Saturday, November 24, 2012

Koch Brothers Flout Law Getting Richer With Secret Iran Sales

Koch Industries Executive Vice President David H. Koch,
left, poses for a photo with Julia Koch during the opening
night at the Metropolitan Opera in New York on
Sept. 26, 2011.
Bloomberg Markets Magazine
In May 2008, a unit of Koch Industries Inc., one of the world’s largest privately held companies, sent Ludmila Egorova-Farines, its newly hired compliance officer and ethics manager, to investigate the management of a subsidiary in Arles in southern France. In less than a week, she discovered that the company had paid bribes to win contracts.

“I uncovered the practices within a few days,” Egorova- Farines says. “They were not hidden at all.”
She immediately notified her supervisors in the U.S. A week later, Wichita, Kansas-based Koch Industries dispatched an investigative team to look into her findings, Bloomberg Markets magazine reports in its November issue.

By September of that year, the researchers had found evidence of improper payments to secure contracts in six countries dating back to 2002, authorized by the business director of the company’s Koch-Glitsch affiliate in France.

“Those activities constitute violations of criminal law,” Koch Industries wrote in a Dec. 8, 2008, letter giving details of its findings. The letter was made public in a civil court ruling in France in September 2010; the document has never before been reported by the media.

Egorova-Farines wasn’t rewarded for bringing the illicit payments to the company’s attention. Her superiors removed her from the inquiry in August 2008 and fired her in June 2009, calling her incompetent, even after Koch’s investigators substantiated her findings. She sued Koch-Glitsch in France for wrongful termination.
Obsessed with Secrecy

'Pinocchio effect': Lying sends nose-tip temperature soaring: scientists

Telling a lie may not make your nose grow like Pinocchio but it does send its temperature soaring, according to Spanish scientists. A rise in anxiety will see the tip of the nose heat up - while making a 'great mental effort' will help in cooling it down - says the University of Granada's Emilio Gómez Milán and Elvira Salazar López.  READ MORE

The GOP's Voter Suppression Strategy

(AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)  

ALEC Exposed: The Koch Connection

This article is part of a Nation series exposing the American Legislative Exchange Council, in collaboration with the Center For Media and Democracy. John Nichols introduces the series.

Hundreds of ALEC’s model bills and resolutions bear traces of Koch DNA: raw ideas that were once at the fringes but that have been carved into “mainstream” policy through the wealth and will of Charles and David Koch. Of all the Kochs’ investments in right-wing organizations, ALEC provides some of the best returns: it gives the Kochs a way to make their brand of free-market fundamentalism legally binding.

No one knows how much the Kochs have given ALEC in total, but the amount likely exceeds $1 million—not including a half-million loaned to ALEC when the group was floundering. ALEC gave the Kochs its Adam Smith Free Enterprise Award, and Koch Industries has been one of the select members of ALEC’s corporate board for almost twenty years. The company’s top lobbyist was once ALEC’s chairman. As a result, the Kochs have shaped legislation touching every state in the country. Like ideological venture capitalists, the Kochs have used ALEC as a way to invest in radical ideas and fertilize them with tons of cash.

Take environmental protections. The Kochs have a penchant for paying their way out of serious violations and coming out ahead. Helped by Koch Industries’ lobbying efforts, one of the first measures George W. Bush signed into law as governor of Texas was an ALEC model bill giving corporations immunity from penalties if they tell regulators about their own violation of environmental rules. Dozens of other ALEC bills would limit environmental regulations or litigation in ways that would benefit Koch.
ALEC’s model legislation reflects parts of the Kochs’ agenda that have little to do with oil profits. Long before ALEC started pushing taxpayer-subsidized school vouchers, for example, the Koch fortune was already underwriting attacks on public education. David Koch helped inject the idea of privatizing public schools into the national debate as a candidate for vice president in 1980. A cornerstone of the Libertarian Party platform, which he bankrolled, was the call for “educational tax credits to encourage alternatives to public education,” a plan to the right of Ronald Reagan. Several pieces of ALEC’s model legislation echo this plan.  READ MORE

Friday, November 23, 2012

One-Party Control Opens States to Partisan Rush

Though the Nov. 6 election maintained divided government in Washington, the picture is starkly different in capitals from California to Florida: one party will hold the governor’s office and majorities in both legislative chambers in at least 37 states, the largest number in 60 years and a significant jump from even two years ago.

