NORML PSA: Do You Know Where Your Police Are?

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The Dutch Way: Bicycles and Fresh Bread

From The New York Times:

Published: July 30, 2011


AS an American who has been living here for several years, I am struck, every time I go home, by the way American cities remain manacled to the car. While Europe is dealing with congestion and greenhouse gas buildup by turning urban centers into pedestrian zones and finding innovative ways to combine driving with public transportation, many American cities are carving out more parking spaces. It’s all the more bewildering because America’s collapsing infrastructure would seem to cry out for new solutions.

Geography partly explains the difference: America is spread out, while European cities predate the car. But Boston and Philadelphia have old centers too, while the peripheral sprawl in London and Barcelona mirrors that of American cities.

More important, I think, is mind-set. Take bicycles. The advent of bike lanes in some American cities may seem like a big step, but merely marking a strip of the road for recreational cycling spectacularly misses the point. In Amsterdam, nearly everyone cycles, and cars, bikes and trams coexist in a complex flow, with dedicated bicycle lanes, traffic lights and parking garages. But this is thanks to a different way of thinking about transportation.

To give a small but telling example, pointed out to me by my friend Ruth Oldenziel, an expert on the history of technology at Eindhoven University, Dutch drivers are taught that when you are about to get out of the car, you reach for the door handle with your right hand — bringing your arm across your body to the door. This forces a driver to swivel shoulders and head, so that before opening the door you can see if there is a bike coming from behind. Likewise, every Dutch child has to pass a bicycle safety exam at school. The coexistence of different modes of travel is hard-wired into the culture.

This in turn relates to lots of other things — such as bread. How? Cyclists can’t carry six bags of groceries; bulk buying is almost nonexistent. Instead of shopping for a week, people stop at the market daily. So the need for processed loaves that will last for days is gone. A result: good bread.

There are also in the United States certain perceptions associated with both cycling and public transportation that are not the case here. In Holland, public buses aren’t considered last-resort forms of transportation. And cycling isn’t seen as eco-friendly exercise; it’s a way to get around. C.E.O.’s cycle to work, and kids cycle to school.

It’s true that public policy reinforces the egalitarianism. With mandatory lessons and other fees, getting a driver’s license costs more than $1,000. And taxi fares are kept deliberately high: a trip from the airport may cost $80, while a 20-minute bus ride sets you back about $3.50. But the egalitarianism — or maybe better said a preference for simplicity — is also rooted in the culture. A 17th-century French naval commander was shocked to see a Dutch captain sweeping out his own quarters. Likewise, I used to run into the mayor of Amsterdam at the supermarket, and he wasn’t engaged in a populist stunt (mayors aren’t elected here but are government appointees); he was shopping.

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Immoral, Grotesque, Unfair

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The American Scream: Going Hoarse Without Speaking

I don’t own a “smart phone” nor do I want one. I’d rather read a book than an i-Pad. I do not watch network TV.

Don’t ask me about American Idol, Trump or Dancing with the Stars.

I don’t buy the music of pop tarts more famous for their tits and ass act than their auto-tuned singing.

Super models?  Not on radar.  I hate fashion, think it utterly shallow.  Would rather have a pair of Birkenstocks than Jimmy Choos, the ridiculously ugly shoe on page 2 of the New York times this week.

Trendy is stupid and boring.

I don’t buy the crap Obama is selling as he is just another right wing Republican.  I never bought into his carefully sculpted Madison Ave, empty slogans of “Hope” and “Change you can believe in”.  Too Reaganesque for me.

Time to update the 1960s “Turn on, tune in, Drop out” slogan to “Turn off, tune out, Rebel”  Because we need to turn off the steady propaganda machine, tune out the constant messaging and rebel against the dystopia the world has been turned into.

