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The Letter the President Should Have Written to Sandy Hook Mom Nicole Hockley

March 22, 2018 in Blogs

By Katherine Fugate, AlterNet

A real president would talk to parents of slain children, not run from them.


Dear Ms. Nicole Hockley,

I have read your open letter to me dated November 15, 2017, regarding gun violence. I wanted to respond sooner, and I tried to do so on December 14, the five-year anniversary of the death of your son, Dylan, at Sandy Hook Elementary, but found myself at a loss for words. So perhaps it is fitting that I write to you now, while you and your family are here in Washington, D.C., for “March for Our Lives,” in support of the students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Please let me first offer my deepest sympathies for your loss. President Dwight D. Eisenhower once said: “There is no tragedy in life like the death of a child. Things never get back to the way they were.” I agree with that sentiment. Life’s natural order is for children to bury their parents. Only in times of war should a mother ever bury her child first. Dylan was in first grade. He was not a soldier. But he was a casualty in a war on our own soil.

As a parent myself, one of the most painful realizations I’ve had is that I will not be alive to witness all of my child’s life. I will not know how “it all turned out.” As a parent, you will witness your child’s birth, nurse their skinned knees, cheer them on at their college graduations, walk them down the aisle at their wedding and spoil your grandchildren until that final day when we, as parents, take our last breath and let them go on to live their lives without us. I often reflect on the pain of that final day—not in my own death, but in knowing I will never know how my child’s story ends.

Dylan’s story did not end naturally. The pages of his life were torn out by a mass shooter. I know you still have your son Jake with you and that must be some …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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For These Children of Iraq, Help Did Not Arrive

March 22, 2018 in Blogs

By Claudia Lefko, Common Dreams

The unseen cost of three decades of war in Iraq.


In the end, help did not arrive.

In 2001, a 10-year old boy sketched this image of his sister, Faiza Amir, in her sick-bed at what is now Children’s Welfare Teaching Hospital (CWTH) in Medical City Baghdad and then, in large letters above the drawing, he made his plea, in English: “Help Cheldrin (sic) in Iraq.” Nearly all the drawings had written messages asking for help. Many asked for God's help.

Muhanad Shawki directed his plea to a genie floating from a magic lantern: “I want to get out of
 the hospital,” he wrote on his perfectly rendered Disney-esque drawing of Aladdin.

The message was the drawing by 8-year-old Heerum Ali, terminally ill with Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Arabic script in bright orange crayon fills the paper : “I don't want presents, I want to live.”

But help did not arrive. Not for Faiza, or Muhanad or Heerum; all three children died from childhood cancer.

Faiza died from ALL (acute lymphoblastic leukemia) only days after her brother gave me his drawing as part of the Iraqi Children’s Art Exchange. Muhanad and Heerum relapsed after their treatment and also died. Help did not arrive for children and it did not arrive for the doctors and nurses who struggled to care for them without adequate facilities, drugs or adequately trained personnel in a country devastated by the First Gulf War and isolated from the international community by stringent UN-imposed economic sanctions backed by the U.S. government. Help did not arrive, and the humanitarian crisis continued to deepen.

And then, in March 2003—fifteen years ago this month—the U.S. and a few allies waged yet another brutal war, dealing a further blow to an already devastated country and people. Still, in the months following the invasion, there was some hope in this Baghdad hospital that the worst was over, that the tide would turn, and that Iraq and Iraq's healthcare system could begin to recover and rebuild.

Dr. Salma, the director of the pediatric oncology unit at CWTH traveled to Jordan in June 2003 for a meeting to discuss the status …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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How a Scrappy Campus Union Saved Tennessee From Privatization

March 22, 2018 in Blogs

By Chris Brooks, Rebecca Kolins Givan, In These Times

The southern victory could be a blueprint for defending the public sector.


Taking the podium in her freshly pressed, light-blue work uniform, Doris Conley looked out onto the faces of the Memphis City Council.

