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WHY IS SONY GIVING IN TO THIS NORTH KOREAN HISSY FIT?

“The Interview,” a satirical film about two journalists hired by the CIA to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, is being pulled from all theaters by Sony.

Here’s some background. Some hackers, who have been linked to North Korea, hacked Sony Pictures releasing emails, medical information, personal and financial information and have threatened 9/11-style attacks on any theaters that play the film. Subsequently, theaters began cancelling showings with Carmike, having nearly 300 theater locations in the country, being the major pull out.

“The world will be full of fear,” according to the hackers’ message. “Remember the 11th of September 2001. We recommend you to keep yourself distant from the places at that time. (If your house is nearby, you’d better leave.) Whatever comes in the coming days is called by the greed of Sony Pictures Entertainment.”

Why is Sony pulling the movie over what’s almost 100 percent an empty threat? By pulling the movie, Sony is giving North Korea a victory, and also a say-so in American film culture. By all logic, a coordinated 9/11 attack on every theater in the United States by North Korea damn near impossible.

Remember when North Korea threatened nuclear attacks on America in 2013? Kim Jong Un became an internet laughingstock and we have yet to see the first missile launch. Kim Jong Un is more like a fat, crying baby than a political leader. No one takes this man or his country seriously, and Sony Pictures is foolish for faltering to, what pretty much are, empty threats.

Despite this disgraceful situation, the death scene of Kim Jong Un from “The Interview” was leaked.

Josh de Leon, Ring of Fire

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Vivek Murthy 1, NRA 0

The National Rifle Association has certain expectations when it comes to dictating developments on Capitol Hill. But once in a while, the NRA picks an important fight and loses. Take yesterday, for example.

The Senate on Monday narrowly confirmed President Obama’s pick for surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murthy, after the nomination was held up for more than a year. The Senate voted 51 to 43 to confirm Murthy, who received both an M.B.A. and M.D. from Yale.
More than a year has passed since anyone has served as the U.S.’s top doctor; the country’s most recent surgeon general, Regina Benjamin, served from 2009 to 2013.
The final roll call on Murthy’s confirmation is online here. Note, three conservative Senate Democrats – Sens. Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), and Joe Manchin (W.Va.) – voted with Republicans to defeat the nomination. One Republican, Illinois’ Mark Kirk, voted with the Democratic majority.

For Murthy, the fact that he’s qualified and well suited for the position was never in doubt. As regular readers know, the nation’s new Surgeon General-designate is an impressive medical professional with sterling credentials. He’s also an attending physician, an instructor, and a public-health advocate – who, like so many in his field, sees a connection between gun violence and public health.

And that alone was enough to draw fierce opposition from the NRA, conservative media, and nearly every Republican in the Senate, including alleged “moderates” like Maine’s Susan Collins.

Indeed, let’s not forget that when Murthy’s nomination first reached the Senate floor back in March, Republicans derailed him, at least temporarily, with the help of nervous red-state Dems with election-year jitters, which is why the nation didn’t have a Surgeon General during the Ebola public-health scare.

So what changed? A couple of things, actually.

The first is that a whole bunch of red-state Democrats lost last month, and with defeat comes liberation. Dems in states like Arkansas, Louisiana, Alaska, and North Carolina, while previously eager to make the NRA happy and prove their centrist bona fides, suddenly have no pressure hanging over head – they already lost; the threats of political retaliation no longer have any salience.

Besides, as Donnelly, Heitkamp, and Manchin will soon realize, Democrats who vote to satisfy NRA demands eventually discover that the far-right group is surprisingly hard to please – Arkansas’ Mark Pryor voted exactly the way the NRA wanted on every major vote related to gun policy in recent years, and for his troubles, the NRA rewarded Pryor with brutal attack ads that helped end his career.

The other development of note was the bizarre procedural tantrum thrown by Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Mike Lee (R-Utah), who unwittingly helped Democrats line up confirmation votes, including Murthy’s.

On Twitter last night, Dan Pfeiffer, a senior advisor to President Obama, twisted the knife a little,writing, “There’s a first time for everything, but public health advocates can thank Ted Cruz tonight for his help in getting Vivek Murthy confirmed.”

Steve Benin, MSNBC

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Michigan House Passed Bill Allowing EMTs To Refuse Treatment To Gay People

Over the weekend, Republicans in the Michigan Statehouse passed a “license to discriminate” bill that would give just about anyone the right to refuse service to LGBT people if it conflicted with their religious beliefs.

The broadly written Religious Freedom Restoration Act would allow, for example, an EMT to refuse emergency treatment to a gay person or a pharmacist to refuse to refill HIV medication, because God decreed gays and lesbians should be put to death.

The measure is similar to one in Arizona that even right-wing governor Jan Brewer thought went too far and vetoed.

As The New Civil Rights Movement points out, the act is so broad it would let a Catholic high school refuse to hire a Muslim janitor, and a DMV clerk deny a new driver’s license to someone who is divorced.

michigan religious bill

Michigan Speaker Bolger fasttracked the bill, which passed 59-50 along party lines. “I support individual liberty and I support religious freedom,” Bolger said. “I have been horrified as some have claimed that a person’s faith should only be practiced while hiding in their home or in their church.”

If it passes in the Michigan Senate and is signed by Governor Rick Snyder, a Republican, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act will become law.

“The idea that we need to ‘restore’ religious freedom — rights that are already enshrined in the U.S. Constitution — is a farce created by conservative lawmakers for the sole purpose of appeasing their far-right donors and the religious right,” said Lonnie Scott of Progress Michigan.

In a supreme bit of irony, the Michigan House over the weekend to pass a non-discrimination bill that protects the LGBT community.

“No one from the LGBT community has ever had fire hoses turned on them by the police department, they have never had to drink out of an LGBT water fountain,” pastor Stacy Swimp told the House committee that considered the measure. “There is no record of LGBT — homosexuals, lesbians—being forced to sit at the back of the bus in an LGBT section.”

Dan  Avery. Logo TV news

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American Pastor Who Helped Uganda Create ‘Kill The Gays’ Law Will Be Tried For Crimes Against Humanity

Most of us go our entire lives without ever standing trial for crimes against humanity. Then again, most of us aren’t notorious bigot Pastor Scott Lively, whose life work seems to be to ask the question: “How can I make gay people miserable across the world?”

In the United States Lively’s homophobic messages are largely ignored, and in recent years he has had to endure various setbacks at the state and federal level as equality makes historic gains. Undeterred, Lively has sought out foreign lands where his particular brand of ruthless anti-gay ideas are more accepted. In Uganda, he found a home away from home. During a Christian “workshop” in the African nation he managed to become one of the principal architects behind some of the most retrograde anti-gay legislation on the planet.

Officially titled the “Anti-Homosexuality Act” and more commonly known as the “Kill the Gays” bill, Lively’s vision was nothing less than a roadmap for the total persecution and eradication of homosexuals from Uganda. In Lively’s original design, anyone caught engaging in homosexuality would be executed. A newer bill softened that stance slightly after worldwide condemnation – in the latest version, homosexuals would only be sentenced to life in prison.

Unfortunately for Lively, orchestrating genocide in another country is kind of frowned upon, and in 2012 a lawsuit was filed against Lively in federal court in Massachusetts for crimes against humanity. This week, the First Circuit Court of Appeals denied Lively’s final request to have it dismissed because, well, the whole genocide thing.

During his lengthy appeals process, one would think that Lively would lay low and avoid saying anything that suggests he isn’t at all sorry for helping Uganda try to kill its gay population. Instead, Lively has continued to double down on his efforts to spread as much homophobia as possible. It’s gotten so bad that the watchdog group Human Rights Campaign dedicated September to chronicle the various ways Lively and his anti-gay ministry were “exporters of hate.

Scott Lively is the head of Abiding Truths Ministry in Springfield, Massachusetts and is known around the world for his notorious work successfully advocating for anti-LGBT laws in Uganda that could send LGBT people to prison for life. In fact, Lively has traveled the world over presenting himself as an expert on LGBT issues, urging lawmakers to crack down on LGBT rights and the right of free expression.

In 2007, Lively wrote in “Letter to the Russian People,” “Homosexuality is a personality disorder that involves various often dangerous sexual addictions and aggressive anti-social impulses.”

And this week, while he awaited his fate at his crimes against humanity trial, Lively told Trunews that homosexuality should be considered “more offensive” than mass killings, because gay people caused the Great Flood that wiped out the human race (technically, God did, and technically there is no evidence of that actually occurring, but who’s counting?).

“Homosexuality is not just another sin,” he said according to Right Wing Watch, “it is the sin that defines rebellion against God, the outer edge of rebellion against God and it is the harbinger of God’s wrath, that’s why the Scripture gives the warning, ‘as in the days of Noah.’”

