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Wednesday, March 04, 2015


Could Obamacare tax credits be in jeopardy? (photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

Supreme Court Obamacare Fight Over Four Words Could Affect Healthcare for Millions

By Dan Roberts, The Guardian
04 March 15

emocratic lawmakers have launched a last-ditch effort to defend the Affordable Care Act from a looming supreme court challenge that could strip health insurance from millions of Americans.
The court is due to hear an appeal on Wednesday that seizes on what appears to be a drafting error in the original legislation to question a key plank of Barack Obama’s health insurance reforms.
Plaintiffs led by Virginia limousine driver David King sued health secretary Sylvia Burwell on the grounds that the error means they were compelled to pay for health insurance they did not want and would otherwise have been exempted from because it was too expensive.
This seemingly perverse argument rests on the way the law allows for tax credits to bring down the cost of health cover in states that run their own insurance exchanges.
But the original language in the legislation does not appear to include states like Virginia which rely on the federally administered exchange instead, threatening millions that have already benefitted from the tax credit in this way.
The administration argues this omission was just an oversight, and most legal experts believe the court ought to acknowledge the apparent intent of lawmakers to include federal exchanges too.
But concern is growing among Democrats in Washington that the conservative-leaning court may nevertheless favour a strict literal interpretation of the legislation as a way to fatally undermine Obamacare.
The court narrowly struck down a similar legal challenge at the outset of the reforms when Chief Justice John Roberts surprised many conservatives by supporting the president.
This time, critics of Obamacare point to a supporting statement filed by several Republican senators claiming the legislative language was deliberately narrow.
Senators John Cornyn, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio claim the broader interpretation subsequently adopted by tax authorities “violates the separation of powers by unraveling the specific compromises crafted by Congress”.
They argue instead that states would simply have more incentive to set up their own exchanges if the law was correctly interpreted and tax credits removed from federal exchanges.
“The very strong possibility that states would establish their own exchanges in reaction to the unavailability of subsidies for insurance purchased on a federally established exchange cuts strongly against the Government’s suggestion that interpreting [the] section ... according to its clear textual meaning ‘runs counter to [the] central purpose of the ACA’,” argue the Republican senators.
Such is the risk that the supreme court sides with this view in King v Burwell that Democratic lawmakers took to the floor of the Senate on Tuesday to accuse the plaintiffs of “cherry-picking and contorting a four-word phrase”.
“If Congress intended for the tax credits to help only some Americans, Congress would have said that,” argued Senator Ron Wyden, who claimed lawmakers would not deliberately “slip [in] a poison pill” in this way.
“The wrong decision could make quality health insurance unaffordable for millions of Americans from one end of the country to another, and the negative outcome could radiate across our healthcare system,” he warned.
“It would send our country back to the dark days when healthcare was for the healthy and the wealthy.”
The stakes have been raised by the fact that the White House does not appear willing to make preparations for a negative outcome.
“If they rule against us, we’ll have to take a look at what our options are,” Obama told Reuters in an interview on Monday. “But I’m not going to anticipate that. I’m not going to anticipate bad law.
“This should be a pretty straightforward case of statutory interpretation,” he argued. “If you look at the law, if you look at the testimony of those who were involved in the law, including some of the opponents of the law, the understanding was that people who joined the federal exchange were going to be able to access tax credits. Just like if they went to a state exchange.”

NJ's State Gov't should immediately move to establish its own exchange. Leaving this to the tender mercy of the right wing ideologues on the Roberts ct. is a huge risk that our Reps. should have never subjected its citizens to. As for our ambitious Gov. I doubt he'd veto any attempt to set up such an exchange now given what the political ramifications might be for him. That aside, its just the right thing to do and not doing it considering the downside if they don't should be more then enough reason to act now before its too late. I therefore urge the NJ Assembly and Senate to act now instead of being sorry later. 

Friday, February 27, 2015


   It's finally dawned on the State of NJ and the A.C.O.E that if they don't want to sit down with Margate and try to figure this out then the city is prepared  to defend itself in State Court and the whole process could drag on for a very long time.  Anyway, in the mean time they've  withdrawn their attempts to solicit bids for the Project , which means it's highly doubtful the Project will go forward this summer.


