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Undernews: March 19, 2012

Undernews: March 19, 2012

Since 1964, the news while there's still time to do something about it


State corruption test almost as bad as No Child Left Behind

Sam Smith - Having reported upon and/or observed corruption in DC, Philadelphia, Boston and St. Louis, I was more than a little startled by a story that began:

Maine has earned an “F” from a national organization’s first-in-the-nation assessment of accountability and transparency across the 50 states.

Maine ranked 46th in the “State Integrity Investigation” by three nonpartisan, national and international journalism and good government groups. The score was based on research into 330 indicators on both the laws and practices in 14 categories, from procurement to campaign disclosure to lobbying.

The idea that New Jersey was the least corrupt state in the union and that Maine was more corrupt than Massachusetts, Arkansas or Illinois was almost as bad as something Rick Santorum would say.

The Center for Public Integrity and its partners didn't actually claim that Maine was more corrupt. They said that the study “does not rely on a simple tally of scandals. Rather, it measures the strength of laws and practices that encourage openness and deter corruption. … States with well-known scandals often have the tough laws and enforcement that bring them to light. ‘Quiet’ states may be at a higher risk, with few means to surface corrupt practices.”

This is the gobblygook of a culture that has decided that data is more important than reality and that risk is worse than actual outcomes. Remarkably like, come to think of it, the Bush-Obama approach to public education.

And while I don't have the data to create a risk assessment, I can tell you, based on decades of experience, that nobody in Maine ever ran on the slogan used by a Chicago pol: "Vote for Fred and nobody gets hurt."

Where the action is

Save America's postal service

The facts about medical marijuana

The rights of photographers

Progressives take on the AARP

Morning line

Obama leads Romney by 5 points

Romney leads Santorum by 12

Based on our moving average of polls

Two long time trobonist quit Vienna philharmonic

Slipped Disc - Word has just reached us that both the principal trombone and one of the seconds have quit the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra in the past week.

The principal, Ian Bousefield, is the first British player to be recruited by Vienna. A member of Claudio Abbado’s crack team at the London Symhony Orchestra . . .I remember how pleased and proud Ian sounded when he told me the Viennese had head-hunted him 20 years ago. Now, he’s off, disillusioned with the job.

Second trombone Jeremy Wilson, is an American who won an audition in 2007. He is going back to teach college in Nashville, Tennessee. He cites touring pressures as the main reason to quit. ‘At the end of this season, we will have lived in Vienna for about 260 weeks; I have spent 48 of those weeks away from my wife and son.’

Ian Bousfield - Well, it’s true – I’ve resigned from the Vienna Philharmonic and the Vienna State Opera effective September 2012. This year is my 30th year as a solo trombone player in orchestras (Halle Orchestra, London Symphony, Vienna Philharmonic). I know many people will think I’m crazy, and to be honest, I do a bit as well! Vienna is a great city, and the Vienna Philharmonic is, in my opinion, the greatest orchestra. But, there comes a time in life when you have to work out what is important, and for me I realize that if I am ever going to get time to play some solos and do a bit of conducting, it’s now. Also, as many of you know, I take my teaching extremely seriously, and I want to devote my time on a regular basis to my students in Bern.

The fact of the matter is that I simply have not had a life now for many years. I’ve been living a double life – one as 1st trombone of the Vienna Philharmonic and one on the road as a soloist and teacher. Not only is it becoming bad for my health, and not only does it mean that I don’t have time for the loved ones around me, but I don’t get the feeling that I give of my best wherever I am when I am stretched so thinly. I have not consistently practiced now for over 10 years, which might surprise a few of you! I have reached the point where I cannot go on any longer with four days’ preparation time for important solo concerts. I am under no illusions that I’m going to be a world-famous soloist or conductor – this is simply a decision to spend my life doing what is important to me and with the people who are important to me. Whilst wishing for a quieter life, I just hope that I get enough opportunity to play, as even after all of these years I still wake up in the morning feeling like the luckiest man in the world, because I get to play the trombone.

