activists

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Multiple SeaWorld employees posed as animal-welfare activists so they could spy on critics, the company admitted Thursday.

The acknowledgment comes seven months after People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals accused SeaWorld of spying. The animal-welfare group, which has waged an intense campaign against SeaWorld, went public with evidence that a San Diego employee attended protests and made incendiary comments on social media while posing as an activist. The employee, who was placed on administrative leave, has returned to work at SeaWorld.

Reading from a statement while speaking with analysts, Chief Executive Officer Joel Manby said SeaWorld’s board of directors has “directed management to end the practice in which certain employees posed as animal-welfare activists. This activity was undertaken in connection with efforts to maintain the safety and security of employees, customers and animals in the face of credible threats.”

The admission comes at a difficult time for the company. SeaWorld on Thursday issued a fourth-quarter earnings report that showed improving attendance and revenue but then told analysts bad weather and a slowdown in Brazilian visitors have hurt attendance this year. Last week, SeaWorld announced a management shakeup that includes the imminent departures of Chief Parks Operations Officer Dan Brown and Chief Zoological Officer Brad Andrews.

“SeaWorld’s latest report confirms not only that the company has employed more than one spy to infiltrate and agitate at PETA but also that it values its spies more highly than the executives who have had their heads chopped off in droves, as at least one of the spies is still working at the company,” PETA said in an emailed statement.

SeaWorld’s business has suffered in the wake of the 2013 “Blackfish” documentary, which suggested the stresses of captivity caused a killer whale to batter and drown trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010.

The spying admission “adds in a minor way to their troubles,” said Kirk O. Hanson, executive director of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University.

“Past scandals have resulted in short-term hits to the reputation and economic success of companies,” Hanson said. “I would expect the reaction to this incident to be similar. Unfortunately the incident contributes long-term to a cynicism about the ethics of business in general.”

SeaWorld’s stock was down 11 percent Thursday afternoon. S&P Global Market Intelligence analyst Tuna Amobi said that appeared to be a result of general concerns about the company’s performance, not the spying issue. “I don’t think that sort of stuff would be causing this type of share reaction today,” he said.

SeaWorld hired an outside law firm to conduct an investigation in July, after PETA accused employee Paul McComb as attending their events posing as an activist named Thomas Jones. PETA’s suspicions were raised after the man who called himself Jones was arrested with a group of other protesters at the 2014 Rose Parade in Pasadena but unlike the others was released without charges

SeaWorld would not say whether anyone was fired or disciplined as a result of its investigation. A company spokeswoman said SeaWorld had no comment past the statement it has already issued.

“We recognize the need to ensure that all of our security and other activities align with our core values and ethical standards,” SeaWorld’s statement said. “As always the security and well-being of our employees, customers and animals remains at the forefront of our business practices.”

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HOUSTON — Lawyers for anti-abortion activists, including one who was a leading figure in the defeat of the city’s anti-discrimination ordinance last year, on Wednesday called this week’s indictments of Planned Parenthood critics legally flawed. They said they would ask the district attorney not to proceed with the case.

Jared Woodfill, a lawyer and the former chairman of the Harris County Republican Party, who was the spokesman for one of the main coalitions opposing the anti-discrimination ordinance, is part of the legal team representing David R. Daleiden, 27, and Sandra S. Merritt, 62, who were indicted by a grand jury here Monday on charges related to the use of fake IDs and offers to buy fetal tissue.

Mr. Woodfill and another lawyer representing Mr. Daleiden and Ms. Merritt, Terry W. Yates, called for another grand jury to look into Planned Parenthood’s actions.

“We believe that this is a runaway grand jury that has acted contrary to the law,” Mr. Woodfill said. “Instead of indicting the wrongdoers here, the organization trafficking in baby body parts, they’ve gone after the whistle-blower.”

Mr. Daleiden is the director of the Center for Medical Progress, the California-based anti-abortion group that made secretly recorded videos purporting to show Planned Parenthood officials trying to illegally profit from the sale of fetal tissue. The Republican lieutenant governor of Texas asked the Republican district attorney in Harris County to open a criminal investigation into Planned Parenthood, but the grand jury ended up charging Mr. Daleiden and Ms. Merritt and taking no action against the organization.

The indictment stemmed from a meeting Mr. Daleiden and Ms. Merritt had at the Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast offices in Houston in April. To gain entry, Mr. Daleiden and Ms. Merritt are said to have presented California driver’s licenses with fake names and addresses. They were each indicted on felony charges of tampering with a governmental record with the intent to defraud, while Mr. Daleiden faces an additional misdemeanor charge related to offering to purchase human organs.

“How many of us have used a fictitious driver’s license to buy beer?” Mr. Yates asked. “Can you imagine every kid that did that being charged with a second-degree felony? This grand jury has overreached.”

Mr. Yates and Mr. Woodfill did not deny that their clients had used fake IDs, but said their intent was not to defraud Planned Parenthood. “They were intending to expose the truth,” Mr. Woodfill said.

A spokesman for Devon Anderson, the district attorney, suggested her office was open to hearing the lawyers’ concerns. “Just like we do with every case here, we will continue to investigate and welcome any new evidence that is brought forward,” said the spokesman, Jeff McShan. “Sometimes justice is served by dismissing cases.”

Mr. Yates said they were working with the authorities and their clients to determine when they would turn themselves in.

Planned Parenthood has denied any wrongdoing, and filed suit against Mr. Daleiden and others accused of a role in making the videos alleging that they engaged in a criminal enterprise to spread lies about the group.

A day before his indictment, Mr. Daleiden sought permission from a federal judge to use material from his group’s undercover Planned Parenthood inquiry in a high-profile United States Supreme Court case involving abortion clinics, court papers show.

Mr. Daleiden said he wanted to use material previously blocked by a judge’s order from public disclosure as part of an amicus brief to support the position of Texas in the Supreme Court case. Abortion providers have challenged a 2013 Texas law, saying its requirements would sharply reduce the number of abortion clinics in the state.

The Supreme Court is expected to hear the case in coming months. Mr. Daleiden argued in court papers that his group’s inquiry into Planned Parenthood could aid the Supreme Court in its review of the Texas case by debunking the “dire predictions” made by providers about the law’s impact.

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HOUSTON — Lawyers for anti-abortion activists, including one who was a leading figure in the defeat of the city’s anti-discrimination ordinance last year, on Wednesday called this week’s indictments of Planned Parenthood critics legally flawed. They said they would ask the district attorney not to proceed with the case.

Jared Woodfill, a lawyer and the former chairman of the Harris County Republican Party, who was the spokesman for one of the main coalitions opposing the anti-discrimination ordinance, is part of the legal team representing David R. Daleiden, 27, and Sandra S. Merritt, 62, who were indicted by a grand jury here Monday on charges related to the use of fake IDs and offers to buy fetal tissue.

Mr. Woodfill and another lawyer representing Mr. Daleiden and Ms. Merritt, Terry W. Yates, called for another grand jury to look into Planned Parenthood’s actions.

“We believe that this is a runaway grand jury that has acted contrary to the law,” Mr. Woodfill said. “Instead of indicting the wrongdoers here, the organization trafficking in baby body parts, they’ve gone after the whistle-blower.”

Mr. Daleiden is the director of the Center for Medical Progress, the California-based anti-abortion group that made secretly recorded videos purporting to show Planned Parenthood officials trying to illegally profit from the sale of fetal tissue. The Republican lieutenant governor of Texas asked the Republican district attorney in Harris County to open a criminal investigation into Planned Parenthood, but the grand jury ended up charging Mr. Daleiden and Ms. Merritt and taking no action against the organization.

The indictment stemmed from a meeting Mr. Daleiden and Ms. Merritt had at the Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast offices in Houston in April. To gain entry, Mr. Daleiden and Ms. Merritt are said to have presented California driver’s licenses with fake names and addresses. They were each indicted on felony charges of tampering with a governmental record with the intent to defraud, while Mr. Daleiden faces an additional misdemeanor charge related to offering to purchase human organs.

“How many of us have used a fictitious driver’s license to buy beer?” Mr. Yates asked. “Can you imagine every kid that did that being charged with a second-degree felony? This grand jury has overreached.”

Mr. Yates and Mr. Woodfill did not deny that their clients had used fake IDs, but said their intent was not to defraud Planned Parenthood. “They were intending to expose the truth,” Mr. Woodfill said.

A spokesman for Devon Anderson, the district attorney, suggested her office was open to hearing the lawyers’ concerns. “Just like we do with every case here, we will continue to investigate and welcome any new evidence that is brought forward,” said the spokesman, Jeff McShan. “Sometimes justice is served by dismissing cases.”

Mr. Yates said they were working with the authorities and their clients to determine when they would turn themselves in.

Planned Parenthood has denied any wrongdoing, and filed suit against Mr. Daleiden and others accused of a role in making the videos alleging that they engaged in a criminal enterprise to spread lies about the group.

A day before his indictment, Mr. Daleiden sought permission from a federal judge to use material from his group’s undercover Planned Parenthood inquiry in a high-profile United States Supreme Court case involving abortion clinics, court papers show.

Mr. Daleiden said he wanted to use material previously blocked by a judge’s order from public disclosure as part of an amicus brief to support the position of Texas in the Supreme Court case. Abortion providers have challenged a 2013 Texas law, saying its requirements would sharply reduce the number of abortion clinics in the state.

The Supreme Court is expected to hear the case in coming months. Mr. Daleiden argued in court papers that his group’s inquiry into Planned Parenthood could aid the Supreme Court in its review of the Texas case by debunking the “dire predictions” made by providers about the law’s impact.

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U.S. gun control activists called for expanded background checks for firearms purchasers and for a ban on sales to people on federal watch lists on Monday, in a protest marking the third anniversary of the massacre at a Connecticut elementary school.Speakers including U.S. Representative Gerry Connolly, a Virginia Democrat, and survivors of recent U.S. mass shootings made their call outside the Fairfax, Virginia, headquarters of the National Rifle Association lobbying group. About 100 people attended the protest in the Washington suburb.On Dec. 14, 2012, 20-year-old Adam Lanza shot and killed 20 first-graders and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, an attack that stands as one of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history. He began his attack by killing his mother at their home and ended it by turning his gun on himself.”It was a scene that has been repeated too often in the United States, and just as often, the response to these senseless killings has been inaction on the issue of gun control,” said Connolly.The congressman added that he also wanted Congress to overturn a longstanding ban on providing federal funding for research on gun violence.

The U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment protects the right to bear arms. Gun-rights groups, including the NRA, argue that restrictions on gun purchases would not improve public safety, reasoning that criminals do not obey laws.Connolly was joined by the parents of Alison Parker, one of two Roanoke, Virginia, television journalists shot dead by a former station employee during a live broadcast in August, and two survivors of a 2011 shooting in Tucson, Arizona, that badly wounded then-U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords and killed six others.

Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy last week said his state planned to ban sales of firearms to people designated on U.S. lists as having suspected ties to terrorism or who are banned from flying on commercial aircraft. That move came days after President Barack Obama called on Congress to impose a similar prohibition nationwide following the fatal shooting of 14 people in California by a married couple inspired by Islamic State militants.The proposal has failed to gain traction in Congress, with opponents arguing that many people on the watch lists are there by mistake and should thus not be denied access to firearms.

An NRA spokeswoman could not be reached for immediate comment on Monday. (Reporting by Scott Malone …Read More

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* Activists plan “human chain” along route of banned march* Sunday set to be among biggest days of climate protests* World leaders meet for climate summit from MondayBy Alister DoylePARIS, Nov 29 Activists plan to join arms and
form a “human chain” in Paris on Sunday to urge action on global
warming, in a muted rally after attacks on the city by Islamic
State, at the heart of worldwide protests on the eve of a U.N.
climate summit in France.More than 2,000 climate events are planned in cities
including Sydney, Jakarta, Berlin, London, Sao Paulo and New
York, making it one of the biggest days of action on climate
change in history, organisers say.Activists in France scaled back their plans when the
government imposed a state of emergency after the attacks two
weeks ago killed 130 people, banning the planned demonstration
in Paris, meant as the biggest of all.

In France, activists plan to form a static human chain,
formed by about 3,400 people joining arms along what had been
the original 3 km (1.9 miles) route through central Paris from
the Place de la Republique to Place de la Nation.”This is a moment for the whole world to join hands,” said
Iain Keith, campaign director for Avaaz, one of the organisers.Separately, more than 10,000 demonstrators who had planned
to come to Paris have instead sent shoes to form a big pile in a
sign of solidarity. Organisers said the Vatican even sent a pair
to represent Pope Francis.Alix Mazounie of French Climate Action Network said the
activists reckoned a human chain would not violate the state of
emergency.

“This is not civil disobedience,” she said. The chain would
break, for instance, wherever it crossed a road to avoid
disrupting traffic.But, underscoring security worries, France put 24 green
activists under house arrest before the summit, Interior
Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said on Saturday, saying they were
suspected of planning violent protests at the talks.Still, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius welcomed the
worldwide demonstrations, which organisers say will include
concerts, rallies, bicycle rides and a march by 1,000 Maasai in
Tanzania urging more renewable energy.

“It is very positive,” Fabius said, for governments to feel
public pressure to act. Many environmental activists want a
phase-out of fossil fuels and a shift to 100 percent renewable
energies by 2050.Some marches were held on Friday and Saturday, from
Melbourne to Edinburgh. “Don’t be a fossil fool,” one Australian
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Activists occupied Baltimore’s City Hall on Wednesday night, demanding concessions from top officials, calling for police to avoid using military tactics and chanting the name of a black man who died after suffering an injured in police custody.
Members of the Baltimore Bloc began shouting from an upper gallery as a city council subcommittee prepared to vote to make interim Police Commissioner Kevin Davis a permanent appointment.

Protesters shout as council members leave the chamber at city hall in Baltimore on Wednesday. Colin Campbell / The Baltimore Sun via AP

“All night, all day, we will fight for Freddie Gray!” the activists chanted amid calls to postpone the vote. “No justice, no peace!”
Three of the subcommittee’s five members voted in favor of Davis. Police spokesman T.J. Smith said in an email that less than 50 protesters were inside and that police were “monitoring the situation.”
A spokesman for the group said the protesters would not leave until Davis and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake agreed to a list of demands. Among them, that police avoid using military-type equipment and only use riot gear as a last resort.

In the interest of constitutional rights, the protesters said, they also want officers to always wear badges and name tags. And they want to be able to protest in larger areas and for longer periods of time than “would normally be tolerated.”
In addition, they are asking police to be “more tolerant of minor law breaking,” such as the throwing of water bottles, “when deciding whether to escalate the use of force.”

Freddie Gray via WBAL
Davis was appointed interim commissioner in July
after his predecessor was fired amid the most severe violent crime spike the city had seen in 43 years. The spike followed unrest and rioting in April prompted by the death of Freddie Gray, a black man who died after suffering a critical injury in police custody.
Six officers prosecuted in connection with Gray’s death
are currently awaiting trial.

Following the subcommittee’s vote, Davis called Wednesday night’s protest an “act of civil disobedience” that “is just part of this moment.”
“It’s all part of the healing process,” he said. “The fact that this occurred isn’t upsetting. It’s just part of where the city is right now. I understand where they are. I understand their frustration.”
If approved by the full council, Davis will earn $200,000 a year. His contract will run through June of 2020.

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JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. — Conservative activists who want the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates distributed chocolate coins in golden wrappers at the local airport last week as Fed officials arrived for their annual policy retreat.
Liberal activists in green “Whose Recovery?” T-shirts formed a receiving line at the resort hotel in the heart of Grand Teton National Park where the meeting was held, to personalize their argument that the Fed should wait.
Sometime soon — possibly as early as mid-September and probably no later than the end of the year — the Fed plans to raise its benchmark interest rate one-quarter of one percentage point, a mathematically minor move that has become a very big deal.
Investors, who always pay attention to the Fed, are paying particular attention now. The central bank has held short-term rates near zero since December 2008; the impending end of that era is one cause of recent financial market turmoil.
But the Fed’s plans have also become the latest point of contention in a broader debate about the government’s management of the American economy, pitting liberals who see a need for more aggressive measures to bolster growth against conservatives concerned that Washington and the Fed are already doing much too much.
“There shouldn’t be this intense interest in a quarter-point increase, and there shouldn’t be this intense interest in whether it comes in September or December,” said Alan S. Blinder, a Princeton economist and the Fed’s vice chairman in the mid-1990s. “But the Fed remains the center of the financial universe. People stare at it like they stare at the North Star.”
And so, as Fed officials conferred with other central bankers and academics, the liberal activists held two days of “Fed Up” teach-ins in a room directly below the main conference, while the conservatives convened a “Jackson Hole Summit” at a nearby dude ranch.
In the decades before the financial crisis, policy makers generally agreed that central banks should focus on moderating inflation. Now, both that goal and the best way to achieve it are subjects of debate. Liberals argue that the Fed should aim more broadly to lower unemployment and encourage rising living standards. Conservatives want to strengthen the focus on inflation by requiring officials to follow rules in making policy.
With …Read More

MARQUETTE, MI — Activists in Michigan have launched a signature campaign in an attempt to place a marijuana legalization initiative on the November 2016 ballot.
Over the weekend, MI Legalize kicked off their signature gathering campaign at N0rthern Michigan University’s Superior Dome.
The organization now has 180 days to collect 252,523 valid signatures from registered voters in order to place the initiative on the ballot for the November 2016 general elections.
If MI Legalize is successful in placing the measure on the ballot, voters in Michigan would be asked if the state should legalize marijuana for adults 21 or older.
Adults would be allowed to grow up to 12 cannabis plants at home and give away up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana to other adults without financial compensation.  The proposal does not limit the amount of marijuana an adult can possess for personal use.
Under the proposal, retail marijuana sales would be subject to a 10% excise tax.  The proposal allows local communities to ban retail marijuana businesses, but also gives voters the right to reverse any local bans.
If approved by voters in 2016, the initiative would:
Legalize all forms marijuana for adults 21 and older- including topicals, oils, and tinctures.
Allow for adults to cultivate up to 12 plants.
Allow for the cultivation, possession, and otherwise processing of hemp and hemp products.
Grants medical marijuana patients & consumers additional legal protections.
Provide licensing to marijuana establishments and cultivation facilities.
Allow a ten percent excise tax on recreational marijuana sales that will contribute to state funds for education, transportation and a portion for local government, tax will not apply to  medical marijuana patients.
Remove all criminal penalties for distribution, cultivation, and possession of marijuana with the exception of sale to an unauthorized minor.
Allow for civil infractions to be issued if the person is in violation of the act.
Protect consumers from search, seizure, and investigation by law enforcement for marijuana related offenses.
Authorize local units of government to adopt limited regulation of marihuana facilities and stores.
For registered voters in Michigan interested in signing the initiative petition, petition locations can be found here.  Volunteer information can be found here.
If approved by voters, marijuana would become legal in Michigan for adults on March 1, 2017.
The full text of the proposal is available here.

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Activists are screaming mad at the conduct of officials representing Governor Rick Snyder’s administration during a hearing today to determine if autism should be added to the list of illness that qualify a patient to use medical marijuana in Michigan.
The petition, submitted in 2014, contains a summary of 75 peer-reviewed articles on autism and 800 pages of reference material.  ”When the panel sat down today, what they had was pieces of the document,” said Southfield attorney Michael Komorn.
Pieces apparently selected by the Attorney General’s office, according to statements made on the record by Board officials. What was missing? “The Summary, with the 75 peer-reviewed studies, and the 800 pages of clinical research on autism and cannabis,” Komorn said.
Advocates sued the government in Ingham County Circuit Court to force the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) to consider a petition for that purpose submitted in 2014 by Lisa Smith, whose son Noah has autism and other illnesses. Petitions are debated by the Medial Marihuana Review Panel (the Board) under rules established in 2008 by the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act (MMMA). A previous petition to add autism to the MMMA was rejected at a Board hearing back in 2013.
“We litigated for a year,” to get the Smith petition accepted, Komorn said. The State was represented by the Office of the Attorney General, Bill Schuette. The language of the MMMA requires that each petition properly submitted must be considered by the Board. Schuette’s and LARA’s response was the opposite: we already ruled on that illness and no subsequent petition will be considered. “The Court decided theirs was a wrong interpretation. We won; they had to give us a new hearing on the petition submitted.”
A hearing on the Smith petition was held in May of this year. On July 1 a whole new Board was created, per rule changes made in January 2015 by LARA over the objections of citizens and Senators. Some of the members of the new panel had not heard the testimony on the Smith petition taken by the Board weeks earlier.
“When the Board assembled today we were expecting a vote yea or nay on the petition,” Komorn related. “Before we were able to begin the conversation it was brought to the attention of the Board as a whole by ( …Read More

MARQUETTE, MI — Activists in Michigan have launched a signature campaign in an attempt to place a marijuana legalization initiative on the November 2016 ballot.
Over the weekend, MI Legalize kicked off their signature gathering campaign at N0rthern Michigan University’s Superior Dome.
The organization now has 180 days to collect 252,523 valid signatures from registered voters in order to place the initiative on the ballot for the November 2016 general elections.
If MI Legalize is successful in placing the measure on the ballot, voters in Michigan would be asked if the state should legalize marijuana for adults 21 or older.
Adults would be allowed to grow up to 12 cannabis plants at home and give away up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana to other adults without financial compensation.  The proposal does not limit the amount of marijuana an adult can possess for personal use.
Under the proposal, retail marijuana sales would be subject to a 10% excise tax.  The proposal allows local communities to ban retail marijuana businesses, but also gives voters the right to reverse any local bans.
If approved by voters in 2016, the initiative would:
Legalize all forms marijuana for adults 21 and older- including topicals, oils, and tinctures.
Allow for adults to cultivate up to 12 plants.
Allow for the cultivation, possession, and otherwise processing of hemp and hemp products.
Grants medical marijuana patients & consumers additional legal protections.
Provide licensing to marijuana establishments and cultivation facilities.
Allow a ten percent excise tax on recreational marijuana sales that will contribute to state funds for education, transportation and a portion for local government, tax will not apply to  medical marijuana patients.
Remove all criminal penalties for distribution, cultivation, and possession of marijuana with the exception of sale to an unauthorized minor.
Allow for civil infractions to be issued if the person is in violation of the act.
Protect consumers from search, seizure, and investigation by law enforcement for marijuana related offenses.
Authorize local units of government to adopt limited regulation of marihuana facilities and stores.
For registered voters in Michigan interested in signing the initiative petition, petition locations can be found here.  Volunteer information can be found here.
If approved by voters, marijuana would become legal in Michigan for adults on March 1, 2017.
The full text of the proposal is available here.

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