Monday, October 31, 2011
Sunday, October 30, 2011
House Republicans took the government to the brink of shutdown last spring by demanding across-the-board budget cuts to many vital programs. Instead of focusing on job creation, as Americans wanted them to, the GOP turned its attention to slashing funds for programs that funded assistance for women and children, local law enforcement, the social safety net, environmental protections, and many other programs they deemed as either too expensive or unnecessary. Worse, when challenged on why they hadn’t made the effort to tackle high unemployment, Republicans insisted that their slash-and-burn budget cuts were meant to create jobs.
Not all of those cuts made it through, but the GOP succeeded in passing massive spending reductions as part of a continuing resolution that kept the government operating. According to a new report from the Center for American Progress’ Scott Lilly, those cuts didn’t result in the job creating boon Republicans insisted would follow. Instead, it has done just the opposite, as those cuts will result in the destruction of roughly 370,000 jobs.
Lilly’s report focuses on three major areas where Republicans insisted on spending cuts: funding for local law enforcement, environmental cleanup of sites where nuclear weapons were disabled and destroyed, and investments into construction, repair, and maintenance of government buildings. Cuts to just those three areas will result in the loss of 90,000 jobs, the report found — 60,000 from direct cuts, and 30,000 additional jobs lost from the secondary impacts of job losses in each community.
If you thought that Japan was merely the master of miniaturization, tentacles, and creepy robots, think again: A group of Japanese scientists have built a massively-parallel, brain-like computer out of an organic molecule called DDQ. This computer, which is built from 300 DDQ “neurons,” has successfully calculated how heat diffuses through a medium, and the mutation of normal cells into cancer cells. From the very start of the research paper, the scientists point out a phenomenon that all computer geeks are aware of: for the most part, computer processors are single-threaded, sequential-logic machines. You can throw more cores at the problem, or thousands of CPUs (as in supercomputers), or scale to thousands of megahertz, but silicon, transistor-transistor, clock-driven computers are essentially sequential. Animal brains, on the other hand, are almost the complete opposite of modern CPUs: neurons can only fire around 100 times per second, but in a human brain there could be hundreds of millions of neurons all firing at the same time, and each neuron can have a 1,000 synapses to other neurons. It is this scaling, massively-parallel computation that the scientists have recreated using molecules. The work of Anirban Bandyopadhyay and his team from the National Institute for Materials Science in Tsukuba, Japan, revolves around a molecule called 2,3-dichloro-5,6-dicyano-p-benzoquinone, or DDQ for short. DDQ is a ring molecule that can connect with up to six neighboring DDQ molecules. Most importantly, each DDQ molecule can be programmed into four different states, each conducting electricity differently. 300 DDQ molecules are placed on a gold substrate, and their conductive states and connections to other molecules are programmed using a scanning tunneling microscope. The end result is a cellular automaton of 300 neuron-like molecules that can perform calculations in a massively parallel way. For now, it seems like DDQ has only been used to perform pre-programmed calculations — and while that’s useful, conventional computers are unlikely to be usurped any time soon. It is another characteristic of DDQ “brains” that is most intriguing: When a DDQ molecule changes state, the change ripples down through the molecules that it’s connected to, destroying old bonds and creating new circuits as it goes — much like a neuron making new synapse connections. This could eventually lead to emergent computing, where the DDQ brain can react to external stimuli and evolve over time.
If you thought that Japan was merely the master of miniaturization, tentacles, and creepy robots, think again: A group of Japanese scientists have built a massively-parallel, brain-like computer out of an organic molecule called DDQ. This computer, which is built from 300 DDQ “neurons,” has successfully calculated how heat diffuses through a medium, and the mutation of normal cells into cancer cells.
From the very start of the research paper, the scientists point out a phenomenon that all computer geeks are aware of: for the most part, computer processors are single-threaded, sequential-logic machines. You can throw more cores at the problem, or thousands of CPUs (as in supercomputers), or scale to thousands of megahertz, but silicon, transistor-transistor, clock-driven computers are essentially sequential. Animal brains, on the other hand, are almost the complete opposite of modern CPUs: neurons can only fire around 100 times per second, but in a human brain there could be hundreds of millions of neurons all firing at the same time, and each neuron can have a 1,000 synapses to other neurons. It is this scaling, massively-parallel computation that the scientists have recreated using molecules.
The work of Anirban Bandyopadhyay and his team from the National Institute for Materials Science in Tsukuba, Japan, revolves around a molecule called 2,3-dichloro-5,6-dicyano-p-benzoquinone, or DDQ for short. DDQ is a ring molecule that can connect with up to six neighboring DDQ molecules. Most importantly, each DDQ molecule can be programmed into four different states, each conducting electricity differently. 300 DDQ molecules are placed on a gold substrate, and their conductive states and connections to other molecules are programmed using a scanning tunneling microscope.
