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Five Weird Things About Bloomberg’s Weaselly Promise to Release Women From Their NDAs

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Mike Bloomberg stands in front of a sign that reads "Women for Mike Bloomberg."

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diannemharris
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The Forest Service says the Appalachian Trail isn’t “land” in a pipeline fight at SCOTUS

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Climate Consciousness

Every decision counts.

It’s not every Supreme Court brief that goes off the beaten legal path, supplementing jurisprudence with humor and spicing up statutory interpretation with devastating wit. But the filing from environmentalists fighting the US Forest Service (USFS) over its grant of a license for a gas pipeline through the Appalachian Trail is one such gem.

Sadly, the substance of the case isn’t amusing. Whether you believe national and natural treasures should be protected from pesky energy companies, or that nature-loving tree-huggers should thank the heavens for businesses willing to drill deep and spend billions of dollars to someday deliver consumer savings, the case highlights the growing tension between government, industry, and the people over how to handle American land.

Here’s what happened. The USFS granted Atlantic Coast Pipeline a license to run a natural gas pipeline under a portion of the Appalachian Trial, which is a national treasure and the world’s longest hiking-only path, stretching nearly 2,200 miles from Georgia to Maine. The license is for land within the George Washington National Forest in Virginia and West Virginia, and the trail runs through these woods. Cowpasture River Preservation Association and other environmentalist groups challenged the license in court, arguing that the USFS lacked the authority for the grant because the trail is actually National Park Service (NPS) land, not territory belonging to the National Forest System.

The government and the company argue that there will be minimal disruption to trail walkers, as the drilling will be deep and begin out of sight of the scenic route. The environmentalists counter that the starlight will be dimmed, the natural experience marred, and that there is potential long-term harm. But the only question before the high court is how to read a bunch of different statutes to determine who really has rights over the Appalachian Trail here.

In 2018, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the environmentalists on the licensing point, finding that the Appalachian Trail is park service land. The USFS and Atlantic Coast Pipeline petitioned for Supreme Court review last year. It was granted, and on Feb. 24, the justices will hear from the advocates.

Happily, the arguments in the parties’ briefs are at times a hoot, which perhaps bodes well for the upcoming hearing and certainly makes for uncommonly fun legal reading.

This land is your land

The petitioners—USFS and Atlantic Coast Pipeline—and the respondents, the trail’s advocates, are in lockstep on some critical points.

All acknowledge that if the Appalachian Trail counts as land administered by the park service, then no agency has authority to grant a gas license across the federal territory. All also concede that the entire Appalachian Trail is administered by the Secretary of the Interior, who delegated the duty to the NPS. It’s also understood that land administered for the interior secretary by NPS counts as “land” in the national park system.

Still, the parties’ paths diverge on important issues. Most notably, they disagree about whether the Appalachian Trail territories count as “land,” based on three statutes read together—The Mineral Leasing Act, the National Trail Systems Act, and the National Park Service Organic Act. And they also disagree on the extent to which any other statutes might apply.

To answer the key questions, the various attorneys walk separate ways, ultimately coming to opposing destinations in their debate over the definition of a single four-letter word one might never otherwise question despite a lifetime of continual use.

This land is not land

Credit where it’s due. To begin with, the federal government provides a pretty funny premise, and the wry humor in the environmentalists’ responding brief would be impossible without this initial paradoxical offer from USFS acting as a sort of straight man.

USFS takes an almost absurdist approach that calls for the cognitive nimbleness of a Zen master accustomed to sitting with complexing koans. As such, it lends itself well to ridicule and jokes. To get it, one must forget preconceived notions: be open.

The federal government basically argues that the Appalachian Trail isn’t “land” for the purposes of the case. Instead it’s a “footpath” or a “trail” that happens to be administered by the National Park Service.

However, the thousands of acres of trail aren’t a “unit” of the NPS, even though the trail is referred to as a unit sometimes by NPS officials and in government documents. That would be bad for the government’s case because, technically, NPS “units” also qualify as “land.” And, as you may recall, all parties, however reluctantly, agree that if the Appalachian Trail is land in that sense, well, the forest service can’t grant a license for a natural gas pipeline.

In its high court brief, USFS counsel explains that the Fourth Circuit made a mistake when it found the Appalachian Trail is land administered by the NPS, and therefore protected. In the nuanced, or oblique, view proposed by the government in this context, land isn’t land and units aren’t units, but the portion of the Appalachian Trail that Atlantic Coast’s pipeline would run through is governed by a statute designating it as forest territory and therefore subject to license grants.

