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Better Believe It

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Obama embraces new "bi-partisan" Wall Street deregulation bill that 25 Senate Dems voted against!


Jobs Act: White House, Democrats at odds over Obama-backed pro-business bill
By Zachary A. Goldfarb
March 26, 2012


White House allies are in an uproar over pro-business legislation embraced by President Obama, exposing a new rift in his relations with Democratic lawmakers and supporters amid his efforts since the fall to mend those ties.

The bill is designed to make it easier for growing companies to raise money and reduce the cost of complying with securities laws. But critics warn it would allow firms to avoid disclosing crucial financial information and elude government oversight, opening the door to fraud and investor abuse. The measure is set to pass Congress on Tuesday.

Richard Trumka, AFL-CIO president, said last week that the bill “will do nothing to create good jobs and stabilize the U.S. economy. Instead, it will deregulate Wall Street — voiding investor protections put in place after Enron and the 2008 financial crisis.”

Barbara Roper, director of investor protection at the Consumer Federation of America, said in a statement, “The White House, which pushed for passage of a bipartisan bill regardless of its attack on investor protections, and Senate leadership . . . bear a heavy burden of responsibility for the damage this bill will cause to vulnerable investors.”


Read the full article at:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/jobs-act-white-house-democrats-at-odds-over-pro-business-bill-set-to-pass/2012/03/26/gIQAfnq3cS_story.html


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News Release
Contact: Barbara Roper
March 22, 2012


Senate Flip-Flops on Investor Protection, Passes JOBS Act They Know
Will Harm Investors and Increase Fraud



Ignoring warnings from securities regulators, institutional investors, IPO experts and a host of other individuals and organizations, the Senate voted 73-26 Thursday to approve the House-passed JOBS Act, setting the stage for it to be signed into law without needed improvements to its dangerously lacking investor protections. The vote on final passage came after an amendment was adopted to strengthen investor protections related to crowd-funding and another amendment to limit the ability of large companies to evade public disclosure obligations was defeated. Because the bill was brought up under a procedure that limited the opportunity for amendments, and because the Reed-Landrieu-Levin substitute amendment fell six votes short of the 60 needed to invoke cloture when it was brought up earlier this week, the vast bulk of the bill’s anti-investor provisions went unaddressed. CFA Director of Investor Protection Barbara Roper issued the following statement in response:

“In recent weeks, a growing chorus of critics from securities regulators to IPO market experts to institutional investors has warned that the House-passed JOBS Act would increase fraud, undermine market transparency, and damage our capital markets. They joined with seniors, workers, consumers, and Main Street businesses in calling on the Senate to slow down this juggernaut and adopt a more balanced approach that preserves vital investor protections. By voting for the Reid-Landrieu-Levin substitute amendment Tuesday, 54 senators signaled that they had heard those warnings and recognized the bill to be deeply flawed. Unfortunately, 28 of those senators turned around just two days later and voted for the House bill despite its predicted damaging effect on investors and on markets.

“While we strongly supported the pro-investor amendment on crowd-funding and are grateful it was adopted, this change alone was insufficient to justify support for the broader bill. On the contrary, even with this change, the bill will still unleash a new wave of damaging fraud in the private offering market, make it easier to commit accounting fraud, reignite the abusive securities analyst practices that fueled the tech stock boom and bust, undermine comparability of financial reporting, and enable the Regulation A small offering exemption to be gamed by mid-sized companies seeking to evade public reporting requirements, to name just a few of its many short-comings. The White House, which pushed for passage of a bipartisan bill regardless of its attack on investor protections, and Senate leadership, which brought the bill to the floor with no meaningful opportunity for pro-investor amendments, bear a heavy burden of responsibility for the damage this bill will cause to vulnerable investors and our fragile capital markets. Unfortunately, it is the public who will suffer the consequences.

“The following senators – who voted to improve the bill’s investor protections and voted against final passage when efforts to improve investor protections failed – deserve credit for taking a stand to protect investors, prevent fraud, and promote market transparency and integrity,” Roper said.

