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Nadia Prupis at Common Dreams, writes Growing Global Inequality Gap 'Has Reached a Tipping Point':
 With the gap between the rich and poor growing worldwide, a new study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) published Thursday suggests that the only way to reverse such rampant inequality is by implementing government measures aimed at balancing the playing field

Chief among those measures: Tax the rich and push for gender equality.

In its 34 member states, income inequality has reached record highs, the OECD found in its study, In It Together: Why Less Inequality Benefits All. The average income of the top 10 percent was 9.6 times higher than the bottom 10 percent, the OECD found. In the U.S., it was 19 times higher.

"We have reached a tipping point," said OECD secretary-general Ángel Gurría. "The evidence shows that high inequality is bad for growth. The case for policy action is as much economic as social. By not addressing inequality, governments are cutting into the social fabric of their countries and hurting their long-term economic growth." [...]

The OECD recommends a wide range of solutions to reverse the growing wealth gap, including removing the obstacles that prevent mothers from working; doing more to provide youth with useful skills and allow workers to continue updating those skills over time; and redistribute wealth through taxes and transfers, which the report describes as a "powerful instrument to contribute to more equality and more growth."

The report is 300+ pages and I am still working my way through it. But it's worth some of your time, even if you skim. There's nothing radical proposed, which is too bad, because that's what is needed. The data, however, are important to our understanding of what is happening and what to do about it.

Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2007Buying the Occupation:

The only people who actually know what’s going on regarding the supplemental appropriations bill on Iraq are insiders and those with a good connection to a few of them. The rest of us can only guess based on what we’re reading from suspect sources. And, because coming up with a supplemental bill is a process until it becomes a product, the situation can change from morning to afternoon, if not hour to hour. What may have been true yesterday, or at noon today, may not be the case at the moment. [...]

As the neoconservative Max Boot wrote today in the The New York Times:

But we shouldn’t kid ourselves that even in the unlikely event that all these bills are approved by September, they will mark a turning point in the war. At best they will give Gen. David H. Petraeus and President Bush some signs of progress they can point to in arguing for more patience from the American public to give the "surge" a chance to work.
More patience. For those elected Democrats who still don’t get it, what this means is that Mister Bush and his mentors and minions expect to run out the clock until they can wash their hands of the occupation come January 2009. They will come back in July and September and point to a few "successes" in the splurge of blood and bucks, and try to persuade enough in Congress to stick with the program for another few months.

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The Duggar girls - the real victims - have become completely invisible in all this.

On today's Kagro in the Morning show: Duggar! Boy Scouts face reality. Irish abroad heading home to vote in today's historic referendum on marriage equality. Greg Dworkin rounds up stories on ACA entrenchment, Christie's recovery attempt that hometown papers aren't buying, handicapping who gets into the GOP debates, Obama's (un) lame duck status, a peek inside Am. Board of Internal Medicine finances, and O'Reilly's in hot water (and denial) again. NYT reporter way out on a limb on Hillary. Armando joins in to discuss the Duggar & O'Reilly. Kansas, whose governor blows a lot, ups its punish the poor game. Journos reconsider the "Fight for $15." Self-driving cars might not necessarily kill us all.

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  • Today's comic by Mark Fiore is Jeb Bush and Brotherly Love:
    Cartoon by Mark Fiore -- Jeb Bush and Brotherly Love
  • What's coming up on Sunday Kos ...
    • Do not call me girl: Women in the workforce, by Susan Grigsby
    • Memorial Day and Flanders Fields, by Mark E Andersen
    • How did you begin to unlearn racism, by Denise Oliver Velez
    • The promise of NewSpace, by DarkSyde
    • The perils of trying to define 'an accurate pollster,' by Steve Singiser
    • $15 minimum wage in L.A. is great. But it was only necessary because a Democratic Congress blew it, by Ian Reifowitz
    • American reality distorted by media coverage and police response, by Egberto Willies
  • States of death: As you may have seen earlier this week, the Centers for Disease Control has produced a map showing the most distinctive cause of death by state. Mother Jones magazine has translated that into plain English:
    To make the map [...] Francis P. Boscoe and Eva Pradhan, both at the New York State Department of Health, took data from 2001 to 2010 and calculated state rates of death for each of the 113 causes tracked by the CDC. They then divided those answers by the national rates of death for those specific causes. As Tech Times pointed out, the most distinctive cause doesn't necessarily mean high numbers. Rather, the map shows a cause of death for each state that occurs at higher rates than in the rest of the country.
    You can see a larger version here.
  • These Daily Kos community posts were the most shared on Facebook May 21:
    Ken Burns Commencement Speech-line On #BlackLivesmatter Gets Huge Applause In One for the Ages, by thirty three and a third

    Oregon high school junior confronts anti-gay haters, launches beautiful counter-protest, by ChrisLove

  • 57-year-old former Democratic lawmaker will marry receptionist with whom he had sex when she was a minor:
    A former Virginia Democratic lawmaker who became a pariah in the state legislature after a sex scandal involving a teenage receptionist has announced that he plans to marry the woman, a day after he acknowledged fathering her 9-week-old baby.

