Video Shows No Blood, Bruises on Zimmerman – No apparent physical signs to back up his beating story

(Newser) – Despite reporting that he was viciously attacked by Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman showed no apparent signs of abrasions, bleeding, or bruising when he was brought in for questioning by police the night he shot the teen. The handcuffed shooter appears untouched on a surveillance video—… More »

No blood, abrasions or bruises are apparent as George Zimmerman is led into the police station the night he killed Trayvon Martin.
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Showing 3 of 237 comments
Mar 31, 2012 2:11 AM CDT
my neighbor’s step-mother brought home $14618 a week ago. she is making cash on the laptop and bought a $447900 house. All she did was get fortunate and make use of the advice reported on this link ………
Mar 29, 2012 9:56 PM CDT
Doesn’t matter if they fought or not,Zimmerman was the murdering aggressor and pursuer of an innocent young male.
Mar 29, 2012 7:36 PM CDT
“The Ed Show” is offering a timeline of the evening of the shooting, starting with Trayvon being on the phone with his girlfriend at 7:12 and the police arriving on the scene of the shooting  FIVE MINUTES LATER.  This video of Zimmerman arriving at the Sanford police station is from 7:51. This is the man who says he was in a fight in the rain, on his  back in the grass, who supposedly suffered bleeding wounds to the back of his head and a broken nose, whom the police said they had found bleeding from the head and nose THIRTY FOUR MINUTES earlier.

Video Shows No Blood, Bruises on Zimmerman – No apparent physical signs to back up his beating story.


Shocker: Paul Ryan’s budget means more big tax cuts for the rich. –

The tax cuts in Paul Ryan’s 2013 budget plan would result in huge benefits for high-income people and very modest—or no— benefits for low income working households. No surprise here.

By Guest blogger / March 24, 2012

House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., center, and others, leave a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, where he discussed his budget blueprint.

Jacquelyn Martin/AP


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No surprise here, but the tax cuts in Paul Ryan’s 2013 budget plan would result in huge benefits for high-income people and very modest—or no— benefits for low income working households, according to a new analysis by the Tax Policy Center.

Howard Gleckman is a resident fellow at The Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, the author of Caring for Our Parents, and former senior correspondent in the Washington bureau of Business Week. (

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TPC looked only at the tax reductions in Ryan’s plan, which also included offsetting–but unidentified–cuts in tax credits, exclusions, and deductions. TPC found that in 2015, relative to today’s tax system, those making $1 million or more would enjoy an average tax cut of $265,000 and see their after-tax income increase by 12.5 percent. By contrast, half of those making between $20,000 and $30,000 would get no tax cut at all. On average, people in that income group would get a tax reduction of $129. Ryan would raise their after-tax income by 0.5 percent.

Nearly all middle-income households (those making between $50,000 and $75,000) would see their taxes fall, by an average of roughly $1,000. Ryan would increase their after-tax income by about 2 percent.

Ryan would extend all of the 2001/2003 tax cuts, and then consolidate individual rates to just two—10 and 25 percent. In addition, he’d repeal the Alternative Minimum Tax, reduce the corporate rate from 35 percent to 25 percent, and kill the tax provisions of the 2010 health reform law.

Earlier this week, TPC projected the tax cuts in Ryan’s budget would add $4.6 trillion to the federal deficit over the next decade, even after extending the 2001/2003 tax cuts, which would add another $5.4 trillion to the deficit.

Ryan argues that eliminating or scaling back deductions, credits, and exclusions ought to be part of the GOP fiscal plan. But he won’t say how.

Cuts in those tax preferences could make a big difference in determining who wins and who loses from the tax portion of his budget. But until House Republicans describe which they’d cut, there is no way to estimate what those base-broadeners would mean.

In truth, unless Republicans raise taxes on capital gains and dividends, it is hard to imagine the highest income households getting anything other than a windfall from this budget. Other tax preferences, such as the mortgage interest deduction, are just not that valuable to them.

And since no high-profile Republicans want to raise taxes on gains and dividends (and many would cut investment taxes even further) this budget would likely result in a huge tax cut for those who need it least.  That’s not a great way to start an exercise whose stated goal is to eliminate the budget deficit.

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Shocker: Paul Ryan’s budget means more big tax cuts for the rich. –

Critical Race Theory : Cases, Materials, and Problems (2ND 07 Edition) by Dorothy Brown – Powell’s Books

by Dorothy Brown


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Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years: Resources for Teaching about the Impact of the Arrival of Columbus in the Americas by Bill Bigelow – Powell’s Books

of the Arrival of Columbus in the Americas

by Bill Bigelow

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Rethinking Columbus has changed the way schools teach about the “discovery” of America. This new edition has over 80 essays, poems, short stories, interviews, historical vignettes, and lesson plans that re-evaluate the legacy of Columbus — right up to the present day. Packed with useful teaching ideas for kindergarten through college.A rich chorus of multicultural voices comes together in Rethinking Columbus to replace the murky legends of Columbus with a deeper understanding of history from 1492 to the present.

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The upper class is more Republican

A few months ago I listened to Frank Newport of Gallup tell Kai Ryssdal of Marketplace that upper class Americans tend to be Democrats. Ryssdal was skeptical, but Newport reiterated himself, and explained that’s just how the numbers shook out. This is important because Newport shows up every now and then to offer up numbers from Gallup to get a pulse of the American nation.

Frankly, Newport was just full of crap. I understand that Thomas Frank wrote an impressionistic book which is highly influential, What’s the Matter with Kansas, while more recently Charles Murray has come out with the argument in Coming Apart that the elites tend toward social liberalism. I’m of the opinion that Frank is just wrong on the face of it, but that’s OK because he’s an impressionistic journalist, and I don’t expect much from that set beyond what I might expect from a sports columnist for ESPN. Murray presents a somewhat different case, as outlined by Andrew Gelman, in that his “upper class” is modulated in a particular manner so as to fall within the purview of his framework. Neither of these qualifications apply to Frank Newport, who is purportedly presenting straightforward unadorned data.

When the “average person on the street” thinks upper class they think first and foremost money. This is not all they think about, but in the rank order of criteria this is certainly first on the list. We can argue till the cows come home as to whether a wealthy small business owner in Iowa who is a college drop out is more or less elite than a college professor in New York City who is bringing home a modest upper middle class income (very modest adjusting for cost of living). But to a first approximation when we look at aggregates we had better look at the bottom line of money. After that we can talk details. And the first approximation is incredibly easy to ascertain. Below is a table and chart which illustrate the proportion of non-Hispanic whites after 2000 who align with a particular party as a function of family income, with family income being indexed to a 1986 value (so presumably $80,000 hear means what $80,000 would buy in 1986, not the aughts).

Family Income Strong Dem Dem Lean Dem Ind Lean Rep Rep Strong Rep
Less than $20,000 12 15 12 24 9 15 12
$20-$40,000 12 15 10 18 11 19 15
$40-$80,000 11 14 10 13 11 24 18
More than $80,000 12 12 10 11 11 23 21

The results are straightforward: the more income a family has, the more likely they are to be Republican. There is a lot of nuance and geographical detail to be fleshed out in these results. But these facts are where we need to start.

Andrew Gelman has much more as usual. For example, this chart:

Why do I keep posting this stuff? Because facts matter. That’s my hope, my faith. Tell people facts, and they will open their eyes. Tell your friends, tell your family. Have whatever opinion you want to have, but start with the facts we know. Look up facts, calculate facts, analyze facts. They are there for us, we just need to go look. Google is your friend, Wikipedia is your friend. The General Social Survey is your friend.

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19 Responses to “The upper class is more Republican”

  1. 1.   Cathy Says:

    So, the more money a person has, the more likely they are to vote Republican. But the more education a person has, the less likely they are to vote Republican – with the exception of those who never finished high school yet have a very high income (which, I’d guess, has a lot of IT folks.)

  2. 2.   Razib Khan Says:

    with the exception of those who never finished high school yet have a very high income

    the error bars there are huge. don’t trust that. as i imply above aggregating all these groups into one pot can mislead. but yes, to a first approximation what you say is correct (though dems have traditionally had a bimodal distribution, the last and most educated vote for them, repubs tend to be in the middle).

  3. 3.   Anthony Says:

    Part of the issue is defining “elite”. If you looked at the politics of America’s approximately 300 billionaires, it might look very different than the politics of people who have an income over $1 million, or over an income of $80,000.

    My impression is that Charles Murray is trying to define “elite” as “opinion leaders” or something similar, which means people with non-STEM college degrees in fields like the media or teaching, which generally means poorly paid relative to their education, which would tend to skew very Democrat.

    Incidentally, Thomas Frank’s thesis is at least partially normative, that people with lower incomes *should* vote for Deomcrats, without ever considering the idea that some “poor” people might believe that Republican economic policies would actually benefit them more. Having not read his book, I don’t know if he notices that in states like Kansas, people do generally vote more Democrat as they have less money, just skewed more Republican than in more liberal states.

  4. 4.   rob Says:

    I believe that Frank Newport was correct the upper CLASS are democrats however the 1% financially are predominantely Republican.

  5. 5.   Razib Khan Says:

    I believe that Frank Newport was correct the upper CLASS are democrats however the 1% financially are predominantely Republican.

    what? what the hell are you saying? it’s awesomely informative that you bolded it?

  6. 6.   Karl Zimmerman Says:

    I read a bunch of left-liberal blogs off and on, and Thomas Frank’s thesis is pretty widely derided now. E.G., look at this post which airs an unfortunately little-commented upon 2006 study, which found that:

    1. Whites without college degrees are not turning towards Republicans.
    2. Lower-income whites, if anything, are turning towards the Democrats, as poor white voters with college degrees have become progressively less inclined to support Republicans.
    3. From 1952 to 2004, the working-class white vote in the South shifted to be 20% more Republican. In the rest of the country – only 1% more Republican!

  7. 7.   Josh Says:

    When you get to define what is wealthy, you can make the facts suit your needs. I’m sorry, but 80k is not what republicans mean when they talk about “the wealthy”. Here is an article from left of center source that shows that a large majority of the wealthiest Americans as well as most of those earning above 200k (as of 2008) vote Democrat. The guys arguing that the wealthiest Americans are on the left aren’t wrong, they just picked a different set of data to work with.

  8. 8.   Razib Khan Says:

    Here is an article from left of center source that shows that a large majority of the wealthiest Americans as well as most of those earning above 200k (as of 2008) vote Democrat.

    look, i kind of think it’s moronic to look at the top 20 wealthiest and infer from that. people who are worth billions are kind of beyond standard models. second, i know the 2008 data. it’s suggestive, but

    1) 52% is technically most, but it’s kind of misleading in the context of the comment. don’t be a douche

    2) the sample size in that epoll may be part of the issue (which might explain the huge fluctuation between 2004 and 2008). i would be nice to dig deeper into this, though to my knowledge no one has.

    as you say if you look hard enough you can find countervailing data. the point is not to look hard, but see where the preponderance of the data points. that’s called good faith, and trying to see how reality shakes out, rather than verifying your hypothesis. don’t be so patronizing. you comment was weak.

  9. 9.   Dave Says:

    “so presumably $80,000 hear means what $80,000 would buy in 1986″

    Where’s Waldo…

  10. 10.   DK Says:

    $80K elite? Is this some sort of a joke? Elites are the ones that buy everyone else and you can’t do that for 80K. Try maybe 80,000K.

  11. 11.   Karl Zimmerman Says:

    I think 2008 was a fluke year which shouldn’t really be used as a guide for how the very wealthy vote. The financial crisis, John McCain’s useless stunt during the depths of it, and probably the selection of Sarah Palin pushed a great many generally conservative wealthy people to support Obama, because he seemed the most likely to return the country to stability.

    In general, people should check out this blog. It has a lot of data on occupations by profession. Most of the data is culled from FEC donations, however, which means it’s not the best determination of the truly wealthy, as the upper-middle class donates a fair amount to political campaigns as well.

  12. 12.   Bobby LaVesh Says:

    These graphs probably suggest one common-sense observation:

    – People whether we’re rich or poor, educated or not tend to support their own cause.

    It is no secret that most people believe that left-wing policies tend to benefit the poor and right-wing policies tend to benefit the rich. People tend to vote what they think will help them.

    There really isn’t too much of a surprise there.

    As far as education- whereas increasing education tends to trend less republican- once you get to post-grad, that is where republican’s really lose out. I’m sure a factor in that is- a large number of post-grads are dependant on government funding for their research (or their oft-state funded university). Ones that arn’t are more likely to have peers dependant on it.

    I’m actually very curious on how religion with income maps out. From personal-experience it seems to me that the richest and poorest of society tend to be the most religious- with the middle groups less so. I’m curious if my personal observations match the nation as a whole.

  13. 13.   Bobby LaVesh Says:

    #10 DK.

    $80K from 1986 would be over $100k in today’s dollars. Sure, that’s not “elite” rich- but that’s definately a lot more than those in the lowest brackets.

    “Elite” may not be the right word- “comfortable” might be a better word. As #3 Anthony commented- it would be interesting to see the “true” elite- how things change then- how they vote.

    I’m sure from a voting perspective the true “elite” (the mega-millionaires/billionaires) are too small a percentage for campaigners to worry about as a group seperate from the “comfortable”.

  14. 14.   Ria Says:

    It seems to me that a realistic analysis of income distribution and voting would have to be done regionally in the US. This is because there is too much variation due to regionality that can confound the results unless you do a more sophisticated analysis than what is being done in these discussions. After all, the exact same position with the exact same experience can command a drastically different salary in New York City versus Tennessee or Montana. As much as $20k. That would easily be a standard deviation.

    I’ve not seen a thorough discussion of the data in terms of median income versus standard deviations as a means of describing the data even in a nation-wide sense (for each census year)…everything in the discussion is focusing on simplistic definitions of salaries that we all have a social recognition as being significant salaries. Let’s just stick to the data, and that will remove the confusion…and allow us to describe the sources of variance most clearly (as in the case of regional variance in salary, for example…since I do not know if all data sets being discussed have been adjusted for cost of living, and even if they have, if such an adjustment truly normalizes across the nation…after all, you can still probably purchase more with an equivalent cost-of-living-adjusted salary in Montana than you can in New York City just because incidentals also cost more in NYC).

  15. 15.   Karl Zimmerman Says:

    14 –

    Such a study has already been done. “Blue” states show little correlation between income and voting patterns, while “red” states show a high correlation. Even though rich people in all states are more likely to support Republicans than poor people, a larger minority in states like Connecticut support Democrats than in states like Mississippi, which explains why higher-income states overall now tilt to the Democrats.

  16. 16.   Curious Says:

    Karl Zimmerman is right (and this was previously discussed at some length here on GNXP.) My personal experience leads me to hazard a guess that the “working rich” ie. those in high effective tax brackets such as those of highly paid professionals, tend to be more Republican than the extremely wealthy who shield their income from taxation of earnings on capital rather than labor via capital gains taxes, municipal bonds, etc…

    BTW, even college professors at Columbia should hardly be considered “upper class” by NYC standards. You will not find many of them living in Larchmont or Rye and will definitely find them thin on the ground (water?) at venues like the American Yacht Club.

  17. 17.   Razib Khan Says:

    BTW, even college professors at Columbia should hardly be considered “upper class” by NYC standards.

    i alluded to that in the post. is there a reason you’re repeating that?

  18. 18.   Curious Says:

    No, I should have read your post more carefully. At any rate after controlling for red state – blue state effects I believe the proclivity towards Republican politics is probably explained more by one’s effective tax rate than by net worth.

  19. 19.   Razib Khan Says:

    blue state effects I believe the proclivity towards Republican politics is probably explained more by effective tax rate than most anything else.

    if you are talking about a model with dependent an independent variables, religious liberalism/conservatism is massively powerful. most poor fundamentalists and rich atheists are not republican, but they are to a far greater extent than people would care. this does not negate that fiscal concerns are extremely important.

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The upper class is more Republican.

Lobbyists, Guns and Money –

Florida’s now-infamous Stand Your Ground law, which lets you shoot someone you consider threatening without facing arrest, let alone prosecution, sounds crazy — and it is. And it’s tempting to dismiss this law as the work of ignorant yahoos. But similar laws have been pushed across the nation, not by ignorant yahoos but by big corporations.

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Specifically, language virtually identical to Florida’s law is featured in a template supplied to legislators in other states by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a corporate-backed organization that has managed to keep a low profile even as it exerts vast influence (only recently, thanks to yeoman work by the Center for Media and Democracy, has a clear picture of ALEC’s activities emerged). And if there is any silver lining to Trayvon Martin’s killing, it is that it might finally place a spotlight on what ALEC is doing to our society — and our democracy.

What is ALEC? Despite claims that it’s nonpartisan, it’s very much a movement-conservative organization, funded by the usual suspects: the Kochs, Exxon Mobil, and so on. Unlike other such groups, however, it doesn’t just influence laws, it literally writes them, supplying fully drafted bills to state legislators. In Virginia, for example, more than 50 ALEC-written bills have been introduced, many almost word for word. And these bills often become law.

Many ALEC-drafted bills pursue standard conservative goals: union-busting, undermining environmental protection, tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy. ALEC seems, however, to have a special interest in privatization — that is, on turning the provision of public services, from schools to prisons, over to for-profit corporations. And some of the most prominent beneficiaries of privatization, such as the online education company K12 Inc. and the prison operator Corrections Corporation of America, are, not surprisingly, very much involved with the organization.

What this tells us, in turn, is that ALEC’s claim to stand for limited government and free markets is deeply misleading. To a large extent the organization seeks not limited government but privatized government, in which corporations get their profits from taxpayer dollars, dollars steered their way by friendly politicians. In short, ALEC isn’t so much about promoting free markets as it is about expanding crony capitalism.

And in case you were wondering, no, the kind of privatization ALEC promotes isn’t in the public interest; instead of success stories, what we’re getting is a series of scandals. Private charter schools, for example, appear to deliver a lot of profits but little in the way of educational achievement.

But where does the encouragement of vigilante (in)justice fit into this picture? In part it’s the same old story — the long-standing exploitation of public fears, especially those associated with racial tension, to promote a pro-corporate, pro-wealthy agenda. It’s neither an accident nor a surprise that the National Rifle Association and ALEC have been close allies all along.

And ALEC, even more than other movement-conservative organizations, is clearly playing a long game. Its legislative templates aren’t just about generating immediate benefits to the organization’s corporate sponsors; they’re about creating a political climate that will favor even more corporation-friendly legislation in the future.

Did I mention that ALEC has played a key role in promoting bills that make it hard for the poor and ethnic minorities to vote?

Yet that’s not all; you have to think about the interests of the penal-industrial complex — prison operators, bail-bond companies and more. (The American Bail Coalition has publicly described ALEC as its “life preserver.”) This complex has a financial stake in anything that sends more people into the courts and the prisons, whether it’s exaggerated fear of racial minorities or Arizona’s draconian immigration law, a law that followed an ALEC template almost verbatim.

Think about that: we seem to be turning into a country where crony capitalism doesn’t just waste taxpayer money but warps criminal justice, in which growing incarceration reflects not the need to protect law-abiding citizens but the profits corporations can reap from a larger prison population.

Now, ALEC isn’t single-handedly responsible for the corporatization of our political life; its influence is as much a symptom as a cause. But shining a light on ALEC and its supporters — a roster that includes many companies, from AT&T and Coca-Cola to UPS, that have so far managed to avoid being publicly associated with the hard-right agenda — is one good way to highlight what’s going on. And that kind of knowledge is what we need to start taking our country back.



Lobbyists, Guns and Money –

Paul Volcker: Obama Socialist Comments Have ‘No Connection With Reality’

Paul Volcker Obama


Paul Volcker sounded off on critics of President Obama in an interview with CBS’s Anthony Mason.


Asked whether he agrees with accusations that the president is waging class warfare by pushing for Wall Street reforms and higher taxes for the rich, Volcker said, “I don’t understand the depth of that feeling. I really don’t. This business that he’s a great socialist and out to undermine the free enterprise system and so forth, I just think it has no connection with reality.”


He balked at the notion that Obama could have taken office without going after the banks.


“How could you have a President of the United States taking office in the midst of a financial crisis and a deep recession and not be critical of the financial system? He would have been deaf, dumb and blind,” he said.


Volcker, former Chairman of the Federal Reserve and Obama adviser, is the namesake for “the Volcker Rule,” a major provision in the Wall Street reforms that could take effect as early as this July.


Though Obama has been critical of Wall Street, a survey from the end of last year found that he had approved fewer regulations than President Bush had at the same point in his presidency.


As HuffPost’s Jen Bendery reports, Wall Street executives actually thrive under President Obama. Still, most major Wall Street donations are heading to Mitt Romney, who is perceived as much friendlier to banks.






Paul Volcker: Obama Socialist Comments Have ‘No Connection With Reality’.

Murder Incorporated: the Politics of Violence on the Mexican Border | Digg Topnews

This is the second article in an occasional Truthout series looking at US “immigration” policy and Mexican border policy through a social justice lens, focusing on the lower Rio Grande Valley, Brownsville, Texas, area. Mark Karlin, editor of BuzzFlash at Truthout, visited the region recently to file these reports. The first installment was “The Border Wall: The Last Stand at Making the US a White Gated Community.”

Murder Incorporated: the Politics of Violence on the Mexican Border | Digg Topnews.

Relatives of Afghan civilians killed or injured in Robert Bales’ ‘shooting spree’ receive tens of thousands of dollars from US military –

New York Post

Last Updated:Sun., Mar. 25, 2012, 11:26am

Relatives of victims in Afghan shooting spree paid $900K by US military

Last Updated: 11:15 AM, March 25, 2012

Posted: 10:48 AM, March 25, 2012

KABUL — Relatives of 17 people shot dead in a rampage by a US soldier in southern Afghanistan were paid tens of thousands of dollars in compensation, a tribal chief and government officials said Sunday.

The money — provided by the US military — was handed over at a private ceremony at the Kandahar provincial governor’s office, they said.

“The elders called me and said they were paid $50,000 per person for the dead and $11,000 for the injured per person,” Haji Agha Lalai, a tribal chief and a member of the Kandahar provincial council, said.

The killings — mostly of women and children — in Panjwai district are thought to be the deadliest crime by a US soldier during the decade-long conflict and have tested Washington and Kabul’s already tense relationship.

Afghan villagers pray over the grave of one of the victims of a shooting rampage earlier this month.

The US is keen to draw a line under the massacre earlier this month as far as it can, and the sums — around $900,000 in total — amount to a fortune in rural Afghanistan.

The payments Saturday came a day after Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, 38, of the US 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, was formally accused of 17 premeditated murders for the killings — charges that could carry the death penalty.

He also is accused of six counts of assault and attempted murder.

Afghan government officials speaking on condition of anonymity confirmed the payments but differed slightly on the amounts, citing them as 2.3 million Afghanis ($46,000) each for the families of the dead and 500,000 Afghanis for the injured.

American officers, local government leaders and tribal elders were present at the event, they said.

Local government officials in Kandahar declined to comment.

In Kabul, a spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) declined to confirm that any payment was made.

“As a matter of policy, ISAF does not make restitution for losses resulting from combat, combat-related activities or operational necessity,” he said.

But he added, “Individual troop-contributing nations may participate in some form of restitution consistent with the cultural norms of Afghanistan.”

Such payments are normally kept confidential, he added.

Fears had been expressed that if the families received compensation, they could be targeted by Taliban militants, who consistently threaten anyone who receives money from the United States or other foreign forces in Afghanistan.

Bales allegedly walked off his combat outpost under cover of darkness March 11 and killed 17 people in two nearby villages, burning some of their bodies before returning to the base and surrendering.

Responding to the charges against the soldier, a spokesman for Afghan president Hamid Karzai said, “We want justice, and we want it as soon as possible.”

Bales is currently being held at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas, and a spokesman for Joint Base Lewis-McChord, his home station, said it was likely to be 18 to 24 months until any trial.


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Relatives of Afghan civilians killed or injured in Robert Bales’ ‘shooting spree’ receive tens of thousands of dollars from US military –

Canada lacks investor protection

Canadian companies are getting picked off piecemeal due to one principal problem: the lack of investor protection in Canada, which discounts the cost of buying assets.

The impending buyout of BCE Inc. is a case in point.

Leveraged buyout artists circling around this underperformer plan to pick up its assets more cheaply by subordinating its bonds to the huge loans they will incur to buy companies.

In the case of BCE, which has yet to be taken over, the value of the Canadian BCE bonds has already fallen by 10% to 18% whereas BCE’s U.S bonds have dropped by only 2%.

Why the difference? Because American bondholders have investor protection that the Canadian bondholders do not. It’s called ERISA, or the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974. This legislation requires money managers (running pension or mutual funds) to undertake class-action lawsuits to protect investors hurt by attacks on bonds or equities.

It also makes responsible for such drops in value, the officers and directors of BCE or other bond-issuers.

This legislation does not exist in Canada even though it has transformed investment management south of the border. To not have reciprocity, in the form of such protection, means that Canada’s legal stupidity is helping finance the American takeover of our economy.

This ERISA legislation not only forces money managers to do their jobs, but stops the sort of soft-dollar nonsense that coopts money managers into blessing bond attacks, as in BCE’s case, in return for some collateral arrangement. Which brings me to BIMCOR, Bell’s internal pension fund management operation with $12-billion under its stewardship. Most other companies farm out their pension investment responsibilities but not Bell.

So here’s the problem: Whoever takes over Bell can co-opt money management outfits that otherwise might squawk over the bond theft with the promise that the new owner will privatize BIMCOR and they can manage some, or all, of the funds.

In Canada, there is no law against this.

These days, money managers slaver over such a huge slice of business, or even part of it. Typical fees amount to 0.5% of $12- billion, which is a nice chunk of change in a slow-growing money management sector.

So Canada’s investors are sitting ducks for international and local marauders.

Even worse, individual bondholders and shareholders have no recourse in Canadian courts or with toothless securities commissions. Brokers, owned by banks, are co-opted because they don’t want to alienate corporate managements or buyout artists.

And the justice system is nonexistent for individuals. Lawyers rarely do contingency fee cases for fear of running into conflicts of interest with the same buyout artists they represent. Even the Supreme Court of Canada recently defanged the Ontario Securities Commission by saying it had no jurisdiction over Asbestos Corporation’s buyer, the Province of Quebec, which shortchanged minority shareholders in contravention of securities laws and Toronto’s stock exchange rules.

The ERISA laws in the United States have made a big difference, which is why the BCE ”yankee bonds” are hardly affected. The failure to have ERISA laws here is why Sears was able to finance its privatization in Canada, partially off the backs of Canadian bondholders, with impunity.