The end result is a cellular automaton of 300 neuron-like molecules that can perform calculations in a massively parallel way. For now, it seems like DDQ has only been used to perform pre-programmed calculations — and while that’s useful, conventional computers are unlikely to be usurped any time soon. It is another characteristic of DDQ “brains” that is most intriguing: When a DDQ molecule changes state, the change ripples down through the molecules that it’s connected to, destroying old bonds and creating new circuits as it goes — much like a neuron making new synapse connections. This could eventually lead to emergent computing, where the DDQ brain can react to external stimuli and evolve over time.
Most people would likely avert their eyes when passing by a man with a mouth full of writhing worms, or, say, the sight of a pile of excrement. But some are more disgusted than others, and new research suggests those individuals who respond with a more intense "yuck" are more likely to hold conservative political views and specifically are more likely to oppose same-sex marriage.
"This is one more piece of evidence that we, quite literally, have gut feelings about politics," said study researcher Kevin Smith, a political science professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. "Our political attitudes and behaviors are reflected in our biology."
For instance, a study by Cornell University's David Pizarro and his colleagues found that those people who scored high on the so-called disgust sensitivity scale tended to hold more politically conservative views. The findings, reported in 2009 in the journal Cognition & Emotion, relied on participants' reported level of disgust linked to various scenarios.
Some shocking prison statistics brought to you by Drug War Facts.org
The 2009 federal prison population consisted of:
Drugs 50.7%, Public-order 35.0%, Violent 7.9%, Property 5.8%, Other .7%
Drug offenses are self-explanatory, but the public-order offenses also fall under the victimless crimes category. Public order offenses include such things as immigration, weapons charges, public drunkenness, selling lemonade without a license, etc..
The United States has the highest prison population rate in the world, 756 per 100,000 of the national population. The world population in 2008 is estimated at 6,750 million (United Nations); set against a world prison population of 9.8 million this produces a world prison population rate of 145 per 100,000 (158 per 100,000 if set against a world prison population of 10.65 million).
In 2008, according to the Department of Justice, there were 7,308,200 persons in the US corrections system, of whom 4,270,917 were on probation, 828,169 were on parole, 785,556 were in jails, and 1,518,559 were in state and federal prisons.
In other words, 1 in 42 Americans is under correctional supervision. This constitutes over 2% of the entire US population. That percentage jumps up drastically if we limit the comparison to working aged adult males, of which there are around 100 million. Over 5% of the adult male population is under some form of correctional supervision, alternatively stated, 1 in 20 adult males is under correctional supervision in the US. One in 36 adult Hispanic men is behind bars, based on Justice Department figures for 2006. One in 15 adult black men is, too, as is one in nine black men ages 20 to 34.
Keep in mind that 86% of those men in federal prisons are there for victimless crimes. They have not stolen any property, damaged any property, or harmed anyone directly by their actions. Of course, if you are reading this and live in the US, you are paying for all those people to subsist on a daily basis. Roughly 34% of all prisoners in the US are incarcerated for victimless crimes.
You probably don’t hate gay people. You probably chose not to be a fundamentalist Christian because you didn’t want to think about gay sex that much—not that it works, mind you. And when someone close to you came out, you found yourself surprised to discover it had almost no long-term effect, good or bad, on your feelings. And from this you know that all homophobia is self-hate. Who else has the time?
I don’t think you hate black people. You’ve probably never been faced with how you feel about race mixing, unless your immediate family married eclectically. Then you’re probably among the silent majority of Americans who admit that mixed kids are usually 15 percent cuter. Still, you’re not some Herman Cain running around saying that racism doesn’t hold anyone back any more. The Kochs aren’t paying you enough to do so.
You don’t hate poor people. But you don’t get it. You work hard. Life’s definitely not easy for you. You’ve had tough times and as Craig T. Nelson said, “I’ve been on welfare and food stamps. Anyone help me out? No.”
But you may hate liberals.
The liberals who spend your money, the liberals who apologize for America, the hungry baby liberals who see government as big momma government Dolly Parton as lactating and ready.
Why do you hate liberals? The credit to this goes to Ronald Reagan and his corporate sponsors. Ronald Reagan spoke to America. In the clearest terms, in the most perfectly paced, sotto radio voice of radio’s heyday, Ronald Reagan was able to blame every problem in America on a group almost no one claimed they were a part of—liberals.
In the early 60s, Reagan was the Glenn Beck of the day. Ronald Reagan laid the foundation for all of the liberal hate of the next half-century.
You can listen as Reagan works his silky smooth magic here:
Saturday, October 29, 2011
The ability to dream is a fascinating aspect of the human mind. However, how the images and emotions that we experience so intensively when we dream form in our heads remains a mystery. Up to now it has not been possible to measure dream content. Max Planck scientists working with colleagues from the Charité hospital in Berlin have now succeeded, for the first time, in analysing the activity of the brain during dreaming.
They were able to do this with the help of lucid dreamers, i.e. people who become aware of their dreaming state and are able to alter the content of their dreams. The scientists measured that the brain activity during the dreamed motion matched the one observed during a real executed movement in a state of wakefulness.
A new CNN/ORC International Poll shows that the opposition to the US occupation of Afghanistan has grown to a record high, with 63 percent of the American public now firmly opposed to the conflict and only 34 percent still supportive.
