Wednesday, July 31, 2013
Finally, says Pittman, it's the tradition of open government records in the state that means a lot of the weirdest happenings get reported on:
'So when a retired Tarzan actor got arrested because his pet tigers kept escaping, it made the papers. When a woman claiming to be a vampire attacked a man outside a vacant Hooters, it made the papers. When Vanilla Ice's kangaroo and goat got loose, it made the papers,' writes Pittman.
The 'weird Florida' phenomenon isn't anything new.
That's why tongue-in-cheek news aggregator website Fark.com has a special Florida tag for stories coming out of the state.
'Other states have odd stories come out of them, but no state can challenge Florida," a Fark.com administrator said in 2011.
'It's the heavyweight champion of weirdness.'
The Silliness State: Writer tries to work out why Florida has more bizarre news than any other state
Ambulance services have 'blacklisted' some households because their inhabitants pose a danger to paramedics
- London Ambulance Service has register of 226 addresses where staff are believed to be at risk of physical violence while North East has a list of 236
- Greater Manchester Ambulance service confirmed it had a similar register
- Paramedics are advised to wait outside address until police turn up
- There are concerns children and other innocent patients living at the addresses who need urgent medical help could be put at risk
AMERICA'S EMERGING HOUSING CRISIS
Tuesday, July 30, 2013
I work with small towns and cities, consulting on budgets, accounting, and other financial matters. What happened in Detriot is happening on a far greater scale in the US than you realize.
I am talking about the 250 resident town to the 20,000 resident city. These local governments are depleting their general funds, undercharging their residnets for utilities, and have declining revenue bases.
Their costs are heading nowhere but up. Their labor unions expect greater wages and benefits; health, insurance, and other costs rise at a 8-12% rate each year, and they borrow absurd sums to comply with incredibly punitive requirements for their water & sewer systems. I've personally worked with a town that borrowed $8 million to completely refurbish it's sewer system, without planning that the P&I alone would be over $500,000 a year, and would reauire them to raise their monthly sewer rates by over $50 a month per connection to just have a no deficits budget in their sewer fund, to say nothing of future cost increases!
These towns don't have the same characteristics of Detroit referenced here as scapegoats to blame their failure on. What they do have the same is an inability to envision and project costs, failure to understand the consequences of their actions, and the lack of leverage (or will) to negotiate with their unions. These towns and small cities are at the mercy of national forces, just like Detroit, so pointing blame away from the city leaders using national level excuses is such, such, (and their really is no other adequate expression) FAIL.
Every government or city in this fucking contry is affected by those fucking policies, so claiming wounded victim status deserves mockery and fucking shame for those who would use it!!! Detroit is not special!
For years governments have failed to adapt, because they have been captured by whatever force is intent on milking them dry. Where change comes it is driven by personality, such as Kenneth Orr, who had the balls to say that the debt ridden decisions made in the past decades had not worked, and that it was time to clear the decks.
The comfortable elite has been shaken up, and the defenders of TPTB have arisen to decry the bankruptcy. They know that Detriot is merely the first drawing back of the waters as the ocean of debt prepares it's tsunami of destruction.
It's going to affect everyone. Expect a large number of dissolutions of small towns and cities in the next two or three years as their costs drive them into the ground.
Having trouble with this one "Gov'mints have failed thus they should be blamed, but Gov'mints were misled by FIRE because of spending like crazy". Is that what you mean? Not sure which city you live in but the employees here are under constant attack with big union busting lawfirms being brought in to put fires out. I think Hudson alluded to stiffing the creditors, maybe I have that wrong. But it sounds ethical.
I work with small cities over an entire state. It's a fairly union friendly blue state. The unions here, especially the police and fire unions, could use a "busting" to bring them back to reality. Cities and towns that have unions are under more fiscal pressure than those who do not.
As for being mislead by the FIRE industry, two things: I mentioned lack of vision and adaptability as being the reason for failure. The bubbles of the last two decades were not hard to identify, and there were a multitude of voices warning about how bad the crash was going to be. Governments did not hesitate to increase valuations, nor did anyone try to moderate expenditures or negotiate moderation from their unions.
