Yeah…would you look at that.
3:00 pm has come and gone.
<————- And take a look at this. I found this picture on Pinterest, is it me…or does the left side of her jacket look like Texas? I don’t know, but when I look at that picture, I think of Wendy Davis running for Governor of Texas! Wendy had some choice words for Republicans regarding the SCOTUS decision to give all of Texas Women the ol’ “fuck you!” More on this later…but, first…let’s get this “morning” post started.
Latest news on State Senator Creigh Deeds: Three hospitals with psychiatric units had room for Deeds’s son on Monday – The Washington Post
At least three hospitals near Bath County had available beds the day before the son of Virginia state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds apparently stabbed his father and then shot himself to death, officials confirmed Wednesday.
Deeds’s condition was upgraded to good at a Charlottesville hospital as investigators and mental-health officials continued to search for an explanation of what happened. Austin Deeds, who was 24, had undergone a psychiatric evaluation on Monday, but officials initially said he was not admitted to a hospital because no bed was available.
It remained unclear Wednesday which hospitals were called and why Austin Deeds was not taken to one of the available facilities.
Voters here on Tuesday defeated a ballot question that sought to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, delivering a critical setback to an anti-abortion movement that had sought to use this progressive city to recalibrate the national debate around women’s reproductive rights.
The referendum, the first of its kind in the country for a municipality, was marked by record turnout and aggressive tactics by volunteers on both sides, who sought to capitalize on the controversy and passion surrounding the issue to drive voters to the polls. For political strategists, it also offered a chance to test the way their message on abortion resonated among Hispanics, a key constituency that accounts for nearly half of the residents in Albuquerque and New Mexico, and is one of the fastest-growing populations in the country.
“This was a clear counterpunch to the Republicans and right-wingers who came from out of state to push their agenda on us,” Sam Bregman, chairman of the New Mexico Democratic Party, which campaigned hard against the ban, said in an interview.
Give that piece a read, some interesting quotes from the local people in Albuquerque. The vote was 55 % to 45% btw…
You may remember the outcry from David Horsey, cartoonist at the LA Times, when there was a possibility the Koch Brothers would be buying the paper out? Think back and then read this: Tribune Co. Cutting 700 Newspaper Jobs Amid Dropping Advertising Revenues – Forbes
Tribune Co., the parent of several legendary newspapers including the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune, announced restructuring plans that include cutting 700 jobs, mainly from its newspaper unit. Facing falling advertising revenues, Tribune has been engaged in aggressive cost-cutting which has helped the company remain profitable, its latest earnings show.
Staff reductions amount to about 6% of Tribune’s workforce, and will be focused on operations personnel at their publishing unit, rather than on editorial staff, chief executive Peter Liguori said, according to the LA Times. At the same time, the company is looking consolidate advertising and circulation functions which were previously managed by each of the eight newspapers in their portfolio individually.
I wonder what Horsey will do with this nugget of news now. (He is really such a talented and ballsy cartoonist…)
Alright. Now that the newsy part of the post is over, here comes the meaty part.
Did you hear the news? Hollywood is making a sequel, but this in no ordinary sequel. It’s not Rocky 15 or Hobbitt III…this time Hollywood is going back to it’s roots…back to it’s heyday…it is going back to Bedford Falls.
The sequel, titled “It’s a Wonderful Life: The Rest of the Story,” is being financed by Allen J. Schwalb of Star Partners who will also produce along with Bob Farnsworth of Hummingbird. The duo are aiming to get the movie into theaters for the 2015 holiday season.
Karolyn Grimes, who played George Bailey’s daughter “Zuzu” in the original, will return for the “Wonderful Life” sequel as an angel who shows Bailey’s unlikeable grandson (also named George Bailey) how the world would be if he had he never been born.
I am negative by birth, being a Sicilian and all, but there are some things (whether they be books or film) that do not and should not be treated to “the sequel.” It’s a Wonderful Life is not one of them.
I guess I am not the only one who feels this way, Mike Fleming Jr at Deadline had this to say: Beyond ‘Wonderful Life’, What Other Sacred Cows Should Be On The Sequel Menu?
Our sister publication Variety just bannered an exclusive that there is a sequel in the works to the charming Frank Capra-directed Jimmy Stewart film It’s A Wonderful Life. Here, the actress who played Bailey daughter Zuzu (Karolyn Grimes) returns as an angel to advise George Bailey’s grandson (cleverly named George Bailey) because he has turned into a douchebag. While my first impulse is to label this a sign of the apocalypse, particularly after I see stories about Robert De Niro talking about a Taxi Driver sequel, maybe the Wonderful Life‘s backers at Star Partners are on to something. Even if something is considered a sacred cow, if that cow was run through the slaughterhouse, wouldn’t there be some tasty steaks for all? I need to stop judging.
No, please Mike..judge…judge!
You could take the progeny of a number of classic films and continue those beloved story lines. Why, maybe Rosebud didn’t completely burn up in the fire at the end of Citizen Kane. It got saved by Charles Foster Kane’s son or nephew, and their grandson finds it in the barn, pimps it out and uses Rosebud to conquer the downhill wooden sledding circuit, which for sequel purposes has been approved as an event in the next Winter Olympics. Any other classics that could be sequelized with the combination of ingenuity and public domain rights expiration?
