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Thursday Watercooler

By: Kit OConnell Thursday August 28, 2014 7:24 pm

 

Tonight, the Firedoglake Watercooler is in solidarity with Unist’to’ten Camp’s #EvictChevron campaign which shut down gas stations in Vancouver in an act of First Nations’ civil disobedience.

The morning of August 21st 2014 we took action to shut down 4 Chevron stations including 80 individual gas and diesel pumps in Vancouver. More will follow if Chevron continues to push through the Pacific Trails Pipeline without the consent of the Unist’ot’en people.

Also:

A man offers a roach (small end of a joint) to the camera, and French inhales smoke in two separate photographic panels.

It’s more fun if you share.

A new study suggests that married couples who smoke cannabis together have a lower incidence of domestic violence. From The Independent:

Researchers from Yale University, University of Buffalo and Rutgers followed 634 married couples for nine years.

They found that when couples used cannabis three times or more each month reported the lowest number domestic violence incidents (intimate partner violence) over the first nine years of marriage. Intimate partner violence (IPV) was defined by the researchers as acts of physical aggressions, including hitting, beating and chocking.

The couples completed regular questionnaires throughout the study on how often they used the drug and other substances, such as alcohol. They were also asked to report violence from their spouse within the last year, and any violent acts that had occurred during the year before marriage.

The study concluded that the more often both spouses smoked cannabis, the less likely they were to engage in domestic violence.

Lead researcher Kenneth Leonard, director of the UB Research Institute on Addictions, said the findings suggest cannabis use is predictive of lower levels of aggression towards a person’s partner, but only over the course of a year. ‘As in other survey studies of marijuana and partner violence, our study examines patterns of marijuana use and the occurrence of violence within a year period,’ he said. ‘It does not examine whether using marijuana on a given day reduces the likelihood of violence at that time.’ [...] The study was published in the online edition of Psychology of Addictive Behaviors in August.

Bonus: LGBTQ Board Games from the 70s and 80s from World of Wonder

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VIDEO: Jon Stewart on Race (& Ferguson in the Media)

By: Kit OConnell Thursday August 28, 2014 6:13 pm

 

Jon Stewart returned from a brief hiatus with a brilliant take down of the racially charged Ferguson coverage in the media, primarily on FOX News.

Not that they are the only offenders:

But there’s no denying Fox’s work is especially egregious, as called out by Salon in Joan Walsh’s recent piece “Ferguson’s booming white grievance industry: Fox News, Darren Wilson and friends:”

Why, besides racism, are Wilson’s supporters so convinced of his innocence? Well, any good grift will involve a hoax or two, to gin up the sense of outrage. First there was ‘Josie,’ a purported friend of Wilson’s who called in to a radio show helmed by gun-loving wingnut Dana Loesch to tell Wilson’s side of the story. ‘Josie’ insisted that Brown attacked Wilson, grabbed his gun, and the terrified cop shot only in self-defense. The problem? The details were almost identical to those shared on a fake Facebook page set up to look like Wilson’s own. But before the tale could be debunked, not only Fox but CNN had reported on ‘Josie’s’ tale with some credulity. As karoli notes over at Crooks and Liars, it’s not clear whether Loesch was punked, or was in on the punking.

Then we saw right-wing blogger Jim Hoft, named ‘the dumbest man on the Internet’ by Media Matters, peddling a phony X-ray or CT scan purporting to show that Wilson suffered a fractured eye socket scuffling with Brown. Unfortunately, a little sleuthing revealed the image in question came from a facility at the University of Iowa and had nothing to do with the Ferguson case. Oops. Of course Fox ran with the story, but ABC News also reported that Wilson had suffered a ‘serious facial injury,’ claiming its own local source.

Of course Ferguson’s white grievance industry is getting major help from Fox News, the grievance industry’s biggest grifters. It’s funny, a couple of weeks ago Attorney General Eric Holder spent a few days as Fox’s favorite administration figure, with Bill O’Reilly and the crew at ‘The Five‘ piously instructing Ferguson protesters to trust the attorney general, who had taken over the inquiry into Mike Brown’s shooting. No more. On Friday’s ‘Five’ Andrea Tantaros declared that Holder ‘runs that DOJ like the Black Panthers would,’ while the whole team endorsed her claim that the attorney general is ‘race-baiting.’