1.Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI)
2.Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT)
3.Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK)
4.Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)
5.Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
6.Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
7.Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-MD)
8.Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND)
9.Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL)
10.Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
11.Sen. Al Franken (D-MN)
12.Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
13. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA)
14.Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA)
15.Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ)
16.Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT)
17.Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI)
18.Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR)
19.Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)
20.Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA)
21.Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI)
22.Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV)
23.Sen. Bernard Sanders (I-VT)
24.Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM)
25.Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA)
26.Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)



“When, as predicted, this legislation unleashes a new wave of damaging investment fraud on the unsuspecting public, these senators, and particularly Senators Reed, Landrieu, and Levin, will know that they did everything in their power to stop it,” Roper said.

http://consumerfed.org/news/475
Posted by Better Believe It | Tue Mar 27, 2012, 03:41 PM (16 replies)

New York Times/CBS News Poll: Opposition to War in Afghanistan Grows to 69%

Poll: Opposition to War in Afghanistan Grows to 69%
Support for the war is dwindling among Republicans and Democrats, poll finds
by Common Dreams staff
March 27, 2012


A new New York Times/CBS News poll shows that support for the US War in Afghanistan has reached an all-time low. The poll, conducted between March 21-25, revealed that of those surveyed, 69 percent opposed the war in Afghanistan. This is up from 53 percent just four months ago.

The opposition to the war has increased among Democrats and Republicans. Of Republicans polled, 60 percent said the war was going somewhat or very badly, compared with 40 percent in November. Among Democrats, 68 percent said the war was going somewhat or very badly, compared with 38 percent in November.

"The poll comes as the White House is weighing options for speeding up troop withdrawals and in the wake of bad news from the battlefield, including accusations that a United States Army staff sergeant killed 17 Afghan civilians and violence set off by the burning last month of Korans by American troops," the New York Times reports.

Read the full article at:

http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2012/03/27-0

Read the complete New York Times/CBS News poll at:

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2012/03/27/us/03272012_polling_doc.html
Posted by Better Believe It | Tue Mar 27, 2012, 12:57 PM (1 replies)

Healthcare Jujitsu: A Path to Medicare for All by Robert Reich


Healthcare Jujitsu: A Path to Medicare for All
by Robert Reich
March 27, 2012

So why not Medicare for all?

Because Republicans have mastered the art of political jujitsu. Their strategy has been to demonize government and seek to privatize everything that might otherwise be a public program financed by tax dollars (see Paul Ryan’s plan for turning Medicare into vouchers). Then they go to court and argue that any mandatory purchase is unconstitutional because it exceeds the government’s authority.

Obama and the Democrats should do the reverse. If the Supreme Court strikes down the individual mandate in the new health law, private insurers will swarm Capitol Hill demanding that the law be amended to remove the requirement that they cover people with pre-existing conditions.

When this happens, Obama and the Democrats should say they’re willing to remove that requirement – but only if Medicare is available to all, financed by payroll taxes.

If they did this the public will be behind them — as will the Supreme Court.
Posted by Better Believe It | Tue Mar 27, 2012, 12:42 PM (30 replies)

Nurses: Health Care Crisis Will Continue No Matter How Court Rules



Press Releases
March 27, 2012

Nurses: Health Care Crisis Will Continue No Matter How Court Rules


As the Supreme Court meets to pass judgment on the 2010 health care law the nation’s largest union and professional association of registered nurses today warned that health care will remain beyond the reach of millions of Americans no matter how the court rules.

“Whether the Court overturns part or all of the law, or the Affordable Care Act remains fully intact, we will not have universal coverage, medical bills will still push too many Americans into bankruptcy or prompt them to self-ration care, and insurance companies will continue to have a choke hold on our health,” said Deborah Burger, RN, co-president of 170,000-member National Nurses United.

Citing recent data about the ongoing healthcare emergency, NNU Co-president Jean Ross noted that “the consequences of the denial of care en masse – now and in the future, with or without the ACA -- could not be more ominous. Only more comprehensive reform, Medicare for Life, for all Americans, will finally produce real healthcare security for our country.”

Even with some positive elements, such as permitting young adults up to age 26 remain on their parents health plan, and some limits on insurance industry abuses, the healthcare crisis continues to worsen.

Despite its name the Affordable Care Act has done little to actually make healthcare affordable. Out of pocket health costs for families continue to soar. Nurses now routinely see patients who have postponed needed care, even when it might be life saving, because of the high co-pays and deductibles.

Delayed dental care illustrates the problem. A February Pew Center report noted a 16 percent jump in the number of Americans heading to emergency rooms for routine dental problems, at a cost of 10 times more than preventive care with fewer treatment options than a dentist's office.

Premiums have jumped 50 percent on average the past seven years, according to a Commonwealth Fund report last November, with more than six in 10 Americans now living in states where their premiums consume a fifth or more of median earnings.

Medical bills for years have been the leading cause of personal bankruptcy. Increasingly they ruin people’s credit as well. Another Commonwealth Fund report earlier this month found that 30 million Americans were contacted by collection agencies in 2010 because of medical bills.

Fifty million still have no health coverage. Another 29 million are under insured with massive holes in their health plans, up 80 percent since 2003, according to the journal Health Affairs.

The percentage of adults with no health insurance at 17.3 percent in the third quarter of 2011 was the highest on record, up from 14.4 percent just three years earlier, Gallup reported.