“For quite a period of time, people were voting for divided government because they wanted compromise, middle ground,” said State Senator Thomas M. Bakk, the minority leader — and soon to be majority leader — in Minnesota. Democrats there seized control of both legislative chambers, creating single-party rule in St. Paul for the first time in more than two decades. “But they’ve come to realize that compromise is getting awfully hard to accomplish. The parties have gotten too rigid. Maybe this whole experiment with voting for divided government is starting to wane. I think that’s what happened here.”
Twenty-four states will be controlled by Republicans, including Alaska and Wisconsin, where the party took the State Senate, and North Carolina, where the governorship changed hands. At least 13 states will be Democratic, including Colorado, Minnesota and Oregon, where control of the legislatures shifted, and California, where the already dominant Democrats gained a supermajority in both chambers. (The situation in New York, where the potential for single-party control by the Democrats rests on the makeup of the Senate, is still uncertain.)

Power will be split in, at most, 12 capitals — the fewest, said Tim Storey of the National Conference of State Legislatures, since 1952.

So while President Obama and Republican leaders in Washington have made postelection hints of an openness to compromise, many in the states may see no such need.

“The fact is, they can do whatever they want now,” Chris Larson, the Democrats’ newly chosen Senate minority leader in Wisconsin, said of the Republicans in his state. He noted, glumly, that they have been holding planning meetings behind closed doors since the election.  READ MORE

"How Racist Are You?" | part 1 | Jane Elliott's Brown Eye-Blue Eye Experiment

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Over 13,000 file second criminal complaint against Tepco, Government for Fukushima disaster

16 Nov 2012 

It's been more than a year, but life in Japan is still revolving around the Fukushima disaster and if and how it could have been averted. 

The government's now-defunct Nuclear Safety Commission and officials of Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) were aware of the hazards involved, in case of an earthquake and tsunami. Anger by the way these people in power and position reacted to this knowledge has led to a second mass suit claiming damages. 

More than thirteen thousand people have filed a criminal complaint against Japanese government officials, thirty-three executives of Tokyo Electric Power Co., and experts for their role in the Fukushima nuclear power plant's disaster. 

The complaint outlines professional negligence resulting in deaths and injuries and violation of Japan's environmental laws by emitting substances harmful to human health.  READ MORE

Turkey Labels Israel a 'Terrorist State'

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad lashed out at Turkish
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, seen here in
April 2012, has accused the United Nations of failing to
act over the deadly Israeli air bombardments of Gaza,
calling Israeli a "terrorist state" that "massacres
innocent children".
19 Nov 2012 Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused Israel of being a "terrorist state" on Monday and criticized world powers for supporting the weeklong bombardment of Gaza that has killed more some 115 people, signaling that the three-year-old rift between the countries is deepening. Speaking in Istanbul shortly after returning from Cairo... Mr. Erdogan railed against what he called Western powers' failure to take concerted action to stop bloodshed in Syria. But harsher words were aimed at one-time ally Israel. "Those who speak of Muslims and terror side by side are turning a blind eye when Muslims are massacred en masse," he told a gathering of the Eurasian Islamic Council. "Those who turn a blind eye to discrimination toward Muslims in their own countries, are also closing their eyes to the savage massacre of innocent children in Gaza... Therefore, I say Israel is a terrorist state."  READ MORE

Back on Hill, Ryan Remains a Fiscal Force

Representative Paul D. Ryan, in Washington last week,
resumes his post as the House Budget Committee chairman.
WASHINGTON — Gone is the private jet and the motorcade that swept him from the tarmac to the private hotel entrances. His security staff has been reduced to a few Capitol Police officers, soon to fade away. Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin is back to driving his own truck back home, and walking to the House floor here for votes alone, like everyone else.

But while the campaign trappings and the high profile of the national campaign are behind him, Mr. Ryan now finds himself at the center of one of the biggest fiscal negotiations in a generation
Speaker John A. Boehner has tapped Mr. Ryan, who has returned to his post as the House Budget Committee chairman after an unsuccessful run for vice president, to help strike a deal to avoid big tax increases and spending cuts by the end of the year, and to bring along fellow Republicans.
“He helps us toward creating a product,” said Senator Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio, “and he helps sell the product.” 

