Friday, May 31, 2013

Biggest GOP food stamp foe gets huge farm subsidies

Biggest GOP food stamp foe gets huge farm subsidies
by Joan McCarter
Daily Kos staff
May 23, 2013

Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-TN)
Welfare recipient Stephen Fincher.

Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-TN) has been making a big splash with his supposedly Jesus-inspired opposition to the government helping to keep poor people alive by giving them food stamps. As could be totally expected, Fincher's Bible-quoting is highly selective and hugely misinterpreted, because that's what wingnuts quoting the Bible do.

Fincher should include in his Bible study the plethora of verses that address hypocrisy. Because, when it comes to where the funding in the Farm Bill is allocated, he's among the biggest.

Using Agriculture Department data, researchers at the Environmental Working Group found that Representative Stephen Fincher, a Republican and a farmer from Frog Jump, Tenn., collected nearly $3.5 million in subsidies from 1999 to 2012. The data is part of the research group’s online farm subsidy database from which the group issues a report each year.

In 2012 alone, the data shows, Mr. Fincher received about $70,000 in direct payments, money that is given to farmers and farmland owners, even if they do not grow crops. It is unclear how much Mr. Fincher received in crop insurance subsidies because the names of people receiving the subsidies are not public. The group said most of the agriculture subsidies go to the largest, most profitable farm operations in the country. These farmers have received $265 billion in direct payments and farm insurance subsidies since 1995, federal records show.

Fincher voted for $20 billion in cuts to the supplemental nutrition program over the next 10 years. He also voted to increase the farm subsidies he's on the receiving end of. It's likely that the bulk of Rep. Fincher's income is provided entirely by taxpayers, from these farm subsidies to his congressional salary. Flincher also, of course, is an enthusiastic supporter of Paul Ryan's budget that decimates social spending, presumably because he cares so much about the deficit. As long as the deficit cutting is happening to someone else.

He's also not much a true-believer when it comes to the sacred free market.

Fincher has said his farm would have shut down without the subsidies, which he argued protect American farmers from more heavily subsidized foreign competition. "We would be all for not having government in our business," Fincher told the Washington Post in 2010, "but we need a fair system."

He needs a fair system, but everybody else is on their own. Spoken like a true Republican.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Who pays taxes? Employees replace corporations in big shift over past decades

"We should not be so mad at Apple for doing what the law allows. We should be mad that the law allows Apple and other companies to keep billions of dollars of cash offshore and out of the government coffers, where it could be helping the unemployed and our crumbling infrastructure and such. Another thing we can get mad about is how the "corporate tax reform" that Cook and other corporate leaders are always banging on about will actually serve to make it so companies pay even less in taxes than they do now."

The 1 Chart That Reveals Just How Grossly Unfair The U.S. Tax System Has Become
Mark Gongloff
05/22/2013 Updated: 05/23/2013

Click to enlarge.

Notice the beige stripe that is shrinking steadily? That stripe is the percentage corporate taxes contribute to total federal revenue. And notice the olive-green stripe that has swollen to be larger than the beige stripe used to be? That is the contribution of payroll taxes to federal revenue.

What this shows is how dramatically corporate tax contributions have shrunk in the past several decades, and how our personal taxes have risen to fill the gap. Payroll taxes now make up 35 percent of all federal government tax receipts, up from 11 percent in 1950. Corporate income taxes, meanwhile, now make up less than 10 percent of federal revenue, down from about 26 percent in 1950...

Assuming companies pay half of the payroll taxes in this chart, the total tax burden for individual Americans is ...about 63 percent of total federal revenue...that is up from about 45 percent in 1950.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

JPMorgan Chase Faces Federal Probe Over Energy Trading 'Schemes'

JPMorgan Chase Faces Federal Probe Over Energy Trading 'Schemes'
by Eamon Murphy
Updated May 3rd 2013

Federal investigations are nothing new for JPMorgan Chase (JPM), but the latest government inquiry into the behavior of the country's largest bank by assets bears uncomfortable similarities to one of the most notorious chapters in the history of American business.

The New York Times reports on the contents of a confidential government memo sent to the bank in March, "warning of a potential crackdown by the regulator of the nation's energy markets":

Government investigators have found that JPMorgan Chase devised "manipulative schemes" that transformed "money-losing power plants into powerful profit centers," and that one of its most senior executives gave "false and misleading statements" under oath.

Connoisseurs of corporate scandal -- and probably every investor who remembers the start of this century -- will immediately think of Enron, the energy market-manipulating giant that went from six-time consecutive winner of Fortune's "most innovative" award (1996-2001) to what was at the time the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history.

The "schemes" in question reportedly originated in Houston, where JPMorgan traders under pressure to make big returns are alleged to have swindled California and Michigan out of $83 million by presenting deceptive energy prices. The bank says everything was on the up-and-up.

There's more alleged wrongdoing at the bank, including improper collection of credit card debt and silence over suspicious trading by Bernie Madoff, the biggest Ponzi schemer in history.

The Times also says JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon, who is not personally under government scrutiny, met with prosecutors and the FBI this week to discuss the infamous "London Whale" case, a massive trading loss that prompted accusations of a cover-up and led to a blistering Senate report.

For more on this story, as well as other developments moving the market today, check out the DailyFinance Market Minute video below.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Boy Scouts put rare plant in danger

Boy Scouts put rare plant in danger
May 21, 2013
Susanne Rust
CIR Center for Investigative Reporting

Expulsion from the Boy Scouts of America is a dishonor few Scouts endure. But that was the punishment imposed on Kim Kuska, a self-taught naturalist and former biology teacher who had been with the organization for more than 50 years.

His crime: an obsession with the rare, and unfortunately named, Dudley’s lousewort.

Since the 1970s, the Eagle Scout and adult Scout leader-turned-whistle-blower has worked to protect the plant from extinction at Camp Pico Blanco, a Boy Scout camp nestled in the mountains along the Little Sur River south of Monterey, Calif.

The camp is home to nearly 50 percent of all known specimens of Dudley’s lousewort, a flowering fern-like plant found in only three places in the world.

But over the past four decades, Scout officials and camp staff have threatened its existence repeatedly by harvesting old-growth trees it needs to survive, crushing some of the few remaining plants and introducing potentially competitive species. Under state law, it is illegal to harm a plant that is classified as rare.

The camp also cut down several trees in the old-growth forest in 2011 without a permit, a Scout official acknowledged. At each turn, Kuska was there to document the misdeeds.

