Jun 28 2017

Grenfell and the Failure of Unenforced Regulations

This piece from the BBC is about the Grenfell fire but as you read it I want you to think about the many instances in the United States where we have failed to hold Corporations and their officers accountable for clear violations of laws and regulations.

It is virtually unheard of for any except the lowest level flunky to even be fired, much less fined or imprisoned, for the most criminal of actions, and any financial penalty for the business is typically a minuscule fraction of the ill-gotten gains. Why fix a dashboard that decapitates its victims in a crash when it’s much cheaper to just accept the settlements as a cost of doing business (Unsafe At Any Speed in case you’ve forgotten)?

Indeed the most likely outcome is for the CEO’s compensation to increase since they have shown such an admirable ruthlessness in pursuit of profit (which is supposed to be distributed among the shareholders, Corporate Democracy!, but more frequently is hoarded or diverted into stock buybacks and other dubious financial schemes).

Anyway, a case study in how things go pear shaped.

Why do England’s high-rises keep failing fire tests?
by Chris Cook, BBC
27 June 2017

Over the past week, the government has been testing high-rise tower blocks in England owned by councils and housing associations. All 95 of those tested so far have been discovered to be covered with an aluminium “rain-screen” exterior cladding that does not meet the required combustibility standards. You would be right to ask: how on earth can this have happened?

The short answer is: the organisations responsible for maintaining standards in the building industry have been advising contractors not to take the regulations too literally.

(The) loose-sounding term – “limited combustibility” – actually has a precise definition, set out later in that document. Broadly, though, all you need to know it basically won’t catch alight. And material meeting this requirement in tests will get a combustibility grade of “A2” or better.

That is the standard against which the government has been testing cladding. A government spokesperson said “a test failure means that the cladding does not meet the requirements for limited combustibility in current Building Regulations”. That is to say, a failure means a breach of the official rulebook.

Why, then, have builders installed so much sub-A2 cladding?

The first thing to know is that local officials no longer run all building inspections. England has a so-called “Approved Inspector” regime. Contractors must no longer wait for a local authority official to check their work. Instead, they may hire people to check their construction processes meet the required standards. There is no single regulator – or arm of government – directly upholding standards.

Second, the most important requirement in the building regulations is to build a safe building. So long as you do that, the fine print of the rules does not much matter too much. That is why, when inspectors sign off sites, they do not feel the need to work directly from the government’s own guidelines. And the guidelines set out by government are rather old, and cannot specify everything in all circumstances.

That has left a gap into which esteemed sector bodies have stepped. Their umbrella organisation – the Building Control Alliance (BCA) – has issued advice about how to get a building signed off as compliant without using the type of materials specified in the government guidelines.

And it is the case that, in the event of some prosecutions or a civil case, breaching the government’s guidance would count as a serious strike against a builder. But it would also be the case that following widely accepted professional practise and BCA guidance would also constitute a defence in a suit for negligence and grounds for mitigation in a criminal prosecution.

The problem is that this BCA guidance does not just suggest ways of making new technology fit the old rules. It introduces loopholes. The net effect of the sector bodies’ guidance is to set weaker standards than the government’s rulebook.

For example, the BCA’s guidance in force when the Grenfell renovation took place was issued in July 2014, and it stated that there were several routes to getting a building ready for sign off by an inspector. “Option 1” was just to follow the Approved Document B route: just make sure everything you bolt to the outside of the building is of grade A2 or better.

There were other routes, though, to allow the use of sub-A2 components. Option 2 is to hold a bespoke fire test. So you rig up a wall in a test centre with your proposed cladding design – which might include some sub-A2 components – and try to set it on fire. If it passes the test, you can get certified so that inspectors will sign off this system, even if component parts on their own would not pass.

Option 3 is for a so-called “desktop study”. If I have conducted tests of a cladding product in a few different scenarios, then I might not need to bother with a new fire test. I can convince inspectors to sign it off by hiring an expert who will say “based on these results, I am confident that this cladding is safe in this context” without doing any further trials.

There are problems with all of this: it has allowed substandard material through. It is a deeply opaque process. We do not know when desktop studies get used. We do not know how many attempts, for example, a product might take to pass a fire test. We do not know who writes these desktop studies. They are not lodged anywhere so that people living in these buildings can go and check on them.

The National House Builders’ Council (NHBC) is a big player in building inspection. Last year, they issued guidance which states that you can use a variety of sub-A2 insulation boards with B-grade external cladding – and you can do all of that without even a desktop study.

That effectively means that a sector body has unilaterally decided that largely using B-grade material is now sufficient, not A2. NHBC themselves state that “this is on the basis of NHBC having reviewed a significant quantity of data from a range of tests and desktop assessments.”

