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How Corruption Is Strangling U.S. Innovation If there's been one topic that has entirely dominated the post-election landscape, it's the fiscal cliff. Will taxes be raised? Which programs will be cut? Who will blink first in negotiations? For all the talk of the fiscal cliff, however, I believe the US is facing a much more serious problem, one that has simply not been talked about at all: corruption. But this isn't the overt, "bartering of government favors in return for private kickbacks" corruption. Instead, this type of corruption has actually been legalized. And it is strangling both US competitiveness, and the ability for US firms to innovate.
The corruption to which I am referring is the phenomenon of money in politics.
Lawrence Lessig's Republic, Lost, details many of the distortions that occur as a result of all the money sloshing around in the political system: how elected representatives are being forced to spend an ever-increasing amount of their time chasing donors for funds, for example, as opposed to chasing citizens for votes. Former congressman and CIA director Leon Panetta described it as "legalized bribery"; something which has just "become part of the culture of how this place operates." (Harvard Business Review)
How A Former Big Bank Lawyer Taught His Old Bosses A $25 Billion Lesson Tom Cox is a lawyer who used to represent major banks. Now he's working to help Maine residents facing foreclosure keep their homes, and recently uncovered a massive fraud by five major mortgage lenders that led to a $25 billion dollar settlement to assist people driven into debt by shady business practices. Guess which job he found more satisfying?
12/12/12 and the Myriad of Number Patterns in Dates Today as you are slogging through the tasks marked on your calendar, you might notice the date: 12/12/12. This will be the last date with the same number for day, month and last two digits of the year until New Year’s Day, 2101 (01/01/01)–89 years from now.
Many are celebrating the date with weddings (the truly hard core are start their ceremonies at 12:00 pm, presumably so that they’d be mid-vow at at 12:12), concerts–such as this benefit for victims of Superstorm Sandy–even mass meditations. The Astronomical Society of the Pacific, based in San Francisco, has actually declared 12/12/12 “Anti-Doomsday Day,” the antidote to purported Mayan prognostications that the world will end on 12/21/12. Belgian monks have released the holy grail of beers–Westvleteren 12–for public sale today. (Smithsonian)
168 children killed in drone strikes in Pakistan since start of campaign As many as 168 children have been killed in drone strikes in Pakistan during the past seven years as the CIA has intensified its secret programme against militants along the Afghan border. - In an extensive analysis of open-source documents, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism found that 2,292 people had been killed by US missiles, including as many as 775 civilians.
The strikes, which began under President George W Bush but have since accelerated during the presidency of Barack Obama, are hated in Pakistan, where families live in fear of the bright specks that appear to hover in the sky overhead.
In just a single attack on a madrassah in 2006 up to 69 children lost their lives.
Chris Woods, who led the research, said the detailed database of deaths would send shockwaves through Pakistan, where political and military leaders repeatedly denounce the strikes in public, while privately allowing the US to continue. (London Telegraph)
To revert breast cancer cells, give them the squeeze Researchers at the UC Berkeley and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have put the squeeze — literally — on malignant mammary cells to guide them back into a normal growth pattern.
Shown are fluorescence images of uncompressed (left) and compressed (right) colonies of malignant breast epithelial cells. Compressed colonies are smaller and more organized. (Images courtesy of Fletcher Lab)
The findings, presented Monday, Dec. 17 at the annual meeting of the American Society for Cell Biology in San Francisco, show for the first time that mechanical forces alone can revert and stop the out-of-control growth of cancer cells. This change happens even though the genetic mutations responsible for malignancy remain, setting up a nature-versus-nurture battle in determining a cell’s fate.
“We are showing that tissue organization is sensitive to mechanical inputs from the environment at the beginning stages of growth and development,” said principal investigator Daniel Fletcher, professor of bioengineering at Berkeley and faculty scientist at the Berkeley Lab. “An early signal, in the form of compression, appears to get these malignant cells back on the right track.” (University of California)
Party Identity in a Gun Cabinet An American child grows up in a married household in the suburbs. What are the chances that his family keeps a gun in their home?
The probability is considerably higher than residents of New York and other big cities might expect: about 40 percent of married households reported having a gun in their home, according to the exit poll conducted during the 2008 presidential election.
But the odds vary significantly based on the political identity of the child’s parents. If they identify as Democratic voters, the chances are only about one in four, or 25 percent, that they have a gun in their home. But the chances are more than twice that, almost 60 percent, if they are Republicans.
Whether someone owns a gun is a more powerful predictor of a person’s political party than her gender, whether she identifies as gay or lesbian, whether she is Hispanic, whether she lives in the South or a number of other demographic characteristics.
It will come as no surprise to those with a passing interest in American politics that Republicans are more likely to own guns than Democrats. But the differences have become much more stark in recent years, with gun ownership having become one of the clearest examples of the partisan polarization in the country over the last two decades. (Five Thirty Eight)
SGI Twitter Heat Map: Supercomputer Shows Where Angriest Tweeters Live Twitter may be full of jibber-jabber, but that doesn't mean this social networking site can't give us a little insight about what the world is thinking.
Silicon Graphics International, or SGI, has partnered with researchers from the University of Illinois to scan international tweets in a project dubbed the Global Twitter Heartbeat. By using SGI's UV 2000 Big Brain supercomputer, the researchers created real-time heat maps of positive and negative sentiments expressed via Twitter. (The Huffington Post)
Newtown school shooting story already being changed by the media to eliminate eyewitness reports of a second shooter The national media is ablaze today with coverage of the tragic elementary school shooting in Newtown, CT, where 27 people have reportedly been killed, including 18 children.
