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Archive for May 17th, 2014

Former NSA Director: ‘We’re at Greater Risk’

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 17th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Former NSA Director: ‘We’re at Greater Risk’
Mattathias Schwartz, The New Yorker: Since Edward Snowden’s revelations about government surveillance, we know more about how the National Security Agency has been interpreting Section 215 of the Patriot Act and Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. We’ve learned some new words — “bulk metadata,” “selector,” “reasonable articulable suspicion,” “emphatic-access restriction” — but we don’t really know how much of this works in practice. Last week, I spent an hour with General Keith B. Alexander, who retired in March after eight years as the director of the N.S.A. The forces pushing for omnivorous data collection are larger than any one person, but General Alexander’s role has been significant.


Brown v. Board of Education’s 60th Anniversary Stirs History, Reality

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 17th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Brown v. Board of Education’s 60th Anniversary Stirs History, Reality
Sixty years after Brown v. Board of Education, schools are still segregated.

The changing role at the top
NEW YORK (AP) — Used to be that CEOs were hired for their knowledge of the industry, years of experience and the ability to lead with a tight fist. But the role of the top job has changed dramatically over the last several years.

Billboard Awards can use Michael Jackson hologram
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Tech companies have filed an emergency lawsuit to prevent the Billboard Music Awards from using their patents to project a Michael Jackson hologram at this weekend’s show.


Federal infrastructure funding could dry up, Obama warns

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 17th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Federal infrastructure funding could dry up, Obama warns
President Obama says federal funding for infrastructure projects — and the jobs they create — will “run out” by the end of the summer if Congress doesn’t act.

Obama, Biden talk policy over burgers
The two took a field trip to a Shake Shack restaurant a few blocks from the White House


Watch A Career Ambassador Refute The Case For A Benghazi Select Committee

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 17th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Watch A Career Ambassador Refute The Case For A Benghazi Select Committee

Thomas Pickering, co-chairman of the State Department’s Accountability Review Board (ARB) on the Benghazi attacks, said there’s no need for a House select committee to reexamine the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya. House Republicans recently convened the committee to investigate the already thoroughly investigated attacks, a move the right-wing media has championed for months.

When asked on Bloomberg’s Political Capital if there’s a case for reinvestigating the 2012 attacks, Pickering replied: “If there is, Al, I haven’t seen it yet. And I’ve been very alert to this.” He added: “I’m in a search for is there ‘there,’ there, Al, and I haven’t seen any ‘there,’ there.”

Pickering also dismissed the importance of the recently released 2012 memo authored by Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes, which the media and Republicans have seized on as purportedly containing new Benghazi revelations. Asked if the memo would have affected the ARB’s report, Pickering replied, “probably not … our report speaks very well for itself and it runs to all of those domains that connect with security and terrorism.”

Pickering is a career ambassador who served under Republican and Democratic presidents and as co-chair of the State Department’s Accountability Review Board with retired Admiral Mike Mullen. The ARB issued an independent report about the attacks in December of 2012. While right-wing media have questioned the report’s independence, a State Department Inspector General review concluded that the “Accountability Review Board process operates as intended — independently and without bias.”

Watch video of Pickering’s remarks below:

AL HUNT (HOST): Is there a case for reopening that investigation as the House special panel plans to do?

PICKERING: If there is, Al, I haven’t seen it yet. And I’ve been very alert to this. Obviously when I took the job I knew that this was going to be an issue that had great political overtones, and we can phrase it that way. And I tried to watch it very carefully. I think, one of the things I did when I took the job was that I tried to read every press report I could find to make sure that we did our job as well as we could. I think we did our job as well as we could. But I’d be the last person in the world to tell you we did everything perfectly.  

HUNT: You haven’t seen any reason to reopen it?

PICKERING: So I’m in a search for is there “there,” there, Al, and I haven’t seen any “there,” there.


