A 2008 anti-trafficking law that passed Congress nearly unanimously and was signed by President George W. Bush gave new protections to children who were not from neighboring Canada or Mexico, stipulating that their asylum requests be fully adjudicated if they were picked up for being in the country illegally.
Administration officials say smugglers have exploited that statute and the long judicial processes that resulted from it, persuading Central American parents to risk sending their children on a dangerous journey to the United States in hopes that they would be able to stay permanently.
Republicans argue that Obama himself sent a signal that the borders were open to younger immigrants when he issued his 2012 executive order.
There is also the question of whether the Obama administration ignored the signs as the emergency was developing.
As far back as May 2012, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) warned Obama in a letter that “there is a surge of unaccompanied illegal minors entering the United States. Apart from being part of an obvious humanitarian crisis, these unaccompanied illegal minors have left the federal government scrambling to triage the results of its failed border security and immigration policies.”
The William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2008, so named in honour of the great British abolitionist, was among the last pieces of legislation of the George W Bush presidency, passed unanimously by the then Democrat-controlled Congress. The measure provided sanctuary for children from countries such as Guatemala and Honduras (though not Mexico) who might have been victims of sex slave trafficking.
Then, a couple of years ago, President Obama issued an order deferring deportation for children who arrived in the country aged under 16, and who had permanently lived in the US since 2007. The aim was to allow two million people who were, to all intents and purposes, Americans, to live a semi-normal life. But for millions of wretched souls in Central America yearning for a foothold in the US, and the gangs that demand an extortionate price to enable them to get it, the two presidents might have posted signs on the bridges across the Rio Grande, saying: “Come in”.
In terms of numbers, the crisis is nothing compared with the tidal waves of refugees forced from first Iraq and now Syria by sectarian conflict. Even so, some 57,000 children, some of them aged as young as four, and many of them unaccompanied, have made their way across the US border since last October, most of them from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, far overwhelming the capacity of immigration services to process them.
The intentions on the part of the US authorities might have been noble. But the result has been a 21st-century nightmare, exposing the children to journeys of danger and suffering, and the US to accusations of incompetence at best, heartlessness at worst, and charges that the country’s politics have reached a nadir of selfish partisanship.
You might have thought that, faced with a crisis of such poignancy and immediacy, Republicans and Democrats would put aside their differences. After all, the root of the problem lies not in the US but in the children’s lawless but not-too-distant homelands.
Honduras may be the most dangerous place on earth, with a murder rate of 90 per 100,000 (compared to five in the US and one in Britain), and Guatemala and El Salvador are in the top six. Along with the violence, there is desperate need: across swathes of Central America, Mexico apart, half the population lives below the poverty line.
True, America contributes to the problem, as the main buyer of the drugs sold by the traffickers, and the main seller of the guns with which they enforce their rule. But the only lasting solution to the crisis lies in ensuring the populations of Central America have a better life in their own countries. On this, at least, you might expect the parties to agree. But you’d be wrong.
Those seething with so much rage and xenophobia that they’d hurl ugly epithets in the faces of children fleeing bloody violence in Central America bring shame to the whole nation. But the response of mainstream America hasn’t been much better.
The media’s characterization of what’s going on at our southern border as a “crisis,” politicians pointing fingers at one another and Washington’s refusal to provide the resources necessary to care for a small wave of refugees — not to mention the bipartisan push to send them back home — is just as shameful when one considers the context.
In June, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)reported that in 2013, the global population of refugees from war and persecution hit 51.2 million — exceeding 50 million for the first time since World War II.
Half of them were children.
The vast majority were “internally displaced persons,” homeless people within their home countries. Many live in fetid refugee camps run by underfunded NGOs, where they face continuing privation and abuse.
Glenn Beck says he has come under fierce attack from some of his fellow conservatives for a grave transgression.
His crime? He announced plans to bring food, water, teddy bears and soccer balls to at least some of the tens of thousands of Central American children who have crossed the border into the United States.
“Through no fault of their own, they are caught in political crossfire,” Beck said. “Anyone, left or right, seeking political gain at the expense of these desperate, vulnerable, poor and suffering people are reprehensible.”
Beck, not averse to a certain grandiosity, let us know that “I’ve never taken a position more deadly to my career than this.” But assume he’s right — and he may well be. It’s one more sign of how the crisis at our border has brought out the very worst in our political system and a degree of plain nastiness that we should not be proud of as a nation.
Children still leave Honduras to reunite with a parent, or for better educational and economic opportunities. But, as I learned when I returned to Nueva Suyapa last month, a vast majority of child migrants are fleeing not poverty, but violence. As a result, what the United States is seeing on its borders now is not an immigration crisis. It is a refugee crisis.
Gangs arrived in force in Honduras in the 1990s, as 18th Street and Mara Salvatrucha members were deported in large numbers from Los Angeles to Central America, joining homegrown groups like Los Puchos. But the dominance in the past few years of foreign drug cartels in Honduras, especially ones from Mexico, has increased the reach and viciousness of the violence. As the United States and Colombia spent billions of dollars to disrupt the movement of drugs up the Caribbean corridor, traffickers rerouted inland through Honduras, and 79 percent of cocaine-smuggling flights bound for the United States now pass through there.
Narco groups and gangs are vying for control over this turf, neighborhood by neighborhood, to gain more foot soldiers for drug sales and distribution, expand their customer base, and make money through extortion in a country left with an especially weak, corrupt government following a 2009 coup.
Enrique’s 33-year-old sister, Belky, who still lives in Nueva Suyapa, says children began leaving en masse for the United States three years ago. That was around the time that the narcos started putting serious pressure on kids to work for them. At Cristian’s school, older students working with the cartels push drugs on the younger ones — some as young as 6. If they agree, children are recruited to serve as lookouts, make deliveries in backpacks, rob people and extort businesses. They are given food, shoes and money in return. Later, they might work as traffickers or hit men.
Teachers at Cristian’s school described a 12-year-old who demanded that the school release three students one day to help him distribute crack cocaine; he brandished a pistol and threatened to kill a teacher when she tried to question him.
At Nueva Suyapa’s only public high school, narcos “recruit inside the school,” says Yadira Sauceda, a counselor there. Until he was killed a few weeks ago, a 23-year-old “student” controlled the school. Each day, he was checked by security at the door, then had someone sneak his gun to him over the school wall. Five students, mostly 12- and 13-year-olds, tearfully told Ms. Sauceda that the man had ordered them to use and distribute drugs or he would kill their parents. By March, one month into the new school year, 67 of 450 students had left the school.
Teachers must pay a “war tax” to teach in certain neighborhoods, and students must pay to attend.
I urge you to read their stories and decide for yourself.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Did you like this post? Please share it with your friends:
Summer is definitely here. Hot and lazy, with just a hint of a Dairy Queen old fashioned soft vanilla ice cream chocolate dipped cone. Do they even still make those?
Whatever, things are spinning out of control. Everywhere.
And that means that today’s links are just going to be quick flashed below…like an exhibitionist giving you a thrill for only a second. (And like that flash of skin, you are appalled, but at the same time intrigued. It’s an awful sight, but still you are curious for more.)
Isn’t that what the news is like really? They don’t call those bloody things “teasers” for nothing.
There has been an outcry from critics of the prisoner swap, who worry that these men with blood on their hands are getting off far too easily. Qatar’s citizens are the richest in the world, per capita, but only a minority of residents here are actually citizens and the Taliban five are not among them.
We do know their families are coming here to live with the former prisoners in some sort of residential compound.
