Saturday, October 2, 2010

BP's own workers sprayed with dispersant at night by plane with no lights...



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US medical tests in Guatemala 'crime against humanity'

1 October 2010 - BBC
US testing that infected hundreds of Guatemalans with gonorrhoea and syphilis more than 60 years ago was a "crime against humanity", Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom has said.


President Barack Obama has apologised for the medical tests, in which mentally ill patients and prisoners were infected without their consent.

Mr Obama told Mr Colom the 1940s-era experiments ran contrary to American values, Guatemala said.

The US has promised an investigation.

"We deeply regret that it happened, and we apologise to all the individuals who were affected by such abhorrent research practices"
Statement from US secretaries of state and health
'Shocking, tragic, reprehensible'


Syphilis can cause heart problems, blindness, mental illness and even death, and although the patients were treated it is not known how many recovered.

Evidence of the programme was unearthed by Prof Susan Reverby at Wellesley College. She says the Guatemalan government gave permission for the tests.

No offer of compensation has yet been made, but an investigation will be launched into the specifics of the study, which took place between 1946 and 1948.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said on Friday the news was "shocking, it's tragic, it's reprehensible".

In an interview with the BBC, Mr Colom said the test subjects were "victims of rights abuses".

Professor Susan Reverby:
''They saw these subjects as soldiers in a war''
"There's been a very strong reaction in the Guatemalan media and by my compatriots," she said.
"Of course, there may have been similar incidents in other countries around the world, but speaking as the president and a Guatemalan, I would have preferred that these events had never happened on this soil."

The joint statement from Mrs Clinton and Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said: "Although these events occurred more than 64 years ago, we are outraged that such reprehensible research could have occurred under the guise of public health.

"We deeply regret that it happened, and we apologise to all the individuals who were affected by such abhorrent research practices."

In his phone call to President Colom, Barack Obama reaffirmed the United States' unwavering commitment to ensure that all human medical studies conducted today meet exacting US and international legal and ethical standards, the White House.

President Obama also "underscored the United States' deep respect for the people of Guatemala and the importance of our bilateral relationship".

Unaware

The study by Prof Reverby shows that US government medical researchers infected almost 700 people in Guatemala with two sexually transmitted diseases.

The patients - prisoners and people suffering mental health problems - were unaware they were being experimented upon.

The doctors used prostitutes with syphilis to infect them, or inoculation, as they tried to determine whether penicillin could prevent syphilis, not just cure it.

The patients were then treated for the disease, but it is unclear whether everyone was cured.

Prof Reverby has previously done research on the Tuskegee experiment, where the US authorities measured the progress of syphilis in African-American sharecroppers without telling them they had the disease or adequately treating it.

The experiment ran from 1932 to 1972, with President Bill Clinton eventually apologising for it.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Governator Signs Marijuana Decriminalization Measure!

October 1, 2010 by Aaron Turpen

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed Senate Bill 1449 into law, which reduces many adult marijuana possession charges from misdemeanor to civil infraction charges. This means no jail time, arrest, or anything more than a ticket for thousands of Californians who would otherwise be facing criminal charges, filling up jails, and otherwise useless actions that ruin their lives and clog up the justice system.

The new law amends the California Health and Safety Code so that adult possession of up to 28.5 grams of marijuana is punishable by nothing more than a civil ticket (similar to a traffic ticket) and $100 fine. No court appearance, costs, or criminal record additions are required or added.

There were 61,388 misdemeanor pot arrests in California in 2008. The new law takes effect on January 1, 2011 and would not be changed by Proposition 19, should it pass. In fact, it may contradict Prop 19 on some counts, depending on how the proposition’s law is interpreted.

The measure signed by the governor had broad support from both marijuana advocates and law enforcement.

America Is Getting Poorer: The Proof Is In The Numbers

By Michael Snyder - Contributing Writer - 10-01-2010

How in the world can anyone claim that things are getting better?  Sometimes the numbers are so clear that they simply cannot be denied.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, median household income in the United States fell from $51,726 in 2008 to $50,221 in 2009.  That was the second yearly decline in median household income in a row.  In other words, America is getting poorer.  


Just let that statistic above sink in for a little bit.  In 2009, American families had roughly $1,500 less coming in than the year before.  Not that the cost of living has gone down either.  Have you been to the supermarket lately?  Things are getting ridiculous out there.  In fact, middle class American families are being squeezed as never before.  More mothers and fathers are scrambling to find second and third jobs just to pay the mortgage and to keep the lights on and to put food on the table.  This is not a time of prosperity in America.  We are in a state of serious decline.


When you stop and analyze the new Census data, something jumps out at you right away.  You quickly realize that these income declines are not limited to just a few regions of the country - they are literally happening from coast to coast.

The U.S. economy is in deep, deep trouble and the proof is in the numbers.  The following are 12 statistics that reveal just how far the standard of living in America is declining....
1 - According to the Census Bureau, median household income dropped in 34 U.S. states in 2009, and the only state where median household income actually increased was in North Dakota.

2 - The Census Bureau data also revealed that of the 52 largest metro areas in America, only the city of San Antonio did not see a decline in median household income in 2009.

3 - 35 percent of all U.S. households now live on $35,000 or less.

4 - According to the Census Bureau, the percentage of Americans living below the poverty line is the highest it has been in 15 years.

5 - The number of Americans enrolled in the food stamp program passed the 41 million mark for the first time ever in June.

6 - The number of Americans in the food stamp program increased a staggering 55 percent from December 2007 to June 2010.

7 - One out of every six Americans is now enrolled in at least one anti-poverty program run by the federal government.

8 - Nearly 10 million Americans now receive unemployment insurance, which is almost four times as many that were receiving it back in 2007.

9 - In 2009, U.S. consumer spending experienced the biggest decline since 1942.

10 - As millions of young Americans struggled just to survive, marriages fell to a record low in 2009.  Today, only 52% of Americans 18 years or older are married. 

11 - The only group that saw their household income increase in 2009 was those making $180,000 or more.

12- According to the Huffington Post, the gap between the richest and poorest Americans grew in 2009 to its largest margin ever....
The top-earning 20 percent of Americans – those making more than $100,000 each year – received 49.4 percent of all income generated in the U.S., compared with the 3.4 percent made by the bottom 20 percent of earners, those who fell below the poverty line, according to the new figures. That ratio of 14.5-to-1 was an increase from 13.6 in 2008 and nearly double a low of 7.69 in 1968.

Not that it is a bad thing to make money. 

The point is that the game is rigged and the bottom 80 percent of us are being left behind.

The middle class is being systematically destroyed.  At the rate we are going, we will eventually have a very small group of ultra-wealthy Americans and a gigantic mountain of very poor Americans that are barely able to survive.

The answer to this is not a "redistribution of wealth". 

What middle class Americans actually need are good jobs with good benefits.

You know, the kind of jobs that the U.S. economy used to produce.

For the vast majority of Americans, all they have to offer in the marketplace is their labor.  If they cannot get someone to hire them for a wage that will enable them to take care of their families then they simply cannot make it without government assistance.

