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St. Louis Ram Leaves NFL and $37 Million to Become Farmer and Feed the Hungry

February 2, 2015 in Blogs

By Walter Einenkel, Daily Kos

Jason Brown, 29, is a real football hero.

St. Louis Rams center Jason Brown has left the NFL to pursue farming:

“My agent told me, ‘You’re making the biggest mistake of your life,’” Brown told CBS. “And I looked right back at him and I said, ‘No I’m not. No I’m not.’”

Back in 2009, Brown signed a $37.5 million contract with the Rams, making him the highest paid center in all of football. He earned about $25 million of that contract and decided to leave the final year's $12.5 million on the table. Instead, he bought 1,000 acres of farmland in North Carolina.

Brown is doing this to help the less fortunate. He grows sweet potatoes and other vegetables and donates his harvest to food pantries. According to the New & Observer, he has given away 46,000 pounds of sweet potatoes and 10,000 pounds of cucumbers this fall.

Keep in mind the fact that Brown left the NFL at 29. He was going to get another pretty large contract to play for a few more years. Instead, in 2012 Brown began watching YouTube videos about farming in order to learn how to farm.

He calls his farm the “First Fruits Farm.” And it's not only fruits and vegetables—congratulations are in order:

Jason Brown, the former NFL star who retired from football so he could grow crops to feed the hungry, delivered his own child Tuesday at his Louisburg home.

Brown and his wife, Tay, had planned to have help for the home birth, but the mother went through labor so quickly that Lunsford Bernard Brown III made his debut before the reinforcements could arrive.

Everything I've read about him so far is pretty great. So this Thanksgiving, raise a glass to Jason Brown and the many other kind souls who put people ahead of themselves.

Ed. note: Watch a segment on Brown here.

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Detroit Man Walks 21 Miles to Work Each Day

February 2, 2015 in Blogs

By Terrell Jermaine Starr, AlterNet

Now that his story has come out, 56-year-old James Robertson may just get a car and a reprieve.

If you complain about your morning commute, you need to stop and consider the four-hour trek 56-year-old Detroit man James Robertson takes every day to reach his factory job 23 miles away in the suburb of Rochester Hills.

When James' 1988 Honda Accord stopped working in 2005, he began taking the bus part way to his job, then walking the other 21 miles to Schain Mold & Engineering, according to the Detroit Free Press. He told the paper he didn’t get a new car because, “I haven't had a chance to save for it.”

Robertson makes makes $10.55 per hour, more than Michigan's minimum wage of $8.15 an hour but not nearly enough to purchase and maintain a car in Detroit. At $5,109 per year, Detroit has the most expensive car insurance in the nation. The commute is incredible but that's how it is, given that Metro Detroit has cut back its bus service routes and car ownership is out of reach for many residents.

As rough as  Robertson's commute has been, his boss says it hasn’t stopped him from getting to work on time.

“I set our attendance standard by this man,” Todd Wilson, plant manager at Schain Mold & Engineering, told The Free Press. “I say, if this man can get here, walking all those miles through snow and rain, well I'll tell you, I have people in Pontiac 10 minutes away and they say they can't get here — bull!”

Robertson's co-workers give him a lift when they can; Wilson’s wife makes sure he has homecooked food during dinner time each day.

“Oh, yes, she takes care of James,” Wilson told the Press. “And he's a personal favorite of the owners because of his attendance record. He's never missed. I've seen him come in here wringing wet.”

The commute takes a toll on him though, says his coworker Janet Vallardo, 59, of Auburn Hills. “He comes in here looking real tired — his legs, his …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Homeland Insecurity: Checkpoints, Warrantless Searches and Security Theater

February 2, 2015 in Economics

By Patrick G. Eddington

Patrick G. Eddington

Since June 2013, the American public, press, and policy-makers have been debating the implications of Edward Snowden’s disclosures of mass U.S. government surveillance programs, most established after the 9/11 attacks. Our reliance on modern communications technology and its connection with our basic constitutional rights of free speech and Fourth Amendment protections against warrantless seizures and searches is at the heart of that debate. But while that controversy has raged very publicly (even globally), another series of U.S. government search and seizure activities have only recently started to receive the scrutiny they deserve. And just as the over-reach by the NSA sparked what I have previously termed the “digital resistance movement,” these other searches—conducted by elements of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)—have sparked a more traditional form of citizen resistance.