What is worse is that there was no change in behavior after revenues crashed; instead the borrowing increased or they consumed their fund balances, hard earned residuals built up over the course of years, because they failed to adapt quickly to the new reality.
The same can be said of a majority of americans, the federal government, or of the nations of the world. Borrow, maintain your lifestyle, and go hopelessly into debt.
Overshoot, overreach, ignorance, arrogance, willful blindness. Just because most governments, and most people, are guilty of this does not negate the guilt.
Besides, it's always a chicken and the egg question. Government misread the signals from the FIRE industry, whose growth in turn had been enabled by government, which had been lobbied by the FIRE industry, which was only possible because governments allowed it and gave themselves the power to be manipulated.
I point the finger of guilt at government, because it is only the power of government that has given the FIRE industry and the elite such power.
http://www.aljazeera.com/news/asia/2013/07/201373018364354274.html - Shared via Al Jazeera English app
How Corporate Moderates Created the Social Security Act
(...And Then Tried to Undermine It Later)
Power at the Local Level: Growth Coalition Theory
The Ford Foundation in the Inner City: Forging an Alliance with Neighborhood Activists
Who Really Ruled in Dahl's New Haven?
Atlanta: Floyd Hunter Was Right
Why San Francisco Is (or Used to Be) Different: Progressive Activists and Neighborhoods Had a Big Impact
Santa Cruz: The leftmost City
A Dream Died Young
A young India rested its hope on these young shoulders. But the promise of '09 has passed.
"Politics doesn't produce many Lincolns, but it does produce some impressive people and, sometimes, great results."—David Brooks
in his review of Lincoln in the International Herald Tribune
***What We Expected From Young MPs
- Articulation of aspirations of young India in their parties and Parliament
- A break from the cynical, pessimistic, opportunistic politics of the past
- An end to the casteist and communal overtones of older political class
- Speaking truth to power on issues of corruption and conflict of interest
- Rising above divisive partisanship in speaking up on national issues
- Keeping personal and business interests distinct from their public lives
- Active participation in social and intellectual discourse in constituencies
***In Srinagar last year, a young woman interrupted Rahul Gandhi as he was waxing eloquent on the imminent revival of the private sector in the Valley, with several prominent industrialists in tow. How long would it take, the lady wanted to know. Taken aback, the Congress MP, then 42 and invariably described as "a youth icon", mumbled that it would take some time. In the uneasy silence that followed, the disappointment was evident. "We don't have time," muttered the lady.
That sense of impatience (and urgency) is no longer confined to Jammu & Kashmir. It is pervasive across an increasingly politically aware and expressive India tiring of the old and pining for the new. In May 2009, six months after Barack Obama, 46, became an icon of hope to the world's most powerful democracy, 43 million new voters, exercising their franchise for the first time, plumped for their demographic here: 79 MPs below 40 made it to the 15th Lok Sabha.
There was a spring in their step, a sparkle in their eyes, and a freshness in their faces as the young lawmakers trooped to Parliament House for their first session, like perky students on their first day to college. Four years later, as the marks are added up and the Class of 2009 awaits graduation, hope lies dashed. There is disappointment, there is disillusionment, there is disgust. There is even a sense of betrayal.
With 65 per cent of its population below the age of 35, young India was looking to the young MPs to break free of the old, cynical, opportunistic past—and chart a path for the future. It was looking for an aspirational and ambitious agenda, like the one laid out by Rajiv Gandhi in 1984. They were yearning for all-round improvement in administration, policing, education, economy and healthcare—driven by the energy and ideas brought in by the young men and women they had placed in positions of power, in their parties and in Parliament.
A few months away from the end of term, we are back to square minus one. So much so that Congress MP Deepender Singh Hooda, 35, acknowledges that the process of change remains agonisingly slow. The image of the politician who promised but failed is not new, nor particularly confined to India. But if people expected a clean break from the past, and a politics free of casteism and communalism, well, it has not come to pass. And on the hot-button issue that has dominated 9 pm news—corruption—the young seemed to have been in step with the old.
