Wednesday, July 25, 2012

July 25 News: Extreme Heat Still Baking Midwest

While much of the country has had a brief respite from
 the extreme heat and humidity that has marked the
summer of 2012, in the nation’s heartland — including
key agricultural areas from Nebraska to Illinois — the
heat has proven relentless. [Climate Central]
By Stephen Lacey on Jul 25, 2012 at 7:55 am

While much of the country has had a brief respite from the extreme heat and humidity that has marked the summer of 2012, in the nation’s heartland — including key agricultural areas from Nebraska to Illinois — the heat has proven relentless. [Climate Central]

Through July 21, St. Louis and Columbia, Mo., had each set a record for the warmest year-to-date, beating a record established in 1921. The National Weather Service said that by October, the records for the maximum number of days with a high temperature of 90°F or greater, and 95°F or greater, “will also likely be threatened at all three of our official climate locations.”
Further west, it is possible that North Platte, Neb., will wind up with its second-longest streak of consecutive 100°F days, with nine such days if temperatures reach the century mark through Wednesday.
Hundreds of military veterans joined the fight to keep the US navy’s “green fleet” afloat on Tuesday, calling on the White House and Congress to fund military research on alternative fuels. [Guardian]

There have been several developments following the disclosure of a substantial unstated financial relationship between Charles Groat, who supervised a University of Texas Energy Institute study of environmental impacts of gas drilling, and a drilling company. [Dot Earth]

Some political science research suggests that natural disasters like droughts and floods really can hurt an incumbent president. [Wonk Blog]


ABC News On Stunning Greenland Ice Melt: ‘Scientists Say They’ve Never Seen Anything Like This Before’

Extent of surface melt over Greenland’s ice sheet on
July 8 (left) and July 12 (right). Measurements from
three satellites showed that on July 8, about 40
percent of the ice sheet had undergone thawing at
or near the surface. In just a few days, the melting had
dramatically accelerated and an estimated 97
percent of the ice sheet surface had thawed
by July 12.
NASA reported today some truly shocking findings on the melting of the Greenland ice sheet this summer:

Satellites See Unprecedented Greenland Ice Sheet Surface Melt

July 24, 2012: For several days this month, Greenland’s surface ice cover melted over a larger area than at any time in more than 30 years of satellite observations. Nearly the entire ice cover of Greenland, from its thin, low-lying coastal edges to its two-mile-thick center, experienced some degree of melting at its surface, according to measurements from three independent satellites analyzed by NASA and university scientists.

On average in the summer, about half of the surface of Greenland’s ice sheet naturally melts. At high elevations, most of that melt water quickly refreezes in place. Near the coast, some of the melt water is retained by the ice sheet and the rest is lost to the ocean. But this year the extent of ice melting at or near the surface jumped dramatically. According to satellite data, an estimated 97 percent of the ice sheet surface thawed at some point in mid-July.  READ MORE

EXCLUSIVE: Romney Bundler A Registered Foreign Agent For Hong Kong

Tom Loeffler
By Josh Israel on Jul 25, 2012 at 9:30 am

Newly released lobbyist bundler disclosure records filed by the Mitt Romney campaign show that Tom Loeffler raised at least $17,500 in bundled contributions for the campaign over the first six months of 2012. Loeffler, a former Republican U.S. Representative from Texas and a lobbyist at Akin Gump represents a wide array domestic clients including USAA, NextgenID, and the Texas Association for Home Care & Hospice. But a ThinkProgress review of Foreign Agent Registration Act reveals that Loeffler registered in February as a registered agent for a foreign government: the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC).

The agreement — signed by Loeffler — stipulated that, from February 13 through June 30, 2012, he would “protect, promote, assist and develop Hong King’s economic and trade interests in the United States of America” by working with Congress and the executive branch. In exchange, the HKTDC agreed to pay Akin Gum $35,775 per month. The Romney bundling all took place during the time Loeffler was under this initial contract, though it is unclear whether the contract was renewed at the end of June.

