New Mexico attorney general charges secretary of state with corruption


Hector Balderas at Navajo Nation Police Headquarters

New Mexico’s Democratic attorney general on Friday charged Republican secretary of state Dianna Duran with embezzlement, fraud, money laundering and campaign finance violations, further widening a rift between the two over enforcement of the state’s laws governing campaigns.

Attorney general Hector Balderas’ office filed the 64-count complaint…in state district court in Santa Fe…

The attorney general’s investigation stemmed from a confidential tip received in July 2014. Duran was accused of funneling contributions intended for her campaign into personal accounts for her own use.

According to the complaint, the investigation centred on deposits of large amounts of cash as well as campaign contributions into both personal and campaign accounts controlled by the secretary of state. The movement of money often culminated with cash expenditures at casinos throughout the state, the complaint states.

Investigators obtained subpoenas for multiple casinos where Duran withdrew cash. Records show those electronic debits totaled more than $282,000 in 2014 alone. Another $147,641 was withdrawn in 2013.

The complaint also cites a series of detailed bank transactions as well as donations from supporters, calling into question Duran’s campaign finance reports.

I have no knowledge whatsoever where the tip came from. BUT – I almost wager dollars to donuts it involves the good old Bank Secrecy Act. Among other requirements, banks must report suspicious transactions to law enforcement.

In addition to the numerous felony and misdemeanour embezzlement and money laundering charges, Duran also faces counts of tampering with public records, conspiracy and violating the state’s Governmental Conduct Act…

Republican governor Susana Martinez said she has talked with Balderas about the charges against the secretary of state.

“These allegations are deeply troubling and concerning, and all relevant state agencies have and will continue to assist the attorney general throughout the process,” Martinez said in a statement…

State law requires that candidates’ reports list donations and expenditures. The public documents are also supposed to list the donations’ sources.

Balderas said his office had received only one criminal referral from the secretary of state for a violation of the reporting law.

A review by the Daily Times newspaper in Farmington also showed that Duran’s office collected only 4% of roughly 2,000 fines imposed on candidates during the 2012 and 2014 primary and general elections…

Duran, a former Otero County clerk and state lawmaker, is serving her second term as the state’s top elections official. She was the first Republican to be elected to the office in eight decades, inheriting an agency that had been plagued by scandal.

A stellar example of the inbuilt failings of our 2-party farce.

New Mexico voters – including many independents and progressives like me – voted for Duran as the only choice offered as an alternative to a Democrat Secretary of State notorious for her own corruption. The only reason she stayed in office was a Democrat AG – from one of our political royal families – who deliberately stalled out her indictments and trial until she could claim lack of timely due process and charges finally has to be dropped.

So, the Republicans offered up an alternative in Duran – when we would have voted for a prairie dog as an alternative to what Democrats offered.

What did we get? The same old, same old. More corruption, money laundering, embezzling payoffs. What do we need? An open primary system like those in many Western democracies, like the system used in California. We haven’t any independents or Greens capable of building a grassroots base for a 3rd or 4th party. At least let us have a primary system where the occasional Bernie Sanders-style independent might be allowed to run and win.

The corruption, liaison between thieves and reactionaries representing every interest but workers and working class families, has given us 2-party indoctrination for so many decades in American politics, young people must think real democratic participation is a foreign invention. To be feared, not embraced.

I’d love to be able to think of Election Day as an opportunity – not a half-hearted defense against the evil of two lessers.

How much produce is tossed because it’s not pretty enough?

Nobody’s perfect. So why do we expect our fruit to be?

The old saying goes, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” So why do we do it when it comes to food?

Have you ever noticed how nearly all the fruits and veggies you see in most grocery stores look kinda … perfect? It turns out that not all produce grows into perfect, uniformly shaped foodstuffs. In fact, a good chunk of produce might be considered downright ugly.

But you know what’s truly ugly? The huge amount of food that gets thrown out simply because grocery stores don’t think it looks good enough for us to buy…

Think about it: 30% to 40% of food is wasted (depending on whether you look at post-farmed or pre-farmed). One tomato packing house can fill dump trucks with 22,000 pounds of rejected tomatoes every 40 minutes. And a citrus-packer estimates that as much as 50% of the produce they handle is unmarketable but totally edible.

Estimates show that 1 in 7 Americans do not have reliable access to nutritious, affordable food…

Let’s be real. When it comes to nutrition, looks don’t really matter — it’s what’s on the inside that counts…

This concept is far from new. In 2013, a supermarket’s Inglorious fruits and vegetables campaign in France proved so successful that the availability of uglies for purchase quickly shot up throughout Europe.

Even before the Inglorious campaign I was part of earlier efforts to defeat marketing standards in Europe that made it illegal to distribute and sell unattractive fruit and veggies. Lobbyists from the largest supermarket chains worked with agribusiness growers who could afford to spoil and waste half of what they produced to offer only the “perfect” plum, the sexiest squash.

And the EU made anything else – not allowed.

Inglorious kicked things over the edge and made the difference. Let’s hope we can have as much success with campaigns like @uglyfruitsand veg.