In a way it makes sense that Lively would be adamant that homosexuality was worse than mass murder, considering that the mass murder of gay people is what he stands accused of trying to achieve.

Lively currently lives in Springfield, Massachusetts, and hopefully soon will have a permanent residency behind bars.

 

From Addicting Info, Jameson Parker

 

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Washington Post’s Wemple Calls Out Colleague George Will’s “Out-And-Out Conflict Of Interest”

The Washington Post‘s Erik Wemple*, who writes a reported opinion blog on the media, criticized Postcolleague George F. Will for praising a conservative advocacy group without disclosing his “out-and-out conflict of interest.”

Will wrote a November 19 column endorsing the efforts of the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL), which is fighting against increased Department of Justice oversight of private voucher schools in Wisconsin. 

But as Wemple notes, the piece omitted “Will’s connection to WILL.” The Post columnist is a member of the board of directors at Wisconsin’s Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, a nonprofit which granted WILL $500,000 in 2011, 2012, and 2013. The foundation states that board members are responsible for grant making decisions. Wemple correctly summarized Will’s ethical lapse:

Here, Will touted an outlet funded generously by a group he helps to lead. And thanks to the columnist’s kind words, WILL may have an easier time finding funders outside of the Bradley Foundation. All very cozy, synergistic and, as media critics might say, an out-and-out conflict of interest — an offense of which Will has been accused before.

The group promoted Will’s column on its Twitter account twice.

Will defended his lack of disclosure to Wemple, claiming, in part, that “I see no reason — no service to readers — to disclose my several degrees of separation from the program: My tenuous connection has no bearing on what I think about what they do. There comes a point when disclosure of this and that becomes clutter, leaving readers to wonder what the disclosed information has to do with anything.”

Media Matters has documented Will’s many ethical problems at the Post. He has routinely cited other groups funded by the Bradley Foundation without disclosing his paid board membership. The groups include the Heritage Foundation, the Hudson Institute, the American Enterprise Institute, the Federalist Society, and National Affairs quarterly. In 2012, media ethicists and journalism veterans criticized Will for the practice, calling it a breach of journalistic ethics.

Will also criticized opponents of then-Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry’s without mentioning his wife worked for Perry’s campaign. He propped up favored candidates of the industrialist Koch brothers after appearing at a VIP dinner for their political group Americans for Prosperity. And he promoted a “key issue” of a lobbying group in his Washington Post column just two weeks after giving the keynote address at its conference.

The conservative writer’s history of ethics problems goes back decades. In 1980, he reportedly ”secretly coached Republican candidate Ronald Reagan for a debate with President Jimmy Carter using a debate briefing book stolen from the Carter campaign. Immediately following the debate, Will appeared on Nightline (10/28/80) to praise Reagan’s ‘thoroughbred performance,’ never disclosing his role in rehearsing that performance.”

In 2003, when The New York Times asked Will if he should have disclosed to readers a financial conflict of interest involving conservative businessman Conrad Black, Will responded: “My business is my business … Got it?” 

The Society of Professional Journalists recently updated its Code of Ethics to include new provisions regarding transparency. The group’s ethics chair cited Will’s Americans for Prosperity disclosure failure as an example of a conflict journalists should attempt to avoid.

 

From Media Matters

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The American Justice System Is Not Broken

In July, New York police officer Daniel Pantaleo choked unarmed black man Eric Garner to death, in broad daylight, while a bystander caught it on video. That is what American police do. Yesterday, despite the video, despite an NYPD prohibition of exactly the sort of chokehold Pantaleo used, and despite the New York City medical examiner ruling the death a homicide, a Staten Island grand jury declined even to indict Pantaleo. That is what American grand juries do.

In August, Ferguson, Mo., police officer Darren Wilson shot unarmed black teenager Michael Brown to death in broad daylight. That is what American police do. Ten days ago, despite multiple eyewitness accounts and his own face contradicting Wilson’s narrative of events, a grand jury declined to indict Wilson. That is what American grand juries do.

In November 2006, a group of five New York police officers shot unarmed black man Sean Bell to death in the early morning hours of his wedding day. That is what American police do. In April 2008, despite multiple eyewitness accounts contradicting the officers’ accounts of the incident, Justice Arthur J. Cooperman acquitted the officers of all charges, including reckless endangerment. That is what American judges do.

In February of 1999, four plainclothes New York police officers shot unarmed black man Amadou Diallo to death outside of his home. That is what American police do. A year later, an Albany jury acquitted the officers of all charges, including reckless endangerment. That is what American juries do.

In November of 1951, Willis McCall, the sheriff of Lake County, Fla., shot and killed Sam Shepherd, an unarmed and handcuffed black man in his custody. That is what American police do. Despite both a living witness and forensic evidence which contradicted his version of events, a coroner’s inquest ruled that McCall had acted within the line of duty, and Judge Thomas Futch declined to convene a grand jury at all.

The American justice system is not broken. This is what the American justice system does. This is what America does.

The Atlantic‘s Ta-Nehisi Coates has written damningly of the American preference for viewing our society’s crimes as aberrations—betrayals of some deeper, truer virtue, or departures from some righteous intended path. This is a convenient mythology. If the institutions of white American power taking black lives and then exonerating themselves for it is understood as a failure to live out some more authentic American idea, rather than as the expression of that American idea, then your and my and our lives and lifestyles are distinct from those failures. We can stand over here, and shake our heads at the failures over there, and then return to the familiar business, and everything is OK. Likewise, if the individual police officers who take black lives are just some bad cops doing policework badly, and not good cops doing precisely what America has hired and trained them to do, then white Americans may continue calling the police when black people frighten us, free from moral responsibility for the whole range of possible outcomes.

The murders of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Sean Bell, Amadou Diallo, Sam Shepherd, and countless thousands of others at the hands of American law enforcement are not aberrations, or betrayals, or departures. The acquittals of their killers are not mistakes. There is no virtuous innermost America, sullied or besmirched or shaded by these murders. This is America. It is not broken. It is doing what it does.

America is a serial brutalizer of black and brown people. Brutalizing them is what it does. It does other things, too, yes, but brutalizing black and brown people is what it has done the most, and with the most zeal, and for the longest. The best argument you can make on behalf of the various systems and infrastructures the country uses against its black and brown citizens—the physical design of its cities, the methods it uses to allocate placement in elite institutions, the way it trains its police to treat citizens like enemy soldiers—might actually just be that they’re more restrained than those used against black and brown people abroad. America employs the enforcers of its power to beat, kill, and terrorize, deploys its judiciary to say that that’s OK, and has done this more times than anyone can hope to count. This is not a flaw in the design; this isthe design.

Policing in America is not broken. The judicial system is not broken. American society is not broken. All are functioning perfectly, doing exactly what they have done since before some of this nation’s most prosperous slave-murdering robber-barons came together to consecrate into statehood the mechanisms of their barbarism. Democracy functions. Politicians, deriving their legitimacy from the public, have discerned the will of the people and used it to design and enact policies that carry it out, among them those that govern the allowable levels of violence which state can visit upon citizen. Taken together with the myriad other indignities, thefts, and cruelties it visits upon black and brown people, and the work common white Americans do on its behalf by telling themselves bald fictions of some deep and true America of apple pies, Jesus, and people being neighborly to each other and betrayed by those few and nonrepresentative bad apples with their isolated acts of meanness, the public will demands and enables a whirring and efficient machine that does what it does for the benefit of those who own it. It processes black and brown bodies into white power.

That is what America does. It is not broken. That is exactly what is wrong with it.

Albert Bueneko,  The Concourse

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Arizona pastor predicts ‘AIDS-free Christmas’ if all gays are killed, as God commands David Ferguson

Baptist pastor in Tempe, Arizona called for the mass extermination of LGBT people on Sunday in a sermon entitled “AIDS: The Judgement of God.”

In the sermon, which was uploaded to YouTube on Monday from Faithful Word Baptist Church, Pastor Steven Anderson said that God has ordered in the scriptures that gays should be killed, and that if humanity wants to have an “AIDS-free world by Christmas,” he said, that’s what should be done.

“Turn to Leviticus 20:13,” he says in the video, “because I actually discovered the cure for AIDS.”

“If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them,” Anderson read aloud.

“And that, my friend, is the cure for AIDS,” he said. “It was right there in the Bible all along — and they’re out spending billions of dollars in research and testing. It’s curable — right there. Because if you executed the homos like God recommends, you wouldn’t have all this AIDS running rampant.”

At another point in his sermon, Anderson had a foot-stomping, shouting tantrum about the idea that people can be LGBT and Christian. There will never be any gays in his church, he said, not ever, ever, ever.