For 17 years she has worked as a custodian at the Child Research Center at the University of Memphis. Her days start early, at 5:30 a.m., and she will have cleaned and sanitized three sets of bathrooms, four classrooms and the kitchen before 85 children arrive at 8. She spends the rest of the day running between two buildings, cleaning up messes and helping the teachers manage the children. It’s a tough job, but one the 64-year-old loves and takes pride in.

It’s also a job that she and her family rely on. Conley’s husband passed away in 2016, and her income has to stretch far enough to provide for herself and the granddaughter she is helping to raise.

Which is why, after a long day on her feet in September 2017, the lifelong Memphian was moved to tears as she explained her situation to the Council: “The state is trying to sell me and my co-workers out to a private company.”

Two years earlier, Tennessee’s billionaire Republican governor, Bill Haslam, had secretly convened a committee of highly paid government appointees and corporations, with the goal of concocting a state-wide privatization plan.

The committee said it was using “vested outsourcing,” a controversial process in which the corporations that want to bid for a public contract work with government leaders to draft it. The resulting $1.9 billion contract was the largest in Tennessee government history, and privatized the maintenance and management of up to 90 percent of state-run facilities, including state and university buildings. It was awarded to Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL), a multinational with a history of bribery accusations.

The contract specified that all state employees at outsourced facilities would have to reapply for their positions. JLL could impose any background checks or drug tests it chose. The company also had the discretion to transfer rehired employees to positions up to 50 miles away. Employees would also immediately see higher …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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'The Battle for Paradise': Naomi Klein on Disaster Capitalism & the Fight for Puerto Rico’s Future

March 22, 2018 in Blogs

By Amy Goodman, Juan González, Democracy Now!

Corporations are making a killing over Hurricane Maria's destruction.


Six months since Hurricane Maria battered the island of Puerto Rico, the island is the site of a pitched battle between wealthy investors—particularly from the technology industry—and everyday Puerto Ricans fighting for a place in their island’s future. The Puerto Rican government has pushed for a series of privatization schemes, including privatizing PREPA, one of the largest public power providers in the United States, and increasing the number of privately run charter schools and private school vouchers. For more, we speak with best-selling author and journalist Naomi Klein, author of “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.” Her latest piece for The Intercept, where she is a senior correspondent, is “The Battle for Paradise: Puerto Ricans and Ultrarich 'Puertopians' Are Locked in a Pitched Struggle over How to Remake the Island.”

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: It has been six months since Hurricane Maria battered the island of Puerto Rico. It was the most catastrophic storm to hit the island in over a century. As many as 200,000 people remain without power in what’s considered the longest blackout in U.S. history. Energy officials say some areas won’t have power restored until May.

On Tuesday, San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz tweeted, “Six months after Maria things are not what they should be. Thousands still w/o electricity due to neglect and bureaucracy. Our lives matter!”

The devastating storm has reshaped Puerto Rico in countless ways. The official death toll remains at just 64, but independent counts put the total number of fatalities at over a thousand. According to a recent study by the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College in New York, more than 135,000 Puerto Ricans have fled to the U.S. mainland since the storm. Puerto Rico’s Governor Ricardo Rosselló is moving to privatize PREPA, one of the largest public power utilities in the United States.

AMY GOODMAN: The governor is also pushing for privately run charter schools and private school vouchers. On Monday, teachers across Puerto Rico held a …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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How the Black Panthers Inspired California’s Strict Gun Laws

March 22, 2018 in History

By Thad Morgan

Armed members of the Black Panther Party standing in the corridor of the Capitol in Sacramento protesting a bill that restricted the carrying of arms in public, 1967. (Credit: Walt Zeboski/AP Photo)

With each passing day, the debate for or against gun control rages on within the United States. And although the National Rifle Association (NRA) currently leads the charge for the rights of citizens to carry guns of all types with little to no interference from the government, the original gun rights advocates to take that stance were the Black Panthers.

Throughout the late 1960s, the militant black nationalist group used their understanding of the finer details of California’s gun laws to underscore their political statements about the subjugation of African-Americans. In 1967, 30 members of the Black Panthers protested on the steps of the California statehouse armed with .357 Magnums, 12-gauge shotguns and .45-caliber pistols and announced, “The time has come for black people to arm themselves.”

