So, it looks like in their ongoing quest to shut down The Playboy Club, the Parents Television Council may have overstated the number of advertisers who are pulling out of NBC’s period drama. Kraft and P.F. Chang’s confirmed to AdWeek that they haven’t dropped their advertising contracts with the show — instead, they just had episodic ad buys. I still think the chances of the show vanishing from airwaves soon are relatively high — the already low ratings dropped by a million for the second episode. But I don’t really think it’ll be over morality concerns. The show isn’t actually sexy enough to ruffle feathers.
As ThinkProgress reported yesterday, despite yet another outbreak of food-borne illness — this time stemming from listeria infected cantaloupes — congressional Republicans are still trying to cut back on the nation’s food safety regulations. The tainted melons have caused 16 deaths so far, making this the deadliest outbreak in more than a decade, and it comes just a month after salmonella-tainted turkey forced food-giant Cargill into the third-largest food recall on record.
Lost in the well-deserved focus on the listeria outbreak is the fact that another giant food-producer, Tyson Fresh Meats, was forced this week to recall more than 130,000 pounds of ground beef due to E. Coli contamination. And this particular breakdown in food safety should earn the attention of the man leading the GOP in its slash-and-burn approach to the budget, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), as four children in his district were sickened by the meat:
The recall of 65 tons of ground beef that might be contaminated with E. coli has hit close to home for House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio.
The meat, recalled today by Tyson Fresh Meats, was shipped to 16 states…WCPO, ABC’s affiliate in Cincinnati, reported today, “four children became ill after eating the meat with their family in Butler County, Ohio, in the second week of September.” “A 9-year-old child was hospitalized for about 10 days with severe diarrhea,” the station reported.
As we’ve pointed out time and time again, one in six Americans is sickened by food-borne illness each year, and more than 3,000 die. The annual cost to the country of food-borne illnesses is $152 billion, according to Georgetown University’s Produce Safety Project. However, the GOP has not only refused to fund the implementation of a landmark food safety law passed last year, but has said that the current rules on the books are too onerous, because the food industry “self-polices.” But as the current slew of recalls shows, that it clearly not the case.
House GOP Want To Kill Green Jobs Innovation Fund | In a heavily anti-labor, anti-health fiscal year 2012 Labor, Health and Human Services (LHHS) funding bill, the Republicans in charge of the House Appropriations Committee have inserted a line-item attack against the Green Jobs Innovation Fund. This year, the program has distributed $38 million to jobs organizations that serve Connecticut, Ohio, New York, Louisiana, Florida, Arizona, Rhode Island, California, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Virginia, Massachusetts, Illinois, Michigan, Washington, and Washington, DC. President Obama has requested $60 million for the Green Jobs Innovation Fund for next year, to help Americans find jobs in one of the fastest growing sectors of the economy.
Suzy Khimm’s interview with Henry Farrell is full of good stuff, but the best is right up at the beginning:
The fundamental problem here is a profoundly political problem. It used to be that bondholders assumed that the EU had changed things so that bigger member states were on the hook for the debts of the poorer member states. Therefore, it made sense to lend money to poorer member states, and bondholders were going to get their payday. I would call it a confidence bubble. It coasts along for a period of time, but once that confidence bubble gets pricked, it’s really hard to get it back. Bondholders were basing their holdings on set of political expectations — that when push came to shove, Germany would either bail out Greece, or Greece would never have to be bailed because it would behave the way that good northern states would.
In the EU, the instinct is always to fudge — to come up with technocratic fudges that are incomprehensible to the outside world but get some minimum consensus among states…But the problem is not a technocratic problem. It’s a political problem. So they’re going to hesitatingly help out the Greeks, but it’s not going to provide political actors or market actors the confidence I think they need
But they don’t just fudge because they’re jerks or something. Fudges are the only way to produce the level of consensus the EU needs to operate. So you get what we have here this week.
They fill out this survey that DC Comics has asked Nielsen to do for them about whether or not the New 52 has fulfilled its mission. As one retailer the Mary Sue quotes says, “As they made clear from the beginning, their goal was to expand the market by appealing to new/lapsed readers. They believe this has happened, but now they’d like feedback from the fanbase and comic shop retailers about where to go next.” Our discussions here have been awesome, and enlightening for me. You should share them with DC, as a reminder of what they say about making assumptions.
NASA’s Hansen: “If We Stay on With Business as Usual, the Southern U.S. Will Become Almost Uninhabitable.”
