Earthquake Relief Scams

The tragedy in Haiti is bringing out the best in people as millions donate what they can to aid Haitian relief efforts.   Unfortunately, the human equivalent of roaches and rats is also making an appearance with scams designed to try and take advantage of most people’s heartfelt generosity.

The FBI has issued a warning about unsolicited appeals over the Internet.    Web scams were common following Hurricane Katrina and the attack on the World Trade Center.    The FBI was suspicious of most of the 4,600 websites that appeared following the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.

A list of valid relief organizations and ratings on the job they are doing can be found at charitynavigator.org.

Or, you can click here for a list of legitimate relief organizations compiled by the Los Angeles Times.

High Water In L.A.

los angeles river

2:20PM Monday.  Rain rolls into Los Angeles and the L.A. River rises.   This shot was taken from Kester Avenue in Sherman Oaks.

willis ave

                       photos:  ron olsen/workingreporter.com

In neighborhoods nearby,  intersections totally flooded out.  This has been happening every time the area gets a heavy rainfall for at least the past 20 years.    Could it be another case of the L.A. City Council turning a blind eye to the San Fernando Valley?  Naw, they’d never do that.   That’s nothing but…..a myth?

Out And About

Raining here in Los Angeles, with 54 degrees at 8:12 AM.   Local tv news went into weather hyperdrive last night (that’s what they do here in L.A.), with live reports from the scene of drenching rain that has not yet fallen and  mudslides that have yet to occur.  Oh, but it could be bad.  Really bad.  Oh my!  Yes Virginia, we know it could.  And thanks for scaring the bejesus out of us so many times that we’ve all grown numb to your incessant alerts.

(“context”   noun:  discourse that surrounds a language unit and helps to determine its interpretation)

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Ken Auletta, has written what appears to be an interesting piece on “Story Control”  in The New Yorker, but you’ll have to subscribe to get at it.

‘Auletta writes, “The news cycle is getting shorter—to the point that there is no pause, only the constancy of the Web and the endless argument of cable. This creates pressure to entertain or perish, which has fed the press’s dominant bias: not pro-liberal or pro-conservative but pro-conflict.”

  • Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, tells Auletta, “What used to drive one or two days of coverage and questions is now readily subsumed every few hours.”
  • David Axelrod tells Auletta, “There are some really good journalists there, really superb ones. But the volume of material they have to produce just doesn’t leave a whole lot of time for reflection.”’  -The New Yorker

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Looks like the New York Times is set to begin charging for access to its website.

“New York Times Chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr. appears close to announcing that the paper will begin charging for access to its website, according to people familiar with internal deliberations. After a year of sometimes fraught debate inside the paper, the choice for some time has been between a Wall Street Journal-type pay wall and the metered system adopted by the Financial Times, in which readers can sample a certain number of free articles before being asked to subscribe. The Times seems to have settled on the metered system.” NY Magazine

“He’s about 20 pounds lighter, dabbles in yoga and has declared Mondays “meatless.”

Six months into his second and last term as mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa appears noticeably more at ease both at City Hall and personally.

Villaraigosa credits the change in part to his decision to forgo a run for governor this year, shedding the incessant political speculation that he acknowledges was a major distraction.

The personal fallout from his extramarital affair in 2007, which led to salacious national headlines and the breakup of his 20-year marriage, has also had time to settle both for him and for his children.” -LA Times

The newspaper reports that the Mayor “shied away” from saying much about his relationship with former Miss. USA and tv reporter Lu Parker.

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Ricky Gervais, got off a couple of pretty good shots while hosting the Golden Globes last night.  One involved ribbing Paul McCartney about what is sometimes the high cost of ending relationships.  Sir Paul, was not smiling.  The other had to do with an incident in Malibu involving Mel Gibson.

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We are now experiencing moderate rainfall here in the San Fernando Valley as the STORMWATCH! continues. Must leave you now and get back to work on my ark.

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Video From Haiti

Help continues arriving in Haiti while thousands of earthquake victims struggle to find water and food. European nations have pledged more than a half-billion dollars and the U.S. says more troops and U.N. peacekeepers are on the way. Still, problems remain in getting aid workers and supplies out to where they are needed.

