Daily Archive: 02/28/2012

Feb 28 2012

Setting the Stage for Keystone XL Approval

Is anyone surprised that the White House has given its blessing to Transcanada’s Keystone XL pipeline plan to build an portion of the oil pipeline from Oklahoma to Texas despite rejection of the company’s earlier application in January? After all the protests last year to stop the construction and the Republican congressional maneuvering to force the president’s decision, it certainly appears that the Republicans and the oil companies will win but that shouldn’t be a surprise considering this president’s penchant for siding with the ruling class against the best interests of the country’s needs. This project won’t create jobs or reduce the price of gas, not now or in the future:

“As the President made clear in January, we support the company’s interest in proceeding with this project, which will help address the bottleneck of oil in Cushing that has resulted in large part from increased domestic oil production, currently at an eight year high. Moving oil from the Midwest to the world-class, state-of-the-art refineries on the Gulf Coast will modernize our infrastructure, create jobs, and encourage American energy production,” Carney said in a statement. [..]

But if the argument for building Keystone is to generate new oil within the United States and bring down gas prices, TransCanada’s plans don’t deliver. In fact, environmental groups say, TransCanada’s plans for Keystone mean more domestic oil will head overseas and a potential spike in gas prices. [..]

Kim Huynh, speaking for Friends of the Earth, accused the president of trying to have it both ways by touting his commitment to clean energy “while simultaneously shilling for one of the dirtiest industries on Earth” by endorsing the pipeline’s construction.

“What the administration seems to be missing is that the southern segment of this pipeline would exacerbate air pollution in refinery communities along the Gulf Coast and threaten our heartland with costly spills — all for oil that likely won’t make it to Americans’ gas tanks,” Huynh said in a statement.

Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, director of the International Program at the National Resources Defense Council, wrote in blog post:

So what exactly has TransCanada proposed today? TransCanada announced that it has let the State Department know that the company will submit a new application for a presidential permit for the northern portion of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline from the border crossing in Montana to Steel City, Nebraska on the Kansas border where an already existing part of the pipeline starts. TransCanada would supplement this application with the proposed route through Nebraska after that has been determined in cooperation with Nebraska. But there is some question as to how long this would take since Nebraska does not currently have laws in place to do this assessment. TransCanada will then apply separately to the various federal and state permits for the southern portion of the pipeline from Cushing Oklahoma to the Gulf Coast.

Raw tar sands oil going from the Midwest to the Gulf for refining means serious pipeline safety issues for landowners and environmental justice impacts of tar sands refining. Concerns of Texas landowners over TransCanada’s high-handed attempts to take their land through eminent domain will all remain the same in the case of an Oklahoma to Texas tar sands pipeline.

And the southern route pipeline will still provide the main service to oil companies that Keystone XL would provide: it will divert tar sands from the Midwest to the Gulf, raising American oil prices and likely also gasoline prices. An Oklahoma to Texas tar sands pipeline will mean more tar sands converted to diesel and available for export overseas. It will mean less tar sands remaining in the US, even while Americans bear the risks of the pipeline.

Bill McKibben, who has led protests against Keystone XL, gave the following response to the news:

“Transcanada’s decision to build its pipe from Oklahoma to Texas is a nifty excuse to steal some land by eminent domain. It doesn’t increase tar sands mining because there’s still no pipe across the Canadian border, but it’s the usual ugly power grab and land grab by the fossil fuel industry — we’ll do what we can to stand by our allies in that arid and beautiful land.”

The plight of Texas land owners was highlighted in Brain Buetler’s Talking Points Memo:

Julia Trigg Crawford, 53, of Lamar County, TX faced similar pressure. On Friday, a judge voided a temporary restraining order she’d secured against TransCanada on the grounds that the company is threatening to build the pipeline across a portion of her 600 acre property that archaeological authorities say is teeming with Caddo nation artifacts. It also threatens a creek she uses to irrigate her land and wells her family uses for drinking water.

“I do not want my place to be a guinea pig on this,” she told my by telephone. Those practical concerns lay atop a more fundamental question of whether a for-profit company should be able to seize private land for profit.