NHBC also added that they were confident their own inspectors would have spotted and prevented the use of the plastic-core cladding that was used at Grenfell (with which they were not involved). But they have conceded there is at least one such polyethylene-core cladding product that meets the B-grade standard.

The NHBC also believes materials can be used more widely than their own manufacturers do. Take one of the insulation materials that the NHBC mention by name: Celotex RS 5000, the insulation used at Grenfell Tower. According to documents issued by the manufacturer, this board was only tested for use with A2-grade external cladding. The NHBC says it can be used with B-grade cladding,

We have also identified one type of insulation that, they say. can be used safely with B-grade cladding, which is actually grade C. All in all, the NHBC guidance takes us a long way from that official A2 standard. Although, as the official cladding tests results keep showing, they are hardly alone.

There has been a lot of discussion about sprinklers. But the catastrophe at Grenfell Tower has showed up the weakness of the whole framework in which our building regulations sit. The basis on which we decide whether a tower block is fire-safe is a mess.

Accepted professional practice has systematically reduced the fire resistance of our tall buildings.

Jun 28 2017

Pondering the Pundits

“Pondering the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from> around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Pondering the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Richard Eskow: GOP ‘Health’ Bill: Death, Disaster and Gilded Age Greed

The Republican Senate’s draft health bill differs from the House version, but its basic purpose is the same: Give millionaires and billionaires a massive new tax cut by slashing health benefits for millions of Americans, and take care away altogether from millions more.

People will die if this bill becomes law, but that doesn’t seem to trouble the Republicans’ conscience. The only thing they seem to fear is losing their jobs. That’s why this bill was written in unprecedented secrecy. That’s why it, like the House version, obfuscates and misdirects to conceal its true goals.

Robert Reich: It’s Time for Medicare for All

Mitch McConnell is delaying a vote on the Senate Republican version of Trumpcare because he doesn’t yet have a majority.

Some Senate Republicans think the bill doesn’t go get rid of enough of the Affordable Care Act. Others worry that it goes too far – especially in light of the Congressional Budget Office’s finding that it would eliminate coverage for 22 million Americans.

What should be the Democrats’ response? Over the next weeks or months, Democrats must continue to defend the Affordable Care Act. It’s not perfect, but it’s a major step in the right direction. Over 20 million Americans have gained coverage because of it.

But Democrats also need to go further and offer Americans a positive vision of where the nation should be headed over the long term. That’s toward Medicare for all.

Read the rest of this entry »

Jun 28 2017

The Breakfast Club (Bad Taste)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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This Day in History

An assassination in Europe sparks World War I; Elian Gonzalez and his father leave for Cuba; Boxer Mike Tyson disqualified for biting Evander Holyfield’s ear; Richard Rodgers and Mel Brooks born.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

Bad taste is simply saying the truth before it should be said.

Mel Brooks

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Jun 27 2017

Get Out The Vote!

Not that I’m suggesting any parallels but…

HELL YES I’M SUGGESTING PARALLELS!

It bears to keep in mind that Jim Messina, former Obama strategist, is the Tory darling and a complete and utter failure.

How the Tory election machine fell apart
by Andy Beckett, The Guardian
Monday 26 June 2017

In September 2015, a few months after the Conservatives had won that year’s general election, more comfortably than even their most optimistic supporters had hoped, a veteran Tory politician and journalist was waiting to appear on a BBC radio show. Still smiling about the election, he was in expansive mood. The party’s targeting of voters had become so precise, he told me, thanks to the latest marketing software, that it would take Labour many years to catch up.

During this year’s general election, as in 2015, Tory activists across Britain were supplied with computer-generated lists of amenable voters by Conservative campaign headquarters in London. But this time, many canvassers got a shock when they knocked on doors. “The data was only 65% accurate,” says a local Tory organiser who has worked in the party’s heartlands in southern England for decades. “In the marginals, it was less than 50%.” In some cases, canvassers were accidentally sent to the addresses of activists for rival parties. The organiser says: “I despair of our national campaign.”

The idea that the Conservatives are good at general elections is one of the least-challenged conventional wisdoms of British politics. A large and loyal core vote; copious party funds; flexible beliefs; disciplined campaign messaging; slick presentation; an utter lack of squeamishness about going negative; the relentless support of most of the press; an ability to portray opponents as alien to Britain, to game the electoral system and to set the terms of political debate; and the pervasive belief that the Tories, whether you like them or not, are somehow the natural party of government – these ingredients, it has been said for decades, add up to a political magic formula, one of the most potent in any democracy.

Yet in the 2017 election, it failed spectacularly. An anticipated landslide, imagined by some Tories and their media cheerleaders as the largest since their near-annihilation of Labour in 1931, turned in a few weeks into no majority at all – and a deep sense of Tory foreboding about the underlying direction of British politics, and about the next general election, widely expected in Westminster to come suddenly and soon.

