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Archive for June 5th, 2014

Loaded Gun Found in Target Toy Section

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 5th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Loaded Gun Found in Target Toy Section
A real gun was found bu an employee in the toy aisle of a Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Target store Friday night. The gun, which was loaded, was found by a store loss prevention officer on top of a superhero Playskool toy box. “I don’t think someone would accidentally drop off a gun,” shopper Kennedy McClain said. “I think he purposely left it there for a child to pick up and think, ‘Oh it’s a toy gun,’ and accidentally point it at somebody and it goes off.” Police released a photo of a man sought in connection with the incident.

D-Day ship’s US flag sells for $350K at auction

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 5th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

D-Day ship’s US flag sells for $350K at auction
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — A U.S. flag from one of the thousands of Allied ships that delivered troops to the Normandy beaches sold for $350,000 at a New York City auction of hundreds of D-Day and other World War II artifacts on Thursday, a day before the 70th anniversary of the invasion.

Obama: Russia must respect Ukraine election results

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 5th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Obama: Russia must respect Ukraine election results
President Obama says Russian President Vladimir Putin now has a serious negotiating partner in Ukrainian President-elect Petro Poroshenko, and he should seize the moment.

Caught on video: Obama working out in Polish hotel gym
A sneaky guest at the Marriott Hotel Warsaw videotaped the president’s exercise routine

How Fox News Helped Make Duck Dynasty ‘s Phil Robertson A Conservative Media Darling

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 5th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

How Fox News Helped Make Duck Dynasty ‘s Phil Robertson A Conservative Media Darling

On May 29, Duck Dynasty star turned GOP darling Phil Robertson gave a keynote speech at the Republican Leadership Conference (RLC). His speech, which focused on religion and encouraged Republicans to “get godly,” is the latest milestone in the controversial reality TV star’s meteoric and unexpected rise in national conservative politics.

Robertson’s presence at the RLC perplexed Fox News’ Juan Williams, who questioned why the GOP had embraced a figure who gained national notoriety after making a number of homophobic and racist statements in an interview with GQ. During a May 31 appearance on Fox’s Cashin’ In, Williams asked what Robertson’s rise in conservative politics said about the GOP:

BOLLING: I don’t know, I don’t know Juan, what about it? I think he’s big business, and I think it’s probably good for the GOP. No?

WILLIAMS: No, are you kidding me? What does it say, Eric, that GOP makes a hero out of a guy that says black were happy with slavery and segregation, and gays are to be damned. Is he the chief of outreach for the GOP, or is he the chief of internal self-satisfaction?

But Williams’ own network is at least partly responsible for the GOP’s fawning relationship with Robertson, having worked for months to whitewash his offensive comments and prop up the reality star as a beacon of American Christianity.

Fox’s fascination with the Duck Dynasty family predates Robertson’s GQ interview. But when A&E announced in Decemberthat they had placed Robertson on a hiatus over his comments, the network went into damage control mode; Fox’s Sean Hannity described the comments as “old fashioned traditional Christian sentiment and values,” while Fox reported Todd Starnes claimed Robertson was just reflecting “the teachings of the Bible.” Even Megyn Kelly came to Robertson’s defense, calling him a “Christian guy” and criticizing LGBT activists for trying to “shut down the debate.”

After A&E reinstated Robertson, Fox News snatched the first ‘exclusive’ interview with the Robertson family as part of the network’s “All American New Year.” Since then, Fox has continued to whitewash Robertson’s rhetoric by repeatedly depicting him and the Robertson family as besieged Christian heroes.

