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ND-Dem's Journal
ND-Dem's Journal
April 19, 2015

'Green Gables' star Jonathan Crombie dies at 48

For many women of Generation X, Jonathan Crombie was their first PBS crush, even if they didn't know his name.

He played Gilbert Blythe, the school rival, boyfriend and eventual husband of the heroine in the beloved Anne of Green Gables movies.

Crombie, 48, died of a brain hemmorhage Wednesday In New York, his sister Carrie told the Canadian Broadcasting Company Saturday.

Though he would go on to star in the Broadway play The Drowsy Chaperone, Crombie is best remembered for his work as Gilbert. He was never bothered by the fame it brought him and even answered to the name Gil when recognized on the street, she says.

"I think he was really proud of being Gilbert Blythe and was happy to answer any questions," she told the CBC. "He really enjoyed that series and was happy, very proud of it — we all were," she said.

The son of former Toronto mayor and Canadian Cabinet minister David Crombie, he beat out fellow Canadian and future 90210 star Jason Priestly for the role. "We never screen-tested him," Green Gables producer Kevin Sullivan told the CBC. "We met him and he was cast. It was a perfect storm. ... It just all worked perfectly."


April 18, 2015

Affleck wanted slave-owning ancestor censored from PBS program

Emails related to last year's Sony hacking reveal that Ben Affleck asked the PBS program "Finding Your Roots" to remove references to an ancestor who owned slaves from his family tree.

After asking for advice from Sony chief Michael Lynton, host Henry Louis Gates, Jr. complied with the request, a decision he defended, releasing a statement saying "In the case of Mr. Affleck we focused on what we felt were the most interesting aspects of his ancestry."


April 18, 2015

Ron Wyden close to deal on 'fast-track' trade legislation

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., is near to reaching a deal with Republicans on a "fast-track" trade bill regarded as crucial to later producing congressional agreement on a sweeping Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact with 12 Pacific Rim nations.

"We are close to finding common ground," Wyden said Thursday morning in a Senate Finance Committee hearing as the panel's chairman, Republican Orrin Hatch of Utah, also delivered an upbeat assessment of his long negotiations with the Oregon Democrat. Wyden indicated there could be a deal as early as Thursday afternoon.

Wyden, who has generally been a supporter of free-trade pacts, has been heavily lobbied by President Barack Obama and congressional Republican leaders to lend his support to the fast-track bill, formally known as Trade Promotion Authority.

At the same time, critics of the trade proposals have been urging Wyden to reject the agreement and warn that he could face political consequences in his 2016 re-election campaign if he supports either fast track or the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

One group towed a 30-foot blimp around to Wyden's town halls in Oregon attacking the partnership, and free-trade critics have also picketed his home in Portland as well as his wife's town house in New York City. One liberal group, Democracy for America, has been trying to drum up primary opposition to Wyden, who has generally been regarded as politically secure in Oregon.


The "liberal Democrat" Wyden.

Liberal & Democrat no longer have anything to do with labor, apparently.

April 18, 2015

Ben Bernanke (like his peers) joins hedge fund

First things first: Ben Bernanke’s decision to start advising the giant hedge fund Citadel in no way tarnishes his historic and heroic stint of public service... (you can read the rest of the apple-polishing at the link)

Nor is Bernanke’s decision to work with a financial firm unprecedented. In fact, forget solar and hydroelectric power—engineers should harness the energy generated by the revolving door between Washington and Wall Street. Former US Treasury secretary Tim Geithner is now ensconced as president of private-equity company Warburg Pincus. Ex-Fed governor Jeremy Stein joined BlueMountain Capital, a hedge fund, earlier this year. Former SEC chair Mary Schapiro is now an executive at influential consultancy Promontory Group. US president Barack Obama’s former head of the Office of Management and Budget works at Citigroup’s investment bank. And Obama’s former chief of staff William M. Daley now works for a Swiss hedge fund. The list goes on. The reason? The pay, of course.

In a chat with the New York Times, Bernanke declined to say what he’ll make for his work at Citadel. But he stressed that he had been approached by banks before and had declined their offers. He said he ruled out working for any bank that’s regulated by the Federal Reserve, and opted for Citadel because it isn’t. ”I wanted to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest,” he told the Times.

Unfortunately, that’s an impossible goal. By taking a lucrative Wall Street gig, Bernanke can’t help but reinforce the paranoid positions of the world’s Zero Hedge readers, who argue that the Federal Reserve is really just an elaborate conspiracy aimed at enriching a financial plutocracy.

Moreover, the fact that Citadel isn’t regulated by the Federal Reserve doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be. The $25 billion hedge fund is a high-frequency trader, the kind of entity that’s playing an increasingly important role in the functioning and stability of our most important financial markets. Just a couple days ago an executive at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York gave a speech noting that the rise of electronic and automated trading strategies has introduced new risks into the market for US government bonds, one of the largest and influential markets in the world. He pointed to last year’s so-called US Treasury flash crash as an example of the impact. What if a particularly disorderly bout of trading in the market for US government bonds fuels calls for more regulation of the type of firm that Bernanke is now joining?

In such a debate, Bernanke’s opinion would and should be discounted in light of his arrangement with Citadel. Indeed, even if questions about regulation don’t center on his exact corner of the financial markets, his opinion will likely hold less sway. (That’s not to say his opinion has been purchased, but it should always be noted that he is now being paid to advise a private-sector firm.) That’s definitely a change for a man whose voice and thoughts on the markets have been incredibly influential in recent years. But when academics and policy makers move to Wall Street, that’s—rightly—the cost they pay.


