House Republicans revolted this evening and rejected Speaker John Boehner’s “Plan B” which would have extended the Bush tax cuts for everyone making $1 million or less, among other provisions. According to Boehner, he canceled a scheduled vote on his plan after it became clear he could not get enough support from Republicans for it to pass. The House is now in recess until after Christmas.
More than 3 million people, a record number, suffered premature deaths from air pollution in 2010, according to a new report published in the Lancet. For the first time, air pollution has moved to the top 10 list of killers, making it a top public health concern surpassing even high cholesterol.
For comparison, air pollution killed just 800,000 in 1990. Pollution and related deaths have surged in countries seeing economic gains, like China and India, although technology and new standards can mitigate the problem around the world. In East Asia, pollution ranks fourth, behind smoking, as a high risk factor.
These deaths are largely preventable. David Pettit at NRDC writes:
Fortunately there are many actions that can be taken to address outdoor air pollution. The technology is readily available at a fraction of the investment cost compared to the health costs that the public bears. We can replace polluting old engines with much cleaner new models. Alternative fuels and more efficient equipment can address global warming pollution in addition to traditional air pollutants like soot. Renewable-based electric power can replace polluting diesels and other fossil fuel engines in virtually every sector.
The U.S. took additional steps this year by releasing mercury standards for coal-fired power plants, which is estimated to save up to 11,000 lives annually.
Two Pennsylvania state representatives are bringing back an ill-conceived 2011 plan to divvy up its electoral college votes by congressional district. Gov. Tom Corbett (R) originally proposed the idea, which would give one electoral vote to the winner of each congressional district. Had the plan succeeded, Pennsylvania Republicans would have delivered 13 of the state’s 20 electoral votes to former GOP candidate Mitt Romney.
After President Obama decisively won the state, Reps. Robert Godshall (R) and Seth Grove (R) are reintroducing the proposal. In a memo released Wednesday, they admit that Republicans are no longer competitive in Pennsylvania:
Under this legislation, one elector will be awarded to the winner of the plurality in each congressional district and the remaining two electors will be granted to the winner of the statewide popular vote.
I believe that the Congressional District Method will increase voter turnout and encourage candidates to campaign in all states rather than just those that are competitive. Most importantly, this method of selecting presidential electors will give a stronger voice to voters in all regions of our great Commonwealth.
Thanks to Republican efforts to redistrict the state’s congressional map, the Congressional District Method is not as equitable as it sounds. Republicans have packed high concentrations of Democratic voters into just five districts. Under the proposed electoral college scheme, their votes would count less than votes cast in Republican districts.
Ohio also considered rigging their own electoral college votes, but bad publicity led the Secretary of State to abandon the idea.
Error-Riddled Matt Ridley Piece Lowballs Climate Change, Discredits Wall Street Journal. World Faces 10°F Warming.
Leading Scientists Debunk Ridley Piece, Even Climatologist Cited By Ridley Says He “Is Just Plain Wrong About Future Warming”
Memo to media, deniers: “Climate sensitivity” is NOT the same as projected future warming!
Projected warming even with (an unlikely) low climate sensitivity of between 1.5°C and 2.0°C from Michael Schlesinger et al 2012. A WSJ op-ed that cites this work absurdly concludes “Evidence points to a further rise of just 1°C by 2100.” Not even close — one of the key math errors in the piece.
Every major projection of future warming makes clear that if we keep listening to the falsehoods of the anti-science crowd and keep taking no serious action to reduce carbon pollution we face catastrophic 9°F to 11°F [5°C to 6°C] warming over most of the U.S. (see literature review here).
The Wall Street Journal, however, has published a piece, “Cooling Down the Fears of Climate Change,” that (falsely) asserts observations suggest global warming will be so low as to “be benificial.” This risible piece by Matt Ridley is so riddled with basic math and science errors it raises the question of how the Journal can possibly maintain its reputation as a credible source of news and financial analysis.
Ridley and the Journal apparently don’t know the difference between water vapor and clouds. They don’t understand the basic concept of climate sensitivity. And they can’t do simple math. Naturally, the climate deniers have embraced this nonsense and spread it across the internet.
UPDATE: Ridley has made an even more self-defaming response at Bishop Hill’s blog and WattsUpWithDisinformation. He doesn’t actually refute any of my points– just repeats his mistakes. His piece proves once and for all that Ridley doesn’t know the first thing about climate science or the IPCC. As but the most astounding example, in my debunking below I explicitly quote the IPCC’s draft Fifth Assessment (AR5) — “the new IPCC draft report, upon which Ridley makes all his claims” — which summarizes the recent literature on clouds this way: “The net radiative feedback due to all cloud types is likely positive.” Ridley then absurdly asserts “He gives no backing for this dogmatic conclusion.” Seriously. It’s like he never read my piece — or the AR5! And he apparently thinks you can’t read either! I must say it is shocking that Bishop Hill would print such an easily falsifiable claim. It is not shocking Watts would.
