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How to Lose to the Islamic State: Obama Administration Considers Deploying Troops to Iraq, Focusing on Assad in Syria

November 30, 2014 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

In 2009 President Barack Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize before doing much of anything. Since then he has initiated two wars, first in Libya and now in Iraq and Syria, and escalated another, in Afghanistan. Alas, he has demonstrated that it is bad to start wars unnecessarily, but even worse to wage wars foolishly.

The administration appears to have lost its collective mind. The president has added ground forces to the battle in Iraq and the military has suggested introducing thousands more. His officials reportedly have decided to focus on overthrowing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the name of fighting the Islamic State.

It is hard to know which of these ideas is worse. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel may not have wanted to leave the Pentagon, but he might be lucky having been left at the curb.

The U.S. has been back at war in the Middle East for nearly three months. The results have not been pretty.

The administration claims to have created a vast coalition of 60 nations, roughly 30 percent of the world’s countries. Alas, as in the past the celebrated gaggle assembled by Washington turned out to be mostly a PR stunt. The U.S. accounts for about 770 of the roughly 900 strikes on Iraq and Syria. The Arab states have done little in the air and nothing afoot. Only Iran, which Washington fears almost as much as ISIL, has put boots on the ground.

Most flagrantly AWOL is Turkey, which has tolerated radical fighters transiting through and even operating on its territory. Many of the Islamic State’s combatants came from Turkey and ISIL has targeted Turkish territory for its caliphate. Yet Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan only cares about the ouster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, once a close friend. And Erdogan expects the U.S. do the job for him.

The administration appears to have lost its collective mind.”

Nor has the administration’s scattershot bombing campaign had much effect. Iraq’s Baghdad has not fallen. That was never likely, however. Kurdistan’s Irbil remains in danger. Syria’s Kobani is unconquered but in ruins, and thousands of its residents have fled.

The Islamic State quickly adjusted its tactics to minimize the vulnerability of its forces. By one count U.S. strikes have killed 464 Islamic State personnel and 57 fighters for Jabhat al-Nusra, an al-Qaeda affiliate. However, Washington’s intervention helped treble the estimated number of ISIL fighters to as many …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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African-American Man Stopped by Michigan Cop for Walking with His Hands in His Pockets

November 30, 2014 in Blogs

By Tom Boggioni, Raw Story

In Michigan, putting your hands in your pockets on a cold day counts as suspicious behavior, if you're black.

An African-American man, out for a walk on a cold Michigan day, was stopped by police after a caller reported that he looked suspicious because he had his hands in his pockets.

Brandon B. Waxx McKean posted video on his Facebook page showing his encounter with a police officer who briefly detained him on Thanksgiving day while he was out for a stroll.

In the video the officer can be seen radioing in, asking dispatch to close out a contact file, before explaining to McKean that he was stopped because he was “making people nervous.”

“Well, you were making people nervous,” the officer explained as he took out his own cellphone and began filming the encounter.

“By walking by?” McKean asked.

“Yeah they said you had your hands in your pockets,” the officer replied.

“Wow,” McKean said. “Walking by, having your hands in your pockets makes people nervous and call the police when it’s snowing outside?” to which the officer admits, “It is.”

Asked by the officer, “What are you up to today?” McKean replied, “Walking, with my hands in my pockets. Walking.”

“Is it an inconvenience talking to me right now?” the officer asked.

“Hell yes. Just because of the whole police situation going on across the country,” an animated McKean replied. “This is outrageous that you would let somebody tell you ‘Oh, there’s somebody walking down the street with their hands in their pockets.’ There’s ten thousand people in Pontiac right now with their hands in their pockets, so how many —”

The police officer agreed saying, “That’s right, but we do have a lot of robberies, so I’m just checking on you. You’re fine, you’re good.”

McKean pointed out that both he and the officer were both being “respectable” — at which point the officer high-fives him — before adding, “I’m really mad at the situation, whoever called. That’s crazy.”

The officer replied that he had to check it out, adding that he would do the same thing if McKean had called.

McKean can be heard saying, “For …read more


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Depression: It's Not Just in Your Head, It's Also in Your Genes

November 29, 2014 in Blogs

By Lloyd Sederer, Huffington Post

We need to understand our genetic predispositions to undo the stigma around mental disorders.

Ninety-seven healthy girls, ages 10 to 14, had saliva DNA samples taken. About half of them had moms with histories of depression, and about half had moms who did not. None of the girls had histories of depression.