On quality, the U.S. continues to lag far behind other nations. Two breathtaking examples:
More than 80 percent of U.S. counties trail life expectancy rates of nations with the best life expectancies, the University of Washington found last June. Some U.S. counties are more than 50 years behind their international counterparts.

The U.S. ranks just 41st in the world in death rates for child bearing women, and it has been getting worse, according to the World Health Organization. The average mortality rate within 42 days of childbirth has doubled in two decades, partly due cuts in federal spending for maternal and child health programs the past seven years.

Our economic meltdown has exacerbated the crisis. For the past year, nurses have seen a spike in health woes associated with job loss, high medical bills, poor nutrition and other economic factors. These include stress-induced heart ailments in younger patients, hypertension, anxiety and “gut” disorders.

“More handouts to the private insurers and other healthcare corporations will not improve these dreadful statistics,” said Burger. “The choke hold on our health by the same Wall Street types who tanked our economy is exactly what has caused the falling health barometers on access, quality, and cost.”

“This country needs to take care of our people-- not pretend to do so,” said Ross. “For two generations, Medicare has provided quality care to seniors at costs that are affordable—in fact. It’s time to deal with the reality of a nation in desperate need of quality health care for all. It’s time to put in motion a plan for Medicare for Life. For all Americans. Once and for all.”

###

Nationwide Press Releases

http://www.nationalnursesunited.org/press/entry/nurses-health-care-crisis-will-continue-no-matter-how-court-rules/


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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 26, 2012

Contact:
Garrett Adams, M.D., president PNHP
Andrew Coates, M.D., president-elect PNHP
Oliver Fein, M.D.
David Himmelstein, M.D.
Steffie Woolhandler, M.D.
Mark Almberg, PNHP communications director, (312) 782-6006, mark@pnhp.org

Leaders of Physicians for a National Health Program, an organization of 18,000 doctors who advocate for single-payer national health insurance, released the following statement today:



Regardless of whether the Supreme Court upholds or overturns the Affordable Care Act in whole or in part, the unfortunate reality is that federal health law of 2010 will not work: (1) it will not achieve universal coverage, as it leaves at least 26 million uninsured, (2) it will not make health care affordable to Americans with insurance, because gaps in their policies will leave them vulnerable to bankruptcy in the event of major illness, and (3) it will not control costs.

Why? Because the ACA perpetuates a dominant role for the private insurance industry. That industry siphons off hundreds of billions of health care dollars annually for overhead, profit and the paperwork it demands from doctors and hospitals; it denies care in order to increase insurers’ bottom line; and it obstructs any serious effort to control costs.

In contrast, a single-payer, improved-Medicare-for-all system would achieve all three goals – truly universal, comprehensive coverage; health security for our patients and their families; and cost control. It would do so by replacing private insurers with a single, nonprofit agency like Medicare that pays all medical bills, streamlines administration, and reins in costs for medications and other supplies through its bargaining clout.

The major provisions of the ACA do not go into effect until 2014. Although we will be counseled to “wait and see” how this reform plays out, we’ve seen how comparable reforms in Massachusetts and other states have worked over the past few decades. They have invariably failed our patients, foundering on the shoals of skyrocketing costs – even as they have profited the big private insurers and Big Pharma.

The Supreme Court’s ruling is not expected until June. Regardless of how it rules, we cannot wait for an effective remedy to our health care woes any longer, nor can our patients. The stakes are too high.

We pledge to continue our work for the only equitable, financially responsible and humane cure for our health care mess: single-payer national health insurance, an expanded and improved Medicare for all.

******

http://www.pnhp.org/news/2012/march/health-law-constitutional-or-no-fails-to-remedy-ailment-doctors-group
Posted by Better Believe It | Tue Mar 27, 2012, 10:05 AM (4 replies)

Why the Supreme Court Should Kill ‘Obamacare’

March 26, 2012
Finally Getting it Right?
Why the Supreme Court Should Kill ‘Obamacare’
by DAVE LINDORFF


The US Supreme Court has a chance to do the people of America a big favor, perhaps atoning at last for its shameful betrayal of the electoral system in 2000 when a conservative majority stole the Florida, and national election, for George W. Bush, and for the liberal-led and equally shameful betrayal of fundamental property rights in the Kelo v New London case that, in 2005, upheld the public theft of private homes in Connecticut on behalf of a government-backed resort development. The court can atone for these betrayals by declaring the ramshackle, corrupt, hugely expensive and cynically misnamed Affordable Care Act to be unconstitutional.

