Society's ChildS


US: Christmas Tree Tax: Ho, Ho, No

snow, christmas tree
© unknown
Most people probably agree that the venerable Christmas tree doesn't need any help with its classic, holiday image.

But not if you happen to work for the Obama administration.

In one of the looniest - if not Grinchiest - proposals ever to come out of Washington's chimney stack in recent years, President Obama's Agriculture Department actually proposed a new 15-cent charge on all fresh Christmas trees.

Fortunately, someone in the administration had the good sense this week to ax this goofy idea.

But really?

Taxing Christmas trees?

Say it ain't so, Mr. Scrooge.


US, New York: MTA Plans Unprecedented Overnight Subway Shutdowns

The pilot program begins on the Lexington Avenue line in January.

The MTA revealed Monday that it plans to shut down entire sections of subway lines overnight for several different periods to complete track work and maintenance, rather than do the repairs in pieces on weekends.

Transit officials plan to pilot the unprecedented program on the Lexington Avenue line between Grand Central Terminal and Atlantic Avenue starting Jan. 9 by shutting down parts of the 4, 5 and 6 trains between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. for several days in a row.

During the shutdown, crews would repair tracks and signals, and perform a "thorough cleaning" of the roadbed, according to the MTA.

The MTA says the plan was created as a way to minimize its weekend disruptions, while also saving more than $1 million.

Heart - Black

Beating Babies For Jesus?

© N/A
There is a brutal movement in America that legitimizes child abuse in the name of God. Two stories recently converged to make us pay attention. Last week, a video went viral of a Texas judge brutally whipping his disabled daughter. And on Monday, the New York Times published a story about child deaths in homes that have embraced the teachings of To Train Up a Child, a book by Christian preacher Michael Pearl that advocates using a switch on children as young as six months old.

What many people may not realize is that in the evangelical alternative universe of the home school movement, tightly knit church communities and the following of a number of big-time leaders and authors, physical punishment of children has been glorified for years.

As the Times illustrates -- Preaching Virtue of Spanking, Even as Deaths Fuel Debate -- the books of Michael Pearl and his wife Debi have been found in the homes where several children were killed.

Che Guevara

US, New York: 'Occupy' protesters plan to shut down Wall Street

Stage set for clashes with cops; marches planned to mark two-month anniversary of movement

© Joe Marino / New York Daily NewsThe Occupy Wall Street camp in Zuccotti Park is entering its 2nd month. Zuccotti Park remains a tent city, here a camper was grooming himself earlier in the morning.

Occupy Wall Street protesters are going all out for Thursday's two-month anniversary of their movement, vowing to "shut down Wall Street" and hold marches, strikes and rallies all over town - even underground.

Cops say they're ready.

The ambitious day of action, billed as getting them "Out of the Park and into the Streets," is likely to set up new confrontations with the police.

If necessary, the NYPD will activate a mobilization plan that would throw 400 cops who work in headquarters into action, a source said.

The day is to start with an early morning "street carnival" outside the Stock Exchange - highly symbolic real estate that has been zealously guarded by the NYPD.

The group promises "a block party the 1% will never forget."

Black Cat

Norway court stops gunman talking to victims' families

© AFPPeople hold banners reading "We will never forget the July 22 massacre, crush fascism" and "No podium for fascists" in front of a court house in Oslo. Right-wing extremist Anders Behring Breivik, the confessed killer of 77 people in a July rampage in Norway, has made his first public court appearance
Anders Behring Breivik, who confessed to the massacre of 77 people in Norway in July, tried in vain to make a show of his first public court appearance Monday, but was blocked from addressing the families of his victims.

The Oslo district court ruled that Behring Breivik would remain in custody until February 6, when a new custody extension hearing will be held, and announced a possible trial start-date of April 16.

The 32-year-old rightwing extremist, wearing a dark suit, white shirt and light blue tie and sporting a narrow beard, asked judge Torkel Nesheim if he could speak to the families "for five minutes," but was turned down.

It was the first court hearing open to survivors, victims' family members, the media and the general public since the July 22 killing spree.

After the hearing, his lawyer Geir Lippestad, who had asked that his client be set free, said Behring Breivik had prepared a short note, but that he did not know what he had planned to say.

Better Earth

US, Nebraska: TransCanada says it will reroute planned oil pipeline to avoid environmentally sensitive area

© The Lincoln Journal-Star/Eric Gregory/Associated PressSpeaker of the Legislature Mike Flood announces from the floor of the legislature in Lincoln, Neb., Monday, Nov. 14, 2011, that TransCanada has agreed to voluntarily move the Keystone XL pipeline project away from the Ogallala aquifer.
Canadian pipeline developer TransCanada will shift the route of its planned oil pipeline out of the environmentally sensitive Sandhills area of Nebraska, two company officials announced Monday night.