Meanwhile, in the United States, ERISA resulted in a successful class-action settlement in the U.S. involving Royal Dutch Shell and its reduced reserves controversy. The oil giant paid out US$90-million. So did Global Crossing (US$79-million) and AT&T (US$29-million) for transgressions.

ERISA imposes responsibilities on people who handle other people’s money but also extends this to the directors and officers of the companies? whose bonds or stocks have dropped because they have not done all they could to defend values.

Companies whose securities drop as calamitously as Bell’s bonds would be automatically subject to charges under ERISA class action.

Meanwhile, here in Canada there is no protection and this failure leads to the co-opting of the pools of capital, which should be deputized to be watchdogs over the capital markets.

On top of all this, there is little, if any, recognition of problems among the politicians in charge of Canada’s fragmented, ineffective securities and financial system.

Lastly, other countervails are non-existent. There’s Bay Street (enough said) and the business media, which mostly have a conflict of interest because two of the biggest outlets are owned by BCE itself.

“Corporate bonds and prefs are getting hit hard by these LBO guys, and it’s destroying an important market. They are using these guys as cheap money they don’t have to repay,” said Stephen Jarislowsky of Jarislowsky, Fraser & Co. in a recent interview. “It’s a crime or should be.”



Canada lacks investor protection.

Obama tells federal agencies to ‘cut through red tape’ to OK part of Keystone XL |

WASHINGTON – U.S. President Barack Obama pushed Thursday for the speedy approval for the southern leg of TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline as he insisted oil has an important place in his national energy plans.

“Today, I am directing my administration to cut through red tape, break through bureaucratic hurdles and make this project a priority,” Obama said to applause as he stood in front of stacks of pipe to be used to build a portion of Keystone XL from Cushing, Okla., to Gulf Coast refineries.

The announcement came just a few weeks after Obama rejected the entire length of Keystone XL, a pipeline that would transport Alberta oilsands bitumen from the northern reaches of the province through six U.S. states to Texas.

The president said there was not enough time to review a new route around a crucial aquifer in Nebraska in order to meet a tight deadline imposed by congressional Republicans.

He insisted on Thursday he remains a staunch supporter of domestic oil production as he stood in tiny Cushing, where there’s a backlog of oil from states like North Dakota and Montana that cannot be easily transported south.

“Producing more oil and gas here at home has been, and will continue to be, a critical part of our all-of-the-above strategy,” Obama said. “Anybody who suggests that somehow we’re suppressing domestic oil production isn’t paying attention.”

The president also pledged to carefully review any future TransCanada permit applications, saying Republican pressure tactics forced his hand in February when he rejected the entire expanse of Keystone XL.

“As long as I’m president, we’re going to keep encouraging oil development and infrastructure in a way that protects the health and safety of the American people,” he said.

TransCanada spokesman Shawn Howard called the announcement good news.

“It’s an important step forward for the Gulf Coast project,” Howard said. “There’s a recognition that this is a critical piece of North American energy infrastructure.”

He added the announcement suggests the Obama administration is favourable to the entire Keystone XL pipeline.

“Ultimately, there’s a recognition that Gulf Coast refiners and refiners in the Midwest need increased supplies of both Canadian and American oil,” he said.

“It’s just a fact, and it’s not going to change and by moving oil from Canada and from fields in the U.S. into those refineries, it helps displace foreign sources of crude that come from regions that are often hostile to U.S. interests.”

Environmentalist Bill McKibben, who led high-profile White House protests against Keystone XL last summer, expressed dismay about the announcement.

“No movie producer, 50 years from now, will be able to resist a scene that explains the depth of our addiction to oil: the president coming to the state that just recorded the hottest summer in American history, in the very week that the nation has seen the weirdest heat wave in its history, and promising not to slow down climate change but instead to speed up the building of pipelines,” he said in a statement.

“It’s clear that the power of the oil industry drives political decision-making in America.”

Environmentalists have mounted an extensive campaign against Keystone XL, assailing the plan to transport millions of barrels a week of bitumen — an energy source they decry as “dirty oil” — to the Gulf Coast.

The U.S. State Department has yet to make a decision on the entire length of the proposed pipeline. State Department officials are assessing the project because it crosses an international border.

In November, the State Department punted a decision on Keystone until after this year’s presidential election, citing concerns about the risks posed to the aquifer.

Pipeline proponents responded angrily, accusing Obama of making a cynical political move aimed at pacifying environmentalists and improving his chances of re-election. They insist Keystone XL will create thousands of jobs and help end American dependence on oil from often hostile OPEC regimes.

Outraged Republicans then successfully inserted pipeline provisions into payroll tax cut legislation in late December.

But within a month, facing a mid-February deadline imposed by those measures, Obama nixed TransCanada’s existing permit outright. But he also assured Prime Minister Stephen Harper that the rejection was not a reflection of the pipeline’s merits, and that Republican pressure tactics necessitated his decision.

Obama’s announcement on Thursday, at the end of a four-state tour to tout his energy policies, came as prices at gas pumps in the U.S. continue a relentless march towards $4 a gallon.

Republicans have been blaming Obama’s energy policies for rising pump prices and have been hounding him for rejecting the pipeline.

Obama pushed back in Oklahoma.

“Anyone who says that just drilling more will bring gas prices down … isn’t paying attention; they’re not playing it straight. We are drilling more. We are producing more. But the fact is, producing more oil at home isn’t enough by itself to bring gas prices down overnight.”


Obama tells federal agencies to ‘cut through red tape’ to OK part of Keystone XL |

have been engaged in a battle with administrators over proposed 5 percent increase in tuition for incoming students

College-bound Illinois students seeking financial aid to offset their tuition costs will be turned away if their application was received after March 13, because the state has run out of money.

Illinois received a record high flood of Free Applications for Federal Student Aid (FAFSAs) from current or prospective college students vying for a piece of the state’s Monetary Award Program (MAP) grant money this year, prompting the Illinois Student Aid Commission (ISAC) to suspend fund disbursement starting March 14, the Northern Star reports. Before the ISAC put a hold on all grants, they had lowered the maximum award from $4,968 last year in anticipation of less available money and a greater need this year.

MAP funding is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, and the Chicago Tribune reports that FAFSA aid requests were received from between 140,000 to 145,000 students by March 13, for values that will deplete the available funding for the 2012-13 year. Request submitted on or after March 14, a deadline announced by officials Tuesday, will be denied, affecting an estimated 140,000 students who will still seek aid for the coming academic year.

Colleges were alerted Friday that further applications would be ineligible for grant awards. FAFSA applications have been accepted since Jan. 1, according to the federal application’s website.

ISAC spokesman John Samuels says the March cutoff marks the earliest the state has ever run out of MAP grant funding, according to the Associated Press.

Gov. Pat Quinn has proposed adding an additional $50 million to the $387 million sum Illinois awarded the ISAC to continue the grant program this year, to meet the increased need, the Tribune reports. But Samuels says the anticipated need would call for $1 billion to fund financial aid for each applicant.

The funding shortages coincide with rising college costs, particularly at in-state schools. DePaul University students have been engaged in a battle with administrators over proposed 5 percent increase in tuition for incoming students and 2.2 percent for current students.



have been engaged in a battle with administrators over proposed 5 percent increase in tuition for incoming students.

Arpaio asks Selective Service System for assistance in ‘birther’ investigation | The Raw Story

Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio on Wednesday requested assistance from the U.S. Selective Service System as part of his ongoing investigation into President Barack Obama’s birth certificate.


“While my office will continue pursuing this investigation, I have spoken of the need to enlist the aid of other agencies,” Arpaio said in a press release. “As a first step to that end, I am now requesting the assistance of the U.S. Selective Service System asking them to conduct a concurrent investigation to verify the authenticity of this document.”


Arpaio announced on March 1 that his six-month investigation into Obama’s birth certificate concluded the document was most likely a “forgery.”


The Republican sheriff now claims that Obama’s Selective Service registration form from 1980 was likely a forgery as well. Arpaio has asked Selective Service System Director Lawrence Romo to produce the original form so he can determine if it is authentic.

“Failure to register or otherwise comply with the Selective Service registration process is a serious offense,” A



Arpaio asks Selective Service System for assistance in ‘birther’ investigation | The Raw Story.

Arizona Lawmaker: Women Should ‘Watch An Abortion Being Performed’ Prior To Having It | ThinkProgress

CUSHING, Okla. – U.S. President Barack Obama firmly defended his record on oil drilling Thursday, ordering the government to fast-track an Oklahoma pipeline while accusing Congress of playing politics with a larger Canada-to-Gulf Coast project.

Deep in Republican oil country, Obama said lawmakers refused to give his administration enough time review Calgary-based TransCanada’s controversial 2,700-kilometre Keystone XL pipeline in order to ensure that it wouldn’t compromise the health and safety of people living in surrounding areas.

“Unfortunately, Congress decided they wanted their own timeline,” Obama said. “Not the company, not the experts, but members of Congress who decided this might be a fun political issue decided to try to intervene and make it impossible for us to make an informed decision.”

Facing fresh criticism from Republicans who blame him for gas prices near US$4 a gallon, Obama announced Thursday that he was directing federal agencies to expedite the southern segment of the Keystone line. The 780-kilometre line will run from Cushing, Okla., to refineries on Texas’ Gulf Coast that would remove a critical bottleneck in the country’s oil transportation system. The directive would also apply to other pipelines that alleviate choke points.

“Anyone who says that we’re somehow suppressing domestic oil production isn’t paying attention,” Obama said, speaking at the site of the new Oklahoma project.

Republicans said the moves were little more than a publicity stunt, arguing that it wouldn’t help TransCanada (TSX:TRP) build the pipeline any sooner. Construction is expected to begin in June with completion next year.

“The American people can’t afford more half-measures on energy from the president. No matter what he says, the reality is he killed the Keystone pipeline and the energy production and 20,000 jobs that went with it,” said Kirsten Kukowski, a Republican National Committee spokeswoman.

Environmentalists were also critical. Susan Casey-Lefkowitz of the Natural Resources Defence Council said Obama’s move was “downright foolhardy to cut corners on safety reviews for permitting” the Texas-to-Oklahoma line, “especially when the industry has a history of oil spills.”

Obama’s order urges speedy review of the Cushing project and directs federal agencies to incorporate previous environmental studies of the Keystone proposal that included the southern route.

The use of previous studies should help move the project forward more quickly than if a review of the project started from scratch, although it’s unclear exactly how much time the expedited review will save.

Republicans call the president’s actions a belated attempt to take credit for a project over which he has relatively little control. While federal agencies such as the Army Corps of Engineers and the Interior Department play a role in the approval process for the domestic portion of the pipeline, states have a more direct say in approving the route.

The full Keystone pipeline became a political flashpoint late last year when congressional Republicans wrote a provision forcing Obama to make a decision, and environmental groups waged a campaign to kill the project. Obama delayed the project in January.

Obama has been highlighting his energy agenda this week in Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma and later Thursday in battleground Ohio, a trip that reflects the degree to which high gas prices have begun hitting consumers in their pocketbooks.

For Obama’s advisers, rising gas prices pose a threat to his re-election bid because they could undermine the benefits of a payroll tax cut that he made the centerpiece of his jobs agenda last fall — Congress approved the tax cut extension in February — and throttle the economic recovery.

Republicans view rising gas prices as emblematic of Obama’s energy record and hope to tag him with the blame even though no president has much control over prices at the pump. Gas prices have risen more than 50 cents a gallon since January in response to a standoff over Iran’s nuclear program that has threatened to disrupt Middle East oil supplies.

GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum, campaigning at a Harvey, La., company that services oil rigs, said Obama’s administration should open more federal lands for leases to boost U.S. oil production and revenue for the federal government.

“Here’s an opportunity for us in this country to do something about it: increasing jobs, lowering energy prices, decreasing the deficit, all of the things you would think the president of the United States would be for,” Santorum said.

Mitt Romney, Santorum’s chief rival for the Republican nomination, has labeled Obama’s top energy advisers as the “gas hike trio,” urging the president to fire three Cabinet secretaries because of the high prices.

Obama was ending the day with a stop in battleground Ohio, talking about automobile research and development at Ohio State University in Columbus. The president has cited his decision to raise fuel efficiency standards to 55 miles per gallon for new vehicles by 2025 as an important step in conserving oil and saving consumers at the gas pump.

Obama has repeatedly invoked his decision to rescue General Motors and Chrysler from collapse with billions in federal aid, a move that saved hundreds of thousands of auto assembly and supplier jobs in Ohio, Michigan and elsewhere. Romney opposed the bailout, and Obama’s team intends to make it a stark contrast between the two candidates if the former Massachusetts governor wins the GOP nomination.


Arizona Lawmaker: Women Should ‘Watch An Abortion Being Performed’ Prior To Having It | ThinkProgress.

Organized Labor Really Does Make A Diffierece The electronic revolution has changed our world for the worst; making all things globally connected. The anti- labor free trade laws and deregulate of corporations has been an organized effort to attack labor as well as consumers. This has made it easy for huge corporations to move their plants overseas, or move them to Right-To-Work states where labor is cheap; as well as allowing the big banks to steal our homes, our invests, our pensions, our healthcare insurance, and our life savings leaving 99 percent of us financially ruined. They’re 24 states who have Right-To-Work laws their mostly in the south of the USA in small states. That number is growing through corporate political power. Many huge corporations bought their suppliers to do in-sourcing of parts and services to cut the cost of production; killing off small neighborhood businesses.
The big multi-national corporations contract its labor in non-union states for cheap wages; that’s what Right-To-Work means no labor unions they’re outlawed. As well as third world countries where life has no value and there aren’t any human right laws and the people have no voice. The people in these third world countries are worked like slaves and are they’re poorly compensated for their labor. Many transnational corporations have outsourced their consumer service jobs: like our cell phone providers, our medical records, our computers technicians, our credit history, and our credit card bill. When we’re discussing our account it’s usually with a foreigner in a foreign country where wages are extremely low, and sometimes it’s difficult to communicate with these people because they don’t speak English well. These global corporations don’t care how bad the service they provide is, or how useless the product they manufacture is; they only care about increasing profits.
These monopolies control their markets killing off the competition by getting corporate welfare from their friends in government. They destroy our environment as did British Petroleum, and The Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf-of-Mexico in April of 2010. They spilled 100s of millions of barrels of petroleum into the Gulf killing wild life, destroying the health of 10s of thousands of people, closing down 100s of local businesses, and contaminating the land for 87 consecutive days. It’s still contaminated two years later with blooms of petroleum floats around in the ocean. It’s going to take hundreds of years for the Gulf to clear up from these toxic waters filled with oil. There were 225,000 claims file against BP, and The Deepwater Horizon and they settled for 7.8 billion in this law suit, or about 27,000 per claim this was an abuse of political power.
With the new anti-labor Free Trade Agreements in place local economies have become enmeshed into the global economy this is the one world order of business creating displaced workers in foreign lands many come to the USA pushing wages down. Politicians use illegal immigrants to create racial hysteria to divide and conquer the labor market such as Bill O’Reilly and Shane Hannity on Fox News promoting racial tensions the “Brown People” are taking your job. These illegal undocumented workers are peasants, the very poor, who are looking for a better life in the USA; in their respective countries they have no human rights, and they have no legal rights as citizens. In the USA they get abused by politicians, the justice system, and by the people. This is a wedge issue that global corporations use to conquer and divide the workforce creating xenophobes; when in reality this is the answer to free trade.

Indiana unions remind voters of Gov. Mitch Daniels’ past opposition to anti-union bill as vote nears

Indiana unions remind voters of Gov. Mitch Daniels’ past opposition to anti-union bill as vote nears

by Laura Clawson

Indiana Democrats have returned to the state House after their third brief boycott aimed at slowing Republicans’ rush to pass an anti-union bill, but, according to the Associated Press, “made no promises they won’t stall again.”

If passed, the law would force union members to pay the costs of representing their non-union coworkers. The Senate is expected to vote today and to pass the bill overwhelmingly, followed by the House later in the week.

Meanwhile, the Indiana AFL-CIO will be running the ad shown above surrounding Gov. Mitch Daniels’ Republican response to Tuesday’s State of the Union, highlighting his 2006 opposition to such a law. No word on the size of the buy, but “The ad will air surrounding the governor’s response on broadcast networks in Indiana and nationally on CNN and MSNBC.”


Mon Jan 23, 2012 at 10:34 AM PST

Pro-Romney super PAC leads Florida primary spending, followed by union

by Laura Clawson

Will this union ad be a major player in the Florida Republican primary?

Politico rounds up outside spending on the Florida Republican presidential primary … and so far, a union is coming in second. Mitt Romney’s super PAC, Restore Our Future, leads the way:

[T]he organization has spent more than $2.07 million in Florida alone to fund broadcast advertisements and phone banking designed to both support Romney and attack both Gingrich and fellow GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum, federal records indicate.

By contrast, the super PACs aligned with other candidates are spending peanuts so far: Just $225,000 from the pro-Santorum Red White and Blue Fund and a measly $100,000 from the pro-Gingrich Winning Our Future. That $100,000 is an internet ad buy; you have to assume they’ll be doing something more shortly.

But AFSCME’s ad buy targeting Romney, originally reported at $800,000, is in fact around $1 million. That’s still less than half what Romney’s super PAC has spent in the last few days, of course, but right now, it’s some of the most serious opposition Romney is drawing in Florida.


Mon Jan 23, 2012 at 08:44 AM PST

Kansas kicks American citizen children of undocumented immigrants off of food stamps

by Laura Clawson

For kids!

The state of Kansas has found a way to deny children who are American citizens nutritional assistance they would be eligible for—if only their parents weren’t undocumented immigrants.

While undocumented immigrants are not eligible to receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, many have children who were born in the U.S. and are, as citizens, eligible for aid. Or they were until Kansas tinkered with how household income is calculated.

Here’s how the change works: Until last fall, Kansas would look at the household income of a family made up of a mixture of citizens and non-citizens, and prorate the income to the number of citizens—and remember, we’re talking about dependent children here. So for one family the Kansas City Star‘s Laura Bauer talked to, the two U.S. citizens in a family of five were counted as receiving two-fifths of the total household income of $1,600 a month. That meant they were counted as having $640 a month in income and were eligible for $280 a month in food stamps. Now, though, those two children, aged eight and three, are counted as earning their family’s entire $1,600, and $1,600 a month is too high an income for two people to qualify for benefits.

How’s that for creativity in the service of screwing immigrant families?

The family described above applied for benefits only after the children’s mother was laid off; when the children’s father worked weekends for some months, he reported the extra income and his daughters’ benefits were cut. Then, just as his weekend work and his daughters would have qualified for food stamps again, Kansas made this change going after the children of immigrants:

He now puts $50 a week aside for food to feed his family. When that’s not enough, he borrows from the rent money and the cash put aside for utilities.

His eyes fill with tears when he talks about his struggle to provide for his family.

“My family doesn’t know what I’m doing,” he said. “I try to eat at work (where his boss often provides meals and snacks) so I don’t take food away from my children at home. … The bills are coming in. Now I am getting letters on what they are going to cut off. I know every month it’s going to be worse.

“But I ask myself, ‘What is better, my kids having food or paying the bills?'”

Way to go, Kansas.


Mon Jan 23, 2012 at 07:18 AM PST

Newt Gingrich’s ‘Obama is the food stamp president’ line founded on a falsehood

by Laura Clawson

(Adam Hunger/Reuters)

Details, details. Newt Gingrich’s whole schtick about how Barack Obama is “the food stamp president” is founded on a false claim, a USA Today fact-check finds. Gingrich’s basis for the “food stamp president” thing is his specific claim that “more people have been put on food stamps by Barack Obama than any president in American history.” It would be accurate to say that under Obama food stamp enrollment has been at its highest point ever, but:

Gingrich goes too far to say Obama has put more on the rolls than other presidents. We asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition service for month-by-month figures going back to January 2001. And they show that under President George W. Bush the number of recipients rose by nearly 14.7 million. Nothing before comes close to that.

And under Obama, the increase so far has been 14.2 million. To be exact, the program has so far grown by 444,574 fewer recipients during Obama’s time in office than during Bush’s.

Obama still has time to exceed Bush, of course, but the number of people receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP, or food stamp) benefits actually went down in October. And even if, during the coming months, the number will go up enough to exceed Bush’s record, Newt Gingrich has yet to prove that he can see into the future, And even if Newt Gingrich can see into the future, he can’t change the rules of grammar such that when he says “more people have been put on food stamps by Barack Obama” it actually means “more people ultimately will have been put on food stamps.” So no matter what happens in coming months, right now, Newt Gingrich is a liar.


Sun Jan 22, 2012 at 09:33 AM PST

Retail industry sells New York workers short with discrimination, low wages and schedule abuses

by Laura Clawson

A large majority of the 436 New York City retail workers surveyed for the newly released study Discounted Jobs have at least some college education. They’ve been working in retail for an average of five years, and half have been at their current job for more than a year. Half of them earn less than $9.50 an hour, only 29 percent get health care through their retail job, and of the 44 percent who do have paid sick days in theory, only 54 percent have used a sick day—in many cases due to pressure from their managers and fear of retribution.

What the report, by City University of New York professor Stephanie Luce and Naoki Fujita of the Retail Action Project, shows is an educated, experienced workforce in an industry that makes it virtually impossible for workers to make a living. Even the most educated workers, who earn more than others, earn poverty-level wages:

For those with a Bachelor’s degree, the median wage was $11.50 per hour. With a median of 36 hours per week, a retail worker with a Bachelor’s degree could expect to gross just under $22,000 a year. Respondents with an Associate’s degree had a median hourly wage of $10 and 32 median weekly hours. This results in an annual gross income of $16,640, assuming year-round employment.

And, as the chart above shows, there’s a significant racial gap in wages, with Latino workers with two years on the job averaging a slightly lower pay rate than white workers with less than six months on the job. As a preview of the report, which I wrote about in December, made clear, women are also paid less than men.

One explanation commonly offered for such wage differentials within an industry is that the lower-paid groups aren’t as qualified for the higher-paid jobs in the industry. In this telling, white men in retail are just more likely to have the qualifications needed to work the more desirable jobs and get more raises. Another study of New York City employment offers a rejoinder to that notion. Sociologists Devah Pager and Bruce Western conducted an audit study, in which they had matched teams of young men with similar attributes and (fictitious; created for the study) resumes, but of different races, apply for entry-level jobs. In some cases, a white tester was given a resume that indicated he was a recently released felon, while his black and Latino counterparts did not do so. Pager and Western found that, in the teams in which no one indicated a criminal record, the white man had a 23 percent chance of getting a positive response, the Latino man had a 19 percent chance, and the black man had just a 13 percent chance of a positive response. In the teams in which the white member was supposedly a felon, those white members were about as likely as the black and Latino non-felons to get a positive response.

That part of Pager and Western’s study speaks to how likely people of different races are to be offered work at all. But they also found significant racial channeling, in which black and Latino applicants for jobs involving contact with customers were instead offered back-of-house jobs—applying for a job as a salesperson or waiter, they were offered a job as a stocker or a dishwasher. White applicants, on the other hand, were sometimes channeled upward, asked to apply for a waiter job rather than the dishwasher one they’d asked to apply for. The only white testers who were channeled downward were those who claimed to be felons, while black testers were channeled down in 10 cases and Latinos were in four cases.

These were, remember, applicants who had been chosen to be similar to each other—race aside—down to their very height, then trained to behave similarly while inquiring about jobs, then given matching resumes (except in the cases of the white testers who were given prison records). The disparate results they experienced in their “job searching” demonstrates the role that employers play in creating racial disparities in pay such as the Luce and Fujita “Discounted Pay” study finds.

Pay isn’t the only racial disparity the workers Luce and Fujita surveyed experience. Scheduling is a major issue for these workers (as anyone who has read Lightbulb‘s diaries here at Daily Kos will be well aware). More than half of the workers Luce and Fujita surveyed were classified as part-time employees, though 30 percent of the “part-time” workers reported sometimes working more than 40 hours in a week. Many reported various forms of schedule-related wage theft, such as not being paid overtime when they should have been, or being called in for a shift, then sent home quickly and not paid for a four hour shift as New York law requires. But even without wage theft, scheduling is problematic for workers:

Only 17 percent of workers surveyed have a set schedule. Thirty percent know their schedules more than a week ahead of time, and the rest – over half – only know their schedules within a week, with about a fifth getting their schedule within three days notice.

Try making child care arrangements when you don’t know your work schedule ahead of time. Try budgeting for food and to pay your bills when you don’t know how many hours you’ll be working in any given week.

Like wages, scheduling problems fall differently on different racial groups:

One of the great brutalities of the retail industry today is that workers are, on the one hand, not given the hours they need to make a living, but are, on the other hand, expected to be always available to come in to work with little notice. For poverty wages, companies demand absolute control over their workers’ schedules—and, this study finds, the burden falls most heavily on Latino workers and least on white workers. Luce and Fujita identify how “hours are the new bonus,” given as rewards or taken away as punishment. Rather than offering raises, managers just give a favored worker more hours.

Though this study focuses on New York City, the struggles these workers face are common throughout the nation. Many of the retail industry’s abuses would require massive and complex societal change. Racial discrimination, for instance, is hardly confined to retail, and while the worst instances of discrimination may be subject to some kind of legal remedy, most cases are much more subtle. Pager and Western, for instance, found cases in which their black and Latino testers were told a position had been filled but they’d be called back if the new hire didn’t work out. That doesn’t sound like discrimination, until you know that their white teammate was hired on the spot. And most job applicants don’t go around in matched teams to know when that’s happening.

But Luce and Fujita’s study does point to some relatively simple ways retail work could be improved. First, we could enforce the laws we already have, so that if you work overtime, you get paid for it and so that employers can’t call a worker in then send her home after 15 minutes and pay her only for that 15 minutes if the state law requires she be paid for a four hour shift. (Obviously managers would be a lot less likely to call people in for just 15 minutes if they actually had to pay for four hours.) Protecting and enforcing the existing legal right to organize, too, would help, since union contracts often deal not only with wages and benefits but with scheduling, and can help reduce racial and gender discrimination by standardizing wages, benefits, and schedules.

Luce and Fujita also point to laws that cities and states can pass to improve things for workers. Congress may not be passing living wage or paid sick leave laws anytime soon, but some cities and, in the case of Connecticut and sick leave, even states have done so. Given the truly wretched state of affairs their study reveals, this is an important fight to wage at any level of government we have even a small hope of changing.


Sat Jan 21, 2012 at 04:55 PM PST

This week in the War on Workers: ‘Hoosier jobs are at stake’

by Laura Clawson

And more:

  • Alternet’s Sarah Jaffe looks at rising college tuitions and a system of subsidies that help individuals rather than lowering tuitions and asks one of my favorite questions:

    In other words, the hidden subsidies are not helping those who most need help in getting a degree. It’s also helping lenders, by providing an incentive to borrow.  So why not take that $22.75 billion or so that we’re already spending and putting it directly toward making public higher education free.