CNN was quick to point out that the poll did not indicate regret for the 2001 invasion, saying the survey still showed a small majority believing it was “not a mistake” to invade in the wake of 9/11.
But the open-ended nature of the war and its repeated escalation has destroyed public opinion, and another question showed a solid majority of 58 percent of Americans believe Afghanistan has turned into another Vietnam.
The latest poll shows opposition that tops the previous record, in December 2010. Early in 2011 US officials began claiming major progress was being made in the war, and while those claims of progress are still coming in it is clear that people no longer believe the claims.
A state senator is working on a constitutional amendment that would tie legislative compensation to the median family household income in the state of Alabama.
If passed by the Legislature and approved by voters, the bill, sponsored by Sen. Bryan Taylor, R-Prattville, would cut legislative pay about 24 percent and remove the Legislature's ability to raise or lower its compen sation.
"It ensures the Legislature will never make more than half of all Alabamians," Taylor said this week. "Legislative compensation will rise and fall based on the salaries of the people we serve."
Legislators receive about $53,438 annually, mainly in the form of a monthly expense account that is adjusted based on the cost of living on April 1 each year. According to the U.S. Census, median household income in Alabama in 2009 was $40,547 a year.
Under the bill, the state Department of Finance would adjust salaries every year to match the median household income in the state. Legislators also would be allowed to submit expenses for attending the Legislature or engaging in legislative business.
When the President took office, he directed all of his policymakers to develop policies based on science and research, not ideology or politics. So our concern about marijuana is based on what the science tells us about the drug's effects.
According to scientists at the National Institutes of Health- the world's largest source of drug abuse research - marijuana use is associated with addiction, respiratory disease, and cognitive impairment. We know from an array of treatment admission information and Federal data that marijuana use is a significant source for voluntary drug treatment admissions and visits to emergency rooms. Studies also reveal that marijuana potency has almost tripled over the past 20 years, raising serious concerns about what this means for public health – especially among young people who use the drug because research shows their brains continue to develop well into their 20's. Simply put, it is not a benign drug.
Like many, we are interested in the potential marijuana may have in providing relief to individuals diagnosed with certain serious illnesses. That is why we ardently support ongoing research into determining what components of the marijuana plant can be used as medicine. To date, however, neither the FDA nor the Institute of Medicine have found smoked marijuana to meet the modern standard for safe or effective medicine for any condition.
As a former police chief, I recognize we are not going to arrest our way out of the problem. We also recognize that legalizing marijuana would not provide the answer to any of the health, social, youth education, criminal justice, and community quality of life challenges associated with drug use.
That is why the President's National Drug Control Strategy is balanced and comprehensive, emphasizing prevention and treatment while at the same time supporting innovative law enforcement efforts that protect public safety and disrupt the supply of drugs entering our communities. Preventing drug use is the most cost-effective way to reduce drug use and its consequences in America. And, as we've seen in our work through community coalitions across the country, this approach works in making communities healthier and safer. We're also focused on expanding access to drug treatment for addicts. Treatment works. In fact, millions of Americans are in successful recovery for drug and alcoholism today. And through our work with innovative drug courts across the Nation, we are improving our criminal justice system to divert non-violent offenders into treatment.
Our commitment to a balanced approach to drug control is real. This last fiscal year alone, the Federal Government spent over $10 billion on drug education and treatment programs compared to just over $9 billion on drug related law enforcement in the U.S.
Thank you for making your voice heard. I encourage you to take a moment to read about the President's approach to drug control to learn more.
Friday, October 28, 2011
With Alabama's new immigration law scaring off many illegal migrant workers, the state is offering job placement for legal residents wanting to work in the hard-hit agriculture industry -- it seems, however, that local farmers think the work may be too hard for most Americans
Gov. Robert Bentley announced this month the launch of the initiative "Work Alabama," which would expand on existing services to connect job seekers with current openings on farms and respond to employers' complaints about the loss of mostly Hispanic workers who have fled.
"The industries in our state that provide thousands of manual-labor jobs are a foundational part of Alabama's ," Bentley said at the time. "I want these employers to know that we are here to help them while they provide much-needed jobs to Alabamians who are looking for work."
But as of Wednesday, while 335 people have signed up for seasonal agricultural jobs, only three employers have listed 48 openings -- most of which don't start until January,
At a recent neighborhood meeting in Birmingham, Alabama Congresswoman Terri Sewell said the harsh anti-immigrant law promoted and signed by Gov. Robert Bentley is embarrassing Alabama in the eyes of the nation.
"We're solving a problem that was not a problem,'' she said, according to The Birmingham News.
Sewell was commenting on Bentley's crusade against the hard-working illegal immigrants in Alabama, but she was also channeling her state's history very accurately. Embarrassing gubernatorial behavior has long been an Alabama tradition. For decades, Alabama governors have specialized in the exact tactic employed by Bentley: proposing police-state solutions for nonexistent problems.
On the streets of Montgomery, the state capital, and in Birmingham, the state’s largest city, one rarely crosses paths these days with Hispanics in public places.