“No homos will ever be allowed in this church as long as I am pastor here,” he insisted. “Never! Say ‘You’re crazy.’ No, you’re crazy if you think that there’s something wrong with my ‘no homo’ policy.”

According to the website IfYouOnlyNews.com, Anderson’s sermons have stirred controversy in the past. He has run afoul of the Secret Service after openly praying in 2009 and again this year for the death of President Barack Obama.

Other sermons from Faithful Word have included a meditation on the evils of allowing women to speak in church and a lengthy discourse on the lying, evil ways of Jewish people.

 

Dave Ferguson, Raw Story

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DEVIL IN THE DEEP BLUE SEA

Climate change is likely to make existing ocean dead zones…deader, according to a new study by the Smithsonian. Warmer water holds less oxygen, and the researchers found that 94 percent of the world’s dead zones are in areas expected to see a temperature rise of 2 degrees Celsius or more by the end of the century. Back in August, Brian Palmer looked at what causes dead zones and how many are out there.

A stretch of the Gulf of Mexico spanning more than 5,000 square miles along the Louisiana coast is nearly devoid of marine life this summer, according to a study released this week. Caused largely by nutrient runoff from farm fertilizer, this oxygen-deprived “dead zone” is approximately the size of Connecticut.

Although slightly smaller than last summer’s edition, the Gulf dead zone is still touted by some as the largest in the United States and costs $82 million annually in diminished tourism and fishing yield. Which makes you wonder…

HOW MANY OTHER DEAD ZONES ARE OUT THERE?

Probably around 200 in U.S. waters alone. After reviewing the academic literature on “hypoxic zones” in 2012, Robert Diaz, professor emeritus at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science at the College of William and Mary, identified 166 reports of dead zones in the country. Coastal waters contain the vast majority, though some exist in inland waterways. A handful of the 166 dead zones have since bounced back through improved management of sewage and agricultural runoff, but as fertilizer use and factory farming increase, we are creating dead zones faster than nature can recover.

There are more than 400 known dead zones worldwide, covering about 1 percent of the area of the continental shelves. That number is almost certainly a vast undercount, though, since large parts of Africa, South America, and Asia have yet to be adequately studied. Diaz estimates that a more accurate count is 1,000-plus dead zones globally.

WHAT CAUSES THESE THINGS?

Agricultural practices are the biggest culprit in the United States and Europe. Rains wash excess fertilizer from farms into interior waterways, which eventually empty into the ocean. At the mouths of rivers, such as the Mississippi, the glut of phosphorous and nitrogen intended for human crops instead feeds marine phytoplankton. A phytoplanktonic surge leads to a boom in bacteria, which feed on the plankton and consume oxygen as part of their respiration. That leaves very little dissolved oxygen in the subsurface waters. Without oxygen, most marine life cannot survive.

Sewage causes the majority of dead zones in Africa and South America. That’s a good thing, in a way, because engineers have been working for hundreds of years on sewage management solutions. In the early 19th century, London built a sewer system to divert waste from newfangled flush toilets into the Thames. With this influx of nutrients—one creature’s sewage is another’s sustenance—bacterial populations multiplied and depleted the river’s oxygen. The circumstances chased off aquatic life and enveloped the city in a horrific stench, culminating in the Great Stink of 1858. Sewage treatment and managed releases remedied the situation back then, and similar infrastructure investments could likely alleviate the excrement-fueled dead zones of the modern world.

Airborne nitrogen also contributes to the world’s dead zones. When cars, trucks, and power plants burn fossil fuels, they emit nitrogen into the air. These particulates eventually settle into waterways and head for the sea. Nitrification is a special problem in Long Island Sound and the Chesapeake Bay, which have absorbed large amounts of nitrogen from coal-burning power plants in the Midwest.

DO I LIVE NEAR A DEAD ZONE?

The largest U.S. dead zones are in the Gulf of Mexico and off the coast of Oregon. But, as this map illustrates, everyone in the eastern and southeastern United States lives close to a dead zone of some size.

There are two reasons for the density of dead zones along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. First, look at a heat map of U.S. population density. There is an astonishing concentration of people, as well as animals and farms to feed them, in the East.

Second, there simply aren’t that many rivers draining into the Pacific Ocean. With fewer rivers to carry farm runoff to the sea, fewer dead zones form.

The eastern portion of Long Island Sound, has suffered dead zones nearly every year for the last two decades. Even halfway across the Sound—more than 50 miles from the most densely populated parts of New York City—the waters have been hypoxic in at least 10 of the last 20 summers.

The Chesapeake Bay hosts several dead zones, each from the drainage of a different river. According to Diaz, agricultural runoff and sewage account for about three-quarters of the problem. The other quarter is the result of airborne nitrogen.

You needn’t live near a coast to have a dead zone. Lake Erie is likely in for a serious case of hypoxia this summer. The cyanobacteria that contaminated Toledo’s drinking water over the weekend will soon die and sink to the bottom, where other bacteria will feast on their remains and consume the lake’s dissolved oxygen.

ARE HUMANS SOLELY RESPONSIBLE FOR DEAD ZONES?

No, but we almost always play a role. Natural processes, such as the churning of ocean waters, can form dead zones on their own. The massive dead zone born in 2002 near the coast of Oregon—which rivals the Gulf of Mexico dead zone in area—is the result of the upwelling of nutrients that fed an algal bloom. As the algae died and settled, they created a hypoxic area. Not all scientists think the dead zone was entirely natural, though. Many believe changes in wind circulation related to global warming played a part.

CAN DEAD ZONES BE BROUGHT BACK TO LIFE?

Absolutely. The Black Sea once hosted one of the largest hypoxic zones in the world, stretching 15,000 square miles. When agricultural subsidies from the Soviet Union collapsed in the late 1980s, fertilizer runoff dropped by more than 50 percent. The waterways took three years to recover, and international support for runoff management has helped keep the Black Sea alive and well ever since.

There’s no reason the United States can’t adopt those practices, too—we simply need to implement the science that we already have. Agricultural researchers have made countless recommendations to minimize farm runoff, but the advice hasn’t been heeded. Other property owners can help by taking it easy on the fertilizer and resisting the urge to install impermeable surfaces like concrete. And we already have plenty of other reasons to retire coal-fired power plants—dead zones are just one more. After all, it needn’t take the fall of an empire to improve a nation’s coastal areas.

 

BY BRIAN PALMER, On Earth Magazine

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8 Things The History Books Don’t Tell Us About Native People

Do history books written by white folks tell the truth about Natives in the US? We think not.

Here are just some of the things they fail to mention.

1. Columbus NEVER landed in the Upper 48—Ever

Every year across the country countless elementary school students recite: “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue,” and many perform a play about him discovering Indians in America.

The thing is, Columbus never landed in what would become the United States. He actually landed in the Caribbean.

2. Basically Everything About Pocahontas

Pocahontas was about 8 years old when John Smith arrived, and was later married to another young Indian warrior. She also had a child that was given away before she was kidnapped by the English and then married to John Rolfe.

Sorry Disney, and many incorrectly written textbooks, Pocahontas never fell in love with John Smith.

According to tribal oral histories as well as The True Story of Pocahontas by members of the Mattaponi Tribe, Pocahontas’ original young Native husband was killed and Pocahontas’ newborn was given to relatives before she was forced into captivity at about 15 or 16 years of age.

3. The First Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving was named after an entire tribe’s massacre — not a peaceful meal between pilgrims and Indians.

In 1621, Wampanoag Indians investigated gun and cannon fire at a Pilgrim settlement to see them celebrating a successful harvest. The Indians — all male warriors, were fed as a gesture of peace. The act was not repeated annually.

In 1636, when a murdered man was discovered in a boat in Plymouth, English Major John Mason collected his soldiers and killed and burned down the wigwams of all the neighboring Pequot Indians who were blamed for the murder.

The following day, Plymouth Governor William Bradford applauded the massacre of the 400 Indians, including the women and children. The Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, William Newell, proclaimed: “From that day forth, shall be a day of celebration and thanks giving for subduing the Pequots.”

For the next 100 years, every Thanksgiving Day ordained by a governor was in honor of the bloody victory, thanking God that the battle had been won.

4. What is a Redskin?

“It was only five generations ago that a white man could get money for one of my grandfather’s scalps,” wrote 1491’s comedian Dallas Goldtooth on Facebook. “At this time… it was ‘Redskin’ that was used to describe us.”

In his post, Goldtooth also included a newspaper clipping from after the U.S. Dakota Wars of 1862: “The state reward for dead Indians has been increased to $200 for every red-skin sent to Purgatory.”

5. Lincoln Ordered a Mass Execution

In the fall of 1862, Native tribes in Minnesota waged war on white settlers out of frustration from starvation, mistreatment and harsh conditions.

