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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Arizona near tops in nation for elected women

    TOP: Former Gov. Rose Mofford, left, spoke at a 2011 panel discussion featuring Arizona’s women governors, as current Gov. Jan Brewer listened. The state has had four women governors, most in the nation. (Cronkite News Service photo by Steve Doty)

    BOTTOM: A map from the Center for American Women in Politics ranks states for the proportion of women in their state legislatures. Arizona was third-highest among states, trailing only Vermont and Colorado. (Map courtesy the Center for American Women and Politics)

    By AUBREE ABRIL
    Cronkite News Service

    WASHINGTON – The wild west – it brings to mind images of cowboys and showdowns. It probably does not bring images of women in elected office.

    But Democrats and Republicans both say the independent, wild west mentality of Arizona voters is one reason the state elects more women than most others.

    Arizona has the third-highest percentage of women in its legislature, at 34 percent, trailing Colorado and Vermont, according to data from Rutgers’ Center for American Women and Politics.

    Arizona leads the nation for female governors, with four: Rose Mofford, Jane Dee Hull, Janet Napolitano and Jan Brewer.

    That is no surprise to Lisa James, who said Arizona has always been ahead of its time when it comes to women.

    “We’re pioneer people,” said James, chairman of the Dodie Londen Excellence in Public Service Series, which prepares Republican women for leadership positions.

    “If you were able to come out West and look at the desert and go, ‘I want to make a home here and I want to make a life here,’ you tend to be a little more forward-thinking,” James said. “So I think the wild wild west applies to also being forward-thinking in electing women in to office as well.”

    Political consultant Catherine Nichols said that in Arizona the question is not about whether women can win elections, but about whether they can raise the money necessary to run a campaign.

    “We have a mentality of voting for the individual even over party,” said Nichols, senior political consultant for Arizona List, which works to get pro-choice, Democratic women elected. “It’s the storyline of the person running.”

    That was echoed by two women lawmakers who said that while it’s great to have other women in office, but more important that they can do the job.

    “To me there are good and bad male legislators and good and bad female legislators,” said Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Glendale.

    Lesko doesn’t think a person’s sex determines whether they are a good legislator, but she said she would like to see more Republican women leaders.

    Rep. Victoria Steele, D-Tucson, said that what women bring to politics is about their experiences, not their gender.

    “For whatever reason that more women are getting elected in Arizona, I think it’s a good thing,” Steele said.

    “I think it’s a good thing because we bring this different perspective based on our experience. Not on our gender, but based on our experience and how we are socialized,” she said.

    While Arizona rates well on the state level, it has a poor record when it comes to sending women back East. The state has only sent five women to Congress, and two of them are there now: Democratic Reps. Ann Kirkpatrick of Flagstaff and Kyrsten Sinema of Phoenix.

    Marni Allen, director of Political Parity, said in an email that the obstacles to getting elected to federal office include fundraising, exposing personal lives and receiving little party support.

    She also said a “governing structure in Washington that seems to be filled with ‘angry, white men,’ means many women who have been successful in politics at a more local level don’t perceive the step up as a desirable career move.”

    The lack of women in Arizona’s congressional delegation is tied in part to a lack of term limits in Congress, said Kelly Dittmar, assistant research professor at the Center for American Women and Politics.

    “I think that’s definitely an additional hurdle for women in trying to run for congressional office,” Dittmar said of the advantage incumbents hold.

    Kim Owens, executive director at Dodie Londen, said Arizona’s history of electing women shows the open-mindedness of the voters.

    “There’s no one profile of what an Arizona voter is looking for,” Owens said. “They truly do look at each candidate.

    “In the races where we’ve been fortunate enough to have women elected in leadership, it’s been because the voters saw them as the best person for the job and historically, those women have been re-elected in large numbers,” she said.

    Nichols brought that voter independence back to the wild west.

    “We have this wild west mentality of the independent person who can make up their own mind and it doesn’t really matter if they’re Republican or Democrat, there’s a desire to have a leader that’s not going to be swayed,” Nichols said.

    Let's show hospitality as we figure out border crisis

    [Excerpted from the July 18 Des Moines Register in the July 22 Arizona Republic.  To read the complete editorial, click www.azcentral.com.]

    The politics can wait.  The border kids can't.

    The people of the United States and our political leaders will have plenty of time later to debate how our nation got into the crisis that now confronts us along our southern border with Mexico.

    Politicians will have plenty of time to make their campaign commercials, point fingers and assign blame.