    Joseph D. Morrissey, 57, told a news conference on Thursday that the woman, Myrna Pride, gave birth to their baby about a week before she turned 19. She is still employed at his law office, he said.

  • Huckabee stands behind guy who says CIA is concealing the location of the Ark of the Covenent: Rabbi Harry Moskoff, who calls himself the "Jewish Indiana Jones," believes he knows the location of the ark, which was reputedly the vessel in which the stone tablets containing the Ten Commandments said to be personally inscribed by God for Moses to impose on the Hebrews. He thinks it's buried in what was once the courtyard of the rebuilt Jewish Temple, which stood on the Temple Mount until 70 CE, when the Romans destroyed it. The al-Aqsa mosque has stood in one form or another on the site since 705 CE.
    Moskoff's's theories go beyond the ark's location. He claims that the CIA is "interested" in his "findings" and that the spy agency has interfered with archeological digs to prevent the discovery of biblical artifacts. Why would the spy service do this? Because the unearthing of such items, including the ark, would strengthen Israel's claim to disputed territory.

    So is a top-secret US agency conspiring to hide the Ark of the Covenant and other biblical evidence from the rest of the world for covert geopolitical motives? If elected president, will Huckabee undo this CIA cover-up and also reveal the ark and its godly power to all?

  • Only intelligence officers get to watch Bin Laden hideout porn: We've gotten to see a partial list of reading material of what U.S. officials say was found in the Pakistani compound of Osama bin Laden. But some of the stuff is out of bounds to the horny and merely curious.
    [T]he Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which released the files on Wednesday, has not released all the material found in the compound. In fact, there's a rather notorious stash that the U.S. government apparently doesn't want you to see: a cache of pornography.
  • DeSmogBlog reports on investigating Keystone XL builder's operations:
    A month after revealing that TransCanada is under a compliance review for the Keystone 1 Pipeline, the Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) disclosed it is also investigating the operations of Keystone XL's southern route, renamed the Gulf Coast Pipeline when the project was split in half.

    The results of these investigations could play a part in President Obama's final decision on the Keystone XL permit that TransCanada needs to complete its Keystone pipeline network. According to the State Department’s website, one of the factors the KXL presidential permit review process focuses on is compliance with relevant federal regulations.

  • Team Blackness discussed protest of 10 topless women blocking Market Street in San Francisco as part of a day of action to "end state violence against all black women and girls." Using the hashtag #SayHerName and organized by BlackOUT Collective, the idea was to put a name and a face to those who have died by the hands of the police. Also discussed were new developments in the Freddie Gray case, gay adoptions and the GOP, and banning LGBT conversion therapy.
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  • On today's Kagro in the Morning show: Duggar! Greg Dworkin on ACA entrenchment, GOP debate issues, ABIM and O'Reilly in denial again. NYT reporter swipes at Hillary. Kansas ups its punish-the-poor game. Fight for $15 gets its due. Self-driving cars might not necessarily kill us all.

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) listens to answers during a testimony while sitting on the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee in Washington February 14, 2013.  U.S. lawmakers pressed financial regulators on Thursday on their efforts to cr
Politico's nothingburger story on Warren's ISDS is an undisguised hit piece.
Politico seems to be confused about the meaning of hypocrisy. Thursday, it offered up a 31-paragraph hit piece on Sen. Elizabeth Warren founded on her participation in a trade arbitration process 15 years ago that she has now made a centerpiece of her opposition to fast-track trade legislation.

Warren is one of the leaders of the effort to block passage of fast-track legislation—known formally as Trade Promotion Authority. This would authorize the president to negotiate trade agreements and present them to Congress for an up or down vote with no amendments allowed. Supporters say this is essential to complete trade agreements. Critics say TPA undermines democratic controls.

A key element of Warren's (and others') fast-tracking opposition is the presence in the Trans-Pacific Partnership draft agreement of what is called investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS). This allows a corporation to seek damages via arbitration tribunals when they feel their bottom line is being harmed by government regulations they deem to be unfair. Several existing trade agreements, including the North American Free Trade Agreement, contain these arrangements.

But the Politico piece makes a big, big deal out of the fact that, a decade and a half ago, Warren was paid $200 to $400 an hour as an expert witness on bankruptcy in the case of a Canadian funeral home operator, the Loewen Group, that sought $725 million from the U.S. government under NAFTA. The implication is that there is a disconnect (if not something downright unethical) between the fact she accepted payment for participating in process she now decries as violating U.S. sovereignty with "rigged, pseudo-courts."