Exclusive: The Story You Haven’t Yet Heard About Bowe Bergdahl’s Desertion

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 5th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Exclusive: The Story You Haven’t Yet Heard About Bowe Bergdahl’s Desertion
Michelle Malkin, RealClearPolitics
Five years ago, I publicly raised questions about Bowe Bergdahl’s desertion from Blackfoot Company, 1-501 Infantry (Airborne), 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division. A few weeks after his so-called “capture” in late June 2009, three conflicting accounts surfaced: U.S. officials told the Associated Press Bergdahl had “walked off” the base with three Afghans; the Taliban claimed on its website that “a drunken American soldier had come out of his garrison” and into their arms; and Bergdahl claimed in his Taliban “hostage video” that he had “lagged behind a patrol” before…

VIDEO: BBC snubbed amid EU leader row

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 5th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

VIDEO: BBC snubbed amid EU leader row
Former Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker has refused to answer questions about his candidacy for European Commission President, after being approached by the BBC’s Ben Wright at the G7 Summit in Brussels.

Race track could get government loan
A £280m race track planned for Ebbw Vale could get a Welsh government loan to help the scheme get off the ground.

Yekaterinburg Journal: Where Some May Say No Thanks for the Memories

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 5th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Yekaterinburg Journal: Where Some May Say No Thanks for the Memories
A half-built shopping center is slowly being turned into a monument to Boris N. Yeltsin, the ebullient, erratic leader who served as Russia’s first elected president from 1991 to 1999.

World Briefing: International Criminal Court to Focus on Sex Crimes
For the first time, the court’s statute included rape, sexual slavery, and other forms of sexual violence as crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Canadian Police Seek Suspect in Killing of Officers
The authorities in New Brunswick said that they had identified the man who killed three Mounties and wounded two others.

Nigerian Sect Kills Villagers Along Border
That massacre in the village of Attagara was the bloodiest in a series of attacks by Boko Haram this week in Nigeria’s far north, according to officials.

George J. Armelagos, Anthropologist Who Told Skeletons’ Tales, Dies at 77

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 5th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

George J. Armelagos, Anthropologist Who Told Skeletons’ Tales, Dies at 77
Professor Armelagos was one of the founders of paleopathology, a discipline at the nexus of biology, medicine, evolution, archaeology and culture.

No, EPA’s New Regulations Are Not Going To Make The Poor Poorer

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 5th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

No, EPA’s New Regulations Are Not Going To Make The Poor Poorer

The latest talking point from critics is that the rules will hurt low-income Americans. But economist Dean Baker says that just isn’t so.

The post No, EPA’s New Regulations Are Not Going To Make The Poor Poorer appeared first on ThinkProgress.


CREDIT: Shutterstock

“The notion that we’re going to have poor people suffering because this measure is pushing up their electric bill is just nonsense. There’s literally nothing to support that.”

That’s Dean Baker, a prominent Washington, D.C. economist and the co-founder of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, reacting to the argument that new federal regulations to cut carbon dioxide emissions from power plants will drive up energy costs for lower-income Americans.

The rule was announced Monday, and on Wednesday 41 GOP Senators wrote a letter to the White House expressing their concern that the costs would “fall most heavily on the elderly, the poor and those on fixed incomes,” by raising electricity rates and energy costs. Conservative interest groups, House Republicans, political commentators, and the Wall Street Journal editorial board have added to the chorus, arguing the carbon rule will make the poor poorer and kill their jobs.

Much of the criticism has been driven by a Chamber of Commerce analysis that projected the regulations would cost American business an average of $28 billion per year in compliance costs through 2030, and would reduce employment by almost 450,000 jobs in 2020. However, that study assumed more aggressive carbon emission reductions than the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ultimately chose. It also assumed demand for electricity would grow much faster than is likely (which makes emission reductions more costly), and it assumed more demanding technological standards than the EPA ultimately chose.

“Odds are we will see some cases where utilities will be incurring somewhat higher costs as a result of shutting down coal plants earlier than what they would’ve done otherwise,” said Baker. “But the impact of that is really likely to be minimal.” Specifically, EPA’s Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA) estimated total compliance costs for the economy would range around $5.5 billion per year (in 2011 dollars) by 2020, and $7.3 to $8.8 billion in 2030. Baker pointed out those numbers would amount to only $45 per household per year in 2020, and $65 in 2030.

