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marmar

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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: 66,164

Journal Archives

San Francisco residents relying less on private automobiles






from the Los Angeles Times:


San Franciscan Rian Adams has broken her reliance on the automobile. Parking in the city's congested urban core where she lives and works is too much hassle, and her two-mile commute typically takes five minutes on BART.

Around town, the 34-year-old says, "I don't drive anywhere."

Nor do a lot of others in the City by the Bay.

In stark contrast to car-dependent Los Angeles, studies show that most trips in the burgeoning tech metropolis are now made by modes of transportation other than the private automobile.

Travel surveys by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency have shown that more than half of all trips — 54% in 2013 and 52% in 2012 — involved public transit, walking, bicycles and various car-share or ride-share operations such as Uber and Lyft. ......................(more)

http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-0224-california-commute-20150224-story.html



Trade Crazy: The Push for Fast-Track Trade Authority


Trade Crazy: The Push for Fast-Track Trade Authority

Monday, 23 February 2015 09:34
By Dean Baker, Truthout | Op-Ed


Washington politics always involves a high level of silliness (does President Obama really love the US?), but when it comes to trade policy it shifts to full-fledged craziness. Anything is fair game when the political establishment wants to pass major trade agreements like NAFTA or the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). At such times we see respectable Washington types making pronouncements bearing so little relationship to reality they would cause Sarah Palin to cringe.

The Washington Post gave us one such gem last week when it took issue with those saying that currency rules should be part of any new trade pact. Its lead editorial last Thursday argued against including any provisions on currency. Its main point is best summarized by a paraphrase of an old Barbie doll line, "currency values are hard."

The Post argued that it would be impossible to distinguish between policies intended for other purposes, like the Fed's quantitative easing (QE) program that was designed to boost growth, and policies whose main purpose is to depress the value of the currency. An assertion like this in the context of a debate on trade is laughable.

Every provision in trade agreements will have ambiguities most of which are much more difficult to resolve than this one. Trade deals all prohibit export subsidies, almost by definition. But what about publicly funded vocational training in which the government picks up much of an exporter's training costs? What about publicly financed infrastructure that reduces the exporter's cost to send its products out of the country?

What about publicly financed research (e.g. the National Institutes of Health) that hugely reduce the cost to private firms of innovation? What about below market interest loans provided by the Export-Import Bank? If the Post is really concerned about potential ambiguities raising difficult enforcement issues then it would be staunchly opposed to restrictions on export subsidies, since many of these issues actually are hard. ......................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/29238-trade-crazy-the-push-for-fast-track-trade-authority



San Francisco residents relying less on private automobiles





from the Los Angeles Times:


San Franciscan Rian Adams has broken her reliance on the automobile. Parking in the city's congested urban core where she lives and works is too much hassle, and her two-mile commute typically takes five minutes on BART.

Around town, the 34-year-old says, "I don't drive anywhere."

Nor do a lot of others in the City by the Bay.

In stark contrast to car-dependent Los Angeles, studies show that most trips in the burgeoning tech metropolis are now made by modes of transportation other than the private automobile.

Travel surveys by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency have shown that more than half of all trips — 54% in 2013 and 52% in 2012 — involved public transit, walking, bicycles and various car-share or ride-share operations such as Uber and Lyft. ......................(more)

http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-0224-california-commute-20150224-story.html




Massachusetts: Delays, Crowding, Tension Persist for Locals Using MBTA Commuter Rail


MA: Delays, Crowding, Tension Persist for Locals Using MBTA Commuter Rail

Jill Harmacinski On Feb 24, 2015
Source: The Eagle-Tribune



Anne Bradley was scheduled to work a half day, starting at noon, at her Boston job one day last week. She the Lawrence resident opted to take the day off instead because, "I would have spent more time commuting than I actually would have been at work."

"I didn't even attempt it," she said.

The snow is melting and roads are clearing. However, Merrimack Valley residents say the MBTA commuter rail service, which carries locals to and from Boston, remains a major mess.

Commuters said their work days are plagued by a litany of train delays and cancellations, "modified" schedules that are changed again at the last minute, and dangerously and illegally overcrowded trains.

Overall, commuters said, it's a major headache and inconvenience to get to and from work. Once at work, talk around the office is dominated by tension and stress from the morning and then anticipated problems with the evening commute. ............(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.masstransitmag.com/news/11855505/delays-crowding-tension-persist-for-locals-using-mbta-commuter-rail



Is JPMorgan Chase Profiting Off of Forced Evictions in China?