But Warren's participation in the Loewen Group arbitration was not unlike that of any expert witness in any case. The ISDS process exists and, thus, the United States has no choice except to be involved if a corporation goes after it. Just as any defense lawyer must work within the system as it actually operates, not the one he or she would like to have in place, Warren provided expertise that, arguably, helped the United States defeat the Loewen Group's claim. Nine paragraphs in, after the authors' implications of hypocrisy are well-seated, we get a what's-the-big-deal statement from Warren's office and this:

Ted Posner, a specialist in international arbitration cases and a former George W. Bush administration trade official, argued that Warren’s involvement in the 2000 case was an “interesting tidbit” but ultimately not relevant.

“I really don’t see any connection between her provision of expert advice to the government in Loewen and her position on ISDS in her current capacity as a U.S. senator,” said Posner, who is a partner at the law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. “The advice she gave in Loewen was in her capacity as an expert on U.S. bankruptcy law. She was not acting as an expert on ISDS.”

Ultimately not relevant, indeed. Just a potshot. Way off the mark.
Matt Taibbi
Matt Taibbi
Amy Goodman interviewed Rolling Stone journalist Matt Taibbi on the news that the five banks—Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Barclays, Royal Bank of Scotland and UBS—which pleaded guilty to rigging the price of foreign currencies and interest rates were fined more than $5 billion. Here's an excerpt:
AMY GOODMAN: But when it comes to this, what did they do?

MATT TAIBBI: They were monkeying around with the prices of every currency on Earth. So, if you can imagine that anybody who has money, which basically includes anybody who’s breathing on the planet, all of those people were affected by this activity. So if you have dollars in your pocket, they were monkeying around with the prices of dollars versus euros, so you might have had more or less money fractionally, depending on all of this manipulation, every single day. And again, Attorney General Lynch went out of her way to say that this activity went on basically every single day for the last five years or so. So every single day, that $5 in your pocket was worth a little bit more or a little bit less, based on what these people were doing. And if you spread that out to everybody on Earth, it turns into a financial crime that’s on a scale that, you know, you would normally only think of in Bond movies or something like that.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, the Justice Department says traders used online chat rooms and coded language to manipulate currency exchange rates. One high-ranking Barclays trader chatted, quote, "If you ain’t cheating you ain’t trying." And another responded, quote, "Yes, the less competition the better." So, could you comment on that, Matt? And also explain why, in this particular case, the companies pleaded guilty.

MATT TAIBBI: Well, I think part of it is because they had this very graphic online record of these people chatting and admitting to essentially a criminal conspiracy in writing. That’s one of the things that’s really interesting about this entire era of financial crime, is that you have so much of this very graphic, detailed documentary evidence just lying around. The problem is the government has either been too overwhelmed or too disinclined to go and get it and do anything with it. In this case, you have people openly calling themselves the cartel or the mafia, and then openly talking about monkeying around or manipulating, you know, the price of this or that.

The CFTC, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, actually released chats from a different case involving interest rate swaps yesterday, where they—where one guy was bragging about how he was holding up the price of interest rate swaps like he was bench-pressing at. They were bragging about this, you know, in these chat rooms. So these—what you have to understand about a lot of these people, they’re very testosterone-laden, souped-up young people who think that they’re indestructible. They’re very arrogant. And they’re doing all this in chat rooms, thinking they’re never going to get caught. And they got caught.

AMY GOODMAN: On Wednesday, Citigroup CEO Michael Corbat said, quote, "The behavior that resulted in the settlements we announced today is an embarrassment to our firm, and stands in stark contrast to Citi’s values," unquote. Meanwhile, JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon called the investigation findings, quote, "a great disappointment to us." He went on to say, quote, "The lesson here is that the conduct of a small group of employees, or of even a single employee, can reflect badly on all of us, and have significant ramifications for the entire firm," said the CEO, Jamie Dimon.

MATT TAIBBI: Well, what’s humorous about this is that virtually all of these so-called too-big-to-fail banks now have been embroiled in scandals of varying degrees of extreme seriousness since 2008. So for them to say, "Oh, it’s just a few bad apples in this one instance," is increasingly absurd. They have been dinged for everything from bribery to money laundering, to rigging Libor, to mass fraud in the subprime mortgage markets and now the forex markets. It’s one mass crime over—you know, after another, and there’s no consequence.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, aren’t these banks competitors?

MATT TAIBBI: Well, sort of. But that’s the main problem in this case, is what’s happening is that they’re colluding, which is a far more dangerous kind of corruption than what we saw, for instance, in 2008, when you saw a lot of banks, in house, committing fraud against their own clients and against the markets. This behavior, where you have a series of major banks colluding to fix the price of a currency, that is extremely dangerous. And if that behavior is allowed to go unchecked, the negative possibilities that could stem from that are virtually limitless.  [...]

Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2007Blank Check on its Way:

Caught between the rock that is George Bush and the hard place of troops on the ground in Iraq, the Dems are apparently going to blink:

WASHINGTON - In grudging concessions to President Bush, Democrats intend to draft an Iraq war-funding bill without a timeline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops and shorn of billions of dollars in spending on domestic programs, officials said Monday.

