Pandemic in the Solid South

…So far, about one in 10 deaths in the United States from COVID-19 has occurred in the four-state arc of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia, according to data assembled by the COVID Tracking Project, a volunteer collaboration incubated at The Atlantic. New Orleans is on pace to become the next global epicenter of the pandemic. The virus has a foothold in southwestern Georgia, and threatens to overwhelm hospitals in the Atlanta metropolitan area. The coronavirus is advancing quickly across the American South. And in the American South, significant numbers of younger people are battling health conditions that make coronavirus outbreaks more perilous…

All data in this stage of the pandemic are provisional and incomplete, and all conclusions are subject to change. But a review of the international evidence shows that, as far as we know, the outbreaks currently expanding in the American South are unique—and mainly because of how many people in their working prime are dying…

…In each state, older people are the majority of the people considered to be at risk of complications. But the Deep South and mid-South form a solid bloc of states where younger adults are much more at risk. In Arkansas, Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee, Louisiana, and Mississippi, relatively young people make up more than a quarter of the vulnerable population. Compare that with the coronavirus’s beachhead in Washington State, where younger adults make up only about 19 percent of the risk group.

You can read on, examine the discussion, cause and effect…education, healthcare, cultural backwardness. Say they’ll learn from experience? They voted for George Wallace, and they voted for Richard Nixon and they voted for Shit-for-Brains-Trump! Ignorance breeds ill-health and all the rest. Frankly, the folks in charge of the Solid South work best and hardest at not improving at anything.

Guilty verdict revoked for BC “terror” couple — “It was the police who were the leaders of the plot”


Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press

A British Columbia couple convicted of terrorism charges have had their verdicts tossed out in a scathing court decision that flays the RCMP for its “egregious” conduct in manipulating naive suspects into carrying out a police-manufactured crime…

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Catherine Bruce said the Mounties used trickery, deceit and veiled threats to engineer the terrorist acts for which John Nuttall and Amanda Korody were arrested on Canada Day three years ago.

❝ “The world has enough terrorists. We do not need the police to create more,” Bruce said in a landmark ruling Friday as she characterized the RCMP’s methods as “multi-faceted and systematic manipulation.”

“There is clearly a need to curtail the actions of police … to ensure that future undercover investigations do not follow the same path.”…

She described the pair as marginalized, socially isolated, former heroin addicts dependent on methadone and welfare to subsist and said they were “all talk and no action.”…

Without the heavy-handed involvement of undercover officers, it would have been impossible for Nuttall and Korody to articulate, craft and execute a terrorist bomb plot, Bruce said.

“Ultimately, their role in carrying out the plan was minuscule compared to what the police had to do,” Bruce said. “It was the police who were the leaders of the plot.”

Three previous attempts at entrapment defenses failed in Canadian courts. This is the first that succeeded. I think our batting average in the US isn’t that good. I believe there have been successful uses of the argument a few times. But, mostly, arrogant coppers and prosecutors have a pretty good success rate with agents provocateurs.

For decades.

States the most & least dependent on Federal Government

Dependent states
Click for large interactive map

The extent to which the average American’s tax burden would vary based on his state of residence represents a significant point of differentiation between state economies. But it’s only once piece of the puzzle.

What if, for example, a particular state can afford not to tax its residents at high rates because it’s receiving disproportionately more funding from the federal government than states with apparently oppressive tax codes? That would change the narrative significantly, revealing federal dependence where bold, efficient stewardship was once thought to preside.

The idea of the American freeloader burst into the public consciousness when #47percent started trending on Twitter. And while the notion is senselessly insulting to millions of hardworking Americans, it is true that some states receive a far higher return on their federal income tax investment than others.

Just how pronounced is this disparity, and to what extent does it alter our perception of state and local tax rates around the country? WalletHub sought to answer those questions by comparing the 50 states and the District of Columbia in terms of three key metrics: 1) Return on Taxes Paid to the Federal Government; 2) Federal Funding as a Percentage of State Revenue; and 3) Number of Federal Employees Per Capita.

Folks living in New Mexico know even without looking where we fit into this picture puzzle. Yup, tied with Mississippi at the bottom of the heap.

