ANONYMOUS says it hijacked the website of the US Sentencing Commission early Saturday morning to retaliate for the suicide death of Aaron Swartz, the internet activist facing decades in prison for… “illegally” downloading millions of academic articles. Swartz, who helped create Reddit and RSS (internet search and update features), was being pursued by federal prosecutors. The hacker-activist group said it hijacked the website of the Sentencing Commission to avenge the death of Aaron Swartz, an Internet activist who committed suicide on January 11. The website of the commission, an independent agency of the judicial branch, was taken over early Saturday. Hackers replaced the homescreen with a message warning that when Swartz killed himself two weeks ago “a line was crossed.” Anonymous says they've infiltrated several government computer systems and copied secret information that they now threaten to make public. The message on the sentencing website partly read: “Citizens of the world, Anonymous has observed for some time now the trajectory of justice in the United States with growing concern. We have marked the departure of this system from the noble ideals in which it was born and enshrined. We have seen the erosion of due process, the dilution of constitutional rights, the usurpation of the rightful authority of courts by the ‘discretion’ or prosecutors.”
NOVELIST STEPHEN KING wrote wrote a passionate essay in favor of gun control asking “how many have to die before we will give up these dangerous toys?” The best-selling author called for increased checks, plus banning magazines over ten rounds and assault weapons and expressed frustration with politicians as gun control measures “disappear into the legislative swamp.” King published a 99-cent on-line essay on Friday calling for greater gun control, seeking to provoke a discussion on gun control and gun rights following the school shooting massacre in Newtown, Connecticut. The Maine native is a gun owner. He calls for three “reasonable measures” to curb gun violence in the 8,000-word article titled “Guns,” released as a Kindle single through Amazon. King says he wants background checks on all gun sales and bans on high-capacity magazines and military-style weapons like the rifle used in the Newtown shooting, which killed 20 children and six school officials. “If this helps provoke constructive debate, I've done my job,” said King. King started the work with list of criticisms, attacking the way that school shootings are reported by the media and how politicians respond to such events without ultimately changing anything. His list concludes: “21. Any bills to change existing gun laws, including those that make it possible for almost anyone in America to purchase a high-capacity assault weapon, quietly disappear into the legislative swamp. “22. It happens again and the whole thing starts over.” The pamphlet is strongly worded and confrontational. “In the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings, gun advocates have to ask themselves if their zeal to protect even the outer limits of gun ownership have anything to do with preserving the Second Amendment as a whole, or if it’s just a stubborn desire to hold onto what they have, and to hell with the collateral damage. … I have nothing against gun owners, sport shooters, or hunters, but how many have to die before we will give up these dangerous toys? … Do the murders have to be in the mall where you shop? In your own neighborhood? In your own family?” King wrote the book Rage under the pseudonym Richard Bachman in 1977. In this story a boy takes a gun to school, shoots a teacher and holds a class hostage. From 1988 there were several reports of teenagers who claimed to be inspired by the book who took guns into their schools, killing fellow students and holding others hostage. When he heard of this King asked his publisher to take Rage out of print. In “Guns” he states that he didn't see that book as a “cause” of these incidents but that: “I saw ‘Rage’ as a possible accelerant.” King ends “Guns” with what he describes as “a trio of reasonable measures to curb gun violence”: 1. Comprehensive and universal background checks, 2. Ban the sale of clips and magazines containing more than ten rounds, 3. Ban the sale of assault weapons such as the Bushmaster and the AR-15. (Courtesy, the London Daily Mail)
STORES MAY START CHARGING YOU for paying by credit card tomorrow. A new rule going into effect Sunday could cost you more when shopping with a credit card at some stores. Visa and Mastercard have agreed to let merchants add a service charge equal to the cost of processing a credit transaction to the bottom line. The cost of processing is usually 1.5-3% and merchants are capped at a 4% fee under the agreement. The rule change was made as part of settling an antitrust suit brought by retailers. Merchants will still not be allowed to add a surcharge to debit card transactions. However, few stores seem interested in raising their customer's costs. “We have discussed the settlement with many, many merchants, and not a single merchant we have spoken to plans to surcharge,” said Craig Sherman, spokesman for the National Retail Federation, which was not involved in the lawsuit. Wal-Mart, Target, Sears and Home Depot all told NBC News that they had no plans to add a credit card surcharge. California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Oklahoma and Texas all ban credit card surcharges. Both Visa and MasterCard have rules requiring retailers to handle credit cards the same way in every store regardless of location, so if a chain has a store in a state where surcharges are banned then none of its locations would be allowed to have a surcharge.