Why Kony 2012 isn't what it seems

Bruce A. Dixon, Black Agenda Report - Joseph Kony, the Invisible Children YouTube video tells us, is a bad guy in Uganda. He's a lawless warlord leading something called the Lord's Resistance Army, which kidnaps, enslaves and murders innocent children by the tens of thousands. We're never told exactly why, as corporate media simply paint Africa as a hellish and inexplicable place where things like that just happen. The Ugandan government, the video tells us, would gladly shut Joseph Kony down and bring him to justice if only the US would provide the advanced weapons, sophisticated tracking gear, military training and the boots on the ground to help get it done. To make this happen, all that Kony 2012's promoters ask of us is to help spread “awareness” of Uganda's “invisible” child soldiers by facebooking, tweeting and repeating the Kony 2012 video, and by emailing influential politicians and the one-name celebrities like Oprah, Bono, Rhianna, Cosby and Lady Gaga (OK, Lady Gaga is two names) to whom they listen.

The Kony 2012 video aims to bring this criminal child-enslaving Ugandan warlord to justice by enlisting tens of millions of us little people in making Kony's name an odious household word around the planet, after which Washington DC will stretch forth its military arm to bring Joseph Kony, alive if possible, before the International Criminal Court for trial and punishment.

Almost everything is wrong with this simple picture, from the missing histories and the hidden motives of storytellers and players to false statements of processes and problems real and unreal on both sides of the Atlantic. In fact, Kony 2012 is not a search for justice. Kony 2012 is a corporate-style PR and psy-ops campaign, a cynical hoax engineered to justify US and Western military intervention to control the incredibly lucrative oil, mineral, water and strategic resources of the heart of Africa.

The kind of social media activism the video promotes is calculated to make Americans feel good about themselves for "spreading awareness" of child soldiering when they're really spreading racist ignorance and disinformation, building a disinformed public consent for ongoing, open and direct, as opposed to covert and indirect US military intervention in Africa. "Don't study history" the video's makers tell us --- "make history!" But the history that a lied to and disinformed public makes is bound to not be pretty.


State level Republicans don't like big government unless they control it

Stateline - Conservative state lawmakers who rail against federal mandates often find themselves using the same weapon in dealing with their own cities and counties. Mayor Ken Moore and the elected aldermen of Franklin, Tennessee, unanimously approved a resolution last Tuesday warning against overbearing central government. That may not be a surprise, since Franklin is a conservative, reliably Republican city. What is surprising is that the target of Franklin’s concern wasn’t the Obama administration or the federal government. Instead, it was the central government half an hour up the road in Nashville: the Republican-led Tennessee General Assembly.

The resolution included a list of 14 bills the mayor and aldermen opposed. On the list was legislation to substantially reduce local zoning and planning powers, as well as narrower bills to limit local regulation of signs, to ban localities from requiring residential sprinkler systems and to end local regulation of fireworks. Taken together, local officials are worried that these bills will preempt powers they consider an essential part of their jobs. “All the mayors in our region,” says Moore, a Republican, “are quite concerned about this potential gutting of our ability to do what’s in the best interest of our communities.”

Many of these state lawmakers have accused the federal government of adopting an imperious, one-size-fits-all mentality and of subverting the rightful powers of states. At the same time, many high-profile debates in the Tennessee Capitol over the last two years ¬ on topics such as local wage rules and local non-discrimination rules, among others ¬ have centered on the state trying to limit the power of localities to make decisions for themselves.

To some critics, that’s a sign of hypocrisy. What conservative supporters of these laws argue, though, is that localities sometimes use their power in ways that are inconsistent with values the state holds dear, such as defending property rights and reducing government regulation. Their case is that the only way the legislature can enact its vision for government is to use the power it has, not delegate it to others. Most of the legislation in Tennessee hasn’t passed yet and some of it seems unlikely to pass soon. Still, in Tennessee and elsewhere, it’s clear that for conservative lawmakers local control is just one principle, a principle that sometimes is superseded by others.

Obama’s executive order: The details of madness

Sam Smith

A number of commentators have suggested that there’s nothing to Obama’s get-ready-for-war executive order since Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan had issued similar edicts. This is a bit like the kid who justifies his action by the fact that “Jimmy did it,” to which the proper parental response is, “If Jimmy jumped off a cliff, would you jump off a cliff?”

It also ignores the fact, for example, that FDR used an executive order to incarcerate Japanese Americans during World War II.

Sweeping executive orders are well worth examining despite the view of onetime Clinton aide Paul Begala: "Stroke of the pen. Law of the Land. Kinda cool.”

