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 1 
 on: May 28, 2015, 09:01 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
New find may dethrone Australopithecus ‘Lucy’ as the ‘Mother of Mankind’

Agence France-Presse
28 May 2015 at 05:39 ET   

In 1974, anthropologists in Ethiopia found the astonishing fossilised remains of a human-like creature who last walked the planet some 3.2 million years ago.

Was “Lucy,” as the hominid was called, the direct ancestor of Homo sapiens? Was she “The Mother of Mankind,” as some headlines claimed?

Over the years, the dramatic assertion has come under attack by doubters, who point to ancient yet inconclusive finds in Kenya and Chad.

But a new fossil, reported on Wednesday, may have dealt Lucy’s claimed status an irreversible blow.

Another species of hominid lived at the same time and in the same Afar region of Ethiopia, according to the paper, published in the journal Nature.

Named Australopithecus deyiremeda, the hominid and Lucy are probably only part of a wider group of candidates for being our direct forerunners, the finders said.

“The new species is yet another confirmation that Lucy’s species, Australopithecus afarensis, was not the only potential human ancestor species that roamed in what is now the Afar,” said Yohannes Haile-Selassie of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.

“Current fossil evidence… clearly shows that there were at least two, if not three, early human species living at the same time and in close geographic proximity.”

The find, in the Woranso-Mille area of the Afar region, comprises fossilised remains of an upper and lower jaw, dated to a range of 3.3-3.5 million years ago.

This overlaps with the range given to Lucy, of 2.9-3.8 million years ago.

The bones are clearly different from Lucy’s, with teeth of different size, shape and enamel thickness and a more robust lower jaw, said the study.

They were found in March 2011 on top of silty clay in the Burtele area, about 500 kilometres (325 miles) northeast of Addis Ababa and 35 km north of Hadar, where Lucy was found.

The estimated age is derived from radioactive dating of the soil and “paleomagnetic” data, which traces changes in Earth’s magnetic field, recorded in iron-bearing sediment, as a calendar.

The name “deyiremeda” means “close relative” in the language of the Afar people.

– Heated debate –

Understanding the human odyssey has always been a fraught business, complicated by the rarity of fossil finds and sometimes fierce squabbles about where — or even if — they should be placed in the family tree.

The same team had previously found the 3.4-million-year remains of a foot in the same region, but were unable to assign the fossil to a particular hominid species.

“Some of our colleagues are going to be skeptical about this new species, which is not unusual,” Haile-Selassie admitted.

“However, I think it is time that we look into the earlier phases of our evolution with an open mind and carefully examine the currently available fossil evidence rather than immediately dismissing the fossils that do not fit our long-held hypotheses.”

Only a week earlier, anthropologists shook the coveted position held by Homo habilis, the hominid deemed to have come before Homo sapiens.

Habilis — “handy man” in Latin — has traditionally been enshrined as a benchmark of hominid smartness, endowed with a bigger brain and greater dexterity than his predecessors.

But earlier hominids may have had some of his skills, if the May 20 study is right.

It reported finding the world’s oldest stone tools in northwestern Kenya.

The implements date back to around 3.3 million years ago, which is some 500,000 years before Habilis emerged and 700,000 years before the first known Habilis tools.

 2 
 on: May 28, 2015, 06:56 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Obama Takes Bold Executive Action To Protect America’s Drinking Water From Corporate Polluters

By: Jason Easley
PoliticusUSA
Wednesday, May, 27th, 2015, 11:50 am      

President Obama and his administration have announced bold new executive actions that have left Republicans fuming by protecting 33% of the nation’s clean drinking water supply.

In a statement, President Obama said:

For more than 40 years, American families and businesses across the country have counted on the Clean Water Act to protect the streams and wetlands we rely on for our way of life – from recreation to public health to a growing economy. In recent years, however, court decisions have led to uncertainty and a need for clarification. One in three Americans now gets drinking water from streams lacking clear protection, and businesses and industries that depend on clean water face uncertainty and delay, which costs our economy every day. Too many of our waters have been left vulnerable to pollution. That’s why I called on the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to clear up the confusion and uphold our basic duty to protect these vital resources.

Today, after extensive input from the American public, they’re doing just that – finalizing the Clean Water Rule to restore protection for the streams and wetlands that form the foundation of our nation’s water resources, without getting in the way of farming, ranching, or forestry. This rule will provide the clarity and certainty businesses and industry need about which waters are protected by the Clean Water Act, and it will ensure polluters who knowingly threaten our waters can be held accountable. My Administration has made historic commitments to clean water, from restoring iconic watersheds like the Chesapeake Bay and the Great Lakes to preserving more than a thousand miles of rivers and other waters for future generations. With today’s rule, we take another step towards protecting the waters that belong to all of us.

Republicans are already losing their minds and calling the new administration rule a land grab. Speaker of the House John Boehner said, “The administration’s decree to unilaterally expand federal authority is a raw and tyrannical power grab that will crush jobs. House Members of both parties have joined more than 30 governors and government leaders to reject EPA’s disastrous WOTUS rule. These leaders know firsthand that the rule is being shoved down the throats of hardworking people with no input, and places landowners, small businesses, farmers, and manufacturers on the road to a regulatory and economic hell.”