Fox has peddled every allegation of wrongdoing by Mike Brown from the beginning of the story. On Fox and Friends Monday morning, Linda Chavez argued that the media should stop calling the teenager ‘unarmed’ because ‘we’re talking about an 18-year-old man who is 6-foot-4 and weighs almost 300 pounds, who is videotaped just moments before the confrontation with a police officer strong-arming an employee and robbing a convenience store.’ So Mike Brown can’t be considered unarmed because … he had arms?

Street Art shows a silhoutte of a man in an American flag throwing teargas back on police against a background that says FILM THE POLICE

But only independent and citizen journalists told the real story.

And Dex Digital, writing for Medium, offered the provocative “Face it, blacks. Michael Brown let you down:”

Obama Opened Floodgates for Offshore Fracking in Recent Gulf of Mexico Lease

By: Steve Horn Thursday August 28, 2014 12:22 pm
An offshore oil platform glows in the dark

Is widespread offshore fracking in America’s future?

In little-noticed news arising out of a recent Gulf of Mexico offshore oil and gas lease held by the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the floodgates have opened for Gulf offshore hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”).

With 21.6 million acres auctioned off by the Obama Administration and 433,822 acres receiving bids, some press accounts have declared BP America — of 2010 Gulf of Mexico offshore oil spill infamy — a big winner of the auction. If true, fracking and the oil and gas services companies who perform it like Halliburton, Baker Hughes and Schlumberger came in a close second.

On the day of the sale held at the Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana, an Associated Press article explained that many of the purchased blocks sit in the Lower Tertiary basin, coined the “final frontier of oil exploration in the Gulf of Mexico” by industry analysts.

“The Lower Tertiary is an ancient layer of the earth’s crust made of dense rock,”explained AP. ”To access the mineral resources trapped within it, hydraulic fracturing activity is projected to grow in the western Gulf of Mexico by more than 10 percent this year, according to Houston-based oilfield services company Baker Hughes Inc., which operates about a third of the world’s offshore fracking rigs.”

Unlike other Gulf oil and gas, Lower Tertiary crude is located in ultra-deepwater reservoirs, industry lingo for oil and gas located 5,000 feet — roughly a mile — or deeper under the ocean.

Just over a week before the lease, the Mexican government passed energy reform legislation that will prop open the barn door for international oil and gas companies to sign joint ventures with state-owned oil company Pemex, including in Mexico’s portion of the Gulf of Mexico.

Baker Hughes Fracks the Tertiary

The May edition of World Oil explains that Baker Hughes has lead the way in technology innovation to tap into Lower Tertiary oil and gas, described as existing within “harsh HPHT conditions,” or high pressure, high temperature conditions.

Using offshore fracking techniques, Baker Hughes has aided Petrobas in developing a test well in the Cascade offshore field. The company believes the recent Gulf acreage sale by the Obama Administration will serve as a boon for further offshore fracking in the months and years to come.

“We expect that there will be more offshore stimulation in coming years,” Douglas Stephens, president of pressure pumping at Baker Hughes, told the AP in the lease’s aftermath.

Baker Hughes maintains roughly one-third of the world’s offshore fracking operations.

Fracking as “Next Frontier for Offshore Drilling”

Two weeks before the lease, Bloomberg published an article declaring that fracking could serve as the “next frontier for offshore drilling.” That next frontier will come at a steep cost: $100 million spent per well, according to Bloomberg.

Even Halliburton, key innovator of onshore fracking technology and the force behind the “Halliburton Loophole” within the Energy Policy Act of 2005, admits offshore fracking is risky business.

“It’s the most challenging, harshest environment that we’ll be working in,” Ron Dusterhoft, an engineer at Halliburton, told Bloomberg. “You just can’t afford hiccups.”

The article further explained that the oil industry at-large, and not just Baker Hughes and its fellow oil services companies, stand to win big from the push to frack the Gulf of Mexico.

“Those expensive drilling projects are a boon for oil service providers such as Halliburton, Baker Hughes Inc. and Superior Energy Services Inc. Schlumberger Ltd., which provides offshore fracking gear for markets outside the U.S. Gulf, also stands to get new work,” Bloomberg reported.

