Does the US have a conflict of interest in going after Toyota since it owns GM?

It isn't obvious that the government's behavior is "consistent" with how the government handles similar cases.

The US transportation chief's public rebukes of Toyota's handling of a massive safety recall have raised eyebrows, given the US government's major stake in rivals General Motors and Chrysler.
"The optics are terrible because -- and this is what happens when a government owns a company - the two companies that are going to gain the most out of this are General Motors and Chrysler," said Peter Morici, a professor at the University of Maryland's business school.
"But their behavior is consistent with the general policy of the US government, whether it's dealing with coffeemakers or cars."
Safety officials understand that product design mistakes are inevitable and will work to help companies correct the problem and alert consumers. But they will not tolerate a slow or weak response, Morici told AFP.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood sat down with reporters Wednesday to lay out a timeline of how US officials had "pushed Toyota to take corrective actions" on its pedal problems since 2007.
The meeting came a day after he issued a statement accusing the Japanese automaker of dragging its feet on recalling vehicles in danger of sudden, unintended acceleration due to pedals which could get trapped under floor mats or become "sticky." . . .

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The Global Warming Scandal Keeps getting worse

From Canada's Globe and Mail:

In 2007, the most comprehensive report to date on global warming, issued by the respected United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, made a shocking claim: The Himalayan glaciers could melt away as soon as 2035.

These glaciers provide the headwaters for Asia's nine largest rivers and lifelines for the more than one billion people who live downstream. Melting ice and snow would create mass flooding, followed by mass drought. The glacier story was reported around the world. Last December, a spokesman for the World Wildlife Fund, an environmental pressure group, warned, “The deal reached at Copenhagen will have huge ramifications for the lives of hundreds of millions of people who are already highly vulnerable due to widespread poverty.” To dramatize their country's plight, Nepal's top politicians strapped on oxygen tanks and held a cabinet meeting on Mount Everest.

But the claim was rubbish, and the world's top glaciologists knew it. It was based not on rigorously peer-reviewed science but on an anecdotal report by the WWF itself. When its background came to light on the eve of Copenhagen, Rajendra Pachauri, the head of the IPCC, shrugged it off. But now, even leading scientists and environmental groups admit the IPCC is facing a crisis of credibility that makes the Climategate affair look like small change. . . .

the science scandals just keep on coming. First there was the vast cache of e-mails leaked from the University of East Anglia, home of a crucial research unit responsible for collecting temperature data. . . .

. . . An investigation by the British newspaper The Guardian – among the most aggressive advocates for action on climate change – has found that a series of measurements from Chinese weather stations were seriously flawed, and that documents relating to them could not be produced.

Meantime, the IPCC – the body widely regarded, until now, as the ultimate authority on climate science – is looking worse and worse. After it was forced to retract its claim about melting glaciers, Mr. Pachauri dismissed the error as a one-off. But other IPCC claims have turned out to be just as groundless.

For example, it warned that large tracts of the Amazon rain forest might be wiped out by global warming because they are extremely susceptible to even modest decreases in rainfall. The sole source for that claim, reports The Sunday Times of London, was a magazine article written by a pair of climate activists, one of whom worked for the WWF. . . .

Worse still, the Times has discovered that Mr. Pachauri's own Energy and Resources Unit, based in New Delhi, has collected millions in grants to study the effects of glacial melting – all on the strength of that bogus glacier claim. . . .

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"Stimulus Funds Pay for Teacher Spa Retreat"

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New Fox News piece: The Real Story Behind Our Unemployment Numbers

My newest piece at Fox News starts this way:

Most people seem to believe that the number of Americans with jobs is a clearly identifiable number. All you do is count up the number of people with jobs. Unfortunately, that isn't the way it works. The number reported each month is based on surveys, and surveys have can often have problems. As it turns out, the surveys estimating the number of people with jobs reported over the last couple of years suffered from some really big problems. The economy actually lost about 824,000 more jobs during the recession than we previously thought.

But those adjustments have so far only been made through March 2009, and there are strong reasons to believe that the survey data since then also needs to be adjusted downward. . . .