The girls whose moms had suffered depression had significant reductions in the length of their telomeres. We all want to understand telomeres, the caps at the ends of our DNA strands, because the longer they are the longer we tend to live — and live freer of age related illnesses like heart disease, stroke, dementia, diabetes and osteoporosis. The girls whose moms didn't have histories of depression, the control group of the study, did not show the same changes in their DNA as a result of reductions in the length of their telomeres.

The researchers took the study another step: they compared both groups of girls, the former or “high-risk” group and the control or “low-risk” group, by measuring their response to stressful mental tasks. The children of moms with depression had significantly higher levels of cortisol, our stress hormone, released during these tasks than those in the control group; both had normal levels of cortisol before the stressful tasks.

These findings are what scientists call associations, namely highly significant events found together that are unlikely to co-occur randomly. In themselves, they don't prove one caused the other, but they suggest that something important, not accidental, is going on. This study demonstrated shorter telomeres in daughters of moms who had depression and greater hormonal reactivity to stress in these girls.

When the girls were followed until age 18, 60 percent of those in the high-risk group developed depression, a condition that was not evident when they were first studied. The telomere was a biomarker, an individual hallmark that a person is at higher risk for an illness — in this case for depression. We already knew that shortened telomeres were a risk factor for chronic, physical diseases but now the evidence is emerging for its likely role in depression.

Should you …read more


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'Type A' Personalities Are Overachieving Monsters

November 29, 2014 in Blogs

By Emma Brockes, The Guardian

‘Type A’ isn’t a type – it’s the ultimate humblebrag. Get out of my spin class and back to banking.


One of the things you get used to, when you live in New York, is encountering a large number of people who preface their statements with this phrase: “I’m a type A personality, so…”

In the last couple of weeks, I have heard the phrase used by an American woman in the final stages of pregnancy, discussing her “birth goals”; a British woman discussing the difficulties she’d been having with “the help”; and a website devoted exclusively to “alpha parents”, which I gather means parents who think very highly of themselves.

Whatever the context, using the words “I’m type A” is often a prelude to some form of conversational douche-baggery.

The people identifying as type A in these circumstances use the term as a synonym for success. Type A, in common parlance, is an advertisement for the self along the lines of: Hey, I may be a bit maddening at times, but it’s only because I have higher standards than you. Anyone who objects to the way of the A-type is merely displaying her position further down the evolutionary chain.

So universal is this interpretation of type A that it has become a principle of marketing. The New York Times just ran a story about Unplug, a new meditation franchise that has opened in Los Angeles, specifically offering “meditation for Type A personalities” and – brace yourselves – “a SoulCycle for meditation”. (Unplugged may be brilliant, but this particular sales spin is bonkers: meditation seeks to dismantle the very hierarchies and categories of achievement upon which the pitch relies. SoulCycle, on the other hand, is about re-reinforcing those categories by pretending the stationery bike you’re on is a mountain that you are conquering – a mountain probably made out of cash and the skulls of type B personalities.)

The funny thing is, this is not at all how the term “type A” was initially intended to be used. It first reached the mainstream in a 1974 book called “Type A Behavior and …read more


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Why Are These Clowns Winning? Secrets of the Right-Wing Brain

November 29, 2014 in Blogs

By Paul Rosenberg, Salon

Bush tanked the country. Now the right's again running the show. Neuroscience explains incompetence of all sides.

When George W. Bush became president in 2001, it marked the first time in 70 years that conservative Republicans controlled all three branches of government. By the time Bush left office, we were all reminded why. The financial crisis and resulting global economic meltdown Bush left us with were eerily reminiscent of the Great Depression, but there was also 9/11, the Iraq War and Katrina—a multifaceted record of spectacular failure so stunning that it should have disqualified conservative Republicans from holding power for at least another seven decades.  Yet, the Democrats’ political response to the many messes Bush left behind has been so spectacularly inept that they’ve not only lost both houses of Congress, they’ve also lost more state legislative seats than any time since before the Great Recession.

There are many ways one might explain this state of affairs—and certainly the rise of Wall Street Democrats and the decline of labor played crucial roles. But beyond any particular issue area, there’s also the matter of differences in how liberals and conservatives think—and how they act and organize as a result.

As I’ve written before, a growing body of literature reveals that liberals and conservatives think differently from one another in ways that can even be traced back, in part, to the level of instinctual response, reflecting conservatives’ heightened sensitivity to threat bias. This work is congruent with an integrated multi-factor account offered by John Jost and three co-authors in the 2003 meta-analysis “Political Conservatism as Motivated Social Cognition.” In their abstract, they explained,  “Analyzing political conservatism as motivated social cognition integrates theories of personality (authoritarianism, dogmatism–intolerance of ambiguity), epistemic and existential needs (for closure, regulatory focus, terror management), and ideological rationalization (social dominance, system justification).” Their meta-analysis integrated findings from 88 sample studies in 12 countries, with 22,818 individual subjects—meaning it drew on a substantial body of work by others.