   Leonard Nimoy ( AKA SPOCK) died this morning at 83.  He will always be remembered as a cultural Icon for his immortal role as Dr. Spock in the Star Trek epic. It will be said of Leonard Nimoy, that he lived long and he prospered!

Thursday, February 26, 2015


How the Christian Coalition and MoveOn Helped Save Net Neutrality: A Buried Story of a Powerful Coalition
by Paul Rogat Loeb | February 26, 2015 - 11:03am
This week's FCC action should bring a long-delayed victory for net neutrality. It's an important victory, without which the online world that we've come to take for granted would risk being auctioned off to the highest bidder. But this victory might never have happened without an unlikely political coalition a decade ago, a story that should remind us how even if we're divided by passionately felt issues, we can sometimes find powerful common ground.
* * *
"When it comes to protecting Internet freedom, the Christian Coalition and MoveOn respectfully agree," read the New York Times ad. MoveOn was the largest progressive organization in America, and the Christian Coalition a key group for conservative religious activists. They'd been on the other side of myriad issues, but never teamed up on anything before.
The story behind the ad began with a former Army Ranger captain and Christian Coalition activist named Joseph McCormick. After losing his Republican congressional campaign and being a 2000 Bush delegate, Joseph began to recoil at the polarization of American political debate. He dropped out of active politics and retraced Alexis de Tocqueville's journey across America, interviewing a mix of ordinary citizens and political leaders across the ideological spectrum. The discussions were so rich that Joseph decided to create gatherings that would bring together key organizational leaders of similarly differing perspectives.
Christian Coalition president Roberta Combs got involved early on, cosponsoring the second gathering of what would be called Reuniting America, in December 2005. The other main cosponsor was MoveOn co-founder Joan Blades, who had worked as a mediator and was strongly drawn to the idea. The retreat assembled leaders from organizations representing 70 million Americans, including conservative groups like the American Legion, the Club for Growth, Americans for Tax Reform, and the Christian Coalition; progressive ones like the Sierra Club, MoveOn, Common Cause, the National Council of Churches, and the League of Woman Voters; and the massive seniors' organization, the AARP. Roberta and Joan quickly hit it off.
Four months later, Roberta couldn't make it to a Reuniting America steering committee meeting, so she sent her daughter, Michele Combs, Christian Coalition's communications director and a former head of South Carolina's Young Republicans. Michele and Joan, who sat next to each other at breakfast, also connected immediately. Michele was going through a divorce, and Joan had written a book on cooperative custody. Both were moms, so they talked about their children. Despite vast political differences, they instantly became friends. "We connected just talking the way women do," said Michele. "We have lots of commonalities."
At the next retreat, on energy security, Michele connected again with Joan, and with Al and Tipper Gore, who participated, along with scientists, energy industry leaders, and activists of diverse perspectives. "It was in a little hippie town an hour north of Denver," said Michele, "with peace signs everywhere. I was a little shocked. Then I walked in and the first people I met were Al and Tipper. But she was just a very kind person, compassionate and honest. I liked Al too, even though I didn't vote for him. When you meet someone intimately with just 30 other people, you have a chance to see the good in them. They went through a lot."
Later Michele participated in Gore's global climate change training sessions. "I'd been thinking about environmental issues since I was pregnant and was told 'don't eat shellfish because of mercury.' If it's such a problem when you're pregnant, I thought, isn't it a problem when you're not? Thinking about climate change was a logical next step." After learning more about the issue, she started a Christian Coalition project promoting alternative energy, together with the National Wildlife Federation. Michele described the head of that group, Larry Schweiger, as "a very strong Christian, passionate on this issue, with lots of evangelical hunters and anglers in his organization." Michele liked joining Schweiger to lobby Republican Senators, "because when he goes in with the Christian Coalition, they can't accuse him of being liberal."
Joan always gained something from talking with people she disagreed with. "But with Michele and Roberta, it went deeper. We formed a friendship. We'd talk on the phone about our families and who Michele was going out with since her divorce. Kind of a girlfriend thing. We bonded further at another retreat just for women. We figured if we got along so well, our friends and political allies would too, which turned out to be true."