  • Fifty years ago this week, John F. Kennedy opened the door for federal employees to join unions.
  • Kay at Balloon Juice takes Newt Gingrich’s child janitors idea from the perspective of what he’s saying about adult workers:

    But Newt Gingrich believes that janitors are overpaid and that children can replace adult janitors, so let’s conduct one of those thought experiments that conservatives love so much, and see if any other adult workers can and should be replaced by children.

    Could nine year olds replace the adults who cleaned up after that gathering of political and media luminaries last night? Working adults did that, after all. After the political and media celebrities left that room, real live adult janitors came in and cleaned up after them. Why didn’t Newt Gingrich suggest that the people who cleaned up after him last night be replaced by children?

    What about Gingrich’s staff? How much do they make? Can children do their work as well as they can? Why or why not? Newt Gingrich has been paid an absurd amount of money for lobbying since he left Congress in disgrace. Could a nine year old replace Newt Gingrich? How hard could Newt Gingrich’s “job” be, after all? A lot of lavish meals, ass-kissing, and bloviating, right? We could employ a hell of a lot of nine year olds on the absurd amount of money Gingrich is paid.

  • And speaking of Balloon Juice, in honor of the crappy jobs Willard Mitt Romney never had, new Juicer Betty Cracker lists the three worst jobs she ever had. How would Mitt do with those?
  • Cablevision workers are attempting to organize and join the Communications Workers of America.
  • And speaking of the CWA, its president has joined with those of the UAW and SEIU to urge New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to keep up the fight for public funding of elections.
  • With so many jobs requiring people to work unpredictable, non-traditional hours, parents face big challenges arranging for child care. Some day care centers are adding evening and even overnight hours to accommodate the demand.
  • Whatever you thought of the AFL-CIO’s new ad, the companion website Work Connects Us All is worth playing around with.
  • The General Council’s Office of the National Labor Relations Board has issued a complaint against the Hyatt Andaz in West Hollywood for increasing the number of hotel rooms housekeepers’ must clean in a shift, and threatening discipline to workers who spoke up about the problem.

    Hyatt housekeepers voiced concerns in March 2011 immediately after managers increased the cleaners’ room quota by two–meaning housekeepers were expected to complete an additional hour worth of cleaning in the same amount of time. Under the law, the hotel is required to negotiate workload increases with the workers’ union.

    The Assistant Director of Human Resources threatened to discipline workers who voiced concern about the increased workload. The complaint alleges that the Hyatt Andaz’s actions violated the National Labor Relations Act.



Sat Jan 21, 2012 at 09:00 AM PST

Van Halen supports unions – but you must be a member of the 1% to sit in the first twenty rows.

by Mark E Andersen

While reading this you are going to ask, “What does Van Halen have to do with labor”…we will get there, just indulge me for a minute…

I am a metalhead. I cut my musical teeth on artists like AC/DC, Van Halen, Iron Maiden, Aerosmith, Judas Priest, ManOwar, Slayer, Anthrax, Metallica, Megadeth, Poison, Cinderella, Black Sabbath and Ozzy Osbourne to name just a few.

I still get pissed off when some snotty young punk music writer, who was born during this era, calls my music “Glam metal.” I grew up in that era and I can assure you it was not called “glam.” They were hair bands, heavy metal bands, hard rock bands, and in the case of Lita Ford and Vixen, hot chick metal (Please hold off on throwing eggs at me for saying “hot chick metal,” I have evolved since the eighties); however, none of them were ever “Glam bands,” “Glam metal,” or anything with Glam in the name! (Yes, I have become that old man standing in my yard yelling, “Hey you kids, get off my lawn!”)

Of all the bands I saw growing up, of all the bands I listened to…one stood out. Van Halen. Now I am not talking about Van Hagar here. For me Van Halen ended when David Lee Roth left the band and I joined the Army in 1985. Van Halen was never the same after that – with Sammy Hagar they had lost the raw edge that had attracted me to them.

I still remember the first time I heard “Eruption” – I was blown away, I had never heard anything like it before. Van Halen I changed how I listened to music. When I finally got a copy of Van Halen II imagine my surprise to find a “thanks to” the Sheraton Inn in Madison, Wisconsin.

[Van Halen] trashed the 7th floor of that hotel during the first tour – fire extinguisher fights, TVs and furniture out the windows. Alex Van Halen used to like gluing people’s doorknobs shut or putting Vaseline on the doorknobs so people couldn’t turn them.

They blamed the whole thing on their headliner…Journey.

For a twelve-year-old kid that was pretty damn cool to know that Van Halen trashed a hotel in your hometown (I was twelve, what did I know?).

“The Cradle will Rock…” off of Women and Children First was one of the first songs that really spoke to me – especially with a line like, “Have you seen Junior’s grades?”

Out of all of the Van Halen albums Fair Warning has to be my favorite – raw and edgy…songs like “Unchained,” “Sinners Swing,” “Dirty Movies,” and “Mean Street” just blew me away. No one, in my mind at the time, could come close to what Eddie could do on guitar and what Dave could do vocally.

I finally got to see Van Halen on the  Diver Down tour – they came to Madison on August 11th, 1982 – I was fifteen years old and going into my sophomore year at Madison East High School. The show cost all of twelve bucks and I got right up front – Eddie gave me a high five when he came on stage and while that show will not go down in the annals of history as one of the greatest metal shows ever, it will go down as the only time I have seen Van Halen live.

After 1984 came out, where I have to admit that I was appalled at the time with all the synthesizers, I found other newer, heavier bands like Metallica. When I went into the Army on August 1st, 1985 I had heard rumblings of trouble in Van Halen in the pages of Circus magazine. While in training at Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri the rumblings of David Lee Roth’s departure were confirmed with a contraband copy of Circus that had been hidden from the Drill Sergeants and passed around the barracks.

Van Halen was never the same for me after that…not with Sammy Hagar, and certainly not with Gary Cherone. For me Van Halen with David Lee Roth will always be the soundtrack of my teenage years and because of that will always hold a special place in my heart.

Just this last week Van Halen released a new song – with Dave on vocals, you cannot imagine how excited I was…right up until I listened to the song. It was only okay – not the Van Halen of my youth by any means; however, one part of the song caught my attention:

Uncle Denny had a gold tattoo
He fought for the union
Some of us still do
On my shoulder is the number
of the chapter he was in
that number is forever
like the struggle here to win

You can hear the lyrics at about 3:06 on the video.

Awesome! Van Halen supports unions!

Then I looked up their tour schedule…thinking I could take my son if they came close enough to Madison. Imagine my disappointment when I looked up ticket prices for their Chicago show. It will cost a hell of a lot more money than twelve bucks to see them this time around.

Lower Level Seating (100 Level)
US $79.50 Ticket + US $11.24 Fees/Additional Taxes = US $90.74
US $149.50 Ticket + US $12.76 Fees/Additional Taxes = US $162.26

Main Floor Seating
US $149.50 Ticket + US $12.76 Fees/Additional Taxes = US $162.26

Club Level Seating (200 Level)
US $49.50 Ticket + US $10.56 Fees/Additional Taxes = US $60.06
US $149.50 Ticket + US $12.76 Fees/Additional Taxes = US $162.26

Upper Level Seating (300 Level)
US $49.50 Ticket + US $10.56 Fees/Additional Taxes = US $60.06
US $79.50 Ticket + US $11.24 Fees/Additional Taxes = US $90.74

Basically if I wanted to take my son it would cost anywhere from $60 a ticket up to $162 a ticket…$60 is a bit much to pay to see a band that saw its heyday end some twenty years ago; but that isn’t what really chaps my ass. What really pisses me off if the outrageousVIP ticket packages. One of the fondest memories of my youth, right up there with getting a kiss from a pretty blonde girl at the Rollerdrome, and who will remain nameless, was getting right up in front of the stage at that Van Halen show.

Ultimate VIP Package ($995.00)
Each Van Halen Ultimate VIP Package includes:
•    One reserved ticket in the front row*
•    Backstage tour
•    Pre-show party
•    Parking (where available)**
•    Early entrance into the venue
•    Van Halen Ultimate VIP commemorative laminate
•    Exclusive Van Halen gift bag
•    Commemorative VIP ticket
•    Crowd-free merchandise shopping
•    On-site VIP host

You will be required to sign a waiver & release of liability.
Package details subject to change without notice.

That’s right…you want front row, you are paying a thousand bucks per ticket, did you notice, those tickets are sold out…and that ain’t all.

VIP Package ($595.00)
Each Van Halen VIP Package includes:
•    One reserved ticket in rows 2-13
•    Backstage tour
•    Pre-show party
•    Early entrance into the venue
•    Van Halen VIP commemorative laminate
•    Exclusive Van Halen gift bag
•    Commemorative VIP ticket
•    Crowd-free merchandise shopping
•    On-site VIP host

The greedy bastards aren’t done yet!

Tour Package ($395.00)
Each Van Halen Tour Package includes:
•    One reserved ticket in the first 20 rows
•    Exclusive Van Halen gift
•    Commemorative VIP ticket
•    On-site VIP host

On the one hand Van Halen touts support for unions in their latest release…on the other, the only way you are going to get up front like I did back in 1982 is if you are a one percenter. Sorry Van Halen, you won’t be getting my money this time around – funny thing, a couple years ago I got to take my son to see Judas Priest at Summerfest in Milwaukee – we sat up front. It cost twelve bucks and I saw one of the best shows I have ever seen in my life.

Now I doubt Eddie, Alex, Wolfgang and Dave read anything I write; however, on the off chance that they do – I ask them that if they truly support unions to drop the VIP seating…donate those seats to U.S. servicemen, give them to unions to raffle off to their members…or, if they must sell VIP packages due to contractual obligation then give the money earned off of them to some worthy cause. If the 1% wants to piss away their money – fine…let them. Just don’t profit off of it. These VIP packages are just another symptom of the disease that is eating away at America, another divide between the haves and the have nots.


Fri Jan 20, 2012 at 02:29 PM PST

Compromise on union issues to keep FAA open

by Laura Clawson

Ah, the sweet smell of compromise. The good news is that the Federal Aviation Administration is likely to get its reauthorization before the Jan. 31 deadline; moreover, instead of another short-term extension it is likely to finally get a real, stable, long-term reauthorization; moreover, Republicans are dropping their demand to count workers who don’t vote in union representation elections as having voted no. The bad news? Democrats made one big up-front compromise and the National Journal is using the term “gentleman’s agreement,” as in:

The remaining disputes between Republicans and Democrats on the measure have been worked out in a gentleman’s agreement among the congressional transportation gurus.

In exchange, Democrats have agreed to include a provision that would raise the threshold for rail and aviation workers expressing interest in forming a union from 35 percent to 50 percent.

In one sense, raising the threshold from 35 percent to 50 percent is inconsequential. You don’t file for an election in which you’ll need 50 percent-plus-one support if you only have 35 percent support. But remember when Republicans were fighting the Employee Free Choice Act and their big talking point was that it removed the sacrosanct “secret ballot”? Yeah, well, what the Employee Free Choice Act said was that once a majority of workers had signed cards saying they wanted a union, they had one. Now, Republicans are demanding that a majority of workers have to go through exactly that process, only after a majority of workers sign cards saying they want a union, they additionally have to go through a so-called “secret ballot” election, with management using the time between the petition for election and the election itself to try to persuade or intimidate them into voting against the union.

Obviously we need to hear more details, but my initial take is that this is something of a win. I would’ve expected Republicans to hold the FAA hostage to … elimination of the National Labor Relations Board or something. But boy does this ever show how full of shit Republicans were with all that “secret ballot” nonsense.


Fri Jan 20, 2012 at 01:36 PM PST

Union draws parallels between Mitt Romney and Florida Gov. Rick Scott in Republican primary ad

by Laura Clawson

Florida voters have a ton of buyer’s remorse over Gov. Rick Scott, and AFSCME is putting that to use with an $800,000 Republican primary buy for the ad above, which draws a comparison between Scott and Mitt Romney. Greg Sargent reports that:

The unusual involvement of a major labor union in a GOP primary is a sign that Obama’s outside allies view Romney as the all but certain GOP nominee — and the toughest Republican in a general election.

Larry Scanlon, AFSCME’s political director, says the union may invest in other GOP primaries down the line, too, depending on the response this ad gets. He acknowledged that the union views Romney as the toughest opponent Obama could face, but added there’s no reason for labor not to start spending big money to define him right away, to influence not just the primary but the general election, too. Florida, of course, is a major general election swing state.

It’s starting to look like Mitt Romney’s record at Bain will have some unfortunate (for Romney) echo in practically every state he comes to, giving his opponents—primary or general election—plenty of local interest to work with.


Fri Jan 20, 2012 at 12:42 PM PST

Republicans want to eliminate labor board now, but wait until next time a Republican is president

by Laura Clawson

Josh Eidelson points out one of the central ironies of the Republican crusade against the National Labor Relations Board:

The Labor Board is charged with enforcing employers’ and unions’ compliance with the Wagner Act – including the anti-union Taft-Hartley amendments Congress added in 1947. […]

Although the Labor Board often fines or forbids unions that seek aggressive action against the 1%, and regularly leaves workers waiting for years to get their jobs back after being fired for organizing, Republicans are on the warpath against the agency.

During George W. Bush’s presidency, you didn’t hear a whole lot of complaints from Republicans about the NLRB—because it was busy issuing a whole bunch of anti-union decisions. And even as Republicans have been howling about how, under Obama, the NLRB was allegedly putting a boot on the neck of businesses and tilting the playing field toward unions, the board has gotten an injunction against disruptive union picketing at the Port of Longview and has fined another union for obstructing an NLRB investigation.

It’s no surprise that Republicans would be outraged at an agency’s very existence under one president after having used it aggressively under the previous one, or that they’d act as if actions taken by the board to protect workers from businesses were the sum total of what it was doing. But it’s an important reminder of just how situational their outrage is. They really are like a bunch of toddlers who go in an instant from loving a toy to flinging it down at the slightest frustration.


Fri Jan 20, 2012 at 07:27 AM PST

Caterpillar threatening to move jobs from Canada to U.S. in search of cheap labor

by Laura Clawson

Here’s another entry in the “company going to America for cheap labor” category for you: Iconic heavy machinery manufacturer Caterpillar bought a plant in Canada just two years ago—and now it’s planning to move those jobs to Indiana unless Canadian workers will agree to massive concessions. Massive like a 50 percent pay cut, giving up their pension, and more, and Caterpillar has locked the workers out to drive home how serious it is about this, as Huffington Post’s Lila Shapiro reports.

Caterpillar isn’t suffering financially; in fact, it’s been profitable consistently over the past five years and profits spiked over and above that in late 2011. And it’s not that the Canadian workers of whom Caterpillar is demanding a 50 percent pay cut make outrageously much money. It’s that the Muncie, Indiana workers earn so little: $24,000, below the median income in the U.S. and just above the 2010 poverty threshold for a family of four. Shapiro points out that:

The situation at Caterpillar illustrates an emerging problem with the nascent economic recovery: While corporations are rebounding from the depths of the recession, working Americans aren’t. Corporate profits are at their highest level in decades while worker compensation is at a relative 50-year low. Much hope has been placed in the rebound of North American manufacturing, but while the industry has added some 334,000 positions in the past two years, many of the new jobs don’t pay the old middle class wages. […]

“It’s a fundamental problem: Now we have a situation where there’s not enough purchasing power in the American economy to feed this recovery,” said Thomas Kochan, a management expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“It’s not all bad,” he continued, pointing to companies like General Electric, which have slashed wages while profits were strong in return for continued investment in the United States and the promise of more jobs. Other companies must cut wages to stay alive, such as the auto makers, which pay new workers nearly half what starting employees made before the crash.

“But if it’s just companies slashing wages because they’ve got the power to do so, then it’s dysfunctional,” Kochan said.

Standards may vary on what constitutes “companies slashing wages because they’ve got the power to do so” rather than because they need to; I suspect that MIT management expert Kochan and I locate that at rather different starting points. But there seems to be no question that Caterpillar falls into this “dysfunctional” category. Other words that might be applied include “abusive” and “evil.”


Thu Jan 19, 2012 at 02:46 PM PST

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels opposed anti-union bill before he supported it

by Laura Clawson

It’s not exactly a secret that Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels once opposed passing a so-called “right to work” law in his state, but it’s nice to have the video reminder that in 2006 he said, to a union audience:

We cannot afford to have civil wars over issues that might divide us and divert us from that path. I have said over and over, I’ll say it again tonight: I’m a supporter of the labor laws we have in the state of Indiana. I’m not interested in changing any of it. Not the prevailing wage laws, and certainly not the right to work law. We can succeed in Indiana with the laws we have, respecting the rights of labor, and fair and free competition for everybody.

Amanda Terkel traces Daniels’ shifting positions on the issue:

In March 2006, the South Bend Tribune in Indiana noted, “Daniels had said earlier this year that he opposed right-to-work legislation as too divisive. But he did not address its inherent merits or demerits.”

In December 2010, however, Daniels said that the right-to-work issue was “legitimate” but was “too big to do without having discussed it out in the open first.”

“I’ll also say I think it would have the potential — just tactically — to possibly reduce or wreck the chances for education reform and local government reform and criminal justice reform and the things we have a wonderful chance to do,” he added, acknowledging that it would be incredibly controversial.

Today, though, the Republican war on workers is in full swing and Daniels has not only given in to Republican legislators in his state who hold hurting workers and unions as their top priority, he’s become the face of their campaign.


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An Open Letter to Newt Gingrich From the Pastors of Poor Children

Mr. Gingrich,

For this you still owe our children an apology:

“Some of the things they could do is work in a library, work in the front office, some of them frankly could be janitorial; what if they clean up the bathrooms, what if they mopped the floors, what if in the summer they repainted the school; what if in the process they were actually learning to work, learning to earn money; if they had their own money, they didn’t have to become a pimp or a prostitute or a drug dealer. [If] they had the dignity of work and learned how to be around adults who actually wanted to mentor them and help them. This is not a casual comment… It grows out of a lot of thinking over many years of trying to figure out how do we break out people trapped in poverty who have no work habits.” — Gingrich

We, the students and faculty of the Delaware Annual Conference Ministerial Institute of the AME Church, representing over 34 congregations and their constituents throughout Delaware and southern Pennsylvania are outraged at your continued demeaning of poor children and their families.

As a candidate vying for the Republican Presidential nomination, to suggest that poor children collectively lack a work ethic and drive for legal and productive work is entirely classist. Your national platform is no place for such irresponsible remarks. Our children deserve better than your degrading rhetoric.

In fact, they deserve an apology, and we — their pastors and advocates — demand one.

Mr. Gingrich, what your remarks have demonstrated is a failure to acknowledge the resilience of many who work daily and yet are unable to escape poverty. For many, low wages, a poor economy, and sparse full time employment opportunities have landed many families into the category of what the U.S. Department of Labor & Labor Statistics call the working poor. Contrary to what your remarks propagate, a significant number of children in households below the American poverty line (and those one paycheck away from it) are in homes with working family members; many of them are in our congregations weekly and are active citizens.

Mr. Gingrich, not only did you get the “cause” of poverty wrong, but your “solution” is just as unsubstantiated and offensive. Mandating that poor children become the janitors of their own failing public schools to better their work ethic is not a well thought out, viable, or realistic solution. Such a proposal is not only insulting, it is ridiculous.

Where would the currently employed janitors work (obviously this is a back handed assault on union employees)? If poor children are to benefit from extracurricular employment, why not at least provide STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) opportunities to increase their competitiveness in the global marketplace? Why not invest in education reform instead of cutting back early education/head start programs? Why not put forth solutions to the unemployment crisis in our nation, so that those who have the dignity, but not the work, can have an opportunity to build a better future for themselves and their children?

But, no — instead you fan the flames of prejudice to get votes. With a move right out of Lee Atwater’s Southern Strategy play book (i.e., “Welfare Mothers” = Lazy Blacks), you have managed to stir the xenophobia and racist fears of your far right republican base with the statement:

“I’ve been talking about the importance of work, particularly as it relates to people who are in areas where there is public housing, et cetera, where there are relatively few people that go to work.” (Emphasis added)

Mr. Gingrich, the poverty of many poor minority children is the byproduct of systemic injustices that bar them from participation in the American Dream because of their racial and social location — not laziness.

We understand that you are of the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” camp, but the last time we checked Mr. Gingrich, it is impossible to pull yourself up by your own boot straps, and even more difficult when you have no boots to begin with.

Consequently, as pastors and leaders of the poor and their children, we are called to champion those without the boots of opportunity, fair play, and justice. For us not to mandate an apology for such biased, erroneous and offensive remarks would be as irresponsible as the remarks themselves. Today, Mr. Gingrich, we extend to you the opportunity to recant your “war on poor children” rhetoric and the opportunity to apologize to our children for speaking such falsehoods over their lives.

Awaiting your response,

Delaware Annual Conference Ministerial Institute

The Rev. Dr. Janet J. Sturdivant, Dean of Ministerial Institute
The Rev. Silvester S. Beaman, Chairman of Board of Examiners
Sis. Joi Orr, M.Div, Organizer & Institute Student


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How The Republicans On The FEC Are Making Citizens United Even Worse

Three Republican appointees to the Federal Election Commission may be as responsible as anyone for the lack of transparency of post-Citizens United political spending.

Two years ago today, when the Supreme Court issued its Citizens United
ruling, one bright spot was that the majority explicitly endorsed the constitutionality and necessity of disclosure rules that inform voters who paid for the political ads they see. “Disclosure is the less-restrictive alternative to more comprehensive speech regulations,” they affirmed.

Federal statutes require that for all significant “independent expenditures” and “electioneering communications” — the two major classifications for political expenditures made by outside groups unaffiliated with political candidates — the names and addresses of large donors must be identified.

But the FEC, through its rulemaking process, gave these groups a loophole. They said that the identities of donors behind the outside spending must be identified, but only if the money was specifically earmarked for the political expenditure. This means that a secretive right-wing group like the Karl Rove-linked Crossroads GPS need only identify the funders who pay for their attack ads if those donors explicitly say the money should be used for attack ads. Few do.

In April, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) asked the FEC to close the loophole for “independent expenditures” and filed a lawsuit challenging the loophole for “electioneering communications.”

Last month the six FEC commissioners killed — on a 3-3 vote — a motion to begin consideration of Van Hollen’s suggestions. By law, the agency may have only three members of any political party. By tradition, the president chooses three commissioners and the other party’s Senate leader chooses three. The three Republican appointees — Commissioners Caroline Hunter, Donald McGahn II and Matthew Petersen — were the three “no” votes. The same trio also made headlines last month when they took the view that even coordination between Super PACs and candidates might not qualify as coordination between Super PACs and candidates.

The lawsuit is still pending.

Because of these loopholes, virtually none of the funders behind the Super PAC attack ads in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina will be disclosed until well after the voters there have cast their ballots. And the funders behind 501(c)(4) attack ads may never be known.

So while it was the Supreme Court’s majority that opened the floodgates for corporate money in our elections, it is the deadlocked FEC that is keeping voters from even knowing where that money comes from.


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Food For Democracy

On January 31, family farmers will take part in the first phase of a court case filed to protect farmers from genetic trespass by Monsanto’s GMO seed, which contaminates organic and non-GMO farmer’s crops and opens them up to abusive lawsuits. In the past two decades, Monsanto’s seed monopoly has grown so powerful that they control the genetics of nearly 90% of five major commodity crops including corn, soybeans, cotton, canola and sugar beets.

In many cases farmers are forced to stop growing certain organic and conventional crops to avoid genetic contamination and potential lawsuits. Between 1997 and 2010, Monsanto admits to filing 144 lawsuits against America’s family farmers, while settling another 700 out of court for undisclosed amounts. Due to these aggressive lawsuits, Monsanto has created an atmosphere of fear in rural America and driven dozens of farmers into bankruptcy.

Farmers need your voice today. Please spread the word.

Obama to offer economic blueprint in State of the Union

WASHINGTON — Vilified by the Republicans who want his job, President Barack Obama will stand before the nation Tuesday night determined to frame the election-year debate on his terms, promising his State of the Union address will offer an economic blueprint that will “work for everyone, not just a wealthy few.”

In a video released Saturday to millions of campaign supporters, Obama said he will concentrate on four areas designed to restore economic security for the long term: manufacturing, energy, education, job training and a “return to American values.” The release came the same day as the South Carolina primary, where four candidates competed in the latest contest to determine Obama’s general election rival.

The prime-time speech will be not just a traditional pitch about the year ahead. It will be perhaps Obama’s biggest stage to make a sweeping case for a second term.

“We can go in two directions,” the president said in the video. “One is toward less opportunity and less fairness. Or we can fight for where I think we need to go: building an economy that works for everyone, not just a wealthy few.”

That line of argument about income equality is emerging as a defining theme of the presidential race, as Republicans are in their own fierce battle to pick a nominee to challenge Obama in the fall.

By notifying the millions of supporters on his email list, Obama gave advance notice to his Democratic base and trying to generate an even larger audience for Tuesday’s address.

Obama’s preview did not mention national security. He is not expected to announce new policy on that front in a speech dominated by the economy — the top concern of voters.

Obama is expected to offer new proposals to make college more affordable and to ease the housing crisis still slowing the economy, according to people familiar with the speech. He will also promote unfinished parts of his jobs plan, including the extension of a payroll tax cut soon to expire.

His policy proposals will be less important than what he hopes they all add up to: a narrative of renewed American security. Obama will try to politically position himself as the one leading that fight for the middle class, with an overt call for help from Congress, and an implicit request for a second term from the public.

The timing comes as the nation is split about Obama’s overall job performance. More people than not disapprove of his handling of the economy, he is showing real vulnerability among the independent voters who could swing the election, and most Americans think the country is on the wrong track.

So his mission will be to show leadership and ideas on topics that matter to people: jobs, housing, college, retirement security.

Vision for re-election
The foundation of Obama’s speech is the one he gave in Kansas last month, when he declared that the middle class was a make-or-break moment and railed against “you’re on your own” economics of the Republican Party. His theme then was about a government that ensures people get a fair shot to succeed.

That speech spelled out the values of Obama’s election-year agenda. The State of the Union will be the details.

The White House sees the speech as a clear chance to outline a vision for re-election, yet carefully, without turning a national tradition into an overt campaign event.

On national security, Obama will ask the nation to reflect with him on a momentous year of change, including the end of the war in Iraq, the killing of al-Qaida terrorist leader Osama bin Laden and the Arab Spring protests of peoples clamoring for freedom.

But it will all be secondary to jobs at home.

