Monday, May 12, 2008


Barack Obama's eloquence seems to fade without the aid of a couple of teleprompters. Given a hard question, he muddles around like a lawyer in front of a judge being asked a question he knows he should have researched before trial. - Sam Smith

The once-green Sahara turned to desert over thousands of years rather than in an abrupt shift as previously believed, according to a study that may help understanding of future climate changes. And there are now signs of a tiny shift back towards greener conditions in parts of the Sahara, apparently because of global warming, said the lead author of the report about the desert's history published in the journal Science. . . The findings, about one of the biggest environmental shifts of the past 10,000 years, challenge past belief based on evidence in marine sediments that a far quicker change created the world's biggest hot desert. . . A gradual drying, blamed on shifts in monsoon rains linked to shifts in the power of the sun, meant large amounts of dust started blowing in the region about 4,300 years ago. The Sahara now covers an area the size of the United States. Reuters

With rising oil prices and heightened concern about carbon emissions, riding a bicycle no longer seems quite so silly. The number of [NYC] bicyclists has grown by 75 percent during the past seven years, according to the city's count. Soon an ambitious city plan will make it possible for riders to traverse Manhattan via dedicated bike lanes and circumnavigate the island along the waterfront. Sheltered bicycle parking and thousands of new public bike racks are in place. - Boston Globe


A judge said she's inclined to boost a jury's damages award against the SF Weekly to $15.6 million and order the publication to stop trying to ruin the competing San Francisco Bay Guardian with below-cost ads.

Judge Marla Miller of San Francisco Superior Court said she believes she's required under state law to increase the damages and issue an injunction in light of the jury's March 5 verdict that the SF Weekly, part of a national chain of alternative newspapers, cut its advertising rates below its costs to undermine the locally owned Guardian. . . Both newspapers are distributed for free and depend on advertising for their revenue. Both have suffered declines in annual revenue since 2000, but the Guardian claimed in its lawsuit that the Weekly was using cash infusions from its parent company, Village Voice Media, to stay afloat and subsidize a rate-cutting campaign aimed at bankrupting its rival. San Francisco Chronicle

The battle over voting rights will expand this week as lawmakers in Missouri are expected to support a proposed constitutional amendment to enable election officials to require proof of citizenship from anyone registering to vote. The measure would allow far more rigorous demands than the voter ID requirement recently upheld by the Supreme Court, in which voters had to prove their identity with a government-issued card. Sponsors of the amendment - which requires the approval of voters to go into effect, possibly in an August referendum - say it is part of an effort to prevent illegal immigrants from affecting the political process. Critics say the measure could lead to the disenfranchisement of tens of thousands of legal residents who would find it difficult to prove their citizenship.

Jeff Brown was walking his bicycle - across his own front yard - when he was stopped by a police officer. The cop began to cite him for not having a headlight on the bike, then said, "I smell the presence of alcohol on your breath". Jeff was stunned - and refused to take a breath test. Result: convicted of drunk driving - with four days in jail, a 6-month driver’s license suspension and a criminal record. So Jeff decided to appeal. . . and started looking into why the Ohio Legislature in 2004 had changed the drunk driving laws from driving motor vehicles to include operating such "vehicles" as golf carts, lawn mowers, farm tractors and bicycles – and from driving on public roads to include driving on your own private property. DUI Blog

Hard times and high energy prices have thousands of residential customers owing Bangor Hydro-Electric Co. many millions of dollars. . . "Many of the people who are now coming to us for help faced the choice this past winter of either buying fuel oil for heat or paying their electric bills," said Sister Lucille MacDonald, who oversees the Emmaus Center in Ellsworth, Hancock County's only homeless shelter. "They had to have heat, so they put off paying their electric bills. Now that's catching up with them." Between the first of this year and May 1, Bangor Hydro sent disconnection letters to 32,632 residential customers in Hancock, Penobscot and Washington counties who, on average, owed the company $880. Collectively, those customers' unpaid electric bills totaled just over $7 million. During those same four months, Bangor Hydro mailed to another 13,422 households disconnection notices after previously negotiated payment plans went ignored and were deemed "broken agreements." On May 1, those customers, on average, owed the utility $2,263 and collectively had unpaid electric bills totaling nearly $7.4 million. - Ellsworth American, ME

