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Archive for October 16th, 2014

Schulberg: Bush is Still Wrong About Iraq

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on October 16th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Schulberg: Bush is Still Wrong About Iraq
Jessica Schulberg, New Republic: The debate over the legitimacy of the Iraq War was never about whether or not Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction at some point in history. It is well known that Saddam Hussein used a variety of chemical weapons against Iran during the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s — and the U.S., eager to see the destruction of the nascent Islamic Republic of Iran, aided him in creating the program. But on September 12, 2002, President Bush described a different threat while making the case for the 2003 Iraq invasion: “Right now, Iraq is expanding and improving facilities that were used for the production of biological weapons.” The Times’ investigation doesn’t mention any findings of biological weapons. He went on, “The regime is rebuilding and expanding facilities capable of producing chemical weapons.” According to the investigation, the chemical weapons discovered by U.S. soldiers after the 2003 invasion were all manufactured before 1991.

Review: Macs, mobile unite with Yosemite system

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on October 16th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Review: Macs, mobile unite with Yosemite system
CUPERTINO, Calif. (AP) — If you’ve upgraded your iPhone or iPad to iOS 8, the new software update for Mac computers will seem familiar.

Will CBS, HBO Kill Cable?
Plans for new online video services may force a change in cable’s business model.

AP NewsBreak: Gillespie ditches ads in Va Sen race
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia Republican Senate candidate Ed Gillespie is abandoning television ads in the state with less than three weeks before Election Day.

Obama cancels campaign trip to monitor Ebola response

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on October 16th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Obama cancels campaign trip to monitor Ebola response
President Obama acknowledged breakdowns in the healthcare system that led to the transmission of Ebola to two Dallas nurses, and gaps in communication that allowed the second nurse to fly commercially. Major Garrett reports.

Former Obama spokesman floats flight ban to fight Ebola
Onetime White House press secretary Jay Carney breaks with administration on flight restrictions

Obama authorizes reservists to assist with Ebola response in Africa
A team of engineers will assist the service members who are building treatment units

Colorado Reporter Calls Out Senate Candidate Cory Gardner For Hiding Extreme Stance On Personhood

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on October 16th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Colorado Reporter Calls Out Senate Candidate Cory Gardner For Hiding Extreme Stance On Personhood


A Colorado reporter called out Republican Senate candidate Cory Gardner’s efforts to conceal the fact that the federal personhood bill he co-sponsored would end abortion, a refreshing contrast to other media figures’ refusal to hold Gardner accountable for his stance.

In the October 15 debate between Gardner and Democratic incumbent Sen. Mark Udall, Kyle Clark, a reporter for NBC-affiliate KUSA, pressed Gardner on his continued denial that the Life At Conception Act is a federal personhood bill that would effectively end abortion procedures, by granting human eggs at fertilization the rights of a living person. Clark emphasized the fact that Gardner is a co-sponsor of the bill, which independent fact checkers widely agree would end abortion, and asked what the candidate’s denial says about his judgment and willingness to hide the truth:

CLARK: You continue to deny that the federal Life At Conception Act, which you sponsor, is a personhood bill to end abortion — and we are not going to debate that here tonight because that’s a fact. Your co-sponsors say so; your opponents say so; and independent fact-checkers say so. So let’s instead talk about what this entire episode may say about your judgment more broadly. It would seem that a charitable interpretation would be that you have a difficult time admitting when you’re wrong, and a less charitable interpretation is that you’re not telling us the truth. Which is it?

Gardner’s support for personhood legislation has previously been glossed over by many in the media. The Denver Post‘s editorial board endorsed the candidate by claiming he posed “no threat to abortion rights,” a declaration that completely ignores Gardner’s support of the federal personhood legislation that would severely handicap women’s access to health care and legal abortion.

Syndicated Washington Post columnist George Will echoed the Denver Post‘s endorsement, claiming that the issue of reproductive rights had already been settled and would not be affected by Gardner’s election.

Thankfully, as Clark made clear in his questioning of Gardner, not all media figures are willing to give Gardner a pass on his incomprehensible personhood stance.

