Friday Reads: Economic Anemia

Good Morning!

MuslinVoodooDoll-2Since I’m in the middle of revamping my course for Graduate Finance Students in International Finance and reviewing textbooks and the usual stuff, I thought I’d focus on the economy for the morning.

One of the most awful results of the Reagan years has been the creation of mainstream paranoia over policy using  data evident from the scientific method, intellectuals and academics that spend years researching and learning theory and empirical evidence, and the idea that government can’t ameliorate issues through policy but is somehow a potential enemy of the governed.

This kind of paranoid drivel used to be the realm of militia types like Clive Bunday and John Birchers like the Koch Brothers and father.  It had no place in mainstream discourse until Reagan started pumping up the idea that poor people game the government and the government games every one else.   Its now spread to Christian extremists, the NRA, and most of the Republic Party.

Let me give you the latest example of someone who is possibly going to be a Senator from Iowa.  Joni Ernst is doing the Sharon Angle thing of declaring any government issue she doesn’t like her potential enemy and any one supporting that view as a potential target of her nice little gun that she carries with her everywhere. 

Joni Ernst, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Iowa, said during an NRA event in 2012 that she would use a gun to defend herself from the government.

“I have a beautiful little Smith & Wesson, 9 millimeter, and it goes with me virtually everywhere,” Ernst said at the NRA and Iowa Firearms Coalition Second Amendment Rally in Searsboro, Iowa. “But I do believe in the right to carry, and I believe in the right to defend myself and my family — whether it’s from an intruder, or whether it’s from the government, should they decide that my rights are no longer important.”

Ernst made the remark a little more than a month after gunman James Holmes allegedly killed 12 people and injured 58 in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. Ernst’s campaign did not respond to The Huffington Post’s request for comment about the remark on Wednesday evening.

Earlier this year, Ernst released an ad in which she points a gun at the camera and vows to “unload” on Obamacare.

We’ve also experienced this massive attempt to rewrite secondary school textbooks and curricula to reflect the deeply held philosophical and religious views of these folks rather than theory or empirical evidence brought about by hundreds of years of research and scholarship.  This also ignores primary documents that show just the opposite to be factual.

But, facts be damned, there’s children’s minds to warp.  Biased ideas are not at the center of legitimate academic pursuit. Folks that follow agendas tend to live at the edges of universities and most departments are quite embarrassed by them. I spent time in a department where one research professor’s favorite pursuit was proving that iqs and brain sizes among varying races were the reason for underachieving groups in an economy.  All DNA evidence shows that race is a social construct but this guy spent a life time trying to show the relationship between brain sizes of races and incomes and jobs.  So, most time when you see folks that believe this stuff, they reside some where on the fringes.  However, since the Reagan years, there’s been a major attempt by right wing religious zealots to teach propaganda and there’s been a rather significant increase in the level of ignorance on things from incoming freshmen.

This is happening even in economics where you would think that paranoia about “communism” would’ve gone away since the fall of the USSR.  Not true, however.

The standards’ authors are clearly fans of the free enterprise system, consistently emphasizing the advantage of American capitalism over other structures.

For example, the high school standards state that students should be able to “understand how the free enterprise system drives technological innovation and its application in the marketplace.” The middle school standards clearly promote free enterprise capitalism over other economic systems, saying that students should be able to “compare and contrast free enterprise, socialist, and communist economies in various contemporary societies, including the benefits of the U.S. free enterprise system.” Finally, the standards connect capitalism with the conservative ideal of limited government, asking students to be able to “explain why a free enterprise system of economics developed in the new nation, including minimal government intrusion, taxation, and property rights.”

It really takes very little time spent in economics to realize that political constructs are not economic constructs. For example, the United States economy was founded on Mercantilism which began with monopolies, charters, grants and largess of royalty and aristocracy.  The concepts of Capitalismimages (3) and of Communism had the same roots and they were a lot more philosophical than ever real.  Even, now, we have a modified market system.  There has never EVER been a “free market” system or “communism” in an economic sense.  Socialism is just one end of a modified market system and still relies on a lot of private ownership of the factors of production.  Most facets of government policy are to make a market behave closer to a free market model because it can’t possibly d0 so under one factor, characteristic, or situation that exists. I mean really, who wants to leave the market for uranium to the free market?  That’s just an extreme example.

The problem is that dogma has overtaken reality among folks that now find themselves in office.  It’s bad for the country.  It’s bad for business. It’s bad for nearly every one.  The one thing that’s becoming abundantly clear since the Clinton Presidency and definitely during the Obama Presidency is that the Democratic Party is the party of Wall Street and Big Business.  It’s not the Republicans.  No where is this more evident than economic reports written by the private sector.  Today’s Republicans scare the shit out of big business and finance.  The last few battles to keep the federal government and the deficit funded has nearly caused market meltdowns twice. You also don’t see them complain about increasing the minimum wage or decreasing the current level of income equality.  NO REALLY.   This means Chris Christie is really going to have some ‘splaining to do over this statement. 

Labor Secretary Tom Perez on Thursday panned New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s comments that he’s “tired” of the minimum wage debate.

“Chris Christie’s got his head in the sand if he’s getting tired about the minimum wage,” Perez said according to Bloomberg Politics.

President Barack Obama and Democrats have led the push to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10, and the issue has made its way onto the campaign trail this year.

“Chris Christie needs to talk to his economists, who will tell him that 70 percent of GDP growth is consumption,” Perez said Thursday.

The criticism came just days after Christie said he was “tired of hearing about the minimum wage” at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce conference on Tuesday.

“I really am,” the Republican governor and potential 2016 hopeful said. “I don’t think there’s a mother or a father sitting around the kitchen table tonight in America saying, ‘You know, honey, if our son or daughter could just make a higher minimum wage, my God, all of our dreams would be realized.'”

“Is that what parents aspire to for our children?” Christie asked. “They aspire to a greater, growing America, where their children have the ability to make much more money and have much great success than they have, and that’s not about a higher minimum wage.”

Before the Labor secretary chimed in, the remark drew fire from other Democrats, and White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest even quipped during a briefing Wednesday that people living on a minimum wage are those who are really tired.

Christie also used his time at the podium to make a 2016 prediction.

“I am convinced that the next president of the United States is going to be a governor,” Christie said. “We’ve had this experiment of legislating .. and getting on-the-job training in the White House. It has not been pretty.”

voodoo-doll-670So, this kind’ve talk is really making the economists of Wall Street and of huge corporations very nervous.  They’re quite aware that today’s Republican Party is tanking the economy.

Even though Republicans depict themselves as the party for business and banks, it turns out that the GOP’s economic policy is detrimental to their bottom lines and continued existence; particularly rising costs and stagnant wages since the Bush-Republican Great Recession. What both bankers and retailers really want instead of tax cuts, deregulation, and more Republican austerity and budget cuts are better incomes for all Americans that will lead to increased consumer confidence and greater purchasing power to trigger higher business profits. What they have learned after thirty years of “trickle-down” is that the trillions of dollars taken by the 1%, especially since 2009, have failed miserably to stimulate the economy. Instead, they demand more buying by the masses that Wall Street firms and analysis of 65 of the nation’s top retailers claim will only happen with, as President Obama preaches, growing the economy from the middle-out.

For example, in a report last month titled Inequality and Consumption, Morgan Stanley economists said, “Despite the roughly $25 trillion increase in wealth since the recovery from the financial crisis began, consumer spending remains anemic. Top income earners have benefited from wealth increases but middle and low income consumers continue facing structural liquidity constraints and unimpressive wage growth. To lift all boats, further increases in residential wealth and accelerating wage growth are needed.” Republicans completely disagree and either resist consideration of raising the minimum wage or promote abolishing it altogether. According to the Republicans, increasing income inequality must continue and it is crucial that they convince the population that no wage is too low. It is a belief the Koch brothers espouse but it is rapidly losing favor in circles whose survival depends on a population of consumers.

Standard and Poor’s (S&P) rating agency concurred with Morgan Stanley’s economists in their August report, How Increasing Income Inequality Is Dampening U.S. Economic Growth, And Possible Ways To Change The Tide, and strongly advised the federal government to create “a path toward more sustainable growth, that in our view, will pull more Americans out of poverty and bolster the purchasing power of the middle class. A rising tide lifts all boats…but a lifeboat carrying a few, surrounded by many treading water, risks capsizing.” To “lift all boats,” S&P suggests a “high degree of rebalancing” that includes increased “spending in the areas of education, health care, and infrastructure to help control the income gap that, at its current level, threatens the stability of an economy still struggling to recover.” Contrary to wisdom of real economists concerned with America’s economic survival, Republicans across the country have been laser-focused on their austerity crusade to cut spending on education, infrastructure, and healthcare including the cruel heartlessness of refusing free Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act.

Despite the call from both banks and businesses to increase the minimum wage and spending on essentials for a robust recovery, congressional Republicans have obstructed and outright blocked each and every attempt by the President and Democrats to stimulate the economy. Despite trailing every developed nation on Earth in infrastructure, Republicans consistently refuse the President’s calls to increase spending on desperately-needed infrastructure repairs including roads, bridges, public buildings, and sewers that numerous economists, including some highly respected conservatives, say is crucial for job-creation, increased consumer spending, and a vibrant recovery. Increased consumer confidence, and spending, is something all economists agree is for the good of the country’s economy but can only happen if incomes rise for the majority with higher wages and more well-paying jobs.

I’ve said this a million times but it’s true.  If you have an economy that’s 70% reliant on consumer spending for growth and 99% of the population has stagnant to falling real income, you’re going to run into trouble.  Especially since a huge part of that 99% spends high levels, all of, or beyond black-voodoo-dolltheir income and wealth levels.  Years and years of evidence has shown that consumers are the real job creators.  No business hires workers if no one is buying their goods and services.  Rich people–especially with some of the horrid changes we’ve had in the tax code during the Dubya years–are spending more and more of the income and wealth on gambling paper for paper profits.  This does not create anything of value in a real economy but it sure creates asset bubbles and the potential for financial meltdowns.   One has only to survey retailers to figure out the relationship between incomes of the middle and working classes and their bottom lines and their hiring plans.

Former Walmart U.S. CEO Bill Simon, whose company had seen consumer traffic drop for six straight quarters and same-store sales drop for five quarters, explained in July 2014 that “we’ve reached a point where it’s not getting any better but it’s not getting any worse—at least for the middle (class) and down.” Kip Tindell, CEO of the Container Store, put retailers’ feelings best when he said, “consistent with so many of our fellow retailers, we are experiencing a retail ‘funk.’” The culprit is obvious: low wage and income growth for the middle class. Median household income in 2013 stood 8 percentage points below its 2007 prerecession level.

The simple fact of the matter is that when households do not have money, retailers do not have customers. The failure of incomes to keep up with the growing cost of college, child care, and other middle-class staples leaves even less money for retail spending. A previous analysis by the Center for American Progress shows that this so-called “middle-class squeeze”—stagnant incomes and the growing cost of middle-class security—leaves the median married couple with two kids with $5,500 less to spend annually on food, clothes, and other essentials that retailers sell.

Or, as officials of J.C. Penney—whose sales fell 9 percent in 20136—put it when listing the risks to its stock value: “the moderate income consumer, which is our core customer, has been under economic pressure for the past several years.”

Moreover, retail spending—which includes spending on everything from clothing to groceries to dining out—has broad implications for the entire economy since it accounts for a large fraction of consumer spending, which itself makes up 70
percent of U.S. gross domestic product, or GDP.

Even Walmart is concerned even while not paying living wages, not providing good benefits, and not creating an environment where a worker feels secure about his/her future.  Now the weird thing is that fringe economists are still overly scared about inflation and high taxes.  These things, however, are not at the top of any one’s concerns that would be invited on any Fox News program.   Here’s a headline from Forbes: “Want a Better Economy? History Says Vote Democrat!”.  In 2012, a number of books evaluated the results of the economy under Democratic vs Republican administrations.  The results are startling.

Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan is attributed with saying “everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.“ So even though we may hold very strong opinions about parties and politics, it is worthwhile to look at historical facts. This book’s authors are to be commended for spending several years, and many thousands of student research assistant man-days, sorting out economic performance from the common viewpoint – and the broad theories upon which much policy has been based. Their compendium of economic facts is the most illuminating document on economic performance during different administrations, and policies, than anything previously published.

The authors looked at a range of economic metrics including inflation, unemployment, corporate profit growth, stock market performance, household income growth, economy (GDP) growth, months in recession and others. To their surprise (I had the opportunity to interview Mr. Goldfarb) they discovered that laissez faire policies had far less benefits than expected, and in fact produced almost universal negative economic outcomes for the nation!

From this book loaded with statistical fact tidbits and comparative charts, here are just a few that caused me to realize that my long-term love affair with Milton Friedman‘s writing and recommended policies in “Free to Choose” were grounded in a theory I long admired, but that simply have proven to be myths when applied!

  • Personal disposable income has grown nearly 6 times more under Democratic presidents
  • Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has grown 7 times more under Democratic presidents
  • Corporate profits have grown over 16% more per year under Democratic presidents (they actually declined under Republicans by an average of 4.53%/year)
  • Average annual compound return on the stock market has been 18 times greater under Democratic presidents (If you invested $100k for 40 years of Republican administrations you had $126k at the end, if you invested $100k for 40 years of Democrat administrations you had $3.9M at the end)
  • Republican presidents added 2.5 times more to the national debt than Democratic presidents
  • The two times the economy steered into the ditch (Great Depression and Great Recession) were during Republican, laissez faire administrations

The Obama economy is actually surprisingly good given that a large number of good economic policies have not been enacted due to Congressional blocking.images (4)

It was no joke on Thursday when I asked Austan Goolsbee, a pretty fair amateur comic, to rattle of key economic indicators that are trending in very positive ways right now.
“Jobs created. Weekly U.I (jobless) claims. Unemployment rate. Auto Sales. Gas Prices,” said Goolsbee, former head of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers and a onetime winner of the annual “D.C.’s Funniest Celebrity” contest.

And, yet, as a headline in Politico.com also noted Thursday, “Economic Anxiety Dominates 2014.” So what’s really and truly up? What explains the disconnect between seemingly very strong numbers and the lack of love for Obama and the Democrats?

“You can’t brag about the economy because people can’t feel it,” said Thomas Bowen, a Chicago-based Democratic political and policy consultant.

“I’m sure (some) Democrats have polled this: ‘The recovery isn’t working for you.’ That’s why they’re not running on the economy improving.

Not long after, I was driving past a state unemployment office along a rather somber commercial strip on Chicago’s Northwest Side. The parking lot was full. And then I mulled the folks I know working part-time involuntarily or sticking with jobs they don’t especially like out of fear of the limited alternatives.

“You’re talking about indicators in the last six months,” said Bowen. “But look at the start of the recession until today. We’re just getting out of the hole from jobs losses. And the jobs aren’t the same. They’re not higher paying construction jobs.” “Not all indicators equate with average folks,” said Anna Greenberg, a Washington-based Democratic pollster.

“Wages and salaries are stagnant,” she said. “Yes, the stock market is up and the jobless rate down. But the cost of living is up and you may not have more money.”

images (5)So, I and a lot of economists remain very confused.  It’s not like there’s not support by people and businesses for good policy like infrastructure projects, improving the terms of student loans so more folks can access higher and continuing education, and a reasonable minimum wage.  The cities and states that have raised the minimum wage are even those that are doing well among states.   States that have raised their minimum wages have better job growth.

New data released by the Department of Labor shows that raising the minimum wage in some states does not appear to have had a negative impact on job growth, contrary to what critics said would happen.

In a report on Friday, the 13 states that raised their minimum wages on Jan. 1 have added jobs at a faster pace than those that did not. The data run counter to a Congressional Budget Office report in February that said raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, as the White House supports, could cost as many as 500,000 jobs.

The Associated Press writes:

“In the 13 states that boosted their minimums at the beginning of the year, the number of jobs grew an average of 0.85 percent from January through June. The average for the other 37 states was 0.61 percent.

“Nine of the 13 states increased their minimum wages automatically in line with inflation: Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Montana, Ohio, Oregon, Vermont and Washington. Four more states — Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island — approved legislation mandating the increases.”

The AP notes: “[The] state-by-state hiring data, released Friday by the Labor Department, provides ammunition” to the camp in favor of raising the minimum wage.

“Economists who support a higher minimum say the figures are encouraging, though they acknowledge they don’t establish a cause and effect. There are many possible reasons hiring might accelerate in a particular state.

” ‘It raises serious questions about the claims that a raise in the minimum wage is a jobs disaster,’ said John Schmitt, a senior economist at the liberal Center for Economic and Policy Research. The job data ‘isn’t definitive,’ he added, but is ‘probably a reasonable first cut at what’s going on.’ “

So, it just appears that there’s a huge portion of the United States electorate and elected that would rather live in their dream world of imaginary beings and dogma than have their lives made better by using what we know and what we’ve learned.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Tabloid Tuesday Reads

TabloidCoverGood Morning!

I’ve had a bout of a really bad stomach flu and I’m just beginning to get some energy back, so I’m not going to post anything that takes any analysis.  Hopefully, this will be a fun post after week after week of horrifying news.  Oh, these tabloid covers don’t come from Fox News or any right wing blog, just so you know.

Jane Fonda has had a really interesting life.  She recently gave an interview that opened up a lot of the more distressing things that she’s endured.   You need to go to the link to watch/listen to the interview.

She talks about losing a parent to suicide (4:00), how being a tomboy with no period made her wonder if she was really a girl (4:30), how failed marriages forced her to look inward for strength (7:30), how she said goodbye to a slowly dying parent (13:30), how she manages being a caretaker for her partner with Parkinson’s (22:00), and what sex is like after celibacy (26:15). She’s not scared of anything anymore. You’ll love it.

She’s still working and has done these interviews as part of  blitzing the airwaves for her new movie.  Fonda’s life has been an open book but now so are many of her feelings about that life.

In a career spanning more than 50 years, the two time Oscar winning actress has always been hard to ignore. Before she was the video work-out queen of the 80’s, Fonda was a noted activist for Civil Rights and an outspoken opponent to the Vietnam War. She has repeatedly expressed regrets about the photographs taken of her posing with North Vietnam guns that shot down American planes.

“At your level of fame the easy thing to have done throughout your entire career was to seek privacy and instead you’ve spoken out about causes that you believe in. Why?” asked Bryan.

“I’m my father’s daughter, explained Fonda. “I grew up with Tom Joad. The Grapes of Wrath. 12 Angry Men. The Wrong Man. Ox-bow Incident.

“My dad never spoke much. He was very taciturn.But I knew that these movies had characters that he loved, and that’s what he felt the world should be like and he believed in sticking up for the underdog, for fairness and justice.”

“And so at a certain point in my life I found myself going in that direction and it’s made me a better person for sure. And I’ve learned a lot. I didn’t just sort of give money out like it’s a charity. I was down in the trenches and it really made me a better actor too, I must say.”

There’s something else Jane inherited from her famous father Henry. A tendency to get teary.

“My dad always said ‘Fondas cry at a good steak’, Fonda said.” It’s a sign of empathy I think. Because the crying doesn’t mean sad. It means your heart is open and your soul is open. And I found ( This Is Where I Leave You) full of those kind of moments that opened my heart and my empathy gene and I hope that it does for audiences. And I think it will.”

Yet another study has shown that the most conservative areas of the country are the most porn-addicted.  Is it the misogyny, the down home religion, or the repression?  This study argues that it’s correlated with defense mechanisms.3fa31e84082c747957312117249f4e7c

In October, two Toronto researchers, Cara MacInnis and Gordon Hodson, published a study that correlated the popularity of sex and adult material-related search terms across various regions or states with information from a Gallup pool asking about religious and political attitudes. Their study design involves a number of different comparisons and considered the effects of poverty, population, and other variables.

Unsurprisingly, higher levels of religiosity and conservatism correlated higher search rates sexual content – specifically, it meant more searches for phrases like “sex,” “gay sex,” or “sex images.”

While aggregate data can’t be used to draw conclusions about individual behavior and is open to alternative interpretations, it fits with information from other sources. For instance, Business professor Benjamin Edelman at Harvard found that states that place a higher esteem on traditional gender roles and sexuality have higher rates of paid subscriptions for adult materials – which seems to imply they have no idea how the Internet works in these states, as well.

It dovetails with claims made by strip club owners that they make up to three times as much during Republican conventions than Democratic conventions or even the Superbowl. MacInnis and Hodsen quote an exotic dancer named Layla Love who said in 2001 that the arrival of the RNC brought with it “15 to 17 hour shifts, every day” until the convention ended.  She added that “So, for basically seven days straight, I will be in the club, every day, day shift and night shift.”

So we’ve stated the obvious; what’s this got to do with defense mechanisms?

There are several that are relevant to this discussion:

  • Denial means simply refusing to acknowledge that some event or pattern is real.
  • Repression involves pushing uncomfortable thoughts and feelings to the far recesses of the subconscious mind.
  • Reaction formation is saying or doing the opposite of what you really want but won’t allow yourself to express.
  • Projection means assuming that others share the impulses, feelings, and vices that you find unacceptable in yourself.

We’ve all encountered at least one of these before when dealing with a religious conservative: for instance, the Religious Right projects more than an IMAX theater. When factored into this discussion, however, it becomes easy to picture a group of so-called “Values Voters” at the convention after a night painting the town (Republican) Red:

Projection: Godless liberals are destroying this country-feminazi sluts demanding sex with no consequences and faggots pushing their gay agenda on our children.

Repression: What?

Reaction formation: This town is full of trashy dancers who wag their big tits and tight asses at honest businessmen. We should lock them up and throw away the key.

Repression: What?

Denial: Real Christians, through prayer, have the power to resist temptation. Only righteous men in public office can stop the moral decay of this sex-obsessed country.

Repression: Did you say something?

We all have our failings; nobody is perfect. But if you’re going to demand perfection from others and make no allowances for failure, you better damn well be perfect yourself. Not just “saved” – perfect.

owns Here’s an interesting portrait of King Tut.  Did he really have “girlish hips” and boy boobs?

Earlier this year, egyptologists from the American University in Cairo shed light on some of the bizarre burial rituals discovered in the tomb, including the fact the king’s penis was embalmed at a 90-degree angle – the only mummy to have ever been found with this feature.

On the outside of the tomb, decorations depicted Tutankhamun as underworld god Osiris, while wall paintings (pictured) showed the king being embraced by the underworld god. It is believed that if Tutankhamun was shown to be this powerful god it would quash a religious revolution taking place in the 1320s BC

Researchers from the American University in Cairo believe the king’s appendage was embalmed at a 90-degree angle to make the young pharaoh appear as Osiris, the god of the underworld.

The angling of the penis was a feature worn by ‘corn-mummies’, created in honour of Osiris.

The mummy was also covered in black liquid to resemble Osiris’ skin.

Elsewhere, Tutankhamun’s heart was missing when the tomb was discovered by Howard Carter in 1922.

Religious texts claimed Osiris’ heart was similarly removed by his brother Seth.On the outside of the tomb, decorations depicted Tutankhamun as Osiris.

They claimed that this may have been carried out on purpose to make the king appear like Osiris, the god of the underworld, in an attempt to frighten religious revolutionaries.

At the time of his death in 1323 BC, the father of the teenage Egyptian king was said to be leading a religious revolution in the country.

It is believed Akhenaten wanted to destroy the belief in the Egyptian gods and instead worship a sun disc called the Aten.

Tutanhkhamun was trying to tackle this revolution when he was believed to have broken his leg and died from an infection in the wound. DNA analysis in 2010 also found traces of malaria in his system.

During mummification a decision was made to not only embalm the erect penis, but also to cover the king’s body in black liquid – similar in colour to the skin of Osiris – and remove his heart.

These rituals, according to Professor Salima Ikram from the university, were done in order to make people think Tutankhamun was the underworld god.

His DNA also showed some weird things.wwn-cover1

Albert Zink, from the Institute for Mummies and the Iceman in Italy, deciphered the truth about the ruler’s parents by studying the royal family’s DNA.

