I have a mixture of links for you today, with no overall theme whatsoever. There is news happening out there, but somehow it still feels like a slow news month so far. Maybe it’s just because it feels like nothing is really happening that will change the “malaise” in the country, to use Jimmy Carter’s term. The economy doesn’t really seem to be improving for 90 percent of us, and the bottleneck in Congress feels unbreakable. So here are some stories that caught my eye.
From The New York Times: Scientists Warn of Rising Oceans From Polar Melt.
A large section of the mighty West Antarctica ice sheet has begun falling apart and its continued melting now appears to be unstoppable, two groups of scientists reported on Monday. If the findings hold up, they suggest that the melting could destabilize neighboring parts of the ice sheet and a rise in sea level of 10 feet or more may be unavoidable in coming centuries.
Global warming caused by the human-driven release of greenhouse gases has helped to destabilize the ice sheet, though other factors may also be involved, the scientists said.
The rise of the sea is likely to continue to be relatively slow for the rest of the 21st century, the scientists added, but in the more distant future it may accelerate markedly, potentially throwing society into crisis.
“This is really happening,” Thomas P. Wagner, who runs NASA’s programs on polar ice and helped oversee some of the research, said in an interview. “There’s nothing to stop it now. But you are still limited by the physics of how fast the ice can flow.”
Read details about the two studies at the NYT link. Richard B. Alley, scientist not involved in the studies noted that what’s happening in Antarctica is only one source of future climate change disasters.
He added that while a large rise of the sea may now be inevitable from West Antarctica, continued release of greenhouse gases will almost certainly make the situation worse. The heat-trapping gases could destabilize other parts of Antarctica as well as the Greenland ice sheet, potentially causing enough sea-level rise that many of the world’s coastal cities would eventually have to be abandoned.
“If we have indeed lit the fuse on West Antarctica, it’s very hard to imagine putting the fuse out,” Dr. Alley said. “But there’s a bunch more fuses, and there’s a bunch more matches, and we have a decision now: Do we light those?”
So it’s not as if we actually have the rest of the century to deal with the problem. Maybe the right wing nuts should start building an ark.
From Politico: Chamber of Commerce gives ultimatum to GOP.
The GOP shouldn’t even field a presidential candidate in 2016 unless Congress passes immigration reform this year, U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue said Monday.
“If the Republicans don’t do it, they shouldn’t bother to run a candidate in 2016,” Donohue joked at an event on infrastructure investment in D.C. “Think about that. Think about who the voters are. I just did that to get everybody’s attention.”
Republicans have focused on an immigration overhaul as a way to woo Hispanic voters, who have increasingly drifted to Democrats over the past two election cycles. Growing Hispanic populations in Nevada, Texas and elsewhere could make those states more amenable to Democrats in the future.
Apparently, Donohue still thinks he can light a fire under the asses of the Tea Party nuts in the House. Good luck with that.
Politico also reports that John Boehner may be tiring of the frustrating job of Speaker of the dysfunctional House of Representatives: John Boehner can’t promise another 2 years as speaker.
The Ohio Republican, speaking to a luncheon here [San Antonio, TX] sponsored by a group of local chambers of commerce, said he can’t “predict what’s going to happen” and stopped short of fully committing to serving another full two-year term.
“Listen, I’m going to be 65 years old in November,” Boehner said. “I never thought I’d live to be 60. So I’m living on borrowed time.”
It’s extraordinarily rare for Boehner to sit down for an open-ended, live interview, but he did so here with the Texas Tribune’s Evan Smith, a mainstay of the Lone Star State’s journalism scene. He touched on issues ranging from immigration to Benghazi to his quiet campaign to persuade Jeb Bush to run for president….
Boehner’s noncommittal response about his future will reverberate from here all the way back to Capitol Hill and K Street. His future has been a topic of constant chatter among political types. Even people inside his orbit privately wonder why the Ohio Republican would want to serve another term wielding the speaker’s gavel, given the tumultuous political climate in Washington. Last week, Boehner beat back two primary opponents to ensure his House reelection.
Much more interesting Boehner news at the link.
Texas plans to execute death row prisoner Robert James Campbell today, and they aren’t the least bit concerned about the recent horrifically botched execution in Oklahoma. From the NYT: Confronted on Execution, Texas Proudly Says It Kills Efficiently.
HUNTSVILLE, Tex. — If Texas executes Robert James Campbell as planned on Tuesday, for raping and murdering a woman, it will be the nation’s first execution since Oklahoma’s bungled attempt at lethal injection two weeks ago left a convicted murderer writhing and moaning before he died.
Lawyers for Mr. Campbell are trying to use the Oklahoma debacle to stop the execution here. But many in this state and in this East Texas town north of Houston, where hundreds have been executed in the nation’s busiest death chamber, like to say they do things right.
