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n2doc

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Home country: USA
Current location: Georgia
Member since: Tue Feb 10, 2004, 12:08 PM
Number of posts: 31,525

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Environmental Scientist

Journal Archives

How She Does It

The governor of New Hampshire does not live in the governor’s mansion. Instead, Maggie Hassan lives on the grounds of Phillips Exeter Academy, the exclusive 228-year-old prep school of the Northeast’s privileged set, where her husband, Thomas Hassan, has been the principal since 2008—a job that comes with lodging in a stately colonial on the school’s campus.

The Hassans' is thus the marriage of two New England institutions, and the house in Exeter has opened Maggie Hassan to charges of elitism. (The name, pronounced “HASS-un,” comes from Tom’s Black Irish ancestors, thought to be the result of some long-ago Moorish migration.) An attack ad aired during her 2012 campaign faulted her for living in "a half-million-dollar home that Hassan pays no property taxes on,” failing to mention her husband’s job and that they don’t own it. Before I visited their house last month, I imagined Maggie and Tom—who met at Brown—hosting tea for Brahmins on an opulent lawn, he in headmasterish tweed, she in, say, a Colonial-style powdered wig. More realistically, perhaps the end of the term would find her marking up budgets while he marked up final exams, or plotting strategy in a campaign war room next door to a pizza party of well-scrubbed junior WASPs.

But if I thought I would encounter a scene from Preppy Heaven, what I found instead at the Hassans' was rather more prosaic: the overscheduled life of a high-powered professional couple, one half of which just happens to get picked up for work by a state trooper. The house in Exeter turned out to be a symbol of what Maggie Hassan represents as a politician—just not in the way I expected.

more

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2014/04/how-she-does-it/360471/

Give Kathleen Sebelius credit — she survived the furnace

April 10
BY BARBARA SHELLY
The Kansas City Star

So this is it for Kathleen Sebelius. The former Kansas governor apparently will officially announce her resignation as U.S. health and human services secretary on Friday.

The headlines make her sound like a combat casualty, ending her “stormy tenure” after the “disastrous rollout” of HealthCare.gov, stumbling away battered and bloodied.

But, seriously, the woman has lived in a furnace for five years. She’s been dragged in front of Congressional committees, pilloried by pundits and politicians, abandoned by friends (looking at you, Sen. Pat Roberts) and asked to build a massive health insurance marketplace with scant resources. Frankly, a lesser individual would have bailed months ago.

No doubt, the rollout of the insurance exchange marketplace was horrible, and it exposed serious management weaknesses. But look, presidents since Harry S. Truman have been trying to reform America’s health care system so that people of all ages, incomes and health conditions have access to affordable medical care.

Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/2014/04/10/4951371/give-kathleen-sebelius-credit.html

They came, they razed, they left: A visit to a destroyed Palestinian village


The tiny village of Homsa was the latest victims of Israel's systematic policy of destruction of Palestinian homes in the Jordan Rift.
By Gideon Levy and Alex Levac

http://www.haaretz.com/polopoly_fs/1.585137.1397280038!/image/3753364474.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_640/3753364474.jpg

Israel is continuing to destroy systematically the villages of shepherds who live in the Jordan Rift. Last week, the Civil Administration demolished Homsa, another tiny Palestinian village. In January, 160 residents of the valley were made homeless; last year, twice as many were left homeless as in the year before.

Again the same unconscionable sights: heaps of debris, bare metal pegs lunging out of the earth, crushed fences, destroyed animal pens and squashed tin huts; remnants of personal property strewn all over; sheep wandering about looking in vain for shade; chickens pecking about; despondent shepherds; wretched sheep dogs; runny-nosed children curled up in Grandmother’s lap and merciless sun beating down.

Another Palestinian shepherd community trampled into the ground. Not the first, nor the last to meet such a fate in this hard, battered valley, whose Palestinian inhabitants Israel has set itself the goal of cleansing itself of, far from the public’s eye. Step by step, devastating act after devastating act, community after community – there are hundreds whose lives and property have been laid waste recently by the Civil Administration.