ADP has some interesting estimates of its own about how the number of jobs has continued falling over time (in thousands).

Aug 2009 108,740
Sep 2009 108,520
Oct 2009 108,342
Nov 2009 108,221
Dec 2009 108,160
Jan 2010 108,138

Some other information on unemployment predictions made by the administration (here and here).

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India says it can't rely on IPCC

From the London Times:

The Indian government has established its own body to monitor the effects of global warming because it “cannot rely” on the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the group headed by its own leading scientist Dr R.K Pachauri. . . .

If you want to see a really weird defense of Rajendra Pachauri's actions, try this:

The U.N.'s climate chief dismissed "nefarious" global warming skeptics this week by insinuating that they are deep in the pockets of big business -- and suggested that they go rub their faces in cancer-causing asbestos.

Rajendra Pachauri, the besieged head of the U.N.'s International Panel on Climate Change, told the Financial Times on Wednesday that he is the victim of a "carefully orchestrated" campaign to block climate change legislation.

"I would say [there are] nefarious designs behind people trying to attack me with lies, falsehoods," he told the paper, swatting away allegations that his India-based climate institute, TERI, has benefited from decisions made by the IPCC, which he also chairs.

Climate change skeptics "are people who deny the link between smoking and cancer; they are people who say that asbestos is as good as talcum powder," he said.

"I hope that they apply it (asbestos) to their faces every day." . . .

Rather than defending his work, he attacks his critics. The entire interview in the Financial Times is here.

FT: So you suggest that some of this criticism may be orchestrated by those working on behalf of business interests that don’t want to see global action on climate change?

RP: Undoubtedly. And let’s face it, these forces have been very effective so far in blocking any action on climate change. You go back to 1992 when the UN Framework on Climate Change came into existence. We are now almost 20 years after that landmark agreement, what has the world really achieved in that regard?

The Kyoto Protocol has been weakened to the extent that it really hasn’t made a difference. It’s largely because of all these forces that are unfortunately very powerful; they can block legislation; they can block public policy; and they also spread a lot of disinformation.

FT: Why would such a campaign come now after the disarray of the Copenhagen Climate summit?

RP: They regard this as their moment of triumph and their moment of opportunity. They feel as if they can strike a body blow to whatever happened in Copenhagen, they can be sure that for several more years they can bask in the benefit of the profits they have been making for all these years, and they don’t have to worry about any change from business as usual. . . .

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The dangers of Global Warming Advocates Making Predictions

So much for Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s prediction that it wasn't snow in Virginia these days:

In Virginia, the weather also has changed dramatically. Recently arrived residents in the northern suburbs, accustomed to today's anemic winters, might find it astonishing to learn that there were once ski runs on Ballantrae Hill in McLean, with a rope tow and local ski club. Snow is so scarce today that most Virginia children probably don't own a sled.

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Using government regulation to hurt your competitors

Veronique de Rugy has a piece on UPS using unionization rules to hurt FedEx.

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The Brady Campaign Attacks Starbucks for letting customers openly carry guns in stores

Dave Workman has this piece:

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence has declared war on a Northwest institution, and in the process perhaps the public will discover the extremes gun prohibitionists will go in an effort to push their radical agenda.
The Brady Bunch has Starbucks squarely in its crosshairs, hoping to browbeat the coffee giant into refusing service to an evidently growing clientele of law-abiding firearms owners. In an e-mail message sent out this week, Brady Campaign President Paul Helmke laments that, “Starbucks is refusing to prohibit open carrying in its stores, despite protests from loyal customers.” . . .

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Dems protect virtually all the backroom deals in Health Care Bill: "All but 'Cornhusker Kickback' will likely stay"

What have Democrats learned from the voter anger over the backroom deals over health care?

The health care bill is in trouble, but a series of narrow deals — each designed to win over a wavering senator or key interest group — is alive and well, despite voter anger over the parochial horse-trading that marked the rush toward passage before Christmas.

With the exception of Nebraska Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson’s “Cornhusker Kickback,” which alienated independent voters and came to symbolize an out-of-touch Washington, none of the other narrow provisions that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid inserted into the bill appear to be in any kind of danger as Democrats try to figure out the way ahead.