Kim Kuska, a self-taught naturalist and former biology teacher, was expelled from the Boy Scouts of America last year. He says he was kicked out for exposing the Scouts’ environmental transgressions. An official says it was because Kuska was planting lousewort seeds in places where the rare plant did not already grow.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection is investigating the 2011 incident as a result of questions from the Center for Investigative Reporting.

While the Boy Scouts has drawn national attention for its intolerance toward gays, the organization also has compiled a poor record on environmental protection. In 2009, Hearst Newspapers reported that the Scouts clear-cut tens of thousands of acres of forestland across the country and operated a dam at Camp Pico Blanco that killed at least 30 federally protected steelhead trout. The camp installed a fish ladder as part of a no-fault settlement.

At the camp, which is surrounded by the Los Padres National Forest, state environmental agencies and conservationists repeatedly have warned the Scouts to protect the lousewort. Yet the Scouts have continued to harm the plants, according to records spanning more than 30 years.

In 1989, for instance, Monterey County cited the Scouts for their “repeated destruction of Dudley’s lousewort and its habitat,” the documents show.

And in 2012, Brian LeNeve, president of the California Native Plant Society’s Monterey Bay chapter, informed the organization that he was “deeply concerned” that the lousewort’s territory was shrinking dramatically because of the camp’s habitat “disruption.”

“There have been some well-documented concerns,” Ron Schoenmehl, director of support services for the Boy Scouts’ Silicon Valley Monterey Bay Council, acknowledged during a recent camp tour.

But Schoenmehl said the Boy Scouts are now determined to “coexist peacefully” with the plant and are creating a camp management plan.

Kuska, 60, has been helping the Native Plant Society study the plant with its delicate white and purple flowers since the 1970s, when he served as the Scouts’ nature director at Pico Blanco.

In May 2012, before his expulsion, Kuska marked a lousewort near the dining hall with an orange flag. Two weeks later, he noticed that someone had rolled a wheelbarrow over the plant. Concerned, he added another flag to mark the plant and surrounded it with a circle of fist-sized rocks. Weeks later, he saw someone had placed the rocks on top of the plant.

“It was an unbelievably hostile move,” he said.

Schoenmehl said he was unaware of the incident.

The lousewort takes its name from the folk belief that the plant infested sheep with lice. The Pico Blanco species was named for 19th-century Stanford University botanist William Dudley. Thriving only among old-growth trees, it depends on leaf litter produced by the redwoods and on a complex array of fungi that grows on the roots of the firs.

After the Basin Complex fire swept through the area in 2008, the Scouts applied for a permit to cut 43 damaged trees. Monterey County officials granted the permit without considering how it would affect the lousewort, Associate Planner Joseph Sidor acknowledged in an interview.

The camp cut 38, including some in 2011 after the permit expired, Schoenmehl said.

“We shouldn’t have been taking down trees that weren’t covered under a permit,” he said.

Some of the trees likely were more than 200 years old, including four redwoods with diameters exceeding 6 feet, according to the Scouts’ permit application. The forest was considered old growth because it had remained largely untouched.

In April, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife found that the Boy Scouts had harvested at least one large tree in 2010 not covered under the permit.

In photos taken during the tree felling, which were posted on a Boy Scout’s Facebook page, wood cuttings could be seen piled on top of the lousewort.

The heavyset, 6-foot-4 Kuska has carefully tracked the camp’s blunders. He keeps meticulous records in boxes in the back of his covered pickup truck.

In September, the Monterey Bay Area Council declined to renew his Scouting membership, effectively expelling him without explanation. (The Monterey Bay Area and Santa Clara County councils merged in January, forming the Silicon Valley Monterey Bay Council.)

Kuska says he was kicked out for being a whistle-blower and exposing the Scouts’ environmental transgressions.

Schoenmehl says it was because Kuska was planting lousewort seeds in places where the plant did not already grow, including high-traffic areas near the infirmary and camping area.

These “reckless” and “unapproved” actions, he said, could compromise the camp’s activities by creating new areas that must be protected.

In August, the Scouts’ lawyers told Kuska that he could come to the camp only during supervised visits. But on May 1, Schoenmehl notified him that the council had revoked even that permission after he contacted CIR.

“This has only created further hostilities between you and our council,” Schoenmehl wrote in a letter to Kuska.

Kuska, for his part, is crushed by his banishment from the plants he loves.

“Someone needs to be protecting this plant,” he said. “Somebody’s going to have to defend it.”

This story was edited by Richard C. Paddock and copy edited by Nikki Frick and Christine Lee.

4 pit bulls blamed for S. Calif. jogger's killing

"The jogger's death was the latest of at least five deadly dog attacks in California in the past two years.

"Last month, Claudia Gallardo, 38, of Stockton, was mauled to death by a pit bull in the front yard of a home where the dog lived.

"In February, Elsie Grace, 91, of Hemet, was killed by a pair of pit bulls at a motel.

"In June 2011, two pit bulls escaped from their yard and mauled a neighbor in her San Diego backyard. Emako Mendoza, 75, suffered arm and leg amputations before dying months later. The dog's two owners were convicted of involuntary manslaughter.

"In June 2012, an 8-month-old boy, Tyzhel Latella McWilliams, was mauled to death by a pit bull at a home in Lemon Grove, near San Diego."

4 pit bulls blamed for S. Calif. jogger's killing
The Associated Press

PALMDALE, Calif. -- A pack of dogs remained under quarantine at a Mojave Desert shelter on Friday as investigators tried to determine whether they were involved in a mauling that killed a jogger.

By afternoon, Los Angeles County sheriff's homicide investigators had not announced any DNA match between the six pit bulls seized Thursday and the four believed to have attacked the woman in the high desert neighborhood of Littlerock earlier in the day, Deputy Guillermina Saldana said.

The county coroner's office identified her on Friday as Pamela Marie Devitt, 63, a local resident.

A woman in a car saw pit bulls attacking the runner in the area 65 miles northeast of Los Angeles. The driver called 911 and honked her horn to try to get the dogs to stop, sheriff's Lt. John Corina said.

An arriving deputy saw a single dog still attacking the jogger and tried to chase it off, Corina said.

"The dog ran off into the desert, then turned around and attacked the deputy," who took a shot at the animal before it ran off, Corina said.

The woman died in an ambulance on the way to a hospital, said Evelina Villa, spokeswoman for the county Department of Animal Care and Control.

Hours later, sheriff's and animal control officials served a search warrant on a home near the site of the attack and took away eight dogs, six pit bulls and two mixed-breeds. A 29-year-old man from the house was arrested on suspicion of cultivating marijuana.