In some Hispanic neighborhoods they are more visible but are still cautious when talking to a reporter, lowering their heads and looking around.
Latin supermarkets and Mexican restaurants acknowledge that business is in free fall.
Daniel Valencia, who owns taco shops in the Birmingham suburbs of Hoover and Pelham, worries that he will be bankrupt within a month.
“A lot of people have left. It’s as if the ground swallowed them,” he said.
A Chinese government building in a remote part of Tibet has been bombed, according to an overseas radio service. The blast left no injuries but adds to tensions after a number of people set themselves on fire in protest at Chinese rule.
Radio Free Asia, based in Washington, said the blast struck a township government building on Wednesday in Changdu.
"In the early dawn hours of 26 October there was an explosion in a local government building," the radio service said on its website, citing an unnamed member of the Tibetan exile parliament, which is based in India.
"No casualties were reported," he said, according to the report. "This could be because no one stays in the building overnight. Walls of the building had also been painted with slogans in red calling for independence for Tibet and leaflets had been scattered in the area."
The area was under heavy security, the report said.
Chinese state-run media did not mention of the reported incident. Repeated calls to government offices in Changdu – called Chamdo by Tibetans – went unanswered and a police officer said he had not heard of any blast.
If confirmed the incident could add to tensions in ethnic Tibetan areas, where many locals resent the presence of the Chinese government.
A tea party group has a surprising and harsh urging for long-time tea party favorite Michele Bachmann: Quit the presidential race.
"It's time for Michelle [sic] Bachmann to go," reads the first line of a statement from American Majority President Ned Ryun. His group operates in seven states, trains thousands of tea party supporters and is "liked" by over 371,000 people on Facebook.
"Bachmann, the leader of the so-called tea party caucus in the House and the most vocal about her affiliation with the Tea Party than any other Presidential candidate, has consistently presented herself as a champion of the movement and its values," Ryun's statement continued.
"Bachmann has ridden her tea party credentials from obscurity to a national platform like no other."
Bachmann campaign manager Keith Nahigian responded in a statement.
"The strength of the Tea Party is all individual's opinions are valued but the no single leader speaks for it. Mr. Ryun, who supports Texas Gov. Rick Perry, is entitled to his own opinion. And that's exactly what he is expressing. Michele Bachmann enjoys strong support from Americans across party lines and that certainly includes the Tea Party. She will continue to be a strong advocate for the values and principles reflected by the Tea Party as works toward a victory in the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses as she seeks to win the Republican nomination."
Occupy Nashville protesters said they have been given an ultimatum: leave Legislative Plaza or be arrested.
The decision comes after growing complaints about fights and thefts at the site. Since October 7, about 85 people have been camping out overnight.
The protestors said they were asked to leave by 8 p.m. Thursday. Authorities do not want them to spend nights in tents, but said they will be allowed to protest during the day.
Governor Bil Haslam issued a nighttime curfew for the plaza. Protestors must leave the plaza at 10 p.m. starting Friday night, but they may return at 6 a.m. the following morning.
Officials with the state Department of General Services said the curfew was in response to safety concerns at the plaza, raised by the protestors themselves.
Protestors said no matter what, they are not going to leave.
It's alive! And it's a nightmare.
The rumors were true: The new Blacklist Bill could effectively destroy YouTube, Twitter, and other sites that rely on user-generated content by making the sites' owners legally responsible for content their users post.
It also includes provisions that would make it a felony to stream unlicensed content -- including cover band performances, karaoke videos, video game play-throughs, and more.
It's a grab-bag of Halloween goodies for a handful of big corporations -- but for us it's Frankenstein's monster, cobbled together from half-born bills, set to suffocate free speech and innovation and terrorize consumers and Internet users.
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Republican lawmakers have been raking President Obama over the coals due to what they call a “tsunami” of new government regulations. “Business owners are reluctant to create jobs today if they’re going to need to pay more tomorrow to comply with onerous new regulations,” said Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME). Obama’s “excessive regulations that unnecessarily increase costs” just “make it harder for our economy to create jobs,” said House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH).
As with most GOP talking points, the facts tell a different story. A Bloomberg analysis of regulations reveals that Obama has approved fewer regulations than President George W. Bush “at this same point in their tenures, and the estimated costs of those rules haven’t reached the annual peak set in fiscal 1992 under Bush’s father.” Indeed, the record for the most expensive regulations still belongs to the GOP:
Obama’s White House approved 613 federal rules during the first 33 months of his term, 4.7 percent fewer than the 643 cleared by President George W. Bush’s administration in the same time frame, according to an Office of Management and Budget statistical database reviewed by Bloomberg. [...]
In the last 12 months through the end of September, the cost range of new regulations is estimated to be $8 billion to $9 billion, a decrease from 2010, according to non-partisan Government Accountability Office reports analyzed by Bloomberg…The record [cost of regulations] came in 1992 under George H.W. Bush when that total hit $20.9 billion in current dollars. In the last year of Ronald Reagan’s term it was $16 billion in today’s dollars.
