Fresh off the griddle: Joe Paterno is still dead, the Inquirer/DN might as well be, Chris Christie is an apologist for George Wallace, and more!
Archive | January, 2012
Tuesday, Jan 31 | 9 pm eastern | 6 pm pacific |Virtually Speaking Tuesdays |Marcy Wheeler and Jay take the test – live – and discuss the contents of the recently released “How Thick is Your Bubble” quiz from AEI and Charles Murray. Take it yourself! Follow @emptywheel @JayAckroyd Listen live and later on BTR
Boy, was this a dumb move. The shitstorm’s only just begun:
NEW YORK — The nation’s leading breast-cancer charity, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, is halting its partnerships with Planned Parenthood affiliates — creating a bitter rift, linked to the abortion debate, between two iconic organizations that have assisted millions of women.
The change will mean a cutoff of hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants, mainly for breast exams.
Planned Parenthood says the move results from Komen bowing to pressure from anti-abortion activists. Komen says the key reason is that Planned Parenthood is under investigation in Congress — a probe launched by a conservative Republican who was urged to act by anti-abortion groups.
The rupture, which has not been publicly announced as it unfolded, is wrenching for some of those who’ve learned about it and admire both organizations.
“We’re kind of reeling,” said Patrick Hurd, who is CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Virginia — recipient of a 2010 grant from Komen — and whose wife, Betsi, is a veteran of several Komen fundraising races and is currently battling breast cancer.
“It sounds almost trite, going through this with Betsi, but cancer doesn’t care if you’re pro-choice, anti-choice, progressive, conservative,” Hurd said. “Victims of cancer could care less about people’s politics.”
The Amazon is home to more species than almost anywhere else on earth. One of them, carried home recently by a group from Yale University, appears to be quite happy eating plastic in airless landfills.
The group of students, part of Yale’s annual Rainforest Expedition and Laboratory with molecular biochemistry professor Scott Strobel, ventured to the jungles of Ecuador. The mission was to allow “students to experience the scientific inquiry process in a comprehensive and creative way.” The group searched for plants, and then cultured the microorganisms within the plant tissue. As it turns out, they brought back a fungus new to science with a voracious appetite for a global waste problem: polyurethane.
The common plastic is used for everything from garden hoses to shoes and truck seats. Once it gets into the trash stream, it persists for generations. Anyone alive today is assured that their old garden hoses and other polyurethane trash will still be here to greet his or her great, great grandchildren. Unless something eats it.
The fungi, Pestalotiopsis microspora, is the first anyone has found to survive on a steady diet of polyurethane alone and–even more surprising–do this in an anaerobic (oxygen-free) environment that is close to the condition at the bottom of a landfill.
Student Pria Anand recorded the microbe’s remarkable behavior and Jonathan Russell isolated the enzymes that allow the organism to degrade plastic as its food source. The Yale team published their findings in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology late last year concluding the microbe is “a promising source of biodiversity from which to screen for metabolic properties useful for bioremediation.” In the future, our trash compactors may simply be giant fields of voracious fungi.
Saw the surgeon today, he told me the pain I’m having is mostly internal bruising from the surgery and said if it was anything serious, I’d be very sick. And I’m not. He said I could go back to my massage therapist and see if that helped. (Oh, and I’m allowed to take a bath now. Yay!)
I just want to be able to sleep more than five hours again. Once I get up, I can’t get comfortable again and I have to sleep in a chair.
Wouldn’t it be great if we finally had a Democrat in the White House, and could do something RIGHT NOW (All the time in the world! 2020 is plenty soon enough!) about this global warming crisis? Ha ha, just kidding!
MEXICO CITY — A drought that a government official called the most severe Mexico had ever faced has left two million people without access to water and, coupled with a cold snap, has devastated cropland in nearly half of the country.
Reports that the Tarahumara were killing themselves in despair over starvation, later proven false, spurred residents of Mexico City to collect food and clothing donations.
The government in the past week has authorized $2.63 billion in aid, including potable water, food and temporary jobs for the most affected areas, rural communities in 19 of Mexico’s 31 states. But officials warned that no serious relief was expected for at least another five months, when the rainy season typically begins in earnest.
Meanwhile, it turns out that the Little Ice Age of the 1300s wasn’t caused by plain old “climate variations,” but by a series of volcanic eruptions.
Also, your insurance is going up whether you believe in climate change or not:
NPR reported Monday that home insurance premiums are going up across the board in response to the record number of tornadoes, floods, fires, blizzards and other heavy weather that hit the country in 2011.
The piece features insurance executives at major firms such as Allstate and State Farm saying they are raising rates as much as 10%.
The president of the Insurance Information Institute, a New York-based industry association, says the weather caused about $35 billion of insured damages last year in the U.S. in events that caused a total of $70 billion in economic losses.