After soldiers captured over 300 Indians, President Abraham Lincoln approved the largest mass execution in U.S. history on 38 Dakota men.

On the day of their hanging, an estimated 4,000 spectators watched them hung. Their bodies were later taken and used as medical cadavers.

6. Hitler Studied Reservations

There are many accounts of the Nazis and Hitler studying Indian reservations for guidance in planning encampments for the Jewish. Perhaps Lia Mandelbaum says it best in her article found in the Jewish Journal entitled “Hitler’s Inspiration and Guide: The Native American Holocaust.”

From 1863 to 1868, the U.S. military persecuted and imprisoned 9,500 Navajo (the Diné) and 500 Mescalero Apache (the N’de). Living under armed guards, in holes in the ground, with extremely scarce rations, it is no wonder that more than 3,500 Navajo and Mescalero Apache men, women, and children died while in the concentration camp.

During the film I learned about something that shook me to my core that I had not heard before. I learned that the genocidal mentality and actions of the U.S. policy makers would find similar expression years later when the Nazis, under Hitler, studied the plans of Bosque Redondo to design the concentration camps for Jews.

7. There Are 566 Federally Recognized Tribes in the U.S.

When I was a student in high school, I learned that George Washington saw Indians in Virginia and possibly heard once or twice about the Cherokee Trail of Tears.

But in 18 years of public school (and a few of private Catholic School) — not once did I learn about the multitude of tribes, languages or cultures involved in this country.

NOT ONCE.

8. Unwritten History of African Americans and Natives

Dr. Arica L. Coleman is the assistant professor of Black American Studies at the University of Delaware. She is African American and Native American (Rappahannock).

Due to her ancestry, she has done a lot of thinking about the relations and interactions of Blacks, Indians and whites on the East Coast, primarily in Virginia.

According to Coleman, who turned her Ph.D. dissertation into a book titled That the Blood Stay Pure, there was Indian slavery in Virginia.

“The first slaves in the Americas were Native American and this business that the Native Americans died off as a result of disease and war [is inaccurate]—those were not the only reasons for their demise, there was the Indian slave trade, which is something we do not discuss a lot,” she writes.

Coleman also writes about Walter Plecker, a man who once worked as the first registrar of Virginia’s Bureau of Vital Records. A man who literally changed races in Virginia’s birth records. His actions have been coined as “pencil genocide.”

Similarly, William Loren Katz, the author of Black Indians has written how entire cities of blacks and Indians came together as a strong force against European settlers including huge factions of black Seminoles who created nearly impenetrable forces against those soldiers foolish enough to try and break into Florida, and suffered miserable defeats over several years.

Vincent Schilling
Originally published on Indian Country Today Media Network.

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Michigan Court Rules That State Has No Obligation To Provide Children With Education

Many days, it seems that all the advances our country has made are being dismantled one court decision at a time. A recent decision in Michigan, which has largely flown under the radar, should it hold up on a national level, could mean that poor children will have no access to education.

On November 7, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that one poverty-stricken school district didn’t have to provide a quality education to children.

A 2-1 decision reversed an earlier circuit court ruling that there is a “broad compelling state interest in the provision of an education to all children.” The appellate court said the state has no constitutional requirement to ensure schoolchildren actually learn fundamental skills such as reading — but rather is obligated only to establish and finance a public education system, regardless of quality. Waving off decades of historic judicial impact on educational reform, the majority opinion also contends that “judges are not equipped to decide educational policy.”

“This ruling should outrage anyone who cares about our public education system,” said Kary L. Moss, executive director of the American Civil Liberties of Michigan. “The court washes its hands and absolves the state of any responsibility in a district that has failed and continues to fail its children.”

Source: Michigan Citizen.com

It might surprise many people to know that there is no constitutional right to an education, but free education for children is as old as the country itself. It’s always been assumed to fall under Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution, which grants Congress the power of taxation and to provide for the general welfare of the people.

On the other hand, education has always more or less been left up to the states, but with a big helping hand from the feds.

During the first century of our new nation, Congress granted more than 77 million acres of the public domain as an endowment for the support of public schools through tracts ceded to the states.  In 1841, Congress passed an act that granted 500,000 acres to eight states and later increased land grants to a total of 19 states. The federal government also granted money, such as distributions of surplus federal revenue and reimbursements for war expenses, to states. Though Congress rarely prescribed that such funds be used only for schools, education continued to be one of the largest expenses of state and local governments so the states used federal funds whenever possible for education.

Source: League of Women Voters

One shouldn’t have to be a liberal to believe that an educated populace is good for the welfare of the country. It will be educated people who eventually cure Ebola or send humans to Mars. It is educated people who keep building better and more fuel efficient cars.

More and more, however, our country is becoming a nation of service employees. With that in mind, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the company most in need of under-educated employees, Walmart, is behind much of the effort to destroy, or as they say, reform, our school systems.

Since 2000, members of the Walton family have spent at least $24 million dollars funding politicians, political action committees, and ballot issues at the state and local level that favor their corporate approach to school reform. At local levels of government,  where fundraising totals are smaller than those at the federal level, Walton largesse can go a very long way toward shaping public policy.

Walmart admits that the reason they are so interested in education is that they are having trouble finding qualified entry level employees. If these words came from NASA or Apple or Microsoft, these words might be encouraging. But for Walmart, an educated workforce can negatively impact their bottom line. Educated employees tend to expect more money and better benefits than most entry level employees at Walmart earn.
Or as Walmart1Percent.org says:

The Waltons and the Walton Family Foundation have gargantuan financial resources and can exert undue influence on politicians and public policy issues of their choosing. No matter where people come down on the issues of education reform or school choice, we can all agree it is unfair that the Walton family gets to dictate the future of public education because of the amount of money at its disposal, and to do so in a way that is unaccountable to the public.

Remember, too, that the Waltons—white, rural, and mind-bogglingly wealthy—pursue their education reform goals in low-income, urban communities where the student populations consist largely of children of color. When a profoundly privileged family seeks to engage in philanthropy in historically marginalized communities that they are not part of, the lack of accountability is even more troubling.

The Waltons and their foundation have reaped billions and billions of dollars from a ruthless business model that relies on Walmart jobs being insecure and unstable jobs, with low wages, skimpy benefits, and little respect in the workplace. Their company has helped create a world where parents have to work two or more jobs, with unstable hours to make ends meet.  They’ve helped create a world where parents struggle with choices like paying rent, putting food on the table or taking a sick child to the doctor. And now the Waltons want to tell us how to fix our schools? The Walmart model has made its impact on much of the world. But, for many, the Walmartization of our schools is one step too far.

And now, with Michigan ruling that the state has no business guaranteeing a quality education, be prepared for Walmart or the Koch brothers to be writing Michigan’s curriculum.
Wendy Gittleson, Addicting Info

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Harvard Students Take 1964 Literacy Test Black Voters Had To Pass Before Voting — They All Failed

Recently, a group of Harvard students were asked to take the 1964 Louisiana Literacy Test — one of the extreme efforts to stop African Americans from voting that eventually led to the passing of the Voting Rights Act. Since racism is no longer a thing in America, according to the Supreme Court, and the Voting Rights Act has been effectively gutted, it might be time for a lesson from the past.

The test required those who took it to correctly answer 30 questions in 10 minutes — something even a group of Harvard students could not do today. The students were recorded struggling with the vaguely-worded questions. Under Louisiana law at the time these students would each require a 100% score on the test to be able to vote.

Carl Miller, a resident tutor at Harvard who administered the test, says that the purpose of the students’ participation was to teach them how unjust the electoral process was toward African Americans.

“Exactly 50 years ago, states in the American South issued this exact test to any voter who could not ‘prove a fifth grade education,’” said Miller. “Unsurprisingly, the only people who ever saw this test were blacks and, to a lesser extent, poor whites trying to vote in the South.”

Miller said he hoped to “see if some of the ‘brightest young minds in the world” could pass a test that was intended to “prove” someone had at least a fifth-grade education, according to the Daily Mail.

“Louisiana’s literacy test was designed to be failed. Just like all the other literacy tests issued in the South at the time, this test was not about testing literacy at all. It was a legitimate sounding, but devious measure that the State of Louisiana used to disenfranchise people that had the wrong skin tone or belonged to the wrong social class,” Miller said. “And just like that, countless black and poor white voters in the South were disenfranchised.”

Because the test was designed to allow officials to conveniently interpret any and all answers as wrong, not a single student passed.

Since the Voting Rights Act was gutted, we have seen a wave of voter ID legislation across red states. While these laws are purportedly intended to prevent fraud, the effects are the same as the literacy tests in the south. For the midterm elections, the state of Texas passed some of the most restrictive identification legislation in the country’s history. While this was initially blocked because a federal judge deemed it to be a poll tax, the law was later reinstated.

