The American Bear

Sunshine/Lollipops

Drone on the Range | Jim Hightower

… All we know is that Congress — under pressure from Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and other big drone peddlers — directed the Federal Aviation Agency earlier this year to open up civilian air space to thousands of them by 2015. And, in their wisdom, our loosey-goosey lawmakers provided no regulation of who can have drones, how many, or for what purposes.

So prepare to be pestered and monitored, for police agencies and corporate interests are said to be abuzz about getting their own. The first ones are expected to be used for high-altitude surveillance, which is worrisome enough. But consider this: A Texas sheriff’s office that has already bought a “ShadowHawk” drone says it might outfit the little buzzer to fire tear gas and rubber bullets.

No worries, though. The drone industry’s lobbying group has drafted a two-page code of conduct urging purchasers to “respect the privacy of individuals.”

How nice. Only, it’s a voluntary code — and totally unenforceable.

‘And tuition decisions seem to be driven more by profit-seeking than instructional costs,’ Lewin wrote. An internal memo from the finance director of a Kaplan nursing program in Sacramento, for example, recommended an 8 percent increase in fees, saying that ‘with the new pricing, we can lose two students and still make the same profit.’ The students who drop out are left to make loan payments without having gained any credentials. It is not surprising, then, that former students of for-profit schools account for 45% of college loan delinquencies.

New Report Reveals The Extent of For-Profit Colleges’ Corruption

FEDERAL FUNDING THE FOUNT OF PROFITS: Over 80% of the for-profit colleges’ revenue comes from taxpayers. Since veterans’ benefits do not count against a 90% ceiling on federal funding, veterans have become a target for for-profit college recruiters.

PROFITS EXCEED INSTRUCTIONAL COSTS: “Among the 30 companies, an average of 22.4 percent of revenue went to marketing and recruiting, 19.4 percent to profits and 17.7 percent to instruction,” reported Tamar Lewin in an excellent New York Times piece on the report.

New Report Reveals The Extent of For-Profit Colleges’ Corruption | Working In These Times

Cutbacks in public technical school and university programs have created new opportunities for for-profit colleges, which have skillfully used public money to churn displaced workers and other students through their machinery, leaving them worse off than before, according to the findings of a two-year investigation of 30 for-profit colleges released this week by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa).

The report from Harkin, chair of the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, confirms what Michael Rosen, president of American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Local 212 at Milwaukee Area Technical College, has been witnessing in recent years. Laid-off workers desperate for a new career, Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans hoping to re-start their lives, and recent high school graduates have all been frustrated by long waiting lines for programs at public technical schools and universities. Rosen has been a passionate critic of public technical-college cutbacks, the distortion of technical education as it falls under increasing corporate influence, and the growth of for-profit colleges like the University of Phoenix, Kaplan and others.

“The losers are students who are paying four to five times as much for a public education, but wind up with an inferior education that doesn’t help them in today’s job market,” Rosen says. “In this economy, we are seeing layoffs in every occupation—whether flight attendants or factory workers—so the number of people looking for training has increased, but the funding for technical schools has decreased. This leaves some people out [unable to find the program they want in public institutions], and these people are preyed upon by for-profit colleges.”

And Rosen notes it’s not only the students who are losing out, but also U.S. taxpayers. “The for-profit schools get over $32 billion or 80% of their revenue from federal funds via student loans and grants,” Rosen says. “They cash in on up to 25% of federal financial aid, but account for just 13% of college students.”

The HELP report makes for a thorough indictment of the for–profit college industry, which has expanded exponentially over the last few years. Enrollment more than tripled from 1998 to 2008 to about 2.4 million students. Fully three-quarters are enrolled at colleges owned by huge publicly traded companies with a mission of maximizing profit. Increasingly, private equity firms are buying into the industry. [Read this]

Shell Game in the Arctic | Subhankar Banerjee

"In late June, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said, ‘I believe there will not be an oil spill’ from Shell’s Arctic drilling, and proceeded full speed ahead. Know this: in 2011 alone in the Niger Delta of Nigeria, Shell reported 63 ‘operational spills’ due to equipment failure. That happened in a tropical environment."

No need to worry, though: Shell swears it’s dealing with the possibility of such a disaster, even to the point of bringing in dogs “to detect oil spills beneath snow and ice.” No joke. “When it comes to drilling for oil in the harsh and unpredictable Arctic,” the Guardian reported in March, “Shell has gone to the dogs, it seems. A dachshund and two border collies to be specific.”

The Obama administration has been no less reassuring. There will be a genuine federal inspector on board those drill ships 24/7. And whether you’re listening to the oil company or our government, you should just know that it’s all a beautiful dream, nothing more. When a spill happens, and it’s minus 35 degrees Fahrenheit, and the wind’s howling at 65 miles per hour, and sea ice is all around you and moving, the idea that a highly trained dachshund or federal inspector will be able to do a thing is pure fantasy. Believe me, I’ve been there under those conditions and if the worst occurs, this won’t be a repeat of BP in the Gulf of Mexico (bad as that was). Help will not be available.

[…] Hand Shell this for honesty: the company has admitted that, if a spill were to happen late in the summer drilling season (of course it won’t!), they will simply have to leave the spilled oil “in place” for nine months to do its damnedest. The following summer they will theoretically deal with what’s left of the spill, and — though they don’t say this — the possibility of a dead or dying sea.

