Thursday, March 06, 2014
Your generic drug prescription doesn't give you country of origin
And that could be a problem. Now that the FDA is actually looking at various pharmaceuticals manufactured in other countries, you might really want to know that (or not).
America’s $93 billion pipeline of generic pharmaceuticals often starts in places like Toansa, a village in northern India where a drug-making facility rises up beside mustard fields and manure-flecked ox-cart tracks.If the non-US markets don't want shit in their pills, they can send over their own inspectors.
Toansa’s factory complex -- owned by Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd., one of India’s largest drugmakers -- has for years produced ingredients for dozens of pharmaceuticals sold to Americans, including AstraZeneca Plc’s top-selling heartburn medication Nexium, as well as its own generic copies of drugs including Pfizer Inc.’s Lipitor.
Ranbaxy and its Toansa factory are in the crosshairs of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which has recently taken a tougher stance on the quality of generic drugs originating in India amid complaints by doctors and others. The agency said last month that it has begun a $20 million program to test generic drugs.
In January, FDA inspectors paid a surprise visit to the facility in Toansa, in a rural area north of New Delhi, and found broken equipment, windows stuck open and flies “too numerous to count,” according to the FDA’s report of its inspection. Workers ran quality tests over and over until they got the results they wanted, the FDA noted.
Shortly after, the FDA banned the import of drug components made at the Toansa plant.
Ranbaxy voluntarily suspended all shipments of active pharmaceutical ingredients, or APIs, from Toansa and a second Indian plant, Dewas, after the FDA ban, Ranbaxy’s parent company, Tokyo-based Daiichi Sankyo Co., said in a Feb. 25 statement. Ranbaxy is continuing to make drugs for non-U.S. markets using API inventory from Toansa and Dewas and from external sources, Yasuki Minobe, a Daiichi spokesman, said by telephone March 4.
And what do they expect they can do?
Somebody always finds a way to harsh our buzz
And the potential problems for medical marijuana growers and sellers following the legalization for recreational purposes are a real buzzkill.
The legalization of recreational marijuana for adults in Washington, approved by voters in 2012 and now being phased in, is proving an unexpectedly anxious time for the users, growers and dispensers of medical marijuana, who came before and in many ways blazed the trail for marijuana’s broader acceptance.Bummer!
In the 16 years since medical marijuana became legal here, an entire ecosystem of neighborhood businesses and cooperative gardens took root, with employees who could direct medical users to just the right strain; there are now hundreds of varieties with names like Blue Healer, Purple Urkle and LA Confidential, each with a variety of purported medicinal benefits. Medical users could also start gardens in their backyards and keep large amounts of marijuana at home. It was all very folksy – and virtually unregulated, which the authorities say led to widespread abuses.
Now, under pressure from the federal government, the state is moving to bring that loosely regulated world, with its echoes of hippie culture, into the tightly controlled and licensed commercial system being created for recreational marijuana, which goes on sale this summer. (The first license to grow marijuana was issued on Wednesday.) This week, the Legislature is debating bills that would reduce the amount of the drug that patients can possess or grow, eliminate collective gardens under which most dispensaries operate, require medical users (unlike recreational users) to register with the state and mandate that all marijuana be sold only by new licensees, effectively shutting down the medical dispensary system.
Proponents say the changes are needed to stamp out fraud and help ensure that Washington has a uniform system, supplying the medical products people need and want while at the same time passing muster with guidelines issued by the federal government last summer, even though marijuana remains illegal under federal law. But many medical marijuana users and dispensary owners say the rules will inadvertently discourage the legitimate use of marijuana to treat illness and pain even as science has increasingly been validating its therapeutic effects.
Trusted dispensaries will be shuttered, they contend, and choices will diminish, with the varieties that marijuana medical users prefer squeezed off the shelves by more profitable recreational varieties grown for their greater, high-producing THC content, not for headache or nausea relief. In Seattle alone, about 200 dispensaries will have to close, replaced by 21 licensed retailers, and under current state regulations, employees in those shops will not be allowed to even discuss the medical value of the products for sale.
A medical marijuana user will of course certainly be able to enter a shop and buy marijuana, just like any other adult, once the new stores are open in June, but the old system of medical advice and supply, however flawed or beloved, is over, say both critics and supporters of the new rules.
He did the time, now he says prisons are a crime
He speaks from experience, so when Bernie Kerik criticizes the prison system he is not just whining.
In 2009, the former top cop copped pleas to eight felony tax and false statement charges, including lying to the White House. He was sentenced for a federal minimum-security prison in Cumberland, Md.Minimum security is still prison time and if he really saw the light then some good came from it.
“People in the press, they get a kick out of it,” Kerik said. “‘Club Fed, country club.’ You know what, go live there… Don’t tell me it’s some luxurious country club. It’s not. It’s prison.”
Kerik’s three years as an inmate gave him a new perspective on the world of criminal justice, where he’d spent his entire career. He now firmly believes that America locks too many people up.
“When you put someone in prison because he was a commercial fisherman who caught too many fish or because someone enhanced their income in a mortgage application to buy their first home… I met those people,” he said.
Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani mentored Kerik through his meteoric rise, and recommended him to the Bush administration.
