Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Boehner's social security age 70: – video


Interesting idea.  Don’t know if that is doable for all people.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Alaska's present, after 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, might be Gulf Coast's future |

Alaska's present, after 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, might be Gulf Coast's future |

Scott Threlkeld, The Times-Picayune
A sheen of crude oil floats to the surface in a freshly dug hole on the rocky beach at Eleanor Island in Prince William Sound, Alaska. Crude oil from the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill remains below surface rocks on the island.The super tanker Exxon Valdez ran aground on in Prince William Sound, spilling more than 11 million gallons of crude oil.
An official from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game emerged with a flier and tacked it to a bulletin board. The news was good: sockeye salmon were plentiful enough to be harvested for a 12-hour period.

On a chilly, drizzly recent June afternoon in Cordova, Alaska, the town's fishers gathered for an important announcement.

Louisiana Wants U.S. Help, and Its Own Way -

Louisiana Wants U.S. Help, and Its Own Way - "But interviews with more than two dozen state and federal officials and experts suggest that Louisiana, from the earliest days of the spill in the Gulf of Mexico, has often disregarded its own plans and experts in favor of large-scale proposals that many say would probably have had limited effectiveness and could have even hampered the response.

The state’s approach has also at times appeared divided: while some state officials work alongside the Coast Guard and BP every day, others, including the governor, have championed a go-it-alone approach.

Such a stance is popular in a place justifiably skeptical of federal disaster response after Hurricane Katrina. The federal response, at times slow and disorganized, has been a matter of grave concern to this state, with its fragile and complicated coastline."

As Jindal Criticized Federal Bureaucracy, Louisiana Guard Troops Sat Idle - ProPublica

Nearly two months after the governor requested—and the Department of Defense approved the use of 6,000 Louisiana National Guard troops—only a fraction—1,053—have actually been deployed by Jindal to fight the spill.

As Jindal Criticized Federal Bureaucracy, Louisiana Guard Troops Sat Idle - ProPublica

Oil Spill 'Too Much' for William Allen Kruse, Skipper Who Committed Suicide

wo weeks after he was hired by BP to help with the oil spill cleanup, William Allen Kruse killed himself.

The 55-year-old charter boat captain shot himself in the head Wednesday morning as he prepared to spend another day skimming oil off the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, clearing the spill that threatened to destroy his livelihood and community.

Oil Spill 'Too Much' for William Allen Kruse, Skipper Who Committed Suicide


The Free Market = A Free for All


Way to go Senator Brownback.  Even though he’s not going to sign the bill at least his amendment is in there.

At around 10:30 last night, after a full day of considering potential amendments, the conference committee accepted the conflict minerals language introduced by Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) into the final version of the bill. Not only was it accepted without opposition during the voice vote, key provisions around independent audits were strengthened.

The House and Senate still need to vote on the full financial reform legislation (slated for next week), but advocates can claim an important victory for helping ensure that the conflict minerals component – with the strong provisions we advocated for – is part of that bill.

Financial Regulation Bill Contains Measure To Address ‘Conflict Minerals’


Congressional negotiators reached a deal yesterday to reconcile the House and Senate versions of financial regulatory reform. The bill contains an obscure provision “that requires any publicly traded company that uses certain minerals to file reports annually with the Securities and Exchange Commission certifying whether the minerals originated in Congo or neighboring countries.” Many of the minerals used in electronic devices like cell phones and computers are mined in the Congo, a country “plagued by regional conflict and a deadly scramble for its vast natural resources.”

The mineral sales finance “multiple armed groups, many of whom use mass rape as a deliberate strategy to intimidate and control local populations.” The provision in the financial regulation bill is designed to, according to its sponsor Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS), “bring accountability and transparency to the supply chain of minerals used in the manufacturing of many electronic devices.”

One Battalion’s Wrenching Deployment to Afghanistan

View the Interactive Feature

Pvt. Johnnie Stevenson spent his final hours at Fort Drum alone, trying to put his game face on. He played some Ludacris on his iPod, then turned it off. He unpacked his 72-hour bag, then repacked it. Did he have enough toothpaste and spare socks? Had he paid his bills? Was he ready for war? For a year?

Capt. Adrian Bonenberger took a drive through the farmland of northern New York to absorb one last view of the St. Lawrence River. To drink one last cup of coffee at the Lyric Bistro in Clayton. To savor one last moment of real peace and quiet before heading to Afghanistan. For a year.

Sgt. Tamara Sullivan pulled out her cellphone charger and braced for a night of tears. She called her children in North Carolina, ages 3 and 1, and told them she would soon be going to work in a place called Afghanistan. For a year. She reminded her husband to send her their artwork. She cried, hung up, called him back and cried some more.

“I asked for him to mail me those pictures, those little sloppy ones,” she said. “I want to see what my children’s hands touched, because I won’t be able to touch them.”

