Thursday Reads: Guerrilla Knitting, Scarf Bombing, and Other News

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Good Morning!!

There is quite a bit of interesting news today, so this will basically be a link dump; but first I want to share a feel-good story my mother tipped me off to. It’s about something called “yarn bombing” or more recently “scarf bombing.” I guess this has been going on for a few years, but I had never heard about it before. Here’s an article from last year

Yarn bombing is a form of urban graffiti or street art that uses colorful knitted or crocheted work instead of chalk or paint. To give you an idea of what this form of street art is all about, here’s a piece from a site called “Restore My Faith”: 32 Examples of Guerrilla Knitting. More recently charitable groups and individuals have modified this idea to help needy or homeless people deal with cold weather–by creating “scarf bombs” that they leave tied to trees and other public objects anonymously for anyone who needs them.

Yarn bomb INdy

My mom saw this story on the Indianapolis ABC News channel: Scarf Bomb: Anonymous group leaves warm gear with warm notes around the Circle in Indianapolis.

INDIANAPOLIS – Dozens of knitted scarves were ready for the taking Monday on Monument Circle after an anonymous “scarf bombing.”

No one seems to know who left the roughly 40 scarves hanging on poles and parking meters, but there were notes that said they were free to anyone who needed to stay warm….

Knit bombing, or in this case, scarf bombing, has been going on for a couple years now in Indianapolis, and this is one of the first times we’re seeing it as a way to help the homeless and other people in need.

After RTV6 broke this story, a group from LifeJourney Church (located at 56th Street and Keystone Avenue) reached out and let us know earlier this month, it did the same thing.

The group hung scarves and hats it had collected all around Veterans Memorial Plaza. They had notes on them, reading: “These are not lost. If you are cold, and in need of some warmth, please take. God bless you!”

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I found articles about scarf bombing–and sock and glove bombing all over the country and in Canada. I took it as proof that there really is hope for humanity, I hope it will make you feel good too. I’m going to illustrate this post with examples of knitting bombs.

More links about scarf/sock/glove bombing:

Ft. Wayne, IN: Food Not Bombs Organization Holds First “Scarf Bombing” Event.

Lancaster, PA: Wrap Up Lancaster spreads the warmth through scarf-bombing.

Jacksonville, FL: Local woman leaves free winter gear around Jacksonville.

Detroit: Detroit ‘yarn-bombed’ with knit hats and scarves.

Isn’t that a nice story?

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Now for some “real” news.

Net Neutrality Vote

Today is a big day for anyone who wants to keep the internet free instead of allowing cable companies to make maximum profits by letting giant corporations control it. From USA Today: At last, FCC to vote Thursday on net neutrality rules.

After nearly a year-long process, the Federal Communications Commission casts its all-important vote Thursday on the divisive issue of net neutrality.

The five-member board is expected to approve FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s new rules that aim to preserve an open Internet and prevent Internet service providers from discriminating against content makers. But regardless what happens Thursday, the agency’s action won’t be the last word.

“It is a defining moment, but it will be redefined by the courts, Congress and other entities including the marketplace going forward,” said Gary Arlen, a Bethesda, Md., research analyst. “But whatever they decide is going to be a benchmark.”

Net neutrality has become a politicized and polarizing issue in the roughly 10 months since the commission began crafting new rules. The agency’s previous regulations were tossed out by a federal court in January 2014.

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Here’s a good background article from Fusion: The winners and losers of Washington’s vote on net neutrality.

Commissioner Tom Wheeler is proposing that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) should be regulated in the same way as other common carrier utility services, meaning they won’t be able to give the privilege of a faster Internet to customers and websites that can pay for it.

Earlier this month, Wheeler proposed the new regulations and wrote an op-ed for Wired that translated the bureaucrat-ese into human-speak. He wants to make a fundamental change to how ISPs and Internet traffic are regulated, governing them under Title II of The Communications Act of 1934, and not under Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. This change would give the government the ability to penalize ISPs for making “any unjust or unreasonable discrimination in charges, practices, classifications, regulations, facilities, or services.” The vote comes down to the decision of five people, two Republicans and three Democrats. If this vote passes (which it’s expected to), it would redefine and incorporate broadband service providers in the same grouping as the telecommunication giants. This would cause Internet providers, including wireless ones, to be regulated the same way cable companies are governed.

This digital tug-of-war on Capitol Hill over net neutrality has been going on for a decade. Whether or not consumers and companies should be charged for a “fast lane” (or condemned to a cost-free slow lane) has caused cable/internet providers and major tech companies to stand on opposite sides of the hill.

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Verizon and Comcast, two of the biggest spenders on lobbyists, both hate the idea of a common carrier utility Internet. Which makes perfect sense, given that these communication providers would be missing a golden opportunity to charge for premium Internet service.

On the other side are companies like Tumblr, which has an ongoing campaign to get people to share their stance on the matter at hand. There’s also Twitter, which released a statement Monday in support of free-flowing information without economic hierarchy.

The main proposals for FCC regulation of the internet:

-  No blocking: broadband providers may not block access to legal content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices.

–  No throttling: broadband providers may not impair or degrade lawful Internet traffic on the basis of content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices.

–  No paid prioritization: broadband providers may not favor some lawful Internet traffic over other lawful traffic in exchange for consideration – in other words, no “fast lanes.” This rule also bans ISPs from prioritizing content and services of their affiliates under the “commercial reasonableness” part of Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

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Read more at Fusion to get the details on “some big name tech companies, communication providers and politicians’ stances on the topic.”

A few more links:

WaPo, The Switchboard: With net neutrality, the FCC is about to make Internet history.

ProPublica, Net Neutrality May Face an Uphill Battle If History Tells Us Anything.

HuffPo, How We Won Net Neutrality.

Politicio, Keep the Internet Free (by David Karp, founder of Tumblr, “I couldn’t have created Tumblr without net neutrality.”

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In case you missed it, the Guardian broke a big story yesterday by Spencer Ackerman: The disappeared: Chicago police detain Americans at abuse-laden ‘black site’.

The Chicago police department operates an off-the-books interrogation compound, rendering Americans unable to be found by family or attorneys while locked inside what lawyers say is the domestic equivalent of a CIA black site.

The facility, a nondescript warehouse on Chicago’s west side known as Homan Square, has long been the scene of secretive work by special police units. Interviews with local attorneys and one protester who spent the better part of a day shackled in Homan Square describe operations that deny access to basic constitutional rights.

Alleged police practices at Homan Square, according to those familiar with the facility who spoke out to the Guardian after its investigation into Chicago police abuse, include:

  • Keeping arrestees out of official booking databases.
  • Beating by police, resulting in head wounds.
  • Shackling for prolonged periods.
  • Denying attorneys access to the “secure” facility.
  • Holding people without legal counsel for between 12 and 24 hours, including people as young as 15.

At least one man was found unresponsive in a Homan Square “interview room” and later pronounced dead.

Brian Jacob Church, a protester known as one of the “Nato Three”, was held and questioned at Homan Square in 2012 following a police raid. Officers restrained Church for the better part of a day, denying him access to an attorney, before sending him to a nearby police station to be booked and charged.

“Homan Square is definitely an unusual place,” Church told the Guardian on Friday. “It brings to mind the interrogation facilities they use in the Middle East. The CIA calls them black sites. It’s a domestic black site. When you go in, no one knows what’s happened to you.”

Scary stuff. That is a must-read.

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Here’s today’s follow-up story from Spencer Ackerman, Zach Stafford, Mark Guarino, and Oliver Laughland:

‘Gestapo’ tactics at US police ‘black site’ ring alarm from Chicago to Washington.

The US Department of Justice and embattled mayor Rahm Emanuel are under mounting pressure to investigate allegations of what one politician called “CIA or Gestapo tactics” at a secretive Chicago police facility exposed by the Guardian.

Politicians and civil-rights groups across the US expressed shock upon hearing descriptions of off-the-books interrogation at Homan Square, the Chicago warehouse that multiple lawyers and one shackled-up protester likened to a US counter-terrorist black site in a Guardian investigation published this week.

As a second person came forward to the Guardian detailing her own story of being “held hostage” inside Homan Square without access to an attorney or an official public record of her detention by Chicago police, officials and activists said the allegations merited further inquiry and risked aggravating wounds over community policing and race that have reached as high as the White House.

Caught in the swirl of questions around the complex – still active on Wednesday – was Emanuel, the former chief of staff to Barack Obama who is suddenly facing a mayoral runoff election after failing to win a majority in a contest that has seen debate over police tactics take a central role.

Emanuel’s office refused multiple requests for comment from the Guardian on Wednesday, referring a reporter to an unspecific denial from the Chicago police.

More on Emmanuel’s problems from John Nichols at The Nation: Rahm Emanuel Seemed Unstoppable—Until He Ticked Off Chicago’s Teachers.

Scarf bombing in Winnipeg

Scarf bombing in Winnipeg

In other news . . .

