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Two Young Entrepreneurs Offer Way to Grow Food in Dead of Winter

February 18, 2015 in Blogs

By Cole Mellino, EcoWatch

They call their innovation the “next generation of food supply.”

As the Eastern U.S. deals with sub-freezing temperatures and lots of snow, two young entrepreneurs, Jon Friedman and Brad McNamara, who happen to live in Boston, have a solution to produce food locally even in the middle of winterFreight Farms, which Friedman and McNamara started in 2010, sells insulated shipping containers, which they’ve nicknamed Leafy Green Machines, as part of what they call “the next generation of food supply.”

The converted shipping containers are “outfitted with vertical hydroponics, high-efficiency LED lights and an automated climate control system,” according to their website. The automated system allows users to easily produce “high volume, consistent harvests.” Yesterday, Friedman and McNamara joined Jeremy Hobson of NPR’s Here & Now to discuss their startup.

Friedman, McNamara and Hobson stood outside in sub-freezing temperatures next to four Leafy Green Machines. Inside these converted shipping containers are (you guessed it!) thousands of varieties of leafy greens including lettuces, herbs and brassicas.

“We can take this all over and to places that don’t have access to food,” says McNamara.

Their idea has been met with skepticism from some, but everyone understands when you explain that “if you want lettuce in New England right now, it’s coming from really far away,” says Friedman.

Is this catching on? The two have sold 25 units so far, starting at around $76,000 per unit. “Between 50 and 100 people a month come in and say I want to get involved with this,” says McNamara. Growing food might be the world’s oldest profession, but Friedman and McNamara are bringing food production into the 21st century.

“Each farm is a wifi-enabled hotspot, so your farm … is immediately on the web and all of our farms are connected to our network,” McNamara says. “All of our farmers use our farmhand mobile app to monitor their farms 24/7. They can set alerts. They can set alarms.”

Sean and Connie Cooney are two happy Freight Farms customers. With their Leafy Green Machine, they can monitor temperature, nutrient and pH levels, and even watch live …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Bill O'Reilly and Fox News Call for Holy War Against ISIS

February 18, 2015 in Blogs

By Zaid Jilani, AlterNet

This is exactly what ISIS wants.

Last night, Fox News' Bill O'Reilly finally gave ISIS what it wants: a declaration that the West and Middle East are, indeed, in a holy war.

In a segment titled, “The Holy War Begins,” O'Reilly used the recent murders of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians to slam President Obama's approach to ISIS, and quoted a list of religious leaders, including Roman Catholic Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who warned that ISIS threatens “civilization, everything that is decent and noble about humanity. It is a worldwide crisis that cannot, must not, be ignored.”

O'Reilly then ran through the gamut of this week's right-wing complaints about Obama. These ranged from critiques of the State Department's Marie Harf's statement that ISIS cannot be defeated solely with military means, to a bizarre critique that the White House somehow did not recognize that the 21 Egyptians murdered by terrorists were Christian. He concluded with the statement that “the Holy War is here and unfortunately it seems the president will be the last one to acknowledge it.”

His comments seem to be the climax of weeks of agitation from Fox News and other right-wing commentators about Obama avoiding the phrase “Islamic extremism” when talking about ISIS and other terrorists. “Say it, Obama, 'Islamic,'” instructed Fox News contributor Michael Goodwin. Fox contributor Todd Starnes invoked the biblical “Lake of Fire” in counter-terrorism strategy. Christian evangelist Franklin Graham appeared on Greta Van Susteren's show to explain that Obama just had too much affinity for Islam:

His mother was married to a Muslim, his father was a Muslim. Then she married a man from Indonesia. He was raised in Indonesia. Went to Islamic schools. I assume she was a Muslim. So his whole life, his experiences have been surrounded by Islam. He only knows Islam. And he has given a pass to Islam. He is refusing to understand the evil that is in front of him

What O'Reilly and others at Fox seem to be missing is that there's a pretty good …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Reagan Speeches Are Required Reading in Oklahoma Bill to Replace AP U.S. History

February 18, 2015 in Blogs

By Laura Clawson, Daily Kos

This is what happens when Republican legislators determine the school curriculum.

The education bill Oklahoma Republicans are pushing wouldn't just ban the Advanced Placement U.S. History course, it would offer a required reading list of its own. And it's a doozy:

The bill, authored by Oklahoma Rep. Dan Fisher, designates a total of 58 documents that “shall form the base level of academic content for all United States History courses offered in the schools in the state.” Many of the texts are uncontroversial and undoubtedly covered by the Advanced Placement U.S. History course, such as the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence and Gettysburg address. But the bill also has an ideological and religious bent. In addition to 3 speeches by Reagan, the curriculum includes a speech by George W. Bush but nothing from any Democratic president since Lyndon Johnson.

