Thursday, February 26, 2015


'Hardline Islamist militants in northern Iraq have destroyed a collection of priceless statues and sculptures dating to the ancient Assyrian era, according to a video published online.

The Islamic State video showed men attacking the artefacts, some of them identified as antiquities from the 7th century BC, with sledgehammers or drills, saying they were symbols of idolatry.

"The Prophet ordered us to get rid of statues and relics, and his companions did the same when they conquered countries after him," an unidentified man said in the video.

The articles destroyed appeared to come from an antiquities museum in the northern city of Mosul, which was overrun by Islamic State last June, a former employee at the museum told Reuters.

The militants shoved statues off their plinths, shattering them on the floor, and one man applied an electric drill to a large winged bull.

The video showed a large room strewn with dismembered statues, and Islamic songs played in the background.'



25 Animals Responsible For Killing The Most Humans

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25 Everyday Things That Are Statistically Deadlier Than Sharks

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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Fwd: Fed

'Janet Yellen sought to lay the groundwork for the end of zero interest rates in America, opening up the US Federal Reserve's options on policy amid a strengthening economy.

The Fed chairman told a US Senate committee on Tuesday that if the central bank modified its guidance to markets, rate moves could follow at any meeting, as she prepared global investors for interest rate rises later this year.

Friday, February 20, 2015


'Three missing London schoolgirls 'travelling to Syria to join Isil'

Metropolitan Police 'extremely concerned' about three teenage girls from east London school believed to be attempting to travel to Syria via Turkey


It is thought the girls, who were just 16 at the time and were academic high fliers, followed their older brother who is believed to be a jihadist fighter in the region.

The pair, who had dreamed of pursuing medical careers, later became jihadi brides, but were widowed when both their husbands were killed fighting for Isil...

Last year, twin teenage sisters, Zahra and Salma Halane, disappeared from their home in Manchester and flew to Istanbul, bound for Syria

It is thought the girls, who were just 16 at the time and were academic high fliers, followed their older brother who is believed to be a jihadist fighter in the region.

The pair, who had dreamed of pursuing medical careers, later became jihadi brides, but were widowed when both their husbands were killed fighting for Isil.





'He said, "when millions of people -- especially youth -- are impoverished and have no hope for the future, when corruption inflicts daily humiliations on people, when there are no outlets by which people can express their concerns, resentments fester. The risk of instability and extremism grow. Where young people have no education, they are more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and radical ideas..."

The President did acknowledge that terrorists can be rich like Osama bin Laden, who was the son of a Saudi construction magnate who attended the top high school and the best university in Saudi Arabia. It's hard to imagine someone with more opportunities. Think the Trump family Saudi-style, minus the bling, and throw in a deep admiration for the Taliban.

But in fact Osama bin Laden is more the rule than the exception. Take Mohamed Atta, the son of an Egyptian lawyer, who had worked on a doctorate in, of all things, urban preservation at a German university and who led the 9/11 attacks. Or the present leader of al Qaeda, Ayman al Zawahiri, a surgeon who comes from a leading Egyptian family that counts ambassadors, politicians and prominent clerics amongst its ranks.

Nearer to home we can also point to the Fort Hood shooter, Maj. Nidal Hasan, who was not only an officer in the U.S. Army and a psychiatrist, but is also from a comfortably middle-class family in Virginia.

Let's also add to the mix Faisal Shahzad, who tried to blow up a bomb-laden SUV in Times Square on May 1, 2010. He had obtained an MBA in the United States and had worked as a financial analyst for the Elizabeth Arden cosmetics company. His father was one of the top officers in the Pakistani military.

These are not the dispossessed. They are the empowered.

"Who becomes a terrorist?" turns out, in many cases, to be much like asking, "Who owns a Volvo?"

Indeed, New America has studied the backgrounds of some 250 U.S.-based militants since 9/11 who have been indicted in or convicted of some kind of jihadist terrorist crime. They are on average middle class, reasonably well-educated family men with kids. They are, in short, ordinary Americans.

Similarly, in his important 2004 book "Understanding Terror Networks," psychiatrist Marc Sageman, a former CIA case officer, examined the backgrounds of 172 militants who were part of al Qaeda or a similar group. Just under half were professionals; two-thirds were either middle or upper class and had gone to college; indeed, several had doctorates.



Monday, February 16, 2015

Fwd: Turkey

'Turkish democracy is under assault. The increasingly conservative rhetoric of the AKP, the country's dominant political party, is fueling widespread concern that the secular Turkish Republic might soon be supplanted by an Islamist regime. The end result, many worry, could be a repressive state dominated by sharia law—one similar to Iran.

But a different geographic analogy might be more appropriate. The AKP's conservative leanings notwithstanding, Turkey isn't about to go Islamist. In fact, the party's systematic campaign to eliminate political rivals is rooted not in religious fervor but in the secular aspiration to retain and consolidate power. A deeper look at Turkey's political trajectory under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan suggests that he is steering Turkey in an authoritarian but secular direction, toward a state not unlike President Vladimir Putin's Russia.'




Thursday, February 12, 2015

Re: Nitrogen

On Thu, Feb 12, 2015 at 8:32 AM, Larry wrote:

'Republicans in Oklahoma are advocating for the state to become the country's first to execute death row inmates with nitrogen in a gas chamber. Executions currently are on hold in Oklahoma, pending a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court on a case involving the controversial sedative midazolam.

