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Week In Review

By Lisa Ornest
Edited by Elissa D. Hecker

Below, for your browsing convenience, the categories are divided into: Entertainment, Arts, Sports, Media, and General News


Is There a Bustle in Your Hedgerow?

This case was filed in 2014, but an en banc retrial was set to go before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco for September 30th. It is of course quite rare that an appeals court will hear testimony. It's also not clear why plaintiff waited 40 years to bring this case, but it's even more of a puzzle as why he was allowed. The allegedly infringed author, Randy Wolfe, who performed as Randy California in the group "Spirit," died. After his death, his song rights were placed in a trust. The trustees weren't sure of what Randy's intentions were, but also, up until 2014, they had a laches/statute of limitations problem. The Raging Bull case, brought before the Supremes in 2014 (RBG), after rejection on the basis of timeliness in this same jurisdiction fixed that, permitting damages for 3 years prior to the suit (link below). So we're not talking about 50 years of profits, only from 2011 through 2014, and apparently the Page and Plant factory has been settling cases right from the beginning. However, they are probably not the only ones. Does that necessarily make them infringers? We shall see.




Martha's No Snitch

Apparently, after being named in testimony, Snoop Dogg released a Facebook meme talking about how his girl Martha never ratted on anyone. Snoop stated: "'As we watch Tekashi 69 (or whatever his name is) snitch on EVERYBODY, I invite you all to remember Martha Stewart snitched on NOT ONE soul during her trial,' he wrote. 'Baby girl kept it 10 toes down and ate that prison sentence by herself, like the true baddie she is.'" Daniel Hernandez, on the other hand, is reeling off names of the Nine Trey gang and others like no tomorrow. Of course, the feds probably weren't thinking of sending Hernandez to minimum secutiry at Danbury with crochet buddies for the 47-year minimum sentence that he's facing. It might not be safe for him outside, either. I guess gang members can rap too.




When You Wish . . .

French Chef Marc Veyrat is suing Michelin for loss of his one of his 3 stars (3 stars is the highest honor). He claims to have been "dishonored." He further claims they never even came to the restaurant. He also says that one inspector mistook saffron for cheddar (which seems like a problem but also a contradiction -- if the inspector wasn't there as Veyrat claimed, how could he or she mistake saffron for cheddar?). Veyrat alleges that a lack of transparency in the judging procedure prevents him from knowing what he did wrong and thereby improving. He says he feels like his parents died all over again; and you thought Yelp was bad.



Do the Math

After the Baltimore Symphony locked out its orchestra over a budget dispute, an agreement was reached. The musicians' weekly salaries will go up 2.4%. However, they will work fewer weeks, so their annual salary will actually come to about $1,300 less annually. In addition, they may not end up being full-time employees, which would probably affect benefits, but the article doesn't address that point.


A Good Day

The annual 26 MacArthur Foundation grants of $625,000 have been awarded. The winners range in age from 30 to 67 and include scientists, historians, legal advocates(!), activists, writers, and musical and visual artists. For example, the Foundation granted one to Kelly Lytle Hernández, an historian and professor at UCLA whose work focuses on the U.S. history of mass incarceration and immigrant detention. She recently wrote a book called City of Inmates: Conquest, Rebellion and the Rise of Human Caging in Los Angeles. There is no application process and no strings are attached. How fun!


And Then There Were Two

Placido Domingo has been singing at the Metropolitan Opera for 51 years. Not anymore. This is about institutions that tolerated misogynist power culture abuses being desperate for a scapegoat. I'm not saying that there's no personal responsibility or that Domingo wasn't a jerk. Yet scapegoating is scapegoating, no matter who does it, and no matter how plausible it sounds. It always sounds plausible to the believers.



Hello Little Girl

When the teenage Rosie Clooney and her sister were offered the chance for a singing career, the family got together, took a vote, and chose an uncle to chaperone and travel with them across the country. The girls weren't just left to fend for themselves. This figure skating "coach" started sexually abusing his student when she was 14, and he continued until she was 16, and probably not just her. In January, coach John Coughlin killed himself over accusations, which he said were unfounded, but now, two more skaters have come forward to accuse him. This seems to be the culture; children are presented to these predators. There appears to be a little more all-around exploitation in figure skating than in other sports, but maybe that's because the practitioners are mostly young girls and easily exploited.


