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Spotlight on green news & views: 2014 hottest year on record, 11 Senate Democrats back KXL

Sat, 01/17/2015 - 15:00
turn point lighthouse See OceanDiver's post on paths here. Many environmentally related posts appearing at Daily Kos each week don't attract the attention they deserve. To help get more eyeballs, Spotlight on Green News & Views (previously known as the Green Diary Rescue) normally appears twice a week, on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The most recent Wednesday Spotlight can be seen here. More than 20,600 environmentally oriented diaries have been rescued for inclusion in this weekly collection since 2006. Inclusion of a diary in the Spotlight does not necessarily indicate my agreement with or endorsement of it.
2014 Warmest year on record while solar cycle weakest in 100 years—by FishOutofWater: "2014 was the hottest on year record according to NOAA, NASA and the Japan Meteorological Agency. The high temperatures were not associated with a strong El Nino or a strong solar maximum. There is no credible scientific explanation for the record high temperatures except record high levels of greenhouse gases. CO2 levels hit the 400ppm milestone, a level not seen in millions of years when the climate was much warmer, in spring 2014. About the same time the solar maximum apparently was reached, but it was the weakest since the first decade of the twentieth century. The peak of solar activity was reached  in the mid twentieth century and has been declining ever since. Man-made climate change, not natural solar cycles explain the record high temperatures." 2014 was the warmest year in NOAA's 135 year record. green dots Poll: American Voters Against Republican Energy Policy—by DRo: "According to new polling data released Thursday. advancement of the Republican energy policy just doesn’t resonate with American voters.  XL Keystone and crude exports don't fly with the people, who believe in climate change and want a greener policy. The Senate has formally launched debate on legislation to authorize the Keystone XL pipeline, that also set the stage for weeks of arguments on climate change, crude exports and oil spills. Ted Cruz, senator from Texas and likely 2016 presidential contender, has started a push to end the decades-old ban on crude exports. The people want no part of it. 82% want to require oil companies to use oil from US public lands/offshore here, not export it."
green dots Action/2015: A Crucial Year For People & The Planet—by boatsie: "Action/2015, a collaborative campaign involving over a thousand organizations from around the world, launches today, with an urgent demand that local and world leaders take immediate action this year on three key interconnected issues: halting man-made climate change, eradicating poverty and addressing inequality. The future of billions of people is on the line if world leaders fail to take aggressive action at two crucial summits in New York and Paris later this year—September's UN Special Summit on Sustainable Development and the November-December UN Climate talks. According to recently released calculations by the Action/2015 coalition, almost a billion additional people will experience extreme poverty, with billions more remaining highly vulnerable to impacts of these three crucial issues if leaders fail to deliver equitable and powerful solutions. […] The Action/2015 coalition is one of the biggest campaigns ever to launch, combining over one thousand environmental, human rights, development organisations and faith networks from over 120 countries. Action/2015 is also backed by high profile activists such as Queen Rania Al Abdullah, Bill and Melinda Gates, Bono, Ben Affleck and Mo Ibrahim and also equally involves grassroots NGOs working with local communities."

You can find more rescued green diaries below the orange garden layout.

View from the left: Can Hillary afford to ignore Warren's battle cry?

Sat, 01/17/2015 - 14:00
Hillary Clinton speaks during a rally for Democratic challenger for Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, October 9, 2014. The general election day in Pennsylvania will be held on November 4, 2014. REUTERS/Mark Makela (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS) - RTR49LKA Who can resist talking 2016 with news like this floating about?
Come 2016, the former Bain Capital CEO aims to position himself as an anti-poverty warrior. That would be Mitt Romney, of course. Who else but Mittens could be so outrageous? If this is any indication, the GOP scrum for the nomination is sure to be scrumptious. But the left has its own challenges as Hillary Clinton firms up the campaign team that everyone assumes will steer her to the Democratic nomination.

Voters don’t seem to want a coronation. At least that was the take away from 12 Denver-area residents—Democrats, Republicans, and independents—who participated in a discussion led by Democratic pollster Peter Hart for University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center. Dan Balz of the Washington Post noted that the participants in the two-hour discussion have tired of “political dynasties.”