Legislative hearings on a House and Senate bill regarding the issue are scheduled for this week. If a court find the state's lethal injection procedures unconstitutional, the new measures would make death through the use of nitrogen an alternative plan for execution in Oklahoma. By using nitrogen gas, the inmate would die from hypoxia, or the depletion of oxygen to the bloodstream.

Republican state Rep. Mike Christian, who conducted a hearing last summer on hypoxia...told The Associated Press that using nitrogen would be "a lot more practical" than requiring medical doctors for executions or using poisonous drugs like cyanide…

Four states — Arizona, California, Missouri and Wyoming — currently have gas chamber procedures in place, but lethal injection remains the primary method of execution, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. '

I heard that Utah was considering the firing squad as an alternative to lethal injection.  It makes more sense to me to have something that (I presume) is relatively painless.

Critics of lethal injection are just trying to ban capital punishment.  Although I mostly agree, I think that maybe they aren't being honest about their motives.
​John Coffey​

Chis Kyle's Widow Breaks Down on the Stand and the Chilling Text Message

Court hears Taya Kyle's emotional testimony as she talks about their life and the day he died.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Fwd: cholesterol

'The nation's top nutrition advisory panel will drop its caution about eating cholesterol-laden food, a move that could undo almost 40 years of government warnings.
The group's finding that cholesterol in the diet need no longer be considered a ''nutrient of concern'' stands in contrast to its findings five years ago, the last time it convened. During those proceedings, as in previous years, the panel deemed ''excess dietary cholesterol'' a public health concern…

But the finding follows an evolution of thinking among many nutritionists who now say that, for a healthy adult, cholesterol intake may not significantly affect the level of cholesterol in the blood or increase the risk of heart disease.'

... there are many caveats in the article.  Seems to me that caution and a reasonably healthy diet are still wise.  The article complains about trans fat and ​saturated fat.   As far as I know, both come from animal products.  Funny how a different study said that effect of saturated fat wasn't statistically significant and still yet another study said that a low fat diet is not a good idea.  Confused yet?  I have been eating a diet heavy in unsaturated fats and low in sugar.  I have been eating more veggies too.  According to my doctor, my blood test showed a low risk for heart disease.  

However, blood tests aren't a perfect predictor either.  I have seen articles claiming that inflammation is a risk factor for heart disease.

Re: It's all greek to me

'Tsipras struck a defiant tone in parliament late on Tuesday, saying that "little Greece" was changing Europe by casting off austerity.

Fwd: Measles

'Before the introduction of a live measles vaccine in 1963, the average yearly number of measles cases was 549,000. (Nearly 500 deaths per year were attributed to measles).

Once the measles vaccine was introduced (it was a one-dose shot), there was a huge drop in measles cases.

Then, between 1989 and 1991, there was a resurgence in measles cases. There were 55,000 cases and 123 deaths reported during that period.

Those getting sick were mostly unvaccinated children. But there were also people who had the vaccine and were getting the disease anyway.

In 1989, the medical community's recommendation was updated to recommend a two-dose vaccination regimen.

The use of two doses was effective. In 2000, endemic measles was declared "eliminated" from the United States. '



'The late ISIS commander in Afghanistan and his heir apparent have more in common than their Taliban pasts and a tendency for jihad: both were former Guantanamo Bay detainees.

The death of commander Abdul Rauf this week — and apparent installation of Abdul Qayyum Zakir in his place — has cast an uncomfortable spotlight on the issue of former Guantanamo detainees rejoining the fight against the U.S.

Rauf — a former Taliban commander who was also known as "Khadim" and nicknamed "Mullah of one leg" — had spent "several years" in Guantanamo Bay, acccording to Afghan officials. After his release, he resumed activities with the Taliban but defected to ISIS prior to being killed on Monday.

Three senior members of the Afghan Taliban confirmed to NBC News that Zakir — described as a "seasoned commander" by one — was appointed Rauf's successor'

Fwd: The West

'Consider the following sentences. First: "Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty."
And second: "I call ... upon Russia to use its considerable influence over separatist leaders to stop any form of military, political or financial support. ... Those responsible for the escalation must stop their hostile actions and live up to their commitments."
The first was spoken by John F. Kennedy in his 1961 Inaugural Address. The second came from the European Union's foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, after Russian-backed rebels shelled the Ukrainian city of Mariupol last month, killing 30 people. Kennedy's sentence is a statement of Western self-confidence. Ms. Mogherini's is shot through with self-doubt. The 1961 sentence rings with moral certainty; the 2015 one is a nod to legal provisions, cautious even by the standards of modern diplomacy. There is a dangerous side to this new self-restraint. Just how hollow and cold, I ask myself, has the West become?
Ms. Mogherini's comment comes at a time when the idea that the spread of freedom — democracy, market economy, equal rights for men and women — will lead to a more open and just world is losing its universal appeal.
How the West Turns on Itself

Winston Churchill- Never Surrender

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Winston Churchill "finest hour"

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Monday, February 9, 2015

Fwd: Uguguay

'Uruguay expelled a senior diplomat in Iran's embassy in Montevideo two weeks ago, following suspicions that he was involved in placing an explosive device near the Israeli embassy in early January, according to senior sources in Jerusalem.