(Rolling Stone) In recent years, forced evictions have become a flashpoint for demonstrations across China. International watchdogs have called the practice a human rights emergency on a massive scale. Often carried out in coordination with cash-strapped local governments, these evictions have "resulted in deaths, beatings, harassment and imprisonment of residents who have been forced from their homes across the country in both rural and urban areas," according to a 2012 Amnesty International report. "With no access to justice some have turned to violence or even self-immolation as a last resort."

Amid this heated debate, several overseas bond-selling documents show that some of America's largest banks, including JPMorgan Chase, have helped to raise money for Chinese real estate companies that have expended considerable resources on demolishing buildings and "relocating" people for their recent projects in China. (It's important to note that the revelations in these documents do not necessarily point to the level of the injustices in the Amnesty report.) Two bond-selling documents, both marked 'Strictly Confidential' but uploaded to the website of Singapore's stock exchange, state that, in 2012 alone, a company with bond sales facilitated by banks like JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup called Kaisa Holdings devoted more than $1 billion RMB, or $160 million USD, to "demolition and resettlement" costs relating to its real estate projects. Other overseas bond documents show that in recent years, Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase helped to sell bonds for a Shanghai-based real estate firm called Future Holdings, which spent $131 million RMB on demolition and resettlement costs in 2011. Dispelling any notion that Future Holdings and Kaisa Holdings might be engaging in some sort of happy form of human relocation, both documents use similar language to make clear that disputes with original inhabitants of land they buy might cause "protests or legal or other proceedings."

The bond-selling documents reviewed by Rolling Stone contain similar or identical language regarding demolition and resettlement issues. Judging by the documents, it appears as somewhat standard for Chinese real estate companies to include such warnings to potential investors about having to relocate people for development projects. Each document makes some mention of compensation for residents who become the subjects of resettlement. The Future Holdings document indicates the duty to dispense such payments is often up to the local authorities involved, while Kaisa speaks of paying residents directly. "The compensation we pay for resettlement is calculated in accordance with certain formulas published by the relevant local authorities," the Kaisa document states.

Few of the thousands of demonstrations against land dispossession around China each year receive media attention. A major exception is the coastal city of Wukan, where residents facing mass resettlement overthrew the local government after a local anti-eviction advocate died under suspicious circumstances while held by Chinese authorities. The New York Times identified a large Chinese real estate company named Country Garden as a player in attempting the massive land-grab that triggered the 2011 uprising (Country Garden denied any involvement). In 2013, JPMorgan Chase, along with Goldman Sachs, facilitated a round of bond-buying for Country Garden, according to Reuters. (A prospectus draft indicates that the two banks assisted with another round of funding for the bank in 2014.) ..............................(more)

Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/is-jpmorgan-chase-profiting-off-of-forced-evictions-in-china-20150210#ixzz3Sfp7bhqu




Is there anyone Goldman Sachs hasn't ripped off?


Swimming with the Sharks: Goldman Sachs, School Districts, and Capital Appreciation Bonds
Posted on February 20, 2015 by Ellen Brown


Remember when Goldman Sachs – dubbed by Matt Taibbi the Vampire Squid – sold derivatives to Greece so the government could conceal its debt, then bet against that debt, driving it up? It seems that the ubiquitous investment bank has also put the squeeze on California and its school districts. Not that Goldman was alone in this; but the unscrupulous practices of the bank once called the undisputed king of the municipal bond business epitomize the culture of greed that has ensnared students and future generations in unrepayable debt.

In 2008, after collecting millions of dollars in fees to help California sell its bonds, Goldman urged its bigger clients to place investment bets against those bonds, in order to profit from a financial crisis that was sparked in the first place by irresponsible Wall Street speculation. Alarmed California officials warned that these short sales would jeopardize the state’s bond rating and drive up interest rates. But that result also served Goldman, which had sold credit default swaps on the bonds, since the price of the swaps rose along with the risk of default.

In 2009, the lenders’ lobbying group than proposed and promoted AB1388, a California bill eliminating the debt ceiling requirement on long-term debt for school districts. After it passed, bankers traveled all over the state pushing something called “capital appreciation bonds” (CABs) as a tool to vault over legal debt limits. (Think Greece again.) Also called payday loans for school districts, CABs have now been issued by more than 400 California districts, some with repayment obligations of up to 20 times the principal advanced (or 2000%).

