By Andrew Freedman, in a Climate Central repost
Although recent rains have put a dent in the Texas drought, a day of reckoning looms for the state?s long-grain rice growers, who pump millions into the economy in Southeast Texas each year and account for about 5 percent of America?s rice production. Come March 1, if there is less than 850,000 acre-feet of water in reservoirs along the Lower Colorado River, water managers will be forced to take the unprecedented step of withholding water from agricultural users, which will mean severe cuts to Texas rice production this year.
According to Bob Rose, chief meteorologist with the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA), it?s unlikely that enough rain will fall between now and March 1 to reach the 850,000 acre-feet threshold that was established by a recent agreement between the authority and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. An acre-foot is the amount of water required to cover one acre of land to a depth of one foot, and it amounts to about 326,000 gallons.
As of January 30, the highland lakes that serve as the area?s reservoirs held about 758,000 acre-feet.
?This is going to be a huge, huge deal,? Rose said during a presentation at the annual meeting of the American Meteorological Society in New Orleans. ?What?s going to happen is that there will be no water for rice irrigation in the Lower Colorado River Basin this year.?
Driving the Lower Colorado River Authority?s decision-making is the need to ensure there is enough water to meet the demand from Austin, the rapidly growing state capital that is completely reliant on water from the Lower Colorado River, as well as other municipalities and users, such as electric utilities that need water to run power plants.
The agricultural water restrictions would hit three Southeast Texas counties the hardest: Colorado, Matagordo, and Wharton. According to a 2011 analysis by the Texas AgriLife Extension Service, the combined direct and indirect economic benefits of rice production and processing in these three counties alone amounts to $675 million, including the support of nearly 9,000 jobs.
?This will be a huge blow to the region?s economy,? Rose told Climate Central. ?We have never had a year where we have curtailed their [rice growers?] water or cut them off? completely, he said.
The 2011-12 drought ranks as the state?s most intense one-year drought since records began in 1895. The drought has had major impacts on agriculture in the Lone Star State, particularly for cattle ranchers, causing at least $5.2 billion in agricultural losses during 2011. This includes $1.8 billion in cotton losses, $750 million in lost hay production, and $243 million in wheat losses.
Texas is the largest cattle ranching state in the country, and the dry weather, combined with record summer heat and shortage of affordable feed this year caused many ranchers to cull their herds early or move their cattle to ranches in other states. The Texas cattle herd dropped by 11 percent during 2011, which translates to more than a million head of cattle.
Scientists say the drought is a likely result of a La Nina event in the Pacific Ocean, which tends to depress rainfall totals in Texas, particularly during the winter. However, global warming has likely exacerbated the drought and led to more heat extremes last summer, according to Texas state climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon.
Brent Batchelor, who works for Texas AgriLife Extension Service in Matagorda County, said rice growers there are ?hoping for the best and preparing for the worst.?
?They?re very apprehensive because we?re a long ways from getting any water,? he said. He added that even if the reservoirs do rise above 850,000 acre-feet, rice growers would still receive less water than normal through a system of Lower Colorado River Authority-managed canals.
Although it boosted morale, an unusually heavy January rainstorm was not enough to significantly raise reservoir levels, which remain about 100,000 acre-feet shy of the threshold, according to Rose.†?We still have about five weeks till March 1, so it?s possible we could see another storm like this. But the overall pattern still looks drier than normal. I?m not very optimistic at this point,? he said.
The Weather Service?s Murphy said the long-range weather outlook calls for a drier than average February, although he noted that dry weather was forecast for December and January, and both months turned out to be wetter than average.
– By Andrew Freedman, in a Climate Central repost
?Obviously, that?s a pretty heavy draw on an aquifer when we?re in the midst of a drought,? says Bob Patterson, UTGCD?s general manager. In his water district, 40 to 50 wells have run dry and many municipalities have declared stage two or stage three drought conditions, which involve severe restrictions on residential outdoor water use. But natural gas drillers can still pump as much water from the district as they want?.
Critics of fracking claim the industry actually uses far more water than it lets on. Because water used in the fracking process becomes contaminated with hydrocarbons and other toxins, frackers typically sequester it deep underground, removing that wastewater permanently from the hydrologic cycle. Unlike the water used for irrigation or daily living, it doesn?t reenter rivers, aquifers, or the atmosphere. ?Fracking water is typically not recycled,? says Paul Hudak, a hydrologist with the University of North Texas. ?It?s not really economical.?
Police clad in riot gear from the National Park Service showed up to McPherson Square between 5 and 6 am ET. They arrived to make sure the occupiers were ?in compliance? with the ?no camping? rule for the park. They conducted an inspection of tents and[...]
