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Pale Blue Dot — Remembering Carl Sagan

Carl Sagan, PhD — astronomer, astrophysicist, writer, university professor, visiting scientist and adviser at NASA, media personality — succumbed to cancer on December 20, 1996. He authored over 600 papers and 20 books, he spoke widely in academic and public settings, and he co-wrote and narrated the popular PBS television series, Cosmos: A Personal Journey. […]


  • The 85 richest people on Earth have amassed as much wealth as 3.5 billion fellow residents of the planet, the poorest half of of the world's population, according to a report by OXFAM. That can't be right. Can it? And by that I mean it can't be morally right, because I know it's technically accurate. And don't think this applies only to the poor of Africa, Central America, and other economically depressed regions. In the U.S., 6 Walmart heirs are as wealthy as over 160 million Americans, over 50% of the population. This degree of wealth disparity might have been acceptable to medieval societies, who believed their kings were anointed by God to rule over them, holding them in servitude and laying claim to anything of value, but it is disgraceful in the 21st century. How long will this gross inequality be allowed to continue? #
  • "Conservative groups may have spent up to $1 billion a year on the effort to deny science and oppose action on climate change," reports the UK's Guardian. "The anti-climate effort has been largely underwritten by conservative billionaires, often working through secretive funding networks. They have displaced corporations as the prime supporters of 91 think tanks, advocacy groups and industry associations which have worked to block action on climate change. Such financial support has hardened conservative opposition to climate policy, ultimately dooming any chances of action from Congress to cut greenhouse gas emissions that are warming the planet." #
  • While oil company CEOs, creationist preachers, and Republican politicians decry climate change as a fraud perpetrated by quack scientists, the insurance industry has been taking climate scientists seriously. "Insurance is heavily dependent on scientific thought," says Frank Nutter, president of the Reinsurance Association of America. "That's why climate change insurance costs big bucks -- insurers know that it's real, it's coming, and it's really, really bad news, adds Cory Doctorow. As truthalyzer.com reported last year, six researchers left the Heartland Institute, a conservative think-tank so skeptical of global warming it hosts an annual conference of deniers, and started a new firm called R Street Institute "to take scientific consensus seriously, in advocating for public policy issues that relate to climate risk....” R Street's spokesperson explains, “Global warming is relevant to the risk of catastrophic floods. It is relevant to crop losses from drought, and we see scientific consensus as suggesting those concerns must be taken seriously as we evaluate federal subsidies for flood insurance and crop insurance.” #
  • "The six Wal-Mart heirs possess more wealth than the bottom 40% of families in this country. Or, in other words, six surrealistically-rich people who say they can’t provide decent wages or benefits for their workers have more wealth than roughly 160 million other Americans combined. Much of that Wal-Mart wealth is directly attributable to the ways U.S. taxpayers subsidize the Wal-Mart labor pool, offer tax breaks, and tilt the playing field so that so much wealth flows into those few hands. Six people. Think . . . of the people and policies that created such disparity." (Jaime O'Neill, AlterNet) #
  • "For much of the past century, the basic bargain at the heart of America was that employers paid their workers enough to buy what American employers were selling. Government’s role was to encourage and enforce this bargain. We thereby created a virtuous cycle of higher living standards, more jobs, and better wages. And a democracy that worked reasonably well. But the bargain has been broken....Corporate profits are up largely because payrolls are down...to the smallest share of the economy since the government began collecting wage and salary data sixty years ago....This is a losing game for corporations over the long term. Without enough American consumers, their profitable days are numbered....As wealth and income rise to the top, moreover, so does political power. Corporations and the rich are able to entrench themselves by keeping low tax rates and special tax breaks...corporate welfare...for oil and gas, big agriculture, big insurance, Big Pharma, and, of course, Wall Street....Government has become less responsive to the needs of most citizens and more responsive to the demands of the monied interests....Republican [efforts]...to further reduce taxes on the rich, defund programs for the poor, fight unions, allow the median wage to continue to drop, and oppose any limits on campaign contributions or spending...will lead to an even more lopsided economy, more entrenched wealth, and a more corrupt democracy." (Robert Reich) #