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 veryhotthread  Author  Topic: Stuff & Nonsense  (Read 48114 times)
WingsofCrystal
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xx Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #240 on: Jul 24th, 2010, 08:18am »

Telegraph

BP plans deep-water drilling off Libya
BP is to begin deep-water drilling off Libya, despite environmental concerns following the Gulf of Mexico spill and an international row over the release of the Lockerbie bomber.

By Simon Boyle
Published: 11:20AM BST 24 Jul 2010

The plans, reported in the Financial Times, come in the shadow of controversy, as the oil giant faces new scrutiny of its 2007 deal to acquire gas and oil fields off the Libyan coast at a cost of $900 million.

At a depth of more than 1700 metres below sea level, the new site in Libya’s Gulf of Sirte will be 200 metres deeper than the Gulf of Mexico well that exploded on April 20, killing 11 oil workers and causing immeasurable environmental damage.

The 2007 agreement has since come under fire from American politicians, after BP revealed that it lobbied the UK government over a prisoner transfer agreement between Britain and Libya.

Despite increased pressure from senior officials, including US President Barack Obama, the UK oil group has vigorously denied any involvement in the release of Libyan terrorist Abdel Basset al-Megrahi, after the Lockerbie bomber was freed by the Scottish government on compassionate grounds.

The issue was raised last week when British Prime Minister David Cameron met President Obama for talks in Washington. Mr Cameron has indicated there could be an inquiry into the release.

BP maintains it was "not involved in any discussions with the UK government or the Scottish government about the release of Mr al-Megrahi”.

A US senator has begged Alex Salmond, Scotland's First Minister, to assist a hearing into the release of the Lockerbie bomber.

In a letter, Frank Lautenberg said he was "pleading" with the Scottish government to reconsider its decision not to send officials to a hearing into the release of Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi.

The company’s Chief Executive, Tony Hayward, is expected to appear before US Senators on Thursday to deny the claims.

A spokesman for BP confirmed the Libya drilling, saying: “Drilling at the new site will start within a few weeks”.

BP’s first new platform in the gulf will begin exploratory drilling within Libya’s controversial “line-of-death”, the border claimed by Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi in the 1980’s which prompted US President Ronald Reagan to challenge the leader's claim to the region.

In 1986 US Naval forces sank two Libyan ships, killing thirty men, during the conflict.

While Libya’s right to minerals in the region is now unchallenged, environmental campaigners have expressed horror that new drilling will begin before inquiries into the Gulf of Mexico disaster have concluded.

Despite BP’s pledge to “move forward with great caution”, Antonio D’Alli, chairman of the Italian Senate’s environment commission, told the Financial Times he was “very worried” about the plans, and has called on other states for a united front.

Mr D’Alli added: “The problem is not BP or Libya. The sea has no boundaries and when accidents happen, in national or international waters, effects are felt in the whole Mediterranean,” Mr D’Alì said.

“Considering it is already one of the most oil-polluted seas in the world, the impact of a major spill could be irreversible.”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/energy/oilandgas/7908149/BP-plans-deep-water-drilling-off-Libya.html

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xx Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #241 on: Jul 24th, 2010, 08:25am »

Telegraph

Villagers open grocery shop inside phone box
Villagers have fought back against the decline in rural services by opening a grocery store in a disused phone box – and nothing has been stolen even though it is left unattended.

Published: 8:00AM BST 24 Jul 2010

Parish clerk Jane Markham, 50, said the unusual telephone box collection system worked because villagers were so trustworthy. The charming facility – stocking milk, sandwiches, newspapers and other everyday items – has been set up inside a vacant red phone box next to the site of the village's former shop.

It is operated according to the "honesty box" principle, with residents leaving payment for any goods they take.

The tight-knit community of Draughton, North Yorks, was left without easy access to basic items after the post office closed following the retirement of its owners in April 2008.

Lewis Cooke, who runs a newsagent which is four miles away in Skipton, continued to deliver newspapers and tinned items on to the porch of the shop so residents could come and collect their goods.

But after BT made the derelict phone box directly outside the former site of the post office available for just one pound last year it was decided that the parish council would buy it and make unique use of it.