Climatologist Slams Media for “Silent Summer”: Poor Coverage of Link Between Extreme Weather and Human-Caused Climate Change
The nation’s top climatologist, NASA’s James Hansen, has a new paper out — and he has been speaking out. At 350.org’s Moving Planet event in New York on Saturday, he said:
“Climate change — human-made global warming — is happening. It is already having noticeable impacts…. If we stay on with business as usual, the southern U.S. will become almost uninhabitable.”
Hard to argue with that.
The combination of extreme heat, constant Dust-Bowl conditions in the Southwest and South central, the whipsawing from drought to deluge in the Southeast, and decade after decade of sea level rise will create nearly intolerable conditions by century’s end (see “An Illustrated Guide to the Science of Global Warming Impact”). Conditions might look a lot like this:
Oops, that’s the US Drought Monitor for Texas this week! Dark red is “exceptional drought” (covering 86% of the state) — virtually no rain for a year. Red is “extreme drought” (covering 97% of the state) — a Palmer Drought Severity Index of -4 or worse.
Imagine what it will be like when much of the South is like this most of the time (other than the occasional record-smashing deluge) — and temperatures are some 9°F to 11°F warmer on average. It will be the great repopulation of the North.
Hansen also has a new paper out on climate change in which he says:
It is time for all of us to get Tea-Party-angry about what our political system has become and about the intergenerational injustice being perpetrated on young people.
Again, no argument here.
The most interesting part of the paper is his critique of the media coverage (“Silent Summer”), his discussion of the intimidation of climate scientists, and a tantalizing introduction to a forthcoming analysis on extreme weather and attribution to human emissions. Also, he doesn’t like the phrase “global weirding.” Here are the highlights:
Maine Elections Chief Uses GOP List To Intimidate Student Voters And Encourage Them To Re-Register In Another State
The latest voter suppression tactic employed by Republicans can be found in Maine, where last week the Secretary of State sent a threatening letter to hundreds of college students who were legally registered to vote in Maine, floating the possibility of election law violation and encouraging them to re-register elsewhere.
The letter explained that Maine Secretary of State Charles Summers was writing because he “was presented with a list of 206 University of Maine students with out-of-state home addresses and asked to investigate allegations of election law violations.” That list was provided to him not by an uninterested citizen, but rather the Maine Republican Party Chairman Charlie Webster, who has accused these students of voter fraud.
In his letter, Summers informed the recipient that “our research shows you have registered to vote as a resident of Maine,” before going on to strongly imply that the students did not meet the state definition for “residence of a person”. Summers went on to encourage the students to re-register in another state, telling them that if “you are no longer claiming to be a Maine resident, I ask that you complete the enclosed form to cancel your voter registration in Maine.” Here is the relevant section of the letter:
On July 25, 2001, I was presented with a list of 206 University of Maine students with out-of-state home addresses and asked to investigate allegations of election law violations.[...]
Our research shows you have registered to vote as a resident of Maine. Maine’s election law (Title 21-A of the Maine Revised Statutes, section 111, subsection 1) defines “residence of a person” as “that place where the person has established a fixed and principal home to which the person, whenever temporarily absent, intends to return.” [...]
If you are currently using an out-of-state driver’s license or motor vehicle registration, I ask that you take appropriate action to comply with out motor vehicle laws within the next 30 days (i.e. by October 20, 2011). If, instead, you are no longer claiming to be a Maine resident, I ask that you complete the enclosed form to cancel your voter registration in Maine so that out our central voter registration system can be updated.
The letter does not explicitly accuse the students of violating the state’s residency laws — and indeed it would be very difficult for Summers to defend such a claim. The Supreme Court ruled over 30 years ago that students cannot be held to a different residency standard than other people within the state. Nevertheless, the letter succeeded in intimidating many of its targets.
ThinkProgress spoke with a few of the letter recipients. Casey O’Malley, a senior at University of Maine Farmington, said her family has been worried about potential legal consequences because of this letter. She hasn’t decided whether to cancel her registration or not, but her family has been “pretty insistent” that she do so in order to be on the safe side. Another recipient, who wished to remain anonymous, said that students she knew were “beyond scared and freaked out.” One was “so shaken up” because she was scared the letter meant she was going to get sued.
Maine Secretary of State spokeswoman Caitlin Chamberlain told ThinkProgress that intimidating student voters “wasn’t our aim.” The office “just wanted to inform students who may not have been aware of those laws,” Chamberlain said. Though she said the office accepted the Supreme Court ruling permitting student voters, she also claimed that “to vote in Maine, you must declare yourself a resident.” This was reflected in the letter, leading many students to mistakenly believe that they were illegally registered in Maine.
