Monday, December 22, 2008



Associated Press -
Banks that are getting taxpayer bailouts awarded their top executives nearly $1.6 billion in salaries, bonuses, and other benefits last year, an Associated Press analysis reveals. The rewards came even at banks where poor results last year foretold the economic crisis that sent them to Washington for a government rescue. Some trimmed their executive compensation due to lagging bank performance, but still forked over multimillion-dollar executive pay packages. . . The total amount given to nearly 600 executives would cover bailout costs for many of the 116 banks that have so far accepted tax dollars to boost their bottom lines.

Express, UK - Sneering bankers have released a record mocking the economic misery facing millions of Britons. The single, Credit Crunch Christmas, features the chorus: "Sorry we ****** up your Christmas, but really we don't give a s***." One of the bankers, called the City Boyz, claims to have roped in his young son to sing in it. . . The song, available from iTunes, starts off innocently, with the child singing about how people are sad due to the credit crunch and how there will be no Christmas lunch or Nintendo toys for many. The video features drawings of dole queues and Woolworths stores closing down before launching into the unapologetic chorus. It also shows footage of bankers drinking and urinating in a London pub. Later lyrics include lines about people not being able to meet their Visa interest payments. . . City Boyz spokesman Dave said: "We were down O'Neills, p****d as usual and p****d off that we were getting the blame for the crunch all the bloody time. "Then we all thought you know what, we don't really give a s**t. We've all done OK, sod 'em. One of the guys came up with this chorus. We had the whole pub joining in so we knew were on to something!" In keeping with the City's reputation for looking after its own interests, royalties from the record will go towards another drinking session.


NY Times
- V. Gene Robinson, the Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire, whose consecration caused a painful divide in his church because he is openly gay, said that when he heard about the selection of Mr. Warren, "it was like a slap in the face." Bishop Robinson had been an early public endorser of Mr. Obama's candidacy, and said he had helped serve as a liaison between the campaign and the gay community. He said he had called officials who work for Mr. Obama to share his dismay, and been told that Mr. Obama was trying to reach out to conservatives and give everybody a seat at the table. "I'm all for Rick Warren being at the table," Bishop Robinson said, "but we're not talking about a discussion, we're talking about putting someone up front and center at what will be the most watched inauguration in history, and asking his blessing on the nation. And the God that he's praying to is not the God that I know."

CNN - "When Obama advances a progressive agenda on social issues, as he's certain to do, Warren will continue to speak out on the other side," wrote the Washington Monthly's Steve Benen. "Only now, he'll do so with the added authority that comes with being the president's hand-chosen pastor for the inauguration's invocation. Warren's status will soar, and his criticism of Obama's policies -- or Democrats' in general -- will resonate that much louder."

Politico - In a recent conversation with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Rahm Emanuel offered some advice on a Democratic House leadership race. Pelosi's response, according to several Democratic sources: It is "an internal House Democratic Caucus matter, and we'll handle it." Democratic insiders say there's no animosity between Pelosi and Emanuel, who's leaving his post as chairman of the House Democratic Caucus to become the next White House chief of staff. But the speaker is laying down the law nonetheless. In talks with Emanuel and others, sources say, Pelosi has "set parameters" for what she wants from Barack Obama and his White House staff - no surprises, and no backdoor efforts to go around her and other Democratic leaders by cutting deals with moderate New Democrats or conservative Blue Dogs. Specifically, Pelosi has told Emanuel that she wants to know when representatives of the incoming administration have any contact with her rank-and-file Democrats - and why, sources say.


Jerry Scroggin, owner-operator of Bayou Internet and Communications, wants the music and film industries to know that he's not a cop and he doesn't work for free. Scroggin, who sells Internet access to between 10,000 and 12,000 customers in Louisiana, heard the news on Friday that the Recording Industry Association of America has opted out of suing individuals for pirating music. Instead, the group representing the four largest music labels is forging partnerships with Internet service providers and asking them to crack down on suspected file sharers.

According to Scroggin, if RIAA representatives ask the help of his ISP, they had better bring their checkbook--and leave the legal threats at home. (CNET News obtained a copy of the RIAA's new notice to ISPs here). Scroggin said that he receives several notices each month with requests that he remove suspected file sharers from his network. Each time, he gets such a notice from an entertainment company, he sends the same reply. "I ask for their billing address," Scroggin said. "Usually, I never hear back."


Mike McKee, The Recorder -
Would-be heroes were warned by the California Supreme Court on Thursday that they could be liable for damages if they inadvertently injure a person while attempting a rescue. In a 4-3 ruling, the high court held that a state statute immunizing rescuers from liability applies only if the individual is providing medical care in an emergency situation. It doesn't apply when Good Samaritans accidentally cause injuries while, for example, pulling someone out of a burning house or diving into swirling waters to save a drowning swimmer. "After all," Justice Carlos Moreno wrote for the majority, "if the 'scene of an emergency' . . . means a scene where 'an individual has a need for immediate medical attention' . . . it logically follows that the Legislature intended for the phrase 'emergency care' . . . to refer to the medical attention given to the individual who needs it." In a concurring and dissenting opinion, Justice Marvin Baxter called the majority's reasoning an "arbitrary and unreasonable limitation" . . . "In the majority's view," Baxter wrote, "a passerby who, at the risk of his or her own life, saves someone about to perish in a burning building can be sued for incidental injury caused in the rescue, but would be immune for harming the victim during the administration of cardiopulmonary resuscitation out on the sidewalk."


