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Here's how the American cult of 'shareholder capitalism' is poisoning the global economy

December 17, 2018 in Blogs

By Marshall Auerback, Independent Media Institute

The doctrine of shareholder value has created multiple economic crises, long recessions, growing inequality and decades of stagnant incomes for the average American worker.


It’s part of the American experience to find yourself in an elevator, in an airplane terminal, or at home, looking at a screen with stock numbers whizzing by, and people yammering about how America is somewhere on the spectrum between wonderful or about to disintegrate because of a 5 percent swing in Boeing or Microsoft stock. How did we get to a national economic conversation that is dominated by chatter on the rise and fall of stocks, when it’s just a small part of economic life for most of the 300 million people who live in this country?

American-style shareholder capitalism, with its incessant focus on maximizing stock value, started gaining primacy over European/Japanese-style stakeholder capitalism in the 1980s. It was premised on a notion best epitomized by Milton Friedman that the only social responsibility of a corporation is to increase its profits, laying the groundwork for the idea that shareholders, being the owners and the main risk-bearing participants, ought therefore to receive the biggest rewards. Profits therefore should be generated first and foremost with a view toward maximizing the interests of shareholders, not the executives or managers who (according to the theory) were spending too much of their time, and the shareholders’ money, worrying about employees, customers, and the community at large. The economists who built on Friedman’s work, along with increasingly aggressive institutional investors, devised solutions to ensure the primacy of enhancing shareholder value, via the advocacy of hostile takeovers, the promotion of massive stock buybacks or repurchases (which increased the stock value), higher dividend payouts and, most importantly, the introduction of stock-based pay for top executives in order to align their interests to those of the shareholders. These ideas were influenced by the idea that corporate efficiency and profitability were impinged upon by archaic regulation and unionization, which, according to the theory, precluded the ability to compete globally.

While tying corporate decision-making and its performance to stock price to incentivize …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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‘Choice’ has become an excuse for charter and voucher schools to discriminate

December 17, 2018 in Blogs

By Jeff Bryant, Independent Media Institute

The evidence mounts: Not all families have equal access to the education opportunities advocated by Betsy DeVos.


When prominent advocates for “school choice,” such as U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, talk about how a market-based approach for education works, the very stories they might cite as successes actually reveal serious shortcomings of charter schools and vouchers, especially about how they can have detrimental effects on parents, children, and communities. Take, for example, the case of Krystl Newton.

When the private Christian school Newton’s daughter attended closed, she was able to find a charter school near their home in Wake County, North Carolina, that provided a school culture similar to the private academy, with strict discipline, high academic standards, and none of the “gang stuff” (her words) she heard plagued the public schools.

Her daughter thrived in the new charter, so when Newton’s younger son reached kindergarten age, she was pleased the charter would enroll him under their family-members-first policy.

But after his kindergarten year, when he was ready to move to first grade, there was a problem.

Early in the boy’s development, Newton had observed symptoms of what she came to believe was a developmental disability resembling Tourette’s Syndrome. Although an official diagnosis of the disorder couldn’t be made until the child turned eight, Newton had already consulted specialists and gone to the trouble of developing an Individualized Education Program (IEP), a document that is developed for each public school child who needs special supports due to a physical, mental, or emotional disability. Because her daughter also had a mild form of disability when she enrolled in the charter, Newton assumed the charter would be fully accepting and supportive of her son’s situation too.

But the charter administrators felt otherwise.

“They wouldn’t accept our information,” she told me in a phone conversation, referring to her son’s IEP and other documents advising how to conduct his education program. Instead, the charter administrators said they would rely on their own “team” to develop a plan for her son and would “let you know” what the school would choose …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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The scandalous death of a child at the border shows why abolishing ICE doesn't go nearly far enough

December 17, 2018 in Blogs

By Amanda Marcotte, Salon

A child's death in U.S. custody highlights the widespread corruption and failure of border authorities.


Controversy continues to mount over the death of Jakelin Caal Maquin, a seven-year-old girl from Guatemala who died in U.S. custody. Jakelyn crossed the U.S.-Mexico border on Dec. 5 with her father at Antelope Wells, New Mexico, where they turned themselves in to the Border Patrol, along with a group of more than 160 migrants.

Defenders of the Border Patrol and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) are putting blame on the girl's father for taking her into a treacherous part of the border region, instead of using a legal port of entry that is closer to food, water and medical care. Critics, however, point out that Donald Trump's administration is slow-walking people who try to enter legally, forcing desperate migrants to seek other ways to enter the country. In addition, much remains unknown about how the child was treated in the nine and a half hours between when the family turned themselves in and when she finally received medical treatment.