The owner was cited previously because one of the dogs had attacked a horse, Villa said. She did not immediately have details.

The dogs were being kept under quarantine for rabies observation at a Lancaster shelter, said Marcia Mayeda, the county's animal control director.

"They're fine now," she said of their behavior. "They're all separated so they're not able to engage in a pack behavior, where they group up together and may act aggressively."

Their strange surroundings also may have intimidated them, she said.

Mayeda said the animals, five females and three males, are all adults weighing between 40 and 70 pounds, with the biggest being an overweight female Australian shepherd mix. The other mixed-breed appears to be a Labrador-collie, she said.

Not all of the dogs are licensed, spayed or neutered as required by county and state law, she said.

The agency will seek to have any dogs involved in the attack destroyed, Mayeda said. The others will be licensed, spayed or neutered as required and three of them - the legal limit - will be returned to the owner while the rest will be placed for adoption if they are friendly, Mayeda said.

However, there still was a chance that the attacking animals were strays.

"In these areas, you might have a situation where people dump animals out in rural areas," said John Mlynar, a spokesman for the nearby city of Palmdale.

People living near the site of the attack said stray dogs constantly roam the area and have attacked people before.

"It's really scary," Diane Huffman, of Littlerock, told KABC-TV. "I don't know what to think. I really think I'm going to be getting a gun to protect myself."...

Read more here:

CORONA: Girl and her dog recuperating after mauling by pit bull dog

CORONA: Girl and her dog recuperating after mauling

Press Enterprise
May 12, 2013

Two days after she and her dog were mauled by a pit bull, 15-year-old Alex Cuevas is recuperating from having her right ear surgically reattached — but is haunted by the violence.

“I relive that moment in my head: Seeing my own blood hit the pavement when the (pit bull) was attacking,” said the 15-year-old Corona high school sophomore. “I didn’t know what to think. I didn’t know what to do.

“I was just cowering and screaming. I just laid in a ball (on the sidewalk) with my dog.”

Alex spoke while holding Cocoa the 14-month-old Shih Tzu on her lap. The tiny dog’s neck was ringed by a plastic cone to prevent her from scratching her stitched and swollen left eye that veterinarians had to reinsert into the eye socket.

“I’m just grateful that it wasn’t worse than what it was,” said Alex’s mom, Tammy Cuevas.

Specifically, she’s thankful that her daughter survived and that a neighbor saved Alex, reportedly by hitting the pit bull in the head with a shovel.

VIDEO: Corona teen describes terrifying pit bull attack

But she, too, can’t forget the flurry of shocking phone calls that began at 4:18 p.m. Friday, May 10.

Her daughter had been badly hurt while walking Cocoa on a leash at Morales Way and Honors Lane, just two blocks from the family’s home in south Corona.

When Alex’s parents arrived, they saw a crowd of neighbors, an ambulance crew, firefighters and their daughter — bleeding from the ear, head and neck.

“She had blood everywhere,” Alex’s mother recalls. “Her hair was soaked.”

The pit bull attacked after escaping from its owner’s backyard, police said. Alex said she saw the dog coming and tried to back out of the way, but it attacked Cocoa.

Alex tried to rescue her battered and bloody dog by picking up Cocoa and clutching her to her chest. The pit bull knocked her down and started biting at the side of her face.

“I was screaming and it just kept biting repetitively at my face, and I saw the neighbor swing something, and he was hollering and trying to get the dog away,” she said. “And I don’t remember anything much after that.”

She thinks she blacked out, but she does recall people surrounding her trying to help, and screaming for her mom.

“I wasn’t sure if my ear was all the way off completely or what; I couldn’t tell,” Alex said. “I couldn’t hear out of that ear, it was filled with blood … It was really terrifying.”

Animal control officers have quarantined the pit bull, which authorities say was unlicensed. The owner also did not have proof of vaccination, officials have said.

No one has been ticketed because the investigation is not complete.

The Cuevases say they are speaking out about the incident because they want to raise public awareness, and they hope that ways can be found to prevent such incidents.

If swimming pools can be made safer by surrounding them with fences and self-closing gates, why can’t the same be required around backyards that contain pit bulls, Alex wonders.

The Cuevases don’t claim to be experts on the subject. But saddled with hundreds of dollars in vet bills, terrifying memories of the attack, and the knowledge that many other people have been mauled, they say it’s time to find and implement solutions.

“They need to get it under control,” said Alex’s mom. “How do I know something (like this) isn’t going to happen again?”

IRS scandal during Bush administration when NAACP, Greenpeace and a liberal church were targeted

“I wish there was more GOP interest when I raised the same issue during the Bush administration, where they audited a progressive church in my district in what look liked a very selective way,” California Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff said on MSNBC Monday. “I found only one Republican, [North Carolina Rep. Walter Jones], that would join me in calling for an investigation during the Bush administration. I’m glad now that the GOP has found interest in this issue and it ought to be a bipartisan concern.

When the IRS targeted liberals
Under George W. Bush, it went after the NAACP, Greenpeace and even a liberal church
By Alex Seitz-Wald
May 14, 2013

While few are defending the Internal Revenue Service for targeting some 300 conservative groups, there are two critical pieces of context missing from the conventional wisdom on the “scandal.” First, at least from what we know so far, the groups were not targeted in a political vendetta — but rather were executing a makeshift enforcement test (an ugly one, mind you) for IRS employees tasked with separating political groups not allowed to claim tax-exempt status, from bona fide social welfare organizations. Employees are given almost zero official guidance on how to do that, so they went after Tea Party groups because those seemed like they might be political. Keep in mind, the commissioner of the IRS at the time was a Bush appointee.

The second is that while this is the first time this kind of thing has become a national scandal, it’s not the first time such activity has occurred.

“I wish there was more GOP interest when I raised the same issue during the Bush administration, where they audited a progressive church in my district in what look liked a very selective way,” California Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff said on MSNBC Monday. “I found only one Republican, [North Carolina Rep. Walter Jones], that would join me in calling for an investigation during the Bush administration. I’m glad now that the GOP has found interest in this issue and it ought to be a bipartisan concern.”

The well-known church, All Saints Episcopal in Pasadena, became a bit of a cause célèbre on the left after the IRS threatened to revoke the church’s tax-exempt status over an anti-Iraq War sermon the Sunday before the 2004 election. “Jesus [would say], ‘Mr. President, your doctrine of preemptive war is a failed doctrine,’” rector George Regas said from the dais.

The church, which said progressive activism was in its “DNA,” hired a powerful Washington lawyer and enlisted the help of Schiff, who met with the commissioner of the IRS twice and called for a Government Accountability Office investigation, saying the IRS audit violated the First Amendment and was unduly targeting a political opponent of the Bush administration. “My client is very concerned that the close coordination undertaken by the IRS allowed partisan political concerns to direct the course of the All Saints examination,” church attorney Marcus Owens, who is widely considered one of the country’s leading experts on this area of the law, said at the time. In 2007, the IRS closed the case, decreeing that the church violated rules preventing political intervention, but it did not revoke its nonprofit status.

And while All Saints came under the gun, conservative churches across the country were helping to mobilize voters for Bush with little oversight. In 2006, citing the precedent of All Saints, “a group of religious leaders accused the Internal Revenue Service yesterday of playing politics by ignoring its complaint that two large churches in Ohio are engaging in what it says are political activities, in violation of the tax code,” the New York Times reported at the time. The churches essentially campaigned for a Republican gubernatorial candidate, they alleged, and even flew him on one of their planes.

Meanwhile, Citizens for Ethics in Washington filed two ethics complaints against a church in Minnesota. “You know we can’t publicly endorse as a church and would not for any candidate, but I can tell you personally that I’m going to vote for Michele Bachmann,” pastor Mac Hammond of the Living Word Christian Center in Minnesota said in 2006 before welcoming her to the church. The IRS opened an audit into the church, but it went nowhere after the church appealed the audit on a technicality.

And it wasn’t just churches. In 2004, the IRS went after the NAACP, auditing the nation’s oldest civil rights group after its chairman criticized President Bush for being the first sitting president since Herbert Hoover not to address the organization. “They are saying if you criticize the president we are going to take your tax exemption away from you,” then-chairman Julian Bond said. “It’s pretty obvious that the complainant was someone who doesn’t believe George Bush should be criticized, and it’s obvious of their response that the IRS believes this, too.”

In a letter to the IRS, Democratic Reps. Charles Rangel, Pete Stark and John Conyers wrote: “It is obvious that the timing of this IRS examination is nothing more than an effort to intimidate the members of the NAACP, and the communities the organization represents, in their get-out-the-vote effort nationwide.”

Then, in 2006, the Wall Street Journal broke the story of a how a little-known pressure group called Public Interest Watch — which received 97 percent of its funds from Exxon Mobile one year — managed to get the IRS to open an investigation into Greenpeace. Greenpeace had labeled Exxon Mobil the “No. 1 climate criminal.” The IRS acknowledged its audit was initiated by Public Interest Watch and threatened to revoke Greenpeace’s tax-exempt status, but closed the investigation three months later.

As the Journal reporter, Steve Stecklow, later said in an interview, “This comes against a backdrop where a number of conservative groups have been attacking nonprofits and NGOs over their tax-exempt status. There have been hearings on Capitol Hill. There have been a number of conservative groups in Washington who have been quite critical.”

Indeed, the year before that, the Senate held a hearing on nonprofits’ political activity. Republican Sen. Charles Grassley, the then-chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said the IRS needed better enforcement, but also “legislative changes” to better define the lines between politics and social welfare, since they had not been updated in “a generation.” Unfortunately, neither Congress nor the IRS has defined 501(c)4′s sufficiently to this day, leaving the door open for IRS auditors to make up their own, discriminatory rules.

Those cases mostly involved 501(c)3 organizations, which live in a different section of the tax code for real charities like hospitals and schools. The rules are much stronger and better developed for (c)3′s, in part because they’ve been around longer. But with “social welfare” (c)4 groups, the kind of political activity we saw in 2010 and 2012 is so unprecedented that you get cases like Emerge America, a progressive nonprofit that trains Democratic female candidates for public office. The group has chapters across the country, but in 2011, chapters in Massachusetts, Maine and Nevada were denied 501(c)4 tax-exempt status. Leaders called the situation “bizarre” because in the five years Nevada had waited for approval, the Kentucky chapter was approved, only for the other three to be denied.

A former IRS official told the New York Times that probably meant the applications were sent to different offices, which use slightly different standards. Different offices within the same organization that are supposed to impose the exact same rules in a consistent manner have such uneven conceptions of where to draw the line at a political group, that they can approve one organization and then deny its twin in a different state.

All of these stories suggest that while concern with the IRS posture toward conservative groups now may be merited, to fully understand the situation requires a bit of context and history.

6 Female Scientists Who Were Snubbed Due to Sexism

6 Women Scientists Who Were Snubbed Due to Sexism
Despite enormous progress in recent decades, women still have to deal with biases against them in the sciences. Rosalind Franklin works at a microscope.
Jane J. Lee
National Geographic
May 19, 2013

In April, National Geographic News published a story about the letter in which scientist Francis Crick described DNA to his 12-year-old son. In 1962, Crick was awarded a Nobel Prize for discovering the structure of DNA, along with fellow scientists James Watson and Maurice Wilkins.

Several people posted comments about our story that noted one name was missing from the Nobel roster: Rosalind Franklin, a British biophysicist who also studied DNA. Her data were critical to Crick and Watson's work. But it turns out that Franklin would not have been eligible for the prize—she had passed away four years before Watson, Crick, and Wilkins received the prize, and the Nobel is never awarded posthumously.

But even if she had been alive, she may still have been overlooked. Like many women scientists, Franklin was robbed of recognition throughout her career (See her section below for details.)

She was not the first woman to have endured indignities in the male-dominated world of science, but Franklin's case is especially egregious, said Ruth Lewin Sime, a retired chemistry professor at Sacramento City College who has written on women in science.

Over the centuries, female researchers have had to work as "volunteer" faculty members, seen credit for significant discoveries they've made assigned to male colleagues, and been written out of textbooks.

They typically had paltry resources and fought uphill battles to achieve what they did, only "to have the credit attributed to their husbands or male colleagues," said Anne Lincoln, a sociologist at Southern Methodist University in Texas, who studies biases against women in the sciences.

Today's women scientists believe that attitudes have changed, said Laura Hoopes at Pomona College in California, who has written extensively on women in the sciences—"until it hits them in the face." Bias against female scientists is less overt, but it has not gone away.

Here are six female researchers who did groundbreaking work—and whose names are likely unfamiliar for one reason: because they are women.

Jocelyn Bell Burnell

Born in Northern Ireland in 1943, Jocelyn Bell Burnell discovered pulsars in 1967 while still a graduate student in radio astronomy at Cambridge University in England.

Pulsars are the remnants of massive stars that went supernova. Their very existence demonstrates that these giants didn't blow themselves into oblivion—instead, they left behind small, incredibly dense, rotating stars.