The Lamoureux Twins

These young women twins (now 30), are champion ice hockey players who brought home gold for the U.S. against Canada in 2018. Inspired by Serena Williams, they also take seriously their responsibilities to other players and to the next generation, and they fight for things like equal pay and comprehensive maternity benefits. Thanks to their efforts, USA Hockey now provides 100% pay during maternity leave. This enables players to train as long as possible into their pregnancies, give birth, and then return to the ice without having lost too much of their physical edge. Of course this activism hasn't always been welcomed, and in 2017 it looked like the sisters might be dropped from the team rosters, but then they were brought back. Someone made a smart decision. The sisters hope to have formed a new league by 2020, when the national contracts run out.


Live Fast, Die Young

Teenage girls, horses, who cares. Let's just run 'em until they can't run anymore, and then we can toss 'em. The difference is, of course, the horses can't speak for themselves. In The Brothers Karamazov, Ivan, I think, tries to sway the faith of Alyosha. He taunts Alyosha with talk about the Russian peasants whipping the horses on their "poor eyes." There was less money involved, but the desperation was apparently just as great. Ten horses a week die on American racetracks, and that is probably a conservative number. Thirty horses have died at Santa Anita alone since Boxing day. California Governor Gavin Newsom had suggested that perhaps the regulatory commission should not be staffed by owners and breeders with "direct financial interests" in the sport. For example, Justify was found to have "won" the Triple Crown completely doped up, and the owner tried to claim that the horse picked it up in dirty bedding.


What's Good for the Goose

The men basketball players pushed for mental health coverage in their CBA and got it, and the women want it too. The problem is that the coverage is not consistent throughout the league. Some teams have great coverage and access to "multiple health care professionals," and some have none.


NCAA Recruiting Violations in Kansas

This is mostly about sneakers. Adidas paid the families of UK students, and allegedly the coaches, specifically head coach Bill Self, knew about it. Three "level one" infractions have been charged, which could lead to postseason bans, the forfeiture of wins, and the loss of scholarships. Other schools are also "under the microscope."


Sentencing Inequality

Felicity received 14 days; Sloane got 4 months plus 500 hours of community service; Crystal Mason voted by mistake and received 5 years, as did Tanya McDowell, who sent her son to the "wrong" school. The first 2 are white, the second 2 are black. You do the math. Granted, the McDowell story is a little complicated and was conflated with illegal drug issues.




They Just Keep Losing Them

First, the Russians refused to allow anyone to come and retrieve the data. Then they claimed to have lost the results from some positive drug tests. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is unhappy, and the punishment could include banning the Russians from the Olympics in Tokyo. The problem is that this was info Russia had to supply in order to get out of a 3-year suspension. So far, WADA has found 47 suspected doping cases in the Russian data.


The Compatibility of Australian Rules Football and the Human Brain

Players in their 30s and 40s experience memory loss, attention deficit, and anger. They start feeling old. Later in life they may suffer epileptic seizures. What many of them have in common is chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). I wrote about this last month, that even one season in the National Football League can create significantly different brain waves from the beginning to the end of the season -- and in the U.S. we use helmets. The Australian players only have a mouthpiece, and that's pretty much it. The neurophysiologist who tried to bring these issues to light, Alan Pearce, originally received some funding, but after he published his findings, he was ostracized, and lost his lab space. Not a coincidence. More than 100 retired Australian Football League players are coming forth with accusations, but the league is still in denial, and the negligence element may be hard to prove, that the league doctors neglected their duty of care.