Sources here say they are likely to live in “5 star villas” along with more than a few of their compatriots who are already living in the Qatari capital at the expense of this gas-rich Emirate.
Things got heated between Geraldo Rivera and Kimberly Guilfoyle Friday afternoon on Fox News’ Outnumbered as the debate over U.S. Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s release by the Taliban raged on. While Rivera maintained that as a U.S. solider, Bergdahl deserved to be brought home alive by any means necessary, Guilfoyle said he was “lucky” that U.S. forces didn’t kill him and bring him home in a body bag.
Speaking about soldiers in the field, Rivera said that “one of the things they take great security in is a absolute maxim that if anything happens to them, they’re going to be brought home, that we will not leave them behind.” He added, “I don’t care who Bergdahl is, we don’t leave him behind.” If the Army starts trying to decide which soldiers are worth saving, then he said “our armed forces will be stripped of what is absolutely the thing that makes them most secure.”
“It seems to me he’s pretty lucky that he was brought home the way he was,” Guilfoyle said, disagreeing with Rivera. “Because if those special forces had found him and encountered him — and they were looking for him — he would have come home either in a body bag or come home and gone straight to jail.” But now instead, Bergdahl is being “celebrated as a hero.”
But there was another teaser headline at Mediaite I just had to click because, well you will see:
In an interview with the Tampa Tribune, former head of US Central Command Marine Gen. James Mattis says he has “never seen one bit of verified or confirmed evidence” that Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl collaborated with the Taliban — but he did see information that “specifically discounted” this allegation.
“I have never seen one bit of verified or confirmed evidence of that,” Mattis said in a phone interview with The Tampa Tribune. “Not one bit. You hear things and it was second- and third-hand.”
Other information “specifically discounted” reports that Bergdahl, captured by the Taliban in June 2009 after leaving his outpost in Afghanistan, was working with his captors, he said. Mattis declined to comment on what that information was because it remains classified.
Another interesting bit of data from this story: the shady right wing group that supplied Fox News with this BREAKING BOMBSHELL SCOOP did not even verify that their source was trustworthy.
Kevin Roper, a 35-year-old Georgia resident who was driving the Wal-Mart truck that struck comedian Tracy Morgan’s limousine early Saturday morning, was charged Saturday with death by auto and assault by auto in connection with the crash, acting Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew Carey said in a statement.
Roper was expected to surrender to authorities, and he will be held in lieu of $50,000 bail.
Morgan and two others remain in critical condition at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, N.J., after a vehicle the actor was traveling in was involved in a five-car accident on the New Jersey Turnpike. The accident killed James McNair, 63, a comedian better known by his stage name, Jimmy Mack, who often performed with Morgan.
The other day, while I was taking “Little Shitty” to the vet, there was a live shooting going on at the Forsyth County Courthouse, south of Banjoville in Cumming, Georgia. Turns out the man who went bang, bang, bang was a right wing gun nut. Go figure. /snark.
Then the national GOP and Fox Cable News (the “Josef Goebbels Commemorative Propaganda Division of the American Right Wing”) backed Cliven Bundy in his “sovereign citizen” claims that he doesn’t have to pay Federal grazing fees.
So on Saturday a sovereign citizen and former Transportation Department employee (who made his money from the Federal government he hates) showed up outside a Georgia courthouse armed to the teeth with automatic weapons and other munitions and with the clear intent of taking hostages inside the courthouse. He was open carrying, you see, and standing up against big government. Or rather standing overtop it with a gun to its head.
This was a clear act of terrorism, but since it was committed by a white person, no one brought the word up.
Thank you Juan Cole for for saying the “T” word there. Granted…no one at FoxNews will be giving it up. But hey, a father who does not shave as a form of support while his son is held as a prisoner of war…that guy is a Muslim…code word terrorist. (via Bill O’Reilly.)
I really want you to go and read the rest of that Cole post. As someone mentioned in the comments on that link, the “shooter” had several explosives at his home too. Imagine what could have happened.
The man who police say staged an assault on the Forsyth County Courthouse carefully planned the weapons and supplies he would need to enter the building and harm people inside, authorities said Saturday as they sought to explain why Dennis Marx opened fire outside the building, wounding one deputy before dying in a shootout.
Police said they found a checklist at Marx’s home in Cumming that matched the items inside the rented silver Nissan SUV used in Friday’s mid-morning attack. Marx had a number of bags and buckets holding homemade and commercial explosive devices that could be clipped to hostages; a gas mask; two handguns; zip ties and two bulletproof vests, police said. They said Marx, 48, wore one of the vests and clipped a hand grenade and wire to himself as a booby trap.
“All the items were checked off,” Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Doug Rainwater said. “So this was a very deliberate planned assault on the Forsyth County courthouse.”
Amnesty International is less amused. “The CIA’s first Tweet would be funny if it weren’t for the agency’s use of torture and extrajudicial executions,” says program director Zeke Johnson. “They should put as least as much effort into following the law as they do into social media. The full truth about the CIA torture and drone strikes should be made made public immediately and those responsible for crimes held accountable.” The agency is supposed to be close to declassifying a report on its “enhanced interrogation” program, with a release planned on or around July 4th.
Samuel Curtis Johnson III is the heir to the SC Johnson & Son company (a family company), you know the people that bring you brands like Ziploc, Windex, Saran, Pledge, and other standard household cleaning products, so he’s doing pretty well for himself. Well not really. At all.
In 2011, Johnson faced felony charges for sexual assault of a child, for inappropriately touching his stepdaughter, starting from when she was age 12 to when she was 15 years old. The charges arose from statements Johnson made to his therapist in Arizona, who was required by law to report child abuse. While the charge could have sent him to prison for 40 years, he was sentenced to four months and will only be serving at least 60 days and paying a fine of $6,000. See, despite confessing to his assault, the girl, could not testify against him because she and her mother refused to have her medical records released to confirm the girl reporting the abuse to the her therapist to corroborate her testimony, something that was highly disputed, ruled on, reversed, and then ruled upon again.
As Aviva Shen at Think Progress points out, sexual assault victims’ “refusal to cooperate” keeps their attackers off the hook, but circumstances are hardly cut and dry. In this situation, prosecutors pointed out that neither the girl nor the mother wanted to press charges against the billionaire tycoon (the girl, who wanted the case to be dismissed, had moved to North Carolina and fought legal efforts to make her come to Wisconsin to testify), as they could be socially and financially dependent on him. I can’t fully blame the now 17-year-old girl for simply wanting to put this behind her.
Johnson ended up pleading guilty to two misdemeanors (fourth-degree sexual assault and disorderly conduct) instead of the felony charge.
Silence. Nothing else I can say.
Digby has a little preview of an interview Hillary is giving soon with Diane Sawyer: Hullabaloo
For anyone who has spent any time in and around Hollywood, it is impossible to ignore the male-dominated industry and its sexist standards. I recently saw a great Swedish documentary on the life of actress Ann Margret, in which she says how hard Hollywood on women. Her face betrayed the reality of what are both expected and what many women must do to survive and thrive within the difficult world of female objectification. And this from an actress who is considered to be a “success,” but whom also suffered from her time in Hollywood.
Many of us know women who have encountered extreme difficulties even shamefully horrific realities of what it means to try to get one’s foot in the door based on talent alone. And when it comes to women directors, the doors have not only remain closed for the most part, they have been cruelly pushing aside even those women who should be given the chance to direct large budget features as they have proven themselves time and again that they can draw in audiences with their work.