That will certainly help do away with all the pesky nuance conservatives object to in the AP U.S. History framework. Who wants a history class developed by historians and educators when you can have one developed by Republican legislators?

To be fair, there's some minor acknowledgement of the Civil Rights movement, including Martin Luther King, Jr.'s “Letter from the Birmingham Jail” and “I have a dream” speech, but apparently the 1970s and 1990s did not exist—or won't in the version of history taught in Oklahoma, anyway—and the 1980s and 2000s are to be represented solely by Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.

Oklahoma high school graduates don't need to know about the 1970s or 1990s. They'll be totally prepared for a world in which Republican legislators didn't write the curriculum, right? Well, unless they plan to leave the state to go to college in places where their classmates had an actual history education.

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Source: ALTERNET

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Obama Moves to Extend U.S. Lives. Impossible for Him? Let's See

February 18, 2015 in Economics

By Nat Hentoff

Nat Hentoff

After such customary Obama administration un-American news as “US Will No Longer Report Guantanamo Hunger Strikes” (ABC News/AP, December 4) there suddenly appeared in the New York Times that the President was announcing “a major biomedical research initiative, including plans to collect genetic data on one million Americans so scientists could develop drugs and treatment tailored to the characteristic of individual patients” (“US to Collect Genetic Data to Home Care”, New York Times, Jan. 31, 2015).

Although I have been continually critical of Obama, what drew me to this story was the name of the reporter, Robert Pear, who broke the story at the bottom of page 12 of the Times (a story that should have been on the front page).

For years, I have learned more about health care from Robert Pear than from any other journalist.

Here he tells us that precision medicine, also known as personalized or individualized medicine, “gives us one of the greatest opportunities for new breakthroughs that we have ever seen,” as Obama declared at a White House event attended by patients’ advocates, researchers and bio-technology company executives.”

Among the listeners was, yes, a Republican: Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee “and chairman of the Senate health committee, who said he intended to work with the president on the issue.”

And, for once, Obama made immediate sense: “If we’re born with a particular disease or a particular genetic makeup that makes us more vulnerable to something, that’s not our destiny, that’s not our fate.”

Robert Pear shows the way ahead: “Federal officials described the project as a research consortium that would collect information from large numbers of people.

“The data could include medical records, laboratory test results, profiles of patients’ genes, and information about their diet, tobacco use, lifestyle and environment.”

And dig this quote from Dr. Baselga, chief medical officer at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York:

“We dreamed of this. We can mine the genome of tumors from our patients, identify mutations responsible for the tumors, and accelerate improvements in patient care.”

Robert Pear lists, among Obama’s structural plans, his intent “to seek $10 million for the Food and Drug Administration, which regulates technology used to analyze DNA. Such analysis can identify millions of genetic variants, providing information that would help diagnose or treat some diseases, officials said.”

Moreover, he continued, “since the 1980s, researchers have been collecting and storing human tissue and other biological specimens in repositories known as biobanks.”

He …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Kanye West vs. White Mediocrity: The Real Story Behind Beck, Beyoncé and SNL 40

February 18, 2015 in Blogs

By Arthur Chu, Salon

There's a reason Kanye takes more heat than anyone.

There was a lot to criticize about the “Saturday Night Live” 40th anniversary celebration–Jerry Seinfeld’s #SorryNotSorry joshing around about “SNL’s” 40-year history of whiteness, cringeworthy reminders of the show’s tendency to run dubiously funny gags into the ground, and the mystifying continued relevance of Sarah Palin.

So it was strange–though not surprising, for Internet junkies–that Kanye West came in for an avalanche of criticism for doing what was basically a competent, if flawed, music video that was as good or better than any other musical act that night.

But this is par for the course with the ever-rolling tide of Kanye West hot takes. It’s never really about the last thing he did, it’s about the thing he did before–the (sigh) 2015 Grammygate incident–and whether that thing reminds you of something else he did before (the 2009 VMAgate incident), and so on, and so on, ad infinitum.

And yes, it’s hard to hold back commentary about someone who yanks the mic away at an awards show to contest the results, who makes pronouncements like “I will go down as the voice of this generation,” who titles an album punning his name and “Jesus,” who compares making social change to fixing his wife’s pants.

But the tone has changed since 2009, when West grabbed the mic from Taylor Swift at the 2009 VMAs. Back then, Pink bluntly called West “the biggest piece of shit in the world” and got a lot of virtual high-fives; Garbage’s Shirley Manson tried to repeat this act in Beck’s defense and got more of a mixed response. Only a handful of critics tried to halfheartedly defend Kanye in 2009; in 2015 I’ve seen multiple nuanced thinkpieces about how he has a point. These stories have defended him as an important black American voice, and told white people to shut up about it already.