After watching weeks of The Story of Film on TCM, I see just how crappy cinema has become here in the US. I knew it was shit for a long time now, but there is nothing like seeing some of those wonderful classic films through a film historian’s eyes to get a true feel for what we have lost. And I think what is more important, what we are losing in not moving forward towards innovation in film.
In the meantime, here in America…Walmart employees are really living the “wonderful life.” If they aren’t in fear of being shot by the stupid idiots that shop at their stores: Gun in pants pocket fires in Walmart; owner keeps shopping
Police said a man whose gun accidentally fired in his pants pocket while at Walmart on Sunday kept on shopping, paying for his items and leaving as though nothing had happened.
Christopher William Strube, 50, was arrested Monday and charged with discharging a weapon within city limits.
Strube was shopping Sunday afternoon with his .45-caliber gun in his pocket, when a bottle he was carrying bumped into the gun and caused it to fire one round, police said. Strube told police that after the gun went off, he paid for his items and left the store.
Employees and customers said they heard a gunshot and smelled gun powder. Police later found a .45-caliber bullet inside a can of beans.
These Walmart employees are collecting cans for other Walmart employees who are too poor to feed themselves at Thanksgiving.
Of those three articles, I say read the last one by Bill Moyers.
This is very disturbing and upsetting for me on a very personal level. You all know why…Walmart puts food on our table, and I was always told not to “shit where you eat.” Walmart should increase their employee pay…geez, WTF is wrong with them. The Simple Path to a Living Wage at Walmart
In the past week, both a senior editor at Fortune magazine and the liberal think tank Demos have made similar proposals for how Walmart could greatly increase worker wages without harming its business prospects. What is this mysterious financial magic?
The two proposals differ a bit in the details, but they use roughly the same mechanism to reach the same goal, so we’ll go with Demos’s proposal (described in full here) for ease of explanation. Basically, the argument is this: Walmart throws off enough cash in profits each year that it could easily raise the wages of its workers by about 50%, so that they all made about $25K per year, which is what activists are seeking. Currently, the company just uses that cash for other purposes. Like what? Well, Demos points out that Walmart spent $7.6 billion last year buying back its own stock shares, a maneuver designed to buoy the stock price and dividend payments.
Demos estimates that if Walmart had dedicated last year’s share repurchasing money to worker wages, it could have ensured that all employees working 32 hours or more per week made at least $25K per year. (Something that is not unknown in the retail world.)
The key to this plan is simply a realistic look at which stakeholders benefit from which economic decision. Buying back shares can be popular on Wall Street, but it doesn’t change Walmart’s actual business operations one whit. The money, then could either provide a living wage to close to a million workers who currently do not make enough to provide for their families, or it could be used to vastly increase he personal wealth of the richest and greediest family in America.
Greed. Happy Thanksgiving.
In another sad story about living a “wonderful life” this time in Hawaii, at the hands of a “democrat.” Oh, this is disgusting. Worst Person in the World: Vigilante State Rep. Smashes Shopping Carts Used by Homeless People | The Daily Banter
Contrary to popular myths and stereotypes, Hawaii, and especially Honolulu, has a serious problem with poverty and homelessness. It’s not hard to spot tent cities in parks and near industrial areas, where hula dancers, surf boards and mai tais are nowhere in sight. In fact, Hawaii has the highest rate of homelessness in the nation, with a population of around 17,000.
So along comes State Rep. Tom Brower — and his sledgehammer. Brower, wearing an Armani hat, has taken it upon himself to destroy and confiscate shopping carts used by homeless people.
Video at the link if you can stand it.
Brower, a Democrat, was quoted by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser as saying, “If I see shopping carts that I can’t identify, I will destroy them so they can’t be pushed on the streets.” Later, on a local news station, Brower told a reporter, “I want to do something practical that will really clean up the streets.”
Yeah. He’s quite a hero, isn’t he? Destroying one of the only means by which homeless people can carry their few possessions — or, in some cases, earn some extra money by collecting recyclable cans and bottles. Specifically, Brower smashes the wheels off the carts, making them impossible to use. So instead of homeless people pushing shopping carts, Hawaii will have a homeless population dragging bashed up, wobble-wheeled carts now. Nice guy.
But it gets worse.
Yeah, is sure does. Go and read what this guy does the homeless people who sleep during the day in the streets of Honolulu. He must really want to keep Honolulu off of France’s “Watch Your Ass” US City Hot List: France to its citizens: Beware of downtown Atlanta after dark | www.ajc.com
The French don’t think Downtown Atlanta is such a safe tourist destination after hours.
Because of that, the city “too busy to hate” has found itself on a list of U.S. cities foreign countries warn their traveling citizens about.
The Washington Post recently named 16 American cities that governments from overseas suggest that people visiting the U.S. take precautions when touring.
Among those was Atlanta, whose downtown area the French Consulate suggested might not be the safest place to be after hours.
Hmmm, maybe those homeless people know something about dangerous places after hours? Like it would be better and probably safer to stay awake at night? (Yeah, it is a stretch, I know…)
Moving on…to a “wonderful life” as a woman: ‘Economics Of Birth Control’ Infographic Is The Most Important Thing You’ll See Today
Birth control affects the global economy — on a much larger scale than you might think.