    Now is the time to help the tens of thousands of children who arrived at our border hungry and alone, begging the world's richest nation for help.

    [Remember, The Arizona Republic is by far the best newspaper value in the Rim Country.  To have it delivered to your driveway seven days a week, call toll-free 1-800-332-6733.  There's more going on in the world that what Mayor Kenny is promising on Tuesdays and Fridays.]

    Monday, July 21, 2014

    Two blazes smoking up Rim Country

    Two lightning caused fires burning on the Coconino are considered helpful to the forest and are being allowed to burn.  They are:

    Pothole Fire
     

    Size: 1,300 acres. No additional growth expected, forward progress has been stopped
     

    Location: 22 miles north of Payson

    Behavior: 1-2 foot flames moving across the forest floor. Some isolated torching, which is natural and expected. Fire managers are conducting burnout operations to reinforce perimeters.


    Forest Road 142F, as well as the Tramway and Maxwell Trails leading into the West Clear Creek Wilderness are temporarily closed for public safety.

     
    General Fire
     

    Size: 800 acres
     

    Location: 15 miles northeast of Payson, off Forest Roads 300 and 95, south of FR 719.
     

    Behavior: 1-2 foot flame lengths
     

    Smoke: Subdivisions in the Blue Ridge community should anticipate an increase in smoke; it is expected to settle in the area overnight.
     

    The immediate fire area is closed for public safety. The Fred Haught Trail and a portion of the Arizona Trail are temporarily rerouted.

    Study links bee-killing pesticides to bird declines

    Article image
















    Beyond Pesticides
    EcoWatch / News Report
    Published: Saturday 12 July 2014
    nationofchange.org 

    A new study has linked bee-killing pesticides to dramatic declines in bird populations.

    In addition to previous research on the direct impacts of pesticides on pollinators and other beneficials, a recent study published by Dutch scientists establishes an additional indirect link between neonicotinoid use and insect-eating birds. The report, which came out on Wednesday, provides evidence that neonicotinoids, a class of systemic pesticides, are indirectly hurting larger creatures by reducing insect prey populations such as mosquitoes and beetles.

    Researchers found that in certain areas of the Netherlands where water is contaminated with high concentrations of imidacloprid, a commonly used neonicotinoid, bird populations tend to decline by an average of 3.5 percent every year. Further analysis found that this spatial pattern of decline appeared only after the introduction of imidacloprid to the Netherlands in the mid-1990s, even after correcting for land-use changes that have been known to affect bird populations in farmland.

    “To our surprise we did find a very strong effect on birds”, said lead author of the study, Caspar Hallmann, a Ph.D. student from Radboud University in the Netherlands, to Reuters. In fact, according to the study, which was published in the journal Nature, nine of 15 bird species studied only eat insects and all feed insects to their young. Hallmann added, “We cannot say this is proof (that the pesticide causes the decline in bird numbers) but we cannot explain the… decline of birds by any other factors.” The study also looked into other possible causes like pollution.

    Bayer CropScience issued a speedy response expressing disagreement with the study findings. The company writes that the study did not “demonstrate that there is a causal link between the use of neonicotinoids and the development of bird populations in Europe.” The company went on to say that neonicotinoids “have gone through an extensive risk assessment which has shown that they are safe to the environment when used responsibly according to the label instructions.” The company, along with Syngenta, has been accused of forestalling attempts to ban neonicotinoids via the proposal of bee health plans that call for more research, implementing agricultural best management practices and planting new habitat. These solutions fail to address the real problem that their products are highly toxic to bees. The recent report titled, Worldwide Integrated Assessment (WIA), undertaken by the Task Force on Systemic Pesticidesindicates otherwise. Twenty-nine scientists representing multiple disciplines analyzed more than 800 peer-reviewed publications on the impacts of systemic pesticides. The report emphasizes that neonicotinoids and their metabolites are persistent and harmful, even at very low levels, and that the chemicals have far-reaching impacts on entire ecosystems, from direct exposure to persistence in soil and water. Bees, butterflies, worms and other pollinators and non-target organisms are also put at risk. Scientists concluded that even when neonicotinoids were used according to guidelines on their labels, the chemicals’ levels in the environment still frequently exceeded the lowest levels known to be harmful to a wide range of species.

