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nellie On December - 5 - 2009

Anders_Zorn_-_Emma_Zorn_läsande

Government employees are off for the weekend, so it’s a good time to check out what they were up to last week.

While the MSM focuses on Congress—as they should—they often miss the low-drama activities in the Executive Branch. But legislative work isn’t the only game in town. The Un(der)reported News Weekend Edition presents a few stories from our executive agencies for some perspective on this administration’s projects and priorities.


NOAA: North American 2008 Cooling Attributed to Natural Causes
Cooler North American temperatures in 2008 resulted from a strong natural effect, and the overall warming trend that has been observed since 1970 is likely to resume, according to university and NOAA scientists. “Our work shows that there can be cold periods, but that does not mean the end of global warming. The recent coolness was caused by transitory natural factors that temporarily masked the human-caused signal,” said Judith Perlwitz, lead author of the study and a researcher with the Cooperative Institute for Research Environmental Sciences, and NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory.

MORE FOOD AVAILABLE AT LOCAL FOOD BANKS THROUGHOUT THE COUNTRY
RICHMOND, Calif., Dec. 4, 2009 – People here and across the country who find that they need to rely on local food banks to help feed their families are now finding more food on the shelves because of money provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). ARRA provided an additional $100 million to purchase foods and $50 million to assist food banks with administrative costs for The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) at USDA.

Bright Future on Horizon for Port Umm Qasr
Today, port operations are more secure than they were just two years ago when Shiite extremists controlled much of the area. Quelled by Iraqi forces, the city of Basra is now peaceful. The task force, which includes the departments of Defense and Homeland Security, is charged with aiding in Iraq’s reconstruction. Part of that collaboration includes devising a plan to make Umm Qasr more attractive to potential international trade partners.

Fort Hood Unit Deploys to Afghanistan
An Army Reserve unit that had soldiers both killed and wounded during the Nov. 5 shooting here deployed as scheduled to Afghanistan early this morning.

Maj. Laura Suttinger, commander of the 467th Medical Detachment, said the unit’s soldiers are more dedicated than ever to the mission.

Toy Giveaway Benefits Military Families
Operation Homefront, a troop-support organization, invited spouses of deployed servicemembers to shop for free today in six make-shift toy stores stocked with toys and books donated by Wal-Mart and set up in locations near military installations throughout the country, said Jim Knotts, Operation Homefront chief executive officer.

U.S. Education Secretary Duncan and Attorney General Holder Meet with Youth Leaders and Their Parents to Discuss Teen Dating Violence
As part of the Justice Department’s year-long commemoration of the 15th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Attorney General Eric Holder met today with teen leaders, their parents and program directors from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Start Strong: Building Healthy Teen Relationships. The discussion around teen dating violence was held in conjunction with nationwide events as part of the sixth It’s Time to Talk Day, organized annually by Liz Claiborne Inc. to draw national attention to the importance of talking about domestic violence, teen dating violence and intimate partner abuse.

Voting Begins on “I Am What I Learn” Video Contest
Since September 21, hundreds of students across the country have responded to the President’s call to take greater responsibility for their education by creating videos explaining why education is important to their future. In less than two months, students submitted more than 600 video entries to the “I Am What I Learn” video contest, hosted by the U.S. Department of Education and YouTube. In their entries, students talked about their personal goals and the role education plays in meeting them. The submissions came from students with diverse economic, social and ethnic backgrounds, and the content ranged from music videos to short skits. The common theme in all of these videos is that education is the key to their success.

Secretary Chu Announces $3 Billion Investment for Carbon Capture and Sequestration
US Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced today the selection of three new projects with a value of $3.18 billion to accelerate the development of advanced coal technologies with carbon capture and storage at commercial-scale. Secretary Chu made today’s announcement on a conference call with Governor Joe Manchin, Senator Jay Rockefeller, and President of American Electric Power Company, Inc., Mike Morris. These projects will help to enable commercial deployment to ensure the United States has clean, reliable, and affordable electricity and power. An investment of up to $979 million, including funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, will be leveraged by more than $2.2 billion in private capital cost share as part of the third round of the Department’s Clean Coal Power Initiative (CCPI).

