October 28, 2011
On the defensive over a half-billion-dollar loan to a now-bankrupt solar company, the White House on Friday ordered an independent review of similar loans made by the Energy Department, its latest response to rising criticism over Solyndra Inc.
The announcement came as House Republicans prepared for a possible vote next week to subpoena White House documents related to the defunct California company.
White House officials said the review would assess the health of more than two dozen other loans and loan guarantees made by the Energy Department program that supported Solyndra. Congressional Republicans have been investigating the company’s bankruptcy amid embarrassing revelations that federal officials were warned it had problems but nonetheless continued to support it, and sent President Barack Obama to visit the company and praise it publicly.
“Today we are directing that an independent analysis be conducted of the current state of the Department of Energy loan portfolio, focusing on future loan monitoring and management,” White House chief of staff Bill Daley said. “While we continue to take steps to make sure the United States remains competitive in the 21st century energy economy, we must also ensure that we are strong stewards of taxpayer dollars.”
Daley said the review would be conducted by former Treasury official Herb Allison, who oversaw the Troubled Asset Relief Program, part of the 2008 Wall Street bailout. The review would not look at the Solyndra case but would evaluate other loans worth tens of billions of dollars and recommend steps to stabilize them if they appear to have problems like the loan to Solyndra.
The White House has already refused a request by the Republican-controlled House Energy and Commerce Committee for all its internal communications about Solyndra, which closed its doors and filed for bankruptcy protection earlier this year, costing 1,100 jobs.
GOP Reps. Fred Upton of Michigan and Cliff Stearns of Florida said the subpoena was necessary because the White House has denied its requests for documents. Upton chairs the Energy and Commerce panel, while Stearns leads a subcommittee on investigations. Recently released emails and other documents show that White House officials participated in decisions regarding the Solyndra loan.
“What is the White House trying to hide from the American public?” Stearns and Upton asked in a joint statement. “It is alarming for the Obama White House to cast aside its vows of transparency and block Congress from learning more about the roles that those in the White House and other members of the administration played in the Solyndra mess.”
The panel is seeking documents that might shed light on actions by White House officials in connection with the original 2009 loan to Solyndra as well as a restructuring of the deal that took place earlier this year.
Solyndra, of Fremont, Calif., was the first renewable-energy company to receive a loan guarantee under a stimulus-law program to encourage green energy and was frequently touted by the Obama administration as a model. Obama visited the company’s headquarters last year, and Vice President Joe Biden spoke by satellite at a groundbreaking ceremony.
The Obama administration has released thousands of emails — but withheld thousands more — concerning the $528 million loan. To date, the administration says it has produced 70,000 pages, participated in nine briefings for congressional committee staff and provided testimony at four House committee hearings.
October 28, 2011
Atlantic Journal Constitution
By Bo Emerson
With his viral ad featuring a cigarette-smoking chief of staff, Republican front-runner Herman Cain accomplished the goal sacred to all guerilla marketing:
Get noticed at low cost.
“It seems to have had the desired effect,” said Georgia Republican operative Dan McLagan, one-time spokesman for former governor Sonny Perdue. “The desired effect was to get free media time.”
In that sense, the grainy 55-second video has been a raging success, generating more than 1 million hits on YouTube by tweaking liberal outrage at the taboo cigarette habit — and libertarian delight in liberal outrage.
Cain has said there is no “hidden message” in the ad, which focuses on staffer (and cigarette-puffer) Mark Block extolling Cain for running a “campaign like nobody’s ever seen,” and urging listeners to “take back America.”
But veteran political operatives aren’t buying it. The use of the cigarette was a calculated ploy, said Marty Kaplan, a professor of entertainment, media and society at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California.
“Smoking is a dog-whistle to libertarians, Ron Paul supporters, people mad at the ‘nanny state,’ ” said Kaplan, who was deputy campaign manager for presidential candidate Walter Mondale in 1984.