Foreign Policy

The man referred to as Jihadi John has been identified. Reuters UK repoerts, ‘Jihadi John’ from Islamic State beheading videos unmasked as Londoner.

USA Today, Islamic State fighters destroy Iraq antiquities.

Bloomberg Business on the Ukraine crisis, Ukraine Says Truce Takes Hold as Army Begins Weapons Pullback.

Republican Politics

Don’t miss this one from Tim Shorrock at The Nation, Giuliani’s Love for His Country Is Equal to the Money He Makes.

MSNBC.com, CPAC tests GOP 2016 field at a two-day conference in Maryland.

Have you noticed how well Scott Walker seems to be doing in the GOP race? Here’s a must read from John Cassidy at the New Yorker, The Dangerous Candidacy of Scott Walker.

The Daily Beast, Chris Christie Needs a Billion and a Half Bucks.

Gawker, Imagine Chris Christie Falling Out of a Chair, Forever.

Blue Nation Review, Barbara Boxer Hands the GOP Their Butts on A Platter.

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Scary stuff on the Supreme Court and the ACA: 

Politico, Supreme Court ruling could upturn Obamacare politics.

Bloomberg, Is Washington Ready for the Death of Obamacare?

Bloomberg View, How the Supreme Court Could Save Obamacare Again.

Odds and ends:

AP, New round of winter weather dumps more snow on the South.

NBC News, Atlanta, Georgia, Weather: City Tries Orderly Approach to Avoid Repeat of Snow Paralysis.

CNN, Groan with the wind: South gets hit with another winter storm

USA Today, I-95 in Maine partially reopened after 75-vehicle pileup.

Just for MA Sky Dancers, from CBS Boston: David Ortiz Says He And Tom Brady Age Like A Fine Wine.

What stories are you following today?

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Wednesday Reads: Leftovers

10626215_914005625301082_5872656109029350996_oGood Morning

This is just going to be a link dump, I am not feeling quite up to the task of writing a post today, maybe it is the frustrating tiresome week…I don’t know. It gets exhausting spending so many hours snowbound with a man who is your total polar political opposite.

Anyway, for now I hope you find the following links interesting.

There has been quite a lot of “talk” about Patty Arquette’s backstage comments regarding various groups and their need to support Woman’s Rights.

See these two articles, or op/eds from Reality Check:

First: Patricia Arquette’s Spectacular Intersectionality Fail by Andrea Grimes

Intersectionality – Geek Feminism Wiki

(I had to look it up…good thing Grimes put up a link.)

And secondly: The Road to Structural Erasure Is Paved With Well-Intentioned White Ladies #ABLC by Imani Gandy

Then this later response by Gandy: The Funny Thing About Privilege #ABLC

il_fullxfull.711228862_qyjdGive all those a read and then take a look at this:

Patricia Arquette responds to Oscars feminism controversy, and Hillary Clinton supports her – People – News – The Independent

I am glad Hillary backed up Arquette…

Hillary Clinton: It’s Time For Wage Equality ‘Once And For All’

Hillary Clinton lamented the number of women in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math at a Silicon Valley women’s conference on Tuesday, and called for more action to close the wage gap.

il_fullxfull.561770561_764v“Sixty percent of college graduates are now women, yet they earn only 18 percent of computer science degrees. That’s actually less than half of what it was in the 1980s, when women earned 38 percent of those degrees. We’re going backwards in a field that’s supposed to be all about going forward,” Clinton said in a keynote address at Lead On Conference for Women in Santa Clara, California, for which she was reportedly paid a whopping $300,000.

The former secretary of state addressed an overwhelmingly friendly crowd made up of many employees from Silicon Valley’s biggest tech companies, including Intel, Oracle and Cisco. Introduced as a “modern day suffragette,” Clinton empathized with the audience by noting the difficulties women still face in male-dominated Silicon Valley.

“You bump your heads on the glass ceilings that persist in the tech industry today,” she told the attendees.

Clinton framed the need to empower women as beneficial to America’s economy as a whole, and in so doing paid deference to one of Apple, Inc.’s biggest slogans.

il_fullxfull.686180167_1uhx“There are lasting consequences for them, their families, and our economy,” she said of women left out of the STEM fields. “We cannot afford to leave all that talent sitting on that sidelines. To borrow a familiar phrase, it’s time to think different.”

In advocating for closing the pay gap, Clinton also endorsed the impassioned plea for wage equality made by Patricia Arquette in her Oscars acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actress.

This is what she said:

“Up and down the ladder many women are paid less for the same work, which is why we all cheered at Patricia Arquette’s speech at the Oscars — because she’s right, it’s time to have wage equality once and for all,” Clinton said.

Damn right. I made some comments on the first post written by Imani Gandy, after that I just got tired of the whole thing. So tired of fighting for every little bit of something that is right and is deserved.  Fuck it.

The rest of the links, coming at ya:

il_fullxfull.709423135_2htbAnother look at Clinton’s speech: SANTA CLARA, Calif.: Clinton to women: It can still feel like 1955 out there | Elections | McClatchy DC

Which is the most sexist national anthem? | News | The Guardian

Italy and Turkey are the sexist…US is in the orange range…

Roman Polanski Appears in Court in Extradition Hearing – NYTimes.com

I wonder if he will ever face justice.

SHOCKING New Poll Shows Majority Of GOP Total Idiots | Wonkette

Brace yourselves for some stunning, shocking, jaw-dropping, too-amazing-to-believe-yet-totally-believable news! According to a new poll from PPP, the Republican Party is overflowing with morons. It’s true. In fact, it’s SCIENCE! Or MATH! Or some kind of liberal hoax thing!

Let’s nerdsplore how goddamned dumb Republicans are, shall we?

image: http://img.wonkette.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/evolution.png

evolutionIf you think that’s depressing, well, OK, you’re right, it is depressing. But it gets worse:

image: http://img.wonkette.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/global-warming.png

global warmingDidn’t Republicans used to more or less accept that basic science was real, scientifically speaking? Yes, but that’s before the entire party adopted the official “I’m not a scientist” platform, thanks to Fox News teaching the “controversy.”

il_fullxfull.376007480_9tx5Hey, but you know…they do love them some fetuses! At least until they are born: Republican lawmaker: It’s OK for children to die in the name of God – Salon.com

In a deeply religious section of Idaho, a Republican state representative says that the state has no right to protect children from their parents who refuse them needed medical treatment in favor of faith healing.

“Children do die,” says Rep. Christy Perry. And it’s fine with her if Idaho children die in the name of God. Perry’s district includes many followers of a religious cult, Followers of Christ, that eschews medicine. She says that the sect’s members are more comfortable confronting death when it happens to their children.

“I’m not trying to sound callous, but [people calling for reform] want to act as if death is an anomaly. But it’s not. It’s a way of life,” she says.

Oh boy…

1532077_714422388592741_973356611_oAgain, I am so sick of this shit. And I really don’t feel like arguing about it.

An Italian cemetery may provide clues on cholera’s evolution-Medievalist.net

The site contains victims of the cholera epidemic that swept the world in the 1850s, said Clark Spencer Larsen, professor of anthropology at Ohio State University and one of the leaders of the excavation team.

Archaeologists and their students have spent the past four summers painstakingly excavating remains in a special section of the cemetery used for cholera victims. About 20 to 30 skeletons have been excavated during each of the past four field seasons.

Finding traces of the pathogen that caused cholera among the human remains could reveal details about how people lived – and died – in this region of Europe. “To our knowledge, these are the best preserved remains of cholera victims of this time period ever found,” Larsen said. “We’re very excited about what we may be able to learn.”

il_fullxfull.726272341_bd6nOn the move: The impact of economic migration – Al Jazeera English

Urbanisation is rapidly picking up pace. We hit the tipping point in 2009, when there were more people living in urban areas than in rural ones.

The United Nations believes an additional 2.5bn people will live in urban areas by 2050, which is only 35 years away.

Many of the rural poor come to the cities and end up living in sub-standard housing. It is estimated that 863 million people now live in slums. And China alone, according to the UN, will need to spend $6.8tn over the next two decades just to integrate rural workers.

Counting the Cost examines the challenges of economic migration.

Al Jazeera’s Adrian Brown reports from China; and Dr Babatunde Osotimehin, the executive director of the United Nations Population Fund, joins us from New York to discuss migration and the issues behind it.

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Mysterious East Coast flooding caused by ‘unprecented’ surge in sea level – The Washington Post

Here’s a Satirical Take on the 40 Things the News Wants You to Be Afraid Of – Truthdig

5 Lessons Fat Albert Should Have Taught Bill Cosby | Cracked.com

Sicilian mafioso who lived incognito in Britain for 20 years to be extradited | World news | The Guardian

New Research Into Indo-European Languages – Archaeology Magazine

Brilliant Fireball Wows Skywatchers, Rattles Windows In Florida

and this last link:

Where Do Sesame Seeds Come From, Anyway?

Let’s treat this as an open thread…what are you reading about today?


Tuesday Reads: Drink More Coffee–It’s Good for You!* And Other News

winter coffee book

Good Morning!!