This one would appear to have been written in preparation for a war with Iran. If such a war follows recent precedent, the Constitution’s requirement that it is Congress’ responsibility to declare war will be totally ignored. Thus, such an order gives the president specific illegal powers to carry out an overall illegal act.

Edwin Black, writing in Huffington Post, doesn’t seem too bothered by such minor considerations, but notes several interesting provisions:

||| Part VI is entitled "Labor Requirements," and directs the Secretary of Labor "to collect and maintain data necessary to make a continuing appraisal of the Nation's workforce needs for purposes of national defense… It mandates that the Secretary of Labor "upon request by the Director of Selective Service, and in coordination with the Secretary of Defense, assist the Director of Selective Service in development of policies regulating the induction and deferment of persons for duty in the armed services." …

The Order specifies "Civil transportation includes movement of persons and property by all modes of transportation in interstate, intrastate, or foreign commerce within the United States, its territories and possessions, and the District of Columbia, and related public storage and warehousing, ports, services, equipment and facilities. It adds, "Civil transportation" also shall include direction, control, and coordination of civil transportation capacity regardless of ownership" other than "petroleum and gas pipelines, and coal slurry pipelines used only to supply energy production facilities directly." Gasoline rationing and vehicle restriction for poor mileage cars and trucks is a concept already enshrined in the protocols of the Paris-based International Energy Agency. The United States is a member and has signed the treaty that covers such potential restrictions in the event of an oil interruption.

Because any oil interruption would have an immediate impact on the distribution of food, the Order also covers "the production or preparation for market use of food resources." The Order asserts that "food resources" means all commodities and products ... capable of being ingested by either human beings or animals." |||

In brief, the order outlines the powers the president will assume in the name of an insane and illegal war against Iran.,

Stats: The news media

Jim Romenesko - Some highlights in the just-released Pew Research State of the News Media 2012:

* Five technology companies accounted for 68% of all online ad revenue, and that list doesn’t include Amazon and Apple, which get most of their dollars from transactions, downloads and devices. By 2015, Facebook is expected to account for one out of every five digital display ads sold.

* The problems of newspapers became more acute in 2011 as print circulation and ad revenues continued to decline. In 2011, losses in print advertising dollars outpaced gains in digital revenue by a factor of roughly 10 to 1.

* The newspaper industry has shrunk 43% since 2000.

* The news industry isn’t much closer to a new revenue model than a year earlier and has lost more ground to rivals in the technology industry.

Cities can be more tree friendly than we think

Per Square Mile - Several cities actually have more¬not less¬tree cover than what came before them. By way of example, take this from historian William Cronon: “There are more trees in southern Wisconsin now than at any point in the last 7,000 years.” That’s in part due to more than a century of fire suppression, but also the intense pace of urban development.

There’s ample scientific evidence to back up Cronon’s assertion. In the early 1990s, David Nowak, an urban forester with the U.S. Forest Service, found that tree cover in Oakland, California, between 1850 and 1989 rose sharply from 2 percent to 19 percent. Now, a new study by Adam Berland, a PhD student at the University of Minnesota, found a similar pattern in and around Minneapolis, Minnesota.

As far back as 1500 BCE, what would become Oakland was regularly burned by the Coastanoan Indians to clear out the underbrush to simplify acorn gathering. What trees remained in the 1700s were logged for lumber and firewood by the missions. Then in 1848, what was left nearly vanished when gold was discovered in California. By the time Oakland incorporated in 1852, its namesake was nearly gone.

Fire likewise held forests in southern Minnesota at bay for thousands of years. Yet unlike in central California, a part of central Minnesota quickly afforested during a brief climate cooling 400 years ago. It wasn’t long lived, though¬shortly after their arrival, European settlers swiftly knocked down most of the Big Woods for farming. The remaining flecks large enough to be called forests cover only 2 percent of the original area. In other words, forests near Oakland and Minneapolis had nowhere to go but up.

Chicago cops arrest TV cameraman for existing

NBC Chicago - Photographer Donte Williams and WGN Reporter Dan Ponce were detained as they attempted to cover the story of a 6-year-old girl who was shot and killed. Crews were standing on a sidewalk outside Mt. Sinai Hospital, where the girl had been taken.