This infographic, created by Population Action International, shows just how much a lack of access to contraception impacts not just women and their children, but the amount countries spend on basic services for entire populations. Yet, sadly, only 22 percent of family-planning needs are being met worldwide.
According to Population Action, “For every $1 we invest in family planning, we save $4 in other areas like education, public health, and water and sanitation.” Check out the numbers below. They paint a pretty depressing picture — and one that needs to change ASAP.
Infographic at the link. But does it really matter, because according to Stuart Varney, Fox Business host: Maybe ‘something about the female brain’ makes women bad tech CEOs | The Raw Story
Fox Business host Stuart Varney on Monday addressed the lack of women executives in the technology industry by suggesting that there was “something about the female brain” that deterred companies from hiring them.
Early last month, filings for Twitter’s plan to publicly offer shares showed that the company was dominated by male executives.
“Should tech companies feel obligated to put women on the board or to make women top executives just to be politically correct,” Varney asked the Tea Party News Network’s Scottie Hughes on Monday.
“No business should ever be obligated to bring on a woman,” Hughes insisted. “They should want to, but you’re not seeing this in Silicon Valley for some reason.”
“But why is that?” Varney wondered. “It’s a very difficult question to ask because it’s politically incorrect. Is there something about the female brain that is a deterrent for getting on board with tech? Is there?”
At least we have Wendy Davis as a voice for women out there: Wendy Davis Slams Texas Republicans After Supreme Court Upholds State Abortion Restrictions
State Sen. Wendy Davis (D), Democrats’ popular candidate for governor of Texas, slammed Texas Republicans following the Supreme Court’s decision to allow the state to continue enforcing its strict anti-abortion law.
“This law is an abuse of power by politicians in Austin. Clinics will close and women’s health will be hurt,” Davis said in a statement to TPM on Tuesday. “I trust women to make their own decisions and will continue to work to make sure that women and mothers are safe and have access to adequate health care.”
Earlier in the year Davis gained national attention for waging a 13-hour filibuster of the law.
In a separate statement Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) praised the high court’s decision.
“This is good news both for the unborn and for the women of Texas, who are now better protected from shoddy abortion providers operating in dangerous conditions,” Perry said. “As always, Texas will continue doing everything we can to protect the culture of life in our state.”
The next few links are not within the “wonderful life” theme, but I wanted to include them anyway:
Richard Evershed of the University of Bristol and a team of researchers are investigating how meat products were preserved for provisioning ancient Egyptian tombs. “We’ve done quite a bit on human Egyptian mummies and even a fair bit on animal mummies. But the meat mummies…they’d been sort of left on their own,” he explained. For example, a calf and a goat leg he and his team examined with mass spectroscopy had been wrapped in bandages and smeared with animal fat. A few hundred years earlier, beef ribs prepared for Pharaoh Amenhotep III were treated with an expensive resin imported from the Mediterranean.
Look..it is a rack of Chili’s Baby Back Ribs!
And finally, with all the fuss over the new dictionary word “Selfie” I thought a couple of links regarding words would be neat…English Has a New Preposition, Because Internet – Megan Garber – The Atlantic
Let’s start with the dull stuff, because pragmatism.
The word “because,” in standard English usage, is a subordinating conjunction, which means that it connects two parts of a sentence in which one (the subordinate) explains the other. In that capacity, “because” has two distinct forms. It can be followed either by a finite clause (I’m reading this because [I saw it on the web]) or by a prepositional phrase (I’m reading this because [of the web]). These two forms are, traditionally, the only ones to which “because” lends itself.
I mention all that … because language. Because evolution. Because there is another way to use “because.” Linguists are calling it the “prepositional-because.” Or the “because-noun.“
You probably know it better, however, as explanation by way of Internet—explanation that maximizes efficiency and irony in equal measure. I’m late because YouTube. You’re reading this because procrastination. As the language writer Stan Carey delightfully sums it up: “‘Because’ has become a preposition, because grammar.”
Go and read the rest of that article, it is real interesting.
I guess you could say that Varney and his comment about women tech CEOs would be because misogyny.
As anyone who has tried to blag a vocab test will know, words really don’t have any logic to them. You can’t just “work out” what the German word for “fridge” is. That’s because, of course, words are arbitrary. Cat (or katze or chat) only means “cat” because at some stage people came to agree that it did. Words may share roots and flit across language barriers, but because there’s such a vast number of sounds a human can make, it’s very unlikely that we’d all spontaneously come up with the same word for the same thing.
Except that, apparently, we have. That word is “huh”. According to a recent study it seems to be pretty universal. The scientists (in what sounds like an excellent idea for a research trip), recorded bits of informal language from 5 continents, and of the 31 dialects they compiled, all had this same word in common.
My first thought in reading their findings was “hmmm”. Is “huh” even a word? It seems more like an instinctive utterance – the kind of sound we make when confused. Noises of surprise or anger might be the same everywhere, but that’s because they are not really part of a language. They’re just noises.
But the researchers do a fairly good job of arguing that “huh” is, in fact, a word. It’s not involuntary, and it follows the rules of a given language: if questions are posed with rising intonation, “huh” rises too, and vice versa (it fell in two of the dialects). It is also possible for children and language learners to get “huh” wrong by using it out of context. You can’t get noises of astonishment wrong.