The act, pushed through a Democratic Congress by President Obama in 2010, is a disaster, a cobbled-together set of measures that was fatally corrupted by the insurance lobby and other parts of the nation’s medical-industrial complex, which leaves millions uninsured, continues to tether workers to their employers like indentured servants, and undermines the Medicare program, which should be the cornerstone of a real health reform.

By killing this monstrosity of political expedience and lobbyist strong-arming, the Supreme Court’s conservative wing could give us a good chance to finally move the country to a real national health reform which would reduce costs substantially, provide quality health care to all, and finally drive a stake through the heart of the health insurance industry, the real “vampire squid” of American capitalism which has been sucking money out of American’s wallets and driving many into bankruptcy for decades (family health crises are the major single cause of bankruptcies and homes foreclosures in the country).

By killing the whole “Obamacare” law, the court will throw the system back into crisis mode, forcing the public and the political system to finally consider the only real answer: expansion of the Medicare program to cover everyone.

Read the full article at:

http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/03/26/why-the-supreme-court-should-kill-obamacare/


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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 26, 2012

Contact:
Garrett Adams, M.D., president PNHP
Andrew Coates, M.D., president-elect PNHP
Oliver Fein, M.D.
David Himmelstein, M.D.
Steffie Woolhandler, M.D.
Mark Almberg, PNHP communications director, (312) 782-6006, mark@pnhp.org

Leaders of Physicians for a National Health Program, an organization of 18,000 doctors who advocate for single-payer national health insurance, released the following statement today:



Regardless of whether the Supreme Court upholds or overturns the Affordable Care Act in whole or in part, the unfortunate reality is that federal health law of 2010 will not work: (1) it will not achieve universal coverage, as it leaves at least 26 million uninsured, (2) it will not make health care affordable to Americans with insurance, because gaps in their policies will leave them vulnerable to bankruptcy in the event of major illness, and (3) it will not control costs.

Why? Because the ACA perpetuates a dominant role for the private insurance industry. That industry siphons off hundreds of billions of health care dollars annually for overhead, profit and the paperwork it demands from doctors and hospitals; it denies care in order to increase insurers’ bottom line; and it obstructs any serious effort to control costs.

In contrast, a single-payer, improved-Medicare-for-all system would achieve all three goals – truly universal, comprehensive coverage; health security for our patients and their families; and cost control. It would do so by replacing private insurers with a single, nonprofit agency like Medicare that pays all medical bills, streamlines administration, and reins in costs for medications and other supplies through its bargaining clout.

The major provisions of the ACA do not go into effect until 2014. Although we will be counseled to “wait and see” how this reform plays out, we’ve seen how comparable reforms in Massachusetts and other states have worked over the past few decades. They have invariably failed our patients, foundering on the shoals of skyrocketing costs – even as they have profited the big private insurers and Big Pharma.

The Supreme Court’s ruling is not expected until June. Regardless of how it rules, we cannot wait for an effective remedy to our health care woes any longer, nor can our patients. The stakes are too high.

We pledge to continue our work for the only equitable, financially responsible and humane cure for our health care mess: single-payer national health insurance, an expanded and improved Medicare for all.

******

http://www.pnhp.org/news/2012/march/health-law-constitutional-or-no-fails-to-remedy-ailment-doctors-group


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Pro-single-payer doctors: Health bill leaves 23 million uninsured
A false promise of reform
For Immediate Release
March 22, 2010

Contact:
Oliver Fein, M.D.
Steffie Woolhandler, M.D., M.P.H.
David Himmelstein, M.D.
Margaret Flowers, M.D.
Mark Almberg, PNHP, (312) 782-6006, mark@pnhp.org

The following statement was released today by leaders of Physicians for a National Health Program, www.pnhp.org. Their signatures appear below.


As much as we would like to join the celebration of the House's passage of the health bill last night, in good conscience we cannot. We take no comfort in seeing aspirin dispensed for the treatment of cancer.

Instead of eliminating the root of the problem - the profit-driven, private health insurance industry - this costly new legislation will enrich and further entrench these firms. The bill would require millions of Americans to buy private insurers' defective products, and turn over to them vast amounts of public money.