Poll: Hillary Clinton Leads 2016 Matchups in Ohio

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 17th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Poll: Hillary Clinton Leads 2016 Matchups in Ohio
Adam O’Neal, RealClearPolitics
While President Obama’s approval rating remains low in Ohio, his former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, leads all Republican challengers there in hypothetical 2016 matchups, according to a new Quinnipiac University survey. Just 39 percent of Ohioans approve of the way Obama is handling his job, down slightly from 40 percent in February. Fifty-eight percent disapprove, up from 55 percent in February. Those numbers apparently are not weighing down Clinton’s hypothetical political fortunes. Ohio Gov. John Kasich — who has been mentioned as a possible dark horse candidate — fares…

Scott Walker Endorses Ducey for Ariz. Governor
Adam O’Neal, RealClearPolitics
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker on Wednesday endorsed Arizona state Treasurer Doug Ducey for governor, providing a boost for the former Cold Stone Creamery CEO as he slogs through a crowded Republican primary. “Doug Ducey demonstrates the kind of conservative, common-sense leadership that our party needs in Arizona,” Walker, who is up for re-election this year, said in a statement. “He’s not afraid of taking on tough challenges, and that’s why I know he’d be a great Governor.” In an interview with RCP last month, Ducey singled out Walker as someone he…

The Revolt of the Wingers in British and American Politics
Michael Barone, RealClearPolitics
In recent times, British and American politics have often flowed in parallel currents. Margaret Thatcher’s election as prime minister in 1979 was followed by Ronald Reagan’s election as president in 1980. As Charles Moore notes in his biography of Thatcher, the two worked together, albeit with some friction, reversing the tide of statism at home and ending the Soviet empire abroad. They seemed to establish British Conservatives and American Republicans as their nation’s natural ruling parties. In time, Democrats and Labour responded. Bill Clinton’s “New Democrat” politics prevailed in 1992,…

Is China No. 1?
Robert Samuelson, RealClearPolitics
WASHINGTON — It’s probable that the U.S. economy is no longer the world’s largest. New World Bank figures, notes economist Arvind Subramanian of the Peterson Institute, suggest that sometime in 2014 China will overtake the United States in gross domestic product — the production of goods and services. We knew this day was coming, but if the World Bank figures are correct, it has arrived sooner than many experts predicted. Using those figures — which stop at 2011 — I estimate that China’s GDP in 2014 will hit $16.8 trillion compared with $16.1 trillion for the United States. (All these…


Police Parliament role could be cut

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 17th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Police Parliament role could be cut
Police officers could be replaced by private guards to cover some aspects of security at the Houses of Parliament.

Tory EU exit campaign ‘if no reform’
A senior minister says the Conservative Party would be willing to campaign for UK withdrawal from the European Union if it could not successfully renegotiate its membership.


Pelosi’s message to grads: Be disruptors

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 17th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Pelosi’s message to grads: Be disruptors
“Being called a disruptor is a high compliment,” Pelosi said at UC Berkeley’s commencement.


Vietnamese Officials Intolerant of Violence as Standoff With China Continues

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 17th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Vietnamese Officials Intolerant of Violence as Standoff With China Continues
Authorities said that further violence over a dispute with China would not be tolerated, declaring that more than 300 people involved in last week’s attacks on foreign-owned businesses would be prosecuted.

World Briefing : Germany: The Flight of the Iguana
A bizarre cargo of more than 80 exotic reptiles, including four horned vipers and an iguana, attracted the attention of an alert customs official at Frankfurt Airport this week.



54 Bodies Are Recovered After River Ferry Sinks During a Storm in Bangladesh
When the search was called off, hundreds of relatives and local residents protested at the scene of the accident, forcing the authorities to continue to look for bodies.



Talks in East Aim to Ease Tensions in Ukraine
Ukrainian officials on Saturday held more negotiations aimed at ending the country’s political crisis, this time in the region torn by pro-Russian separatism.



Libyans Told to Leave City Amid Clashes
Troops in Benghazi prepared for a new assault on Islamist militias a day after heavy fighting in the city.