Regardless of the specifics of how CBP treated this girl in custody, this entire debacle should draw more attention to the endemic problems — going back at least as far as the George W. Bush years, if not well before that — in how the southern border is being managed by CBP.

During the Trump years, there's been an escalation of attention paid to the abuses of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which handles interior enforcement. The “abolish ICE” movement, calling for the agency to be dismantled, has grown rapidly in popularity. What was once viewed as a fringe left-wing position now has leading Democrats like Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York getting involved. It's high time there was a similar movement against the CBP and U.S. Border Patrol. These agencies can't be eliminated entirely — every country needs some control over customs, travel and immigration at airports and other ports of entry — but it's high time to radically rethink the border security apparatus.

CBP and Border Patrol have “an enforcement-above-all approach,” Chris Rickerd, senior policy counsel at the …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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8 Ways the Tudors Shaped Modern Christmas

December 17, 2018 in History

By Sarah Pruitt

The history of Christmas is long and complicated, but by the 16th century, when Henry VIII ruled England, it was beginning to resemble the holiday we know today in some important ways. It may surprise you to learn that some of our favorite traditions of the Christmas season date back to Tudor times, including singing carols, giving gifts, eating turkey—and even kissing under the mistletoe. Take a look back at eight holiday customs from the Tudor period.

12 Days of Christmas

During the four weeks leading up to Christmas Day (known as Advent), most people observed a period of fasting up to and including Christmas Eve. Then the celebrations began, and continued for 12 days, from December 25 to January 6. The three biggest celebrations fell on Christmas Day, New Year’s and Epiphany, or Twelfth Night, on January 6, which honors the arrival of the three kings or three wise men (Magi) to see the baby Jesus.

Though people in Tudor times marked the beginning of the year on March 25 (when they held the Feast of the Annunciation), celebrating and exchanging gifts on January 1 was a holdover from Roman times, when that date was considered the beginning of the year. All work (except taking care of animals) would stop during the 12-day stretch, as everyone from laborers to noblemen devoted themselves to the enjoyment of the Christmas season. Work began again on the first Monday after Twelfth Night, known as Plough Monday.

Wassail, an English hot mulled punch, being brought house to house during the Christmas season.

Wassailing

Today we may recognize the word from classic Christmas carols like “The Wassail Song” and “Here We Come A-Wassailing,” but what did it mean to go wassailing in Tudor times? During the Christmas season, and particularly on Twelfth Night, groups of people traveled from house to house singing to their neighbors and wishing them good health. As they did, they passed around the communal wassail bowl, a vessel filled with warm ale, wine or cider mixed with spices and honey. The word “wassail” is believed to come from the old Anglo-Saxon toast waes hael, meaning “be well” or “be in good health.”

Another type of wassailing took place mostly in the country, and involved the blessing of orchards and fruit trees, rather than people, though it also prioritized communal drinking. A holdover from pagan …read more

Source: HISTORY

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'The great unraveling of Donald Trump's defenses': MSNBC's Nicolle Wallace reveals how the president's excuses for crimes are falling apart

December 17, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

They can't even keep their lies straight.


There's no apparent end to President Donald Trump's legal troubles — and he seems to know it.

And as MSNBC's Nicolle Wallace explained Monday afternoon, the desperate, scattershot approach of the president's legal team shows how perilous his standing is.

“Welcome to the great unraveling of Donald Trump's defenses,” said Wallace at the top of her show “Deadline: White House.” “His lawyer Rudy Giuliani struggling to answer questions in two Sunday show appearances, and the president himself sounding more like a jilted mob boss than the commander in chief.”

She pointed to Trump's tweet this weekend calling Michael Cohen, who has implicated the president in a campaign finance crime, a “rat.” 

“And Rudy Giuliani, changing his story once again,” she said. “Not claiming that the payoff scheme that yielded a guilty plea from Michael Cohen and a nonprosecution agreement from the parent company of the National Enquirer didn't happen — but saying that he's arguing in the  'alternative,' whatever that is.”

And, she pointed out, Giuliani is also making the baffling argument — not that collusion didn't happen, as the president has said repeatedly — but that collusion isn't a crime.

Watch the clip below:

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Source: ALTERNET

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Look Inside the Pristine 4,400-Year-Old Tomb of an Egyptian Royal Priest

December 17, 2018 in History

By Sarah Pruitt

Archaeologists have discovered a more than 4,000-year-old tomb decorated with colorful drawings and sculptures hidden beneath the sands of Saqqara, the sprawling royal burial ground located in the desert near Cairo, Egypt.

Hieroglyphs carved above the tomb’s door identify its owner as a man named Wahtye, who served King Neferirkare of the Old Kingdom’s fifth dynasty, which ruled from around 2500 to 2350 B.C. Other carvings spell out Wahtye’s lofty titles, including royal purification priest, royal supervisor and inspector of the sacred boat.

