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Sat Feb 08, 2014 at 01:09 PM PST

How to help the stray dogs in Sochi

by 1BQ

For the background on the heartbreaking killing of stray dogs in Sochi, many of whom may be trying to return to homes that were destroyed in order to build the Olympic facilities, see here and here.

Commenters in the first diary asked how they could help. Keith Olbermann retweeted a link to a page that lists some shelters and provides info for those who can adopt a dog.


A few commenters mentioned that they'd like to keep up with Keith. His Twitter page, which you can view without signing in, contains links to his show's segments as well as his tweets. If you want just the videos, he has a YouTube page.

Finally, a few commenters objected to my earlier diary's focus on dogs when human rights violations are being committed against LGBT people. We at the GOS are up in arms over LGBT bigotry everywhere, including Russia. But we still live with a bunch of regressives who wouldn't oppose the Olympics over treatment of LGBT people but who will go apoplectic over poisoning dogs. By airing the subject on a sports network, I think that Keith is trying to get a wider audience to boycott these Olympics. And because I'm boycotting these Olympics over LGBT concerns, I'm happy to recruit others to boycott these games and their sponsors for whichever reason is meaningful to them.

Discuss

Keith Olbermann may not be covering politics but he continues to offer his commentary on social issues pertaining to sports on his show on ESPN2. Tonight's piece was on the Russian government's killing of "stray" dogs. I use "stray" because the pest exterminator has a contract for 300 dogs/month, more during the Olympics. It turns out, heartbreakingly but not surprisingly, that the friendliest dogs are the easiest to kill.

Be forewarned that although there's nothing graphic, the piece is hard to watch. Take a blood pressure pill before hitting play.

I hugged each of my 3 cats extra long and hard after seeing this.

Keith recommends that those who are outraged by this vote with their wallets, like those who are outraged by the Russian government's treatment of LGBT people are boycotting the Olympic sponsors. You could take whatever you might have spent on Olympic merchandise and donate it to a no-kill shelter, or adopt a pet from one.

Apologies but it's late. I'll reply to any comments in the morning. If someone diaried this before, let me know in the comments and I'll delete. I just hope I don't have nightmares about the friendly dogs in Sochi...

Discuss

From the Department of Creative Cognitive Dissonance: the governor of W. Virginia, Earl Ray Tomblin, is trying to convince people that the spill of a coal cleaning chemical doesn't have anything at all to do with King Coal. From "Freedom to spill: Coal must take bad with good" at the Coal Tattoo blog of the WV Gazette:

Also at the Saturday briefing Tomblin pushed back at a reporter who connected the ongoing water crisis to the coal industry.

"This was not a coal company incident," the governor shot back. "This was a chemical company incident."

On Sunday night he did the same.

"This was not a coal company, this was a chemical supplier, where the leak occurred," he said. "As far as I know there was no coal company within miles."

But critics of the governor and his approach to regulatory matters say that the leak provides an all-too real portrait of ongoing threats to the state's public health that the state does little to address. The leak, at the chemical tank farm Freedom Industries, was just 1.5 miles upstream from West Virginia American Water's regional intake.

Get it?

There wasn't a coal company nearby; therefore, the spill couldn't possibly be coal-related! Even the vice president of the West Virginia Coal Association agrees:

"This is a chemical spill accident. It just so happens that the chemical has some applications to the coal industry, just that fact alone shouldn't cause people to point fingers at the coal industry," said Jason Bostic, vice president of the West Virginia Coal Association.
Got it!
Discuss

As first noted in the recommended diary "WV Spill: Multi-Millionaire Tied to GOP Dark Money Fronts Freedom Bankruptcy Cash," several aspects of the bankruptcy protection sought by Freedom Industries are, putting it mildly, irregular. I looked for a follow-up diary and since I didn't find one, thought I'd do a quick post. Apologies if this was diaried already; it's a few days old.

Freedom Industries is responsible for the Elk River contamination in West Virginia. They claim that they cannot pay for the damages and have filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy. The bankruptcy judge said that this case is "one of the most unique Chapter 11 cases I've ever seen." For example:

About an hour after Freedom filed for bankruptcy Friday, the company filed an emergency motion for "debtor-in-possession" (DIP) financing, which would allow it to secure a loan up to $5 million to continue to function in some capacity. The loan would, according to the filing, "provide additional liquidity to [Freedom] in order to allow it to continue as a going concern."