    The European Union (EU) began implementation of a two-year moratorium in April on neonicotinoids used on flowering crops stemming from scientific evidence that the chemicals are harmful to bees. The pesticides can still be used legally in the E.U. on non-flowering crops, such as barley and wheat, the scientists said. Germany’s Bayer and Switzerland’s Syngenta, the two main producers of the pesticides, have contested the moratorium. They suspect that “colony collapse disorder,” which has resulted in the large drop in bee populations in Europe, Asia, the Americas and the Middle East, are due to a virus spread by a parasitic mite. Opposition to neonicotinoid use remains strong, however. Syngenta recently withdrew its emergency application to allow the use of neonicotinoids on UK oilseed rape crops (known as canola in the U.S.) in face of public outcry. According to Reuters, more than 200,000 people protested against the request, with around 35,000 more writing to environment secretary Owen Paterson.

    The Dutch study recommends that future legislation consider and take into account the wider impact of pesticides on wildlife. Dave Goulson, Ph.D., of Sussex University, writes in a commentary in Nature that the study was “the first to provide direct evidence that the widespread depletion of insect populations by neonicotinoids has knock-on effects” on larger animals. Goulson has done work on the far-reaching effects neonicotinoids have on biodiversityand ecosystem health; a review of his from last year found that not only are neonicotinoids the most widely used insecticides in the world, but they persist and accumulate in soil, are prone to leaching into waterways, commonly exceed the LC 50 (the concentration which kills 50 percent of individuals) for beneficial organisms, and the consumption of small numbers of treated seeds presents a direct risk of mortality in birds and mammals.water_quality_netherlands
    Sound familiar? The link between pesticide use and birds is not a new one. Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring, chronicled the profligate use of pesticides and their effects on the environment and on birds in particular. While Carson wrote specifically about DDT, an organochlorine pesticide, the message is similar—neonicotinoid pesticides effects have been shown to have widespread consequences on beneficial insects, the environment and birds. 

    Read more about how neonicotinoids affect non-target organisms, or Pierre Mineau’s, Ph.D., in-depth presentation with the American Bird Conservancy on the impact of insecticides on birds. You can also visit our BEE Protective page to learn more about how honey bees and other pollinators are going through rapid population declines, and what you can do to help.

    What did US spy satellites see in Ukraine?

    Ukrainian woman adds her floral tribute to the mountain of flowers placed in commemoration of MH17 victims at the Dutch Embassy in Ukraine. (photo: Sergey Dolzhenko/European Pressphoto Agency)
    Ukrainian woman adds her floral tribute to the mountain of flowers placed in commemoration of MH17 victims at the Dutch Embassy in Ukraine. (photo: Sergey Dolzhenko/European Pressphoto Agency)

    By Robert Parry, Consortium News
    21 July 14
    readersupportednews.org 
     
    n the heat of the U.S. media’s latest war hysteria – rushing to pin blame for the crash of a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet on Russia’s President Vladimir Putin – there is the same absence of professional skepticism that has marked similar stampedes on Iraq, Syria and elsewhere – with key questions not being asked or answered.

    The dog-not-barking question on the catastrophe over Ukraine is: what did the U.S. surveillance satellite imagery show? It’s hard to believe that – with the attention that U.S. intelligence has concentrated on eastern Ukraine for the past half year that the alleged trucking of several large Buk anti-aircraft missile systems from Russia to Ukraine and then back to Russia didn’t show up somewhere.

    Yes, there are limitations to what U.S. spy satellites can see. But the Buk missiles are about 16 feet long and they are usually mounted on trucks or tanks. Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 also went down during the afternoon, not at night, meaning the missile battery was not concealed by darkness.

    So why hasn’t this question of U.S. spy-in-the-sky photos – and what they reveal – been pressed by the major U.S. news media? How can the Washington Post run front-page stories, such as the one on Sunday with the definitive title “U.S. official: Russia gave systems,” without demanding from these U.S. officials details about what the U.S. satellite images disclose?

    Instead, the Post’s Michael Birnbaum and Karen DeYoung wrote from Kiev: “The United States has confirmed that Russia supplied sophisticated missile launchers to separatists in eastern Ukraine and that attempts were made to move them back across the Russian border after the Thursday shoot-down of a Malaysian jetliner, a U.S. official said Saturday.

    “‘We do believe they were trying to move back into Russia at least three Buk [missile launch] systems,’ the official said. U.S. intelligence was ‘starting to get indications … a little more than a week ago’ that the Russian launchers had been moved into Ukraine, said the official” whose identity was withheld by the Post so the official would discuss intelligence matters.