It’s the law that’s to blame, of course, the occupier’s law. It’s the law, under whose apparent aegis illegal outposts are established and legalized in the twinkling of an eye. And it’s the occupier, thanks to whose auspices these thousands of people, native sons, have neither running water nor electric power nor rights to inhabit the slopes of the verdant, flourishing Jordan Valley.

more

http://www.haaretz.com/weekend/twilight-zone/.premium-1.585009

Netherlands Closing 19 Prisons Due to Lack of Criminals

In 2009, the Dutch justice ministry announced the planned closing of eight prisons in the Netherlands due to a declining crime rate which was expected to continue.

In 2013, a staggering 19 prisons were scheduled to be closed. This is caused, in part, by a continued decline in crime rates. Additionally, those who are convicted are choosing electronic tagging instead of incarceration. This allows people to go back to work and continue as productive members of society. It also saves about $50,000 per year per person (about $50 million saved per year for every 1000 people).

Johnson County and the Netherlands have something in common. The average incarceration rate in the Netherlands is about 163 people per 100,000. (Source) In Johnson County, we have about the same rate of incarceration – slightly lower. (Source: 2012 Annual Sheriff’s Report – PDF)

Counties and countries with low incarceration rates typically take a different approach to criminal justice and their investment in social services.



Read more: http://www.trueactivist.com/netherlands-closing-19-prisons-due-to-lack-of-criminals/

Toon: The Joy Of Retirement, with W

Faraway moon or faint star? Possible exomoon found




NASA-funded researchers have spotted the first signs of an "exomoon," and though they say it's impossible to confirm its presence, the finding is a tantalizing first step toward locating others. The discovery was made by watching a chance encounter of objects in our galaxy, which can be witnessed only once.

"We won't have a chance to observe the exomoon candidate again," said David Bennett of the University of Notre Dame, Ind., lead author of a new paper on the findings appearing in the Astrophysical Journal. "But we can expect more unexpected finds like this."

The international study is led by the joint Japan-New Zealand-American Microlensing Observations in Astrophysics (MOA) and the Probing Lensing Anomalies NETwork (PLANET) programs, using telescopes in New Zealand and Tasmania. Their technique, called gravitational microlensing, takes advantage of chance alignments between stars. When a foreground star passes between us and a more distant star, the closer star can act like a magnifying glass to focus and brighten the light of the more distant one. These brightening events usually last about a month.

If the foreground star -- or what astronomers refer to as the lens -- has a planet circling around it, the planet will act as a second lens to brighten or dim the light even more. By carefully scrutinizing these brightening events, astronomers can figure out the mass of the foreground star relative to its planet.

more

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140412094104.htm

From J.P. Morgan to Jamie Dimon

New York is a wonderful town — if you run a mega bank. Because for over a century, the Big Six banks and their leaders have dominated not just the U.S. banking industry, but American and global finance, traversing the power corridor between the White House and Wall Street to help themselves, their families and their friends in good times and bad, in partnership with the President.

But in the process of placing personal enrichment over the public interest and fair practices, particularly in recent years, they have created an atmosphere where the next big crisis is not a question of if, but of when. History has shown that absent true reform, those holding the power and the money can and will wreak havoc on the rest of the population.

For the first 80 years of the 20th century, four families largely controlled the nation’s top three banks: Morgan, Aldrich, Stillman and Rockefeller. National, financial and foreign policy was fashioned through personal connections to the Presidents — forged through blood, marriage, mentorships and connections made at Ivy League colleges, and through social activities like yachting, golfing, ranch barbeques and exclusive parties and clubs.

In October 1907, Manhattan was struck by a major bank panic. People from Fifth Ave. to Harlem rushed to extract their money from the Knickerbocker Trust Company because one of its leaders had made a horrendous bet on copper, which precipitated a wider panic. A fear of greater ramifications caused the “Trust-Buster,” President Teddy Roosevelt, to turn to the one man he believed could help — a banker, J.P. Morgan.

more

http://www.nomiprins.com/thoughts/2014/4/12/from-jp-morgan-to-jamie-dimon.html

The Perversity of Profiling

By Laura W. Murphy, Director, ACLU Washington Legislative Office & Hina Shamsi, Director, ACLU National Security Project at 2:19pm

The Justice Department is considering revised racial profiling guidance that, if issued, could set back race relations and basic fairness in this country. We hope that it does not make that mistake.