There’s a supposedly huge drama being carried on in Washington DC, but I just can’t get excited about it. Republicans are holding funding for the Department of Homeland Security hostage in an effort to block President Obama’s executive order on immigration.

I really haven’t been following this story, not only because I assumed it would end like all the other idiotic Republican efforts to shut down the government–a huge bluff that ends one side caving–but also because I don’t particularly care about the Department of Homeland Security.

I don’t want ordinary workers there to lose their jobs, but “homeland security” gives me the creeps. Isn’t it mostly about investigating Americans and harassing them in airports and other public places? I read the list of DHS activities at their website (see previous link) and I could find anything that I could get worked up about–maybe disaster preparedness.

Boston is going through a horrendous slow-moving disaster right now, and there’s been no help coming from DHS as far as I know. I’m sure elderly people must be going hungry because they can’t get out of their homes and poor people are probably freezing because they can’t afford to pay for heat. I don’t know for sure, because the media doesn’t seem to be asking questions about these marginalized people.

I do know that working people here are losing their jobs and may eventually lose their homes because they can’t get to work. In addition to the problem of getting out of your house and getting around with after more than 100 inches of snow have been dumped on us, Boston’s public transportation system is crippled. This morning when I woke up it was -11 degrees outside, and more snow is expected tonight.

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But getting back to the Homeland Security/Immigration fight, the truth is that it’s really a Republican thing. Semi-normal Republicans think DHS is really important and other, completely insane Republicans are more obsessed with keeping any more brown people from becoming U.S. citizens. At Forbes, Stan Collender writes:

Up to now I’ve been relatively convinced that House and Senate Republicans somehow would find a way to avoid shutting down the Department of Homeland Securitywhen its current appropriation expires in four days.

But it has become increasingly obvious over the past week that the reason for the stalemate between House and Senate Republicans over the DHS appropriation (as I said in this post, this is an almost purely GOP vs. GOP fight) has less to do with the publicly stated reason – stopping the president’s executive orders on immigration – and far more to do with the 2016 congressional election.

That makes coming up with a solution that will satisfy the House and Senate Republican majorities AND can pass each house of Congress far more difficult and makes a DHS shutdown more likely.

The militant wing of the House Republican caucus doesn’t fear a potentially negative impact on the coming election. To the contrary, it sees shutting down the Department of Homeland Security as a boon to their reelection chances. A shutdown will demonstrate a take-no-prisoners attitude to the militantly conservative, very anti-Democrat and overwhelmingly anti-Obama constituents who vote in the primary or whose support will make a primary unnecessary. To these GOP House members, a shutdown is not something to be avoided; it’s one of the first scheduled events in their 2016 reelection campaigns.

By contrast, the 24 Senate Republicans up for reelection in 2016 not only have to pay attention to a larger and (relatively at least) more moderate base, they also have to consider the Democrats in their state who will be voting. And given that 10-12 of the 24 Republican senators who will be up for reelection next year are from blue states, they cannot afford to ignore or even give short shrift to the political impact of a shutdown on their Democratic voters.

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Good. Let the Republican assholes fight it out. Mitch McConnell has a new plan to separate the immigration fight from the DHS funding, but it’s hard to see how that will work because it will take away the wingnuts’ leverage. USA Today reports:

McConnell, R-Ky., announced that he is essentially breaking off controversial immigration amendments from the bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security. Those amendments have been at the center of the impasse over a $40 billion spending bill for the agency.

McConnell is offering a bill that would bar federal funds from being used to carry out President Obama’s executive actions to protect about 4 million undocumented immigrants from deportation and allow them to work legally in the USA.

That move should allow a separate DHS funding bill to move forward without the immigration provisions that have caused a stalemate in Congress and led to the looming shutdown at the agency.

{{yawn…}} I doubt if this will work, but we’ll see . . . . What I don’t get is, since a judge has already stopped Obama’s immigration plan for the moment, what is the GOP fight really about? If anyone can explain it to me, please do.

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Meanwhile, various Republican state legislators continue to demonstrate their ignorance about female bodies. The latest example comes from Idaho state Rep. Vito Barbieri. From the Minneapolis Star-Tribune: Idaho lawmaker asks if woman can swallow camera for gynecological exam before medical abortion.

BOISE, Idaho — An Idaho lawmaker received a brief lesson on female anatomy after asking if a woman can swallow a small camera for doctors to conduct a remote gynecological exam.

The question Monday from Republican state Rep. Vito Barbieri came as the House State Affairs Committee heard nearly three hours of testimony on a bill that would ban doctors from prescribing abortion-inducing medication through telemedicine….

Dr. Julie Madsen, a physician who said she has provided various telemedicine services in Idaho, was testifying in opposition to the bill. She said some colonoscopy patients may swallow a small device to give doctors a closer look at parts of their colon.

“Can this same procedure then be done in a pregnancy? Swallowing a camera and helping the doctor determine what the situation is?” Barbieri asked.

Madsen replied that would be impossible because swallowed pills do not end up in the vagina.

“Fascinating. That makes sense,” Barbieri said, amid the crowd’s laughter.

Barbieri later claimed he was just “trying to make a point.” What that point was is unclear. Here’s what he told the press:

I was being rhetorical, because I was trying to make the point that equalizing a colonoscopy to this particular procedure was apples and oranges,” he said. “So I was asking a rhetorical question that was designed to make her say that they weren’t the same thing, and she did so. It was the response I wanted.”

BTW, doctors in Idaho do not prescribe morning after pills through telemedicine, so it’s also unclear why the bill is deemed necessary by Idaho wingnut Republicans.

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Remember James O’Keefe? He’s baaaaaack. On Sunday, a right-wing website that I won’t link to (you can find the link at Memeorandum) reported that O’Keefe had tweeted that he has a new blockbuster video coming out and he “fears for [his] life” after it goes public. This morning, the big scoop was revealed in the New York Post. O’Keefe is targeting Al Sharpton with claims that he doesn’t really care about the families of victims like Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner.

Al Sharpton is all about the Benjamins, a daughter of police chokehold victim Eric Garner claims in a bombshell videotape.

Erica Snipes tees off on the reverend as interested primarily in money during a conversation secretly recorded by controversial conservative activist James O’Keefe’s group, Project Veritas.

One of O’Keefe’s investigators with a hidden camera posed as a Garner supporter during a protest last month at the St. George Ferry Terminal on Staten Island.

“You think Al Sharpton is kind of like a crook in a sense?” the investigator is heard asking Garner’s oldest daughter.

“He’s about this,” Snipes replies, rubbing her fingers together.

“He’s about money with you?” the undercover asks.

“Yeah,” Snipes responds.

You can watch the video at the NY Post link.

Joseph Cannon is all over this story, and I hope he’ll write more about it. For now, he has a post up with plenty of background on James O’Keefe.

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O’Keefe’s story isn’t likely to get much mainstream attention, because the media is already wallowing a scandal in Obama’s cabinet. From Huffington Post yesterday: VA Secretary Robert McDonald Falsely Claimed He Served In Special Forces.

Robert McDonald, the secretary of veterans affairs, wrongly claimed in a videotaped comment earlier this year that he served in special operations forces, the most elite units in the armed forces, when his military service of five years was spent almost entirely with the 82nd Airborne Division during the late 1970s….

McDonald, a retired corporate executive who took over the VA last June as the agency was sinking in scandal, made the claim in late January as he was touring a rundown Los Angeles neighborhood during a nationwide count of homeless veterans. He was accompanied by a CBS-TV news crew, which recorded an exchange between McDonald and a homeless man who told McDonald he had served in special forces.

“Special forces? What years? I was in special forces!” McDonald told the homeless man. That exchange was broadcast in a Jan. 30 CBS News story about the VA’s efforts to find and house homeless veterans.

In fact, McDonald never served in special forces. He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1975, completed Army Ranger training and took courses in jungle, arctic and desert warfare. He qualified as a senior parachutist and airborne jumpmaster, and was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division until he retired from military service in 1980. While he earned a Ranger tab designating him as a graduate of Ranger School, he never served in a Ranger battalion or any other special operations unit.

“I have no excuse,” McDonald told The Huffington Post, when contacted to explain his claim. “I was not in special forces.”

Today the story is at the top of Google News. There’s no way this guy is going to be able to continue in his job. Should we form a pool and guess how long it will take for him to “resign” in disgrace. Why do people do this? Spending five years in the 82 Airborne Division and graduating from Ranger School should have been enough. the Ranger training is what he must have been referring to in the video, but it doesn’t matter. He’s gone.

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Here’s a fascinating piece about a fake story that went viral last week. I looked for local reports about this a couple of days ago and couldn’t find anything; so I figured the story couldn’t be true, since it was reported to have happened in Boston.

From Digg: Anatomy Of A Fake, Viral Story: The Priest Who Met A Female God In His Near-Death Experience.