He found that Tut was born after his father Akhenaten – dubbed the heretic king – had a relationship with his sister. Incest was not frowned upon by the ancient Egyptians and they did not know about the health implications for any offspring.

Hutan Ashrafian, a lecturer in surgery at Imperial College London, said that several members of the family appeared to have suffered from ailments which can be explained by hormonal imbalances. He said: ‘A lot of his family predecessors lived to a ripe old age. Only his immediate line were dying early, and they were dying earlier each generation.’

Egyptian radiologist Ashraf Selim: ‘The virtual autopsy shows the toes are divergent – in layman’s terms it’s club foot. He would have been heavily limping.

‘There is only one site where we can say a fracture happened before he died and that is the knee.’

Evidence of King Tut’s physical limitations were also backed up by 130 used walking canes found in his tomb.

 Republican Candidates for all levels of office continue to say strange things too. This one is really weird.  Is it just me or does it appear that many of them seem to have mental illnesses that should be treated?  I mean isn’t religious delusion like an indicator of some really awful problems?

Rep. James Clyburn’s (D-S.C.) Republican challenger referred to same-sex couples as “gremlins” and “bullies” in a Facebook post urging supporters to oppose gay marriage at the polls this fall.

Anthony Culler, the GOP nominee for Clyburn’s seat, wrote a Facebook post on Oct. 14 decrying same-sex marriage as “a pestilence that has descended on our society, against our will, by those in the courts and government that do not value the traditional family.”

“Same sex couples that seek to destroy our way of life and the institution of marriage are NOT cute and cuddly but rather (for those of you that are old enough to remember the movie), Gremlins that will only destroy our way of life,” he wrote.

He adds: “These people are bullies and now that they are winning their true and hateful nature is much easier to see and hear.”

Culler goes on to charge that gays have “a strong tendency for substance abuse,” and urges readers to avoid the ” ‘over the top’ and ‘anything goes’ ceremonies or parties that these people revel in.”

“Stand against this and we will reverse it and drive it back into the darkness,” he writes.

One more before I go go too.  This one is real but sounds like tabloid stuff.  I kid you not.  Although, really, what is Politico any way if not a beltway tabloid and only journalism in the minds of the originating stooges?images (2)

Federal law enforcement officials are taking an ISIL threat against Michele Bachmann so seriously that Capitol Police have given the Minnesota Republican her own security detail.

An online threat against Bachmann emerged recently, according to multiple law enforcement officials familiar with the situation. Last week, Bachmann was provided a security detail in response, according to the sources.

Members of the U.S. Capitol Police’s Dignitary Protection Division were briefed on the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The police security will continue until Bachmann, who will retire at the end of this Congress, is no longer in office.

A police detail of this type typically means 24-hour protection when a member of Congress is on Capitol Hill or back in the home district.

Officials declined to outline the specific nature of the threat.

Bachmann’s office referred news media inquiries to Capitol Police. A Capitol Police spokeswoman declined to comment.

“The U.S. Capitol Police does not discuss law enforcement operations or security regarding Members of Congress,” spokeswoman Kimberly Schneider wrote in an email.

Bachmann has been publicly critical of not only ISIL, but also Islam, calling on President Barack Obama to declare war on the religion during a speech at the conservative Value Voters Summit at the end of September.

“And I believe if you have an evil of an order of this magnitude, you take it seriously,” Bachmann said. “You declare war on it, you don’t dance around it. Just like the Islamic State has declared war on the United States of America.”

Have a great day!  What’s on your reading and blogging list today, because it’s a WIDE OPEN thread!


Lazy Saturday Reads: Ebola, Texas, and Crazed Republicans

Boston Coffee shop

Good Day!!

There are two confirmed cases of Ebola contracted within the U.S., and now we have an “Ebola Czar.” President Obama has named Ron Klain, a lawyer and political operative who most recently served as “president of Case Holdings, which manages the assets of AOL founder Steve Case, and general counsel of Case’s venture capital firm, Revolution.” Before that, according to USA Today, he worked for a lobbying firm, but not as a registered lobbyist. And before that,

He was the chief of staff for two vice presidents, Joe Biden and Al Gore, and one attorney general, Janet Reno. He served as a senior White House aide to President Obama….

As Biden’s chief of staff, Klain had a key role in implementing the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and signed off on one of its most controversial projects: a $535 million loan guarantee to solar panel maker Solyndra.

“Sounds like there are some risk factors here — but that’s true of any innovative company that POTUS would visit,” Klain wrote to Department of Energy officials May 24, 2010, a day before Obama visited a company factory. “It looks like it is OK to me, but if you feel otherwise, let me know.”

Earlier in his career, he served as the staff director of the Senate Democratic Leadership Committee and chief counsel of the Senate Judiciary Committee….

Klain served as the top lawyer on the Gore-Lieberman Recount Committee after the 2000 election and was portrayed by actor Kevin Spacey in the 2008 film Recount.

Boston Common Coffee Company

He has no experience with health care issues or control of infectious diseases. Maybe Obama just did this to throw a bone to crazy Republicans, but it’s not working. They’re predictably attacking the choice. On the other hand, good old Beltway Bob Ezra Klein thinks Klain is a perfect pick.

Something I learned during the first two years of the Obama administration, when the staff infighting was at its worst: if you wanted to get somebody to say something nice, ask them about Ron Klain.

Klain entered the administration as Vice President Joe Biden’s chief of staff. This was, itself, notable: Klain has been chief of staff to Vice President Al Gore, too, making him the only person to serve in that position for two different vice presidents.

 But the esteem for Klain wasn’t based on his resume. Rather, he had a mix of policy, political and bureaucratic chops that everyone agreed was rare. The policy people spoke admiringly of his policy savvy, and they all agreed he lapped them in political instincts. The political people admired his political instincts, but recognized he was better at policy. And everyone agreed Klain knew how to run an interagency process.

Okay . . .

The Ebola response involves various arms of the Department of Health and Human Services (particularly, though not solely, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), the Pentagon, the State Department, the National Security Council, the World Bank, the World Health Organization, President Obama’s office, private stakeholders, and many, many more.

The “czar” position requires someone who knows how these different agencies and institutions work, who’s got the stature to corral their efforts, who knows who to call when something unusual is needed, who can keep the policy straight….

I’ve seen some people arguing that there would be no need for an Ebola Czar if the Senate would simply confirm Dr. Vivek Murthy, Obama’s nominee for surgeon general, who’s being blocked because the National Rifle Association doesn’t believe gun violence is a public-health issue. Murthy should be confirmed, but it would be a mistake to make him Ebola czar; he’s a newcomer to government, and would need to learn, on the job, how to manage the various agencies and principals involved in the response effort. He’d likely get sidelined as players with more weight and bureaucratic skill began going around him.

Actual government experience is badly underrated in Washington. Politicians run for office promising that they know how to run businesses, not Senate offices. “Bureaucrat” is often lobbed as an insult. But in processes like this one, government experience really matters.

Maybe Klein is right. He makes some good arguments anyway.

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Scott Brown seems to believe a venture capitalist is what’s called for. Brown had this to say yesterday: “We Would Not Be Worrying About Ebola Right Now” If Romney Won.

Scott Brown told Fox News’ Brian Kilmeade Friday that Ebola wouldn’t be a problem for America if Mitt Romney had won in 2012.

“Gosh can you imagine if Mitt was the president right now?” Brown said. “He was right on Russia, he was right on Obamacare, he was right on the economy. And I guarantee you we would not be worrying about Ebola right now and, you know, worrying about our foreign policy screw ups.”

Golly gee willikers, Batman! You can watch the interview at the Buzzfeed link above. New Hampshire Republican agree, according to The Washington Post.

It’s interesting that Texas politicians are attacking Obama’s Ebola response so vehemently. You’d think they would be more concerned about how a Dallas hospital sent Thomas Duncan home with a 103 degree fever, even though he told them he had just arrived from Liberia. And how they let nearly 80 hospital workers care for Duncan for days without any special protective gear. And how they let people who had been exposed to Duncan’s bodily fluids travel travel by air and sea to possibly expose hundreds of other people. But no. Gov. Rick Perry, who could have stopped exposed Texans from traveling, went to Europe during the Ebola crisis and now says President Obama should have handled Texas’ problem for him.

And then there’s Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). Here’s what he had to say about the new Ebola Czar. I’m not going to link to it, because it’s at Newsmax:

“We don’t need another so-called ‘czar'; we need presidential leadership. This is a public health crisis and the answer isn’t another White House political operative. The answer is a commander-in-chief who stands up and leads, banning flights from Ebola-afflicted nations and acting decisively to secure our southern border.”

Kaili Joy Gray at Wonkette: President Doctor Ted Cruz Is The Only Cure For Ebola.

Remember that time Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Canada) was all, “Say health care one more time, and I will shut this government DOWN!” and also something about Green Eggs and Ham and Nazis?

Nuh uh, no you do not, because Cruz would never be so reckless and irresponsible as to suggest the government should have nothing to do with health care because FREEDOM. That’s not leadership, and Cruz is all about leadership. Especially the presidential kind, cough cough, wink wink, nudge nudge, YEAH WE KNOW, CRUZ WANTS TO BE PRESIDENT!

That’s why Cruz is leadershipping so hard in response to President Obama’s announcement that he will appoint an Ebola czar to coordinate all the government agencies tasked with dealing with this mess (which is mostly in Africa, but that doesn’t count). Obama had to Do A Thing because the entire rightwing will not shut up about it. The folks at Fox and on the interwebs know for A Fact we are all dying this second of the terrifying African disease from Africa, spread by African Africans just like Obama, who is African and hates America and dear lord will these people never stop? (No. The answer is no.) ….

Right on, amen, and hells yes! Right now — and at no other time in history — the government has a duty to Do A Thing about Americans facing a public health crisis. And if stupid Obama insists on listening to the director of the Centers for Disease Control instead of Bill O’Reilly, Cruz will have no choice but to launch his 2016 presidential campaign right this second to save America.

And really, who better to just now discover the government serves a purpose and should maybe sometimes do stuff than the guy who wanted to shut it down because doing stuff is the last thing the government should ever do?

Honestly, I’m think some crazy Republicans would like to cause an epidemic just to spite Obama.

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By the way, have you heard there’s been another screw up at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital? A patient who might have Ebola was transferred to the hospital from Baylor Hospital, and then went missing after Presbyterian sent him on his way.

On Friday morning Baylor Hospital in Dallas confirmed a patient with ‘Ebola similar’ symptoms also triggered positive on a verbal screening questionnaire.

Although a positive blood test has not been confirmed, sources say it’s not unusual to have a patient screen positive considering the wider net for Ebola now over Dallas. A positive screening means the patient met some of the criteria to cause concern.

According to Baylor, it was the answers to some of the screening questions — like if a person had been in contact with a known Ebola patient — that triggered the standing protocol by Dallas County Health and Human Services that the person be transferred to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas,  presumably for further, complete testing.

A source at Baylor said the patient came to the Emergency Room through a private entrance and was then immediately put into isolation.

According to a statement released by Texas Presbyterian, via The Boston Globe,

“The patient was placed in isolation at Texas Health Dallas and evaluated with all appropriate precautions,” the statement read. “The patient was determined to be low risk and wanted to leave the hospital. The CDC and Texas Department of State Health Services were advised of this and did not feel it was necessary to have her detained.”

However, the Globe learned that earlier,

Spokespeople for Texas Health Presbyterian told local news stations that they had not received a transfer patient and could not say whether the patient had been treated or released. There is no confirmation that this patient has Ebola. Texas Health Presbyterian has not responded to Boston.com request for comment.

WTF?! Someone in authority in Texas needs to make sure Texas Presbyterian is not involved with anymore suspected Ebola patients. Period. But Gov. Perry is too busy blaming everything on President Obama to do anything useful in his own state. Where is this patient? Are we really sure she is OK?

More insane Republican responses to the Ebola mess: CNN has a list, What’s more disturbing than Ebola? The outrageous commentary. Here’s just one example from Gov. Nathan Deal of Georgia:

“The most comforting thing that I heard from (Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health) was that water kills the Ebola virus. I’ve never heard that before. I thought it was something that was so contagious there wasn’t much you could do to prevent it or anything else, so her advice was ‘wash your hands.’ “Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal told the Marietta Daily Journal.

