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Member since: Tue Feb 10, 2004, 01:08 PM
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Environmental Scientist

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Wednesday Toon Roundup 1-The Punishers

Cuts to food stamps will only hit 4 states

As of now, the cuts put forward by Republicans will only affect Michigan, Wisconsin, New Jersey and New Hampshire.


WASHINGTON (AP) - Cuts to the nation's food stamp program enacted this year are only affecting four states, far from the sweeping overhaul that Republicans had pushed, an Associated Press review has found.

As a result, it's unclear whether the law will realize the estimated $8.6 billion in savings over 10 years that the GOP had advertised.

A farm bill signed by President Barack Obama in February attempted to save money by scaling back what lawmakers called a loophole in the food stamp program that entitles low-income families to more food aid if they participate in a federal heating assistance program. States were giving some people as little as $1 a year in heating assistance so they could get more food aid. It's called "heat and eat."

Among the 16 states that allow the practice or some form of it, 12 governors have taken steps to avoid the food stamp cuts.



WSJ reports Blue Origin and Boeing will beat SpaceX for Space Station Crew Delivery

NASA is scheduled to make an announcement today about the competition for the Commercial Crew program, the space vehicle that will handle the delivery and return of crew members to the International Space Station and other orbital destinations. According to a report by the Wall Street Journal, Boeing and partner Blue Origin LLC have the inside track on a contract win.

Blue Origin had been a relatively low-profile space startup. Founded and funded by Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos, the company has been focused on developing spacecraft with a vertical takeoff-vertical landing first stage—similar to the technology that SpaceX has been working on with its Grasshopper and Falcon 9 launchers. But Blue Origin hasn’t published any information on further developments of its “New Shepard” suborbital vehicle for nearly two years while the company focused on development of its BE-3—a low-cost, reusable liquid hydrogen rocket engine.

It is the engine technology that attracted the attention of Boeing. In July, a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announcement said that Blue Origin was part of a Boeing team that entered a competition for an unmanned “space plane” launch system. Its low-cost engine addresses the competition's focus of dropping the cost of putting large satellites into orbit to under $5 million per launch. SpaceX was not included in the teams selected for the first phase of the program, called XS-1, by DARPA.

The Boeing partnership with Blue Origin will apparently also extend to Boeing’s joint venture with Lockheed Martin, called the United Launch Alliance. The Wall Street Journal reports that Bezos or a representative will be on hand for a press conference on Wednesday in Washington to announce that Blue Origin is joining that venture in an effort to domestically produce rocket engines for the United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rockets—replacing Russian-made engines.


Unseen Toll: Wages of Millions Seized to Pay Debts

Back in 2009, Kevin Evans was one of millions of Americans blindsided by the recession. His 25-year career selling office furniture collapsed. He shed the nice home he could no longer afford, but not a $7,000 credit card debt.

After years of spotty employment, Evans, 58, thought he'd finally recovered last year when he found a better-paying, full-time customer service job in Springfield, Mo. But early this year, he opened his paycheck and found a quarter of it missing. His credit card lender, Capital One, had garnished his wages. Twice a month, whether he could afford it or not, 25 percent of his pay 2014 the legal limit 2014 would go to his debt, which had ballooned with interest and fees to over $15,000.

"It was a roundhouse from the right that just knocks you down and out," Evans said.

The recession and its aftermath have fueled an explosion of cases like Evans'. Creditors and collectors have pursued struggling cardholders and other debtors in court, securing judgments that allow them to seize a chunk of even meager earnings. The financial blow can be devastating 2014 more than half of U.S. states allow creditors to take a quarter of after-tax wages. But despite the rise in garnishments, the number of Americans affected has remained unknown.

At the request of ProPublica, ADP, the nation's largest payroll services provider, undertook a study of 2013 payroll records for 13 million employees. ADP's report, released today, shows that more than one in 10 employees in the prime working ages of 35 to 44 had their wages garnished in 2013.



Massive 5,000-Year-Old Stone Monument Revealed in Israel

A lunar-crescent-shaped stone monument that dates back around 5,000 years has been identified in Israel.

Located about 8 miles (13 kilometers) northwest of the Sea of Galilee, the structure is massive — its volume is about 14,000 cubic meters (almost 500,000 cubic feet) and it has a length of about 150 meters (492 feet), making it longer than an American football field. Pottery excavated at the structure indicates the monument dates to between 3050 B.C. and 2650 B.C., meaning it is likely older than the pyramids of Egypt. It was also built before much of Stonehenge was constructed.

Archaeologists previously thought the structure was part of a city wall, but recent work carried out by Ido Wachtel, a doctoral student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, indicates there is no city beside it and that the structure is a standing monument.

"The proposed interpretation for the site is that it constituted a prominent landmark in its natural landscape, serving to mark possession and to assert authority and rights over natural resources by a local rural or pastoral population," Wachtel wrote in the summary of a presentation given recently at the International Congress on the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East.