Yet, once publicized, it drew such a hostile response there was even talk of Congress defunding the entire field of research into …read more


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5 Awful Right-Wing Moments This Week: GOPer’s Bizarre Facebook Rant Against Sasha and Malia Obama

November 29, 2014 in Blogs

By Janet Allon, AlterNet

The right found plenty of ways to be offensive besides Ferguson.

Racist reactions to the Ferguson grand jury’s refusal to indict Darren Wilson dominated the right-wing airwaves this week, not to mention Wilson’s own televised assertion that he’d shoot Michael Brown all over again. But resourceful Fox newsians and Republican operatives aimed their offensive comments at other topics as well. Here’s a sampling.

1. Insane GOP staffer writes open letter to Sasha and Malia Obama criticizing their facial expressions and bar-ready attire.

Sasha and Malia Obama crossed their arms and did not laugh much at their father’s attempt at humor during the somber annual oval office turkey pardon this week. Also, the two teenagers wore skirts. All of this really pissed off GOP staffer Elizabeth Lauten, former new media political director for the Republican National Committee, who thought it a good idea to write an open letter to the first daughters on Facebook:

“Dear Sasha and Malia,” Lauten began, “I get that you’re both in those awful teen years, but you’re part of the First Family, try showing a little class.”

In case the Obamas don’t know what class is, Lauten is just the gal to show them.

“At least respect the part that you play. Then again your mother and father don’t respect their positions very much, or the nation for that matter, so I’m guessing you’re coming up a little short in the ‘good role model’ department.”

Sweet, right? She really cares, and she is in no way attacking a 13- and 16-year-old in order to make a political point.

“Nevertheless, stretch yourself, rise to the occasion,” she continued, sagely. “Act like being in the White House matters to you. Dress like you deserve respect, not a spot at a bar. And certainly don’t make faces during televised, public events.”

For the record, they wore skirts and sweaters and rolled their eyes when their dad made a corny joke. Straight to reform school they go.

Shockingly, people reacted negatively to Lauten’s letter. I mean, she was just saying. So, she did what any reasonable person would do. She prayed. And she asked her mommy and …read more


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ABC Reportedly Paid Darren Wilson Six Figures for Interview

November 29, 2014 in Blogs

By Alex Ellefson, AlterNet

ABC engaged in a bidding war to score the first interview with Darren Wilson.

ABC offered Darren Wilson a “mid-to-high” six figure payment to give his first and only public interview on the network, according to the website Got News.

An unnamed source from NBC reportedly told the website that both networks engaged in a bidding war to score the first interview with Wilson but NBC backed out after its rival “upped the ante.”

The interview was taped in an undisclosed location and broadcast on Tuesday, the day after a grand jury decided not indict Wilson for the fatal shooting of unarmed black teenage Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. The grand jury’s decision set off protests and riots in Ferguson and many other U.S. cities. Demonstrators called for justice in the killing of Brown and criticized the police and prosecutors for how they investigated and tried the case.

During the interview, which was conducted by ABC host George Stephenopoulos, Wilson gave his account of the events that took place before he killed Michael Brown. Most of what Wilson told ABC was already covered in his testimony before the grand jury. When asked by Stephenopoulos if there was anything he could have done differently, Wilson said “No.”

ABC and Stephenopoulos, who during the interview looked more like a boy scout listening to a campfire story than a reporter trying to uncover the truth, have been criticized for not challenging Wilson’s account of the incident. People took to Twitter to express their dislike for the interview.


…read more


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U.S. Tycoon Rails Against France

November 29, 2014 in Blogs

By Agence France-Presse

Maurice Taylor, CEO of Titan International, said French laws and unions prevented him from investing in a stricken factory.

A U.S. tire tycoon on Friday ridiculed French laws and trade unions that he said had prevented him from investing in a stricken factory, saying France should become “Communist.”

Maurice Taylor, chief executive of Titan International, had initially expressed interest in taking over the loss-making Goodyear tire plant in Amiens, northern France.

But he pulled out of the deal and explained why to France Info radio.

“You can’t buy Goodyear. Under your law, we have to take a minimum of 662 or 672 employees. You can’t do that. The most you could take is 333 … there’s no business for that plant now,” said Taylor.

“I tried to tell them all that before but you guys have got to wake up over there and tell the unions, ‘Hey if they’re so smart, they should buy the factory’.