A constitutional amendment facing voters in Mississippi on Nov. 8, and similar initiatives brewing in half a dozen other states including Florida and Ohio, would declare a fertilized human egg to be a legal person, effectively branding abortion and some forms of birth control as murder.
With this far-reaching anti-abortion strategy, the proponents of what they call personhood amendments hope to reshape the national debate.
“I view it as transformative,” said Brad Prewitt, a lawyer and executive director of the Yes on 26 campaign, which is named for the Mississippi proposition. “Personhood is bigger than just shutting abortion clinics; it’s an opportunity for people to say that we’re made in the image of God.”
Many doctors and women’s health advocates say the proposals would cause a dangerous intrusion of criminal law into medical care, jeopardizing women’s rights and even their lives.
The amendment in Mississippi would ban virtually all abortions, including those resulting from rape or incest. It would bar some birth control methods, including IUDs and “morning-after pills,” which prevent fertilized eggs from implanting in the uterus. It would also outlaw the destruction of embryos created in laboratories.
On Monday we got some great news in Florida: following an ACLU lawsuit, the state will no longer be allowed to make people applying for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) take a drug test in order to get the assistance they need.
The court reaffirmed that testing urine for drugs is a search, that application for a public benefit cannot depend on an unconstitutional condition, and that the state of Florida had fallen woefully short of establishing any need to conduct suspicionless testing.
The judge's order also chastised the Florida legislature for failing to heed lessons it should have learned in a state-commissioned pilot study of TANF recipients in Florida: they are no more likely to use illegal drugs than the population at large.
The ugly stereotypes that warp public perception of welfare recipients have no basis in fact or science. Those who need help are no different than you or me. They are not children of a lesser god, exiled to a Fourth-Amendment-free zone to be treated like suspected criminals.
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
India is expected to overtake fellow Asian powerhouse China in terms of GDP growth in 2013, according to a new report from Ernst and Young.
India is forecast to achieve 9.5% growth, compared with China’s expected 9%.
Both countries remain among the top performers in the group of 25 so called Rapid Growth Markets (RGMs), which also includes Brazil and Russia.
The report, which is based on the Oxford Economics Growth Model and offers insight on macroeconomic trends across these fast-growing markets, attributes China and India’s relative resilience in the face of global economic turmoil to their large domestic markets and low oil and commodity prices .
But it cautions that inflation, which rose to 10.9% in India in August, needs to be reined in.
12, the prison’s owner, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), expects to fill Appleton’s Prairie Correctional Facility and another facility in Colorado with 3,256 inmates from California.
In the last ten years, the revenue of CCA, the country’s biggest private prison company, has almost doubled, according to their annual reports. Critics say that CCA’s success, and even the likely reopening of the prison in Appleton, stems from their use of lobbying and campaign donations to push through tougher crime laws and increase detainment of illegal immigrants.
“Prison privatization contracts are designed by policy makers. It’s important for these companies to have a political strategy to increase their market share,” Paul Ashton, author of a recent report on private prisons for the Justice Policy Institute, said in a conference call Wednesday. Private prison companies “game the system,” he said, by pushing to increase market share, which in the private prison business means putting more people in prison.
Political influence generates business gains
For two decades, CCA was a member of a group called the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) — a nationwide organization made up of corporations and state legislators. At an ALEC meeting in December 2009, where CCA employees were present, according to an original report by Beau Hodai of In These Times and a subsequent story by NPR, the group crafted the model legislation that would later become Arizona’s SB1070 and a host of other similar bills across the country.
Private prison industry efforts to influence policy at the federal level continue. In 2011, CCA has already employed 35 federal lobbyists, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The bills CCA has lobbied on this year include a number of appropriations related to Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detentions, which made up 12 percent of the company’s revenue last year, according to CCA’s 2010 annual report.
In a palpable display of hostility towards Occupy Atlanta protesters, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed has started to get more aggressive towards protesters. Over the last several days, the Democratic mayor has taken several steps to signal his intention to eventually evict the protesters who are camped out in a downtown park in Atlanta, Georgia.
On the morning of Saturday, October 22, Reed abruptly cancelled the sound permit for a previously scheduled weekend hip-hop concert organized by Occupy Atlanta. Reed’s office had worked with the organizers until Friday, giving the impression that the city government was agreeable to the protesters’ desire to stage the concert after living in tents through rain and cold for over two weeks.
Reed sent both his appointed spokesperson, Director of Communications Sonji Jacobs, along with a phalanx of police to impose the cancellation. This was a deliberate intimidation tactic, as the police presence up until that point had been either nonexistent or out of sight in the vicinity of the occupied park.
Jacobs, who came to “explain” the transparently bogus reasons for the cancellation, was essentially driven out the park after the protesters began chanting the slogan “Whose park? Our Park!” in unison.
Mayor Reed, who is well known for his political duplicity and unrefined persona, later claimed that the organizers had neither filed a security plan, nor had they paid the draconian $2,500 fee the city levies for outdoor concerts.