Al Meyerhoff, Huffington Post - Over the Fourth of July weekend of 1999, I had the good fortune to accompany my then fiancée (and now happily my wife) to the McCain vacation home in Sedona where she was interviewing them for a Home & Garden Television show. The interview itself was entirely apolitical, focusing on fabrics and furnishing in their lovely Oak Creek abode, topics about which I do recall the senator was less than comfortable discussing. . . As McCain flipped burgers, I could not help but ask his views about then candidate George W. Bush. "He's as dumb as a stump," McCain offered. We then went on to discuss other matters (including Vietnam) but that quote remains seared in my memory.

After 20 years of loving Barack like he was a member of his own family, for Jeremiah [Wright] to see Barack saying over and over that he didn’t know about Jeremiah’s views during those years, that he wasn’t familiar with what Jeremiah had said, that he may have missed church on this day or that and didn’t hear what Jeremiah said, this is seen by Jeremiah as nonsense and betrayal," a source with ties to Wright told the Post’s Fredric Dicker. "Jeremiah is trying to defend his congregation and the work of his ministry by saying what he is saying" and "doesn’t care if he derails Obama’s candidacy or not." - NY Post

The Los Angeles Times notes that the worst thing that could happen to Sen. Barack Obama "now is what so many party members are clamoring for: Hillary Rodham Clinton to drop out." "Why? Because with her name still on the ballots, she'd be very likely to win in West Virginia anyway. And maybe Kentucky too, given the demographics in both places. And possibly Puerto Rico as well. How would that look if at the end of the Democratic race the winning candidate with clearly the most delegates and popular votes went down to defeat against a candidate who isn't in the contest anymore?" - Political Wire

We have been urging Greens to spend more time on local races and less on the big ones as a more effective way to build the movement. The opportunities are impressive. Take Arkansas, for example. The Arkansas News Bureau reports: So, before a single state primary vote was cast - early voting began Monday - Democrats were assured a House majority with 51 unopposed candidates, with House Republicans garnering 12 seats the easy way, about half way to at least maintaining the 25 House seats they currently hold. Thirteen of the 18 Senate seats up for election this year were uncontested, giving eight Democrats and five Republicans a clear path to office. Overall, 76 of the 118 seats up for election are uncontested, about 65 percent.

In 2006, a voting rights suit against the winner-take-all, at-large voting system for the Amarillo College board of regents had been settled with cumulative voting. Cumulative voting is non-winner-take-all voting method where candidates run in multi-seat districts and voters have as many votes as seats and can allocate their votes however they wish rather than cast only one vote person candidate. It has been used since 2000 for the Amarillo Independent School District, each time resulting in at least one person of color winning after two decades of no racial minority winning with the old winner-take-all system - currently the seven-member board has one African American and one Latina. On May 10, three at-large seats were elected to the college board, using cumulative voting for the first time. One person of color ran - African American incumbent Prenis Williams, who had been appointed in 2006. He comfortably finished first. (Also, Latina incumbent Lilia Escajeda was unopposed in a separate election for board chair). - Rob Richie, Fair Vote

With more than 23,000 Greens in Maine, the state will play a critical role in determining who will represent the party on the ballot in November. Maine is behind only California in the number of delegates it can send to the national convention in July, said Jane Meisenbach, chairwoman of the Maine Green Independent Party board.. . . Jon Olsen of Jefferson, a founding member of the Hawaii Green Party in 1989, said Greens are particularly angry about the war in Iraq and the government's failed response in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. "We see that the present government that we've got, with Democrats and Republicans, has been a total disaster and getting worse, led by this present administration," he said. Olsen said that Greens' frustration with Democrats and Republicans is aimed at Washington politicians, and that Greens work well with the major parties in Maine. Portland Press Herald

For the Democrats, proportional representation, rather than producing chaos, underscored the party’s commitment to inclusion. Democrats are more likely to speak about equality, social justice and fairness in election campaigns than Republicans, and proportional representation is more compatible with those themes than a winner-take-all method. Alan Wolfe, Washington Post




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