Half of lower class Americans literally can’t afford to sleep

If it’s a Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, or Saturday, Sam McCalman wakes up in his tiny one-bedroom apartment in Flatbush well before the nearest Starbucks opens for business. He catches the 5am bus to the John F. Kennedy Airport in Queens. From 7am to 3pm, he works there as a wheelchair attendant, gently rolling disabled and elderly travelers from gate to gate. Between clients, he is not permitted to sit down.

After a 30-minute break, he starts his second job wrangling luggage carts for Smart Carte. At 10pm, his shift is over, and he takes the B15 or B35 back to Brooklyn. He often falls asleep on the bus—so much so he frequently misses his stop and has to walk the last few blocks back home. By the time he crawls into bed, it’s nearly midnight. Four and a half hours later, it’s time to do it all over again.

McCalman immigrated from Guyana, a small country that borders Venezuela and Brazil, in 2010. His mother was already here, and he describes himself as the kind of guy who always wanted to come to America. It presented “a better opportunity to do something,” he said.

He got the wheelchair job a few months later, and picked up the second in 2013 when he realized he needed some extra cash. A series of exes bore him four children—two of whom still live in Guyana—and he sends them a total of $400 each month. He also owes $900 a month for the packed, non-airconditioned apartment, which is decked out with religious iconography and vinyl-covered white furniture.



American families are stuck in a lost quarter century

Mark it down as another bleak milestone for the American middle class.

The US Census Bureau just published its annual update on income and poverty in the US. The data amount to one of the best report cards on the economic health of the US middle class.

At first blush, the news on incomes doesn’t look so horrible. Inflation-adjusted US median household incomes was essentially flat 2013—the Census Bureau said the rise to $51,939, wasn’t a statistically significant increase from 2012’s $51,758. (The median income is exact midpoint of the US income distribution. In other words, half the US households have incomes that are higher, and half have incomes that are lower.)
But the bigger picture is not great. Effectively, inflation-adjusted US median household incomes are still about 1% below where they were in 1989. That’s nearly 25 years ago. And median household incomes are still 9% below the all-time peak back in 1999, when they were $56,895. (They are also 8% below their recent high water mark in 2007, when they hit $56,436.)



Philippines orders evacuation as Mayon volcano threatens to erupt

Source: Guardian

Thousands of people living near the Philippines's most active volcano have begun leaving their homes as lava trickled down its slopes and authorities warned of a dangerous eruption.

Mayon, a volcano famed in equal parts for its near-perfect cone and brutal volatility, had begun to stir again with magma rising to the top and small earthquakes rattling deep inside, authorities said.

"A hazardous eruption is possible within weeks," the director of the state volcanology agency, Renato Solidum, told AFP.

Residents within an five-mile (8km) radius will be forcibly evacuated, said the regional civil defence director, Bernardo Alejandro.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/sep/16/philippines-mayon-volcano-eruption-warning?_ga=1.98708382.1025262515.1366297787

House votes to block EPA water rules

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Republican-controlled House on Tuesday approved a bill to block the Obama administration from implementing a rule that asserts regulatory authority over many of the nation's streams and wetlands — an action that critics call a classic Washington overreach.

The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed a rule that it says will clarify which streams and waterways are shielded from development under the Clean Water Act, an issue that remains in dispute even after two U.S. Supreme Court rulings.

Agriculture groups and farm-state politicians call the proposed rule a power grab that would allow the government to dictate what farmers can do on their own land. They said the rule is an example of governmental interference by bureaucrats who don't know as much as farmers and ranchers do about how to be good stewards of their land.

The EPA proposal would have "devastating consequences on every major aspect of the economy," from farming to manufacturing and road-building, Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Fla., said. Southerland is a co-sponsor of the bill, which would block the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers from developing or finalizing the proposed rule.

The House approved the bill, 262-152. Thirty-five Democrats joined 227 Republicans to support the bill. Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., was the sole Republican to oppose it.



They should all have to drink water from fracking areas...

The Most Important Issue of Our Time

It is Imperative.

The arc of American history is best seen as a march to expand the rights of all citizens to have an equal voice in our political system.

Generations of abolitionists helped ratify the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments to ensure equal protection under the law for all men and the right to vote regardless of race. Generations of suffragettes fought for nearly 150 years to ratify the 19th Amendment to gain every woman’s right to vote. A generation of civil rights leaders made good on the Constitution’s promise to ensure ballot access to all races with the 24th Amendment. And a generation of war veterans amended the Constitution to lower the voting age for our nation’s youngest soldiers.

America has a proud history in which nearly every generation has amended the Constitution to help expand democracy. Now it’s our generation’s turn to address perhaps the most important issue of our time – restoring government of, by, and for the people, not bought, paid, or sold to special interests.

The Supreme Court, in a series of decisions starting with Citizens United and most recently in McCutcheon, paved the way for unlimited and unaccountable dark money that has most Americans feeling like their voices are no longer heard.


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