So why is “huh” everywhere? Here’s where the research gets interesting. “Huh”, the scientists suggest, is the only word that can do that particular job. This means you could, technically, work the word out in a vocab test. And if children were really thorough inventors of made up languages, they’d have to include “huh”.
There is more of course at the link. Check it out.
That is it.
Shit, almost 4:30…time does fly when it is a Wonderful Life.
Storms are building up right over Banjoville as I type up this post, so I will be very brief with the commentary.
(I am also very sleepy, so yeah…brief it will be.)
The Immigration reform panel was somewhat productive yesterday: Senate panel passes immigration bill; Obama praises move | Reuters
A Senate panel on Tuesday approved legislation to give millions of illegal immigrants a path to citizenship, setting up a spirited debate next month in the full Senate over the biggest changes in immigration policy in a generation.
President Barack Obama, who has made enactment of an immigration bill one of his top priorities for this year, praised the Senate Judiciary Committee’s action, saying the bill was consistent with the goals he has expressed.
By a vote of 13-5, the Senate panel approved the bill that would put 11 million illegal residents on a 13-year path to citizenship while further strengthening security along the southwestern border with Mexico, long a sieve for illegal crossings into the United States.
The vote followed the committee’s decision to embrace a Republican move to ease restrictions on high-tech U.S. companies that want to hire more skilled workers from countries like India and China.
In a dramatic move before the vote, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont, withdrew an amendment to give people the right to sponsor same-sex partners who are foreigners for permanent legal status.
Leahy’s colleagues on the committee – Republicans and Democrats – warned that the amendment would kill the legislation in Congress. Democrats generally favor providing equal treatment for heterosexual and homosexual couples, while many Republicans oppose doing so.
Well, like I said at the beginning of the post, I wasn’t going to comment much….but yeah, I will say Obama is getting what he wants. Definitely.
Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) had to make what the New York senator called an “excruciating” decision on Tuesday to come out against including LGBT couple provisions in their immigration reform bill, citing the need to keep the fragile balance in the “gang of eight.”
Sounding disappointed, Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) withdrew the amendment after debate during a markup on the bill.
“I take the Republican sponsors of this important legislation at their word that they will abandon their own efforts if discrimination is removed from our immigration system,” Leahy said. “So, with a heavy heart, and as a result of my conclusion that Republicans will kill this vital legislation if this anti-discrimination amendment is added, I will withhold calling for a vote on it. But I will continue to fight for equality.”
Leahy brought up his amendments on same-sex couples during a markup of the immigration bill after some uncertainty that he would force discussion on it at all. Under current law and the Defense of Marriage Act, same-sex couples cannot petition for legal status for the foreign-born partner, even if they’re legally married in their state. That means that thousands are forced to live separately for months or years, or even leave the United States to be with their partners.
Even with all the steps forward lately, in the form of so many states passing marriage equality laws…this immigration bill puts LGBT rights several steps backwards…again.
Oh, and just note by the way, 2 More Antigay Attacks Are Reported in Manhattan
Just hours after hundreds of people held a rally in Greenwich Village to protest the killing of a gay man last week, two men were violently assaulted in separate attacks in downtown Manhattan because of their sexual orientation, New York City officials said on Tuesday.
The attacks added to a troubling increase in reported antigay crimes in the city.
“It is a shame that we have to get together to talk about some things that should never occur, that we always thought, you know, we’d gotten beyond that,” Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said.
If you missed news about that hate crime in the Village, read about it here: Killing in Greenwich Village Looks Like Hate Crime, Police Say and here Charges Filed in Greenwich Village Killing.
In other news from yesterday, Apple was in the Senate’s spotlight, here are a series of links on that story:
In 2012, Apple added more to its offshore profit holdings than any other company, according to a March report by Citizens for Tax Justice.
The company’s method of holding profits overseas isn’t new — and it’s not necessarily illegal — but it was the focus of a Senate hearing on Tuesday in which Apple CEO Tim Cook defended the company’s tax strategies, which allowed Apple to pay a 2 percent tax on $74 billion in profits.
Apple of course isn’t the only company doing this. The tech giant, along with some of America’s largest companies, held at least $1.9 trillion in assets abroad, according to Bloomberg. General Electric, which held $108 billion overseas in 2012, topped Bloomberg’s list of U.S. companies with the most cash held offshore.
Apple has called for US corporate tax rates to be slashed after it admitted sheltering at least $30bn (£20bn) of international profits in Irish subsidiaries that pay no tax at all.
In a dramatic display of how threats from multinational corporations are driving down taxes across the world, chief executive Tim Cook warned Congress that he would refuse to repatriate a total of $100bn stashed offshore unless it acted to slash the 35% US rate.
Cook said the tax rate for repatriated money should be set “in single digits” to persuade companies to bring it back. Standard tax for US profits should be, he said, in the “mid 20s”.
He also revealed that Apple had struck a secret deal with the Irish government in 1980 to limit its domestic taxes there to 2%.
Three subsidiaries based in Ireland are also used to shelter profits made in the rest of Europe and Asia but are not classed as resident in any country for tax purposes – a tactic dubbed the “iCompany” by critics.
Cook’s testimony to a Senate sub-committee investigating multinational tax practices largely confirmed its findings that Apple had taken tax avoidance to a new extreme by structuring these companies so they did not incur tax liabilities anywhere.
