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My Friend, the Murderer

May 17, 2013 in Blogs

By Amy Butcher, Salon

The Kevin who took a steak knife to his ex's throat is not the Kevin I know.


Here’s what the news reported: An area man murdered his former girlfriend in the upper-level apartment of his split-level home. He sat with her body for 20 to 40 minutes, then phoned the local police, claiming a complete mental breakdown. I don’t know what just happened, he said, but you need to come quick. He waited for police on the sidewalk with his hands behind his head, and officers lowered him into their squad car just past dawn without incident.

What they did not say is this: I was his close friend. He walked me home before it happened. Kevin Schaeffer liked pizza and history and music, and most especially the band Dr. Dog. He wanted to move away — to Nashville, to San Francisco — and in every memory I have of him, he wears a purple sweat shirt, one I’m not certain he even owned. He was president of the college radio station, a Dean’s Honors student, and a history major who also liked writing. He could draw a very convincing Rastafarian. The year prior, he’d attempted suicide by lining a bathtub with electronics, but returned to our college campus just five days later, where we assumed he was receiving treatment. He was not receiving treatment. He had been suffering from long-term, severe depression and suicidal ideation for over a year on the night he killed her, and yet our conversation was pleasant: We talked that night about the Badlands, canine rain boots, an upcoming potluck, a tie-dyed cake. I’d learned how to do it online, I told him — it just involved food dye and a little patience.

“That sounds amazing,” he said, nodding. “I’d eat that cake for sure.”

It was April of 2009, just four weeks before our graduation at Gettysburg College, and we were just 22. I never thought I’d know a murderer. Certainly Kevin never thought he’d be one. My biggest concern that night was packing: how in the world I’d fit a swivel chair into …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Bill Moyers: Our Media Is Polluted by Toxic Lies About the Risks Posed by Lead

May 17, 2013 in Blogs

By Bill Moyers, David Rosner, Gerald Markowitz, BillMoyers.com

There’s no safe level of exposure to this dangerous toxin still lurking in millions of homes, but that truth is consistently under attack from industry-funded public relations excecutives.


 

From BillMoyers.com

INTRO:Science can be a battleground — witness the politics of climate change, the teaching of evolution, the uncharted terrain of genetic modification and stem cell research, among other contentious issues. But when industries release untested chemicals into our environment — putting profits before public health — our children are the first to suffer. Nowhere is this more troubling than in the ongoing story of lead poisoning.

Bill talks with David Rosner and Gerald Markowitz, public health historians who’ve been taking on the chemical industry for years — writing about the hazards of industrial pollution and the neglect of worker safety — despite industry efforts to undermine them. Their latest book, Lead Wars: The Politics of Science and the Fate of America’s Children, is the culmination of 20 years of research. Markowitz and Rosner warn that, for young children, there’s no safe level of exposure to this dangerous toxin still lurking in millions of homes.

The authors discuss thwarted efforts to hold the lead industry accountable, failed attempts to find cheap solutions, and the cost to the future of our children. As long as the chemical industry and its powerful lobbies prevail in blocking efforts to reform outdated laws, Markowitz and Rosner say, we will continue to float in a soup of toxins — inhaling, drinking, and absorbing chemicals that we may learn, years later, have put us all in harm’s way.

***

 

BILL MOYERS: At the end of a week that reminded us to be ever vigilant about the dangers of government overreaching its authority, whether by the long arm of the IRS or the Justice Department, let’s pause to think about another threat, from too much private power over public policy.

All too often, instead of acting as a brake, government becomes the enabler of corporate power and greed, undermining the very rules and regulations intended to keep us safe.

Think of inadequate inspections of food and those infections which kill 3,000 Americans …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Keep the Arctic Cold: Why the Rush to Drill Alaska Must Be Stopped

May 17, 2013 in Blogs

By Subhankar Banerjee, Seven Stories Press

A leading international voice on arctic conservation addresses President Obama’s strategy for tapping America’s northern frontier.