“I’m looking out my window every hour,” Crawford said. “While they don’t have a permit to build anything, they have the right to start construction…. A foreign for profit pipeline was allowed to condemn my land without my being allowed to talk to a judge.” [..]

The result: protests in Paris, Texas against the pipeline, on Crawford’s behalf.

“You could check off 20 different kinds of boxes, politically, professionally, temperamentally,” Crawford said. “We had Occupiers, Tea Partiers. This is about rights as a landowner.”

A Nebraska landowner, Randy Thompson told TPM in the same article how he was harassed by Transcanada after he withdrew his permission to survey his farm land in 2007.

“Once I found out a little bit more about what was going on, I rescinded that permission,” Thompson told TPM by phone on Sunday. “[W]e did meet with them once, maybe a couple times. We told them, you don’t have a permit yet, so we absolutely do not want this thing on our property. So until you actually get a permit we have no reason to have any further discussion about this. They continually called me, like once a month or whenever they felt like it. Kept the pressure on us. Made us an offer, $9000. Whatever the offer was, we just don’t want the damn thing on our property.” [..]

“In July 2010, we got a written letter from TransCanada, they told us if you don’t accept this within 30 days, we’re going to immediately start eminent domain proceedings against you,” Thompson said. “They didn’t say anything about a permit. I tried to contact the Governor’s office. All I got back was a form letter talking about the pipeline.”

If the White House thought for even a nanosecond that this would blunt Republican criticism of Pres. Obama, they are as deluded as the Republicans who say this will reduce the price of gas:

House Speaker Boehner, R-Ohio, said he will continue to stress that the Obama administration is blocking construction of the entire pipeline, which would carry oil from the tar sands of western Canada to the Gulf Coast of Texas.

“The president is so far on the wrong side of the American people that he’s now praising the company’s decision to start going around him,” Boehner said in a statement.

“But he can’t have it both ways,” Boehner said. “If the president thinks this project is good for America, he knows how to make it happen right away. Until he does, he’s just standing in the way of getting it done.”

The only thing that completing the southern portion of the pipeline will do is ease the glut of oil that is being stored in the Midwest. It won’t lower the price of gas because that oil will be exported to the global market where it will be resold at a higher price. That will drive up prices in the Midwest where gas prices have been kept low because of the lack of the pipeline.

The reality is oil prices will continue to be artificially high by the saber rattling over Iran. The best and easiest way for the President to immediately lower gas prices is to stop the phony rhetoric of a war with Iran. Repeat it loud and often, Iran is not developing a nuclear weapon. That’ll work better than any environmentally unsafe pipeline.

Feb 28 2012

Punting the Pundits

“Punting 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 “Punting the Pundits”.

New York Times Editorial: Not What Paul Volcker Had in Mind

The Volcker rule, a crucial provision of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, is supposed to stop banks from doing the sort of risky trading that was one of the big causes of the financial meltdown.

The banks hate the rule because less speculation means less profit and lower bonuses for traders and bank executives. And ever since it was signed into law in mid-2010, they have pressed Congress and regulators to weaken it. Sure enough, in late 2011, regulators issued proposed rules that are ambiguously worded and lack the teeth to rein in the banks. Paul Volcker – the former chairman of the Federal Reserve for whom the rule was named – and other reformers have rightly urged significant changes before the rule becomes final in mid-July. Regulators need to listen.

Barry Lando: The World Turns Its Back-Again

Thousands of largely unarmed people rise up against a brutal regime. In reaction, military commanders are dispatched to ruthlessly crush the revolt. Men, women and children are cut down in cold blood, houses and apartments destroyed, the streets littered with body parts and piles of the dead. Desperate appeals are made to the world for help, for arms, for medicines, for rescue.

The leaders of the world wring their hands and meet to deal with the horrific situation. Regrettably, there are too many reasons not to act, too many complications, too many subtleties. Sophisticated diplomats and heads of state understand these things. The slaughter continues.