“And producers such as Chevron Corp., Royal Dutch Shell Plc and BP Plc may reap billions of dollars in extra revenue over time as fracking helps boost crude output.”

According to lease statistics made public by BOEM, 42 of the 81 blocks of oil and gas auctioned off on August 20 sit in water depths of over 1600 meters (roughly a mile, or 5,280 feet).

“All of the Above”

BOEM press release declared the Gulf lease falls under the broad umbrella of President Obama’s “all of the above” energy policy, which critics point to as a form of climate change denial.

Killer Kop Kleinert Trial Started this Week in Austin

By: wendydavis Monday October 1, 2012 8:49 am

For the first time in at least a decade, a Killer Kop was indicted in Austin for the extrajudicial murder of a person of color. Okay, the charge is actually manslaughter, but still, it’s a Good Thing, considering that so few cops are ever charged, indicted, or found guilty if they almost miraculously had been. Pre-trial motions are underway, but you’d scarcely know it by the lack of coverage.

The grand jury indicted Charles Kleinert on May 12, ruling: “… that Kleinert:

“did then and there recklessly cause the death of Larry Jackson by striking and by attempting to strike Larry Jackson with the defendant’s hand while holding a loaded firearm.  The indictment also said that Kleinert created a “substantial and unjustifiable risk” in his attempt to seize Jackson while holding a loaded firearm.” Manslaughter is a second degree felony. If found guilty, Kleinert faces prison time of 2-20 years and a fine not to exceed $10,000. More on that strangely worded indictment later.

On July 26, police were investigating a robbery at the Benchmark Bank during business hours.  When Larry Eugene Jackson, Jr. tried to enter the bank, he discovered the doors were locked.  Dicktective Kleinert, smelling a rat, fled after the pre-suspect, but falling behind, he commandeered a citizen’s car in the process.  Under a nearby bridge, Jackson and Kleinert struggled, and according to Lucian Villaseñor  at SocialistWorker.org, Kleinert:

pursued Jackson and beat him, breaking his ribs and perforating his colon. He then placed his gun to the back of Larry’s neck and pulled the trigger.

Larry was supposed to return home that day in order to take his three visiting children back to their mother in Mississippi. Instead, Larry’s mother Billie Mercer filed a missing person’s report with the Austin Police Department. Despite the police knowing full well that they had killed her son, they made her wait over a day before informing her, so they could get their stories straight and come up with a narrative to frame Larry as a criminal.

!cid_6447852D-F332-401D-99BD-0F2C8751E343

by Anthony Freda via wendydavis @flickr

Jackson’s family and justice seekers in Austin kept up the pressure for Kleinert’s arrest with a campaign of vigils, press conferences, rallies, and public talks for the next ten months.  No weapon was found on Jackson, but just to be sure that he was smeared after his murder, according to the Statesman again:

‘Jackson, who was not suspected in the robbery, walked away but returned a minute later and tried to open the door again, drawing the attention of a bank manager. After speaking to Jackson, police have said the manager told Kleinert that Jackson had attempted to use the name of a bank customer employees knew wasn’t Jackson. Sources have told the American-Statesman that Jackson had the identification of at least one person that didn’t belong to him, and police have said that Jackson had possibly gone there to pass a forged check.’

Kleinert turned himself in to the police the day of his indictment, where his bail was set at $100,000; he paid his own bond.

Soon after ‘the shooting,’ Kleinert had quit the department, thereby insuring that his employment records would be sealed, and no action could be taken by the Austin police review board, and enabling him to ‘retire’ with full pension compensation. The American-Statesman did say that nothing they’d found in their records search found anything but glowing reports of Kleinert’s police work.

Now we don’t know what evidence the grand jury heard, including Kleinert’s, but in another piece from the Statesman:

Sources have told the Statesman that Kleinert told internal affairs investigators that he unintentionally fired the shot that killed Jackson. His weapon was drawn as part of his effort to subdue Jackson, according to sources, and Kleinert said a single round accidentally went off when he lost his balance and fell over.

Quite a different story; it’s called testilying, of course, but IA and grand jury testimony is secret secret secret stuff.