Not only that, House liberals want to reopen the labor deal struck just days before Democrats lost their 60-vote majority — not to dial it back but to provide more generous protections from the tax on Cadillac insurance plans.

“For those of us who, in principle, are opposed to it, this gives us another chance to push for our basic principle,” said Rep. Sander Levin, a Michigan Democrat with strong ties to organized labor who sits on the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee. “It remains unsatisfactory.” . . .

But as Politico says:

The flurry of last-minute deals helped sour Americans on the entire process, and the Massachusetts Senate election altered the trajectory of reform.

But Washington being Washington, none of that has cooled the appetite of senators and House members to tailor the bill to their specific needs — even though some Democrats worry that it could help destroy any chances of resurrecting reform, if lawmakers seem oblivious to voters’ concerns. . . .

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"every economist, from the left and the right, has said . . . the Recovery Act . . . at least a couple of million jobs . . . created" or saved

From ABC News:

“Now, if you hear some of the critics, they'll say, well, the Recovery Act, I don't know if that's really worked, because we still have high unemployment,” the president said. “But what they fail to understand is that every economist, from the left and the right, has said, because of the Recovery Act, what we've started to see is at least a couple of million jobs that have either been created or would have been lost. The problem is, 7 million jobs were lost during the course of this recession.”

Um, it’s not true that “every economist” has said the Recovery Act has saved or created two million jobs. . . .

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Obama isn't a populist?

I guess it depends on what day of the week it is whether Obama is attacking greedy banks and business.

“We’ve got to make sure that our party understands that, like it or not, we have to have a financial system that is healthy and functioning, so we can’t be demonizing every bank out there,” Obama said. “We’ve got to be the party of business, small business and large business, because they produce jobs.” . . .

The "like it or not" point is very strange. Who doesn't want a healthy and functioning financial system? Note Obama's rhetoric from just days ago:

[Obama] complained that banks and financial institutions on Wall Street caused the recent financial collapse because of "huge, reckless risks in pursuit of quick profits and massive bonuses."

He told an Elyria, Ohio, crowd that he wasn’t "going to have insurance companies click their heels and watch their stocks skyrocket" because of a lack of federal supervision. . . .

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4th grader in trouble for bringing Lego policeman to school

The young boy was playing with Lego. His father is a retired police officer. There is no differentiation between something that could be confused to be a real gun and something that is so obviously a toy.

A tiny toy led to big trouble for one fourth-grade New York City boy.

Patrick Timoney, a 9-year-old student at PS 52 in Staten Island, N.Y., was in the school cafeteria Tuesday playing with LEGOs when he was taken to the principal’s office and threatened with suspension. One of his toys was a LEGO policeman that holds a 2-inch plastic gun. The school has a no-tolerance policy when it comes to toy guns.

“[The gun] was so little,” the boy told WNBC. “I wouldn’t really think that the principal would cause a lot of commotion just for a little gun.”

The boy’s mother, Laura Timoney, 44, was fuming over the issue.

“You don’t traumatize a child who loved to go to school, who wanted to be early every day to school, you don’t make him cry, you don’t make him fill out statements,” she told WNBC, holding back tears. “You don’t do it.”

Pat Timoney, the boy’s father and a retired police officer, was also upset, saying that he’s dealt with people who use imitation weapons as a way to threaten others and commit crimes, and that this situation is different, considering the pinky-size gun in question. . . .

Thanks very much to Chris Klemm for this link.

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Men/Women Voting in Texas

The top two Republican candidates would beat the Democrat by substantial margins in the upcoming Texas Governor's race. A third Republican candidate would win by a smaller amount. But that difference is driven by male voters. If only women could vote, the male Republican candidates would be in for a tough election.

All three Republican contenders carry male voters over White by double-digit margins. Women favor Hutchison over the Democrat but break even when Perry is the Republican in the race. White wins female voters by six points against Medina.


