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Thu 23 October, 2014

01:24 Justice Department Condemns Leaks In Michael Brown Case As Attempt To 'Influence Public'» Politics - The Huffington Post
The Justice Department condemned a series of leaks from the investigation into the shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo., The Los Angeles Times reported. The death of the unarmed black teenager on Aug. 9 sparked weeks of protests and a national debate over police tactics.

The leaks from the official inquiry into the shooting appear to support the account of the incident given by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson, that he and Brown struggled, and that he opened fire when Brown allegedly reached for his gun.

An unnamed Justice Department spokeswoman called the leaks "irresponsible and highly troubling" and said, "There seems to be an inappropriate effort to influence public opinion about this case," the Times reported.

An unidentified Justice Department official also told The Huffington Post's Ryan J. Reilly that Attorney General Eric Holder is "exasperated" by the apparent "selective leaks," in the case.

The leak of sensitive details about the official investigation have come from unnamed sources, and all seem to corroborate Wilson's account of what happened, that Brown attacked him in his car.

Unnamed government officials told The New York Times that Brown's blood was found on Wilson and on the interior of the police car, suggesting that at least some of the shots fired at Brown were at close range.

An official autopsy report obtained by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch revealed that Brown was shot in the hand at close range. The Post-Dispatch's report also cited experts not affiliated with the case who posited the findings suggest there was an altercation in the police car and that Brown was going for the officer's gun.

On Wednesday, unnamed sources told The Washington Post that seven or eight black witnesses have given testimony before a grand jury deciding whether to indict Wilson that was "consistent" with the officer's account. The witnesses have not gone public with their accounts for fear of their safety.

Other witnesses who have gone public about what they saw claim Brown was attempting to surrender when Wilson fired the fatal shots.

The release of the autopsy details was met with criticism by Ferguson officials and protesters; they say they're concerned that leaks from what is supposed to be a secret grand jury investigation indicate justice may be in jeopardy.

Ferguson resident and protester Patricia Byrnes told the Los Angeles Times, "There is no way there should be reports from all these anonymous sources and these 'leaks' ... This is supposed to play out in the courts and the justice system, and not the media," adding, "The whole damn system is guilty as hell."

St. Louis Alderman Antonio French, a prominent voice in the months following the incident, tweeted, "A non-transparent grand jury process and a leaky investigation is not the way the outcome of this important case should be determined."

Some protesters said they believe the leaks are intended to ready the public for the possibility that the grand jury will decide not to indict Wilson.

That decision is expected in November.

Wed 22 October, 2014

23:17 Syria Airstrikes Kill 553, Including 32 Civilians, During Monthlong Offensive Against ISIS: Monitor» Politics - The Huffington Post

BEIRUT, Oct 23 (Reuters) - Air strikes by U.S.-led forces have killed 553 people, including 32 civilians, during a month-long campaign in Syria against Islamic State militants, a Syrian monitoring group which tracks the violence said on Thursday.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the majority of the deaths, 464, were Islamic State fighters. Six of the civilians were children and five were women, the Observatory said.

It said 57 members of the al Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front were also killed in the air strikes, which started a month ago. Strikes hit the provinces of Aleppo, Deir al-Zor, Idlib, Raqqa and al-Hassakah, it said. (Reporting by Oliver Holmes; Editing by Andrew Heavens)
22:52 Every 8 Minutes, Parents' Medicine Mistakes Put Kids at Risk» LiveScience.com
When you give medicine to your kids, pay close attention to the dose.
22:52 Mark Warner vs. Ed Gillespie vs. Robert Sarvis Nonpartisan Candidate Guide For Virginia Senate Race 2014» Politics - The Huffington Post
2014-10-23-VA_senate_Warner_Gillespie_Sarvis_jpeg.jpg

Are you looking for a nonpartisan voter guide to the Mark Warner vs. Ed Gillespie vs. Robert Sarvis Senate race? One that will give you an unbiased, no-spin comparison of candidate positions on key issues? That's what our Campus Election Engagement Project guide will give you! We are a national nonpartisan initiative working with college and university administrators, faculty, and student leaders to increase student participation in America's elections. For the 2014 elections we have created and distributed voter guides to campuses in more than 20 states so they can provide their communities with accurate information for informed voting. Because these guides have been so well received and are useful for all voting citizens who want to be better informed, we are also posting them here.

We developed our guides by analyzing information from trusted resources such as www.votesmart.org, www.ontheissues.org, www.ballotpedia.com, www.politifact.com, www.factcheck.org, www.vote411.org and from candidate websites, public debates and interviews, and statements in major media outlets. We also showed them to groups like campus Young Republicans and Young Democrats at the schools we work with to verify their fairness and lack of bias.

So here are the issue-by-issue stands for Mark Warner, Ed Gillespie and Robert Sarvis, with additional links at the bottom for each candidate if you'd like to dig deeper.

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Budget: Did you support raising the Federal debt ceiling with no strings attached?
Warner: Yes
Gillespie: No
Sarvis: Unknown

Budget: Do you support a Constitutional Balanced Budget Amendment?
Warner: No
Gillespie: Yes
Sarvis: Yes

Campaign Finance: Do you support the DISCLOSE Act, which would require key funders of political ads to put their names on those ads?
Warner: Yes
Gillespie: No
Sarvis: Unknown

Campaign Finance: Do you support the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, which allowed unlimited independent political expenditures by corporations and unions?
Warner: No
Gillespie: Yes
Sarvis: Yes

Economy: Do you support raising the minimum wage?
Warner: Yes
Gillespie: No
Sarvis: No

Economy: Do you support extending unemployment benefits beyond 26 weeks?
Warner: Yes
Gillespie: Unknown
Sarvis: No

Economy: Do you support the Dodd-Frank Act, which established the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and sought to increase regulation of Wall Street corporations and other financial institutions?
Warner: Yes
Gillespie: No
Sarvis: Unknown

Economy: Do you support federal spending as a means of promoting economic growth?
Warner: Yes
Gillespie: No
Sarvis: No

Education: Do you support refinancing of student loans at lower rates, paid for by increasing taxes on income over a million dollars?
Warner: Yes
Gillespie: Unknown
Sarvis: Unknown

Environment: Do you believe that human activity is a major factor contributing to climate change?
Warner: Yes
Gillespie: No
Sarvis: Yes

Environment: Do you support government action to limit the levels of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere?
Warner: Yes
Gillespie: No
Sarvis: Yes

Environment: Do you support government mandates and/or subsidies for renewable energy?
Warner: Yes
Gillespie: Unknown. Has lobbied against increased auto mileage standards
Sarvis: No

Gay Marriage: Do you support gay marriage?
Warner: Yes
Gillespie: No
Sarvis: Yes

Gun Control: Do you support enacting more restrictive gun control legislation?
Warner: Yes
Gillespie: No
Sarvis: No

Healthcare: Do you support repealing the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare?
Warner: No
Gillespie: Yes
Sarvis: Yes

Healthcare: Did you support shutting down the federal government in order to defund Obamacare in 2013?
Warner: No
Gillespie: Yes
Sarvis: No

Immigration: Do you support the D.R.E.A.M. Act, which would allow children brought into the country illegally to achieve legal status if they've graduated from high school, have a clean legal record, and attend college or serve in the military?
Warner: Yes
Gillespie: Unknown
Sarvis: No

Immigration: Do you support the comprehensive immigration plan passed by the Senate in 2013, which includes a pathway to citizenship and increased funding for border security?
Warner: Yes
Gillespie: Yes
Sarvis: Unknown

Iraq: Should the US recommit troops to Iraq to combat the rise in insurgency?
Warner: Unknown. Wants to "keep all options on the table."
Gillespie: Unknown
Sarvis: No

Marijuana: Do you support efforts to decriminalize and/or legalize marijuana?
Warner: Unknown, though says his views have changed
Gillespie: Unknown
Sarvis: Supports decriminalization

Social Issues: Should abortion be highly restricted?
Warner: No
Gillespie: Yes
Sarvis: No

Social Issues: Should employers be able to withhold contraceptive coverage from employees if they disagree with it morally?
Warner: No
Gillespie: Yes
Sarvis: Unknown

Social Issues: Should Planned Parenthood receive public funds for non-abortion health services?
Warner: Yes
Gillespie: No
Sarvis: Unknown

Social Security: Do you support partial privatization of Social Security?
Warner: No
Gillespie: Yes
Sarvis: Unknown

Taxes: Have you signed the Americans for Tax Reform Pledge to oppose any tax increases to raise revenue? (The answer to this question is taken from the database of signatories of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, created by Americans for Tax Reform. Signers to the pledge promise to oppose "any and all tax increases" meant to generate additional revenue.)
Warner: No
Gillespie: Yes
Sarvis: Yes

Taxes: Would you increase taxes on corporations and/or high-income individuals to pay for public services?
Warner: Yes
Gillespie: No
Sarvis: No

Learn more about the candidates:
Warner: Mark Warner Vote Smart pages and Mark Warner On the Issues pages
Gillespie: Ed Gillespie Vote Smart pages and Ed Gillespie On the Issues pages
Sarvis: Robert Sarvis Vote Smart pages and Robert Sarvis On the Issues pages

----------
22:29 With Ebola, Are Bats Getting a Bad Rap? (Op-Ed)» LiveScience.com
The unpredictable nature and novelty of zoonotic pathogens make them incredibly difficult to defend against and respond to. But that does not mean we are helpless in the face of emerging ones.
22:09 John Kasich vs. Ed FitzGerald Nonpartisan Candidate Guide For Ohio Governor's Race 2014» Politics - The Huffington Post
2014-10-23-OH_gov_Kasich_FitzGerald_jpeg.jpg

Are you looking for a nonpartisan voter guide to the John Kasich vs. Ed FitzGerald Governor's race? One that will give you an unbiased, no-spin comparison of candidate positions on key issues? That's what our Campus Election Engagement Project guide will give you! We are a national nonpartisan initiative working with college and university administrators, faculty, and student leaders to increase student participation in America's elections. For the 2014 elections we have created and distributed voter guides to campuses in more than 20 states so they can provide their communities with accurate information for informed voting. Because these guides have been so well received and are useful for all voting citizens who want to be better informed, we are also posting them here.

We developed our guides by analyzing information from trusted resources such as www.votesmart.org, www.ontheissues.org, www.ballotpedia.com, www.politifact.com, www.factcheck.org, www.vote411.org and from candidate websites, public debates and interviews, and statements in major media outlets. We also showed them to groups like campus Young Republicans and Young Democrats at the schools we work with to verify their fairness and lack of bias.

So here are the issue-by-issue stands for John Kasich and Ed FitzGerald, with additional links at the bottom for each candidate if you'd like to dig deeper. (You can also find Ohio's Secretary of State guide here.)

----------
Education: Do you support increasing funding for K-12 education?
Kasich: No
FitzGerald:Yes

Education: Do you support the effort to standardize and increase school standards under the Common Core initiative?
Kasich: Yes
FitzGerald:No

Education: Do you support providing vouchers to parents to send their children to private schools with public money?
Kasich: Yes
FitzGerald:No

Education: Do you support increasing funding for higher education?
Kasich: No (State funding of higher education has dropped 18% over the past five years. Kasich signed 2014 bill with new funding formula based on graduation and course completion rates rather than on student attendance.)
FitzGerald:Yes

Elections: Do you support cutbacks of early voting?
Kasich: Yes
FitzGerald:No

Elections: Do you support requiring registered voters to present a photo-ID in order to vote?
Kasich:
FitzGerald:

Elections: Do you support increasing restrictions on campaign donations?
Kasich: Unknown
FitzGerald:Yes

Environment: Do you believe that human activity is a major factor contributing to climate change?
Kasich: Yes
FitzGerald:Yes

Environment: Do you support taking government action to limit the levels of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere?
Kasich: No
FitzGerald:Yes

Environment: Do you support government mandates and/or subsidies for renewable energy?
Kasich: No
FitzGerald:Yes

Gay Marriage: Do you support gay marriage?
Kasich: No
FitzGerald:Yes

Gun Control: Do you support enacting more restrictive gun control legislation?
Kasich: No
FitzGerald: Unknown

Healthcare: Do you support the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare?
Kasich: No
FitzGerald:Yes

Healthcare: Should your state accept federal funds so Medicaid will cover people earning up to 138% of the federal poverty line?
Kasich: Yes
FitzGerald:Yes

Marijuana: Do you support efforts to decriminalize and/or legalize marijuana?
Kasich: No. Also opposes medical marijuana
FitzGerald: Supports medical marijuana

Minimum Wage: Do you support raising the minimum wage?
Kasich: No
FitzGerald:Yes

Social Issues: Should abortion be highly restricted?
Kasich: Yes
FitzGerald:No

Social Issues: Should employers be able to withhold contraceptive coverage from employees if they disagree with it morally?
Kasich: Unknown
FitzGerald: No

Taxes: Have you signed the Americans for Tax Reform Pledge to oppose any tax increases to raise revenue? (The answer to this question is taken from the database of signatories of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, created by Americans for Tax Reform. Signers to the pledge promise to oppose "any and all tax increases" meant to generate additional revenue.)
Kasich: No
FitzGerald:No

Taxes: Would you increase taxes on corporations and/or high-income individuals to pay for public services?
Kasich: No
FitzGerald:Yes

Unions: Should public employees, such as firefighters, police, and teachers, have the right to bargain as a group for wages and other benefits?
Kasich: No
FitzGerald:Yes

Learn more about the candidates:
Kasich: John Kasich Vote Smart pages and John Kasich On the Issues pages
FitzGerald: Ed FitzGerald Vote Smart pages

-----------------
Other gubernatorial candidates include Anita Rios (Green). Due to limited space, we can't include her positions, but invite you to check out her website.
22:06 Why Your Coffee Tastes, and Smells, So Good (Op-Ed)» LiveScience.com
Most of what we taste we actually smell.
20:47 Midterm Madness» Politics - The Huffington Post
A crisis is a terrible thing to waste, and the Republicans are capitalizing on every crisis, foreign and domestic. With less than two weeks to go before the midterm elections, Republicans are perfectly positioned to win control of the U.S. Senate because the president is unpopular.

Republican Congressional candidates, from North Carolina to Iowa, are running against President Barack Obama rather than their opponent. Turnout in midterm elections is traditionally poor. All Republicans have to do is mobilize their base by keeping the focus on President Obama, pounding away at him with their message of incompetence and detachment. If the Democrat base does not turn out, which appears likely, control of the Senate will change hands.

Nothing mobilizes a population more than fear, and that's where the crises come in. Republicans have seized on Ebola. Congressman Louie Gohmert, R-Tx, along with other members of Congress, has called for a travel ban on citizens traveling from Western Africa to the United States. The president has said he is open to the idea, but is currently relying on the judgment of most medical experts who say such a ban would be counterproductive. "This president, I guarantee you, we're going to find out, he has cut a deal with African leaders. They're going to bring people in," Ghomert told conservative media host Sean Hannity.

It was noteworthy that Congressional Republicans raced back to the Capitol from their break for a hearing on the Ebola crisis, yet they have been unwilling to debate the issue of America's response to ISIS, the Islamic terrorist group that has threatened much of the Middle East. Instead, they have attacked the president for his lack of leadership in handling the ISIS crisis.

There is no question that most Americans are weary of Washington gridlock. A recent poll found that 70% of "likely voters" disapprove of Congressional Republicans, while 61% disapprove of Congressional Democrats. Meanwhile, 53% disapprove of the president's performance. No wonder most voters will stay home on November 4.

This election is not about issues--it is about politics. Polls show that a majority of Americans would not repeal Obamacare. In a moment of candor, Ohio Governor John Kasich, a potential Republican presidential candidate, was asked about repealing Obamacare. "That's not going to happen," he told the Associated Press. "The opposition to it was really either political or ideological...I don't think that holds water against flesh and blood, and real improvement in people's lives." Later in comments to the Washington Post, Kasich, perhaps realizing he had been too honest, said he would repeal Obamacare. "If the House and Senate (are controlled by Republicans) and we have a Republican president, Obamacare will be repealed flat out," he said. "And it will be replaced." Kasich was back on message.

Obamacare has been a big success in Kentucky, where it is a state exchange known as Kynect. Yet, Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell, who is in a tight race for reelection in that state, denounced Obamacare in a recent debate. "The best interest of the country would be achieved by pulling out Obamacare, root and branch," he said. "Now with regard to Kynect, it's a state exchange. They can continue it if they'd like to. They'll have to pay for it because the (federal) grant will be over." These remarks were no doubt unsettling for the more than 400,000 Kentuckians who have signed up for health insurance through Kyneck. But McConnell is more interested in the politics of the issue.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, also a likely Republican presidential contender, had a moment of candor when he expressed frustration with all the talk of increasing the minimum wage to the Chamber of Commerce, a largely Republican group. "I'm tired of hearing about the minimum wage," Christie said. "I really am. I don't think there's a mother or a father sitting around the kitchen table tonight in America saying, 'You know, honey, if our son or daughter could just make a higher minimum wage, my God, all of our dreams would be realized.' " Democrats have been leading efforts to increase the minimum wage across the country as a way to address income inequality. But Christie was clearly more interested in the politics of the room he was addressing.

Should the Republicans win the Senate this election, they will control both houses of Congress for the next two years. The result will be further gridlock, more partisanship, and more frustration for all Americans. But the Republicans will have what they want most, a political victory.
20:44 Forensic Expert Urges Caution On Michael Brown Autopsy Analysis» Politics - The Huffington Post
Details from an official autopsy on slain teen Michael Brown that were leaked to reporters could bolster his killer’s claim of self-defense. But just hours after the details were published, one of the experts whose analysis was central to those claims told msnbc that her analysis of the findings had been taken out of context.

20:30 Open Thread - Nixon's The One!» Latest from Crooks and Liars

There's a new You Tube show debuting this week called "Nixon's The One," starring Harry Scherer as a spot-on Tricky Dick. In this clip HR Haldeman proposes to his boss strategies to "destroy the networks," leading to Haldeman's suggestion of a peculiarly familiar idea for a cable news company. Of course, Roger Ailes worked in the Nixon White House, too.

Open Thread below...


20:00 Open thread for night owls: A fifth of Detroit's population, 142,000 people, could lose their homes » Daily Kos
House foreclosed on in Detroit
One of the tens of thousands of foreclosed houses in Detroit that you can read about here.
At The Atlantic, Rose Hackman writes One-Fifth of Detroit's Population Could Lose Their Homes—Many families could stay put for just a few hundred dollars, if only they knew how to work the system:
As Detroit seeks to leave bankruptcy behind and get back on its feet—ramping up development with construction of a light rail and a new hockey arena that will cost the city hundreds of millions of dollars—it is simultaneously bearing witness to a process that could evict up to 142,000 of its residents, many of whom are too poor to pay their property taxes.

Detroit is 83 percent African-American, and 38 percent of its population lives below the poverty line. But the older, blacker Detroit starkly contrasts with a whiter, wealthier new Detroit that's been wooed in by tax breaks and living incentives—which gives these evictions a heavily racial subtext. […]

This year in Detroit, there have been 22,000 foreclosures on properties whose owners failed to pay property taxes three years in a row. Of those, 10,000 are estimated to be occupied, meaning this year's foreclosures are set to oust about 27,000 Detroiters from their homes.

That’s a large number in a dwindling city with fewer than 700,000 residents, but the figures are set to get even worse. In the next couple of months, Wayne County's treasurer will be serving foreclosure notices on 110,000 more properties, 85,000 of which are in Detroit, according to its chief deputy treasurer David Szymanski. With half of those Detroit properties estimated to be occupied, this means a further 115,000 Detroiters might lose their homes next year.


Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2010An update from the front:

The war in Afghanistan? Not going all that well.

The war on drugs? Um, move along please.

The war on poverty? Are we still even fighting that one?

But don't despair. There is a battlefront where there's been significant progress—the war on reality.

In case you think that the general Tea Party lunatic positions on taxes, health care, and Aqua Buddha have distracted them from the battle lines of this engagement, Southern Fried Science has compiled a series of Tea Party statements where candidates and supporters reaffirm their allegiance to non-science. Whether it's O'Donnell's fury over mice with human brains, Sharron Angle's angle on the "hoax" of global warming, or the near universal disdain on the right for evolution, the Tea Party has not surrendered one inch to research and reason.

The editors of the journal Nature have declared that

The anti-science strain pervading the right wing in the United States is the last thing the country needs in a time of economic challenge. ... The [Tea Party] movement is also averse to science-based regulation, which it sees as an excuse for intrusive government.

Tweet of the Day
i've always took the firm stance that it's not bullying when it's directed at the bullies
@MattBinder


On today's Kagro in the Morning show, Christie's tired of something, so everyone stop. David Perdue hates America. Drunken, trombone-playing clown GunFAIL! Suppose they gave a constitutional crisis and nobody came? Joan McCarter joined us to discuss the CIA-Senate fight, 15 minutes of fame for ID's Hitching Post Wedding Chapel, health care flip-flops from Kasich & Tillis, Brown's laughable debate line, and the Koch brothers' last-ditch efforts. The "devoted gun enthusiast" who attacked a GA courthouse wore a double layer of body armor, but accidentally shot himself in the leg. And Scott Wooledge joins us along with Armando for a more in-depth discussion of the Hitching Post stunt.



High Impact Posts. Top Comments
19:40 C&L's Late Nite Music Club With Fever The Ghost» Latest from Crooks and Liars

These guys have been doing pretty well and they're in the middle of a tour that's taking them from the U.S. to Europe. Good to see some indie talent getting noticed these days. On top of that, their music video was animated by the very talented Felix Colgrave, an artist whose works became well known on the webste, Newgrounds.com. Hopefully Fever the Ghost has a long and successful future ahead of them!

Got any favorite music videos.


19:38 Gohmert: Gay Massage Will Make Our Soldiers Vulnerable To Terrorism» Latest from Crooks and Liars
Gohmert: Gay Massage Will Make Our Soldiers Vulnerable To Terrorism

Wingnut Rep. Louie Gohmert appeared on right-wing "Christian" radio this Tuesday and went off on a bizarre rant about allowing gays to serve in the military while discussing President Obama's decision to send troops to West Africa to assist with controlling the Ebola outbreak.

From Right Wing Watch: Louie Gohmert: Gays Shouldn't Serve In The Military Because Massages Will Make Them Vulnerable To Terrorism:

Somehow that discussion eventually prompted him to launch into criticism of the repeal of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy in the most perfectly Gohmert-esque fashion imaginable.

"I've had people say, 'Hey, you know, there's nothing wrong with gays in the military. Look at the Greeks,'" he said. "Well, you know, they did have people come along who they loved that was the same sex and would give them massages before they went into battle. But you know what, it's a different kind of fighting, it's a different kind of war and if you're sitting around getting massages all day ready to go into a big, planned battle, then you're not going to last very long. It's guerrilla fighting.

read more

19:26 Joni Ernst: My Gun Will Defend Me If Government Decides 'My Rights Are No Longer Important'» Politics - The Huffington Post
WASHINGTON -- Joni Ernst, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Iowa, said during an NRA event in 2012 that she would use a gun to defend herself from the government.

“I have a beautiful little Smith & Wesson, 9 millimeter, and it goes with me virtually everywhere,” Ernst said at the NRA and Iowa Firearms Coalition Second Amendment Rally in Searsboro, Iowa. “But I do believe in the right to carry, and I believe in the right to defend myself and my family -- whether it’s from an intruder, or whether it’s from the government, should they decide that my rights are no longer important.”

Ernst made the remark a little more than a month after gunman James Holmes allegedly killed 12 people and injured 58 in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. Ernst’s campaign did not respond to The Huffington Post's request for comment about the remark on Wednesday evening.

Earlier this year, Ernst released an ad in which she points a gun at the camera and vows to “unload” on Obamacare.



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What's happening in your district? The Huffington Post wants to know about all the campaign ads, mailers, robocalls, candidate appearances and other interesting campaign news happening by you. Email any tips, videos, audio files or photos to openreporting@huffingtonpost.com.
18:16 Tom Cotton's Consultant Who 'May Not Exist' Actually Does» Politics - The Huffington Post
WASHINGTON -- It turns out Arkansas Rep. Tom Cotton (R) was not employing some sort of phantom consultant in his bid to unseat Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor -- it's merely a new one without a long paper trail.

Since March, Cotton has paid some $323,000 to a firm called Right Solutions Partners LLC, according to federal election filings. One news outlet noticed that fact, but also could find no sign of a human being attached to the firm, and no indication the firm had done work anywhere else. When no explanation was forthcoming from Cotton's campaign, it prompted a headline that said the congressman was paying a consultant who "may not exist."

The campaign did eventually get around to explaining to HuffPost that the person behind the firm is a former top fundraiser for the Club for Growth, Erika Sather, and that the money had been paid to her through Right Solutions, which she created a little more than a year ago. Sather also has reportedly signed on to help Rand Paul build his national fundraising base, and has worked with her former boss at the Club for Growth, Pat Toomey, among others.

In the super-heated atmosphere in the waning days of a bitter campaign, it can be easy to spin disparate facts into a suspicious picture. While Cotton's campaign did not explain why it hadn't clarified the situation sooner to head off an unflattering story, Sather herself agreed that the only thing that was unusual about her arrangement with Cotton wasn't unusual at all. Her firm just hasn't been around long enough to generate much history.

"That's correct, my firm is new," Sather said by email when HuffPost was able to reach her Wednesday evening. She'd have answered earlier, she said, but she had been busy doing her job of fundraising. She is, after all, responsible for all of Cotton's national buck-raking.

Mystery solved.
18:11 Ron Wyden Blasts CIA For Censoring Torture Report» Politics - The Huffington Post
WASHINGTON (AP) — Sen. Ron Wyden says the CIA is trying to blunt the impact of an upcoming Senate report examining the harsh treatment of al-Qaida detainees by insisting on censoring the pseudonyms used for agency officers mentioned in the document.

"The intelligence leadership doing everything they can to bury the facts," said Wyden, D-Ore., a Senate Intelligence Committee member who has been a frequent critic of the spy agency. The Senate, the CIA and the White House are negotiating over what should be blacked out for national security reasons in the 600-page summary of the report that is set for public release sometime after the November elections.

President Barack Obama and other senior officials have said the CIA's use of waterboarding, stress positions, sleep deprivation and other harsh techniques on some detainees constituted torture. Many current and former CIA officers dispute that.

The Senate report asserts that the harsh treatment didn't work and that CIA officials misled Congress and other government agencies about it. Also to be released is a CIA response, and a separate one by Senate Republicans, which challenge the report's conclusions.

CIA officials say they fear the publication of officer pseudonyms — often just a first name such as "Roger"— would lead to the unmasking of undercover officers. Readers could track the same person in different jobs and places, making it easier to discover their identity.

Without the pseudonyms, Wyden says, the report would be much harder to understand because readers wouldn't be able to distinguish different CIA officers. Readers wouldn't know, for example, whether same CIA official had been accused of lying multiple times.

Wyden pointed out that the 9/11 Commission Report and a 2004 report into abuses at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison used pseudonyms for CIA officers.

"I think it is appropriate to redact specific identifying information so the identities of undercover officers are not publicly exposed," Wyden told The Associated Press.

Wyden said the Senate report documents "falsehoods, misdeeds and mistakes" by the CIA.

Asked about Wyden's remarks, CIA spokesman Dean Boyd said, "Pseudonyms are redacted to keep individual intelligence officers from being identified and potentially harmed. Making public those pseudonyms associated with individual officers, as well as dates, locations and other identifying information related to those officers, dramatically increases the likelihood that they will be exposed and potentially subject to threats or violence."
17:45 Canada Prime Minister Harper: Ottawa Attacks Are Terrorism» Politics - The Huffington Post
OTTAWA, Ontario (AP) — Canada's prime minister says Wednesday's fatal shooting of a Canadian soldier in Ottawa and a hit-and-run that killed another earlier this week are grim reminders that Canada is not immune to terrorism.

"But let there be no misunderstanding, we will not be intimidated. Canada will never be intimidated," Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in a televised address to the nation.

Harper says the two, separate attacks will strengthen Canada's resolve to work to keep Canada safe and work with allies around the world to fight terrorist organizations.

Harper spoke hours after a gunman shot a soldier guarding a war memorial then stormed Parliament before he was killed. On Monday, a man allegedly inspired by radical Muslim beliefs rammed his car against two Canadian soldiers, one of whom died.
17:42 Senate Election Overview -- Democrats Hanging On?» Politics - The Huffington Post

Sorry for the overly-provocative title, but I'm a little surprised at how all the big media election-predicting sites have apparently decided to just call the whole Senate for Republicans and clock out early. Because I just don't see it as quite the slam-dunk everyone else does, at this point.


Partly this is because I eschew the whole "percentage prediction" model everyone else seems so enamored of. My columns rely a lot more on state-by-state analysis than computer modeling, to put this another way. And I do listen to my gut feelings, which is a big no-no in the world of professional statisticians. But, hey, at least I admit it up front.


There are a few changes in my state rankings from last week's column, including one very important piece of good news for Democrats down South. We've got less than two weeks to go, the debates are in full swing, and early voting has started in many of these states already. One caveat is that I'm starting to pay closer attention to how old the polling data is -- a poll from ten days ago isn't going to capture anything which has happened in the meantime, to put this another way. And we've got several states which weren't on anyone's radar as a possible close contest, so in some places polling data is very thin on the ground.


Having said all that, let's get to my picks for this week. As always, share your thoughts and your picks (where you think I'm laughably wrong) in the comments section.


OK, that's enough intro, let's get on with this week's picks, shall we?


 


Safe Republican


The Safe Republican list didn't change from last week: Alabama, Idaho, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma (both seats), South Carolina (both seats), Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia, and Wyoming.


There are fourteen Senate seats in that list, and two of them (Montana and West Virginia) are pickups for Republicans.


 


Safe Democratic


Likewise, the list of Safe Democratic seats didn't change any from last week: Delaware, Hawai'i, Illinois, Oregon, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Rhode Island, and Virginia.


These eleven safe seats, however, do not include a single pickup, leaving the Democrats' net score at zero.


 


Leaning Republican


One state (Kentucky) from last week's list of Leaning Republican states moved down into tossup status. This leaves three Leaning Republican states this week: Arkansas, Louisiana, and South Dakota.


Arkansas hasn't shown much movement in polling, as incumbent Democrat Mark Pryor seems to be steadily trailing. The Democrats have deployed their secret weapon (whose name is Clinton) here, but so far it hasn't had much effect in the polls.


One recent poll in Louisiana showed the race tightening a bit, with incumbent Democrat Mary Landrieu pulling within three points of Republican Bill Cassidy. But Republicans have a clear edge here. The real question is whether either candidate could pull in the majority needed (50 percent plus one vote) to avoid a runoff. Right now, that doesn't look likely, so no matter who wins on Election Day, the seat might not be decided for another month.


South Dakota is one of those states where we're all relying on polling data that is quite likely past its freshness expiration date. This is no surprise, really, considering that nobody had pegged it as a race to watch even as recently as a few weeks ago. Given the volatile nature of the three-way race there, a strong argument could be made for moving this state down to Too Close To Call, just on the lack of up-to-date polling alone. For the time being, we'll keep it as Leaning Republican, based on the last poll taken. Keep a close eye on any poll results which may appear here, though.


Every one of these Republican leaners is currently in Democratic hands. So taking all three states would mean a pickup of three seats for Republicans. Added to their Safe Republican pickups, this means Republicans are up a net five seats -- one short of taking control.


 


Leaning Democratic


Then again, maybe not. To last week's two states (New Hampshire and North Carolina) we have to add a surprise. Because Georgia has moved up from Too Close To Call to Leaning Democratic.


Georgia is, so far, the one bright spot for Democrats late in the election cycle. In this race between dynastic candidates, Democrat Michelle Nunn is showing herself to be a much better campaigner than Republican David Perdue. Nunn's been holding her own in the ad wars, and Perdue's "I'm proud to be a job outsourcer" stand is going over like a lead balloon with the voters. Since the gaffe was made public, Perdue has lost his lead over Nunn, and Nunn's numbers have climbed. We really could use some new polling here, but at this point it's a pretty good bet that the more recent the polling is, the better Nunn's numbers are going to look. The trendline is clear, so for the time being Georgia has to be considered Leaning Democratic. Georgia is another state we might have a late runoff contest, it is also worth mentioning.


It's looking like one favorable poll for Scott Brown in New Hampshire was nothing more than an outlier. Since that point, Democratic incumbent Jeanne Shaheen has regained her edge, and seems headed for victory.


The story is similar in North Carolina, where incumbent Democrat Kay Hagen also seems to be holding onto her slight edge over Thom Tillis. Hagen is looking confident, and she just turned down a fourth debate in a show of strength.


Holding New Hampshire and North Carolina won't represent any net gain for Democrats, but winning Georgia will put Democrats up one overall. This means the absolute lead for Republicans is cut from plus five to plus four -- meaning they will have to pick up an additional race to take control of the Senate. If Michelle Nunn wins and Democrats keep the Senate, they'd better give her whatever plum committee assignments she asks for, because she will have earned some sort of prize.


 


Too Close To Call


We have five states in the Too Close To Call category this week, but not the same five as last week. Kentucky moved down here from Leaning Republican this week, and Georgia moved up to Leaning Democratic.


Alaska's race seems to be getting closer in the polls (even though they're slightly outdated), although incumbent Democrat Mark Begich is still the underdog by a few points. However, I've always gone with gut feeling here, and not trusted the polls as much as in other states (polling in Alaska just isn't as accurate as elsewhere, for a variety of reasons). Begich has launched a monumental get-out-the-vote effort in Alaska -- the biggest the state has ever seen. He may very well be reaching precisely those voters who aren't registering in the polls. I may be going out on a limb, but I truly think Begich may surprise some poll-watchers on Election Day. I could always be wrong, though.


Colorado polls are tightening, and incumbent Democrat Mark Udall seems to be in a virtual tie right now with Cory Gardner. This race could go either way, and in addition the electorate might be different than what the statisticians expect, due to Colorado's new "all-mail" voting this year.


Iowa's polling is neck-and-neck, and Bruce Braley seems to have regained the ground he lost in September. The latest poll shows him up, but within the margin of error. This could be an outlier, and it could be the indications of a trend. At this point, it's impossible to say. A few more polls might answer the question, but probably not decisively. For months now, we've all known that the Iowa race is going to be one of the closest-watched races on Election Day, and that hasn't changed at all.


Kansas has settled down somewhat after the shock of the Democratic candidate pulling out of the race, but it has settled down into a virtual tie. Incumbent Republican Pat Roberts seems to be running a tiny bit behind Independent Greg Orman, but Orman seems to have lost the large edge he got immediately after the Democrat dropped out. Kansas is currently the front lines of the civil war raging within the Republican Party, both in this race and in the governor's race. Right now, the edge goes to Orman, but just barely.


Kentucky was the other surprisingly good news for Democrats this week, as Alison Lundergan Grimes employs a "throw everything at the wall and hope something sticks" last-minute take-no-prisoners ad effort. What surprised everyone is that it seems to be paying off for her. The latest poll shows her only down one point from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell -- which, if accurate, would put her back into contention. The national Democrats pulled their money out of the state when it was looking like McConnell had the race sewn up, but they just announced that they're reversing their position and will be pouring some money in for last-minute ads. Whatever happens, the race cannot be seen as Leaning Republican any longer, and so belongs here in Too Close To Call.


Before taking into consideration any of these tight races, Republicans are up four seats and Democrats are down by the same four. In absolute terms, this means 47 Republican seats and 48 Democratic. Meaning Republicans need to pick up four of the remaining five states, while Democrats will retain control by winning only two of them. Three of these states (Alaska, Colorado, and Iowa) are currently in Democratic hands, while two (Kansas and Kentucky) are currently Republican. This doesn't really matter in the absolute math, though, because Republicans need a total of at least 51 to win control, while Democrats only need 50 to retain control (because they have Joe Biden's vote to break any tie).


Now, I realize that this is a lot more optimistic for Democrats than a lot of other wonky election-calling sites right now. And this scenario really hinges on Democrats holding on to North Carolina and taking Georgia -- both of which are still rather bold assumptions (especially Georgia). If Michelle Nunn's polling trendline continues, however, some of these other forecasts may change.


Even if my assumptions come true, Democrats could still indeed lose control -- that's worth mentioning too. And there's always the Independent wildcard in Kansas to consider -- if Greg Orman wins and becomes the pivotal vote, he may very well decide to caucus with the Republicans, and thus swing control of the chamber. In that case, Republicans would only need three wins from the other states to gain control. Plus, there's the uncertainty of possible runoff elections in Louisiana and Georgia.


But (at least from where I'm sitting) the election doesn't seem to be quite the slam dunk many others are now predicting for the Republicans. If Democrats can hang on, the media storyline will be to their benefit, as a result of pollster predictions right now. The headlines will be "Dems Hang On!" which isn't really completely deserved because they're still going to lose four or five seats overall. But my guess is it'll be seen as a huge victory, if it comes to pass.


 


[Program Note: I'll be running two more of these "call the Senate" columns, one next Wednesday, and then one on the Monday right before the election, where I will make my final picks for all of these races.]


 


Chris Weigant blogs at:
ChrisWeigant.com


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


 

17:24 Another Day, Another White House Fence Jumper (Video)» Latest from Crooks and Liars
Another Day, Another White House Fence Jumper (Video)

Well, why not? It went so well for the other ones.

ABC News:

A fence jumper was apprehended tonight outside the White House after he scaled the north fence, a Secret Service spokesman told ABC News.

A K-9 unit caught the fence jumper, who was then taken into custody, said Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan. The suspect kicked at one of the dogs, then another dog subdued him. The White House was put on lockdown during the incident.

Today was the day a comprehensive report about the Secret Service was released, and it wasn't pretty. Among other things, agents left their duty posts to assist a fellow agent with a dispute with his neighbor.

Top Secret Service officials had no justification for diverting agents from their posts near the White House to check on a neighborhood dispute a Secret Service employee was involved in almost an hour away, an investigation has found. “This constituted a serious lapse in judgment,” John Roth, inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security, who led the investigation, said in a statement Wednesday.

read more

17:14 Man Recovers From Ebola in Germany After Routine Intensive Care» LiveScience.com
One man who contracted Ebola and even had further complications of the infection has now recovered after receiving routine intensive care at a hospital in Germany.
17:00 Republicans promise to target IRS if they win control of Congress» Daily Kos
Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Rep. Darrell Issa holds a hearing on
Republicans say control of the Senate will allow them to accomplish what Darrell Issa could not.
Goal Thermometer

For the past 18 months, hardly a day has gone by without a Republican on Capitol Hill making some wild allegation about the Obama administration conspiring to use the IRS as a political weapon against tea party groups. The only thing that's been missing: Any evidence whatsoever that there was such a conspiracy.

But Republicans say that would change if only they were given complete control of Congress, reports The Hill:

“Most of the oversight has, frankly, been taking place in the House,” Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), one of the IRS’s most consistent critics in Congress, told The Hill.

“You’re going to have more eyes looking at this issue, potentially twice as many hearings happening,” Jordan added. “That gives you that much more opportunity to get to the truth, in spite of the fact that the administration is not cooperating.”

I'll concede that the House has spent far more time than the Senate when it comes to trying to uncover evidence to support their conspiracy theory, but the Senate has also investigated the matter. The biggest difference: Senate Democrats believe that the lack of any evidence of a White House conspiracy means there was no conspiracy, while House Republicans think it proves that the conspiracy is even bigger than they first imagined.

We already know the truth, which is that Congress has given the IRS responsibility for determining whether political groups should receive tax-exempt status or not. As I'm sure the IRS would be first to say, putting them in charge of overseeing campaign finance regulations isn't the greatest idea in the world, but that's what Congress did. And if Congress wants to change that, it's up to them to take action.

Please chip in $3 or more to help elect more and better Democrats in the November elections.

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Instead of heading down that path, House Republicans are itching for more political theater, not just when it comes to investigating the IRS, but also passing message bills on everything from eroding the IRS's ability to determine whether political groups are legally entitled to tax-exempt status to barring IRS employees from using personal email accounts for business purposes.

Since nothing would be complete without a bit of Obamacare hysteria, they also want to investigate how the IRS handles the individual mandate. In the abstract, that seems like a perfectly reasonably idea, but just wait until the GOP gets its hands on it—we'll probably have hearings about how the White House is using the IRS to deny Obamacare to tea partiers.

Of course, they might so busy trying to uncover President Obama's role in the secret IRS plot to destroy the tea party that they forget about everything else. The only thing that's for sure is that if they do take over total control of Congress, we're going to be hearing a lot more insane stuff about the IRS for the next two years.

16:48 Man Tackled By Secret Service Dogs After Jumping White House Fence» Politics - The Huffington Post
A man was detained Wednesday evening after jumping the White House fence.

The Secret Service told NBC news that the suspect in the incident was 23-year-old Dominic Adesanya, who was unarmed when he was arrested.




Officials confirmed to NBC News that the incident occurred around 7:30 p.m. ET. According to CBS News, the White House was placed on lockdown.

Video released of the incident shows the man being tackled by Secret Service dogs on the White House grounds. The man can be seen kicking and punching the dogs.

Watch the video above.

This is the seventh individual to jump over the White House fence this year, and the first breach since accused jumper Oscar Gonzalez entered The White House and got as far in as the East Room. The breach prompted scrutiny into the Secret Service's security protocol. Agency director Julia Pierson, who received the brunt of the criticism, resigned earlier this month.

The Associated Press offered further details:

Video of the incident Wednesday night taken by TV news cameras shows a man in white shorts just inside the White House fence on Pennsylvania Avenue.

The video shows the man lifting his shirt as if to show agents that he has no weapons. The man is then seen kicking and punching two Secret Service dogs that were released on him.
16:39 The Science Behind Renée Zellweger's New Face» LiveScience.com
Though Renee Zellweger looks dramatically different than she used to, her facial transformation could be the result of relatively minor cosmetic surgery, weight loss and aging, experts say.
16:39 George H.W. Bush Endorses Paul LePage In Maine Governor's Race» Politics - The Huffington Post
WASHINGTON -- Former President George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara Bush, endorsed Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) in his re-election bid on Wednesday.

In a joint statement, the Bushes -- who have long had a residence in Kennebunkport, Maine -- praised LePage’s efforts to repay the state’s Medicaid debt to its hospitals.

“We love Maine, and care deeply about our family and friends and the hard-working people who live there. We are writing you today because Governor Paul LePage is our kind of get-it-done leader, who we firmly believe is committed to solving the toughest problems facing Mainers,” the former president and first lady wrote.

This isn’t the first time that the 41st president has weighed in on the 2014 elections. He also endorsed Georgia Republican David Perdue in his bid for U.S. Senate. Bush told Perdue’s Democratic opponent, Michelle Nunn, to stop using his image in a campaign ad.

In a tight race, LePage is virtually tied with his Democratic challenger, Rep. Mike Michaud, according to HuffPost Pollster.


16:29 Obama Administration Clarifies Anti-Bullying Protections For Students With Disabilities» Politics - The Huffington Post
When a 10-year-old student with ADHD and a speech disability talks in a high-pitched voice, gym class can become a nightmare. Other students call him "gay" or a "weirdo." He becomes yet another student with disabilities who gets bullied at a higher rate than his peers -- a problem the federal government has been tracking for years.

Since 2009, the feds have received 2,000 complaints of such incidents. But until now, due to the nature of his disability, the gym student might not have received the same federal anti-bullying protections as many of his peers -- even though he is legally entitled to it.

The Education Department's Office of Civil Rights is seeking to change that. This week, Assistant Secretary of Civil Rights Catherine Lhamon sent a letter with new legal guidance to the nation's public schools in an effort to clarify that federal anti-bullying protections extend to about 750,000 more students than schools think.

The gym student, as described in Lhamon's letter, is representative. He's an example from the new guidance, and he receives his special education services under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973's Section 504, the category of students whose coverage is clarified by the guidance.

Before this week's letter, the Education Department's most recent guidance on this issue came in 2013 from its special education office, which oversees the enforcement of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. But not all students with disabilities are covered by IDEA -- in fact, about three quarters of a million students are entitled to special education services under Section 504, but not under IDEA. And in many cases, these students have been left out of schools' attempts to police bullying.

"We were frankly surprised and dismayed when we learned that there had been some confusion after the 2013 document," Lhamon told The Huffington Post. "People didn't understand that students who don't receive IDEA services are nonetheless entitled to the protections against bullying that we're talking about."

The new letter, which comes during National Bullying Prevention Month, aims to clear up the confusion and extend protections to more students. Under federal law, most students with disabilities have a right to a "free and appropriate public education," but in some cases, the letter says, bullying can prevent them from receiving it -- pushing schools into the realm of noncompliance.

Under Section 504, a civil rights law, the example student is entitled to a "free and appropriate public education," and receives speech therapy and behavioral supports. Lhamon's letter describes a scenario where, three months into the school year, the physical education teacher notices the child enduring painful taunting. He sees students telling the child to "ask other students inappropriate personal questions."

But instead of reporting it to the principal, the teacher tells the student that he needs to tune it out and focus on "getting his head in the game." The bullying worsens, and the student recedes from social life to the point where he misses speech therapy. Like the gym teacher, the speech therapist also does not report the student's absence.

The new guidance clarifies that this school would be out of compliance with federal law. The school knew about this case of "disability-based harassment," and the gym teacher "not only failed to provide the student behavior supports [entitled by his 504 plan] ... but also failed to report the conduct." As a result, the student's right to public education has been violated. He is participating less and losing out on speech therapy, a form of academic support.

An investigation into the school would result in a special resolution with the district that would require a re-evaluation of the student's services, as well as counseling for the student and the development of school-wide anti-bullying policies and other federally mandated remedies.

When bullying occurs, the guidance specifies, schools must assess whether the bullying is related to a student's disability, and whether the bullying affects the student's ability to receive a free and appropriate public education. Investigations into schools can be triggered when schools knew or should have known about disability-related bullying but did not report or respond to it.

"It's a clear statement that students with disabilities are being disproportionately bullied and that ... [the federal government] is going to enforce the law that prohibits that," said Denise Marshall, who heads the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, an organization of lawyers who represent the parents of students with disabilities.

After the bullying occurs, administrators should formally reconvene to assess whether it has affected the student's educational opportunities -- and adjust the student's services accordingly if it has. While special education law already calls for a constant re-evaluation of students' needs, Lhamon said, that "is the world I would like to live in, not the world we actually live in." She wants to ensure that once schools assess the basis of a bullying incident, they then consider "whether that bullying has impeded the student's access to education."

According to the letter, there are "no hard and fast rules" in determining whether a student's education has been interrupted, but "the onset of emotional outbursts, an increase in the frequency or intensity of behavioral interruptions, or a rise in missed classes or sessions of section 504 services would be generally sufficient."

Currently, Marshall said, anti-bullying laws are "unevenly or ineffectually enforced" for students with disabilities. The current legal standard is often difficult to prove in court. Marshall called the new guidance "a positive step," but added that it remains to be seen how much difference it will make.

A representative from the Council of Administrators of Special Education did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
16:29 We Count, So Count Us: Three Reasons It's Important to Collect Census Data on LGBTQ People» Politics - The Huffington Post
"One in 10 is not enough! Recruit! Recruit! Recruit!"

It was my favorite chant as a young queer activist, and its echo stays with me today. It was funny, sure, and poked fun at the fear of a million cowering conservatives. The chant was based on sexologist Alfred Kinsey's famous claim that 10 percent of men in the U.S. are gay, and that number was widely adopted as an estimate for how many lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer individuals live in the U.S. -- even though the LGBTQ community didn't have thorough research to back it up. But it was my favorite because it made me look around every day and wonder: Who were the other three LGBTQ students in my class? Who were the other four LGBTQ riders on my subway train? Who were the other five LGBTQ people in my extended family? The number gave me hope and told me that I wasn't alone.

At the same time, that chant gave me power. If we, the LGBTQ community, were a countable percentage of the population, we could all stand with one voice and demand respect, an end to anti-LGBTQ violence, and equality.

It never really occurred to me to question the number itself. Where did it come from? To be quite honest, I didn't care. I didn't think it mattered. Someone had counted, so we knew that we counted.

Twenty years later I realize that the counting really does matter. Data collection (as we math and law nerds call it) gets us money, power, health, housing, jobs, schools, food, and rights.

