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8 Horrible Truths About Police Brutality and Racism in America Laid Bare by Ferguson

November 26, 2014 in Blogs

By Steven Rosenfeld, AlterNet

African Americans and communities of color face many ugly obstacles.


The hard truths about American racism exposed by Ferguson aren’t going away. That’s the case, even as the first African-American president, Barack Obama, responding to Monday’s renewed rioting, said, “Nothing of significance, nothing of benefit, results from destructive acts.” Racism is real, Obama said, and he urged Americans to “mobilize,” “organize,” find the “best policies,” and “vote.”

Yet on the ground in Ferguson, where the white policeman who shot an unarmed black man was exonerated by a local grand jury and went on national television and said he would do the same thing again, Obama’s words stung. There are specific and surprising reasons why the rage over Ferguson isn’t going away. In the St. Louis suburb and across America, blacks and other people of color still face embedded racism and second-class treatment. Political leaders have not brought change; they have failed to curb excessive policing and incarceration rates or create economic opportunities and hope people can believe in.

“The uprising in Ferguson was an inevitable reaction to the institutional racism coursing through the area for decades,” wrote HandsUpDontShoot.com, citing the example of police padding municipal budgets by going overboard with issuing traffic tickets to the poor, followed by even more punitive arrest warrants if people have not paid their fines.

Here are eight terrible facts and trends about abusive policing and institutional racism laid bare by the Ferguson uprising.

1. Darren Wilson was trained to kill and did. It was shocking that a local grand jury did not indict Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson for killing Michael Brown. But no one predicted Wilson would go on TV and say he did as he was trained, and tell the nation he would do it again. Wilson told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that he has a “clear conscience” and that he would have done the same thing if he had faced a white assailant.

His lack of remorse is not just maddening, but points to a problem that is much bigger than Ferguson: how local police have become paramilitary machines with officers trained, equipped …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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What Rolling Stone’s Blockbuster UVA Rape Exposé Really Tells Us

November 26, 2014 in Blogs

By Andi Zeisler, Salon

It shouldn’t take a public shaming for a school to value the lives of rape survivors.


Rolling Stone’s Nov. 19 investigative report “A Rape on Campus” is one of the best articles I wish I’d never had to read. Sabrina Rubin Erdely’s article, which opens with a breathtakingly cruel act of anonymous gang rape in a University of Virginia fraternity house, turned my stomach. As it unfolded into a litany of similar stories, most of which resulted in deliberate head-in-the-sand reactions on the part of the university, it made my temples pulse with secondhand anxiety. And as the ending revealed that, as of press time, no justice had been served on the part of women raped at UVA, I was furious.

And the story was exactly the bombshell it was intended to be. Within hours of its publication, current students and alumni wrote in to share their own stories of assault at UVA and echo Erdely’s portrait of institutional apathy. On Friday, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced that he had spoken with university officials and would be urging that a full investigation be carried out. University faculty spoke out strongly against administrative inaction on behalf of victims, and on Saturday organized a “Take Back the Party” rally that emphasized safety and consent for all students. Saturday was also when UVA president Teresa Sullivan suspended all campus fraternities until the beginning of the spring semester — at which time, her memo noted, there would be serious discussion and plans to address sexual violence on campus.

The spring semester, it’s worth noting, begins Jan. 9, so the suspension — amounting to about six weeks, the bulk of which is winter break — seems ornamental at best. And the rest of Sullivan’s posturing can’t help seeming deeply disingenuous in light of the portrait of her in “A Rape on Campus.” In it, she seems to suggest that having recently hosted the nation’s first-ever summit on sexual assault for college administrators equates with UVA itself being completely transparent about its own history of campus assaults. Yet, as Erdely notes, “her most …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Darren Wilson and Cops of His Ilk Are Guard Dogs for White America

November 26, 2014 in Blogs

By Chauncey DeVega, AlterNet

Darren Wilson is not a monster; he is the mundane face of white supremacy.


When Darren Wilson dropped his secretive mask in an exclusive interview on ABC, the world saw an unremarkable face. Wilson is a common man with a forgettable face and build; he is elevated by his police uniform, badge and gun into someone who “matters.” This is the greatest power of the police uniform—the ability to transform a small man into someone important.

When asked about his deadly encounter with Michael Brown, Darren Wilson told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that he “has a clean conscience” and no regrets.

