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“If a man has an apartment stacked to the ceiling with newspapers we call him crazy. If a woman has a trailer house full of cats we call her nuts. But when people pathologically hoard so much cash that they impoverish the entire nation, we put them on the cover of Fortune magazine and pretend that they are role models.”
-– B. Lester

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 The News: A Silver Anniversary for the World Wide Web

Business News
Do we have to celebrate Internet billionaires, too?

By Sam Pizzigati

Exactly 25 years ago, the British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee conceptually “invented” the World Wide Web — and set in motion a process that would rapidly make the online world an essential part of our daily lives.

By 1995, 14 percent of Americans were surfing the Web. The level today: 87 percent. And among young adults, the Pew Research Center notes, the Internet has reached “near saturation.”

Some 97 percent of Americans 18 to 29 are now going online.

Tim Berners-Lee never saw this inequality coming. He didn’t invent the Web to get rich. He released the code to his new system for free.

But others certainly have become rich via the Web. Some 123 billionaires today, Forbes calculates, owe their fortunes to high-tech. The top 15 of these high-tech billionaires hold a collective $382 billion in personal net worth. ...

Posted by Blue1moon on Thursday, March 20 @ 21:06:05 EDT (392 reads)
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 The News: Why You Should Fear Big Bad Cable

Action Alert
Comcast's plan to merge with Time Warner Cable could leave millions of Americans stranded on the digital equivalent of a winding dirt road.


 By Timothy Karr

Twenty-five years ago this month, Sir Tim Berners-Lee introduced an open protocol for sharing information that gave everyday Internet users the power over what they created and whom they connected with online.

His concept quickly evolved into the World Wide Web. One British research scientist’s idea for people-to-people communications became a global engine for empowerment, economic growth and free speech.

Berners-Lee’s idea was to create a web of limitless access and choice. And he was largely successful.

We can use YouTube to share and watch videos, or we can switch over to Vimeo, Instagram, or Blip. We can speak directly with friends using Skype, Hangout, FaceTime or other voice and video services. We can connect and communicate anything with anyone at any time.

But all of that could change. ...

Posted by Blue1moon on Wednesday, March 05 @ 21:09:09 EST (741 reads)
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 The News: Wisconsin’s Cheesy Innovation

Unusual News
By spraying city streets with cheese brine,
Milwaukee aims to save money and reduce pollution.


By Jim Hightower

For generations, picture-takers have instructed their subjects to say “cheese.”

Well, no people say “cheese” better than Wisconsinites, who unabashedly wear cheesehead hats in public, celebrate dozens of cheese festivals, have a Monterey Jack bacterium as the states’ official microbe, and generally honor the milk curd as a deity.

Naturally, Wisconsin would be the state to come up with the idea of spraying its city streets with cheese brine.

This isn’t some sort of cheesy tourist promotion, but an actual attempt to blend two problems into one clever solution. ...

Posted by Blue1moon on Monday, February 03 @ 18:54:48 EST (1011 reads)
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 The News: Making Out Like Bandits

Business News
Why aren't any big bankers doing time?

By Janine Jackson and Peter Hart

It seems like almost every week brings news about Wall Street’s latest sins.

“JPMorgan Is Penalized $2 Billion Over Madoff,” blared one recent New York Times headline, when the paper explained that Bernie Madoff, the infamous Ponzi scheme con artist, wheeled and dealed via accounts at the bank.

Just a few days later came this news: “Steep Penalties Taken in Stride by JPMorgan Chase.” In that article, the Times described how the banking behemoth would pay out $20 billion to cover its many government fines — without so much as breaking a sweat.

The Wall Street giant can admit wrongdoing — or even lawbreaking — and get away with paying a pocket-change fine. How do they get away with it?

Regulators, many of whom either have worked at the big banks or aim to do so in the future, are certainly willing to go easy on their former or future bosses. And politicians backed by industry dollars are apt to counsel that it’s better to look ahead than obsess about “the past.” ...

Posted by Blue1moon on Friday, January 17 @ 19:57:32 EST (1392 reads)
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 The News: Let the Sun Shine In

Environment
Why would the ALEC network of state-level lobbyists want to make solar energy cost-prohibitive for homeowners and businesses?