On December 15, 2018 archeologists announced the discovery of the tomb beneath Saqqara, Egypt, belonging to the high priest Wahtye who served King Neferirkare of the Old Kingdom’s fifth dynasty, which ruled from around 2500 to 2350 B.C.

View the 7 images of this gallery on the original article

At a press conference announcing the tomb’s discovery, Mostafa Waziri, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, called the find “one of a kind in the last decades,” National Geographic reported.

Vibrantly colored and well-preserved reliefs adorn the tomb’s approximately 33 foot-by-10-foot gallery, featuring images of Wahtye with his wife, mother and other relatives. Scenes of musical performances, wine and pottery making, sailing, hunting and making funerary furniture also come to life in drawings on the tomb’s walls.

In addition, some 50 niches cut into the walls contain large, colorful statues cut out of rock. They depict the priest, his family members and an as-yet-unidentified figure shown either standing, or in the scribe position, with legs crossed.

READ MORE: 3,000-Year-Old Egyptian Mummy Unveiled in Near-Perfect Condition

Located south of modern-day Cairo, Saqqara served as a vast necropolis for Memphis, the capital of ancient Egypt during the Old Kingdom. It houses a number of pyramids, including the Step Pyramid, which dates to around 2650 B.C. and is the first known building to be made entirely of stone. Archaeologists found Wahtye’s tomb along a ridge that has only been partly excavated, and may still hold intriguing finds.

According to CNN, Waziri’s team discovered the tomb in November 2018, but it took some time to get through its sealed doors. Excavations of the tomb itself have begun, and will focus on five shafts discovered inside. One of the shafts was open and empty when the team found it, but the other four were sealed, and it remains to be seen what they contain.

“This shaft should lead to …read more

Source: HISTORY

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James Comey blasts Fox News directly to one of its reporters for spreading Trump's lies

December 17, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

“I'd rather not talk to you all.”


Former FBI Director James Comey blasted Fox News to the face of one of the network's own reporters Monday while answering questions after testifying before Congress.

Asked by the reporter if he had hurt the bureau's reputation, Comey said no.

“The FBI's reputation is taking a big hit because the president of the United States, with his acolytes, has lied about it constantly,” he said. “And in the face of those lies, a whole lot of good people who watch your network [Fox News] believe that nonsense. That's a tragedy.”

He added: “That damage will be undone eventually. But that damage has nothing to do with me.”

Comey also took the Republican Party for task for cowering in the face of Trump.

“At some point, someone has to stand up and in the face of fear of Fox News, fear of their base, fear of mean tweets, stand up for the values of this country and not slink away to retirement,” he said. “But stand up and speak the truth.”

Watch the clip below:

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Source: ALTERNET

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How Vikings Cats Were Different to Today's Cats

December 17, 2018 in History

By Sarah Pruitt

We know the , found that while most animals tend to shrink when they become domesticated—dogs, for example, are on average about 25 percent smaller than their nearest wild relative, the grey wolf—exactly the opposite is true for cats. In fact, cats have grown about 16 percent bigger, on average, since the Viking era.

Scientists have established that domesticated cats (Felis catus) are all descended from a single subspecies, the Near Eastern wildcat (Felis silvestris lybica), which still roams wild today in the Middle Eastern desert. A large scale genetic study published in 2017 suggested that cats spread from Southwest Asia and Africa into Europe and beyond in two distinct waves. Viking-era cats descend from the second wave, which began as early as 1700 B.C., as sailors began bringing cats with them on their ancient voyages for rodent control, and accelerated after the fifth century A.D.

To find the valuable cache of cat skulls, femurs, tibias and other bones used in the new study, which range in age from the Bronze Age to the 1600s, the new study’s co-author Julie Bitz-Thorsen, then an undergraduate at the University of Copenhagen, had to dig through dozens of bags of mixed animal remains at the city’s Zoological Museum. Dog, horse and cow bones are much more common at many archaeological sites, making her task particularly difficult.

Skull bones from ancient and modern Danish house cats.

Cat remains were relatively sparse in Denmark before the Viking Age (around A.D. 650-1050), when they began to show up more frequently, particularly around urban settlements. Many of the remains Bitz-Thorsen found came from Viking-era pits, and bore marks of their grisly origins. “You can tell the cats were skinned—they have cut marks, or the neck has been broken,” she told Science.

As time went on, cats spread to rural settlements and estates as well as towns—and, as the new study shows, they began to grow in size. While it’s not clear yet why exactly why this growth occurred, it may have something to do with increased access to food, and better living conditions, especially after more and more people began treating cats as beloved house pets rather than strictly rodent hunters (or sources of fur). Beginning in the late Middle Ages, Bitz-Thorsen pointed out, cats became increasingly well-fed and well-treated, beginning their rise to the status of popular pet they hold today.

