Friday Reads

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Good Morning!!!

Since it’s the beginning of the Labor Day weekend, I thought I’d start out with some Labor News.  There are so many jobs these days that don’t really pay a living wage in the US that it’s really astounding.  Fast Food Workers are among the lowest paid in the country.

Fast-food workers went on strike and protested outside McDonald’s, Burger King and other restaurants in 60 U.S. cities on Thursday, in the largest protest of an almost year-long campaign to raise service sector wages.

Rallies were held in cities from New York to Oakland and stretched into the South, historically difficult territory for organized labor.

The striking workers say they want to unionize without retaliation in order to collectively bargain for a “living wage.”

They are demanding $15 an hour, more than twice the federal minimum of $7.25. The median wage for front-line fast-food workers is $8.94 per hour, according to an analysis of government data by the National Employment Law Project (NELP), an advocacy group for lower-wage workers.

“It’s almost impossible to get by (alone),” said McDonald’s worker Rita Jennings, 37, who was among about 100 protesters who marched in downtown Detroit Thursday. “You have to live with somebody to make it.”

Rush Limbaugh was all agog and demagogue about the striking workers

LIMBAUGH: If you want a “living wage,” if you don’t like what fast food restaurants pay, then do something else. It’s just that simple. Go to a trade school. Go to another business. Start your own business. Maybe the work that you are capable of isn’t yet worth $15 an hour at a fast-food restaurant. Maybe the consumer doesn’t want to pay $10 for a Big Mac so that people working at McDonald’s make $15 an hour. It’s not just a one-way strata.

You don’t just sit there and double what the employees at McDonald’s make and keep the prices the same. Now, you may think this is obvious, folks, and you may think, “Come on, Rush,” you’d be amazed at how many people do not understand the push-pull in economics. You’d be amazed at the number of people who have taken economics courses who think that the truth about headaches is that the boss is a cheap skinflint and wants his employees to starve and wants to screw his customers.

That’s the basis of their understanding, and they go from there, and they are applauded by left-wing Democrat politicians for holding that belief, and they’re encouraged to have it. Now, to those of you who, like Sean from San Diego, are sympathetic to this demand for the minimum wage at Mickey D’s to go from $7.15 or $7.25 an hour to $15, let me ask you this: When you buy a meal, do you make sure that you’re paying a fair price for it?

When you walk in there, do you ask the employee, “Look, am I paying enough here so that you can get a livable wage? When you go in and buy a Big Mac or a Quarter Pounder with cheese or a double Quarter Pounder with cheese, do you look at the price is and say, “Are you sure that this costs enough that you can make a livable wage?” Or do you just get a little upset when you think it’s a little too expensive?

Limbaugh was lecturing fast workers on getting a better job as he sat in his mansion with no clue what it is like to work and survive on minimum wage. Limbaugh’s lecture was centered around a couple of the Republicans favorite falsehoods. Rush was pretending that there are better jobs out there for minimum wage workers.

Some happy news for married GLBT workers!  The IRS and the US Treasury will recognize your marriage.  You get the standard marriage deduction!!

The U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) today ruled that same-sex couples, legally married in jurisdictions that recognize their marriages, will be treated as married for federal tax purposes. The ruling applies regardless of whether the couple lives in a jurisdiction that recognizes same-sex marriage or a jurisdiction that does not recognize same-sex marriage.

The ruling implements federal tax aspects of the June 26th Supreme Court decision invalidating a key provision of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act.

“Today’s ruling provides certainty and clear, coherent tax filing guidance for all legally married same-sex couples nationwide. It provides access to benefits, responsibilities and protections under federal tax law that all Americans deserve,” said Secretary Jacob J. Lew. “This ruling also assures legally married same-sex couples that they can move freely throughout the country knowing that their federal filing status will not change.”

Under the ruling, same sex couples will be treated as married for all federal tax purposes, including income and gift and estate taxes. The ruling applies to all federal tax provisions where marriage is a factor, including filing status, claiming personal and dependency exemptions, taking the standard deduction, employee benefits, contributing to an IRA, and claiming the earned income tax credit or child tax credit.

