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Old 01-26-2012, 11:23 PM   #2001
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This is pretty interesting. It's the annual Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders. It takes into account a huge range of factors from "do the reporters go to jail / get assassinated" to "are the reporters able to fully protect their sources?" Worth a read.
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Old 01-27-2012, 12:42 AM   #2002
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Default At the very least, no boys were involved this time around.

..

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The Vatican was shaken by a corruption scandal Thursday after an Italian television investigation said a former top official had been transferred against his will after complaining about irregularities in awarding contracts.

The show "The Untouchables" on the respected private television network La 7 Wednesday night showed what it said were several letters that Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, who was then deputy-governor of Vatican City, sent to superiors, including Pope Benedict, in 2011 about the corruption.

The Vatican issued a statement Thursday criticizing the "methods" used in the journalistic investigation. But it confirmed that the letters were authentic by expressing "sadness over the publication of reserved documents."

As deputy governor of the Vatican City for two years from 2009 to 2011, Vigano was the number two official in a department responsible for maintaining the tiny city-state's gardens, buildings, streets, museums and other infrastructure.

Vigano, currently the Vatican's ambassador in Washington, said in the letters that when he took the job in 2009 he discovered a web of corruption, nepotism and cronyism linked to the awarding of contracts to outside companies at inflated prices.

In one letter, Vigano tells the pope of a smear campaign against him (Vigano) by other Vatican officials who wanted him transferred because they were upset that he had taken drastic steps to save the Vatican money by cleaning up its procedures.

"Holy Father, my transfer right now would provoke much disorientation and discouragement in those who have believed it was possible to clean up so many situations of corruption and abuse of power that have been rooted in the management of so many departments," Vigano wrote to the pope on March 27, 2011.

In another letter to the pope on April 4, 2011, Vigano says he discovered the management of some Vatican City investments was entrusted to two funds managed by a committee of Italian bankers "who looked after their own interests more than ours."

LOSS OF $2.5 MILLION, 550,000 EURO NATIVITY SCENE

Vigano says in the same letter that in one single financial transaction in December, 2009, "they made us lose two and a half million dollars."

The program interviewed a man it identified as a member of the bankers' committee who said Vigano had developed a reputation as a "ballbreaker" among companies that had contracts with the Vatican, because of his insistence on transparency and competition.

The man's face was blurred on the transmission and his voice was distorted in order to conceal his identity.

In one of the letters to the pope, Vigano said Vatican-employed maintenance workers were demoralized because "work was always given to the same companies at costs at least double compared to those charged outside the Vatican."

For example, when Vigano discovered that the cost of the Vatican's larger than life nativity scene in St Peter's Square was 550,000 euros in 2009, he chopped 200,000 euros off the cost for the next Christmas, the program said.

Even though, Vigano's cost-cutting and transparency campaign helped turned Vatican City's budget from deficit to surplus during his tenure, in 2011 unsigned articles criticizing him as inefficient appeared in the Italian newspaper Il Giornale.

On March 22, 2011, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone informed Vigano that he was being removed from his position, even though it was to have lasted until 2014.

Five days later he wrote to Bertone complaining that he was left "dumbfounded" by the ouster and because Bertone's motives for his removal were identical to those published in an anonymous article published against him in Il Giornale that month.

In early April, Vigano went over Bertone's head again and wrote directly to the pope, telling him that he had worked hard to "eliminate corruption, private interests and dysfunction that are widespread in various departments."

He also tells the pope in the same letter that "no-one should be surprised about the press campaign against me" because he tried to root out corruption and had made enemies.

Despite his appeals to the pope that a transfer, even if it meant a promotion, "would be a defeat difficult for me to accept," Vigano was named ambassador to Washington in October of last year after the sudden death of the previous envoy to the United States.

In its statement, the Vatican said the journalistic investigation had treated complicated subjects in a "partial and banal way" and could take steps to defend the "honor of morally upright people" who loyally serve the Church.

The statement said that today's administration was a continuation of the "correct and transparent management that inspired Monsignor Vigano."

(Reporting By Philip Pullella)
..
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Old 01-27-2012, 11:59 AM   #2003
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http://start.toshiba.com/news/read.p...ARSDCCI1_UNEWS

Prison dilemma: surging numbers of older inmates
By DAVID CRARY AP National Writer The Associated Press
Friday, January 27, 2012 7:12 AM EST

NEW YORK (AP) — In corrections systems nationwide, officials are grappling with decisions about geriatric units, hospices and medical parole as elderly inmates — with their high rates of illness and infirmity — make up an ever increasing share of the prison population.

At a time of tight state budgets, it's a trend posing difficult dilemmas for policymakers. They must address soaring medical costs for these older inmates and ponder whether some can be safely released before their sentences expire.

The latest available figures from 2010 show that 8 percent of the prison population — 124,400 inmates — was 55 or older, compared to 3 percent in 1995, according to a report being released Friday by Human Rights Watch. This oldest segment grew at six times the rate of the overall prison population between 1995 and 2010, the report says.


thats the first paragraphs.........interesting read and poses some real questions......
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Old 01-27-2012, 02:51 PM   #2004
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Default I'm glad to hear Antioch is back up and running, and this is and awesome way to kick off.