The controversial bonds came under increased scrutiny in August 2012, following a report that San Diego County’s Poway Unified would have to pay $982 million for a $105 million CAB it issued. Goldman Sachs made $1.6 million on a single capital appreciation deal with the San Diego Unified School District. .........................(more)

http://ellenbrown.com/2015/02/20/swimming-with-the-sharks-goldman-sachs-school-districts-and-capital-appreciation-bonds/




Trade Crazy: The Push for Fast-Track Trade Authority


Trade Crazy: The Push for Fast-Track Trade Authority

Monday, 23 February 2015 09:34
By Dean Baker, Truthout | Op-Ed


Washington politics always involves a high level of silliness (does President Obama really love the US?), but when it comes to trade policy it shifts to full-fledged craziness. Anything is fair game when the political establishment wants to pass major trade agreements like NAFTA or the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). At such times we see respectable Washington types making pronouncements bearing so little relationship to reality they would cause Sarah Palin to cringe.

The Washington Post gave us one such gem last week when it took issue with those saying that currency rules should be part of any new trade pact. Its lead editorial last Thursday argued against including any provisions on currency. Its main point is best summarized by a paraphrase of an old Barbie doll line, "currency values are hard."

The Post argued that it would be impossible to distinguish between policies intended for other purposes, like the Fed's quantitative easing (QE) program that was designed to boost growth, and policies whose main purpose is to depress the value of the currency. An assertion like this in the context of a debate on trade is laughable.

Every provision in trade agreements will have ambiguities most of which are much more difficult to resolve than this one. Trade deals all prohibit export subsidies, almost by definition. But what about publicly funded vocational training in which the government picks up much of an exporter's training costs? What about publicly financed infrastructure that reduces the exporter's cost to send its products out of the country?

What about publicly financed research (e.g. the National Institutes of Health) that hugely reduce the cost to private firms of innovation? What about below market interest loans provided by the Export-Import Bank? If the Post is really concerned about potential ambiguities raising difficult enforcement issues then it would be staunchly opposed to restrictions on export subsidies, since many of these issues actually are hard. ......................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/29238-trade-crazy-the-push-for-fast-track-trade-authority



Juan Cole: In New Gilded Age, Social Protest dominates Academy Awards Ceremony

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) –

If social and economic inequality were a mine, and if America were deep in this mine with a canary in tow, the canary would long since have expired. Some 400 billionaires have more wealth than the bottom half of Americans. We lived through a year of dramatic incidents underscoring the continued second-class citizenship of African-Americans. Women still don’t make as much for the same work as their male counterparts and their right to choice and control over their own bodies has been de facto curtailed by theocratic state legislatures. Gay people still face prejudice and resistance to same sex marriage rights.

The committed artists honored at the 87th Academy Awards took advantage of their bully pulpits to make an amazing series of eloquent statements on behalf of minorities and the discriminated-against. Referring to the controversy over the all-white nominees in acting categories, host Neil Patrick Harris quipped at the opening, ““Tonight we honor Hollywood’s best and whitest — I mean brightest.” For all this hoopla about the overwhelmingly white, elderly and male character of the Academy voting members, however, the stage they provided to honorees was the scene of many poignant pleas for equality and decency.

Graham Moore won for his screenplay for “Imitation Game” (the story of how Alan Turing broke the Nazis’ communication code during World War II, saving countless Allied lives). Turing was later arrested for being gay and sentenced to two years of hormone treatment, which probably led to his suicide. Moore in his acceptance speech spoke of having been treated as the weird kid when young, and revealed that he had tried to commit suicide at age 16. He said:

“Here’s the thing. Alan Turing never got to stand on a stage like this and look out at all of these disconcertingly attractive faces. I do! And that’s the most unfair thing I’ve ever heard. So in this brief time here, what I wanted to do was say this: When I was 16 years old, I tried to kill myself because I felt weird and I felt different , and I felt like I did not belong. And now I’m standing here… and so I would like this moment to be for this kid out there who feels like she’s weird or she’s different or she doesn’t fit in anywhere. Yes, you do. I promise you do. Stay weird, stay different and then, when it’s your turn, and you are standing on this stage, please pass the same message to the next person who comes along. Thank you so much!”
...................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.juancole.com/2015/02/dominates-academy-ceremony.html



Chris Hedges: We Kill Our Revolutionaries


from truthdig:


We Kill Our Revolutionaries

Posted on Feb 22, 2015
By Chris Hedges


YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio—Siddique Hasan, his legs shackled to a chair, sat in the fourth-floor visiting room of the Ohio State Penitentiary, a supermax prison. The room, surrounded by thick glass windows, had a guard booth in the center and food vending machines flanking a microwave on one wall. There was a line of small booths, entered through a door behind Hasan, where families, including children, were talking to prisoners through plexiglass partitions.