"Grad student sues UK over being fired for having handgun in car"

Getting fired from an academic position for a fire arms related violation certainly means that one can't get an academic job. This story provides an unfortunate example of the cost imposed on a good citizen for getting caught up in this mess.

A University of Kentucky graduate student has sued the university and others, claiming he was wrongfully fired from his job at the UK Chandler Medical Center because he had a handgun in his car.
The car was parked at Commonwealth Stadium while he was at work.
Michael Mitchell, who had a permit allowing him to have a concealed weapon, was working as an anesthesia technician at the medical center in April 2009, when he was fired.
Mitchell contends that under state law he was allowed to have the gun in his car and that state law supersedes UK rules prohibiting deadly weapons on campus by anyone other than authorized personnel, such as police, security or military personnel; or students who are participating in athletic or academic activities such as Reserve Officers' Training Corps or rifle team.
Mitchell has not been able to find another job. He said he thinks his being fired from UK has something to do with that.
"I was flabbergasted," Mitchell said of his firing. "It looks like I was a bad employee ... which is not the case." He said he worked as much as 120 hours every two weeks while he was at the medical center and had received commendations for his work. . . .

Thanks to David Burnett for this link.


The dark side of the Tillman Act, which banned corporate contributions to federal candidates in 19071

Justice Clarence Thomas provided an interesting history lesson on campaign finance laws when discussing Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

He added that the history of Congressional regulation of corporate involvement in politics had a dark side, pointing to the Tillman Act, which banned corporate contributions to federal candidates in 1907.

“Go back and read why Tillman introduced that legislation,” Justice Thomas said, referring to Senator Benjamin Tillman. “Tillman was from South Carolina, and as I hear the story he was concerned that the corporations, Republican corporations, were favorable toward blacks and he felt that there was a need to regulate them.”

It is thus a mistake, the justice said, to applaud the regulation of corporate speech as “some sort of beatific action.”

Justice Thomas said the First Amendment’s protections applied regardless of how people chose to assemble to participate in the political process.

“If 10 of you got together and decided to speak, just as a group, you’d say you have First Amendment rights to speak and the First Amendment right of association,” he said. “If you all then formed a partnership to speak, you’d say we still have that First Amendment right to speak and of association.”

“But what if you put yourself in a corporate form?” Justice Thomas asked, suggesting that the answer must be the same.

Asked about his attitude toward the two decisions overruled in Citizens United, he said, “If it’s wrong, the ultimate precedent is the Constitution.” . . .

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"EU summit scrapped after Obama 'snub'"

From the BBC.

The European Union has scrapped a summit with the US, after President Barack Obama decided not to attend.
The event in Madrid in May was to have been the highlight of Spain's six-month EU presidency, and the cancellation is seen as a humiliating blow. . . .

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New pieces at the Washington Times


Federal payroll to hits record of 2.15 million

Record levels in government employment are not too surprising given the growth in government spending.

The Obama administration says the government will grow to 2.15 million employees this year, topping 2 million for the first time since President Clinton declared that "the era of big government is over" and joined forces with a Republican-led Congress in the 1990s to pare back the federal work force. . . .

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Obama grudgingly admits that he broke his C-SPAN promise

During his address to Republican Congressmen last week, Obama wasn't willing to go as far, basically just admitting the first paragraph.

But Mr. Obama, answering a high school student's question about his administration's record on openness, stressed that most of the deliberations over the health care bills were in fact on television because they were negotiated in several congressional committees during open hearings. He also cited praise from an independent ethics watchdog group that has described his administration as the most open in recent history.

Speaking at a town hall in Nashua, N.H., Mr. Obama nevertheless acknowledged that he met repeatedly with Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill behind closed doors to discuss how to merge the House and Senate health bills, which take different approaches to several thorny issues. Doing so violated the letter and — according to some — the spirit of a pledge he made on the campaign trail to broadcast all the negotiations on C-SPAN. . . .

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Women suicide bombers carrying bombs in their breast implants?

If this is right, I am not sure what one would do to stop bombings.

Agents for Britain's MI5 intelligence service have discovered that Muslim doctors trained at some of Britain's leading teaching hospitals have returned to their own countries to fit surgical implants filled with explosives, according to a report from Joseph Farah's G2 Bulletin.