Mr Cooke, 49, said: "The parish council got in touch and explained that they had got this phone box and wanted to use it as a place to leave groceries and newspapers for people.

"I said that would be fine and deliver the things to the phone box every morning just before 7am. I put a list of everything that we have in the phone box and people can just call up and tell me what they want.

"They know that it will be put in the phone box the next day and they can just come by whenever they want and pick it up. Everything has the person's name on it so they can just collect it and go.

"Customers either pay with a credit card over the phone or by leaving a cheque for me. It has been amazing the way everyone has respected the things that are left there.

"The phone box isn't locked and people can come and go in there when they want but no one has taken a thing, which just shows how honest everyone around here is.

A shelf was built into the phone box specifically to hold newspapers, while others display the groceries on offer which include jam, milk, tea bags, sandwiches, butter, cheese and biscuits.

Mr Cooke doesn't charge his customers anything extra for delivery, making the journey especially each morning to drop off what his clients want.

Parish clerk Jane Markham, 50, said the unusual telephone box collection system worked because villagers were so trustworthy.

She said: "It's a good example of the community spirit of the village, we all look after each other.

"We talked about putting a lock on it, but we decided it wasn't necessary. People here just want to look after each other.

"When the weather was bad last winter we all helped each other, some of the roads are quite steep so you have to look after the elderly.

"At first the telephone box was used just for newspapers, but it worked so well that two weeks ago we decided to try groceries as well."

more after the jump
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/7906426/Villagers-open-grocery-shop-inside-phone-box.html

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xx Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #242 on: Jul 24th, 2010, 08:27am »

Telegraph

30 electrifying pictures of lightning and thunderstorms

some beautiful photos after the jump
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/earthpicturegalleries/7859013/30-electrifying-pictures-of-lightning-and-thunderstorms.html

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xx Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #243 on: Jul 24th, 2010, 08:34am »

LA Times

Reporting from King Salmon, Alaska —

He was the local weatherman, sending up weather balloons twice a day above this remote community of 450 full-time residents near Bristol Bay and preparing short-term forecasts for pilots and fishermen.

She was a stay-at-home mom who drove their 4-year-old to preschool, sang in the town choir and picked berries with her girlfriends. She took part in the community play, in which she portrayed a fairy godmother who acted as a prosecutor in court, confronting the Big Bad Wolf for his crimes against Little Red Riding Hood, the Three Little Pigs and the Boy Who Cried Wolf.

So beloved were Paul Rockwood Jr. and his wife, Nadia, that when they left King Salmon in May to move to England, where Nadia was born, more than 30 people — pretty much their entire circle of friends — showed up at the airport. The choir sang "Wherever You Go," and "people were just bawling," said Rebecca Hamon, a friend of the couple.

What none of them could have known was that FBI agents were meeting the small turboprop plane in Anchorage to question the Rockwoods on suspicion of domestic terrorism-related crimes.

This week, Paul and Nadia Rockwood pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Anchorage to one count of willfully making false statements to the FBI; in Paul Rockwood's case, it was a statement about domestic terrorism.

The plea agreements state that Rockwood, 35, had become an adherent of extremist Islam who had prepared a list of assassination targets, including U.S. service members. And, though no plot to carry out the killings was revealed, he had researched methods of execution, including guns and explosives, the agreements say.

Federal charging papers said his wife, 36, who is five months pregnant with the couple's second child, lied to investigators when she denied knowing that an envelope she took to Anchorage in April at her husband's request contained a list of 15 intended targets. (None were in Alaska.) She told FBI agents that she thought the envelope contained a letter or a book. She gave it to an unidentified individual who her husband believed shared his radical beliefs, the FBI said.

Nadia knew exactly what was on the list and what it was for, federal authorities said.

"Obviously we take it very seriously when somebody starts talking about building bombs and component parts and killing citizens because of a hatred that is fueled by violent Internet sites," said Karen L. Loeffler, U.S. attorney for Alaska.

Loeffler, who would not elaborate on how the FBI became aware of the Rockwoods, said the investigation does not involve any other terrorism suspects, and no additional charges are expected.

