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Archive for June 11th, 2011

Utility Closing 5 Coal Plants

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 11th, 2011 4:49 am by HL

Utility Closing 5 Coal Plants
Utility giant American Electric Power said Thursday that it will shut down five coal-fired power plants and spend billions of dollars to comply with a series of pending Environmental Protection Agency regulations. The company’s dramatic plan to comply with the regulations could give Republicans and moderate Democrats ammunition in their ongoing fight against EPA’s efforts to impose new regulations aimed at limiting greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants including mercury and arsenic. “This is a perfect example of the EPA implementing rules and regulations without considering the devastating impact they may have on local economies and jobs,” said Shelley Moore Capito (R-W. Va.).



Late Late Night FDL: Money

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 11th, 2011 4:48 am by HL

Late Late Night FDL: Money
Dr. TeethMoney, from episode 106 of The Muppet Show. Grab your popcorn, put your feet up on the coffee table, and try to keep the spitballs off the screen please. This is Late Late Night FireDogLake, where off topic is the topic … so dive in. I’m thinking about the Portland FDL Meetup coming up on June 16th at 2pm in Portland, OR. Details in the comments. What’s on your mind?

Dr. TeethMoney, from episode 106 of The Muppet Show.

Grab your popcorn, put your feet up on the coffee table, and try to keep the spitballs off the screen please.  This is Late Late Night FireDogLake, where off topic is the topic … so dive in.  I’m thinking about the Portland FDL Meetup coming up on June 16th at 2pm in Portland, OR. Details in the comments.  What’s on your mind?


U.S. Employers Pick Machines Over Manpower

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 11th, 2011 4:47 am by HL

U.S. Employers Pick Machines Over Manpower
Rather than hiring more workers as the U.S. economy lumbers back to life, timid employers are replacing human labor with machinery wherever they can as the costs of employee compensation have risen while the price of foreign-produced automated equipment has dropped. Some economists say companies are loath to hire because the recovery is so slow, a problem that would be eased by increased demand for goods and services. With no increase expected any time soon, this is crippling news for millions of unemployed or underemployed Americans. —ARK The New York Times: Two years into the recovery, hiring is still painfully slow. The economy is producing as much as it was before the downturn, but with seven million fewer jobs. Since the recovery began, businesses’ spending on employees has grown 2 percent as equipment and software spending has swelled 26 percent, according to the Commerce Department. A capital rebound that sharp and a labor rebound that slow have been recorded only once before — after the 1982 recession. … Indeed, equipment and software prices have dipped 2.4 percent since the recovery began, thanks largely to foreign manufacturing. Labor costs, on the other hand, have risen 6.7 percent, according to the Labor Department. The rising compensation costs are driven in large part by costlier health care benefits, so those lucky workers who do have jobs do not exactly feel richer. … To add insult to injury, much of the equipment used to replace American workers is made by workers abroad, meaning that capital spending is going overseas. Of the four pieces of equipment Vista bought last year, one was made domestically. The others came from Israel, Switzerland and Germany. Read more

Rather than hiring more workers as the U.S. economy lumbers back to life, timid employers are replacing human labor with machinery wherever they can as the costs of employee compensation have risen while the price of foreign-produced automated equipment has dropped.

Some economists say companies are loath to hire because the recovery is so slow, a problem that would be eased by increased demand for goods and services. With no increase expected any time soon, this is crippling news for millions of unemployed or underemployed Americans. —ARK

The New York Times:

Two years into the recovery, hiring is still painfully slow. The economy is producing as much as it was before the downturn, but with seven million fewer jobs. Since the recovery began, businesses’ spending on employees has grown 2 percent as equipment and software spending has swelled 26 percent, according to the Commerce Department. A capital rebound that sharp and a labor rebound that slow have been recorded only once before — after the 1982 recession.

… Indeed, equipment and software prices have dipped 2.4 percent since the recovery began, thanks largely to foreign manufacturing. Labor costs, on the other hand, have risen 6.7 percent, according to the Labor Department. The rising compensation costs are driven in large part by costlier health care benefits, so those lucky workers who do have jobs do not exactly feel richer.