- Warning that 'decision-making gridlock' has bogged down efforts to protect public health, a national panel of scientists recommended that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency overhaul its strategy for analyzing the hazards of toxic chemicals and pollutants. The reforms proposed by the committee would be the first major overhaul of the federal agency's framework for analyzing environmental risks in 25 years. Policy experts, environmentalists and others have complained for years that the EPA has been stricken with 'paralysis by analysis.'
The problems, they said, include "long delays in completing complex risk assessments, some of which take decades to complete; lack of data, which leads to important uncertainty in risk assessments; and the need for risk assessment of many unevaluated chemicals in the marketplace and emerging agents."


Drug War Chronicles -
For more than 30 years under the policy of "gedoogbeleid," which could best be translated as "pragmatic tolerance," the Dutch have allowed the sale of personal amounts of marijuana through the coffee house system, even though doing so is technically illegal. But lately, especially for those of us on this side of the water, a black cloud appears to be hovering over the coffee shops. The number of coffee shops has contracted from about 1,500 in 1995 to 720 now, as successive governments have tightened the screws. The current national government is hostile, if somewhat divided on the issue, and recent headlines about moves to close coffee shops in some border towns and reduce their numbers across the country add to the ominous picture.

But the picture is nowhere near as gloomy as presented by the occasional Reuters or Associated Press report covering such developments. Dutch cannabis policy is approaching a tipping point, the status quo is under pressure, but the end result is more likely to be the creation of a vertically-integrated legal cannabis production and sales industry than the end of the coffee houses and retreat back into prohibition.

Washington Post - Hawaii public school teachers signed off on first-in-the-nation statewide random drug testing in exchange for pay raises, but now the state claims the educators are trying to take the money and run. Since the teachers' union approved the pact nearly two years ago, they have accepted the 11 percent boost in pay while fighting the random tests as an illegal violation of their privacy rights. No teacher has been tested.. . . The union says it didn't consent to truly random drug testing in the contract, which says the parties "agree to negotiate reasonable suspicion and random drug and alcohol testing procedures." . . . The union's definition of "random" is limited to a pool of teachers who go on field trips, work with disabled children, are frequently absent or have criminal records.


A few weeks before 13-year-old Jonathan King killed himself, he told his parents that his teachers had put him in "time-out." The room where Jonathan King hanged himself . . . is no longer used, a school official said. The room where Jonathan King hanged himself is shown after his death. It is no longer used, a school official said. . . . Seclusion rooms, sometimes called time-out rooms, are used across the nation, generally for special needs children. Critics say that along with the death of Jonathan, many mentally disabled and autistic children have been injured or traumatized. Few states have laws on using seclusion rooms, though 24 states have written guidelines. . . . . . Based on conversations with officials in 22 states with written guidelines, seclusion is intended as a last resort when other attempts to calm a child have failed or when a student is hurting himself or others.


Governing - A company in the Netherlands has installed what it calls the world's first device that uses the motion of a revolving door to generate energy. The door in this case is the entrance to the Driebergen-Zeist railway station in the central part of the Netherlands. It's a high-traffic spot -- 8,500 commuters use the station every day. The door is expected to generate about 6,400 kwh of energy a year, roughly equal to the needs of one household.

Tree Hugger - Because the US encouraged increased planting of corn by 19% in 2006 and 2007 the number of insect pests that plague the soybean crop increased as well, causing lost yield to farmers or forcing them to apply more insecticide to deal with the problem. The pest in question is the soybean aphid and the cause of its increase is declines in ladybug populations. . . Though New Scientist frames it in the context of increased support for biofuels, it's just as much a further example of the problems of mono-crop agriculture in general, rather than bio fuel crops specifically.

The Local, Sweden - In a bid to increase energy efficiency, a town in western Sweden is planning to connect the local crematorium to its district heating system.
"To start with we're planning on heating our own facilities, but hopefully we can connect to the district heating network in the future," said Halmstad cemetery administrator Lennart Andersson to the Aftonbladet newspaper. . . Andersson hopes the cemetery's plans don't offend anyone, insisting the effort is being undertaking strictly on the basis of its environmental benefits. "There won't be anything different about the ashes," he said.


Dock Ellis, the former major league pitcher best remembered for his flamboyance and social activism as a member of the great Pittsburgh Pirates teams of the 1970s, died of a liver ailment in California. . . Dock Ellis won 138 games over 12 major league seasons. Ellis spent 12 years in the majors with Pittsburgh, the New York Yankees, Oakland, Texas and the New York Mets. He retired in 1979 with a record of 138-119, but was best known for several colorful incidents on and off the field. . . In his autobiography, "Dock Ellis in the Country of Baseball,'' Ellis revealed that he threw a no-hitter against the San Diego Padres in June 1970 while under the influence of LSD.

Contests you may not have been aware of - Obama made the challenge to the auto industry as he unveiled his final Cabinet picks - noting that he assembled an economic team "at an earlier point than any President in history" to confront the recession and warning of tough times ahead. - Politico


At December 22, 2008 7:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re: he assembled an economic team "at an earlier point than any President in history"
That's because his donor list (presidential cheat sheet) is constantly at the ready.

At December 25, 2008 9:51 AM, Anonymous robbie said...

The union's definition of "random" is limited to a pool of teachers who go on field trips, work with disabled children, are frequently absent or have criminal records.

That's not particularly encouraging. I mean, teaching normal, or normal enough, kids warrants no testing, but if the kids have "special needs" you should definitely make sure they're sober and clean. I mean...what? There are few enough teachers readily willing to deal with special needs children as it is, now this union wants to make sure the government goes after them? High hypocrisy.


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