Women suicide bombers recruited by al-Qaida are known to have had the explosives inserted in their breasts under techniques similar to breast enhancing surgery. The lethal explosives – usually PETN (pentaerythritol Tetrabitrate) – are inserted during the operation inside the plastic shapes. The breast is then sewn up.

Similar surgery has been performed on male suicide bombers. In their cases, the explosives are inserted in the appendix area or in a buttock. Both are parts of the body that diabetics use to inject themselves with their prescribed drugs. . . .


The "ObamaMeter"

How does the ObamaMeter technology work?
The ObamaMeter technology first identifies every reference to Barack Obama in the media analyzed. It recognizes both direct references like "Barack Obama," and indirect ones such as "The President of the United States." Then, in a following pass, it identifies words that have a positive or negative connotation and are also grammatically connected to the reference to Obama - for example, "Obama's success," or "The president failed to realize..." We then output all of the references and all of the positive or negative language - thousands a day - and aggregate them into a score - how positive or negative the media are about Obama on a given day.

What is the underlying text analysis system for the ObamaMeter?
The core system is called Profiler Plus and is licensed from Social Science Automation, our parent company. The program is implemented in Common Lisp and, in contrast to most statistically-based Natural Language Processing systems, Profiler Plus is entirely rule-based providing fine grained control and complete process transparency. Profiler Plus performs text analytics in a highly flexible, multiple pass process. Results are then interpreted by our expert analysts and/or imported into such data analysis programs as Microsoft Excel, SPSS and SAS.

The Obamameter is available here.

I want to thank Hall Roger for this.

Knife bans in Canada? Seizing weapons before crimes are committed?

Knives are so easy to make it is hard to believe that anyone would think of banning them. But apparently it still lets the government have something to blame.

Combating a proliferation of knife crimes would be easier if the province drafts legislation that edges Saskatchewan closer to a provincewide knife ban, says Saskatoon police Chief Clive Weighill.

In meetings with provincial Justice Ministry officials about new legislation, Weighill argued for a provision that would allow police to seize a knife -- or a sword or a machete -- even if it hasn't been used in a crime or there's no discernible intention to commit an offence.

"People can walk around Spadina (Crescent) carrying a machete and an officer can't do anything about it unless someone walks up and threatens someone," said Weighill.

Police want the power to seize that weapon before a crime, such as a threat or an assault, is committed. Because some people use knives legitimately, police would decide when a knife is a threat.

"I know it's controversial, but the flip side is more weapons on the streets," said Weighill. "If you see three known gang members walking down the street brandishing machetes, that would pique an officer's interest." . . .

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Cubans apparently have kept guns illegally for about five decades

In the past the Cuban government has used registration lists to confiscate guns, it isn't clear why people should trust them any more this time. It is interesting that after 50 years the Cuban government thinks that there are a number of illegally owned guns that have still escaped registration and confiscation.

Cuba has declared a two-month amnesty for citizens to register unlicensed guns, and says those passing aptitude and psychological tests will be allowed to keep their weapons.

The move is unusual in a state where almost no one except some active military personnel and plain-clothed state security agents are allowed to possess weapons.

Even most police officers are required to leave their pistols at the station or in a regional barracks when on vacation or leave, and young men participating in mandatory military service are given unloaded firearms for most exercises.

Starting Feb. 12, Cubans will have the "exceptional and one-time only" chance to register their guns with police, and will be allowed to keep them provided they are over 18 and have passed the proper tests administered at police stations.

There was no explanation for why the drive to legalize unlicensed weapons is coming now, though the state-run news agency Prensa Latina said the move grew out of a November 2008 law regulating possession of guns and ammunition.

According to a weekend bulletin carried by state news media, gun owners must "maintain conduct consistent with the appropriate norms of social behavior, meet security and protection conditions for the firearms and pay established taxes."

Cubans were encouraged to register any weapons they owned in the years after Fidel Castro and his band of rebels toppled dictator Fulgencio Batista on Jan. 1, 1959. But later authorities used a list of those who had sought licenses to go door-to-door and encourage them to turn over their firearms - even antiques considered family heirlooms.

