Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Touched: The Jerry Sandusky Story.


And, the Grand Jury report, for those interested. (not for the faint of heart)


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Iran and the bomb

So, the IAEA will release its report later this week, and its expected to detail what Iran has done.  So far, early reports (this from the NYT) indicate it may reveal the following:

IF the leaks are an accurate predictor of the final product, the report will describe in detail the evidence the I.A.E.A. has amassed suggesting that Iran has conducted tests on nuclear trigger devices, wrestled with designs that can miniaturize a nuclear device into the small confines of a warhead, and conducted abstruse experiments to spark a nuclear reaction. Most likely, the agency will stop short of accusing Iran of running a bomb program; instead, it will use the evidence to demand answers that it has long been refused about what it delicately calls “possible military dimensions” of the nuclear program.

The big question is what will happen: Does some country bomb Iran prior to Iran developing an nuclear bomb (not guaranteed, btw) or does the Israel and everyone else allow Iran to acquire the bomb (again, not guaranteed Iran will ever develop a working nuclear bomb)? Many appear to be concluding that it’s “do or die” now, and to forestall further would lead to a 21st century holocaust.  From David Remnick:

The country’s most influential columnist, Nahum Barnea, wrote a front-page commentary in Yediot Ahronoth recently called “Atomic Pressure,” slamming Netanyahu and Barak for acting dangerously and without a thorough public discussion. Barnea, who is as connected a journalist as I have ever met, tried to describe Netanyahu’s thinking: “Ahmadinejad is Hitler; if he isn’t stopped in time, there will be another Holocaust.” He continued, “There are those who describe Netanyahu’s attitude on the matter as an obsession: All his life he dreamed of being Churchill; Iran gives him the opportunity.”

Others, however, advocate caution.  Jeffrey Lewis, at ACW, writes that “Whatever sort of game it is, it’s one of inches and half-inches, of years and perhaps decades to come.”

The dangers from a direct attack are numerous.  Again, from Remnick: “At the same time, the potential dangers of a strike are clear: a prolonged and bloody regional war; attacks on Israel from Gaza and Lebanon; the closing of the Strait of Hormuz, a main world oil transport lane; a sharp rise in energy prices with disastrous effects on the world economy.”

So far, it appears that at least two tactics that have become public have been tried to retard Iran’s progress on the bomb: (1) the assassination (or buttbuttination for those website filters that don’t like the word “ass”) of one Iranian scientist and the attempted assassination of another, 20 minutes apart, in Tehran, and (2) stuxnet. Blame for (1) mostly centers on Israel, with (2) being credited either the U.S., Israel, or both.   It is estimated that these delayed Iranian ambitions by maybe 1-2 years, at most.

This in turn may be the inspiration for Iranian counterattacks in the form of political assassinations.  It is alleged that Iran attempted to assassinate a Saudi ambassador in DC.

I’m reminded of a book “Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran, and the United States”  In it, Trita Parsi chronicles the historical relationship between Israel and Iran and notes how strong it was for the majority of Israel’s existence.  Both countries were outsiders in the middle east (Israel because it is Jewish, Iran because it is Persian).  While this “friendship” was not always in the open, it remained strong through many trying times (there’s still an active, though small, Jewish population in Iran).  To that extent, I hope that this current antagonistic period will revert back to the more friendly terms that previously existed.  However, that does not appear likely to happen anytime soon.  Instead, it appears that the next alliance for Israel may be with Arab nations now over the mutual threat posed by Iran.

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Per the NYT, the Census Bureau, on Monday, is going to release a new, alternate measure of poverty.  The NYT itself did it’s own study based on various different methods of calculating poverty.  These methods incorporate “food stamps, work expenses, taxes, and the cost of living.”  While cautioning that the Census Bureau will not be using the same data, the NYT found that poverty did decrease, most prominently in rural America from 16.4% to 10.9%, where the cost of living is lower.  Poverty did, however, increase in metropolitan areas, from 13.9% to 14.9%.

The NYT found, when comparing those who are considered poor under the traditional standard versus those not considered poor under the newer methods, that over 2/3 benefited from food stamps.  This should be further proof that government aid does benefit people and make their lives better than without these benefits.

Also, this reminds me of that old West Wing episode where a new economic formula led to 4M more people being considered poor, with Josh and Sam finding a way to spin that news into a positive.