As always, when violent shootings take place, honest journalists are forced to ask the question: "Does this fit the pattern of other staged shootings?"
One of the most important red flags of a staged shooting is a second gunman, indicating the shooting was coordinated and planned. There are often mind control elements at work in many of these shootings. The Aurora "Batman" shooter James Holmes, for example, was a graduate student actually working on mind control technologies funded by the U.S. government. There were also chemical mind control elements linked to Jared Lee Loughner, the shooter of Congresswomen Giffords in Arizona in 2011. (Natural News)
There's Little We Can Do to Prevent Another Massacre -- The things that would work are impractical and unconstitutional. The things we can do won't work. There just aren't good words to talk about Newtown. It is a crime that literally defies imagination--hell, it flings imagination down and dances upon its head. No one reading this can imagine strolling into an elementary school and opening fire on a bunch of small children. You can't imagine even wanting to.
Most crimes are motivated by unlovely impulses that are at least comprehensible: the desire for money, sex, respect, revenge. We don't do these things because we have been taught that "good people don't do that!"--and we want to think of ourselves as good people, or at least have the neighbors and our parents think of us as good people. Or perhaps we're merely afraid of getting caught and punished. But we can understand why people want to--we know what someone is after when they hold up a liquor store, or even kills their spouse for the insurance money. Understanding is not sanction: these crimes still have the power to anger and horrify. But they're comprehensible, and that comprehensibility is surprisingly comforting.
The alternative is Newtown. When one tries to picture the mind that plans it, one quickly comes to a dead end. Even if I had been raised with no moral laws at all, even if there were no cops and no prisons, I'm pretty sure that I still wouldn't want to spend a crisp Friday morning shooting cowering children. Trying to climb this mountain of wickedness is like trying to climb a glass wall with your bare hands. What happened there is pure evil, and evil, unlike common badness, gives an ordinary mind no foothold. (The Daily Beast)
Japan Earthquake Shortened Days, Increased Earth's Wobble The magnitude 9.0 earthquake that struck Japan last Friday was powerful enough to shorten Earth's day by 1.8 microseconds and throw an extra 6.7 inches (17 centimeters) into the planet's wobble, scientists say.
That doesn't mean shockwaves from the event somehow knocked Earth off its north-south axis, around which the planet revolves.
Instead the quake shifted what's called Earth's figure axis, an imaginary line around which the world's mass is balanced, about 33 feet (10 meters) from the north-south axis.
Earth naturally wobbles slightly as it spins, because shifting surface mass such as melting glaciers and moving ocean currents can throw the planet off balance. (National Geographic)
Hacker finds McAfee through phone trail Weeks of international intrigue about the whereabouts of tech millionaire John McAfee ended Tuesday after the internet pioneer made an elementary digital mistake that highlighted the fraught relationship Americans have with what they once quaintly called "the telephone".
That homely communication tool, wired into walls everywhere for the better part of a century, has become an untethered emailer, browser, banker, shopper, movie viewer, music player and - to an extent that few appreciate - digital spy of extraordinary power.
McAfee, 67, who founded the popular antivirus company that bears his name, has been wanted for questioning by police in Belize since a neighbour turned up dead of a gunshot wound near McAfee's beachside home on November 11. The troubled tech savant, insisting that he had no role in the shooting, went on the run and has been taunting police by blog, Twitter and occasional podcast. (The Sydney Morning Herald)
What’s Your Meme? Changing the Climate Change Conversation Yes we can! Ermahgerd. Occupy. I had a dream. Haters gonna hate. Tear down this wall! Gangnam Style. Drill, baby, drill.
We are constantly bombarded by memes in our daily lives. Some spontaneously flare up and then burn out as quickly as they appeared, while others stick around for decades. We hardly consider their presence, much less contemplate their possible influence on our lives.
Researchers in the emerging field of meme science are digging deeper, however, investigating how and why these sticky phrases or trends sink into our cultural psyche and subconsciously influence the way we process the world around us.
“Our goal is to introduce rigorous market research tools that have been developed for the corporate sector and apply them to the most pressing social issues in the world,” said Joe Brewer, co-founder of DarwinSF, a San Francisco-based company founded six months ago to help identify and spread memes that may influence significant global issues, starting with climate change. (New York Times)
More Than 30 Top U.S. Officials Guilty of War Crimes More than 30 top U.S. officials, including presidents G.W. Bush and Obama, are guilty of war crimes or crimes against peace and humanity “legally akin to those perpetrated by the former Nazi regime in Germany,” the distinguished American international law authority Francis Boyle charges.
U.S. officials involved in an “ongoing criminal conspiracy” in the Middle East and Africa who either participated in the commission of the crimes under their jurisdiction or failed to take action against them included both presidents since 2001 and their vice-presidents, the secretaries of State and Defense, the directors of the CIA and National Intelligence and the Pentagon’s Joint Chiefs of Staff and heads of the Central Command, among others, Boyle said.
“In international legal terms, the U.S. government itself should now be viewed as constituting an ongoing criminal conspiracy under international law,” Boyle said in an address Dec. 9th to the Puerto Rican Summit Conference on Human Rights at the University of the Sacred Heart in San Juan. Boyle is a Professor of International Law at the University of Illinois, Champaign, and the author of numerous books on the subject. (Scoop)
Obama: I've got 'bigger fish to fry' than pot smokers In an interview with ABC News, President Obama told Barbara Walters that recreational pot smoking in states that have legalized the drug is not a major concern for his administration.