She was in Alabama until age 12, Ann Steely attended high school and college in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, then worked as a stenographer to finance a trip to Hollywood, where fortune favored her with a contract at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer under Samuel Goldwyn. Recognizing her talent and appeal through a thick Southern accent, Goldwyn arranged rigorous voice & theatrical training at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and elsewhere, gave her an Irish-sounding stage name & cast her in The Best Years of Our Lives (1946). This film’s success boded well for Cathy’s career, and soon she was starred in the now-classic They Live by Night (1948). However, her rise in films was checked when, on Sunday, April 11th, 1948, at age 23, she married 48-year-old Robert Wyler, older brother of famous M-G-M director, William Wyler, with whom Goldwyn was feuding. The irate Goldwyn abruptly canceled her contract; thereafter she had no lasting association with any studio or producer.
Talk about a career being killed because she got married to the wrong man. TCM will be having a couple of her films latter this month, be sure to check out the schedule here.
That is all for today. Enjoy your summer Sunday, and please share your thoughts below in the comments section.
Did you like this post? Please share it with your friends:
I have an enormous migraine, so this is going to be a massive link dump.
Like we are talking, shit load of links = go read it yourself kind of dump style, here…
So please do read these articles, especially the first ones I put up because I have a feeling it is going to be another Steubenville Rape Culture shitstorm, only this time it is in my redneck part of the woods. North Georgia.
By the way, Calhoun High is one of the top football teams in the country…just so you know, as you read these articles.
This time of year, with any high school during the month of May, the clock ticks off the flurry of events that pile up before summer vacation: The school musical. The spring scrimmage. The glittering, Great Gatsby-themed prom.
The clock ticks on.
But for many at Calhoun High, that momentum pushing students toward that rite of passage has paused.
And it lingers on the night of May 10 — a few hours after prom’s twinkling lights were dimmed.
Whatever happened that night in the cabin in the gated-off Coosawattee River Resort near Ellijay, Ga., has cast a shadow that stretches over the last days of Calhoun High’s school year.
From an official standpoint, the events of that night remain unclear. All that detectives have said is that they are investigating a rape case.
But in the small town of Calhoun, stories of what occurred at the alcohol-fueled party reverberate, filled with appalling details that have not been confirmed or denied by investigators.
The versions of the story compound on social media, branching into arguments, calls for arrests and cries for prayer. Some take sides. Others plead for the gossip to stop.
One thing is clear: A girl ended up in the hospital after that night, in need of serious medical treatment.
Since then, detectives have questioned at least 25 students about what happened at the cabin, including a group of young men suspected of being involved in an assault.
Some in the community have complained about the pace of the investigation — claiming that it’s being slow-walked because of the high-profile status of some of the students allegedly involved and their parents.
But officials in Gilmer County, Ga., which is one county over and home to the cabin in question, brush off such criticism.
Uh…I may state that I am bias, but I think the situation is one that deserves criticism…
Detectives want to cover their bases before pressing any charges, explained Capt. Frank Copeland, spokesman for the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office.
And in a case like this, there are many bases.
Imagine, Copeland said, trying to nail down a time line of what happened at a fratlike party, cobbled together from the hazy recollections of teenagers who were intoxicated.
Add to that the fact that all of these witnesses or potential suspects go to school together and see each other nearly every day. They all have the alliances and enemies and social pressures of high school.
“There are so many people we have to talk to, witnesses and accused. It takes a long time to get it done,” Copeland said. “You want to make sure you do a good investigation, you want to make sure that you’re not letting anything fall through the cracks. If we did a really fast investigation, we might miss something, or do something wrong.”
On top of that, the tremendous volume of social media posts about the allegations has added another layer of questions to wade through.
“Everybody in the three-state area is interested in hearing about it,” Copeland said. “All the local people there are joining in, siding up, throwing stuff out.”
Still, Copeland says the department expects to have a resolution in the investigation next week.
If charges are pressed, they will be filed in Criminal Court instead of Juvenile Court, officials say. All of those potentially involved were 18 or over, he said. Nearly all of those who attended the party were from Calhoun, except for one person from Dalton, Ga.
The other thing that is so damn disturbing is the attitudes of the investigators and the Superintendent of Calhoun High School:
Back at Calhoun High, teachers and administrators are trying to urge students toward the finish line, continuing with regularly scheduled events and encouraging students not to dwell on or spread rumors, Calhoun City Schools Superintendent Michelle Taylor said.
Students will graduate Friday night.
Taylor has stressed that while the school is cooperating with the investigation, the party had nothing to do with the school.
While some parents have called for students who are accused of being involved in the alleged attack to be suspended or kept from graduating, Taylor said it’s too soon to say whether such measures are necessary — especially since no one has been charged.
While Copeland wouldn’t comment on the demeanor of the many students that the department has interviewed, he mentioned that plenty of them reminded him of himself at that age: Excited about graduating, enjoying friends, ready for the future.
“We all just wanted to have a good time and celebrate the fact that we’ve graduated,” he recalled. “But I will just say: What people are thinking is OK or acceptable seems to have changed in the 30 years since I was in school.”
WTF is that last quote all about? Rape was rape back then too? Right? That comment already shows to me that the man has had his decisions about the case “persuaded” shall we say, into what is considered “acceptable” by whose standards? The money and clout behind the football players/suspects’ families? (You get what I am saying right?)
The article seems to have been updated, and questions about what part the ruffies played in this rape have been deleted. However you can still see discussion of the drugs and such in the comments. I highly suggest you read those.
A group of protesters stood along a sidewalk near Calhoun High School on Saturday to raise awareness of an ongoing rape investigation in Gilmer County that allegedly involves some CHS students.
Authorities said late last week that a prom after-party in Gilmer County May 10 led to the alleged rape of a Calhoun woman. As many as 25 males ages 18-20, some from Calhoun and one from Whitfield County, are considered suspects in the investigation.
“We don’t want this to be swept under the rug,” said Tiffany Barringer, a parent of a CHS student, and one of about seven protesters Saturday. “We want justice to be done. We’re here in support of the victim to let her know she is not alone. There are people in the community behind her. We’re here to show our support.”
Barringer said she is concerned about the safety of her own daughter and she believes the suspects should not be allowed in the school.
Law enforcement officials have not released the names of any suspects.
As Barringer spoke, cars drove past on Ga. 53 honking their horns in response to signs that said, “No means no” and “honk if you agree.” But not everyone was eager to see the protest, according to Barringer.
“There’s a lot of people being negative towards us, saying that what we’re doing is wrong,” she said. “But we’ve had enough. We need to protect everybody and stand up and say we need morals, like respect. That’s totally lost in our society.”
Read the comments on this post as well. I will keep y’all up to date on this story, I really hope it gets some traction in the media and blogs…seriously…as many 25 male suspects? Fuck if this does not become yet another horrible example of rape culture to put down in that ever growing list of other school rape scandals and cover-ups.
I have a few more links about my home state of Georgia:
Georgia has taken the lead in the mad dash to thwart the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and prevent poor people from accessing health care. Last week, Governor Nathan Deal signed into law two bills that ensure the state won’t be expanding Medicaid any time soon, and that make it decidedly more difficult for people to gain coverage under the ACA. These laws – a notch in the belt of conservatives preparing for the fall election – compound the social and economic injustices already experienced by many low-income Georgians.
