Happy 150th Birthday, Yosemite

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One in 10 U.S. Beaches Fails Bacteria Test, Survey Finds

Storm-water runoff, including sewage, continues to threaten swimmers’ health HealthDay News – Swimmers, take heed: Ten percent of water samples taken from U.S. coastal and lake beaches fail to meet safety standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a new report finds. “There can be hidden dangers lurking in many of our waterways in the form of bacteria and viruses that can cause a great inventory of illnesses like dysentery, hepatitis, stomach flu, infections and rashes,” Steve Fleischli, water program director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said at a Wednesday morning press conference. Of nearly 3,500 samples taken annually at beaches around the country, Great Lakes beaches have the highest failure rate, with excessively high bacteria levels, the defense council said. This finding confirms that water pollution caused by storm-water runoff and sewage overflows persists at many U.S. beaches, the agency said. Storm-water runoff often includes trash,...

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Republicans Vote To Block D.C.’s Marijuana Decriminalization Law

Washington, D.C. – On Wednesday, the House Appropriations Committee adopted an amendment by Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) prohibiting the District of Columbia from spending any of its locally-raised revenues to carry out any law, rule or regulation to legalize or otherwise reduce criminal penalties for marijuana. The amendment is directed at a recent law the District of Columbia passed replacing jail time for possessing small amounts of marijuana for personal use with a small fine. “It is outrageous that members of Congress are trying to overturn a locally-enacted law that has the overwhelming support of D.C. voters and the D.C. Council,” said Bill Piper, director of national affairs with the Drug Policy Alliance.  “That Rep. Harris is picking on a majority black district and no other jurisdiction with marijuana decriminalization is very telling. His own state has decriminalized marijuana but he’s not interfering with it.” In 2013, a study...

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The Texas GOP Stands on a Platform of Ignorance

Everything really is bigger down in Texas, including our embarrassments Texas has a lot of things to be proud of. The Republican Party of Texas, however, is not one of them. Turns out everything really is bigger down in Texas, including our embarrassments. Taking cues from the national party, the Texas GOP invokes religion and false ideas of the Founding Fathers to promote their blatantly anti-science stances. Texas Gov. Rick Perry recently compared the homosexual “lifestyle” to being an alcoholic. In its recently finished 2014 party platform, Texas Republicans offer the following stances on homosexuality and reparative therapy: Homosexuality: Homosexuality is a chosen behavior that is contrary to the fundamental unchanging truths that have been ordained by God in the Bible, recognized by our nation’s founders, and shared by the majority of Texans. Homosexuality must not be presented as an acceptable alternative lifestyle, in public policy, nor should family be redefined to include...

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Red Cross: How We Spent Sandy Money Is a ‘Trade Secret’

Charity fighting public records request on how it raised and spent money after the superstorm By Justin Elliott, ProPublica – Just how badly does the American Red Cross want to keep secret how it raised and spent over $300 million after Hurricane Sandy? The charity has hired a fancy law firm to fight a public request ProPublica has filed with New York state, arguing that information about its Sandy activities is a “trade secret.” The Red Cross’ “trade secret” argument has persuaded the state to redact some material, though it’s not clear yet how much since the documents haven’t yet been released. As we’ve reported, the Red Cross releases few details about how it spends money after big disasters. That makes it difficult to figure out whether donor dollars are well spent. The Red Cross did give some information about Sandy spending to New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who had been investigating the charity. But the...

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Supreme Court rules women can be discriminated against in health decisions

by Joan McCarter – The U.S. Supreme Court has given corporations even more personhood by deciding that they can have religious beliefs in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores. They ruled that closely held companies are exempt from the contraceptive coverage mandate for their employees’ health insurance, and are exempt from that provision of the Affordable Care Act. The decision, 5-4 and the majority opinion written by Alito, is being described as “narrow.” It is narrow, in that basically only applies to women. The Court says: This decision concerns only the contraceptive mandate and should not be understood to mean that all insurance mandates, that is for blood transfusions or vaccinations, necessarily fail if they conflict with an employer’s religious beliefs. Men could need blood transfusions or vaccinations, so of course they can’t allow the exemption from Obamacare to extend to them. The Court then says that this ruling is preventing...