I wasn’t going to waste time with the umpteenth debunking of the Wall Street Journal‘s nonsense — especially a piece written by someone whose “family leases land for coal mining”! But one of Ridley’s many basic mistakes is often seen in the media — the confusion of the “climate sensitivity” (to a doubling of CO2 levels to 560 parts per million) with projected warming (from actual greenhouse gas levels projected for this century plus carbon cycle feedbacks). That confusion needs clearing up (again).
First, though, let me start by quoting some of the country’s leading climate experts in an excellent debunking piece by Media Matters, “WSJ’s Climate ‘Dynamite’ Is A Dud“:
The Mayor of Bridgeport, Connecticut has secured nearly $100,000 for a gun buyback program that will launch on Friday, making it the city’s largest-ever attempt to collect and destroy firearms.
Bridgeport is just under 20 miles from Newtown, Connecticut, where a shooting claimed the lives of 27 people just last week. Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch said he was launching the buyback to avoid situations like the one in Newtown:
“Following last week’s tragedy, it has become a national priority to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals,” Finch said. “Chief Gaudett and I are encouraging city residents to turn in their guns so they don’t fall into the wrong person’s hands.”
Police said they would offer $200 for a working handgun, and people turning in rifles would get $75.
Police said any weapon determined to be an assault-type rifle would be eligible for a higher rate of remuneration.
Similar gun buybacks are happening across the country in the coming days. Los Angeles will host one next week, Lansing, Michigan will run its own soon, and a New Jersey town is matching dollars given in gun buybacks with donations to the victims of the shooting in Connecticut. New York City, Camden, New Jersey, Baltimore, and San Francisco have already run buyback days in response to the shooting.
But while the measure helps to get guns off of the streets, it is certainly not the most effective method of stopping gun violence or catching criminals, since oftentimes the guns are turned in by law-abiding citizens with broken firearms, and not by criminals. An LA Times op-ed points out that, “A 2004 report by the National Research Council, an arm of the National Academy of Sciences, concluded that ‘the theory underlying gun buyback programs is badly flawed, and the empirical evidence demonstrates the ineffectiveness of these programs.’”
House Republicans plan to vote tonight on their so-called “Plan B,” which would void the tax increases and spending cuts scheduled for the end of the year. Instead, the GOP’s two measures would cut spending from a series of consistent GOP punching bags — food stamps, Obamacare, and Wall Street reform among them — and then extend the Bush tax cuts on income up to $1 million.
However, Plan B would allow the lapse of several key tax credits — including expansions of the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit — meaning that it would raise taxes on millions of low-income and middle-class families. The Tax Policy Center found that nearly one-quarter of Americans in the lowest income quintile would see their taxes go up by an average of $934.
But don’t tell House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) — fresh off his failed Vice Presidential bid — who claimed on the House floor that “there’s not a single tax increase that we’re proposing here”:
With respect to taxes, heh, what we are trying to do here is limit the damage to the taxpayer. There’s not a single tax increase that we’re proposing here, not a single. What we’re saying is, prevent as many tax increases as possible from hitting anybody in this economy.
As CNBC’s Robert Frank wrote, “drilling down deeper, you find that some of those low-income earners could see a sizable increase. One in five of Americans who earn less than $20,000 a year will see an increase of $1,070 – a sizeable amount for low-income earners.” In addition to raising taxes on the middle-class, Boehner’s Plan B would preserve a slew of tax breaks for the wealthy.
Corporate Criminal Fines Hit A Record High | Global banks UBS and HSBC recently agreed to $1 billion fines for, respectively, rigging a key interest rate and laundering money for drug cartels and terrorists. The list of bank fraud this year, in fact, is quite extensive. And its not only banks that have been forced to pay up. Money paid by corporations for criminal activity goes into a government fund, and, as Reuters’ Alison Frankel noted, “In the fund’s most recent fiscal year, which ended on Sept. 30, it took in a record $2.7 billion.”
By Daniel J. Weiss and Jackie Weidman
On December 19, 2012, Senators John Senator John Kerry (D-MA), Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY) introduced legislation to help communities reduce fatalities and damages from future climate related extreme weather events. The Strengthening the Resiliency of Our Nation on the Ground (STRONG) Act, S. 3691, would direct:
the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to chair a high-level interagency working group to first conduct an assessment of Federal agencies’ current and planned activities related to short-and long-term extreme weather resilience across key sectors and then develop a plan to support State, local, and private and public sector resiliency efforts.