I joined the Sisterhood of the Pink Shoes this weekend.  Meanwhile, the real sister with the pink shoes is doing really well in the fundraising arena.

In the six weeks following her headline-grabbing filibuster, Wendy Davis raised $1.2 million — nearly 40 percent of it from outside Texas. Davis drew national attention following the filibuster against an abortion-restriction bill that helped shut down the Texas Senate and prompted Gov. Rick Perry to call lawmakers back into another special session. In the wake of Davis’ new-found fame, Davis has been urged by some Democrats to run for governor next year. She says she will announce her political plans — whether to run for reelection as a senator from Fort Worth or as a Democrat for governor — in a few weeks.

Martin Luther King was fighting for working folks when he was assassinated.  We’ve already said that no Republicans showed up to commemorate the March on Washington.  Where were they?  

So what was did they do instead? Well, Boehner was in Jackson Hole, Wyo., and had no public events scheduled, but he has been headlining GOP fundraisers all this month, so it’s a fairly safe to assume that he was raising cash at the time. Cantor, meanwhile was touring an oil field in North Dakota. The Grand Forks Herald reports:

Cantor, hosted by Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., met with energy industry and community leaders at a crew camp in Williston, toured a drilling site and other oilfield locations in the Bakken and met with North Dakota Petroleum Council members in Watford City.

Cantor praised North Dakota’s approach to energy development and said the country needs to follow the state’s example and adopt a national energy policy.

“I hope to be able to tell the president that there’s a lot for him to learn here as far as energy production here in America,” Cantor said. “North Dakota seems to have gotten it right.”

The North Dakota Petroleum Council, by the way, is a lobby group that represents the state’s oil and gas industry. That’s what Cantor was doing on the day of the march.

Here’s a little bit of News on New Orleans 8 years after Katrina.

Now optimism is rising as a rebounding city approaches the 300th anniversary of its 1718 founding.

“The city is a much better place than it was eight years ago. The biggest challenge we have is blight,” Landrieu said, adding that 10,000 blighted properties have been removed from the cityscape.

A thriving downtown and newly vibrant neighborhoods contrast starkly with the city’s appearance eight years ago. When Katrina hit, thousands of people who couldn’t escape New Orleans in time were trapped in homes as levees broke and floodwaters rose. Helicopters plucked the desperate from rooftops as chaos spread. The damaged Superdome became a refuge of misery for thousands as tempatures and tempers soared.

Days afterward then-President George W. Bush promised the nation’s full attention. But federal authorities were sharply criticized for their early response and local and state authorities as well. And though billions of federal dollars have helped to rebuild a strengthened levee system, many locals remain bitter with the Army Corps of Engineers for the failure of the levees.

Landrieu said he’s intent on moving forward.

“I think that we have successfully done the most important thing, which was to think about building the city back the way she should have always been and not the way she was,” he said.

Landrieu said rebuilding has even meant re-organizing government operations, streamlining finances, curbing waste and fraud and reorganizing the city’s education system – even adding new fire and police stations, parks and libraries.

The weird thing about the blight is that it’s in areas that you wouldn’t necessarily expect to have ramshackled buildings and over grown lots.  Every time I go from my home near the Mississippi River towards the Lake I see blight on the way.  It pops up in the newer suburban areas as well as older neighborhoods.  There are still a lot of eye sores and it appears it’s going to take a long time for many of them to be torn down or restored.  Thankfully, the historic parts of the city appear to be well on the mend.  Unfortunately, the infrastructure is so gone in many areas that the blight will remain for some time.

That’s my offering today!  What’s on your reading and blogging list?


Video: Secretary Clinton’s Human Rights Day Speech

Video: Secretary Clinton’s Human Rights Day Speech via Still4Hill


More progress expected for Women and Gay Rights from US Partners

President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton used Clinton’s visit to Belarus and an appearance in Geneva to emphasis the need for countries to respect the rights of women, gays, and human rights in general.  President Obama instructed US officials to indicate that US support and aid depends on tolerance and recognition of the rights of GLBT citizens.

President Barack Obama has told US officials to consider how countries treat their gay and lesbian populations when making decisions about allocating foreign aid.

