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Environmental Scientist

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Toles Toon sums up 2016

I'll have the Walter White Special, Please"

Man sues In-N-Out Burger claiming drink contained methamphetamine
By City News Service

LOS ANGELES >> In-N-Out Burger was sued by a customer who claims he got sick from drinking a beverage he purchased at the Downey eatery he later found out contained two methamphetamine capsules.

Fred Maldonado filed the lawsuit Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleging negligence and strict liability. The complaint seeks unspecified damages.

The suit states that Maldonado bought a burger and drink from the drive-through lane of the restaurant on Firestone Boulevard on March 9, 2014. He then took the items back to his nearby motel room, the suit states.

The next morning Maldonado found two capsules and a napkin at the bottom of the drink cup, the suit states. He returned to the same In-N-Out location and told the manager, who apologized and offered him a certificate for a free burger, according to the complaint.


Expanse of warm water dubbed the blob consumes North Pacific

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Weird things are happening off the Pacific Coast.

And at the center of the action is a warm-water mass that scientists call "the blob."

It's turning the coastal ecosystem on its head. Species are dying along Washington, Oregon and northern California: sea stars, marine birds and sardines, among them.

It started in the fall of 2013 when the Gulf of Alaska's usual winter storms didn't show up to cool down the Pacific.

That gave rise to an expanse of warmer water, according to Bill Peterson of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

And it has spread. By last summer the blob had consumed the entire North Pacific from California to Canada. A few months later it had touched the West Coast shore. Now it spans 2,000 miles from Baja, Mexico to Alaska, stretching 500 miles wide.



Ruth Bader Ginsburg reveals the 'most disappointing' Supreme Court decision of her career

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg still is not happy about the 2010 Citizens United ruling that is responsible for opening the door for a whole new era in campaign funding and financing, she said Wednesday.

Speaking at an event at the Duke University School of Law on Wednesday, Ginsburg said the decision was the "most disappointing" ruling of her time on the bench, according to The New York Times, "because of what has happened to elections in the United States and the huge amount of money it takes to run for office."

Ginsburg's disapproval of the ruling is well documented — last year, she said that if she could overturn one decision of the past several years, Citizens United would be it.

The controversial 2010 decision, a 5-4 split roundly criticized on the left, expanded the idea of "corporate personhood," lifting restrictions on political spending by corporations and unions. It has dramatically changed the landscape for campaigns, allowing the creation of so-called super PACs that can accept unlimited contributions from donors. Those entities have allowed candidates to stay in races longer while flooding the airwaves with political advertisements.

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/ruth-bader-ginsburg-citizens-united-decision-2015-7

Bernie Sanders Again Draws Crowds in N.H. Swing


Bernie Sanders addresses a packed room at Southern New Hampshire University Saturday

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is back in the Granite State this weekend.

Saturday Sanders collected the endorsement of a major environmental Group, the Friends of the Earth, in Concord, before heading to town hall meetings in Manchester and Exeter. Sunday he’ll do three more town hall meetings in Rollinsford, Franklin and Claremont.

His early stops drew big crowds. “A lot has happened in three months,” he joked in Manchester, “Something happened on the way to a coronation.”

Sanders’ last visit was in late June, and since then the profile of his campaign has grown as thousands have flocked to hear his fiery denunciations of the super wealthy.



As Obamacare Takes Hold, Unpaid Hospital Bills Vanish

As hospital operators begin to report second period earnings — the sixth consecutive quarter of new revenue from once uninsured patients — the number and size of unpaid medical bills continues to fall thanks to the Affordable Care Act. The health law last year began to provide subsidized private health insurance coverage on public exchanges and expanded Medicaid for poor Americans. With increasing numbers signing up to private coverage and more states opting to expand Medicaid in the last 18 months, hospital companies are seeing expenses for charity and uncompensated care fall. A snapshot of this trend could be seen in last week’s earnings report of Universal Health Services (UHS), a large multi-state investor-owned operator of hospitals, which reported uncompensated care declined in the second quarter “as it has the last six quarters now,” Universal Health chief financial officer Steve Filton told analysts on the company’s second quarter earnings call.

Universal Health UHS +2.68% said its acute care hospitals have seen a “decrease in the aggregate of charity care, uninsured discounts and provision of doubtful accounts as a percentage of gross charges” this year through June 30 compared to the same period in 2014. Universal Health’s cost providing for so-called “doubtful accounts” dropped 17 percent to $274 million during the first half of the year from $331 million during the six-month period ended June 30, 2014.