But what our leaders have done in the name of "globalism" is that they have essentially merged our economy with the economies of nations such as China where blue collar workers are paid about a dollar an hour to do the same jobs that American workers get paid 15 to 20 dollars an hour to do.

As a result, jobs and factories are fleeing the United States so rapidly it is hard to even describe.  The deindustrialization of America is happening right in front of our eyes, but the American people have become so dumbed down that most of them don't even seem to have the capacity to understand what is going on. 

Quite a few advocates of "free trade" (which is not "free" or "fair" at all under our current system) have left comments on my columns telling me that the American people better just suck it up because this is how it is now and the world isn't going back.  These advocates of the globalist system say that the American people just need to toughen up and learn to compete and need to just accept that the standard of living for workers across the globe is going to be equalized and that is all there is to it.

So are you ready to have the same standard of living as a Chinese sweatshop worker who works 12 hours a day for one dollar an hour?

That is where we are headed.

But things did not have to be this way.  We did not have to merge our economy with communist China and allow them to keep their currency devalued 40 percent lower than it should be so that they could dump massive amounts of cheap goods on our shores.  We did not have to elect politicians that believe that "globalism" is the answer to all of our problems.  We did not have to sign on to the WTO, NAFTA and all the other "free trade" agreements that are destroying the American middle class.

Labor is now a global commodity.  American workers are now part of the global labor force.  The bargaining power of the average American worker has dropped through the floor.  Now the monolithic predator corporations that dominate our economy don't even have to deal with American workers if they don't want to.

Very few of our politicians admitted that merging us into a one world economy would mean a dramatic decline in the standard of living of middle class Americans.

But that is exactly what is happening.

Meanwhile, the federal government, our state governments and our local governments keep going into massive amounts of new debt in an effort to keep paying the bills. 

There are some state governments, like Illinois, that are basically flat broke.  In fact, Illinois doesn't even bother to pay many of their bills anymore.

Of course the federal government is the worst offender of them all.  The U.S. national debt is rapidly approaching $14 trillion, and most of us have gotten so accustomed to it that we don't even talk about it much anymore.

That is how bizarre things have gotten.

As America keeps getting poorer, and as U.S. taxpayers see their incomes continue to decline, how in the world are U.S. government finances going to turn around?

The truth is that our leaders should be in full blown crisis mode in an attempt to fix this thing.  Pieces of the U.S. economy are literally falling off all around us and our leaders are pushing the debt accelerator to the floor as we head toward a giant cliff.

But instead our politicians are prancing about the countryside telling us that everything is going to be just great as long as we cast our votes for them in the fall.

And the mainstream media keeps telling us that the "recession" is over and that soon the U.S. economy will be better than ever.

Is it any wonder that faith in the mainstream media is now at an all-time low?     

According to a new poll just released by Gallup, the number of Americans that have little to no trust in the mass media (57%) is at an all-time high.

Democrats agree to block Obama nominees

By John Byrne - Thursday, September 30th, 2010

In a stunning alliance between Senate Democrats and Senate Republicans, Senate Democratic leadership quietly agreed Wednesday evening to block President Barack Obama from making recess appointments while senators return home to campaign for midterm elections, according to a Congressional newspaper.

The move involves Senate leadership holding pro-forma sessions of the Senate every Monday and Friday to prevent Obama from filling vacant senior federal positions. By holding sessions every few days, Obama can't slip his nominees through.

Recess appointments are valid through the end of a Congressional session, and typically must be reconfirmed in the next calendar year. They're often used to appoint nominees that have been held up by the Senate. President George W. Bush nominated UN ambassador John Bolton through a recess appointment in 2005; Bolton had previously made comments saying the UN didn't exist, and later resigned when it became clear he couldn't be confirmed.

The Senate Democratic-Republican agreement was first reported by Alexander Bolton in The Hill.

Senate Democrats will schedule pro-forma sessions every week for the next six weeks, Bolton said.

"Under the law, the president can only make a recess appointment if the Senate is adjourned for more than three consecutive days," Bolton wrote. "By scheduling pro-forma sessions on Mondays and Fridays, lawmakers can take away Obama’s ability to make recess appointments."

Obama has more than 100 executive and judicial nominees pending for Senate confirmation. Scores of other positions also remain vacant.

According to Bolton, citing a top GOP aide, Republican leadership forced the Democrats' hands by threatening "to send Obama’s most controversial nominees back to the president if Democrats did not agree to schedule pro-forma sessions."

The decision to return Obama's nominees would have been made by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

Bolton notes:
The Democratic concession saved several of Obama’s most controversial nominees from a reset.

Goodwin Liu, a nominee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit; Robert Chatigny, a nominee to the 2nd Circuit; and John McConnell, Jr., a nominee to the federal district court of Rhode Island, were in danger. "They are among the most controversial nominees this White House has sent to the Senate and among the least likely to have anywhere near unanimous consent to remain on the calendar," said a GOP aide...

The Senate will stand in recess or adjourned until Friday, Nov. 12. Senators aren’t expected to return until Nov. 15, according to a Democratic leadership aide.

That would have forced the president to resubmit the nominees to the Senate and Democrats to start their confirmation processes (including hearings) all over again.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) did the same thing to President George W. Bush in 2007.

The Senate convened for several pro-forma sessions in November 2007 to prevent Bush from appointing controversial nominees.

"Bush ha[d] made several controversial recess appointments, including John Bolton as U.S. representative to the United Nations in Aug. 2005, when the Senate would not confirm the individuals," Politico reporter John Bresnahan noted. "Bolton later resigned from the U.N. post when the Senate refused to confirm his nomination.

"In April 2007, Bush appointed Sam Fox as U.S. ambassador to Belgium. Fox gave $50,000 to the group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth during the 2004 presidential campaign," added Bresnahan. "Fox's appointment infuriated Reid and other Democrats, including Sen. John Kerry (Mass.), the target of the Swift Boat campaign. Reid vowed that, in the future, he would move to head off any more recess appointments, but the White House and Senate Democrats were able to work out a compromise to cover the August break."

Fox News sued over reporter's bias charges

Lawsuit claims Fox News retaliated against reporter who complained of age, sex discrimination
SAM HANANEL
AP News - Sep 30, 2010

Federal authorities are suing the Fox News Network for allegedly retaliating against a reporter after she complained about unequal pay and job conditions based on her gender and age.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says Fox News Channel reporter Catherine Herridge filed an internal complaint about allegedly discriminatory practices in 2007.

Fox found no evidence of bias, but the EEOC says the network later included language in Herridge's employment contract intended to stop her from making any more complaints.

Herridge refused to sign the contract. The network agreed to remove the language after she complained to the EEOC.

The EEOC seeks unspecified monetary damages and a court order enjoining Fox from retaliating against other employees.

GOP leader puts kibosh on Net neutrality bill

by Marguerite Reardon - September 30, 2010

The latest attempt to introduce Net neutrality legislation has stalled in a House of Representatives committee after a prominent Republican declined to support the proposal.