But for Tories to blame their bad election on a few individuals is too convenient. The uncomfortable truth for Conservatives, rarely acknowledged, is that their supposedly all-conquering party has not won a substantial general election victory since Thatcher’s final landslide 30 years ago. Since then, the party has sneaked a small majority in 1992, suffered heavy defeats in 1997, 2001 and 2005, been frustrated by a hung parliament in 2010, eked out another small majority in 2015, and been disappointed by another hung parliament in 2017. Labour’s internal battles and erratic electoral performance over the same period, always eagerly covered by the media, have distracted attention from this long Tory struggle. To adapt a famous Tory slogan from the 70s, Conservatism isn’t working at elections.

Occasionally during recent elections, prominent Conservatives have warned their party not to be too negative. In February 2015, May was asked at an event for Tory women whether parliamentary candidates should concentrate on positive themes or on voters’ “fear” of a Labour government. She replied: “I’m a great believer … in running a positive campaign. I think what people want to know is, what would you do for them?”

During David Cameron’s leadership, upbeat Conservative campaigning briefly returned. In the 2010 election, the slogan on the side of his cheerily multicoloured campaign bus was “Vote For Change”. But the campaign was disorganised, with no clear chain of command, and Cameron’s talk of national renewal became obscured by bleak Tory messages about the national deficit. The party failed to convert a dominant opinion poll position into a proper win.

Ever since, the Conservatives have reverted in elections to being what May once called “the nasty party”, egged on by their ever more aggressive allies-cum-overlords in the tabloids. The 2017 election saw Labour-bashing in the Sun and the Daily Mail that was even shriller and more repetitive than usual, page after predictable page on which the views of rightwing journalists and proprietors and Tory attack dogs such as Michael Fallon and Boris Johnson were indistinguishable. That the Conservatives won 42% of the vote, their highest share in a general election since 1983, and yet still did not get a Commons majority, showed the limits of this approach. Voters, far from being scared away from Labour, instead chose it in such great numbers, giving it a 40% share, its best since 2001, that the result was electoral deadlock.

“It’s a very long time since Britain lived under anything like socialism,” says Paul Goodman, editor of the influential Tory website ConservativeHome. “There probably hasn’t been a leftwing government since the 1945 [Labour] one. So it’s getting harder and harder to convince young people, especially, that socialism is a threat.” Many younger voters, not being newspaper readers, barely register all the tabloids’ anti-Labour coverage. Goodman says: “Tories have to ask quite soberly whether their campaign model is out of date.”

They have tried to modernise it twice since the 90s. The first, ongoing effort has relied on software based on the Mosaic database system, used by businesses to identify and attract different categories of consumer. In 2004, a senior Conservative told this newspaper, “We have a new tool. It is something we have borrowed from the US”, a favoured source of campaign innovations for the Tories and Labour alike. “If you know what people’s social characteristics are, it is not too difficult to identify how they will vote.”

Such a hi-tech approach is appealing to a party that is losing its deeper connections to British society. “In 1952, the Tory party had two and three-quarter million members,” says Geoffrey Wheatcroft, author of The Strange Death of Tory England. “Now it has about 100,000.” Andrew Kennedy, a Conservative agent in Kent since 1992, says: “When I started, there were 400 professional campaign organisers across the country. Now we are down to about 60.”

Since the 90s, the Conservatives have become less attuned to social change than in their Thatcherite heyday. Britain’s expanding populations of university-educated urban liberals, recently arrived migrants and racial minorities have received, at best, occasional Tory attention during elections, and sometimes barely disguised hostility. Kennedy says this incuriosity has been a mistake: “In elections, you need to look for votes where they are not expected.” The liberal Tory journalist Iain Dale agrees: “If you want to be a national party, you need to be curious about all parts of the country.”

Instead, in 2005, the Conservatives hired Lynton Crosby. He had a formidable record in Australia of winning elections for the rightwing Liberal party. In 2013, he explained his methods at a little-noticed British charity event: “In every campaign, there are really three targets: there’s your base; then there’s the swing group; and then there’s the anti [group], who you have limited chance of ever persuading.” Crosby’s approach was “to lock your base in first”, then to concentrate on “the swing group” in marginal constituencies, and essentially to write off “the antis”.

In some ways, all the Conservatives’ electioneering initiatives over the past 25 years feel like short-term fixes, for a party that has still not worked out how to present itself for the long term, given the spread of social liberalism, and the gradual seeping away of public confidence in the Thatcherite dream of the free market, a process greatly accelerated by the 2008 financial crisis. Goodman says: “The Conservatives haven’t tried to educate the public about their core beliefs for a long time, probably not since Thatcher’s time. And the landscape has changed for capitalism since then. Capitalism isn’t producing the well-paid blue-collar and white-collar jobs in the numbers it was.” Or as Dale puts it: “People think there is something deeply wrong with the economy, and they think it is something to do with the Conservatives.”