I wrote a letter to the editor as a follow up to the generous review “In the Beautiful,Threatened North” by Ian Frazier in The New York Review of Books of the anthology, Arctic Voices: Resistance at the Tipping Point that I edited. My letter, “Can Shell Be Stopped?” has just been published in the New York Review

After the June 6 issue (with my letter) went to the printer a few significant things happened that relate to the letter that I’ll mention here briefly. On May 10, the White House published a 13-page document, “National Strategy for the Arctic Region.” It opens with a one-page introduction by President Obama. He begins with these words: “We in the lower forty-eight and Hawaii join Alaska’s residents in recognizing one simple truth that the Arctic is an amazing place.” All fifty-five contributors in Arctic Voices, I’m sure, will be very pleased with these words from the President. But before the tears of joy could flow down my cheeks, the droplets dried up as I began to read the second paragraph: “Our pioneering spirit is naturally drawn to this region, for the economic opportunities it presents…” President Obama hides his excitement for oil and gas drilling in the Arctic Ocean by carefully choosing the euphemism—“economic opportunities.” In page 7 the true intent of the report is finally revealed: “The region holds sizable proved and potential oil and natural gas resources that will likely continue to provide valuable supplies to meet U.S. energy needs.” Of course the report mentions protecting the environment but gives no specific details. This major report from the White House was released after we came to know that on midnight on May 7, the average global CO2 concentration had reached 400 parts per million (ppm). The pre-industrial average was 280 ppm. The Scientific American reported, “[T]he last time CO2 levels are thought to have been this high was more than 2.5 million years ago, an era known as the Pliocene.” This is so significant that Scientific American now plans to publish in the coming year a “400 …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Being a Democracy Hating, Corporate Power-Defending Newspaper Owner Runs Deep in the Koch Family

May 17, 2013 in Blogs

By Yasha Levine, Not Safe for Work Corporation

The Koch bros are rumored to be possible bidders for the Tribune company and its large regional papers including the LA Times … their grandfather Harry Koch would be proud.


This article first appeared at Not Safe for Work Corporation.

There’s a rumor going around that the Koch brothers are interested in buying up the Tribune Company, which includes the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, the Baltimore Sun… And there’s a lot of speculation about what would happen if they did.

Some worry, and rightly so, that the Kochs—whose combined wealth makes them the biggest billionaires on the planet—would integrate the Tribune Co. with the rest of their free-market thinktank-industrial complex, and turn its newly acquired news media property into a gigantic business propaganda machine. Half the reporters at the Los Angeles Times even took a vote saying they’d quit if the Kochs bought the paper.

Others are positively enthusiastic about the possible takeover. Slate’s Matthew Yglesias, for one, argued that “America would be better off for it” because the Kochs would spent lots of money building a better “conservative media product.”

But while the country’s media commentators busy themselves trying to predict what Koch ownership would mean for newspapers, many of them are overlooking one important fact: We already know. Because the Koch family has a long history of newspaper ownership.

The Kochs and newspapers go waaay back, right back to their grandfather Harry Koch (yep, that’s a real name), who emigrated to America from the Netherlands in 1888 and bought a newspaper in a podunk railroad town in North Texas called Quanah. With the power of the press behind him, ol' Harry Koch went on to make a fortune for himself and his brood by aggressively rah-rahing on behalf of railroad and banking interests, fighting organized labor and savaging New Deal programs.

Not much is known is known about Harry Koch. Charles and David Koch don’t like to talk about him much. And when they do talk about Grandpa Harry, they don’t tell the truth. Like a lot of billionaires, they want the public to think they're self-made, …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Can America Come to Terms with Boston Bombing Suspect's Stated Motives?

May 17, 2013 in Blogs

By Ray McGovern, Consortium News

We must take grievances about America’s Mideast oppression seriously.


Quick, somebody tell CIA Director John Brennan about the handwriting on the inside wall of the boat in which Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was hiding before Boston-area police riddled it and him with bullets. Tell Brennan that Tsarnaev’s note is in plain English and that it needs neither translation nor interpretation in solving the mystery: “why do they hate us?”

