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Member since: Tue Feb 10, 2004, 12:08 PM
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Environmental Scientist

Journal Archives

Workforce Investment Act Leaves Many Jobless and in Debt

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — When the financial crisis crippled the construction industry seven years ago, Joe DeGrella’s contracting company failed, leaving him looking for what he hoped would be the last job he would ever need.

He took each step in line with the advice of the federal government: He met with an unemployment counselor who provided him with a list of job titles the Labor Department determined to be in high demand, he picked from among colleges that offered government-certified job-training courses, and he received a federal retraining grant.

In 2009, Mr. DeGrella, began a course at Daymar College — a for-profit vocational institute in Louisville — to become a cardiology technician. Daymar officials told him he would have a well-paying job within weeks of graduation.

But after about two years of studying cardiovascular physiology and the mechanics of electrocardiograms, Mr. DeGrella, now 57, found himself jobless and $20,000 in debt. He moved into his sister’s basement and now works at an AutoZone.



Federal Appeals Court Demands Longer Sentence For Officer Who Delivered Brutal Beating

As outrage over the shooting of Michael Brown roils on, many are facing the all-too-real fear that the case will never see justice, even if it turns out the shooting was entirely unjustified. But one federal appeals court last week took a remarkable stand against leniency for police accountability. In a unanimous ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit held that 20 months in prison was not enough for a former DesMoines police officer who brutally beat a couple on their way home from the movies.

Erin Evans and Octavius Bonds were driving home from a date at the movies in 2008 when they were pulled over for failure to yield to an emergency vehicle. From the start, then-officer Mersed Dautovic and his fellow white officer approached the young African American couple with hostility. When Evans, then 21, rolled down her window, Dautovic flung the door open, asking “Are you from America?” and if she was stupid. As a now-flustered Evans attempted to find the appropriate papers in her glove compartment, a second officer ordered her to get out of the car or be pepper sprayed.

What ensued from there was a chain of violence in which Evans was dragged from the car, flung onto the hood of the car and then onto the ground as she screamed for help. When Bonds, then 25, heard her screaming and tried to get out of the car, he was doused with pepper spray continuously, even when he tried to turn his face away from the officer. Bonds eventually grabbed Dautovic’s hand to resist, and then remembers being hit in the back of the head before he lost consciousness. When he awoke again, officers were standing over him with batons, beating him repeatedly, even as he lay in the fetal position and then possibly unconscious.

In the course of this beating, Bonds sustained a broken forearm, a split in his scalp that required seven stitches, a broken hand “so bad” that “two bones protruded through his skin” and bruises covering his body. Officers placed him face down on the road and continued to beat him, in what one witness called the motions of chopping wood. Others testified that as the officers waited for an ambulance, they left Bonds face-down on the road near the centerline, as other drivers had to swerve onto the road’s median so they didn’t run over Bonds’ head.



Monday Toon Roundup 2- The Rest







Monday Toon Roundup 1 War, Here and Abroad (graphic)




Today's Non Sequitur Toon: Bank Robbery

Sunday Ferguson Toons

Ferguson and the Rise of SWAT Armies

By Carl M. Cannon - August 17, 2014

Competing theories on curbing crime and keeping the peace in America’s teeming municipalities have long preoccupied law enforcement. “Community policing” is one approach. The harder-edged “proactive” policing is another. Now a new technique has forged itself into the national consciousness—“Ferguson policing,” let’s call it.

If Ferguson policing’s precepts are murky, perhaps that’s because its proponents don’t feel obliged to explain it to the media or community activists—cops just arrest them instead.

Who knew the 53-officer police force in Ferguson, Mo., even had all that military equipment and SWAT gear? Why do they have it? The answers to those questions—and how Missouri’s highway patrol ended (if only temporarily) four nights of rioting—take us back in time and into the rich history of the storied, influential, and sometimes notorious LAPD.

A century ago, about the time Hollywood was establishing itself, civic leaders in the City of Angels realized they had an actual metropolis on their hands. With the Progressive movement in vogue, reformers fashioned a city charter that diluted the power of political parties, thereby weakening patronage. As part of that process, they set out to create a professional police force not beholden to political bosses, and less corrupt than its counterparts back East.

Read more: http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2014/08/17/ferguson_and_the_rise_of_swat_armies_123678.html

How Dare Mayor de Blasio Tell New Yorkers To Submit to the NYPD

By Natasha Lennard

August 17, 2014

This week, Mayor Bill de Blasio asked New Yorkers to be entirely irrational. With some incredulity-provoking remarks, the mayor did the equivalent of asking a well-reasoned atheist to get on their knees and pray anyway. He asked us to trust the police.

Specifically, de Blasio advised that New Yorkers should always submit to arrest when an NYPD officer decides to detain them. "When a police officer comes to the decision that it's time to arrest someone, that individual is obligated to submit to arrest," he said during a press conference in Harlem. "They will then have every opportunity for due process in our court system."

The problems with his suggestion are myriad. Firstly, he delivered them in the midst of national furor over the police killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed black young man in Ferguson, Missouri, and just a few weeks after NYPD cops strangled Eric Garner to death on a Staten Island sidewalk.

In the last ten days, cops in Los Angeles killed two unarmed men — Ezell Ford, who suffered from mental illness, was reportedly lying on the ground when shot dead by the LAPD and, a week earlier, Omar Abrego was apparently fatally beaten by police during a traffic stop. With these deaths being just the latest incidents in a brutal pantheon, de Blasio's comments did the tacitly violent work of victim blaming.



