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This is the blog for Sean Brennan and London After Midnight. For more information please see the LAM website at londonaftermidnight.com.

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Friday, July 27, 2012

Guns • Colorado Shooting • Victims Can't Pay for treatment, Libertarians say "Let them die" • more

- Aurora And The Media Myth Of Public Opposition To Gun Control
    By Sunday the claim that Americans don't support tougher gun laws was a regular feature on the morning political talk shows. .... In fact, polls indicate public support for a broad range of stronger gun restrictions, including the reinstatement of the assault weapons ban, which may have prevented the legal purchase of one of the alleged shooter's guns.
- Virginia Tech Shooting Survivor Colin Goddard: "The Time Is Now" for Action on Gun Control Laws video
    Colin Goddard was shot four times during 2007 Virginia Tech massacre that left 32 people dead. He now works with the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. "It is beyond time to talk about solutions," Goddard says. "This conversation should have happened before this shooting in the first place. ... The missing piece [is] in place in this, which is the public outrage. And it has to be focused directly to your representatives, because they are the ones, literally, with bills at their fingertips right now."
- Tragedy in Colorado: Aurora victims struggle with medical bills
    Nearly a week after the shooting at an Aurora, Colo., movie theater left 12 dead and 58 injured, the survivors and their families are struggling with growing medical bills. Rock Center Correspondent Kate Snow talks to the survivors’ families and their doctors.
- REMINDER: Republican/Libertarian Tea Party Debate: Audience Cheers, Says Society Should Let Uninsured Patient Die
    A bit of a startling moment happened near the end of Monday night's CNN debate when a hypothetical question was posed to Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas)."What do you tell a guy who is sick, goes into a coma and doesn't have health insurance? Who pays for his coverage? Are you saying society should just let him die?" Wolf Blitzer asked."Yeah!" several members of the crowd yelled out.
- 7 Reasons President Obama and Gov. Romney Must Lead on Solutions to Prevent Gun Violence
    ...now that the candidates are back on the trail asking for our votes, they should be able to take time to articulate their concrete plans to address this violence.  The next president will be leading a nation that will lose 48,000 Americans to gun murders during his term.
- Still Missing From The Aurora Coverage: Gun Violence Context
    ...now that the candidates are back on the trail asking for our votes, they should be able to take time to articulate their concrete plans to address this violence.  The next president will be leading a nation that will lose 48,000 Americans to gun murders during his term.
- It's the Guns – But We All Know, It's Not Really the Guns
    But here's the difference between the rest of the world and us: We have TWO Auroras that take place every single day of every single year! At least 24 Americans every day (8-9,000 a year) are killed by people with guns – and that doesn't count the ones accidentally killed by guns or who commit suicide with a gun. Count them and you can triple that number to over 25,000.
- Gun control mustn't be the only thing in the spotlight video
    What we find in our data, compiled only from highly credible sources (FBI, DOJ, CDC, etc), is that violence is directly and strongly correlated with socio-economic data on education, health, poverty, inequality, basic services, labour participation and social capital. States that are more peaceful have higher education levels, higher health-insured rates (including access to mental health and preventive services), lower poverty and inequality, better access to basic services, higher labour participation rates, and higher rates of social capital (ie: volunteerism, community involvement, perceived trust, group membership, etc).
- Still Missing From The Aurora Coverage: Gun Violence Context
    But here's the difference between the rest of the world and us: We have TWO Auroras that take place every single day of every single year! At least 24 Americans every day (8-9,000 a year) are killed by people with guns – and that doesn't count the ones accidentally killed by guns or who commit suicide with a gun. Count them and you can triple that number to over 25,000.
- Timeline: Mass Killings in the US Since Columbine
    At least 28 mass killings have now occurred in the United States since two teenagers went on a rampage at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado in April of 1999, killing 12 of their fellow students and a teacher.
- Bill Moyers: NRA 'Enabler Of Death' video
    "Every year there are 30,000 gun deaths and 300,000 gun-related assaults in the U.S.," he said. "Firearm violence may cost our country as much as $100 billion a year. Toys are regulated with greater care and safety concerns than guns ... we have become so gun loving, so blasé about home-grown violence that in my lifetime alone, far more Americans have been casualties of domestic gunfire than have died in all our wars combined."


Good Violence, Bad Violence
by Robert C. Koehler
Published on Thursday, July 26, 2012 by Common Dreams

“In the end, after he has felt the full force of our justice system, what will be remembered are the good people who were impacted by this tragedy,” President Obama said this week in Aurora, Colo., after the shootings.