“Plus, it vouches for Cain’s ‘authenticity.’” Kaplan said in an email, “The subtext is that only a real guy, not a cautious and opportunistic pol — [like Cain rival Mitt] Romney — would do something like this.”
The video, which ran unnoticed on the Internet for a week before catching fire, has been parodied by late night comedians Conan O’Brian, David Letterman and Stephen Colbert and denounced, applauded and discussed in every major media outlet. Mission accomplished.
“It seems like the kind of thing you do when you don’t have enough resources to put an ad on TV,” said McLagan. And he should know. McLagan helped run a Perdue campaign that included an anti-Roy Barnes ad featuring a giant rat terrorizing downtown Atlanta, an ad that earned back its cost many times over when it was replayed by news outlets.
Nevertheless, Cain’s ad hasn’t been an unmitigated success. It has prompted reporters to highlight Cain’s efforts as a restaurant lobbyist to fight smoking bans, as well as Block’s run-ins with the IRS and campaign watchdogs in Wisconsin.
The reviews from Cain’s supporters vary from the lukewarm to the enthusiastic.
“I really started cracking up when I saw it,” said Wayne Stoltenberg, a Dallas-area oil and gas executive and one of the top contributors to the Cain campaign. Stoltenberg has spent time with both Cain and Block, driving them around Texas to appointments and fund-raisers, and the image of Block puffing smoke at the camera is amusing to insiders.
“Knowing Mark, the guy can’t even get though a 20-second commercial spot without having to get a smoke.”
October 28, 2011
By: Selena Keegan
Advertisements for sports drinks tend to portray these beverages as scientifically formulated electrolyte replacement systems designed to help athletes rehydrate their bodies after exertion.
The combination of “science” with ad imagery and labeling for sports, is meant to brand these beverages as crucial for an active, healthy lifestyle. However, a review of the ingredient lists of many of these products reveals their advanced “chemistry” bears a strong similarity to the ingredients of soft drinks.
Gatorade’s labels list these ingredients: water, sucrose syrup, glucose-fructose syrup, citric acid, natural and artificial flavors, salt, sodium citrate, monopotassium phosphate and ester gum. The label states “no fruit juice” — the different flavor varieties are colored by food dyes. Gatorade is manufactured by PepsiCo.
PepsiCo’s chief competitor, The Coca-Cola Company, produces its own version of an electrolyte replacement beverage, Powerade. The powerade drink comes in a variety of colors and flavors.
Powerade contains water, high fructose corn syrupmaltodextrin (glucose polymers), citric acid, salt, potassium citrate, modified food starch, potassium phosphate, natural flavors, glycerol ester of wood rosin, guar gum, niacinamide (B3), coconut oil, brominated vegetable oil, pyridoxine hydrochloride (B6), Cyanocobalamin (B12).
Consuming high levels of sugary syrups can lead to weight gain, diabetes and tooth decay. The additional factor of higher levels of salts in sports drinks compared to sodas means these drinks can also contribute to higher blood pressure levels. Also, some studies have linked certain food colorings to hyperactivity in children.
The sports drink market was developed by promoting the idea that these beverages hydrate the body more efficiently than water and that they contain a special proportion of sodium, potassium and carbohydrates designed to quickly restore energy.
The scientific validity of these claims is highly questionable. Drinking a glass of water and eating a natural high-potassium snack such as a banana will rehydrate and re-energize the body in a healthier fashion.
Another alternative is to drink coconut water, which comes from young, green coconuts. Coconut water offers potassium and natural sugars which harmonize better with the body than manufactured sugars such as high fructose corn syrup. Look for natural coconut waters at health food stores rather than ones that contain sodium and food dyes.
October 28, 2011
By: Michael McCarthy
It’s the next step in “Polarbeargate” – one of two scientists whose report on dead polar bears in the Arctic helped make the animal a potent symbol of climate change has been asked to take a lie detector test as part of an investigation by US agents.