Fact Sheet: New CBO Analysis Confirms Benefits of Health Insurance Reform for Businesses
A new analysis by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) affirms that businesses’ health insurance costs will be lower under health insurance reform — even though the analysis does not take into account the full range of policies that will benefit businesses.

Deputy Attorney General David Ogden to Leave Department of Justice
Deputy Attorney General David W. Ogden announced today that he will leave the Department on February 5, 2010 to return to private practice. Prior to joining the Department as Deputy Attorney General in March, Ogden chaired the Obama Administration’s transition team for the Department of Justice.

Army Officer, Wife and Relatives Sentenced in Bribery and Money Laundering Scheme Related to DOD Contracts in Support of Iraq War
A former U.S. Army contracting officer, his wife, his sister and his niece were sentenced today for their participation in a bribery and money laundering scheme related to bribes paid for contracts awarded in support of the Iraq war, announced Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division Lanny A. Breuer and Assistant Attorney General of the Antitrust Division Christine A. Varney. All four defendants were sentenced in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, San Antonio Division by Judge Royal Furgeson.

UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE WEEKLY CLAIMS REPORT
In the week ending Nov. 28, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 457,000, a decrease of 5,000 from the previous week’s revised figure of 462,000. The 4-week moving average was 481,250, a decrease of 14,250 from the previous week’s revised average of 495,500.

Employment Situation Summary
The unemployment rate edged down to 10.0 percent in November, and nonfarm
payroll employment was essentially unchanged (-11,000), the U.S. Bureau of
Labor Statistics reported today. In the prior 3 months, payroll job losses
had averaged 135,000 a month. In November, employment fell in construction,
manufacturing, and information, while temporary help services and health care
added jobs.

Secretary Clinton Records Two Videos To Reach Afghan and Pakistani Audiences
Secretary Clinton taped two messages this week to reach the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan to echo the themes and messages from President Obama’s speech at West Point.

Secretary Clinton’s video messages are available via the internet and mobile technology, in Arabic, Dari, English, Pashto, and Urdu.

Secretary Salazar to Highlight Climate Change Agenda at Pelican Island, Nation’s First National Wildlife Refuge
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar will visit Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge near Vero Beach, Florida, on Saturday, December 5, 2009, to highlight the threat posed by accelerating climate change to the refuge and wildlife habitat across the nation. Secretary Salazar will dedicate a new section of the Refuge’s Centennial Trail and tour the refuge via a guided kayak tour that is open to the media. Pelican Island was established by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1903 as the nation’s first National Wildlife Refuge, anchoring what has become the world’s preeminent network of protected areas for wildlife. Now, the Refuge and many others like it are threatened by rising sea levels and temperatures.

More Than 30 Companies Commit To Establish or Expand Manufacturing Operations in the United States
Noting the need to create good jobs in America and the importance of a revitalized manufacturing sector, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced that more than 30 rail manufacturers and suppliers, both domestic and foreign, have committed to establish or expand their base of operations in the United States if they are chosen by states or groups of states to build America’s next generation high-speed rail lines. Earlier this year President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), which included $8 billion for states to build high-speed rail corridors and improve intercity passenger rail service.

High-speed rail to be a US job-growth engine
America is excited about the Obama Administration’s goal to develop a national high-speed rail network.

But, more than just moving passengers and goods more efficiently, high-speed rail will also be an engine for job growth in the US.

VA To Survey Veteran Households
Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki announced the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has launched a national survey of Veterans, active duty service members, activated National Guard and reserve members, and family members and survivors to learn if they are aware of VA services.

“By hearing directly from Veterans and their family members, we gain valuable information to help us serve them better. We hope those who receive the survey will respond to it,” Secretary Shinseki said.

Categories: News & Politics

83 Responses so far.

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  1. bitohistory says:

    Nel, watching a program on PBS and they mention that “The Zeypher” in 1933 set a record going from Denver to Chicago reaching speed of 112mph. And now in 2009 we are talking about high speed rail. Would you settle for 112 mph to S.F.?