“It’s not altogether trivial but it’s really not that big a deal.”

Nor is that national number likely to vary all that much from region to region. Some states are far more dependent on coal than others — think Nebraska, Kentucky, or West Virginia — and will have more practical difficulties shifting to less carbon-intensive energy sources. EPA took those concerns into account, and required each state to cut its carbon emission rate by a different percentage. That doesn’t guarantee coal-heavy states an easy time. But it does give them reasonable targets, and the design of the regulations affords states and utilities enormous options in how they reduce emissions, from scheduling plants differently to installing new technology to expanding energy efficiency.

The RIA projected a 5.9 percent to 6.5 percent increase in electricity costs in 2020, and its projections by grid region (Table 3-21) don’t vary widely around that national average. That’s because, as Baker pointed out, how much the regulations will increase electricity prices depends on how costly the alternatives to coal-fired generation are. In many areas of the country, wind is already cheaper than coal and natural gas is far cheaper. While solar remains more expensive than coal, it’s catching up fast.

With all those alternatives available, Baker continued, “it’s just very hard to see a story for how costs would skyrocket or what would cause that.”

This also assumes EPA’s own projections will pan out. History suggests they’ll probably be wrong, and that they’re probably overestimating the negatives. Baker used to work for the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), and in the late 1990s the think tank put together a historical survey of how much regulations were expected to cost before they came out, and then compared that to how big of a dent they actually put in the economy.

“These were regulations that had been implemented in the 70s, 80s and early 90s. And in every single case the actual costs were way below the low-end estimates,” Baker said.

“The reason for that is we have an innovative economy. That’s the reason many of us like a market economy,” he continued. “And [EPA is] making their estimates based on what do we know today, what are the current technologies? But when you create a big incentive to innovate — as you do with these regulations — then you develop new technologies, you push the curve, and you end up with lower costs.”

This means EPA’s estimates are overly conservative almost by definition, because they assume no big innovations in energy technology going forward. As Baker noted, regardless of the wisdom of relying on natural gas to cut greenhouse gas emissions — and the strategy is highly questionable — there’s no doubt making such an assumption a decade ago would’ve completely missed the fracking boom, which has since remade energy markets and driven down the cost of electricity.

The same holds true for solar and wind. “They would’ve been very wrong making those assumptions 10 years ago because the costs have literally plummeted,” Baker said. “Most people certainly didn’t anticipate that solar and wind would be comparably priced to coal-produced energy in many parts of the United States.”

Another point is that these numbers only deal with the negative economic impacts of the regulations. Other impacts will be positive, and lower-income Americans will benefit from those as well. As companies adapt to the regulations, new jobs will be created in renewable energy, in energy efficiency, and in technological implementation.

EPA projected national job losses of 72,000 to 77,900 from 2021 to 2025, in sectors like plant construction and mining, as a result of the new carbon rule. (See Tables 6-4 and 6-5.) But it also estimated there would be 76,200 to 112,000 jobs created in 2025 (Table 6-6) thanks to the boost the regulations would give just to the burgeoning energy efficiency sector. Research by EPI has also shown that these sorts of green jobs tend to be more accessible to workers without a college degree, and states with higher levels of green jobs did not suffer as much economic damage from the 2008 recession.

There are also myriad health benefits to be had from EPA’s new regulations. Coal plants don’t just pump out carbon dioxide; they also release a wealth of other pollutants that drive up everything from asthma attacks to heart disease for people in the immediate vicinity. And poor and minority Americans face the bulk of those detrimental effects.

“People with money don’t want to live next to a coal-powered plant,” Baker pointed out. “So people living in that immediate area are disproportionately lower income people.”

So cutting coal plant emissions means poor people spend less money on medicine and doctor visits, which means they have more more money to spend elsewhere. It also means workers overall are healthier and more productive, which boosts both the local and national economies. Which is why EPA estimated the economic benefits of improved health thanks to the regulations would outpace the costs by ten times or more.

