Man on the Spot #36: Wealth disparities, Pete Seeger RIP, mortgage fraud and more

Posted by on March 30, 2014 in Blog | 0 comments


Report Finds Punctuality Trumps Safety at Metro-North


The railroad administration placed an emphasis on Metro-North’s training procedures and the relative inexperience of employees at its control center.

About half of the dispatching work force has less than three years of experience, the report said, and managers receive no formal training in how to perform operational testing for rail traffic controllers.

G.O.P. Moving to Ease Its Stance on Sentencing


Image: Wikipedia Commons

Image: Wikipedia Commons

Like several of the Republicans who have changed their minds on the issue, Mr. Paul has a personal story that helped shape his position. The brother of a good friend, he said, is unable to vote today because 30 years ago he was convicted of growing marijuana — a felony.

Some longtime supporters of overhauling the federal sentencing and prison systems wish Republicans had come to see their way sooner. But they still marvel at the turnaround.

As Living Standards Fall for Seniors, Some See Signs of ‘Silver Revolution’


BEFORE Boston police detained Ann A. Stewart last August, she had a clean record. But she vows not to wait long, certainly not another 89 years, to become a repeat offender.

Ms. Stewart, 89, a retired hospital employee, was arrested while chanting slogans with a few co-conspirators from inside an imitation jail cell to protest the doubling of the local paratransit fare to $4. Protest organizers erected the fake prison in the middle of the city’s busy Stuart Street to symbolize the fare increase’s effect on disabled riders on fixed incomes, and to block traffic. Ms. Stewart’s arresting officer — “a very nice young man,” she recalled — did not place her in handcuffs and let her keep her cane.

Mae Keane, Whose Job Brought Radium to Her Lips, Dies at 107


Like other young women working at the Waterbury Clock Company in Connecticut the 1920s, Mae Keane was taught a specific technique for applying paint to the numbers on wristwatch dials: Put the tip of the tiny brush between your lips to shape the bristles into the finest of points.

It was not regular paint. It was made with a relatively new material that most people did not know much about, something called radium. Watchmakers liked it because it glowed in the dark. Later, it became clear that it killed.

Turning Coffee Into Water to Expand Business Model


What do shoes and coffee have in common?

Not much, it would seem — except in the hands of Blake Mycoskie, founder of Toms, the shoes found on feet around the world.

Mr. Mycoskie built his shoe empire selling one pair of inexpensive shoes and giving another pair away to a needy person, a model he also uses to sell eyeglasses.

303 Deaths Seen in G.M. Cars With Failed Air Bags


As lawmakers press General Motors and regulators over their decade-long failure to correct a defective ignition switch, a new review of federal crash data shows that 303 people died after the air bags failed to deploy on two of the models that were recalled last month.

Lunch on the Barricades

MARCH 12, 2014 Gail Collins

But the basic idea of providing healthy subsidized meals for public school students used to be universally accepted. Like Social Security, or federally funded bridge reconstruction. No more. These days, you can find vocal opposition to any federal program that gives something to poor people. Representative Jack Kingston of Georgia, who’s running for the Republican Senate nomination, has been arguing that kids who qualify for subsidized school meals should be required to do janitorial work in order to demolish the idea “that there is such a thing as a free lunch.”

U.S. Criticized for Lack of Action on Mortgage Fraud


Four years after President Obama promised to crack down on mortgage fraud, his administration has quietly made the crime its lowest priority and has closed hundreds of cases after little or no investigation, the Justice Department’s internal watchdog said on Thursday.

New Hampshire Nears Repeal of Death Penalty


“This is not Texas,” said Representative Keith Murphy, a Republican who supports the death penalty. “We are not executing prisoners every week.”

“If we let those who kill turn us into killers,” he said on the House floor, “evil triumphs, violence triumphs and things just get worse.”

Besides, he said, the death penalty “doesn’t do the one thing that we really want, and that’s to bring our loved ones back.”

A Relentless Widening of Disparity in Wealth

MARCH 11, 2014 Eduardo Porter

What if inequality were to continue growing years or decades into the future? Say the richest 1 percent of the population amassed a quarter of the nation’s income, up from about a fifth today. What about half?

To believe Thomas Piketty of the Paris School of Economics, this future is not just possible. It is likely.