Inside the Dark, Lucrative World of Consumer Debt Collection

One afternoon in October 2009, a former banking executive named Aaron Siegel waited impatiently in the master bedroom of a house in Buffalo that served as his office. As he stared at the room’s old fireplace and then out the window to the quiet street beyond, he tried not to think about his investors and the $14 million they had entrusted to him. Siegel was no stranger to money. He grew up in one of the city’s wealthiest and most prominent families. His father, Herb Siegel, was a legendary playboy and the majority owner of a hugely profitable personal-injury law firm. During his late teenage years, Aaron lived essentially unchaperoned in a sprawling, 100-year-old mansion. His sister, Shana, recalls the parties she hosted — lavish affairs with plenty of Champagne — and how their private-school classmates would often spend the night, as if the place were a clubhouse for the young and privileged.

So how, Siegel wondered, had he gotten into his current predicament? His career started with such promise. He earned his M.B.A. from the highly regarded Simon Business School at the University of Rochester. He took a job at HSBC and completed the bank’s executive training course in London. By all indications, he was well on his way to a very respectable future in the financial world. Siegel was smart, hardworking and ambitious. All he had to do was keep moving up the corporate ladder.

Instead, he decided to take a gamble. Siegel struck out on his own, investing in distressed consumer debt — basically buying up the right to collect unpaid credit-card bills. When debtors stop paying those bills, the banks regard the balances as assets for 180 days. After that, they are of questionable worth. So banks “charge off” the accounts, taking a loss, and other creditors act similarly. These huge, routine sell-offs have created a vast market for unpaid debts — not just credit-card debts but also auto loans, medical loans, gym fees, payday loans, overdue cellphone tabs, old utility bills, delinquent book-club accounts. The scale is breathtaking. From 2006 to 2009, for example, the nation’s top nine debt buyers purchased almost 90 million consumer accounts with more than $140 billion in “face value.” And they bought at a steep discount. On average, they paid just 4.5 cents on the dollar. These debt buyers collect what they can and then sell the remaining accounts to other buyers, and so on. Those who trade in such debt call it “paper.” That was Aaron Siegel’s business.

It turned out to be a good one. Siegel quickly discovered that when he bought the right kind of paper, the profits were astronomical. He obtained one portfolio for $28,527, collected more than $90,000 on it in just six weeks and then sold the remaining uncollected accounts for $31,000. Siegel bought another portfolio of debt for $33,388, collected more than $147,000 on it in four months and sold the remaining accounts for $33,124. Even to a seasoned Wall Street man, the margins were jaw-dropping.



Frank Rich: Good Hillary, Bad Hillary

Thirty years ago, Michael Kinsley, then with The New Republic, sought to prove his theory that few of Washington’s elites actually read the highfalutin best sellers that they dutifully buy and profess to admire. At a local bookstore, he slipped a note with his phone number deep into the pages of hot new books by the likes of the foreign-policy hand Strobe Talbott and the political pundit Ben Wattenberg, promising a $5 reward to anyone who read that far. Kinsley reported that no one called.

In the digital age, we have the technology to address this same question on a national scale. This summer, a University of Wisconsin mathematician, Jordan Ellenberg, created a small stir by inventing what he called the “Hawking Index” in honor of Stephen Hawking’s much-praised, if not necessarily much-read, A Brief History of Time. Using Amazon’s posted lists of the top five “popular highlights” in books notated by Kindle ­readers—and the page numbers those highlights fall on—Ellenberg crafted a quasi-scientific formula to compute how thoroughly best sellers were being consumed. At the high end by far was Donna Tartt’s novel The Goldfinch, which scored an anomalous 98.5 percent on the Hawking Index. Among nonfiction books, Michael Lewis’s Flash Boys was a leader, at 21.7 percent. At the bottom, breaking Hawking’s previous low (6.6 percent), was the most-written-about best seller of the year, Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century, at 2.4 percent. It didn’t take long for a wiseass at the Washington Post to note that another best seller fell still lower than Piketty on the Hawking scale, at 2.04 percent: Hillary Clinton’s Hard Choices.

It has been an unexpectedly hard summer for Hard Choices—and, by implication, for its author. The book had a dream rollout worthy of J. K. Rowling: a prime-time ABC special with Diane Sawyer, Good Morning America with Robin Roberts, a CNN town hall with Christiane Amanpour, Jane Pauley on CBS, The Daily Show, online Q&As at Facebook and Twitter, even a respectful interview with Greta Van Susteren and Bret Baier at Fox News. But the book tour was stalked by controversies—Clinton’s tone-deaf complaint about being “dead broke” after leaving the White House in 2001, her fumbled answers to questions about her astronomical speaking fees. And much of the press was unkind to Hard Choices itself. You know a Clinton book is in trouble when one of its few partisans is a Fox News personality—Van Susteren, who called it “a fun read.” John Dickerson of Slate spoke for many of those hardy few who actually read the book from cover to cover when he described it as “the low-salt, low-fat, low-calorie offering with vanilla pudding as the dessert.” The only news in Hard Choices was not to be found in its 656-page ocean of prose but in the subtext. Despite Clinton’s disingenuous claim in the epilogue about 2016 (“I haven’t decided yet”), no one in her right mind would write a fat book this dull, this unrevealing, and this innocuous unless she were running for president.

The ultimate indignity arrived soon after publication: Following a brief reign as a No. 1 best seller, Hard Choices was toppled by Blood Feud: The Clintons vs. the Obamas, by Edward Klein, whose loathing of the Clintons is exceeded only by his loathing of the Obamas. Klein had no big book tour, no broadcast-network interviews, and almost no reviews. Yet once Blood Feud had usurped Hard Choices, Clinton never returned to the top of the Times list.

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