In his quest for a third term as mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg (pictured above, waving to members of the Bukharian Jewish Community Center) spent $85 million of his personal fortune on his reelection campaign as of October 24, and was on pace to spend approximately $125 million by election day, November 3. This is more than any other individual in US history has spent of their own money in pursuit of public office. (Other recent instances of personal wealth converted to political war chest: Jon Corzine of New Jersey has spent $130 million on two races for governor and one for Senate; Steve Forbes put $114 million into two presidential bids; and Ross Perot spent $65 million running in the 1992 presidential race.) Bloomberg, whose personal wealth is estimated at $16 billion, has outspent his opponent, Democrat William Thompson, 14 to 1. A Marist College survey in late October gave Bloomberg a 16-point edge over Thompson. Bloomberg persuaded New York’s City Council earlier this year to overturn term limits that would have prevented the mayor from running for a third term.
Sources: New York Times, CNN
In late September, 29 parties signed a draft agreement to destroy four dams along the Klamath River, running across the California-Oregon border. The product of years of negotiation, the dam removal project will be the largest in the world to date, and will reestablish 700 miles of river flow on the Klamath, once a flourishing source of salmon and steelhead. The fishing industry on the river dwindled once the first dam was built in 1908. The dams, owned by the PacifiCorp utility—a subsidiary of Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway—are being dismantled as PacifiCorp was faced with expensive government-mandated fish-saving modifications that would have cost the utility $300 million. The estimated expense of destroying the dams: $200 million.
According to the FBI, 89,000 women reported being raped in 2008—the lowest level in 20 years. Victims advocates and crime researchers believe this is due to the rise of the use of DNA evidence in prosecutions, awareness of rape as a crime, and the willingness of victims to come forward.
Source: USA Today
Chief executive officers at the 29 largest public financial institutions that took federal bailout funds received perks and bonus of $380,000, on average, in 2008. “You would have thought that this would be the moment when everyone would say, “Okay, the perks have got to stop—at least while we’re indebted to the government,’” said Paul Hodgson, senior research associate at the Corporate Library, a corporate watchdog group. “But that didn’t happen.” In contrast to the four percent increase in perks at the companies benefiting from the bailout, top executives at non-financial services companies in the Fortune 100 saw their benefits decline by seven percent in 2008.
Source: The Washington Post
A study of 6,877 married couples published recently in the Journal of Family Issues suggests that the more housework you do, the more often you are likely to have sex with your spouse. In a related survey of 2,000 adults, respondents placed “sharing household chores” the third most important factor in a successful marriage, behind faithfulness and a happy sexual relationship.
Source: Wall Street Journal
Over the past two years, an increasing number of children in the US have left home for a life on the streets, according to government officials and child welfare experts, who point to financial stresses on families due to the economic downturn. Though the government does not keep close track of homeless juveniles, it’s estimated that 1.6 million people under the age of 18 run away or are thrown out of their homes each year. Most return home within a week. In more than three-quarters of runaway cases, parents or caretakers do not report the child missing.
Source: New York Times
Nearly $30 million of federal stimulus money was awarded to six companies under investigation on suspicion of defrauding the government by the Department of Defense. The Army and Air Force gave 112 projects at military bases to the companies, ranging from repairing airplane hangars to renovating dining halls and childcare centers. The companies claimed to be small, minority-owned businesses, which allowed them special preference in obtaining contracts. Investigators found, however, that the firms were all part of a larger enterprise controlled by Craig Jackson, an African-American businessman. It was almost a year after the investigation started that the Air Force suspended the companies from receiving new government contracts.
Source: Pro Publica
A high-profile coalition of musicians—including Pearl Jam, REM, and Roseanne Cash—have endorsed a Freedom of Information Act filing by the National Security Archive, an independent research institute, demanding that the government release the records relating to the music it used to interrogate detainees since 2002. While President Obama ended the use of music as a form of torture on his second day in office, the portrait emerging from prisoner testimonies is that the use of music as a psychological warfare agent enjoyed widespread use by the US government and in secret CIA prisons. Former detainees describe the music played to torture them was usually heavy metal, rap, and country. Specific songs included “We Are the Champions” by Queen and Nine Inch Nails’ “March of the Pigs.” Former prisoner Binyam Mohammed told Human Rights Watch that he had been forced to listen to Eminem’s “The Real Slim Shady” for 20 days. The use of loud music to control or coerce prisoners is a violation of the UN Convention Against Torture. The US is a party to the convention.
The Washington Post
On October 8, 21 people were hospitalized after a sweat lodge ceremony in Sedona, Arizona led by New Age guru James Arthur Ray. Three participants have since died. The sweat lodge occurred after a 36-hour desert fast. Ray has been accused by some of the surviving participants of not allowing people to leave the cramped, intensely heated tent, despite repeated appeals and visible physical distress. Ray came to national prominence after a segment on the “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and an appearance in the 2006 film The Secret. According to Alton Carroll, an adjunct history professor at San Antonio College who moderates the website Newagefraud.org, at least seven people have died in ceremonial sweat lodges since 1993 in the US, Engalnd, and Australia.
Source: New York Times
The number of ships captured by pirates off the coast of Somalia dropped dramatically in August and September. There have been only three ships captured since then, the largest a Spanish-flagged fishing boat with a crew of 36 seized on October 2. In 2008, 18 vessels were seized during the same time period. The crisis came to a head when the US-flagged vessel Maersk Alabama was boarded by a band of pirates in April. Navy SEAL snipers operating from the USS Bainbridge ended a hostage standoff when they killed three pirates. After the Alabama seizure, the number of international navy ships operating in the area has tripled, to an average of 25 to 30. Merchant ships have also taken anti-pirate measures: sailing quickly through the Gulf of Aden, placing concertina wire around the ship, or using water hoses to ward off pirates. Some crews even make it a point to stock up on Molotov cocktails.
Source: USA Today