Since 2009, several young MPs, cutting across the same old party lines, have been charged under the Prevention of Corruption Act. Among them:
- Independent MP Madhu Koda, 42, was arrested and accused of laundering a whopping sum of Rs 4,000 crore as Jharkhand chief minister.
- DMK MPs A. Raja, 49, and Kanimozhi, 45, were arrested and jailed in the 2G scam, the latter accused of accepting a bribe of Rs 214 crore.
- Congress MP Naveen Jindal, 43, was made an accused by the CBI in the coal scam and charged with misrepresenting facts to gain access to mines.
- Jaganmohan Reddy, 40, of YSR Congress has been in jail for more than a year on charges of embezzlement and disproportionate assets running into crores.
- The NCP's Supriya Sule, 44, though not booked for any offence, has been embroiled in unseemly controversies, ranging from IPL to Lavasa.
- BJP's Ashok Argal, 44, a member of the present Lok Sabha as well, is being tried for the cash-for-votes scandal that rocked the last one.
- BJP's Faggan Singh Kulaste, 54, accused in the same case, lost his Lok Sabha seat in 2009 but was elected to the Rajya Sabha in 2012.
One cannot remember the last time—or the first time—a young MP made a fine and stirring speech in Parliament. Congress scion and inheritor of the 'illustrious' Nehru-Gandhi legacy, Rahul Gandhi has participated in a solitary debate. Akhilesh Yadav, 40, the present chief minister of UP and a former MP, never opened his mouth in the Lok Sabha. Nor has his wife Dimple Yadav, 35, who won a seat in the Lok Sabha in 2012. Overall, there are over 36 MPs who have not asked a single question in the 15th Lok Sabha.
Yet, the disappointment persists. Expected to be outspoken, or unconventional at least, the young MPs instead have singularly failed to make any impact on national policymaking or produce any out-of-the-box ideas. While corruption remains a major middle-class concern, the young MPs seem untouched by the debate. One of them actually told Outlook, "If you cite the list of corrupt nations brought out by Transparency International, why don't you see all other countries also suffer from the disease, that it is not unique to us?"
They also appear detached, if not divorced, from live issues. The failure of Rahul Gandhi and other young MPs to engage with protesters in the wake of the Delhi gangrape in December incensed many. It did not help matters that he was spotted at upscale Khan Market a day before Christmas.
It is unrealistic, says C.P. Bhambri, professor emeritus at JNU, to expect elected representatives to rush into an unpopular public stand against khaps and caste. No politician, he points out, can afford to speak out against organised interest groups, given the competitive demands of electoral politics. Professor Jagpal Singh from IGNOU agrees, saying swimming against the tide is easier said than done.
The young MPs, though, did rally around Ashok Tanwar, 37, a first-time MP from Sirsa, Haryana, from a Dalit family, who overcame opposition to marry the granddaughter of former president Shankar Dayal Sharma, a Brahmin and a divorced mother of two. It perhaps had to do with the fact that many other young MPs—such as Manish Tewari, 47; and Sachin Pilot, 35—have also married outside their caste or religion.
However, none of them has taken caste head-on or even reacted in public to the Allahabad High Court's order this month banning caste rallies by political parties. It was left to 57-year-old Mayawati to demand, in an ironic riposte, that the judiciary also ban religious rallies by political parties. It leads Bhambri to chuckle: "Can the court ban Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi from sweeping the floor with a broom of gold and launching the rath yatra in Ahmedabad?"
What really should be the benchmark? The past, of course. JP and Lohia had a privileged upbringing, studied abroad and took part in the freedom struggle. But both of them spurned the softer option of joining the Congress after Independence. Chandra Shekhar, a Congress MP then and one of the original Young Turks, invited JP home for tea, defied Indira Gandhi and invited a prison term for himself. He was also one of the few MPs to publicly oppose Operation Bluestar.