The New York Times on Thursday reported that “long-awaited revisions to the Justice Department’s racial profiling rules would allow the F.B.I. to continue many, if not all, of the tactics opposed by civil rights groups, such as mapping ethnic populations and using that data to recruit informants and open investigations.” In light of the Obama administration’s recent and deservedly lauded criminal justice policy reforms, we had expected it would take a far different approach to racial profiling than this. After all, revisions to racial profiling rules that retain loopholes permitting racial, religious, and national origin profiling are not the reforms that Americans need and deserve.

The Justice Department guidance that urgently needs revision was issued in 2003 by Attorney General John Ashcroft. The Ashcroft Guidance bans racial profiling, which it condemns as discriminatory, “not merely wrong, but also ineffective,” and “patently unacceptable.” Despite these strong words, the Ashcroft Guidance contains gaping holes: It does not prohibit profiling based on religion or national origin and permits racial, religious, and ethnic profiling in national security investigations and at the nation’s borders.

The Ashcroft Guidance’s loopholes thus gave federal law enforcement express permission to discriminate against America’s minorities. And wrongful discrimination in the national security and border contexts quickly spread to others. Government records obtained by the ACLU showed the FBI mapped minority communities around the country based on crude and false stereotypes about their propensity to commit crime. The targeted communities include Arab Americans in Michigan, African Americans in Georgia, Chinese and Russian Americans in California, and Latino Americans in multiple states.

Mapping is just one part of the problem.

more
https://www.aclu.org/blog/national-security-criminal-law-reform-racial-justice/perversity-profiling

SEC Blocking Update to Electronic Privacy Laws

By Sandra Fulton, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 3:36pm
During the long, hard fight to bring the outdated Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) into the 21st century, advocates have run into the most unlikely of opponents: the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Yes, the SEC—the agency charged with regulating the securities industry—has brought the ECPA update to a screeching halt. Yesterday the ACLU, along with the Heritage Foundation, Americans for Tax Reform and the Center for Democracy and Technology, sent the agency a letter calling them out on their opposition.

ECPA, enacted in 1986, is the main statute protecting our online communications from unauthorized government access. Unfortunately, as our lives have moved online the law has remained stagnant, leaving dangerous loopholes in our privacy protections. A broad coalition including privacy and consumer advocates, civil rights organizations, tech companies, and members of Congress from both parties has been pushing for an update. Strong bipartisan legislation to update the law has over 200 sponsors and is making serious headway in Congress. Even the Department of Justice—the law enforcement agency with arguably the most to lose in such an update—testified that some ECPA loopholes need to be closed.

But the SEC is pushing back—essentially arguing that they should get to keep one of the loopholes that have developed as the law has aged. When ECPA was passed in 1986, Congress developed an elaborate framework aimed at mirroring existing constitutional protections. Newer email, less than 180 days old, was accessible only with a warrant. Based on the technology of the time, older email was assumed to be “abandoned” and was made accessible with a mere subpoena. Similarly, another category of digital records, “remote computing services,” was created for information you outsourced to another company for data processing. Seen as similar to business records, it could also be collected with a subpoena under the law.

Fast forward to the 21st Century. Now we keep a decade of email in our inboxes and "remote computing services” has morphed into Facebook keeping all our photos or Microsoft storing our Word documents in their cloud. Suddenly the SEC can access content in way it never could before.

more

https://www.aclu.org/blog/technology-and-liberty-national-security/sec-blocking-update-electronic-privacy-laws

Thought Secure, Pooled Pensions Teeter and Fall

The pensions of millions of Americans are being threatened because of trouble in a part of the retirement world long considered so safe that no one gave it a second thought.

The pensions belong to people in multiemployer plans — big pooled investment funds with many sponsoring companies and a union. Multiemployer pensions are not only backed by federal insurance, but they also were thought to be even more secure than single-company pensions because when one company in a multiemployer pool failed, the others were required to pick up its “orphaned” retirees.

Today, however, the aging of the work force, the decline of unions, deregulation and two big stock crashes have taken a grievous toll on multiemployer pensions, which cover 10 million Americans. Dozens of multiemployer plans have already failed, and some giant ones are teetering — including, notably, the Teamsters’ Central States pension plan, with more than 400,000 members.

In February, the Congressional Budget Office projected that the federal multiemployer insurer would run out of money in seven years, which would leave retirees in failed plans with nothing.


more

http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2014/04/12/thought-secure-pooled-pensions-teeter-and-fall/

The crooks aren't going to be satisfied until we all are destitute.
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