Soldiering On: Bradley Manning and the “Transgender Defense”

From Psychology Today:

The eyes are what break your heart first. The photo–apparently a selfie– shows a young woman in a car. She has long blonde hair and makeup, freckles on her nose. If you didn’t know the rest of her story, you might think, here’s an attractive college-age woman, maybe heading out to visit a friend, or making a run to the store.

But if you do know her story–and almost anyone who reads the news at this point does–you circle back to those eyes. It’s impossible not to read what we now know into the photo, to re-interpret what we see in her based on everything that happened after. When I look at those eyes, I see a woman who knows she is trapped in a situation that she did not choose, and for whom a solution seems impossible. Her problem, at least at the moment she took that photo, is not what she has done. Her problem is who she is, or wants to be.

The photo is of Pfc. Bradley Manning, and it was shown last week by his attorney, David Coombs, as part of the sentencing phase of the court marshal of the WikiLeaks whistleblower. Coombs’ intention, in showing the photo, is to demonstrate the seriousness of Manning’s psychological stress.Manning sent the photo to Captain Michael Worsley, an Army psychologist, in an email whose subject heading was “My Problem.”

Being transgender can indeed be a problem, but whether it is a legal defense is a dicier question. The stress and the sorrow that the condition can bring to a man or a woman is almost unimaginable to a someone who has never had to wrestle with gender identity issues, and feeling such a disconnect between ones spirit and body surely makes a person feel isolated, depressed, and alone. But it’s isolation and depression that drive people to break the law-even in the name of justice–not transness itself.

For many transgender Americans, our identity is something to celebrate, to be grateful for, and to recognize as one of the wild variations of what it means to be human. Still, getting to the place where gender identity feels like one’s greatest gift, rather than one’s greatest problem, can be a long, hard road. Many of trans women– like Manning–immerse themselves in super-masculine activities in an attempt to shake off their inner sense of womanhood. Welsh author Jan Morris climbed Mt. Everest during her days as James; the writer and activist Donna Rose competed as an amateur wrestler when her name was Don. For my own part, I spent many hours during my life as a man playing keyboards in a bar band called “The Smelts,” about which the less said, the better.

For many trans women, the hope of escaping gender confusion leads to a life in the military. The letter Manning wrote headed “My Problem” details the private’s hope that enlisting “would get rid of” the gender identity issues. For Manning, as is the case with virtually all women born trans, “immersion therapy” didn’t cure the problem; it only made things worse. “You put him in that kind of hypermasculine environment,” said Worsley, “with little support and few coping skills, the pressure would have been difficult to say the least. It would have been incredible.”

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Bradley Manning to request pardon from Obama over 35-year jail sentence

From The Guardian UK:

Manning says ‘It’s OK – I’m going to get through this’ after military judge hands down stiff penalty for WikiLeaks disclosures

at Fort Meade, Wednesday 21 August 2013

Bradley Manning will send a personal plea to Barack Obama next week for a presidential pardon after he was sentenced on Wednesday to 35 years in prison for passing hundreds of thousands of classified military documents to WikiLeaks.

The sentence was more severe than many observers expected, and is much longer than any punishment given to previous US government officials who have leaked information to the media.

Manning showed no emotion, neither when the sentence was delivered, nor after being escorted into a side room, where his lawyers and members of his family were waiting, some of them in tears.

“Everyone was emotional from his defence team, including myself,” his lawyer, David Coombs, told the Guardian. “The only person that wasn’t emotional was Brad. He looked to us and said: ‘It is okay’ … I am going to move forward and I’m going to be alright’.”

After the sentence, Manning was taken to a side room, where Coombs, was waiting in tears. “[Manning] looked to me and said: ‘It’s OK. It’s all right. I’m going get through this’,” Coombs told reporters later. “If nothing else, he is a resilient young man.”

Coombs told a press conference that next week he will formally submit the request for a pardon, “or at the very least commute his sentence to time served”. That request will contain a personal appeal from Manning to Obama, which his lawyer read out.