Under the settlement terms, a merchant adding surcharges on Visa or MasterCard would have to do the same with American Express cards, but that company prohibits surcharge fees. “The bottom line is that very few retailers would be able to surcharge under the settlement, and that the vast majority don’t want to surcharge even if they could,” Sherman said. “In the brick-and-mortar world, no one who does any sort of volume business is going to want to surcharge because it will drive their customer crazy and slow down transactions,” agreed Ed Mierzwinski, Director of Consumer Programs at US PIRG. With the exception of small retailers, credit surcharges are not a major issue for most businesses. Still, over time they could become popular as a way for stores to make extra money. That's because stores already factor in the cost of processing a credit care when they price their merchandise. Unless they dropped their prices, a second charge would be double-dipping at the loss of the consumer. “We shouldn’t have gotten to the point, but unfortunately because of the court settlement we have,” said Edgar Dworsky, founder of ConsumerWorld.org. “There’s no one standing up for consumers and saying that this is really bad.” He noted that in Australia, where surcharging originated in 2003, extra charges have boomed to the point where one-third of retailers charge extra to use a credit card. The advocacy group Consumer Action warns shoppers to watch their receipts and argue any fees that don't belong. “Customers shouldn't stand for it,” said Ruth Susswein, Consumer Action's deputy director of national priorities. “Our advice is to tell them you don't like the fee and this makes you want to take your business elsewhere.” If a retailer plans to add a surcharge they are required to post a notification at the store's entrance. The exact surcharge percentage needn't be disclosed until the sale. Online stores with a surcharge will not be required to have a notice until shoppers reach the page where credit cards are first mentioned, which is most often the final step of checkout. “We’re not convinced this is going to be an issue,” Susswein said. “They may never do it, but as individual consumers we need to be aware.”
“GOOD ENOUGH” ISN’T GOOD ENOUGH: Fort Bragg Woodworking Students to Display their Work
How would you like to see creations made with California wood by students at one of the finest woodworking schools in the United States? Work from students at the College of the Redwoods Fine Woodworking Program goes on display at the Fort Bragg, CA Town Hall with a 5pm reception on February 1, and continues until 2pm on February 10th. “Our students have been living these projects, sweating over them, loving them, learning from them, and dreaming about exhibiting them in our Mid-Winter Show for over three months,” says Director Laura Mays. Mays is a graduate of the program herself, studying under the late James Krenov, the guiding inspiration of the program. For the first time, over half of student works are built with wood from California, from madrone and bay laurel from Mendocino County to apricot from Silicon Valley. “One lovely cabinet by first year student Ben Cooper demonstrates the beautiful properties of madrone,” says Mays. “It exemplifies our students — interest in local woods, much like the local food movement.” James Schiffman, Senior Editor at CNN, is familiar with students and graduates of the program. “Their work is exquisite. Its clear that students at the Fine Woodworking Program are performing at the highest level of craftsmanship.”
Many of the works on exhibit will be for sale. Contact: David Welter, (707) 964-7056 email@example.com
LARRY LIVERMORE ASKS: “Is there anything in the Constitution that would prevent Biden from serving a 3rd or 4th term as VP under Hillary?”
EPIC VIGILENCE Saves Old-Growth Fir and Spotted Owl Nest from Sierra Pacific Industries Saws. By Rob DiPerna --
After public comment by the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) about questionable logging plans proposed near the Redwood National Park instigated a higher degree of state agency review, Sierra Pacific Industries (SPI) has recently dropped a proposal to log 22 acres of old growth Douglas fir forest on private holdings in the Cloney Gulch and High Prairie Creek drainages of the Redwood Creek watershed, Humboldt County. The Redwood Creek drainage is of global importance as a cornerstone watershed of the Redwood National Park, and one that has received millions of dollars of restoration investment since the establishment of the park more than 40 years ago. SPI has a small in-holding in the upper Redwood Creek drainage, and owns more than 2 million acres of forestlands statewide.