Boehner’s statement is just one example of the outcry from Congressional Republicans. Republicans are trying to hide the issue. The new rule does not give the federal government possession of any land or waterways. What the new rule does do is give these waterways federal protections from corporate polluters.

EPA head Gina McCarthy debunked the Republican claims of a land grab, “It does not interfere with private property rights or address land use. It does not regulate any ditches unless they function as tributaries. It does not apply to groundwater or shallow subsurface water, copper tile drains or change policy on irrigation or water transfer.”

When Republicans claim that this rule is harming the economy, what they really mean is that these changes aren’t going to allow agribusiness and corporations to destroy the clean water supply for 33% of the country. Republicans are literally advocating for one-third of the country to potentially lose access to clean drinking water.

The action by President Obama and his administration was a bold, forward-thinking step that was designed to protect a key portion of the nation’s clean water supply.

Sorry Republicans, Obama isn’t coming for your land, but he is trying to make sure that you and your children have access to safe and clean drinking water.

 3 
 on: May 28, 2015, 06:56 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
USA

GOP donors stuffing party committees' 2016 coffers thanks to budget loophole

A provision quietly inserted into last year’s Cromnibus spending bill increased the maximum party committees can accept to over $334,000 – and Republicans are out-raising Democrats among these mega-donors by an 11-to-1 margin

Ben Jacobs and Russ Choma in Washington
Wednesday 27 May 2015 21.10 BST
Guardian    

A new loophole stuck into a budget bill last year allows donors to gives hundreds of thousands of dollars to political parties. However, only the Republican party is benefiting from it.

A provision quietly inserted into the combination continuing resolution/omnibus spending bill – or Cromnibus – last year increased the maximum that party committees can accept from $33,400 to over $334,000 each year. (The limits were also increased for senate and congressional campaign committees to $234,000 apiece.)

And while Republicans are already taking advantage of this and have several donors giving this amount, Democrats are not keeping up.

According to the most recent FEC finance reports, while the Republican National Committee has six donors who have given the maximum of $334,600 to the GOP, not a single Democratic donor has even approached these totals in gifts to the Democratic National Committee. This imbalance is less pronounced but still present in contributions to the National Republican Senatorial Committee and National Republican Campaign Committee versus those to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

The result is that even as Democrats worry about the growing rise of Republican Super Pacs heavily funded by conservative mega-donors, they are lagging even further in competing with the GOP in this new category of hard money.

Yet, this shortfall isn’t necessary fatal for Democrats yet. The additional $300,000 that donors can give is only allowed to go to special accounts earmarked for specific purposes, party headquarters maintenance, recount preparations and presidential conventions. These are segregated from the party’s regular accounts, which means that the money cannot legally be used for other purposes.

But it’s still likely to make an impact. Through the parties’ April fundraising report, the GOP is outraising Democrats in these new special accounts by a margin of over 11 to 1. This gap is particularly noticeable with the party committees. The RNC has raised over $36m with 101 donors giving the old maximum of $33,400 and six giving the new maximum of $334,000. In contrast, the DNC lags behind, raising only $20m with 32 donors at the old maximum and none at the new.

Both the DNC and RNC declined to comment to the Guardian about this fundraising and whether it had any implications for the 2016 election.

However, Joe Sandler, a prominent Democratic election lawyer, told the Guardian that he suspected that this was just a matter of “timing and sequencing”. He thought the DNC eventually “will take advantage” of the new rules, particularly for funding conventions. “My guess is that that’s a temporary difference,” Sandler said.

But for now, this temporary difference gives the GOP a significant advantage. The headquarters account is a relatively amorphous category that can go to building maintenance for offices across the country, and the recount account means that campaigns don’t have to hold some money back before Election Day just in case the race is too close to call. It frees up valuable hard money that can be used to elect candidates up and down the ticket in 2016, and gives additional advantages to the party which can attract the most big donors.

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Rand Paul Blames Republican Hawks for Rise of ISIS

by Naharnet Newsdesk 28 May 2015, 08:55

Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul is blaming his own party for the rise of the Islamic State group.

The senator from Kentucky said Wednesday that the Republicans' foreign policy hawks "created these people." That assertion led potential 2016 rival Bobby Jindal, Louisiana's governor, to say Paul was unqualified to be president.

The Islamic State group, commonly referred to as ISIS, has seized one-third of Iraq and Syria and in recent days made gains in central Iraq.

"ISIS exists and grew stronger because of the hawks in our party who gave arms indiscriminately," Paul said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." He continued: "They created these people. ISIS is all over Libya because these same hawks in my party loved — they loved Hillary Clinton's war in Libya. They just wanted more of it."

Foreign policy has emerged as a central debate in the 2016 Republican presidential primary.

Many of Paul's Republican colleagues have offered aggressive rhetoric, but few specifics when asked about IS.

Paul favors less military intervention abroad, wants a dramatic reduction in U.S. money to foreign governments and stands in opposition to the Patriot Act and the U.S. policy behind drone strikes. It all makes him something of an outlier on foreign policy and national security in the Republican field.

He stood apart from many in his party in opposing U.S. military action in Syria before the ascension of the Islamic State.

Sensitive to being branded an isolationist in the race, he has scaled back some of his positions, no longer calling for deep cuts in the Pentagon budget, for example, and no longer proposing the elimination of foreign aid, including to Israel.