DIP lenders are often among the first agencies to get their money back from bankrupt companies.

Freedom's proposed DIP lender is WV Funding LLC, which was incorporated in West Virginia on Friday, the day Freedom filed bankruptcy.

WV Funding's one listed member is a company called Mountaineer Funding LLC. Mountaineer Funding also was founded Friday, according to filings with the Secretary of State's Office. There is also a space for Mountaineer Funding to sign on the DIP agreement.
...
In a filing Sunday, West Virginia American Water Co. asked the judge to deny Freedom Industries' request for a loan, which the water company said "smells of collusion."
...
In its bankruptcy filing, Freedom described the DIP agreement as being negotiated between the parties "in good faith and at arms-length." But the water company notes the fact that the DIP lender that owns Freedom isn't disclosed in the bankruptcy filings.
(emphasis added)


What's the term I'm looking for? Shell game?
Discuss

Politico is reporting that Liz Cheney is quitting her bid for a Senate seat because

Two GOP sources said that a recent incident involving a member of Cheney’s immediate family prompted her to reconsider the race, among other factors.

(h/t diarist David Hume)

I wonder whether the "incident" concerns the discovery that Cheney's husband, Phil Perry, is registered to vote in both Virginia and in Wyoming. Oops!

The county clerk, Sherry Daigle, said new voters are asked if they are registered elsewhere so the office can send a withdrawal request to the other jurisdiction.

“He signed an oath saying he was not currently registered anywhere else,” Daigle said.

Even though there's no evidence to suggest that he would actually vote in both places, the incident shows the hypocrisy of those who want to restrict voting rights in the name of voter fraud. Showing ID at the polls won't stop this type of voter registration "fraud."
Discuss

I thought the GOP stood for lower taxes and less regulation. Silly me! They're imposing new taxes everywhere and taking regulation to a new micro level.

See, most health insurance plans don't cover medical services unless they're considered medically necessary. So, requiring someone to undergo a medically unnecessary procedure that is unlikely to be covered by insurance is imposing a tax on the patient. And requiring such an invasive procedure as a trans-vaginal ultrasound as a pre-condition to receiving a legal procedure such as an abortion is about as micro-regulatory as you could imagine any government ever being.

And we're already familiar with the poll tax-like nature of some states' ID requirements for voting. To force those in poverty to get a picture ID - assuming they could produce the paperwork necessary to get one - as a condition of voting is nothing short of a right-to-vote tax. The party of "no background checks for gun purchases" wants to throw up all sorts of regulatory barriers to voting.

We should accuse Republicans of raising taxes on those who want to vote and those who have an unwanted pregnancy, along with any other instances of them costing ordinary citizens money. It's hard enough to get by these days without all these Republican-imposed taxes!

Discuss

You probably heard that the City and County of San Francisco was going to continue issuing marriage licenses and performing marriage ceremonies throughout the weekend. How can they do this in this age of budget-belt tightening? With the generous help of volunteers:

Wide-eyed with a smile from ear to ear, a rosy face and sweat on her brow, Nani Randall didn’t seem to want to catch her breath Saturday at San Francisco’s City Hall.
...
Randall, a former law enforcement officer with San Francisco’s public transportation system, is one of about 100 volunteers working in the only county in California performing same-sex marriages over the weekend.
...
Nearly half a dozen folding tables were set up across one side of the county clerk’s office, where couples met their wedding official after having their marriage license certified.

Most of the volunteers are current or former city and county workers who wanted to be a part of history.

How cool is that?

BTW, if you want to watch the parade, there's a live stream here.