The legislation would include the first federal minimum wage increase in more than a decade, a top priority for the Democrats who took control of Congress in January, the officials added.... Democratic officials stressed the legislation was subject to change. They spoke on condition of anonymity, saying they were not authorized to discuss provisions before a planned presentation to members of the party's rank and file later in the day.

All of the details haven't been released yet, pending meetings in the Dem caucus in the House to discuss the bill, so changes could still be made. Will those changes include real timelines? Seems pretty unlikely, since the leadership says they want a bill that won't be vetoed.

So the fight is shunted off down the road a few months, to when we're supposed to be seeing that mythical September when all the Republicans decide to jump ship. On this, I'm in complete agreement with Atrios: we won't see a movement among Republicans for withdrawal, they're in it too deep. They won't back down.

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How long did it take Noah to collect the 900,000 different kinds of known living insects, plus all the ones scientists have yet to discover?

On today's Kagro in the Morning show, Greg Dworkin rounds Rand's non-filibuster, Huck's pass on the IA straw poll, Fox says who'll debate, media's still mad at Hillary, and how the media failed Luis Lang. How bored docs pass the time: ICD codes. The sketchy practice of crashing at the Capitol. NSA's trap door into your smartphone. One biker went from lobbying for looser gun laws, to busted at Waco. Banning local bans. Scotland Yard once thought Star Trek fans were a national security threat. Florida bar owner shows us the worst thing wrong with "Stand Your Ground" laws. Guess what? Conservatives are taking a 54th crack at developing their own Move On.

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Bernie Sanders at a house meeting in Manchester, NH, May 2, 2015.
Bernie poses for a selfie with a supporter in Manchester, NH, May 2.
Sen. Bernie Sanders will make his presidential primary campaign official Tuesday, May 26, with a public kick-off on the shores of Lake Champlain in Burlington, Vermont's Waterfront Park. Attendees will be treated to free ice cream from Ben & Jerry’s and entertained by Mango Jam, a Vermont-based Zydeco/Cajun band. Jerry Greenfield, who with Ben Cohen founded the Vermont-based ice cream company, has endorsed Sanders.

The senator said:

"My hometown of Burlington and the people of Vermont have a special place in my heart. There is nowhere else in the world where I would hold an event this important.

"In Vermont, I have learned that focusing on important issues and not engaging in negative campaigns is what people want. I have learned that grassroots campaigning—holding town meetings, knocking on doors, face-to-face discussions—is more important than money in winning elections. That is what I have done in Vermont and that is the lesson I will take with me around the country on this national campaign.

"The formal kickoff will set the stage for the campaign to come," Sanders continued. "I will lay out an 'Agenda for America' which addresses the major crises we face and a vision of a government which works for all of our people and not just the billionaire class."

On Wednesday, Sanders called Kinsey, a park ranger in Florida, to thank him for the $10 he contributed to the campaign, making him the 100,000th donor since fund-raising began. The campaign has raised more than $4 million since the beginning of May.

Sanders will head out on Wednesday, May 27, for campaign stops in New Hampshire and then head to eastern Iowa on Friday. Events there will include Davenport, Muscatine, an event in Cedar County, and one in Iowa City, home of the University of Iowa.

For everyone who is thinking, like BrooklynBadBoy, that Sanders should buy a comb, here's some 44-year-old proof that you're wasting your time:

From the Burlington, Vermont, Free Press, Nov. 24, 1971:

Bernie Sanders, age 30, 1971.
Bernie Sanders, age 30, 1971.
Bernard Sanders, 30, announces he is running for the U.S. Senate in the special election following the death of Sen. Winston Prouty, R-Vt. Sanders describes himself as a carpenter who has worked with "disturbed children." Asked why he was running, Sanders says, "What the two major parties are saying is irrelevant regarding the problems facing this country. ... A democracy is made up of people, and they are not making the decisions. The concentration of power makes the average man feel irrelevant; this results in apathy. As for my qualifications, I am not a politician."
Global warming.
That arrogance does not, however, come from the scientists behind the 97 percent of peer-reviewed papers that say civilization's emissions of greenhouse gases are driving climate change. Nor from the scientists of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change who are 95 percent certain the human activities are causing climate change.

Rather it is the lethal arrogance of the shills for the fossil fuels fools who have, over the past quarter-century, done the bidding of their paymasters in twisting the facts about climate change—when they haven't been fabricating "facts" outright.

They started out, some of them, claiming even that the whole greenhouse gas theory was bogus. Over time they've moved through various levels of denial: climate change isn't happening, seasons aren't being altered, sea levels aren't rising; it's happening but it's not a big deal and humans aren't causing it; it's happening but its impacts are minor and far in the future; it's happening but it will open up beneficial new commercial opportunities like growing food crops farther north; it's happening but it's too expensive to do anything about it and trying to prevent it from getting worse will kill jobs. Et cetera, ad nauseam. There has been the occasional step backward in the progression of denial, too, as with the claims that there's been a "pause" or "hiatus" in warming, something scientists say is simply not the case when the entire atmospheric-oceanic system is taken into account.

