Complaints of gender discrimination as men’s and women’s Olympic teams fly separately

From The Washington Post:

By Associated Press
Published: July 20, 2012

BRISBANE, Australia — Men up front, women in the back.

Not so fast, Olympians.

Sports governing bodies from Japan and Australia are being skewered following complaints that male Olympic athletes flew business class to the London Games, while the women sat in the cheap seats.

Japan’s world champion women’s football team took exception to flying economy while their male counterparts sat in business en route to the games.

“It should have been the other way around,” Japanese soccer star Homare Sawa, the 2011 FIFA women’s world player of the year, said after arriving in Paris after the 13-hour flight, with just the short hop to London left. “Even just in terms of age we are senior.”

The Japan Football Association said the men’s under-23 Olympic team members flew in business class because they are professionals. The women, however, are likely be the bigger draw at the games. Only months after the devastating earthquake and tsunami hit Japan last year, they brought a sliver of joy to their country by winning their first World Cup title.

The Australian women’s basketball team has also been more successful than the men, earning the silver medal at each of the last three Olympics.

On Friday, Basketball Australia said it would make sure the flight flap doesn’t happen again.

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Public defender, health officials weigh in on police condom policy

From The Bay Area Reporter:

Thursday, July 19, 2012

An official with the San Francisco Public Defender’s office and the city’s public health director commented this week on the San Francisco Police Department using condoms as evidence of prostitution.

Meanwhile, the international Human Rights Watch organization released a report today (Thursday, July 19) on policies in San Francisco and other cities.

Police Chief Greg Suhr issued a department-wide bulletin last week reminding staff not to confiscate unopened condoms. However, in the document, he repeated remarks he’s made previously that police may still use photographs of condoms as evidence in vice cases.

Bob Dunlap, a felony manager for the public defender’s office, said in an email this week that practice is “contrary to common sense.”

“They’re sending a mixed message,” Dunlap said. “By giving the condoms back they are encouraging sex workers to use them, but by using the fact of possession against them they are discouraging such use.”

Reports of police confiscating condoms have raised concerns about people being less likely to carry them, thereby putting people at greater risk for HIV transmission.

Among other points, Dunlap said, “It’s ironic to prosecute prostitution cases in the name of public health in a manner which creates a much larger public health danger.”

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Just How Bad is the Largest Drought in Decades?

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“Wetbacks” Is Acceptable Language at National Review Online

I just love how Conservatives try to pretend they aren’t really racist Nazi Scumbags.

From Huffington Post:


On Tuesday, National Review Senior Editor Jay Nordlinger posted an online column entitled “Against Growth!” On the subject of conservative reaction, during the 1980s, to the Reagan presidency, Nordlinger wrote:

“Truth is, some conservatives lamented that he had indeed “grown” in office. He had gone out of his way to accommodate liberals and moderates, and to accommodate the Kremlin. He was raising taxes, spending like crazy, welcoming wetbacks, pursuing arms control.”

Apparently, it did not occur to Nordlinger that the word “wetback” is deeply offensive to the Hispanic community. In fact, in a follow-up post, Nordlinger responded to colleagues and online criticism about his choice of words. Rather than apologize, however, he expressed defiance:

Look: I am not a politician. I’m a writer. And if you don’t like what I write — for heaven’s sake, there are 8 billion others you can click on. I would further say to the complainers, using a phrase I’ve never liked, frankly: Get a life. Get a frickin’ life.

Nordlinger explained that his intent was to describe the mentality of Reagan’s critics. Yet he couldn’t help being dismissive, adding:

If people wet their pants on seeing the word “wetback,” this country is as far gone as the most pessimistic and alarmist people say it is. Two more words: Good grief.

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Spanish take to streets in protest as MPs pass €65bn austerity package

From The Guardian UK:

Spain’s cost of borrowing hits record high as Germany approves potential bond-buying with leftovers from €100bn banks bailout

in Madrid and Brussels, Thursday 19 July 2012

Protesters took to the streets of 80 Spanish cities on Thursday night after prime minister Mariano Rajoy’s People’s party (PP) pushed a €65bn (£51bn) austerity package through parliament and the country paid record prices to borrow money from sceptical markets.

More than 100,000 people were estimated to have joined in demonstrations called by trades unions, with about 50,000 gathering in Madrid. Police fired rubber bullets to disperse the protesters in Madrid.

Angry civil servants had blocked traffic in several main Madrid avenues earlier in the day, with protesters puncturing the tyres of dozens of riot police vans, amid growing upset at austerity, recession and 24% unemployment.

Rajoy was able to get the measures through parliament comfortably, using only the votes of PP MPs.

The finance minister, Cristóbal Montoro, who warned on Wednesday there was no money for civil service wages, said Spain could not go deeper into debt. “Financing public services with more deficit and more debt will doom us,” he said.

Proof of Spain’s growing financing problems came when it paid a record interest rate of 6.459% to sell five-year bonds, while rates on 10-year bonds rose back above the unsustainable 7% level.

