Archive | July, 2012

Harkin Report Condemns For-Profit Colleges –

31 Jul

According to the report, which was posted online in advance, taxpayers spent $32 billion in the most recent year on companies that operate for-profit colleges, but the majority of students they enroll leave without a degree, half of those within four months.

“In this report, you will find overwhelming documentation of exorbitant tuition, aggressive recruiting practices, abysmal student outcomes, taxpayer dollars spent on marketing and pocketed as profit, and regulatory evasion and manipulation,” Mr. Harkin, an Iowa Democrat who is chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said in a statement on Sunday. “These practices are not the exception — they are the norm. They are systemic throughout the industry, with very few individual exceptions.”

via Harkin Report Condemns For-Profit Colleges –


Power Failures Hit Millions in India –

31 Jul

India has struggled to generate enough power of its own to fuel businesses and light homes, and the country relies on huge imports of coal and oil to power its own plants. But supply and demand may not explain away this week’s grid failures, power executives said.

The failure on Tuesday affected roughly twice as many people as the massive power outage the previous day, when the northern power grid failed and left more than 300 million people without power for several hours. No official reason for the Monday’s failure has been given, although some local news reports pointed fingers at state governments which were overdrawing power.

That assessment is too simplistic, Mr. Saxena, of BSES, said. There are controls in place on India’s electricity grids that override an outsized power demand. “We have one of the most robust, smart grids operating” in the world, he said. It would “not be wise” to give an assessment of what happened at this time, he added.

via Power Failures Hit Millions in India –

From Grandfather’s Diary: WWII, Ulysses, and Proust

31 Jul

This is how things look and feel when the world is falling apart. In this case the falling apart was the run up to World War II and into the War. Not so different from now, is it? Life goes on. But for how long?

My paternal grandfather, Axel Benzon, was a Dane. He and his wife, Louise, immigrated to America early in the 20th Century. He was educated as an engineer and knew Greek sufficiently well that he wrote poetry in Greek. He ended his professional career as chief engineer, I believe, of the main US Post Office in Manhattan.

And he kept a diary, the pages of which are generically entitled: “Leaves from my diary.” It’s not a handwritten affair, kept in one of those blank books one can buy at a stationary store. It’s typed on ordinary 8.5 by 11 paper. I’ve got a photocopy of much or most of it, but, judging by his index, not all.

Here’s the opening paragraphs from the entry for 14 April 1940:

Sunday and cloudy with occasionally a little snow-a good day to remain indoors and listen to the war news from Europe. These news are coming in frequently but are most confusing and it is difficult from the british and german dispatches to a form a true picture about the situation in all parts of Norway.

The Danish goose is cooked – there the germans are in possession of all parts and are now fortifying points of vantage, especially the northernmost part of Jutland from where they can dominate a great port of Skagerak and Kartegat.

The invasion of Norway was a masterstroke, no matter how it turns out. It gave evidence of the usual german thoroughness and precision and coupled with the fact that the german navy is so much inferior to that of the English it has been most successful and must have taken the English by surprise.

As you can imagine, his reflections are much occupied by the war. But not entirely so. For example, he also talks of his fondness for the game of golf and playing it on public courses in New York City—he lived in Jackson Heights at the time. I rather imagine that THAT land has long since been given over to building of one sort or another. In fact, at one point he mentions exactly that. Continue reading

A Gratitude Economy | Transition US

30 Jul

Gratitude – together with all the volumes that have been written about it – is very much an ingredient of the gift economy.  A very beautiful ingredient, which enriches our hearts and spirits, at the same time as it potentially invites more substantial and tangible gifts.

Some communities are beginning to set up “gift circles” — a collection of people who want to engage in gifting practices on a regular basis.  But you don’t need to wait for an official gift circle.  Here’s how you can get gift economy concepts rolling right now.

In cultivating the gift economy, one of the simplest, baseline starting points is appreciation.  Letting people know you noticed.  Thanking them, yes, but even moreso, giving them credit, and helping build their reputation as a giver within the community-at-large.  “John designed the community garden.”  “Karen arranged for the contribution of native plants.”  “Deno very generously gives us discounts.”  We’re not talking about brass plaques here, those capitalist markers of bragging rights and Mine.  Rather, we’re talking about verbal and emotional appreciation – social credit.  It doesn’t cost you anything to give people credit.  In fact it makes your heart feel good.  And it builds a whole lot in community goodwill.

via A Gratitude Economy | Transition US.