“It’s stupid. It’s the dumbest thing in the world. France should just become Communist and then when it goes all bad like Russia did, then maybe you’d have a chance,” added Taylor.

Goodyear announced in January last year that it was closing the factory, which employs 1,173 people, after years of negotiations with unions failed to come up with a solution to save jobs.

Unions launched a series of legal proceedings against the company, but to no avail.

Taylor, known as “The Grizz” for his tough talk, has made waves before for his comments on France.

In 2013, he wrote a letter to the French industrial renewal minister calling French workers lazy and overpaid after years of negotiations by Titan to take over the plant had failed.

“They get one hour for breaks and lunch, talk for three and work for three. I told this to the French union workers to their faces. They told me that’s the French way!” wrote Taylor.

The minister at the time, Arnaud Montebourg, hit back, telling Taylor: “Your extremist insults display a perfect ignorance of what our country is about.”

“Be assured that you can count on me to inspect your tire imports with a redoubled …read more


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Game Reviewer Strikes Back at Male Stalkers With a Brilliant New Ploy: Telling Their Moms

November 29, 2014 in Blogs

By Tom Boggioni, Raw Story

After young gamer harassed her and threatened rape, Alanah Pearce turned the tables on him.

Tired of harassment, rape threats, and obscene commentary from gamers stalking her on Facebook and Twitter, a female Australian game reviewer for digital TV show Button Bash is striking back at her harassers in a new way: Telling their moms.

Alanah Pearce, who tweets under the name, @Charalanahzard, posted a recent exchange she had with the mother of one such stalker who was threatening her on Facebook.

While many other women have reported rape and murder threats to the police and FBI — sometimes having to leave their homes and go into hiding – or had their personal information exposed online, the 20-year-old Pearce is using her social media skills to track down the profiles of the angry gamers and fighting back.

Under a tweet reading, “Sometimes young boys on Facebook send me rape threats, so I’ve started telling their mother,” Pearce shared an exchange she had with the mother of one young man that began, “Hi Anna, I Don’t know you but I was wondering if [redacted] is your son?”

When the mother replied, “yes he is why,” Pearce shared the rape threat she received via Facebook, to which the mother replied, “OMG little shit. IM SO SORRY. YES I WILL TALK TO HIM!!!”

In an interview with The Guardian, Pearce responded to a story from 2012 where a Twitter user tracked down a harasser and received an apology. “That would be a perfect resolution,” said Pearce, telling the Guardian that she believes the harassment she’s been receiving is directly related to the Gamergate controversy.

Later this afternoon, Pearce tweeted that she wasn’t entirely comfortable attributing these specific threats to gamergate, writing,” Yeah. I’m not comfortable suggesting that this is related to GG. There’s no indication of that.”

Pearce has not posted any more exchanges with mother on whether her young stalker has apologized or has been given a timeout from playing Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare.

See her tweet below and click on the exchange between Pearce and the mother:

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What People Abroad Really Think of Americans

November 28, 2014 in Blogs

By Bess Rattray, Salon

Living in a small Canadian town taught me the near-obsession of outsiders' scorn. Finally, I'm ready to push back.

We litter. We are loud. We are fat. We eat standing up. We drive aggressively. We don’t make eye contact. We don’t open doors for people. We rush. We are rude to wait staff in restaurants. We are prone to domestic violence. We are spoiling for a fight. We put our nose into others’ business. We are sanctimonious. We think we won the War of 1812. We manufacture bad cars, brew bad beer and eat flavorless potato chips. We won’t stop waving the flag. We are bad sports, especially during the Olympics. We think we are the center of the universe, and that money entitles us to everything. But the worst of our sins? We brag—nonstop.

These are just a few of the charms of Americans, according to my friends and neighbors just north of the border. It’s been five years since I married a boat builder and moved from New York City to a tiny, briny town on Nova Scotia’s lobster coast, and for five years I have gritted my teeth and smothered my indignation.

I hear these kinds of extempore critiques constantly—in jests and jibes, in casual conversations at the hair salon, the bookstore, the coffee shop, the day-care walkathon. My Nova Scotian friends and neighbors are not at all shy about sharing their observations and opinions with me, even though they know perfectly well that I am the devil that lives among them. They seem to enjoy it, in fact. They get a twinkle in their eye.

A few weeks ago, at a bachelorette party, I asked a few of my fellow townsfolk to share any further attributes they don’t like about Americans—“Come on! Don’t be shy”—and they were only too delighted to lengthen the list: Our schools are no good; we don’t know how to dress for cold weather; we are incapable of laughing at ourselves; our smiles look fake …

This is the boondocks—proudly so—and in the boondocks, if you want to know what’s on everyone’s mind, you go on …read more