They were dismissive, sometimes harshly, in their assessments of Bush, the former Florida governor. They were also chilly toward former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton. Bush drew comments like, “Joke,” “No, thank you,” and “Clown.” The closest he came to positives were “intriguing” and “interesting." Clinton evoked phrases like, “Spitfire,” “Untrustworthy,” “More of the same,” and “Politician, but gets things done.” Better, but still nothing to brag about.

Who did capture their imagination?

Follow below the fold to find out.

This week in the war on workers: Can Connecticut stay a model on paid leave?

Sat, 01/17/2015 - 13:55
Governors Mary Fallin (L) (R-OK) and Bobby Jindal (R-LA) listen as Governor Dannel Malloy (R) (D-CT) speaks to reporters after a National Governors Association event hosted by U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House in Washington February 24, 2014. Gov. Dannel Malloy (D-CT) Connecticut was the first state to pass a paid sick leave law. Now, it's one of three, and frankly, Connecticut's law could be stronger—it only applies to businesses with 50 or more employees, for instance. So worker advocates and some Democratic legislators are looking to bring Connecticut back out front on paid leave:
"We were once a model for other states but now we're falling behind,'' Rep. Peter Tercyak, D-New Britain, and co-chairman of the legislature's labor committee, said recently.

No specific bills have been filed, but several key lawmakers in the Democratic-controlled legislature say they expect proposals to be raised that would increase the number of employees eligible for the benefit.

Thanks to a series of political compromises, manufacturers, salaried workers, temporary workers and workers at nationally chartered nonprofit groups are exempt, as are certain categories of employees not specifically listed in the law.

Including those workers and workers at smaller businesses—the new Massachusetts sick leave law, for instance, applies to businesses with 11 or more employees—would be a big step forward. Passing these improvements would require Connecticut Democrats to be non-weenies. Gov. Dannel Malloy, re-elected in 2014 by a wider margin than his initial election in 2010, after touting sick leave in his re-election campaign, should get behind this now.

Please read below the fold for more labor and education news.

Despite Obama order, CDC still unable to research gun violence

Sat, 01/17/2015 - 11:00
Twenty-seven wooden angel figures are seen placed in a wooded area beside a road near the Sandy Hook Elementary School for the victims of a school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut December 16, 2012. Twelve girls, eight boys and six adult women were killed Add this to the list of things Congress is blocking:
Two years ago this week, President Obama ordered the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to get back to studying “the causes of gun violence.”

But today the CDC still avoids gun-violence research, demonstrating what many see as the depth of its fear about returning to one of the country’s most divisive debates. The agency recently was asked by The Washington Post why it was still sitting on the sidelines of firearms studies. It declined to make an official available for an interview but responded with a statement noting it had commissioned an agenda of possible research goals but still lacked the dedicated funding to pursue it.

The biggest problem is that Congress refuses to fund that research, so it's not getting done.
Congress has continued to block dedicated funding. Obama requested $10 million for the CDC’s gun violence research in his last two budgets. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) have introduced bills supporting the funding.  Both times the Republican-controlled House of Representatives said no. So there you go. We're still not allowed to research how to make gun violence less commonplace in America because the National Rifle Association told Congress we're not allowed to do that, and the edict sticks even now.

Obama offers preview of State of the Union in weekly address

Sat, 01/17/2015 - 10:00
Our job now is to make sure that every American feels that they’re a part of our country’s comeback. That’s what I’ll focus on in my State of the Union – how to build on our momentum, with rising wages, growing incomes, and a stronger middle class. And I’ll call on this new Congress to join me in putting aside the political games and finding areas where we agree so we can deliver for the American people. President Obama gave a preview to weekly address listeners this morning of the successes and challenges he will discuss in his State of the Union address on January 20, and of the guests he will invite to honor their stories of how the policies of his administration have helped them.

A small business owner helped by an SBA loan, an unemployed worker who earned his degree and found a full-time job thanks to a cap on student loans and the health insurance he received through the Affordable Care Act, a wounded vet who is healing thanks to the care he's received—these will be his guests and their success stories will be highlighted.