April 18, 2015

Idea from Adam Sandler film used to soothe dementia patients

For 94-year-old Louise Irving, who suffers from dementia, waking up every day to a video with a familiar face and a familiar voice seems to spark a flicker of recognition.

"Good morning, merry sunshine, how did you wake so soon?" Irving's daughter, Tamara Rusoff-Hoen, sings in a video playing from a laptop wheeled to her mother's nursing home bedside.

As the five-minute video plays, with stories of happy memories and get-togethers, Irving beams a bright smile before repeating the traditional family send-off.

"Kiss, kiss ... I love you."

Such prerecorded messages from family members are part of an apparently unique pilot program at the Hebrew Home at Riverdale aimed at helping victims of Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia break through the morning fog of forgetfulness that can often cause them agitation and fear...


April 3, 2015

Some cheer for tomorrow: ninety-nine and 1/2 won't do

I used to favor the Mavis Staples version but ran across this tonight; a bit more lively and one of those "happy" songs. I hope someone else enjoys it as much as I did.

I'm praying Lord
Trying to make 100
99 & 1/2 won't do

I'm living right
Trying to make 100
99 & 1/2 won't do

April 2, 2015

Arkansas woman now world's oldest person, wants Obama visit

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — An Arkansas woman who became the world's oldest person Wednesday wants President Barack Obama to attend her 117th birthday party this Fourth of July.

At 116, Gertrude Weaver was already the oldest person in America. With the death of 117-year-old Misao Okawa in Japan, Weaver became the world's oldest person, according to the Los Angeles-based Gerontology Research Group, which tracks supercentenarians.

Staff at the Silver Oaks Health and Rehabilitation Center in Camden, about 100 miles southwest of Little Rock, said Weaver was inundated by television crews and other visitors Wednesday.

Weaver, a former domestic worker in private homes and mother of four children, has experienced a lot in her 116 years, Center Administrator Kathy Langley said. But she still has one dream she would like to realize.

"She really wants to meet the president. She's voted for him twice now and it's just her lifelong dream," Langley said. "We sent him an invitation to come to her birthday party last year, and we will send him another one this year."

Weaver is in good health, Langley said, and attributes her longevity to treating others well.

"They're just a wonderful family, very loving," Langley said. "She has a granddaughter and a grandson who are in their 70s and who live in town, and they are here all the time visiting with her along with many other family members."


April 2, 2015

Dow & Monsanto to harness consumers' desire for "healthy eating" to sell GMO fruit & veg

Purple tomatoes may soon join red and yellow ones on your dinner table, spiked with high levels of anthocyanins, compounds found in blueberries that some studies show lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer. But do you want that?

The companies and scientists that have created these foods are hoping that customers will be attracted to the health benefits and convenience and overlook any concerns about genetic engineering.

Critics aren’t so sure. They say there should be more thorough regulation of modified foods, which are grown from seeds engineered in labs, and have called for mandatory labeling of those foods. The Agriculture Department has the authority only to oversee plant health relative to GMOs, and seeking Food and Drug Administration’s safety approval is generally voluntary...

Seed giants Monsanto and Dow AgroSciences are separately developing modified soybean, canola and sunflower oils with fewer saturated fats and more Omega-3 fatty acids.


April 1, 2015

Mumia Al-Jamal incommunicado in ICU

SUPPORTERS OF political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal were upset to learn that the incarcerated journalist and former Pennsylvania death row prisoner was rushed to an intensive care unit at Schuylkill Medical Center in Pottsville, Pennsylvania, after a medical emergency on March 30.

Initially, officials wouldn't state why Mumia was moved to the hospital, and they reportedly barred his family and lawyers from speaking or visiting with him. Friend and supporter Johanna Fernández told Democracy Now that she was only made aware that Mumia was ill after arriving at SCI Mahanoy for a previously scheduled visit--a visit prompted by the fact that Mumia had sounded ill during a recent phone conversation.

On social media, Fernández explained the conditions under which Mumia was being held at the hospital:

We did a little reconnaissance and were able to get into the unit where he is being held, but were not let in to see him. We were within 10 feet, spoke to his nurses and delivered a note saying that we are here. Unclear that he will get it. Four uniformed guards are outside his room. Mumia has been sick for months. He landed in the hospital because he did not get the proper care. We were just asked to vacate the building. It's time to mobilize to defend Mumia's life.

Mumia's wife Wadiya Jamal and his brother, Keith Cook, who had travelled from North Carolina, were finally allowed to visit him on March 31. In a press conference, they told reporters that Mumia was "not doing well," and that he was suffering from dangerously high blood sugar levels and at risk of slipping into a diabetic coma. At the hospital, they said, his blood glucose level was 779--anything above 186 is considered dangerously high.


March 31, 2015

Student loan recipients go on repayment strike, face default

Sarah Dieffenbacher is on a debt strike. She's refusing to make payments on the more than $100,000 in federal and private loans she says she owes for studies at a for-profit college that she now considers so worthless she doesn't include it on her resume.

The "debt strike" sentiment is catching on.

Calling themselves the "Corinthian 100" — named for the troubled Corinthian Colleges, Inc., which operated Everest College, Heald College and WyoTech before agreeing last summer to sell or close its 100-plus campuses — about 100 current and former students are refusing to pay back their loans, according to the Debt Collective group behind the strike.

They're meeting Tuesday with officials from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, an independent government agency that already has asked the courts to grant relief to Corinthian students who collectively have taken out more than $500 million in private student loans.

The Education Department is the group's primary target, because they want the department to discharge their loans. A senior department official is scheduled to attend the meeting...


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