Is it really that important? Yes. Here's why:

It gives us political traction.

If you're not a voting bloc, you can't sway politicians. Like it or not, politicians make the decisions that rule our lives. They decide who has protection from discrimination, who can become a citizen, how much we pay in taxes, what we're taught in school, who can get married. The existence of the LGBTQ vote is dependent on our ability to prove that we are a large-enough group of people that we can sway elections. In other words, we only count if we are counted.

Perhaps more importantly, being counted gives us consumer power. As powerful as politicians are, corporations dwarf them in both number and reach. Exactly 737 corporations control 80 percent of the world's economy. In 2010 the Supreme Court decided that corporations are permitted to spend as much as they want to get candidates elected. A recent report by the Center for Public Integrity showed that corporations contributed at least $173 million to political nonprofits in 2012. Although there is an ethical minority of politicians who are indifferent to the whims of their funders, there are many who feel beholden to their corporate sponsors.

Our population numbers make us attractive to the corporate decision makers who hold the purse strings to our cultural and political lives. As they become aware of the purchasing power of millions of LGBTQ people, we become a demographic they market to and design products for and, most importantly, a population they can't afford to ignore or disrespect as they throw their weight around in the political arena. Money makes power, and as we are counted, we amass power through our ability to affect the decisions of major corporations.

All of that is real, but there's a more important reason for us to be counted:

It tells us how to fix things.

LGBTQ people experience disparities in almost every quantifiable way: We're more likely to live in poverty, more likely to be homeless, more likely to struggle with addiction, more likely to experience health conditions like diabetes and lung cancer, more likely to be unemployed, more likely to go to jail, more likely to experience sexual assault, more likely to experience violence, more likely to contract HIV. I could go on. At the risk of sounding depressing, statistically we're screwed.

That's where data collection comes in. Without an accurate picture of the disparities we face, we can't figure out how to address them. Think about jobs: We know that lesbian, gay and bisexual adults are unemployed at a rate 40-percent higher than the overall unemployment rate, and transgender adults are twice as likely to unemployed as the overall average. But if we don't have data on how many of us graduate from high school, college, or trade schools, or how many of us have been fired because of our actual or perceived gender identity, we can't know how to reduce that disparity.

The same applies to every other medical, scientific, and sociological disparity faced by our community. If we don't know how many of us are facing a particular issue, we can't know how to address it.

Both political power and ability to effectively address our needs are critically important. Still, for me, the need for data collection comes back to the same thing as it did when I was a 15-year-old activist:

It gives us hope.

We count. That's why I joined the Census Bureau's National Advisory Committee on Racial, Ethnic, and Other Populations. I want our government to accurately count us because it gives us power, tells us how to make life better for our community, and gives us hope. We need to know that we're one of many. In the committee, I will press the Census Bureau to help us prove that, by adding questions to the census and other surveys about sexual orientation and gender identity. I hope you help me and support the LGBTQ community by standing up when it's your turn to be counted. That way we can show that not only are we not alone but we are a large, diverse and politically significant community that has a key part to play in the future of our country.
16:13 Feminists can twerk too: What Annie Lennox misunderstands about Beyoncé» Salon.com
In a discussion about Beyoncé's brand of activism, Lennox told NPR "twerking isn't feminism." I beg to differ






16:13 Vox on Amazon: Way off-base, not entirely wrong» Salon.com
Publishers aren't perfect. But no one who cares about a diverse literary marketplace can actually side with Amazon






16:13 My strip club bullying nightmare» Salon.com
For me, working in a strip club was a lot like "Mean Girls." And when I became a porn star, it only got worse






16:13 The student I couldn’t reach» Salon.com
Each day I taught, a knot of dread formed in my stomach. I never changed him, but by the end, I understood better






16:00 Scandal news shake up Republicans in two key Senate races» Daily Kos
Goal ThermometerRepublicans campaign on the idea that government can't work, so why is anyone surprised when they can't make government work? But today's biggest question, really, is why the hell did South Dakota Republican Mike Rounds just admit he knowingly helped a top aide loot state coffers?
In a huge admission, former South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds, the GOP nominee in this year's Senate race, acknowledged Tuesday that he did in fact know that a top former cabinet official, Richard Benda, was going to work for investors running a meatpacking concern called Northern Beef, right around the same time that Rounds signed off on a special $600,000 state loan package to the company that Benda had urged. That money went directly into Benda's pockets, as he paid himself $225,000 a year to oversee the now-failed plant.
I mean, this new admission didn't just give the scandal story new legs, it gave it a rocket boost—the scandal was already hurting Rounds when he pretended to be an innocent bystander, now he's admitted to being a knowing and willing participant! So is that the sign of a bad candidate opening his yap when he should've kept it shut, or was this a tactical admission ahead of new revelations? Either way, good news for Team Blue.

Meanwhile, Alaska Republicans are in a world of hurt now that people know they knowingly looked the other way as the Alaska National Guard engaged in a series of abuses, all terrible, but none as disturbing and disgusting as their (married) recruiters' aggressive efforts to get inside the pants of high school students. This has rocked the state so deeply that the Anchorage and Mat-Su school districts have banned military recruiters from their campuses despite the state's strong military tradition.

The Republican governor is already under fire for ignoring the deep abuses. You know Republicans and their "boys will be boys" attitude toward sexual assaults. It's a reason for his electoral woes this late in the cycle. But now Alaska news organizations are asking the obvious question—what did the attorney general-turned-Senate candidate know? Either he joined his fellow Republican governor in shrugging off the accusations, or he was clueless about what was happening despite repeated reports and warnings. Either way, the stench of this sordid scandal has now jumped into a Senate race wehre Democrats, if polling is to be believed, only slightly trail.

These are two important races. Republicans fail to pick them up, they'll fail to take the Senate. You can give to incumbent Alaska Democratic Sen. Mark Begich here, and to South Dakota prairie populist Rick Weiland here.

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There would be a certain pleasure if Republican takeover efforts were stymied in South Dakota and Alaska, two of the reddest states in play.
15:50 Yes, Please Vote For A 'Reagan Country'» Latest from Crooks and Liars
Yes, Please Vote For A 'Reagan Country'

Conservative cranks that occupy the Evangelicals have often opined for their own beloved city, state or country that could become a home to their homophobia, xenophobia and their bibles. A former speechwriter for Presidents Reagan and Bush hatched his own plan to have the South secede from the Union and become a Traditional Values country known as "Reagan," until they come up with a better name.

Raw Story:

Douglas MacKinnon, a former speechwriter for Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush, appeared Tuesday on The Janet Mefford Show to promote his new book, “The Secessionist States of America: The Blueprint for Creating a Traditional Values Country … Now,” reported Right Wing Watch.

He told the religious conservative host that southern states – starting with Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina – should leave the United States so they can implement a right-wing Christian system of government.

read more

15:30 Spotlight on green news & views: Preparing for Paris climate talks, saying goodbye to whistleblower» Daily Kos
jelllyfish
Many environmentally related posts appearing at Daily Kos each week don't attract the attention they deserve. To help get more eyeballs, Spotlight on Green News & Views (previously known as the Green Diary Rescue) appears twice a week, on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The most recent Saturday Spotlight can be seen here. So far, more than 19,830 environmentally oriented diaries have been rescued for inclusion in this weekly collection since 2006. Inclusion of a diary in the Spotlight does not necessarily indicate my agreement with or endorsement of it.
UN climate talks to resume in Bonn—by TierneySmith: "Hot on the heels of the People's Climate March and the UN Secretary General’s Climate Summit, government negotiators are back in session in Bonn next week (20 Oct) to continue their vital work on a new global climate agreement. In a record-breaking mobilisation for climate action, last month, almost 700,000 people took to the streets in New York and across the world to call on governments to put climate change back to the top of the political agenda. This was quickly followed by the UN Climate Summit, where one head of government after another confirmed the need to end the fossil fuel era and recommitted to crafting a global climate agreement in Paris next year. [...] With crunch time upon us and the Paris deadline fast approaching, Bonn will be the first test of whether this building momentum and climate reality outside will be reflected inside the negotiating halls. The most recent UNFCCC session in June saw a new sense of cooperation emerging amongst countries on key issues, but this session is the time to transform this new tone into an agreement on the key planks of the global deal to be finalised next year.
green dots
GETTING TO ZERO: Why energy efficiency will not save us—by Keith Pickering: "There are a lot of strategies for getting us to zero fossil fuels, and nearly every one of them features increased energy efficiency as a key component. The IPCC thinks so; the International Energy Agency agrees; efficiency is one of the famous "Climate Wedges" from Princeton; it's a key strategy of Amory Lovins' Rocky Mountain Institute; renewables guru Mark Z. Jacobson relies on efficiency for energy demand reductions of 30% to 40%, more than any other emissions strategy. And the list goes on. There's just one problem. They are all completely and totally wrong. Increasing energy efficiency does not, has not, and will not ever reduce overall demand for energy. This is not just an opinion; it has been demonstrated with the cold hard equations of physics, based on the second law of thermodynamics. Now don't get me wrong. Energy efficiency has obvious economic benefits, and those benefits are often enough to make such improvements worthwhile. It's not that we should stop being more efficient. It's just that we should not expect those improvements to reduce energy demand or carbon emissions. Because they won't do that."
green dots
The road to Paris, the Climate Equity Reference Calculator, and you—by tomathanasiou: "It’s about 15 months now until the Paris climate showdown. The good news is that there’s quite a lot happening. The clarifying science, for example, is no longer easily denigrated. The IPCC’s 2°C carbon budgets, the new age of 'extreme weather,” the fate of the Arctic, these can no longer be cast as fervid speculations. Denialism—at least classic denialism—has peaked. This is a time of consequences, and we all know it. But what about Paris? Why do I even mention the international climate negotiations? Don’t we all know that the North/South divide is unbridgeable? Don’t we all know that the wealthy world will never provide the finance and technology support that’s needed to drive deep and rapid decarbonization in the emerging economies? Don’t we all know that the prospect for a meaningful breakthrough in the climate talks is nil? In fact, we do not."

You can find more rescued green diaries below the orange garden layout.

15:11 Lena Dunham: “We want change, we are change, so we have to vote”» Salon.com
Dunham concluded her book tour for "Not That Kind of Girl" last night in Brooklyn with Zadie Smith and others






15:01 The GOP's 2016 tech deficit» POLITICO - TOP Stories
The party doesn't have enough tech experts to staff up a wide-open primary campaign.
14:55 Elizabeth Warren may have just opened the door to a White House run» Salon.com
After months of insisting that a 2016 bid is off the table, the Massachusetts senator sounds a different note






14:50 Cartoon: Robo-Surgeon-General» Daily Kos
14:40 South Miami is so fed up with climate inaction, it just voted to secede from Florida» Salon.com
As the nation's 51st state, "South Florida" would address climate threats head-on






14:34 DSCC Changes Mind, Places $650K In New Ads For Alison Lundergan Grimes» Latest from Crooks and Liars
DSCC Changes Mind, Places $650K In New Ads For Alison Lundergan Grimes

Good news, people! But since Karl Rove’s Super PAC just announced they're spending $1.3 million on ads for Mitch, click here to help her fight back:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Senate Democrats are reversing course and putting campaign cash behind Alison Lundergan Grimes and her bid to oust Republican Mitch McConnell.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee on Wednesday said it has asked stations in Kentucky to set aside $650,000 in ad time to help Grimes. A committee official shared the plan with The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss media strategy.

The move follows the committee's decision last week to stop spending money on ads in the race. The official says that new internal polling shows that undecided voters are breaking Grimes' way.


14:24 Americans' Trust in Doctors Is Falling» LiveScience.com
The amount of trust that the American public puts in doctors has fallen over the last few decades, a new report finds.
13:53 Reagan aide: South should secede and create a new anti-gay country — called Reagan!» Salon.com
Douglas MacKinnon doesn't like where America is headed. His solution? A whole new country!






13:39 Over Half Of LGBT Students Feel Unsafe At School, Report Shows» ThinkProgress

Though schools are gradually improving, GLSEN finds that LGBT students across the country still experience high levels of harassment and discrimination.

The post Over Half Of LGBT Students Feel Unsafe At School, Report Shows appeared first on ThinkProgress.

13:37 Maui’s feral cats are taking over the island» Salon.com
They are threatening a bird sanctuary. Seriously






13:30 Psycho Republican claims 'Ebola czar' is 'off to bad start' because he won't testify on first day» Daily Kos
U.S. Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) (L) speaks with Representative Trey Gowdy (R-SC) (R) during
Jason Chaffetz (R-Psychovia)
Auuuugh. What the fuck is wrong with these fucking lunatics? GOP Rep. Jason Chaffetz, already berating Obama's new "Ebola czar," Ron Klain:
"He's on the job as of today — why not come talk to the American people in the Congress, answer questions from both Republicans and Democrats on Friday?" Chaffetz said during an interview with Fox News.

"I don’t know. We’re off to a bad start."

Are you fucking for real? The dude just started. Today. Right now. What could he possibly tell Congress so soon? And how could that possibly be a better use of his time than actually coordinating efforts to fight this dread disease?

You might almost conclude that Republicans are more interested in attacking every single thing that Obama does, in every way, at every moment, every time, however they can ... than they're interested in actually stopping Ebola. Almost.

13:27 U.S. Solar Is 59 Percent Cheaper Than We Thought It Would Be Back In 2010» ThinkProgress

For large utility-scale solar systems, the price is as low as $1.92 per watt -- 59 percent below where it was expected to be at this time back in 2010.

The post U.S. Solar Is 59 Percent Cheaper Than We Thought It Would Be Back In 2010 appeared first on ThinkProgress.

13:22 Study finds the Internet is a garbage place for everyone, regardless of gender» Salon.com
Yes, men get harassed online too. Is that the only way to make anyone care about threats against women?






13:22 Join Steve Kornacki, Joan Walsh & Blake Zeff at Inside Salon Politics Event» Salon.com
Salon's own Blake Zeff and Joan Walsh and MSNBC's Steve Kornacki take an in-depth look at American politics






13:06 “Who do you report to when your rapist is the police?”» Salon.com
This cop is charged with raping eight black women. And while it's chronically underreported, he's not the only one






12:57 A Facebook scoreboard for the midterms» POLITICO - TOP Stories
The new dashboard shows three candidates are ahead of their opponents in their number of likes.
12:55 Senator Blasts Obama For Working With World Partners To Contain Ebola Epidemic» ThinkProgress

He says it amounts to "political correctness" that won't do anything to protect Americans.

The post Senator Blasts Obama For Working With World Partners To Contain Ebola Epidemic appeared first on ThinkProgress.

12:51 Marc Thiessen’s Ebola terror fantasy: WaPo’s very serious columnist is worried about Ebola attacks» Salon.com
Former Bush speechwriter is concerned that Ebola terrorists will hop the red-eye to Philly and lick your doorknob






12:36 Winter’s answer to the Pumpkin Spice Latte sounds weird, will soon be impossible to avoid» Salon.com
If Starbucks has its way, winter will henceforth be known as chestnut praline season






12:36 Scott Brown’s latest Obamacare fantasy: We can repeal the ACA but keep all the good ACA stuff, with magic» Salon.com
The New Hampshire Senate candidate is the latest GOPer to get away with Obamacare wishful thinking






12:35 Conservative Think Tank: Ladies, Stop Worrying About Being Roofied» Latest from Crooks and Liars
Conservative Think Tank: Ladies, Stop Worrying About Being Roofied

I'm really not sure why conservatives are so fired up in their attempts to downplay that female college students get been date raped. I really don't understand it. There's nothing supporting feminism when people stand up to date rapists is there? George Will has been on an ill fated crusade to disprove the idea of date rape and actually attacked young women for reveling in victim-hood.

Now comes the American Enterprise Institute, another bastion of conservatism, who has joined the issue and categorically doesn't believe female students are at risk of being date raped. Caroline Kitchens, guest hosted a new video on the Factual Feminist website that asks the question, should the ladies be afraid of being roofied?

Kitchens: Ladies, have you been told no to drink the punch at parties? have you asked your friend to watch your drink because you're afraid to leave it alone, even for a minute?

She discusses a case involving several women who had big X marks on there hands, who became so inebriated at a party that they were taken to the hospital. fear not because the Washington Examiner looked at the facts and concluded these girls were not targeted for roofying.

Kitchens: There was no evidence that he x's had anything to do with labeling women for the date rape drug...

read more

12:31 Methane Leaks Wipe Out Any Climate Benefit Of Fracking, Satellite Observations Confirm» ThinkProgress

A new study using long-term satellite observations confirms (for the umpteenth time) that fracking speeds up global warming and has no net climate benefit whatsoever in any timescale that matters to humanity.

The post Methane Leaks Wipe Out Any Climate Benefit Of Fracking, Satellite Observations Confirm appeared first on ThinkProgress.

12:20 Terrifying video reveals heavy gunfire inside Canadian Parliament» Salon.com
The graphic footage comes from Canada's Globe and Mail newspaper






12:17 How can Gov. Nixon call for peace in Ferguson when Jeff Roorda is his closest ally?» Daily Kos
Governor Nixon campaigning for Jeff Roorda
Gov. Jay Nixon of Missouri announced Tuesday that he's forming a commission to help plan for a peaceful future in Ferguson and beyond in the wake of widespread protests in metropolitan St. Louis after the shooting death of Mike Brown by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson on August 9. The top activists in the nation and on the ground in Ferguson responded with nothing but distrust.
Criticized around the country for his slow initial response and tone-deafness to frustrations in Ferguson, perhaps nothing causes concerned citizens to distrust Nixon more than his unwavering support of one man, Jeff Roorda, current member of the Missouri House of Representatives who is now running for a position in the state Senate in Missouri.
Jump below the fold for more.
12:13 DSCC sees Grimes gaining ground against McConnell, reserves airtime for final push in Kentucky» Daily Kos
Alison Lundergan Grimes speaking at campaign rally
Goal Thermometer

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee believes Kentucky is in play:

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee plans to go back on the air in Kentucky after the party has been encouraged by new polls suggesting the race against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is within reach.

The party committee is reserving $650,000 in airtime to boost Alison Lundergan Grimes after reviewing recent internal and public polling, a DSCC official told POLITICO. The polling, the source says, suggested that independent voters are moving in the Democrat’s direction.

The thing that makes this news is that a flurry of earlier reports suggested the DSCC was abandoning the state because they said they had no plans to purchase additional ads. Even though they were continuing GOTV and other efforts, that was interpreted as a signal of no confidence, but today's news turns that narrative on its head, because clearly the DSCC believes Kentucky is still within grasp.
Please chip in $3 or more to help elect Democratic candidates to the U.S. Senate—whatever happens in Kentucky, we can't afford to let Mitch McConnell become majority leader.

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Meanwhile, the Grimes campaign itself is entering the final two weeks of the campaign with a tough new ad going after Mitch McConnell on raising the minimum wage, extending unemployment benefits, and student loans. McConnell wants the campaign to be about Barack Obama, but even though Grimes has left some ammunition on the table—specifically, McConnell's contortions on Kynect—her message is focused like a laser on McConnell and his record, because at the end of the day the question Kentucky faces is simply this: Whether or not the people of the state want Mitch McConnell to represent them in the Senate for another six years.
12:10 University Of North Carolina Investigation Finds Rampant Academic Fraud Involving Athletes» ThinkProgress

An 18-year scheme of fraudulent classes benefited nearly 20 percent of UNC athletes, boosting their GPAs and helping them stay eligible, an investigation finds.

The post University Of North Carolina Investigation Finds Rampant Academic Fraud Involving Athletes appeared first on ThinkProgress.

12:00 For 18 Years, UNC Sports Built Character -- With Fake Classes No One Attended» Latest from Crooks and Liars
For 18 Years, UNC Sports Built Character -- With Fake Classes No One Attended

I don't see how colleges rationalize this. Any alumni contributions raised by a successful program goes back into the sport, not the university. And I don't see how they justify having students pay tuition to subsidize these programs, either. Here's a thought: Cut sports, and lower the tuition to the point where kids don't have to get a sports scholarship to attend college!

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — A blistering report into an academic fraud scandal at the University of North Carolina released Wednesday found that for nearly two decades two employees in the African and Afro-American Studies department ran a “shadow curriculum” of hundreds of fake classes that never met but for which students, many of them Tar Heels athletes, routinely received A’s and B’s.

read more

12:00 Midday open thread: Afghan poppy crop thrives, militia 'commander' busted on weapons charge» Daily Kos
  • Today's comic by Matt Bors is Breast cancer awareness czar:
    Cartoon by Matt Bors -- Breast cancer awareness czar
  • Please chip in $3 to help us get out the vote for Daily Kos-endorsed candidates.
  • Ben Bradlee, Washington Post icon, dead at 93:
    From the moment he took over The Post newsroom in 1965, Mr. Bradlee sought to create an important newspaper that would go far beyond the traditional model of a metropolitan daily. He achieved that goal by combining compelling news stories based on aggressive reporting with engaging feature pieces of a kind previously associated with the best magazines. His charm and gift for leadership helped him hire and inspire a talented staff and eventually made him the most celebrated newspaper editor of his era.

    The most compelling story of Mr. Bradlee’s tenure, almost certainly the one of greatest consequence, was Watergate, a political scandal touched off by The Post’s reporting that ended in the only resignation of a president in U.S. history.

  • These Daily Kos community posts were the most shared on Facebook October 21:
    Really? Really?? They Just Sandblasted a Michael Brown Mural, by jpmassar

    Florida's Psychosis: Do You NOT Remember the Day When Rick Scott Showed He Was a Monster?, by SemDem

    He Goes Off For 6 Minutes On All The Politicians Sitting Right In Front Of Him. It's. Just. Great, by windsong01

  • Check out Bristol Palin wailin' about brawlin' and name-callin': If you listen hard you can hear Sarah Palin telling her daughter not to cuss while talking to the cop. Bristol didn't hear that advice. Or just ignored it.
  • Texas militia leader busted on weapons charge: Agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives busted Kevin L. Massey Monday. He's the "commander" of the ragtag American Patriots "militia" that set up "Camp Lone Star" on private land near Brownsville, on the Texas border across from Matamoros in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas. The militia's purpose was to block the flow of Central American refugees into the United States. Massey was charged with felony possession of a firearm. He was convicted of a burglary in 1988. Federal law prohibits unpardoned felons from possessing firearms. The sealed indictment includes other defendants. Family members say federal agents showed up at their North Texas home Monday and seized weapons.
  • Report: Poppy cultivation in Afghanistan at all-time high: The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction has released a report on cultivation of the opium poppy in that country. In an Oct. 14 cover letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Attorney General Eric Holder and U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Rajiv Shah, the special inspector general, John F. Sopko, writes:
    According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Afghan farmers grew an unprecedented 209,000 hectares of opium poppy in 2013, surpassing the previous peak of 193,000 hectares in 2007. With deteriorating security in many parts of rural Afghanistan and low levels of eradication of poppy fields, further increases in cultivation are likely in 2014.

    As of June 30, 2014, the United States has spent approximately $7.6 billion on counternarcotics efforts in Afghanistan. Multiple sources of funding support these efforts, including the Department of Defense (DOD) Afghan Security Forces Fund, the State Department's (State) International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement fund, the DOD Drug Interdiction and Counter-Drug Activities fund, financial support from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, and the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Economic Support Fund.

  • Team Blackness discussed the case of Scott Panetti, the clearly disturbed man who wore a purple cowboy suit while representing himself at his trial for murdering his in-laws. He subpoenaed Jesus and called himself "Sarge" and was convicted and sentenced to death. Also discussed were the pumpkin riots in New Hampshire, how you can own your very own Hoverboard, and is Des Moines the next Brooklyn?
    Subscribe on iTunes | Subscribe On Stitcher | Direct Download | RSS
  • On today's Kagro in the Morning show: lots of discussion of the "Hitching Post" stunt, with Joan McCarter, Armando & Scott Wooledge. GOP healthcare flip-flops. David Perdue hates America. CIA vs. Senate: What if they gave a constitutional crisis and nobody came?
11:57 Daily Kos Elections ad roundup: Sam Brownback, getting desperate, links opponent to hideous murders» Daily Kos

Leading Off:

KS-Gov: We've officially hit the point in the cycle where campaigns start to get desperate. Republican Gov. Sam Brownback is locked in a close race with Democrat Paul Davis and his campaign is airing a risky new ad aiming to caricature Davis as weak on crime.

The narrator describes how the Carr brothers were caught and prosecuted for multiple murders, and sent to death row. However "liberal judges in Topeka" overturned their death sentences. The spot links the judges to Davis, with the narrator accusing one of them of holding a fundraiser for the Democrat. The spot ends by contrasting the two candidates, arguing that Davis will appoint weak liberal justices, while Brownback will appoint tough judges.

Unsurprisingly, the ad is getting plenty of attention in Kansas. Kansans for Justice, an organization formed by the families of the Carr brothers' victims, put out a statement expressing its displeasure that the case is being politicized, though the group is also very unhappy that the Carrs' sentences were commuted to life in prison.

Ads like this are always unpredictable. If Brownback can make the argument that Davis is weak on crime, it could very well give him a boost. However, if it looks like he's exploiting a terrible tragedy for his own political benefit, it can easily backfire. Indeed, Alaska Democratic Sen. Mark Begich found this out the hard way a few months ago when he ran an ad centered on a murderer, but had to pull it after the victims' family complained. Another endangered Midwestern Republican, Rep. Lee Terry, is also running hard-hitting ads trying to portray his opponent as weak, and it's not yet clear if they're working or not. We'll need to wait and see how voters respond to this very provocative commercial.

Head below the fold for a roundup of ads from races across the county.

11:49 Embattled Pennsylvania governor’s “Hail Mary”: A blatantly unconstitutional “Mumia bill”» Salon.com
In carefully choreographed ceremony with cop's widow, Tom Corbett signs bill restricting First Amendment rights






11:49 Here’s everything wrong with BP’s latest absurd self-defense» Salon.com
While it's true that things could have been worse, the oil company is blatantly trying to whitewash recent history






11:41 Scottie's terrible horrible no good very bad debate» Daily Kos
Scott Brown speaking to supporters
It's always good for a laugh when he puts on his sincere face.
Goal Thermometer
You gotta love the fact that Scott Brown is providing the comic relief for yet one more election cycle. It's just gravy that he's doing it this year as a carpetbagger. Today's fun can be found in Tuesday night's debate, moderated by NBC's Chuck Todd. Todd asked him to provide the evidence for his contention that ISIS was poised at the border to attack the U.S. from Mexico. Scottie's response?
BROWN: With respect, I did not say that. What I have said is that ISIS is real.
Um, no, as a matter of fact. And much to Scottie's detriment, there's this thing now called the internet that helps keep a record of all the times he said that ISIS could attack the U.S. from Mexico. Dave Weigel does the research. There was when he said it last month in a foreign policy speech ("these ISIS thugs have been saying for months that they’re going to send people here to kill Americans on as big a scale as they can, and never mind that a porous border is the most obvious pathway for terrorists to enter our country"), and on Fox News ("There's deep concerns that there are members of ISIS actually coming through the border right now"), and last week on the radio, when he threw in some Ebola just for fun ("I think it’s naive to think that people aren’t going to be walking through here who have those types of diseases and/or other types of intent, criminal or terrorist").

But the most entertaining whopper from Scottie of the evening, at least for the New Hampshire crowd, was when Todd asked him why he passed up on the opportunity to run for the Senate again in Massachusetts special elections. "Because I live here," said Scottie, and you can immediately hear the laughs and the skeptical guffaws from the crowd. He doubles down, "I was born at the Portsmouth Naval shipyard!" And the crowd laughs even harder. "My mom was a waitress at Hampton Beach!" And the crowd gives up on him entirely.

Scott Brown has no place in the Senate anymore. But these candidates do. Help them get there with your $3.

Defeat Mitch McConnell in just two hours. Sign up to make GOTV calls to Democrats.
Ah, Scottie, thanks for all the laughs. But we really won't miss you when you're gone. On the other hand, there are 48 other states you could try.
11:31 Egg Freezing: 5 Things You Need to Know» LiveScience.com
The announcement that Apple and Facebook will cover the steep cost of egg freezing for its employees has many people talking about the risks and benefits of the procedure.
11:24 Camera Traps Catch Chimps Raiding Food | Video» LiveScience.com
Hidden cameras caught chimpanzees in Uganda raiding farmers’ crops at night, an activity possibly brought about by habitat destruction.
11:18 What we talk about when we talk about Ben Bradlee’s “swagger”» Salon.com
Nearly every tribute to the legendary editor has used that one specific word






11:16 BP Oil Spill ‘Didn’t Ruin The Gulf,’ Says Politico Article Written By BP» ThinkProgress

Politico readers have to go through ten paragraphs of someone telling them BP's historic oil spill was environmentally negligible before they know that the writer is one of BP's top executives.

The post BP Oil Spill ‘Didn’t Ruin The Gulf,’ Says Politico Article Written By BP appeared first on ThinkProgress.

11:13 Solved: When Earth's Largest Shark Disappeared» LiveScience.com
A new study of fossil records estimates that the 60-foot-long (18 meters) Megalodon shark went extinct 2.6 million years ago.
11:11 Adidas Fit Smart: Fitness Tracker Review» LiveScience.com
The Fit Smart is a new fitness tracker from Adidas that's intended for people who want to improve their workouts, whether that be running or fitness training for sports.
11:08 Thieving Chimps Caught Raiding Crops at Night (Video)» LiveScience.com
Groups of roving chimpanzees were caught red-handed stealing crops from farmers in Uganda at night by hidden camera traps.
11:04 Fox Host: Atheists Coming To Schools In The South 'Need' To Accept Our Jesus 'Culture'» Latest from Crooks and Liars
Fox Host: Atheists Coming To Schools In The South 'Need' To Accept Our Jesus 'Culture'

Fox News host Ainsley Earhardt on Wednesday lashed out at atheists who had asked that Christian plaques be removed from public schools in Texas, saying that they "need to understand the culture" in the South.

Earlier this year, the Midlothian Independent School District covered Christian plaques at two schools after the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) threatened to sue. But parents and students protested, and the Midlothian ISD board voted to uncover the plaques.

The FFRF has said that it was considering moving forward with a lawsuit, but the board declined to take up the matter at Monday night's meeting.

Tiffany Davlin, who organized protests to keep the plaques, told Fox News in a Wednesday interview that the schools should have to keep the plaque because a majority of the parents were Christians and approved of them.

"We're all about wanting to see the cause of Christ go further," Pastor Justin Coffman, whose children attend Midlothian ISD schools, explained to Fox News host Ainsley Earhardt. "We want to see the cause of Christ in more public arenas in the American culture. We don't want to take things away from. We want to see Christ in our schools."

read more

11:03 Stop drinking coconut water!» Salon.com
How corporations make exploitation trendy






11:03 Tea Party nut’s Obama nonsense: How Paul LePage reveals a flawed Dem strategy» Salon.com
Maine governor Paul LePage shows why Democrats could have gone on offense on Obamacare -- and improved their odds






11:00 Seattle Cops Bring Lawsuit Claiming They Have A Constitutional Right To Use Excessive Force» ThinkProgress
10:50 Kochs flushing another $6.5 million in next 10 days» Daily Kos
Screenshot of FPAF ad against Mark Udall in CO-Sen race.
If you live in Colorado, you'll be lucky enough to see this a few billion times between now and November 4.
Goal Thermometer
Had enough campaign ads yet? If you live in Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, New Hampshire or North Carolina, buck up, because you're in for a real onslaught from everybody's favorite political villains, the Koch brothers.
Freedom Partners Action Fund, a “super PAC” with ties to the billionaire brothers Charles G. and David H. Koch, will broadcast $6.5 million worth of advertising in six states in the closing days of the election campaign, officials there said. […]

The effort is among a late flurry of attacks by Republican super PACs, which raised millions of dollars through the end of summer after struggling for much of the election cycle and have been looking for ways to spend the cash.

As Markos wrote earlier, Karl Rove is busy getting in this action, getting his commissions making sure that between now and November 4 it's nothing but ads on your tv. And they're paying a massive premium to do it, "spending $5 million more in the Senate battlegrounds these last two weeks, yet they're getting 10,000 fewer ad spots."

And they're the party of fiscal responsibility? The Kochs' Freedom Partners Action Fund has already spent $16 million on ads just since August. And every race they're playing in is too close to call—all that money hasn't moved the needle at all.

Beat the Kochs. Help elect more and better Democrats with your $3.

Defeat Mitch McConnell in just two hours. Sign up to make GOTV calls to Democrats.
The best revenge against Rove and the Kochs and what they've done to your tv sets is beating them at the polls.
10:49 Nebraska Republican's 'Willie Horton' ad may be backfiring» Daily Kos
Goal ThermometerThe Republican decision to go full Willie Horton in Nebraska may not be having the intended effect. It was a calculated risk to begin with, showing just how shaky Republican Rep. Lee Terry (NE-02)'s campaign has been. It's a winnable race for the Democrats, and it may have just gotten more winnable.
Brad Ashford, the Democratic state senator seeking to upset Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb), has raised more than $20,500 from 434 online donations since national Republicans released an ad Friday that aimed to tie Ashford to a convicted murderer, the campaign said Monday.

“Rather than do the respectable thing and denounce these racist, fear-mongering ads, Lee Terry has defended them,” Kurt Gonska, Ashford’s campaign manager, said in an email.  “It's hurting his campaign as we've seen a huge influx of individual online donations come in as a direct response to the outrage voters feel.” [...]

[T]he ad has angered many, including former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, who called the ad “racist,” and Terry’s GOP primary opponent, Dan Frei (Jenkins is African-American.).

So perhaps the Republican ad juxtaposing Ashford with a Scary Black Man may play well with Terry's base, but it also has goosed state Democratic supporters into action and gotten Terry slammed by fellow Republicans.
Help defeat Republican fearmongering by chipping in $3 to any of these Daily Kos endorsed House candidates.

Defeat Mitch McConnell in just two hours. Sign up to make GOTV calls to Democrats.
House Majority PAC has put up their own response ad (see above) slamming Terry, so this isn't going away. We'll see if it turns into a net negative for Terry in the voting booths, but it doesn't look to be doing him any favors so far.
10:47 No, Kate Middleton isn’t “glowing”» Salon.com
The media is determined to foist a perfect pregnancy narrative onto Middleton, despite all evidence to the contrary






10:47 Another Obamacare enemy folds: Thom Tillis says North Carolina should consider expanding Medicaid» Salon.com
Thom Tillis bragged that he "stopped Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion cold." Now he says it should be reconsidered






10:38 Fort Lauderdale Votes To Make It Harder To Feed The Homeless, Joining Two Dozen Other Cities» ThinkProgress

With food charities around the country already stretched beyond capacity, a couple dozen towns are setting out to make it even harder to feed one of the neediest groups: homeless people.

The post Fort Lauderdale Votes To Make It Harder To Feed The Homeless, Joining Two Dozen Other Cities appeared first on ThinkProgress.

10:34 The scandal that threatens Alaska Republicans» Daily Kos
Goal ThermometerThis has been brewing up in the Great White North:
A federal investigation into rape and fraud allegations in the Alaska National Guard has found shocking abuses. Two state officials have now resigned and the governor is on the defensive about what he knew with only a few weeks left before election day. Alaska Public Media's Alexandra Gutierrez reports.

ALEXANDRA GUTIERREZ: The findings were worse than expected. Sexual assault reports were mishandled. Recruiting officers took advantage of young women. Military helicopters were used for personal reasons. And money was embezzled from the Guard's family assistance programs. Now, Alaska Governor Sean Parnell is being questioned about why he took so long to investigate the Guard when he first received complaints four years ago.

SEAN PARNELL: I'm sorry it did. It's not - that's not acceptable.

Want more details? The Anchorage Dispatch News was happy to oblige with a front-page Sunday paper splash:
The Alaska Army National Guard’s Recruiting and Retention Battalion, a unit with access to high school students around the state and a budget to attend or sponsor popular outdoor events, has been, for years, a center of repeated sexual misconduct among its officers, according to investigative files.

The files describe a unit in which officers prowled the lists of new recruits for sex, routinely cheated on their wives, drank to excess, went to strip clubs, chiseled the government with their official credit cards and made a habit of making leering and demeaning comments about women, including their fellow soldiers. The files were prepared between 2010 and 2014 in a largely failed effort by a few officers to mark the leaders of the battalion with the stain of an other-than-honorable discharge.

Officers in the battalion had sex with other soldiers and civilians on the chairs and desks of their recruiting offices, in their government cars, in the woods near Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson and in the RVs they brought to official events, the reports say.

The files described bullying of civilians by guard officers. Four women said that when they attended Dimond High School in Anchorage, they resisted a guard recruiter who tried to give them alcohol. One former student described what sounded like an attempt by the officer to groom her for sex. She said she had to jump from the recruiter’s car when he tried to take her home, calling her father for help from a stranger’s phone.

The issue has blown up big in the state. Schools have banned Guard recruiters. Anchorage police are still opening up new investigations.

And while this has put the incumbent Republican governor on the defensive, in a race he already trails, it's now making the leap to the Senate race, where Republican Attorney General Dan Sullivan narrowly leads incumbent Democrat Mark Begich in recent polling. From last night's local news:

Did Senate candidate Dan Sullivan know about the allegations of sexual assault and fraud in the Alaska National Guard? Sullivan was attorney general at the time Governor Parnell found out about the problems within the guard. KTVA 11's Kate McPherson joins us with more. US Senate candidate Dan Sullivan won't answer our questions regarding the national guard and whether he was informed about the allegations.
We haven't endorsed in any Alaska races this cycle. You can donate to Mark Begich directly at his website. However, this is just one front in the GOP's effort to take the Senate. You can help fight back by contributing to at least one of our endorsed Senate candidates.

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Television ads don't much move the needle these days. Scandals like this one? All bets are off. Particularly when Republicans look the other way as children are targeted.
10:31 Rick Scott’s minimum wage nonsense: Watch the Republican humiliate himself with stumbling debate response» Salon.com
Florida's guv asserts that he's OK with a government minimum wage -- but that the private sector sets it. Huh?






10:31 House GOP’s Hispanic neglect: How Boehner can keep majority with no Latino support» Salon.com
An interesting analysis shows the disturbing non-relationship between Hispanic voters and the House GOP






10:25 American Family Association claims anti-LGBT Idaho chapel owners to be arrested. Nope.» Daily Kos
Rainbow flag
The most terrifying sight in the world, apparently.
It looks like Coeur d'Alene's Hitching Post Wedding Chapel has adjusted their paperwork in a manner that will allow them to officially discriminate against gay members of the public.
Yesterday, city attorney Michael Gridley said in a letter to the Knapps' attorneys that the city will not prosecute legitimate nonprofit religious corporations, associations and other organizations exercising First Amendment rights. Gridley, who asked that the Hitching Post drop its suit, pointed out that two weeks ago the business took steps to become a nonprofit religious corporation.
Goal ThermometerAh, but if you think that's enough to stop the conspiracy theories about how the poor freedom-loving business owners are this close to being carted off to jail, you haven't been paying attention. An important part of doing God's work in these United States is to lie thine ass off in an ongoing attempt to stir up panic among the rubes, and if you think that was a really rude way for me to phrase that you really haven't been paying attention.
None of that is mentioned in the American Family Association’s post about the case, which states, “Once again, homosexual bullies have targeted Christian-owned businesses in their attempt to silence all opposition to their sinful lifestyle.” The Tupelo, Miss. group today posted a call to action for its members to contact [Mayor Steve Widmyer and Gov. Butch Otter], under the headline, “City threatens to arrest ministers for refusing to marry gays.”
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Didn't happen. They're lying. They're always lying, because that's what the "true Christians" of the anti-equality movement do. The American Family Association is a designated hate group specifically because they have a long history of making fraudulent statements in their efforts to sow panic about The Gays, but that doesn't mean Republicans will be backing away from the hucksters anytime soon.
10:18 Did Dinosaurs Walk Like Jar Jar Binks? | Video» LiveScience.com
This highly speculative animation is based upon analysis of a nearly complete Deinocheirus mirificus skeleton. It suggests the dinosaur may have plodded along river bottoms to forage for fish.
10:15 Wacky Humpbacked Dinosaur Looked Like 'Star Wars' Creature» LiveScience.com
A duck-billed, humpback, ostrichlike dinosaur has been unearthed in Mongolia at a site illegally excavated by poachers.
10:05 Rounds admits he knew aide was headed to beef plant he'd just authorized $600,000 in state loans for» Daily Kos
Republican South Dakota Senate candidate Mike Rounds
Mike Rounds, giving out loans like candy
Goal Thermometer

In a huge admission, former South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds, the GOP nominee in this year's Senate race, acknowledged Tuesday that he did in fact know that a top former cabinet official, Richard Benda, was going to work for investors running a meatpacking concern called Northern Beef, right around the same time that Rounds signed off on a special $600,000 state loan package to the company that Benda had urged. That money went directly into Benda's pockets, as he paid himself $225,000 a year to oversee the now-failed plant.

Just before Rounds left office at the end of 2010, Benda, then the state's secretary of tourism, pressed for the extra loans for Northern Beef, and Rounds approved the funding. A state audit later found that Benda had a serious conflict of interest in requesting the loans—duh—but until now, we didn't know whether Rounds himself was aware of this glaring conflict. It turns out that he most certainly did:

At the time, though, Rounds didn't ask Benda for more details.

"I said 'Good, I'm glad to hear that he's going to be actively involved in the beef plant,'" Rounds said in a live interview on the Argus Leader's "100 Eyes" online show.

Rounds claimed he couldn't remember whether he learned of Benda's future employment plans before or after the Northern Beef loans went through, but even if he only found out about them after, he surely could have raised an alarm while he still had time. Instead, he went blithely silent.
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There's much more to this scandal, though. Head below the fold to learn more.
10:05 Sex Is 385 Million Years Old, and It Looked Like Square Dancing» LiveScience.com
Sex is older than anyone had ever known. New research reveals that 385 million-year-old fish did the deed — and they may have invented copulation as much as 430 million years ago.
10:04 Neanderthals and Humans First Mated 50,000 Years Ago, DNA Reveals» LiveScience.com
The DNA from a 45,000-year-old bone of a man from Siberia is helping to pinpoint when modern humans and Neanderthals first interbred, researchers say. The man was born thousands of years after such interspecies mating occurred.
10:01 Germany’s Vice-Chancellor Calls For A New Grand Bargain For Europe» ThinkProgress

In advance of his first visit to the United States as Vice-Chancellor, and ahead of meetings with Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and Vice-President Joe Biden, Gabriel sat down with CAP senior fellow Matt Browne to discuss the economic and political challenges facing Germany, Europe, and the transatlantic relationship.

The post Germany’s Vice-Chancellor Calls For A New Grand Bargain For Europe appeared first on ThinkProgress.

10:00 Fox News Says Obama's Rockstar Days Over, Public Says Otherwise» Latest from Crooks and Liars
Fox News Says Obama's Rockstar Days Over, Public Says Otherwise

Charles Krauthammer wants us to remember when President "Rockstar" appeared in Denver at the 2008 "worship session." There was hope, change and a future for America that didn't include George W. Bush and the GOP. The country was relieved that our collective nightmare was over, the country reeling from full economic collapse, we needed something positive to join us together and Barack Obama was that something.

Fox News has been unbearably envious since they ran that candidate who introduced the world to the Palin-Hoarders-Duck-Dynasty-Wassilabilly family, complete with a pregnant teenage daughter, so proudly for everyone to see. They've been even more vitriolic since Ann Romney told "You People" to stop it, this is hard, you lousy 47% peasants. They couldn't hate the president more, the same president that lowered unemployment FOUR percentage points since his inauguration, less than six years ago, he's added 10.3 million jobs in 55 straight months of private sector job growth. But now, since Red State Democrats, whose electorate is addicted to the Fox, feel they must distance themselves from the black president's name, all the fame and pomp and circumstance surrounding the president is OVER? Krauthammer believes that is so.

So he proclaims,

“He’s gotta hide under his desk until November,” he said. “He’s not going to go out and campaign in these states, obviously, but this is hard for him to take.”

read more

09:58 Dana Loesch's New Gun Book Botches Quotes From The Founding Fathers» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

Conservative commentator Dana Loesch's new book Hands Off My Gun: Defeating the Plot to Disarm America includes spurious quotes from George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and other Founding Fathers, despite the fact that it purports to teach readers about "the history of the Second Amendment."

Loesch, who hosts a radio show on The Blaze, is currently on a media tour promoting her book and has made appearances on Fox News programs The Kelly File, Fox & Friends, Hannity and America's Newsroom.

She joins other conservative authors, including Emily Miller and Glenn Beck, in advancing a pro-gun agenda, in part by citing the discredited "more guns, less crime" research of economist John Lott.

In her book, Loesch also attempts to demonstrate that the Founding Father's view of the Second Amendment matches her own, but in doing so she misquotes, and often takes out of context, the Founder's true words.

In a section titled, "In Their Own Words," Loesch writes, "Just to make sure everyone reading this book is well armed -- pun intended -- with the facts about the Founders and their intentions, the Buckeye Firearms Association compiled a list of quotes attributed to various Founders that demonstrated beyond any shadow of a doubt what our Constitution's drafters intended when they drafted and approved the Second Amendment."

Loesch added, "Do the new-century equivalent of sticking them onto your fridge: Post them to Facebook or Twitter."

However, many of the quotes listed are not accurate.

GEORGE WASHINGTON

Loesch:

"A free people ought to be armed." - George Washington

Actual Quote:

"A free people ought not only to be armed, but disciplined; to which end a uniform and well-digested plan is requisite; and their safety and interest require that they should promote such manufactories, as tend to render them independent of others for essential, particularly military, supplies."

The version appearing in Loesch's book crops language from Washington's quote that made it clear he was talking about the creation of a national defense strategy. According to the full text of Washington's first State of the Union address, he was discussing what it meant to "be prepared for war" and "[t]he proper establishment of the troops."

09:57 Pennsylvania Governor Signs Free Speech Ban Targeting Criminal Offenders» ThinkProgress

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R) isn't too keen on the First Amendment.

The post Pennsylvania Governor Signs Free Speech Ban Targeting Criminal Offenders appeared first on ThinkProgress.

09:46 Major Scientific Breakthrough Allows Paralyzed Man to Walk Again» ThinkProgress

The surgery and 19-month treatment has helped a Polish man regain feeling in his legs and live more independently.

The post Major Scientific Breakthrough Allows Paralyzed Man to Walk Again appeared first on ThinkProgress.

09:43 Photos: First Sex Revealed in Fossilized, Square-Dancing Fish» LiveScience.com
The first animals to have sex were tiny armored fish called microbrachius that copulated some 385 million years ago in a square-dancing type maneuver.
09:41 Wind Could Provide Almost One-Fifth Of Global Electricity By 2030» ThinkProgress

A new report points to a number of encouraging signs in the global wind industry.

The post Wind Could Provide Almost One-Fifth Of Global Electricity By 2030 appeared first on ThinkProgress.

09:35 Republicans buy ads like they govern: Incompetently» Daily Kos
NRA attack ad against Michelle Nunn in Georgia Senate race 2014
All that attack ad money, pissed away.
Goal ThermometerKarl Rove is raking in the commissions, with new ad buys like this one:
With the Senate race in Colorado tightening, Karl Rove’s American Crossroads groups have pummeled Senator Mark Udall, the Democratic incumbent, with millions of dollars in negative ads. Crossroads begins its biggest assault on Wednesday: a $3.5 million barrage attacking Mr. Udall’s national security credentials.
The Kochs are getting in one last binge:
Freedom Partners Action Fund, a “super PAC” with ties to the billionaire brothers Charles G. and David H. Koch, will broadcast $6.5 million worth of advertising in six states in the closing days of the election campaign, officials there said.
But what exactly is this really buying Republicans? A lot less than what Democorats are getting. In fact, Republicans are spending $5 million more in the Senate battlegrounds these last two weeks, yet they're getting 10,000 fewer ad spots.

Senate
DEM: $27.2M, 46,180 spots
GOP: $32.5M, 36,086 spots

Governor
DEM: $8.5M, 16,824 spots
GOP: $11.4M, 17,193 spots

House
DEM: $10.4M, 15,396 spots
GOP: $12M, 16,187 spots

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If you want efficient spending, it's clear Republicans are the last place you want to look. On the other hand, all those commission fees will allow Rove to buy a new vacation home, so it's always nice to see Republican-style trickle-down economics in action.
09:35 After Acid-Attacks, Thousands Of Iranian Women Take To The Streets» ThinkProgress

"I'm not afraid. I won't change how I dress because we must fight against this strain of thought."

