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Undernews, Saturday December 4, 2010

Undernews, Saturday December 4, 2010

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


Report: In 20 years, climate change will be causing nearly a million deaths annually AFP - By 2030, climate change will indirectly cause nearly one million deaths a year and inflict $157 billion in damage in terms of today's economy, according to estimates presented at UN talks. The biggest misery will be heaped on more than 50 of the world's poorest countries, but the United States will pay the highest economic bill, it said. "In less than 20 years, almost all countries in the world will realise high vulnerability to climate impact as the planet heats up,'' the report warned. Paypal joins censorship of Wikileaks Pay Pal Blog - PayPal has permanently restricted the account used by WikiLeaks due to a violation of the PayPal Acceptable Use Policy, which states that our payment service cannot be used for any activities that encourage, promote, facilitate or instruct others to engage in illegal activity. We've notified the account holder of this action.

Read Write Web - PayPal isn't the only way to donate to Wikileaks. You can make a bank transfer or send money directly by mail. But certainly sending money online via PayPal has become one of the easiest and most routine ways for folks to make all sorts of online donations. It's not the first time Wikileaks has run into trouble with PayPal either, as the organization had its account temporarily frozen earlier this year. In addition to those who've refused to provide Wikileaks with hosting and financial services, the visualization company Tableau Software also expunged all Wikileaks content from its site. Although these companies have said that their terms of service forbid the support or facilitation of illegal activity, such pronouncements about Wikileaks are debatable. While it is a crime to leak classified information, receiving and publishing it is not. Obamites worked to hide Bush torture evidence David Corn, Mother Jones - In its first months in office, the Obama administration sought to protect Bush administration officials facing criminal investigation overseas for their involvement in establishing policies the that governed interrogations of detained terrorist suspects. A "confidential" April 17, 2009, cable sent from the US embassy in Madrid to the State Department¬one of the 251,287 cables obtained by WikiLeaks¬details how the Obama administration, working with Republicans, leaned on Spain to derail this potential prosecution. . . Hil Clin expresses regret for something White House denied she did A nti War - When White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs appeared on the Today Show and angrily denied that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ordered spying against UN Chief Ban Ki-moon, the credibility was instantly in doubt. After all, the specific order, signed by Secretary Clinton, is now a matter of public record.

But the official denial seemed to convince a lot of people to let the matter drop, at least for the time being. Now we have further evidence of how little the White House Press Secretary’s words are worth, with reports that Secretary Clinton spoke with Ban yesterday and expressed “regret” over trying to steal his credit card, among other things.

Australian - Hillary Clinton has tried to repair strained relations with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon after revelations that US diplomats were told to spy on him.

The US Secretary of State personally expressed regret to Mr Ban yesterday about the embarrassing disclosure by the WikiLeaks website that US diplomats had a significant intelligence-gathering operation at the UN. According to US officials, Mrs Clinton stopped short of an apology when the pair met in Kazakhstan at a summit of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe State Department tries to scare students out of reading Wikileaks files Democracy Now - The U.S. State Department has imposed an order barring employees from reading the leaked WikiLeaks cables. State Department staffers have been told not to read cables because they were classified and subject to security clearances. The State Department’s WikiLeaks censorship has even been extended to university students. An email to students at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs says: "The documents released during the past few months through Wikileaks are still considered classified documents. [The State Department] recommends that you DO NOT post links to these documents nor make comments on social media sites such as Facebook or through Twitter. Engaging in these activities would call into question your ability to deal with confidential information, which is part of most positions with the federal government." Word In a society where truth becomes treason, we are in big trouble. - Ron Paul The small business tax myth Sam Smith - Among the myths the GOP know nothings are pushing is that the proposed ending of over-the-top tax cuts will hurt small business.

This is not true. It will only hurt the profits of small business owners at the upper end of the scale. The only way it can hurt small businesses is for owners to cut expenses in order to maintain the same profit level.

This is a risky choice driven by personal avarice, not wise business practice.

