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Home country: USA
Current location: Georgia
Member since: Tue Feb 10, 2004, 12:08 PM
Number of posts: 32,663

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Environmental Scientist

Journal Archives

Price tag for the American dream: $130K a year

No idea is more central to Americans’ outlook than the American dream — the belief that with hard work and the freedom to pursue your destiny you can achieve success and provide better opportunities for your children.

Historian John Truslow Adams, who coined the term, called it “the greatest contribution we have made to the thought and welfare of the world.” It has inspired millions of people from every corner of the globe to come here in search of liberty and opportunity.But the financial crisis, housing bust and Great Recession have caused more of us to worry that the American dream is out of reach.

For the vast majority of Americans, there is a sense that achieving the American dream is becoming more difficult,” wrote Mark Robert Rank, Thomas A. Hirschl and Kirk A. Foster in a new book, “Chasing the American Dream.”

They’re right to worry. An analysis by USA TODAY shows that living the American dream would cost the average family of four about $130,000 a year. Only 16 million U.S. households — around 1 in 8 — earned that much in 2013, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.



For-profit college to sell most campuses

WASHINGTON (AP) — The troubled for-profit education company Corinthian Colleges Inc. and the Education Department reached an agreement late Thursday that has 85 of the company's 100-plus campuses going up for sale, and 12 others closing.

Corinthian owns Everest College, Heald College and WyoTech schools. It serves about 72,000 students in 26 states and Ontario, Canada, and receives about $1.4 billion in federal financial student aid annually. The highest concentrations of students are in California, Florida and Texas. Students generally receive career training in areas such as auto mechanics or health care.

Jack Massimino, Corinthian's chairman and chief officer, praised the agreement in a statement.

"This agreement allows our students to continue their education and helps minimize the personal and financial issues that affect our 12,000 employees and their families," Massimino said. "It also provides a blueprint for allowing most of our campuses to continue serving their students and communities under new ownership."



Going Without Water in Detroit


The average monthly water bill in Detroit is $75 for a family of four — nearly twice the United States average — and the department is increasing rates this month by 8.7 percent. Over the past decade, sales have decreased by 20 to 30 percent, while the water department’s fixed costs and debt have remained high. Nonpayment of bills is also common. The increasing strain on the department’s resources is then passed on to customers.

But residents aren’t the only ones with delinquent accounts. Darryl Latimer, the department’s deputy director, told me that the State of Michigan holds its biggest bill: $5 million for water at state fairgrounds. (The state disputes the bill, arguing that it’s not responsible for the costs of infrastructure leaks.)

A local news investigation revealed that Joe Louis Arena, home of the Detroit Red Wings, owed $82,255 as of April. Ford Field, where the Detroit Lions play, owed more than $55,000. City-owned golf courses owed more than $400,000. As of July 2, none had paid. Mr. Latimer said the Department of Water and Sewerage would post notice, giving these commercial customers 10 days to pay before cutting service. But he did not say when.

And in the meantime the city is going after any customers who are more than 60 days late and owe at least $150.


There should be riots over this

Iraq's Sunni insurgency waged by convenient bedfellows

The protests that sprouted last year in the Sunni Arab village of Karmah were a peaceful sort, tribal leader Laurence Hardan recalled, with residents “wearing dishdashas and carrying the Koran” in opposition to the Shiite Muslim-led Iraqi government.

It is a very different scene in Karmah now, Hardan said. Under siege by Iraqi security forces, the village is guarded all around by a latticework of Sunni militias — tribal fighters, neo-Baathists, ex-army officers and militants with the powerful Al Qaeda offshoot, the Islamic State.

“You name the group and they’re here,” Hardan said with pride, speaking by phone from the village in central Iraq, 50 miles west of Baghdad. “We are using any means to defend ourselves.”

As anger at Prime Minister Nouri Maliki’s government has deepened, the armed Sunni opposition has grown more diverse and unified than Iraqi and U.S. officials often acknowledge.



Maliki was the Bush-gift that just keeps on giving.....sort of like a poison pill for the region.

Feathers Before Flight: New Evidence from Crow-like Dino

A new fossil specimen of the dinosaur Archaeopteryx has been discovered, and it's utterly covered in feathers from head to toe. Researchers say that this could provide new evidence that feathers evolved long before flight was a reality.

It has long been thought that the iconic bird-like dinosaur Archaeopteryx never actually took to the skies, despite heavy feathering. Past fossils have shown that the crow-sized animal certainly sported feathers on its wings and tail, but a new 150-million-year-old fossil revealed that the animal was completely covered with long shafted feathers.

Interestingly, the placement of these long feathers, called "pennaceous" feather - similar to those seen in flying birds today - does not make much sense for flight, indicating that they may have been used for other purposes long before flight became a primary mode of movement.

Mark Norell, a paleontologist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, has spent years studying feathered dinosaur fossils.



Evolution vs. creationism: Does this cartoon belong in Grady High School biology class?