On the Islamic State, he wants coalitions of Arab troops — instead of U.S. troops — to take the lead on the ground.

Paul's comments also underscore the challenge for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, whose brother launched the invasion of Iraq more than a decade ago.

Jeb Bush said Wednesday that U.S. military leadership is key to stabilizing Iraq, although with American advisers and intelligence, not combat forces.

"Most particularly the United States needs to regain its position militarily in Iraq to bring some order to the Iraqi military," he told Republicans during a call to Republican activists in Alabama.

In addition, the U.S. must also lead an international coalition to create support within Iraq to rid it of IS for the long term, Bush said. "You have to do this militarily and build on that with a political solution," he said.

In his interview earlier, Paul described Iraq as "a failed state" and criticized Republicans who condemn his foreign policy as weak.

Source: Agence France Presse

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Despite Bernie Sanders’ Campaign Pledge, Koch-Republicans Will Block Infrastructure Spending

By: Rmuse
PoliticusUSA
Wednesday, May, 27th, 2015, 10:05 pm   

Few Americans would argue that this nation is the richest on Earth, or that there is enough money to make America the greatest nation on the planet. However, Republicans have made no secret that their ardent belief is that all of the nation’s wealth belongs, by god’s will, to the richest one percent and spending one penny to improve this pathetic crumbling nation is an abomination bordering on religious sacrilege. It was encouraging, if for no other reason than someone is saying it out loud, to hear Senator Bernie Sanders pledge that if elected president he will make rebuilding and repairing the nation’s third rate and crumbling infrastructure a high priority.

It is likely that Senator Sanders was sending a message to the Koch brothers that regardless they currently control government spending, he intends on appealing to the people for support to invest in America. Something Republicans oppose regardless Americans’ lives have been lost and are increasingly in danger due to America’s substandard transportation infrastructure.

It is curious that Republicans claim to be the “pro-life” party, and yet their willingness to cut spending for Amtrak revealed that they have no problem refusing to spend on infrastructure that literally kills Americans. There are no valid reasons for not spending profusely on repairing and rebuilding the nation’s decrepit infrastructure. There are, however, at least three very important reasons why Bernie Sanders called for substantial infrastructure spending when he officially launched his presidential campaign.

First, spending on the nation’s infrastructure is a necessary and unavoidable investment in the country and failing to do so in a timely manner increases the deficit in real terms and postponing repairs will only cost more down the road. It also is a boon to the nation’s economy because it improves the gross domestic product and impacts America’s competitiveness on the world market. Last, but not least, it is beyond dispute infrastructure investment is one of the most obvious sources for job creation that leads to increased tax revenue, reduced need for social welfare spending, and reduces poverty. Also, for most Americans, spending on infrastructure projects is wildly popular and a top priority that at one time enjoyed the greatest bipartisan support. However, that was before America was ripped apart by racist religious teabaggers, Republicans, Ayn Rand devotees, and anti-government conservatives bent on starving the government into bankruptcy.

America stopped being a bipartisan nation when Barack Obama won the Presidency in 2008 due to constant propaganda from Republicans and conservative media. The result is that today there are two Americas; one that believes the nation is a “United States” of America, and one dominated by the “real Americans clutching their guns, god, and Constitution” that reside primarily in the Republican-controlled former Confederacy and Midwest. Subsequently, there is a valid opinion that since Republicans predominate the Confederate states, they are unwilling to support one penny of funding for the heaviest center of infrastructure in the Northeast and West coast. It is, as one commenter noted, nothing less than a Republican “bipartisan scandal” putting America in a precarious position as the wealthiest nation on Earth with the infrastructure of a second-rate developing nation.  It is why when the Northeast was ravaged by Hurricane Sandy, Republicans had to set aside the so-called “Boehner rule” to garner Democratic votes because only 70 House Republicans would vote for hurricane relief for those “damn Yankees” that are not real Americans because they are not Republican states.

Republicans like Paul Ryan already pledged two weeks ago that regardless the Amtrak derailment, crumbling bridges, and roads barely fit for foot traffic, Republicans would not fund any infrastructure improvements to, as Ryan said, “save money.” However, Republicans had no problem passing a “balanced budget” rife with tax cuts for the rich and corporations, or proposing standalone monumental tax cuts for the rich that would make George W. Bush gasp. Like Republicans’ predilection to always finding ‘surplus’ funds for the bloated defense budget, they always find money for tax cuts while opposing infrastructure spending due to “America being broke.”

This opposition to infrastructure spending is not new to 2015.  In 2012, House Republicans introduced a farce called a “transportation bill” that slashed Amtrak spending and increased truck-weight limits, but provided no spending for the nation’s highways and bridges. The GOP austerity plan left Ray LaHood, secretary of transportation during President Obama’s first term, with no choice but to call it “the worst transportation bill I’ve ever seen during 35 years of public service.” Mr. LaHood’s remarks are notable since he was a seven-term Republican congressman from Illinois before he was tapped to serve in President Obama’s cabinet.