“The central flaw in the court’s logic lies in the fact that the Appalachian Trail is a ‘trail,’ not ‘land,'” the government explains.

This land is our land

Advocates for the trail didn’t hesitate to run—and pun—with this perplexing claim from government attorneys. How can land not be land, they asked? And they did it with as many rhetorical flourishes as one brief can stand.

The scenic national footpath stretching across states patently is land, the trail’s advocates explained with a kind of literary deadpan, writing, “Land is what you walk on.”

Aiming a jab at the government that also boasted statutory wordplay, they quipped that USFS counsel was “roaming … from the plain language of the Trails, Organic, and Leasing Acts,” with stretch definitions. (Get it? Roaming from the trail!)

With a philosophical wink, the environmentalists called out hypocrisy, arguing the government was relying on an “elusive metaphysical distinction” to advance a position that contradicts its own longstanding approach to administering the trail. They politely pointed out what might seem obvious in any other context, thus exposing USFS counsel as disingenuous without ever calling the opposition names:

The Appalachian Trail cannot be separated from the land that constitutes it. Petitioners’ argument … is inconsistent with ordinary English usage, the language of three statutes, longstanding agency practice, and the solid reality of the Trail’s existence as land upon which generations of hikers have walked, and their children and grandchildren will walk.

The trail’s advocates also offered poetry, a poignant quote from Robert Frost. “The land was ours before we were the land’s,” they reminded.

Finally, the trail’s advocates pulled a power move, showing everyone who’s the boss in this American democracy. “This land, this Trail, belongs to the American people. Their representatives in Congress have directed that it shall be administered by the Park Service ‘in such manner and by such means as will leave [it] unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.’ Only Congress can change that mandate.”

Thus, while signaling the justices should step off, the trail’s advocates also offered a convenient reason to affirm the Fourth Circuit and leave their linguistic victory standing, ostensibly a win-win-win for the land, the court, and the people.

Made for you and me

The justices will have a chance to challenge the Appalachian Trail advocates, as well as the government’s paradoxical position, next week, right before the trail hiking season starts in earnest. They are expected to issue a decision by term’s end in late June, when the early spring’s northbound pedestrians following the scenic path from Georgia should be halfway to Maine.

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CallMeWilliam
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diannemharris
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acdha
4 days ago
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Washington, DC
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Study finds 25% of climate-related tweets are from bots

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a massive concerted effort to amplify climate denialism
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DMack
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Victoria, BC
diannemharris
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acdha
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Washington, DC
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Your Daily Fascism

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It is just impossible to overstate how disgusting these people are:

Kevin was watching from a remote detention center. On one side of the judge, he could see his lawyers, ready to argue that he should be freed immediately. Across from them was a lawyer for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), there to argue that Kevin should be deported. And in front of them all, inside a thick folder, was an old report from a shelter for immigrant children that was the reason the long-running matter of Kevin Euceda existed at all: “Youth reports history of physical abuse, neglect, and gang affiliation in country of origin. Unaccompanied child self-disclosed selling drugs. Unaccompanied child reports being part of witnessing torturing and killing, including dismemberment of body parts,” the report said.

The person who had signed it: A therapist at a government shelter for immigrant children who had assured Kevin that their sessions would be confidential. Instead, the words Kevin spoke had traveled from the shelter to one federal agency and then another, followed him through three detention centers, been cited in multiple ICE filings arguing for his detention and deportation, and now, in the fall of 2019, were about to be used against him once more.

This kind of information sharing was part of a Trump administration strategy that is technically legal but which professional therapy associations say is a profound violation of patient confidentiality. To bolster its policy of stepped up enforcement, the administration is requiring that notes taken during mandatory therapy sessions with immigrant children be passed onto ICE, which can then use those reports against minors in court. Intimate confessions, early traumas, half-remembered nightmares — all have been turned into prosecutorial weapons, often without the consent of the therapists involved, and always without the consent of the minors themselves, in hearings where the stakes can be life and death.

They really do manage to be vile in ways I can’t even conceive of. White supremacy can be a hell of a drug.

