Methane-Trapping Ice May Have Triggered Gulf Spill
Sadly, BP should hope that things work out for it the way things worked out for ExxonMobile after the catastrophe of the Exxon Valdez.
Exxon had a drunk for a captain who crashed a poorly designed oil tanker causing one of the worst environmental disasters in history. The region's environment still has not recovered two decades later. But ExxonMobile sure has! ExxonMobile is the most profitable company in the world. From 2005-2009 the annual profit for ExxonMobile averaged $36 Billion!
The US Supreme Court was also generous enough a few years ago to reduce the punitive damages award against ExxonMobile for the Valdez from an original jury amount of $5 Billion down to $500 Million (about five days worth of profits).
Database Error Costs Social Security Victims $500M
My employer the Mental Health Project of the Urban Justice Center is one of the nonprofits on this lawsuit.
The Press Release from www.urbanjustice.org
The Social Security Administration (SSA) will repay over $500 million to 80,000 individuals whose benefits were suspended or denied since January 1, 2007, under a nationwide class action settlement which U.S. District Court Judge Claudia Wilken preliminarily approved on August 11, 2009. Many more people who were denied benefits between 2000 and 2006 will also have the chance to re-establish their eligibility. All told, more than 200,000 individuals will receive back benefits and/or have benefits re-instated under this settlement.
The settlement resolves a class action lawsuit challenging SSAâ(TM)s unlawful policy of suspending or denying benefits based on warrant information. The lawsuit, Martinez v. Astrue, disputed SSAâ(TM)s interpretation of a narrowly drawn provision of the Social Security Act, which prohibits payment of benefits to anyone "fleeing to avoid prosecution" for a felony.
Courts across the country have held that the law does not permit SSA to suspend or deny benefits without a finding that the person had the intent to flee. However, SSA had continued to suspend or deny benefits to thousands each month based only on a crude computer matching system using outstanding warrant information.
This unlawful policy has had devastating consequences on the lives of elderly and disabled individuals, many of whom rely upon Social Security benefits as their only income and, without their rightfully due benefits, have been unable to pay for rent or other basic necessities. Moreover, the absence of a functioning appeal system left people without recourse to challenge these denials for years; individuals were routinely and inaccurately told that they could not appeal these decisions, even though an appeals process does in fact exist. This settlement will allow class members â" many of whom have been rendered destitute, homeless, and dependent on relatives and charity â" to rebuild their lives.
A fairness hearing is scheduled to occur September 24, 2009, where Judge Wilken will hear any objections before deciding whether to grant final approval.
Urban Justice Center, National Senior Citizens Law Center, Disability Rights California, Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County and pro bono counsel Munger, Tolles & Olson represent plaintiffs in this class action.
Court documents and relevant materials can be found on this page. For more information, contact Emilia Sicilia.
Hobbits' Brains Shrank Due To Remote Home
The discovery and debate over the "hobbits" Homo floresiensis is fascinating.
It appears that the hobbits are a unique species and not a shrunken version of Homo erectus based not so much on brain size, but on different and more ape-like body parts including feet, wrists, hips, and shoulders. The NYTimes has a couple of stories on this.
Assume Aliens Exist. How Close Are They?
High intelligence actually is a very costly adaption. Compare humans to our closest relative species, the chimpanzee and gorilla. All three have pretty large brains that allow for coordination of groups, at least some communication, and a little bit of tool use. Humans evolved to be more intelligent, but the trade-off was big. Chimps and gorillas are vastly physically stronger than humans. Chimps and gorillas also have somewhat shorter periods of helplessness as infants/children. There are other things as well such as humans' sense of smell has diminished and humans can't run that quickly or climb trees much.
Humans seem to have evolved somewhat into an upright-walking big brain (with good vision). The human brain is large and takes a lot of nourishment. However, humans are able to provide lots of good food by using their brain to coordinate with each other and make tools so they can hunt and also gather and horde food. The big brain worked out for humans in spite of the cost.