The hospital apparently called police, complaining of trespassers. The news crews, at the request of police officers, said they had already moved from a public sidewalk directly in front of the hospital, to a median halfway across the street.

But police disputed that, saying hospital security guards told them news crews had tried to get past them into a secure area of the hospital. Reporters say they did not go into the hospital.

"I went over to the hopsital with community activist Andrew Holmes and went up to the front door of the hospital. Family members were there and they were obviously upset," said NBC Chicago Reporter Christian Farr. "I stared right at security guards who stared right at me and never said anything to me. I never went into the hospital."

"What upset me about last night was this was not an active crime scene," Ponce said on WLS Radio. "This is in front of a hospital. The reporters and photographers were standing on the median sidewalk when the officer started yelling at us, telling us to get further away. We decided to take a stand."

Police held Williams and Ponce for about 10 minutes. The officer who handcuffed them is recorded on camera warning members of the media that their First Amendment rights could be terminated.

"Your First Amendment rights can be terminated if you're creating a scene or whatever," the officer said.

When asked how they were creating a scene, the officer said, "Your presence is creating a scene."

From Our Overstocked Archives: Retired from CSPAN (and elsewhere)

Brian Lamb is retiring from CSPAN. Your editor was retired from CSPAN and other media during the 90s, as he describes in this excerpt from “Loner.”

Sam Smith – I realized in the 1990s that I had stumbled upon the outlines of a new American political fault line. It was so new that it lacked a name, stereotypes, cliches, experts and prophets. In many ways it seemed more a refugee camp than a voluntary assembly, yet, as I thought about it, the more its logic seemed only concealed rather than lacking.

On one side were libertarians, blacks, greens, populists, free thinkers, the alienated apathetic, the rural abandoned, the apolitical young, as well as others convinced America was losing its democracy, its sovereignty and its decency. On the other side was a technocratic, media, legal, business and cultural elite centered in New York and Washington. At times it felt as if all of America outside of these two centers had turned into a gigantic, chaotic salon des refusés.

Another thing I noticed was that this was about far more than politics. A cultural and class coup was underway, of which the Clinton administration was a part, one that was creating a gated economy and transforming those outside the barriers into pliant, homogenized, multi-nationalized consumers for whom freedom, choice and democracy would atrophy into symbols of only virtual meaning. People like me were traitors to the cause.

Increasingly, the words of encouragement that I received came from somewhere other than my home town, a place whose conventional thinking I had happily challenged for nearly thirty years. In the 1960s and 1970s it had been no problem; there had always been plenty of similar voices and I never felt alone. Washington -- like Madison or Berkeley -- possessed a vigorous counterculture ready to strike out, provoke, and outrage and to enjoy every minute of it. Although by the 1980s the voices of protest had greatly dulled, dissent was still fair game as long as one's targets were Reagan or Bush.

In the 1990s, however, the Washington establishment simply closed down the marketplace of ideas. This involved not merely Democratic lawyer-lobbyists now pursuing openly the cynical abuse of government they had discreetly enjoyed during the Republican years. It included not merely journalists whose sycophancy towards the powerful was now promiscuously out of the closet. It also included the professional liberal establishment of Washington -- labor, feminist, and environmental leaders whose heady new access to government blinded them to how distant what they had once advocated was from what they were now willing to accept over -- or in return for -- lunch.

For mainstream Washington, there was no longer any politics, only deals. No victories, only leveraged buyouts. No ideology; only brand loyalty. No conservative and liberal, only Coke and Pepsi. . .

I had been trained to become one of the gray souls. I attended college with them, had reported their profoundly predictable and tedious rituals, and had argued with them at cocktail and dinner parties. I had learned what caused your host and hostess to squirm and others to avoid you. I had learned that no matter how righteous your views, the evening was reserved for confirmation and not revelation. Over time, if you don't follow this rule, you find yourself not only bowling, but also dining, alone.

My own invitations to such events, never sumptuous, became even rarer over times. Among the last prototypical Washington dinner parties I attended was during one of those episodes of military excess against a country roughly one-fiftieth our size in which we killed roughly fifty times more people than was necessary to accomplish roughly two percent of our stated goal.

It was a civil evening attended by several well-known Washington journalists, two of whom entertained us at length with clichés they obviously planned to launch against a broader audience in the near future. Their point was to impress upon us the magnitude of American geo-political responsibilities in Iraq and the similar dimensions of their own minds. In such ways do Washington journalists establish their reliability. Their support of power is often not really ideological at all, but rather just another form of social climbing.