The plea agreements the couple signed said Paul Rockwood converted to Islam in late 2001 or early 2002 while living in Virginia and became a follower of radical U.S.-born Muslim cleric Anwar Awlaki, now believed to be living in Yemen.

"This included a personal conviction that it was his religious responsibility to exact revenge by death on anyone who desecrated Islam," his agreement said.

Here in King Salmon, where the biggest thing is the annual red salmon run — it happens to be the biggest one in the world — this has the air of a poorly written movie.

"If all terrorists were this harmless, we'd all be living in a much less complicated world," said Hamon, who lived in Camarillo before moving 12 years ago to King Salmon, on the Alaska Peninsula, 280 miles southwest of Anchorage.

"We've all been in shock," said Mary Swain, who was friends with Nadia and baked the birthday cake for the Rockwoods' son's party last year. "I mean, kids would go over to her house all the time where she was teaching them ballet. She always went to library time, she went to story time…. Her mom would come over here from England and stay with her for a month at a time, and people got to be friends with her too."

King Salmon is little more than a windy cluster of homes surrounding the airport, grocery, repair shops and a handful of bars and restaurants, with emphasis, like any fishing town, on the bars. Populated mainly by government employees year-round, it lies on limitless fields of grassy tundra and low stands of white spruce, not far from the fishing port of Naknek on Bristol Bay and world-famous Katmai National Park. Like most of Alaska, it is accessible only by air or small boat.

The National Weather Service paid for the couple's move to King Salmon after hiring Paul in 2006 as a meteorological technician. They moved into a small tract of modern government housing populated by the many federal employees working for the National Park Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service and the weather service.

In the summertime, the populations of King Salmon and especially Naknek swell with thousands of itinerant fishermen and cannery workers. Nadia worked to become part of the close-knit permanent community, friends and neighbors said. Paul, because of his irregular work hours, often slept during the day and wasn't as engaged in the community.

"He was a good employee. I never had any problems with him," said Debra Elliott, his supervisor at the small, two-room building next to the airport, where the weather service shares an office with the Federal Aviation Administration. "He was very likable."

more after the jump
http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-adv-alaska-terrorists-20100723-1,0,5991303.story

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xx Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #244 on: Jul 24th, 2010, 12:09pm »

on Jul 24th, 2010, 08:25am, WingsofCrystal wrote:
Telegraph

Villagers open grocery shop inside phone box
Villagers have fought back against the decline in rural services by opening a grocery store in a disused phone box – and nothing has been stolen even though it is left unattended.

Published: 8:00AM BST 24 Jul 2010

Parish clerk Jane Markham, 50, said the unusual telephone box collection system worked because villagers were so trustworthy. The charming facility – stocking milk, sandwiches, newspapers and other everyday items – has been set up inside a vacant red phone box next to the site of the village's former shop. ...

Now that's a nice thing. Even more nice since it seems to work that well and that people are so honest and pay for all those things they take. Wouldn't work everywhere. smiley
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xx Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #245 on: Jul 24th, 2010, 12:11pm »

on Jul 24th, 2010, 12:09pm, philliman wrote:
Now that's a nice thing. Even more nice since it seems to work that well and that people are so honest and pay for all those things they take. Wouldn't work everywhere. smiley


Good morning Phil!
No unfortunately it wouldn't work everywhere. Good for them!
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« Reply #246 on: Jul 24th, 2010, 12:14pm »

Football-field-long UFO reported hovering over Indiana
July 23, 7:02 PM
UFO Examiner
Roger Marsh

An Indiana witness called a friend's cell phone while watching a silent, triangle-shaped UFO "about the size of a football field" that was hovering in the air on July 21, 2010, according to testimony from the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON) witness reporting database.

The witness stated that the object was "about as high up in the air as a hospital helicopter would fly."

The object was described as having one light on each of its three points, and the body was black, although "more like metal, he could see shades on the sides. But it was still dark."

