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Obama sends Congress request for military force against IS

President Barack Obama sent the U.S. Congress legislation Wednesday to authorize military force against Islamic State fighters, summoning lawmakers to "show the world we are united in our resolve" to defeat militants who have overrun parts of the Middle East and threaten attacks on the United States.

In urging Congress to back military force, the president ruled out "enduring offensive combat operations," a deliberately ambiguous phrase designed to satisfy lawmakers with widely different views on any role for U.S. ground troops.

There was no timetable for Congress to act on the president's request, which triggers the first war powers vote in Congress since President George W. Bush sought and won an authorization in 2002 before the U.S. invasion of Iraq.


fork - done.

Goodwill shopper finds Vince Lombardi jacket

Check your closet, friend ... if you've ever shopped at Goodwill, you might just have a famous artifact of clothing hanging there.

Sean McAvoy of Knoxville, Tenn. was shopping in an Asheville, N.C. Goodwill store when he came across a tattered old West Point jacket. He bought it for 58 cents, intending to sell it at his own vintage clothing store.

But McAvoy happened to be watching a documentary on the legendary coach Vince Lombardi, the man for whom the Super Bowl winners' trophy is named, and noticed that Lombardi was sporting a jacket just like the one he'd bought. His wife checked the jacket, and lo and behold, there was a nametag that read "Lombardi" within.

The jacket came from Lombardi's time at West Point, his final coaching stop before jumping to the NFL. As the auction listing notes: "Serving as assistant to veteran head coach Earl 'Colonel Red' Blaik, Lombardi inherited his mentor's focus on repetition and execution that formed the basis for the iconic leader's personal mantra: 'Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.'"


Oct. 1969: Hippie high school

Rooted in the the early 1960s "Beat Generation," hippies were about freedom — of expression, of living and, of course, of love.

When it came to style, this meant individuality and customization over mass production: long hair for men, little makeup for women, bras optional. By 1967, a raft of publications and handbooks explained exactly how to dress like a hippie. Ruth Bronsteen's "The Hippy's Handbook" even included graphics on how to rock the look.

But in 1969, the year of these photographs, hippie fashion was evolving from counter culture to, well, culture. And young people were informing the change. Most of the students you see here are wearing off-the-shelf fashions — still recognizably hippie, but more homogenized.

Being a hippy was safe, but somehow not as free.


Ohio workers join US oil refineries (nationwide) strike

Workers in northwest Ohio have joined the first nationwide strike at US oil refineries since 1980. The Blade newspaper of Toledo reported that some 100 BP-Husky Toledo refinery workers began picketing at midnight on Sunday outside the plant in Oregon, Ohio.

A local union official said on Saturday night that about 350 workers would be on strike and planned to start picketing around the clock. The strike began after negotiations with Shell Oil Company, which is also negotiating the national contract for other oil companies, broke down.

The Ohio workers are joining about 3,800 steelworkers who began a strike on February 1 at refineries from California to Kentucky...
The United Steelworkers union earlier notified BP Plc that workers at refineries in Ohio and Indiana would join the walkout.

The union has said workers want better health care benefits and limits on the use of contractors to replace union members in maintenance jobs. A spokesman for the United Steelworkers told Al Jazeera the strike was not about wages. "The main thing that we want people to understand is that this is not a financial strike, it's about safety and going home to our wives and our children," he said.

A BP spokesman said the company expects to continue operating with replacement workers (aka SCABS) and does not expect a significant effect on production. BP's plant in Whiting, Indiana, has about 1,860 employees, more than 1,000 represented by the steelworkers. BP's Toledo refinery in Ohio, which it owns 50-50 with Canada's Husky Energy, has some 600 workers total. The plants will be staffed by replacements (aka SCABS) including retirees and former front-line workers who now hold salaried jobs, Dean said.

Source: Al Jazeera And AP


Bernie Sanders: The Billionaires May Just Win

The longest-serving independent member in congressional history and self-avowed socialist sees America on the brink of oligarchy – and he's testing whether such a bleak message of alarm warrants the necessity of a presidential campaign.

In a funereal speech at the Brookings Institution in Washington on Monday, the junior senator from Vermont warned about a middle class in decline, a "grotesque" wage gap and a government of, by and for the billionaire class. He argued the actual unemployment rate is twice the size of the 5.7 percent plastered prominently in newspapers. He claimed the U.S. boasts the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major country on earth. He noted a boiling resentment bubbling through the veins of the country and spanning the full political spectrum, from progressives to tea party conservatives...