Labour’s own electioneering challenges – how to hold together and further widen its broad coalition of supporters; how to win next time as possible favourites, rather than exceed low expectations as underdogs; and how to keep its hordes of optimistic activists energised if it doesn’t win – mean that the Conservatives are likely to have plenty of opportunities in general elections to come. But if they are ever to recover the electoral dominance they enjoyed under Thatcher, and for long stretches of British political history before that, better campaigning may not be enough. Goodman says: “We need something big in policy … something to shift the balance between rich and poor, or between the north and south. We need to get our next manifesto right before we worry about the machine to deliver it.” Gallingly for Conservatives, that sounds rather like how Corbyn’s Labour party does things.

Jun 27 2017

More Bi-Partisan Follies

So the breaking news is that Mitch McConnell is going to have to admit defeat on his plan to steal $800 Billion from the poor, sick, and elderly to give to the wealthiest 1% as Tax Cuts since he can’t muster even 50 votes of his 52 to advance this abortion (why yes, I did choose that word deliberately to piss off and inflame the flat earth ignorant pro-life Dominionists that populate the ranks of the Republican Party).

Yet even in this moment of… triumph? try disaster aversion, the calls are already going out among the Versailles Villagers that now is the time to reach out to the reliably spineless Democrats, after having humiliated and slandered them at every opportunity, since, as we all know, Obamacare is an abject failure. “The ball is now in their court to bring us much needed reforms.”

Actually they have a point. Obamacare is an abject failure in that it leaves intact the Big Insurance, Big Pharma, Big Hospital, Medical Device, and Testing monopolies and even guarantees them a 20% profit. That’s not Health Care- that’s usury.

Waste, Fraud, and Abuse. Well, what about it? Medicare is 97% efficient (umm… 17% higher than 80% Obamacare). Their score is dragged down by the scam Medical Device Industry which is mostly a mechanism to swindle senile old people. Medicaid is even better, 99% efficiency.

Personally I think the minimum is Medicare for all and the aspirational goal Medicaid.

I know people on Medicaid, let me tell you what it’s like. Depending on the severity of their condition (just for hahas let’s call it Cancer in Remission) they get at least 4 Doctor consultations a year, 2 with their Specialist and 2 with their Primary Care, with other specialists called in as needed (Cataracts, Macular Degeneration? Sure.). They also have imaging and blood tests as medically required and all necessary medications supplied at low or no co-pays.

Oh, and they also get mental health care (that’s how I know them, through Group) to help them deal with the fact that THEY’RE DYING!

I suppose you might call that rational depression and anxiety, but hey- I also have SAD and neuroses and phobias so I win the sick off.

They’re also dirt poor. I mean shopping at Goodwill for everything except underwear poor. I mean Ramen every night except Sundays when you can treat yourself to one item off the Value Menu poor. I mean feature phone by the minute, basic cable poor.

Oh they have a TV and a Fridge and an Air Conditioner (all from Goodwill) and they don’t live under a bridge but in a subsidized death trap (not as crime ridden as you might think, mostly just people trying to survive) fighting the rats and roaches for their Ramen and hoping some random electrical failure doesn’t light up the whole place like a match. It is a true thing to say that there are starving children in oh… Yemen or Somalia for instance who would find this the the height of luxury, because, hey, you don’t have people actively trying to kill you with 500 pound bombs, just the random stray bullet and a bathtub is a fine place to sleep.

Can’t they do the moral thing and get a job (or at least die quickly)? It’s remarkable how tight the employment market is for someone who, at any time, could just keel over dead (ruins productivity for the hour or so it takes the EMTs to strap your corpse to a gurney and cart it out the door) or worse, get on the company health plan just in time to get sick again and spend weeks absent vomiting in a bucket after chemo or radiation and drive the rates up for EVERYBODY!

Selfish bastards.

So will Institutional Democrats act to save the Republican Party from itself? Let us hope the past is not predictive of the future. After Nixon, after W the Republicans were in shambles, Democrats could have driven them onto the ash heap of History, a fate they richly deserve. Instead they saved them. Out of charity?

Without Republicans which evil would they be the lesser of?

Jun 27 2017

Pondering the Pundits

“Pondering the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from> around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Pondering the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

David Leonhardt: A Vote of Conscience and Courage

Forget for a minute about partisan labels and listen to members of the United States Senate talk about why they work in politics.

Rob Portman talks about a 16-year-old constituent who died of a drug overdose — and about honoring his life by fighting drug use. Lisa Murkowski talks about protecting children from fetal alcohol disorders, and Lamar Alexander speaks about premature babies.