… To add insult to injury, much of the equipment used to replace American workers is made by workers abroad, meaning that capital spending is going overseas. Of the four pieces of equipment Vista bought last year, one was made domestically. The others came from Israel, Switzerland and Germany.

Read more

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Blair Mountain: Protesters March to Save Historic Battlefield

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 11th, 2011 4:46 am by HL

Blair Mountain: Protesters March to Save Historic Battlefield
A week long protest calling for the preservation of West Virginia’s Blair Mountain has rehashed conflicts within a coal mining community torn between the need…

Dave Johnson: Concern Over Republican Embrace Of The Ayn Rand Poison
Some say that maybe it is a bad idea to base a political party’s ideology on a belief that altruism, democracy and Christianity are “evil.”…

Sarah Palin’s Email Cache And Her First 48 Hours From Obscurity
Thank you for your heart, your backbone and your good sense. You may wonder why a Floridian is so interested in the Governor of Alaska….

Pelosi Declines To Call For Weiner’s Resignation
WASHINGTON — Amid increasing calls for Rep. Anthony Weiner to resign, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi says the decision should be up to the congressman…


Wash. Times ?Uses E. Coli Outbreak In Germany To Spread?Fear?About Organic Food

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 11th, 2011 4:45 am by HL

Wash. Times ?Uses E. Coli Outbreak In Germany To Spread?Fear?About Organic Food

The Washington Times used the recent deaths in Germany resulting from people eating produce contaminated by E. coli bacteria to claim that organic food is dangerous. In fact, not only does the article lack data to support the claim but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says it has no data to support the claim that organic food is more susceptible to food-borne pathogens than conventional produce.

Wash. Times Claims Organic Farms Engage In “Potentially Deadly Practices”

Washington Times Deputy Editorial Page Editor: “Dead Bodies Demand Organic Food Moratorium.” An op-ed by Washington Times deputy editorial page editor David Mastio following the recent E. coli outbreak in Germany stated: “[I]t is better to be safe than sorry when it comes to organic farms’ potentially deadly practices.” Noting that the E. Coli outbreak is perhaps linked to an organic farm, Mastio further wrote: “[T]he Obama administration needs to impose a timeout in the expansion or opening of any new organic farms while regulators and federal safety experts examine the ongoing dangers presented by organic food.” From The Washington Times:

Right now, someone nearby is buying organic bean sprouts. It may be the last thing he ever does. Last week’s E. coli outbreak in Germany — potentially traced to an organic farm — was more deadly than the largest nuclear disaster of the last quarter-century.

[…]

The scale of the danger we ignore by pretending organic food isn’t a business like every other is nearly unimaginable. According to World Health Organization statistics on E. coli deaths, in just the past two years, more people have been killed by the disease than all fission-related events since the dawn of the nuclear age — even if you include the use of nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The time has come for even the mighty organic lobby to accept the precautionary principle — the idea that it is better to be safe than sorry when it comes to organic farms’ potentially deadly practices. Until we know for certain that the outbreak could not have been caused by the suspect organic farm, we must act to protect the public from the unknown risks of organic practices.

First, the Obama administration needs to impose a timeout in the expansion or opening of any new organic farms while regulators and federal safety experts examine the ongoing dangers presented by organic food.

The core of organic farming is the rejection of a century’s worth of scientific advances. The same risks that Christian Scientists take with their own children when they reject modern medicine, organic farmers are eager to take with your children when they reject modern agriculture. [The Washington Times, 6/8/11]

FDA Says It Has No Data Showing That Organic Food Has Different Risks Than Other Food

FDA “Has No Data Showing Any Higher Or Lesser Risk For Adulteration With Foodborne Pathogens” For Organic Food Versus Conventionally-Grown Food. In an email to Media Matters, a spokesperson for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration stated:

The FDA has no data showing any higher or lesser risk for adulteration with foodborne pathogens for growing product using organic versus conventional farming techniques. [6/10/11, email to Media Matters]

Organic Trade Association: “Organic Products Are [Not] More Like To Be Contaminated By E. Coli?” In a post published on its website, The Organic Trade Association highlighted a statement by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and a study by the University of Minnesota to show that “there is no evidence to indicate” that organic products are more like to be contaminated by E. coli. From the Organic Trade Association:

Are organic products more likely to be contaminated by E. coli?