S. 3691 would rely on the federal, state, and local governments to work together to develop community resiliency plans.
The bill responds to the devastating floods, heavy storms, droughts, heat waves, and wildfires that recently plagued the United States. In 2011-12 there were 21 extreme weather events that each caused at least $1 billion in damages, with a total of up to $174 billion in total damages. And these events took at least 1,021 lives. Two-thirds of counties in the continental U.S. were declared a disaster for at least one of these most damaging events.
Sen. Lautenberg noted that:
Yesterday’s extreme weather has become today’s normal, and the federal government must lead in the effort to help better prepare our communities for future storms and emergency events.
This new normal is occurring because of climate change. It increases the likelihood and/or severity of these extreme weather events. Kevin E. Trenberth, senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, recently noted that:
All weather events are affected by climate change because the environment in which they occur is warmer and moister than it used to be.
The warm moist air is readily advected onto land and caught up in weather systems as part of the hydrological cycle, where it contributes to more intense precipitation events that are widely observed to be occurring.
This new bill responds to the growing threat to communities from extreme weather. Sen. Kerry said that “We owe it to people everywhere to strengthen our ability to respond to the next Sandy, in whatever form it may come.”
The bill would require:
- a federal government analysis of
Federal agencies’ current and planned activities on short- and long-term extreme weather resilience in key sectors: agriculture; forestry and natural resources management; water management; energy supply and transmission; infrastructure, including transportation, water and wastewater and coastal infrastructure; public health and healthcare infrastructure; communications; housing and other buildings, national security; and emergency preparedness.
- federal agencies to “help develop an extreme weather resiliency action plan to support State, local, and private and public sector resiliency efforts.”
- reports to measure the effectiveness of these efforts.
Investments in resiliency pay off. The Federal Emergency Management Administration estimated that every $1 spent on resiliency yields $4 in future benefits.
Following the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, President Obama has named a White House task force to find “concrete solutions” to address gun violence in the U.S. “If there is even one thing we can do to prevent any of these events, we have a deep obligation — all of us — to try,” Obama said.
But a few Texas Republicans would not support adding to existing gun regulations. “I do not feel that additional gun control legislation will have an effect at all,” said state Rep. John Raney (R). And state Rep. Kyle Kacal said he would not even support a proposed measure that would instruct Texas on how to secure their assault weapons. Ping-Pong and falling TVs are bigger problems than guns, he told a local newspaper:
“People know what they need to do to be safe. We don’t need to legislate that — it’s common sense,” he said. “Once everyone’s gun is locked up, then the bad guys know everyone’s gun is locked up.”
Kacal echoed a common nationwide argument that guns don’t kill people, people kill people.
“I’ve heard of people being killed playing ping-pong — ping-pongs are more dangerous than guns,” he said. “Flat-screen TVs are injuring more kids today than anything.”
In 2011, falling TVs killed 29 people. Meanwhile, more than 19,000 Americans are killed annually in crimes involving guns. Even as the nation’s violent crime rate has declined, the number of crimes involving a firearm remains the same.
Out of 17 developed countries, single parents in the US are have the fewest resources and the greatest economic hardship, a new report from Legal Momentum shows.
In other countries, parents raising a child alone are offered help from the state and have relative economic stability. But the assessment in the US is different. Not only do American single parents have the largest number of children, they also have the fewest resources to help them raise the kids:
We find that U.S. single-parent families are the worst off. They have the highest poverty rate. They have the highest rate of no health care coverage. They face the stingiest income support system. They lack the paid-time-off-from-work entitlements that in comparison countries make it easier for single parents to balance caregiving and jobholding. They must wait longer than single parents in comparison countries for early childhood education to begin. They have a low rate of child support receipt.
Single parents in the United States also fare worse than their international counterparts when it comes to employment. A huge percentage of single American parents — 25 percent — hold low-wage jobs, higher than any other developed country in the study:
The US was the only country in the study to offer absolutely no paid maternity leave, and just 12 weeks of unpaid leave, to expecting mothers. Some US parents enjoy paid parental leave provided by an employer, but the lowest income Americans (precisely those who match the profile of the average single parent) are those most likely to have no paid leave. By comparison, the countries with the highest amount of leave — both France and Germany — offer 162 weeks total, some paid and some unpaid.
There are a few different solutions that could help with solving the economic difficulties faced by single parents. First, alleviating their tax bill through programs like the Earned Income Tax Credit would help parents see more of the money they make come back into their families. Second, about half of pregnancies in the United States are unintended, and the majority of those pregnancies are to single or unmarried women. There is no reason to suggest that single parents are unfit to raise children, but strengthening access to highly effective methods of birth control would help parents who do not want children to avoid the responsibilities of being a single parent.