    • Mogamboguru says:

      bitohistory, in Europe, the french TGV-trains (“Train a Grande Vitesse” -- High-Speed-Train) and the german ICE’s (Intercity Express) are travelling long distance at average speeds of 200 mph daily, on a regular base on a continental highspeed-railroad network.

      Besides that, we have separate systems for cargo-railroads and for commuting, too.

      Nothing is perfect, but the european railroad systems in many ranges come close to the optimum.

      And then there was the japanese Shinkansen… 😎

      • Kalima says:

        I think the word that you are looking for is “is” as in, “And then there is the Japanese Shinkansen.” The last time I heard, we still have it. :)

  2. Kalima says:

    Personally I don’t see how a video taped message by HC to the Afghan people is going to reach out to them. Where are the diplomats hiding these days and what happened to the “hands on” approach?

    • bitohistory says:

      Kalima, I am going to leave you now. Have a good day and take care. Good night.

    • bitohistory says:

      Kalima, on a positive note, there has never been as many people from the Dept. of State in the country as there are now. Dept of Defense Gates in the hearing the other day said we need more of them there right now. I have never seen the military asking for more money and people for the State Dept.

      • Kalima says:

        I find it a good thing and have always been a firm believer in diplomacy but I wonder if it’s a case of too little too late. The country has been allowed to fester without solutions for far too long and I’m sure that the resentment has grown unabated because of Bush’s neglect.

        • bitohistory says:

          I can only hope, I don’t wont to see the soccer(whups football) stadiums field closed again to be used as beheading sites while the world stands by.

          • Kalima says:

            That was the Taliban, all the more reason to weaken their hold in the south and the northern border areas with Pakistan.

            • bitohistory says:

              Defiantly seems it will take a multi-pronged solution. The military, diplomacy,NGO’s, education, agriculture……
              Do we, does the world, have the patience,the fortitude to see it through?

            • Kalima says:

              After “gate crashing” the country, I would bloody well hope they finish what they have started there after 9/11, otherwise the loss of lives on all sides means what exactly?

    • nellie says:

      I wondered the same thing. It reminds me of the pamphlets we dropped in Iraq. I’m sure there are going to be face to face people on the ground, and I guess the message from Mrs. Clinton goes to everyone, so it is probably meant to unify the separate efforts.

      I guess it depends on what she says and how the message is distributed.

      • bitohistory says:

        I tried to watch it but it just kept “loading” for 4 mins. What can it hurt? get the bad guys pissed off?
        It may show some support being from State rather than the military.

      • Kalima says:

        Exactly nelli, the infamous “pamplets” dropped in places where maybe one person could read them and the rest didn’t care anyway.

        I still believe that in the end, only negotiations including all parties will lead to any solid foundations there. It is what has been done throughout the ages and I believe there should be much more interaction with tribal leaders to find out what the people of Afghanistan really want. It is after all their country and as all of us, they have every right to voice their opinions.

        Yes, I will be interested in what she has to say, but also how she said it.

  3. bitohistory says:

    Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy ride again! A climate research center in Canada was broken into by burglars and hackers.

    Andrew Weaver, a University of Victoria scientist and key contributor to the Nobel prize-winning work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, says there have been a number of attempted breaches in recent months, including two successful break-ins at his campus office in which a dead computer was stolen and papers were rummaged through.
    http://wonkroom.thinkprogress.org/2009/12/04/climategate-watergate/

    http://www.nationalpost.com/news/story.html?id=2300282

  4. bitohistory says:

    Can’t say this will be un-reported (it won’t be), but I found this interesting.
    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=121126092

    Pres. Obama went to capital hill today to speak at the Senate Dem caucus.
    OK. Now we can start the speculation.

    • javaz says:

      Thanks for the link, b’ito.
      Hopefully President Obama can rally the Dems to stand united in passing reform with a public option.