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Komen CEO Nancy Brinker blinked, presumably after every PR agency in the world told her that she had screwed the pooch on national TV in HD and 5.1 Surround sound audio and everyone in America had DVR'd the act.[...]
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Keeping the focus on his blueprint for America, today President Obama reiterates his plan to "help millions of responsible homeowners," while building an economy that will last:
Right now, there are more than 10 million homeowners in this country who, because of a decline in home prices that is no fault of their own, owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth. Now, it is wrong for anyone to suggest that the only option for struggling, responsible homeowners is to sit and wait for the housing market to hit bottom. I don?t accept that. None of us should. [...]
That?s why I?m sending Congress a plan that will give every responsible homeowner the chance to save about $3,000 a year on their mortgages by refinancing at historically low rates. No more red tape. No more endless forms. And a small fee on the largest financial institutions will make sure it doesn?t add a dime to the deficit.
The President urges Congress to act on this plan and asks for your help:
That?s why I?m going to keep up the pressure on Congress to do the right thing. But I also need your help. I need your voice. I need everyone who agrees with this plan to get on the phone, send an email, tweet, pay a visit, and remind your representatives in Washington who they work for. Tell them to pass this plan. Tell them to help more families keep their homes, and more neighborhoods stay vibrant and whole.
Complete transcript below the fold.
Team Romney cans debate coach credited with his Florida turnaround. [...]
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Which Biblical figure does Newt Gingrich most remind you of? Nevada pastor Jim Garlow stakes his ground.[...]
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Today [breast cancer is] the biggest disease on the cultural map, bigger than AIDS, cystic fibrosis, or spinal injury, bigger even than those more prolific killers of women -- heart disease, lung cancer, and stroke. There are roughly hundreds of websites devoted to it, not to mention newsletters, support groups, a whole genre of first-person breast-cancer books; even a glossy, upper-middle-brow, monthly magazine, Mamm.Ehrenreich then looks at why breast cancer is different and represents a different "opportunity."
There are four major national breast-cancer organizations, of which the mightiest, in financial terms, is The Susan G. Komen Foundation, headed by breast-cancer veteran and Bush's nominee for ambassador to Hungary Nancy Brinker. Komen organizes the annual Race for the Cure©, which attracts about a million people -- mostly survivors, friends, and family members. Its website provides a microcosm of the new breast-cancer culture, offering news of the races, message boards for accounts of individuals' struggles with the disease, and a "marketplace" of breast-cancer-related products to buy.
[B]reast cancer has blossomed from wallflower to the most popular girl at the corporate charity prom. While AIDS goes begging and low-rent diseases like tuberculosis have no friends at all, breast cancer has been able to count on Revlon, Avon, Ford, Tiffany, Pier 1, Estee Lauder, Ralph Lauren, Lee Jeans, Saks Fifth Avenue, JC Penney, Boston Market, Wilson athletic gear -- and I apologize to those I've omitted.Despite the non-profit status, Komen and its aggressive and jealous trademarking and organizational branding looks a lot like like a major, professional, corporate operation, doesn't it?
You can "shop for the cure" during the week when Saks donates 2 percent of sales to a breast-cancer fund; "wear denim for the cure" during Lee National Denim Day, when for a $5 donation you get to wear blue jeans to work. You can even "invest for the cure," in the Kinetics Assets Management's new no-load Medical Fund, which specializes entirely in businesses involved in cancer research.
If you can't run, bike, or climb a mountain for the cure -- all of which endeavors are routine beneficiaries of corporate sponsorship -- you can always purchase one of the many products with a breast cancer theme.
There are 2.2 million American women in various stages of their breast-cancer careers, who, along with anxious relatives, make up a significant market for all things breast-cancer-related. Bears, for example: I have identified four distinct lines, or species, of these creatures, including "Carol," the Remembrance Bear; "Hope," the Breast Cancer Research Bear, which wears a pink turban as if to conceal chemotherapy-induced baldness; the "Susan Bear," named for Nancy Brinker's deceased sister, Susan; and the new Nick & Nora Wish Upon a Star Bear, available, along with the Susan Bear, at the Komen Foundation website's "marketplace."
And bears are only the tip, so to speak, of the cornucopia of pink-ribbon-themed breast-cancer products. ...
This is not, I should point out, a case of cynical merchants exploiting the sick. Some of the breast-cancer tchotchkes and accessories are made by breast-cancer survivors themselves[.]But it's not one-sidedly good either.