“When I chose to disclose classified information, I did so out of a love to my country and a sense of duty to others,” Manning will tell Obama. “If you deny my request for a pardon, I will serve my time knowing that sometimes you have to pay a heavy price to live in a free society.”

Coombs said the military’s decision to seek a charge of aiding enemy – which ultimately failed – was placed amid a “government-wide crackdown” on journalists and whistleblowers that should alarm those who care about a free press.

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Manning Sentenced to 35 Years for Leaking Government Secrets

From The New York Times:

By and
Published: August 21, 2013

FORT MEADE, Md. — A military judge sentenced Pfc. Bradley Manning on Wednesday to 35 years in prison for providing more than 700,000 government files to WikiLeaks, a gigantic leak that lifted the veil on American military and diplomatic activities around the world.

The sentence is the longest ever handed down in a case involving a leak of United States government information for the purpose of having the information reported to the public. Private Manning, 25, will be eligible for parole in about seven years, his lawyer said.

In a two-minute hearing on Wednesday morning, the judge, Army Col. Denise R. Lind, also said that Private Manning would be dishonorably discharged and reduced in rank from private first class to private, the lowest rank in the military. She said he would forfeit his pay but she did not impose a fine.

Before the sentencing, Private Manning sat leaning forward with his hands folded, whispering to his lawyer, David Coombs. His aunt and a cousin sat quietly behind him. When Colonel Lind read the sentence, Private Manning stood, showing no expression. He did not make a statement.

The materials that Private Manning gave to WikiLeaks included a video taken during an American helicopter attack in Baghdad in 2007 in which civilians were killed, including two journalists. He also gave WikiLeaks some 250,000 diplomatic cables, dossiers of detainees being imprisoned without trial at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and hundreds of thousands of incident reports from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Immediately after the judge left, military guards flanked Private Manning and hustled him out the front of the courtroom as a half-dozen supporters in the back of the courtroom shouted words of encouragement at him.

“We’ll keep fighting for you, Bradley,” one shouted. Another said “You are a hero.” After Private Manning left the room, another supporter yelled, “We love you.”

Several hours after the sentencing, Mr. Coombs told reporters that he would apply for a presidential pardon for Private Manning next week. At the White House, Josh Earnest, a spokesman, responded that Private Manning’s application would be considered “like any other application.”

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Focus On The Family: Transgender Young People Don’t Exist In ‘Physical Reality’

From Think Progress

By Zack Ford
on June 17, 2013

Numerous conservative groups are concerned about a bill (AB 1266) advancing in the California legislature that would recognize transgender young people’s identities in school, allowing them to use the facilities and play on the sports teams that correspond with their gender identity. Focus on the Family’s resident ex-gay Jeff Johnston lashed out at the bill, claiming that trans identities only exist in a “fantasy reality”:

The reality is that humans are born male or female. At birth we don’t “assign” sex to a child arbitrarily, as the analysis of this bill implies. We recognize the child’s sex – it is a physical reality. But in the world of this bill, that reality doesn’t matter. Like Cinderella in a fantasy world, a person may choose or change his sex, saying, “I can be whatever I want to be.”

But trans identities have nothing to do with who a person “wants to be”; it’s about who a person is. And sometimes, people’s mental understanding of their gender identity does not match the sex of the body they were born into. Denying the reality of their lived experience only serves to shame and stigmatize them, but won’t change their core identity.

Peter LaBarbera of Americans For Truth About Homosexuality, an anti-LGBT hate group, argues that the “idea of socially constructed gender is very radical” and “not safe for the kids,” but there is no evidence to support his aspersions. In fact, the American Psychological Association recommends the passage of nondiscrimination protections like this California bill and any effort to recognize and affirm transgender people. It is that affirmation that best serves their mental well-being, not condemnation and erasure like these conservative groups propose.

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Conservative media won’t stop trolling transgender people

How many times have the Radical Feminists and the rest of the Ultra Right made the exact same claim.

You know the one:  If transsexual and transgender people are protected by anti-discrimination laws it will mean straight male perverts will be free to attack women in women’s restrooms.

Wait a second.  Where did I hear that one before?

