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Quarterly Increase in U.S. Worker Pay Smallest on Record

Wages and salaries in the U.S. rose in the second quarter at the slowest pace on record, dashing projections that an improving labor market would boost pay.

The 0.2 percent advance was the smallest since records began in 1982 and followed a 0.7 percent increase in the first quarter, the Labor Department said Friday. The agency’s employment cost index, which also includes benefits, also rose 0.2 percent in the second quarter from the prior three months.

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen and her colleagues are counting on rising wages to boost the economy and bring inflation closer to their 2 percent goal. The setback may prompt some officials to call for a delay in raising interest rates for the first time since 2006.

“You’re really not building up the tightness that everyone says,” said Steven Ricchiuto, chief economist at Mizuho Securities USA Inc. in New York, who projected the overall ECI would rise 0.5 percent, among the lowest estimates. “For the people who were saying the Fed’s got to raise rates in September, this is a shock.”


The foreign minister of Burlington, Vt.

In addition to filling potholes, Bernie Sanders focused on the Soviet Union, Cuba and the Sandinistas.
By Michael Crowley and Michael Kruse

In June 1986, the House of Representatives voted to send $100 million in U.S. military aid to Nicaragua’s contra rebels. It was a major victory for Ronald Reagan’s hardline anti-communist foreign policy.

In Burlington, Vermont, Mayor Bernie Sanders sprang into action. Sanders quickly called an emergency board of aldermen meeting to discuss how the lakeside college town should respond.

This was not a surprising or unprecedented move for the young socialist mayor, who considered it his small city’s responsibility to craft a foreign policy in opposition to the Reagan administration’s. The previous summer, for instance, Sanders had presided over a local meeting to protest Reagan’s invasion of Grenada.

But even in lefty Vermont, his foreign policy activism provoked eye rolling. The Grenada episode led the Burlington Free Press to complain that the city’s leaders were debating foreign issues “while legitimate city business was ignored.” Seven of the city’s 13 aldermen skipped the Nicaragua meeting, with many complaining that Sanders was, once again, wasting time on a far-flung cause.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2015/07/the-foreign-minister-of-burlington-vt-120839.html

Read the whole thing, it is an interesting bit of history and not bad.

Bees and Banned Pesticide: Die-Off in Portland, Ore.

More than 400 bees--most of them bumblebees--were found dead in Portland, Ore. in mid-to-late June. The four bee die-offs that occurred in the Portland area that month were among several major bee die-offs to occur in the past two years, as The Oregonian reported.

A state probe by the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) recently released results that lethal levels of the pesticide imidacloprid, which the ODA banned in February, as reported by The Oregonian. Imidacloprid is a type of neonicotinoid--a class of systemic insecticides implemented in colony collapse disorder.

All of the bees were found near linden trees--a type of tree often sprayed with chemicals to control aphids, as The Oregonian article noted.

Investigators with the ODA have determined, by interviewing owners and managers of the property on which the bees died, that chemical applications to the trees took place before the ban went into effect, The Oregonian reported.


Newly found Hunter S. Thompson audio a rare, candid look at the legend

Forty-eight years ago, legendary writer Hunter S. Thompson was interviewed about the brutal ass-kicking he received while traveling with an infamous motorcycle gang. The rare audio from one of the 20th century's most cutting voices has been unearthed—and you don't need to be a fan to get hooked.

After all this was a journalist who said, at the time of the interview, “I keep my mouth shut now. I’ve turned into a professional coward," before going on to become the King of Gonzo only two years later. Thompson had a reputation so strong that it ultimately interfered with his ability to cover stories in the way he preferred to: quietly in the back, with a tape recorder in his hand and a brain swimming in whiskey.

But ending your case study of the Hells Angels with an expected savage beating will make words like that come out of you. That reporting went on to become the watershed Hell's Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga.