That’s probably not true.

Picture: Aurora Police Chief Daniel Oates, center, looks at the memorial across from the movie theater, Wednesday, July 25, 2012 in Aurora, Colo. Twelve people were killed and over 50 wounded in a shooting attack early Friday at the packed theater during a showing of the Batman movie, "The Dark Knight Rises." (Photo: Alex Brandon / AP)

From Charles Whitman up to the present day, the collective American memory preserves the name of the killer . . . the lone psycho, the shadow hero. We’re far too fascinated with violence not to mythologize its perpetrators. And just as we all know (because the media tell us) that there will be a “next war,” we know, oh God, in the deep churnings of the heart, that there will be more murder victims — schoolchildren, college students, shoppers, churchgoers, theatergoers, bystanders. We know because we live in a culture that tolerates and perpetuates violence.

James Holmes may have been a “loner,” but, like his predecessors, he acted in a complex American context. He wasn’t alone at all.

The U.S. is far more violent than other developed countries, for reasons seldom addressed or even looked at in anything like a holistic way. The root of the matter, as I see it, is our false distinction between “good violence” and “bad violence.” We don’t address the issue systemically because of our social investment in “good violence” and the enormous payoff it delivers to some. But good violence — the authorized, glorified, “necessary” kind — inevitably morphs into bad violence from time to time, and thus we are delivered jolts of headline-grabbing horror on a regular basis.

The factors that make up our culture of violence include, but are hardly limited to, the following:

A. The easy availability of guns, including semiautomatic weapons, ammunition and other paraphernalia. Holmes, for instance, not only purchased some 6,000 rounds of ammo on the Internet but “a high-capacity ‘drum magazine’ large enough to hold 100 rounds and capable of firing 50 or 60 rounds per minute — a purchase that would have been restricted under proposed legislation that has been stalled in Washington for more than a year,” according to the New York Times.

A culture of fear and the popular association of guns with personal empowerment guarantee that simply stanching the availability of high-capacity killing equipment to angry loners slipping into mental illness isn’t likely anytime soon. Indeed, we’re going the wrong direction. The AR-15 semiautomatic rifle Holmes used had been illegal under the federal ban on assault weapons that Congress allowed to expire in 2004. One unaddressed question: To what extent does easy access to military weaponry inspire lost souls even to consider mass murder as their ticket to glory and public attention?

B. The media — entertainment and news — feed the popularity of “good violence.” Violence is the driving plot device for thousands of forgettable, special-effects-permeated flicks. Its opposite is wimpiness. Movie and TV violence is abstract and consequence-free: the quickest way to solve a problem, find love, attain manhood, do good. America’s Army, the violent but bloodless videogame maintained by the U.S. Army, sucks in 13-year-olds. Violence occupies the American consciousness. “Why are we violent but not illiterate?” asked journalist Colman McCarthy. The answer: We’re taught to read.

As our newspapers collapse and TV culture permeates American households, the distinction between news and entertainment continues to blur. Peace and nonviolence are far too complex to grab readers’ and viewers’ attention. Violence sells. Violence advertises. Give us a war, any war, and the media will line up behind it, at least until it starts to go bad. “I guess I was part of the groupthink,” Bob Woodward lamented several years into the Iraq war, when the Washington Post examined its failure to be the least bit critical of the disaster initially. A serious part of the defense budget is public relations; it’s always money well spent.

C. Violence drives government policy. We’re now engaged in an endless, Orwellian war against dark-skinned, foreign evil. The “Washington consensus” is the same thing as the military-industrial complex. We torture, we carpet-bomb. We’ve wrecked two countries, killed civilians by the thousands or hundreds of thousands. We assassinate by drone and keep our civilian kill-count low by regarding all military-age males as combatants (by which measure, seven of Holmes’ victims shouldn’t count). We’re continuing to develop the “next generation” of nuclear weapons.

Violence also drives domestic policy. Our prison-industrial complex is the largest in the world — and becoming privatized. We have no mercy on the poor. Social spending bears the brunt of “austerity.” The police are becoming increasingly militarized. We control through punishment, which seems to be the same thing as revenge (“. . . after he has felt the full force of our justice system . . .”).