Now Mr. Jeb Bush might seem on the surface not to be among the worst of the deniers. His Wednesday remarks seem to show him trying to straddle the issue:

"I don't think the science is clear of what percentage is man-made and what percentage is natural. It's convoluted," he said at a house party in Bedford, New Hampshire.

"For the people to say the science is decided on this is really arrogant, to be honest with you," he continued. "It's this intellectual arrogance that now you can't have a conversation about it, even. The climate is changing. We need to adapt to that reality."

But such a remark makes him no better than Republican James Inhofe, the Senate snowball tosser who has repeatedly claimed, including in his ridiculous book, that climate change is a liberal hoax. Even Inhofe has moved on from his original stance that the climate isn't changing at all to agreeing that it is changing but that humans aren't the cause of it. Inhofe has said: "My point is, God’s still up there. The arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He is doing in the climate is to me outrageous.”

There's more on this below the orange calligraphy.

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  • Today's comic by Ruben Bolling is On Iraq: W.W.J.H.D.? (What Would Jeb Have Done?):
    Cartoon by Ruben Bolling - On Iraq: W.W.J.H.D.? (What Would Jeb Have Done?)
  • Initial unemployment compensation claims rise, but still historically low: For the week ending May 16, seasonally adjusted initial claims for unemployment compensation were 274,000, up 10,000 from the previous week, the Department of Labor reports. For the comparable week of 2014, the number was 325,000. The four-week running average, which flattens volatility in the weekly numbers, was 266,250, down 5,500 from the previous week. The four-week after is the lowest since April 15, 2000. For the week ending May 2, the total number of Americans claiming compensation was 2,195,714, down 58,933 from the previous week. For the comparable week of 2014, there were 2,620,550 persons making claims.
  • A bunch of Foxaganda blowhards blast Obama for calling climate change a national security threat: Lou Dobbs did it, Charles Krauthammer did it, Eric Bolling did it, Stuart Varney did it. The president they said, each in his own way, was out of it to label climate change a threat. Bolling said Wednesday: "It's not a real threat. It's not a credible threat. It's not an imminent threat. ISIS is." That's not, says Media Matters, the view of the Pentagon, which has been raising the issue of climate change privately for a decade and publicly since its 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review. For instance, here's a slice from the Center of Naval Analyses' report National Security and the Accelerating Risk Of Climate Change:
    The nature and pace of observed climate changes--and an emerging scientific consensus on their projected consequences--pose severe risks for our national security. During our decades of experience in the U.S. military, we have addressed many national security challenges, from containment and deterrence of the Soviet nuclear threat during the Cold War to political extremism and transnational terrorism in recent years. The national security risks of projected climate change are as serious as any challenges we have faced. [...]

    In many areas, the projected impacts of climate change will be more than threat multipliers; they will serve as catalysts for instability and conflict.

  • Just in time for summer, House votes to end ban against sledding on Capitol Hill:
    The legislation passed by the House of Representatives urges the U.S. Capitol Police not to enforce the law, which has prohibited sledding for security reasons since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

    "Today the commonsense non-enforcement of the sledding ban on Capitol Hill, the way it has been for many years, is assured," Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton said in a statement late on Tuesday.

    Winter sports fans no doubt hope there is no filibuster on this in the Senate.
  • N.J. most circulated newspaper says Christie has "lost touch with reality":
    The editorial board of The Newark Star-Ledger slammed New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) on Wednesday for having "lost touch with reality" so much that he believes he still has a shot at the presidency.

    The scathing editorial in the state's biggest newspaper referenced a recent Quinnipiac poll that showed 65 percent of New Jersey residents believed Christie wouldn't make a good President. The governor spun that statistic to defend his 2016 prospects in an interview with Fox News' Megyn Kelly that aired Monday night.

  • These Daily Kos community posts were the most shared on Facebook May 20:
    Bush CIA Deputy Director Admits We Were Lied Into Iraq War, by ericlewis0

    UPDATE: WELL I'LL BE DAMNED: Luis Lang quits GOP, calls for Single Payer., by Brainwrap

    UBS Pleads Guilty to Biggest Financial Scam in History - Citibank & J.P. Morgan Also Plead Guilty, by ericlewis0

  • Six people are locked in a dome on Mauna Loa, pretending that they are living on Mars:
    When they’re not performing their experiments, the group finds ways to kill the time much like other Mars simulations. They play board games that last for weeks. They watch movies, read (Dunn had to specifically request that VICE articles be cached for her since it is typically blocked on NASA networks) and even golf, splitting the communal upkeep on a rotating basis. Meals are generally informal affairs, with crew members able to take breakfast and lunch at their leisure. Dinners are cooked in rotation by the crew members, who take on the role of chef about once a week, and serve as more of a communal affair for the crew.
  • On today's Kagro in the Morning show, Greg Dworkin's 2016 roundup. Who failed Luis Lang? How docs pass the dull moments. Crashing at the Capitol. NSA's smartphone trap door. Banning local bans. The worst of "Stand Your Ground." Right's 54th try at their own MoveOn.