How to Get a $106,000 College Education for Free
Lynn O'Shaughnessy

Friday, January 27, 2012

How would you like to go to a private liberal arts college that will give you a full-ride tuition scholarship for four years? Sounds crazy? Actually, I'm serious.
Antioch College in Yellow Spring, Ohio, is waiving the tuition for all its students, who enroll in the next three years. How much are these freebies worth? The value of the free tuition for the current year is $26,500. The scholarship, based on that price, makes each scholarship worth at least $106,000. Some students, who file financial aid applications, will capture an even greater price break. If they qualify, they may get to skip the room and board charges or pay a reduced price. Antioch's room and board is currently $8,628.

Why So Generous?

Obviously, it's unheard of for a college to offer free tuition to its all students. There is, however, an explanation for the generosity. Antioch is crawling out of the grave. Antioch College, which was originally founded by abolitionists in 1850, shut its door in 2008 after years of decline. Terrible management decisions, among other reasons, led to the closure, but tremendous financial support from dedicated alumni, who were appalled at the closure, led to its rebirth.

Antioch welcomed 35 students into its inaugural freshmen class in 2011 and it hopes to welcome another 65 to 75 students in the fall. The school's goal is to have about 300 students attending the school by 2015. "We are a 160-year-old start-up institution with a lot of history," says Cezar Mesquita, Antioch's dean of admission and financial aid. The college wants to make an investment in hard-working, engaged students, "who can help restart this great institution."

Antioch had always been known for its work cooperative program and that tradition has returned. All students will have numerous work opportunities during their four years that include, local, national and international experiences. At this point, the school offers 12 areas of concentration ranging from environmental and health sciences to languages and social sciences.

Academic Profile of Antioch Students

The inaugural class, which hailed from states throughout the country, had an average unweighted high school GPA of 3.56 and an average ACT score of 27, which is roughly the equivalent of a 1250 on the SAT. If you're a high school senior, there is still time to apply! Antioch's admission deadline is Feb. 15.
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Old 01-27-2012, 06:35 PM   #2005
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Default Careful, folks

Not to be a downer about Antioch College, but please be aware of accreditation issues before you decide to send junior there for free. They are not yet accredited. It might be a fantastic school, but if it is not accredited, well.....

The free part makes sense now. They need some students to get accredited and in order to get kids to come to their lack of credentialed school, they need to make it free.

Bummer.


http://antiochcollege.org/about/accreditation.html
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Are you educated or indoctrinated?
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Old 01-27-2012, 06:57 PM   #2006
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Default

The school must have lost accreditation when it closed. Hopefully, that's a temporary situation. It was a great school for 156 years.

Here's what I tell the students at the state school where I teach. Be wary if -

- if the school has a banner ad on your email screen,

- if recruiters tell you to 'not worry about costs; financial aid will cover everything,'

- if recruiters call you multiple times (I have a recruiter calling my cell every couple days from Everest College - I've called back the number),

- if the school has pop up ads, if the application process seems incredibly simplistic,

- if it seems to good to be true.

There are schools that aren't accredited. Be wary and do your due diligence with any school or program you're considering.


Quote:
Originally Posted by DapperButch View Post
Not to be a downer about Antioch College, but please be aware of accreditation issues before you decide to send junior there for free. They are not yet accredited. It might be a fantastic school, but if it is not accredited, well.....

The free part makes sense now. They need some students to get accredited and in order to get kids to come to their lack of credentialed school, they need to make it free.

Bummer.


http://antiochcollege.org/about/accreditation.html
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Old 01-28-2012, 01:05 PM   #2007
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Jedi finally recieve rights to same sex marriage!



FRC: 'Rebel Fleet Surrenders to Gay Empire'

http://www.rightwingwatch.org/conten...ers-gay-empire
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Old 01-30-2012, 10:25 AM   #2008
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Low IQ & Conservative Beliefs Linked to Prejudice



http://www.livescience.com/18132-int...sm-racism.html
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Old 01-30-2012, 03:38 PM   #2009
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Maddow to Media: Ask Romney About Antigay Donations



http://www.advocate.com/News/Daily_N...gay_Donations/
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Old 01-30-2012, 05:10 PM   #2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LeftWriteFemme View Post
Low IQ & Conservative Beliefs Linked to Prejudice



http://www.livescience.com/18132-int...sm-racism.html
Wonderful article, but I should keep my promise to myself to never read the comments on any news item that says anything critical about politically conservative people. Yikes!
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Old 01-30-2012, 07:35 PM   #2011
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While clarifying remarks linking civil rights to gay marriage, Gov. Christie calls N.J. assemblyman 'numbnuts'




http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/201...s_his_rem.html
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Old 01-30-2012, 09:46 PM   #2012
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http://www.npr.org/webapp#1008/145926123

'Consent' Asks: Who Owns The Internet?
By NPR Staff
January 30, 2012
Morning Edition [ 0 min. 0 sec. ]

While the Internet may aid the spread of democracy, democracy doesn't necessarily mean a free and open Internet. In her new book Consent of the Networked: The Worldwide Struggle for Internet Freedom, Rebecca MacKinnon, senior fellow at the New America Foundation and co-founder of Global Voices, a citizen media network, investigates the corrosion of civil liberties by the governments and corporations that control the digital world.