Meanwhile, the police walked in, handing out leaflets to concert attendees and passersby indicating that the permit for the concert had been cancelled and that no one should enter the park from the street.
With Republicans continuing to stall action on President Obama's $447 billion jobs bill, the White House is taking action to help jump-start the economy with the message "We can't wait."
President Obama is going to begin a series of executive branch actions that will not require action from Congress - or the assent of Republicans.
With recovery in the housing market tied to economic recovery, Mr. Obama will today announce what senior officials are calling a "major overhaul" of the government's underused refinance program for federally guaranteed mortgages, in order to aid homeowners having difficult refinancing their housing loan.
It is more commonly known as the gas that fills cheap party balloons and makes your voice squeak if you inhale it.
But helium is actually a precious resource that is being squandered with Earth's reserves of it due to run out within 25 to 30 years, experts have warned.
Earth’s resources of helium are being depleted at an astonishing rate, an effect which will spell disaster for hospitals which use it to cool MRI scanners.
The world's biggest store of helium - the most commonly used inert gas - lies in a disused airfield in Amarillo, Texas, and is being sold off far too cheaply.
But in 1996, the US government passed a law which states that the facility - the US National Helium Reserve - must be completely sold off by 2015 to recoup the price of installing it.
This means that the helium, a non-renewable gas, is being quickly sold off at increasingly cheap prices, making it uneconomical to recycle.
Nasa uses the gas to clean its rockets of fuel while liquid helium is used to cool nuclear reactors and space telescopes.
Monday, October 24, 2011
A restaurant owner in Birmingham, Alabama knew he had a problem after Alabama’s extreme immigration law went into effect. All nine of Steve Dubrinsky’s kitchen workers at his Jewish deli were legal immigrants, yet several of them have told Dubrinsky that he should hire people to replace them because they’re leaving with undocumented relatives or simply do not feel safe. He spoke to the Birmingham News about his sudden employment issue. “They are scared and I can’t blame them,” he said to the paper about his employees. “It is affecting a lot of restaurants. It’s a mess.”
Then his problems got worse. On the morning the newspaper published his quote, Dubrinsky heard a local radio host talking about if people should boycott his deli because of his sympathetic comments. An anti-immigrant website picked up the article, and Dubrinsky told the Huffington Post he was suddenly receiving hateful emails:
One reads: “well u can bet your ass that i will never eat in your resturant agian and will tell everybody i know what kind of person you are for suporting those dam wetback that are ruining our country.”
Another: “if you cant keep the doors open and employ legal people then it is time to close.”
And another: “I hope your unamerican establishment closes down!!!!”
On the day many workers planned to not show up to work as a protest against the immigration law, Dubrinsky struck a compromise with his workers to close early that day. After he hung a sign on his door explaining the closing, he only received more hate mail from those who had seen the sign.
Despite claims from Alabama politicians that American citizens will line up to take the jobs undocumented (and legal) immigrants leave, Dubrinsky has been unsuccessful in hiring additional workers to prepare for the likely vacancies in his staff. One worker left after only two hours of manning the grill.
Dubrinsky is hardly alone in not being able to find other Alabamians to replace his kitchen workers. Alabama farmers have been hurt the most economically by the state’s immigration law. Undocumented immigrants or even legal immigrants who are afraid have fled the state, leaving farmers without longtime workers during harvest. And they have not been able to replace their previous Hispanic workers with American citizens. Farmers report that replacement workers do not work as hard and often do not last either. “I’ve had people calling me wanting to work,” said Keith Smith, an Alabama potato farmer. “I haven’t turned any of them down, but they’re not any good. It’s hard work, they just don’t work like the Hispanics with experience.”
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley’s (R) office has set up a database to connect farmers and other businesses with workers looking for jobs, but no state official could tell the Associated Press how many people had actualy been hired to replace immigrants who have left. In the meantime, crops are rotting in the field because farmers don’t have enough workers and business owners are being harassed for showing concern for their legal workers.
It was just another schoolyard basketball game until a group of Hispanic seventh-graders defeated a group of boys from Alabama.
The reaction was immediate, according to the Mexican mother of one of the winners, and rooted in the state's new law on illegal immigration.
"They told them, `You shouldn't be winning. You should go back to Mexico,"' said the woman, who spoke through a translator last week and didn't want her name used. She and her son are in the country illegally.
Spanish-speaking parents say their children are facing more bullying and taunts at school since Alabama's tough crackdown on illegal immigration took effect last month. Many blame the name-calling on fallout from the law, which has been widely covered in the news, discussed in some classrooms and debated around dinner tables.
Justice Department officials are monitoring for bullying incidents linked to the law.
"We're hearing a number of reports about increases in bullying that we're studying," the head of the agency's civil rights division, Thomas Perez, said during a stop in Birmingham.
The Justice Department has established a bilingual telephone hotline and special email account for residents to report any violence or threats based on racial or ethnic background that could be linked to the law. Officials would not provide a breakdown on the types of complaints being received.
