Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Posted by Alan Wexelblat
First off, there's the #3 man at Justice, Thomas Perrelli, accurately described by CNET as "beloved by the RIAA". Not only has this guy been on the wrong side in the courtroom, he's fingered as instrumental in convincing the Copyright Board to strangle Web radio in its crib by imposing impossible fee structures.
Then there's the #2 man, currently slated to be David Ogden. If that name only rings a faint bell it's because you have to cast your mind back to Eldred v Ashcroft, the argument on whether retroactive copyright term extensions were legal. Sitting over there on Ashcroft's side? That's Mr. Odgen. For extra-bonus ick points, Ogden also was involved in defending the heinous COPA legislation, fortunately now dead and buried (but not forgotten).
The capper on this line-up of suspicious characters is Donald Verrilli, now up for Associate Deputy Attorney General. This specimen of legal acumen is front and center in the Cartel's jihad, having appeared for Viacom when it sued YouTube, for the RIAA against Jammie Thomas, single mother. And if we peer back a little farther, we find Verrilli's dirty fingerprints on MGM v Grokster.
MUNICH, Feb. 8 -- President Obama's national security team gave a dire assessment Sunday of the war in Afghanistan, with one official calling it a challenge "much tougher than Iraq" and others hinting that it could take years to turn around.
U.S. officials said more troops were urgently needed, both from America and its NATO allies, to counter the increasing strength of the Taliban and warlords opposed to the central government in Kabul. They also said new approaches were needed to untangle an inefficient and conflicting array of civilian-aid programs that have wasted billions of dollars.
"NATO's future is on the line here," Richard C. Holbrooke, the State Department's special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, told attendees at an international security conference here. "It's going to be a long, difficult struggle. . . . In my view, it's going to be much tougher than Iraq."
by David Edwards and Jeremy Gantz
The American adventure in Iraq may be only halfway over, nearly six years after former President George W. Bush ordered the U.S. invasion. And the military gains from Bush's "surge" could evaporate this year.
That's according to Thomas Ricks, author of the widely acclaimed 2006 book on the war, Fiasco.
"I think a lot of people back here [in the U.S.] incorrectly think the war is over. We may be only halfway through this thing," Ricks told NBC's David Gregory on Meet the Press Sunday morning.
Ricks, whose new book is called The Gamble: General David Petraeus and the American Military Adventure in Iraq, 2006-2008, thinks that the Iraq war is far from over. "This year we're in now, '09, is going to be, I think, a surprisingly tough year," he said.
U.S. commander in Iraq General Raymond Odierno, who the Washington Post calls a "dissenter," sees negative effects of the surge, Rick says: many Iraqis used the breathing space the surge created to "step backwards" to become more sectarian and divided.
Leading Democrats such as Senator Dianne Feinstein have said that the U.S. troop surge in Iraq could fall short of its goal.
"None of the basic problems that the surge was meant to solve, have been solved. All the basic issues facing Iraq are still there," Ricks told Gregory. "Basically the surge succeeded militarily, failed politically."
You might think you're eating healthy. You might want to think again.
by Michelle Brunner
We all love to eat, but the ugly reality is that some foods can make you sick. We're not talking about salmonella here; none of what's listed below should send you directly to the hospital with a debilitating illness, though Jeremy Piven recently claimed to have mercury sickness from a diet too rich in sushi. While the verdict is still out on Piven's poisoning, certain foods, when eaten too frequently, can pose a very real health risk over time (especially if you are thinking of having a baby or if you are feeding a small child).
The dangers of these foods range from PCBs in certain fish, to large trace amounts of pesticides on fresh fruit and veggies. This past year, the National Institutes of Health even linked long-term pesticide exposure to diabetes. To avoid these health risks, we came up with a list of ten foods to beware, both for your health and for the health of the environment.
Tim Fitzgerald, a scientist with the Oceans Program of the Environmental Defense Fund, says, "Salmon is the third most popular seafood in the US, so people are eating a lot of it and most of what they're eating is farmed. As a result of the feed salmon are given, they are very high in PCBs and environmental contaminants. For reasons of health, the environment, and popularity with consumers, farmed salmon is at the top of the list of seafood to avoid." The average dioxin level in farmed-raised salmon is 11 times higher than that in wild salmon.
Even though pesticides are present in most food at very small trace levels, their negative impact on health is well documented, and certain produce carries a greater risk. According to a report done by the Environmental Working Group, sweet bell peppers are the vegetable with the most pesticides detected on a single sample (as many as 11 were found on one sample). In addition, bell peppers are the vegetable with the most pesticides overall with 64 different pesticides found on samples. Better to buy organic and eliminate this risk.