Why People Are Living Longer In Low-Income Countries

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 17th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Why People Are Living Longer In Low-Income Countries

The WHO attributes the increase to a decline in child mortality rates.

The post Why People Are Living Longer In Low-Income Countries appeared first on ThinkProgress.

Liberia Marathon

CREDIT: AP

Average life expectancies around the globe have increased by six years since 1990, according to a new report by the World Health Organization (WHO). But even more surprising is another finding of the report: life expectancy is growing more than twice as fast for low-income countries compared to high-income nations like the United States.

A boy born in 2012 can expect to live to an average of 68 years, a girl to 73.

High-income countries’ life expectancies increased since 1990 by an average of 5.1 years, versus a gain in low-income countries of 9 years. That means in low-income countries, life expectancy is increasing an average of 3 days a week, or 10 hours per day, according to the report.

The WHO attributes high gains in life expectancy in low-income countries to a decline in child mortality rates. “An important reason why global life expectancy has improved so much is that fewer children are dying before their fifth birthday,” said WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan in a statement.

The infant mortality rate, which is six times higher in Africa than Europe, has dropped in the last several years. According to a joint study by WHO, the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), and the World Bank, deaths of children under five years old decreased from 12 million in 1990 to 6.6 million in 2012.

“This trend is a positive one. Millions of lives have been saved,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake when the joint study was released last September. “And we can do still better. Most of these deaths can be prevented, using simple steps that many countries have already put in place.”

Increasing availability of mosquito nets and vaccinations against preventable diseases have been essential in lowering the infant mortality rate in African nations, according to WHO.

Of the 24 countries where the average person now lives more than 10 extra years, half were in Africa (with the highest gain in Liberia, 19.7 years, followed by Ethiopia, Maldives, Cambodia, Timor-Leste, and Rwanda). The remaining half were in South East Asia or the Middle East.

But the recently released study also showed that large gains in life expectancy by low-income countries hasn’t closed the gap between high-income and low-income countries. Men living in low-income countries live on average 15.6 years less than in high-income countries. Women live 18.9 years less.

Several African countries still have a life expectancy lower than 55 years, including Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria. And countries with the top life expectancies are high-income–men live the longest in Iceland (81.2 years), followed by Switzerland and Australia. Japanese women live longest, followed by women in Spain, Switzerland, and Singapore. The United States ranked 26th for life expectancy in 2013.

Chan said in high-income countries, the gain in life expectancy was due to a decline in tobacco use as well as success in “tackling noncommunicable diseases” like heart disease, according to Dr. Ties Boerma, director of the Department of Health Statistics and Information Systems at WHO. Boerma said richer countries are improving their monitoring and managing of high blood pressure.

The study also showed that in both low-income and high-income countries, women live longer (six years longer in high-income countries, three years longer in low-income). The top causes of deaths are coronary heart disease, lower respiratory infections like pneumonia, and strokes.

Abigail Bessler is an intern at ThinkProgress.

The post Why People Are Living Longer In Low-Income Countries appeared first on ThinkProgress.

Railroad CEO Wants To Send Oil Trains Through Town Where Derailment Killed 47 Last Year

Oil trains could soon be traveling through Lac Mégantic, the tiny Quebec town that was the scene of one of the deadliest train accidents in Canadian history last July.

The post Railroad CEO Wants To Send Oil Trains Through Town Where Derailment Killed 47 Last Year appeared first on ThinkProgress.

Tankers left after the Lac Megantic disaster in July 2014.

Tankers left after the Lac Megantic disaster in July 2014.

CREDIT: Shutterstock

Oil trains could soon be traveling through Lac Mégantic, the tiny Quebec town that was the scene of one of the deadliest train accidents in Canadian history last July.

The new owner of the railroad company responsible for the Lac Mégantic oil train disaster, a derailment which killed 47 people and destroyed much of the town’s center, said this week that within the next ten days he wants to have an agreement with Lac Mégantic officials to restart oil train shipments through the town.