Investigations carried out by Uruguay's intelligence services after the discovery of the device yielded information pointing to a possible involvement of someone at the Iranian embassy. The Uruguayan government turned to Iran's government for information and after consultations between the two, it was decided to expel one of the senior diplomats at Iran's embassy. '

Obama’s week of jaw-dropping follies

Fwd: Temperature adjustment

'When future generations look back on the global-warming scare of the past 30 years, nothing will shock them more than the extent to which the official temperature records – on which the entire panic ultimately rested – were systematically "adjusted" to show the Earth as having warmed much more than the actual data justified.

Two weeks ago, under the headline "How we are being tricked by flawed data on global warming", I wrote about Paul Homewood, who, on his Notalotofpeopleknowthat blog, had checked the published temperature graphs for three weather stations in Paraguay against the temperatures that had originally been recorded. In each instance, the actual trend of 60 years of data had been dramatically reversed, so that a cooling trend was changed to one that showed a marked warming.

This was only the latest of many examples of a practice long recognised by expert observers around the world – one that raises an ever larger question mark over the entire official surface-temperature record. '

Sunday, February 8, 2015


'On Tuesday, the so-called Islamic State released a slickly produced video showing a Jordanian pilot being burned alive in a steel cage. On Wednesday, the United Nations issued a report detailing various "mass executions of boys, as well as reports of beheadings, crucifixions of children, and burying children alive" at the hands of the Islamic State.

And on Thursday, President Obama seized the opportunity of the National Prayer Breakfast to forthrightly criticize the "terrible deeds" . . . committed "in the name of Christ."

Friday, February 6, 2015

Christianity And Islam

There is a difference, Mr. President, between Christian extremism and Muslim extremism.

Christian extremism was in the 1400s.

Muslim extremism was Wednesday.

One is a dark era in the history books, the other is a threat to modernity as we know it.

At the National Prayer Breakfast yesterday, after bowing to the Dalai Lama, President Obama – apologist in chief for Islam – talked about protecting the reputation of the Muslim world. Then he minimized the evil of militant Islam by bringing up the Spanish Inquisition and even Jim Crow, citing them as counterbalancing examples of Christian terrorism.

In his mind, there is some sort of moral equivalence, as if he wants to tell the American people that folks who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.

Fwd: Neutrality

'While Mr. Obama's position stunned officials at the FCC, he wanted to push for strong rules ensuring net neutrality right after his 2008 election over Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.). The FCC's chairman at the time, Julius Genachowski, supported Mr. Obama and aimed to write strong rules preventing broadband providers from making some websites work faster than others for fees…
Mr. Obama made them clear in a 1,062-word statement and two-minute video. He told the FCC to regulate mobile and fixed broadband providers more strictly and enact strong rules to prevent those providers from altering download speeds for specific websites or services.

That essentially killed the compromise proposed by Mr. Wheeler, leaving him no choice but to follow the path outlined by the president.'

​I pay my Internet Service Provider for high speed access, but that ISP has been charging Netflix to provide that same access. 

 The only issue is whether Netflix can pay for preferential treatment?  I would think that technology would make this unnecessary, because I am now getting at least 60 megabits per second downloads, but I am not sure of the issues involved.  Perhaps

​all that ​
​streaming ​
causes bottlenecks
​ on the Internet​

Although I don't know this for certain, it would seem that one service paying ​preferential treatment would negatively impact other services.


'On Tuesday, the so-called Islamic State released a slickly produced video showing a Jordanian pilot being burned alive in a steel cage. On Wednesday, the United Nations issued a report detailing various "mass executions of boys, as well as reports of beheadings, crucifixions of children, and burying children alive" at the hands of the Islamic State.

And on Thursday, President Obama seized the opportunity of the National Prayer Breakfast to forthrightly criticize the "terrible deeds" . . . committed "in the name of Christ."

Fwd: Yemen

'Al Qaeda's branch in Yemen announced Thursday that four of its members -- including a top cleric believed to be the architect behind the Paris attacks -- were killed in a U.S. drone strike last month in the country's south…

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, as the Yemeni affiliate is known, claimed responsibility for the Paris attack in which two gunmen killed 12 people. Al-Nadhari is believed to be one of the masterminds behind the Jan. 7 attack on Charlie Hebdo, according to Al Arabiya.

Al-Nadhari was killed along with three others on Jan. 31, when a drone-fired missile blew up a vehicle in which the four were traveling in the southern province of Shabwa,


Fwd: Yalta

'70 years ago this week Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin met in Yalta to decide post-war arrangements following the defeat of the Nazis. It is often said that it was at Yalta that the big three carved up Europe.

In fact that had already happened, to a certain extent, with the advance of Soviet forces. One thing they agreed on was that "free elections" should be held in occupied countries – a promise Stalin never upheld as he moved quickly to impose communist dictatorships everywhere.