“We’ve got bigger fish to fry,” Obama said of marijuana smokers in Colorado and Washington, the two states where recreational use is now legal.
“It would not make sense for us to see a top priority as going after recreational users in states that have determined that it’s legal,” he said.
Going after individual users has never been part of federal policy. But under Obama, the Drug Enforcement Administration has aggressively gone after medical marijuana dispensaries in California, where they are legal. In September, federal officials raided several Los Angeles shops and sent warnings to many more. (Washington Post)
Obama's Pot Problem: Now that states have started legalizing recreational marijuana, will the president continue the government’s war on weed? When voters in Colorado and Washington state legalized recreational marijuana in November, they thought they were declaring a cease-fire in the War on Drugs. Thanks to ballot initiatives that passed by wide margins on Election Day, adults 21 or older in both states can now legally possess up to an ounce of marijuana. The new laws also compel Colorado and Washington to license private businesses to cultivate and sell pot, and to levy taxes on the proceeds. Together, the two states expect to reap some $600 million annually in marijuana revenues for schools, roads and other projects. The only losers, in fact, will be the Mexican drug lords, who currently supply as much as two-thirds of America's pot.
Drug reformers can scarcely believe their landslide victories at the polls. "People expected this day would come, but most didn't expect it to come this soon," says Norm Stamper, a former Seattle police chief who campaigned for legalization. "This is the beginning of the end of prohibition."
But the war over pot may be far from over. Legalization has set Colorado and Washington on a collision course with the Obama administration, which has shown no sign of backing down on its full-scale assault on pot growers and distributors. Although the president pledged to go easy on medical marijuana – now legal in 18 states – he has actually launched more raids on state-sanctioned pot dispensaries than George W. Bush, and has threatened to prosecute state officials who oversee medical marijuana as if they were drug lords. And while the administration has yet to issue a definitive response to the two new laws, the Justice Department was quick to signal that it has no plans to heed the will of voters. "Enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act," the department announced in November, "remains unchanged." (Rolling Stone)
Treating PTSD with Ecstasy: One story When Rachel Hope picked up the phone in 2005 to call Dr. Michael Mithoefer, she didn't have high hopes.
"I had very low expectations," said Hope, who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder for years before investigating whether the drug Ecstasy might be able to free her from her torment. Her PTSD was traced to a period of sexual abuse as a child and a life-threatening car accident.
In the initial 45-minute conversation, Mithoefer determined that Hope didn't have other serious psychological problems. He agreed to fly her to South Carolina to take part in his study of the experimental therapy. There, she underwent more psychological testing and a physical exam. There were standard therapy sessions, so Mithoefer could understand Hope's past and her symptoms. Finally, she was ready.
Light streamed through the skylight as Hope lay back on a futon in Mithoefer's office, in the rear of a small bungalow. (CNN)
The 10 Things That Led to Legalized Marijuana in Colorado (by Rob Kampia) In the wake of our victory in Colorado -- where 54.8 percent of the voters passed Amendment 64, a constitutional amendment to regulate marijuana like alcohol -- good people are understandably clamoring to pass similar measures in their states.
Here is a listing of the ingredients of the recipe that led to the historic victory in Colorado on November 6.
1. Presidential Election: Given that no one had ever previously legalized marijuana in the history of the world, we assumed that the election in Colorado would be close -- win or lose. So we intentionally chose to place our initiative on the ballot during a presidential election, which always attracts a larger proportion of young voters, who are more supportive.
2. Inclusive Drafting Process: The team that drafted the initiative went out of its way to solicit feedback from key lawyers, medical-marijuana industry players, other organizational leaders, and unaffiliated activists. As a result, there was almost no infighting, which allowed us to build a strong coalition of support across the state.
3. Years of Groundwork: Officially, the Colorado campaign was two years long; unofficially, it was eight years long. In 2004, MPP's grants program helped launch two non-profit advocacy organizations in Colorado, SAFER and Sensible Colorado. The executive directors of these two organizations eventually became the co-proponents of Amendment 64. SAFER focused on educating the public about the fact that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol; it did so through citywide, marijuana-related ballot initiatives in Denver in 2005 and 2007, which each garnered support from a majority of Denver voters. In 2006, SAFER coordinated a statewide ballot initiative to legalize marijuana and generated substantial debate in Colorado (while garnering 41 percent of the vote). Meanwhile, Sensible Colorado helped expand access to medical marijuana for patients. Most significantly, in 2008, Sensible Colorado spearheaded a court challenge to expand the state's medical marijuana "caregiver" provision to allow for retail sales. All of this took planning and money. (The Huffington Post)
7% Think U.S. Is Winning War on Drugs Americans overwhelmingly believe the war on drugs is a failure, but there’s little support for spending more on it to win.
Only seven percent (7%) of American Adults think the United States is winning the war on drugs, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. Eighty-two percent (82%) say the country is not winning the fight against illegal drugs. Twelve percent (12%) are not sure. (Rasmussen)
Governing The Global Drug Wars Since 1909 the international community has worked to eradicate the abuse of narcotics. A century on, the efforts are widely acknowledged to have failed, and worse, have spurred black market violence and human rights abuses. How did this drug control system arise, why has it proven so durable in the face of failure, and is there hope for reform? (London School of Economics)
Israel launches war on Gaza terror: Operation Pillar of Cloud Israel on Wednesday evening suddenly launched a major aerial campaign against terrorist targets across the Gaza Strip under the banner of "Operation Pillar of Cloud."
