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Saturday, 30 August 2014

The Pew Charitable Trusts: Banner Day for Bluefin

A bright new chapter for bluefin tuna has begun. NOAA Fisheries just issued a strong final amendment Aug. 29 for protecting these giants of the ocean. With the promulgation of implementing regulations, the new amendment will help stop western Atlantic bluefin—and approximately 80 other types of marine wildlife—from unnecessarily dying on surface longlines, fishing gear that is intended primarily for yellowfin tuna and swordfish, but indiscriminately kills other species.

"NOAA Fisheries deserves great praise for significantly increasing protections for bluefin while allowing fishing for yellowfin tuna and swordfish to continue," said Lee Crockett, director of U.S. ocean conservation for The Pew Charitable Trusts. "This historic action will help western Atlantic bluefin tuna rebuild to healthy levels."

Bluefin tuna command respect. They're as fast as racehorses, bring fishermen to their knees, and grow to the size of a small car. These "superfish" make transoceanic migrations, can dive deeper than 4,000 feet, and live up to 40 years. But bluefin are no match for wasteful fishing methods. The population of western Atlantic bluefin tuna is just 36 percent of its already depleted 1970 level. This decline is caused in part by surface longlining.

Surface longlines average 30 miles in length, use hundreds of baited hooks, and often remain in the water untended for up to 18 hours. This gear catches and kills bluefin along with many other species, including hammerhead sharks, blue marlin, and leatherback sea turtles.

For the past half-century, surface longlines in the Gulf of Mexico have been a serious danger to western Atlantic bluefin tuna. The Gulf is the fish's only known spawning area. The same fishing gear poses a similar threat to bluefin feeding off the coast of North Carolina.

NOAA Fisheries has tried for decades to reduce the incidental catch, or bycatch, caused by surface longlines. Fishermen have been prohibited from directly targeting bluefin tuna in the Gulf since 1982. The agency also required gear modifications and bait restrictions. None of those options has provided the comprehensive solution this problem demanded. 

The agency realized it needed a different approach. It spent five years developing new management measures to help protect bluefin tuna while also supporting fishermen who use highly targeted methods.
Today's final amendment restricts the use of surface longline fishing in certain areas of the Gulf of Mexico and off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, while promoting highly selective gear such as greensticks for yellowfin tuna and buoy gear for swordfish. Ensuring that surface longlines are not used when and where bluefin gather in great numbers to spawn and feed will dramatically reduce the amount needlessly caught and killed.
This amendment also establishes a new annual limit on the incidental catch of bluefin on surface longlines and 100 percent electronic monitoring of the surface longline fleet. Thanks to these and other changes, the agency will now be able to hold individual surface longline vessels accountable for their incidental bluefin catch. NOAA Fisheries will also be able to prevent the fishery from exceeding its total allowable bluefin catch. This limit is needed: Surface longlines catch more bluefin tuna now than before 1982. In 2012 alone, surface longline vessels in the Gulf and western Atlantic Ocean discarded 445,338 pounds of dead bluefin tuna. This quantity was more than 20 percent of the entire U.S. bluefin quota for that year.  

"The two new gear-restricted areas in the Gulf are a tremendous achievement," said Crockett. "For more than 10 years, scientists, fishermen, and other stakeholders have urged the agency to protect western Atlantic bluefin in their only known spawning area. NOAA Fisheries clearly demonstrated its dedication and commitment to restoring bluefin tuna."

One disappointing aspect of the amendment, however, is the reallocation of bluefin tuna quota away from selective fishermen using rod and reels and harpoons to the surface longline fleet. Providing more bluefin to the surface longline fleet does not promote conservation of the species and reduces fishing opportunities for traditional bluefin fishermen.
"Despite this reallocation, this final amendment is stronger than the draft and will help put depleted bluefin tuna on the road to recovery," said Crockett.

SOURCE The Pew Charitable Trusts


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Thursday, 28 August 2014

Tennessee Student Kicked Out Of Class For Saying "Bless You" To Another Student Who Sneezed.

Today, Liberty Institute, on behalf of Dyer County High School student Kendra Turner, sent a demand letter to school officials for unlawfully punishing the high school senior for blessing another student who sneezed. The letter seeks an apology from school officials who banned students from saying, "bless you" and other religious language while at school.

"It is unlawful for a school official to kick a student out of class for quietly blessing another student after she sneezes," said Liberty Institute Senior Counsel Jeremiah Dys.  "School officials must follow the rules of the Constitution just like students must follow the reasonable rules of the classroom."

