Making Unique Observations in a Very Cluttered World

Thursday, 12 September 2013

CENSUS: Americans Living in 'Poverty' Have Air Conditioning, DVD Players, Cell Phones... -

CENSUS: Americans Living in 'Poverty' Have Air Conditioning, DVD Players, Cell Phones... - 

American poverty just ain’t what it used to be. A new report from the Census Bureau found that 80.9% of households considered poverty stricken have cell phones along with their landline phones, and 58.2% have computers. 96.1% of those in “poverty” have televisions, and 83% have some sort of DVR.
The percentage owning refrigerators? 97.8%
Gas or electric stoves? 96.6%.
Microwaves? 93.2%
Air conditioning? Over 83%.
Washer? 68.7%
Dryer? 65.3%
People still don’t mind washing dishes, apparently; only 44.9% surveyed had a dishwasher.


Undercover Officers at NFL Games To Wear Opponent's Jerseys To Weed Out Unruly Fans... -

Undercover Officers at NFL Games To Wear Opponent's Jerseys To Weed Out Unruly Fans... - 

The Seattle Seahawks announced that the organization has hired undercover cops to wear San Francisco 49ers gear and patrol Sunday’s game in order to curb unruly behavior.

“We have great fans,” said Seahawks president Peter McLoughlin. “Our goal is to ensure a safe environment for all in attendance, including visiting team fans.”

The Seahawks announced Wednesday they will have the undercover police officers wearing opposing team apparel beginning with Sunday night’s highly anticipated matchup, saying the goal is to ensure a safe environment for all fans, including those supporting the visiting team.

The Seahawks say game day staff will intervene against unruly behavior, foul or abusive language and verbal and physical harassment of opposing team fans or stadium guests and staff members. Any fans asked to leave for violations of fan conduct will have to complete a four-hour online educational course at their own cost before they will be cleared to attend events at the stadium again.

The use of tobacco, smoking and the failure to follow instructions from stadium personnel were all included in the press releases’ forbidden activities. 

From the press release:

“Similar to last season, fans who have been asked to leave the stadium for violations of the Seahawks Fan Code of Conduct will be required to complete a four hour online educational course focused on fan behavior before they are allowed to return to the stadium. Fans will be responsible for the $75 cost of the course. The team will inform the fan once they have been cleared to attend events at the stadium. If a fan returns to CenturyLink Field without receiving authorization a criminal complaint will be issued against the fan as a “defiant trespasser” with the Seattle Police Department.

Seahawks season ticket holders are responsible for the behavior of persons using their seats. If those persons are ejected, the Seahawks may take appropriate action against the season ticket holder, up to and including season ticket revocation.”


Oldest message in a bottle may have been found in Canada -

Oldest message in a bottle may have been found in Canada - 

A Canadian man just out for a walk on the beach may have broken a world record without even trying. 
Steve Thurber, of Courtenay, British Columbia, said he was walking along Schooner's Cove in Tofino when he found an old bottle in the sand, GlobalNews.ca reported. 
Thurber said he did not want to open or break the bottle, but was able to make out through the glass that there was a note inside and it was dated 1906. 
The current record for the oldest message in a bottle is one from 1914. 
“Maybe there was only one [bottle] that the guy sent out and I found it. It is like one in a billion chances,” Thurber told GlobalNews.ca. 
He said the note is signed by a man named Earl Willard, who was sailing from San Francisco to Bellingham on the Steamer Rainier when he threw the bottle into the ocean 76 hours into his trip, GlobalNews.ca reported. 
“I guess it is a chance thing that you find something that somebody sent out into the water," Thurber said. "I mean, even if it was a year later or ten years later, but a hundred years later is just unreal."
The site of the discovery was recently excavated as part of an invasive species restoration project.


Emails show IRS’ Lois Lerner DID specifically target Tea Party -

Emails show IRS’ Lois Lerner DID specifically target Tea Party - 

Newly released emails show that Lois G. Lerner, the woman at the center of the IRS scandal over special scrutiny of conservative groups’ applications for tax-exempt status, specifically targeted tea party applications and directed they be held up in 2011 in order to come up with an agency policy.
The email, released by a House committee investigating the IRS, seems to counter Democrats’ arguments that tea party groups weren’t specifically targeted.

“Tea Party Matter very dangerous,” Ms. Lerner said in the 2011 email, saying that those applications could end up being the “vehicle to go to court” to get more clarity on a 2010 Supreme Court ruling on campaign finance rules.
In another email, from 2012, Ms. Lerner acknowledges that the agency’s handling of the tax-exempt applications had been bungled at the beginning, though she said they had taken steps to correct it.
“It is what it is,” she said in the email, released Thursday by the Ways and Means Committee. “Although the original story isn’t as pretty as we’d like, once we learned this [sic.] were off track, we have done what we can to change the process, better educate our staff and move the cases. So, we will get dinged, but we took steps before the ‘dinging’ to make things better and we have written procedures.”
That email suggests agency employees knew they had gone overboard in their scrutiny — despite top IRS officials telling Congress that there wasn’t any special scrutiny of conservative groups.
In another 2012 email, Ms. Lerner seemed to take sides in a battle between the Federal Election Commission and conservative group tax-exempt groups that were engaging in politics, saying that “perhaps the FEC will save the day.”
Ms. Lerner has been removed from her post at the helm of the tax-exempt organizations division, but has not been fired from the IRS.