Genuine, Old Fashioned, Authentic Steam-Powered Aereo-plane

Locast is a nonprofit streaming company that basically takes broadcast signals and distributes them, and users don't need a cable or satellite plan. In July, the networks "banded" together to sue Locast, arguing violation of copyrights and pay-tv revenue. While broadcast stations must provide their signals free, the pay-tv providers require "retransmission-consent fees" before those signals can be carried by anyone else. Locast says this isn't fair and claims collusion. Apparently, the big fish like Google, are warning the little fish, like YouTubeTV, not to sell to Locast or risk retribution and "punishment." Interestingly, Locast is also claiming copyright abuse, that the big fish are using copyright to "expand their market power beyond what those copyrights were intended to protect." Locast has about 700,00 subscribers and relies on donations from viewers, but it also accepts corporate grants. It recently received $500,000 from AT&T. That actually looks like the big fish are using the little fish as pawns against the other big fish. There is precedent, in the case of Barry Diller and Aereo, which basically did the same thing, and the Supremes found copyright violation. In fact, David Goodfriend, a lawyer and former FCC employee, started Locast as a kind of "thought experiment" on Aereo. I wonder what makes him think he can win this time?


Al Franken, Siriusly?

He's going to do a weekly show and contribute to 2020 election coverage. Thank you, Jane Mayer.


Take a Gander at This Prop!

The writer George Saunders once published a story in which socially adept characters are secretly employed by corporate manufacturers to tout those manufacturers' products to their friends without the friends being aware that they are targets of an ad campaign. Why wouldn't governments do the same thing? Most people don't know the difference between advertising and news anyway. The article says at least 70 countries are spreading disinformation as a regular thing. Big countries, small countries, they're all doing it. Russian "operatives" are in fact running a cottage industry in propaganda training. Organized propaganda campaigns of 56 countries were found on Facebook alone, and the article doesn't even include Fox News or Breitbart.


Captain Marvel Secret Decoder Ring

The Anti-Defamation League (www.adl.org) keeps an online catalog of "extremist symbols." In addition to obvious symbols like swastikas, the catalog includes others, like the "bowl-shaped haircut" of the Charleston killer. Now the ADL has decided to include the "ok" symbol, thumb touching forefinger and the other three3 fingers spread, which it says creates the w and p of "white power."


Grammar and Usage Department's

The whole interchange is reprinted here. Do you honestly think this guy cares that he has abysmal English language skills?


"Honor" Killing Disallowed

A Pakistani brother drugged and strangled his sister while she slept. The excuse is that the family was shamed by the sister's posting "seminude" photos of herself along with her provocative views, on Facebook and Twitter. There were 5 other suspects, including a "well known cleric," who were all acquitted for lack of evidence, although possibly it was the cleric who incited the killing. The parents forgave their son. In Pakistan, that is often enough to allow an "honor" murderer to go free. In this case, however, the judge gave a life sentence. There will be appeals and a journalist was quoted saying that this will probably not be the last word in this case.


The Privacy Roundup

1. Every Breath You Take

It's bad enough having to punch a time clock at work. Could you imagine having to be watched by law enforcement every time you enter or leave your home; especially when the program makes so many mistakes, and THEY CUT DOWN SHADY TREES TO DO IT, which is barbaric. ...And, oh yes, they are in fact giving the footage directly to the police department. This is not a sustainable way for humans to live. The Detroit Public Housing Commissioner's executive director says, "oh, the police would never use technology to make frivolous claims." Right. The police never use any of the tools at their disposal to make frivolous claims. We need to have the right to be let alone. Fourth Amendment, remember? Of course we want to solve crimes. But we can't live in a police state. We shouldn't want to.


2. Every Move You Make

California has enacted a "landmark" privacy law, through voter referendum, which is difficult, but the group "Californians for Consumer Policy" is trying to make the law even tougher. Right now, the law allows consumers to find the personal information compiled about them, delete it, and stop companies from selling it. The group also wants greater consumer rights, greater company obligations, and the formation of an independent oversight agency. Internet companies of course want the federal government to make one very weak law, which they express by the term "unified," to overrule stricter state laws, like forcing cars to be less emissions efficient (more about that below). Even so, these laws don't really seem to be stopping anything; they just provide for explanations once the damage has already been done.