In a candid answer to a question about his political viability Monday, he lamented the "absurd" amount of resources he would need to mount a serious campaign, both in the primary and general elections.

Even if he raised $100 from 2 million people – for a total of $200 million – he worried it wouldn't be enough. "That is 20 percent of what the Koch brothers themselves are prepared to spend. Can you take that on? I don't know the answer. Maybe the game is over. Maybe they have bought the United States government. Maybe there is no turning back. Maybe we've gone over the edge. I don't know. I surely hope not. But we have to look at that reality."

"The gut feeling … that I'm going to have to reach is whether there is that willingness to stand up and fight back. And if there's not, I don't want to run a futile campaign," he said..."I am not Mr. Bloomberg of New York and I don't have billions of dollars," he said toward the end of his talk, referring to the former New York City mayor.

But if Sanders – the most ideologically pure liberal in the Senate – determines a campaign for the cause is too arduous, too futile and just not worth it, he'll only hand liberals more reason to be angry.


Middle class decline looms over final years of Obama presidency

Reuters) - Barack Obama enters the final two years of his presidency with a blemish on his legacy that looks impossible to erase: the decline of the middle class he has promised to rescue...

Administration officials said on Saturday the president would propose higher capital gains taxes, new fees on large financial firms, and other measures to raise $320 billion for programs and tax breaks aimed at the middle class.

Obama's administration can take credit for stabilizing the U.S. economy, which is growing again and last year added jobs at the fastest clip since 1999.

But for the middle class the scars of the recession still run deep. Federal Reserve survey data show families in the middle fifth of the income scale now earn less and their net worth is lower than when Obama took office.

In the six years through 2013, over the recession and recovery that have spanned Obama's tenure, jobs have been added at the top and bottom of the wage scale, a Reuters analysis of labor statistics shows. In the middle, the economy has shed positions - whether in traditional trades like machining or electrical work, white-collar jobs in human resources, or technical ones like computer operators...


Most voters say the country is on the wrong track, & their situation & economy has not improved

Seven long years after the economy tanked, 70 percent of voters Tuesday said it’s still in bad shape. Seventy-eight percent said they’re worried about its direction in the year ahead. Only three in 10 said their own economic situation has improved in the last two years.

And nearly half of voters said they expect life for the next generation of Americans to be worse – by far the most to say so in exit polls asking the question back to 1996.

These results inform views of the country’s condition and the quality of its governance alike. Sixty-five percent said the nation is headed seriously off on the wrong track, the second most in available exit poll data back to 1990, trailing only its level in 2008. A mere 20 percent said they trust the government in Washington to do what’s right all or most of the time. Fifty-five percent disapproved of Barack Obama’s performance – up by 10 points vs. 2012, looking much like it did in his first midterm election in 2010, when his party lost 63 House seats.

Such views customarily slam the president’s party, and so they did again. Exit poll results, analyzed for ABC News by Langer Research Associates, found that government distrusters favored Republicans in the national House vote by 57-40 percent; “wrong track” voters by 69-29 percent; Obama disapprovers by 83-15 percent.



No One Should Have to Walk 21 Miles to Work

No One Should Have to Walk 21 Miles to Work: A Detroit man's awful commute epitomizes America's broken policies.

Of course James Robertson deserves a car. For the past decade, ever since his 1988 Honda Accord died, the 56-year-old factory worker has been walking 21 miles round-trip from his Detroit home to his job in Rochester Hills—a story few people knew until the Detroit Free Press Sunday profile of him in went viral. Four days later, and a crowd-funding campaign to "Help James Robertson Get a Car" has brought in nearly $300,000 in donations. Robertson's punishing daily slog is over.

But even as we celebrate the end of his patchwork foot-and-bus commute, we must recognize it as being only one extreme instance of some pervasive macro-level social problems. Robertson’s story is also a story of job migration, the failures of public transit, and especially of poverty. His commute highlighted the fact the working poor have commuting expenses twice as high as other workers, and because poverty makes ordinarily things like getting around very, very hard.

Furthermore, the response to Robertson’s story showed a classically American kind of nearsighted problem-solving: reducing every political question to the stories of individuals, and believing that helping those individuals can substitute for addressing systemic causes....Our natural empathy for individuals leads to solutions that tend to be feel-good rather than do-good. But to be serious about the situation faced by Robertson and scores of other low-wage workers requires an appreciation that, to achieve a just outcome, charity must be coupled with reform. Or, as Yale chaplain William Sloane Coffin said, “Charity is a matter of personal attributes; justice, a matter of public policy. Charity seeks to alleviate the effects of injustice; justice seeks to eliminate the causes of it.”

