Archive for June, 2011

June 25, 2011

5 die, many hurt in Nevada as semi hits S.F. Bay Area-bound train

by Ben Hoffman

Federal transportation safety officials said numerous bodies remained onboard a Chicago-to-Emeryville Amtrak train in the Nevada desert after a gravel-hauling tractor-trailer rig slammed into it east of Reno at midday Friday.

The rig’s driver and a train conductor were among the five confirmed dead as of late Friday. Scores of victims were sent to hospitals with injuries, while as many as 45 remained unaccounted for, federal officials said.

The fiery collision happened on a lonely, windswept section of Highway 95 in the area of Lovelock, about 70 miles from Reno, at 11:24 a.m. Smoke from three burning cars on the 10-car train – which had 195 passengers onboard, according to state officials – could be seen for miles around. Confirmed dead were the truck driver – who is from a small county in eastern Nevada – a train conductor and at least three passengers. Read more…

June 25, 2011

Mock Gunfight Participant in S. Dakota Used Live Rounds – Two Audience Members Shot

by Ben Hoffman

PIERRE, S.D. — One of the participants in a mock Old West gun battle in South Dakota fired live ammunition instead of using blanks, wounding three tourists, authorities announced Friday.

More than 100 people attended the show a week ago staged by the Dakota Wild Bunch re-enactors, who perform several times a week in Hill City, a tourist town in the Black Hills.

The ammunition shattered a 65-year-old Minnesota woman’s fibula, a bone in the lower leg. A 48-year- old Pennsylvania man and a 52-year- old Nebraska man also were wounded. Read more…

June 25, 2011

Thousands of homes flooded in N. Dakota

by Ben Hoffman

Floodwaters gushed Friday into Minot, North Dakota, inundating thousands of residences and businesses, with water reaching mailboxes in some places, officials said.

The Souris River surpassed the all-time high of 1,558 feet set in 1881, according to the National Weather Service. The level was 1,560.13 on Friday evening.

“This is by far the toughest we’ve seen,” said Battalion Chief John Hocking of the Minot Fire Department.

Between 3,000 and 4,000 homes were affected by the water, Hocking told CNN. “In some, up to the roofs.” Read more…

June 25, 2011

Peter Falk, Who Played Columbo on TV, Dies at 83

by Ben Hoffman

Peter Falk, who marshaled actorly tics, prop room appurtenances and his own physical idiosyncrasies to personify Columbo, one of the most famous and beloved fictional detectives in television history, died on Thursday night at his home in Beverly Hills, Calif. He was 83.

Mr. Falk had a wide-ranging career in comedy and drama, in the movies and onstage, before and during the three and a half decades in which he portrayed the unkempt but canny lead on “Columbo.” He was nominated for two Oscars; appeared in original stage productions of works by Paddy Chayefsky, Neil Simon and Arthur Miller; worked with the directors Frank Capra, John Cassavetes, Blake Edwards and Mike Nichols; and co-starred with the likes of Frank Sinatra, Bette Davis and Jason Robards. Read more…

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June 25, 2011

Gas Prices Are Falling Fast

by Ben Hoffman

Gasoline prices are falling fast. In the past 7 weeks, the average U.S. retail prices has dropped 38 cents to $3.60 per gallon. Another 25-cent drop is expected by mid-July.

When prices approached $4 in early May, drivers were worried that $5 gasoline was a possibility this summer. But since then, oil prices have collapsed, the result of slowing economic growth in developed countries, weaker demand for oil and gas and this week’s decision by the U.S. and other countries to release 60 million barrels of oil from strategic reserves. Economists say falling prices will benefit consumers by leaving money in their wallets, and making them feel freer to spend on travel, shopping and dining. Read more…

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June 24, 2011

Liberty Prevails in N.Y. – Gay Marriage Approved by New York Senate

by Ben Hoffman

Lawmakers voted late Friday to legalize same-sex marriage, making New York the largest state where gay and lesbian couples can wed, and giving the national gay-rights movement new momentum from the state where it was born.

The same-sex marriage bill was approved on a 33 to 29 vote. The Senate galleries were so packed with supporters and opponents that the fire marshals closed them off. Read more…

June 24, 2011

Defaulting On Our Debts Would Be Unconstitutional – White House Could Ignore Debt Limit

by Ben Hoffman

White House Could Ignore the Debt Limit, Order Debt Repayment, According to Constitutional Scholars

Jonathan Zasloff, a professor at the UCLA School of Law who has discussed this idea on a blog that he writes with several other academics, told me that while an order from the president for the Treasury Department to continue issuing new debt sounded extreme, it was unclear who could prove sufficient injury from the decision that would qualify the person to sue the administration in court. “Who has some kind of particularized injury, in fact?” Zasloff asked, and he could not come up with a satisfying answer.

But even if standing could be established and the Obama administration gets taken to court, some legal experts note that an additional argument of surprising strength could be made: The government cannot legally default on its debts. Former Reagan official and maverick conservative budget wonk Bruce Bartlett has suggested as much by invoking Section Four of the Fourteenth Amendment, which says that “The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law … shall not be questioned.” Although there has been little litigation or discussion of this section, it could be read to imply an absolute firewall against statutory limits on paying or devaluing the debt. Read more…

June 24, 2011

Obama To Take Over Debt-Limit Negotiations – Another Capitulation In Store?

by Ben Hoffman

President Barack Obama signaled on Friday that he is ready to take over the debt-limit negotiations, summoning Senate leaders to the White House next week as the continuing impasse pushes the country closer to a potential default.