In the first ever US government strategy to deal with human rights abuses against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) citizens abroad, a presidential memo issued on Tuesday instructs agencies using foreign aid to promote such rights.

Gay and lesbian lobby groups have reported an increase in human rights abuses across Africa and parts of the Middle East.

President Obama is among international leaders who have condemned a bill proposed in Uganda which would make some homosexual acts a crime punishable by death. The Ugandan parliament has recently re-opened the debate on the bill, which had been abandoned after an international outcry.

In the memo, Obama said: “I am deeply concerned by the violence and discrimination targeting LGBT persons around the world, whether it is passing laws that criminalise LGBT status, beating citizens simply for joining peaceful LGBT pride celebrations, or killing men, women and children for their perceived sexual orientation.”

He said that the struggle to end discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons was central to America’s commitment to promoting human rights.

Clinton’s speech was characterized as containing “unusually strong language” to an audience of diplomats from nations where being gay is crime.  These included nations in the African continent and in the Arab world.

In unusually strong language, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton compared the struggle for gay equality to difficult passages toward women’s rights and racial equality, and she said a country’s cultural or religious traditions are no excuse for discrimination.

“Gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights,” she said.

Clinton’s audience included diplomats from Arab, African and other nations where homosexuality is criminalized or where brutality and discrimination against gay people is tolerated or encouraged.

She said nothing about consequences or penalties the U.S. might apply to nations it judges poor protectors of gay rights, but she spoke shortly after President Barack Obama directed the State Department and other agencies to make sure U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote gay rights.

Clinton named no countries with specifically poor records on gay rights, although the U.S. has already pointed to abuses against gays by such friends as Saudi Arabia.

“It should never be a crime to be gay,” Clinton declared.

Clinton also introduced a Global Equality Fund that will partner with women’s and other groups trying to achieve human equality around the globe.

I am also pleased to announce that we are launching a new Global Equlity Fund that will support the work of civil society organizations working on these issues around the world. This fund will help them record facts so they can target their advocacy, learn how to use the law as a tool, manage their budgets, train their staffs, and forge partnerships with women’s organizations and other human rights groups. We have committed more than $3 million to start this fund, and we have hope that others will join us in supporting it.


Lesbian Couple Told Not to Hold Hands in Museum

Photo of Alice B. Toklas and Gertrude Stein, by Man Ray

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

Jane Levikow went to the Contemporary Jewish Museum Sunday afternoon to look at art. She ended up with a refresher course in San Francisco civil rights.

Levikow was in the gallery with her partner when she noticed a young lesbian couple in heated conversation with a security guard.

“They were holding hands,” Levikow said, “and he told them they couldn’t hold hands in the museum.”

The couple argued with the guard and people began to gather around to see what was happening. The guard then tried to escort the couple out, but they refused to leave and demanded to talk to museum officials.

Daryl Carr, museum spokesman, says museum officials are active in supporting the LBGT community and that they have asked that the guard, who works for a private security company, be reprimanded.

Ironically, when the guard accosted them, the couple were viewing an exhibit about the life of Gertrude Stein, who was also a lesbian.


Michele and Marcus Bachmann and Cher’s Gaydar


GOP Presidential Candidate Michele Bachmann and her potential “first dude” Marcus Bachmann have been campaigning together since her recent announcement that she is running for President. At a rally on June 28, in Myrtle Beach, NC, Michele gave a rousing stump speech and then the happy couple danced together onstage to the strains of “Wabash Cannonball”

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In 2010, Marcus Bachmann explained to a “christian” radio host that homosexuals are “barbarians” who “need to be educated.” Now that the Bachmanns are in the spotlight, their attitudes about homosexuals are beginning to be noted by the corporate media.

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After Cher saw the above MSNBC segment, she tweeted the following to her followers:

“Just heard Michele Bachmann’s OH SO CHRISTIAN husband talk about ‘Gays’ in the most UNCHRISTIAN way WTF!”

“But Boys please utube this asshole & tell me what u think … Cause My Gay-Dar is GOING OFF!!!”