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diannemharris
7 days ago
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Responsible reporting about pedestrian fatalities

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In the past two days, two pedestrians have been killed while crossing Rockville Pike. Media reports about pedestrian and cyclist fatalities often fail to responsibly portray the nature of these crashes. They may either overtly or implicitly blame the pedestrian or cyclist for getting killed while minimizing the driver's responsibility as well as the role infrastructure and road design play in traffic crashes.

Responsible and ethical reporting about the subject of pedestrian and cyclist deaths should follow these best practices as explained in these Columbia Journalism Review (Meg Dalton) and Citylab (Richard Florida) pieces.


Crash or collision, not accident. 
The word "accident" implies a sense of inevitability or that the event was unavoidable. However, there are things that can be done to reduce the number and severity of traffic collisions.
Driver, not car
Do not attribute agency to inanimate objects like cars, unless it was a driverless car. Consider this sentence about a theoretical death by stabbing: "The knife stabbed and killed him."
Do not ignore the role of road design in a given crash. Provide context about the road and built environment where the pedestrian was killed
Many times, the road design and built environment at the location are contributing factors in a crash. Some basic knowledge of urban/transportation planning is needed to be able to consider and write about this aspect. In brief*, factors to consider: speed limit, road size/width (number of lanes), presence or lack of crosswalks and their positioning if present, nearby establishments/land use (a school? a busy shopping center? a Metro station? apartments/housing? etc), presence or lack of traffic calming measures, lack or presence and nature of bike lanes, etc. *(this is where the basic knowledge of urban/transportation planning concepts comes in)
Frame pedestrian/cyclist deaths as a public health matter rather than as matters of individual responsibility in isolated incidents
How many crashes have occurred in the area/jurisdiction? Are there certain locations/intersections where they occur more often?
"Reporters should ask questions like, Why did the victim cross the street where they did?, What can be done to prevent a similar situation in the future?, or Why are so many cyclists getting struck at that intersection?" (CJR)
Scrutinize drivers' actions in the crashes, not (only) the pedestrians' or cyclists' actions.
Consider how language can implicitly assign blame to a given person. Was the driver speeding/distracted/drunk/etc? What kind of vehicle was involved? (larger vehicles are deadlier to pedestrians and cyclists in crashes) Crash reports compiled by police often reflect survivor bias -- if the pedestrian is killed, they will not be around to offer their perspective, so a report may be primarily based on the driver's statements. Avoid implicitly blaming pedestrians or cyclists for their deaths with commonly-used phrases (in this context) like: The pedestrian darted into traffic. The pedestrian was wearing dark clothing. The pedestrian was not in a crosswalk (the pedestrian may have been in a crosswalk when they were hit, but then thrown from the crosswalk by the force of the crash). The cyclist was not riding in a bike lane (if a bike lane was present, it may have been blocked or unsafe to ride in). The cyclist was not wearing a helmet (despite prevailing attitudes, helmets are not a panacea and cyclists can die from other types [i.e., non-head] of injuries sustained in a traffic crash). 
"Better reporting practices are an indirect but important way to get to Vision Zero." (Citylab)
"Car crashes can be prevented, and the language in the news media should reflect that." (CJR)

As an example, I have revised the Bethesda Beat article to bring it in line with the aforementioned best practices. The original text (as it appeared when I published this blog post) is as follows:

"A pedestrian was struck and killed on Rockville Pike Thursday night, Montgomery County police said.



Police wrote on Twitter that they received a call around 6:33 p.m. Thursday that a pedestrian had been struck at the intersection of Rockville Pike and 1st Street.

Police did not release any additional details as of 7:15 p.m. Thursday, but said a portion of southbound Rockville Pike was closed in the immediate area.

A pedestrian was also killed on Rockville Pike Wednesday night about two miles south from the site of Thursday night’s crash.

Three pedestrians have been struck and killed by motorists in Montgomery County this year, starting on Jan. 6."

General commentary on the article:

The article uses the word crash rather than accident to refer to what happened. This is a step in the right direction. The last two paragraphs begin to partially address larger contextual issues at play (by mentioning other pedestrian fatalities in the area), though they omit mentioning the factors of road design, the driver's actions and vehicle design, among other things. I realize that news articles are ideally rather succinct, but consider the aforementioned points for the sake of argument.

