Monthly Archive: February 2015

Feb 28 2015

Random Japan

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Convenience store in Japan welcomes new range of donuts, Evangelion-style

 HougiHayashi ‘Fang’ Hougi

Fans of the popular anime franchise Evangelion would probably get a pleasant surprise if they walked into this particular convenience store in Japan. Instead of putting up pictures of the actual products to advertise their new line of donuts, the creative store employees of this branch decided to take a cue from the popular anime and dress their window a little differently.

Twitter user misoka09 uploaded a few pictures of the Evangelion-style advertisements and soon garnered more than 10,000 retweets as amused netizens gushed over this clever trick.

Feb 28 2015

Health and Fitness News

Welcome to the Stars Hollow Gazette‘s Health and Fitness News weekly diary. It will publish on Saturday afternoon and be open for discussion about health related issues including diet, exercise, health and health care issues, as well as, tips on what you can do when there is a medical emergency. Also an opportunity to share and exchange your favorite healthy recipes.

Questions are encouraged and I will answer to the best of my ability. If I can’t, I will try to steer you in the right direction. Naturally, I cannot give individual medical advice for personal health issues. I can give you information about medical conditions and the current treatments available.

You can now find past Health and Fitness News diaries here and on the right hand side of the Front Page.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Making Old Vegetables New Again

Fennel Rice or Bulgur photo recipehealthfennel-articleLarge_zpsb2afe62a.jpg

Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times

Last weekend it was time to reach into my vegetable crisper, pull out the lingering produce and use things up. I try not to buy more than what I need for recipe testing, but sometimes my imagination gets ahead of me and I soon find myself with a pile-up of vegetables that never made it into a recipe. [..]

These are the more-than-a-week-old vegetables that ended up on my counter: a red cabbage, a couple of red bell peppers, a bunch of beets with greens, about a pound of carrots, a bag of brussels sprouts and a fennel bulb. A disparate range but I knew I would find homes for them. I opened some of my favorite cookbooks to get some inspiration, and right away I came upon a simple, comforting rice and leeks recipe in Diane Kochilas’s latest cookbook, “Ikaria: Lessons on Food, Life, and Longevity From the Greek Island Where People Forget to Die.”

~ Martha Rose Shulman ~

Red Cabbage and Black Rice, Greek Style

A comforting, light Greek Lenten meal.

Greek Bulgur With Brussels Sprouts

A lemony mix of fluffy bulgur and tender brussels sprouts.

Fennel Rice or Bulgur

A simple Greek Lenten dish that can be a main dish or a side.

Beet Greens Bulgur With Carrots and Tomatoes

This hearty vegan grain and vegetable dish brings together bulgur and greens, a classic Greek combo.

Red Pepper Rice, Bulgur or Freekeh With Saffron and Chile

A mildly spicy, and pretty, Lenten vegetable rice.

Feb 28 2015

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”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

New York Times Editorial Board: Undermining Children’s Insurance

Senior Republicans in Congress are seeking major changes to the Children’s Health Insurance Program when the program’s money runs out in September.

Their proposal, labeled a “discussion draft” for legislation yet to be written, could deprive more than a million children of insurance or force their families to pay higher out-of-pocket costs for their coverage. It also would shift costs to states, which would be left holding the bag to pay for the children’s insurance or for the care of the children as uninsured patients. [..]

It threatens to undermine the progress made in reducing the number of uninsured children, gains that came from enrolling more children in Medicaid and in CHIP, which covers children whose families earn too much to qualify for Medicaid.

Peter Z. Scheer: Leonard Nimoy Inspired Millions and Will Continue to Do So

Leonard Nimoy eventually came to terms with the fact that most people will know him as a character, not a man. Fortunately, that character was virtuous, wise and generous, qualities shared by the man. To paraphrase his first autobiography, Leonard Nimoy, who has 134 acting credits, was not Spock, but where it counts he may as well have been.

He was a giving man. He and his wife, Susan Bay, have made many donations, large and small, public and private. Out of respect for their modesty, I’ll leave it there, but know that they were the real deal, and Susan, a force herself, will carry on.