The action comes after days of incessant terrorist rocket fire against the residents of southern Israel. Israel's leaders mulled what response to take, but by Wednesday it appeared that there would be no serious military retaliation.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said the primarily target of Operation Pillar of Defense is the stockpile of medium and long-range missiles that Gaza terrorists had accumulated in recent years. By late evening Wednesday, Barak said most of those missiles had been destroyed. (Israel Today)
Gaza ceasefire holds but mistrust runs deep A ceasefire between Israel and Hamas held firm on Thursday with scenes of joy among the ruins in Gaza over what Palestinians hailed as a victory, and both sides saying their fingers were still on the trigger.
In the sudden calm, Palestinians who had been under Israeli bombs for eight days poured into Gaza streets for a celebratory rally, walking past wrecked houses and government buildings.
But as a precaution, schools stayed closed in southern Israel, where nerves were jangled by warning sirens - a false alarm, the army said - after a constant rain of rockets during the most serious Israeli-Palestinian fighting in four years.
Israel had launched its strikes last week with a declared aim of ending rocket attacks on its territory from Gaza, ruled by the Islamist militant group Hamas, which denies Israel's right to exist. Hamas had responded with more rockets. (Reuters)
IDF and U.S. Army launch four Patriot missiles as part of mass joint drill
The drill, considered the largest ever carried out by the two countries, will be conducted over the course of three weeks, and will simulate an extensive Mideast war with U.S. intervention. - The Israel Defense Forces and the U.S. Army launched four Patriot missiles into the Mediterranean Sea on Monday, as part of a joint military exercise conducted by the two countries.
The missiles were launched from the Palmachim Air Force base in central Israel, near the cities of Rishon Letzion and Yavne.
The two militaries will carry out further similar launches as part of the drill, simulating the interception of aircraft or missiles penetrating Israeli air space. The ongoing drill is considered the largest joint exercise ever carried out by the two countries.
The drill is meant to simulate an extensive war in the Middle East that would require the United States to intervene and provide Israel with further defense to intercept missiles. (Haaretz)
The US-Israeli Attack on Gaza The Western media in chorus has described the Israeli attack on Gaza as an ad hoc IDF-led counterterrorism operation, launched on the grounds of “self defense” in response to Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel.
While reports acknowledge that president Obama, in the wake of the November 6 elections, had granted a “Green Light” to Tel Aviv, the central issue does not pertain to Washington’s support but rather to the direct involvement of the US government and military in the planning and implementation of the attack on Gaza.
There is evidence that Operation “Pillar of Cloud” was implemented in close liaison with Washington in the context of the broader process of allied military planning. Senior US military officials were on location in Israel working with their IDF counterparts in the days leading up to the attack.
Operation “Pillar of Cloud” was launched on the 14th of November, exactly one week after the US presidential elections. It was slated to be launched irrespective of the outcome of the US elections. The first action was the targeted assassination of the leader of Hamas’ military wing Ahmed Jabari. The operation has since evolved towards a generalized bombing campaign and ground invasion involving the announced deployment of some 75,000 Israeli troops. (Global Research)
Drugs Live: the Ecstasy Trial, Channel 4, review -- Helen Brown reviews Drugs Live: the Ecstasy Trial, Channel 4's experiment in which volunteers, including actor Keith Allen and novelist Lionel Shriver took MDMA to see its effect on the brain. A quick glance at the TV listings gave the impression that Channel 4's groundbreaking two -part programme on the effects of MDMA would feature 25 volunteers (including actor Keith Allen) popping ecstasy pills for the cameras.
The dangled lure from the TV station that gave us Big Brother was that all hell might break loose and people would embarrass themselves.
In fact, only one pharmaceutically altered volunteer appeared on our screens: a psychiatric nurse, who sat rather calmly – less nervously, he suspected, than he might otherwise have been on national television – on the small stage before the live audience and told presenter Jon Snow that he hoped the clinical trial funded by Channel 4 would lead to a greater understanding of, and advances in treatment for, some of the debilitating mental health conditions suffered by his patients.
The hope is that the empathy, happiness and hyper articulacy promoted by the drug more commonly known as ecstasy – illegal in the UK since 1977 – might make it a powerful tool in the fight against depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). (London Telegraph)
Ecstasy trial planned to test benefits for trauma victims -- Scientists hope to overcome tabloid anger after US trial suggests clubbers' drug can bring dramatic improvements for PTSD sufferers Doctors are planning the first clinical trial of ecstasy in the UK, to see whether the drug can be beneficial to the traumatised survivors of child abuse, rape and war.
Ecstasy and other illegal drugs such as LSD and magic mushrooms are potentially useful in treating people with serious psychological disturbance who cannot begin to face up to their distress, some psychiatrists and therapists believe. But because of public fear and tabloid anger about illegal drugs, scientists say they find it almost impossible to explore their potential.
Professor David Nutt, the psychopharmacologist who used to head the government's Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs until he fell out with the Labour home secretary and was sacked, said: "I feel quite strongly that many drugs with therapeutic potential have been denied to patients and researchers because of the drugs regulation. The drugs have been made illegal in a vain attempt to stop kids using them, but people haven't thought about the negative consequences." (London Guardian)
A 'Party Drug' May Help the Brain Cope With Trauma Hundreds of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans with post-traumatic stress have recently contacted a husband-and-wife team who work in suburban South Carolina to seek help. Many are desperate, pleading for treatment and willing to travel to get it.
