Florida Governor Rick Scott (R) is commemorating Sexual Assault Awareness Month by vetoing a budget line item of $1.5 million passed by the legislature to fund 30 rape crisis centers around the state.
Scott spokesman Lane Wright told The Huffington Post that the governor vetoed the item because funding already exists for statewide sexual violence programs. As evidence, Wright pointed towards the state?s $6.5 million budget for rape prevention and sexual assault services and an additional $29 million allocated for domestic violence programs.
But according to the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence, much of the available funding that currently exists is spent on education and prevention, and not for the funding of crisis centers and the victims they serve. The group?s Executive Director Jennifer Dritt disputed Governor Scott?s claim that he was never given specific reasons why the additional funding was required:
We gave them information about the number of new survivors we have and we showed them that these rape crisis centers have waiting lists. Survivors are having to wait weeks, sometimes six weeks, in some programs three months to be seen. We included quotes from the programs about the waiting lists and what services they weren’t able to offer because of a lack of money. There is clearly an unmet need.
Florida?s rape crisis centers are tied to a trust fund that is fed into by fines levied against perpetrators of sexual assault. But when the fund was created by the legislature in 2003, lawmakers determined that it would not generate significant revenues for several years, instead requiring offsets by state funding. Scott?s decision to veto the funding could result in cuts of as much as $100,000 at some of the crisis centers, Dritt says.
Jeff Masters, via Wunderblog
An unprecedented April heat wave brought a second day of sizzling temperatures to the Western U.S. yesterday, where temperatures ranging 20 – 30 degrees above normal have toppled numerous all-time April heat records.
All-time heat records for the month of April were set at 56 stations April 21 – 23, including at seven major cities. Image taken from wunderground’s new extremes page.
Nearly every weather station in the Inter-mountain West has broken, tied, or come within 1- 2 °F of their all-time record April heat record since Sunday. Most notably, the 113°F measured at Furnace Creek in Death Valley, California on Sunday, April 22 was tied for the hottest April temperature ever recorded in the U.S.
According to wunderground weather historian Christopher C. Burt, the hottest reliable April temperature ever measured in the U.S. was 113°F in Parker, Arizona in 1898. A 113°F reading was also taken at Catarina, Texas in April 1984. A hotter 118°F reading measured at Volcano Springs, CA in April 1898 is considered unreliable, since we don’t know much about the exposure conditions or if the thermometers were even in shelters at remote California desert stations back in the 1880s and 1890s. The previous hottest April day in Death Valley was 111°F. Yesterday, the high temperature in Death Valley “cooled off” to 110°F, merely the third highest April temperature ever measured there. The heat wave peaked Sunday and Monday, and temperatures will be closer to normal for the remainder of the week.
As is often the case when a major Nor’easter is affecting the Eastern U.S., the record-breaking heat is due to a contortion of the jet stream that has created a strong ridge of high pressure over the Western U.S. Wunderground’s extremes page lists 56 stations in the West in the past four days that have tied or broken all-time heat records for the month of April, including:
Phoenix, Arizona: 105°F (previous 105° April temperatures occurred on 4/20/1989 and 4/29/1992)
Las Vegas, Nevada: 99°F (tying old record set 4/30/1981)
Reno, NV: 90° (old record 89° 4/30/1981)
Elko, NV: 87° (old record 86° 4/30/1981). This also beat the previous so-warm-so-early-in-the-season record by 4°
Ely, NV: 84° (old record 82° 4/28/1992)
Winnemucca, NV: 90° (tying old record set 4/30/1981)
Grand Junction, CO: 89° (tying all-time April record also set on 4/29 and 4/30, 1992)
Boise, ID (91°) and Salt Lake City (88°) both came within 1°F of their record April max.
– Dr. Jeff Masters is co-founder and Director of Meteorology for The Weather Underground, where this was originally posted. It was reprinted with permission.
For the connection between the recent extreme heat waves and climate change, see “March Came In Like A Lamb, Went Out Like A Globally Warmed Lion On Steroids Who Smashed 15,000 Heat Records.”
According to a recent report from the Government Accountability Office, it takes the Occupational Safety and Health Administration more than seven years on average to write a new workplace safety rule. Some rules take nearly two decades to finalize. ?The process for setting safety standards at OSHA is broken,? said Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA). ?Even when the evidence is undeniable that our workers are dying from workplace hazards, OSHA still takes an eternity to issue a new safety rule. While reasonable safety rules are delayed to provide never-ending opportunities for stakeholder input, workers? lives and livelihood are at risk.? (HT: In These Times)
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True story: Billo's rant went on so long I wasn't sure what part of it to clip. This is about 8 minutes in.
Worse yet, where on earth did he get his numbers? In his Talking Points Memo segment, he claims that "means-tested entitlements" have risen 5,500 percent since 1970. Wow, what does that even mean?