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Afghan forces' apathy starts to wear on U.S. platoon in Kandahar

GR2010061903454[1] First Lt. James Rathmann was in a hurry. Five 40-foot containers full of U.S. military gear had been ransacked. There could be Taliban fighters sifting through American uniforms, gear and weapons.

Before he could find what was missing, though, Rathmann would need to battle with an ally, a burden that has become all too common in the country's second-largest city, the latest focus of U.S. military officials struggling to turn the tide on a worsening conflict.

As the U.S. military sets out to secure cities including Kandahar, it is relying far more heavily on Afghan forces than at any time in the past nine years, when the American mission focused mainly on defeating the Taliban in the countryside, rather than securing the population. But the Afghan forces are proving poorly equipped and sometimes unmotivated, breeding the same frustration U.S. troops felt in Iraq when they began building up security forces beset by corruption, sectarianism, political meddling and militia infiltration.

In Budget Crisis, States Take Aim at Pension Costs

Many states are acknowledging this year that they have promised pensions they cannot afford and are cutting once-sacrosanct benefits, to appease taxpayers and attack budget deficits.

Illinois raised its retirement age to 67, the highest of any state, and capped the salary on which public pensions are figured at $106,800 a year, indexed for inflation. Arizona, New York, Missouri and Mississippi will make people work more years to earn pensions. Virginia is requiring employees to pay into the state pension fund for the first time. New Jersey will not give anyone pension credit unless they work at least 32 hours a week.

Obama and the BP oil spill:

For the young Presidency of Barack Obama, and for the nation, this hellish summer of discontent started in balmy spring, on the evening of April 20th, forty miles off the Louisiana coast in the Gulf of Mexico. At first, after the explosion aboard the giant oil rig Deepwater Horizon, the rig’s operator, BP, estimated the resulting flow at a thousand barrels a day. A nasty business, yes. But at that rate it would have taken eight months to approach the level of the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill and eight years to equal the record for the Gulf, set in 1980 at Ixtoc, off the Mexican coast

Read more:

Obama and the BP oil spill:

Regulators Failed to Address Risks in Oil Rig Fail-Safe Device



It was the last line of defense, the final barrier between the rushing volcanic fury of oil and gas and one of the worst environmental disasters in United States history.

Its very name — the blind shear ram — suggested its blunt purpose. When all else failed, if the crew of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig lost control of a well, if a dreaded blowout came, the blind shear ram’s two tough blades were poised to slice through the drill pipe, seal the well and save the day. Everything else could go wrong, just so long as “the pinchers” went right. All it took was one mighty stroke.

On the night of April 20, minutes after an enormous blowout ripped through the Deepwater Horizon, the rig’s desperate crew pinned all hope on this last line of defense.

But the line did not hold.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Documents: BP estimated 4.2M gallon in worst case


Newly released internal documents show BP PLC estimated 4.2 million gallons of oil a day could gush from a damaged well in the Gulf of Mexico if all equipment restricting the flow was removed and company models were wrong.

Democratic Massachusetts Congressman Ed Markey released the documents Sunday showing BP said in a worst-case scenario the leak could gush between 2.3 million and 4.2 million gallons of oil per day.

The current worst-case estimate of what's leaking is 2.5 million gallons a day.

Read more:

Media claim access to spill site has been limited

E4151AD0-1ABB-4351-90C8-DC902CD2BB87_mw800_mh600[1] Media organizations say they are being allowed only limited access to areas impacted by the Gulf oil spill through restrictions on plane and boat traffic that are making it difficult to document the worst spill in U.S. history.

In at least two cases, a media organization and a seaplane pilot say BP PLC — the company responsible for cleaning up the spill — appeared to have a role in deciding on access.

Other media, including The Associated Press, have reported coverage problems because their access has been restricted, though not all have linked the decision to BP. Government officials say restrictions are needed to protect wildlife and ensure safe air traffic.

Tony Blair negotiates a relaxing of civilian aid restrictions – video 7:11 minutes



You've seen the stimulus. Now, meet the anti-stimulus.

Finally, state and local aid happens to be an uncommonly effective form of stimulus. The difficulty with most stimulus spending is that not all of it gets spent. Tax breaks, for instance, often get saved. Mark Zandi, the chief economist for Moody's, estimates that cutting the corporate tax rate gets you only 32 cents in stimulus for every dollar you spend on it. That's not the case with state and local aid. When you're plugging state budget gaps, you know that money will be spent, because it was being spent before, and usually on something that the state's residents actually wanted.

Zandi estimates that every dollar spent on it actually gets you $1.41 in stimulus. It's the best anti-anti-stimulus you could ask for.

CAPITAL CULTURE: Slaves who built Capitol honored -

African-American slaves sweated in the summer heat and shivered in the winter's cold while helping to build the U.S. Capitol.

Congress took note of their service and sacrifice Wednesday by erecting commemorative plaques inside the Capitol in their honor. Lawmakers said the memorials will ensure that the contributions of slaves in building one of the world's most recognizable buildings are never again forgotten.