As an artist, Nimoy pursued a passion for photography and poetry, as well as a dedication to Jewish culture. He was, as they say, a good Jew. I remember hearing him on public radio reading an old Jewish fable. It’s not the sort of thing that comes up at conventions. Speaking of which, one cannot write of Nimoy’s passing without remarking on the fact that he changed and inspired millions of lives. People make fun, but the embrace by all those fans of Star Trek’s values is no small thing. They’re good values, and Spock endures as the most compelling character of the franchise. He was the alien among the crew, a half-breed who struggled with his repressed human nature. In that way, he was relatable, sympathetic and a stand-in for so many of us who feel as though we don’t quite belong.

Glenn Greenwald: Why Does the FBI Have to Manufacture its Own Plots if Terrorism and ISIS Are Such Grave Threats?

The FBI and major media outlets yesterday trumpeted the agency’s latest counterterrorism triumph: the arrest of three Brooklyn men, ages 19 to 30, on charges of conspiring to travel to Syria to fight for ISIS (photo of joint FBI/NYPD press conference, above). As my colleague Murtaza Hussain ably documents, “it appears that none of the three men was in any condition to travel or support the Islamic State, without help from the FBI informant.” One of the frightening terrorist villains told the FBI informant that, beyond having no money, he had encountered a significant problem in following through on the FBI’s plot: his mom had taken away his passport. Noting the bizarre and unhinged ranting of one of the suspects, Hussain noted on Twitter that this case “sounds like another victory for the FBI over the mentally ill.”

In this regard, this latest arrest appears to be quite similar to the overwhelming majority of terrorism arrests the FBI has proudly touted over the last decade. [..]

We’re constantly bombarded with dire warnings about the grave threat of home-grown terrorists, “lone wolf” extremists and ISIS. So intensified are these official warnings that The New York Times earlier this month cited anonymous U.S. intelligence officials to warn of the growing ISIS threat and announce “the prospect of a new global war on terror.”

But how serious of a threat can all of this be, at least domestically, if the FBI continually has to resort to manufacturing its own plots by trolling the Internet in search of young drifters and/or the mentally ill whom they target, recruit and then manipulate into joining? Does that not, by itself, demonstrate how over-hyped and insubstantial this “threat” actually is? Shouldn’t there be actual plots, ones that are created and fueled without the help of the FBI, that the agency should devote its massive resources to stopping?

Jeb Lund: The ‘War on Women’ is the latest war that Republicans at CPAC want to win

All political movements, to some extent, sound nonsensical to outsiders because groupthink elides the needs for certain connective thoughts to be voiced aloud. CPAC, a celebration of orthodoxy among a bullet-point-equipped faithful who all try to sound more stridently like everyone else than anyone else, magnifies this tendency to maddening degrees. Two separate subjects are mentioned with the causal relationship omitted. Facts appear without context; good things are named as though good outcomes inevitably eventuate. When cause-and-effect statements appear, they aren’t much better.

By this process, you can arrive at a conclusion like this: To win the War on Women, you better put a ring on it.

At CPAC, conservatives dedicated an entire panel to “The Future of Marriage.” One could be forgiven for assuming it tackled the issue via the sub-topic “Gays, and the Ickiness Thereof,” because that was the default assumption among those attending CPAC as part of an ongoing More Jaded Than Thou contest. Instead, the panel bypassed halting marriage equality and went straight for a return to celebrating a time when women had few stable life opportunities outside of marriage.

John Nichols: This Is Why Scott Walker Is Not Presidential Material

I have known Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker since he was a young state legislator. We used to talk a good deal about our differing views on how to reform things: campaign finance rules, ethics regulations, social-welfare programs.

We seldom reached agreement. But I gave him credit for respecting the search for common ground. And for understanding that a disagreement on a particular matter is never an excuse for ending the search-or for disregarding others who are engaged in it.

But that was long ago. Scott Walker has changed a great deal-and not, I fear, for the better.

He is deep into a political career that has seen plenty of ups and downs; and, now, he is grasping for a top rung on the ladder: the Republican nomination for the presidency in 2016.

Michelle Chen: Why the Disturbingly Sane Voices at CPAC Should Scare You

I’ve been covering the Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, on and off for more than a decade. I’ve seen it in full jingoistic flower early in George W. Bush’s administration, when attendees could buy bumper stickers than said “No Muslims = No Terrorists” and hurl beanbags at toy trolls holding signs that said “The Homosexual Agenda” or “The Liberal Media.” I’ve seen it during moments of despair, when conservatives realized that Republican leaders wouldn’t enact the entirety of their kamikaze agenda. But I have rarely seen it as slick and sunny as this year, and that scares me.

