You are browsing the archive for 2014 December 01.

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Christian Right’s Rage Problem: How White Fundamentalists Are Roiling America

December 1, 2014 in Blogs

By Edwin Lyngar, Salon

People in the far-right wing of American religion will vilify those who dare to stand up to them.


Over the past few years, America has been divided by religion.  The culture wars have heated up with secularists on one side and God-fearing Americans on the other, and to understate things: They disagree.  But does that mean we hate one another?  If the animosity is so intense, what kind of outrage goes too far? Bonnie Weinstein has tackled this issue in an important but very troubling book out Dec. 2, titled “To the Far Right Christian Hater … You Can Be a Good Speller or a Hater, But You Can’t Be Both: Official Hate Mail, Threats, and Criticism From the Archives of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.”

Married to Mikey Weinstein, founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), the author has collected and annotated a sampling of the hate mail the foundation has received over the past few years.  This hate mail is not trolling or anonymous “Internet comments.”  The letters are specific and threatening and most often include a return address or email.  The Weinsteins’ home has been vandalized — many times — and the family has had to take serious and expensive security measures.  It’s no joke.  As I read the book, curled up on my couch, my wife kept asking if I was OK.  My face was fixed in an expression of horror and disbelief as I read the rage, hate and cruelty cataloged on every page.  Bonnie has uncovered a shocking reality: Self-professed Christians deny the fundamental humanity of other people they don’t even know.

As hard as it was to read in places, it’s important to read and understand.  It offers an unflinching examination of a subset of American fundamentalism, created by a segment of our society that is whiter, more conservative and a lot angrier than the rest of America.  For some people the future of their faith and of the nation are in danger, threatened by secular forces controlled by Satan himself.  This existential threat to Christian supremacy justifies the most offensive, vulgar and cruel letters …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Are Probiotics a Myth or Miracle?

December 1, 2014 in Blogs

By Nic Fleming, The Guardian

The market for pills and yoghurts containing ‘friendly’ bacteria is worth $28bn.


The chances are, you think you are an individual. Within a few social, economic and legal constraints, you probably see yourself as pretty autonomous. The reality, however, is that you are more of an ecosystem than an individual. There are 10 times more microbial cells in your body than human ones.

In recent years, scientists have developed a greater understanding of the important roles played by the 100tn or so bugs the average person carries. After decades of focusing on how to kill bacteria with soap and antibiotics, we are coming round to a more nuanced appreciation of the symbiotic relationship we have with them. While some can make us sick, others help to break down the nutrients in our food, teach our immune systems to recognise enemies, fight off food poisoning and even produce chemicals that determine our moods.

As our knowledge of the importance of the microbes in our bodies grows, the big question is whether it is possible to give our gut flora a helping hand. In fact, it is the $28.8bn question – the projected global value of the probiotics market for next year. The ads are certainly seductive. All that harm from takeaways, boozy nights and work stress can be put right with a daily dose of live bacteria. But do probiotics have real health benefits?

Studies have documented that people with a wide range of diseases including Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease have different gut flora from those of healthy people, but it can be hard to tell whether this is a cause or a consequence of the illness. Microorganisms play important roles in regulating immune system responses, and can therefore affect the chances of people developing auto-immune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome and allergies. Numerous studies, including one published last year by Swedish scientists, show that babies born by caesarean have lower levels of good bacteria and chemical imbalances in the immune system that make them more susceptible to allergies and eczema.

Research also suggests that healthy gut …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Chris Rock on Racism in America — White People Aren't as Crazy as They Used to Be

December 1, 2014 in Blogs

By Travis Gettys, Raw Story

“We treat [racism] like a fad instead of a disease that eradicates millions of people,” says Rock.


Comedian Chris Rock said racism has waned somewhat because more white people have stopped being such jerks.