Oh yes.  That was one of Phyllis Schlafly’s lies about why we couldn’t have the Equal Rights Amendment.

From Salon:

A video from the Media Research Center shows everything that’s wrong with the right-wing and Radical Feminist view of transgender rights

Monday, Aug 19, 2013

The conservative Media Research Center responded to news of a California law that allows transgender youth to use school facilities and play on athletic teams that correspond to their gender identity with a blatantly transphobic video that equates transgender people with sexual predators.

In the video, reporter Dan Joseph “poses” as transgender (by affecting a slightly feminine voice) and asks a woman if she would be comfortable with him sharing the bathroom with her by saying, “I’m a transgender. So that means I have the man parts but inside I feel more like a woman. I was just wondering, is it okay if I go in there with you in there and change and shower and stuff?”

The video then cuts to a series of interviews in which Joseph indicates that the new California law will somehow lead people to openly expose their genitals in public restrooms or allow predatory men to spy on women while they are changing.

Joseph’s hateful framing is a perfect representation of how willfully ignorant (and openly hostile) conservative media outlets are to transgender rights, as National Center for Transgender Equality executive director Mara Keisling remarked to Raw Story on Monday: “[The people at MRC] know that there are real trans people. They know we’re not talking about boys who want to pretend that they’re girls or girls who want to pretend they’re boys. They know we’re talking about people who have a gender identity that want to safely use the restroom in a way which is the least disruptive.”

Beyond grossly misrepresenting the content of the law and the experiences of transgender people, Joseph’s video serves to “villainize a group of kids who have it really rough, and who the state of California’s just trying to make it a little easier on,” Keisling continued. “This [law] doesn’t put anybody else out. It’s really easy to scare people about it … nobody’s put out, nobody’s made unsafe, nobody’s made unmodest [by this law].”

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See also:

Gay Star News:  Conservative activist says he would claim to be transgender to watch girls changing

Media Matters: This Is What Conservative Media Think A Transgender Woman Looks Like

Raw Story: Trans activists slam ‘hateful’ conservative video in which man ‘dresses up’ as ‘a transgender’

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The Closet and Bradley Manning

From Huffington Post:


The recent publication of some of Bradley Manning’s personal emails and photos about his gender dysphoria, including admissions from his psychiatrist during the sentencing phase of his trial for espionage, once again raise the issue of the “closet” and the pathology created within it.

For purposes of discussion, let’s posit that Manning’s story is generally true; it is neither a ruse to evoke compassion pre-sentencing nor an attempt by the prosecution to damage the LGBT community by disparaging Manning. And let’s accept on face value that being trans had nothing directly to do with the actions that brought about his conviction. Those acts are related to his idealism, or to his personality and character defects, or both, however you choose to view his leaking classified documents.

So what does it say about the state of LGBT acceptance in the small towns of America?
Manning’s therapist related that his client joined the military in an attempt to overcome his gender dysphoria. He was not the first — recent public figures such as Diane Schroer and Kristin Beck come to mind — nor will he be the last. Many others have joined relatively macho professions or attempted risky behaviors, such as reaching the summit of Mt. Everest for the first time on Coronation Day in 1953. Their purpose was a form of self-administered reparative therapy.

This self-repair can be cloaked in a religious vestment, as was my experience, or it can be completely secular in nature, but the key point lies in the attempt to cure oneself of the feelings, the profoundly intimate knowledge that you’re female, even though everyone else perceives you as male, or vice versa. The process usually proceeds for years, often decades, before the erosion of one’s resistance to the truth has been completed and you’re left with nothing but the raw truth. At that point, should you reach it, you either engage with your truth or take your life. Some people never get to that point and are able to run and hide forever; others come up short in childhood or adolescence. The majority have made it to adulthood, with all the trappings that that involves, before the executive decision must be confronted. As an aside, my motivation for my advocacy is to prevent those decades from being lived with a mask, at best, or fraudulently, at worst, by today’s generation of trans children. To allow children to be who they are, with their lives ahead of them.