Then you have Rand and his demand for an apology to Apple, Rand Paul: Senate should apologize to Apple for ‘spectacle’ hearing on taxes
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) blasted his colleagues on Tuesday for holding a hearing to examine Apple’s methods for avoiding taxes.
“I frankly think the committee should apologize to Apple,” Paul said during a hearing of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.
Paul said he was offended by the “tone and tenor of the hearing.”
“I’m offended by the spectacle of dragging in executives from an American company that is not doing anything illegal,” Paul said.
The subcommittee released a report on Monday that found that Apple has avoided billions of dollars in taxes in recent years through a network of offshore shell companies.
What a Randian asshole that Rand Paul is…And, I still don’t get all this 3-D printer stuff…but here is another new way to use one of those special printers.
NASA can send robots to Mars, no problem. But if it’s ever going to put humans on the red planet it has to figure out how to feed them over the course of a years-long mission.So the space agency has funded research for what could be the ultimate nerd solution: a 3-D printer that creates entrees or desserts at the touch of a button.
Anjan Contractor’s 3D food printer might evoke visions of the “replicator” popularized in Star Trek, from which Captain Picard was constantly interrupting himself to order tea. And indeed Contractor’s company, Systems & Materials Research Corporation, just got a six month, $125,000 grant from NASA to create a prototype of his universal food synthesizer.
But Contractor, a mechanical engineer with a background in 3D printing, envisions a much more mundane—and ultimately more important—use for the technology. He sees a day when every kitchen has a 3D printer, and the earth’s 12 billion people feed themselves customized, nutritionally-appropriate meals synthesized one layer at a time, from cartridges of powder and oils they buy at the corner grocery store. Contractor’s vision would mean the end of food waste, because the powder his system will use is shelf-stable for up to 30 years, so that each cartridge, whether it contains sugars, complex carbohydrates, protein or some other basic building block, would be fully exhausted before being returned to the store.
Ubiquitous food synthesizers would also create new ways of producing the basic calories on which we all rely. Since a powder is a powder, the inputs could be anything that contain the right organic molecules. We already know that eating meat is environmentally unsustainable, so why not get all our protein from insects?
If eating something spat out by the same kind of 3D printers that are currently being used to make everything from jet engine parts to fine art doesn’t sound too appetizing, that’s only because you can currently afford the good stuff, says Contractor. That might not be the case once the world’s population reaches its peak size, probably sometime near the end of this century.
“I think, and many economists think, that current food systems can’t supply 12 billion people sufficiently,” says Contractor. “So we eventually have to change our perception of what we see as food.”
Okay, is this like a step towards Solent Green?
I guess my mind, a comical combination of medicine induced haze, epilepsy impaired brain cells, crazy depressed emotional waves, medievalist mind at heart, twisted dark thought-provoking, sleepy, overweight, short, forty-plus woman can’t seem to grasp the concept behind these printers. Can someone explain to me, in the simplest of terms…what exactly are 3-D printers and how the fuck do these 3-D printer things work?
That is my question to you this morning. Y’all have a good day…hopefully things will be quiet and peaceful.
McALLEN, Texas — The Texas fertilizer plant that exploded last month, killing 14 people, injuring more than 200 others and causing tens of millions of dollars in damage to the surrounding area had only $1 million in liability coverage, lawyers said Saturday.
Tyler lawyer Randy C. Roberts said he and other attorneys who have filed lawsuits against West Fertilizer’s owners were told Thursday that the plant carried only $1 million in liability insurance. Brook Laskey, an attorney hired by the plant’s insurer to represent West Fertilizer Co., confirmed the amount Saturday in an email to The Associated Press, after the Dallas Morning News first reported it.
“The bottom line is, this lack of insurance coverage is just consistent with the overall lack of responsibility we’ve seen from the fertilizer plant, starting from the fact that from day one they have yet to acknowledge responsibility,” Roberts said.
Apparently, Texas’ lax regulations are implicated in this latest outrage.
“It’s rare for Texas to require insurance for any kind of hazardous activity,” [Roberts] said. “We have very little oversight of hazardous activities and even less regulation.”
That’s disgusting. The news was first reported by The Dallas Morning News:
“A million dollars is a pathetic amount for this type of dangerous activity,” lawyer Randy C. Roberts said.
“If you want to drive a truck down the interstate, you’ve got to have $750,000 in coverage, even if you’re just carrying eggs,” Roberts said. “But if you want to put this ammonium nitrate into this town next to that school and that nursing home and those houses, you’re not required to carry insurance.” [....]
Property damage alone in West could reach $100 million, according to the Insurance Council of Texas, an industry association. The April 17 explosion destroyed an apartment complex and seriously damaged a nursing home and a school. Several hundred homes also sustained damage, with some leveled to the foundation.
An attorney for United States Fire Insurance Co. of Morristown, N.J., confirmed Friday that West Fertilizer had $1 million in liability coverage “with no excess or umbrella coverage.”
Fertilizer facilities like the one in West are not required to have liability insurance that would compensate for damage they might cause, state insurance officials say, even if hazardous material is on hand.
West Fertilizer had reported having 270 tons of ammonium nitrate on site as of the end of last year. Outside experts have said it appears the chemical exploded during a fire on company property.
In other disturbing news, the West plant has been broken into by thieves “at least” 11 times “over the past 12 years.”