The tactic is obvious. This is the ZOMG, we're helping people who need it! ZOMG, ZOMG scare tactic. I mean just think. Claims have risen "five thousand five hundred percent" in 42 years! Be afraid, Billo viewers, be very, very afraid. Of course, the punch line is that it's all President Obama's fault and anyone who wants to cut these lifelines will be viewed as a bad person.
His numbers just seem like argle-bargle nonsense to me. He claims there are about 150 million people receiving some form of direct federal assistance. I can't get there, no matter how I turn the numbers. Here's his Talking Points Memo segment with a lot of really strange and trumped-up claims.
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Now here's what I get with the caveat that I'm not sure what programs he's counting in his "entitlement society" claim:
Not allowing for overlap or for flow from one program to the next by the same family, this adds up to about 113 million in a worst-case scenario. But here's how it really works. When the unemployment benefits run out, families turn to food stamps, since eating is one of those things that really has to happen no matter whether one is rich or poor. For older workers who are unemployed for a long time, one strategy is to apply for Social Security disability after the benefits run out. It doesn't often work, because the definition of disability is draconian and doesn't cover temporary disabilities. It must prevent the worker from performing the work they are trained to do, last at least one year or be expected to end in death. In addition, the worker must be adjudged to be ineligible for retraining for other work due to their disability. It isn't simple and it isn't easy to qualify.
Bill O'Reilly's rant will resonate with all of those out there who sniff righteously and believe they are above ever being in need. The truth is, we're all one illness away from being disabled. We're all one layoff away from being aged out of the workforce too early to qualify for much of anything, and far too many of us are in that position right now.
Here is the truth O'Reilly's rant disguises: It is shameful that so many of our resources are in the hands of a very few, leaving so many deeply in need. This is the legacy of conservative governance. The top one percent lives lavishly, riding their dressage horses and paying lip service to those who really do know what it's like to struggle while they shame those in need. As their offshore bank accounts and fat-cat brokerage accounts grow exponentially, the rest of the country struggles to keep their homes, their savings, and their dignity.
His rant hides the fact that O'Reilly and his ilk are the ones who forced these families into having to rely upon the government for assistance. Laid bare, it's a cynical effort to take food out of the mouths of children and toss more families on the street.
In St Louis, thousands of students and parents are scrambling to find alternatives after a much heralded charter school system produced terrible test scores and ran out of money. It's a pattern we're starting to see in many places, with many for-profit[...]
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Richard Caperton's calculations based on
Energy Information Administration data.Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia have renewable energy standards. These require that a certain percentage of electricity in each of them must come from renewable sources by a certain date. The percentage varies (from 10 percent to 33 percent) and different technologies are allowed from state to state?everything from wind to landfill gas. Results: reduced pollution; new businesses and invigorated old ones; expansion of clean-energy jobs; ever-cheaper devices for capturing power from sun, wind, biomass and geothermal sources; and less carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere.
Bolstered by Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform, and funded by the likes of Exxon Mobil and the Koch Brothers' energy and chemical conglomerate, the American Legislative Exchange Council has embarked on a campaign to get states to dump those standards.
Stephen Lacey writes that ALEC has already tried to prevent passage of targets for renewable energy on the federal level. But since those aren't happening anyway, certainly not this election year, the organization is focusing on the states. ALEC's key argument? Consumers in states with the standards are seeing their electricity rates soar.
Norquist claims that consumers in states with the standards for these "less reliable" sources of electricity are paying 39 percent more than those who live in states without the standards. Robert Bryce at the Manhattan Institute claims that the higher prices not only outweigh the environmental benefits but are "detrimental to the economy, costing jobs rather than adding them."
Not so, according to a recent study by Richard W. Caperton at the Center for American Progress. While he agrees that states without the standards may have lower rates, he points out that rates are set by state utility boards in a complex process using a baker's dozen of ingredients. Most studies have done a poor job of isolating the effects of each of these from one another.
Caperton chose the methodology developed by Emily A. Hickey and J. Lon Carlson to assess rate impacts of electricity restructuring in general for his examination of rate changes caused by renewable standards. Key to their methodology? Using a national average to assess how a state?s rates were changing before restructuring and making the same comparison for the post-restructuring period.
Caperton calculated the average annual rate increase before the first year a renewable energy standard came into effect and compared it to the average for states without the standards for the same period. He then ran the same comparison for the years after the standard was implemented. You can see the results in the table to the right. For renewable energy standards that became effective in 2010 or 2011, the methodology doesn't work because not enough data are available yet. That's what the N/As are about in the final eight states in the table.
Bottom line? If ALEC and the other naysayers were right about renewable energy standards being costly for consumers, electricity rates would be increasing faster after the standards went into effect. As can be seen in the ?post-standard? column, that is not the case:
Look at Maine, for example. Before its renewable energy standardState studies back up this conclusion.
went into effect, Maine?s rates were rising 3.42 percent faster than in
states without a standard. After the standard went into effect, however,
Maine?s rates were actually rising 0.82 percent slower than in states
without a renewable energy standard. [...]