CPAC, for those lucky enough to be unacquainted, is the most important right-wing conference of the year, regularly drawing leading Republican politicians and aspirants. This year, all the likely Republican presidential candidates are here, including Scott Walker, Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Chris Christie and Rick Santorum. Perhaps because of that, there seems to have been a real effort to tone down the outrageousness. Poor Ann Coulter, once a reliable CPAC bomb-thrower, is nowhere on the program. There’s a conspicuous absence of Hillary Clinton nutcrackers and other Instagram-ready right-wing kitsch. Even Sarah Palin, who spoke Thursday night, was shockingly lucid and reasonable, devoting her remarks to the plight of veterans suffering overlong deployments, PTSD and backlogs at the VA.

Feb 28 2015

The Breakfast Club (Thrupenny)

The 3 rules of Opera.

  1. It must be long, boring, and in an incomprehesible foreign language (even if that language is English).
  2. The characters, especially the main ones, must be thoroughly unsympathetic and their activities horrid and callous.
  3. Everyone must die, hopefully in an ironic and gruesome way.

Ballet is the same, but with more men in tights and without the superfluous singing.

Consider La Traviata (The Fallen Woman) celebrated in Pretty Woman.

In Act I, Violetta, a notorious (c’mon fallen woman?  Everyone knows women don’t like sex, it’s just something they tolerate because they like babies) courtesan, spurns Alfredo so she can live her life the way she wants (Sempre libera – Always Free)

In Act II Violetta is living in a country house with Alfredo, whom she’s decided she loves and has completely abandoned her former life.  What?  Did she get kidnapped by aliens?  I swear, I just went to the lobby to visit the bathroom.  Is this the same theater?  The same Opera?  Am I living some nightmarish Groundhog Day where I don’t even get to listen to I’ve Got You Babe at 6 am every morning for eternity?

Cher, I’m expecting your retweet.  Not as funny as Kathy Griffin?  I beg to differ.

Oh, and Alfredo’s Dad doesn’t like her because she’s a sex worker and he’s a hung up old jerk.

Soon enough.

So things are going to perdition in a pedicab.  As it develops Violetta is liquidating her assets in Paris to support her suburban lifestyle.  Alfredo sets off to correct this (us guys, always looking for solutions instead of simply listening and sympathizing) while his father Giorgio asks her to dump Alfredo because her tawdry past is tainting his daughter (Pura siccome un angelo – Pure as an angel, God gave a daughter) and ruining her marriage prospects.

Ah, Twew Wuve-

“He didn’t come.”  It takes talent that, and a firm knowlege of Baseball statistics.  

breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpgOf course by now I’m looking for a stout stick to bash Giorgio with before committing seppuku with my plastic yogurt spork (What? I visited the snack bar, OK?) and this is just the first Scene.

In the second Scene at a gambling party where Alfredo is trying to raise the money to satisfy Violleta’s debts (because how else are you going to get cash besides Powerball?) after a rousing chorus of Paradise by the Dashboard Light (in Italian Noi siamo zingarelle venute da lontano.  Di Madride noi siam mattadori) Violetta coincidently appears with the Baron Douphol (Beauregard Burnside).  And I’m a handsom Matador from Biscay.  Anyway Alfredo insults Violetta by offering her the money he has won (yes, we’re back to Pretty Woman, did we ever actually leave?  I want the fairy tale.).

Giorgio enters and denounces his son’s behavior (Di sprezzo degno sè stesso rende chi pur nell’ira la donna offende. – “A man, who even in anger, offends a woman renders himself deserving of contempt.”).  Violetta turns to Alfredo: Alfredo, Alfredo, di questo core non puoi comprendere tutto l’amore… – “Alfredo, Alfredo, you can’t understand all the love in this heart…” (cough).

Ok, so the spork was only sufficient to gouge out my eyes and if I’m going to chop off my ears and eviscerate myself I’ll need something more substantial, like a plastic knife.  Fortunately there is a break before Act 3.

Did I mention Violetta is dying of Tuberculosis?  Everyone must die, hopefully in an ironic and gruesome way.  Tuberculosis is fortunately one of those ultimately fatal but lingering diseases that allow you to belt out a few Arias before you (cough) croak (Gran Dio!…morir sì giovane – “Great God!…to die so young”).  

After singing a duet with Alfredo, Violetta suddenly revives, exclaiming that the pain and discomfort have left her. A moment later, she dies in Alfredo’s arms.

Now that’s entertainment.  Pardon me while I dab my tears before descending from the box.