D. We worship winning and create unity around common enemies. Racism is endemic. We live in a domination culture; competition rules, even in education settings. The default American truism is “survival of the fittest.” Everything we do is based on the military model. We go to war against all our problems rather than try to heal them. We think love means weakness. Sonia Sotomayor was mocked as the “empathy nominee” for Supreme Court justice.

Good violence is the original bait-and-switch. As we mourn the latest to die so unnecessarily, let us vow not to let our grief turn to revenge.

Sean

More Climate Change • Study Shows Arctic Ice Melt at LEAST 70% Man Made • US Drought Reaching Historic Proportions • Media Ignores Climate Change

- Global Warming's Terrifying New Math
    Three simple numbers that add up to global catastrophe - and that make clear who the real enemy is
- Fox "News" boss ordered staff to cast doubt on climate science
    In the midst of global climate change talks last December, a top Fox News official sent an email questioning the "veracity of climate change data" and ordering the network's journalists to "refrain from asserting that the planet has warmed (or cooled) in any given period without IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question." [the critics Fox refers to are proven liars who work for the fossil fuel industry]
- Drought in US Intensifying to 'Historic Proportions'
    The drought in the U.S. is intensifying and shows little signs of abating, according the most recent Drought Monitor issued Thursday.
- Study: At Least 70% of Arctic Sea Ice Loss 'Man-Made'
    Last week an iceberg 'twice the size of Manhattan' broke off a glacier in Greenland. This week, revelations surfaced that scientists studying satellite maps of Arctic sea ice melt were so shocked by the rapid melting of ice sheets they concluded it was an error with their imaging equipment. It wasn't.
- 'Not a Mistake': NASA in Disbelief over Area of Melting Ice
    Scientists say there has been a freak event in Greenland this month: Nearly every part of the massive ice sheet that blankets the island suddenly started melting.
- What we know about climate change and drought
    It’s likely that droughts will continue to get worse as the planet heats up. As the IPCC report notes, scientists have more confidence about what the future holds if we keep heating the planet. Climate models tend to agree that droughts will get more intense and frequent in the Mediterranean, in central North America, Mexico, northeast Brazil and southern Africa, though there are still uncertainties as to exact regions.
- Bill Nye "Disappointed" In Media For Not Questioning Politicians About Climate Change
    Video- Bill Nye Disappointed in media
- Scientists Uncover "Grand Canyon" in Antarctica
    A massive rift valley that lies under a portion of the West Antarctic ice sheet could be speeding its melt, according to scientists who compared their discovery to a frozen Grand Canyon.
- Why The Recent Extreme Heat Wave Is About To Become Permanent
    video- The growing mountain of evidence of the direct consequences of climate change is becoming impossible to ignore. What will the world of climate change look like? It's already here.
- STUDY: Climate Coverage Plummets On Broadcast Networks
    A Media Matters analysis finds that news coverage of climate change on ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX has dropped significantly since 2009. In 2011, these networks spent more than twice as much time discussing Donald Trump as climate change.
- A Climate and Energy Stalemate
    On the day he clinched the Democratic nomination for president in 2008, Barack Obama declared that future generations would look back and say, “This was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.” He made addressing climate change, domestically and as part of a concerted international effort, a central tenet of his campaign platform and a top priority of his first year in office.Then the president backed off, hamstrung by an economic crisis and implacable opposition from Republicans, who were cheered on and financed by their ideological allies and fossil fuel companies. International talks organized by the United Nations made scant progress, not least because the United States was unwilling to accept a binding accord unless it required comparable emissions cuts by all countries regardless of their stage of economic development.
- Oceans of Garbage: Why People Are Eating Their Own Trash
    Why are people eating their own trash? Well this infographic from the creative students over at MastersDegree.net illustrates how pervasive the problem is and how we've quickly created a recipe for disaster.Knowing that fish supply the greatest percentage of the world's protein consumed by humans it is imperative that we recognize the need to keep our oceans healthy and the marine food web clean. So you may be asking yourself: "What can I do?" The good news is we can all do a little something and when we do it together we create a sea of change. Here are five easy things everyone can do to take action and get us closer to trash-free seas.