Read the whole piece

While the blues were feeding in Monterey Bay, Shell’s drill ships, the Noble Discoverer and the Kulluk, were migrating north, with the hope of drilling for oil in those very waters this summer. Unlike the jubilant tourists, scientists, and residents of the California coast, the Iñupiat people of the Arctic coast are now living in fear of Shell’s impending arrival; and little wonder, as that oil giant is about to engage in what may be the most dangerous form of drilling anywhere on Earth. After all, no one actually knows how to clean up an oil spill that happens under the ice in the harsh conditions of the Arctic Ocean. Despite that, the Obama administration has been fast-tracking Shell’s dangerous drilling plan, while paying remarkably little attention to the ecological fears it raises and the potential devastation a major spill or spills would cause to the native peoples of the north. Subhankar Banerjee, Shell Game in the Arctic

The vital human resource of water is being privatized and marketed all over the country. In Pennsylvania and California, the American Water Company took over towns and raised rates by 70% or more. In Atlanta, United Water Services demanded more money from the city while prompting federal complaints about water quality. Shell owns groundwater rights in Colorado, oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens is buying up the water in drought-stricken Texas, and water in Alaska is being pumped into tankers and sold in the Middle East. Privatization: The Big Joke That Isn’t Funny

FAA Bill Speeds Path for More U.S. Drone Flights

Unmanned planes could soon become a more common presence in U.S. skies.

A broad funding bill for the Federal Aviation Administration, which was released this week and is expected to win final approval before the middle of February, for the first time establishes specific deadlines designed to speed up the widespread use of unmanned planes, or drones, across the U.S.

On Friday, the House passed the package in a 248-169 vote.

The bill calls for integrating a wide range of so-called unmanned aerial vehicles—operated by both governmental and corporate entities—with commercial and general aviation traffic across the nation’s skies by September 2015.

The war on terror is coming home.

(Source: azspot)

Arctic open for exploitation: Obama administration grants Shell approval to drill

Less than a year and a half after the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico,  the Obama administration has bucked warnings from environmentalists to  grant preliminary approval to oil giant, Royal Dutch Shell, to drill off  the Arctic coast. Exploratory drilling will occur just north of the  western edge of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in the  Beaufort Sea, home to bowhead and beluga whales, seals, walruses, polar  bears, and a wide-variety of migrating birds.
“This is a disaster  waiting to happen,” Holly Harris, an attorney with the environmental  group Earthjustice, said in a press release.
Environmentalists and  indigenous peoples living in the area have long fought drilling in the  US Arctic arguing that extreme conditions make drilling especially  precarious and an oil spill would be near-impossible to clean-up  adequately. But, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and  Enforcement (BOEMRE) granted permission, pending Shell’s completion of  an oil spill response plan.
Admiral Robert Papp, top officer with  the US Coast Guard, admitted last month that if a spill occurred in this  area, the Coast Guard lacks the infrastructure and equipment needed to  deal with a spill.
“If this were to happen off the North Slope of Alaska, we’d have nothing,” said Papp, as reported by Platts. “We’re starting from ground zero today.”
However,  Shell has stated that it has ‘the best oil-spill response plan anywhere  in the world’, and that it is ready for any problem. The company has  already invested more than $3.5 billion to drill in the Arctic ocean.  The drill sites in the Beaufort Sea will take place 20 miles off shore  in 160 feet deep water, which Shell says would allow divers access to  the wells if need be. In the midst of its victory in the Arctic, Shell  is expected to pay $1 billion to clean up decades of oil pollution in  Nigeria, where a new UN report found that the company did not live up to  its own, or the Nigerian government’s, standards. Shell admitted last  week to spilling 11 million gallons of oil in Nigeria in 2008.

Arctic open for exploitation: Obama administration grants Shell approval to drill

Less than a year and a half after the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the Obama administration has bucked warnings from environmentalists to grant preliminary approval to oil giant, Royal Dutch Shell, to drill off the Arctic coast. Exploratory drilling will occur just north of the western edge of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in the Beaufort Sea, home to bowhead and beluga whales, seals, walruses, polar bears, and a wide-variety of migrating birds.

“This is a disaster waiting to happen,” Holly Harris, an attorney with the environmental group Earthjustice, said in a press release.

Environmentalists and indigenous peoples living in the area have long fought drilling in the US Arctic arguing that extreme conditions make drilling especially precarious and an oil spill would be near-impossible to clean-up adequately. But, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) granted permission, pending Shell’s completion of an oil spill response plan.

Admiral Robert Papp, top officer with the US Coast Guard, admitted last month that if a spill occurred in this area, the Coast Guard lacks the infrastructure and equipment needed to deal with a spill.

“If this were to happen off the North Slope of Alaska, we’d have nothing,” said Papp, as reported by Platts. “We’re starting from ground zero today.”

However, Shell has stated that it has ‘the best oil-spill response plan anywhere in the world’, and that it is ready for any problem. The company has already invested more than $3.5 billion to drill in the Arctic ocean. The drill sites in the Beaufort Sea will take place 20 miles off shore in 160 feet deep water, which Shell says would allow divers access to the wells if need be. In the midst of its victory in the Arctic, Shell is expected to pay $1 billion to clean up decades of oil pollution in Nigeria, where a new UN report found that the company did not live up to its own, or the Nigerian government’s, standards. Shell admitted last week to spilling 11 million gallons of oil in Nigeria in 2008.