Texans need scientific truth on rising Gulf water levels, not politics – Beaumont Enterprise

If taxpayers along Galveston Bay were looking for straight talk about their future from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, they have been disappointed. The state agency has censored a long-awaited report on rising water levels in the bay because the author referred to global warming.

The writer, John Anderson, a professor of oceanography at Rice University, says state officials edited his report because of political reasons, not scientific ones. “They just went through the document and deleted, deleted, deleted,” he said.

Some conservatives don’t believe that global warming propelled by emissions of greenhouse gases is causing sea levels to rise worldwide. Most scientists believe otherwise – and point to sea levels that have indeed risen.

Property owners along Galveston Bay need the truth about rising water levels, whether it ruffles any political feathers or not. The state’s environmental agency should be leading that quest, not impeding it.

via EDITORIAL: Texans need scientific truth on rising Gulf water levels, not politics – Beaumont Enterprise.

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Occupy Wall Street was born out of little-guy frustration | Cincinnati.com | cincinnati.com

When I first watched the Occupy Wall Street rallies in New York and around the country, I wondered if folks carrying signs, camping out, holding up traffic and boycotting financial institutions could really make a difference.

The jaded part of me didn’t think the protesters could accomplish much other than some media coverage. There wasn’t a clear leader for the movement. Their demands weren’t specific enough.

Yet the Occupy Wall Street campaign isn’t abating, and for good reason.

“The protests represent people’s frustration in dealing with big government, politics and big corporations that aren’t providing jobs, aren’t listening to us and who are nickel-and-diming us,” said Ed Mierzwinski, the consumer program director for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

Even Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has expressed sympathy with those on the streets.

“They blame, with some justification, the problems in the financial sector for getting us into this mess, and they’re dissatisfied with the policy response here in Washington – and at some level I can’t blame them,” Bernanke told Congress’ Joint Economic Committee last week when he was asked what he thought of the movement.

President Barack Obama also weighed in on the protests during his news conference Thursday.

There’s been “huge collateral damage all throughout the country, all across Main Street,” he said.

Although some have criticized the movement for its lack of leadership and clear agenda, the protests do have a purpose, says Kalle Lasn, editor-and-chief of Adbusters magazine.

It was the Vancouver-based anti-consumerist magazine that spurred the Occupy Wall Street campaign. It urged people to show up on Wall Street starting Sept. 17 and set up tents, kitchens and peaceful barricades and stay for a few months.

“This movement at the moment is all about being angry and having rage,” Lasn said in an interview.

“But in the next few weeks, as it grows, it will become clear it’s a positive program about political and social change.”

Lasn said he hopes the next big protest will happen on Oct. 29. The magazine is encouraging people to stage protests in state capitals in the U.S. and abroad the weekend before the next G-20 summit. The summit, a gathering of finance ministers and central bank governors from the 20 largest economies, is meeting in France Nov. 3-4. Lasn said that one demand protesters can unite behind is a global financial transaction levy dubbed the Robin Hood tax, which is intended to make the financial sector contribute to fixing the economic crisis it helped create.

“We want to get millions marching on Oct. 29,” Lasn said. “This could be the beginning of a whole new global future where we the people call the shots. I just hope it doesn’t align itself with the Democratic Party. I hope it stays aloof from the U.S. two-party system. It should become a real people’s movement.”

Throughout history, great change has evolved from small civil protests.

It took a Rosa Parks, who refused to give up her seat on a public bus to a white man, to inspire the Montgomery bus boycott that eventually resulted in the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that segregation was unconstitutional.

Go even further back to the origins of the word boycott and you’ll find the story of Irish tenant farmers who got tired of being taken advantage of by rich landowners. Charles C. Boycott, an English estate manager in Ireland, found himself in the middle of a game-changing protest.

Despite a poor harvest, Boycott had refused to lower rents for the farmers. So local laborers in turn refused to work the land that Boycott was managing. Leading that protest was Charles Parnell, an Irish politician, who fought for the rights of the tenant farmers. Parnell advocated peaceful protest, one in which workers ostracized the people behind unfair business practices.

Jean Ann Fox, director of financial services for the Consumer Federation of America, says, “Policymakers are at risk of underestimating how fed up and angry consumers are with practices they think are unfair.”

Are you fed up? If so, you can find local Occupy Wall Street events at http://www.occupytogether.org, which says it’s the unofficial hub for those who want to take action against corporate greed.

Even if the protests wane, it’s still the beginning of something great, Lasn said.

I’m no longer jaded.

I’m excited that those most hurt by the dismal economy – the young, old, employed and unemployed – are marching, picketing and raising ruckus against the financial sector that has morphed into too-big-to-fail institutions that gave little thought to how their actions could wreak havoc in people’s lives.

via Occupy Wall Street was born out of little-guy frustration | Cincinnati.com | cincinnati.com.

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Coal poisoned your food?