Rep. Joe Barton of Texas, the senior Republican on the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee, said he would not support a Net neutrality proposal put forth earlier this week by Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.)

Waxman introduced a proposal for Net neutrality that would have prohibited wired broadband providers from "unjustly or unreasonably" discriminating against legal Web traffic. The proposal was very similar to one that was put forth by Verizon Wireless and Google last month. Both proposals would have prohibited wireless broadband networks from the same nondiscrimination requirement.

Waxman said in a statement that he was disappointed that Barton rejected the proposal since the committee had included Republican staffers in its deliberations. Waxman described the proposed legislation as a win-win for consumers as well as broadband service providers by empowering the Federal Communications Commission to enforce violations while providing adequate protections for cable and phone companies.

"Consumers would win protections that preserve the openness of the Internet, while the Internet service providers would receive relief from their fears of reclassification," he said.

Waxman admitted the legislation was only a temporary stop-gap to protect Net neutrality until Congress could come up with a more permanent solution.

Barton said he couldn't support the proposal because he feels that Congress should be looking for a more permanent solution.

"I have consulted with Republican leadership and members of the Energy and Commerce Committee, and there is a widespread view that there is not sufficient time to ensure that Chairman Waxman's proposal will keep the Internet open without chilling innovation and job creation," Barton said in a statement. "This is not a solution for the future of the Internet. America should be about preserving the vibrant and competitive free market that exists for the Internet and other interactive computer services, unfettered by federal or state regulation."

AT&T, which worked with Waxman and other lawmakers on the compromise legislation, also expressed disappointment that it did not get full support.

"While we are disappointed that it was not possible to introduce a bill with bipartisan support, we are mindful that these issues are important and complex, and that there was insufficient time to consider and act on our efforts," Jim Cicconi, senior executive president of AT&T's external and legislative affairs, said in a statement. "We are pleased that ranking members Barton and Stearns remain open to congressional action on this issue, and pledge to work closely with them toward that end."

The stalled effort is the latest in a long line of failed attempts to get formal Net neutrality rules in place. The Federal Communications Commission is currently working on official rules. But some critics argue that a recent federal court decision has called the FCC's authority into question. A court ruled earlier this year that the FCC did not have the jurisdiction to sanction Comcast when it was found violating Net neutrality principles.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Conservative Jones' latest case

The boy detective can't help wondering: Why are liberals indifferent to the menace of sharia law?
By Tom Tomorrow 
Tuesday, Sep 28, 2010


Federal Debt Held by the Public as a % of GDP - Chart

Music Ecosystem - SEAquence

SEAquence
(click the link)

"...is an experimental musical petri-dish. Adopting a biological metaphor, Seaquence allows you to create and combine musical lifeforms into unique, dynamic compositions."

"Operation Payback" attacks to go on until they "stop being angry"

By Nate Anderson | Ars Technica

The distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks against anti-piracy websites have gone on for a week now, with the lawyers behind the "US Copyright Group" being the latest target. And the anonymous Internet users behind "Operation Payback" aren't done acting out; in an interview yesterday with the security experts at Panda Labs, one of the organizers said that Anonymous' attacks will continue "until we stop being angry." Judging from the list of things that make him (?) angry, this could take a while.

The law firm of Dunlap, Grubb and Weaver was one of the newest targets of the attacks, organized a week ago to take down antipiracy organization around the world. Already hit: the RIAA (US), BPI (UK), MPAA (US), AFACT (Australia), BREIN (Netherlands), Aiplex (India), and Websheriff (UK). One of the smaller sites actually yielded the biggest bounty; the UK "P2P settlement letter factory" ACS Law gave up several hundred megabytes of private e-mails after being taken offline by the attack.

The organizers of Operation Payback view themselves as anarchists with a strong moral streak. In their initial attack announcement, they claimed that anarchists had already "succeeded en-masse in distributing content to the poor, the underprivileged, the restricted. The most popular pirates are the chinese, whose content filters restrict a vast amount of content from them. The second most popular, the poor, who cannot afford things like college books or entertainment."

These self-styled Robin Hoods are "strongly motivated to do what we can to fight back against things which are morally questionable," which means that they are now launching DDoS attacks in favor of piracy. "Sharing information" is the new morality—"information" in this case apparently including films like Get Him to the Greek, currently the top movie download on The Pirate Bay.

Operation Payback is the rage of those who need more attention. "What do we have to do to be heard?" asks the original call to action. "To be taken seriously? Do we have to take to the streets, throwing molotovs, raiding offices of those we oppose? Realize, you are forcing our hand by ignoring us. You forced us to DDoS when you ignored the people, ATTACKED the people, LIED TO THE PEOPLE! You are forcing us to take more drastic action as you ignore us, THE PEOPLE, now."

And the rage will continue until the perpetrators feel less angry about the "rich and powerful corporations" who run the world. "In a world where our voice is ignored, we feel we have no choice but to revert to direct action."

Or, as an attack organizer put it last week, "We are seeking to change our way of life OUTSIDE the 'basement' we are trapped in. This is just the beginning. This is only the start."

Poll shows record number of Americans with no faith in mainstream news sources

Published on 09-29-2010
Gallup

A Gallup poll has revealed that a record majority of Americans fundamentally do not trust the mass media and believe it to be politically biased.

When asked how much confidence they have in newspapers, TV and Radio to accurately report events, 57% of Americans surveyed said that they generally have “not very much or none at all”.

American People To Corporate Media: We Dont Trust Anything You Say 290910gallup

Analyst who got U.S. meltdown right is ringing alarm bells again

By Gary Lamphier, Edmonton Journal September 30, 2010

Unless you're a stock jockey, a bank analyst or a CNBC watcher, you've probably never heard of Meredith Whitney.

But in rarefied financial circles, the former Oppenheimer bank analyst has built a formidable reputation as an astute iconoclast who isn't afraid to call it as she sees it. (Translation: she scares the hell out of investors.)

Back in 2006, when the U.S. housing market was red hot, Whitney smelled trouble. She was among the first to draw the links between the explosion in subprime mortgages, the proliferation of subprime-backed paper being peddled by the wizards on Wall Street, and the threat these toxic assets posed to the global banking system.

While her critics called her crazy, Whitney insisted that Wall Street's banks were on far shakier ground than most investors and analysts realized. She also predicted that bank giant Citigroup, an icon of the financial establishment, was about to slash its dividend.

Despite fierce denials from the suits on Wall Street and even some death threats, Whitney stood firm. She was proved right.

The ensuing credit crisis and the fear of contagion spread to financial institutions all over the planet, triggering a meltdown in capital markets and the first global recession since the 1930s. The U.S. economy has yet to recover, and the odds appear to be growing that it could slide into a double-dip recession.

So what is Whitney worried about these days? She's still bearish on U.S. banks, which have yet to come clean on all the toxic assets that remain hidden on their books. She's also worried about the U.S. housing market and fears it could be poised for another painful decline as millions of additional foreclosures swamp the market.

