Author Archives: Shicsshaw

Is meat sustainable? Depends where you are.


Codex: Inquisition – Games Workshop

The Inquisition is the most powerful organisation within the Imperium. Bound by no Imperial law or authority, its agents – Inquisitors – operate in a highly secretive manner and answer only to themselves. Inquisitors use whatever means are necessary in order to safeguard the Imperium from heretics, mutants and aliens. It is not without good reason that Inqui […]

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Warhammer 40,000: Carnage! (Interactive Edition) – Games Workshop

Not all battles are fought between two opposing armies, sometimes multiple factions will find themselves vying for the same objective. In these brutal and bloody confrontations, the battlefield will become a boiling melee of mayhem and madness. Each commander must weight the pros and cons of their every assault, committing forces against one foe sure to weak […]

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Inside of a Dog – Alexandra Horowitz

The bestselling book that asks what dogs know and how they think, now in paperback. The answers will surprise and delight you as Alexandra Horowitz, a cognitive scientist, explains how dogs perceive their daily worlds, each other, and that other quirky animal, the human. Horowitz introduces the reader to dogs’ perceptual and cognitive abilities and then draw […]

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Warhammer Battle: Vanguard Clash (eBook Edition) – Games Workshop

When armies are on the march, it is common for a vanguard force to forge a few hours ahead of the main column. The vanguard is tasked with scouting out the swiftest march routes for the army following in their wake, and screening their advance to ensure the way ahead is free from foes. Should they encounter the vanguard of an enemy host, a swift and brutal c […]

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Warhammer 40,000: Carnage! (eBook Edition) – Games Workshop

Not all battles are fought between two opposing armies, sometimes multiple factions will find themselves vying for the same objective. In these brutal and bloody confrontations, the battlefield will become a boiling melee of mayhem and madness. Each commander must weight the pros and cons of their every assault, committing forces against one foe sure to weak […]

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Dataslate: Adeptus Astartes Storm Wing (Interactive Edition) – Games Workshop

Like a bolt out of war-torn skies comes the Storm Wing – salvation for the Emperor’s forces, and a bane to their foes. The Adeptus Astartes Storm Wing gives Warhammer 40,000 players background information and rules that allow them to collect and field this deadly combination of fighter-craft. For the Adeptus Astartes to achieve their rapid strike styl […]

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Dataslate: Reclusiam Command Squad (Interactive Edition) – Games Workshop

Chaplains march to war at the head of Command Squads, their faith and righteous rhetoric exhorting their fellow battle-brothers to fight with the fury of the Emperor himself. These retinues are made up of veterans whose combat skills are mirrored by their tactical and strategic brilliance, each one having served his Chapter though decades of war and blood. I […]

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Paracord Fusion Ties – Volume 1 – J.D. Lenzen

J.D. Lenzen is the creator of the highly acclaimed YouTube channel “Tying It All Together”, and the producer of over 200 instructional videos. He’s been formally recognized by the International Guild of Knot Tyers (IGKT) for his contributions to knotting, and is the originator of fusion knotting-innovative knots created through the merging of […]

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Warlords of the Dark Millennium: Dante – Games Workshop

All fear the Angel of Death! Lord Commander Dante – the Bringer of Sanguinius’ Light – rules over the storied Blood Angels Space Marine Chapter. Even amongst the most honoured Imperial Commanders of the 41st Millennium, Dante is a living legend. His heroic service to the forces of the Imperium has lasted for well over a millennia. He is believed to be the lo […]

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Apocalypse Dataslate: Centurion Siegebreaker Cohorts (Interactive Edition) – Games Workshop

Assault Centurions are a powerful weapon in the armouries of the Adeptus Astartes, able to smash apart enemy fortifications and open the way for full-scale assaults. Combined with Ironclad Dreadnoughts, many Space Marine Chapters use them to form Centurion Siegebreaker Cohorts, ideal for cracking open stubborn enemy defences. Warhammer 40,000: Apocalypse – C […]

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Is meat sustainable? Depends where you are.

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5 Simple Ways to Have a Greener Halloween

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5 Simple Ways to Have a Greener Halloween

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Real-Life Captain Phillips: The Pirates "Did Not Let Me Urinate"

Mother Jones

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Captain Phillips is a solid if ultimately forgettable “true story” movie. The film, directed by Paul Greengrass, tells the story of Captain Richard Phillips (played by a New England-accented Tom Hanks), a merchant mariner taken hostage by Somali pirates in 2009. After being held for five days aboard a lifeboat, Phillips was rescued when Navy Seal snipers took out three of his Somali captors. “I share the country’s admiration for the bravery of Captain Phillips and his selfless concern for his crew,” President Obama said in a statement on April 12, 2009. “His courage is a model for all Americans.”

Last week, Phillips attended a special screening of Captain Phillips at the Newseum in Washington, DC. Hanks was there, taking selfies with sailors. Barkhad Abdi (who plays the pirate Abduwali Abdukhadir Muse) was in attendance, as were Navy Commander Frank Castellano (one of the men who saved Phillips) and Greengrass. The 58-year-old English director is a former journalist who directed two other acclaimed docudramas: Bloody Sunday and United 93. “Films aren’t journalism,” Greengrass emphasized while introducing his film, though he argued that dramatizations are capable of conveying certain “truths.”

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Real-Life Captain Phillips: The Pirates "Did Not Let Me Urinate"

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Here’s Why the Pentagon Is Facing $20 Billion in Extra Cuts Next Year

Mother Jones

Earlier today I passed along the news that the Pentagon is facing some extra big cuts next year under the terms of the sequester. But why? Via Twitter, Matt Glassman explains: “The 2011 BCA sets up different def of ‘security spending’ for FY12/13 and for FY14+, result is up % DoD cuts.”

Aha! The Congressional Research Service explains further:

For FY2012 and FY2013, the spending limits were divided into “security” and “nonsecurity” categories, with security defined broadly to include the Departments of Veterans Affairs (VA), Homeland Security (DHS), and State, in addition to the Department of Defense….However, after 2013 these terms are redefined, so that “security” consists only of budget function 050 (effectively, the Department of Defense), and “nonsecurity” includes all other government spending (including the VA, DHS, and State). The distinction between security and nonsecurity (as redefined) remains for each of FY2014-FY2021.

So there’s your answer. In the 2013 sequester, “security” was trimmed about $55 billion in annual terms, but some of that went to cuts at the VA, DHS, and State. In 2014, the entire $55 billion gets taken from the Pentagon budget. Apparently that adds up to about $20 billion more in pure defense cuts.

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Here’s Why the Pentagon Is Facing $20 Billion in Extra Cuts Next Year

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Why Violent Right-wing Extremism Doesn’t Scare Americans

Mother Jones

This story first appeared on the TomDispatch website.

The evangelical Christians of Greenville County, South Carolina, are afraid.

There has been talk of informants and undercover agents luring young, conservative evangelicals across the South into sham terrorist plots. The feds and the area’s police want to eliminate a particularly extreme strain of evangelical Christianity opposed to abortion, homosexuality, and secularism, whose adherents sometimes use violent imagery and speech. They fear such extreme talk could convince lone wolves or small groups of Christian extremists to target abortion clinics, gay bars, or shopping malls for attack. As a result, law enforcement has flooded these communities with informants meant to provide an early warning system for any signs of such “radicalization.”

Converts, so important to the evangelical movement, are now looked upon with suspicion—the more fervent, the more suspicious. In local barbecue joints, diners, and watering holes, the proprietors are careful not to let FOX News linger onscreen too long, fearing political discussions that could be misconstrued. After all, you can never be too sure who’s listening.

Come Sunday, the ministers who once railed against abortion, gay marriage, and Hollywood as sure signs that the US is descending into godlessness will mute their messages. They will peer out at their congregations and fear that some faces aren’t interested in the Gospel, or maybe are a little too interested in every word. The once vibrant political clubs at Bob Jones University have become lifeless as students whisper about informants and fear a few misplaced words could leave them in a government database or worse.