The post After Acid-Attacks, Thousands Of Iranian Women Take To The Streets appeared first on ThinkProgress.

09:34 Thom Tillis, one-time Medicaid expansion killer, now says North Carolina should consider it» Daily Kos

What a difference a tight poll in a general election makes. Case in point, Thom Tillis, the tea party Republican and state Speaker of the House in North Carolina, now running against Sen. Kay Hagan for the U.S. Senate. Back in April, during the primary, he ran this radio ad:

Goal Thermometer
MAN: Thom Tillis has a proven record fighting against Obamacare.

WOMAN: Tillis stopped Obamacare's Medicaid expansion cold. It's not happening in North Carolina and it's because of Thom Tillis.

But that was way back in April, when he was fighting to prove his extremist credibility to Republican primary voters. Now? Now his tune has definitely changed.
Asked if he thought it would be likely that the state legislature would expand Medicaid coverage after refusing to do so previously, Tillis said it might make sense once the state has better control of the financing of the program, which is notorious for its cost overruns.

He said he didn’t have an ideological objection to expanding the coverage. But he said when the state auditor told the previous governor that money was being wasted on it, the appropriate response would not have been to make it bigger and more costly.

"I would encourage the state legislature and governor to consider it if they're completely convinced they now have the situation under control," Tillis said.

Oh no, he didn't have an ideological objection to Medicaid expansion under Obamacare, not at all. It was all about fiscal responsibility. Which was bullshit in April, too. Because, as it turns out, there was no crisis in Medicaid in North Carolina, ever. In fact, "data from the Kaiser Family Foundation have shown that North Carolina’s Medicaid program costs have increased at the slowest rate in the nation and per-capita costs are the lowest in the Southeast."
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Thom Tillis was full of shit when he "stopped Medicaid expansion cold," and he's full of shit now. But Tillis's contortions on the issue shows just how potent the issue is for Democrats, and what a flop Obamacare repeal has been for Republicans. It's definitely not 2010, anymore.
09:34 Tech Company Will Offer 18 Weeks Of Paid Family Leave To Both Parents» ThinkProgress

Change.org's paid family leave benefits look to be the most generous in the tech industry.

The post Tech Company Will Offer 18 Weeks Of Paid Family Leave To Both Parents appeared first on ThinkProgress.

09:30 Numerous Gunmen Suspected In Shootings Near Canadian Parliament» ThinkProgress

The latest on the attacks in Canada.

The post Numerous Gunmen Suspected In Shootings Near Canadian Parliament appeared first on ThinkProgress.

09:30 GOP congressman tells school children they are to blame for classmate's suicide» Daily Kos
Don Young, CSPAN screenshot
Rep. Don Young of Alaska reminding us once again just how classy Alaska Republicans can be during a question and answer session at—where else?—Wasilla High School:
... teacher Carla Swick posed a question about Alaska’s high suicide and domestic violence rates and asked what Young's office is doing about it.

Young started talking about suicide, mentioning the role played by alcohol and depression, several witnesses said. The school didn’t record the assembly.

But then, witnesses say, Young said suicide shows a lack of support from friends and family.

That comment stunned students and staff still mourning the loss of a student who died Thursday, staffers say.

The school's principal, Amy Spargo, said she was taken aback:
"When I heard 'a lack of support from family' and I heard 'a lack of support from friends,' I felt the oxygen go out of the room, but I gasped as well," Spargo said. "It just isn't true in these situations. It's just such a hurtful thing to say."
Young's office issued a statement saying the Congressman's comments blaming the students were "well-intentioned." According to the statement, Young felt he merely "shared some suggestions for helping family members and friends who are dealing with suicidal thoughts."

Well, Congressman Young, here's a suggestion for you: The next time someone asks you about dealing with the suicide of someone close to them, don't blame them for it. And if you do, apologize—don't defend it.

09:23 CDC steps up Ebola monitoring» POLITICO - TOP Stories
The announcement comes amid growing clamor from lawmakers for travel bans.
09:10 How Drones Are Fighting Infectious Disease» LiveScience.com
In a remote area of Southeast Asia, drones are fighting a battle — not against terrorists or insurgents, but against infectious disease.
08:58 Retiring Republican refuses to endorse nutso Republican running to succeed him» Daily Kos
Wisconsin state Sen. Glenn Grothman (R)
Glenn Grothman, so loony even Republicans are shunning him
Goal Thermometer

We've already made a pretty compelling case that Glenn Grothman is the craziest Republican running for Congress this year, but here's another strong piece of evidence for our argument: Retiring Rep. Tom Petri, a fellow member of the GOP who represents Wisconsin's 6th District, is refusing to endorse Grothman to succeed him. Could it be because Grothman took a huge dump on Petri?

"Why would I endorse a person who has said that if in two years people said he was 'just like Petri' he would be insulted?" Petri said. "I don't want to smother him with love or anything like that."
Yep, probably! Petri was one of the last remaining moderates (or at least, what passes for a moderate these days) in the Republican caucus; Grothman, on the other hand, would probably make Louie Gohmert look reasonable at least one day a week. Probably Saturdays: Grothman is famous for wanting to eliminate weekends, and I'm going to guess that even the nuttiest teanut in Congress still enjoys those.

Petri, meanwhile, clings to a bygone sense of bipartisanship, do you can understand why Grothman wants nothing to do with Petri—and why the feeling is mutual. Indeed, Petri complimented Grothman's Democratic opponent, Winnebago County Executive Mark Harris, saying he'd done "a fine job" in his current post. Petri also took a back-handed jab at Grothman by encouraging his constituents to attend debates—which Harris has happily participated in but Grothman has refused to attend.

That's because Grothman's handlers know that his incendiary mouth can only get him in trouble. In fact, they've insisted that reporters only send questions to the campaign by email!

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But no matter how hard Grothman tries to hide, he can't erase his lunacy from the public record: Harris is running strong ads that showcase Grothman's most bizarre rantings. As the saying goes, crazy will out, but Harris needs our help to make that happen.
08:58 Coal Could Suffer Major Setback In The Deep South» ThinkProgress

“The industry has said the Gulf is their [coal export] plan B.”

The post Coal Could Suffer Major Setback In The Deep South appeared first on ThinkProgress.

08:54 South Florida City Votes To Secede In Last-Ditch Effort To Avoid Being Swallowed By The Sea» ThinkProgress

The resolution -- like all other secession attempts in the U.S., apart from the one in 1775 -- isn't likely to make it very far. But the three South Miami councilmembers who voted for the resolution still think sea level rise is serious enough to make the secession statement.

The post South Florida City Votes To Secede In Last-Ditch Effort To Avoid Being Swallowed By The Sea appeared first on ThinkProgress.

08:51 Daily Ebola Checks: Everyone Arriving from West Africa Will Now Be Monitored» LiveScience.com
All passengers arriving from West African countries where the Ebola outbreak is ongoing will be monitored for 21 days, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said today.
08:32 How Insurers Are Trying To Get Around Obamacare And Avoid Covering Sick Patients» ThinkProgress

Some companies are trying to avoid the patients whom the law is supposed to protect.

The post How Insurers Are Trying To Get Around Obamacare And Avoid Covering Sick Patients appeared first on ThinkProgress.

08:02 Rick Scott: 'How would I know' what the minimum wage should be» Daily Kos
Florida Gov. Rick Scott speaks at CPAC FL, 2011.
Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL)
Goal Thermometer

Florida Gov. Rick Scott really had a bang-up debate Tuesday. In addition to energetically dodging the question of whether he knew that he delayed an execution so that Attorney General Pam Bondi could attend a political fundraiser, he showed off his concern for low-wage workers and in-depth knowledge of economic issues. Or, more specifically, he showed off his total lack of concern and in-depth knowledge.

The question was "Do you support the concept of a minimum wage?" Which is a question that has to be asked of Republican politicians, since many of them don't. Scott's answer was a glib "sure." It looked like he was ready to keep talking, but the follow-up question beat him to the punch: "What should it be?"

How would I know? I mean, the private sector decides wages.
Answering this, Scott briefly let his debate face drop in his sheer irritation at being asked what the minimum wage should be. "How would I know?" Gosh, I don't know, you're the governor, you do have a say in these things. It's not crazy to expect you to have an opinion, possibly even an informed one.

Also, "sure," Scott supports the concept of a minimum wage, but the reason he doesn't know what the minimum wage should be is that "the private sector decides wages." Except that in the case of the minimum wage, the private sector does not decide, so it seems like Scott may have been missing the point here. Or, more likely, was knocked off his talking points by an unexpected framing of the minimum wage question, and didn't bother making a whole lot of sense as he scrambled to get back to the talking points.

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Republican governors have really been on a minimum wage roll, from Scott Walker's "I don't think it serves a purpose" to Chris Christie's "I'm tired of hearing about the minimum wage," and Scott's "How should I know" certainly belongs on the greatest hits list.
07:42 Rick Scott Refuses To Say If He Knowingly Delayed An Execution For A Political Fundraiser» ThinkProgress

The execution was originally scheduled for September 10, the same day as attorney general Pam Bondi's "hometown campaign kickoff".

The post Rick Scott Refuses To Say If He Knowingly Delayed An Execution For A Political Fundraiser appeared first on ThinkProgress.

07:22 Applying Compost To Soil Can Help Cut Carbon Pollution» ThinkProgress

According to research, if compost were applied to 5 percent of California’s land used for livestock grazing, it could result in a year’s worth of emissions from farm and forestry industries being captured.

The post Applying Compost To Soil Can Help Cut Carbon Pollution appeared first on ThinkProgress.

07:12 Chuck Todd Explains The Meet The Press "Balancing Act" And How Diversity Is A "Front-Burner Issue"» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

If Chuck Todd's plans for the new Meet the Press are successful, within a year the show will balance the need to explain the inner workings of Washington to viewers with elevating public concerns that are not getting enough attention in the political sphere.

In the second part of a three-part interview series with Media Matters, Todd lays out his goals for Meet the Press, the struggle for guest diversity on Sunday political shows, and the current state of the media landscape.

Responding to a frequent progressive critique of the Sunday shows -- that they are obsessed with gaffes and spin and not actual issues -- Todd expressed hope that his show would pull off a "balancing act."

"On one hand, we're trying to explain and interpret what Washington is up to for the public," Todd said. "But at the same time, trying to bring the public's concerns and the public's issues and the things that they seem to be worried about to Washington's doorstep."

Asked whether Meet the Press should discuss issues like climate change that are generally under-covered or merely reflect the current discussion in Washington, Todd explained that it's difficult to find time to cover every deserving story, especially when breaking news events like the Ebola outbreak eat into the schedule.

Media Matters has repeatedly highlighted the lack of diversity on the Sunday morning political shows, including on Meet the Press. In 2013, when the show was hosted by David Gregory, a full 62 percent of the guests were white men.

Todd said that it's probably too early to judge his own efforts with regards to diversity but said it is "a front-burner issue for us, not a back-burner issue."

While Todd said he had so far sought to make his weekly roundtables diverse, he warned of challenges in providing a balanced slate of interview subjects.

Todd highlighted how, for instance, "90 percent of the generals and the military experts out there" are white men. "Some of this stuff is out of your control. At the end of the day, you want to put the best people on. You want to put the best, smartest people on," Todd said. "I'd like to think we're doing a better job at making sure that we're reflecting America."

He also pointed to the need for geographical diversity among guests in order to avoid "socioeconomic groupthink," as well as providing diverse ideological voices within both the Democratic and Republican parties.

Todd criticized Fox News' use of straight news reporters to balance conservative commentators on their roundtable panels, saying that it demonstrates the network has an "agenda," adding that Meet the Press doesn't "believe in that." Todd also criticized Fox News for "trying to make everything about media bias."

Despite his criticism of the conservative network, Todd offered that "too many citizens are only getting news from one place and not understanding the other side."

The first part of Todd's interview with Media Matters focused on the media's coverage of scandals and crises. The third and final installment will focus on media coverage of Hillary Clinton's potential 2016 presidential run.

Relevant transcript from Todd's Media Matters interview will be published with each part.

Answers covered in part two are below:

07:02 Rick Scott won't say if he knew execution delay was for a political fundraiser» Daily Kos
Goal Thermometer

Florida Gov. Rick Scott may have had a death row inmate's execution delayed to accommodate a fundraiser for Attorney General Pam Bondi, but he'd really rather not talk about that right now, mmkay? Scott's in the middle of a close re-election campaign and this seems to be a topic he finds inconvenient, based on his evasion of Democratic opponent Charlie Crist's questions about it at Tuesday's debate.

Scott deployed a series of evasive maneuvers to get out of answering whether he knew, when he delayed the execution of Marshall Lee Gore, that it was for a political fundraiser. First, because Crist had the temerity to note that "it is the most solemn act a governor has to do as you're governor, knowing that your name on a piece of paper is going to result in the death of another human being," and because Crist acknowledged that he didn't have all the facts—which would be one of the reasons he was asking Scott for additional facts—Scott fell back on pieties about "the prayers that I do" and how "what I think about is those victims." As if the question had been "why did you execute a person," Scott said "you won't feel good about doing it, but it's my duty to do it as governor and I'll continue to do it."

But of course the question was not "why did you execute a person" in the abstract, it was "why did you delay this specific execution and did you know it was for Pam Bondi to attend a political fundraiser?" And that's a question Scott continued to evade. Crist pressed him: "Did the attorney general ask you to delay the execution so she could go forward with her political fundraiser?" That's where Scott started to really fall apart.

"See, the, it was, she asked me to delay it because it didn't work on the dates that she thought it was going to be on."

"Did you know it was for a political fundraiser?"

"Charlie, she apologized. She apologized. What would you like her to do? She apologized. She apologized, Charlie. What would you like her to do?"

See, Gov. Scott, it's not about what Bondi should do at this point. It's about whether you knew she wanted to delay the execution for a fundraiser, and aided her in doing that. She apologized—though it's not really clear what kind of apology wipes the slate clean after you toy with another person's life and death to raise some campaign cash—but voters need to know what and how much Rick Scott should be apologizing for. If Bondi lied to him about her reasons for wanting the execution delayed, that's something voters should know about Bondi. And if Scott knew that he was delaying an execution for partisan reasons, that's something voters should know about Scott.
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The funny thing is, Scott has previously denied knowing that the delay was for Bondi's fundraiser. So why is this such a hard question to answer now?
07:02 Research Behind Dr. Oz-Endorsed Diet Supplement Was Bogus, Authors Admit» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
“America’s doctor” promoted spurious weight-loss products to his audience.

A research paper that touted the weight-loss benefits of an extract from green coffee beans has been retracted by the researchers that published it. Green coffee had been touted as a “miracle” supplement by television host Dr. Mehmet Oz on his eponymous Dr. Oz show.

Retraction Watch, a website that reports on repealed and repudiated scientific research, says the paper’s two authors have now admitted that they are unable to defend their work.

"The sponsors of the study cannot assure the validity of the data so we, Joe Vinson and Bryan Burnham, are retracting the paper," the authors conceded on Dove Press, a British site dedicated to the peer reviews of scientific research. The study, titled “Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, linear dose, crossover study to evaluate the efficacy and safety of a green coffee bean extract in overweight subjects” was originally published in the journal Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome and Obesity: Targets and Therapy.

Last month, the company behind the study, Applied Food Science, agreed to $3.5 million settlement with the Federal Trade Commission, after government regulators found that some key data, including research the recorded weight of research participants, was likely cooked. Additionally, the study had a very small sample of only 16 overweight adults. The feds said that the research, sponsored by supplement manufacturer, was "so hopelessly flawed that no reliable conclusions could be drawn from it."

Reportedly, Applied Food Science sold some 500,000 bottles of the green coffee extract supplement.

In May 2012, Dr. Oz heralded the study on his television program, professing that it linked green coffee to weight loss, and said that those who took it lost an average of 18 pounds in six weeks. Apparently the expert nutritionist that praised green coffee one episode of the show, Lindsey Duncan, also had an ulterior motive; he was the CEO of Genesis Pure, a nutritional supplement company that markets green coffee as a weight-loss product. Dr. Oz did not disclose this obvious conflict of interest.

Recent laboratory research by the American Chemical Society into the weight-loss claims made by the marketers of green coffee beans finds that the ingredient that is supposed to spur weight loss, chlorogenic acid, has no such impact. Furthermore, the study showed that it can actually cause fatty deposits in the livers of mice.

While previous medical studies reveal that coffee drinkers have a lower risk of obesity, high blood pressure and insulin resistance (known collectively as “metabolic syndrome”), the researchers found that mice given chlorogenic acid didn’t lose weight compared to mice who were not given the chemical. In fact, the mice who were fed this ingredient had increased insulin resistance in addition to fattier livers.

Dr. Oz claimed he did his own two-week test on nearly 100 women, which included a control group that was given a placebo. He found that the women who took the supplement lost an average of two pounds, while those taking the placebo lost an average of one pound. Normally, such results would be deemed inconclusive at best, but Dr. Oz cited them as evidence of the efficacy of green coffee extract, declaring “the green coffee bean worked for us” and recommended the supplement to his audience even though “we don’t know much about it.”

Oz’s entanglement in pseudoscience inspired Sen. Claire McCaskill, the chairwoman of the Senate subcommittee on Consumer Protection, to call him to testify and answer questions about his claims. During the testimony, McCaskill chided Oz for abusing his great influence, saying the products he endorses are almost guaranteed to fly off the shelves.

Oz acknowledged to the subcommittee that while there’s no such thing as a “miracle” supplement, and that many he touts wouldn’t pass scientific muster, he insisted he was comfortable recommending them to his fans.

“My job is to be a cheerleader for the audience,” Oz says. ”And when they don’t think they have hope, when they don’t think they can make it happen, I want to look and I do look everywhere, including alternative healing traditions, for any evidence that might be supportive to them."

 

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06:50 Cartoon: Breast cancer awareness czar» Daily Kos

05:31 I Was Forced From My Home and Am Living In Constant Fear Because of Relentless Death Threats From Male Gamers» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
This is what happens when you stand up to the misogyny of gaming culture.

They threatened the wrong woman this time. I am the Godzilla of bitches. I have a backbone of pure adamantium, and I’m sick of seeing them abuse my friends.

The misogynists and the bullies and the sadist trolls of patriarchal gaming culture threatened to murder me and rape my corpse, and I did not back down. They tried to target my company’s financial assets and I did not back down. They tried to impersonate me on Twitter in an attempt to professionally discredit me and I did not back down.

The BBC called me “Defiant,” in a caption. I plan to frame and put it on my wall.

Ordinarily, I develop videogames with female characters that aren’t girlfriends, bimbos and sidekicks. I am a software engineer, a popular public speaker and an expert in the Unreal engine. Today, I’m being targeted by a delusional mob called “Gamergate.”

If you don’t know what Gamergate is, my God do I envy you. Gamergate is basically a group of boys who don’t want girls in their videogame clubhouse. Only, instead of throwing rocks, they threaten to rape you. And, if that doesn’t work, they’ll secretly record your conversations and release the lurid details of your sex life in a public circus. From seeing the #gamergate mobs plan this on 8chan.co, it seems like they’re having a lot of fun.

It started two months ago, when my friend Zoe Quinn dated Eron Gjoni. Their relationship ended, as relationships sometimes do. Only, rather than get drunk and play Madden, Eron decided to secretly record everything Zoe said, and released it on a blog he titled "The Zoe Report" in an attempt to destroy her. 

If Zoe had been a man, the blog would have been laughed off as the work of a jilted lover. 

But, no. Instead, a mob formed to destroy her. Ostensibly concerned about ethics, Gamergate was very worried about Gjoni's accusations that Zoe might have had a relationship with a journalist to get favorable reviews of her universally celebrated title, “Depression Quest,” which has been downloaded more than a million times and has helped countless people better understand their depression.

It tells you everything you need to know about Gamergate that this mob went after Zoe and not the journalist.

The Gamergate mob isn’t a new thing, though it’s only recently been named. They targeted my friend Samantha Allen back in July, when she dared criticize Giant Bomb’s decision to remain the only major site in videogames with a 100 percent white, straight and male employee pool.

They ran through their playbook. They targeted her on Twitter, they harassed her. They researched her past. They questioned her personal relationships. They threatened her. And they have done everything possible to try to quash one of the videogame industry's most insightful and powerful voices.

It’s a playbook that works. They used it against Jenn Frank until she quit. They used it against Mattie Brice until she quit. They used it against Leigh Alexander. They used it against Zoe Quinn. And they used it against Anita Sarkeesian who had to cancel a speaking engagement gig this week after a school shooting threat -- and now they used it against me.

What was my crime? 

A fan of my show on 5by5, Isometric, made a meme of some of my Tweets about Gamergaters. 

The meme that started it all.
The meme that started it all.

I loled. I tweeted. And, by Friday I was receiving death threats.

A sampling of the hate I have received.
A sampling of the hate I have received.

I have to be honest. A mob telling you they will castrate your husband, make you choke to death on the parts, murder any children you might have and then rape your ass until it bleeds has a way of scaring the hell out of you.

But, you know, because I am the Godzilla of bitches, by Saturday morning I was pissed off. I’m talking Jack Bauer-pissed-off. So, I decided I was going to do everything in my power to stop these fuckers.

Thanks in part to Wil Wheaton, one of my tweets about the death threats went mega viral. The press started calling. I wanted to crawl into a hole, but I pushed through and talked to them. Kotaku ran a story. Re/code ran a story. Polygon ran a story. I was barely sleeping or eating, but I pulled myself together for MSNBC and CNN. The anti-Gamergate movement started to catch fire. Over 100 stories have been written all over the world because I’m sick of these asshats taking out my friends and I’m calling them on their shit.

There’s no easy way to say this. I am a massive target for Gamergate/8chan.co right now and it is having horrible consequences for my life. They tried to hack my company financially on Saturday, taking out our company’s assets. They’ve tried to impersonate me on Twitter in an effort to discredit me. They are making burner accounts to send lies about my private life to prominent journalists. They’ve devastated the metacritic users’ score of my game, Revolution 60, lowering it to 0.3 out of 100.

With all of this, my only hope is that my colleagues in the industry will stand by me -- and recognize the massive target I made myself standing up to these lunatics.

I woke up twice last night to noises in the room, gasping with fear that someone was there to murder me. I can barely function without fear or jumpiness or hesitation. I’ve been driven from my home. My husband says he feels like he’s been shot.

But I have to be honest: I don’t give a fuck. 

I am mad as hell at these people, and I’m not going to let them keep destroying the women I love and respect.

In part, because of the press campaign I’ve done in the last five days against Gamergate, the jig is up. The Entertainment Software Association, the largest trade group in our industry, denounced the movement. Vox ran an editorial about the pattern established with the threats against me, “Angry misogyny is now the primary face of #GamerGate.” And journalistic enterprises like Giant Bomb, which had sat on the sidelines, are finally discussing the issue.

Gamergate, I have one message for you so listen up: When you take your last dying breath, I want you to know this. It was an absolute pleasure knocking you on your ass for the fine women in this field.

 

Related Stories

05:30 Daily Kos Radio is LIVE at 9 am ET!» Daily Kos
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The second-best thing about it being Joan McCarter Day is that I don't have to think of something to say about what the show will be about.

The best thing, of course, is that the definition of Joan McCarter Day is that it's the day she's on the show.

Listen LIVE at 9:00 ET, here: Click this Link to Listen on your iTunes, Winamp or Windows Media Player

Daily Kos Radio's Kagro in the Morning show podcasts are now available through iTunes.

(HOW YOU CAN GIVE ME) FREE MONEY!

Listen to Stitcher
Help support the show through Stitcher's revenue sharing program. Be one of 5,000 "active listeners" per month, and, well, they send us money. All you need to do, believe it or not, is listen to 30 seconds of a show, once in a month. Seriously! Choose any one of the shows at this link, listen to 30 seconds' worth, and you're on board!

How are we doing on that? Well, it's been a little underwhelming, to be honest. Hundreds of thousands of you come through here every day, but I only tricked succeeded in convincing 762 of you to do this last month. So if you're seeing this and you didn't participate last month because you figured there were thousands upon thousands of your fellow Kossacks filling the quota, we could use your help on that.

Did you happen to miss our last LIVE show? You can catch it here:

Need more info on how to listen? Find it below the fold.

05:29 Missing Sphinx Head Found in Ancient Greek Tomb» LiveScience.com
Archaeologists discovered the missing head of one of the marble sphinxes in a huge Macedonian tomb under excavation in Amphipolis, Greece.
05:20 Ancient Finned Predator Feasted on Sharks» LiveScience.com
During the early Permian, carnivores greatly outnumbered herbivores on land, so top predator Dimetrodon supplemented its diet by hunting sharks.
05:19 Why Is Big Coal Pretending to Be the Savior of the Developing World? » AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
These countries deserve something much better than the old, dirty energy North America no longer wants.

This story first appeared at EcoWatch.com

There is a growing drumbeat being played by the coal industry around the idea that their product will “save” developing African and Asian regions that are deprived of a reliable energy source or what is known in policy circles as energy poverty.

But I would say these countries deserve something much better than the old, dirty energy that we in North America no longer want.

New global marketing campaigns like “Advanced Energy For Life,” which is sponsored by Peabody Energy, the world’s largest private-sector coal company, have projected the fantasy of “clean coal” as the solution for energy poverty. If the developed West with its environmental and health standards would simply get out of the way, Africa and Asia could coal-fire their way to economic prosperity.

The timing is uncanny for this burst of random benevolence on the part the coal industry. After all, the idea of energy poverty is not new, and neither is coal.

Or could it be that as coal is becoming less favorable in places like the U.S., where strict new environmental and health concerns have all but halted any new domestic growth, these companies are looking to hawk their “clean” coal product in new markets.

Call me cynical, but I would say this poor-need-coal concept is a Hail Mary attempt by a dying industry to find the few last markets for a product that nobody seems to want anymore. Markets susceptible to being convinced by sophisticated marketing techniques that coal is somehow “clean.”

First, let’s get one thing straight, there is no such thing as “clean coal.” Mining and burning coal remains one of the most destructive of all human activities. It flattens mountains, poisons rivers and drinking water supplies, pollutes the air, causes severe respiratory illnesses, and is over-heating our planet.

The phrase “clean coal” is no more than a clever bit of marketing—an advertising slogan that cannot honestly define any physical thing. Industry definitions of “clean coal” shift whenever its strategically expedient/convenient.

Big coal continues to hail the promise of carbon capture and storage (CCS)—remember all the commercials during the 2008 Presidential election? Carbon capture, we were told, would “soon” be commercially viable. Except we never reach that horizon. High profile CCS projects like FutureGen continue to struggle, with more than 11 years of promises, hundreds of millions of taxpayers dollars spent, and still not a spade in the ground.

And then there is the copycat “clean” coal carbon capture and storage project GreenGen in China, which is supported in part by none other than Peabody Energy, the same company behind the Advanced Energy for Life campaign.

So if coal has been, for all intents and purposes, essentially banned in the U.S., for environment, health and climate concerns. Why is it seen as a solution for other nations in Africa and Asia? Especially when there are cheaper, cleaner, more high tech 21st Century options.

Just as cell phone technology has helped the developing world leapfrog landline telecoms and their costly infrastructure, advanced renewables like distributed solar and wind can help the world’s poor electrify, skipping the the centralized coal-utilities entirely.

The coal industry predictably argues that renewables are still too expensive, and that we have a “moral obligation” to provide “low cost” fossil fuels (read: coal) to lift the developing world out of energy poverty. However, commercially viable carbon capture and storage, and advanced coal gasification remain elusive pipe dreams that will likely be prohibitively expensive if they ever prove to be a workable solution.

None other than the International Energy Agency (IEA), the traditionally conservative Paris-based organization, recently argued that coal is not the best option for Africa and developing Asia.

In its latest Solar Roadmap report, published in September, the IEA made a strong case for solar as the best path out of energy poverty.

“The rapid cost decrease of photovoltaic modules and systems in the last few years has opened new perspectives for using solar energy as a major source of electricity in the coming years and decades,” said IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven, introducing the report.

The report showed how, by 2030, 500 million people with no current access to electricity could enjoy light in their homes with solar photovoltaics, describing the “considerable merits” of both on-grid and off-grid solar.

Provided financing options for the considerable upfront costs of solar, the IEA argues that photovoltaics are already competitive with fossil fuel alternatives.

Compared to coal with carbon capture and advanced coal gasification, solar photovoltaics, solar thermal, wind, and other advanced renewables are already a bargain.

Ultimately, it shouldn’t be for the coal companies or western think tanks to decide what’s best for Africa and developing Asia.

In India, a country with both extreme energy poverty and massive coal deposits, the recently elected Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced a goal of delivering electricity to all Indian citizens by 2020. Modi’s plan for delivering power to the roughly 300 million that currently live without: mostly solar.

Last year, at a climate and development conference in Ethiopia, delegates from throughout Africa met to discuss economic growth in the face of climate change and energy poverty. One main conclusion from their summary report speaks volumes:

“There is no question of a choice between economic growth and environmental protection. The green economy is about achieving green growth while at the same time protecting our environment.”

Over the past 200 years or so, the Western world has learned so much about what works and what doesn’t when it comes to powering a sustainable economy and planet. Developing nations in Africa and Asia don’t need to learn those lessons all over again.

 

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05:17 Cheers and Jeers: Wednesday» Daily Kos
C&J Banner

From the GREAT STATE OF MAINE…

Three Little Lessons:

PA Gov. Tom Corbett, in an image from his website with a black woman photoshopped in from a stock image. Oct. 2014
In my mind she's slapping
a "Kick Me" sign on his back.
-
Lesson #1: If you're a governor of a state---say, Republican Governor Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania---and the diversity of your supporters runs the gamut from old white men to old white women, don’t try to burnish your image by photoshopping in a stock image of a black woman on your web site. You'll just get caught and be ridiculed. No one likes a pander bear.

Lesson #2 If you promote your public, for-profit business---let's randomly use "The Hitching Post" in Idaho for example---as one that happily performs "wedding ceremonies of other faiths as well as civil weddings" in addition to traditional Christian ones, and gay marriage gets passed in your state, don’t scrub your web site of the "civil" part in order to try and gin up a bullshit lawsuit claiming religious persecution. You'll just get caught, and it's a well-known fact that some judges have been known to laugh themselves to death throwing such lawsuits out of court. And you don’t want a dead judge on your hands…do you?

Heart with a knife in it
Lesson #3: When attempting to woo a state's voters into choosing your candidate, as RNC assistant viceroy Sharon Day did in Wisconsin, it's not a good idea to suggest they "might not be as sharp as a knife." Punching (or stabbing) down tends to kill the romance. So here's your toothbrush and your copy of Atlas Shrugged…now get out. It's over between us.
Saying Republicans are good leaders is like saying the NRA is a non-partisan gun-safety organization. Help defeat the bastards with a few bucks here and/or a few phone calls here.
Cheers and Jeers starts below the fold... [Swoosh!!] RIGHTNOW! [Gong!!]
05:08 Two World War II Battle Ships Discovered Off North Carolina» LiveScience.com
The two WW II vessels sunk within moments of each other in 1942 and now rest side-by-side on the seafloor off the coast of North Carolina. The discovery drives home how close the war came to American shores.
05:00 Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest: Despite conventional wisdom, third-party campaigns aren't fading» Daily Kos
Leading Off:

Polltopia: Third-party candidates in Senate and gubernatorial races do not seem to be fading away as Election Day approaches. In individual races, there are some races where it appears a third-party candidate is gaining, and some where the opposite is true, but in general it's difficult to tell because not all polls include all candidates. If we combine all the polling for all the races we see essentially no trend in either the local regression or the median. We visualize this in the chart above by Dreaminonempty, though note that is does not include AK-Gov or KS-Sen, where there is no Democrat running.

As of Saturday, there were 29 races in the Daily Kos Elections polling database with a third-party candidate at a post-Labor Day average of 5.0 percent or greater, including KS-Sen and AK-Gov but excluding LA-Sen. Note that races where the major-party share of the vote is less than 95 percent have had much larger polling errors in the past.

04:59 Photos: WWII Shipwrecks Found Off NC Coast» LiveScience.com
A merchant freighter called Bluefields and the German U-boat U-576, both of which went down on July 15, 1942 during World War II, were discovered on floor of the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of North Carolina
04:42 Myth Busted: Ancient Humans May Not Have Been Redheads» LiveScience.com
Ancient humans found with red hair weren't necessarily redheads in life, but may have acquired their carrot top after death, a new study finds.
04:34 Robert Reich: Why I'm Worried About America» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
We used to understand that leadership required something other than drones and bombs.

We have to get a grip. Ebola is not a crisis in the United States. One person has died and two people are infected with his body fluids.

The real crisis is the hysteria over Ebola that’s being fed by media outlets seeking sensationalism and politicians posturing for the midterm elections.

That hysteria is causing us to lose our heads. Parents have pulled their children out of a middle school after learning the school’s principal had traveled to Zambia. Zambia happens to be in Africa but it has not even had a single case of Ebola.

A teacher at an elementary school has been placed on paid leave because parents were concerned he might have contracted the Ebola virus. When and how? During a recent trip to Dallas for an educational conference.

Are we planning to quarantine Dallas next?

Some politicians from both parties are demanding an end to commercial flights between the United States and several West African countries. But there are no direct flights to the U.S. from Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea, where Ebola is taking its biggest toll.

So do they want to ban all commercial flights that might contain someone from any of these countries, who might have transferred planes? That would cover just about all commercial flights coming from outside the United States.

The most important thing we can do to prevent Ebola from ever becoming a crisis in the United States is to help Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea, where 10,000 new cases could crop up weekly unless the spread of the virus is slowed soon.  

Isolating these poor nations would only make their situation worse. Does anyone seriously believe we could quarantine hundreds of thousands of infected people a continent away who are infecting others?

The truth is quite the opposite. If the disease is allowed to spread in these places, the entire world could be imperiled.

These nations desperately need medical professionals in the field, more medical resources, isolation facilities, and systems in place to detect early cases.

Even at this stage, that’s not an impossible task. Nigeria is succeeding in checking the spread of the disease. It has not had a new case of Ebola in over a month.

But I’m worried about America. I’m not worried about Ebola. I’m worried about our confidence and courage.

Every time a global crisis arises these days – the drug war in Latin America, terrorism in the Middle East, climate change that’s straining global food and water supplies and threatening many parts of the world with flooding – the knee-jerk response of some Americans is to stop it at our borders. 

As if we have the option. As if we live on another planet.

What’s wrong with us? We never used to blink at taking a leadership role in the world. And we understood leadership often required something other than drones and bombs.

We accepted global leadership not just for humanitarian reasons but also because it was in our own best interest. We knew we couldn’t isolate ourselves from trouble. There was no place to hide.   

After World War II, we rebuilt Europe and Japan. Belatedly, we achieved peace in Kosovo. We almost eradicated polio. We took on tuberculosis, worldwide.

Now even Cuba is doing more on the ground in West Africa than we are. It’s dispatching hundreds of doctors and nurses to the front lines. The first group of 165 arrived in Sierra Leone in the past few days.

Where are we?

We’re not even paying attention to health crises right under our own noses.

More people are killed by stray bullets every day in America than have been killed by Ebola here. More are dying because of poverty and hunger.

More American kids are getting asthma because their homes are located next to major highways. One out of three of our children is obese, at risk of early-onset diabetes.

We’re not even getting a flu shot to all Americans who need one.  

Instead, we bicker. For the last eight months, Republicans have been blocking confirmation of a Surgeon General. 

Why? Because the President’s nominee voiced support for expanded background checks for gun purchases, and the National Rifle Association objected.

We’ve got to get our priorities straight. Media outlets that are exploiting Ebola because they want a sensational story and politicians using it to their own ends ought to be ashamed.

Public fear isn’t something to be played with.

There’s a huge job to be done, here and abroad. Let’s roll up our sleeves and get on with it.   

 

Related Stories

04:26 Did Mammals Sleep Through Cosmic Impact That Ended Dinosaurs?» LiveScience.com
A shrewlike creature in Madagascar that can hibernate for at least nine months of the year without waking may help reveal how mammals survived the cataclysm that ended the age of dinosaurs, researchers suggest.
04:21 Photos: The Common Tenrec of Madagascar» LiveScience.com
A shrewlike mammal that lives in the forests of Madagascar is a living fossil of sorts. The creature can hibernate for nine hours straight.
04:20 Abbreviated Pundit Round-up: Of travel bans, vaccines and Hot Zones» Daily Kos
In the United States, the Ebola survival rate is 80%: http://t.co/...
@Forbes
Nancy Snyderman's troubles not over for her breaking Ebola quarantine, says TPM.

Nature:

Just as air travel brought the Ebola virus to Dallas from Liberia, where the pandemic is spreading out of control, air travel could spread the virus throughout the US and the world by travellers who don't know they are infected. Travel restrictions, isolation of the infected and quarantine of those known to have been in contact with the infected are a few of the measures that have been suggested for stopping that spread.

The director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has the authority to impose such a travel ban between states to contain 'viral hemorrhagic fevers' such as Ebola. That authority, which then President George W. Bush put in place in 2000, has yet to be invoked or tested in court. Apprehending, detaining or even examining travellers has typically been confined solely to those travelling outside the US, not between Texas and Ohio. The CDC operates 20 quarantine stations for international travellers throughout the US, including one in Dallas.

The CDC is also in charge of a potential 'Do Not Board' passenger list for commercial airplanes (but not buses or trains). This listing has been used to keep 33 people with tuberculosis from flying in the US. But, in general, imposing and monitoring any quarantines or travel bans is left to the individual states. How much power state governments have to do so varies widely from one state to another. The laws that grant states these powers are old, having been instituted from 40 to 100 years ago, according to a Congressional Research Service report issued on 9 October.

The last legal test of the constitutionality of such a quarantine came in 1902, when the US Supreme Court upheld the power of states to impose quarantines regardless of impact on interstate commerce. More recently, a federal district court in New York upheld the power of New York state to confine a patient with tuberculosis to a hospital against his will in 2003. The CDC is also authorized to step in if the agency feels local authorities - state, county or municipal - are failing to prevent the spread of disease, although that authority has yet to be tested.

Jon Cohen:
NIAID’s high-profile director challenging the NIH director is the kind of political contretemps that easily explodes into a great inside-the-Beltway brouhaha. Witness the story in The Washington Post story today, “A public dispute between NIH officials over Ebola,” that references several other related stories.

More politics and policy below the fold.

As it turns out, Fauci and Collins agree that big pharma’s lack of interest in Ebola vaccine development is the main reason no product was ready for this epidemic.

02:05 George P. Bush looks to the future» POLITICO - TOP Stories
He is running for Texas land commissioner -- his first run for office and probably not his last.
01:44 Veteran Sun-Times Reporter Resigns, Says Paper Didn't Support Him During Smear Campaign» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

Chicago Sun-Times Springfield bureau chief Dave McKinney resigned from the paper over what he calls a "breach" in the wall that exists "between owners and the newsroom to preserve the integrity of what is published."

McKinney, a 19-year veteran of the Sun-Timesposted an October 22 resignation letter on his personal blog explaining that he co-reported a story examining litigation involving the former company of Bruce Rauner, now the Republican candidate for Illinois governor. The piece, he wrote, was backed by "our editors and supported by sworn testimony and interviews."

However, according to McKinney, prior to publication in early October, "the Rauner campaign used multiple tactics to block it," including "sending to my boss an opposition-research hit piece-rife with errors-about my wife, Ann Liston. The campaign falsely claimed she was working with a PAC to defeat Rauner and demanded a disclaimer be attached to our story that would have been untrue. It was a last-ditch act of intimidation." Sun-Times publisher and editor Jim Kirk later defended McKinney, calling the allegation "inaccurate and defamatory."

McKinney states that he resigned, however, because he felt the paper didn't have "the backs of reporters like me." He explained that the Sun Times subsequently penalized him and didn't allow him "to do my job the way I had been doing it for almost two decades. Was all this retaliation for breaking an important news story that had the blessing of the paper's editor and publisher, the company's lawyer and our NBC5 partners?"

His former employer also, in his view, "unequivocally embraced the very campaign that had unleashed what Sun-Times management had declared a defamatory attack on me" by endorsing Rauner's gubernatorial candidacy. The endorsement was notable because the Republican "used to be an investor in the Sun-Times' ownership group ... The paper's endorsement of Rauner was its first since it announced in 2012 that it would no longer make endorsements."

The Washington Free Beacon was a landing site for the Rauner campaign's attacks against McKinney and his wife. The conservative site, which has financial ties to partisan operatives, wrote an October 19 article with the headline, "The Chicago Way: Democratic Super PAC in Bed with Local Newspaper--Literally."

The Beacon's attacks were amplified by partisan figures like Fox News contributor and former Rep. Allen West, who wrote on his website:  "Yep, that kinda smells, but then again it's Democrat business as usual ... Never forget that Chicago is the home of Saul Alinsky, Barack Hussein Obama, Hillary Rodham-Clinton, David Axelrod, Valerie Jarrett, Tony Rezko, Jesse Jackson Sr and Jr, Louis Farrakhan, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, David Plouffe, Bill Ayres, Bernadette Dorn - need I say more?"

01:36 Another Phony Government "Land Grab" Featuring Fox's Favorite Tea Party Farmer» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

Fox News went to bat for a Virginia lobbyist-turned-farmer unhappy with the easement restrictions agreed to as a condition on the purchase of her property, characterizing the execution of the easement as an attempted "land grab" and government invasion. 

On the October 22 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade summarized the story of farmer and right-wing political activist Martha Boneta with the tease, "Caught on camera: A woman's farm invaded by the government." Boneta appeared for an interview to explain how, in the words of co-host Steve Doocy, a "land grab" of her farm was in the works.

Boneta, a GOP donor and so-called "Tea party farmer," complained that because the Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC) owns conservation easements on her land, the group is conducting "invasive" and "abusive" inspections of the property. She proclaimed, "What we have here is an organization that has the power over thousands of acres of American farm land and yet there is no accountability to the American people or the democratic process."

Conservation easements are legally binding agreements entered into by private parties. And PEC is a private party, with a private property right attached to Boneta's farm that the organization's representatives are responsible for inspecting. Boneta's claim that PEC is "an organization that has the power over thousands of acres of American farm land" is simply her devious way of describing the basic right of a person or organization to purchase and own property and control the conditions upon which they transfer that property.

01:32 BP's Misleading Oil Spill PR Campaign Is Now In Politico Magazine» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

BP Oil Spill

A BP executive dismissed the environmental impacts of the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill and the company's role in the disaster in an opinion article for Politico Magazine, while the company is attempting to overturn a court decision finding it "grossly negligent." But the effects of one of the worst environmental disasters in U.S. history are still being felt in the region today.

Four years after BP's Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf, BP's senior vice president of communications and external affairs Geoff Morrell attempted to argue that previous "dire predictions" about the environmental effects of the spill had been overblown. In an October 21 Politico Magazine article, Morell wrote that a yet-to-be-completed environmental assessment -- funded by BP -- will show that "the Gulf environment is rebounding and that most of the environmental impact was of short duration and in a limited geographic area."

But Morrell's Politico Magazine article was misleading. Wildlife in the region is still experiencing the consequences of the spill, according to a recent report from the National Wildlife Federation (NWF). The NWF studied 14 species that have suffered effects from the spill, including the ongoing illness of bottlenose dolphins and a "dramatic increase" in sea turtle deaths. The report concluded that more needs to be done to speed up the region's recovery. CBS reported of its findings: "No matter how much money is exchanged and what efforts are done, there remains no guarantee that the Gulf Coast regions will fully recover to pre-spill conditions."

Morrell also made the mistaken claim that bacteria in the Gulf's waters "adapted over time to feast on oil," which he claimed showed the Gulf's "inherent resilience" in recovering from the spill. But the bacteria's appetite for oil "die[d] down five months" after the oil rig explosion, according to a team of researchers at Rochester University.

BP is currently attempting to overturn the recent court verdict that the company was "grossly negligent" in advance of and in response to the spill. The verdict, which assigns BP the majority of the blame, sets the financial penalties the company may have to pay at as much as $18 billion.

The night before the court decision was first announced, Morrell blamed "opportunistic" environmentalists for over-exaggerating the spill's environmental impacts and journalists for "under-report[ing]" the company's cleanup efforts. He echoed this argument in the October Politico Magazine article, writing that "we should not be accountable for damages caused by the acts of others, or those conjured up by opportunistic advocacy groups."

Politico has touted its magazine, which launched last November, as containing "consequential stories that are not always the stuff of daily headlines" and aiming "to fill a dangerous vacuum in the rapidly transitioning world of journalism, with too few really big takes on big subjects holding leaders in Washington and beyond accountable."

00:17 Time Warner Cable's "Empty Chair" Political Stunt Boosts Tillis Campaign With Phony Debate Scandal» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

Time Warner Cable News (TWC) orchestrated a phony scandal and boosted Thom Tillis's North Carolina Senate campaign by placing an empty chair for his opponent, Democratic Senator Kay Hagan, at an event it billed as a "debate" -- though it had known for months Hagan would not attend. TWC's stunt resulted in widespread negative media coverage of Hagan and helped amplify GOP attacks on the senator in the midst of a race some experts consider a toss-up.   

In early July, Hagan announced that she would attend three debates in the North Carolina Senate race, but would not participate in a fourth debate Time Warner Cable News (TWC) planned to host on October 21. TWC acknowledged that Hagan had declined the invitation, but moved forward with the program, still billing it as a "debate," and placed an empty chair next to Tillis during his appearance. Tillis' campaign was quick to attack Hagan's decision not to attend, hyping the "empty chair in Kay Hagan's place."

When the event was initially proposed, it was billed as a debate between Tillis and Hagan and sponsored by TWC and local papers The News & Observer and The Charlotte Observer. The two papers withdrew "after learning that an empty chair would be placed on the set," The News & Observer reported. "We wanted to have a serious discussion with Mr. Tillis about the issues without any gimmicks," News & Observer executive editor John Drescher said, citing an "honest miscommunication" with TWC, "My understanding was that we would tell viewers every 15 minutes that Sen. Hagan had declined our invitation but that we would not have an empty chair." Both The News & Observer and The Charlotte Observer referred to the event as an "appearance on a cable TV news show" by Tillis rather than a "debate."

TWC's stunt provided the mainstream media a chance to echo the Tillis campaign's criticism. CNN's chief national correspondent John King highlighted Hagan's absence and the empty chair on the October 22 edition of New Day, but didn't note that her absence had been expected for months. King said, "we're waiting for a good explanation from the Hagan campaign, besides she had other things to do." A CNN article similarly hyped Hagan's absence with the headline: "Hagan absent, Tillis faces off against empty chair," and quipped "This is not your Clint Eastwood empty chair moment from the 2012 Republican National Convention -- but it's close." The article highlighted GOP criticism of Hagan's decision, but did note that she "had already declined."

Right-wing media outlets also seized on TWC's gimmick to attack Hagan. Fox News co-host Ainsley Earhardt claimed on the October 22 edition of Fox & Friends that Hagan "didn't bother to show up" and asked "Why did Kay Hagan bail?" Breitbart ran the story under the headline "Thom Tillis Debates Empty Chair After Kay Hagan Declines Debate Invitation," and the Washington Free Beacon highlighted her absence, saying "Hagan's empty chair was visible throughout the debate." The Weekly Standard also hyped Hagan's absence, publishing direct quotes from the Republican research firm America Rising attacking Hagan for not attending the event.

TWC's stunt comes in the wake of accusations of a cozy relationship between Tillis and the telecom company. Last year, a Republican lawmaker in the NC legislature resigned his position as chairman of the Finance Committee, accusing Tillis of governing with a conflict of interest and citing a "business relationship with Time Warner." Time Warner has also previously donated money to Tillis.

00:10 Bloomberg Host Calls Out Telecom CEO On Net Neutrality Stance» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

Bloomberg

Bloomberg TV co-host Cory Johnson called out the hypocrisy of activist telecommunications investor Jeff Pulver who misleadingly stoked fears that proponents of net neutrality advocate for regulations that would hamper telecommunications innovations. Johnson pointed out that without an open internet, the CEO might have been unable to create his own business.