The retreats fostered their friendship, and more. Soon after meeting Michele, Joan got the idea of a joint political effort to save what was called Net Neutrality--the right to keep the Internet available as an open commons for all. The Internet had developed that way from the beginning, with all content having equal access and phone and telecom companies supplying the physical routes for data to travel, but not being allowed to favor or disfavor particular websites, applications, or data. But as high-speed Internet use took off, AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, and TimeWarner lobbied to control all that their media carried, as they've continued to. This could let them auction off the right for websites or applications whose owners wanted them to load faster, while relegating other sites to second-class service. Such a shift would have devastated nonprofits, small businesses, and all kinds of political advocacy groups, which couldn't afford the rates that the most lucrative sites could pay. The telecom companies would also be able to control any content they chose, as when Verizon refused to distribute a text message alert from NARAL Pro Choice America and AT&T muted singer Eddie Vedder's criticism of President Bush during a live Pearl Jam webcast. In August 2005, the telecom companies got Bush's Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to eliminate the requirement that all content providers be treated equally.
The next spring, the battle moved to Congress, with the telecom companies spending millions to change the rules permanently. They got the House to pass a bill that would have confirmed the elimination of Net Neutrality. It looked as if the battle was lost. But a word-of-mouth revolt began working to block similar Senate legislation. Prominent bloggers of all perspectives took up the cause, including apolitical ones covering food, sports, and technology. In April 2006, the media reform group launched a new Save the Internet Coalition including the AARP, MoveOn, Gun Owners of America, American Library Association, National Religious Broadcasters, Common Cause, Service Employees International Union, and key individuals like many of the people who'd first developed the Web, plus online video gamers and prominent musicians. Opponents delivered petitions to swing Senators. But time was running out.
Then Joan proposed to Michele that their two organizations collaborate on the issue. MoveOn had already taken a leading role. The Christian Coalition had done some low-key lobbying but had issued no public statements. When Joan broached the subject, Michele promptly got the go-ahead from her organization to participate. They ran the New York Times ad, as well as a joint Washington Times opinion piece. Roberta wrote a separate Washington Post op-ed in with the head of leading pro-choice group NARAL. Michele and Joan then delivered a petition with over a million signatures at a Washington, D.C., press conference, with Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan and Republican Senator Olympia Snowe. Michele also testified before Congressional committees and worked with MoveOn's media person. Because the groups were such strange bedfellows, their joint efforts attracted far more attention than if either had acted on its own. "If we'd just done this with other conservative groups," said Michele, "it wouldn't have had nearly the impact."
Joan agreed. "It's nice to not always be predictable," she said. "When MoveOn shows up, people expect what we're going to say. But when MoveOn and the Christian Coalition show up together, people think, 'If these guys can agree on this, maybe it's something I should pay attention to.' You get a totally different response."
Although the Christian Coalition took heat from some usual allies, the two groups persisted, and the regressive legislation deadlocked in the critical Senate committee. Political momentum shifted further after the 2006 election--and then entered an extended period of limbo after Barack Obama's election, when it became unclear just how the FCC Commissioners he appointed would rule. That limbo is now about to be resolved thanks to the sustained engagement of an array of organizations and individuals across the political spectrum. But without Joan and Michele's friendship and unlikely partnership, an equal-access Internet might well have vanished into cyberspace.
Both women found value in what Joan described as "working outside our regular neighborhoods. It was wonderful to make a difference on an issue that not a lot of people are thinking about, but is very big in terms of maintaining a public square that benefits everybody. It was a very happy ending."
"I think it's America at its best when you come together like this," said Michele. "At the end of the day everyone wants to make a better country for their families, for the future. When we talk basic values, there's a lot we come together on." Working with new allies also energized her. "When people on either side of the aisle work with others who feel the same way as they do, there's often in-fighting and egos. When you work with a group you normally disagree with, you're coming together without common baggage. You're both passionate, and you get a lot done. Not that I don't appreciate the organizations I usually work with, but when a group like ours comes together with MoveOn or the National Wildlife Federation, it shows that we really can find common ground."
Adapted from the wholly updated new edition of Soul of a Citizen: Living with Conviction in Challenging Times by Paul Rogat Loeb (St Martin's Press, $16.99 paperback). With over 150,000 copies in print, Soul has become a classic guide to involvement in social change. Howard Zinn calls it "wonderful ... rich with specific experience." Alice Walker says, "The voices Loeb finds demonstrate that courage can be another name for love." Bill McKibben calls it "a powerful inspiration to citizens acting for environmental sanity." For more information, Copyright © 2010 by the author and reprinted by permission of St. Martin's Griffin. Loeb is also the author of a new edition of The Impossible Will Take a Little While: Perseverance and Hope in Troubled Times(Basic Books, 2014), which has 100,000 copies in print.