Sean

Friday, July 20, 2012

Ralph Nader Book Picks and Interview • Top Republican Donor Investigated for Criminal Activity • Fox News Denies Facts and Shows Racism • Meat Will Destroy Earth • Climate Change • Fox News Says Pollution is Good For You • more

- Jolting the Mind for Action: A Summer Reading List
    These are suggested summer readings from Ralph Nader to activate the citizen’s mind:
- Q&A: Ralph Nader on The Green Party, Obama and Romney
    ...we asked Nader about his problems with the two-party system, discourse between the two major candidates and the media’s coverage of the race.
- Comically Awful Survey Says 83 Percent Of Doctors Might Quit Over Obamacare
    The survey question is entirely worthless as a barometer of professional medical opinion regarding the Affordable Care Act. Which is likely the reason no one paid it any mind when DPMA released it last month. But then the dim bulbs at the Breitbart empire picked it up, followed by the Daily Caller and Drudge, leading to its inevitable appearance on Fox News this morning. It's a uniquely awful survey, but it served up a shocking, headline-friendly number, which is why it's driving the right-wing media's coverage of health care policy.
- Fox & Friends Fails To Discredit Obama's Manufacturing Job Record
    Fox & Friends rarely misses an opportunity to deny the successes of Obama, even when empiricism would suggest otherwise. This is only the most recent example.
- Fox & Friends Echoes GOP Spin On Welfare Rule, Leaves Out The Facts
    Fox & Friends criticized changes to the federal welfare program with deceptive talking points that were identical to a Republican senator's press.
- Wells Fargo Accused of Discriminatory Lending
    Protesters say that Wells Fargo and some other major banks offer higher mortgage rates to minorities.The US Department of Justice says they have reached a settlement with one of the lenders, Wells Fargo - which has agreed to a $175m payout. However, that sum is tiny in comparison to the $4.2bn profit the bank made in just the first quarter of this year.
- Solyndra and the Republican Outrage Machine
    The attacks on Solyndra are more than just attacks on Obama—they’re attacks on the notion of government as a place where we can come together to take on big challenges, drive economic innovation and advance our common interests while securing a sustainable future. The Solyndra scolds don’t just want to take down Obama—they want to hold back our politics. Let’s not let them.
- Right-Wing Blogger Hoft Criticizes Summer Heat Relief For The Elderly And Chronically Ill
    Right-wing blogger Jim Hoft expressed outrage Friday that an Ohio county is distributing air conditioners for needy families to bring relief from record-high summer temperatures.
- AMA Addresses Light Pollution
    Researchers are raising several possible health concerns related to nighttime light exposure, among them a higher risk of cancer.
- Inside The Investigation Of Leading Republican Money Man Sheldon Adelson
    Billionaire psychopath who is funding all Republican/Tea Party candidates under criminal investigation
- Fox "News" Bill O'Reilly says Black Americans Vote For Dems Because Dems "Gave Them All Kinds Of Entitlements, Making Them Dependent"
    Fox "News" and Bill O'Reilly again show their racism.
- Beyond Nuclear Denial
    Now, on a planet still overstocked with city-busting, world-ending weaponry, in which almost 67 years have passed since a nuclear weapon was last used, the only nuke that Americans regularly hear about is one that doesn’t exist: Iran’s. The nearly 20,000 nuclear weapons on missiles, planes, and submarines possessed by Russia, the United States, France, the United Kingdom, China, Israel, Pakistan, India, and North Korea are barely mentioned in what passes for press coverage of the nuclear issue.
- Investigation: As Black Lung Cases Doubled In The Last Decade, The Coal Industry [and Republicans] Fought New Health Protections
    In the last ten years, as cases of black lung among American coal miners doubled — hitting “epidemic” scale — the coal industry and anti-regulatory politicians have fought to prevent federal agencies from creating new standards that would improve miner safety.
- Record U.S. heat unlikely to be random fluke
    The National Climatic Data Center has just released its “State of the Climate” report for June 2012. The last 12-month period on the mainland United States, it notes, were the warmest on record. What’s notable, however, is that every single one of the last 13 months were in the top third for their historical distribution–i.e., April 2012 was in the top third for warmest Aprils, etc."The odds of this occurring randomly," notes NCDC, "is 1 in 1,594,323."
- Ice island twice as big as Manhattan breaks off Greenland glacier
    chunk of ice 46 square miles in area has parted from the Petermann glacier, which feeds into Nares straight along the northwest coast of Greenland. It split off July 16 according to researchers at the University of Delaware and Canadian Ice Service.This is the second major calving event for the Petermann glacier in the last three years. In August 2010, an ice island four times the size of Manhattan (an area of roughly 97 square miles) separated from the glacier.
- Why Conservative Columnist George Will Is Wrong About Weather And Climate
    Scientific observation and analysis have established that human-induced climate change makes extreme heat events more common. But when heat waves hit, many reporters hesitate to mention climate change without appending disclaimers of the sort that you don't see on other beats.
- Fox News thinks pollution is good for the planet