The hype surrounding the new health bill is belied by the facts:
•About 23 million people will remain uninsured nine years out. That figure translates into an estimated 23,000 unnecessary deaths annually and an incalculable toll of suffering.
•Millions of middle-income people will be pressured to buy commercial health insurance policies costing up to 9.5 percent of their income but covering an average of only 70 percent of their medical expenses, potentially leaving them vulnerable to financial ruin if they become seriously ill. Many will find such policies too expensive to afford or, if they do buy them, too expensive to use because of the high co-pays and deductibles.
•Insurance firms will be handed at least $447 billion in taxpayer money to subsidize the purchase of their shoddy products. This money will enhance their financial and political power, and with it their ability to block future reform.
•The bill will drain about $40 billion from Medicare payments to safety-net hospitals, threatening the care of the tens of millions who will remain uninsured.
•People with employer-based coverage will be locked into their plan's limited network of providers, face ever-rising costs and erosion of their health benefits. Many, even most, will eventually face steep taxes on their benefits as the cost of insurance grows.
•Health care costs will continue to skyrocket, as the experience with the Massachusetts plan (after which this bill is patterned) amply demonstrates.
•The much-vaunted insurance regulations - e.g. ending denials on the basis of pre-existing conditions - are riddled with loopholes, thanks to the central role that insurers played in crafting the legislation. Older people can be charged up to three times more than their younger counterparts, and large companies with a predominantly female workforce can be charged higher gender-based rates at least until 2017.
•Women's reproductive rights will be further eroded, thanks to the burdensome segregation of insurance funds for abortion and for all other medical services.

It didn't have to be like this. Whatever salutary measures are contained in this bill, e.g. additional funding for community health centers, could have been enacted on a stand-alone basis.

Similarly, the expansion of Medicaid - a woefully underfunded program that provides substandard care for the poor - could have been done separately, along with an increase in federal appropriations to upgrade its quality.

But instead the Congress and the Obama administration have saddled Americans with an expensive package of onerous individual mandates, new taxes on workers' health plans, countless sweetheart deals with the insurers and Big Pharma, and a perpetuation of the fragmented, dysfunctional, and unsustainable system that is taking such a heavy toll on our health and economy today.

This bill's passage reflects political considerations, not sound health policy. As physicians, we cannot accept this inversion of priorities. We seek evidence-based remedies that will truly help our patients, not placebos.

A genuine remedy is in plain sight. Sooner rather than later, our nation will have to adopt a single-payer national health insurance program, an improved Medicare for all. Only a single-payer plan can assure truly universal, comprehensive and affordable care to all.

By replacing the private insurers with a streamlined system of public financing, our nation could save $400 billion annually in unnecessary, wasteful administrative costs. That's enough to cover all the uninsured and to upgrade everyone else's coverage without having to increase overall U.S. health spending by one penny.

Moreover, only a single-payer system offers effective tools for cost control like bulk purchasing, negotiated fees, global hospital budgeting and capital planning.

Polls show nearly two-thirds of the public supports such an approach, and a recent survey shows 59 percent of U.S. physicians support government action to establish national health insurance. All that is required to achieve it is the political will.

The major provisions of the present bill do not go into effect until 2014. Although we will be counseled to "wait and see" how this reform plays out, we cannot wait, nor can our patients. The stakes are too high.

We pledge to continue our work for the only equitable, financially responsible and humane remedy for our health care mess: single-payer national health insurance, an expanded and improved Medicare for All.

Oliver Fein, M.D.
President

Garrett Adams, M.D.
President-elect

Claudia Fegan, M.D.
Past President

Margaret Flowers, M.D.
Congressional Fellow

David Himmelstein, M.D.
Co-founder

Steffie Woolhandler, M.D.
Co-founder

Quentin Young, M.D.
National Coordinator

Don McCanne, M.D.
Senior Health Policy Fellow

******

http://pnhp.org/news/2010/march/pro-single-payer-doctors-health-bill-leaves-23-million-uninsured
Posted by Better Believe It | Mon Mar 26, 2012, 10:48 PM (140 replies)

Obama administration extends time it can hold records on innocent citizens from 180 days to 5 years!



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 23, 2012
ACLU Statement on Extension of Time U.S. Can Retain Info on Innocent Americans in Counterterror Databases


WASHINGTON - March 23 - The Obama administration has extended the time the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) can collect and hold on to records on U.S. citizens and residents from 180 days to five years, even where those people have no suspected ties to terrorism. The new NCTC guidelines, which were approved by Attorney General Eric Holder, will give the intelligence community much broader access to information about Americans retained in various government databases.

Michael German, ACLU senior policy counsel and a former FBI agent said:

“The decades-old rules limiting the collection and retention of U.S. citizen and resident information by the intelligence community and the military existed for a very good reason: to ensure that the powerful tools designed to protect us from foreign enemies are not turned against Americans. Authorizing the 'temporary' retention of non-terrorism related citizen and resident information for five years essentially removes the restraint against wholesale collection of our personal information by the government, and puts all Americans at risk of unjustified scrutiny. Such unfettered collection risks reviving the Bush administration’s Total Information Awareness program, which Congress killed in 2003.

