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Gender: Male
Hometown: Detroit, Michigan
Home country: Citizen of the world whose address is in the U.S.
Current location: Detroit, Michigan
Member since: Fri Oct 29, 2004, 12:18 AM
Number of posts: 67,589

Journal Archives

The Oil Crash Has Caused a $1.3 Trillion Wipeout

(Bloomberg) It’s the oil crash few saw coming, and few have been spared as it erased $1.3 trillion, the equivalent of Mexico’s annual GDP, in little more than a year.

Take billionaire Carl Icahn. When crude was at its peak in June 2014, the activist investor’s stake in Chesapeake Energy Corp. was worth almost $2 billion. Today, oil has lost more than half its value, Chesapeake is the worst performer in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index and Icahn has a paper loss of $1.3 billion. The S&P 500, by contrast, is up 6.9 percent in that time.

State pension funds and insurance companies have also been hard hit. Investment advisers, who manage the mutual funds and exchange-traded products that are staples of many retirement plans, had $1.8 trillion tied to energy stocks in June 2014, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“The hit has been huge,” said Chris Beck, chief investment officer for small- and mid-capitalization companies for Delaware Investments, an asset management firm in Philadelphia with $180 billion in assets under management. “Everybody was thinking that oil would stay in the $90 to $100 a barrel range.” ................(more)


South Florida Scientists Fear Mass Exodus As Sea Level Rise Worsens

As our seas continue to rise, some cities, like Miami, are planning to spend billions on revamping infrastructure. But some scientists say sea level rise will lead to another phenomenon in South Florida, and local leaders need to start preparing for it now.

The region that's home to thousands of high-priced homes nestled against the water is expected to be threatened directly by the rising seas in the coming decades, and when the harsh reality sets in, a mass exodus could commence. That's the warning some scientists are giving to authorities, the Globe and Mail reported.

In short, there's no way to save South Florida, and lawmakers should start to prepare for millions to move north.

Here's why researchers have focused in on South Florida. More than 2.4 million people live within 4 feet of the local high-tide line, and according to Climate Central, the risk of storm surge flooding will be far higher by 2030. That's well within the time frame of many 30-year mortgages currently in place, Climate Central notes.

"This is not a future problem. It’s a current problem," Leonard Berry, director of the Florida Center for Environmental Studies at Florida Atlantic University, told PBS. .....................(more)


USA’s Mr. Robot Is the Anti-Capitalist TV Show We’ve Been Waiting For

USA’s Mr. Robot Is the Anti-Capitalist TV Show We’ve Been Waiting For

(In These Times) The USA Network is not exactly synonymous with prestige drama. This is a channel currently airing the third season of Graceland, a show about undercover FBI, ICE and DEA agents who all live together in a fricking house. (Imagine that pitch meeting: “Guys, what if we remade Melrose Place, only populated it with characters from J. Edgar Hoover’s id?”) How delightfully incongruous, then, that USA is now the home of Mr. Robot, the best new TV show of the summer, and the most explicitly anti-capitalist work of mainstream pop culture since Snowpiercer.

Mr. Robot is narrated by Elliot (Rami Malek), who addresses the viewer as “friend,” one he believes he has made up to cope with his loneliness. As that suggests, Elliot may be suffering from mental illness, although the extent of it is unclear—one of the ongoing mysteries teased along throughout the season.

What is clear is that Elliot is a paranoid, rabidly asocial computer savant who is self-medicating on morphine. A network technician by day, Elliot is a “hacker vigilante” by night, anonymously tipping off police to online child pornography rings and gangbangers bragging about murders in code on Twitter. His daytime employer is a cybersecurity subcontractor helping the massive conglomerate E Corp.—which Elliot always calls Evil Corp.—fend off an increasingly intense series of cyber attacks. (In a nice touch, series creator Sam Esmail straight-up jacks the old Enron logo for E Corp., reasoning in one interview, “it’s not like they’re going to sue us for it.”) Because of his connection to E Corp., Elliot finds himself recruited by the mysterious “Mr. Robot” (Christian Slater) to join the hacker collective society, which wants to take down the company.