3. The Largest Book Ban in the United States

This is a privacy issue -- the entitlement of the human mind to its own counsel. This week PEN America released a report, which found that prisons ban books from the 2.2 million prisoners in the U.S. for little or no reason. The report found that "excessive restrictions were frequently put into place with "little regulatory oversight or public scrutiny." For example, a book showing maps of the moon was banned because it might "'present risks of escape.'" Well, yes. Escape from the miseries of the current situation. How does one pass the time in prisons? Reading is the best way to steady, discipline, and yes, improve the mind. Even in New York, there was a program that prohibited any books except from 5 pre-approved vendors, which left "'five romance novels, 14 bibles and other religious texts, 24 drawing or coloring books, 21 puzzle books, 11 guitar, chess, and how-to books, one dictionary, and one thesaurus.'" That is torture.


4. Every Single Day, and Every Word You Say

A Paris court found that Sandra Muller, who started France's equivalent to #MeTo, defamed a man who made lewd comments to her in a private situation that had nothing to do with employment or other illegal power plays. She has to pay damages of about $16,500 and about $5,500 in legal fees, which both sound like modest European awards. The plaintiff claims to have lost business opportunities and to be suffering from depression. An appeal will postpone levying on the damages.


5. Every Game You Play

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has limited the landmark privacy law known as "the right to be forgotten." The European Union (EU) now says sorry, the right to privacy is not an absolute right, and by the way, the ECJ rules do not apply outside of the EU. This means that the ECJ can't (and won't) enforce its rules on e.g., Google, outside of the EU geographic area. The ECJ also ruled that there may be a right to free expression issue about "certain categories" of personal data, no matter how old, outdated, fallacious, etc. There has to be a weighing of the right of an individual to be left alone and the "right" of public nosiness (alright, that's a little cynical). The thing is, as we know, there is a great deal of information that is publicly available. In the past, however, you had to do some legwork. Now it's all just a click away.


General News

It was quite a week. Here's a rundown:

1. Link to the Complaint and Transcript of The Call:


2. Water's Boiling!

Last week, on or about September 18th, the Washington Post reported that an alleged CIA officer had "blown the whistle" on the U.S. president. In a Complaint dated August 12th, and addressed to Richard Burr and Adam Schiff, respective Chairs of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees, the whistle-blower alleges that in a July 25, 2019 phone call from President Trump to the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, Trump asked Zelensky to dig up alleged dirt on Trump's enemies, namely, American citizen and former Vice President Joe Biden, and his family. In exchange, the U.S. president offered to support Ukraine and back Zelensky. The Complaint alleges that this was an attempt to interfere with the U.S. 2020 elections. The Complaint further alleges that the director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, and other members of the National Security Council, then went ahead and blocked the transcript of the call by removing it from the computer system on which such transcripts are typically stored. This was to prevent Congress from seeing it. Along with Attorney General William Bar, Rudy Giuliani is named as a facilitator, but he claims not to have seen anything wrong in his or Trump's behavior. Perfectly normal he says. Something anyone would do, he says.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/19/us/politics/intelligence-whistle-blower-complaint-trump.html (9/25 update)

3. The Last Straw

Last Tuesday, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced that on the basis of the facts alleged in the Complaint, the House would initiate a formal impeachment inquiry against the Trump. She said that the president's attempt to use a foreign government to investigate an American citizen and political figure and then promise U.S. support in exchange, in an attempt to influence U.S. elections, was a Constitutional violation, "a betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of our national security, and betrayal of the integrity of our elections."


4. The Plot Thickens

On Wednesday, a "reconstructed" transcript of the call was released. Zelensky was going to buy some anti-tank missiles, but Trump "pounced": I need you to do a little favor for me first, he said. Attorney General William Barr (you know, the head of U.S. law enforcement), will help you in opening an investigation into (a) the beginning of the FBI's inquiry regarding Russia's 2016 election interference, and (b) a "corruption investigation" into Joseph Biden. When asked, Trump declared, but there was no pressure. I didn't pressure him. The Justice Department said Barr knew nothing about it. BTW, Biden was already not a favorite with the corrupt Ukrainian government, from when he was Veep. There was no "explicit reference" to the $391 million in military aid to Ukraine that Trump told Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney to put on hold a few days before the call.