This nearly hour-long interview has been edited down to just more than five minutes by PBS Digital Studios, with animation added over it as a part of series Blank on Blank, which is all released via YouTube.



Desperate Christie Rebrands Himself As Protector of Delayed Commuters

This has not been Chris Christie’s week. Which is really saying something.

On Tuesday, a Monmouth University (N.J.) poll showed support for the New Jersey governor tumbling into eighth place among likely New Hampshire Republican primary voters. Just 4% of the 467 people surveyed said Christie was their first choice; 24% said the same about Donald Trump.

Sure, there were details that might give solace. Nearly half the voters who reported meeting a candidate said they’d met Christie. And when asked about their second choices, 8% of the respondents said they’d back Christie. That’s the same number supporting Trump and Marco Rubio as a second choice, and two points behind how Jeb Bush and Scott Walker perform among voters asked the same question.

But let’s face it. This isn’t where Christie needs to be to execute a hoped-for northeastern sweep that will generate enough momentum to carry him to the 2016 GOP nomination. And that implausible (if mathematically intriguing) scenario was never Plan A. Christie’s support among Republicans collapsed in early 2014 after his inner circle’s involvement in Bridgegate came to light, and it never rebounded.

Asked about the numbers on Tuesday, Christie lashed out at the source. “The Monmouth University poll was created just to aggravate me” he told reporters before calling the university’s polling director, Patrick Murray, “a liberal advocate.” “Just look at Patrick Murray and his tweets,” Christie fumed.


The Planned Parenthood hoax is the GOP’s Trojan horse

It’s a tale as old as time. Conservatives find themselves backed into a political corner, usually right before a contentious election season. In need of something to mobilize their anti-choice base, they launch an attack on reproductive health through another attempt to shut down the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. The collateral damage: time, energy and resources spent responding to the attack, instead of focusing on the crisis of reproductive health care access in America.

It was just before the 2012 election that conservative Republicans made their last previous attempt at passing legislation to defund Planned Parenthood. Now again, we can anticipate that legislation will be introduced in Congress to prevent any federal funds going to the country’s biggest provider of reproductive health care.

The old playbook is out again. Recently an anti-abortion group called the Center for Medical Progress, representing itself as a medical research firm, released secretly recorded, and heavily edited, videos of Planned Parenthood staff discussing fetal tissue donation, a service Planned Parenthood offers to its patients. Should they choose, someone who gets an abortion at Planned Parenthood can make the fetal tissue available for medical research purposes. Planned Parenthood denies any profit or wrongdoing.

On Tuesday, a court issued a temporary restraining order preventing The Center for Medical Progress from releasing videos featuring leaders of a California company that provides fetal tissue to researchers. Despite this, the attacks continue. The websites of Planned Parenthood, The National Network of Abortion Funds and the Abortion Care Network were hacked and shut down. A separate anti-abortion group, calling themselves “E,” took credit for hacking the nonprofits databases and gaining access to employee names and emails.



How Black Lives Matter forced campaigns to toss their strategies on black voters


Democrats have never been more confident that their chances of hanging onto the White House hinge on black voters, who tipped key states toward President Obama -- but they have never been less confident, it seems, about how to talk to them.

The Black Lives Matter campaign is seeing to it that the rules they relied on for courting the vote no longer apply.

The potent social media-driven movement, sparked in the aftermath of Florida teen Trayvon Martin’s death and reignited in the racial unrest of the last year, has 2016 contenders scrambling to adjust their strategies. The protesters involved are proving masterful at refocusing the spotlight. Candidates who might have otherwise been complacent given their high marks on legislative report cards from the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People and endorsements from an older generation of black leaders have had to more directly confront uncomfortable questions of racial inequality and the mistreatment of blacks by the criminal justice system.

“We want to ensure that these candidates will actually deal with the issues that black people face,” said Patrisse Cullors, a co-founder of the movement who is from Los Angeles. “The reality is that it’s still not legal to be black in this country.”