My Take:

This is very good news for the average American and a huge victory for Free speech! 
I think even most Dems. started to realize that allowing the ISPs, like Verizon and Comcast to act as gate keepers on the Net would in effect given them enormous power they would absolutely abuse and abuse immediately. Its been reported that Comcast already was planning to wipe out whomever they saw as a threat to their business model on the Net. They were so arrogant and open about it I think they thought no worry the fix is in so we can brag about this. Of course like in all these power struggles  this isn't over yet. You can be sure the Corp. wing of both parties will now chime in to try and stop this decision and I expect they'll eventually try to get this in front of the SCOTUS where they think they have a  winning hand. 

Net Neutrality Prevails In Historic FCC Vote

Posted: Updated: 
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler listens to a speaker during a FCC hearing on the net neutrality on February 26, 2015 in Washington, DC. AFP PHOTO/MANDEL NGAN        (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON -- The Federal Communications Commission voted Thursday to approve strong net neutrality rules in a stunning decision that defies vocal, months-long opposition by telecom and cable companies and Republicans on Capitol Hill.
Democratic Commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel and Mignon Clyburn joined Chairman Tom Wheeler to approve a rule that reclassifies consumer broadband as a utility under Title II of the Communications Act.
The FCC intends to use this new authority to ban "paid prioritization," a practice whereby Internet service providers can charge content producers a premium for giving users more reliable access to that content. The FCC also intends to ban blocking and throttling of lawful content and services. These regulations also apply to mobile access. More details about the plan are expected after vote.
"The Internet is simply too important to allow broadband providers to be the ones making the rules," Wheeler said prior to the vote.
At the vote, Clyburn pointed out that "absent the rules we adopt today," ISPs would be "free to block, throttle, favor or discriminate ... for any user, for any reason, or for no reason at all."
A few months ago, such rules were considered a pipe dream of net neutrality advocates. Last fall, Wheeler was reportedly still considering a "hybrid" approach to net neutrality that would have made major concessions to telecom and cable companies, who contend that strong regulations will hinder investment and innovation.
But President Barack Obama came out in support of Title II and tough net neutrality rules in November, and Wheeler had to contend with that position as well as millions of comments from the general public in support of net neutrality. Tech start-ups like Tumblr, as well as Silicon Valley giants like Google, also advocated for strong net neutrality rules.
The FCC decision is a major loss for Verizon, the company that initially sued the FCC in 2011 over rules that were considerably weaker than the new regulations. The new rules are also likely to be challenged in court.
Michael Powell, president and CEO of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, a trade association, said in a statement that, "The FCC has taken us in a distressing direction. We must now look to other branches of government for a more balanced resolution."
The FCC's two Republican commissioners attacked the vote. Commissioner Ajit Pai called the decision an "about-face" and stoked conservative fears by claiming, "We are flip-flopping for one reason and one reason only: President Obama told us to do so."
Those gathered in one FCC viewing room gasped and burst into laughter upon hearing Pai's remark.
Republicans have launched investigations into whether the White House unfairly influenced the FCC's decision, and are expected to pursue legislation, already introduced, that would gut the FCC's new authority. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) has said he plans to hold off-the-record meetings with stakeholders in early March in an attempt to drum up support from Democrats for his bill.
"Popular victories like today's are so unusual that three Congressional committees are investigating how this happened," said David Segal, executive director of Demand Progress, a group that supports net neutrality. He added in a statement, "If the net neutrality effort had followed the usual playbook, if Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T had defeated the American people, nobody would be wondering why."
Wheeler denounced as "nonsense" the claims that the FCC has a secret plan to regulate the Internet. He added, "This is no more a plan to regulate the Internet than the First Amendment is a plan to regulate free speech. They both stand for the same concept."