Net neutrality, the basic principle that corporate internet providers should provide equal access to content for subscribers, has become a hotly debated issue among telecommunications conglomerates and internet service providers (ISP) who want to charge companies a premium for preferential access and speed for internet consumers. 

On the October 21 edition of Bloomberg West, Johnson and co-host Emily Chang invited Pulver, the founder of Vonage, to respond to net neutrality advocates like Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who has called on Comcast to strengthen its commitment to net neutrality. Pulver accused net neutrality advocates of "bullying" and hyped fears that committing to neutrality would amount to onerous regulation of data and information services. Pulver also argued that regulating the telecommunications industry to ensure neutrality through Title II of the Communications Act of 1934 would lead to discrimination against businesses that seek to provide faster or more reliable access to certain data services and halt innovation.

00:10 Right-Wing Media Wag The Dog On Ebola» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

Cartoon

Tue 21 October, 2014

23:34 Fox & Friends Justifies Detroit's Decision To Shut Off Water For Poor Residents» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

Thousands of low-income Detroit residents denied access to water over delinquent bills did not find much sympathy from the hosts of Fox & Friends, who argued, "If you're not paying for water, why should you get it?"

The city of Detroit has shut off water service to more than 27,000 households this year, an effort to address the water department's more than $5 billion in debt in a city where over 50 percent of residents are delinquent on their water bill.

An estimated 2,300 homes are still without water, despite the fact that the city has established a payment plan for some who are unable to afford their water bill. The city says that 33,000 customers are currently enrolled. According to U.N. human rights officials who made an informal visit to Detroit, the water disconnection constitutes a human rights violation

But to the hosts of Fox & Friends, the water shutoffs were more justified. Co-host Ainsley Earhardt said that it is "devastating" that several thousand Detroit families don't have water and that she's sorry they can't afford to pay their bills, but declared:

EARHARDT: Why is that any different than any other bill that we have to pay? You don't pay your car payment, you don't pay your house payment, you lose your car. You lose your house. If you're not paying for water, why should you get it?

The hosts condemned the U.N. officials' determination that the water shutoffs constituted a human rights violation, claiming the U.N. was making "a deliberate attempt to embarrass the United States."

Fox's indignation didn't extend to the commercial and industrial businesses similarly behind on their water bills -- as of July, the city had not reported which delinquent businesses had seen their service disconnected. According to recent reports, the Detroit Red Wings' hockey arena and the Detroit Lions' stadium owe tens of thousands in unpaid water bills but still have service.

Detroit's water shutoffs take the greatest toll on low-income residents, a significant number of people given that nearly 40 percent of the city lives below the poverty line. People are often forced to choose between paying for rent, electricity, or water, and the water department has recently increased the price of service by almost 10 percent. Beyond water being a basic necessity for life, the lack of access has other repercussions -- it could be grounds for child protective services to remove children from their homes.

23:05 New York Times Columnist Apologizes For Attending Fundraiser For Anti-Gay Legal Group» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

New York Times columnist Ross Douthat apologized for appearing at a fundraising event for Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), an extreme anti-gay legal group working to criminalize homosexuality.

On October 16, Douthat spoke at "The Price of Citizenship: Losing Religious Freedom in America," an event held by ADF and aimed at drawing attention to a number of popular right-wing horror stories about the threat LGBT equality poses to religious liberty. Douthat spoke alongside radio host Hugh Hewitt and the Benham brothers, who are notorious for their history of extreme anti-gay, anti-choice, and anti-Muslim rhetoric. The event ended with explicit solicitations for donations to support ADF's legal work.

As Media Matters noted, ADF is one of the most extreme anti-gay legal groups in the country, fighting against even basic legal protections for LGBT people and working internationally to repress LGBT human rights, including supporting Belize's draconian law criminalizing gay sex.

On Wednesday, Douthat explained that he did not know ADF's event was a fundraiser and said he plans to decline the honorarium he received from the event.

"I was not aware in advance that this event was a fundraiser and had I known, I would not have agreed to participate," he said in a statement issued to Media Matters through the Times Wednesday. "I was invited by an events organizing group, not by ADF directly. I understood this to be a public conversation about religious liberty. This is my fault for not doing my due diligence, and I will be declining the honorarium."

22:50 Fox News Baselessly Blames Calls For Minimum Wage Increase For Drop In McDonald's Profits» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

Fox News misleadingly attributed a drop in McDonald's quarterly profits to widespread calls for a minimum wage increase, even though the company itself pointed to image problems as the major factor in the loss, not the minimum wage.

Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo appeared on the October 22 edition of Fox & Friends to discuss a 30 percent drop in McDonald's quarterly profits. Bartiromo and the hosts agreed that calls for a minimum wage increase caused profits to drop and forced McDonald's to turn to automation:

STEVE DOOCY: Meanwhile, McDonald's, the Golden Arches, reporting a 30 percent drop in corporate profits.

BRIAN KILMEADE: Why? Well, it turns out workers' wages might be to blame.

[...]

BARTIROMO: Well, the issue really is, this is the implication of raising the minimum wage for certain companies. I mean, something's got to give. The money comes from somewhere. At some point, a company will say, "OK, we have a higher expense rate because we are raising the minimum wage we've got to do something somewhere else." In this case, they are going to automation. They are changing certain jobs to computers.

[...]

AINSLEY EARHARDT: So it's really biting them in the tail. They were complaining, saying "we want more money," and as a result, McDonald's saying,"Hey, we're going to lose some of you guys, and we're going to replace you with machines.

Fox & Friends offered no evidence to connect calls for a minimum wage increase and the profit loss. In fact, McDonald's CEO Don Thompson "owned up to some corporate image problems" as an explanation for the drop in profits, according to Reuters. The AP also detailed the fast-food company's image problems:

One of its biggest challenges in the U.S. is long-held perceptions around the freshness and quality of its ingredients. The chain has been fighting to boost sales as people gravitate toward foods they feel are more wholesome. As a result, people have been gravitating to places like Chipotle, which markets its ingredients as being of superior quality.

The Fox hosts also left out another important detail -- earlier this year, Thompson announced McDonald's would "support legislation that moves forward" on a minimum wage increase:

McDonald's Chief Executive Don Thompson told students at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management that it could handle a theoretical bump in the minimum wage to, say, $10.10 an hour, the figure supported by President Barack Obama and others.

"McDonald's will be fine," Thompson said in the May 12 discussion. "We'll manage through whatever the additional cost implications are."

22:06 What Is Environmental Engineering?» LiveScience.com
Environmental engineering is the branch of engineering that is concerned with protecting people from the effects of adverse environmental effects.
20:00 Open thread for night owls: Report says 19% of world's electricity could come from wind by 2030» Daily Kos
Sen. Mark Udall atop a Siemens test turbine near the National Wind Technology Center just south of Boulder, Colorado.
Sen. Mark Udall atop a Siemens test turbine near the National Wind Technology Center just south
 of Boulder, Colorado, at Rocky Flats where the U.S. used to build plutonium triggers for nuclear warheads.
You don't have to go back too many years to find experts forecasting that wind power wouldn't be a major generator of electricity for the next 50 or even 100 years. A few brave souls challenged these disappointing forecasts but they were mostly ridiculed. And the government's premiere forecaster in such matters, the Energy Information Administration, helped the pooh-poohers by making terrible forecasts for the spread of wind (and solar) power in the United States.

For instance, in 2005, it predicted the nation would have 9 gigawatts of installed wind-generating capacity by 2013 and 63 gigawatts by 2030. By comparison, we are right now at 62.3 gigawatts and there are 13.2 gigawatts in 105 projects under construction. In 2012, the EIA made another bad forecast—that U.S. wind-generating capacity would only reach 87 gigawatts by 2040. There is good reason to believe that we will reach that figure before 2020.

Growth in wind power has been volatile year to year in great part because of inconsistent government policy. But if that growth continued at even half the rate it is now, by 2040 U.S. wind-generated electricity could hit 250 gigawatts, or in the neighborhood of 20 per cent of our total electricity output. If the current growth rate were maintained, it would be 30 percent.

In that light, a new report released Tuesday concludes that an aggressive approach could have the wind generating as much as 19 percent of total global electricity by 2030. And 25 to 30 percent by 2050.  

The graph below comes from that report—Global Wind Energy Outlook 2014—published by the Global Wind Energy Council and Greenpeace International. The report offers three global wind energy scenarios for 2020, 2030 and 2050. They compare the International Energy Agency's main scenario from its World Energy Outlook with "moderate" and "advanced" scenarios showing how much electricity wind power might generate by those decadal milestones. Included as well in the scenarios are estimates of CO2 emission savings, cost reductions and jobs.

Here's Giles Parkinson at RenewEconomy:

[The report] shows that wind power could reach 2,000 GW [gigawatts] by 2030, and supply up to 17-19 per cent of global electricity by that time. By 2050, wind power could provide 25-30 [per cent] of global electricity supply.

“Wind power has become the least cost option when adding new capacity to the grid in an increasing number of markets, and prices continue to fall,” said Steve Sawyer, CEO of GWEC. “Given the urgency to cut down CO2 emissions and continued reliance on imported fossil fuels, wind power’s pivotal role in the world’s future energy supply is assured.” Wind energy installations totalled 318 GW globally by the end of 2013, and the industry is set to grow by another 45 GW in 2014.

You can view a larger graph by clicking here.
Some will call those estimates as overly optimistic as the EIA's have been pessimistic. But by turning those forecasts into policy goals, that level of wind power seems every more achievable despite the claims of the naysayers. Wind isn't a silver bullet that will, by itself, take us off fossil fuels. But in the past 15 years it has become far from the joke that some critics have made of it.


Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2013Bush not Cheney's puppet, Peter Baker's new book says. Iraq invasion done to kick 'somebody's ass':

For more than a decade, ever since Dick Cheney used his assignment to select a vice presidential candidate for George W. Bush to pick himself, the conventional wisdom has been that the former secretary of defense and former CEO of Halliburton pulled Bush's strings. In 2008, for example, Barton Gellman and Jo Becker of the Washington Post won a Pulitzer prize for their four-part 2007 series—Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency that reinforced the view of Bush as willing and weak-willed marionette.

Peter Baker's 650-page new book—Days of Fire: Bush and Cheney in the White House—presents a different view of the relationship between Bush and Cheney. Baker, who covered the Bush administration first for the Washington Post and subsequently The New York Times (where he is now chief White House correspondent), agrees that Cheney was the "most powerful vice president" of modern times. But he does not present George Bush as second-in-command to the imperious Cheney […]

As one senior official who came to rue his involvement in Iraq put it, “The only reason we went into Iraq, I tell people now, is we were looking for somebody’s ass to kick. Afghanistan was too easy.”
It wasn't just "somebody's ass." Hussein's Iraq was a specific target of the neo-conservative Project for a New American Century long before Cheney, one of its charter members, even considered running for vice president. While Cheney and Bush may well have been at odds, that wasn't enough to stop slaughter in Iraq, torture everywhere and a legacy of tens of thousands of brain-damaged American veterans plus a $3 trillion-plus hole in the Treasury.                                                                                                                                                                              
 

Tweet of the Day
Guys, you can make your twitter notifications scary this halloween simply by giving yourself a female username and voicing an opinion.
@TNeenan


On today's Kagro in the Morning show, James O'Keefe has attempted a thing. Greg Dworkin discusses the saga of the NBC chief medical editor who broke her quarantine, travel bans & other Ebolamania news. The Hot Zone. Media polarization. NHL & domestic violence. "Obama is a Republican." Armando says the final FL-GOV debate has banned fans. FL constitutional amendments. Iran & Iraq cooperating. Considering the Saud-ish context of beheadings. Unforeseen consequences of GunFAIL. Unlimited capital + unlimited data collection, storage & analysis capacity = the end of privacy? Some think the spies at Whisper were done wrong by The Guardian.


High Impact Posts. Top Comments
16:28 Repeal Obamacare and 25 million people lose health insurance. Period.» Daily Kos
From the beginning, the magnitude of Republicans' lies about Obamacare has been directly proportional to their fears it would succeed. First it was "death panels," which Politifact cited as its 2009 Lie of the Year. In 2010, it was the Affordable Care Act's mythical "government takeover of health care," a fraud that earned the GOP Politifact's 2010 award. Now, Senate Minority Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Ohio Governor John Kasich, abetted by Forbes' health care fabulist Avik Roy, are pretending that Obamacare can be repealed "root and branch" without any of their constituents losing the coverage they obtained this year. And this new Republican hoax is the most cynical and cruel lie of all: if Obamacare is repealed, over half a million Ohioans, 520,000 Kentuckians and over 25 million people across America will lose their health insurance. As a result, thousands of them will needlessly die every year.

Period.

The deception behind the Republicans' Obamacare shell game is simple. The nearly $1 trillion Affordable Care Act program contains several, interconnected components. To succeed in their con, the likes of Mitch McConnell and John Kasich need voters to not grasp that inescapable truth. So, Mitch McConnell says Kentucky's Kynect website "can continue," even though it would have no policies to sell the customers who could no longer afford them after he repeals Obamacare "root and branch." As for Kasich, he pretends nothing will happen to 330,000 new Buckeye State Medicaid recipients whose coverage is completely funded by $2.5 billion from Uncle Sam over the next three years. As Politico recounted:

"From Day One, and up until today and into tomorrow, I do not support Obamacare," the Republican governor said on Monday evening. "I never have, and I believe it should be repealed."

Except for the Medicaid expansion part -- which wouldn't exist without the law. Kasich thinks there ought to be a way to save it.

"I have favored expanding Medicaid, but I don't really see expanding Medicaid as really connected to Obamacare," he said.

At $792 billion over the next decade, the expansion of the Medicaid insurance program to lower income people who earn up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL) is the ACA's largest outlay. Thanks to the Supreme Court, states can choose to reject the Medicaid expansion and with it funds from the federal government that cover all of its costs through 2017 and 90 percent thereafter.) But that's not all. For those who make too much to qualify for Medicaid, the ACA also provides subsidies to families earning up to 400 percent of the FPL when they purchase private insurance through the exchanges (regardless of whether their state's exchange is run by the federal government or not). And on top of that, thanks to Obamacare parents can keep their children on their family insurance policies through age 26.

The positive impact of Obamacare on Americans' lives cannot be overstated. Gallup surveys have shown the uninsured rate plummeted from 18 percent to just over 13 percent nationwide. All told, Charles Gaba of the ACASignsups website currently places the number of newly insured at between 24 and 28.7 million.

Please continue below the fold for more on this story.

16:19 The thuggification of young black victims of white violence: Is thug the new n----r?» Daily Kos
Mike Brown, Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant
I have a pop quiz for you.

Can you name one young white victim of violence who has been publicly humiliated or degraded by tens of thousands of African Americans online or by key African-American journalists or newscasters?

I’m waiting. Still waiting. Stumped? I’ll give you a bonus question.

Can you name one white person, criminal or otherwise, that you’ve heard called a "thug" in the past, let’s say, 50 years?

Even if you came up with an obscure name or two, you have to admit that you’re dealing with a pretty short list.

Yet not only are African-American perpetrators of violence labeled as thugs, but so are victims.

Jeffrey Dahmer killed, raped, and dismembered at least 17 boys and men, but he was never called a thug. He was arrested.

Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols killed 168 people when they blew up the federal building in Oklahoma, but they were never called thugs. Both men were arrested.

Jared Loughner, who had a history of drug abuse, shot and killed six people and injured 13 more, including Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, but he was never called a thug. He was arrested.

James Holmes shot and killed 13 people in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, but he was never called a thug. He was peacefully arrested.

In a sense, these five men, each notorious mass murderers, were given a level of respect and due process of the law rarely afforded to young black men like Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin, and Mike Brown, who were all victims of white violence.

Follow below the fold for more.

15:03 Some People Think CrossFit Is Nutty and That Makes CrossFit Really Angry» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
Critics question its safety and its culture, but CrossFit’s aggressive response is a tad more worrisome.

You’d be hard pressed to find an article — outside one written by a CrossFit enthusiast — that reviews this exercise phenomenon without asking some real tough questions about its safety, effectiveness, cost, and even the philosophy behind it. Shouldn't all products, whether good or bad, be held up to such scrutiny? Maybe General Motors, Comcast and Apple grudgingly accept this, but CrossFit — both the corporation and its acolytes — can't seem to take criticism in stride. And there’s been a lot of it going around lately.

The New York Times magazine was the latest publication to take issue with CrossFit and other extreme fitness programs, likening them to nothing more than labor camps you pay a king’s ransom to join. “Why not join a roofing crew for a few hours instead? Surely there’s a tunnel somewhere that needs digging,” sniffs Times columnist Heather Havrilesky.

In response, commenters, many of them CrossFitters, swarmed the online version of the article, posting more than 800 messages. Many were sharply critical of Havrilesky’s assessment of the workout routines.

The Times magazine article is only one in a recent wave of brickbats hurled at the sports-fitness brand, which now boasts an estimated 10,000 franchises. Its critics are as diverse as medical researchers, fitness organizations, sportswriters, and social commentators. They’ve all found a bone to pick with CrossFit, and no, they’re not joining them for a Paleo diet dinner.

Critics and online commenters have likened CrossFit to a cult, insinuating that it’s not much more than a paramilitary, post-apocalyptic wet dream. They’re fitness preppers ready to take on whatever catastrophe awaits mankind. CrossFit’s own website hints at this on its "What is CrossFit?" page: “We have sought to build a program that will best prepare trainees for any physical contingency — not only for the unknown, but for the unknowable.”

CrossFit’s founder, Greg Glassman takes the rhetoric a step further in his CrossFit newsletter, stating “nature, combat and emergency can demand high volumes of work performed quickly for success or for survival.”

The Gospel of CrossFit

In her Times magazine article, Havrilesky describes the austere and formidable environment of the typical CrossFit gym:

"Those stunned by CrossFit’s growing popularity are often surprised, given its high price, to discover its spartan ethos: Each 'box' (its lingo for gym) is often just a big empty room with medicine balls, barbells and wooden boxes stacked along the walls. Workouts rotate daily but tend to involve free weights, sprints and enough squats to cripple Charles Atlas. In keeping with its apocalyptic mission statement, the program encourages camaraderie under duress (CrossFitters coach each other through the pain) and competition (names and scores are scrawled on a wipe board and sometimes posted online)."

A former certified fitness instructor and CrossFit participant, who wished not to be identified for this article, told AlterNet much of the atmosphere she witnessed seem contrived, right down to the grungy workout gear worn by instructors and long-time CrossFitters.

The CrossFit workout is like Navy SEAL physical training taken to an extreme. It’s group exercise, done in classes where the workout itself is a competition. There are typically time trials where participants strive to perform the exercises faster than their workout companions.

“The warmup is usually inadequate. It could be jogging around a little bit in the parking lot followed by a little dynamic stretching, which can cause injury by itself,” says the former fitness instructor, describing a CrossFit gym she attended.

“Good CrossFit instructors,” she said, “will assist in picking appropriate weights for members, but the competitive nature can result in amateurs pushing themselves too far.”

However, the fitness instructor said the CrossFit regimen does have some redeeming qualities. “It’s a good workout,” she says. “The competitive atmosphere makes it fun and motivating. It encourages people to push themselves, but for some it can be too much.”

Aggressive Defense

CrossFit does not take kindly to criticisms about its workout regimen. Recently, it sued the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) for publishing a study by Ohio State University researchers, led by Steven Devor, an exercise physiology professor.

In the journal Strength and Conditioning Research, the OSU researchers said that while there were some notably positive results obtained from CrossFit exercises, it hinted that injuries could possibly be an issue.

"Of the 11 subjects who dropped out of the training program [out of 54], two cited time concerns with the remaining nine subjects (16% of total recruited subjects) citing overuse or injury for failing to complete the program and finish follow up testing."

While the study was vey complimentary overall (some even likened it to pure advertising), it touched a raw nerve with CrossFit, which complained that the research was “at best the result of sloppy and scientifically unreliable work, and at worst a complete fabrication.”

In response to the study, CrossFit says it sought out the research participants who said they didn’t complete it because of injury and overuse. CrossFit claims that when they contacted the participants, they denied failing to finish due to injuries. CrossFitfit claimed the researchers were guilty of dropping the ball in following up with them.

In its lawsuit against NSCA and the research team, CrossFit further maintains that the fitness organization, which is one of several groups that certify fitness professionals, was going after the company because it certifies its own instructors. The NSCA, it claimed in the lawsuit, had a vested interest in discrediting CrossFit.

This is a brand that seems highly motivated in protecting its reputation. Media opinion that is deemed hostile to CrossFit is often met head on, and aggressively.

As one commentator on a Gawker forum put it:

"Beware, once you write about Crossfit, the [expletive deleted] PR person will contact you, to let you know it's spelled incorrectly, hence the capital 'f'...also...they'll barrage you w/ testimonials...via Twitter...& every other social media account you own...in 5, 4, 3, 2...."

In December 2013, Outside magazine published an article called “Is CrossFit Killing Us?” It cited the findings of the Ohio State University study and maintained that the competitive nature of the workouts could result in a slew of injuries, from slipped disks to torn rotator cuffs and even more serious conditions such as rhabdomyolysis, a potentially fatal condition in which muscle tissue breaks down and is released into the bloodstream.

CrossFit's acolytes attacked the credibility of the writer, Outside and Steven Devor. Writer Warren Cornwall responded to the jousts in a followup article, “Crossing Swords with CrossFit,” in which he wrote about his experience as a target of the wrath of the workout’s legions.

"The CrossFit community went berserk. While many commenters chimed in about their own injuries from workouts, many more criticized both the statistic and the study itself. Lengthy rebuttals appeared in CrossFit Journal—the organization’s newsletter. One of CrossFit’s chief PR people, Russell Berger, rang up the study director, Professor Steven Devor, and grilled him until the scientist refused to talk to him any more. The upshot was a collective pile-on attempting to discredit the study, its directors—and Outside—while spinning public opinion away from the idea that the insanely popular workout program was any more hazardous than jogging in your neighborhood.

"And yet, no one was making up the stories about people getting hurt. So, what was the deal? Was CrossFit inherently dangerous? And if so, were the hordes of newbies with beach-body dreams flocking to CrossFit 'boxes' aware of the risks?"

Devor told Outside that the 16% figure in the Ohio State study is a soft number and never intended to represent global injury rates, and he says CrossFit’s ambush on the study is misguided. “It’s a fricking paragraph in the paper,” said Devor. “There’s no way I will ever do research with that workout again. It’s just not worth it.”

Cornwall continued to fire back in his followup article, stating that it’s understood there is no conclusive data to define injury rates from CrossFit, yet. However, he went on to cite several surveys and other notable sources to help readers make their own judgments about CrossFit’s safety.

CrossFit’s reputation took another unfortunate — and perhaps undeserved — hit when one of its top competitors, Kevin Ogar, severely injured himself during a major CrossFit competition in California earlier this year. Ogar was paralyzed from the waist down after he could no longer hold a bar carrying weights over his head during a "snatch" lift and let them plummet to the ground. The barbell then hit Ogar in the back, severing his spine.

While Ogar’s injury is arguably a freak accident that could happen to anybody performing the lift, CrossFitter or not, the tragic event did not help CrossFit’s dubious reputation with the media, as websites such as Deadspin, Buzzfeed and Gawker jumped on the story, prompting CrossFit critics to take to their message boards to question whether the fitness craze was to blame for the accident.

The judgment of whether CrossFit is a beneficial and viable workout is not for this writer to make. Former and current CrossFitters who spoke to us and even the Ohio State study indicate that this high-intensity training has many benefits. Clearly, the rigorous debate over its merits and demerits is being held in the public forum and kinesiologists will likely weigh in on it someday soon. 

The bigger problem is CrossFit's reputation, a creation of its innate aggressiveness and hive survival instinct. It has spilled over as combative rhetoric directed toward the world outside its “boxes." This is a movement that’s past due for an image makeover and perhaps some contemplative meditation.

 

Related Stories

14:55 Nurse Nina Pham's Condition Is Improved» LiveScience.com
Nurse Nina Pham, who contracted Ebola at a Dallas hospital while caring for Thomas Eric Duncan, is now in "good" condition, according to a statement from the National Institutes of Health.
14:50 Cartoon: White riot» Daily Kos

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13:43 Daily Kos pays people to break the law! Read the latest efforts to get out the SD reservation vote» Daily Kos

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Goal ThermometerHere are the latest updates from the get-out-the-vote South Dakota Rez Tour so many of you have contributed to. I do believe we need to PAY THAT PARKING TICKET! Our intrepid War Pony minibus is going everywhere on and off the Indian reservations in the state to take advantage of early voting, which ends soon.

The GOTV leaders in South Dakota are working their butts off to take advantage of the funding you all have provided. We blew past Markos's initial goal of $50,000, then $75,000, then $100,000 for the South Dakota NDN Election Efforts PAC. Now we're on our way to the group's dream budget of $200,000. I think we can do it. We are currently at $131,000, and with your sharing and tweeting this campaign we can get more donors. The total has been built with small donations. So ask your networks to chip in.

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Contribute so American Indian voices can be heard in South Dakota!

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Read below the orange fluffy frybread for more updates from our team about this crucial project..

2:21 PM PT: wow.... Look what I found at Wiyaka Eagleman's facebook timeline:

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The guy who walked 38 miles plus to turn in completed voter registration forms.


13:29 Bobby Jindal on top of Ebola thing, signs executive order that will do precisely nothing» Daily Kos
Lousiana Gov. Bobby Jindal speaking at the Republican Leadership Conference.
Way to lead, Bobby.
Goal Thermometer

Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) wins the award for dumbest Ebola response of the week, with most of the week still ahead of us.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has signed an executive order requiring that state officials monitor travel to and from the countries most affected by Ebola in West Africa.

The Republican governor, one of first major political figures to call for a travel ban from Ebola-stricken countries, issued the order on Monday in response to what he called insufficient action from the federal government.

“[T]he federal government, to date, has failed to implement protections at the national level to prevent the entry of the Ebola Virus Disease into the United States of America,” Jindal said in the order.

He should be making sure officials are monitoring the border with Texas.
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Jindal calls this a "precautionary, common-sense measure." Except the part where the Obama administration has restricted all travelers coming from the affected West African countries to be funneled through five airports in the U.S. where they can be screened for the disease. None of those airports is in Louisiana.

Congratulations, Bobby, for being both the most panicked and most redundant governor in the land.

13:27 How a Liberian Rubber Plant Prevented Ebola Spread» LiveScience.com
The rate of Ebola cases in a part of Liberia where one rubber tree plantation operates is far lower than in other parts of the country.
13:14 Right-Wing Publication Tries to Claim That Obama Is a Conservative » AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
The president “has bent over backward to protect corporate profits,” says ex-Reagan administration domestic policy aide Bruce Bartlett

President Barack Obama “has governed as a moderate conservative,” former Reagan administration domestic policy aide Bruce Bartlett writes in a new essay for the eclectic American Conservative magazine.

Bartlett, an economic policy expert who left the Republican Party amid disgust with President George W. Bush’s fiscal policies and backed Obama in 2008, contends that a look at Obama’s track record reveals a president who’s basically a liberal Republican of yore. From the beginning of his administration, Bartlett argues, Obama has charted a center-right course on both foreign and domestic policy issues.

Populating his administration with hawks like Hillary Rodham Clinton, Obama has presided over new military engagements abroad while overseeing a draconian crackdown on national security leaks at home, Bartlett notes.

Meanwhile, Obama has pursued “very conservative” fiscal policies, Bartlett writes, signing a stimulus package that was far smaller than what experts and advisers like Christina Romer found would be necessary to really prime the nation’s economic pump. Moreover, Obama has conducted himself like a deficit hawk, “proposing much deeper cuts in spending and the deficit than did the Republicans during the 2011 budget negotiations,” when a deal eluded the two parties. And don’t buy into the the GOP “harping” that Obama hates business, Bartlett cautions. The president, he says, “has bent over backward to protect corporate profits.”

What about the Affordable Care Act, Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement? That, too, is evidence of Obama’s conservatism, Bartlett writes. Observing that Obamacare’s market-based approach drew on a model put forth by the right-wing Heritage Foundation and by Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Bartlett contrasts Obamacare with a real left-wing alternative like universal Medicare. So why are conservatives so obstinately opposed to a fundamentally conservative health care law? “The only thing is that it was now supported by a Democratic president that Republicans vowed to fight on every single issue,” Bartlett writes.

While Bartlett doesn’t see viscerally anti-Obama conservatives as likely to acknowledge the president’s conservatism, he concludes that philosopher and activist Cornel West “nailed it” when he recently declared that Obama has given the country “a Wall Street presidency, a drone presidency, a national security presidency.”

Read Barlett’s essay here.

 

13:11 Racist Rep. Steve King: Obama treating 'people in Africa as if they were American citizens'» Daily Kos
Goal ThermometerIf Donald Trump and Rep. Steve King had not planned a press conference together, we probably would have had to launch a Kickstarter campaign supporting the idea. As it is we might have to have another one because it sounds like Steve King has got more bugs crawling under his skin than he could ever give voice to during just one.
[I]t was King who really took the opportunity to shine. In video captured by the Iowa Republican, King went on a long tirade claiming that America is becoming “a third-world country” because of “the things that are coming at us from across the border,” including illegal drugs, Central American children of “prime gang recruitment age,” ISIS, a childhood respiratory illness that has spread in recent weeks, and the Ebola virus.
Damn, he's breaking out the whole Greatest Hits album. Still, there was time for some new soon-to-be-classic racist tirades.
“What is his vision for this country?” he asked. “He must think now that he’s president of the world, that he’s going to treat people in Africa as if they were American citizens and somehow we can’t define this American sovereignty or American citizenship.”
There ya go. From Dr. Keith Ablow to Steve King, we've got the "Obama loves Africa more than America because he is blaaaaaaack" theory being spouted from all the most swollen Republican orifices. It's been six years, and I think they're more upset about Obama being black now than they were when he first showed up. And no, I don't think anyone knows what King is specifically going on about here. He probably is stoned out of his gourd from whatever fumes are wafting off of Donald Trump's head.
“I want to pull us all together under those principles to build America. That’s freedom of speech, religion, the press, the right to keep and bear arms — whether that’s to pick up a shotgun and shoot a pheasant or pick up a seven iron and discipline your husband.”
Jesus Christ, where did that come from? We go from suspicions of Obama treating people in Africa with too much respect to Steve King suggesting you beat your husband with a golf club.
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I don't want to know what Steve King's Iowa supporters see in him. Really, I don't. But I would love to go door to door asking them what they suppose Steve King meant by Barack Obama treating Africans "as if they were American citizens," just because the responses would probably top anything you or I could come up with.
13:01 Diet Supplements Contain Illegal Drugs Years After Recalls » LiveScience.com
Many dietary supplements that have been recalled can still be purchased years later, and they often contain the same banned ingredients that led to their recall in the first place, a new study finds.
12:58 Republican presidential hopeful accidentally tells truth about Obamacare, flip-flops with the crazy» Daily Kos
Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear and Ohio Governor John Kasich today signed an agreement that describes in broad terms how their two states will cooperatively build a new bridge over the Ohio River between Cincinnati and Covington. December 12, 2012.
Careful, there, Kasich. You're letting your sanity show.
Goal Thermometer
Republican Gov. John Kasich got a lot of attention on Monday for acknowledging reality when he said that Obamacare repeal is "not gonna happen." Then he went even deeper, saying that the "political or ideological" opposition to Obamacare—and, in particular, Medicaid expansion—doesn't "hold water against real flesh and blood, and real improvements in people's lives." Two thoughts spring to mind reading that. Either John Kasich has given up any presidential aspirations or Kasich is seeing a shift in his party away from Obamacare insanity.

As it turns out, it's neither of those things, because Kasich immediately "clarified" his position.

"I don't back Obamacare. I never have. I want it to be repealed," he told The Washington Post in a telephone interview. "If the House and the Senate [are Republican-controlled] and we have a Republican president, Obamacare will be repealed flat out. Flat out. And it will be replaced."
So much for "real improvements in people's lives." But that's not the best part. He goes full McConnell in his backtracking talk with Politico.
"I have favored expanding Medicaid, but I don't really see expanding Medicaid as really connected to Obamacare,” he said.

If Republicans take the Senate, Kasich said, "you better believe they’re gonna repeal Obamacare and I agree with that.” But, he added, “there’s got to be an accommodation” for Medicaid expansion.

Just like if Obamacare is completely repealed Kentucky can still have Kynect. Maybe he figures of Mitch McConnell can try to get away with pretending like all the good stuff sticks around when the law that created it is destroyed, he can do it, too. Especially if he wants to be president someday.
Enough of the bullshit. Help elect some good Democrats to end it once and for all.

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Why Republicans—even Kasich, who clearly knows better—are still trying to keep one foot in repeal-land with the other foot in reality is all about the base. According to the latest Kaiser poll, 62 percent of the rabid, dead-ender Republican base cannot let go of repeal. Never mind that it's a shrinking subset of the voting population. It's the people who will turn out in a Republican primary. They're the only ones who matter, ultimately.
12:56 My Father Was Killed by a Computer, Says 7-Year-Old Afghan Child» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
If Imal were a white American kid, this drone strike tragedy would not have befallen his father.

Imal, a 7 year old Afghan student in the 2nd grade, came to visit us in Kabul.

As Imal grew up, he kept asking his mother where his father was. His mother finally told Imal that his father had been killed by a drone when he was still a baby.

If you could see Imal in this video, you would want to hug Imal immediately.

If Imal were a white American kid, this tragedy would not have befallen his father. Which American would allow any U.S. citizen to be killed by a foreign drone?

Suppose the UK wanted to hunt ‘terrorists’ in the U.S., with their drones, and every Tuesday, David Cameron signed a ‘secret kill list’ like Obama does. Drones operated from Waddington Base in the UK fly over U.S. skies to drop bombs on their targets, and the bombs leave a 7 year old American kid, say, John, fatherless.

John’s father is killed, shattered to charred pieces by a bomb, dropped by a drone, operated by a human, under orders from the Prime Minister /Commander-in-Chief.

“John, we’re sorry that your father happened to be near our ‘terrorist’ target.’ He was collateral damage. It was ‘worth it’ for the sake of UK national security.”

Unfortunately, no U.S. official or military personnel had met with Imal’s widowed mother to apologize.

Raz, Imal’s uncle who brought him to visit us, asked his young nephew,

“Will you bring me some marbles to play with?”

Imal was friendly, like any other 7 year old kid. “Yes!” His voice was a trusting one, eager to be a good friend and playmate.

“Do you also play with walnuts? Tell us how you play with walnuts,” Raz requests.

“We put them in a line, and flick a walnut to hit other walnuts, like playing with marbles,” Imal explains diligently, like he was telling a story we should all be interested in.

“Besides beans, what other food do you like?”

“I also like… potatoes… and meat… …and… rice!” All of us were smiling with the familiar love of Afghan oiled ‘palao’ or ‘Qabuli’ rice.”

Imal knew what my laptop was. He said, “We can look at photos & watch films…”

But, then, it seemed that he took on the understanding of an older person when his voice became serious.

”My father was killed by a computer.”

I wanted to tell Imal that nowadays, it takes children and young people like Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai to tell us adults the plain facts.

When Malala was 16 years old and met with the Obamas at the White House, Malala had told Obama that drones were fueling terrorism.

Do we get it? Drones are employed in the ‘war against terrorism’, but instead, drones fuel terrorism.

How many drone attacks are there in Afghanistan every month, and how many women, children and young men like Imal’s father are killed?

We don’t know. It’s not a transparent strategy.

We would all want to know everything about the possible effects of a drone strategy on our children, especially if our country was the most drone-bombed country in the world, like Afghanistan is.

A Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s ‘Naming the Dead’ report says that fewer than 4% of the people killed by drone attacks in Pakistan have been identified by available records as named members of Al Qaeda. If this is true for drone attack victims in Afghanistan too, then 96% of drone victims in Afghanistan have been innocent civilians like Imal’s father.

In another Bureau of Investigative Journalism report, ‘Tracking drone strikes in Afghanistan’, (July, 2014),the Bureau states that “nobody systematically publishes insurgent and civilian deaths from drones on a strike-by-strike basis. Neither the US nor UK authorities publishes data on the casualties of their drone operations.”

So, we are unable to find out for Imal’s mother if it was a U.S./UK drone that killed her husband, and who the drone operator was.

If Imal were John, could he or his mother sue David Cameron? Stop the drone? Stop the human drone operator? Disable the computer?

We gave Imal a Borderfree blue scarf, and thanked him for coming.

His eyes were bright and cheerful, taking in the photos on the wall, including a poster of Gandhi and Badshah Khan. Badshah Khan was a Pashtun like Imal, and has been called the Frontier Gandhi for his lifelong struggle for nonviolence.

I have been thinking hard about Imal, about whether anyone would hear him, when few among the elites who declare wars and order drone strikes seem to have heard the now famous Malala, not even President Obama.

“I wish to tell the world, ‘We don’t want war. Don’t fight!’”

 

Related Stories

12:53 8-Legged Beasts: Incredible Spider Photos from Live Science Readers» LiveScience.com
Spiders — whether you abhor them or adore them, you certainly can't ignore them. We asked our readers to send us their coolest arachnid photos, and they happily obliged.
12:41 In Photos: Engraving Honoring Emperor Hadrian Found In Jerusalem» LiveScience.com
A piece of limestone commemorating the Roman emperor Hadrian has been discovered in Jerusalem. It's possible that the engraving will offer clues about life in Jerusalem at the time of its carving in 129-130.
12:39 US Army's Laser Gun Can Blast Enemy Drones: How It Works» LiveScience.com
For the U.S. military, laser guns aren't sci-fi tech; they're a reality.
12:04 George Will thinks Ebola could be 'airborne' because he is misinformed» Daily Kos
George Will on the set of ABC News This Week
That's why he's here.
Goal Thermometer

Your problem here, Neera Tanden, is that George Will hates scientists like dogs hate vacuum cleaners.

Appearing yesterday on Fox News Sunday, Will explained to his incredulous co-panelists that Ebola is actually far easier to transmit than the authorities are letting on:

"The problem is, the original assumption was that with great certitude, if not certainty, was that you need to have direct contact, meaning with bodily fluids with someone, because it's not airborne. There are now doctors who are saying, we're not so sure that it can't be in some instances transmitted by airborne …

In fact, there are doctors who are saying that in a sneeze or some cough, some of the airborne particles can be infectious?"

Neera Tanden, appearing on the panel, asked, “I'm sorry, who are the doctors saying this? I mean, we have — I mean, this is what I think is really important, that facts about this disease do not lead to panic. So far, every expert that I've seen has said—” At which point, Will, goaded by the appeal to scientific authority, interjected, “Every expert that you've seen. Here we go again.”

Several things here: First, you do not get invite George Will on television and then be "incredulous," or in any other way surprised, when he starts going on like Grandpa Simpson about all the various things that collect inside his head. That's what he's there for.

Second, never rile George Will by pointing out that for every supposed "expert" he digs up via his apparent wanderings through think tank hallways and conspiracy theory websites (but I repeat myself), you can name twenty or fifty that have more credibly concluded the opposite. George Will is of the opinion that so long as he can find one lunatic saying a thing, that thing is just as valid as your irritating experts. (This is why he makes such a terrible baseball commentator. He is forever insisting that sure, perhaps one team scored twelve runs and the other team zero, but the losing team's bunt in the third inning was almost so well-executed that it would be outlandish to say they lost merely because the scoreboard says so. Teach the controversy, umpires. Unskew the third-base line.)

Third, it turns out that he was indeed misrepresenting the single expert opinion he clung to. No, those experts did not say that Ebola was not "airborne." They were just pointing out that you probably didn't want an Ebola patient to sneeze in your mouth, because duh. That's only an "airborne" disease in the sense that George Will would be an "airborne" pundit if you put him on a trampoline, but Will peevishness when called out on not knowing a thing that he asserts he knows is itself the stuff of punditry legend.

“Again,” he replied with his characteristic sagacity, “we're getting used to people declaring scientific debates closed over and settled; they rarely are.”
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They rarely are, indeed. Teach the controversy, and so on.
12:02 Since the minute the Civil War ended, Texas has been suppressing the vote of African Americans» Daily Kos
Confederates from Texas
In the view of certain Texans today, these guys (from Company C of the Eighth Texas Cavalry),
had the right idea about voting by African Americans.
Goal Thermometer

Despite the scathing 143-page evisceration of Texas' strict new voter ID law by District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos, the Supreme Court gave the go-ahead Saturday for that law to be implemented for this election cycle. That's a hint that when the law's constitutionality is ultimately ruled on, the Court will probably give that the okay, too. Estimates are that as many as 600,000 eligible Texans don't have one of the four IDs accepted as a requirement for casting a ballot: a driver's license, a military identity card, a passport or a gun license.

This isn't the first voter-suppression rodeo in Texas.

Keeping African Americans away from the polls began as soon as Emancipation was announced on Juneteenth (June 19), 1865. The state refused to grant blacks political rights. And a year later, the all-white constitutional convention voted against giving suffrage to blacks, even those who were literate or who had never been slaves. That was followed by the all-white legislature refusing to ratify the Fourteenth Amendment and passage of the first Black Codes that constrained African Americans from certain economic pursuits, racial intermarriage, officeholding, jury service and, of course, voting.

But, the Republican convention of 1867 included black delegates, and, even though the Ku Klux Klan and other purveyors of anti-black violence were viciously active, blacks participated in their first statewide vote in 1868, voting in a referendum to hold another constitutional convention. With their white allies, they won that referendum. The convention affirmed some basic rights for African Americans, although not all that they had fought for, and made readmission of Texas to the Union possible in 1870. From then it was downhill.

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Read below the fold as Erika Eichelberger at Mother Jones tallies some historical Texas voter suppression efforts.
12:00 Midday open thread: UK intel chief's BS on mass surveillance, Warren to campaign against Brown» Daily Kos
11:58 Daily Kos Elections ad roundup: With his career on the line, Lee Terry doubles down in Omaha» Daily Kos

Leading Off:

NE-02: Republican Rep. Lee Terry and the NRSC recently made news for portraying Democrat Brad Ashford as weak on crime, airing a pair of controversial spots. Terry is doubling down in his newest ad.

Terry features Sgt. John Wells, president of the Omaha Police Officers Association, hitting Ashford for supporting the Good Time Law. Wells argues that Ashford's policies can get people killed by releasing violent criminals out onto the streets. Terry's poll numbers are reportedly shaky, and his party is worried about him, which helps explain why he's running these types of ads. Also for the GOP, Fuels America praises Terry for his support for alternative fuels.

On the other side, Ashford hits Terry's negative ads. Ashford features a quote from the Omaha World Herald vouching for Ashford on public safety.

Head below the fold for a roundup of campaign ads from races around the country.

11:53 Chris Christie: 'I'm tired of hearing about the minimum wage'» Daily Kos
Goal Thermometer

Gov. Chris Christie, who is paid $175,000 a year by New Jersey taxpayers, making him the fourth-highest paid governor in the nation, took his tough guy act to the minimum wage Tuesday:

"I've got to tell you the truth, I'm tired of hearing about the minimum wage. I really am. I don't think there's a mother or father sitting around a kitchen table tonight in America who are saying 'you know, honey, if our son or daughter could just make a higher minimum wage, my God, all our dreams would be realized.' Is that what parents aspire to for their children?"
What a plainspoken truth-teller, is the reaction Christie was clearly going for with this. What a load of unbelievable crap, is the truth.

Forget the parent sitting around the kitchen table thinking about their son or daughter's wages. Many minimum wage workers—27 percent of them—are parents themselves. If these workers made a higher minimum wage, 19 percent of children in the United States would have a parent who got a raise. That means those children would benefit. Maybe they'd eat better. Maybe they'd be able to do school sports. Maybe they'd avoid the disruptions of having to move because their family fell behind on the rent.

With the average age of minimum wage workers being 35 years old, their parents sitting around the kitchen table thinking about their wages are not the middle-class parents of teens or recent college graduates that Christie is trying to invoke in our minds. If your child is 35 and making the minimum wage, sure, you'd like to see them make more than the minimum wage. But a raise from $8.25 an hour—which New Jersey voters voted in after Christie vetoed a minimum wage increase—to $10.10 an hour would make a big difference in the life of said hypothetical adult child of worried parents. Shoot, you don't have to be making minimum wage to think an annual raise of more than $3,000 is worth getting. I don't know, maybe at Christie's $175,000 a year you stop caring about a piddling $3,000.

Christie is taking the Scott Walker line here: Why are we even bothering with the minimum wage, they want to know, when I want people to make more than the minimum wage. They want us to forget about the people they'd leave behind, the people they aren't trying to get higher wages for. They want us not to think "wait, if you want people to make more than the minimum wage, then why are you against the minimum wage being more than the minimum wage is right now?"

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The reality is that the minimum wage is a poverty wage, and poll after poll—in addition to that ballot vote in New Jersey—shows that voters support increasing it. Chris Christie, like Scott Walker, is out of step with his state and with America.
11:23 James O'Keefe is back, and still isn't finding voter fraud» Daily Kos
James O'Keefe tweet showing a picture of him disguised with a thin mustache. Tweet text: 'Only time for 2-3 more election investigations. I went in Disguised as 45 yo, this time people may lose their jobs.
Yes, the dumbass tweeted a picture of himself 'in Disguise'
Goal ThermometerConservative videotape-editor James O'Keefe is still around, apparently, and is still hard at work trying to get people to commit crimes so he can film them. But it's still not working, because there's just not many people in the world as crooked as he is.
Last Tuesday, a man who appeared to be in his 20s showed up at a Democratic field office in Boulder wanting to volunteer to help elect Udall and Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), according to a Democratic staffer who met with him and asked not to be identified. [The man] mentioned polls showing the race between Udall and Gardner was tight, and he asked the staffer if he should fill out and mail in ballots for other college students who had moved away but still received mail on campus. The Democratic staffer says he told Davis that doing this would be voter fraud and that he should not do it.
Thus foiled, the man returned with a "disguised" James O'Keefe (the "I am a professor now" disguise appears to be a costume shop mustache—nobody ever accused O'Keefe of putting much work into these things) presumably to get more footage of the office refusing to commit crimes. Then they moved on to a Colorado nonprofit.
Fenberg says, O'Keefe and his friends contacted New Era's Fort Collins office to set up an in-person meeting and identified themselves as activists affiliated with Rocky Mountain Vote Pride. The three men arrived carrying Udall campaign literature, Fenberg notes, but a New Era organizer met them outside the office's front door and refused to let them enter with the Udall materials. Outside groups such as New Era cannot coordinate with political campaigns, and Fenberg says he believes O'Keefe and his collaborators "were trying to establish evidence we were working together."

When New Era's staffers began taking pictures of O'Keefe (including the photo embedded at left), Fenberg says, O'Keefe and a colleague went to their car and returned with a large video camera and a microphone. "If you want to take photos of us, we'll take photos of you," O'Keefe said, according to Fenberg, and the New Era staffers closed the door while O'Keefe and his friend tried to push it open and stick their microphone inside. Fenberg says New Era filed a police report about the incident.

I see O'Keefe still makes no pretensions at actual journalism, having found a lovely niche as yet another dedicated crafter of fakery and propaganda. I see also that O'Keefe seems to consider voter outreach groups to be the bane of all conservative America. Here's a fellow who could infiltrate a Columbian drug cartel with his top-notch mustache disguises, and let us earnestly hope he gives it a go, but instead he has spent years of his life trying to find voter fraud, and failing, and concluding from this not that voter fraud is indeed vanishingly rare but that what's needed here is to edit footage together to pretend the fraud exists anyway. Here is a lad for whom the modern conservative movement was invented. He watched Fox News, he read Drudge, he saw Andrew Breitbart bullshitting his way to low-tier hero status, and he took from all of that the obvious lesson that the News is whatever you say it is, and the Facts are whatever the people paying you want them to be.
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Really, you can't ask for a better poster child for the movement. A self-satisfied fraud who rails against imaginary conspiracies that he cannot find, but always suspects. A "journalism" outfit that unapologetically fakes its stories outright. A child Rovian whose central political motivations revolve not around specific policy, but around the uncomfortable thought that poor people or minorities might in the future find it easier to vote than it was in the much preferred past, who makes it his personal mission to torch the offices of any enablers of such things. He is the love child of Fox News "journalism" and bitter white resentment at Those People, and he has got the conservative id pegged.
11:13 Rare Inscription Hailing Emperor Hadrian Unearthed in Jerusalem» LiveScience.com
A newly uncovered large slab of limestone with an official commemoration to the Roman Emperor Hadrian may help researchers understand the events that led to the Bar Kokhba revolt in the early second century, experts said.
11:12 Republicans concede Ebola travel ban talk is just politics» Daily Kos
U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, June 27, 2013. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Goal Thermometer

Republican leaders, the New York Times reports, are actually astute enough to realize that a travel ban on Ebola-affected countries really isn't something that can actually happen, since there aren't any direct flights from West Africa to the United States and for a variety of other reasons. So they're "refining" their position, to now call for just a temporary suspension of visas out of those countries. But in the meantime, they're still out on the stump screaming Ebola.

