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marmar

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

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American Bridges Falling Down





Published on May 24, 2013

On May 23rd, sections of the I-5 bridge that crosses over the Skagit river collapsed, sending two cars plummeting into the frigid waters below. It is just the latest failure of American infrastructure at a time when annual spending on construction is at the lowest rate since 1993. What's more, the American Society for Civil Engineers has given the U.S. a D+ in overall infrastructure. They estimate it will take an investment of $3.6 trillion by 2020 to bring American roads, bridges and waterways up to safety standards. RT Correspondent Meghan Lopez takes a look at the long road ahead.


Matt Taibbi: The Mad Science of the National Debt


from Rolling Stone:


The Mad Science of the National Debt
With Congress gridlocked by the debt-ceiling debate, the Federal Reserve is conducting a radical experiment with the American economy

By Matt Taibbi
May 22, 2013 2:55 PM ET


Welcome back to the dumb season. It's debt-ceiling time again.

We've been at this two years now. It was back in 2011 when the Republican Party, seized by anti-government furor, first locked on the lifting of the federal debt ceiling – an utterly routine governmental mechanism that allows the Treasury to borrow to pay for spending already approved by the entire Congress, Republicans included – as a place to hold a showdown over . . . government spending. That first battle resulted in a "Mutually Assured Destruction"-type stalemate, in which both parties agreed that if they couldn't reach a deal by New Year's Day 2013, a series of brutal, automatic, across-the-board spending cuts would take effect. At the time, it seemed unthinkable Congress would let that happen. By the time we passed that date, the thing that seemed unthinkable was the idea that Congress would ever make a deal. The cuts took effect in March and we were headed for a full-on fiscal crash on May 19th, when fate intervened to stop this stupidest-in-history blue-red catfight in its tracks, if only temporarily.

In early May, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew announced that the federal government suddenly had enough cash on hand to stay afloat until "at least Labor Day." We were saved by, of all things, a record quarterly profit from the notorious state-seized mortgage-finance company Fannie Mae, which is paying the state $59 billion, enough to keep us in the black through the summer.

But this reprieve is only for four months, and if anything, the latest stay of execution only underscores the utter randomness and imbecility of our political situation. If the one thing preventing Washington from seizing up in fatal gridlock for even a brief spell is a surprise burst of good fortune from a bailed-out financial zombie like Fannie Mae, we're screwed. The only thing that will rescue us from having to go through this over and over again from now until the end of time is for our increasingly polarized Congress to come to some broad agreement on tax hikes and spending cuts – the kind of routine deal that now seems politically impossible. .........................(more)

Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/the-mad-science-of-the-national-debt-20130522#ixzz2ULzuhTWL



U.S. infrastructure spending has plummeted


from the WaPo:



Not surprisingly, the collapse of a bridge along Interstate 5 in Washington state yesterday has revived the long-standing debate over whether Congress should spend more to repair the nation’s aging roads and bridges.

It’s worth being very clear upfront that the I-5 bridge in question wasn’t considered “structurally deficient” in any way — the bridge collapse is being blamed on a truck bumping an overhead girder. All we do know is that the bridge was sort of old. (Fortunately, no one died or was seriously injured.)

Here’s the AP: “The bridge was built in 1955 and has a sufficiency rating of 57.4 out of 100. That is well below the statewide average rating of 80 … but 759 bridges in the state have a lower sufficiency score.” The bridge was also classified as “functionally obsolete,” but that doesn’t mean it was unsafe, just that it was built according to earlier standards. ....................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/05/24/u-s-infrastructure-spending-has-plummeted-since-2008/



Guitar Center Employees Unionize in New York


from Rolling Stone:



Employees at Guitar Center's flagship store in Manhattan overwhelmingly voted on Friday to form a union of its 57 retail workers. The new bargaining unit will press the company for improved working conditions and a reversal of declining wages at the 14th Street store. The national Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) orchestrated Friday's win, which marks the first in a series of anticipated union votes at the company's stores around New York City and potentially the rest of the country. To preempt further votes to certify, Guitar Center's management has launched a messaging campaign to educate its employees at nonunion stores about the supposed pitfalls of labor organizing.

"We always want to have a working environment that our folks love, and it's unfortunate that we now have a third party involved," says Dennis Haffeman, executive vice president of human resources for Guitar Center, a $2.1 billion retail chain owned by Bain Capital. "We're constantly listening to our employees' needs so that Guitar Center can be the best work environment in the music industry and, quite frankly, the best in retail."