Enter the VIPR

Less than three years after the 9/11 attacks struck American commercial aviation carriers, Al Qaeda-inspired terrorists targeted a different kind of transportation system— Madrid’s commuter rail network. Just over a year after that attack, terrorists struck the London bus and subway system. Fearing U.S. transit systems would be next, DHS officials responded by creating Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) teams, composed of Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and Federal Air Marshall (FAM) personnel, augmented by state or local law enforcement organizations. Touted as a means of deterring and preventing terrorism, the VIPR program has grown from a single team in 2004-05 to over 30-teams and an annual budget of over $100 million today. As the number and scope of VIPR operations have grown, so has the controversy surrounding their employment.

Warrantless searches and internal checkpoints are characteristics of totalitarian political systems.”

While VIPR teams began as extensions of security at major airports, TSA officials gradually began pushing VIPR operations beyond airports—to major transit systems in Washington, Houston, Boston, New York City, and most recently, Chicago. Multiple published reports over the past several years have documented warrantless baggage searches by VIPR teams on these transit systems. TSA officials claim that the judicially-created “special needs” exception to the Fourth Amendment provides them with the legal authority to conduct such searches. In 2011, a VIPR team took over the Amtrak station in Savannah, Georgia and conducted warrantless searches of detraining passengers. The same year in Tennessee, VIPR teams conducted warrantless searches of trucks at weigh stations.

Over the last decade, VIPR …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Ayn Rand at 110

February 2, 2015 in Economics

By David Boaz

David Boaz

Interest in the bestselling novelist-philosopher Ayn Rand continues to grow, 33 years after her death and 70 years after she first hit the bestseller lists with The Fountainhead. Rand was born February 2, 1905, in St. Petersburg, Russia.

In the dark year of 1943, in the depths of World War II and the Holocaust, when the United States was allied with one totalitarian power to defeat another, three remarkable women published books that could be said to have given birth to the modern libertarian movement. Rose Wilder Lane, the daughter of Laura Ingalls Wilder, who had written Little House on the Prairie and other stories of American rugged individualism, published a passionate historical essay called The Discovery of Freedom. Isabel Paterson, a novelist and literary critic, produced The God of the Machine, which defended individualism as the source of progress in the world.

The other great book of 1943 was The Fountainhead, a powerful novel about architecture and integrity by Ayn Rand. The book’s individualist theme did not fit the spirit of the age, and reviewers savaged it. But it found its intended readers. Its sales started slowly, then built and built. It was still on the New York Times bestseller list two full years later. Hundreds of thousands of people read it in the 1940s, millions eventually, some of them because of the 1949 film starring Gary Cooper and Patricia Neal, and many of them were inspired enough to seek more information about Ayn Rand’s ideas. Rand went on to write an even more successful novel, Atlas Shrugged, in 1957, and to found an association of people who shared her philosophy, which she called Objectivism. Although her political philosophy was libertarian, not all libertarians shared her views on metaphysics, ethics, and religion. Others were put off by the starkness of her presentation and by her cult following.

College students, professors, businessmen, Paul Ryan, the rock group Rush, and Hollywood stars have all proclaimed themselves fans of Ayn Rand.”

Like Ludwig von Mises and F. A. Hayek, Rand demonstrates the importance of immigration not just to America but to American libertarianism. Mises had fled his native Austria right before the Nazis confiscated his library, Rand fled the Communists who came to power in her native Russia. When a heckler asked her at a public speech, “Why should we care what a foreigner thinks?”, she replied with her usual fire, “I chose to be an American. What did you ever do, except for …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Hypo-Christie! New Jersey Gov Blatantly Panders to Religious Right with Vaccine Diss

February 2, 2015 in Blogs

By Steven Rosenfeld, AlterNet

The same guy who quarantined the “ebola nurse” says parents should have a choice about vaccines.

Speaking Monday while traveling overseas, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie tried to give his presidential campaign among Republican evangelicals a shot in the arm by saying that parents should have a choice in vaccinating their children. But Christie may have put his foot in his mouth instead.

Christie, while touring a biomedical complex in the U.K. during a trade visit—another effort to boost his presidential profile—said that parents should have a “choice” in vaccinating their children, saying that the government’s requirement that children who attend public schools be immunized may be overreaching.