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Refugio State Beach oil spill
A section of Refugio State Beach tainted by oil from burst pipe.
Since 2006, the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has logged more than 175 maintenance and safety violations by the company whose pipeline burst in Santa Barbara County, California, Tuesday night. That makes its rate of incidents per mile of pipe more than three times the national average, according to an analysis by the Los Angeles Times, which found only four companies with worse records. But those infractions only generated $115,600 in fines against the company, Plains All American Pipeline, even though the incidents caused more than $23 million in damage.

It was initially reported that 500 barrels of oil had leaked from the broken pipe, but authorities later said the total could be in the realm of 2,500 barrels, 105,000 gallons. The leak contaminated a portion of Refugio State Beach and nearby patches of ocean. A crew from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is handling clean-up on land, while the U.S. Coast Guard is handling the job on the water.

Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state emergency, a move which frees up emergency state money and resources for the cleanup. Authorities shut down both Refugio and El Capitan beaches, but most people camping in the popular area had already fled because of fumes from the leak. Camping reservations have been canceled through May 28.

Julie Cart, Jack Dolan and Doug Smith report:

The company, which transports and stores crude oil, is part of Plains All American Pipeline, which owns and operates nearly 18,000 miles of pipe networks in several states. It reported $43 billion in revenue in 2014 and $878 million in profit.

The company's infractions involved pump failure, equipment malfunction, pipeline corrosion and operator error. None of the incidents resulted in injuries. According to federal records, since 2006 the company's incidents caused more than $23 million in property damage and spilled more than 688,000 gallons of hazardous liquid. [...]

Plains Pipeline has also been cited for failing to install equipment to prevent pipe corrosion, failing to prove it had completed repairs recommended by inspectors and failing to keep records showing inspections of "breakout tanks," used to ease pressure surges in pipelines.

The area tainted by the leak is popular for camping, fishing, surfing, kayaking and watching seals, sea lions and numerous species of birds. Until 2013, the state was responsible for monitoring and inspecting some 2,000 of the 6,000 miles of pipelines in California, but that task was then turned over the federal Department of Transportation.

The company has expressed its regrets for the leak. Perhaps it would regret the situation more if fines for its repeated violations did more than empty out the petty cash drawer for the weekend.

Dead dolphin stranded on the Port Fourchon Louisiana coastline in July 2012 following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Dead dolphin stranded on the Port Fourchon Louisiana coastline in July 2012
 following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
A new study has linked the Deepwater Horizon oil spill to lung and adrenal lesions in bottlenose dolphins that died in the Gulf of Mexico between June 2010 and December 2012. The researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration who conducted the study say the "unusual mortality event" is continuing.

The study compared 46 carcasses of dolphins that died in the unusual mortality event with 106 "reference" dolphins that died out of the area of the oil spill. It was published in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS ONE and confirms what previous investigations have concluded about mass bottlenose dolphin deaths in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi since the disaster.

But Nicholas St. Fleur of The New York Times reports:

The study was criticized by BP, which owned the well that blew out. It issued a statement saying that “the data we have seen thus far, including the new study from NOAA, do not show that oil from the Deepwater Horizon accident caused an increase in dolphin mortality.”
Of course not. How could there possibly be a connection between the largest oil spill in history and these dead dolphins?

Here's Fleur again:

Damaged adrenal glands cannot properly produce essential hormones, and can cause fatal problems in dolphins, according to Kathleen Colegrove, a veterinary pathologist at the University of Illinois and an author of the study. She said that there had been many reports of adrenal complications leading to death in mink after exposure to oil.

“This was an unusual abnormality to us that has not been previously documented in the literature,” Dr. Colegrove said of both the lung and adrenal lesions. “That evidence is very striking and indicative that the adrenal lesions we are seeing is consistent with oil exposure.”

“These dolphins had some of the most severe lung lesions I have seen in the over 13 years that I have been examining dead dolphin tissues from throughout the United States,” Colegrove said.

A summary of the study published on the NOAA website states:

“This is the latest in a series of peer-reviewed scientific studies, conducted over the five years since the spill, looking at possible reasons for the historically high number of dolphin deaths that have occurred within the footprint of the Deepwater Horizon spill,” said Dr. Teri Rowles, veterinarian and one of 22 contributing authors on the paper, and head of NOAA’s Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program, which is charged with determining the causes of unusual mortality events, also known as UMEs. “These studies have increasingly pointed to the presence of petroleum hydrocarbons as being the most significant cause of the illnesses and deaths plaguing the Gulf’s dolphin population. This study carries those findings significantly forward.” [...]

Barataria Bay, Louisiana, was one of the most heavily oiled coastal areas from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and the new study shows that half of the dead dolphins examined from Barataria Bay that stranded between June 2010 and November 2012 had a thin adrenal gland cortex, indicative of adrenal insufficiency. One in every three dolphins examined across Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama had this lesion. In comparison, only 7 percent of the dead stranded reference dolphins, collected from other coastal regions outside the Deepwater Horizon oil spill area and time frame, had a thin adrenal cortex. [...]