    Not that it’s a HUGE surprise that Fox News has beliefs about the environment that are the opposite of true, but just FYI, they are now apparently telling viewers that pollution is good for forests.
- Havoc as monsoon displaces millions
    Six million people have been forced to flee their homes in India's north-east as heavy monsoon rains caused massive flooding that has claimed the lives of more than 120 people.
- Fight Global Warming by Going Vegetarian
    Global warming has been called humankind's "greatest challenge" and the world's most grave environmental threat. Many conscientious people are trying to help reduce global warming by driving more fuel-efficient cars and using energy-saving light bulbs. Although this helps, science shows that going vegan is one of the most effective ways to fight global warming.
- Could Veganism End World Hunger?
    This video from the Evolve! Campaign summarizes some startling facts from 2010 about how a plant-based diet and vegan choices could END world hunger. While this may sound too good to be true, you may be surprised to find out that the amount of grain produced globally today is enough to feed the world TWICE over, but instead the majority of it is being fed to farmed animals!
- Is Meat The World’s Most Inefficient Food?
    As the infographic below explains, the manner and scale at which our society currently raises animal for human consumption contributes to climate change in major way. It also wastes water, pollutes our soil, and contaminates fresh water supplies.
- Meat Production Wastes Natural Resources
    Raising animals for food requires massive amounts of land, food, energy, and water and contributes to animal suffering.According to the United Nations, raising animals for food (including land used for grazing and land used to grow feed crops) now uses a staggering 30 percent of the Earth's land mass. More than 260 million acres of U.S. forest have been cleared to create cropland to grow grain to feed farmed animals, and according to scientists at the Smithsonian Institution, the equivalent of seven football fields of land is bulldozed worldwide every minute to create more room for farmed animals.
- Canadian Scientists 'Mourn Death of Evidence' under Harper Government
    A funeral procession of scientists wearing white lab coats and mourners dressed in black will take to the streets of Ottawa today to "mourn the death of Evidence" and protest what they see as an attack on environmental science by the Harper government.The scientists say a rash of recent cuts exposes the government's hostility to evidence-based research and is putting the public at risk. Despite claims by government officials that the cuts are a necessary part of a cost-cutting and efficiency plan, the scientists claim they are directed at research programs critical of the government's energy development plans, specifically the tar sands mining taking place in Alberta.
- Extreme Weather Linked to Man-Made Global Warming: Now What?
    Crippling droughts, suffocating heat waves, and devastating floods—welcome to the rest of our lives ---- In 2011, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which The New York Times has called a “judicious group” (read: cautious), concluded that global warming will make heat waves, droughts, floods, and other extreme weather events a common occurrence.  These trends cannot be explained by natural variation. “Only with the inclusion of human influences can computer models of the climate reproduce the observed changes,” according to the website Climate Communication, which indexes leading scientific research on climate change.
    If these statistics aren’t doing it, see for yourself. Mouse over to NASA’s Climate Time Machine, where you can watch the planet’s polar ice caps melting, track increases in carbon dioxide, witness sea levels rise, and see global temperatures increase in shades of orange and red.
- Welcome to the rest of our lives?
    Watch this powerful video and share with friends and family. Then help fight climate change denial by joining Forecast the Facts.
- On Global Warming, Republicans Burying Their Heads in the Dried-Up Soil
    They rightly chided the Republicans for being know-nothings: “Willful ignorance of the science,” they said, “is irresponsible and it is dangerous.” And they quoted several leading scientists, including Michael Oppenheimer of Princeton, who said: “What we’re seeing really is a window into what global warming really looks like.”
- We Can't Put a Price on Nature
    A group of international scientists says that the earth is dangerously close to its tipping point of irreversible damage. Clearly, we need a way out of the mess we've made of the planet.
- Hot Enough for You? Time to Teach Against Fossil Fuels
    director of meteorology at the Weather Underground website, said recently on Democracy Now!, “What we’re seeing now is the future. We’re going to be seeing a lot more weather like this, a lot more impacts like we’re seeing from this series of heat waves, fires, and storms. . . . This is just the beginning.”
    And yet, the fossil fuel industry continues to lead the climate change denial parade. On June 27, a day when almost 200 high temperature records were broken, Rex W. Tillerson, CEO of Exxon Mobil, gave a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations, pooh-poohing climate change, saying that the problem was activist organizations that “manufacture fear.” Tillerson said that the problem was an “illiterate public,” which needed to be taught that all environmental risks were “entirely manageable.”
    And conservative pundits proudly wave the same flat-earth flag. Arguing with E. J. Dionne on ABC’s This Week, George Will said, “You asked us—how do we explain the heat? One word: summer. . . . We’re having some hot weather. Get over it.”