This Week in Poverty: TANF, VAWA and Playing Politics with the Lives of Low-Income People | The Nation

30 Jul

In short, let states explore new ways to get better results from their efforts to employ low-income people in good jobs.

Sound familiar? Giving states more flexibility to run their Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) programs? The notion that local folks might have some of the best ideas on how to help people in their jurisdictions?

It’s straight out of the Republican playbook. Only this time around the proposal is from a Democratic Administration, so suddenly it’s not kosher.

via This Week in Poverty: TANF, VAWA and Playing Politics with the Lives of Low-Income People | The Nation.

Feel the Burn: Making the 2012 Heat Wave Matter | The Nation

30 Jul

There is still time to trigger the reaction that would make the 2012 heat wave a landmark event, but the impetus will have to come from mobilized citizens. Activists with the End Fossil Fuel Subsidies campaign are planning to bird-dog Congressional candidates in swing districts. They’ll ask them if they support the End Polluter Welfare Act, which seeks to end the $11 billion subsidy that taxpayers give the richest industry in history every year. Greenpeace and the Alaska Wilderness League are spearheading opposition to Shell’s drilling in the Arctic. The newly formed group Climate Parents hopes to give voice to the most underorganized constituency on this issue—parents—by arguing that protecting one’s child from climate change is now as much a part of a parent’s job as providing proper food, clothing and shelter (disclosure: I’m a co-founder). It’s time to make things as hot and uncomfortable for the planet-wreckers as they’ve made summer 2012 for all of us.

via Feel the Burn: Making the 2012 Heat Wave Matter | The Nation.

Cops Paint Over Inwood Mural That Depicts NYPD as ‘Murderers’ – New York

29 Jul

INWOOD — The NYPD dispatched cops with paintbrushes to cover up a controversial mural on the side of an Inwood business Tuesday, after approaching the owner with concerns about its message, New York has learned.

A pair of plainclothes officers arrived at New Edition Cleaners at 4929 Broadway at 11 a.m. Tuesday, armed with buckets of black paint, rollerbrushes and drop cloths, and began painting over local graffiti artist Alan Ket’s five-day-old mural titled “Murderers.” The two identified themselves as police to a reporter.

The mural, which included the word “murderers” painted above several tombstones and coffins with epitaph names that included the NYPD, the Environmental Protection Agency and global corporations including Halliburton and Monsanto, was painted on the wall of the business with the permission of its owners.


Officers visited the store on Monday, telling owners that the painting needed to come down and calling the message a “bad idea.”

via Cops Paint Over Inwood Mural That Depicts NYPD as ‘Murderers’ – New York.

The Conversion of a Climate-Change Skeptic –

29 Jul

CALL me a converted skeptic. Three years ago I identified problems in previous climate studies that, in my mind, threw doubt on the very existence of global warming. Last year, following an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I concluded that global warming was real and that the prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct. I’m now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause.

My total turnaround, in such a short time, is the result of careful and objective analysis by the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project, which I founded with my daughter Elizabeth. Our results show that the average temperature of the earth’s land has risen by two and a half degrees Fahrenheit over the past 250 years, including an increase of one and a half degrees over the most recent 50 years. Moreover, it appears likely that essentially all of this increase results from the human emission of greenhouse gases.

These findings are stronger than those of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations group that defines the scientific and diplomatic consensus on global warming.

via The Conversion of a Climate-Change Skeptic –

White Bison Is Born in a Connecticut Farm –

28 Jul

For Mr. Fay, what happened was an astoundingly unexpected oddity — white bison are so rare that each birth is viewed as akin to a historic event.

For Marian White Mouse of Wanblee, S.D., and other American Indians, it is a supremely auspicious message from the spirits. She will fly with her family to Connecticut for naming ceremonies at the end of the month that are expected to draw large crowds.

via White Bison Is Born in a Connecticut Farm –

As Social Sites’ Shares Fall, Some Hear Echo of 2000 –

28 Jul

Is “social media” hitting a wall? Like maybe it’s not very deeply social?

Several companies that were supposed to be the foundation of a new Internet era plummeted this week as analysts and investors downgraded their dreams. There were instant echoes of the crash of 2000, when the money stopped flowing, the dot-coms crumbled and Silicon Valley devolved into recriminations and lawsuits.

Shares of Facebook stumbled to a new low Friday after its first earnings report revealed a murky path to any profit that would justify its lofty valuation. The heavily promoted $100 billion company on the eve of its May debut is now a $65 billion company and persistently headed south.

via As Social Sites’ Shares Fall, Some Hear Echo of 2000 –