Reports of "mile wide" or "football field" length UFOs are not uncommon. Example accounts include:

http://www.examiner.com/x-2363-UFO-Examiner~y2010m2d24-Cigarshaped-UFO-1000-feet-over-Okemos-MI-was-length-of-football-field

http://www.examiner.com/x-2363-UFO-Examiner~y2009m12d11-Memphis-pilot-spots-triangle-UFO-size-of-a-football-field

http://www.examiner.com/x-2363-UFO-Examiner~y2009m4d7-Close-Encounter-with-black-triangle-UFO

http://www.examiner.com/x-2363-UFO-Examiner~y2010m3d10-Cigarshaped-UFO-under-500-feet-over-Delaware-City-DE?cid=channel-rss-Gadgets_and_Tech

Link:
http://www.examiner.com/x-2363-UFO-Examiner~y2010m7d23-Football-field-long-UFO-reported-hovering-over-Indiana

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xx Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #247 on: Jul 24th, 2010, 8:28pm »

io9

In Falling Skies, Steven Spielberg's TV series coming summer 2011, it's six months since aliens wiped out most of humanity. How can Noah Wyle and Moon Bloodgood prevail? Our first glimpse of a trailer gave us some hints. Spoilers ahead...

The panel, moderated by io9's own Marc Bernardin, started with our first trailer for the series, which only gave a few gruesome glimpses of the alien attackers. I saw one clear shot of metal feet stomping past as someone cowered in hiding, and there were quick cuts of a scene where Noah Wyle and a friend take on a monster in a storage facility or supermarket storeroom, and I thought I could see a ridged head. (In the roundtables for Falling Skies, Noah Wyle hinted that the aliens had more than two legs, and you had to get up close and personal to kill one.)

The trailer starts with a child's voiceover narrating the horrible events of the alien attack, interspersed with some gray-tinged footage of the real thing. The child says that he/she was in school when the aliens arrived - and the aliens did not want to be friends. We see footage of a flying saucer coming and blowing up some houses, intercut with a child's drawing of several flying saucers coming down. There's also a child's drawing of jagged-toothed green aliens swarming. There were millions of these aliens, the child says, and they blew up all the big cities as well as the army bases.

We see Noah Wyle talking to one of his kids, who says he just wants everything back the way it was, with his house and his bike and his room. Wyle responds that it's going to get better.

We also see the resistance's military leader, played by Will Patton, saying the cities are a loss, and everybody needs to split up and hide, so they can survive. Noah Wyle, who plays a history professor, says that history is full of cases where a smaller, less well-armed force made so much trouble for an invading army that the invaders had to leave. Noah also pushes a guy on the ground and shouts, in his best Christian Bale voice, "We either do this the right way, OR WE DIE!" There are lots of glimpses of dark evil aliens attacking, intercut with explosions and quick cuts of action scenes. It looks pretty lavish and wide-screen, and this is all just from the pilot, since that's all they've shot so far.

So how is it that Tom Mason (Wyle) goes from being a history professor to helping to lead the resistance? Well, his study of the American Revolution has left him with a deep understanding of the sort of military tactics that an out-gunned force can use against invaders. And this comes especially handy since the aliens have taken out the power grid and knocked the human race back to a 19th century level of technology. (I gleaned all this from the panel as well as the roundtable interviews.)

Tom Mason is in charge of keeping the civilians alive, while Patton's character is in charge of the military side, and if you're guessing the two come into conflict, then you're definitely right — it sounds very much like the early days of Laura Roslin and William Adama, all over again. (And of course, producer Mark Verheiden, who was also on the panel, worked on Battlestar Galactica.)

The American Revolution thing will come up a lot — but not as much as it could have. The show was originally going to be called Concord, after the famous Revolutionary War battle, and the Revolutionary parallels were going to be thick and fast. The producers decided to dial back on the American Revolution thing after realizing it could limit the show.

Wyle described his character, Tom Mason: "He's truly an academic. He's a guy who leads with his intellect." He welcomed the challenge of taking this character and turning him into a real military leader and inspiring hero. The main take-away message from the panel and roundtables, in general, was that this show will be uplifting, and not as depressing as BSG could be at times. Yes, genocide and hardship will bring out the worst in people, and people will do things they never thought they'd be capable of - but we'll also see how it brings out the best in people.

"It's not a show about people tearing each other apart. That's not a show we wanted to do," said Verheiden.