Bell Burnell discovered the recurring signals given off by their rotation while analyzing data printed out on three miles of paper from a radio telescope she helped assemble.

The finding resulted in a Nobel Prize, but the 1974 award in physics went to Anthony Hewish—Bell Burnell's supervisor—and Martin Ryle, also a radio astronomer at Cambridge University.

The snub generated a "wave of sympathy" for Bell Burnell. But in an interview with National Geographic News this month, the astronomer was fairly matter-of-fact.

"The picture people had at the time of the way that science was done was that there was a senior man—and it was always a man—who had under him a whole load of minions, junior staff, who weren't expected to think, who were only expected to do as he said," explained Bell Burnell, now a visiting astronomy professor at the University of Oxford.

But despite the sympathy, and her groundbreaking work, Bell Burnell said she was still subject to the prevailing attitudes toward women in academia.

"I didn't always have research jobs," she said. Many of the positions the astrophysicist was offered in her career were focused on teaching or administrative and management duties.

"[And] it was extremely hard combining family and career," Bell Burnell said, partly because the university where she worked while pregnant had no provisions for maternity leave.

She has since become quite "protective" of women in academia. Some individual schools may give them support, but Bell Burnell wants a systemic approach to boost the numbers of female researchers.

She recently chaired a working group for the Royal Society of Edinburgh, tasked with finding a strategy to boost the number of women in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math in Scotland. (Learn more about Bell Burnell.)

Esther Lederberg

Born in 1922 in the Bronx, Esther Lederberg would grow up to lay the groundwork for future discoveries on genetic inheritance in bacteria, gene regulation, and genetic recombination.

A microbiologist, she is perhaps best known for discovering a virus that infects bacteria—called the lambda bacteriophage—in 1951, while at the University of Wisconsin.

Lederberg, along with her first husband Joshua Lederberg, also developed a way to easily transfer bacterial colonies from one petri dish to another, called replica plating, which enabled the study of antibiotic resistance. The Lederberg method is still in use today.

Joshua Lederberg's work on replica plating played a part in his 1958 Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine, which he shared with George Beadle and Edward Tatum.

"She deserved credit for the discovery of lambda phage, her work on the F fertility factor, and, especially, replica plating," wrote Stanley Falkow, a retired microbiologist at Stanford University, in an email. But she didn't receive it.

Lederberg also wasn't treated fairly in terms of her academic standing at Stanford, added Falkow, a colleague of Lederberg's who spoke at her memorial service in 2006. "She had to fight just to be appointed as a research associate professor, whereas she surely should have been afforded full professorial rank. She was not alone. Women were treated badly in academia in those days."

Chien-Shiung Wu

Born in Liu Ho, China, in 1912, Chien-Shiung Wu overturned a law of physics and participated in the development of the atom bomb.

Wu was recruited to Columbia University in the 1940s as part of the Manhattan Project and conducted research on radiation detection and uranium enrichment. She stayed in the United States after the war and became known as one of the best experimental physicists of her time, said Nina Byers, a retired physics professor at the University of California, Los Angeles.

In the mid-1950s, two theoretical physicists, Tsung-Dao Lee and Chen Ning Yang, approached Wu to help disprove the law of parity. The law holds that in quantum mechanics, two physical systems—like atoms—that were mirror images would behave in identical ways.

Wu's experiments using cobalt-60, a radioactive form of the cobalt metal, upended this law, which had been accepted for 30 years.

This milestone in physics led to a 1957 Nobel Prize for Yang and Lee—but not for Wu, who was left out despite her critical role. "People found [the Nobel decision] outrageous," said Byers.

Pnina Abir-Am, a historian of science at Brandeis University, agreed, adding that ethnicity also played a role.

Wu died of a stroke in 1997 in New York.

Lise Meitner

Born in Vienna, Austria, in 1878, Lise Meitner's work in nuclear physics led to the discovery of nuclear fission—the fact that atomic nuclei can split in two. That finding laid the groundwork for the atomic bomb.

Her story is a complicated tangle of sexism, politics, and ethnicity.

After finishing her doctoral degree in physics at the University of Vienna, Meitner moved to Berlin in 1907 and started collaborating with chemist Otto Hahn. They maintained their working relationship for more than 30 years.

After the Nazis annexed Austria in March 1938, Meitner, who was Jewish, made her way to Stockholm, Sweden. She continued to work with Hahn, corresponding and meeting secretly in Copenhagen in November of that year.

Although Hahn performed the experiments that produced the evidence supporting the idea of nuclear fission, he was unable to come up with an explanation. Meitner and her nephew, Otto Frisch, came up with the theory.

Hahn published their findings without including Meitner as a co-author, although several accounts say Meitner understood this omission, given the situation in Nazi Germany.

"That's the start of how Meitner got separated from the credit of discovering nuclear fission," said Lewin Sime, who wrote a biography of Meitner.

The other contributing factor to the neglect of Meitner's work was her gender. Meitner once wrote to a friend that it was almost a crime to be a woman in Sweden. A researcher on the Nobel physics committee actively tried to shut her out. So Hahn alone won the 1944 Nobel Prize in chemistry for his contributions to splitting the atom.

"Meitner's colleagues at the time, including physicist Niels Bohr, absolutely felt she was instrumental in the discovery of nuclear fission," Sime said. But since her name wasn't on that initial paper with Hahn—and she was left off the Nobel Prize recognizing the discovery—over the years, she has not been associated with the finding.

The nuclear physicist died in 1968 in Cambridge, England. (Learn more about Meitner's career.)

Rosalind Franklin

Born in 1920 in London, Rosalind Franklin used x-rays to take a picture of DNA that would change biology.

Hers is perhaps one of the most well-known—and shameful—instances of a researcher being robbed of credit, said Lewin Sime.

Franklin graduated with a doctorate in physical chemistry from Cambridge University in 1945, then spent three years at an institute in Paris where she learned x-ray diffraction techniques, or the ability to determine the molecular structures of crystals. (Learn more about her education and qualifications.)

She returned to England in 1951 as a research associate in John Randall's laboratory at King's College in London and soon encountered Maurice Wilkins, who was leading his own research group studying the structure of DNA.

Franklin and Wilkins worked on separate DNA projects, but by some accounts, Wilkins mistook Franklin's role in Randall's lab as that of an assistant rather than head of her own project.

Meanwhile, James Watson and Francis Crick, both at Cambridge University, were also trying to determine the structure of DNA. They communicated with Wilkins, who at some point showed them Franklin's image of DNA—known as Photo 51—without her knowledge.

