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News from the Week of 22nd to 28th of May 2011
Recovering from the Great Recession: Long Struggle Ahead for Older Americans (28 May 2011)
The recession and its aftermath have not been easy on middle-aged and older Americans, and the future is a big question mark for many of them. Nearly 30 percent of the sample said that they were either unemployed and looking for work at the time of the survey or were employed but had been involuntarily unemployed in the previous three years. Another 13 percent were currently out of the labor force but reported having been in it at some time during the previous three years.
Regardless of their employment status, the recession was a painful experience for most Americans 50 and older, and many have yet to recover. During the three years leading up to October 2010, nearly one-third saw their homes decline substantially in value. A sizable proportion fell behind on credit card payments or accumulated more credit card debt.
Although recovery from the Great Recession had been underway for months at the time of the survey, the 50-plus population -- at least those with recent labor market experience -- remained worried about the future. Overall, more than half were not too or not at all confident that they will have enough money to live comfortably throughout their retirement years.
When asked if they or their spouses had taken any steps to prepare for a more secure retirement, more than half reported that they had, and employment featured prominently in their actions: more than two out of five had decided that they would likely work part-time in retirement. In addition, one-third said they expect to delay retirement. Yet many jobseekers were still unable to find employment.
Fukushima I Nuke Plant: High Concentration of Radioactive Cesium in the Ocean Soil in 300-Kilometer Strip Along the Coast (28 May 2011)
Radioactive materials in concentration that was up to several hundreds of times the normal level were detected from the soil on the ocean floor in the 300-kilometer strip along the coast from Kesennuma City in Miyagi Prefecture to Choshi City in Chiba Prefecture.
Oh what a surprise. Who could have known?
The Ministry of Education and Science, who did the survey, even goes to contradict the oft-repeated statement by the chief cabinet secretary and says "the marine products may be affected."
Chief Cabinet Secretary Edano's favorite refrain whenever a new leak was found at Fukushima I Nuke Plant was: "It will have no immediate effect" on health, on environment, on anything. (These days, he is busy trying to "qualify" his use of "immediate". Quite funny if the situation is not this dire.)
No word on other nuclides like plutonium, uranium, and strontium.
Eli Pariser on "The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You" (27 May 2011)
ELI PARISER: That's right. I was surprised. I didn't know that that was, you know, how it was working, until I stumbled across a little blog post on Google's blog that said "personalized search for everyone." And as it turns out, for the last several years, there is no standard Google. There's no sort of "this is the link that is the best link." It's the best link for you. And the definition of what the best link for you is, is the thing that you're the most likely to click. So, it's not necessarily what you need to know; it's what you want to know, what you're most likely to click.
JUAN GONZALEZ: But isn't that counter to the original thing that brought so many people to Google, that the algorithms that Google had developed really were reaching out to the best available information that was out there on the web?
ELI PARISER: Yeah. You know, if you look at how they talked about the original Google algorithm, they actually talked about it in these explicitly democratic terms, that the web was kind of voting -- each page was voting on each other page in how credible it was. And this is really a departure from that. This is moving more toward, you know, something where each person can get very different results based on what they click on.
And when I did this recently with Egypt -- I had two friends google "Egypt" -- one person gets search results that are full of information about the protests there, about what's going on politically; the other person, literally nothing about the protests, only sort of travel to see the Pyramids websites.
The Battle for Wisconsin: Court Strikes Down Gov. Scott Walker's Anti-Union Bill (27 May 2011)
AMY GOODMAN: We go right now to Madison, Wisconsin. We're joined on the phone by John Nichols of The Nation magazine.
John, tell us what this decision means that the judge has just handed down yesterday.
JOHN NICHOLS: Well, it's quite a big deal, Amy. Judge Maryann Sumi, who's one of the more respected jurists in the state, was asked to rule on the question of whether the law taking away most collective bargaining rights for Wisconsin workers was passed legally. She determined that it was not passed legally, that the legislature violated the state's open meetings laws, did not act in a transparent or appropriate manner, and so she's ruled the law null and void. What this means is that three months into this fight over Governor Walker's bill, it is completely off the books legally.
That doesn't mean the fight is over, by any measure. There is a good chance that Republicans in the legislature will try to pass the law again. There will also be appeals. But what this ruling does is reinforce the message that protesters and Democratic legislators have been trying to put forward from the start of this struggle. And that is that the Republicans seem to be so hell-bent on passing this anti-union legislation that they will break any rule, violate any standard. We've had a little bit of a restoration of a system of checks and balances in Wisconsin. And frankly, that's a very big deal.
