July 20, 2013 archive

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On This Day In History July 20

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

July 20 is the 201st day of the year (202nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 164 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1881, Sitting Bull surrenders.

Five years after General George A. Custer’s infamous defeat at the Battle of Little Bighorn, Hunkpapa Teton Sioux leader Sitting Bull surrenders to the U.S. Army, which promises amnesty for him and his followers. Sitting Bull had been a major leader in the 1876 Sioux uprising that resulted in the death of Custer and 264 of his men at Little Bighorn. Pursued by the U.S. Army after the Indian victory, he escaped to Canada with his followers.


Hunger and cold eventually forced Sitting Bull, his family, and nearly 200 other Sioux in his band to return to the United States and surrender on July 19, 1881. Sitting Bull had his young son Crow Foot surrender his rifle to the commanding officer of Fort Buford. He told the soldiers that he wished to regard them and the white race as friends. Two weeks later, Sitting Bull and his band were transferred to Fort Yates, the military post located adjacent to the Standing Rock Agency.

Arriving with 185 people, Sitting Bull and his band were kept separate from the other Hunkpapa gathered at the agency. Army officials were concerned that the famed chief would stir up trouble among the recently surrendered northern bands. On August 26, 1881, he was visited by census taker William T. Selwyn who counted twelve people in the Hunkpapa leader’s immediate family. Forty-one families, totaling 195 people, were recorded in Sitting Bull’s band. The military decided to transfer him and his band to Fort Randall, to be held as prisoners of war. Loaded onto a steamboat, Sitting Bull’s band, now totaling 172 people, were sent down the Missouri River to Fort Randall. There they spent the next 20 months. They were allowed to return to the Standing Rock Agency in May 1883.


Billions more in potential damages in BP Oil Disaster

Potentially some good news in victim compensation in the Deepwater Horizon spill.  In March BP agreed to a  scheme for awarding financial damages with lawyers representing the class of people who suffered economic harm.

In the 1000 page agreement, certified by a Louisiana Judge, awards were to be determined by the income and revenue before and after the disaster.

As it turns out the amount could double or more the $8.5 Billion BP estimated AND their fines for environmental damage could be $23 Billion more than the $25 Billion they have already spent on clean up.

So in total this could end up costing them north of $55 Billion.  Good news if you believe in justice and accountability, bad news if you’re a BP shareholder.

US government assessment of BP oil spill ‘will not account for damage’

Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian

Thursday 11 July 2013 08.17 EDT

A report from the National Research Council said the US government’s efforts to put a price on damage from the April 2010 disaster failed to capture the full extent of the environmental and economic losses in Gulf waters and coastal areas, fisheries, marine life, and the deep sea caused by BP’s runaway well.

Compiled by a team of 16 scientists at the request of Congress, the study went on to call for a sweeping overhaul of methods for putting a price on environmental losses – especially after an event on the scale of the BP disaster.

The researchers noted that 20 million people in the US alone lived and worked around the Gulf of Mexico. Before the April 2010 disaster, the Gulf accounted for about a quarter of the country’s seafood catch. It also provided about 30% of America’s oil and nearly 20% of natural gas. Meanwhile, coastal wetlands provided protection against storm surges.

But the report noted: “Disruptions in the ecosystem caused by the oil spill could impair these services, leading to economic and social impacts that may not be apparent from an assessment of environmental damage alone.”

The April 2010 explosion killed 11 workers aboard the oil rig, and spewed more than 4m barrels of oil into the Gulf, according to the US government’s estimate. It was the worst offshore oil spill in US history.

BP says it has spent $25bn so far in clean-up and restoration costs. It owes the government an additional $4.5bn in fines. The company is also on the hook for an $8bn settlement of economic claims – a figure which is uncapped and growing.

BP could be facing even more expensive litigation in the autumn, involving fines of up to $17.5bn under the Clean Water Act.

Billions more hinge on the outcome of a trial involving claims by the federal government and five Gulf states for restoring damage to natural resources. Government scientists are now engaged in a closely guarded exercise of trying to get a full accounting of the damage done to the Gulf, and the cost of restoring oiled coastlines and waters, and protecting populations of marine wildlife, such as dolphins, which have suffered die-offs since the disaster.

BP appeals against ‘inflated’ Deepwater Horizon claims

Associated Press

Monday 8 July 2013 14.45 EDT

Ted Olson made the arguments in a packed courtroom before a three-judge panel of the 5th US circuit court of appeals. A lower court has already refused to block payments to businesses that claim the spill cost them money.

Olson, who served as solicitor general under former president George W Bush, attacked the payout process. “Irreparable injustices are taking place and money is being dispensed to parties from whom it may not be recoverable,” he said. Under the settlement, BP initially estimated that it would pay $7.8bn (¬£5.2bn) to resolve claims by tens of thousands of Gulf Coast residents and businesses. Now the company says it no longer can give a reliable estimate for how much the deal will cost, amid reports that it could be double the initial forecast.

Awards to businesses are based on a comparison of their revenues and expenses before and after the spill. BP says a “policy decision” that Juneau announced in January 2013 allows businesses to manipulate those figures.