“….help was still not reaching many victims of Tuesday’s quake — choked back by transportation bottlenecks, bureaucratic confusion, fear of attacks on aid convoys, the collapse of local authority and the sheer scale of the need.” -AP

From euronews”

Updated Info On Haiti

You can pick up on some of the latest info from Twitter messages by clicking here.

Also, former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush have joined President Obama in support for Haitian relief.   Here’s a clip from a joint news conference the three men held at the White House this morning.

“The two former presidents announced the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund to help raise money for Haitians suffering from the devastating earthquake that struck Jan. 12.  A Web site to collect donations is at www.clintonbushhaitifund.org.” –Bloomberg

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Donate to the Hatai Relief Fund of the American Red Cross by clicking here-

Healthcare Reform Is Just The Beginning

It must be out-and-out arrogance.  It’s the only thing that explains the banking industry’s short-sightedness in continuing to award huge bonuses to their execs as the country struggles to get out from under what is being called a major recession but what feels like the second great depression.

The BBC has issued the following on JP Morgan/Chase, which is reporting profits of $3.3. billion in the last 3 months of 2009-

“JP Morgan’s 200,000 employees were paid a total of $27bn in salaries and bonuses over the year – an 18% increase on 2008 – though a figure for bonus payments alone was not given.

The $9.3bn earned by investment bankers was a 21% increase on the previous year.”

Back in the real world, the nation’s employers cut another 85,000 jobs in December.  Here in Los Angeles, unemployment continues to run at something above 12%.

The homeless are on our streets in places homeless haven’t been seen before.    At the same time, bankers seem determined to pass along huge rewards to their executives, even while the people who bailed them out continue to suffer.   Are they beyond all reason?   Do they have anyone left in their corporate ranks that understands the power of public opinion and the need for a public relations plan?   Can’t they see that they’re setting themselves up to be hammered by a truckload of new federal regulations, a move the Democrats will be forced to take if they want to keep their hands on the reigns of power?   Or has Wall Street pumped so much bribe money into the Congress, that we now have government of, by and for the corporations and a relative few very wealthy individuals sitting comfortably at the top of the economic ladder?   A Congress that eagerly sends out our troop to protect corporate interests abroad while financial giants drain the income from taxpayers here at home with credit card usury and constantly changing fee schedules that would baffle even the most skilled flim-flam artist.  A Congress and an FCC that turn a blind eye to the impact of media  consolidation (80% of the tv market in the U.S. is now controlled by just 5 companies) while an increasingly weakened press fails to inform the American public that their elected representatives have been bought off?

There may be hope.

Eventually the debate over healthcare will end and the Congress will return to issues they were forced to set aside.  The economy and jobs will be at the top of the list.  Fixing the economy takes money.  The banks have it and the question will be how it’s being used.  Are they using it to help restore the economy, or are they playing scrooge and hoarding it away?

Here’s what Forbes has to say-

“Bankers have done the equivalent of stuffing the mattress in the last few months, despite being prodded by the government to lend the hundreds of billions in cash being pumped into the banking system by the Federal Reserve and other regulators.”

It feels as though we are heading for two societies.  One, the safe and comfortable folk, consists of bankers, Wall Street execs, the health insurance and big pharma companies the agricultural conglomerates and a few other big-time players with big money to pump into Washington.   For now, consider agriculture.   There hasn’t been all that much talk about food, even though one of the first indicators that prices were about to shoot up was the global price of rice.  Even before gasoline prices took off, the price of rice was shooting up, and no one went looking for an explanation as to why.  Since then, food prices have continued jumping by double-digits.  The numbers are shocking.

“Between March 2007 and March 2008, global food prices increased an average of 43 percent, according to the International Monetary Fund. During that time period, wheat, soybean, corn, and rice prices increased by 146 percent, 71 percent, 41 percent, and 29 percent, respectively, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.”-USAID

If you work for an agriculture conglomerate or a health insurance company or one of the big banks, chances are you are cash fat, warm and comfortable.   However, if you’re on the other side of the equation, left out of the corporate prosperity bubble, you are undoubtedly struggling daily to pay for gas, food, education and healthcare, while attempting to keep a roof over your head.