From the experts:

“As with other infectious diseases, one of the most important preventive measures is frequent hand-washing. Use soap and water, or use alcohol-based hand rubs containing at least 60% alcohol when soap and water aren’t available,” the Mayo Clinic said about the prevention and spread of Ebola infection.

Read more at the link.

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And then there’s Peggy Noonan. She thinks Megyn Kelly of Fox News knows more about preventing Ebola than CDC Director Tom Frieden. Here’s Simon Meloy at Salon on Noonan’s solutions: Peggy Noonan’s plan to save America: Think like an 11-year-old.

We need a travel ban, Ms. Noonan observes, drawing deeply from her vast reservoirs of disease-control expertise. “If we don’t momentarily close the door to citizens of the affected nations, it is certain that more cases will come into the U.S.” It is certain! They will come here with their disease. They will come to America. You may be inclined to note that the broad consensus among public health officials is that closing off West Africa will only make the epidemic there worse, which will in turn increase the risk of transmission to America. The petulant naysayers among you may be wont to point out that imposing a flight ban will only make it harder to track the movements and contacts of potentially infected persons.

But that’s just more gobbledygook, more amphigory, more hurbledy-burbledy. That, as Ms. Noonan writes, is how the government talks, and “everyone who speaks for the government on this issue has been instructed to imagine his audience as anxious children.” No … instead of speaking like children, writes Ms. Noonan, we should bethinking like children:

It is one thing that Dr. Frieden, and those who are presumably making the big decisions, have been so far incapable of making a believable and compelling case for not instituting a ban. A separate issue is how poor a decision it is. To call it childish would be unfair to children. In fact, if you had a group of 11-year-olds, they would surely have a superior answer to the question: “Sick people are coming through the door of the house, and we are not sure how to make them well. Meanwhile they are starting to make us sick, too. What is the first thing to do?”

The children would reply: “Close the door.” One would add: “Just for a while, while you figure out how to treat everyone getting sick.” Another might say: “And keep going outside the door in protective clothing with medical help.” Eleven-year-olds would get this one right without a lot of struggle.

Yes! Trust in the wisdom of 11-year-olds. Unlike disease control officials, they are not burdened by years of experience in dealing with outbreaks, and the things they say are generally easier to understand. And whose heart is not warmed by the delicate innocence of a child’s words as imagined by a former Reagan official?

Much more insanity at the link.

I know there’s lots more news happening, but I’m so fascinated by the crazy responses to Ebola that I just can’t stop reading about them. Please let us know know else is happening in the comment thread, and have a nice weekend.


Friday Reads

morning-coffee

Good Morning!!

 

I’m going to begin with some good news today.

It looks like the coming winter will be on the mild side. From Discovery News: Winter Forecast for US Nothing to Shiver About.

Don’t expect the polar vortex to pummel the eastern United States this winter, government scientists said today (Oct. 16).

Overall, forecasters expect mild winter conditions across much of the United States, scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said as they issued their annual winter weather outlook.

While there’s always a chance that the polar jet stream will again funnel frigid Arctic air south toward the United States, nothing in the new forecast indicates a rerun of the persistent patterns responsible for the “polar vortex.” “We do not expect to see a repeat of last winter,” said Mike Halpert, acting director of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.

Developing El Niño conditions in the Pacific Ocean will influence this year’s winter weather, with wet conditions forecast from Southern California to South Carolina, and dry conditions expected across the North. Temperatures will be warmer than average in the West and in New England, but colder in the South from Texas east to Florida, according to the forecast.

I hope they’re right!

Now for the latest Ebola news . . .

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Why can’t Dallas hospital workers just stay home until they’re cleared? From The Washington Post: Texas hospital worker quarantined on cruise ship in Caribbean.

A Texas health-care worker who “may have” handled lab specimens from Ebola victim Thomas Eric Duncan has been isolated on board a Carnival cruise ship in the Caribbean. The worker has shown no symptoms of the disease, according to Carnival, which said it is in close contact with the Centers for Disease Control. A Carnival spokeswoman said the guest, who was not named, will remain on board in voluntary isolation until the ship returns to its home port of Galveston on Sunday.

The Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital employee and a partner boarded the ship Oct. 12 in Galveston, Tex., before the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated the requirement for active monitoring, the State Department said in a statement. Although the worker is healthy, the U.S. government is working with the cruise line to get the ship back to America “out of an abundance of caution.”

The employee, who has not been named, did not come into direct contact with Duncan, the first patient diagnosed with Ebola in the United States. However, he or she may have been exposed to his clinical specimens, the State Department said.

“It has been 19 days since the passenger may have processed” Duncan’s fluid samples, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement early Friday morning. “The cruise line has actively supported CDC’s efforts to speak with the individual, whom the cruise ship’s medical doctor has monitored and confirmed was in good health. Following this examination, the hospital employee and traveling partner have voluntarily remained isolated in a cabin.”

Belize refused to allow the woman (gender identified by news release) to be leave the ship so she could be evacuated by the U.S.

In its own statement Thursday, the the Belize government said it “was contacted today by officers of the U.S. Government and made aware of a cruise ship passenger considered of very low risk for Ebola….Nonetheless, out of an abundance of caution, the Government of Belize decided not to facilitate a U.S. request for assistance in evacuating the passenger through the Phillip Goldson International Airport.”

Now that the horses are out of the barn, so to speak, officials in Texas have decided to close the barn doors. From USA Today: Travel Ban for Texas health care workers in Ebola case.

Texas health officials have ordered any person who entered the room of the first Ebola patient at a Dallas hospital not to travel by public transport, including planes ship, buses or trains, or visit groceries, restaurants or theaters for 21 days, until the danger of developing Ebola has passed.

The instructions, issued by the Texas Department of State Health Service late Thursday, cover more than 70 health workers involved in providing care for Thomas Duncan, the Liberian national who became the first patient to test positive for Ebola in the United States.

Duncan died Oct. 8 at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas.

The hospital workers were ordered to undergo monitoring twice a day, including one face-to-face encounter.

The health department said anyone failing to adhere to the rules “may be subject to a communicable disease control order.” The health workers were asked to sign a written acknowledgement of the directions when they appear for monitoring.

Amber Vinson

Amber Vinson

According to The Hill, the CDC has now decided it needs to talk to passengers who were on Amber Vinson’s flight from Dallas to Cleveland. Vinson is the second nurse to come down with Ebola after caring for Thomas Duncan, who died of the disease last week.

After reports that she may have shown symptoms on her flight back to Dallas, the CDC asked those passengers to contact the agency. But in a release Thursday night, the CDC expanded that notification to include passengers on Vinson’s flight to Cleveland. The agency said that it wants to interview passengers and that “individuals who are determined to be at any potential risk will be actively monitored.”

Ebola is contagious once an infected person starts exhibiting symptoms, so the CDC wants to keep tabs on anyone that could have come into contact with Vinson when those symptoms began. She traveled to Cleveland on Oct. 10 and returned on Oct. 13, the day before she reported her symptoms to the CDC.

Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives decided to get involved in the Ebola crisis, and it wasn’t pretty. BloombergPolitics compiled The Five Worst Questions from the House Ebola Hearing. According to the article, Democrats are wrong to claim that lack of funding made the situation worse. Republicans obsessed over banning travel into the U.S. and “securing the borders.” But the most ludicrous question came from Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA).

Representative Morgan Griffith wanted to know if humans can catch Ebola from dogs, and Frieden said there were no known incidents. But still, the Virginia Republican wanted to know if we could stem the flow of West African dogs traveling into America.

“Don’t you think we ought to at least restrict travel of dogs?” he asked.

“Um,” Frieden replied. “We’ll follow up in terms of what’s possible.”

In addition, President Obama held an “emergency meeting” at the White House yesterday.

(Reuters) – President Barack Obama said he was considering appointing an Ebola “czar” to coordinate the fight against the virus in the United States, but he remained opposed to a ban on travel from West Africa.

Obama’s administration is facing sharp criticism from lawmakers over its efforts to contain the disease at home. Obama authorized calling up military reservists for the U.S. fight against Ebola in West Africa on Thursday….

“It may be appropriate for me to appoint an additional person” to oversee efforts to contain Ebola, Obama told reporters, adding that experts have told him “a flat-out travel ban is not the way to go” because current screening measures at airports are working.

He said he had no philosophical objection to a travel ban but that some travelers might attempt to enter the United States by avoiding screening measures, which could lead to more Ebola cases, not fewer.

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A final dose of stupid came from Sen. Rand Paul, who told an audience of college students that you could catch Ebola by standing three feet from someone who is infected.

His comments directly conflict with statements from world health authorities who have dealt with Ebola outbreaks since 1976.

Paul…made his comments during a stop at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire Wednesday. In his remarks, he called Ebola “incredibly contagious” and suggested it could spread at a cocktail party attended by someone who is symptomatic, according to CNN video footage….

“You’re not going to get AIDS at a cocktail party. No one’s going to cough on you and you’re going to get AIDS. Everybody knows that. That’s what they make it sound exactly like,” Paul, a doctor and potential presidential contender, said Thursday at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire. “But then you listen to them closely, they say you have to have direct contact. But you know how they define direct contact? Being within three feet of someone.”

World health authorities have been clear that Ebola is transmitted through direct contact with bodily fluids, and that blood, vomit and feces carry the most virus. Health workers are at particular risk because in the course of caring for patients, they draw blood and clean up diarrhea when the patients are most infectious. Likewise in the epidemic zone in West Africa, people involved with burials of highly infectious bodies are at high risk.

In other news . . .

Bill Clinton is heading down to Louisiana on Monday to stump for Mary Landrieu, according to Politico.

Former President Bill Clinton will campaign in Louisiana Monday with Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu, joining the endangered incumbent in the state capital of Baton Rouge.

Clinton, unlike President Barack Obama, can be an effective surrogate in the red Southern states where the Democratic majority hangs in the balance.

The visit, Clinton’s second for Landrieu this election cycle, comes a day before the start of early voting, which runs from October 21-28.

Bill Clinton stumps for Coakley

I’ve been hoping Bill would find time to come to Massachusetts to campaign for Martha Coakley for Governor, and what do you know? He blew through here yesterday! He spoke at Clark University in Worcester.

WORCESTER — Former President Bill Clinton told a capacity crowd at Clark University today that elections are just one big job interview.

Speaking in Worcester in support of Martha Coakley’s run for governor, Mr. Clinton said Ms. Coakley’s actions and advocacy as attorney general indicate how well she will perform once she completes that job interview.

“All you’ve got to do,” he told more than 800 people who waited in a line the length of the Main South campus in monsoon-like conditions to get into Atwood Hall, “is increase the number of employers who make the hiring decision.”

Ms. Coakley, a Democrat, and her running mate, Steve Kerrigan of Lancaster, are in a tight race with Republican Charlie Baker and his running mate, Karyn Polito of Shrewsbury. Mr. Clinton tried to convince the crowd they had the potential to make it a landslide.

“I don’t care what the polls say, she can win this race handily if you want it bad enough,” Mr. Clinton said.

Now we just need Hillary to show up.

How about a little economics news? It seems people in Europe are getting fed up with Angela Merkel’s austerity obsession, according to the NYT. I can’t excerpt from the piece, but here’s a report from The Local in Italy:

Italy and France on Thursday reacted to turmoil in global stock markets by stepping up their calls for the European Union to switch course to focus on growth, not on balancing budgets.

But their calls were once again batted away by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who insisted the way out of the crisis was for all eurozone states to stick to agreed rules on the size of their deficits.

In the latest salvos in a simmering row that is set to come to head at a summit of EU leaders next week, Rome and Paris went on the offensive on the sidelines of the ASEM meeting in Milan.

“We in a very delicate moment in terms of the international economic and financial situation,” Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said.

“Which is all the more reason for Europe to show itself capable of producing an economic response based on investment in growth and not only on rigour and austerity,” Renzi said.

He also said a “focus on growth” was recommended by the IMF – “and they don’t seem to be dangerous communists to me”.