Speaking at a news conference at the Nebraska Capitol, the officials said TransCanada would agree to the new route, a move the company previously claimed wasn't possible, as part of an effort to push through the proposed $7 billion project. They expressed confidence the project would ultimately be approved.

Alex Pourbaix, TransCanada's president for energy and oil pipelines, said rerouting the Keystone XL line would likely require 30 to 40 additional miles of pipe and an additional pumping station. The exact route has not yet been determined, but Pourbaix said Nebraska will play a key role in deciding it.

The announcement follows the federal government's decision last week to delay a decision on a federal permit for the project until it studies new potential routes that avoid the Sandhills area and the Ogallala aquifer as the proposed pipeline carries crude oil from Canada to Texas Gulf Coast refineries.

Debate over the pipeline has drawn international attention focused largely on Nebraska, because the pipeline would cross the Sandhills - an expanse of grass-strewn, loose-soil hills - and part of the Ogallala aquifer, which supplies water to Nebraska and parts of seven other states.

Arrow Up

US: Airline Fine May Send Flight Cancellations Soaring

DOT fines American Eagle $900,000 for stranding passengers more than three hours

The government's $900,000 fine Monday against an American Airlines affiliate for holding hundreds of passengers on board a small jet for hours on an airport tarmac may serve as a deterrent to future such incidents. But industry analysts warned that may come with the price of more canceled flights.

Even before the fine against American Eagle Airlines, airlines had cancelled more flights to avoid pushing up against the new three-hour limit on tarmac delays the Department of Transportation imposed 20 months ago. Now, cancellations will shoot up even more, said airline analyst Michael Boyd.

"If there's a 20 percent chance of this happening, an airline will cancel," Boyd said, because of the potential for massive fines.

Airlines that violate the rule can be fined as much as $27,500 per passenger, but transportation officials had held off fining air carriers in any of the several dozen instances where the rule has been broken until this week. Industry officials are watching for an action from DOT on a similar incident at the Hartford, Conn., airport during a freak snowstorm in October.

The fine imposed on American Eagle was the largest penalty to be paid by an airline in a consumer protection case not involving civil rights violations, although airlines have paid much higher fines for violating federal safety regulations.


US: Classic Thanksgiving Dinner Costing More in 2011

Cost of Thanksgiving
© American Farm Bureau FederationClick here for a high resolution PDF version.

Washington, D.C., - The retail cost of menu items for a classic Thanksgiving dinner including turkey, stuffing, cranberries, pumpkin pie and all the basic trimmings increased about 13 percent this year, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation.

AFBF's 26th annual informal price survey of classic items found on the Thanksgiving Day dinner table indicates the average cost of this year's feast for 10 is $49.20, a $5.73 price increase from last year's average of $43.47.

"The cost of this year's meal remains a bargain, at just under $5 per person," said AFBF President Bob Stallman, a rice and cattle producer from Texas. "The quality and variety of food produced for our dinner tables on America's diverse farms and ranches sets us apart from our contemporaries around the world. It is an honor for our farm and ranch families to produce the food from our nation's land for family Thanksgiving celebrations."

The AFBF survey shopping list includes turkey, bread stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a relish tray of carrots and celery, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, and beverages of coffee and milk, all in quantities sufficient to serve a family of 10. There is also plenty for leftovers.

The big ticket item - a 16-pound turkey - came in at $21.57 this year. That was roughly $1.35 per pound, an increase of about 25 cents per pound, or a total of $3.91 per whole turkey, compared to 2010. The whole bird was the biggest contributor to the final total, showing the largest price increase compared to last year.


US: 'The Largest And Most Expensive Police Action In Recent Memory' Is About To Go Down At Occupy Oakland

Oakland Police officer with no badge number
© Lucy KafanovOakland Police officer with no badge number

It's 4:45 a.m. in Oakland and a flurry of Tweets from the ground are announcing an eminent confrontation with police.

"I love the smell of vinegar in the morning," was the Tweet that got my attention and a Google search found that vinegar soaked bandannas are used by protesters without gas-masks to neutralized the effects of tear-gas.

The Silicon Valley News reports protesters have been anticipating a raid since 3 a.m. at the intersection of Broadway and 14th Street after an anonymous tip came via email to camp leaders.

According to the email, "Peaceful protesters are advised by police to stand down until the situation stabilizes. The general public is advised to stay away from the area during the action to avoid potential personal injury from incidental contact with conflicts."


US, California: Berkeley police yank women by their hair who are defending public education

More police brutality from the Occupy Cal protest at UC-Berkeley November 9, 2011. UC police yank women by their hair so they can destroy the encampment tents. Later, a woman is pinned to a bush and being batoned, and a man trying to rescue her gets beaten by police.