While Cuba is among the safest countries in the hemisphere, it is not unusual to find firearms in Cuban homes, though most are weapons improvised from household materials or guns that were smuggled into the country and bought on the black market. . . .

Who knows what the crime rate is in Cuba. It is hard to believe that the government statistics can be trusted, but the AP reporter doesn't seem to question them.

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More broken promises by Obama on taxes

Reuters has a long list of broken promises on Obama's no tax increase pledge.

If the provisions are allowed to expire on December 31, the top-tier personal income tax rate will rise to 39.6 percent from 35 percent. But lower-income families will pay more as well: the 25 percent tax bracket will revert back to 28 percent; the 28 percent bracket will increase to 31 percent; and the 33 percent bracket will increase to 36 percent. The special 10 percent bracket is eliminated.
Investors will pay more on their earnings next year as well, with the tax on dividends jumping to 39.6 percent from 15 percent and the capital-gains tax increasing to 20 percent from 15 percent. The estate tax is eliminated this year, but it will return in 2011 -- though there has been talk about reinstating the death tax sooner.
Millions of middle-class households already may be facing higher taxes in 2010 because Congress has failed to extend tax breaks that expired on January 1, most notably a "patch" that limited the impact of the alternative minimum tax. The AMT, initially designed to prevent the very rich from avoiding income taxes, was never indexed for inflation. Now the tax is affecting millions of middle-income households, but lawmakers have been reluctant to repeal it because it has become a key source of revenue.
Without annual legislation to renew the patch this year, the AMT could affect an estimated 25 million taxpayers with incomes as low as $33,750 (or $45,000 for joint filers). Even if the patch is extended to last year's levels, the tax will hit American families that can hardly be considered wealthy -- the AMT exemption for 2009 was $46,700 for singles and $70,950 for married couples filing jointly.
Middle-class families also will find fewer tax breaks available to them in 2010 if other popular tax provisions are allowed to expire. Among them:
* Taxpayers who itemize will lose the option to deduct state sales-tax payments instead of state and local income taxes;
* The $250 teacher tax credit for classroom supplies;
* The tax deduction for up to $4,000 of college tuition and expenses;
* Individuals who don't itemize will no longer be able to increase their standard deduction by up to $1,000 for property taxes paid;
* The first $2,400 of unemployment benefits are taxable, in 2009 that amount was tax-free.

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Investigation finds that Phil Jones "screwed" up regarding climate data

Things are going from bad to worse regarding Climategate:

Phil Jones, the beleaguered British climate scientist at the centre of the leaked emails controversy, is facing fresh claims that he sought to hide problems in key temperature data on which some of his work was based.

A Guardian investigation of thousands of emails and documents apparently hacked from the University of East Anglia's climatic research unit has found evidence that a series of measurements from Chinese weather stations were seriously flawed and that documents relating to them could not be produced.

Jones and a collaborator have been accused by a climate change sceptic and researcher of scientific fraud for attempting to suppress data that could cast doubt on a key 1990 study on the effect of cities on warming – a hotly contested issue.

Today the Guardian reveals how Jones withheld the information requested under freedom of information laws. Subsequently a senior colleague told him he feared that Jones's collaborator, Wei- Chyung Wang of the University at Albany, had "screwed up".

The revelations on the inadequacies of the 1990 paper do not undermine the case that humans are causing climate change, and other studies have produced similar findings. But they do call into question the probity of some climate change science.

The apparent attempts to cover up problems with temperature data from the Chinese weather stations provide the first link between the email scandal and the UN's embattled climate science body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, as a paper based on the measurements was used to bolster IPCC statements about rapid global warming in recent decades.

Wang was cleared of scientific fraud by his university, but new information brought to light today indicates at least one senior colleague had serious concerns about the affair.

It also emerges that documents which Wang claimed would exonerate him and Jones did not exist.