The soldiers have no interest in traditional talking cures or prescription drugs that have given them little relief. They are lining up to try an alternative: MDMA, better known as Ecstasy, a party drug that surfaced in the 1980s and ’90s that can induce pulses of euphoria and a radiating affection. Government regulators criminalized the drug in 1985, placing it on a list of prohibited substances that includes heroin and LSD. But in recent years, regulators have licensed a small number of labs to produce MDMA for research purposes.
“I feel survivor’s guilt, both for coming back from Iraq alive and now for having had a chance to do this therapy,” said Anthony, a 25-year-old living near Charleston, S.C., who asked that his last name not be used because of the stigma of taking the drug. “I’m a different person because of it.”
In a paper posted online Tuesday by the Journal of Psychopharmacology, Michael and Ann Mithoefer, the husband-and-wife team offering the treatment — which combines psychotherapy with a dose of MDMA — write that they found 15 of 21 people who recovered from severe post-traumatic stress in the therapy in the early 2000s reported minor to virtually no symptoms today. Many said they have received other kinds of therapy since then, but not with MDMA. (New York Times)
Obama signs secret directive to help thwart cyberattacks President Obama has signed a secret directive that effectively enables the military to act more aggressively to thwart cyberattacks on the nation’s web of government and private computer networks.
Presidential Policy Directive 20 establishes a broad and strict set of standards to guide the operations of federal agencies in confronting threats in cyberspace, according to several U.S. officials who have seen the classified document and are not authorized to speak on the record. The president signed it in mid-October.
The new directive is the most extensive White House effort to date to wrestle with what constitutes an “offensive” and a “defensive” action in the rapidly evolving world of cyberwar and cyberterrorism, where an attack can be launched in milliseconds by unknown assailants utilizing a circuitous route. For the first time, the directive explicitly makes a distinction between network defense and cyber-operations to guide officials charged with making often-rapid decisions when confronted with threats. (Washington Post)
California cap and trade: Climate-change bidding begins -- State's initial auction of emission credits is set for Wednesday despite suit California is soon to launch a bold attempt at climate-change reversal: a cap-and-trade program allowing businesses to buy and sell credits for emission of the most notorious greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide.
The first auction of carbon credits is scheduled for Wednesday – despite a lawsuit filed Tuesday by the California Chamber of Commerce that seeks a court ruling to invalidate such auctions.
The program itself is set to begin Jan. 1.
Some 360 manufacturers, utilities and other businesses are expected to take part, representing nearly 600 facilities across the state.
The cap-and-trade market is part of the state's controversial 2006 climate-change law, AB32, which also includes low-carbon fuel standards and promotion of renewable energy projects. (OC Register)
Global warming talk heats up, revisits carbon tax Climate change is suddenly a hot topic again. The issue is resurfacing in talks about a once radical idea: a possible carbon tax.
On Tuesday, a conservative think tank held discussions about it while a more liberal think tank released a paper on it. And the Congressional Budget Office issued a 19-page report on the different ways to make a carbon tax less burdensome on lower income people.
A carbon tax works by making people pay more for using fossil fuels like coal, oil, and gas that produce heat-trapping carbon dioxide.
The idea was considered so radical that in 2009, when President Barack Obama tried to pass a bill on global warming, that he instead opted for the more moderate approach of capping power plant emissions and trading credits that allowed utilities to pollute more. That idea, after passing the House, stalled in the Senate in 2010 and has been considered dead since. (Associated Press)
Looking back on the troubled wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, many observers are content to lay blame on the Bush administration. But inept leadership by American generals was also responsible for the failure of those wars. A culture of mediocrity has taken hold within the Army’s leadership rank—if it is not uprooted, the country’s next war is unlikely to unfold any better than the last two. - On June 13, 1944, a few days after the 90th Infantry Division went into action against the Germans in Normandy under the command of Brigadier General Jay MacKelvie, MacKelvie’s superior officer, Major General J. Lawton Collins, went on foot to check on his men. “We could locate no regimental or battalion headquarters,” he recalled with dismay. “No shelling was going on, nor any fighting that we could observe.” This was an ominous sign, as the Battle of Normandy was far from decided, and the Wehrmacht was still trying to push the Americans, British, and Canadians, who had landed a week earlier, back into the sea.
Just a day earlier, the 90th’s assistant division commander, Brigadier General “Hanging Sam” Williams, had also been looking for the leader of his green division. He’d found MacKelvie sheltering from enemy fire, huddled in a drainage ditch along the base of a hedgerow. “Goddamn it, General, you can’t lead this division hiding in that goddamn hole,” Williams shouted. “Go back to the [command post]. Get the hell out of that hole and go to your vehicle. Walk to it, or you’ll have this goddamn division wading in the English Channel.” The message did not take. The division remained bogged down, veering close to passivity.