"The critical question is: How do we ensure that the Internet develops in a way that is compatible with democracy?" MacKinnon tells Morning Edition's Renee Montagne......<snip>
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Old 01-31-2012, 12:03 AM   #2013
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Transgender People are Completely Banned From Boarding Airplanes in Canada

The offending section of the regulations reads:

5.2 (1) An air carrier shall not transport a passenger if …
(c) the passenger does not appear to be of the gender indicated on the identification he or she presents;
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Old 01-31-2012, 10:29 AM   #2014
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Panetta: Decision to Kill Americans Suspected of Terrorism Is Obama's

—By Adam Serwer

In an interview with CBS 60 Minutes' Scott Pelley, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta revealed more about the secret process the Obama administration uses to kill American citizens suspected of terrorism without trial. According to Panetta, the president himself approves the decision based on recommendations from top national security officials.

"[The] President of the United States, obviously reviews these cases, reviews the legal justification and in the end says, go or no go," Panetta said.

"So it’s the requirement of the administration under the current legal understanding is that the president has to make that declaration, not you?" Pelley asked. Panetta replied, "That is correct."

The process by which national security officials determine whether or not American citizens suspected of terrorism can be killed remains opaque. The administration has leaked information about certain targets, but it has never released the legal justification for doing so, nor has it explained the system by which members of the National Security Council reportedly decide to put an American citizen on a so-called "kill list." In October, Reuters' Mark Hosenball wrote that the president doesn't necessarily explicitly approve strikes—instead, the attacks go forward unless the president objects.

Panetta's explanation of why he believes killing an American citizen without due process is legal wasn't exactly comforting. Here's the exchange:

PANETTA: Without getting into the specifics of the operation, if someone is a citizen of the United States, and is a terrorist, who wants to attack our people and kill Americans, in my book that person is a terrorist. And the reality is that under our laws, that person is a terrorist. And we’re required under a process of law, to be able to justify, that despite the fact that person may be a citizen, he is first and foremost a terrorist who threatens our people, and for that reason, we can establish a legal basis on which we oughta go after that individual, just as we go after bin Laden, just as we go after other terrorists. Why? Because their goal is to kill our people, and for that reason we have to defend ourselves.

PELLEY: They’re not entitled to due process of law under the Constitution of the United States? They lose their citizenship if this administration decides they’re a terrorist?

PANETTA: If this person wanted to suddenly raise questions about whether or not they’re a terrorist, and the were to return to the United States of course they would be entitled to due process. that’s something we provide any US citizen. And for that matter frankly any terrorist who is arrested, we provide due process to that individual as well. But if a terrorist is out there on the battlefield, and the terrorist is threatening this country, that person is an enemy combatant, and when an enemy combatant holds a gun at your head, you fire back.

Panetta's explanation isn't much more complex than "when we say someone is a terrorist, then we can kill them, because they're a terrorist." The entire point of due process, however, is to determine whether or not someone is actually guilty. The defense secretary's metaphor—that you can fire back when someone "holds a gun to your head"—might justify killing an American citizen who is fighting on an actual battlefield, like Afghanistan. But it suggests violence as an appropriate response to an imminent threat, rather than the actual circumstances under which say, radical cleric and American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki appears to have been killed.

President Obama just signed a bill that, if not for its many administrative loopholes, would "mandate" military detention for non-citizen terror suspects apprehended on American soil, so it's not accurate for Panetta to state that "any" suspected terrorist apprehended by the US receives due process. The vast majority of the nearly two hundred detainees at Gitmo have never been charged with anything, let alone tried and convicted. Osama bin Laden was the admitted leader of a group engaged in an armed conflict against US troops in Afghanistan; concrete evidence that al-Awlaki was more than a font for extremist propaganda has never been aired.

There's also an Orwellian element to Panetta's argument that anyone on the US kill list should simply turn themselves in and get a fair trial. As Glenn Greenwald reminds us, we only know that al-Awlaki was on the "kill list" because his name was leaked to the press. Any other Americans who might be on the list have no way of knowing they've been targeted absent leaks from administration officials or the sound they hear right before they're annihilated by a Hellfire missile. (Even calling friends, family, or a lawyer to turn yourself in could be the act that gets you killed.) If such an individual did know he was on the list, how exactly is he supposed to believe he'd have "due process" after giving himself up, given that he's already been sentenced to death by the administration? Is a fair trial even possible under those circumstances?
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Old 01-31-2012, 01:06 PM   #2015
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Default

Report proposes dividing Great Lakes, Mississippi



(AP) TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — Groups representing states and cities in the Great Lakes region on Tuesday proposed spending up to $9.5 billion on a massive engineering project to separate the lakes from the Mississippi River watershed in the Chicago area, describing it as the only sure way to protect both aquatic systems from invasions by destructive species such as Asian carp. The organizations issued a report suggesting three alternatives for severing an artificial link between the two drainage basins that was constructed more than a century ago. Scientists say it has already provided a pathway for exotic species and is the likeliest route through which menacing carp could reach the lakes, where they could destabilize food webs and threaten a valuable fishing industry.