In the meantime, it’s expected to go up to 65 this week in Philadelphia. In February. And the plants are starting to bud…
The Philadelphia City Paper’s Daniel Denvir does a great job debunking an absurd op-ed from a wingnut think tank (Crazy Pat Toomey is one of their “directors emeritas”) that ran in the Philadelphia Inquirer yesterday, justifying Gov. Corbett’s hard-hearted application of a means test for Pennsylvania food stamp recipients:
“Asset test for food stamps a sound idea for Pennsylvania,” proclaimed a column in yesterday’s Sunday Inquirer from the conservative Commonwealth Foundation for Public Policy Alternatives. The position it takes ― that Gov. Tom Corbett‘s move to exclude people with more than $2,000 in assets (largely excluding homes and cars, but largely including savings) is a good thing ― is not surprising. But the arguments it makes in Corbett’s favor are, at least if you take truthfulness (perhaps naïvely) as a standard for political discourse, astounding:
Right-wing claim: “The measure is necessary because welfare eligibility and spending — including for food stamps — have exploded, threatening to crowd out everything else in the state budget.”
Fact: Actually, the federal government picks up most of the tab. According to the Inquirer , “Pennsylvania receives about $2.5 billion in federal SNAP [that's food stamps: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program] funds annually and pays about $160 million annually in state money to maintain the program.” That’s just over one half of 1 percent of Pennsylvania’s state budget. And as I reported last week, the state of Pennsylvania taxpayers spends nearly $2 billion on prisons ―$463.8 million more than generally reported.
Right-wing claim: “Despite indisputable evidence that welfare fraud and waste are alive and well, many politicians in Harrisburg and Washington have downplayed it, while actually expanding welfare benefits to the detriment of the truly poor.”
Fact: Pennsylvania has been recognized for having an extraordinarily low rate of food stamp fraud: one-tenth of 1 percent.
Right-wing claim: “It’s impossible to determine the full extent of errors because the state doesn’t actively search for mistakes.”
Fact: This assertion is incomprehensible. The state of Pennsylvania Inspector General has a welfare fraud division with a $705,000 budget. And yes, it includes a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Trafficking Unit.
Right-wing claim: “Without any such protection, billionaires such as Bill Gates could actually be eligible for food stamps if their income was low enough for a year. Sound far-fetched? Consider the case of Leroy Fick, who won a $2 million lottery jackpot but still legally collected food stamps. This fall, Michigan enacted a $5,000 asset test to keeping exploiters such as Fick from taking advantage of the system.”
Fact: It sounds far-fetched because it’s incredibly misleading. The US Department of Agriculture toldPolitifact that they are aware of “only one case and one alleged case involving individuals with assets over $1 million”― one of those two cases being Leroy Fick. In Washington, congressional Republicans have claimed that barring millionaires from receiving food stamps or unemployment insurance would save big-time taxpayer dollars. It’s a ruse.
Kudos to the local alternative paper for doing the analytical heavy lifting we’d like to see from our local dailies.
I hope the Obama administration stands firm on this one. It was only a matter of time until the church upped the political ante, and of course a low-life like Newt Gingrich is only too happy to jump on the bandwagon. The American church’s hierarchy climbed under the covers with the right wing decades ago, and they’re all too happy to tear down the Democratic candidates on command:
During church services on Sunday, Catholics around the country were read a blistering letter assailing the Obama administration for an “assault on religious liberty” in the form of a coming requirement that most church-linked organizations – among them hospitals, schools and universities – offer birth control coverage as part of their health care plans.
Despite strong lobbying from religious groups, the Health and Human Services Department announced earlier this month that most church-linked groups will not be exempt from the requirements – which also mandate that no co-pay be charged for contraceptive services – though they will have an extra year to comply beyond the August 1 deadline.
Churches themselves (along with any other employer that is explicitly focused on offering a religious message, and which primarily employs those who believe in that message) are exempt from the requirement.
Religious groups were outraged by the decision – saying it forced employers at church-linked organizations to violate their conscience – and on Sunday Catholic leaders took their complaints directly to parishioners. As Business Insider reported, similar letters were read in churches around the country complaining that “the Obama Administration has cast aside the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, denying to Catholics our Nation’s first and most fundamental freedom, that of religious liberty.”
In an appearance on “CBS This Morning” Monday, Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich brought up the letters, using them as an opportunity to attack both the Obama administration and Republican rival Mitt Romney.
“The Obama administration has just launched an attack on Christianity so severe that every single church in Florida had a letter read from the bishops yesterday all across the country – Cardinal [Timothy] Dolan was leading an effort to explain that, literally, freedom of religion in America is now being attacked by Obama,” he said. “The Romneycare does the same thing. Romneycare has tax-paid abortions. Romneycare put Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in America, in the bill. No right to life group’s in the bill. Planned Parenthood is. Romney himself approved taking away a conscience clause from Catholic hospitals.”
(As Hotsheet pointed out earlier this month, Gingrich’s comment that Planned Parenthood is part of the health care law Romney signed as Massachusetts governor is misleading, and Massachusetts law mandated that the health care law cover abortion.)
In explaining the decision to require birth control coverage for chuch-linked groups, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said that “Scientists have abundant evidence that birth control has significant health benefits for women and their families, it is documented to significantly reduce health costs, and is the most commonly taken drug in America by young and middle-aged women. This rule will provide women with greater access to contraception by requiring coverage and by prohibiting cost sharing.“