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

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A Trumped-Up War on Welfare

By Bob Lord

You’re the top 1 percent. You pocket one out of every five dollars of the nation’s income — more than double your slice of that pie in 1976. You want even more, but the masses are catching on. What do you do?

You get your minions to attack the bottom 1 percent to distract the 98 percent in the middle.

That’s why the Cato Institute recently launched a woefully contrived “study” that reached the pre-ordained conclusion that welfare pays more than work — minimum wage work that is. Forbes, a leading business publication that calls itself a “capitalist tool,” proclaimed “On Labor Day 2013, Welfare Pays More Than Minimum-Wage Work In 35 States.”

Cato is a libertarian think tank funded and dominated by the multi-billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch.

Forbes of course trotted out the obligatory “compassionate” lines about how welfare creates the wrong incentives and “mires people in permanent poverty.” But the intended take-away was how the “national welfare championship” went to Hawaii, which according to Cato’s calculations lavishes up to $60,590 in annual welfare benefits on certain households.


Washington DC mayor vetoes 'living wage' bill aimed at big retailers

Washington, D.C.'s Mayor Vincent Gray on Thursday vetoed the so-called "living wage bill" that would have required big-box retailers such as Wal-Mart to pay workers at least $12.50 an hour.

“While the intentions of its supporters were good, this bill is simply a woefully inadequate and flawed vehicle for achieving the goal we all share,” said Gray in a statement. Formally called the Large Retailer Accountability Act of 013 (LRAA), Gray's statement said the bill would have harmed job growth and economic development.

The bill had set up a clash between the mayor, the bill's supporters and the big retail chains that was being watched closely by labor and other cities across the nation. Workers at retailers and fast food restaurants have been holding increasingly large and vocal protests to boost the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. Businesses have argued that raising the wage would end up harming workers by reducing jobs.

Wal-Mart had said it would not build three of six planned stores if the D.C. bill became law. The D.C. Council approved it in July on an 8-5 vote, which is one short of a veto-proof majority. Major U.S. retailers, also including Target Corp. and Home Depot Inc., had opposed the bill.


Wall-Mart thanks you for your service to them, Mayor.

JK Rowling agrees to screen write for new Potter-verse Film

Warner Bros. announced on 12th September 2013 that J.K. Rowling would be making her screenwriting debut with 'Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them', the first in a new film series which is part of their expanded creative partnership with J.K. Rowling. The films will be inspired by Harry Potter’s Hogwarts textbook of the same name, and will feature the book’s fictitious author, Newt Scamander.

“It all started when Warner Bros. came to me with the suggestion of turning 'Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them' into a film. I thought it was a fun idea, but the idea of seeing Newt Scamander, the supposed author of 'Fantastic Beasts', realized by another writer was difficult. Having lived for so long in my fictional universe, I feel very protective of it and I already knew a lot about Newt. As hard-core Harry Potter fans will know, I liked him so much that I even married his grandson, Rolf, to one of my favourite characters from the Harry Potter series, Luna Lovegood.

As I considered Warners’ proposal, an idea took shape that I couldn’t dislodge. That is how I ended up pitching my own idea for a film to Warner Bros.

Although it will be set in the worldwide community of witches and wizards where I was so happy for seventeen years, 'Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them' is neither a prequel nor a sequel to the Harry Potter series, but an extension of the wizarding world. The laws and customs of the hidden magical society will be familiar to anyone who has read the Harry Potter books or seen the films, but Newt’s story will start in New York, seventy years before Harry’s gets underway.

I particularly want to thank Kevin Tsujihara of Warner Bros. for his support in this project, which would not have happened without him. I always said that I would only revisit the wizarding world if I had an idea that I was really excited about and this is it.”


Who's a "Moderate" Rebel in Syria? Check the Handwritten Receipts

—By Dana Liebelson |

In recent weeks, the Obama administration and hawks favoring a strike on Syria have called for the continued support of supposedly moderate rebels fighting Bashar al-Assad's regime. The United States has been sending millions of dollars in nonlethal aid to the rebels since February, and in June President Obama authorized secretly supplying weapons to opposition fighters. But with hundreds of Syrian rebel groups battling the regime—ranging from the relatively moderate Free Syrian Army (FSA) to the Al Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front—can the administration ensure that US aid is not winding up in the wrong hands? A system designed to monitor the disbursement of nonlethal supplies to the rebels is supposed to make sure assistance goes only to vetted fighters—but, according to government oversight experts, it relies on too much good faith.

