30 Jun 2015
29 Jun 2015
It's official: New York has banned fracking.
After more than seven years of study, the state Department of Environmental Conservation today issued the final document needed to ban the controversial drilling practice, known formally as high-volume hydraulic fracturing.
"Prohibiting high-volume hydraulic fracturing is the only reasonable alternative," said DEC Commissioner Joe Martens in a prepared statement. "High-volume hydraulic fracturing poses significant adverse impacts to land, air, water, natural resources and potential significant public health impacts that cannot be adequately mitigated. This decision is consistent with DEC's mission to conserve, improve and protect our state's natural resources, and to enhance the health, safety and welfare of the people of the state."
Today's finding statement has been in the works since December, when Martens said he would ban fracking because too little was known about the potential health impacts. Last month, the DEC released a 1,448-page report on fracking that began in 2009. Today's findings statement is based on that report.
The fracking ban is not permanent, and could be rescinded. Proponents and opponents of the ban both said they expect lawsuits to be filed.
Five companies publish more than 50 per cent of research papers, study finds: "The control that they now have over the scientific output of researchers I would say is way too high"
Think it's hard to make money in publishing in the digital age? Well, huge profits are still to be had – if you're a publisher of academic research journals.
While traditional book and magazine publishers struggle to stay afloat, research publishing houses have typical profit margins of nearly 40 per cent, says Vincent Larivière, a researcher at the University of Montreal's School of Library and Information Science.
Researchers rely on journals to keep up with the developments in their field. Most of the time, they access the journals online through subscriptions purchased by university libraries. But universities are having a hard time affording the soaring subscriptions, which are bundled so that universities effectively must pay for hundreds of journals they don't want in order to get the ones they do.
Larivière says the cost of the University of Montreal's journal subscriptions is now more than $7 million a year – ultimately paid for by the taxpayers and students who fund most of the university's budget. Unable to afford the annual increases, the university has started cutting subscriptions, angering researchers.
"The big problem is that libraries or institutions that produce knowledge don't have the budget anymore to pay for [access to] what they produce," Larivière said.
"They could have closed one library a year to continue to pay for the journals, but then in twenty-something years, we would have had no libraries anymore, and we would still be stuck with having to pay the annual increase in subscriptions."
Given the situation, he wanted to track what proportion of papers was being published by these large academic publishers compared to in the past (and how big a deal it would be to cut some of those subscriptions.)
'Oligarchy' of publishers
What he and his collaborators found was that the five largest, for-profit academic publishers now publish 53 per cent of scientific papers in the natural and medical sciences – up from 20 per cent in 1973. In the social sciences, the top five publishers publish 70 per cent of papers.
Essentially, they've become an oligarchy, Larivière and co-authors Stefanie Haustein and Philippe Mongeon say in a paper published last week in the open access, non-profit journal PLOS ONE.
"The control that they now have over the scientific output researchers I would say is way too high," he said. "So that's why they can come up with annual increases that are between five six , seven, even 10 per cent."
A look at a history of the journals showed how that happened. Traditionally, most journals were published by non-profit scientific societies. But when journals shifted from print to online digital formats, those societies couldn't afford the cost of the equipment needed to make the switch. Instead, they sold their journals to large, for-profit publishers, Larivière said.
Authors, reviewers unpaid
Aside from the costs of switching itself, the digital age has made publishing even cheaper for scientific journals, which already have a business model that sounds too good to be true. Unlike other authors, researchers don't get paid for the papers they write, and peer reviewers don't get paid either.
"The quality control is free, the raw material is free, and then you charge very, very high amounts – of course you come up with very high profit margins."
This model originally existed because it was necessary for sharing research in the age of print. It's no longer a practical necessity in the digital age.
But it continues to exist because researchers' funding and career advancement are tied to the number of papers they publish in top journals.
"We need journals because of their prestige," Larivière said. "Journals give discoveries and researchers a hierarchy."
He said part of the problem is that university libraries and not researchers pay the subscription fees, so many researchers aren't even aware that access to the journals costs money.
The Supreme Court's ruling on gay marriage makes it clearer than ever that the government shouldn't be subsidizing religion and non-profits
Two weeks ago, with a decision inObergefell v. Hodges on the way, Sen. Mike Lee of Utah introduced the First Amendment Defense Act, which ensures that religious institutions won’t lose their tax exemptions if they don’t support same-sex marriage. Liberals tend to think Sen. Lee’s fears are unwarranted, and they can even point to Justice Anthony Kennedy’s opinion in Friday’s case, which promises “that religious organizations and persons [will be] given proper protection.”
“You can kill someone in Kentucky and be eligible for parole in 12 years, but we have people in jail for marijuana sales for 55 years, life, 20 years, 25 years"
Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul said Thursday that Bill and Hillary Clinton are “proud” to have presided “over the incarceration of a whole generation of young black men” in comments singling out mass incarceration as “the new Jim Crow.”
The senator from Kentucky is an advocate for making changes to the criminal justice system and has co-sponsored legislation with Democratic Sen. Cory Booker to help keep nonviolent criminal offenders out of prison.
“Bill Clinton presided over the incarceration of a whole generation of young black men,” Paul said on The Wilkow Majority. “We are putting young black men in jail at a rate never before seen in history and it’s because of this war on drugs.”
Paul said Hillary and Bill Clinton were “proud to do this.”
Hillary Clinton spoke earlier this year of ending “the era of mass incarceration.” Clinton’s remarks rejected the “tough-on-crime” mantra and legislation advocated by her and her husband during his time as president which included signing the 1994 crime bill.
“And so Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, they were all proud to do this,” said Paul. “But now that I’ve been speaking out and saying that mass incarceration is the new Jim Crow, now all of a sudden the Clintons are saying, ‘oh wait a minute, we are going to be back on the other side of this issue right now.’”
Paul said Democrats saw him as “a threat to Hillary Clinton” because he goes to communities like Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore, Maryland and says “what have the Democrats done for you?”
“And I hate to tell you this, but someone from the Democrat National Committee is listening to our radio interview right now and they are looking for ways to attack me, because they see me as a threat to Hillary Clinton, because I’m going to the south side of Chicago, I’m going to the inner city of Philadelphia, I’m going to Baltimore, I’m going to Ferguson, and I’m saying, what have the Democrats done for you? What have they done to alleviate poverty? What have they done for crime? What have they done for the young men in your community and you know why? It’s starting to gain traction, and that is why we lead her in several states that Obama won.”
Paul said he that understands marijuana isn’t good for people, but the law needs to be fair and not incarcerate one race more than another.
“I think that the law needs to be fair and that we shouldn’t incarcerate one race more than another and I think the law should be fair in the sense that the penalties should be proportionate to the crime,” said Paul.
28 Jun 2015
27 Jun 2015
During the 30-day religious celebration of Ramadan, even non-Muslims are expected to obey local laws regarding eating, drinking, and using tobacco in public. Violators can be fined up to $685 or receive two months in jail. A spokesperson for United States Central Command [CENTCOM] said that “we are not aware of any specific instances of anyone being arrested” for such violations.
When asked if the restrictions were new or simply a continuation of past policy, a CENTCOM spokesperson replied: