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WEEKLY WONK

Originally Published: 5/17/2014

Climate Change:  2 scientific papers released this week came to similar conclusions by different means. Both groups of scientists found that West Antarctic glaciers had retreated far enough to set off an inherent instability in the ice sheet, one that experts have feared for decades. NASA called a telephone news conference Monday to highlight the urgency of the findings. Researchers from the University of California Irvine and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab found that the group of 6 glaciers on the ice sheet directly draining into the Amundsen Sea “are rapidly melting, as warming ocean water eats away at the base of the ice shelf.” This is enough ice that, when melted, will cause the global sea level to rise by more than 15 feet. And it’s happening now. The researchers say that we have reached the point of no return. “The retreat of this ice seems to be unstoppable.” Another study, conducted by researchers at the University of Washington and published in the journal Science, found that the Thwaites Glacier, one of the 6 glaciers, could collapse within 200 to 500 years. (TimeThe Guardian has a great little video of how the melting ice erodes. Climate Central published a map of the U.S. coastal cities that will be most effected. Also, research by Australian National University found that winds in the Southern Ocean “are blowing at their strongest in a millennia,” a result of rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. The stronger winds will leave “Antarctica colder and Australia facing more droughts.” (AFP) And, finally, the Center for Naval Analyses Military Advisory Board published a report claiming, once again, that global climate change poses a national security risk and “acts as a catalyst for global political conflict.” (NY TimesRemember more than 97% of scientists agree that this is happening, yet deniers are still out there. Watch what John Oliver had to say about it. (You Tube)

 

NSA Spying:  In case you missed it, Frontline is running an exposé called United States of Secrets on the history of NSA spying. Part I was this week; Part II will be next week. You can watch it online, or catch it on your local PBS station.

 

Google:  A ruling by the European Union’s Court of Justice said that “Google must delete ‘inadequate, irrelevant, or no longer relevant’ data from its results when a member of the public requests it.” The case was brought by a Spanish man who brought the suit “after he failed to secure the deletion of an auction notice of his repossessed home dating from 1998 on the website of a mass circulation newspaper in Catalonia.” Apparently under the EU data protection directive, events on the Internet have a “right to be forgotten.” (Guardian)

 

Arkansas:  The Arkansas Supreme Court granted the state attorney general’s request for a stay of Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza’s ruling that the ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. (TWW, Arkansas, 5/10/14) There will be no same-sex marriage while the case is being appealed. (Al Jazeera)

 

California:  An oil pipeline ruptured in a Los Angeles neighborhood, “spewing more than 50,000 gallons of crude oil over an approximately half-square-mile area. . . In some places, the oil was knee-high.” (LA Times)

 

Idaho:  U.S. Magistrate Judge Candy Dale, who overturned Idaho’s ban on same-sex marriage, denied Governor C.I. “Butch” Otter’s request for a stay while the state pursues an appeal. (Reuters)

 

Texas:  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans granted a stay of the execution of Robert James Campbell just 2 hours before his scheduled execution. The stay was granted so that the courts could review his claim that he is mentally disabled. (NY Times)

 

Vermont:  Legislators have passed a bill increasing the minimum wage to $10.50 an hour over the next 4 years. Currently the state’s minimum wage is $8.73. Governor Peter Shumlin (D) said: “I will be proud to sign it.” (Boston Globe)

 

Net Neutrality:  The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) knuckled under to lobbyists. In a 3 to 2 party-line vote, the FCC approved “advancing a proposal” that would allow Internet service providers to charge websites for higher-quality delivery of their content. This “could unleash a new economy on the Web where an Internet service provider such as Verizon would charge a Web site such as Netflix for the guarantee of flawless video streaming. Smaller companies that can’t afford to pay for faster delivery would likely face additional obstacles against bigger rivals. And consumers could see a trickle-down effect of higher prices as Web sites try to pass along new costs of doing business with Internet service providers.” Check out this You Tube video for a real good description of what this means. Remember, this is not yet final, but with a 3 to 2 vote, it appears the plan will be approved. (Washington Post) This will enhance the “big money” voice and limit the “people’s” voice on the Internet. Guess who’s behind it and guess who’s going to be screwed. Voice your opinion. You have 120 days to comment. Here’s how to do it. Go to http://apps.fcc.gov/ecfs/hotdocket/list and click on docket 14-28. Fill in your name and address, and then write in your comments. Submit! Do it. NOW!

 

Same Sex Marriage:  Ever wonder where it stands in the U.S.? The Washington Post put up this interactive map. Click on your state to find out what’s happening.

 

Women’s Health:  According to a report in the journal Lancet, the U.S. ranks 60th out of 180 countries on maternal deaths during pregnancy and childbirth. That means that for every 100,000 births, 18.5 U.S. women died - compared to 8.2 women in Canada, 6.1 in Britain, and 2.4 in Iceland. A woman giving birth in America is more than twice as likely to die as a woman in Saudi Arabia or China. And some people think we have the best healthcare in the world.

 

Woodwork Effect:  As you know, 26 states decided not to take the Affordable Care Act (ACA) money and expand their Medicaid programs to cover more poor people. However, we now have the Woodwork Effect - people who were previously eligible for Medicaid that didn’t sign up before but are now signing up. “Medicaid enrollment in 17 of the 26 states . . . saw their rolls increase by a combined 550,300 new beneficiaries.” The new enrollees vary considerably from state to state. (Washington Post)

 

Keystone XL Pipeline:  The Energy Efficiency Improvement Act, which would increase energy-efficiency requirements for federal buildings, among other things, was passed last March by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. Yeah. It really did. (The Hill) Why? It contained a clause that would have forced Obama to approve the Keystone XL pipeline. But this week the Senate filibustered the bill after amendments were added that would “help the coal industry by limiting regulation of planet-warming gases” and would “speed up the approval of U.S. natural gas exports.” Majority Leader Harry Reid (D, NV) refused to allow the amendments to go through. (Star-Telegram)

 

Oil & Gas Well Inspection:  An audit by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) failed to investigate, and exerted weak control over, oil and gas wells considered to be high risk for water contamination and other environmental damage. This has a huge impact on fracking. (Guardian)

 

Unemployment:  Claims for unemployment compensation fell to its lowest rate in 7 years. (MSNBC)

 

Higher Wages:  Hundreds of fast food workers in more than 30 countries walked off the job on Thursday, “joining labor and union activists in protests calling for wages of $15 an hour and the right to seek union representation without retaliation.” At least 17 food chains were targeted, including McDonalds, Burger King, Wendy’s, and KFC. (USA Today)

 

Corporate Tax Cheat Scam:  Want to understand the real sickness of U.S. corporations? Mike Papantonio and Thom Hartmann explain it all very well. Watch. (You Tube)

 

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