Besides Republican Confederate states refusing to vote for anything that may benefit other Americans, Republicans generally oppose raising revenue as part of their Starve the (government) Beast philosophy to “drown it in a bathtub.” In a newer version of Starve the Beast, since President Obama’s election, the Republican approach is holding hostage any infrastructure spending for cuts to social spending like Medicare, food stamps, Social Security, and Medicaid but to name a few. Republicans see the required hundreds-of-billions or trillions needed to bring America’s infrastructure into the 21st Century as “a golden opportunity” to extort massive cuts or completely eliminate any and all domestic, social, regulatory, and non-defense spending.

The GOP’s only goal in hostage-funding infrastructure with Draconian social program cuts is not their “fiscally-conservative” way to “invest in America,” but a plot to serve the Kochs and Grover Norquist’s purpose of “drowning the government in a bathtub;” something that was glaringly evident in 2011. When President Obama proposed increased spending for infrastructure in 2011, Republicans opposed the plan as proposed vehemently. Instead, they came up with a devious “alternative proposal” to fund infrastructure improvements by cutting “$40 billion from other domestic programs, block the President’s clean air rules, and prohibit him from ever issuing new environmental rules again.”

One of the primary, and hardly mentioned, reasons Republicans will never approve a penny for infrastructure is their goal of privatizing the nation’s entire infrastructure for the Koch brothers, banks, and Wall Street. The plan is transforming all public roads and highways into “privately-owned profit centers” by charging Americans to pass over “private roads, bridges, and waterways. It is why nearly all conservative infrastructure reform proposals” include privatization and toll roads and bridges. In the Senate, the Cato Institute testified that  “now is the time to go back (to the 19th Century) to reducing hurdles to entrepreneurship and private investment the way the nation operated before the 20th Century.” It is stunning that Cato said go back to 19th Century aloud before the Senate, but not that the mainstream media failed to report an abominable proposition and admission that conservatives lust to return to the 19th Century.

Republicans, and their Koch libertarian masters, believe that giving the highway system to corporations and allowing private turnpike companies to build thousands of miles of toll roads the nation’s infrastructure would be in great shape. Cato, in speaking for the Kochs, claimed that “the takeover of infrastructure like highways and bridges by the government in the 20th century was a drastic mistake, and policymakers should focus on correcting that overreach.” That so-called overreach created America’s great interstate highway system post World War II that helped created  the now-vanishing great middle class able to traverse the nation without paying toll fees to corporations; but those days of ‘free passage‘ are numbered if Republicans have their way.

There are other reasons Republicans will never, never ever, again support funding infrastructure improvements, but they are too numerous to note. Except, however, it is worth noting that the hundreds-of-thousands of Americans working on infrastructure projects earn living wages thanks to the 1931 New Deal law, the Davis-Bacon Act, that requires payment of the local prevailing wage on all public works projects for laborers and mechanics. Republicans want that, and all other, New Deal employee protections abolished and teabagger Senator Mike Lee made repealing Davis-Bacon a major requirement for any future infrastructure funding bill.

It was encouraging to hear Bernie Sanders make infrastructure improvements one of his proposals to help rebuild the middle class and give America back to the masses. However, as long as the Koch brothers control the Congress, and the Republican Party, there will never be another penny spent to “improve and rebuild” America. Not, that is, unless Democrats concede that Social Security, Medicare, food stamps, Medicaid, environmental protections, and labor laws are abolished in their entirety before one red cent is spent on infrastructure.

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Watch Elizabeth Warren hammer the rich: ‘We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take this any more’

Zaid Jilani, AlterNet
28 May 2015 at 06:31 ET       

Tuesday night, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) spoke at the Re/code conference, a confab of media and tech influencers. During a question and answer session, a voter asked why politicians aren’t building infrastructure or implementing other policy that respects the will of the people. Warren explained that the government in Washington just isn’t responsive to the people who elected it – and won’t be unless their constituents revolt and demand accountability:

QUESTION: How am I or the fifty percent of people who can vote or don’t supposed to actually believe any politician that says we are going to rebuild this country, energy infrastructure, internet infrastructure, education all these things matter. I believe that. And with interest rates this low, it makes sense for us to issue paper on 30 or 100 year notes to rebuild America. Why aren’t we doing that?

WARREN: It’s exactly the right question. We are not doing it because the people in Washington, too many of the people in Washington, do not represent the folks who elected them. They represent the rich and the powerful who don’t want their taxes raised, who don’t want to see any change. Who are perfectly happy with things where they are, indeed they’re doing great with things where they are. And they stay in the ear of enough of the folks in Washington that it has made it impossible to get any kind of change. The only way we get change is when enough people in this country say I’m mad as hell and I’m fed up and I’m not going to do this anymore. You are not going to go back and represent me in Washington, DC. if you are not willing to pass a meaningful infrastructure bill. If you are not willing to refinance student loan interest rates and stop dragging in billions of dollars in profits off the backs of kids who otherwise can’t afford to go to college. If you don’t say you’re going to fund the NIH and NISF because that is our future. We have to make these issues salient and not just wonky. When you hear us talk about this and you say this is like the wonkiest conference ever, can you imagine saying that at a tech conference, when you say this is the wonkiest conference we’ve ever had, no! These have to be the things that you wake up people all over America and say what matters? Whether or not  you’re going to have a job, whether or not you’re going to have a retirement, whether or not your kids are going to have any chance to build a future for them. It’s gotta be about these core issues. And we gotta talk about ’em, talk about ’em enough until there’s some real change in this country that’s all I know to do.