But this week, Whitney also began ringing the alarm bells over another threat, and it's a biggie. After completing a rigorous two-year study, her New York-based firm -- Meredith Whitney Advisory Group -- declared that many U.S. state governments are so broke, the feds will ultimately be forced to bail them out.

If so, the U.S. government, which is already facing a $1.3-trillion-US deficit for the fiscal year now ending, may soon have to absorb the cost of the third massive federal government bailout -- following last year's bank bailout and public stimulus program -- in less than two years.

If you're wondering why the Chinese are so worried about the value of their U.S. currency reserves, there's your answer. No wonder the Federal Reserve Board is suggesting another round of quantitative easing may lie ahead (banker talk for printing more money), which would add to the Fed's already-bloated, $2.3-trillion balance sheet.

California leads Whitney's list of financial basket cases, followed by New Jersey, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, Georgia, New York and Florida.

Texas, Virginia, Washington and North Carolina earned the most positive ratings, based on an analysis of each state's economy, fiscal health, housing market and taxes.

After looking at the shaky condition of state finances, Whitney sees some alarming parallels with the U.S. banking crisis of 2008. "The similarities between the states and the banks are extreme to the extent that states have been spending dramatically and are leveraged dramatically," she told CNBC. "Municipal debt has doubled since 2000. Spending has grown way faster than revenues."

Whitney also complains about a lack of transparency in state finances -- an echo of what led up to the credit crisis. "It reminded me so much of the banks, pre-crisis, that we just kept working at it. We couldn't find anything that gave us a clear story, we couldn't find any information that was transparent. So we did it ourselves," she says.

Oh, one other thing. Whitney figures U.S. banks are in for a rocky fourth quarter. She figures they'll shed some 80,000 jobs by year's end as the impact of falling house prices and lower trading volumes hits.

Let's hope she's wrong. This is starting to sound like October 2008 all over again, and we can all remember what happened then.

Court Exempts Corporations from Alien Tort Law

September 29, 2010 - Democracy Now

A federal appeals court has ruled US corporations can no longer be sued for human rights violations abroad under the longstanding Alien Tort Statute. Earlier this month, the Second US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Alien tort claims can only be brought against individuals, not corporations. The ruling dismissed a lawsuit accusing the oil giant Royal Dutch Shell of complicity in the murder and torture of Nigerian activists including Ken Saro-Wiwa. In a separate opinion, Second Circuit Judge Pierre Leval criticized the ruling, writing, "The majority opinion deals a substantial blow to international law and its undertaking to protect fundamental human rights… So long as they incorporate, businesses will now be free to trade in or exploit slaves, employ mercenary armies to do dirty work for despots, perform genocides or operate torture prisons for a despot’s political opponents, or engage in piracy—all without civil liability to victims."

Star Wars Jumps the Shark, In 3D

by Steve Radler - September 29th, 2010

Just when you thought it was safe to say you own the definitive version of Star Wars, out pops a new attempt to take money from our wallets.

Over the next two years, the Star Wars Saga will be undergoing a 3D technological transformation. The Phantom Menace will be the first one out of the gates, popping into theaters in 2012. The others will follow. Lucasfilm told Variety that these 3D versions will be not be crappy 3D conversions. I have visions of choppy and overly dark scenes from the recent Clash of the Titans remake that was rushed out into the 3D converter.

Personally, I do not have high hopes for this endeavor. It feels more like a chance to steal $13-$18 from moviegoers, rather than give them a cinematic adventure. Most of the Star Wars movies worked just fine in two dimensions. Adding a third dimension won’t help clunkers like the three prequels that all but destroyed my love of the Star Wars Saga. The 3D bandwagon is overdone and overplayed. To ask moviegoers to shell out an extra three to five dollars to “rent” a pair of glasses is ridiculous, bordering on robbery. To ask Star Wars fans to once again shell out money to see the latest incarnation of the Saga is downright greedy. I would much rather they release the films on the big screen in their current or original un-Greedo-Shot-First state. I would gladly pay the price of an admission ticket to see The Empire Strikes Back on the big screen again.

Instead of spending all that time and money to try and reinvent the wheel, maybe Lucasfilm should work on something new. The Star Wars Universe is filled will great stories and characters that could easily transfer to the silver screen. Imagine a new Star Wars movie that had a great plot and director. There is so much to choose from, but sadly I doubt this would happen anytime soon. This is just another shining example that George Lucas is played out and devoid of the original film making genius that brought us American Graffiti and the Original Star Wars.

So brace yourself for a marketing plan with all kinds of toys and fast food tie-ins. Once again Star Wars fans will be asked to shell out money for the latest, and according to Lucasfilm, greatest rendition of the Star Wars Sagas. Don’t believe the hype. Movie fans deserve better than this.

Fructose--or "Corn Sugar"--Is Not The Same As Sugar

by Dave Wittenborn - September 16, 2010

On September 14th, the Corn Refiners Association petitioned the FDA to approve the use of the name "corn sugar" to replace "fructose."

While this may be the equivalent of placing a fake nose and glasses over the substance formerly known as high fructose corn syrup, or HFCS, the assumption by corn refiners such as Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland that the general public is too stupid to see through the disguise is nowhere near as offensive as the outright lies being told by the industry that your body can't tell the difference between HFCS and sugar.

If you would like an in-depth, but very entertaining explanation of how your body metabolizes fructose differently than sugar, watch this outstanding presentation by Dr. Robert Lustig, M.D., a UCSF Professor in the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism.



Here's the deal. HFCS used in most food products is a blend of about 55% fructose and 42% glucose. Sugar, or sucrose is also composed of about the same proportions of the same two substances. The difference, and your body considers it to be a BIG difference, is that in regular sugar, the fructose and glucose components are chemically bonded together. In HFCS, they are not chemically connected.

 This diagram depicts roughly what a molecule of sugar would look like, fructose and glucose, bound together. Take away the "bar" that connects the two, and you have the equivalent of HFCS.

Because of this difference, according to researchers at Princeton University, your liver metabolizes HFCS in a very different, and harmful, way than it metabolizes the same amount of calories from cane sugar, leading to significant relative weight gain and other health problems from HFCS.

As if that's not enough, recently a UCLA research team found that cancer cells that were fed fructose grew at a significantly faster rate than did cells that were fed common sugar.

Study author Dr. Anthony Heaney, Associate Professor of Medicine and Neurosurgery at UCLA's cancer center, said it was likely that fructose would also speed the growth of other cancers as well. The study was published in the August 1, 2010 issue of Cancer Research.

The bottom line is this: if HFCS was indeed the same as sugar, the corn refiners would be providing research to prove it, rather than hiding behind the smoke and mirrors of changing its name. The truth is, it's NOT the same, and independent research proves it. The FDA should ignore the name change request and focus on the lies being told to the public.

Foreclosures Make Up 24% of Home Sales

by Jeanine Skowronski 09/30/10

Foreclosed homes accounted for 24% of all residential sales in the second quarter of the year, according to the latest data from RealtyTrac, a firm that monitors the foreclosure market.

