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Torrents of rain could not stop them from fighting for Ukraine


These people are true fighters for freedom from Putin.

What Cosmos would look like if conservatives created it

Creationist Cosmos from Funny Or Die

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Why you should never go to a for-profit college or university

It’s a really weird racket that the federal government is responsible for creating. They’re actually giving for-profit schools money so that they can in turn come back and bite the hand that feeds them. The phrase “stop hitting yourself”comes to mind.

From The Nation.

Today, 13 percent of all college students attend for-profit colleges, on campuses and online—but these institutions account for 47 percent of student loan defaults. For-profit schools are driving a national student debt crisis that has reached $1.2 trillion in borrowing. They absorb a quarter of all federal student aid—more than $30 billion annually—diverting sums from better, more affordable programs at nonprofit and public colleges. Many for-profit college companies, including most of the biggest ones, get almost 90 percent of their revenue from taxpayers.

If you’re someone looking to go to college, the worst thing you could do is go to one of these for-profit institutions. I wonder if this actually isn’t just a money laundering scheme for taxpayer dollars created by for-profit schools and their supporters in the government. The government first gives public funds to these schools, next these schools use that money to enrich their management, board of directors and shareholders. Then these for-profit “education” entities complete the circle by coming back to the government to lobby its members and donate to their campaign funds.

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My Samsung Tablet and Phone are killing people

I like Samsung. Actually, I’m quite smitten with their current set of gadgets. They are quite remarkable. From their form factor to the high-resolution displays, what’s not to like? I even like how their televisions look. Whoever is responsible for the industrial design of Samsung’s products is doing a really good job. It is quite obvious why the people of South Korea have so much pride in the company. Samsung like South Korea itself has come a long way and are now major players on the global stage.

For me personally, I own a Galaxy Note 3 and a Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1. I recently acquired these gadgets this year. Also, the next laptop I get might also be a Samsung, simply because the design of their ultrabooks impressed me tremendously. Besides Samsung, my second favorite computer manufacturer would be Lenovo, however that also means I am a fan of American-based IBM, the original creator of the Thinkpad.

We as consumers are apt to fall in love with our gadgets and software, whether they come from Google, Samsung, Nokia, Lenovo, BlackBerry, HP, Sony, Motorola, Apple or etc. We embrace new technologies with gusto like high-definition displays (except for the 3d thing however) or even artificial intelligence applications like Apple’s Siri.  What we don’t ever really think about however is the flip side to our embrace of all things high-tech.

The data centers that power all the social media sites we visit and all of the things we do via Google, are contributing to global greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, all of these websites and services are working with intelligence agencies, like the NSA in the United States, to collect petabytes of information on us all. Lastly, let’s not forget about the low wage workers toiling away in factories, some even dying, to produce our computers and other gadgets.

We’ve heard the stories coming out of China where it concerns manufacturers like Foxconn who have done work for Apple and other big tech firms. Apple has since begun to try and make amends, but still has a long way to go. Now however, alarming news is starting to get out about one of Apple’s major competitors in Samsung, and the factories they run in South Korea.

BusinessWeek has written a feature-length article discussing the consequences of working at a Samsung manufacturing facility.

The doctor told Hwang his daughter had acute myeloid leukemia and asked for permission to start treating her immediately. “I thought I was blinded. I felt darkness and hopelessness,” he says. He knew little of leukemia but did know the disease often could be fatal. Yu-mi was inconsolable, her mother says, even though the doctor gave her good odds for a recovery.

In this particular case young women who were working to produce the computer chips that go into Samsung devices were becoming seriously ill. The sad truth is that none of this is new.

Despite the reliance on cleanrooms, semiconductor manufacturing has never been a particularly clean business. Chipmakers have been using extremely hazardous chemicals since the early days of Silicon Valley.

These are only a few examples of the dark side to our embrace of technology. Throughout history this has always been the case. Possibly hundreds of thousands have died from labor practices during the Industrial Revolution that swept the globe. We’re still polluting the planet and killing people to extract the fossil fuel energy to power it all too.

Now is the time for us to rid ourselves of the past. Progress should not equal pain for anyone in the 21st century. Those who control global capital flows need to learn that lesson. There are lessons for consumers, especially in the West, to learn as well. If we must pay a little bit more to have a better world then it is a small price to pay. Instead of progress equaling pain, we should be building and buying humanely and with sustainability in mind.