Hasan, 5 feet 10 inches tall, 52 years old, bearded and with wire-rim glasses, had a white kufi on his head. He wore a short-sleeve shirt over a long-sleeve shirt, light blue prison pants and white Nikes. His 209-pound frame was taut and compact, the result of an intense exercise regime. He has been on death row since he was convicted for his actions while leading, along with four others, the April 1993 uprising at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility at Lucasville, Ohio. They are known as the Lucasville Five. The uprising saw prisoners take control of the prison for 11 days in protest against numerous grievances, including deaths that occurred allegedly from beatings by guards. It was one of the longest prison uprisings in U.S. history. By the time it was over, 10 people had been killed by prisoners, including a guard.

Hasan, born Carlos Sanders, has been in juvenile detention facilities or prison since he was an adolescent. His early life was difficult, unstable and marked by extreme poverty. His mother had her first child at 12 and her fourth and final child at 19. His father, who was physically abusive to Hasan’s mother, abandoned the family when Hasan was 5. The children and their mother survived on her meager pay from cooking and cleaning jobs. Hasan, the third of the four children, lived briefly in foster homes and never went beyond fifth grade. He ran the streets with his older brother and engaged in petty crime. Since his first incarceration, in his early teens in Georgia—where he was nicknamed Savannah Slim or Savannah Red, and where he worked with other convicts on Georgia prison highway details—until today, he has spent only 17 months outside prison walls. He has always rebelled. He masterminded a mass escape from a juvenile detention facility when he was 15 years old and, a year later, a mass escape from a county jail. In 2013 he took part in a hunger strike with other death row prisoners that saw prison authorities finally agree to expand the range of items at the prison commissary, permit physical contact in visits with relatives, allow prisoners to use computers to do legal research, increase the length of phone conversations and increase recreation time.

“I am a human being,” Hasan said. “I don’t like being locked up, deprived of my rights, told when to go to bed, when to eat, when to shower. These things hurt a person physically, emotionally and psychologically. No human being should be caged like an animal.”

Before he converted to Islam in 1981, he said, he was “a materialist freak and a monster that sold drugs and protected people for payment in prison.” He organized prison gambling rings and extortion rackets and oversaw a small army of enforcers. .......................(more)

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/we_kill_our_revolutionaries_20150222



Fast-Track Treason and the Coming Corporate Coup


Fast-Track Treason and the Coming Corporate Coup

Thursday, 19 February 2015 00:00
By Rivera Sun, Truthout | Op-Ed


Corporations aren't people - otherwise, we'd be trying them for treason. If it were known that a handful of powerful men and women were meeting in secret to overthrow the authority of the US government and make this nation submissive to external domination, the NSA, CIA, FBI, US president, Congress and the military-industrial complex would declare them "terrorists of the year" and bomb them back into the Stone Age.

But corporations aren't people. They enjoy superhuman status, and are awarded privileges and protections well beyond what ordinary citizens of the United States can expect. (The last time a corporation was shot dead in the streets by a police officer was - well, never.) Corporations are given preferential treatment by judges, laws, politicians, investigators, tax agencies, financial institutions and much of our consumer-capitalist society.

So, when corporations spend years in secret negotiations to set up a trade agreement that gives them the legal power to overrule federal, state and local laws, subjugating not only the United States, but also the rest of the world to their control, our Congress lines up to help them.

This is treason by another name. It's called fast-track authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Congress, on the whole, has not seen the secret, thousand-page text of the TPP. Yet, congressional members are curiously willing to eschew their right and responsibility to review this international trade treaty and fast-track the legislation without debate or revision. If they vote to fast-track the TPP, they are silencing the people and handing the nation over on a silver platter to corporate domination. ......................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/29187-fast-track-treason-and-the-coming-corporate-coup



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