The result? According to MSNBC, no one knows how many voters the law disenfranchised. However, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that the law had a very negative impact.

For starters, turnout dropped to 33.6%, down from 37.5% in 2010 — a decline of 271,000 voters. That happened despite a high-profile governor’s race, and an increase of 700,000 in the number of registered voters.

And even though turnout was lower, the number of provisional ballots doubled. That might be attributable to voters who lacked acceptable ID, since the law allows such voters to cast a provisional ballot. (In order to make those ballots count, the voter needs to return soon with valid ID, something few would be likely to do.)

MSNBC does note, however, that “turnout declined everywhere. The national drop — from 40.9% in 2010 to 36.4% this year — wasn’t much different from Texas’ decline.”

No matter what, some people were definitely affected. At least some instances of voters — including those who have voted successfully their entire lives — being turned away at the polls have been widely publicized. One notable example was a 93-year-old veteran whose driver’s license had expired, and who had not gotten a veteran’s identification card. He was able to vote without any issues until the midterm election.

“What’s clear now, though, is that the law deprived some voters — very plausibly a number in the tens of thousands, if not more — of their most basic democratic right,” MSNBC said. “That’s a reason for enormous concern, no matter how many people, or election results, were affected.”

 

via DailyMail

via DailyMailvia DailyMail

via DailyMail

 

Valerie Beaumont, Addicting Info

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Tens Of Thousands Want ’19 Kids And Counting’ Canceled Over Anti-LGBTQ Remarks

There is currently a petition by Jim Wissick of San Jose, California gaining steam on Change.org. The petition is requesting that TLC cancel 19 Kids And Counting over ongoing and increasing anti-LGBTQ discrimination.

According to the petition:

Michelle Duggar of TLC’s 19 Kids and Counting is warning Fayetteville residents that transgender people are child predators and that the law will somehow protect that predatory behavior.

Michelle Duggar is sending out a recorded robocall to local residents that says:

“Hello, this is Michelle Duggar. I’m calling to inform you of some shocking news that would affect the safety of Northwest Arkansas women and children.”

“The Fayetteville City Council is voting on an ordinance this Tuesday night that would allow men – yes I said men – to use womens and girls restrooms, locker rooms, showers, sleeping areas and other areas that are designated for females only. I don’t believe the citizens of Fayetteville would want males with past child predator convictions that claim they are female to have a legal right to enter private areas that are reserved for women and girls.”

Here’s the thing — she’s fear-mongering. Her claims are pure hyperbole.
The petition continues:

Duggar’s words reek of ignorance and fear-mongering. Just because someone is transgendered doesn’t mean they are a child predator or a rapist. The claim that this ordinance would provide predators with access to women’s restrooms in order to assault or leer at girls or women is nothing more than fear-mongering and spreading ignornace and hatred.

Transgender people — who are far more likely to be the victims of harassment and violence if forced to use a bathroom that is inconsistent with their gender identity or expression— deserve to have the ability to use the bathroom in peace and safety.

The petition currently has around 40,000 signatures and is steadily climbing with hopes of reaching 100,000.

This isn’t the first time the Duggars have gotten into hot water over anti-LGBTQ actions. The eldest of the Duggar Clan, Josh Duggar, heads up the notoriously anti-LGBTQ Family Research Counsil.

Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar also recently posted a picture of themselves kissing on Facebook to show an example of a happily married couple, and they asked their fans to post their own pictures in the comment section, but when John Becker of The Bilerico Project (an LGBT blog) put a photo of himself with his husband it was deleted and he was banned from the page.

It would be nice if TLC looked past their long-running relationship with the Duggars and recognized that they are pushing hate, fear, and misinformation on the supposed “Learning Channel” — Learning what? Some may ask.

In an era of enlightenment, it is one thing to show different models of family units, it’s another to profit off of a family who purposefully goes out of their way to spread hyperbole and fear because they don’t happen to agree that other people should seemingly live on the planet who aren’t just like them. Their messages are dangerous and disingenuous.

From ADDICTING INFO

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Inside the lonely fight against the biggest environmental problem you’ve never heard of

In 2011, an ecologist released an alarming study showing that tiny clothing fibers could be the biggest source of plastic in our oceans. The bigger problem? No one wanted to hear it

Ecologist Mark Browne knew he’d found something big when, after months of tediously examining sediment along shorelines around the world, he noticed something no one had predicted: fibers. Everywhere. They were tiny and synthetic and he was finding them in the greatest concentration near sewage outflows. In other words, they were coming from us.

In fact, 85% of the human-made material found on the shoreline were microfibers, and matched the types of material, such as nylon and acrylic, used in clothing.

It is not news that microplastic – which the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration defines as plastic fragments 5mm or smaller – is ubiquitous in all five major ocean gyres. And numerous studies have shown that small organisms readily ingest microplastics, introducing toxic pollutants to the food chain.

But Browne’s 2011 paper announcing his findings marked a milestone, according to Abigail Barrows, an independent marine research scientist based in Stonington, Maine, who has helped to check for plastic in more than 150 one-liter water samples collected around the world. “He’s fantastic – very well respected” among marine science researchers, says Barrows. “He is a pioneer in microplastics research.”

By sampling wastewater from domestic washing machines, Browne estimated that around 1,900 individual fibers can be rinsed off a single synthetic garment – ending up in our oceans.

microfibers
Tiny plastic fibers taken from a water sample in Blue Hill Bay in the gulf of Maine.   Photograph: Marine Environmental Research Institute

Alarmed by his findings, Browne reached out to prominent clothing brands for help. He sought partnerships to try to determine the flow of synthetic fibers from clothing to the washing machine to the ocean. He also hoped his research might help develop better textile design to prevent the migration of toxic fibers into water systems.

The reaction wasn’t what he expected.

He contacted leaders in the outdoor apparel industry – big purveyors of synthetic fabrics – including Patagonia, Nike and Polartec. But none of these companies agreed to lend support.

“Perhaps it’s my pitch,” Browne joked. “We want to look for new, more durable materials that do not emit so much microplastic.”

In 2013, Brown presented his vision for a program called Benign by Design, backed by a team of engineers and scientists from academic institutions around the world as well as from the Environmental Protection Agency. The group’s goal is to help the industry tackle the problem of synthetic microfiber migration into waterways and marine ecosystems. He proposed creating a range of working groups where scientists and industry representatives would work together to develop synthetic materials that do not shed synthetic fibers – or do so minimally but are still cost-effective, high-performing and, if possible, rely on recycled materials.

Only one firm, women’s clothing brand Eileen Fisher, offered to support him. The company’s $10,000 grant has supported a section of Browne’s research over the past year.

“Any lifecycle issue, especially when it’s about a huge consumer product like clothing, is important,” says Shona Quinn, sustainability leader with Eileen Fisher. “[Browne] is raising an issue no one else has been studying.”

While Browne sees the grant as a validation of his efforts, 90% of the products Eileen Fisher sells are made of natural fibers. He’s still hoping to find a clothing company that will collaborate on research and development of new synthetic fabrics that will not shed microfibers.

While pitching his idea at the Launch innovation conference, Browne spoke to Jim Zieba, vice president of Polartec’s advanced concepts and business development group. In a follow-up email, Browne asked if Zeiba could provide him with polymers from Polartec textiles so that Browne could grow the database of materials he maintains to help discern the unidentified fibers in his samples. He did not hear back from Zeiba.

Allon Cohne, global marketing director at Polartec, says he’s familiar with Browne and his research, but that Polartec has already done an internal study to analyze the effluent at its Lawrence, Massachusetts, manufacturing plant. Aside from characterizing the amount of microfibers contained in the effluent as “minimal”, Cohne said he could not publicly share the study or any details – such as what minimal means.

Browne says he’s glad to hear that Polartec conducted a study, but maintains that any truly scientific study would be open to peer review. (As it happens, the words “Committed to Science” are currently presented on Polartec’s website, above a video describing Polatec’s approach to fabric innovation.)

Patagonia, a company known for its strong environmental ethic and sustainable manufacturing processes, has also declined to work with Browne. The company’s strategic environmental responsibility manager, Todd Copeland, says the company considers Browne’s findings too preliminary to commit resources directly to a project like Benign by Design, until it sees more solid evidence that specific types of products or materials, such as fleece jackets or polyester base layers, are contributing to a major environmental threat. “I don’t know how much effort we want to spend looking for the solution before we know where the problem is,” Copeland says.

Browne says that, without industry support, he doesn’t know how he can move ahead with his efforts to address microfiber migration from textiles at their source.

“I think [clothing companies] have all put a lot of marketing money into environmental programs, but I’ve not seen evidence that they’ve put much money into research,” says Browne.

