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Member since: Fri Oct 29, 2004, 12:18 AM
Number of posts: 71,317

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Boston-Area Public Transit System Tested During Snowstorms

NEWTON, Mass. (AP) — The hardy side of Boston might not extend to its aging public transit system.

On Tuesday, the head of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority staunchly defended her decision to suspend rail service for more than 24 hours as crews struggled to clear tracks of snow and ice and hundreds of thousands of commuters scrambled to make alternative travel plans.

The performance during recent storms of the MBTA — known in Boston as the T — has been criticized by Gov. Charlie Baker and raised questions about whether the aging system can be modernized enough to handle the Olympics should Boston succeed in its bid to host the 2024 Summer Games.

Officials announced that subways, trolleys and commuter rail trains, idle since Monday night, would resume Wednesday at a reduced level. Passengers were warned to expect fewer cars and less frequent service on most lines of the nation's fifth-largest and oldest system. The first underground subways in the U.S. began in Boston in 1897. ..................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.masstransitmag.com/news/11840225/boston-area-public-transit-system-tested-during-snowstorms

Leaked Files Reveal New Bankster Scam

Leaked Files Reveal New Bankster Scam

Tuesday, 10 February 2015 15:47
By The Daily Take Team, The Thom Hartmann Program | Op-Ed

When are we going to lock up the banksters?

Thanks to one of the largest leaks in the history of the banking industry, we now know that big bank HSBC helped hundreds of thousands of wealthy customers from across the globe avoid paying their taxes.

Back in 2007, Herve Falciani, who at the time was a HSBC computer specialist working in that bank's Geneva office, leaked troves and troves of data on HSBC's wealthiest customers and the bank's tax evasion practices.

Now, we are getting are first glimpses into what that data reveals.

The BBC is reporting that it has seen records of at least 106,000 HSBC clients in 203 countries, all of whom were actively dodging taxes in their respective countries by hiding their money in HSBC's Swiss bank. ...............(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/29050-leaked-files-reveal-new-bankster-scam

The People’s Flag is Palest Pink

from Dissent magazine:

The People’s Flag is Palest Pink
Tim Barker ▪ Winter 2015

[font size="1"]From Still the Enemy Within, about miners’ strikes in 1984-85. Courtesy of John Sturrock.[/font]

Margaret Thatcher died of a stroke on April 8, 2013, at the age of eighty-seven. Her enemies, from the Irish republicans who blew up her hotel bathroom to the rock stars who sang about “Margaret on the Guillotine” and “The Day That Thatcher Dies,” could celebrate at last. But the legacy of her eleven years in power—measured in inequality, decaying trade unions and public institutions, and the Labour Party’s ceaseless retreat from its socialist origins—is as strong as ever.

Today not even the National Health Service, famously unscathed by Thatcher, is safe from privatization. Scotland’s recent near-secession was, at least in part, a desperate attempt to wrench its modest welfare state away from English austerity. Perhaps because we still live in the world Thatcher made, even her death has not completely extinguished the impulse to imagine Thatcher dying. Hilary Mantel’s latest collection is charmingly called The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher, and the counterfactual title story imagines a sniper landing a shot to the Iron Lady’s “glittering helmet of hair.”

It’s now three decades since Thatcher’s protracted but ultimately successful conflict with one of the country’s largest unions, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), which ended in March 1985. In an American context, the miners’ defeat is almost always explained as the trans-Atlantic counterpart of the 1981 PATCO strike, Ronald Reagan’s opening shot in the battle against the countervailing power of organized labor. But in its scope, the British experience far exceeded the American. The longest strike in the nation’s history, the miners’ strike lasted just shy of a year and led to over 10,000 arrests. Through months of bitter material deprivation, the number of workers participating never fell below 100,000. The political edge was also sharper. PATCO had endorsed Reagan in 1980, but the NUM boasted a militant rank-and-file and strident left-wing leadership. In 1974, the union brought down Edward Heath’s Conservative government by going out on strike and forcing new elections. And while PATCO had struck over wages and conditions, the miners fought for the preservation of a nationalized industry and the very existence of their pits, dozens of which Thatcher had proposed to shut down.

Given these existential stakes, the miners’ defeat appeared not just episodic but world-historical, the confirmation of historian Eric Hobsbawm’s 1978 warning: “the forward march of labour”—which over a century before had inspired Capital and underwritten Britain’s welfarist and largely nationalized economy—“appears to have come to a halt in this country.” If there was any hope for the left, many argued, it was through alliances with the diffuse cultural currents—feminist, anti-racist, environmental—that had emerged since the 1960s.

