Monday Reads

hanashobu_irises_vintage_japanese_ukiyo_e_art_poster-r10616fe3729c4efb83abd5d6038ac407_fjged_8byvr_512Good Morning!

There’s a lot going on in the middle east as tensions mount between Syria and Israel.  The situation continues to unravel.

Israeli jets devastated Syrian targets near Damascus on Sunday in a heavy overnight air raid that Western and Israeli officials called a new strike on Iranian missiles bound for Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

As Syria’s two-year-old civil war veered into the potentially atomic arena of Iran’s confrontation with Israel and the West over its nuclear program, people were woken in the Syrian capital by explosions that shook the ground like an earthquake and sent pillars of flame high into the night sky.

“Night turned into day,” one man told Reuters from his home at Hameh, near one of the targets, the Jamraya military base.

Former Arizona Congress Woman Gabby Giffords won a profile in courage award in Boston.  Her new role is an outspoken and effective symbol for more gun safety laws.

“It takes real courage to overcome a disability that is so personal,” says Guy McKhann, a leading neurologist at Johns Hopkins University.

Although he hasn’t treated her, he says it was clear that, distinct from cognitive abilities, retrieving the right words is difficult for Giffords. “What she wants to say sometimes doesn’t come out,” McKhann says. (A personal disclaimer: I am chairman of the Profile in Courage Committee that honored her Sunday and have a son with a brain injury.)

On Jan. 8, the two-year anniversary of the shooting, Giffords and Kelly started Americans for Responsible Solutions. They’ve already raised more than $10 million, enlisted more than 300,000 supporters, aired national television ads advocating expanded background checks for gun purchases and campaigned for the measure in a dozen states.

They are perfect for this role. She is a courageous survivor of a gun attack, a former Western member of Congress, a longtime hunter and supporter of gun rights. He is a combat veteran, Navy pilot and space shuttle commander. The National Rifle Association can’t paint them as effete foes of the Second Amendment.

In January, Giffords delivered emotional testimony on the measure to the Senate Judiciary Committee. She and Kelly personally lobbied members. Before last month’s Senate vote on the proposal, she sought out Arizona Republican Jeff Flake, a friend from her House days, and blurted out, “Need,” as in we need you. Unlike his Arizona colleague John McCain, who backed the background checks compromise, Flake voted no. The measure failed; since then, polls show a drop in Flake’s home-state popularity.

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If you have young children around, this should scare you.  You should also check the list at the link in the article to see if any of this crap is in your home.

Over 5000 children’s products contain toxic chemicals linked to cancer, hormone disruption and reproductive problems, including the toxic metals, cadmium, mercury and antimony, as well as phthalates and solvents. A new report by the Washington Toxics Coalition and Safer States reveals the results of manufacturer reporting to the Washington State Department of Ecology.

Makers of kids’ products reported using 41 of the 66 chemicals identified by WA Ecology as a concern for children’s health. Major manufacturers who reported using the chemicals in their products include Walmart, Gap, Gymboree, Hallmark, H & M and others. They use these chemicals in an array of kids’ products, including clothing, footwear, toys, games, jewelry, accessories, baby products, furniture, bedding, arts and crafts supplies and personal care products. Besides exposing kids in the products themselves, some of these chemicals, for example toxic flame retardants, build up in the environment and in the food we eat.

Examples of product categories reported to contain toxic chemicals include:

  • Hallmark party hats containing cancer-causing arsenic
  • Graco car seats containing the toxic flame retardant TBBPA (tetrabromobisphenol A)
  • Claire’s cosmetics containing cancer-causing formaldehyde
  • Walmart dolls containing hormone-disrupting bisphenol A

Kinda terrible isn’t it?

Paul Krugman takes to the op ed pages of the NYT again to explain what’s what about Keynesian and austerians.

The basic idea behind Keynesian support for stimulus/opposition to austerity under current conditions is that when private demand is weak and monetary policy is up against the zero lower bound, there is no offset to changes in government spending. This shouldn’t be a hard concept to grasp — in particular, you would think that anyone posing as an economist could grasp the conditional nature of the statement.

Meanwhile, the proof is in the results.  Look at the record highs in the Eurozone unemployment numbers.

European unemployment has hit a new record and Moody’s cut Slovenia’s debt rating to junk status as German Chancellor Angela Merkel defended her crisis strategy, pushing for twin goals of fiscal rigour and growth.

Grim new data showed on Tuesday that European unemployment set a fresh record in March with more than 19 million jobless people — including one out of four under-25-year-olds.