The 2006 report from American wildlife researchers Jeffrey Gleason and Charles Monnett told of dead bears floating in the Arctic Ocean in 2004, apparently drowned, and focused attention on the vulnerability of the animals to the melting of the Arctic ice, which they need for hunting. Widespread references were made to the dead bears and they figured in the film An Inconvenient Truth, made by Al Gore to highlight the risks of global warming.
But earlier this year, allegations were made within the US Department of the Interior that acts of scientific misconduct might have been committed in relation to the report, and the Department’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) began an inquiry.
Mr Monnett, who works for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, a Department of the Interior agency, became the focus of the inquiry and was interviewed several times by OIG agents; in July he was suspended.
October 28, 2011
By: Elizabeth Walling
Ghouls and goblins may be spooky, but what should really give you the creeps this Halloween is the decorative makeup you might be putting on your face. New evidence from the nonprofit Ecology Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan shows many novelty face paints used for Halloween are tainted with toxic heavy metals like cadmium and lead.
Your Halloween Costume May be Hazardous to Your Health
Researchers at the Ecology Center tested 31 types of novelty makeup you can find on the shelves of big name outlets and party stores all over the country. Every single product contained traces of some kind of metal, but that is just the beginning. More than half of the products contained cadmium, a toxic heavy metal linked to cancer, birth defects and brain damage. Other toxic metals like mercury and lead were also detected.
Even more disturbing is the popularity of these products with children. Kids dressing up as comical clowns and blood-sucking vampires routinely have their faces painted to match, but dress-up can turn ugly if toxic metals are involved. Children are especially at risk because their growing bodies and developing brains are more vulnerable to toxins like heavy metals. The health campaign director of the Ecology Center says parents should err on the side of caution until we know more about what levels of these metals are safe or unsafe for our children.
Representatives of some of the manufacturers insist their products have been tested to ensure legal levels of heavy metals, but health advocates say legal levels for topical products may be far too high. Not enough testing has been done to determine how much of these products are absorbed through the skin. Our skin is highly permeable, and putting these toxic metals on our skin may be no more safe than putting them straight into our mouths.
This Halloween the wise choice would be to avoid commercial makeup by either making your own at home or simply going without. When it comes to your health and that of your children, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
October 28, 2011
By: Ethan A. Huff
In a shocking display of utter corruption and ignorance, a US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advisory committee has officially declared that young boys and men between the ages of 11 and 21 should be vaccinated against human papillomavirus (HPV), the viral infection supposedly linked to causing cervical cancer in women.
Despite the fact that males do not even have a cervix, 12 of the 14 CDC committee members decided that vaccinating boys as young as nine against the virus is still a good idea. And in a separate vote, the majority of the committee members also decided that men as old as 26 should be vaccinated against HPV as well, which encompasses practically all young men.
The decision is founded in the CDC’s belief that Merck & Co.’s Gardasil and GlaxoSmithKline’s (GSK) Cervarix, the two vaccines approved for HPV, also help to prevent genital warts and various types of cancers in males. Such claims, though, have never actually been proven. The studies used as proof are skewed, and all of them were funded by the vaccine manufacturers.
There really is no solid medical proof that either Gardasil or Cervarix prevent HPV infections, cancer, or the transmission of HPV from men to women, as proponents of the vaccines claim.
“Though about 40 other countries have approved the vaccine (Gardasil) for males, there is still no medical proof Gardasil prevents penile cancer or other HPV-associated cancers in men,” says an Associated Press (AP) report from 2008. “There also is no evidence the vaccine prevents the spread of HPV from men to women.”
But the CDC advisory committee cannot let the facts get in the way of the pro-HPV vaccine agenda. A recent CNN report on the announcement even admits that the sudden push to vaccinate boys against HPV has little to do with actually stopping the spread of disease, and everything to do with getting as many people vaccinated as possible.
“One reason for the push now is that girls aren’t getting vaccinated in the numbers doctors had expected,” says the report. And the reason girls are not getting vaccinated is because HPV vaccines are linked to a host of very serious and deadly side effects, and have never been proven to be effective at preventing or treating anything.