Nor does it stop there. Baker has pointed out that the degree to which Appalachian states depend on the coal industry is often more a matter of reputation than actual hard numbers. In Kentucky, the industry provides 0.6 percent of the state’s jobs — roughly the same amount as the civil engineering and construction sector — while in West Virginia and Virginia coal employs 4.2 percent of workers and less than 0.3 percent, respectively.

Thanks to the rules’ flexibility, it certainly won’t drive away all those jobs. But to the degree they do reduce employment in coal, they’ll also come with countervailing benefits: Baker pointed to rates of black lung disease and the recent West Virginia chemical spill as particular examples of the real damage to economies and human well-being that will be reduced in the future by scaling back coal extraction and combustion.

“Coal is an incredibly dirty industry,” Baker noted. “It’s a dangerous job. And it’s dangerous for the people who live in those areas.”

“I’m not going to tell someone losing their job in coal mining they should be happy about this. I know they aren’t going to be,” he said. “But certainly for the people in that region, having less polluted drinking water is going to be a big plus.”

Finally, if even after all of these caveats, lawmakers are still concerned about the impact the regulations could have on poor Americans’ jobs and pocketbooks, there are plenty of other options Congress could turn to that don’t require gambling with the future ecology of the planet.

“Let’s say we have someone who’s working a full-time job full year, getting the minimum wage,” Baker said, “and we raise the minimum wage by one dollar. That’s $2000 over the course of a year… The average household would be looking at an increase in their electricity cost of $40 a year. That’s one-fiftieth of the impact of an increase of $1 an hour in the minimum wage.”

Another option would be expanding the generosity of the Earned Income Tax Credit and changing the law so it applies to childless workers — an idea that’s supported by both President Obama and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) — which could pump over $800 more into the annual pay of workers living at the poverty level.

Baker also suggested expanding subsidies for wind and solar installations, as well as energy efficiency upgrades for homes, and explicitly targeting the expansions at low-income Americans. That would them cut their energy bills, and provide many of those same Americans with jobs to do the installations.

“That would more than offset the costs [of EPA’s regulations] in most cases,” Baker said. “And we’ll further reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

The post No, EPA’s New Regulations Are Not Going To Make The Poor Poorer appeared first on ThinkProgress.

North Korea Congratulates Syria’s Brutal Dictator On His Recent ‘Election’

Of all of Syria’s “friends,” not many are wishing Assad a hearty congrats over his new term in office.

The post North Korea Congratulates Syria’s Brutal Dictator On His Recent ‘Election’ appeared first on ThinkProgress.

Syrian President Bashar Assad gestures as he speaks during an interview

Syrian President Bashar Assad gestures as he speaks during an interview


After winning an election, most world leaders can expect a phone call from their counterparts around the world to congratulate them on their victory. Unless you’re Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, that is. In that case, the first — and for awhile the only — to actually have their leader compliment Assad on his win? North Korea.

“Supreme leader Kim Jong Un Thursday sent a congratulatory message to Bashar Al-Assad upon his re-election as president of Syria,” KCNA, the communist country’s state media outlet, said in a short article released on Thursday. “The message extended warm congratulations to him upon his re-election as president of Syria thanks to the support and trust of the Syrian people.”

It wouldn’t be a message from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea without a jab a the United States, though, and this one lives up to the promise. “It said that the election marked an important occasion in the struggle of the Syrian people to meet all challenges of the imperialists and hostile forces and protect the sovereignty and security of the country,” KCNA wrote of Kim’s message. “The message wished the president greater success in his responsible work to build an independent, peaceful and prosperous Syria.”

The only other country to publish its congratulations towards Assad is Venezuela and its embattled president Nicolas Maduro. Much like North Korea’s, a substantial portion of Venezuela’s text is dedicated to condemning the United States and its allies. “We condemn the different voices from the West disapprove of this election and call for the continuation of the war,” the statement, released from Venezuela’s foreign ministry reads. “President Nicolas Maduro reiterated its full support for the Syrian people in their struggle for peace and reiterates its strong condemnation of the destabilizing actions that are still in Syria, with encouragement from members of NATO.”