The previous obligation to ‘promptly review’ data and purge non-terrorism related U.S. citizen and resident information served to protect Americans’ privacy and security by forcing the intelligence community to properly focus its collection efforts, and by compelling them to make timely reviews of information gathered. After too many intelligence failures, we’ve found the important pieces of information were lost in the vast streams of data collected. Making the haystack bigger will only make it harder to find the needle, endangering both privacy and security.

American citizens and residents should not be considered potential terrorists until the NCTC decides otherwise. Having innocent people’s information in intelligence databases for five years without any suspicion of wrongdoing creates an unacceptable risk to Americans’ privacy through error and abuse.”

###

http://www.commondreams.org/newswire/2012/03/23-8
Posted by Better Believe It | Sat Mar 24, 2012, 09:46 AM (9 replies)

Mysterious cloud spotted on Mars: This is serious news article, not a joke.

Mysterious cloud spotted on Mars
By Alan Boyle
March 24, 2012


Amateur astronomers are puzzling over a seemingly anomalous cloud that has shown up on images of Mars taken over the past few days. Is it really a cloud, or a trick of the eye? Does it really extend 150 miles up from the surface, as some of the observers suggest? And what churned up all that stuff, anyway? The amateurs and the pros will be trying to resolve those questions before the phenomenon fades away.

Hill and his colleagues will be looking at the area where the cloud was spotted using the Thermal Emission Imaging System, or THEMIS, which is one of the instruments on NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter.

"In the command upload we're preparing to send today, we've included observations that will hopefully capture some of these recent clouds," Hill wrote in an email. "Our THEMIS camera on Mars Odyssey is capable of acquiring simultaneous visible and thermal infrared images, so our atmospheric researchers are pretty excited about the possibility of not only getting a good look at the cloud structures, but also their temperatures."

THEMIS will be checking out heightened cloud activity around Mars' shield volcanoes as well as around the southern site spotted by the amateurs. Pictures from a camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, called the Mars Color Imager, or MARCI, might provide further clues about the southern cloud feature. And amateur astronomers are sending out the alert for observers to keep a close watch on the Red Planet over the coming days.


Amateur astrophotographer Wayne Jaeschke captured this image of a "terminator projection" rising up from the edge of the Martian disk at about the 1 o'clock position on March 22. The inset photo is a 200 percent enlargement of the region around the projection.

Read the full article at:

http://cosmiclog.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/03/23/10831821-mysterious-cloud-spotted-on-mars
Posted by Better Believe It | Sat Mar 24, 2012, 09:33 AM (29 replies)

Birthers want proof that Mitt Romney was born in America!

What goes around, comes around. BBI



Birthers want proof that Mitt Romney was born in America
March 23, 2012


No, you read that right. You might think birthers are crazy conspiracy theorists, but you can't say they're inconsistent. The fringe group of politicians and concerned voters who have long dogged President Obama for "proof" that he is a natural born citizen are now targeting Mitt Romney. They demand that the California Secretary of State produce evidence that Mitt is eligible to run for president. One birther explains that Romney's citizenship is up for debate because his dad was born in Mexico. Thats right, Mitt Romney's father was born in the Mexican colony that Mitt's great-grandfather founded after fleeing the United States so he could stay married to Romney's four great-grandmothers. Let's all just let that sink in for a moment.

http://now.msn.com/now/0322-romney-vs-birthers.aspx
Posted by Better Believe It | Fri Mar 23, 2012, 09:26 AM (123 replies)

FACT CHECK: More US drilling didn't drop gas price

FACT CHECK: More US drilling didn't drop gas price
By SETH BORENSTEIN and JACK GILLUM
Associated Press
March 21, 2012


WASHINGTON -- It's the political cure-all for high gas prices: Drill here, drill now. But more U.S. drilling has not changed how deeply the gas pump drills into your wallet, math and history show.

A statistical analysis of 36 years of monthly, inflation-adjusted gasoline prices and U.S. domestic oil production by The Associated Press shows no statistical correlation between how much oil comes out of U.S. wells and the price at the pump.

If more domestic oil drilling worked as politicians say, you'd now be paying about $2 a gallon for gasoline. Instead, you're paying the highest prices ever for March.

Sometimes prices increase as American drilling ramps up. That's what has happened in the past three years. Since February 2009, U.S. oil production has increased 15 percent when seasonally adjusted. Prices in those three years went from $2.07 per gallon to $3.58. It was a case of drilling more and paying much more.