House Bill 990 moves the authority to expand Medicaid out of the Governor’s office and over to lawmakers. In a state where conservative politics run deep, HB 990 is Governor Deal’s clever way of way of ensuring Medicaid expansion will never get passed, and abdicating all responsibility for the health and economic consequences that will surely result. The second bill, HB 943, restricts state and local agencies and their employees from advocating for Medicaid expansion, bans the creation of a state health insurance exchange, and prohibits the University of Georgia from continuing its navigator program once its original federal grant expires in August. The University’s navigators have been working throughout the state – especially in underserved rural areas – to help demystify the ACA, assist individuals in gaining coverage on the national exchange, and help those who already qualify for Medicaid to enroll.
“Someone else will now have to re-invent the wheel and figure out how to get resources to people in rural areas,” said Beth Stephens of Georgia Watch, a non-partisan consumer advocacy organization.
Like many other states that refuse to participate in Medicaid expansion, Georgia isn’t faring so well by most socio-economic indicators. The poverty rate, which now hovers around 20 percent, is 50 percent higher than it was in 2000. Nearly two million Georgians do not have health coverage, ranking the state fifth nationally in numbers of uninsured. Close to half of those individuals between the ages 18 and 64 have incomes below 138 percent of the federal poverty level, many of whom would be covered under Medicaid expansion. Georgia has one of the nation’s highest unemployment rates (seven percent) and today the average family makes $6,000 less than it did 10 years ago, when inflation is factored in. Individuals living outside of major cities have few health care options. In recent years eight rural hospitals have closed, leaving residents with scarce health resources and hospital workers without jobs.
To make matters worse, lawmakers in Georgia have been systematically dismantling the state’s social safety net. Of the 300,000 Georgian families living below the poverty line, only 19,000 receive TANF and more than three quarters of those cases involve children only. That means that fewer than seven percent of low-income Georgians are able to get the welfare assistance they badly need. On the same day that Governor Deal signed the aforementioned bills, he also signed HB 772, requiring certain individuals to pass – and foot the bill for – a drug test before receiving welfare and food stamps. That bill is thought to be the nation’s most stringent when it comes to public assistance.
And if that isn’t shitty enough…
The environment is especially hostile for Georgia’s women, 21 percent of whom live in poverty (33 and 36 percent of Black and Hispanic Georgian women, respectively). More women in Georgia die of pregnancy-related causes than women in all but two other states. The U.S. maternal mortality rate (MMR) is 18.5; that is the number of women who die for every 100,000 births. Georgia’s MMR has more than doubled since 2004 and is now 35.5 (a shocking 63.8 for black women and 24.6 for white women). Expanding Medicaid would extend health coverage to more than 500,000 uninsured Georgians, 342,000 of them women. That coverage would surely save women’s lives.
Walsh, who is a pastor for a Pasadena Seventh-day Adventist congregation, came under fire when his comments about gay people, Catholics, Muslims, evolution, the Walt Disney Company, Harry Potter, Oprah Winfrey, Muhammad, Jay Z, single mothers, condoms, and the Pope were discovered.
In one sermon, Dr. Walsh reportedly has told his congregation, “In our public school system they began to teach moral relativism…They began to teach that there really is no absolute right or wrong. It’s more a matter of what you think or what you accept. And (according to that doctrine) if two adults agree to do something, it’s not wrong because they are both consenting adults. That is doctrine from the pits of hell. What makes something right is not based on man, it is based on God.” [Bolding added]
He had also, according to WeHoVille.com, “attacked the American Psychiatric Association’s decision in 1973 to declassify homosexuality as a mental illness, saying those who supported it were ‘raised up by the (devil).’”
Passani became a fixture in Los Angeles society, thanks to her philanthropy—she was a major supporter of the American Cancer Society—and distinctive fashion sense. “She developed her style more when she was in Los Angeles; she didn’t spend her life in tailored suits, but bold Yves Saint Laurent tunics and orange and lime-green Courrèges dresses,” says her daughter. Although her mother passed away in 2012, Peck plans on paying tribute to her through an exhibition that represents her stylish Parisian influence on Los Angeles.
The pictures below, shot by Firooz Zahedi, who currently is showing his work at the Kopeikin Gallery, display Passani’s outrageous wardrobe…Click through for a glimpse into Passani’s closet.
And finally this one…it is wonderful. A lovely way to end the post. Watch the news video…so awesome. The story is told by Maria Shriver which is logical considering the connections to the Kennedys and Special Olympics:
Video: A Texas couple who both have Down syndrome and have been best friends since childhood are getting married. Their families say it’s a celebration of what’s possible when you empower kids to dream big. NBC news special anchor Maria Shriver reports.
Austin Underwood says he has loved his fiancée, Jessica Smith, since they were 4 years old, when their mothers met at a support group for children with Down syndrome.
Thirty years later, the Dallas couple will finally tie the knot.
“I want to marry her because I love her. She’s my very own best friend,” Austin told NBC’s Maria Shriver.
The couple have grown from being playmates to prom dates and, next month, husband and wife.
I love how the mothers are holding hands during the interview. Jessica is beautiful…do watch the video, it will make you feel good.
Foghorn Leghorn is sound asleep when the barnyard dog places an ostrich egg beside him for a gag. When Foghorn awakes and sees the egg, he thinks he’s its mother! The egg hatches to reveal an easily embarrassed baby ostrich that Foghorn regards as his son. The dog insults the ostrich repeatedly, causing him to bury his head in the ground. So, to protect his son’s honor, Foghorn challenges the dog to a boxing match.
Okay….Let us start the post out with news that our Sister Sun has been found…and in honor of that bit of astrological news, all the images today will feature the color yellow.
The ancient Egyptians called it Ra. The ancient Greeks called it Helios. The ancient Mayans called it Kinich Ahau. The ancient Germans called it Sól.
Our longest-standing and most deeply held myths have so often revolved around the sun in large part because we humans have revolved around the sun. That distant sphere of glowing gas has been, to us fragile creatures, warmth and light and life itself. It has, we now know, been the center of everything we’ve known. No wonder we’ve assumed it was divine.
Which makes news just coming out of the University of Texas at Austin—soon to be reported in The Astrophysical Journal—particularly monumental. Our familiar star, it turns out, is not unique. Our sun has a sibling—a sister-star that almost certainly originated from the same cloud of gas and dust as our own shining orb.
Sounds amazing doesn’t it?
That sibling? A star with the deceptively dull name of HD 162826. Said star is 15 percent more massive than our sun, and located 110 light-years away from us (in the constellation Hercules, which is, appropriately, un-dully named). We can’t see the sun’s sister unaided, but even a set of low-power binoculars reveals HD 162826 to human eyes. It’s situated near (well, relatively near) the bright star of Vega.
The discovery was made by team of researchers led by the UT astronomer Ivan Ramirez, with help from several groups around the world. Using a combination of chemical analysis (high-resolution spectroscopy) and information about the stars’ orbits (their “dynamics”), the team created a list of solar-sibling candidates that included 30 stars. Using information provided by telescopes at both the McDonald Observatory in Texas and the Las Campanas Observatory in Chile, they narrowed the field. In the end, there was one that matched our sun.
“We want to know where we were born,” Ramirez said. “If we can figure out in what part of the galaxy the Sun formed, we can constrain conditions on the early solar system. That could help us understand why we are here.”
Additionally, there is a chance, “small, but not zero,” Ramirez said, that these solar sibling stars could host planets that harbor life. In their earliest days within their birth cluster, he explains, collisions could have knocked chunks off of planets, and these fragments could have travelled between solar systems, and perhaps even may have been responsible for bringing primitive life to Earth. Or, fragments from Earth could have transported life to planets orbiting solar siblings. “So it could be argued that solar siblings are key candidates in the search for extraterrestrial life,” Ramirez said.