    But catch the curious vagueness of the official’s wording: “we do believe”; “starting to get indications.” Are we supposed to believe – and perhaps more relevant, do the Washington Post writers actually believe – that the U.S. government with the world’s premier intelligence services can’t track three lumbering trucks each carrying large mid-range missiles?

    What I’ve been told by one source, who has provided accurate information on similar matters in the past, is that U.S. intelligence agencies do have detailed satellite images of the likely missile battery that launched the fateful missile, but the battery appears to have been under the control of Ukrainian government troops dressed in what look like Ukrainian uniforms.

    The source said CIA analysts were still not ruling out the possibility that the troops were actually eastern Ukrainian rebels in similar uniforms but the initial assessment was that the troops were Ukrainian soldiers. There also was the suggestion that the soldiers involved were undisciplined and possibly drunk, since the imagery showed what looked like beer bottles scattered around the site, the source said.

    Instead of pressing for these kinds of details, the U.S. mainstream press has simply passed on the propaganda coming from the Ukrainian government and the U.S. State Department, including hyping the fact that the Buk system is “Russian-made,” a rather meaningless fact that gets endlessly repeated.

    However, to use the “Russian-made” point to suggest that the Russians must have been involved in the shoot-down is misleading at best and clearly designed to influence ill-informed Americans. As the Post and other news outlets surely know, the Ukrainian military also operates Russian-made military systems, including Buk anti-aircraft batteries, so the manufacturing origin has no probative value here.

    Relying on the Ukraine Regime
    Much of the rest of the known case against Russia comes from claims made by the Ukrainian regime, which emerged from the unconstitutional coup d’etat against elected President Viktor Yanukovych on Feb. 22. His overthrow followed months of mass protests, but the actual coup was spearheaded by neo-Nazi militias that overran government buildings and forced Yanukovych’s officials to flee.

    In recognition of the key role played by the neo-Nazis, who are ideological descendants of Ukrainian militias that collaborated with the Nazi SS in World War II, the new regime gave these far-right nationalists control of several ministries, including the office of national security which is under the command of longtime neo-Nazi activist Andriy Parubiy.[See Consortiumnews.com’s “Ukraine, Through the US Looking Glass.”]

    It was this same Parubiy whom the Post writers turned to seeking more information condemning the eastern Ukrainian rebels and the Russians regarding the Malaysia Airlines catastrophe. Parubiy accused the rebels in the vicinity of the crash site of destroying evidence and conducting a cover-up, another theme that resonated through the MSM.

    Without bothering to inform readers of Parubiy’s unsavory neo-Nazi background, the Post quoted him as a reliable witness declaring: “It will be hard to conduct a full investigation with some of the objects being taken away, but we will do our best.”

    In contrast to Parubiy’s assurances, the Kiev regime actually has a terrible record of telling the truth or pursuing serious investigations of human rights crimes. Still left open are questions about the identity of snipers who on Feb. 20 fired on both police and protesters at the Maidan, touching off the violent escalation that led to Yanukovych’s ouster. Also, the Kiev regime has failed to ascertain the facts about the death-by-fire of scores of ethnic Russians in the Trade Union Building in Odessa on May 2. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Burning Ukraine’s Protesters Alive.”]

    The Kiev regime also duped the New York Times (and apparently the U.S. State Department) when it disseminated photos that supposedly showed Russian military personnel inside Russia and then later inside Ukraine. After the State Department endorsed the “evidence,” the Times led its newspaper with this story on April 21, but it turned out that one of the key photos supposedly shot in Russia was actually taken in Ukraine, destroying the premise of the story. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “NYT Retracts Ukraine Photo Scoop.”]

    But here we are yet again with the MSM relying on unverified claims being made by the Kiev regime about something as sensitive as whether Russia provided sophisticated anti-aircraft missiles – capable of shooting down high-flying civilian aircraft – to poorly trained eastern Ukrainian rebels.

    This charge is so serious that it could propel the world into a second Cold War and conceivably – if there are more such miscalculations – into a nuclear confrontation. These moments call for the utmost in journalistic professionalism, especially skepticism toward propaganda from biased parties.

    Yet, what Americans have seen again is the major U.S. news outlets, led by the Washington Post and the New York Times, publishing the most inflammatory of articles based largely on unreliable Ukrainian officials and on the U.S. State Department which was a principal instigator of the Ukraine crisis.