“I also met young black men and Hispanic men out of urban America that were sentenced to 10 years, and 15, and 20 years for first-time non-violent drug-offenses,” he continued. “Ten years for a kid who sells, or buys, or possesses 5 grams of cocaine? Five grams is the weight of three sugar packets from Dunkin’ Donuts. You’re putting a kid in prison for 10 years?”
Kerik’s short stint in solitary confinement has also made him a staunch opponent of the practice.
“It’s mentally abusive,” he said. “You hallucinate. You talk to yourself. It breaks down the mental psyche. It’s inhumane in many ways.”
Kerik believes his background, from crime fighter to inmate, makes him uniquely positioned to advocate for reform. The question is simply whether people will listen.
“Today I’m a convicted felon,” said Kerik. “There aren’t that many second chances for convicted felons. So I don’t know what that next act is. I can’t say. I don’t know.”
Until the KXL Pipeline is built
Big Oil will just have to continue moving their deadly sludge by rail. In fact, there are probably some who would prefer to continue using rail for the advantages it has over a pipeline.
While supporters and opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline have been busy debating the controversial proposal, the oil that it’s intended to move has found another carrier _ one that didn’t require the president’s stamp of approval or several years and billions of dollars to construct.All this does not preclude the pipeline because the output from the raped Canadian oil sandscape is expected to grow enough to need both rail and pipe. WASF.
Keystone’s friends and foes alike may have underestimated the North American rail system’s ability to handle the thick, gritty oil from western Canada known as tar sands. And while rail was originally a stopgap solution to the lack of a pipeline, oil producers have discovered its advantages.
Now, transportation and energy experts on both sides of the border believe that Canadian crude shipments by rail will continue to increase, whether the pipeline is ultimately approved and built or not. Concerns about the safety of rail shipments after a series of recent derailments won’t slow the growth, they say...
Rail was long thought to be a more expensive way to ship crude oil than by pipeline, anywhere from $2 to $20 more per barrel. But Carey and others say such estimates fail to account for rail’s advantages, and when those are factored in, the price difference becomes negligible.
Rail allows for faster delivery and reaches more destinations. Moving the thicker tar sands oil in a pipeline requires it to be diluted _ taking away nearly a third of the pipeline’s capacity. Shipping the crude in a rail car also requires less diluent to thin out the viscous substance, or none, if the car has heated coils.
Plus, pipelines can only move a product one way, but trains go in both directions; they can back-haul the diluent, which has to be extracted once the oil reaches its destination.
“People have always said railways are more expensive,” said Malcolm Cairns, a transportation consultant in Brighton, Ontario, and a former director of business research at Canadian Pacific Railway. “The gap is not that big.”
In a research paper last year, Cairns said that Canada’s two largest railroads, Canadian Pacific and Canadian National Railway, could move a combined 600,000 to 800,000 barrels of Canadian crude a day within two years. That approaches Keystone XL’s proposed capacity of 830,000 barrels a day.
Both railroads reach the Gulf Coast, where 45 percent of U.S. refinery capacity is located, either directly or via connecting rail lines. They also can haul the oil to East Coast refineries and barge terminals, and they are doing that now. Keystone XL couldn’t serve those markets, Carey points out.
These Nigerian assets are really frozen and you can't help
So if you get an e-mail from the wife, mother, son or any other 'relative' of Nigerian dictator Gen. Sani Abacha asking for help liberating his wealth, you can safely forget about it.
The Justice Department said Wednesday it has frozen $458 million in corruption-derived assets from accounts belonging to Nigerian dictator Gen. Sani Abacha and sought forfeiture of more than $550 million stashed across the globe.About the only Nigerian scam Abacha didn't profit from was the 419 Scam.
The complaint in U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia was based on an FBI investigation and also names the general’s son Mohammed Sani Abacha and associate Abubaker Atiku Bagudu. The three are accused of embezzling public funds amounting to billions of dollars from the oil-rich country, in three different criminal schemes.
Justice officials described Wednesday’s move as the “largest kleptocracy forfeiture action brought in the department’s history.” The action was part of a broader initiative to discourage corruption proceeds from being laundered in the United States. Why the complaint comes now wasn’t immediately clear.
U.S. bank operations listed in the complaint, all in New York but not the subject of the complaint, include: ANZ Banking Group; Bankers Trust Company; Barclays Bank; Citibank ; Chase Manhattan Bank; Chemical Bank; AG; Marine Midland Bank; HSBC USA; and Morgan Guaranty Trust Company, which later became JP Morgan Chase.
Wednesday, March 05, 2014
A Nashville girl who moved to the Big City
And found fame and fortune singing and writing country music and running a long time favorite country radio show from Jersey City. Here Laura Cantrell sings the title song from her 2002 album "When the Roses Bloom Again".
When you lack both skill and imagination...
Heirloom will pass out of the family
Just as soon as the Afghanistan presidential elections are finished. Karzai of the Afghans has kept his promise to keep his family out of the elections and let someone else have a shot at the pot of gold.
President Hamid Karzai has vowed to stay out of Afghanistan’s presidential race, and not to show preference or prejudice toward any of the 11 contenders, but it is now clear that he has made an exception in at least one case: his own brother.If Karzai of the Afghan's efforts to get Obama to exercise the "zero option" and completely pull out of Shitholeistan by the end of the year, that pot of gold won't be worth much. The bulk of it has already bee shifted to Karzai family accounts overseas.