Why the suddenly swelling ranks of volunteers to fight in defense of the West? (Sorry, I had to.)

Social media has changed the game a lot in the past six years. There’s a lot of voices–lumped under names like “Black Twitter”–who have begun to consistently speak out to …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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South Carolina Restaurant Manager Beat, Burned Mentally Challenged Employee With Tongs

February 18, 2015 in Blogs

By Arturo Garcia, Raw Story

The abuse lasted for years.

A 37-year-old South Carolina man accused a longtime employer of abusing him over a four-year period, WMBF-TV reported on Monday.

“I want him to go to prison,” John Christopher Smith said of his former manager, Bobby Paul Edwards. “And I want to be there when he goes.”

Smith has been diagnosed with mild delayed cognitive development. Despite being mentally challenged, Smith has been able to work at J&J’s Cafeteria in Conway since he was 12 years old. He told WMBF he was afraid to come forward with his allegations regarding Edwards before coming forward late last year.

“He would beat me with belts and all that,” Smith said of Edwards. “Take the tongs to the grease on my neck.”

Court documents state that, according to Smith, Edwards began abusing him in 2010. At various points, Edwards allegedly choked, slapped and punched Smith.

WMBF reported that Smith’s caretaker, Geneane Caines, contacted state officials and asked the local NAACP chapter to help him.

“Anyone who is rational and has any sense of logic should realize once you have the facts right here, it should be more than just assault,” chapter president Abdullah Mustafa said. “We are talking about enslavement here.”

According to WMBF, a local medical group confirmed that scars on Smith’s back came from hot tongs. Edwards was arrested and charged with second-degree assault and battery following a complaint from the state Department of Social Services. He is currently free on a $10,000 surety bond, on the condition that he not go near Smith. He is due in court on March 13.

Officials have placed Smith in an undisclosed location to guarantee his safety following Edwards’ arrest.

Check out WMBF’s full report on Smith, as aired on Monday.

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Source: ALTERNET

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How Are Small Banks Faring under Dodd-Frank?

February 18, 2015 in Economics

Although new regulations associated with the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act affect many types of financial institutions and other companies, the effect on small banks has emerged as a matter of considerable concern. New research from Hester Peirce, Ian Robinson, and Thomas Stratmann describes and analyzes the results of a 2013 survey of approximately 200 small banks. The authors’ findings suggest that a large majority of small banks view Dodd-Frank as extremely burdensome, and many banks have reconsidered their product and service offerings in response.

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Source: CATO HEADLINES

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Drug Money: Obama's Reckless $1 Billion Payout to Central America

February 18, 2015 in Economics

By Juan Carlos Hidalgo

Juan Carlos Hidalgo

Last week, the New York Times editorialized in favor of the Obama administration’s proposal to give three Central American countries—Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras—$1 billion in extra aid to help them fight poverty and crime. In a previous op-ed outlining the plan, Vice President Joe Biden even suggested that there is no reason why this program could not usher in “the next great success story of the Western Hemisphere.”

These Central American countries suffer from some of the most acute economic and security challenges in the Americas, some of which Washington has played a significant role in causing. Throwing money to governments with serious institutional flaws won’t solve these problems—and may exacerbate them.

Let’s begin with the security challenges. According to the United Nations’ 2013 Global Study on Homicide, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala ranked first, fourth and fifth, respectively, in the number of homicides per 100,000 inhabitants. Neighboring Belize was third. Central America’s Northern Triangle is the most violent region in the word. The authorities in these countries claim that most of these homicides are committed by youth gangs known as maras. The dramatic collapse in El Salvador’s murder rate after its rival maras reached a truce in March 2012, and its subsequent spike as the ceasefire crumbled, seems to confirm the official claims.

Throwing money to governments with serious institutional flaws won’t solve these problems—and may exacerbate them.”

These gangs pose one of the most complex social problems in the Western Hemisphere. In the last decade, successive administrations in the region announced tough law and order approaches called mano dura, to no avail. Even the decision of El Salvador’s previous president, Mauricio Funes, to use the army to patrol the streets seems to have backfired: there are reports that the maras actually infiltrated the army and are getting their weapons from its arsenal.