    In our editorial, “Our Climate Crisis Is an Education Crisis,” in the spring 2011 issue of Rethinking Schools, we wrote that the climate crisis is “arguably the most significant threat to life on earth,” and urged educators to respond with the urgency that the crisis deserves. The events of this summer have added an exclamation point to our editorial.

Sean

Monday, July 9, 2012

Climate Change is Reality, Bad Weather is Getting Worse and worsened by Libertarians and Republicans • NRA Gun Nuts Are Racist • Republican Mouthpiece Rush Limbaugh Doesn't Want Women to Vote • Pigeons Know You! • Vegan Diet Healthiest • more

- Climate Disasters' Toll Worsened by Sustained Attacks on Public Sector, Science and Regulation
    As we discuss the spate of extreme weather in the United States, the author and professor Christian Parenti argues that the Republican-led assault on the public sector will leave states more vulnerable to global warming's effects.
- Bill McKibben: The Politics of Global Warming
    MSNBC's "Up" host Chris Hayes and his guests talk to Bill McKibben, one of the earliest prophetic voices on global warming, about the recent heat records set across the country.
- Sea Level Rise Unstoppable, say Scientists
    Even if nations manage to mitigate carbon emission levels, oceans will continue to rise throughout 21st century
- Sizzling Heat, Storms, Wildfires: 'This Is Just the Beginning'
    "This is just the beginning," warns Jeff Masters, director of meteorology at the Weather Underground, of what life with the impacts of climate change will look like. His message follows a week in which 2000 heat records were matched or broken and the month of June in which over 3200 heat records were matched or broken.Yet during that time, with little exception, there was no mention of climate change during weather broadcasts in which viewers were told to expect little relief from steamy temperatures.
- STUDY: Media Avoid Climate Context In Wildfire Coverage
    Only 3 Percent Of Wildfire Coverage Mentioned Long-Term Climate Change Or Global Warming. The major television and print outlets largely ignored climate change in their coverage of wildfires in Colorado, New Mexico and other Western states. All together, only 3 percent of the reports mentioned climate change, including 1.6 percent of television segments and 6 percent of text articles.
- This summer is 'what global warming looks like'
    Climate scientists suggest that if you want a glimpse of some of the worst of global warming, take a look at U.S. weather in recent weeks.
- Colorado's table was set for monster fire
    n the past two years, record-breaking wildfires have burned in the West — New Mexico experienced its worst wildfire, Arizona suffered its largest burn and Texas last year fought the most fires in recorded history. From Mississippi to the Ohio Valley, temperatures are topping record highs and the land is thirsty.
- Rate of Climate Change's 'Evil Twin' Has Scientists Worried
    Climate change's "evil twin" -- ocean acidification -- has been increasing at a rate unexpected by scientists, says Dr. Jane Lubchenco, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).Lubchenco told he Associated Press that surface waters, where excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere has been concentrating, "are changing much more rapidly than initial calculations have suggested." She warns, "It's yet another reason to be very seriously concerned about the amount of carbon dioxide that is in the atmosphere now and the additional amount we continue to put out."
- Helium stocks run low – and party balloons are to blame
    The world supply of helium, which is essential in research and medicine, is being squandered, say scientists
- Fukushima Nuclear Disaster 'Clearly Man-Made', says Parliamentary Panel
    A parliamentary panel investigating the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan last year have placed the blame squarely on the shoulders of plant owner TEPCO and government regulators by saying the crisis was "clearly man-made." Though the plant was crippled by an enormous tsunami generated by a powerful earthquake, the panel concluded that key warnings were ignored and preparations that could have been implemented were disregarded out of self-interest.
- Study: Pigeons Can Recognize Familiar Human Faces
    This means that birds not usually thought of having higher cognitive processes — like pigeons — can recognize a person they have encountered before, based strictly on facial characteristics.
- Environmental Study: Eat Less Meat to Fight Deforestation
    A new study on the environmental impact of meat production has resulted in a call to reduce meat consumption in order to fight deforestation.
- The Healthiest Diet of All
    The world's most important health advisory bodies are now in agreement – a balanced vegetarian diet can be one of the healthiest possible. And it seems the fewer animal products it contains such as milk and cheese, the healthier it is. In other words, the closer it is to being vegan, the healthier it becomes. These are some of the health statements that have been made over the past few years.
- Limbaugh Wants to Extend Vote Suppression to Women
    Republicans like Coulter and Limbaugh believe that groups who vote Democratic shouldn't have the right to vote. The available mechanisms they are using, such as voter ID laws, target Democratic-leaning groups such as African-Americans, young people, city dwellers and poor people. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, "More than 758,000 registered voters in Pennsylvania do not have photo identification cards from the state Transportation Department, putting their voting rights at risk in the November election." That's 9.2 percent of Pennsylvania's 8.2 million voters.
- National Rifle Association spokesman Ted Nugent: "I'm Beginning To Wonder If It Would Have Been Best Had The South Won The Civil War"
    In today's column for the Washington Times, National Rifle Association board member and prominent Mitt Romney endorser Ted Nugent wrote, "I'm beginning to wonder if it would have been best had the South won the Civil War."