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According to UK Reuters, the U.S. has warned Europe about the possibility of deflation.

The United States on Wednesday renewed a warning that Europe risks falling into a downward spiral of falling wages and prices, saying recent actions by the European Central Bank may not be enough to ward off deflation.

In a semiannual report to Congress, the U.S. Treasury Department also said Berlin could do more to help Europe, namely by boosting demand in the German economy, Europe’s largest.

“Europe faces the risk of a prolonged period of substantially below-target inflation or outright deflation,” the Treasury said.

The Guardian today published a summary of Europe’s “five years of economic crisis.”

Finally, Janet Yellen has expressed concern over growing economic inequality in the U.S. Reuters reports:

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said on Friday the growth of economic inequality in the United States “greatly” concerned her, and suggested in a detailed speech on the politically charged issue that Americans should ask whether it was compatible with their values.

With global financial markets rebounding from days of frenzied selling, Yellen did not comment on the volatility or on monetary policy. Instead she focused on the gulf between rich and poor that has only grown wider over the last several decades and, she said, through the U.S. economic recovery.

“The extent of and continuing increase in inequality in the United States greatly concern me,” Yellen told a conference on inequality at the Boston branch of the central bank.

“It is no secret that the past few decades of widening inequality can be summed up as significant income and wealth gains for those at the very top and stagnant living standards for the majority,” she told economists, professors and community workers.

“I think it is appropriate to ask whether this trend is compatible with values rooted in our nation’s history, among them the high value Americans have traditionally placed on equality of opportunity.”

Good for Yellen. Now let’s see some action beyond the words.

What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread, and have a fabulous Friday!!

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Tuesday Reads

Arlington

Good Morning!!

The photo at the top of the page was taken on Mystic Street approaching Massachusetts Avenue in Arlington Center, Arlington, Massachusetts. I’ve lived in this town since the 1970s. The population in 2014 is less than 43,000. The Center has some stores, but it’s not really a shopping district. There’s a Starbucks, the public library, the main Post Office, a number of restaurants, that sort of thing. We don’t have a mayor. There is a town manager and a town meeting with elected members. Basically, Arlington is a small town, but it’s also part of Greater Boston. It’s a close suburb to Boston, situated between Cambridge and Lexington.

Arlington has always been a safe place to live, and I still feel that way about my neighborhood. But recently, big city crime has arrived here, and I’m kind of shocked. In September, the Arlington Police Department was involved in a sex trafficking case involving men from Rhode Island and Massachusetts who exploited a teenage girl and forced her into prostitution.  Also in September, a man who worked for Arlington’s Department of Public Works was charged with “upskirting” in a local restaurant bathroom. That’s a crime I hadn’t even heard of before. It when someone uses a camera to look up women’s skirts. Ugh, how creepy. And this morning I woke up to this from The Boston Globe:

Video Game Developer: Twitter Rape, Death Threats Forced Me From Home.

An Arlington-based video game developer said she and her husband had to temporarily leave their home after they received graphic threats of sexual assault and death on Twitter—a response, she believes, to her online activism on behalf of women in the tech industry

Brianna Wu, head of development for the indie video game publisher Giant Spacekat, contacted Arlington police Friday evening after a Twitter account named “Death to Brianna”—whose profile description read, “I’m going to kill Brianna Wu and her husband Frank”—posted a number of graphic death threats.

Read some of the tweets at the link.

Arlington Police confirmed that the department is investigating the origin of the message. Twitter has since suspended the account.

Wu said she is “harassed on a daily basis,” often receiving rape threats and unwanted pornographic images, but that Friday night’s messages “crossed a line to the point [she] felt scared.”

“I left the house because I felt unsafe,” Wu wrote in a Facebook message to Boston.com. “I told the officer, and he felt that was reasonable.”

There’s no truly safe place left in America these days, I guess. Maybe it was always like that, and I just didn’t know it. At least we don’t have any Ebola cases yet.

Nina Pham, nurse with Ebola (her identity was revealed by her family)

Nina Pham, nurse with Ebola (her identity was revealed by her family)

Here’s the latest from Dallas.

AP, via the Seattle Times, About 70 hospital staffers cared for Ebola patient.

About 70 staff members at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital were involved in the care of Thomas Eric Duncan after he was hospitalized, including a nurse now being treated for the same Ebola virus that killed the Liberian man who was visiting Dallas, according to medical records his family provided to The Associated Press.

The size of the medical team reflects the hospital’s intense effort to save Duncan’s life, but it also suggests that many other people could have been exposed to the virus during Duncan’s time in an isolation unit.

On Monday, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the infection of the nurse means the agency must broaden the pool of people getting close monitoring. Authorities have said they do not know how the nurse was infected, but they suspect some kind of breach in the hospital’s protocol.

According to the AP, the hospital shared medical records with the news agency, but “the CDC does not have them.” WTF?! Why?

The CDC has not yet established a firm number of health care workers who had contact with Duncan.

“If this one individual was infected — and we don’t know how — within the isolation unit, then it is possible that other individuals could have been infected as well,” said Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the CDC. “We do not today have a number of such exposed people or potentially exposed health care workers. It’s a relatively large number, we think in the end.”

Caregivers who began treating Duncan after he tested positive for Ebola were following a “self-monitoring regimen” in which they were instructed to take their temperatures regularly and report any symptoms. But they were not considered at high risk.

Typically, the nurses, doctors and technicians caring for a contagious patient in isolation would be treating other people as well, and going home to their families after decontaminating themselves. The hospital has refused to answer questions about their specific duties.

Jesus. It sounds like the hospital is still trying to protect itself rather than doing everything possible to keep this disease from spreading.

Tort law

This story from Reuters is a must read, Following the mistakes in the Texas Ebola story. As we all know now, Thomas Duncan, the Ebola patient who died at the Texas Health Presbyterian hospital initially went to the emergency room with a fever of 103, and he openly told heath care workers he had recently arrived in Dallas from Liberia. But they sent him home anyway. You’d think his family would be able to sue the hospital for millions, but they probably can’t.

As this Reuters report notes:

Texas tort-reform measures have made it one of the hardest places in the United States to sue over medical errors, especially those that occurred in the emergency room …. To bring a civil claim in Texas over an emergency-room error, including malpractice, plaintiffs have to show staff acted in a way that was “willfully and wantonly negligent,” meaning that the staff had to have consciously put Duncan or others at extreme risk by releasing him, rather just having made a mistake.

In other words, tort reform in Texas means you can’t sue a doctor or nurse for making a mistake, even a stupid, fatal one. Or even one that might end up causing multiple fatalities if Duncan gave the virus to others after he was allowed to leave the emergency room.

The author of the article, Stephen Brill is currently “researching a coming book on the economics and politics of U.S. healthcare,” and he has some interesting questions based on the Ebola case. He has found that in the U.S. expensive tests are frequently used–supposedly to protect against malpractice suits. Questions:

Have hospitals tightened their own quality-control and disciplinary processes because they know that doctors don’t have to worry about lawsuits and, therefore, want to add accountability measures of their own to deal with staff mistakes?

Or have they loosened discipline because they don’t have to worry about being sued for their staffs’ mistakes?

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Brill also wonders why the hospital hasn’t named the nurse or doctor responsible for sending Duncan home after his initial visit to the hospital.

Yes, I would like to read a story about the person who made the mistake. What is his or her record? Was the emergency room busy when Duncan showed up? Or was the staff sitting around with little to do, yet still failed to react carefully enough? And were policies, explicit or implicit, in place encouraging them not to admit uninsured patients whose bills are likely to go unpaid?

What disciplinary action did, or will, the hospital take? What usually happens in a situation like this at that hospital and at hospitals generally?

But more than that, I would like to see a story exploring the issue of personal responsibility and public accountability when private people make mistakes that have huge public ramifications.

I’d like to read a story like that too.

In more positive news, a man who survived Ebola has donated blood plasma to the Dallas nurse who is sick.

The Rev. Jim Khoi, pastor of the Fort Worth church attended by Nina Pham’s family, said she received a transfusion of plasma containing Ebola-fighting antibodies Monday afternoon.

Samaritan’s Purse confirmed the plasma came from Dr. Kent Brantly, the Texas doctor who survived Ebola. Brantly contracted Ebola while working with the nonprofit medical mission group in Liberia.

Samaritan’s Purse spokesman Jeremy Blume says Brantly traveled to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas Sunday to donate the plasma.

Brantly said in a recent speech that he also offered his blood to Thomas Eric Duncan, but that their blood types didn’t match. Duncan died of Ebola on Wednesday.

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In politics news, it looks like we won’t see a third Romney presidential run, because Ann Romney has laid down the law.

From the New York Daily News, Ann Romney quashes rumors of Mitt 2016: ‘Mitt and I are done’.

“Mitt and I are done. Completely,” the wife of the two-time Republican presidential candidate has said to quash rumors that another campaign is in the works.

“Not only Mitt and I are done, but the kids are done. Done. Done. Done,” she said, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Mitt Romney, 67, has said repeatedly he wasn’t interested in running again, but in recent weeks he’s been seen as flirting with the prospect.

With no clear Republican frontrunner for 2016, he has taken to the campaign trail to support Senate hopefuls, including Joni Ernst in Iowa on Monday, and has also kept up relationships with key GOP donors.

But his wife, Ann, seems to think a third time is not the charm.

I hope she really means it!

Another potential 2016 candidate, Hillary Clinton spoke about a number of current issues yesterday in Las Vegas.

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told a Las Vegas crowd Monday night that more needs to be done to ensure young people can achieve their dreams and free students from onerous college debt “that can feel like an anchor tied to their feet dragging them down.”

“I think our young people deserve a fair shot,” she told about 900 people gathered in a Bellagio resort ballroom for the annual UNLV Foundation dinner benefiting the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Later, talking about the American public’s possible reluctance to get involved in conflicts around the world, Clinton referred to the threats posed by the Ebola virus and the Islamic State militant group.

“They want to bring the fight to Europe and the fight to the United States,” she said of the terrorist group.

And Ebola is not going to stay confined, the former first lady said.

Read more about her remarks at the link.

APTOPIX Police Shooting Missouri Protests

The New York Times has an article about the latest protests in Ferguson, Missouri. I can’t excerpt any of the text, because the Times has found a way to prevent it on some stories; it’s a good article and worth reading at the link. Here’s another report from the AP via ABC News: More Than 50 Arrested in Ferguson Protests.

Pounding rain and tornado watches didn’t deter hundreds of protesters Monday outside Ferguson police headquarters, where they stayed for almost four hours to mark how long 18-year-old Michael Brown’s body was left in a street after he was fatally shot by police.

Organizers of the four-day Ferguson October protests dubbed the day “Moral Monday” and committed acts of civil disobedience across the St. Louis region. In addition to the initial march on Ferguson police headquarters, protesters blocked the entrance to a major employer, held a loud rally inside St. Louis City Hall, disrupted business at a Ferguson shopping center and three Wal-Mart stores and tried to crash a private fundraiser for a St. Louis County executive candidate where U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill was scheduled to appear.

At the Edward Jones Dome Monday night, protesters briefly draped a banner over a Jumbotron video board that read “Rams fans know on and off the field black lives matter.”

More than 50 people were arrested, including scholar and civil rights activist Cornel West.

West was among 42 arrested for peace disturbance at the Ferguson police station. Some protesters used a bullhorn to read the names of people killed by police nationwide. Christian, Jewish and Muslim clergy members — some of whom were among the first arrested — led a prayer service before marching to the station two blocks away.

I’m very glad that the protests are continuing. I’m afraid Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson is going to get away with killing Michael Brown, so I think it’s important to keep the story in the nation’s consciousness.

So . . . what stories are you following today? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread, and enjoy your Tuesday!


Friday Reads: Zombie Memes

zombie-apocalypseGood Morning!

The Ebola Virus and the epidemic in Africa is real.  The right wing hysteria about the virus is rivaling the bad plots of the Zombie movies I’m watching during SyFy’s Countdown to Halloween.  I thought I’d spend some time separating the facts from the conspiracy theories today.  So let me start with one of the most outrageous Zombie Memes from one of the most vile women on the planet. Dementia or further evidence of the advanced stages of evil?  It’s your choice.