>>>> Here is the revised version. Bolded portions indicate revisions. Italicized portions are commentary about the reasoning behind the revision. <<<<

A driver struck and killed a pedestrian on Rockville Pike Thursday night, Montgomery County Police said. [avoiding use of passive voice and noting the driver's role in the crash]

Police wrote on Twitter that they received a call around 6:33 p.m. Thursday that a driver struck a pedestrian at the intersection of Rockville Pike and First Street. [avoiding use of passive voice and noting the driver's role in the crash]



Police did not release any additional details as of 7:15 p.m. Thursday, but said a portion of southbound Rockville Pike was closed in the immediate area. A pedestrian was also killed on Rockville Pike Wednesday night about two miles south from the site of Thursday night’s crash.


Rockville Pike (MD-355) is a heavily-traveled state highway with a 40 m.p.h. speed limit at First Street. At this intersection where the crash occurred, there are eight lanes of traffic, a crossing distance of about 115 feet (or nearly 40 yards) for a pedestrian crossing Rockville Pike. 



Many pedestrian fatalities in the county have occurred on state-controlled roads in the county which tend to combine higher speed limits with roads that are busy with mutiple transportation modes: car, bus/transit, walking, bicycling. High(er) speeds are more likely to be fatal for pedestrians in crashes. Larger vehicles like SUVS and trucks are also deadlier for pedestrians. [providing context about factors like the road design and built environment in the area]

[It is not currently known in this scenario, but ideally, provide information/context about the driver's actions/responsibility: the type of vehicle they drove, were they speeding/distracted/etc]

Three pedestrians have been struck and killed by motorists in Montgomery County this year, starting on Jan. 6."
Final thoughts 
for journalists and others, consider walking or biking around an area you usually drive through. Try crossing the street at a location where a fatal pedestrian crash occurred. Walk and/or bike around a bit in the area of your newsroom or home to experience what the conditions are like firsthand.

Page 2

About me/this blog: something slightly more extensive

I have no (or rather, very minimal. I took an introductory architecture course once.) formal training in the subjects of urban planning, transportation and the built environment. My knowledge of said topics comes from various things I have read, mostly online. There are lots of resources out there! Greater Greater Washington is a good place to start, especially regarding local matters.

This blog is focused on Montgomery County, MD. Occasionally it may also cover nearby DC-metropolitan areas. It's generally focused on the built environment; perhaps some journalism-related things will pop up too, since that's another area I'm involved/interested in.

Find my most recent news work here on Medium. You can find some of my past work at the MC Advocate website (someday I'll find my direct author link...), though it's not necessarily related to the topics this blog is focused on. The Advocate is a student-run publication based out of Montgomery College's Rockville campus. Although I am no longer involved with it, if you're an MC student interested in journalism, definitely give it a chance! The professor who advises the student newspaper is very knowledgeable and wonderful, to say the least. 

Contact: I write and edit this blog myself, so any comments or complaints you may have should be directed to me. You can tweet me @rachelvetica or email me: RTAYL537 [at] gmail [dot] com. or if you happen to know my personal address (which I am not publishing online, sorry folks/stalkers), send some good old fashioned mail via the postal service or carrier pigeon. Of course, if you manage to track me down in person, feel free to deliver your physical cards and letters of commentary that way.

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diannemharris
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acdha
9 days ago
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odinsblog:Mike Bloomberg is a racist, paternalistic, Islamophobic, oligarch. And that’s without...

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odinsblog:

Mike Bloomberg is a racist, paternalistic, Islamophobic, oligarch. And that’s without mentioning that Bloomberg has even more sexual harassment allegations against him than Trump does.

Don’t anybody dare @ me or tell me to “vote blue no matter who,” not when this billionaire racist isn’t even a Democrat. As a BLACK man, I shouldn’t have to pick between the racist Republican who wants to use the police to racially profile me, or the other racist Republican who also wants to use the police to racially profile me. That’s not even a false choice - it’s no choice at all.

My Bloomberg story isn’t nearly as horrific as those in the tweets above. My relatives living under Bloomberg’s racist regime simply instructed me to stay out of NYC if I didn’t want to risk being arrested and harassed and possibly inserted into the criminal justice system. And I listened to them.

Mike Bloomberg is an authoritarian who wants use big government to crack down on poor people and black people, but wants less taxes on the wealthy, and deregulation for billionaires. It is not hyperbole to say that Bloomberg is an existential threat to democracy.

Please don’t let him buy the White House.

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shanel
8 days ago
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THIS
New York, New York
notadoctor
7 days ago
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Oakland, CA
diannemharris
9 days ago
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