October 28, 2011
The Christian Science Monitor
By Peter Henderson
An Iraq war veteran badly wounded in clashes between protesters and police on the streets of Oakland was awake and lucid, hospital officials and family members said Thursday.
Scott Olsen, a former U.S. Marine struck in the head during Wall Street protests on Tuesday night, had been upgraded from critical to fair condition overnight.
Olsen’s injury has become a rallying cry for the Occupy Wall Street movement nationwide, and Oakland organizers said they would stage a general strike over what a spokeswoman called the “brutal and vicious” treatment of protesters, including the young Iraq war veteran.
At the downtown plaza where he was hurt, several hundred supporters turned out Thursday night for a candlelight vigil in which fellow activists from a group called Iraq War Veterans for Peace addressed the crowd. One drew loud cheers when he said the police chief or mayor should resign.
Olsen “responded with a very large smile” to a visit from his parents, Highland General Hospital spokesman Warren Lyons said at a late-afternoon press conference on Thursday.
“He’s able to understand what’s going on. He’s able to write and hear, but has a little difficulty with his speech,” Lyons said.
Olsen’s aunt, Kathy Pacconi, told Reuters in an email that her nephew was showing signs of improvement.
“I believe he knew his mom and dad were there, and tomorrow he’ll be really happy to see his sister, Melissa, because they are really close. Hopefully, he’ll start to improve with her visit,” Pacconi said.
Occupy Oakland organizers said their strike, scheduled for next Wednesday, was intended to shut down the city.
‘Shut the city down’
“We mean nobody goes to work, nobody goes to school, we shut the city down,” organizer Cat Brooks said. “The only thing they seem to care about is money and they don’t understand that it’s our money they need. We don’t need them, they need us.”
Spokeswomen for the city of Oakland and Mayor Jean Quan could not be reached for comment.
Brooks said a general strike was a “natural progression” following a crackdown by the city of Oakland early on Tuesday morning in which protesters were evicted from a plaza near city hall and 85 people were arrested.
Protesters sought to retake that plaza on Tuesday night and were repeatedly driven back by police using stun grenades and tear gas. It was during one of those clashes that protesters say Olsen was struck in the head by a tear gas canister fired by police.
The hospital has confirmed Olsen was hurt during the protest, but could not say how he was wounded. Acting Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan had told a news conference his department was investigating the incident.
He said police had fired tear gas and bean-bag projectiles when protesters defied orders to disperse. He also said that some demonstrators had pelted police with rocks and bottles.
Olsen is believed to be the most seriously wounded person yet in confrontations between police and activists since Occupy Wall Street protests began last month in New York.
News of his injury ignited a furor among supporters of the protests. Activists in Oakland and elsewhere took to Twitter and other social media urging demonstrators back into the streets en masse.
More than 1,000 protesters moved onto the streets of Oakland again on Wednesday night as police largely kept their distance.
At Thursday’s vigil, Emily Yates, an Army veteran of two tours in Iraq, urged restraint by police and protesters.
“The police claim they were just doing their job. It’s all of our job to think before we throw anything at each other,” she said.
Steve Morse, a Vietnam War veteran, drew a hearty cheer when he called for the resignation of either Police Chief Jordan or Mayor Quan, both widely criticized as having bungled the city’s response to the Occupy Oakland movement.
October 28, 2011
By Stephanie Condon
President Obama’s re-election campaign is pushing back against a New York Times report that suggests Mr. Obama may not be meeting his own standards when it comes to keeping corporate lobbyists out of his campaign.
At least 15 of Mr. Obama’s “bundlers” — supporters who collect donations from multiple people on behalf of a campaign in order to generate big donations without violating the law — work in the lobbying industry though they are not technically registered as federal lobbyists, the Times reports. These key supporters, with ties to heavy-hitting industries like telecommunications and pharmaceuticals, have raised more than $5 million so far for Mr. Obama’s re-election.