Obama will meet separately with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Monday. The meetings follow the collapse Thursday of talks between Vice President Joe Biden and congressional leaders. Read more…

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June 24, 2011

Eric Cantor’s Walkout Of Debt-Ceiling Talks Was Planned Political Theatre

by Ben Hoffman

GOP aides and lawmakers said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s (R-Va.) decision to exit debt talks led by Vice President Biden was inevitable.

The timing of Cantor’s exit from the talks has been discussed for weeks, and senior House Republicans cast it as a natural progression for the negotiations. Read more…

Republican leaders have taken tax cuts off the table. “You can’t raise taxes in this kind of economy,” stated Boehner, insinuating that raising taxes on the rich would stifle job creation. There is no evidence that this is even remotely true. Instead, Republicans will only agree to spending cuts which will positively, undeniably, absolutely result in massive layoffs of government workers and also for private companies that receive government contracts.

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June 24, 2011

Sarah Palin Propaganda Film to Debut in Iowa Next Week

by Ben Hoffman

A pro-Sarah Palin documentary film will make its premiere in the first-in-the-nation caucus state of Iowa next week, according to sources familiar with the plans.

The film, titled “The Undefeated,” had been scheduled to debut in key early primary states such as Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada before getting a wider release later next month. Read more…

Yeah! She wasn’t defeated… She quit!

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June 24, 2011

House preserves Libya funding but refuses to authorize mission

by Ben Hoffman

The House on Friday afternoon rejected legislation that would have prohibited the funding of military operations in Libya with only a few exceptions.

The 180-238 vote against the bill came after a debate in which both parties were split on how best to handle U.S. involvement in Libya, even as they seemed to agree that President Obama should have involved Congress in that decision at a much earlier stage. Read more…

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June 24, 2011

Watch: Rebuild The Dream (with Van Jones)

by Ben Hoffman

Remember that George W. Bush and his father had close business ties to the family of Osama Bin Laden, which is probably why Bin Laden was allowed to escape when he was cornered in Tora Bora. Right-wingers don’t have a problem with that. But they’re outraged that an African-American who was a civil rights advocate would be considered for a high level post in the Obama administration!

Anthony K. “Van” Jones (born September 20, 1968) is an American environmental advocate, civil rights activist, and attorney. Jones is a co-founder of three non-profit organizations. In 1996, he founded the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, a California non-governmental organization (NGO) working for alternatives to violence. In 2005, he co-founded Color of Change, an advocacy group for African Americans.[2] In 2007, he founded Green For All, a national NGO dedicated to “building an inclusive green economy strong enough to lift people out of poverty.” His first book, The Green Collar Economy, was released on October 7, 2008, and reached number 12 on the New York Times Best Seller list. In 2008, Time magazine named Jones one of its “Heroes of the Environment”. Fast Company called him one of the “12 Most Creative Minds of 2008″. Read more…

Van Jones is helping to head the new Rebuild the Dream organization.

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June 24, 2011

A Progressive “Tea Party?”

by Ben Hoffman

At last weekend’s Netroots Nation gathering in Minneapolis, liberal activists expressed frustration that they lacked the political power or media focus given to the conservative tea-party movement. Former White House environmental official Van Jones is hoping to change that with a new political effort dubbed “The American Dream Movement.”

Organizers are hoping to emulate the the success of the tea party, which became a significant force in the 2010 midterms, uniting like-minded people across the country who were previously uninvolved in politics or participating locally but not at the national level. Read more…

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June 24, 2011

Bernie Sanders to Make Major Budget Address

by Ben Hoffman

“Don’t yield, Mr. President,” Bernie said after congressional Republicans walked out of budget talks on Thursday. Bernie announced plans for a major speech on Monday. A member of the Senate Budget Committee, he says at least half the reduction in red ink must come from new revenue from the wealthiest Americans and the most profitable corporations. “The budget must not be balanced on the backs of working families, the elderly, the sick and the poor while the wealthiest people laugh all the way to the bank,” he said. Shared sacrifice is his term for asking as much from the millionaires as from the millions of Americans. He talked about the White House role at this pivotal moment during an interview with Cenk Uygur. “The American people have got to chime in very loudly and say, ‘Hey Mr. President, stand with us and be prepared to take on the big money interests and we’ll be at your back.”
Watch…

June 24, 2011

10 Things the GOP Doesn’t Want You to Know About the Debt

by Ben Hoffman

1. Republican Leaders Agree U.S. Default Would Be a “Financial Disaster”
2. Ronald Reagan Tripled the National Debt
3. George W. Bush Doubled the National Debt
4. Republicans Voted Seven Times to Raise Debt Ceiling for President Bush
5. Federal Taxes Are Now at a 60 Year Low
6. Bush Tax Cuts Didn’t Pay for Themselves or Spur “Job Creators”
7. Ryan Budget Delivers Another Tax Cut Windfall for Wealthy
8. Ryan Budget Will Require Raising Debt Ceiling – Repeatedly
9. Tax Cuts Drive the Next Decade of Debt
10. $3 Trillion Tab for Unfunded Wars Remains Unpaid
Read more…