The Texas fertilizer plant that exploded two weeks ago, killing 14 people and injuring about 200, was a repeat target of theft by intruders who tampered with tanks and caused the release of toxic chemicals, police records reviewed by Reuters show.
Police responded to at least 11 reports of burglaries and five separate ammonia leaks at West Fertilizer Co over the past 12 years, according to 911 dispatch logs and criminal offense reports Reuters obtained from the McLennan County Sheriff’s office in Waco, Texas through an Open Records Request.
Some of the leaks, including one reported in October 2012, were linked to theft or interference with tank valves.
According to one 2002 crime report, a plant manager told police that intruders were stealing four to five gallons of anhydrous ammonia every three days. The liquid gas can be used to cook methamphetamine, the addictive and illicit stimulant.
In rural areas across the United States, the thriving meth trade has turned storage facilities like West Fertilizer Co and even unattended tanks in farm fields into frequent targets of theft, according to several government and fertilizer industry reports issued over the past 13 years.
“It’s hard to say what measures they were taking, but clearly the number of reported instances of burglary is alarming,” Sam Mannan, who teaches chemical engineering at Texas A&M University in College Station, said in an interview. “Probably their measures were not up to snuff.”‘ [....]
The facility was often open after hours, as farmers frequently need access to fertilizer and would pick up loads informally, said Ken Kubala, a former West city secretary. That attracted not only ammonia thieves but vandals and petty burglars, including one who watched pornography on an office computer and another who stole a box of Oreo cookies, according to the sheriff’s incident report.
Deputies found a leaking tank of anhydrous ammonia at the plant as recently as Oct. 15, after a resident reported an ammonia smell “so strong it can burn your eyes.” The plant manager turned off the tank and told deputies a valve had been tampered with, according to a police call log….
The reports of break-ins underscore the need for greater government oversight, said Tom Smith, the head of the Texas office of Public Citizen, a Washington-based nonprofit group that advocates for more regulation of hazardous industries.
This “adds a whole new level of complexity,” Smith said in an interview, referring to the news of the burglaries. At the state level, “nobody is sitting down and trying to safeguard these toxins or explosives.”
The current owners of the plant are Donald and Wanda Adair. The article says they did make an effort to stop the break-ins by putting in security cameras.
Honestly, this story just keeps getting worse. I don’t even know what to say, except that I feel for the people in West who have been affected and hope they will get some financial help from donations. Here are some suggestions of how to help from NBC News.
President Obama isn’t looking so “progressive” this morning (what else is new?). Yesterday, his “Justice” department announced they will ignore science as well as the health needs of women and girls by fighting a judge’s order to make Plan B emergency contraception available over-the-counter without age limits. NYT:
The appeal reaffirms an election-year decision by Mr. Obama’s administration to block the drug’s maker from selling it without a prescription or consideration of age, and puts the White House back into the politically charged issue of access to emergency contraception.
The Justice Department’s decision to appeal is in line with the views of dozens of conservative, anti-abortion groups who do not want contraceptives made available to young girls. But the decision was criticized by advocates for women’s reproductive health and abortion rights who cite years of scientific research saying the drug is safe and effective for all ages.
“Age barriers to emergency contraception are not supported by science, and they should be eliminated,” Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement on Wednesday.
In December 2011 the secretary of health and human services, Kathleen Sebelius, blocked the sale of the drug to young girls without a prescription, saying there was not enough data to prove it would be safe. In doing so, Ms. Sebelius took the unprecedented step of overruling the Food and Drug Administration, which had moved, based on scientific research, to lift all age restrictions.
I could use some profane language here, but I’ll spare you for the moment. You may be mumbling to yourself too, after you read about Obama’s latest picks for the FCC and Commerce Department.
First the FCC. The New York Times reports: Telecom Investor Named to Be F.C.C. Chairman.
Tom Wheeler, President Obama’s pick to be the next chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, knows all about the most advanced telecommunications systems — of the 19th century.
In his 2008 book “Mr. Lincoln’s T-Mails: How Abraham Lincoln Used the Telegraph to Win the Civil War,” Mr. Wheeler, an investor in start-up technology and communications companies, documents how Lincoln was an “early adopter” of what has been called “the Victorian Internet.”
Lincoln’s championing and advancement of popular uses of the telegraph are not unlike the challenges Mr. Wheeler is likely to face as chairman of the F.C.C., which is waging an intense battle to keep Internet service free of commercial roadblocks and widely available in its most affordable, up-to-date capabilities.
Mr. Wheeler’s qualifications for “one of the toughest jobs in Washington,” Mr. Obama said, include a long history “at the forefront of some of the very dramatic changes that we’ve seen in the way we communicate and how we live our lives.”
“He was one of the leaders of a company that helped create thousands of good, high-tech jobs,” Mr. Obama said, referring to Core Capital Partners, the Washington investment firm where Mr. Wheeler is a managing director. “He’s in charge of the group that advises the F.C.C. on the latest technology issues,” adding that “he’s helped give American consumers more choices and better products.”
But does all that qualify Wheeler to protect consumers at the FCC? From Ars Technica:
President Barack Obama today announced his choice to run the Federal Communications Commission. As reported yesterday, the nominee is Tom Wheeler, a venture capitalist who was formerly a lobbyist at the top of the cable and wireless industries, leading the National Cable Television Association (NCTA) and Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association (CTIA).