After what Afghan officials have described as months of behind-the-scenes pressure from the president, Qayum Karzai is expected to pull out of the election on Thursday.
An aide to Qayum Karzai, Aminullah Habibi, said Mr. Karzai would most likely throw his support — and considerable campaign financing — behind Zalmay Rassoul, the former foreign minister.
“Negotiations are still taking place — we still have things to talk about — but it will be final tomorrow,” Mr. Habibi said on Wednesday.
An official in Mr. Rassoul’s campaign, speaking on condition of anonymity because the announcement was not yet official, confirmed that account. “It is going to happen, but it is not finalized yet,” he said.
Despite the vocal support of other family members, Qayum Karzai’s entry to the race was said to have defied the president’s wishes from the start.
Nuclear waste - Can't sell it & they won't let you eat it
So whatever is a country to do? That question grows daily along with the product and it is only made worse by the continuing failure of ideas to deal with it. The idea of creating reactor fuel by diluting nuclear bomb material took a big hit when the Energy Dept stopped construction on the plant where it was supposed to happen.
In releasing its fiscal 2015 budget, energy officials said they were stopping construction of the "mixed oxide fuel" plant at the Savannah River site in South Carolina. "The cost has gotten way beyond what we could ask taxpayers for in these tight times," said officials at the National Nuclear Security Administration, a unit of the Energy Department.Considering how much we are pissing away on the F-35 program, a $30Billion plant is not all that much if it works. But with all the other waste, we can't even bury it.
The facility, which is more than half completed, was originally supposed to cost $4.8 billion, and the most recent construction cost estimate put it at $7.7 billion. The department has already spent $3.9 billion on the project, and the total projected cost for the plant hit $30 billion, including future operations.
The plant was intended to convert 34 tons of surplus bomb-grade plutonium into fuel for commercial reactors.
The U.S. and Russia each agreed to reduce their plutonium stocks by the 34 tons, but the decision to put the South Carolina facility into a "cold shutdown" will require a new round of talks between the two countries.
Meanwhile, energy officials said Tuesday they had no estimate yet of how long the radioactivity dump in New Mexico, called the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, would be closed after a leak last month released plutonium and americium into underground tunnels that eventually reached the surface. They also could not say how much the eventual cleanup of the release would cost.Not much use in burying it if it is going to rise again and create its own Judgement Day. Perhaps we should take a cue from Milo Minderbinder and coat the stuff in chocolate and sell it in movie theaters.
Incoming shipments of waste from about a dozen cleanup projects across the nation are being stored in a parking lot at the dump site. Under a state agreement, the drums can be stored there for only 30 days, but New Mexico officials say they may grant waivers.
The accident is causing a backlog of plutonium and other synthetic radioactive elements heavier than uranium to build up at nuclear weapons sites or cleanup sites across the nation.
In the days after the incident, the department said several times that no workers were affected, but last week it disclosed that 13 workers had been exposed.
Tuesday, March 04, 2014
50 years ago
This was another #1 hit for a British invader, this one "Downtown" for Petula Clark.
A new kind of Matryoshka doll
O give me a home, where the hens got some room
In California, egg laying hens still spend their lives in cages and go into the soup pot when their days are done, but unlike other states, in California the hens have room enough to stand up and turn around. And now California wants everyone who sells eggs in the state to follow the same rules.
Hens in California are living the good life. Many can now lay their eggs in oversize enclosures roomy enough to stand up, lie down — even extend their wings fully without touching another bird.You just know this will end up in the Supreme Court. When it does, we will find out just how many chicken lovers are on the Court.
Hens in most other states don’t have it so good. Their conditions, as the head of California’s egg trade group explained, are “like you sitting in an airplane seat in the economy section all your life.”
So if you’re a hen, you want to live in California. Short of that, you want California-size leg room. And that’s precisely what lawmakers in California are demanding of out-of-state farmers who sell eggs in California — setting off a feud over interstate commerce that has spilled over into the farmyard at large.
The Missouri attorney general has filed a lawsuit to block the California egg rules, and at least three other states are considering doing the same. The beef and pork lobbies are also lining up against the California rules in an effort to prevent any new restrictions on raising livestock.
“This is bigger than a case about egg production and bigger than a case simply about agriculture,” said Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster. “These laws raise an important commerce clause question that affects many, many industries nationally, and I believe the courts need to respond.”
California voters set new standards for hen housing in 2008 when they approved a ballot measure that imposed more generous living conditions for egg layers in their state. When producers complained that the measure created a competitive disadvantage, the Legislature tacked on a law that mandated imported eggs be produced under the same standards.
Those provisions, as well as similar laws going into effect in Michigan, Oregon and Washington State and under consideration elsewhere, inspired a national proposal to require more space for laying hens across the country, but Congress dropped it from the recently passed farm bill. Lawmakers and some companies have been responding to consumer pressure (including from several colleges) for better treatment of animals raised for food.
Once upon a time a bridge fell into the river
And everybody was shocked and dismayed that their faith in the solidity of American infrastructure had collapsed as well. That faith, unlike the bridge, remains collapsed because there is no effort to correct the underlying problem of old stuff.