For two years now, Texas has used a single drug, the barbiturate pentobarbital, instead of the three-drug regimen used in neighboring Oklahoma. Prison administrators from other states often travel here to learn how Texas performs lethal injections and to observe executions. Texas officials have provided guidance and, on at least a few occasions, carried out executions for other states.
Even the protesters and television cameras that used to accompany executions here have, in most cases, dissipated. “It’s kind of business as usual,” said Tommy Oates, 62, a longtime resident who was eating lunch last week at McKenzie’s Barbeque, about one mile from the prison known as the Walls Unit. “That sounds cold, I know. But they’re not in prison for singing too loud at church.”
That’s Texas’ claim to fame now, I guess–efficient executions. Practice makes perfect.
The LA Times broke some news this morning about deceased alleged Boston Bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev. The paper has learned that the gun Tsarnaev use in a shootout with police in Watertown, Massachusetts a few days after the Marathon bombing was linked to a drug gang in Portland, Maine.
When police confronted Tamerlan Tsarnaev four nights after the Boston Marathon bombing last year, he leaped from his car with a 9-millimeter semiautomatic pistol and opened fire….
The tale of that handgun, a black Ruger P95, Serial Number 317-87693, offers new insights into the Boston tragedy and holds warnings of other potential dangers.
Its journey from a street gang that peddled crack cocaine in Portland, Maine, to the grisly shootout in a Boston suburb tells much about illicit drug and gun trafficking in New England, and perhaps more about Tsarnaev.
Authorities believe Tsarnaev’s ties to the illicit drug trade in Maine helped finance his six-month trip to the southern Russian republics of Chechnya and Dagestan in early 2012, where he became radicalized. Drug money, they say, also may have helped him buy components of the bomb that killed three people and injured more than 260 on April 15, 2013.
The Times learned about this from records “obtained” from the Justice Department records. The gun had originally been purchased legally by an LA man named Danny Sun, Jr. living in Portland, Maine. It’s not clear exactly how Tsarnaev got the gun, but the serial numbers had been fined down. Police were able to “raise” the serial number using with “forensic techniques.”
Curiouser and curiouser. Last June, I wrote a post in which I argued for a drug connection to the Tsarnaev brothers and a horrific September 11, 2011 triple murder in Waltham, Massachusetts; but I suspected a connection with an international drug ring centered in Watertown, Waltham, and Newton. I have continued following this story closely for the past year. Now this. I don’t know what to think. I only know that this background of the Boston Marathon bombings is incredibly complex and mysterious.
I don’t know how many people have been following the latest discussions about net neutrality. This is going to be an important week in the fight between internet users and the Cable giants. Here’s the latest from Radio survivor: FCC Chair Wheeler Shuffles Open Internet Deck Ahead of Meeting.
This is a tough week to be Tom Wheeler, Chairman of the FCC. This Thursday he has an open meeting where he plans to present his Open Internet proposal to the full Commission. As details have come to light a very broad coalition of companies, organizations and legislators–from 150 tech firms like Netflix and Google to the ACLU and NOW–have expressed strong criticisms of it.
At issue are proposed rules that would permit some companies to pay internet service providers for a so-called fast-lane into consumers’ homes. No matter how much Wheeler has tried to assure everyone that the Commission will seriously police for instances where an ISP degrades content from competitors or sources that haven’t paid for an express lane, critics remain unconvinced. That’s because Wheeler’s proposed standard says “commercially reasonable” discrimination of internet traffic is OK, but “commercially reasonable” is a vague and ill-defined standard that seems to have loopholes big enough to drive a truck through.
Because of the backlash even two of his fellow Commissioners, Democrat Jessica Rosenworcel and Republican Ajit Pai, have called for a delay of Thursdays vote on the proposal. There is no indication that Wheeler is heeding their call.
Wheeler is actually talking about regulating the internet like a “common carrier,” like it does phone companies. In other words, internet provider would be treated like public utilities. I’m not holding my breath though. From Politico: Tom Wheeler scrambles to salvage net neutrality plan.
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler is on the clock and scrambling to salvage his controversial net neutrality plan as the commission counts down to a crucial vote on Thursday.
According to FCC officials, he circulated his latest revisions Monday — trying to pick up the two votes he needs to pass the notice of proposed rule-making to ensure an open Internet.
In the most significant change, Wheeler will seek public comment on whether the FCC should reclassify broadband as a communications utility, giving the agency authority to regulate Internet rates and services as it does with telephone companies, according to commission officials. Net neutrality advocates favor that option as more robust, but it’s opposed by telecoms that fear it will give the government too much power over their business.