Days of news media fixation, mounting public concern and political pot-stirring have created an odd dichotomy in which leadership aides on Capitol Hill are urging caution while candidates on the campaign trail are pressing hot buttons. House Republican leadership aides have repeatedly said lawmakers are not calling for an actual ban of airline flights, even as the likes of Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, and Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, have done just that. […]

Mr. McConnell, said a spokesman, Don Stewart, was "using shorthand" last week when he said, "It would be a good idea to discontinue flights into the United States from that part of the world." He, too, supports a temporary suspension of visas, a position put into legislative language on Monday by Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, who vowed to press visa-suspension legislation when Congress returned in November.

Yes, they're calling for a travel ban because that sounds like the toughest thing that they can use to keep Ebola fear whipped up, and then concede that they're smart enough to know it won't work, so here's this other thing that maybe they could support while they're still yelling for a travel ban. Meanwhile,
In reality, Republicans are not planning a legislative response, at least for now, Republican leadership aides said Monday. They merely want their voices heard.
Oh, of course. Sure that's all they want, just to be "heard."
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It should be shocking to absolutely no one that they aren't really planning a legislative response, because Republicans just don't do that. Not when there's political points to be scored.
11:10 Adults Often Make Mistakes When Medicating Children | Video » LiveScience.com
A study conducted by the Nationwide Children's Hospital found that between 2002-2012 700,000 children under the age of 6 were given wrong doses of medication. The hospital offers tips on how to administer medicine to kids.
10:51 Ingrown Toenail? How to Snip It the Right Way» LiveScience.com
Nobody likes ingrown toenails, but clipping off the offending bit might only make it worse. Now, a look at the physics of nail growth reveals the best way to cut an ingrown nail.
10:39 Killer Whales Caught in Stunning Drone Footage (Video)» LiveScience.com
A population of killer whales has been captured playing, chasing prey and socializing in gorgeous video taken by a tiny unmanned drone.
10:19 Ad shows Wisconsin voters the real Glenn Grothman in all his nutso glory» Daily Kos
Goal Thermometer

A new ad from Wisconsin Democrat Mark Harris calls voters' attention to a few of the crazy-extreme highlights of Republican Glenn Grothman's political career:

Even Republicans say Glenn Grothman is too bizarre to be our congressman. Grothman claims that preschool causes psychological damage on children. Grothman said single parents are committing child abuse, and Grothman opposed laws requiring women get equal pay for equal work, saying that "money is more important for men."

"I'm Mark Harris. I've cut government spending and cut debt. I approve this message, because that's what I'll do in Washington."

And as astounding as those Grothman statements are, they're just scratching the surface. This is a man who has said "Quite frankly, it's scandalous that lawyers are leading people to believe that the lead paint in these houses is responsible for the increases in the (lead) levels in their blood." Scandalous!
Please chip in $3 to help Mark Harris get the word out about how awful Glenn Grothman is.

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If elected, Grothman really could be a contender for title of America's Dumbest Congressman.
10:15 Photos: Drone Reveals Killer Whales» LiveScience.com
A tiny drone has captured stunning images of a killer whale pod, revealing which whales are pregnant and malnourished.
09:06 Dr. Oz's 'Magic Weight-Loss Cure' Loses Remaining Support» LiveScience.com
Green coffee bean extract, which Dr. Mehmet Oz promoted on his show as a "magic weight-loss cure," had one scientific study backing up the extract's purported effects. Now, that research has been retracted.
09:01 15 Questions for Darren Wilson» Daily Kos
That is Darren Wilson standing on the right. While much emphasis is put on the size of Mike Brown, please notice that Darren Wilson is similar in height and weight.
While leaks from the federal investigation of police officer Darren Wilson's shooting of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, August 9 are starting to appear, concerned citizens in Ferguson and beyond have a plethora of unanswered questions they'd love ask to Wilson—not only about his mindset, but his actions the day Brown was killed. To begin, here are 15 questions:

1. When your SUV pulled up alongside Mike Brown and Dorian Johnson as they were walking along Canfield Drive, did you tell them to "get the fuck on the sidewalk?"

2. When you pulled away from Brown and Johnson on Canfield Drive, why exactly did you decide to put your SUV in reverse to confront them again? Your chief says you did not know about the earlier convenience store incident where it is alleged Mike Brown stole some cigars. Was it to express your anger that they didn't obey your earlier command to "get the fuck on the sidewalk?"

3. Four eyewitnesses report seeing and hearing your tires screech as you violently put your SUV in reverse on Canfield Drive, nearly hitting Brown and Johnson. Why did you reverse in such a reckless and provocative manner?

4. When you arrived back at where Brown and Johnson stood, if you did not know about the store incident, why exactly did you open your door to confront them? Did you intend to arrest them for jaywalking?

5. Precisely how far away was your door from Brown and Johnson when you flung it open?

6. Did you believe Brown or Johnson were armed at any point during your confrontation?

7. Reports have surfaced that you told federal investigators that you were repeatedly punched and scratched by Brown through your SUV window. Why did you not see the medic who arrived on the crime scene? Why do no photos or videos or eyewitness reports from the scene have evidence of even a shadow of an injury, or you touching or favoring any injury?

8. It's been reported that you claim that Brown "went for, or lunged for," your gun. Was this when the gun was within inches of his face before you fired two shots at him through your window and hit him with one?

9. After you shot Brown through your window, he fled over 100 feet away from your SUV. Did you still feel threatened while you chased him down Canfield Drive with your gun drawn and firing, according to witnesses, at least six shots?

10. Six eyewitnesses saw you fire multiple shots at the back of Brown while he fled down Canfield Drive. Was it your intention to arrest or kill him with those shots?

11. When you fired your eighth shot of the day, four eyewitnesses said they saw Brown's body jerk before he turned around to surrender to you. Did you believe you hit him again, for the second time, with your eighth shot?

12. Six eyewitnesses say that they saw Brown turn around and physically and verbally surrender to you. How did you interpret those actions?

13. Before you fired the two fatal shots into Brown's eye and the crown of his head, as he was falling down, you had shot him a total of four times already. Did you still believe him to be a threat to you at that point?

14. No record exists of you ever radioing in for backup or support at any time. Did you use your cell phone to call for backup? Who else did you call and why?

15. Who first told you not to create a report after you shot and killed Brown, and what reason did they give you for such a request?

08:46 Ancient Human Skulls Reveal When Europeans Could Drink Milk» LiveScience.com
The DNA from 13 ancient humans reveals the evolution of lighter skin and lactose tolerance. The skeletons were found in archaeological burial sites unearthed during highway construction in the Great Hungarian Plain in Central Europe.
08:29 13 Most Ugly, Offensive,and Weird Costumes for Halloween 2014» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
The bad news: Dozens of "Indian Princess" costumes continue to exist. The good news: You can be a sexy lobster instead.

Putting on my judgy face at the Halloween store.
Photo Credit: 
xojane

Putting on my judgy face at the Halloween store.

 

Content note: Some images may not be safe for work.

Ah, Halloween, that time of year when even usually well-adjusted people come up with extraordinarily complex puns and turn them into costumes, when sexy corn becomes a brief and beautiful reality, and when some folks very nearly ruin everything by dressing up in horribly misguided ensembles.

It’s not that Halloween itself is bad. Halloween is a damn good time. Who can hate a holiday that is half about dressing up and half about candy? It’s just that at some point in the past few years, Halloween has turned into a strange meta event in which the certainty that offensive and bizarre costumes will happen somehow feeds their creation.

Thus, the “Ebola containment suit” costume was probably, sadly, inevitable.

“Ebola containment suit” costume
Photo Credit: 
xojane
 Ha ha ha ha.... oh.

 

Never mind that it explicably has “Ebola” printed on it, as though the costume itself is the virus, or contains the disease ("Get yer Ebola right here!"). It’s kind of like those “sexy” costumes that have the word “sexy” right on them, in case you were confused as to their purpose.

The fact that the copy for this ensemble says, “This will literally be the most ‘viral’ costume of the year,” is enough to wish it dead.

As always, I have spent long hours combing costume sites looking for the oddest selections, the most offensive mass-produced options and the simply, utterly bizarre.

And we’re going to start with the fake private parts of "ladies" as mockingly worn by men.

Fake parts of ladies.
Photo Credit: 
xojane
 The guy modeling this is also the model for a TON of the most horrible dude-joke costumes and I'm not sure whether I should hate him or feel sorry for him.

Pubic hair. It exists. For as long as human women have been walking upright, most of them have been growing some amount of hair between their legs. I don’t know the whole history of down-there hair removal, but I know that even as American Apparel has tried to revive big ol’ hedges recently, women have been mowing their ladygardens -- and not doing so -- for millenia.

The "Anita Waxin" costume attempts to provoke a thoughtful conversation about hair politics. Or it's just something frat dudes wear to make their bros laugh. Still, I don’t see how pubic hair is all that funny. But I also don’t laugh when someone farts either.

Droopers.
Photo Credit: 
xojane
 Low-hanging fruit indeed.

The “Droopers” copy explains its premise:

Ever wonder what happens to the girls that work at Hooters? There's no real retirement plan when you're a waitress - you've just gotta keep on working!

Which should put it in the finals for the award for most unintentionally depressing Halloween costume description. Even if you aren’t put off by the “LOL WAITRESSES SO POOR” approach, this is pretty terrible.

Gropin’ Granny.”
Photo Credit: 
xojane
 Oh, that's it, that was the sound of my last shred of faith in humanity dying.

 

And for the gentleman who wants to cover BOTH the saggy-breast AND unusually-giant-bush bases, we have the “Gropin’ Granny” costume, complete with dramatic nipples and flasher-housecoat.

Elderly women! The lowest-hanging fruit is always good for a laugh. And it’s extra fun because they’re unlikely to defend themselves.

Cherokee princess
Photo Credit: 
xojane
 WHY DOES THIS CONTINUE TO HAPPEN?

Moving on to the appropriation set: deranged and unsinkable optimist that I am, every October I think, “Surely this will be the year that twenty bazillion ‘new’ ‘Indian Princess’ costumes DON’T get made,” and I’m wrong. There are SO MANY of these costumes.

The URL identifies the example above as a “Cherokee princess” and I can’t decide if it’s more offensive to use the name of an actual tribe to describe a mocking ensemble contained in a plastic bag and hanging on a hook at the Halloween store, or if it’s worse to just assume that "Indians are Indians" and there is no distinction between tribes to be made. They’re probably equally horrible for their own unique reasons.

Even a cursory look through any Halloween costume site reveals literally dozens of these mass-produced costumes on the market -- so many that it’s not that surprising that folks doggedly continue to believe there is nothing gross about dressing up as native cultures that only continue to exist as a result of the strength of those who have fought to preserve them even in the face of devastating abuse and erasure on the part of white Europeans who “discovered” a land hundreds of years back and immediately went to work on destroying the people already living there, a process that, in degrees, continues even today.

Depressing? For sure. Who wants to bring that to a party?

Senorita death.
Photo Credit: 
xojane
 Skull sold separately.

What did I just say? Day of the Dead celebrations -- with which sugar skulls are directly connected and which this "Senorita Death" (seriously) costume is inspired by -- can be traced back to the Aztecs. As a general rule, if it’s not your culture, it’s usually a good idea not to dress up in it as a costume, because even if you are intending to do so as a somber homage to its origins, it is probably going to come off as cavalier. ESPECIALLY if you do so by dropping $50 on a crap outfit made in a sweatshop in China.

Tighty Whitey Underwear Briefs Costume
Photo Credit: 
xojane
 I can't.

The “We’re a culture, not a costume” campaign has been often mocked since it first appeared in 2011, which is a shame because the message is totally legit -- these “funny” efforts can have measurable negative effects on people.

And beyond being potentially hurtful, wearing a stereotype as a costume is pure laziness. The “Tighty Whitey Underwear Briefs Costume” is neither funny nor particularly inventive; it just makes fun of a cultural signifier and a racist caricature. “Sagging,” which this costume attempts to mock, is said to have its roots in the prison system, where belts are often not allowed, and the style was later popularized in hip hop. In the 2000s, some parts of the US were actually trying to make sagging illegal, because I guess pants are only safe for the public when they’re around your waist.

I doubt anyone wearing this costume is going to be arrested, unfortunately. Oh, and it also comes in a child version, so your towheaded little scamp can join the offensive party.

And in case you thought things couldn't possibly get worse, there's even a mass-produced "sexy burqa" costume. Whatever your feelings on the burqa as a symbol (and unless you are Muslim or extraordinarily well educated about Islam, your opinion is probably unfairly negatively influenced), the fact remains that Muslim women are entitled to choose how they dress and present themselves in public, and should their personal standards -- and personal safety -- dictate a certain degree of modesty, it’s not acceptable to mock that choice.

Sexy burqa.
Photo Credit: 
xojane
 I really, really, really can't.

More to the point, the burqa and other Muslim headcoverings are typically a religious choice as well. Muslims in the U.S. are already misunderstood and misrepresented enough on every other day besides Halloween. Turning a burqa -- the purpose of which, in part, is to cover a woman’s body and avoid her being sexualized against her will -- into a sexual garment is so disrespectful it boggles the mind that this costume even exists.

And there are so many other, better sexy costumes. Enjoy a few, as a palate cleanser after the above:

Sexy lobster.
Photo Credit: 
xojane
 Pinchy!

Sexy Lobster. In fact, there are TWO sexy lobsters, in case this one isn’t meeting your precise babely-crustacean needs.

 

Sexy taco.
Photo Credit: 
xojane

Spicy!

 

Sexy Taco, although I'd argue that ALL tacos are sexy. Will this be 2014's Sexy Hamburger? Time will tell.

Sexy Mr. Peanut.
Photo Credit: 
xojane
 Salty!

Sexy Mr Peanut. I have nothing bad to say about this. I kind of love it.

 

Sexy droog
Photo Credit: 
xojane
Ultra-violent!

Sexy Droog? Actually I don't know if this is hilarious and brilliant or terrible. I'll leave that decision to you.

Vagina hat.
Photo Credit: 
xojane

Or, you could just cut through the bullshit and wear a vagina hat.

This is probably what most men see when they look at women anyway. (Misandry rimshot!)

Did I miss any bizarre or offensive costumes you’ve seen? Let us know your favorites -- or tell us about your painstakingly handcrafted Sexy Something-That-Is-Not-Usually-Sexy costume -- in comments.

Read more from Lesley.
08:16 Fox News Indignant That A Public Health Course On Abortion Does Not Include Anti-Abortion Perspectives» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

Fox News expressed outrage over a recently launched online course geared toward clinicians, health care workers, and students aimed at addressing the gaps in knowledge about safe, legal abortion. While Fox demands the course include abortion opponents' perspective, the network ignores the necessity of increasing knowledge about the legal but widely stigmatized and under-served procedure.  

The University of California San Francisco recently launched a new online course to "address abortion care from both clinical and social perspectives." The course, "Abortion: Quality Care and Public Health Implications" will be taught under the university's Innovating Education in Reproductive Health program, and has the aim to "fill in the gaps left by the exclusion of abortion from mainstream curricula."

Fox's Adam Housley reported on the university's "web-based class focused on abortion," on the October 21 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, blasting the class as "propaganda" and lamenting that the publicly funded university is offering the "controversial" course. Housley's report accused the university of launching the course as a tool of propaganda aiming "to get into the minds of younger people" and "to get them interested to want to do abortions." Host Bill O'Reilly concluded that the course is an "in your face to all Californians who believe that abortion may be morally wrong" because it doesn't include anti-abortion perspectives for "balance":

07:50 4 Terrible Mistakes We Can't Afford to Make With Ebola» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
Our response is starting to echo the war on terror. We can't let that happen.

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These days, two “wars” are in the headlines: one against the marauding Islamic State and its new caliphate of terror carved out of parts of Iraq and Syria, the other against a marauding disease and potential pandemic, Ebola, spreading across West Africa, with the first cases already reaching the United States and Europe.  Both wars seemed to come out of the blue; both were unpredicted by our vast national security apparatus; both have induced fears bordering on hysteria and, in both cases, those fears have been quickly stirredinto the political stew of an American election year. 

The pundits and experts are already pontificating about the threat of 9/11-likeattacks on the homeland, fretting about how they might be countered, and in the case of Ebola, raising analogies to the anthrax attacks of 2001. As the medical authorities weigh in, the precedent of 9/11 seems not far from their minds. Meanwhile, Thomas Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has tried to calm the country down while openly welcoming “new ideas” in the struggle against the disease.  Given the almost instinctive way references and comparisons to terrorism are arising, it’s hard not to worry that any new ideas will turn out to be eerily similar to those that, in the post-9/11 period, defined the war on terror.

The differences between the two “wars” may seem too obvious to belabor, since Ebola is a disease with a medical etiology and scientific remedies, while ISIS is a sentient enemy.  Nevertheless, Ebola does seem to mimic some of the characteristics experts long ago assigned to al-Qaeda and its various wannabe and successor outfits. It lurks in the shadows until it strikes. It threatens the safety of civilians across the United States.  Its root causes lie in the poverty and squalor of distant countries.  Its spread must be stopped at its region of origin -- in this case, Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone in West Africa -- just as both the Bush and Obama administrations were convinced that the fight against al-Qaeda had to be taken militarily to the backlands of the planet from Pakistan’s tribal borderlands to Yemen’s rural areas. 

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised then that, while President Obama was sending at least 1,600 military personnel (and the drones and bombers) to fight ISIS, his first response to the Ebola crisis was also to send 3,000 troops into Liberia in what the media has been calling an “Ebola surge” (a reflexive nod to the American troop “surge” in Iraq in 2007). The Obama administration’s second act: to beef up border protections for the screening of people entering the United States (a move whose efficacy has beenquestioned by some medical experts), just as the authorities moved swiftly in the wake of 9/11 to turn airports and borders into massive security zones. The third act was to begin to trace points of contact for those with Ebola, which, while logical and necessary, eerily mimics the way the national security state began to build a picture of terror networks, establish watch lists, and the like.

The next step under consideration for those who might have been exposed to Ebola, quarantine (that is, detention), is controversial among medical experts, but should similarly remind us of where the war on terror went after 9/11: to Guantanamo.  As if the playbook for the post-9/11 response to terrorism were indeed the playbook for Ebola, Pennsylvania Congressman Tim Murphy, questioning Dr. Frieden, noted that, without putting policies of surveillance, containment, and quarantine in place, “we still have a risk.”

While any of these steps individually may prove sensible, the ease with which non-medical authorities seem to be falling into a familiar war on terror-style response to the disease should be examined -- and quickly. If it becomes the default template for Ebola and the country ends up marching down the road to “war” against a disease, matters could be made so much worse.

So perhaps it’s time to refresh our memories about that war on terror template and offer four cautionary lessons about a road that should never be taken again, not in developing a policy against the latest non-state actors, nor in pursuit of the containment of a disease.

Lesson One: Don’t turn the “war” on Ebola into another set of programs that reflect the national security establishment’s well-developed reliance on intelligence, surveillance, and the military.  Looking, for instance, for people complaining about Ebola-like symptoms in private or searching the metadata of citizens for calls to doctors would be a fool’s errand, the equivalent of finding needles in a field full of haystacks.  

And keep in mind that, as far as we can tell, from 9/11 on, despite theoverblown claims of its adherents, the surveillance system they constructed has regularly failed to work as promised. It did not, for instance, stop the Shoe Bomber, the Times Square bomber, or the Boston Marathon bombers. Nor did the intelligence authorities, despite all the money invested since 9/11, prevent the Benghazi attack or the killing of seven CIA agents by a suicide bomber believed to be an American double agent in Khost, Afghanistan, in December 2009, or predict the rise of ISIS for that matter. Similarly, it is hard to imagine how the usual military might, from drones and special ops teams to those much-discussed boots on the ground, will help solve the problem of Ebola.  

In the post-9/11 era, military solutions have often prevailed, no matter the problem at hand.  Yet, at the end of the day, from the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq to the air operation in Libya to the CIA’s drone campaigns across tribal backlands, just about no militarized solution has led to anything approximating victory -- and the new war against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq is already following the same dismal pattern.  Against a virus, the U.S. military is likely to be even less successful at anything more than aiding health workers and officials in disease-ridden areas.

The tools that the national security state has relied on in its war on terror not only didn’t work then (and are highly unlikely to work when it comes to the present Middle Eastern conflict either), but applied to Ebola would undoubtedly prove catastrophic. And yet -- count on it -- they will also prove irresistible in the face of fear of that disease.  They are what the government knows how to do even if, in the war on terror itself, they created a vulnerability so much greater than the sum of its parts, helped foster the growth of jihadist movements globally, and eroded the sense of trust that existed between the government and the American people. 

Lesson Two: Keep public health professionals in charge of what needs to be done. All too often in the war on terror, professionals with areas of expertise were cast aside by the security establishment.  The judicial system, for instance, was left in the lurch when it came to dealing with accused al-Qaeda operatives, while the expertise of those who found no evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq in 2002-2003 was ignored.

Only by trusting our medical professionals will we avoid turning the campaign against Ebola over to the influence of the security state. And only by refusing to militarize the potential crisis, as so many others were in the post-9/11 era, will we avoid the usual set of ensuing disasters.  The key thing here is to keep the Ebola struggle a primarily civilian one.  The more it is left in the hands of doctors and public health experts who know the disease and understand what it means practically to commit the government to keeping people as safe as possible from the spread of the virus, the better.

Lesson Three: Don’t cloak the response to Ebola in secrecy.  The architects of the war on terror invoked secrecy as one of the prime pillars of their new state of being.  From the beginning, the Bush administration cavalierly hid its policies under a shroud of secrecy, claiming that national security demanded that information about what the government was doing should be kept from the American people for their own “safety.”  Although Barack Obama entered the Oval Office proclaiming a “sunshine” presidency, his administration has acted ever more fiercely to keep the actions of both the White House and the national security state under wraps, including, to mention just two examples, its justifications for policies surrounding its drone assassination campaignsand the extent of its warrantless surveillance programs.

As it happened, that wall of secrecy proved endlessly breachable, as leakscame flooding out of that world.  Nonetheless, the urge to recreate such a state of secrecy elsewhere may be all too tempting.  Don’t be surprised if the war on Ebola heads into the shadows, too -- and that’s the last thing the country needs or deserves when it comes to a public health crisis. To date, with medical professionals still at the forefront of those dealing publicly with Ebola, this impulse has yet to truly rise to the surface.  Under their aegis, information about the first Ebola cases to reach this country and the problems involved hasn’t disappeared behind a cloak of secrecy, but don’t count on transparency lasting if things get worse.  Yet keeping important facts about a potential pandemic under wraps is guaranteed to lead to panic and a rapid deterioration of trust between Americans and their government, a relationship already sorely tested in the war on terror years.

Realistically, secrecy and allied tools of the trade would represent a particularly inauspicious starting point for launching a counter-Ebola strategy at a time when it would be crucial for Americans to know about failures as well as successes.  Outbreaks of panic enveloped in hysteria wrapped in ignorance are no way to stop a disease from spreading.

Lesson Four: Don’t apply the “black site” approach to Ebola.  The war on terror was marked by the creation of special prisons or “black sites” beyond the reach of the U.S. justice system for the detention (in the case of Ebola think: isolation and quarantine) of terrorist suspects, places where anything went.  There can, of course, be no question that Ebola patients, once diagnosed with the disease, need to be isolated. Protective gear and isolation units are already being used in treating cases here.

The larger issue of quarantine, however, looms as potentially the first major public policy debate of the Ebola era. Keep an eye on this.  After all, quarantine-style thinking is already imprinted in the government’s way of life, thanks to the war on terror, so moving toward quarantines will seem natural to its officials. 

Quarantine is a phenomenon feared by civil libertarians and others as an overreaction that will prove ineffective when it comes to the spread of the disease.  It stands to punish individuals for their associations, however inadvertent, rather than dealing with them when they actually display signs of the disease. To many, though, it will seem like a quick-fix solution, the Ebola counterpart to Guantanamo, a facility for those who were deemed potential carriers of the disease of terrorism.

The fears a threat of massive quarantines can raise will only make things harder for health officials. So, too, will increasing calls for travel bans for those coming from West African countries, a suggestion reminiscent of sweeping police profiling policies that target groups rather than individuals. Avoiding such bans is not just a matter of preserving civil liberties, but a safety issue as well. Fears of broad quarantines and blanket travel bans could potentially lead affected individuals to become far more secretive about sharing information on the disease and far more deceptive in their travel planning.  It could, that is, spread, not halt the dissemination of Ebola. As Thomas Frieden of the CDC argues, “Right now we know who’s coming in. If we try to eliminate travel, the possibility that some will travel over land, will come from other places, and we don’t know that they’re coming in will mean that we won’t be able to do multiple things. We won’t be able to check them for fever when they leave. We won’t be able to check them for fever when they arrive. We won’t be able, as we do currently, to take a detailed history to see if they were exposed when they arrive.”  In other words, an overly aggressive reaction could actually make medical deterrence exponentially more difficult.

The United States is about to be tested by a disease in ways that could dovetail remarkably well with the war on terror.  In this context, think of Ebola as the universe’s unfair challenge to everything that war bred in our governmental system. As it happens, those things that the U.S. did, often ineffectively and counterproductively, to thwart its enemies, potential enemies, and even its own citizenry will not be an antidote to this “enemy” either. It, too, may be transnational, originate in fragile states, and affect those who come in contact with it, but it cannot be stopped by the methods of the national security state.

Countering Ebola will require a whole new set of protections and priorities, which should emerge from the medical and public health communities. The now sadly underfunded National Institutes of Health and other such organizations have been looking at possible pandemic situations for years. It is imperative that our officials heed the lessons of their research as they have failed to do many times over with their counterparts in public policy in the war on terror years. To once again invoke the powers of the state to address fantasies and fears rather than the realities of a spreading disease would be to recklessly taunt the fates.

Karen J. Greenberg is the director of the Center on National Security at Fordham Law, the author of The Least Worst Place: Guantanamo’s First One Hundred Days, a TomDispatch regular, and the editor-in-chief of theMorning Brief, a daily round-up of national security news. CNS Legal Fellow Kevin Garnett helped research this article.

Copyright 2014 Karen J. Greenberg

05:29 Shocking New Report: Superrich Have Grabbed Half the World's Assets » AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
They're eyeing the other half.

According to a new report, the richest one percent have got their mitts on almost half the world's assets. Think that’s the end of the story? Think again. This is only the beginning.

The “Global Annual Wealth Report,” freshly released by investment giant Credit Suisse, analyzes the shocking trend of growing wealth inequality around the world. What the researchers find is that global wealth has increased every year since 2008, and that personal wealth seems to be rising at the fastest rate ever recorded, much of it driven by strong equity markets. But the benefits of this growth have largely been channeled to those who are already affluent. While the restaurant workers in America struggled to achieve wages of $10 an hour for their labor, those invested in equities saw their wealth soar without lifting a finger. So it goes around the world.

The bottom half of the world’s people now own less than 1 percent of total wealth, and they’re struggling to hold onto even that minuscule portion. On the other hand, the wealthiest 10 percent have accumulated a staggering 87 percent of global asssets. The top percentile has 48.2 percent of the world wealth. For now.

One of the scary things about the wealth of the supperich is what French economist Thomas Piketty pointed out in his best-selling book, Capital in the 21st Century. Once they’ve got a big chunk of wealth, their share will get bigger even if they sit by and do absolutely nothing. Piketty sums up this economic reality in a simple and horrifying formula: r > g. 

Basically, this means that when rate of return on wealth is greater than the overall rate of growth of the economy, as it has nearly always been throughout history, the rich will grow inevitably richer and the poor poorer unless there is some kind of intervention, like higher taxes on wealth, for example. If r is less than g, the assets of the super-wealthy will erode, but if r is greater than g, you eventually get the explosion of gigantic inherited fortunes and dynasties.

This is happening now: If you look at the Forbes 400 list of the wealthiest people in America, you see a lot more inherited fortunes in the upper ranks than you did a couple of decades ago, when the policies that held inequality at bay began to get dismantled. In today’s top 10, there are more scions of the Walton family than entrepreneurs like Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg. These people have essentially done nothing of value for society, and yet their undue influence shapes our political landscape with the wave of a wad of cash. 

There have been moments in history when things were not so lopsided. During the post-war period, inequality was contained because governments made sure their rich didn’t accumulate at such alarming rates by doing things like taxing their estates at a high rate. At the same time, they created policies to lift the incomes of the less well-off and allow them to have some basic security. But that’s an exception in history. Most of the time, this kind of intervention did not happen, and so the rich kept gobbling more and accumulating more power to keep it that way until one of two things happened — a revolution or some kind of catastrophe or disruptive event, like a war, shook things up.

As the Credit Suisse report states:

“[Wealth inequality] has been the case throughout most of human history, with wealth ownership often equating with land holdings, and wealth more often acquired via inheritance or conquest rather than talent or hard work. However, a combination of factors caused wealth inequality to trend downwards in high income countries during much of the 20th century, suggesting that a new era had emerged. That downward trend now appears to have stalled, and posssibly gone into reverse.”

That’s right. We’re on a turbo-charged ride back to the days of Downton Abbey. Piketty warns that we’re in the early stages of reverting right back to periods of massive inequality, like 19th-century Britain or 18th-century France, where great dynastic fortunes ruled and everybody else fought for scraps.

What the statistics and formulas don’t show is the kind of human suffering that results from this kind of extreme inequality. While the global elite zip around the world in private jets and watch their stock portfolios expand on computer screens from within their gated mansions, the bottom half stays awake at night trying to think of how to pay for medicine for a sick child. The things that give life dignity and meaning, like a quality education, a decent job, and the security of knowing you have a roof over your head and a doctor to care for you when you are ill grow further and further out of reach. Anxiety never leaves because one unforeseen mishap can push you down into poverty, and if you’re already there, you spend much of your time searching, often fruitlessly, for a way out.

But there’s a little bit of anxiety percolating at the top, too. On the June cover of the conservative magazine American Spectator, a cartoon shows an incensed mob looking on as a monocled fatcat is led to a bloody guillotine — a scene evoking the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution. The caption reads, “The New Class Warfare: Thomas Piketty’s intellectual cover for confiscation.” In the story that accompanies the image, James Pierson warns of revolution and a growing class of suffering people who want to punish the rich and take away their toys.

That would be one way to address things. Another would be the recognition that inequality is extremely destabilizing and dangerous, and that non-violent interventions are possible, as we saw in America with the New Deal. Things like robust tax reform, unions, regulation, changes in corporate governance and CEO pay, affordable education, jobs programs, expansion of Social Security and universal healthcare.

Or we could just do things the old-fashioned way and wait for a disaster even bigger than the meltdown of 2007-'08. In that case, fasten your seatbelts. This ride could get very rough.

 

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05:21 Economics Daily Digest: Justice for pregnant workers; new solutions to layoffs & affordable housing» Daily Kos

By Rachel Goldfarb, originally published on Next New Deal.

Click here to subscribe to Roosevelt First, our weekday morning email featuring the Daily Digest.

Baby on Way, Worker Gets Her Job Back (NYT)

Angelica Valencia was fired when doctor's orders limited her from overtime during her pregnancy, but was helped by New York City's Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, writes Rachel Swarns.

Ms. Valencia, who has been out of work for nearly three months, can return “immediately without loss of seniority and without fear of retaliation,” Jeffrey D. Pollack, a lawyer who represents the Fierman Produce Exchange, wrote in a letter to Ms. Valencia’s lawyers.

Ms. Valencia, who earned $8.70 an hour as a potato packer for Fierman in the Bronx, was told by her supervisors in August that she could not continue working unless her doctor gave her a full-duty medical clearance. (Ms. Valencia, who had a miscarriage last year, was told by her doctor that she should work only eight hours a day, no overtime.)

More below the fold.

Mon 20 October, 2014

16:15 6 of America's Most Panicky, Misinformed Overreactions to the Ebola Virus» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
Imagine what would happen if Ebola was a widespread threat?

In the U.S., there’s growing evidence that Ebola can be quarantined. But the same cannot be said about wild overreactions marked by panic, ignorance and intolerance as parents, school boards and others have responded to their fears, rather than to real outbreaks.

"Better safe than sorry” is the commonly heard refrain. But that is a poor excuse for a litany of misinformed overreactions, including some bad behavior that is bound to leave hurtful lasting impacts on the victims of these panic attacks.

Here are a half-dozen of the worst examples, starting with educators who should know better.

1. Geography Taught Here?

Howard Yocum Elementary School, in Maple Shade, New Jersey, is across the river from Philadelphia. It’s 146 miles away from a hospital in Maryland, 782 miles from a hospital in Georgia, and 1,475 miles from a hospital in Texas, where Ebola patients are located. However, when parents and school officials heard that two students from the East African country of Rwanda were enrolled, they lost it—even though Rwanda, which has no Ebola cases, is 2,846 miles from the virus’ epicenter, Liberia and Sierra Leone in West Africa.

The school’s staff told teachers (but not parents) that Rwandan students were coming and not to worry. That lit up the rumor mill, and here’s what parents told Fox News:

  • “I don’t feel comfortable sending my daughter to school with people who could be infected with Ebola.”
  • “Really concerns me. I don’t want to keep my boy out of school.”
  • “Don’t smile in my face and have a secret like that.”
  • “Stay there until all this stuff is resolved. There’s nobody affected here—let’s just keep it that way.”

As a result, the Rwandan children have been “voluntarily” quarantined by their parents for 21 days, which is the Ebola incubation period. “I don’t think it would hurt,” one parent told Fox News. “You have a lot of children that are involved, so I don’t think it would hurt.”

Really? Do they think those two Rwandan kids will return to class free of stigma?

2. Not An Isolated Incident

In Strong Elementary School in Maine, a different unfounded fear unfolded. One teacher was put on a mandatory 21-day leave after attending a conference in Dallas and staying at a hotel 9.5 miles from Texas Health Presbyterian, where Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan was treated before he died. Never mind that millions of people live and commute in the city. Ignorant parents and a compliant school board were quick to overreact, bending to the argument that they had not been told a teacher would be in Dallas.

“The decision to place the teacher on leave was made by the MSAD 58 school board Thursday evening, after parents and community members expressed frustration that they were not notified that the teacher would be traveling to Dallas,” Portland’s Press Herald said. “After several discussions with the staff member, out of an abundance of caution, this staff member has been placed on a paid leave of absence for up to 21 days,” the school board’s statement said.

For the record, to date, there have been no Ebola cases in Maine.

3. What’s Missing in Mississippi

More public school paranoia occurred in Hazelhurst, Mississippi, after a rumor surfaced that its middle-school principal, Lee Wannik, was in Nigeria (which, incidentally, has been declared virus-free by international health officials). The rumor, which was wrong, nonetheless prompted dozens of parents to remove their children from school. Wannik was at his brother’s funeral in Zambia, an East-Central African country which is even further from Liberia than Rwanda is.

Again, parents told school officials that they would “rather be safe than sorry,” the local news reported, adding their paranoia grew when Wannik opted to take a voluntary leave and seek medical attention—so as not to be a “distraction.” 

These incidents show there is very little thinking going on when people feel that their lives are endangered, despite all evidence to the contrary. But there have been even more paranoid reactions near areas where Ebola patients have been hospitalized.

4. No Getting Sick In Public

Panic broke out and HazMat teams were dispatched to a Dallas Area Rapid Transit station on Saturday after a woman got off a train and vomited at the platform, leading police to close the station and summon emergency crews. Initially, the media incorrectly reported that she had been on an Ebola watch list, which was later retracted.

A similar reaction occurred at the Pentagon a few days before, when a woman who had been to West Africa became sick and threw up in a parking lot. That led officials there to quarantine a bus on which the woman had been traveling.   

Meanwhile, in New York City, where international airports are screening travelers from West Africa by taking their temperature upon arrival—which doctors say will do little to detect the virus—the New York Post has reported a “hesitancy by health-care providers to examine patients or by laboratory workers to handle [blood] specimens.”

That kind of personal reaction seems to be irrepressible the closer one gets to a perceived threat or possibility of an infected person.

5. Carnival Cruise Nightmare

Now that a Carnival Cruise Line ship has returned to port—with passengers cheering as they disembarked in Galveston, Texas—there have been a string of news reports saying not everybody aboard the ship was panicking when they learned that one passenger was a laboratory supervisor who had handled an Ebola patient’s blood work. That person voluntarily quarantined herself, showed no signs of infection, and subsequently had her blood tested (and taken away by a Coast Guard helicopter). Consistent with what ship's officers said all along, she was found to be clear of Ebola.

However, the British Telegraph quoted many passengers who described an “utter panic,” saying some passengers were crying and feared they might be trapped on a death ship, where infections would spread, or would have to wait for weeks until being cleared to leave. “As word of an Ebola scare spread, so many passengers tried to call home that their mobile signals failed, and the Internet crashed,” the Telegraph said.

The panic deepened when Mexican officials refused to let the ship dock in Cozumel, citing the age-old maritime practice of keeping ships offshore if there is a threat of disease. “I noticed that we were pulling away,” one passenger said. “The captain finally came on and said we couldn’t get permission to port. That’s when everything hit the fan here and we realized we were quarantined.”    

6. Real Ebola Victims, Not Imagined Fears

There are real Ebola victims in the U.S. They include the fiancé and children of Thomas Eric Duncan, who have been quarantined and heavily monitored for weeks after losing Duncan to the virus. As Cliff Weathers reported, those survivors have lost most of their possessions, been forced from their homes and have been treated as pariahs by many neighbors. Duncan's fiancé is very worried about how the children—who have been cleared of any infection—will be treated when they return to school this week.

TheNew York Times also had a striking report on Monday by Helene Cooper, a Pentagon correspondent and native Liberian who described how people in her country are reacting with great inner strength and dignity in the face of a crisis that’s leaving few families untouched. The difference between dealing with a real epidemic and an imagined one is night and day.   

 

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14:34 Meet the Researcher Who Thinks Cancer Can be Prevented—Even Reversed—Through Diet» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
T. Colin Campbell has set off a war with the food industry.

He says the CIA has shown up at his door with questions. Colleagues have warned him not to pursue his controversial research findings. One of his professional organizations considered kicking him out because of his research, and national panels that once wooed him now ignore him.

But in the end, T. Colin Campbell is a consummate researcher. When his findings belied one of his own foundational beliefs about nutrition, Campbell found himself standing alone at a crossroads: continue a respected and tenured academic career at a prestigious school or go public and advocate for scientific findings that counter established tenets of nutrition, contradict government dietary guidelines, are misunderstood by the medical establishment and belie the marketing claims of major food corporations.

Campbell says he chose the truth. In response to a comment that he picked a fight with a billion-dollar industry, Campbell said, “No, it’s a trillion-dollar industry.”

The professor emeritus in nutritional biochemistry at Cornell University said research has proven that consumption of animal products, including meat, fish and dairy, triggers chronic diseases and impaired health and poses a greater risk than heredity or environment. He has linked casein, a protein in milk, with breast cancer. His lifelong professional focus has been cancer and nutrition, and Campbell says that our national and global fight with cancer has targeted the wrong enemy.

Though he is scholarly and genteel, Campbell is not reserved. He's impatient and blunt. He dismisses the Atkins diet, Paleo diet, South Beach diet and high protein diet. He’s not a supporter of celebrity physicians who prescribe diets of wild salmon, expensive grass-fed beef and costly nutritional supplements. He comes down firmly on the side of health for everyone, not just the wealthy who can afford pharmaceutical supplements of questionable health benefit and expensive prescription medications for blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes.

Campbell advocates disease prevention at the end of a fork. He was prominently featured in the award-winning documentary Forks Over Knives, and is the focus of a new documentary Plant Pure Nation, due out in early 2015 and produced by his son Nelson Campbell.

Colin Campbell discounts physicians as reliable sources of nutritional advice for their patients. Physicians, he said, received minimal to no nutritional education in medical school and have not generally conducted investigative laboratory research themselves.

Campbell, however, has spent more than five decades in laboratory research, much of it publicly funded. He’s adamant the public has a right to know his results.  

“Diet can be used to prevent and reverse cancer just like it prevents and reverses heart disease,” he said. “A diet high in animal protein increases the amount of carcinogens going to the cells. It increases the enzyme MFO (mixed function oxidase) that causes increased carcinogenic activity.”

In the lab, Campbell has shown that increasing consumption of animal protein alters MFO and activates cancer while decreasing consumption detoxifies cancer. A high protein diet derived from animal products increases cell replication and increases oxygen free radicals associated with cancer and aging.

“High-protein bars are crazy,” Campbell said. “Plants alone can easily provide all the protein we need.”    

By demeanor and upbringing, Campbell is an unlikely warrior. He grew up on a dairy farm in Virginia convinced of the nutritional value of milk. Early in his academic career as one of the youngest tenured professors at Cornell University, Campbell was researching dietary protein among children in the Philippines and was surprised to see a high correlation between consumption of animal protein and liver cancer. He was further surprised when he read an obscure research paper published by scientists in India linking dairy protein with cancer.

“This was counter to everything we believed,” he said.

The work started a line of inquiry that amassed the scientific foundation for what Campbell calls a “whole-food, plant-based diet: whole foods, no processed foods, only plants, no meat, fish or dairy and no added oils.” He wrote about the diet and his epidemiological studies in his book The China Study. The book, written with his son Thomas Campbell, was published in 2005 and was expected to have a limited audience. It has now sold over a million copies and been translated into 25 languages. Campbell’s sequel, Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition, came out in 2013 and is a New York Times bestseller.

After 50 years of nutritional biochemical research, Campbell views casein as one of the most relevant chemical carcinogens ever identified. He’s critical of the Komen Foundation for ignoring the research and expanding its marketing income by putting pink ribbons on yogurt containers.

Komen spokeswoman Andrea Rader said, “We focus on studies with humans. What we attempt to do is present scientific evidence. There are no large, peer-reviewed studies” linking casein with human breast cancer.

Some of Campbell’s research is epidemiological and based on animal studies, but that does not make it less compelling, said Mladen Golubic, chief medical director at the Cleveland Clinic Center for Disease Reversal. Golubic suggested the Komen pink ribbon should not go on yogurt but on kale, broccoli and Brussels sprouts.

“Campbell’s research is basic science. It’s very compelling and elegantly done,” Golubic said. “When it comes to human cancer, the data is not as clear. But knowing that not a single nutrient in milk can’t be gotten from plants, there is no reason not to avoid milk.”

Golubic said epidemiological studies like Campbell’s work published in The China Study are not flawed, but are weaker than randomized control clinical trials with human subjects.

There have been no large-scale clinical trials with humans to test the efficacy of the whole-food, plant-based diet for prevention and treatment of cancer; however, a small study at the Cleveland Clinic has shown the whole-food, plant-based diet reversed coronary heart disease among patients.

Greg Miller, executive vice president of the National Dairy Council, a dairy industry group, said a claim linking dairy with disease is a misinterpretation.

“The weight of the evidence indicates that a healthy, balanced diet includes fat-free and low-fat milk, cheese and yogurt,” Miller said in a statement. “Researchers have examined the potential of milk and milk products and many of milk’s components (e.g. casein, calcium and vitamin D) to be associated with specific cancers such as colorectal cancer, breast cancer, and prostate cancer. The research overall is inconclusive.”

He claims the science is more conclusive linking dairy consumption with health and prevention of cancer.

Rekha Chaudhary is not so convinced. Program director in hematology and oncology at the University of Cincinnati school of medicine, Chaudhary invited Campbell to present at the school recently to physicians and medical students. She said she invited him because he speaks with the authority of sound scientific research. She credits his research with changing the way she treats her own patients.  

“When a cancer patient used to ask me ‘What about diet? What changes should I make?’ my response was ‘none. Go home and eat some ice cream,’” she said. “That’s not what I say now. I’m a very different doctor now. Dr. Campbell has 57 years researching the effects of nutrition on health, specifically nutrition on cancer. I am now very enthusiastic about the role of nutrition in fighting cancer.”

Chaudhary said she had no instruction in plant-based diets when she was in medical school. That was also the experience of Thomas M. Campbell, co-author of The China Study with his father. After immersing himself in research for the book for several years, Thomas Campbell decided to enter medical school. Although the book was called the "Grand Prix of epidemiology” by the New York Times, it wasn’t influencing medical education in this country.  

“The role of diet in health is one of the most crucial questions of our time, but nutrition is a forgotten science,” Thomas Campbell said.

Now a family practitioner in Rochester, NY and director of the Campbell Institute for Nutrition,” Campbell said, “In 2001, my father asked if I would help with the book. I read thousands of abstracts and studies, and became more interested in nutrition and health. During this period, I completed my transition [away from meat and dairy].”

He entered medical school with this background in nutritional science and was confronted firsthand not only with the total lack of nutritional education but misinformation about nutrition.

“I put my head down and learned. I decided I can’t advance this idea without experiencing the conventional structure of education and work within the system,” he said. “There were times of intense personal irritation, but it was neither the time nor place to educate people.”

He recalls one lecture during his second year of medical school when a question was asked about whether there was any evidence showing heart disease is related to diet.

“People snickered at the idea. A cardiologist said there is a little evidence, but no one would want to follow the [prescribed] diet,” he said. “I held my tongue, but after the lecture I went to the computer lab with another student, pulled up the Ornish and Esselstyn diets [plant-based, whole-food diets] and pointed out that 75 percent of people who start these diets stick with the diets.”

Today, as a physician, he tells his patients, including children, to avoid all animal products.

“I tell them they can get off their medications and reverse their disease,” he said. “I tell them this is absolutely the best diet for kids and adults. The evidence is deep and clearly established for reversing heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. There is also good evidence of its role in kidney stones and gallbladder. For cancer prevention, there is a lot of evidence this diet helps. In terms of reversing cancer, there is a lack of direct evidence, but there is good evidence nutrition likely plays a role.”

What is needed are large-scale, randomized clinical trials, he said.

His book, The Campbell Plan, covers the how-to of the diet and comes out in March 2015 published by Rodale Press.  

Edward Giovannucci, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Harvard School of Public Health, said diet is the leading cause of poor health in this country and worldwide. His own research findings are compatible with Campbell’s work.

“The diet Campbell advocates, the whole-food, plant-based diet, really is a healthy diet. It is perhaps the healthiest diet people can achieve. But will everyone adopt it?” he said. “If anyone asks me what is the best diet, it’s reasonable to recommend it, but there are other healthy diets.”

However, even as a supporter of Campbell’s work, Giovannucci said the link between casein and breast cancer may be too reductionist and may not cause other nutritional synergies. Even Campbell says focusing on casein and human health is reductionist, but he adds that laboratory science bears out the link.

“I agree with Campbell when he is speaking broadly and holistically, but I’m not convinced casein is the worst factor in diet,” Giovannucci said. “The worst thing in the western diet is eating too much. Body size.”

Despite that, Giovannucci said there is no nutritional benefit in dairy that is not available from plant sources.

The science is sound showing a plant-based diet is superior to consumption of animal products, Giovannucci said, but public health policy continues to recommend animal consumption.

“Why doesn’t the science translate into public health policy? Because public policy is driven by commercial interests,” he said. “Even well-meaning people like pediatricians continue to recommend dairy.”

While it may be valid to choose milk over sweetened beverages, he said, the research does not support dairy providing strong bones later in life.

“Advocating the benefits of dairy is too simplistic,” he said, noting research shows increased dairy consumption actually correlates with increased risk of osteoporosis later in life.