Naturally, none of this is actually happening to evangelical Christians in South Carolina, across the South, or anywhere else. It would never be tolerated. Yet the equivalents of everything cited above did happen in and around the New York metropolitan area—just not to white, conservative, Christian Americans. But replace them with American Muslims in the New York area and you have a perfect fit, as documented by the recent report Mapping Muslims. And New York is hardly alone.

Since 9/11, American law enforcement has taken a disproportionate interest in American Muslims across the country, seeing a whole community as a national security threat, particularly in California and New York City. But here’s the thing: the facts that have been piling up ever since that date don’t support such suspicion. Not at all.

The numbers couldn’t be clearer: right-wing extremists have committed far more acts of political violence since 1990 than American Muslims. That law enforcement across the country hasn’t felt similarly compelled to infiltrate and watch over conservative Christian communities in the hopes of disrupting violent right-wing extremism confirms what American Muslims know in their bones: to be different is to be suspect.

Conducting Suspicionless Surveillance
In the aftermath of 9/11, law enforcement has infiltrated Muslim American communities and spied on them in ways that would have outraged Americans, had such tactics been used against Christian communities after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, or after any of the other hate crimes or anti-abortion-based acts of violence committed since then by right-wing extremists.

Documents obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests by the American Civil Liberties Union make clear that FBI agents in California used community outreach programs to gather intelligence at mosques and other local events, recording the opinions and associations of people not suspected of any crime. In 2008, the FBI loosened its internal guidelines further, allowing agents to collect demographic information on ethnically concentrated communities and map them for intelligence and investigative purposes.

There is no question that the most extreme example of such blanket, suspicion-less surveillance has been conducted by the New York City Police Department (NYPD). As revealed by the Associated Press, the NYPD’s Intelligence Division carried out a secret surveillance program on the city’s varied Muslim communities based on the erroneous belief that their religion makes them more susceptible to violent radicalization.

The program, which continues today, looks something like this, according to Mapping Muslims: “rakers,” or undercover officers, are sent into neighborhoods to identify “hot spots”—mosques, schools, restaurants, cafes, halal meat shops, hookah bars—and told to chat up people to “gauge sentiment,” while setting up “listening posts.” “Crawlers,” or informants, are then recruited and sent to infiltrate mosques and religious events. They are ordered to record what imams and congregants say and take note of who attended services and meetings.

These crawlers are encouraged to initiate “create and capture” conversations with their targets, bringing up terrorism or some other controversial topic, recording the response, and then sharing it with the NYPD. The intelligence unit also went mobile, checking out and infiltrating American-Muslim student groups from Connecticut to New Jersey and even as far away as Pennsylvania.

When news of the NYPD’s spying program broke, it shattered trust within the city’s Muslim communities, giving rise to general suspicion and fraying community ties of all sorts. This naturally raises the question: How many terrorism plots were identified and disrupted thanks to this widespread and suspicionless surveillance program? The answer: none.

Worse, the chief of the NYPD Intelligence Division admitted in sworn testimony last summer that the Muslim surveillance program did not even generate a single criminal lead. The incredibly invasive, rights-eroding program was a complete bust, a total waste of the resources of the New York City Police Department.

And that’s without even considering what is surely its most harmful aspect: the likelihood that, at least in the short term, it has caused irreparable damage to the Muslim community’s trust in the police. Surveillance, concludes the Mapping Muslims report, “has stifled constitutionally protected activity and destroyed trust between American Muslim communities and the agencies charged with protecting them.”

When people fear the police, tips dry up, potentially making the community less safe. This is important, especially given that the Muslim-American community has helped prevent, depending on whose figures you use, from 21%40% of all terrorism plots associated with Muslims since 9/11. That’s grounds for cooperation, not alienation: a lesson that would have been learned by a police department with strong ties to and trust in the community.

Numbers May Not Lie, But They Sure Can Be Ignored
The idea that American law enforcement’s mass surveillance of Muslim communities is a necessary, if unfortunate, counterterrorism tool rests with the empirically false notion that American Muslims are more prone to political violence than other Americans.

This is simply not true.