      Here’s another one that might be under-reported :

      http://thinkprogress.org/2009/12/05/bcbs-alec-health/

      “ThinkProgess has documented how the private health insurance industry is waging a duplicitous,

      • bitohistory says:

        Thanks, j’avaz. I saw that this morning. I was shocked, I tell you, simply shocked. :-) How much more do those blood suckers want?

        • javaz says:

          Well, if this article is correct --

          http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2009/12/4/121753/492

          “Health insurance giant Aetna is planning to force up to 650,000 clients to drop their coverage next year as it seeks to raise additional revenue to meet profit expectations….

          Aetna came to this decision despite the fact that it actually did make a profit in 2009, just not high enough profits to satisfy shareholders. “

          • nellie says:

            If people are going to get pushed out of their plans when the bill passes, the public option becomes even more important.

            • bitohistory says:

              How can this bill work without the PO? What do we need 70 dems to pass this bloody bill?

            • nellie says:

              That’s what Biden thinks. Maybe not this bill, but the right bill needs that many dems.

              The democratic party really isn’t a party. It’s three parties. It needs to split up, and we need IRV.

              Off the soapbox now.

  5. KQuark says:

    All llamas all the time. Welcome to Llama Planet.

    ” alt=”LP” />

  6. boomer1949 says:

    Well, seems I missed the overall discussion, but here’s my 2 cents on a couple of things…

    Ft. Hood deployment: Although I admire the grit and dedication of these men and women, I cannot believe the powers that be are making them go. Seems to me their time would be better spent with their families (if possible) and the opportunity for additional counseling/therapy if desired.

    Food Banks: I’ve heard of heifer.org and every year I promise myself to donate in some way, but my bad and never follow through.

    On the other hand, I have found many good causes through http://greatergood.org/ — Literacy (important to me because my daughter teaches Kindergarten), Women’s Health Issues, Child Health Issues, Animal Rescue, and several other meaningful areas. What I like about it most, however, is donations can be gifts for friends & family. And…there are more opportunities for programs here in the US — which I think are often neglected.

    Hope everyone is having a great weekend!

  7. PepeLepew says:

    In *really* important news, Montana Sen. Max Baucus says there is absolutely nothing wrong with him nominating his girlfiend to a U.S. Attorney post.

    And, oh, by the way, it wasn’t an affair because he was sleeping with his girlfriend/staff member/future U.S. Attorney nominee while he was no longer living with his wife (though they had not yet legally separated). That part’s important!

    http://missoulian.com/news/local/article_c7c4acb0-e163-11de-987e-001cc4c002e0.html

    Between Baucus and Burns, Montana is a real embarrassment. Schweitzer can’t be far behind…

    • MadHeart says:

      Hanes started working for Baucus in 2002. I always expect politicians to lie about their personal lives, and I don’t think he is an exception, esp. since he’s a DINO.

    • KQuark says:

      I just don’t like it because it gives the MSM another distraction to stop paying attention to important issues like healthcare reform. I could care less who he sleeps with if he’s separated from his wife legally or not.

      Of course the nomination is the important issue that needs to be investigated like investigating any crony that is nominated for public office.

      • PepeLepew says:

        I just think it’s funny his office is making a big deal out of the fact that “it wasn’t an affair.” Who cares? It was still patently unethical.

        • Kalima says:

          Odd isn’t. If you are not living with your wife (think bonking) then it’s not an affair even though you are still married.

          Women are from Venus. Men are from Mars.

  8. MadHeart says:

    The employment stats are interesting, and misleading. A few people were, after all, hired for the xmas season which is supposed to garner big bucks for retail. Let’s see what the first of the year brings. I’m hoping this is a reflection of the stimulus working, but it’s truly too early to tell.

    Still, I know too many people who are considered “still working” whose hours have been cut to below subsistence level, including my son. Commercial construction is in the toilet now, and as in housing construction, many of those “employed” by the construction industry won’t be counted as unemployed because they work for subcontractors and are paid off the books. Ironically, though, construction is listed as one of the most affected by layoffs in Nov. but it doesn’t reveal the entire story.