Let Obama and Frieden Do Their Jobs

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on October 16th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Let Obama and Frieden Do Their Jobs
Joe Conason, RealClearPolitics
If the prospect of hanging concentrates the mind, then even the possibility of infection with Ebola should do the same — for all of us. Instead, we seem easily distracted by attempts to blame President Barack Obama and to scapegoat the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Republican politicians and media loudmouths have even demanded the resignation of Dr. Thomas Frieden, the CDC’s director, because he’s refused to endorse a West African travel ban. They’re all dead wrong. First, Obama is following precisely the correct approach in addressing the outbreak with his order to dispatch…

The Equal Pay Delusion
Mona Charen, RealClearPolitics
Voters are souring on the Democratic Party. Apparently, all it takes are six years of economic torpor; the disastrous debut of the biggest new federal program in two generations; record levels of federal debt; revelations of scandals and malfeasance at the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Internal Revenue Service, the Secret Service and the Justice Department; Russian revanchism on the march; a rampaging army of (literal) cutthroats gobbling up territory in the Middle East; and the feeble and patronizing government response to a modern plague. Truly, it says something about the reputation…

Eurosceptic MEP group collapses

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on October 16th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Eurosceptic MEP group collapses
One of the main Eurosceptic groups in the European Parliament, which includes Britain’s UKIP, collapses after a Latvian MEP withdraws.

VIDEO: Devolution deadlines a ‘good thing’
Lord Smith speaks about the importance of deadlines for the commission looking at Scottish devolution.

Sean Parnell vs. Bill Walker Nonpartisan Candidate Guide For Alaska Governor’s Race 2014

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on October 16th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Sean Parnell vs. Bill Walker Nonpartisan Candidate Guide For Alaska Governor’s Race 2014

Are you looking for a nonpartisan voter guide to the Sean Parnell vs. Bill Walker Governor’s race? One that will give you an unbiased, no-spin comparison of candidate positions on key issues? That’s what our Campus Election Engagement Project guide will give you! We are a national nonpartisan initiative working with college and university administrators, faculty, and student leaders to increase student participation in America’s elections. For the 2014 elections we have created and distributed voter guides to campuses in more than 20 states so they can provide their communities with accurate information for informed voting. Because these guides have been so well received and are useful for all voting citizens who want to be better informed, we are also posting them here.

We developed our guides by analyzing information from trusted resources such as,,,,, and from candidate websites, public debates and interviews, and statements in major media outlets. We also showed them to groups like campus Young Republicans and Young Democrats at the schools we work with to verify their fairness and lack of bias.

So here are the issue-by-issue stands for Sean Parnell and Bill Walker, with additional links at the bottom for each candidate if you’d like to dig deeper. (You can also find Alaska’s Senate guide here.)

Education: Do you support increasing funding for K-12 education?
Parnell: Includes it as priority but record of past cuts makes position contested. (Promotes K-12 funding, but has record of past cuts and his 2014 education funding focuses most heavily on charter and residential schools.)
Walker: Conditional yes (Increased school funding is a top priority, but won’t make funding guarantees until Alaska’s deficit is reduced.)

Education: Do you support providing vouchers to parents to send their children to private schools with public money?
Parnell: Yes
Walker: No

Education: Do you support increasing funding for higher education?
Parnell: Has cut due to declining oil revenues (See University Experiencing Budget Deficit )
Walker: Conditional yes as with K-12

Environment: Do you believe that human activity is a major factor contributing to climate change?
Parnell: Believes both human and natural elements contribute but dismantled state climate change Sub Cabinet work group that Gov. Palin had established. (For more information on Climate Change Sub-Cabinet, click here.)
Walker: Yes–calls Alaska “ground zero of climate change”

Environment: Do you support taking government action to limit the levels of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere?
Parnell: No
Walker: Position unclear

Environment: Do you support government mandates and/or subsidies for renewable energy?
Parnell: Priority on development of oil and gas but has supported setting state renewable energy goals
Walker: All of the above approach. Supports local renewable energy projects while expanding gas and oil extraction and a pipeline for natural gas. (Only as part of comprehensive strategy supporting multiple types of energy development. No special focus on renewable energy.)