In order to increase sweetness, some growers of non-organic strawberries are said to irrigate the plants with water laced with the artificial sweetener NutraSweet. And that luscious red color is caused by the fungicide captan, recognized by the EPA as aprobable human carcinogen. Do you really want to eat something bathed in a chemical sweetener and doused with a likely cancer-causer? Probably not.
Chilean sea bass, otherwise known as Patagonian toothfish, lives for a very long time and grows to a large size; both are automatic warning bells for being high in mercury. Fitzgerald says, "We have some pretty comprehensive data that Chilean sea bass are extraordinarily high in mercury and not something you want to eat very often. When you factor in the very serious environmental issues with illegal fishing and bycatch, it's definitely a double whammy for us."
"That said, we don't want to give the impression that if you eat one piece of fish with mercury, you're going to get mercury poisoning. But if you continually eat fish with a lot of mercury over an extended period of time, that's when you're going to see more serious issues like unexplainable fatigue, memory problems, and tingling or numbness in your extremities," Fitzgerald says.
5. Non-Organic Peaches
Peaches aren't just juicy and delicious, they're magnets for pesticides, often topping the Organic Center's consumer's pocket guide for pesticide-riddled produce. The Center's chief scientist Charles Benbrook says, "Peaches top the list because their skins get soft at the end of their season on the tree and the last pesticide spray can move right through that skin and get into the tissue of the fruit in a matter of hours. That's why it's easy to find peaches with ten different pesticide residues in them."
Benbrook adds, "The last thing that we want to do is scrooge people from eating fresh fruits and vegetables. If anything, we want people to eat two to three more servings of produce a day. But the science is irrefutable. If the average family sought out organic versions of the top four fruits and vegetables they eat the most often, they could eliminate 90% of their overall pesticide exposure."
(Update: New numbers have come out indicating cuts are 88 billion, not the 120 we heard last night. In that case the difference between the original Senate and the Gang of four compromise would be 951,000.)
The bottom line on the changes demanded by "centrist" gang of four Senators Collins, Specter, Lieberman and Nelson is that the compromise Senate bill will create about 728,143 fewer jobs less than the House bill. This is a back on the envelope figure and very rough, but if anything it should be a slight underestimate. If you compare the compromised Senate Bill to the pre-gang Senate bill, it comes out to 1,271,000 fewer jobs.
Friday night during the stimulus debate Senator Ben Nelson (D-Neb) said that:
"Our plan pares back a very substantial amount of money that we believed didn't belong in the bill. Didn't belong in a bill that was designed to fix our economy called a stimulus package.
Now if we looked at these proposals many of them will work well in a budget or in another bill.
But we just didn't think that they deserved to be in this particular bill which was about jobs, jobs, jobs. Now if we ask taxpayers to support it as we are, they deserve to get the biggest bang for their buck. The remaining plan will generate new jobs, save jobs and expands job opportunities all across America as it also boosts our economy."
Clearly, Ben Nelson doesn't know what he's talking about. Worse than that, White House Press Officer Robert Gibbs then congratulated Nelson and co. for gutting the bill:
On the day when we learned 3.6 million people have lost their jobs since this recession began, we are pleased the process is moving forward and we are closer to getting Americans a plan to create millions of jobs and get people back to work
Here are the assumptions and the math.
The House Bill was $819 billion. Of that $275 billion were tax cuts. Spending was $544 billion.
According to the CBO $140,000 of GDP means one job created. However different types of stimulus have different GDP multipliers. In general tax cuts, especially tax cuts like the AMT fix put into the Senate bill, have lower GDP multipliers. For the purposes of this analysis let's assume that tax cuts have a .5 GDP multiplier. For spending we'll assume a 1.4 multiplier, which is probably slightly low since, for example, food stamps appear to have been cut out of the bill and they have a 1.7+ multiplier.
The tax cut increases will increase job creation. Total tax cut increase is $52.6 billion. $52.6 billion/140,000x0.5 jobs = 187,857 jobs created.
The spending cuts will decrease job creation. Total spending cuts are $91.6 billion. $91.6 billion/140,000x1.4 = 916,000 job losses.
Add job gains to job losses and you get a net loss of 728,143 jobs.
