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

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Tuesday Toon Roundup







Texas Bikers


Slowpoke Toon: "Pro Life"

Russia Plans to Use Prison Labor for 2018 World Cup

Russian authorities want to use prison labor to drive down the costs of holding the 2018 World Cup.

The Russian prison service is backing a bid by Alexander Khinshtein, a lawmaker from the ruling United Russia party, to allow prisoners to be taken from their camps to work at factories, with a focus on driving down the costs of building materials for World Cup projects.

"It'll help in the sense that there will be the opportunity to acquire building materials for a lower price, lower than there is currently on the market," Khinshtein told The Associated Press. "And apart from that it'll make it possible to get prisoners into work, which is very positive."

Russian prison labor schemes have faced allegations that prisoners are routinely underpaid or forced to work long hours. In 2013, the then-imprisoned Pussy Riot band member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova went on hunger strike in protest at working conditions in her prison camp.

Russia's Federal Penitentiary Service has been working with Khinshtein to draw up the proposals, said the lawmaker, adding that they will be submitted to parliament soon.


4th biggest Cable Company to Buy 2nd biggest cable company

Charter Communications Inc. is near an agreement to buy Time Warner Cable Inc. for about $55.1 billion in cash and stock, according to people familiar with the matter.

Charter will pay about $195 a share, with $100 in cash and the rest in its own stock, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the talks are confidential. The deal could be announced as soon as tomorrow, they said. Bright House Networks, a smaller cable company that Charter is trying to buy, will also be merged into the combined entity, they said.

Charter, the fourth-biggest U.S. cable company, is making its second move on No. 2 Time Warner Cable after its early 2014 bid was rejected and Comcast Corp. swooped in with a competing offer. Charter, whose largest shareholder is billionaire John Malone, got another shot when the Comcast deal fell apart in April because of regulatory scrutiny.

Spokespeople for Charter and Time Warner Cable declined to comment.

The price is 14 percent above Time Warner Cable’s closing price on May 22. Shareholders will have the option to accept as much as $115 a share in cash and less Charter stock, the people said. The deal value of $55.1 billion is for Time Warner’s equity. Charter also will assume debt in the transaction.


Antitrust, anyone?

Utah is winning the war on chronic homelessness with 'Housing First' program

Terry Birch recalls walking cautiously into the tiny one-bedroom apartment seven months ago, like a cat exploring a box, or something wild fearful of a trap.

After two decades on the streets, he finally had a real roof over his head, a home to call his own. It was clean, private and safe, but also scary and confusing.

"I couldn't get used to the four walls. It felt like they were closing in on me," he said, sitting in the living room of unit No. 2 at the

Metro Apartments. "On the streets, I had no responsibility, other than keeping myself clean."

He paused, surveying his surroundings: "And then this."

This is "Housing First," a novel effort by Utah to attack an intractable social ill. The state provides apartments to the chronically homeless and worries about addressing the underlying causes, such as drug abuse, later. By allowing bodies to rest and heal, housing officials say, emotional health will probably follow.

Last month, officials announced that they had reduced by 91% the ranks of the chronically homeless — defined as someone who has spent at least one year full-time on the streets — and are now approaching "functional zero."



EU dropped plans for safer pesticides because of TTIP and pressure from US

EU plans to regulate hormone-damaging chemicals found in pesticides have been dropped because of threats from the US that this would adversely affect negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), according to a report in The Guardian. Draft EU regulations would have banned 31 pesticides containing endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) that have been linked to testicular cancer and male infertility.

Just after the official launch of the TTIP negotiations on 13 June 2013, a US business delegation visited EU officials to demand that the proposed regulations governing EDCs should be thrown out in favour of a further "impact study." Minutes of the meeting on June 26 show Commission officials saying that "although they want the TTIP to be successful, they would not like to be seen as lowering the EU standards." Nonetheless, the European Commission capitulated shortly afterwards.

That climbdown was despite repeated promises from the European Commission that TTIP would not jeopardise EU health and safety standards. For example, a Commission factsheet on Pesticides in TTIP from February 2015 states: "TTIP will not lower the food safety standards for pesticides." The Guardian report demonstrates that plans to strengthen regulations governing EDCs were blocked, which is equivalent to a lowering of future standards that would have been introduced had it not been for TTIP.

As well as giving the lie to assurances that health and safety would not be compromised in order to reach an agreement on TTIP, the European Commission's move makes no sense from a purely economic standpoint. The claimed benefit from an "ambitious" TTIP agreement is £100 billion in 2027. According to "the most comprehensive study of the subject yet published," the health costs of EDCs to Europe are between £113 billion and £195 billion (between €160 and €277 billion) every year. Tackling EDCs with more stringent safety rules could potentially provide a far bigger boost to the EU economy than even the most optimistic—and unrealistic—predictions for TTIP. And yet the European Commission decided it was more important to appease the US than save money or protect EU citizens.



Bob Woodward providing cover for Bush crimes and blame for Obama

The righties are all over this one......

Bob Woodward Shoots Down Story That Bush Lied to Get U.S. in Iraq War, Implies Obama Troop Pullout Was Wrong Move
May. 24, 2015 7:45pm Dave Urbanski

Legendary journalist Bob Woodward shot down the notion that President George W. Bush lied to get America involved in the Iraq War in 2003 — and strongly implied President Obama didn’t make the right call by ordering the U.S. troop pullout.

Appearing on Fox News Sunday, the Washington Post icon and bestselling author noted that Bush made mistakes leading up to the war — but came down hard on the “line” saying Bush lied.