"In remembering the slaves who labored here, we give them in death some measure of the dignity they were so cruelly denied in life," Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said at the plaques' unveiling.

The plaques read: "This original exterior wall was constructed between 1793 and 1800 of sandstone quarried by laborers, including enslaved African Americans who were an important part of the workforce that built the United States Capitol."

CAPITAL CULTURE: Slaves who built Capitol honored -

Saturday, June 19, 2010

U.S. Cracks Down on Farmers Who Hire Children


The Obama administration has opened a broad campaign of enforcement against farmers who employ children and underpay workers, hiring hundreds of investigators and raising fines for labor and wage violators.

A flurry of fines and mounting public pressure on blueberry farmers is only the opening salvo, Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis said in an interview. Ms. Solis, the daughter of an immigrant farm worker, said she was making enforcement of farm-labor rules a priority. At the same time, Congress is considering whether to rewrite the law that still allows 12-year-olds to work on farms during the summer with almost no limits.

The blueberry crop has been drawing workers to eastern North Carolina for decades, but as the harvest got under way in late May, growers stung by bad publicity and federal fines were scrambling to clean up their act, even going beyond the current law to keep all children off the fields. The growers were also ensuring that the workers, mainly Hispanic immigrants, would make at least the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.

“I picked blueberries last year, and my 4-year-old brother tried to, but he got stuck in the mud,” said Miguel, a 12-year-old child of migrants. “The inspectors fined the farmers, and this year no kids are allowed.”

Child and rights advocates said they were encouraged by these signs of federal resolve, but they were also waiting to see how wide and lasting the changes would be. Across the country, hundreds of thousands of children under 18 toil each year, harvesting crops from apples to onions, according to a recent report by Human Rights Watch detailing hazards to their health and schooling and criticizing the Labor Department for past inaction.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

U.S. Identifies Vast Riches of Minerals in Afghanistan - NYTimes


The United States has discovered nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan, far beyond any previously known reserves and enough to fundamentally alter the Afghan economy and perhaps the Afghan war itself, according to senior American government officials.

The previously unknown deposits — including huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium — are so big and include so many minerals that are essential to modern industry that Afghanistan could eventually be transformed into one of the most important mining centers in the world, the United States officials believe.

An internal Pentagon memo, for example, states that Afghanistan could become the “Saudi Arabia of lithium,” a key raw material in  the manufacture of batteries for laptops and Blackberrys.

The vast scale of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth was discovered by a small team of Pentagon officials and American geologists. The Afghan government and President Hamid Karzai were recently briefed, American officials said.

On Guard - Ad on Oil Spill - video

82nd in Afghan, Taliban attack from yesterday - video


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Deepwater Horizon oil rig missed inspections, records show -

Federal inspectors failed to conduct nearly a third of required inspections on the Deepwater Horizon rig in the 28 months before it exploded and sank in the Gulf of Mexico, according to government records.

The inspections that were carried out by the Minerals Management Service found no sign of trouble on BP's Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, according to documents posted Friday on the Interior Department's website.

Deepwater Horizon oil rig missed inspections, records show -

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Weekly Address: Fair Pay for Doctors - Video

North Carolina moves to raise limit on oil spill damages

Way to go North Carolina.

1077986-300x225[1]Lawmakers hope to erase a cap on damages that the state could collect from BP before an oil slick arrives at the state's shores.

A state House committee approved a bill Thursday that wipes out a limit on damages the state could collect from an oil spill. Currently the state's cap mirrors a federal limit of $75 million. That cap was set for North Carolina in 1989 after the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska.

The bill would apply to all spills of oil or hazardous materials in the state's waters, but the backers specifically aimed it at the oil gushing in the Gulf of Mexico, said Rep. Pricey Harrison, a Greensboro Democrat and one of the primary sponsors.

Oil spill liability cap- Business Week

Read more:

What do Virginia Republicans Think About Robert Hurt? – Video

Did the GOP commission Fox to rewrite the history books? - video


Did the GOP commission Fox to rewrite the history books?

Friday, June 4, 2010

Retired Air Force general to be DNI - Kasie Hunt -

General James Clapper to serve as director of national intelligence, a senior administration official said Friday.

Clapper, a retired Air Force general, has served as the Pentagon’s top intelligence official since 2007 and also previously served as director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency.

As DNI, he would face the largely thankless task of wrangling the nation’s intelligence bureaucracy without the power of a large budget or the ability to hire and fire top officials. Dennis Blair, the last DNI, was asked to resign after he lost internal turf battles with CIA chief Leon Panetta and John Brennan, the White House’s counterterrorism czar.

Clapper is a personal favorite of Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who selected Clapper as undersecretary of defense for intelligence in January 2007. When he stayed on in 2009, he became one of the few holdovers from the Bush administration in a top policy position.

Retired Air Force general to be DNI - Kasie Hunt -