RICH GELFOND KEEPS HIS OSCAR statue in a black cloth sack in the bottom drawer of his desk. He received it as CEO of the film-technology company Imax, for “the method of filming and exhibiting high fidelity, large-format, wide angle format, motion pictures,” although when I read the inscription aloud, he feigns surprise, as if he’s forgotten how he came to own it. “Is that what it’s for?” he muses. “An Oscar’s kind of like potato chips—when you have one, you need more. Kind of like tuna sushi.”

via This Much Mercury… – November/December 2011 – Sierra Magazine – Sierra Club.

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Boston Police Release Statement on Occupy Boston – Charlestown, MA Patch

Editor’s note: Following the arrest of 141 protesters on the Rose Kennedy Greenway just after midnight on Tuesday, the Boston Police released the following statement.

Since October 1, 2011 the Boston Police Department has been working closely with the leadership of Occupy Boston to accommodate their request for peaceful demonstration. The City of Boston, at the request of the organizers, designated the area of Dewey Square on the Greenway where protestors have been provided the opportunity to create an encampment and protest peacefully.

On October 10, 2011, protestors expanded the camp site to a second location that had not been previously approved. Several reasons required police to request that protestors return to the original agreed upon site.

Occupying a second area of the Greenway near Pearl Street created an increased public safety concern.

The site of the 2nd encampment on the Greenway (near Pearl Street) had recently undergone a costly renovation by the Greenway Conservancy to improve the green space. The protestors’ presence on that space created a concern for potential property damage.

The attempt of the protestors to occupy the Washington Street Bridge was executed without discussion and prior agreement with police. That action and breakdown of communication created a scenario which became a serious public safety hazard and compromised the BPD’s ability to ensure public order and a safe environment.

Boston Police communicated to protestors the request to vacate the second encampment and return to the original site numerous times throughout the evening via Twitter, flyers and in person. The required police action resulted in the arrest of 141 individuals who were charged with Unlawful Assembly or Trespassing. Some time after 1:00am on 10/11/11, Boston Police declared ‘Unlawful Assembly’ in the area of the second site.

As a result of an existing city ordinance that forbids sleeping in a city park between 11:00pm and 7:00am, officers had the authority to arrest for Trespassing and Unlawful Assembly.

Although our officers faced active resistance from protestors including being spit on, our officers maintained a respectful, professional and proportional posture. If any individual experienced a concern about their interaction with an officer that individual is encourage to come forward and report that information to the department. At this time, we have not received any such complaints.

The Boston Police Department is committed to protecting one’s right of peaceful protest. The Boston Police Department is also committed to ensure everyone’s safety. We continue to encourage the leadership of Occupy Boston to maintain an open dialogue with authorities in the spirit of coordination and cooperation.

via Boston Police Release Statement on Occupy Boston – Charlestown, MA Patch.

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Captain of boat in NZ oil spill arrested

The captain of a badly listing ship stuck on a reef has been arrested, Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) said, adding that about 70 containers had fallen into the rough seas.

Oil from the vessel Rena has gushed into the environmentally sensitive Bay of Plenty and washed up onto beaches, where the containers were also likely to end up, MNZ said.

Wildlife has been found dead or contaminated.

The captain has been charged with operating a vessel in a manner causing unnecessary danger or risk and will appear in court on Wednesday morning over what the government has declared New Zealand’s worst maritime pollution disaster.

It was highly likely that more containers will come off the ship because of the severe weather conditions and the vessels heavy list, MNZ said, despite tying them down tightly to prevent them falling in.

“There are 1,368 containers on board. Eleven containers containing hazardous substances are still on the vessel and are not among the 70 estimated overboard,” an MNZ statement said, adding major shipping had been re-routed.

MNZ said an aerial survey, likely to go ahead later in the day when the weather improves, would give a clearer indication of exactly how many containers had toppled into the increasingly choppy waters.

The maritime body, which has issued an emergency telephone number for the public to call if they see any of the containers on the beaches, warned people they would be prosecuted if they tried to take what was inside them.

The Liberian-flagged Rena, which hit the reef 22km off the North Island coast last Wednesday, has leaked up to 300 tonnes of heavy fuel after being further damaged in a storm.

“I’d like to acknowledge this event has come to a stage where it is New Zealand’s most significant maritime environmental disaster,” Environment Minister Nick Smith told reporters at Tauranga on Tuesday.

Smith said there was little authorities could have done to prevent the disaster.

They have warned coastal residents to stay away from the viscous sludge, describing it as toxic, but many have ignored the advice and formed their own clean-up teams.

MNZ has said one of the Rena’s four fuel tanks had ruptured but was unable to say whether it was in the stern, where most of the oil is stored, or the largely empty tanks in the front, which has sustained the most damage.

Officials have warned that New Zealand faces a major disaster if the Rena breaks up on the reef and releases all 1,700 tonnes of oil on board, describing fuel offloading as the “top priority”.