In a winter season of politics dominated by his Republican competition, Obama will have a grand stage to himself, in a window between Republican primaries. He will try to use the moment to refocus the debate as he sees it: where the country has come, and where he wants to take it.

In doing so, Obama will come before a divided Congress with a burst of hope because the economy — by far the most important issue to voters — is showing life.

The unemployment rate is still at a troubling 8.5 percent, but at its lowest rate in nearly three years. Consumer confidence is up. Obama will use that as a springboard.

The president will try to draw a contrast of economic visions with Republicans, both his antagonists in Congress and the candidates for the Republican presidential nomination.

Despite low expectations for legislation this year, Obama will offer short-term ideas that would require action from Congress.

His travel schedule following his speech, to politically important regions, offers clues to the policies he was expected to unveil.

Both Phoenix and Las Vegas have been hard hit by foreclosures. Denver is where Obama outlined ways of helping college students deal with mounting school loan debt. Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Detroit are home to a number of manufacturers. And Michigan was a major beneficiary of the president’s decision to provide billions in federal loans to rescue General Motors and Chrysler in 2009.

For now, the main looming to-do item is an extension of a payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits, both due to expire by March. An Obama spokesman called that the “last must-do item of business” on Obama’s congressional agenda, but the White House insists the president will make the case for more this year.

If anything, Republicans say Obama has made the chances of cooperation even dimmer just over the last several days. He enraged Republicans by installing a consumer watchdog chief by going around the Senate, which had blocked him, and then rejected a major oil pipeline project the GOP has embraced.

Obama is likely, once again, to offer ways in which a broken Washington must work together. Yet that theme seems but a dream given the gridlock he has been unable to change.

The State of the Union atmosphere offered a bit of comity last year, following the assassination attempt against Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. And yet 2011 was a year of utter dysfunction in Washington, with the partisanship getting so bad that the government nearly defaulted as the world watched in embarrassment.

The address remains an old-fashioned moment of national attention; 43 million people watched it on TV last year. The White House website will offer a live stream of the speech, promising graphics and other bonuses for people who watch it there, plus a panel of administration officials afterward with questions coming in through Twitter and Facebook.

© 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Explore related topics: obama, state-of-the-union, sotu

Obama to offer economic blueprint in State of the Union

Join The Protest Of Monsantos By The Organic Consumer Association On January 24, 2012

It is inevitable that one day Monsanto will be held responsible for the enormous human health and environmental damages arising from the so-called “responsible” use of its toxic pesticides, chemicals, and mutant genetically engineered seeds. If the Biotech Bully of St. Louis were to be held liable for its 100-year legacy of corporate criminality – carcinogenic chemical food sweeteners, Agent Orange, dioxin, Bovine Growth Hormone, poisonous herbicides, seed monopolization, and genetically engineered crops, the company’s shareholders would no doubt see the value of their Monsanto stocks plummet to zero.

Following up on two protests at Monsanto’s headquarters in 2011, OCA returns to St. Louis for the 2012 Monsanto shareholders’ meeting on January 24!

Please join OCA, Pesticide Action Network, and Harrington Investments (a socially responsible investor’s group) in St. Louis to support a shareholder resolution to examine the financial risks associated with genetically engineered crops. While an OCA representative is speaking inside the shareholders meeting, another group of us will be outside, peacefully picketing.

Come to St. Louis to Make Monsanto Pay! Contact Mike Durschmid (mikedvegan AT to join in, or RSVP on Facebook and share with your friends.

And this just in: Activists in Maui, Hawaii, in solidarity with our St. Louis action, will be peacefully protesting outside Monsanto’s Hawaii HQ location on 3555 Mokulele Hwy on the same day. For more information or to RSVP, visit the Facebook event here.

Learn more




The California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act

We are on the road to victory in California with coalition members, strategic allies, and key donors increasing their support all the time. We now have over 50 environmental, alternative health, and sustainable food organizations and businesses advocating for our cause. But, most importantly, we have over 1,500 dedicated CA volunteers trained and ready to hit the streets when signature gathering begins in February. You can go here to volunteer by gathering petition signatures in California.

This November 2012 California Ballot Initiative, which will require foods sold in California retail outlets to be labeled as such, may be the most important GMO battle of all time. A win in California will mean radical changes to food labels everywhere. Producers will either have to change the way they market Frankenfoods or else stop using GMOs altogether. We think we can reverse the biotech strangle-hold on our food system in our lifetimes.

You don’t have to live in California to donate to this historic ballot initiative.

Consumers everywhere have a right to know what’s in the food we buy and eat and feed our children, just as we have the right to know how many calories are in the food we buy, or whether food comes from other countries like Mexico or China. In the past, we’ve successfully fought for labels telling us the country of origin of products, as well as whether foods have been irradiated. Now it’s time to stand up for our right to know which foods are laced with GMOs.

Efforts to enact labeling laws in Congress and in other state legislatures have been blocked by big food and chemical company lobbyists. The California Ballot Initiative will take the issue directly to the people. For more information about the initiative visit California Right To Know and the Organic Consumers Fund.




Support the OCA and the OCF

The nationwide food fight for safe food, consumer freedom of choice, and sustainability is escalating.

In 2012, whether we’re talking about getting antibiotics out of animal feed, labeling GMOs, or passing a climate and organic-friendly Farm Bill, OCA is fighting harder than ever. With the 2012 California ballot initiative, and GMO labeling legislation gaining momentum in Vermont, Washington, Connecticut and other states, we have a real chance to hit Monsanto with the skull and crossbones they fear so much – mandatory labels on genetically engineered food. We also plan to step up our efforts to strengthen organic standards and significantly expand the market for organic food and products, especially those produced locally and regionally.

Please be as generous as you can during our January and February fundraising drive.

Donate to the Organic Consumers Association

Donate to the Organic Consumers Fund
(non-tax-deductible, but necessary for our efforts in California)




Millions Against Monsanto Campaign Update

Sunday, October 16, 2011 was the biggest day of action for mandatory labels on genetically engineered food in U.S. history. Several hundred Millions Against Monsanto World Food Day events took place around the country.

In September 2012, building on the success of World Food Day 2011, OCA member activists are going to take even bigger action! This year, we are planning a nationwide Week of Action on September 17 – 20th to demonstrate against the Monsanto-sponsored 12th International Symposium on Biosafety of Genetically Modified Organisms also in St Louis, MO. We want to organize actions at the hundreds of Monsanto locations in the US and around the world in concert with a large demonstration in St. Louis.

OCA members have been diligently collecting signatures for our Truth-in-Labeling petition across the country for months now. New petitions are coming in almost daily and being added to our online system, but we need even more volunteers to help us gather signatures through 2012. In addition to the action in St. Louis, activists in each state will also hand deliver all of the petitions we’ve gathered to their state legislators, demanding mandatory labels for genetically engineered food and demonstrating that we truly are the Millions Against Monsanto.

What can you do to help this historic campaign? Download a PDF version of our petition. Take this petition to your workplace, your local co-op, house parties, farmers’ markets and wherever you can find people who demand the right to know what’s in our food.

More info on the September 2012 Week of Action will be forthcoming. Stay tuned for more details.




Baby Food Update

Many of you took action on our alert “Tell Organic Baby Food Brands to Stop Using GMOs!” and received a misleading letter from Happy Bellies in response, denying that HAPPYBELLIES’ baby cereals contain GMOs and claiming that the DHA they use has been approved by the National Organic Standards Board.

While the NOSB did approve a generic form of DHA, this is not the DHA used in HAPPYBELLIES’ baby foods. This leaves HAPPYBELLIES in conflict with the national organic standards. We have been assured that this issue is under investigation by the National Organic Program, but we must keep the pressure on!

Click here to learn why OCA believes HAPPYBELLIES’ DHA is GMO




Little Bytes: Top Stories of the Week

Occupy Wall Street: Why Now? What’s Next?

Scientists Link Mass Death of British Bees to Farm Pesticides

Why the FDA Won’t Act Against Agricultural Antibiotic Use

Dental Patients Beware: FDA Lets Dental Mercury Amalgam Action Deadline Pass Unmet

Dr. Don Huber: Monsanto’s Roundup Ready Herbicide is More Toxic than DDT




Sponsored Message


Special rates for OCA members on a green Costa Rica vacation March 17-24: 8 days and 7 nights for $999.00!

Beatrice Blake, guidebook author and community ecotourism expert, has designed a special itinerary for OCA members that visits sustainable coffee farms near Palmichal de Acosta and organic farms in Altamira at the entrance to La Amistad International Park. These community-owned farms are members of ACTUAR, the Costa Rican Rural Tourism Association, which just won the Responsible Tourism Award at the Educational Travel Conference.

Between village and farm experiences, you’ll hike in the cloud forest to see the Resplendent Quetzal. You’ll end the trip with a couple of days relaxing and exploring the beaches near Villas Gaia on the Pacific Coast.

You will be accompanied by an experienced bilingual naturalist, who can help you exchange ideas with the people you visit and see birds and wildlife that you wouldn’t see on your own. Write beatrice AT to sign up.

Is Reversing Citizens United or Corporate Personhood Enough?

Which president told Congress: “I recommend a law prohibiting all corporations from contributing to the campaign expenses of any party…let individuals contribute as they desire; but let us prohibit in effective fashion all corporations from making contributions for any political purpose, directly or indirectly?”

If you recognize this Presidential quote, it probably means you’re a history buff (or you watch too much Jeopardy). The correct answer: Who was Theodore Roosevelt?

While the speech has become a notable quotable, it’s often forgotten that it followed public outrage surrounding Roosevelt’s acceptance of huge corporate contributions that locked-in his election in 1904.  This popular clamor for accountability (the Progressive Era; maybe they were the Occupiers of their times) was enough to move Teddy and Congress to pass the first ever Federal legislation prohibiting corporations from making monetary contributions to national political campaigns, called the Tillman Act.

Now for extra points: What happened to the Tillman Act?

Like so many other attempts over the last 100+ years to restrict, reform, reign in, eliminate and otherwise account for Big Money in politics, the Tillman Act didn’t even need to be overturned for the corporate elite to get around it. It was simply whittled away. How is this done?  In the same way Congress later banned unions from making political contributions in the 1940’s, only to see Big Labor skirt the restrictions by forming the first-ever PAC, and collecting campaign donations (sometimes coercively) outside of regular worker’s dues.

OK, now for a Civics question: What is the source of power for the corporate elite?

Throughout our history as a nation, the wealthy elite have always held power, and its not an accident, or the result of a few bad decisions, or even corruption (though those all exist), its far more structural and insidious than that.  TheConstitution itself provided—from the beginning—for a government by and for the 1%. The Founding Fathers truly believed that the best form of government was one in which wealth made the rules. At the time the Constitution was being debated, the majority of people were against it, despite how our folklore has remembered it.

Turns out the 99% of yesteryear were quite prescient indeed.

Fast-forward to the present day, the ways money has seeped through the cracks of our political system and pooled into the pockets of our elected officials has only grown despite generations upon generations of ever-ongoing reform efforts.

* Dozens of Acts of Congress have been passed attempting to address corruption in government and our elections yet for every reform our system has enabled bigger, better ways for wealth to hold the reigns.

* Lobbyists. They walk right into lawmaking areas and help write bills and buy votes. They present politicians with corporate-friendly Bills already drafted. They are well paid to successfully influence, chop and change legislation, and work deals with our elected officials and even with Supreme Court Justices. Under our Constitution this is protected as free speech and despite the numerous laws to regulate lobbyists, the practice is only on the rise.

*  Constitutional laws.  Many states—not only Montana— wrote their Constitutions to include the subordination of corporations to the will of the people, and banned corporate political expenditures in state elections.  Over the years, most of those Constitutional provisions have been amended to pave the way for more corporate-friendly laws.(Montana, of course still has this language in their Consitution, and has used it to challenge Citizen’s United)

Bill Moyers, David Stockman On Crony Captialism

Home » Blogs » Diane Sweet’s blog

January 20, 2012 09:39 PM

Bill Moyers, David Stockman on Crony Capitalism


By Diane Sweet

Moyers & Company Show 102: On Crony Capitalism from on Vimeo.

Bill Moyers and former White House budget director David Stockman on the all-too-cozy relationship between Washington and Wall Street.

This weekend, continuing its sharp multi-episode focus on the intersection of money and politics, Moyers & Company explores the tight connection between Wall Street and the White House with David Stockman – yes, that David Stockman — former budget director for President Reagan.

Now a businessman who says he was “taken to the woodshed” for telling the truth about the administration’s tax policies, Stockman speaks candidly with Bill Moyers about how money dominates politics, distorting free markets and endangering democracy. “As a result,” Stockman says, “we have neither capitalism nor democracy. We have crony capitalism.”

Stockman shares details on how the courtship of politics and high finance have turned our economy into a private club that rewards the super-rich and corporations, leaving average Americans wondering how it could happen and who’s really in charge.

“We now have an entitled class of Wall Street financiers and of corporate CEOs who believe the government is there to do… whatever it takes in order to keep the game going and their stock price moving upward,” Stockman tells Moyers.

Full transcript here.

Tags: 1 percent, 99 percent, Bill Moyers, CEOs, crony capitalism, David Stockman, democracy, Free Markets, Money, Politics, Wall Street, washington

He’s One of the Nation’s Highest-Paid CEOs—and You’ve Never Heard of Him

One of the nation’s highest-paid executives is sitting on a massive pile of stock options and enjoys a private jet wherever he goes. Gary Rivlin on John Hammergren, the 1 percenter you’ve never heard of.

James Reda thought he was beyond surprise when it came to executive pay.

But then Reda, a New York–based compensation consultant who sometimes puts together mega-pay packages on behalf of publicly traded behemoths, learned about John Hammergren, the CEO of the McKesson Corp., a giant medical-supply company in California. Hammergren is the $145 million man, top dog on the latest listing of the country’s highest-paid chief executives.

But so what if he made $145 million in a single year? The lion’s share of that money was the slew of stock options Hammergren cashed out after holding them for years. “That’s what you want,” Reda says. A new CEO gets a fat basket of stock options, and if the company does well, the CEO also prospers. “As long as the original stock-award amounts were reasonable, it makes no difference if it ends up providing a huge payoff,” Reda says.

Then I read him Hammergren’s annual total compensation payouts, taken from the company’s public filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission: $46 million in 2011; $55 million in 2010; $37 million in 2009; another $41 million in 2008. Hammergren hadn’t founded the company. Wall Street analysts covering McKesson can tell you of the disappointments and miscues that have marked his tenure. But his haul in the 13 years he has been running McKesson? More than $500 million, according to data provided by Equilar, an executive-compensation data firm.

John Hammergren, CEO of McKesson Corp., George Nikitin / AP Photo

For a moment, Reda is silent. “$40 million, $50 million a year is excessive, no matter what the yardstick,” he says. The average pay package for a CEO running a top 100 company these days, Reda says, is around $12 million. That includes everything, from salary to stock awards to contributions to a retirement account. Yet last year McKesson contributed more than $13 million just to Hammergren’s pension, according to company documents. Among the other perks he enjoys: a chauffeur to drive his company car, free use of the corporate jet for personal travel, and an extra $17,000 a year to pay for a financial planner because handling all those hundreds of millions is no doubt complicated stuff.

“He doesn’t leave anything on the table, does he?” Reda asks.


John Hammergren isn’t necessarily the highest-paid CEO in America. Sure, he topped the list when GMI, a well-regarded research firm, published its 2011 annual CEO survey in December. But that’s because he cashed out $112 million in accumulated stock options in a single year, according to GMI. He ranked 14th on Forbes‘s 2011 executive-pay list and 22nd on its 2010 ranking. And of course there are CEOs like Oracle’s Larry Ellison and Google’s Larry Page. Page has a net worth north of $15 billion, and Ellison is worth more than $30 billion, but then each was a cofounder of the company he runs.

Ohio Republicans Remove Two Committee Members to Ram Anti-Union Bill Through Senate

In what Lawrence O’Donnell described as one of the sleaziest legislative moves he’s ever seen, the Republicans in the Ohio Senate jammed through their union busting SB5, but only after removing two Republicans on two separate committees who were opposed to it in order to get it to the Senate floor.

With One-Vote Margin, Ohio State Senate Passes SB 5:

The Ohio State Senate just passed the controversial SB 5, aimed a limiting unionized state employees’ ability to collectively bargain or go on strike.

In an indication of how divisive the legislation is in the Buckeye State, the final vote in the Senate was 17-16. The bill now moves to the state House, which like the Senate, is under Republican control.

Gov. John Kasich (R) has endorsed the measure and is expected to sign it when it reaches his desk.

Democrats united against the bill, and they needed seven Republican members to join with them to stop it. In the end they got six.

Pushing the bill through the Senate has been tough for supporters of the plan, with the Republican leader of the state Senate removing two Republicans opposed to the measure to get the bill to the Senate floor today.

Lawrence talked to the Progressive Change Campaign Committee’s Adam Green about their campaign to fight back against what these governors are doing in Ohio and Wisconsin and across the country, busting unions and waging class warfare against the poor and what’s left of the middle class. You can watch some of their new ads that are airing in Wisconsin or make a donation to help keep them on the air here.

Tags: Adam Green, class warfare, John Kasich, Lawrence O’Donnell, Ohio, PCCC, SB5, Union Busting, Wisconsin

Analysis: Holder, top DOJ lawyers were partners with big banks

Analysis: Holder, top DOJ lawyers were partners with big banks


(Reuters) – U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Lanny Breuer, head of the Justice Department’s criminal division, were partners for years at a Washington law firm that represented a Who’s Who of big banks and other companies at the center of alleged foreclosure fraud, a Reuters inquiry shows.

The firm, Covington & Burling, is one of Washington’s biggest white shoe law firms. Law professors and other federal ethics experts said that federal conflict of interest rules required Holder and Breuer to recuse themselves from any Justice Department decisions relating to law firm clients they personally had done work for.

Both the Justice Department andCovington declined to say if either official had personally worked on matters for the big mortgage industry clients. Justice Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler said Holder and Breuer had complied fully with conflict of interest regulations, but she declined to say if they had recused themselves from any matters related to the former clients.

Reuters reported in December that under Holder and Breuer, the Justice Department hasn’t brought any criminal cases against big banks or other companies involved in mortgage servicing, even though copious evidence has surfaced of apparent criminal violations in foreclosure cases.

The evidence, including records from federal and state courts and local clerks’ offices around the country, shows widespread forgery, perjury, obstruction of justice, and illegal foreclosures on the homes of thousands of active-duty military personnel.

In recent weeks the Justice Department has come under renewed pressure from members of Congress, state and local officials and homeowners’ lawyers to open a wide-ranging criminal investigation of mortgage servicers, the biggest of which have been Covington clients. So far Justice officials haven’t responded publicly to any of the requests.

While Holder and Breuer were partners at Covington, the firm’s clients included the four largest U.S. banks – Bank of America, Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo & Co – as well as at least one other bank that is among the 10 largest mortgage servicers.


Servicers perform routine mortgage maintenance tasks, including filing foreclosures, on behalf of mortgage owners, usually groups of investors who bought mortgage-backed securities.

Covington represented Freddie Mac, one of the nation’s biggest issuers of mortgage backed securities, in enforcement investigations by federal financial regulators.

A particular concern by those pressing for an investigation is Covington’s involvement with Virginia-based MERS Corp, which runs a vast computerized registry of mortgages. Little known before the mortgage crisis hit, MERS, which stands forMortgage Electronic Registration Systems, has been at the center of complaints about false or erroneous mortgage documents.

Court records show that Covington, in the late 1990s, provided legal opinion letters needed to create MERS on behalf of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase and several other large banks. It was meant to speed up registration and transfers of mortgages. By 2010, MERS claimed to own about half of all mortgages in the U.S. — roughly 60 million loans.

But evidence in numerous state and federal court cases around the country has shown that MERS authorized thousands of bank employees to sign their names as MERS officials. The banks allegedly drew up fake mortgage assignments, making it appear falsely that they had standing to file foreclosures, and then had their own employees sign the documents as MERS “vice presidents” or “assistant secretaries.”

Covington in 2004 also wrote a crucial opinion letter commissioned by MERS, providing legal justification for its electronic registry. MERS spokeswoman Karmela Lejarde declined to comment on Covington legal work done for MERS.

It isn’t known to what extent if any Covington has continued to represent the banks and other mortgage firms since Holder and Breuer left. Covington declined to respond to questions from Reuters. A Covington spokeswoman said the firm had no comment.

Several lawyers for homeowners have said that even if Holder and Breuer haven’t violated any ethics rules, their ties to Covington create an impression of bias toward the firms’ clients, especially in the absence of any prosecutions by the Justice Department.

O. Max Gardner III, a lawyer who trains other attorneys to represent homeowners in bankruptcy court foreclosure actions, said he attributes the Justice Department’s reluctance to prosecute the banks or their executives to the Obama White House’s view that it might harm the economy.

But he said that the background of Holder and Breuer at Covington — and their failure to act on foreclosure fraud or publicly recuse themselves — “doesn’t pass the smell test.”

Federal ethics regulations generally require new government officials to recuse themselves for one year from involvement in matters involving clients they personally had represented at their former law firms.

President Obama imposed additional restrictions on appointees that essentially extended the ban to two years. For Holder, that ban would have expired in February 2011, and in April for Breuer. Rules also require officials to avoid creating the appearance of a conflict.

Schmaler, the Justice Department spokeswoman, said in an e-mail that “The Attorney General and Assistant Attorney General Breuer have conformed with all financial, legal and ethical obligations under law as well as additional ethical standards set by the Obama Administration.”

She said they “routinely consult” the department’s ethics officials for guidance. Without offering specifics, Schmaler said they “have recused themselves from matters as required by the law.”

Senior government officials often move to big Washington law firms, and lawyers from those firms often move into government posts. But records show that in recent years the traffic between the Justice Department and Covington & Burling has been particularly heavy. In 2010, Holder’s deputy chief of staff, John Garland, returned to Covington, as did Steven Fagell, who was Breuer’s deputy chief of staff in the criminal division.

The firm has on its web site a page listing its attorneys who are former federal government officials. Covington lists 22 from the Justice Department, and 12 from U.S. Attorneys offices, the Justice Department’s local federal prosecutors’ offices around the country.

As Reuters reported in 2011, public records show large numbers of mortgage promissory notes with apparently forged endorsements that were submitted as evidence to courts.

There also is evidence of almost routine manufacturing of false mortgage assignments, documents that transfer ownership of mortgages between banks or to groups of investors. In foreclosure actions in courts mortgage assignments are required to show that a bank has the legal right to foreclose.

In an interview in late 2011, Raymond Brescia, a visiting professor at Yale Law Schoolwho has written about foreclosure practices said, “I think it’s difficult to find a fraud of this size on the U.S. court system in U.S. history.”

Holder has resisted calls for a criminal investigation since October 2010, when evidence of widespread “robo-signing” first surfaced. That involved mortgage servicer employees falsely signing and swearing to massive numbers of affidavits and other foreclosure documents that they had never read or checked for accuracy.


Robert Reich and ‘Amend 2012’ Launch Campaign for Constitutional Amendment to Overturn ‘Citizens United’

Robert Reich appears in a new video from a new organization, Amend 2012, calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United. In just over two minutes, Reich clearly and effectively explains how Citizens came about and why it is dangerous to U.S. politics. The campaign focuses on the idea that corporations aren’t people, only people are people. Reich then asks everyone to take action in support of Amend 2012’s call for a constitutional amendment:

Thanks to the Supreme Court and Citizens United, the same big corporations and billionaires that destroyed our economy and caused millions of us to lose our jobs and homes, are spending obscene amounts to drown out our voices in elections and take over our government.

But together, “We the People” can set things right.

The campaign website has a petition, a way for supporters to donate to the cause, and a way to sign up for the campaign’s ‘Constitution Crew’ with numerous other ways to support the amendment drive. The website also offers state-by-state toolkits for activists, the latest news about related issues and a more thorough explanation of the court ruling and the problems it creates.

The campaign is a project of Common Cause. Public Citizen is also pushing for an amendment to overturn Citizens United.

A recent poll shows that two-thirds of small business owners say that Citizens United hurts them, while only nine percent found it to be a positive thing.

Tags: Amend 2012, Citizens United, Common Cause, Robert Reich

Scalia and Thomas: Who Cares If Your Lawyer Abandons You on Death Row?

After Cory Maples was convicted of two murders in Alabama in 1997 and sentenced to death, he appealed his conviction claiming that he’d received shoddy legal representation, what’s technically known as ineffective assistance of counsel. Two attorneys from Sullivan & Cromwell, a prestigious law firm in New York, agreed to represent him.

Alabama doesn’t provide inmates with post-conviction legal assistance. By securing free representation from two attorneys from a hotshot New York law firm, Maples must have thought he had a decent chance in court. A dream come true, right?

Didn’t turn out that way. The two attorneys, Jaasai Munanka and Clara Ingen-Housz, left the firm in 2002, in the middle of Maples’ appeal process. They didn’t tell Maples that they were leaving, or that they weren’t going to be involved in his case anymore. They didn’t even tell the court in Alabama. So when the court denied Maples’ appeal in 2003, he had no idea. Maples’ Alabama-based attorney (the state requires a state-licensed attorney to be on the appeal team) did receive the court’s notification that Maples’ appeal had been rejected, but he did nothing about it. (He’d previously told Maple’s New York-based lawyers that he’d be involved in the case only as much as the law required him to be.) By the time other attorneys at Sullivan & Cromwell decided to pick up the case, the 42-day deadline for appealing the court’s rejection had already passed. Maples had essentially been left high and dry by his lawyers, two of whom had bailed without bothering to inform the court, and one of whom had effectively washed his hands of the case from the beginning. As far as Maples knew, he had lawyers. He didn’t.

The lower courts rejected Maples’ pleas for another chance to file an appeal, despite the conduct of his attorneys. But on Wednesday, the Supreme Court reversed that decision by a vote of 7 to 2, with Justice Antonin Scalia writing a dissent joined by Clarence Thomas. Their argument? If you allow Maples to file an appeal despite missing the original deadline because he was abandoned by his attorneys, then defense attorneys all over the country could argue that their clients had been effectively unrepresented at one point or another, gambling on the possibility that the big-hearted, black-robed softies on the Supreme Court would overlook any procedural errors that might have been made during their appeals.

Under the law, merely having a crappy lawyer who misses deadlines isn’t normally enough to get a second chance. This makes sense. It prevents people from trying to take advantage of the system through deliberate incompetence. The difference here is that Maples didn’t have a crappy lawyer. As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg points out in her majority opinion, he essentially didn’t have a lawyer at all. 

