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Neil deGrasse Tyson Explains the Meaning of Life to a “Six-and-Three-Quarter”-Year-Old Boy

January 16, 2015 in Blogs

By Sarah Gray, Salon

“Part of being a kid is to explore the world around you”


Last night Neil deGrasse Tyson spoke to a crowd at Wilbur Theatre in Boston. There a boy aged “six-and-three-quarters” asked the astrophysicist a deeply profound question: “What is the meaning of life?”

 

“If you’re asking those questions now, you’re going to be the deepest thinking adult there ever was,” Tyson began. He then went onto explain to the best of his ability.

‘So, what is the meaning of life? I think people ask that question on the assumption that ‘meaning’ is something you can look for and go, ‘I found it. Here’s the meaning. I’ve been looking for.’”

Tyson made it clear that the meaning of life isn’t something you find, but rather what you create.

“You manufacture it for yourself and for others,” Tyson continued. “So when I think of ‘meaning’ in life, I ask, ‘Did I learn something today that I didn’t know yesterday, bringing me a little closer to knowing all that can be known in the universe?’”

Tyson then goes on to offer a lovely stream of advice — which could be followed at any age — including:

“To think brings you closer to nature. To learn how things work gives you power to influence events. Gives you power to help people who may need it — to help yourself and your trajectory. So when I think of the meaning of life, that’s not an eternal and unanswerable question — to me, that’s in arm’s reach of me everyday.”

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Source: ALTERNET

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4 Ways to Live a Simpler, Happier Life

January 16, 2015 in Blogs

By Cliff Weathers, AlterNet

Did we mention it's good for the planet?


Tiny houses are the rage among people who like the idea of liberating themselves through living simple. Eschewing excess space and taking advantage of every inch, these minimalist houses are economical and appeal to our sense of personal freedom. You can get up and leave at a moment's notice, hitch your home to the back of a car and take it across country anytime you please. Tiny houses even inspire fantasies of going off the grid, becoming self-sufficient with a couple of solar panels, microturbines, a wood stove and a few rain barrels.

But as much as people love the idea of tiny houses, these structures are not realistic for everyone. Many of us are tethered to our jobs, schools, friends and families, and those attachments often anchor us to a particular neighborhood. And unfortunately, you just can’t put a tiny house anywhere on a map. Often, they don’t adhere to planning and zoning laws in the municipalities we need to live in.

The good news is you don’t need a tiny house to live the minimalist lifestyle. Here are four simple ways to live smaller even if you live a bigger house.

1.  Lose the car. While this isn’t practical for everyone, urban dwellers have fewer and fewer reasons to own a car. Public transportation systems are improving and expanding in many cities and becoming more appealing to commuters.

Public transit ridership is at its highest per capita level since 1956, the year President Dwight Eisenhower signed the law creating the Interstate Highway System, which fueled car culture in the U.S. Transit officials say this shift isn’t so much economic, but that Americans’ everyday travel habits are changing.

The American Public Transportation Association says the growth in public transportation ridership in the past several years is a result of an improving economy and expanded services offered by many transit systems. The increase in transit use correlates to a decreased number of miles driven by Americans.

“The start of the economic downturn and rising fuel prices drove a lot of people to …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Florida Police on Defense After Black Men's Mugshots Used for Target Practice

January 16, 2015 in Blogs

By Oliver Laughland, The Guardian

Woman finds 15-year-old photo of her brother peppered with bullet holes.


Police in North Miami Beach have been forced to defend using the mugshots of black men for target practice after a board riddled with gunshots that displayed photographs of six young men was found after a training exercise last month.

The photographs were discovered by south Florida resident Sgt Valerie Deant, a member of the National Guard 13th army band who arrived at the Medley Firearms Training Center after members of the force had been practising. Deant told local media she was horrified to discover her brother’s mugshot, taken 15 years ago, was one of those that had been fired at.

“I was like, why is my brother being used for target practice?” Deant told NBC South Florida, who first reported the story, “There were like gunshots there. And I cried a couple of times.”

Deant’s brother, Woody, who was 18 at the time of his arrest by North Miami Beach police for drag racing, is now married with children. Two bullet holes can be seen in his photograph on the recovered target board.