Environment: Do you support Measure 4, limiting Bristol Bay mining if determined to be harmful to wild salmon?
Parnell: No
Walker: Yes

Gay Marriage: Do you support gay marriage?
Parnell: No
Walker: No but would uphold amended Alaska constitution to allow gay marriage if that occurs. (See Parnell rivals weigh in on same-sex-marriage)

Gun Control: Do you support enacting more restrictive gun control legislation?
Parnell: No
Walker: No

Healthcare: Do you support the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare?
Parnell: No–considered federal overreach
Walker: No–said wasn’t the answer to a broken system

Healthcare: Should your state accept federal funds so Medicaid will cover people earning up to 138% of the federal poverty line?
Parnell: No
Walker: Yes–because Alaska taxes pay for this. (Walker would accept the Medicaid expansion, with the caveat of continued federal funding, because Alaskans’ federal tax dollars pay for it. For more information, click here)

Marijuana: Do you support efforts to decriminalize and/or legalize marijuana?
Parnell: No
Walker: No

Minimum Wage: Do you support raising the minimum wage?
Parnell: Yes
Walker: Yes

Social Issues: Should abortion be highly restricted?
Parnell: Yes
Walker: Ambiguous–wouldn’t promote restrictions but wouldn’t automatically veto. (Will neither introduce nor promote legislation that increases current restrictions, but would consider signing more restrictive legislation if such a bill is passed during his tenure. See No automatic vetoes of abortion restrictions for more detail.)

Social Issues: Should employers be able to withhold contraceptive coverage from employees if they disagree with it morally?
Parnell: Yes
Walker: Unknown

Taxes: Have you signed the Americans for Tax Reform Pledge to oppose any tax increases to raise revenue? (The answer to this question is taken from the database of signatories of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, created by Americans for Tax Reform. Signers to the pledge promise to oppose “any and all tax increases” meant to generate additional revenue.)
Parnell: Yes
Walker: No

Taxes: Did you support lowering of oil company royalties to state in Ballot Measure 1 earlier this year?
Parnell: Yes
Walker: No

For additional issue-specific candidate information, visit the following pages:

Sean Parnell Alaska Dispatch election 2014 questions
Sean Parnell VoteSmart pages
Sean Parnell On the Issues pages

Bill Walker Alaska Dispatch 2014 elections questions
Bill Walker VoteSmart pages
Bill Walker campaign website issues pages

Other gubernatorial candidates include Carolyn Clift (Libertarian) and J.R Myers (Constitution Party). Due to limited space, we can’t include their positions, but invite you to check out their websites.

Serbia Honors Putin While Keeping Its Eyes on Ties to the West

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on October 16th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Serbia Honors Putin While Keeping Its Eyes on Ties to the West
President Vladimir V. Putin’s visit to Belgrade this week has highlighted a balancing act for Serbia, which wants to join the European Union but not the bloc’s sanctions against Russia.

World Briefing: Yemen: Shiite Rebels Clash With Qaeda Militants
At least 10 people were killed in fighting between Houthi tribesmen and militants linked to Al Qaeda in central Yemen on Thursday, witnesses said.

Nairobi Journal: Nairobi’s Latest Novelty: High-End Mac and Cheese, Served by Whites
International fast-food chains and high-end clubs are racing to get established in the fast-growing Kenyan capital, and the staff at some new spots are a novelty.

First Draft: Obama Is Missing in Action in Iowa Debate

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on October 16th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

First Draft: Obama Is Missing in Action in Iowa Debate
Joni Ernst and Bruce Braley debate the issues in the Iowa Senate race.

First Draft: Surprise Witness in Marathon Bombing Trial: Dukakis
Former Gov. Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts testified Thursday in a Boston Marathon-related trial.

Kerry Flies Commercial After Jet Breaks Down in Vienna
A problem with his Air Force jet prompted Secretary of State John Kerry to rush to the airport Thursday morning for a commercial flight back to Washington.

Newly-Released Study Vastly Underestimates The ‘Worst-Case Scenario’ For Sea Level Rise

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on October 16th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Newly-Released Study Vastly Underestimates The ‘Worst-Case Scenario’ For Sea Level Rise

The worst-case scenario for warming-driven sea level rise is 6 feet by 2100, a new study asserts. But this study is already out of date because it is based on expert opinion from back in 2012. Climate risks today are so high that it appears “no cost of mitigation is too high to justify.”

