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March 31, 2013

The drought has lowered the Great Lakes enough that container ships need to haul less cargo

Parts of Texas are a dustbowl, the Great Lakes are two feet lower than usual, and California is experiencing the driest year in recorded history. This is what climate collapse looks like. Great Lakes drought has ripple effect on auto industry - CBS News
The persistent drought has produced some of the lowest levels ever recorded in Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. And as a consequence, the big ships that carry iron ore to mills around the lakes are now being forced to lighten their loads - or risk running aground. "When she came down with her cargo here - the last cargo in January - she was at the 25 mark. If she had been loaded to her full mark, she would have been up just an inch short of 28 feet," said Glen Nekvasil / CBS News , vice president at the Lake Carriers Association - a trade group that represents shippers. Last month CBS News went aboard the Stewart J. Cort in the Port of Milwaukee. As long as an aircraft carrier, the ship can carry 65,000 tons of ore. "When this ship loaded its last cargo of the season, it had only 55,000 tons on board," Nekvasil said. If a ship is 10,000 tons of ore short, "that means a steel mill didn't make about 6,700 tons of steel and that could have been turned into 8,400 cars. And 8,400 cars would keep a large auto plant working for 15 days," he explained. "And you have to remember that's on just one trip. These ships will make 45 to 50 trips during a season." Precipitation in February and March over the Michigan and Huron basin has been close to average, and the levels are now about two inches higher than they were in January, when the record lows were reached. But that's still about 26 inches - more than two feet - lower than where the lakes usually are.

March 30, 2013

McLemore is a perfect case for why the NCAA needs to pay players right now

Pay Them! - Lawyers, Guns & Money : Lawyers, Guns & Money
He is also a product of the extreme poverty that grips millions of families across this country, a child whose mother worked multiple jobs in a vain attempt to make ends meet, a kid who often went days without food and found it “hard to play basketball when nothing is inside of you.” McLemore’s family often had to choose between food and electricity, as USA Today’s Eric Prisbell detailed in a profile of the Kansas star last week: McLemore says the only meals he sometimes had were the free ones at school. His mother, he recalled, sometimes made the difficult decision to sell food stamps in order to pay bills. “Sometimes we would not have food so we could keep our lights on and have hot water,” he says. “She had to sacrifice for that.” When the family did not have hot water, McLemore remembers one nightly routine: Fill the bathtub with cold water. Heat up bowls of water in the microwave, then run them to the bathtub to make the tub water lukewarm for baths. The warmth never lasted, he says.

March 29, 2013

Cruel and Unusual Punishment: The Shame of Three Strikes Laws

Cruel and Unusual Punishment: The Shame of Three Strikes Laws | Politics News | Rolling Stone
Despite the passage in late 2012 of a new state ballot initiative that prevents California from ever again giving out life sentences to anyone whose "third strike" is not a serious crime, thousands of people – the overwhelming majority of them poor and nonwhite – remain imprisoned for a variety of offenses so absurd that any list of the unluckiest offenders reads like a macabre joke, a surrealistic comedy routine. Have you heard the one about the guy who got life for stealing a slice of pizza? Or the guy who went away forever for lifting a pair of baby shoes? Or the one who got 50 to life for helping himself to five children's videotapes from Kmart? How about the guy who got life for possessing 0.14 grams of meth? That last offender was a criminal mastermind by Three Strikes standards, as many others have been sentenced to life for holding even smaller amounts of drugs, including one poor sap who got the max for 0.09 grams of black-tar heroin. This Frankenstein's monster of a mandatory-sentencing system isn't just some localized bureaucratic accident, but the legacy of a series of complex political choices we all made as voters decades ago. California's Three Strikes law has its origins in a terrible event from October 1993, when, in a case that outraged the entire country, a violent felon named Richard Allen Davis kidnapped and murdered an adolescent girl named Polly Klaas. Californians were determined to never again let a repeat offender get the chance to commit such a brutal crime, and so a year later, with the Klaas case still fresh in public memory, the state's citizens passed Proposition 184 – the Three Strikes law – with an overwhelming 72 percent of the vote. Under the ballot initiative, anyone who had committed two serious felonies would effectively be sentenced to jail for life upon being convicted of a third crime.