The panel opened Monday’s hearing by asking Olson whether the court has jurisdiction in a case involving a settlement already approved by the parties in the case and a US district court judge. Judge James Dennis seemed sceptical at times, asking: “How can we go beyond the four corners of the agreement?”

Deepwater Horizon: BP cry foul as 10,000 claims flood in each month

Dominic Rushe, The Observer

Saturday 6 July 2013

Last week, the judge Carl Barbier, who is overseeing the multibillion-dollar civil damages case against BP, appointed Louis Freeh, a former judge and head of the FBI, to look into allegations of misconduct at the office that administers compensation claims.

So far, the company has had little luck arguing against the scheme that it set up last March. A panel of three judges will hear tomorrow’s appeal, in which each side has 20 minutes to state its case. BP argues that the compensation committee is ignoring the accepted legal meaning of words such as “revenue” and “earnings” in the way that it assesses claims.

(Daniel) Jacobs (visiting scholar at UCLA institute of the environment and sustainability) said Freeh’s appointment was further evidence of Barbier’s determination to make sure that BP received a fair hearing. “If you really want something investigated, you hire Freeh. He is going to get to the bottom of it. I have a lot of faith in Barbier, he’s doing an incredible job. These are serious allegations and they are being treated seriously,” he said.

“BP has been whining for a while, maybe because they think Juneau is more lenient than Feinberg, but Barbier has the jurisdiction to reverse any of these awards and is overseeing the appeals process. I don’t know what else BP wants to be done here.”

Jacobs added that it was difficult to see BP as an innocent victim given its record in the US. The company has been fined and publicly censured for other accidents, including the Texas City refinery explosion in 2005 that killed 15 people and injured 170.

“BP writ large is a felon and a recidivist. They have a terrible record in the environmental arena and other areas.”

Late Night Karaoke

Grayson’s Amendment

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

If you can’t get congress to abide by the Constitution and its amendments, then resort to a tactic they might fall for, amend the egregious law with the appropriate amendment:

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Congressman Alan Grayson (FL-09) submitted an amendment today to the National Defense Authorization Act, which would prohibit the Department of Defense from collecting information on U.S. citizens without probable cause of a terrorism or criminal offense. Grayson’s amendment is a response to recent reports that the National Security Agency (NSA), which falls under the Defense Department, has been secretly collecting the telephone records and the private internet communications of U.S. citizens.

Grayson called these reports “disturbing.” “Without probable cause, there’s no excuse for the NSA to be compiling this type of data on American citizens who have done nothing wrong-particularly without their knowledge,” he said. “This amendment prevents the Defense Department from collecting ANY information about U.S. citizens within the country-no telephone records, no internet records, no physical locations-unless there is probable cause of a terrorism or criminal offense.

Grayson's Amendment to the NDAA photo Graysonamend_zps0e008d5d.png

Click on image to enlarge

What digby said:

Hmm. I could swear I’ve heard that somewhere before. Oh wait:


The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized

I can’t wait to see how many members of Congress vote against the 4th Amendment.

This should not be necessary.

Wall Street’s Biggest Fear: Eliot Spitzer

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Why is the financial world freaking out over the possibility of former New York State Governor Eliot Spitzer becoming New York City’s Comptroller? Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts Thomas Ferguson laid it out in his article republished at naked capitalism:

Who, when the Justice Department, Congress, and the Securities and Exchange Commission all defaulted in the wake of a tidal wave of financial frauds, creatively used New York State’s Martin Act to go where they wouldn’t and subpoena emails and corporate records of the malefactors of great wealth, winning convictions and big settlements.

Who in 2005, as New York State Attorney General, actually sued AIG instead of thinking up ways to hand it billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money.

Who brought a suit over the Gilded Age compensation package Stock Exchange head Richard Grasso had been awarded by his chums on the board.

And who in 2013 with business as usual once again the order of the day, is promising to review how the Comptroller’s Office, which controls New York City’s vast pension funds, does business with Wall Street and corporate America. With his incisive questions about Wall Street’s fee structures and criticism of the passive stances most pension funds take to skyrocketing executive compensation in the companies they invest in, Eliot Spitzer is the last person on earth Wall Street wants to see in that slot.

The chorus of outrage from Wall Street pundits and media over Spitzer’s return after embarrassing exit from the governor’s office after his out of state tryst with prostitutes (omg, he had the nerve to use his own money) and, according to a New York Times article, his out of control ego and combative, go-it-alone style.

Prof. Ferguson dismisses the hyperbole as a “smoke screen” for the real objections that Spitzer would stop Wall Street from using the city’s pension funds to make profits for the 1% while cheating the workers out of a lifetime of investment. Spitzer as an activist for the 99% scares the crap out of them.

The compelling case for activism in the Comptroller’s Office by somebody of Spitzer’s intelligence, knowledge, and experience rests mostly on quite different grounds. As Spitzer has observed, most pension funds put up little or no resistance to management’s soaring claims for compensation. These come massively at the expense of investors as a group; pushing back would benefit investors in general and, obviously, beneficiaries of City pension funds. At a time when the air is filled with sometimes dubious claims of pension fund inadequacies, increasing returns to the City pension funds would be a real triumph. You can be sure, however, that the threat to ever-escalating executive salaries fuels a lot of the animus to Spitzer within much of big business and finance.