In fact, Patagonia maintains a policy to not directly support research, its spokesman Adam Fetcher told me. Instead, it supports non-profit groups doing environmental advocacy work. Over the past five years, Patagonia has awarded close to $70,000 in grants to groups focused on the microplastics pollution issue. These include Algalita Marine Research Foundation (founded by captain Charles Moore, who first raised the issue of microplastics in oceans), 5 Gyres, and Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation (ASC), with whom Abigail Barrows works to collect surface water samples from around the world for her research into microfibers.

Abigail BarrowsMicroplastic researcher Abigail Barrows draws water samples from a lobster boat.   Photograph: Veronica Young

Perhaps Browne would have more luck if he were an environmental advocate rather than a scientist.

Still, Gregg Treinish, ASC executive director, says he would need to raise a great deal more money to fund the level of research he feels microfibers deserve. “Determining what type of plastic is in the water is hard and expensive – up to $1000 per sample.”

Bad chemistry

Browne’s difficulty in finding companies to cooperate might be compounded by the fact that the industry that is already under scrutiny for different environmental issues. According to the World Bank, textile manufacturing generates up to 20% of industrial wastewater in China, and a number of environmental groups, chiefly Greenpeace, have launched campaigns to pressure clothing makers to rid their supply chains of toxic chemicals, such as perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) used in textile processing. PFCs are linked to environmental toxicity and human health problems, and Kevin Brigden, a chemist and Greenpeace honorary research fellow, says some manufacturers are finally beginning to phase them out.

But Brigden fears microfibers released from synthetic fibers could just as chemically hazardous. “Some chemicals are very water soluble, so they wash out [into wastewater during textile manufacturing],” Brigden says. “Others are less soluble so they take time to wash off. If fabrics break down then [microfibers] are another pathway for those [chemicals into the environment].”

Those fighting the use of microbeads in beauty products are finding more traction, Barrows says, because phasing them out is straightforward. Getting rid of synthetic fibers, on the other hand, would be extremely difficult. Not only are synthetic fabrics durable and versatile, but they can have smaller water and energy footprint than natural fabrics. “Synthetic fabrics have many great applications,” Barrows concedes, and determining how to measure their environmental impacts is an overwhelming challenge.

Other sources, other solutions

Polartec’s Cohne argues that too much emphasis is being placed on the clothing industry and that carpet and upholstery manufactures ought to be considered as equally important sources of synthetic microfiber runoff in the industrial sector. Professional carpet cleaners might be another vector.

Cohne also believes more onus should be put on washing machine manufacturers to find ways to capture the clothing fibers so that they do not ultimately enter wastewater treatment systems.

Browne has reached out to appliance manufacturers Siemens, Dyson (which sells washing machines in Europe), and LG, hoping to engage their design or research teams in a discussion about how they might be able to develop microfiber filters to prevent them from entering the water.

None has responded.

However, a Canadian tinkerer turned entrepreneur named Blair Jollimore is working on a solution. After his septic tank backed up and flooded his home, he discovered the main culprit was lint from his washing machine. So the former airplane engine mechanic, based in Nova Scotia, created a filter for his home laundry machine. “I’m a mechanical engineer, so I modified a water filter and added stainless steel screen,” says Jollimore. “I’ve been using it for 14 years.”

In 2003, some of his neighbors who were also having septic tank problems asked if he could make filters for their machines, too, and a home business was born. Jollimore has sold more than 1,000 of his filters to homeowners from England to Hawaii and now, with Browne’s encouragement, is preparing to pitch his filter to appliance makers as a way to rid wastewater of microfibers.

While he has found a screen that would capture strands down to 1 micron – necessary to stop all microfibers – he is still experimenting with what forcing water through such a fine filter could do to laundry machine function. “Every bit of dirt in your laundry would be captured, so it would back up the process,” he says.

As for capturing the fibers at their next stop, wastewater treatment plants, Browne is not optimistic. He says he has conferred with many engineers who work in sewage treatment and none of them thinks removing fibers – or microbeads, which enter wastewater through residential plumbing – is viable. Besides, he says, even if those microplastics were removed from the liquid waste, they would end up in sludge, which in some places ends up being turned into fertilizers. In those cases, the plastics would still enter the ecosystem, and conceivably the food chain.

Browne concedes that more research is required to better understand the sources and impacts of synthetic microfibers in the environment, and he wishes he could get the clothing companies on his side. “The [textile] people I’ve talked to have not been trained environmental scientists, they’re more often marketing people.”

“Industry is saying, ‘you just have to do more work on it’. But that will require someone to support it,” he says. “It seems to be a way of avoiding dealing with the problem.”

From The Guardian, Mary Catherine O’Connor.  O’Oconnor is an independent reporter and co-founder of Climate Confidential.

 

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Which Country Searches Google For The Most Gay Porn?

Google analyzed its data to report on gay porn search habits. Can you guess which countries found themselves in the top five searchers of gay porn on Google, according to the report? If you answered “countries that criminalize homosexuality,” you’d be mostly right! Except for South Africa, all of the top five countries that search for gay porn throw their gay people in prison — or worse.

Kenya, which took the tiara in the report, criminalizes homosexuality with prison sentences between five and 14 years.

Countries more tolerant of their LGBT citizens don’t appear until the latter half of the Top 10, starting with Australia and the U.S. at numbers seven and eight, respectively.

Does this report prove that criminalizing being gay doesn’t actually “rid” a country of homosexuality?

 

Jonathan Higbee, Instinct

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Charles Schwab Files Libel, Defamation Lawsuits against Beverly Hills Law Firm for Bogus Websites

Law Firm Steiner & Libo, Partner Leonard Steiner, Plaintiff Nicholas Behunin Sued by Charles Schwab Family For Libel

San Francisco-The Los Angeles law firm Steiner & Libo and one of its clients is being sued for defamation and libel for creating bogus websites as part of a plot to extract money from the family of respected investment advisor Charles R. Schwab, according to lawsuits filed today in Superior Court.

Legal complaints from Charles R. Schwab and his son Michael Schwab were filed against Steiner & Libo, partner Leonard Steiner, and plaintiff Nicholas Behunin of Los Angeles, Calif.

The lawsuits claims the law firm and its client knowingly made false claims on defamatory websites to purposely harm the reputation of the Schwab family in retaliation for not settling a lawsuit, which itself was an effort to shakedown the family.

The Charles R. Schwab lawsuit alleges the sites were “a tool for the extortion of Schwab” by creating the false impression that Mr. Schwab, his son, and family did business with a brutal dictator.

The defamatory sites state that Mr. Schwab sought to do business with the family of the late Indonesian dictator Suharto and his son Tommy Suharto, a convicted murderer. The sites advertise that Mr. Schwab can provide advice to investors on “how to profit from a brutal dictator” and methods to “launder money overseas.”

The Schwab lawsuits unequivocally state that neither Mr. Schwab nor his son Michael ever met President Suharto or Tommy Suharto or had any business dealings with them.

“The only reason to create these fraudulent websites was to besmirch the good name and reputation of Charles R. Schwab and his son Michael. Not one claim on the landing page of the site is true or correct and the guilty parties were aware of that prior to making the defamatory statements,” said attorney Robert R. Moore of the law firm of Allen Matkins, representing Charles R. Schwab.

The lawsuit claims “In sum, (Leonard) Steiner (Steiner & Libo and Nicholas Behunin) used the Websites as a tool for the extortion of Schwab.  The Website’s clear objective was, and is, to publicly embarrass and shame Schwab and then to leverage that public embarrassment into litigation advantage in Behunin’s lawsuit against Schwab.”

“The Defendants agreed to a scheme that included providing false and defamatory information to third parties who would post articles or blogs on the internet repeating the false and defamatory statements provided to them by Defendants…creating the impression that the false statements on the websites had been independently corroborated by the third-party posters,” according the lawsuit by Michael Schwab filed by his attorney David H. Schwartz.

Schwartz pointed to a false and defamatory story by HuffingtonPost.com blogger Bruce Fein entitled “Does This Schwab Charity Satisfy the IRS Perfume Test?<http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bruce-fein/does-this-schwab-charity-_b_5978502.html>” which is based on the libelous and defamatory statements from the bogus websites.

The Schwab’s attorneys said the bogus websites were posted after they refused to pay $25 million to Nicholas Behunin, who, through his attorney Leonard Steiner, threatened to sue unless the payment was made.   When no payment was made, Behunin sued the Schwabs on May 28, 2014, to recover his purported ownership interest in a real estate development venture with Michael Schwab. (The case is Sealutions LLC et al. case number BC546925, in the Superior Court of the State of California for the County of Los Angeles).