A total of 248,534 U.S. properties in some stage of foreclosure -- default, scheduled for auction or bank repossession -- sold to third parties in the second quarter. While this represents an increase of nearly 5% from the previous quarter, the figures are down 20% from the same time last year.

"While foreclosure sales increased in the second quarter, nonforeclosure sales increased even more, spurred on by the homebuyer tax credit that expired during the quarter," said James J. Saccacio, CEO of RealtyTrac.

Saccacio did warn, however, that this may be only a temporary rise as the expiration of the homebuyer tax credit could drive more buyers back to discounted short sales and bank repossessions.

According to the latest data, the average sales price of properties that sold while in some stage of the foreclosure process was more than 26% below the average sales price of properties not in foreclosure. This represents a 27% decrease from the average discount in the first quarter.

A separate study conducted by industry group S&P/Case-Shiller indicated that home prices have been on the rise for the past five consecutive months for which data are available. Prices rose only slightly in July, up 0.6% compared with June, according to the group's 20-city home price index. Housing prices rose 3.2% from the previous year.

RealtyTrac compiles its data from its online database of foreclosure properties, which includes more than 1.5 million default, auction and bank-owned listings from more than 2,200 counties.

State by state, it was a much bleaker picture. Foreclosure sales accounted for nearly 56% of all sales in Nevada in the second quarter, the highest percentage of any state. In Arizona, foreclosures accounted for 47% of all sales in second quarter. Other states where foreclosure sales accounted for at least one-quarter of all sales were Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Florida, Michigan, Georgia, Idaho and Oregon.

With so many properties entering foreclosure these days, it's little surprise they continue to represent such a large chunk of the total housing market. Data released by RealtyTrac earlier this month showed foreclosure activity increased 4% from July to August. More than 330,000 U.S. properties got default notices, scheduled auctions or were repossessed by the bank during that period, meaning that one in every 381 U.S. homes got a foreclosure filing in August.

House Democrats shelve net neutrality proposal

In face of Republican opposition, House Democrats shelve network neutrality proposal
JOELLE TESSLER
AP News Sep 29, 2010 21:58 EDT

House Democrats have shelved a last-ditch effort to broker a compromise between phone, cable and Internet companies on rules that would prohibit broadband providers from blocking or degrading online traffic flowing over their networks.

House Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., abandoned the effort late Wednesday in the face of Republican opposition to his proposed "network neutrality" rules. Those rules were intended to prevent broadband providers from becoming online gatekeepers by playing favorites with traffic.

The battle over net neutrality has pitted public interest groups and Internet companies such as Google Inc. and Skype against the nation's big phone and cable companies, including AT&T Inc., Verizon Communications Inc. and Comcast Corp.

Public interest groups and Internet companies say regulations are needed to prevent phone and cable operators from slowing or blocking Internet phone calls, online video and other Web services that compete with their core businesses. They also want rules to ensure that broadband companies cannot favor their own online traffic or the traffic of business partners that can pay for priority access.

But the phone and cable companies insist they need flexibility to manage network traffic so that high-bandwidth applications don't hog capacity and slow down their systems. They say this is particularly true for wireless networks, which have more bandwidth constraints than wired systems. The communications companies also argue that after spending billions to upgrade their networks for broadband, they need to be able earn a healthy return by offering premium services. Burdensome net neutrality rules, they say, would discourage future investments.

Waxman's proposal, the product of weeks of negotiations, attempted to carve out a middle ground by prohibiting Internet traffic discrimination over wireline networks while giving broadband providers more leeway when it comes to managing traffic on wireless networks. The plan would have given the Federal Communications Commission authority to impose fines of up to $2 million for net-neutrality violations.

For the broadband companies, Waxman's retreat is a setback. They fear the issue could now go back to the FCC, which deadlocked over the matter in August. The commission could impose more restrictive rules on the industry than a House compromise would have.

"If Congress can't act, the FCC must," Waxman said in a statement. He added that "this development is a loss for consumers."

Net neutrality was the Obama administration's top campaign pledge to the technology industry and a major priority of the current FCC chairman, Julius Genachowski, a key architect of Obama's technology platform. But frustration is growing — particularly among public interest groups — as the debate has dragged on over the past year without resolution either at the FCC or in Congress.

Waxman's proposal, in part, fell victim to today's political climate, with Republicans hoping to rack up gains in the upcoming midterm elections apparently unwilling to help Democrats make progress on such a contentious issue. With an anti-government, anti-regulation sentiment sweeping the nation — and boosting Tea Party candidates — Republicans also were reluctant to support a proposal that opponents equate to regulating the Internet.

Yet in what would have been a big victory for the phone and cable companies, Waxman's proposal would have headed off an effort by Genachowski to redefine broadband as a telecommunications service subject to "common carrier" obligations to treat all traffic equally.

The FCC has been trying to craft a new framework for regulating broadband since a federal appeals court in April threw out its current approach, which treats broadband as a lightly regulated "information service." The agency had argued that this approach gave it ample jurisdiction to mandate net neutrality.

But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia rejected that argument. It ruled that the agency had overstepped its authority when it ordered Comcast to stop blocking subscribers from using an online file-sharing service called BitTorrent to swap movies and other big files.

With Congress making no progress to resolve this issue, several public interest groups on Wednesday called on Genachowski to move ahead with his proposal to reclassify broadband as a telecom service.

"The FCC must act now to protect consumers by reinstating its authority over broadband," Gigi Sohn, president of the public interest group Public Knowledge, said in a statement. "We expect the FCC to do so to carry out one of the fundamental promises of the Obama administration."

But Joe Barton of Texas, the top Republican on the House Commerce Committee, said Genachowski's proposal would "stifle investment and create regulatory overhang in one of the most dynamic sectors of our economy."

Congress fails to approve budget before recess

 (The Democrats: waving the white flag before elections since 1950...--jef)


By The Associated Press - Thursday, September 30th, 2010

Embattled Democrats put off votes, debates on taxes, other tough issues until after election

A deeply unpopular Congress is bolting for the campaign trail without finishing its most basic job — approving a budget for the government year that begins on Friday. Lawmakers also are postponing a major fight over taxes, two embarrassing ethics cases and other political hot potatoes until angry and frustrated voters render their verdict in the Nov. 2 elections.

As a last necessary task before leaving, both the Senate and House passed a temporary spending measure needed to keep federal agencies operating when the new budget year starts.

As Congress moved toward a messy end to a session fraught with partisan fire, President Barack Obama campaigned for Democrats in Iowa and Virginia, accusing Republicans of being dishonest about what needs to be done to revive the economy and restore middle-class dreams.

With their House and Senate majorities on the line, Democratic leaders called off votes and even debates on all controversial matters.
Story continues below...

"It would be one thing if you have a chance to pass something, then by all means have a vote," Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., said Wednesday. "But it was pretty clear that it was going to be mutually assured destruction."

One foot out the door, the House and Senate convened just long enough to vote on a "continuing resolution," a stopgap measure to keep the government in operating funds for the next two months and avoid a pre-election federal shutdown.