5. Barr-bary

At the end of August, intelligence officials asked Justice Department officials if they should forward the Complaint to Congress, and the Justice Department said no, Barr would handle it. He certainly did. Four weeks later, the Department issued its verdict: No criminal violation of campaign finance laws. I would like to see the transcripts of THAT investigation.


6. Fleeing the Ship

On Thursday, Kurt Volker, a former ambassador to NATO and the president's special envoy for Ukraine, a part-time, unpaid position, resigned. The article says he was caught in the middle of the "pressure campaign" by Trump and Giuliani to "find damaging information about Democrats." He gave no explanation, just that it was impossible for him to do his job. However, he was in fact named in the Complaint. Apparently he helped liaise for Giuliani and the Ukraine government. As usual, Giuliani is in CYA mode, sputtering on Fox News that he did not "operate" on his own. He was just trying to help Ukraine with its Russia problems. At any rate, Senator Christopher S. Murphy, Dem. of CT., says that Volker now needs to "put country first" and speak up about what he knows.


7. Paging Rosemary Woods

On Thursday, the New York Times reported that the transcript of the call had "not been formally placed into the [national security] council's carefully organized records system according to normal practice." Nor was it simply restricted to "eyes only" (or whatever is the appropriate phrase). Instead, it was stored in a "far more secret and restricted system maintained by intelligence officials within the White House." The Complaint says that this is not the first time politically sensitive and not just national security sensitive transcripts have been handled that way. If you want to read documents handled this way, you have to go to where they are. However, a former intelligence official states that "political embarrassment" is not enough of a reason for treatment of documents this way.


8. Nah-nah nah-nah-nah

The whistle-blower called it an attempted "lock-down." Trump called the whistle-blower a spy who should be subject to old-timey types of punishment. We'll see who has the last word.


9. Let's Get This Show on the Road

The Complaint provides a clear "'road map'" to impeachment. Adam Schiff can't wait to meet the whistle-blower. He especially wants to find out how many times this, or something like it, has happened before. Representative Michael R. Turner, a Republican from Ohio, believes that "that conversation is not O.K."


10. House Issues First Subpoena

Duces Tecum ad Testificandum. Like the full transcript of the call, a list of any State Department officials who listened to it or read the transcript. It also asks for Guiliani's files, among other things. Pompeo had a week to answer, but I guess there's a large staff to work on it. Trump attacked Adam Schiff, and the Republican National Committee is planning a major ad campaign to "counter" the Democrats' efforts. Another Republican Representative, Mark Amodei of Nevada, believes that if it happened, then that's a problem. The administration can cooperate, or it can object and stall. Stalling might result in a charge of obstruction of Congress, which is what Pelosi calls a cover-up of a cover-up.


11. Sew Buttons

I remember the first time I accused an opposing counsel, and/or his client, of reprehensible deeds, trying to make a point of morality, and the attorney responded, and I quote, "So?" It was a revelation to me, and a bit shocking, how easily that one little word cut through all the baloney. I also remember realizing that neither counsel nor his client cared one iota about what (I claimed) they had done; the only thing that mattered to them was whether they could escape legal consequences. I no longer remember the specific facts of the case, but I'm sure there were no ramifications for anyone but the parties in the dispute. In the current situation it's a little different. A president who collaborates with a foreign power to influence U.S. elections is guilty of "a betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of our national security, and betrayal of the integrity of our elections," as Speaker Pelosi put it on September 24th. That's so what.


Speaking of Elections

A Senate committee has determined that we should spend $250 million more to protect the 2020 elections from outside interference, in addition to the $630 million already spent. It's not enough. Especially when they also need to be protected from inside interference. The Brennan Center estimates that it will take $2.2 billion. McConnell has blocked most of this legislation, calling it a "federal intrusion" into local elections. When he finally agreed to the extra $250 million, McConnell then spoke about the "'enormous strides'" of the current administration toward more secure elections. Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon called the amendment a "'joke.'" It's just not enough money.