While the finding of a single solar sibling is intriguing, Ramirez points out that the project has a larger purpose: to create a road map for how to identify solar siblings, in preparation for the flood of data expected soon from surveys like Gaia.
“The idea is that the Sun was born in a cluster with a thousand or a hundred thousand stars. This cluster, which formed more than 4.5 billion years ago, has since broken up,” he says. “A lot of things can happen in that amount of time.” The member stars have broken off into their own orbits around the galactic center, taking them to different parts of the Milky Way today. A few, like HD 162826, are still nearby. Others are much farther afield.
You can read more involved details about how they came about figuring this whole thing out at the links above. The Science Daily is more technical. Funny how that blog highlights the find as a “brother sun” and the Atlantic article, written by a woman, dubs it a “sister sun.”
I have some distressing linkage up next, stories that deal with assholes of varying degrees…so if you are in a joyous mood, you should skip the next few paragraphs. At least until you see a few stars in the left margin.
Many of you may have already heard of the ridiculous shit the Bundy militia was up to yesterday:
An illegal all-terrain vehicle (ATV) ride planned this weekend through Recapture Canyon in Utah is the latest flashpoint between anti-government activists and federal land managers. The illegal ride is already drawing criticism from the Navajo Nation, putting American Indian burial sites and cultural resources at risk, and has even forced the cancellation of a traditional Navajo Warrior welcome home ceremony for veterans.
Yet San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman (R-UT) and his supporters appear determined to defy federal law by riding their ATVs through Recapture Canyon, an area of southeast Utah known as a “mini-Mesa Verde” because it contains one of the highest densities of archaeological sites in the country.
According to a new analysis from the Center for American Progress Action Fund, a network of right-wing elected officials, organizations, and prominent commentators share Mr. Bundy’s anti-government views and are advancing proposals to seize or sell-off federal public lands in eight Western states.
Hundreds of activists seeking to directly challenge federal control of swathes of territory in the U.S. West on Saturday drove dozens of all-terrain vehicles into protected land in Utah that is home to Native American artifacts and where such journeys are banned.
The ride into Recapture Canyon, which comes amid heightened political tensions, is a protest against indecision by federal land managers on whether to reopen canyon trails to recreational vehicle use after more than seven years of study.
About 300 people rallied at a nearby park before dozens of people, some of them armed with guns, set off in about 60 ATVs down a closed-off trail, which winds through red rock desert. The local sheriff had armed officers on horseback monitoring the protest.
The dispute is the latest squabble between conservative states’ rights advocates in Utah and across the West, who want to take back millions of acres of public land over which federal agencies have authority. More than 60 percent of Utah’s land is under federal control.
The canyon in the Four Corners region of Utah is home to the ruins of ancient dwellings and other cultural resources of Ancestral Puebloans. The Bureau of Land Management closed the area in 2007 after an illegally constructed trail was found and some artifact sites were damaged.
A former friend and neighbor of George Zimmerman, who had previously defended the man accused of stalking and killing 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, has had a change of heart, stating that he believes that Zimmerman got away with murder.
Frank Taafe, who served on the neighborhood watch with Zimmerman, told News13 he believes Martin was racially profiled by Zimmerman and would not have been followed if he “had been a white kid on a cell phone.”
“What I know of George and his tendencies and also my opinion is that he racially profiled Trayvon Martin that night because if that had been a white kid on a cell phone, walking through our neighborhood, he wouldn’t have stayed on him the way he did and that’s a fact and I believe that in my heart,” said Taaffe.
Go figure. And what could have made Frank change his mind?
According to Taafe, recent tragedies in his own life made him reconsider his opinion and feel the need to apologize for his earlier stalwart defense of Zimmerman .
“I can only ask for the country to forgive me and today I believe that he racially profiled him based on the color of his skin. Reporter: Some people may wonder what does Frank Taaffe have to gain by doing this?” Taffe explained. “Are you working on a book? No book. A TV show? No. I’m just working on me right now and getting right with God.”
Taafe also expressed his condolences to Trayvon Martin’s parents, saying, “I’m sorry that you lost your son, I know what that’s like and I wish things had been different.”
Alright, here is the real disgusting parts…we will go through them quickly:
The marriage may be legal but the suspected premarital sex was not, authorities said on Saturday after arresting a 41-year-old Houston-area drama teacher for the alleged sexual assault of a child, his 16-year-old wife.
Ilich Guardiola, who also works as a voice actor in Japanese animations, was pulled over in a traffic stop in the Houston suburb of Spring Valley last month and later questioned about his relationship with the teen riding with him, police said.
Shortly after the incident, Guardiola married the teenager, who has not been identified, in Las Vegas with the approval of her mother, who witnessed the wedding.
Police said there is circumstantial evidence that the two engaged in a sexual relationship prior to legal marriage.
“The marriage is absolutely legal. We received a copy of the marriage certificate,” said Gary Finkelman of the Spring Valley Police Department.
Guardiola was arrested on Thursday at his Houston-area apartment for violating a Texas law that forbids sex with a child, regardless of the child’s consent. A child is defined as a person under 17 years of age.
Any state where the marriage of a 41 year old man to a 16-year-old is “legal” has to be fucked up to begin with, the other part of that article (the alleged sexual assault) goes without saying.
The school behind the book, movie and TV series “Friday Night Lights” has become mired in scandal with five staff members investigated for suspected sexual relations with students, including a teacher who died this week, a likely suicide.
Mark Lampman, 47, resigned as a government teacher on Tuesday from Permian High School in Odessa after the school in western Texas received an anonymous tip about an improper relationship between him and a student, school officials said.
“When they questioned him, that’s when he turned in his resignation and left,” district spokesman Mike Adkins said.
He was found dead on Wednesday of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest, the Ector County Sheriff’s Office said.
Lampman is the fifth staff member to be accused in the last year of having an inappropriate relationship with a student. One of those employees was later cleared of wrongdoing, school officials said.
In April 2013, a Permian swim coach and a trainer resigned and were later indicted on charges of improper relations between educator and student. Last month, a Permian employee also resigned amid claims made by parents to school district police of an inappropriate relationship with a student.
The staff members were not immediately available for comment.
It is disgusting. Yeah, the school district says they are “looking into it” but it seems like things are just getting looked over to me. (You can read the rest of the article yourself and make your own decision.)
Deputies with the Harris County Precinct One Constable’s Office say a man has been terrorizing a neighborhood in the Woodland Heights area of Houston by going to the bathroom in several yards at night.
“We’ve had reports from six to eight neighbors out there that someone is actually coming into their yard and defecating — generally on their driveways,” said Sgt. J.C. Mosier.
Authorities believe the unknown man is committing the act between 1:00 and 4:00 a.m., but a motive for crimes has not yet been established.
“I think the neighbors are laughing about it, but that’s because it’s only happened to two houses in the neighborhood. If it starts happening more, I think people might become enraged,” says Amy, who lives in the Heights. “How much poop can one man make though?”
She says one person’s house has even been hit as many as six times.
“I’m thinking revenge poop is definitely a possibility. We’re all wondering, what did this person who’s having the creep-crapper hit their house repeatedly do?”
Sgt. Mosier agrees that revenge could be the motive, as he recalls a similar event many years ago in the Houston area.
Ha…you can laugh all you want at that…but the stock image they have for the story is a cop pulling a gun. Go check it out.
Female diplomats and senior women at the Foreign Office are paid 10 per cent less than their male counterparts, new figures revealed yesterday.