Colorado's emergency-response teams burned by anti-tax attitudes
Because of conservative and libertarian sentiments and a no-tax pledge passed statewide 20 years ago, Colorado police and disaster-response teams are stretched thin as a virulent wildfire ravages land near Colorado Springs.
Published July 2 2012 in the Seattle Times
By Amanda J. Crawford

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. —
As Colorado Springs battles a rash of robberies after a wildfire that still licks at its boundaries, it does so with fewer police and firefighters and a limited tax base that may hamper its rebound.

The place where the Waldo Canyon fire destroyed 346 homes and forced more than 34,000 residents to evacuate turned off one-third of its streetlights two years ago, halted park maintenance and cut services to close a $28 million budget gap after sales-tax revenue plummeted and voters rejected a property-tax increase.

The city, the state's second-largest, with a population of 416,000, auctioned both its police helicopters and shrank its public-safety ranks through attrition by about 8 percent; it has 50 fewer police officers and 39 fewer firefighters than five years ago. More than 180 National Guard troops have been mobilized to secure the city after the state's most destructive fire. At least 32 evacuated homes were burglarized and dozens of evacuees' cars were broken into, said Police Chief Pete Carey.

"It has impacted the response," said accountant Karin White, 54, who returned Thursday to a looted and vandalized home, with a treasured, century-old family heirloom smashed.
"They did above and beyond what they could do with the resources they had," she said. "If there were more officers, there could have been more manpower in the evacuated areas."
Since the start of the 18-month recession in December 2007, U.S. cities have faced shrinking revenue and diminishing state support, leading to budget cuts and reductions in services and workforces. Cities faced a fifth-straight year of revenue declines in 2011, according to the National League of Cities, which estimated that municipalities would have to fill budget gaps of as much as $83 billion from 2010-2012.

Colorado Springs, which depends on sales tax for about half its revenue, was hit harder than most. The city — the birthplace 20 years ago of the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, which later passed statewide and has been pushed around the country to restrict government spending — became a high-profile example of cost-cutting. The law restricts government spending to the previous year's revenue, adjusted only for population growth and inflation.
"People are going to be looking at the aftermath of this disaster to see what is possible," said Josh Dunn, an associate professor of political science at University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. "How far can you go in cutting the size of city government?"

The city, home of the evangelical Christian group Focus on the Family, is known for being conservative and libertarian. It "was the tea party before the tea party was cool," Dunn said.
Six of the nine candidates in last year's nonpartisan mayoral election, including the victor, Mayor Steve Bach, signed the no-tax pledge pushed by Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform, according to the Colorado Springs Gazette.

Richard Skorman, one candidate who didn't, was flooded with angry emails after saying in a debate why he opposed such a pledge.

What, he asked, if the city got hit by a major wildfire?

"Resources have been very stretched, and we were always worried," said Skorman, 60, a small-business owner and former city councilman who lost to Bach in an April 2011 runoff.

The costs of rebuilding combined with lost revenue from business closings and tourism could push the city to the point where it doesn't have revenue for essential services, he said.
Bach said the city is on the path toward financial implosion anyway because of overly generous pensions and too many parks.

