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Archive for May 23rd, 2014

Monterey Shale Estimate Cut by 96%

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 23rd, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Monterey Shale Estimate Cut by 96%
The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) on Wednesday cut its estimate of recoverable oil in California’s Monterey shale by 96 percent, casting doubt on what was once thought to be America’s next major energy play. The deposit composes 2/3rds of the total shale reserves in the US. Even though estimates in 2011 put the estimated recoverable oil at 13.6 billion barrels, while this update puts the estimate at 600 Million, the daily output is not expected to be impacted in the near future. “Not all resources are created equal,” EIA head Adam Sieminski said.

Teacher Charges Kids Fake Money to Go Potty
A third-grade teacher at Mill Plain Elementary school in Vancouver, Washington, was out of the classroom Monday as the district investigated two complaints about whether that teacher’s policy, which requires students to pay fake money to go to the bathroom, led to students wetting themselves in class. Last week, Jasmine Al-Ayadhi complained that her 9-year-old daughter, Reem, had an accident in class as a result of the “pay to potty” policy. The story prompted the Evergreen Public Schools investigation.


ICC sentences Congo warlord to 12 years

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 23rd, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

ICC sentences Congo warlord to 12 years
THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The International Criminal Court sentenced a Congolese warlord to 12 years in prison on Friday, after convicting him in March of aiding and abetting crimes including murder and pillage in a notorious 2003 attack on a village in which some 200 people were shot or hacked to death.


Cabinet shuffle: Obama nominates Julian Castro as HUD secretary

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 23rd, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Cabinet shuffle: Obama nominates Julian Castro as HUD secretary
If confirmed, the San Antonio mayor will replace Housing and Urban Development head Shaun Donovan, whom the president nominated as his next budget chief

Back home briefly, Obama breakfasts with Illinois governor
The president visited his Chicago house for the first time in almost a year

Should Eric Shinseki resign?
A new CBS News poll shows Americans are not very happy with either the VA secretary or Obama in the wake of the VA hospital scandal


Is CNN Blaming Viewers For The Channel’s Lack Of Climate Coverage?

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 23rd, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Is CNN Blaming Viewers For The Channel’s Lack Of Climate Coverage?

CNN president Jeff Zucker raised some eyebrows this week when, asked about the news channel’s increasingly slim coverage of climate change, he commented the network hasn’t “figured out how to engage the audience in that story in a meaningful way.” He added: “When we do do those stories, there does tend to be a tremendous amount of lack of interest on the audience’s part.”

Zucker acknowledged that climate change “deserves more attention,” but suggested that the issue isn’t receiving that attention on his network because CNN needs the topic to generate ratings, or “interest,” in order to receive more airtime.

I’m not sure I’ve ever heard an executive at a news organization speak so openly about what appears to be a company-wide decision to pay less attention to a completely legitimate news story because it doesn’t generate ratings; because it’s not good for business. For Zucker to suggest CNN doesn’t cover a pressing public issue because it doesn’t grab eyeballs goes against the basic tenet of journalism, which is, of course, to inform. CNN should be less concerned about engaging viewers and more concerned abut informing them.

Zucker’s climate coverage comments seem especially odd given that he said in the same interview that his network’s coverage of the Benghazi select committee would be driven by whether it is of “real news value”; he did not address whether such coverage would need to meet an “interest” threshold from the audience.   

I’m not a purist when it comes to cable news.  I understand CNN is a business and that increasingly it falls within ever-expanding sphere of the entertainment business. Cable news has changed dramatically over the last two decades, the scramble for the limited audience of viewers is fierce, and passive programming is not an option for commercial success. I get that the diet of cable news today includes large dollops of fatty foods buffeted by smaller servings of vegetables.

But suggesting you’re not covering an extraordinarily important and possibly life-changing topic because viewers don’t “engage”? That’s wandering into dangerous ethical territory. What other dire topics is CNN shying away from for fear of boring its news consumers? Do CNN editorial meetings revolve around gauging which news topic will generate minutes-long spikes in the channel’s ratings?