The test will be whether Mr. Ryan — who declined last year to sit on another Congressional committee charged with taming the deficit, in large part because doing so might have hurt his prospects for national office — can make the transition from House budget philosopher to governing heavyweight who can help negotiate a bipartisan deal and sell it to his colleagues.  READ MORE

Why Cell Phones Went Dead After Hurricane Sandy

15 Nov 2012 After Hurricane Sandy, survivors needed, in addition to safety and power, the ability to communicate. Yet in parts of New York City, mobile communications services were knocked out for days. 

The problem? The companies that provide them had successfully resisted Federal Communications Commission calls to make emergency preparations, leaving New Yorkers to rely on the carriers' voluntary efforts. 

We have so far heard few details about why the companies made the particular business choices they did on backup power and what the consequences of those choices were, because the FCC has been blocked from asking -- even though about a third of people rely on mobile service as their only voice-communications connection.

Faster than NATO, France ends Afghan combat role

AP foreign,

Associated Press= PARIS (AP) — France on Tuesday ended its combat operations in Afghanistan, pulling hundreds of troops from a base in a volatile region northeast of Kabul and fulfilling promises to end its combat role on a faster track than other NATO allies.
After a handover ceremony with Afghan troops, 500 French combat soldiers in trucks and armored vehicles left the Nijrab base in the Kapisa region — where anti-government insurgents have been active — and traveled southwest to Kabul, the capital, said Col. Thierry Burkhard, a French military spokesman.
"This is the end of combat operations," Burkhard told The Associated Press, adding that the withdrawal went smoothly. "It's the end of support operations for the Afghan National Army because we have no more troops who can deploy in such a role."
France was once one of the largest contributors to the NATO mission in Afghanistan, with a peak deployment of 4,000 troops — though far smaller than the tens of thousands of U.S. troops there. Since mid-2008, French forces were deployed in Kapisa, a crescent-shaped and strategic region along mountains between Kabul and the Pakistani border.  READ MORE

Globe Risks 'Cataclysmic Changes' >From Warming, World Bank Says

19 Nov 2012 The globe risks "cataclysmic changes" caused by extreme heatwaves, rising seas and depleted food stocks as it heads toward global warming of 4 degrees Celsius this century, according to a World Bank report. Current national pledges to reduce greenhouse gases won't do much to change the current trajectory of temperatures, which are set to rise by about double the United Nations target of 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100, the scientific study e-mailed by the World Bank shows today. That level of warming threatens to cause sea levels to rise by a meter (3 feet) or more by 2100, flooding cities in nations from Mexico to Mozambique and the Philippines, according to the study.  READ MORE

Senate bill rewrite lets feds read your e-mail without warrants

Proposed law scheduled for a vote next week originally increased Americans' e-mail privacy. Then law enforcement complained. Now it increases government access to e-mail and other digital files. by Declan McCullagh November 20, 2012 4:00 AM PST Senate bill, quietly rewritten, allows feds to read e-mail without warrants 20 Nov 2012 A Senate proposal touted as protecting Americans' e-mail privacy has been quietly rewritten, giving government agencies more surveillance power than they possess under current law. CNET has learned that Patrick Leahy, the influential Democratic chairman of the Senate Judiciary committee, has dramatically reshaped his legislation in response to law enforcement concerns. A vote on his bill, which now authorizes warrantless access to Americans' e-mail, is scheduled for next week. Leahy's rewritten bill would allow more than 22 agencies -- including the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Communications Commission -- to access Americans' e-mail, Google Docs files, Facebook wall posts, and Twitter direct messages without a search warrant. It also would give the FBI and Homeland Security more authority, in some circumstances, to gain full access to Internet accounts without notifying either the owner or a judge. READ MORE

Monday, November 19, 2012

10 Reasons the GOP Is Really Messed Up -- According to Republicans

Karl Rove uses white board on 'The O'Reilly Factor'
to illustrate his polling theory.
It's too right-wing. Or not conservative enough. It could be the contempt for voters, or being the Party of Stupid. One thing's for sure: Everybody hates Karl Rove.
November 18, 2012

Just as the Republican Party might have contemplated an end to its wound-licking (the better to gin up its scandal-making machine for President Barack Obama’s second term), vanquished Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney proved to be -- for liberals, at least -- the gift that keeps on giving.
The president, Romney told a group of campaign donors on a November 14 conference call, won re-election by promising free stuff to his homeboys and women’s libbers and brown people who inconveniently declined to self-deport -- or words to that effect.