Sunday, February 22, 2015


Published on

Solar Industry Prepares for Battle Against Koch Brothers’ Front Groups

(Photo: Bart Speelman/flickr/cc)
Mark Twain said it best, there are “lies, damned lies and statistics.” It’s hard to tell which is which after closely reviewing the latest hatchet job on solar energy by the Koch brothers’front group, The Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA).
Aside from spelling solar correctly, much of the reportFilling the Solar Sinkhole, is untrue or misleading—including its basic assertion that the U.S. solar industry receives $39 billion in annual subsidies. Seriously? How can that be? How can an industry with a U.S. market value of $15 billion receive $39 billion in annual subsidies? The answer: it doesn’t. This is fuzzy math, and dirty tricks, at their very worst. But that shouldn’t come as a surprise. The purpose of this report isn’t to inform or educate. The purpose is to incite activists and generate scandalous headlines, when, in fact, no scandal exists.
According to PV-Tech’s John Parnell, who did a thoughtful analysis, “The report doesn’t make it clear how it arrived at the $39 billion figure. Of the 26 references cited in the report, 16 of them are from organizations that were either founded by the Koch brothers, or have received funding from them.”
Enough is enough. If clean energy critics want a bare knuckle brawl, then they’re going to get one. This type of guerrilla warfare simply isn’t going to work. Americans overwhelmingly support clean, renewable solar energy—and that scares the hell out of the Koch brothers and their lackeys. Here’s the dirty little truth: few industries benefit more from the U.S. tax code than carbon-rich big oil. By their own estimates, oil and gas tax breaks amount to a staggering $100 billion over 10 years. So how do the Koch brothers divert attention away from this? They prod conservative groups, many of which they fund directly or indirectly, to attack clean energy. If it served their purposes, they would portray Snow White as an adulteress, a deadbeat and a crack queen.
Solar energy is an American success story—not a fairy tale. Since first being enacted in 2006 under a Republican administration, the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) has been a tremendous boon to both the U.S. economy and our environment, changing America for the better and helping to secure our nation’s energy future. Today, the solar industry employs nearly 175,000 U.S. workers, pumps $15 billion a year into our economy and offsets more than 20 million metric tons of damaging carbon emissions into the air, which is the equivalent of removing 4 million cars off U.S. highways and roads.  In the past four years, employment in the solar industry has increased by more than 85 percent—and last year alone, we created one out of every 78 new jobs in America.
But the news keeps getting better. We now have an estimated 20 gigawatts (GW) of installed solar energy capacity nationwide, which is enough to power more than 4 million U.S. homes—or every single home in a state the size of Massachusetts or New Jersey—with another 20 GW in the pipeline for 2015-16. This remarkable progress is due, in large part, to smart, effective public policies like the ITC.
If the Koch brothers and their minions want to have a discussion about the solar ITC, then let’s have one at the same time about intangible drilling costs and the oil depletion allowance. And while we’re at it, let’s take a few questions on refinery explosions, oil spills and deadly train derailments. Yep. We’ll have that debate with them any day of the week.
Ken Johnson serves as vice president and head of communications for the Solar Energy Industries Association.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015


Bionic leaf: Researchers use bacteria to convert solar energy into liquid fuel

February 9, 2015
Harvard Medical School
Solar energy can be harnessed using electricity from photovoltaic cells to yield hydrogen that can be stored in fuel cells. But hydrogen has failed to catch on as a practical fuel for cars or for power. Converting solar energy into liquid fuel could accelerate its adoption as a power source.