The Obama Administration’s Ethics Problem

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 23rd, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

The Obama Administration’s Ethics Problem
Victor Davis Hanson, RealClearPolitics
Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki cannot get a handle on the recent scandalous treatment of veterans in VA hospitals, where more than 40 sick men were allowed to die without proper follow-up treatment. A cover-up allegedly followed. When the Walter Reed Army Medical Center scandal broke under the George W. Bush administration, heads rolled. So far, Shinseki seems immune from similar accountability. Almost nothing that former secretary of health and human services Kathleen Sebelius promised before, during, or after the implementation of the ill-starred Affordable Care Act came true. She…

End Crony Capitalism, Sell Federal Land, Limit Tax Breaks for the Rich
Michael Barone, RealClearPolitics
Gummit don’t work good. That conclusion, often that inelegantly expressed, seems to be more and more common, not only in the United States but around the world. It is certainly the verdict of John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge in their new book “The Fourth Revolution: The Global Race to Reinvent the State,” although expressed, as you might expect from the editor and business editor of the Economist, in far more urbane language. Their thesis is that the state has been reinvented three times in the last 400 years, and needs reinvention once more. The first revolution they name after Thomas…


Labour Party makes gains in London

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 23rd, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Labour Party makes gains in London
Labour makes a number of gains in London including taking the Tory-led councils of Hammersmith and Fulham, and Croydon

UKIP’s economic significance
What will be the economic impact of the UKIP surge?

VIDEO: Conchita praises ‘tolerant’ Europe
Newsnight speaks to the winner of the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest, Conchita Wurst, as countries across Europe head to the polls.


European Regulators to Start Inquiry Into eBay Data Breach

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 23rd, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

European Regulators to Start Inquiry Into eBay Data Breach
Regulators will begin an investigation into the online market after hackers gained access to the personal data of 145 million customers.

Britain Proposes Easier Access to Tap Shale Rock Energy
The prime minister’s government endorses the right of companies to drill laterally for some wells without seeking the consent of landowners.

Calm Streets Mask Deep Divisions in Donetsk
Ukraine’s east is more deeply divided than at any point in the country’s history, and residents say it is possible that Sunday’s presidential election will do little to change that.




Memorial Day, at War

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 23rd, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Memorial Day, at War

AP09052505707-580.jpg

For most of Kabul, it was a mundane Monday. For soldiers on a small base in the city’s center, it was another day at war, another day planning a response to the Taliban spring offensive. For the Americans in that group, it was also Memorial Day.

Just before ten that morning, I got up from my desk and motioned to the lanky colonel sitting to my right. Without a word, he pushed aside a stack of papers detailing tireless war plans, grabbed his tan, Army-issued cap, and headed for the door. A tack stuck in the sole of my shoe clicked loudly against metal stairs as we left our office, heading toward a protected garden at one side of the base. Today’s ceremony, tucked between the garden’s porch and a stone fountain, would remember men and women, colleagues and companions, who’d died in uniform, including the colonel’s son.

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Kids In New York City Are Getting School Mail That Says They’re Overweight

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 23rd, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Kids In New York City Are Getting School Mail That Says They’re Overweight

An anti-obesity campaign from the New York City Department of Education is sending 850,000 “Fitnessgram” letters home to parents with their schoolchildren’s BMI.

The post Kids In New York City Are Getting School Mail That Says They’re Overweight appeared first on ThinkProgress.

Sample Fitnessgram

Sample Fitnessgram

CREDIT: NYC.gov

An anti-obesity campaign from the New York City Department of Education is sending 850,000 “Fitnessgram” letters home to parents with their schoolchildren’s BMI. The problem is, kids happen to be opening up the mail to find out their school says they are overweight.

The New York Post talked to a third-grader who found out she was in the “overweight” category, based on the BMI calculations for children. “I was like, ‘Oh, my God! Why did I get this?’” tiny third grader Gwendolyn Williams told the New York Post, “I’m 4-foot-1, and 66 pounds, and I’m like, what?!”

The “fitnessgram” approach is pretty common around the country. Twenty states require schools to screen kids for obesity, and some send reports home with letters if their Body Mass Index (BMI) exceeds a certain level. However, BMI is a tricky measurement of health that requires additional context. Gawker notes that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which backs the use of BMI, counsels, “To determine whether the child has excess fat, further assessment would be needed. Further assessment might include skinfold thickness measurements.”

Efforts to combat childhood obesity can sometimes veer into fat shaming. For instance, a public health campaign in California photoshopped a girl to make her look overweight. A series of TV ads in Georgia proclaimed that “Being fat takes the fun out of being a kid.”

These campaigns have little basis in science, which show that shaming tactics tend not to be effective. But they do seriously risk encouraging body image problems at an early age, when eating orders typically emerge. Disordered eating among children under the age of 12 is on the rise.

The post Kids In New York City Are Getting School Mail That Says They’re Overweight appeared first on ThinkProgress.

No Thanks To Congress, America Has Added 5,600 New Clean Energy Jobs In 2014

Despite Congressional refusal to extend tax benefits for clean energy producers, the American economy is still adding thousands of clean energy jobs — just way less than it did when those benefits were in tact.