For example, let's say a wealthy business owner wants to save in new taxes by firing one employee. Here is what can happen as a result:

- The employee was redundant all along and ending the tax cuts was in one sense a favor because it drew this to the owner's attention. In this case, however, as the business profits increase, so will the owner's taxes, because he or she won't be able to list the employee's salary as a business expense.

- The employee was useful and thus the firing actually reduced the company's profits. So the owner will no longer be able to list the employee as a business expense, and the owner's profits will go down. Just for the sake of simplicity, imagine an employee has been creating $20k in profits for the business. After the firing, the owner's profit would be down $20K but owner's taxes down only, say, $4K. Net loss to the owner: $16K.

Washington Post - One of the most common objections to letting the cuts expire for those in the highest tax brackets is that it would hurt small businesses. As Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) recently put it, allowing the cuts to lapse would amount to "a job-killing tax hike on small business during tough economic times."

This claim is misleading. If, as proposed, the Bush tax cuts are allowed to expire for the highest earners, the vast majority of small businesses will be unaffected. Less than 2 percent of tax returns reporting small-business income are filed by taxpayers in the top two income brackets -- individuals earning more than about $170,000 a year and families earning more than about $210,000 a year.

And just as most small businesses aren't owned by people in the top income brackets, most people in the top income brackets don't rely mainly on small-business income: According to the Tax Policy Center, such proceeds make up a majority of income for about 40 percent of households in the top income bracket and a third of households in the second-highest bracket. If the objective is to help small businesses, continuing the Bush tax cuts on high-income taxpayers isn't the way to go -- it would miss more than 98 percent of small-business owners and would primarily help people who don't make most of their money off those businesses.

Rhonda Abrams, USA Today - Should we increase taxes on businesses now ¬ in the midst of high unemployment? By increasing their taxes, won't we have a negative impact on hiring?


First, you need to know it's likely that most of those "small businesses" reporting high income are neither small nor, possibly, businesses. For government tax purposes, the term "small business" can be misleading. What is included generally are all who report "business income" on a pass-through basis. These can be very wealthy individuals who have set up investments as partnerships or S corporations to reduce their taxes, including many hedge funds.

According to a 2008 study by the Joint Committee on Taxation ¬ a nonprofit arm of Congress ¬ 61% of all net income from partnerships and S corporations are earned by those with gross receipts of more than $10 million, and almost half ¬ 43% ¬ have receipts exceeding $50 million! Hardly small ¬ and often not a business that hires anyone. So a huge bulk of the tax benefits would go to those who have no impact on job creation.

Will a tax cut for the wealthy have a trickle down benefit for small business? Nope.

According to the independent, highly-regarded Congressional Budget Office, the Bush era tax cuts have the lowest stimulative effect of 11 stimulus policies examined. For every $1 in tax cuts, only 10 cents to 40 cents are returned to the economy.

Let's face it ¬ you know and I know that what helps your small business the most is a healthy economy. We hire because there's demand for our products and services, because consumers and businesses are buying. Let's spend our money on tax cuts that truly help small companies. Word Rainey Reitman and Marcia Hofmann, Common Dreams - Today Amazon sells many things, but its roots are in books, which historically have been a lightning rod for political censorship campaigns. These campaigns tried and failed to suppress Allen Ginsberg's Howl, Nabokov's Lolita, and even Orwell's 1984. And it's the book industry - including writers, publishers, booksellers and libraries - that has championed the rights of readers and helped America maintain a proud history of free speech in the written word, even when faced with physical danger.

While it's frustrating to think of any hosting provider cutting services to a website because it considers the content too politically volatile or controversial, it's especially disheartening to see Amazon knuckle under to pressure from a single senator. Other Internet intermediaries should now expect to receive a phone call when some other member of Congress is unhappy with speech they are hosting. After all, it worked on Amazon. Aspirations for your kid are fine, but. . .

