This is one of the best articles I’ve read so far analyzing the ultra conservative Republicans who are holding the rest of the federal government hostage.

For nearly three years, Mr. Boehner has been vexed by an ungovernable conservative group made up of ideologically committed conservatives from safe House seats. The group has defied his leadership, rallied others to its cause and worn its gadfly status proudly. Earlier this year, the speaker disregarded them and passed three major bills that attracted only a minority of his party. Instead, he relied on Democratic votes to pass a budget plan that allowed taxes to rise on the rich, relief for victims of Hurricane Sandy and an expansion of the Violence Against Women Act.

That nucleus of that group has stuck in the leadership’s craw for some time. Representative Justin Amash, Republican of Michigan, has voted against Republican positions 136 times in his short stretch in Congress. Representative Paul Broun, Republican of Georgia, has voted no on Republican motions 84 times. Representative Thomas Massie, a freshman from Kentucky, is rising in the pesky ranks with 91 no votes in nine months.

We serve the very population that will gain coverage — low-income, working class uninsured people. But insurers have shown little interest in including us in their provider networks.

—Daniel R. Hawkins Jr., senior vice president of the National Association of Community Health Centers. His organization represents 9,000 clinics around the country.

Via NYT: "Lower Health Insurance Premiums to Come at Cost of Fewer Choices"

New York City is the hardest city to live in.

—Alpha Manzueta, who works two jobs and has lived in a homeless shelter for the last three years. Manzueta has a 2 1/2-year-old daughter.

via the New York Times.

I feel like I see the same thing in DC - lots and lots of homeless people in different stages of life. My school is across the street from one of DC’s largest homeless shelters, and many of the people you see emerging from the shelter each morning don’t necessarily look “homeless”. How are our cities failing to house people who are actively working and want to have a home?

Ironically, the cost of maintaining space in a homeless shelter is much higher than some apartment rents in the city. From NYT:

Now the number of shelter residents hovers around 50,000, according to the city’s Department of Homeless Services. More than 9,000 are single adults and more than 40,000 other residents are in families, including 21,600 children. The average monthly cost for the government to shelter a family is more than $3,000; the cost for a single person is more than $2,300. 

Yesterday in Starke, Florida the first public monument to atheism in the United States was unveiled on the front lawn of the Bradford County Courthouse.

In a case that gained national attention, the American Atheists sued Bradford County in May 2012 for the public display of a Ten Commandments monument in front of the courthouse. An agreement was reached during mediation: the original monument could stay and the American Atheists could erect their own.

Over 200 people gathered for the unveiling of the Atheist monument, including some protestors bearing Bibles, Confederate flags, etc.

I really liked this perspective, reported by the Sun:

Michael Fulford, a 24-year-old from Pensacola, said he likes having a marketplace of ideas ranging from the Christian to the secular and beyond, but he questioned whether it is appropriate in front of a courthouse.

"This is not really making a marketplace," he said. "It’s making a battleground.

"When you walk into a courthouse, you should not be an atheist. You should not be a Christian. You should not be a Jew. You should be a person seeking justice."

(Source: Morgan Watkins, Gainesville Sun)

"The 50 worst charities in America devote less than 4 percent of donations raised to direct cash aid. Some charities give even less. Over a decade, one diabetes charity raised nearly $14 million and gave about $10,000 to patients. Six spent nothing at all on direct cash aid."

—from the Tampa Bay Times/The Center for Investigative Reporting special report

The Times, CIR and CNN just published a yearlong investigation of the worst charities in America, and it is definitely worth a read. I have read Part 1 so far, and it is horrifying that people donate money to a good cause while greedy individuals profit.

Click here to go directly to the ranking of the 50 worst charities.

Getting Organized

I just watched the alarming video What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, which reminded me of a recent conversation I had with a total stranger about my many neglected interests (specifically, playing the saxophone). Between the two, I ended up thinking up the many ways I waste/lose time throughout the day.

Cutting to the chase: I feel increasingly frustrated with the way I consume news and information. I’m so disorganized - casually scrolling my twitter and facebook feeds, consuming random articles, then feeling annoyed that I didn’t read something more substantial.

This post is about establishing areas of interest and corresponding news sources. Rather than consume whatever the internet throws my way, my goal is to set aside time each day to read the news from a trusted group of writers and publications.

Here’s my list, by topic. 

General News, Politics

  • NPR (by default - I listen on my commute)
  • New York Times (goal: read the daily front page)

Environment

Race, Racial Justice

Florida

To be honest, there is no way I have time to read through all of these sites on a daily basis. I’ll consider covering 1-2 topics each day a success. The other aspect of this challenge is to waste less of my down time with mindless scrolling (tumblr, that includes you!)