He closed with an invitation to listeners to tune in to the address and hear about the progress the country has made and how America can expand on that progress:

The last six years have demanded resilience and sacrifice from all of us. All of us have a right to be proud of the progress America has made. And I hope you’ll tune in on Tuesday to hear about the steps we can take to build on this progress, and to seize this moment together. To read the transcript in full, check below the fold or visit the White House website.

This week in science: big chills

Sat, 01/17/2015 - 09:00
A series of linked loops across the face of the Sun highlighted the dynamic magnetic connections generated by several active regions over the period Jan. 3-6, 2015. Courtesy of the Solar Dynamics Observatory, NASA. If it's not cold enough where you are, two new subcommittee assignments in the Senate might chill you even more. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX & OIL) will chair the subcommittee that oversees NASA, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) will do the same for the subcommittee overseeing the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA. Both senators have a long record of denying science. Here's Cruz last year on CNN: Beaumont, TX (CNN) – Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, questions whether global warming is real, arguing that the "data are not supporting what the advocates are arguing." "The last 15 years, there has been no recorded warming. Contrary to all the theories that – that they are expounding, there should have been warming over the last 15 years. It hasn't happened," said Cruz. James Inhofe (R-EXXON-MOBIL) will head the Senate's Environmental Protection Agency committee. Oh, and 2014 is the hottest year on record in the NOAA database.
  • Not much is known about proposed, new Redmond satellite-engineering outfit reportedly funded by SpaceX founder Elon Musk.
  • Mass die offs becoming more common in recent years.
  • Hey Brits, don't call it a weather bomb, it's just explosive cyclo-genesis. Which means you folks in California aren't so much drought stricken as experiencing hydrological-nota-genesis?
  • Bats live a surprisingly long time (Hat tip to Balloon Juice).
  • Speaking of life spans, why do humans and other metazoans like our beloved furry friends age and die? Science bloggers have been taking a crack at that question this week: We have a couple of strategies. One is to put a strict time limit on our cells. ... It’s the Logan’s Run strategy. Once you hit a certain age limit, in this case a certain number of cell divisions, it’s off to Carousel with you. Why is this useful for the organism (or in the case of the story, society)? Because older individuals are more likely to carry a dangerous load of accumulated mutations, so they must be destroyed for the good of the whole.

Abbreviated Pundit Round-up: Flu, free speech and Richard III

Sat, 01/17/2015 - 07:30
graph of selected flu seasons Flu season via CDC Notice that this year (red line with triangle points) is like 2 years ago (blue line), still within the range of what to expect. It's a bad flu season, but those "ineffective" flu shots still work.

Aaron Carroll:

I don’t think I’m doing a very good job of making myself clear. So I’m going to try one more time.

My concern here is that people have a rather poor understanding, in general, of what “effective” means when it comes to health care. For instance, people assume that a “good” flu shot is a lock against not getting the flu.

A meta-analysis of 17 flu-shot studies showed that when the vaccine is well-matched, 1.2% of vaccinated people were infected with influenza versus 3.9% of people not vaccinated. That makes the number needed to treat (NNT) for a well-matched flu shot to prevent one influenza infection = 37. When the match is poor or uncertain, however, the NNT is 77.*

A couple of points here. First of all, NNTs of 37 and 77 are pretty good! Especially for something like a shot. The NNT for many, many, many other things we consider “no brainers” are much higher. Also, 37 and 77, while different, aren’t so different that we’d tell you to do one, but not the other.

James McAuley: Despicable though their hateful and bigoted comments are, the 54 arrested have ultimately been detained for practicing a similar type of speech to that which the millions who purchased the latest issue of Charlie Hebdo seek to venerate. In France, speech is less protected than in the United States: The French Pleven Act of 1972, for instance, prohibits incitements to hatred, discrimination, and racial insults, and the Gayssot Law of 1990—passed largely in response to Robert Faurisson’s notorious Holocaust denial—does the same for any speech blatantly anti-Semitic, racist, or xenophobic. The aftermath of Charlie Hebdo, then, has exposed what many consider a double standard: as it turns out, French law, unlike Charlie Hebdo, is not an equal-opportunity offender, and it selectively protects the dignity of certain communities and minority groups more than others.