Roosevelt later privately admitted that he and Churchill had been naive and were tricked. But on the other hand, one of their main aims was to ensure the USSR would soon join the war effort against Japan: Stalin traded that off for Soviet domination over eastern Europe. For east Europeans Yalta is a place name that became a codeword for the cynical sacrifice of small nations' freedom to great powers' spheres of influence. Russians, on the other hand, tend to only conceive of their role as that of liberators. Today, the war in Ukraine has brought the "zones of influence" debate back to Europe. There is some irony that the ongoing geopolitical struggle between Europe and Russia is centred on the country where the Yalta conference was held…

Last November Putin said the following about Russia: "We understand the fatality of an 'iron curtain' for us. We will not go down this path, no one will build a wall around us." It was newspeak at its crudest.'



Critics Seize On Obama’s ISIS Remarks at Prayer Breakfast

...Christians today are not at fault for things that happened hundreds of years ago. In the modern world, you don't see christians killing thousands or hundreds of thousands in the name of their religion. Modernity condemns these acts, and it is time for Islam to catch up to the 21st century. Unfortunately, it might take years of bloody conflict for them to get the message.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Three generations of imbeciles are enough


'Sudan's foreign minister, a hardcore Islamist with a long history of orchestrating mass atrocities and other crimes against humanity, has been invited to attend the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, DC on Thursday, February 4…

Ali Ahmed Karti is well known by Sudanese and South Sudanese alike. He first attained notoriety in the early 1990's as the commander of the Popular Defense Force (PDF), the Islamist militia tasked by Sudan's National Islamic Front regime with raiding South Sudanese villages and taking women and children as slaves. The PDF went on to assist the murderous Janjaweed, the Arab militia used by the Sudanese government in Khartoum to commit genocide in the western Sudan region of Darfur.

Today Karti and the other top leaders of Sudan's National Islamic Front/National Congress Party regime, including Sudan President Omar al Bashir, preside over ongoing genocidal war in the country's Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile State. Karti committed to cleansing those regions of the black African indigenous groups through over three years of ongoing aerial bombardment, scorched earth campaigns, and the banning of international food aid. In addition, the foreign minister is accused of instigating the slaughter of hundreds of Darfurian refugees sheltering in Bentiu, South Sudan during an attack by rebels under the leadership of South Sudan's former vice president, Riek Machar.

Ibrahim Ghandur is likewise complicit in the Sudan regime's genocidal policies. Both in his role as minister of information and as presidential assistant to Bashir, Ghandur has been a minister of disinformation for Khartoum. He has been the chief spokesperson of the Sudanese regime to so-called peace talks, meant only to delay any international action to stop the genocide perpetrated by the Sudanese regime in Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile State.

Even in an age of such moral equivalence as this, it should be obvious that representatives of the Sudanese regime should not be allowed to enter the United States, let alone attend the highly-publicized National Prayer Breakfast. The U.S. continues to have sanctions against Sudan, and Sudan continues to be on the terrorist list. '



Re: 30 years

'The defense argued in its petition that the fact Bower has spent three decades on death row amounts to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Constitution.'


​We don't know if this the reason that the justices are going to hear the appeal.  

Maybe he would have prefered to have been executed sooner?  This is faulty logic, because it says that we want people to spend life in prison because life in prison is cruel and unusual punishment.  I suppose that one could argue that 30 years on death row is worse that 30 years in prison.​

In my view, states have a right to determine the method of punishment.  Barring obvious cruelty, I don't see why the Supreme Court would be involved.

However, Penn and Teller made an argument that I agree with:  If we accept the notion that one innocent person will be executed, then this makes murders of all of us.  This is not the same as accepting a risk when you drive your car or engage in other risky behavior.  People are making a deliberate decision to kill other people.

Standard & Poor's Is Sorry About That Credit Crisis

Standard & Poor's Settlement Shows Futility Of Fighting Government Policy

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Fwd: Speech

'Former Florida governor Jeb Bush, who is contemplating a run for president, is in Detroit on Wednesday to offer his vision of opportunity for the millions of Americans living on the edge of poverty…

"This is an urgent issue: Far too many Americans live on the edge of economic ruin," Bush was expected to say, according to excerpts of his speech released Wednesday morning.

"Roughly two out of three American households live paycheck to paycheck. Any unexpected expense can push them into financial ruin. We have a record number of Americans on food stamps and living in poverty," Bush is expected to say, according to the excerpts.

"So the central question we face here in Detroit and across America is this: Can we restore that dream — that moral promise — that each generation can do better?"'


Jordan Hangs 2 Jihadists

Monday, February 2, 2015

Fwd: France

'There was an extraordinary moment and extraordinary scene in the middle of Paris, in the middle of a Sunday afternoon that will be remembered, after a week when it was Paris this time that became the capital of a dangerous world, when terrorists came to Paris to shoot up a magazine and a Jewish deli. This is how it works now, sometimes terrorism is just bad men and women coming through the front door with guns.

So millions took to the streets of Paris on this day, and 40 world leaders locked arms at the front of it all, including the prime minister of Israel and the Palestinian president. They all spoke defiantly, just by being present, about what had happened at the magazine Charlie Hebdo because of political cartoons, and at that deli, where more innocent people died.

This was a different form of French resistance in Paris on this day, all of these people coming together and sending out pictures like this to the world about the world we still want this to be, instead of the one that terrorists want, and that means all terrorists, the world where we live in constant fear.