By contrast, today's young MPs wear their privilege on their sleeves. Old-timers recall some of their generation would ensure they put on "ordinary or even soiled clothes" while visiting their constituencies. The youngsters, on the other hand, do not hesitate to flaunt expensive loafers, watches, designer clothes or sunglasses. Nor are they apologetic about going on holidays abroad or pursuing their own passion. For instance, Bhanwar Jitendra Singh, 42, takes photography seriously; 36-year-old Milind Deora's proficiency with the guitar is well-known and Anurag Singh Thakur, 38—once touted as the BJP's answer to Rahul Gandhi—has assiduously promoted cricket and IPL in Himachal Pradesh and is now facing a vigilance inquiry for the acquisition of land for the stadium in Dharamshala and a luxury hotel for cricketers. Even Jindal's LS website claims he pioneered the manufacture of the world's longest rail and installed "the beam blank caster and H-beam rolling mill for the first time in India".
None of this detracts from their babalog image. "They have had it too easy and you can see that they have done f**k-all," says former railway minister Dinesh Trivedi. Many also resent the young MPs because they are well-off and because their personal assets seem to be growing disproportionately fast. One of the MPs, for example, recorded a 1,700 per cent rise in his personal assets between 2004 and 2009 while another recorded a rise of over 1,200 per cent. The remarkable "returns" seem to confirm the popular belief that politics is lucrative "business" which is why even the privileged and scions of political families are flocking to it.
The BJP's Janardhana Swamy, 45, the first alumnus of the prestigious Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, to become an MP, was deemed to be a rising star. But he sullied his record by falsely claiming that he had no house in the city to acquire 4,000 square feet of land under the chief minister's quota. "Politics changed the man who had promised to change policy," said a local newspaper.
Nishikant Dubey, 44, described as the 'Essar Man from Jharkhand' and a Rajnath Singh loyalist, is better known for arranging private planes for "third-rung party leaders". He is also the unlikely MP who's been writing letters to the CVC, CBI and the PMO on the Jet-Etihad deal and had accused IFFCO managing director of colluding with Ram Vilas Paswan in the last election.
The high-profile BJP MP from the eastern state had declared personal assets worth Rs 11 crore in 2009, but apparently has little time or interest for his own constituency in the backwaters of Santhal Pargana. He was, however, quoted famously as saying that he was preparing a '100-year plan' for his constituency Godda.
However, for each such 'bad' example, there are enough good young men at work. Sachin Pilot, described as the MP who never smiles; Jyotiraditya Scindia, 42; and Jitin Prasada, 30, have acquitted themselves well, both in Parliament and in their ministries. Many young MPs are also popular in their constituencies. They are personable, proactive and lead a well-oiled team to engage with people. Jindal personally calls up village heads while Hooda's computer-savvy team monitors all developments in his Jat belt. Explains Jayant Chaudhary, 37, RLD MP from Mathura, "There is a lot of pressure on the MP from constituents. Unlike in the past, everyone has a mobile phone now and everyone feels free to call up and demand the MP's presence at social and public occasions. One has to spend a lot more time in the constituency and move from door to door."
Says Nitai Mehta, head of the Praja Foundation, "Although many of these MPs come from political families and seem to be promoting dynasties, the fact remains that people have elected them." "Coming from a political family is certainly an advantage," agree Hooda, Hamdulla Sayeed, 31, and Jayant. "But when you win a second or a third term, you prove that there is more to you than just blue blood," quips Hooda Jr. Most of them continue to toe the line of the elders in the family, dependent as they are on the seniors to win their elections.
"One reason why they may not be effective," says Mehta by way of explanation, "is because political parties don't encourage young people in Parliament.". Sayeed, the youngest MP in the Lok Sabha, agrees. India, he says, has a culture of revering the old and he often finds the bureaucracy dismissive of youth and "inexperience" of young MPs like him.
