PR Industry Fills Vacuum Left by Shrinking Newsrooms - "You would go into these hearings and there would be more PR people representing these big players than there were reporters, sometimes by a factor of two or three" ..it's getting tougher to know when a storyline originates with a self-interested party producing its own story.
Jeff Stone, a politician from Riverside County, wants 13 conservative Southern California counties to secede and become the country's 51st state.
Why I Quit My Job Kai Nagata on why he just quit his job as CTV's Quebec City bureau chief at age 24: a critique of Canadian government and media.
Last fall, Minnesotans elected a Democratic governor who pledged to tax the rich and a majority Republican legislature who swore by no new taxes, period. Their first major task? Craft a budget for the next biennium that addressed a projected $5 billion shortfall. Months passed, no agreement was reached, and this morning at midnight, the Minnesota government shut down. Citizens on both sides are not pleased. [more inside]
60 percent of Americans using a prominent tax deduction believe they get nothing from "government social programs." Cornell professor Suzanne Mettler describes what she calls the "submerged state," in which tens of millions of Americans benefit from $1 trillion of federal subsidies to private activities while believing they receive no benefits from the government. [more inside]
"There are no national standards or regulations regarding forensic pathology and practices vary widely from place to place."
The Hardest Cases: When Children Die, Justice Can Be Elusive A joint investigation by PBS Frontline, ProPublica and NPR has found that medical examiners and coroners have repeatedly mishandled cases of infant and child deaths, helping to put innocent people behind bars. (Via. (Article contains descriptions of children that have been killed by abuse. May be disturbing / triggering to some readers.) [more inside]
US Secretary of the Treasury, Tim Geithner '83 Speaks at Dartmouth Summer Lecture Series "Leading Voices in Politics & Policy". Geithner's alma mater is Dartmouth College.
The U.S.'s military bases in Afghanistan and Iraq are mostly staffed by Third Country Nationals (TCN), who are often victims of human trafficking. [more inside]
OSHA's 1984 Fatal Facts report comes illustrated with surprisingly sangfroid cartoons of workplace accidents.
Joel Klein wrote an essay in the Atlantic about the reasons for the current problems in the primary educational system.
How edumacated is your state legislature? (sorry, U.S. only) The Chronicle of Higher Education takes on the issue of how educated U.S. lawmakers at the state level are/should be. [more inside]
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is giving significant new powers to its roughly 14,000 agents, allowing them more leeway to search databases, go through household trash or use surveillance teams to scrutinize the lives of people who have attracted their attention.
The top 10 federal contractors related in a sociogram displaying the network of overlapping lobbyist hires.
The Age of Imperialism is over, but its impact remains, leaving behind a long-lasting legacy through cultural norms. Comparing individuals on opposite sides of the long-gone Habsburg Empire border within five countries, it shows that firms and people living in what used to be the empire have higher trust in courts and police.
In the wake of ever deeper budget cuts, public schools have begun charging students for basics, such as registering for honors or elective classes.
The Destruction of Economic Facts - "Renowned Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto argues that the financial crisis wasn't just about finance—it was about a staggering lack of knowledge" (via) [more inside]
It is a strange, dubious and totally unaccepted moral purpose which holds the whole of the world to ransom.On 1 March 1985, New Zealand Prime Minister Rt Hon David Lange (Previously) addressed the Oxford Union in support of the proposition that "Nuclear Weapons are Morally Indefensible". That speech is online at publicaddress.net (audio, transcript, highlights) and still resonates today. [more inside]
The National Endowment for the Arts' new Arts in Media Guidelines now include video games as an art form eligible for federal grants. [more inside]
With the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act being argued in lower courts, it's probably also worth looking at Vermont's adoption of single-payer health care: "On May 26, Gov. Peter Shumlin of Vermont is expected to sign legislation that will create universal coverage in the state—eventually. Vermont will use subsidies from the Affordable Care Act to help create a Canada-style system. And its system, or so the theory goes, will become so popular and cheap that the rest of America will want to copy it." [more inside]
"I realized that I was one of those extremely rare individuals who was a former POW of the drug war, and who got out and had the opportunity to share his story with the world." "It kind of makes an activist out of you when 3 helicopters land in your backyard and guys jump out with guns and destroy your place before your very eyes." Exile Nation is a documentary [complete film] [trailer] and an ongoing memoir, a work of “spiritual journalism”, and eventually "a documentary archive of interviews and testimonies […] revealing the far-ranging consequences of the War on Drugs to the American Criminal Justice System." [more inside]
Dozens of concerned citizens will march on London this weekend to protest high taxation and government debt. Sound familiar? The rally is the first sign of what The Guardian terms "a radical Tea Party-style mass movement" in the UK. Organisers The Taxpayers' Alliance have previously been linked to the US-based Freedom Works.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has launched a new interactive mapping tool for Community Planning and Development agencies, interested agency partners, and the public. [more inside]
Mozilla recently received a request from the US Department of Homeland Security to disable and block at the root level the MAFIAAfire plug-in for Firefox. Mozilla declined to roll over.
Americhrome: The color that has come to signify America in today’s combat theaters isn’t the red, the white, or the blue picked by Betsy Ross, but an ignoble sandy hue commonly referred to as desert tan and officially identified as Federal Standard 595 Color No. 33446. The official swatch of desert tan is housed in Franconia, Va., just outside Washington’s beltway, in a warehouse filled with the rest of the federal government’s certified color chips. From there, for $625, you can purchase a complete set of the 650 three-by-five-inch cards that define the colors covering the vast majority of items purchased by the Federal Acquisition Service, a $50 billion subsection of the General Services Administration, which acts as a kind of equipment manager for federal agencies around the country...