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You might be wondering how exactly Scalia and Thomas could be so indifferent to someone who gets so royally shafted by his attorneys. Despite today’s 7 to 2 ruling, this court has rarely been sympathetic to defendants when it comes to procedural matters and criminal justice. This goes double for Scalia and Thomas. This is, after all, a court that overturned a financial reward for a man who spent years in prison for crimes he didn’t commit and found that the Fourth Amendment right to unreasonable searches and seizures doesn’t exist if the faint smell of marijuana smoke tickles a cop’s nostrils while he happens to be standing near your apartment. Four of the justices think there’s nothing cruel and unusual about California stacking its prisoners like boxes in an Amazon warehouse. We haven’t even gotten to Scalia harrumphing that it’s irrelevant whether Troy Davis was “actually innocent.” 

Alabama is in a different league when it comes to the death penalty, executing inmates at a rate six times higher than Texas, which has about five times as many people. Juries need not be unanimous in death penalty cases. Judges are allowed to override jury verdicts and impose the death penalty if they feel like it. Alabama judges have been known to brag about their body counts during their reelection campaigns. They have strong political incentives to execute people, and as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg writes in her majority opinion, the state has made it particularly easy by lowering legal standards for public defenders and capping state reimbursements for legal expenses for those attorneys who do choose to represent their clients in post-conviction proceedings. This all reflects a particular worldview: The possibility that the convicted are actually innocent is so slim that taxpayers shouldn’t be on the hook for whatever legal shenanigans they might try.

That worldview permeates Alito’s concurring opinion. Despite agreeing with the majority that Maples got a raw deal, Alito takes a few pages to deny that there’s anything wrong with the way Alabama handles the death penalty, calling the Maples case “a veritable perfect storm of misfortune” not indicative of any larger issues. Not only that, but Alito says there’s no problem with forcing inmates sentenced to death to rely on the kindness of strangers. Alito notes that Sullivan & Cromwell “is one of the country’s most prestigious and expensive” firms, and adds that “I have little doubt that the vast majority of criminal defendants would think that they had won the lottery” if they were to be represented by the firm’s attorneys.

Except for Maples it turned out to be a nightmare.

Still, Scalia’s dissent has to rank up there with his greatest hits. He writes coldly that “the client bears the risk of all attorney errors made in the course of the representation, regardless of the egregiousness of the mistake.” That’s even if the “mistake” is a lawyer not bothering to tell someone facing possible execution that they’re not representing them anymore. What’s the big deal? It’s not like anyone’s life is at stake.

When Will We See Our First Trillionaire

In recent years, even at a time of global recession, the world’s wealthiest people have been getting wealthier and wealthier. In fact, the wealthiest 5 percent of American households received 81.7 percent of the total wealth gain in America between 1983 and 2009, according to a study from the Economic Policy Institute.

The wealthiest person in the world, according to Forbes, is Mexican businessman Carlos Slim with a total fortune of $74 billion. Number two and number three on the list of world’s wealthiest people are Americans Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, with $56 billion and $50 billion respectively.

With billionaires continuing to see their wealth appreciate at a rapid pace, the question has been asked: “When will we see the world’s first trillionaire?”

A trillion dollars is a big number – here it is with all the zeroes included:


For comparison’s sake, the entire size of the U.S. economy was approximately $14.7 trillion as of 2010 and the entire U.S. federal budget is approximately $3.7 trillion.

There are several factors that affect how rapidly someone’s wealth can grow: tax laws, the overall growth of the economy and inflation.

Using Bill Gates as an example, starting from today with a net worth of $56 billion, if Bill Gates’ wealth were to continue to grow by 3 percent per year, he would achieve trillionaire status in 98 years. Of course, Bill Gates is already 56 years old, so he’s probably not going to be around at the age of 154. (No offense to Mr. Gates, and I don’t mean to sound morbid; it’s just a fact. Although if anyone could figure out how to live to 154, it would probably be Bill Gates.)

So let’s consider a younger billionaire. How about Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who is currently 27 years old?

If Mark Zuckerberg were to cash in on his Facebook stock (currently valued at approximately $8 billion) and invest it aggressively, and achieved an amazing 20 percent return on investment, he would become a trillionaire within 50 years. Not a bad 77 th birthday present!

Even though today’s group of billionaires are gaining wealth at a rapid pace, they’re still nowhere near that trillion dollar mark. There have been other wealthy figures in past eras who were closer to becoming trillionaires than Bill Gates and Warren Buffett are today – for example, John D. Rockefeller was the wealthiest American in history (and often estimated to be the wealthiest person who has ever lived). Rockefeller died in 1937 at the age of 97, with a net worth of $663 billion (in present-day dollars, adjusted for inflation – although the actual nominal value of his fortune was “only” $1.4 billion in 1937).

If John D. Rockefeller had lived for another 14 years, with an annual net worth gain of 3 percent, he would have reached “trillionaire” status (in 2011 dollars).

Despite America’s fascination with wealth and our pride as a home to innovators and inventors and entrepreneurs, the world’s first trillionaire is probably not going to be an American. For starters, the world’s richest man, Carlos Slim, is Mexican. The world’s wealthiest family is the Al Nahyan family of Abu Dhabi (worth $150 billion). Some of the fastest growing economies (and fastest growing fortunes) in the world are in the emerging markets of Brazil, Russia, India and China. The world’s first trillionaire is more likely to be a commodities trader from Nigeria or an oil tycoon from Russia than an American tech entrepreneur.

It’s interesting to reflect on the very remoteness of the concept of a “trillionaire” – the numbers become so big as to be mind-boggling. And it’s comforting, in a way, to know that no matter how much money someone earns, they will still be far away from that elusive trillion-dollar goal. It looks like we’ll be describing our wealthiest people as “billionaires” for some time to come.

‘Impressed’ and ‘Delighted’ Warren Buffett Matches GOP Rep’s Deficit Donations

Warren Buffett will be writing a check made out to the United States Treasury for just over $49,000 to help pay down the national debt.

He’s matching voluntary contributions made this year and last year by Rep. Scott Rigell, a Republican representing Virginia.

In a letter to Rep. Rigell released today by Berkshire Hathaway, Buffett writes he’s “particularly impressed that you took this action before my challenge.”

[ See also: Why Mitt Romney’s Tax Rate Matters  ]

In his challenge, issued in a Time Magazine interview last week, Buffett promises to match voluntary contributions aimed at reducing the deficit by “all Republican members of Congress, and I’ll even go three for one with (Senate Minority Leader Mitch) McConnell.”

McConnell, and other critics of Buffett’s call for higher tax rates on the super-rich, have been suggesting that if Buffett thinks he’s not taxed enough then he should “send in a check” to the Treasury.

In his letter to Buffett, also released by Berkshire, Rep. Rigell writes, that he “appreciates” and “gladly accepts” Buffett’s “generous offer.”

Rigell says he makes it a practice to donate 15 percent of his Congressional salary “to pay down the debt.” That amounted to $23,103.33 in 2011 and about $26,100 in 2012.

[ See also: When Will We See the World’s First Trillionaire? ]

Rigell adds, “Though we differ on tax policy, as fellow Americans and businessmen I know that we share this common bond: a deep concern over the state and trajectory of our country’s finances.”

Buffett writes back that he hopes Rigell’s action “spurs an intramural rivalry between Republicans and Democrats .. a form of competition between the two parties that the American people would applaud” as a “small step” toward “better cooperation between the two parties.”

Buffett will wait until April 20 to write his check to see if anyone else accepts his challenge.

Buffett also invites Rigell to come for a visit if he’s “ever traveling near Omaha.”

As for Rigell’s offer to provide “documentation” of his contributions, Buffett tells him, “Your word is good with me.”

Current Berkshire stock prices:

Class B: (NYSE: BRK-BNews)

Class A: (NYSE: BRK-ANews)

Keep up with Warren Buffett on and follow alexcrippen on Twitter.

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One Unemployed Youth Cost The Taxpayers 14 thousand A year

| According to work done by researchers from Columbia University and the City University of New York, each unemployed youth — someone between the ages of 16 and 24 who is in neither work nor school — costs taxpayers nearly $14,000 dollars per year in direct costs for things like medical bills and government aid, while ultimately creating a “social burden” of more than $37,000 annually (when accounting for the costs of crime and lost tax revenue). As the Atlantic’s Jordan Weissmann noted, the current generation of unemployed youth “will cost taxpayers $437 billion over the next five years, and $1.15 trillion over the course of their lifetime.”


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$422,320 for a College Degree? With Tuition Skyrocketing, It is Time to Rethink Higher Education

That’s what The Daily, News Corp. and Apple’s daily news outlet for the iPad, calculated a college education could cost members of the class of 2034—children born this year, for the most part—if they attend one of the nation’s priciest schools. But even an average public university will cost $81,000 for four years if tuition hikes continue at current rates—which are increasing much faster than inflation. As tuition continues to go up, and even the president calls for solutions, some are looking at radical possibilities for keeping tuition down—or even eliminating it.

The Daily found that tuition has been increasing even faster at public schools than private—4.5 percent a year for public universities and only 3.5 percent for private. According to Jane Wellman of the Delta Project, which studies the cost of higher education, public schools have been relying on tuition rather than endowments to make up for state education budget cuts..

That last statement shouldn’t be surprising—with the Age of Austerity upon us, cuts have been coming fast and hard to state university budgets. Last year, the University of California system saw a $500 million reduction in the support it gets from Sacramento, a 16.4 percent drop.

With support for public universities dwindling in the ongoing economic slump, the cost of college is falling on the shoulders of families and on the students themselves, who are increasingly forced to mortgage their future on student loans that will follow them for the rest of their lives.

Family incomes certainly haven’t kept up with the rise in college costs—The Daily notes that family incomes, adjusted for inflation have only grown by 1 percent since 1987, and the median family wage is down from 2009. Poverty is at an 18-year high. And while Rick Santorum might be attempting to burnish his working-class credentials telling audiences that President Obama is a “snob” for saying that he wants everyone to go to college, Catherine Rampell at the New York Times notes that college graduates’ incomes are actually going up in comparison to those of high school grads.

A professor that Rampell interviewed, Philip Babcock from the University of California at Santa Barbara, noted that perhaps it’s less that incomes are going up for people with degrees and more that incomes are stagnating or dropping for those without them. Rampell wrote, “Additionally, some public policies that helped support the earnings of lower-skilled workers have become less generous over time. The minimum wage, for example, has not kept pace with inflation.”

The decline of unions, the outsourcing of manufacturing jobs that used to provide a solid middle-class income and benefits, and conservative politicians refusing to maintain the minimum wage against inflation have all contributed to a situation where a college education is seen, despite Santorum’s posturing, as the best way for young people to guarantee a good future. Yet if the price of a college education continues to rise above and beyond what working families can afford, we end up with two results: one, that the children of the already-wealthy get the benefits of advanced degrees without debt (how many families can afford to spend $20,000 a year putting a kid through school without taking out loans?) and two, that big banks and student lenders will continue to reap the rewards, raking in interest as they dish out loans to “the 99%.”

An Alternative Plan?

Last month, President Obama and education secretary Arne Duncan met with a group of college presidents (mostly from public universities) and others, including the Delta Project’s Jane Wellman, to discuss ways of keeping college tuition down and improving graduation rates.

War Crimes Committed In Iraq





Firebombing Falluja: The United States is using napalm in Falluja
US Troops Fire on Ambulance
Letter from a GI in Falluja: “This wasn’t a war, it was a massacre” ‘Improved’ Napalm For Falluja With ‘Improved’ Effect By Mike Whitney

Report: Raytheon ‘Heat Beam’ Weapon Ready for Iraq
Iraq’s Health Disaster Under the Occupation
James Petras: US war crimes in Iraq
Irregular Weapons Used Against Iraq
‘Unusual Weapons’ Used in Fallujah
200 Children Die Every Day Iraq’s Health Care Under the Occupation
US Lawyers Warn Bush on War Crimes

Secret Report Gave Early Warning of Abu Ghraib
Gitmo Torture and Rumsfeld’s and Tenet’s War Crimes
U.S. Accused of Using Poison Gases in Fallujah
US army blocks aid convoy for Falluja
Statement from Falluja: 5000 were killed by USA chemical weapons in Falluja- 22/11/2004
Doctors In Baghdad: US did use chemical weapon in Al Falluja  Voice

‘Unusual Weapons’ Used in Fallujah
Iraqi Official: More Than 2,000 People Killed in Fallujah
Puppet “Iraqi ministry of health” orders Baghdad hospitals not to admit wounded patients from al-Fallujah.
Witnesses Say GIs Killed Unarmed Civilians
Independent aid convoy enters Fallujah, forced to turn back
Fallujah in Pictures
Statement from Falluja: 5000 were killed by USA chemical weapons in Falluja- 22/11/2004
US Mercantilist Law Prevents Iraqi Farmers From Saving Own Seeds

Iraqi Physican Confirms US Chem Weapons Use In Fallujah
Video :Eyewitness from Falluja said  the American used chemical and phosphoric weapons. ( download file and open with Media player)
Assault on Falluja – Week Three Pictures
American Crimes against the  civilians in Al Ramadi in Pictures
Marines Gun Down Iraqi Civilians at Ramadi Checkpoint
Resistance Targets Rear US Fallujah Positions; Chemcial Weapons Use In South Expected
Falluja women, children in mass grave
Troops Raid Mosul Hospital
US soldier accused of killing civilian
Witnesses Say GIs Killed Unarmed Civilians
In Fallujah, Marine ‘Diplomacy’: Hold Civilians Hostage for Insurgent Attacks
Independent aid convoy enters Fallujah, forced to turn back
Fallujah in Pictures
Statement from Falluja: 5000 were killed by USA chemical weapons in Falluja- 22/11/2004
US Mercantilist Law Prevents Iraqi Farmers From Saving Own Seeds

Iraqi Physican Confirms US Chem Weapons Use In Fallujah
Video :Eyewitness from Falluja said  the American used chemical and phosphoric weapons. ( download file and open with Media player)
Assault on Falluja – Week Three Pictures
Marines Gun Down Iraqi Civilians at Ramadi Checkpoint
Falluja women, children in mass grave
Troops Raid Mosul Hospital

Fallujah in Pictures Thursday, November 18,2004
Pictures: American terrorists killing injured civilians in Falluja mousque
Video: American terrorists in Al Falluja mosque
VIDEO: Watch Marines entering a Fallujah mosque where one rebel was reportedly shot and killed. NBC Says Marine Killed Unarmed Wounded Iraqi
Look and hear what the American terrorists doing in the Iraqi cities. Falluja 15/11/04The resistance in BaghdadThe resistance in BuhruzBeji,    Eyewitnesses Voice,   Eyewitnesses Voice2
Falluja and the American terrorists ,     Pictures
Marines shoot wounded Iraqi in Falluja mosque (Video)
The American TERROR on Al Falluja  Video
US troops ‘preventing aid’ to Falluja
Falluja in pictures
Al Falluja 14/11/2004 The American crimes Pictures,        The situation in Falluj ( Voice)
Private Jet Takes US Prisoners to Torture Hosts
US Shot Civilians Escaping From Fallujah
Rights Experts: US Might Have Committed a War Crime in Sending Civilians Back to Fallujah
US Troops in Fallujah Shoot Into Homes, Then Search
I have just witnessed a murder on my TV screen
Battle for Falluja Pictures

Fallujah Rebels Say US Using Gas Weapons
Half Mosques Downed, Human Crisis Unfolds in Fallujah
The American Terror on Iraq Flash (4 MB)

US Troops Reportedly Gassing Fallujah
The American Terror on Al Falluja Video
US air raid on Fallujah clinic kills dozens: witnesses ‘Body Parts Everywhere’ in Fallujah
Fallujah: US Declares War on Hospitals, Ambulances
Residents Say Over 20 Medics, Dozens of Others Killed in Air Raid on Clinic
The American’s Terror on Iraq Flash (4 MB)
US air raid on Fallujah clinic kills dozens: witnesses
Pictures,   Badir Militia attacking the hospital of Al Falluja,    Victims of the US air strike on Al Falluja,   The resistance in Hayfa street of Baghdad
Video: US Pilots Kill Civilians
Children used as human shields by US MILITARY in Iraq
US bombs Falluja in Pictures
In Pictures: U.S. Bombs Falluja
Daughter of Soldier Contaminated with Depleted Uranium in Iraq Born with Deformities:
Civilians killed in US ‘precision strike’ on Falluja Pictures
Hepatitis spreads in 2 Iraqi districts Collapse of water and sewage systems is believed to be at root of the illness
Five UK Soldiers May Face Trial Over Killing of Sargeant
Woman’s Lawyer Expects Iraq Abuse Trial Poisonous Legacy: Flash presentation. About the D-Uranium ( The photos are of Iraqi children)  (Special Thank for the Flash designer)

Iraq’s Child Prisoners pictures

USA Crimes in Tall Afar NOrthern Iraq Pictures
In pictures
Carnage in Falluja

Animation on Depleted Uranium
Civilians killed in US ‘precision strike’ on Falluja Pictures

US bombs Falluja in Pictures   Map of America prisons in Iraq  ( the red is secret prisons ) Children and women are spread on those persons
After Abu Ghraib
Huda Alazawi was one of the few women held in solitary in the notorious Iraqi prison. Following her release, she talks for the first time to Luke Harding about her ordeal  Arabic translation
Are the infidel American forces hiding their losses …… where is the proof  Where have all the young men gone? With the illusion of honor and the glory of a mass grave in a foreign land.
More information

The Detection of Sixteen Dead Bodies in A mass Grave in Falluja
Probably belong to American soldiers who were buried in a ditch in the North West sector of the city.

In Pictures  Grief in Baghdad

AP video of Americans killing unarmed Ramadi civilian demonstrators    video

Iraq: Uranium Contamination

Effects Of War And The Use Of Depleted Uranium On Iraq

Iraqi’s the victims of  Depleted Uranium picturs

WHO ‘suppressed’ scientific study into depleted uranium cancer fears in Iraq

The Evidence File:
Court case against General Franks in Brussels 


Texte complet de la plainte contre Franks  (pdf),  Complete text in English: MS Word document


Pictures #1 : Ambulance Under American Fire,

Pictures #2 : The Plaintiff’s, Pictures # 3 : destruction of civilian infrastructure

Pictures # 4 : Protection and organisation of Looting, Pictures # 5 : the use of cluster bombs


The use of cluster bombs, Destruction to infrastructure that’s vital for public health, Protection and organization of Looting, Civilian casualties .


video of the testimonies by Geert Van Moorter, Fred & fico 

The reality of iraqi children by Geert van Moorter & fico May 03, 2003

An Iraqi ambulance under fire by Geert Van Moorter & fico 2003-05-03 

American soldiers shoot at a civilian bus in Iraq by Geert Van Moorter & fico 2003-05-03

Plundering a hospital filmed by Geert Van Moorter, edited by Chloé & fico April 24 

American soldiers shoot at a civilian bus in Iraq by Geert Van Moorter & fico 2003-05-03

Plundering a hospital filmed by Geert Van Moorter, edited by Chloé & fico April 24 

American’s are like a baby by Geert Van Moorter, chloé & fico 2003-04-29

The feeling of an Iraqi doctor by Geert Van Moorter & fico 2003-05-03

We will build it again…and again…and again filmed by Geert Van Moorter, edited by fico & Chloé April 24

La voix des enfants de Charleroi à Bagdad by Huito & Fico 2003-04-30

  These Pages Depict The Horror And Reality Of “OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM”

 Crimes by days
March 22 | March 23 | March 24 | March 25 | March 26 | March 27 | March 28 | March 29 | March 30 |

March 31 | April 1 | April 2 | April 3 | April 4 | April 5 | April 6 | April 8 | April 9 | April 10 | April 12 |

April 15 | April 16 | April 17 | April 18 | April 19 | April 20 | April 21 | April 22 | April 23 | April 25 |

April 27 | April 28 | April 29 | May 1 | May 4 | May 5 | May 6 | May 7 | May 8 | May 9 | May 10 |May 12 |

 May 14 | May 15 | May 16 | May 17 | May 18 | May 19 | May 20 | May 21 | May 22 | May 23 | May 25 |

 May 26 | May 28

 who have been terrorised

Pictures of Destruction and Civilian Victims of the Anglo-American Aggression in Iraq

The Weapons of American Terrorism:
Cluster Bombs

Click Here to know more about the devastating effects of these weapons

Depleted uranium they contain.

Iraq: War Against the People,   video

Death & Destruction of ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom”

Page 1  Page 2  Page 3  Page 4  Page 5  Page 6  Page 7  Page 8

Pictures That bush Does Not Want You To See 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11

The Results of the Use of Depleted Uranium

Miscellaneous Pictures of the War 1 2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18  19  20  21  22  23  24  25  26  27  28  29  30  31  32  33  

34  35  36  37  38  39  40  41  42  43  44  45  46  47  48  49  50  51  52  53  54  55  56  57  58  

Human rights watch

Iraq: Civilian Deaths Need U.S. Investigation Press Release, October 21, 2003

Fired from MSNBC for Anti-War Views, Phil Donahue Speaks Out on Republicans and Journalism, While Campaigning for Norman Solomon in California

The legendary talk show host, who lost his show because he opposed the Iraq war, discusses the wars, the presidential candidates, and more in an in-depth interview.

January 16, 2012  |  



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From the early 1970s to 1985, The Phil Donahue Show was broadcast nationally from Chicago. Donahue also co-hosted a compelling political talk show — with Vladimir Pozner of the former Soviet Union — called This Week with Pozner and Donahue from 1991-1994.

In July 2002, MSNBC hired him to host a free-wheeling TV talk show, which hyped the return of Donahue. However, eight months later during the run-up to war with Iraq, behind-the-scenes pressure from the Bush White House — and a groundswell of conservative outrage — led MSNBC to give the anti-war TV talk-show host the boot.

It mattered little that Donahue had won nine Daytime Emmys and a Lifetime Achievement Emmy in 1996. MSNBC claimed Donahue’s ratings were too low to justify keeping the show on the air, even though Donahue was the highest rated show on MSNBC at the time it was canceled and beat out Chris Matthews‘s Hardball, which was then on CNBC.

After Donahue was cancelled, reported it had obtained a copy of an internal NBC memo that stated Donahue should be fired because he would be a “difficult public face for NBC in a time of war.”

We caught up with Donahue at the campaign headquarters of Norman Solomon for Congress, in San Rafael, California, about 20 miles north of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. He had come into town to show his moving film “Body of War” and to campaign for Solomon.

DB: Phil Donahue has come into town to show a very compelling film that he produced called “Body of War”  in 2007. It’s a very thoughtful film about a young vet, named Thomas Young, who was paralyzed in Iraq, and went through a transformation. … It wasn’t meant to be a dogmatic attack at policy but it turned into something that made you really think about war and peace, and why we send young people off to war.

So, in that context, we’ve been at many wars for a long time here. We’re thinking that there’s some end to the U.S. involvement in the war in Iraq. But now, everything looks like, and it’s getting worse that there might be some kind of tangle, and a very terrible tangle, with Iran. Your response to current policy, war policy, and your thoughts on that.

PD:  Well, Rick Santorum is scaring me. He’s got both guns out. The Straits of Hormuz,  if they [the Iranians] block that, you can see how we get into war. That’s one of the reasons why I admire Norman so much, he is making the point that it’s much too easy for a president to go to war.

And I discovered Thomas Young at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. … Here was this kid, 24-years old, pale as the sheet, whacked out on morphine. And as I stood and looked down at him and his mother told me how paralyzed he was; he’s a T4 which anatomists knows is paralyzed from the nipples down. Thomas can’t cough. Thomas has bowel and bladder every morning, nausea.

He is a warrior turned anti-warrior. He came home from the war absolutely stunned at its horror, that it wasn’t necessary. He went to Fort Hood and immediately said, “Why am I going to Iraq, I thought I was going to Afghanistan?” Too late now, he goes there, he goes to Iraq and he’s there five days, no top on the truck, main street in Sadr City, and he takes a bullet through the collar bone and exited T4 in his spine. He will never walk again.

I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. And then it occurred to me how sanitized this war was. I mean you couldn’t. … The president [George W. Bush] said, “don’t take pictures” [of the carnage] and the whole mainstream press said “Okay.”  There was never any push back.

How Today’s Income Inequality Kills Tomorrow’s Economic Mobility

Our guest blogger is Heather Boushey, senior economist at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

America is supposedly a land of opportunity, but increasingly the data shows that we are a country where parents’ earnings are paramount in determining their children’s future earnings. This sort of class-stratified society is exactly what most of us think America is not (or at least should not be). Plus, this kind of class calcification is bad for economic growth.

The relationship between today’s inequality and tomorrow’s economic mobility was a key theme of a speech by Alan Krueger, Chair of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, at the Center for American Progress last week. To show how class has become calcified in America, he showed this chart, which he called the “Great Gatsby Curve“:

In the chart, the Gini coefficient, one of the most-commonly used measures of income inequality, is on the x-axis. The higher the Gini, the more unequal a nation is. Notably, for 1985, the United States was more unequal than any of the other nine advanced economies shown. A measure of economic mobility is on the y-axis. This measure, the “intergeneration earnings elasticity” measures how important a parent’s earnings are to predicting their child’s future earnings (in this chart, only looking at fathers and sons).

Imagine two American fathers, Middle Class Dad and Rich Dad, standing together with their adult sons. Rich Dad earned 100 percent more than Middle Class Dad when the boys were young. This chart shows that Lil’ Richie will earn about 50 percent more than Lil’ Middle.

When a parent’s economic status has too big an impact on his children’s economic status, it has a pernicious impact on the economy. Today, somewhere in America, there’s a young toddler who may be the next Bill Gates or Steve Jobs (or just a really terrific manager who boosts productivity at her firm). But, if she’s not Rich Dad’s little girl, our economy may never benefit from her talents and that would be a loss for everyone.

As economists Flavio Cunha and James Heckman put it, “The best documented market failure in the life cycle of skill formation in contemporary American society is the inability of children to buy their parents or the lifetime resources that parents provide.” As they say, you can’t choose your parents.


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On The Triple Evils Racism, Ecploitation Of Labor, And War

Virginia lawmaker: Children with disabilities are God’s punishment to women who previously had abortions.


On Thursday, Virginia State Delegate Bob Marshall (R) spoke at a press conference against state funding for Planned Parenthood. He blasted the organization for supporting a women’s right to choose, saying that God punishes women who have had abortions by giving them disabled children:

The number of children who are born subsequent to a first abortion with handicaps has increased dramatically. Why? Because when you abort the first born of any, nature takes its vengeance on the subsequent children,” said Marshall, a Republican.

“In the Old Testament, the first born of every being, animal and man, was dedicated to the Lord. There’s a special punishment Christians would suggest.”