TMC swears she’s going to teach me to be less cynical (as if she were less cynical than I, I’m a warm cuddly Teddy Bear by comparison- ask anyone) and that I will learn to love Opera.  Of course, just like I love children- par-boiled and chicken fried with a pan gravy.  Tastes just like rattle snake.

Oh, so now you want to see La Traviata.  Here it is at La Scala in Milan, all 2 hours and 25 minutes of it.

It has the virtue of French subtitles (Rule Number One).  Now in fairness I didn’t want to be a barber anyway, except in Seville

Did I mention natural tenor?  Of course I played the Barber.

And now I’m really going, I’ve done what I can do.  So why don’t you get going?

Well. I haven’t actually inflicted the damage I intended.  “The characters, especially the main ones, must be thoroughly unsympathetic and their activities horrid and callous.”

Mackie Messer

Polly, meanwhile, buys a bank, and runs it with Macheath’s henchmen, making him a bank director, and she then arranges surety for Macheath to leave prison. This causes a change of heart by her parents – her father tries to stop the protest march but fails.

Jenny visits the prison, and aids Macheath’s escape: he makes his way to the bank, where he discovers his new status. Brown, whose police career is ruined by the demonstration, and Peachum, also come to the bank and agree to link up.

Now that sounds more like the real world where a pimp and beggar-master, a corrupt politician, and an assassin hook up to loot the people who love them and think they’re heros.

Well, when Johnny was first starting out, he was signed to a personal services contract with this big-band leader. And as his career got better and better, he wanted to get out of it. But the band leader wouldn’t let him. Now, Johnny is my father’s godson. So my father went to see this bandleader and offered him $10,000 to let Johnny go, but the bandleader said no. So the next day, my father went back, only this time with Luca Brasi. Within an hour, he had a signed release for a certified check of $1000.

I have the same thing in French where it’s worth a penny more and I can arbitrage the spread.

And that my friends is Opera.  I don’t really hope I’ve ruined it for you so much as made your existence a spiraling hell where all emotion is sucked into a black hole of despair before you are torn apart by tidal forces you can barely comprehend and debates about black and blue or gold and white.

You can thank me later.

Obligatories, News and Blogs below.

Feb 28 2015

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 27 2015

DHS: Yes, Shut It Down, Better Yet, Abolish It.

The Department of Homeland Security was created  a year after the attacks on the US by Arab militants on September 11, 2001. It was obvious to many of us that it was a knee jerk reaction to bolster the Bush administration’s new “war on terror.” that, eventually, led to the illegal overthrow of the sovereign government of Iraq and the current state of chaos in the Middle East, Near East and parts of Africa.

The newly Republican led congress decided to separate the funding for DHS from the omnibus bill to attempt to use it as a bargaining chip to block President Barrack Obama’s policies on undocumented immigrants. That has led to a stand off that may result in the shut down of most of DHS when funding runs out on Saturday.

GOP leaders are arguing that the three-week funding bill would keep the agency open. They’re also asking their members to vote to go to conference with the Senate. But Senate Democrats say they’ll refuse that request.

Without language overturning Obama’s actions, the GOP may not have the 218 votes necessary to approve the bill – especially with House Democratic leaders urging their members to vote against it.

Democrats are demanding a more permanent funding measure.

The Senate on Friday voted 68-31 to fund the department through the end of the fiscal year. That bill might pass the House, but only if GOP leaders are willing to accept a vote on legislation that would divide their party.

There are many reasons that this may not be the disaster that fear mongering politicians on both sides of the aisle are claiming. There are some who feel that after 14 years, this trillion dollar boondoggle needs to go.

In a commentary at The Guardian, Trevor Timm argues that the department is “George W Bush’s creation is too inefficient, wasteful and disrespectful of privacy to keep around. If Republicans want to shut it down, Democrats shouldn’t stop them.”

Besides the cost to American tax payers of $38.2 billion this year alone, there are these major issues with DHS:

Consider the DHS’ so-called “fusion centers”, which are little more than spying hubs that vacuum up information from federal and local authorities and store it for indefinite amounts of time. A scathing Senate report on the centers, which have cost the DHS at least $1.4 billion dollars, concluded that they produce “predominantly useless information” – one employee was quoted as calling it “a bunch of crap” – and that they also “run] afoul of departmental guidelines meant to guard against civil liberties” and are “possibly in violation of the Privacy Act”. While they’ve spied on many people who [were engaged in purely First Amendment protected activities, they’re not known to have stopped a terrorist attack.