“It’s much more important, I think, what you think as a parent than what you think as a public official,” he said. “I also understand that parents need to have some measure of choice in things as well, so that’s the balance that the government has to decide.”

Christie’s comments provoked quick criticism. They come against a backdrop of ongoing outbreaks of measles in 14 states—because small numbers of parents in many states are not vaccinating their kids. That has prompted criticism by the medical community and a growing backlash against vaccine opponents. This weekend, President Obama urged parents to “get your kids vaccinated.”

Christie comments also appear to contradict his order last fall to quarantine a nurse who had been exposed to Ebola, when he defended that decision as better-safe-than-sorry. That observation was one of many on Twitter, where many writers criticized the vaccine comments.    

Christie’s staff quickly recalibrated his remarks, issuing a statement: “The governor believes vaccines are an important public health protection and with a disease like measles there is no question kids should be vaccinated. At the same time, different states require different degrees of vaccination, which is why he was calling for balance in which ones government should mandate.”  

What’s going on here is Christie is trying to burnish his credentials among evangelical Republican voters in the early GOP primary and caucus States. In late January, when he appeared …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Community Groups and Elected Officials Come Together to Sponsor Forum on New York's Medical Marijuana Program

February 2, 2015 in PERSONAL LIBERTY

By drosenfeld

Forum Will Address Concerns with Proposed Regulations, Including Access for Low Income Patients

New York – Tuesday, February 3rd, patients, community members, providers and elected officials will join together to discuss New York’s medical marijuana law and provide community feedback on the State’s recently introduced draft regulations that will shape New York’s medical marijuana program. The event is being held at Hostos Community College in the Bronx, the poorest county in the state, where providers have raised significant concerns that the medical marijuana program could leave low income communities behind.

February 2, 2015

VOCAL New York | Boom! Health | Drug Policy Alliance

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Source: DRUG POLICY

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Obama Proposes Spending another $75 Billion We Don't Have

February 2, 2015 in Economics

By David Boaz

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David Boaz

President Obama is proposing to blow through the limits on the federal budget established in the 2011 Budget Control Act, known as sequestration. After years of soaring federal spending, that law actually led to modest spending decreases in 2012 and 2013. But now Obama wants to raise federal spending by $75 billion next year, in addition to the “automatic” rise of about $220 billion in entitlement spending, which his budget does nothing to slow.

Once again journalists are warning of “congressional dysfunction,” recalling the years without a budget, the debt ceiling fights, 11th-hour deals, and lame-duck showdowns that have characterized the past few years of budget politics.

Republicans and Democrats alike should be able to find wasteful, extravagant, and unnecessary programs to cut back or eliminate.”

Back in the summer of our discontent, 2011, when the airwaves were full of warnings about default, I talked to a journalist who was very concerned about the “dysfunction” in Washington. So am I. But I told her then what’s still true today: that the real problem is not the dysfunctional process that gets the headlines, but the dysfunctional substance of governance. The real dysfunction is a federal budget that doubled in 10 years, unprecedented deficits as far as the eye can see, and a national debt sailing past $18 trillion and 100 percent of GDP.

We’ve become so used to these unfathomable levels of deficits and debt — and to the once-rare concept of trillions of dollars — that we forget how new all this debt is. In 1981, after 190 years of federal spending, the national debt was “only” $1 trillion. Now, just 34 years later, it’s more than $18 trillion. Traditionally, the national debt as a percentage of GDP rose during major wars and the Great Depression. But there’s been no major war or depression in the past 34 years; we’ve just run up $17 trillion more in spending than the country was willing to pay for. That’s why our debt as a percentage of GDP is now higher than at any point except World War II. Here’s a graphic representation of the real dysfunction in Washington:

(Hat tip to the Washington Post for the original graphic and to Jonathan Babington for updating it.)

Those are the kind of numbers that caused the tea party movement and the Republican victories of 2010. And many tea partiers continue to remind their …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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VIDEO: Robert Reich Explains the Worst Trade Deal You've Never Heard Of

February 2, 2015 in Blogs

By Robert Reich, Robert Reich's Blog

Why we have to fight this massive, secretive corporate giveaway.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership, now headed to Congress, is a product of big corporations and Wall Street, seeking to circumvent regulations protecting workers, consumers, and the environment. Watch this video, and say “no” to fast-tracking this bad deal for the vast majority of Americans.