Dick Cheney: "I worship the ground that Paul Ryan walks on" (26 May 2011)
Former vice president Dick Cheney heaped praise on House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI), author of the GOP's budget blueprint to phase out Medicare and replace it with a subsidies system for seniors to buy private insurance.
"I worship the ground the Paul Ryan walks on," Cheney said Wednesday at a Houston event hosted by the KPMG Global Energy Institute. "I think he's an enormously talented individual and he's trying to do the right thing. And he deserves the support, all the support we can provide him."
"We need to get serious about dealing with [our] debt problem," the former vice president explained.
Most of the government's $14.3 trillion debt is a result of Bush-era policies, such as tax cuts for the wealthy and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
Cheney's concern for the deficit appears to be relatively new. He famously said in 2004, "Reagan proved deficits don't matter," according to President Bush's first Treasury Secretary Paul H. O'Neill
PAM COMMENTARY: That's because Dick Cheney is a mass murderer of history, and he knows that ending Medicare will kill a lot of people. Not Dick Cheney, though. He uses his ill-gotten money to have doctors follow him around and revive him from heart attacks. Hence his warmed-over-death appearance.
Icebergs get covered in ash from Iceland volcano eruption (PHOTOS) (27 May 2011)
Ash from Iceland's Grimsvotn volcano eruption has formed a sheet over icebergs in the glacier lagoon at the base of Vatnajokull, even though authorities said on Thursday that the eruption is producing mostly steam rather than ash.
While the volcano is said to calm down within a few days, national police said there will be no further disruption to flights in northern Europe.
Patriot Act extension signed into law despite bipartisan resistance in Congress (26 May 2011)
Racing against the clock, Congress approved a four-year extension Thursday to key provisions of the USA Patriot Act that will allow federal investigators to continue to use aggressive surveillance tactics in connection with suspected terrorists.
Overcoming objections from a bipartisan clutch of libertarian-minded lawmakers, the legislation passed the Senate, 72 to 23, and the House, 250 to 153.
The provisions were due to expire at midnight Thursday without an extension. President Obama is attending a summit in France, but the bill was signed by autopen with his authorization moments before the deadline, the White House said.
"I think it is an important tool for us to continue dealing with an ongoing terrorist threat," Obama said Friday, after a meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
PAM COMMENTARY: It took an anthrax attack on the Senate to pass the "Patriot" Act the first time around, and I find it shameful that the Democratic Senate agreed to continue destroying the 4th amendment with an old Bush administration law. The debate did give Rand Paul a chance to show his worth to voters, though.
One weird thing -- Obama pushing for the "Patriot" Act from France, the country that financed the American Revolution. France is a reminder of how hard it was to get the 4th amendment and other civil rights in the first place -- it took a foreign power equally matched to the colonial power, and a king willing to sacrifice his head to give us half of France's revenue and his best generals. And even so, the colonial power held on until they felt that they could no longer afford to finance a huge war on another continent. Eventually they gave up after the surrender at Yorktown.
If our own government becomes that repressive, will the American people ever have a shot at another American Revolution? Too many things had to come together the first time around -- a repeat may be impossible. Just a friendly reminder to appreciate and improve our existing rights, because it'd be nearly impossible to get them back once surrendered.
Professor Francis Boyle interview on the anthrax attacks, 8/21/2008, Alex Jones Show (part 1 of 6) (VIDEO, FLASHBACK) (21 August 2008)
"...So it's been very clear, and the reason is that for the FBI cover-up, it would lead back to a secret, covert, illegal, and CRIMINAL offensive biological weapons program involving anthrax. And I say it's criminal because I was the person who drafted the statute making it a crime..."
PAM COMMENTARY: FLASHBACK: The man who wrote the biological weapons law talks about how the 2001 anthrax attacks originated from people inside of the US government, and how they were used to intimidate Senators who were holding up the "Patriot" Act. See old 9/26/2009 archives for a partial transcript of the interview.
Francis Boyle interview (part 2 of 6) (VIDEO, FLASHBACK) (21 August 2008)
Francis Boyle interview (part 3 of 6) (VIDEO, FLASHBACK) (21 August 2008)
Francis Boyle interview (part 4 of 6) (VIDEO, FLASHBACK) (21 August 2008)
Francis Boyle interview (part 5 of 6) (VIDEO, FLASHBACK) (21 August 2008)
Francis Boyle interview (part 6 of 6) (VIDEO, FLASHBACK) (21 August 2008)
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Sources (if found on major news boards):
[AJ] - InfoWars.com, PrisonPlanet.com, or other Alex Jones-affiliated sites
[BF] - BuzzFlash.com
[DN] - DemocracyNow.org
[R] - Rense.com
[WRH] - WhatReallyHappened.com