By fall of 2013, Larry Jackson’s family had filed a wrongful death claim in federal court.  From AUSTIN (KXAN):

On Pins and Needles Waiting for New Tax Figures in Wisconsin

By: WI Budget Project Thursday August 28, 2014 10:55 am
Financial charts, a calculator and a folded pair of reading glasses

Is Wisconsin’s Department of Revenue delaying bad news?

For the past month or so I’ve been scratching my head wondering when we would get an update from the WI Department of Revenue on state tax collections during the fiscal year that ended on June 30th. I’m not the only one who has been anxiously awaiting those numbers; four Democrats in the state Senate sent a letter yesterday to Secretary Huebsch asking when the FY 2013-14 revenue numbers will be released.

The letter signed by Senators Larson, Hansen, Shilling and Wirch notes that “last year the June numbers were released on August 23rd.” (You can see that DOR press release here.) The letter adds:

Given the numbers we’ve seen to date, the delay is already fueling concern that they will show a revenue shortfall. How significant that shortfall is could have a wide ranging impact not only on future budgets but the current budget as well.

I share the concern about the potential for a revenue shortfall. A Budget Project Blog post I wrote in June about the reduced tax collections from January through May explains why the downward trend in tax collections has been worrisome, and why the June numbers have taken on increased importance:

If the current trends continue over the last month of the fiscal year ….we will come up short for the current fiscal year by roughly $200 million. And since the budget assumes about $500 million of tax growth in the second year of the biennium, we can ill afford to begin that fiscal year at a level that is $200 million below the anticipated starting point.

Although the Senators’ letter was correct that the tax collection figures for FY 2012-13 were released sooner last year, that hasn’t been the case every year. For example, the FY 2011-12 numbers were released on September 5, 2012. For me, the bigger disappointment this year was that DOR didn’t release tax collection numbers specifically for June, as it did the prior year (in this July 12, 2012 press release). Although DOR hasn’t always issued a comparable set of June tax figures, the revenue trends this year have made it frustrating not to have any update since the May tax collection numbers.

That said, I think any questions about the timing of the revenue numbers for the last fiscal year will soon be inconsequential – once those numbers are released. I applaud the Senators for drawing attention to the fact that these are important figures to be watching for, and for asking the DOA Secretary what the state will do if there is indeed a revenue shortfall.

State Dept. Overseers of Contentious Enbridge Tar Sands Pipeline Workaround Have Industry, Torture Ties

By: Steve Horn Wednesday August 27, 2014 1:51 pm

Camp Delta, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba

The Sierra Club, National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and other green groups recently revealed that pipeline giant Enbridge got U.S. State Department permission in response to its request to construct a U.S.-Canada border-crossing tar sands pipeline without earning an obligatory Presidential Permit.

Enbridge originally applied to the Obama State Department to expand capacity of its Alberta Clipper (now Line 67) pipeline in November 2012, but decided to avoid a “Keystone XL, take two” — or a years-long permitting battle — by creating a complex alternative to move nearly the same amount of diluted bitumen (“dilbit”) across the border.

The move coincides with the upcoming opening for business of Enbridge’s “Keystone XL” clone: the combination of the Alberta Clipper expansion (and now its alternative) on-ramp originating in Alberta and heading eventually to Flanagan, Ill., the Flanagan South pipeline running from Flanagan, Ill. to Cushing, Okla. and the Cushing, Okla. to Port Arthur, Texas Seaway Twin pipeline.

Together, the three pieces will do what TransCanada‘s Keystone XL hopes to do: move dilbit from Alberta’s tar sands to Port Arthur’s refinery row and, in part, the global export market.

Environmental groups have reacted with indignation to the State Department announcement published in the Federal Register on August 18. The public commenting period remains open until September 17.

Jim Murphy, senior counsel for NWF, referred to it as an “illegal scheme,” while a representative from 350.org says Enbridge has learned from the lessons of its corporate compatriot, TransCanada.

“When we blocked Keystone XL, the fossil fuel industry learned that they have a much stronger hand to play in back rooms than on the streets,” said Jason Kowalski, policy director for 350.org. “They will break the law and wreck our climate if that’s what it takes for them to make a buck.”

But as the old adage goes, it takes two to tango.

That is, influential State Department employees helped Enbridge find a way to smuggle an additional 350,000 barrels of tar sands per day across the border without public hearings or an environmental review.

Thus far, those following the issue have described the Enbridge maneuver as some sort of bureaucratic snafu.