Surely, or so one might have thought, a disaster of such enormity would have the power to shock the nation into realizing that it had to do more to heal a crumbling infrastructure. Indeed, some change is underway, including a billion-dollar project about to begin to rehabilitate the worn, heavily trafficked Pulaski Skyway, linking Newark Liberty International Airport and the Holland Tunnel in northeastern New Jersey. A few states have increased their gasoline taxes to pay for infrastructure repairs. The American Society of Civil Engineers, which issues reports every four years on the state of bridges, roads and the like, sees improvement nationwide. In 2009, it gave the United States a letter grade of D. Last year, that D became a D+.Money is needed to fix the problem and taxes are needed to get the money. But we are Americans and we will be damned before we pay a penny more to maintain the basic trappings of a civilized society. Just shut up and buy another gun.
Better, but hardly reason to pop Champagne corks. The inescapable reality is that not enough has changed since 2007.
We’ll focus here on just bridges. After all, they command a special place in America’s heart — even in its songbook, whether it’s urging San Francisco to open its Golden Gate, or feeling groovy at the 59th Street Bridge in Manhattan, or joining Maurice Sendak’s and Carole King’s Rosie as she brags how she can tap across the Tappan Zee (itself so superannuated that it will be replaced with a new $3.9 billion bridge across the Hudson River north of New York City).
The numbers can be discouraging. Of 607,000 bridges in this country, more than 65,000 are deemed “structurally deficient” by experts. In Pennsylvania, a leader of dubious distinction in this regard, one bridge in four is so classified. Some 20,000 bridges around the country are labeled “fracture critical,” a wince-inducing term if ever there was one; it means that the entire structure could collapse should a single critical component break. At least 8,000 bridges fall into both of those categories.
“There is no safety net — they’re all vulnerable,” Barry B. LePatner warns in the Retro Report video. A New York lawyer, Mr. LePatner is something of an infrastructure Jeremiah, raising alarms in interviews and in his 2010 book, “Too Big to Fall.”
How the United States allowed some of its most precious assets to decay so badly may say something about both its character and its leadership. This is a nation ever in the thrall of innovation. We like to build new things. We’re not so crazy about the drudgery of keeping the old in decent shape. Most bridges are meant to last 50 years; those classified as structurally deficient are, on average, a good deal older than that. As for political leaders, spending time and money on essential maintenance holds scant sex appeal. How many elected officials are just dying to preside over a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new gusset plate?
In the end, it all boils down to money. There’s not nearly enough. The Federal Highway Trust Fund, the principal financing source for transportation projects, is practically kiting checks. That’s how close it is to insolvency. Part of the problem is that it depends heavily on a federal tax on gasoline, which provides about $39 billion a year. That tax, 18.4 cents a gallon, has not changed since 1993. Because of inflation, it has lost 40 percent of its value over the years.
Having thoroughly trashed a large part of Ecuador
Chevron is moving heaven and earth, as well as buying every available lawyer and judge, to prevent its having to pay for the mess its predecessor Texaco made there.
An American lawyer used "corrupt means" to secure a multi-billion-dollar pollution judgment against Chevron Corp in Ecuador, a U.S. judge ruled on Tuesday, a major setback for Ecuadorean villagers hoping to collect on the award.This does put Chevron in a cushy position of being able to trash their foreign locations without worrying about any consequences. I guess naming a tanker after Condoleeza Rice has paid off.
U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan in New York said he found "clear and convincing evidence" that attorney Steven Donziger's legal team bribed an Ecuadorean judge to issue an $18 billion judgment against the oil company in 2011.
The villagers had said Texaco, later acquired by Chevron, contaminated an oil field in northeastern Ecuador between 1964 and 1992. Ecuador's high court cut the judgment to $9.5 billion last year.
Kaplan's decision bars Donziger and the villagers from enforcing the Ecuadorean ruling in the United States. It may also give Chevron legal ammunition in other countries where the plaintiffs could try to go after Chevron's assets.
At a six-week trial last year, Chevron accused Donziger of fraud and racketeering and said Texaco cleaned up the site, known as Lago Agrio, before handing it over to a state-controlled entity.
Donziger, who has repeatedly leveled accusations of bias against Kaplan and who predicted he would lose the case, called Tuesday's decision "appalling" and blamed Kaplan's "implacable hostility" toward him and his Ecuadorean clients.
"Through this decision, we now have the spectacle of a Manhattan trial judge purporting to overrule Ecuador's Supreme Court on questions of Ecuadorean law," he said in a written statement. He vowed to appeal and said the ruling would not stop his clients from seeking to enforce the judgment in other countries.
Still dropping drone bombs on Yemen
As John Kerry hangs out in Kiev and warns Russia to keep hands off the Ukraine. We are modestly only claiming 4 al-Qaeda members among the 10 dead. The other six were just in the wrong place at the wrong time, I guess.
At least four suspected Al-Qaeda militants were killed in air strikes in Yemen on Monday, following the deaths of several soldiers in the south of the country, local officials and state news agency Saba reported.The good thing about drone strikes is that we can bury our mistakes.
Saba said armed men set upon the soldiers in a pair of ambushes, killing six, after the soldiers had foiled a mortar and rocket propelled grenade attack on a gas pipeline in the southern Shabwa province.