Marshall is also fighting against health care reform, saying that “Obamacare” is trying to take “your soul.” Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin has been pushing back against high-profile figures and entities who have been attacking people with disabilities. Will she speak out against someone in her own party? (HT: Right Wing Watch)


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Martin Luther King Jr. His Time And Story


Martin Luther King, Jr., (January 15, 1929-April 4, 1968) was born Michael Luther King, Jr., but later had his name changed to Martin. His grandfather began the family’s long tenure as pastors of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, serving from 1914 to 1931; his father has served from then until the present, and from 1960 until his death Martin Luther acted as co-pastor. Martin Luther attended segregated public schools in Georgia, graduating from high school at the age of fifteen; he received the B. A. degree in 1948 from Morehouse College, a distinguished Negro institution of Atlanta from which both his father and grandfather had graduated. After three years of theological study at Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania where he was elected president of a predominantly white senior class, he was awarded the B.D. in 1951. With a fellowship won at Crozer, he enrolled in graduate studies at Boston University, completing his residence for the doctorate in 1953 and receiving the degree in 1955. In Boston he met and married Coretta Scott, a young woman of uncommon intellectual and artistic attainments. Two sons and two daughters were born into the family.

In 1954, Martin Luther King became pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. Always a strong worker for civil rights for members of his race, King was, by this time, a member of the executive committee of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the leading organization of its kind in the nation. He was ready, then, early in December, 1955, to accept the leadership of the first great Negro nonviolent demonstration of contemporary times in the United States, the bus boycott described by Gunnar Jahn in his presentation speech in honor of the laureate. The boycott lasted 382 days. On December 21, 1956, after the Supreme Court of the United States had declared unconstitutional the laws requiring segregation on buses, Negroes and whites rode the buses as equals. During these days of boycott, King was arrested, his home was bombed, he was subjected to personal abuse, but at the same time he emerged as a Negro leader of the first rank.

In 1957 he was elected president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization formed to provide new leadership for the now burgeoning civil rights movement. The ideals for this organization he took from Christianity; its operational techniques from Gandhi. In the eleven-year period between 1957 and 1968, King traveled over six million miles and spoke over twenty-five hundred times, appearing wherever there was injustice, protest, and action; and meanwhile he wrote five books as well as numerous articles. In these years, he led a massive protest in Birmingham, Alabama, that caught the attention of the entire world, providing what he called a coalition of conscience. and inspiring his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”, a manifesto of the Negro revolution; he planned the drives in Alabama for the registration of Negroes as voters; he directed the peaceful march on Washington, D.C., of 250,000 people to whom he delivered his address, “l Have a Dream”, he conferred with President John F. Kennedy and campaigned for President Lyndon B. Johnson; he was arrested upwards of twenty times and assaulted at least four times; he was awarded five honorary degrees; was named Man of the Year by Time magazine in 1963; and became not only the symbolic leader of American blacks but also a world figure.

At the age of thirty-five, Martin Luther King, Jr., was the youngest man to have received the Nobel Peace Prize. When notified of his selection, he announced that he would turn over the prize money of $54,123 to the furtherance of the civil rights movement.

On the evening of April 4, 1968, while standing on the balcony of his motel room in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was to lead a protest march in sympathy with striking garbage workers of that city, he was assassinated.


Selected Bibliography

Adams, Russell, Great Negroes Past and Present, pp. 106-107. Chicago, Afro-Am Publishing Co., 1963.

Bennett, Lerone, Jr., What Manner of Man: A Biography of Martin Luther King, Jr. Chicago, Johnson, 1964.

I Have a Dream: The Story of Martin Luther King in Text and Pictures. New York, Time Life Books, 1968.

King, Martin Luther, Jr., The Measure of a Man. Philadelphia. The Christian Education Press, 1959. Two devotional addresses.

King, Martin Luther, Jr., Strength to Love. New York, Harper & Row, 1963. Sixteen sermons and one essay entitled “Pilgrimage to Nonviolence.”

King, Martin Luther, Jr., Stride toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story. New York, Harper, 1958.

King, Martin Luther, Jr., The Trumpet of Conscience. New York, Harper & Row, 1968.

King, Martin Luther, Jr., Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? New York, Harper & Row, 1967.

King, Martin Luther, Jr., Why We Can’t Wait. New York, Harper & Row, 1963.

“Man of the Year”, Time, 83 (January 3, 1964) 13-16; 25-27.

“Martin Luther King, Jr.”, in Current Biography Yearbook 1965, ed. by Charles Moritz, pp. 220-223. New York, H.W. Wilson.

Reddick, Lawrence D., Crusader without Violence: A Biography of Martin Luther King, Jr. New York, Harper, 1959.

From Nobel Lectures, Peace 1951-1970, Editor Frederick W. Haberman, Elsevier Publishing Company, Amsterdam, 1972

This autobiography/biography was written at the time of the award and first published in the book series Les Prix Nobel. It was later edited and republished in Nobel Lectures. To cite this document, always state the source as shown above.


* Editor’s note: This biography uses the word “Negro”. Even though this word today is considered inappropriate, we have chosen not to change the original text to adhere to the copyright owner’s wish to keep the original version as a historical document.


Copyright © The Nobel Foundation 1964

MLA style: “Martin Luther King – Biography”. 17 Jan 2012



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Is Your Senator Representing Charles and David Koch?



Billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch look like they’re easy graders. Their Tea Party group released its rankings this week of senators and congressman who toe the Koch line most, and it gave a total of 44 A+s for the 112th Congress.

Americans for Prosperity, the Tea Party group funded by the Kochs, based its grades on opposition to affordable health care, clean air, alternative energy and net neutrality. Scores were also boosted if the elected official signed the tea party group’s anti-revenue pledge. 

In sum, the five senators who scored 100 percent on the Americans for Prosperity how-can-we-make-the-Kochs-richer test received $187,400 in campaign contributions from the Kochs and their allies. 

These senators are Ron Johnson (R-WI), Tom Coburn (R-OK), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), and potential Republican vice presidential nominee Marco Rubio, a freshman from Florida. Indeed, Rubio, Johnson and Coburn have a lifetime of A+ scores! 

Though the brothers are worth about $42 billion, a little political donation here and there goes a long way. Factor in the brothers’ self-serving “philanthropy” with the Kochs’ numerous other nonprofit foundations and academic think tanks and you’ve exposed a vast echo chamber of perpetuating myths and distortions designed to make the Kochs richer.


While the Koch brothers use their enormous wealth to influence democracy in the Capitol, they’re also funding or supporting groups that aim to replace the values of working families with policies that make the Koch brothers richer. At the same time, the Kochs are working to bolster their clout with influential members of the political and media elite to favor devastating environmental developmentsthat would boost the soaring profits of Koch Industries.

To complement their political giving, the Kochs are also working with partners to curb access to the voting booth. The Kochs fund the American Legislative Exchange Council, which has helped facilitate the proliferation of voter suppression laws across the country. These laws would have their most adverse effect on students, seniors, minorities and disabled citizens.

At a local level, a Americans for Prosperity chapter helped make a community North Carolina school board race the most expensive in recent memory and favored candidates who pledged to resegregate public schools. They were ultimately rebuked by voters last year.

Exposing the Kochs reveals a pattern of selfish and manipulative priorities that consistently favor the most fortunate among us. In an era of Patriotic Billionaires, Occupy Wall Street and a decaying democratic process, the Koch brothers and their allies continue to demonstrate their satisfaction obstructing progress and social justice.

What do you think Martin Luther King Jr. would have to say about it?

Robert Greenwald is the director/producer of “Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism,” as well as many other films. He is a board member of the Independent Media Institute, AlterNet’s parent organization.



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Tea party speaker: ‘Force these Mexicans’ to build border fence



A speaker told a coalition of tea party groups in South Carolina on Monday that the U.S. could save $260 billion on the border fence if they “force these Mexicans to make $5 a day” to build it.

Speaking to the inaugural South Carolina Tea Party Coalition Convention, author Colin Heaton noted that he believed it would cost $400 billion to build a fence along the U.S. border if the government used labor unions.

“I proposed a two dual-fence system, multi-tiered wall with a no man’s land — I put a minefield in there, but they said no — intrusion detection systems like we use in detecting tunnels with nitrous and oxygen emission control emitters to detect carbon dioxide upon exhalation of someone digging a tunnel,” he explained. “Then you pump gas in there, — tear gas, nothing lethal. Just make it come out the other side.”

“But what you do, you take all these incarcerated illegal aliens — even give some of the guys who are U.S. citizens in the U.S. prison system, who make about 27 cents a day doing ridiculous work — kick out the union labor charging $28 an hour, force these Mexicans and these other people to make $5 a day, making more money than they made in Mexico anyway,” Heaton continued. “Put them to work building a security fence under military and local-state law enforcement administration. … Projected budget: $140 billion, which will pay for itself in four years once you get them the hell out of here.”

Heaton went on to propose a large, single federal detention system to incarcerate undocumented immigrants, “sort of like a KOA Campground with walls.”

The tea party speaker also drew a comparison between Adolph Hitler and President Barack Obama, but admitted that the current White House resident would not have caused the Holocaust.

“The only difference between Adolph Hitler and Barack Obama is that Barack Obama not overtly ethnically challenged with regards to various groups and religious paradigms,” he said. “But socialism is alive and well in Washington.”

Watch this video from CNN, broadcast Jan. 16, 2012.


Five Facts And One Big Lie: A Closer Look At The Oil Lobby’s Keystone XL Jobs Claims

With the 2012 presidential

Five Facts And One Big Lie: A Closer Look At The Oil Lobby’s Keystone XL Jobs Claims


With the election rapidly approaching, the oil lobby is pushing harder than ever to frame the Keystone XL Pipeline (KXL) as a “job creator.” However, TransCanada (the Canadian company behind the pipeline), the American Petroleum Institute (API), and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have used massively inflated statistics. In fact, KXL would create few permanent jobs.

BIG LIE: KXL Will Create 20,000-465,000 Jobs

U.S. Chamber Of Commerce: KXL Will Create “Up To 250,000” Jobs. In a January 12, 2012, speech, Thomas J. Donohue, President of the U.S Chamber of Commerce, said: “Labor unions and the business community alike are urging President Obama to act in the best interests of our national security and our workers and approve the pipeline. We can put 20,000 Americans to work right away and up to 250,000 over the life of the project.” [Donohue Remarks, 1/12/11, via]

American Petroleum Institute: KXL Will Enable “More Than A Half A Million New U.S. Jobs By 2035.” In a January 4, 2012, speech API President Jack Gerard said: “We’ve seen it in the continued delay of the Keystone XL pipeline – the largest shovel-ready project promising 20,000 construction-related jobs over the next two years, enabling more than half a million new U.S. jobs by 2035.” [Gerard Remarks, 1/4/12, via]

TransCanada: KXL Will Create 20,000 Jobs In Construction And Manufacturing And 465,000 Jobs Throughout the U.S Economy. In a January 10, 2012, press release, TransCanada claimed: “The $7 billion oil pipeline is the largest infrastructure project on the books in the U.S. right now. It would create 20,000 jobs: 13,000 in construction, 7,000 in manufacturing. […] As Keystone XL supports oil sands development, the impact on jobs in America becomes even more pronounced. The Canadian Energy Research Institute (CERI) predicts a $521 billion increase in the U.S. gross domestic product and the creation of 465,000 U.S. jobs.” [TransCanada, 1/10/12]

FACT 1: Experts Say Those Numbers Are “Meaningless” And “Dead Wrong”

Energy Expert: The Analysis Supporting TransCanada’s Claims Is “Dead Wrong.” On October 27, 2011, the Council on Foreign Relations’ Michael Levi wrote: “The ‘economic impact study’ [on which the claim of 250,000 permanent jobs is based] in question appears to be a widely cited report by The Perryman Group. … The Perryman report has been criticized for the claim of 20,000 jobs along the pipeline route. I’ve seen less criticism of the far more impressive 250,000 number. … That’s a shame, since while the number is being invoked prominently, the analysis upon which it’s based is dead wrong. [Council on Foreign Relations, 10/27/11]

Environmental Economist: “These Gross Employment Figures Are Meaningless.” On September 9, 2011, environmental economist Andrew Leach wrote: “Sorry, TransCanada — the number which matters and on which decisions should be made is not how many people will be employed building the pipeline and supplying all of the services associated with building it, or the employment tied to the use of the oil transported. These gross employment figures are meaningless. As with GHG’s, only net impacts relative to the most likely alternative matter.” [Andrew Leach’s blog, 9/9/11, emphasis added]

Cornell University Global Labor Institute: TransCanada’s Estimate Is “So Opaque As To Make Meaningful Review Impossible.” A September 2011 analysis by the Cornell University Global Labor Institute states:

Perryman states that he received this data from TransCanada, but nowhere in the report does he provide the TransCanada input data (for construction expenditures and sourcing of inputs). Perryman does not even present summary detail as to the essentials regarding inputs (such as a breakdown of expenditures into major categories and assumptions regarding whether major inputs such as steel pipe are imported or sourced domestically or imported). Nor does the Perryman report provide adequate detail as to the nature of the job impacts estimated (such as a breakdown between direct, indirect, and induced). In fact, the lack of adequate data and detail render the report so opaque as to make meaningful review impossible. [Cornell University Global Labor Institute, September 2011, emphasis added]

FACT 2: Independent Assessment Found That KXL Jobs Would Create As Few As 50 Permanent Jobs

Cornell University Global Labor Institute: Based On TransCanada’s Numbers, “The Project Will Create No More Than 2,500-4,600 Temporary Direct Construction Jobs.” From Cornell University Global Labor Institute’s report: “A calculation of the direct jobs that might be created by KXL can begin with an examination of the jobs on-site to build and inspect the pipeline. The project will create no more than 2,500-4,650 temporary direct construction jobs for two years, according to TransCanada’s own data supplied to the State Department.” [Cornell University Global Labor Institute, September 2011]

Cornell: “Almost All” KXL Jobs Will Be Temporary – Permanent U.S. Jobs Could Be “As Few As 50.” From Cornell University Global Labor Institute’s report: “[I]t is also important to consider that almost all of the jobs (direct, indirect and induced) associated with Keystone XL will, of course, also be temporary. The operating costs for KXL are very minimal, and based on the figures provided by TransCanada for the Canadian section of the pipeline, the new permanent US pipeline jobs in the US number as few as 50. The other operating expenditures (for materials, supplies, services, electric power, property taxes, etc.) would comprise the bulk of operating expenses and would also have some job impacts. So considering a broad range of spin-offs, operating expenditures would have job impacts in the order of around 1,000 per year.” [Cornell University Global Labor Institute, September 2011, internal citations removed]

ThinkProgress Graphic Compares TransCanada’s Stats With Independent Figures: The following chart from ThinkProgress compares the high-end estimate of Cornell Global Labor Institute’s report and the TransCanada-commissioned Perryman Group’s estimate:



FACT 3: TransCanada’s Estimates Include Jobs In Other Countries

CNN: TransCanada’s Estimates “Include Jobs In Canada.” From a December 14 CNNMoney article:

TransCanada numbers count each job on a yearly basis. If the pipeline employs 10,000 people working for two years, that’s 20,000 jobs by the company’s count.

The estimates also include jobs in Canada, where about a third of the $7 billion pipeline would be constructed. [CNNMoney,12/14/11]

FACT 4: Even TransCanada Acknowledges That Each Construction Job Will Only Last “One Year.”

TransCanada’s CEO Acknowledges That Each Job Will Only Last “One Year.” According to the Washington Post: “[TransCanada chief executive Russ] Girling that the 13,000 figure was “one person, one year,” meaning that if the construction jobs lasted two years, the number of people employed in each of the two years would be 6,500.” [Washington Post, 11/5/11]

TransCanada VP: Permanent Jobs “In The Hundreds.” On the November 11 edition of CNN’s The Situation Room, TransCanada Vice President Robert Jones stated: “We will have an integrated operation with the existing pipeline, so, you know, the numbers are literally technicians and such up and down the line. So you’re probably looking in the field from Montana to Houston in the hundreds, certainly not in the thousands, because those are construction jobs.” [CNN, The Situation Room, 11/11/11]

FACT 5: TransCanada Admitted They Already Purchased Much Of The Equipment

TransCanada CEO Admitted That $1.9 Million Worth Of Pipe And Equipment Has Already Been Manufactured – And Is Sitting In A Warehouse. According to the Washington Post:

TransCanada chief executive Russ Girling said Friday that the three-year review process has already imposed costs on his company, including $1.9 billion on pipe and other equipment stored in warehouses. […]

As for the 7,000 indirect supply chain jobs, the $1.9 billion already spent by TransCanada would reduce the number of jobs that would be created in the future. The Brixton Group, a firm working with opponents of the project, has argued that many of the indirect supply jobs would be outside the United States because about $1.7 billion worth of steel will be purchased from a Russian-owned mill in Canada. [Washington Post, 11/5/11]

Cornell Analysis: “About 25% Of The KXL Budget Has Already Been Expended.” From Cornell University Global Labor Institute’s report:

Construction has not yet started on KXL, but there have already been several years of activities preparing for possible construction. According to TransCanada’s interim financial statement released on July 28, 2011, the capital cost of the larger Keystone project (made up of the segments already completed and KXL) is $13 billion. Of this $13 billion, $7.9 billion had already been invested by June 30, 2011. Of the $7.9 already invested, US $1.7 billion is related to KXL. So prior to any actual construction, about 25% of the KXL budget has already been expended for activities including design, permitting, and materials procurement. […]

Money already spent in the past few years, plus money budgeted for the Canadian part of KXL, should not be presented as though it were part of future US-related spending pending the approval of the project. The money is gone and the work has been done (or soon will be). This spending will lead to few if any new jobs in the US. Likewise, some (and possibly all) of the money committed, but not yet spent, will be spent even if KXL is not built and should therefore not be considered in the analysis of the incremental spending that will occur should the project be approved. [Cornell University Global Labor Institute, September 2011, emphasis added, internal citations removed]

Deception And Lies In The Media





Over at the unofficial think tank of the one percent — better known as the Heritage Foundation — Lachlan Markay claims Americans don’t much care about the ever-widening gap between the ultra-wealthy and the rest of the country. 

That’s no surprise. Heritage, after all, is lavishly funded by millionaires and billionaires for the clear purpose of expanding the gap between the rich and everyone else. It does so by churning out spurious arguments in favor of polices that redistribute wealth upwards, like the impressively dishonest claim that a cut in capital gains taxes paid almost exclusively by the wealthy would primarily benefit the non-wealthy — not to mention the callous argument that the poor are doing just fine because they have access to refrigerators. It then denounces anyone who dares study the inevitable results of these policies. The Heritage Foundation claiming people don’t care about the predictable results of a system rigged in favor of wealthy elites is a bit like Jesse James insisting nobody cares about bank robberies.

Markay’s argument has two components, neither of them convincing. First, he writes:

A new poll shows that, despite attempts by liberal protesters and politicians to inject class resentment into the national debate, Americans, by and large, remain unconcerned by income inequality.

Gallup reports that only 2 percent of Americans list the “divide between rich and poor” as the most important economic issue facing the country. Those findings come from an open-ended survey, meaning respondents were not confined to a pre-selected group of responses. Unemployment and the national debt top the list, but all told, a full 17 economic issues rank higher in the American political consciousness than income inequality.

Though Markay pretends they’re the same thing, there’s a difference between few people thinking income inequality is the nation’s biggest current economic problem and Americans “remain[ing] unconcerned by income inequality.” This difference is magnified by the fact that several of the economic issues mentioned more frequently than the “divide between rich and poor” have a great deal to do with that divide.

Read the full entry …

Tags: Heritage Foundation, Economy, Taxes

Sen. DeMint: Welfare C

Your Food Could Be Contaminated

Two types of bacteria, Salmonella and Campylobacter, cause 80% of the illnesses and 75% of the deaths associated with meat and poultry products. They are estimated to cost consumers nearly $3.5 billion each year in the form of lost wages and medical expenses. Consumers also suffer illnesses that range from mild to severe and the loss of loved ones.

The foods most commonly contaminated with Salmonella and Campylobacter are poultry products, especially chicken. Estimates of contamination range from 15% to 62%, depending on the bacteria and the poultry involved.

Despite increasing rates of food poisoning from Salmonella and Campylobacter during the 1980s, and continuing high levels today, the poultry industry has maintained processing practices that actually increase the percent of contaminated products. Instead of minimizing the contamination in processing plants, the poultry industry relies on consumers to cook the problem away.

Government regulations have contributed to the problem as well. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), which oversees the production of 7 billion chickens and 277 million turkeys each year, allows several practices that contribute to high contamination rates in poultry:

USDA allows poultry carcasses to be placed in hot water baths, called scalders, to loosen feathers and then chilled in large vats of water, a process known as immersion chilling. This allows contaminated poultry carcasses to infect clean carcasses. Because Salmonella populations can grow from a few bacteria into a health threat, contamination of clean carcasses with even small numbers of harmful bacteria must be prevented.

Based on a policy change in 1978 allowing “reprocessing,” the USDA decided that, instead of condemning contaminated carcasses, the industry can simply wash the contamination off with chlorinated water. This resulted in condemnation rates for poultry dropping dramatically, which means that consumers are eating more of this once-contaminated poultry. While some plants can reprocess poultry and produce a product at least equivalent to one that wasn’t initially contaminated, other plants show large jumps in the percent of reprocessed carcasses that are contaminated with Salmonella.

USDA allows skin to be added to ground poultry products. Since skin harbors bacteria in its pores and folds, it can be the most highly contaminated part of the carcass. By permitting the addition of skin into ground product, USDA is allowing much higher levels of certain harmful bacteria in ground poultry products than in ground beef products, which are not allowed to contain skin.

Ten years after it was first recommended by the National Academy of Science, USDA has proposed to overhaul the meat and poultry inspection system by requiring processing controls called “Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points” or HACCP. This is a very promising system that focuses on preventing food from becoming contaminated with foodborne hazards.

The Clinton Administration coupled the HACCP concept with a mandatory industry testing program and performance standards for Salmonella. Together, this system represents the single most important development in the regulation of food safety in nearly 40 years, one that is long overdue.

However, the meat and poultry industries may have weakened the rule by persuading USDA to change the requirements from mandatory testing for Salmonella to testing for generic E. coli, which is not associated with food borne illness. This change will reduce the HACCP system’s effectiveness in controlling harmful bacteria on poultry products.

Conclusions and Key Recommendations

Consumers should know that raw poultry coming into their kitchens are contaminated with harmful bacteria, like Salmonella or Campylobacter. Government officials recommend that consumers should treat all raw poultry as if it were contaminated. These experts know that the incidence of illness from Salmonella and Campylobacter is too high, so they urge everyone to take precautions. But consumers should be buying much cleaner products.

Adoption of the following recommendations is essential to clean up the safety of poultry products:

USDA should set performance standards for poultry products to force the poultry industry to reduce or eliminate Salmonella and Campylobacter in its products.

For HACCP systems to be effective for poultry processing plants, USDA should mandate that E. coli testing be combined with ongoing industry testing for Salmonella and Campylobacter.

E. coli testing alone will not ensure control of cross-contamination in poultry plants.

If daily pathogen testing by the meat and poultry industry is not mandated, USDA should require that companies regularly validate their HACCP plans to assure they control both the level and the spread of harmful bacteria and the government should conduct extensive and on-going pathogen monitoring in all plants.

Reprocessing should only be permitted in plants that can demonstrate that they produce products with Salmonella and Campylobacter outcomes better than or equivalent to their ordinary product. Plants that cannot demonstrate an equivalent product should be required to condemn contaminated carcasses.

The poultry industry should utilize alternative chilling technologies, such as dry chilling or blast chilling, that eliminate problems with cross contamination. If shown to produce less contaminated poultry products, new plants should be required to install these technologies.

Where immersion chilling is used, the poultry industry should develop and use better systems to prevent contamination of its products with harmful bacteria. For example, antimicrobial treatments should be mandated for use in conjunction with immersion chill tanks to prevent or counteract the cross-contamination effects of immersion chilling, but only after these treatments have been shown to be the safest and most effective. End-product treatments like steam pasteurization or in-plant cooking could be used as an alternative to antimicrobial treatments. New systems, such as bagging poultry prior to entry into the immersion chiller, should be tested and perfected.

USDA should require the removal of skin prior to grinding poultry products to help reduce the prevalence of pathogens found in ground products.


Food safety is a fundamental concern for consumers. In the aftermath of the 1993 E. coli 0157:H7 outbreak from contaminated hamburgers served by the Jack-in-the-Box fast food chain, opinion polls have indicated that consumers fear that rules governing food safety are not tough enough. This report will show that for many raw products, particularly poultry products like chicken, consumers’ concerns are warranted and reforms are urgently needed.

Despite what American consumers have come to expect, contaminated chicken is not inevitable. In fact, Sweden has largely eradicated Salmonella contamination in chicken. Although the federal government oversees and regulates poultry slaughterhouses, for many years it has tolerated widespread contamination in poultry products produced in the United States.

Two types of bacteria are estimated to cause up to 6.5 million illnesses each year. These bacteria are Salmonella and Campylobacter, and if they aren’t household words already, they should be. Salmonella and Campylobacter cause the symptoms that are traditionally associated with mild cases of food poisoning: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever and chills. But these harmful bacteria can occasionally cause more serious conditions, like dehydration, meningitis, kidney or heart disease, certain kinds of arthritis, septicemia, hemolytic-uremic syndrome and even death.

USDA has estimated that these bacteria on meat and poultry may together cause over 4 million illnesses and up to 3,000 deaths each year. That translates into almost 11,000 illnesses and eight deaths each day.

Children and adults over 60 years of age are the groups at greatest risk of becoming seriously ill or dying from eating tainted meat and poultry. For Campylobacter, illnesses also commonly occur among adults between 20 and 30 years of age. People with other health problems, such as AIDS, liver disease, sickle cell anemia, or cancer, are at heightened risk of debilitating illness or death.

Consumers pay a high economic cost for these illnesses in the form of medical expenses and lost wages. The total annual estimated costs just for Salmonella and Campylobacter food poisoning illnesses from meat and poultry products is as high as $3.4 billion, according to USDA (see Table I). Clearly, preventing meat and poultry products from becoming contaminated with harmful bacteria like Salmonella or Campylobacter would result in improved health for consumers, as well as significant economic benefits.

Over the past decade, numerous government studies, reports of the National Academy of Sciences and media exposès have documented that meat and poultry products contaminated with disease-causing bacteria like Salmonella and Campylobacter are stamped “Wholesome” or “Inspected” by the federal government and sold to American consumers. Ten years after the first National Academy of Science’s report called for controls to prevent contamination of meat and poultry with harmful bacteria, the Clinton Administration took the first steps to mandate controls for the meat and poultry industry by proposing a new system called HACCP, for Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points. HACCP is a very promising system that focuses on preventing food from becoming contaminated with foodborne hazards.