RWDSU began focusing on Guitar Center in late 2012 after workers approached the national union complaining of worsening compensation, which they said came mainly in the form of falling sales commissions. "I'm earning significantly less than I used to," says Brendon Clark, 28, a pro-union sales associate at the 14th Street store. After four years with the company, Clark makes roughly $11 an hour. "During bad months, I've had to sell my instruments and max out credit cards to make rent." ......................(more)

Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/guitar-center-employees-unionize-in-new-york-20130525#ixzz2UM15ltk0



Matt Taibbi: The Mad Science of the National Debt


from Rolling Stone:


The Mad Science of the National Debt
With Congress gridlocked by the debt-ceiling debate, the Federal Reserve is conducting a radical experiment with the American economy

By Matt Taibbi
May 22, 2013 2:55 PM ET


Welcome back to the dumb season. It's debt-ceiling time again.

We've been at this two years now. It was back in 2011 when the Republican Party, seized by anti-government furor, first locked on the lifting of the federal debt ceiling – an utterly routine governmental mechanism that allows the Treasury to borrow to pay for spending already approved by the entire Congress, Republicans included – as a place to hold a showdown over . . . government spending. That first battle resulted in a "Mutually Assured Destruction"-type stalemate, in which both parties agreed that if they couldn't reach a deal by New Year's Day 2013, a series of brutal, automatic, across-the-board spending cuts would take effect. At the time, it seemed unthinkable Congress would let that happen. By the time we passed that date, the thing that seemed unthinkable was the idea that Congress would ever make a deal. The cuts took effect in March and we were headed for a full-on fiscal crash on May 19th, when fate intervened to stop this stupidest-in-history blue-red catfight in its tracks, if only temporarily.

In early May, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew announced that the federal government suddenly had enough cash on hand to stay afloat until "at least Labor Day." We were saved by, of all things, a record quarterly profit from the notorious state-seized mortgage-finance company Fannie Mae, which is paying the state $59 billion, enough to keep us in the black through the summer.

But this reprieve is only for four months, and if anything, the latest stay of execution only underscores the utter randomness and imbecility of our political situation. If the one thing preventing Washington from seizing up in fatal gridlock for even a brief spell is a surprise burst of good fortune from a bailed-out financial zombie like Fannie Mae, we're screwed. The only thing that will rescue us from having to go through this over and over again from now until the end of time is for our increasingly polarized Congress to come to some broad agreement on tax hikes and spending cuts – the kind of routine deal that now seems politically impossible. .........................(more)

Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/the-mad-science-of-the-national-debt-20130522#ixzz2ULzuhTWL



A Generation Out of Luck


A Generation Out of Luck

Saturday, 25 May 2013 10:43
By Gary Lapon, Socialist Worker | Report


College graduation is supposed to be a time of celebration--a time for graduates to look back on years of hard work and achievement, and forward to a bright future filled with promise.

Yet the class of 2013--the young women and men who were submitting college applications in the fall of 2008 as the world financial system came to the brink of Armageddon following the collapse of Lehman Brothers--are facing a future that of uncertainty and diminished prospects.

They are the latest entrants into what has been dubbed the "lost generation"--so-called because the high rates of unemployment and underemployment its members endure at the start of their working lives drag them down throughout their working lives, making it more and more difficult to maintain the standard of living of their parents.

Only half of recent graduates have been able to find a full-time job that makes use of their degree. Yet all are still left with the bill from college, with the average student loan burden nearing $30,000. With the number of new graduates expected to outstrip the number of new jobs requiring a degree over the next several years, this trend will only get worse. ..........................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://truth-out.org/news/item/16587-a-generation-out-of-luck



Protesters 'March Against Monsanto' in 250 Cities




LOS ANGELES — Organizers say two million people marched in protest against seed giant Monsanto in hundreds of rallies across the U.S. and in over 50 other countries on Saturday.

"March Against Monsanto" protesters say they wanted to call attention to the dangers posed by genetically modified food and the food giants that produce it. Founder and organizer Tami Canal said protests were held in 436 cities in 52 countries.

