Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) is transforming Texas into a Paul Ryanian Mecca, having just signed legislation that seeks to privatize Medicare and compels the state to formally ask for a Medicaid block grant. The measure also “defunds abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood” and “implements co-payments for non-emergency visits to hospital emergency rooms.”
The government is too strapped for cash to prevent the “imminent” extinction of a critical member of the Rocky Mountain forests, the Obama administration has determined. On Monday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declared that global warming pollution is causing the spread of the pine bark beetle and white pine blister rust into the the once-cold Rockies, killing off the whitebark pine in staggering numbers. However, because of budgetary limits, the service said it would defer instituting any attempt to save the trees:
The Fish and Wildlife Service determined Monday that whitebark pine, a tree found atop mountains across the American West, faces an ?imminent? risk of extinction because of factors including climate change. The decision is significant because it marks the first time the federal government has identified climate change as one of the driving factors for why a broad-ranging tree species could disappear. The Canadian government has already declared whitebark pine to be endangered throughout its entire range; a recent study found that 80 percent of whitebark pine forests in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem are dead or dying. The Natural Resources Defense Council asked the Fish and Wildlife Service to place the tree on the endangered species list. In its determination, the agency said that it found a listing was ?warranted but precluded,? meaning the pine deserved federal protection but the government could not afford it.
There are now 265 candidate species waiting for protection — or until their extinction eliminates the urgency.
The whitebark pine has been in decline for decades. Protection requested over 10 years ago, in February 1991, was rejected in 1994. Since then, the collapse of the species, which sustains the entire ecosystem from nutcrackers to grizzlies, has been “dramatic and catastrophic.”
Our ability to be responsible stewards of the planet is likely to get even worse, thanks to the Tea Party. “This month, the House Appropriations Interior Subcommittee voted to eliminate any funds for listing species under the Endangered Species Act as part of the 2012 budget,” the Washington Post’s Juliet Eilperin notes.
The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) has targeted New York Sens. Mark Grisanti (R), James Alesi (R), and Carl Kruger (D) for their votes on marriage equality last month with a mailing campaign. Though NOM’s goal is to make it harder for senators like Grisanti to raise money, they’ve already seen spikes in their campaign fundraising since the marriage equality vote. The mailers accuse Grisanti of being a Benedict Arnold-style traitor for campaigning against marriage equality and then voting for it, while suggesting that Alesi is immoral and Kruger tried to “redefine the family”:
In addition to asking recipients to send back their contact information for future fundraising efforts, NOM is also encouraging people to attend their “Let The People Vote” rallies this Sunday when same-sex marriage becomes legal. Given that New York does not even have a public referendum process, the rallies in Albany, New York City, Rochester, and Buffalo are more likely direct protests of same-sex couples getting married. Sen. Rubén Díaz, the only Democrat to vote against marriage equality, has endorsed the rallies, calling for “the same drive that the Apostles had after the resurrected Lord filled them with the Spirit.”
by Tripp Brockway and Raj Salhotra
Only ten percent of Mozambique?s population has access to the country?s electricity grid. Without electricity, subsistence farming is less viable, students cannot study at night, and hospitals cannot store vaccines. The lack of power is a drag on Mozambique?s economic development and an obstacle to improving the well-being of its people.
But this is not another clichéd story about how the West must save Africa from poverty. Instead, it is a story about how to provide electricity, in an environmentally and economically intelligent manner, to the 85% of people in rural sub-Saharan Africa who lack it. It is a story about how to leverage efficiently local knowledge and resources. It is a story about innovation, a story from which the developed world can learn.
In 2009, Jason Morenikeji started The Clean Energy Company in Mozambique. Morenikeji?s company provides small-scale, off-grid renewable energy along Mozambique?s ?wind-strong? coastline. The company focuses on the design, construction, and installation of micro wind turbines that can be tailored to fit local needs and combined with other renewable energy sources, such as solar photovoltaics (PV).
By manufacturing the micro-turbines locally, Morenikeji?s company creates jobs and lifts people out of poverty. This is one of many ways that independent electricity generation, particularly from renewable sources, can be crucial for addressing the challenges of socio-economic development such as education, food security, and health.