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Supreme Court Agrees To Hear Case That Could Undermine One Person One Vote

By: Keith Brekhus
PoliticusUSA
Wednesday, May, 27th, 2015, 5:37 pm      

On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a case that could fundamentally alter the way districts are drawn in the United States. If the court rules in favor of the plaintiffs, it could also undermine the bedrock American principle of “one person, one vote”.

The case brought forward by Texas plaintiffs Sue Evenwel and Edward Pfenninger, argues that Texas Senate Districts dilute the plaintiffs’ voting power, because a higher proportion of residents is eligible to vote in their districts than in other districts in the state. The two plaintiffs are represented by the right-wing group Project on Fair Representation, which also brought the suit against the Voting Rights Act to the Supreme Court.

Under current law, federal and state districts are drawn based on the principle that each district should have equal or nearly equal populations. The challenge brought before the Supreme Court would alter that formula, instead redrawing district’s based on eligible voter population, rather than total population. If the court accepts the plaintiff’s arguments, it will clear the way for redrawing districts, to further dilute the political power of already disenfranchised groups like children, prisoners, and undocumented immigrants.

If the court rules in favor of the plaintiffs, it will undermine “representational equality” which ensures that each elected representative in a body governs roughly the same number of people. It would also throw redistricting into chaos, as Census population data would be replaced by a hodgepodge of competing formulas used to estimate the voter eligible population in each district.

The court agreed to hear the case even though it has not been tested in the lower courts, which would typically rule on a case before it reaches the Supreme Court. The intended effect of the change would be to dilute the political power of Latinos, children, and voters in urban areas while disproportionately empowering older, rural and whiter voters.

While it remains uncertain how the Supreme Court will rule on the case, their decision to hear the case already confirms a  familiar pattern with the Roberts’ Court. When it comes to election law, the only guiding principle that governs the decisions of the conservative justices on the Robert’s Court, is will the change benefit Republicans? If the answer is yes, then that is how the court will likely rule.

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Obama Takes Bold Executive Action To Protect America’s Drinking Water From Corporate Polluters

By: Jason Easley
PoliticusUSA
Wednesday, May, 27th, 2015, 11:50 am      

President Obama and his administration have announced bold new executive actions that have left Republicans fuming by protecting 33% of the nation’s clean drinking water supply.

In a statement, President Obama said:

For more than 40 years, American families and businesses across the country have counted on the Clean Water Act to protect the streams and wetlands we rely on for our way of life – from recreation to public health to a growing economy. In recent years, however, court decisions have led to uncertainty and a need for clarification. One in three Americans now gets drinking water from streams lacking clear protection, and businesses and industries that depend on clean water face uncertainty and delay, which costs our economy every day. Too many of our waters have been left vulnerable to pollution. That’s why I called on the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to clear up the confusion and uphold our basic duty to protect these vital resources.

Today, after extensive input from the American public, they’re doing just that – finalizing the Clean Water Rule to restore protection for the streams and wetlands that form the foundation of our nation’s water resources, without getting in the way of farming, ranching, or forestry. This rule will provide the clarity and certainty businesses and industry need about which waters are protected by the Clean Water Act, and it will ensure polluters who knowingly threaten our waters can be held accountable. My Administration has made historic commitments to clean water, from restoring iconic watersheds like the Chesapeake Bay and the Great Lakes to preserving more than a thousand miles of rivers and other waters for future generations. With today’s rule, we take another step towards protecting the waters that belong to all of us.

Republicans are already losing their minds and calling the new administration rule a land grab. Speaker of the House John Boehner said, “The administration’s decree to unilaterally expand federal authority is a raw and tyrannical power grab that will crush jobs. House Members of both parties have joined more than 30 governors and government leaders to reject EPA’s disastrous WOTUS rule. These leaders know firsthand that the rule is being shoved down the throats of hardworking people with no input, and places landowners, small businesses, farmers, and manufacturers on the road to a regulatory and economic hell.”

Boehner’s statement is just one example of the outcry from Congressional Republicans. Republicans are trying to hide the issue. The new rule does not give the federal government possession of any land or waterways. What the new rule does do is give these waterways federal protections from corporate polluters.

EPA head Gina McCarthy debunked the Republican claims of a land grab, “It does not interfere with private property rights or address land use. It does not regulate any ditches unless they function as tributaries. It does not apply to groundwater or shallow subsurface water, copper tile drains or change policy on irrigation or water transfer.”

When Republicans claim that this rule is harming the economy, what they really mean is that these changes aren’t going to allow agribusiness and corporations to destroy the clean water supply for 33% of the country. Republicans are literally advocating for one-third of the country to potentially lose access to clean drinking water.

The action by President Obama and his administration was a bold, forward-thinking step that was designed to protect a key portion of the nation’s clean water supply.

Sorry Republicans, Obama isn’t coming for your land, but he is trying to make sure that you and your children have access to safe and clean drinking water.

*************

Americans keep getting fatter: poll

Agence France-Presse
27 May 2015 at 15:10 ET                  

Waistlines of American adults kept growing last year with obesity creeping up to 27.7 percent, according to a Gallup poll released Wednesday.

It was the highest percentage since Gallup started studying American weight issues in 2008, the pollster said.