A different approach sees the gangs as the children of poverty, and suggests that, instead of fighting them with guns, Central American governments should thwart their power by building schools, creating jobs and offering community programs in sports, arts and so on. While it is true that poverty plays a role in the proliferation of the maras, it’s difficult to see it as the leading cause. After all, Nicaragua suffers from even higher poverty levels than Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras—in addition to having gone through a civil war in the 1980s—and yet has not fallen victim to …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Liberty Dies as Thailand's Military Monopolizes Power: Junta Dispenses Repression Instead Oof Happiness

February 18, 2015 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel recently urged Thailand’s junta to return power to the Thai people and respect rather than suppress their liberties. The regime angrily denounced his “interference” which “negatively affected the reputation of the country.”

General turned Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha proclaimed his fealty to democracy: “I’m a soldier with a democratic heart.” Alas, he has a strange way of showing it. He recently denounced those who challenged his “full power”—backed by soldiers, guns and prisons. Still, he explained, he could have arrested former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra but chose not to. The classic “not as bad as Hitler” defense.

Chan-ocha isn’t as bad as Hitler, but Freedom House ranks Thailand as “not free.” Last November Human Rights Watch’s Brad Adams observed: “Respect for fundamental freedoms and democracy in Thailand under military rule has fallen into an apparently bottomless pit.” The country now is less free than its neighbor Burma.

About the only people willing to risk protesting today are students. The Thai Student Centre for Democracy, which unites activists from across the political spectrum, recently organized a demonstration involving mock elections, resulting in several arrests. Junta spokesman Winthai Suvaree explained to Reuters: “We will use negotiation, but if they persist with their activities we will have to hand them over to police.”

A lot of people have been handed over to police under military rule. Indeed, writer Mong Palatino recently produced a list of “normal activities” suppressed by the military since the May coup: raising the three-finger Hunger Games salute, aiding arrested protestors, holding blank paper, displaying papers and placards with anti-coup messages, covering eyes, face, or mouth, holding or wearing red shirts or t-shirts with political messages, selling products with former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s face, talking to journalists, aiding arrested protestors, publicly reading George Orwell’s1984, criticizing the coup, meeting at McDonald’s and the Hunger Games 3 premier, denouncing the coup on Facebook, wearing a “people” mask, playing France’s La Marseillaise, holding academic seminars on politics, distributing a poem on democracy, and even eating a sandwich in public (when seen as a political protest).

That’s quite a list. Noted Palatino, it “reflects the paranoia of the junta leaders on one hand, and the suffering experience by ordinary Thais on the other.” Chan-ocha claimed: “I want democracy to live on,” but he won’t allow the slightest criticism of his dictatorship.

Many of those arrested are released. However, some apparently remain in …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Testing Obamacare

February 18, 2015 in Economics

By Michael D. Tanner

Michael D. Tanner

Two weeks from today, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in King v. Burwell, the most important challenge to Obamacare since the Court upheld the constitutionality of the individual mandate in 2012 (thanks to Chief Justice Roberts’s bizarre legal interpretation). Given the possibility that the case could punch a very large hole in the health-care law’s implementation, it has unsurprisingly been the subject of much commentary and analysis. Unfortunately, most of that commentary and analysis has been wrong.

For example, the case has nothing to do with the constitutionality of Obamacare. No matter how the Court rules, it will not “strike down” the Affordable Care Act. The case concerns one provision of the law, subsidies provided through the exchanges, and whether those subsidies can be offered through federally run exchanges as well as through exchanges “established by a state.” That’s an important provision, to be sure, but even if the Court rules that subsidies cannot be offered through a federal exchange, most provisions of the law will remain in effect.

In fact, it could be agued that the plaintiffs are actually seeking to have the law implemented precisely as written.

President Obama illegally rewrote the ACA. Will the Court reverse him?”

Nor would a decision to strike down the subsidies necessarily mean that millions of Americans will lose their insurance overnight. No doctor is going to rush into someone’s hospital room and pull the IV out of his arm. Insurance plans don’t work that way, not in the real world.

One can fairly say that those raising the alarm about canceled or unaffordable policies have had a rather late conversion, since Obamacare itself notoriously forced the cancellation of some 6 million insurance plans that failed to meet its criteria. Obamacare also drove up the cost of insurance for millions of Americans. But that is exactly why those now complaining about unaffordable insurance have something of a point. Because Obamacare outlawed many affordable policies and drove up premiums generally, its operation is extremely dependent on shifting much of that cost to taxpayers through subsidies. Therefore, if some of those subsidies are ruled illegal, there will be Americans who will have difficulty paying their premiums — especially at Obamacare’s inflated prices. In a sense, removing the subsidies simply brings the law’s full cost home.

Does that mean some people may choose to give up coverage? Possibly, but fewer than commonly thought. To date, roughly 10.5 …read more

Source: OP-EDS