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Source: ALTERNET

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3-Year-Old Shoots Dad and Pregnant Mother

February 2, 2015 in Blogs

By Terrell Jermaine Starr, AlterNet

The toddler found the gun in his mom's purse.

A 3-year-old boy reaching for an iPad in his mother’s purse ended up pulling out a handgun, and shot both his father and pregnant mother at an Albuquerque motel on Saturday, according to KOBF-TV 4.

A single bullet hit the boy’s father, Justin Reynolds, in the buttocks, then exited through his hip and hit the boy’s mother, Monique Villescas, in the right shoulder. Villescas’ 2-year-old daughter was sitting next to her at the time of the shooting but was unharmed.

The Albuquerque Police Department believes the shooting was accidental but are reportedly waiting to interview the boy and the 2-year-old girl before determining if any charges will be filed.

Reynolds and Villescas were getting ready to order pizza before the incident.

“It was like if I was to get up shake your hand and sat back down. That's how fast it happened, ” Reynolds told KOBF-TV 4. “All of a sudden we heard a gun go off and the next minute I realized my girlfriend was bleeding. Then I sat down and realized I was shot too.”

He called 911 after the shooting.

“I just took action right away,” Reynolds told KOBF-TV. “I was more worried about my girlfriend than myself and anything else that was going on. And my son because I didn't know if he had shot himself or not. He was shocked and crying. It was traumatizing.”

Reynolds was released from the hospital Saturday afternoon. Villescas is in stable condition; doctors are keeping an eye on her in case she goes into labor early.

The two kids were placed with the Children, Youth and Families Department for 48 hours. The case will be forwarded to the DA's office to determine if the parents will be charged with felony criminal negligence.

“The Albuquerque Police Department cannot emphasize enough that if you choose to be a gun owner, always secure and lock up your firearm out of the reach of children and adolescents,” Officer Simon Drobik said Saturday.

Watch the clip below:

…read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Funding a Balanced Force

February 2, 2015 in Economics

By Christopher A. Preble

Christopher A. Preble

Cutting military spending is hard but not impossible. Nearly every secretary of defense has canceled or truncated popular weapon systems, often in the face of opposition from senior military leaders and prominent members of Congress. Dick Cheney killed the Navy and Marine Corps’ A-12 Avenger attack aircraft, Donald Rumsfeld axed the Army’s Crusader artillery system and the Comanche helicopter, and Robert Gates capped the purchase of new F-22 fighters for the Air Force.

In other cases, though, Congress forces the Pentagon to buy things it doesn’t want or need: Cheney tried — and failed — to kill the V-22 Osprey. Congress may saddle the Air Force with the A-10 Thunderbolt (better known as the Warthog) for a few more years or compel the Navy to keep the aircraft carrier George Washington in service. The Pentagon is maintaining excess base capacity, partly because Congress has resisted efforts to close any in the United States since 2005.

Congress’s shortsighted parochialism could have a serious impact on military readiness. Consider, for example, the one area of the Pentagon’s budget that has remained nearly impervious to cost cutting: salaries and benefits for military personnel.

Congress’s shortsighted parochialism could have a serious impact on military readiness.”

The reasons why are obvious enough: The military is the most popular institution in America, and the men and women serving in the military are almost universally revered. Cutting the troops’ pay is about as popular as kicking Santa Claus on Christmas — but the opprobrium lasts 365 days of the year.

Still, there is broad agreement across the political spectrum that personnel costs must be reined in. A joint statement signed by over two-dozen defense experts warned, “If Congress fails to curb the growth in military compensation costs, they will continue to grow as the defense budget shrinks, crowding out funds needed for training, readiness and for the replacement of worn-out equipment.”

The Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission recommended reforms for future service members that would ultimately result in lower personnel costs. Sen. John McCain has signaled that he would consider changes, but advocacy groups are already lobbying to maintain the status quo. Congress is likely to bend to the pressure, although it did approve modest changes in the 2015 budget.

However, there is another way to reduce military personnel costs without cutting pay and benefits for active-duty men and women: Reduce the number of active-duty troops. …read more

Source: OP-EDS