By Isaiah J. Poole

Now the Koch brothers are coming after my solar panels.

I had solar panels installed on the roof of our Washington, D.C. home this year. My household took advantage of a generous tax incentive from the District government and a creative leasing deal offered by the solar panel seller.

Our electric bills fell by at least a third. When people make this choice, the regional electric company grows less pressured to spend money to expand generating capacity and the installation business creates good local jobs. Customers who use solar energy also reduce carbon emissions.

What’s not to love?

According to the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative network better known as ALEC, our solar panels make us “free riders.” What?...

Posted by Blue1moon on Thursday, January 02 @ 22:14:57 EST (1718 reads)
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 The News: Israeli-Saudi Alliance Slips into View

InternationalBy Robert Parry

On Aug. 29, when I published an article entitled “The Saudi-Israeli Superpower” describing an emerging odd-couple alliance between those two traditional enemies, the story was met with skepticism in some quarters. But, increasingly, this secret alliance is going public.

On Oct. 2, Israel’s Channel 2 TV news reportedthat senior Israeli security officials met with a high-level Gulf state counterpart in Jerusalem, believed to be Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the former Saudi ambassador to the United States and now head of Saudi intelligence.

And, a day before that TV report, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hinted at the new relationship in his United Nations General Assembly speech, which was largely devoted to excoriating Iran over its nuclear program and threatening a unilateral Israeli military strike.

Amid the bellicosity, Netanyahu dropped in a largely missed clue about the evolving power relationships in the Middle East, saying: “The dangers of a nuclear-armed Iran and the emergence of other threats in our region have led many of our Arab neighbors to recognize, finally recognize, that Israel is not their enemy. And this affords us the opportunity to overcome the historic animosities and build new relationships, new friendships, new hopes.”

Besides the shared Saudi-Israeli animosity toward Iran, the growing behind-the-scenes collaboration also revolves around mutual interests in supporting the military coup in Egypt that removed the elected Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi and in seeking to overthrow the Assad regime in Syria.

In mid-September, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren even embraced the Saudi strategy in Syria when he announced that Israel would prefer to see the Saudi-backed jihadists prevail in Syria over the continuation of the Iran-backed government of President Bashar al-Assad....

Posted by Blue1moon on Monday, October 14 @ 19:59:26 EDT (1413 reads)
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 The News: A Golden Rule that Might Chip Away at Inequality

Business News
By making it mandatory for corporations to disclose the gap between what they pay their chief executives and most typical workers, the government will empower investors and consumers to compare individual corporations by their level of CEO greed.

By Sam Pizzigati

Watching grown men fulminate in public can be unnerving. Michael Piwowar and Daniel Gallagher — two distinctly CEO-friendly members of the federal Securities and Exchange Commission — recently did plenty of fulminating.

Piwowar and Gallagher had little choice. They were trying to defend the indefensible — the skyrocketing pay of America’s top executives — against a common-sense reform that lawmakers wrote into federal law three years ago.

That law, the Dodd-Frank Act, mandates that corporations annually reveal the ratio between what they pay their CEO and median, or most typical, worker.

Mandates like this don’t just automatically go into effect when a bill becomes law. Federal regulatory agencies have to draw up rules that spell out how any new mandate will be enforced. ...

Posted by Blue1moon on Wednesday, September 25 @ 23:11:07 EDT (1884 reads)
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 The News: Operation Secret Loopholes

Politics
Senate efforts to revamp the tax code are off to a rocky start, including a plan to keep taxpayers in the dark about their lawmakers' actions until 2063.

By Jo Comerford

The federal budget expresses our nation’s values and priorities in numbers. It’s a blueprint for how our elected officials plan to make money and how they plan to spend it.

What happens in Washington, D.C. has a profound local impact. About 80 percent of all federal tax revenue comes from the paychecks of regular Americans, and every single person and every community in the nation is affected by federal spending priorities.

That means rewriting the tax code should be done in the open. A rewrite of the complex and arcane U.S. Tax Code — all 18 pounds of it in its paperback form — has begun in the Senate. More than $1 trillion per year in tax breaks, which are also called loopholes or tax expenditures, are on the table. ...