In New Book Decrying 'Slow Death' Of White America, Pat Buchanan Warns That Minorities Lower Test Scores
Pat Buchanan is, among other things, an MSNBC contributor with a new book out, Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025? As his “last political will and testament,” the book’s thesis is centered on “cultural collapse” of the nation and “the slow death of the people who created and ruled the nation” — namely, white people.
In an op-ed for CNS News yesterday, Buchanan outlines the three major consequences America will face without enough white people to save it. First, the Republican party, which “routinely gets 90 percent of its presidential votes from white America,” will come to an end, especially since crucial GOP states like Texas are “hispanicizing.” Second, the “millions of immigrants, legal and illegal” who “do not bring the academic or professional skills of European-Americans” will replace actual “taxpayers” and suck the government dry.
Finally, test-scores will nose-dive because “more and more children taking those tests will be African-American and Hispanic.”
You know how every time Michele Bachmann opens her mouth it's kind of exciting because you never know what's going to come out, but then it's also terrifying because you're worried whatever she says will be taken seriously? Well, brace yourselves because today she's dropped a real doozy: she thinks the people of Iraq should pay us back for all of the money we spent invading them.
Hahaha, what? Is this some kind of Halloween prank? Nope. She's mentioned that they owe us big-time before, but now she's going all out.
A growing number of states are sharply limiting hospital stays under Medicaid to as few as 10 days a year to control rising costs of the health insurance program for the poor and disabled.
Advocates for the needy and hospital executives say the moves will restrict access to care, force hospitals to absorb more costs and lead to higher charges for privately insured patients.
States defend the actions as a way to balance budgets hammered by the economic downturn and the end of billions of dollars in federal stimulus funds this summer that had helped prop up Medicaid, financed jointly by states and the federal government.
Saturday, October 22, 2011
Could the brain be using electromagnetic fields to communicate between hemispheres — the electromagnetic field theory of consciousness proposed by Johnjoe McFadden (School of Biomedical and Life Sciences, University of
Neuroscientists at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have made a puzzling finding: people born without a corpus callosum (which links the two hemispheres of the brain) — a condition called agenesis of the corpus callosum, or AgCC — still show remarkably normal communication across the gap between the two halves of their brains.
According to J. Michael Tyszka, associate director of the Caltech Brain Imaging Center, many areas of the brain display slowly varying patterns of activity that are similar to one another. The fact that these areas are synchronized has led many scientists to presume that they are all part of an interconnected network called a resting-state network.
Much to their surprise, Tyszka and his team found that these resting-state networks look essentially normal in people with AgCC, despite the lack of connectivity.
“This was a real surprise,” says Tyszka. “We expected to see a lot less coupling between the left and right brain in this group — after all, they are missing about 200 million connections that would normally be there. How do they manage to have normal communication between the left and right sides of the brain without the corpus callosum?”
The US suffered a major diplomatic and military rebuff on Friday when Iraq finally rejected its pleas to maintain bases in the country beyond this year.
Barack Obama announced at a White House press conference that all American troops will leave Iraq by the end of December, a decision forced by the final collapse of lengthy talks between the US and the Iraqi government on the issue.
The Iraqi decision is a boost to Iran, which has close ties with many members of the Iraqi government and which had been battling against the establishment of permanent American bases.
Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud died in New York early Saturday, officials said, raising succession questions in the key oil-producing country.
Prince Sultan, the half-brother of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, died "outside the kingdom following an illness," the Saudi royal court said in a statement.
Reports in recent years have indicated that Crown Prince Sultan was battling cancer.
Henry James maintained his innocence all during the 30 years he's spent in Angola prison in Louisiana after he was convicted for the rape of his neighbor. Today, he will finally walk free, his conviction overturned by a Jefferson Parish judge.
A jury convicted James in 1982 after his neighbor picked him out of a lineup as the man who raped her. The Innocence Project, a nonprofit group that works to exonerate falsely convicted inmates, says the woman had earlier told police that she didn't know or recognize her attacker. James argued that she did know him, and that he had contact with both the victim and the her husband. His lawyers also produced three witnesses to back up his alibi, but James was still sent to prison at the age of 20 with a life sentence.
The Innocence Project tried to find DNA evidence from the rape in order to test it and confirm whether James was innocent. But the original evidence had been lost. It wasn't until May of last year that a lab tech accidentally stumbled upon a slide of evidence while researching a different case. The ensuing DNA testing excluded James as the rapist.
Anyone who wants to understand the enduring nature of Occupy Wall Street and similar protests across the country need only look at the first official data on 2010 paychecks, which the U.S. government posted on the Internet on Wednesday.
The figures from payroll taxes reported to the Social Security Administration on jobs and pay are, in a word, awful.
These are important and powerful figures. Maybe the reason the government does not announce their release — and so far I am the only journalist who writes about them each year — is the data show how the United States smolders while Washington fiddles.
Yet another Republican presidential hopeful seems to have a one-state strategy. Michele Bachmann's entire paid staff in New Hampshire has quit the campaign, which is increasingly focusing all of its resources on a victory in the Iowa caucuses.
