Good grief! Haven’t the people of Flint suffered enough with unsafe drinking water?

Expert says Michigan officials changed

a Flint lead report to avoid federal action

NOV 5, 2015
New threat in Flint water
The EPA says people living in Flint could be in danger of “high lead release” into their tap water if road work or other physical disturbances to service lines occur. These physical disturbances “could pose an immediate and acute health hazard” to residents.

Meanwhile, an expert on water treatment is saying that the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality knowingly dropped lead test samples to avoid exceeding a federal drinking water standard. By not including those samples, the city remained below the action level for lead. Mark Brush has details

Continue reading Good grief! Haven’t the people of Flint suffered enough with unsafe drinking water?

US Treasury Launches New Retirement Account Nationwide

US Treasury Launches

New Retirement Account Nationwide

Workers nationwide who don’t have a retirement plan on the job will have a new alternative,

— the myRA.

The U.S. Treasury Department on Wednesday announced the national launch of this no-fees, no-risk Roth IRA. For the past year, the government offered this only through a pilot program.

MyRA alone will not solve the nation’s retirement savings gap, but it will be an important stepping stone for encouraging and creating a nation of savers,” Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said in a statement.

MyRA, which stands for “my retirement account,” is a federal solution for the millions of workers who don’t have access to a 401(k) or similar plan from an employer. But this isn’t the only effort to reach those without a retirement plan. AARP and other advocates support similar retirement accounts on a state level. Illinois became the first state last year to pass legislation that would require certain employers without retirement plans to automatically enroll workers into a state-sponsored Roth account. Many other states also are considering or working on developing similar retirement plans.

MyRA is expected to be a “starter” retirement account for single workers with incomes below $131,000 and married joint tax filers with incomes under $193,000. Workers can contribute to it through automatic payroll deductions or make direct deposits from a checking or savings account. They also can direct all or some of their federal tax refund to be deposited into the account. As with all Roth IRAs, the earnings in the myRA can be withdrawn tax-free in retirement.

Contributions can be as little as a couple of dollars and up to $5,500 per year for workers under age 50 and $6,500 for those older. It is open to anyone who qualifies for a regular Roth IRA, regardless of whether they have a retirement plan through their employer.

The money will be invested in a new type of Treasury Savings Bond, whose principal is guaranteed and earns the same variable rate as the Government Securities Fund offered in the federal employees’ retirement plan. According to the Treasury, that fund has earned an average annual return of 3.19 percent in the past decade. MyRA will have no fees, and the accounts will be administered by Comerica Bank.
Continue reading US Treasury Launches New Retirement Account Nationwide

Lansing debates district’s future as Detroit Schools deficit grows under a series of 3 Governors’ control

Detroit Public Schools deficit grows

as Lansing debates district’s future

SEP 17, 2015

The Detroit Public Schools is in even bigger financial trouble than previously thought, according to a state report filed this week. In its June 2015 quarterly report on school district deficits, the Michigan Department of Education pegged DPS’s annual budget deficit at $166,359,414.

http://michiganradio.org/post/detroit-public-schools-deficit-grows-lansing-debates-districts-future#stream/0

Commentary: 

1999

“…the district has a $93 million surplus, partly because officials have used low-paid substitutes to fill the 1,100 vacancies among 12,000 teaching positions, Mayor Archer said. Only $400 million has been spent of a $1.5 billion bond issue for long-term capital improvements approved in 1994. (Published: March 5, 1999) ” http://www.nytimes.com/1999/03…

2005

“When the 1999 takeover was implemented, DPS had modestly increasing student enrollment,” wrote public-school advocate Russ Bellant in a 2011 report by Critical Moment, a local independent magazine. “The District had a $100 million positive fund balance and academic scores in the broad mid-range of districts in the state. There was no performance justification for the takeover.”

“The conventional wisdom,” contended Bellant, “is that the actual reason for the takeover was to take control of $1.2 billion remaining from the $1.5 billion bond approved by voters in 1994. It was a golden egg that tempted too many in Lansing and Detroit.” (Published February 15, 2005) http://www.metrotimes.com/detr…

2009

By 2002, EFM Robert Bobb reported the surplus was still over $100 million (but the bond money was all but gone) – then from 2005-2009 state appointed EFM’s had burned through the surplus, spent the bond monies and racked up a $200 million deficit.
http://www.edweek.org/ew/artic…

2014

The 10-year MI Senate Fiscal Agency report on per pupil funding reveals that the DPS per pupil allowance went from $7355 per student in 2004-05 to $7296 in 2014-15.