The waste generated by the closet is primarily personal: the waste of a life lived inauthentically. Gay persons know this just as well as others who’ve pretended to be someone they really aren’t. It’s remarkable how universal the closet is, and how familiar the experience. I know people whose fathers wanted them in the family business so badly that they gave up on their dreams to become teachers, and others whose parents wanted them to become doctors when all they wanted was to write or paint. The years pass, you get tired of fighting the familial and social pressures (“the voices around you kept shouting their bad advice”), and before you know it you’ve convinced yourself that you’re right where you belong, or worse, right where you deserve to be.

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Jose Julio Sarria (1923 – 2013) – Founder of Imperial Court System – Tribute Video 1

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Girls Don’t Just Want to Have Fun

From In These Times:

As state legislatures attack women’s reproductive rights, the media focus elsewhere.

BY Susan J. Douglas
August 20, 2013

The past two years have seen a concerted and intensive assault on women’s reproductive rights. According to the Guttmacher Institute, Republican-controlled state legislatures around the country passed 43 different restrictions on abortion in 2012 and more than twice that number, 92, in 2011. More recently, we read that Republican senators, desperate to energize their base, hope to mimic Texas and plan to introduce a bill that would prohibit abortions after 20 weeks, like the one that passed the House in June. The goal is clear: to whittle away at Roe v. Wade until it’s almost meaningless, or to pass laws that will make it to the Supreme Court, which would then overturn Roe.

But the larger objective, as we know, is to humiliate and police women, to place their bodies and sexualities under surveillance, and to eliminate any agency they have over their reproductive health.

In the media coverage of this onslaught of anti-choice bills—laws that disproportionately affect lower income and poor women, rural women and women of color—we’ve heard men like Marco Rubio and Rick Perry insist that a 20-week restriction is just good common sense. Less coverage has been given to the fact that, according to Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards, nearly 99 percent of abortions already occur before 21 weeks; those sought after that time are often due to severe fetal abnormalities or real threats to the woman’s health.

Indeed, just as state and federal mostly-white-male lawmakers have sought to silence women’s voices on abortion and contraception, so too have the national media massively underreported women’s responses to this misogynistic juggernaut. Yes, Wendy Davis became a hero for her filibuster of the Texas abortion bill, but where were the interviews of all those pro-choice demonstrators who rallied with her? Barely covered at all have been the Moral Monday protests by a coalition of activist and religious groups, staged outside the North Carolina General Assembly, rallying against restrictive abortion bills, assaults on voting rights and other extreme proposals. Nearly 1,000 people have been arrested in these ongoing protests, many of them women. Where are their stories?

Women fighting for their reproductive rights isn’t newsworthy. But when the subject is female sexuality, stop the presses: Ivy League women are hooking up! In July, the New York Times published its instantly buzz-worthy piece, “She Can Play That Game, Too,” about hookup culture at the University of Pennsylvania; it may not be entirely driven by guys after all. Most of the young women interviewed by reporter Kate Taylor said they were too busy for—or uninterested in—a relationship, but still sought out drunken sex. “For many,” read the caption, “building a resume, not finding a boyfriend (never mind a husband), is their main job on campus.” Possibly to counter the Times’ notorious habit of focusing on elite women as representative of some hot new trend, Taylor did interview a student from a less privileged background who has not participated in hookup culture. Nonetheless, the image coming from much of the article was one of overachievement in the classroom and extracurriculars, and sexual agency in leisure time.

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Canadian Born Ted Cruz, Renounces Canadian Citizenship, Claims He is American Now.

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UK Media Crackdown: Greenwald’s Partner Detained, Guardian Forced to Destroy Snowden Files.

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Freelance nation: When good jobs turn to bad

From Salon:

How corporate America used the recession to cut employee wages, benefits, and long-term security and no-one noticed

Tuesday, Aug 20, 2013

This piece originally appeared on TomDispatch.

Watch closely: I’m about to demystify the sleight-of-hand by which good jobs were transformed into bad jobs, full-time workers with benefits into freelancers with nothing, during the dark days of the Great Recession.

First, be aware of what a weird economic downturn and recovery this has been.  From the end of an “average” American recession, it ordinarily takes slightly less than a year to reach or surpass the previous employment peak.  But in June 2013 — four full years after the official end of the Great Recession — we had recovered only 6.6 million jobs, or just three-quarters of the 8.7 million jobs we lost.