Coastal conservatives need new places to hide their heads – Sea level rising faster


Click to enlarge — this ain’t the future, this is Miami in June 2014

Ocean levels on Earth have risen an average of three inches in the last 23 years, and could rise an additional three feet in the next century, according to an interdisciplinary NASA team charged with measuring changing sea levels.

Scientists from NASA Wednesday presented satellite data gathered since 1992 that measured ocean levels rising at an average of 3 millimeters per year. The findings pointed to thermal expansion caused by warming ocean temperatures, as well as melting ice sheets and glaciers, as the reasons for the rise — and scientists warned that the rate at which sea levels are climbing is accelerating.

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change made a comprehensive assessment of rising sea levels in 2013, with climate experts stating that oceans would rise from one to three feet by the end of the century.

But NASA said Wednesday that satellite data gathered since then has shown that sea levels will climb to the higher end of that range, though it will be difficult to predict exactly how long it will take to reach that level.

Along with partners from French space agency Centre National d’Études Spatiales, the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT) and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NASA has been tracking changing sea levels and the melting of ice sheets and glaciers using satellites equipped with highly sensitive instruments.

Mike Freilich, director of NASA’s earth science division in Washington, explained that the satellites were so accurate that they would be able to detect the movement of a dime lying on the ground from 40,000 feet above it.

The scientists said that melting ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica have been contributing to rising sea levels sooner and more significantly than they had anticipated…

Sea levels don’t rise uniformly across the planet, and in some places — particularly on the West coast of the U.S. — they are actually declining due to natural cycles of ocean currents. The scientists expect sea levels in those regions to catch up, and perhaps to exceed global average sea levels.

People need to understand that the planet is not only changing, it’s changed,” said NASA scientist Tom Wagner…

Researchers noted that with the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets melting, it will be difficult for scientists to predict when sea levels will rise as a result because they have never actually witnessed the collapse of an ice sheet.

This will not bother the folks who not only never witnessed a conversation with a burning bush – they can’t find scientific record of such an occurrence. But, they still believe.

The same cultural rejection of science and scientific research that justifies superstition makes it easy to place the fate of future generations in the hands of politicians who make the same noises as your grandparents. And that’s true whether your rationale is defined in terms of ideology, religion or just something your favorite demagogue said, last Thursday on the radio.

New theory leads to ‘radiationless revolution’


Click to enlargeAnapole Visualization by Andrey Miroshnichenko

Physicists have found a radical new New theory leads to ‘radiationless revolution’: Physicists have found a radical new way confine electromagnetic energy without it leaking away, akin to throwing a pebble into a pond with no splash…

The theory could have broad ranging applications from explaining dark matter to combating energy losses in future technologies.

However, it appears to contradict a fundamental tenet of electrodynamics, that accelerated charges create electromagnetic radiation, said lead researcher Dr Andrey Miroshnichenko from The Australian National University…

“This problem has puzzled many people. It took us a year to get this concept clear in our heads,” said Dr Miroshnichenko, from the ANU Research School of Physics and Engineering.

The fundamental new theory could be used in quantum computers, lead to new laser technology and may even hold the key to understanding how matter itself hangs together.

“Ever since the beginning of quantum mechanics people have been looking for a configuration which could explain the stability of atoms and why orbiting electrons do not radiate,” Dr Miroshnichenko said.

The absence of radiation is the result of the current being divided between two different components, a conventional electric dipole and a toroidal dipole (associated with poloidal current configuration), which produce identical fields at a distance.

If these two configurations are out of phase then the radiation will be cancelled out, even though the electromagnetic fields are non-zero in the area close to the currents.

Dr Miroshnichenko, in collaboration with colleagues from Germany and Singapore, successfully tested his new theory with a single silicon nanodiscs between 160 and 310 nanometres in diameter and 50 nanometres high, which he was able to make effectively invisible by cancelling the disc’s scattering of visible light.

This type of excitation is known as an anapole (from the Greek, ‘without poles’).

Um, OK. Like any physics including the word “quantum” – I usually end up asking SmartAlix to explain it to me. Which he does at least once a year.

Understanding lasts about 5 minutes in this old brain of mine.

SuperHero of the day


Meet “Buddie” – who consumes only the best buds

Metropolis has Superman, Gotham City has Batman, and now Ohio has a superhero of its very own. However, some critics wish it were somebody else — anybody else.

Meet Buddie, the caped crusader enlisted by ResponsibleOhio to aid in the fight to legalize marijuana in the Buckeye State. You’ll recognize him by his green-and-white costume, marijuana leaf-like gloves, washboard abs, half-closed eyes and blinding smile. Oh, and by the enormous marijuana bud that serves as his head.

He’ll probably never volunteer for anyone’s army. Unless Uncle Sugar is planning on invading somewhere with a long green growing season.

Groundbreaking for Colorado’s largest solar farm


Same old stodgy photo opportunity — progressive results

Renewable Energy Systems Americas will construct Colorado’s largest solar farm, one that backers say will produce electricity more cheaply than natural gas-powered sources.

Broomfield-based RES expects to employ 300 to 400 workers to build the Comanche Solar project, which broke ground…7 miles south of Pueblo…

SunEdison, the world’s largest developer of renewable energy projects, raised $253 million for the project and will run the solar farm with four employees once it is operating.