The Government is also missing its target on recruiting women into the department and in UK missions abroad, the research shows.
The figures follow the announcement by Defence Secretary Philip Hammond last week that women should be allowed to serve on the front line. Yet despite the attempts to achieve greater equality at the Ministry of Defence, it seems across Whitehall, however, the Foreign Office is struggling in the battle for parity between the sexes.
Nice to know that kind of sexism is seen equally on both sides of the pond./snark
Okay, now I am going to give you some links to news on the LBGT front. The most exciting of which is this:
Michael Sam was picked by the St. Louis Rams in the seventh round of the NFL draft Saturday, becoming the first openly gay player drafted by a pro football team.
“Thank you to the St. Louis Rams and the whole city of St. Louis. I’m using every ounce of this to achieve greatness!!” Sam tweeted moments after he was picked, with a picture of himself wearing a Rams cap and a pink polo shirt.
The impact of Sam’s selection goes far beyond football. At a time when gay marriage is gaining acceptance among Americans, Sam’s entry into the NFL is a huge step toward the integration of gay men into professional team sports. Pro sports have in many ways lagged behind the rest of society in acceptance.
Isn’t that a fucking good bit of news. This was neat trivia too:
Michael Sam made history on Saturday by become the first openly gay athlete ever to be drafted by an NFL team. There had been some doubt as to whether or not Sam would be drafted at all, but with the eighth-to-last pick in the 2014 NFL Draft’s seventh and final round, the St. Louis Rams selected the University of Missouri star. It was an historic moment made even more so by the remarkable video footage of Sam finding out he’d made the cut, which you can view below.
Malu with her parents and sister, in front of their home Mariette Pathy Allen
Of all the allies in the global fight for LGBT equality, Cuba may be the most unlikely. For decades, the island was notorious for its crackdown on “social deviants”—an underclass that included homosexuals, transgender people, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists, and anyone critical of the Castro regime. The 1960s were especially bleak. Deemed unfit for the revolution, gay Cubans were banned from joining the military or becoming teachers. Thousands were confined to isolated labor camps. Conditions deteriorated further in the ’80s and ’90s as Cuba quarantined HIV-positive citizens, many of whom were gay.
Mariette Pathy Allen’s new photobook, TransCuba (Daylight Books), captures a country slowly outgrowing its history of persecution. Shot in 2012 and 2013, the book is haunted by the trauma inflicted by Fidel Castro’s government. But it is optimistic about life under his brother, Raúl, who assumed the presidency in 2008. Since the change in power, Cuba’s Ministry of Public Health has approved state-funded sex reassignment surgery, and the government has relaxed many discriminatory policies targeting sexual orientation and gender. In 2012, Adela Hernández became the country’s first openly transgender person elected to public office. Perhaps most shockingly, in a 2010 interview with the Mexican newspaper La Jornada, Fidel Castro called his decision to imprison homosexuals in the 1960′s “a great injustice…I’m not going to place the blame on others,” Castro said, “We had so many and such terrible problems, problems of life or death.”
Despite its progressive reforms, Cuba continues to have serious problems, particularly with transgender rights. “I see transgender Cubans as a metaphor for Cuba itself: people living between genders in a country moving between doctrines,” Allen writes. The women she documents are grateful for the increasing tolerance, but they still suffer from entrenched stigmas.
Austrian bearded drag queen Conchita Wurst won the 59th edition of the Eurovision Song Contest on Saturday with a James Bond-inspired entry that had unleashed a wave of protests in eastern Europe before the competition.
The power ballad, “Rise Like a Phoenix,” helped Wurst — the alter ego of 25-year-old Thomas Neuwirth — secure Austria’s second victory in the competition with 290 points. The country also won in 1966.
“This is dedicated to everyone who believes in a future of peace and freedom,” a tearful Wurst said as she accepted the trophy from Denmark’s Emmelie de Forrest, who won the contest last year. “We are unity.”
You can listens to her performance here:
Amid growing tensions over the Ukraine crisis, some in Eastern Europe have blasted Wurst as an example of the West’s decadence. Activists in Belarus had even urged the country’s state television network to bypass the live broadcasting rules by the organizers and edit the Austrian entry out of its Eurovision transmission.
After her victory, Wurst told reporters she hopes gay, lesbian, bi and transgender people around the world are getting stronger in their fight for human rights.
Asked if she had anything to say to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who introduced a law last year prohibiting so-called gay “propaganda,” Wurst said, “I don’t know if he is watching this now, but if so, I’ll say it: ‘We’re unstoppable.’”
In Vienna, the Austrian capital, fans who had gathered at one of the public viewing parties chanted “Conchita” ecstatically after the victory. Some had painted on fake beards in support.
Thomas “Lem” Johns, a former secret service agent present during the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and swearing in of Lyndon Johnson, has died. He was 88.
Lem Johns is pictured in iconic photos from Nov. 22, 1963 aboard the presidential plane where Johnson was sworn in. One photo shows Johns standing behind former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy as Johnson consoles her following the oath of office.
Johns was assigned to Johnson’s security detail at the time of the shooting and was riding in the motorcade when the shots were fired.
Those are some heavy duty images to see in a photograph, imagine having them imprinted in your memories…
CASTRILLO MATAJUDÍOS, Spain — To outsiders, it might seem obvious that the time has come, or long passed, to change the name of a village that evokes one of the darkest chapters of Spain’s history.
But the mayor of Castrillo Matajudíos — roughly, Little Hill Fort of Jew Killers — is having a tough time persuading the 56 registered inhabitants of this sleepy village to vote on May 25 to adopt a different name and finally eradicate a link to the persecution of Jews during the Spanish Inquisition.
Read about the fascinating history of how this town got its name at the link, you may be surprised.
Hey lawyers: Stop misusing the phrase “Hobson’s choice.” Please, Suits & Sentences begs this of you.
On Thursday, during health-care law arguments before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, attorney Robert Joseph Muise several times employed the phrase. Each time, he used it to mean an impossibly tough choice; specifically, that facing religious employers who must either provide contraceptive coverage to workers or pay a fee.
“That is a Hobson’s choice,” Muise told the three-judge panel.
No, it’s not.
A Hobson’s choice, unless its meaning has been totally remade by constant misuse, refers to something that’s not a choice at all. As explained here:
“ Thomas Hobson (1545–1631) ran a thriving carrier and horse rental business in Cambridge, England, around the turn of the 17th century. Hobson rented out horses, mainly to Cambridge University students, but refused to hire them out other than in the order he chose. The choice his customers were given was ‘this or none;’ quite literally, not their choice but Hobson’s choice.”
New research about mice on Madeira suggests that the Vikings may have visited the Atlantic island 400 years before it was colonized.
In an article published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the research team from the Mediterranean Institute for Advanced Studies (Imedea) in Majorca and the University of La Laguna analyzed the bones of two mice skeletons found in dunes on the eastern edge of the island. Radiocarbon tests on the second skeleton revealed that the mouse lived from 903–1036 AD.
Reproductive organs throughout the animal kingdom are just about the craziest thing that’s ever been described in scientific literature. Did you know, for example, that female ducks have complex vaginas that coil in the opposite direction of males’ equally complex penises, allowing them to thwart attempts at forced copulation? Or that the penises of particularly lucky species of crane fly function as vibrators? Or, for that matter, that the human female clitoris is about the size of a medium zucchini — and sports more nerve endings than the penis?