The Eurostat data agency reported an extra 62,000 people joining unemployment queues in just four weeks in the eurozone as the jobless rate climbed for the 23rd consecutive month — hitting 12.1 percent in March.

The frightening new figures — which showed almost two in three under-25s in Greece and Spain unemployed — come amid vocal criticism over the effects on jobs of the cost-cutting measures pushed by austerity advocates.

Anger against austerity is rising across Europe as hard economic data fails to show a turn-around.

Greece saw joblessness climb relentlessly to 27.2 percent in January, the latest available figures, from 26.3 percent in December.

Meanwhile Portugal, with unemployment at 17.5 percent in March, was seeking to agree new austerity measures after its Constitutional Court rejected as discriminatory cuts to civil servant salaries and pensions decided in response to demands by EU-IMF lenders.

In Cyprus, which saw a huge month-to-month rise in unemployment to 14.2 percent against 10.7 percent the previous month, the parliament was to debate the terms of a tough 10-billion-euro EU-IMF bailout.

The EU’s employment and social affairs commissioner Laszlo Andor warned that “EU institutions and governments, business and social partners at all levels need to do all they can to avoid a ‘lost generation'”

There is absolutely no reason for us to relive the Great Depression years and the complete political upheaval that resulted.  I just do not get the obsession with debt.  This is especially true because there is so little evidence for it and what evidence was provided was shown to be falsified, error-riddled, and just plain wrong by these kinds of numbers.

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I wanted to end with a story that should be on every one’s radar but probably isn’t.  Homelessness has been an increasing problem in this country for some time.  So has the lack of treatment for the mentally ill. It’s been a Reagan pogrome that we can’t seem to rid ourselves of.  Here’s the connection between the two. 

Most homeless shelters in the US only take in people who are deemed mentally stable.  Most don’t offer anything beyond basic shelter.

Housing programs that also provide psychological services are in the minority, homeless advocates told me.  The harsh reality is that most homeless people living in the US who also suffer from serious illnesses like bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia and a host of other mental health disorders, are typically turned away from shelters on a nightly basis.

It’s a disturbing statistic when you discover, as I did, that more than 50 percent of the people living on the streets in the US are mentally ill.  Of that number, I was told, less than half are receiving any mental health treatment.

For years, Candace Wood was one of them. I met with Wood in the dining room of Knoxville’s Volunteer Ministry Center (VMC).

For years the mission has dedicated itself to ending homelessness by providing not just housing, but the mental health services that ensures its residents don’t just get off the street, but also have the ability to stay off the street.

Wood told me that before she was connected with the VMC, she was, “wandering around aimlessly.”

“But, I was sick.  I was sick because I didn’t take the medicine,” she said.

Wood said she is bi-polar.  Since she was previously not on medication and was unable to manage her symptoms.  She used to break into buildings to stay warm, hoping it would also get her arrested.  Wood said that in jail she knew she’d get the meals and medication she needed.

Ginny Weatherstone is a passionate advocate for Knoxville’s homeless, she’s also the CEO of Volunteer Ministry Center.  She says Wood’s story is a common one among the homeless who are also mentally ill.

“Three ‘hots’ and a cot.  You get that in jail.  For them, jail is their mental health hospital.  Jail is their housing,” Weatherstone told me.

I’ve always felt that the Reagan and Bush years were all about punishing the poor, the ill, the elderly, the weak, the young, and the feeble.  Statistics show that the wealthy have been doing fabulously since these three presidents reigned.  It really is such a horrible statement on our countries’ priorities.  How can so many folks be so rich and not give a damn about any one else.

The Rich Have Gained $5.6 Trillion in the ‘Recovery,’ While the Rest of Us Have Lost $669 Billion

It’s no accident.
Oh, are we getting ripped off. And now we’ve got the data to prove it. From 2009 to 2011, the richest 8 million families (the top 7%) on average saw their wealth rise from $1.7 million to $2.5 million each. Meanwhile the rest of us —  the bottom 93% (that’s 111 million families) — suffered on average a decline of $6,000 each.

Do the math and you’ll discover that the top 7% gained a whopping $5.6 trillion in net worth (assets minus liabilities) while the rest of lost $669 billion. Their wealth went up by 28% while ours went down by 4 percent.

It’s as if the entire economic recovery is going into the pockets of the rich. And that’s no accident.

Follow the link to the alternet article to read why.
I’m getting ready for a trip to visit my dad and sister.  So, I might be a little out of touch this week.  Just letting you know.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?