By Maureen Downey
A reader sent me a note about this anti-evolution cartoon, which was shown to a freshman biology class at Atlanta's Grady High School as part of a PowerPoint presentation.

"I just can't believe that this didn't hit the media in a bigger way. I'm pretty horrified by the idea that my children heading off to Grady might experience this. I think it needs to be addressed by the larger community," wrote the reader.

The Grady High student newspaper, the Southerner, did an excellent job reporting on the cartoon and the fallout.Grady High student journalists Josh Weinstock and Archie Kinnane invested a lot of time into their careful reporting. I'm disappointed Atlanta Public Schools did not respond when approached by the Southerner reporters in May. Someone from the district should have explained to the Southerner and the greater Grady High community why this cartoon was in an APS file-sharing database for teachers.

I reached out to APS Wednesday, recognizing, that while this occurred before the watch of brand new APS superintendent Meria Carstarphen, parents and students were still hoping for a response.

"It appears that this science lesson plan was not properly vetted prior to being uploaded to the district’s SharePoint website last summer. When the district learned of the PowerPoint presentation and worksheet that is in question, the lesson and supporting documents were reviewed, and they were immediately removed," said APS spokeswoman Jill Strickland Luse in an email Wednesday. "The district is currently reviewing the vetting process for all lesson plans prior to uploading them for instruction. In addition, the curriculum coordinators will review lesson plans with teachers as part of their pre-planning session later this month."



What did $7 billion spent on opium eradication in Afghanistan buy? More opium.

With the outcome of Afghanistan's controversial presidential election still in doubt, and uncertainty over Afghan forces' ability to stand against the Taliban after most US forces withdraw, it's hard to say with certainty what the US-led war there has accomplished, or failed to accomplish.

But one thing is clear, as shown by latest quarterly report from the US Special Inspector General on Afghanistan Reconstruction: The $7 billion US program to eradicate poppy cultivation there over the past decade has been a flop.

The country is today the world's largest supplier of opium, the purified latex sap from the Papaver somniferum poppy species that is usually then converted into heroin. It accounts for about three-quarters of the global recreational supply, and surging Afghan production is one reason why street heroin prices have been falling across the globe.

What has the anti-opium effort in Afghanistan yielded US taxpayers?

The latest (United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime) Opium Survey estimates that 209,000 hectares are under opium-poppy cultivation, an all-time high and a 36% increase from 2012.



Paul Krugman- Build we won't

You often find people talking about our economic difficulties as if they were complicated and mysterious, with no obvious solution. As the economist Dean Baker recently pointed out, nothing could be further from the truth. The basic story of what went wrong is, in fact, almost absurdly simple: We had an immense housing bubble, and, when the bubble burst, it left a huge hole in spending. Everything else is footnotes.

And the appropriate policy response was simple, too: Fill that hole in demand. In particular, the aftermath of the bursting bubble was (and still is) a very good time to invest in infrastructure. In prosperous times, public spending on roads, bridges and so on competes with the private sector for resources. Since 2008, however, our economy has been awash in unemployed workers (especially construction workers) and capital with no place to go (which is why government borrowing costs are at historic lows). Putting those idle resources to work building useful stuff should have been a no-brainer.

But what actually happened was exactly the opposite: an unprecedented plunge in infrastructure spending. Adjusted for inflation and population growth, public expenditures on construction have fallen more than 20 percent since early 2008. In policy terms, this represents an almost surreally awful wrong turn; we’ve managed to weaken the economy in the short run even as we undermine its prospects for the long run. Well played!

And it’s about to get even worse. The federal highway trust fund, which pays for a large part of American road construction and maintenance, is almost exhausted. Unless Congress agrees to top up the fund somehow, road work all across the country will have to be scaled back just a few weeks from now. If this were to happen, it would quickly cost us hundreds of thousands of jobs, which might derail the employment recovery that finally seems to be gaining steam. And it would also reduce long-run economic potential.

How did things go so wrong? As with so many of our problems, the answer is the combined effect of rigid ideology and scorched-earth political tactics. The highway fund crisis is just one example of a much broader problem.



What wen't wrong? Republicans.

Fourth of July Toon Roundup





The issue




Hoping everyone has an enjoyable and safe 4th!

L.A's first cannabis farmer's market to open Friday

Los Angeles' first-ever cannabis farmer's market will open for business Friday, where up to 50 pot vendors will sell their wares to card-carrying patients.

Organizers of the California Heritage Market plan to showcase high-quality cannabis vendors and growers from throughout the state. The market will be held at West Coast Collective, a marijuana dispensary in Boyle Heights.

So far, city and police officials have not publicly objected to the event.

"It is very clear what we are doing here and we are following the law as it written," said Paizley Bradbury, 22, event organizer and the collective's executive director.

For organizers, the concept is simple -- give marijuana card-carrying patients direct access to medicinal products without steep dispensary costs.


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