Photo 51 enabled Watson, Crick, and Wilkins to deduce the correct structure for DNA, which they published in a series of articles in the journal Nature in April 1953. Franklin also published in the same issue, providing further details on DNA's structure.

Franklin's image of the DNA molecule was key to deciphering its structure, but only Watson, Crick, and Wilkins received the 1962 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for their work.

Franklin died of ovarian cancer in 1958 in London, four years before Watson, Crick, and Wilkins received the Nobel. Since Nobel prizes aren't awarded posthumously, we'll never know whether Franklin would have received a share in the prize for her work. (Learn more about Franklin and Photo 51.)

Nettie Stevens

Born in 1861 in Vermont, Nettie Stevens performed studies crucial in determining that an organism's sex was dictated by its chromosomes rather than environmental or other factors.

After receiving her doctorate from Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania, Stevens continued at the college as a researcher studying sex determination.

By working on mealworms, she was able to deduce that the males produced sperm with X and Y chromosomes—the sex chromosomes—and that females produced reproductive cells with only X chromosomes. This was evidence supporting the theory that sex determination is directed by an organism's genetics.

A fellow researcher, named Edmund Wilson, is said to have done similar work, but came to the same conclusion later than Stevens did.

Stevens fell victim to a phenomenon known as the Matilda Effect—the repression or denial of the contributions of female researchers to science.

Thomas Hunt Morgan, a prominent geneticist at the time, is often credited with discovering the genetic basis for sex determination, said Pomona College's Hoopes. He was the first to write a genetics textbook, she noted, and he wanted to magnify his contributions.

"Textbooks have this terrible tendency to choose the same evidence as other textbooks," she added. And so Stevens' name was not associated with the discovery of sex determination.

Hoopes has no doubt that Morgan was indebted to Stevens. "He corresponded with other scientists at the time about his theories," she said. "[But] his letters back and forth with Nettie Stevens were not like that. He was asking her for details of her experiments."

"When she died [of breast cancer in 1912], he wrote about her in Science, [and] he wrote that he thought she didn't have a broad view of science," said Hoopes. "But that's because he didn't ask her."

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Update: Guatemala's former dictator Jose Efrain Rios Montt conviction for genocide OVERTURNED

Guatemala's top court annuls Rios Montt genocide conviction
By Mike McDonald
May 21, 2013

(Reuters) - Guatemala's highest court on Monday overturned a genocide conviction against former dictator Efrain Rios Montt and reset his trial back to when a dispute broke out a month ago over who should hear the case.

Rios Montt, 86, was found guilty on May 10 of overseeing the killings by the armed forces of at least 1,771 members of the Maya Ixil population during his 1982-83 rule. He was sentenced to 80 years in prison.

However, in a ruling on Monday, the country's Constitutional Court ordered that all the proceedings be voided going back to April 19, when one of the presiding judges suspended the trial because of a dispute with another judge over who should hear it.

It was unclear when the trial might restart.

Rios Montt's conviction was hailed as a landmark for justice in the Central American nation, where as many as 250,000 people were killed in a bloody civil war lasting from 1960 to 1996.

When Rios Montt was in power, his government launched a fierce offensive in which soldiers raped, tortured and killed tens of thousands of Maya villagers suspected of helping Marxist rebels. Thousands more were forced into exile or had to join paramilitary forces fighting the insurgents.

After he was sentenced, a court ordered the government to apologize for atrocities committed against indigenous people.

Ana Caba, an ethnic Ixil who survived the civil war after fleeing her home, was stunned by the Constitutional Court's decision.

"I'm distressed," she told Reuters. "I don't know what's happening. That's how this country is. The powerful people do what they want and we poor and indigenous are devalued. We don't get justice. Justice means nothing for us."


At the time the row broke out between the judges, a number of appeals were lodged with the Constitutional Court over alleged irregularities in the handling of the case.

One related to Francisco Garcia, one of Rios Montt's defense lawyers, who had just won an appeal to be readmitted to the case. Garcia was thrown out when the trial began for repeatedly trying to have two of the three presiding judges recused.

When Garcia was reinstated, he tried to recuse the judges again, but they rejected his bid and proceeded with the case.

The Constitutional Court said the judges should have suspended the trial until the recusal attempt had been officially resolved. A spokesman for the court could not say how the recusal bid needed to be formally settled.

Diana Cameros, a psychologist who attended the Rios Montt trial, attacked the Constitutional Court over its ruling.

"It's absurd," she told Reuters. "It said in a previous ruling that the process couldn't be wound back to stages that had already concluded, and now it's saying something that contradicts what they said before."

The court said it had given the judges who sentenced Rios Montt 24 hours to comply with its order.

After spending a couple of nights in prison, Rios Montt was transferred to a hospital last week for treatment for respiratory and prostate problems.

He came to power in a bloodless coup on March 23, 1982, and ruled for 17 months during one of the most brutal phases of the conflict until he was toppled in August 1983. He has repeatedly denied the charges against him.v Former U.S. President Ronald Reagan supported Rios Montt's government and said in late 1982 that the dictator was getting a "bum rap" from rights groups for his military campaign against left-wing guerrillas during the Cold War.

Reagan also once called Rios Montt "a man of great personal integrity."

The retired general returned to politics after his fall from power and later unsuccessfully ran for president. For years, he avoided prosecution because he had immunity as a congressman. That ended when he left Congress in 2012.

Until August 2011, when four Guatemalan soldiers received 6,060-year prison sentences for mass killings in the northern village of Dos Erres in 1982, no convictions had been handed down for massacres carried out during the war.


I am happy that Guatemala, a beautiful place with wonderful people, has been able to bring a genocidal dictator to justice.

Ex-dictator convicted of genocide in Guatemala
Associated Press
May 10, 2013

GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — A Guatemalan court convicted former dictator Efrain Rios Montt on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity on Friday, sentencing him to 80 years in prison, the first such sentence ever handed down against a former Latin American leader.

It was the state's first official acknowledgment that genocide occurred during the bloody, 36-year civil war, something the current president, retired Gen. Otto Perez Molina, has denied.

"He knew about everything that was going on and he did not stop it, despite having the power to stop it from being carried out," said Presiding Judge Yassmin Barrios. "Rios Montt is guilty of genocide."

The 86-year-old former general laughed, talked to his lawyers and listened to the procedures through headphones. When the guilty verdict was announced, the crowded courtroom erupted in cheers. Some women who lost relatives in the massacres wept.

"Judge, Judge! Restore order!" Rios Montt shouted as cameramen and photographers swarmed him after the verdict was announced.