Compared to some of the world’s worst oil spills, the Rena disaster remains small – the Exxon Valdez running aground in 1989 in Alaska dumped 37,000 tonnes of oil into Prince William Sound.

But it is significant due to the pristine nature of New Zealand’s Bay of Plenty, which teems with wildlife including whales, dolphins, penguins, seals and rare sea birds.

via Captain of boat in NZ oil spill arrested – RTÉ News.

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Publicopoly Exposed

On February 25, 2011, Florida State Representative Chris Dorworth (R-Lake Mary) introduced HB 1021. The bill sought to curtail the political power of unions by prohibiting public employers from deducting any amount from an employee’s pay for use by an employee organization (i.e., union dues) or for any political activity (i.e., the portion of union dues used for lobbying or for supporting candidates for office).

Furthermore, HB 1021 stated that, should a union seek to use any portion of dues independently collected from members for political activity, the union must obtain annual written authorization from each member.

In effect, this bill defunds public-sector unions—like AFSCME, SEIU, the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association—by making the collection of member dues an onerous, costly task. With public-sector unions denatured, they would no longer be able to stand in the way of radical free marketeers who plan to profit from the privatization of public services.

Given the similarities between HB 1021 and a rash of like-minded bills in states across the country, including Wisconsin, on March 30 a public records request was sent to Dorworth’s office seeking copies of all documents pertaining to the writing of HB 1021, including copies of any pieces of model legislation the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) may have provided.

Within an hour of submitting this request, Florida House Speaker Dean Cannon’s (R-Winter Park) Communications Director Katherine Betta responded: “We received a note from Representative Dorworth’s office regarding your request for records relating to the American Legislative Exchange Council and HB 1021. Please note that Mr. Dorworth’s legislative offices did not receive any materials from ALEC relating to this bill or any ‘model legislation’ from other states.”

But two weeks later Dorworth’s office delivered 87 pages of documents, mostly bill drafts and emails, detailing the evolution of what was to become HB 1021. Buried at the bottom of the stack was an 11-page bundle of neatly typed material, labeled “Paycheck Protection,” which consisted of three pieces of model legislation, with the words “Copyright, ALEC” at the end of each.

Dorworth legislative assistant Carolyn Johnson claims that, although Dorworth is an ALEC member, neither she nor her boss have any idea how the ALEC model legislation found its way into Dorworth’s office. Dorworth could not be reached for comment.

via Publicopoly Exposed — In These Times.

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It’s official: Australia’s Carbon tax bill passes lower house

Labor managed to pass its carbon tax legislation through the lower house this morning, in a move it argues puts to bed years of fiery debate about how Australia should tackle climate change.

With the bills expected to pass through the upper house, Australia is now on its way to having a fixed price on carbon starting July next year.

The price, starting at $23 per tonne from July 2012, will rise to $24.15 the year after, and $25.40 from July 2014, before changing into an emissions trading scheme with a flexible price.

The passing of the bills, including a $300 million compensation package for the steel industry, was met by applause from the Government, sole Greens MP Adam Bandt and independents MPs.

Council of Small Business of Australia executive director Peter Strong says while the Government has flagged that average household compensation of $10.10 per week will exceed the expected price increase of $9.90 per week, there’s still no clarity about how much it will cost individual small businesses.

“Small business wants to know, what will it cost me as a truck driver, as an accountant, as a real estate agent?” Strong says.

“At the moment, we’ve got a general figure coming out from the Government. That’s easy to say, but we need more information.”

The Government says under its plan, nine out of 10 households will receive assistance through tax cuts, extra payments or both. It also says assistance for two out of three households will cover the entire average price impact.

But even if the law passes the Senate and kicks in next July, there is still some confusion over how long it will stay in place should the Coalition win the next election in two years.

Opposition leader Tony Abbott this morning delivered a “pledge in blood” to “repeal this tax” and “dismantle the bureaucracy associated with it.”

“I am giving you the most definite commitment any politician can give that this tax will go. This is a pledge in blood this tax will go.”

But Prime Minister Julia Gillard has dismissed Abbott’s promise to remove the tax, pointing out doing so would require stripping compensation payments attached to it.

A recent report prepared for the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry by Castalia Research said that while SMEs will not be subject to the carbon price for their direct emissions, they will “face a substantial increase in costs through the effects of the price on the costs of their inputs.”

“The starting level of the carbon price is irrelevant: what matters is where the price will increase to, and how the fixed price transitions to an ETS,” the report says.

“Our empirical research shows that a carbon price will have a material impact on the profitability of SMEs, with consequent flow-on effects for investment and employment.”

“This impact is caused by the fact that the sector’s businesses are largely price takers subject to a greater degree of trade exposure than is commonly understood. SMEs have almost no ability to pass on the additional costs of electricity and transport from the carbon price to their customers.”

via It’s official: Carbon tax bill passes lower house, but small business still unsure of sector-by-sector effect.

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