There are structural changes too. The younger lot contends that with regional parties governing many of the states, the earlier convention of consulting MPs and involving them in decision-making is no longer followed. Chief ministers of states now rarely consult MPs, especially if they belong to parties other than their own, thus reducing the consensus-building ability of the MPs. What worries Hooda is the divisive character of politics. "We may have differences on 10 issues but surely we can agree on three," he muses and wonders why different political parties can't come together more often. An overreaching judiciary, a largely negative media and a passive unaccountable bureaucracy, to him, are the other worrying areas.
Rahul Gandhi, generally accused of promoting spoilt brats from political families, also chose Tanwar from Haryana, Meenakshi Natarajan, 40, from Madhya Pradesh, Pradeep Majhi, 37, from Orissa and Manicka Tagore, 38, from Tamil Nadu—none of whom had political godfathers. Majhi, in fact, came first in Rahul's Talent Search Programme while Tagore, Tanwar and Natarajan, among a host of other young MPs, actually came up through student politics or the Youth Congress.
Reclusive Natarajan, who keeps the media at arm's length after the fiasco with the private member's bill she moved last year to gag the media, is said to have caught Rahul's eye with her spirited counter to Uma Bharati's campaign against cow slaughter. To highlight the hypocrisy of the BJP, which has never demanded a ban on cow slaughter in states like Goa or Nagaland, Natarajan is credited with coining the controversial slogan, Gau hamari mata hai, Atal Behari khata hai, effectively putting an end to Bharati's programme.
In politics, says NCP MP Sameer Bhujbal, 39, "you have no choice but to perform". Is the country being too harsh in judging them and perhaps too hasty? While it is difficult to come across a kind word for the young MPs from others, Chakshu Roy of Delhi-based think-tank PRS strikes a note of caution: "Even for those who have served as MLAs in assemblies, the Lok Sabha can be daunting.". For the sake of the nation in a hurry, one hopes the young MPs will rediscover their voice and find their moral footing.
By Uttam Sengupta with Prachi Pinglay-Plumber in Mumbai
The Ranbaxy whistleblower was also a disappointed -with- system expat. In his case it was the private sector.
The Indian way? No way
System defeats scientist return
New Delhi, July 27: Defeated and tired, Shreemanta Parida sat in aisle seat 25G of the Frankfurt-bound Lufthansa flight out of India and struggled to understand how his homecoming had turned into humiliation.
The doctor-turned-medical scientist wondered if there was something — anything — he could have done differently to avoid losing, as he just had, two years of his life in India.
By the time the Boeing 747 had reached European skies, Parida had converged on something he had told himself over and over again during the previous eight weeks: that he was the victim and had done right in quitting.
The non-resident Indian scientist, appointed two years ago as chief executive officer of a government vaccine research programme, resigned last month and returned home to Berlin, saying India's science bureaucracy had prevented him from working.
Scientists familiar with Parida's plight say his 25-month stay in India is a tale of how an entrenched science bureaucracy stonewalled a newcomer, senior administrators failed to curb the harassment, and good intentions deteriorated into bitter acrimony.
India's department of biotechnology (DBT) had, after an international headhunt, hired Parida to lead its Vaccine Grand Challenge Programme (VGCP) and accelerate the development of new vaccines for dengue, malaria, TB and other infections.
Parida was expected to guide the programme through new policies and research initiatives. But the scientist, who had returned to India after 22 years overseas — in Geneva, Oxford, Berlin and elsewhere — complains his own DBT colleagues handicapped and harassed him in multiple ways.
In emails to senior DBT officials, Parida has indicated he was denied access to VGCP documents and kept out of meetings while the programme's initiatives were run by someone he described as a "shadow" scientist-bureaucrat. Parida did not get any office infrastructure, computer, staff or even an official email address, and his salary was held back for months, he says.
"It was humiliating," Parida told The Telegraph from Berlin. He said he had pleaded several times with then DBT secretary Maharaj Kishan Bhan for intervention that would allow him to carry out the tasks he had been hired for.
Two senior DBT scientist-bureaucrats who played a role in picking Parida said the decision to hire him had been a mistake. They spoke on condition of anonymity.