Josh : “Well, I’m not an expert but wouldn’t we have a better chance of getting re-elected if we could say there were four million fewer poor people? Hang on, wait, I am an expert.”

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After I finished reading Ezra Klein’s review of Ron Suskind’s The Confidence Men, I came to the same conclusion as Matthew Ygelsias:

I really liked Ezra Klein’s review of Ron Suskind’s book in the NYRB for its wholesome focus on monetary policy errors as the most plausible way the Obama administration could have made things better. Nobody was stopping them from replacing Ben Bernanke with someone more committed to full employment, and it seems likely that they could have filled two existing Board of Governors vacancies with people more committed to full employment. If the chairman and those two empty seats all felt the way Charles Evans feels, we’d be in much better shape today. None of that is to deny that fiscal policy could have been better, but as Klein says the key blocking points on fiscal policy were in Congress.

It was, and still is, very confusing to me why the one institution that can address the current economic ills and operates more independently from political control/manipulation was ignored by this Administration.

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I’ve never understood the hatred that Planned Parenthood generates in some people.  These are often the same people who cry about “welfare babies.”  Enter Texas and its recent foray into defunding Planned Parenthood under the idea that doing so will prevent abortions.  The Dallas Observer recently wrote a fantastic article detailing what happened, why, and what the proponents hope to accomplish and why they won’t accomplish it.

The part most interesting/depressing aspect to me is how women are again being limited in their ability to “plan” how they want to start a family.  First off, many of these services are not covered by insurance (though Cialis and Viagra are).  This by itself severely limits a woman’s ability to “plan.”  So, since insurance doesn’t cover these services, women seek out organizations like Planned Parenthood.  With mostly male legislatures controlling these funding decisions, women are again marginalized.  It’s a banal comment that I’m sure has been made numerous times before, but if men were the ones getting pregnant, we would be financing significantly more opportunities for men to “plan” when to be parents.  That’s what bothers me most, the discrepancy between the two sexes, and how the majority of decisions ultimately favor one sex over the other.

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When listening to The Big Short, I didn’t fully understand the brief mention re: Steve Eisman that he thought for-profit colleges were the next bubble.  The below chart helps explain why (from the College Board, through Wonkblog):

That is some serious cost increase.  Combined with recent default rates approaching credit card default rates (see chart below from the New York Fed’s Quarterly Report on Consumer Credit, from Rortybomb), and it appears that more pain, for both financial institutions and borrowers, will be coming.

Furthermore, from Mike Konczal (emphasis added):

It is good to see President Obama, as part of his “We Can’t Wait” campaign, pushing to get some fencing around the rules for future student loan debtors through an executive order. According to this press release, the government will accelerate the implementation of laws “to limit loan payments to 10 percent of their discretionary income starting in 2012 [instead of 2014]. In addition, the debt would be forgiven after 20 years instead of 25, as current law allows.” However, according to an early analysis of this move, ”[b]orrowers with loans from 2007 and earlier will not be eligible. Likewise, borrowers who don’t have at least one loan from 2012 or later, like students who graduated in 2011 or earlier, also won’t be eligible. Borrowers who are already in repayment will not be eligible.” So the problem remains for now.

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A federal advisory panel is recommending that boys as young as 11 years old be given the controversial HPV vaccination shot currently given to girls to prevent cervical cancer.

I remember talking to my doctor about getting tested for HPV, and was told that no test really existed and that it did not affect men.  The second part is certainly not true as the rise in oral cancers amongst men demonstrates.  Assuming, however, that no harm came to men, it still strikes me as irresponsible to not have a test, or a vaccine, for something that you can transmit to a partner.  It’s one of those instances where all responsibility is placed on the woman, and that strikes me as inherently unfair.



Amy Davidson:

Vaccinating boys keeps them from getting sick, and that may be the main way this is sold. But, as the C.D.C. panel noted, it “may also provide indirect protection of women.” One would think that raising boys to be men who protect women (and other men), directly or indirectly, would be a conservative priority as well. The maddening thing about vaccine opponents is the way they rely on the immunity of most of us, while facilitating new outbreaks of obsolete diseases.

Discussing this issue in context of the larger apprehension of some against vaccines in general.

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