And, if Brennan will listen, remind him of when his high school teachers, the Irish Christian Brothers, taught him the meaning of “handwriting on the wall” in the Book of Daniel and why it became an idiom for predetermined, imminent doom.

CBS senior correspondent John Miller, who before joining CBS served in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, broke the handwritten-note story Thursday onCBS This Morning. He described what Dzhokhar Tsarnaev scribbled on the side of the boat as he lay bleeding “from multiple gunshot wounds” in the boat. Here, according to Miller’s sources, is what Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s note said:

“The [Boston] bombings were in retribution for the U.S. crimes in places like Iraq and Afghanistan [and] that the victims of the Boston bombing were collateral damage, in the same way innocent victims have been collateral damage in U.S. wars around the world.  Summing up, that when you attack one Muslim you attack all Muslims.”

My experience with now-CBS-This-Morning’s Charlie Rose is that he does listen closely. Thus, I believe it is to his credit that he seemed determined, with his follow-up question, to drive home what I think is by far the most important point:

Co-anchor Charlie Rose: “Does it [the note] answer questions about motives?”

Miller: “Well it does … there it is in black and white – literally.”

Co-anchor Norah O’Donnell: “But they still believe he was self-radicalized and not part of a larger group, right?”

Miller: “That’s right. …”

Note to CIA Director Brennan

If you didn’t understand much about such motives three years ago, after Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab tried to down an airliner over Detroit on Christmas Day 2009, here’s a chance to learn. I actually felt embarrassed for you when you – then-White House counter-terrorism adviser – …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Four Examples from the Last Week Prove Obama Is Full of Hot Air on Climate Protection

May 17, 2013 in Blogs

By Tara Lohan, AlterNet

You can't hit 400 ppm CO2 and still think “all of the above” is a rationale energy strategy.


A lot has happened in the last week. The Earth hit the 400 parts per million CO2 threshold for the first time in human history. Scientists tell us this is bad news if we want to prevent runaway climate change. “If we continue to burn fossil fuels at accelerating rates, if we continue with business as usual, we will cross the 450 parts per million limit in a matter of maybe a couple decades,” scientist Michael Mann told Democracy Now! “We believe that with that amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, we commit to what can truly be described as dangerous and irreversible changes in our climate.” 

If you didn't know this already, we should be listening to Mann and to other scientists. I thought this was settled a long time ago, but someone keeps giving print space to climate deniers, so a new survey of 12,000 peer-reviewed studies on the climate was just completed and the not-so-shocking conclusion was this, as Mother Nature Network reports

Published this week in the journal Environmental Research Letters, the analysis shows an overwhelming majority of climate scientists agree that humans are a key contributor to climate change, while a “vanishingly small proportion” defy this consensus. Most of the climate papers didn't specifically address humanity's involvement — likely because it's considered a given in scientific circles, the survey's authors point out — but of the 4,014 that did, 3,896 shared the mainstream outlook that people are largely to blame.

In light of this news, it makes it even more infuriating to see that the Obama administration has spent the week prostrating to the fossil fuel lobby. Here are four disturbing things the administration's been up to.

1. Moniz Hearts Fracking

Obama tapped nuclear physicist Ernest Moniz to head the Energy Department and the Senate gave a big thumbs-up to Moniz on Thursday. Many environmental groups had concerns that Moniz was too pro-fracking, and those concerns are clearly warranted. Moniz's first order of …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Popular Resistance Is Percolating Across the Country — Inspiring Activism That the Corporate Media Always Ignores

May 17, 2013 in Blogs

By Kevin Zeese, Margaret Flowers, AlterNet

The fight against plutocracy, concentrated wealth and corporatism is decentralized, creative and growing.


Every week we are inspired by the many people throughout the country who are doing excellent work to challenge the power structure and put forward a new path for the country. The popular resistance to plutocracy, concentrated wealth and corporatism is decentralized, creative and growing.