American troops were fighting to stay alive—no small feat in that summer’s bloody combat. One infantry company in the 90th began a day in July with 142 men and finished it with 32. Its battalion commander walked around babbling “I killed K Company, I killed K Company.” Later that summer, one of the 90th’s battalions, with 265 soldiers, surrendered to a German patrol of 50 men and two tanks. In six weeks of small advances, the division would use up all its infantrymen, requesting replacements of more than 100 percent. (The Atlantic)
Marijuana: Mike Coffman, Amendment 64 opponent, to back federal exemption bill Update below: Representative Mike Coffman, a Republican, is announcing today his support of legislation that would exempt Colorado from federal marijuana policy. It's a noteworthy move from Coffman, who is against the legalization of marijuana but respects Colorado's ballot process and the support Amendment 64 received last week, when voters chose to legalize small amounts of pot for adult use.
As we noted earlier this week, Democratic representatives Diana DeGette, Ed Perlmutter and Jared Polis have been drafting legislation that would make Colorado exempt from policies at the federal level, at which marijuana remains illegal. (Denver Westword)
Barney Frank, Ron Paul Urge Obama To Respect Colorado, Washington Marijuana Laws Reps. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Ron Paul (R-Texas) are urging President Barack Obama to "respect the wishes of voters in Colorado and Washington" who voted to legalize marijuana.
"We have sponsored legislation at the federal level to remove criminal penalties for the use of marijuana because of our belief in individual freedom," Frank and Paul wrote in a letter to Obama. "We recognize that this has not yet become national policy, but we believe there are many strong reasons for your administration to allow the states of Colorado and Washington to set the policies they believe appropriate in this regard, without the federal government overriding the choices made by the voters of these states."
Frank and Paul presented the new marijuana laws as a sort of challenge to "those who disagree with us," noting opponents "should welcome the opportunity to put their theories to a test." (The Huffington Post)
Colorado & Washington Legalize Marijuana ... Dear Attorney General Holder and Administrator Leonhart:
We are writing to urge federal law enforcement to consider carefully the recent decisions by the people of Colorado and Washington to legalize small amounts of marijuana for personal use by adults. Under the new laws, each state will establish a comprehensive regulatory scheme governing the production, sale and personal use of marijuana. We believe that it would be a mistake for the federal government to focus enforcement action on individuals whose actions are in compliance with state law.
We are concerned that the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) continue to threaten individuals and businesses acting within the scope of their states’ laws on the medicinal use of marijuana despite formal guidance on exercising prosecutorial discretion. These actions contradict assurances made by DOJ in 2009 that the Department would not prioritize criminal charges against those who act in compliance with state law. It is also a poor use of limited federal resources. We hope your agencies will not take a similar approach with regard to individuals and businesses who comply with Colorado’s and Washington’s new laws, each of which were approved with overwhelming public support. (US Congress)
Is Occupy Wall Street Outperforming the Red Cross in Hurricane Relief? In Sunset Park, a predominantly Mexican and Chinese neighborhood in South Brooklyn, St. Jacobi’s Church was one of the go-to hubs for people who wanted to donate food, clothing, and warm blankets or volunteer help other New Yorkers who were still suffering in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. On Saturday, Ethan Murphy, one of the people heading the kitchen operation, estimated they would prepare and send out 10,000 meals to people in need. Thousands and thousands of pounds of clothes were being sorted, labeled, and distributed, and valuable supplies like heaters and generators were being loaded up in cars to be taken out to the Rockaways, Staten Island and other places in need. However, this well-oiled operation wasn’t organized by the Red Cross, New York Cares, or some other well-established volunteer group. This massive effort was the handiwork of none other than Occupy Wall Street—the effort is known as Occupy Sandy. (Slate)
Occupy Sandy Efforts Highlight Need for Solidarity, Not Charity Hurricane Sandy, the unprecedented superstorm that ravaged the Caribbean and the East Coast of the United States, left large swaths of New York City destroyed and ultimately killed 109 people in the US alone. In addition to experiencing trauma and shock, many resident now express frustration with lagging federal aid and assistance from other aid agencies like the Red Cross.
Vincent Ignizio, a New York City Councilman representing Staten Island’s 51st District, blames the gas shortage for hurting the recovery effort. Five-hour-long waits for gas have resulted in citizens’ being highly frugal with their commutes, and may be hindering aid, according to Ignizio.
“People who want to volunteer…are stymied from doing so,” he said.
And while the Defense Department recently dispatched 24 million gallons of fuel to the region, many citizens haven’t seen the military, or the Red Cross, since the storm hit. While FEMA workers were spotted recently in Staten Island, other citizens have received help from an entirely separate source: Occupy Wall Street. (The Nation)
Robots will steal your job, but that's okay: How to Survive the Coming Economic Collapse You are about to become obsolete. You think that you are special, unique, and that whatever it is that you are doing is impossible to replace. You are wrong.
As we speak, millions of algorithms created by computer scientists are frantically running on servers all over the world with one sole purpose: do whatever we used to do, but better. These algorithms are intelligent computer programs, permeating the substrateof our society. They make financial decisions, they predict the weather, they suggest which countries will wage war next. Soon, there will be little left for us to do: machines will take over.
Does that sound like a futuristic fantasy? Maybe so. This argument is proposed by a growing, yet still fringe, community of thinkers, scientists and academics, who see the advancement of technology as a disruptive force which will soon transform our entire socio-economic system, forever. According to them, the displacement of labour by machines and computer intelligence will increase dramatically over the next decades. Such changes will be so drastic and quick that the market will not be able to abide in creating new opportunities for workers who lost their job, making unemployment not just part of a cycle, but structural in nature and chronically irreversible. It will be the end of work as we now it. (io9)
A 'wait-and-see' approach to marijuana laws It is encouraging that the Justice Department is not immediately challenging Washington state and Colorado’s marijuana legalization laws [“Marijuana legality elicits confusion,” news, Nov. 10]. The best course is a “wait-and-see” approach.