…read more

Source: HISTORY

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Christmas History Facts and Trivia

December 17, 2018 in History

By Dave Roos

Learn why we kiss under the mistletoe, the commercial origins of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” whether Jesus was really born on Christmas Day and more.


The ancient Roman festival of Saturnalia was celebrated every December during the Winter solstice. Romans would take the week off, decorate with pine wreaths, light festive candles, attend raucous parties and exchange gifts. When the Roman Empire embraced Christianity, many of these traditions were carried over to the celebration of Christmas.

Read more.

View the 12 images of this gallery on the original article

Long before there was a Grinch who stole Christmas, there was Krampus, the devilish half-man, half-goat that helps out jolly St. Nicholas by stuffing naughty Austrian children in sacks and dragging them to hell. Yes, the true history of Christmas is as colorful as your neighbor’s seizure-inducing house light display. Learn more about the pagan origins of Christmas traditions and gather some fun trivia to share over a mug of expired eggnog.

Was Saturnalia the original Christmas?

The ancient Roman festival of Saturnalia was the most anticipated week on the Roman calendar, celebrated every December during the Winter solstice. In paying homage to Saturn, the god of time and agriculture, Romans would take the week off from work (even the slaves), decorate their homes with pine wreaths, light festive candles, attend raucous parties and feasts, and exchange gifts and offerings. When the Roman Empire embraced Christianity, many of these traditions were carried over to the celebration of Christmas. Read more.

Was Jesus really born on December 25?

There’s no solid evidence that Jesus was born in December. In fact, his birth wasn’t celebrated or even mentioned until centuries after the establishment of Christianity. Clues from the biblical account point to a Spring birth (shepherds tending their flocks) and it’s likely that the Romans chose December 25 as the date to coincide with Saturnalia and convince the empire’s remaining pagans to accept the strange new religion. Read more.

Who was the original Santa Claus?

The legendary figure of Santa Claus can be traced back to St. Nicholas, a Turkish-born monk from the Third Century who gained fame wandering the countryside helping the poor and sick. In Holland, St. Nicholas is known as Sinter Klaas, and the anniversary of his death on December 6 is a much-loved holiday. Dutch immigrants to New York brought Sinter Klaas to America, where writers like Washington Irving penned entertaining …read more

Source: HISTORY

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How a Radio Host Painted an Indelible Picture of American Farm Life

December 17, 2018 in History

By Roy Wenzl

Try listening to Paul Harvey’s ‘So God Made a Farmer’ without crying, the author says.

Let me tell you the “rest of the story,” as the long-gone radio legend Paul Harvey would say.

In the Kansas winter of 1971, when I was 15, we’d walk our farm driveway, four-tenths of a mile, with the north wind beating against our backs. By the time Pug Wilson wheeled up our school bus, always late, brother Gary and I felt frozen to the bone.

But because we were two of Pug’s first pick-ups, we got to choose seats, and we took the back row, because that’s where the heater fan was, and that’s also where Pug—Dad’s best friend and a mechanic by trade—had installed a speaker he’d wired to the school-bus dashboard radio, which Pug tuned to an AM rock ‘n’ roll station out of Kansas City.

The back of the bus was our haven, where we heard the Beatles’ “Revolution” for the first time. And the Stones’ “Honky Tonk Women,” and Elvis’sKentucky Rain.” And Paul Harvey, at sunrises and sunsets.

We loved Paul Harvey. His voice caressed our souls like warm cocoa gladdens a tummy.

The cadence of his voice lingers at the edge of my ears, at random moments: When I see a winter sunrise from a country road. When I hear the crackle of a radio speaker, tuned accidentally to the AM dial.

(Front row, L-R) Roy and Gene Wenzl. (Back row, L-R) Rich, Larry and Tom Wenzl.

My brothers and I listened to Harvey’s news broadcast every morning on the bus. We’d listen to his “The Rest of the Story” broadcast on the way home. He was a sly old Oklahoma storyteller who wrote poetry disguised as news.

We’d hear him as we rode past the hog lots and cow pastures and the falling-into-ruins rural farmsteads of our neighbors. And when loud little boys on the bus spouted off, like little boys do, I’d yell at them to shut up when Harvey came on.

At home we did what a farmer’s kids do. We worked in bone-chilling cold before and after school, seven days a week.

Dad loved Old Harvey too, but by the time we hit our teens, he never listened. He had no time. The guy who used to tell gorgeous stories, who’d made us love books, who showed how to find arrowheads north of our barn—he’d gone …read more

Source: HISTORY