From Truth Dig:

By Christopher Ketcham
July 24, 2011

It is clear that nowhere in American commercial life, save perhaps the graveyard, is there a space not polluted by electronic voices. Every bar and restaurant, every airport lounge, bus depot, train station, every doctor’s or real estate agent’s office, every schoolchild’s welcome in the cafeteria, perforce, is larded over with the tin drum and tap and pan-banging and squeaking-squalling-keening of idols, the caviling of news-clowns, the gibberishing of marketeers. Everywhere is the grin-voice of the announcer, salesman, pitchman, sentimentalist, guffawer, crooner, rabble-rouser, tit-wagger, offering always information that leaves one dumber upon hearing. The world as presented in this mosh of nonsense is endless goof and boof, pratfall, infantilizations, the tin cans of the latest news gonged. It is the great horror of the modern, and to resist it is the duty of civilized men.

Silence is anathema, perhaps dangerous, as it might invite boredom, or, worse, introspection, and by God the public must not be bored or suffer self. The cellphone and iPhone and BlackBerry and whichever other electro-leeches at hand are key in this mess. Like little tyrants they screech and demand a hearing; like infants they wail at all hours and must be assuaged. We plug them in our own faces like pacifiers.

It seems we must have noise to recognize we are civilized. Or, perhaps, noise allows us to hide our uncivilized ways. We shall not hear farts, shifts in the seat, the growling of stomachs, the mediocrity of murmurs, the crinkle of shoes that stink, the perverse imp habit of talking to ourselves—it’s got to be cacophonied out—or the mass murder of citizens overseas, or the wars that send our young to mental and physical death-in-life, or the subjugation of entire classes of the poor to the control of the rich.

Let that lone voice speak in the darkness of the unknown crowd and get no answer back—the terror of comedians and actors, the multiplied terror—and damn him who stands there with his dick in his hand. Let the man speak alone and find the crowd against him—the ultimate terror. Let it never happen that the man speaks alone. Drown him in noise.

Therefore, per usual with the Web, I offer alternative noise.

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Kucinich: Why I Voted Against S. 365, the Budget Control Act of 2011

From Rep. Dennis Kucinich:

Washington, Aug 1 

Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) today released the following statement after voting against S. 365, the Budget Control Act of 2011. Kucinich voted in favor of a clean bill to raise the debt ceiling.

S. 365, the Budget Control Act of 2011, is a landmark in American history, but for the wrong reasons.  It is a fake solution to a phony crisis. It provides for a radical transformation of the structure of government. It is an attack on the principle of government of the people. All this in the name of fiscal accountability.

The choice we have today, default or dismantling of the social compact through draconian spending cuts, is a false choice. The President could have simply told Congressional leaders back in December of last year that the debt ceiling was not negotiable, and invoked the 14th Amendment as a backstop.

The “debt crisis” was spurred on by credit rating agencies of dubious integrity threatening a downgrade of the nation’s credit unless the government cut spending. Most of the cuts are guaranteed to hurt those who live at society’s margins, while S. 365 protects the investor class whose interests are served by the rating agencies.

Unelected credit ratings agencies like Standard and Poor’s, the self-declared arbiter of U.S. government creditworthiness must themselves be subjected to a new level of scrutiny absent in the run-up to the Wall Street crisis. The credit raters helped to create that crisis too by procuring business through selling rating marks. The very idea that the sovereign United States must genuflect to dishonest rating agencies is antiquated and counterproductive to America’s economic recovery.

This bill fails on its own terms, which are allegedly about fiscal accountability. The debt has three main drivers:

The first is the recession. If we want to reduce the debt, we have to stimulate the economy, which is hobbled by a jobless recovery. America has 14 million people out of work. We have over three trillion dollars of infrastructure which must be replaced or rebuilt.  We should be investing in America, rebuilding America, stimulating the American economy, priming the pump of our economy instead of capping our economic water well. Our GDP is lagging. This bill cuts nearly three trillion dollars in government spending, which is one of our main tools for fighting the recession. So much for the recovery. So much for putting America back to work.