And the United States of America should have been at the front of that line. And was not.

Fwd: Plosser

'Mr. Plosser, who plans to leave the Fed in March, before the end of his term, also reflected on the Fed's performance during his nine years as a policy maker at the central bank….

The history is that monetary policy is not ultimately a very effective tool at solving real economic structural problems. It can try for a while but the problem then is that it's only temporarily effective, and when you can't do it anymore you get the explosion yesterday in the Swiss market.

One of the things I've tried to argue is look, if we believe that monetary policy is doing what we say it's doing and depressing real interest rates and goosing the economy and we're in some sense distorting what might be the normal market outcomes at some point, we're going to have to stop doing it. At some point the pressure is going to be too great. The market forces are going to overwhelm us. We're not going to be able to hold the line anymore. And then you get that rapid snapback in premiums as the market realizes that central banks can't do this forever. And that's going to cause volatility and disruption…

Fwd: Budget

'That let politicians campaign on claims of "cutting" government spending while spending continued to grow. Forty years of such deceit created the problems we face today.

The confusion created by the language of official Washington was highlighted earlier this week in media coverage of a report showing that the federal budget deficit for 2015 will be the lowest in many years. USA Today, for example, reported this good news with the explanation that deficits have fallen since 2009 "due to a combination of federal spending cuts and economic growth."

The problem—and it's a big one--with that statement is that federal spending in 2015 is projected to be $138 billion higher this year than it was in 2009 ($3,656 billion this year compared to $3,518 in 2009).

Think about that! Spending is higher than it was but the media says spending cuts are the reason for declining deficits…


America’s Anti-Israeli President

Fwd: carbon credit

Europe's carbon-trading market was supposed to be capitalism's solution to global warming. Instead, it became a playground for gangsters, international crime syndicates, and even two-bit crooks -- who stole hundreds of millions of dollars in pollution credits.'

Conservative Radio Already Taking Aim at Jeb Bush

Fwd: Germany

'As the euro zone hurtles toward a fresh crisis, Germany is often portrayed as Europe's stern paymaster, strict and unyielding with countries that fall short of its standards.

But if you think Germany is tough with Greece, you should see how it behaves at home.

The current dilemma now facing Europe is partly an outgrowth of Germany's own countrywide obsession with avoiding excessive debt.

It's a focus born out of long historical experience, which has helped to turn responsible spending into both a personal and a civic virtue. Germany is a place where cash remains king; some retail outlets, including IKEA locations, don't accept credit cards.

At the national level, the German federal government recently balanced the budget for the first time in 45 years. Starting in 2016, it will be bound by a constitutional measure restricting its borrowing, something known as the "debt brake."

The unwavering focus on fiscal discipline is a source of consternation for those who see Germany's debt phobia as unhealthy for Europe and for its own future. In an era of ultra-low interest rates, they say, Germany should seize the chance to borrow cheaply and use the funds to update its infrastructure and make an investment in long-term prosperity.

"We are not in a situation where the balanced budget should be the first priority," said Ferdinand Fichtner of the German Institute for Economic Research in Berlin. "It would make more sense to take a bit more money and invest in public goods."

But such arguments have found little traction so far within the German government.


Fwd: Russia

'With oil prices down more than 50 percent in the past year and still falling, the ruble having lost more than half its value, a recession looming and the country already dipping into its rainy-day funds, the Russian economy is in a race against time. But one would be hard pressed to grasp the depth of the troubles from the Kremlin's prescriptions.

After Anton Siluanov, the finance minister, laid out the government's long-promised "anti-crisis" package in a live broadcast on state television last week, economists unanimously dismissed as inadequate his laundry list of half-measures and a vague promise of a 10 percent budget cut.

"That plan is nonsense," the Russian oligarch Aleksandr Y. Lebedev said in an interview, describing it as throwing away money to rescue some of Russia's worst companies. "Lots of words and little specific."

President Vladimir V. Putin weighed in briefly, repeating that along with keeping tight control over government finances, "We need to change our economy's structure."

Yet a wide array of business owners, economists and former senior government officials said in interviews that they expected the Kremlin to react to the crisis the way it had in 2008, the last time it faced a precipitous decline in oil prices — with disaster management, but no fundamental changes.

"They are trying to get by, manage it strategically and hope that oil prices rise, hope they can make a few adjustments and it will all go away," said Kenneth S. Rogoff, an economics professor at Harvard University who recently attended a high-level economics conference in Moscow. "There is no appetite for fundamental reform. They are just going to wait."

Fwd: diesel

'There's a diesel backlash happening in Europe. Nearly two months ago, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls called his country's prioritization of diesel "a mistake." Now, his statements are being echoed by a member of the government across the channel.

Shadow Environment Minister Barry Gardiner of the UK's liberal Labour Party told Channel 4's Dispatches his government's decision to base the country's car taxes on CO2 output was "the wrong decision," because it had the unintended effect of pushing consumers into diesels.

While diesels produce less CO2 than gas engines, they emit four times as many nitrous oxides and 22 times the particulate soot. Both of these pollutants can harm the lungs and blood vessels, and can lead to heart disease, strokes and diabetes, The Independent reports.'