There are many more stories like these, and they’re not only for show. They reflect deeply held beliefs that senators have about themselves.

Republican or Democrat, they see themselves as public servants — their preferred term for politicians — trying to make life better for their fellow Americans. Sure, when they’re being honest, they admit that they enjoy the power and perks. But even with all of the cynicism Washington engenders, senators still take pride in the high ideals of politics.

This week, these senators will face a career-defining choice.

Eugene Robinson: Is the GOP trying to repeal and replace itself?

This is a week to keep focused on the most urgent question in domestic policy and politics: Will Republicans snatch health insurance from millions of Americans and slash the vital Medicaid program by $770 billion , all to enable massive tax cuts for the wealthy and powerful?

Plenty of other news is vying for attention. President Trump spent Monday morning venting on Twitter about how President Barack Obama did “NOTHING about Russia” and its election meddling — despite Trump’s frequent claims that the whole Russia controversy is “fake news” and a Democratic Party “hoax.” The Supreme Court has agreed to rule on Trump’s travel ban, which lower courts have deemed unconstitutional; and to decide whether business owners who claim religious objections to same-sex marriage can refuse to provide goods or services for gay couples’ weddings.

There’s much to say about all of those topics, and there will be occasions to say it. But meanwhile Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is trying to ram through legislation that would return us to the days when hard-working families had to choose between seeing a doctor and paying the rent — legislation that will surely cost lives.

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Jun 27 2017

The Breakfast Club (Jesse James)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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AP’s Today in History for June 27th

U.S. air and naval forces ordered into the Korean War; John Dean testifies about the Nixon White House’s ‘enemies list’; Stonewall riots spark the modern gay rights movement; Actor Jack Lemmon dies.

 

Breakfast Tune Pete Seeger Jesse James

 

Something to think about, Breakfast News & Blogs below

 
Trump travel ban: US supreme court partially lifts block on order
Oliver Laughland, The Guardian

The US supreme court handed a partial victory to the Trump administration on Monday as it lifted significant elements of lower court orders blocking the president’s controversial travel ban targeting visa applicants from six Muslim-majority countries.

The nation’s highest court said the 90-day ban on visitors from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, along with a 120-day suspension of the US refugee resettlement program, could be enforced against those who lack a “credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States”.

The ruling now paves the way for parts of the ban to come into effect over the summer as experts say it could lead to more scenes of chaos at airports around the country amid confusion around precisely what qualifies as a “bona fide relationship” with the US. …

 
PROMINENT DEMOCRATIC FUNDRAISERS REALIGN TO LOBBY FOR TRUMP’S AGENDA
Lee Fang, The Intercept

AFTER PRESIDENT DONALD Trump’s upset election victory, Democratic insiders who worked on Hillary Clinton’s failed presidential bid weren’t necessarily relegated to the sidelines. Many, in fact, are cashing in as lobbyists — by working to advance Trump’s agenda.

Lobbying records show that some Democratic fundraisers, who raised record amounts of campaign cash for Clinton, are now retained by top telecom interests to help repeal the strong net neutrality protections established during the Obama administration.

Others are working on behalf of for-profit prisons on detention issues, while others still are paid to help corporate interests pushing alongside Trump to weaken financial regulations. At least one prominent Clinton backer is working for a health insurance company on a provision that was included in the House Republican bill to gut the Affordable Care Act. …

 
Brazil’s president, Michel Temer, charged with corruption
Reuters in Brasilia

Brazil’s top federal prosecutor has charged President Michel Temer with taking multimillion-dollar bribes in a stinging blow to the unpopular leader and to political stability in Latin America’s largest country.

Rodrigo Janot submitted the charge to the supreme court, saying “he fooled Brazilian citizens” and owed the nation millions in compensation for accepting bribes.

Under Brazilian law, the lower house of Congress must now vote on whether to allow the top tribunal to try the conservative leader, who replaced Dilma Rousseff just over a year ago when she was impeached. …

 
Google will stop scanning content of personal emails
Alex Hern, The Guardian

Google will stop scanning the content of emails sent by Gmail users in an attempt to reassure business customers of the confidentiality of their communications.

The company did read the emails in personal Gmail accounts in order to target users with personalised adverts but said in a blogpost it would stop doing so in order to “more closely align” its business and consumer products. Its business offering, part of G Suite, has never involved scanning emails.