Our Republican governor is often spoken off as the hope for moderate Republicans as President or Vice-President in 2016. Right now, our education system battles with Mississippi for the honors of being the worst, unemployment is still increasing while the rest of the country seem to be growing a few jobs and here we are at the bottom.

Thanks, Barry Ritholtz

Army ready to waste $1.8 Billion for a rifle we don’t need

vote rand

The Army risks wasting as much as $1.8 billion developing a replacement for the M4 carbine that it may not need, according to the Pentagon’s inspector general.

The carbine replacement program is one the Army and Pentagon “may want to re-evaluate,” as the service is “seeking to acquire more rifles during a time when their total force structure will be reduced,” Lynne Halbrooks, principal deputy inspector general, said in a statement provided today to a House committee. The Pentagon plans to reduce Army ground forces to 490,000 by 2017 from about 560,000 in 2011…

The carbine replacement is among programs Halbrooks highlighted as having questionable value in the statement to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform…

The inspector general’s efforts are focused on deficiencies in financial management, acquisition processes, contract management, readiness, information technology security and equipping and training Iraq and Afghan security forces, according to a staff memo prepared for lawmakers.

The Army carbine program is an example of decisions the Pentagon and military services face in culling savings from the projected $27 billion expected to be spent in fiscal 2012 on major acquisition programs…

Halbrooks’s statement summarized areas of potential savings in financial and contract management completed by her agency such as the finding in 2011 of spare parts overpricing by Boeing and Sikorsky Aircraft to support the helicopter maintenance at the Army’s Corpus Christi depot in Texas.

Those overcharges, which were previously disclosed, are cases in which the Army “did not effectively use” existing inventory before buying overpriced parts from the contractors, Halbrooks wrote…

In other words, the Pentagon doesn’t manage its purchases up to the standards of, say, Home Depot.

Anyone holding their breath until Congress and our military brass hats pay attention to the Inspector General’s report? Or should we just wait for the follow-up report which will detail continuing corruption on behalf of the military-industrial complex we have all come to know and revere?

Blair learned his lessons well from Bush, didn’t he? $16 billion in U.K. tax fraud from lack of oversight

martin20schranks20blair20bush20cartoon

The head of Britain’s Work and Pensions department charges that fraud in the country’s tax-credit system has cost taxpayers more than $16.2 billion.

Ian Duncan Smith said a system of tax credits targeting lower-paid Britons is open to abuse because of the inadequate number of checks on those who receive the assistance, The Daily Telegraph reported Sunday.

In an article published in the newspaper, Smith wrote that Britain’s welfare bill rose 60 percent between 2003 and 2010, with nearly $278 billion disbursed during that period…

The tax credits are based on a person’s estimate of salary for the coming year. At the end of that year, tax collectors are supposed to compare the person’s actual earnings against the estimate and reclaim any overpayments.

Smith said the revenue department conducted only about 34,000 checks a year on individuals who received what were considered “high risk awards.”

Even those found to have been overpaid often have not repaid the money, he said.

Blair followed Bush’s best practices all the way from war to poverty. No oversight. No responsibility. Nothing achieved beyond death, destruction and deficit.

Greek claiming welfare for most children in the country – has none!

A former Greek policeman who invented 19 fictional offspring to claim benefits for what would have been the largest family in Greece has been arrested for benefit fraud…

The former police officer, divorced and with no children of his own, quit his 1,000-euro-a-month job in 2001 and has been living solely on benefits ever since, police said on Thursday. Using photographs of children he found online, the 54-year-old man forged birth certificates and other documents needed to claim benefits for at least one child a year since 1996.

Police estimate he made at least 150,000 euros in claims over 15 years, but the actual amount is probably much higher.

The fraud was so expert, police said, that they only realized something was amiss when they noticed his was the only Greek family with that many children. The average Greek family usually has two or three children.

Truly sharp coppers, eh?

“We have never seen a scam like this before,” said a police official who declined to be named…

The former policeman, who under Greek law cannot be named, was arrested Wednesday as he was about to collect 8,000 euros in benefits from an Athens branch of Greece’s employment agency OAED. He was taken to the prosecutor’s office Thursday.

Widespread fraud, a generous welfare state and a notoriously inefficient public sector have been blamed as root causes of Greece’s financial trouble that threatens to break apart the euro zone.