Loeffler has a long history of raising money for Republican presidential candidates. In 2008, Loeffler stepped down from his position as a national finance co-chair for John McCain’s campaign when Newsweek discovered that he had lobbied on behalf of Saudi Arabia. But Romney’s campaign has welcomed him back into the campaign fundraising fold.  READ MORE

Monday, July 23, 2012

The changing face of Earth:

The Aral Sea in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan: These
Landsat satellite photographs are of the Aral Sea,
found between Uzbekistan (west) and Kazakhstan
(east). It used to be the fourth largest lake in the world
This inland lake is. Since the 1960s it has lost more than
half of its volume and these images show how its size
has decreased in the last 40 years. The first image, on
the top left was taken in 1973 and then from left to right
on the top row: 1987, 1999 and 2001. The bottom row
shows photos from 2004, 2007 and 2009. The shrinkage
is due to overuse of feeder rivers (the Syr Darya and Amu
Darya) for the irrigation of cotton and paddy fields
Dramatic high-resolution satellite images show how the world has been transformed over the last four decades
By Phil Vinter

These amazing satellite images show how the march of progress has altered the face of the earth in just a few decades.

The images were all taken by a fleet of Earth-observing satellites that form part of the 'Landsat' program, which celebrates its 40th anniversary tomorrow.

Jointly managed by Nasa and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the initiative has been consistently gathering data about our planet since 23 July, 1972.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Global Warming's Terrifying New Math

Illustration by Edel Rodriguez

Three simple numbers that add up to global catastrophe - and that make clear who the real enemy is

July 19, 2012 9:35 AM ET

If the pictures of those towering wildfires in Colorado haven't convinced you, or the size of your AC bill this summer, here are some hard numbers about climate change: June broke or tied 3,215 high-temperature records across the United States. That followed the warmest May on record for the Northern Hemisphere – the 327th consecutive month in which the temperature of the entire globe exceeded the 20th-century average, the odds of which occurring by simple chance were 3.7 x 10-99, a number considerably larger than the number of stars in the universe.

Meteorologists reported that this spring was the warmest ever recorded for our nation – in fact, it crushed the old record by so much that it represented the "largest temperature departure from average of any season on record." The same week, Saudi authorities reported that it had rained in Mecca despite a temperature of 109 degrees, the hottest downpour in the planet's history.

Not that our leaders seemed to notice. Last month the world's nations, meeting in Rio for the 20th-anniversary reprise of a massive 1992 environmental summit, accomplished nothing. Unlike George H.W. Bush, who flew in for the first conclave, Barack Obama didn't even attend. It was "a ghost of the glad, confident meeting 20 years ago," the British journalist George Monbiot wrote; no one paid it much attention, footsteps echoing through the halls "once thronged by multitudes." Since I wrote one of the first books for a general audience about global warming way back in 1989, and since I've spent the intervening decades working ineffectively to slow that warming, I can say with some confidence that we're losing the fight, badly and quickly – losing it because, most of all, we remain in denial about the peril that human civilization is in.

When we think about global warming at all, the arguments tend to be ideological, theological and economic. But to grasp the seriousness of our predicament, you just need to do a little math. For the past year, an easy and powerful bit of arithmetical analysis first published by financial analysts in the U.K. has been making the rounds of environmental conferences and journals, but it hasn't yet broken through to the larger public. This analysis upends most of the conventional political thinking about climate change. And it allows us to understand our precarious – our almost-but-not-quite-finally hopeless – position with three simple numbers.

The First Number: 2° Celsius     READ MORE

Corporation That Paid Nothing In Taxes For Four Years Tells Congress It Pays Too Much In Taxes

Over a four years period from 2008 to 2011, Corning Inc. was one of 26 companies that managed to avoid paying any American income taxes, even though it earned nearly $3 billion during that time. In fact, according to Citizens For Tax Justice, the company received a $4 million refund from 2008 to 2010. That didn’t stop Susan Ford, a senior executive at the company, from telling the House Ways and Means Committee this week that America’s high corporate tax rate was putting her company at a disadvantage:
American manufacturers are at a distinct disadvantage to competitors headquartered in other countries. Specifically, foreign manufacturers uniformly face a lower corporate tax rate than U.S. manufacturers, and virtually all operate under territorial systems which encourage investment both abroad and at home.
Ford told the committee that Corning paid an effective tax rate of 36 percent in 2011, but as CTJ notes, she is counting taxes on profits earned overseas that haven’t yet been paid and won’t be unless the company decides to bring the money back to the United States. Corning’s actual tax rate in 2011, according to CTJ’s analysis, was actually negative 0.2 percent.