...And Speaking of Treason

A 60 year-old intelligence officer from Utah who had been in the army for 20 years was convicted of trying to pass defense information to China. He was working as a contractor for the U.S. government and was approached by foreign agents.


Paging Frank Zappa (and Plato)

In the meantime, we still haven't seen the tax returns. In 2016 the president said that he would make his tax returns public, but he hasn't done it yet, and in fact he's fighting tooth and nail to prevent it. In the effort to block the New York District Attorney's office subpoenas seeking said documents, the lawyers have "invented" a "presidential 'tax return privilege.'" The "privilege" posits that revealing tax return information will "'impede the functioning of a president.'" To his credit, the New York District Attorney is not buying it, pointing out that since the president did not use the courts to try to stop investigations into his family business or the Mueller investigation on the basis of alleged "impediment," why is this any different? Trump's lawyers additionally claim that the investigation is politically motivated.


Flores Upheld

Judge Dolly Gee of the Central District of California ruled that only Congress could supplant the Flores Agreement, a 20 year-old consent order that requires migrant children to be held in state-licensed facilities and released within 20 days, and not the president. Judge Gee called the new policy proposed by the administration "Kafkaesque" in "some of its reasoning." The administration complains that Flores is a loophole created by a judge that allows children to be smuggled across the border and then physically and sexually abused. Flores is the only thing protecting children from that abuse. By the way, there are more than one million cases pending in immigration court.


Supreme Court to Consider LGBTQ Discrimination

In more than half of these United States, a person can STILL be fired for being gay. The Supremes will consider whether sexual and gender orientation are covered by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The problem is that previously, Justice Kennedy was the swing vote in an even split. Proponents are concerned that the focus on the right to marriage was too narrow and that it should have included broader discrimination issues. They may argue that it is basically a sex discrimination issue, that a person would be fired, essentially, for being married to someone of the same sex. However, that's not really broad enough.


Hate Crime "Epidemic" Against LGBTQ People

Eighteen transgender people were murdered this year, and 26 last year, in what looks like basic garden variety hate-type crimes. One trans-woman was burned to death. The American Medical Association calls it an epidemic. Of course there may be many more that have not been reported. Maybe Mattel can make a difference here (see below). Stories can change people's minds.


Creatable World Dolls

The line is called "Creatable World," and the dolls are gender neutral and can have short or long hair or pants or skirts. They also come in different skin tones and with different types of hair. The claim is that the dolls are "'relatable,'" not "'aspirational.'" The doll is being released at a time when the administration is taking backward steps regarding transgender policies, so it's really quite a brave move. I wonder if there will be a backlash. This is not the first transgender doll, which was "Jazz Jennings" in 2017, but this is a mainstream Mattel doll.


Some Local L&T Discrimination News

A landlord who threatened to call ICE on a tenant more than once, was fined $5,000 and ordered to pay $12,000 in damages by New York City Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings (OATH) Judge John Spooner. The judge said that "harassment or intimidation in housing violates the city's human rights law." The case was brought by the Human Rights Commission (HRC) on behalf of an immigrant from Guyana. Apparently the landlord was harassing the tenant even before the tenant stopped paying rent, but the landlord denies it and says everything is false. The landlord ultimately lost the house to foreclosure. This ruling will not take effect until the parties submit comments and the HRC issues a final decision, which can then be appealed. Housing court found that the tenant owed $7,000.


The Week in Climate Change

1. U.N. Climate Summit

On September 23rd, the U.N. hosted the Climate Action Summit, seeking commitments from world leaders in regard to weaning their respective populaces from fossil fuels. China wouldn't promise anything, and the U.S., which is pulling out of the Paris Agreement, didn't say anything at all. Other countries hedged. Russia said that it would ratify the Paris Agreement, but said nothing about any concrete plans to reduce emissions. Greta Thunberg tried to shame the stuffed shirts into action, but that didn't work either. Trump stopped by, and Michael Blumberg, a special envoy to the U.N. for climate, said he hoped the discussions would help Trump when he formulated a climate policy. Everyone laughed. By the end of the day, 65 countries agreed to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, but it may be too late by then. If things move at even half the rate they have been in the last 20 years, we don't have another 30 years left to fix it.


