A new congressional report criticizes the federal government for awarding tens of billions of dollars in contracts to companies even though they were found to have violated safety and wage laws and paid millions in penalties. Issued on behalf of the Democratic senators on the Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee, the report cited examples over the past six years.
For instance, Imperial Sugar had $94.8 million in federal contracts last year, even though it paid $6 million in safety penalties over a 2008 factory explosion in Georgia that killed 14 workers. The report also noted that the federal government had awarded $4.2 billion in contracts to Tyson Foods since 2000, even though Tyson has faced more than $500,000 in safety penalties since 2007 and 11 of its workers have died on the job since 1999.
The report urges the government to weigh a company’s safety and wage violations more closely as it awards contracts, which are about $500 billion a year to companies employing 26 million workers, representing 22 percent of the nation’s work force. It stops short of recommending automatic suspension of contracts or debarring contractors that were found to have violated federal laws, partly because government agencies were sometimes at fault, a committee staff member said.
Today I learned there’s a skateboarding school in Afghanistan where 40% of its students are female.
In a part of the world where little girls are getting shot at for promoting women’s education, that’s a pretty impressive statistic. In a part of the world where little girls aren’t even allowed to ride a bicycle, that’s a ground-breaking statistic.
Officially, this makes Afghanistan the unlikeliest of title holders for the highest rate of female participation in skateboarding out of any country in the world.
Researchers led by Sarah Kimmins at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, looked at what happened when male lab mice had a diet that was poor in vitamin B9.
B9, also called folate, is present in green leafy vegetables, cereals, fruit and meat.
Women often take folic acid supplements, before and during pregnancy, to reduce the risk of miscarriage and birth defects in their offspring.
But Kimmins’ team were startled to find that male mice that had a B9-deficient diet also fathered mice with a higher rate of birth defects, compared to counterparts which had eaten sufficient folate.
The world faces a growing population, resource constraints, climate change, and a global food system under stress. But new technology is limited in its ability to address the problems facing those in poverty. 780 million still lack access to clean water. 1/5 of humanity lives without electricity. 80% of sub-Saharan Africa is farmed with a hand-hoe.
Sara Boettiger — Senior Advisor at Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture and Assistant Adjunct Professor at UC Berkeley — will discuss the need to re-think existing models of Intellectual Property Rights (e.g. patent pools, clearinghouses, humanitarian use licensing), re-invent our research agenda, and work to shift the international debate.
More info on this event here: cyber.law.harvard.edu
The United States is behind many European and Asian countries in terms of educational achievement. The World Economic Forum ranks the United States 52nd in the quality of mathematics and science education, and fifth — and declining — in overall global competitiveness. The United States ranks 27th in developed nations in the proportion of college students receiving undergraduate degrees in science or engineering.
A report released in June by the Council on Foreign Relations warned that America’s global competitiveness is at risk because of a widening achievement gap between rich and poor, according to a Reuters report.
Tea Party Republicans held up funding in Michigan, and have targeted CCSS for criticism nationally as well.
An Alabama man has pleaded guilty to burning a cross at the entrance of an African American neighborhood in Ozark, about 80 miles southeast of Montgomery, federal officials announced Monday.
Thomas Windell Smith, 24, of Dothan, pleaded guilty on Friday to a single count of conspiring to violate housing rights, the Justice Department announced. He faces a maximum of 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. No sentencing date has been set.
According to the Justice Department, the charge against Smith relates to his participation in a cross burning at the entrance to an African American community on May 8, 2009, with a former Ku Klux Klan leader who was arrested and charged with a five-count indictment last month.
The reviews are coming in for the bipartisan budget deal crafted by Republican Rep. Paul Ryan and Democratic Sen. Patty Murray and as the Los Angeles Times says, the package seems to have “something for everyone to dislike.”
“It won’t cut federal spending or shrink the national debt, so conservative Republicans don’t like it,” the Times says, and “it won’t restore much money for domestic programs or extend unemployment insurance, so Democrats don’t like it either. Its main virtue is that it will spare members of Congress from worrying about a government shutdown during their long Christmas break.”
On ‘Morning Edition’: NPR’s Tamara Keith reports on the budget deal
Basically, adds The Washington Post, “the deal denies both Republicans and Democrats what they want most. Republicans didn’t get any changes to Medicare and Social Security — much less any structural ones. Democrats didn’t get any new taxes.”
A six-month investigation, led by a special unit of the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office, has targeted more than 40 suspected white supremacist gang members and others accused of drug and firearms trafficking in East County.
“Operation White Christmas” led to the federal indictment last week of 40 people accused of firearms and drug charges and a weekend “takedown” of suspects, Oregon’s U.S. Attorney Amanda Marshall said Monday.
“Merry Christmas,” Marshall said. “Here’s a gift from the U.S. attorney.”
Four sheriff’s deputies and a sergeant of the sheriff’s office Special Investigations Unit began the investigation after making inroads into such gangs as European Kindred, Rude Krude Brood, Irish Pride, AOB and FBK, authorities said.
The Slacker side of the aisle up to the same old tricks, if they can’t deny they can delay. The new GOP Tactic is the same old GOP Tactic: waste Tax payer’s time while collecting a check.
The Senate slowly began working its way through a backlog of presidential nominees on Tuesday now that Republicans are virtually powerless to block confirmations, approving a once-stalled judge to a powerful appeals court and a new director for the agency that oversees federal home lending.
But Republicans, still seething over a power play last month by Democrats to curtail the filibuster significantly, have settled on a strategy for retribution: Make the confirmation process as time-consuming and painful as possible for Democrats.
“There’s a price that has to be paid when people abuse the rules,” said Senator Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah. “And let’s face it. These guys have completely obliterated the rules.”
Obama isn’t running for office again, however, whereas all 435 House seats and one-third of the Senate’s seats are on the ballot next November. And nearly 9 in 10 adults disapprove of the way lawmakers are handling their jobs.
The low opinions of Congress don’t necessarily signal major power shifts next year in the Republican-controlled House and Democratic-controlled Senate. House Democrats need to gain at least 17 net seats to claim the majority. But many House districts are so solidly liberal or conservative that incumbents can withstand notable drops in popularity and keep their seats.
Republicans hope to gain six Senate seats overall to retake control of that chamber for the last two years of Obama’s presidency.