“The only purpose and intent of this scheme was to force a settlement through the implicit threat that Defendants would continue to disseminate such false and defamatory statements to the public unless and until Plaintiff and/or his father agreed to a settlement of the pending action,” according to the suit by Michael Schwab.

The Schwab legal filings claim that they initially contacted attorney Steiner in early October to inquire if he or his client was responsible for the websites. Steiner told them he had no knowledge of the sites, according the lawsuits.  The websites were registered anonymously. After further investigation, the Schwab’s attorneys found the sites were registered to Levick Strategic Communications public relations.  Later, after notifying attorney Steiner again, he still denied knowledge of them. After that contact with Steiner, the Schwab lawsuit says, the website was changed to include the name of Steiner & Libo law firm. In the past few days, the firm removed its name and now the site lists its owner as: N. Behunin.

Charles R. SchwabCharles R. Schwab

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3-Month-old Baby Shoots Texas Man In The Face

This totally never happens except when it does. After another apparent accidental shooting, Houston police are investigating. This time, the culprit is a 3-month-old baby. You see, the baby had access to his binkie, a blankie and of course, a gun.

20-year-old Patrick Sanders was shot on Saturday after a gun fell out of his pocket during a nap and landed in the hands of an infant, according to Houston Press Blogs.

Sanders was napping on the couch in the living room of his apartment, according to the police report, when the gun stashed in his pocket slipped out and onto the floor.

What could go wrong?

Well, when the man awoke, he found his firearm in the hands of the three-month-old boy, HPD Homicide Division Sergeant R. Rodriguez and W. Gilbert said.

You know how babies are. Oh look, a shiny thing!

Sanders tried to grab the gun from the infant, which caused the gun to fire, resulting in the man being shot in the face.

The baby was not injured during the incident, according to the police report.

Sanders was transported to a local hospital where he is listed in critical condition. It’s not clear as to whether Sanders is the3-month-old shooter’s father or not.

On the plus side: At least the baby didn’t put the gun in its mouth. Babies tend to put everything in their mouths, like shiny things, for example.

As far as I know, the gun survived the incident and is ready for the next. I’m sure the NRA would support gun owners teaching little babies proper gun safety. “More guns” is totally the answer.

From Libraland

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By the Numbers: How Canada’s Gun Laws Compare to Ours

The Ottawa shootings at the National War Memorial and inside Parliament shone a light on our northern neighbor’s laws, which have often been credited with helping Canada avoid the multitudes of mass shootings the U.S. has seen.

Annual homicides by gun:

Canada had 173 homicides by gun, according to a 2012 report.
The U.S. had 9,146 that year.

Total number of civilian guns:

Canada has 9,950,000.
The U.S. has more than 27 times as many: 270,000,000.

Guns per person:

Canada reports 30.8 firearms per 100 people. The country ranks 13 worldwide for firearms per capita, according to a report published by The Washington Post in September
The U.S. has 88.8. It ranks No. 1.

Waiting period to purchase a gun:

Canada requires a 60-day waiting period.
There is no federally mandated waiting period.
In the U.S. Residents can receive a gun after a background check.

Largest mass shootings:

Canada’s largest mass shooting was in 1989, when 25-year-old Marc Lepine killed 14 people at Montreal’s École Polytechnique.
The U.S. has had 160 mass shooting incidents between 2000 and 2013, CNN reports from a study released by the FBI. The largest U.S. shooting was at Virginia Tech in 2007, when 23-year-old student Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people. In 2012, twenty children and seven adults were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

License and registration requirements:

To own a gun in Canada, residents must take a safety course and pass both a written and a practical exam. The license expires in five years. Residents have to register restricted firearms, such as handguns and automatic weapons, with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s Canadian Firearms Program.
In the U.S., license and registration laws vary from states to state, often with no such requirements. There is no mandatory course or exam.

Background checks:

Canada requires a background check that focuses on mental health and addiction. Agents are required to inform an applicant’s spouse or family before granting a license.
The U.S. requires a federal background check for all those buying guns from licensed dealers but does not require one in private transactions such as at gun shows.

 

(Information is gathered from data collected by the Small Arms Study, The United Nations Office on Drug and Crime, and the Canadian Firearms Program).

Samantha Cowen, TakePart

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CA School to Become First Vegan School in the Country

The United States will have its first ever all vegan school in 2015.

MUSE School CA was founded by environmental activist Suzy Amis Cameron (aka wife of James Cameron) and her sister Rebecca Amis back in 2006. Since then, kids have been encouraged to “live consciously within themselves” and with solar panels across the school, classrooms built with recycled materials and 160 raised boxes for planting produce on site, the school has been doing the same. Now, getting rid of meat for good is the next eco-friendly move.

“Each year since I’ve been here, we’ve eliminated one or two days of meat to the point where now we’re just serving one meat meal a week,” said Kayla Webb, who started working at the school three years ago when it served organic meat at lunch for students and staff every day of the week. “Starting next year, it’s going to be completely plant-based eating.”

 

vegan school

In a recent interview with Ecorazzi, Amis Cameron said earlier this year that the switch was a goal for the school but was also a sensitive subject to discuss with the parents.

“If the families have an issue with it, depending on what they want to do in their own homes, it’s a lunch and a snack. It will be up to them if they want to feed their children differently for breakfast and dinner [and on weekends]. MUSE is an environmental school and we walk our walk in every other respect. This was just one of those ah-hamoments, which made us realize we aren’t walking our walk 100 percent if we’re still serving animal products,” she explained.

To make sure the transition to a completely plant-based meal plan went smoothly, MUSE offered a speaker series with doctors and cookbook authors that was also open to the public. Now the school doesn’t offer any meat, dairy or soy products and instead of soda, the 175 people on the two campuses get to drink water and tea.

“By 175 people eating one meal a day, we have begun to reduce our carbon footprint by over half a ton per person, which over a nine month period, is the equivalent of taking 25 cars off the road which would have driven 300,000 miles,” said Dr. Reese Halter, chair of mathematics and science at MUSE.

It was that environmental impact in addition to all health benefits that initially made Cameron and her husband go vegan. The multi award winning director has lost weight and claimed he has more energy since going on the plant based diet.

Across the country, in Queens, where Public School 244 made the choice in January to go vegetarian, the same results have been witnessed so far. School officials said that kids are not only loving the new menu but the healthier foods have led to higher attention spans and test scores.

From Ecorazzi

 

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Koret Foundation Criticized for Sexism in Lawsuit Against Susan Koret

Koret Foundation Should Apologize for Statements Against Immigrant and Domestic Workers

Partner of the San Francisco law firm Greene, Radovsky, Maloney, Share & Hennigh

Partner of the San Francisco law firm Greene, Radovsky, Maloney, Share & Hennigh

 

Anita Friedman, JFCS

Anita Friedman, JFCS

 

San Francisco—A diverse group of immigrant, domestic worker, labor and Jewish advocates demanded the Koret Foundation apologize for and withdraw negative comments directed against Susan Koret, the widow of Koret Foundation founder Joseph Koret, who sued for the Foundation for misdirecting and misusing monies from her husband’s fortune that were meant for the poor.

“The comments by the Koret Foundation and its spokesperson denigrate not only Ms. Koret, but they demean people of color, women, and those workers who tirelessly give their lives to improving the lives of others,” said Alysabeth Alexander.

At issue was a statement by official Koret Foundation spokesman Nathan Ballard who told the media, in response to Ms. Koret’s lawsuit, that “Susan was a housekeeper to Joe Koret and his first wife, Stephanie, and was only married to him for a brief period.” Mr. Ballard is also the spokesman for the Golden State Warriors NBA basketball team.

The group said Ballard’s “denigration of Susan Koret’s background as a housekeeper in an attempt to discredit her is both sexist and classist and should have no place in the public discourse in San Francisco. His statement and language is purposely designed to demean and denigrate women, immigrants, and domestic workers and is unacceptable under any circumstance.”

The group also wrote the Foundation in its letter, saying “While we cannot speak to Ms. Koret’s service on your Board of Directors, we can say that some of the Koret Foundation’s contributions to conservative, right-wing causes that were highlighted in recent news articles are anathema to those of us who work every day to lift up low-wage workers, immigrants, women, and communities of color.”

The letter was sent to the entire Koret Foundation board, including real estate investor Tad Taube; Richard L. Greene of Greene Radovsky Maloney Share & Hennigh; Anita Friedman, the executive director of director of Jewish Family and Children’s Services in San Francisco; Richard Atkinson, former president of the University of California; Michael J. Boskin, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution; and Abraham D. Sofaer, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution.

The Koret Board is expected to attend  the opening next week in Warsaw, Poland, of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews. There may be protests in Warsaw against the Koret Foundation because of  the alleged misdirection of Koret funds to the museum by Taube and the Koret Board and their alleged discrimination against Mrs. Koret.