This stand of old growth Douglas fir forest that SPI intended to log is of significance because it provides critical nesting and roosting habitat for Northern Spotted Owls. In addition, the old-growth forest sits on steep inner gorge slopes adjacent to Redwood Creek, providing critical refugia for listed salmonids, and an essential wildlife corridor for numerous other species. The upper portions of Redwood Creek where the plan is located have been heavily managed for timber production over the decades, and the old growth adjacent to the creek represents some of the last remnants for miles.
SPI’s original proposal to clearcut the old growth was shrouded in deceit. SPI failed to identify that old growth would be harvested in the original Timber Harvest Plan document. Only after a Pre-harvest Inspection in which California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) field staff identified the stand as old growth did the public learn of the real qualities of the stand. In addition to this, SPI had originally typed the old growth stand as ‘foraging’ habitat for Northern Spotted Owls. Yet, it was not until the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) inspected the project site and found that the stand was actually core nesting and roosting habitat for owls that SPI changed the habitat designation of the stand to reflect its true importance to the owl, a species under extreme conservation duress.
After reviewing the proposed old growth clearcutting within a known Northern Spotted Owl nesting and roosting core area, CAL FIRE biologists determined that harvesting the unit as proposed would result in direct harm to owls. SPI subsequently dropped the unit from the harvest plan. Unfortunately, the company still refuses to consider the old growth stand as part of the essential core area for resident spotted owls, and still refuses to acknowledge the old growth quality and conservation importance of the stand.
“This is yet another instance where proposed SPI logging operations directly threatened Northern Spotted Owls,” said Rob DiPerna, EPIC’s Industrial Forestry Reform Advocate. “SPI’s continued efforts to deceive agencies and the public for the purposes of driving spotted owls off its lands have once again been exposed as harmful and in direct conflict with the Endangered Species Act.”
In July of 2012, and again in September 2012, EPIC submitted comments on the “Hiker’s Parade” Timber Harvest Plan because the Plan would clearcut a forest stand with “130+ year old Douglas-fir” that provides habitat for spotted owls and other wildlife species. Subsequently, the agencies charged with oversight of the Plan – CDFW and CAL FIRE – took a closer look and began asking SPI questions about the old-growth and impacts to wildlife. The “Hiker’s Parade” logging plan would have essentially destroyed a known NSO core area by removing essential and limited old growth habitat. On Friday, January 18, 2013, due to EPIC vigilance, and an encouraging act of agency ground truthing, SPI withdrew the old-growth stand from their Timber Harvest Plan.
THE UNINVITED ONES: Obama: Words and Deeds. By Ralph Nader
A friend asked me what I was thinking while listening to President Obama’s inaugural address. Here were my reactions:
Obama: “They [the Patriots of 1776] gave to us a republic, a government of and by and for the people.”
The flood of money-shaping elections and politics has given us a corporate government of the Exxons, by the General Motors, for the DuPonts.
Obama: “Together we resolve that a great nation must care for the vulnerable and protect its people from life’s worst hazards and misfortune.”
In his first term Obama was indifferent to the more than 300,000 preventable fatalities a year in this country from hospital infections and malpractice, adverse drug effects, and occupational disease/trauma, in addition to coming perils of viral epidemics from abroad.
Obama: “…our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it.”
He reneged and kept silent on his repeated 2008 campaign promise to push for a $9.50 minimum wage by 2011 and for a card-check system to facilitate the growth of unions. In his first term he discouraged Democrats from championing these measures in Congress even though thirty million workers are making wages less than workers made in 1968, adjusted for inflation (see timeforaraise.org). He also opposed a Wall Street financial transaction tax and declined to reduce gigantic corporate welfare programs (that conservatives call “crony capitalism”) that beg for repeal.
Obama: “We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.”