Here’s the truly mysterious aspect of this “recovery”: 21% of the jobs lost during the Great Recession were low wage, meaning they paid $13.83 an hour or less.  But 58% of the jobs regained fall into that category. A common explanation for that startling statistic is that the bad jobs are coming back first and the good jobs will follow.

But let me suggest another explanation: the good jobs are here among us right now — it’s just their wages, their benefits, and the long-term security that have vanished.

Consider the experiences of two workers I initially interviewed for my book Down the Up Escalator: How the 99% Live in the Great Recession and you’ll see just how some companies used the recession to accomplish this magician’s disappearing trick.

Freelance Nation

Ina Bromberg genuinely likes to outfit people.  Trim and well dressed herself, Ina sells petites at the Madison Avenue flagship store of a designer brand boutique with several hundred outlets.  Even I had heard of the label.  I had to ask what its exact place in the fashion hierarchy was, though.  “We fall into a niche below Barney’s-Bergdorf-Chanel,” she explained.

In the course of a 20-year career, Ina, now in her sixties, had been the company’s top-earning national sales associate more than once.  Her loyal clients return each season saying, “You know what I like.  What have you got for me?”

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$75 For Ice Cubes? The Absurd Things Rich People Are Blowing Their Cash on

From Alternet:

A small group of Americans is now sitting on more wealth than they could possibly know what to do with as growing numbers of ordinary families struggle.

By Joshua Holland
August 18, 2013

While most Americans struggle through this grinding downturn, a rarified few are doing quite well. Corporate profits hit an all-time high last week, and businesses are keeping more of their loot away from the taxman than ever before (while wages, as a share of our economy, reached an all-time low). The stock market is booming, and Wall Street compensation has more than bounced back from the crash.

A small group of Americans is now sitting on more wealth than they could possibly know what to do with.

Consider a product selling in a gourmet store in New York’s tony SoHo district. “Gläce Luxury Ice is a meticulously designed and differentiated ice brand specifically designed for use in premium drinks and cocktails,” reads a pitch at the website of Dean and Deluca. “Gläce Ice pieces are individually carved from a 300 lb block to ensure flawless quality and a zero-taste profile, never contaminating the essence of premium liquors.”

If you’re so inclined, you can purchase a package of 10 of these fancy ice cubes. It’ll run you $75 bucks, or $7.50 per cube (not including “Next Day Shipping to ensure freshness”).

At the same time, New York’s much-abused homeless population is now at Great Depression levels, and according to a 2011 study conducted by the city, almost half of New Yorkers (46 percent) are living below or near the poverty line (defined as making less than 150% of the federal threshold).

As stark as the picture of inequality has become nation-wide, there are a handful of metropolitan areas that have become hyper-unequal. In these cities, the haves have driven up prices on all manner of goods to a degree that it’s becoming all but impossible for ordinary families to live in them.

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Fossil fuel power plants to be shut down in Germany because they’re no longer competitiv

From Raw Story:

By CleanTechnica
Sunday, August 18, 2013

This article was originally published on Lenz Blog.

RWE has announced in their latest report on their first six months results (press release in German) that they plan to take 3.1 GW of fossil fuel generating capacity off the market.

The reason they give for that is that wholesale electricity prices are way down in Germany as a consequence of more renewable in the mix. They would be losing money if they needed to sell at these low prices. They don’t, since most of their business is fulfilling contracts from the past couple of years, which still have higher prices, but that effect will be gone soon.

Welt has an excellent article giving some background on this (in German).

They show an interesting graphic, which I hesitate to reproduce here for copyright reasons.

We learn from that: Prices have gone down from the mid term average of around EUR 55 a MWh to less than EUR 40. They estimate the minimum price necessary for gas generation as EUR 70, for coal as EUR 60, for lignite as EUR 45, and even for nuclear power after the plants have already paid back their investment as EUR 40, including a tax on nuclear fuel.