"We simply can't afford to risk that," said Tim Eder, executive director of the Great Lakes Commission, which sponsored the study with the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative. "The Great Lakes have suffered immensely because of invasive species. We have to put a stop to this." The report's release is sure to ramp up pressure on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is conducting its own study of how to close off 18 potential pathways between the two systems, including the Chicago waterways. The corps plans to release its findings in late 2015, a timetable it says is necessary because of the job's complexity and regulatory requirements. A pending federal lawsuit by five states — Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio and Pennsylvania — demands quicker action. "This study shows that hydrological separation is both technically and economically feasible," said Rep. Dave Camp, a Michigan Republican.

A spokeswoman said the corps would not comment until it could review the report. The project that linked the two drainage basins began in the 1890s when engineers reversed the flow of the Chicago River to flush sewage away from the city and into a newly built, 28-mile-long canal that created a connection between Lake Michigan and the Illinois River, a tributary of the Mississippi. It is now a network of rivers, locks and canals. In their report, the two groups call for placing barriers at key points to cut off the flow of water between the two drainage basins by 2029. One alternative would put barriers in five locations near Lake Michigan. Another would erect a single barrier in the ship canal before it branches off into connecting waterways. A third plan would use four barriers. The report does not express a preference but says the four-barrier plan would cost less than the others — between $3.26 billion and $4.27 billion. That plan, the report says, would cause less disruption of waterborne commerce and fewer problems with flood and stormwater control, all of which opponents contend would result from dividing the two systems. It also comes closest to restoring the natural divide between the watersheds, said David Ullrich, executive director of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative.

The report doesn't make a detailed proposal for covering the costs but says the four-barrier plan could be done if the average household in the Great Lakes basin paid about $1 a month through 2059. The five-barrier and single-barrier plans' price tags could reach about $9.5 billion. Despite the high cost, the report's sponsors said the project would save money in the long run by shielding both systems from species invasions. Zebra and quagga mussels and sea lamprey already have exacted a heavy toll on the Great Lakes economy, and the region's leaders fear the Asian carp could make things much worse. "Yes, it's expensive. But the cost of doing nothing is greater," Ullrich said.

Asian carp escaped from Southern fish farms and sewage treatment plants decades ago and migrated up the Mississippi and its tributaries, gobbling up plankton that is essential for other nourishing other fish. The study, commissioned by the two groups and developed by a private engineering firm, will make the idea of separation easier for people in the region to grasp, said Joel Brammeier, president of the Alliance for the Great Lakes, a Chicago-based environmental group. "It's a natural, practical, on-the-ground map of how to get it done," Brammeier said. Mark Biel, chairman of an Illinois business coalition called UnLock Our Jobs that opposes separating the watersheds, said the Great Lakes groups' proposals would take many years to carry out and would devastate cargo shipping and pleasure boating in the Chicago area while doing nothing to prevent species invasions elsewhere. "Calling this a solution is ludicrous," Biel said.

But the report's authors said their plan envisions upgrades to docks and other infrastructure that, in the long run, would boost water commerce while improving water quality and flood protection. The barriers themselves would make up just 3 percent of the total cost. The Army Corps of Engineers contends an electric barrier in the shipping canal is preventing Asian carp and other fish from swimming upstream toward Lake Michigan, although carp DNA has been found beyond the device. Eder said the barrier is a good temporary measure, but not a permanent solution.

"It's kind of like the old Clint Eastwood adage, 'How lucky do you feel?'" he said. "We can take chances that the electric barrier and other measures will work, but I don't think we should."



Scientific American

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505245_1...s-mississippi/
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Old 01-31-2012, 03:30 PM   #2016
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Default Fact Check – Obama and ‘Equal Pay’ for Women


I don't remember this Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act he signed into law. If the goal was "equal pay" for "equal work", why is it called a "fair pay" act? Wonder why "equal pay" + "equal work" = "fair pay" reminds me of something along the lines of "separate but equal"?


Jan 31, 2012

Three years after he signed it into law, President Obama has made the little-known Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act the centerpiece of his re-election pitch to women.

It’s a “big step toward making sure every worker in this country, man or woman, receives equal pay for equal work,” Obama says in a video to supporters on his campaign blog.

The legislation repeatedly tops Obama’s list of accomplishments in stump speeches on the campaign trail and is cited as a fulfilled promise from 2008.

“Change is the first bill I signed into law that enshrines a very simple proposition,” Obama told a crowd of donors at the Apollo Theater Jan. 19. “You get an equal day’s pay for an equal’s day work.”

The idea that Obama has narrowed the gender pay gap is also the subject of an aggressive digital media push to promote his record and enlist new members to the group “Women for Obama.”

“Ensuring equal pay for women was @BarackObama’s first act as President, but not his last,” reads a message posted to the Obama for America twitter account for New Mexico, @OFA_NM.

Actress Kerry Washington, an Obama surrogate in Florida, was even more direct in a promotional video on the campaign’s blog: “There’s equal pay for women,” she declares outright.

The only problem? Women don’t enjoy equal pay, it’s improved little during Obama’s term and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act has hardly been a “big step” toward the goal.