Lieberman offers bill to expand government censorship Wired - Senator Joseph Lieberman and other lawmakers introduced legislation that would make it a federal crime for anyone to publish the name of a U.S. intelligence source, in a direct swipe at the secret-spilling website WikiLeaks

Leaking such information in the first place is already a crime, so the measure is aimed squarely at publishers. Lieberman’s proposed solution to WikiLeaks could have implications for journalists reporting on some of the more unsavory practices of the intelligence community. For example, former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega was once a paid CIA asset. Would reporting that now be a crime? Two good things about Iceland

1. A remarkable gallery of photos by Kristina

2. Here’s the difference between Iceland and Ireland: Iceland chose to let private investors, the bondholders, take a hit when its banks tumbled, while Ireland has gone the route of an E85-billion bailout to prop them up. Now, according to Bloomberg News, Iceland expects a deficit equal to 6.3 per cent of GDP this year, well short of Ireland’s 32-per-cent deficit. The decision to force bondholders to take the hit may help Iceland recover at a faster pace, Bloomberg said. “The difference is that in Iceland we allowed the banks to fail,” the country’s president, Olafur Grimsson, told Bloomberg Television. “These were private banks and we didn’t pump money into them in order to keep them going; the state did not shoulder the responsibility of the failed private banks.” - Globe & Mail Letter to Amazon December 2, 2010

I’m disgusted by Amazon’s cowardice and servility in abruptly terminating today its hosting of the Wikileaks website, in the face of threats from Senator Joe Lieberman and other Congressional right-wingers. I want no further association with any company that encourages legislative and executive officials to aspire to China’s control of information and deterrence of whistle-blowing.

For the last several years, I’ve been spending over $100 a month on new and used books from Amazon. That’s over. I ask Amazon to terminate immediately my membership in Amazon Prime and my Amazon credit card and account, to delete my contact and credit information from their files and to send me no more notices.

I understand that many other regular customers feel as I do and are responding the same way. Good: the broader and more immediate the boycott, the better. I hope that these others encourage their contact lists to do likewise and to let Amazon know exactly why they’re shifting their business. I’ve asked friends today to suggest alternatives, and I’ll be exploring service from Powell’s Books, Half-Price Books, Biblio and others.

So far Amazon has spared itself the further embarrassment of trying to explain its action openly. This would be a good time for Amazon insiders who know and perhaps can document the political pressures that were brought to bear–and the details of the hasty kowtowing by their bosses–to leak that information. They can send it to Wikileaks (now on servers outside the US), to mainstream journalists or bloggers, or perhaps to sites like that have now appropriately ended their book-purchasing association with Amazon.

Yours (no longer),
Daniel Ellsberg
Even the government admits it's illegally spying on citizens Washington Post - The federal government has repeatedly violated legal limits governing the surveillance of U.S. citizens, according to previously secret internal documents obtained through a court battle by the American Civil Liberties Union. In releasing 900 pages of documents, U.S. government agencies refused to say how many Americans' telephone, e-mail or other communications have been intercepted under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act - or FISA - Amendments Act of 2008, or to discuss any specific abuses, the ACLU said. Most of the documents were heavily redacted. However, semiannual internal oversight reports by the offices of the attorney general and director of national intelligence identify ongoing breaches of legal requirements that limit when Americans are targeted and minimize the amount of data collected Polls CBS News poll finds that 53% of Americans want the Bush-era tax cuts extended only for households earning less than $250,000 per year. Just 26% of Americans support extending the cuts for all Americans

60% think Social Security taxes should be paid on all or most of the income workers earn each year and only 34% of Americans support raising the age that younger workers receive full Social Security benefits to 70. OVERSIGHT PANEL PANS OBAMA'S HOUSING EFFORTS Shahien Nasiripour, Huffington Post - A key government panel keeping tabs on the bailout strongly criticized the Obama administration Wednesday for its apparent failure on a variety of housing-related fronts, from its ineffective foreclosure-prevention initiatives to its refusal to acknowledge the growing crisis sparked by widespread evidence that mortgage companies frequently take their customers' homes via fraud. . .

During Wednesday's hearing, members of the Congressional Oversight Panel said Treasury's foreclosure-prevention programs "failed to provide meaningful relief," generated "false expectations," and have been a "major disappointment." COP is an independent, nonpartisan commission created by Congress.