One such meeting just ended in Tunis on Feb. 24, called to deal with the uprising in Syria. The other was held in Bermuda in April 1943, with delegations from the U.S. and Britain, to discuss the terrible predicament of the millions of Jews trapped in Hitler’s Europe.

George Zornick: White House Taking Heat on Afghanistan

There’s been a lot of bad news coming from Afghanistan in recent weeks-deep anti-American sentiment finally overflowed into violence when it was revealed American soldiers burned copies of the Koran at Bagram airbase on February 20. More than 30 people have been killed in revenge attacks, and 11,000 Afghans took to the streets in protest this weekend.

Two American troops were killed inside the Afghan Interior Ministry last week, also in response to the Koran burning, leading to the unprecedented removal of all military personnel from the government ministries. Given that this is the government the United States is trying to build up, it’s a troubling development to say the least, as is the fact that 10 of the last 58 coalition deaths have come at the hands of America’s Afghan partners.

Much to its credit, the White House press corps put press secretary Jay Carney through the ringer on the war yesterday-he was peppered through most of his daily briefing with smart, tough questions about the recent violence and the overall viability of the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan.

Eugene Robinson: Santorum in the Extreme

For all his supposed authenticity, Rick Santorum is not what he seems. Beneath that sweater vest beats the heart of a calculating and increasingly desperate politician who has gone beyond pandering all the way to shameless demagoguery.

That’s the charitable view. The uncharitable take on Santorum’s incendiary rhetoric is that he actually believes this stuff. Either way, it’s time for Republican voters to end his little electoral adventure and send him back to the cosseted life of a Washington influence-peddler.

The image of aw-shucks earnestness that improbably landed Santorum in the Republican Party’s Final Four was beginning to fade. Mitt Romney, who is nothing if not relentless, was beginning to climb back up in the polls, and Santorum risked becoming nothing more than the latest of a series of anti-Romneys to bite the dust. Something had to change-so, in recent days, Santorum’s avuncular smile has become a nasty sneer.

John Nichols: GOP Candidates Embrace Anti-Labor, Free-Market Fundamentalism

Much is being made, and appropriately so, about the extremism of the Republican presidential field when it comes to reproductive rights and ripping down Thomas Jefferson’s wall of separation between church and state.

It is not just Rick Santorum. Three of the four Republican contenders for the presidency-the sometimes exception is Ron Paul-are running campaigns that position them as theocratic extremists of a far more radical bent than religious-right contenders such as Pat Robertson in 1988 or Gary Bauer in 2000.

But there was an ever more arch fundamentalism on display among the Republican contenders as they battled across Arizona and Michigan in anticipation of today’s critical primaries in those states.

Like Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, Ohio Governor John Kasich and Maine Governor Paul LePage, they are anti-labor extremists whose opposition to free trade unions goes to extremes not seen since southern segregationists sought to bar unions because of their fear that white workers and people of color were being organized into labor organizations that would threaten “Jim Crow.”

Ari Berman: Who Will ‘Reagan Democrats’ Support in 2012?

In 2008, the Democratic polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner described Macomb County, Michigan-home to the bellwether suburbs north of Detroit-as “90 percent white, half Catholic, 40 percent union families, one third over 60.” Macomb was once the most Democratic suburb in the country, giving LBJ 75 percent of the vote in 1964, but it swung sharply to Republicans in the 1980s and has been a pivotal swing county in the state ever since. Gore won it by two, Kerry lost it by one and Obama won it by eight.

The archetypal “Reagan Democrats” make up a fifth of Macomb’s electorate. These blue-collar, non-college-educated white voters abandoned the Democratic Party in the ’70s and ’80s, out of anger at Democratic support for policies like welfare and affirmative action, and leapt into the outstretched arms of Ronald Reagan, who won Macomb County by thirty-three points in 1984. They’ve been an important part of the GOP coalition ever since. “In the 2008 Michigan primary,” wrote National Journal’s Ron Brownstein, “57 percent of GOP voters lacked a college education and 75 percent earned less than $100,000 annually.”