She asserted her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in refusing to testify to the House oversight committee earlier this year, though committee members argue that she may actually have waived that right and should be recalled and forced to answer questions.
In releasing the latest emails, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp said they show a dangerous patter.
“There is increasing and overwhelming evidence that Lois Lerner and high-level IRS employees in Washington were abusing their power to prevent conservative groups from organizing and carrying out their missions,” he said. “There are still mountains of documents to go through, but it is clear the IRS is out of control and there will be consequences.”

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‘Monsanto Protection Act’ quietly extended by Congress - 

A budget provision protecting genetically-modified seeds from litigation in the face of health risks was extended for three months in an approved US House of Representatives’ spending bill on Tuesday evening.

Called “The Monsanto Protection Act” by opponents, the budget rider shields biotech behemoths like Monsanto, Cargill and others from the threat of lawsuits and bars federal courts from intervening to force an end to the sale of a GMO (genetically-modified organism) even if the genetically-engineered product causes damaging health effects.

The biotech rider first made news in March when it was a last-minute addition to the successfully-passed House Agriculture Appropriations Bill for 2013, a short-term funding bill that was approved to avoid a federal government shutdown.

The current three-month extension is part of the short-term FY14 Continuing Resolution spending bill.

The Center for Food Safety, a vocal opponent of the rider, released a statement expressing dismay that the measure once again avoided proper legislative process while usurping the power to challenge GMO products in court.

“The rider represents an unprecedented attack on US judicial review, which is an essential element of US law and provides a critical check on government decisions that may negatively impact human health, the environment or livelihoods,”  they wrote. “This also raises potential jurisdictional concerns with the Senate Agriculture and Judiciary Committees that merited hearings by the Committees before its consideration.”

Following the original vote in March, President Barack Obama signed the provision into law as part of larger legislation to avoid a government shutdown. Rallies took place worldwide in May protesting the clandestine effort to protect the powerful companies from judicial scrutiny.

“It is extremely disappointing to see the damaging ‘Monsanto Protection Act’ policy rider extended in the House spending bill,” said Colin O’Neil, director of government affairs for Center for Food Safety.“Hundreds of thousands of Americans called their elected officials to voice their frustration and disappointment over the inclusion of ‘Monsanto Protection Act’ this past spring. Its inclusion is a slap in the face to the American public and our justice system.”

Largely as a result of prior lawsuits, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is required to complete environmental impact statements (EIS) to assess risk prior to both the planting and sale of GMO crops. The extent and effectiveness to which the USDA exercises this rule is in itself a source of serious dispute.

The reviews have been the focus of heated debate between food safety advocacy groups and the biotech industry in the past. In December of 2009, for example, Food Democracy Now collected signatures during the EIS commenting period in a bid to prevent the approval of Monsanto’s GMO alfalfa, which many feared would contaminate organic feed used by dairy farmers; it was approved regardless.

The biotech rider “could override any court-mandated caution and could instead allow continued planting.  Further, it forces USDA to approve permits for such continued planting immediately, putting industry completely in charge by allowing for a ‘back door approval’ mechanism,” the Center for Food Safety said.


Pope Francis assures atheists: You don’t have to believe in God to go to heaven -

Pope Francis assures atheists: You don’t have to believe in God to go to heaven -    

In comments likely to enhance his progressive reputation, Pope Francis has written a long, open letter to the founder of La Repubblica newspaper, Eugenio Scalfari, stating that non-believers would be forgiven by God if they followed their consciences.

Responding to a list of questions published in the paper by Mr Scalfari, who is not a Roman Catholic, Francis wrote: “You ask me if the God of the Christians forgives those who don’t believe and who don’t seek the faith. I start by saying – and this is the fundamental thing – that God’s mercy has no limits if you go to him with a sincere and contrite heart. The issue for those who do not believe in God is to obey their conscience.

“Sin, even for those who have no faith, exists when people disobey their conscience.” 

Robert Mickens, the Vatican correspondent for the Catholic journal The Tablet, said the pontiff’s comments were further evidence of his attempts to shake off the Catholic Church’s fusty image, reinforced by his extremely conservative predecessor Benedict XVI. “Francis is a still a conservative,” said Mr Mickens. “But what this is all about is him seeking to have a more meaningful dialogue with the world.” 

In a welcoming response to the letter, Mr Scalfari said the Pope’s comments were “further evidence of his ability and desire to overcome barriers in dialogue with all”. 

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