[E]mphasis on possible ecological factors, which is not shared by groups such as Komen and the American Cancer Society, puts the feminist breast-cancer activists in league with other, frequently rambunctious, social movements -- environmental and anticorporate.... and ...
as Cindy Pearson, director of the National Women's Health Network, the organizational progeny of the Women's Health Movement, puts it more caustically: "Breast cancer provides a way of doing something for women, without being feminist."Smart. Can you see the corporate compromises shaping up? No ecology please, if you want our bucks. Some of us have pollution "issues." And feminist-free, thank you very much. Wouldn't want to offend Mr. Limbaugh, whom we may also sponsor.
Avon Breast Cancer Crusade, which sponsors three-day, sixty-mile walks, spends more than a third of the money raised on overhead and advertising, and Komen may similarly fritter away up to 25 percent of its gross...Or more (see "Education" below).
Today we're looking at the anti-voter actions of Mary Kiffmeyer, former Minnesota Secretary of State, current Minnesota state representative, ALEC's point woman in Minnesota, and longtime foe of nonwhite voters, college kids, or anyone else she thinks[...]
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(h/t ABL WARNING: Graphic images and language)
My mother died of breast cancer. I'm sure the vast majority of people reading this can point to an aunt, a cousin, a sister, a best friend who has had the disease. So far, the estimated new cases and deaths from breast cancer in the United States in 2012 (and this is just February) is 226,870 women and 2,190 men with new cases of cancer and 39,510 women and 410 men who have died from the disease. Many of these women, and possibly even men, are poor and have little access to proper health care or support in a country where health care is still only for few who can afford it, and many of them owe their lives to finding the disease early through breast screening provided by Planned Parenthood.
But it seems the anti-abortion faction of the right wing isn't just trying to impose their moral, political and religious values on women's wombs, they don't give a damn about the health of women's breasts, either. The Susan G. Komen Foundation has found itself under fire during this past week over its decision to withdraw funding from Planned Parenthood, thereby depriving thousands of women from life-saving breast screening. But one voice in the many opposed to the gutless capitulation of the Komen Foundation, and specifically Komen's CEO, Nancy Brinker, is that of Linda Burger, a 56-year-old breast cancer survivor in Las Vegas, who was so appalled she made a video. It is not for the faint hearted, for as Linda says in this video, cancer makes you frank, it makes you say what you feel. It give you the courage to face a camera and bare the scars from a mastectomy for the entire world to see. This brave, beautiful, kick-ass woman pulls no punches, she's a hero through and through.
Watch this wonderful video. Then send it to an aunt, a cousin, a sister, a best friend. Send it to your Congressman. Send the Komen Foundation the message that politics and religion have no place in providing health care for women who have nowhere else to turn. They can take their plastic pink ribbons and shove them up Ari Fleischer's nose. Then send a donation to Planned Parenthood - help keep them alive, so that they can help keep us alive.
Jim Himes (D-CT) hasn't exactly been Mr. Populist, let alone an enemy of Wall Street, since being elected. But even he admitted that "Sometimes, Representatives and Senators are privy to information about a bill or contract that the general public does not know. The thought that public servants could use that information to buy or sell stocks is repulsive; it's like a dagger in the heart of our democratic ideals." Indeedy-do. "This is clearly unethical behavior, and it should be illegal," he continued and, man, is he right!
As you probably know by now, This week banking industry whore Richard Burr (R-NC- $3,879,228) tried filibustering a bill to stop this abuse. Burr failed; in fact, he found only one reactionary retrobate, Tom Coburn (R-OK), to join him. And then Thursday the Senate passed the bill by a whopping 96-3, General Burr, again rushing to defend the honor of those who are in bed with the Wall Street banksters. Right after it passed, President Obama reminded everyone that he's been waiting.
In my State of the Union Address, I laid out a blueprint for an economy built to last, where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules-- especially those of us who have been sent here to serve the American people.
Last week, I called on Congress to pass a bill that makes clear that Members of Congress may not engage in insider trading.†No one should be able to trade stocks based on nonpublic information gleaned on Capitol Hill. So I?m pleased the Senate took bipartisan action to pass the STOCK Act. I urge the House of Representatives to pass this bill, and I will sign it right away.†
And while this is an important step to rebuild the trust between Washington and the American people, there is much more work to be done, like prohibiting elected officials from owning stocks in industries they impact, and prohibiting people who bundle campaign contributions for Congress from lobbying Congress, an idea that has bipartisan support outside of Washington. These are straightforward proposals that will help eliminate the corrosive influence of money in politics.
If the STOCK Act becomes law, it would end insider trading in the halls of Congress. It would also require me and every other Representative and Senator to publicly disclose details about each transaction within 30 days. I have always believed in full disclosure and transparency, and I am eager to make sure that the law says Congress must play by the same rules as the American people. I welcome the STOCK Act and have co-sponsored it in the House.