Obama and the emissaries he sends to international climate change conferences have brought up the rear among nations, infuriating our allies who looked to the USA for leadership. He never pressed for a carbon tax that even Exxon and leading conservatives, such as Gregory Mankiw, support (Mankiw was the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under George W. Bush). I also believe that Obama will approve the Keystone XL Pipeline that will carry 900,000 barrels of dirty tar sands oil through the US every day. A decision that Jim Hansen of NASA said would be catastrophic.
Obama: “[E]nduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war….We will defend our people and uphold our values through strength of arms and the rule of law.”
Hello! This coming from the ex-Constitutional law teacher who has turned his imperial presidency into an institutionalized violator of the Constitution, federal statutes and international treaties. He has personally ordered many unlawful military incursions and slayings in countries that are not at war with the U.S. against people who do not constitute “imminent threats.” (See the new documentary Dirty Wars http://dirtywars.org/.)
The week of his inauguration President Obama sent drones to destroy “suspects” and whoever may be with or near them, including children, without the rule of law being observed. He is the law – the secret prosecutor, judge, jury, and executioner for such attacks that have taken many civilian lives and produced increased hatred toward the U.S. from Pakistan to Yemen. The alleged “secret law” in Justice Department memos that he relies on is designed to strip the Congress and the courts of their Constitutional roles, as well as to keep the American people in the dark about drone attack decisions he makes on what his aides called “Terror Tuesdays.”
Obama: “We will support democracy from Asia to Africa, from the Americas to the Middle East….”
What about attending to our deteriorating democratic protections and civil liberties in our own country? Washington, D.C. is corporate occupied territory in all three branches of government. Never in the past half-century have the people and concern for their necessities been more shut out of their government. It continues to be “pay to play” time in the nation’s capital.
Obama: “You and I, as citizens, have the obligation to shape the debates of our time…”
Well, then how about working to shift more power away from the few and toward the many? How about campaign finance reform and federal ballot access reform so voters can have more choices from third parties whose candidates, by the way, he should have been gracious enough to invite to his January 21, 2013 gala.
Granted, inaugural addresses are meant to be general and inspirational, not programmatic and revelatory. In a few days, Mr. Obama will have a chance to present his program in his more lengthy State of the Union address before the Congress. But inaugurations set tones as did the dominant militaristic displays and the managed adulation of the “imperial presidency.”
Tom Sherwood, a local commentator, watching the Inaugural parades up Pennsylvania Avenue from the sixth-floor balcony of the Newseum decried “the extraordinary expense – financial and psychological – of turning America’s Main Street into an armed camp where democracy is suspended for several days…. Protest groups are ‘assigned’ demonstration areas, and required to pay fees and adhere to strict assembly instructions…. This being the week of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, it makes you wonder what success would have been achieved if civil rights workers had acceded to police demands not to march here or there, or to pay to get detailed permits first.”
Sherwood adds: “but why not a parade that showcases the social services, arts and industries, and sciences along with our military services.” He then gives examples for his refreshing proposal. (You can follow him on Twitter @tomsherwood.)
Writing in The New York Times, David Brooks had qualms in an otherwise laudatory column on Obama’s speech, concluding that “we have no party that is comfortable with civil society, no party that understands the ways government and the market can both crush and nurture community, no party with new ideas about how these things might blend together.”
Good point, Mr. Brooks, but not true for some third parties and their candidates who were the Obama parade’s uninvited ones.
(Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition.)
C-WIN slams Brown's call to build the twin tunnels
Cost of peripheral tunnels will exceed $60 billion
by Dan Bacher
The California Water Impact Network (C-WIN), an organization working to promote the equitable and environmentally sensitive use of California’s water, criticized Governor Jerry Brown’s call in his State of the State address for two massive tunnels under the Delta to send Northern California water south - and revealed that the true cost of the tunnels will exceed $60 billion.
"My proposed plan is two tunnels 30 miles long and 40 feet wide, designed to improve the ecology of the Delta, with almost 100 square miles of habitat restoration," claimed Brown. "Yes, that is big but so is the problem."
"The London Olympics lasted a short while and cost $14 billion, about the same cost as this project," Brown stated.