2. Backlash

At the climate summit, 16 year-old Greta Thunberg made a speech criticizing world leaders for dragging their feet in regard to environmental issues. This is just fantastic, don't you think? I am so heartened by teenage activism. Yet now she is getting trolled and vilified and, in a word, scapegoated, by the ignorant and fearful ones who accuse her of being a brainwashed automaton, as if that's not the pot calling the kettle. They imply, or even come right out and say, that she is either evil herself (in the biblical sense,) or the tool of evildoers (you know, like Satan). They reference Stephen King. It's insane, but that craziness was always there -- it just has a wider platform now. There are links to backstories explaining how Thunberg developed her sense of responsiblity. She could have been lost in her iphone and the virtual world, like so many teenagers, but she's not. That's a beautiful thing.


3. How Deep is the Ocean?

A report by the U.N.-sponsored and scientist-staffed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, released on September 25th, says that the oceans have soaked up about as much of greenhouse gases as they can, and that global warming is causing them to become hotter, more acidic, and less oxygen-rich. This kills species, melts the ice caps, fuels cyclones and extreme flooding; provides a breeding ground for harmful bacteria and toxic algae; kills the coral reefs, kelp forests, and seagrass meadows; and otherwise generally wreaks havoc around the planet. Fish are trying to migrate to cooler waters, but how long will they last anywhere they try to go?


4. The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Glaciers Cracking

A block of about "nine million cubic feet" of the Planpincieux Glacier on the French-Italian border has splintered. Fractures are not uncommon after summer, I guess glaciers systole and diastole like everything else, but this time the crevasse is "alarmingly wide," and the potential volume of the "block in peril" is much greater. If the weather gets colder, the crevasse might heal. If it doesn't, there could be a serious avalanche. The area is uninhabited, but that's not really the point, is it? The ecology of the entire area could change.


5. Dammit

The current Interior Secretary is David Bernhardt. Previously, Bernhardt was the chief lobbyist for a group called the Westlands Water District. This consortium of farmers would profit considerably from raising the height of the Shasta Dam, and Bernhardt has lobbied for it for them for years. Nevertheless, the Interior Department always resisted the idea, saying that not only would it be environmentally damaging and cost-prohibitive, but it was also illegal under California law. Now, however, it seems, with Bernhardt at the helm, the Interior Department has changed its tune. It ordered the Fish and Wildlife Service to prepare a new environmental review of the project, but the requisition is very limited in scope. For example, it would exclude review of the dam's downstream effects, which are of course the most potentially adverse of all the possibly adverse affects of a dam. Further, for Bernhardt to work on this project is an ethical violation of the rule that requires a 2-year recusal from any project on which a former lobbyist has previously worked. However, the Interior Department says that it reviewed the issues and doesn't see any problem. In addition, Benrhardt is already under federal investigation for allegations that he helped weaken the Endangered Species Act simply to free up water for his chums at Westlands, and that he "intervened" to block a scientific report regarding the use of pesticides on some endangered species. Even George W's Environmental Protection Agency head says that the current administration is disregarding scientific evidence when making environmental policy. California's Attorney General is suing.


6. It's Wonderful

Stewart and Lynda Resnick, who own bottled water and agriculture companies, have endowed the California Institute of Technology with $750 million for an environmental study, specifically "technological solutions to combat climate change." It is the second largest donation ever to an American university (the first was former Mayor Bloomberg's $1.8 billion to Johns Hopkins in November, for financial aid for students). The Resnicks own the "Wonderful Company," which brands include Fiji Water, Pom, Wonderful Pistachios, and Teleflora, the flower delivery service. Their businesses use large amounts of water and plastic, so the Resnicks have come in for criticism by environmentalists. Regardless, they also apparently do good things in Central Valley, California, by providing charter schools and health clinics to their employees and their employees' families, distributing college scholarships, and donating to cultural institutions. There will be a new building, immediate research, and a fund for future research. The funded scholars will "retain complete independence over their work," says Caltech's president.