Click to access DCk12_FoundationHistory.pdf

2015

It takes a bit of work and a few keystrokes, but the data is out there.

A person just has to know where to look to uncover the sad, sad tale of mismanagement of the Detroit Public Schools by the 3 Governors, numerous “emergency financial managers” and the State of Michigan which continues to this day.

Sadly for the children and parents of DPS students that inept management and downright corruption continues from 1999 to the present day as a dreadful legacy. For some, I honestly don’t know how they sleep at night.

  • Jeff Salisbury

###

From the OpenSecrets.org Newsletter: More Wisconsin donor secrecy; Lessig drops out of Dem race; Boeing/GE work to renew Ex-IM Bank

Wisconsin may strike employer disclosure for campaign donors

State senators in Wisconsin may eliminate language in the Assembly-passed overhaul of the state’s campaign finance laws that would do away with donors having to disclose their employers. Many of the changes in the bill — scheduled for a vote in the state Senate on Friday — are designed to allow campaigns, political parties and other organizations to raise … read more.

http://www.opensecrets.org/news/2015/11/wisconsin-may-strike-employer-disclosure-for-campaign-donors

Wonky longshot Lessig’s top donors: Google, Harvard

Another of the Don Quixotes of the 2016 presidential race has called it quits. Harvard professor Larry Lessig, who declared his candidacy in early September, cited the Democratic Party’s debate rules as his reason for dropping out Monday. He had failed to qualify for the first Democratic debate last month and said in a campaign video released on YouTube that a recent rule change … read more.

http://www.opensecrets.org/news/2015/11/wonky-longshot-lessigs-top-donors-google-harvard

Boeing, GE joined by new names last quarter in effort to renew Ex-Im

Even as lobbying spending shrunk and the Export-Import Bank’s charter had already expired, organizations with a stake in the agency’s mission have kept up the fight to revive it. Spending on lobbying dipped 10 percent overall during the most recent quarter of the year, but major players like the Boeing Company and General Electric continued pushing … read more.

http://www.opensecrets.org/news/2015/10/boeing-ge-joined-by-new-names-last-quarter-in-effort-to-renew-ex-im/

From OpenSecrets.org: Who is Paul Singer and why is he throwing millions at Marco Rubio?

For months, a group of high-rolling Republican donors with considerable resources to pour into super PACs or political nonprofits were undecided about which White House candidate to support with their millions. But that’s finally changing, in no small part due to billionaire hedge fund manager Paul Singer‘s announcement last weekend that he’s backing Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).

Here’s why Paul Singer’s endorsement of Rubio matters

Singer’s decision could bring some unity to the prominent financier class that has already given 39.2 percent of all contributions to outside spending groups like super PACs this cycle. After all, it may have before.

Singer, the founder of Elliot Management, has already given $3.1 million to super PACs and candidates, though none to the presidential hopefuls. That makes him No. 12 on the list of top donors in the 2016 cycle so far. He placed No. 3 overall in the 2014 cycle, giving $10.6 million to conservative candidates and super PACs, and No. 20 in 2012 with $2.8 in contributions. In 2014, he was the top conservative donor overall; the only individuals to give more to super PACs and candidates were investor Tom Steyer and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who both supported liberal candidates.

Click here to read the full article.

http://www.opensecrets.org/news/2015/11/heres-why-paul-singers-endorsement-of-rubio-matters/

Electablog REPOST: ‘LGBT civil rights supporters push for statewide vote take to social media to attack critics’

Eclectablog has posted a new item, ‘Supporters of effort to put LGBT civil
rights to a statewide vote take to social media to attack critics’, at
Eclectablog

You may view the latest post at
http://www.eclectablog.com/2015/11/supporters-of-effort-to-put-lgbt-civil-rights-to-a-statewide-vote-take-to-social-media-to-attack-critics.html

Sen. Elizabeth Warren pushing “Seniors and Veterans Emergency Benefits Act” giving seniors & vets one-time 3.9% payment in 2016

On January 1, for just the third time since 1975, seniors who receive Social Security won’t be getting an annual cost-of-living increase. Neither will millions of other Americans whose veterans’ benefits, disability benefits, and other monthly payments are pegged to Social Security.