“If anyone who’s high up in the State Department actually knew about this, they’d be up in arms,” 350.org’s Kowalski said in a recent interview with EnergyWire in reaction to State’s decision.

The reality, though, is more sordid. That is, higher-ups made this call, not just “bad apples.”

One of them has a key tie to the oil and gas industry, while the other helped lay the groundwork for the controversial “extraordinary rendition” torture program as a Bush Administration State Department attaché.

Patrick Dunn’s Industry Ties

On July 24, State Department staffer Patrick Dunn signed off on a letter rubber-stamping Enbridge’s pipeline chess move. In giving Enbridge authorization on official State Department letterhead, Dunn claimed it was not a form of authorization.

“Enbridge’s intended changes…do not require authorization from the U.S.Department of State,” Dunn wrote in the letter. “[W]e will consider [your] letter and its attachments to amend and to be part of your Presidential Permit for the capcity (sic) expansion in Line 67.”

Dunn’s letter does not give his job title, perhaps leading NWF to write him off as simply a “mid-level State Department official” in an August 25 blog post. His current position and State Department background, however, tells a different story.

February 2014 letter obtained by DeSmogBlog lists Dunn’s role as deputy office director for the Bureaus of European Affairs, the Western Hemisphere and African Affairs.

More specifically, Dunn heads up the three regions’ bureaus of energy resources, described as a “chief of staff” in an August 11 article published on Dominican Today. That article highlighted Dunn’s efforts — alongside Vice President Joe Biden — to cut deals with the Dominican Republic’s government, turning the country into an importer of gas obtained via hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) in the U.S.

Before working his way up to the powerful Bureau of Energy Resources, Dunn helped lead numerous U.S. Embassies abroad, including in Honduras and Angola as top economic adviser, and Cape Verde as deputy embassy director.

What came before any of that, though, may go a long way in explaining how he came to oversee such an important cross-border pipeline project in the first place.

According to the Petroleum Equipment Suppliers Association (PESA), Dunn graduated in 1997 from the Association’s Foreign Service Officer Energy Industry Training Program, which is funded in part by the State Department and has a Board of Directors stuffed with oil and gas industry executives.

“PESA’s Foreign Service Officer Energy Industry Training Program was created in 1993 to increase the practical knowledge of energy attaches and economic officers with responsibility for oil and gas issues stationed in American embassies in countries where energy is a major issue,” reads a Program description.

A glance at PESA’s website demonstrates that industry executives regularly serve as presenters at the Foreign Service Officer Energy Industry Training Program.

Deborah Klepp’s Ties to Rendition, Corrupt Contracting

Though Dunn wrote the July 24 letter to Enbridge, he is not the only senior level State Department staffer overseeing the Enbridge Alberta Clipper file.

So, I Asked the Russian Ambassador What He Thinks of NATO

By: David Swanson Monday June 20, 2011 11:27 am
Russian Ambassador Kislyak in a dark suit outdoors

Ambassador Kislyak on NATO’s broken promises.

The Russian Ambassador to the United States, Sergey Ivanovich Kislyak, spoke at the University of Virginia on Tuesday evening, in an event organized by the Center for Politics, which no doubt has video of the proceedings. Kislyak was once ambassador to Belgium and to NATO.

Kislyak spoke to a packed auditorium and took, I think, well over an hour of questions. He spoke frankly, and the questions he was asked by students, professors, and other participants were polite and for the most part far more intelligent than he would have been asked on, for example, Meet the Press.

He told the audience that Russia had known there were no WMDs in Iraq, and had known that attacking Iraq would bring “great difficulties” to that country. “And look what is happening today,” he said. He made the same comment about Libya. He spoke of the U.S. and Russia working together to successfully remove chemical weapons from the Syrian government. But he warned against attacking Syria now.

There will be no new Cold War, Kislyak said, but there is now a greater divide in some ways than during the Cold War. Back then, he said, the U.S. Congress sent delegations over to meet with legislators, and the Supreme Court likewise. Now there is no contact. It’s easy in the U.S. to be anti-Russian, he said, and hard to defend Russia. He complained about U.S. economic sanctions against Russia intended to “suffocate” Russian agriculture.