Unfortunately, the quiet disparity in protected types of speech corresponds to the larger structural disparity France’s Muslims have historically faced before French law and continue to face in French society today.

More politics and policy below the fold.

Open thread for night owls: How neoliberalism has nearly broken the planet in 60 years

Fri, 01/16/2015 - 23:00
Jon Queally writes at CommonDreams That Was Easy: In Just 60 Years, Neoliberal Capitalism Has Nearly Broken Planet Earth. An excerpt:
Humanity's rapacious growth and accelerated energy needs over the last generation—particularly fed by an economic system that demands increasing levels of consumption and inputs of natural resources—are fast driving planetary systems towards their breaking point, according to a new pair of related studies.

Prepared by researchers at the Stockholm Resilience Centre, the first study looks specifically at how "four of nine planetary boundaries have now been crossed as a result of human activity." Published in the journal Nature on Thursday, the 18 researchers involved with compiling evidence for the report—titled 'Planetary Boundaries 2.0'—found that when it comes to climate change, species extinction and biodiversity loss, deforestation and other land-system changes, and altered biogeochemical cycles (such as changes to how key organic compounds like phosphorus and nitrogen are operating in the environment), the degradation that has already take place is driving the Earth System, as a whole, into a new state of imbalance.

"Transgressing a boundary increases the risk that human activities could inadvertently drive the Earth System into a much less hospitable state, damaging efforts to reduce poverty and leading to a deterioration of human well-being in many parts of the world, including wealthy countries," said Professor Will Steffen, a researcher at the Centre and the Australian National University, Canberra, who was lead author for both studies.

owl badge In addition to the four boundaries that have already been crossed, the study looked five other ways in which the planetary systems are under assault by human activity. They include: stratospheric ozone depletion; ocean acidification; freshwater use; atmospheric aerosol loading (microscopic particles in the atmosphere that affect climate and living organisms); and the introduction of novel entities into ecosystems (e.g. organic pollutants, radioactive materials, nanomaterials, and micro-plastics).

"I don't think we've broken the planet but we are creating a much more difficult world," Sarah Cornell, another report author, told Reuters. […]

The conclusion that the world's dominant economic model—a globalized form of neoliberal capitalism, largely based on international trade and fueled by extracting and consuming natural resources—is the driving force behind planetary destruction will not come as a shock, but the model's detailed description of how this has worked since the middle of the 20th century makes a more substantial case than many previous attempts.

"When we first aggregated these datasets, we expected to see major changes but what surprised us was the timing. Almost all graphs show the same pattern. The most dramatic shifts have occurred since 1950. We can say that around 1950 was the start of the Great Acceleration," says Steffen. "After 1950 we can see that major Earth System changes became directly linked to changes largely related to the global economic system. This is a new phenomenon and indicates that humanity has a new responsibility at a global level for the planet."

Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2003John Dean Nails Down Cheney’s True Goal:

John Dean recently published an essay on Dick Cheney’s true goal, which is remarkably similar to what Cheney and the gang tried to do back in the days when he and others were scheming inside the Nixon White House. In short, the Bush White House is looking for every opportunity it can get to roll back congressional power and do what it wants unchecked by Congress, even a GOP congress.

Creating a constant war environment and passing a Patriot Act can only push this along to fruition.

From RonK, we get an actual example of Mitch Daniels and the gang at OMB carrying out such a Nixonian power grab of congressional budget-making authority.

Tweet of the Day Kiss my ass. RT @davidfrum Isn’t the whole concept of presidential libraries anyway obsolete in the digital age?
@dick_nixon
On today's Kagro in the Morning show: A Greg-less round-up today. "Soft power" at the Gop retreat. Sarah Palin re-re-launches TV show. And it's spelled wrong. 2016 players round-up. Saud-ish blogger gets temporary reprieve. Some of those bent curves on health care. Midwestern Republicans do immigration differently. Rosalyn MacGregor says Republicans coincidentally have another wildly bigoted wacko rising in their ranks: MI RNC member Dave Agema. What part of "shall not be infringed" do I not understand? The part that takes three weeks to teach that. Lastly, a KITM-style parsing of a report that the White House knew about the CIA's Senate snooping.

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