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Mount Rushmore reimagined


The Wall Street Tyrant’s latest move: Rental backed securities

So, you lost your house in the housing bubble crash. The banks foreclosed on you instead of trying to help you stay in your home. You thought all was lost, but guess what? Now, through the goodness of the invisible hand-job and the free market, someone maybe you, might be able to rent your house again through a private equity firm.

People like the Blackstone Group, Normandy Real Estate Partners, Vantage Properties, Westbrook Partners, and Colonial Management are vultures. Yet even before the private equity antics of the present, there was New York City.

Today, private equity firms like the Blackstone Group, now the largest owner of single-family rental homes in the nation, believe the money to be made in the housing market lies in snapping up cheap homes in the cities where housing prices crashed most spectacularly. Back in the early 2000s, in the eyes of private equity, New York City’s comparable corner of the market was “affordable housing.”

These private equity tyrants went on buying sprees and purchased buildings with rent control tenants with an agenda to flip them and turn a profit. They were banking on the idea that they could force these rent control tenants out and then hike up the rents.

Here are some of the tactics employed by the firms when they want to force people out who are unwilling.

Generally, the average turnover rate for rent-regulated apartments is close to 5% a year. Landlords whose business plan depends on tripling that figure soon find themselves orchestrating a host of harassment tactics, some of them quite illegal, to get people to move, including mailing fake eviction notices, cutting off the heat or water, and allowing vermin infestations to take hold.

The results of these efforts seem to be a mixed bag for the property owners, but for the victims of private equity there is nothing but injustice.


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What Unions Look Like Today


Gogo Inflight Internet: Bragging About Spying for the NSA

Oh, it must be such a great feeling to use your smartphone and/or tablet since the TSA reformed its rules for in-flight gadget use last year. While you’re in the air with your gadget, you’ll also want to make use of the in-flight wi-fi option. I mean for as little as the price of a large latte, you too can have one hour of wireless access.

So go on ahead! Surf those interwebs! Check your email, post on someone’s wall, send a tweet and pin a picture. There’s just one thing though, Gogo Inflight Internet will be “poking” around and snooping while you get your social network on.

As the venerable David Sirota reports:

That declaration followed a statement from Gogo subsidiary Aircell, which previously boasted to an aviation trade magazine that the company “can give [law enforcement] any information they need in real time.”

Well here’s some information that Gogo can give to its shareholders in real time: people aren’t going to be using your service once they find out that you’re spying on them.

GM: When a company lies, real people die

What can General Motors possibly say in light of these tragedies?

How about this?

“The only way the public is going to be protected from this negligence by companies is if there will ultimately be prison sentences,” said Leo Ruddy of Scranton, Pa., whose 21-year-old daughter Kelly was killed in 2010 when her Chevrolet Cobalt veered inexplicably off the highway and crashed.

Or this.

“If you can go to jail for insider trading and things like that, which is just making money, if you do something that caused a loss of life … (the penalty) should be more than just a few dollars,” said Ken Rimer, whose stepdaughter died in a 2006 accident after a faulty switch prevented air bags from deploying.

This is what corporations do. They put products on the market that they know may not be up to standard and then people die. On top of that they lobby for weak regulations, thus creating a self-perpetuating cycle of chaos. No wonder people like Ralph Nader have had to rail against them, they’ve become our only hope in this new gilded era.

photo by: betsyweber

In Japan they put the homeless to work cleaning up nuclear disasters

This sounds like something Newt Gingrich would have come up with. Remember, he was the one that wanted to make poor kids into janitors. In reality Japan is doing something far more dastardly and on a grander scale, when they seek to put homeless Japanese to work cleaning up nuclear fallout from Fukishima-Daiichi.

Private labor contractors in Japan are “recruiting” homeless men and men to work in the disaster area of the destroyed Fukushima nuclear power plant, taking advantage of their desperation to pay them less than minimum wage and with no proof that their health is being protected.

Is this the free market at work? Or is this crony capitalism run amok. Why don’t these labor contractors send their sons and daughters into Fukishima to do the cleanup?

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