The Senate late Wednesday approved the temporary spending bill 69-30. The House followed suit several hours later with a 228-194 vote, sending it to Obama early Thursday.

"We may not agree on much, but I think, with rare exception, all 100 senators want to get out of here and get back to their states," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who is locked in a tough re-election fight against Republican Sharron Angle in Nevada.

Staying or going might seem an equally unpleasant prospect for some embattled Democrats, who are facing more than four weeks of defending unpopular votes in favor of Obama's economic stimulus measure, health care law and uncompleted legislation for curbing global warming.

They also head home without what was supposed to be their closing argument of the campaign, an extension of Bush-era tax cuts for families making less than $250,000.

Republicans and a few Democrats urged Congress to preserve the tax cuts for all Americans, even the wealthiest. Democratic leaders opted to avoid the risk of being branded tax hikers and punted the matter until after the elections.

Republicans applied the label anyway, scolding Democrats for folding the tent without voting on extending former President George W. Bush's tax cuts beyond their Dec. 31 expiration. A motion to adjourn upon completing routine business passed by a single vote, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's, after 39 Democrats joined Republicans in protest.

"If Democratic leaders leave town without stopping all of the tax hikes, they are turning their backs on the American people," said House Minority Leader John Boehner.

Pelosi has vowed that the middle class tax cuts will be passed this year.

Republicans also denounced Democrats for delaying the ethics trials of Reps. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., and Maxine Waters, D-Calif., until after the elections. Both lawmakers had said they wanted trials as soon as possible.

House leaders also appeared unlikely to call a vote on a Senate-passed school nutrition bill favored by first lady Michelle Obama. The bill is opposed by liberals because it would cut food stamp benefits to find the money to pay for better school lunches. The Senate passed the $4.5 billion legislation in August, and many of the child nutrition programs it includes are to expire on Thursday, the last day of the fiscal year. They'll be temporarily extended under the stopgap bill.

In the waning hours before adjournment, Democrats moved what smaller legislation they could.

The House advanced to Obama's desk a bill setting NASA policy and legislation aimed at strengthening congressional oversight of sensitive spy operations. But a House measure to provide free health care and additional compensation to World Trade Center workers sickened in the towers' crumbled ruins was sure to stall in the Senate.

The stopgap spending measure was kept clean of a host of add-ons sought by the Obama administration, including money for "Race to the Top" grants to better-performing schools and more than $4 billion to finance settlements of long-standing lawsuits by black farmers and American Indians against the government. A single GOP senator, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, was blocking the bill for black farmers and Indians, and negotiations were continuing.

Prospects were being helped by the addition of several measures — favored by western Republicans — to resolve Indian water claims.

The stopgap bill is a reminder of the dismal performance by Congress in doing its most basic job — passing an annual budget and the spending bills for agency operations.

Only two of a dozen annual appropriations bills have passed the House this year and none has passed the Senate as Democratic leaders have opted against lengthy floor debates and politically difficult votes on spending.

The breakdown in the budget process includes a senator from Obama's own party holding up the confirmation of a director to head the White House budget office, a critical post. Mary Landrieu, D-La., is blocking the nomination until the administration lifts or significantly modifies a Gulf oil well moratorium imposed after the BP spill.

The end-of session agenda included:
  • The House, on a 304-118 vote, sent to the president a legislative blueprint for NASA's future that would extend the life of the space shuttle program for a year while backing Obama's intent to use commercial carriers to carry humans into space. Obama will sign the measure.
  • Also on its way to the president's desk was the first intelligence authorization bill since 2004, with compromise language on demands by Congress for greater access to top secret intelligence. The most secret briefings will still only be provided to top congressional leaders, but members of the intelligence panels will receive a general description of the programs. The House vote was 244-181.
  • The House approved legislation, 348-79, that would allow the U.S. to seek trade sanctions against China and other nations for manipulating their currency to gain trade advantages. Its prospects are unclear in the Senate.
The child nutrition bill ran into trouble after House supporters abandoned their own $8 billion version and proposed passing the Senate version, which would be partially paid for by using future funding for food stamp programs. The bill now faces opposition from hunger groups, and some Democrats have said they will not support it if the food stamp money is used.

The Paradox of Middle-Cass Aspiration

Is it the enduring myth of the American dream that persuades so many to support tax cuts they will never earn enough to enjoy?

by Sadhbh Walshe - Thursday, September 30, 2010 by The Guardian/UK

One thing we can thank the Great Recession for is that it has finally drawn attention to the growing inequality in American society. Any study or report you care to look at leads to the same sorry conclusion: the rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer, and the middle class are disappearing. These trends have accelerated since 2000, but they have been in place for decades; yet, a large percentage of people who are suffering as a result of the inequality seem to favour, or at least tolerate, the policies that perpetuate it.

Real wages have been stagnating and income inequality has been steadily rising in the US since the 1970s, even during periods of sustained economic growth. But we are now reaching a point where economists are panicking about middle class erosion. The recent census report showed that the median income of $50,221 was down about 4% last year from the start of the recession in December 2007. At the same time, the number of families earning less than $25,000 increased by 1%.

The average American family that used to aspire to a comfortable existence that included annual vacations, college education for their kids and home ownership is now battling just to hold on to that home and stay afloat. At least no one is in denial about this. Whatever news channel you tune into you, be it right or left of the spectrum, you will hear cries of help for the ordinary Americans. It is the form of help that is on offer, and the complacency with which we are accepting that 'help' that is perplexing.

The Republican party recently unveiled their "Pledge to America" in which they outline their plans to address the economic anxiety of the majority of Americans by awarding a $700bn dollar tax cut extension to the wealthy who are thriving and cutting spending on programmes that benefit the rest of the country who are not. What is surprising about this is not the lack of imagination (or shame) displayed in the GOP's approach to improving prosperity for all Americans, but that so many people who are not themselves well-off support this generous gift to the rich.

According to a recent AP-gfk poll, 44% of the country is opposed to raising taxes on the highest earners. And, by a margin of 46 to 41%, people want Republicans steering the economy. This is unfortunate considering that according to research compiled by Larry M Bartels of the department of politics at Princeton, income inequality rises under Republicans, whose policies favour the rich, and falls under Democrats, whose policies favour the not-rich, yet more people want Republicans running the show. This perhaps explains, though does not excuse, why the Democrats, in a classic display of what the New York Times calls "timidity", have deferred dealing with the tax cut issue until after the mid-term election – when it may be too late.

The generally accepted explanation of why many Americans, even those that are poor, are opposed to raising taxes for the rich is the enduring belief in upward social mobility or that they may one day be rich themselves. We still believe America is the land of opportunity. You can be born in the ghetto and rise to super stardom. A welfare recipient from a broken home may become president. But the truth is, for the vast majority of people, these dreams are out of reach and, in fact, the US actually has the lowest social mobility of any industrialised nation.