Will you join me in calling on my fellow members of Congress to give seniors and veterans the raise they deserve?

Please pass the Seniors and Veterans Emergency Benefits Act (SAVE Benefits Act) to give seniors and veterans a one-time 3.9% payment in 2016—the same raise that America’s top CEOs received last year.Sign my petition

Two-thirds of retirees depend on Social Security to pay for the basics: to put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads—but seniors who usually get a small boost on January 1 won’t see an extra dime next year.

The Seniors and Veterans Emergency Benefits Act (SAVE Benefits Act) would:

  • Provide seniors and veterans with an emergency, one-time 3.9% payment in 2016 (approx. $581/person). 3.9% is the average raise that America’s top CEOs received last year.
  • Fully cover the cost of increased payments by closing the tax loophole that allows corporations to write off obscene executive bonuses as a business expense for “performance pay.”
  • Extend the life of Social Security by bolstering the Social Security and Disability trust funds.

So let’s do it. Let’s close the loophole and let’s use the money to give seniors and veterans the support they need on January 1. Tell Congress that America supports the SAVE Benefits Act.

Click here to add your name to this petition, and then pass it along to your friends.

Thanks!

–Senator Elizabeth Warren

Help Wanted Ad: Astronaut…the requirements aren’t as strict as you think

She packed my bags last night pre flight
Zero hour nine a.m.
And I’m gonna be high, as a kite by then
I miss the earth so much, I miss my wife
It’s lonely out in space
On such a timeless flight

And I think it’s gonna be a long long time
Till touch down brings me round again to find
I’m not the man they think I am at home
Oh no, no, no, I’m a rocket man
Rocket man burning out his fuse up here alone

Read more: Elton John – Rocket Man Lyrics | MetroLyrics

You Can Now Apply

to Be a NASA Astronaut

Do you want to be an astronaut? Of course you do. The real question is, do you have what it takes?

In preparation for an upcoming expedition to Mars, NASA has put up maybe the best job posting in the galaxy, seeking “Explorers for Future Space Missions.”

To be considered for your childhood (okay, adulthood) dream job, you have to be a U.S. citizen, and you must have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university in engineering, biology, physical science, or math. Additional advanced degrees are preferred, and you should have at least three years of relevant professional experience, or at least 1000 hours of pilot-in-command time in a jet aircraft.

After that, eligible participants have to pass the NASA long-duration spaceflight physical. Requirements in that particular area include vision must be correctable to 20/20 in each eye, blood pressure under 140/90 measured in a sitting position, and height somewhere between 62 and 75 inches. In other words, it takes a lot just to get to the interview stage (which itself is a week-long process).

Applications for the positions will be accepted from December 14 through mid-February, and those selected won’t be announced until 2017. You can learn more about the requirementshere, and apply through USAJOBS. http://www.mentalfloss.com/article/70781/you-can-now-apply-be-nasa-astronaut

Pawpaw. Fruit with Pudding Inside. Yes.

Paw Paw, Michigan? Nope.

Charley “PawPaw” Maxwell, Detroit baseball player from my youth? Nope.

What the hell is a pawpaw?

Or Paw Paw, or paw paw or paw-paw; aka a custard apple and <insert name of your state here> banana, the nicknames abound. One of our oldest native fruits, pawpaws grow on shrubby trees throughout parts of the Midwest and Appalachia. Mine came from a friend who has several pawpaw trees on her property down the road.

As you can see from the photo, they are a somewhat unattractive fruit, on the outside anyway.

But split them in half and oh boy.

READ MORE HERE http://thelivingstonpost.com/pawpaw-fruit-with-pudding-inside-yes/

Exxon helped pioneer climate science — then disavowed its own research. Was it a crime?

Exxon has spent millions of dollars on science to understand climate change.

But did they bury the results?

The New York attorney general is now investigating.

http://www.pri.org/stories/2015-11-05/exxon-helped-pioneer-climate-science-then-disavowed-its-own-research-new-york-ag