In an interview with WorldNetDaily published today, Eagle Forum founder Phyllis Schlafly weighed in on the unfounded theory gaining traction in the right-wing media that Central American young people are to blame for an outbreak of a childhood respiratory illness in the U.S.

“There are all kinds of diseases in the rest of the world, and we don’t want them in this country,” Schlafly told WND, adding that “of all the things [Obama has] done, I think this thing of letting these diseased people into this country to infect our own people is just the most outrageous of all.”

She went on to imply that President Obama is intentionally allowing people infected with Ebola into the United States because he wants America to be “just like everybody else, and if Africa is suffering from Ebola, we ought to join the group and be suffering from it, too. That’s his attitude.”

Conservative icon Phyllis Schlafly – author of “Who Killed the American Family?” – said she agrees Obama is responsible for allowing diseases to enter the country.

“There are all kinds of diseases in the rest of the world, and we don’t want them in this country,” Schlafly said. “And it’s Obama’s job to keep them out.

“Out of all the things he’s done, I think this thing of letting these diseased people into this country to infect our own people is just the most outrageous of all.”

Schlafly said the government should screen immigrants for disease before they enter the country, as was done at Ellis Island a hundred years ago.

“That was the purpose of Ellis Island – to have a waiting place where it was decided whether people were healthy enough or responsible enough to come into our country,” she said. “The idea that anybody can just walk in and carry this disease with them is just an outrage, and it is Obama’s fault because he’s responsible for doing it.”

When asked why the current administration hasn’t done more to prevent diseased illegal aliens or Ebola carriers from Africa from entering the country, Schlafly said Obama wants to make the U.S. more like the rest of the world.

“Obama doesn’t want America to believe that we’re exceptional,” Schlafly said. “He wants us to be just like everybody else, and if Africa is suffering from Ebola, we ought to join the group and be suffering from it, too. That’s his attitude.”

Yup, it’s despicable She. Still foaming at the mouth after all these years too.

Okay, so as not to overwhelm you with teh crazy all at once.  Let’s go to some science and medicine.zombies1

The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told a top-level forum in Washington, D.C., that the Ebola outbreak is unlike anything he’s seen since the AIDS epidemic.

“I would say that in the 30 years I’ve been working in public health, the only thing like this has been AIDS,” Frieden said before the heads of the United Nations, World Bank and International Monetary Fund, according to AFP.

Frieden added: “We have to work now so that it is not the world’s next AIDS.”

Frieden’s comments come as the first person diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S. died Wednesday despite intense but delayed treatment. The U.S. government also announced it was expanding airport examinations to guard against the spread of the deadly disease.

The checks will include taking the temperatures of hundreds of travelers arriving from West Africa at five major American airports.

The new screenings will begin Saturday at New York’s JFK International Airport and then expand to Washington Dulles and the international airports in Atlanta, Chicago and Newark. An estimated 150 people per day will be checked, using high-tech thermometers that don’t touch the skin.

The White House said the fever checks would reach more than 9 of 10 travelers to the U.S. from the three heaviest-hit countries — Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

President Barack Obama called the measures “really just belt and suspenders” to support protections already in place. Border Patrol agents now look for people who are obviously ill, as do flight crews, and in those cases the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is notified.

It’s unlikely a fever check would have spotted Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian man who died of Ebola in a Dallas hospital Wednesday morning. Duncan wasn’t yet showing symptoms when he arrived in the U.S.

signsofthezombieapocalypse_wpid-signsofthezombieapocalypse_zombies-cementerio1So the disease is ravaging West Africa.  That’s where the problem is and needs to be solved.

There are the facts about the state of the Ebola crisis. In West Africa, more than 8,000 people have contracted the disease and nearly half have died. In the U.S., there’s just one confirmed casethat of Thomas Duncan, the Liberian man who passed away in Dallas on Wednesday. Experts say that the caseload in West Africa is likely to get much, much bigger. As many as 1.4 million people could get the disease, with a large fraction of them dying from it. The same experts expect no similar outbreak here, even if a few more cases appear, because we have the personnel and the resources to limit exposure.

But all of the news on Wednesday was about developments here in the U.S.in particular, new screening efforts at five major U.S. airports, Duncan’s death, and reports of possible new cases in the U.S., including one in Dallas. You could tell by the questions that Thomas Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, fielded during a late afternoon press conference.  He got more than a dozen of them. Only two were about the situation abroad. (And one of them, it so happens, came from me.)

The preoccupation with what’s happening here, as opposed to what’s happening over there, is perfectly understandable. On Tuesday, a Gallup poll revealed that Americans today are as worried about contracting Ebola as they were about contracting H1N1, the swine flu, during that outbreak two years ago. By that time, millions of people had gotten H1N1 and thousands had already died. But people die from flu all the time, usually because they are very young or very old or already otherwise infirmed. It’s a threat that people have factored into their daily lives, if at all. Ebola is quite literally a foreign menace, one to which almost nobody gave much thought until a few weeks ago. The virus kills about half the people who get it, with little regard for age or health status of the person infected.

That fear goes a long way to explaining why the U.S. is implementing the new screening process at the airports. Customs and Border Patrol agents were already on the lookout for people with visible signs of the disease. Now they will add another layer of scrutiny. They will use questionnaires to screen for people who have been in affected countriesand, then, subject these people to temperature tests and more questioning. People who have fever or show other Ebola symptoms will be evaluated by quarantine officers from the CDC, then referred to local health authorities who will decide how to handle the cases. The primary goal is to identify any passengers infected with Ebola before they leave the airport.

But yes, the right wing is hysterical and afraid and lying as the right wing is prone to do.

Of all the issues that you would think would be non-partisan, Ebola should be at the top of the list. The disease is just a mindless germ that doesn’t check your race, gender, social class, sexual orientation or party identification before it strikes, suggesting both liberals and conservatives ¿Quién Está Creando Zombies Y Para Qué¿ 3have a stake in treating people exposed to the disease with compassion and care. And yet, to flip on Fox News or turn on any conservative media at all, you’d think that ebola was some kind of plague designed by the Democratic party in order to wipe out Republicans.

Blowing the threat of ebola out of proportion and trying to link it to Obama has been a constant theme on the right in recent days. Elisabeth Hasselbeck of Fox News literally demanded that we put the country on lockdown, banning all travel in and out. In a bit of race-baiting, Andrea Tantaros of Fox suggested that people who travel to the country and show symptoms of ebola will “seek treatment from a witch doctor” instead of go to the hospital. Fox host Steve Doocy suggested the CDC is lying about ebola because they’re “part of the administration”. Fox also promoted a conspiracy theorist who is trying to claim the CDC is lying when they caution people not to panic.

Other right wing media joined in. Tammy Bruce blamed ebola on the “Obama legacy”. Laura Ingraham said Obama was prevented from doing more to stop the disease because of his “core ties to the African continent”. Rush Limbaugh even went as far as to accuse Obama of letting the disease spread because he supposes liberals believe “we kind of deserve a little bit of this”.

Okay, so here’s a zombie mistake and a big one.   Justice Kennedy’s Typo Accidentally Stops Same-Sex Marriage in Nevada.

Yesterday, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy stunned America when he ordered a halt on Nevada’s same-sex marriages, less than a day after the Court voted to overturn a ban on gay marriages in that state. Turns out that it was a total accident. Yes, a big ol’ “oops, my bad” incident.

According to SCOTUSBlog, what happened was the following: The Ninth Circuit recently heard challenges to same-sex marriage bans in Idaho and Nevada, who, for the purposes of convenience, had combined both of their challenges into a single case. In two different rulings, the federal appellate court struck down both of these states’ bans, allowing same-sex marriage in Idaho and Nevada, and issued a mandate on the ruling to immediately enforce the new law. In other words, the moment that the Ninth Circuit struck down the ban, gay and lesbian couples could get married immediately.

This did not make Idaho happy, so they filed a request to Justice Kennedy asking him to put a stop on same-sex marriage in Idaho, so that state officials could review their case before the Ninth Circuit. Kennedy allowed it, but in a total brain fart moment, issued an order that put a stop on weddings in both Idaho and Nevada, even though nobody in Nevada had asked for a review, either.

Thankfully, same-sex marriages can still occur in Las Vegas for the time being, but unfortunately, nobody knows what the eff is happening anymore. As a result, the Ninth Circuit has recalled its order implementing same-sex marriage in Idaho and are asking for briefs as to whether they need to do the same in Nevada.

Good job, Kennedy. Look how much confusion your typo has caused.

Oh, another Zombie Meme replacing Benghazi these days.  It’s not only Ebola that’s Obama’s fault but also ISIL.  It’s all about killing white people!!!  Here’s some great links and proof from Politicus.toht-facepalm-jeff-robertson

We have shown that for the GOP, the threat of Ebola exists only as an excuse to attack President Obama, that it’s all Obama’s fault (of course) and that, Oh my God! Oh my God! It’s going to kill us all! Cue to Rand Paul diving under his bed.

We have also been closely following the rise of ISIL in Syria and Iraq, and have tried to show you the contrast between the Republican and the Democratic reactions.

We have shown that for the GOP, the threat of ISIL exists only as an excuse to attack President Obama, that it’s all Obama’s fault (of course) and that Oh my God! Oh my God! They’re going to kill us all! Cue to Lindsey Graham diving under his bed.

It is surely significant that yesterday Time Magazine should profile the Republican response to the ISIL “scandal”: GOP Ad Claims ISIS Plot to Attack U.S. Via ‘Arizona’s Backyard.’

As Time’s Zeke Miller and Alex Rogers describe the ad, which was posted to YouTube yesterday,

The National Republican Congressional Committee ad opens with grainy footage of black flags and fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) holding rifles on military vehicles. “Evil forces around the world want to harm Americans every day,” an ominous voiceover states. “Their entry into our country? Through Arizona’s backyard.” The spot goes on to recount how Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ), locked in a close re-election fight with Arizona House Speaker Andy Tobin, has voted against border security legislation, suggesting that she “leaves Arizona vulnerable.”

Chris Wallace of Fox News has already planted the suggestion in viewers’ facile minds that Ebola could come across our Southern Border and that it could be used as a weapon. It doesn’t matter after those words are spoken than an expert debunks them. The damage has been done.

The brain damage was done to any one that actually believes these things years ago.

So what’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Sunday Reads: Street Art, Fine Art, Women’s Art

Own Your Power by Indie

Own Your Power by Indie 184  “Graffiti has taught me so much to not only put myself out there even if what I do is not perfect but most importantly I learned how to be fearless and just go for it.” – Indie

Good Morning

As you can see from the title, today’s reads deal with women and art.

Now, I have been trying to write this post for a month…but something has kept me from digging in and getting the job done. The internet was down, the kids were sick, things were too busy…ugh.

Finally, I had the time and the inclination to do the damn thing and what do you think happened? All my saved links have disappeared. This happened earlier in the month when I wrote my Hollywood suicides post. It is very disheartening.

I really think it is a sign…what it means…I have no idea.

So, I was able to find two of the articles and I will post them at the end of the thread. As for the newsy links, some big shit went down in Ferguson overnight:

Police officer shot in troubled U.S. city of Ferguson | Reuters

A police officer from the strife-hit Missouri city of Ferguson was shot while responding to a burglary on Saturday and the suspects were still at large, law enforcement officials said.

The officer was chasing two suspects outside the Ferguson Community Center on Saturday night when one turned and shot him in the arm, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar told a news conference.

The officer, who is expected to survive, returned fire but apparently did not hit either suspect, Belmar said.

Belmar said the shooting did not seem to be connected to peaceful protesting occurring elsewhere in Ferguson.

Well that is something…

“I wouldn’t have any reason to believe right now that it was linked in any way, shape, manner or form with the protests,” he said.

I wonder what other news outlets are saying?

Fox News makes no mention of the shooting being unrelated to the protest:

Ferguson police officer wounded in shooting, authorities hunt 2 suspects | Fox News

Authorities said a Ferguson (Mo.) police officer was shot and wounded while on patrol Saturday evening.