Wheeler’s original plan sparked outrage after details emerged that it would allow Internet-service providers, such as AT&T and Verizon, to charge companies like Netflix, Amazon and Google for faster delivery of content. The revised proposal keeps that basic approach but would seek comment on whether a “fast lane” should be banned. It also proposes a new ombudsman position at the FCC to act as a net neutrality advocate for startups and consumers.
So the “fast lane” is still included in the plan. I can’t see how that would be a benefit to ordinary internet users. I guess we should enjoy what we have for now, because the internet as we know it is in serious danger. This is an important story!
So . . . those are my offerings for today. What are you reading and blogging about?
The image to the right shows a commemorative plate from the “Shelter in Plates” project created by Chantal Zakari and Mike Mandela, a married couple who live in Watertown, MA, to mark the day when their town was locked down while hundreds (thousands?) of law enforcement officers swarmed their neighborhood in search of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the younger of the accused Boston Marathon bombers.
When I first saw these plates, I laughed out loud. The image of someone collecting these plates and displaying them in your home just struck me as ridiculous and incongruous. Every time I looked at them, I laughed out loud and couldn’t stop laughing. “Just the thing to add to a collection of Princess Diana and Elvis plates!”
I too was shocked to see multiple swat teams confronting innocent people in their homes and military equipment in the streets of a residential neighborhood. IMO the response to the killing of an MIT police officer and a carjacking was way over the top. It’s amazing that no one was killed by one of the hundreds of stray bullets that penetrated the walls of people’s houses. And the conduct of the manhunt the next day was even worse. In the end Tsarnaev was discovered, not by law enforcement but by a homeowner who went into his backyard to check on his boat and found the fugitive inside. I guess it’s just the notion of memorializing the events with plates that struck me funny.
But there is also serious side to this story. Last year, the Chief of Police of Watertown contacted couple’s employer at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. From PBS station WGBH:
“We created the website on a Saturday or Sunday, and four days later I got a call from my employer saying that Chief (Ed) Deveau had called and wanted my employer to pull funding out of the project, because if this project went to the press it would be bad publicity for the institution,” Zakari said.
Sarah McKinnon is the dean of the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. That is Zakari and Mandel’s place of employment. She remembered the call from Chief Deveau.
“Back in December, I had a phone call from Chief Deveau from Watertown police to talk to me a little bit about it,” McKinnon stated. “He said, ‘Were you aware that the SMFA was mentioned on the website?’ and I said, ‘No, I wasn’t.’ So I took a closer look and indeed saw that SMFA was mentioned on the website itself. SMFA had supported the project by virtue of a faculty enrichment grant.”
The article doesn’t say this specifically, but it appears that McKinnon did ask Zakari and Mandel to remove the school’s name from their website, but the funding for the project was not withdrawn.
McKinnon says that the SMFA respects academic freedom and there was no attempt to rescind the faculty enrichment grant that had actually been dispensed a year ago, despite her misgivings.
“My concern is, I just didn’t want the school seen in a negative light. My concern was not with the particulars of the project, which I didn’t know about, but we didn’t want to be taking advantage of anyone else’s suffering. If this was a project that would put us in a bad light, that was of concern to me,” McKinnon said.
But Mandel argued that Chief Deveau was attempting to intimidate the artists.
“For the chief of police —in his official capacity—to call our employer and make his accusations was an act of intimidation,” Mandel said. “It was an act of harassment and he should desist, and in addition he should apologize.”
I absolutely agree with him, despite the fact that I loathe commemorative plates generally, and think the ones Madel and Zakari designed are ludicrous. The couple’s attorney sent a letter to Deveau demanding that he cease and desist from further harassment. The letter is posted on and their website. You can watch the WGBH interview with Zakari and Mandel on YouTube.
What do you think?
In other news . . .
Following on massive publicity about Cliven Bundy over the past week, the New York Times published a fascinating article about changing demographics in the U.S.: Southern Whites’ Loyalty to G.O.P. Nearing That of Blacks to Democrats.
President Obama’s landslide victory in 2008 was supposed to herald the beginning of a new Democratic era. And yet, six years later, there is not even a clear Democratic majority in the country, let alone one poised for 30 years of dominance….
From the high plains of West Texas to the Atlantic Coast of Georgia, white voters opposed Mr. Obama’s re-election in overwhelming numbers. In many counties 90 percent of white voters chose Mitt Romney, nearly the reversal of the margin by which black voters supported Mr. Obama.
While white Southerners have been voting Republican for decades, the hugeness of the gap was new. Mr. Obama often lost more than 40 percent of Al Gore’s support among white voters south of the historically significant line of the Missouri Compromise. Two centuries later, Southern politics are deeply polarized along racial lines. It is no exaggeration to suggest that in these states the Democrats have become the party of African Americans and that the Republicans are the party of whites.