A three-judge tribunal issued the verdict after the nearly two-month trial in which dozens of victims testified about mass rapes and the killings of women and children and other atrocities...

Profile: Guatemala's Efrain Rios Montt
Efrain Rios Montt, file pic from 2013 Efrain Rios Montt came to power through a coup d'etat in 1982
BBC News
10 May 2013

Guatemala's former military leader Efrain Rios Montt is one of the central American nation's most controversial figures, who briefly seized power during one of the bloodiest periods of the country's brutal 36-year civil war.

On 10 May 2013, he was found guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity.

Born in Huehuetenango in 1926, Efrain Rios Montt joined the army and was a young officer when President Jacobo Arbenz Guzman was deposed in a CIA-backed military coup in 1954.

He rose through the ranks to become a brigadier general and the army's chief of staff in 1970 during the military regime of President General Carlos Manuel Arana Osorio.

He came to power through a coup in March 1982 in the middle of Guatemala's bloody war, in which Marxist rebels battled the military regime.

Civilians - the vast majority of them indigenous Mayans - were caught in the crossfire, and an estimated 200,000 died before a truce was reached in 1996, making the conflict one of Latin America's most violent wars.

Although Gen Rioss Montt was overthrown by his Defence Minister Oscar Humberto Mejia Victores in August 1983, he is considered to have had a major impact on the conflict through the so-called Guns and Beans campaign.

The rebels were offered terms through which they would be fed if they supported the regime, but crushed if they continued fighting.

Prosecutors say that during his 17 months in power, Gen Rios Montt and his chief of military intelligence, Gen Jose Mauricio Rodriguez Sanchez, ordered the deaths of more than 1,700 members of the Ixil Maya ethnic group, whom they suspected were supporting the rebels.

In 2012, Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom apologised to the relatives of the victims of a December 1982 massacre in which Guatemalan soldiers killed more than 200 people in the village of Dos Erres, saying it was a stain on Guatemala's history.

'Guatemala was in ruins'

General Rios Montt returned to the political limelight when he ran for president in 2003, despite a constitutional rule that no-one who had overthrown a government could stand for the presidency.

During the campaign, he was accused of orchestrating a violent protest by his supporters against the constitutional ruling.

A journalist died of a heart attack while running away from protesters in what became known as Black Thursday in Guatemala City.

But Gen Rios Montt was cleared of manslaughter charges in 2006, with prosecutors citing a lack of evidence.

He stood for president again in 2006 but was defeated in an election was marred by violence, with more than 22 people connected with political parties killed in the run-up to the vote.

The general returned to public office in 2007 as a member of Congress, which secured him immunity from prosecution over the war crimes allegations. Efrain Rios Montt addresses the court in Guatemala City. 9 May 2013 Gen Rios Montt gave an impassioned hour-long defence of himself towards the end of his trial

But that immunity expired with the end of his term in office in January 2012, and within two weeks of leaving office he was summoned to court and formally charged with genocide and crimes against humanity.

Prosecutors called for 75-year sentences to be given to both Gen Rios Montt and his former spy chief.

Although the case was beset with delays, legal loopholes and a temporary suspension, the pre-trial hearing was held in January 2013.

The three-judge tribunal reached its verdict on 10 May, declaring him guilty and sentencing him to 80 years in prison.

Gen Rios Montt did not testify during the court proceedings, but broke his silence to give an impassioned hour-long defence before the three judges retired to consider their verdicts.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

IRS right to challenge 501(c) 4 applications, but not by using a filter that flags "Tea Party" groups

"Our lunatic campaign finance system is what turned the typical C4 from a volunteer fire department into a conduit of anonymous political cash. Big donors were given the green light to spend freely on elections by the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision. That wasn't good enough for some; they wanted to distribute their largess secretly."

Campaign intervention is not allowed for tax-deductible, tax-exempt, 501(c)4 groups with anonymous donors. Anonymity is not allowed for political donors.

The real IRS scandal
Allowing so many 'social welfare' groups to enjoy tax-exempt status while participating in politics must stop. The IRS is obligated to scrutinize applicants, 'tea party' or no.
By Michael Hiltzik
Los Angeles Times
May 14, 2013

It's strange how "scandal" gets defined these days in Washington. At the moment, everyone is screaming about the "scandal" of the Internal Revenue Service scrutinizing conservative nonprofits before granting them tax-exempt status.

Here are the genuine scandals in this affair: Political organizations are being allowed to masquerade as charities to avoid taxes and keep their donors secret, and the IRS has allowed them to do this for years.

The bottom line first: The IRS hasn't done nearly enough over the years to rein in the subversion of the tax law by political groups claiming a tax exemption that is not legally permitted for campaign activity. Nor has it enforced rules requiring that donors to those groups pay gift tax on their donations.

The organizations at issue are known as 501(c)4 groups (call them C4s for short) after the section of the tax code that applies to them. They're nonprofit "social welfare" organizations that by law must be devoted primarily to programs broadly serving their communities, not private groups. IRS forms reveal what the agency considers to be mainstream C4s: religious groups; cultural, educational and veterans organizations, homeowners associations, volunteer fire departments. In recent years, however, overtly political groups have been claiming C4 status, which allows them to keep their donor lists secret and to avoid paying taxes on certain income.

Our lunatic campaign finance system is what turned the typical C4 from a volunteer fire department into a conduit of anonymous political cash. Big donors were given the green light to spend freely on elections by the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision. That wasn't good enough for some; they wanted to distribute their largess secretly.

C4s were there for the exploitation, and the result has been a wholesale decline of donor disclosure on the national level: As recently as 1998, nearly 100% of all donors to federal campaigns were publicly identified, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a campaign finance watchdog group. By the 2012 presidential election, that was down to 40%.

The beneficiaries of the C4 tax break, understandably, will employ any subterfuge to keep it. That's what's behind the current firestorm over disclosures that in 2010 and 2011, IRS personnel screened requests for C4 status by applicant organizations with "tea party," "patriot" or "9/12" in their names.

Those weren't the only groups whose applications were selected for extra scrutiny on the reasoning that they might be devoted to more than "social welfare." According to an IRS Inspector General report made public this week, they represented only about a third of the 298 applications selected. That was certainly too coarse a screen, and by January 2012 the IRS had scrapped those definitions. It had substituted a screen designed to capture "political action type organizations involved in limiting/expanding government, educating on the constitution and bill of rights, [and] social economic reform/movement."