The display frightened politicians—including California governor Ronald Reagan—to the point that it not only helped to pass the Mulford Act, a state bill prohibiting the open carry of loaded firearms, bit an addendum prohibiting loaded firearms in the state Capitol was also added. The 1967 bill took California down the path to having some of the strictest gun laws in America and helped jumpstart a surge of national gun control restrictions.

“The law was part of a wave of laws that were passed in the late 1960s regulating guns, especially to target African-Americans,” says Adam Winkler, author of Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms. “Including the Gun Control Act of 1968, which adopted new laws prohibiting certain people from owning guns, providing for beefed up licensing and inspections of gun dealers and restricting the importation of cheap Saturday night specials [pocket pistols] that were popular in some urban communities.”

In contrast to the NRA’s rigid opposition to gun control in today’s America, the organization fought alongside the government for stricter gun regulations in the 1960s. This was part of an effort to keep guns out of the hands of African-Americans as racial tensions in the nation grew. The NRA felt especially threatened by the Black Panthers, whose well-photographed carrying of weapons in public spaces was entirely legal in the state of California, where they were based.

Armed members of the Black Panther Party standing in the corridor of the Capitol in Sacramento protesting a bill that restricted the carrying of arms in public, 1967. (Credit: Walt Zeboski/AP Photo)

The Black Panthers were “innovators” in the way they …read more

Source: HISTORY

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The Viagra Effect: Has It Really Given Sex a Lift?

March 22, 2018 in History

By Esther Perel

Small blue Viagra pills, Pfizer's pharmaceutical answer to erectile dysfunction, being separated by machine. (Credit: Suzanne Opton/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)

History Reads is a weekly series featuring work from Team History, a group of experts and influencers, exploring history’s most fascinating questions.

Four years of work, all for naught.

That’s what a team of Pfizer chemists working in southwest England in the early 1990s was coming to conclude about sildenafil citrate, a pharmaceutical compound they had been developing as a possible treatment for chest pain and high blood pressure. Test results for its effectiveness were not looking good. The project teetered on the brink of failure. Then, just as it appeared Pfizer was going to pull the plug, something happened that would earn the company billions of dollars, impact countless lives and upend cultural norms the world over: A few study participants reported that the drug, unexpectedly, was giving them more erections.

The project got an immediate lift.

Combining this finding with new information available from recent studies on the biochemical process of male arousal, the lab soon confirmed that while sildenafil did little for hypertension or angina, it did help the blood vessels in the penis dilate more easily, producing an erection if a man becomes sexually aroused. Some early study participants enjoyed the effect so much, they didn’t want to return unused samples of the drug when the trials ended.

Small blue Viagra pills, Pfizer’s pharmaceutical answer to erectile dysfunction, being separated by machine. (Credit: Suzanne Opton/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)

Just a few years later, in March 1998, the Food and Drug Administration approved sildenafil—under the brand name Viagra—to treat erectile dysfunction. Arriving two months after the Bill Clinton–Monica Lewinsky scandal thrust oral sex and semen stains into the national conversation, the drug underscored a fundamental tension in American culture: Everyone was desperate to talk about the taboo topic of sex.

Viagra’s arrival, now 20 years ago, became a watershed moment for men. Previously, the only options for dealing with erectile dysfunction involved treatments that were either shamefully seedy or uncomfortably invasive. The drug also ignited something of a sexual revolution—albeit one with a complicated legacy. Because even as it liberated men from the stigma surrounding erectile dysfunction, it reinforced a very specific, limiting version of sexuality that persists to this day.

VIDEO: MODERN MARVELS: Viagra. A look at how the popular erectile-dysfunction drug works and why pharmaceutical companies are rushing to create alternative versions.