More than 20 months after President Barack Obama announced a plan to "enable as many as three to four million homeowners to modify the terms of their mortgages to avoid foreclosure," just 640,300 homeowners remain in the program. Nearly 729,000 struggling homeowners have been kicked out. SOME MCSECTION 8 HOUSING INCLUDES SWIMMING POOLS AND GRILLS Wall Street Journal - Overbuilding during the housing boom has left so many homes available that landlords, desperate for renters, are wooing Section 8 recipients. These renters’ government subsidies, delivered electronically, guarantee the landlord gets paid. As a result, Section 8 recipients suddenly have a housing smorgasbord.

Plenty of average housing stock remains in many places. But in certain markets, there are also more upscale selections. On, landlords nationwide tout boom-era showpieces ¬ replete with “great rooms,” backyard swimming pools and built-in stainless-steel barbecue grills ¬ that once sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Las Vegas has been one of the nation’s hardest-hit real-estate markets. PROTEST SIGN OF THE DAY RECOVERED HISTORY: THE MARIJUANA ISSUE FORTY YEARS AGO [The following story appeared in the November 1970 edition of the DC Gazette, the former name of the Progressive Review. What's amazing about this account is not only the rational handling of the matter and the striking testimony of the Surgeon General - but this occurred at a time when 84% of the public opposed legalization. Today only 50% do.]

DC Gazette, November 1970 - The Public Safety Committee of the DC City Council held two days of hearings this month to hear scientific and public testimony about marijuana. Most of what it heard was expectable: scientifically, marijuana is a mild conscious-altering drug; it is not addictive, nor does it lead to the use of addicting drugs; it has been known and used and studied for literally thousands of years, and no physiological damage whatsoever has been discovered; instances of adverse mental effects from its use are extremely rare.

Most significant to the council's hearing -- and to a good number of kids who are in prison on pot convictions -- was the fact, reiterated by Surgeon General Jesse L. Steinfeld, that "in the case of marijuana, legal penalties were originally assigned with total disregard for medical and scientific evidence of the properties of the drug or its effects. I know of no clearer instance in which the punishment for infraction of the law is more harmful than the crime." . . .

Activist Petey Greene "testified" on behalf of his grandmother, whose opinions on marijuana are based on practical experience. She once told her grandson to quit: "Petey, you gotta stop smoking those reefers because they make you too hungry, and I can't buy all that extra food." Later, on comparing its effects with those of alcohol, "She said she'd rather me smoke reefers and just sit and smile at people than drink that old wine and come in throwing chairs around. " . . .

The testimony of representatives of the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs was notable for its meekness. Although the narcs still refer to marijuana as a killer drug before high school audiences, and still try to imply that pot inevitably and immediately leads to heroin, and still pass out 1930's posters of marijuana as the Grim Reaper -- they backed off under Council questioning. The narc's Dr. Milton Joffe even allowed that although "legalizing simply for hedonistic purposes" was not warranted, "I'm not against pleasure. . ."

Judge Charles Halleck recommended more realistic penalties, since present laws tend to cause the community "to lose faith in the entire system of justice." James H. Heller of the National Capital Area Civil Liberties Union called for the legalization of pot. He said he saw no reason that it should be treated any different from alcohol. (He admitted to having tried grass once, "but it didn't have any effect." ("Maybe you just didn't know how to smoke it," Councilwoman Polly Shackleton consoled him) . . .

Terry Becker, a Quicksilver Times reporter, surprised everyone by calling for more stringent penalties and stricter enforcement. Becked wanted "everyone to turn on everyone to get busted;" it would hasten the revolution, he said . . .

Noting that Surgeon General Steinfeld had referred to the famous Alice B. Toklas marijuana or hash brownies but claimed the recipe was not to be found Alice's cookbook, the Council's Republican chairman Gilbert Hahn opened the second day of hearings by setting the record straight. "You will find the recipe on page 273 of Alice B. Toklas," announced Hahn and, having fulfilled his public responsibility, he ordered the proceedings to proceed. JOHN KERRY RATED MOST VAIN MEMBER THE SENATE
John Kerry's Wall of Ego Slate - Politicians spend their campaigns desperately trying to pretend they are ordinary folk. But when it comes time to decorate their offices, the theme is often "I am so not you!" Stroll through any senator's office and you'll find scores of mini museums doubling as waiting rooms. The content of their exhibits varies widely, ranging from historical artifacts and sports memorabilia to expansive ego walls dedicated only to themselves.