The rate was 27.1 percent in 2013, 26.2 percent in 2012 and 25.5 percent in 2008.

The percentage of Americans who are either obese or simply overweight stood at 62.9 percent last year. And more overweight people passed over into the more serious obese category, Gallup said.

Americans who have a body mass index of 30 or higher are classified as obese.

Gallup said that obesity rates rose in particular among people over age 45 and among women.

As in previous years, African Americans, the poorest Americans and people living in southern states like Mississippi or Louisiana are the most likely to suffer from obesity.

Obese people also enjoy less “well-being,” calculated with a related poll that takes into account personal, social and financial factors.

The Gallup poll involved 176,702 American adults and was conducted from January 2 through December 30, 2014. It had a margin of error ranging from one to four percentage points, depending on the size of the state being studied.

 4 
 on: May 28, 2015, 06:46 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Why galaxies stop forming stars

May 27, 2015
Chuck Bednar for redOrbit.com – @BednarChuck

Supernovae may play a role in bringing an end to a galaxy’s star-forming days, working with supermassive black holes and sweeping out gas to prevent the process from restarting, recent research from Michigan State University has revealed.

The study, published in a recent edition of The Astrophysical Journal Letters, explains that the black holes found at the center of a galaxy launch streams of charged particles, stirring up gas and interrupting star formation. Typically, that gas would cool down, and star formation would resume in that galaxy – meaning that something else has to be involved.

“Star formation is conspicuously absent from massive elliptical galaxies,” Mark Voit, a physics and astronomy professor in the MSU College of Natural Science and lead investigator on the study, told redOrbit via email. “Astronomers have known for a while that supernova explosions alone are not powerful enough to shut off star formation in very massive galaxies. The odds-on favorite these days for shutting off star formation is outbursts from a central black hole.”

“However, black-hole outbursts can’t be the whole story, because aging stars continue to shed gas and dust into interstellar space long after a black-hole outburst shuts off the star formation,” he added. “Somehow the galaxy needs to continually sweep out that gas. Otherwise, it will accumulate and start forming stars again. That’s where supernova sweeping comes in.”

Solving the mystery of why galaxies stop forming stars

Voit explained that he and his colleagues found that there are two different types of massive elliptical galaxies: One that has cooler clouds intermixed with hot gas that fills the galaxy, and a second that has only hot gas. The former is known as a multiphase medium, and the latter is called a single-phase medium.

“We found that supernova sweeping can keep cold gas from accumulating in the single-phase galaxies by continually expelling the gas that comes off of dying stars. Once the black hole shuts off star formation, supernova sweeping can keep it turned off,” he told redOrbit.

In multiphase elliptical, however, cooler gas clouds can accumulate because the supernova sweeping process is less effective in that type of galaxy, Voit continued. He and his co-authors were able to discover that multiphase elliptical galaxies were designed in such a way to trigger a black-hole outburst whenever too much cold gas begins to accumulate.

“This helps to solve a long-standing puzzle in astronomy:  Why did star formation stop a long time ago in most of the universe’s largest galaxies?”

“Our answer comes in two parts: (1) black-hole outbursts halt star formation by heating and ejecting cool gas from massive galaxies, and (2) supernova sweeping prevents star formation from starting again by preventing more cold gas from accumulating.”

 5 
 on: May 28, 2015, 06:45 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Colombian President Talks Tough amid Ceasefire Calls

by Naharnet Newsdesk 28 May 2015, 07:15

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos on Wednesday warned his troops to stay prepared for conflict after leftist FARC rebels decided to drop their unilateral ceasefire.

The Colombian government and FARC negotiators resumed peace talks Monday in Havana amid heightened tensions following air strikes that killed dozens of rebels in Colombia.

"Don't let your guard down," Santos told a military ceremony in his country's north.

"Now that we are going through a storm in the peace process, with the rebels saying they will end their unilateral ceasefire ... we are going to hold strong moving forward, but meanwhile, you must not let your guard down."

About 40 guerrillas with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia have died in recent days in three military operations in Cauca, Antioquia and Choco, weeks after rebels ambushed army troops and killed 11 soldiers with the unilateral ceasefire supposedly in effect.

With the fate of the peace process on the line, its guarantor countries, Cuba and Norway on Wednesday urged the rebels and Bogota to step up talks.

"We call on the parties to continue their efforts, to keep advancing on discussion of remaining issues, including reaching a deal on a permanent bilateral ceasefire and end of hostilities," Cuban diplomat Rodolfo Benitez told reporters in Havana.

The FARC has repeatedly urged Santos to agree to a bilateral ceasefire, but the president has refused to consider a truce without a final peace deal in place.

The talks in the Cuban capital have so far achieved partial deals on several issues, including political participation for rebels and ending the drug trafficking that has fueled the conflict.

But a final deal remains elusive.

The conflict has killed more than 200,000 people since the FARC was launched in 1964 in the wake of a peasant uprising.

It has also uprooted some five million people, drawing in a web of leftist rebel groups, right-wing paramilitaries and drug traffickers in a half-century of violence.