The revelations come at a torrid time for climate science, with the IPPC suffering heavy criticism for its use of information that had not been rigorously checked – in particular a false claim that all Himalayan glaciers could melt by 2035 – and UEA having been criticised last week by the deputy information commissioner for refusing valid requests for data under the Freedom of Information Act.

The Guardian has learned that of 105 freedom of information requests to the university concerning the climatic research unit (CRU), which Jones headed up to the end of December, only 10 had been released in full.

The temperature data from the Chinese weather stations measured the warming there over the past half century and appeared in a 1990 paper in the prestigious journal Nature, which was cited by the IPCC's latest report in 2007. . . .

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Dem Senators spend weekend at fancy resort with bank, energy, tobacco lobbyists

The link for the story is here:

Twelve Democratic Senators spent last weekend in Miami Beach raising money from top lobbyists for oil, drug, and other corporate interests that they often decry, according to a guest list for the event obtained by POLITICO.

The guest list for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee's "winter retreat" at the Ritz Carlton South Beach Resort doesn't include the price tag for attendance, but the maximum contribution to the committee, typical for such events, is $30,000. There, to participate in "informal conversations" and other meetings Saturday, were senators including DSCC Chairman Robert Menendez; Michigan's Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow; Bob Casey of Pennsylvania; Claire McCaskill of Missouri; freshmen Kay Hagan of North Carolina and Mark Begich of Alaska; and even left-leaning Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

Across the table was a who's who of 108 senior Washington lobbyists, including the top lobbying officials for many of the industries Democrats regularly attack: Represented were the American Bankers Association, the tobaco company Altria, the oil company Marathon, several drug manufacturers, the defense contractor Lockheed, and most of the large independent lobbying firms: Ogilvy, BGR, Quinn Gillespie, Heather Podesta, and Tony Podesta.

The retreat's guest list is a marked contrast to Menendez's recent rhetoric, which has echoed the White House denunciation of "special interests" and "fat cats." . . .

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Some inaccurate statements in Obama's State of the Union Address

"Indians embrace the right to bear arms"

A lot of the rhetoric in India here sounds like things that I have written over time.

In the land of Mahatma Gandhi, Indian gun owners are coming out of the shadows for the first time to mobilize, U.S.-style, against proposed new curbs on bearing arms.

When gunmen attacked 10 sites in Mumbai in November 2008, including two five-star hotels and a train station, Mumbai resident Kumar Verma sat at home glued to the television, feeling outraged and unsafe.

Before the end of December, Verma and his friends had applied for gun licenses. He read up on India's gun laws and joined the Web forum Indians for Guns. When he got his license seven months later, he bought a black, secondhand, snub-nose Smith & Wesson revolver with a walnut grip.

"I feel safe wearing it in my ankle holster every day," said Verma, 27, who runs a family business selling fire-protection systems. "I have a right to self-protection, because random street crime and terrorism have increased. The police cannot be there for everybody all the time. Now I am a believer in the right to keep and bear arms."

Verma said he plans to join the recently formed National Association for Gun Rights India to lobby against new gun controls that the government has proposed, blaming the proliferation of both licensed and illegal weapons for a rise in crime.

Although India's 1959 Arms Act gives citizens the legal right to own and carry guns, it is not a right enshrined in the country's constitution. Getting a license is a cumbersome process, and guns cannot be bought over the counter -- requirements that gun owners describe as hangovers from the colonial past, when the British rulers disarmed their Indian subjects to head off rebellion.

In December, the Ministry of Home Affairs proposed several amendments to the Arms Act that would make it even harder to acquire a gun license, restrict the number of people eligible for nationwide licenses and curtail the amount of ammunition a gun owner can amass. . . .

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Budget deficit this year up to $1.6 trillion

So much for the estimated $9.1 trillion addition to the deficit over 10 years as the Obama administration initially predicted. $1.6 trillion seems pretty bad.

In its budget proposal to be released on Monday, the White House predicts a record $1.6 trillion budget deficit for the fiscal year that ends September 30, the Capitol Hill source said.

According to the estimate, deficits will narrow to $700 billion by fiscal 2013 before gradually rising back to $1.0 trillion by the end of the decade, the source said.