Read the full article at:

http://www.kansascity.com/2012/03/21/3504160/fact-check-more-us-drilling-didnt.html
Posted by Better Believe It | Thu Mar 22, 2012, 10:01 PM (3 replies)

Environmental Coalition Slams Obama's Expediting of Southern Segment of Keystone XL



For Immediate Release, March 21, 2012

Contacts: Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity, ngreenwald@biologicaldiversity.org or (503) 484-7495
Kelly Trout, Friends of the Earth, ktrout@foe.org or (202) 222-0722
Elijah Zarlin, CREDO Action, ezarlin@credomobile.com or (415) 369 2014

Coalition Slams Obama's Expediting of Southern Segment of Keystone XL
Environmental, Progressive Groups Condemn Trumpeting of
Tar Sands Pipeline That Will Worsen Climate Crisis


CUSHING, Okla. — President Barack Obama’s touting today of an expedited review for the southern leg of the Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline comes despite widespread public opposition to the project due to the severe risks it poses to our climate, air, water and wildlife, as well as indigenous and landowner rights. Specifically, the administration today announced — ahead of the president’s visit to a TransCanada pipe yard near Cushing, Okla. — that it will issue a memorandum to expedite federal environmental review for the southern portion. As the key link of the Keystone XL pipeline for the tar sands industry, the southern segment would transport the world’s dirtiest oil — tar sands oil — from the Midwest to Gulf Coast refineries, with much of it destined for global export. .

“In expediting the southern leg of Keystone XL, President Obama has gone 180 degrees in the wrong direction in less than 180 days,” said Kim Huynh, dirty fuels campaigner at Friends of the Earth. “It’s inexcusable that the administration is cutting corners to support building this dirty tar sands oil pipeline in parts. The president cannot fulfill his promise to protect the climate and transition us to 21st century clean energy while bending over backward to help Big Oil companies tap the continent’s biggest carbon bomb. The southern segment would threaten our heartland with spills that pollute our air and water and hurt local economies.”

According to TransCanada, the southern leg will be used for exporting diluted bitumen — tar sands oil — after TransCanada tries again for a presidential permit to build other legs of Keystone XL that connect to the Alberta tar sands.

“The Gulf Coast leg would add to the fossil fuel infrastructure at a time when we critically need to transition away from fossil fuels in order to avoid climate catastrophe,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Just like Keystone I, the Gulf Coast leg of Keystone XL will spill, polluting land and water and ruining important habitat for endangered species like the whooping crane, piping plover, American burying beetle, interior least tern and Arkansas River shiner.”

Keystone 1, an existing pipeline in the same system in which Keystone XL would be built, has already leaked 14 times since it started operating in June 2010, including one spill that dumped 21,000 gallons of oil. Another tar sands pipeline spilled more than 1 million gallons of tar sands crude into the Kalamazoo River. The Cushing-to-the-Gulf southern leg of Keystone XL would almost certainly spill, polluting and ruining important habitat for a number of federally protected endangered species and hindering their recovery.

“The president’s support for this pipeline is troubling,” said Greenwald. “Keystone XL may be a boon to Big Oil companies in the exporting business, but their profits will come at a stiff price for the environment.”

Hundreds of thousands of Americans have expressed unprecedented opposition to Keystone XL, making it the biggest environmental test for the administration ahead of the 2012 elections. Last fall, more than 12,000 people surrounded the White House, and 1,253 people were arrested in front of it while actively opposing the pipeline. However, TransCanada, the Canadian company behind the pipeline vowed to reapply for a permit before the president today pledged to expedite the environmental review process.

“In expediting the southern portion of Keystone XL, President Obama is trying to have it both ways,” said Becky Bond, political director at CREDO Action. “It is deeply disappointing that he can't even hold to the minimum standard for a full environmental review that he invoked when he rejected the full pipeline in January. Promoting the export portion of this pipeline will lead to higher gas prices in the United States and to the worst climate impacts of the pipeline. The president needs to prove that his initial rejection of Keystone XL wasn't simply a ploy to placate the environmental voters who dared to hold him to his own rhetoric about the need for real leadership on climate and our fossil fuel dependence.”

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http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/news/press_releases/2012/keystone-xl-pipeline-03-21-2012.html


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Obama Endorses KXL Pipeline, Native Americans Forced to Protest from 'Cage'
Obama: indefinite 'development of oil and gas infrastructure'
by Common Dreams staff
March 22, 2012


Today, President Obama has endorsed a southern portion of the Keystone XL pipeline. "As long as I'm president, I'm going to keep encouraging the development of oil and gas infrastructure," Obama said in a speech in Cushing, Okla.

As the president spoke, Native American pipeline protesters were 'caged' miles away from the event.

Native American activists in Oklahoma have expressed outrage at the proposal of the pipeline as it will "desecrate known sacred sites and artifacts" on its path to refineries in Texas, in addition to the evident environmental degradation involved.