...[I]n typical stonewalling fashion, the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives has blocked its progress. In December, Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R, VA) ?indefinitely postponed? committee work on the bill, dooming it to languish in legal limbo... He knows there is bipartisan support for the STOCK Act. He knows the President will sign it.
... Frankly, I find it embarrassing that there's a question this bill should become law. And this week, we fought back on the House floor. Yesterday, as the Senate was passing the bill, I signed what's called a "discharge petition." If enough members of Congress sign it, we can force a vote on this important measure in the House.
Fun fact: Under House rules, lawmakers can pursue a discharge petition for legislation that has been pending before a committee for 30 legislative days. If a majority of the House sign the petition, the bill can immediately advance to the House floor for consideration. The STOCK Act falls into this category... A majority of House lawmakers, including 92 Republicans, have signed on as co-sponsors of the STOCK Act.
A perfect example of what we're concerned about was on full display during the financial meltdown at the end of 2008. In September of that year, the crisis hit a fever pitch and Washington was front and center, pulling levers left and right in the financial sector to head off a full-blown collapse.
Here's a reminder of just a few of the major government actions during the month:
? On Sept. 7, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were put into conservatorship.
? On Sept. 16, the Federal Reserve swooped in with an $85 billion bailout of AIG.
? On Sept. 19, the SEC imposed an emergency ban on short-selling.
? Also on Sept. 19, the Treasury announced that it would insure money market funds.
? From Sept. 21 through the eventual signing on Oct. 3, Congress debated and eventually passed the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program that funneled tens of billions to financial companies like Citigroup, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, and Wells Fargo.
? On Sept. 21, the Federal Reserve allowed Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley to convert to bank holding companies.
And I could go on.
The bottom line is that during this period, there was a significant amount of nonpublic information that lawmakers in general could have been privy to. In particular, members of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs and the House Committee on Financial Services would have had more access than most to information that was poised to significantly impact the share prices of certain financial companies.
During a period of intense and extensive legislation like this, one might think-- or at least hope-- that Congress members would be extra prudent, avoiding any appearance whatsoever that they were trading based on material information that they may have had access to. The data show just the opposite.
From Sept. 1, 2008, through Oct. 3, 2008 (the signing of TARP), Congress members traded $6.7 million worth of financial-company shares. That compares to $1.7 million of financial-company shares traded during the same period of the prior year. That tally came as those lawmakers made a total of 318 trades in such companies, a big leap from the 115 trades that were made in the same period of 2007. And that only includes trades for which there was a specific date entered in the disclosures-- and there were plenty that didn't include specific dates.
And what of the most-informed House and Senate committees? Laudably, it appears that members of the Senate Banking Committee showed prudence and had little, if any, financial-stock trading activity during this period. On the other hand, members of the House Financial Services Committee made a total of at least 28 trades worth nearly $650,000 in total.
In 2008, Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., was the ranking minority member of the House Financial Services Committee. That would have put him right in the middle of many of the crucial discussions that had the potential to seriously swing stocks in the financial industry.
Looking back at Bachus' personal accounts during 2008 reveals that while the most serious chapter of the financial meltdown was unfolding, he was pocketing thousands by trading General Electric options. Many investors will remember that GE was right in the middle of the financial-meltdown scrum thanks to its giant finance arm.
Between Sept. 10, 2008, and Sept. 19, 2008, Bachus traded $25,217 worth of GE options through 13 transactions. Those trades earned him $5,240. Not a bad take in just over a week.
Bachus did not return our requests for comment.
Much like Punxsutawney Phil, Fred Upton has promised us all a much longer winter today with his appointment of Washington DC super lobbyist Michael Bloomquist as General Counsel for the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.†
Who is Michael Bloomquist? Recently, he was the chief lobbyist for the American Natural Gas Association (ANGA). ANGA is an organization formed by Aubrey McClendon, T Boone Pickens, and other industry powerhouses who are pushing the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Fred's committee, to provide them with billions of dollars in subsidies and deregulation by passing the Natural Gas Act.
As I have told you in the past, Fred owns millions of dollars of stock in the natural gas industry and he just can't stop using his position as Chair of Energy and Commerce to make himself and his friends richer. Fred's number one objective is to pass the Natural Gas Act which will put our nation's transportation fleet on natural gas.
I believe that we need to continue to use our fossil fuels in combination with renewables like wind and solar. This will protect our environment and help break our dependence on foreign oil. Fred's plan relies on dangerous hydraulic fracking to mine unproven reserves, and it will create a monopoly for him and his buddies-- it will also likely create another financial bubble once the reserves are proven worthless and the environmental dangers are fully acknowledged.