Feb 28 2012

Pennies on the Dollar

Supreme Court won’t order emergency measures to prevent Asian carp from reaching Great Lakes

By Associated Press

Updated: Monday, February 27, 3:58 PM

Michigan and four neighboring states wanted the Army Corps of Engineers to install nets in two Chicago-area rivers and to expedite a study of permanent steps to head off an invasion by bighead and silver carp, which have advanced up the Mississippi River and its tributaries to within 55 miles of Lake Michigan. Scientists say if the large, prolific carp spread widely in the lakes, they could starve out native species and devastate the $7 billion fishing industry.



They advocate placing barriers in Chicago-area waterways to cut a link between the watersheds created more than a century ago when engineers reversed the flow of the Chicago River to flush the city’s sewage toward the Mississippi. A recent report by groups representing Great Lakes states and cities proposed three methods for doing so, with estimated costs as high as $9.5 billion.



The Obama administration has devoted more than $100 million to shielding the lakes from the carp and recently announced plans to spend $51.5 million this year. Plans include operating and monitoring an electric fish barrier near Chicago, stepped-up commercial fishing in the area, and field testing new strategies such as high-pressure underwater guns and pheromones that could lure carp into lethal traps.

Now about that Title Fraud “Settlement”.

Feb 28 2012

A History of AIDS

Not qualified to judge the veracity of this, simply drawing it to your attention.

Colonialism in Africa helped launch the HIV epidemic a century ago

By Craig Timberg and Daniel Halperin, Washington Post

Published: February 27

Scientists had long known that a blood sample, preserved from 1959, showed that HIV had been circulating in Kinshasa, the capital of Congo, for several decades before the virus first drew international attention in the 1980s. In 2008, evolutionary biologist Michael Worobey sharpened that picture when he reported in the journal Nature the discovery of a second sample of the virus, trapped in a wax-encased lymph node biopsy from 1960.

By comparing these two historic pieces of virus and mapping out the differences in their genetic structures in his lab at the University of Arizona, Worobey determined that HIV-1 group M was much older than anyone had thought. Both samples of the virus appeared to have descended from a single ancestor at some time between 1884 and 1924. The most likely date was 1908.

Taken together, these two discoveries offered the clearest clues to the birth and early life of the epidemic.

Feb 28 2012

State Mandated Assault On Women

The assault on women is not isolated to the Virginia legislature. There are currently bills in 27 states that require unnecessary procedures to obtain an abortion. The only purpose for those procedures is to humiliate women seeking a procedure they have a right to obtain.

   Virginia officials backed off last week from requiring vaginal ultrasounds before abortions, but state legislators are still expected to pass a bill that mandates abdominal ultrasounds and adds other significant requirements for women seeking abortions.

   In recent years, this common diagnostic tool has taken a greater role in abortion-related legislation. Seven states require ultrasounds before abortions. Twenty states regulate some aspect of ultrasound exams, including requiring abortion providers to give women the option to view the image or listen to the fetal heartbeat if an ultrasound is performed.

   Eleven other states have legislation pending. If all of the measures pass, more than half of the states will have laws governing ultrasound exams before abortions. “I think we’re in the middle of a wave of ultrasound bills,” said Elizabeth Nash, a policy analyst with the Guttmacher Institute, which studies reproductive health.

As David Dayen at FDL News Desk explains these requirements force the woman to make an extra trip to the doctor at her own expense. Ultrasounds are rarely medically necessary in the first few weeks of pregnancy. There is only one reason for it to be require: to heap shame and guilt on the woman getting her to stop the abortion. In the states where this is mandated, there has been no precipitous drop in abortion rates.

Angi Becker Stevens of RH Reality Check explains the ony purpose of the Michigan bill is humiliation:

In Michigan, House Bill 4433 would expand the state’s already-present requirements for pre-abortion ultrasounds. If passed (a likely outcome in Michigan’s strongly anti-choice state government) the law will require pre-abortion ultrasounds to be conducted with the “most technologically advanced ultrasound equipment available,” further defined as the equipment which “is capable of providing the most visibly clear image of the gross anatomical development of the fetus and the most audible fetal heartbeat.” While the bill states that a woman be given the “option” to view the ultrasound or not, it also mandates that the monitors must be turned toward the woman, so that her only way of not viewing the image is to close her eyes or turn her head away. The bill also requires that the professional performing the ultrasound give a detailed description of the fetus’ current developmental stage, and must offer the woman a printed ultrasound image.

Requiring transvaginal ultrasounds would violate women by invading their bodies. Turning an ultrasound monitor toward a woman and attempting to force her to view the images even if she does not want to see them is an act of emotional and psychological violation. Both are medically unnecessary and needlessly cruel and patronizing. And neither should ever be mandated by a state’s government.

While the procedure may provide the physician with needed information there is no reason to force the woman to view the screen, hear the fetal heartbeat or the a detailed description of the fetus. A woman who has made the decision to terminate her pregnancy is not going to change her mind at this stage. Using hack psychology has no medical value and is just another assault on her person.

Since all the publicity about the Virginia bill mandating state rape with a transvaginal untrasound, there is increasingly vocal and organized opposition to these bills as Rachel Maddow highlighted

If you really want to raise your blood pressure and have a strong stomach, you can read the transcript of a live interview with Gov. Bob McConnell from WTOP. I won’t elaborate.

Feb 28 2012

Mars, Bitches

Researcher: Obama Budget ‘End Of The Mars Program’

CBS DC

February 27, 2012 7:57 AM

If Obama’s budget sails through as outlined, “in essence, it is the end of the Mars program,” said Phil Christensen, a Mars researcher at Arizona State University. It’s like “we’ve just flown Apollo 10 and now we’re going to cancel the Apollo program when we’re one step from landing,” he said.



(R)obotic Mars missions slated for 2016 and 2018 were cut from the president’s new budget proposal, even though NASA has spent $64 million on early designs with the European Space Agency for the two missions. The most ambitious Mars flight yet and one the National Academy of Sciences endorsed as the No. 1 solar system priority – a plan to grab Martian rocks and soil and bring them back to Earth – is on indefinite hold.



If NASA ignores Mars for a decade, it runs the risk of a brain drain, said Ed Weiler, who resigned last year as NASA’s sciences chief because of budget battles over Mars.

“Landing on Mars is a uniquely American talent and there aren’t too many things that are uniquely American,” Weiler said.

Feb 28 2012

On This Day In History February 28

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

February 28 is the 59th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 306 days remaining until the end of the year (307 in leap years)

On this day in 1953, Cambridge University scientists James D. Watson and Frances H.C. Crick announce that they have determined the double-helix structure of DNA, the molecule containing human genes.

History of DNA research

DNA was first isolated by the Swiss physician Friedrich Miescher who, in 1869, discovered a microscopic substance in the pus of discarded surgical bandages. As it resided in the nuclei of cells, he called it “nuclein”. In 1919, Phoebus Levene identified the base, sugar and phosphate nucleotide unit. Levene suggested that DNA consisted of a string of nucleotide units linked together through the phosphate groups. However, Levene thought the chain was short and the bases repeated in a fixed order. In 1937 William Astbury produced the first X-ray diffraction patterns that showed that DNA had a regular structure.

In 1928, Frederick Griffith discovered that traits of the “smooth” form of the Pneumococcus could be transferred to the “rough” form of the same bacteria by mixing killed “smooth” bacteria with the live “rough” form. This system provided the first clear suggestion that DNA carries genetic information, the Avery-MacLeod-McCarty experiment, when Oswald Avery, along with coworkers Colin MacLeod and Maclyn McCarty, identified DNA as the transforming principle in 1943. DNA’s role in heredity was confirmed in 1952, when Alfred Hershey and Martha Chase in the Hershey-Chase experiment showed that DNA is the genetic material of the T2 phage.

In 1953, James D. Watson and Francis Crick suggested what is now accepted as the first correct double-helix model of DNA structure in the journal Nature. Their double-helix, molecular model of DNA was then based on a single X-ray diffraction image (labeled as “Photo 51”) taken by Rosalind Franklin and Raymond Gosling in May 1952, as well as the information that the DNA bases are paired – also obtained through private communications from Erwin Chargaff in the previous years. Chargaff’s rules played a very important role in establishing double-helix configurations for B-DNA as well as A-DNA.