In addition to the adrenal lesions, the scientific team discovered that more than one in five dolphins that died within the Deepwater Horizon oil spill footprint had a primary bacterial pneumonia. Many of these cases were unusual in severity, and caused or contributed to death.

But BP didn't cause this. Had to be something else, right?

These guys have been lying about every aspect of the blow-out since five minutes after it happened. No reason to expect they're going to change their tune.

green heron
Check out the saga of the green heron hunting for lunch
Many environmentally related posts appearing at Daily Kos each week don't attract the attention they deserve. To help get more eyeballs, Spotlight on Green News & Views (previously known as the Green Diary Rescue) normally appears twice a week, on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The most recent Saturday Spotlight can be seen here. More than 22,560 environmentally oriented diaries have been rescued for inclusion in this weekly collection since 2006. Inclusion of a diary in the Spotlight does not necessarily indicate my agreement with or endorsement of it.
Dirty Water – The Use of Oil Production Wastewater to Irrigate California Crops—by Robocop: "For two decades farmers in California’s Central Valley have been buying water from the Chevron Kern River oil field, which is currently the 5th largest oil field in the country. The water being purchased is oil production wastewater.  The field is located in the San Joaquin Valley, where oil was discovered in 1899, and covers 10,750 acres.  Since most of the oil has been removed from the field, Chevron has moved to  use 'enhanced production technologies' to extract the remaining oil, such as fracking, acidizing and cyclic steam injection. By some estimates, these production methods use approximately 2.14 million gallons of water every day. After production, this wastewater has nowhere to go. According to Rock Zierman, the chief executive officer of the California Independent Petroleum Association, 'if we’re not able to put the water back, there’s no other viable thing to do with it.'  But in league with corporate agriculture, Chevron has been selling the water to be used for crop irrigation as a 'viable alternative.'"

Why I Would Like To Thank Royal Dutch Shell—by LaFeminista: "Perverse as it may seem. A stark counterpoint to Van Beurden’s speech comes from a 2013 Shell New Lens Scenario planning document which suggests industry talk of lowering global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions is just that. Referring to the internationally agreed limit on a global temperature rise of 2C, the document states: 'Both our scenarios and the IEA (International Energy Agency) New Policies scenario (and our base case energy demand and outlook) do not limit emissions to be consistent with the back-calculated 450 parts per million (CO2 in the atmosphere) 2C. We also do not see governments taking the steps now that are consistent with the 2C scenario.' According to one estimate, that Shell statement is tantamount to acknowledging that the world will disastrously vault over the 2C limit. Link this with Fossil fuel companies are benefitting from global subsidies of $5.3tn (£3.4tn) a year, equivalent to $10m a minute every day, according to a startling new estimate by the International Monetary Fund."

You can find more excerpts from green diaries below the orange spill.

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Obama gives Coast Guard Academy commencement address in New London, CT, May 20, 2015.
Climate change dominated President Obama's commencement address
 to the Coast Guard graduating class Wednesday.
President Obama added another strong speech Wednesday to his growing collection about a subject he and other presidential candidates barely mentioned during the 2012 election campaign: climate change. Speaking in New London, Connecticut, to the 218 graduates of the Coast Guard Academy and their families and friends, the president warned:
Here at the Academy, climate change—understanding the science and the consequences—is part of the curriculum, and rightly so, because it will affect everything that you do in your careers. Some of you have already served in Alaska and aboard icebreakers, and you know the effects. As America’s Maritime Guardian, you’ve pledged to remain always ready— Semper Paratus—ready for all threats. And climate change is one of those most severe threats.

And this is not just a problem for countries on the coasts, or for certain regions of the world. Climate change will impact every country on the planet. No nation is immune. So I’m here today to say that climate change constitutes a serious threat to global security, an immediate risk to our national security. And make no mistake, it will impact how our military defends our country. And so we need to act—and we need to act now.

After all, isn’t that the true hallmark of leadership? When you’re on deck, standing your watch, you stay vigilant. You plan for every contingency. And if you see storm clouds gathering, or dangerous shoals ahead, you don't sit back and do nothing. You take action—to protect your ship, to keep your crew safe. Anything less is negligence. It is a dereliction of duty. And so, too, with climate change. Denying it, or refusing to deal with it endangers our national security. It undermines the readiness of our forces.

The president presented a long and familiar litany of the damage climate change will do and is already doing around the world. That includes impacts to military bases, particularly ports, extreme weather, droughts leading to shortages of food and water, forced migration and geopolitical conflicts that contribute to extremism like that of Boko Haram in Nigeria. "All of which," he said, "is why the Pentagon calls climate change a 'threat multiplier.'"  