In 2010, the most recent data available, women on average earned 77.4 cents for every dollar earned by men holding the same full-time, year-round job, according to Census data analyzed by the National Committee on Pay Equity.

The gap was virtually unchanged from 2009, when it was 77 percent and 2008 when it stood at 77.1 percent, before the law was enacted.

Pay inequity remains most pronounced among women of color. African-American women made 67.7 percent of what was earned by men in 2010, according to the Census, while Hispanic women earned 58.7 percent, both figures largely unchanged from the year before.

Still, while the Lilly Ledbetter Act hasn’t directly resolved the issue of systemic pay inequality, it has helped some victims of discrimination pursue their compensation claims in the courts, women’s rights advocates say.

After the Supreme Court threw out Lilly Ledbetter’s pay discrimination suit against her employer Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., saying it exceeded the statute of limitations, Democrats in Congress with support from Obama enacted the law to extend the period for alleged victims to sue.

“After the Ledbetter law was passed, we saw specific cases that had been thrown out of court – pay discrimination cases – being allowed to be brought again,” said Marcia Greenberger, co-president of the National Women’s Law Center. “The cases still have to be shown to be true, but at least those who believe they’ve been discriminated against get their day in court.”

There’s no way of measuring whether the legal cases have or will contribute to a broader shift in pay equality to benefit women, Greenberger conceded.

“The focus on equal pay and how to make sure the promise of the law is turned into reality is also something the administration ought to not only continue to do, as it has been, but also that a spotlight will be shined on what these efforts are,” she said.

The Obama campaign has showcased Ledbetter’s story with a six-minute web video documentary, an email blast to supporters relating her story and an op-ed penned by Ledbetter in major national papers in an effort to put a face on Obama’s efforts for women.

Ledbetter, 73, says the law bearing her name is a reflection of Obama’s commitment to equality, even if equality hasn’t come quickly enough.

“It might not be such an important bill, because it just put the law back where it was,” the Alabama woman told ABC News in an interview late last year. “We, per se, did not gain anything except putting it back to where it was before the ruling in my case. But it sent a strong message. And I don’t think anyone has forgotten it.”


http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics...pay-for-women/
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Old 01-31-2012, 03:48 PM   #2017
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Default

So Pa, So Good…But Must Activists Always Align With Corporations To Win?

By Russ Baker

It’s exciting to see how a coordinated Web blackout this Wednesday got members of Congress to reverse themselves so quickly—and do the right thing. By the end of the day, the number of Senators publicly opposing PIPA (the anti-piracy legislation that threatens free speech) jumped to 35 from five the week before. By the time you read this, those numbers may have jumped again. I wouldn’t be totally surprised if, with the tidal wave of public anger, we see 100 senators scrambling to get on the bandwagon. (Well, probably not 100, but a lot.)

However, it’s important to remember that, no matter how many citizens expressed themselves on PIPA (or the House version, SOPA), it was corporations partially driving this—in competition with other corporations. Basically, it is a battle between companies that create original content (especially movie and music makers) and those who derive their living from providing communications platforms where pretty much anything goes, including “borrowing” imagery, film clips, songs and more from their owners and creators for the purposes of a vibrant dialogue.

Putting aside the complicated pros and cons of the issue, in which both sides have legitimate concerns, and the overriding conclusion that the legislation could cast a severe pall over free discourse and Internet innovation, there is another matter to consider.

Namely this: What would it take for a public movement to get a similar response from elected officials, when billion-dollar interests were not lined up on the same side? Twitter, Reddit, Google, BoingBoing, Tumblr, TGWTG, etc. may be cool, but they’re giant, or at least popular, for-profit enterprises with agendas of their own. Wikipedia and Mozilla are huge, albeit nonprofit, commercial-type enterprises with major brands to promote and protect. All of these and more were on the “free speech” side of this battle. And their role, up front and center, was indispensable in driving home the point, and making congress- members squeal.

As soon as the blackout went into effect, and these outfits got their users to begin a massive and immediate campaign of petitions, emails, and calls, elected officials reversed themselves faster than you can say “one term.”

But suppose the free-speech forces had to make their case without a turbocharging from interested parties? How would we get some other onerous piece of legislation blocked when there was no strong financial incentive for deep-pocketed corporations with slick marketing/publicity arms to mobilize?

For example, what about the NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act), with its onerous and vague provisions that could, under certain circumstances, potentially allow for the indefinite detention without charge of American citizens accused of connections with terrorist groups? Despite a public uproar, Congress went ahead and passed that bill. (Obama signed it, but in a “signing statement” said that his administration would not sanction indefinite detention of citizens – a proviso that offers no restraint on future administrations.)

The point is this: indefinite detention of citizens, even the remote threat of it, is surely as important a threat to our liberties as legislation that curtails our freedom to use copyrighted material on the Internet. Yet what corporations were troubled enough to join the ACLU and other liberties groups in opposing NDAA?