Discuss

Apologies for the quick hit and run - it's almost midnight - but maybe this will make someone's Sunday a little more hopeful. The Board of the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS), which is the second largest employer purchaser of health insurance (after the Federal government), voted on June 19 to include transgender transition-related care in all of their health plans as of January 1, 2014 (all emphasis added):

CalPERS provides retirement and health benefits to more than 1.6 million public employees, retirees and their families, including employees of the state of California and over 3,000 other California employers, including municipalities and non-profits.  CalPERS health plans cover more than 1.3 million individuals.  The board’s historic vote means that the 2014 HMO and PPO plans managed by CalPERS will include coverage of “Sex Reassignment Surgery and Related Services for Gender Identity Disorder.”  CalPERS is the nation’s largest public health benefits fund, making California the largest employer to offer explicitly transgender-inclusive coverage.
This follows the earlier decision to require private insurers to provide transgender-related benefits, meaning that the expanded coverage applies to almost everyone in the state, both public and private, and with few or no age restrictions (private workplaces that self-insure are exempt but many offer coverage anyway).

Equally important to residents of other states is this:

The vote of the CalPERS board reflects trends in the private sector, where transgender-inclusive health plans are increasingly common, with strong encouragement from HRC’s Corporate Equality Index (CEI).  The CEI, which evaluates Fortune 1000 and other large employers vis-a-vis LGBT workplace policies, has called for transgender inclusion in employer health plans since 2009. Employers have heeded the CEI’s call: in the  2013 CEI survey, 287 major employers reported coverage of basic medical services related to sex reassignment, including surgical services. Numerous other public and private employers, including many universities and colleges, have also removed exclusions in their employee health plans and provided trans-inclusive coverage.
Score 1 for the pro-equality side in the "culture wars"!

(h/t Think Progress)

Discuss

Wisconsin, the state of rosy outlook and "real reform," has slashed $1.1M from funding for Planned Parenthood. The closures are scheduled to occur between April and July.

That means about 2,000 low-income residents who need cancer screening, breast exams, birth control, pregnancy test, or testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases may have to travel up to an hour to go to a location in another county.
But wait! Lest you think this is just a continuation of the TeaOP War on Women, they already slashed funding in 2011 for family planning services for men!
The new state budget also cuts men out of BadgerCare, the state's Medicaid-funded family planning program, and tightens the eligibility restrictions for women, which could jeopardize the entire program. The U.S. Department of Health would have to agree to such dramatic changes to BadgerCare that state officials worry the program might end altogether, leaving 57,000 uninsured patients without access to health care.
Ah, Wisconsin, where cutting funding for family planning services is a shining example of gender equality!

Never mind that none of the clinics did abortions. Even if they did, the funding that was cut didn't pay for patient services:

Planned Parenthood officials stressed that the $1.1 million the organization lost in state funding for nine counties mainly paid for infrastructure costs. The money was never used to provide abortion services, which would have been against state and federal laws, officials said.

"They weren't reimbursements for patient services directly," said Nicole Safar, director of public policy for Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin. "None of these centers provided abortion services. . . . In these communities, there is nowhere else for low-income women to get these services. These centers focused on preventing unplanned pregnancies and reducing the need for abortions."

The centers provided 11,400 health care services a year. Officials said they worry that the closings will mean that about 2,000 people in the affected communities won't be getting checkups or treatment, putting patients at risk of cancer and other illnesses.

As bad is this is, funding for services was cut across the board, wasn't it? Actually, not so much:
Planned Parenthood was disproportionately affected by the cut because the finance committee redefined in 2011 who was able to receive the women's health block grant, which is half federally and half state funded.
But closing the clinics will save taxpayers money because fewer slut-Americans will have s*x, right? Um, no:
They are focused on preventing unintended pregnancies and (preventing) the need for abortion.
...
Cutting funds and turning away resources tied to the Medicaid program when people are going without essential health care will negatively impact community health and cost taxpayers’ money
OK, so the budget cuts represent a sincere, if misguided, attempt to save money. There's nothing more at work here, is there?
A Planned Parenthood spokesperson said Wisconsin has never seen an administration more fundamentally opposed to family planning and birth control. Walker was the first gubernatorial candidate to seek and win the official endorsement of Pro-Life Wisconsin -- a group that considers birth control a form of abortion and opposes sex education for teenagers.

Numerous state lawmakers have expressed their disdain for Planned Parenthood.