France paid less than 1% for similar five-year bonds as investors shunned southern economies for what they saw as the eurozone’s safer core.

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Countrywide whistleblower reveals rampant mortgage fraud part of ‘everyday business’

From Raw Story:

By Sarah Jaffe, AlterNet
Saturday, July 21, 2012

Countrywide Financial was one of the subprime lenders at the heart of the financial crisis; its predatory lending practices resulted in disgustingly large payouts for executives while sticking low-income borrowers with explosive mortgages they hadn’t a hope of paying back. The New York Times‘ Gretchen Morgenson called Countrywide, “Exhibit A for the lax and, until recently, highly lucrative lending that has turned a once-hot business ice cold and has touched off a housing crisis of historic proportions.”

Eileen Foster was an investigator in charge of Fraud Risk Management at Countrywide when the ticking time bomb of its bad loans detonated. The practices she discovered shocked her and have also shocked those who’ve heard her story—including the producers of “60 Minutes,” who asked her on the program last December to discuss the lack of prosecutions of any of the bankers responsible for the crisis. But instead of cleaning house and admitting guilt, Bank of America—which purchased Countrywide as the financial crisis grew, in what the Wall Street Journal calls “one of the worst deals ever struck in corporate America”–drove Foster out and tried to discredit her findings.

In 2011, the Department of Labor ruled that Foster had been illegally fired. It said that her firing was retaliation for her whistle-blowing and ordered that she be reinstated and paid compensation. There have still been no prosecutions, and no officials have asked to hear Foster’s story—so she’s taking it public. Earlier this year, she was honored with a Ridenhour prize for truth-telling from the Nation Institute and the Fertel Foundation, and this week she spoke with AlterNet in an exclusive interview discussing what she saw at Countrywide—and what happened to her as a result.

Rampant Fraud”

“This is a mountain that people think is a molehill,” Foster told AlterNet. “As far as this type of financial crime, things are far worse than I would have ever imagined. In my furthest imagination I would have been challenged to come up with the things I have seen play out.”

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The Endless Summer

From The New York Times:

July 18, 2012

Here’s what American exceptionalism means now: on a per-capita basis, we either lead or come close to leading the world in consumption of resources, production of pollutants and a profound unwillingness to do anything about it. We may look back upon this year as the one in which climate change began to wreak serious havoc, yet we hear almost no conversation about changing policy or behavior. President Obama has done nicely in raising fuel averages for automobiles, but he came into office promising much more, and Mitt Romney promises even less. (There was a time he supported cap and trade.)

It has been well over 100 years since the phenomenon called the greenhouse effect was identified, 24 years since the steamy summer of ’88, when many of us first took notice, and, incredibly, 15 years since the Kyoto Protocol. That agreement stipulated that signatories would annually reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases and was ratified (and even acted upon) by almost every country in the world, including every industrialized nation but one. That would be the United States. Now that’s exceptionalism. (Bill Clinton signed Kyoto; George W. Bush, despite an election pledge, repudiated it.)

The climate has changed, and the only remaining questions may well be: a) how bad will things get, and b) how long will it be before we wake up to it. The only sane people who don’t see this as a problem are those whose profitability depends on the status quo, people of money and power like Romney (“we don’t know what’s causing climate change”), most of his party, and Rex Tillerson, the Exxon chairman, who called the effects of climate change “manageable.”

Which I suppose they are, as long as you’re wealthy and able to move around at will. But it’s not manageable to the corn farmers losing their crops (many are just chopping them down), the ranchers selling off their cattle, the thousands of people in Colorado burned out of their homes in fires caused by the worst drought since 1956 or those who will lose their homes or jobs to fire, flood, drought or whatever in coming years. How will they “manage”?

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GOP forced to choose – Raising Taxes or Cut Defense?

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£13tn: hoard hidden from taxman by global elite

From The Guardian UK:

• Study estimates staggering size of offshore economy
• Private banks help wealthiest to move cash into havens

, business editor
, Saturday 21 July 2012

A global super-rich elite has exploited gaps in cross-border tax rules to hide an extraordinary £13 trillion ($21tn) of wealth offshore – as much as the American and Japanese GDPs put together – according to research commissioned by the campaign group Tax Justice Network.

James Henry, former chief economist at consultancy McKinsey and an expert on tax havens, has compiled the most detailed estimates yet of the size of the offshore economy in a new report, The Price of Offshore Revisited, released exclusively to the Observer.

He shows that at least £13tn – perhaps up to £20tn – has leaked out of scores of countries into secretive jurisdictions such as Switzerland and the Cayman Islands with the help of private banks, which vie to attract the assets of so-called high net-worth individuals. Their wealth is, as Henry puts it, “protected by a highly paid, industrious bevy of professional enablers in the private banking, legal, accounting and investment industries taking advantage of the increasingly borderless, frictionless global economy“. According to Henry’s research, the top 10 private banks, which include UBS and Credit Suisse in Switzerland, as well as the US investment bank Goldman Sachs, managed more than £4tn in 2010, a sharp rise from £1.5tn five years earlier.