The nation can now observe two different experiments in state marijuana control — if the Justice Department cooperates. But if it fights these states the way it has fought state medical marijuana laws for 16 years, it will delay the learning of potential regulatory and social techniques to control marijuana use, production and distribution. (Washington Post)
White House website deluged with secession petitions from 20 states How would Old Glory look with 30 stars instead of 50? As far-fetched as it may sound, the White House might soon be forced by its own rules to examine the question.
On Nov.7, the day after President Barack Obama was re-elected, the White House’s website received a petition asking the administration to allow Louisiana to secede.
If 25,000 people sign the petition by Dec. 7, it will “require a response” from the Obama administration, according to published rules of the White House’s online “We the People” program. (The Daily Caller)
Where FEMA fails, Occupy Sandy delivers storm relief The Occupy Wall Street movement, nearly forgotten after a brief but global flourish a year ago, has found a new mission delivering emergency aid to Sandy-stricken residents of New York and New Jersey.
In what is arguably the movement's finest hour, hundreds of grassroots volunteers came together and went to work in the immediate aftermath of Sandy's fury, coordinating relief efforts and delivering supplies to desperate residents even as the official government response to the disaster lagged woefully behind.
The day after Sandy blew through the tri-state area, Occupiers established an operational base in St. Jacobi Church in Brooklyn. Using their renowned social media savvy and relying upon the fierce determination of volunteers, Occupy Sandy began collecting donations by the truckload and distributing them among some of the storm's neediest victims.
Canned and cooked food, water, medicine, clothing, shoes, blankets, tools, flashlights, batteries, pet food, construction materials and other essentials have been handed out in large quantities. (Digital Journal)
Wisconsin elects openly gay U.S. senator Wisconsin voters made history in electing Tammy Baldwin the first woman and the first openly gay politician to the U.S. Senate.
Baldwin, 50, an attorney and seven-term Democratic congresswoman, defeated four-term former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson in the statewide race that also put Wisconsin in President Obama's win column despite native son Rep. Paul Ryan being the Republican vice presidential nominee.
Ryan was re-elected to his U.S. House seat. Baldwin was elected to the seat of retiring four-term Democratic Sen. Herb Kohl. (United Press International)
Sandy curtails nuclear plants, oldest under alert Hurricane Sandy slowed or shut a half-dozen U.S. nuclear power plants, while the nation's oldest facility declared a rare "alert" after the record storm surge pushed flood waters high enough to endanger a key cooling system.
Exelon Corp's 43-year-old Oyster Creek plant in New Jersey remains on "alert" status, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) said early Tuesday. It is only the third time this year that the second-lowest of four emergency action levels was triggered.
"Oyster Creek is still in an alert but may be getting out of it as long as water levels continue to drop," NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan told Reuters.
The alert came after water levels at the plant rose more than 6.5 feet above normal, potentially affecting the "water intake structure" that pumps cooling water through the plant. (Reuters)
Nation's oldest nuclear plant on alert The nation's oldest nuclear power plant, already out of service for scheduled refueling, was put on alert late Monday after waters from Superstorm Sandy rose 6 feet above sea level.
Conditions were still safe at and around Oyster Creek, a plant in Lacey Township, N.J., and at all other U.S. nuclear plants, said the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which oversees plant safety. No plants that had been up and running before the storm were planning to shut down.
High water levels at Oyster Creek, which generates enough electricity to power 600,000 homes a year, prompted safety officials to declare an "unusual event" around 7 p.m. About two hours later, the situation was upgraded to an "alert," the second-lowest in a four-tiered warning system.
The plant's owner, Exelon Corp., said power was also disrupted in the station's switchyard, but backup diesel generators were providing stable power, with more than two weeks of fuel on hand. (Associated Press)
NRC News No. I-12-042: NRC CONTINUES TO MONITOR HURRICANE SANDY; ALERT DECLARED AT OYSTER CREEK PLANT; NO PLANTS SHUT DOWN DUE TO THE STORM The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is continuing to monitor impacts from Hurricane Sandy on nuclear power plants in the Northeastern United States, including an Alert declared at the Oyster Creek nuclear power plant in New Jersey. The plant, currently in a regularly scheduled outage, declared the Alert at approximately 8:45 p.m. EDT due to water exceeding certain high water level criteria in the plant’s water intake structure.
An Alert is the second lowest of four NRC action levels. The Alert was preceded by an Unusual Event, declared at approximately 7 p.m. EDT when the water level first reached a minimum high water level criteria. Water level is rising in the intake structure due to a combination of a rising tide, wind direction and storm surge. It is anticipated water levels will begin to abate within the next several hours. (US Nuclear Regulatory Commission)
Spain suspends house evictions for two years -- Spanish banks are suspending evictions for the next two years for the most vulnerable people. An estimated 350,000 families have been evicted from their homes since Spain's property market crashed in 2008.
It comes three days after Amaia Egana, who was 53, died after jumping from her fourth floor apartment in northern Spain, just before she was due to be evicted.
Her death has inflamed public anger at banks, accused of being heartless.
Another man in the city of Granada, whose house was also due to be repossessed, apparently committed suicide last month.