More of her tweets are posted at the above link.

Here’s another radio interview of Marcus discussing his advice to his daughter about choosing her prom dress and how that process relates to identity.

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These two are just a bundle of contradictions. Now check this out:

After a long hard day of wingnutting, what does the family of crazy-eyed Minnesota congresswoman Michele do to kick back? Well, of course, they watch Glee! Are the anti-gay Michele Bachmann and her “Christian counselor” husband Marcus hypocrites, stupid or all of these things?

Justin Bieber disappointed U.S. representative and potential presidential candidate Michele Bachmann at last night’s Time 100 by not showing up — she’d brought copies of his book to sign for one of her older sons, who is a special-ed teacher. But she did delight her other, younger children (she’s taken care of 23 foster kids over the years) by meeting another popular teen icon and singer. At the event last night, at Jazz at Lincoln Center, Bachmann and her husband posed with Glee star Darren Criss and e-mailed the pictures to their children. “We looked for Chris Colfer,” she said, but they didn’t find him. “We don’t watch TV, generally speaking. But the kids were thrilled. What kids don’t watch Glee?” Well, maybe the children of potential presidential candidates who think God sent them to stop gay people from having equal rights? Maybe Bachmann doesn’t know that the main message of the popular teen hit is tolerance, respect, and equal treatment — particularly for gay people. She doesn’t watch TV, after all.

My head is spinning!

NOTE: Videos taken from Youtube orginally posted by the Dump Bachman blog, and indispensible source for information on Michele and Marcus Bachmann.


Roommate Charged with Hate Crime in Tyler Clementi Case

Tyler Clementi was a "promising violinist."

Here’s some positive news for those of us who are deeply concerned about the toxic effects of bullying on young people.

A former Rutgers University freshman was indicted Wednesday for secretly viewing a same-sex encounter involving his roommate – who later jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge.

Dharun Ravi, 19, of Plainsboro, N.J., could face up to 5 years in prison if convicted of the top charges in the 15-count indictment announced by Middlesex County prosecutor Bruce Kaplan.

Ravi was charged by a grand jury with bias intimidation, invasion of privacy and witness and evidence tampering for using a webcam to spy on Tyler Clementi’s dorm room date with another man.

It was demonstrated to the Grand Jury that Ravi knew of Clementi’s sexual orientation and deliberately planned to publicly humiliate him. Ravi twice activated a webcam in the room and tried to stream Tyler’s romantic encounters on the internet. After the suicide, Ravi made significant efforts to cover up his behavior and asked friends to cover for him. Ravi’s co-conspiritor Molly Wei had previously been charged with invasion of privacy, along with Ravi, but Wei was not indicted by the Grand Jury. It’s possible that she cooperated with investigators.

Prosecutors have said that Ravi used Wei’s computer in her dorm room to activate a webcam on a computer in his room to view and stream Clementi’s encounter. Prosecutors said Ravi tried the same thing during a second encounter Sept. 21, the day before Clementi’s suicide.

Ravi posted a message on his now-closed Twitter account on Sept. 19 that read: “Roommate asked for the room till midnight. I went into molly’s room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with a dude. Yay.”

Two days later, he wrote on Twitter: “Anyone with iChat, I dare you to video chat me between the hours of 9:30 and 12. Yes it’s happening again.”

Tyler’s parents, who knew of his sexual orientation, said through their attorney:

“The grand jury indictment spells out cold and calculated acts against our son, Tyler, by his former college roommate,” Clementi’s parents, Jane and Joe Clementi, said in a statement. “If these facts are true, as they appear to be, then it is important for our criminal justice system to establish clear accountability under the law.”

They also said that they hope to start a foundation in their Tyler’s name. Their goal would be to heighten public “awareness about bullying, privacy rights, and the Internet.”


Monday Reads

Good Morning!

First up is something that is one huge step back for civil rights and humankind.  I can’t believe this outrageous motion was adopted by the UN.  The US and its allies need to object vigorously.

The UN has removed a reference to sexual orientation from a resolution condemning arbitrary and unjustified executions.