Genetically modified plants are grown from seeds that are engineered to resist insecticides and herbicides, add nutritional benefits or otherwise improve crop yields and increase the global food supply. Most corn, soybean and cotton crops grown in the United States today have been genetically modified. But some say genetically modified organisms can lead to serious health conditions and harm the environment. The use of GMOs has been a growing issue of contention in recent years, with health advocates pushing for mandatory labeling of genetically modified products even though the federal government and many scientists say the technology is safe.

The `March Against Monsanto' movement began just a few months ago, when Canal created a Facebook page on Feb. 28 calling for a rally against the company's practices. ....................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/25/march-against-monsanto-gmo-protest_n_3336627.html?utm_hp_ref=politics&ir=Politics&ncid=edlinkusaolp00000009



Chicago: Changes Follow Criticism of CTA's Ventra Card Plan




IL: Changes Follow Criticism of CTA's Ventra Card Plan

Jon Hilkevitch
Source: Chicago Tribune
Created: May 24, 2013


The CTA will waive a $5 fee for customers who obtain the new Ventra transit card in 2013 and it also will eliminate or reduce some of the controversial service charges related to the optional Ventra debit MasterCard account, officials said Friday.

The changes, made in the face of strong criticism about the myriad prepaid debit account fees from elected officials, consumer groups and CTA riders, will come at a price for the CTA.

Under the renegotiated deal reached between the transit agency and its Ventra partners, the CTA gave up a guaranteed half-million dollar annual minimum share of some prepaid debit fees that will be collected. The actual revenue generated for the CTA from the ancillary fees was projected to be much higher than $500,000, officials had said.

"We reduced the amount to zero,'' said CTA spokesman Brian Steele. But the CTA will still receive revenue from Ventra-related advertising and from the transit benefits program that provides a tax savings to participating transit users, he said. .......................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.masstransitmag.com/news/10949374/il-changes-follow-criticism-of-ctas-ventra-card-plan



Hashing out a uniform marijuana law in the Deutschland


from Der Spiegel:



Know Your Limit: Germany Seeks Uniform Law on Marijuana
In Berlin, you can carry 15 grams of marijuana. In Munich? Just six. To ease any confusion, German states are now trying to hash out possession regulations that would apply across the country.




The laws regarding cannabis possession in Germany are nothing if not confusing. It is illegal to possess or consume marijuana. Except that carrying a small amount for personal use has no criminal repercussions. But how much is okay? That depends on where you are. Each state has a different rule.

That, though, may soon change. Ralf Jäger, interior minister of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, said on Thursday that the 16 German states are now seeking to establish a single limit valid across the country. "We are prompting the ministers of justice to push for harmonization efforts, so that the legal status no longer varies from state to state," Jäger told the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung at a conference of state interior ministers in Hanover this week.

Such a uniform ruling would come as a relief to many. Currently, people in the city-state of Berlin are allowed to carry 15 grams of cannabis, but just across the border in Brandenburg, the limit is just six grams, as it is for many other states. Still others have set the limit at 10 grams, roughly equivalent to a handful of marijuana.

Up or Down?

How exactly this standardization may ultimately play out remains to be seen. In November, Lower Saxony's justice minister at the time, Bernd Busemann of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union, pushed to lower the limit to six grams throughout the country, a proposal that would likely encounter resistance in Berlin. ............(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/german-states-consider-standardizing-marijuana-rules-a-901717.html



‘Children Are Dying’


‘Children Are Dying’
Posted on May 24, 2013


Manufacturing problems, few market incentives for the production of low-profit drugs and government inaction are leaving thousands of patients without essential medicine and creating complications usually seen only in the developing world, if ever.

There are currently 300 drug, vitamin, and trace-element shortages in the U.S., the highest number ever recorded by the University of Utah Drug Information Service, which began tracking national shortages in 2001.

Experts are calling the nutrient shortage a public health crisis and a national emergency. They are “astounded” that the government and manufacturers have let the situation get so bad, Washington, D.C.-based Washingtonian magazine reports. The situation is worst for prematurely born infants, who do not have the nutritional reserves of older children and adults.

“Children are dying,” says Steve Plogsted, a clinical pharmacist who sits on the American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition’s drug shortage task force. “They’re not getting any calcium or any zinc. Or they’re not getting any phosphorous, and that can lead to heart standstill. I know of a [newborn] who had seven days without phosphorous, and her little heart stopped.” .......................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.truthdig.com/eartotheground/item/children_are_dying_20130524/



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