The territorial system Ford testified in favor of would actually encourage the offshoring of profits earned by American companies, thereby reducing the amount they pay in taxes even more. And rather than helping remove a disadvantage that prevents companies from creating jobs, an economic analysis of such a tax system found that it could actually cost the United States as many as 800,000 jobsREAD MORE

Why Mass Shootings Have Become Commonplace in Our Country

Colorado Shooter
This story was originally published at

One of the most striking things about shooting incidents in America…is how common they are. Another striking thing is how often the media fails to note the previous point, or to explore what that means—or what might be done about it.
Late Thursday night, a gunman walked into a movie theater in a Denver suburb, killed 12 and injured 50. Two days earlier a gunman opened fire outside a bar in Tuscaloosa, Alabama in an incident in which at least 17 were hurt.

These were not really so exceptional. Every year, about 100,000 Americans are victims of gun violence, and every week, people calmly enter our schools, our workplaces, our leisure gathering spots and open fire on innocent bystanders.

Whenever we tweet or post about these, often the only people we hear from are those who say we need more guns not less. “If I had been there with my gun….” The problem, of course, is the public at large is being asked to arm everyone and trust that, while the rest of us cower, “the right people” will quickly dispatch “the wrong people” in the modern equivalent of the Shootout at the OK Corral.  No mention of whether the teacher is supposed to be armed…when a nut walks into a preschool and starts firing away.

Meanwhile, the media doesn’t have any answers at all. Each time such an incident occurs, they primarily evince a morbid interest in the grotesque details of the incident and the psycho of the day. In this case, early indications were that the suspect in custody, James Holmes, said to be a dropout from a medical school, had some kind of imagined association with the film being shown, the Batman movie “The Dark Knight Rises.”   READ MORE

Emails Show Arizona Immigration Law Racially Motivated

Senator Russell Pearce speaks to the Arizona Red
Mountain Tea Party members at East Valley High
school in Mesa, Arizona, 03/19/12.
(photo: Tim Hacker)
Br Alia Beard Rau , Arizona Republic
21 July 2012
he American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona has released thousands of e-mails that it says proves Arizona's controversial immigration law was racially motivated.

The e-mails, acquired through a public records request to the state Legislature, are to and from former senator Russell Pearce, who authored Senate Bill 1070.

The ACLU included dozens of those e-mails as part of a legal filing this week, asking U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton to prevent a key part of SB 1070 from going into effect.

The e-mails from Pearce in the court documents include statements like, "Can we maintain our social fabric as a nation with Spanish fighting English for dominance ... It's like importing leper colonies and hope we don't catch leprosy. It's like importing thousands of Islamic jihadists and hope they adapt to the American Dream."

They include statistics such as "9,000 people killed every year by illegal aliens," and "the illegal aliens in the United States have a crime rate that's two-and-a-half times that of non-illegal aliens."

Pearce did not return calls seeking comment. While all the e-mails were sent from Pearce's personal or legislative e-mail address, it is unclear if they were all his own words or if some of the statements were taken without attribution from other individuals.

Email Excerpts    READ MORE

Farm Bill Budget Cuts Will Mean Millions of Americans Go Hungry

Homeless families like this one will feel the brunt of
budget cuts. (photo: Mary Ellen Mark/Time-Life)
By John Turner, Guardian UK
21 July 12

One in seven Americans relies on food stamps, yet lawmakers are plotting to balance the budget on the backs of the neediest.

he test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.

So said President Franklin D Roosevelt, over 75 years ago, in his second inaugural address. This idea could not be any more important than now, when the health of millions of children, their families and older adults are in danger.

Last Wednesday, the agriculture committee of the House of Representatives voted to pass dramatic cuts to the Farm Bill. If passed by Congress, the legislation will remove $16.5bn from food and hunger relief programs that directly benefit children, seniors and families.
Approximately 80% of the Farm Bill budget funds the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Snap) - commonly known as food stamps. As 45 million people - one in seven Americans - currently rely on Snap to help feed and nourish themselves and their families, the program provides the first line of defense in our country's hunger relief network.