On February 4 World News Daily Report published a story about a Massachusetts priest who made a miraculous medical recovery, and discovery:

A Catholic priest from Massachussetts [sic] was officially dead for more than 48 minutes before medics were able to miraculously re-start his heart. During that time, Father John Micheal O’neal claims he went to heaven and met God, which he describes as a warm and comforting motherly figure.

The story reported that Boston Archbishop Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley explained away O’Neal’s revelation as nothing more than “hallucinations linked to a near-death experience,” and added that “God clearly isn’t a female.”

This remarkable report of a Catholic priest claiming that the Holy Father is in fact a mother went unnoticed by other media until a newspaper in Uganda, the Daily Monitor, picked it up word-for-word. That set off a cascade of articles on other websites around the world, which together have racked up tens of thousands of shares and social interactions, primarily on Facebook.

The Daily Monitor’s motto is “Truth Everyday,” but in this case its plagiarism helped propagate a hoax. World News Daily Report looks and reads like a real news website, but everything it publishes is completely fake. It’s one of several fake news websites that pump out hoax content with the goal of generating shares and links that they can monetize with ads.

Many of these sites have legitimate sounding names, such as The Daily Currant or National Report. They not only monetize peoples’ gullibility, but also their hopes and fears, their political and religious beliefs.

Read much more about these fake news sites and how their stories go viral at the link.

* Finally, here’s a story that sounds fake, but it actually isn’t.  And it’s way more interesting to me than the DHS funding fight.

Coffee_1_The-Good-News

From the Washington Post’s Wonkblog: It’s official: Americans should drink more coffee.

When the nation’s top nutrition panel released its latest dietary recommendations on Thursday, the group did something it had never done before: weigh in on whether people should be drinking coffee. What it had to say is pretty surprising.

Not only can people stop worrying about whether drinking coffee is bad for them, according to the panel, they might even want to consider drinking a bit more.

The panel cited minimal health risks associated with drinking between three and five cups per day. It also said that consuming as many as five cups of coffee each day (400 mg) is tied to several health benefits, including a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

“We saw that coffee has a lot of health benefits,” said Miriam Nelson, a professor at Tufts University and one of the committee’s members. “Specifically when you’re drinking more than a couple cups per day.”

health-benefits-of-coffee

And from Bloomberg Business: Coffee’s Great, U.S. Panel Says in Official Diet Recommendations.

“Coffee’s good stuff,” Tom Brenna, a member of the committee and a nutritionist at Cornell University, said in a telephone interview. “I don’t want to get into implying coffee cures cancer — nobody thinks that,” he said. “But there is no evidence for increased risk, if anything, the other way around.”

The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, a nonpartisan panel of academics and scientists, gives suggestions to U.S. agencies including the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Agriculture. Subsequent government guidelines influence federal food programs and local issues such as school lunches. Previous guidelines have not addressed caffeine’s health effects….

Research since the advisory body last met in 2010 was critical to the decision on coffee, Brenna said. “There’s been a heck of a lot of work on coffee.”

coffee-health-body

 

So . . . what stories are you following today? Let us know in the comment thread and have a great Tuesday!


Lazy Saturday Afternoon Reads: Deja Vu All Over Again

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Good Morning!!

Rudy Giuliani is old. He was born in 1944–too soon to be a baby boomer. He’s a throwback to the Vietnam era, and like quite a few old Republicans, he seems never to have grown emotionally or intellectually since that long-ago time.

This man is clearly a racist, a hater who holds ugly, judgmental attitudes toward anyone who doesn’t agree with him on every issue. He’s an unreconstructed George Wallace caricature. But even George Wallace developed some self-awareness late in life.

As everyone is aware by now, on Wednesday Giuliani gave a repulsive speech in which he attacked President of Obama’s patriotism and slimed Obama’s mother and grandparents. Politico reported: Rudy Giuliani: President Obama doesn’t love America.

Rudy Giuliani went straight for the jugular Wednesday night during a private group dinner here featuring Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker by openly questioning whether President Barack Obama “loves America.”

The former New York mayor, speaking in front of the 2016 Republican presidential contender and about 60 right-leaning business executives and conservative media types, directly challenged Obama’s patriotism, discussing what he called weak foreign policy decisions and questionable public remarks when confronting terrorists.

“I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America,” Giuliani said during the dinner at the 21 Club, a former Prohibition-era speakeasy in midtown Manhattan. “He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country.”

After the Scott Walker event, Giuliani elaborated on his remarks about the President.

“What country has left so many young men and women dead abroad to save other countries without taking land? This is not the colonial empire that somehow he has in his hand. I’ve never felt that from him. I felt that from [George] W. [Bush]. I felt that from [Bill] Clinton. I felt that from every American president, including ones I disagreed with, including [Jimmy] Carter. I don’t feel that from President Obama.”

Giuliani then recalled his own comments condemning several major episodes from the early 1990s when Jews were targeted in Argentina and the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn. That hard-line approach, Giuliani said, stands in contrast to the way Obama touched off a storm earlier this month during the National Prayer Breakfast by citing the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition as Christian examples of the way many religions have perpetrated horrible acts throughout history.

The older and meaner Rudy gets, the more his "smile" looks like a rictus.

The older and meaner Rudy gets, the more his “smile” looks like a rictus.

After pushback from Democrats and some writers, Guiliani only doubled down on his nasty characterizations of Obama’s thought and feelings. He’s a mind-reader, you see. Politico’s Nick Gass: Rudy Giuliani floods the zone with Obama attacks.

The former New York mayor and sometime presidential hopeful appeared on Fox News’ “The Kelly File” on Thursday night, and when asked by host Megyn Kelly whether he wanted to apologize for his comments, he declined.

 “Not at all. I want to repeat them,” he said. “The reality is, all I can see from this president, all I have heard from is he apologizes for America, he criticizes America. He talks about the Crusades and how the Christians were barbarians, leaves out the second half of the sentence that the Muslims were barbarians also.” [….]

“He sees Christians slaughtered and doesn’t stand up and hold a press conference, although he holds a press conference for the situation in Ferguson,” he said. “He sees Jews being killed for anti-Semitic reasons, doesn’t stand up and hold a press conference. This is an American president I’ve never seen before.”

Well, that’s true anyway. None of us had ever seen a black POTUS until 2008. Yes, even Fox News host Megyn Kelly apparently was shocked by Giuliani’s attacks on Obama’s patriotism. Mediaite reported:

Rudy Giuliani continued to defend his comments about President Barack Obama not “loving” America during a combative appearance on Fox News with Megyn Kelly Thursday night….

“To say that he doesn’t love america, I mean, that he could view foreign policy as a Democrat might view it and through a different lens than you or a Republican might see it, you can understand the differences between you,” Kelly said to Giuliani. “But to condemn his patriotism? To question his love of America?”

Giuliani insisted that he was not condemning Obama’s patriotism, but instead said he wanted to hear more from the president about how “exceptional” this country is.

“A lot of liberals don’t believe in American Exceptionalism,” Kelly shot back, “but that doesn’t mean they don’t love America.”

Giuliani went on to bring up Obama’s maternal grandfather, who fought in World War II, as someone  [who] introduced the president to “communist” ideas and then shifted gears to revive the 2008 uproar over Reverend Jeremiah Wright.

The Communist Party

The Communist Party

Mediaite left out the supposed source of those “communist ideas” Rudy was referring to. Unbelievably, the former NYC mayor actually brought up Frank Marshall Davis, a man Obama met when he was a child in Hawaii. Davis became an obsession among the RWNJ’s during the 2008 campaign Guiliani apparently believes all the garbage about Obama’s youth floating around right wing sites on the internet. Celeste Katz at the NY Daily News:

Trying to explain his controversial comments that President Obama doesn’t love America, Rudy Giuliani said Friday that he believes the President has been influenced by communism and socialism.

“Look, this man was brought up basically in a white family, so whatever he learned or didn’t learn, I attribute this more to the influence of communism and socialism” than to his race, Giuliani told the Daily News.

“I don’t (see) this President as being particularly a product of African-American society or something like that. He isn’t,” the former mayor added. “Logically, think about his background. . . The ideas that are troubling me and are leading to this come from communists with whom he associated when he was 9 years old” through family connections.

When Obama was 9, he was living in Indonesia with his mother and his stepfather. Giuliani said he was referencing Obama’s grandfather having introduced him to Frank Marshall Davis, a member of the Communist Party.

The former mayor also brought up Obama’s relationship with “quasi-communist” community organizer Saul Alinsky and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

If you do a google search for Frank Marshall Davis, you’ll find that many right wing sites even claimed Davis was Obama’s real father!

chickenhawk

Back in the Vietnam War era, during which Giuliani’s stunted brain apparently stopped developing, “America: love it or leave it” was a comment refrain used by right wingers to attack people who wanted to bring American troops home rather than let them continue to die year after year in a pointless war in distant jungles. Many of those “love it or leave it” shouters were chicken hawks like Giuliani, former President George W. Bush, his brother Jeb Bush, and former Vice President Dick Cheney. In contrast, men like George McGovern and John Kerry who had served in foreign wars were viciously vilified for telling the truth about Vietnam.