During a computer class on Aug. 18, a student sitting beside Kendra sneezed. In accordance with their family's strongly held faith, Kendra's parents taught her to say "bless you" when a person sneezes—which she did with little or no classroom disruption.  However, Kendra's teacher disrupted the rest of the class to confront Kendra's quiet use of the phrase "bless you."  A classroom discussion followed during which the teacher forcefully explained that there would be no "godly speaking" in her classroom and sent Kendra to the principal's office.  Kendra met with a vice-principal who affirmed the teacher's hostile action, stating no religious language is permitted in the classroom.  Subsequently, Kendra was sentenced to in-school suspension (ISS) for the remainder of the block period.  

The letter sent Wednesday asks for a public apology to Kendra, the exoneration of her disciplinary record, and the removal of the ban on the phrase, "bless you" at Dyer County High School.  Follow this link to view an online copy of the demand letter to Dyer County High School officials: https://www.libertyinstitute.org/bless-you

Liberty Institute is a nonprofit legal group dedicated to defending and restoring religious liberty across America — in our schools, for our churches, in the military and throughout the public arena. Liberty's vision is to reestablish religious liberty in accordance with the principles of our nation's Founders. For information, visit www.LibertyInstitute.org.


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Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Thousands to Join #Act4MentalHealth Social Media Campaign to Urge Congress to Pass Mental Health Legislation

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the nation's largest grassroots mental health organization, today announced that it will launch a National Day of Action for Mental Health on Thursday,
September 4th during its annual convention in Washington, DC. As part of the National Day of Action, conference attendees will visit Capitol Hill offices to urge legislators to pass comprehensive mental health reform legislation. The theme of the convention, which will be held from Sept. 3-6 at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, is "Advocates for Change: From Dialogue to Action."

"It has now been two years since the tragedy at Sandy Hook elementary school and we continue to see reminders everywhere of the critical need to address mental health reform in this country," said NAMI Executive Director Mary Giliberti. "While there has been dialogue and some progress since the White House's Conference on Mental Health last year, the country and those living with mental illness are still waiting on Congress to act. The National Day of Action provides the opportunity for mental health advocates in Washington and around the country to make their voices heard and urge Congress to pass comprehensive mental health legislation."

What: NAMI National Day of Action for Mental Health
           
When: Thursday, September 4th  Event to be held as part of NAMI national convention, Sept. 3-6
Opening session begins at 8:00 AM

Where: Marriott Wardman Park HotelWashington, DC
Virtual participants via #Act4MentalHealth

Who: Speakers to include:
Rep. Patrick Kennedy, former Member of Congress
Sen. Creigh Deeds, Virginia state senator  

For the full roster of speakers, speaker bios and the full conference program, click here

About NAMIMental illness affects everyone. Nearly 60 million Americans experience a mental health condition every year. Regardless of race, age, religion or economic status, mental illness impacts the lives of at least one in four adults and one in 10 children across the United States. People living with mental illness need help and hope: they need a community that supports them, their families and their recovery.
Because mental illness devastates the lives of so many Americans, NAMI works every day to save every life.

NAMI is the nation's largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness. NAMI advocates for access to services, treatment, supports and research and is steadfast in its commitment to raise awareness and build a community for hope for all of those in need.

SOURCE National Alliance on Mental Illness
RELATED LINKS
http://www.nami.org

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Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Blog delayed for a while - Update

Due to a family health emergency, I have less time available for blogging. Until things improve, this blog may not be published on a regular basis  

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65 Groups Urge the FCC to Reject the Comcast-Time Warner Cable Merger

WASHINGTON, Aug. 25, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Sixty-five organizations representing consumers, content producers, and social justice and democracy-reform advocates called on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) today to reject the proposed merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable.  The FCC is currently reviewing the deal to determine whether it serves the public interest.
In a letter to the FCC, the groups warned that the merger would give Comcast "unprecedented gatekeeper control" over the nation's telecommunications and media landscape and lead to higher prices and fewer choices for broadband and cable customers.  The merger would give Comcast too much control over the future of the Internet and communications infrastructure and undermine the diversity of ownership and content in media, according to the groups.   

The letter highlights Comcast's history of failing to meet commitments made to gain approval for its previous merger with NBCUniversal.  "Given this history, no amount of promises or conditions would be good enough to assuage concerns about this merger….The deal needs to be rejected outright."

A full copy of the letter along with a list of organizations that signed it follows:

Chairman Tom Wheeler
Federal Communications Commission
445 12th St SW
Washington, DC 20554
August 25th 2014

Dear Chairman Wheeler:

On behalf of the 65 undersigned organizations, representing low-income consumers, community-based leaders, content producers, and public interest organizations from across the country, we urge you to stop the proposed merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable. A merger between the nation's two largest cable companies would inevitably lead to unprecedented gatekeeper control over our nation's telecommunications and media landscape. It would mean higher prices and fewer choices for broadband users and cable customers. It would put too much control over the future of the Internet and our communications infrastructure in one company's hands and would negatively impact diversity in ownership and content.