The post No Thanks To Congress, America Has Added 5,600 New Clean Energy Jobs In 2014 appeared first on ThinkProgress.

shutterstock_149313980

CREDIT: Shutterstock

Despite Congressional refusal to extend tax benefits for clean energy producers, the American economy is still adding thousands of clean energy jobs — just way less than it did when those benefits were intact.

According to a report released Thursday by nonpartisan business group Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2), about 5,600 new clean energy and clean transportation jobs were announced throughout the country in the first three months of 2014, a huge decline from the 12,000 such jobs reported in the first quarter of 2013. Part of this decline is due to Congress’ failure to renew the Production Tax Credit (PTC) for wind energy, a $13 billion tax break to the wind industry to help them compete with fossil fuels.

“At the end of 2013, Congress let the PTC expire, halting the momentum of a rapidly growing industry,” the report, which tallies the amount of publicly available job announcements across the country, said. “As long as federal tax extenders remain in limbo, renewable technologies will remain stuck in a boom-bust cycle dictated by the whims of Washington.”

The PTC officially expired on January 1 of this year due to Congressional gridlock over the issue, driven by Republicans who oppose giving tax breaks to the wind industry on the grounds that it amounts to a form of “welfare” that unfairly props up an industry present in some states but not others. At the moment, it’s particularly hard for wind to compete with the oil and gas industries, which benefit from a wealth of federal tax carve-outs and a century of economic infrastructure, even though the economic activity they generate is concentrated in just a few key states.

It wasn’t the expiration of the tax credit that ultimately killed investment in wind energy, however. Instead, it was Congress’ repeated decision for the last two years to wait until the very last minute to make a decision on whether the extend the tax credit. That uncertainty was too much for investors, who mostly chose to invest elsewhere in the face of that uncertainty. According to the American Wind Energy Association, 30,000 jobs were lost in 2013 as a result of uncertainty over the extension of the PTC.

As a result of the decline in job announcements, one lone  geothermal project was enough to propel Idaho, which had  not ranked in the Top 10 in any previous quarter, to the state with the most amount of renewable energy jobs added so far in 2014.

As a result of the decline in job announcements, one lone geothermal project was enough to propel Idaho, which had not ranked in the Top 10 in any previous quarter, to the state with the most amount of renewable energy jobs added so far in 2014.

CREDIT: E2

Still, the report said, jobs are being added in the clean energy sector — just not in wind. Indeed, the largest growth area in the first quarter was in solar power, with 1,400 jobs announced so far.

But the amount of solar jobs announced was still a significant decline from previous quarters, the report said — another result of uncertainty over federal policy. Like the wind PTC, the similar Investment Tax Credit for solar projects is set to expire in 2016, and it’s unclear whether the political environment will allow for it to be renewed. Because of this, large-scale projects that require long lead times are being reconsidered, the report said.

There is still hope, however, that clean energy and clean transportation job can come back on track, once the Obama administration unveils its long-awaited standards that will, for the first time ever, limit the amount of carbon pollution that can come from existing power plants. Those standards, set to be released in June, will “pave the way for manufacturing and power-generation companies in clean energy and energy efficiency sectors to invest in operations and add jobs,” the report said.

State officials can help revive the clean energy economy by defending Renewable Portfolio Standards, which mandate that states produce a certain amount of renewable energy from solar, wind, geothermal, and other sources. These standards are one of the main targets of the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an influential lobbying group composed of Republican politicians and big businesses, which has been pushing to repeal them in individual states throughout the country.

“If we want to keep creating good-paying clean energy jobs in America, our elected officials need to do their jobs first,” E2′s executive director Bob Keefe said in a statement. “They need to support these smart policies that will help our economy while also helping our environment.”

The post No Thanks To Congress, America Has Added 5,600 New Clean Energy Jobs In 2014 appeared first on ThinkProgress.


Top Ten Memorial Day Songs

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 23rd, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Top Ten Memorial Day Songs
From: Peter Rothberg

Songs about war and attendant suffering cut across all musical genres.

Single Moms Take Note: California Considers Raising the Minimum Wage to $13
From: Dani McClain

A new study says the change could save lives and improve health statewide—good news for the 40 percent of poor households led by single women.

Colleges Are Buying Stuff They Can’t Afford and Making Students Pay For It
From: Michelle Chen

Colleges borrowing great sums from students are focusing on prettying and branding the campus to reflect the commodification of the “college experience,” a vicious cycle resulting in greater student debt.

Tennessee and the Electric Chair: A Q&A With Death Penalty Expert Austin Sarat
From: Steven Hsieh

On Thursday, Tennessee became the only state in America to authorize forced electrocutions.

Guest Column: Cooperstown’s Mayor on Obama’s Visit (and That Anti-Fracking Protest)
From: Greg Mitchell

President Obama visits Cooperstown, New York.