St. Louis County Police Sgt. Brian Schellman said the shooting took place at approximately 9:30 p.m. local time. KTVI reported that the officer was shot in the arm and sustained non-life-threatening injuries. At least a dozen law enforcement agencies responded to the shooting, and police helicopters canvassed the area, but no arrests were immediately reported.

St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar told reporters early Sunday that the officer was shot after approaching two men at the Ferguson Community Center, which was closed at the time. As the officer approached, the men ran away. When the officer gave chase, “one of the men turned and shot,” Belmar said.

Belmar did not give further details about the officer’s condition. He said the officer returned fire but said police have “no indication” that either suspect was shot.

The shooting comes amid a fresh flare-up of unrest following the deadly August 9 shooting of a black teenager, Michael Brown, by a white police officer, Darren Wilson. The shooting sparked days of violent protests and racial unrest in the predominantly black community. Some residents and civil rights activists have said responding police officers were overly aggressive, noting their use of tear gas and surplus military vehicles and gear.

Saturday’s shooting occurred approximately two miles from where Brown died near his grandmother’s apartment building. KTVI reported that dozens of protesters initially showed up at the scene in the mistaken belief that the officer had shot someone. By midnight, approximately two dozen officers stood near a group of about 100 protesters who mingled on a street corner across from the police department, occasionally shouting, “No justice; no peace.”

Typical.

The LA Times has more information on the speech Obama gave Saturday night at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s award dinner, as well as a few quotes from the Brown family regarding the “apology” from Ferguson”s Chief of Police:

Police officer shot in Ferguson, Mo.; police search for 2 suspects – LA Times

At one point Saturday night, Missouri Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson, who oversaw police during last months’ protests, appeared near the shooting scene and confirmed to the gathering crowd that “an officer has been shot.” He told the crowd to disperse.

Anthony Gray, a Brown family attorney, said the Saturday night shooting was unrelated to the Brown case. Belmar also said the officer’s shooting was unrelated to protests surrounding the Brown case.

A grand jury is examining evidence in Brown’s shooting and will determine whether Wilson will face any charges. Some in the community, including Brown’s parents, have called on Ferguson’s police chief to step down. In a video earlier this week, Jackson said to Brown’s family that he was “deeply sorry for their loss.”

Brown’s parents said they were unmoved by Jackson’s apology in an interview with the Associated Press.

Lesley McSpadden, Brown’s mother, said, “yes,” when asked if Chief Tom Jackson should be fired, and his father, Michael Brown Sr., said rather than an apology, they want to see the officer who shot their son arrested for his Aug. 9 death.

“An apology would be when Darren Wilson has handcuffs, processed and charged with murder,” Brown Sr. told the Associated Press.

President Obama, who spoke at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s award dinner Saturday night, addressed the Brown shooting, saying that Brown’s death and the unrest that followed exposed a “gulf of mistrust” between residents and police in many communities.

“Too many young men of color feel targeted by law enforcement — guilty of walking while black or driving while black, judged by stereotypes that fuel fear and resentment and hopelessness,” he said, according to the Associated Press.

Meanwhile, in Hong Kong things are getting tense. Have y’all kept up with the situation over there?

Goggles at the ready as Hong Kong activists brace for crackdown | Reuters

Thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators surrounding Hong Kong government headquarters braced for a showdown with police on Sunday after accelerating a plan to shut down the heart of the global financial hub.

Leaders and supporters of the Occupy Central with Love and Peace movement, many wearing plastic capes and goggles to fend off any police pepper spray attack, urged the public to join the protest to pressure Beijing to allow free elections in the former British colony.

Publishing tycoon Jimmy Lai, a key backer of the democratic movement, said he wanted as big a crowd as possible, after a week of student demonstrations, to thwart any crackdown on a protest branded as illegal.

“The more Hong Kong citizens come, the more unlikely the police can clear up the place,” said Lai, also wearing a plastic cape and workmen’s protective glasses.

“I believe more Hong Kong citizens will show up later on Sunday.”

Democracy Protests In Hong Kong Turn Violent

HONG KONG, Sept 28 (Reuters) – Violent clashes between Hong Kong riot police and students galvanized tens of thousands of supporters for the city’s pro-democracy movement and kick-started a plan to lock down the heart of the Asian financial center early on Sunday.

Leaders and supporters of Occupy Central with Love and Peace rallied to support students who were doused with pepper spray early on Saturday after they broke through police barriers and stormed the city’s government headquarters.

“Whoever loves Hong Kong should come and join us. This is for Hong Kong’s future,” publishing tycoon Jimmy Lai, an outspoken critic of China’s communist government who has backed pro-democracy activists through publications that include one of the city’s biggest newspapers as well as donations, told Reuters.

Occupy demanded that Beijing withdraw its framework for political reform in the former British colony and resume talks.

Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under a formula known as “one country, two systems.” that guaranteed a high degree of autonomy and freedoms not enjoyed in mainland China. Universal suffrage was set as an eventual goal.

But Beijing last month rejected demands for people to freely choose the city’s next leader, prompting threats from activists to shut down Central, Hong Kong’s financial district. China wants to limit elections to a handful of candidates loyal to Beijing.

Look at this photo of the protest:

Protestors tie up barricades during a demonstration outside headquarters of the Legislative Counsel on 28 September 2014 in Hong Kong.  Thousands of pro-democracy protesters massed outside Hong Kong's government headquarters vowing to keep up an increasingly tense civil disobedience campaign unless Beijing grants more political freedoms.  AFP PHOTO / XAUME OLLEROS        (Photo credit should read XAUME OLLEROS/AFP/Getty Images)

Protestors tie up barricades during a demonstration outside headquarters of the Legislative Counsel on 28 September 2014 in Hong Kong. Thousands of pro-democracy protesters massed outside Hong Kong’s government headquarters vowing to keep up an increasingly tense civil disobedience campaign unless Beijing grants more political freedoms. AFP PHOTO / XAUME OLLEROS (Photo credit should read XAUME OLLEROS/AFP/Getty Images)

This demonstration, which has drawn thousands of protesters armed with goggles, masks and raincoats in preparation for a violent confrontation with police, is one of the most tenacious acts of civil disobedience seen in post-colonial Hong Kong.

Roads in a square block around the city’s government headquarters, located in the Admiralty district adjacent to Central, were filled with people and blocked with metal barricades erected by protesters to defend against a possible police crackdown.

Some of Hong Kong’s most powerful tycoons have spoken out against the Occupy movement, warning it could threaten the city’s business and economic stability.

The latest protests escalated after demonstrators broke through a cordon late on Friday and scaled perimeter fences to invade the city’s main government compound in the culmination of a week-long rally to demand free elections.

Student leaders said about 80,000 people participated in the rally. No independent estimate was available.

Read lots more at the link.

A little more world news: Losing the Race Against Ebola – NYTimes.com

The race to control the expanding Ebola epidemic in West Africa looks increasingly dire. Official projections of how fast the virus will spread have soared while pledges of help from advanced nations and global organizations have failed to keep pace.

On Sept. 22, the World Health Organization published estimates indicating that the epidemic could infect more than 20,000 people in the three hardest hit countries — Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone — by early November, months before earlier estimates. Unless new measures can turn the tide, the number of cases and deaths could increase by thousands per week for months to come. It is possible that the virus will become permanently lodged in the West African population, posing a continuing threat of dispersal to the rest of Africa and other parts of the world.

On Sept 23, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta issued in a worst-case projection, based on computer models, showing that Sierra Leone and Liberia may have 1.4 million cases by Jan. 20 if the disease keeps spreading without effective containment. A best-case scenario showed that the epidemic could be brought to an end if 70 percent of the patients were treated in settings like isolation wards that reduce the risk of disease transmission and if burials were performed safely. Currently, only about 18 percent of the patients in Liberia and 40 percent in Sierra Leone are in such settings.

I posted a link about Cuba sending hundreds of doctors to Africa, I wanted to front page it here: Cuba sends 300 more doctors to fight Ebola – Africa – Al Jazeera English

Cuba says it will send nearly 300 more doctors and nurses to West Africa to help fight the Ebola epidemic.

The Cubans will work in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, Regla Angulo, head of the Cuban medical relief agency, said in a statement on Friday.

The announcement means that up to 461 Cuban medical personnel would have been sent to help address the epidemic spreading across West Africa.

Angulo said the staff were currently undergoing intense training ahead of their deployment, working in a mock field hospital of the kind they expected to find in the region.

Cuba sending 300 more doctors, nurses to fight Ebola in West Africa – Yahoo News

A group of 165 healthcare workers is due to arrive in Sierra Leone in early October. The 62 doctors and 103 nurses have been training for their mission with international experts at a Havana hospital specializing in tropical diseases.

The second contingent of 296 doctors and nurses will head to Liberia and Guinea, the official news agency Prensa Latina said on Friday.

Cuba has more than 50,000 doctors and nurses posted in 66 countries around the world, including more than 4,000 in 32 African countries.

The overseas missions are part of a medical diplomacy and a leading export earner for the communist government. Cuba also educates foreign doctors for free at one of its medical schools.

Heading over to Vatican City, the latest details from an arrested Catholic’s Archbishop are making headlines: Arrested Catholic Archbishop’s computer contained over 100,000 images of children

Yeah, you read that right!

Vatican detectives analyzing a computer used a by an archbishop arrested earlier this week discovered over 86,000 pornographic photos and 160 sexually explicit video files of children, reports the International Business Times.

According to investigators, another 45,000 pictures had been deleted.

Former Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, 66, was arrested at the Vatican earlier this week on charges that he paid to have sex with minors when he was a papal ambassador in the Dominican Republic from 2008 to 2012.

Wesolowski is the first Vatican official to be arrested within the city state on charges of pedophilia.

The former archbishop was recalled to Rome by the Vatican last year while still a diplomat in Santo Domingo and relieved of his duties following accusations from Dominican media that he was paying for underaged sex partners.

Until earlier this week, he had been free to roam Rome, but is now being held in in a small room in the basement of the Collegio dei Penitenzieri, which hosts the Vatican’s court and military police.

Vatican authorities are now investigating if Wesolowski was part of a network of pedophiles and whether he abused children in other posts during his career.

Wesolowski previously served in South Africa, Costa Rica, Japan, Switzerland, India and Denmark.

If convicted, Wesolowski faces 12 years in jail in the first trial for sexual abuse to be held inside the Vatican City.

12 years? That is it? I have nothing to say…because if I start, I won’t get to the rest of the day’s links.  As it is…Pope Francis revisits ‘punishing’ Catholics who get divorced . Pfffft! Divorce? Now that is a real crime.

This next article discusses a new form of male birth control, and how the Big Pharma may get their knuts in a knot because it will cut into the Pill profits. Male Birth Control, Without Condoms, Will Be Here by 2017 – The Daily Beast

Vasalgel, a reversible, non-hormonal polymer that blocks the vas deferens, is about to enter human trials. How will rhetoric change when male bodies become responsible for birth control?
Vasalgel, a reversible form of male birth control, just took one step closer to your vas deferens.According to a press release from the Parsemus Foundation, a not-for profit organization focused on developing low-cost medical approaches, Vasalgel is proving effective in a baboon study. Three lucky male baboons were injected with Vasalgel and given unrestricted sexual access to 10 to 15 female baboons each. Despite the fact that they have been monkeying around for six months now, no female baboons have been impregnated. With the success of this animal study and new funding from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Parsemus Foundation is planning to start human trials for Vasalgel next year. According to their FAQ page, they hope to see it on the market by 2017 for, in their words, less than the cost of a flat-screen television.So how does Vasalgel work? It is essentially a reimagining of a medical technology called RISUG (reversible inhibition of sperm under guidance) that was developed by a doctor named Sujoy Guha over 15 years ago in India, where it has been in clinical trials ever since. Unlike most forms of female birth control, Vasalgel is non-hormonal and only requires a single treatment in order to be effective for an extended period of time. Rather than cutting the vas deferens—as would be done in a vasectomy—a Vasalgel procedure involves the injection of a polymer contraceptive directly into the vas deferens. This polymer will then block any sperm that attempt to pass through the tube. At any point, however, the polymer can be flushed out with a second injection if a man wishes to bring his sperm back up to speed.