Experimental evidence supporting the Watson and Crick model were published in a series of five articles in the same issue of Nature. Of these, Franklin and Gosling’s paper was the first publication of their own X-ray diffraction data and original analysis method that partially supported the Watson and Crick model; this issue also contained an article on DNA structure by Maurice Wilkins and two of his colleagues, whose analysis and in vivo B-DNA X-ray patterns also supported the presence in vivo of the double-helical DNA configurations as proposed by Crick and Watson for their double-helix molecular model of DNA in the previous two pages of Nature. In 1962, after Franklin’s death, Watson, Crick, and Wilkins jointly received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. However, Nobel rules of the time allowed only living recipients, but a vigorous debate continues on who should receive credit for the discovery.

Feb 28 2012

Daytona 500 Open Thread- Monday

Everything substantial I wrote about yesterday.  The latest forecast is that there won’t be any more Thunder Storms until 11 pm so they might be able to squeeze in a few laps, otherwise- Plan C.

Daytona 500’s Start Is Pushed Back Until the Evening as Rain Soaks Track

By Erik Matuszewski and Dex McLuskey, Bloomberg News

Feb 27, 2012 11:02 AM ET

Nascar further delayed the start of its season-opening Daytona 500 race until 7 p.m. local time today as rain continued to fall on the track.

The race at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida, was originally postponed until noon today after rain wiped out yesterday’s planned start. It’s the first time the race has been postponed by weather in its 54-year history.

NASCAR postpones Daytona 500 for first time ever

CBS News

February 27, 2012 8:50 AM

Daytona president Joie Chitwood said he understood fans were frustrated about the scheduling change that pushed the race back one week later than usual. NASCAR and the track made the decision to move the start of the season to address an awkward early off weekend and to avoid potential conflicts with the Super Bowl.



“I’m sure I’m going to have some customers tell me about the date change and the challenges that we have with it,” Chitwood said. “But I think weather is unpredictable. I think based on the NASCAR schedule, the TV schedule on whole, this was the right move for the industry. We’ll continue to work with the last weekend of February.



Chitwood also said trying to wait out the rain any longer Sunday wasn’t an option, because the Daytona 500 deserves better than being crammed into the late evening hours.

Daytona 500 postponed to Monday

Reuters

Monday 27 February 2012 10.40 EST

Joie Chitwood, president of Daytona International Speedway was reluctant to discuss the chances of the race not taking place until Tuesday.

“It is tough to even talk Tuesday until we get into Monday,” he said. “There is inclement weather in the morning but by noon it looks like the weather is better. We’ll play it out the best we can.

“We want to exhaust every opportunity of getting the track dry and running the race. I would anticipate by 5 p.m., 6 p.m. if there was rain on the track you will see us play out some decisions. I don’t even want to talk about Tuesday right now.”

NASCAR says Daytona 500 will begin at 7 p.m. Monday, further delaying start of season

By Associated Press

Updated: Monday, February 27, 12:29 PM

“We hope to have ‘Lady and gentlemen, start your engines,’ at 7:02 and then warm up and go to green flag,” NASCAR President Mike Helton said. “We believe this is a reasonable expectation.”

Helton made the announcement Monday morning when it became clear that steady rain at Daytona International Speedway made an evening start the best option for NASCAR’s marquee event. Helton also said Tuesday has not been ruled out.



Greg Busch, executive vice president at GMR Marketing, said ratings for a Monday night race will not better what it would have drawn in its regularly scheduled Sunday afternoon slot. But Busch said the primetime showing will be significantly better than a Monday afternoon race.



Ed Goren, vice chairman for Fox Sports Media Group, said the network was unsure what to expect Monday night. He praised Fox’s production crew for its coverage during the rain delay Sunday, when Fox drew a 4.5 overnight rating despite no on-track action during nearly four hours of air time.

Yup, all about the eyeballs.