The Clinton Administration proposed to couple the HACCP concept with a mandatory industry testing program and performance standards for Salmonella. Together, this system represents the single most important development in the regulation of food safety in nearly 40 years.

The meat and poultry industries have attempted to stop this rule, and when unsuccessful, to weaken some elements of the proposal. This controversy has both delayed final implementation of the rule, which is expected out this spring, and has put significant pressure on the Department to soften the more controversial and important aspects of the regulation.

How Contaminated is Poultry?

Salmonella contamination is more common in broiler chickens than in any other meat product. In February 1995, the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service published a rule designed to improve the safety of meat and poultry products. At that

Table I. Estimated medical costs and productivity losses for selected human pathogens (1993).


Meat/poultry cases per year

Meat/poultry deaths per year

Total costs to the public ($ in billions)


1,031,250 – 1,312,500


0.5 – 0.8


348,000 – 2,880,000

348 – 2,610

0.3 – 2.6

Other pathogens

768,263 – 774,384

964 – 1,198

1.0 – 1.4






2,149,569 – 4,968,940



Source: USDA, “Pathogen Reduction; Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) Systems; Proposed Rule, 9 CFR Part 308, et al.,” Federal Register, Vol. 60, No. 23 (1995), p. 6781.

Table II. USDA national baseline levels for Salmonella.


Frequency of occurrence of Salmonella (% positive)





Raw Ground Beef


Fresh Pork Sausages








Source: USDA, “Pathogen Reduction; Hazard Analysis and Critical

Control Point (HACCP) Systems; Proposed Rule, 9 CFR Part 308, et al.,”

Federal Register, Vol. 60, No. 23 (1995), p. 6800.

time, the agency reported that 25% percent of broiler chickens were contaminated with Salmonella. By way of comparison, the frequency of contamination of ground beef was 4% (see Table II).

Many other surveys have documented an even higher incidence of Salmonella and Campylobacter in poultry products. A recent report contained a summary of 55 different studies and reported that the median contamination rate documented by these studies was 30% for Salmonella and 62% for Campylobacter jejuni.

Late in 1995, USDA released a survey of ground products, including beef, turkey and chicken. Although the chicken and turkey results are considered interim due to the modest number of samples, the findings, shown in Table III, are still noteworthy.

Table III. Comparison of plant prevalence for ground beef, ground turkey, and ground chicken in USDA Microbial Survey Results (1995).


Beef *

Turkey **

Chicken ***

Campylobacter rates




Salmonella rates




* Based on 563 samples

** Based on 165 samples

*** Based on 162 samples

Source: USDA Microbiological Survey Results (1995).

“Just Cook It”

Industry groups, such as the National Broiler Council, claim that the solution to foodborne illness from poultry products rests with consumers. “Just cook it,” they say, to eliminate the risk and the problem. The truth is that for the past few decades the poultry industry, with the tacit approval of the government, has been using processing practices that actually increase the percent of its products contaminated with harmful pathogens, like Salmonella and Campylobacter. The poultry industry relies on consumers to cook the harmful bacteria away.

That strategy has not been effective from a public health standpoint (see Table IV). According to CDC data, cases of Salmonella increased throughout the 1980s and have leveled off at a new and very high level. Campylobacter has maintained consistently high levels since surveillance was started in the 1980s. These two pathogens alone cause 80% of the illness and 75% of the deaths associated with meat and poultry products, according to USDA (see Table I). Until 1994, Salmonella typhimirium, a strain associated with meat and poultry products, was the leading identified cause of illness from Salmonella, although it was recently surpassed by the Salmonella strain associated with egg products.

Table IV. CDC summary of reported cases of Salmonellosis,* 1955-1994.

Excluding typhoid fever.

Source: Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Summary of Notifiable Diseases, United States, 1994,” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Vol. 43, No. 53 ( October 6, 1995), p. 51.

Note: 1985 outbreaks includes one major outbreak caused by contaminated pasteurized milk in Illinois.

Chicken processors take live chickens, some of which may be contaminated with Salmonella and Campylobacter, process them using systems that are likely to spread the contamination from bird-to-bird, and then send them to the market for sale to consumers. Chicken carcasses are processed using hot water scald tanks, defeathering equipment, automatic evisceration machines, and immersion chill tanks. Throughout this process, the carcasses can gain up to 8% additional weight in water, as well as picking up harmful bacteria.

Poultry is frequently frozen by processors to extend its shelf life (although it is almost always marked “fresh” on the label) and then thawed out in supermarkets. The high water content of the poultry products due to immersion chilling combined with rapid chilling at the processor results in high water retention. During thawing, this liquid (which can appear either red or clear) collects in chicken packages. Once in the kitchen, it is easy for bacteria to spread from raw poultry or poultry juices onto kitchen surfaces and other food products (cross-contamination). Even hands can spread contamination.

In the summer of 1994, Poultry Processing magazine reported that the Kroger consumer help line handled more calls on “bloody chicken” over a fourteen-month period than on any other single problem. Leaking packages was another concern cited by consumers to the Kroger company. USDA’s Food Safety Hotline also reports that they get calls from consumers complaining about too much liquid in poultry packages.

How Current Processing Spreads Salmonella and Campylobacter

Numerous studies have documented that the percentage of carcasses contaminated with Salmonella and Campylobacter increases during processing. One study of Campylobacter in four plants found that 20% of birds tested positive when they entered the plant, 52% tested positive following immersion chilling, and 31.6% tested positive at retail outlets.

Other studies have documented that the percent of carcasses contaminated with Salmonella increases during processing. In a series of studies conducted for USDA, both the baseline data and data on improvements to the processing practices documented that the extent of cross- contamination that occurs in poultry processing plants is dramatic, even after improvements are implemented. The studies documented that 58% of the chicken was contaminated with Salmonella prior to having their intestines and other internal organs removed (a process known as “evisceration”). Following evisceration and chilling in tanks of cold water, the number of chickens contaminated with Salmonella jumped to 72%. The study also documents that even when improvements were made in the scalder (common bath using hot water which is used to loosen feathers) and in the immersion chill tank, the percent of carcasses contaminated with Salmonella were still increased (see Table V).

Table V. Cross-contamination during processing: Percent of carcasses positive for Salmonella.

Sampling Point


Processing modification (Scalder)

Processing modification (chiller)









* Scalder water counterflow and post scald rinse prior to picking.

** Chlorination of chiller water.

Source: William James et al., “Cost Effective Techniques to Control Human Enteropathogens on Fresh Poultry,” Poultry Science, Vol. 72 (1993), pp. 1174-1176. Includes data from three separate studies.

Representatives of the poultry industry claim that the percentage of birds contaminated with Salmonella is not important because the actual number of the harmful bacteria found on the birds is very low and some scientists agree. In remarks given at a USDA-sponsored scientific conference, Amy Waldroup, a researcher at the University of Arkansas, said: “Researchers agree that this organism is likely present on 30 to 50% of all poultry carcasses, but that the level present is extremely low.”

Waldroup reviewed numerous studies and said the numbers of Salmonella on poultry carcasses range from 1 to 30 organisms. Even assuming this were true, Salmonella can grow very easily on poultry carcasses. With temperature abuse, a few bacteria may be able to grow into a public health problem. Waldroup also reported that Campylobacter is present, possibly at very high levels, on raw poultry produced in the U.S.

The dose of Salmonella necessary to make a healthy person ill is estimated at around 10,000 bacteria. However, the dose is dependent on the health of the consumer, and some outbreaks have been reported from food containing less than 100 Salmonella per gram.

The public health data continue to show high rates of illness from Salmonella and Campylobacter, and poultry products are considered the major source. Controlling cross-contamination in poultry plants is clearly a challenge for the poultry industry, but one that is key to addressing the public health problems with the products.

A brief review of the processing procedure documents how cross-contamination occurs in the processing plant (see Figure I). Chickens and turkeys are shipped in cages crowded with other birds and often arrive at the processing plant with feces on the feathers and the skin. At the processing plant, the birds are hung by their feet, and then stunned. From this point on they are essentially brain dead, but other physiological responses continue. The birds often defecate. Hanging birds by their feet assures that when they defecate, the contamination remains on the skin and feathers.

Figure I. The poultry slaughter process.

Live Birds (then) Enter Plant (then) Antemortem Inspection (then) Stun (then) Scald (then) Defeather (then) Evisceration (then) Postmortem inspection (then) Wash (then) Chill (then) Reinspection of sample of carcasses (and finally) Broilers/Fryers

After their blood is drained, the carcasses enter huge tanks for scalding. All the contamination present on the skin and feathers is now put in the scald tank, a warm communal bath also called “fecal soup.” Although the water is hot enough to loosen the feathers, it is often not hot enough to kill the bacteria, and contamination builds up in the tanks as the processing continues. In addition, the carcasses pick up water which helps the bacteria to firmly attach to the skin. According to one scientific review: “The scalding process opens feather follicles to aid feather removal, and the follicles remain open throughout processing until chilling when they close, thereby retaining microorganisms.”

The next stage is defeathering. This is usually done mechanically, with machines that use little rubber fingers to loosen and remove the feathers. This is a major source of contamination. The mechanical fingers are not cleaned between each bird and can actually collect contamination from the dirtiest bird and redistribute it onto each new carcass. Also, the rubber fingers actually beat contamination into the pores, crevices, and folds of the poultry skin.

Increasingly, removal of the intestinal tract and organs, called evisceration, is done by machines. This mechanized system cannot ensure that the intestinal contents are prevented from spilling all over the cavity of the bird. Whether evisceration is done mechanically or by hand, this is a key point where cross-contamination can occur. One study of evisceration using tracer bacteria on one bird showed that the next 42 birds were contaminated with the tracer bacteria and that there was sporadic contamination up to the 150th bird.

Washing is done at various stages of the process to remove contamination. Although this can remove a lot of contamination on the surface of the bird, it does not reach the contamination trapped in pores, crevices, or folds of the poultry skin.

Finally, birds are chilled in large vats of water called immersion chillers, a common bath where the birds bump against each other. Salmonella and Campylobacter get redistributed from one carcass onto others in the tank. Chlorine is often used to minimize cross-contamination, but there are questions both as to its effectiveness and to the possible chemical residues that it leaves.

Spread of harmful bacteria from carcass to carcass clearly can occur at many points in the poultry slaughter process, starting with the live animal and continuing with many pieces of equipment currently in use in poultry plants: the scalder or communal bath, the defeathering equipment, the evisceration equipment, and finally the immersion chillers. It is imperative that new systems be developed and implemented to minimize or eliminate the contamination that occurs at these points.

Do Government Regulations Promote Dirty Birds?

The federal government oversees and inspects the over 7 billion chickens and 277 million turkeys produced each year in the United States. Federal inspection of poultry has been ongoing on a voluntary basis since 1926. The inspection program was developed primarily to promote the sale of poultry products. In 1957, poultry inspection became mandatory with the passage of The Poultry Products Inspection Act of 1957 (PPIA) for interstate processors of poultry products. This Act was passed in large part because the poultry industry saw that mandatory inspection would benefit the industry by allowing processors to ship products to states and localities that required federal certification. According to the National Academy of Sciences’ 1987 report, Poultry Inspection: The Basis for a Risk-Assessment Approach,

The responsibility for implementing PPIA [initially] remained with the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), which had administered the voluntary poultry inspection program in effect before the Act was passed. AMS was strongly oriented toward facilitating the industry’s ability to market agricultural commodities. (Italics added.)

In 1968, the law was amended to bring nearly all poultry products under the federal inspection mandate.

Under the PPIA, federal inspectors examine birds prior to slaughter; inspect each bird carcass after slaughter and before processing; inspect plant facilities to ensure sanitary conditions; inspect all slaughter and processing operations; verify the truthfulness and accuracy of product labeling; and inspect imported poultry products at the point of entry. Under the PPIA, USDA conducts at least eight public health related-inspection activities, including inspection of live birds (antemortem inspection); inspection after slaughter (postmortem inspection); condemnation and final disposition; sanitary slaughter and dressing; poultry chilling; plant sanitation; carcass reinspection; and residue monitoring.

During a carcass-by-carcass examination, federal inspectors must designate whether birds unfit for human consumption are reprocessed or condemned. The National Academy of Sciences observed that federal inspectors have only two to three seconds to examine each bird and to decide its disposition.

In June 1993, an expert panel of scientists at Research Triangle Institute in North Carolina compared the processing of meat and poultry products and identified a number of significant regulatory differences that have a public health impact. Most significant is the use of water in poultry processing, both to process the birds, like scalding and chilling, and to wash off contamination that gets on the birds during processing, known as “reprocessing.”

A. Reprocessing

Poultry carcasses can be reprocessed by washing areas contaminated with fecal matter or ingesta with chlorinated water. Contaminated beef and pork, on the other hand, must be trimmed to remove contamination. The Research Triangle Institute report says that the basis for the difference is in the Poultry Products Improvement Act, which specifically allows “reprocessing” of poultry products. The definition of reprocessing is something determined by USDA and has changed over the years.

USDA currently defines “reprocessing” as:

Poultry reprocessing includes methods by which adulterated poultry products can be made not adulterated. All visible specks of contamination must be removed. These methods are to be used under the supervision of an inspector. Acceptable methods to remove visible contamination from poultry include various combinations of trimming, vacuuming, and washing. Cut contaminated surfaces will be removed only by trimming. If the inner surfaces are reprocessed other than by trimming, all surfaces of the carcasses are required to be treated with 20 ppm chlorinated water.

Prior to 1978, poultry contaminated with feces in the internal cavity was condemned. In 1978, the USDA allowed poultry processors to wash off internal fecal contamination. According to a series on poultry processing that ran in 1987 in the Des Moines Register:

The Agriculture Department is condemning less than one-half as many chickens and turkeys for fecal and other contamination in the nation’s processing plants as it did in the early 1970s, even though production increased by 57%.

Table VI. Rates of poultry condemned for contamination, 1973-1986 (selected years).


Poultry Production

Condemned product

Rate of condemnation


3.2 billion

8.3 million



3.9 million

5.7 million



5 billion

3.5 million


* Condemnation based on contamination

Source: George Anthan, “Washing Lets More Poultry Pass Muster: Rejection Rate Plummets Despite Rise in Production,” Des Moines Register, December 5, 1987, p. 1.

The big drop in contamination-related condemnations by USDA officials came after 1978, when the Department began allowing poultry firms to wash fecal contamination off poultry carcasses. Prior to that, the department had required fecally contaminated poultry to be condemned.

The Des Moines Register provided the figures in Table VI on rates of condemnation of poultry based on contamination both before and after the policy change was made. The change lead to a greater than three-fold decrease in the percentage of poultry that was condemned.

Since 1981, the rate of condemnation due to contamination has varied from .06% to .09%, while poultry production has grown to 7.5 billion carcasses per year.

To reprocess poultry, dirty carcasses are pulled off a fast-moving conveyor belt after examination by federal inspectors who evaluate 30 or more birds per minute. A plant employee sprays the carcasses inside and out with water and removes some of the internal organs. Birds are placed in bins and are sometimes reinspected by federal inspectors before they are rehung on the conveyor belt.

By contrast, meat products are required to have all visible fecal, ingesta, or milk contamination removed by trimming away the contaminated areas followed by federal reinspection of every carcass. Washing beef and pork carcasses raised concerns that, although some contamination may be removed by washing, some of it will certainly spread and become trapped in crevices and cracks in the meat. USDA recognized and reaffirmed the importance of trimming to assure removal of all visible contamination on meat products following the 1993 Jack-in-the-Box outbreak from E. coli 0157:H7.

USDA has not reconsidered its position on reprocessing of poultry products since 1978. In support of its position on poultry reprocessing, the USDA relies on two scientific studies, conducted 18 years apart by the same researcher, L.C. Blankenship, who found that there was no significant difference in bacterial levels on uncontaminated and reprocessed poultry products.

At the time the 1975 study was conducted, USDA required that birds contaminated in their inside cavity be condemned and removed from the line. Washing contamination from external intact skin surfaces was allowed, according to the author. The study compared the numbers of total bacteria, and several specific types of bacteria not known to cause illness in humans, and found that washing poultry reduced the levels of these bacteria on condemned product. In some instances, the amount of the reduction on washed (i.e. reprocessed) poultry did not bring the levels to or below the levels found on poultry that passed inspection. The study also looked for Salmonella, which it found at only very low levels.

Primarily on the basis of that study, USDA changed its policy to permit washing of carcasses that were internally contaminated.

In 1993, the same researcher published a study which documented a higher incidence of Salmonella contamination levels for reprocessed poultry carcasses than for conventionally processed carcasses, but says the difference, just over 5% of the 745 birds tested, was not statistically significant. This study concludes that reprocessing is effective in “maintaining the safety and wholesomeness of broiler products.” Table VII provides a breakdown of the incidence of Salmonella documented in this study.

Table VII. Salmonella incidence for reprocessed birds and conventionally processed birds.



Number of Birds

% positive for Salmonella











































Source: L. C. Blankenship, “Broiler Carcass Reprocessing, A Further Evaluation,” Journal of Food Protection, Vol. 56, No. 11 (1993), p. 984.

This study shows that among the five plants tested, there was incredible variability in the results. The overall incidence of Salmonella ranged from 24% to 76%. One plant (A) had reprocessed birds with over 20% higher incidence of Salmonella contamination compared with its conventionally processed birds. For that plant, reprocessing was not equivalent to conventional processing and should be discontinued. Yet USDA used this study to justify the continuation of the reprocessing policy without ever addressing the variability that was revealed by the study.

The variability between plants found in the 1993 study was further confirmed by another study done by the University of Arkansas. This study found that one (Plant D) out of five plants included in the study had a significantly higher percentage of carcasses contaminated with Salmonella on reprocessed poultry when compared to inspection passed-carcasses (see Table VIII). Two of the plants (Plants D and E) also showed significant increases in the levels of Salmonella found on reprocessed carcasses when compared to inspection-passed carcasses. The study also documented very high Campylobacter contamination rates and levels in all the plants involved in the study.

Table VIII. Levels and prevalence of various bacteria on conventionally processed and reprocessed commercial broiler carcasses.









































































a SAL = Salmonella (all levels are 0.05).

b CAMP = Campylobacter jejuni/coli (all levels are 0.14).

c-e Bacterial means for each microbial assessment within columns are significantly different (cP .05, dP .01, eP .001, f .0001) unless designated as not significant (ns).

Source: A.L. Waldroup et al., “Effects of Reprocessing on Microbiological Quality of Commercial Prechill Broiler Carcasses,” Journal of Applied Poultry Research, Vol. 2 (1993), pp. 113-114.

These studies show that reprocessing is a highly variable process, one which does not ensure that products are equivalent to those which pass the conventional inspection process. USDA’s uniform policy allowing reprocessing to treat internally contaminated poultry products should be revised. Reprocessing should only be used by plants that can demonstrate they can reprocess poultry using techniques ensuring that the products are better than or equivalent to inspection-passed products, measured against pathogen standards.

B. Immersion Chilling

USDA permits poultry chilling by totally immersing the poultry carcass in cold water, a practice often done using water with chlorine added to it. By contrast, beef and pork can only be chilled using cold air, together with spray chilling. The Research Triangle Institute report says that the basis for this difference is traditional industry practice. However, many European and Canadian producers use air chilling rather than water chilling to produce their poultry.

Immersion chilling has often been associated with cross-contamination of poultry products. One 1990 study documented that the incidence of Salmonella on carcasses increased 15% in one plant and 28% in a second plant from the pre-chill to the post-chill sampling points. The authors concluded: “This increase in incidence indicates that non-contaminated carcasses acquired Salmonella cells either by direct contact with contaminated carcasses in the chill tank or via the water.” They also examined two other microbial measures, total plate count and Enterobacteriaceae, and found that the levels of bacterial contamination generally declined, even while the percent of poultry carcasses contaminated with Salmonella increased (see Table XII on p. 20).

USDA takes the position that although immersion chilling can cause cross- contamination, using elevated levels of chlorine in the chill water minimizes the problem. However, USDA has never mandated the use of chlorine in poultry chiller waters, so the agency allows the industry to operate as it pleases.

The use of chlorine may lower the overall level of bacteria on poultry and extend its shelf life, but chlorine is not effective at eliminating Salmonella attached to the carcasses. Moreover, chlorine is controversial as a food additive. Toxic byproducts are created by chlorine in water, and the food industry is trying to reduce the use of chlorinated water in food processing. The American Public Health Association has a policy statement calling for using alternatives to chlorine whenever possible.

To address these concerns, USDA commissioned a study of chloroform resulting from chlorine treatment of chicken and determined that the public health impact was minimal. However, there are many mutagenic compounds other than chloroform in chlorinated water, and chlorine treatment of tissue may result in numerous compounds not studied by USDA.

With or without chlorine, the poultry processed through the nation’s chill tanks has an unacceptably high percentage of Salmonella and Campylobacter contamination. One study examined the impact of six different poultry processing modifications, including chlorination of the chill water, on both total bacteria and pathogen levels. Even with all six modifications in place, the incidence of Salmonella in the poultry ranged from 9.4 to 47.9% and Campylobacter ranged from 53.1 to 100%. Clearly, even with the best technology in place, the extensive reliance on water in poultry processing still results in a highly contaminated product.

C. Skin in Ground Product

Ground chicken and turkey products are far more contaminated with Salmonella and Campylobacter than ground beef. While ground beef products have Salmonella contamination rates of 4.3%, the corresponding rate for ground chicken is 38.2% and ground turkey is 27%, according to USDA’s recent survey of ground products (see Table III). Campylobacter showed an even greater differences between beef and chicken, 0.2% vs. 60%.

USDA regulations allow skin in and on poultry products, with allowable amounts ranging from 8% to 20%. Skin may be added to processed products, such as ground poultry and poultry burgers, to the same extent that it is allowed in regular poultry. Hamburger, in comparison, must be made of beef of skeletal origin. The Research Triangle Institute report said that the basis for this difference is traditional poultry industry practice.

As the exterior surface of the animal or bird, it is not surprising that the skin harbors more bacteria than the meat does. This is particularly true for poultry products, which are subject to processing practices like scalding, defeathering, and immersion chilling demonstrated to promote cross-contamination.

Thoroughly cooking whole poultry or cuts of meat will kill most bacteria that exist on the surface, including the skin. However, ground products present different risks. Grinding meat or poultry mixes the surface bacteria with the sterile interior meat. The inclusion of skin when raw products are being ground certainly adds more harmful bacteria than if skin were removed prior to grinding.

If ground product, whether meat or poultry, is not fully cooked, it presents a high risk of causing food poisoning. The addition of skin clearly increases that risk for consumers of ground poultry products.

Innovation in the Wings

In the long run, innovation will likely increase the microbiological safety of poultry. For innovation to be effective, however, the poultry industry must shift its research focus from methods to increase production, and instead develop strategies to reduce the numbers of poultry carcasses contaminated with Salmonella, Campylobacter and other human pathogens.

A number of poultry processors are already trying innovative techniques to minimize or eliminate Salmonella and Campylobacter in their products. A key improvement, discussed below, would be the elimination of Salmonella from poultry flocks, as has been done in Sweden. Pathogen-free birds would then arrive at the slaughterhouse. Here are a few methods that look promising:

Air chilling: Air-chilling is being utilized in Europe and Canada, and one company has announced plans to open a plant this year in Indiana to produce air-chilled chickens. Carcasses are cooled through an air-chill chamber, which eliminates most water uptake and cross-contamination. The company claims that the process, combined with an antimicrobial treatment, will allow it to market a product with significantly reduced pathogen incidence and levels. Although the effectiveness of this process is still uncertain, the lack of excess water in the poultry package will likely reduce the risk of cross-contamination in consumers’ kitchens.

Competitive exclusion: Another process being used in Europe is competitive exclusion. Poultry become colonized with Salmonella within the first few days of life, if Salmonella is present in the environment or in the food. Treatment with a competing bacteria shortly after hatching will reduce the likelihood of the chick being colonized with Salmonella. Some products are currently being tested, while others are already available in the U.S. to treat chicks to reduce flock contamination rates.

Steam Pasteurization: Steam pasteurization is a process that exposes the internal and external surface of carcasses to high pressure steam to kill harmful bacteria. The process was approved for beef carcasses in December 1995, following extensive testing of steam pasteurization equipment both in laboratory and in-plant trials. Testing was specifically targeted to assure the system killed pathogens like E. Coli 0157:H7 and Salmonella on beef carcasses. The equipment manufacturer is currently testing steam pasteurization on poultry carcasses for its effectiveness on Salmonella and Campylobacter. If found to be effective, the manufacturer hopes to have USDA approval by the end of 1996.

Trisodium phosphate (TSP): One company using this rinse on turkey products prior to immersion chilling claims that TSP effectively eliminates Salmonella and significantly reduces other pathogens on the product. However, there have been reports that the results have not held up in other processing plants. The company that has had the best success rate uses TSP in conjunction with other strict processing controls designed to minimize contamination.

Vent sealing: One plant, in conjunction with USDA plant personnel, discovered that super-glue could be used to seal the anal vents of poultry to prevent the excretion of fecal material. However, this system has not been approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration. Proponents of this system claim that if this system were used prior to the carcass entering the scalder, it would likely result in less cross- contamination in the scalder. It would also eliminate later excretion of fecal material, which increases the need for reprocessing. However, there are questions about whether the process would result in residues of super-glue on the poultry coming out of the scalder. Other ideas for vent sealing include some type of mechanical plug or staple.

Irradiation: The Food and Drug Administration has approved the use of irradiation on poultry products. This “star wars” technology uses gamma irradiation, electron irradiation, or X-rays to kill harmful bacteria. The technology would not sterilize the food, and surviving bacteria could start to multiply if the conditions are favorable. The technology is not widely used due to consumer acceptance issues and even the administrator of USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, Michael Taylor, recognizes that irradiation may not be the solution to contaminated meat. In 1994, he told the New York Times that irradiation won’t be widely accepted “until the public is convinced everything else has been done.”

Technical innovation will clearly be crucial to minimize the contamination of poultry products. However, it is not the entire solution. Standardizing processing practices should help minimize contamination in poultry processing plants. However, such practices must be appropriately designed to assure that contamination actually is reduced, and verification using microbial testing is critical to assure that the system is working as intended.

The Impact of HACCP

In February 1995, USDA published a preliminary rule to require that all meat and poultry processors institute systems of preventive controls. These systems, known as Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP), should result in safer meat and poultry products. Coupled with microbial testing and performance standards, this rule represents the most important single development in food safety in nearly 40 years. But efforts by the meat and poultry industry are putting this rule at risk. These industries may have already succeeded in weakening some essential elements of the rule.

