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Woody Allen Is Both a Genius and a Predator—Why Mariel Hemingway's New Revelation Matters

March 26, 2015 in Blogs

By Erin Keane, Salon

Hemingway's new memoir is making a lot of us face our Woody blind spot.

This is my own garbage confession: Woody Allen’s “Manhattan” used to be one of my favorite movies. If I am confessing fully, I have to admit that on some level, I will always feel drawn to it, maybe in the way that disillusioned former church-goers might feel a yearning from somewhere deep inside of them when they pass a door they know on so many levels they can never cross again. Knowing the truth about what you believe and longing for the time before you knew it are not mutually exclusive states of being.

That is how I, and I’m sure many others, have long approached “Manhattan,” since I became aware of the allegations of sexual abuse against Woody Allen and started seeing the film’s April-December “romance” in the stark and unforgiving light which it deserves. To love that film as an adult is to embrace a willful innocence about art, business and life that none of us can really afford to begin with.

Mariel Hemingway was 17 when she played the teenage girlfriend of Woody Allen, then 44, in the film he wrote, directed and starred in. It’s considered one of his finest pieces of work — and on many purely aesthetic levels, it is. It is witty, lovingly shot, and in so many ways a frank and unflinching indictment of conflicted male desire, pitting Hemingway’s winsome high schooler Tracy against the charmingly neurotic intellectual (and very much adult) Mary (Diane Keaton) in Allen’s Isaac’s struggle between his head and his heart.

Blah, blah, blah your conflicted male desire.

If you had asked me at 17 if I would ever date a 44-year old, I might have actually barfed.

If you had asked me at 19 if I thought there was anything disgusting about Tracy and Isaac’s relationship in “Manhattan,” I would have said something like, well, it’s not real life, is it? It’s a story. And to make great literature and film and drama, we have to create spaces of empathy for characters who …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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The SGR Fix Will Bust the Budget

March 26, 2015 in Economics

By Michael F. Cannon

Michael F. Cannon

The House is expected to vote today on a bill to eliminate the annual cuts in Medicare payments to doctors that Congress has been postponing for more than a decade — the so-called “sustainable growth rate” (SGR) cuts. (UPDATE: The bill passed the House by a 392–37 margin.) The bill would result in $145 billion in new federal spending, above current law. It would also require wealthier seniors to pay for more of their own Medicare coverage, and would restrict the ability of seniors to buy supplemental coverage that completely shields them from the cost of the medical care they consume. (Such comprehensive “Medicare supplemental” coverage tends to increase overall Medicare spending.)

A number of people have asked me what my take on this legislation is. Basically, it is this: If you’re going to be totally fiscally irresponsible, this is the way to do it.

Congress created the SGR to limit Medicare spending on physician services. The SGR uses a formula to cut Medicare payments to physicians automatically. The formula works too well: It mandates cuts so deep that Congress decides every year it cannot stand for them. That’s why Congress has postponed those cuts some 17 times since 2003. This legislation would eliminate the cuts permanently, which of course would increase federal spending — by the $145 billion mentioned above (over the next ten years).

If you’re going to be totally fiscally irresponsible, this is the way to do it.”

As a starting point, we should recognize that the ideal amount the federal government should pay doctors is $0.00. So right off the bat, we know this bill is moving in the wrong direction. The bill compounds this error by not paying for all of that new spending by cutting spending elsewhere or increasing revenues. As a result, it increases the federal debt — which is to say, it imposes a tax burden on future generations who cannot vote or have not even been born yet. So this bill is yet another example of the dessert-first-spinach-later approach to fiscal stewardship that is business as usual in Congress.

Ryan Ellis of Americans for Tax Reform disagrees. He is the most prominent conservative supporter of this bill’s approach. Ellis argues that if we assume Congress has already spent that $145 billion, then this bill is actually a $1 billion spending cut. Well, yes, …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Spring Regulation Issue: Oil, Obamacare and Tech Innovation

March 26, 2015 in Economics

In the new issue of Regulation, economist Pierre Lemieux argues that the recent oil price decline is at least partly the result of increased supply from the extraction of shale oil.  The increased supply allows the economy to produce more goods, which benefits some people, if not all of them.  Thus, contrary to some commentary in the press, cheaper oil prices cannot harm the economy as a whole. Also in this issue, Shirley Svorny describes how state medical licensure boards do very little to discipline doctors who cause medical errors, and Christina Sandefur examines questionable legal maneuvering by states to implement aspects of the Affordable Care Act.