One growing series of protests has been the “Moral Monday” demonstrations in North Carolina.  They do not have ‘one demand’ but rather are challenging the systemic corruption, undermining of democracy and misdirection of a state government that puts human needs second to corporate profits – which they have dubbed ‘Robin Hood in Reverse.’  This week 49 of 200 protesters inside the capitol were arrested singing, chanting and echoing many of the same concerns that demonstrators have for the past three Mondays.  Last week there were 30 arrests, the week before 17.  Among those arrested was an 83 year old retired minister, Vernon Tyson, who was merely a spectator, but he gave a great interview cheering on the protests after his release. And, a group of historians were among those arrested who put these protests in the context of US history.

Another courageous protest involved seven undocumented immigrants who blocked the Broadview Detention Center where immigrants are being incarcerated.  They blocked the doors to the detention facility, linking arms together using pipes, chains, and locks. They were protesting the record-high deportations under President Obama, and the lack of leadership from Illinois representatives to call for a suspension of deportations. On the West coast, the always creative Backbone Campaign supported allied faith communities with a giant banner lift over the private for-profit immigration detention center asking “Who Would Jesus Deport?” and an inflatable lady liberty exposing the unjust policies that break up families.

There was a recent victory for Seattle teachers and students that resulted from their citywide protests against standardized testing. The school district announced that testing in the high schools would not occur next year.  The teachers said they will keep protesting until the tests are banned from lower grades as well.

We hope …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Popular Resistance Is Percolating Across the Country — The Inspiring Actions True Patriots Are Taking That the Corporate Media Always Ignores

May 17, 2013 in Blogs

By Kevin Zeese, Margaret Flowers, AlterNet

The popular resistance to plutocracy, concentrated wealth and corporatism is decentralized, creative and growing.


Every week we are inspired by the many people throughout the country who are doing excellent work to challenge the power structure and put forward a new path for the country. The popular resistance to plutocracy, concentrated wealth and corporatism is decentralized, creative and growing.

One growing series of protests has been the “Moral Monday” demonstrations in North Carolina.  They do not have ‘one demand’ but rather are challenging the systemic corruption, undermining of democracy and misdirection of a state government that puts human needs second to corporate profits – which they have dubbed ‘Robin Hood in Reverse.’  This week 49 of 200 protesters inside the capitol were arrested singing, chanting and echoing many of the same concerns that demonstrators have for the past three Mondays.  Last week there were 30 arrests, the week before 17.  Among those arrested was an 83 year old retired minister, Vernon Tyson, who was merely a spectator, but he gave a great interview cheering on the protests after his release. And, a group of historians were among those arrested who put these protests in the context of US history.

Another courageous protest involved seven undocumented immigrants who blocked the Broadview Detention Center where immigrants are being incarcerated.  They blocked the doors to the detention facility, linking arms together using pipes, chains, and locks. They were protesting the record-high deportations under President Obama, and the lack of leadership from Illinois representatives to call for a suspension of deportations. On the West coast, the always creative Backbone Campaign supported allied faith communities with a giant banner lift over the private for-profit immigration detention center asking “Who Would Jesus Deport?” and an inflatable lady liberty exposing the unjust policies that break up families.

There was a recent victory for Seattle teachers and students that resulted from their citywide protests against standardized testing. The school district announced that testing in the high schools would not occur next year.  The teachers said they will keep protesting until the tests are banned from lower grades as well.

We …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Is the Government Spying on Reporters More often than We Think?

May 17, 2013 in Economics

By Julian Sanchez

Julian Sanchez

The Justice Department’s seizure of call logs related to phone lines used by dozens of Associated Press reporters has provoked a flurry of bipartisan criticism, most of which has cast the decision as a disturbing departure from the norm. AP head Gary Pruitt condemned the decision, part of an investigation into leaks of classified information, as a “massive and unprecedented intrusion.” Yet there’s plenty of circumstantial evidence suggesting the seizure may not be unprecedented—just rarely disclosed.