The Syrian Support Group, a US-based nonprofit that is the only organization the Obama administration has authorized to hand out nonlethal US-funded supplies to the rebels, insists it keeps track of who's receiving this assistance based on handwritten receipts provided by rebel commanders in the field. According to Dan Layman, a spokesman for the group, this level of oversight is sufficient to guarantee US assistance is going to the right rebels and is being used appropriately. "What we're getting from in receipts directly reflects what's been given out and to whom, I'm very confident," he says. "The government regularly asks us for updates and new receipts, often faster than we can produce them." Layman doesn't know if or how the US government verifies these receipts.

Khalid Saleh, the spokesman for the Syrian National Coalition, the chief political body representing the US-backed rebel forces, says countries supporting the rebels are doing audits of the delivery of lethal and nonlethal supplies, but he adds that he "cannot comment on which countries are performing the audits." The State Department did not respond to questions from Mother Jones.

In 2012, Brian Sayers, then the Washington lobbyist for the Syrian Support Group, told McClatchy that "obviously, it's always going to be difficult to say who's the end user for every cent, every dollar, but we don't see that the military councils will provide funds to the fringe groups." Relying on local commanders to guarantee US assistance is managed effectively could lead to "massive corruption," warns Aki Peritz, a senior policy adviser for Third Way and a former CIA counterterrorism analyst. Peritz notes that the supplies being handed out by the Syrian Support Group can be sold for cash or traded for weapons and ammunition.



Putin's remarks about American exceptionalism, Syria raise hackles

MOSCOW, Sept. 12 (UPI) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin's commentary urging caution in Syria prompted a flurry of comments, including a U.S. senator saying he wanted to vomit.

Putin's commentary arguing against military intervention in Syria over chemical weapons use was published by The New York Times Wednesday. Among other things he said it was "alarming" that military intervention in foreign matters "has become commonplace for the United States."

But what really got some people ticked off was Putin's remarks about President Obama's comments on what makes the United States exceptional during his national address Tuesday night, CNN reported Thursday.

"It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation," he wrote, concluding that, "We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord's blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal."

Read more: http://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2013/09/12/Putins-remarks-about-American-exceptionalism-Syria-raise-hackles/UPI-93881378994206/

Health law's ailments can be cured by single-payer system

All the shortcomings of the healthcare restructuring result from the decision to leave it in the hands of private insurers

By Michael Hiltzik
Los Angeles Times, Sept. 10, 2013

With the Oct. 1 rollout of a major facet of the Affordable Care Act on the horizon, you'll be hearing a lot about the glitches, loopholes and shortcomings of this most important restructuring of America's healthcare system in our lifetimes. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind:

First, the vast majority of these issues result from one crucial compromise made in the drafting of the 2010 law, ostensibly to ease its passage through Congress. That was to leave the system in the hands of private health insurance companies.

Second, there's an obvious way to correct this flaw: The country should progress on to a single-payer system.



This is a complete list of Wall Street CEOs prosecuted for their role in the financial crisis

By Neil Irwin, Published: September 12 at 9:54 amE-mail the writer
Five years after Lehman fell, taking the global economy along with it, a roll call of Wall Street CEOs serving time for their role in the crisis looks something like this:

So, yeah. Zero Wall Street CEOs are in jail. And that’s not because the federal government tried to prosecute a bunch of them but lost the cases. There were no serious effortsat criminal prosecutions at all.

Which isn’t to say nobody is in jail. There have been prosecutions of various mortgage brokers and other small fish who lied or encouraged clients to lie on their applications for a home loan. The crisis exposed some outright fraudsters who are now in the slammer, such as Bernie Madoff and Allen Stanford. And, yes, major banks have been working through billions of dollars in civil settlements for shady behavior in the runup to the crisis.

