Wisconsin GOP primary: Romney, Santorum back Walker

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-03-2012-05-2008

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The drama facing Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker took center stage at a GOP dinner where presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum addressed activists.

Sunday Talk: A rags-to-riches story

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-03-2012-05-2008

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Like George and Weezie Jefferson before him, Mitt Romney began movin’ on up this week. Not in the polls, mind you—which continue to show President Obama leading him by healthy margins, both nationally and in key battleground states—but rather in the cultural zeitgeist.

The presumptive GOP nominee also saw the ranks of his “super fans” swell with the endorsements of party luminaries Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio.

And, as if that weren’t enough, Romney’s telling of a humorous anecdote surely went a long way toward endearing him to the millions of Americans whose fathers have closed down factories.

When you put this all together, it’s hard to understand how his unfavorable rating remains so severely high.


Orlando Sentinel: Forensic voice identification expert says screaming is not George Zimmerman’s

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-03-2012-05-2008

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One of the key pieces of evidence in the Trayvon Martin shooting case in Sanford, Fla., is who is heard screaming and crying for help shortly before the 17-year-old is shot by George Zimmerman. The voice is heard on a recording of a 911 call, and witnesses also said they heard screaming.

Zimmerman told police it’s him. Family members of Zimmerman have said it’s him. Trayvon’s mother says it’s Trayvon. Some witnesses also say it’s Trayvon.

The claim goes to the key issue in the case, the fact that Zimmerman claims he shot the unarmed Trayvon in self-defense because the boy punched him to the ground and smashed his head into a concrete sidewalk.

The Orlando Sentinel called in an expert. He says the voice is NOT George Zimmerman’s:

Tom Owen, forensic consultant for Owen Forensic Services LLC and chair emeritus for the American Board of Recorded Evidence, used voice identification software to rule out Zimmerman. Another expert contacted by the Sentinel, utilizing different techniques, came to the same conclusion. […]

Owen, a court-qualified expert witness and former chief engineer for the New York Public Library’s Rodgers and Hammerstein Archives of Recorded Sound, is an authority on biometric voice analysis — a computerized process comparing attributes of voices to determine whether they match. […]

“I took all of the screams and put those together, and cut out everything else,” Owen says.

The software compared that audio to Zimmerman’s voice. It returned a 48 percent match. Owen said to reach a positive match with audio of this quality, he’d expect higher than 90 percent.

“As a result of that, you can say with reasonable scientific certainty that it’s not Zimmerman,” Owen says, stressing that he cannot confirm the voice as Trayvon’s, because he didn’t have a sample of the teen’s voice to compare.

The pile of evidence bringing Zimmerman’s claims into question grows deeper every day.

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See my diary: Protesters demand justice in Trayvon Martin case. An icon spreads.


Apple and Foxconn to improve working conditions and hours

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-03-2012-05-2008

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iPad

Following lots and lots of terrible publicity around the wages, working conditions and hours faced by Chinese workers manufacturing its iPhones and iPads, Apple asked the Fair Labor Association, an organization widely described as independent although it is funded by the corporations it oversees, to look into working conditions in the factories of its Chinese contractors. The FLA has now looked into Foxconn, the largest and most (in)famous Apple contractor, and:

Foxconn – which makes Apple devices from the iPhone to the iPad – will hire tens of thousands of new workers, clamp down on illegal overtime, improve safety protocols and upgrade worker housing and other amenities. […]

Foxconn said it would reduce working hours to 49 hours per week, including overtime, while keeping total compensation for workers at its current level. The FLA audit had found that during peak production times, workers in the three factories put in more than 60 hours per week on average.

To compensate for the reduced hours, Foxconn will hire tens of thousands of additional workers. It also said it would build more housing and canteens to accommodate that influx.

Foxconn’s changes will also affect other brands with products manufactured by the contractor, such as Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Sony. It will also have an effect on competing contract manufacturers. Consumers, of course, can expect to pay slightly higher prices, although labor costs are a small fraction of the price of the devices, and if you’re going to complain that you’re paying a little more because Chinese workers are only working 49 instead of 60 hours per week, I don’t want to hear from you anyway.

Continuing oversight will be crucial, as it would be altogether typical for the improvements for workers to be rolled back once the spotlight was off Apple’s manufacturing process.