The nomination continues the parade of lobbyists becoming government officials and vice versa, a trend that has favored moneyed interests over the average American citizen and consumer time and again. One can take solace in the fact that Wheeler will be tasked with implementing the communications policies of President Obama, who says he is eager to fight on behalf of consumers and to maintain thriving and open Internet and wireless marketplaces.
But the same President who said “I am in this race to tell the corporate lobbyists that their days of setting the agenda in Washington are over” when he was running for office has given the FCC’s top job to a former lobbyist. Wheeler donated $38,500 to Obama’s election efforts and helped raise additional money for Obama by becoming a “bundler,” arranging for large contributions from other donors after hitting legal limits on personal contributions.
Not surprisingly, the cable and telecom companies that Wheeler springs from are ecstatic about the nomination.
Gotta get rid of those nasty regulations that protect Americans from price gauging, internet censorship, and all that bad stuff.
Next up, behold Obama’s nomination for Commerce Secretary, old pal Penny Pritzker.
Making official what many Democrats have expected for weeks, President Obama plans to nominate Chicago business executive Penny Pritzker, a longtime political supporter and heavyweight fundraiser, as his new Commerce secretary on Thursday morning.
Pritzker’s nomination could prove controversial. She is on the board of Hyatt Hotels Corp., which was founded by her family and has had rocky relations with labor unions, and she could face questions about the failure of a bank partly owned by her family.
With a personal fortune estimated at $1.85 billion, Pritzker is listed by Forbes magazine among the 300 wealthiest Americans. She is the founder, chair and CEO of PSP Capital Partners, a private equity firm, and its affiliated real estate investment firm, Pritzker Realty Group. She played an influential role in Obama’s rise from Illinois state senator to the nation’s 44th president, serving as Obama’s national finance chair in his first campaign for the White House and co-chair of his reelection campaign.
The president is expected to make the announcement at 10 a.m. at the White House.
If confirmed by the Senate, Pritzker would take charge of the administration’s efforts to build relations with business leaders who were often on the sharp end of the president’s first-term rhetoric.
Sigh . . .
This next story is guaranteed to make your blood boil. Bloomberg reports:
It’s been almost three years since Congress directed the Securities and Exchange Commission to require public companies to disclose the ratio of their chief executive officers’ compensation to the median of the rest of their employees’. The agency has yet to produce a rule.
So Bloomberg decided not to wait around any longer and figured out the ratios for us. See the chart at the above link. More:
The similarity ends there. Johnson, 54, got a compensation package worth 1,795 times the average wage and benefits of a U.S. department store worker when he was hired in November 2011, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Gonzales’s hourly wage was $8.30 that year.
Across the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index of companies, theaverage multiple of CEO compensation to that of rank-and-file workers is 204, up 20 percent since 2009, the data show. The numbers are based on industry-specific estimates for worker compensation.
Almost three years after Congress ordered public companies to reveal actual CEO-to-worker pay ratios under the Dodd-Frank law, the numbers remain unknown. As theOccupy Wall Street movement and 2012 election made income inequality a social flashpoint, mandatory disclosure of the ratios remained bottled up at the Securities and Exchange Commission, which hasn’t yet drawn up the rules to implement it. Some of America’s biggest companies are lobbying against the requirement.
“It’s a simple piece of information shareholders ought to have,” said Phil Angelides, who led the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, which investigated the economic collapse of 2008. “The fact that corporate executives wouldn’t want to display the number speaks volumes.” The lobbying is part of “a street-by-street, block-by-block fight waged by large corporations and their Wall Street colleagues” to obstruct the Dodd-Frank law, he said.
Are you angry yet? These greedheads are going to keep pushing the envelope until Americans wake up and take to the streets with pitchforks and dust off the guillotines.
My birthplace, North Dakota is changing rapidly–and maybe not in a good way. It turns out the state’s oil is even more plentiful than anyone has realized up till now.
The sea of oil and natural gas underneath North Dakota is far larger than first thought.
There are 7.4 billion barrels of recoverable oil in the western part of the state and extending into Montana, according to the latest estimate by the U.S. Geological Survey.
That’s more than twice the oil the USGS estimated could be recovered five years ago. What’s more, the USGS has nearly tripled its estimate of the natural gas available in the area.
The revised totals could make the North Dakota field the greatest oil and gas find ever in the continental United States, topping the fabled East Texas field that made Texas synonymous with oil wealth. And it would put North Dakota second to Prudhoe Bay as the largest oil producer in U.S. history.
And even this estimate may have to be “revised upward”:
“We think it’s even a little bit conservative,’’ said Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council.
The new estimate will give fresh momentum to an economic boom within the state that has made it the fastest growing in the nation in both population and incomes. Per capita income has risen to $52,000 a year, sixth-highest in the nation, and once quiet farm towns have been overwhelmed by oil field workers, creating shortages of housing and services.
The USGS said the drilling of 4,000 wells since 2008 in what is known as the Bakken formation has given geologists a better idea of the riches underground. The new analysis also highlights the rapid ascent of North American oil and gas production driven by the advent of the technique known as hydraulic fracturing.
I guess I’m happy about the new jobs and population growth, but it will be sad if North Dakota no longer has clean air and vast open spaces.