I hope you’ll read the whole thing if you haven’t already. Particularly interesting is this map of counties (in yellow) where Obama received less than 20% of the white vote in the last election (census data was not available for Alaska).
This pattern represents a reversal of a trend that suggested “the South’s assimilation into the American political and cultural mainstream.” Some southern and western areas of the U.S. are regressing to the point that it’s as if the Civil War never happened. How would these areas respond to a woman President?
Milford, CT high school stabbing
Early yesterday morning, 16-year-old Maren Sanchez was murdered by male classmate who reportedly had asked her to go to the junior prom with him and was angry at being turned down. From the Hartford Courant:
MILFORD, Conn. — A 16-year-old Connecticut high school student was stabbed to death Friday morning, and police are investigating whether the 16-year-old male who is suspected of killing her had wanted to take her to the junior prom, which was scheduled for Friday night.
Jonathan Law High School junior Maren Sanchez was killed in a hallway at the school.
The suspect, also a junior at the school in Milford, was charged as a juvenile offender with murder. His name is being withheld because he is a minor, police said….
Milford Police Chief Keith Mello said that the assault happened about 7:15 a.m. in a hallway inside Jonathan Law High School. A staff member witnessed part of the assault, he said, and tried to help. Others joined the effort, and EMS personnel soon arrived to take Sanchez to Bridgeport Hospital. She was pronounced dead at 7:43 a.m., Mello said….
Police said that Sanchez suffered multiple cuts to her neck, chest and face. Investigators recovered a knife at the scene.
The prom was cancelled. Milford is about a half-hour’s drive from Newtown, CT. Read more and see photos at The New York Daily News, which also learned the name of the alleged murderer.
Jonathan Law High School students should have been going to their junior prom Friday night. Instead, the teens went to a seaside vigil for their murdered classmate.
About 200 community members and students, some wearing their prom dresses and tuxedos, gathered Friday evening at Walnut Beach in Milford, Conn., to remember 16-year-old Maren Sanchez, a junior who was murdered earlier in the day at the school after rejecting a classmate’s invitation to the dance….
Anguished classmates funneled down to Walnut Beach around 6 p.m. — just one hour before the school’s junior prom was scheduled to start at a nearby banquet hall. The annual dance was postponed after the tragedy.
Wearing their formal wear, students cried and prayed at the local beach, the Hartford Courant reported. Friends shouted out memories of their slain classmate as they released purple balloons into the sky and yelled “Love you, Maren,” the newspaper reported.
Earlier, students covered a rock outside the school with purple spray paint and wrote the teen’s name and birthday, Aug. 26, 1997, alongside a white heart.
Henry David Thoreau, Walden Pond, and Climate Change
Yesterday, NPR’s Science Friday had a report on Henry David Thoreau’s careful 160-year-old observations of plants in the Walden Pond area of Concord, MA and how they are being used by climate scientists today. The guest was Richard Primack, Professor of Biology at Boston University and author of the book, Walden Warming: Climate Change Comes to Thoreau’s Woods.
From The Guardian, Scientists use Thoreau’s journal notes to track climate change.
Fittingly for a man seen as the first environmentalist, Henry David Thoreau, who described his isolated life in 1840s Massachusetts in the classic of American literature Walden, is now helping scientists pin down the impacts of climate change.
The American author, who died in 1862, is best known for his account of the two years he spent living in a one-room wooden cabin near Walden Pond “because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life”. Packed with descriptions of the natural world he loved, Walden is partly autobiographical, partly a manifesto for Thoreau’s belief in the rightness of living close to nature. “I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude,” he writes. “Simplify, simplify.”
But Thoreau was also a naturalist, and he meticulously observed the first flowering dates for over 500 species of wildflowers in Concord, Massachusetts, between 1851 and 1858, recording them in a set of tables. When Richard Primack, a biology professor at Boston University, and fellow researcher Abraham Miller-Rushing discovered Thoreau’s unpublished records, they immediately realised how useful they would be for pinning down the impact of the changing climate over the last century and a half. The timing of seasonal events such as flowering dates is known as phenology, and the phenologies of plants in a temperate climate such as that of Massachusetts are very sensitive to temperature, say the scientists. Studying phenology is therefore a good indicator of ecological responses to climate change.
“We had been searching for historical records for about six months when we learned about Thoreau’s plant observations. We knew right away that they would be incredibly useful for climate change research because they were from 150 years ago, there were so many species included, and they were gathered by Thoreau, who is so famous in the United States for his book Walden,” said Primack. “The records were surprisingly easy to locate once we were aware of them. A copy was given to us by an independent research scholar, who knew that they would be valuable for climate change research.”
For a more in-depth report of the research project, check out this long-form article at Smithsonian Magazine.