Federal judge dismisses HuffPo bloggers’ suit

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-03-2012-05-2008

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Huffington Post

The Hon. John Koeltl of the Southern District of New York has dismissed the class action lawsuit filed by Jonathan Tasini on behalf of Huffington Post bloggers who were not paid for their efforts. Judge Koeltl’s 24-page opinion is here.

The decision was a ruling under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) — essentially, that even if everything Tasini pleaded was true, he still didn’t make out a case for relief under the law — in this case, NY unjust enrichment and deceptive business practices law, or as the Judge puts it:

The plaintiffs claim that they are entitled to a portion (namely, $105 million) of the $315 million that AOL tendered in acquiring The Huffington Post. The plaintiffs assert a claim of unjust enrichment arising from the alleged failure of the defendants to compensate the plaintiffs adequately for adding value to, and thus boosting the purchase price of, The Huffington Post. The plaintiffs allege that they added value by submitting content to the website and promoting that content. The defendants argue that the plaintiffs’ claim should be dismissed for failure to demonstrate that equity and good conscience require restitution and, in the alternative, that the plaintiffs’ unjust enrichment claim is barred by the existence of an implied contract between the plaintiffs and the defendants.

So, why do the bloggers lose? For the reason you’d expect.

[T]he plaintiffs entered into their transactions with the defendants with full knowledge of the facts and no expectation of compensation other than exposure. In such circumstances, equity and good conscience counsel against retroactively altering the parties’ clear agreements.

There is no question that the plaintiffs submitted their materials to The Huffington Post with no expectation of monetary compensation and that they got what they paid for — exposure in The Huffington Post. Courts applying New York law require a plaintiff to allege some expectation of compensation that was denied in order to demonstrate that equity requires restitution….

[E]quity and good conscience plainly do not support the plaintiffs in this matter. No one forced the plaintiffs to give their work to The Huffington Post for publication and the plaintiffs candidly admit that they did not expect compensation.The principles of equity and good conscience do not justify giving the plaintiffs a piece of the purchase price when they never expected to be paid, repeatedly agreed to the same bargain, and went into the arrangement with eyes wide open….  

Quite simply, the plaintiffs offered a service and the defendants offered exposure in return, and the transaction occurred exactly as advertised. The defendants followed through on their end of the agreed-upon bargain. That the defendants ultimately profited more than the plaintiffs might have expected does not give the plaintiffs a right to change retroactively their clear, up-front agreement. That is an effort to change the rules of the game after the game has been played, and equity and good conscience require no such result.

The deceptive practices claim was dismissed because the bloggers did not constitute “consumers” protected by the law; moreover, the Court ruled, HuffPo’s alleged failure to provide the bloggers with accurate pageview data for their articles and the like was not deemed to be materially misleading anyway.

Case dismissed.  Yes, they can appeal.


GE celebrates workers while moving their jobs to China

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-03-2012-05-2008

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This video from GE showing workers in its medical equipment division in Waukesha, Wisconsin meeting cancer survivors whose cancer was discovered by or whose treatment involved GE products is really heartwarming. I defy you to watch it and not be moved. But GE doesn’t value those workers nearly as much as its public celebration of them pushes you to believe. Roger Bybee reports that:

GE has transferred the headquarters of the Medical Equipment Divisiion to Beijing, China. “Waukesha will not be doing GE’s innovations, which will now be centered in China,” said Chris Townsend. “This doesn’t mean that the Waukesha plant will close right away, but the company’s advances will be taking place in China and Waukesha will be making more out-of-date products. GE will be bringing in the new machines from China,” Townsend adds.

The shift of the division’s HQ is part of GE’s $2 billion plan fror new investment in China.

While GE has claimed that the shift of its Medical Equipment Division headquarters will not result in a net loss of jobs, employment in Waukesha has been cut by about 50 percent in recent years, Townsend estimates.

Bybee points out that GE’s public relations offensive comes not only as the corporation cuts jobs in the United States—”slash[ing] its U.S. workforce by 32,000 jobs, from 165,000 to 133,000 over the 2004-2010 period”—but following the revelation that in 2010, GE made $14.2 billion in profits and not only paid no federal income tax, but actually got $3.2 billion in federal tax credits. On top of that, between 2008 and 2010 GE spent $84 million on lobbying while paying an effective negative federal income tax rate.