The UN General Assembly resolution, which is renewed every two years, contained a reference opposing the execution of LBGT people in its 2008 version. But this year’s version passed without any reference to gay rights after a group of mostly African and Asian countries, led by Mali and Morocco, voted to remove it.

Gay rights groups fear the move — which passed in a narrow 79 to 70 vote — will act as a signal that persecuting people for their sexual orientation is internationally acceptable.

“This vote is a dangerous and disturbing development,” Cary Alan Johnson, executive director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, said in a statement. “It essentially removes the important recognition of the particular vulnerability faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people — a recognition that is crucial at a time when 76 countries around the world criminalize homosexuality, five consider it a capital crime, and countries like Uganda are considering adding the death penalty to their laws criminalizing homosexuality.”

Johnson was referring to a bill introduced in Uganda’s legislature last year that would mandate the death penalty for multiple acts of gay sex or for any gay person carrying HIV. Though the bill appeared to be shelved after an international outcry, its principal supporter said last month the bill would be law “soon.”

Thankfully, we’re moving closer to repealing DADT.   The Marines have stated that they stand ready to remove enforcement of the provision. Semper Fi!!!

The head of the U.S. Marine Corps will fully cooperate with a repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy barring openly gay and lesbian soldiers from the military, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen said Sunday.

In an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Mullen said there was “no question” that Marine Commandant Gen. James Amos, an opponent of repealing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy at this time, would implement all necessary changes to allow openly gay Marines to serve if Congress passes a repeal measure.

“He basically said that if this law changes, we are going to implement it, and we are going to implement it better than anybody else,” Mullen said of comments Amos recently made at a townhall-style meeting with Marines.

The U.S. Senate is expected to vote on repealing the policy in coming weeks. The House already has passed a repeal measure, and President Barack Obama says he supports repeal under a process worked out with Mullen and Defense Secretary Robert Gates that includes a review of what the change would entail for the military.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appeared on Fox News on Sunday . Clinton told Chris Wallace that she believed the ‘vast majority’ of Gitmo detainees should be tried in civilian courts.

We do believe that what are called Article Three trials, in other words in our civilian courts, are appropriate for the vast majority of detainees,” Clinton told Fox News’ Chris Wallace.

This week, a civilian trial convicted Guantanamo Bay detainee Ahmed Ghailani on one count and acquitted him of more than 280 other counts.

“The question is do you have any choice now except to hold all of the terror detainees at Gitmo or either give them military trials or hold them indefinitely?” Wallace asked Clinton.

“The sentence for what he was convicted of is 20 years to life,” Clinton replied. “That is a significant sentence. Secondly, some of the challenges in the courtroom would be the very same challenges before a military commission about whether or not certain evidence could be used.”

Clinton also appeared on Meet the Press. She expressed reservations about the intrusive pat down procedures adopted by the TSA.

The Secretary of State also branded the procedure as ‘offensive’ and called for officials to make the new airport security measures less intrusive.

Speaking on CBS’ Face the Nation and NBC’s Meet the Press, Mrs Clinton said she recognised the need for tighter security but said there was a need to ‘strike the right balance’ and ‘get it better and less intrusive and more precise.’

When asked if she would submit to a pat-down, she replied ‘Not if I could avoid it. No. I mean, who would?’

Mrs Clinton added she understood ‘how offensive it must be’ for passengers forced to endure the measures.

Another economist–Professor James Hamilton–is incensed about that stupid bunny cartoon with it’s outrageous lies on QE.  There’s some more take down of the stupid thing on Econbrowser.  Hamilton explains why ‘the Goldman Sachs’ is one of the agents used by the Fed when it does Open Market Operations.   Basically, it’s the law and this is true  if it’s in the name of QE or just regular monetary policy.  He also takes down some of the other ones so that I don’t have to do it.  He tackles the inflation fallacy as well as the stupid comment about QE being the equivalent of printing money.

