcinogen, the same rating the agency gives asbestos and radon gas. Womack also served as a White House spokesperson, defending Bush's White House Office Of Faith-Based Initiatives. In announcing Womack-Kolton's hiring, BP only mentioned that she had been director of public affairs for the Department of Energy (DOE) under George W. Bush, but a DOE press release boasts about her links to Cheney.