Mr. Robot has become a critical darling, and it’s easy to see why. For starters, it’s built around the performance of Malek, which is phenomenal, an unusual combination of intelligence, deadpan affect and charisma. It’s also one of the better-looking shows on television, with a visual aesthetic that alternates shots of perfect symmetry with ones framed from slightly off or tilted angles, creating an unnerving beauty. (This was especially the case for the first and fourth episodes, directed by Niels Arden Oplev and Nisha Gantara, respectively.) And the writing is generally excellent: witty dialogue that’s rarely cloying, genuinely surprising plot twists, and realistic characterization. There’s also a pretty great musical score by Mac Quayle, borrowing heavily from the playbook of rattling snare taps and spooky synths that Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross have employed in David Fincher’s most recent films. .................(more)


Haunted by Student Debt to the Grave

Haunted by Student Debt to the Grave

Tuesday, 04 August 2015 09:28
By Mary Green Swig, Steven L. Swig and Roger Hickey, Campaign for America's Future | Op-Ed

It will not be news to 41 million Americans that this nation is in the middle of a student debt crisis. That's the number of people burdened by student loan payments. But many people, including many student debt holders, may be surprised to learn that people can be pursued for student debt even into their elder years.

In fact, the government is withholding Social Security payments for some retirees because their student loans have not been fully repaid. This is a growing problem that Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) have asked the government to study in greater depth.

"Garnishing Social Security benefits defeats the entire point of the program - that's why we don't allow banks or credit card companies to do it," said Sen. McCaskill. "Social Security is the sole means of retirement income for tens of millions of Americans, and allowing those benefits to be garnished to collect student loan debt cuts a dangerous hole in our safety net."

That is one problem with this practice. But, as we will see, there are others.

Many people will be surprised to learn that any seniors are still paying off their student debt. They are: 706,000 households headed by someone 65 or older are still paying off their student debts, according to a report by the GAO. Collectively these households owed $18.2 billion in 2013. That's six-and-a-half times as much as they owed in 2005, when these senior households' total debt obligation was "only" $2.8 billion. .....................(more)


The New Climate "Normal": Abrupt Sea Level Rise and Predictions of Civilization Collapse

The New Climate "Normal": Abrupt Sea Level Rise and Predictions of Civilization Collapse

Monday, 03 August 2015 00:00
By Dahr Jamail, Truthout | Report

We know things are a bit "off" when a rainforest is on fire.

Over 400 acres of the Queets Rainforest, located in Olympic National Park in Washington State, nearby where I live, have burned recently, and it is continuing to burn as I type this. Fires in these rainforests have historically been rare, as the area typically receives in excess of 200 inches of rain annually.

But this is all changing now.

The new normal is that there is no longer any "normal."

The new normal regarding climate disruption is that, for the planet, today is better than tomorrow.


As if that's not enough, Hansen's study comes on the heels of another study published in Science, which shows that global sea levels could rise by at least 20 feet, even if governments manage to keep global temperature increases to within the agreed upon "safe" limit of 2 degrees Celsius. The study warns that it is quite possible that 75 feet of sea level rise could well already be unstoppable given current carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere and recent studies that show how rapidly Greenland and several Antarctic ice sheets are melting. ...............(more)


Chris Matthews Is a Shill for the Insider Machine

Chris Matthews Is a Shill for the Insider Machine

Tuesday, 04 August 2015 00:00
By The Daily Take Team, The Thom Hartmann Program | Op-Ed


First, they ignored him.

Then, when Bernie started surging in the polls and they couldn't get away with ignoring him, they laughed at him and said he was just another long-shot protest candidate.

When that didn't work, they went on the attack, seeking to paint Bernie as bad on race, guns, and immigration.

Now the mainstream media has started going after Bernie for, you guessed, it being a "socialist."

The man leading this line of attack is MSNBC's Chris Matthews, who first brought it up on an episode of "Hardball" Thursday night when he asked Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz the difference between a "Democrat like Hillary Clinton and a socialist like Bernie Sanders."

Schultz couldn't give a straight answer and flubbed the question once again when Chuck Todd asked her it on "Meet the Press" yesterday. .................(more)


Thanks to Reliance on "Signature" Drone Strikes, US Military Doesn't Know Who It's Killing

(Truthout) Last month, on June 9, the United States launched a drone strike that killed Nasir al-Wuhayshi, a high-ranking leader in the Islamic militant group al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). What makes the strike notable is that it was a coincidence: The CIA - the agency that pulled the trigger - had no idea al-Wuhayshi was among the group of suspected militants it targeted. Al-Wuhayshi's death at the hands of a US drone reveals that the United States continues to fire drone missiles at people whose identities it does not know.

Government officials confirmed the June 9 strike was a "signature strike" to The Washington Post. A signature strike takes place when a drone hits a target based on a target's patterns of behavior, but without knowing that target's identity. Thus, a US drone, in a signature strike, will target an area the government believes is filled with militant activity but will not know who exactly they are killing. While signature strikes have been happening for a while in the global war on terror, they signify a serious shift in US war-making. American warfare is increasingly placing a greater emphasis on big data, advanced computing, unmanned systems and cyberwarfare. While this approach may seem "cleaner" and more precise than previous tactics (particularly in contrast the drawn-out and bloody occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan), it is not. High-tech militarism is far from "accurate." Even more importantly, it inflicts serious human suffering and perpetuates the US permanent-war machine.