    In the recent past, this sort of sloppy American journalism has led to mass slaughters in Iraq – and has contributed to near U.S. wars on Syria and Iran – but now the stakes are much higher. As much fun as it is to heap contempt on a variety of “designated villains,” such as Saddam Hussein, Bashar al-Assad, Ali Khamenei and now Vladimir Putin, this sort of recklessness is careening the world toward a very dangerous moment, conceivably its last.

    Sunday, July 20, 2014

    There's good news about Obamacare

    Article image

    Dean Baker
    Published: Monday 7 July 2014
    nationofchange.org

    The Affordable Care Act is living up to its hype, providing genuine health care insurance to hundreds of millions of people. It’s time people recognize this and use it to their benefit.

    Many people touted the 288,000 new jobs the Labor Department reported for June, along with the drop in the unemployment rate to 6.1 percent as good news. And they were right. For now it appears the economy is creating a job at a decent pace. We still have a long way to go to get back to full employment, but at least we are now finally moving forward at a faster pace.

    However there is another important part of the jobs picture that was largely overlooked. There was a big jump in the number of people who report voluntarily working part-time. This figure is now 830,000 (4.4 percent) above its year ago level.

    Before explaining the connection to the Obamacare, it is worth making an important distinction. Many people who work part-time jobs actually want full-time jobs. They take part-time work because this is all they can get. An increase in involuntary part-time work is evidence of weakness in the labor market and it means that many people will be having a very hard time making ends meet.

    There was an increase in involuntary part-time in June, but the general direction has been down. Involuntary part-time employment is still far higher than before the recession, but it is down by 640,000 (7.9 percent) from its year ago level.

    We know the difference between voluntary and involuntary part-time employment because people tell us. The survey used by the Labor Department asks people if they worked less than 35 hours in the reference week. If the answer is “yes,” they are classified as working part-time. The survey then asks whether they worked less than 35 hours in that week because they wanted to work less than full time or because they had no choice. They are only classified as voluntary part-time workers if they tell the survey taker they chose to work less than 35 hours a week.

    The issue of voluntary part-time relates to Obamacare because one of the main purposes was to allow people to get insurance outside of employment. For many people, especially those with serious health conditions or family members with serious health conditions, before Obamacare the only way to get insurance was through a job that provided health insurance. However Obamacare has allowed more than 12 million people to either get insurance through Medicaid or the exchanges. These are people who may previously have felt the need to get a full-time job that provided insurance in order to cover themselves and their families. With Obamacare there is no longer a link between employment and insurance.

    These workers will now have an option to work part-time if they would like to spend time with young children, an ill or disabled family member, or would simply like more time to do other things. This is a freedom that workers in every other wealthy country have long enjoyed; now workers in the United States no longer need a full-time job to get health insurance. And the data indicate that many workers are taking advantage of this option.

    There is some evidence that Obamacare is having other positive impacts on the labor market. One of the striking developments in the recovery has been the incredibly disproportionate share of jobs that went to older workers. This was likely due in part to the fact that older workers would have an especially hard time paying for insurance in the individual market and therefore were to desperate to get and keep jobs that provided insurance. Obamacare now gives older workers the option to buy more affordable insurance on the exchanges. This may lead many to retire early.

    While employment growth for workers over age 55 averaged 4.8 percent annually from 2011-2013, it was down to 2.5 percent in the last year. The gainers from slower employment growth among older workers appear to be young workers who saw employment growth of 2.3 percent in the last year, up from an average of 1.3 percent in the prior two years.

    There was also a rise in the share of unemployment attributable to people voluntarily quitting their job. This would be another dividend of Obamacare, as workers would feel more comfortable leaving a job they didn’t like if they didn’t need it to get health care insurance.

    It is still too early to reach any firm conclusions about Obamacare’s influence on the labor market, but the evidence to date is positive. For whatever reason, Obama has been reluctant to tout these gains. That is unfortunate; the issue is not just boasting about the success of the law, but making workers aware of the new freedom the law provides.

    None of this is to say the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is perfect. Far too much of our health care dollar is wasted on insurers, drug companies, and overpaid doctors. But the ACA is an enormous step forward in providing genuine health care insurance to hundreds of millions of people and the public should recognize and take advantage of this fact.

    Wingnut Week In Review: Plane Paranoid

    Terrance Heath
    Thank heaven for American wingnuts’ short attention span. The apparent shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over the Ukraine gave us a respite from the usual sexist, racist, homophobic, xenophobic rantings. A brief one, but a respite nonetheless.
    Not to worry, they’ll soon get back to screaming and spitting at busloads of frightened children. In the meantime, here’s the best of the rest in wingnuttia this week.