Spain's Finance Minister, Luis De Guindos, said it was important to find a bipartisan solution to the problem. (BBC)
Life-span exposure to low doses of aspartame beginning during prenatal life increases cancer effects in rats. Abstract
In a previous study conducted at the Cesare Maltoni Cancer Research Center of the European Ramazzini Foundation (CMCRC/ERF), we demonstrated for the first time that aspartame (APM) is a multipotent carcinogenic agent when various doses are administered with feed to Sprague-Dawley rats from 8 weeks of age throughout the life span.
The aim of this second study is to better quantify the carcinogenic risk of APM, beginning treatment during fetal life.
We studied groups of 70-95 male and female Sprague-Dawley rats administered APM (2,000, 400, or 0 ppm) with feed from the 12th day of fetal life until natural death.
Our results show a) a significant dose-related increase of malignant tumor-bearing animals in males (p < 0.01), particularly in the group treated with 2,000 ppm APM (p < 0.01); b) a significant increase in incidence of lymphomas/leukemias in males treated with 2,000 ppm (p < 0.05) and a significant dose-related increase in incidence of lymphomas/leukemias in females (p < 0.01), particularly in the 2,000-ppm group (p < 0.01); and c) a significant dose-related increase in incidence of mammary cancer in females (p < 0.05), particularly in the 2,000-ppm group (p < 0.05).
The results of this carcinogenicity bioassay confirm and reinforce the first experimental demonstration of APM's multipotential carcinogenicity at a dose level close to the acceptable daily intake for humans. Furthermore, the study demonstrates that when life-span exposure to APM begins during fetal life, its carcinogenic effects are increased. (European Ramazzini Foundation)
First experimental demonstration of the multipotential carcinogenic effects of aspartame administered in the feed to Sprague-Dawley rats. Abstract
The Cesare Maltoni Cancer Research Center of the European Ramazzini Foundation has conducted a long-term bioassay on aspartame (APM), a widely used artificial sweetener. APM was administered with feed to 8-week-old Sprague-Dawley rats (100-150/sex/group), at concentrations of 100,000, 50,000, 10,000, 2,000, 400, 80, or 0 ppm. The treatment lasted until natural death, at which time all deceased animals underwent complete necropsy. Histopathologic evaluation of all pathologic lesions and of all organs and tissues collected was routinely performed on each animal of all experimental groups. The results of the study show for the first time that APM, in our experimental conditions, causes a) an increased incidence of malignant-tumor-bearing animals with a positive significant trend in males (p < or = 0.05) and in females (p < or = 0.01), in particular those females treated at 50,000 ppm (p < or = 0.01); b) an increase in lymphomas and leukemias with a positive significant trend in both males (p < or = 0.05) and females (p < or = 0.01), in particular in females treated at doses of 100,000 (p < or = 0.01), 50,000 (p < or = 0.01), 10,000 (p < or = 0.05), 2,000 (p < or = 0.05), or 400 ppm (p < or = 0.01); c) a statistically significant increased incidence, with a positive significant trend (p < or = 0.01), of transitional cell carcinomas of the renal pelvis and ureter and their precursors (dysplasias) in females treated at 100,000 (p < or = 0.01), 50,000 (p < or = 0.01), 10,000 (p < or = 0.01), 2,000 (p < or = 0.05), or 400 ppm (p < or = 0.05); and d) an increased incidence of malignant schwannomas of peripheral nerves with a positive trend (p < or = 0.05) in males. The results of this mega-experiment indicate that APM is a multipotential carcinogenic agent, even at a daily dose of 20 mg/kg body weight, much less than the current acceptable daily intake. On the basis of these results, a reevaluation of the present guidelines on the use and consumption of APM is urgent and cannot be delayed. (European Ramazzini Foundation)
Consumption of artificial sweetener- and sugar-containing soda and risk of lymphoma and leukemia in men and women. Abstract
Despite safety reports of the artificial sweetener aspartame, health-related concerns remain.
We prospectively evaluated whether the consumption of aspartame- and sugar-containing soda is associated with risk of hematopoetic cancers.
We repeatedly assessed diet in the Nurses' Health Study (NHS) and Health Professionals Follow-Up Study (HPFS). Over 22 y, we identified 1324 non-Hodgkin lymphomas (NHLs), 285 multiple myelomas, and 339 leukemias. We calculated incidence RRs and 95% CIs by using Cox proportional hazards models.
When the 2 cohorts were combined, there was no significant association between soda intake and risks of NHL and multiple myeloma. However, in men, ≥1 daily serving of diet soda increased risks of NHL (RR: 1.31; 95% CI: 1.01, 1.72) and multiple myeloma (RR: 2.02; 95% CI: 1.20, 3.40) in comparison with in men without diet soda consumption. We observed no increased risks of NHL and multiple myeloma in women. We also observed an unexpected elevated risk of NHL (RR: 1.66; 95% CI: 1.10, 2.51) with a higher consumption of regular, sugar-sweetened soda in men but not in women. In contrast, when sexes were analyzed separately with limited power, neither regular nor diet soda increased risk of leukemia but were associated with increased leukemia risk when data for men and women were combined (RR for consumption of ≥1 serving diet soda/d when the 2 cohorts were pooled: 1.42; 95% CI: 1.00, 2.02).
Although our findings preserve the possibility of a detrimental effect of a constituent of diet soda, such as aspartame, on select cancers, the inconsistent sex effects and occurrence of an apparent cancer risk in individuals who consume regular soda do not permit the ruling out of chance as an explanation. (Brigham and Women's Hospital & Harvard Medical School)
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