Before we get too self-satisfied over the SOPA/PIPA victory, we need to take a long, hard look at our increasing alliance with all manner of corporate entities to advance our own interests. We should ask ourselves: If we don’t believe that corporations should be treated as persons, why do we need to work with them as if they are? And how can we the people join together to attain political goals without an 800-pound corporate gorilla in our corner?

http://blogs.alternet.org/speakeasy/...ations-to-win/
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Old 01-31-2012, 04:01 PM   #2018
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Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kobi View Post

I don't remember this Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act he signed into law. If the goal was "equal pay" for "equal work", why is it called a "fair pay" act? Wonder why "equal pay" + "equal work" = "fair pay" reminds me of something along the lines of "separate but equal"?


Jan 31, 2012

Three years after he signed it into law, President Obama has made the little-known Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act the centerpiece of his re-election pitch to women.

It’s a “big step toward making sure every worker in this country, man or woman, receives equal pay for equal work,” Obama says in a video to supporters on his campaign blog.

The legislation repeatedly tops Obama’s list of accomplishments in stump speeches on the campaign trail and is cited as a fulfilled promise from 2008.

“Change is the first bill I signed into law that enshrines a very simple proposition,” Obama told a crowd of donors at the Apollo Theater Jan. 19. “You get an equal day’s pay for an equal’s day work.”

The idea that Obama has narrowed the gender pay gap is also the subject of an aggressive digital media push to promote his record and enlist new members to the group “Women for Obama.”

“Ensuring equal pay for women was @BarackObama’s first act as President, but not his last,” reads a message posted to the Obama for America twitter account for New Mexico, @OFA_NM.

Actress Kerry Washington, an Obama surrogate in Florida, was even more direct in a promotional video on the campaign’s blog: “There’s equal pay for women,” she declares outright.

The only problem? Women don’t enjoy equal pay, it’s improved little during Obama’s term and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act has hardly been a “big step” toward the goal.

In 2010, the most recent data available, women on average earned 77.4 cents for every dollar earned by men holding the same full-time, year-round job, according to Census data analyzed by the National Committee on Pay Equity.

The gap was virtually unchanged from 2009, when it was 77 percent and 2008 when it stood at 77.1 percent, before the law was enacted.

Pay inequity remains most pronounced among women of color. African-American women made 67.7 percent of what was earned by men in 2010, according to the Census, while Hispanic women earned 58.7 percent, both figures largely unchanged from the year before.

Still, while the Lilly Ledbetter Act hasn’t directly resolved the issue of systemic pay inequality, it has helped some victims of discrimination pursue their compensation claims in the courts, women’s rights advocates say.

After the Supreme Court threw out Lilly Ledbetter’s pay discrimination suit against her employer Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., saying it exceeded the statute of limitations, Democrats in Congress with support from Obama enacted the law to extend the period for alleged victims to sue.

“After the Ledbetter law was passed, we saw specific cases that had been thrown out of court – pay discrimination cases – being allowed to be brought again,” said Marcia Greenberger, co-president of the National Women’s Law Center. “The cases still have to be shown to be true, but at least those who believe they’ve been discriminated against get their day in court.”

There’s no way of measuring whether the legal cases have or will contribute to a broader shift in pay equality to benefit women, Greenberger conceded.

“The focus on equal pay and how to make sure the promise of the law is turned into reality is also something the administration ought to not only continue to do, as it has been, but also that a spotlight will be shined on what these efforts are,” she said.

The Obama campaign has showcased Ledbetter’s story with a six-minute web video documentary, an email blast to supporters relating her story and an op-ed penned by Ledbetter in major national papers in an effort to put a face on Obama’s efforts for women.

Ledbetter, 73, says the law bearing her name is a reflection of Obama’s commitment to equality, even if equality hasn’t come quickly enough.

“It might not be such an important bill, because it just put the law back where it was,” the Alabama woman told ABC News in an interview late last year. “We, per se, did not gain anything except putting it back to where it was before the ruling in my case. But it sent a strong message. And I don’t think anyone has forgotten it.”


http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics...pay-for-women/
It was his first piece of legislation that he signed into law, watched it live. It's true.
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Old 01-31-2012, 08:41 PM   #2019
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Default Breast cancer charity ends Planned Parenthood funding

(Reuters) - Planned Parenthood said on Tuesday that the leading U.S. breast-cancer charity would no longer provide new funding to the group, which performs abortions and other services at clinics around the country.

In a statement, Planned Parenthood said the Susan G. Komen Foundation had "succumbed to political pressure" from anti-abortion groups in cutting the funding.

Komen had begun notifying local Planned Parenthood affiliates that their breast cancer prevention programs will no longer be eligible for new grants from the charity, it said.

Planned Parenthood said Komen had not responded to requests to meet and talk about the decision to cut the funding, which it said had helped thousands of women in rural and underserved communities get breast health education, screenings, and mammogram referrals.

But it said the Komen Foundation had been "repeatedly threatened" in recent years by anti-abortion groups upset with its affiliation with Planned Parenthood.

The Komen Foundation, best-known for the Race for the Cure fundraisers it sponsors around the country each year, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Reuters.

The foundation said it raised more than $1.9 billion for breast cancer research and programs and has affiliates in more than 100 U.S. cities and 50 countries. Its symbol - the pink ribbon - is widely recognized.