The news agency said 14 other soldiers were wounded in the ambushes between Mayfa'a and Radoum districts in Shabwa. Saba did not identify the attackers but the government often blames Islamists linked to Al-Qaeda for trying to sabotage the country's infrastructure.
Local residents said a U.S. drone later targeted a vehicle travelling in the area and killed two of its occupants.
Local officials said two more suspected Al-Qaeda militants were killed in another drone strike in the Maarib province, an oil-producing area in central Yemen where Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) operates.
Violence has roiled the U.S.-allied country which shares a long border with Saudi Arabia since 2011, when mass protests forced long-serving President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down.
The United States has stepped up drone strikes as part of a campaign against AQAP, regarded by Washington as the most active wing of the network.
Yemen, AQAP's main stronghold, is among a handful of countries where the U.S. acknowledges using drones, although it does not comment on the practice which has been criticized by human rights organizations.
Monday, March 03, 2014
They have a new album out
But this video goes to '12 SXSW where Hurray For The Riff Raff did this rendition of "What's Wrong With Me".
It has been a long time
But finally The Invisible Hand Of The Free Market Man returns, chronicled by the ever diligent Tom Tomorrow.
Boys will be boys
Karzai of the Afghans pipes up again
And in fairness he has a point, this is and was not the Afghans war, this is our war in Shitholeistan and it is time for us to end it and bring everyone home.
Expressing “extreme anger” toward the U.S. government, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said in an interview with The Washington Post that the war in Afghanistan was not fought with his country’s interests in mind.Of course the war was for US interests and he was handpicked to support those interests so he should know that. But after 12 years of failure it is time to pack up and come home. Nobody and nothing is served by continuing our presence.
“Afghans died in a war that’s not ours,” Karzai said in the interview, published Sunday, a month before an election to pick his successor.
He was quoted as saying he was certain the 12-year-old war – which is the United States’ longest and was launched after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 — was “for the U.S. security and for the Western interest.”
Karzai’s refusal to sign a security deal with Washington that would permit foreign troops to stay in Afghanistan beyond this year has frustrated the White House, and U.S. President Barack Obama has told the Pentagon to prepare for the possibility that no U.S. troops will be left in Afghanistan after 2014.
Childhood diseases making a come back
The diseases measles and mumps should be wiped out by now except for pockets of the unvaccinated. And the extent and danger of the unvaccinated is, as yet, unknown.
At least 53 people in 10 states have been infected with measles in the last two months, alarming officials who say the highly contagious disease was all but eradicated in the United States a decade ago.Get your children vaccinated, no one, least of all your God, wants you or your children to die needlessly.
Unvaccinated children and adults have been diagnosed with the sometimes fatal disease in unrelated outbreaks in states including California, New York, Oregon, Hawaii and Texas, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC.
The development of these clusters of people vulnerable to the disease has many experts worried. “We don’t have good national data, or even any data, that shows how large a threat these (unvaccinated) clusters are,” said Gregory Wallace, the CDC’s point man for measles and other infectious diseases.
Experts say the return of measles and, to a lesser degree, mumps is due to a decade-long backlash against common vaccines. Pockets of underimmunized children have left an unknown number of communities vulnerable to the virus.
The resistance to getting inoculations comes from an unlikely variety of views: Deeply conservative parents reject the government’s interfering with their child rearing; orthodox religious groups dislike vaccines for being man-made, not God-given; and well-educated, health-conscious, affluent and Internet-literate parents don’t see vaccines as organic or natural.
Immigrants from countries with poor health care systems are also often underinoculated.
Each U.S. measles eruption was sparked by an unvaccinated traveler returning from an infected region to an underimmunized pocket or school district. Experts say 2013 was a record-breaking year for measles, with 189 cases, most of them related to communities with religious objections to immunizations. That is a huge jump from 55 cases in 2012.
This reminds me that baseball season is just a month away
Sunday, March 02, 2014
Doing tributes to Neil Young while he is still alive?
Oh well, here is Norah Jones and Sasha Dobson doing "Tell Her Why"
Homophobia - It's not as easy as it looks.
We pay, we say
For some strange reason, big money donors are getting tired of giving money and only getting autographed pictures and cocktail weenies in return. Some of them are ringing their balls of silver and gold to demand control over where the politics their money has bought is actually going.
The Republican donors who have financed the party’s vast outside-spending machine are turning against the consultants and political strategists they once lavished with hundreds of millions of dollars.Billionaires on both sides of the political spectrum are doing this. They can use their money to buy elections, but we voters can not make a few bucks selling our votes. Where's the fairness in that?
In recent months, they have begun holding back checks from Republican “super PACs” like American Crossroads, unsatisfied with the groups’ explanations for their failure to unseat President Obama or win back the Senate. Others, less willing than in the past to defer to the party elders and former congressional staff members who control the biggest groups, are demanding a bigger voice in creating strategy in exchange for their continued support.
Donors like Paul Singer, the billionaire Republican investor, have expanded their in-house political shops, building teams of loyal advisers and researchers to guide and coordinate their giving. And some of the biggest contributors to Republican outside groups in 2012 are now gravitating toward the more donor-centric political and philanthropic network overseen by Charles and David Koch, who have wooed them in part by promising more accountability over how money is spent.