The proposed cuts will affect between 2 and 3 million Americans, and more than 300,000 people in Texas, where I work. These people are our neighbors, classmates, co-workers, relatives and friends. Make no mistake, these cuts will hurt many families already straining to pay their summer electric bills, rent and gas, making it harder to put food on their tables.

As almost three in five Snap recipients are children or seniors, the advancement of this legislation is especially troubling as the majority of those who stand to lose Snap benefits are the most vulnerable in our society. The impact will ripple across our country starting in our retirement communities and schools.  READ MORE

Mitt Romney, Un-American

Mitt Romney speaks at a campaign rally in Bowling
Green, Ohio, 07/18/12. (photo: Evan Vucci/AP)
By Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast
21 July 12

Republicans have questioned the patriotism of Democrats for nearly a hundred years. But now, at long last, Barack Obama is turning the tables on the GOP.

ohn Sununu opened the "American" door the other day, and now the Romney campaign is barging through it, plotting attacks on Barack Obama's "biography," which will inevitably include veiled accusations about his alleged alien cast, his lack of American-ness. So now that it's open, let's stroll through it ourselves. What's taking place in the room on the other side of that door? Republicans and conservatives are bouncing off the walls because they face a serious risk for the first time in a generation that their definitions of patriotism and Americanism are losing. And not just losing - losing to, of all people, Barack Hussein Obama!

The Republican credo that theirs is the party of patriotism goes back a long, long way, at least to the 1920s. The Democrats then as now represented society's so-called rabble - immigrants, wets, cosmopolites of that gin-soaked decade when the urban population for the first time overtook the rural. Over time, Democrats added blacks, new immigrants, liberated women, gays. The Democrats have been the party of the Other. Impugning their patriotism to the target audience is so easy it can hardly even be called work. In doing so, of course, Republicans tied the concept strongly to their, um, values: the all-conquering free market, mostly; a good war now and then; the occasional (actually, more or less constant, now that I think about it) campaign against subversives real and imagined (the vast majority). Thus have things ever been.

You will find, as you scan our modern electoral history, say since 1968, that the Republican candidate has laid some Americanism-related charge at the Democrat nearly every time, but that the reverse has never occurred. Richard Nixon sent Spiro Agnew out to accuse Hubert Humphrey of being soft on communism and compare him to Neville Chamberlain, even while Nixon was committing treason by submarining the Paris peace talks. Democrats can't, and don't, peddle this merchandise, because it's pointless: they know it won't stick to the party that has owned the issue for decades.

How Wall Street Gutted Our Schools and Cities

Thousands of vacant houses in Baltimore's most
blighted neighborhoods should be opportunities
for job training and employment for hundreds of
young adults wanting to change their lives. (photo:
Open Door Baltimore)
[Yes,  again,  but this time in simpler,  clearer language]

By Pam Martens, AlterNet
21 July 12
The complex machinations that pitted county treasurers against the deceptive wizards of Wall Street.

all Street banks have hollowed out our communities with fraudulently sold mortgages and illegal foreclosures and settled the crimes for pennies on the dollar. They've set back property records to the early 1900s, skipping the recording of deeds in county registry offices and using their own front called MERS. They lobbied to kill fixed pension plans and then shaved a decade of growth off our 401(K)s with exorbitant fees, rigged research and trading for the house.

When much of Wall Street collapsed in 2008 as a direct result of their corrupt business model, their pals in Washington used the public purse to resuscitate the same corrupt financial model - allowing even greater depositor concentration at JPMorgan and Bank of America through acquisitions of crippled firms.

And now, Wall Street may get away with the biggest heist of the public purse in the history of the world. You know it's an unprecedented crime when the conservative Economist magazine sums up the situation with a one word headline: "Banksters."

