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ND-Dem's Journal
ND-Dem's Journal
March 28, 2015

Living fossil shark caught off Australia in January (died)

A rarely seen frilled shark has been captured off the coast of Australia, though he unfortunately did not survive for long outside the cold and deep water. The 6-foot-long fish with ruffly gills has caught flack for looking "horrifying" or like "'Jaws' on steroids," but those descriptors don't do justice to this serpentine marvel of marine biology.

With 300 teeth set in 25 rows, these sharks are so-called living fossils whose frilly precursors date back about 80 million years. Though scientists have known about this species since the 19th century, it wasn't until 2004 when a shark swam by a camera in his natural habitat for the first time...And, despite the decade since, much of the frilled shark's life — which takes place hundreds of feet below the ocean's surface — remains a mystery.


March 28, 2015

Control of the food supply: take the quiz


Blending history, reporting, and a deep understanding of American farming and food production, Foodopoly is the shocking and revealing account of the business behind the meat, vegetables, grains and milk that most Americans eat every day, including some of our favorite and most respected organic and health-conscious brands.

Hauter also pulls the curtain back from the little-understood but vital realm of agricultural policy, showing how it has been hijacked by lobbyists, driving out independent farmers and food processors in favor of the likes of Cargill, Tyson, Kraft and ConAgra.

Foodopoly demonstrates how the impacts ripple far and wide, from economic stagnation in rural communities at home to famines overseas. In the end, Hauter argues that solving this crisis will require a complete structural shift—a change that is about politics, not just personal choice.

March 27, 2015

Payday Lenders Back New Loan Type for WA Borrowers

OLYMPIA, Wash. - Bills to expand payday lending options in Washington have emerged from House and Senate committees, despite objections from advocates for low-income borrowers, seniors and the Washington attorney general.

The bills, HB 1922 and SB 5899, would create a new type of six- to 12-month installment loan for amounts up to $1,000. The lender gets a 36-percent interest rate, an origination fee of 15 percent of the loan amount and a monthly maintenance fee of 7.5 percent.

Add it up, said Marcy Bowers, executive director of the Statewide Poverty Action Network, and the result is a more expensive loan without the protections of the state's current payday lending law.

"They're saying that this would get rid of payday lending - which it would, technically," she said. "It would just replace it with something that's confusing and expensive, and would be better for payday lenders, but not better for consumers."

Washington added safeguards for payday loan customers in 2013. State Attorney General Bob Ferguson said borrowers don't need a new type of loan, and the state's payday lending law doesn't need an overhaul.

More than 70 consumer groups have signed a letter opposing the new type of installment loan, including AARP Washington. Mike Tucker, its volunteer president, said they took a stand because, statewide, one in five payday loans is taken out by someone age 55 or older.

"Let's recognize that a significant portion of the population of seniors are living on fixed incomes," he said. "And so, it's not surprising to me that the numbers for seniors using payday loans is as high as it is here in the state of Washington." Last month, Tucker told a Senate committee that AARP research has shown that the more debt people have, the more difficulty they have making financial decisions and resisting scams.

The bills to create the new installment loan are now in the Rules Committee. Text of the legislation is online at apps.leg.wa.gov.

- See more at: http://www.publicnewsservice.org/2015-03-04/consumer-issues/payday-lenders-back-new-loan-type-for-wa-borrowers/a44912-1#sthash.AHmtWtaa.dpuf

March 26, 2015

Quebec students launch anti-austerity, pro-environment 'social strike' and movement

By Roger Annis, March 25, 2015

Post-secondary students across Quebec have launched a “social strike” and protest movement opposing hikes in tuition fees and other austerity measures of the Quebec provincial government. They are also condemning the destructive environmental policies of the Canadian and Quebec governments.

The strike movement began on March 23 and is led by the Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante (ASSÉ–Association for Trade Union Student Solidarity). According to Le Devoir French-language daily, some 60,000 post-secondary students went on strike on March 23. The Quebec government will table a financial budget on March 26 which contains proposals to hike post-secondary tuition fees and cut many social programs.

The ‘Springtime 2015? movement was officially launched by ASSÉ with a march of students and workers on a snowy Saturday, March 21 in Montreal. It drew more than 10,000 people... The strike is projected to last for several weeks and more student associations will be voting across the province in the coming days to join it. A Quebec-wide day of protest has been called for April 2. According to the Facebook page of , some 80,000 students have voted to go on strike that day. Leaders of public sector trade unions are reportedly resisting the pressure from many members to stage a one-day general strike that day.

The student group is aiming to spur a broad, unitary movement in Quebec against austerity and against the environmental destruction of the capitalist, fossil-fuel based economy. There have been large protests in Quebec in recent months by trade unions opposed to austerity and by environmental groups opposed to the continued extraction and burning of fossil fuels, including the transport to Quebec by pipeline or rail of Alberta tar sands bitumen product and fracked, shale oil from North Dakota. Student-led protests are taking place across regions of Quebec. Students at Laval University in Quebec City have voted to strike. The duration of strikes at each institution vary and are subject to ongoing review...