This was one of the more startling findings in a recent book called The Spirit Level, written by two British epidemiologists, Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett. The main conclusion the authors came to, after examining examined decades of research from reputable sources, was that everyone fares better in a more equal society. Countries like the US and Britain and Australia that are very unequal have higher crime rates, lower educational standards and generally more social ills than more equal countries like Sweden and Japan. All this seems pretty self-evident, but the findings have come under attack from rightwing groups in Britain and the US, who are perhaps unnerved by the book's widespread popularity.

We seem to be determined to support politicians and policies that do not serve our best interests regardless of the outcome. At some point, we have to address this trend and not allow delusion to dilute the dream. The middle-class erosion and levels of poverty we are currently experiencing have not yet reached levels where social unrest is the inevitable outcome, but we are headed in that direction.

Dwight Was Right

by Michael Moore - Thursday, September 30, 2010 by CommonDreams.org

So...it turns out President Eisenhower wasn't making up all that stuff about the Corporate military-industrial complex.

That's what you'll conclude if you read Bob Woodward's new book, Obama's War. (You can read excerpts of it here, here and here.) You thought you voted for change when you cast a ballot for Barack Obama? Um, not when it comes to America occupying countries that don't begin with a "U" and an "S."

In fact, after you read Woodward's book, you'll split a gut every time you hear a politician or a government teacher talk about "civilian control over the military." The only people really making the decisions about America's wars are across the river from Washington in the Pentagon. They wear uniforms. They have lots of weapons they bought from the corporations they will work for when they retire.

For everyone who supported Obama in 2008, it's reassuring to find out he understands we have to get out of Afghanistan. But for everyone who's worried about Obama in 2010, it's scary to find out that what he thinks should be done may not actually matter. And that's because he's not willing to stand up to the people who actually run this country.

And here's the part I don't even want to write -- and none of you really want to consider:
It matters not whom we elect. The Pentagon and the military contractors call the shots. The title "Commander in Chief" is ceremonial, like "Employee of the Month" at your local Burger King. 
Everything you need to know can be found in just two paragraphs from Obama's War. Here's the scene: Obama is meeting with his National Security Council staff on the Saturday after Thanksgiving last year. He's getting ready to give a big speech announcing his new strategy for Afghanistan. Except...the strategy isn't set yet. The military has presented him with just one option: escalation. But at the last minute, Obama tells everyone, hold up -- the door to a plan for withdrawal isn't closed.

The brass isn't having it:
"Mr. President," [Army Col. John Tien] said, "I don't see how you can defy your military chain here. We kind of are where we are. Because if you tell General McChrystal, 'I got your assessment, got your resource constructs, but I've chosen to do something else,' you're going to probably have to replace him. You can't tell him, 'Just do it my way, thanks for your hard work.' And then where does that stop?"
The colonel did not have to elaborate. His implication was that not only McChrystal but the entire military high command might go in an unprecedented toppling -- Gates; Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and Gen. David H. Petraeus, then head of U.S. Central Command. Perhaps no president could weather that, especially a 48-year-old with four years in the U.S. Senate and 10 months as commander in chief.
And, well, the rest is history. Three days later, Obama announced the escalation at West Point. And he became our newest war president.
 
But here's the question Woodward doesn't answer: Why, exactly, can't a president weather ending a war, even if he has to fire all his generals to do it? It's right there in Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution: The President's in charge of the military. And so is Congress: the army can't just march over to the Treasury Department and steal the money for wars. Article I, Section 9 says Congress has to appropriate it.

In the real world, though, the Constitution's just a piece of paper. In the real world, a President who fired his top military in order to stop a war would be ruined before you could say "bloodless coup." The Washington Post (filled with ads from Boeing and Northrop Grumman) would scream about how he was the reincarnation of Neville Chamberlain. Fox and CNN (filled with "experts" who work for think tanks funded by Raytheon and General Dynamics) would say he was a girly-man who had to be impeached.
And Congress (which experienced its own escalation in lobbying from defense contractors just as the Afghanistan escalation was being decided) might well do it. (By the way, if you want to listen to Lyndon Johnson talk in 1964 about how he might be impeached if he didn't follow the corporate military-industrial complex's orders and escalate the war in Vietnam, just go here.)

So here's your assignment for tonight: Watch Eisenhower's famous farewell speech. And then start thinking about how we can tame this beast. The Soviet Union had its own military-industrial complex, which is one reason they got into Afghanistan...which is one reason there's no more Soviet Union. It happened to them.

Don't think it can happen to us?



vidlink

One in Five Plant Species Face Extinction

First ever comprehensive study of plants, from giant rainforests to common snowdrops, finds 22% of all species at risk • Third of all 'extinct' mammals species found alive
by Juliette Jowit
Wednesday, September 29, 2010 by The Guardian/UK

One in five of the world's plant species – the basis of all life on earth – are at risk of extinction, according to a landmark study published today.

At first glance, the 20% figure looks far better than the previous official estimate of almost three-quarters, but the announcement is being greeted with deep concern.

The previous estimate that 70% of plants were either critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable was based on what scientists universally acknowledged were studies heavily biased towards species already thought to be under threat.

Today the first ever comprehensive assessment of plants, from giant tropical rainforests to the rarest of delicate orchids, concludes the real figure is at least 22%. It could well be higher because hundreds of species being discovered by scientists each year are likely to be in the "at risk" category.

"We think this is a conservative estimate," said Eimear Nic Lughadha, one of the scientists at Kew Gardens in west London responsible for the project.

The plant study is also considered critical to understanding the level of threat to all the natural world's biodiversity, said Craig Hilton-Taylor of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which runs the world's offical "red list" of threatened species. "Plants are the basis of life, and unless we know what's happening to plants it has many implications," said Hilton-Taylor.

The results will be presented to world leaders meeting at Nagoya in Japan in October to discuss the world's biodiversity crisis, along with new red lists for vertebrates and several groups of the planet's millions of invertebrate species.

"This is a base point," said Lughadha. "What we do from now is going to lead to the future of plants. We need to challenge the idea that plants are there to be exploited by us, we need to move to a system where we're nurturing plants much more carefully [and] actively taking steps to conserve them."

Politicians and conservation experts will also be told that by far the biggest threat to plants is human – rather than natural – causes, especially intensive agriculture, livestock grazing, logging and infrastructure development.

Caroline Spelman, the environment secretary, who will travel to Japan for the final talks, said the results were deeply troubling. She added: "Plant life is vital to our very existence, providing us with food, water, medicines, and the ability to mitigate and adapt to climate change."

Scientists randomly selected 7,000 species from across the major plant groups as a representative sample of the estimated 380,000-400,000 so far known to science. Of these, 3,000 were found to have too little information to begin making an proper assessment – a result that was expected and so built into the selection process.

The remaining 4,000 species were assessed and the level or risk based on a combination of the absolute number of plants estimated in the wild, the known decline, and the total area in which they are thought to live.

Of the 4,000, 63% were found to be of "least concern", 10% near threatened, 11% vulnerable, 7% endangered and 4% critically endangered. Another 5% were rated "data deficient".

The proportion of plant species deemed at-risk is similar to that of the IUCN's red list for mammals, worse than that for birds (less than 10% at-risk) and better than the number for amphibians (more than a quarter under threat).