Sunday, February 1, 2015

Latest Democratic economic plan shifts party further to left

Fwd: Two Worlds

'The current crisis has its origins in the collapse of European hegemony over North Africa after World War II and the Europeans' need for cheap labor. As a result of the way in which they ended their imperial relations, they were bound to allow the migration of Muslims into Europe, and the permeable borders of the European Union enabled them to settle where they chose. The Muslims, for their part, did not come to join in a cultural transformation. They came for work, and money, and for the simplest reasons. The Europeans' appetite for cheap labor and the Muslims' appetite for work combined to generate a massive movement of populations.

The matter was complicated by the fact that Europe was no longer simply Christian. Christianity had lost its hegemonic control over European culture over the previous centuries and had been joined, if not replaced, by a new doctrine of secularism. Secularism drew a radical distinction between public and private life, in which religion, in any traditional sense, was relegated to the private sphere with no hold over public life. There are many charms in secularism, in particular the freedom to believe what you will in private. But secularism also poses a public problem. There are those whose beliefs are so different from others' beliefs that finding common ground in the public space is impossible. And then there are those for whom the very distinction between private and public is either meaningless or unacceptable. The complex contrivances of secularism have their charm, but not everyone is charmed.

Europe solved the problem with the weakening of Christianity that made the ancient battles between Christian factions meaningless. But they had invited in people who not only did not share the core doctrines of secularism, they rejected them. What Christianity had come to see as progress away from sectarian conflict, Muslims (and some Christians) may see as simply decadence, a weakening of faith and the loss of conviction.


Fred Hiatt: The cracks in China’s crackdown

Fwd: World growth forecast

'The World Bank cut its forecast for global growth this year, as an improving U.S. economy and low fuel prices fail to offset disappointing results from Europe to China.

The world economy will expand 3 percent in 2015, down from a projection of 3.4 percent in June, according to the lender's semiannual Global Economic Prospects report, released today in Washington.

The report adds to signs of a growing disparity between the U.S. and other major economies while tempering any optimism that a plunge in oil prices will boost output. Risks to the global recovery are "significant and tilted to the downside," with dangers including a spike in financial volatility, intensifying geopolitical tensions and prolonged stagnation in the euro region or Japan.

Fwd: Oil

'prospective new sources have also factored into future supply assessments and, accordingly, into prices. Playing a large role in this part of the story is a major South Atlantic find made by Brazil's Petrobras oil company. This Lula field, as it is called, has the potential to add the equivalent of 6.5 billion barrels to known global oil and gas reserves, 13 billion barrels when combined with other new Brazilian fields. When fully developed, these sources should pump the equivalent of 4 million barrels of oil a day onto would markets, a 5.2 percent addition to current global flows. More recently, Australia has announced a shale find that its engineers estimate could increase known global reserves 12 percent. The find is too new yet to yield estimates of production flows. Preliminary Exxon drilling in Russia's arctic had reported good prospects, though such activity has all but stopped because of the economic sanctions imposed on Russia. Potentials have also gained from the possibility that new conventional extraction technologies will spread from North America to other parts of the world. Russia, engineers estimate, could increase production by 50 percent in this way, even in the absence of any new finds.'

Fwd: Broadband

'President Obama said today he will take executive action to boost broadband speeds and connections at lower prices, especially in inner cities and rural areas.

The move is sure to draw fire from Republicans concerned about the president's preference for executive initiatives that he believes are beyond the reach of the GOP-controlled Congress. '

Fwd: Science

'In late 2008, the euphoria over electing a man who specifically said he wanted to put science back in its rightful place began to fade. The president-elect, it seemed, preferred the company of UFO believers, an anti-vaccine conspiracy theorist and a guy who thought girls couldn't do math.

Then we got his pick for Science Czar, Dr. John Holdren, and  no one else noticed. Science media is somewhere in the same cultural sphere as Republican National Convention delegates in their willingness to support their candidate no matter how bad things appear(1), so while I noted that Holdren was a population bomb believer who advocated forced sterilizations and a New World Order in order to make it happen, very few other people were concerned. They were just happy President Obama was going to lift a ban on human embryonic stem cell research that didn't actually exist.(2)


Five years later, Dr. Holdren is still with us but he has found a way to reconcile his 1960s and '70s Doomsday Prophecies with the world of today - we would be in that Ice Age predicted in the 1970s except for anthropogenic (3) CO2, he said in a White House video.

In the early days of global warming, I used to joke about that. In meaningful geological history, I noted, 90,000 out of every 100,000 years have been ice ages so we are 2,000 years overdue and had better hope global warming stays. Now that Dr. Holdren seriously seems to believe that, I need to make it clear I was kidding or he might just write another book with fellow Doomsday Prophet Paul Ehrlich.

In "Open For Questions with Dr. John Holdren" a Facebook commenter asks a fairly softball question, if and how humans are affecting the climate, and instead of just answering it the way rational scientists would he goes all eugenics on modern climate science, takes us back to the 1970s kind, which logically leads the public to believe the policies of his boss are hurting business and actually helping no one - because global warming is preventing the new Ice Age.

"In their current phases, moreover, they would be gradually cooling the earth – taking us to another ice age – if they weren't being more than offset by human-caused warming."

Yes, Dr. Holdren says our global warming 'pause' is just climate change fighting off the Ice Age. Global warming is our friend. Well, order my Escalade then, I care about the environment too much to want Fresno to look like Alaska.