In the real world, where we’re definitely not doing much to address climate change, The Financial Times reports that, a “senior scientist” has charged that the “Climate Change Report was Watered Down.”
A politically sensitive part of the latest report by the world’s leading authority on climate change was gutted at the insistence of government officials, one of the study’s authors has revealed.
Nearly 75 per cent of a section on the impact of international climate negotiations was deleted at a meeting in Berlin two weeks ago, said one of the authors responsible for that part of the report, Harvard University’s Professor Robert Stavins.
The Berlin meeting was held so representatives of the world’s governments could approve a summary of a massive report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, on how to tackle climate change which took hundreds of authors from around the world nearly five years to compile.
The report was the third of a trilogy of studies the IPCC has released since September in its fifth major assessment of the latest state of knowledge about climate change.
Prof Stavins, a leading expert on climate negotiations at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, wrote to the organisers of the Berlin meeting last week to express his “disappointment and frustration” at the outcome.
Read the rest at the Financial Times link.
Those are my recommendations for today. What stories are you following? Please post your links in the comment thread, and have a great weekend!
The temperatures will be dropping here in New Orleans much like the rest of the east coast. We’re actually going to get into temps that I’ve never experienced here. It may get into the lower 20s and close to the teens. Needless to say, my house was not built with this in mind. My furnace has really been working over time this month. Folks in Australia are experiencing record highs. It helps to think of the airport in Richmond, Australia which hit 110 F on Sunday.
The weather deniers all point to our winter as proof positive that there is no global warming. Well, Duh, folks! Look at Summer 2013 in Austrailia which just moved into summer 2014. The continent has had the hottest weather on record and they’ve experienced horrible wild fires. Their hottest days happen in January! Global warming is about extremes and how the warming shifts patterns around the globe and the poles.
In its annual climate statement report, the bureau highlighted the influence of carbon emissions upon the warming trend, stating: “The Australian region warming is very similar to that seen at the global scale and the past year emphasises that the warming trend continues.
“As summarised in the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report, recent warming trends have been dominated by the influence of increasing greenhouse gases and the enhanced greenhouse effect.”
The bureau said sea surface temperatures were “unusually warm” in 2013, with preliminary data placing the year at 0.51C above the long-term average. Warming oceans pose a serious threat to the Great Barrier Reef, with coral bleaching contributing to the ecosystem losing half of its coral cover in the past 30 years.
Nationally, rainfall was 37mm below the long-term average in 2013, ranking it as the 52nd driest year on record.
As scorching temperatures persist across Australia, the country’s Bureau of Meteorologyadded a new color to its weather forecasting map, extending the range to 54ºC, or 129ºF, from the previous cap of 50ºC, or 122ºF.
The new, deeper purple “dome of heat” swirls above South Australia, indicating temperatures above 50ºC in some areas.
This goes hand-in-hand with increasing republican denial of evolution. Bill Nye the Science guy is headed to Kentucky to debate scientific fact vs magical thinking. He’ll never convince a young earth creationist that he’s wrong, but will the publicity perhaps knock some sense into a few school boards?
Science popularizer and TV personality Bill Nye is headed to Kentucky to advocate for the theory of evolution in a debate against Ken Ham, a Christian proponent of creationism and founder of the Creation Museum. The debate is scheduled for Feb. 4 at the museum in Petersburg, KY., according to an announcement Ham posted on Facebook Thursday and a subsequent press release on the event.
While Ham has declined debate requests from “mocking, strident evolutionists,” the statement from Ham’s creationism group Answers in Genesis describes Nye as “a serious advocate for his beliefs, [whose] opinions carry weight in society.”
I’ve always had problems with evolution and atheism being classified as a belief at all, let alone a strident one. Just because you insist folks believe in untrue things makes you strident? I guess it’s because if you’re into pushing your agenda and proselytizing, you think that’s the goal of every one. How is nonbelief a belief? How is showing people data and facts gleaned through nearly 100 years of scientists using the scientific method and just stating the theories some kind of advocacy?
The Senate is set to take up the extension of long term unemployment benefits. How willing will Republicans be to actually have a discussion on new extensions even though they are low cost compared to the impact on the economy. This shows that Republicans continue to live in a world of ideology that does not respect the actual data that shows they are truly wrong.
At the same time, a number of Republicans – including leaders on the House Ways and Means Committee – continue to question the need to extend the unemployment insurance (UI) benefits at all.
“Despite a dozen extensions, academic research suggests the program has actually hurt, rather than helped, the job creation that the unemployed need most,” Michelle Dimarob, spokesperson for Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.), said Friday in a statement.
“It is time to focus on policies that will actually lead to real economic opportunities for families who are trying to get back on their feet and back into the workplace.”
The comments came as President Obama and congressional Democrats are amplifying their pressure on Boehner to extend the benefits to the long-term unemployed who have exhausted their state help.