I listened quietly as long as I could and then asked gently a question: "Well, how many more civilians do you think we need to kill in order to make our point?"

The room seized up. I parried a bit and then retreated, realizing that no good was going to come of all this.

On the other hand, something interesting did. Sitting next to me was the wife of one of the killer scribes, herself a noted journalist. She had said nothing but after I asked my question, she patted my arm and whispered "Good.". This nationally known reporter was ever so gently and civilly egging me on.

When it was time to leave, the wife of the other bumptious and jingoistic journalist -- a man familiar to any visiting the Sunday TV talk ghetto -- took me aside and remarked, "I'm glad you said what you did. My husband is such a hawk and I get so tired of it."

The hostess, standing with us, added, "Did you notice how all the men supported the war and all the women opposed it?

I had followed the fate of others who had challenged the Clinton myth and considered myself lucky. I took as a perverse sign of my sanity that people would ask me from time to time if I didn't fear for my personal safety. I had covered politics since Eisenhower and no one had ever asked me that before. And I was pleased by little signs that my efforts had not gone unnoticed - such as the black White House staff photographer who, upon meeting me and recognizing my name, smiled and said, "You're bad. You're bad!" I thanked her.

My next book was about repairing politics and the pattern repeated itself. Among the more mainstream media, only Weekend All Things Considered paid it any mind. The book received rave notices in populist and green publications and an excerpt was printed in Utne Reader along with an exceptionally kind profile by Jay Waljasper. But not only did the corporate media not mention it, it was ignored by such presumably friendly publications as the Village Voice, Nation, New York Review of Books, and the Progressive.

In part, I knew I was paying the price for my attacks on Clinton. With an overwhelming majority of the Washington media still solidly on Clinton's side, it took little more than a few snide comments over lunch or some phone calls to make one persona non grata in the club they call the nation's capital but regard as their own.

Only a few times was the hostility overt. Such as the time after I had appeared on the local NPR station and when I left the studio, the conservative black host Derek McGinty turned to the station's political editor, Mark Plotkin, and said, "He's banned" and I was. Several times when McGinty went on vacation Plotkin had me on, but the station manager noticed and told him to stop. I asked Mark why I had been banned and he said he thought it was for "excessive irony."

In fact, irony was risky in Washington. Once, I was on McGinty's show with Marion Barry who was complaining about how reporters always blamed him for all the problems of the city. "I don't blame you for all the problems," I replied "I just blame you for 23.7% of them." Marion said, "I'll take that."

Some weeks later, at a party, I told the story to a Washington suit. He listened absolutely straight faced and then asked, "How did you derive that percentage?"

Over the next two years I was dropped as a guest by Fox Morning News. A Washington Post reporter told me casually that, yes, she guessed I was on that paper's blacklist. And there was an end of invitations to C-SPAN after two appearances were canceled at the last minute, presumably by someone more powerful than the host who had invited me. My speech during the first protest over Bosnia was the only one deleted from C-SPAN's coverage - even though a folk singer saying that she was the "warmup band for Sam Smith" was left in.

Underneath the sturm und drang of political debate, official Washington -- from lobbyist to media to politician -- had reached a remarkable consensus that it no longer had to play by any rules but its own.

There was a phrase for this in some Latin American countries. They called it the culture of impunity. In such places it led to death squads, routine false imprisonment and baroque corruption. We were not quite there yet but we were certainly moving in the same direction and for some of the same reasons.

In a culture of impunity the rules served the internal logic of the system rather than whatever values ostensibly guided a country, such as those of its constitution, church or tradition. The culture of impunity encouraged coups and cruelty, at best practiced only titular democracy, and put itself at the service of what Hong Kong, with Orwellian understatement, referred to as "functional constituencies," which is to say major corporations.

Such a culture does not announce itself. It creeps up day by day, deal by deal, euphemism by euphemism. And in a culture of impunity, what replaces the Constitution, precedent, values, tradition, fairness, consensus, debate and all sort of arcane stuff? Simply greed. As Michael Douglas put it in one of his movies: "Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works."