“Here’s the thing,” Rock said. “When we talk about race relations in America or racial progress, it’s all nonsense. There are no race relations. White people were crazy. Now they’re not as crazy. To say that black people have made progress would be to say they deserve what happened to them before.”

Rock, who is promoting his upcoming film, Top Five, told New Yorker columnist Frank Rich that he would love to cover the Ferguson protests as a journalist – but he would use a white reporter as a stand-in to ask only white people racially charged questions.

He cautioned white people against congratulating themselves over the election of President Barack Obama.“Just white people,” Rock said. “We know how black people feel about Ferguson – outraged, upset, cheated by the system, all these things. Michael Moore has no problem getting (outrageous statements) because he looks like them, but the problem is the press accepts racism. It has never dug into it.”

“To say Obama is progress is saying that he’s the first black person that is qualified to be president,” Rock said. “That’s not black progress — that’s white progress. There’s been black people qualified to be president for hundreds of years.”

“If you saw Tina Turner and Ike having a lovely breakfast over there, would you say their relationship’s improved? Some people would,” he continued. “But a smart person would go, ‘Oh, he stopped punching her in the face.’ It’s not up to her. Ike and Tina Turner’s relationship has nothing to do with Tina Turner. Nothing. It just doesn’t.”

Rock used his own family to illustrate how much racist attitudes had changed in recent decades.

“My mother tells stories of growing up in Andrews, South Carolina, and the black people had to go to the vet to get their teeth pulled out,” he said. “And you still had to got to the back door, because if the white people knew …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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I Quit! The Miseries of an Uber Driver

December 1, 2014 in Blogs

By Claire Callahan Goodman, Salon

Bad software, wasted time and a terrible hourly rate—while the company rakes in huge profits. No thanks!


Uber just lost a really good driver.

 

As a mom who had stopped working to raise my child, I decided to try driving for Uber part-time, for flexibility and some extra cash. I am a native English speaker who grew up in my major metropolitan area (San Francisco Bay Area), and these are two big advantages for a driver.  Having actually lived and worked from San Jose to Marin, I know how to get from point A to point B without maps or a GPS,  and I do not have to use Uber’s incredibly bad and misleading GPS, which comes with its driver app.  I also have a brand-new Prius and don’t mind keeping it clean.

It took Uber two months to complete my required background check and to “process” my driver’s license, proof of insurance and a $20 car inspection.  It took many weeks for Uber to mail me its iPhone 4 (loaded with its app).  I could not begin driving without it — or possibly, I could have used my own iPhone 5, but they didn’t mention that, because they wanted to charge me $10 per week for their iPhone 4.  The minute I found out I could be using my own phone, I sent theirs back, but not before they had deducted $30 for “phone rental.”

As a former software developer, I was interested to see how the apps work together to get the closest driver to the rider as fast as possible.  The first thing I found out was that Uber’s software sometimes wildly underestimates the number of minutes it takes to reach a rider. The driver has 10 seconds (and sometimes less) to accept a request, which shows the number of minutes to reach the rider. If you accept the request, you see the address of the rider. About half the time, the number of minutes estimated is substantially less than the real time it will take.

Let me give you an example. I received a request indicating it would take …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Shockingly Racist Israeli Op-Ed Compares ‘Bloodthirsty’ Palestinians with Ferguson Protestors

December 1, 2014 in Blogs

By Alex Ellefson, AlterNet

The article contains one jaw-droppingly racist statement after another.


Ever since the fatal shooting of unarmed black teen Michael Brown in Ferguson this summer, Palestinians have drawn parallels between the oppression of African Americans and the military occupation of Palestine. However, an outrageously racist editorial published on Friday by the Times of Israel blames “bloodthirsty” Palestinians and African Americans for their own oppression, demonstrating the similar bigotries between Israel’s right wing and those denouncing the Ferguson protestors.