Their fundraising seems to contradict the spirit of Mr. Obama’s pledge to not take money from lobbyists. The president’s campaign, however, says the New York Times story “misses the forest for the trees.”
From the day he announced his 2008 presidential bid, Mr. Obama hasn’t accepted a dime from registered lobbyists or political action committees, Obama campaign press secretary Ben LaBolt said in a statement. Furthermore, LaBolt pointed out, Mr. Obama has led the way in disclosing the names of major volunteer fundraisers.
This all stands in contrast, he added, to the Republican presidential campaigns, which readily accept donations from lobbyists.
“Reducing the influence of special interests over the policymaking process won’t happen overnight–there are many institutional forces fighting tooth and nail to make sure that it does not,” LaBolt said. “But every step of the way, the president has promoted reform while candidates like Mitt Romney have thrown up their arms and attempted to thrive off the system as it is.”
While the 15 bundlers cited by the Times may not meet the technical criteria to be registered lobbyists, the influence they wield in Washington on behalf of their business interests is clear. Sally Susman, for instance, is an executive who leads the lobbying shop for the pharmaceutical company Pfizer, though she’s not technically a lobbyist herself. She’s raised more than $500,000 for Mr. Obama’s re-election and helped organize a $35,800-a-ticket dinner the president attended.
The rewards for several of Mr. Obama’s bundlers have been handsome, a June report showed. Eighty percent of the bundlers who raised $500,000 or more for Mr. Obama in the 2008 election ended up in “key administration posts,” in the words of the White House, according to a study from the Center for Public Integrity.
Still, Mr. Obama’s efforts to keep corporate interests out of his campaign extend far beyond any efforts his opponents are making.
In fact, the Washington Post reported this week that “K Street is playing an increasingly central role in the 2012 presidential race, as hundreds of lobbyists representing some of the world’s largest corporations and trade groups pour money into Republican coffers.”
More than 100 registered lobbyists have contributed to Mitt Romney, giving nearly $200,000 in direct donations to the former Massachusetts governor, the Post reported. Meanwhile, lobbyist bundlers have collected $1 million for his campaign.
October 28, 2011
Real Clear Politics
Ron Paul would not pledge to rule out a third-party run for president if he did not get the Republican nod. Paul said he is running for the Republican nomination and to make such an announcement now would undermine his current campaign.
Paul was discussing his candidacy with the panel on FOX News’ “Special Report.”
However, Ron Paul hinted several times during the interview that the thought is in his mind. Paul noted that there are more registered Independents than Republicans or Democrats in the state of New Hampshire.
When asked if he would pledge not to run as a third candidate Paul dodged giving a direct answer. “I pledge that I have no intention of doing it,” Paul said cheerfully.
“Well, you know, I have to vacillate a little bit in my life,” Paul said when pressed more about his opinion. Transcript below.
Juan Williams, FOX News: “Everybody in this town thinks there is going to be a third-party candidate. An independent candidate. If you don’t get the Republican nomination, could that independent candidate be Ron Paul?”
Ron Paul, candidate: “Look, Juan, you have to realize let’s say that I was thinking about that and I said that. Then it would undermine what I’m doing. I’m running for president. I’m doing pretty well, I’m in third. So, no, I’m running for president in the Republican party, I’m doing very well. And last time they wondered about it, but, you know the whole thing is, is boy the people are really frustrated. You go to New Hampshire there are more independents then Republicans or Democrats.”
Williams: “But what you’re saying is you are not saying that you will not run as an Independent.”
Paul: “Well, I say, is that I have no plans to do it.”
Bret Baier, host: “So, how about are you big on pledges? Would you pledge here tonight that you would not run in a third party?”
Paul: “I pledge that I have no intention of doing it.”
Paul: “I’m running for this Republican primary!”
Baier: “That sounds pretty political, Congressman.”