But it’s shocking that for a crisis that drove the global economy off a cliff, caused millions of people to lose their homes and generally spread mass human misery to almost every corner of the earth there is no defining prosecution. No man or woman who led one of the firms directly culpable for the catastrophe has been put in a prison-orange jumpsuit. You might think that by now we could say that orange is the new charcoal pinstripes. But we can’t.



Mo. Legislature Override Veto on Lead Lawsuit Bill

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A lead mining company won a legal shield against the potential for large-dollar judgments in some liability lawsuits as the Missouri Legislature voted Wednesday to override a gubernatorial veto of the measure.

The bill is crafted to benefit The Doe Run Co., which is facing numerous lawsuits, including one scheduled for trial in October alleging that contamination from old lead mining operations caused mental and behavioral health problems for children in St. Francois County.

Officials at Doe Run had asserted that a costly jury judgment could drive it out of business, resulting in the loss of hundreds of jobs in eastern Missouri. The company even offered tours of its facilities to lawmakers in the weeks leading up to the veto override. The company’s lobbying effort appeared to pay off.

“This company — Doe Run — is destroyed if we don’t take action,” Sen. Dan Brown, a Republican from Rolla, said Wednesday while urging colleagues to support the veto override.

“This bill is not about jobs — this bill is just about money,” said Rep. John Wright, D-Rocheport.



Shale criminal charges stun fracking industry

Andrew Maykuth, Inquirer Staff Writer POSTED: Thursday, September 12, 2013, 1:08 AM
Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane's decision to prosecute a major Marcellus Shale natural-gas driller for a 2010 wastewater spill has sent shock waves through the industry.

But environmentalists Wednesday hailed the prosecution of the Exxon Mobil Corp. subsidiary as a departure from the soft treatment they say the industry has received from Pennsylvania regulators.

"We have been very concerned about enforcement in the Marcellus, and we welcome the attorney general's taking an active role," said Myron Arnowitt, Pennsylvania director of Clean Water Action.

Kane's office announced charges Tuesday against XTO Energy Inc. for discharging more than 50,000 gallons of toxic wastewater from storage tanks at a gas-well site in Lycoming County. XTO in July settled federal civil charges over the incident by agreeing to pay a $100,000 fine and deploy a plan to improve wastewater-management practices. The consent decree included no admissions of liability.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/business/20130912_AG_s_criminal_charges_stun_drilling_industry.html#Rs6ShQ4gzlpSkopO.99

Yes, weird Christian beliefs do influence America


Does it really matter that America is home to a bunch of religious fanatics who constantly spin lurid and offensive ideas about how the world works? It’s an interesting question, in light of the inevitable fundamentalist wankery that has risen up in response to discussion over the United States intervening in the civil war in Syria. USA Today published an article about the various Christian “end times” fanatics who are latching onto the Syrian conflict as evidence for their apocalypse that never quite comes.

Hamilton Nolan of Gawker was skeptical, noting that the article was vague about which Christian websites were making these connections and that the only named Christians cautioned against making these connections. After a bit of quick digging, Nolan discovered that one of the most mainstream conduits of the Syria = Apocalypse theory is the Blaze, Glenn Beck’s website. “Fear not, humanity,” Nolan wrote, “all remains in equilibrium.” The implication being that Glenn Beck and the Blaze are understood as marginal characters, so their rantings shouldn’t be of any concern to the average Gawker reader.

It’s a common refrain aimed at any journalist who covers the religious right and its weird, paranoid mindset, as I did recently on AlterNet with a list of 10 Christian conspiracy theories. The idea is that by giving these marginal characters attention, you actually make the problem worse. A recent Cracked article flirted with that idea, describing Robertson’s show as “a fundamentalist Christian slant that lost its cultural cachet years ago” and suggesting that by giving attention to the crazy things Robertson says, the media lets the 700 Club “pretend to be relevant again.”


The problem with that theory is that right-wing, apocalypse-obsessed Christians are not marginal characters who have little power in the world. They constitute a huge percentage of Americans, and just as disturbingly, they have influence over another huge number of Americans. They actually don’t want attention drawn to their wacky beliefs a good deal of the time. On the contrary, the preferred fundamentalist right-wing communication strategy is to use their own spaces—spaces that are often far from the prying eyes of the larger world—to talk about their lurid fantasies, and they prefer to show a more sensible, moderate face to the larger world.

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