…read more

Source: CATO HEADLINES

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6 Desperate Ways the Church of Scientology Is Trying to Stop 'Going Clear'

March 26, 2015 in Blogs

By Kali Holloway, AlterNet

Alex Gibney's damning HBO documentary has set off a war with the famously aggressive church.

The Church of Scientology has a well-publicized history of going after its critics with everything it has, including its tons and tons of dollars, which reportedly total about $3 billion. So it’s not all that surprising that, as Alex Gibney’s much talked-about Scientology documentary “Going Clear” – which numerous reports claim uncovers some fairly batshit revelations – heads to HBO on March 29, the Church has undertaken a full-scale, multimedia counterattack. Here are six ways Scientology, gloves off, is going after Gibney and everyone involved in “Going Clear.”

1. Buying A Super Bowl Ad. After the film was lauded by critics from numerous outlets after its Sundance Film Festival premiere in January, the Church ran an ad before America’s biggest television event. The commercial, titled “The Age of Answers,” looked like any generic ad for a new rising technology, except that the hot, new gadgetry shown is an e-meter. “Imagine an age in which the predictability of science and the wisdom of religion combine,” says a voiceover in the deep, disembodied voice of someone who knows more than you. A few seconds later, the words “spiritual technology” appear on the screen, which in a literal flash blend to become the word “scientology.”

The Super Bowl ad, which appeared in markets around the country, likely cost the Church millions by even the most conservative estimates. Not that it matters when you have billions, but it's a mark of commitment, nonetheless.

2. Sending a Five-Page Letter to the Hollywood Reporter Calling Every Ex-Scientologist in the Film a Liar. Earlier this month, the Hollywood Reporterrequested to screen the documentary with high-ranking Church officials. Instead, Church spokesperson Karin Pouw suggested the magazine send a list of questions relating to allegations, which she in turn would “be …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Sens. Paul, McConnell, Heller, and Capito Introduce Legislation to Help America’s Rural Communities

March 26, 2015 in Politics & Elections

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced legislation today to help rural communities harmed by Obama Administration policies that restrict access to rural lending opportunities. Sens. Dean Heller (R-NV), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), and Rand Paul (R-KY) are original cosponsors of the Helping Expand Lending Practices in (HELP) Rural Communities Act, which would provide rural communities with better access to credit opportunities that can help grow their local economies.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) – created by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act of 2010 – permits certain rural lending practices in areas it deems ‘rural’ or ‘underserved.’ However, as many rural communities have noted, the current definition of rural as established by the CFPB excludes a significant number of demonstrably rural areas and neglects to provide rural communities with any input in the process. The CFPB recently put forth a proposal to revise its definition, but once again, it neglected to seek input from rural communities themselves.

The HELP Rural Communities Act would create an appeals process that would allow constituents to petition the CFPB with important local information for reconsideration of their status. This would give rural counties across the country a voice when the CFPB has incorrectly labeled them as ‘non-rural.’ The bill also takes important steps to address the challenges rural communities face by eliminating arbitrary mortgage origination requirements that will ensure that rural communities bordering urban areas are still able to access credit services that are essential to rural small businesses and farmers.

‘The HELP Rural Communities Act is a common sense piece of legislation that would help rural communities obtain their housing needs. I vehemently oppose the actions of overzealous bureaucrats who are limiting financing options in our rural communities. I am proud to work with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to expand housing options in rural Kentucky,’ Senator Paul said.

‘Under the current, CFPB definition, counties in Kentucky, such as Bath and Trigg, have been labeled as ‘non-rural,’ and are therefore barred from certain rural lending practices that are helpful to farmers and small businesses,’ Senator McConnell said. ‘While I welcome the CFPB’s recent attempts to improve the rural definition, I remain concerned that rural communities – particularly those in Kentucky – have been left without a voice. Our legislation seeks to correct this by putting into statute a process that allows counties that have …read more

Source: RAND PAUL

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New Study Determines Exact Level of Drinking that Leads to Liver Cancer

March 26, 2015 in Blogs

By Denis Campbell, The Guardian

You might want to cut back after you read this.

Consuming three alcoholic drinks a day can be enough to cause liver cancer, experts have said.

The World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) has pinpointed the level of drinking implicated in liver cancer after undertaking what it says was the biggest review so far of the evidence on the relationship between diet, weight, physical activity and the disease.

Its assessment of 34 previous studies covering 8.2 million people, more than 24,500 of whom had liver cancer, revealed “strong evidence” linking intake of three drinks a day to the disease. 