Oh yes, Rudy could have fought in Vietnam, but instead, he obtained multiple deferments. From New York Magazine in 2007, Rudy and ’Nam:

Rudy Giuliani, speaking about terrorism and the Iraq war, said last week, “It is something I understand better than anyone else running for president.”

That was when Rudy was running for president against actual war veteran John McCain!

To recap: After receiving several deferments as a student, Giuliani applied for an occupational deferment as a law clerk, but his application was rejected. Giuliani appealed their decision, and asked the federal judge he was clerking for to petition the draft board for him. Which the judge did. When his deferment expired in 1970, Giuliani became susceptible to the draft. He received a high number and was never called. Giuliani “has made it clear that if he had been called up, he would have served,” says Katie Levinson, Giuliani’s spokesperson. He was opposed to the war in Vietnam on “strategic and tactical” grounds, she says. Asked to clarify what tactics Giuliani opposed, Levinson declined to offer specifics. “Voters will choose the next commander-in-chief based on their whole record, and we believe the mayor’s record speaks for itself.”

Yes, it certainly does.

Git out

Those of us who grew up in the 1950s and ’60s went to schools where we studied American history and were required to take “Civics,” so we could understand the basics of how our government worked. That’s no longer happening in much of the country. We have billionaires like the Koch brothers working to limit kids’ educational opportunities and fill their textbooks with lies. Many younger people don’t have the educational foundation to understand and give context to Giuliani’s hate-filled words. I fear that in my lifetime I’ll never see the end of the social and ideological divisions that began when I was just a kid and the Vietnam war was raging.

Yesterday, Dakinikat posted a link to this NY Daily News op-ed by Giuliani biographer Wayne Barrett. Everyone should read this amazing takedown: What Rudy Giuliani knows about love — a response to his ‘doesn’t love America’ critique of Obama.

Ask Regina Peruggi, the second cousin he grew up with and married, who was “offended” when Rudy later engineered an annulment from the priest who was his best man on the grounds, strangely enough, that she was his cousin. Or ask Donna Hanover, the mother of his two children, who found out he wanted a separation when he left Gracie Mansion one morning and announced it at a televised press conference.

Or ask Judi Nathan, his third wife, whom he started dating while still married to Hanover and New York mayor. In two SUVs, he and an entourage of six or seven cops traveled 11 times to Judi’s Hamptons getaway at a taxpayer cost of $3,000 a trip. That’s love.

In response to Giuliani’s claims about Obama’s upbringing, Barrett wrote:

Giuliani went so far as to rebuke the President for not being “brought up the way you were and the way I was brought up through love of this country,” a bow no doubt to the parenting prowess of Harold Giuliani, who did time in Sing Sing for holding up a Harlem milkman and was the bat-wielding enforcer for the loan-sharking operation run out of a Brooklyn bar owned by Rudy’s uncle.

Though Rudy cited Harold throughout his public life as his model (without revealing any of his history), he and five Rudy uncles found ways to avoid service in World War II. Harold, whose robbery conviction was in the name of an alias, made sure the draft board knew he was a felon. On the other hand, Obama’s grandfather and uncle served. His uncle helped liberate Buchenwald, which apparently affected him so deeply he stayed in the family attic for six months when he returned home.

Please go read the rest at the Daily News link.

yogi-berra-quotes-12

Here are some more responses to Giuliani’s hateful attacks for your Saturday reading pleasure.

Two from Jonathan Capehart: Rudy Giuliani dives into Dinesh D’Souza’s anti-Obama dumpster and Giuliani continues his ugly race to the bottom against Obama.

Jamie Bouie: The Past Perfect. It’s absurd to question Obama’s patriotism. But Rudy Giuliani is right that Obama isn’t like his predecessors.

David A. Graham at The Atlantic: What Does It Mean for Obama to Love or Hate America?

Amy Davidson at The New Yorker: Rudy Giuliani and the Meaning of Love.

Jeffrey Toobin at The New Yorker: The Paranoid Style of Rudy Giuliani.

Philip Bump at The Fix: Rudy Giuliani and the ‘love it or leave it’ view of America.

So that’s my take on the Rudy ruckus. What stories are you following today?

 


Friday Reads: A Sign of the Overlord Apocalypse

Good Morning!old store

It’s been since at least November since I’ve had some time to myself when I wasn’t completely in need of tons of sleep so I’m enjoying spending some time in bed with my feet up getting my reads on.  There’s not been a lot that’s intrigued me but it beats designing and updating an on line International Finance Class, believe me.  So, imagine my sheer joy when I found out that Walmart broke down and upped its wages.

There are several reasons the America’s #1 corporation and chain store made the leap.  It was probably a combination of fear of unionization and the incredible employee turnover rate.  It really costs to hire and train new workers so upping the salary is really the required move for that one.  There’s a lot of analysis on the deed so I’d thought I’d take a look at it.  First up, Joe Pinsker at The Atlantic discusses the move.

The CEO of Walmart announced earlier today that all of the company’s employees will, starting in April, be paid at least $9 an hour, nearly $2 more than the federal minimum wage. That’s still far short of the $15 per hour pushed for by OUR Walmart, a union-like group of Walmart workers. Still, it’s a change for a company that has stubbornly opposed such a raise for years.

Walmart’s CEO framed the raise as an act of corporate benevolence, but the reason his company will inch closer to paying all its employees fair wages has little to do with goodwill (few business decisions do). If Walmart has determined that it’ll need to start paying higher wages to stay competitive, then other retailers might arrive at the same conclusion. This isn’t an isolated act of corporate social responsibility—it’s a response to the current realities of labor economics that will likely inform the behavior of other American employers.

1922_Detroit_storeThis is a pretty good sign that the economy is doing well enough that workers are beginning to be able to trade up to better jobs.  It’s the best sign that I’ve seen yet that the economy has really started to recover from the financial crisis. 

Some companies have set even higher wage floors more in line with living wage expectations. Most recently, for example, Aetna set its floor for US workers at $16 an hour, twice the current federal minimum wage.

Higher wages are exactly what the financial doctors have ordered to cure America’s ailing economy. According to the Economic Policy Institute, it would take a wage growth of at least 3.5% to 4% for workers to feel the impact of the recovery. In 2014, the average hourly pay went up by just 1.7%.

“Raising wages among low-wage workers shifts income into the pockets of workers and families that are highly likely to quickly spend every additional dollar they earn,” says David Cooper, economic analyst at the Economic Policy Institute.

“So even though some businesses have to pay their workers more, they see more customers coming through the door because now there’s additional dollars rippling out through local economies in a way that doesn’t really happen if those dollars just go back into the bank accounts of corporate shareholders.”

It’s taken awhile for the plight of low income workers to attract any kind of attention from decision makers despite the huge amount of media attention focused on income inequality and the general lack of demand at stores that cater to the majority of Americans.  Sooner or later, something had to give.  It certainly wasn’t going to be any Republican-led legislature.

So what has changed? The simple answer is that the world for employers is very different with a 5.7 percent unemployment rate (the January level) than it was five years ago, at 9.8 percent. Finding qualified workers is harder for employers now than it was then, and their workers are at risk of jumping ship if they don’t receive pay increases or other improvements. Apart from pay, Walmart executives said in their conference call with reporters that they were revising their employee scheduling policies so that workers could have more predictability in their work schedules and more easily get time off when they needed it, such as for a doctor’s appointment.

The giant question now is not whether there will be some meaningful wage gains in 2015; beyond the anecdotal evidence from Walmart and Aetna, the collapse in oil prices means even modest pay increases will translate into quite large inflation-adjusted raises. The question is whether wage gains will be strong enough to create a virtuous cycle in which rising pay for the workers at the bottom three-quarters of the income scale, who are most likely to spend the money and get it circulating through the economy, will spur more investment and hiring.

To the degree their logic was, “We think we’re going to need to raise wages this much in the next couple of years anyway to retain good workers and maximize profitability, so we may as well get ahead of the curve and get a public relations bump out of it and announce the plans in a big splashy way,” that would be the best news for American workers. Because that would imply that it won’t just be Walmart workers getting a raise in 2015.

Other news this week is not as good.  We continue to see people justify their bigotry through religious beliefs. Judges around the country aren’t buying it but the justification is popping up in some really odd places including a pediatrician who wouldn’t accept a 6 day old as a patient because her parents are lesbians. 160376_large

Sitting in the pediatrician’s office with their 6-day-old daughter, the two moms couldn’t wait to meet the doctor they had picked out months before.

The Roseville pediatrician — one of many they had interviewed — seemed the perfect fit: She took a holistic approach to treating children. She used natural oils and probiotics. And she knew they were lesbians.

But as Jami and Krista Contreras sat in the exam room, waiting to be seen for their newborn’s first checkup, another pediatrician entered the room and delivered a major blow: The doctor they were hoping for had a change of heart. After “much prayer,” she decided that she couldn’t treat their baby because they are lesbians.