President Barack Obama on Friday announced that virtually all U.S. troops will come home from Iraq by the end of the year -- at which point he can declare an end to America's long and costly war in that Middle Eastern nation.
"After nearly nine years, America's war in Iraq will be over," Obama said. "The coming months will be a season of homecomings. Our troops in Iraq will definitely be home for the holidays."
Of the 39,000 troops in Iraq, about 150, a negligible force, will remain to assist in arms sales, a U.S. official told CNN. The rest will be out of Iraq by December 31.
The president said he was making good on his 2008 campaign pledge to end a war that has divided the nation since it began in 2003 and claimed more than 4,400 American lives.The announcement also came after talks that might have allowed a continued major military presence broke down amid disputes about whether U.S. troops would be immune to prosecution by Iraqi authorities.
Obama spoke with Iraqi President Nuri al-Maliki in a video conference Friday, after which he said both nations were comfortable with the decision on how to move forward.
The new partnership with Iraq will be "strong and enduring," Obama said.
Friday, October 21, 2011
Politicians love to make claims about how many jobs their proposals will create. As a practical matter, readers should immediately discount such assertions, since they are often based on guesstimates that are then extrapolated beyond reality. One good example of such a dubious claim is one made by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in August about the Federal Aviation Administration funding bill, for which he earned Three Pinocchios.
But the current battle over the jobs bills is, of course, about jobs. President Obama has toured the country, making the case for his plan while frequently citing an estimate by one economist that nearly 2 million jobs would be saved or created. Bloomberg News surveyed 34 economists and came up with a decidedly smaller average – the plan would “add or keep 275,000 employees on payrolls.” Still, the economists concluded the president’s plan might help avoid a recession in the next year.
Senate Republicans, including Rand Paul (Ky.), John McCain (Ariz.) and Rob Portman (Ohio), last week unveiled what they labeled as their alternative to Obama’s plan. Their plan was mostly a mish-mash of previous offered bills, such as that hardy perennial--a balanced budget amendment to the constitution. (Some experts would argue that such a requirement could hurt employment if government spending dropped too quickly.)
The Earth's surface really is getting warmer, a new analysis by a US scientific group set up in the wake of the "Climategate" affair has concluded.
The Berkeley Earth Project has used new methods and some new data, but finds the same warming trend seen by groups such as the UK Met Office and Nasa.
The project received funds from sources that back organisations lobbying against action on climate change.
"Climategate", in 2009, involved claims global warming had been exaggerated.
Emails of University of East Anglia (UEA) climate scientists were hacked, posted online and used by critics to allege manipulation of climate change data.
The Berkeley group says it has also found evidence that changing sea temperatures in the north Atlantic may be a major reason why the Earth's average temperature varies globally from year to year.
The project was established by University of California physics professor Richard Muller, who was concerned by claims that established teams of climate researchers had not been entirely open with their data.
He gathered a team of 10 scientists, mostly physicists, including such luminaries as Saul Perlmutter, winner of this year's Nobel Physics Prize for research showing the Universe's expansion is accelerating.
Funding came from a number of sources, including charitable foundations maintained by the Koch brothers, the billionaire US industrialists, who have also donated large sums to organisations lobbying against acceptance of man-made global warming.
"I was deeply concerned that the group [at UEA] had concealed discordant data," Prof Muller told BBC News.
"Science is best done when the problems with the analysis are candidly shared."
The group's work also examined claims from "sceptical" bloggers that temperature data from weather stations did not show a true global warming trend.
The claim was that many stations have registered warming because they are located in or near cities, and those cities have been growing - the urban heat island effect.
The Berkeley group found about 40,000 weather stations around the world whose output has been recorded and stored in digital form.
It developed a new way of analysing the data to plot the global temperature trend over land since 1800.
What came out was a graph remarkably similar to those produced by the world's three most important and established groups, whose work had been decried as unreliable and shoddy in climate sceptic circles.
Thursday, October 20, 2011
If you’d have told anyone this time last year that the darling of the GOP would be an old, black pizza baron, you’d probably have been laughed out of the Tea Party rally. Lo and behold, we're 12 months away from the 2012 presidential election, and Herman Cain—an old, black pizza baron—is outpolling his GOP presidential opponents, including far more qualified candidates like Mitt Romney.
But while the polls may be on the 65-year-old’s side for now, reality will not be, and the reality is this: Herman Cain is not your next president. Herman Cain is your next Sarah Palin.
First, let’s realize that the polling about Cain doesn’t matter. The Florida straw poll he won recently was an event that cost $175 to attend, and only 996 people voted for Cain. If anyone thinks that’s a meaningful litmus test for how Cain would fare in a major election, they’re likely being blinded by the trendy candidate’s unfounded media buzz.
In April 2008, 8 percent of Americans told the Associated Press that they would feel uncomfortable voting for a black president. Assuming the actual number is higher due to the number of people ashamed of being forthcoming about their racism, it's likely that, when it comes right down to it, 12 to 15 percent of voters simply aren’t going to choose Cain over Romney or Texas Governor Rick Perry because of the color of his skin.