We are becoming two societies, the “haves” and the “have-nots,” and God help the “have-nots” because the “haves” like the big bankers, are increasingly showing that they do not care about people.  They care only for the bottom line.    Their arrogance and blindness are beyond belief and their stupidity is unbelievable because it has all happened before.   Teddy Roosevelt, a Republican, was the great “trust-buster” of the early 1900’s.  FDR was forced to come back and hammer many of these same interests in the 30’s, and now somebody is going to have to do it again.    The survival of America as we know it, as a place with a quality of life and a sense of decency and fairness that is the envy of much of the world, will depend upon it.

Healthcare reform is just the beginning.

Stewart A. Lindman Dies

If you’re over 40 and from the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, chances are pretty good that you’ve heard of Stewart A. Lindman.  He was the first newscaster to appear on the old WTCN-TV, now “KARE-TV.”    One of the best known tv news personalities in the upper midwest, he got the broadcasting bug while a student at the University of Minnesota.  Lindman passed away at the age of 87.

“After serving in the US Army during World War II and being wounded while fighting in the pacific, he became a staff announcer at WMIN Minneapolis/Saint Paul in 1945. He signed WMIN TV on the air for the first time in 1953, serving as newscaster, news director, and program director. After the station merged with WTCN TV in 1956, he continued as radio news director and television news anchor until 1973, when he became director of public affairs.”-KARE TV

Here’s the full obit from the KARE-TV website.

Help For Haiti

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – “Dazed survivors wandered past dead bodies in rubble-strewn streets Wednesday, crying for loved ones, and rescuers searched collapsed buildings as officials feared the death toll from Haiti‘s devastating earthquake could reach into the tens of thousands.

The first cargo planes with food, water, medical supplies, shelter and sniffer dogs headed to the Western Hemisphere‘s poorest nation a day after the magnitude-7 quake flattened much of the capital of 2 million people.”  -AP

You can CLICK HERE TO DONATE to the International Response Fund of the American Red Cross.

CLICK HERE for the LA Times page listing organizations in need of donations for Haitian relief.

 Click here  for updated info from Haiti on “HaitiFeed.com”

Visibly Cold

While much of the country remains in a deep freeze, this photo is particularly descriptive.   It shows steam rising from a turkey barn at sunset in Roseville Township, MN.   Yes, there is a barn back there.   You just can’t see it.

I just checked and the temp at 10PM CST on 1/13 is 7 above.

Minnesota Cold

                        photo: michael jacobson/the paynesville press   

Does China Really Care?

The NY Times reports that Google, is threatening to shut down its operations in China.

“Google linked its decision to sophisticated cyberattacks on its computer systems that it suspected originated in China and that were aimed, at least in part, at the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists.

In a statement, the United States secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton, expressed “serious concerns” about the infiltration of Google.”  NY Times

You have to wonder if Google needs China more than China needs Google.  Walking the tightrope between our economic needs and our ongoing efforts to cultivate a friendship with China while, at the same time, the Chinese Government continues to violate some of the most basic principles of civilized human behavior creates an interesting diplomatic conundrum.

7.0 Quake In Haiti

With thousands feared dead from the 7.0 earthquake, the BBC is featuring a slideshow of the devastation in Haiti.

Search and rescue teams from around the world are preparing to leave for the island nation, including the 72-person “heavy rescue task force” from the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

Click here, to go to a “how to help” page on the Los Angeles Times website.

Below,  is some video of the quake’s aftermath from “CBS News Raw.”

Conan Says He Won’t Follow Leno

Late night host Conan O’Brien has released a statement saying he won’t agree to being bumped back to 12:05AM by Jay Leno.   Here’s part of it.  The rest is in the LA Times.

“So it has come to this: I cannot express in words how much I enjoy hosting this program and what an enormous personal disappointment it is for me to consider losing it. My staff and I have worked unbelievably hard and we are very proud of our contribution to the legacy of The Tonight Show. But I cannot participate in what I honestly believe is its destruction. Some people will make the argument that with DVRs and the Internet a time slot doesn’t matter. But with the Tonight Show, I believe nothing could matter more.” -Conan O’Brien

“Show business is high school with money” – David Letterman