“People are really drawn to the Koch model,” said Anthony Scaramucci, a New York hedge fund investor and Republican fund-raiser, who attended the Kochs’ annual donor conference near Palm Springs, Calif., in January. “It’s adaptive, data-driven, and they are the most propitious capital allocators in political activism.”
The quiet revolt signals a broader shift in the world of big money. Clubs of elite donors in both parties are taking a more central role in shaping policy and campaigns, displacing party leaders and the outside-spending organizations they helped create after the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010. And the sheer scale of their spending is almost certain to rewrite the playbook for political campaigns this year, as candidates reckon with the strongly held views of some of the world’s wealthiest people.
Time for the Florida Spring Gun Law Show
During the late winter/early spring months some people go to car shows. Other go to bridal shows and home shows. This spring the Florida legislature is having a New Gun Law Show to let the NRA show off their latest legalistic buffoonery designed to make your life outside of a fully armored existence as dangerous as possible, for fun and profit.
Florida's annual Second Amendment battle is underway in Tallahassee, highlighted by an NRA-backed bill that would let people fire warning shots when attacked.Apparently the Florida Legislature has the highest percentage of ignorant mouth breathers, willing to pass anything the NRA pays them to pass.
The change would broaden the "stand your ground" law, which allows anyone in fear of death or serious injury to use deadly force against a suspected attacker.
If passed, brandishing a firearm and firing warning shots to scare away an attacker will be legal.
Other bills introduced so far would make it easier to sue insurance companies that try to raise homeowners' rates because of gun and ammunition ownership, and would let tax collectors' offices process concealed-weapon permits. Even though Florida has issued more concealed-weapon permits than any other state - more than 1.2 million - backers want to make the process easier.
The warning-shot bill stems from the conviction of Marissa Alexander, a Jacksonville woman sentenced to 20 years in prison for firing a warning shot during an incident of alleged domestic violence. An appeal court overturned the conviction, and she faces a new trial.
"We're trying to get some protection for the people who find themselves in a bad spot and don't want to shoot somebody. Whatever we do here won't change the circumstances of any case," said the bill's sponsor, state Rep. Neil Combee, a Republican. "As it stands right now in 'stand your ground,' you have to shoot somebody."
Though proponents defend such bills as an ongoing effort to expand and protect the Second Amendment, the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence characterized Florida as the National Rifle Association's testing ground for new laws.
"It seems like throughout the years they've been using Florida as the legislative laboratory for what we would call the 'guns anytime, anywhere, anyplace' mantra," said Brian Malte, the Brady Campaign's senior national-policy director.
Saturday, March 01, 2014
Braveheart can kiss my ass
What you want is a Scots woman if you want to win through. Emily Smith sings about one such woman trying to make her way home to "Caledonia".
How to become one of the 1%
Team Fatso working on distraction from scandal
Hopefully shifting the attention of the flighty public from the exposure of his current scandals to what should be considered an even bigger scandal, the theft of public pensions.
Over the past few days, Gov. Chris Christie has reignited a reliably popular battle, crusading against unaffordable perks for public workers and promising “extreme measures” if he does not get his way.Oh look! Something shiny! And what is shinier than than a huge number and the threat of taxing people to pay it? Bridge? What bridge?
He has shown striking humility about his pugnacity, conceding to constituents that his harsher qualities can be, “at times, a little troubling to some of you.”
And he has moved to defuse potentially tense moments, even bringing along his 10-year-old daughter to a radio call-in show where the topics swung from vindictive traffic jams to the childhood dread of a longer school day.
“What do you think?” Mr. Christie asked Bridget, his youngest child, about the prospect on Wednesday.
“I don’t like it at all,” she said.
This is the evolving Chris Christie, singed by an unyielding controversy and adapting to a seemingly indefinite state of political purgatory. As he teeters on the edge of damning revelation or exculpatory relief, Mr. Christie is forging his own playbook for slogging through a slow-moving scandal.
“Let’s be myself and see what happens,” he told a crowd a few days ago.
But this version is not exactly improvised: It is put on display in carefully chosen venues, showcasing deliberate messages and revealing the determination of a gifted politician to regain control of his battered image after 53 days of limbo.
Mr. Christie repeats the number over and over as he paces the room, like a practiced college professor, pausing for dramatic effect to let it sink in.
“Fifty-two billion dollars,” he tells the crowd squeezed into a gymnasium in Stirling, N.J., on Wednesday “Fifty-two billion dollars, everyone.”
“Not even Mark Zuckerberg,” he added, “can bail us out of this problem.”
The audience laughs. It is riveted.
Mr. Christie is picking a new fight.
It sounds counterintuitive: A Republican governor entangled in an imbroglio over his combative style girding for an ugly spat with government workers and their Democratic allies over New Jersey’s unfunded pension costs.
But this is a Classic Christie Clash — a fight on behalf of forgotten taxpayers, challenging sacred cows, venturing where predecessors dared not go. (After outlining a painful solution to the $52 billion deficit, he said, “That’s not the typical thing you hear from a politician, right?”)
No matter the outcome, the conflict is a proven winner with an immediate upside: It changes the conversation. Suddenly, New Jersey Democrats are talking about how to pay for public worker retirement benefits as often as lane closings at the George Washington Bridge.
Arizona legislature embraces its "Inner Dickishness"
From from their fight to establish government authorized discrimination, the irrepressible passel of Teabaggers in the Arizona legislature has pivoted to their next target in their war on decent people everywhere.