The popular 2014 film Pride neatly dramatizes this historical crossroads while suggesting that the contrast between labor and the “new social movements” is too neat a division. Pride tells the story of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners, an English solidarity group that raised tens of thousands of pounds for hard-hit strikers in the Dulais Valley of South Wales. (Direct fundraising of this sort was crucial since the British government had sequestered the NUM’s assets.) The film focuses on the time the gay activists spend visiting Wales, going beyond financial subsidy to connect personally with the miners. At first the two groups appear to share little but a list of common enemies: “Thatcher, the police, the public, [and] the tabloid press.” But through a mixture of Hollywood bonhomie (an extended dance sequence, numerous pints in the miners’ welfare hall) and brass tacks politics (advice on dealing with police harassment), most characters overcome their initial discomfort to build solidarity that outlives the strike itself. By the end, the Welsh miners take the lead in London’s Pride march to the tune of Billy Bragg’s “There is Power in a Union.” .....................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.dissentmagazine.org/article/the-peoples-flag-is-palest-pink

Finding Creative Ways to Torture

from Consortium News:

Finding Creative Ways to Torture
February 10, 2015

After World War II, Americans led the way in establishing landmark human rights principles, including a repudiation of torture. But more recent U.S. leaders have chosen to disgrace those ideals by devising euphemisms and end-runs to continue the barbaric practices, as Peter Costantini describes.

By Peter Costantini

“Enhanced interrogation”: the George W. Bush administration bureaucrats who coined the term had perfect pitch. The apparatchiks of Kafka’s Castle would have admired the grayness of the euphemism. But although it sounds like some new kind of focus group, it turns out that “enhanced interrogation” was just anodyne branding for good old-fashioned torture.

Unfortunately, the debate around it unleashed by the report of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has largely missed the point.

Certainly, the report provided overwhelming evidence that torture did not produce useful intelligence. The CIA had concluded previously that torture is “ineffective,” “counterproductive,” and “will probably result in false answers.”

Some CIA agents and soldiers reportedly questioned the legality of the “enhanced interrogation” policies and resisted carrying them out. FBI agent Ali Soufan, who had legally interrogated prisoner Ali Zubaydah, has written that Zubaydah had cooperated and provided “important actionable intelligence” months before he was tortured extensively.


Throwing Light on the Dark Side

In response to mounting evidence of decades of torture, what would an “indispensable nation” do?

The release of the Senate report was an important precedent. But what has been released so far is only the executive summary. The Senate should release the full report and encourage the Obama administration to act on it. Until perpetrators all the way to the top are brought to justice, the U.S. government will rightly be seen as hypocritical when it criticizes the human rights violations of others.


Allies, though, have begun digging. In 2009, Spanish jurist Baltasar Garzón Real opened two investigations of the Bush torture program, one of which is still pending. In December, the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights in Berlin filed complaints accusing several high Bush administration figures of “the war crime of torture” under German and international law. ...............(more)

The complete piece is at: https://consortiumnews.com/2015/02/10/finding-creative-ways-to-torture/

A Breakup Letter to Snow From the City of Boston

A Breakup Letter to Snow From the City of Boston

By Charlotte Wilder @TheWilderThings
Boston.com Staff | 02.09.15 | 3:53 PM

Dear Snow,

I could say “it’s not you, it’s me,” but that would be the biggest lie I’ve told since I promised the British they wouldn’t get shot at if they showed up by sea. It is you. It’s 100 percent you.

But it wasn’t always you. Things started off so well between us; you were so novel, so beautiful, so calming and clean when we met. Remember how exciting it was when I shut down for the first time, and we skipped school and work, and frolicked through my streets together? The way you made me feel so pretty, so refreshed, and seasonal?

I’ll never forget those wonderful first days. But that was the early stage of the relationship; now you’re dirty all the time, you never clean up after yourself, and you’ve grown even colder.

At this point, I’m just feeling...well, smothered. You won’t leave me alone. I tell you I need space and you just keep showing up. How do you not see that by always hanging around, you’re making me turn inward? I don’t even leave the house anymore because I know you’ll be waiting outside my door.

Even if you were to back off immediately, we’d still be totally over. I’m literally up to my neck in dealing with the mess you made. Because of you, I may need to borrow equipment from New York City. ...............(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.boston.com/news/odd/2015/02/09/breakup-letter-snow-from-the-city-boston/wHekQLl2KiWqGYHBreZaPN/story.html?p1=feature_pri_hp

Robert Reich: Back to the Nineteenth Century

Back to the Nineteenth Century

My recent column about the growth of on-demand jobs like Uber making life less predictable and secure for workers unleashed a small barrage of criticism from some who contend that workers get what they’re worth in the market.

A Forbes Magazine contributor, for example, writes that jobs exist only “when both employer and employee are happy with the deal being made.” So if the new jobs are low-paying and irregular, too bad.

Much the same argument was voiced in the late nineteenth century over alleged “freedom of contract.” Any deal between employees and workers was assumed to be fine if both sides voluntarily agreed to it.