There's nothing wrong with being proud of a career achievement or showing off the time you met a celebrity at a charity golf tournament. But when do a few photos or plaques transmogrify into a self-aggrandizing shrine? Where is the line between modest pride and out-of-control egomania?

In a quest to find out, we developed the Senate Vanity Index, a formula that measures the level of egotism displayed in each senator's lobby, the part of his or her office open to the public.

Visiting all 100 offices, we counted every award and picture on the walls¬giving special weight to each senator's poses with celebrities, presidents, and foreign dignitaries. We make no claims that our vanity formula is flawless. But we do feel comfortable declaring that we have found a truly bipartisan issue: Of the top 10 egos in our rankings, five are Republicans, four are Democrats, and one is an independent who caucuses with the Democrats.

And the winner is

John Kerry, D-Mass.

Vanity score: 9.00
Vanity rank: 1

Senator since: 1985
Status: Up for re-election in 2014
Pics of himself: 99
Ego wall celebrities: Bono, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Norman Schwarzkopf, Kofi Annan, Hamid Karzai, Mikhail Gorbachev, John Glenn, Tim Russert, the Dalai Lama, Benjamin Netanyahu, Nicolas Sarkozy, Tip O'Neill, Colin Powell, Hosni Mubarak, Ted Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, Barack Obama.

John Kerry's wall is easily the Most Enormous Ego Wall in Washington. Visitors here may also want to check their chiropractic coverage before stretching their necks to see the top row of celebrities near the ceiling. Kerry appears to have already built his presidential library.

[2nd and 3rd place went to Arlen Specter and Jim Bunning]

Factors used for the Slate formula:

Ph = Number of photos displayed that include the senator.

Celeb = Number of different celebrities in these photos.

Prez = Number of different presidents in these photos.

TrophyCase = Is the office filled with an abundance of awards, plaques and certificates? If yes, one point added to Vanity Index.

StatePride = Is the office dominated with images or objects promoting the senator's home state? If yes, subtract one from the Vanity Index.

? = Machismo Factor. Add one if testosterone-heavy themes are off the charts. THIRD PARTY CANDIDATES GREATLY INCREASE Smart Politics - A Smart Politics analysis of more than 17,000 general election U.S. House contests since 1932 finds there are more third party and independent candidacies in the 2010 election cycle than in any midterm election since 1934.

In total, there are 443 such candidates on ballots across the nation, up 42 percent from 2008 and 57 percent from the last midterm election in 2006.

In 1994, only 260 independents and third party candidates ran for the U.S. House.

In 2010, the Libertarian Party leads the way with 153 candidates across the nation, or 35.2 percent of all U.S. House seats (1 candidate for every 2.8 districts). In 2008, Libertarians fielded 125 candidates, for an increase of 22.4 percent this year.

The Green Party has fielded the second most candidates in 2010 with 58, followed by the Constitution Party with 39. RULES OF JOURNALISM From a speech by Gene Weingarten of the Washington Post, delivered at New York University, after being given the 2010 College of Arts and Sciences Alumni Achievement Award.

At the end of one semester, I finally actually went to a class to deliver my term paper on Gestalt Approaches to Criminal Psychology, which as I recall I wrote as a Socratic dialogue between Lee Harvey Oswald and Raskolnikov. All I had to do was find the classroom, sidle in, quietly deposit this preposterous document, and get the heck out. So I walked up to the first person I saw in the hall and asked if he knew where Dr. Smith's class was. He said, "I am Dr. Smith. Who are you?"

I didn't get that F, I earned that F.

I'm not saying I was a bad student; to be a bad student, one has to actually be a student. I spent virtually all of my waking hours as editor of the Heights Daily News, the daily newspaper run by a small staff of grungy, hollow-eyed, sleep-deprived fanatics and misfits. Those of us who weren't in danger of flunking out had already done so and were technically trespassing, living furtively in the newspaper office, hunted like outlaws.