Over half of all reproductive aged women live in states with anti-abortion laws

Fifty-five percent of all reproductive-age U.S. women lived in a state hostile to abortion rights in 2011, up significantly from 31% in 2000, according to a new Guttmacher Institute

US still sending prisoners to Afghan torture centers

Canadian Press - A report by two rights groups says the U.S. sent some detainees to Afghan prisons where torture was found despite an announced moratorium on such moves. The report by the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission and the New York-based Open Society Institute suggests that Afghanistan's international allies are still failing to ensure that people captured on the battlefield are treated humanely despite a massive reform program in recent months.

British arrest youth for Facebook comment criticizing Afghan policy

Press TV -A British teenager has been arrested and is expected to appear in a UK court after he posted about the injustice of the occupation of Afghanistan on his Facebook page.

Following the deaths of six UK soldiers in Afghanistan earlier this month, Azhar Ahmed from Ravensthrope left his comment on the social networking site in order to indicate the hypocrisy of praising the UK soldiers, while thousands of Afghan civilians killed at the hand of western troops who have occupied the country for over ten years claiming to protect the civilians.

“What about the innocent families who have been brutally killed?” he posted on his page. “The women who have been raped, the children who have been sliced up?”

“Your enemies were the Taliban not innocent families,” he continued.

On the same day Ahmad posted his remarks, a Facebook page was created titled “Azhar Ahmed Scumbag” and reported the comments of the 19-year-old to the police. The next day Ahmed was arrested and charged and is to appear in Dewsbury magistrates' court on March 20th.

A spokesperson for Yorkshire police said that Ahmed was charged with “racially aggravated public order offence,” admitting, “He didn't make his point very well and that is why he has landed himself in bother."

Keelan Balderson from Wide Shut website wondered whether the British troops are a race. "He did not use any racial terms. Or is that he himself is not British bred? In that case who is stirring up the racial hatred? Ahmed or the police trying to pigeon hole the incident?"

"Although we do not have a crystal ball I’d make the bet that if his name was David Smith he probably wouldn’t have been charged.”

Award winning weatherman files sex discrimination suit

Independent, UK - The lawsuit tells how, despite being a fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society who has worked in every Southern Californian TV market, Hunter was passed over for two jobs in favour of young women with no meteorological qualifications. "It appears that the defendants do not want knowledgeable weather professionals as their prime-time weather broadcasters," it reads. "It appears instead that they want attractive young women, and only attractive young women, broadcasting the weather."

Infrequently asked questions

Why do liberals get so upset at something Rush Limbaugh says, yet are so indifferent to the far more damaging and crueler war on drugs?

Why are we not supposed to say retarded but constantly use the term obese? As even the Obesity Journal noted, "As health care providers who specialize in weight management, we have observed repeatedly that our patients do not like, and are often offended by, the terms obesity and fatness."

Teachers work 53 hours a week

Conservative Utah governor vetoes abstinence only education bill

KUER, Utah - Utah Governor Gary Herbert has vetoed House Bill 363, Health Education Amendments. The bill would have imposed an abstinence-only curriculum for Utah high schools that provide sex education. It would have also allowed them to choose not to provide sex education at all.

Allyson Isom, the governor's spokesperson, says more than 90-percent of those letters and e-mails asked the governor to veto the bill.

"What's been striking about the correspondence that we've been receiving is that it's not template or spam content. It's individually and uniquely crafted and often very heartfelt, from parents, from educators, from those who care about Utah's kids and public policy," Isom said in an interview with KUER.

Department of Good Stuff

100th anniversary of Bayard Rustin

Five whistleblowers who warned of bank fraud

Study finds link between insecticides and bee die-off

Cleveland Leader - New research shows a link between an increase in the deaths of bees an insecticides, specifically the chemicals that are used to coat corn seeds.

The study indicates that neonicotinoid insecticides "are among the most widely used in the world, popular because they kill insects by paralyzing nerves but have lower toxicity for other animals."

Right around the time of corn planting using this kind of insecticide, beekeepers immediately observed an increase in die-offs. Pneumatic drilling machines suck the seeds in, and then spray them with insecticide to create a coating before they are planted in the ground. Researchers had suspected that the mass die-offs may have been caused by the particles of insecticide that were released into the air by machines when the chemicals are sprayed.