It was an era when many workers were “happy” to toil twelve-hour days in sweat shops for lack of any better alternative. ...................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://robertreich.org/post/110555525570

Juan Cole: When you’ve Lost Bernie Sanders: How Netanyahu destroyed the Israel Lobby

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) – Senator Bernie Sanders, the most consistent and prominent progressive in the US Senate, has decided to skip the speech of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to Congress on March 3, which was orchestrated by Israel’s ambassador to the US Ron Dermer and Speaker of the House John Boehner in an attempt to derail President Obama’s negotiations with Iran over its civilian nuclear enrichment program. It is Bibi’s Kanye West moment.

Sanders’s announcement may well signal a turning point in the domestic politics of Mideast policy. Sanders runs as a Socialist but might well announce his candidacy within the Democratic Party for president in the 2016 race. He can’t win, of course, but could push the electoral issues to the left. He in any case caucuses with the Democrats. Despite his strong progressive vision, Sanders has in the past been reluctant to criticize Israel. He, like many on the American left, held up Israel in general as a progressive cause, regardless of the country’s colonial actions in the Palestinian West Bank or its illegal blockade of Gaza

Obama believes that a deal can be had whereby Iran is allowed to enrich uranium for reactor fuel but through restrictions and inspections can be kept from ever militarizing the program. Boehner and Netanyahu believe that Iran’s enrichment program must be closed down to forestall the development of a bomb by Tehran. Israel is currently the only nuclear power in the region, which makes it a regional hegemon, a position it might lose if it were one of many nuclear powers.

The Israel lobbies as a project of Jewish nationalism have long depended primarily on three tactics for their success. 1) They brutally punish those critical of Israeli policy (no matter how justified the criticism) with boycotts, smears and blackballing; 2) They marshal American Jewish groups into unanimity in support of Israel regardless of the latter’s feelings about certain policies, and 3) they use political donations to shape Congressional and general political discourse on Israel in official circles. ..............(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.juancole.com/2015/02/sanders-netanyahu-destroyed.html

Enjoy it while it lasts — winter is moving north (with very cool interactive graphic)

(Grist) Those clever people over at Climate Central have done it again. These are the folks who broke the news that, by 2100, Phoenix will be as hot as Kuwait City. They observed, astutely, that downtown Las Vegas already feels like Kuwait City most days. And now they’re back, telling us, hey! No need to move to Florida when we retire! By the time many of us Northerners are ready to while away our final days chilling with umbrella drinks in the shade of palm trees, Florida will have come to us.

Here’s what they did: Using climate models, they looked at roughly 700 U.S. cities, and projected how many fewer freezing nights they’ll experience at the end of the century than they do today. (You can read about their methodology here.)

What’d they find? Boston, currently buried by blizzards (and getting burrieder by the day), will have winters like the ones in Marietta, Ga., today. Minneapolis will feel like Asheville, N.C. Portland, Ore., will score San Luis Obispo’s secondhand seasons. Here, type your hometown into Climate Central’s handy interactive infographic and see what your winters will be like. (Just don’t look at Seattle. The horror!) .......................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://grist.org/climate-energy/enjoy-it-while-it-lasts-winter-is-moving-north/

The Anti-Standardized Testing Movement Claims a Victory in Chicago

(In These Times) In a move seen by some activists as a concession to Chicago’s strong anti-testing movement, Chicago Public Schools won’t administer the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), a test required by federal mandate as part of the new Common Core curriculum. Instead, the district will test only 10 percent of its 664 schools.

Parents and teachers led a boycott of the ISAT, the precursor to the PARCC, back in February 2014. Months of organizing culminated in students at more than 60 schools opting out of the test and teachers at two schools refusing to administer it.

The reason, according to CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett’s testimony at a Board of Education meeting, was that the district does not have enough computers for all students to take the online test. Byrd-Bennett also noted that she wasn’t clear on PARCC’s benefits for students and voiced concerns about over-testing.

But the decision puts CPS in a difficult situation as federal education officials have ramped up their pressure on the district to administer the test. The Department of Education is threatening to withhold $1.2 billion in federal funding—essentially 84 percent of federal education funding on offer—from the perpetually cash-strapped state if school districts do not administer the full test, according to a previously unpublicized letter from Department of Education officials published in full by Crain’s Chicago. CPS had previously asked both the state and federal education department’s for a waiver from administering the PARCC. Both bodies rejected it. .................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://inthesetimes.com/working/entry/17605/anti_standardized_testing_chicago

(F**ked Up) Stat of the Week


The world’s “ultra high net worth” population — deep pockets with over $30 million in net worth — make up just 0.004 percent of global adults, notes a new report from Wealth-X and NFP Life. They held $29.7 trillion in wealth last year, over double the $13.8 trillion in wealth that belonged to adults with net worths under $10,000, a group that includes 66.2 percent of the world’s adult population.

- See more at: http://toomuchonline.org/#sthash.ghiffJSc.dpuf
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