Arizona House Republicans are closer to passing a bill that would allow for surprise inspections in Arizona abortion clinics, just one day after Republican Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed a controversial bill that would have allowed businesses to deny service to gays based on their religious beliefs.The cost of a challenge is irrelevant. Arizona Teabaggers believe that everyone should pay for their hairball ideas.
Legislators gave initial approval to House Bill 2284 on Thursday. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Peoria, eliminates a requirement that the Department of Health Services obtain an administrative warrant to conduct unscheduled inspections at the state's nine licensed abortion clinics. Lesko says the bill aims to protect women from clinics that are not up to standards.
The Department of Health Services has received five complaints concerning abortion clinic safety in the last 3 years, a spokeswoman said. The department has sought and obtained an administrative search warrant for only one of those.
Democrats oppose the bill, saying it is unconstitutional and infringes on women's privacy. The House debated the issue for several hours before giving initial approval. The bill is being pushed by the anti-abortion group Center for Arizona Policy.
"When it comes to women's health and the choices they make with their body, it's important that be protected in our state. This bill undermines some of those potential protections and women's privacy," said Rep. Eric Meyer, D-Paradise Valley. "A similar bill was already found to be unconstitutional."
Democrats also said the bill, if passed, would be challenged in courts and would be costly to taxpayers.
Okay, now we do need to come after you with a pitchfork
Bill Maher takes on the 1%ers who have turned the US into Whine Country.
Are you intelligent enough for the state to kill you?
One of the quirks of modern capital punishment is the necessity of you being a fully functioning human being before the state can kill you. If you lack the intelligence or the sanity or if you have a case of the flu on your execution date, the state won't kill you. In the matter of the flu, you will be dead when you get healthy. The Supreme Court has a case on its docket that will determine how much intelligence is required to officially kill a human being.
Florida officials say Freddie Lee Hall is smart enough to die for what he did.And to be totally fair, shouldn't the Court take into consideration the level of intelligence in the state legislature that created the laws in question?
On Monday, 36 years after the double murder that sent Hall to death row, the Supreme Court will consider whether Florida is right. The court’s answer could mean life or death for Hall and other inmates whose below-average intelligence puts them on the borderline of eligibility for execution.
More prosaically, the eventual ruling will shape how well the death penalty process works.
“This is a significant case because a decision the wrong way could lead to longer delays in carrying out sentences,” Kent Scheidegger, of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation in Sacramento, Calif., said in an interview Friday.
The American Bar Association shares the sense of significance, but for a different reason. The lawyers’ organization warns that if Florida wins, “the execution of individuals with mental retardation” could be inevitable. With their competing legal briefs, Scheidegger and the bar association joined others in trying to sway the court in advance of Monday’s hourlong oral argument.
The Supreme Court has already ruled out executing those variously called “mentally retarded” or “intellectually disabled,” as a violation of the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. The case Monday concerns the standards that states can use in defining who’s disabled.
Hall is an illiterate 68-year-old high school dropout who’s spent well over half his life in prison. His tested IQ has ranged as low as 60 and as high as 80. Most of his IQ test scores have hovered in the low 70s, well below the 100 average but slightly above Florida’s strict threshold of 70 for determining intellectual disability.
Besides an IQ of 70 or below, Florida requires “deficits in adaptive behavior” and an onset before the age of 18 for those who claim intellectual disability. The court’s focus Monday is strictly on the strict IQ score requirement, with Hall’s supporters arguing that a test’s margin of error should be taken into account. A margin of error means that someone might score 75 one day and 70 the next.
Friday, February 28, 2014
A country cri de couer
Caitlin Rose sings "Sinful Wishing Well"
Navy braces for budget restrictions.
Promises to only ask for three Little Crappy Ships that can not carry out operational mission which they do not have instead of the four originally planned.
The U.S. Navy will request $2.1 billion to continue developing the Littoral Combat Ship and buy three of the vessels in fiscal 2015, one fewer than previously planned, according to defense officials.So three Little Crappy Ships with no foreseeable mission cost as much as 1 years work on two of the latest CVN class which includes systems that were still in the beta stage when installed. Good to see the Navy is doing its bit to deal with the budget.
No decision has been made on which of the two companies building different versions -- Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT) and Austal Ltd. (ASB) -- will see one of its ships delayed by a year, according to one of the officials, who asked not to be identified before the Pentagon budget for the year beginning Oct. 1 is sent to Congress on March 4.
The reduced pace of ship purchases underscores the budget constraints facing the Defense Department and may reflect what Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel this week called his “considerable reservations” about the Littoral Combat Ship, a lightly armed vessel designed for missions in shallow coastal waters.
The ship is intended to operate in a “relatively permissive environment,” and the Pentagon must “closely examine” whether the vessel “has the protection and firepower to survive against a more advanced military adversary and emerging new technologies, especially in the Asia-Pacific,” Hagel said....
The Navy’s request also will include $2.1 billion for a new class of aircraft carriers, funding research and procurement for the Gerald R. Ford and John F. Kennedy vessels, an increase from $1.6 billion this year and $781.7 million in fiscal 2013, according to Navy budget figures. Carriers are built and refurbished by Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc. (HII) based in Newport News, Virginia.