Such trends, which helped Universal Health raise its earnings forecast for the rest of the year, should help the entire hospital industry, particularly as more states opt to expand Medicaid. Under the ACA, states have the option to expand Medicaid and 31 states including the District of Columbia have done so, according to the latest tally from the Kaiser Family Foundation. “We assume that the growth in our Medicaid patient base and utilization is related at least in large part to Medicaid expansion,” Filton told analysts. “We see it quite clearly most dramatically in those states, Nevada, California, the District of Columbia that have participated in Medicaid expansion.” Universal Health’s acute acre hospitals are located in California, Florida, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and the District of Columbia. An even clearer picture of U.S. hospital finances will emerge this week when Universal Health’s larger hospital operators report their earnings. Tenet Health (THC) and Community Health Systems (CYH) report Tuesday, HCA Holdings HCA +0.05% (HCA) reports on Wednesday.


This is how the clowns took over: The sad history leading to the spectacle of a Fox News debate

The road to Fox and Trump was paved by decades of right-wing loathing of the media, facts and reality

Fox News will air the first Republican presidential debates this week, choosing 10 out of 17 current candidates according to unspecified polls and permitting each candidate just one minute to answer questions. Donald Trump will hold center stage. This scenario, where a TV network calls the shots in a presidential debate and a consummate brand maker is the leading candidate, is the culmination of Movement Conservatism. Politics is no longer about policy or nuance, or even reality. It is simply a storyline designed to appeal to voters’ emotions.

Movement Conservatives began their corruption of American politics in the 1950s. Faced with opposing the New Deal reforms that regulated business and provided a social safety net, they had the terrible problem that those reforms were enormously popular. When voters weighed policies based on facts, they backed the New Deal and, later, Eisenhower’s similar Middle Way. To sell Movement Conservatives’ unpopular ideology, the young William F. Buckley Jr. attacked the idea that voters should engage with facts, openly debated in public. Since such debates had created the New Deal government, which was, to his mind, godless and communistic, they must be the wrong approach. Instead, he urged Movement Conservatives to push a worldview that inculcated their principles of religion and a free market economy. He illustrated how this was done in his 1951 “God and Man at Yale,” cherry-picking quotations, misrepresenting his opponents, and posing as a persecuted victim. In place of reality-based argument, Buckley substituted a narrative based in fear and outrage.

At first, Buckley’s approach to political engagement went nowhere. Americans were firmly committed to fact-based debate. In the late nineteenth century, America had had a viciously partisan press that had deliberately whipped up political passions. Partisanship ran so high that newspaper stories led directly to lynchings and riots and even to the assassination of President James Garfield. When this so-called yellow journalism helped push the country into the Spanish-American War, which led to a quagmire and subsequent atrocities in the Philippines, Americans pushed back. They demanded news that adhered to fact without editorializing, so readers could make up their own minds about how to interpret those facts.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, publishers deliberately moved away from partisanship and created newspapers designed to present the news without a partisan slant. The move toward news that presented facts rather than pushing an agenda exposed uncomfortable realities, including the extraordinary power of wealthy businessmen and the dangers of unregulated industries, which sold contaminated food, polluted water supplies and abused workers with impunity. The era’s journalists led the way to the popular reforms of the Progressive Era.



Scott Walker destroyed his state: Wisconsin’s economic cautionary tale

Taxing the poor to subsidize massive corporations is calamitous in the long term. Who would've guessed?

The continuum of American politics is not a straight line — it is more like a circle. Travel farther out on the right and left, and ultimately the sides bend to a common position on an issue like taxpayer subsidies for big business. To many progressives, such expenditures are giveaways to the already wealthy. To many conservatives, they are a free-market-distorting waste of taxpayer resources. Both sides also often criticize the subsidies as an instrument of cronyism and corruption.

In recent years, taxpayer subsidies for corporations have become a huge expense: The New York Times estimates that states and cities now spend more than $80 billion a year on such so-called “incentives.” For the most part, this gravy train has not faced much pressure to slow down.

But now, as the 2016 presidential campaign intensifies, both the left and the right will have a prime opportunity to spotlight its critiques. That is because one of the most prominent Republican presidential candidates — Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker — has made such subsidies a central part of his public policy agenda. Those subsidies have produced both high-profile scandals and lackluster economic results.
In 2011, Walker created the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation to give businesses taxpayer loans and grants. Within a few years, state auditors published reports spotlighting “concerns with WEDC’s administration and oversight of its economic development programs and its financial management.” Specifically, auditors said “WEDC did not require grant and loan recipients to submit information showing that contractually required jobs were actually created or retained” and also noted that money was handed out “in ways that did not consistently comply” with state law.

Much of the cash flowed to Walker’s political allies. According to a new report by the left-leaning One Wisconsin Institute, 60 percent of the $1.14 billion given out by the WEDC went to firms connected to Walker’s campaign contributors — that includes more than $2.1 million those donors have given Walker’s election campaigns directly.



Sunday's Doonesbury-Question for the Amateurs

Toon: Merit Badges for Modern Times

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