Sunlight on plant (stock image).
Credit: © lily / Fotolia
Harvesting sunlight is a trick plants mastered more than a billion years ago, using solar energy to feed themselves from the air and water around them in the process we know as photosynthesis.
Scientists have also figured out how to harness solar energy, using electricity from photovoltaic cells to yield hydrogen that can be later used in fuel cells. But hydrogen has failed to catch on as a practical fuel for cars or for power generation in a world designed around liquid fuels.
Now scientists from a team spanning Harvard University's Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard Medical School and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University have created a system that uses bacteria to convert solar energy into a liquid fuel. Their work integrates an "artificial leaf," which uses a catalyst to make sunlight split water into hydrogen and oxygen, with a bacterium engineered to convert carbon dioxide plus hydrogen into the liquid fuel isopropanol.
The findings are published Feb. 9 in PNAS. The co-first authors are Joseph Torella, a recent PhD graduate from the HMS Department of Systems Biology, and Christopher Gagliardi, a postdoctoral fellow in the Harvard Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology.
Pamela Silver, the Elliott T. and Onie H. Adams Professor of Biochemistry and Systems Biology at HMS and an author of the paper, calls the system a bionic leaf, a nod to the artificial leaf invented by the paper's senior author, Daniel Nocera, the Patterson Rockwood Professor of Energy at Harvard University.
"This is a proof of concept that you can have a way of harvesting solar energy and storing it in the form of a liquid fuel," said Silver, who is Core Faculty at the Wyss Institute. "Dan's formidable discovery of the catalyst really set this off, and we had a mission of wanting to interface some kinds of organisms with the harvesting of solar energy. It was a perfect match."
Silver and Nocera began collaborating two years ago, shortly after Nocera came to Harvard from MIT. They shared an interest in "personalized energy," or the concept of making energy locally, as opposed to the current system, which in the example of oil means production is centralized and then sent to gas stations. Local energy would be attractive in the developing world.
"It's not like we're trying to make some super-convoluted system," Silver said. "Instead, we are looking for simplicity and ease of use."
In a similar vein, Nocera's artificial leaf depends on catalysts made from materials that are inexpensive and readily accessible.
"The catalysts I made are extremely well adapted and compatible with the growth conditions you need for living organisms like a bacterium," Nocera said.
In their new system, once the artificial leaf produces oxygen and hydrogen, the hydrogen is fed to a bacterium called Ralstonia eutropha. An enzyme takes the hydrogen back to protons and electrons, then combines them with carbon dioxide to replicate--making more cells.
Next, based on discoveries made earlier by Anthony Sinskey, professor of microbiology and of health sciences and technology at MIT, new pathways in the bacterium are metabolically engineered to make isopropanol.
"The advantage of interfacing the inorganic catalyst with biology is you have an unprecedented platform for chemical synthesis that you don't have with inorganic catalysts alone," said Brendan Colón, a graduate student in systems biology in the Silver lab and a co-author of the paper. "Solar-to-chemical production is the heart of this paper, and so far we've been using plants for that, but we are using the unprecedented ability of biology to make lots of compounds."
The same principles could be employed to produce drugs such as vitamins in small amounts, Silver said.
The team's immediate challenge is to increase the bionic leaf's ability to translate solar energy to biomass by optimizing the catalyst and the bacteria. Their goal is 5 percent efficiency, compared to nature's rate of 1 percent efficiency for photosynthesis to turn sunlight into biomass.
"We're almost at a 1 percent efficiency rate of converting sunlight into isopropanol," Nocera said. "There have been 2.6 billion years of evolution, and Pam and I working together a year and a half have already achieved the efficiency of photosynthesis."

Story Source:
The above story is based on materials provided by Harvard Medical School. The original article was written by Elizabeth Cooney. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal Reference:
  1. Joseph P. Torella, Christopher J. Gagliardi, Janice S. Chen, D. Kwabena Bediako, Brendan Colón, Jeffery C. Way, Pamela A. Silver, Daniel G. Nocera. Efficient solar-to-fuels production from a hybrid microbial–water-splitting catalyst systemProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2015; 201424872 DOI:10.1073/pnas.1424872112