With prices below EUR 40 on the wholesale markets, operators like RWE may want to mothball their nuclear capacity even before they are required to do so by the 2011 law on the nuclear phase-out.

German Green Party Member of Parliament Hans-Josef Fell’s most recent mail newsletter has some very interesting comments on this development.

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‘A Huge Amount of Radiation’ as Fukushima Crisis Worsens

From Common Dreams:

Fukushima crisis only continues to worsen as a new and separate leak of ‘highly radioactive water’ found

Jon Queally

Contaminate. Store. Leak. Repeat.

That is the dangerous water cycle now taking place in Japan as huge amounts of water are being used to cool the damaged reactors and fuel rods remaining at the Fukushima plant with no safe way to contain, dispose, or deal with the thousands of tons of growing waste.

And the catastrophe only continues to worsen as reports from Japan on Tuesday indicate that a new and separate leak of “highly radioactive water” is now occuring from a storage tank with officials saying the undetected leak may have be allowing tons of contaminated water to seap into the ground every day for a month, or longer.

The new leak is separate from the ones reported in recent weeks, but may foretell a whole new series of worry, according to experts.

The water from the ongoing and latest leak, according to Reuters, “is so contaminated that a person standing 50 centimeters (1.6 feet) away would, within an hour, receive a radiation dose five times the average annual global limit for nuclear workers.”

As the Japan Times reports:

At 9:50 a.m. Monday, Tepco workers on patrol found a pool of at least 120 liters of highly contaminated water thought to have escaped from concrete barrier’s drain valves. The valves had been opened to drain rainwater.

The radiation level measured around 50 cm above the toxic water stood at about 100 millisieverts per hour, Tepco said.

Exposure to 100 millisieverts increases the incidence of death by cancer by 0.5 percent, according to the International Commission on Radiological Protection. It is also the legal upper limit for a nuclear worker over five years.

On Tuesday, Tepco said the water level in tank No. 5 had dropped by 3 meters, meaning about 300 tons of contaminated water had been lost. From Monday to Tuesday, about 10 tons were lost, indicating this amount may have leaked every day over the past 30 days, a senior Tepco official told The Japan Times.

“So far, we had four similar (tank) leakage cases. The problem this time is that we didn’t detect it for as long as 30 days,” the official said.

“That is a huge amount of radiation. The situation is getting worse,” Michiaki Furukawa, professor emeritus at Nagoya University and a nuclear chemist, told Reuters.

And Reuters adds:

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George Elmaraghy, Environmental Regulator, Says He Was Pushed Out For Opposing Coal Industry

From Huffington Post:


WASHINGTON — Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) has forced out the head of a key division of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency in response to pressure from the coal industry, according to an email obtained by The Huffington Post.

George Elmaraghy, the chief of the division of surface water at OEPA, told staff in the email that the governor’s office and the director of the agency had asked him to resign, effective Sept. 13, 2013. In the letter, Elmaraghy cited “considerable pressure from the coal companies over the last year” demanding that his staff “accommodate the industry’s needs by issuing permits that may have a negative impact on Ohio’s streams and wetlands and violate state and federal laws.”

Elmaraghy has worked at the Ohio EPA for more than 30 years. He took over as head of the surface water office, which oversees many of the permits coal companies need to mine and dispose of waste, in 2005.

The coal industry has targeted both Ohio’s environmental regulators and the federal government over enforcement of clean water standards. Robert Murray, the president of Ohio-based Murray Energy — the largest privately owned coal company in America — railed against the Ohio EPA in a hearing before a committee in the state legislature last week. Murray also criticized what he called a “coordinated effort to accomplish the total destruction of the United States coal industry” in a speech at Ohio University on Aug. 12.

“George wouldn’t say he was asked to resign because of their history with the coal companies unless that was absolutely the case,” said Jed Thorp, who worked at the OEPA from 2007 to 2012. Thorp, who is now the manager of the Sierra Club’s Ohio chapter, described Elmaraghy as a “by the book” kind of guy with more than three decades of experience at the agency. “He wasn’t doing anything radical,” Thorp said.

An aide to Kasich referred questions to the Ohio EPA.

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