Research that concludes dairy is beneficial must be questioned, he said, because such “research is shaped by commercial interests.”

Although more randomized controlled clinical trials are needed to study the plant-based diet and disease, Giovannucci said it is unrealistic to insist that epidemiological work like Campbell’s is inconclusive.

If we were to dismiss epidemiological work as inconclusive, we’d still be debating  the health problems associated with smoking, he said.

Miller of the National Dairy Council said research funded by the dairy industry is subject to the same scrutiny all published research goes through as part of the peer-review process. He cited a Tufts University report comparing dairy checkoff-funded obesity research with research done by the National Institutes of Health that concluded industry research was unaffected by its funding. Countering Giovannucci, Miller maintained that research shows consumption of dairy foods improves bone health.

The Cornell Chronicle, published by Cornell University, was slated to publish an article on Campbell’s work this spring. A staffer at the publication sent Campbell a copy of the piece, but it was later spiked with no explanation. Campbell said this is just another example of a university yielding to industry pressure. A spokesman at Cornell declined to comment or issue a statement about the school’s situation with Campbell.

“Cornell is now working hard to discredit me,” Campbell said.

He understood years ago that researching the health benefits of a plant-based diet would challenge the status quo. When he returned to the United States from China following field work for his massive epidemiological study, the CIA turned up at his door.

“They offered me 'assistance' with translation,” he said wryly, speculating that they really wanted access to his collection of blood and urine specimens. He declined the assistance.

Another pioneer in the field of dietary and lifestyle changes, Dean Ornish, said “Dr. Campbell made a very landmark contribution by showing that people in Asia and China who ate a whole-food, plant-based diet had lower rates of the major chronic diseases that afflict not only our country but countries throughout the world” as they adopt the American diet.

As a result, we are seeing the “globalization of chronic diseases,” he said.

Ornish combines his dietary recommendations with other lifestyle recommendations. For the past three and a half years, Medicare has covered the Ornish program, and the doctor said cost savings are significant.

Questioned about the correlation between dairy casein and breast cancer, Ornish said, “There are studies that show a link, but I think the jury is still out to make that definitive.”

However, he said his program combining diet guidelines calling for elimination of meat and dairy with lifestyle changes has shown that progression of early-stage prostate cancer can be arrested and reversed. He expects to see similar results with breast cancer.

“We haven’t studied breast cancer, but we are doing that now, and most things that affect prostate cancer affect breast cancer as well because they are both hormonal diseases to a large extent,” he said.

In his book Whole, Campbell wrote about the effort of key people in the American Society for Nutrition to expel him from membership. The Society did not offer a spokesperson to be interviewed for this article and did not give a written statement about Campbell’s claims.

Today, Campbell divides his time between homes in New York and North Carolina and a rigorous lecture schedule. He is blunt in his assessment of the role of government in public health policy and nutrition, contending government is ignoring science and giving too much weight to corporate research.

A vast, global economy stretches from agriculture, including crops, livestock and agrochemical corporations, to the medical establishment, including hospitals, drug and pharmaceutical companies. That economy, Campbell said, is based on established dietary guidelines calling for consumption of meat and dairy.

“Research shows nutrition can determine if a carcinogenic exposure results in the development of cancer or whether the cancer cells are suppressed. Chemotherapy is really not a good approach. Radiation and surgery are not the best approach. We’ve been on the wrong track,” he said. “The public is being misled with tragic consequences.”

 

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14:19 The Facts About Fearbola» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
You'd think we know the difference between the truth claims of science and the tribal claims of culture -- it's tempting, but delusional.

When the young woman in the seat next to me asked the flight attendant for a glass of cabernet, I took it as a sign that projectile vomiting and explosive diarrhea would not be part of my trip from PHL to LAX.   I also took it as a reminder that the Ebola irrationality I’ve slammed in others is not as foreign to me as I’d like to believe.

I’d been in Philadelphia for a conference on science communication.  Scientists, social scientists, doctors, journalists and kindred spirits had come together to examine how facts make their way, or don’t, to policy makers and to the public.

Should there be a tax on carbon to reduce greenhouse gases?  How should we handle the conflict between parents who don’t want their kids vaccinated, and the public good of herd immunity? If you think that the quality of decisions like those depends on getting the most knowledge to the most people, then you believe what most scientists believe: it’s called the “knowledge deficit” model.  Explain to people that 97 percent of scientists agree that humans cause global warming, and they’ll realize that the jury on climate change is not still out.  Properly present the earth’s fossil record to people, and they’ll abandon creationism for evolution.  If only the media took the trouble to get the facts out, the myths would melt away.

But as I heard at the conference, cognitive scientists say that the knowledge deficit model is wrong.  Contrary facts don’t change our minds, they just make us dig our heels in harder.  We process information both rationally and emotionally, and our emotional apparatus gets there faster.  We use shortcuts, called heuristics, to deal with the data bombarding us, but those shortcuts are riddled with unconscious biases.  The problem isn’t that people are unaware of the facts.  It’s that awareness isn’t a machine – it’s a neural network, more like a lizard brain than an iPhone.

Our brains aren’t blackboards to write facts on; they’re billboards announcing our identities.  Facts aren’t simply facts – they’re tribal badges, ways to declare who we are.  We locate ourselves in culture not only by where we live, what we do and whom we love, but also by the information we’re willing to authorize as factual.  Trying to get people to change their minds about facts is a misbegotten enterprise because it amounts to forcing them to change their hearts about themselves.  As Yale professor Daniel Kahan, one of the conference’s organizers, has put it, “Don’t make reasoning, free people choose between knowing what’s known and being who they are.”

It’s tempting to think that people who conflate knowledge and identity are Others, not Us.  Our team knows better; we get the difference between the truth claims of science and the tribal claims of culture.  It’s tempting, but it’s delusional. 

That was driven home to me last Friday, on the final morning of the conference. Just before the session began, one of the panelists showed me a distraught message he’d received from a faculty member at Syracuse University.  The night before, I read in the email, Syracuse provost Eric Spina had disinvited Washington Post photojournalist Michel duCille from a workshop at the Newhouse School of Public Communications because he’d been in Liberia three weeks before.  For the 21 days since he’d been in West Africa, which the CDC says is Ebola’s incubation period, duCille had monitored his temperature twice a day.   As far as the experts were concerned, with no symptoms he was in the clear. 

But that didn’t cut it for Syracuse.  The Post story about the rescinded invitation quoted Newhouse dean Lorraine Branham saying this: “And that 21 day thing, some suggest the incubation period should be longer…. We thought it best to proceed with an abundance of caution.”  I had the same reaction to that as the faculty member who’d sent the email, and as Michel duCille, who told the Post: “I’m pissed off and embarrassed and completely weirded out that a journalism institution that should be seeking out facts and details is basically pandering to hysteria.”

If a student wrote that “some suggest” the CDC is wrong about the incubation period, I know what any good journalism instructor would say:  Who’s the source?  Who’s the “some” doing the suggesting?  Rand Paul?  Some cable news fearmonger?  The CDC isn’t infallible, but they don’t pull numbers out of the air, either; they’re scientists, and their guidelines come from evidence.  “Some suggest” that vaccines cause autism.  Should Syracuse, out of “an abundance of caution,” make inoculations optional?  If a journalism school doesn’t have an obligation to avoid false equivalence between science and paranoia, it might as well fold up its tent.

But by the time I got to the airport, I’d had a change of heart.  What if I were a parent of a Newhouse student?  What if 21 days is just an average?  What’s the harm in delaying the workshop for a week or two?  What if this young woman sitting next to me on the plane is a nurse, or a roommate of a nurse, at Texas Presbyterian?

There’s plenty of Ebola ignorance going around and plenty of political and financial incentives to keep it that way.  I’d like to say that the antidote to my fevered speculations is familiarity with the facts.  But if that were fully true, I’d be more Vulcan than human.  I’d like to believe that my calculations of risk are driven by what science knows about infectious diseases, not by my identities as parent, catastrophist, bureaucrat or disaster-porn addict.  But if I were able to process information independent of my affiliations and afflictions, I’d be an algorithm, not a person.  The next time I try to persuade someone that they’re wrong and science is right, I hope I first take a moment to walk in their shoes, and to feel uncomfortable about how comfortably they fit.

13:14 Listen up, red states: Expanding Medicaid saves money» Daily Kos
Local Ohioans Challenge Congressman Tiberi and Stivers to Support Medicare & Medicaid. June, 2011
Goal Thermometer

There's one, slight benefit to all those Republican lawmakers in red states refusing to expand Medicaid. They've provided a baseline for comparison to see how successful it is in the expansion states. Here's another measure, from a Kaiser Family Foundation analysis:

States that opted not to expand Medicaid under the health law will experience more spending growth this year than states that are growing the program, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation. […]

[T]he report shows that states that chose not to expand are projected to see a 6.8 percent increase in the amount of state taxpayer dollars that support Medicaid in fiscal 2015. States expanding the program will only see a 4.4 percent rise in state spending. So far, 27 states and the District of Columbia have expanded Medicaid.

The spending growth in non-expansion states will come even though enrollment is expected to grow at much lower rates than in expansion states. The number of people enrolled in non-expansion states is likely to go up by 5.2 percent, compared to 18 percent in expansion states in fiscal 2015.

So there's one more fiscal benefit to states that accept the expansion money—they're covering more people, and seeing costs rise more slowly. The fact that the federal government is paying 100 percent of the costs through 2016 accounts for a good part of the spending slowdown for state. Beyond that, the expansion states are saving money by not having to help pick up the costs of treating the uninsured. We already know that hospitals will save $5.7 billion this year, thanks largely to Medicaid expansion. It's a policy that makes good fiscal sense, as well as being the moral thing to do.
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This is darned good news for the states, and for the people in them, who took Medicaid expansion. It's one more really good argument to turn around the states that didn't, where Republican lawmakers have cruelly turned their low-income citizens into guinea pigs to show just how backwards they are.
12:28 The Republican Party continues its assault on science in the most insane way possible» Daily Kos
Goal Thermometer

Meet Lamar Smith (R-TX). He authored the SOPA bill that everyone loved a few years ago. He's a climate denier with all kinds of science sense.

While Smith admits to having studied some science in college, most of his science credentials come straight from Congress: he’s already served on the science committee for the past 26 years. His votes reflect a pattern of opposition to climate change and alternative energy efforts, sympathy to large industry in matters of copyright and patent law, deference to law enforcement on privacy issues, and moral policing of the internet.

Smith’s record on energy and the environment represents one of his most controversial policy arenas. He voted to bar the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases, voted no several times on tax credits for renewable energy and incentives for energy production and conservation, voted against raising fuel efficiency standards, and rejected implementation of the Kyoto Protocol. Opponents of the appointment have observed in recent days that Smith, like his predecessor Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX), have expressed skepticism about man-made global warming—a question that suffers no serious objection in scientific literature, but has become a contentious topic of debate after conservative groups cast it as a social problem in the 1990s.

He continues his crusade to make America safe from science and its commie scientists. He's been sending staffers to pour through the National Science Foundation's (NSF) material related to projects that the NSF has funded over the past decade. They've been by 4 times this summer alone:
The visits from the staffers, who work for the U.S. House of Representatives committee that oversees NSF, were an unprecedented—and some say bizarre—intrusion into the much admired process that NSF has used for more than 60 years to award research grants. Unlike the experts who have made that system work so well, however, the congressional staffers weren’t really there to judge the scientific merits of each proposal. But that wasn’t their intent.

The Republican aides were looking for anything that Representative Lamar Smith (R–TX), their boss as chair of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, could use to support his ongoing campaign to demonstrate how the $7 billion research agency is “wasting” taxpayer dollars on frivolous or low-priority projects, particularly in the social sciences. The Democratic staffers wanted to make sure that their boss, Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D–TX), the panel’s senior Democrat, knew enough about each grant to rebut any criticism that Smith might levy against the research.

The most immediate problem with all of this is that Rep. Smith is threatening the NSF's promise to researchers that its peer-review process remains confidential. The fundamental principal of research is the ability to make mistakes, to follow theories, unabashedly, and then take the harsh reviews and critiques of your scientific community. Here's how Smith goes about it all:
How did things get to this point? For the past 18 months, Smith has waged a very public assault on NSF’s storied peer-review system. He’s issued a barrage of press releases that ridicule specific awards, championed legislation that would alter NSF’s peer-review system and slash funding for the social science programs that have supported much of the research he has questioned, and berated NSF officials for providing what he considers to be inadequate explanations of their funding decisions.  
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Below the fold you'll find an example of what Smith is talking about and how backward and insane his methodology is.
12:07 How the Media's Hyper Ebola Anxiety Is Playing into the Hands of the Republicans » AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
If Republicans want the media to remain relentlessly focused on the anxious Ebola storyline prior to Election Day, they're in luck.

As Republicans seek to gain a partisan advantage by ginning up fear about the Ebola virus in preparation for the midterm election cycle, they're getting a major assist from the news media, which seem to be equally anxious to spread anxiety about the virus, and to implicate President Obama for the health scare. At times, Republicans, journalists, and commentators appear to be in complete sync as they market fear and kindle confusion. ("You could feel a shiver of panic coursing through the American body politic this week.")

The result is a frightening level of misinformation about Ebola and a deep lack of understanding of the virus by most Americans. Indeed, despite weeks of endless coverage, most news consumers still don't understand key facts about Ebola.

If the news media's job is to educate, and especially to clarify during times of steep public concerns, then the news media have utterly failed during the Ebola threat. And politically, that translates into a win for Republicans because it means there's fertile ground for their paranoia to grow. (Sen. Rand Paul: Ebola is "incredibly contagious.")

"They have all caught the Ebola bug and are now transmitting the fear it engenders to millions of Americans," lamented a recent Asbury Park (NJ) editorial, chastising the cable news channels. "It turns out that fear-mongering translates not only into dollars and cents for news-gathering organizations, but also allows talking heads to politicize the issue."

If Republicans want the media to remain relentlessly focused on the anxious Ebola storyline prior to Election Day, they're in luck. Last night, the homepage for the Washington Post featured at least 15 Ebola-related articles and columns. Already this week, the cable news channels have mentioned "Ebola" more than 4,000 times according to TVeyes.com -- or roughly 700 on-air references each day. The unfolding crisis is undoubtedly a major news story, but so much of the coverage --particularly on cable news -- has been more focused on fearmongering than solid information. It's a drumbeat that eventually becomes synonymous with fear and uncertainty, which dovetails with GOP's preferred talking point this campaign season.

And for Republicans, it's not just Ebola. The election season scare strategy that has emerged revolves around portraying the virus as the latest symptom of an America that's in startling decline and without any White House leadership able to deal with the crisis. As the New York Times reported on October 9, what has emerged as the GOP's unifying campaign theme is "decidedly grim." It alleges "President Obama and the Democratic Party run a government that is so fundamentally broken it cannot offer its people the most basic protection from harm."

Message: Panic looms. We stand exposed. Nobody's in charge. It's worse than you think.

The truth? "The risk of contracting Ebola is so low in the United States that most people would have to go out of their way to put themselves in any danger," as Medical Daily noted this week. Added one Florida doctor, "I tell people you're more apt to be hit by lightning right now than you are to get Ebola."

Yet two weeks into the domestic Ebola scare and it's often not easy to distinguish who's pushing the doomsday themes more energetically, the media or the Republican Party. I understand, for purely partisan reasons, why Republicans and their allies in the right-wing press are touting fear and paranoia in place of facts. But what's the news media's rationale?

The Times noted that the media assist on the GOP scare campaign is unmistakable: "Hear it on cable television and talk radio, where pundits and politicians play scientists speculating on whether Ebola will mutate into an airborne virus that kills millions."

On Wednesday, the Washington Post's Chris Cillizza dubbed the Ebola virus the "October surprise" of the 2014 elections and stressed that the panic and anxiety associated with the story is bound to swing votes. The next day, the Boston Globe announced Ebola "moved closer to becoming the next great American panic -- an anthrax or SARS for the social media age."

In fact, there are almost no outwards signs of an American Ebola panic. If there were a true panic, newscasts would be filled with reports of hospitals being flooded with patients terrified they might have the disease, travelers staying home en masse, people hoarding supplies, or tens of thousands of parents keeping their kids home from school. Instead, the virus hasn't hasn't yet infected anyone outside of a single hospital in Dallas. (And why, in a nation of 320 million people, would there be a "panic" over a virus that has killed one and infected two others?)

Nonetheless, echoing that Republican spin about faith and incompetence, Beltway pundits keep insisting Americans don't trust the government to deal with the Ebola threat, even though polling results keep debunking that campaign season talking point.

Appearing on Face the Nation, USA Today's Susan Page announced the following [emphasis added]:

I think both these stories, the Ebola virus and the threat from ISIS are feeding into a sense that a lot of Americans have that the world is not only a dangerous place but that the government is not competent to handle them. Even the Secret Service controversy I think contributes to that sense.I think that's a very dangerous thing for President Obama, the sense that his administration is not competent to protect the American people that is the most fundamental job of a U.S. President.

False.

Last week, a Pew Research poll found a majority of Americans, including 48 percent of Republicans, were confident in the government's ability to deal effectively with the Ebola situation. And this week an ABC News/Washington Postsurvey confirmed that finding: A majority of Americans are confident in "the federal government's ability to respond effectively to an outbreak of the Ebola virus in the United States." That includes a majority of Democratic voters, independents and Republicans.

So why the GOP-friendly Beltway chatter about how the Ebola story has destroyed our trust in government? And why is the press effortlessly amplifying Republican fear just weeks before the midterms?

 

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10:38 Terri Lynn Land the latest Republican to oppose a federal minimum wage» Daily Kos
Michigan Senate candidate Terri Lynn Land
Terri Lynn Land
Goal Thermometer

Add Michigan's Terri Lynn Land to the list of Republican candidates who don't have the nerve to argue for a lower minimum wage in their own states, but also don't think there should be any federal minimum wage at all. Responding to a questionnaire asking if she supported raising the minimum wage, Land began with some blah blah blah about how she supported the Republican move to raise Michigan's minimum wage a tiny amount, a move that only happened to keep a much larger increase from getting a ballot vote in November. So that was a bold stand, supporting the current law, and the fact that it kept her from facing voters who'd turned out to vote for a higher wage. Land concluded with this:

As a general rule, I believe this issue should be handled by the states, not the federal government.
So Terri Lynn Land believes there should be no federal floor on wages. However low politicians in any given state think they can get away with pushing down wages, that should be fine and dandy. Bear in mind that Land is seeking election to the United States Senate, a part of the federal government that she doesn't think should be involved in the issue of the minimum wage. In translation, if elected to the Senate, Land will not be voting to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.
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Land is just the latest Republican to oppose the federal minimum wage. Iowa's Joni Ernst also thinks states should be allowed to go as low as they want, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker thinks the minimum wage doesn't "serve a purpose."
08:22 Student loans and school funding cuts force Republicans on the defensive» Daily Kos
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett speaks at a news conference on the Penn State campus in State College, Pennsylvania January 2, 2013.  Corbett said he will file a federal lawsuit against the NCAA over sanctions it levied against Pennsylvania State Univer
Gov. Tom Corbett (R-PA)
Goal Thermometer

The Republican education agenda—privatization in the name of "school choice" and funding cuts—generally gets positive media coverage. But Republicans are getting an ugly reminder this election season that actual voters aren't so gullible. Democrats, meanwhile, have found in education a set of powerful messages that seem likely to mobilize turnout among the drop-off voters who vote Democratic in presidential years, then stay home in midterm years:

Accusing Republicans of cutting programs for students while giving tax breaks to the rich motivates diffident voters more than similarly partisan messages on reproductive rights, the economy or health care, veteran Democratic political strategist Celinda Lake found in a series of focus groups and polls.

Lake’s research, commissioned by MoveOn.org, included a survey of 1,000 Democratic voters who said they weren’t sure they’d bother to vote in the key states of North Carolina, Michigan, Kentucky, Colorado and Iowa. Coupling the education theme with talk about the middle class falling behind was “nearly a slam dunk with these targets,” Lake wrote.

Democratic strategists James Carville and Stan Greenberg came to a similar conclusion after polling 2,200 likely voters in battleground states. They found that unmarried women in North Carolina and Georgia were particularly swayed by messages about expanding access to early childhood education. In Iowa and Colorado, affordable college loans hit the mark. Combining those issues with an appeal to raise the minimum wage, they wrote, creates a “powerful, populist opportunity to shift the vote.”

Education unions are taking advantage, running ads and mail pieces against Republicans who have cut education funding or voted against lowering student loan interest rates. Republicans, meanwhile, are mostly trying to change the subject to terrorism, brown immigrants, Ebola, and the traditional divide-and-conquer—stirring up fear rather than addressing the underfunded schools and student debt affecting so many Americans—but some, like Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, and North Carolina Senate candidate Thom Tillis, have been forced on the defensive about education.
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Education touches the vast majority of voters, from overcrowded grade school classrooms to adult lives shaped by enormous student debt, and the Republican agenda would make these things worse. Why not? Their wealthy donors don't have to worry about any of that.
06:45 Ocean heat storage: a particularly lousy policy target + Update» RealClimate
The New York Times, 12 December 2027: After 12 years of debate and negotiation, kicked off in Paris in 2015, world leaders have finally agreed to ditch the goal of limiting global warming to below 2 °C. Instead, they have agreed to the new goal of limiting global ocean heat content to 1024 Joules. The […]

Fri 17 October, 2014

19:51 100 More GunFAILs, which brings us to GunFAIL LXXIX, but we're still not caught up.» Daily Kos
Five of 39 guns "forgotten" by their owners and found by TSA agents at airports across the country, Oct. 10-16. A total of 268 guns were discovered since the last GunFAIL list was published in mid-September.
Okay, it's time to get out of the summer doldrums, already. It's October, and time to get caught up and back to the weekly posting schedule. By the way, if you were keeping score at home, we would be somewhere around GunFAIL XCI if we'd published weekly during the summer.

Anyway, here's a quick and dirty rundown on the numbers in our most-frequently reported categories. From around mid-August to early September, we saw 11 "home invasion" shootings, that is, where someone has accidentally fired into their neighbors' home or property, not counting two additional instances of firing into a neighboring hotel room. There were also 11 target shooting accidents of various kinds, five hunting accidents, five accidents while cleaning still-loaded guns, six various FAILs involving law enforcement or security officers, three shootings of people mistaken for intruders, two accidental shootings arising from attempted interventions in ongoing attacks or robberies, three accidental discharges while out shopping or dining in public, and the first accidental discharge in the classroom of the still-young school year.

The really alarming numbers, though, were among those who accidentally shot themselves (33), those who accidentally shot a family member or significant other (11), and kids who were accidentally shot (29). Among all the carnage, 17 of the 100 incidents on the list resulted in fatalities.

Which were our most spectacular GunFAILs this time around? Number 14, which demonstrates the need to keep track of your weapon at all times and not accidentally throw it into a bonfire. Number 32, in which a grandmother mistook her 7-year-old grandson for an intruder and shot him. Number 37, in which a son argued with and then shot his father and fled, the mother called police, and when a deputy arrived, mom shot him, thinking it was her son returning. Number 52, in which an angry driver attempting a road rage shooting of a nearby driver accidentally shot himself in the head and killed himself. Number 91, the Idaho State University professor who accidentally shot himself in the foot in the middle of chemistry class. Number 65, in which a cameraman from the long-running TV reality show Cops was accidentally shot and killed during filming, by a cop. And finally, number 17, in which a man carrying his gun under Georgia's new "guns everywhere" law to a German-style biergarten in the Bavarian-themed tourist town of Helen accidentally shot himself in the hand, and the same bullet killed a visitor across the street.

That's some Responsible Gun Ownin', people. Details on the Hot 100 below the fold.

15:02 Victims of Domestic Violence Getting Longer Prison Sentences Than Their Childs' Abuser?» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
How 'failure to protect' laws are locking up mothers whose partners commit child abuse.

When they first started dating, Arlena Lindley said Alonzo Turner was a sweet guy. She said he was kind to her and her toddler son Titches. But a few months later, Turner began abusing them both. Punching, throwing, choking became part of their daily lives. When Lindley once tried to escape to her father’s house, Turner tracked her down, threw her in the trunk of his car and brought her back home.

Lindley tried to escape again after Turner whipped Titches with a belt, threw him against the wall and stuck his face in the toilet. She grabbed Titches and ran for the door, but Turner snatched him from her and locked her out of the house. Titches was dead by the end of the day. Turner pled guilty to murder and was sentenced to prison for life. Yet, Lindley was sent to prison, too. She got 45 years under Texas’ injury to a child by omission law.

Lindley’s story was reported in a Buzzfeed news investigation which exposed the dangerous outcomes of these “failure to protect” laws.  Buzzfeed found 28 mothers and domestic violence victims in 11 states who were sent to prison for at least 10 years for failing to protect their children from abuse:

"Almost half, 13 mothers, were given 20 years or more. In one case, the mother was given a life sentence for failing to protect her son, just like the man who murdered the infant boy. In another, the sentences were effectively the same: The killer got life, and the mother got75 years, of which she must serve at least 63 years and nine months. In yet another, the mother got a longer sentence than the man who raped her son. In one more, a father fractured an infant girl’s toe, femur, and seven ribs and was sentenced to two years; for failing to intervenethe mother got 30."

Buzzfeed found that at least 29 states have failure-to-protect laws, such as injury to a child “by omission,” by “permitting child abuse” or “enabling child abuse.” Nineteen other states have laws that could also be used to prosecute parents, such as “criminal negligence in the care of a child.” Maximum prison sentences for breaking these laws vary from one year to life. And in some states, they carry the same sentence as child abuse itself.

While these laws are designed to both hold mother and father responsible for protecting their children, the law isn’t applied equally. Buzzfeed found a total 73 cases against mothers, yet only four against fathers. Women commit 34 percent of serious or fatal cases of child abuse.

“Mothers are held to a very different standard,” law professor Kris McDaniel-Miccio said. 

Being victims of domestic violence is often used against mothers. Buzzfeed explains that when Texas, where Lindley was charged, created its law in 1977, lawmakers didn’t have domestic violence victims in mind. In fact, it was more geared toward parents who purposely put their children in harm's way, for instance, by not feeding them so they would starve. Many of these state laws were created in the 1960s during a movement of tougher child abuse laws. By the 1970s, domestic violence advocates organized for protections against victims. In the 1990s, Texas added such a protection to its law, but it didn’t guard mothers who were aware of previous acts of child abuse.  

The author of an Oklahoma failure-to-protect law, Rep. Jari Askins (D-OK), said she understands the complexity of domestic violence, but doesn’t believe laws need to offer such specific protections for domestic violence victims. Instead, she has faith in defense lawyers to present the full story to the jury and judge.

But instead of working in the victim's favor, a history of domestic violence is often held against victims. Buzzfeed wrote:

"Some point to failed attempts to leave the abusive partner as proof that the mother wasn’t completely helpless and could have done more to save her child. Others cite contact with police or social service workers about domestic violence prior to the child’s injury as missed opportunities to disclose more about the danger posed to the child. Many, in one way or another, present the man’s violence as a testament to the mother’s poor decision-making."

Stephanie Avalon, resource specialist for the federally funded Battered Women’s Justice Project, said, “It’s the ultimate blaming of the victim.”

In a followup article, Buzzfeed explored the effects these laws have on children who survive child abuse. The piece featured Collin Grant, whose mother went to jail for 20 years under Oklahoma’s “enabling child abuse” law. Colin’s mother was also a victim of domestic violence. However, she got a longer prison sentence than her former husband, who was sentenced to 15 years for raping Colin.

Colin didn’t see his mother for five years, until he turned 18. He grew up being shuffled between shelters and group homes. Colin said he wished he would have never come forward about his stepfather’s abuse, because he essentially lost his mother.

“The one person I was supposed to be able to turn to for almost anything — I didn’t have that,” he said. “My mother is one of the most caring people in the world.” 

 

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Wed 15 October, 2014

06:38 The Impulse Society: How Our Growing Desperation for Instant Connection Is Ruining Us» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
Consumer culture does everything in its power to persuade us that adversity has no place in our lives.

The following is an excerpt from Paul Roberts' new book, The Impulse Society: America in the Age of Instant Gratification (Bloomsbury, 2014). Reprinted here with permission.

The metaphor of the expanding fragile modern self is quite apt. To personalize is, in effect, to reject the world “as is,” and instead to insist on bending it to our preferences, as if mastery and dominance were our only mode. But humans aren’t meant only for mastery. We’re also meant to adapt to something larger. Our large brains are specialized for cooperation and compromise and negotiation—with other individuals, but also with the broader world, which, for most of history, did not cater to our preferences or likes. For all our ancestors’ tremendous skills at modifying and improving their environment, daily survival depended as much on their capacity to conform themselves and their expectations to the world as they found it. Indeed, it was only by enduring adversity and disappointment that we humans gained the strength and knowledge and perspective that are essential to sustainable mastery.

Virtually every traditional culture understood this and regarded adversity as inseparable from, and essential to, the formation of strong, self-sufficient individuals. Yet the modern conception of “character” now leaves little space for discomfort or real adversity. To the contrary, under the Impulse Society, consumer culture does everything in its considerable power to persuade us that adversity and difficulty and even awkwardness have no place in our lives (or belong only in discrete, self-enhancing moments, such as ropes courses or really hard ab workouts). Discomfort, difficulty, anxiety, suffering, depression, rejection, uncertainty, or ambiguity—in the Impulse Society, these aren’t opportunities to mature and toughen or become. Rather, they represent errors and inefficiencies, and thus opportunities to correct—nearly always with more consumption and self-expression.

So rather than having to wait a few days for a package, we have it overnighted. Or we pay for same-day service. Or we pine for the moment when Amazon launches drone delivery and can get us our package in thirty minutes.* And as the system gets faster at gratifying our desires, the possibility that we might actually be more satisfied by waiting and enduring a delay never arises. Just as nature abhors a vacuum, the efficient consumer market abhors delay and adversity, and by extension, it cannot abide the strength of character that delay and adversity and inefficiency generally might produce. To the efficient market, “character” and “virtue” are themselves inefficiencies—impediments to the volume-based, share-price-maximizing economy. Once some new increment of self-expressive, self-gratifying, self-promoting capability is made available, the unstated but overriding assumption of contemporary consumer culture is that this capability can and should be put to use. Which means we now allow the efficient market and the treadmills and the relentless cycles of capital and innovation to determine how, and how far, we will take our self-expression and, by extension, our selves— even when doing so leaves us in a weaker state.

Consider the way our social relationships, and the larger processes of community, are changing under the relentless pressure of our new efficiencies. We know how important community is for individual development. It’s in the context of community that we absorb the social rules and prerequisites for interaction and success. It’s here that we come to understand and, ideally, to internalize, the need for limits and self-control, for patience and persistence and long-term commitments; the pressure of community is one way society persuades us to control our myopia and selfishness. (Or as economists Sam Bowles and Herbert Gintis have put it, community is the vehicle through which “society’s ‘oughts’ become its members’ ‘wants.’ ”) But community’s function isn’t simply to say “no.” It’s in the context of our social relationships where we discover our capacities and strengths. It’s here that we gain our sense of worth as individuals, as citizens and as social producers—active participants who don’t merely consume social goods, but contribute something the community needs.

But community doesn’t simply teach us to be productive citizens. People with strong social connections generally have a much better time. We enjoy better physical and mental health, recover faster from sickness or injury, and are less likely to suffer eating or sleeping disorders. We report being happier and rank our quality of life as higher—and do so even when the community that we’re connected to isn’t particularly well off or educated. Indeed, social connectedness is actually more important than affluence: regular social activities such as volunteering, church attendance, entertaining friends, or joining a club provide us with the same boost to happiness as does a doubling of personal income. As Harvard’s Robert Putnam notes, “The single most common finding from a half century’s research on the correlates of life satisfaction, not only in the United States but around the world, is that happiness is best predicted by the breadth and depth of one’s social connections.”

Unfortunately, for all the importance of social connectedness, we haven’t done a terribly good job of preserving it under the Impulse Society. Under the steady pressure of commercial and technological efficiencies, many of the tight social structures of the past have been eliminated or replaced with entirely new social arrangements. True, many of these new arrangements are clearly superior—even in ostensibly free societies, traditional communities left little room for individual growth or experimentation or happiness. Yet our new arrangements, which invariably seek to give individuals substantially more control over how they connect, exact a price. More and more, social connection becomes just another form of consumption, one we expect to tailor to our personal preferences and schedules—almost as if community was no longer a necessity or an obligation, but a matter of personal style, something to engage as it suits our mood or preference. And while such freedom has its obvious attractions, it clearly has downsides. In gaining so much control over the process of social connection, we may be depriving ourselves of some of the robust give-and-take of traditional interaction that is essential to becoming a functional, fulfilled individual.

Consider our vaunted and increasing capacity to communicate and connect digitally. In theory, our smartphones and social media allow us the opportunity to be more social than at any time in history. And yet, because there are few natural limits to this format—we can, in effect, communicate incessantly, posting every conceivable life event, expressing every thought no matter how incompletely formed or inappropriate or mundane—we may be diluting the value of the connection. 

Studies suggest, for example, that the efficiency with which we can respond to an online provocation routinely leads to escalations that can destroy offline relationships. “People seem aware that these kinds of crucial conversations should not take place on social media,” notes Joseph Grenny, whose firm, VitalSmarts, surveys online behavior. “Yet there seems to be a compulsion to resolve emotions right now and via the convenience of these channels.”

Even when our online communications are entirely friendly, the ease with which we can reach out often undermines the very connection we seek to create. Sherry Turkle, a sociologist and clinical psychologist who has spent decades researching digital interactions, argues that because it is now possible to be in virtually constant contact with others, we tend to communicate so excessively that even a momentary lapse can leave us feeling isolated or abandoned. Where people in the pre-digital age did not think it alarming to go hours or days or even weeks without hearing from someone, the digital mind can become uncomfortable and anxious without instant feedback. In her book Alone Together, Turkle describes a social world of collapsing time horizons. College students text their parents daily, and even hourly, over the smallest matters—and feel anxious if they can’t get a quick response. Lovers break up over the failure to reply instantly to a text; friendships sour when posts aren’t “liked” fast enough. Parents call 911 if Junior doesn’t respond immediately to a text or a phone call—a degree of panic that was simply unknown before constant digital contact. Here, too, is a world made increasingly insecure by its own capabilities and its own accelerating efficiencies.

This same efficiency-driven insecurity now lurks just below the surface in nearly all digital interactions. Whatever the relationship (romantic, familial, professional), the very nature of our technology inclines us to a constant state of emotional suspense. Thanks to the casual, abbreviated nature of digital communication, we converse in fragments of thoughts and feelings that can be completed only through more interaction—we are always waiting to know how the story ends. The result, Turkle says, is a communication style, and a relationship style, that allow us to “express emotions while they are being formed” and in which “feelings are not fully experienced until they are communicated.” In other words, what was once primarily an interior process—thoughts were formed and feelings experienced before we expressed them—has now become a process that is external and iterative and public. Identity itself comes to depend on iterative interaction—giving rise to what Turkle calls the “collaborative self.” Meanwhile, our skills as a private, self-contained person vanish. “What is not being cultivated here,” Turkle writes, “is the ability to be alone and reflect on one’s emotions in private.” For all the emphasis on independence and individual freedom under the Impulse Society, we may be losing the capacity to truly be on our own.

In a culture obsessed with individual self-interest, such an incapacity is surely one of the greatest ironies of the Impulse Society. Yet it many ways it was inevitable. Herded along by a consumer culture that is both solicitous and manipulative, one that proposes absolute individual liberty while enforcing absolute material dependence—we rely completely on the machine of the marketplace—it is all too easy to emerge with a self-image, and a sense of self, that are both wildly inflated and fundamentally weak and insecure. Unable to fully experience the satisfactions of genuine independence and individuality, we compensate with more personalized self-expression and gratification, which only push us further from the real relationships that might have helped us to a stable, fulfilling existence.

 

 

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Tue 14 October, 2014

13:11 Why Oregon Is About to Be the Poster Child for How to Legalize and Regulate Marijuana» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
25 percent of tax revenues will go to mental health and substance abuse agencies.

At the International Cannabis Business Conference (ICBC) in Portland last month, the atmosphere was that of a winning NASCAR pit crew during the victory lap. Bullish is too weak a word to characterize the 700 vape pen purveyors and cannabis attorneys in attendance (they’d come from as far as Alabama and India). The vibe was bullish but congenial. Inclusive, not cutthroat. On Day Two, an attendee was doing tai chi in the Portland Convention Center hallway in between speakers.

This was not lost on the producer of the event, 43-year-old Alex Rogers. “Let’s face it, Oregon’s a relaxed place, a collaborative place,” he said. “You can leave your pretentions and hangups at the door and you won’t get kicked when you do business.”

The Oregon business mode, to Rogers, is nothing less than part of  “a cultural transformation. If you’re in the cannabis and hemp industry, you will fail if you’re only about the money with no ethics; no consciousness about this plant.”

But Rogers, perhaps practicing that ethic himself, quickly added that there was another, bottom-line reason for the touchy-feely aura at an event whose entrance fee was $499. “We’re at the point in the cannabis industry’s evolution where even your competitor’s growth is good for you,” he said. 

When not producing one of the traveling ICBC conferences (the next one’s in San Francisco in February), Rogers owns one of Oregon's largest medical marijuana clinics. He told me he has no problems with profit. In fact, Roger’s win-win economic growth curve for legal cannabis is reason number-one why the passage of Oregon’s Measure 91, which will legalize and regulate all forms of cannabis (including hemp) if voters approve it on November 4, matters to my family, even here in New Mexico. It provides a new Green Standard for how to make legalization work for everyone from families to law enforcement to home cultivators. (The measure had a four-point lead in a September poll, though I predict an eight-point margin of victory.)

Drafted by Portland’s Anthony Johnson and his nationally funded New Approach Oregon team, Measure 91 is the best cannabis regulation model in the world to date. In fairness, Colorado had to do it Colorado’s way, and Washington had to do it Washington’s way. The savvy initiative drafters in those states did what they had to do to tear down the drug war Berlin Wall—they had 70 years of drug war lies to deal with. Oregon is benefitting from seeing what can be done better, and I hope the whole world is watching.

There are a number of key reasons why Measure 91 is the new benchmark. The first reason sticks to the economic benefits theme: revenues (including both tax revenue and an immediate $71 million in annual savings in cannabis enforcement) are expected to be $100 million per year, according to a 2012 study by Harvard economist and Cato Institute fellow Jeffrey Miron.

I’m not the only one who thinks Miron’s estimate is conservative, not just because of the industry growth curve Rogers described at the ICBC, but because a single county I followed in California for a year generates $6 billion annually from its wholesale cannabis crop. Add to that total significant ancillary tax revenue from garden stores, farm equipment retailers and local tourism jobs. Colorado, at $25 million in taxes collected alone and counting, is far ahead of projections for its first, cautious year of retail cannabis sales.

Whatever the total on the ground, the Oregon bounty is divvied in a brilliantly conceived way, both to dampen law enforcement opposition and generate real revenue for the state by eliminating the black market for the world’s number-one harvest.

Fifteen percent of tax revenues go to state police, 10 percent to city police, 10 percent to county law enforcement, 40 percent to education (via the state’s Common School Fund), and 25 percent to agencies dealing with mental health and substance abuse. That breakdown has the former U.S. Attorney for Oregon Kris Olsen, former Oregon state Supreme Court Justice William Riggs, Methodist Minister David Bean, Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer and the state’s former director of addiction and mental health services Richard Harris speaking in support of the initiative, not to mention pretty much all regional media and the New York Times

The health perspective has been getting a good deal of play in the Beaver State. That’s because “Measure 91 will offer education, prevention and treatment,” for people with substance abuse problems, mental health expert Harris said.

As for what is being legalized: adults can possess up to eight ounces of cannabis and cultivate up to four plants. Producers will be taxed at $35 per ounce of flowers. (Leaves and immature plants are taxed differently.)

In an earlier interview, Graham Boyd, former director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Drug Policy Litigation Project, and a fellow who has been involved in cannabis initiatives since 1996, told me that Measure 91 “represents a very strong team of legal minds working on a responsible initiative at a time of growing voter support for our side of the issue.”

That’s why the big boys of drug peace have contributed generously. New Approach has raised $1.5 million both from grassroots efforts and from the usual suspects in successful cannabis regulation campaigns. The late Peter Lewis’ organization and George Soros’ Drug Policy Alliance are both in to the tune of six figures. Opposition has been late and scant, with $150,000 in funding for groups like the state Sherriff’s Association and the Narcotics Enforcement Association; a sign of the times and the strength of the initiative. Indeed, last week one Measure 91 opponent, a county DA named Josh Marquis, told Oregon Public Radio that even he “would not object to a measure that actually said it’s legal to grow, as an adult, say one or two plants at home.” The whole problem is a difference of two plants in a garden? That’s a tepid, and let us hope, a losing strategy.

The truly beneficial reality of the initiative’s nuts and bolts are important, especially as bottom-line arguments for undecided voters who aren’t cannabis aficionados. But for Anthony Johnson, the reason Measure 91 is so important is much more personal. “A good friend of mine in high school had his life ruined by a small cannabis possession arrest,” he told me at the ICBC conference as he manned the booth of the new Oregon Cannabis Industry Association.

Even with Measure 91’s passage, he said, “I’ll continue to work for sensible cannabis laws across the country and across the world until the best policies are in place everywhere. Until no one is judged, let along going to prison for using this plant that’s much safer than alcohol.”

The 37-year-old Johnson will talk to you about the benefits of Measure 91 to Oregon’s tax coffers—he co-wrote the wording. But for him generating revenues for the state from the cannabis and hemp industry is just “the icing on the cake. This is about civil liberties, the best parts of America. About freeing law enforcement to go after dangerous criminals. We’re trying to lead the country to a better future.”

As of the last Gallup poll, close to 60% of Americans nationwide support this valuable crop being snatched from organized crime, and brought into the tax base. Seniors and veterans awakening to the value of aboveground cannabis for economic and health reasons have added to majority support for ending the war on cannabis in once unheard-of places like Kentucky, Texas, Illinois and Florida.

Cannabis legalization (which means its removal from the federal Controlled Substances Act to allow states to regulate it) has, in remarkably rapid fashion, transformed from political liability to campaign rallying cry. Want proof? In California (which will fully legalize cannabis in 2016), cannabis advocates are throwing support to a Republican pro-legalization attorney general candidate over Obama darling but cannabis-silent Kamala Harris, the Democrat.

How did that seemingly counter-intuitive reality come about? Partly through staunch legalization resistance by entrenched California Democrats with strong pharmaceutical company ties. But it’s proved a fragile resistance among the rank and file. Forty percent of Colorado Republicans voted to legalize cannabis in 2012, and this election cycle that awareness is working its way into platforms. Plus, youth turnout, the Holy Grail for Democrats, was up hugely in both Colorado and Washington in the 2012 cannabis legalization elections. That has even traditionally resistant Democratic political camps like the Clintons putting out drug peace feelers.

As a sustainability journalist and solar-powered goat rancher, it is vital to me that the coming cannabis industry (and indeed any industry) prove environmentally sustainable. Unsurprisingly (if you’ve ever spent a minute in Oregon), Measure 91 deals successfully with both of these issues. The home cultivation clause in the initiative is a key one on the sustainability side, to codify the presence of cannabis as part of American outdoor garden, and to prevent big business monopolies and genetic patenting. And the comprehensive addressing of cannabis products like edibles and tinctures pushes cannabis past the final hurdle remaining in front of the true drug peace finish line: social stigma.

 

This is how I characterize that hurdle: most Americans today, even those who have enjoyed cannabis, if they read a news story about a pilot or teacher who was fired simply because cannabis was in her life, accept it, as they wouldn’t had the pilot or teacher been in possession of a more dangerous beer (or prescribed pharmaceutical). Victory in the drug war is a reversal of that assumption. Be thankful when it’s just legal cannabis and not an opiate, not a violent drunk.

Oregon, in Measure 91’s details (there is no “per se” blood intoxication percentage for cannabis included in Measure 91, for instance), permits us to finally begin to address the importance of updated intoxication laws in this medicated era. It does that by leveling the playing field between cannabis and alcohol, and allowing society to create its sobriety laws based on science, rather than rhetoric. The studies so far indicate that’s going to be bad for drinkers and users of pharmaceuticals, and good for responsible cannabis aficionados. Especially if they haven’t ingested cannabis in the hours before they are driving, flying or teaching—the same expectations we have for folks who enjoy alcohol.

Earlier this year, I asked a Eugene-area state legislator named Floyd Prozanksi about the advent of public venues designed to allow cannabis enjoyment alongside Oregon’s famous (and profitable) microbrew market. “We don’t have a free-for-all with alcohol,” he said. “We have open-container laws, and I can foresee licensed establishments providing cannabis access.” 

Imagine not being a criminal for choosing, in responsible adult social situations where a beer would be acceptable, an herb rather than alcohol. That, let us pray, becomes reality on November 4 in the Beaver State. 

But the absolute best part of Measure 91 is the inclusion of an industrial hemp clause mandating that the state agriculture division issue permits to farmers to cultivate cannabis with less than .3% THC. This is needed. Even though Oregon is one of the 19 states totally in accord with federal law if it permits hemp research farms (as Kentucky, Colorado and Vermont have done this year), it denied the only permit application that came before it in 2014. That hurt the crop the state should most be assisting, and put Oregon a year behind other states that want to profit from what, in Canada, is already a billion-dollar industry. In fairness, one of the agriculture division’s explanations for the hemp application denial was that the state needed time to establish a program, which it says it will in time for planting season in the spring.

That single application was brought forth by Portland attorney Courtney Moran on behalf of eastern Oregon farmer Rick Rutherford. Moran said her motivation for the pro bono work was that, “hemp is truly the greatest renewable resource available to mankind.”

Another former Oregon family farmer, Ryan Basile of Silverton, wants to get back to the land with a hemp crop so badly that he filmed a powerful ”Yes on 91” television commercial set against a classic Oregon farm and barn background.

“The hemp clothing you see at the store and the hemp seed you eat comes from abroad,” Basile says in the spot, with a soft-spoken, no-nonsense, I’m-a-rural-Oregonian delivery. “That’s money we can be keeping in Oregon. Farming is a difficult business. With a cash crop like hemp, it can make all the difference.”

Fresh back from visiting four debut Kentucky hemp harvests this week, I know that industrial hemp is going to be even bigger than psychoactive cannabis.You have to start somewhere. Even profitable new (if traditional) crops don’t magically appear in soil. Seems getting said crop in the ground takes more than just farmers, seed and rain. It takes voters, ag bureaucrats and lawyers, too, evidently. With the passage of Measure 91, hemp is going to be healing monoculture-damaged Oregon soil by the thousands of acres while putting family farmers back to work as of 2015. Better still, this is just the birth of an industry that will within twenty years out-earn any other crop in Oregon.

Which brings us back to ICBC producer Rogers’ point on the real dollar value of Oregon’s progressive, un-stressed, optimistic culture. “As a kid activist twenty years ago I used to shout about how hemp can save the planet and people would laugh. Now no one’s laughing. I didn’t realize how right we were. Oregon is ready to capitalize on the truth about this plant.” (Not just Oregon. Washington hemp farmers are poised for a big 2015 as well.)

What we’re seeing in the Pacific Northwest is a future for humanity, if these modes catch on, that isn’t bleak. As a patriot, a father, and a cannabis researcher, I can say with confidence that Measure 91 is part and parcel of that journey to a stronger, safer, healthier America.

 

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I recently received a joint email from the World Meteorological and Health organisations (WMO & WHO) which I like to bring to the attention of our readers. Both because it shows the direction of some new developments, but also because the WMO and WHO are inviting people to share their experience with health and climate. […]

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06:56 We Spend $9 Billion a Year to Lock Up People With Mental Illnesses: Here's What We Should Do Instead» AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed
San Antonio, TX has found a better approach to mental illness than handcuffs and jail cells.

This is part two of a short film series on criminalization produced by Brave New Films and theNation. Read part one here.

Michelle Mata wants to be treated the way you would want your mom to be treated. She’s an aunt, and a neighbor. She likes line dancing. And she suffers from major depressive disorder with psychotic features.

When Mata has had episodes in the past, people have called the cops. The situations were scary and frustrating for everyone involved. The police didn’t know how to interact with her and she was terrified the police would use excessive force.