Assad surprised nobody in his election victory, claiming a third seven-year term in office as the head of Syria, taking what the state’s constitutional commission said was 88.7 percent of the vote. For weeks now, however, Western and Gulf governments have slammed the election as a sham and issued condemnations rather than congratulations at the results’ announcement. “Assad lacked legitimacy before this election, and he lacks it afterwards,” British Foreign Minister William Hague said in a statement on Thursday. “This election bore no relation to genuine democracy.” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said on Wednesday that the election doesn’t change the U.S.’ efforts to end the bloodshed in Syria “because we believe it’s a total sham. It’s disgusting; it’s just not acceptable on any level, humanitarian, politically, or otherwise.”

Among Syria’s other erstwhile allies, there’s been a very muted response to the election. While not receiving a call from Russian president Vladimir Putin, Moscow did lend its support to the election. “Moscow sees the vote as an important event that safeguards the continued functioning of state institutions in Syria,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich told reporters at a briefing. While the vote “naturally not 100 percent democratic,” Lukashevick told reporters, the lopsided results “give us no reason to question the legitimacy of the election”

China, however, which has joined Russia in vetoing four resolutions related to Syria at the United Nations Security Council, dodged on outright congratulating Assad on his win. “The Syrian turmoil has come into its fourth year, bringing grave sufferings to the country and the people, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said when asked point-blank for China’s comment on the election results. “China believes that no matter how the situation in Syria plays out, political settlement remains the only viable way out to solving the Syrian issue. Thus this correct direction must be firmly.”

Even Iran, which has been propping up the Assad government with money and weapons, hasn’t said much to Assad after his win. Though the Syrian president congratulated Iranian president Hassan Rouhani after his election last year, Rouhani has not yet returned the favor. The highest-ranked Iranian to extend congratulations to Assad is the speaker of Iran’s parliament, Ali Larijani.

The Syrian state media, though, is taking a positive look at the silence, instead focusing on Syrians abroad who cheered Assad’s victory. “Members of the Syrian community in the US took to the streets in several cities to express their happiness for the victory of Dr. Bashar al-Assad in the presidential elections with the sweeping majority of votes,” one story reads. “The Syrian community members toured the streets of Pennsylvania and Michigan raising the national flags and photos of President al-Assad and they chanted national slogans and saluted the Syrian Arab Army.” No reporting from either state bears out this claim.

And at least one other person has congratulated Assad: his opponent, Dr. Hassan al-Nouri, congratulated Assad for “winning the confidence of the Syrian people through winning the presidential elections.” That in itself is unsurprising given that both of Assad’s two challengers devoted a good amount of time calling Assad a “great leader” and otherwise supporting the current government.

Ben Norton contributed to the reporting of this article


This article originally stated that Russia had issued no support for Assad’s election. This has been corrected in the current version.

The post North Korea Congratulates Syria’s Brutal Dictator On His Recent ‘Election’ appeared first on ThinkProgress.

A Crisis to Address: Why the Senate’s Discussing a Democracy Amendment

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 5th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

A Crisis to Address: Why the Senate’s Discussing a Democracy Amendment
From: John Nichols

A judiciary subcommittee holds the first hearing ever on the need for a constitutional remedy to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United and McCutcheon rulings.

The Real ‘Orange Is the New Black’ Jail Is a Health Hazard Filled With Mold and Human Feces
From: Steven Hsieh


Meta Physician
From: Word Salad

A weekly puzzle challenge for the ambitious

‘The Guardian’ Thanks Reagan for Making Springsteen a Political ‘Boss’
From: Greg Mitchell

Bowe Bergdahl and the Honorable History of War Deserters
From: Back Issues

The hateful commentary about the soldier’s return is motivated by fear of what his so-called desertion reveals.