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Say Hello To The World’s First Church-Mosque-Synagogue

By MBD, Political Blind Spot – For centuries, Christian, Muslim and Jewish communities have been at odds. Ironically, in the first century CE, the debate amongst pre and proto-Christians was whether one could follow Jesus and not be a Jew, while in the second century CE, the debate was the reverse: whether one could follow Jesus and be Jewish.  For centuries quasi-Jewish, quasi-Christian communities flourished, particularly throughout the Middle East. With the advent of Islam, many of those communities assimilated into Islam. In the centuries that followed, Jewish and Muslim communities were at odds, while sects and sub-culture movements vied against the Caliphate. By the time the Crusades came around, Jews and Muslims found themselves at the scant mercy of the Church, who sought to Christianize the Holy Land in the Levant from these Abrahamic communities which the Church saw as “infidels”. In the Medieval period, some of the most prominent Jewish leaders and dynasties were...

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Medicare Advantage plans require more scrutiny

Watchdog says private health plans difficult to investigate By Fred Schulte – Federal officials need to step up efforts to investigate fraud and abuse in Medicare Advantage health plans treating millions of elderly Americans, a top government investigator says. Gary Cantrell, a deputy Inspector General with the Department of Health and Human Services said reviews are “hampered by a lack of accurate, timely and complete data that would facilitate oversight” of the fast-growing health insurance plans. His comments came in testimony prepared for a Wednesday hearing of the oversight subcommittee of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. The hearing was called to assess fraud and abuse safeguards in Medicare, which last year covered about 51 million people at a cost to taxpayers of about $604 billion. Officials estimate that almost $50 billion of that amount was paid improperly, including $11.8 billion to Medicare Advantage plans. A Center for Public...

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Do Cops Look For Colorado Plates To Bust Marijuana Users?

Colorado has legalized weed and everybody knows it. Not like they’re keeping it a secret, right? While everything seems to be going very well there, things change once one crosses the borders in to other states… More specifically the illegal states, where marijuana use still isn’t tolerated. Simply because of the license plate on your car, cops find any excuse to pull Colorado residents over. And for one man who took a trip to Idaho earlier this year, this exact situation arose and became a huge issue of what the man’s attorney calls “license plate profiling”. First of all, all cops should be aware that just because the car is from Colorado doesn’t mean the driver smokes weed… Not everyone in the state is blazing now that the law says it’s okay. The police in Idaho weren’t thinking that when they pulled over Darien Roseen and not only unlawfully...

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GMOs Shown to be Safe? Science Media Center Exposed for Incredible GMO Deceit

by Christina Sarich – Real scientific research isn’t supposed to be political. It is, at its best, unbiased and curious, ready to observe an outcome from an experiment no matter what the facts say. Science Media Center has given the world a ‘false’ sense of truth about GMOs based on politicized science, not real science, and PR Watch explains why. The Science Media Center (SMC) influences governments. It acts as if its coverage of GMOs is unbiased, and their report on genetically modified ingredients was released with great fanfare. Their actions have outcomes that affect us all. Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom suggests that GMOs have been proven safe (with evidence from SMC) and his commissioned a new report to convince the UK that they need to rely on GM crops instead of imports. SMC’s ‘data’ was published prominently with media outlets like The Guardian and The Independent and it was featured by...

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Israeli Launches Air Strikes in Gaza After Rockets Fired

Meanwhile, Israel’s Netanyahu says there will be military presence in the West Bank even if a peace deal is reached The Israeli military carried out air strikes on the Gaza Strip Sunday, saying the air strikes were in retaliation for six rockets from Gaza that struck Israel the previous evening. Two of the rockets from the Hamas-ruled territory hit a factory in the southern town of Sderot, setting it ablaze. Israel’s foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, suggested reoccupying Gaza to stop the rocket fire, saying that limited military operations against armed groups in Gaza have only strengthened Hamas. “Either with each round we attack terror infrastructure and they shoot, or we go to full occupation,” Lieberman said on Army Radio. The military said it targeted 12 “terror activity” sites in Gaza where rockets had been launched or manufactured. It is unclear if there were causalities from the attacks. On Friday, an Israeli airstrike killed two Palestinians in Gaza...

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The CIA’s ‘Bin Laden Demon’ Action Figure Toy

By MBD, Political Blind Spot – The CIA would openly admit to deploying drones, satellites, spies, informants and tracking devices in their efforts to thwart Bin Laden. But one thing we might not have expected them to deploy is action figures. Nevertheless, starting back in around 2005, the CIA began secretly developing a ­custom-made Osama bin Laden ­action figure. Those familiar with the toy project say that the face of the figure was painted with a heat-dissolving material, which was designed to peel off to reveal a red-faced bin Laden who looked like a demon or “jinni”… at least how the CIA imagined them. The jinni Bin Laden had piercing green eyes and black facial markings, akin to Darth Maul from Star Wars, Episode 1. The bin Laden figure project was code-named “Devil Eyes.” Those associated with the project spoke on the condition of anonymity and said that they...

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Republican Candidate Convinced his Opponent is Dead and Using a Body Double as a Stand-in

By FaithGardner, Daily Kos – File this one under “strangest reason to challenge the results of a primary vote ever”: KFOR in Oklahoma reports that Timothy Ray Murray believes Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), his opponent in the congressional Republican primary, was executed three years ago and is being represented by a look-alike. Because he believes Lucas is really dead, Murray said he will challenge the results of Tuesday’s Republican primary, in which Murray received 5.2 percent of the vote. Lucas won the primary with 82.8 percent of the vote. Timothy Ray Murray is not only convinced his opponent is a body double (or, as he stated elsewhere, a “robot look-alike”), he also feels the need to clarify to the public that he, Murray, is NOT a body double: In the statement, Murray, who did not respond to an interview request, also reassured voters that he is not a body-double.“I, Timothy Ray...

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Wall Street Nervous as Sen. Sherrod Brown Vies for Banking Committee Chair

By mlangenmayr, Daily Kos – Well, this would be amazing: U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio is vying for the gavel of the powerful Senate banking committee in the next Congress – a possibility that has excited consumer groups but put big Wall Street banks on edge. So, how did the relatively junior Brown — he has “only” been in the Senate for eight years and currently ranks fifth in seniority on the committee — come to be a top prospect for a powerful committee chair? Well, retirements have Senate Democrats playing a little game of musical chairs: Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD), the current committee chair, is retiring. Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) is currently next in line on the committee. But… Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is also retiring. Reed is also next in line to lead this committee. He can only lead one major committee and...

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What’s at Stake in Monday’s Hobby Lobby Ruling from the Supreme Court

by Damon Root – On Monday morning, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to announce its final decisions of the 2013-2014 term. Only two cases still remain undecided, and one of them is perhaps the most closely watched case of the year: Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. At issue is the so-called Obamacare contraceptive mandate, the provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act which requires most businesses to cover birth control in their employee health plans. What are the legal issues at stake? Here’s a rundown from my recent column on the case: According to Hobby Lobby Stores Inc., an arts-and-crafts retailer owned and operated by a family of evangelical Christians, the contraceptive mandate forces both the business and its owners to violate their religious scruples by providing access to four methods of birth control they see as equivalent to abortion, such as the emergency contraceptive Plan...

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The Republicans get Medieval and Bring Back the Dork Ages

“From the Desk of NickiLeaks” At the end of a news day when Congress had done nothing that made sense or benefitted anyone but the ultra-rich, the last few people in the NickiLeaks newsroom had cracked open the bottles, rolled one or two spliffs and jumped on the Internet as a thought had spread and they were determined to check it out. The idea had sprung from a story on climate-change deniers saying there was no science that confirmed global warming. They said that in an air-conditioned room, it was noted. And, after a couple “Damn Bible-thumper!” comments, the religion editor, a devout Satanist, pointed out that what the Republicans were doing and saying was a lot like what was said – and got us into – the Dark Ages. Instantly, drinks were slammed and computers lit up. The first find was a quote by Ralph Hall of (of...

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Fog at Yellowstone

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The Colors of Kyoto

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In Bid for Millennials, Cities and States Promote Cycling

Competing for the most mobile generation ever By Tim Henderson, Stateline – If a 90-minute commute from Brooklyn to New Jersey sounds grueling in a car, just imagine it on a bicycle. Until a recent job change, 40-year-old Peter Schneider made that daily trip, biking 22 miles from his home in Brooklyn to his marketing job in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey — and he loved it. “Commuting and exercising at the same time kills two birds with one stone,” he said.  Cycling to work wouldn’t have been possible, Schneider said, without the protected bike lanes of the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway, a 32-mile route that circumnavigates the island of Manhattan. Communities across the country are weighing similar routes, believing that a cycling-friendly reputation will help them attract millennials and the creative and economic energy that comes with them. “States and cities are competing for the most mobile generation ever and so the job creators...

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Is Paid Family Leave Really Bad for Business?

Report demonstrates NJ program helped meet workers’ needs while imposing no undue burden  Washington, D.C.– Paid family leave was a major item on the agenda at this week’s White House Summit on Working Families. One of the items figuring prominently was paid family leave. This is not surprising. Despite the fact most people find themselves faced with the need to take time off to care for a parent, spouse or child, or to bond with a new baby, the United States remains the only rich country that does not mandate some form of paid leave at the nation level. Perhaps the biggest argument against paid leaves is that they impose heavy burdens and are bad for business. A new report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) shows that this is not the case. “It’s a valid question – whether paid family leave is bad for business  – and...

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