Young protesters skirmish with police in riot gear in downtown Montreal. Students trying to attend lectures are turned back by striking classmates calling them scabs.

At first glance, the early days of Quebec’s “Printemps 2015” action launched this week look a lot like the student protests that gripped the province in the spring of 2012.

But there are signs of a shift in attitudes that will make it harder for the students to rekindle the spirit of three years ago, when opposition politicians and ordinary folk joined in their pot-banging protests against higher tuition.

The administration at the Université du Québec à Montréal, which in 2012 stood by as roaming mobs broke up classes, has signalled a significant change in approach. On Friday, the eve of the latest student mobilization, the university advised nine students that they face either one-year suspensions or, in more serious cases, outright expulsion as a result of actions committed during protests on campus over the past two years.

The administration says it cannot comment on the cases for privacy reasons, but student groups challenging the disciplinary action posted some details on Facebook. They said the students, who will face disciplinary hearings in the coming weeks, are accused of contravening a university bylaw on the protection of people and property in connection with six different incidents.

The incidents include three days last year when classes were disrupted to enforce a student strike and a recruiting session last January when a federal civil servant was prevented from talking about job opportunities for graduates with the Department of Natural Resources...


March 26, 2015

To those who don't want to hear from TPP until it's all decided.....

Did you know the public isn't allowed to know anything about it until FOUR YEARS AFTER IT'S ALL DECIDED AND IS ALREADY IN EFFECT?

Brilliant political thinking. Maybe you should just forget about calling yourselves citizens and call yourselves babies who need big daddy (or mommy) to take care of all the thinking for you. Just trust big daddy or mommy. They'd never do anything to harm you, baby. They loooove you.

The chapter in the draft of the trade deal, dated Jan. 20, 2015, and obtained by The New York Times in collaboration with the group WikiLeaks, is certain to kindle opposition from both the political left and the right. The sensitivity of the issue is reflected in the fact that the cover mandates that the chapter not be declassified until four years after the Trans-Pacific Partnership comes into force or trade negotiations end, should the agreement fail


March 25, 2015

Jim Harbaugh: I'm Overpaid

Speaking with Charlie LeDuff, of Fox 2 Detroit, Harbaugh said he would not give the money back or take a pay cut to make a point. Like most in the U.S., Michigan's highest paid state employee is a college basketball or football coach.

"I like making a buck just like the next guy," Harbaugh told LeDuff. "I'm not doing five times as much work as somebody else or doing more work than someone who's not the head football coach at the University of Michigan so to answer your question (about whether I'm worth it) honestly I would have to say no."

Deadspin published a report in May 2013 that showed only 11 states whose highest paid employee was not a football or basketball coach. This is the case in 39 states because football makes money. College football is a multi-billion-dollar industry and, as Deadspin noted, that money often stays in the athletic department.

"In terms of the value to the university, I think he'll probably be worth it," Richard Friedman, a law professor at the University of Michigan, told LeDuff. "Is there something a little bit unusual that he's paid much more than the university president or much more than anybody else on campus? You know, that's the way the world is."

Read more: http://www.universityherald.com/articles/17219/20150325/jim-harbaugh-michigan-contract-are-college-football-coaches-overpaif-for-a-reason.htm#ixzz3VPWPnfEG

March 25, 2015

I donít want to disillusion any readers, but....

I don’t want to disillusion any readers, but most of what they read and hear in politics is deliberate, strategic and ongoing propaganda...propaganda is, after all, the language of politics, and the secret is not only speaking the language, but knowing how to translate it.

We now enter the “announcement” season of the presidential campaign cycle. The “propagandismo” nature of our political language is in one of its purest forms in this season. Debates between candidates, and the conflict between their differing “propaganda” messages, have not yet taken place. Media and commentary analysis challenging the propaganda is mostly ahead. Political consultants and other advisers have carefully crafted, after much discussion and editing, the persona, biographical “story,” and overall image of their candidates. The political horses are lining up to get into the starting gates. By the late autumn and early winter, we’re off to the race!

Not so long ago, announcing for president was a more simple and straightforward event. Radio, TV and the internet, as they came along, provide expanded platforms for the formal declaration of candidacy, but “in the old days” when a candidate decided to get “in”, he or she simply got “in.”

Today, there are usually a series of orchestrated steps to the actual announcement. First, there is an often extended period of”speculation” during which a potential candidate gives interviews, answers media questions, and makes public speeches in which an “interest” in running for president is made of “hints,” “maybes,” and “possibles.” Then there is an announcement of the formation of an “exploratory committee” which propels a candidate into fundraising and more specific testing of the political waters. (This step arose primarily to fit the campaign funding laws introduced several years ago.) Finally, there is the formal announcement itself. Sometimes, a candidate only goes through step 1, or steps 1 and 2. We are now, in most cases, ready for those who will take step 3.