According to the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), right-wing terrorists perpetrated 145 “ideologically motivated homicide incidents” between 1990 and 2010. In that same period, notes START, “al Qaeda affiliates, al Qaeda-inspired extremists, and secular Arab Nationalists committed 27 homicide incidents in the United States involving 16 perpetrators or groups of perpetrators.”

Last November, West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center published a report on America’s violent far-right extremists. Its numbers were even more startling than START’s. “The consolidated dataset,” writes report author Arie Perliger, “includes information on 4,420 violent incidents that occurred between 1990 and 2012 within US borders, and which caused 670 fatalities and injured 3,053 people.” Perliger also found that the number of far-right attacks had jumped 400% in the first 11 years of the 21st century.

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Why Violent Right-wing Extremism Doesn’t Scare Americans

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VIDEO: Ag Gag in Action at Utah Slaughterhouse

Mother Jones

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Animal rights activist Amy Meyer was the first person to be prosecuted under an ag gag law for a disturbing scene she caught on tape in February at the Dale T. Smith and Sons Meat Packing Co. in Draper, Utah.

Meyer was standing on a public easement outside the barbed wire fence that encloses the slaughterhouse and recorded a tractor carrying away a downer cow and flesh coming out of a chute on the side of a building. She was approached by the manager of the company who told her she had to leave, citing Utah’s ag gag law: “If you read the rights here and the laws in Utah, you can’t film an agricultural property without my consent.”

Check out Meyer’s footage, first published this week by environmental blogger Will Potter:

Utah’s law, enacted in March 2012, makes it illegal to record, “an image of, or sound from, an agricultural operation while the person is committing criminal trespass.” Like many other states’ ag gag laws, Utah also forbids obtaining, “access to an agricultural operation under false pretenses.” As Ted Genoways’ reveals in a recent investigation for Mother Jones, laws criminalizing whistleblowing on Big Ag have been sweeping the country in the past few years. Ag gag laws were introduced in 12 states just this year, and are currently pending in Pennsylvania and North Carolina. Check out MoJo’s map to see where these bills have passed and failed.

Gagged by Big Ag

You Won’t Believe What Pork Producers Do to Pregnant Pigs

Has Your State Outlawed Blowing the Whistle on Factory Farm Abuses?

Timeline: Big Ag’s Campaign to Shut Up Its Critics

The Cruelest Show on Earth

Meyer used to pass by the slaughterhouse on her way to volunteer at a local animal sanctuary in Draper, where the mayor is a co-owner of the meat-packing plant, and felt compelled to, “do more to fight what’s happening to cows inside factory farms and slaughterhouses,” she told Mother Jones. After she filmed the downer cow incident and then a confrontation with Smith and Sons’s manager, police arrived to question Meyer, but did not detain her. She was later charged with “agricultural operation interference.” As shown by the video, Meyer was standing on public property while recording, which was why the prosecutor ultimately dropped the charges on April 30, after Potter publicized the case.

On May 18, hundreds of local activists gathered outside the slaughterhouse to protest the state’s ag gag law. A spokesperson for the plant told ABC News, “the meat processing facility is inspected daily and has a good record for animal care,” and the company maintained in a written statement that their “animal handling and treatment practices are humane and responsible.”

However, as Meyer points out to the plant’s manager in the video, more transparency is in order: “Why are you concerned about being filmed, if you think this is a legitimate business?”


VIDEO: Ag Gag in Action at Utah Slaughterhouse

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Coal foes suffer setback in fight against exports

Coal foes suffer setback in fight against exports

Kurt Haubrich

Coal dust for everybody!

Bad news for climate hawks, coal haters, and Northwesterners who don’t like breathing coal dust: The Army Corps of Engineers says it won’t consider climate change or other big-picture issues when it reviews the environmental impacts of proposed coal export terminals.

Plans are afoot to build or expand coal export facilities at three ports in the Pacific Northwest. The governors of Oregon and Washington, other elected leaders in the states, and enviros have all been calling for the Army Corps to do a comprehensive study considering the wide-ranging, cumulative impacts of a big coal export push through the region — including coal dust, diesel exhaust, railroad and port congestion, road traffic, water pollution, and, yes, climate change.