Obama also detailed some of the good things the administration has been doing about climate change, or trying to do in the face of stubborn, malignant opposition. That includes new emissions controls on power plants, mandating more efficient vehicles and housing, constant discussion of climate change in diplomatic meetings and expansion of renewable energy sources. He also spoke to advances in the efficiency of Coast Guard vessels and use of solar and wind at military bases, the use of biofuels with the "green fleet," and repeatedly, the cadets role in dealing with climate change.

He spoke of how tough are the politics of adopting farsighted climate change policies. Without naming names, he challenged the foes of those policies by pointing out how their opposition undermines military preparedness: "Denying it, or refusing to deal with it endangers our national security. It undermines the readiness of our forces."

More on the commencement speech is below the fold.

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  • Today's comic by Matt Bors is Biker Lives Matter:
    Cartoon by Matt Bors -- Cartoon: Biker Lives Matter
  • 250+ tech companies sign letter of opposition to TPP:
    More than 250 tech companies have signed a letter demanding greater transparency from Congress and decrying the broad regulatory language in leaked parts of the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership trade bill.

    The TPP would create an environment hostile to journalists and whistleblowers, said policy directors for the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Fight for the Future, co-authors of the letter. “TPP’s trade secrets provisions could make it a crime for people to reveal corporate wrongdoing ‘through a computer system’,” says the letter. “The language is dangerously vague, and enables signatory countries to enact rules that would ban reporting on timely, critical issues affecting the public.”

  • Bin Laden's bookshelf—timing of release is surely just a coincidence, uh-huh. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence on Wednesday announced the release of documents relating to Osama bin Laden. First is a list of unclassified, English-language material that is said to have been found in the Al Qaeda leader's Pakistani compound. Second is a selection of some previously classified documents, now declassified. What he was reading:
    Bin Laden’s bookshelf included “Imperial Hubris,” a critical account of U.S. counterterrorism programs by the former head of the CIA unit that was responsible for tracking the al-Qaeda leader. Other books included a copy of “Obama’s Wars” by Bob Woodward, a history of the Federal Reserve, and—in perhaps an indirect acknowledgment of al-Qaeda’s struggle to survive CIA drone strikes—a book on “antiaircraft weapons and techniques for guerrilla forces.”
    There was also 9/11 conspiracy theory material.
  • These Daily Kos community posts were the most shared on Facebook May 19:
    Newspaper Gives Honest Answer to Question, "Why do you support such a liberal agenda?", by Black Max

    Cheney Thought Al Qaeda Was Bluffing, by ericlewis0

    Sadistic Anthem Blue Cross refuses to allow California hepatitis C patient to be cured of disease, by james321

  • Obama tweets; racist scum instantly respond:
    There are moments when I come thisclose to quitting Twitter. The amount of hatred squeezed into 140 characters or less by lunatics usually cloaked in anonymity is enough to make you question your support for the First Amendment and your faith in the decency of other people. To the uninitiated, the torrent of bigotry can leave you feeling violated. Even the most seasoned, battle-scarred, seen-it-all, can’t-nuthin’-shock-me individual will be left O-o by the filth in his or her Twitter feed.

    A story I just read by David Badash at about the welcome President Obama got upon joining Twitter left me slack-jawed.

    ‘Hello N*gger': Conservatives Welcome President Obama To Twitter #DEM #GOP #tlot

  • Shakespeare revealed?
    A 400-year-old botany book contains what could be the only known portrait of Shakespeare made in his lifetime, according to an academic expert.

    Botanist and historian Mark Griffiths cracked an "ingenious cipher" to identify the playwright in an engraving in the 16th-Century work. [...]

    But Professor Michael Dobson, director of the Shakespeare Institute at the University of Birmingham, said he was "deeply unconvinced" by the theory.

  • A Republican in the White House could make matters difficult for southern Florida county officials who have been building infrastructure to deal with sea level rise.
  • 85-year-old activist nun released from prison:
    Sister Megan Rice, the 85-year-old activist nun who two years ago humiliated government officials by penetrating and vandalizing a supposedly ultra-high-security uranium storage facility, has finally been released from prison. A federal appeals court on Friday overturned the 2013 sabotage convictions of Rice and two fellow anti-nuclear activists, Michael Walli, 66, and Greg Boertje-Obed, 59, ruling that that their actions—breaking into Tennessee's Y-12 National Security Complex and spreading blood on a uranium storage bunker—did not harm national security.
  • When/where will Cuomo's 'transparency summit' happen on Friday? Who is attending? Is it open to the public? Nobody knows.
  • Team Blackness discusses the opportunities for the jobless as Saudi Arabia searches for eight men to be executionersto carry out public beheadings in the kingdom for everything from  murder and rape to witchcraft. Also discussed were Twitter trolls harassing the mother of a teen killed by police, Obama coming to Twitter, and raining spiders in Australia.
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  • On today's Kagro in the Morning show, Greg Dworkin notes 2016 news, Brooks is terrible. Bikers now menace Applebee's! Joan McCarter on NSA reform, OBL "treasure trove," that "bad intel," a new TPP shell game targeting Medicare & how Idaho saved kids & defeated Sharia!

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