“G Suite’s Gmail is already not used as input for ads personalisation,” wrote Diane Greene, the senior vice president in charge of Google Cloud. “Google has decided to follow suit later this year in our free consumer Gmail service. Consumer Gmail content will not be used or scanned for any ads personalisation after this change.” …

 
THE PENTAGON SAYS ONE CIVILIAN DIED IN DRONE STRIKE ON SYRIAN MOSQUE. WITNESSES SAY IT KILLED DOZENS.
Murtaza Hussain, Rajaai Bourhan, The Intercept

EARLIER THIS MONTH, the Pentagon announced the results of an internal review into a U.S. drone attack on a mosque in a village in Syria. There had been allegations that at least 38 people, all of them civilians, had been killed in the March 16 attack, but the Pentagon review upheld the Defense Department’s initial statement that it had targeted an Al Qaeda meeting. Only one person — “small in stature” — may have been a child who was killed, the review found. The strike was “legal.”

Yet by its own admission, the U.S. military did not interview any locals who had actually been at the site of the attack, nor did any U.S. personnel visit the bombing site.

A number of first responders, medical staff, and other witnesses to the strike who spoke to The Intercept maintain that dozens of civilians were killed in the attack, which they said hit a village mosque packed with locals attending an evening service. Describing scenes of carnage that killed both ordinary worshippers and speakers who had come to deliver a lecture, their testimonies directly contradict the U.S. military claim to have hit a gathering of terrorists. …

 
‘Absolutely Devastating’: CBO Predicts 22 Million Less Insured Under Trumpcare
Jake Johnson, Common Dreams

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) on Monday concluded the Senate’s version of Trumpcare would leave 22 million more people uninsured by 2026, a verdict that was immediately characterized as a “devastating” blow to a party scrambling to secure the support necessary to pass the legislation by the end of this week.

The New York Times reported that the bill, if implemented, would have dramatic short-term effects, as well.

“Next year,” the Times noted, “15 million more people would be uninsured compared with current law.” …

 
New study confirms the oceans are warming rapidly
John Abraham, The Guardian

As humans put ever more heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere, the Earth heats up. These are the basics of global warming. But where does the heat go? How much extra heat is there? And how accurate are our measurements? These are questions that climate scientists ask. If we can answer these questions, it will better help us prepare for a future with a very different climate. It will also better help us predict what that future climate will be.

The most important measurement of global warming is in the oceans. In fact, “global warming” is really “ocean warming.” If you are going to measure the changing climate of the oceans, you need to have many sensors spread out across the globe that take measurements from the ocean surface to the very depths of the waters. Importantly, you need to have measurements that span decades so a long-term trend can be established.

These difficulties are tackled by oceanographers, and a significant advancement was presented in a paper just published in the journal Climate Dynamics. That paper, which I was fortunate to be involved with, looked at three different ocean temperature measurements made by three different groups. We found that regardless of whose data was used or where the data was gathered, the oceans are warming. …

 
New U.K. Government Held Together by Fear — of a Prime Minister Jeremy Corbyn
Robert Mackey, The Intercept

AFTER WEEKS OF WRANGLING, Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party agreed on Monday to give Prime Minister Theresa May the votes she needs to stay in office and push through legislation ensuring that the United Kingdom exits the European Union.

While the Democratic Unionist leader, Arlene Foster, spoke of the deal being “in the national interest” of the U.K. as a whole, commentators pointed to what looked like a massive concession to Northern Ireland’s local government — an additional 1 billion pounds in social welfare spending.

The money, though, was probably less important to the D.U.P. than staving off what it sees as a nightmarish alternative: the specter of Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the opposition Labour Party, becoming prime minister.

That’s because the election campaign that just concluded, with a hung Parliament in which no single party holds a majority of seats, kicked off a remarkable surge in popularity for Corbyn. That surge, lifting Corbyn and Labour, has shown no signs of abating since the votes were cast on June 8. …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Something to think about over coffee prozac

Albuquerque TV truck stolen while crew worked on crime story

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — While a television news crew was gathering footage for a story about crime in the Albuquerque downtown area, a thief drove off in the station’s SUV.

The Albuquerque Journal reported the story Friday about the KOB-TV truck.

KOB News Director Michelle Donaldson says the vehicle was recovered within a half hour without police assistance by following the GPS tracking device that was on board.

She says the thief had fled the scene and the SUV was locked with the keys missing.

The crew was in the area reporting on recent concerns about crime and safety.

Donaldson says it’s ironic that KOB became victims of a crime in exactly the area they were reporting about.

She says that violates the rule of never being the lead story of your own newscast.

Jun 26 2017

Zombie Tories

Brains!

So the Tories have thier deal to maintain their tenuous hold on the British govenment. Two votes, 317 Conservatives plus 10 Democratic Unionists (don’t forget they’re anti-Brexit because of the Irish border) give them a bare majority (325 is a tie)

How did they get it? Good old fashioned bribery (like their U.S. counterparts MPs are surprisingly cheap, but also like our domestic brand it’s rare to find an honest one that will stay bought).