Fwd: Argentina

'A prosecutor who has accused President Cristina Kirchner of covering up Iran's alleged involvement in the country's worst terrorist attack has been found dead in his Buenos Aires apartment – hours before he was due to present his findings.

Alberto Nisman was discovered lying dead in his bathroom in the early hours of Monday morning, with a handgun by his side. Initial reports suggested suicide.

The veteran prosecutor had spent the past two years compiling a 300-page case on the 1994 bombings of the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association building (AMIA), which killed 85 people. Iran has long been suspected as being behind the bombings.

Mr Nisman has accused Mrs Kirchner and her foreign minister, Hector Timerman, of attempting to "erase" Iran's role in the attack, in return for favourable oil deals.

"The president and her foreign minister took the criminal decision to fabricate Iran's innocence to sate Argentina's commercial, political and geopolitical interests," he said. '

Fwd: China

'Chinese stocks dived the most in over six years Monday, with a wide sell-off sweeping across the financial sector as investors turned jittery over the latest move by securities regulators to clean up the margin-trading business.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index SHCOMP, -7.70%   plunged 7.7% to close at 3,116.35, posting its biggest daily percentage decline since June 2008 . Prior to Monday's heavy loss, the index was up 4.4% for the month to date, extending gains after finishing 2014 with a sharp 53% advance.

The plunge in mainland China helped to push Hong Kong's benchmark Hang Seng Index HSI, -1.51%  down 1.5%, with the Hang Seng China Enterprises — which tracks Hong Kong-listed mainland Chinese companies — off 5%.

The China Securities Regulatory Commission, the nation's top market watchdog, announced Friday that a dozen brokerage firms had been punished for violations of margin-trading rules after a two-week overhaul. Infractions included allowing customers to delay margin repayments by longer than currently allowed. '

Fwd: Syria

'The air strike attributed in foreign media reports to Israel which killed six Hezbollah agents in Syria on Sunday also killed six Iranian soldiers, including commanders, AFP quoted a source close to Hezbollah as saying on Monday.

"The Israeli strike killed six Iranian soldiers, including commanders, as well as the six members of Hezbollah. They were all in a convoy of three cars," the source said.

An Iranian semi-official news site reported that an Iranian Revolutionary Guards general was among those killed in the strike.

"Following the Zionist aggressions against the resistance in Syria, General Mohammad Allahdadi, a former commander of the Sarollah Brigade of the Revolutionary Guard, was martyred along with Jihad Mughniyeh and three others in the same car," the Dana news website said, referring to the son of Hezbollah's late military leader Imad Mughniyeh.

According to reports in Hezbollah-affiliated media, two Israel Air Force helicopters fired missiles at a target in the Syrian Golan, killing a number of Hezbollah operatives, including Mughniyeh.

Western intelligence sources said Jihad Mughniyeh headed a large-scale terrorist cell that enjoyed direct Iranian sponsorship and a direct link to Hezbollah. The cell had already targeted Israel in the past, launching attacks on the Golan Heights.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, told state media that Israel's reported attack in the Golan Heights was "an act of terror."

"We condemn all actions of the Zionist regime as well as all acts of terror," Zarif told Press TV on Monday. "[Israeli attacks on Hezbollah] has been a practice followed for a very long time. The policy of state terrorism is a known policy of the Zionist regime."

Fwd: Warm

'the BEST boffins have broken ranks with the NASA/NOAA/UK Met Office climate establishment and bluntly contradicted the idea that one can simply say "2014 was the hottest year on record". According to BEST's analysis (pdf):

Our best estimate for the global temperature of 2014 puts it slightly above (by 0.01 C) that of the next warmest year (2010) but by much less than the margin of uncertainty (0.05 C). Therefore it is impossible to conclude from our analysis which of 2014, 2010, or 2005 was actually the warmest year.

That may seem like not such a big deal, but it is really. At the moment the big debate in this area is about the "hiatus" - has global warming been stalled for the last fifteen-years-plus, or not?

If you think it hasn't, and you're seeking to convince ordinary folk without advanced knowledge in the area, it is a very powerful thing to be able to say "last year was the warmest on record".

If on the other hand you contend that global warming has been on hold for over a decade, saying "last year was almost exactly as hot as 2005 and 2010" fits exactly with the story you are trying to tell.

It matters, because colossal amounts of CO2 have been emitted during the hiatus period - on the order of a third of all that has ever been emitted by humanity since the Industrial Revolution, in fact. Nobody says that CO2 isn't a greenhouse gas, but it could well be that it isn't nearly as serious a problem as had been suggested.'

Fwd: Warm

Been following this issue closely since the late 1980's.  

When people say that 97% of all scientists claim that global warming is happening and it is our fault, they are referring one specific survey where the vast majority of people surveyed were not atmospheric scientists.  A few people surveyed were theologians.  Furthermore, it frames the question in the wrong way.  Almost nobody is denying that global warming is happening.

By calling people global warming deniers, people have misrepresented the position of the skeptics and really unfairly maligned them.  The is a straw man attack.   In reality, almost nobody is denying that global warming is happening, except maybe for a few crackpots.  The issues have always been how much is happening, how much of that is our fault, and most importantly whether there is negative or positive feedback.  This video outlines the position better than anything ...