Word: Conservative commentator favors single payer over Obamacare

Charles Krauthammer - "[Obamacare] is a new reform that when it kicks in within a couple of years will make the practice of medicine a nightmare. If it's not repealed, I guarantee you that within a decade we will have a single-payer system. And if I had to choose between Obamacare and a Canadian or British system, I'd choose the single-payer system. At least it would be rational"

Michael Bloomberg sucks up to Goldman Sachs

Netflix takes away right to sue it

Slashdot - ebombme writes "Netflix has decided to go the route of AT&T and others by trying to take away the rights of their users to form class action lawsuits against them. A copy of the new terms of use states 'These Terms of Use provide that all disputes between you and Netflix will be resolved by binding arbitration. you agree to give up your right to go to court to assert or defend your rights under this contract (except for matters that may be taken to small claims court). Your rights will be determined by a neutral aribrator and not a judge or jury and your claims cannot be brought as a class action. Please review the Arbitration Agreement below for the details regarding your agreement to arbitrate any disputes with Netflix.'"

How Microsoft plans to ruin your TV watching

Slashdot - theodp writes "Microsoft, reports Geek Wire, is seeking a patent on monetizing the buttons of your TV remote. In its application for a patent on 'Control-based Content Pricing,' Microsoft explains how one can jack up the cable bill of those who dare fast-forward past a diaper commercial or replay a sports highlight. From the patent application: 'If a user initiates a navigation control input to advance past (e.g., skip over) an advertisement, the cost of a requested on-demand movie may be increased. Similarly, if a user initiates a replay of a sporting event, the user may be charged for the replay control input and for each subsequent view control input.'"

What sort of red meat?

A reader makes an important point about the red meat study:

When they do these meat studied do they use feedlot meat or do they use pastured or grass fed meat?

Feed lot beef is made from cattle that are overcrowded and fed grain which isn't normal cattle food, plus antibiotics and hormones to increase size and stressed from being overcrowded. This negatively affects meat quality and nutritional value.

Grass fed beef is leaner and made from cattle that graze on range land and pasture, they get grass the food cattle were designed to eat, exercise, and sunshine, all of which make for a better more nutritious meat. The problems of feedlot meat could be causing meat to look worse than it should be, simply by poor production choices on the part of the producers.

True facts: Anti-woman laws

States enacted 92 provisions restricting reproductive choice in 2011

Two senators say public would be stunned to know how government is using the Patriot Act

NY Times - For more than two years, a handful of Democrats on the Senate intelligence committee have warned that the government is secretly interpreting its surveillance powers under the Patriot Act in a way that would be alarming if the public ¬ or even others in Congress ¬ knew about it.

On Thursday, two of those senators ¬ Ron Wyden of Oregon and Mark Udall of Colorado ¬ went further. They said a top-secret intelligence operation that is based on that secret legal theory is not as crucial to national security as executive branch officials have maintained.

The senators, who also said that Americans would be “stunned” to know what the government thought the Patriot Act allowed it to do, made their remarks in a letter to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. after a Justice Department official last month told a judge that disclosing anything about the program “could be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security of the United States.”

The Justice Department has argued that disclosing information about its interpretation of the Patriot Act could alert adversaries to how the government collects certain intelligence. It is seeking the dismissal of two Freedom of Information Act lawsuits ¬ by The New York Times and by the American Civil Liberties Union ¬ related to how the Patriot Act has been interpreted.

Things Irish Protestants should know about St. Patrick's Day & Ireland

Bookshelf: A history of the FBI

Defense lawyer who's won 40 foreclosure cases in last year desribes the bank fraud he found

True facts: single moms

Greg Kaufmann, Nation - Here’s the new American reality: about half of all kids will spend at least part of their childhood in a family headed by a single mother, and the typical single mother is white, has one kid, is separated or divorced, works, and probably earns less than $25,000 a year.

When I was a kid being raised by a white single mom, President Reagan basically promised me we that we were different, special even. My mom put herself through school and worked. The typical single mom, according to the President, was a “welfare queen” taking “government handouts” so she could drive her “Cadillac” and raise her “strapping young bucks” on “T-bone steaks.” He didn’t have to say she was black, lazy, and never married¬everyone knew it. This image persisted through welfare reform in 1996 when basic cash assistance was gutted and it still grips the American psyche today...