No less important, though, is another reality to which Spitzer has alluded to from time to time. Wall Street overcharges for financial advice and pension funds often find it expedient to tolerate this, rather than shop vigorously around. Studies of pension funds returns routinely note the frequency with which high fees accompany relatively shoddy performance, often over many years. It is high time attention was focused on this situation; Spitzer would likely do that.

And the Office of the Comptroller has subpoena power, that’s a lot of power:

First, part of the comptroller’s job is ensuring that private sector employees working on city projects are paid the prevailing wage. If an employer, for example a construction company, is reported to be paying workers below-market rates, the comptroller can open an investigation and subpoena payroll records if the employer won’t cooperate.

In addition, the comptroller has the authority to review all legal settlements entered into by the city’s corporation counsel. Last fiscal year, the city paid $486 million to settle lawsuits filed against its agencies or employees, the comptroller’s office said in a report last month. The settlements were for cases such as malpractice at city hospitals or police misconduct.

That’s just for starters.

Random Japan

 photo DeathNote_Anime_Cast_500.jpg

Citing an inability to communicate with members of the international community, a government panel recommended that Japanese officials “use more English.”

Authorities at the education ministry are set to introduce a program “in which non-native Japanese speaking students can learn the Japanese language during regular class hours.”

Speaking at a symposium in San Diego, former Prime Minister Naoto Kan said that “the Fukushima disaster changed [my] view of nuclear power.”

After receiving complaints from the public, officials at the environment ministry withdrew their recommendation that female office workers use “antiperspirants, scented laundry softeners, cold sprays and wet tissues” to keep cool during summer.

Obama Explains NSA Surveillance

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

President Obama Address NSA Surveillance Concerns

President Obama explains why Americans should not be concerned about the NSA’s secret data collection program and that he is very different from George W. Bush.

With special thanks to Mike Masnick at Techdirt who also provided a partial transcript of his favorite lines which, as he says, is  most of the video.

Warning: Do Not Eat or Drink While Watching

Health and Fitness News

Welcome to the Health and Fitness News, a weekly diary which is cross-posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette. It is open for discussion about health related issues including diet, exercise, health and health care issues, as well as, tips on what you can do when there is a medical emergency. Also an opportunity to share and exchange your favorite healthy recipes.

Questions are encouraged and I will answer to the best of my ability. If I can’t, I will try to steer you in the right direction. Naturally, I cannot give individual medical advice for personal health issues. I can give you information about medical conditions and the current treatments available.

You can now find past Health and Fitness News diaries here and on the right hand side of the Front Page.

Apricots to Savor, While You Can

Celebrating Apricots photo recipehealthpromo-tmagArticle_zps4a8a3746.jpg

Apricots are an early summer fruit, and their short season is now. They’re worth buying, for the purposes of both taste and nutrition, only when you can find them ripe. You don’t want them so ripe that they bruise as soon as you put them into a bag – they should be slightly firm to the touch, as apricots ripen from the inside out – but if they were picked green they will have little flavor, and they’ll have that mealy texture that describes a bad apricot.

The fact that 95 percent of the apricots grown in the United States are from California doesn’t mean that you can’t find good ones that were picked at the right time if you live elsewhere. Whole Foods watches the crops carefully and sells all of the terrific varieties, like Blenheims, that we find out here in California in our farmers’ markets. I’m lucky to live in Southern California, where the apricot season is longer than in other parts of the state (mid-May to mid-August; it ends in mid-July in Northern California), so I’ve already had some time to work on this year’s apricot recipes.

~Martha Rose Shulman~

Buckwheat Crepes With Roasted Apricots

A delicious combination of earthy/nutty crepes and sweet and tangy apricots.

Apricot Crumble With Oatmeal Topping

A topping prepared ahead of time means this satisfying dessert takes only 20 minutes to bake.

Pan-Cooked Chicken Scaloppine With Spiced Roasted Apricots

Roasted apricots go well with savory dishes like these chicken breasts, or your vegetarian favorite.

Soufflé Omelet With Apricot Sauce

Beaten egg whites keep this Cointreau-spiked dessert omelet light and airy.

Small Apricot Galettes

Simple, rustic tarts show off peak-season fruit.

Christian “activists” hating on trans kids

The Christian right just hates the idea of transgender children.  Their specific target this time is a camp for transgender girls.

 photo 10_zpsfe1d1c00.jpgThe camp, known as “You Are You”, is in its third year.  It’s a place where trans kids and their families can gather to network with others in a similar situation.  You can see for yourself just how obscene that can be as documented by photographer Lindsay Morris.  Or, you know, you could choose to see kids being happy.

The camp offers itself as…

…a temporary safe haven where gender-variant boys can freely express their interpretations of femininity alongside their parents and siblings.

But there is a different view from those so-called “activists”.

There is a risk of locking children into a life course, which, if they had been left to develop naturally, they would have outgrown.

–Peter Sprigg, Family Research Council