The second reason for the size of the debt is the Bush tax cuts.  This bill fails to end the Bush tax cuts for the rich, which added a trillion dollars to the deficit. Not only are the wealthy not paying a fair share of the taxes but their privileged position is locked in, to the detriment to the rest of the society. This single action makes clear that this bill is a vehicle for the rich to get richer and the poor to get poorer.

That working Americans are being offered a tax holiday is one of the cruel ironies of this bill in that the tax holiday adds more to the deficit on one hand, while requiring cuts to pay for it on the other. Those very cuts will undermine the social and economic position of those whom the tax holiday is alleged to help.

The third reason for the size of the debt is the wars. This bill fails to realize savings from ending the wars. Instead it continues the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan at current funding levels for at least another 10 years. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), “The caps would not apply to spending for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and for similar activities (sometimes referred to as overseas contingency operations). . . ” If this bill required a slow drawdown of troops as the Reid bill did, it would save at least $1.2 trillion.

It is inexplicable that we are creating more space for war and less space for jobs, housing, education, caring for our elderly, home heating assistance and a wide range of activities of any government which truly cares for its people.

A policy of no limits for war and hard limits on domestic spending, coupled with hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts for the rich, disproportionately affects the poor and middle class. Wall Street has swelled with bailouts, multiple editions of largesse through quantitative easing, skyrocketing executive pay and bonuses, and freedom to gamble the public’s money through hedge funds. Main Street has suffered a massive loss of retirement savings, housing security, access to affordable health care, real wages and benefits, full employment and massive loss of small businesses. The wealth of America is being accelerated to the top and this bill pushes that acceleration.

This bill is a direct assault on representative government. The House of Representatives and the Senate consist of 435 and 100 Members, respectively. With the creation of a super-committee, the Congress has been reduced to a czardom where 7 of 12 members are given the power to determine the course of the American economy, with hordes of K Street lobbyists already poised to swoop in to protect their narrow interests against $1 trillion dollars in deficit reduction measures.

The Congressional committee and subcommittee process, with its membership composed of individuals with expertise in specific areas, is designed to encourage thorough consideration of measures which affect the lives of hundreds of millions of Americans. This process is now abandoned. Abandoned with it is the intent of the founding Fathers when they established the House of Representatives specifically to avoid such a dangerous concentration of power. The super-committee is poised to cut Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security while limiting accountability.

We could have avoided this hostage-taking if the President chose to apply his expertise in Constitutional law to invoke the 14th Amendment of the Constitution to raise the debt ceiling. Instead, we are taking America from the New Deal of 1932 to the Raw Deal of 2011. We should be focusing on strengthening Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and creating jobs. The Democratic Party is running away from its traditional role of protecting the poor, the elderly, and the working class. To whom do these groups now turn?

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Antidepressants and Breast, Ovarian Cancer Link Suggested

From Women’s Media Center:

By Dr. Sharon Ufberg
August 1, 2011

Authored by Lisa Cosgrove of the Harvard Center for Ethics, a recent statistical analysis of studies assessing the relationship between breast and ovarian cancer and antidepressant drug use finds possible link.

Are you one of the thousands of women currently taking antidepressants? A recent review indicates that these medications are not risk free, particularly for women.

The analysis of published studies suggests a link between breast and ovarian cancer and antidepressant drug usage. The review, which found an 11 percent increased risk overall in both breast and ovarian cancer for patients taking such medication, points to a need for further investigation, particularly since the results varied widely depending on who funded the research.

“I would want to consider nondrug treatment if I was mildly depressed, given our data,” said Lisa Cosgrove of the Harvard Center for Ethics, who led the review of 61 studies. The increased risk was indicated with even short term or low dosage use of the medicine, and the link appeared strongest in cases of the widely used SSRI class of antidepressants (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors).

Women are given a diagnosis of depression two times more often than men, and with over 11 percent of the United States population on antidepressant drugs, these new findings should have everyone concerned. In today’s “quick fix” world of medicine, antidepressants are prescribed for many conditions besides signs of depression. The wide range of other symptoms include headaches, neck and back pain, eating disorders, anxiety, fibromyalgia, and—even more unsettling given the link suggested by the review—often for hot flashes for women who have had breast cancer and cannot take estrogen.