Those workers deserve to be celebrated. But they, and Waukesha’s next generation, deserve to have jobs for years to come. GE shouldn’t get credit for the former while killing the hope of the latter.


Los Angeles medical marijuana dispensaries unionize for added legitimacy and political clout

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-03-2012-05-2008

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marijuana leaf

(U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

If you’re a legitimate businessperson in a new, controversial industry with a significant number of less-than-legitimate businesses, how do you set yourself apart and show that you’re doing things the right way? For some medical marijuana dispensaries, one answer is to become union shops. Last week, workers at 14 Los Angeles marijuana dispensaries joined the United Food and Commercial Workers; workers in their industry elsewhere in California and in Colorado have also done the same. This move comes as the Los Angeles City Council is considering a ban.

Joining the UFCW has two potential benefits for marijuana dispensaries. It gets them a powerful ally with longstanding political connections; the Los Angeles Times reports, for instance, that one of the council members pushing the ban “has close ties to labor unions.” It also helps separate out the legitimate businesses from the questionable ones, though. Huffington Post’s Lila Shapiro reports that:

Union representatives are steering clear of shops whose employers are not following labor laws and instead focusing on dispensaries that they have found to be following all legal requirements, including registering their business with the city and paying taxes.

“We want only the best employers because we don’t think that many will be left standing at the end of this fight,” said Rigoberto Valdez, organizing director of the UFCW’s cannabis campaign.

And because of that validation, and the infusion of political clout, these employers are actually encouraging their employees to join the union—a move that’s basically unheard-of. Now the big question is whether the dispensary owners will follow through and negotiate fair contracts with their workers, including things like health insurance.


Gender, youth and race in key Republican primaries

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-03-2012-05-2008

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I decided to dig a little into GOP primary (and the Iowa caucus) exit polls in key battleground states, focused primarily on the youth, women and race, to see if anything interesting popped up. Here are the numbers, including exit poll percentages and the corresponding raw vote total for that demographic between 2008 and 2012:

Other than in Iowa, young voters were a smaller percentage of the GOP primary electorate in these key states. (And it’s 17-29, because 17-year-olds are allowed to vote in primaries so long as they’ll be 18 by November.)

On the other hand, women made up a significantly larger percentage of their electorate compared to 2008. In half these cases, it’s because men sat out the contests in greater numbers than they did—in Florida and Arizona, fewer women voted than in 2008, but even fewer men did. But in Ohio and New Hampshire, they showed strength both in percentage terms and in raw votes.

Now turnout was so low in these contests, by any measure, that this may not mean much in November, but if I’m a Republican, I’ll take solace in this better gender balance.

As for the fact that Republicans are super-super white, that much continues. Slightly more brown voters turned out for the GOP in Arizona than in 2008, but other than that, Republicans continue to bleed the fastest growing groups.

So what have we learned from these numbers? Given the small universe of GOP primary voters, probably nothing.


I won’t be "unrealistic" in U.S. race: Santorum

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-03-2012-05-2008

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U.S. Republican Presidential candidate Santorum signs autographs following a campaign appearance in FairfieldBROOKFIELD, Wisc. (Reuters) – Presidential hopeful Rick Santorum vowed on Saturday that the race for the Republican nomination is far from over but signaled that he would not be “unrealistic” if the time ever came to step aside for rival Mitt Romney. Lagging in opinion polls, endorsements and delegates, Santorum nevertheless challenged the Romney camp’s assertions that the former Massachusetts governor is the inevitable Republican nominee to face President Barack Obama on November 6. …

One person killed in Kenyan coast explosions

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-03-2012-05-2008

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Nurses attend to a victim from a blast at the Coast General Hospital in the Kenyan coastal town of MombasaMOMBASA, Kenya (Reuters) – Two blasts in the Kenyan port city of Mombasa and a nearby town killed one person and wounded more than 20 on Saturday, the latest in a string of attacks to hit the east African country since it sent troops into neighboring Somalia. Up until now, attacks had centered on the capital, Nairobi, and near the border with Somalia following its deployment of troops last October. Saturday’s blasts were the first in Mombasa, a popular holiday destination with locals and foreigners, since Kenya began its mission to fight Islamist rebels north of the border. …