Some might respond to those comments with the conclusion that Wilson’s confidence in his deeds is a sign of sociopathy. Others might read Wilson’s comments on ABC and his grand jury testimony as evidence of his racism and a casual disregard for the lives of black people. That conclusion is much more compelling, as it is factually grounded in Wilson’s expressed beliefs that Michael Brown was a “giant negro,” a “demon” with superhuman speed and strength who grunted like a feral beast and possessed the ability to resist bullets.

Ironically, Darren Wilson’s answers to Stephanopoulos that “he was doing his job,” and would do nothing different if given the opportunity, are the most honest claims in an investigation and jury process riddled with impropriety, conflicts of interest and corruption.

Police officer Darren Wilson is not a monster; he is the mundane and day-to-day face of white supremacy as experienced by people of color in the United States.

Liberals would love for Wilson to be a monster or some beast from the beyond, a caricature of deranged whiteness, because he could be vanquished, one more shadow of the past forced into the light and out of the public square.

Conservatives would also love for Wilson to be a monster. He would be an outlier that the white right could use as proof that racism is largely nonexistent in American public life and that people of color are unreasonably obsessed over the uncommon and rare.

Darren Wilson, who is not a monster, is the human embodiment of an …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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6 Things You Should Really Know About Your Turkey

November 26, 2014 in Blogs

By Jaeah Lee, Mother Jones

Some food for thought as we stuff ourselves around the dinner table this Thanksgiving.


The following article first appeared in Mother Jones Magazine. Click here to subscribe.

The short, filling life of a factory-farmed turkey.

Photo Credit: 
Ohio Department of Natural Resources, National Turkey Federation/Mother Jones

 

Most turkey feathers and skin end up…

Photo Credit: 
National Turkey Federation/Mother Jones

 

Average weight of turkyes 1965-2012

Photo Credit: 
USDA/Mother Jones

 

Turkeys: typical lifetime consumption.

Photo Credit: 
National Turkey Federation/Mother Jones

 

This Thanksgiving, American will eat an estimated 46 million turkeys.

<!– All divs have …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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NSA Reform — The Consequences of Failure

November 26, 2014 in Economics

By Patrick G. Eddington

Patrick G. Eddington

If you were expecting this to be a detailed post-mortem on the demise of the USA Freedom Act, you will be disappointed. As others have covered that ground, I want to focus on the consequences of the failure to rein in NSA to date, and what a failure to do so in 2015 will mean for this country.

In the absence of real reform, people and institutions at home and abroad are taking matters into their own hands. In America, the NSA’s overreach is changing the way we communicate with and relate to each other. In order to evade government surveillance, more and more Americans are employing encryption technology. 

The veritable explosion of new secure messaging apps like SurespotOpenWhisper’s collaboration with WhatsApp, the development and deployment of open source anti-surveillance tools like Detekt, the creation of organizationally-sponsored “surveillance self-defense” guides, the push to universalize the https protocol, anti-surveillance book events featuring free encryption workshops— are manifestations of the rise of the personal encryption and pro-privacy digital resistance movement. Its political implications are clear: Americans, along with people around the world, increasingly see the United States government’s overreaching surveillance activities as a threat to be blocked.

The failure of the Congress and the courts to end the surveillance state is only fueling the growing resistance movement.”

The federal government’s vacuum-cleaner approach to surveillance—manifested in Title II of the PATRIOT Act, the FISA Amendments Act, and EO 12333—has backfired in these respects, and the emergence of this digital resistance movement is one result. Indeed, the existence and proliferation of social networks hold the potential to help this movement spread faster and to more of the general public than would have been possible in decades past. This is evidenced by the growing concern worldwide about governments’ ability to access reams of information about people’s lives with relative ease. As one measure, compared to a year ago, 41% of online users in North America now avoid certain Internet sites and applications, 16% change who they communicate with, and 24% censor what they say online. Those numbers, if anywhere close to accurate, are a major concern for democratic society.

But it’s unclear that the privacy technologies offered as solutions will prove effective over the long-term. In the ongoing cat-and-mouse game between digital defenders and surveillance practitioners, it will only be a matter of time before someone …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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U.S. Filled Okinawa with Bases and Japan Kept Them There: Okinawans Again Say No

November 26, 2014 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

The U.S. is over-burdened militarily and effectively bankrupt financially, but Washington is determined to preserve every base and deployment, no matter how archaic. Such as the many military facilities in Okinawa, which risks sinking under the plethora of American installations, runways, materiel, and personnel. No wonder the Okinawan people again voted against being conscripted as one of Washington’s most important military hubs.