For the 2016 cycle, each major political party will have its own schedule of announcements. Senator Ted Cruz has just become the first to formally announce on the Republican (he skipped step 2, that is, he did not form an exploratory committee). He will be followed soon enough by a number of others, including predetermined “major” candidates Jeb Bush, Chris Christie and Scott Walker. Most of those who will go to step 3 have already formed exploratory committees. There is likely to be one or two surprise or late entries (like Texas Governor Rick Perry in 2012). On the Democratic side, the party and its potential candidates are awaiting the formal announcement of Hillary Clinton, reportedly set for April. Should she decide not to run, the number of formal candidates would likely increase dramatically. If she does announce, there will still be rivals in the race, most notably now former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, and possibly, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. Since a Democratic field without Clinton would be considered a relatively light one, the chance for surprise candidacies is high...

-Copyright (c) 2015 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

March 25, 2015

If capitalism is sociopathic, how should we make a living?

Hypothesis: Capitalism is structured in such a way that rewards sociopathic behavior, i.e. maximizing personal gain and corporate profits for a minority, inevitably leading to things like inequality of wealth amongst the population, etc.

If the Capitalism is Sociopathic hypothesis is true, then everyone not at the top is effectively enabling sociopathic behavior (by being a Loser laborer not paid a rational wage or a Clueless middle manager whose main job is to hide the class struggle) and/or participating in it (e.g. with investments in publicly traded corporations, entrepreneurs, etc.).

One option for a Loser at the bottom of the economic pyramid is to do just enough work to skate by. This is one rational (cost-benefit calculating) choice known as being a slacker.

Those who overperform end up becoming members of the Clueless, aka middle management, and their reward is dedication to a firm that is not dedicated to them. This requires a certain kind of constant inauthenticity. Some Losers are groomed to become Sociopaths. They do this by taking big risks (e.g. entrepreneurial endeavors inside or outside the firm)...

The Clueless are increasingly irrational because firms are being restructured, joined, and destroyed at ever increasing rates by Sociopaths. So it is becoming more and more popular for business advice to follow the lines of “don’t be a sucker, you too can be the oppressor!” We are all encouraged to be our own boss, i.e. to become a Sociopath running our own mini empire...We are even encouraged to personalize capitalist structures by exploiting global currency differentials between rich and poor countries by making U.S. dollars while living in a developing nation, or hiring “virtual assistants” to do our busy work freeing us up to do high-leverage activities which really bring in the money, thus asserting our status on the top of the pyramid with our own cadre of Losers serving our amassing of capital...

I also tried taking the Sociopath route of becoming an entrepreneur. I didn’t realize it was a Sociopath thing though until I encountered the harsh reality of startup culture, which is populated primarily by Sociopaths and Losers aspiring to be Sociopaths (who are largely destroyed by the more practiced and natural Sociopaths).

So what other options exist? That is what I am contemplating now...Anti-sociopaths and sociopaths actually have a lot in common, which is probably why I have had so many tremendously evil people in my life and on my radar. We both seek to do something based on our own principles which defy conventional morality. Sociopaths seek to do what benefits them regardless of what is right, whereas anti-sociopaths seek to do what is good, regardless of what benefits them...


March 24, 2015

Obamacare foe Ted Cruz signs up for Obamacare

Newly announced Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz, a longtime opponent of President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, has signed up Obamacare.

The news comes after Cruz lost health coverage through his wife Heidi's employer, Goldman Sachs. Heidi Cruz is taking an unpaid leave of her job so that she can work on Ted's presidential campaign.


March 23, 2015

Did Bill OíReilly Cover Up a War Crime in El Salvador?

Before Bill O’Reilly was, well, Bill O’Reilly, he worked for a time as a foreign correspondent for CBS Evening News, anchored by Dan Rather. O’Reilly talks about that period of his career in two of his books, and in both mentions that in early 1982 he reported from northeastern El Salvador, just after the infamous El Mozote Massacre. “When the CBS News bureau chief asked for volunteers to check out an alleged massacre in the dangerous Morazán Territory, a mountainous region bordering Nicaragua, I willingly went...”

The story of the massacre was broken on the front page of The New York Timesby the journalist Raymond Bonner and in The Washington Post by Alma Guillermoprieto; both stories were published on January 27, 1982, and accompanied by photographs taken by Susan Meiselas. Bonner and Meiselas got to El Mozote, after hearing about the massacre, by walking for days in from Honduras. Guillermoprieto wrote about seeing “countless bits of bones—skulls, rib cages, femurs, a spinal column” poking “out of the rubble.” Bonner noted the “charred skulls and bones of dozens of bodies buried under burned-out roofs, beams, and shattered tiles.” Later, Mark Danner reported on the massacre in detail, first in a lengthy New Yorker essay and then in a book.

Aside from the brutality of the killing, El Mozote is distinguished by the fact that Washington moved quickly to cover it up. It was, in a way, the first massacre of the “second Cold War,” the Reagan administration’s drive to retake the third world; what My Lai was to the 1960s, El Mozote was to the 1980s (later, in 1989, Atlacatl would commit another infamous crime: the execution of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter)...


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