The farm’s 500,000 panels will stretch across about 1,000 acres, with a capacity of 156 megawatts that will generate enough power to supply 31,000 homes, said Paul Gaynor, an executive VP with SunEdison…

Several factors contribute to lowering the project’s price tag and making it cost competitive with natural gas generation, Gaynor said. Those include economies of scale, existing roads in the area, and “plug-and-play” access to transmission lines serving a nearby power plant.

Public Service Company of Colorado, a subsidiary of Xcel Energy, has signed a 25-year purchase agreement with SunEdison…

Gaynor said SunEdison has additional wind and solar projects that it can bring forward when utilities in the state want to purchase more power generation.

Smart people in educated states keep on making smart long-range choices. Even while the most reactionary politicians on the planet keep on trying to turn energy-production back to the Dark Ages of King Coal.

70 years after end of World War 2 – Okinawa protests new US military base


Click to enlargeJiji Press/AFP

Polls consistently show Okinawans and, increasingly, mainland Japanese are opposed to replacing Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, a sprawling military base in the south of the island, with a new facility in the rural Henoko district of Nago in northern Okinawa. Referred to as Henoko, the Futenma Replacement Facility (FRF) is planned to have multiple helipads, 5,900-foot dual runways, an ordnance depot, a fuel depot and an 892-foot pier capable of docking amphibious assault ships.

In May 35,000 Okinawans gathered to protest the Henoko base plan, days before Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga led a delegation to the United States to express opposition to Washington. Their demands, however, fell on deaf ears. U.S. and Japanese officials insist a new facility near Henoko Point in Oura Bay is “the only solution” to alleviating decades of tension stemming from the U.S. military presence.

Today, 43 years after the U.S. returned Okinawa to Japanese control, the U.S. maintains 32 U.S. military bases and installations plus 48 restricted air and ocean training sites on the island.

But, we are a peaceloving nation, friendly to everyone in Asia. Our politicians tell us so.

L.A. County politicians didn’t get the drought memo – I guess

Despite a devastating four-year drought that has forced strict water conservation measures across California, most Los Angeles County supervisors still have their cars washed two or three times a week…

The multiple weekly car washes carry on despite Governor Jerry Brown’s admonitions to Californians to take shorter showers and stop watering their lawns and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s own “Save the Drop” campaign, according to the Los Angeles Daily News.

The five supervisors can either collect a car allowance or have the county buy them a vehicle, which is washed, maintained and kept fueled at taxpayer expense.

The Daily News determined through public service records that two of the supervisors, Don Knabe and Michael Antonovich, have their SUVs washed by county workers an average of twice a week and that a third, Mark Ridley-Thomas, has his car cleaned three times a week.

The remaining two, Sheila Kuehl and Hilda Solis, wash their cars about once a week…Ridley-Thomas, Knabe and Antonovich actually increased the frequency of their car washes after the governor ordered the first statewide mandatory water restrictions in April, directing cities and communities to reduce their water usage by 25 percent…

Unlike many commercial car washes, the county’s facilities do not use recirculated water, the Daily News said.

The supervisors declined to answer questions from the Daily News about the car washing.

How about admitting they’re foolish, self-serving jerks? How about stopping the silliness immediately?

How about adopting practices already part of the daily lives of sensible Californians?

Kentucky lets clerk deny marriage licenses to gay couples despite court order


Karen Roberts and April Miller, denied marriage license by religious bigotAP/Timothy D. Easley

A gay couple was denied a marriage license for the third time in Kentucky on Thursday, after a Rowan county clerk refused to obey a federal court order telling her to comply with the law.

James Yates and William Smith Jr said that officials at Rowan County courthouse, led by clerk Kim Davis, refused to provide the couple with the paperwork for a marriage license on Thursday.

“It’s just making us want to press more,” Yates told the Courier-Journal. “She can’t get away with this.”

One of Smith’s deputies told the couple that the county clerk believes she can refuse to issue licenses until 31 August. The couple plans to return to the office the next day.

Same-sex marriage became legal nationwide on 26 June, but Davis is one of a handful of people who refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. She did not come out of her office and declined to comment to reporters…

On Wednesday, a federal appeals court upheld a lower court’s ruling ordering Davis to issue marriages for gay couples and denied her request for a stay while courts heard her appeals

Two same-sex couples and two straight couples sued Davis in July. A US district judge then ordered her to issue marriage licenses, but delayed his order so she could appeal against the decision with the US sixth circuit court of appeals. The court on Wednesday denied her request to stay the district judge’s decision.

Theocratic dolts who hold office founded on the US Constitution – and refuse to uphold constitutional rights, decisions made binding by the ultimate constitutional court in the land – should be removed from office.

I don’t really care if the excuses they offer for violating their oath of office are based on religion, racism or what the tooth fairy whispered into their tiny brain last night. Either they lied when they took office, required to meet public standards of conduct – or they have since decided to reject the Constitution of the United States and civil law. Whatever. They should be launched into the ranks of Kentucky’s unemployed and left to find an honest job.