    I figure if there are just over 15 million being recognized officially as unemployed, there are probably 25 million underemployed, those with hours cut, those working PT jobs, etc., and that’s 40 million out of the estimated 100 million who work in the US, or 40%, whose income has been reduced substantially. This can’t be good for the future since many jobs won’t be coming back, period, and too many people actually need to work to support not only themselves, but children as well. It might be good advice for some people to go back to school (if they don’t need to produce an income), but in the case of a 40 or 50-something person, won’t they just be competing with their kids for the same jobs upon graduation?

    I could be working in retail in better economic times, but at 68 it’s hard to compete with middle aged people and their own children for those jobs. The govt just cannot make up for the loss of jobs by the private sector when the private sector refuses to cooperate and insists on trimming labor costs to improve their bottom line and to keep on paying outrageous executive salaries.

    • KQuark says:

      Unemployment is seasonally adjusted but since Reagan the numbers have not meant much. I do find it interesting that any time there is a sign of economic improvement people are skeptical. People have become very cynical but for good reason.

      I look at the underemployed number which is closer to the real unemployment rate that stands at 17.2% but it’s also down a little.

  9. KQuark says:

    OK Nellie I hope you don’t take offense at an off topic picture but I just had to post this because it was too funny.

    ” width=”350″ height=”300″ alt=”dftt” />

  10. escribacat says:

    Another excellent list, Nellie. What process do you use to search for stories?

    I wish that high speed rail plan included us here out west! Colorado has very little public transportation to speak of. It’s a car-based culture. We’ve been battling in my town just to get the Denver light rail extended to us, and it still feels like a pipe dream though the TARP does have some funds for it (though not enough to complete it). I realize there aren’t as many of us out here, but it doesn’t mean we don’t also need decent public transportation.

    • nellie says:

      Thanks ecat.

      This list is actually pretty easy to compile. I just go through the press releases for the cabinet positions. There aren’t that many stories in any given week.

      The list for yesterday is just doing the regular reading of the capitol hill press and the regular newspapers. I love reading the news, so it’s fun for me to do these pieces. Some things that seem to be important only show up in one place (for some reason), and those are the stories I post.

      And I know just what you mean about high speed rail. We’re in the same boat in CA. It would make so much sense to have HSR between LA and San Francisco. But do we????

  11. Mogamboguru says:

    “NOAA: North American 2008 Cooling Attributed to Natural Causes
    Cooler North American temperatures in 2008 resulted from a strong natural effect, and the overall warming trend that has been observed since 1970 is likely to resume, according to university and NOAA scientists.

  12. KQuark says:

    Thanks nellie great stories. I always thought Gaia would react to the warmer temperatures, increased humidity and higher CO2 levels. But still the operative word in Climate Change is “Change”. Many billions of people are situated on this planet based on the current resources which come from the current climate patters. Yes more developed countries can adapt more quickly but when those patters change that is the danger to much of humanity that lives in the underdeveloped world.

    Glad to hear about the food banks as well.

    OK I don’t want to offend vegans but I heard of a great program to buy livestock for people in developing nations for food, milk, wool, breeding ect. Call it a micro micro financing cause. Remember too that farmers who will be getting this livestock are not corporate farms. The farmers who participate believe in sustainable agriculture. To shamelessly drop a name it was Alton Brown from the food network who did the spot. I’ve seen him a few times in the market and got to talk to him once. He’s seems like a nice guy and really knows his food.

    If you want to donate the address is below.

    http://www.heifer.org/

    • nellie says:

      That organization is fantastic!

      I’m going to buy a llama and I think a goat this christmas. It’s a great way to help people out — with some self sufficiency. Wish they wouldn’t sell pigs, though. I have a thing about eating little piggies.

      • KQuark says:

        I think llamas and goats are preferred because they produce potable milk and fur for wool. But then again I could be wrong because I know shit about livestock.

        • PepeLepew says:

          We live right next door to a couple of llamas.