Conservatives contend that this is still an anti-conservative screen. It sounds perfectly neutral to me, unless someone knows of a conservative organization devoted to "expanding government," or unless right-wing groups are supposed to have a monopoly on "social economic reform." In any case, the inspector general found that most of the 298 selected applications indeed showed indications of "significant" political activity that might have made them ineligible for the tax exemption.

It's about time the IRS subjected all of these outfits to scrutiny. The agency's inaction has served the purposes of donors and political organizations on both sides of the aisle, and contributed to the explosive infection of the electoral process by big money from individuals and corporations.

Nor is Congress innocent. The lawmakers have dodged their responsibility to make the rules crystal clear. On the rare occasions when the IRS has tried gingerly to impose regulatory order, members of Congress have forced the agency to back off. There should be a rule in Washington that if you give regulators deliberately vague guidelines, you're not allowed to protest when they try to figure out where the lines are.

Thanks to ambiguity about what it means to be "primarily" concerned with "social welfare," political activists have reaped a bonanza for years while the IRS ignored their chicanery. And once again, now that the agency has tried to regulate, the regulated parties have blown its efforts up into a "scandal." It's amusing to reflect that some politicians making hay over this are the same people who contend that we don't need more regulations, we just need to enforce the ones we have. (Examples: gun control and banking regulation.) Here's a case where the IRS is trying to enforce regulations that Congress enacted, and it's still somehow doing the wrong thing.

Keep that in mind when you hear politicians — and they're not exclusively Republicans — grandstanding about how the IRS actions are "chilling" or "un-American." It turns out that none of the "targeted" groups actually was denied C4 status. Nevertheless, says Sheila Krumholz, director of the Center for Responsive Politics. "There's a sense of discomfort that the IRS was doing much of anything."

The IRS wasn't actually doing much. The biggest C4s, including one founded by GOP operative Karl Rove and another run by ex-Obama campaign staffers, got their C4 status routinely. The little guys got questionnaires.

C4s are curious creatures in the tax code. They're allowed to engage in lobbying, but not ("primarily") in campaign activity. Their donors don't get a tax deduction, but the organizations are tax-exempt. For example, they don't have to pay taxes on income they earn by investing donated funds. But what makes C4s especially attractive to people who want to funnel money into politics is this: They don't have to identify their donors.

Remember the mysterious $11-million donation to the campaign for California's anti-union Proposition 32 last November? When the state Fair Political Practices Commission punctured its anonymity, it found not one, but two 501(c)4 organizations behind it. The FPPC, which is still investigating, has already called this a case of "campaign money laundering."

As of September last year, the center found, some $254 million, or 20%, of all outside spending came through C4s. The biggest C4 in the electoral arena was Crossroads GPS, an affiliate of American Crossroads, a campaign organization founded by Rove. The Obama camp's C4 was known as Priorities USA.

The IRS was swamped by the wave. The number of groups seeking C4 status from the agency rose from 1,500 in 2010 to 3,400 last year. Meanwhile, the agency was being pulled in two directions. In February last year, seven Democratic senators complained that the IRS was too "permissive" with its rules, which judged a C4 not to be engaged "primarily" in electioneering as long as no more than 49% of its spending went to such activities. In August, 10 GOP senators warned the agency to deep-six any efforts to tighten the rules on C4s.

Already in 2011, an IRS disclosure that it was auditing five big donors to determine whether they owed gift taxes for donations to C4s had caused a political uproar. (The gift tax can be up to 35% of a donation in excess of $14,000 per recipient and a $5.25-million lifetime exemption, paid by the donor.) GOP lawmakers accused the IRS of "targeting constitutionally protected political speech." As Ellen Aprill, a tax law expert at Loyola Law School, observed later that year, "at that point, the IRS threw in the towel" — even though there was little doubt that the tax levy was proper and plainly constitutional.

The danger inherent in the latest faux controversy is that the IRS will have its wings clipped before its investigation of C4s is fully fledged. Politicos and pundits are in a lather over the questions the agency put to targeted organizations to determine their social welfare bona fides — things like the identity of their board members and the amount of time and money spent on "electoral issues," and endorsements of candidates. These facts would be pretty fundamental to determining whether an organization is political, wouldn't you say?

The IRS also asked some groups for the identity of their donors. The inspector general contends that request was inappropriate. Still, if the IRS discovered that a major donor to a C4 was, say, the politically active billionaire Sheldon Adelson, wouldn't that suggest that the group might not be a plain vanilla "homeowners association"? By the same token, when the pro-Obama C4 Priorities USA disclosed that it had five anonymous donors, one of whom contributed $1.9 million, or 84% of the total, wouldn't it help an investigator to know who that person is?

Let's remember that a tax exemption handed over to any group costs all of us money. It's proper for the IRS to scrutinize applicants. The biggest laugh line uttered in this affair is that the IRS is somehow "harassing" these public-spirited organizations by asking them to justify their status. Here's a good rule of thumb: You don't want to get harassed by the IRS? Then don't claim a tax exemption you may not deserve.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Carbon dioxide passes 400 parts per million for the first time in 3 million years

China is worst offender now, but over the years the US put a greater amount of CO2 in the atmosphere than China.

Heat-Trapping Gas Passes Milestone, Raising Fears
The average carbon dioxide reading surpassed 400 parts per million at the research facility atop the Mauna Loa volcano on the island of Hawaii for the 24 hours that ended at 8 p.m. on Thursday.
New York Times
May 10, 2013

The level of the most important heat-trapping gas in the atmosphere, carbon dioxide, has passed a long-feared milestone, scientists reported Friday, reaching a concentration not seen on the earth for millions of years.

Scientific instruments showed that the gas had reached an average daily level above 400 parts per million — just an odometer moment in one sense, but also a sobering reminder that decades of efforts to bring human-produced emissions under control are faltering.

The best available evidence suggests the amount of the gas in the air has not been this high for at least three million years, before humans evolved, and scientists believe the rise portends large changes in the climate and the level of the sea.

“It symbolizes that so far we have failed miserably in tackling this problem,” said Pieter P. Tans, who runs the monitoring program at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that reported the new reading.

Ralph Keeling, who runs another monitoring program at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, said a continuing rise could be catastrophic. “It means we are quickly losing the possibility of keeping the climate below what people thought were possibly tolerable thresholds,” he said.

Virtually every automobile ride, every plane trip and, in most places, every flip of a light switch adds carbon dioxide to the air, and relatively little money is being spent to find and deploy alternative technologies.

China is now the largest emitter, but Americans have been consuming fossil fuels extensively for far longer, and experts say the United States is more responsible than any other nation for the high level.