Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Malala Yousafzai Full Speech At Noble Peace Prize Ceremony In Oslo Today December 10, 2014

Via Borowitz Report: Cheney Calls for International Ban on Torture Reports

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Former Vice-President Dick Cheney on Tuesday called upon the nations of the world to “once and for all ban the despicable and heinous practice of publishing torture reports.”

“Like many Americans, I was shocked and disgusted by the Senate Intelligence Committee’s publication of a torture report today,” Cheney said in a prepared statement. “The transparency and honesty found in this report represent a gross violation of our nation’s values.”

“The publication of torture reports is a crime against all of us,” he added. “Not just those of us who have tortured in the past, but every one of us who might want to torture in the future.”

Saying that the Senate’s “horrifying publication” had inspired him to act, he vowed, “As long as I have air to breathe, I will do everything in my power to wipe out the scourge of torture reports from the face of the Earth.”

Cheney concluded his statement by calling for an international conference on the issue of torture reports. “I ask all the great nations of the world to stand up, expose the horrible practice of publishing torture reports, and say, ‘This is not who we are,’ ” Cheney said.

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Via JERRY-P-BECKER: That awful congressional plan to allow pension cuts heads for enactment

From The Los Angeles Times, Tuesday, December 9, 2014. See
That awful congressional plan to allow pension cuts heads for enactment

By Michael Hiltzik


The congressional proposal to deal with a supposed crisis in worker pensions by allowing trustees to slash the benefits of already retired workers to shreds is heading toward enactment.

We reported on this plan last week, observing that its details were secret. They still are. Reps. John Kline  (R-Minn.) and George Miller (D-Martinez), the chairman and ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, told reporters on a conference call late Tuesday that the measure is being passed over to the House Rules Committee, which will move it as an amendment to an omnibus spending bill, as early as Wednesday. Senate action will follow, presumably no later than Thursday, when Congress departs for vacation.

The proposal is aimed at multiemployer pension plans, which are generally negotiated by a union to cover employees of all companies in a given industry. About 1,400 such plans cover about 10 million workers, according to the Pension Rights Center. About 150 to 200 of the plans, covering 1.5 million workers, are seriously underfunded and could run out of money sometime during the next 20 years.

The congressional proposal allows trustees of those plans to slash benefits sharply for retirees to give the plans a longer lease on life. It requires a vote of approval by active workers and retirees before that could be done -- but some pension advocates say that would only pit workers against retirees, with the latter coming out poorer.

Nothing Kline or Miller said Tuesday makes the plan sound much better. Asked why it's so urgent to pass a historic change in federal labor law in the final hours of a congressional session, without exposing the details to public view, much less to public hearings, they said that many of the affected pension plans are within a few years of insolvency.

"We could push now and get this done," Kline said, "or kick the can down the road and lose weeks and months. For some plans, their financial situation gets worse constantly."

Added Miller: "This may mean some benefit cuts, but it may mean a plan will last another decade or even longer." He and Kline said there would be protections for retirees who are disabled or 75 or older, but they offered few specifics beyond a sketchy fact sheet.

Yet there's a real risk that panicky trustees -- usually union and employer representatives -- could act prematurely, cutting the income of retirees who can't make it up from other sources. Indeed, the condition of many multiemployer pension funds has been improving recently, thanks to the strong investment markets and a better economy. That implies that there may be less need for urgency.

Pressure for the last-minute enactment apparently comes from trustees of some plans, who want latitude in cutting benefits that federal law denies them. Under ERISA, the 1974 law governing pensions in the private sector, benefits already earned by a worker can't be cut.

Carving out an exception for multiemployer plans is a big deal; doing so in haste, and secretly, is a bigger deal. Some major unions are backing the deal, but others, including the International Association of Machinists, are firmly in opposition. The Teamsters, who have been on the fence, weighed in against the proposal with a letter to congressional leaders Tuesday. (The Teamsters took particular exception to a special deal that was rumored to be in the offing for UPS, but Kline and Miller said no such deal is in their proposal.)

At this moment the pension bill appears to be a legislative juggernaut. "The last 'I' has been dotted and the last 'T' has been crossed," Kline said. He and Miller presented their achievement as a huge boon for workers and retirees, but it could be a disaster instead. No one will know until they see the language, but that may not happen until it's too late.
SIDEBAR PHOTO:  Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.) is the architect -- with retiring Rep. George Miller (D-Martinez) -- of a measure allowing worker pension benefits to be cut sharply. JERRY HOLT / ASSOCIATED PRESS

Watch Malala Yousafzai's Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech

Voa Daily Kos: Cycling is a bigger job creator in Europe than anything we are doing here in America

Indonesian villagers push their bicycles across a bamboo bridge as sun rises behind them outside Yogyakarta city in Central Java.  Indonesian villagers push their bicycles across a bamboo bridge as the sun rises behind them outside Yogyakarta city in Cent
I am a touch late to this information but it seems pretty important. The first large-scale study on cycling's economic benefits was published about a year ago. In it the researchers tried to quantify the economic benefits of cycling. They looked at health costs, fuel savings (oil), the reduction in infrastructural stress to cities (people biking versus using traditional vehicles), reductions in air and noise pollution as well as reduced CO2 emissions. On top of that they looked into cycling and the tourism industry as well as the retail and bike maintenance industry. They found out some interesting, pretty exciting things:
On just two wheels, the industry is creating more jobs than Europe’s high-fashion footwear industry (388,000 jobs), its well-established steel sector (410,000), and the United States’ Big Three automobile companies (Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler) combined (510,000).
Cycling, it turns out, is not a bad way of reducing our carbon footprint, while continuing to grow our economies. Hopefully, studies like this one will provide European (and maybe American) governments/municipalities the evidence needed to up their cycling-related budgets.  

Originally posted to weinenkel on Tue Dec 09, 2014 at 11:44 AM PST. 

Also republished by Velocipede Vanguard.

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Via Walking the Red Road: Chief Standing Bear

Via FB:

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Flower of the Day: 12/07/14

"Reality as we understand it is something created by our desires. So don’t condemn your desires – be aware of them, so that you can get a sense of the reality that you are creating for yourself. The mind is the tree of desire. Depending on how exactly it was conditioned, you will want this or that, since your desires stem from this mental programming. You believe that in order to be happy, you must have one thing or another. To de-condition the mind you need to free yourself of these beliefs by understanding the nature of your desires.”

Sri Prem Baba

Via Daily Dharma

A Gentle Effort | December 7, 2014

Mindfulness is cultivated by a gentle effort. Persistence and a light touch are the secrets. Mindfulness is cultivated by constantly pulling oneself back to a state of awareness, gently, gently, gently.

- Bhante Henepola Gunaratana, "Mindfulness and Concentration"

Via Bernie Sanders / FB:

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