No Labels, a political reform group formed primarily by centrist political figures, unveiled a surprisingly bold congressional reform plan Dec. 13 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Democratic, Republican and independent office-holders and former leaders described their plan in the historic Caucus RJoe Liebermanoom of the Cannon House Office Building under a banner saying, "Make Congress Work!" Their plan, unusual in its scope, included a requirement that U.S. presidents answer questions each month on the floor of the House or Senate, much like the United Kingdom's prime minister does at the House of Commons.

“People don’t realize how little we get to talk with the president,” said U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman, an independent party candidate from Connecticut, at left. Other provisions in the 12-point plan would sharply limit filibusters and force members to give up their pay if they failed to pass a budget. “Do your work or you don’t get paid,” U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN) told the audience of more than 400, prompting strong applause. “Even if it takes six months,” added U.S. Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV), one of a dozen elected officials on stage for the kick-off event.

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Geg PalastGreg Palast, author of the new best-seller Vulture’s Picnic, will describe his latest revelations on deadly environmental hazards on Dec. 14 during a dinner-lecture at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. The author of previous best-sellers Armed Madhouse and The Best Democracy Money Can Buy will talk at 7 p.m. to the McClendon Group, which for a quarter of a century has featured those with important messages regarded as too controversial for the increasingly timid mainstream media.

John Edward Hurley -- chairman of the McClendon Group and a longtime leader of Washington press, historical, church and veterans groups that include the Justice Integrity Project -- provided the following introduction to Palast’s talk: "The Nation describes Greg Palast as, 'A cross between Sam Spade and Sherlock Holmes.'”John Edward Hurleyh

Hurley, shown at right, continued:

He exposed how Florida officials under Gov. Jeb Bush used electronic chicanery to remove 91,000 eligible voters (and likely Democrats) from the rolls just before the 2000 election. Those crimes stole our Presidential election while most in the media stood silent. Drawing on his background as a private eye investigating oil disasters, he’s just published what’s even more frightening: Vulture’s Picnic: In Pursuit of Petroleum Pigs, Power Pirates, and High-Finance Carnivores.

He and his team of journalist/detectives allege that the BP’s explosion last year in the Gulf of Mexico was an entirely predictable result of the company’s shocking safety track record elsewhere. This includes 1989 in Alaska (where Palast shows that BP was the primary villain) and the oil-rich Caspian states. His first-hand research documents a trail of oil, blood, bribery, death and heartbreak. It leads from heinous spills in Bolivia to the heartless BP victim compensation process for the Gulf -- and on to this year’s nuclear disaster in Japan.

This is the most personal of Palast’s books as he describes how he ended up in an MBA program with “The Chicago Boys” under Milton Friedman as they devised a free-market ideology to privatize social safety nets around the world. As a member of the media, he must also describe why his peers don’t dare cover these stories. In fact, CNN host Piers Morgan in his previous life as a London newspaper editor unleashed a vicious sting against Palast, complete with a beautiful “honey-trap,” that rocked UK tabloids and came close to finishing his career.

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Mark Crispin MillerEmboldened by past success, voting fraud experts are poised once again to manipulate via electronic means key election results in the 2012 federal elections, including for the Presidency. That’s the view of Mark Crispin Miller, right, a communication professor at New York University who is one of the nation’s leaders in writing books, columns and newsletters on election fraud.

Colorado SoS wants to "relax security" around e-voting! was the headline of a Mother Jones article that Miller excerpted in his weekly News from Underground web news roundup Dec. 10. “Is that even possible?” Miller wryly asked his readers. The topic is in the news even more prominent because of allegations of voting fraud in last week's elections in Russia and because Attorney Gen. Eric Holder announced on Dec. 13 opposition to Republican plans to tighten election security, putting at risk what critics estimate as 5 million votes.

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Helen ThomasPioneering White House correspondent Helen Thomas told a National Press Club audience Dec. 7 that the country is endangered by what she called government leaders' greed, fear, and subservience to war-mongers.

“I came here in 1943,” she told a dinner audience of 30, “and I don’t think I’ve ever seen our country so bereft of ideals and ideas. I don’t see anything on the horizon that can pull us out. I hope I’m wrong.” Shown at left in a 2009 photo courtesy of Wikipedia, she described current leaders as weak and selfish. The self-described liberal doled out criticism to all sides. “Republicans,” she said, “have one goal: To get Obama. But when they see the country falling apart, that’s all they can do?"

“As for Obama,” she continued, “I think he’s weak. He has no courage.” She said the country urgently needs “a stand-up guy who’ll do the right thing.” What are some examples?

“The first priority should be jobs.” Also, “Make people pay their taxes, and stop the wars.” She estimated at least 700 U.S. military bases around the world. “We’re killing all of these people [in undeclared wars]. Why? Is it any surprise that people will fight back for their country? There’s no doubt we want to eliminate Iran. Why wouldn’t they want to defend themselves?”

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The major competitive struggle affecting consumers this decade is for supremacy in the Internet search industry, according to an expert speaking at a unique conference on the topic in Washington, DC. “Google has more advertising revenue than all the U.S. newspapers Gerard Waldroncombined,” said Gerard Waldon, a partner at Covington and Burling representing Microsoft Networks, a portal that includes Google's smaller rival, Bing. “And yet Google doesn’t generate a word of its own,” Waldron continued at the Dec. 5 conference on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) sponsored by the Media Access Project (MAP).

Our Justice Integrity Project normally reports investigative findings, not conference panels. But this session, entitled, “The business of search: How algorithms effect the bottom line,” is vital to any journalist, whether blogger or major corporation. In the same spirit, we’ll report below troubling new developments that MAP flagged today: How the IRS may be stalling on awarding tax-exempt status to non-profit news sites that are filling a national void created by downsized traditional papers and broadcasters.

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Michael MukaseyDo conflicts require Republican Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and his Democrat colleague Elena Kagan to recuse from next year’s decision on the Obama health care reform law? In recent days, the Washington Post editorial board and former Bush Attorney Gen. Michael Mukasey, left, writing for the Wall Street Journal, each took a mighty swing at the issue -- and struck out.

In a whitewash, each of these opinion-leaders concluded that Thomas and Kagan should be allowed to hear the case. This low bar for either strong ethical standards or for further scrutiny provides yet another example of how the press and the courts continue to fail the public. Let’s see why.

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