This shows that state renewable energy standards have no predictable impact on electricity rates. [...]
The conclusion is clear: Anyone who says they?ve looked at all of the states and found
that renewable energy standards drive up rates is wrong. There are no data showing a
nationwide pattern of these standards leading to rate increases for consumers.
Demolishing the states' renewable standards is the opposite direction we should be headed. We instead need a federal standard, similar to what Sen. Jeff Bingaman, the New Mexico Democrat, introduced in February, although critics are not happy with his inclusion of nuclear and natural gas. States themselves should push for higher standards. But with ALEC pushing its corporate agenda, it will take a combination of business, labor, environmentalists and those consumers ALEC pretends to care about to defeat this attempt to scuttle some of the smartest legislation of the past decade.
The Critical Metals Report: John, a recent Brookings Institution report suggested that greater collaboration between U.S. and Chinese companies would alleviate tensions over tightening rare earth markets. Is the proposed merger between the Chinese company Neo Material Technologies (NEM:TSX) and Molycorp Inc. (MCP:NYSE) what the . . . → Read More: Rare Earth Juniors Have a Five-Year Window: John Kaiser
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It's about time some of these organizations got the evil eye from the IRS. Common Cause has filed a request with the IRS for them to take a long look at whether or not ALEC has reached beyond the constraints of their tax-exempt status. This follows a front-page feature article from the New York Times about ALEC and their activities, showing them to be nothing more than stealth lobbyists for corporations.
Via Think Progress:
ALEC, the ?association for conservative state lawmakers who shared a common belief in limited government, free markets, federalism, and individual liberty,? has pushed an extreme legislative agenda in states across the country, pushing shoot-first? ?stand your ground? laws and voter suppression efforts. In recent weeks, at least a dozen companies announced they would no longer fund ALEC ? following pressure from a Color of Change national campaign ? and ALEC announced it would refocus its efforts away from ?non-economic issues.? Last week, the group?s Louisiana state chairman resigned from the group.
Now, Common Cause is asking the Internal Revenue Service to take action; the group is requesting the agency audit ALEC?s work, impose penalties, and compel payment of back taxes. Common Cause President Bob Edgar (a former Democratic U.S. Rep. from Pennsylvania) said the group is masquerading as a public charity.
As a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt ?charitable? organization, donations to the group are tax-deductible. But IRS rules state that (c)(3)s must ?not be organized or operated for the benefit of private interests? and ?may not attempt to influence legislation as a substantial part of its activities.?ALEC claims its work is not lobbying. But, Edgar argues, ALEC?s mission ?is to bring together corporations and state legislators to draft profit-driven, anti-public-interest legislation, and then help those elected officials pass the bills in statehouses from coast to coast. If that?s not lobbying, what is??
This would be a good time for all tax-exempt political/ideological organizations to take a hard look at what they're doing and how they're doing it, because I have a sense this is only the beginning of the wars over tax-exempt status. It's about time. Let's have a closer look at some church organizations, too.
New disclosures filed Friday show that the Romney campaign has now received about $3 million in “bundled” contributions collected by registered lobbyists. And about three-quarters of that total was collected by lobbyists who represent either polluter interests (oil, gas, and coal — or the energy companies that burn them), financial sector interests, or both.
Though Romney has not voluntarily disclosed any campaign bundlers who are not lobbyists, federal law requires that he identify major bundlers who are. To date, the campaign has identified 22 lobbyist bundlers who each raised $17,000 or more.
A ThinkProgress analysis of the data shows that 13 represent Big Energy and Big Finance — and between them, they collected more than $2.2 million in donations. They are:
Romney’s strong support from powerful Wall Street and energy lobbyists is unsurprising given his proposals to repeal the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act and undo environmental protections — and his support for continuing subsidies for Big Oil.
As ThinkProgress previously reported, Romney’s lobbyist-bundler list also includes Ignacio E. Sanchez ($86,700) of DLA Piper, a registered foreign agent for the United Arab Emirates and a birther presidential candidate in the Dominican Republic.
President Obama does not accept campaign contributions donated or bundled by federal lobbyists or foreign agents. His campaign voluntarily discloses all of its major bundlers. He also voluntarily discloses all of his major bundlers, as did Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and President George W. Bush (R) in their 2000, 2004, and 2008 races.
A measure that would eliminate a woman’s ability to obtain an abortion through the South Carolina state health plan if she’s a victim of rape or incest was passed unanimously by a South Carolina Senate panel on Tuesday. The clause, which was included within the 2012-2013 budget, allows for just one exception — “when the mother’s life is in jeopardy.” Opponents argue that the measure re-traumatizes the crime victim, but Republican Sen. Ken Bryant claims the proposal protects the rights of the unborn child. A similar clause was approved by the House during a budget debate in 2010, but was removed by the Senate. Fatima Najiy