Relying on coppers who commit fraud themselves might be part of that equation, as well.

Alaska’s Permanent Fund gets more from Apple than Big Oil

The Alaska Permanent Fund sets aside a portion of oil revenue and gives some of that money back to Alaska citizens each year. This pool of money is also used to invest in the stock market, a practice that has proved to be quite lucrative.

A recent quarterly report from the company that manages the Fund reveals Apple and not oil revenue is the reason the Fund is growing. The Fund holds over 617,000 shares in Apple which were bought when Apple’s stock was much lower than its current US$391 per share. It’s initial $73 million investment is now worth $207 million. This jump has helped propel the Fund to a healthy $40.1 billion, its highest level ever.

The Fund also owns stock in IBM, EMC, Cisco, GE and others, but Apple is its largest single holding and its best performer.

Someone better tell Sarah she’s better off learning where Cupertino is – instead of Murmansk.

“Too ill to walk” – and caught on film skydiving

Claire Jones, 38, of Tonypandy, in the Rhondda Valley, south Wales, had claimed poor health left her unable to cook or even chop vegetables herself. In reality, she used a gym and went dancing with her partner and earned cash working in cafés…

An undercover investigation was launched by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) after an anonymous tip-off. It found Jones regularly checked into the fitness suite at her local leisure centre and used the gym, swimming pool and sauna.

She did a skydiving jump at Swansea Airport in October 2008 to raise cash for a cancer charity, Jonathan Holmes of the DWP told the court.

Investigators got their hands on a copy of the souvenir DVD presented to every skydiver who takes the 12,000ft plunge. It shows Jones lugging the heavy paraphernalia of a parachute on to a plane then doing a tandem jump with a professional…

Jones appeared in court today to admit two charges of failing to notify the authorities of a change in circumstances. The charges covered a period from April 2008 to August 2010.

Over that time she was given disability living allowance at the highest level and also received incapacity benefit for a bad back. She dishonestly claimed £6,016. About £900 had since been reclaimed by docking benefits she was still legitimately receiving.

Har.

Republicans say cut tsunami warnings instead of oil subsidies!


Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

Buried deep inside the GOP House of Representatives plan to trim the 2011 budget is a line item that will take $454 million away from the agency running the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.

Yes, that’s the same Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, one of two operated by a branch of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, that alerted the nation to a potentially deadly wave headed toward Hawaii and the California coast following the devastating earthquake off northern Japan last week.

House Republicans, who have been looking for ways to shave $61.5 billion from the 2011 federal budget, stress that they don’t want to specifically cut either of the warning centers — a network of ocean buoys and deep-water sensors that alert scientists to changes in ground movement and tide levels and could indicate a tsunami is on the way. They just think the parent agency has some fat to trim. The Republicans are also going after federal funding for climate change research and other environmental projects in their proposed cuts…

“Everyone knows that the government needs to cut spending, but this tsunami serves as an tragic reminder that Representative Dan Lungren and House Republicans made the wrong budget choices that can have real consequences for California families,” said Jesse Ferguson of the DCCC. “Instead of cutting taxpayer subsidies for Big Oil companies, Representative Dan Lundgren voted to slash the weather service that gives us critical early warnings in times of danger, like this one…”

“Nowhere have we indicated that we’re directing NOAA not to emphasize the services it provides for the safety, health and welfare of Americans,” said Eric Cantor. “I’m told that this point was raised by some employees at NOAA, who made it known that they didn’t believe the cuts were needed. Again, we all have to do more with less here…”

How much less is Cantor making do with in his lifestyle? Total staff salary for his office since his first year in office has gone from $621,655 to $1,145,591 for 2010. An 84% increase in 9 years.

The mission of the National Weather Service is to save lives and save property. But the funding to do that has already been reduced. Cutting the funding even more is going to potentially lead to loss of life,” said Dan Sobien, president of the National Weather Service Employees Organization. “I’m not trying to shock people, it’s just the truth.”

Sobien points to a need to invest in early warning technology that, for instance, can help increase the notice of impending tornados or spend money to revamp an overwhelmed web site that provides early weather alerts or put more weather satellites in the sky.

Republicans and their teabagger flunkies would rather direct increased profits into the pockets of oil companies and investment banks.

Nothing new about the practice. Nothing new about their lies.