Diageo latest to pull funding from anti-science Heartland Institute

Diageo, one of the world’s largest drinks companies, has announced it will no longer fund the Heartland Institute, a rightwing US thinktank which briefly ran a billboard campaign this week comparing people concerned about climate change to mass murderers and terrorists such as Osama bin Laden, Charles Manson and Ted Kaczynski…

The London-based drinks giant, which owns brands such as Guinness, Smirnoff, Johnnie Walker and Moët & Chandon, said this year that it was “reviewing any further association with Heartland” following the release online of internal Heartland documents which revealed its corporate donors as well as a plan to promote an alternative climate change curriculum in US schools. Following the widespread outcry triggered by Heartland’s billboards, a Diageo spokeswoman told the Guardian: “Diageo vigorously opposes climate scepticism and our actions are proof of this. Diageo’s only association with the Heartland Institute was limited to a small contribution made two years ago specifically related to an excise tax issue. Diageo has no plans to work with the Heartland Institute in the future.”

In February, a US scientist, Peter Gleick, admitted obtaining and publishing internal Heartland documents which showed that Diageo had given the thinktank $10,000 in 2010. The documents, one of which Heartland later claimed was a fake, said the thinktank was expecting another $10,000 from Diageo this year.

On Friday, Heartland, which is trying to promote its annual conference for climate sceptics phonies, to be held in Chicago this month, said it was withdrawing the billboard campaign. However, it refused to apologise, claiming the campaign was an “experiment”. Its website is still hosting the original press release, which includes the claim that the “most prominent advocates of global warming aren’t scientists. They are murderers, tyrants, and madmen.”

Microsoft, which has a policy of supplying free software to all non-profit organisations in the US, posted a blog on its website on Saturday distancing itself from Heartland. The thinktank received software from Microsoft worth $59,908 in 2011. The blog said: “Microsoft believes climate change is a serious issue that demands immediate, worldwide attention and we are acting accordingly … The Heartland Institute does not speak for Microsoft on climate change. In fact, the Heartland Institute’s position on climate change is diametrically opposed to Microsoft’s position. And we completely disagree with the group’s inflammatory and distasteful advertising campaign.”

In March, General Motors, the world’s largest carmaker, said it was ending its funding of Heartland after 20 years owing to the thinktank’s hardline climate scepticism.

The boycott is one of those traditional democratic means of expressing your contempt for corruption. Voting with your wallet, expressing disagreement with miserable low-life political fronts like Heartland by letting corporate sponsors know they will get to share the guilt.

Add this one in on top of the boycott of Rush Limbaugh sponsors for his misogynist bigotry — as another worthwhile action.

Conservative defeats in France and Greece are matched in Germany

Pirate Party’s Torge Schmidt casts his vote
Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

Angela Merkel’s coalition of Christian Democrats and liberal Free Democrats lost a state election in northern Germany on Sunday, a week ahead of a much bigger regional ballot further west.

The election, in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein bordering Denmark, brought gains for the opposition Social Democrats (SPD) and losses for Merkel’s CDU, while the Greens and newcomer Pirate party also fared well and the liberal FDP slumped.

The result sealed a miserable evening for Merkel, both at home and in Europe. France elected a president pledged to challenge the German leader on the central precepts of her eurozone crisis management strategy.

The Greek election threw up an uncertain and destabilising outcome likely to raise further questions about Greece’s ability to comply with the stringent terms of two eurozone bailouts. Merkel’s position in Europe has been weakened recently by the collapse of her allied government in the Netherlands. Last night she also lost her main European colleague, Nicolas Sarkozy.

The defeat in Schleswig-Holstein of the same coalition she heads at the German national level comes a week before a much bigger bellwether poll in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. The SPD and the Greens are also tipped to do well there…

The main opposition SPD gained almost five points to come within one point of the Christian Democrats. The Greens also gained slightly to about 15% while the maverick Pirates took 8% of the vote, complicating the attempts starting today to construct a viable new coalition. The haggling could take a while, with the favourite options being a Social Democrat-led government with the Greens and a small party representing the Danish minority, or Merkel’s CDU remaining in office in a “grand coalition” with the SPD…

The best of the political economics commentators I pay attention to – week by week through the Euro Zone wobblings – have been calling as much for refocused energy on growing the EU economy as anything else. Austerity can only accomplish so much in terms of stablizing a national or regional economy. It doesn’t do a damned thing for growth.

Some of the best minds around Wall Street and European markets know that. Not that politicians have ever been accused of having the best minds of any species.

Hollande defeats Sarkozy

Supporters of Francois Hollande fill the Place de la Bastille celebrating victory
Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

Socialist Francois Hollande swept to victory in France’s presidential election on Sunday in a swing to the left at the heart of Europe that could start a pushback against German-led austerity.

Hollande was set to beat conservative incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy by a decisive 51.9 percent to 48.1 percent margin, the TNS-Sofres polling agency said in a projection based on a partial vote count.

The president conceded defeat within 20 minutes of the last polls closing at 1800 GMT, telling supporters he had telephoned Hollande to wish him good luck.

“I bear the full responsibility for this defeat,” he said. Yup!