Local authorities have forced the activists to hold their protest in a cage erected in Memorial Park far away from the speech. "The protestors were stunned that their community, so long mistreated, would be insulted in such an open manner instead of being given the same freedom of speech expected by all Americans simply for taking a stance consistent with their values," reports the Global Justice Ecology Project.

Read the full article at:

http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2012/03/22-3


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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 22, 2012

Native Americans Protest Keystone XL From A Cage
Activists compelled to stay in enclosure miles from President’s pro-oil event



OKLAHOMA - March 22 - Native American’s gathering in Cushing, OK for a planned Thursday protest of President Obama’s anticipated words of praise for the Keystone XL pipeline will be forced by local authorities to hold their event in a cage erected in Memorial Park. The protestors were stunned that their community, so long mistreated, would be insulted in such an open manner instead of being given the same freedom of speech expected by all Americans simply for taking a stance consistent with their values.

“A lot of tribal councils and Indian businesses struggle to find a balance between economic resources and our inherited responsibilities for the earth,” said Indian actor and activist Richard Ray Whitman in a statement. “How will the decisions we make now effect coming generations?”

“President Obama is an adopted member of the Crow Tribe, so his fast-tracking a project that will desecrate known sacred sites and artifacts is a real betrayal and disappointment for his Native relatives everywhere,” said Marty Cobenais of the Indigenous Environmental Network. “Tar sands is devastating First Nations communities in Canada already and now they want to bring that environmental, health, and social devastation to US tribes.”

The President visited Cushing to stand with executives from TransCanada and throw his support behind a plan to build the southern half of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline to move tar sands bitumen and crude oil from Cushing to the Gulf Coast refineries in Texas.

A major concern for Native Americans in Oklahoma, according to spokespeople at the event, is that Keystone XL and the Canadian tar sands mines that would supply it ignore impacts to indigenous communities and their sacred spaces.

“Natives in Canada live downstream from toxic tar sands mines,” said Earl Hatley, “and they are experiencing spikes in colon, liver, blood and rare bile-duct cancers which the Canadian government and oil companies simply ignore. And now they want to pipe these tar sands through the heart of Indian country, bulldozing grave sites and ripping out our heritage.”

The group points to a survey done by the Oklahoma Archeological Survey which found 88 archaeological sites and 34 historic structures that were threatened by Keystone XL. TransCanada was asked to reroute around only a small portion of these, leaving 71 archaeological sites and 22 historic structures at risk. The group says they have asked for a list of these sites and to oversee operations that might threaten sacred burial grounds, but neither request has been honored.

Beyond the threat to their own cultural heritage, the group voiced opposition to the pipeline’s environmental impacts.

“The Ogallala Aquifer is not the only source of water in the plains,” said RoseMary Crawford, Project Manager of the Center for Energy Matters. “Tar sands pipelines have a terrible safety record and leaks are inevitable.”

“We can’t stop global warming with more fossil fuel pipelines,” added Crawford. “The people who voted for this President did so believing he would help us address the global environmental catastrophe that our pollution is creating. He said he would free us from ‘the tyranny of oil.’ Today that campaign promise is being trampled to boost the President’s poll numbers.”

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http://www.commondreams.org/newswire/2012/03/22-0


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Drillers, environmentalists not buying Obama's energy pitch
By NBC News, msnbc.com staff and news services
March 22, 2012


CUSHING, Okla. -- Touting an "all-of-the-above" energy policy, President Barack Obama traveled to this oil town on Thursday to show his support for the southern leg of the controversial Keystone oil pipeline proposed from Canada to refineries along the Gulf Coast.

"I am directing my administration to cut through red tape, break through bureaucratic hurdles, and make this project a priority," he said with dozens of pipes stacked up behind him at a yard used by TransCanada, the company proposing the Keystone pipeline.

But neither the oil industry, which insists Obama could send stronger market signals to lower prices at the pump, nor environmentalists, who cite the climate impact of fossil fuels, were on board.

Obama in his speech noted that domestic production has risen during his term. "America is producing more oil today than at any time in the last eight years," he said. "Over the last three years, I've directed my administration to open up millions of acres for oil and gas exploration across 23 different states. We're opening up more than 75 percent of our potential oil resources offshore. We've quadrupled the number of operating oil rigs to a record high."


President Barack Obama speaks at the TransCanada Stillwater pipe yard in Cushing, Okla., on Thursday.

Read the full article at:

http://usnews.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/03/22/10811855-drillers-environmentalists-not-buying-obamas-energy-pitch
Posted by Better Believe It | Thu Mar 22, 2012, 09:46 PM (5 replies)
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