What is also disturbing is that the research results vary widely depending on whether a study was funded by the pharmaceutical industry or considered “clean” research—research done with no ties to BigPharma. Not one study funded by the pharmaceutical industry reported a link between breast and ovarian cancer and the use of antidepressants. However, the “clean” research reported a 43 percent link between antidepressants and increased risk of the two types of cancer. One must wonder, how is it possible that not one of the industry funded studies yielded any linkage?

For those of you who pay close attention to the latest mammography guidelines, you’ll have noticed that they recently changed— U.S. Preventive Services Task Force now advises women to get their first annual screening at age 50. But Cosgrove’s findings, showing the breast cancer link, call for a reconsideration of the guidelines for those who are on antidepressants. Women taking these medications may consider starting their screenings at age 40, as is still currently advised by the American Cancer Society.

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The Economy Must Function Within Nature’s Limits

From Counter Currents:

By Lionel Anet
31 July, 2011

The economic theories are the present reference base that global capitalism validates its economic policies, which is a circular validation. That’s why, whatever measure we propose to reduce our carbon emission and manage the planet’s depleting resources, economist evaluate it within the hybrid-laissez-faire capitalism’s requirement of growth for a successful economy. To keep the economy growing governments presently manipulate the market by using the taxation system and use taxpayer’s money to give a competitive advantage to industries that maximise growth, for the profit of corporations.

The part that competition plays as a subset of capitalist economic system is as the control-medium for the economy, but its much more than that, it also acts as a decision maker for government, corporations, and individuals. That’s why the economy has to maximise production of goods and services resulting in extraction to depletion all useful minerals and living things. In addition, it forces the maximum extortion from working people in an insidious way; and with the advertisers, shops pressure-sells to every one to attain or maintain sales leadership. Furthermore and as detrimental is the widening discrepancy of power between governments, and between people due to competition. The purpose of competition is to separate people into categories.

Measures that are essential for our survival would stem from different datum; they are, from science-based measurements, observation of our planet’s mineral resources, its biosphere, and particularly our human needs. Those observations states, how much we can take from our environment, what and how much we can dump, and what sort of requirement we need to maximise our wellbeing. Bearing in mind, that we want our descendants to have the best possible life we can leave for them.

Our primary consideration should be to manage the economy in a way we can maintain life as long as the solar system allows us. Presently we disregard the damage we are doing to the planet and the biosphere, because our leaders have to give priority to the economy, that’s for the wealthy to increase their wealth and power. The worst aspect of ignoring our dependence on a healthy environment is that we are an inseparable part of that environment; therefore, damage to the environment will harm us in many ways. Unfortunately, a small damage or just a local damage to the environment we hardly notice and as we progressively damage it, over time, we still don’t notice it. When we do become aware of problem, we think that with our incredible technology and scientific knowledge, we will surmount all obstacles but the scientific community are much more pessimistic of our ability to overcome those dangers. Its likely to end up with the dilemma, that regardless of any decision we may take, the ecosystem and of course that’s us also will keep declining as the planet keeps on warming.

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Ransom Paid

From Robert Reich:

Robert Reich
Monday, August 1, 2011

Anyone who characterizes the deal between the President, Democratic, and Republican leaders as a victory for the American people over partisanship understands neither economics nor politics.

The deal does not raise taxes on America’s wealthy and most fortunate — who are now taking home a larger share of total income and wealth, and whose tax rates are already lower than they have been, in eighty years. Yet it puts the nation’s most important safety nets and public investments on the chopping block.

It also hobbles the capacity of the government to respond to the jobs and growth crisis. Added to the cuts already underway by state and local governments, the deal’s spending cuts increase the odds of a double-dip recession. And the deal strengthens the political hand of the radical right.