Asked about “annexing” Crimea, Kislyak rejected that characterization, pointed to the armed overthrow of the Ukrainian government, and insisted that Kiev must stop bombing its own people and instead talk about federalism within Ukraine.

There were remarkably few questions put to the ambassador that seemed informed by U.S. television “news.” One was from a politics professor who insisted that Kislyak assign blame to Russia over Ukraine. Kislyak didn’t.

I always sit in the back, thinking I might leave, but Kislyak was only taking questions from the front. So I moved up and was finally called on for the last question of the evening. For an hour and a half, Kislyak had addressed war and peace and Russian-U.S. relations, but he’d never blamed the U.S. for anything in Ukraine any more than Russia. No one had uttered the word “NATO.”

So I pointed out the upcoming NATO protests. I recalled the history of Russia being told that NATO would not expand eastward. I asked Kislyak whether NATO ought to be disbanded.

The ambassador said that he had been the first Russian to “present his credentials” to NATO, and that he had “overestimated” NATO’s ability to work with Russia. He’d been disappointed by NATO actions in Serbia, he said, and Libya, by the expansion eastward, by NATO pressure on Ukraine and Poland, and by the pretense that Russia might be about to attack Poland.

“We were promised,” Kislyak said, that NATO would not expand eastward at all upon the reunification of Germany. “And now look.” NATO has declared that Ukraine and Georgia will join NATO, Kislyak pointed out, and NATO says this even while a majority of the people in Ukraine say they’re opposed.

The ambassador used the word “disappointed” a few times.

“We’ll have to take measures to assure our defense,” he said, “but we would have preferred to build on a situation with decreased presence and decreased readiness.”

Wouldn’t we all.

Join the campaign to shut down NATO.

Over Easy

By: Ruth Calvo

Najat Vallaud-Belkacem

The community that began with Southern Dragon’s Lakeside Diner continues. Today we collect news from outside the usual, and renew the discussion.

An uneasy truce allowed Gaza residents to venture out onto battered streets to acquired supplies needed for their existence, as an Egyptian-brokered peace continued for an undefined period.

‘After 50 days of warfare in which a terror organization killed dozens of soldiers and civilians, destroyed the daily routine (and) placed the country in a state of economic distress … we could have expected much more than an announcement of a ceasefire,’ analyst Shimon Shiffer wrote in Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel’s biggest-selling newspaper.

‘We could have expected the prime minister to go to the President’s Residence and inform him of his decision to resign his post.’

Netanyahu, who has faced constant sniping in his cabinet from right-wing ministers demanding military action to topple Hamas, made no immediate comment on the Egyptian-mediated truce deal that took effect yesterday’s evening.

Forty years ago a Canadian town decided to give monetary support without strings to residents under a survivable level of income. That service is still paying dividends to this day.

The Dauphin experiment, like four others in the United States around the same time, was an attempt to measure if providing extra money directly to residents below a certain household income would be effective social policy.

Dauphin was unique among those studies in that all residents of the municipality and surrounding area, with a population of about 10,000, were eligible to participate if they met the criteria.

(snip)

Decades after the program ended, sociology professor Evelyn Forget dug up records from the period and found there were far-reaching benefits in the education and health sectors.

In a 2011 study she reported an 8.5 percent drop in hospital visits, a decrease in emergency room visits from car accidents and fewer recorded instances of domestic abuse. There was also a reduction in the number of people who sought treatment for mental health issues. And a greater proportion of high school students continued to the 12th grade.

As with U.S. experiments during the same period, there was no evidence that it led people to withdraw from the labor market, according to her research.

Promotion of a leading proponent of gender equality to the new cabinet as Education Minister evoked threats of demonstrations against the new minister from the right in France as the new government formed.

Vallaud-Belkacem, who was minister for women’s rights, youth and sport before becoming the first woman to take charge of the education portfolio, became a hate figure for the right when she backed an experimental reform introduced into 275 primary schools last year aimed at overcoming gender stereotyping. The minister was dubbed ‘Khmer Rose’ by the rightwing Le Figaro, and was accused of importing the controversial gender theory from the US.

Vallaud-Belkacem, 36, told FranceInfo radio that ‘pointless polemics’ would have no place in her ministry and that she was ‘committed to the equality of boys and girls more than anything else.’

Never.Give.Up.