No, there is no evidence to indicate this. All food — whether conventional or organic — is susceptible to E. coli. In fact, CDC has issued the following statement: “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention…has not conducted any study that compares or quantitates the specific risk for infection with Escherichia coli O157:H7 and eating either conventionally grown or organic/natural foods. CDC recommends that growers practice safe and hygienic methods for producing food products, and that consumers, likewise, practice food safety within their homes (e.g., thoroughly washing fruits and vegetables).”

A University of Minnesota study concerning fecal E. coli in fresh picked produce by Mukherjee et al, published in the Journal of Food Protection (Vo. 67, No. 5, 2004), found that the percentage of E. coli prevalence in certified organic produce was similar to that in conventional samples. However, it did find a marked difference in the prevalence of E. coli between the samples from certified and non-certified organic farms. “Ours is the first study that suggests a potential association between organic certification and reduced E. coli prevalence,” the authors wrote. They noted that the results of the study “do not support allegations that organic produce poses a substantially greater risk of pathogen contamination than does conventional produce.” [Organic Trade Association, accessed 6/10/11]

  • University of Minnesota: “E. Coli Prevalence In Certified Organic Produce” Is “Not Statistically Different From That In Conventional Samples.” From the University of Minnesota:

The average coliform counts in both organic and conventional produce were 2.9 log most probable number per g. The percentages of E. coli-positive samples in conventional and organic produce were 1.6 and 9.7%, respectively. However, the E. coli prevalence in certified organic produce was 4.3%, a level not statistically different from that in conventional samples. [PubMed.gov, May 2004]


NSA Whistleblower Thomas Drake Admits ‘Exceeding Authorized Use Of A Computer’ In Leak Case

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 11th, 2011 4:44 am by HL

NSA Whistleblower Thomas Drake Admits ‘Exceeding Authorized Use Of A Computer’ In Leak Case
In a major concession for the Justice Department, National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Thomas Drake pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor charge of “exceeding authorized use of a computer.”


Jindal Gives Senators Confidential Copies Of Health Care Agency Report
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration have handed over a report it commissioned on the agency that manages state employees’ health insurance, after state senators on Wednesday raised the propsect of a legislative subpoena. But the report is still not being made available to the public.


The Torch is passed (again)

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 11th, 2011 4:40 am by HL

The Torch is passed (again)
People who graduated from high school fifty years ago this month may want to indulge in a bit of nostalgia by exhuming a transcript of their commencement speech and having their lawyer take a closer look at it. Were all of that year’s inspiring words more of a variation of the “campaign promises” concept […]


Quote of the Day

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 11th, 2011 4:39 am by HL

Quote of the Day
“Richard Nixon, if he were alive today, might take bittersweet satisfaction to know that he was not the last smart president to prolong unjustifiably a senseless, unwinnable war, at great cost in human life… He would probably also feel vindicated (and envious) that ALL the crimes he committed against me — which forced his resignation facing impeachment — are now legal.”

— Daniel Ellsburg, in an interview with CNN.


Growing Up With Gil Scott-Heron: In Loving Memory

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 11th, 2011 4:38 am by HL

Growing Up With Gil Scott-Heron: In Loving Memory
High school friends remember the legendary musician, writer and poet.

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AIPAC’s Unrivalled Power

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 11th, 2011 4:37 am by HL

AIPAC’s Unrivalled Power
Not surprisingly, my recent column on an ugly 1988 experience with AIPAC, the Israeli government, and late New York Times columnist William Safire elicited some controversy. I knew it would. There aren’t that many first-person accounts of encounters with the…

Netanyahu’s House: Knowing Your Audience
Anyone with a shred of knowledge about the Middle East conflict knows that yesterday’s performance alienated its most critical audience. I am not speaking about Netanyahu’s performance. He played the Israeli center, American Jews, and American media like Isaac Stern…

Sderot: Nostalgia For The Future
You would think Prime Minister’s Netanyahu’s insistence that Israel could never go back to the “indefensible” borders of 1967 would play at least as well in bombarded Sderot as it did in the Congress. He certainly thought it would, or…