The detailed analysis in the report, compiled using data from a range of sources, including the Bank of International Settlements and the International Monetary Fund, suggests that for many developing countries the cumulative value of the capital that has flowed out of their economies since the 1970s would be more than enough to pay off their debts to the rest of the world.

Oil-rich states with an internationally mobile elite have been especially prone to watching their wealth disappear into offshore bank accounts instead of being invested at home, the research suggests. Once the returns on investing the hidden assets is included, almost £500bn has left Russia since the early 1990s when its economy was opened up. Saudi Arabia has seen £197bn flood out since the mid-1970s, and Nigeria £196bn.

“The problem here is that the assets of these countries are held by a small number of wealthy individuals while the debts are shouldered by the ordinary people of these countries through their governments,” the report says.

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How Less Work for Everybody Could Solve a Lot of Our Economic Turbulence and Make Life More Pleasant

From Alternet:

“Job creation” isn’t the only answer.

By Sarah Seltzer
July 20, 2012

 “Get a job!” This jeer was perhaps the most frequent directed at Occupy protesters last year, and it was usually either met by “I can’t! That’s why I’m here” or “I’m already working two.” Embedded in this ever-common taunt of protesters or other counterculture figures is the belief that if you just work hard enough in America, you will succeed, that any time spent with nose away from grindstone is time wasted. Of course, the truth that Occupy, We Are the 99% Tumblr and the recession opened many (but not enough) eyes to is that it’s not enough to work hard, get a degree, sacrifice and slave anymore because the system in fact is broken.

America has a broad cultural emphasis on working hard as a goal in and of itself, and not on what working hard means. Earlier this week I wrote about five common-sense policy changes that would improve work-life balance for Americans. Mandating vacation time and family leave, embracing unions and improving childcare and workshare options would all make the major difference in our lives.

But what about an attitude adjustment to accompany those policies, or perhaps usher them in? How could workplaces and individuals reconfigure our mindset away from the most hours of work necessarily being the best toward a new paradigm? Can there be a healthy balance between productive, engaged and enthusiastic work for the most number of people, and the all-important leisure that enables and informs that work for all those people, too? I went on a search for the most recent progressive thinking on the issue of balance because I had a feeling there were ideas percolating beyond the basic need for family, medical and vacation time.

American culture is informed by (forgive my ensuing broad generalizations about American religious history) an embrace of strong individuality and the infamous Puritan work ethic the earliest settlers brought over. In traditional Protestant thinking, hard work, frugality and diligence were ways of indicating membership in the “elect,” or the saved. They left England because they found it debauched and corrupt, and established strict standards in the colonies. As a look back at Max Weber reminds us, this ethic is strongly tied to the American strand of capitalism. Ben Franklin, that pioneer of American thinking, wrote that “time is money,” and urged Americans to spend their time earning at the dawn of our nation’s existence. And as other countries have slowed down their hours in recent decades, we have sped up.

Fast-forward a few centuries, and you have the working class juggling jobs and buried in debt, as well as what New York Times guest columnist Tim Kreider calls “The Busy Trap,” describing spot-on a phenomenon that is mostly attached to the modus operandi of the wealthy and socially elite (you know, the people who shape policy, mores and the financial landscape) in places like New York and Washington, DC.

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US: Right-Wing Hawks, Arms Industry Rally Against Pentagon Cuts

From Common Dreams:

by Jim Lobe
Published on Saturday, July 21, 2012 by Inter Press Service

While Iran, Russia, and China are all pretty scary, the ominous word “sequestration” is what is keeping right-wing hawks and their friends in the defence industry up at night.

While they have been rallying their forces for most of the past year, their campaign to avoid the “spectre of sequestration”, as they often refer to it, shifted into high gear on Capitol Hill this week, as top industry executives were summoned to testify to the urgency of the threat.

At stake is could be as much as 600 billion dollars in Pentagon funding – much of which would presumably be spent on lucrative procurement contracts for new weapons systems – over the next 10 years, as well as what the hawks see as the further erosion of U.S. global military dominance.

“It is clear that if the process of sequestration is fully implemented,” warned three of the right’s most hawkish think tanks – the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), the Heritage Foundation, and the Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI) – in a joint statement entitled “Defending Defense” last week, “the U.S. military will lack adequate resources to defend the United States and its global interests.”

“The spectre of sequestration threatens the U.S. defense industrial base at a time when China, Russia, and other military competitors are ramping up their defense industries,” according to the statement, which helped raise the curtain on this week’s mantra from the military-industrial complex: hundreds of thousands of workers could lose their jobs as early as October – one month before the election – unless the sequestration nightmare goes away.

The sequestration spectre arises from a 2011 agreement, codified in the Budget Control Act, between President Barack Obama and Republican Congressional leaders for cutting the yawning U.S. federal deficit over the next decade.

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