McDonald’s Workers File Wage Suits in 3 States


McDonalds_Happy_Meals_Menu_BoardThe lawyers said most McDonald’s franchisees used software provided by the company that calculates employee-to-sales ratios and instructs restaurants to reduce staffing when sales drop below a certain level in any given hour. As a result, the lawyers said, some McDonald’s workers in the suit were ordered, upon reporting to work, not to clock in for an hour or two and instead wait until more customers arrived.

Darren Sharper Turns Himself In

Pro Football|Sports Briefing


The former All-Pro safety Darren Sharper surrendered to the Los Angeles police after being named in a warrant involving a rape case in New Orleans. Sharper, 38, is also under investigation in sexual assault cases in Florida, Nevada and Arizona and has pleaded not guilty to rape charges in Los Angeles.

After Dispute, Jets’ Geno Smith Is Asked to Leave Plane


Jets quarterback Geno Smith was asked to leave his flight at Los Angeles International Airport on Friday after a dispute with an attendant. Smith was questioned by the airport police in the gate area but was released without incident, the police said in a statement.

Dennis Rodman in Rehab


Dennis Rodman checked into an alcohol rehabilitation center, his agent said. The agent, Darren Prince, declined to say which center would treat Rodman and how long he would be there. Rodman recently returned to the United States from North Korea and apologized for comments about a detained missionary saying he had been under pressure as he organized an exhibition game there.

Juggling, an Unexpected Workout


I RECENTLY added juggling to the list of physical feats I can perform, along with standing on my head and hula-hooping. I had never fully appreciated how hard — and how much of a workout — it could be until attending a beginner’s workshop on a wintry Saturday afternoon at a studio in Chelsea. Nevertheless, the instructor, Heather Wolf, was confident that by the end of the session everyone would be able to perform this ancient circus art. Juggling provides a workout for your brain and body, Ms. Wolf said at the start of the 60-minute class. She cited a range of benefits, including improved concentration and coordination and stress relief. She also said we could burn up to 280 calories per hour.

Pete Seeger was ‘America’s tuning fork’

Bob Minzesheimer, USA TODAY 10:31 p.m. EST January 28, 2014

To Bruce Springsteen, Pete Seeger, the singer/songwriter/activist who died Monday at the age of 94, was “the father of American folk music.”

But Seeger, who popularized This Land Is Your Land and We Shall Overcome and wrote If I Had a Hammer and Turn, Turn, Turn, never liked the term folk music.

“It’s been defined as the ‘music of the peasants,’ ” Seeger told USA TODAY in a 2009 interview, “and then you get someone saying (of Seeger), ‘he’s no peasant!”’

Ohio Looks at Whether Fracking Led to 2 Quakes


Over the past decade, shale oil and gas production has been linked to earthquakes in Ohio, Arkansas, Oklahoma and other states, and in several countries. In most cases, however, the quakes were tied to disposal wells, in which wastewater from oil and gas production is injected under pressure into permeable rock formations. The water is thought to alter pressures underground and unclamp old faults, allowing them to slip.

Anderson Valley Advertiser, Boonville Ca. ‘Northern California Mendocino county news’

Valley People February 26, 2014 Letters to Editor

As most of us go into full drought mode, and spawning fish fight to get upstream in the low flows of The valley’s streams, the Goldeneye wine outfit sticks a three inch pipe into the Navarro near it confluence with the Rancheria and Indian Creek and proceeds to help itself to water, heedless of fish welfare.  When Goldeneye was still Duckhorn, they just as heedlessly placed a pond on top of a recognized archeological site.  A locally-owned winery would not do this kind of thing, I don’t think

A Valley Grape Grower called last week to complain that my article about grape growers and the drought reflected “A certain hostility towards our industry.”  And that the story failed to acknowledge what some Anderson Valley growers are doing to reduce water use while contributing to the support the local economy.  I replied that we were aware that there are some growers who were trying to do that right thing by practicing what they call “fish-friendly farming’ while they reduce pesticide use.  But we cited Chris Rock, who told a homeboy friend of his who complained that he wasn’t getting any credit for raising his kids and staying out of jail, “you want a cookie?  You’re supposed to do that, you dumb (so-in-so) ! Rock replied.  “You don’t get credit for doing what you’re supposed to do!”

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