Offering asides, recommended links, blogworthy quotations, and more, In Brief is the Northwest Progressive Institute's microblog of world, national, and local politics.


I’ve consumed very large amounts of coffee, and extensively used sweeteners, thinking like many other people that they are at least not harmful to me and perhaps even beneficial… Given the surprising results that we got in our study, I made a personal preference to stop using them.

— Dr. Eran Elinav, an immunologist at the Weizmann Institute of Science, discussing research findings which show that artificial sweeteners may disrupt the human body’s blood sugar controls, resulting in unwanted side effects.


Recommended Link

The big lie that brought down Wal-Mart’s public relations chief

Businessweek’s Susan Berfield explains the sudden departure of David Tovar, Walmart’s longtime anti-labor public relations chief.

Video Clip

Former United Kingdom Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s Glasgow speech calling for a “No Thanks” vote in tomorrow’s Scottish independence referendum is widely being hailed as one of the best speeches ever given by a British orator, and certainly his best. Huffington Post U.K. has the transcript.

Recommended Link

Interview: Naomi Klein breaks a taboo

The Indypendent’s John Tarleton talks to Naomi Klein about her new book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate.


Wi-Fun, September 2014 edition

While walking in Seattle’s University District this evening, a member of our staff glanced at the list of Available Wi-Fi networks on his smartphone and was amused to discover a very long list of nearby secure networks, some with clever and funny names. Here is a partial list of the SSIDs he saw:

  • WiBelieveICanFi
  • 4NDdonotclickit
  • GanjaNinja
  • InUrBase
  • MeepMeep
  • Nameless
  • Dirt Shack
Recommended Link

U.S. Senate has a secret book of rules

USA Today reports: “The U.S. Senate has for years lived by a secret book of rules that governs everything from how many sheets of paper and potted plants each Senate office is allotted to when Senators can use taxpayer money to charter planes or boats.”


I clearly understand the final goal of Putin. He doesn’t want to take just Donetsk and Luhansk… He is trying to take all of Ukraine. He wants to re-form the Soviet Union.

— Ukranian premier Arseniy P. Yatsenyuk, speaking to a conference of security experts in Kiev about Vladimir Putin’s endgame (via the New York Times).


The point is not that an independent Scotland won’t work, but that it’s not going to fulfill the expectations shining in the eyes of those angry, optimistic boys.

— Leah McLearen, commenting on the Scottish referendum for The Globe and Mail (When it comes to matters of heart, nations need to think with their heads).

 The September 11th Memorial Tribute In Light 2014 New York City

An outstanding picture of New York City’s Tribute in Light, taken over the span of nearly five minutes with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II, EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM. (Photo: Anthony Quintano)


RadioShack might be forced into bankruptcy

Years of lackluster sales, along with mismanagement, are apparently taking a serious toll on RadioShack, which is one of America’s oldest electronics retailers. According to news reports, RadioShack’s latest regulatory filings acknowledge the possibility that RadioShack could be forced into bankruptcy if it can’t get help shoring up its finances. The company only has around $30.5 million in case on hand… less than $10,000 for each of its more than four thousand stores.

RadioShack traces its origins to a single store in Boston, founded in 1921 by two brothers selling equipment for and to ham radio operators. RadioShacks are a common sight in malls and strip malls throughout America. The company has struggled to compete, however, with the likes of Amazon, BestBuy, Fry’s, and Newegg, which offer much wider selections of equipment.

Part of RadioShack’s problem may be that it doesn’t have what people need. The last few times one of us has gone into RadioShack, we’ve come out empty-handed and disappointed. That included an instance last year when NPI’s executive director was hunting for a USB dialup modem to connect to a computer in a location with no wireless service or DSL/cable. RadioShack, surprisingly, didn’t have such an adapter in stock. Thankfully, a nearby office supply store did.

If RadioShack wants to survive, it should ensure it is stocking hard-to-find items that people might need in a pinch. For instance, it could easily offer a wide range of flash drives and memory cards at reasonable prices, along with film, generic lens caps, and of course, unusual but crucial items like dialup USB adapters.