It hasn't affected the handling of the wildfire, he said.

The Waldo Canyon blaze has killed two, engulfed a 29-square-mile area the size of Manhattan, has cost $11.1 million to fight so far and is now 55 percent contained. .
Carey and Fire Chief Rich Brown said they are facing the same kind of cuts and budget restrictions as public-safety forces across the country. The reduction in manpower hasn't affected their ability to respond to the wildfire, they said in interviews this weekend.
On June 26, when near-hurricane-force winds caused a firestorm that swept into the city, "I don't care if we had 2,000 people, there's nothing we could have done," Brown said. The city has 413 firefighters and recently graduated its first new class of recruits in five years, he said.

Carey said the staff reduction has forced police to work more closely with the Fire Department and other agencies.

"That's the emerging trend of public safety," Carey said. "We can't afford to have a surge capacity, maximum capacity every day for these kinds of situations. You have to think meaner and leaner, and have a plan that includes asking for outside help."

The city has been aggressive in applying for federal grants, too, which have funded wildfire-mitigation efforts, said Bret Waters, emergency management director.

Dunn notes that the city, where there is strong anti-federal-government sentiment, is now turning to the U.S. for assistance. Before visiting Colorado on Friday, President Obama declared the state a disaster area, which frees aid for communities affected by the wildfires.
"Ironically, Colorado Springs is going to rely heavily on federal funds for rebuilding," Dunn said. "But it won't cover everything."

Sean

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Progressives and the Flag • Fourth of July Fireworks Are No Picnic for Pets

- Progressives and the Flag
    ...throughout U.S. history, many American radicals and progressive reformers have proudly asserted their patriotism. To them, America stood for basic democratic values -- economic and social equality, mass participation in politics, free speech and civil liberties, elimination of the second-class citizenship of women and racial minorities, a welcome mat for the world's oppressed people. The reality of corporate power, right-wing xenophobia, and social injustice only fueled progressives' allegiance to these principles and the struggle to achieve them.
    Most Americans are unaware that much of our patriotic culture -- including many of the leading symbols and songs -- was created by people with decidedly progressive [even socialist] sympathies....



Fourth of July Fireworks Are No Picnic for Pets
by Ledy VanKavage · 2010-06-25 From Change.org

Since I've become a responsible pet parent, my love for fireworks has waned. When I was kid, I loved the 4th of July almost as much as my favorite holiday, Halloween. My dad would buy tons of fireworks. We'd invite all the neighbors and their kids for a cookout. My friends and I would run around with sparklers, oblivious to the panicked pets around us. As soon as it got dark, the ka-booms and oohs-and-ahhs began. We didn't see the pets cowering in the dark or running away from home.

The 4th of July is the nadir of every year for animal shelter staffers. When you visit any animal shelter the week before the 4th, you can sense the dismay and frustration. Caring shelter workers know the reality: Pets are going to panic and end up in here. And because of the increased volume in lost pets, more dogs and cats will die, even in good animal shelters.  Microchipping would help reduce the deaths, but unfortunately few folks microchip their pets.

I was lucky enough to visit Salt Lake County Animal Services this week. They are a great progressive animal shelter, who has partnered with Best Friends Animal Society to start the Salt Lake County Pit Crew to increase American Pit Bull Terrier adoptions. They have free cat adoptions, hoping to reduce the number of wonderful cats and kittens that perish simply because they don't have a home. But when I was there, the air was palpable with dread that the 4th was coming.

The shelter's average intake is five dogs a day; by stark contrast, last year during the weekend of the 4th, they took in 73 dogs. With such a dramatic increase, it's easy to understand how the staff can get overwhelmed.

My husband and I have had our own direct experience with the terror that fireworks can induce in pets. One of our first dogs, a gregarious Lab mix named Trotsky, hated fireworks. Cliff and I didn't realize the extent of his fear, however, until we left him alone in our house with access to the yard during the festivities. We came home to a bloody dog and a demolished house.

My fellow blogger Clare Cassar had similarly horrific experiences on the 4th. When I told her of my fireworks-frenzy topic, she recalled spending an entire 4th of July evening in a closet with a dog that she was petsitting at the time, trying to calm her down. She also knew of  a friend's dog that got so excited it had a seizure and died during the 4th.
So during the 4th, let's all do our patriotic duty for pets and celebrate at home without the loud hoopla. Our loyal best friends need us.

Sean