Yes, the deal is preferable to the unfolding economic catastrophe of a default on the debt of the U.S. government. The outrage and the shame is it has come to this choice.

More than a year ago, the President could have conditioned his agreement to extend the Bush tax cuts beyond 2010 on Republicans’ agreement not to link a vote on the debt ceiling to the budget deficit. But he did not.

Many months ago, when Republicans first demanded spending cuts and no tax increases as a condition for raising the debt ceiling, the President could have blown their cover. He could have shown the American people why this demand had nothing to do with deficit reduction but everything to do with the GOP’s ideological fixation on shrinking the size of the government — thereby imperiling Medicare, Social Security, education, infrastructure, and everything else Americans depend on. But he did not.

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The party of which people?

From Socialist Worker:

Barack Obama has tossed traditional Democratic constituencies overboard–not just to make a deal with Republicans, but to carry out the Corporate America’s agenda.

Editorial from Socialist Worker
July 27, 2011

CAN SOMEONE please remind us why the Democrats are so often called “the party of the people?”

There’s Social Security, of course–the cornerstone of the 1930s New Deal social programs created during the presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The popularity of Social Security is such that no Democrat would ever dream of offering it up to the Republican budget-slashers.

Except that Barack Obama has now done so.

Then there’s Medicare, a signal achievement of President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society social programs. No Democrat could conceivably line up with the right to take aim at the widely supported health care program for the elderly.

Not until, that is, Barack Obama slashed Medicare in the name of health care “reform”–and then bowed to Republican demands for far greater cuts in the future.

What about support for organized labor? That’s a principle that clearly differentiates Democrats from Republicans, right? But Obama himself green-lighted the attack on public-sector workers, freezing federal workers’ pay for three years and pushing the Race to the Top education program to promote teacher-bashing state legislation–and he turned his back on private-sector unions after promising to support the Employee Free Choice Act to make organizing unions easier.

Surely, economic policy differentiates Democrats and Republicans? Where the Bush administration in 2008 rushed to provide $700 billion to bail out Wall Street, while leaving working people to suffer the brunt of the economic crash, the Obama administration…continued the endless bailout of the bankers, and has done little more for the millions who face foreclosure or the almost 20 percent of the workforce that’s either jobless or underemployed.

The Democrats are on the record supporting women’s rights–in particular, the right to choose abortion. But as a growing number of state legislatures pass laws that further curb access to abortion, the Obama administration has done nothing to counter the trend. And when Obama’s own pro-choice views were the subject of controversy at a University of Notre Dame speech in 2009, the president failed to even state his position in favor of abortion rights.

What about civil liberties? Surely Obama has provided some relief from the Bush regime’s shredding of basic rights under the banner of the “war on terror.”

Only he hasn’t. Instead, Obama has continued and even expanded virtually the whole of the Bush-Cheney approach to the war on civil liberties.

While George W. Bush offered a future of endless war in Arab and Muslim lands, the Obama administration no longer justifies U.S. military action in the name of a “global war on terror.” But the wars continue anyway, with downsized but enduring occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan, plus a new war in Libya, launched with U.S. missiles and planes and supported by the U.S. through the NATO military alliance.

All this from the leader of what is supposed to be the mainstream party of the “left” in U.S. politics.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

MANY PEOPLE are justifiably upset at the Obama administration’s compromises, retreats and outright sellouts, and blame the president for being too weak in the face of the Republicans’ corporate-funded, Fox News-scripted backlash against even the most modest liberal measures.

But the reality is that Obama’s policies are perfectly consistent with the Democrats’ long tradition of making promises to their working-class base at election time, but delivering the policies demanded by the bankers, CEOs and Pentagon brass. Because while the Democrats depend on workers and the poor to turn out to vote, they’re just as much a pro-capitalist party as the Republicans.

To be sure, Obama has made concessions to the right that were unnecessary even from the narrow viewpoint of the most cynical Democratic political operative. By contrast, Franklin Roosevelt was willing to stand up to a business establishment that had been discredited by the Great Depression, declaring at one point during his re-election campaign that he “welcomed their hatred.” Obama, on the other hand, bowed to business on every question–and then bowed some more.