Verheiden said he and the other producers know why the aliens are on Earth and what they want - he won't tell us just yet, but they do have it figured out. And they have an endpoint for the series in mind, even if they don't know every detail of how they'll get there just yet, since they have to see how the characters develop. Each season will consist of just nine or 10 episodes on TNT over the summer, so it's less of a commitment than a 22-episode season, Wyle said.

Co-star Moon Bloodgood said her character is a pediatrician who lost her husband and child in the attacks, and she falls in love with Wyle's character. Unlike the character Bloodgood played in Terminator Salvation, this time around Bloodgood doesn't do much action. She looks after the children among the hundreds of survivors. "She's a mother type, very empathetic. Always wanting more peace than violence," said Bloodgood.

Wyle, Bloodgood and Verheiden promised that a lot of the sort of issues you'd expect will be explored in this show. How do you reconstruct society after it's been destroyed? Are there things about the old social order that you don't want to preserve? Should you cling to social institutions when society is all but gone? How young is too young for a child to start carrying a gun? What's more important: teaching a child to protect him/herself, or trying to let him/her stay a child a little longer?

Oh, and the trailer showed a glimpse of a trashed supermarket called ShopSmart, but Verheiden said any Evil Dead reference was purely unintentional.

The pilot is already in the can, but the show begins filming on its order of nine episodes on Monday. Wyle said the scripts for the upcoming episodes are clever and surprising and full of ridiculous action, as the humans take the fight to the nasty aliens.

Send an email to Charlie Jane Anders, the author of this post, at charliejane@io9.com.

photos after the jump
http://io9.com/5595280/our-first-glimpse-of-spielbergs-jericho-meets-independence-day-series

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xx Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #248 on: Jul 24th, 2010, 8:59pm »

Hi Wings

Nice place you got here wink


Quote:
Barofsky’s Report: Taxpayer Support for Financial Sector Now $3.7 Trillion

Neil Barofsky, Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Fund (TARP) has issued a report that shows that taxpayer support for the financial system grew by $700 billion last year, and has now reached roughly $3.7 trillion, including TARP, Federal Reserve programs, asset guarantees and federal bank deposit insurance, among other commitments.

Taxpayer support grew by $700 billion last year… that is to say, last year alone taxpayer support of the banks increased by the same amount as the original TARP cost in the first place.

I remember the debate over the original $700 billion TARP like it was yesterday. But, I don’t remember Congress debating anything this past year about giving the banks an additional $700 billion, do you? Was I out sick that week? I’m sure I would have remembered the $3.7 trillion number, even with the flu.

A significant portion of this colossal increase in taxpayer support was the result of the government’s futile attempt to prop up the housing market by purchasing Fannie Mae’s and Freddie Mac’s securities, and guaranteeing mortgages through the FHA, VA and Ginnie Mae.

So, when Treasury Secretary Tim “Transparency” Geithner said a month or two ago that we’ve been paid back $300 billion in TARP funds as if it was good news and a sign of progress… he wasn’t exactly telling us the whole story, now was he? No, I guess he wasn’t.

That is so cool.

Going forward, however, Treasury has been limited to $475 billion in TARP spending, and is not allowed to take on any new TARP obligations. In fact, Treasury now says it’s shrinking several programs and dropping $30 billion that was supposed to be for small business lending. Assistant Secretary Herb Allison says the current estimate of $105 billion is “conservative,” but why anyone would believe what Allison or anyone at Treasury has to say, is beyond me.


http://mandelman.ml-implode.com/2010/07/barofsky%E2%80%99s-report-taxpayer-support-for-financial-sector-now-3-7-trillion/
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xx Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #249 on: Jul 24th, 2010, 9:47pm »

MUR!!!! laugh grin cheesy wink smiley
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« Reply #250 on: Jul 24th, 2010, 9:53pm »

Husband and wife team Allen and Patty Eckman put paper pulp into clay moulds and pressurise it to remove the water

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Sculptures of Native American scenes made out of paper

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edit to add link:
http://www.eckmanfineart.com/

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« Reply #251 on: Jul 24th, 2010, 9:59pm »

One more

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xx Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #252 on: Jul 24th, 2010, 10:10pm »