President Barack Obama will seek to strike a balance between reducing the deficit over the long term and stimulating the economy in the short term to ease the pain of double-digit unemployment.

Criticized by Republicans as a big spender, Obama used his State of the Union address last week to tell Americans he would dig the country out of a "massive fiscal hole."

That hole is even deeper than previously believed, according to the estimate by the White House's Office of Management and Budget.

The estimate for the current fiscal year is significantly higher than the $1.35 trillion figure forecast by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office last week. . . .

The New York Times writes:

Measured against the size of the economy, a $1.6 trillion shortfall would equal almost 11 percent of the gross domestic product. Economists generally consider annual deficits above 3 percent to be unsustainable. . . .

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So how many jobs were "created or saved"?

Of course, all this ignores the jobs that were lost by the government taking money that would have been spent elsewhere.

Recipients of economic-stimulus money said they had used the funds to pay 599,108 workers in the last quarter of 2009, fewer than the number of jobs they had reported to have created or saved in the first seven months after the plan was enacted. This seems a lot short of the 1.5 to 2 million promised.

The recipients' reports, published on the official government Web site recovery.gov late Saturday night, are likely to fuel further controversy over the impact of the $787 billion package, as Democrats seek to craft new jobs-creation proposals to address the country's continued, high jobless rate.

Many opinion polls suggest that most voters do not believe the current stimulus program, which was passed last February, is working.

Stimulus recipients previously reported that they had directly "created or saved" 640,329 jobs by September 30, 2009, but their filings were widely criticized after it emerged that some people had reported saving jobs when they had actually spent the money on pay raises or paying employees who were not in danger of being laid off.

In December, the White House Office of Management and Budget changed its guidance, telling recipients they should start counting every worker whose salary was funded with stimulus money, rather than guessing whether the jobs would have existed in the absence of the federal plan. Opponents of the program accused the administration of "moving the goal posts" to make the plan appear more successful.

Liberal think tanks such as the Economic Policy Institute said ahead of Saturday's release that the jobs numbers didn't take into account the full economic impact of the stimulus package, such as jobs indirectly created as a result of people being hired to work on stimulus projects, or of people receiving food stamps or other aid funded by the stimulus program.

The White House Council of Economic Advisers has estimated that the plan has kept between 1.5 million and two million jobs in the economy through the end of 2009. . . .

The administration is planning on spending another $100 billion on more "jobs."


Americans Expect Supreme Court to Reject Gay Marriage

Well, people may think that will be the case, but they might be too hopeful. If the Obama administration replaces just one of the five moderate or conservative Supreme Court justices that won't be true.

As you may know, a U.S. District Court is reviewing the constitutional validity of California’s Proposition 8, which restored the definition of marriage in California as being between a man and a woman. It is expected that the case will eventually reach the U.S. Supreme Court, which may end up ruling about the validity of same-sex marriage at the federal level. If this case reaches the U.S. Supreme Court, what do you expect the outcome to be? If this case reaches the U.S. Supreme Court, what do you expect the outcome to be?

A ruling that defines marriage federally as between a man and a woman
A ruling that defines marriage federally as between two people
28% . . .

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TARP Goals Largely Unmet

This isn't very surprising, but it needed to be said.

The government’s top bailout cop said Sunday that more than a year after the financial crisis hit, many of the goals of Washington’s $700 billion bank rescue program remain unmet and that policymakers still have not addressed fundamental problems that triggered the crisis, leaving the financial system vulnerable to another collapse.

In a 224-page quarterly report to Congress, Neil Barofsky, the Special Inspector General of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), acknowledged that TARP had stabilized the financial system. But he said that it has so far failed to restore consumer and business lending and to significantly prevent home foreclosure.

And in a slap at Congress and the Obama Administration, Barofsky said that “it is hard to see how any of the fundamental problems in the system have been addressed to date.”

He said the bailout “will have been for naught if we do nothing to correct the fundamental problems in our financial system and end up in a similar or even greater crisis in two, or five, or ten years’ time.” . . .

Of course, the bailout simply means that financial institutions will take greater risks in the future.