Recommended Link

The Scotsman newspaper backs ‘No’ vote on Scottish independence

Another major publication in Scotland has announced its position on next week’s referendum. The Scotsman, of Edinburgh, is urging readers to vote no and support the Better Together campaign.

Net neutrality is more important than whatever you're doing right now

Join the Battle for the Net: Stand up for a free and open Internet by letting the FCC and Congress know that net neutrality is essential to the medium’s future.


The United Kingdom is a precious and special country. That is what is at stake. So let no one in Scotland be in any doubt: we desperately want you to stay; we do not want this family of nations to be ripped apart. Across England, Northern Ireland and Wales, our fear over what we stand to lose is matched only by our passion for what can be achieved if we stay together.

— United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron, appealing to Scottish voters to vote no next week and keep Scotland in the union.


I wasn’t the obvious punk-rock singer, or even rock singer. I sang like a girl — which I’m into now, but when I was 17 or 18, I wasn’t sure. And I heard Joey Ramone, who sang like a girl, and that was my way in.

Bono, speaking with Rolling Stone about the making of U2’s surprise album ‘Songs of Innocence’, which was released today through iTunes.



Cathy McMorris Rodgers and her team have a pathological inability to tell the truth to congressional investigators and the media.

— Todd Winer, former communications director to Cathy McMorris Rodgers, alleging that the Spokane Republican tried to make him the fall guy in an ethics dustup.

Recommended Link

Storm swamps Phoenix: Mesa flooding a ‘slow-moving disaster’

The Arizona-Republic reports on the historic flash flooding that has turned ordinarily dry metro Phoenix into a swampy mess.

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U.S. military to provide equipment, resources to battle Ebola epidemic in Africa

It’s about time! President Barack Obama has announced that the United States military will intervene to help relief organizations combat the deadliest ebola outbreak in history, which is threatening to engulf communities in West Africa.

Chat Transcript

Chuck Todd scores interview with Barack Obama for his debut as host of Meet the Press

CHUCK TODD: Ebola. There’s some anxiety in the country about it. Obviously, it’s something that Africa’s trying to get its hands around.

But there’s obviously anxiety in the United States. How concerned are you and how concerned should Americans be?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, Americans shouldn’t be concerned about the prospects of contagion here in the United States short term.

Because this is not an airborne disease.

CHUCK TODD: I noticed you said “short term” though.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, I’m going to get to that. It’s not an airborne disease like the flu. You can only catch it through the transmission of bodily fluids. The problem that we’ve got is in right now a limited portion of Western Africa.

So what I said, and I said this two months ago to our national security team is, we have to make this a natural security priority.

CHUCK TODD: It’s going to be a U.S.-led effort.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: As usual. And we’re going to have to get U.S. military assets just to set up, for example, isolation units and equipment there to provide security for public health workers surging from around the world.

If we do that, then it’s still going to be months before this problem is controllable in Africa. But it shouldn’t reach our shores.

Now here’s the last point I’m going to make. If we don’t make that effort now, and this spreads not just through Africa, but other parts of the world, there’s the prospect then that the virus mutates, it becomes more easily transmittable, and then it could be a serious danger to the United States.

Excerpt courtesy of NBC News (read the full transcript).

Recommended Link

Scottish independence: Vote ‘will go to the wire’

The BBC reports on the latest happenings in the Scottish independence referendum, which is scheduled to be held on Thursday, September 18th. The referendum asks a simple, straightforward question: “Should Scotland be an independent country?”

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Mariners are seriously angling for the playoffs

The Seattle Mariners’ performance in the second half of the season is starting to turn heads, even in New York and Los Angeles. The LA Times’ Kevin Baxter filed this report on the Mariners’ hopes of making the postseason for the first time in more than a decade. The M’s continued their winning ways today with a 4-2 victory over the last-place Texas Rangers. They’ll go for a sweep of the Rangers tomorrow.


Recommended Link

B.P. may be fined up to $18 billion for spill in gulf

A federal judge has ruled that oil giant British Petroleum bears the majority of the blame for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Disaster, finding the company’s conduct to be grossly negligent. As a consequence, the company may have to pay up to $18 billion in new penalties for violating the Clean Water Act. BP executives have vowed to appeal, but U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said, “The court’s finding will ensure that the company is held fully accountable for its recklessness.”