Source: Agence France Presse

 6 
 on: May 28, 2015, 06:42 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Syria: Isis releases footage of Palmyra ruins intact and 'will not destroy them'

Ancient ruins are not statues and so will be spared, Isis commander reportedly tells radio station amid new humanitarian crisis in the area

Kareem Shaheen
Wednesday 27 May 2015 18.11 BST
Guardian

Islamic State has released new footage depicting unscathed ruins in the Syrian city of Palmyra, and activists say the group has promised to spare much of the ancient site and only destroy statues deemed polytheistic – raising hopes that some of the most magnificent surviving ruins of antiquity may remain intact.

But the human toll of the conflict increased as president Bashar al-Assad’s air force responded to the loss of Palmyra with an unforgiving air campaign that killed more than a dozen civilians on Monday and appears to have triggered a fresh humanitarian crisis in the area.

The air strikes came after the regime abandoned Palmyra and most of its civilians with Isis at the city gates, after initially saying it had evacuated non-combatants.

Activists and a monitoring group said Isis had used the majestic Roman theatre in Palmyra to execute nearly two dozen pro-Assad foreign fighters on Wednesday. The group held nearly 600 prisoners that Isis said fought alongside the regime. More than 200 people have been killed since the Isis offensive in the area began in mid-May.

An 87-second video released by one of the militant group’s media arms on Wednesday shows parts of the ancient city’s ruins and colonnades – the Temple of Bel and the Roman theatre – apparently undamaged and empty.

“They haven’t been damaged and members of the organisation told residents that they will not damage the city’s antiquities, but will destroy the idols,” an activist with the anti-regime Local Coordination Committee for Tadmur, the modern name for Palmyra, said. “Perhaps it’s because the Palmyra antiquities are mostly columns and large buildings and not statues of people, which they consider idols that must be destroyed, and they have no problem with the other antiquities.”

Alwan FM, an anti-regime Syrian radio station, published an audio interview purporting to be with Abu Laith al-Saoudy, the nom de guerre of the Isis military commander in Palmyra, who pledged not to damage the site but said the group would destroy statues.

“Concerning the historic city, we will preserve it and it will not be harmed, God willing,” he said. “What we will do is break the idols that the infidels used to worship.

“The historic buildings will not be touched and we will not bring bulldozers to destroy them like some people think,” he added.

There were fears for the magnificent ruins of the city, an ancient silk-road hub and one of the best-preserved sites from antiquity, after Isis routed the regime garrison last week following a seven-day siege.

The regime air raids have forced many civilians to try to escape the city’s bombardment and increased the number of internal refugees in the area.

The Assad regime had claimed that it evacuated civilians from the city as its forces withdrew, but rowed back over the weekend.

“I don’t think there’s any point in discussing the regime’s credibility,” the activist said.

 7 
 on: May 28, 2015, 06:40 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Niger Extends Emergency Powers in Boko Haram-Threatened Area

by Naharnet Newsdesk 27 May 2015, 17:18

Niger has extended for three months the state of emergency in its southeastern Diffa region where the army has been battling Boko Haram militants since February, authorities announced Wednesday.

"Boko Haram elements are there," Daouda Malam Marthe, first vice president of parliament, said on state radio. "The prolongation of the state of emergency is a necessity."

The emergency declaration, which parliament voted in favor of on Tuesday, also gives security forces additional powers including the ability to order searches of homes day or night.

Niger, Chad and Cameroon have since February helped Nigerian troops push Boko Haram out of towns and territories the militants had captured in an effort to create a hardline Islamic state in northeast Nigeria.

Niger's Interior Minister Hassoumi Massaoudou told the National Assembly that Boko Haram militants are still present in Diffa, which borders Nigeria.

"They are in the bush and on Lake Chad," Massaoudou said. "They only come out night."

Authorities declared the state of emergency and have extended it following the Islamists' attacks against Niger.

Though the regional offensive against Boko Haram has weakened the group, it has still mounted bloody assaults in recent months.

On April 25 the insurgents attacked a Niger military position on Lake Chad, which left 74 dead, including 32 civilians, and resulted in the disappearance of 32 other people.

The six-year conflict against Boko Haram has claimed at least 15,000 lives and made more than 1.5 million people homeless.

Source: Agence France Presse

 8 
 on: May 28, 2015, 06:39 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Cameroonians Donate 3 mn Euros to Help Army Fight Boko Haram

by Naharnet Newsdesk 28 May 2015, 07:11

A fundraising campaign to help Cameroon's army battle Nigeria's feared Boko Haram fighters has brought in more than three million euros and hundreds of tonnes of food, local media said Wednesday.

"2.1 billion CFA francs (3.2 million euros) already" collected to help troops fighting the Islamist group on Cameroon's northern border with Nigeria, said the national CRTV radio and TV network.

But with corruption rife across Cameroon, the government has set up an inter-ministerial committee to ensure "transparent" management of the funds offered up by citizens of the struggling African nation, the broadcaster said.

Hundreds of tonnes of food aid have also been donated to help the army since the fundraising began several weeks back, it added.

Addressing fears the funds could go missing, the government said a special account has been opened for the cash. But local media said President Paul Biya recently fired two army officers for embezzling food aid for the troops.

Cameroonians still remember how the country's famed football team, "The Indomitable Lions", never saw a cent of the funds collected nationwide in 1994 for their World Cup bid. "The suitcase of money is somewhere between Paris (its last trace) and New York," Cameroonians still say today.