No Soup for You

The current administration is seeking to limit eligibility for food stamps and cut millions from the food stamp program. Public comments ended last Monday, with more than 75,000 comments logged, including from mayors and governors. Congressional delegations also voiced opposition. However, the 800,000 comments opposing the loosening of the Endangered Species Act had no effect whatsoever, so why would this? Abuse of the food stamp program is a mostly a myth, like voter fraud (which is completely a myth). Do some people abuse it? Probably. So what? (!) It's not worth taking food out of the mouths of people who need it. Right now, you can qualify if you make up to $50,000 annually for a family of 4 and have $3,500 in assets. Kids whose families lose eligibility would also lose their free school lunches. In addition, raising the limit would jeopardize schools' eligibility for social welfare programs, which may be what the administrations wants.


Flynn Acted Alone, More or Less

The appeals court overthrew the lower court ruling and found no evidence of any "'actual or implied agreement'" between Michael Flynn's business partner, Bijan Kian, and the government of Turkey, which would have required Bian to register as the agent of a foreign power. Flynn was no help because he flip-flopped on his story. It's not clear if the U.S. attorneys will appeal or not. This was about Turkey's "secret 2016 lobbying campaign" to pressure the U.S. to "expel" Fethullah Gulen, a rival of Turkey's President Erdogan, for purposes unknown. Flynn's firm received a total of $530,000 for its part in the "campaign." However, the judge said there was no evidence that an op-ed written by Flynn attacking Gulen had been "requested" by the Turkish government. Apparently Flynn wrote it sua sponte and it is not clear what this will mean for him.


I'm Stickin' With the Union

The National Association of Immigration Judges represents 420 immigration judges who are under the purview of the Justice Department, not the judiciary. About a month ago, the Justice Department moved to decertify the union (the Clinton administration tried too, but was rejected). The union struck back, as it wants to be independent. The judges do not feel that they can exercise "independent decision making" if they have to worry about being fired every second. More recently, the union filed a complaint after the Justice Department executive office sent court employees a link to a blog post from a white nationalist website that included anti-Semitic attacks on judges. It's not clear why it was sent, but some judges see it as a threat.


Misdirection, Anyone, or Just Tone Deaf?

Granted, the New York Times is always the last to know, and of course it's horrible, but why is a story about the glut of child porn on the internet the top story on Sunday, September 29th? I mean, given everything else that's currently going on. Put it in the magazine.


Pretzel Logic

California's really gettin' it. The administration is threatening to withhold federal highway funding from the state, arguing that California "has not shown what steps it is taking to improve its air quality." I guess what they need to do is permit lower emissions standards on new car manufacturing: "Just last week, the EPA joined the Transportation Department in revoking California's right to set stricter pollution limits on cars and light trucks." Janet McCabe, who was an EPA official under President Obama, said that it's "ironic that EPA is taking California to task for not solving the air quality problem when for decades the state has been moving forward with the most aggressive clear air rules and programs in the nation.'" Precisely.


If You Ever Plan to Motor North

N.Y. State and the Seneca nation have finally come to an agreement regarding one truly awful, flat tire causing and tie-rod bending 3 mile stretch of Interstate 90, southwest of Buffalo, that runs through tribal land. NYS previously argued that the Senecas owe more than $250 million in casino revenue, and that going onto the land to fix the road might give the tribe an excuse not to pay the money. After 5 years they finally worked it out. It's not clear if the tribe is paying the money, but Cuomo is sending the repair crews.


The Executive Bars Iranian Government Officials

We were not sure whether Iranian officials were permitted to go to the U.N. but just not anywhere else, or whether they were not even allowed to go to the U.N. Some were actually already here. The bar/ban is about forcing China to buy oil from Saudi Arabia as opposed to Iran.


The Generalissimo to be Exhumed

What are they going to do with the remains? I guess it has something to do with the fact that Franco is buried in an underground mausoleum with about 33,000 unnamed corpses, including Republican prisoners used as a labor force to build the mausoleum and its underground basilica. Should it now be considered an historical site? Tearing it apart has nothing to do with the genuine transformation of social inequality. It's just another empty circus.


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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on October 1, 2019 12:27 PM.

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