“Around three or more drinks per day can be enough to cause liver cancer,” said Amanda Mclean, director of the charity’s UK branch. “Until now we were uncertain about the amount of alcohol likely to lead to liver cancer. But the research reviewed in this report is strong enough, for the first time, to be more specific about this.”

The WCRF’s findings prompted the Alcohol Health Alliance, a coalition of health organisations, to claim that alcohol is so toxic that cans and bottles should carry health warnings.

“Alcohol, like tobacco and asbestos, is a class 1 carcinogen and it is totally unacceptable that the public is not provided with such basic information”, said Prof Sir Ian Gilmore, the alliance’s chair. 

“This report shows that there is no safe level of drinking when it comes to cancer prevention. It’s time for the government to take action to minimise the risk of harm, including ensuring that labels carry mandatory health warnings and lists of ingredients to standards that are developed independently from groups with vested interests.”

About one in 100 men and one in 200 women in Britain develop liver cancer at some point in their lifetime, and 4,703 people were diagnosed with it in 2012. It has one of the lowest survival rates among the 200 different types of cancer. 

Women should try to limit themselves to no more than one drink a day and men to two in order to minimise their risk of the disease, the WCRF said. 

Dr Sarah Jarvis, …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Sens. Paul, Schatz & Reps. Brown, Ellison Introduce Bipartisan Legislation To Help Expand Use of Police Body Cameras

March 26, 2015 in Politics & Elections

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawai’i), U.S. Representatives Corrine Brown (FL-05) and Keith Ellison (MN-05) introduced the Police Creating Accountability by Making Effective Recording Available (Police CAMERA) Act of 2015. This bipartisan legislation would create a pilot grant program to assist state and local law enforcement agencies with purchasing or leasing body-worn cameras. ‘Body cameras will benefit the brave men and women who serve in our police force and the people they protect,’ said Sen. Paul. ‘The use of body cameras helps officers collect and preserve evidence to solve crimes, while also decreasing the number of complaints against police. The Police CAMERA Act will help state and local police departments access this new tool, while ensuring that the privacy rights of every civilian is respected.’ ‘The relationship between our communities and the men and women who protect them is based on trust and accountability,’ said Sen. Schatz. ‘In communities like Ferguson, we have seen that public trust eroded by reports of racism and use of excessive force by police. Body-worn police cameras are already being used by some police departments and have shown to be effective in keeping our communities safe. Our legislation would help expand the responsible use of body-worn police cameras and help make sure our police officers and law enforcement agencies are more accountable to the communities they serve.’ ‘At a time when the trust between law enforcement and those they were sworn to protect has reached a critical point, the CAMERA Act gives us an opportunity to explore and learn best practices for the use of body worn cameras,’ said Rep. Brown. ‘Representing Florida, a place that has had its share of issues with transparency and police accountability, the CAMERA Act is a positive bi-partisan measure which strengthens trust between law enforcement and the communities they are sworn to protect and serve.’

 ‘After the tragic deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Robert Saylor and Tamir Rice, a stronger bond must be forged between our communities and police forces,’ said Rep. Ellison. ‘The pilot program created by the Police CAMERA Act empowers law enforcement officials who want to do better for the people they protect and serve. Body cameras alone won’t stop the next tragedy, but we should take every common-sense step we can to increase accountability and protect both civilians and police officers.’ Police departments that have …read more

Source: RAND PAUL

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Leaked Emails Reveal Tucker Carlson and His Brother Are Even More Awful than You Thought

March 26, 2015 in Blogs

By Kali Holloway, AlterNet

Tucker calls NYC Mayor de Blasio staffer “whiny.” His brother calls her “labiaface.”

There are no surprises in the details emerging from a recent story involving Tucker Carlson, his brother and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s female spokesperson. It's not surprising that leaked emails reveal Carlson is a patronizing jerk; nor that Carlson’s brother’s name is Buckley; and certainly not that Buckley referred to the spokesperson in question as “labiaface” and a “self-righteous bitch.”

The whole kerfuffle began when DeBlasio spokesperson Amy Spitalnick reached out to Peter Fricke, a writer for Tucker Carlson’s conservative website the Daily Caller, asking for a correction to a story. After a few exchanges in which she specified precisely how the story was erroneous, Spitalnick sent Fricke and Daily Caller editor Christopher Bedford an email asking that they “correct the story now.” Bedford responded thusly:

“We’re reviewing the video now, Amy. If you annoy me with another whiny email before then, I’m muting this thread, thanks.”

As anyone might do when dealing with an employee behaving like a total asshole, Spitalnick then reached out to Bedford's boss, Tucker Carlson. Spitalnick wrote:

“Tucker – it’s pretty appalling that this is how your staff chose to respond to us requesting a basic correction (and providing a transcript that directly contradicts the original story).”