25 years ago I was reading articles by skeptics.   At that time I was concerned about the issue and wanted to find out all I could about it.  The reason there were skeptics is that meteorologists were raising objections that we were moving too fast over an unproven theory.  There were others claiming that natural feedbacks would moderate global warming.

We have what is called the carbon dioxide cycle, where carbon is sequestered in rock underground and released by natural forces such as volcanoes.  So much carbon dioxide has been removed from the atmosphere that we have gone from an atmosphere of 43% carbon dioxide to 200 hundred parts per million before it went up to 300 parts per million.  Some people speculated that it would get so low that plants would have trouble growing.  The point is that CO2 levels have been much higher in past and been on a steady decline ever since.  70 million years ago, Utah was a tropical forest roamed by dinosaurs.  The CO2 level then was 5% and we are absolutely no danger of coming close to that level now.    

All of human civilization has arisen in a brief period between two ice ages.  In the 1970's NASA claimed we were about to enter another ice age.  Now geologists say no matter what we do, we will get another ice age in about 10,00 years.  In other words, there are natural forces beyond our control.

CO2 by itself is not enough to cause significant warming.  All assumptions of disaster are based upon water vapor adding to the warming.  

The issue of water vapor gets into the whole feedback issue as to whether it is positive or negative.  In this regard to this, see the first video and this one ... Lord Christopher Monckton ends the Global Warming Debate.  I have believed for over 20 years that the feedback was negative because I read articles to that effect, but also because when the temperatures spiked around 1999-2000 (during the peak of the sunspot cycle), it should had produced runaway greenhouse because of the positive feedback.  It didn't.  In 2007, during the low point of the sunspot cycle, over a hundred years of global warming seemed to disappear.  At this point I saw atmospheric scientists asking us to believe that we had entered a period of global cooling, which was also predicted in the mid 90's. 

Part of my concern is that I see what is politically motivated science.  I don't trust the government because this is an excuse to tax and control us, but the government is doing all the funding.  The cures for global warming aren't economically feasible.   The last U.N. report concluded that the global warming wasn't as much as we thought and it would cost too much to fix it.

Fwd: Healthcare

'The problem with ObamaCare, liberals argue, is that it didn't go far enough — we should have an entirely government-run health-care system.

As former Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin put it shortly before his retirement, Democrats "should have pursued single-payer right from the get-go."

These advocates perhaps haven't noticed that their latest efforts to give the government greater control over our health care just collapsed — in the People's Republic of Vermont of all places.

The Affordable Care Act gave states the ability to opt out of ObamaCare, if they wanted to set up a single-payer system instead. So far, Vermont has been the only state to try to take advantage of that option.

In 2011, Vermont passed legislation that would have set up a single-payer system in the state starting in 2017, the first year permitted under the ACA.

The state government, advised by none other than Jonathan "Stupidity of the American voter" Gruber, designed a program, known as Green Mountain Care, that would have provided nearly all state residents with taxpayer-funded comprehensive health care, including dental and vision care.

Benefits would have been substantially more generous than those provided through ObamaCare. Consider that the least expensive ObamaCare plan, the Bronze Plan, has an "actuarial value" of 60%. That is, insurance pays 60% of health costs, and the patient pays 40% through co-payments, deductibles and so forth. The most expensive Platinum ObamaCare plans have an actuarial value of 90%.

Green Mountain Care would have had an actuarial value of 94%!

With the exception of multi-state employers, governed by federal law, private health insurance would be essentially abolished. Rather than premiums, Green Mountain Care would be paid for through taxes.

And there was the rub.

As humorist P.J. O'Rourke once said, "If you think health care is expensive now, just wait until it's free."

Vermonters were stunned to discover just how much their new "free" health care was going to cost. Paying for Green Mountain Care would have required a 160% increase in state taxes by 2019, as much as $2.9 billion annually. The state's top income tax rate would have been raised from 8.95% to an astounding 18%. For high earners that would mean a combined federal-state income tax burden of 56%. Even lower-income Vermonters would have seen a substantial tax hike.

As if that wasn't enough, businesses would have been hit with an 11.5% state payroll tax. That would be on top of a federal payroll tax of 15.3% to 16.2%, as well as federal and state corporate income taxes. That's not exactly going to lead to an employment boom.

True, Vermonters would save the money that they currently pay for premiums and most out-of-pocket health-care costs, but even after accounting for such savings, most state residents would be worse off.

Because even these enormous tax hikes wouldn't have provided enough money, Green Mountain Care would have cut payments to doctors and hospitals by an estimated 16%. That would have forced many doctors out of the state and threatened the viability of local hospitals.

With the supply of providers drying up, patients would have inevitably faced delays in treatment and waiting lists. And even then, according to numbers released by the governor's office, the plan would be running in the red within four years.

Vermont's single-payer system would have delivered worse health care at a higher taxpayer cost.

It should have been no surprise then when late last month Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, a Democrat, announced that the state was giving up and abandoning its plans for Green Mountain Care.

That hasn't dampened liberal enthusiasm. Legislation similar to Vermont's is pending in several states, including Illinois, Massachusetts, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Washington.'