The Ryukyu Islands once were independent, but in the late 19th century were seized by Imperial Japan. Okinawans suffered terribly in April 1945 from the so-called “Typhoon of Steel” during the American invasion. The U.S. held onto the territory afterwards, filling it with bases before finally returning Okinawa to Japan in 1972. Even now the Pentagon controls roughly one-fifth of the land, including several beautiful beaches.

Opposition to the overpowering American presence crystalized nearly two decades ago after the rape of a teenage girl by U.S. military personnel. Gov. Masahide Ota led the campaign to downsize America’s presence and large numbers of Okinawans turned out in protest. However, political activism eventually ebbed. The national government in Tokyo continued to pacify and pay off as many Okinawans as possible, while promoting various schemes to rearrange the local burden.

The bases remain because no one else in Japan wants to host American military forces. Thus, Tokyo politicians have every incentive to keep the U.S. presence concentrated (about three-quarters of base area and more than half of 47,000 military personnel) in the most distant, least influential, and poorest prefecture. After a decade of negotiation Tokyo and Washington agreed in 2006 to move some Marines to Guam and shift Futenma airbase to the less populated Henoko district of Nago city. Few Okinawans were satisfied.

Three years later the Democratic Party of Japan took power and promised to address Okinawans’ concerns. The party also advocated a more equal bilateral security partnership. But the Obama administration proved to be as intransigent as its predecessor, thwarting the efforts of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, whose party was divided. He eventually resigned.

Since then Tokyo has attempted to implement the relocation agreement, despite strong local opposition, with about 80 percent of Okinawans against the Henoko scheme. Last year Tokyo gained the support of Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima. However, a week ago Naha Mayor Takeshi Onaga defeated Nakaima on an anti-base platform, declaring: “The new military base will not be built.”

There’s no longer any need for Washington to …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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The Uniquely Widespread Presidential Campaign of Rand Paul

November 26, 2014 in Economics

By Nat Hentoff

Nat Hentoff

Bringing blacks, Jews and the Constitution back into the Republican Party, Rand Paul is intently looking ahead to the 2016 presidential election, reports Mike Allen in Politico:

“Coming off a midterm campaign blitz in 35 states … Paul, who has set the ambitious goal of raising the Republican share of the African-American vote from 6 percent in 2012 to 33 percent in 2016, met with African-American groups in Ferguson, Mo. (still seething with protests); spoke to the National Urban League convention in July; and regularly meets with small groups of African-Americans to talk up his plans for school choice and justice reform” (“Rand’s grand plan,” Mike Allen, politico.com, Nov. 9).

Paul tells Politico: “Until the Republican Party becomes more diverse, we are going to struggle.”

Moreover, Allen writes, “As Paul traveled the country this year, he also held private sit-downs with rabbis and Jewish leaders in various cities.”

Paul explains, “I think we’ve spent a lot of time in the Jewish community, letting them know that our position is that we are very conscious of and supportive of our special alliance with Israel.”

This is in dynamic contrast, of course, with Barack Obama’s frigid relationship with Israel, particularly Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

And dig this assessment from Scott Read, who directed Bob Dole’s presidential campaign in 1996 and is currently the senior political strategist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce:

“In any two-week period of the last six months,” he tells Allen, “Rand Paul did more smart things to grow the party than everyone else combined. Going to Berkeley and barrios and ghettos — he’s not afraid to go where no one else wants to go.”

Having gotten to know the senator personally somewhat, I’m not as surprised by that amid the silence of many political commentators.

But I never thought he was as skillful an organizer of political campaigns as Allen details in Politico: “He’s already built what top GOP operatives consider by far the most extensive operation of any of the party’s presidential hopefuls.

“He has his own advance staff housed at RAND PAC, his political action committee, which over the past five years has raised $13.6 million and spent $10.7 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. And he is planning to open a Silicon Valley office to add ties and presumably fundraising heft among the libertarian-minded tech crowd.”

Worth noting in the Politico report is that “Paul was endorsed for president (earlier this month) …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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How Our Brains Transform Remote Threats Into Crippling Anxiety

November 26, 2014 in Blogs

By Kevin LaBar, The Conversation

The bombardment of fear we receive from the news has left us paralyzed.


Modern life can feel defined by low-level anxiety swirling through society. Continual reports about terrorism and war. A struggle to stay on top of family finances and hold onto jobs. At the heart of issues like these lies uncertainty – the unknown likelihood of how ongoing crises will evolve over time.