Posted by Blue1moon on Friday, September 20 @ 23:08:22 EDT (1745 reads)
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 The News: How I Exposed an Undercover Cop

History / CultureSpying on protesters is the worst violation of our freedom.

By Lacy MacAuley

She was an undercover cop who called herself “Missy.” When I first met her four years ago, I couldn’t have known that the small-framed woman with spiky brown hair and intense eyes was anything but a fellow activist showing up for a protest in Washington, D.C.

I certainly didn’t know she was actually Nicole Rizzi, an undercover cop ordered to secretly spy on peaceful protesters, violate our freedom of speech and assembly, and disregard our right to privacy.

Sure, I thought something was odd about her. She stared just a little too long. Her irreverent sense of humor made the hair stand up on the backs of a lot of necks. Her favorite t-shirt read “OBEY” and it wasn’t clear that she wore it for the irony.

When I looked at her rippling arm muscles, I wondered whether they came from workouts at some spy academy or a downtown yoga studio.

So sure, I did suspect from the start that she could be an FBI agent, a police officer, or something else. But if you start being suspicious of newcomers, every honest newbie will look like an infiltrator. I kept my paranoia mostly to myself. ...

Posted by Blue1moon on Monday, August 19 @ 21:05:25 EDT (1622 reads)
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 The News: Manning, Snowden and Swarz: America’s Police State Marches On, Media in Tow

Internationalby: Dave Lindorff

BREAKING!: It could well be that the harsh pretrial treatment of Bradley Manning and the harsh verdict handed down against him Tuesday may have been what convinced Russian authorities of the validity of National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden’s appeal for asylum, which his Russian attorney and his father have both now announced has been granted this morning. (Snowden in his application asserted that he cannot hope to receive a fair trial in the US, where Washington leaders have been publicly calling him a traitor and have been clamoring for harsh punishment, and where even the president has condemned him as a “hacker,” instead of a whistleblower who exposed the nation’s ubiquitous spying on all electronic communications of all Americans in wholesale violation of the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution). Snowden has reportedly left the Moscow airport where he had been stranded by US revocation of his passport, and has entered Moscow as a political refugee from US state terror.

The New York Times, in an editorial published the day after a military judge found Pvt. Bradley Manning “not guilty” of “aiding the enemy” -- a charge that would have locked him up for life without possibility of parole and could have carried the death penalty -- but also found him guilty on multiple counts of “espionage,” called the verdict (not guilty of aiding the enemy, guilty of espionage) “Mixed.”

The Times editorial writers were as mixed up as the judge, though. ...

Posted by Blue1moon on Thursday, August 01 @ 16:43:15 EDT (904 reads)
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 The News: Actually, It Is About You

Politics
When the media covers immigration, it leaves immigrants out of the conversation.

By Peter Hart

Unless you’re a politician or a star athlete, the news of the day is rarely about your life. But sometimes, the media is buzzing quite specifically about you. Are you part of that conversation? Nope.

That kind of treatment is reserved for people who lack political power, yet are the subjects of media coverage.

Like immigrants. Congress has been working for months to pass a law that would, among other things, provide a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants currently living in this country. That’s millions of lives directly impacted by this conversation. But the media hardly give immigrants a chance to speak.

Who are media talking to about immigration? When the media watch group FAIR, where I work, looked at a month of TV coverage around the president’s State of theUnion address, the voices of immigrants could hardly be heard. We counted 157 sources in total addressing immigration issues. The vast majority were U.S.-born white male politicians.

Only three sources were identified as current or former undocumented immigrants — the people the conversation was about. ...

Posted by Blue1moon on Wednesday, July 24 @ 21:19:32 EDT (726 reads)
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 The News: An Endangered Species Up in Arms

History / Culture
The number of students taking humanities courses is plummeting, and financing for liberal arts education is being tea-partied to death.

By Donald Kaul

As many of you already have intuited, I don’t know everything. Nobody does, I suppose. More importantly, I don’t know everything about anything.

I’m what used to be called “a generalist,” someone whose knowledge in any direction is a mile wide and a quarter-inch deep.

Sad to say, we generalists are an endangered species.

Everywhere, the pressure is on young people to specialize. They’re also being urged to concentrate on the so-called STEM subjects: science, technology, engineering, and math. Why? These are disciplines that can predictably get you a job upon graduating from college.

A Florida task force last year went so far as to suggest that college courses in the humanities — literature, history, the social sciences, the arts — be made more expensive than STEM courses just to steer students away from them. ...

Posted by Blue1moon on Monday, July 01 @ 20:40:00 EDT (411 reads)
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 The News: Supreme Court Strikes Down Current Coverage Formula to Voting Rights Act

PoliticsFrom aclu.org

NEW YORK – In a 5-4 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court today struck down the coverage formula used to determine which states and political subdivisions are subject to the preclearance requirement of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, a civil rights law that has protected the right to vote for people of color since 1965. Importantly, however, today's decision did not strike down Section 5 itself, leaving it to Congress to devise a new coverage formula.

The American Civil LibertiesUnion intervened in the case on behalf of the Alabama State Conference of the NAACP and several residents of Shelby County whose voting rights are directly impacted by the county's challenge.

"The court's decision presents a real challenge to Americans' fundamental right to vote. It is also a significant departure from the Supreme Court's previous four decisions over four decades recognizing that Congress is in the best position to judge the value of the preclearance requirement and where it is most needed," said Laughlin McDonald, special counsel and director emeritus of the ACLU's Voting Rights Project. ...

Posted by Blue1moon on Tuesday, June 25 @ 21:24:58 EDT (282 reads)
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 The News: A Rotten Bacon Behemoth

Business News
If a Chinese company's bid to acquire Smithfield goes through, consumers and farmers will suffer.

By Wenonah Hauter

American consumers may not even notice the change if a newly proposed takeover by China’s largest meat processor of our nation’s leading pork company goes through. But the $4.7 billion transaction would certainly show up on our plates: in the form of farmer exploitation, more factory farms, and a more complicated supply chain that increases the risk of food contamination.

We should all be leery of deals like Shuanghui International Holdings Ltd.’s proposed purchase of Smithfield Foods Inc. They further consolidate our food system, which is already dominated by a mere handful of Big Ag players. And when these cross-border corporate takeovers involve companies with a history of food safety problems and countries with abysmal track records for food and worker safety, our government should refuse to let them go forward.

Putting profits above people is a cross-cultural problem. Smithfield owns more hogs than the next eight largest U.S. hog producers combined. It slaughters more hogs than any other company in the world and the company has a growing stranglehold over U.S. farmers, who have fewer options for selling their hogs at the market and are prey to abusive contractors from processors like Smithfield. ...

Posted by Blue1moon on Tuesday, June 11 @ 18:06:38 EDT (307 reads)
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 The News: New ACLU Report Finds Overwhelming Racial Bias in Marijuana Arrests

History / Culture
Groundbreaking Analysis Finds Marijuana Arrests Comprise Nearly Half of All Drug Arrests

From: aclu.org

NEW YORK – Black people are 3.7 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white people despite comparable usage rates, according to a report released today by the American Civil Liberties Union. The report also found that marijuana arrests now make up nearly half of all drug arrests, with police making over 7 million marijuana possession arrests between 2001 and 2010. "The War on Marijuana in Black and White: Billions of Dollars Wasted on Racially Biased Arrests" is the first-ever report to examine nationwide state and county marijuana arrest data by race.

"The war on marijuana has disproportionately been a war on people of color," said Ezekiel Edwards, director of the ACLU Criminal Law Reform Project and one of the primary authors of the report. "State and local governments have aggressively enforced marijuana laws selectively against Black people and communities, needlessly ensnaring hundreds of thousands of people in the criminal justice system at tremendous human and financial cost."

The findings show that while there were pronounced racial disparities in marijuana arrests 10 years ago, they have grown significantly worse. In counties with the worst disparities, Blacks were as much as 30 times more likely to be arrested. The racial disparities exist in all regions of the U.S., as well as in both large and small counties, cities and rural areas, and in both high- and low-income communities. Disparities are also consistently high whether Blacks make up a small or a large percentage of a county's overall population. ...

Posted by Blue1moon on Thursday, June 06 @ 21:16:23 EDT (344 reads)
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