It has been widely reported that Libor, the interest rate benchmark that was rigged by a banking cartel, impacted $10 trillion in consumer loans. Libor stands for London Interbank Offered Rate and is supposed to be a reliable reflection of the rate at which banks are lending to each other. Based on the average of that rate, after highs and lows are discarded, the Libor index is used as a key index for setting loan rates around the world, including adjustable rate mortgages, credit card payments and student loans here in the U.S.

But what's missing from the debate are the most diabolical parts of the scam: how a rigged Libor rate was used to defraud municipalities across America, inflate bank stock prices, and potentially rig futures markets around the world. All while the top U.S. bank regulator dealt with the problem by fiddling with a memo to the Bank of England.

Libor is also one of the leading interest rate benchmarks used to create payment terms on interest rate swaps. Wall Street has convinced Congress that it needs those derivatives to hedge its balance sheet. But look at these statistics. According to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, as of March 31, 2012, U.S. banks held $183.7 trillion in interest rate contracts but just four firms represent 93% of total derivative holdings: JPMorgan Chase, Citibank, Bank of America and Goldman Sachs.

As of March 31, 2012, there were 7,307 FDIC insured banks in the U.S. according to the FDIC. All of those banks, including the four above, have a total of $13.4 trillion in assets. Why would four banks need to hedge to the tune of 13 times all assets held in all 7,307 banks in the U.S.?

The answer is that most swaps are not being used as a hedge. They are being used as a money-making racket for Wall Street.   READ MORE

Glacier in North Greenland Breaks Off Huge Iceberg

This satellite image provided by NASA shows calving,
crescent-shaped crack at center, on the Petermann
Glacier in northwestern Greenland. An iceberg twice the
size of Manhattan tore off one of Greenland's largest
glaciers. Scientists had been watching the 15-mile long
crack in the floating ice shelf of the northerly Petermann
Glacier for several years. (AP Photo/NASA)
By: The Associated Press | WSAV News 3

An iceberg twice the size of Manhattan tore off one of Greenland's largest glaciers, illustrating another dramatic change to the warming island.

For several years, scientists had been watching a long crack near the tip of the northerly Petermann Glacier. NASA satellites this week showed it had broken completely, freeing an iceberg measuring 46 square miles.

A massive ice sheet covers about four-fifths of Greenland. Petermann Glacier is mostly on land, but a segment sticks out over water like a frozen tongue, and that's where the break occurred.
The same glacier spawned an iceberg twice that size two years ago. Together, the breaks made a large change that's got the attention of researchers.  READ MORE

Rupert Murdoch quits directorships on string of boards behind The Sun, The Times and The Sunday Times

Turning his back on newspapers? Rupert Murdoch,
pictured with his son James, has quit as director of a
string of boards behind The Sun, The Times and
The Sunday Times
  • Quit NI Group, Times Newspaper Holdings and News Corp Investments
  • Part of the 'slow fade of Rupert from the UK,' says media commentator
  • Just corporate housecleaning exercise prior to company split, says NI
  • James Murdoch quit directorships at NI last year... then stood down as chairman three months later
By Daily Mail Reporter

Rupert Murdoch has resigned as director of a string of companies behind UK newspapers The Sun, The Times and The Sunday Times, it emerged today.
The move has led to fevered speculation the media mogul is preparing to sell his newspaper group.

According to documents filed with Companies House, Mr Murdoch stepped down as director from the boards of the NI Group, Times Newspaper Holdings and News Corp Investments last week.

He also quit a number of News Corp’s U.S. boards, although the details have not yet been disclosed by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
Media commentators said it was part of the 'slow fade of Rupert and James (his son) from the UK'.

His decision comes after a powerful group of shareholders called on him to stand down as chairman of News Corporation.   READ MORE

Anti-Obama group raising money off events related to Colorado shooting

The Campaign to Defeat Barack Obama released a fundraising letter late Friday afternoon requesting donations over an early report on ABC News that suggested a member of a Colorado tea party group may have been the shooter. The on-air report, delivered by ABC News chief investigative correspondent Brian Ross on "Good Morning America," was inaccurate, and Ross issued an apology and a correction later that day.

The fundraising letter, which was written on behalf of Texas Senate candidate Ted Cruz, asked for money to "fight back" against the media.

"We can't let the media get away with their attempts to smear the tea party," the unsigned letter read,