I’ll report back in a few weeks on how this goes.

But what feels like celebration can also carry with it the undertone of condescension. Amid the hood backdrop — the gnarled teeth, the dirty white tee, the slang, the shout-out to McDonald’s — we miss the fact that Charles Ramsey is perfectly lucid and intelligent.

—-Gene Demby, Are We Laughing with Charles Ramsay?NPR

Demby makes excellent points. This really hit home for me in reference to black Internet celebrities like Ramsey and Antoine Dodds: “They’re actually not the type of people we’re used to seeing or hearing at all.” And that is not a good thing.

[h/t theSmithian]

Notes on “Pipelines, Pulitzers and Independent Online Journalism”

Last week, Dot Earth blogger Andrew Revkin hosted a Google hangout with the Inside Climate News team, who won the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting. ICN’s winning project is titled The Dilbit Disaster: Inside the Biggest Oil Spill You’ve Never Heard Of, and it chronicles a 2010 spill into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan, along with the broader issues of pipeline regulation in the United States.

I watched the hangout during a lunch break and (embarrassingly) forgot about it, until I just now uncovered a piece of paper with my notes. These are the moments that stood out to me from the discussion:

Susan White, ICN Executive Editor:

We operate with the same journalistic standards I learned in college…You do not have an agenda, you stick to the facts…There is no difference, except we are online.

There is technology available to make pipelines much safer - why not do it?

David Sassoon, ICN Founder & Publisher:

It’s a question of what impact journalism can have on serving the public interest.

Lisa Song, ICN Reporter:

When I talked to some environmental groups about [the Dilbit spill], they didn’t seem interested. They are focused on getting Obama to reject the Keystone XL. 

Obviously a lot of ground was covered. If you’ve got 40 minutes, watching the whole discussion is well worth it.

BBC Journalists Pose as London School of Economics Students, Enter North Korea Covertly

A friend of mine, David M, attends the London School of Economics. This email was just sent out to all students:

The School wishes to alert all staff and students to a serious development which may affect them personally in future. This relates to the conduct of the BBC in respect of a Panorama programme entitled North Korea Undercover, which is dueto be shown next Monday evening, 15 April.

The programme has been produced using as cover a visit to North Korea which took place from 23-30 March 2013 in the name of the Grimshaw Club, a student society at LSE. The School authorities had no advance knowledge of the trip or of its planning.

The visiting party included Mr John Sweeney, Mr Alexander Niakaris and Ms Tomiko Sweeney. In advance of the trip it was not known to the rest of the party that they were three journalists working for or with the BBC. Their purpose, posing as tourists, was to film and record covertly during the visit in order to produce the Panorama programme.

LSE’s chief concerns are twofold. First, at no point prior to the trip was it made clear to the students that a BBC team of three had planned to use the trip as cover for a major documentary to be shown on Panorama. BBC staff have admitted that the group was deliberately misled as to the involvement of the BBC in the visit. The line used was that “a journalist” would join the visit. BBC staff have argued that this lack of frankness in denying the genuine members of the group the full details was done for their own benefit in the event of discovery and interrogation by North Korean authorities. It is LSE’s view that the students were not given enough information to enable informed consent, yet were given enough to put them in serious danger if the subterfuge had been uncovered prior to their departure from North Korea.

Read More

Updates on the BP Oil Spill Trial

The trial for the BP oil spill began in late February, and has continued due to the lack of an out-of-court settlement. U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier is presiding; there is no jury.

This week, Barbier dismissed all claims against Cameron International, the Houston-based company that built the blowout preventer on the Deepwater Horizon rig. BP designed and selected the components of the blowout preventer, and Cameron built it to exact specifications.

The remaining defendants at the trial are BP, Transocean (owner of the Deepwater Horizon rig) and Halliburton (the cement contractor). Barbier previously dismissed all claims against M-I, the drilling fluids contractor for BP. [source]

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Meanwhile, Judge Barbier will also hear a request from BP for an order to block potentially billions of dollars in settlement payouts to businesses that claimed losses caused by the oil spill. Settlement terms for the payouts are interpreted by court-appointed claims administrator Patrick Juneau. BP is arguing that Juneau has made unfair decisions. [source]

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Research at the University of South Florida has discovered a massive die-off of foraminifera, the tiny organisms that are the base of marine food chains in the Gulf of Mexico. Researchers analyzed core samples from the bottom of the Gulf:

They found a large, dark clump of sediment from the time of the 2010 disaster. The amount registered as 300 times the normal amount of oil-based particles found on the bottom.

The die-off impacts the health of food chains, and there is a possibility the oil traces could cause genetic changes in fish populations such as red snapper. [source]