Nearly two-thirds of threatened plant species are found in tropical rainforests, five times the proportion for the nearest other habitats – rocky areas, temperate forests and tropical dry forests. This is because of their huge density of biodiversity and the widespread risks of logging and clearance for other agriculture, said analysts.

Previously the red list for plants contained assessments for a greater number of plants – about 12,873 or 3% of known species – but was not considered representative because scientists had focused on at-risk species so that they could get attention and funding for conservation.

The assessment was done using experts and collections at the herbaria at Kew Gardens, the Natural History Museum in London and Missouri Botanical Garden in the US, plus specialist experts from the IUCN.
From pines to snowdrops to rosewood – six of the endangered plants

Wollemi pine (Wollemia nobilis) – critically endangered

The wollemi pine was discovered in 1994 in Wollemi National Park, Australia, and there fewer than 50 mature individuals are known. Its long-term regeneration from seed is unknown but seems doubtful due to competition with other trees. Its small size and limited range means it is at risk from any chance event such as fire or the spread of disease.

Common snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis) – near threatened

The common snowdrop was once widely distributed in the east Carpathian mountains in central and eastern Europe. Although it is widely naturalised, including in the UK, during the past decade its native distribution has been considerably reduced, due mainly to habitat loss through the increase in residential developments and recreational land use.

Rosewood (Dalbergia andapensis) – critically endangered

D. andapensis is a species of rosewood, a highly valued timber sed in the production of fine furniture and musical instruments. It is estimated that 52,000 tonnes of rosewood and ebony were logged in north-east Madagascar in 2009, and this habitat is itself under threat from conversion to agriculture for a growing rural population.

Wood bitter-vetch (Vicia orobus) – least concern

Wood bitter-vetch is a rare species found through much of western Europe, including the British Isles, at woodland margins, field edges and rocky places, often on limestone. In Ireland it is considered to be threatened as a result of habitat loss, and is being protected by the National Botanic Gardens of Ireland.

Whited's milkvetch (Astragalus sinuatus) - Critically Endangered

Whited's milkvetch is restricted to a tiny area of the state of Washington, USA. Its dry hillside habitat is threatened by invasive, non-native species, by grazing and by agriculture. Seeds have been collected and banked by the Berry Botanic Garden Seed Bank for Rare and Endangered Plants of the Pacific Northwest and the Miller Seed Vault, University of Washington Botanic Gardens.

Encephalartos altensteinii – vulnerable

E. altensteinii is found in coastal regions of the eastern cape, South Africa, where the number of individuals has declined by more than 30% in the past 50 years. Large numbers have been removed from its native habitat, including 438 plants in one poaching incident in 1995, mainly by horticultural collectors for pot plants or medicinal use.

No Fluke: Republicans Support Off-Shoring Jobs

by Leo Gerard   September 30, 2010

Like the clear results on a pH test strip, the vote in the U.S. Senate this week on the Creating American Jobs and Ending Off-Shoring Act showed Republicans’ true color: Red. Red for China.

Or Mexico. Or Indonesia. Or anywhere multi-national corporations get tax breaks for exporting American jobs. In this test of loyalty, every Republican in the Senate voted for corporate greed over American workers.

No fluke, this is a GOP pattern. The red party has consistently sided with giant corporations to the detriment of the American economy and American workers. In voting against health care reform, Republicans chose giant health insurance corporations over uninsured Americans. In opposing financial reform, Republicans embraced Wall Street over the taxpayers who bailed out the big banks and don’t want to do it again.

Republicans vainly attempted to rationalize those votes as opposing government regulation. There’s no regulation issue in the Creating American Jobs and Ending Off-Shoring Act.

That Act would have removed tax incentives the U.S. government gives corporations to close domestic factories, fire American workers and move production overseas. And, conversely, the Act would have instituted tax cuts for corporations that return foreign employment to U.S. soil.

Every Republican in the Senate voted against the Act. They voted to continue forcing Americans to give tax breaks to corporations that ship jobs overseas during the worst recession since the Great Depression. The GOP said it is right and proper for U.S. citizens to subsidize corporate killing of American manufacturing. And Republicans said it would be wrong to do the opposite — to use tax breaks to encourage corporations to restore off-shored jobs to the U.S.

Democrats, whose first priority is American workers, are pushing a 17-bill Make it in America plan. The Creating American Jobs and Ending Off-Shoring Act is part of that effort to bolster domestic industry and employment.

With joblessness stuck at 9.6 percent and with the U.S. trade deficit destroying or displacing 5.6 million jobs — 70 percent of them good-paying manufacturing jobs — in just one year – 2007, Democrats developed this plan to preserve American industry and jobs. Recent surveys of likely voters suggest the Democrats’ Make it in American program is exactly what Americans want and believe the country needs.

In a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released earlier this week, 86 percent of respondents cited corporate off-shoring of American jobs as the primary cause of the country’s continuing economic distress.

Similarly, a bi-partisan polling team that conducted a survey of likely voters for the Alliance for American Manufacturing in April found large majorities believe manufacturing strength is crucial to U.S. economic security and that the government should fortify American industry. These voters told the pollsters that they believe America no longer leads the world in manufacturing but could again with proper support.

That can-do-it attitude is realistic. Already some manufacturers are on-shoring. General Electric is moving production of its energy-efficient water heaters from China to the United States. Caterpillar and NCR, a technology company, are doing the same. A survey in June found 21 percent of North American manufacturers brought production into or closer to the United States in the previous three months and another 38 percent planned to research such a move.

Manufacturers gave USA Today numerous reasons for this repatriation. Chinese wages and shipping costs have risen. They cited poor quality foreign manufactured goods; theft of intellectual property; long product delivery times interfering with response to consumer demand, and benefits from providing engineers easy access to assembly lines.

The trade publication, Supply Chain Digest, quoted two experts in an August story about the on-shoring trend:
“George Stalk, a consultant at Boston Consulting Group, has led research efforts showing the inventory benefits for high margin, fashion-oriented goods from bringing production at least back to North America almost always trump the value of lower manufacturing costs in Asia. Those benefits come from both not losing sales from being out of stock and not getting stuck with obsolete inventory that a company can’t sell or must mark down dramatically.”
And, the story quoted Jeremy Leonard, a consultant for Manufacturers Alliance/MAPI:
“A lot of companies who have gone there to take advantage of cheap labor are starting to tell us that if you (calculate) total cost and don’t just look at wages, it’s actually not worth it.”
Democrats sought to nurture and expand the repatriation trend. But like numerous Make it in America bills passed by the U.S. House, the Creating American Jobs and Ending Off-Shoring Act died at the hands of Senate Republicans. Democrats had the majority with 53 votes for the measure, but Republicans, as they have all year, blocked passage by using a filibuster to require a super-majority of 60.

The next test for Republicans will occur Nov. 2. In the mid-term election, Americans red-in-the-face angry at the GOP for extending tax breaks to corporations for expatriating American jobs have the opportunity to show Republican politicians what it feels like to lose a job.