UK’s May makes deal she needs to govern, but critics abound
By Danica Kirka and Gregory Katz, Associated Press
June 26 , 12:58 PM

Theresa May struck a deal with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party Monday that is designed to give her minority government enough support in Parliament to endorse her legislative agenda later this week.

The move, made necessary by her Conservative Party’s dismal performance in the June 8 election, came with a high cost: May’s government agreed to a massive injection of funds into Northern Ireland in exchange for Democratic Unionist support.

“After weeks of secret backroom negotiations, the Tories have now signed a grubby deal with the DUP,” Scottish National Party member Ian) Blackford said. “For years, the Tories have been cutting budgets and services, but suddenly they have found a magic money tree to help them stay in power.”

The package includes 1 billion pounds ($1.27 billion) of new funding and 500 million pounds ($638 million) of previously announced funds to help Northern Ireland develop its infrastructure, health services and schools.

Opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said the agreement suits May’s wish to stay in power but does little for the country.

“Where is the money for the Tory-DUP deal coming from?” the Labour leader asked. “And, will all parts of the U.K. receive the much-needed additional funding that Northern Ireland will get as part of the deal?”

It also provides 200 million pounds ($255 million) over two years to better Northern Ireland’s health service, 100 million pounds ($127 million) for immediate health needs and education. There will be 100 million pounds over five years for poverty programs and 50 million ($64 million) for mental health programs.

“The price of today’s DUP-Tory deal is DUP support for continued Tory austerity and cuts to public services,” (Sinn Fein president Gerry) Adams said. “It provides a blank check for a Tory Brexit which threatens the Good Friday Agreement (which ended the Northern Irish Civil War).”

And it won’t last. By softening her stance on Brexit May has already alienated the Teabagger Brexiteers of her own party who are pushing Boris Johnson for Captain of their sinking ship and all it takes is a single lost vote to force a new election.

Which May would lose in a landslide if it happened tomorrow. Since June 8th Jeremy Corbyn has soared in the polls as the constant negative Media lies and slander have slackened and more and more British start thinking about him as potential Prime Minister material. His “Trotskyite” Manifesto (it means platform, get over it you Red Baiters) is looking like the soul of moderation in comparison to the ravings of the Tories and it doesn’t hurt that in the aftermath of the Grenfell Fire (which killed at least 79 but the counting’s not done yet) May stood isolated by Police in the midst of the carnage while Corbyn visited with survivors and victim’s families (and in case you were wondering, 75 of 75 Housing Projects sampled were fire traps- in real numbers that’s 100%, all directly attributable to Tory/Neo Liberal Austerity Policies).

Heck, Corbyn was the headliner at the Glastonbury music festival which is roughly equivalent to Bernie Sanders (and I hate Sanders comparisons because Jeremy makes Sanders look like a Republican) appearing with Springsteen, Beyonce, and Lady Gaga at Giants’ Stadium and having the billboard read-

One Night! Live!

BERNIE SANDERS!!!

and assorted musical guests

So if you have a thought to spare for the people who brought you King George the Third and the Intolerable Acts, and Impressment and the Burning of Washington D.C. (not to mention having the insufferable gall to plant that much nicer and cleaner country with the good Health Care and beer, Canada, right next to us) I suggest you wish for new elections… soon.

Jun 26 2017

America’s Cup: American Defenders Last Race?

The America’s Cup is down to match point in the latest battle of the billionaires for the trophy, affectionately known as the Auld Cup. The challenger from New Zealand leads the American team 6 – 1 after 8 races in this best of seven match. The race is being held in the turquoise blue waters of Bermuda’s harbor. This is the first time the USA has decided to defend the cup in another country. If New Zealand takes the cup, the next defense will be in Auckland, which, trust me, is one of the most beautiful harbors in the world. It could also lead to a lot of rule changes, including a return to using the more traditional single hull racing boats (YES!).

New Zealand first won the cup in 1995 when then skipper Russel Coutts swept Team USA skippered by Dennis Connor 5 – 0 taking the race to Auckland. Team NZ successfully defended the cup in 200 but, in 2003, Coutts jumped ship, joined the Swiss team Alinghi, and took the cup to Switzerland in a 5 race sweep. In doing so, Alinghi became the first European team in 152 years of the event’s history to win the cup and successfully won in 2007 against New Zealand.

Then in 2010, this happened:

After Société Nautique de Genève successfully defended the trophy in the 32nd America’s Cup, they accepted a challenge from Club Náutico Español de Vela, a Spanish yacht club formed expressly for the purpose of challenging for the cup and keeping the regatta in Valencia. When SNG and CNEV published their protocol for the 33rd America’s Cup, there was criticism over its terms, with some teams and yacht clubs calling it the worst protocol in the history of the event. Golden Gate Yacht Club (GGYC) then filed its own challenge for the cup and also filed a court case asking that CNEV be removed as being unqualified under the deed of gift, and that GGYC be named the challenger, being the first club to file a conforming challenge.