The article, entitled “Nine Parallels between Palestine and Ferguson,” has since been deleted from the website. In it, writer Robert Wilkes, a member of the advisory board for pro-Israel organization StandWithUs, compares Palestinians and the black protestors in Ferguson this way:

Both have permanent, deep-set anger and rage and are looking for anything to set it off. Anger defines them, and anger keeps both mired in failure. Rather than make better choices they prefer to ride the “victim” train to nowhere. Both must have an “oppressor” to rage against; a white cop defending himself or an Israeli Jew wanting to pray on the Temple Mount serves their purposes. Rage is the only path they know to gain honor and prestige among their peers.

Wilkes continues by making bigoted comments about Palestinian and African-American leaders:

Both have perfectly wretched leaders. Black leaders in America are con artists and a disgrace. They are race-hustlers in a “business” fueled by anger. As long as blacks remain angry their “leaders” will continue to have a lucrative career. Similarly, the corrupt, undemocratic Palestinian leadership is equally unconcerned about the human aspirations of their own people.

This isn’t the first time that the Times of Israel has had to take down an editorial after it caused a public uproar. During Israel’s assault on Gaza this summer, which killed more than 2,000 Palestinians, most of whom were civilians, the publication posted an op-ed titled “When Genocide Is Permissible” defending Israel’s operation in Gaza. The article was so offensive some Israel supporters publicly denounced it. (It should be noted that the content of the article mirrored most mainstream Israeli talking points regarding Israel's operation …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Breitbart Op-Ed: Benghazi was the Definition of an Intelligence Failure

December 1, 2014 in Politics & Elections

The House Intelligence Committee released its long-awaited Benghazi report Friday, claiming, ‘There was no intelligence failure prior to the attacks.’

This one sentence tells us how seriously we should take this report.

Benghazi was the definition of an intelligence failure. It was, in fact, one of the worst intelligence failures in our history, a strategic blunder that resulted in the murder of a U.S. Ambassador and three other Americans.

The ultimate blame lies with the Obama Administration and more directly with Hillary Clinton who oversaw this tragedy during her tenure as Secretary of State. No rational person has ever disputed that our government failed horribly in protecting the U.S. embassy and our diplomats.

Americans just wanted to know who was responsible.

Now, a Congressional Committee chaired by Rep. Mike Rogers is telling us no one is responsible because there was no intelligence failure to begin with.

It might be time to rename the House ‘Intelligence’ Committee.

This administration has changed the talking points and ignored important questions about Benghazi throughout-when the administration knew what was happening, why did it happen, was it terrorism, who ignored Ambassador Christopher Stevens security requests, who told Susan Rice the consulate was secure, the list of questions goes on. These questions remain unanswered or insufficiently answered and are crucial to getting to the bottom of what really happened.

The Associated Press claims the report debunks, ‘A series of persistent allegations hinting at dark conspiracies, the investigation of the politically charged incident determined that there was no intelligence failure, no delay in sending a CIA rescue team, no missed opportunity for a military rescue, and no evidence the CIA was covertly shipping arms from Libya to Syria.’

None of these accusations contain even a modicum of truth?

Three CIA security members have said their team was intentionally delayed by the administration in conducting a rescue effort. Are they being untruthful, or is this report perhaps not telling the full story? Multiple highly-respected news outlets reported on arms possibly being smuggled from Libya to Syria, before and after the attacks in Benghazi. Were all these stories fabricated? Or did they contain some useful or pertinent information related to this investigation?

The Obama Administration has tried to paint members of Congress who ask these questions as somehow being extreme or crazy-and perhaps the House Intelligence Committee will now follow suit,But remember, this is …read more

Source: RAND PAUL

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Chris Rock: 'When We Talk About Racial Progress, It's All Nonsense'

December 1, 2014 in Blogs

By Lanre Bakare, The Guardian

“Let's hope America keeps producing nicer white people.”


Ahead of the release of his new film Top Five, the comedian Chris Rock has offered a wide-ranging critique of contemporary America with acerbic takedowns of the Republicans, race relations in the US and perceptions of Barack Obama’s presidency.