But things are getting better.

The state of mental health services in this country is unacceptable. Instead of social workers, we have armed law enforcement officers. Instead of treatment facilities, we have prisons and jails. More than half of the people behind bars have shown recent symptoms of mental health problems. The Cook County jail in Chicago is now the biggest single-facility provider of mental health services in the country. Nearly $9 billion per year is spent locking up people struggling with mental illness; 356,368 severely mentally ill people were imprisoned in 2012 alone.

But correctional control isn’t helping. Many people leave the system worse off, having gone without treatment and services that could have changed the course of their lives. Too often, this means they keep coming back instead of getting better. 

It’s time to cut out the middleman. People shouldn’t have to be arrested and thrown in a cell to get treatment. That only adds cost and wastes time. People should get the help they need, as quickly as possible.

San Antonio, Texas is trying. Ninety-five percent of police officers in San Antonio have gone through Crisis Intervention Training (CIT), a program that teaches them how to spot the symptoms of mental illness and how to safely and effectively interact with someone struggling with a mental health crisis. People with mental illnesses, including Michelle Mata, work with the police officers to teach them how they should be treated. Instead of putting people in handcuffs and taking them to jail, officers in San Antonio now take them to a center staffed with mental health professionals.

In the new short film series, OverCriminalized, we interviewed several members of the San Antonio police force. They report that they are much more confident and comfortable dealing with mental health crises after going through the training. Most importantly, since the implementation, none of the CIT teams have used extreme force. No one has been shot or Tased; simply talking to people in crisis has proven to be effective policing.

But it’s not just about how to police, it’s about the entire goal of these interactions. People struggling with mental illness are no longer taken to a jail cell, by way of lengthy and expensive stops in the ER. This program has saved the city about $50 million.

It’s good to celebrate what’s happening in San Antonio. But we need to step back and ask how the city got into this problem in the first place. The answer is that for decades, this county has been shoving social problems like mental illness and drug addiction into a criminal justice system ill-equipped to solve them. This mass criminalization has led to way too many people behind bars, often for too long and for reasons that have no business being crimes in the first place. Communities of color have been hardest hit.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. America can safely reduce our reliance on incarceration; several states have reduced their prison populations while crime rates have dropped. San Antonio is leading the way on finding better approaches to mental illness than handcuffs and jail cells, and other cities should follow suit.

OverCriminalized, a new series produced in partnership with Brave New Films and the Nation, profiles three promising and less expensive interventions that may actually change the course of people’s lives. Sign the petition to urge Congress to provide treatment for those who suffer from mental illness. 

 

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06:34 The Last Post» The Oil Drum - Discussions about Energy and Our Future

The Oil Drum (TOD) was an internet energy phenomenon that ran for over eight years from April 2005 to September 2013. The site was founded by Prof. Goose (also known as Professor Kyle Saunders of Colorado State University) and Heading Out (also known as Professor Dave Summers formerly of the Missouri University of Science and Technology).

The site took off with the advent of Hurricane Rita in September 2005 and resulted in the first 200+ comment event, indicating that there was demand for a site where concerned citizens could gather round a camp fire to discuss events impacting their energy supplies and ultimately, their well being. In eight years, >960,000 comments have been posted. Two other energy linked disasters, the Deepwater Horizon blowout and the Fukushima Daiichi reactor melt downs would see readership soar to >75,000 unique visits per day.

These pages have hosted over 7,500 articles covering every aspect of the global energy system. It was not unusual for a post to attract over 600 comments, many of which were well informed and contained charts and links to other internet sources. The site would become known for a uniquely high level of discourse where armchair analysts of all stripes added their knowledge to threads in a courteous, and ultimately pro-social way that energy experts at hedge funds, corporations or universities might not have the freedom to do. It is this emergent property of smart people sharing knowledge on a critical topic to humanity's future that will be missed.

The site was built on twin backbones that would often pull the readership in opposite directions. Drumbeats, edited by Leanan (who remains anonymous to this day) provided daily energy news digest and a forum for debate. And articles, written by a legion of volunteer writers, that strove to provide a more quantitative analysis of global energy supplies and the political, social and economic events that lay behind them. All the content would not have been possible without the tireless efforts of Super G, our site engineer, who maintained and updated software and hardware as the site grew and evolved for over eight years on a voluntary basis.

In the course of 2013, a decision was made to archive The Oil Drum and the main purpose of this Last Post is to provide some direction to new and future readers of the vast content it contains. The main contributors are listed below along with links to where their writings can be now be found. If you are looking for content there are two main options. The first is to look for author specific content where clicking on the live hyper linked name of the contributor will take you to a page giving access to all the content produced by that author. The second option is to use the Advanced Search facility at the top left of this page. Simply enter a few key words and this will return a page of the most relevant articles.


Editorial board

Arthur Berman (aeberman) Arthur E. Berman is a petroleum geologist with 35 years of oil and gas industry experience. He worked 20 years for Amoco (now BP) and 15 years as consulting geologist. He gives keynote addresses for energy conferences, boards of directors and professional societies. He has been interviewed about oil and gas topics on CBS, CNBC, CNN, Platt’s Energy Week, BNN, Bloomberg, Platt’s, Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, Rolling Stone and The New York Times.

He was a managing editor and frequent contributor of theoildrum.com, and an associate editor of the AAPG Bulletin. He is a Director of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil, and has served on the boards of directors of The Houston Geological Society and The Society of Independent Professional Earth Scientists. He has published more than 100 articles on petroleum geology. He has done expert witness and research work on several oil and gas trial and utility commission hearings.

He has an M.S. (Geology) from the Colorado School of Mines and a B.A. (History) from Amherst College.

Nate Hagens is a well-known speaker on the big picture related to the global macroeconomy. Nate's presentations address opportunities and constraints we face in the transition away from growth based economies as fossil fuels become more costly. On the supply side, Nate focuses on biophysical economics (net energy) and the interrelationship between money and natural resources. On the demand side, Nate addresses the behavioral underpinnings to conspicuous consumption and offers suggestions on how individuals and society might better adapt to the end of growth. He will be writing at themonkeytrap.us.

Nate has appeared on PBS, BBC, ABC, NPR, and has lectured around the world. He holds a Masters Degree in Finance from the University of Chicago and a PhD in Natural Resources from the University of Vermont. Previously Nate was President of Sanctuary Asset Management and a Vice President at the investment firms Salomon Brothers and Lehman Brothers. Nate is the former President of the Institute for the Study of Energy and Our Future (non-profit publisher of The Oil Drum), is current US Director of the Institute for Integrated Economic Research, and serves on the Board of the Post Carbon Institute. Nate also served as the lead editor of the Oil Drum for several years.

Rembrandt Koppelaar has since 2010 been a Research Associate at the Swiss Institute for Integrated Economic Research (IIER), where he works on modelling of costs of resource and energy flows. Since June 2012 he combines this with a PhD research position at Imperial College London, to contribute to a spatial simulation of the resource flows of an economy at a micro-level using agent-based approaches. He joined the Oil Drum in 2006 first as a contributor and later as an editor, triggering by his concern in oil depletion. An interest that also led him to establish and become President of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil & Gas Netherlands from 2006 to 2010. He is author of the book “De Permanente Oliecrisis” discussing the end of cheap oil and its consequences (Dutch language, Nieuw Amsterdam publishers, 2008). Rembrandt holds a BSc and MSc in economics from Wageningen University, the Netherlands.

Brian Maschhoff (JoulesBurn) earned a B.S. in Chemistry from the University of New Mexico and a Ph.D in Chemistry from the University of Arizona. He has worked at several academic institutions and government laboratories, and currently engages in a wide variety of scientific and technical pursuits including web-based education, data visualization, and research on salmon recovery. His research on the oil fields of Saudi Arabia is also posted at Satellite o'er the Desert. He also blogs at Picojoule, and he might eventually be found @joulesburn on Twitter.




Euan Mearns has B.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees in geology from The University of Aberdeen. Following an academic career in Norway and a business career in Scotland I took time off work in 2005 to help care for two sons and two dogs and to allow my wife's career to blossom. In 2006, wondering why the oil price and the value of my oil stocks kept going up I stumbled upon the The Oil Drum that provided unique insight, at that time, into The Earth energy system. Feeling the need to put something back I submitted a couple of articles and have since written roughly 100 posts and hosted many guest posts from worthy authors.

In 2009 I was appointed as Honorary Research Fellow at The University of Aberdeen and teach occasional courses there. For the last 7 years, writing and editing articles for The Oil Drum has consumed a fair portion of my time, but I have in return learned a huge amount. I also continue to work as a consultant for the oil industry. The focus of my interest is the importance of energy to society, society's response to the infrastructure and secondary impacts of energy provision and the political response. I plan to continue writing about Energy, Environment and Policy at Energy Matters.

New post, 8th October: UK North Sea Oil Production Decline
New post 18th November: Marcellus shale gas Bradford Co Pennsylvania: production history and declines
New post, 28th November: What is the real cost of shale gas?
New post, 9th December: OPEC oil production update July 2013
New post, 18th December: OECD oil production update July 2013
New post, 3rd January: Global Oil Supply Update July 2013
New post, 6th January: The Primary Energy Tale of Two Continents

Paul Sears was born in the UK, and did a Ph.D. in chemistry at Cambridge. Since first coming to Canada on a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Western Ontario in 1973, he has worked at the University of Toronto and in the Canadian Federal Government in Ottawa. Most of his work since the mid 1970s has been on the supply and use of energy in one form or another. His interest in the limitations to oil supply dates back to about 1962, when he was at school watching a promotional film from an oil company. The subject of the film was oil exploration, and this caused him to wonder about the dependence of our society on oil and the limits to supply. Other interests are canoeing, kayaking, skiing, hiking, camping, keeping planted aquaria and learning Mandarin Chinese. Sadly, Paul Sears passed away on September 13, 2012. You can read an obituary here.

Dave Summers who writes under the pen name, "Heading Out", comes from a family that for at least nine generations has been coal miners, and he started his working life, as an Indentured Apprentice, in 1961 shoveling coal on one of the last hand-won coal faces in the UK at Seghill, after a few weeks supplying that face with the help of a pit pony. With bachelor’s and doctoral degrees from Leeds University in the UK he moved to Rolla, Missouri and Missouri University of Science and Technology (then UMR) in 1968. He was named Curators’ Professor of Mining Engineering in 1980 and for many years directed the Rock Mechanics and Explosives Research Center at MS&T. His main work has been in the developing use of high-pressure water for cutting, cleaning and demilitarization. As one of the quiet revolutions that has crept into industry during his career, his research group worked in nuclear cleanup, rocket motors, and surgical applications as well as developing tools to cut, drill and mine more mundane rock, coal and metals. The team carved the half-scale Stonehenge out of Georgia granite, using only water, and later cut Edwina Sandy’s Millennium Arch from Missouri granite, both of which are on the MS&T campus. They also used the technique in a demonstration excavation that resulted in creating the OmniMax theater under the Gateway Arch in St Louis.

He retired from the University, and was named Emeritus in 2010, and lives quietly with his wife Barbara, with occasional commutes to visit their children, located on the two coasts very far from rural America.

In 2004 he began to write a blog, and in 2005 teamed with Kyle Saunders to jointly found The Oil Drum, a site for “discussions on energy and our future.” He now writes on energy, the applications of waterjets, a little on the use of the 3D modeling program Poser, and occasionally on climate matters. His blog, where the Tech Talks continue, can be found at Bit Tooth Energy. He again thanks all those who have contributed to The Oil Drum over the years and wishes them joy and prosperity in their futures!

Dr. David Archibold Summers has written numerous articles, a textbook, Waterjetting Technology, and jointly holds several patents, the last two of which have been licensed and deal a) with the use of waterjets to remove skin cancer and b) for high speed drilling of small holes through the earth.

Gail Tverberg (Gail the Actuary) became interested in resource limits and how these affect insurance companies and the economy more generally in 2005. She began writing about this issue while working as a property-casualty actuarial consultant at Towers Watson. In 2007, she took early retirement to work specifically on the issue of oil limits.

Between 2007 and its suspension in 2013, Gail worked as a contributor and editor at TheOilDrum.com. She also started her own blog, OurFiniteWorld.com, where she continues to write on a regular basis. Her writings include Oil Supply Limits and the Continuing Financial Crisis, published in the peer-reviewed journal Energy in January 2012. She has spoken at at many conferences on subjects related to oil limits, including both academic and actuarial conferences. She now plans to write a book, tentatively called "Discontinuity Ahead: How Oil Limits Affect the Economy."

Gail worked for CNA Insurance prior to joining Tillinghast (which eventually became part of Towers Watson) in 1981. She has a BA in Mathematics from St. Olaf College and an MS in Mathematics from the University of Illinois, Chicago. She is a fellow of the Casualty Actuarial Society and a member of the American Academy of Actuaries.

Her Twitter feed is @gailtheactuary.

Chris Vernon originally graduated with a masters degree in computational physics before working for ten years in the field of mobile telecoms specialising in radio network architecture and off-grid power systems in emerging markets. He subsequently returned to university to take an MSc in Earth system science and a PhD in glaciology focusing on the mass balance of the Greenland ice sheet. Chris is a trustee at the Centre for Sustainable Energy, works for the UK Met Office and maintains a personal web page.







Selected contributors

Big Gav studied Engineering at the University of Western Australia in Perth. Since then he has travelled widely and worked in the oil and gas, power generation, defence, technology and banking industries. He has been blogging about peak oil for almost 3 years at Peak Energy (Australia) and is probably the most prolific example of a techno-optimist in the peak oil world. He may be alone in thinking that peak oil represents a great opportunity to switch to a clean energy based world economy, rather than the trigger for the end of industrial civilisation.

Jason Bradford is currently a Farm Manager in Corvallis, OR and a Managing Partner for a sustainable farmland fund, Farmland LP. Most of his writing for The Oil Drum occurred while he lived in Willits, CA, where he was instrumental in the founding of Willits Economic Localization, hosted a radio program called "The Reality Report," and was a board member of the local Renewable Energy Development Institute. He also founded and ran a small farm at a local elementary school with a lot of community support and the backing of The Post Carbon Institute, where he is currently a board member. His brief but enjoyable academic career began at Washington University in St. Louis and the Missouri Botanical Garden (MBG), where he taught courses in Ecology and from which he received a doctorate in Evolution and Population Biology in 2000. After graduation he was hired by the Center for Conservation and Sustainable Development at MBG, and between 2001 and 2004 secured grants from the National Science Foundation and the National Geographic Society for multi-disciplinary research on issues related to species extinction and ecosystem function. His "aha moment" came during this research period where the connections between environmental decline, resource consumption, economic growth, belief systems and institutional inertia led to a dramatic change in the course of his life's work.

He continues to blog at Farmland LP.

David Murphy is an Assistant Professor in the Geography Department and an Associate of the Institute for the Study of the Environment, Sustainability, and Energy, both at Northern Illinois University. He serves also as an Environmental Policy Analyst for the Environmental Science Division at Argonne National Laboratory. Dr. Murphy’s research focuses on the intersection of energy, economics, and the environment. Recently, his work has focused on estimating how the extraction of natural gas in the Marcellus Shale has impacted the provision of ecosystem services from the local environment. In addition, he researches how the energy return on investment from oil is related to oil price and economic growth. Dr. Murphy's work for Argonne National Laboratory addresses the environmental impacts associated with energy development.

He tweets: @djmurphy04

Robert Rapier works in the energy industry and writes and speaks about issues involving energy and the environment. He is Chief Technology Officer and Executive Vice President at Merica International, a forestry and renewable energy company involved in a variety of projects around the world. Robert has 20 years of international engineering experience in the chemicals, oil and gas, and renewable energy industries, and holds several patents related to his work. He has worked in the areas of oil refining, natural gas production, synthetic fuels, ethanol production, butanol production, and various biomass to energy projects. Robert is the author of Power Plays: Energy Options in the Age of Peak Oil. He is also the author of the R-Squared Energy Column at Energy Trends Insider. His articles on energy and sustainability have appeared in numerous media outlets, including the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, The Economist, and Forbes.

Jeff Vail (jeffvail) is an energy intelligence analyst and former US Air Force intelligence officer. He has a B.S. in engineering and history from the US Air Force Academy and a Juris Doctor from the University of Denver Sturm College of Law. His interests are in global energy geopolitics and the the "rhizome" theory of social and economic organization. He is the author of the political anthropology book A Theory of Power and maintains a blog at http://www.jeffvail.net.

Jérôme à Paris is an investment banker in Paris, specialised in structured finance for energy projects, in particular in the wind power sector. After graduating from the Ecole Polytechnique in Paris, he wrote his Ph.D. in economics in 1995 on the independence of Ukraine, with a strong focus on the gas relationship between Ukraine and Russia, and he worked on financings for the Russian oil & gas industry for several years after that. He is the editor of the European Tribune, a community website on European politics and energy issues. He has written extensively about energy issues, usually from an economic or geopolitical angle for the European Tribune and for DailyKos where he led a collective effort to draft an energy policy for the USA, Energize America.

Rune Likvern After Rune's first time seeing The Oil Drum (TOD and Institute for the Study of Energy and Our Future; ISEOF), in 2005 he created an account as nrgyman2000 and later got an invitation to become part of the staff of volunteer writers at what was then TOD Europe. In 2008 he started to post under his real name.

He is a Norwegian presently living in Norway and holding a masters degree from what is now the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. For more than two decades he was employed in various positions by major international oil companies, primarily Statoil, working with operations, field/area developments (in the Norwegian sector of the North Sea) and implementation (primarily logistics) of Troll Gas Sales Agreement (TGSA) which is about natural gas deliveries to European customers. This was followed by a period as an independent energy (oil/gas fields assessments, cash flow analysis, portfolio analysis etc.) consultant and as VP for an energy hedge fund in New York. In recent years he had a sabbatical to do more in depth research, reading and participating in discussions about energy, biology (what makes human {brains} what they are and why), and not least financial and economic subjects in several global forums as well as some advisory work.

Presently he is looking for gainful employment/engagements.

He also posts on his blog Fractional Flow
(primarily in Norwegian, but some future posts are planned for in English).

Phil Hart studied Materials Engineering at Monash University in Melbourne before spending five years with Shell UK Exploration and Production, based in Aberdeen, Scotland. He worked on two new North Sea oil and gas field development projects followed by a stint with the Brent field maintenance team as a corrosion engineer. In late 2006, Phil returned to Melbourne and was for a while an active member of the Australian Association for the Study of Peak Oil. He provided many briefings to government, business and community audiences and is still available for presentations around Melbourne and Victoria. Phil now works primarily in the water industry but consults as required for The Institute for Sensible Transport as well. He is also a keen astronomer and night sky photographer: www.philhart.com.

Luís Alexandre Duque Moreira de Sousa (Luís de Sousa) is a researcher at the Public Research Institute Henri Tudor in Luxembourg and a Ph.D. student in Informatics Engineering at the Technical University of Lisbon. Luís created the first Portuguese language website dedicated to Peak Oil in 2005 (PicoDoPetroleo.net); in 2006 he would be one of the founders of ASPO-Portugal and later that year integrated the team that started the European branch of The Oil Drum. Since then he has continuously written about Energy and its interplay with Politics and Economics, both in English and Portuguese. Luís is a regular presence at the collective blog European Tribune and writes on the broader issues of life on his personal blog AtTheEdgeOfTime.

Sat 21 September, 2013

14:34 The House That Randy Built» The Oil Drum - Discussions about Energy and Our Future

One of the nice aspects of the 7+ years I have been involved with The Oil Drum has been attending conferences and meeting with some of my cyber friends, who by and large figure among the nicest bunch of folks I ever met. In 2007 I attended the ASPO meeting in Houston and it was then that I met Randy Udall for the first time. Well you know what some Americans are like - you meet, you chat a while, discover you get along, down a couple of beers and before you know it you are invited to go visit. And so it was with Randy Udall....


The house that Randy built, sunk low in the Colorado terrain, provides shelter from winter storms and from exposure to summer sun. Photovoltaics, solar hot water (on the roof) and a single wood burner (chimney) provides all the energy needs.

Three years later, my wife and I had a trip planned to the States to go visit Dave Rutledge (another cyber mate) at his mountain lodge in New Mexico and I thought it would be cool to visit Randy en route. We exchanged a couple of emails, he warned that his wife Leslie was cautious about some of his friends coming to stay and that his son once claimed that the family lived in a "mud hut" and by now I was wondering if this was such a good idea. But plans were made and we went to stay with Randy in Colorado for a couple of days in August 2011; on arrival, any trepidation melted away.


A "mud hut", not quite. The stucco exterior finish covers thick foam insulation that in turn covers compressed earth (adobe) blocks. This provides protection from winter cold and summer heat, and thermal inertia from the large temperature swings prevalent in this part of the world.

At first sight Randy's house did indeed have the feel of a "mud hut" but upon entering the reality of a beautifully and lovingly crafted passive house unfolded. I was astonished to learn that Randy had designed and built every inch of this house himself, including the manufacture of every compressed earth brick and the hammering in of every nail - in neat serried ranks.

I wish I had recorded the vital statistics but the mass of bricks was carefully calculated to provide thermal inertia, keeping the house warm in winter but cool in summer. I was also very surprised to learn that all of the insulation was on the outside of the masonry structure which is the opposite of the way we build our houses in the UK. South-facing windows collect wintertime solar energy and the adobe block walls and brick floors soak up much of that heat energy, keeping the home warm through cold nights. During the summer, just opening the windows at night cools off the massive floors and walls, helping the house stay cool during hot days. Putting the insulation on the outside of the exterior walls is the only way to make this adobe wall strategy work effectively.

The house was set low in the terrain, providing protection from winter storms and from the worst excesses of summer heat. Outside you find a large solar PV array, providing a surplus of electricity and solar hot water arrays on the south facing roofs providing all the hot water required and, if my memory serves correctly, some interior heating during winter time.


The rather plain exterior gave way, inside, to simple, beautifully crafted, elegance.


Every timber cut and every nail hammered by one man. This is a masterpiece that will hopefully endure.

Inside, beautiful craftsmanship provides simple but elegant living space to match the view of Mount Sopris that dominated the surrounding landscape. Not many of us leave a lasting legacy. Randy has left memories of a wonderful and thoughtful teacher and a house that will hopefully stand as a testimony to his passion for sustainable living for centuries to come.


The view out of the front window wasn't that bad either. Mount Sopris (3,952 m /12,965 ft) offered Randy and his family fantastic walking, climbing and ski mountaineering opportunities.


Renewable energy and renewable transport. I am seldom pleased with the pictures I take, but there is something about this one I really like.


On the second evening of our visit, we dined with the local mayor and downed a few glasses of red. Randy may look pensive but he is actually looking at his lap top, has my credit card and is planning a road trip for us through Mesa Verde and Grand Canyon en route to New Mexico, one of the best trips my wife and I have ever made. He knew this area like the back of his hand.

To some, this house and lifestyle may seem fabulously exuberant. But the house, in fact, was built for a relatively tiny amount of money with most of the cost coming by way of blood, sweat, tears, knowledge and love of a vision for the future. These Udalls lived a simple life with a very strong sense of community involvement.

Most folks who read these pages will already know that in June of this year Randy died aged 61 of natural causes while hiking alone in the Wind River range of Wyoming, hunting for wild trout. The tragedy here is that he was snatched from his family and the sustainable living community he championed 10 to 20 years prematurely.

Thank you to Leslie Udall for consent to publish this article and to Steve Andrews for some useful editorial comments.

Thu 19 September, 2013

21:27 Twenty (Important) Concepts I Wasn't Taught in Business School - Part I» The Oil Drum - Discussions about Energy and Our Future


Twenty-one years ago I received an MBA with Honors from the University of Chicago. The world became my oyster. Or so it seemed. For many years I achieved status in the metrics popular in our day ~ large paychecks, nice cars, travel to exotic places, girlfriend(s), novelty, and perhaps most importantly, respect for being a 'successful' member of society. But it turns out my financial career, shortlived as it was, occurred at the tail end of an era ~ where financial markers would increasingly decouple from the reality they were created to represent. My skill of being able to create more digits out of some digits, (or at least being able to sell that likelihood), allowed me to succeed in a "turbo" financial system that would moonshot over the next 20 years. For a short time I was in the 1% (and still am relative to 'all humans who have ever lived'). Being in the 1% afforded me an opportunity to dig a little deeper in what was really going on (because I quit, and had time to read and think about things for 10 years). It turns out the logic underpinning the financial system, and therefore my career, was based on some core flawed assumptions that had 'worked' in the short run but have since become outdated, putting societies at significant risks.

Around 30% of matriculating undergraduate college students today choose a business major, yet 'doing business' without knowledge of biology, ecology, and physics entirely circumvents first principles of how our world really works ~ my too long but also too short summary of the important things I wasn't taught in business school is below.


The Blind men and the Elephant, by Rudyard Kipling

Business as usual as we know it, with economics as its guide and financial metrics as its scorecard, is in its death throes. The below essay is going to appear critical of finance and the nations (world's) business schools. But it is too, critical, of our entire educational system. However, physicists, plumbers and plowmen do not have the same pull with respect to our cultural goals and narrative that financial folk do - as such an examination of the central assumptions driving society is long overdue. But before I point out what I didn't learn in MBA school, I want to be fair - I did learn things of ‘value’ for the waters I would swim in the future: statistics, regression, how to professionally present and to facilitate meetings, and some useful marketing concepts. Of course, like any 20 something student, 1/2 of the value of graduate school is learning to interact with the group of people that will be your peers, and the relationships and contacts that develop. Plus the placement office was very helpful in getting us jobs as well.

The culture at Salomon Brothers impressed me the most and I landed in their Private Investment Department, where we were basically stockbrokers for the uber-rich - as a trainee I wasn't allowed to call on anyone worth less than $50 million (in 1993). After Salomon shut our department down I went to a similar job at Lehman Brothers. At Lehman I increasingly felt like a high paid car salesmen and after 2 years quit to go work for a client, develop trading algorithms on commodities and eventually started my own small fund. But increasingly, instead of trading or trying to grow my business I found myself reading about oil, history, evolution and ecological issues. It really bothered me that 'externalities' were not priced into our goods or profits. One day, on a hike, it struck me that what I was doing felt spiritually hollow and despite it ‘paying the bills’ I began to realize I was more interested in learning about how the world worked and maybe doing something about improving it. In 2002 I gave my clients their money back, embarked on basically a 2 year hiking trip with my dog, and a car full of books. Eventually I would obtain a PhD in Natural Resources, but like many of you my real degree was obtained on this site, interacting with the many and varied people I met and continue to call friends and mentors. I am continuing to work on, or at least think about, making the near and long term future better, despite the tall odds, while living on a small farm in Wisconsin. More on this below.

In the years that have passed, modern society has become a crazy mélange of angst, uncertainty and worry. Many of us intuitively recognize that we’ve constructed a ginormous Rube Goldberg machine which for a number of reasons may not continue to crank out goods and services for the next 30-40 years. We blame this and that demographic for our declining prospects – the Republicans, the environmentalists, the greedy rich, the lazy poor, the immigrants, the liberals, etc. We blame this and that country or political system – evil socialists, heartless capitalists, Chinese, Syrians, Europeans, etc. We watch TV and internet about the latest ‘news’ influencing our world yet are not entirely confident of the connections. But underlying all this back and forth are some first principles, which are only taught piecemeal in our schools, if at all. Below is a short list of 20 principles underpinning today’s global ‘commerce’. I should note, if I was a 25 year old starting business school, eager to get a high paying job in two short years, I wouldn’t believe what follows below, even if I had time or interest to read it, which I probably wouldn't.

20. Economic 'laws' were created during and based on a non-repeatable period of human history

"I found a flaw. I was shocked because I'd been going for 40 years or more with very considerable evidence that it was working exceptionally well." Alan Greenspan testimony to Congress, Oct 2011

Click image to enlarge.

The above graphic shows a three-tiered time history of our planet, starting with the top black line being geologic time. The tiny black sliver on the far right, is enlarged in the second line, and the sliver on its far right is again enlarged on the bottom line, where the last 12,000 years are shown. We, both our environment, and ourselves, are products of this evolutionary history. Our true wealth originates from energy, natural resources and ecosystem services, developed over geologic time. Our true behavioral drivers are a product of our brains being sculpted and honed by 'what worked' in all 3 eras of this graph (but mostly the top 2). The dark line on the bottom is human population, but just as well could be economic output or fossil fuel use, as they have been highly correlated over this period.

The economic ‘theories’ underpinning our current society developed exclusively during the short period labeled 'A' on the graph, on a planet still ecologically empty of human systems and when increasing amounts of extraordinarily powerful fossil energy was applied to an expanding global economic system. For decades our human economies seemed to follow a pattern of growth interrupted by brief recession and resumption to growth. This has made it seem, for all intents and purposes, that growth of both the economy and aggregate individual wealth was something akin to a natural law –it is certainly taught that way in business schools. The reality is that our human trajectory –both past and future - is not a straight line but more like a polynomial - long straight stretches, up and down, with some wavy periods in the middle, and ultimately capped. Our present culture, our institutions, and all of our assumptions about the future were developed during a long 'upward sloping' stretch. Since this straight line period has gone on longer than the average human lifetime, our biological focus on the present over the future and past makes it difficult to imagine that the underlying truth is something else.

Evidence based science in fields like biology and physics has been marginalized during this long period of 'correlation=causation'. This oversight is not only ubiquitous in finance and economics but present in much of the social sciences, which over the past 2 generations have largely conflated proximate and ultimate explanations for individuals and societies. In nature geese fly south for the winter and north in the spring. They do this based on neurotransmitter signals honed over evolutionary time that contributed to their survival, both as individuals and as a species. "Flying north in spring" is a proximate explanation. "Neuro-chemical cues to maximize food/energy intake per effort contributing to survival" is an 'ultimate' explanation. In business school I was taught, 'markets go north' because of invention, technology and profits, an explanation which seemed incomplete to me even though it has appeared to be valid for most of my life. Social sciences have made great explanations of WHAT our behavior is, but the descriptions of WHY we are what we are and HOW we have accomplished a vast and impressive industrial civilization are still on the far fringes of mainstream science. Economics (and its subset of finance) is currently the social science leading our culture and institutions forward, even if now only by inertia.

19. The economy is a subset of the environment, not vice versa

If people destroy something replaceable made by mankind, they are called vandals; if they destroy something irreplaceable made by God, they are called developers.
Joseph Wood Krutch

When you have to classify the very capacity of the Earth to support life as an "externality", then it is time to rethink your theory. --Herman Daly--

Click image to enlarge.

Standard economic and financial texts explain that our natural environment is only a subset of a larger human economy. A less anthropocentric (and more accurate) description however, is that human economies are only a subset of our natural environment. Though this may seem obvious, currently anything not influencing market prices remains outside of our economic system, and thus only actively 'valued' by government mandates or by some individuals, not by the cultural system as a whole. A landmark study in NATURE showed that the total value of 'ecosystem services' -those essential processes provided to humans by our environment like: clean air, hydrologic cycles, biodiversity, etc. if translated to dollar terms, were valued between 100-300% of Global GNP. Yet the market takes them for granted and does not ascribe value to them at all!!! Part of reason is that the negative impacts from market externalities aren't immediate, and with our steep discount rates (see below), the near term 'benefits' of GDP outweigh 'abstract' costs at some unknown future date.

Mankind's social conquest of earth has brought with it some uncomfortable 'externalities'. We are undergoing a 6th great extinction, which is no wonder given that humans and our livestock now outweigh wild animals by almost 50:1. Our one species is appropriating over 30% of the Net Primary Productivity of the planet. (One can ask, how can we use 30% of sunlight yet have 50x the weight of the other vertebrates and the answer, as we will see below, is our consumption of fossil carbon). A short list of deleterious impacts not incorporated into prices/costs includes: air pollution, water pollution, industrial animal production, overfishing (90% of pellagic fishes (tuna) in ocean are gone), nuclear waste, biodiversity loss, and antibiotic resistance. Perhaps the most ominous is the threat of climate change and ocean acidification, where humans, via burning large amounts of fossil carbon, are impacting global biogeochemical systems in profound and long-lasting ways.

Since GDP, profits and 'stuff' are how we currently measure success, these 'externalities' only measurement is the sense of loss, foreboding and angst by people paying attention. Such loss is currently not quantified by decision makers. In the past, only when there was a ‘smoking gun’ e.g. in the case of chlorofluorocarbons, DDT, unleaded gasoline, did society organize and require rules and regulations for the externalities, but these examples, as serious as they were, were not anathema to the entire human economy.

18. Energy is almost everything

Without natural resources life itself is impossible. From birth to death, natural resources, transformed for human use, feed, clothe, shelter, and transport us. Upon them we depend for every material necessity, comfort, convenience, and protection in our lives. Without abundant resources prosperity is out of reach.
— Gifford Pinchot Breaking New Ground (1998), 505.

In nature, everything runs on energy. The suns rays combine with soil and water and CO2 to grow plants (primary productivity). Animals eat the plants. Other animals eat the animals. At each stage of this process there is an energy input, an energy output and waste heat (2nd law of thermodynamics). But at the bottom is always an energy input. Nothing can live without it. Similarly, man and his systems are part of nature. Our trajectory from using sources like biomass and draft animals, to wind and water power, to fossil fuels and electricity has enabled large increases in per capita output because of increases in the quantity of fuel available to produce non-energy goods. This transition to higher energy gain fuels also enabled social and economic diversification as less of our available energy was needed for the energy securing process, thereby diverting more energy towards non-extractive activities. The bottom of the human trophic pyramid is energy, about 90% of which is currently in the form of fossil carbon. Every single good, service or transaction that contributes to our GDP requires some energy input as a prerequisite. There are no exceptions. No matter how we choose to make a cup, whether from wood, or coconut, or glass or steel or plastic, energy is required in the process. Without primary energy, there would be no technology, or food, or medicine, or microwaves, or air conditioners, or cars, or internet, or anything.

A long term graph of human output (GDP) is one highly correlated with primary energy use. For a while (1950s to 1990s) improvements in efficiency, especially in natural gas plants, complemented energy use as a driver of GDP, but most of these have declined to now have only minor contributions. Since 2000, 96% of our GDP can be explained by 'more energy' being used. (For more data and explanation on this, please see "Green Growth - An Oxymoron"). Some resource economists have claimed that the relationship between energy and the economy decoupled starting in the 1970s, but what happened was just an outsourcing of the 'heavy lifting' of industrial processes to cheaper locations. If one includes energy transfers embedded in finished goods and imports there isn’t a single country in the world that shows a disconnect between energy use and GDP. Energy it turns out, not dollars, is what we have to budget and spend. Quite simply, energy is the ability to do work. How much work, we'll see below.

17. Cheap energy, not technology, has been the main driver of wealth and productivity

Click image to enlarge.

The chemical potential energy available from the burning of things (e.g. wood) is rather astounding when compared with the energy which we supply our bodies in the form of food, and the fossil fuels of coal, oil, and natural gas burn even hotter while also being much easier to store and transport. We quickly learned that using some of this heat to perform work would transform what we could accomplish in massive ways. One barrel of oil, priced at just over $100 boasts 5,700,000 BTUs or work potential of 1700kWhs. At an average of .60 kWh per work day, to generate this amount of 'labor', an average human would have to work 2833 days, or 11 working years. At the average hourly US wage rate, this is almost $500,000 of labor can be substituted by the latent energy in one barrel of oil that costs us $100. Unbeknownst to most stock and bond researchers on Wall Street, this is the real ‘Trade’.

The vast majority of our industrial processes and activities are the result of this ‘Trade’. We applied large amounts of extremely cheap fossil carbon to tasks humans used to do manually. And we invented many many more. Each time it was an extremely inefficient trade from the perspective of energy (much more energy used) but even more extremely profitable from the perspective of human society. For instance, depending on the boundaries, driving a car on a paved road uses 50-100 times the energy of a human walking, but gets us to where we are going 10 times faster. The ‘Trade’ is largely responsible for some combination of: higher wages, higher profits, lower priced goods and more people. The average american today consumes ~60 barrel of oil equivalents of fossil carbon annually, a 'subsidy' from ancient plants and geologic processes amounting to ~600 years of their own human labor, before conversion. Even with 7 billion people, each human kWh is supported by over 90kWh of fossil labor, and in OECD nations about 4-5 times this much.

Technology acts as an enabler, both by inventing new and creative ways to convert primary energy into (useful?) activities and goods for human consumption and, occasionally, by making us use or extract primary energy in more efficient ways. Even such services that appear independent of energy, are not so- for example, using computers, iPhones, etc in aggregate comprise about 10% of our energy use, when the servers etc are included. Technology can create GDP without adding to energy use by using energy more efficiently but:

a) much of the large theoretical movements towards energy efficiency have already occurred and

b) energy saved is often used elsewhere in the system to build consumption demand, requiring more and more primary energy (Jevons paradox, rebound effect). Technological improvement thus does increase efficiency, but higher levels of resource consumption and a larger scale of resource extraction offset this advantage.

Despite the power in the Trade, its benefits can be readily reversed. Firstly, if we add very large amounts of primary energy, even if it is inexpensive, the wage increases/benefits start to decline. But more importantly, and has been happening in the past decade or so, as energy prices increase, so too do the benefits of the “Trade” start to wane. The graph to the right (source, page 18) shows that as the price of energy doubles or triples the benefits of this 'Trade' quickly recede. This is especially true for energy intensive transportation, like air travel, and for highly energy intensive processes, like aluminum smelting, cement manufacture- fully 30% of US industry falls into this category. The ensuing reduction in 'salary' from large energy price increases can only partially be offset by efficiency measures or lean manufacturing moves, because the whole 'Trade' was predicated on large amounts of very cheap energy. This is why the mainstream media touting increased oil production or the growth rate in solar/wind is missing the larger point - what matters are the benefits derived at the various cost points of energy extraction/harnessing. Even with large amounts of gross energy, if it is too costly, it is much less helpful or worse, the infrastructure, trade arrangements and expectations built upon continued $40 oil and $0.05kWh electricity will have to be changed. Basically, the benefits to human societies from the mammoth bank account we found underground are almost indistinguishable from magic. Yet we have managed, over time, to conflate the Magic with the Wizard.

16. Energy is special, is non-substitutable in the production function, and has an upward sloping long term cost curve

"Oil is a renewable resource, with no intrinsic value over and above its marginal cost... There is no original stock or store of wealth to be doled out on any special criterion... Capital markets are equipped to handle oil depletion...It is all a matter of money", M.A. Adelman, Professor of Economics, MIT Source

Physics informs us that energy is necessary for economic production and, therefore growth. However, economic texts do not even mention energy as a factor that either constrains or enables economic growth. Standard financial theory (Solows exogenous growth model, Cobb Douglas function) posits that capital and labor combine to create economic products, and that energy is just one generic commodity input into the production function - fully substitutable the way that designer jeans, or earrings or sushi are. The truth is that every single transaction that creates something of value in our global economy requires an energy input first. Capital, labor and conversions are ALL dependent on energy. For instance, the intro text by Frank and Bernanke (2d ed., 2004, p. 48) offers explanations for increased productivity: …increased quantity of capital per worker, increased # of workers, and, "perhaps the most important,...improvements in knowledge and technology." Nowhere in standard economic literature is there even a hint that the "improvement" in technology they refer to has, historically, been directly linked to the progression of displacing solar-powered human and animal muscle with larger and larger quantities of energy from oil, coal, and gas. Though energy is central (in that even more difficult ore grades require more overburden to extract, requiring more diesel fuel, etc), energy is not the only key limiter – other minerals and metals are finite and deteriorating in quality and cannot be (easily) replaced.

Since energy seemed the same as any other commodity economic models assumed that energy and resources would follow the same decreasing cost curve we have come to expect from gadgets like toasters and coffee cups, where the technology, outsourcing of parts to their lowest cost countries, and efficiencies of scale have generally formed a declining cost over time. For a while, energy too followed this curve, but given that high quality resources are finite, and require high quality processed resources themselves to extract and refine, eventually the cost curve of energy and other key minerals and ores, begins to rise again. This 'dual view' of energy vs regular everyday products is a key failing in economic texts. But for most of the past 60-70 years however this omission was perhaps understandable, as there WAS a continuing supply of cheap energy so its worth seemed to be just the dollar price of it. For most, this is still the dominant worldview – dollars are more important than energy.



Historical cost curves for oil, coal and natural gas for Europe - Graph source: Rune Likvern Click to enlarge

15. Energy has costs in energy terms, which can differ significantly than dollar signals

“It is appropriate to conclude that, as long as the sun shines brightly on our fair planet, the appropriate estimate for the drag on the economy from increasing entropy is zero. William Nordhaus

“ The laws of economics are like the laws of engineering. There's only one set of laws and they work everywhere. One of the things I've learned in my time at the World Bank is that whenever anybody says "But economics works differently here", they're about to say something dumb. Lawrence H. Summers

“ ... the world can, in effect, get along without natural resources ... at some finite cost, production can be freed of dependence on exhaustible resources altogether.... Nobel Laureate Robert Solow

In nature, animals expend energy (muscle calories) in order to access energy (prey). The return on this ‘investment’ is a central evolutionary process bearing on metabolism, mating, strength and survival. Those organisms that have high energy returns in turn have surplus to withstand the various hurdles found in nature. So it is in the human system where the amount of energy that society has ‘to spend’ is that left over after the energy and resources needed to harvest and distribute that energy are accounted for. Finite resources typically follow a 'best first' concept of resource extraction. As we moved from surface exploration based on seeps to seismic surveys showing buried anticlines, to deep-water and subsalt reservoir exploration, and finally to hydro-fracturing of tight oil formations , the return per unit of energy input declined from over 100:1 to something under 10:1. To economists and decision makers only the dollar cost and gross production mattered during this period, as after all, more dollars would ‘create’ more energy flowing through our economies. Net energy can peak and decline while gross energy continues to rise, and indeed can go to zero when there is still plenty of gross resource remaining. Everything we do will become more expensive if we cannot reduce the energy consumption of specific processes faster than prices grow. Yet, financial texts continue to view economic activity as a function of infinite money creation rather than a function of capped energy stocks and finite energy flows.



Left chart - western Majors price needed for cash flow break even in yellow, overlayed on OPEC vs non-OPEC crude oil production. Source IEA, Goldman Sach 4/13 report 'Higher long term prices required for troubled industry'. Right curve total oil production from Western Majors - source

Irrespective of the dollar price tag, it requires about 245 kilojoules to lift 5kg of oil 5 km out of the ground. Similar biophysical costs apply to every energy extraction/harnessing technology we have - but they are all parsed into financial terms for convenience. After all, isn't it dollars (euros, yen, renminbi) that our system is trying to optimize? But these physical input requirements will not vary whether the number of digits in the worlds banking system increases or shrinks or goes away. Though fossil fuels are our primary source of wealth, they were created a long time ago, and in drawing down their bounty we have not needed to pay the price of their generation, only their extraction. And, despite enormous amounts of sunlight hitting the earth everyday, real (and significant) resources need to be expended in order to harness and convert the sunlight into forms and at places where it can be used.



There is an enormous difference between ‘gross’ and ‘net’ which manifests in financial sphere via costs. Irrespective of our choice of nominal statistic measuring GDP (wampum or dollars or digits or gold), an increasing % of them will be allocated to the energy sector. If our objective is just to increase GDP, we can just keep growing gross energy by locating and exploiting deeper and deeper pockets of fossil hydrocarbons, but eventually our entire food, healthcare, entertainment infrastructure will be to provide for a giant mining operation. Few media outlets (none actually) handicap the new surge in gross USA oil production by a)capex requirements going up faster than oil prices, b) the enormous increase in diesel use in the shale plays and c) the higher API gravity oil (42 for Bakken, 55 for Eagleford) which exaggerate energy content per barrel between 3.5% and 10.7%. Under current trends, the implications of energy depletion is we will move from energy costing less than 5% of our economy to 10-15% or more. In addition to the obvious problems this will create, we will be using lower quality energy as well. As oil has become more expensive, we are increasingly going towards coal and wood to replace it. Already, in countries with a large drop in ability to afford (e.g. Greece) are cutting down forests to heat their homes in winter.
Net energy is what societies should be focused on, and most don’t even know what it is.

14. Money/financial instruments are just markers for real capital

Some material things make my life more enjoyable; many, however, would not. I like having an expensive private plane, but owning a half-dozen homes would be a burden. Too often, a vast collection of possessions ends up possessing its owner. The asset I most value, aside from health, is interesting, diverse, and long-standing friends. Warren Buffet - The Giving Pledge


Some of my 'real capital': Natural capital - my backyard with trees, sun, water, Social capital Here 2 of my dogs, but equally my friends, contacts and family relationships, Built capital Our house, with solar hot water, chain saws, an aloe vera plant, and a deck, and Human Capital My health and skills (identifying edible mushrooms), my fathers health and skills (he's a doctor, and can grow vegetables, etc)

Growing a big bank account is like fat storage for animals – but it’s not, because it’s only a marker for fat – its caloric benefit stored for the future is intertwined with a sociocultural system linked to monetary and credit marker. In business school, (and on Wall St.) we were taught that stocks going up ~10% a year over the long run was something akin to a natural law. The truth turns out to be something quite different. Stocks and bonds are themselves ‘derivatives’ of primary capital - energy and natural resources – which combine with technology to produce secondary capital - tractors, houses, tools, etc. Money and financial instruments are thus tertiary capital, with no intrinsic value – it’s the social system and what if confers that has value and this system is based on natural, built, social and human capital. And, our current system of ‘claims’ (what people think they own) has largely decoupled from underlying ‘real capital’.

13. Our money is created by commercial banks out of thin air (deposits and loans are created at same time)

Though societies require ‘energy’, individuals require money in order to transact in the things energy provides. What is money anyways? I certainly didn't learn in business school (or any school for that matter). Quite simply, money is a claim on a certain amount of energy. When our economic engine kicked into gear in the early 1900s, money (not energy or resources) was the limiting factor. We had so much wealth in our natural resource bank account that we needed ways of turbocharging the broader economy so productive ventures could be undertaken by anyone with skill, products or ambition. It was around this time that banks came into existence - to increase the flow of money to match the productive output of our economies only made sense - too little money and we couldn't produce the 'power' needed by a hungry world. Creditworthy individuals/businesses could now obtain loans from commercial banks who were required to keep a small portion of their assets on reserve with a central bank. And it worked fabulously well. Correlation=causation and all that.

We were taught to view credit creation as a series of consecutive bank "intermediations", where some initial deposit rippled through the banking system and via a multiplier, created additional money. E.g. banks are unable to create credit themselves, but are just passing on some wealth already created. This is true for about 5% of money coming into existence. The reality for 95%+ of money creation is profoundly different. The standard concept of lending describes a transfer of an existing commodity to its exclusive use somewhere else. However, this new credit extended by banks does not remove purchasing power or claims on resources from anywhere else in the economy. Since banks are capital constrained, not reserve constrained they lend when (ostensibly) creditworthy customers have demand for loans, not when they have excess reserves. As such the ‘fractional reserve banking’ system taught in textbooks and demonized on the blogosphere is not the proper description. I didn't learn this until 2007 or so. Banks do not lend money, they create it. And this is why the focus on government debt is a red herring. All of our financial claims are debt relative to natural resources.

**(Edit - This new paper by Bank of England states precisely what I did just above -banks are not just intermediaries as taught in textbooks)

12. Debt is a non-neutral intertemporal transfer



The left graph, shows the disconnect between GDP and aggregate, non-financial debt. In every single year since 1965 we have grown our debt more than we have grown our GDP. The right graph shows the inverse - how much GDP we receive for each new dollar of debt - declining debt productivity. Source: FED Z.1 2013, NBER

(Note: I use the terms credit and debt interchangeably, though creditor and debtor are opposites)

Of the broad aggregate money in existence in the US of around $60 trillion, only about $1 trillion is physical currency. The rest can be considered, ‘debt’, a claim of some sort (corporate, household, municipal, government, etc.) If cash is a claim on energy and resources, adding debt (from a position of no debt) becomes a claim on future energy and resources. In financial textbooks, debt is an economically neutral concept, neither bad nor good, but just an exchange of time preference between two parties on when they choose to consume. (* we were taught in corporate finance, because of the deductibility of interest, choosing debt over equity is preferred in situations with taxes – but in the real world, when capital markets are open and credit is flowing, if a CEO has choice between financing a project with equity or debt, he/she will almost always prefer debt. And so they do.) However, there are several things that happen when we issue debt/credit that cause the impact of the convention to be much different than in the textbooks:

1) While we are issuing debt (especially on a full planet) the best and easiest to find energy and resources deplete making energy (and therefore other things) generally more expensive for the creditor than the debtor. People that choose to save are ‘outcompeted’ by people who choose to consume by taking on debt. At SOME point in the future SOME creditors will get less, or nothing. (the question now is ‘when’ and ‘who’)

2) We increasingly have to issue more debt to keep up with the declining benefit of the “Trade”, lest aggregate demand plunge.