Planned Parenthood said Komen's funding had helped pay for 170,000 of the more than 4 million clinical breast exams the group had performed over the past five years, as well as more than 6,400 of the 70,000 mammogram referrals it has made during that time.

Planned Parenthood has come under attack by lawmakers in several states over the past year, including North Carolina, Indiana and Kansas, who have attempted to block any government funding of the group.

In Kansas, county prosecutors outside Kansas City are pressing criminal charges against Planned Parenthood, alleging the group failed to maintain required paperwork related to the abortions it provided.

Under current law, Planned Parenthood cannot use federal funds to provide abortions though it receives federal money to provide family aid to low-income women.

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/breast-canc...020112565.html
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Old 01-31-2012, 09:53 PM   #2020
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Default Part 1

Obama's Destructive Urban Policy Alienates Low-Income Communities
Tuesday 31 January 2012
by: Yana Kunichoff, Truthout | Report

From the window of Ruth Long's apartment in Chicago's Edgewater neighborhood, where she has lived for 33 years, Long can see a McDonald's where a man was shot, a building from which five families were forced out by development before the housing crash, and a "big, beautiful grocery store" where she can't afford to buy her food.

Long is an 85-year-old African-American woman who relies on a combination of Social Security, food stamps and Section 8 subsidized housing to stay out of the nursing home that she says, "would be disastrous" for her.

She is also one of an increasing number of low-income Chicagoans whose vulnerable standard of living is further at risk from the austerity measures and cutbacks hitting cities across the country.

Chicago has the third-highest poverty rate among America's cities, according to a 2009 study by the Census Bureau's American Community Survey, with 21.6 percent of the city's residents living below poverty level. But it tops the list in race-based poverty: one in three African-American people in Chicago, 32.2 percent, live in poverty.

These financial disparities are only part of what Chicago is known for; the Windy City is also the adopted home of the first African-American president, Barack Obama, and where he will be returning to run his re-election campaign for 2012. How has Chicago fared under the so-called "urban president," and what will Obama be able to offer a city leading the nation in black poverty in order to win its votes a second time around?

The Presidency and Urban Policy


"Our job across America is to create communities of choice, not of destiny, and create conditions for neighborhoods where the odds are not stacked against the people who live there. Barack Obama will lead a new federal approach to America's high-poverty areas, an approach that facilitates the economic integration of families and communities with efforts to support the current low-income residents of those areas."
-Change.gov

Barack Obama came into office in 2008 touting his credentials as a community organizer on Chicago's notoriously rough Southside, with his home in the city's Hyde Park neighborhood only blocks away from some of the poorest urban neighborhoods in the country.

One of his initial steps as president was to appoint the first White House director of urban policy, making him the first president since Lyndon B. Johnson to wear his plans for urban renewal in America's cities proudly.

Johnson, coming to power in the midst of the civil rights movement's push for social reform, pledged to fight "a war on poverty," created the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), increased public housing and created Medicare.

But subsequent presidents all chipped away at Johnson's already underfunded Great Society safety net. Richard Nixon came out swinging against "liberal ideology" and latched onto what CityLimits Magazine called "the boilerplate version of modern American urban history ... that cities were destroyed by a menu of activist federal policies implemented during the 1960s."

The following presidents, from Gerald Ford to George W. Bush, introduced their own policies but didn't stray far from the same narrative, decreasing welfare payments and chronically underfunding city programs.

Meanwhile, federal devolution became an increasing trend - decision-making authority regarding funding for social programs was passed from the federal level to the state and local levels, which left the burden of most public investments, with the exceptions of Social Security and Medicare, financed by state governments.

According to a 2000 report from the Economic Policy Institute, the result of this was that "almost all grants in aid to state and local governments, with the exception of the Medicaid program, fall into the category of capped expenditures, so budget balancing rules entail an erosion of aid to governments."

As the infrastructure of cities slipped further and further into disrepair, the Democratic Party assumed that they were assured the votes of low-income communities, and urban issues slipped from the dialogue of national politics, according to the report.

With a continuing economic crisis, a growing part of the American population could benefit from the kinds of programs that were originally instituted to help urban communities: Medicaid, Medicare, subsidized housing.

Many of the national policies that most affect the lives of urban residents like Ruth Long aren't categorized as urban policies, say advocates and residents. Instead, they are education, housing and civil liberties, policies that are said to apply equally to all Americans but, when unsuccessful, hit low-income communities the hardest.

Housing

Communities prosper when all families have access to affordable housing. Barack Obama and Joe Biden supported efforts to create an Affordable Housing Trust Fund to create thousands of new units of affordable housing every year. Barack Obama and Joe Biden will also restore cuts to public housing operating subsidies, and ensure that all Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) programs are restored to their original purpose.
- Change.gov

"Much of urban policy is tied up in urban real estate, and the housing market is fundamentally the legacy of the ongoing economic and foreclosure crisis," said Tom Feltner, vice president of Woodstock Institute, a nonprofit organization focused on a financial reforms system.

Obama had the misfortune of coming into office just as the housing market fell off the cliff it had been teetering on for years - the bubble popped in 2006 and, two years later, America was ushered into what some say has been the worst housing crisis since the Depression.