You may have heard about this fascinating story–it was up toward the top of Google News much of yesterday. Archaeologists have found strong evidence that Starving Settlers in [the] Jamestown Colony Resorted to Cannibalism. From Smithsonian Magazine:
The harsh winter of 1609 in Virginia’s Jamestown Colony forced residents to do the unthinkable. A recent excavation at the historic site discovered the carcasses of dogs, cats and horses consumed during the season commonly called the “Starving Time.” But a few other newly discovered bones in particular, though, tell a far more gruesome story: the dismemberment and cannibalization of a 14-year-old English girl.
“The chops to the forehead are very tentative, very incomplete,” says Douglas Owsley, the Smithsonian forensic anthropologist who analyzed the bones after they were found by archaeologists from Preservation Virginia. “Then, the body was turned over, and there were four strikes to the back of the head, one of which was the strongest and split the skull in half. A penetrating wound was then made to the left temple, probably by a single-sided knife, which was used to pry open the head and remove the brain.”
Much is still unknown about the circumstances of this grisly meal: Who exactly the girl researchers are calling “Jane” was, whether she was murdered or died of natural causes, whether multiple people participated in the butchering or it was a solo act. But as Owsley revealed along with lead archaeologist William Kelso today at a press conference at the National Museum of Natural History, we now have the first direct evidence of cannibalism at Jamestown, the oldest permanent English colony in the Americas. “Historians have gone back and forth on whether this sort of thing really happened there,” Owsley says. “Given these bones in a trash pit, all cut and chopped up, it’s clear that this body was dismembered for consumption.”
There’s much more at the link.
Now it’s your turn. What are you reading and blogging about today? Please post your links on any topic in the comment thread, and have a great day!
Via Raw Story, the above cartoon by Jack Ohman of the Sacramento Bee, published last Thursday, has Texas Governor Rick Perry all hot under the collar–so much so that he (or some flunky) wrote a letter to the editor, which the Bee published on Friday. Here it is:
Re “Business is booming in Texas” (Editorial cartoon, April 25): It was with extreme disgust and disappointment I viewed your recent cartoon. While I will always welcome healthypolicy debate, I won’t stand for someone mocking the tragic deaths of my fellow Texans and our fellow Americans.
Additionally, publishing this on the very day our state and nation paused to honor and mourn those who died only compounds the pain and suffering of the many Texans who lost family and friends in this disaster. The Bee owes the community of West, Texas an immediate apology for your detestable attempt at satire.
– Gov. Rick Perry, Austin, Tex.
So far, Ohman’s editor Stuart Leavenworth is standing up for him. You can read his full response at the above link. From Raw Story:
Stuart Leavenworth, the editorial page editor of The Sacramento Bee, said the cartoon illustrated Perry’s “disregard for worker safety, and his attempts to market Texas as a place where industries can thrive with few regulations.”
Earlier this year, California Gov. Jerry Brown chided Texas for having a high percentage of workers earning minimum wage. Perry responded about a month later by running radio ads in California that encouraged business owners to move to his state. Perry claimed building a business in California was “next to impossible” because of regulations and taxes — regulations and taxes that his state lacked.
Ohman wrote about the “controversy” on his blog today. He says that a number of readers chastised him for the cartoon.
Their comments ranged from “you are a sick human being” to “insensitive and tasteless.” I’m not sure I am clinically qualified to give myself a direct diagnosis, but I am pretty sure I am not a sick human being. Let’s explore the question of tastelessness.
The Texas chemical plant had not been inspected by the state of Texas since 2006. That’s seven years ago. You may have read in the news that Gov. Perry, during his business recruiting trips to California and Illinois, generally described his state as free from high taxes and burdensome regulation. One of the burdensome regulations he neglected to mention was the fact that his state hadn’t really gotten around to checking out that fertilizer plant. Many Texas cities have little or no zoning, resulting in homes being permitted next to sparely inspected businesses that store explosive chemicals….
When I have to come up with these ideas, I can assure you that I am not really deliberately trying to be tasteless. I am not. What I am trying to do is make readers think about an issue in a striking way. I seem to have succeeded in this cartoon, one way or the other.
The question is whether it is tasteless or not.
My answer, respectfully, is that it isn’t.
Having said that, what normal person doesn’t mourn those poor people fighting the fire and living by the plant? I certainly do. What makes me angry, and, yes, I am driven by anger, is that it could have been prevented. I guess I could have done a toned-down version of the cartoon; I am not sure what that would have been, but I think many readers’ objections just stemmed from the fact that I used the explosion as a metaphor, period. The wound is fresh, the hurt still stings.
Personally, I thought the cartoon was brilliant–a perfect example of the old saying “a picture is worth a thousands words.” Apparently it got a pretty big rise out of Perry when the thousands of gallons of ink spilled on news stories hasn’t. Perry should be ashamed to show his face in public after what happened in West, Texas. Why on earth do Texans keep reelecting this guy?
Ohman recommended that Perry read this outstanding investigation by Pro Publica, which I read and recommended a few days ago: What Went Wrong in West, Texas — and Where Were the Regulators? Perry should either read it or have his flunky read it to him. Then he should wake up and realize that millions of Americans disapprove of his laissez-faire, Ayn Randian approach to government, and cartoonist Jack Ohman expressed our feelings perfectly.
But I don’t expect Perry will take responsibility for his role in the West, Texas disaster, because he can’t handle the truth.