Hot diggity dog…finally!

Does this still go against the Church I wonder? (Yeah…of course. Damn. Yet another thing to be punished for…but is it a worse sin than say, kiddie porn on a computer?)

Since we are on the subject of Dicks…Breitbart Writer: Men Who Support Feminism Are “Sexually Frustrated Dickless Wonders” – Little Green Footballs  You will just have to go to the link yourself to find out what LGF is talking about. ;)

Not to be outdone…yes, I am still on the “Church’s” ass a little while longer. Stephen Hawking comes out: ‘I’m an atheist’ because science is ‘more convincing’ than God

Stephen Hawking clarified this week that he was an atheist because science had provided him with a “more convincing” explanation of the origins of the universe.

According to NBC News, Hawking made the comments to the Spanish-language paper El Mundo during the Starmus Festival at Tenerife in the Canary Islands.

El Mundo’s Pablo Jauregui pointed out that Hawking had written in his book “A Brief History of Time” that scientists could “know the mind of God” if a unifying set of principles — or theory of everything — was discovered to explain the physical universe. But Hawking later wrote in “The Grand Design” that God was no longer necessary because science had provided a better understanding of the universe.

“Before we understand science, it is natural to believe that God created the universe,” the world-famous theoretical physicist told Jauregui. “But now science offers a more convincing explanation.”

“What I meant by ‘we would know the mind of God’ is, we would know everything that God would know, if there were a God, which there isn’t,” he added. “I’m an atheist.”

But Hawking does believe that humans are not alone in the universe, and that meeting extraterrestrial life could be like Christopher Columbus coming to the Americas.

“Which didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans,” he warned.

“The idea that we are alone in the universe seems to me completely implausible and arrogant,” Hawking told the paper. “Considering the number of planets and stars that we know exist, it’s extremely unlikely that we are the only form of evolved life.”

Video at the link.

This thread is getting long, so here are the rest of today’s stories on the quick:

The Young Turks: Michele Bachmann’s Frenzied Bloodlust Delights Values Voters – YouTube

“Michele Bachmann took the stage at the Values Voters Summit today, and fired up the crowd with shots at President Obama and Hillary Clinton, as well as a firm call for the U.S. to keep killing ISIS terrorists until they surrender.

Bachmann cracked a few jokes at the top, including a dig at MSNBC and a wonder of whether Nancy Pelosi or John Boehner would miss her more.

She talked up her strong stand against the Obama administration, especially on foreign policy. Bachmann said Obama is “the first anti-Israel president in history.” And as for Clinton, Bachmann recommended another goal for the former Secretary of State to accomplish: “permanent retirement!”

Bachmann also talked about how to combat the threat of ISIS.”* Ben Mankiewicz, Jimmy Dore (The Jimmy Dore Show), John Iadarola (TYT University) and Brian Unger break it down.

 

You may have seen the shit going on in Texas earlier in the month: Don’t Mess With Texas History | BobCesca.com 

The imagined slight of an Advanced Placement U.S. History curriculum that is “anti-American” has swept the state of Texas and the state Board of Education has taken steps to eliminate it.

From the Associated Press

The Board of Education approved a measure declaring that the history curriculum its members set trumps that covered by the AP history course created for classrooms nationwide. That class concludes with an exam that can earn college credit for students who score high enough.

The board must still take a final vote, but the measure’s content isn’t expected to change.

Critics contend that the revised Advanced Placement curriculum is anti-American because it has narrowed the amount of content students are required to memorize but, rather than omit events that paint America in a less-sympathetic light, it excluded events that are more endearing.

In other words, critics contend that it’s anti-American because it does not whitewash our history.

 

Well….The Conservative War on History Continues | BobCesca.com

the Advanced Placement U.S. History curriculum because it was “anti-American,” has spread to the Denver, Colorado area where the local school board is following suit.

The Jefferson County school board appears to be going a step further, however, by dropping negative events in our history and discouraging civil disobedience.

via ThinkProgress

According to the curricula proposal, students would only be taught lessons depicting American heritage in a positive light, and effectively ban any material that could lead to dissent. Under the proposed policy, a review committee would regularly read instructional text and course syllabi to ensure that educational materials do not stray from subject matter that complies with the policy.

There was also protest in Colorado last week: CO Students Walk Out To Protest Wingnut Plan To Censor History Curriculum | Crooks and Liars

CO Students Walk Out To Protest Wingnut Plan To Censor History Curriculum

Be sure to read all those links in full to get the whole story. The Koch Brother’s are involved. Nuff said.

Since the protest is about History, how about some links that deal with history…okay, it isn’t American History, but one of the links deals with uprisings.

From Medievalist.net:

‘Shame on him who allows them to live’: The Jacquerie of 1358

In the eyes of the chroniclers, the Jacquerie of 1358 was the most important peasant revolt in late medieval France. Yet despite this, the uprising has not generated the quality of scholarship that other revolts from the late medieval period have encouraged, such as the Ciompi of 1378 in Florence or the English Peasants’ Revolt of 1381. In popular perception, the Jacquerie remains a violent spasmodic riot typical of the so-called ‘pre-industrial revolt’, itself a model forwarded thirty years ago and never rigourously examined.

[...]

Jacquerie - Jean Froissart

By surveying the remissions systematically, and returning to the full population of documents available, this thesis offers ‘a wholly new view of the revolt its leadership, its geographical dimensions, duration, organisation and ideology. Moreover, it challenges many old theories about the medieval ‘crowd’ as mindless, doomed to failure and dominated by the clergy and other elites. In their place, it constructs a new model around communal ties in the medieval village, sophisticated organisation within the revolt itself and participants’ identities as the defining factor of the crowd’s ideology.

 

‘Appropriate to Her Sex?’ Women’s Participation on the Construction Site in Medieval and Early Modern Europe

http://www.medievalists.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/city-of-ladies.png

Until recently, studies in the architectural history of medieval and early modern Europe have assumed an all-male labor force on the construction site and in the related building trades. Historical chronicles and manuscript illuminations of construction sites support this notion, purporting the total exclusion of women from this complex industry. This chapter demonstrates the true nature of women’s contribution to construction sites from the 13th to the 17th centuries in western Europe, uncovering a wide range of occupations in which they engaged: poor women hired for manual labor, women working as slaves, women working with their husbands and fathers in the building trades, widows continuing the workshops of their deceased husbands, and women supplying building materials for particular sites. There is a history to be told of women’s repeated participation in and subsequent denial from working in the building trades that echoes a theme between towns and across language barriers and indicates a common experience shared by women in this era.

This is an interesting look at copyright law: Copyrights and Property Wrongs — Crooked Timber

Ugh…unfortunately: New movie adaptation of All Quiet On The Western Front in the works · Newswire · The A.V. Club

This next blog post from Movie Morlocks…damn I wish they would show this film on TCM again: moviemorlocks.com – This is Not a Post About Gone With the Wind.

strangewoman03

With all the hoopla and conversation here over the last week regarding Gone With the Wind, I thought it might be fun to take a glance at GWTW’s evil twin, Edgar G. Ulmer’s 1946 The Strange Woman.

strangewoman02

It starts in 1945 when 20th Century Fox released a film called Leave Her to Heaven, based on Ben Ames Williams’ novel of the same name. A glorious Technicolor prestige picture with Gene Tierney, Cornell Wilde, and Vincent Price, it was a huge commercial success, nominated for several Oscars of which it won one. In Hollywood, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Bring on the clones!

Go…go and read the rest.

Now the last couple of links, that deal with art and women:

This Is How Much The Female Portrait Has Evolved In The Last 500 Years

Art history books have a reputation of showcasing dead, white, European males — DWEM — and the (mostly white) women they handpicked as muses. Portrait after portrait reveals a woman’s face through a man’s gaze, casting a rather unsavory light on the tendency of artists to eroticize, objectify or idolize the female form.

Artists in the 21st century have made strides to rectify art history’s mistakes — and critics and historians have begun to give women artists and artists of color their rightful place in the canon. But it’s difficult to forget the centuries of whitewashed paintings that still reign supreme. Case in point: artFido’s three-minute survey of 500 years of female portraits.

Names like Leonardo, Raphael, Hans, Peter, Pablo and Edouard dominate the list of featured paintings. Sure, the likes of Mary Cassatt and Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun attempt to break up the monotony, but the portrait images expose the real story. Art history just didn’t really evolve in the last 500 years.

You can catch a bit of change in the last 30 seconds of the video above, as the (still very white) faces become more and more abstract. But the takeaway from this montage: the art world needs more diversity, and quick.

10 Women Street Artists Who Are Better Than Banksy

Well, the title is a bit strange…but the work of these women is amazing. Some of them are way more incredible than Banksy. The print up top called Own Your Power is by an artist name Indie. I bought that print for my daughter Bebe on her 16th birthday, it just said so much…

Indie was chosen by MAC as one of the graffiti artist to design a collection for them in 2013.

The Makeup Museum: MAC Illustrated, part 2: Indie 184

 

MAC’s 2013 Illustrated collection features the work of graffiti artist Indie 184.  Born in Puerto Rico to Dominican parents and raised in New York, her style combines vivid colors with a contemporary take on old-school New York City graffiti.  Her indomitable spirit is fittingly expressed in her tag, a riff on the movie adventurer Indiana Jones, while 184 comes from the street she grew up on in Washington Heights.

[...]

She seamlessly translates her style from walls to canvas, weaving together images of famous women and phrases that convey their power.  In her artist’s statement, she writes, “My creative process usually starts by pouring out conflicting ideas or emotions using words, images and color. When I create a painting, it’s like a page of my personal diary – all the pieces are worlds of personal declarations. Constant use of word play, found scraps of paper, stencil, graffiti, graphics and photographs mixed with vivid colors…I use iconic female imagery provoking mood and expression embellished with dripping paint juxtaposed with words…The composed painting reflects power, motivation and with an undeniable twist of feminism in my paintings.”  The feminist angle, I believe, comes partially from her struggle to be fully accepted as a genuine graffiti artist in a male-dominated environment.  She says in an interview, “[A]s I got more into the culture, I learned that NYC in the 80’s produced few active girls in graf.  So any new girl in the scene would stand out. But of course, that did not mean free rides. I had to push harder to get down on walls. Most male writers don’t take females writers, especially new ones, seriously.  I did not want to stand out only because I was a female writer. I wanted to make my mark and represent for myself. Even now, on occasions, when I’m painting in the streets, some guy comes along and acts surprised when he sees me working with spray paint.”

The titles for some of these paintings – Powerful Creation, Call the Shots, Fearless, Knock ‘em Out and Own Your Power, combined with Indie’s signature hearts and stars – further drive home the idea of feminine strength.  Some of her work is also a tribute to Latina women and a demonstration of allegiance to her cultural heritage, as she references figures such as Frieda Kahlo, Jennifer Lopez and Marquita Rivera.

Call the Shots, 2012 (I love the nod to Warhol represented by the soup cans):

Indie-184-call-the-shots

Powerful Creation, 2012:

Indie-184-powerful-creation

Fearless, 2012:

Indie184-Fearless

Knock ‘em Out, 2012:

Indie184-knock-em-out

Own Your Power, 2013:

Indie184-Own-Your-Power
(images from indie184.com)

Looking at the dizzying array of flashy colors, it’s no surprise to find that Indie’s heroines include Jem and Rainbow Brite.  I also find her work to be a true expression of her outspoken, feisty personality and thoroughly unselfconscious attitude.  In an interview regarding her recently launched clothing line named Kweenz Destroy, she states, “Kweenz Destroy is for ladies who hold their own and make an impact with what they do. They love to get their hands dirty and don’t give a shit what people have to say…I don’t feel like I have anything to prove to anyone…I am fulfilling my own desires, not living other people’s ideal of what a graffiti writer should be, because at the end of the day people are going to talk shit regardless.”

Overall, I like Indie’s work – it’s brash, highly personal and has an exuberance and freshness to it while remaining forceful.

I love it…I hope you all do too!

Have a great Sunday and leave some thoughts in the comments below.

Oh Yeah…I almost forgot!

 

 

And my favorite:

 

Godspeed little Charlotte.