Cameroon decided last August to fight Boko Haram after a series of incursions by the Islamist fighters in the far north of the country. Two soldiers were killed in a Boko Haram attack there earlier this month.

Nigeria's military has claimed a series of victories over the group across the northeast since an offensive launched in February with support from Cameroon, Chad and Niger.

Source: Agence France Presse

 9 
 on: May 28, 2015, 06:37 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
China: U.S Threatening 'Chaos' in Asia-Pacific

by Naharnet Newsdesk 28 May 2015, 13:09

China accused the United States on Thursday of threatening to sow "chaos" in the Asia-Pacific region by inciting countries whose territorial claims in the South China Sea clash with those of Beijing.

It is the latest round in a war of words over the area, where tensions are mounting and rhetoric escalating.

China is rapidly building artificial islands in the disputed waters, and U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter on Wednesday demanded an "immediate and lasting halt to land reclamation by any claimant".

Beijing's foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a regular briefing: "If the major powerhouse of world economic growth is thrown into chaos, will that serve the interests of the American side?"

The countries that make up the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum account for more than 50 percent of global GDP and nearly half of world trade.

The South China Sea is a major shipping route for international trade.

Beijing insists it has sovereignty over nearly all of the South China Sea, including waters far from the Chinese mainland and near the coasts of the Philippines, Vietnam and other Asian neighbours.

The Chinese military last week ordered a U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon surveillance plane to leave an area above the disputed Spratly islands. But the American aircraft ignored the demand and said it was flying in what U.S. officials consider international airspace.

Hua told Washington to "refrain from all the provocative words and deeds".

"A few countries keep stirring up troubles in the South China Sea  for (their) own selfish gains and provoking China's territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests, while there are some other people who incite them to do so," she added.

Carter made his remarks in Hawaii as he prepared to embark on an Asian tour.

"First, we want a peaceful resolution of all disputes and an immediate and lasting halt to land reclamation by any claimant," he said, according to remarks posted on the Department of Defense website.

"We also oppose any further militarisation of disputed features."

It is his second tour of the region since taking over at the Pentagon in February and his itinerary includes Singapore, Vietnam and India.

Beijing has expanded its land reclamation work in the South China Sea at a dramatic pace in recent months, constructing man-made islands on top of reefs across a wide area to back up its territorial claims.

Several other claimants have already built airstrips in the region and Hua accused the U.S. of being "selectively mute" regarding what she said were construction activities carried out on "illegally occupied" Chinese territory.

"I’d like to reiterate that the scale and speed of China’s construction work is commensurate with the international obligation of China as a major country," she said.

"It is for the Chinese people themselves to decide what to do. No one else has the right to tell China  what should be done."

Source: Agence France Presse

 10 
 on: May 28, 2015, 06:33 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Inquest into 'death ship' hears of intense conflict on board Japanese coal freighter

Coroner’s court examines events leading up to the deaths of three people during a six-week period on the Sage Sagittarius sailing in Australian waters

Australian Associated Press
Thursday 28 May 2015 11.12 BST

Three people who died during a six-week period while aboard a Japanese coal ship bound for Australia are highly likely to have met with foul play, a Sydney inquest has heard.

Two Filipinos, chief cook Cesar Llanto and chief engineer Hector Collado, died on the Sage Sagittarius, dubbed the “death ship”, within two weeks of each other in 2012.

Llanto vanished overboard on 30 August as the vessel approached Australian waters northeast of Cairns. Collado died when he fell 11 metres down a staircase on 14 September while the ship was moored at the Port of Newcastle.

Then a Japanese superintendent, who had boarded the vessel in Australia because of the deaths, was crushed to death on a conveyor belt when it was docked in southern Japan on 6 October 2012.

An inquest into the deaths of Llanto and Collado at Glebe coroner’s court in Sydney on Thursday has heard how a culture of silence prevented the ship’s 25 crew members from speaking out about the mysterious deaths.

The court heard there was “intense conflict and mutual mistrust” on the ship surrounding captain Venancio Salas Jr’s treatment of a gay kitchen hand who was allegedly the target of extensive bullying.

Jessie Martinez was regularly assaulted by Salas, who once punched him so hard in the kidney he struggled to breathe for days, counsel assisting the coroner Philip Strickland said.

He said Llanto, who acted as a “big brother” to Martinez, may have been involved in a plan to report the captain to the International Transport Worker’s Federation in Australia.

“There is strong evidence that this intense conflict was continuing and if not magnified on the very day of Mr Llanto’s disappearance,” Strickland said.

But an internal investigation and police statements from Salas suspected “foul play” by an oiler named Raul Vercede, who initially instructed Martinez to report the captain for misconduct.

While giving evidence via video link from the Philippines, Llanto’s widow Neila said Martinez refused to explain how Llanto died because there were threats made against him.

“He told me that he is afraid for his life, for his family,” she said.

Mrs Llanto cried as she said she had hoped Martinez would “take pity on me and tell me what really happened.

“I was just disgusted that I have never got anything from him. He never gave me any truth about the matter.”

Similarly, Strickland said some crew members lied or misled police about what happened on board the vessel.

“They did not feel free to speak ... because of the climate of either fear or intimidation,” he said.

Pathologist Brian Beer told the court Mr Collado’s body was found with an unexplained 20mm, curved laceration on his scalp.

The inquest continues.

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