This is what the Republicans and Blue Dog Dems are turning their backs on:
All over the New Jersey, the welfare lines are getting longer and longer. Victims of the recession are lining up to apply for food stamps and seek help paying for utilities, rent and subsidized health care in numbers that veteran social service workers have never seen before.
While the lines may run the longest in urban Essex County, rural Salem County and suburban Middlesex see the same thing: lines getting longer, lines made up more and more of people that have never stood there before.
Nikki Hernez, a 45-year-old Newark bus driver looking for work since October, said she has stood in lines all over the county. She walked 2 1/2 miles to a Newark office Monday to pick up a bus pass, only to be told to come back Thursday because the office was so jammed.
Hernez finds the line in East Orange office the most chaotic.
"The line at 50 South Clinton Avenue is crazy -- people get there early in the morning, a lot of the people are cursing, yelling and screaming," Hernez said.
"You gotta understand, people are under so much pressure there is only so much they can take," said Hernez, who ran out of unemployment benefits and applied for welfare in the fall. "But even I tell them, real nice, you're not going to get anything quick by cursing the worker out."
[...] They include people like Joan, a 52-year-old Warren County resident who applied for public assistance in December, after years of holding white-collar and part-time tutoring jobs. County workers told her to come back in January because they were "so overloaded," she said.
Joan, who declined to reveal her full name to protect her son's privacy, said she doesn't blame the county workers -- "good people doing the best they can. But I have always been a taxpaying citizen. I am playing by the rules and I can't get help."
And really, that's what it's about. If even people who worked hard and played by the rules can't get help, our leadership is a joke and our system a complete failure:
She said she pawned jewelry to make a car payment, and put food on the table by going to food pantries and taking handouts from friends and family until, upon her third visit, the county came through with a one-time food stamp grant for $227 last month.
"I never thought I would be in this situation," Joan added. "Something has to be done about people like me."
By Zachary Roth
Last month, Theresa Hatt died at 52, after a brief struggle with cancer.
Hatt, who lived in Portland, Maine, and worked for the city of Scarborough, had had several credit cards in her name. So, shortly after her death, Hatt's son, Paul Kelleher, began the sad task of calling his mother's creditors, to inform them of her passing.
The calls were uneventful, if depressing, until Kelleher got to Bank of America. Here is how he says his conversation with a representative of the company's estates unit went:
Paul Kelleher: Yes, I'm calling to inform you that my mom died on the 24th of January.
Bank of America Estates representative: I'm sorry. Oh, it looks like she never even missed a payment. That's too bad. Well, how are you planning to take care of her balance?
PK: I'm not going to. She has no estate to speak of, but you should feel free to just go through the standard probate procedure. I'm certainly not legally obligated to pay for her.
BOA: You mean you're not going to help her out?
PK: I wouldn't be helping her out -- she's dead. I'd be helping you out.
BOA: Oh, that's really not the way to look at it. I know that if it were my mother, I'd pay it. That's why we're in the banking crisis we're in: banks having to write off defaulted loans.
"I lost it there," Kelleher, a mild-mannered 30-year-old who lives in Brookline, Mass., where he works remotely for a Washington DC-based non-profit, told TPMMuckraker. When pressed, he said, the estates rep backed off that last claim, but only a little, continuing to suggest that cases like his mothers had played a role in the financial crisis.
The rep's apparent intention, as Kelleher described it, was to mislead him into believing that he was obligated -- at first legally, then, failing that, morally -- to cover his mother's debt (which, in any case, was not large: she had had a $1000 limit on her card). Of course, Kelleher was sophisticated enough to know that's not true. But how many other less savvy callers in similar situations, he wondered, might respond to the rep's breezy "how are you planning to take care of her balance?," with a confused "I guess I'll mail in a check"?
And what bothered Kelleher as much as the estate rep's insensitivity, not to mention her apparent effort to deceive, was the impression he got that she wasn't winging it.
"It seemed rote," Kelleher said. "It was too naturally delivered to have been a misstatement."
That impression was strengthened when Kelleher eventually spoke with the rep's supervisor, Eric Davis. Kelleher said that when he recounted his conversation with the rep, Davis apologized -- for what, exactly, it was unclear -- but told him: "That's not how she meant it."
From his conversation with Davis, said Kelleher, "it sounded like [the rep's approach] was encouraged."
How strongly encouraged, we wondered? And how common was this particular rep's approach? So we tracked down a former rep for Bank of America's collections unit. And according to the former rep, Kelleher's interlocutor was doing just what she was told .