An estimated 1.3 million unemployed workers lost those benefits on Dec. 28, after GOP leaders rejected the Democrats’ efforts to extend the help as part of a bipartisan budget deal.
The debate will intensify next week, with Senate Democrats planning a vote on a three-month renewal.
Sponsored by Sens. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.), the proposal would not offset the estimated $6.4 billion in costs, setting the stage for a potential showdown with Boehner and the Republicans if the bill is sent to the House.
Rhode Island and Nevada have the highest unemployment rates in the country, at 9 percent in November, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Unemployment benefits are one of the more effective forms of stimulus because the money is badly needed and thus spent right away. The Congressional Budget Office says 200,000 jobs will be lost this year if the benefits are not restored, and this week the damage began.
Big states were obviously the hardest hit, naturally: nearly $65 million came out of the California economy in one week alone, according to the analysis. And of course, states represented by Republicans who oppose the extension each suffered some economic harm. Senator John Cornyn twice blocked a vote on an unemployment insurance extension before the holiday recess, and his home state of Texas lost $21.8 million this week.
Here is a MoJo article about the folks whose unemployment benefits have ended. This quote sums up much of the problem:“When you apply for a job at 50 people laugh at you. When you apply for a job at 65 people just look at you like you are crazy.” Read the stories of people behind these statistics.
When Congress reconvenes next week, lawmakers will have to decide whether to extend federal unemployment benefits for about 1.3 million Americans. These emergency benefits—which Congress let expire shortly after Christmas—are part of a 2008 program that allows workers who have been out of the job for more than six months to receive an emergency extension on their payments up to 47 weeks. If Congress fails to renew these benefits, only a quarter of jobless Americans will be receiving any benefits at all, according to the Huffington Post.
As these charts show, the United States is looking at the worst long-term unemployment crisis since soup kitchen lines peaked during the Great Depression. Americans who have been unemployed for more than six months are often hit with major financial and personal hardship. Around 10 percent must file for bankruptcy, more than half report putting off medical care, and many say they have, “lost self-respect while jobless.” But who are these Americans who have lost their benefits?
The Republicans have peculiar notions about evolution, the unemployed, global warming and poor people among other things. What do poor people do all day? Do they really sit around collecting government money while watching their big screen TVS?
Dave Ramsey probably wasn’t expecting this much pushback when he shared a piece by Tim Corley contrasting the habits of the rich with those of the poor. In her response on CNN, Rachel Held Evans noted that Ramsey and Corley mistake correlation for causality when they suggest (without actually proving) that these habits are the cause of a person’s financial situation. (Did it never occur to them that it might be the other way around?)
Ramsey fired back, calling the pushback “immature and ignorant.” This from a guy who just made 20 sweeping assertions about 47 million poor people in the U.S. — all based on a survey of 361 individuals.
That’s right. To come up with his 20 habits, Corley talked to just 233 wealthy people and 128 poor people. Ramsey can talk all he wants about Corley’s research passing the “common-sense smell test,” but it doesn’t pass the “research methodology 101″ test.
Included in 2013 Republican insanity is the continuing increase in abortion restrictions. Most fly in the face of science and common sense. They are headed to SCOTUS which is probably the plan of the majority of them.
Twenty-two states enacted 70 measures which sought to tighten abortion laws in 2013, according to Guttmacher’s data. The 70 laws accounted for about half of all (141) the provisions nationwide related to reproductive matters. Only 2011 outpaced 2013 in terms of new abortion restrictions.
Some of the legislative battles over abortion last year played out before the national stage. Most visible was a fight in Texas in which state Sen. Wendy Davis (D) launched amarathon filibuster in June to block a bill designed to implement strict new restrictions. The measure later passed as Republicans launched a renewed effort. Still, Davis’s resistance catapulted her onto the national radar. She’s now a candidate for governor.
In June, the U.S. House passed a 20-week abortion ban that went nowhere in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
The strangest things is all the information we actually have– a lot via the bible–which shows that contraception and abortifacients were pretty plentiful and widely accepted. We do have evidence of biblical birth control.
Let’s start with the hot sex! The Song of Songs is a long, sexy, romantic poem that many are surprised to find in the Bible. It is an unusual text in that it makes no mention of God or law, just a young, unmarried couple chasing, and lusting, after one another and eventually, as I and others believe, consummating their relationship. Over the centuries, religious scholars have argued that the poem is a metaphor for divine love. Still, it is pretty hard to ignore the poem’s graphic descriptions of the longings of the flesh.