The post Newly-Released Study Vastly Underestimates The ‘Worst-Case Scenario’ For Sea Level Rise appeared first on ThinkProgress.

Thwaites glacier

West Antarctica’s Thwaites glacier, one of a cluster that appear to have started irreversible collapse, suggesting current estimates for sea level rise this century need to be revised up.


The worst-case scenario for sea level rise is 6 feet (1.8 meters) by 2100, according to a new study. Unfortunately, this study is already out of date because it is based on expert opinion from back in 2012.

This year, however, we’ve seen multiple bombshell studies on the growing prospect for West Antarctic Ice Sheet collapse — and similar findings that “Greenland will be far greater contributor to sea rise than expected.”

Even so, the plausible worst-case is important to understand because it is what should drive planning and “adaptation.” Also, avoiding the worst-case is typically a driving force behind prevention measures (people quit smoking because it might kill them or cause cancer) — in this case, slashing carbon pollution.

In fact, as the study points out, given a sufficient level of risk of high climate impacts, “no cost of mitigation is too high to justify.” Significantly, as the news release for the study notes, the major Fifth Assessment report (AR5) of the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) “was not able to come up with an upper limit for sea level rise within this century.”

There are five core contributors to warming-driven sea level rise, according to the study:

  • Thermal expansion
  • Glacier ice loss
  • Greenland ice loss
  • Antarctic Ice loss
  • Changes in land water storage

Thermal expansion is simply (ocean) water expanding as it warms up. Mountain glaciers that melt also contribute to sea level rise. Also, large amounts of groundwater are “pumped for both drinking water and agricultural use in many parts of the world and more groundwater is pumped than seeps back down into the ground, so this water also ends up in the oceans,” contributing to sea level rise.

These three factors are relatively straightforward to estimate. The study uses the uncertainty distributions from the AR5 to determine the probability of different outcomes.

But figuring out ice sheet loss in Greenland and Antarctica is more complicated, requiring knowledge of complex ice sheet dynamics that are not yet fully understood and modeled. So the authors “replaced the AR5 projection uncertainties for both ice sheets with probability distribution function calculated from the collective view of thirteen ice sheet experts” determined in a January 2013 study.

Here were the results:

Sea level rise

Projected component of global sea level rise by 2100 relative to 2000 and their uncertainty. Vertical light grey bars indicate the 5, 50 and 95th percentiles in the uncertainty distribution. Dark grey bars represent projected sea level components calculated in this study. Thick red lines show the likely range of the sea level contributions from the AR5 and red thin lines are our fit to the AR5 distribution.

As you can see, the experts estimated Greenland would probably contribute under 0.2 meters (20 centimeters or 8 inches). Same for Antarctica. Notice also that the “fat tail” of the distribution — the slow trail off on the right hand side of the figures representing the highest (i.e. worst case) sea level rise — comes almost entirely from Antarctica and not Greenland.

Here is their resulting cumulative sea level rise projection for the business-as-usual RCP8.5 emissions scenario (where the world keeps doing very little to restrict carbon pollution or carbon cycle feedbacks like the melting permafrost are high):

Sea level rise

Projected global mean sea level rise by 2100 relative to 2000 for the RCP8.5 scenario and uncertainty. Vertical grey bars indicate the 5, 17, 50, 83, and 95th percentiles in the uncertainty distribution.

This is how the study comes to the conclusion that “seas will likely rise around 80 cm” [31 inches] by 2100, and that “the worst case [only a 5% chance] is an increase of 180 cm [6 feet].”

Of course, the expert opinions are now more than two years old. And so the authors of the new study note:

We acknowledge that this may have changed since its publication. For example, it is quite possible that the recent series of studies of the Amundsen Sea Sector and West Antarctic ice sheet collapse will alter expert opinion.

In fact, expert opinion already has changed. NASA’s Eric Rignot, the authors of one of the two studies from May on WAIS collapse, told me at the time that if we stay near our current emissions path, then “I think that the minimum will be the upper end of the IPCC projections (90 cm [12 inches]) by 2100 and the maximum is hard to figure out but will likely exceed 1.2 – 1.4 meters.” Note that the May studies were not worst-case analyses!