There followed a long and acrimonious legal battle, with the New York Court of Appeals finally deciding on 2 April 2009 that CNEV did not qualify as valid challenger, and that the GGYC was thus the rightful challenger.

Since the two parties were unable to agree otherwise, the match took place as a one-on-one Deed of Gift match with no other clubs or teams participating.

The match was sailed in gigantic, specialized 90 ft (27 m) multihull yachts in a best-of-three race series in Valencia, Spain from 8 to 14 February 2010. The rigid wing sail of the challenging trimaran USA-17 provided a decisive advantage, and it won the 2010 America’s Cup 2–0.

Thus the America’s Cup returned to the USA, just not in it’s traditional spot at the New York Yacht Club in New York City. The cup would now reside at the Golden Gate Yacht Club in San Francisco where the 34th America’s Cup Challenge would take Place and not without controversy.

The Challenger of Record for the 34th America’s Cup was Club Nautico di Roma, whose team Mascalzone Latino had competed in the challenger selection series for the 2007 America’s Cup. In September, 2010, GGYC and Club Nautico di Roma announced the protocol for AC34, scheduling the match for 2013 in a new class of boat, the AC72, a wing-sailed catamaran. Paralleling the “Acts” of the 32nd America’s Cup—a series of preliminary events in different venues leading-up to the actual event—a new series, the America’s Cup World Series was to be run using AC45 class boats (smaller one-design versions of the AC72s), in various world venues in 2011 and 2012.

On 12 May 2011, Club Nautico di Roma withdrew from the competition, citing challenges in raising sufficient funds to field a competitive team. As the second yacht club to file a challenge, the Royal Swedish Yacht Club assumed the duties of the challenger.

Rumors of stable hydrofoiling of an AC72 were confirmed when Team New Zealand’s AC72 yacht Aotearoa was seen to be sailing on hydrofoils in August, 2012. This triggered a technology race in foil development and control. The Royal New Zealand Yacht Club won the right to sail in the America’s Cup match easily beating the Italian and Swedish challengers in the Louis Vuitton Cup. The resulting match between the USA and NZ was the longest on record both in calendar time, and the number of races, with the Golden Gate Yacht Club staging an improbable come-from-behind victory, winning eight straight races to defend the cup and beat New Zealand 9–8.

That brings us to Bermuda and the 35th defense of the Auld Cup which is being raced in 50 foot foiling catamarans. The winds have been light which has favored the Kiwis but after the 2013 USA comeback, who knows. It’s all depends on catching the wind.

Jun 26 2017

Pondering the Pundits

“Pondering the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from> around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Pondering the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Sally Q. Yates: Making America scared again won’t make us safer

In today’s polarized world, there aren’t many issues on which Democrats and Republicans agree. So when they do, we should seize the rare opportunity to move our country forward. One such issue is criminal-justice reform, and specifically the need for sentencing reform for drug offenses.

All across the political spectrum, in red states and blue states, from Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) and the Koch brothers to Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and the American Civil Liberties Union, there is broad consensus that the “lock them all up and throw away the key” approach embodied in mandatory minimum drug sentences is counterproductive, negatively affecting our ability to assure the safety of our communities.

But last month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions rolled back the clock to the 1980s, reinstating the harsh, indiscriminate use of mandatory minimum drug sentences imposed at the height of the crack epidemic. Sessions attempted to justify his directive in a Post op-ed last weekend, stoking fear by claiming that as a result of then-Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.’s Smart on Crime policy, the United States is gripped by a rising epidemic of violent crime that can only be cured by putting more drug offenders in jail for more time.

Robert Reich: Trumpcare isn’t about health. It’s a tax cut for the 1% Trumpcare isn’t about health. It’s a tax cut for the 1%

The Senate’s bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act is not a healthcare bill. It’s a tax cut for the wealthiest Americans, paid for by a dramatic reduction in healthcare funding for approximately 23 million poor, disabled, working and middle-class Americans.

America’s wealthiest taxpayers (earning more than $200,000 a year, $250,000 for couples) would get a tax cut totaling $346bn over 10 years, representing what they save from no longer financing healthcare for lower-income Americans.

That’s not all. The bill would save an additional $400bn on Medicaid, which Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, and Donald Trump are intent on shrinking in order to cut even more taxes for the wealthy and for big corporations.

If enacted, it would be the largest single transfer of wealth to the rich from the middle class and poor in American history.

This disgrace is being proposed at a time when the nation’s rich own a higher percentage of the nation’s wealth and receive the highest percent of America’s income since the era of the Robber Barons of the late nineteenth century.

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