Goldman Sachs is one of 16 different dealers from which the Federal Reserve Bank of New York solicits competitive bids. That’s the way it’s been done for a century, and it would be illegal for the Fed to do as the bunnies propose. From U.S. Monetary Policy and Financial Markets, 1998, Chapter 7:

The Federal Reserve makes all additions to its portfolio through purchases of securities that are already outstanding. The Federal Reserve Act [of 1913] does not give the [Federal Reserve] System the authority to purchase new Treasury issues for cash. Over the years, a variety of provisions had permitted the Treasury to borrow limited amounts directly from the Federal Reserve. Options for such loans existed until 1935. Temporary provisions for direct loans were reintroduced in 1942 and renewed with varying restrictions a number of times thereafter. Authority for any kind of direct loans to the Treasury lapsed in 1981 and has not been renewed.

The reason that the Fed has always been required to buy bonds from private dealers rather than the U.S. Treasury is that the process of money creation needs to be institutionally separated from the process of financing the public debt. In fact, the potential blurring of those boundaries is one of the most important legitimate criticisms of quantitative easing.

Another topic that confuses a lot of people is the Social Security Trust Fund. Does it exist or not?  John Holbo at Crooked Timber takes on Matt Yglesias and a Planet Money podcast.   He explains it in terms of a parent (the government) borrowing a future allowance from a child (Social Security).

If the US government completely and unrecoverably collapses, as a going economic concern, then the Social Security Trust Fund will be bust – and there will be no United States, too! (The latter is the more consequential concern, I should think.)

If the US government falls on seriously hard times, economically, there may need to be belt-tightening. Maybe the US government will have to break the deal it made, not making good on the IOU’s in the Social Security Trust Fund. Likewise, if our family falls on hard times, I may be driven to spend my daughter’s back allowance money on food for our table, in the sense that I may never pay her that money. (Hope not!) But if that happens I won’t describe the logic of the situation in terms of my daughter’s back allowance having turned out not to have been ‘real’, all along. If I don’t pay her, it won’t be because I don’t owe her – nor because that specific money ‘doesn’t exist’, whereas the money to put food on the table ‘does exist’. Talking that way just takes the minor accounting fiction that starts us out, and inflates it into a major fiction.

If the US government doesn’t fall on seriously hard times, but just finds financial life a bit tight – as it often is – the same point applies, only more so.

Scientific American has an important piece up on the Web with an important call for continued Open Standards and Net Neutrality.  They also have taken a strong stand against snooping and protecting free speech on the web.  You can see in this article just how far ahead our European cousins are in protecting individual rights over corporate rights on the Web and the internet. They even quote Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s firm stand on internet freedom.

Free speech should be protected, too. The Web should be like a white sheet of paper: ready to be written on, with no control over what is written. Earlier this year Google accused the Chinese government of hacking into its databases to retrieve the e-mails of dissidents. The alleged break-ins occurred after Google resisted the government’s demand that the company censor certain documents on its Chinese-language search engine.

Totalitarian governments aren’t the only ones violating the network rights of their citizens. In France a law created in 2009, named Hadopi, allowed a new agency by the same name to disconnect a household from the Internet for a year if someone in the household was alleged by a media company to have ripped off music or video. After much opposition, in October the Constitutional Council of France required a judge to review a case before access was revoked, but if approved, the household could be disconnected without due process. In the U.K., the Digital Economy Act, hastily passed in April, allows the government to order an ISP to terminate the Internet connection of anyone who appears on a list of individuals suspected of copyright infringement. In September the U.S. Senate introduced the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act, which would allow the government to create a blacklist of Web sites—hosted on or off U.S. soil—that are accused of infringement and to pressure or require all ISPs to block access to those sites.

In these cases, no due process of law protects people before they are disconnected or their sites are blocked. Given the many ways the Web is crucial to our lives and our work, disconnection is a form of deprivation of liberty. Looking back to the Magna Carta, we should perhaps now affirm: “No person or organization shall be deprived of the ability to connect to others without due process of law and the presumption of innocence.”

When your network rights are violated, public outcry is crucial. Citizens worldwide objected to China’s demands on Google, so much so that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the U.S. government supported Google’s defiance and that Internet freedom—and with it, Web freedom—should become a formal plank in American foreign policy. In October, Finland made broadband access, at 1 Mbps, a legal right for all its citizens.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?