“What the president -- president's campaign did was focus on certain members of his base coalition, give them extraordinary financial gifts from the government,” Romney told his fat cats, apparently unaware that reporters were listening in.     READ MORE

The Death Toll of Watergate

By Robert Parry, Consortium News
18 November 12

epublicans are fond of comparing their scandal-mongering - like the current hype over the terrorist assault on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya - with genuine scandals, like Watergate, which sank Richard Nixon's second term, and Iran-Contra, which marred Ronald Reagan's last two years in office. The GOP's false equivalence represents both an effort to puff up their latest accusations against Democrats and an attempt to minimize the misconduct of those two Republican presidents. For instance, one favorite GOP comment about Benghazi is: "No one died at Watergate. Four brave Americans died in Benghazi."

This apples-and-oranges sophistry misses the point that Watergate and Iran-Contra were complex conspiracies that required intensive investigations to unravel their secrets (many of which remain hidden or in dispute to this day) while the Benghazi affair boils down to an easily resolved question as to why the U.S. intelligence community withheld some of the details in the immediate aftermath of the attack last Sept. 11.

The answers seem to be that the Benghazi consulate had evolved into a CIA base for secret operations and that U.S. intelligence didn't want to tip off the attack's perpetrators regarding how much the agency knew about their identities. So, the word "extremists" replaced specific groups and the CIA affiliation of two slain Americans was withheld.

By contrast, the history of Watergate is still substantially misunderstood even by supposed experts.

Tweet #PatchRebuilds to Help Hurricane Sandy Survivors

Patch will make a $1 donation to AmeriCares for every tweet
with the hashtag #PatchRebuilds.

You can help rebuild communities that were hit byHurricane Sandy by donating cans of food, volunteering for cleanup efforts—or simply sending a tweet.
Patch is excited to announce our new effort to help support devestated communities after the storm. For every tweet sent with the hashtag #PatchRebuilds, we will donate $1 to theAmeriCares Hurricane Sandy Disaster Relief Fund, up to $125,000.
Your contribution will go toward medical and humanitarian aid, grants and programs to help Sandy survivors.
You can simply tweet the hashtag #PatchRebuilds, or go to our Patch Rebuilds, and tweet directly from the site.
A customized tweet that starts “My heart belongs to…” is created from the Patch Rebuilds website, and tweeters can type in an area they are most connected to that was hit by Hurricane Sandy.
Help Patch spread the word about this initiative! Send the URL to friends and family, and don't forget tosend a tweet for Patch's $1 donation!    READ MORE

Sunday, November 18, 2012

5 Dumbest States in America

By Jerry Kronenberg

11/16/12 - 04:12 PM EST

BOSTON (TheStreet) -- Minnesota residents are at the top of the class when it comes to educational achievement -- but South Carolinians get an "F," we have found. 

A look at four educational factors -- average SAT math scores, percentage of citizens with high-school diplomas, how many young people attend college and how many high schoolers watch too much TV -- reveals wide variations among U.S. states.

For instance, just 8.2% of residents in first-place Minnesota lack high-school educations -- roughly half of the 15.9% rate in last-place South Carolina. Similarly, 80.4% of Minnesota's 18- to 24-year-olds are enrolled in college, compared with just 49.9% of similarly aged South Carolinians.

Boston College education professor Ana Martinez-Aleman attributes much of the variations to a single factor -- how much money states spend on public schools.

"There's a cause-and-effect relationship between school funding and educational achievement," says Martinez-Aleman, who also serves as editor of the scholarly publication Educational Policy Journal. (URL = The expert says some states have long showered their secondary-school and public-university systems with big bucks, while others have made funding about as hard to come by as an "A" in calculus.

"Public-school funding is primarily derived from property taxes, and [state and local governments] determine property-tax rates," she says. "The lower your revenue stream, the lower your ability to fund education."    READ MORE