But at the same time, Roosevelt rightly considered himself, as he also once said, “the best friend the profit system ever had.” The pro-working class measures that Roosevelt is credited with introducing were the result of a labor rebellion that shook the U.S. in the 1930s and led to the unionization of much of U.S. industry in just a few years. Plus, Roosevelt was also prepared to turn his back on unions–for example, during the bitter 1937 strike for union recognition against so-called “Little Steel.”

And it was Roosevelt who used the Second World War to advance the American empire, backed up by his successor Harry Truman, who ordered the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and later launched a war on the Korean Peninsula to ensure U.S. dominance of the Pacific. It was to maintain that control that John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson sent more than half a million U.S. troops to Vietnam in the 1960s to fight wars that led to the deaths of 4 million Southeast Asians.

The next Democrat to occupy the White House, Jimmy Carter, has since become known as an advocate for human rights. But in office, Carter didn’t try to repeat Johnson’s attempt to have “both guns and butter”–the effort to combine the pursuit of U.S. imperial aims with expansion of the social safety net to widen the Democrats’ electoral base. Instead, Carter cut the budget for social programs and ramped up military spending–a trend that would continue when Republican Ronald Reagan took over the Oval Office.

Carter’s right turn couldn’t be explained just by the fact that he came from the conservative Southern wing of the Democratic Party. That was true of Johnson as well. Instead, the party’s shift to the right beginning in the late 1970s was the political consequence of the end of the long economic postwar boom, during which living standards rose for most working-class people.

The Democrats’ move to the right as the ’80s and ’90s dragged on didn’t go unchallenged. The civil rights movement led to increased prominence for African American political leaders in the party–Black politicians won seats in Congress and control of City Hall in a number of important cities. Rev. Jesse Jackson’s presidential campaigns in 1984 and 1988 seemed to provide a vehicle for more liberal forces in the Democratic Party.

But the overall trajectory of the Democratic Party was in the other direction–with the party establishment working to marginalize liberals and make the Democrats more business-friendly. Enter the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC)–a group formed in the mid-1980s by conservative Democrats as an internal pressure group to pull the party to the right.

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Furniture Workers Win Ikea Union Drive, With Help from Abroad

From Labor Notes:

Jenny Brown
August 1, 2011

Union organizing won back the weekend for Tawanda Tarpley and her co-workers at an Ikea-owned furniture plant in Danville, Virginia.

Mandatory overtime at the Swedish-owned plant meant that last year she worked for three months without a single day off. The union raised such a stink about the mandatory overtime that curious Swedish journalists turned up in Virginia.

After scathing articles about conditions in the Swedwood plant appeared overseas, union woodworkers in Europe and Asia pressured the iconic Swedish brand.

Even Jon Stewart’s satirical “Daily Show” made an appearance, picking up a line from Machinists union organizer Bill Street, who painted the situation in Danville as an example of the U.S. turning into “Europe’s Mexico.”

Management backed down, and the Machinists (IAM) won 221-69 with a 91 percent turnout in a July 27 vote.

“We were fed up with wages, safety concerns, overall communication. We want to be treated with respect,” Tarpley said, adding that once, an angry supervisor threw a board at a co-worker.

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Greece begins €50bn privatisation drive

This headline does not come as a suprise to any one who has read Naomi Klein’s book, The Shock Doctrine.  It is all part and parcel of end stage capitalism when all wealth is transferred to a small number of extremely wealthy oligarchs.  This is a calculated act of class war waged by the rich against the poor.  We have run out of resources and polluted the world far too much for there to not be major repercussions due to the climate change that is upon us.  The ultra wealthy have the resources to own their own military and police forces.  They have effectively made national government an extension of their own power.

Perhaps Class war shouldn’t be just for the rich anymore.  If the present political parties do not represent us perhaps we need new political parties.