Thanks to Pantone, the contemporary authority on all things color, we have a way of documenting the chromatic flow — all 2,100 hues it’s gleaned from the visible ends of the rainbow. But artists have been recording the depths of color for much longer than Pantone’s lifespan, mixing and melding pigments to create the violets, turquoises and ambers we ogle in art history books.
One such artist was A. Boogert, a man who created a massive manual on color nearly three centuries before Pantone ever came into being. Back in 1692, he crafted around 800 pages of handwritten and hand-painted pages under the title “Traité des couleurs servant à la peinture à l’eau.” Written in Dutch, the treatise was a painstaking trek through the tints and shades of every color you can think of. It was, as This Is Colossal speculates, probably the most informative color guide of its time.
For these moms, all 100 years or older, motherhood has a lot of meanings. The women talk about everything—from how it felt to find out they were going to be moms to the heartbreak of sending their children off to war.
The video, courtesy of Mashable in honor of the 100th anniversary of Mother’s Day, asks what it means to be a mother. “Strength,” says Sadie Adler, triumphantly. “Listen to your children and treat them as a grown up,” she advises. Connie Isaacs has another great idea about how to parent. “Let your kids do what they want to do,” she says, laughing.
Happy Mother’s Day! Enjoy your special day!
Did you like this post? Please share it with your friends:
Can you feel it? A Minkoff rant coming to ya? Yeah, it is…so just roll with it, you may find this post all over the place. But then y’all know how I get when this happens so, I will just get on with it.
First off, this shit with the Supreme Court and public prayer at town meetings. You know…what the fuck happened to a moment of silence? Do they still do that? I mean if you are going to take time out to pray a little, do it to yourself on the quiet…if you want to…because this shit SCOTUS just ruled on gives the Christian right to fuck over anyone who isn’t born again. By that I mean you too Catholics! Which is something I think those who do vote “Republican” and are Catholic seem to fail to grasp.
You see them, especially here in small towns like Banjoville. They are high and mighty evil bastards who feel above you and actually discriminate against those who are not “born again.” That means those of the Catholic, Anglican/Episcopal faith…Jews, Buddhist, Muslims, oh you all know what I am talking about.
They will say the most horrible things to kids too…shit that is beyond fucked up! And…they teach their children to behave just like them. It is an endless cycle of disgusting behavior in the name of Jesus. (Excuse me…Geeezus.)
All this shit about prayer in schools, is not for any other prayer but theirs.
It is only their religious freedom they are concerned with.
It is only their “God” or “Gawd” they consider real and therefore legitimate.
So many conservatives who are not in line with the “christian” way of believing do not get this…they don’t realize that these assholes are not really speaking for them. They vote for these bastards because they only see them as the politician who spouts on about praying in school, and other conservative value shit…but they don’t see the big picture behind it.
And why am I picking on these Jesus freaks? Because these are also the people who are the hypocritical bastards, and act the least charitable. They are hateful motherfuckers and prejudice and judgmental too. They say horrible things with an air of snotty intolerant Baptist superiority. (This is from my experience here in the Southern bible belt.) Both men and women are misogynistic as hell, the women are not supportive of other women within their circle and the girls are awful to other girls who are, “not one of them.” They take any reason and twist it, manipulate it into a reason for Geezus. It is unbelievable the way they can justify their behavior…I don’t know how they can do it and consider themselves “good Christians.”
This is the backbone of the GOP, the conservatives who are changing the laws in this nation bit by bit. The assholes that are cutting out all social programs and any hope for a future in areas of science and discovery. I can honestly say these people are ruining this country. Maybe that is taking it too far, I don’t know. But what the fuck is wrong with these people?
I am afraid, really I am.
I see what a small town mentality is like and I see it is taking over our Supreme Court. It has taken over our House of Representatives and it damn well can take over the Senate.
Gawd help us…what the hell are we going to do?
Here then are the links for today, there are a lot of them so some are in link dump fashion.
First a group of stories illustrating some of the talking points above.
House Republicans have unveiled their version of the transportation, housing and urban development (THUD) appropriations bill and, not surprisingly, it cuts funding by nearly $2 billion.
The bill cuts TIGER grants, a favorite of many lawmakers, by $500 million to a total of $100 million. It does not allow funds for bike and pedestrian paths.
The FAA is funded at $7.3 million below the fiscal year 2014 enacted level and the Federal Railroad Administration is funded at $1.4 billion, a reduction of $193 million. There is no funding for high speed rail, an Obama priority.
To cut costs, Amtrak would be required to put overtime limits on employees and not use federal funding for routes where Amtrak offers a discount of 50 percent or more peak fares.
All together, the House bill would set spending at a level nearly $8 billion less than what President Obama requested for the next fiscal year.
Opposition to the president’s request isn’t earth shattering news, but House Republicans going out their way to eliminating funding for bike paths and railway while instituting overtime limits for Amtrak employees is certainly illuminating.
Republicans have a big problem with pedestrian-friendly urban and mass transportation. You know, hallmarks of socialism; liberal stuff.
The Obama administration and the scientific community at large are expressing serious alarm at a House Republican bill that they argue would dramatically undermine way research is conducted in America.
Titled the “Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science, and Technology (FIRST) Act of 2014,” the bill would put a variety of new restrictions on how funds are doled out by the National Science Foundation. The goal, per its Republican supporters on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, would be to weed out projects whose cost can’t be justified or whose sociological purpose is not apparent.
For Democrats and advocates, however, the FIRST Act represents a dangerous injection of politics into science and a direct assault on the much-cherished peer-review process by which grants are awarded.
“We have a system of peer-review science that has served as a model for not only research in this country but in others,” said Bill Andresen, the associate vice president of Federal Affairs at the University of Pennsylvania. “The question is, does Congress really think it has the better ability to determine the scientific merit of grant applications or should it be left up to the scientists and their peers?”
In recent weeks, the Obama administration and science agencies have — in less-than-subtle terms — offered up similar criticisms of the FIRST Act. At an American Association for the Advancement of Science forum on Thursday, presidential science adviser John Holdren said he was “concerned with a number of aspects” of the bill.
“It appears aimed at narrowing the focus of NSF-funded research to domains that are applied to various national interests other than simply advancing the progress of science,” Holdren said.
Meanwhile, in a show of protest that several officials in the science advocacy community could not recall having witnessed before, the National Science Board released a statement in late April criticizing the bill. As the oversight body to the National Science Foundation, the NSB traditionally stays out of legislative fights. So when it warned that the FIRST Act could “significantly impede NSF’s flexibility to deploy its funds to support the best ideas,” advocates said they were surprised and pleased.
“The fact that the NSB commented on legislation, I don’t know if it is unprecedented but it is at least extremely unusual,” said Barry Toiv, a top official at the Association of American Universities. “And we think that speaks to the really serious problems posed by the legislation.”
Despite all the pissing and money about the district wasting money on outrageous teacher salaries and pensions, seems the real problem is the Santa Claus provision our Republican-dominated legislature ticked away into state law. This is, of course, contrary to the right-wing wisdom shared on our local newspaper site, but oh well! Nobody cares about schools, anyway:
Unless the Philadelphia School District raises more than $200 million extra in a hurry, Moody’s Investors Service warned it will cut the district’s bond rating — which is already down at Ba2, junk status, forcing the district to pay extra when it borrows money — because the district’s proposed $2.5 billion budget for the next fiscal year will “materially imperil its ability to provide students with an adequate education.”
Without $216 million in additional funding, Moody’s analyst Dan Seymour wrote in a report to clients, the district threatens to increase the average class size to 41 students and lay off more than 1,000 staff. ” This is credit negative because a further deterioration in education services will likely result in additional student flight to charter schools and other alternatives,” further reducing district revenues, Seymour added. 3 in 10 Philadelphia students already go to charter schools.