3) Over time we consume more rather than adding productive investment capacity. This lowers debt productivity over time (debt productivity is how much GDP we get for an additional $ of debt, or the ratio of GDP growth relative to debt growth). If an additional dollar of debt created a dollar of GDP, or anything close, it would be more or less like the textbooks claim – a tradeoff in the temporal preferences of the creditor and debtor. And, when debt productivity is high, we are transforming and extending wealth into different forms of future wealth (energy into productive factories etc). But when debt productivity is low (or approaching zero as is the case now), new debt is really just an exchange of wealth for income. This is happening now in all nations of the world to varying degrees. E.g. since 2008, G7 nations have added 1 trillion in nominal GDP, but at a cost of increasing debt by $18 trillion – and this doesn’t include off balance sheet guarantees.

Debt can thus be viewed two ways – 1) from a wealth inequality perspective, for every debtor there is a creditor – a zero sum game, 2) all claims (debts) are relative to the energy and natural resources required to a) service them and b) pay off the principle. (So, think 2 Italians: Gini and Ponzi.)

11. Energy measured in energy terms is the cost of capital

The cost of finite natural resources measured in energy terms is our real cost of capital. In the short and intermediate run, dollars function as energy, as we can use them to contract and pay for anything we want, including energy and energy production. They SEEM like the limiters. But in the long run, accelerating credit creation obscures the engine of the whole enterprise - the ‘burning of the energy’. Credit cannot create energy, but it does allow continued energy extraction and much (needed) higher prices than were credit unavailable. At some point in the past 40 years we crossed a threshold of 'not enough money' in the system to 'not enough cheap energy' in the system, which in turn necessitated even more money. After this point, new credit increasingly added gross energy masking declines in our true cost of capital (net energy/EROI). Though its hard to imagine, if society had disallowed debt circa 1975 (e.g. required banks to have 100% Tier 2 capital and reserves) OR if we had some natural resource tether – like gold – to our money supply since then, global oil production and GDP would likely have peaked 20-30 years ago (and we’d have a lot more of the sub 50$ tranche left). As such, focus on oil and gas production numbers isn't too helpful without incorporating credit forecasts and integrating affordability for societies at different price tranches.

An example might make this clearer: imagine 3,000 helicopters each dropped a billion dollars of cash in different communities across the country (that’s $3 Trillion ). Citizens that get there first would stuff their backpacks and become millionaires overnight, lots of others would have significant spending money, a larger number would get a few random hundreds stuck in fences, or cracks, and a large % of the population, not near the dropzone, would get nothing. The net effect of this would be to drive up energy use as the new rich would buy cars and take trips and generally consume more. EROI of the nations oil fields wouldn’t change, but oil companies would get a higher price for the now harder to find oil because the economy would be stronger, despite the fact that those $3 trillion came from thin air (or next to it). So, debt went up, GDP went up, oil prices went up, EROI stayed the same, a few people got richer, and a large % of people got little to nothing. This is pretty much what is happening today in the developed world.

Natural systems can perhaps grow 2-3% per year (standing forests in USA increase their volume by 2.6% per year). This can be increased via technology, extraction of principle (fossil carbon), debt, or some combination. If via technology, we are accessing energy we might not have been able to access in the future. If we use debt, we are diverting energy that would have been accessible in the future to today by increasing its affordability via handouts/guarantees and increasing the price that energy producers receive for it. In this fashion debt functions similarly to technology in oil extraction. Neither one is 'bad', but both favor immediate consumption on an assumption they will be repeated in continued iterations in the future.

Debt temporarily makes gross energy feel like net energy as a larger amount of energy is burned despite higher prices, lower wages and profits. Gross energy also adds to GDP, as the $80+ per barrel oil extraction costs in e.g. Bakken Shale ends up being spent in Williston and surrounding areas (this would be a different case if the oil were produced in Canada, or Saudi Arabia). But over time, as debt increases gross energy and net energy stays constant or declines, a larger % of our economy becomes involved in the energy sector. Already we have college graduates trained in biology, or accounting, or hotel management, working on oil rigs. In the future, important processes and parts of non-energy infrastructure will become too expensive to continue. Even more concerning is that, faced with higher costs, energy companies increasingly follow the societal trend towards using debt to pull production forward in time (e.g. Chesapeake, Statoil). In this environment, we can expect total capital expenditure to keep pace with total revenue every year, and net cash flow become negative as debt rises.

In the last 10 years the global credit market has grown at 12% per year allowing GDP growth of only 3.5% and increasing global crude oil production less than 1% annually. We're so used to running on various treadmills that the landscape doesn't look all too scary. But since 2008, despite energies fundamental role in economic growth, it is access to credit that is supporting our economies, in a surreal, permanent, Faustian bargain sort of way. As long as interest rates (govt borrowing costs) are low and market participants accept it, this can go on for quite a long time, all the while burning through the next tranche of extractable carbon and getting reduced benefits from the "Trade" creating other societal pressures. I don't expect the government takeover of the credit mechanism to stop, but if it does, both oil production and oil prices will be quite a bit lower. In the long run it's all about the energy. For the foreseeable future, it's mostly about the credit

But why do we want energy and money anyways?

Continued in Part II

Wed 18 September, 2013

21:17 So, What Are You Doing?» The Oil Drum - Discussions about Energy and Our Future

It's September and we still have 7 more 'final' posts in the queue (myself, Joules, Jerome, Jason, Art, Dave Murphy, and Euan...) and will run them every 2 days until finished. Leanan will post a final Drumbeat later this week where people can leave website links contact details, etc.

For 8 years we read about what people think about energy related themes. I thought it would be a good idea to use this thread to highlight what people are actually doing in their lives given the knowledge they've gleaned from studying this topic, which really is more of a study of the future of society.

What do TOD members plan to do in the future? Herding goats, fixing potholes, creating web sites, switching careers, etc? I'll go first. Feel free to use my template or just inform others what you're doing. This might be interesting thread to check back on in a few/many years.....(Please no posting of energy charts etc. and let's not respond to others in this thread, just a long list of what people are doing w/ their time).

Ere we scatter to the ether, please share, anonymously or otherwise : what are people doing?

Thu 12 September, 2013

11:32 The Exponential Legacy of Al Bartlett» The Oil Drum - Discussions about Energy and Our Future

Dr. Albert Allen Bartlett, emeritus professor of physics at the University of Colorado, died September 7, 2013 at the age of 90. It is coincidental that, in the year that he "officially" retired from teaching (1988), I first heard his famous lecture Arithmetic, Population, and Energy (although I don't recall if that was the title at the time). I was in my last year in graduate school, and his talk was one of the keynote presentations (or perhaps during dinner) for a scientific conference. It was seemingly out of place given that the subject of the meeting was surface chemistry and physics, but it most certainly became stuck somewhere in my mind for reasons other than its novelty.

Most scientists are transfixed on interesting scientific details, some with relevance to technological problems, and perhaps buzz-worthy enough to attract funding. There has never been much money in solving problems with no real technological solution. I became reacquainted with this talk in 2006, probably via a link on The Oil Drum. TOD was by its nature dealing with limits to growth (of oil, if nothing else), and over the last few years, we have discussed the various ways in which we could perhaps keep the oil flowing or replace it with something else. Perhaps the implications of exponential growth was kept in the back room somewhere, like an embarrassing relative, while the latest "game changing" solution was bandied about. But we need to continually remind ourselves that, while important, finding the next energy source or improving efficiencies the keep the economy growing are not long-term solutions for a finite planet.

Below are some more reflections on Prof. Bartlett's legacy, from ASPO-USA (where he had long been on the advisory board) and from the University of Colorado.

Albert A. Bartlett: Ode to a Gentle Giant

Dr. Albert Allen Bartlett enjoyed 90 years of rich life on this earth; moreover, thousands of people have enjoyed and been touched by Al's life.

He is of course most widely known as a tireless, eloquent, and supremely caring voice for charting a sustainable path for humanity. With seemingly endless determination, he applied his training in math and physics and skills as a master teacher to focus attention on a simple but paramount idea--on a finite planet, "growth" is unsustainable. "Sustainable growth is an oxymoron", is how Al is sometimes quoted.

His most reknowned quote, however, is "the greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function"--referring to the accelerating rate exhibited by anything growing as a constant percentage increase.

Al developed a now-famous lecture that illustrated the power and importance of this mathematical phenonomenon, and reportedly delivered that lecture more than 1700 times over the following decades. That one man would be compelled to devote much of his career to the understanding of a basic, unassailable fact of life speaks volumes about the world we live in, as well as Al's great character.

ASPO-USA is proud to have had Al as a longstanding member of our advisory board, and I was exceptionally fortunate to be acquainted with him in his latter years. While the nature of our relationship was professional, what I will always remember is the warmth, humility, and quiet joy that he brought to his work and his relationships with his colleagues and students.

For those that dare to concern themselves with the monumental issues that concerned Al, there is a risk of gloominess creeping into our outlook on life and humanity. Al is a beautiful reminder that need not be the case.

The note that Al wrote to us after he visited his doctor was filled with the peace and happiness of a man who had understood long ago what was important in life and had lived his own life accordingly. We should all be so blessed, and some of us were also blessed to know Al.

In honor to Al, inspired and informed by his life and his friendship, we re-commit ourselves to continuing and building on his legacy.

Click below to view Al's famous lecture - Arithmetic, Population, and Energy:

http://peak-oil.org/2013/09/arithmetic-population-energy

Jan Mueller Executive Director, ASPO-USA

-----------

CU-Boulder campus mourns death of longtime, celebrated physics professor Al Bartlett

excerpted from here

“Al Bartlett was a man of many legacies,” said CU-Boulder Chancellor Philip P. DiStefano. “His commitment to students was evidenced by the fact that he continued to teach for years after his retirement. His timeless, internationally revered lecture on the impacts of world population growth will live beyond his passing, a distinction few professors can claim. And we can all be thankful for his vision and foresight in making the Boulder community what it is today.”

Bartlett was born on March 21, 1923, in Shanghai, China. He earned his bachelor’s degree in physics from Colgate University and spent two years as an experimental physicist at the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory in New Mexico as part of the Manhattan Project before earning his graduate degrees in physics at Harvard. He then started his teaching career at CU-Boulder.

When Bartlett first delivered his internationally celebrated lecture on “Arithmetic, Population and Energy” to a group of CU students on Sept. 19, 1969, the world population was about 3.7 billion. He proceeded to give it another 1,741 times in 49 states and seven other countries to corporations, government agencies, professional groups and students from junior high school through college.

His talk warned of the consequences of “ordinary, steady growth” of population and the connection between population growth and energy consumption. Understanding the mathematical consequences of population growth and energy consumption can help clarify the best course for humanity to follow, he said.

The talk contained his most celebrated statement: “The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function.” A video of his lecture posted on YouTube has been viewed nearly 5 million times.

This year, the world population is about 7.1 billion and the CU Environmental Center announced a program this summer in which 50 student and community volunteers received training in exchange for a commitment to give Bartlett’s talk at least three times in 2013-14.

Before his death, Bartlett requested that any memorial gifts be made to the University of Colorado Foundation Albert A. Bartlett Scholarship Fund, in care of the Department of Physics, 390 UCB, University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder, CO, 80309.

Tue 10 September, 2013

06:59 Of Milk Cows and Saudi Arabia» The Oil Drum - Discussions about Energy and Our Future

Under the desert in eastern Saudi Arabia lies Ghawar, the largest oil field in the world. It has been famously productive, with a per-well flow rate of thousands of barrels per day, owing to a combination of efficient water injection, good rock permeability, and other factors. At its best, it set the standard for easy oil. The first wells were drilled with rather rudimentary equipment hauled across the desert sands, and the oil would flow out at ten thousand barrels per day. It was, in a sense, a giant udder. And the world milked it hard for awhile.


However, this article isn't just about a metaphor; it is also about cows, the Holsteins of Haradh. But in the end, I will circle back to the present and future of Saudi oil production.

I registered on The Oil Drum over seven years ago, and one of the subjects that fascinated me was the oil fields of Saudi Arabia. There was much discussion about the largest of these, Ghawar, and whether it might soon go into steep decline - taking the world with it. About that time, an application called Google Earth added some features which enabled users to mark up the globe with their own placemarks and such, and I set out to find Ghawar (or at least its footprints) in the vast sandscape that is the Eastern Province. Starting with published maps which could be overlaid atop the satellite imagery in Google Earth, I found some initial wells...and then a lot more...and kept going. An article authored by Saudi Aramco engineers showed well locations in northern Ghawar, and I noticed that many wells which I found yet were not on the map. I deduced that these were wells drilled after the map was drawn, and their locations seems to indicate intensive drilling in the center of the field, which was previously bereft of wells. I began publishing some of these findings on the blog Satellite o'er the Desert and was invited to contribute to The Oil Drum.

In my Google Earth-enabled virtual travels around Saudi Arabia looking for oil wells and such, I have come upon many strange sights. Some of these are of natural origin yet can only be appreciated from a satellite's perspective, as is the case for this tidal pool located near a gas oil separation plant for the Safaniya oil field:

Figure 1. My favorite Google Earth view, near Safaniyah oil field, Saudi Arabia

There are many crop circles scattered about eastern Saudi Arabia -- by which I mean circles of crops watered by central pivot irrigation (as opposed to circles of crops flattened by aliens). A line of such circles cuts across the southern tip of the Ghawar field, seemingly following the course of a dry river bed.

Figure 2. Irrigation along the southern fringe of the Ghawar Oil Field, Saudi Arabia. Arrows indicate location of features of interest.

Located on this line, just to the west of the field periphery, are three rather symmetrical structures:


Figure 3. Symmetrical objects of interest near Ghawar oil field.

Each of these is about 250 meters in radius. It took me awhile to discover what these were, as at the time, crowdsourced mapping was just getting started. It so happens that they are part of a huge integrated dairy operation, one of the largest in the world. Fodder crops are grown in nearby circles, cows are milked with state of the art equipment, and the milk is packaged and/or processed into cheese and other products before being shipped. All of this happens in the northernmost fringe of the Rub' al Khali desert, one of the most inhospitable places on earth. Start here to browse around Saudi Arabia's Dairyland on your own using Google Maps.



Turning Black Gold Into White Milk

Here is a glossy PR video describing the operations:


Although the original intent was to locally breed cows more suited to the Saudi climate, it seems they had to import them. Here is another video describing the transport of cows from Australia. A bit different than a Texas cattle drive.

They Built It, But They Didn't Come

Answering why and how these dairy farms came to be located here reveals some interesting history of Saudi Arabia. Although great wealth of the country results from its abundant store of fossil fuels, the necessity of diversifying the economy has long been recognized. The lack of food security was always a big concern. In addition, there remained the nagging problem of what to do with the Bedouins, nomadic peoples who resisted efforts to be integrated into the broader Saudi society. And since they now had it in abundance, they decided to throw money at the problems. What could go wrong?

As related in the book "Inside the Mirage" by Thomas Lippman, a problem with Saudi agriculture is that most of the private land was owned by just a few people, and they were wealthy aristocrats, not farmers, and there wasn't much local knowledge of modern large-scale agriculture in any case. One of the proposed solutions was to create huge demonstration projects by which modern techniques of farming could be learned and applied. As for labor, the goal was to provide individual farms, housing, and modern conveniences to the Bedouin, who would settle down for a life on the farm. The largest such project was the al-Faysal Settlement Project at Haradh, designed for 1000 families. It didn't work out as planned, though, because the Bedouins never came:

You know of the Haradh project, where $20 million was spent irrigating a spot in the desert where an aquifer was found not too far from the surface. This project took six years to complete and was done for the purpose of settling Bedouin tribes. At the end of six years, no Bedouin turned up and the government had to consider how to use the most modern desert irrigation facility in the world.

(From a 1974 Ford Foundation memo)

Eventually, the Saudi government partnered with Masstock, a Dublin-based industrialized endeavor run by two brothers. The Haradh project became the largest of their operations in Saudi Arabia at the time. Eventually, a new company called Almarai (Arabic for "pasture") was created which involved Prince Sultan bin Mohammed bin Saud Al Kabeer. In 1981, a royal decree created the National Agricultural Development Company (NADEC) for the purpose of furthering agricultural independence, and (for reasons I haven't discerned), NADEC gained control of the Haradh project. Almarai went on the become the largest vertically integrated dairy company in the world, and Al Kabeer is a hidden billionaire.

As a side note, NADEC sued Saudi Aramco a few years ago as a result of the latter using some NADEC property for Haradh oil operations, and a lower court ordered Saudi Aramco to vacate. The web links to those reports have disappeared, and one wonders how the appeal went. Separately, NADEC has reportedly obtained farmland in Sudan. Food security.

Speaking of Cash Cows

A half decade ago, much of The Oil Drum's focus was on possible problems with Saudi Arabian oil production. Was the flow from Ghawar tanking? Were all of their older fields well past their prime, and were their future options as limited as Matt Simmons suggested in Twilight in the Desert? My analyses and those of others here seem to suggest a rather aggressive effort to stem decline. With further hindsight, it is clear that Saudi Aramco was caught a bit off guard by decline in existing production. But over time, they were able to complete several decline mitigation projects as well as many so-called mega-projects with many million barrels per day of new production. With each project, the technological sophistication has grown - along with the expense. The Khurais redevelopment, which is reportedly producing as expected, features centralized facilities for oil, gas, and injection water processing. Water goes out, and oil comes back.

Figure 4. Left: map showing Saudi oil fields, Right: Khurais Project pipeline network (source: Snowden's laptop)

The most recent project, the Manifa field redevelopment is a logistical marvel. These have so far proven to be very successful projects (even though Manifa is not fully completed). But if one looks for the impact of the projects on their total output, one comes back somewhat underwhelmed. In the following graphic I show Saudi Arabian production with the theoretical (zero depletion) and official (as reported directly by Saudi Aramco) production capacities.


Figure 5. Saudi Arabian crude oil production increases from megaprojects since 1996, compared with actual crude production (source: Stuart Staniford). Cumulative increases are superimposed on the Saudi Aramco reported baseline value of 10.5 mbpd capacity in 1995. Blue dots denote values obtained from references 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Here are some conclusions one might draw from the above (including the references):

  • Saudi Aramco has generally been self-consistent when reporting spare capacity and total capacity in light of actual production
  • Production capacity increased subsequent to startup of megaprojects. However, the net production capacity increases were uniformly and substantially less than the planned increments. In total, 5 million barrels per day of production was added, but capacity increased by only 2 mbpd.
  • It is most unlikely that reported production capacities accurately reflected what was producible at any point in time, given the reported values as correlated with the timing of the increases from the megaprojects.
  • However, actual production did not generally increase immediately after projects were completed, indicating that production capacity was not completely exhausted beforehand. But there was certainly an impetus to add a lot of production quickly.

The gap between what might have been (red staircase) and what is reported as production capacity (blue dots) is explained by considering the net of two competing developments: 1) depletion of legacy fields (Ghawar etc.) as they are produced, and b) mitigation of this depletion by drilling new wells in these fields. Since Saudi Aramco does not release data for individual fields or new vs. old wells, we are left to speculate on the relative magnitudes of these. On the plus side, the 5 mbpd from the new projects will (hopefully) deplete less rapidly than older fields. On the minus side, only 2 mbpd capacity was added - and they have exhausted all of the major fields in the pipeline. On the double minus side (for the world, anyway), only 1 - 1.5 mbpd of actual production was added since 1995, and (according to BP) all of that increase went into internal consumption. So after nearly 20 years, though total world crude production (and population) has increased, Saudi Arabia exports the same amount of oil as before. And yet, there is still a lot of hydrocarbons under Saudi Arabia. And it seems they already realize the need for more, as there are reports of planned increases from Khurais and Shaybah totaling 550 kbpd by 2017 to "take the strain off Ghawar". I feel its pain.

Addendum: According to this news report, oil has not actually flowed yet from Manifa. The new Jubail refinery has reportedly no received any Manifa oil as of yet:

The refinery is configured to run on heavy crude oil. But two industry sources said the refinery had not received any of the heavy crude expected from Aramco's new Manifa field and that it was running instead on light crude. Aramco said in April that it had started production at Manifa.-Reuters

Still the One?

Despite all of the negativity emitted above, it is also evident that Saudi Arabia has had and will continue to have a role as the primary provider of spare capacity which can be deployed to buffer variability in world demand. It can do this because Saudi Aramco, the largest oil company in the world, can effect oil prices by virtue of what it can put on or take off the world market. Contrast the Saudi production profile with that of the United States, shown below.

Figure 6. United States monthly crude oil production (source: EIA)

Aside from some minor month-to-month fluctuations and some notable downward spikes caused by Gulf of Mexico hurricanes in 2002 (Isadore), 2004 (Ivan), 2005 (Katrina and Rita), and 2008 (Gustav), production follows a smooth trend. Especially noteworthy is the contrast between Saudi and US production subsequent to the economic downturn in 2008, when oil prices collapsed: Saudi Arabia throttled back while the US kept pumping. Any individual producer in the US had little incentive to hold back oil. However, with the increased importance of Shale plays (Bakken and Eagle Ford) to US production, this might change the dynamics going forward. Since these wells deplete rapidly, any decrease in drilling caused by low prices will also throttle demand (although with a time lag).

The Hungry Cow

The other new "above ground factor" is the problem of growing internal consumption in Saudi Arabia, of just about everyting including oil. To air condition all of those cows, it takes a lot of electricity (and currently oil). And all of that milk feeds a growing, young population. But that milk is bound to get more expensive, since the aquifers from which those massive dairy operations get their water are being rapidly depleted.

Milk consumption in Saudi Arabia reached 729.4 million litres in 2012
...
The Kingdom has already depleted 70% of these sources of water and must now turn increasingly to desalinisation which when factored into the cost of producing fresh milk is very expensive. Experts have estimated that it takes between 500- 1000 litres of fresh water to produce 1 litre of fresh milk if one takes into around the irrigation required to grow the Rhodes grass or Alfalfa required to feed the cows.

It seems Saudi Arabia has cash flow problems, although it is hard to imagine why, given that they are currently producing as much oil as ever at $100/barrel. For one thing, their population keeps growing:

Figure 7. Saudi Arabia population growth (source: Thanks, Jonathan!)

and they need to spread around some money to maintain political stability. Their energy use is out of control, as is their water consumption. And for those segments of Saudi society into which much of the oil revenue flows, consumption is a happening thing. And nobody really knows where the all money goes.

Saudi Aramco is overseen by the Petroleum and Mineral Resources Ministry and, to a lesser extent, the Supreme Petroleum Council, an executive body. The company pays royalties and dividends to the state and supplies domestic refineries. Revenues go to the Finance Ministry, but the amounts are not published. There is no transparency in the national budgeting process, and it is unclear how oil revenues are used. Environmental impact assessments are required, but the results are not made public. Laws and decrees concerning the extractive industries are published and include guidelines for the licensing process in sectors other than upstream oil, but do not contain details on fiscal arrangements. Saudi Arabia has no freedom of information law.

Some ends up in London, where some Saudi tourists spend the entire summer. Of course, this was true in 2002 (and oil was $26/barrel then).

But they do seem to have money to throw around to garner political influence (note that the US does the same with money that it doesn't have). And they have grand plans for looking beyond their petro-heritage:

Best hopes for wise spending.

Au revoir. Au lait.

Sat 07 September, 2013

20:05 IEA Sankey Diagrams» The Oil Drum - Discussions about Energy and Our Future

The International Energy Agency has taken its share of abuse from The Oil Drum over the years for its rather optimistic forecasts. But it deserves a hearty shout-out for an invaluable resource it has on its web site: Interactive Sankey Diagrams for the World.


Sankey Diagram showing world energy flows (Click for larger view)

As long as you understand what a Sankey Diagram is, not much more introduction is needed here. You can look at individual countries, consumption patterns as well as production, and more. Click on individual flows and graph over time.

World energy use for steel production (Click for larger view)

One curiosity, though:

The world oil imports (2295) and oil exports (2218) don't match in the top graphic. "Statistical difference"?


As with data from the BP Statistical Review series, there might be occasional quibbles with the numbers. Also, I've seen prettier Sankeys. But if you've been wondering what to do with all of your time after The Oil Drum goes on hiatus, there you go.

Fri 06 September, 2013

21:13 My Last Campfire Post» The Oil Drum - Discussions about Energy and Our Future

I checked my user profile for this site and discovered that as of today I have been a member for 7 years and 37 weeks. Wow! So much has happened to me and my family over those years and a lot of it was shared on The Oil Drum. For reasons I’ll explain, I haven’t been around much lately. My most recent article was over three years ago.

My first writings for The Oil Drum were over six years ago as guest posts through Nate Hagens, and then as a staff contributor for the “Campfire” section of the site. I am not an energy expert so my role wasn’t about modeling depletion or providing context to the energy news of the week. What I did was consider the broader relationships between energy, resources and society, and explore the implications of more expensive and less energy to our consumer-oriented economy and culture. The most complete and succinct example of this role is probably my “Beware the Hungry Ghosts” piece, which includes this passage:

Several religious traditions describe what are termed “hungry ghosts.” These sad beings have insatiable appetites, with tiny mouths and huge stomachs. Modern society creates hungry ghosts among the living. We “have” more than ever, but are constantly bombarded with messages that it is never enough. The poor go to dollar stores, the middle class spend hours at Bed Bath and Beyond, the rich buy ever larger yachts, and city planners are always looking for more land and water in which to expand their urban sphere. Wants have become indistinguishable from needs. I anxiously walk among our nation of hungry ghosts, asking myself what these addicts will do when they can't get their fix?

What many of us found at The Oil Drum was a place to share our anxieties with those who share our anxieties. I am not being dismissive of this at all! Many here have points of view that place us outside of conventional wisdom, and this can be socially difficult. Where else can we go to have conversations that may be impolite, misunderstood and dismissed by the hungry ghosts we live among?

A fine example of thinking profoundly differently is in Kurt Cobb’s essay “Upside Down Economics” in which he gives a visual representation of U.S. GDP from the perspective of an Ecological Economist:

Figure 1

Many of my articles framed topics from an Ecological Economics perspective, where the economy is a subsidiary of the planet and functions by extracting resources and depositing wastes. Essential resources like energy, mineral ores, food and fiber can only be easily ignored when they are inexpensive to buy and reliably available. Many of us are alarmed because we see existential threats to the bottom of a top heavy pyramid and would like those situated higher up to pay attention and look below.

At the bottom of Cobb’s chart you see the economic sector “Agriculture & Forestry.” That is where I currently work, and where much of my writing here was about. I didn’t just explore the food growing sector, but also the so-called Food System, that includes transportation, processing and warehousing, retailing and end-use. Classic statistics discussed, and that devoted readers of The Oil Drum can probably rattle off at any cocktail party, include:

The U.S. Food System consumes several fossil fuel calories for each food calorie eaten.

The typical grocery store has about three days supply of goods on its shelves.

Each U.S. farmer (plus machines with fuel) feeds 100 people.

Figure 2. Graphic used in the post “Ecological Economics and the Food System

Two additional posts, “Save it for the Combine” and “Energy Descent and Agricultural Population” perhaps best capture the sense of the transformative change fossil fuels made in agricultural production and labor inputs, and offer some perspectives on adaptation to lower fossil fuel availability.

Figure 3. The percent agriculture population is plotted in relation to per capita energy use.  Nations with abundant use of exosomatic energy tend to have less of their population involved in agricultural production, presumably either because they can afford to import much of their food or employ labor saving devices in food production.  For example, only about 1% of the US labor force is involved in farming.  Data comes from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) and the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO).  Original article containing figure is here.

The Campfire series was not only about exploring heterodox ideas, it was also meant to be a place where practical advice was shared. Many of us wanted to go beyond the talking stage and “do something” about the information and analyses presented on the site. This brings me to why I haven’t been writing here lately.

I went to the 2008 ASPO meetings in Sacramento not only to learn, but to network and hopefully meet someone who could help me with something. I wanted to farm at a significant scale to practice and demonstrate a form of agriculture that needs much fewer external inputs and is thus adaptive to our times. I met my eventual business partner (and TOD member) Craig Wichner in Sacramento. We were able to introduce our company, Farmland LP, at ASPO 2009 in Denver, where I gave two talks that eventually became posts (here and here). Over the past four years Craig and I have taken a heterodox idea and turned it into something substantial: Farmland LP currently owns and manages 6300 acres of cropland in California and Oregon.

So, I’ve been pretty busy. I am still writing on my company website but most of my posts are news related to the business. On occasion I do develop articles that look at the big picture and do in-depth analyses, such as “ The Many Benefits of Multi-Year Crop Rotations” and “Google Earth, Rotational Grazing and Mineralization, Part 1 and Part 2” but I won’t have time for more of that sort of writing until we are done with planting this fall.

This brings me to the end of my last Campfire post. In customary fashion I will pose some questions and ask readers to share their experience, wisdom, frustrations, and final thoughts for The Oil Drum.

Did any of you follow similar paths to mine, whereby the information and critical thinking shared on this site led to significant changes in your life path? (I never thought I’d be a farmer when I grew up.)

What barriers to making the changes you wanted did you encounter? Did they stop you from going on or did you overcome them somehow? (My wife gave me the foundation I needed to do this work. She had the income-earning job and the patience to allow me time to explore. Thank you Kristin!)

Thu 05 September, 2013

06:22 The Economic and Political Consequences of the Last 10 Years of Renewable Energy Development» The Oil Drum - Discussions about Energy and Our Future

I've been privileged to be an editor of TOD over the past several years, and am glad to have been invited to do a final post as the site moves to an archive status.

When I started writing about energy on the blogs in 2003/2004, I was writing mostly about Russia, gas pipelines and gas geopolitics. There were so many conspiracy theories abounding on topics like the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan pipeline or (a bit later) Russia vs Ukraine pipeline conflicts that I felt the need to put out a different version, given that I knew the inside story on many of these issues - and that got me invited to contribute these to TOD as well. In the meantime, my job (which was, and - full disclosure - remains, to finance energy projects) slowed moved from oil&gas work to power sector transactions and, increasingly, to renewable sector deals, and I started writing about the wind business, in my mind from the perspective of a banker wanting to make sure that these projects could be paid back over periods of 15 or 20 years.

While my work is now almost exclusively focused on offshore wind in Northern Europe, I still do not consider myself a 'wind shill'... but it does give me a different perspective on the debates currently going on about energy policy in various places, and on the changes to the power sector caused (among others, by renewables) that are underpinning such debates, and I thought it would be a useful complement, together with Big Gav's overview of the clean energy sector, to the other articles more traditionally focused on the oil&gas side of things.

I'll focus on Germany, where the transformation has been most advanced (and even has brought a new word to us: the Energiewende), and where the consequences of high renewable penetration are most visible.

A lot of rather unusual things have been happening in the Germany power sector lately, from negative prices, to utilities closing down brand new power plants and, naturally, a ferocious debate as to whether to cut support for renewable energy (as has already been done in Spain).

I've long described renewable energy producers as a price takers (i.e., they don't influence market prices in the short term and have to "take" market prices as set by other factors, unless shielded by specific regulatory regimes), but we are getting to the point, in a number of places, and in Germany in particular, where the penetration of renewable energy is such that it has a real macroeconomic impact on the prices of electricity, both at the wholesale and the retail levels, and thus on the way power markets run, and on the politics surrounding them. There's the additional factor that apparent spending on renewables is targeted by governments at a time of austerity in Europe, egged on by hardly disinterested utilities.

It is worth going through what's been happening in some detail.

:: ::

In the good old days, wholesale prices of power followed the price of natural gas, as gas-fired plants are the producer of the marginal kWh most of the time. This is still the case in the USA, and it looks like this:


Source: neutroneconomy

Retail prices tend to follow the average wholesale cost, plus a slice for distribution costs and taxes which can vary quite wildly from country to country:


Source: eurostat

But we've seen prices diverging across markets over the past two years, as shown in the following graphs:

  • gas prices diverging sharply across continents (notably as a result of the gas shale developments in the US and increased demand for gas in Japan following the Fukushima disaster, while European prices remain largely indexed to oil):

  • Source: Fidelity

  • wholesale power prices diverging from gas prices:

  • Source: Die Welt, via gwpf

    Note: the lines above represent long term break-even prices for, from the bottom, nuclear power plants, coal-fired plants and gas-fired plants

  • retail prices moving in the opposite direction to wholesale prices, and increasing:


Source: wikipedia (DE)

German wholesale prices have been trending down over the past several years, despite the closure of close to half of the nuclear plants of the country, and despite the persistently high natural gas prices on the continent, while retail prices have been going up, including due to contributions to pay for guaranteed fixed prices to renewable energy producers (the "EEG" component in yellow in the last graph).

The fall in wholesale prices means that most traditional power plants are not economical at current levels, as the second graph above shows.

There are some temporary factors to the current situation. One is the general economic woes of the eurozone, which are pushing demand downwards and thus prices as well. The other is the temporary higher use of coal-fired power plants, which itself comes from a combination of short term factors:

  • cheap imports from the USA (where coal use has been displaced for a while by cheap gas in power generation) made coal more profitable than gas, and
  • regulatory incentives mean coal plants have (under the (the Large Combustion Plants EU directive) a limited number of hours to run and operators have every reason to use these up quickly, and especially if the plants are profitable, or less unprofitable than gas ones (UK coal plants have the additional incentive that a carbon tax will be imposed on them from April 2013).

These factors have made it possible to claim that Germany was increasing pollution and carbon emissions because of wrongheaded policies (depending on your stance: closing nuclear plants or pushing renewables), but this looks like a temporary arbitrage between coal and gas.

:: ::

The real long term story is that the power spot markets are being completely upended by the increasing penetration of renewable energy. In Germany, new renewables represent around 50% of the overall installed capacity, and already provide close to 20% of all power generation (split in 2012 in 3 almost equal parts between wind (7%), biomass (6%) and solar (5%)), up from almost nothing 15 years ago, and on many days now they provide 50% or more of total output:


Source: Paul Gipe

This reduces demand for mid-load producers and peakers over more and more periods throughout the year. As the graphs below shows, on good days in the warm season the PV capacity almost eliminates altogether the need for intermediate load; in winter, wind takes over (in aggregate, although not with as regular a daily profile):


Source: DoDo on European Tribune


Source:carboncounter

This was the slice of demand served by coal-fired and gas-fired plants and they are simply not being used as much as they used to, and certainly not as much as their owners expected.

And prices are being squeezed down not just for these producers, but for everybody else as well, in particular during the peak day time hours which used to be the most profitable for all power plants (because baseload plants also receive the more expensive peak hour prices even if they did not bid at such prices). This means that existing capacity is less and less profitable - not just the peakers or intermediate plants, but also the nuclear and other baseload workhorses of the system. Thus the few highly publicized plant closures, and the ongoing utility complaints about lost revenues. Moreover there currently is no business case to invest in any kind of power plant (other than renewables under specific revenue regimes), which utilities use to argue against renewable support.

But here's the thing: preventing new renewables will not eliminate the current existing capacity, which means that the economics of the sector will not recover even if no new renewables were built... The wholesale market as it was designed 20 years ago (de facto based on gas-fired plants of various efficiency targeted at different points of the merit order curve setting up the marginal price) is irreversibly broken. The system is now dominated by plants with very low marginal cost of production (but high upfront investment), which means that spot prices are systematically too low for everybody - you can't invest in plants with high upfront investments (like nukes), and you can't invest in plants with high marginal running costs (gas-fired plants) unless you are betting on persistently low gas prices into the future. That may explain the push for shale gas in Europe, but who believes that shale gas will bring low prices? Even in the US prices are trending up again (and forward prices even more so).

:: ::

In the meantime, retail prices have kept on increasing, and the fact that the contribution of the support regime (in Germany, the "EEG-Umlage") to retail prices has become visible has made it a target of lobbyists and thus a political topic, despite the fact that retail prices increases have been caused, to a large extent (and in particular until 2009) by increases in gas prices.

This leads us to an hidden truth: a large fraction of the massive increase in renewable energy production is not paid for by consumers, but by incumbent producers who see their revenues decline as the price they earn per MWh goes down. Utilities, which see their margins on the retail side increase, but have very little renewable energy production capacity of their own are caught between two conflicting trends, with their upstream business losing profitability, but their downstream business earning more. IPPS are suffering, but have less voice. Unsurprisingly, utilities are focusing public attention only on the first part, and are naturally blaming renewables - not hesitating to point fingers at their support regimes as the cause of rising power prices, in the hope that these regimes will be weakened. They claim they are victims of unfair competition from "heavily subsidized" sources which have priority over them and can dump power with no worry for consequences into the network. They use a mix of real arguments and weaker ones to push against renewables:


source: Goldman Sachs, via Zero Hedge

  • one of the true arguments is that the cost of supporting solar PV has become larger than expected and faster than expected. Just 5 years ago, a number of countries had tariffs in the 500-600 EUR/MWh range, and regulators were surprised by the volumes that managed to be installed - and capture the advantageous prices levels. when they dropped the price support for new projects, they were again surprised by how fast the industry was able to match the lower prices through new technology (and a brutal price war). The result has been an amazing drop in the price of solar panels (-80% in just a few years, as shown above), bringing them close to grid parity, and a rather large (multiple GWs in Germany, Italy, Spain) stock of solar PV capacity which is entitled to very high tariffs for many years, at a visible cost to consumers;
  • in some places, the regulatory regime allowed producers to capture the best of both worlds - the higher of the fixed tariff or the market price (whether wholesale or retail), thus preventing the network, and the public, from benefitting from the "cap" that a real fixed tariff would have provided;
  • in Spain, retail power prices were kept artificially low for political reasons), and the the gross cost of the fixed tariffs was not absorbed into the general cost base of the network and instead explicitly imposed on utilities, which used that as an obvious argument against renewables (even though a good part of the price increases were linked to increased gas prices before the merit order effect acted on wholesale prices); the government's U-turn on tariffs, which imposed negative tariff changes on already operational projects, alienated the utilities further (as they had, contrary to what happened in Germany, become significant operators of renewable capacity and lost money in the process) and created a precedent that also scared off lenders and investors and put the sector in disrepute;
  • in Germany, the renewable energy surcharge applies only to retail consumers, and large sections of industrial users (but not all) are exempted. That means that the gross costs is borne by a smaller fraction of the overall consumers, and that some industries are complaining that they are being treated unfairly. Meanwhile, those benefitting from the situation (the bug consumers who benefit from lower wholesale prices and do not pay the surcharge) are staying silent so as to avoid attracting attention (they failed - this quirk is likely to be corrected soon);

But what is not true is that wind has contributed in any meaningful way to retail price increases (most of Germany's wind capacity was installed before 2008 and the EEG component is all but invisible at that date), and not has offshore wind (which is indeed more expensive, but very little of which has been built to date). When you look at average costs, one sees that onshore wind is largely competitive on wholesale markets (and yes, that does take into account grid access and balancing costs - there is enough experience with large wind penetration in various networks to know that it can be done and that it has no meaningful impact on costs), that solar is already competitive against retail prices in many markets (the famous "grid parity"), and that other technologies are somewhere in-between. Offshore wind is still more expensive, but is expected to come down in price by the time it will reach significant capacity:


source: Goldman Sachs, via Zero Hedge

Note that these average costs of production, always include very political assumptions about the cost of money, and the future price of gas, to apply to such projects. The discount rate (at the time of investment) is the main driver of the cost of wind or nuclear whereas the cost of gas-fired power is only an estimate, based an assumptions about the cost of gas in the next 20 years. And that also means that the price of power from a wind farm or a nuclear plant is largely fixed and known once the plant is built, while the cost of power from a gas-fired plant in the future is essentially unknown. The cost of money is a fundamentally political decision (derived from investors' estimates of macro risks like inflation, of regulatory risks applying to the sector, and technology risk); the consensus on future gas price estimates is also influenced by many factors, including long term projections by public bodies like the IEA, the US EIA or private firms with their various agendas.

As an aside, the more renewables you have in the system, the less it is possible to take out the regulatory support regime, because spot prices tend to go towards zero - which makes investment in renewables (or in any other kind of power generation assets, for that matter) impossible. So "grid parity" is an illusory target, in a sense, because it is a moving target. Technologies with high variable costs (all fossil-fuel plants) cannot compete at any price when there is enough zero-marginal cost capacity in the system, and technologies with high upfront investment costs need comfort about price levels over a long period as they need such prices on a constant basis to amortize the initial investment. This is why the UK government is working on a "contract for differences" (essentially the same thing as a fixed tariff) for new nuclear plants.

:: ::

Altogether, the reality is that the consumers and the utilities is paying for a few expensive years of early solar PV technology (to the tune of a few cents per kWh, ie a few hundred euros per year and per household), and now the utilities are bearing almost in full the further impact on the system: they are no longer making (much) money on their current fleet - not on gas-fired plants, barely on their coal-fired plants, and they don't have much renewable energy capacity. They are stuck with a capital stock (including recent plants), which is increasingly uneconomic in today's markets, caught between high fuel prices and lower power prices. And that is the result of strategies over the past 10-15 years that willfully ignored policies to promote renewables pursued pretty consistently across Europe, and the likely impact they would have on power prices (the infamous "merit order effect" - which I discussed in detail at least 5 years ago, and which was already the topic of academic papers before that).

So it's not like they had no warning and no notice... In a sense, utilities have been consistent: one of their past arguments was that renewables would never reach critical mass and thus were not a serious solution to reduce carbon emissions. And they surely did not take recent investment decisions (mainly to build base-load or mid-load gas-fired plants) with the scenario of heavy renewable penetration in mind, otherwise they would not have been so surprised by the current situation...

:: ::

Utilities do make a legitimate point when they underline that the system still needs their capacity (because renewables are not available on demand, and do not provide the flexibility required in the very short term), and that this needs to be paid for (and, at some point in the future, existing capacity will need to be replaced, and they need to be able to make a business case for that, which is not possible today).

In the previous regime, where power prices were determined by gas prices, it was possible to pay for the flexibility in the form of price spikes that gave the right signal for mid-load and peaker gas-fired (or oil-fired, or hydro) plants to be used, and their frequency of use was relatively predictable over a year, allowing for a sound business model to be implemented. Now, with plenty of renewables, the price signal is completely different. There are many more periods of very low prices when renewables flood the system (and this is particularly the case in places with lots of solar, as it is available during the day, ie when demand is stronger and thus prices used to be higher). This has two consequences: gas-fired plants get much less use than in the past (and less than their business plans expected), and baseload plants like nukes or big coal-fired plants get lower prices during periods when they were cashing in more money. The latter earn less money (but still run); the former now run a lot less than expected , which has income implications but also consequences for gas consumption and storage - patterns of use become very different, moving from the usual "once a day" pattern (a few hour at peak demand times), to short bursts several times a day (as renewables drop out), or very long periods of use over multiple days when renewables are not available at all.

Given that the penetration of renewables will continue to change every year, it has become really hard to identify the business model to use for flexible plants - and even harder to know what it will be in 1, 5 or 10 years from now. These flexible plants will be needed, at least to some extent, and they need to be paid for, and that cannot really happen with today's regulatory regime (and as noted above, stopping support regimes for renewables won't change that now: the existing stock of wind and solar is already big enough in several countries to keep the current market arrangements broken). One solution, thankfully being considered in several markets, and which already exists in places like California, is to put in place a capacity market, where plants make themselves available for rapid changes in output, without actually producing anything most of the time, and get paid for that availability: ie a market for MW in addition to the market for MWh.

:: ::

The politics of this transition are messy. You can have articles saying (without any real argument) that "Too much green energy is bad for Britain at the very same time that you have record cold weather, with critical weakness in the gas supply infrastructure and wind actually coming to the rescue... (in the UK last March).

People are presenting capacity markets as another subsidy to renewables, whereas system security has always required a significant margin of unused capacity for safety: power demand varies from 1 to 2 or one to 3 every day, peaks can be more or less intense depending on weather, and even large plants can go offline on a scheduled or unscheduled basis. That safety margin was simply paid for in a different way, either by imposing capacity buffers on utilities, or through spot price peaks that were high enough to pay in a few hours for the peaker plants which are otherwise idle most of the time. There's naturally a lot of talk that policies to develop renewable have failed, being costly (only partly true, as shown above, and increasingly less so as time goes by), ineffective at reducing carbon emissions (not true, each MWh of renewable energy has, by and large, replaced a MWh generated previously by fossil fuel plants) and damaging to the system (obviously not the case). But the cat is out of the bag: once renewable energy reaches a critical mass, its impact on power systems is pretty much irreversible and no amount of lobbying by utilities is going to get them their previous business model back: wind turbines and solar panels are there and they will keep on cranking out zero-marginal-cost MWh for a very, very long time...

So utilities would be well advised to focus their lobbying on fixes to the system that actually solve problems (like capacity markets, or maybe new rules on grid access for "must-run plants), and to not cut the tree on which they are sitting (killing the support regime for offshore wind, the only sector in renewables which is "utility-scale" and where they have been able to take a leading share, and the only sector of the power sector where they can actually make money these days...)(I note here again, for full disclosure, that I work in the offshore wind sector and appreciate that this may sound rather self-interested).

The politics of power prices are rather volatile, and people have little sympathy for the big utilities, which are typically seen as profiteers anyway, so the focus on the high retail prices could end up damaging them more than it impacts renewable energy producers. Energy is a rather complex topic, not really suited for soundbites, and it is easy to confuse people or say outright lies without getting caught right away. But, by and large, Germans still support the Energiewende - both the move away from nuclear and the support for renewable energy - and are willing to pay for it. And for areas like Bremerhaven, all the manufacturing activity linked to wind and offshore wind is rather welcome.

:: ::

In summary:

  • Renewable energy is reaching the scale where it has an impact on the overall system; the effects are irreversible, and highly damaging to incumbents;
  • The net cost to get there has been relatively low, and largely paid for by utilities, which have constantly underestimated the ongoing changes, even as they were both (wrongly) dismissing them and (relatively ineffectively) fighting them;
  • there are legitimate worries about the way to maintain the fleet of flexible plants that was required in the past and will continue to be needed in the new paradigm, but can no longer pay its way under current market arrangements; the solution is not to fight renewables (it won't make the existing fleet go away) but to ensure that the right services (MW on demand) are properly remunerated;
  • the shale gas revolution will have a limited impact in this context (it had almost none in Europe, other than via some cheap coal exports from the US for a short period), and does not change the economics of gas-fired plants to the point that they can be competitive in a system dominated by renewable energy production capacity;
  • more generally, the future for gas suppliers is bleaker than for gas turbine manufacturers - there will be a need for a lot of gas-fired plants but they won't be burning a lot of gas (they will be selling MW rather than MWh);
  • overall, a future with high renewable penetration is not only possible but increasingly likely, and it's a good thing.

Part of the wind power series.

Wed 29 May, 2013

15:00 PMS: Symptoms and Treatment» LiveScience.com

Thu 16 May, 2013

15:42 Facts About Krypton» LiveScience.com
Properties, sources and uses of the element krypton.

Fri 26 April, 2013

15:27 Facts About Titanium» LiveScience.com
Properties, uses and sources of the element titanium.

Tue 26 February, 2013

15:03 Facts About Rhinos» LiveScience.com
Their horns are made of the same stuff as human fingernails!
14:26 Facts About Alligators» LiveScience.com
There are only two species of these chomping machines, find out where they are!

Tue 29 January, 2013

17:41 Are Ghosts Real? Science Says No-o-o-o» LiveScience.com
Ghost hunters like to believe that ghosts exist, but science and logic are ghost busters.

Mon 29 October, 2012

11:38 Vampires: Fact, Fiction and Folklore» LiveScience.com
Vampire fans have a rich vein of lore to draw from.
Sources