But this week, the Army Corps said no. From the Associated Press:

[A] top agency official said Tuesday that a more sweeping study to include all three terminals and impacts further afield was not appropriate.

“Many of the activities of concern to the public, such as rail traffic, coal mining, shipping coal outside of U.S. territory, and the ultimate burning of coal overseas, are outside the Corps’ control and responsibility,” the agency’s acting chief of regulatory affairs, Jennifer Moyer, said in testimony submitted to the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

It’s not like “the public” is asking for much — just for the corps to take its responsibilities under the National Environmental Policy Act seriously and review all of the impacts of the planned export rush. Instead, it’s taking a very limited view. From the McClatchy news service:

“The corps will limit its focus on emissions to those associated with construction of the facilities,” Jennifer Moyer … told lawmakers. “The effects of burning of coal in Asia or wherever it may be is too far to affect our action.”

Coal exports have become a big target for climate activists; if they can keep export terminals from being built, that will help keep coal in the ground, because domestic demand for coal has declined markedly in recent years. Activist opposition may have helped kill three of six proposed export terminal proposals in the Northwest since last year.

Why is the Army Corps refusing to do a comprehensive study? In part, it seems to be throwing its hands in the air and saying it would be just too darn hard. Again from McClatchy:

Moyer noted in her testimony that … it was beyond the realm of the agency’s expertise to judge what increased coal shipments would mean for the region.

The Corps will have to work on expanding its expertise if the White House ever actually finalizes its plan to require federal agencies to consider climate change when analyzing the environmental impacts of major projects. It couldn’t hurt the Corps to start practicing now.

Northwest political leaders and enviros plan to keep pushing for broader review. U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) is pushing too: “I think the Corps is making a big mistake,” he told Moyer, later adding, “I think you should reconsider your position.”

John Upton is a science fan and green news boffin who tweets, posts articles to Facebook, and blogs about ecology. He welcomes reader questions, tips, and incoherent rants:

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Coal foes suffer setback in fight against exports

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Official at Heart of IRS Tea Party Scandal Spiked Audits of Big Dark-Money Donors

Mother Jones

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You’d have to search long and hard to find a member of Congress not outraged that politics and partisanship crept into the work of the IRS, leading to the wrongful targeting of tea partiers and other conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status. “The American people have a right to expect that the IRS will exercise its authority in a neutral, non-biased way,” Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said on Tuesday. “Sadly, there appears to have been more than a hint of political bias” by the IRS staffers vetting nonprofit applications. Hatch’s Republican colleagues in the House and Senate could hardly contain their anger. “Do either of you feel any responsibility or remorse for treating the American people this way?” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) asked the former IRS chiefs Douglas Shulman and Steven Miller on Tuesday.

More MoJo coverage of the IRS tea party scandal

Actually, Tea Party Groups Gave the IRS Lots of Good Reasons to Be Interested

The IRS Tea Party Scandal, Explained

Is This Big Tea Party Group Really an Innocent Victim of the IRS?

How Congress Helped Create the IRS-Tea Party Mess

Official at Heart of IRS Tea Party Scandal Spiked Audits of Big Dark-Money Donors

5 Things You Need to Know in the Inspector General’s IRS Tea Party Scandal Report

Yet lawmakers have no qualms with using politics to bend the IRS to its will. In 2011, under pressure from House and Senate Republicans, Miller, then the IRS’ deputy commissioner, spiked audits investigating whether five big donors to 501(c)(4) groups—the type of nonprofit that can get involved in campaigns and elections but can’t make politics its “primary activity”—avoided paying taxes on their donations. Miller’s decision erased any worry that wealthy donors might have had about giving millions to nonprofits during the 2012 campaign season.

For some tax lawyers, it was a surprising move that raised red flags. “They were stopped mid-audit, which is an extraordinary move,” says Marcus Owens, a tax lawyer who ran the IRS division that oversees politically active nonprofits for 10 years. “I’ve been practicing tax law for close to 40 years, and I’ve never seen that. To have Miller reach out and stop those audits, that’s something that really deserves an inquiry.”