The department has also been a treasure trove for local police departments, giving them millions in military grade gear and specialized spying equipment without accountability. This has lead to some very serious violations of the people’s constitutional rights.

For example, they have a program to hand out funds for local police to buy surveillance drones and give grants to cops for controversial Stingray surveillance devices, which are fake cell phone towers that allow the police to spy on entire neighborhoods at once.

They also have their own Predator drones program (without the missiles like in Pakistan and Yemen) that they fly along the US border as well. A government report released in January derided DHS’s Predator drones as almost entirely ineffective and a giant waste of money. The report didn’t even cover the alarming privacy concerns of having sophisticated spying machines constantly flying over large parts of the country.

Some of the harshest criticism of the DHS has come from within the agency. The Office of Intelligence and Analysis has been mocked by it’s own current and former employees for churning out “intelligence spam” and producing “almost nothing you can’t find on Google.”

The article also noted that the department was criticized for its inability to secure its own buildings from hackers let alone any other government offices and another Senate report that called the DHS cybersecurity “incompetant.” On top of that there is the department’s over paying by hundreds of thousands of dollars for border patrol housing, millions wasted on vehicles that were purchased without any internal oversight or guidelines and misuse of government credit cards for personal expenses to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars.

So if the Republicans can’t figure out how to pass a clean funding bill, the Democrats should just let the DHS close, doing the American tax payers a great favor.

Feb 27 2015

In Memoriam: Leonard Nimoy – March 26, 1931 – February 27, 2015

Leonard Simon Nimoy, Mr. Spock, died in his Los Angeles home this morning of end stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). He was 83.

 photo 220px-Leonard_Nimoy_by_Gage_Skidmor_zps148f78ce.jpg

Mr. Nimoy announced that he had the disease last year, attributing it to years of smoking, a habit he had given up three decades earlier. He had been hospitalized earlier in the week.

His artistic pursuits – poetry, photography and music in addition to acting – ranged far beyond the United Federation of Planets, but it was as Mr. Spock that Mr. Nimoy became a folk hero, bringing to life one of the most indelible characters of the last half century: a cerebral, unflappable, pointy-eared Vulcan with a signature salute and blessing: “Live long and prosper” (from the Vulcan “Dif-tor heh smusma”).

Feb 27 2015

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”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Paul Krugman: What Greece Won

Last week, after much drama, the new Greek government reached a deal with its creditors. Earlier this week, the Greeks filled in some details on how they intend to meet the terms. So how did it go?

Well, if you were to believe many of the news reports and opinion pieces of the past few days, you’d think that it was a disaster – that it was a “surrender” on the part of Syriza, the new ruling coalition in Athens. Some factions within Syriza apparently think so, too. But it wasn’t. On the contrary, Greece came out of the negotiations pretty well, although the big fights are still to come. And by doing O.K., Greece has done the rest of Europe a favor. [..]

For Greece to run any surplus at all – given the depression-level slump that it’s in and the effect of that depression on revenues – is a remarkable achievement, the result of incredible sacrifices. Nonetheless, Syriza has always been clear that it intends to keep running a modest primary surplus. If you are angry that the negotiations didn’t make room for a full reversal of austerity, a turn toward Keynesian fiscal stimulus, you weren’t paying attention.

The question instead was whether Greece would be forced to impose still more austerity. The previous Greek government had agreed to a program under which the primary surplus would triple over the next few years, at immense cost to the nation’s economy and people.

Michelle Chen: What You Should Know About Walmart’s Raise

Remember when Walmart got panned for running a Thanksgiving food drive for its own employees-overlooking the irony of demonstrating noblesse oblige by asking customers to subsidize the workers the company itself impoverished? The retail giant took a more strategic approach last week when rolling out its latest do-gooder scheme: raising its base wage incrementally to $10 an hour. The move was widely praised even by labor groups-for lifting wages slightly closer to… well, what it should have been paying workers all along. [..]

But even with the raise, Walmart would still seem to peg the value of its workers at less than a living wage. The lowest-paid employees rely on billions in public benefits each year, including masses of food stamps, to scrape by. According to one recent analysis based on federal estimates, “a single Walmart Supercenter cost taxpayers between… $3,015 and $5,815 on average for each of 300 workers.” If a part-time associate is working 1,000 hours a year-roughly half its workers are part-timers-the extra dollar an hour still might not make her financially self-sufficient, much less lift her family out of poverty.