One key provision of the proposed rule that industry pressure appears to have weakened is a requirement that all processors sample their products for Salmonella on a daily basis. Instead, the Department is likely to propose a sampling plan that requires industry to test only for generic E. coli bacteria, which are not pathogenic.

One major goal of HACCP is to prevent contamination of food with harmful bacteria. Without pathogen testing, there is no way to measure the HACCP systems’ effectiveness, and it becomes little more than an industry honor system. Replacing industry sampling for Salmonella, an actual pathogen, with sampling for generic E. coli, a microbial “indicator” organism, will greatly reduce the ability of USDA to monitor the HACCP systems’ effectiveness for controlling harmful pathogens.

In its original February 1995 proposed rule, USDA proposed that all meat and poultry processors should test daily for Salmonella. The test was not a quantitative test, but measured whether or not the pathogen was present. This simple testing regime, combined with proposed targets for pathogen reductions, would exert pressure on poultry producers to reduce their Salmonella contamination rates. According to USDA:

FSIS believes that it is reasonable and feasible to require . . . that all establishments control their processes so that their Salmonella incidence is no greater than the current national average. . . . If reductions 25 to 50 percent below the national baseline are reasonably available in the near term for a particular species, all companies should work to achieve them.

USDA also noted that some in the poultry industry were achieving a frequency of occurrence of Salmonella contamination as low as 5% or less, which is significantly below the 25% national contamination rate.

The alternative E. coli sampling plan would require industry to test for the level of these bacteria in their products. Although generic E. coli can provide a measure of fecal contamination and general sanitation, it does not tell poultry processors if any pathogens are actually present.

The USDA described the E. coli sampling proposal as its “current thinking” at meetings it held in September 1995, meetings which were held following an effort by the National Broiler Council, the American Meat Institute, the National Meat Association, the National Turkey Federation, and others to kill the USDA HACCP rule by means of a rider to the Agriculture Appropriations Bill being considered in Congress. Although these trade associations were unsuccessful in getting Congress to stop the proposed HACCP rule, USDA agreed to hold meetings on controversial aspects of the proposed regulation, including the proposed sampling regime.

At these meetings, USDA also announced that the government would conduct Salmonella sampling rather than the industry. However, this commits the resources of the government to conduct all pathogen testing for the new HACCP program and even opens the door for the industry to eliminate the government sampling program through more maneuvers in the Congressional appropriations process.

The proposed E. coli sampling regime could give a false sense of security to poultry processors and regulators, because they will think that the HACCP system is working as long as the levels of E.coli are shown to be decreasing. However, studies have documented that the numbers of E. coli on a carcass can decrease, while the percentage of carcasses contaminated with Salmonella is actually increasing. That reflects the fact that cross-contamination of product is occurring even while levels of E. coli are declining.

Three studies, with findings documented in Tables IX, X and XI, show that the percentage of poultry contaminated with Salmonella generally increases even while the levels of generic E. coli on the products declined. For instance, in Table IX, the percent of carcasses contaminated with Salmonella increased from 58% to 72%, while the level of E. coli declined more than ten-fold. In Table X, we see the percent of carcasses contaminated with Salmonella double, from 24% to 49%, at the same time that E. coli levels declined more than ten-fold.

Table IX. Baseline data on incidence of contamination.1

Stage of Processing

Number of

Escherichia coli














a-c Means within columns with no common superscripts differ significantly (P<.05).

1 Taken from James et al. (1992a).

2 Mean log10 colony forming units per carcass.

3 Percentage of carcasses positive for Salmonella.

Source: William O. James et al., “Cost Effective Techniques to Control Human Enteropathogens on Fresh Poultry,” Poultry Science, Vol. 72 (1993), p. 1175.

Table X. Effect of scalder water counter-flow and postscald rinse prior to picking on incidence of contamination.

Stage of Processing


Escherichia coli














a,b Means within a column with no common superscripts differ significantly (P<.05).

1 Taken from James et al. (1992b).

2 Mean log10 colony forming units per carcass.

3 Percentage of carcasses positive for Salmonella.

* Significant difference (P<.05) from baseline value.

Source: William O. James et al., “Cost Effective Techniques to Control Human Enteropathogens on Fresh Poultry,” Poultry Science, Vol. 72 (1993), p. 1176.

Table XI. Effect of chlorination of chiller water on incidence of contamination.1


Stage of Processing


Escherichia coli














a-c Means within a column with no common superscripts differ significantly (P<.05).

1 Taken from James et al. (1992c).

2 Mean log10 colony forming units per carcass.

3 Percentage of carcasses positive for Salmonella.

Source: William O. James et al., “Cost Effective Techniques to Control Human Enteropathogens on Fresh Poultry,” Poultry Science, Vol. 72 (1993), p. 1176.

Other data are available on Enterobacteriaceae, which is the broader family that includes the E. coli bacteria. This family contains the enteric pathogens, like Salmonella and Yersinia, as well as other bacteria. Enterobacteriaceae are widely distributed in nature, including in the intestinal tracts of animals. In one study, the results of which are summarized in Table XII, the percentage of carcasses contaminated with Salmonella doubled and tripled even while the levels of total Enterobacteriaceae were declining ten-fold.

Table XII. Levels of Enterobacteriaceae and Salmonella incidence before and after chilling on fully processed broilers from two commercial processing plants.1

Sampling Point



Salmonella Incidence (%) # +/# sampled


Plant A

Plant B

Plant A

Plant B

Pre – chill



5/40 (12.5%)

4/40 (10%)




11/40 (27.5%)

15/40 (37.5%)

1 Means based on 40 samples per sampling point. Means (and incidence) in columns which are not significantly different (P>.05) are followed by the same lower case letter.

Source: H.S. Lillard, “The Impact of Commercial Processing Procedures on the Bacterial Contamination and Cross-Contamination of Broiler Carcasses,” Journal of Food Protection, Vol. 53 (1990), p. 203.

Data also show a similar trend when comparing inspection-passed and reprocessed carcasses. The next two studies, Tables XIII and Table XIV, show that in most plants that were studied, the percent of carcasses contaminated with Salmonella can increase on reprocessed carcasses even while generic E. coli levels decreased. As observed earlier, the data on reprocessing show a great deal of variability between plants.

Table XIII. Means a of E. coli and percent prevalence of Salmonella on conventionally processed and reprocessed commercial broiler carcasses.











1.61+/- 0.70

1.87 +/- 0.67




































a Means SD of three replications.

b EC = E. Coli

c SAL = Salmonella

Source: L.C. Blankenship et al., “Broiler Carcass Reprocessing, A Further Evaluation,” Journal of Food Protection, Vol. 56 (1993), p. 984.

As illustrated in Table XIV, this study shows the same trend with respect to E. coli levels and the incidence of Salmonella, together with data on Campylobacter.

Table XIV. Meansa of E. coli and percent prevalence of Salmonella and Campylobacter on conventionally processed and reprocessed commercial broiler carcasses.



Number of Carcasses

EC (b)

%SAL (c)

%CAMP (d)







1.72 (h)











2.26 (I)











2.15 (I)











2.57 (I)











3.02 (g)





aMeansSD of ten replications.

b EC = E.Coli (all figures 0.08).

c SAL = Salmonella.

d CAMP = Campylobacter jejuni/coli.

e IPC = Inspection-passed carcass.

f RPC = Reprocessed carcass.

g-iBacterial means for each microbial assessment within columns are significantly different (gP .05, hP .01, iP .0001).

Source: A.L. Waldroup et al., “Effects of Reprocessing on Microbiological Quality of Commercial Prechill Broiler Carcasses,” Journal of Applied Poultry Research, Vol. 2 (1993), pp. 113-114.


The following recommendations are based upon the findings discussed in this report. Adoption of these recommendations is essential to set the poultry industry on the path to improving the safety of its products:

USDA should set performance standards for poultry products to force the poultry industry to reduce or eliminate Salmonella and Campylobacter in its products. Historically, the industry has focused on reducing the levels of Salmonella, rather than eliminating it altogether. This strategy ignores the fact that if Salmonella is present at all, its levels will increase even under normal handling conditions.

For HACCP systems to be effective for poultry processing plants, USDA should mandate that E. coli testing be combined with ongoing industry testing for Salmonella and Campylobacter. E. coli testing alone will not ensure control of cross-contamination in poultry plants.

If daily pathogen testing by the meat and poultry industry is not mandated, USDA should require that companies regularly validate their HACCP plans to assure they control both the level and the spread of harmful bacteria and the government should conduct extensive and on-going pathogen monitoring in all plants.

Reprocessing should only be permitted in plants that can demonstrate that they produce products with Salmonella and Campylobacter outcomes better than or equivalent to their ordinary product. Plants that cannot demonstrate an equivalent product should be required to condemn contaminated carcasses.

The poultry industry should utilize alternative chilling technologies, such as dry chilling or blast chilling, that eliminate problems with cross-contamination. If shown to produce less contaminated poultry products, new plants should be required to install these technologies.

Where immersion chilling is used, the poultry industry should develop and use better systems to prevent contamination of its products with harmful bacteria. For example, antimicrobial treatments should be mandated for use in conjunction with immersion chill tanks to prevent or counteract the cross-contamination effects of immersion chilling, but only after these treatments have been shown to be the safest and most effective. End-product treatments like steam pasteurization or in-plant cooking could be used as an alternative to antimicrobial treatments. New systems, such as bagging poultry prior to entry into the immersion chiller, should be tested and perfected.

USDA should re-examine the long-term health consequences of chlorine use in poultry processing. The agency should consider the potential risks of toxic byproducts formed with the use of chlorine.

USDA should require the removal of skin prior to grinding poultry products to help reduce the prevalence of pathogens found in ground products.

The poultry industry should direct research money to projects designed to reduce the levels of harmful bacteria in their products.

USDA and FDA should speed approval of technological innovation demonstrated to improve food safety.

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Six Times Life In Prison For A Non-Violent Crime



Posted toCrime News Norfolk

Travion Blount’s punishment may be the harshest in America for a teen who didn’t commit murder. The 15-year-old robbed a Norfolk party with two older gang members. He hurt no one. His friends got 10 and 13 years. But as it stands, Blount will die in prison.

Interactive | Anatomy of a sentence

Part 1 below | Cruel and unusual?

Part 2 and video | Do the crime, do the time


By Louis Hansen
The Virginian-Pilot
© November 4, 2013


At the opening of the trial, a Norfolk circuit judge glanced down at Travion Blount.

“He looks young,” the judge said.

“He’s 17,” his defense attorney answered.

A clerk stood and read 51 felony charges against Blount: among them, illegal use of a firearm, robbery, abduction.

Blount said two words to each: “Not guilty.” He said little more during his three-day trial.

A dozen victims, a detective and two teens he once called friends testified against him. Witnesses described an armed robbery committed by two older teenagers and Blount, then 15, at a house party near Norfolk Naval Station in September 2006. The three collected cash and marijuana. No shots were fired, but one person was struck by a co-defendant.

After a few hours of deliberation, a jury foreman submitted a stack of forms to the judge. Blount was guilty on 49 counts.

In Virginia, juries play no role in juvenile punishment. Blount was ordered to return to Courtroom 7 for sentencing in four months.

Defense attorneys tried to avoid the law-and-order judges assigned to courtrooms 3, 5 and 7. They joked about “357 justice” – like a .357 Magnum pointed at their clients.

On March 12, 2008, at Blount’s sentencing, the judge told everyone that gun convictions came with set punishments under Virginia law.

He stepped through the weapons charges, one by one. The count added up to 118 years.

Next, the judge addressed the remaining 25 felony convictions. He suspended several sentences. But for the crimes against three victims – all juveniles, robbed at gunpoint of purses, cellphones and wallets – he did not. The rulings: life, life, life, life, life and life.

Blount knew he would spend years in prison. He didn’t expect to die there.

Angela Blount watched her son turn and ask, “What happened, Mom?”


Travion Blount might be serving the harshest punishment delivered to any American teenager for a crime not involving murder, experts say. His case, and others like it, are forcing judges and lawmakers to ask: Can a young criminal life be redeemed?

Blount’s advocates argue his six life sentences for an armed robbery violates the constitutional ban against cruel and unusual punishment.

“Nobody’s asking to let him out tomorrow,” said his attorney, John Coggeshall. He wants a new sentence for his client, comparable to the codefendants’. The older defendants – who, according to testimony, led the robbery – pleaded guilty and received just 13 and 10 years in prison.

The Equal Justice Initiative, an Alabama-based appeals firm, represented Blount in Virginia last year. Lawyers for the nonprofit have successfully argued before the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of juvenile offenders.

But the Virginia Supreme Court last year turned down Blount’s appeal. The court ruled in an earlier case that teen offenders with life terms have a meaningful option to leave prison: geriatric release. Long-term inmates are eligible to appeal after they turn 60 in Virginia. But less than 1 percent of eligible prisoners, or five of about 800, were granted geriatric release last year, according to the state.

Blount and at least one other Hampton Roads inmate, a Virginia Beach teen convicted of rape, have appealed for new sentences in U.S. District Court in Norfolk. The state Attorney General’s Office is opposing the requests.

Blount’s crime was not particularly noteworthy. No shots were fired, and he didn’t hit any victims. It did not merit a mention in the morning newspaper.

By comparison, Lee Boyd Malvo and John Allen Muhammad killed three people in Virginia and terrified millions in October 2002.

Malvo, a juvenile at the time of the sniper slayings, was convicted in a Chesapeake courtroom of capital murder and acts of terrorism in Virginia. He received two life terms for those crimes.

Travion Blount got a longer sentence. As it stands, both will die in prison.


Angela Blount holds back tears as she talks about her son’s childhood and how quiet he was. Blount has visited her son once at Wallens Ridge State Prison, a day’s drive away. (Thé N. Pham | The Virginian-Pilot)


Angela Blount and Patrick Mills met at Virginia Beach traffic court. Blount, a hotel housekeeper, and Mills, a grocery stock clerk and competitive weightlifter, dated briefly. After the relationship ended, their son, Travion, was born in Norfolk on Oct. 9, 1990.

Blount said her son was a happy but shy child. She and her children settled into a townhouse on Balview Avenue in Ocean View, and Travion attended Oceanair Elementary School. He played football and basketball in the neighborhood.


As a boy, Travion Blount spent weekends with his father, Patrick Mills, going out for breakfast, fishing and playing. Blount’s father and mother dated briefly but never married. (Courtesy of the Blount family)

Travion spent weekends with his father, getting breakfast at Mick’s Pancake House, fishing or watching movies.

Family photo albums capture Travion in quiet moments – posing with his sisters, cousins, mother and father. At family gatherings, he avoided talking to adults.

He loved his long hair. He sat hours while his older sister braided it down his back.

He hated school. One year, his class was assigned to speak on current events every Friday. Travion hid in the bathroom or told the teacher he wasn’t ready so he wouldn’t have to talk in front of his classmates.

Around the time he was 9, he skipped school and began to get into trouble, his family said. He met Morris “Mo” Downing in middle school, and it was Mo, a few years older and streetwise, who brought Travion into the gang life. They were like brothers.

Travion joined the Crips when he was 11. He hung out on street corners in Park Place, typically wearing a white T-shirt, white Rocawear shorts and Air Jordans. He wore his hair long, usually in braids. He topped it off with a Yankees cap.

His mother says he idolized Downing. She never met him, though. In fact, she struggled to find her son.

In 2006, 15-year-old Travion had more than 20 unexcused absences at Norview Middle School, repeating sixth grade for the fourth time. In an August 2006 interview about teen truancy, Angela Blount told The Pilot that she reached out to several agencies, including truancy court, to get her son in an appropriate program.

“I hope he can get the things that he needs,” Blount said at the time. “I don’t want him just to give up.”

The following month, Travion rode around Norfolk with Mo and David Nichols, another teen, and hatched a plan to rob a drug dealer.



NSA Report Means More Trouble For 60 Minutes

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On the same day reports circulated that the reporters behind a fatally flawed, retracted 60 Minutes story may return to CBS News’ airwaves as soon as early January, the program again faced criticism for a report that critics are calling a “puff piece” and an “infomercial.”

On December 15, 60 Minutes aired a report on the National Security Agency based on unprecedented access to its headquarters and interviews with Agency staff, including its chief, Keith Alexander, who discussed the concerns many Americans have about its operations since the disclosures by Edward Snowden.

The segment opened with reporter John Miller’s acknowledgement that he had once worked at another federal intelligence agency. It featured no critics of the NSA. Miller explained his thoughts on the story in an interview with CBS News, saying that the NSA’s view is “really the side of the story that has been mined only in the most superficial ways. We’ve heard plenty from the critics. We’ve heard a lot from Edward Snowden. Where there’s been a distinctive shortage is, putting the NSA to the test and saying not just ‘We called for comment today’ but to get into the conversation and say that sounds a lot like spying on Americans, and then say, ‘Well, explain that.'”

Miller’s report was immediately ripped apart by NSA critics and veteran journalists. Some have called the veracity of CBS News’ reporting into question. Others termed the segment a “puff piece” and an “embarrassing” “infomercial,” saying that it filmed was under guidelines that overwhelmingly favored the agency and proved the effectiveness of the NSA’s communications staff.

The NSA report is only the latest of several heavily criticized 60 Minutes stories. Most notably, the network wasforced to retract and remove from the airwaves the reporters responsible for a segment based on a supposed eyewitness to the 2012 Benghazi attacks who apparently fabricated his story. The day after the NSA story ran and less than three weeks after the leaves of absence were announced, Politico reported that those journalists, Lara Logan and Max McClellan, have “started booking camera crews for news packages” and could return to 60 Minutes as early as January. In recent weeks the program has also been criticized for reports onSocial Security disability benefits and CEO Jeff Bezos.

This series of debacles was noted by former CBS News correspondent Marvin Kalb, who was at one time the moderator of NBC’s Meet the Press, who wrote that a program that “used to be the gold standard of network magazine programs” is increasingly “under fire.” He concluded:

What’s clear from this episode is that 60 Minutes is not facing another Lara Logan embarrassment. Miller did not get his facts wrong; he just did a story on 60 Minutes that should never have been on 60 Minutes. It was a promotional piece, almost by his own admission. In addition, the CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley did a story on the 60 Minutes Miller piece to help promote it, as though it were an exceptional exclusive, which it was not.

In a funny way, all of this fresh criticism can be seen as a compliment. People expect 60 Minutes to be a place on the dial for tough questioning and rigorous reporting. When it does anything less than that, it opens itself to snap judgments that may be unfair but should not be surprising. It should, though, suggest strongly that CBS has further need for continuing self-examination.

Politico‘s Dylan Byers similarly opined that 60 Minutes has had “a terrible year” and that the program “is desperately in need of a news package that earns it praise rather than criticism.It needs to put up a hard-hitting investigation, fact-checked to the teeth, that doesn’t come off as a promotional puff-piece. Because its reputation as the gold standard of television journalism has taken some serious hits of late.”

Miller referred questions from Media Matters about the segment to a CBS News spokesperson who declined to comment on the record.

The Untold Secrets Of the Federal Reserve

The Untold Secrets Of the Federal Reserve

The Federal Reserve fought tooth and nail for over two years to keep their actions hidden from the American people. The central bank lost part of their battle for secrecy when they were court ordered through a Freedom of Information Act request to release 29,000 pages of documents earlier this year. Although it was just a one-time and limited release of their records, the papers revealed that among the largest recipients of the Fed’s money were foreign banks during the 2008 economic meltdown. Bloomberg News has further examined the thousands upon thousands of pages of transactions to discover more Fed secrets. 

The Federal Reserve had committed $7.77 trillion as of March 2009 to “rescuing” the financial system, according to a new study from Bloomberg News. The Fed also kept secret which banks were in trouble during the height of the financial crisis while bankers were taking in tens of billions of dollars in emergency loans. Bloomberg has calculated that the secret Fed loans helped banks net a whopping $13 billion. All of these numbers are staggering but not exactly surprising. The unelected bureaucrats at the Federal Reserve have fought to keep their dealings behind closed doors for a reason. 

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke is desperate to protect his privileged secrecy. Bloomberg writes that he “argued that revealing borrower details would create a stigma — investors and counterparties would shun firms that used the central bank as lender of last resort — and that needy institutions would be reluctant to borrow in the next crisis.” Helicopter Ben, a nickname he acquired by essentially stating that the government could “defeat” deflation by dropping money out of helicopter, cares more about protecting the reputation of his cronies than letting the American people know where their money is going. 

Bloomberg reports that Fed officials haven’t told the truth about the bank bailouts. The news agencywrites that, “while Fed officials say that almost all of the loans were repaid and there have been no losses, details suggest taxpayers paid a price beyond dollars as the secret funding helped preserve a broken status quo and enabled the biggest banks to grow even bigger.” The Federal Reserve is ripping off the American people by printing money out of thin air which devalues the value of the dollar to bail out the big banks. 

As Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) writes, “this is just one more reason why we need a full audit of the Fed.” The court ordered released documents are disturbing enough. But imagine what kind of mischief we would find out through a comprehensive audit. A real audit of the Fed would also inspect how it determines interest rates, which is one of the most crucial activities of the central bank. We still need to pass a true audit of the Fed such as Sen. Rand Paul and Rep. Ron Paul’sFederal Reserve Transparency Act of 2011, which would require comprehensive audits on a regular basis. 

An overwhelming 75% of Americans want a comprehensive audit of the Federal Reserve, according to a recent Rasmussen poll. The calls for a true audit are getting louder and stronger by the day. More Republican presidential candidates are starting to echo Ron Paul’s long held beliefs on the Fed. The fight for transparency is transcending party lines, with fiscal conservatives such as Ron Paul and self-identified Democratic socialist Senator Bernie Sanders working together to remove the Fed’s cloak of secrecy.

We will win our immediate goal when the Fed is thoroughly audited. Then the next step becomes ending the Federal Reserve and finally restoring sound money in America.



The Big Losers Of 2013

The Big Losers Of 2013

biggest losers 2013

WASHINGTON — Some people are losers because they have failed in their endeavors; others are losers because they’ve suffered misfortune. Here are HuffPost’s favorite losers of the year, in no particular order.

James Clapper — The intel honcho oversaw one of the greatest losses of intelligence in U.S. history and was also caught lying to Congress. He still has his job somehow, but otherwise he likely wants to forget 2013.

james clapper

Grand Bargaineers — This year saw the death of the Grand Bargain and the rise of the Petite Bargain. Henceforth, Barack Obama and John Boehner will have to find some other way to cut Social Security. Maya MacGuinneas, the head of Fix the Debt, raised tens of millions of corporate dollars to pressure Washington into a grand bargain, but began the year on the losing end of the “fiscal” cliff deal and ended it completely marginalized, with everyone from all sides dismissing the group’s central aim. Biggest loser runner-up in the deficit scold category is Peter Peterson, the private equity billionaire who funded much of MacGuinneas’ failed effort.

debt(via Dave Weigel)Fix The Debt’s can that kicks back is on its way to the recycle bin of history.

Ted Cruz — The Texas GOP senator’s vaunted strategy to foil Obamacare shut down the government, but did not foil Obamacare.

ted cruz

Pine Trees — Warmer weather allowed the mountain pine beetle to continue to gorge itself on Western forests. It’s just one of the many plagues that climate change is visiting upon the globe.

Bigots — Gay people have been getting married left and right; the sky hasn’t fallen.



Voters — The Supreme Court struck down part of a landmark civil rights law that protected voting rights for minorities, with Chief Justice John Roberts arguing that racism is over. Southern states immediately began passing laws intended to block minorities from voting.

Judgmental Catholics — Pope Francis said an amazing thing: “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” Indeed.


Workers — The year started with shrunken paychecks thanks to the expiration of a 2 percent Social Security payroll tax cut, which essentially wiped out wage gains for millions. Then, Black Friday canceled Thanksgiving.

Dan Snyder — His Washington, D.C., football team began the year with its star quarterback’s tragic knee injury in the playoffs. Then, everyone started talking about the team’s racist name again, and Snyder trotted out a fake chief. Then, the team lost most of its games in the new season, and the organization is closing the year in hopelessness and disarray.


The Washington Department of Football’s season in a nutshell.

Gun Control Advocates — How many mass shootings does it take to get to the hearts of gun lobbyists? The world may never know.

The Long-Term Unemployed — Congress had already shortened the duration of unemployment benefits available to the long-term unemployed, but people like Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) still beat them up for receiving 99 weeks of aid. On Dec. 28, extra benefits will disappear altogether.

Rand Paul — Soso much plagiarism.

rand paul

People on Food Stamps — Republicans spent the summer claiming food stamp recipients are lazy surfers who use their benefits for sushi and lobster. Then in the fall, Democrats cut their assistance by $5 billion. Experts say it was the first-ever month-to-month drop in benefit amounts.

Third Way — Took on Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). Whoops.

Women in North Dakota, Arkansas, Texas — These states passed harsh abortion restrictions as part of a lesser-known Obamacare backlash. Reproductive freedom advocates in Texas had state Sen. Wendy Davis to thank for her filibustering high point, though a few weeks later Texas passed its unconstitutional abortion bill anyway. But we’ll always have that night.

Anthony Weiner — For a minute there he was actually winning the New York mayor’s race, despite being a serial sext offender. Then he flipped the bird and conceded he is an empty, soulless vessel.

Detroit Civil Servants — Because Detroit’s public employees have it so good, thevampire squid is sucking blood from their pensions.

Trey Radel — Florida man busted for cocaine possession. This time he also happened to be a GOP congressman.

Undocumented Immigrants — They’re being detained and deported at record rates, the president’s way of showing he’s tough on enforcement so Republicans will join him in reforming the system. Instead, reform went nowhere in 2013. People just got the stick.

Barack Obama — The signature achievement of his first term has badly underperformed in a big year, and the president’s “you can keep it” promise proved false. Despite his best efforts to prosecute leakers, a leaker exposed the administration’s extremely vast and creepy and probably unconstitutional surveillance activities. And his approval ratings, those aren’t so hot right now.

barack obama

Kim Jong Un’s Uncle — If you were the uncle of a 30-year-old North Korean dictator, this was not your year.

Federal Workers — President Obama earlier implemented a pay freeze to show how tough he is on spending and then spent the next several years being dubbed a big spender. After that thankless sacrifice, federal workers were furloughed in 2013, and the latest budget deal asks them to give up some of their pensions so we can keep tax rates low. We can’t think of a better way to manage employee morale and attract and retain top-quality talent.

Marco Rubio — The rising Republican star and Florida senator abandoned what could have been his first big legislative achievement. We don’t understand the long game here — the man wants to be president and he’s slowly losing his hair! Americans haven’t elected a bald president since Dwight Eisenhower in the 1950s … and that guy had won World War II.

America — My God, what a year.



Anthony Weiner’s Uncomfortable Faces

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