“I spent 18 months looking at how Bush decided to invade Iraq … lots of mistakes, but it was Bush telling George Tenet the CIA director, ‘Don’t let anyone stretch the case on WMD.’ And he was the one who was skeptical,” Woodward told host Chris Wallace.

More from Woodward:

“And if you try to summarize why we went into Iraq, it was momentum. That war plan kept getting better and easier, and finally at the end people were saying, ‘Hey, look, it’ll only take a week or two.’ And early on it looked like it was going to take a year or 18 months, and so Bush pulled the trigger. A mistake certainly can be argued, and there’s an abundance of evidence. But there was no lie in this that I could find.”


(Look, I tried to find a 'legit' left wing source but couldn't. I think the propaganda speaks for itself, though. Maybe we should call him Baghdad Bob Woodward from now on....)

Nature faces off against politics in North Carolina

by Kirk Ross

RALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA — During the early morning hours of May 2, part of the northbound lane of North Carolina Highway 12 in Kitty Hawk broke off and washed into the Atlantic Ocean.

While the loss of 200 feet of roadway and about 500 feet of a protective sand berm will be temporary, it was more than just another hit to the road from a big spring storm at high tide under a full moon. In a state that has been engaged in a highly charged, highly politicized debate about climate change for more than five years, it was a reminder that the Atlantic isn’t waiting to see who wins the argument.

It was also a reminder that North Carolina, with its rapidly developing coastline and intricate ecological network of sounds and estuaries, has a lot at stake as sea levels rise. The state has more than 300 miles of direct coastline and thousands of miles of tidal areas. Like much of the Southeastern U.S. coast, commercial and residential development is growing more concentrated on barrier islands that move over time, rolling over themselves and drifting toward and away from the mainland with the rise and fall of the sea.

Given the nature of the North Carolina coast and the intense energy of waves in the Atlantic, official public policy has been not to try to fight the ocean but to deal with its effects. Since the early 1980s the state has prohibited hardened structures like seawalls and jetties. Only recently has it allowed construction of a small number of jetties to protect areas threatened by heavy erosion and to keep inlets clear for boat traffic.

Coastal scientists have conducted extensive modeling on North Carolina’s inlets and coastline and for more than a decade have looked for ways to include analyses of the impact of rising sea levels in their models.


Paul Krugman- The Big Meh

Remember Douglas Adams’s 1979 novel “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”? It began with some technology snark, dismissing Earth as a planet whose life-forms “are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.” But that was then, in the early stages of the information technology revolution.

Since then we’ve moved on to much more significant things, so much so that the big technology idea of 2015, so far, is a digital watch. But this one tells you to stand up if you’ve been sitting too long!

O.K., I’m snarking, too. But there is a real question here. Everyone knows that we live in an era of incredibly rapid technological change, which is changing everything. But what if what everyone knows is wrong? And I’m not being wildly contrarian here. A growing number of economists, looking at the data on productivity and incomes, are wondering if the technological revolution has been greatly overhyped — and some technologists share their concern.

We’ve been here before. “The Hitchhiker’s Guide” was published during the era of the “productivity paradox,” a two-decade-long period during which technology seemed to be advancing rapidly — personal computing, cellphones, local area networks and the early stages of the Internet — yet economic growth was sluggish and incomes stagnant. Many hypotheses were advanced to explain that paradox, with the most popular probably being that inventing a technology and learning to use it effectively aren’t the same thing. Give it time, said economic historians, and computers will eventually deliver the goods (and services).

This optimism seemed vindicated when productivity growth finally took off circa 1995. Progress was back — and so was America, which seemed to be at the cutting edge of the revolution.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the techno-revolution. We did not, it turned out, get a sustained return to rapid economic progress. Instead, it was more of a one-time spurt, which sputtered out around a decade ago. Since then, we’ve been living in an era of iPhones and iPads and iDontKnows, but even if you adjust for the effects of financial crisis, growth and trends in income have reverted to the sluggishness that characterized the 1970s and 1980s.


Life in the slow lane

ON FRIDAY afternoons, residents of Washington, DC, often find a clear route out of the city as elusive as a deal to cut the deficit. Ribbons of red rear-lights stretch off into the distance along the highways that radiate from the city's centre. Occasionally, adventurous southbound travellers experiment with Amtrak, America's national rail company. The distance from Washington to Raleigh, North Carolina (a metropolitan area about the size of Brussels) is roughly the same as from London's St Pancras Station to the Gare du Nord in Paris. But this is no Eurostar journey.

Trains creep out of Washington's Union Station and pause at intervals, inexplicably, as they travel through the northern Virginia suburbs. In the summer, high temperatures threaten to kink the steel tracks, forcing trains to slow down even more. Riders may find themselves inching along behind a lumbering freight train for miles at a time, until the route reaches a side track on which the Amtrak train can pass. The trip takes six hours, well over twice as long as the London-Paris journey, if there are no delays. And there often are.

America, despite its wealth and strength, often seems to be falling apart. American cities have suffered a rash of recent infrastructure calamities, from the failure of the New Orleans levees to the collapse of a highway bridge in Minneapolis, to a fatal crash on Washington, DC's (generally impressive) metro system. But just as striking are the common shortcomings. America's civil engineers routinely give its transport structures poor marks, rating roads, rails and bridges as deficient or functionally obsolete. And according to a World Economic Forum study America's infrastructure has got worse, by comparison with other countries, over the past decade. In the WEF 2010 league table America now ranks 23rd for overall infrastructure quality, between Spain and Chile. Its roads, railways, ports and air-transport infrastructure are all judged mediocre against networks in northern Europe.

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