I remember that moment in history well. Initially, media coverage of the …read more

Source: HISTORY

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The End of Scarcity

March 22, 2018 in Economics

By Marian L. Tupy

Marian L. Tupy

It is often posited that population growth must inevitably
result in the exhaustion of natural resources, environmental
destruction, and even mass starvation. Only last month, a
much-discussed study in the journal Nature Sustainability
insisted that “Humanity faces the challenge of how to achieve
a high quality of life for over 7 billion people without
destabilizing critical planetary processes.”

We have seen this before.

“The Limits to Growth,” which was published by the
Club of Rome in 1972, looked at the interplay between industrial
development, population growth, malnutrition, the availability of
nonrenewable resources, and the quality of the environment. It
concluded that “If present growth trends in world population,
industrialization, pollution, food production, and resource
depletion continue unchanged… [t]he most probable result will be a
rather sudden and uncontrollable decline in both population and
industrial capacity.”

Doomsdayers fret as world
population grows, yet human productivity increases all the while
and resources remain abundant.

That was 46 years ago. Let’s see how such a prediction panned
out, and let’s go one step further by broadening the period
studied. Looking at changes in population, commodity prices, and
income from 1960 to 2016, world population increased by 145
percent, from 3 billion to almost 7.5 billion. Yet inflation
adjusted gross domestic product (GDP) per person increased by 182
percent, from $3,689 to $10,391. Income, in other words, grew 26
percent faster than population.

What about natural resources? After all, as people grow richer,
they consume more stuff. Consider the evolution of prices of 42
natural resources, as tracked by the World Bank from 1960 to 2016.
Adjusted for inflation, 19 declined in price, while 23 increased in
price. But only three (crude oil, gold, and silver) appreciated
more than GDP per person. Put differently, GDP per person grew
faster than 92 percent of the commodities measured.

Adjusting prices for inflation is important, but adjusting for
changes in income is even more so. Time is humanity’s most
precious resource, and comparing prices and income is what really
counts. Are people spending less time to acquire more things? After
adjusting for the increase in GDP per person, commodity prices fell
by an average of 53 percent. Humanity is creating faster than it is
consuming.

In spite of the Great Recession and the gloomy disposition of
many of our fellow Americans, the United States of America has done
well over the last 56 years. Our GDP per person grew from $17,036
to $52,194 — an increase of 206.3 percent. That’s 13.6
percent faster than the global average.

So what about gold, with a value which rose by 123.6 percent,
silver, which rose by 18.6 percent, and oil, which rose …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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How Much Daily Activity You Need to Burn off 9 Healthy (But High-Calorie) Foods

March 22, 2018 in Blogs

By Luke Doyle, AlterNet

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Some of the most common healthy foods are also highly caloric.


A healthy lifestyle is fueled by nutrient-rich foods that give your body the energy it needs. But some of these foods come with high calorie counts, and the “healthy” label doesn't mean it's okay to consume unlimited amounts of them.

Keep your calorie count in check by moderating your serving size. And for those days when you really need an indulgence? Dial up the activity level to burn off that excess energy.

1. Packaged fruit and nut mix

A favorite of those with an active lifestyle, fruit and nut mix offers fat for sustenance and protein for muscle repair. The varieties are almost endless, but calorie-counters beware: pre-packaged bags are often heavy in calories.

Homemade versions are a delicious and a healthier option—unless you’re moving house, in which case you’ll burn those calories and then some.

2. Sultanas (raisins)

Though essentially just dried-out grapes, the concentration of sugars makes sultanas relatively high in calories compared to their less wrinkled cousins. In fact, you can have twice as many grapes for half the calories.

Or eat a full serving of sultanas and erase the guilt by tidying the house and giving the floor a good mop.

3. Hummus

A delicious Middle Eastern dip made from chickpeas, garlic, tahini and lemon juice, hummus has a guaranteed place in fridges and on dinner party tables. As delicious as it is, it’s also relatively caloric.

But there’s good news: if you can’t keep it to a couple tablespoons, you can work off those extra calories with some garden landscaping.

4. Canned coconut milk

Coconut milk gives authentic taste to curries and stews and is a delicious non-dairy base for …read more

Source: ALTERNET