About 40 percent of single mothers are white, one-third black, and one-quarter Hispanic. And there are other things Reagan never told me¬like only one-sixth haven’t completed high school, 25 percent have a college degree, 55 percent are divorced, separated or widowed, and at any one time 66 percent of single mothers are working outside the home¬a single mother employment rate above the average of other high-income countries.

There, I fixed it


US health policy in a single cartoon

CIA's Petreus wants to spy on you through your dishwasher

Wired - More and more personal and household devices are connecting to the internet, from your television to your car navigation systems to your light switches. CIA Director David Petraeus cannot wait to spy on you through them.

Earlier this month, Petraeus mused about the emergence of an “Internet of Things” ¬ that is, wired devices ¬ at a summit for In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s venture capital firm. “‘Transformational’ is an overused word, but I do believe it properly applies to these technologies,” Petraeus enthused, “particularly to their effect on clandestine tradecraft.”

All those new online devices are a treasure trove of data if you’re a “person of interest” to the spy community. Once upon a time, spies had to place a bug in your chandelier to hear your conversation. With the rise of the “smart home,” you’d be sending tagged, geolocated data that a spy agency can intercept in real time when you use the lighting app on your phone to adjust your living room’s ambiance.

“Items of interest will be located, identified, monitored, and remotely controlled through technologies such as radio-frequency identification, sensor networks, tiny embedded servers, and energy harvesters ¬ all connected to the next-generation internet using abundant, low-cost, and high-power computing,” Petraeus said, “the latter now going to cloud computing, in many areas greater and greater supercomputing, and, ultimately, heading to quantum computing.”

Petraeus allowed that these household spy devices “change our notions of secrecy” and prompt a rethink of “our notions of identity and secrecy.” All of which is true ¬ if convenient for a CIA director.

San Francisco has highest rents in country

Romney is invested in Chinese spy cameras

NY Times - As the Chinese government forges ahead on a multibillion-dollar effort to blanket the country with surveillance cameras, one American company stands to profit: Bain Capital, the private equity firm founded by Mitt Romney. Related

In December, a Bain-run fund in which a Romney family blind trust has holdings purchased the video surveillance division of a Chinese company that claims to be the largest supplier to the government’s Safe Cities program, a highly advanced monitoring system that allows the authorities to watch over university campuses, hospitals, mosques and movie theaters from centralized command posts.

The math behind the red meat study

BBC - Over the study period, an extra portion of unprocessed red meat was associated with an overall 13% increased risk of death annually (and the figure for processed meat was even higher).

But what does this mean?

The easiest way to understand it is to think of how this might affect two friends who live very similar lives, according to David Spiegelhalter, a Cambridge University biostatistician, and the Winton Professor of the Public Understanding of Risk.

Imagine that the two friends are men aged 40, who are the same weight, do the same amount of exercise and do the same job.

The only difference between them is that one eats an extra portion of red meat every day - an extra 85g, or 3oz.

"Let's say that every work lunchtime one of them had a hamburger and the other didn't.

"What the study found is that the one who likes the meat had a 13% extra risk of dying. They're both going to die in the end, but one has got this extra annual risk of dying."

But what does that extra risk amount to in practice - for these two average people? The paper doesn't say.

Spiegelhalter has been working it out.

"The person who eats more meat is expected to live one year less than the person who doesn't eat so much meat. You'd expect the 40-year-old who does eat the extra meat to live, on average, another 39 years, up to age 79, and the person who doesn't eat so much meat, you'd expect him to live until age 80."

But Spiegelhalter says there is another way to look at the statistics, which might make the issue seem more urgent. That one year off the life of this 40-year-old hypothetical burger eater is equivalent to losing half an hour a day.

"On average, when he's sitting eating his extra burger, that person is losing half an hour of life because of that meal. On average, it's equivalent - scaled up over a lifetime - to smoking two cigarettes a day, which is about half an hour off your life.

"Or, it's equivalent to being a bit overweight - about 5kg overweight - which I am, so I'm losing, on average, every day, half an hour off my life expectancy."

But should we really believe the findings of this study? Does eating red meat and processed meat cause cancer and cardiovascular disease and shorten life?

Well, no we can't say there's cause and effect here. All that can be said is that there appears to be a strong correlation between eating this kind of meat and having these health problems.

California county takes children away from parents on medical pot

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