Doctor’s letter: Why she wouldn’t care for baby with 2 moms

“I was completely dumbfounded,” recalled Krista Contreras, the baby’s biological mother. “We just looked at each other and said, ‘Did we hear that correctly?’ …. When we tell people about it, they don’t believe us. They say, ‘(Doctors) can’t do that. That’s not legal.’ And we say, ‘Yes it is.'”

The Contrerases of Oak Park are going public with their story to raise awareness about the discrimination that the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community continues to face. There is no federal or Michigan law that explicitly prohibits discrimination against LGBT individuals.

For months, the couple kept quiet about what happened to them and their baby — Bay Windsor Contreras — at Eastlake Pediatrics last October.

But the pain and frustration wouldn’t go away. So they broke their silence.

“We want people to know that this is happening to families. This is really happening,” said Jami Contreras, 30, who was blindsided that fall day in the doctor’s office. “It was embarrassing. It was humiliating … It’s just wrong.”

Old shops and stores in N.J (10)A judge in Washington state has made a meaningful decision on a Florist that refused service to a gay couple seeking flowers for their wedding.  The bottom line is that religion is not an excuse to refuse public accommodation under the law.

Benton County Superior Court Judge Alex Ekstrom rejected arguments from the owner of Arlene’s Flowers in Richland that her actions were protected by her freedoms of speech and religion. While religious beliefs are protected by the First Amendment, actions based on those beliefs aren’t necessarily protected, he said.

“For over 135 years, the Supreme Court has held that laws may prohibit religiously motivated action, as opposed to belief,” Ekstrom wrote. “The Courts have confirmed the power of the Legislative Branch to prohibit conduct it deems discriminatory, even where the motivation for that conduct is grounded in religious belief.”

Barronelle Stutzman, the owner of Arlene’s Flowers, sold flowers for years to customer Robert Ingersoll. She knew he was gay and that the flowers were for his partner, Curt Freed.

After Washington state legalized same-sex marriage in 2012, Ingersoll went to the shop the following spring to ask Stutzman to do the flowers for his wedding. At the time, floral arrangements for weddings made up about 3 percent of her business.

She placed her hands on his and told him she couldn’t, “because of my relationship with Jesus Christ,” she said in a deposition. As a Southern Baptist, she believed only in opposite-sex marriages.

046618-unley-supermarket-grocery-storePeople use just about anything to justify bigotry but religion seems to be a source of refuge for a huge part of the hate-based discrimination.  You may want to take a look at a new documentary called “Hate in America” if you’d like to hear more about all the issues every one has with bigots.

For more than 30 years, Emmy-winning journalist, documentary filmmaker, and Al Jazeera America anchor Tony Harris has reported on senseless and vicious acts of violence, many fueled by intolerance, fear and hate. In the new Investigation Discovery one-hour special HATE IN AMERICA, Harris partners with The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a non-profit that has been tracking hate groups across the country since 1971, and NBC News’ award-winning production arm Peacock Productions, to examine the current realities of intolerance in America.

According to the SPLC, more than 900 active hate groups currently exist across the United States, from neo-Nazis to anti-government militias, targeting entire classes of people for their race, religion, and sexuality, among other immutable characteristics. Largely propagated by anger and fear over the nation’s ailing economy and the diminishing white majority, that number has been on the rise for over a decade.

Traveling to communities torn apart by violence, Harris pulls back the curtain on what drives modern-day hate, and comes face to face with its victims to examine HATE IN AMERICA.

HATE IN AMERICA premieres on Investigation Discovery on Monday, February 23, at 8/7c.

I’ve often wondered why my attitude towards shopping has changed over time.  I used to love going to the big stores downtown and the clerks all seemed so cheery and glamorous.  The buildings were vast and had huge tall ceilings supported by ornate columns.  The window decorations were incredible during the holidays and they were up such a short period that you had to rush down there just to catch them. It was fun to walk from store to store and each store had its on personality and personalities.  This is so different from today’s megastore where every one is rude and seems to only care about low priced junk. The aisles are tight and packed with crap and the crap is hard to find.  There is very little help and only cashiers in far off places.

I used to think I started disliking stores and shopping just because I’d worked so much retail in high school and college. But, I still love to hit little antique stores in quaint places and will take hours staring down some bargain. I figured I’d just burned out on the entire store experience from those years. But, I still love hopping around the big stores in NYC and I used to love hitting the Maison Blanche in downtown New Orleans when I first moved here.  So much of the things I enjoyed about shopping as a customer are gone.  Also, when I was small, even retail store owners and employees had civilized work hours.  Now, all I can think about it how grumpy every one looks and how junky the merchandise has become since they work night and day on every day imaginable. I’ve taken to ordering a lot of stuff on line just to avoid the overall experience of the ugly buildings, merchandise and people.  The thought of going to a Walmart stresses me out. It’s something I avoid if I can.  So, I don’t know.  What happened?

Whatever happened to a fun day at a store?  Oh, well.  Everything changes and now it’s just all about returning profits to a few at the inconvenience and dismay of the many.

So, those are the two interrelated topics that I’ve been investigating this week.  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 


Thursday Reads

Mt. Rainier avalanche

Mt. Rainier avalanche

Good Morning!!

Tales from the frozen Northeast

Yesterday evening in Cambridge, MA, five people were hit by an “avalanche” of snow that slid off the roof of the local skating rink.

The Boston Globe reports: Five trapped by snow falling from roof of Cambridge ice rink.

One man was completely buried and four other adults were briefly trapped Wednesday evening after snow fell from the roof of a Cambridge skating rink, a police spokesman said.

Four men and one woman were walking on a path between Gold Star Mothers Park and the Simoni Memorial Rink, just south of the McGrath Highway, when a “very compact” section of snow about 30 feet wide and up to 5 feet deep fell from the roof just past 6 p.m., said Jeremy Warnick, a Cambridge police spokesman.

A witness called police, who used snow shovels provided by people at the scene to begin the search for a 34-year-old Cambridge man, the twin brother of another man in the group, who was covered in snow, Warnick said.

His twin and other two men, ages 31 and 30, were briefly buried to the chest but were able to extricate themselves, Warnick said. A 20-year-old woman in the group was not completely buried but suffered injuries to her neck and shoulders, he said.

Cambridge firefighters came to assist the rescue effort, and the Somerville Department of Public Works provided two front-end loaders to remove remaining snow. All five who were hit by the snow had been accounted for by 6:23 p.m., Warnick said. He did not release their identities.

From WBZ (CBS Local Boston), Two People Buried By Falling Snow In Cambridge.

Two people were buried when a massive amount of snow fell off a Cambridge ice rink Wednesday night.

Cambridge Police say five adults were walking down the sidewalk next to the rink when the snow fell.

Dan Delongchamp was the first person on scene and started digging. “I want to say it was five minutes of terror,” Delongchamp said. “Digging in the snow trying to find somebody, it was terrible.”

Delongchamp, of Somerville, was riding his bike near the rink when the snow fell.

“We kept shoveling, kept shoveling, and finally I reached down and I felt something soft, and said this isn’t snow, and it was him,” Delongchamp said.

A 33-year-old man and 20-year-old woman, both of Cambridge – were stuck under the weight of five feet of snow.

Angelo Ciardiello and his crew were around the corner removing snow for the City of Somerville when they learned of the emergency at the nearby Simoni Ice Rink in Cambridge.

“I’d never seen anything like that,” Ciardiello said. “They were buried up to their chest. They were panicked, they were scared.”

Unbelievable.

Snow jumperThe latest craze for younger adults in Boston is jumping or diving out windows and off balconies into deep snow. It has gotten so crazy that the Mayor felt he had to say something about this dangerous pastime.

USA Today reports: Boston mayor to snow daredevils: Chill out.

Think before you jump. Or, don’t jump at all.

That’s the message Boston Mayor Marty Walsh told snow-bound Bostonians at a press conference Tuesday.

Apparently, some of the city’s stir-crazy, thrill-seeking residents are taking to social media with videos of them jumping out of windows into massive snowdrifts.

“I’m asking people to stop their nonsense right now. These are adults jumping out windows. It’s a foolish thing to do, and you could kill yourself,” Walsh said, according to a video of his remarks from the Boston Herald….

“This isn’t Loon Mountain, this is the city of Boston, where we’re trying to remove snow off of the street and it becomes very dangerous. And the last thing we want to do is respond to an emergency call where somebody jumped out of the window because they thought it was a funny thing to do,” Walsh said.

FYI: Loon Mountain is a ski resort in New Hampshire. See more snow diving and jumping photos at The Daily Mail.

Check out this dramatic video of a snow dive:

At MIT, maintenance workers have piled up the snow removed from streets and sidewalks on campus into a huge five-story high  “mountain” on Albany Street near classroom buildings and student dorms. There’s a fence around the area, but people are still getting in to climb the “MIT Alps” and slide down again. Here’s a photo posted on Twitter by Susie Blackmon (via Bustle)

MIT mountain1 daily mail

 

 “Superbug Nightmare” in Los Angeles

If you thought the measles outbreak in California was scary, “you ain’t heard nothing yet,” as Al Jolson used to say.

