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Home country: USA
Current location: Georgia
Member since: Tue Feb 10, 2004, 12:08 PM
Number of posts: 39,919

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Environmental Scientist

Journal Archives

It's not Obama's war on coal, it's geology's war on coal

As the Environmental Protection Agency moves ahead with limits on carbon pollution from the nation's coal plants, you'll hear a lot of industry outrage about Obama's "war on coal." Don't believe it.

The truth is, the U.S. coal industry is already in dire straits, including here in Colorado — and it is due primarily to geology, not politics.

Coal is undeniably a non-renewable substance. We have been mining the easily accessible deposits for the last 150 years, and the planet isn't making any more on a time scale that matters to humans.

As a result, the U.S. coal industry is in serious financial distress — right now — months, and likely years, before any EPA carbon regulations actually go into effect.

Even if the EPA were to be eliminated tomorrow (not something we advocate), the U.S. coal industry would still likely be largely winding down in the next decade or so.



How Big Pharma began lobbying on the Trans-Pacific Partnership before you ever heard of it

In 2009, four years before the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was a widely-debated trade deal, few would have noticed a new issue popping up in a handful of lobbying reports. That year, 28 organizations filed 59 lobbying reports mentioning the then far-off trade agreement. Almost half of those organizations were pharmaceutical companies or associations.

It was an early clue as to which industry would take the most active role in trying to shape the trade agreement while it was still secret from the public. From 2009 until mid-2013 (the time during which the language of the agreement was still reasonably fluid), drug companies and associations mentioned the trade agreement in 251 separate lobbying reports – two and a half times more than the next most active industry (at least measured by lobbying reports).

It is an investment that appears to have paid off. The TPP is quite friendly to drug manufacturers, strengthening patent exclusivity and providing protections against bulk government purchasing (should it hurt profits). At the behest of the pharmaceutical industry, the U.S. is also pushing to limit the ability of national regulatory agencies to support generic drug development. All of this suggests that the active lobbying has paid off.

But the pharmaceutical industry is not alone in lobbying to shape the trade agreement (see Figure 1 below). Next on the list are auto manufacturers (101 reports), followed by clothing & accessories (89 reports), milk and dairy products (82 reports), and textiles and fabrics (82 reports). Figure 1 visualizes the top 20 most active industries, measured by lobbying reports that mention the Trans-Pacific Partnership or TPP by name.



The Koch Cycle of Endless Cash

It’s not enough, apparently, that some of the wealthiest Americans spend millions to elect their candidates to Congress. Now they are using their fortunes to lobby Congress against any limits on their ability to buy elections.

Koch Companies Public Sector, part of the industrial group owned by a well-known pair of conservative brothers, has hired a big-name firm to lobby Congress on campaign-finance issues, according to a registration form filed a few weeks ago. The form doesn’t say what those issues are, but there are several bills in the House that would reduce the role of anonymous big money in campaigns, and restrict the kinds of super PACs and nonprofit groups that the Koch brothers and others have inflated with cash.

The Senate is also planning to vote this year on a constitutional amendment that would overrule recent Supreme Court rulings and allow Congress and the states to limit donations to candidates, as well as spending on behalf of candidates. Clearly, it’s vital to the Kochs and others like them to prevent such limits from being enacted; their network raised $400 million in 2012, and it has been extremely active again this year. To that end, they have done something ordinary citizens cannot do: They hired the lobbying firm of a well-known former senator, Don Nickles, Republican of Oklahoma, to press their interests. Mr. Nickles started his firm a few months after leaving the Senate in 2005, and he takes in up to $8 million a year from big firms like Exxon Mobil, General Motors and Walmart.



CIA rendition jet was waiting in Europe to take Snowden in 2013

As the whistleblowing NSA sysadmin Edward Snowden made his dramatic escape to Russia a year ago, a secret US government jet - previously employed in CIA "rendition" flights on which terror suspects disappeared into invisible "black" imprisonment - flew into Europe in a bid to spirit him back to America, the Register can reveal.

On the evening of 24 June 2013, as Snowden arrived in Moscow from Hong Kong intending to fly on to Cuba, an unmarked Gulfstream V business jet - tail number N977GA - took off from a quiet commercial airport 30 miles from Washington DC. Manassas Regional Airport discreetly offers its clients "the personal accommodations and amenities you can't find at commercial airports".

Early next morning, N977GA was detected heading east over Scotland at the unusually high altitude of 45,000 feet. It had not filed a flight plan, and was flying above the level at which air traffic control reporting is mandatory.

"The plane showed up on our system at 5:20 on 25 June," according to our source, a member of an internet aircraft-tracking network run by enthusiasts in the UK. "We knew the reputation of this aircraft and what it had done in the past."



Not the Onion:Thad Cochran: As a kid, I did ‘all kinds of indecent things with animals'

In a campaign appearance on Tuesday, embattled Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran (R) raised eyebrows with what appeared to be an off-color joke about his rural boyhood.

The Jackson Clarion-Ledger reported that Cochran was addressing a group of donors and supporters at Forrest General Hospital in Hattiesburg.

The senator explained his connection to the area, saying that his grandparents lived their whole lives in the area.

“I grew up coming down here for Christmas,” he said. “My father’s family was here. My mother’s family was from rural Hinds County in Utica.”

“It was fun, it was an adventure to be out there in the country and to see what goes on,” he said of his boyhood visits to Hattiesburg. “Picking up pecans, from that to all kinds of indecent things with animals.”


Friday Toon Roundup 4: The Rest






Friday Toon Roundup 3: Iraq

Friday Toon Roundup 2: The New Religion

Friday Toon Roundup 1: Can't-or

Wednesday Toon Roundup 2- The Rest

The Swap




School Lunches


World Cup

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