Excellent series of articles by Colin Bennett

Mostly about Exo's

Excellent series that should be required reading for anyone interested in ufology

http://www.realityuncovered.net/blog/2010/05/child-brides-from-outer-space/

http://www.realityuncovered.net/blog/2010/07/child-brides-from-outer-space-part-2/
« Last Edit: Jul 25th, 2010, 09:16am by murnut » User IP Logged

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xx Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #253 on: Jul 25th, 2010, 08:53am »

on Jul 24th, 2010, 10:10pm, murnut wrote:
Excellent series of articles by Colin Bennett

Mostly about Exo's

Excellent series that should be required reading for anyone interested in ufology

http://www.realityuncovered.net/blog/2010/05/child-brides-from-outer-space/

http://www.realityuncovered.net/blog/201....r-space-part-2/


Hey Mur,
Great links. DrDil is discussing this article on his thread, the asinine asylum:
http://ufocasebook.conforums.com/index.cgi?action=display&board=memberblogs&num=1278770842&start=60
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« Reply #254 on: Jul 25th, 2010, 08:59am »

Washington Post

The case for breaking up Washington -- and scattering government across America

By Alec MacGillis
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 25, 2010; B01

Americans are angry at Washington, and it's not hard to see why. Not only does the federal government seem more ineffectual than ever in the face of ongoing economic hardship, but the capital has so far coasted through the downturn relatively unscathed.

The unemployment rate in metro Washington is 6 percent, well below the national average of 9.5 percent, and Virginia and Maryland have two of the three highest job-creation rates in the country. Meanwhile, the region is siphoning off many of America's brightest workers: The nation's five most educated counties, judging by the percentage of residents with college degrees, are all in metro Washington. The area's prosperity gap with the rest of the country is increasingly glaring -- particularly if you're sitting in Michigan or Rhode Island or Nevada.

But instead of just ranting about Washington -- or running against it, for those on the hustings -- how about breaking it up? It's an admittedly improbable idea, given the universal instinct for self-preservation, but with Washington burgeoning in a time of general economic gloom, why not address the imbalance by dispersing the government more broadly? Such a move would spread more evenly the benefits of federal employment (and its contractor hangers-on). It would make the federal bureaucracy more attuned to regional issues. And it just might help dissipate some of the anti-Washington venom that's coursing through the country.

Splintering the federal government holds both political benefits for the country and economic benefits for the regions to which jobs are dispersed, said Robert Rupp, a political scientist at West Virginia Wesleyan College -- and a resident of a state that has enjoyed a very targeted form of federal job relocation, thanks to the late senator Robert Byrd. "If we begin with the fact that Washington has grown far bigger than the founders ever contemplated, and that voters are mean and mad and distrustful of Beltway politics, it makes sense," he said.

Already, the federal government is less clustered on the Potomac than many think. Eighty-three percent of its 1.9 million civilian employees (not counting postal workers) are outside metro Washington, from Homeland Security agents at borders and in airports to rangers in national parks to NASA engineers in Houston. The country's federalist system further distributes public jobs outside Washington, to the 50 state governments.

But Washington's share looks bigger if you don't include civilian military and Veterans Affairs workers, who are scattered at bases and hospitals across the country. Of the remaining federal employees, a quarter are in this region. Metro Washington has more federal workers than New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Boston, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Miami and Seattle combined.

Exacerbating the imbalance is the massive growth of the national security apparatus since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, much of it concentrated among private contractors. As The Washington Post reported in a three-part series last week, a good deal of this expansion has occurred in metro Washington, where 33 building complexes for top-secret intelligence work have been started or finished since the attacks, occupying nearly as much space as three Pentagons. All told, the government added 13,000 employees in the Washington area last year -- and George Mason University's Center for Regional Analysis predicts that the region will add 6,500 federal jobs in each of the next few years.

The contrast wasn't always so stark. Although Washington's federal employment base has long insulated it against downturns, other regions grew more quickly in boom years. But for the past decade, the metro area's growth has surpassed that in the rest of the country in good times and bad. It's leading the charge with biotech jobs on the I-270 corridor (convenient to the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration) and defense, intelligence and IT jobs clustered around the Pentagon and the CIA in Northern Virginia. Since 2000, home prices in the region have gone up 78 percent, more than in any other city. Six of the country's 10 wealthiest counties are in metro Washington.