From the AP, via ABC News: 7 Infected, 2 Dead After ‘Superbug’ Outbreak at Hospital.

Contaminated medical instruments are to blame for infecting seven patients — including two who died — with an antibiotic-resistant and potentially deadly “superbug” at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, hospital officials said. A total of 179 patients may be infected.

They were exposed to Carbapenem-Resistant Enterobacteriaceae, or CRE, during endoscopic procedures between October and January when it was discovered during tests on a patient, said Dale Tate, a University of California, Los Angeles spokeswoman.

The potentially infected patients are being sent free home-testing kits that UCLA will analyze, the university said.

The bacteria may have been a “contributing factor” in the deaths of two patients, a university statement said.

From Mother Jones: A Superbug Nightmare Is Playing Out at an LA Hospital.

In today’s terrifying health news, the LA Timesreports that two medical scopes used at UCLA’s Ronald Reagan Medical Center may have been contaminated with the potentially deadly, antibiotic-resistant bacteria Carbapenem-Resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE). Two patients have died from complications that may be connected to the bacteria, and authorities believe that 179 more patients have been exposed.

Most healthy people aren’t at risk of catching a CRE infection, but in hospitals this bacteria can be quite dangerous: CRE kills as many as half of all people in whom the infection has spread to the bloodstream. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are working with the CA Department of Public Health to investigate the situation, which is expected to result in more infections.

The problem isn’t just in Los Angeles, though. Last month USA Today reported that hospitals around the country struggle with transmissions of bacteria on these scopes—medical devices commonly used to treat digestive-system problems—and there have been several other under-the-radar outbreaks of CRE.

This is pretty scary stuff, considering that in the antibiotics arms race against bacteria, we are starting to fall behind. Due in large part to unnecessary medical prescriptions and overuse of antibiotics in our food supply, these superbugs are on the rise. In a study published last year that focused specifically on hospitals in the Southeastern United States, researchers reported that CRE cases had increased fivefold between 2008 and 2012.

CRE "superbug" backteria

CRE “superbug” backteria

This just reinforces my determination to stay away from antibiotics, doctors, and hospitals unless I’m really sick–like with a 103 degree temperature or something. A little more from the AP article quoted above:

The two medical devices carried the bacteria even though they were sterilized according to the manufacturer’s specifications, UCLA said. “We removed the infected instruments, and we have heightened the sterilization process,” Tate said.

The CDC said that national figures on the bacteria are not kept, but 47 states have seen cases.

Since 2012, there have been about a half-dozen outbreaks reaching as many as 150 patients, according to the Los Angeles Times, which first reported the UCLA outbreak.

One outbreak occurred in Illinois in 2013. Dozens of patients were exposed to CRE, with some cases apparently linked to a tainted endoscope used at a hospital.

A Seattle hospital, Virginia Mason Medical Center, reported in January that CRE linked to an endoscope sickened at least 35 patients, and 11 died, although it was unclear whether the infection played a role in their deaths.

According to the LA Times, as many as 179 patients may have been exposed to CRE in the past several months.

UCLA said it discovered the outbreak late last month while running tests on a patient. This week, it began to notify 179 other patients who were treated from October to January and offer them medical tests. By some estimates, if the infection spreads to a person’s bloodstream, the bacteria can kill 40% to 50% of patients.

At issue is a specialized endoscope inserted down the throats of about 500,000 patients annually to treat cancers, gallstones and other ailments of the digestive system.

These duodenoscopes are considered minimally invasive, and doctors credit them for saving lives through early detection and treatment. But medical experts say some scopes can be difficult to disinfect through conventional cleaning because of their design, so bacteria are transmitted from patient to patient.

These instruments are not the same type used in more routine endoscopies and colonoscopies.

The procedure in question is known as ERCP, or endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography. The superbug is carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae.

Read much more at the link.

Jeb Bush meets the media

Bush brothers

“I’m my own man,” Jeb Bush announced in a speech yesterday. From Reuters:

Republican Jeb Bush staked out a robust vision for U.S. foreign policy in line with party doctrine on Wednesday and sought to ease concerns that he might be influenced by his powerful political family by insisting, “I’m my own man.”

A frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, Bush said he would back a global strategy against Islamic State that “takes them out.”

But he offered no specifics on how to do this and avoided military threats that could reawaken memories of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq launched by his older brother, former President George W. Bush, over weapons of mass destruction that were never found.

Speaking at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, the former Florida governor struck a balance between respecting the service of his father, former President George H.W. Bush, and brother, while suggesting he would make decisions based on circumstances neither of them had to face.

“I’m my own man, and my views are shaped by my own thinking and my own experiences,” Bush said.

Bush’s claim was undermined by his list of foreign policy advisers. The Washington Post reports: Jeb Bush vows to set his own course while tapping longtime family advisers.

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush on Wednesday promised to chart his own course on foreign policy — even as he announced a campaign brain trust associated, in part, with the most contentious policies of his brother’s and father’s presidencies….

In his prepared remarks, Bush mentioned Iraq, where his father and brother waged wars, only in passing — including once by mistake, when he meant to say Iran.

But in a question-and-answer session afterward, Bush addressed the troubled conflict in Iraq during his brother’s administration. “There were mistakes made in Iraq for sure,” he said….

The threat of Iran as a nuclear power is “the defining foreign policy issue of our time,” Bush contended, arguing that the Obama administration has shown itself “unequal to the task.” ….

Meanwhile, the 21 names announced by his campaign-in-waiting as supporters and advisers on foreign policy did not provide much indication of what direction Bush would take.

The list represents the full spectrum of views within the Republican foreign policy establishment — from relative moderates, including former secretaries of state George P. Shultz and James A. Baker III, to staunch neoconservatives such as Iraq war architect Paul D. Wolfowitz.

Yikes!

bush-2000

A few more Jeb links:

The Atlantic: If Jeb Bush Isn’t George W. Bush, Who Is He?

The Fix: Jeb Bush’s foreign policy team is eerily familiar, in one Venn diagram.

Think Progress: Jeb Bush’s Attack On Obama Over Iran Goes Horribly Wrong.

Buzzfeed: Jeb Bush Makes Vague First Foray Into Foreign Policy.

Washington Monthly: Politico Makes Case For Just Declaring Jeb Bush President Right Now.

More News Links

New York Magazine: Justice Department May Sue Ferguson Police Over Racial Bias.

Talking Points Memo: South Dakota Lawmaker says ‘Planned Parenthood Worse Than ISIS’

Undercover Michigan: Michigan Woman dies after accidently shooting herself while Adjusting Bra Holster.

The Missing Leak Sports Blog: Time for Goodell to Step Down?

Tom Curran at Comcast Sportsnet New England: Another black eye for NFL in Deflategate quest.

Politico: Rudy Giuliani says President Obama doesn’t love America (Giuliani supports Scott Walker.)

The Guardian: Chapel Hill ‘hate crime’ response criticised by Muslim lawmaker Keith Ellison.

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

 

 


Wednesday Reads: Photographs and more Cold

slide_282064_2129355_freeGood Morning

 

Well, what do ya know? Obama administration puts immigration protections on hold after order – LA Times

President Obama’s plans to protect millions of immigrants from deportation were frozen on Tuesday while his administration scrambled to appeal an order by a federal judge in Texas temporarily halting the program.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson announced that the Obama administration has put off for now the first step in implementing the program, expanding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals initiative that has granted a temporary reprieve from deportation for nearly 600,000 young people. The administration had been scheduled to begin accepting applications for the expansion Wednesday.

Johnson said the administration was also putting on hold plans for a much larger program, known as Deferred Action for Parents of Americans, which could apply to around 4 million adult immigrants.

“The Department of Justice will appeal that temporary injunction,” Johnson said in a statement, referring to the judge’s order. “In the meantime, we recognize we must comply with it. We fully expect to ultimately prevail in the courts, and we will be prepared to implement DAPA and expanded DACA once we do.”

 

slide_282064_2129311_freeI don’t know…I thought that the Federal Court could not overrule an Executive Order. I mean, seriously…isn’t it a Presidential Order?…Above Congress and stuff? (But you know, I am talking out my ass here. It just felt good to say what I first thought about when I’d heard about this “temporary injunction”….to be honest with y’all.  )

Really, my mind is not working very well the past few days. It sounds crazy, but the only thought I can seem to work on is trying to write out a metaphor for the Koch Brothers, and the lingering effect they will have on our country, as to their crappy Angel Soft toilet paper…and the fibery dingleberries the stuff leaves behind.