In a conversation with New York Magazine op-ed columnist and former New York Times journalist Frank Rich, the comedian commented on everything from Bill Cosby to the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson.

Speaking about Ferguson and the media reaction to the event, he said: “Here’s the thing. When we talk about race relations in America or racial progress, it’s all nonsense. There are no race relations. White people were crazy. Now they’re not as crazy. To say that black people have made progress would be to say they deserve what happened to them before.”

“So, to say Obama is progress is saying that he’s the first black person that is qualified to be president. That’s not black progress. That’s white progress,” he said.

His most caustic criticism came when Rich brought up Barack Obama and the progress his election was supposed to represent.

“There’s been black people qualified to be president for hundreds of years … There have been smart, educated, beautiful, polite black children for hundreds of years. The advantage that my children have is that my children are encountering the nicest white people that America has ever produced. Let’s hope America keeps producing nicer white people.”

The comedian who wrote,directed and stars in Top Five, also offered his thoughts on the reaction to his Saturday Night Live sketch about the opening of Freedom Tower, which he referred to as the Never Going In There Tower. His comic assessment of the structure drew the ire of Fox New presenter Peter Johnson Jr, who said: “When you resort to that kind of comment in an insane, overblown, horrific way, then you’re doing a disservice to comedy.”

Rock also spoke about how comedians are often the targets of criticism …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Unbelievable: Cleveland Cops Who Killed Unarmed Black Suspects Sue, Claiming They're Victims of Racial Discrimination

December 1, 2014 in Blogs

By Kali Holloway, AlterNet

Say what?


A group of nine Cleveland police officers involved in a 2012 incident in which 137 shots were fired and two unarmed African American suspects were killed, is suing the city for racial discrimination.

In a federal suit filed November 28, the officers, eight white and one Hispanic, claim that the city has “a history of treating non-African American officers involved in the shootings of African Americans substantially harsher than African American officers.”

The suit stems from a Nov. 29, 2012, case in which officers were led on a 25-minute chase by Malissa Williams and Timothy Russell. Reports place the number of officers involved in the chase as high as 104. The high-speed pursuit ended with 13 of the officers firing 137 shots at the duo’s vehicle, ultimately hitting both Williams and Russell more than 20 times. Though police claimed to be returning fire in self-defense, no weapon was ever found.

As is standard practice, officers who fired their weapons were placed on a three-day administrative leave, followed by a 45-day period of “gym duty.” The officers claim this period of restrictive duty, during which they say they were unable to work overtime or apply for promotions or transfers, was unfairly extended in their case, because it was “politically expedient.”

The suit goes on to state that the city has engaged in “longstanding practices and procedures which place onerous burdens on non-African-American officers, including the plaintiffs, because of their race and the race of persons who are the subjects of the legitimate use of deadly force.”

In other words, when these officers were placed on extended paid leave for the shooting, it qualified as an “onerous burden.”

The lawsuit has been filed at a time when the topic of police brutality, particularly against African Americans, is one of national concern. A week ago, a grand jury declined to indict Ferguson officer Darren Wilson, the killer of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown. The case also comes amid heightened scrutiny of the Cleveland police department following the shooting death of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old African-American boy shot …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Rejecting Imaginary Budget Numbers

December 1, 2014 in Economics

By Richard W. Rahn

Richard W. Rahn

Would you make an effort to find ways to reduce your tax burden if your tax rate was suddenly raised 50 percent? The higher one’s income, the more incentive a person has to find ways to minimize his tax burden — which is why very high tax rates on the rich always fail to produce the projected revenue.