We took ourselves very seriously. We believed we were in bitter, head-to-head competition with the New York Times, even though our newspaper was the size of a refrigerator warranty and adhered to several eccentric rules of journalism we had invented, including that it was okay to deliberately misspell a person's name so long as you made it funnier. People hated us.

It was during my time at the Heights Daily News, however, that I learned the three important lessons that made me what I am today -- a semi-well-known American journalist with a vaguely recognizable name who is a proud almost-graduate of a school he didn't really attend.

Lesson One: With careful rotation and inversion, it is possible to get four days of wear out of a single pair of underpants.

Lesson Two: You can write any lie you want as long as you qualify it with the word "reportedly." That way, it's always accurate because you, for one, have just reported it.

And finally: The human mind is an imperfect machine. Absolutely any journalistic transgression you commit, including gross violations of the norms of human decency, will apparently be forgotten with the passage of enough time. Thirty-eight years seems to do the trick. REPUBLICANS ARE ONLY MAJOR PARTY IN WORLD'S DEMOCRACIES TO DISPUTE CLIMATE CHANGE Utne Reader - One of the parties on the ballot on Election Day holds a position that virtually no party in the world’s liberal democracies shares. The Republicans’ steadfast rejection of climate science makes it a global outlier, an unparalleled bastion of denial, ignorance, and obfuscation on one of the most important issues of the day.

That’s why Ronald Brownstein, conservative columnist for the National Journal, caused a bit of a stir when he wrote on October 9:

"Virtually all of the serious 2010 GOP challengers have moved beyond opposing cap-and-trade to dismissing the scientific evidence that global warming is even occurring. . . It is difficult to identify another major political party in any democracy as thoroughly dismissive of climate science as is the GOP here. Eileen Claussen, president of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, says that although other parties may contain pockets of climate skepticism, there is “no party-wide view like this anywhere in the world that I am aware of.” BPA FOUND TO REDUCE SPERM COUNT Rob Stein, Washington Post - A controversial chemical found in plastic bottles, soda cans and many other common products appears to adversely affect sperm in men, according to new research. The study of more than 200 Chinese factory workers found that those who were exposed to bisphenol A, or BPA, were more likely to have lower sperm counts and poorer sperm quality. . .

The study is the third is a series of reports Li has published examining the effects of BPA exposure among Chinese factory workers. The two previous papers produced evidence that BPA exposure was associated with erectile dysfunction and other sexual problems in men.

BPA is found in thousands of consumer products, ranging from dental sealants to canned food linings. It is so ubiquitous that it has been detected in the urine of more than 90 percent of the U.S. population MAKING ART OUT OF PHONE BOOKS FAVORITE TV SHOWS BY PARTY Meanwhile. . .
Washington Post - Work zone speed cameras stationed on D.C. 295 near the new Eastern Avenue bridge are snapping away weeks after much of the construction ended, angering drivers but still generating revenue for the District. Nearly 15,000 speeding tickets were generated by cameras in the work zone, near the Maryland border, between mid-August and the end of October, according to D.C. police statistics. The income from those tickets: at least $3.73 million. But there has not been much construction at the site since mid-October, and drivers who regularly use the highway say now that the workers are largely gone, it's time for the speed cameras to go, too.

Barack Obama has appointed more than 150 openly gay officials, a record and about ten more Bill Clinton did.

Howard Dean has joined the call for instant runoff voting.

China Hush - At least one Chinese subway vending machine is offering boxed crabs. It selling about 200 a day.





Indonesian writes 5,472 page book on Obama

What your bike says about you

Amnesty International has called for the criminal proseuction of George Bush for using waterboard torture.

A new way to read long things on the web

China may be ahead of U.S. economy in two years

A Catholic priest stole more than $80,000 from his Massachusetts parish to fund his interest in films and computer diversions of the adult variety.
Notes of an online ghost writer for college students

138 million pounds of nuclear waste and no place to put it

RFID opens door to mass electronic pickpocketing


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