Signature Strikes

Signature strikes began during the Bush years, in January 2008, as the US intensified drone strikes in Pakistan. When Obama entered office in 2009, his administration picked up where Bush left off and exponentially increased the number of drone strikes. During his eight years in office, Bush launched 51 drone strikes in Pakistan and killed between 410 and 595 people. Obama, so far, has launched 419 drone strikes in Pakistan, alone, and killed over 4,500 people in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia since 2009.

When a drone strike takes place, the US government "counts all military-aged males in a strike zone as combatant" unless posthumous intelligence proves them innocent, according to a May 2012 New York Times report. A White House fact sheet says this is "not the case." However, that contradicts what government officials leaked to the media outlets like The New York Times and ProPublica. As the Times report notes, "Counterterrorism officials insist this approach is one of simple logic: People in an area of known terrorist activity, or found with a top Qaeda operative, are probably up to no good." ...............(more)


Illinois: Suburbs' Downtown Plans Move Toward Transit-Oriented Housing

IL: Suburbs' Downtown Plans Move Toward Transit-Oriented Housing


Aug. 01--With "walkability" a keyword in municipal planning and real estate, Southland communities are increasingly taking the term to heart as they look to enhance their downtown areas.

And so-called "transit-oriented development" continues to play a key role in those plans, with several projects completed, under way or envisioned that puts a suburb's Metra station at the epicenter of redevelopment efforts.

All of the projects include multi-family rental housing, something that would have been shunned not too many years ago by some more affluent suburbs, but which is being embraced as the demand for apartments continues to increase while home ownership rates fall.

The National Association of Realtors recently reported that how walkable a community is has grown in importance for homebuyers of all ages, but particularly those under 30 in the "millennial generation," who are also a target audience for higher-end apartments in suburbs such as New Lenox, Orland Park and Tinley Park.

The projects are also meant to appeal to empty nesters who want to downsize as well as people who work in Chicago and want to be able to walk to and from the train station. ..............(more)


How Car-Centric Cities Like Phoenix Learned to Love Light Rail

Aug. 01--The centerpiece of Greg Stanton's re-election campaign is a tax increase. The Phoenix mayor not only wants his city's voters to approve a 35-year sales tax hike later this month, but he wants them to do it on the same ballot that has him running for a second term. Stanton believes voters will support both him and his tax policy because, in doing so, they will be casting a vote for transportation. The mayor argues that an improved regional transportation network -- and specifically a bigger light rail system -- are the key to his own political fortunes and to the economic well-being of the region as a whole.

Stanton was not yet mayor in 2008 when light rail made its debut in Phoenix with hype worthy of a new theme park ride. Rock bands, street fairs and fireworks marked the opening. Nearly 90,000 people enjoyed free rides on board the new teal-and-silver trains that first day. Transit advocates exulted; skeptics insisted the enthusiasm couldn't possibly last.

But it largely has. Today passengers take nearly 44,000 trips on light rail on a typical weekday, already beating the local transit agency's estimates for ridership in 2020. Long-neglected neighborhoods are experiencing new life, and major employers credit transit for their decision to add new jobs in the region.

To those who fought for it, light rail in Phoenix was always about more than shiny new trains and faster travel times; it was a machine to transform urban life. Advocates in Phoenix, like those in many other cities, claimed light rail would introduce a whole new type of development, one that would appeal to both working millennials and retired snowbirds. Less developed neighborhoods would morph into walkable communities. Residents who live along transit corridors would be able to hop on a train to see a show, catch a game, head to class or get to work. The transit system would attract new residents, new businesses and new jobs, making the region competitive for years to come. ................(more)


Runaway Rail Car Kicked Loose by Teen Hits New York Station

UTICA, N.Y. (AP) — Video surveillance footage released Friday shows a rail car that was accidentally set in motion by a 13-year-old boy ramming an antique locomotive into a train station, sending passengers waiting for a train scrambling for safety.

Oneida County officials released the footage as they called on federal rail regulators to explain how a 265,000-pound rail car left unattended for two weeks could be unlatched by a teenager playing on the car, according to the account of the July 21 accident that the teen gave to Utica police.

"I understand that the Federal Railroad Administration has concluded that proper procedure was followed," County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr. said. "That is astounding."

Video cameras at Utica's Union Station show the New York, Susquehanna and Western freight car barreling down on the county-owned facility during the evening rush. Seconds later, a camera on the station platform shows the car hitting the 100-year-old locomotive and ramming it through a station wall. ...............(more)


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