Sarkozy, punished for his failure to rein in record 10 percent unemployment and for his brash personal style, is the 11th successive leader in the euro zone to be swept from power since the currency bloc’s debt crisis began in 2009…

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No one expects Pakistan to reopen Afghan war supply routes soon

Fuel tankers crammed into a compound in Karachi
Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

As the Taliban kicks off its spring fighting season in Afghanistan, an agreement with Pakistan that would help NATO supply its troops there could be weeks or months away, forcing military leaders to spend two-and-a-half times as much to ship some supplies through Central Asia.

The Obama administration remains locked in negotiations with Pakistan to reopen the key supply routes into Afghanistan, and officials do not expect talks bogged down over proposed tariffs and U.S. military assistance to reach resolution anytime soon…

A deal is almost certainly impossible before May 20-21, when Obama will host NATO leaders in his hometown of Chicago. There, Western leaders will define plans for moving out of Afghanistan and for funding local troops they hope can contain a resilient insurgency when NATO withdraws…

A deal would require agreement on Pakistan’s proposal to impose tariffs on NATO supplies, including how tariffs would be formulated, where that money would go, and how the West would ensure those funds were being used appropriately.

Another issue stalling the talks is disagreement over how much the United States should reimburse Pakistan for counter-terrorism activity by Pakistani forces…

In a report released this week, the Defense Department warned that a prolonged closure of the supply routes could “significantly degrade” withdrawal operations as NATO nations try to establish a modicum of stability in Afghanistan before most of their troops are pulled out at the end of 2014…

“Certainly the domestic situation in Pakistan has a role to play” in the negotiations, the U.S. official said.

That’s putting it mildly. We’re paying off the leaders of a country – who have little control over that country. They haven’t civil management of much of the nation – especially those tribal portions sharing the border with Afghanistan.

That government’s own internal security apparatus, the ISI, manages an Islamist version of foreign and domestic policy which is not only counter to what Uncle Sugar is trying to achieve in traditional fumble-fingers fashion – they aren’t especially loyal to their own elected politicians.

What is being discussed in practice is how much of a bribe in US taxpayer dollars will be slipped to the paper leadership of Pakistan to aid us in our continuing war in Afghanistan. And in the process, occasionally kill off some of the tribal warlords who attack Pakistani soldiers as often as they do American and NATO forces. The dollar amount is all that counts.

Arizona – the Mississippi of the West – bans Planned Parenthood

Arizona’s governor – without her whips and chains

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer on Friday signed into law a bill banning abortion providers like Planned Parenthood from receiving money through the state, her office said in a statement.

The Republican-backed Whole Woman’s Health Funding Priority Act cuts off funding for family planning and health services delivered by Planned Parenthood clinics and other organizations offering abortions.

“By signing this measure into law…blah, blah, blah…” Brewer said in a statement…

But officials at Planned Parenthood Arizona, the state’s largest abortion provider, said the law means that thousands of women in the state may now go without life-saving cancer screenings, birth control and basic health care.

“We are most concerned about the women and men who could be forced to go without health care as a result of this bill,” Bryan Howard, Planned Parenthood Arizona’s president and CEO, said in a prepared statement.

“We remain committed to providing Arizona communities with the professional, nonjudgmental and confidential health care they have relied on for 78 years,” Howard said.

While Planned Parenthood suffered a setback in Arizona, it won a battle in court on Friday with Texas. A federal appeals court ruled that the organization could participate in a health program for low-income women in Texas, despite a new state rule there that bans affiliates of abortion providers.

The answer is, “of course”. Until and unless the ideological naysayers can overturn Roe v. Wade, everything they are doing to impede healthcare and services for women is only a part of their campaign to remove reproductive choices from American women. Regardless of the lies they repeat, this includes the whole range of choice from education and contraception to abortion.

Their conception of “values” is to take freedom away from other members of society. Removing someone’s right to choose is exactly that. These hypocrites who say they want to keep government out of peoples’ lives – try their damndest to have their own version of government intrude into everyone’s bedroom and body.

Hypocrites and self-deceiving liars.

Connecticut passes medical marijuana law

The Connecticut Senate passed a bill on Saturday legalizing the use of marijuana for medical purposes, with tight restrictions intended to avoid the problems that have plagued some of the other states where it is now legal.

After nearly 10 hours of debate, the Senate voted 21 to 13 in favor of the measure, which has already cleared the House.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, a Democrat, is expected to sign the bill. Once he does, Connecticut will join 16 other states and the District of Columbia in allowing the medical use of marijuana…

Under the bill, patients and their caregivers must register with the Department of Consumer Protection.

In addition, their doctors must certify that there is a medical need — for instance, debilitating diseases like cancer, glaucoma, AIDS, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis or epilepsy — for marijuana to be dispensed.

The medical marijuana would be dispensed only by pharmacists with a special license.

I don’t know if that last requirement is a bonus for cooperating pharmacists or a sop to Tea Party hypocrites. It’s certainly not needed.

We have one of the tightest medical marijuana growing and dispensing regimens in the United States here in New Mexico. And not much that could be called a problem aside from the whining sound from those who think every citizen should have a uniformed minder.

We’ve taken dispensing and growing down to licensing and oversight. We apply the same to approval of patients growing their own – after a while. Also regulated.

Still – it’s nice to see Connecticut join the growing ranks. There was a time when first offense for possession of one joint could get you up to seven years in the state pen up in Wethersfield.