One week after the WAIS studies, a similarly stunning Greenland study came out with a similar conclusion, that its ice sheet was far less stable than thought. Indeed that study noted that “older models predicted that once higher ground was reached in a few years, the ocean-induced melting would halt. Greenland’s frozen mass would stop shrinking, and its effect on higher sea waters would be curtailed.” But as the lead author explained, “That turns out to be incorrect. The glaciers of Greenland are likely to retreat faster and farther inland than anticipated — and for much longer.” And that means Greenland “glacier melt will contribute much more to rising seas around the globe.”

So it seems likely that many experts would revise their predictions of minimum, likely, and worst-case sea level rise contribution for both Greenland and Antarctica, shifting the peak of the above curve to the right and fattening the tail significantly. Why is that important? The study explains:

Assessing how to deal with the impact and costs of sea level rise poses serious structural issues in economic cost-benefit analysis (Weitzman 2009), but widely used assumption is of a quadratic function for climate change impacts (Nordhaus 2008, Weitzman 2010). The annual damage costs for the European Union with sea level rise of 1.4 m by 2100 are projected to be six times greater than for the rise of 0.6 m with A1B climate scenario (Brown et al 2011). However, Weitzman (2009), in his ‘Dismal theorem’ shows that if the rate of decay of the probability tail of the climate impact function is polynomial while the cost of damage rises exponentially, then the cost-benefit function does not converge and no cost of mitigation is too high to justify.

The references are here. I wrote about Weitzman’s work in a 2009 post, “Harvard economist: Climate cost-benefit analyses are ‘unusually misleading,’ warns colleagues ‘we may be deluding ourselves and others’.”

BOTTOM LINE: Right now, the latest science makes clear the tail of the climate impacts graph is not merely fat, but obese, simply from the risks of sea level rise and Dust-Bowlification alone. That strongly suggests “no cost of mitigation is too high to justify.”

The post Newly-Released Study Vastly Underestimates The ‘Worst-Case Scenario’ For Sea Level Rise appeared first on ThinkProgress.

Jon Stewart Schools Bill O’Reilly On White Privilege

Stewart got O’Reilly to admit that white privilege is a factor in the challenges that racial minorities face.

The post Jon Stewart Schools Bill O’Reilly On White Privilege appeared first on ThinkProgress.

Amelia Rosch is an intern for ThinkProgress.

Bill O'Reilly (left) and Jon Stewart (right) debate white privilege.

Bill O’Reilly (left) and Jon Stewart (right) debate white privilege.

CREDIT: Screenshot from “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart”

Jon Stewart forced Fox News host Bill O’Reilly to concede the existence of white privilege during an interview on The Daily Show Wednesday night, though the conservative commentator still refused to admit that black people are disadvantaged in modern society.

Stewart kicked off the interview by pressuring O’Reilly to “admit that there is such a thing as white privilege,” referencing his guest’s longstanding assertion that the construct doesn’t exist because Asian Americans are more successful than whites. Stewart asked O’Reilly about his experience growing up in Levittown, New York, which at the time was segregated, to show how African Americans were unable to access the middle class experience. Stewart closed the interview by asking O’Reilly “why so defensive about it, why is it that white people get so defensive about this?,” and O’Reilly reluctantly acknowledged that white privilege is a “factor”.

You can watch an edited version of the interview here (their discussion of white privilege begins at about a minute in):

Just a few of the countless statistics on white privilege: When it comes to political power, white men are massively overrepresented in the government; despite making up just 31 percent of the population, they represent 65 percent of politicians. White men get rewarded for pushing for workplace diversity, while women and minorities are punished. A study in May found that online buyers are less willing to do business with black people and when they do pay them between 2 to 4 percent less than they would pay white people. Minority homeowners are less likely to get approved for a mortgage; 75 percent of African Americans with low credit scores were turned away, while only half of whites with low credit scores were. And then there’s the justice system, where the inequities have gotten a surge of attention since Michael Brown’s death.

The post Jon Stewart Schools Bill O’Reilly On White Privilege appeared first on ThinkProgress.