The identities of the donors and nonprofits being scrutinized were never revealed. Owens says he suspects most, if not all, of the five had contributed to Republican groups because GOP lawmakers were the ones raising a ruckus on Capitol Hill. Greg Colvin, a San Francisco-based attorney who represented one of the donors, declined to give any details about his client and the donation under review.

The tax matter at issue was whether these donors had sidestepped the gift tax. Created in 1924, the gift tax acts as a safeguard of sorts, backstopping both the estate tax and the income tax. Before its creation, people could donate all their money before they died to avoid the estate tax or give away their assets to relatives in lower income tax brackets. The gift tax does not apply to donations to traditional charities (the Red Cross), trade groups (the US Chamber of Commerce), or political nonprofits formed under the 527 section of the tax code (Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and America Coming Together). In the 1980s, the IRS said that the gift tax did cover contributions to 501(c)(4)s, yet for decades the agency never bothered donors about the gift tax on their donations to such nonprofits.

That changed in early 2011, when the IRS told five big donors to 501(c)(4) groups that they were being investigated for possibly dodging the gift tax. One of these letters read, “Donations to 501(c)(4) organizations are taxable gifts and your contribution in 2008 should have been reported on your 2008 Federal Gift Tax Return.” That was a potentially a big deal. The way the gift tax works, a donor who in 2008 gave more than $2 million to one or more nonprofits could owe hundreds of thousands of dollars to the taxman—a doozy of an unexpected tax bill. If the IRS vigorously applied the gift tax to these sort of donations, donors would be less likely to give (or would give less) to nonprofits, tax experts say.

In May 2011, news of the IRS’ big-donor probe went public. Republicans reacted furiously. On June 3, 2011, Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), the chairman of the House ways and means committee, sent a letter to then-IRS commissioner Doug Shulman demanding the names and titles of IRS staffers involved in the gift tax probe, and the criteria used to pick which donors to scrutinize. “Every aspect of this tax investigation, from the timing to the sudden reversal of nearly thirty years of IRS practice, strongly suggests that the IRS is targeting constitutionally-protected political speech,” Camp said. (The IRS denied that the probe was influenced by politics in any way.)

The following month, Miller halted the agency’s donor audits. In a public memo, he wrote, “This is a difficult area with significant legal, administrative, and policy implications with respect to which we have little enforcement history.” The IRS would study the gift tax, Miller added, and if it launched future audits of donors, it would do so only after alerting the public.

If nonprofit donors had once worried about getting slapped with a big tax bill, Miller’s memo eased those fears—just in time for the 2012 campaign season, in which politically active nonprofits raised and spent hundreds of millions of dollars. Miller’s memo “gave donors a green light” to finance 501(c)(4)s, Colvin says. “Ever since then donors have been able to give to c-4 organizations who may or may not be active in politics.”

Miller, who lost his job in the latest IRS scandal, was not a political appointee, unlike Shulman, who was named to his post by President George W. Bush. (The staffers who launched the short-lived gift tax probes weren’t political appointees, either.) Yet Marcus Owens, the former IRS director, says Miller’s decision to stop the audits smacked of politics after receiving so much pressure from Congress. “The deputy commissioner’s office does not normally step in to stop audits,” he says. “It’s getting too close to politics at that point.”

Colvin says that Miller and the IRS did the right thing by stopping the donor audits, which had little precedent. “I thought that was a pretty good example of a situation that had the potential to be a scandal and it turned out to be much better managed than this latest thing,” Colvin says.

But all the tax experts tend to agree that the gift tax law, like the rules and guidelines for politically active nonprofits, badly needs fixing. The gift tax is so murky, Colvin says, that some of his clients proactively have paid millions in taxes to avoid the slim chance of an IRS audit. Yet other donors don’t sweat it and pay no gift taxes at all. Ellen Aprill, a Loyola Law School professor, says, “If you’re trying to reform 501(c)(4) groups, you should try to address the uncertainty about the gift tax too.”

As for Republicans in Congress, they seem to want it both ways: hammering IRS officials for letting partisanship influence their agency’s work, yet at the same time applying all the political pressure they can muster to get what they want.