In presenting his budget outline this week, Hagel said current plans foresee the Navy keeping 11 aircraft carrier groups. That may decline to 10 groups because plans to refuel and overhaul the aging George Washington will have to be canceled unless automatic budget cuts, known as sequestration, are eased for future years, he said.
Wouldn't this be nice
R.I.P. Jim Lange
Host of the Dating Game. Boy were you ever a sign of the times.
VA still can't get its disability shit together.
If you have a disability claim appeal pending with the VA, chances are good that you will have to wait about 2.5 years for a decision.
The average time for a denied claim to work its way through the cumbersome Department of Veterans Affairs appeals process shot up to more than 900 days last year, double the department’s long-term target.
After hovering between 500 and 750 days for the past decade, what the VA refers to as its “appeals resolution time” hit 923 days in fiscal 2013. That was a 37 percent jump in one year, from 675 in fiscal 2012, according to a review of the department’s annual performance report.
The department’s long-term goal is to get that figure to 400 days, although the trend over the past decade has been in the other direction.
Asked about the slowdown during a conference call to discuss the VA’s appeals system, the department said it has been reviewing the measure to see if it’s the most meaningful one to convey to veterans how long the appeals process might take. The department also said it was continuing to look for ways to make the process more efficient...
The VA has been engaged in a very public battle to reduce its overall backlog – the number of claims awaiting an initial decision. By 2015, the department wants to get the backlog to zero. That would ensure that no claim is pending for more than 125 days. That’s the goal that has gotten the most attention from Congress, the administration and veterans groups.
Veterans who appeal their decisions go into a separate system that can extend those waits far longer.
That appeals system has evolved in layers since it was adopted after World War I. It allows veterans, survivors or their representatives to trigger a fresh review of the entire appeal at any time by submitting new evidence or information, the VA said. The Board of Veterans’ Appeals can grant, deny or – most commonly – remand the case to one of the VA’s regional offices for additional review.
According to the most recent VA performance report, published in December, the VA’s “strategic target” – essentially a long-term goal – for total appeals resolution time is 400 days; its short-term goal is 650 days.
It hasn’t hit that 650 target in the last five years, although it got close in 2010, when the average appeals time was 656 days, records show.
Border Patrol trying to act like real police
And that includes shooting anybody that they don't like, no questions asked and none answered.
Last week, another shooting took place, bringing the total to 21.Mexicans are fair game, in the country or out. They would never try this on Canadians, they are too white.
The killings expose what lawyers and civil rights advocates assert are far-reaching problems in the nation’s largest federal law enforcement agency.
Those problems, critics charge, include a resistance to adopting safeguards on the use of lethal force, watered-down training standards amid rapid expansion and a mentality that anything goes in the battle to secure America’s borders.
Of the 21 dead, 16 were Mexican or Guatemalan. Most of the victims were unarmed, and some were on Mexican soil. One was a 16-year-old who was shot multiple times in the back as he stood on the Mexican side of the border fence. None of the shooters is known to have been disciplined, and the circumstances of most of the cases have not been aired in public. Sanchez’s wife and children – all American citizens – are still trying to learn the name of the man who shot him.
The spate of homicides raises an uncomfortable question, the critics say: Do Border Patrol agents have a green light to fire on and kill Mexican and Central American migrants?...
The Mexican Foreign Secretariat says it’s “profoundly concerned” about the killings of Mexican migrants by Border Patrol agents.
At least eight of the 21 agent-related deaths involved Mexicans who allegedly were throwing rocks at agents, often across the border fence. In three of the cases, the victims were minors. Agents shot one of those youths, Jose Antonio Elena, who was 16, multiple times in the back through the fence in Nogales. The Border Patrol declined to release video of the incident taken from an overhead camera.
EPA drops a boulder on Pebble Mine.
Despite its well developed corporatist tendencies, the Obama administration has, this one time, chosen salmon over massive profits and will not allow a permit for the Pebble Mine.
The Environmental Protection Agency is putting the brakes on the massive Pebble Mine project in Alaska, saying it endangers the finest wild salmon run on earth.The mining interests could still buy a more amenable administration with pie-in-the-sky protection schemes for the fishies but this is unlikely without Republican electoral success.
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy said Friday her agency will look for ways to protect the salmon. In the meantime, the Army Corps of Engineers won’t be allowed to issue a permit for the mine.
“Extensive scientific study has given us ample reason to believe that the Pebble Mine would likely have significant and irreversible negative impacts on the Bristol Bay watershed and its abundant salmon fisheries,” McCarthy said. “It’s why EPA is taking this step forward in our effort to ensure protection for the world’s most productive salmon fishery from the risks it faces from what could be one of the largest open pit mines on earth.”
EPA released a report last month saying the mine could destroy up to 94 miles of salmon streams and 5,350 acres of wetlands, ponds and lakes. McCarthy visited the region last summer and was clearly moved as Alaska Natives opposed to the project described their cultural ties to the salmon.
“The science EPA reviewed paints a clear picture: Large-scale copper mining of the Pebble deposit would likely result in significant and irreversible harm to the salmon and the people and industries that rely on them,” said Dennis McLerran, EPA’s regional administrator for the Pacific Northwest.
Wendy Davis blasts Greg Abbott & His Pet Pervert
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