Thursday Open Thread

A few items to get things started:

1. The newspaper industry is suffering “market failure” and the government will need to help preserve serious journalism essential to democracy, an influential US congressman said Wednesday.

“The newspapers my generation has taken for granted are facing a structural threat to the business model that has sustained them,” said Representative Henry Waxman, a Democrat from California.

“The loss of revenue has spurred a vicious cycle with thousands of journalists losing their jobs,” he told a meeting on journalism in the Internet age hosted by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Waxman, who chairs the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, which has jurisdiction over the FTC, said the “depression in the media sector is not cyclical, it is structural.”

“While this has implications for the media it also has implications for democracy,” he added. “A vigorous free press and vigorous democracy have been inextricably linked.

“We cannot risk the loss of an informed public and all that means because of this market failure,” he said.

2. Leaked e-mails allegedly undermining climate change science should be treated as a criminal matter, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said Wednesday afternoon.

Boxer, the top Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said that the recently released e-mails, showing scientists allegedly overstating the case for climate change, should be treated as a crime.

“You call it ‘Climategate’; I call it ‘E-mail-theft-gate,'” she said during a committee meeting. “Whatever it is, the main issue is, Are we facing global warming or are we not? I’m looking at these e-mails, that, even though they were stolen, are now out in the public.”

3. Louisiana’s public retirement system debt has grown to nearly $17 billion, increasing $4.8 billion during the past year amid the national recession, according to information provided to the House and Senate retirement committees.

Louisiana lawmakers are considering a change in the retirement plans that would strip the guarantee of a benefit tied to salary and years of service.

The idea offered by House Speaker Jim Tucker would switch incoming state government workers and new teachers to a retirement offering similar to a 401(k) plan. Employees and employers would pay into the plans, the dollars would be invested and employees would manage and choose those investments. Workers would retire with those contributions for their retirement – which would either be bolstered by investment earnings or deflated by losses.

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