How Britain's largest corporations helped engineer the release of Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber.
John Mueller and Mark Stewart may have found the one part of government we can afford to cut in their paper "Terror, Security, and Money: Balancing the Risks, Benefits, and Costs of Homeland Security" From the abstract "The cumulative increase in expenditures on US domestic homeland security over the decade since 9/11 exceeds one trillion dollars. It is clearly time to examine these massive expenditures applying risk assessment and cost-benefit approaches that have been standard for decades."
The Douglass Blvd. Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky has voted to stop signing marriage licenses until gay marriage is legalized by the state.
Interactive map of international adoptions, from the superlative Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism. The site contains an amazing amount of information about corruption in international adoption in countries like Nepal and Vietnam.
9 Things The Rich Don't Want You To Know About Taxes - "4. Many of the very richest pay no current income taxes at all: Paulson made himself $9 billion in fees in just two years. His current tax bill on that $9 billion? Zero... 9. Other countries do it better: no one in Germany or the rest of the modern world goes broke because of accident or illness" (via) [more inside]
Fareed Zakaria: Are America's Best Days Behind Us? - "We have an Electoral College that no one understands and a Senate that doesn't work, with rules and traditions that allow a single Senator to obstruct democracy without even explaining why. We have a crazy-quilt patchwork of towns, municipalities and states with overlapping authority, bureaucracies and resulting waste. We have a political system geared toward ceaseless fundraising and pandering to the interests of the present with no ability to plan, invest or build for the future. And if one mentions any of this, why, one is being unpatriotic, because we have the perfect system of government, handed down to us by demigods who walked the earth in the late 18th century and who serve as models for us today and forever. America's founders would have been profoundly annoyed by this kind of unreflective ancestor worship." [for/against]
Out of thin air? "Have you ever said something like 'Let me buy you a beer next week'? I'm sure you have. We all issue promises of this sort. And we frequently use such promises as a form of currency... I have just described a simple credit exchange. Societies rely heavily on promising-making and promise-keeping. It is the foundation of all financial markets. I'd like to point out something about the promises you make. They are made 'out of thin air.' " [more inside]
Will there be a government shutdown? Everything seems to hang on GOP riders. But it affects more than the federal employees and contractors. For example, National Parks will close. And so will DC services. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton tells Congress off, while DC residents wonder what are we going do with all our trash?
With the crackdown on smoking and higher cigarette taxes in New York City, people who sell individual cigarettes, also known as loosies, are rapidly gaining new customers.
“I had reached the point of no return. You finally get fed up … I finally wanted to speak the truth.”
Last year, the unofficial Dean of the White House Press Corps, Helen Thomas, spoke about the State of Israel on camera. (Previously) Her replies: "Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine," and that the Jews "can go home" to "Poland, Germany and America and everywhere else," sparked media outrage, prompted her to issue an apology and retire. After months of being out of the the public spotlight, she has now given her first long-form interview, which will appear in the April issue of Playboy Magazine. In it, she explains what she meant, tells us how she would like to be remembered and expands upon her positions regarding Israel, Jewish political influence, Presidents Bush and Obama, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
How two American kids became big-time weapons traders - "Working with nothing but an Internet connection, a couple of cellphones and a steady supply of weed, the two friends — one with a few college credits, the other a high school dropout — had beaten out Fortune 500 giants like General Dynamics to score the huge arms contract. With a single deal, two stoners from Miami Beach had turned themselves into the least likely merchants of death in history." (via; previously on arms contractors)
Government of Bahrain declares state of emergency. Mixture of Saudi, UAE, and other GCC troops enter Bahrain upon invitation. [more inside]
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives deliberately allowed assault rifles to be smuggled into Mexico, so they could be tracked. The weapons were then used in a spree of murders, including that of US Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry. The operation was called "Fast and Furious". The Mexican government was apparently unaware of the operation, and is investigating. The ATF is going to have a review of whether their strategy supports "the goals of ATF to stem the illegal flow of firearms to Mexico".
With the institution of No Child Left Behind, educational testing in the US boomed. Now, some of the low paid temp workers hired to score these tests are speaking out about the behind the scenes manipulation that goes on to ensure test scores are in line with "customer expectations".
Fed up with anti-smoker sentiments and taxation of cigarettes, Audrey Silk decided to plant her own tobacco at her home in Brooklyn.
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) recently announced the rollout of a searchable map, which also offers a nation-wide view of internet service providers with filters for various technologies. The map is based on information collected from broadband providers or other data sources. [more inside]
Enjoying your Friday night? Be careful out there. In between other things, including voting for huge cuts to the EPA's budget and regulating power, the U.S. House of Representatives just voted to eliminate Title X, originally signed into law 40 years ago by Republican President Richard Nixon, which provides funding for Planned Parenthood. [more inside]
Inside the Secret Service. Sidebars: Radio Chatter and The Presidential Motorcade (Via) [more inside]
Filibustery, making the filibuster — and the proposals in the U.S. Senate to reform it — more understandable. [more inside]
Debtris. From Information is Beautiful.
Professors' global model forecasts civil unrest against governments - With protests spreading in the Middle East (now Yemen - not on the list) I thought this article and blog on a forecast model predicting "which countries will likely experience an escalation in domestic political violence [within the next five years]" was rather interesting. [more inside]
In Norway, Start-ups Say Ja to Socialism - We venture to the very heart of the hell that is Scandinavian socialism—and find out that it's not so bad. Pricey, yes, but a good place to start and run a company. What exactly does that suggest about the link between taxes and entrepreneurship?
From the Pentagon to the private sector - In large numbers, and with few rules, retiring generals are taking lucrative defense-firm jobs [more inside]