Paul: “Well, you know, I have to vacillate a little bit in my life.”
Charles Krauthammer: “We need a grammarian to work on that sentence.”
October 28, 2011
By David Sirota
Early Saturday morning, I spent two hours at 30 Rockefeller Plaza with a distinguished panel of guests on Chris Hayes’ terrific new MSNBC show “Up.” The theme of the discussion, which you can watch here, was the state of national security policy after Moammar Gadhafi’s death and President Barack Obama’s announcement of the end of the Iraq war. The conversation soon turned to a topic that is almost never mentioned, much less seriously explored, in the traditional media: the subject of American Empire. Our dialogue provided a perfect example of how troublesome newspeak continues to muddle our foreign policy discussions.
Here’s the excerpted exchange that kicked it off; I introduced the subject and then P.J. Crowley, my former colleague at the Center for American Progress, fired back (there was a break in between, so I’ve put the two statements together for brevity’s sake):
SIROTA: On my radio show in Denver, you are talking to callers every day, and every so often I mention the fact that if you look at the last 50 years after WWII, American foreign policy is in part about empire — it’s an imperial project. You’ll get some folks who will agree with you, but you get conservative callers who say that is the most offensive thing I’ve ever heard. Now if you look at it empirically, I think our foreign policy has been a project of empire.
CROWLEY: I just couldn’t disagree more… In the last 100 years there’s been a battle against fascism, a battle against communism, and there’s been the construction of a remarkable what John Ikenberry at Princeton calls a liberal hegemonic project where you have a World Trade Organization, a functioning United Nations, an open liberal system, a remarkable number of democracies that have come into the world in the last 30, 40, 50 years. The United States is the lone superpower in the world. We throw our weight around. Not all of our policies are effective or consistent necessarily with our values. But you cannot describe the United States as an empire. We have created a system that we invite everyone in the world to participate in. And the last point is that, look, an Empire would never leave Iraq. The fact is, we had a negotiation, Iraq said we can’t live with these conditions, and we are in fact leaving. That’s not what an Empire does.
A former public affairs officer for the National Security Council and then mouthpiece for the U.S. State Department, Crowley was a perfect guest for this discussion. Despite his recent — and laudable — acknowledgment of the inhumane treatment of Bradley Manning, this is a guy who has been a loyal spokesman for America’s national security establishment. Consequently, his retort is an important example of how that establishment employs euphemisms and coded phrases to mainstream, sugarcoat and obscure an imperial project that might make rank-and-file Americans uncomfortable.
Crowley bridles at the idea that America’s long history of geopolitical aspirations, invasions, occupations and various extensions of power is part of an imperial project. Instead, we are told that it’s all just one “liberal hegemonic project” (as if alleged liberalism somehow makes it a “hegemonic project” not an “imperial project”). Yet, even beyond this almost overt contradiction of himself, his examples betray what really drives American foreign policy.
The World Trade Organization, for example, uses the imperial threat of sanctions to help American corporate interests trample the will of local governments in order to exploit host nations for profit. Likewise, the United Nations — which certainly does a lot of good, important work — is still structurally rigged with a security council to make sure America has outsize imperial influence in proportion to its population.
While Crowley is correct that “a lot of democracies have come into the world in the last 30, 40, 50 years,” many of those democracies have emerged in spite of America’s imperial ambitions — not because of America’s non-imperial benevolence (think: Latin American democracies emerging in the face of Reagan administration meddling, or Egypt’s move toward democracy in spite of the Obama administration’s backing of dictator Hosni Mubarak). Additionally, more democracies might have come into the world if the U.S. hadn’t been propping up dictators.
Finally, the idea that we wouldn’t end an imperial occupation if we were an empire not only assumes that we actually are leaving Iraq (a shaky assumption, to say the least), but also glosses over the fact that forcibly bringing another nation into our sphere of influence, or fully propping up a client government, is also a part of the imperial project — it’s just more polite than a full-on military occupation.