          A lot of llamas in Montana are raised to hang out with sheep because coyotes won’t attack a sheep herd if there’s llamas around. I don’t know if that works with wolves.

          • nellie says:

            I wouldn’t mess with a llama. I hear they can be fierce.

          • Mogamboguru says:

            In the Pyrenee-mountains on the french-spanish border, shepherds breed a special race of dogs to protect their sheep from wolves.

            These “Pyrenean Mountain Dogs” look almost exactly like sheep, regarding their appearance, size and weight, their fur and their colour http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Pyrenees

            These dogs are bred and raised with sheep, live with sheep all the time and, hence, believe they are sheep themselves. This way, they accept a herd of sheep as their pack.

            Can you imagine the unpleasant surprise a wolf must feel, when he tries to sneak into a herd of sheep at night for dinner -- only to find out, that some of the sheep have sharp teeth, will start to bark and growl, as soon as they smell you, and will start chasing you, instead of you hunting them? :-)

            • bitohistory says:

              I have been around sheep, I been around those dogs. Those dogs are huge! I have never seen sheep that big.

            • nellie says:

              hee hee Mo! :-)

              Kalima, when it comes to those dogs, they are gigantic. The head is almost as high as my shoulders, and I’m 5′ 6″. I talked to the owner — calmest dog he ever owned, he said. But like having a horse in the house.

            • Mogamboguru says:

              Nellie, I will NEVER be able to show these pics to my girlfriend -- or I will have to share my place at her side with one of those cute, yet fast and BIG-growing puppies ASAP… 😉

            • Kalima says:

              Nelli I would think that most of it is wool and protection from the cold.
              When we wash our Ollie, a fluffy Blue Persian, he’s the skinniest little thing you will ever see, he looks like a wet rat.

            • bitohistory says:

              Those sheep ARE big!

            • nellie says:

              Here’s one w a flock. Look like some pretty big sheep!

              Great Pyrenees w sheep

              ” target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow”>and this one

              Might be time for a new puppy…

            • bitohistory says:

              Mo, well then a flock of those sheep would scare me. :-)

            • Mogamboguru says:

              Perhaps, Pyrene

            • nellie says:

              One lived in my old neighborhood. They are enormous. Any coyote that sees one of those dogs would probably be scared off by the sheer size of it.

        • bitohistory says:

          Of course it’s potable milk! They have four legs!! Man you don’t know anything about live stock, do you?

        • nellie says:

          Yep — these are animals that become part of the family. And llamas are also working animals, I think.

          • KQuark says:

            You know I never thought about which animals produce milk humans can consume. I would guess hogs milk would probably contain too much bacteria or something. But now I wonder if sheep’s and other animals milk is drinkable.

            OK I had to look it up on Wiki.

            Other animal sources
            Goat’s milk can be used for other applications such as cheese and other dairy products.

            “In addition to cattle, the following livestock animals provide milk used by humans for dairy products:

            * Camel
            * Donkey
            * Goat
            * Horse
            * Reindeer
            * Sheep
            * Water buffalo
            * Yak

            In Russia and Sweden, small moose dairies also exist.”

            From other sources you can drink llama and alpaca milk as well.

            And yes the biggest reason we can’t drink some milks like milk from pigs is the bacteria in the milk.

            • nellie says:

              Horse milk…

              I learn something every day at this place!

            • bitohistory says:

              KQ Takes on All!!!
              Topic: llamas! 😛

            • nellie says:

              New Friday Night feature?

            • KQuark says:

              I did not know llamas and alpacas were related to camels. They also are used as “guard” livestock for sheep and goats. Of course since they are related to camels they also spit. I’m ready for llama trivia.

      • bitohistory says:

        That is a good group! I can’t afford much but I try to send them a few bucks. (no pun intended)

        • nellie says:

          Ha!

          They’re a great group, and kiva — the micro lending group — is another one. It makes so much sense to help people with the things they actually want rather than the things we want to foist on them.

  13. javaz says:

    Thank you, Nellie, for an excellent compilation of news!

    This will definitely keep me busy for an hour or two, reading all the links.


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