Carolee Krieger, Executive Director of C-WIN (http://www.c-win.org), responded, “Governor Brown is not giving the full cost of the Peripheral Tunnels when he says it will cost $14 billion. The cost will easily exceed $60 billion by the time financing, cost overruns, mitigation, operations and maintenance are counted. Californians will spend billions for tunnels with not a drop more of water delivered to our cities and no benefits to the environment."
"Santa Barbara is the poster child for underestimating water project costs- ratepayers were told in 1991 it would cost $270 million to get Delta water but spent $1.76 billion," Krieger disclosed. "That averages to over $18,000 for each of Santa Barbara County’s 95,000 customers.”
Krieger emphasized, “The Governor is no longer saying that the beneficiaries will pay for the project and we can expect that he’ll ask the state General Fund/taxpayers to foot more of the cost. That will be money that would otherwise go to public safety, education, health care and paying off past debt. California already has 6% of its budget going to pay off debt. We don’t need more public debt for outdated water solutions.”
Jim Edmondson, a southern California C-WIN board member, said there are "better and cheaper" solutions for protecting and enhancing water supplies like strengthening Delta levees for $4 billion, recycling, conservation and stormwater capture.
"Southern California ratepayers and taxpayers will pay the costs of the twin tunnels, but may not receive a drop more water," said Edmondson. "They will be paying more every month to increase water deliveries for subsidized corporate agribusiness in portions of the San Joaquin Valley."
Edmondson concluded that "Several other lower costs alternatives exist that are not being given full consideration by the Governor and his water barons. Governor Brown's arguments that he is fiscally prudent are suspect. A recent benefit/cost analysis for the Peripheral Tunnels concluded that Californians will spend $2.50 for only $1 of benefits."
A groundbreaking economic analysis released on August 7 by Food & Water Watch and C-WIN reveals that Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) customers could be on the line for $2,003 to $9,182 per customer to pay for the 37-mile Peripheral Tunnels project announced by Governor Jerry Brown on July 25. To download the report, go to: http://documents.foodandwaterwatch.org/doc/BayDeltaConveyanceLAEconAnalysis.pdf
The construction of the peripheral tunnels would likely lead to the extinction of Central Valley salmon, Delta smelt, longfin smelt and other species, according to agency and independent scientists. For details on the threat to listed species posed by the BDCP, read the briefing paper by the Bay Institute and Defenders of Wildlife at: http://www.bay.org/assets/BDCP%20EA%20Briefing%20Paper%2022912.pdf
THIS TUESDAY MORNING KZYX Mind Body Health Politics host Dr. Richard Miller will interview Dr. William L. Courtney at 9am. Dr. Courtney has an extensive medical education that began with a Bachelor of Science in Microbiology from the University of Michigan. He also received his Doctor of Medicine from Wayne State University, and Interned for Residency in Psychiatry at California Pacific Medical Center and went on to earned his Post Doctorate in Forensic Examination and Forensic Medicine. Dr. Courtney is currently a member of American Academy of Cannabinoid Medicine, the International Cannabinoid Research Society, the International Association of Cannabis as Medicine, and the Society of Clinical Cannabis. Dr. Courtney has also been teaching Continuing Medical Education (CME) courses in clinical cannabis. His area of special interest is in the dietary uses of cannabis to achieve 250 to 500 mg of cannabinoid acids, which he considers as a conditionally essential nutrient in the diet of individuals from the 4th decade on. He has presented on high dose non-psychoactive dietary uses at Cannabis Therapeutics in Rhode Island April 2010, the Institute of Molecular Psychiatry at the University of Bonn in June 2010, the Institute for Advanced Studies at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem in November 2010, and the International Cannabinoid Research Society conference in Chicago in July 2011. Dr. Courtney is Vice President of the Association Luxembourgeoise des Methodes Preventives, an ambulatory care facility in Luxembourg utilizing dietary unheated cannabis. He is working with dispensaries interested in providing high dose raw/juiced cannabis to seriously ill medical marijuana patients, and is also working to establish analytic / medical laboratories in Mendocino and Humboldt Counties, California.
The broadcast concludes with editorial comments.