Fracking 1, Democracy 0 at U.S. Congress

Exploring for shale gas, or fracking. / REUTERS

It’s not something you expect to happen in the United States, let alone at the U.S. Capitol: but on Wednesday a journalist and documentary filmmaker was arrested while attempting to film a public Congressional hearing.

Josh Fox, whose documentary “Gasland” was nominated for an Academy Award, arrived with his camera crew to record a House subcommittee hearing on a natural gas drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing. However, the Republican chairman of the committee, Andy Harris of Maryland, objected to his presence – and directed that he and the crew not just be barred from filming, but be arrested by police.

Filmmaker Josh Fox being arrested in Congress at public hearing on fracking. / Photo courtesy of EARTHWORKS

“Gasland” raised questions about the safety of “fracking” and featured interviews with several residents of Pavillion, Wyoming – the town at the center of an EPA study set to be discussed at Wednesday’s hearing. Critics of the arrests charge that Fox and his crew were singled out for retaliation because of the film’s questioning of fracking and that camera crews are almost never subject to such treatment on Capitol Hill.

“Hearings are open to the public, and any citizen can attend,” the Huffington Post reports. “Regulations only govern the use of cameras. Even under an extreme adherence to the rules, Fox’s camera could have been confiscated or disabled without subjecting him to arrest. And while Fox did not have formal Capitol Hill credentials, such formalities are rarely enforced against high-profile journalists. Temporary passes are easy to obtain, and if Republicans had objected on procedural grounds, they could have simply sent the crew to the front desk, rather than ordering police to arrest journalists.”

In a statement issued after the incident, Fox said he was “not expecting to be arrested for practicing journalism.”

Sweep to Gasland journalists arrested at hearing by order of House Republicans (with video)

A federal investigation has recommended that the U.S. Air Force discipline three officials for illegally retaliating against whistle-blowers at Dover Air Force Base, after the workers brought to light instances of troops’ body parts being lost or mutilated.

“Federal investigators have concluded that Air Force officials at the military mortuary in Dover, Delaware illegally punished four civilian workers for blowing the whistle on the mishandling of body parts of dead troops,” the Associated Press reports.

The Office of Special Counsel, which conducted the investigation, previously found in a separate probe last fall that Dover – the main entry point for U.S. war dead returning to the country – was suffering from “gross mismanagement,” and that body parts of fallen U.S. troops had been lost or deliberately discarded.

As the AP reports, two of the whistleblowers wound up with letters of reprimand after coming forward, and one was fired in 2010 but then subsequently reinstated.

Sweep to Report: Dover punished air force whistleblowers

Until now, if you were a Russian citizen and engaged in bribery abroad, you need not have worried. Why? It wasn’t a crime.

That changed Wednesday, when Russia signed on to the Anti-Bribery Convention of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, or OECD. Joining the convention effectively means it’s now a crime for Russians to pay such bribes.

As RIA Novosti – the Russian state news agency – reports, anti-corruption analysts have long said that Russian businesses had “an unfair global competitive advantage” because of their ability to spread bribes around with impunity. Transparency International Russia apparently spent more than a decade lobbying the country’s leaders to sign the convention.

Now, only one major economic power remains outside the anti-bribery convention: China.

Sweep to Russia bans paying bribes abroad

Aaron Kessler

Aaron Kessler

Aaron Kessler is an award-winning journalist who for nearly a decade has investigated a wide range of subjects from financial crimes by corporations and individuals, to politics and government abuses at the local, state and federal levels, to terrorist financing networks.