"There's a very ugly side to this organization, and I regret that they're going to take such a tiny cut in this budget," said state Sen. Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend) during negotiations on the budget.

Walker's op-ed makes him sound like he's angling for the Presidency. Coming from a blue state could mislead voters into thinking he's moderate. He's anything but.
Discuss

Fri Feb 15, 2013 at 10:19 AM PST

Mitch McConnell supports legalizing hemp!

by 1BQ

Just checked my calendar and it's not April 1, so this might actually be true:

McConnell supports bill to legalize hemp production

The federal government currently puts hemp in the same category of illegal drug as heroin, LSD and ecstasy -- but the Senate's top Republican wants to change that.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R - Ky., joined forces Thursday with a pair of West Coast Democrats -- Oregon Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley -- to cosponsor a bill that would allow American farmers to grow hemp without fear of punishment. Also on board is libertarian Rand Paul, McConnell's fellow Republican Bluegrass State senator.

“I am proud to introduce legislation with my friend Rand Paul that will allow Kentucky farmers to harness the economic potential that industrial hemp can provide,” McConnell said in a statement Thursday. "During these tough economic times, this legislation has the potential to create jobs and provide a boost to Kentucky’s economy and to our farmers and their families."

See how easy that was? All "we" had to do in order to legalize growing a plant that could reduce the number of trees we cut down to make paper and also reduce the amount of water and pesticides involved in growing cotton was:

- survive the Great Recession, making the economic impact of growing hemp more attractive to farmers, and
- endure some of the worst droughts in recorded history (but there's no global warming, right?)

So, now that farmers in the Midwest want to farm a more sustainable crop, McConnell's all for it!

Continue Reading

Mon Feb 11, 2013 at 08:12 PM PST

Moving the needle, Faux "News" style

by 1BQ

Faux "News" and Bing are conducting what they're modestly calling the "Largest Interactive State of the Union Experience in History":

Bing.com/Politics will keep people in the know from a vast number of news
sources and social feeds, including a live stream of the State of the Union
address, expert commentary, real-time social media sentiment tracking and
more, such as the following:

  o A live feed of President Obama's State of the Union address at
    Bing.com/politics, including commentary from FOX News Channel political
    experts. FoxNews.com will also feature additional analysis and commentary
    including multiple live video streams along with photo galleries from the
    event. Viewers can log on at: http://www.foxnews.com/....
  o The Bing Pulse online poll, which will feature updated results every few
    seconds throughout the speech. Unlike typical polls, Bing Pulse will allow
    people to self-identify as male or female, register their party
    affiliation, and join the conversation. It will feature a live count of
    the number of "pulses," or votes, along with a line graph of how users
    react to language and issues throughout the speech. Data will be split by
    gender and political affiliation.
  o Real-time news results using the Bing news selector that helps people
    navigate the news by filtering coverage from left-leaning and
    right-leaning sources.
  o Live sentiment analysis via Bing Beat, which will focus on real-time
    social sentiment across major issues, such as immigration, gun control and
    the fiscal cliff.
  o Original videos of former President Jimmy Carter and former House Speaker
    Newt Gingrich offering commentary on the State of the Union address.
  o A live feed of social conversations on Twitter so people can stay informed
    on what leading political pundits are saying about the speech.

The catch? You may have to watch the Faux "News" feed of the SOTU address, though I may try to access the site while watching on C-SPAN or MSNBC because for some twisted reason, I've always wanted to participate in a dial test.
Discuss

Children of migrant (read: possibly undocumented) farmworkers will be eligible to receive free dental care regardless of immigration status at the AT&T Pro-Am golf tournament at Pebble Beach. The group offering the service is Christina's Smile. They offer comprehensive dental care for low-income kids at PGA golf events. They're scheduled to bring their services to several golf events around the country throughout the year.

Clearly, the number of children they can take care of in a weekend is but a drop in the bucket when it comes to kids needing dental care. But for the children of migrant farmworkers here in California and other poor children around the country, getting dental care can make a tremendous difference.

Can you help provide dental services?
Do you know someone who needs dental services?

Note: I am not affiliated with Christina's Smile or the PGA tour. I just saw this in my local paper and thought I'd spread the word.

Discuss
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