Independently-powered micro-grids can provide lighting for students to study at night. Studies have found an almost two-year difference in education levels between children in electrified households as compared to those in homes without power. A good education gives students the skills necessary to achieve stable employment and higher income.
Decentralized energy can be used to refrigerate food. This is especially important since poor food preservation can cost developing countries 25-50% of their crop-yield, reducing food security and preventing farmers from maximizing their income. According to the FAO:
?One of the major contributory factors responsible for the economic non-viability of farming areas is the farmer?s inability to handle and store food efficiently so that he can sell good quality produce when it is scarce and commands a high price.?
Independent power sources can also provide electricity to rural hospitals, allowing for the storage of medicine and the operation of life-saving equipment. For example, vaccines require refrigerated storage, which demands reliable electricity. Moreover, the health of a country?s population is highly correlated with GDP per capita, and this relationship is stronger in low-income, developing nations.
Independent power sources that allow for distributed generation can be a cost-effective substitute for countries that lack adequate grid infrastructure and centralized power plants. And unlike the grid systems of the developed world, independently produced power relies on clean renewable energy instead of dirty fossil fuels.
Economics dictate that small, off-grid communities should produce electricity from micro renewable sources rather than the economically-volatile diesel or the traditionally-bulked coal. Distributed solar generation, for example, is between 1/10 and 1/4 the cost of diesel generators. Distributed generation offers rural communities a financially efficient means of electricity generation.
For a country like Mozambique, utilizing renewable energy makes sense. Micro wind turbines, solar PV, and biodiesel generators can provide electricity to remote locations. Communities can use this electricity to improve their economy and quality of life. Jason Orenikeji?s innovative company proves that independent, renewable energy production is an economically viable and environmentally sustainable solution to rural poverty.
– by Tripp Brockway and Raj Salhotra
Two gay men “pleaded guilty Monday to arranging three phony marriages, including one with a Navy doctor, so they and their wives could get more pay and health care benefits and so they could conceal their sexual orientations from the Navy,” Tim McGlone of the Virginian-Pilot reports. Charges are still pending against Cmdr. Jeanette F. Shimkus who “needed to conceal her lesbian relationship in order to name her girlfriend as a beneficiary to her life insurance.” The 1996 Defense of Marriage Act and military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policies prohibit the government from extending marriage benefits to same-sex couples.
Obviously the most important Aaron Swartz story of the day regards his indictment on some kind of crazy charges. But this post he did yesterday about the difficulty of assessing what works in political advocacy is very good:
Delegations are a lot harder than services. In the same way you can be pretty sure that when you buy a pen it will write, you can be pretty sure that when you hire someone to paint your wall white, she?ll actually do it. And if she doesn?t, you can just not pay her.
But if you want to hire an interior designer, it?s a mess. Let?s say you pick one by looking through their portfolio and concluding that you like their work. But when they come to design your place, you hate the result. What can you do? You say that what you got looks nothing like the stuff in the portfolio and they?ll just say that every space is different and so has a different result. There?s no way to ever prove they did a bad job.
Political advocacy campaigns suffer, he notes, from a very extreme version of this problem. Steve Teles and Mark Schmitt wrote a smart article about the problem but I’m not sure they really “solved” it. And yet, as Swartz says it would be really nice to make progress on this: “when you stop to realize that the world is full of huge problems that can only be solved by collective action, figuring out how to inspire coordinated action most effectively doesn?t just seem interesting ? it seems essential.”
This is one reason why I put a fair amount of emphasis on disparaging the folk theory of political change which holds something like “change happens because the president shows ‘leadership’ and delivers awesome speeches.” Belief in that theory of change tends, I think, to distract people from the reality that it really takes massive, difficult-to-achieve feats of collective action. How exactly one goes about achieving those feats is somewhat mysterious (I’m partial to Theda Skocpol’s ideas), but if you’re frustrated with the pace of change this is what you need to be working on.