"It was not a good hire; the process for operationalising his position was not well thought through," one of them said. The other official claimed Parida had not done any work assigned to him.
Current DBT secretary Krishnaswamy VijayRaghavan, who took over nearly 20 months after Parida's appointment, said Parida was "an accomplished researcher".
"Sometimes, though, particularly in a new and complex environment for a new recruit, things don't take off as they should, and it is important to accept that this happens and move on rather than be mired in recriminatory debate."
A panel of DBT officials and an independent scientist will meet next week "to understand better what went wrong".
But email correspondence, documents and interviews with scientists in the DBT and other institutions suggest that differences of opinion and friction between Parida and DBT adviser T.S. Rao erupted into confrontation. The correspondence indicates Rao declined to share key VGCP papers with Parida.
Trouble also emerged with Parida's attempt to steer the VGCP along directions mandated by its own guidelines. He wanted to discourage funding of individual, piecemeal projects and to promote "theme-based" research where multiple teams collaboratively engage with different aspects of the challenges to vaccine development.
Yet, the DBT went ahead with tradition, inviting proposals for individual research projects. "The call for proposals went out without my knowledge," Parida said.
During his DBT tenure, Parida found himself invited to several international scientific meetings. In December 2012, the Karolinska Institute in Sweden invited him to an exclusive think-tank meeting to discuss new concepts in TB research.
"Your work in TB immunology and clinical implementation has been groundbreaking and set a new paradigm on how to diagnose or treat patients," the institute wrote in its invitation note.
In contrast, the DBT did not even inform him of an internal meeting on TB in April this year, Parida said.
Parida, who pursued medical research after getting an MBBS from Cuttack, had helped conduct one of the world's largest trials on a therapeutic vaccine against leprosy in Uttar Pradesh during the early 1990s.
After his PhD, he moved to the WHO in Geneva for research and training in immunology. He spent four years at Oxford, a year in Brussels, and was in Berlin for five years, leading an international research consortium to hunt for hidden biomarkers for TB.
In a note to DBT secretary VijayRaghavan this year, Parida wrote he had joined the VGCP with a "passion to serve the homeland" but added: "For reasons unknown to me, I have not been empowered yet to function for the position (I was) recruited for."
"When there is interpersonal friction, mechanisms must be in place for senior administrators to step in and mediate. As this apparently did not happen… the DBT's reputation… suffers," Trinad Chakraborty, director of the Institute of Medical Microbiology in Giessen, Germany, said over the phone.
A DBT document suggests Rao had said in a note on November 27, 2011, that "Parida is not discharging the duties and responsibilities as CEO in a manner desired by (the) DBT and has not fulfilled the purpose for creation of this post".
Following this, then DBT secretary Bhan set up a committee of three scientists to review Parida's performance and hand in their report by November 30, 2012.
But two of the three scientists told this newspaper the DBT never followed up on the communication and the panel never met. The third, neurosurgeon Prakash Tandon, said he did not recall even being told he was on this panel.
The DBT declined to respond to queries why Parida's salary had been withheld for several months and why the DBT's displeasure with his performance had not been officially communicated to him at any point during his tenure.
When he joined the DBT in May 2011, Parida had returned to India alone, leaving his wife and school-going son back in Berlin. "For some reason, I had apprehensions and didn't want to uproot them," Parida said. "I'm so glad I didn't."
Monday, July 29, 2013
Check out this link, Iqbal: tHANKS i MISSED IT!! iQBAL
- Raise your words, not your voice. It is rain which grows flowers, not thunder.– Jalaluddin Rumi
Florida schools chief and staff 'raised grades from 'C' to 'A' at charter school run by prominent Republican donor'
- Emails showed Bennett discussing with staff the legality of changing just Christel DeHaan's grade
- Christel DeHaan has given more than $2.8 million to Republicans since 1998, including $130,000 to Bennett
- Grades determine how much state funding schools receive
- Low grade also detract from a neighborhood and drive homebuyers elsewhere