To: Kellogg's Corporation
1) Kellogg's is a major manufacturer of cereal and junk food products including but not limited to Frosted Flakes, Pop Tarts, Cheez-Its, Froot Loops, Keebler's Cookies, Rice Krispies, Eggo Frozen Waffles, Famous Amos Cookies and many other products known to be a part of the diet of many marijuana using Americans
2) The Kellogg's has profited for decades on the food tastes of marijuana using Americans with the munchies. In fact, we believe that most people over the age of twelve would not eat Kellogg's products were they not wicked high.
3)That Kellogg's has decided to end their relationship with Olympic Swimmer Michael Phelps after pictures of him surfaced doing exactly what most Kellogg's customers do right before enjoying a bowl of Rice Krispies mixed with Keebler Cookies with an Eggo on top.
4) That this action by Kellogg's, while legal, is totally bogus.
5) That Kellogg's is a big fat hypocrite, just like our parents when they found our stash under our mattress and took it and then later they sat in the living room and listened the Dark Side Of The Moon over and over and danced and laughed and I swear we smelled something.
6) That a quick Wikipedia search shows the founder of Kellogg's - john Harvey Kellogg - was a total frickin' weirdo who believe in putting children's genitals in a cage to keep them from playing with themselves and also believed in yogurt enemas.
7) That seriously, just Google John Harvey Kellogg. Dude was freaky.
8) That the thing about yogurt enemas makes us want to hurl when we look at that box of Kellogg's Yogos we have in the pantry.
9) That Michael Phelps should totally drop YOU dudes for your obsession with bran and fiber and masturbation and butts and stuff. You drop HIM? Dude won eight gold medals and probably didn't stick a single one in his butt or tie it in tourniquet around his naughty bits. Dude was just trying to relax. Seriously Kellogg's, WTF?
Given all these facts and the total disregard for your customer base and that thing with the yogurt, we the undersigned plan to BOYCOTT your products.
And we're serious.
Even though the Pop Tarts thing will be HARD.
The frozen remains of two mice infected with the bubonic plague are missing from a New Jersey bioterror research facility, and the facility waited seven weeks to report the incident to federal and state authorities.
Officials with the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in Newark, where the remains went missing, and FBI officials, said the missing mice pose no public health threat.
This is the same facility where three live plague-inflected mice went missing in September 2005. Officials concluded those mice died.
The frozen mice were noticed missing when an animal care supervisor went to prepare them for sterilization and incineration, the New Jersey Star-Ledger reported. University officials still think the remains were incinerated earlier, but lack the records to prove it.
University officials say they contacted the FBI, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state health officials when they realized the dead mice were unaccounted for.
by Philip Brenner and Saul Landau
President Barack Obama could swiftly improve U.S. relations with Latin America by announcing the death of the Monroe Doctrine and then presiding over its funeral. Such a statement would cost him little domestically, and win him praise and appreciation throughout Latin America and much of the world.
Most Americans don't know the details of this 185-year-old policy and could care less about it. Latin Americans, in contrast, not only can describe the Monroe Doctrine, but they revile it. In effect, it has become nothing more than hollow rhetoric that offends the very people it purports to defend.
In 1823, Secretary of State John Quincy Adams wrote, and President James Monroe proclaimed, a doctrine that asserted U.S. political character is different from Europe's. The United States, President Monroe declared, would consider the extension of Europe's monarchical political influence into the New World "as dangerous to our peace and safety." European powers should leave the Americas for the Americans, he warned, and he strongly implied that there existed a U.S. sphere of influence south of the border.
At the time, Europe shrugged. After all, the United States possessed neither a formidable army nor navy. But three serious problems fundamentally vitiated this apparently noble gesture to protect newly independent republics in South America from European re-colonization.
First, Washington proclaimed it unilaterally. Latin Americans didn't ask us for protection. U.S. diplomats didn't even consult their counterparts. That was ironic, since the Doctrine's "protection" involved placing the United States between Latin American countries and supposedly malevolent European states.
Second, its paternalism — the claim that "our southern brethren" lack the ability to defend themselves — raises hackles in Latin America. Even if the implication had some validity at one time, it no longer corresponds to the region's reality.
The third and most problematic issue Obama faces from the outmoded doctrine relates to its legacy. For more than a century, the United States has periodically intervened in the domestic affairs of Latin American countries. Typically the United States invoked the Monroe Doctrine — without threats from Europe — to justify self-serving intrusions that have inflicted heavy damage on Latin American dignity and sovereignty.