And since Walmart apparently has no plans to significantly expand full-time positions, thousands may continue to lack the working hours they need to approach a sustainable income.

David Cay Johnston: Financiers and power producers rig electricity markets

Sleepy regulators in New England allow consumers to be robbed of billions of dollars

For decades Wall Street financial engineers, teaming up with electric power producers, have gamed wholesale electricity auctions to earn bigger profits than either a regulated utility or a competitive market would yield. This month they made a major advance in their campaign to get rich by subtly draining your wallet. Yet every major news organization ignored this.

This latest development took place in New England, which already has America’s most expensive electricity. February’s electricity auction saw the annual cost to customers rise to $4 billion, up from about $3 billion in last year’s auction and less than $2 billion in the 2013 auction. That $4 billion figure would have been much higher but for a rule capping prices.

By the way, that $4 billion is not for the electricity, which costs extra. The $4 billion price tag is for capacity payments made to owners just for promising to run their power plants in 2018 and ’19.

If that sounds bizarre, it’s because it is. It is comparable to government taxing us to pay auto dealers to keep enough cars and trucks on their lots to satisfy expected future demand.

John Nichols: The Activists Who Won Net Neutrality Must Defend It in 2016

The Federal Communications Commission has finally taken the necessary steps to preserve a free and open Internet by guaranteeing net neutrality.

With the commission’s 3-2 vote on Thursday, the issue is settled.

For now.

Then it will rise again. No, there will not be a mass outcry against net neutrality, the premise that all Internet communications should be treated equally. There will be no popular demand for ending net neutrality protections against the development of a two-tier Internet, where “paying” content (from multinational corporations and powerful special interests) moves on an information superhighway, while “non-paying” content (from grassroots groups and dissenting citizens) is diverted onto a digital dirt road.

But there will be campaign donations, lobbying and spin from telephone and cable companies that have too much at stake to give up on the fight for an end to rules that prevent them from subdividing the Internet for profit. Telecommunications conglomerates stand to make a lot more money if they can charge extra to move some communications more quickly-creating a circumstance where corporations and politicians with the right connections can pay for commercial and political advantages in the digital age.

Michele Simon: Big Beef’s jig is up

Federal dietary committee recommends eating less red meat. Will science finally trump politics?

You almost have to feel sorry for the beef industry. After enjoying decades of popularity as a staple of the all-American diet, the harsh realities behind unsustainable beef production and excessive consumption are finally coming to light.

The latest red meat scare comes from the U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) a scientific body formed every five years to review the latest research available to tell the American public how to eat right. In the past, the committee’s work has been undermined by members with conflicts of interest with the meat, egg and dairy industries. But this year’s committee pulled no punches, even extending its reach to environmental considerations for the first time. The recommendations are not the final word on the matter. Later this year, the federal government will issue its formal Dietary Guidelines for Americans after reviewing the committee’s research and public comments. [..]

The meat lobby is not pleased.

Amy Goodman: TV Meteorologists Should Say It Loud and Clear: Climate Change Is Here

President Barack Obama issued the third veto in his more than six years in office, rejecting S.1 (Senate Bill One), the “Keystone XL Pipeline Approval Act.” This was the new congressional Republican majority’s first bill this year, attempting to force the construction of a pipeline designed to carry Canadian tar sands oil to U.S. ports in Texas for export. A broad international coalition has been fighting the project for years. Climate scientist James Hansen, the former head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, wrote in The New York Times that if the pipeline gets built, “it will be game over for the climate.”

This vote and veto came as much of the U.S. was gripped by extreme cold weather, with cities like Boston reeling from historically deep snowfall and Southern states like Georgia getting snowed in. Meanwhile, most of California braces for even more drought. The corporate television newscasts spend more and more time covering the increasingly disruptive, costly and at times deadly weather. But they consistently fail to make the link between extreme weather and climate change.

Feb 27 2015

Friends don’t let man’s best friend

Drive.

Feb 27 2015

The Breakfast Club (A Fool Believes He Sees)

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

Germany’s Reichstag burns, giving the Nazis under Adolf Hitler a pretext to seize absolute power; A cease-fire ends the Persian Gulf War; Actress Elizabeth Taylor born; Children’s TV host Fred Rogers dies.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it a superficial appearance of being right.

Thomas Paine

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