“The picture actually has, like, bullet holes,” he said. “One in my forehead and one in my eye … I was speechless.”

“Now I’m being used as a target? I’m not even living that life according to how they portrayed me as. I’m a father. I’m a husband. I’m a career man. I work nine to five.”

North Miami Beach police did not immediately respond to questions from the Guardian, but a spokeswoman told the Huffington Post that the force uses a variety of mugshot line-ups for target practice, including some that feature only white men, some that show only Hispanic men, and another featuring only women.

“The public thinks there should be one woman and one white man and one black, but that’s not really what test is about,” says Major Kathy Katerman of the department’s media unit. “We have targets of all races.”

North Miami Beach police chief J Scott Dennis told NBC South Florida that while …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Attorney General Holder Announces Biggest Asset Forfeiture Program Reform in Years

January 16, 2015 in Blogs

By Phillip Smith, AlterNet

Holder barred federal agencies from “adopting” seizures made by state and local cops, greatly reducing incentives for police to look for cash to seize


Attorney General Eric Holder this morning issued an order that will bar federal agencies from participating in “adoptions” of assets seized by state and local law enforcement agencies. “Adoptions” occur when state or local law enforcement agencies seize cash or properties under state laws, but then ask that a federal agency takes the seized property and forfeit it under federal law.

State and local law enforcement agencies routinely resort to “adoption” as a means of circumventing state laws that mandate seized assets go to designated programs, typically a state's general fund or education fund. When a seizure is “adopted” by the feds, the seizing agency gets to keep 80% of the proceeds, with the federal government getting the rest.  

“With this new policy, effective immediately, the Justice Department is taking an important step to prohibit federal agency adoptions of state and local seizures, except for public safety reasons,” Holder said in a Friday statement. ”This is the first step in a comprehensive review that we have launched of the federal asset forfeiture program.  Asset forfeiture remains a critical law enforcement tool when used appropriately – providing unique means to go after criminal and even terrorist organizations.  This new policy will ensure that these authorities can continue to be used to take the profit out of crime and return assets to victims, while safeguarding civil liberties.”

While much asset forfeiture activity is related to drug cases, they are not included in the list of exceptions to the new policy barring “adoptions.” Those public safety exceptions include firearms, ammunition, explosives, and materials related to child pornography.

The new policy does not impact asset forfeitures conducted by federal law enforcement, nor does it bar state and local law enforcement from conducting civil asset forfeiture under state law.

Under the Justice Department's Equitable Sharing asset forfeiture “adoption” program, state and local law enforcement has made more than 55,000 seizures of cash and property with a value of more than $3 …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Watch: Passenger Belts Out 'Willy Wonka' Tune to Shut Down Anti-Gay Subway Preacher

January 16, 2015 in Blogs

By Travis Gettys, Raw Story

Rob Maiale sang “Golden Ticket” very loudly to drown out annoying preacher.


Viral video shows a Brooklyn man singing a song from “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” to shut down an anti-LGBT preacher who was haranguing subway riders.

The subway rider, later identified as Rob Maiale, said he was riding the M train to work when he encountered the self-styled preacher, who he had seen pestering other riders before.

The preacher was denouncing sex out of wedlock and then same-sex relationships, which the 28-year-old Maiale told Gothamist he found irritating but respected the man’s First Amendment right to express unpopular opinions.

“I didn’t say anything, (but) once his ‘preaching’ shifted from an audience to an individual — a lesbian couple with a child — I decided that this guy wasn’t going to get to talk anymore,” said Maiale, a copywriter and voice actor.

He started singing “Golden Ticket” very loudly to drown out the preacher.

“What the man was saying was so absurd and hateful that I figured the most disarming thing would be something equally absurd and joyful,” Maiale said. “It’s a snapshot from my childhood that embodied joy, overcoming adversity — and candy.”

Police boarded the train shortly after another subway rider stopped recording video of the incident, and they escorted the preacher off after other passengers complained.

“I myself am neither religious, nor gay, but if you want to live in this city, you need to learn how to be civil,” Maiale said. “I’m not saying you have to like everything or everyone, but you do have to show respect.”

 

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Source: ALTERNET