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Official at Heart of IRS Tea Party Scandal Spiked Audits of Big Dark-Money Donors

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The Most Absurd Religious War in Geek History is in the News Today

Mother Jones

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The creator of the GIF, Steve Wilhite, caused a firestorm today by weighing in on the correct pronunciation of his creation:

He is proud of the GIF, but remains annoyed that there is still any debate over the pronunciation of the format. “The Oxford English Dictionary accepts both pronunciations,” Mr. Wilhite said. “They are wrong. It is a soft ‘G,’ pronounced ‘jif.’ End of story.”

This is not the first time Wilhite has handed down this decree. It’s never been the end of the story before, and needless to say, it was not the end of the story this time either. But I bring this up not to declare my own allegiance, but to ask a different question. I need some honest input from old timers here.

As near as I can remember, controversy over the pronunciation of GIF has existed practically from the day of its birth. Nevertheless, my recollection is that 20 years ago, most people pronounced it JIF. The hard-G contingent was a distinct minority. But that seems to have changed over time. Today, my sense is just the opposite: most people pronounce it with a hard G, and the Jiffies are now a small rump fighting a rearguard action.

Everyone has such strong opinions about what the pronunciation should be that it’s hard to solicit opinions on the purely empirical question of how it has been pronounced. But I’m going to ask anyway. Please don’t bother answering unless you were born before 1970. For those of you who were, and especially for those of you who worked in the tech industry in the 80s and 90s, what’s your recollection? Has the favored pronunciation changed, or has the hard G always been the more popular choice?

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The Most Absurd Religious War in Geek History is in the News Today

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Huge tar-sands waste pile grows alongside Detroit River

Huge tar-sands waste pile grows alongside Detroit River

Detroit’s Petroleum Coke PilesFacebook page

A gift to Detroit from Canada’s tar-sands operators.

A riverside refinery that has operated in Detroit since the 1930s began refining a new type of oil in November: tar-sands oil from Canada.

In the few short months since it began handling the Canadian oil, the refinery has already spewed out a three-story mountain of black waste covering an area the size a city block. That mountain is still growing, and it is not covered with anything to prevent tiny carbon particles from blowing over the city.

The waste can’t be legally used as fuel in the U.S. So the Koch brothers have bought up the pile and plan to sell it to be burned in poorer countries that enjoy freedom from all of America’s bothersome environmental regulations.

From The New York Times:

An initial refining process known as coking, which releases the oil from the tarlike bitumen in the oil sands, also leaves the petroleum coke, of which Canada has 79.8 million tons stockpiled. Some is dumped in open-pit oil sands mines and tailing ponds in Alberta. Much is just piled up there.

Detroit’s pile will not be the only one. Canada’s efforts to sell more products derived from oil sands to the United States, which include transporting it through the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, have pulled more coking south to American refineries, creating more waste product here. …

“Here’s a little bit of Alberta,” said Brian Masse, one of Windsor’s Parliament members. “For those that thought they were immune from the oil sands and the consequences of them, we’re now seeing up front and center that we’re not.” …

Lorne Stockman, who recently published a study on petroleum coke for the environmental group Oil Change International, says, “It’s really the dirtiest residue from the dirtiest oil on earth.”

The Detroit pile is ugly as hell, but state officials insist that it poses no health threats, so they’re not planning to do anything about it. From The Detroit News:

New tests by Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality have found the massive piles of petroleum coke sitting along the Detroit River do not pose a threat to human health.

The findings aren’t likely to satisfy Detroit and Windsor residents who have complained about the growing piles of petroleum coke on the U.S. side of the river that the Environmental Protection Agency determined in March were not toxic. …

For about two months, residents in Windsor and Detroit have watched with worry as mounds of the material have grown into small mountains. Before they even knew what the material was, there were concerns about its toxicity as well as its proximity to the river.

With the EPA and DEQ findings, state officials said there is little action they can take.

So here’s something else that American can look forward to if their president approves the Keystone XL pipeline, in addition to a very small handful of jobs: mountains of filthy fuel waste.

John Upton is a science fan and green news boffin who


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