For example, in chapter 7 the young man says to young woman: “Thy stature is like to a palm-tree, and thy breasts to clusters of grapes. … ‘I will climb up into the palm-tree, I will take hold of the branches thereof; and let thy breasts be as clusters of the vine, and the smell of thy countenance like apples; And the roof of thy mouth like the best wine, that glideth down smoothly for my beloved, moving gently the lips of those that are asleep.”
As Athalya Brenner points out in her book “The Intercourse of Knowledge: On Gendering Desire and Sexuality in the Hebrew Bible,” a number of the plants mentioned in the Song of Songs were used by women in the ancient Mediterranean world as contraception and abortifacients. These include pomegranates, wine, myrrh, spikenard and cinnamon. Brenner goes on to argue that since the book makes no mention of procreation as the purpose of sex, the many metaphors comparing sex to “gardens” and “orchards” may also be read as a reference to the forms of birth control that those gardens provided. Indeed, the man in the poem seduces the woman by offering her many of the plants that would have allowed them to have sex without the risk of pregnancy.
Another place in the Bible where contraception may have played a role is in the Book of Esther. This one’s about a beautiful woman named Esther who disguises her Jewish identity to become the queen of the Persian King Ahasuerus. When her cousin discovers an inside plot to kill all Jewish people, Esther intervenes through seduction and eventually saves the Jews.
In an article in the scholarly journal Conservative Judaism, Rabbi Joseph Prouser points out that the King’s potential wives were all required to anoint themselves with myrrh oil and aromatic herbs for one full year – which is a pretty long time for what some read as just a beauty treatment. Myrrh was a known contraceptive at the time, cited in the writings of Soranus of Ephesus, a Greek physician who was an expert on gynecology and midwifery. He explained that when used in a pessary, myrrh oil would work as an abortifacient, preventing the implantation of fertilized eggs. The aromatic herbs may have also had contraceptive properties.
Oh, well, it really isn’t about anything but controlling and limiting every one that isn’t a rich white male, isn’t it?
Liz Cheney, whose upstart bid to unseat Wyoming Sen. Mike Enzi sparked a round of warfare in the Republican Party and even within her own family, is dropping out of the Senate primary, sources told CNN late Sunday.
Cheney, the eldest daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, began telling associates of her decision over the weekend and could make an official announcement about the race as early as Monday.
Cheney’s surprising decision to jump into the race, an announcement made in a YouTube video last summer, roiled Republican politics in the Wyoming, a state Dick Cheney represented in Congress for five terms before moving up the Republican food chain in Washington.
Enzi was a low-key presence in Washington who was elected in 1996 and, with few blemishes, amassed a conservative voting record in the Senate. He expressed public annoyance at Cheney’s decision to mount a primary challenge. A number of his Senate colleagues quickly rallied to his side and pledged support for his re-election bid.
There was little public polling of the race, but two partisan polls released last year showed Enzi with a wide lead, an assessment mostly shared by GOP insiders watching the race.
Two GOP sources said that a problematic recent incident involving a close member of Cheney’s family prompted her to reconsider the race, among other factors.
Maybe she decided screwing her sister and her sister’s family over wasn’t worth it. Who knows?
So, I thought it might be a good exercise to look at some New Year’s Resolutions of people that I admire very much. First, here’s the 1942 resolutions of Woody Guthrie.
You can see resolutions of Jonathan Swift, Susan Sontag, and Marilyn Monroe too. Here’s one of my favorites of Sontag from 1972.
Kindness, kindness, kindness.
I want to make a New Year’s prayer, not a resolution. I’m praying for courage.
This comes from Marilyn’s list made in 1955.
l — keep looking around me — only much more so —observing — but not only myself but others and everything — take things (it) for what they (it’s) are worth
y — must make strong effort to work on current problems and phobias that out of my past has arisen — making much much much more more more more more effort in my analisis. And be there always on time — no excuses for being ever late.
w — if possible — take at least one class at university — in literature –
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Good Morning! And welcome to a week that may set global records for hot as hell!!!
The heat wave in the country isn’t the only item that convinces me that many folks want to bring hell straight to the US. Look what’s going on in Ohio which hasn’t got the coverage of what’s going on in Texas but is equally if not more insidious.
Before signing a $62 billion, two-year budget into law tonight, Gov. John Kasich used his line-item veto pen to strike language seen as a barrier to progress on expanding Medicaid while talks continue on the broader expansion the governor has sought.
But he left intact all of the controversial provisions seen as restricting abortions as well as language allowing local government bodies to meet secretly behind closed doors in executive session when discussing economic incentive packages for businesses.
The governor left immediately after signing the budget without taking questions from reporters about his vetoes.
The budget promises a net $2.6 billion net tax cut, consisting chiefly of a 10 percent across-the-board income tax for all taxpayers over three years and a 50 percent cut on the first $250,000 earned by small businesses.
“I’m proud of the tax cuts because I think it’s another installment in Ohio’s comeback,” Mr. Kasich said.
But it also comes with some trade-offs, including a hike in the state sales tax from 5.5 cents on the dollar to 5.75 cents. The budget also draws the line on its subsidization of local property tax bills, saying the state will no longer pay the first 12.5 percent on any new levies that voters approve beginning with those on the ballot this November.
The budget also holds $717 million more over the next two years for K-12 schools, an 11 percent increase. It does not full make up, however, for the cuts schools suffered in the current budget, in part because of the expiration of one-time federal stimulus dollars.
Pro-choice advocates had placed all their hopes in stopping the abortion restrictions from taking place on Mr. Kasich, but Mr. Kasich allowed all of the provisions to stay.
Those provisions included language making it tougher for abortion clinics to get emergency care transfer agreements that they must have with a local hospital in order to keep their licenses by prohibiting publicly funded hospitals from entering into such arrangements.
A last-minute addition that requires a doctor to performing abortions to first perform an ultrasound to detect a fetal heartbeat and then offer to let the woman seeking an abortion hear or see that heartbeat. Failure to following this procedure could lead to criminal prosecution of the doctor.
The budget also places Planned Parenthood at the end of the line when it comes to distributing Ohio’s share of federal family planning funds.
Forecasters called for more supercharged temperatures Sunday as a heat wave gripped the Southwest, leaving one man dead and another hospitalized in serious condition in heat-aggravated incidents in this sunbaked city.
Temperatures in Las Vegas shot up to 115 degrees on Saturday afternoon, two degrees short of a record, while Phoenix baked in 119 degrees. Large swaths of California sweltered under extreme heat warnings, which are expected to last into Tuesday night — and maybe even longer.
In Death Valley — known as the hottest place on Earth — temps reached 125, according to the National Weather Service. Death Valley’s record high of 134 degrees, set nearly a century ago on July 10, 1913, stands as the planet’s highest recorded temperature.
Las Vegas fire and rescue spokesman Tim Szymanski said paramedics responded to a home without air conditioning and found an elderly man dead. He said while the man had medical issues, paramedics thought the heat worsened his condition.
Paramedics said another elderly man suffered a heat stroke when the air conditioner in his car went out for several hours while he was on a long road trip. He stopped in Las Vegas, called 911 and was taken to the hospital in serious condition.
Senate Democrats will try to resurrect a United Nations treaty on rights for the disabled that was rejected last year over GOP concerns it would imperil home-schooling.
The treaty fell five votes short of the necessary two-thirds majority in a 61-38 vote in December after former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Penn.) led a charge that it would give unelected UN bureaucrats the power to challenge U.S. home-schooling.
Treaty supporters say those worries were unfounded, and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), the new chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations panel hopes to win approval of the treaty, a Senate Democratic aide said.Menendez hopes to strike a deal on a way forward with the panel’s top Republican, Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, who voted against the treaty last year.
While last year’s vote took place after the presidential election, advocates believe the debate got tied up in election-year politics and that a revote this session could be successful.
The treaty would extend the protections of the Americans with Disabilities Act to people with disabilities around the world, including Americans living abroad, according to advocates.
“We believe very much there is a path forward for victory,” said Marca Bristo, president of the U.S. International Council on Disabilities. “If we didn’t, we wouldn’t be putting in this effort.”
Opponents have long warned that it may come back up. Last month, the Home School Legal Defense Association jumped the gun and sent out an action alert to its members warning – inaccurately – that Menendez’s panel had scheduled a hearing for June 4.
“Thank you for joining us in this battle to protect our children and our children’s future,” wrote association president J. Michael Smith. “You defeated this treaty last year. Standing together, we can defeat this treaty once again.”
The treaty’s path to ratification remains a challenging one.
One thing is certain about the bevy of legislation targeting women being introduced by conservative men. Women are mad and they aren’t taking it anymore. One female lawmaker in Ohio has introduced bill that would regulate men’s reproductive health.
According to the Dayton Daily News, State Senator Nina Turner introduced SB 307, which requires men to visit a sex therapist, undergo a cardiac stress test, and get their sexual partner to sign a notarized affidavit confirming impotency in order to get a prescription for Viagra and other erectile dysfunction drugs. The bill also requires men who take the drugs to be continually “tested for heart problems, receive counseling about possible side effects and receive information about “pursuing celibacy as a viable lifestyle choice.””
The bill is a response to the Republican effort to pass House Bill 125, which would ban abortion if the fetus has a heartbeat, which is about six weeks after conception. Turner, an opponent of the bill, says if Republicans are allowed to legislate women’s health, men’s health should also be regulated. “I certainly want to stand up for men’s health and take this seriously and legislate it the same way mostly men say they want to legislate a woman’s womb,” Turner said.