Carlson, who almost always looks like he’s on his way to some frat’s bow-tie formal, used the opportunity to respond in the most smug and mansplainy way possible:

“Dear Amy,

Thanks for your email. You believe our story was inaccurate and have demanded a correction. Totally fair. We are going over the transcript now.

What Bedford complained about was your tone, which, I have to agree, was whiny and annoying, and I say that in the spirit of helpful correction rather than as a criticism. Outside of New York City, adults generally write polite, cheerful emails to one another, even when asking for corrections. Something to keep in mind the next time you communicate with people who don’t live on your island.”

It stops just short of telling her to “smile more” or asking if it’s her “time of the …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Chelsea Handler Says Bill Cosby Tried to 'Cosby' Her

March 26, 2015 in Blogs

By Kali Holloway, AlterNet

In a recent interview, the comedian recalls an uncomfortable encounter with Cosby.

Chelsea Handler claims a decade-old personal encounter with Bill Cosby made her certain that charges of sexual assault against the comedian are true. In a recent interview with Esquire, Handler euphemistically stated that America’s ex-Favorite Dad had “tried to Cosby” her. Said Handler:

“Oh, I was in Atlantic City playing, doing stand-up, and he was doing stand-up in Atlantic City in the same hotel, and at like three o'clock in the afternoon, someone from the hotel came down and said, ‘Oh, you know, Mr. Cosby would really like to meet you up in his hotel suite.’ And I thought, ‘That's really weird.’ This was like ten years ago. And I said, ‘That's really weird. I don't want to go alone.’”

Handler recalls bringing three men with her, including a producer from a project she was working on at the time. “I brought them up with me to his room and thank God I did, because now I know what would've happened if I went up there alone.”

Handler says she’d long forgotten about the incident, even after numerous women stepped forward to report that Cosby had sexually assaulted them on charges that go back for decades. She says she remembered only after the prodding of a friend.

“Then my friend texted me the other day saying, ‘Do you remember that night we went up to, or that afternoon we went up to Bill Cosby's and you were so freaked out you made us come with you?’ And I said, ‘Yeah,’ and he said, ‘Hello! You could've been one of his victims if we weren't there.’ And I went, ‘Oh my gosh…’ Yeah, so yeah, he's guilty.”

Read the full interview, which also includes Park and Recs’ Nick Offerman talking sex and relationships, here

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The Monetary Approach Reigns Supreme

March 26, 2015 in Economics

By Steve H. Hanke

image

Steve H. Hanke

We are still in the grip of the Great Recession. Economic growth remains anemic and below its trend rate in most parts of the world. And what’s more, this state of subdued economic activity has been with us for over seven years.In the U.S. (and elsewhere) the central bank created a classic aggregate demand bubble that became visible in 2004. The Fed’s actions also facilitated the creation of many market-specific bubbles in the housing, equity, and commodity markets. These bubbles all dramatically burst, with the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers in September 2008.

The price changes that occurred in the second half of 2008 were truly breathtaking. The most important price in the world — the U.S. dollar-euro exchange rate — moved from 1.60 to 1.25. Yes, the greenback soared by 28% against the euro in three short months. During that period, gold plunged from $975/oz to $735/oz and crude oil fell from $139/bbl to $67/bbl.

What was most remarkable was the fantastic change in the inflation picture. In the U.S., for example, the year-over-year consumer price index (CPI) was increasing at an alarming 5.6% rate in July 2008. By February 2009, that rate had dropped into negative territory, and by July 2009, the CPI was contracting at a -2.1% rate. This blew a hole in a well-learned dogma: that changes in inflation follow changes in policy, with long and variable lags. Since the world adopted a flexible exchange-rate “non-system”, changes in inflation can strike like a lightning bolt.

The monetary approach offers a coherent theory of national income determination – one that stands up to the test of empirical verification.”

True to form, central bankers have steadfastly denied any culpability for creating the bubbles that so spectacularly burst during the Panic of 2008-09. What’s more, they have repeatedly told us that they have saved us from a Great Depression. For central bankers, the “name of the game” is to blame someone else for the world’s economic and financial troubles.

To understand why the Fed’s fantastic claims and denials are rarely subjected to the indignity of empirical verification, we have to look no further than Milton Friedman. In a 1975 book of essays in honor of Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom: Problems and Prospects, Gordon Tullock wrote:

…it should be pointed out that a very large part of the information available on most government issues originates within the government. On several …read more

Source: OP-EDS