The new Republican Congress is going to make a couple of critical personnel decisions within the next few weeks. The Congressional Budget Office has the responsibility for scoring the cost and economic effects of spending bills, and the Joint Committee on Taxation (JTC) has the responsibility for scoring and gauging the effects of tax bills. The staff directors of these committees are of great importance because conclusions they make regarding the impact of tax and spending bills greatly influence decisions of Congress. Historically, these number-crunchers relied on “static” models, which largely ignore changes in behavior as a result of changes in tax rates or government spending. The alternative approach is to use what are commonly referred to as “dynamic” models, which incorporate expected changes in behavior. Critics of the dynamic model approach argue that it is difficult to project changes in behavior, and it is easier to calculate changes in expected tax revenues if no change in behavior is assumed. In other words, the advocates of the static approach believe it is better to be precisely incorrect than approximately accurate.

Reliance on static models leads to an overestimation of tax revenues from any tax rate increase and an overestimation of the tax revenue loss from any tax rate reduction. This bias leads to higher levels of taxation and spending than is best for economic growth and job creation. The current JTC tax model now includes some dynamic estimates, but the committee has not revealed the assumptions and interactions within the model, thus keeping outside economists from being able to review it.

Upgraded economic models factoring in taxpayer behavior would improve accuracy.”

The errors in the tax and spending models in the past have been considerable, and destructive for policymakers. For example, there have been a number of changes to the capital gains tax rates over the years. In 1978, 1981, 1986 and 1996, the Joint Committee on Taxation not only produced grossly inaccurate numbers but did not even get the direction of the sign correct. That is, it scored what turned out to be a revenue gain as loss and vice versa because it largely ignored the “unlocking …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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The Battle for Ukraine: U.S. and Russia Must Find an Exit If Not Stage a Reset

December 1, 2014 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

Moscow—The Kremlin is forbidding in even the best of weather. On the dark, dreary days when I recently visited Moscow the seat of Russia’s presidency was even less welcoming. Russia is not the Soviet Union, but so far hopes for the former to develop into a genuinely liberal society have been stillborn.

However, the fact that President Vladimir Putin is an unpleasant autocrat doesn’t change the necessity of Washington and Moscow working together. He is not America’s number one enemy, contra the misguided claim of Mitt Romney. Putin’s Russia actually has aided America by easing Washington’s logistics burden in Afghanistan and refusing to arm Iran with advanced anti-aircraft missiles. The two countries have cooperated against Islamist terrorism.

Nor is Moscow threatening any core U.S. interest. The Obama administration objects to Russia’s support for Syria’s Assad regime, but former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton once called the Syrian president a reformer. Attempting to overthrow an important though illiberal Arab barrier to Islamic radicalism has proved to be a tragic mistake. No wonder President Putin refused to follow Washington’s inconsistent lead.

His Ukrainian aggression is more serious. But the conflict does not impair fundamental American national interests. Even if Russia’s actions were “a frontal challenge to the European security order,” as claimed by Yale’s Timothy Snyder, they would primarily pose a problem for Europe. Yet there is no indication that Moscow has any ill plans for Europe, let alone “Old Europe,” America’s traditional security concern.

The U.S. joined Great Britain and Russia in signing the 1994 Budapest Memorandum of Security Assurances guaranteeing Ukraine’s sovereignty after Kiev gave up its nuclear-tipped missiles, abandoned during the Soviet Union’s break-up. However, Washington would not have agreed to the pact had it created a formal security commitment against Moscow. Moreover, had American officials intended to issue a defense guarantee, they would have rushed Ukraine into NATO. The pact, like so many international treaties, was unenforceable fluff.

Worse, Washington contributed to the Ukraine imbroglio by foolishly joining Europe in treating Kiev as a geopolitical competition, even though that nation never was an important economic, political, or security interest for the West. This allied blunder doesn’t justify Russia’s response, of course, but it precipitated Moscow’s intervention. Indeed, the U.S. would not have been happy had the Soviet Union invited Mexico to join the Warsaw Pact.

Putin demonstrates that even paranoids have enemies. Russia today appears to have regressed to a pre-1914 Great Power. …read more

Source: OP-EDS