From The Guardian UK:

Greek officials begin appointing advisers for fire-sale of state assets intended to raise €50bn by 2015

in Athens, Monday 1 August 2011

The starting gun for one of the biggest fire-sales in western history was fired as Greek officials began appointing advisers for the country’s ambitious privatisation drive.

“Our target is clear, and it is to generate €1.7bn from privatisations by the end of September and €5bn by the end of the year,” said the finance minister, Evangelos Venizelos.

After securing a second aid package to prop up an economy now dependent on international handouts to pay public wages and pensions, Athens has moved with record speed to divest itself of state assets ranging from prime real estate to loss-making companies.

By any measure it is a gargantuan task. At stake is Greece‘s €350bn debt, which before the EU and IMF agreed to bailout the country again was predicted to peak at 172% of GDP next year.

The socialist government says it aims to raise €50bn through the campaign by 2015. Enough, it is hoped, to not only make a dent in the debt but send a convincing message to the markets that have pummelled Athens since the onset of the crisis 18 months ago.

The prime minister, George Papandreou, has cancelled his summer holidays to accelerate the dismantling of a sector that his father Andreas – Greece’s fiery socialist premier in the 1980s – did much to foster.

International lenders have warned that if there no progress with privatisations they will withhold the next tranche of aid in September.

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Fran Landesman, Lyricist With a Bittersweet Edge, Dies at 83

From The New York Times:

Published: August 1, 2011

Jack Kerouac played bongos outside her window and tried to date her. She turned a T. S. Eliot poem into a song sung by Ella Fitzgerald and Barbra Streisand. Bette Davis memorized one of her poems.

Fran Landesman made her life into an art form — not least because of the exuberantly public extramarital sex life she delighted in sharing with London tabloids. But her lasting footprint was the mordant, biting, yet strangely tender lyrics she used to chronicle the world’s lovers, lunatics and losers.

Her song “The Ballad of the Sad Young Men” — whom she described as “drifting through the town, drinking up the night, trying not to drown” — was recorded by Roberta Flack, Petula Clark, Rickie Lee Jones and, in an instrumental version, the pianist Keith Jarrett. With music by Tommy Wolf, it became a jazz standard.

Another song she wrote that became a standard — but, like “Sad Young Men,” never a hit — was “Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most.” It sprang from Ms. Landesman’s asking jazz musicians to put T. S. Eliot’s phrase “April is the cruelest month” into their own words. Its music was also composed by Wolf. Bette Midler and Sarah Vaughan were among the many who sang it.

Ms. Landesman also published five volumes of poetry, some of it raw. The poem Bette Davis memorized, “Life’s a Bitch” contains the line “First love makes you itch, then it dishes you the dirt.”

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Insurers must cover birth control with no copays


By Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar Associated Press
August 1, 2011

WASHINGTON—Health insurance plans must cover birth control as preventive care for women, with no copays, the Obama administration said Monday in a decision with far-reaching implications for health care as well as social mores.

The requirement is part of a broad expansion of coverage for women’s preventive care under President Barack Obama’s health care law. Also to be covered without copays are breast pumps for nursing mothers, an annual “well-woman” physical, screening for the virus that causes cervical cancer and for diabetes during pregnancy, counseling on domestic violence, and other services.

“These historic guidelines are based on science and existing (medical) literature and will help ensure women get the preventive health benefits they need,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

The new requirements will take effect Jan. 1, 2013, in most cases. Tens of millions of women are expected to gain coverage initially, and that number is likely to grow with time. At first, some plans may be exempt due to a complex provision of the health care law known as the “grandfather” clause. But those even plans could face pressure from their members to include the new benefit.

Sebelius acted after a near-unanimous recommendation last month from a panel of experts convened by the prestigious Institute of Medicine, which advises the government. Panel chairwoman Linda Rosenstock, dean of public health at the University of California, Los Angeles, said that prevention of unintended pregnancies is essential for the psychological, emotional and physical health of women.

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