John Giles, CEO of the Central Maine and Quebec railway who on Thursday purchased the U.S. assets of the bankrupt Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway, said the company plans to invest in safety improvements before restarting oil shipments 18 months from now, spending $10 million on rail improvements over the next two summers.

“In the interest of safety, and I think being sensitive toward a social contract with Lac-Mégantic, we have chosen not to handle crude oil and dangerous goods through the city until we’ve got the railroad infrastructure improved, and made more reliable,” Giles told The Associated Press.

Giles didn’t address a desire expressed by Lac Mégantic’s mayor to divert the oil trains around the city, so to try to prevent another deadly derailment.

The July disaster in Lac Mégantic occurred after an unattended, parked train carrying Bakken crude came loose and barreled downhill into the town. More than 60 cars derailed and many exploded, destroying the town’s center and spilling more than 26,400 gallons of oil into the Chaudiere River. Last week, the Quebec government released the results of a study that found that, nearly a year after the disaster, the river is still contaminated with oil. So far, the province has spent $16 million on river cleanup.

“We’re talking about not only the water itself, but along the banks, and everything that’s involved with that,” Quebec Environment Minister David Heurtel said. “It’s going to take time, but we want to do the right thing … it’s a long process and it is very costly.”

Three Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway workers are charged with 47 counts of criminal negligence — one for each person killed — for their role in the disaster, charges that several of the town’s residents say should be aimed at the railway owners, not the workers.

“We can’t judge these people — they work for the MMA,” Danielle Champagne, whose daughter Karine died in the disaster, told the Canadian Press. “These aren’t the bosses of the MMA.”

The Lac Mégantic disaster has sparked calls for stricter regulations on oil-by-rail shipments, a method of shipping fuel that’s boomed in the U.S. in the last five years. In Canada, oil-by-rail is also booming — shipments rose by by 83 percent in the last quarter of 2013 compared to the same period in 2012. The boom has led to accidents in both countries since the Lac Mégantic disaster — in January, a derailment in New Brunswick, Canada spilled oil and propane and forced 150 from their homes. And in April, an oil train derailed, caught fire and spilled oil into the St. James River in Virginia. That derailment was just the latest of a string of derailments this year in the U.S.

The post Railroad CEO Wants To Send Oil Trains Through Town Where Derailment Killed 47 Last Year appeared first on ThinkProgress.


VA Secretary Eric Shinseki Needs to Go

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 17th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki Needs to Go
Dana Milbank, Washington Post
Reports have documented the deaths of about 40 veterans in Phoenix who were waiting for VA appointments — the latest evidence of widespread bookkeeping tricks used at the agency to make it appear as though veterans were not waiting as long for care as they really were. The abuses have been documented over several years by whistleblowers and leaked memorandums, and confirmed by a host of government investigators. That’s bad enough. Worse was Shinseki’s response when he finally appeared before a congressional committee Thursday to answer questions about the scandal. He refused…

Scandal Is No Surprise for Govt-Run Healthcare
Michael Tanner, NY Post
The news is shocking: Patients dying on the waiting list for government-provided healthcare. But this is not a report from Canada or the British National Health Service. It’s right here in America, in the health system administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs. The problems first surfaced in Phoenix, where the wait to receive care at VA facilities had grown so long that 1,400 to 1,600 sick veterans were forced to wait months to see a doctor. As many as 40 veterans reportedly died because they couldn’t get the care they needed. VA administrators tried to cover up the…

Climategate II & the Rise of Climate McCarthyism

5 Myths About Brown v. Board of Education
Imani Perry, Washington Post
1. Brown v. Board of Education was only about school segregation. It’s true that the case concerned segregation in public schools, but its impact went far beyond education. Brown overturned the 1896 Supreme Court ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson , which declared that segregated train cars did not violate the equal-protection clause of the 14th Amendment. While it wasn’t immediately clear, Brown would eventually dismantle segregation in all public facilities such as train cars, restaurants, department stores and more. The case emboldened civil rights protesters, who, for the first time…

With Narendra Modi, a Change in India