Cities across the country were hit hard, but Chicagoans have been losing their homes in record numbers. In 2010, Chicago was number one, above New York and Los Angeles, in foreclosures, and 6,112 properties were foreclosed on in the fourth quarter of 2011 alone. In addition, nearly half of Chicago-area homes are underwater, meaning the homes themselves are worth less than the mortgage.

The key components of Obama's housing policy included the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP), the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) and a cut for homeowners from the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP).

The HAMP program, which was meant to lower mortgage rates to affordable levels for homeowners, helped a smaller percentage of people than it aimed to - only 70,000 people got help in 2009, according to The Washington Post, while 2.5 million people got foreclosure notices.

Patrick Brosnan, with the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council (BPNC), said that he has seen positive results from the money that the group received to fund the program initially, but it hasn't received the funding "to sustain all of its components."

"It has a dramatic impact, and it is directly connected to the local economy and the development and sustaining of urban communities," said Brosnan of the HAMP program. As a HUD-certified agency that offers pre- and post-purchase counseling for primarily low-income residents on Chicago's southwest side, BPNC is now fighting for sustained funding for HUD counseling services.

The Obama administration "haven't used all the resources at their disposal to deal with foreclosure in devastated communities," said Brosnan. "I just don't understand why."

Part of the issue, says Feltner, is that the administration didn't go far enough to fix some of the structural problems that led to the housing crash, such as "making sure borrowers with loans from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac had access to loan modification.... And making sure that borrowers can maintain house ownership."

In its analysis of Obama's housing programs, The Washington Post sums up the administration's policy by saying: "they consistently unveiled programs that underperformed, did little to reduce mortgage debts owed by ordinary Americans and rejected a get-tough approach with banks.... Doing more to address the housing crisis may be crucial not only for an economy flirting with another recession but also for a president running for reelection."

Urban communities were also hit particularly hard by job loss and were more likely to be uninsured, an additional income drain that at times led to default on mortgages. And with 5 million more foreclosures estimated in the coming years, advocates expect the problems to continue mounting.

Education

"A world-class education is the single most important factor in determining not just whether our kids can compete for the best jobs, but whether America can out-compete countries around the world. America's business leaders understand that when it comes to education, we need to up our game. That's why we're working together to put an outstanding education within reach for every child."

-President Barack Obama, July 18, 2011

In Chicago, the Renaissance 2010 program started by former CEO of Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and current Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, bears a striking resemblance to some of the Obama administration's key education policies. The program, started in 2004, called for 100 new schools by 2010 in Chicago and closing those that were lowest performing.

The result of this change was an increased reliance on standardized testing, a jump in the number of charter schools in Chicago and, critics say, a leeching of much-needed funds from neighborhood schools. The minutiae of this plan includes widely using standardized testing to rate teachers, increasing the flexibility of school administrations to reward teachers who perform well on these metrics and fire those that don't, and reducing local control of education.

The Obama administration's two-pronged education policy - Race to the Top and an increase in charter schools - plays on a similar narrative: parental choice, healthy competition and the freedom to close low-performing schools.

Race to the Top opened a competition for a $4.35 billion pool overseen by the Department of Education (DOE), to "encourage and reward states that are creating the conditions for education innovation," and is seen as the Obama administration's answer to No Child Left Behind.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration came into office promising to heavily fund performing charters: "Barack Obama and Joe Biden will double funding for the Federal Charter School Program to support the creation of more successful charter schools," promised Change.gov shortly after the election. "Obama and Biden will also prioritize supporting states that help the most successful charter schools to expand to serve more students."

The administration moved quickly to execute this plan. In the last two years, 19 states have partially or entirely dropped limits on the number of charter schools that are allowed to open. Six school districts have more than 30 percent of their students in charters, and 18 school systems have more than 20 percent of their students attending the privately owned, partially publicly funded institutions, according to the demographics report from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

Struggling urban school districts house the highest number of students enrolled in public charter schools that receive government subsidies: Los Angeles, Detroit, Philadelphia, New York and Chicago are home to the top five.

"I think it's been disastrous," said Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union, of the Obama administration's education policy. "It's as if these politicians have just bought into a very regressive educational context, and it's similar to the conversation we had about education at the turn of the last century, where blacks and immigrants were sort of pushed into a very narrow education caste. While there are phrases like 'college and career ready,' none of the policies have really done that."

Public and charter schools often serve the same population, but a disproportionate number of troubled students leave charters. An investigation by Catalyst Magazine and Chicago public radio station WBEZ found that 1 in 11 charter school students will transfer out or be expelled from a charter.

Funding for public schools comes from local property taxes, leaving low-income areas working with fewer resources initially, and critics of the policy say that it has only taken more money away from public schools. In Chicago, the money that goes to the publicly subsidized charter sector is an estimated $300 million in public funds each year, reported the Chicago Reader.

Most crucially for many urban students, says Lewis, is that a school with high teacher turnover or routine standardized testing doesn't help the other challenges they may face.

"What research tells us is needed for children that have much more challenging lives is that they need smaller class sizes, they need concentrated time for free play, for safety, for the creative part of the school lives. They need things that allow children to express their wonder and the world and to be a part of it."
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