Worries Knocking on the Door

When unpredictability or uncertainty prods us to consider the prospect of a bleak future, it fuels a state of apprehension that scientists study in the form of anxiety. Anxiety sits along a continuum of defensive behaviors we use when threats are somewhat remote from our current experience. It’s less extreme than the full-on fear elicited by direct, acute situations like an immediate physical attack.

Anxiety triggers the release of stress hormones and reorganizes our priorities to prepare for a future threat. Cognitive effects include repetitive worries, hyper-vigilant scanning for signs of trouble in the environment, and attentional and memory biases toward threat-related material.

In our age of terrorism, for instance, people worry about flying. When they do fly, people are prone to take particular notice of fellow passengers whose ethnicity resembles that of terrorist group members, and thoughts of prior terrorist attacks are likely to spontaneously come to mind.

At mild levels, anxiety can be beneficial for problem-solving and stimulating response actions to a future threat – think of Ebola preparedness drills at hospitals. Anxiety can motivate group action that will benefit society, such as fast-tracking some medical treatments or enacting a line of defense to prevent the spread of disease.

However, higher levels of anxiety hijack cognitive resources needed for other important tasks. In a laboratory study, we investigated how anxiety affects performance on a visual search task that emulated airport weapon screening procedures. We cast participants in the role of security screeners and asked them to look for “T” shapes amidst others on a screen. When we made them anxious by issuing a few unpredictable shocks, people tended to miss seeing a second “T” in the display. This effect was strongest in individuals …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Explosions, Evacuations and Death: The Incredible Risks of Transporting Crude Oil Via Train

November 26, 2014 in Blogs

By Isaiah Thompson, ProPublica

Local residents and government officials are often unaware of the potential dangers they face.


The oil boom underway in North Dakota has delivered jobs to local economies and helped bring the United States to the brink of being a net energy exporter for the first time in generations.

But moving that oil to the few refineries with the capacity to process it is presenting a new danger to towns and cities nationwide — a danger many appear only dimly aware of and are ill-equipped to handle.

Much of North Dakota's oil is being transported by rail, rather than through pipelines, which are the safest way to move crude. Tank carloads of crude are up 50 percent this year from last. Using rail networks has saved the oil and gas industry the time and capital it takes to build new pipelines, but the trade-off is greater risk: Researchers estimates that trains are three and a half times as likely as pipelines to suffer safety lapses.

Indeed, since 2012, when petroleum crude oil first began moving by rail in large quantities, there have been eight major accidents involving trains carrying crude in North America. In the worst of these incidents, in July, 2013, a train derailed at Lac-Mégantic, Quebec and exploded, killing 47 and burning down a quarter of the town. Six months later, another crude-bearing train derailed and exploded in Casselton, North Dakota, prompting the evacuation of most of the town's 2,300 residents.

In those and other cases, local emergency responders were overwhelmed by the conflagrations resulting from these accidents. Residents often had no idea that such a dangerous cargo, and in such volume, was being transported through their towns.

Out of the disasters came a scramble for information. News outlets around the country began reporting the history of problems associated with the DOT-111 railroad tank cars carrying virtually all of the crude.

Local officials, environmental groups, and concerned citizens began to ask what routes these trains were taking and whether the towns in their paths were ready should an accident occur.

In July, the U.S. Dept. of Transportation ordered railroads to disclose route information to state emergency …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Want To Know The Day You'll Die? This Website Predicts It

November 26, 2014 in Blogs

By Zaid Jilani, AlterNet

The project uses demographic data to offer you a projection of your lifespan.


Citylab's John Metcalfe point s to a World Bank-backed venture called the World Population Project which creates a predicted date of death—just type in your birthday, sex, and nationality, and it will give you a projection.

The project is based on demographic data and aims to show average people the impact of where you live on your life outcomes. As would be expected, people in developed countries are likely to live longer, but sex and birth year also play a significant role in determining our lifespans. In case you want to keep tabs on your mortality, the site offers to send you reminders on your birthday—or even drop notes into your iCalendar.  

Of course, it's just about impossible to create an actual prediction of one's exact date of death, but the purpose here is to show how a few simple factors can radically alter the length of your life. The project does note that it “does not take any responsibility for the accuracy of the data and will invest in upgrading the system as more data and the results of additional modeling become available.”

Related Stories

…read more

Source: ALTERNET