“Rising charter school enrollments have been a drag on the district’s finances, as state law mandates that public school districts pay the costs of sending students to charter schools. Driven largely by charter school tuition costs, the district’s costs per pupil have increased 70% since 2004. Further enrollment declines would exacerbate the district’s financial pressure as charter schools capture a larger share of the district’s expenditures,” Moody’s adds.
In Kansas, Republicans dominate the state government. They have the Governorship (Former Senator Sam Brownback), the State House (92-33 for the GOP), and the State Senate (32-8 for the GOP). Democrats don’t have a say in this blood red state that went 60%-37% for Mitt Romney in 2012.
Brownback and his buddies have enacted all manner of conservative economic policy in the state. Cutting taxes, etcetera. What is the result? Guess.
Citing a sluggish recovery from the recession, risk inherent in the governor’s tax plan and uncertainty over the Legislature’s ability to keep cutting spending, one of the nation’s two major debt rating agencies downgraded Kansas’ credit rating Thursday.
Moody’s Investors Service dropped Kansas from its second-highest bond rating, Aa1, to its third highest, Aa2. The Kansas Department of Transportation also took the same downgrade.
As Businesweekexplained, “the immediate effect has been to blow a hole in the state’s finances without noticeable economic growth.”
Even with the cut in taxes, big companies like Applebee’s and Boeing have moved out of Kansas.
As a result, the most recent polling there shows Brownback’s approval rating down to 33%, while he’s slightly behind the Democratic challenger.
In Kansas, they can’t (honestly) blame liberals for this. They’ve been given a free hand. They were able to enact whatever they wanted, and it has been a miserable failure at a time when other states – including very blue Democratic states like here in Maryland – have been recovering from the Bush recession.
Because conservative economics doesn’t actually work. It is a faith based program untethered from reality. The numbers don’t add up and it is destructive to societies.
Charlie Crist said once again Tuesday that racism motivates many of President Obama’s most hostile GOP adversaries.
It was partly for that reason that Crist, the former Republican governor of Florida who’s now trying to reclaim his old job as a Democrat, broke with his former party.
“I couldn’t be consistent with myself and my core beliefs, and stay with a party that was so unfriendly toward the African-American president, I’ll just go there,” Crist told Fusion’s Jorge Ramos. “I was a Republican and I saw the activists and what they were doing, it was intolerable to me.”
Crist was savaged on the right when, as governor in 2009, he hugged Obama. He said earlier this year that racism motivated the outrage over the embrace.
“I think another part of it was that he was a Democrat, but not just a Democrat, an African-American,” Crist, who’s challenging Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R), said during an appearance on “The Colbert Report.”
A majority of American journalists identify themselves as political independents although among those who choose a side Democrats outnumber Republicans four to one, according to a new study of the media conducted by two Indiana University professors.
Write Lars Wilnat and David Weaver, professors of journalism at Indiana, of their findings:
Compared with 2002, the percentage of full-time U.S. journalists who claim to be Democrats has dropped 8 percentage points in 2013 to about 28 percent, moving this figure closer to the overall population percentage of 30 percent, according to a December 12-15, 2013, ABC News/Washington Post national poll of 1,005 adults. This is the lowest percentage of journalists saying they are Democrats since 1971. An even larger drop was observed among journalists who said they were Republicans in 2013 (7.1 percent) than in 2002 (18 percent), but the 2013 figure is still notably lower than the percentage of U.S. adults who identified with the Republican Party (24 percent according to the poll mentioned above).
That link about the journalist is more for information purposes. Read what else Cillizza thinks too at that link.
Los Angeles councilman Paul Koretz has called for banks NY Mellon and Dexia to return $65 million in “unfair profits and termination payments” they received between 2008 and 2014. This follows a report (embedded below) revealing that the city spent more than $200 million in fees to Wall Street in 2013 alone. Koretz says he may push the city to take punitive action against the financial institutions involved if they do not renegotiate the deal.
The report, published by the union-backed Fix LA Coalition, notes that “the City of Los Angeles last year spent more on Wall Street fees than it did on our streets.” Indeed, the report notes the city “paid Wall Street $204 million in fees, spending only $163 million on the Bureau of Street Services.”
The fees are connected to the controversial interest-rate-swap deal cemented by Los Angeles in 2006. It is a deal similar to those engineered by Wall Street in cities across the country. Those deals have made headlines in recent years in some of the country’s most high-profile municipal budget crises.
For instance, a recent study by former Goldman Sachs investment banker Wallace Turbeville found that an interest-rate swap deal was a primary driver of Detroit’s fiscal crisis. Noting that the banks used the city’s bankruptcy to demand “upwards of $250-350 million in swap termination payments,” Turbeville concluded that “a strong case can be made that the banks that sold these swaps may have breached their ethical, and possibly legal, obligations to the city in executing these deals.” (A court recently reduced the amount the city has to pay Wall Street to unwind the deals).
A new report by an immigration watchdog finds that the United States’ largest federal law enforcement agency rarely punishes its agents for their mistreatment of immigrants and American citizens.
The report by the American Immigration Council found that 97 percent of abuse complaints lodged against Border Patrol agents and Customs and Border Protection officers resulted in no disciplinary action once an investigation had been completed. Those included a complaint from a pregnant woman in El Paso, Texas, that she had miscarried after a Border Patrol agent kicked her in the stomach, and several complaints from women that they had been forced to bare their breasts while in custody.
The survey also found that many complaints against U.S. border agents take years to resolve. The council reviewed 809 complaints filed in the three years from January 2009 to January 2012. But of those, only 485 had been investigated and resolved. The remainder are still under investigation, including a nearly 5-year-old allegation of forced sexual intercourse lodged July 30, 2009, against a Border Patrol agent in El Centro, Calif.
Among the cases that were still “pending investigation, the average number of days between the date the complaint was filed and the last record date provided in the data set was 389 days,” the report said.
“This absolutely confirms the experiences of our border families and communities,” said Vicki Gaubeca, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Regional Center for Border Rights in New Mexico. “U.S. Customs and Border Protection is now the largest law enforcement agency in the nation, and yet this massive buildup of border enforcement resources has not been matched with adequate accountability and oversight.”
The Supreme Court’s popularity has rebounded, with more than half of U.S. residents surveyed now voicing a favorable view of the justices, a new survey finds.
The Pew Research Center survey, conducted last month among 1,501 adults, found that 56 percent have a favorable view of the court, while 35 percent had an unfavorable view. Last July, only 48 percent held a favorable view of the court. That rating was among the lowest ever recorded by the court, though still well above the abysmal poll numbers earned by Congress.
Intriguingly, 63 percent of Democrats have a favorable view of the court led by conservative Chief Justice John Roberts, Jr., compared to 54 percent of Republicans.
Take a deep breath…I know I have to. More after the jump.
The Sky Dancing banner headline uses a snippet from a work by artist Tashi Mannox called 'Rainbow Study'. The work is described as a" study of typical Tibetan rainbow clouds, that feature in Thanka painting, temple decoration and silk brocades". dakinikat was immediately drawn to the image when trying to find stylized Tibetan Clouds to represent Sky Dancing. It is probably because Tashi's practice is similar to her own. His updated take on the clouds that fill the collection of traditional thankas is quite special.
You can find his work at his website by clicking on his logo below. He is also a calligraphy artist that uses important vajrayana syllables. We encourage you to visit his on line studio.