With the Fourth Amendment in tatters, tasers used like toys, non-white communities under attack, we could all use a reminder of how to protect ourselves democratically.
Flex Your Rights' straightforward, informative video 10 Rules for Dealing with the Police gives us the know-how on upholding our Constitutional rights and ensuring equal justice.
10 Rules was created in response to what Flex Your Rights founder and civil rights activist Steve Silverman saw as a disturbing trend:The vast majority of people are mystified by the basic rules of search and seizure and due process of law. Consequentially, they're likely to be tricked or intimidated by police into waiving their constitutional rights, resulting in a greater likelihood of regrettable outcomes.
Tricked by the police? Shocking!
Presented in a series vignettes showing what could go wrong and how to make it go right, 10 Rules is designed to help us understand the differences between probable cause and reasonable suspicion; and to teach us how to respond to warrantless searches and uphold the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendments.
Consenting to a search during a traffic stop or noise complaint simply because the police ask, and well, you're a nice person with nothing to hide, could cost you. The police do not have to treat your possessions nicely, and there's always the risk of a medical marijuana roach left over after Granny drove her canasta club to Lazarium Presents Liberace. The phraseI do not consent to a search
is invaluable, as is the revelation about Miranda: No, the cops don't have to read you the catechism drilled into us during hundreds of hours of police shows on the teevee:You have the right to remain silent...
You have that right. Use it by declaring it when you are arrested. LetI'm going to remain silent. I would like to see a lawyer
be your last words to the police.
Flex Your Rights is a non-profit foundation dedicated to educating the public about how the Bill of Rights protections apply during encounters with law enforcement. With funding from the Marijuana Policy Projects grants program, Flex has been able to create and distribute their videos, reaching over 2.5 million people, including students, lawyers and police instructors. The message about our Constitutional rights is simple:Use them or lose them!
10 Rules for Dealing with the Police is subtitled in Spanish, with a bonus feature for non-U.S. citizens, as well as a question and answer bonus feature.
Okay, that?s not true. Peter Peterson has not promised to give up anything, but he will stand to gain tens of millions, perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars in additional pocket change over the next decade thanks to the Senate Gang of Six?s new tax[...]
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The Energy Report: Your Encompass Fund has had some pretty spectacular returns over the past three years. How have you been able to do this and what are your selection criteria?
Marshall Berol: Malcolm Gissen and I started Encompass Fund five years ago. We’ve been very ably assisted by Craig Valdes and Kevin Puil. Our concept was to invest globally in any market cap size company, utilizing both a top-down and bottom-up approach. That results in us looking at sectors we find to be attractive going forward, and then selecting companies within that segment that could experience long-term capital appreciation, which is the objective of the Encompass Fund. We also look at individual companies regardless of industry, where we . . . → Read More: Marshall Berol & Craig Valdes: Buy Energy Stocks – On Sale Now!
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The Daily Caller story from earlier today about Michele Bachmann's history of migraines (a history she acknowledges) said more about the Republican campaign to smear Bachmann than it did about her fitness for office, but if this is an indication of how her campaign is going to handle controversies, it'll crash and burn long before Iowa.
But now the Bachmann camp has suddenly invited a whole lot more scrutiny to the story. At an event today, ABC News reporter Brian Ross tried to ask her about her condition, and according to another reporter on the scene, Time?s Michael Crowley, Bachmann?s handlers roughed Ross up pretty aggressively [...] Jeffrey Schneider, a senior vice president for ABC news, reiterated the charge in an interview with me just now. ?He was certainly shoved around and pushed,? Schneider says. ?It?s unfortunate when physicality is involved. He was just doing his job.? Schneider confirmed that there?s even video of the episode. ?We were videotaping Brian asking questions,? he said. ?I?m sure it will find it?s way ont on our web site at some point.?
The migraine story an obvious attempt to smear Bachmann, but when you're running for president you've got to be able to deal with stuff like that. Roughing up reporters who ask annoying questions is obviously way over the line of what's acceptable, but it's also a sign of gross political impotence. In politics, shit happens. You've got to be able to handle it.