Pay-TV rates have risen for two straight decades, and Comcast's rates have gone up as fast as anyone's despite its scale. Comcast's Executive Vice President David Cohen made no promises that this merger would rein in those skyrocketing prices, saying there was no guarantee "that customer bills are going to go down or even increase less rapidly."[1]

This deal would increase Comcast's service area to almost two-thirds of the U.S. It would allow Comcast to use its increased market power, and increased control over millions more customers, to dictate terms to broadband content providers and increase its leverage over cable programmers. To put it mildly, combining these two firms would lessen competition and harm innovation, but not improve the consumer experience.

Despite all this, Comcast is currently trying to impress Washington by claiming to provide low-cost broadband access to low income communities and by nominally embracing Net Neutrality. Yet due to barriers that limit eligibility, customer difficulty with signing up, and lack of outreach even to eligible participants, the company's Internet Essentials program has not delivered on its promises.

Comcast's commitment to Net Neutrality is also problematic to say the least. First, all broadband users deserve strong Open Internet protections, and that's only possible with Title II reclassification that applies to every broadband provider. Merger conditions that apply only to Comcast are no substitute for rules protecting everyone, no matter how strong those conditions may be. Moreover, the conditions that apply to Comcast today are not permanent. Comcast agreed to Net Neutrality conditions that run until 2018 to gain approval for its previous merger with NBCUniversal.

After 2018, those conditions expire and Comcast customers would be left without protection absent reclassification and real Net Neutrality rules. Our rights to connect and communicate should not have an expiration date. Even while these conditions have been in place, Comcast has found ways to manipulate them – using its market power to charge new tolls for Internet content and create special exemptions for its own video services. These kinds of anticompetitive practices would only grow as a result of this merger.

Comcast has a history of misrepresenting its adherence to other merger commitments, too. It has been fined for failing to fulfill the standalone broadband service commitments it also made for the NBCUniversal acquisition, and it had to be ordered by the FCC to live up to its commitments about equitable treatment for independent channels. Given this history, no amount of promises or conditions would be good enough to assuage concerns about this merger. The deal needs to be rejected outright.

The transaction is just as concerning for its negative impacts on media localism and diversity. At the state level, firms like Comcast have lobbied for "State Franchising" bills that have stripped municipalities of the power to negotiate franchise agreements with cable companies. This merger would also further the need for measures promoting diversity in ownership. The FCC's most recent statistics found that already low ownership levels for people of color have only gotten worse. Allowing Comcast to merge with Time Warner Cable would only continue the trend away from the diverse local media our communities need.

In closing, we urge the Federal Communications Commission to review the facts—this merger is not in the public interest. Hundreds of thousands of people around the country have already called on you to stop this merger and an increasing number of people around the country want the opportunity to meet with the FCC face to face to provide the data and public input crucial for informed discussions and decisions about this merger. For these reasons, we ask you to reject this deal.

Signed,
About Disability
Access Humboldt
Appalshop, Inc.
Art Is Change
Austin Airwaves
Broadband Alliance of Mendocino County
Cambridge Community Television
CCTV Center for Media & Democracy
Center for Digital Democracy
Center for Media Justice
Center for Rural Strategies
ColorOfChange.org
Common Cause
Common Cause Colorado
Common Cause Hawaii
Common Cause Illinois
Common Cause New York
Common Frequency
Community Media Visioning
Consumers Union
Courage Campaign
CREDO Mobile
Daily Kos
Demand Progress
Democracy for America
Easton Community Access Television
Evanston Community TV
Free Press
FREE! (Families Rally for Emancipation and Empowerment)
Future of Music Coalition
Generation Justice
Global Action Project
Independent Media Publications
Institute for Local Self Reliance
Iraq Veterans Against the War
Martinez Street Women's Project
Media Action Grassroots Network (MAG-Net)
Media Alliance
Media Literacy Project
Media Mobilizing Project
Minnesota Center for Neighborhood Organizing
National Alliance for Media Arts & Culture
National Organization for Women
Nothing Without Us
OpenMedia International
Open Technology Institute, New America Foundation
Philadelphia Student Union
Popular Resistance
Presente.org
Progressives United
Prometheus Radio Project
Public Knowledge
Rural Broadband Policy Group
St. Paul Neighborhood Network
Sports Fan Coalition
Stop Comcast
SumOfUs
The Greenlining Institute
The Harry Potter Alliance
The Other 98%
The People's Press Project
TURN – The Utility Reform Network
Writers Guild of America East
Women in Media & News
Working Narratives
 
SOURCE Consumers Union


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