For the Maine secretary of state to target hundreds of college students with scare tactics on the behest of the Maine Republican Party chairman is one of the worst forms of voter intimidation. Most citizens would be understandably frightened by such a letter, especially college students who were first-time voters. Though these Maine students were performing their civic duty, the same cannot be said for Summers and Webster.
There’s a word for top elections officials who decide not to help students to vote but rather harass them into un-registering: reprehensible.
A panel advising New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on the redesign of the state’s Medicaid program is considering recommending coverage for health care for transgender people.
New York could thus join several other states in providing all medically necessary care for transgender residents on Medicaid. Such a recommendation would be a welcome step forward in ending health care discrimination against transgender people, many of whom face severe discrimination in almost every area of their lives, including employment and housing.
Currently, New York’s Medicaid program specifically excludes coverage for sex reassignment surgery and hormone replacement therapy for transgender people. Exclusions that target the transgender community undercut the basic premise of health insurance coverage, which is to make medically necessary care accessible to those who need it. The American Medical Association, the Endocrine Society, and the World Professional Association for Transgender Health all recognize that transition-related care, including sex reassignment surgery and hormone replacement therapy, are safe and effective means of improving the health of transgender people. Unfortunately, few transgender people can afford such care on their own: according to a recent study, more than 20% of transgender New Yorkers make less than $10,000 a year.
Moreover, exclusions are often expanded in practice to include even routine medical care. According to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey released this year by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, 17% of transgender New Yorkers have been refused medical care because of their gender identity or expression. Some were physically assaulted in doctor’s offices or emergency rooms.
Medicaid is a vital safety net for those priced out of buying their own coverage or who work jobs that do not provide health insurance benefits. The thousands of transgender New Yorkers in their state’s Medicaid program deserve a program that takes their health needs seriously. New York should set an example that shows other insurance programs riddled with transgender exclusions – including Medicare and many private insurance plans – how it’s done.
Hip Hop Mogul Russell Simmons: ‘All My Employees…Paid More Taxes Than I Did’ | Like Warren Buffett, hip hop mogul Russell Simmons, whose net worth is estimated at $340 million, is calling on President Obama to raise his taxes. “For far too long in this country we have allowed the rich to get richer and the poor to get poorer,” Simmons wrote, calling on policymakers to preserve social safety net programs for the most needy. Simmons, who has also joined with the Occupy Wall Street protests, appeared on MSNBC today to discuss his cause. “All my employees — every single one — paid more taxes than I did,” he said, noting that he donated $10 million to charity and thus received big tax breaks. “We need to make the rich pay their fair share.” Watch it:
Simmons also shot down conservative claims that raising taxes on the wealthy would hurt job creation, saying he makes all his hiring decisions based on pre-tax, not post-tax income.
A new economic analysis of the costs of pollution to the United States finds that coal power is harming the economy. In the American Economic Review article “Environmental Accounting for Pollution in the United States Economy,” economists Nicholas Z. Muller, Robert Mendelsohn, and William Nordhaus model the physical and economic consequences of emissions of six major pollutants (sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, ammonia, fine particulate matter, and coarse particulate matter) from the country’s 10,000 pollution sources. They estimate the “gross external damages” (GED) from the sickness and death caused by the pollution, and compare that to the value added to the economy:
Solid waste combustion, sewage treatment, stone quarrying, marinas, and oil and coal-fired power plants have air pollution damages larger than their value added. . .
Coal plants are responsible for more than one-fourth of GED [gross external damages] from the entire US economy. The damages attributed to this industry are larger than the combined GED due to the three next most polluting industries: crop production, $15 billion/year, livestock production, $15 billion/year, and construction of roadways and bridges, $13 billion/ year.
“Five industries stand out as large air polluters,” the authors write, “coal-fired power plants, crop production, truck transportation, livestock production, and highway-street-bridge construction.”
When the authors add in highly conservative estimates of the cost of carbon dioxide pollution, they find that “the damages caused by oil- and coal-fired power plants are between 30 and 40 percent higher.” With an estimated social cost of carbon — a damage estimate of global warming pollution — of $65 (far less than other estimates), the GED for coal-fired generators is 4.7 cents/kWh.
In other words, instead of being “cheap” and “affordable,” coal is actually the costliest fuel for electricity.
“The findings show that, contrary to current political mythology, coal is underregulated,” Legal Planet’s Dan Farber comments. “On average, the harm produced by burning the coal is over twice as high as the market price of the electricity. In other words, some of the electricity production would flunk a cost-benefit analysis. This means that we’re either not using enough pollution controls or we’re just overusing coal as a fuel.”
Because of a math error by the author, the GED/kWh for coal-fired generators with a social cost of carbon of $65 was miscalculated. The correct GED is 4.7 cents/kWh.