The group’s demands are likely to drive discussion at a major conference of the National Urban League here Friday, where candidates of both parties will spar over the best approach for improving the lives of African Americans. Among the attendees are Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton and Republican Jeb Bush, who both found themselves pushed off balance by Black Lives Matter in recent weeks on the campaign trail.



Climate change poses undeniable threat to national security

By USMC Brig. Gen. Stephen Cheney (ret.)

Having spent more than 30 years in the US Marine Corps, I know what constitutes a national security threat. Climate change, caused in large part by the carbon pollution we dump into our air, presents risks to the safety of both our nation and our world at large. The threats of climate change include extreme weather, rising sea levels, reduced military capacity, and conditions that can enable worldwide violence and perpetuate terrorism.

To address this challenge, we’ll need to both prepare for the effects of climate change and reduce the pollution that is causing it. As the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s Clean Power Plan proposal is set to be finalized shortly, our country has an unprecedented opportunity to protect itself from the national security threats imposed on us by climate change.

The EPA’s plan sets the first ever federal limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants, encourages investment in clean energy development, and helps boost energy efficiency measures. It’s vital we seize this opportunity, which also provides incentives and flexibility for states to meet their carbon reduction targets while creating jobs and lowering electricity bills at the same time. We are at risk now more than ever before.
Last year was officially ranked as the warmest year on record, and the ten warmest years on record have all occurred since 2000, with the exception of 1998. While we cannot suggest direct causations between climate change and extreme weather events, there is substantial evidence that indicates strong correlations between the two.


Obama Administration 'Senselessly' Fights Release of Guantanamo Hunger Striker

In an editorial published Wednesday, the New York Times editorial board criticized the Obama administration for saying it will oppose the release of Tariq Ba Odah, a long-term hunger striker who's been held at Guantanamo Bay for more than 13 years, despite never being charged with a crime.

Last month Rolling Stone published an article in which Ba Odah's lawyer, Omar Farah, described the human rights nightmare the 36-year-old prisoner has experienced since arriving at Guantanamo, and the precarious state of Ba Odah's health.

"Ba Odah has not eaten – not voluntarily, at least – since February of 2007. As a result, he is force-fed, usually in the morning and again in the evening. Guards remove Ba Odah from his cell, several at a time in protective gear, strap him to a restraint chair, and medical staff force a liquid supplement through his nose and into his stomach. 'Waterboarding,' Ba Odah calls it, both for the obvious torture analogy and because, at times, it has caused him to urinate and vomit."

Ba Odah, who at the time weighed less than 80 pounds, says he has been held almost exclusively in solitary confinement since May 2009. He's been on hunger strike for eight years in protest of his treatment at Guantanamo Bay, and the Obama administration's failure to close the notorious prison, despite repeated promises to do so.

Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/obama-administration-senselessly-fights-release-of-guantanamo-hunger-striker-20150730

Don’t Underestimate Bernie: Inside Bernie Sanders’ Unprecedented Grassroots Campaign

In June of 2008, the then Democratic Presidential nominee, Barack Obama and his campaign organized 4,000 online house parties in preparation of the general election only a few months away.

This past Wednesday evening, with the Iowa Caucus over five months away, the candidate many discounted as fringe and unlikely to generate any decent challenge for the White House, Bernie Sanders and his campaign organized over 3,000 grassroots gatherings with over 100,000 RSVPs. In all 50 states: in pubs, union halls, coffee shops and apartments, Sanders addressed his growing number of supporters via live-stream from a house party in Washington D.C., laying out the importance of building a grassroots organization network in all 50 states in order to create what the Democratic candidate calls a “political revolution.”

Bernie called upon his supporters to build the movement by talking to friends and coworkers, knocking on doors, registering voters, and volunteering to set-up campaign events.

Sanders proclaimed “enough is enough” in regards to issues varying from income inequality to institutional racism to mass incarceration to money corrupting politics.


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