To some degree, the region's primacy is to be expected. All capital cities accrue mass, and countless jobs -- legislative aides, presidential staff and military brass among them -- belong at the seat of government. But of the work that is justified, plenty could be done just as well in Buffalo or Topeka, where the cost of living is lower, where people could get to work without adding to the crush on the Beltway and on Metro, and where their presence might encourage a less us-versus-them attitude toward the federal government.

Take the Health and Human Services Department, which is more concentrated in Washington than many other departments, with nearly half of its 64,000 employees in the metro area. If the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can thrive in Atlanta, why can't some of the NIH or the FDA make a go of it in, say, St. Louis or Cleveland, cities with strong biomedical sectors?

Last year, the Health Resources and Services Administration brought on 134 people at its Rockville headquarters to oversee $2.5 billion in stimulus spending. Could it have had those people work somewhere else instead? The new health-care law will require still more bureaucracy -- do all of those jobs have to be in Washington? Could they be in Texas, the state with the highest rate of uninsured people? Or Baltimore, a city with affordable real estate that is a short train ride to Washington? (Already, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services are based there.)

Or take the Consumer Financial Protection Agency created by the new regulatory overhaul. Why not put it in Charlotte, the banking hub hit so hard by the crash -- or in one of the Sunbelt states or Rust Belt cities where unscrupulous lenders did the most damage?

There is a precedent for this approach. Robert Byrd and Jack Murtha, two veteran Democratic lawmakers who died in recent months, owed their longevity in Congress partly to their ability to steer federal jobs and contracts to West Virginia and southwestern Pennsylvania, respectively. Byrd's successes included an IRS center in Martinsburg that employs 1,180, an FBI fingerprint-analysis center in Clarksburg that employs 2,500 and, most remarkably, a Coast Guard facility in landlocked Kearneysville that employs 550. Murtha's successes included the National Drug Intelligence Center in Johnstown, with 300 employees.

These outposts bear the marks of pork, but they also reflect economic logic: They carry out support tasks that can be done just about anywhere, and they provide jobs in places that could use a boost.

It's worth noting that putting federal facilities outside the Beltway does not necessarily erase all anti-government vitriol in those places -- see the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing of a federal building and the airplane attack against an IRS office in Texas last year. But research suggests that in general, communities with a larger share of public employment are more likely to support government. Pennsylvania Democrat Mark Critz, for instance, won the election to replace Murtha, despite his district's conservative tilt, by making a forthright case for the federal government's role.

Others argue that reliance on federal jobs and largesse ultimately undermines communities by stifling private-sector growth. "Dumping government money here hasn't made West Virginia rich," said Russell Sobel, an economist at West Virginia University. "There's no question certain individuals benefit from it, but it's a question of overall prosperity."

But as the battles to prevent military base closures around the country suggest, most communities hardly see government jobs as a threat to their prosperity. A more widely shared concern about dispersing federal jobs is the impact on the government's productivity. Proximity has its virtues, even in the age of videoconferences and e-mail. And far-flung outposts can suffer from a lack of supervision -- it was Colorado and Louisiana branches of the Minerals Management Service that were recently implicated in scandals involving drug use, prostitution and fraternizing with energy industry officials.

"If you think of the federal government as a major corporation, how is it most efficient?" said George Mason economist John McClain. "Would it be as efficient if you distributed some of the functions around the country?"

Depends on how you do it. The government is already allowing some dispersal via liberalized telecommuting, led by the Patent and Trademark Office, which lets employees work anywhere, as long as they occasionally visit the Alexandria headquarters. The Brookings Institution's Bruce Katz said dispersal could improve productivity if the government's existing regional offices were empowered to serve their constituents in an integrated way, with coordination among agencies, "rather than just be the end of the pipeline for Washington-driven agency decisions that are siloed and compartmentalized."

more after the jump
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/07/23/AR2010072302431.html?hpid=opinionsbox1

Crystal
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