Oh sure, they make it out like the product (shit paper) their selling you is the best quality and hell…they say it is so fucking cheap to boot. But the truth of the matter is, you are being fucked in more ways than you realize.  Because they are charging you the same prices for way less than what you used to get, they’ve got a monopoly on the shit paper isle as it is anyway so what choices do you really have…and, as if they do it purposely, those bits of linty irritant only continue to remind you just what an annoying pain in the ass the Koch Brothers really are.  (Oh, and they are going to bring down the whole of civilization as we know it…you’ll see.) But that somehow connects to a reference to a backed up septic tank… due to the said nappy ass toilet paper in the first place, but then you see I am back where I started.

slide_282064_2129374_freeUgh, what the hell am I saying, here are your links for today:

Why Oklahoma Lawmakers Want to Ban AP US History — NYMag

This week in things we wish were just a Colbert Report sketch, an Oklahoma legislative committee overwhelmingly approved a bill that would cut funding for the teaching of Advanced Placement U.S. History. The 11 Republicans who approved the measure over the objections of four Democrats weren’t trying to win over Oklahoma’s lazy high school juniors. Tulsa Worldreports that Representative Dan Fisher, who introduced the bill, lamented during Monday’s hearing that the new AP U.S. History framework emphasizes “what is bad about America,” and doesn’t teach “American exceptionalism.” It’s a complaint that’s been spreading among mostly conservative state legislatures in recent months, and has some calling for a ban on all AP courses.

Earlier this month, the Georgia state Senate introduced a resolution that rejects a new version of the AP U.S. History course for presenting a “radically revisionist view of American history” and minimizing “discussion of America’s Founding Fathers, the principles of the Declaration of Independence, [and] the religious influences on our nation’s history.” It says that if the College Board does not revise the test, Georgia will cut funding for the course. The exam has also sparked controversy in Texas, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Colorado, where students in Jefferson County protested last fall when a school board member said the course should be modified to promote “patriotism,” and discourage “civil disorder, social strife, or disregard of the law.”

ugh…

I can’t bear to link to any more stories like that. Let’s all look at some cool pictures.

Photographer Captures 100 Female Artists In Their Homes And Studios

A great portrait is more than just a frozen reflection of the subject’s appearance. It’s a chance moment, blanketed in natural light, in which the subject’s authentic self is visible in her expression, her stance, her aura. A great portrait blurs the line between a subject and her surroundings, all contributing equally to the overall impression of a singular human being.

Photographer Barbara Yoshida captured not one great portrait, but 100. And to make it all the more glorious, her subjects are all female artists, groundbreaking in their own right.

Vivian Maier, The Mysterious Nanny Behind A Trove Of Brilliant Street Photography, Is Going To The Oscars

slide_282064_2129302_freeThe story of Vivian Maier is probably one of the art world’s most compelling mysteries. A nanny by profession, she was an alarmingly talented and vastly prolific photographer whose keen eye for the mundane produced some of the 20th century’s most intriguing works of street photography. At times she was a Mary Poppins, trekking across a city like Chicago with a gaggle of children passing like ducklings behind her. At other times, she was Weegee, tuned into the pulse of urban centers, her lens drawn to crowds of celebrity, crime and everything squished in between.

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The juxtaposition of being a lifelong caretaker in one moment, chasing kids and bickering with parents, and a relentless documentarian on the other, churning out rolls of film a day, is enigmatic in itself. But the real kick is that Vivian Maier is a name no one truly knew until about 2007. It was then that a former real estate agent named John Maloof unknowingly purchased a box of her photographic negatives for $400. Fast forward through a heavy dose of research and detective work, and you have “Finding Vivian Maier,” the Oscar-nominated film that recounts the life of a woman the art world reveres, but no one actually seems to know.

slide_282064_2129387_freeHow One Artist Is Challenging The Harsh Reality Of Street Harassment In Mexico City

In 2012, Brooklyn-based artist Tatyana Fazlalizadeh embarked upon a project titled “Stop Telling Women to Smile.” The series, comprised of portraits pasted on the sides of buildings, aimed to combat street harassment targeted at women by commanding offenders in public spaces to think before they speak.

“Street harassment is a serious issue that affects women worldwide,” the artist proclaims on her site. “This project takes women’s voices, and faces, and puts them in the street — creating a bold presence for women in an environment where they are so often made to feel uncomfortable and unsafe.”

The Veiled Feminism Of Moroccan-Born Photographer Lalla Essaydi

In his landmark book, Orientalism, the late scholar Edward Said wrote of “exteriority,” a disconnect between the traveler’s fantasies and reality. Reading the travelogues of French writers, Said once explained that he found “representations of the Orient had very little to do with what I knew about my own background in life.”

50 Unexplainable Black & White Photos

That is the least strange of the bunch.

Artists Liven Up A Children’s Hospital With Vibrant Murals, Thus Making Our Day

As you’re probably well aware, hospitals tend not to be the most visually enticing of spaces, especially for kids. Between the fluorescent lights, the sterile aesthetic and the deluge of achromatic hues somewhere between oatmeal and taupe, the spaces where so many humans experience their most physically and emotionally trying moments really aren’t helping much as far as ambiance goes.

That’s where the power of art comes in.

These Are The Ballerinas And Ballerinos Of Instagram

slide_282064_2129365_freeAmerican Ballet Theater icon Misty Copeland has over 402,000 followers on Instagram. To compare, athletes like Venus and Serena Williams have 89,500 and 992,000 followers, respectively. Michael Phelps has 462,000. Danica Patrick has 26,900.

Of course, ballet is easily the most photogenic of the sports. An art form that toes the line between performance and feats of athleticism, it’s filled with pirouettes and arabesques that when frozen in a frame appear like paintings or perfectly sculpted statues. Misty’s Instagram account is filled with shots both on and off a stage, flexing her muscles and practicing her craft. And she’s hardly the only ballerina — or ballerino — to grace the platform. One glimpse at the popular Ballerina Project account, followed by an impressive 641,000, and it’s easy to see why dance fans are quick to double click on the endless stream of posed portraits.

Wherever you stand, be the soul of that place. @wolfordfashion @ballerinaproject_ #wolfordfashion #ballerinaproject #ballerina #rumi #quote #soul #nyc #brooklyn #promenade #water #sky #clouds #wolford

A photo posted by Stephanie Williams (@wheresmytutu) on

This Is Forensic Sculpture, A Combination Of Art And Science That Aims To Solve Cold Cases

slide_282064_2129370_freeEach student at the Forensic Sculpture Workshop at the New York Academy of Art (NYAA) begins with a skull. More specifically, each begins with a plaster replica of a real human skull made by a medical examiner, a facsimile of an unidentified crime victim in New York City.

From this foundation, the students sculpt a face, using a block of clay and whatever information they can glean from the ongoing investigations — such as age, height, gender and race. They also included grimmer details, such as the locations of bullet holes or crushed bones.

The resulting sculptures, lifelike in their realistic portrayals, capture the likenesses of unknown citizens who faced cruel and untimely deaths from a variety of gruesome circumstances, in the hopes that someone walking by the university windows will see a face and recognize it.

From The Womb To The World, These Babies Were Photographed Just Seconds After Birth

In his series “Cesar,” the French artist captures babies in their first moments of life — specifically, between three and 18 seconds of existing outside the womb. As you may have ascertained from the project’s title, all of Berthelot’s subjects underwent (and survived) a Caesarean section — a procedure in which the baby is removed via an incision in the mother’s abdomen. Berthelot’s first child was born after a C-section, serving as the inspiration for this powerful project.

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Rare Photos Of What The Circus Looked Like Nearly A Century Ago

The circus has always been a space rife with visual splendor. Long before a certain FX anthology series brought “freak shows” into the pop culture conversation, the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey made clowns and acrobats essential elements of entertainment when they merged in 1919. In fact, together, they amounted to “The Greatest Show on Earth.”

 

Witness the Death of the ’60s in Ken Light’s Era-Defining Photos | Mother Jones

Ken Light’s photos from 1969 to 1974 document the social landscape of America as it frayed at the seams, rife with turmoil. As a young photographer, Light captured the country at this pivotal moment, and his frontline protest photos in Ohio and political images from the 1972 Republican Convention in Miami show the opposite ends of the spectrum.

But the photos that make his new book, American Stories in the Age of Protest, so great are less-familiar ones: the everyday person out waving flags in support of Nixon, the garage band taking to a makeshift stage in support of McGovern, the kids hanging out in West Oakland. It’s photos like these, so common at the time, that gain importance with age. They give contour and meaning to historical projects such as this.

Thirteen Most by Luc Sante | The Gallery | The New York Review of Books

And more:

slide_282064_2129349_freeLight reveals new details of Paul Gauguin’s creative process — ScienceDaily

History News Network | The real inventor of Monopoly finally getting some credit

Exploring the teenage brain, and its drive for immediate reward — ScienceDaily

Raw Eggs and No Husband Since ’38 Keep Her Young at 115 – NYTimes.com

Meet the lamb that thinks it’s a sheep dog – CBBC Newsround

Sheep Forgets How To Sheep, Frolics With Dogs Instead

BBC News – The Seattle pig who thinks she is a dog

Think of this as an open thread, there is just one more thing…try and stay warm cause it is fucking cold out there.