There’s evidence that the Justice Department’s seizure of Associated Press phone records is far from unprecedented.”

The Justice Department is supposed to follow special rules when it seeks the phone records of reporters, in recognition that such snooping conflicts with First Amendment values. As Pruitt complained in an angry letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, those logs provided the government a “road map” of the stories his reporters were investigating, and there is evidence that such seizures deter anonymous sources from speaking to the press—whether they’re discussing classified programs or merely facts that embarrass the government.

Federal regulations require that the attorney general personally approve such a move, ensure the request is narrow and necessary, and notify the news organization about the request—in advance whenever possible. In this case, however, the Justice Department seems to have used an indiscriminate vacuum-cleaner approach—seeking information (from phone companies) about a wide range of phone numbers used by AP reporters—and it only notified AP after the fact.

It wouldn’t be surprising if there were more cases like this we’ve never heard about. Here’s why: The Justice Department’s rules only say the media must be informed about “subpoenas” for “telephone toll records.” The FBI’s operations guidelines interprets those rules quite literally, making clear the requirement “concerns only grand jury subpoenas.” That is, these rules don’t apply to National Security Letters, which are secret demands for information used by the FBI that don’t require judicial approval. The narrow FBI interpretation also doesn’t cover administrative subpoenas, which are issued by federal agencies without prior judicial review. Last year, the FBI issued NSLs for the communications and financial records of more than 6,000 Americans—and the number has been far higher in previous years. The procedures that do apply to those tools have been redacted from publicly available versions of the FBI guidelines. Thus, it’s no shocker the AP seizure would seem like an “unprecedented intrusion” if the government …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Hospital Lobby Fears They Might Not Get Medicaid Subsidies

May 17, 2013 in Economics

By Michael F. Cannon

Michael F. Cannon

Hospitals across the nation are threatening that unless state lawmakers implement the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s — Obamacare — Medicaid expansion, the law’s new taxes and spending cuts will lead to layoffs and closures.

There’s a dual irony here. First, hospitals put themselves in this position when they lobbied for that law. Second, many of the law’s erstwhile opponents, like Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R), Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) and Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) are now displaying Stockholm syndrome, taking pity on their captors and supporting the Medicaid expansion. Fortunately, many state lawmakers are refusing to punish taxpayers for the sins of the hospital lobby.

Obamacare supporters are dangling an unlimited stream of federal money at the end of their line, yet only 25 states have taken the bait.”

Originally, Obamacare would have forced states to open Medicaid to 17 million additional people. Hospitals would have received so many subsidies, they scarcely minded the law’s new taxes and spending cuts. With near-unanimity, they “strongly urge[d]” Congress to pass the PPACA “with or without bipartisan support” as a matter of “national security, equity and fairness.” The hospital lobby hailed the law as “historic,” “a giant and essential step forward,” and a “major first step” full of “great improvements.”

Then in June 2012, seven Supreme Court justices let states choose whether to participate in the expansion.

Now, the hospital lobby is terrified. If states don’t expand Medicaid, hospitals won’t get their subsidies. Obamacare now means the same thing for hospitals that it has always meant for consumers and employers: costs are a certainty, but promised benefits may not materialize. The difference is that hospitals have only themselves to blame.

Rather than call for repeal, as one union that used to support the law has done, the hospital lobby is doubling down. According to one report, “Hospital associations have paid for television and newspaper ads, organized rallies, and choreographed legislative testimony,” demanding that state lawmakers unlock those subsidies. According to the hospital lobby’s curious logic, lawmakers who consistently oppose Obamacare will somehow be responsible for the harm that law imposes on the hospitals that support it.

Govs. Brewer, Scott and Kasich believe they must rescue their captors, and at taxpayers’ expense. Given that the expansion offers states $9 of federal cash for every $1 they spend, with no upper limit, such flip-flops are hardly surprising. Lawmakers in all …read more

Source: OP-EDS