Even more pernicious, perhaps, is how Robertson’s boss used the story as a stick with which to beat other workers. “I say, if this man can get here, walking all those miles through snow and rain, well I'll tell you, I have people in Pontiac 10 minutes away and they say they can't get here — bull!” Instead of seeing a 21-mile commute as an outrageous theft of Robertson’s time and health, Robertson’s boss saw it as a model to be aspired to.

Simply elevating Robertson as a folk hero, and lavishing him with support, therefore risks coming to the wrong conclusion. “We could use more men like James Robertson in this world,” wrote donors to the fundraising campaign. But surely if we want more men with Robertson’s fortitude, we also want far fewer to have suffer as he has. What he endured may be inspiring, but it's horrifying too.

Certainly, James Robertson’s story has been a powerful affirmation of public compassion. The internet has an astonishing power to amass and bestow money on people with inspiring stories, and it's heartwarming to see Robertson's terrible burden finally lifted. But there are inherent limits to this kind of charitable response. If we celebrate Robertson’s automotive commute as a victory, then we risk making it harder to get attention for those who suffer only slightly less punishing distances to work each morning. Their stories will not go viral, and their own commutes will continue long after Robertson drives his new car off the lot.


Detroit man who walks 21 miles/d to his $10.50/hr job surprised with new car

STERLING HEIGHTS, Mich. -- Everyman's hard-workin', hard-walkin' commuting hero finally got a car.

Detroiter James Robertson, whose daily marathons of walking to a suburban factory job made him an overnight media celebrity, registered total surprise as he walked into the Suburban Ford dealership in Sterling Heights, expecting just to "get some brochures," said Blake Pollock, the UBS banker who befriended Robertson last year while passing him on the road and began giving him lifts in bad weather.

This week, Pollack has shepherded Robertson through a media frenzy. Instead of brochures, Robertson had a sea of reporters waiting -- and a bright red new car.

And what car did he choose? Forget the glitz that car buffs ogle each year at Detroit's auto show. Robertson, true to his modest roots and humble nature, will drive the model that he repeatedly said he admired, in terms that surely delighted legions of marketers in Dearborn: a Ford Taurus, because "it's simple on the outside and strong on the inside – like me."

James Robertson, 56, of Detroit outside his workplace in Rochester Hills. In his commute to and from work, Robertson has taken two buses each way and walked 21 miles every day for 12 years. He has been named ABC’s “Person of the Week.” (Photo: Ryan Garza/Detroit Free Press)...


On the one hand, this story made me cry. On the other hand, I'm with Bill Moyers:

No One Should Have to Walk 21 Miles to Get to Work

Public response to Robertson’s admirable yet heartbreaking story was overwhelming. In just three days, a Go Fund Me account established to buy him a car collected more than $275,000 from nearly 10,500 donors.

Unfortunately, this gesture will do nothing to help the other 60,000 Detroit households — 80 percent of whom are black — without access to automobiles. These families have few options in a metro area where just 22 percent of jobs can be reached by public transportation in 90 minutes or less...

One thing is clear: A system that requires a dedicated employee to walk 21 miles a day to make $10.55 an hour is a failed system. As Robertson reminded the Free Press, “Even if my situation changes, you never forget there are so many other people that are in my situation.”

“I said this before — no one can say that I didn’t pay my dues in life. No one.”


2014: Amazon got $418 million in taxpayer subsidies in 49 locations.

A 2014 report by Good Jobs First found that Amazon had received at least 49 taxpayer subsidies worth $418,822,109. The report is based on information in public databases, news stories, and open records requests made by Good Jobs First, and is likely a conservative estimate.(14)

On the issue of subsidizing low-wage employers, the report notes,

"When a state or local government subsidizes a Wal-Mart store or an Amazon.com warehouse, it is doing the most to intensify economic inequality by enriching individuals at the very top of the income hierarchy while also perpetuating poor quality jobs at the bottom."14)


14.↑ Jump up to: 14.0 14.1 Philip Mattera, Kasia Tarczynska and Greg LeRoy, "Tax Breaks and Inequality: Enriching Billionaires and Low-Road Employers in the Name of Economic Development," Good Jobs First, December 2014. Accessed January 5, 2014.
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