The full text of the letter is below:

 

Open Letter to the Koret Foundation Board of Directors

October 17, 2014

It is with great concern we write to you regarding comments made by your spokesperson, Nathan Ballard, in the San Francisco Chronicle on October 8th about Susan Koret.

“Susan was a housekeeper to Joe Koret and his first wife, Stephanie, and was only married to him for a brief period. Susan is an incompetent director who lacks even a basic understanding of the foundation and its operations.”

Mr. Ballard’s denigration of Susan Koret’s background as a housekeeper in an attempt to discredit her is both sexist and classist and should have no place in the public discourse in San Francisco. His statement and language is purposely designed to demean and denigrate women, immigrants, and domestic workers and is unacceptable under any circumstance.

From reports, we understand that Susan Koret is an immigrant from Korea who began her career as a housekeeper. While we can’t speak to her personal experience or to the legal dispute at the Koret Foundation, we know that the contributions of millions of immigrant women–a great many of whom are domestic workers–should never be slighted.

Domestic workers care for our children, our parents, our elderly, and our communities. Many of us in San Francisco have fought to get the importance of domestic work recognized, so that the workers can enjoy many of the same right that the rest of us take for granted. With a significant legislative victory this year in Sacramento, now is not the time to go backwards.

We know that millions of immigrant women work tirelessly to improve the lives of their families and communities. This experience provides a critical perspective that is often-times missing when important decisions are made.

While we cannot speak to Ms. Koret’s service on your Board of Directors, we can say that some of the Koret Foundation’s contributions to conservative, right-wing causes that were highlighted in recent news articles are anathema to those of us who work every day to lift up low-wage workers, immigrants, women, and communities of color.

We demand that the Board of Directors and Nathan Ballard immediately apologize for and withdraw the negative comments directed against Ms. Koret that demean all people of color, women, and those workers who tirelessly give their lives to improving the lives of others.

Sincerely,

National Domestic Worker Alliance

Alysabeth Alexander, Vice-President of Politics, SEIU Local 1021*

Juanita Flores, Co-Director, Mujeres Unidas y Activas

Katie Joaquin, Campaign Director, CA Domestic Workers Coalition

Hene Kelly, Jewish Labor Committee*

Andrea Lee, Co-Director, Mujeres Unidas y Activas

Shaw San Liu, Tenant and Workers Organizing Center, Chinese Progressive Association*

Kay Vasilyeva, Former Board Member, SF Women’s Political Committee*

*organization listed for identification purposes only — does not imply organizational endorsement

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Judge tosses S.F. law meant to shield evicted tenants

San Francisco apartment owners scored a major victory Tuesday when a federal judge declared unconstitutional the city’s attempt to shield evicted tenants from soaring rents by substantially increasing the relocation fees the tenants must be paid by landlords who decide to get out of the rental business.

The law, which took effect in June, requires property owners to pay displaced tenants the difference for two years between the current rent and the amount needed to rent a comparable unit in the city at market rates — more than $100,000 in most cases. That violates property rights, said U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer, because it requires owners to pay for conditions they didn’t cause — the skyrocketing prices of rental housing, and the gap between market rates and maximum charges under the city’s rent-control law.

The ordinance “seeks to force the property owner to pay for a broad public problem not of the owner’s making,” said Breyer, who held a one-day trial in the case this month. “A property owner did not cause the high market rent to which a tenant who chooses to stay in San Francisco might be exposed, nor cause the lower rent-controlled rate the tenant previously enjoyed.”

He said the city’s claim of a causal link between a landlord’s actions and the relocation fees was further weakened by the fact that the ordinance did not require tenants to spend the fees on replacement housing in San Francisco, or anywhere else.

Breyer stayed his ruling until Friday to give the city time to ask a federal appeals court to intervene. Gabriel Zitrin, spokesman for City Attorney Dennis Herrera, said Herrera was “very disappointed” by the ruling and would decide whether to appeal in the next few days.

Previous ordinance

An earlier city ordinance, enacted in 2005 and upheld by the courts, required landlords to pay displaced tenants $4,500 plus inflation adjustments, an amount that Breyer said was roughly equal to the expenses they face in moving out. But tenant advocates said it came nowhere near the actual costs of finding new housing.
The author of the new ordinance, Supervisor David Campos, urged Herrera to continue defending it.

“When you stand up against powerful special interests like San Francisco did, by demanding fair payments to tenants evicted under the Ellis Act, you can expect those interests to fight back,” Campos said in a statement. “That’s what we’re seeing right now. This is not a permanent setback.”

Dean Preston, executive director of Tenants Together, a statewide advocacy organization that filed arguments in support of the ordinance, criticized the ruling. He said the Ellis Act, a state law allowing property owners to evict all their tenants without cause when they leave the rental business, contemplated that local governments could pass laws to reduce the impact on tenants.

“There’s no reason why the city can’t tie that (landlord’s decision) to the cost of displacement,” Preston said.
But J. David Breemer of the Pacific Legal Foundation, a lawyer for landlords who challenged the ordinance, called the ruling “a great win for property rights.”

‘Pay a ransom’

Campos’ measure “requires property owners to pay a ransom simply to stop being landlords and use their own property,” Breemer said. “Property owners didn’t cause the affordable housing crisis. The public should address it, not put it on the backs of property owners.”

The lead plaintiffs, husband and wife Daniel and Maria Levin, bought a two-unit North Beach building in 2008 with a single downstairs tenant. The Levins, who lived upstairs, filed an Ellis Act eviction in December, saying they wanted to use the lower unit for family members. The eviction was still pending when the new ordinance took effect, requiring the couple to pay their tenant nearly $118,000, the difference between the current rent and two years’ payments on a comparable unit elsewhere.

Breyer said the ordinance was unprecedented and violated a constitutional principle: When the government confiscates private property, by condemning land or exacting a fee for owners’ use of their property, the price must be at least “roughly proportional” to the impact of the owners’ actions.

Judge’s assessment

“The ordinance requires an enormous payout untethered in both nature and amount to the social harm actually caused by the property owner’s action,” the judge said. He said Ellis Act evictions — just over 200 in a recent 12-month period, in a city with more than 230,000 rental units — have little impact on the housing crisis or on tenants’ relocation costs.

“San Francisco’s housing shortage and the high market rates that result are significant problems of public concern, and the city (supervisors’) attempts to ameliorate them are laudable,” Breyer said. “But there are outer limits to how this may be done.”

By Bob Egelko, SF Chronicle

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Isis fighters ‘crucify’ 17-year-old boy in Syria

Isis fighters have reportedly executed a 17-year-old boy and left his body on display on a cross in Syria.

Pictures being shared online show a banner attached to the teenager’s chest saying the boy has been crucified for taking photos of Isis military bases, as well as receiving “500 Turkish lira” for any footage taken.  

The message describes the ruling for the alleged crime as “apostasy” and states the teenager has been “killed and crucified for a period of three days” as the punishment.

The alleged execution comes after it emerged Isis militants had beheaded their own fighters for spying and espionage.

It is not known who took the picture, which was circulated across social media by some Isis supporters on Friday.

Charlie Winter, Programs Officer at counter-extremism think tank the Quilliam Foundation, said crucifixion is a prescribed punishment meted out by Isis for specific crimes.

He told The Independent: “Crucifixion has been used many times before – it’s an age-old punishment dealt out to people who have committed treason.”

He said this punishment arises from Isis’s fundamentalist interpretation of Verse 33 of the fifth book of the Koran, which reads: “Indeed, the penalty for those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger and strive upon earth [to cause] corruption is none but that they be killed or crucified or that their hands and feet be cut off from opposite sides or that they be exiled from the land.

“That is for them a disgrace in this world; and for them in the Hereafter is a great punishment.”

However, he said the next very next verse emphasises forgiveness and removes the imperative to use such a punishment, saying: “Except for those who return [repenting] before you apprehend them. And know that Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.”

Mr Winter said the apostasy ruling suggested a fusion of theological and statutory terms.

The recent killing follows a series of executions in Raqqa in May believed to have been committed by Isis militants, where bodies were left suspended on wooden crosses for two days.

In March, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Isis crucified a man for “purposefully killing a Muslim to take his money”.

 

From The Independent

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First Gay Couples In Arizona Get Married, Gov. Jan Brewer Losing Her Shit by Dan Avery

Karen Bailey and Nelda Majors, who have been together for 58 years, became the first same-sex couple to get married in Arizona after a federal judge declared the state’s ban on marriage equality unconstitutional.

They met in college, where they lived in the same dorm, and started out as friends. But things blossomed a few months later: “I came back from spring break and told Nelda I loved her,” Bailey revealed to Why Marriage Matters Arizona, “It was all so new and amazing for me.”

Outside the Maricopa County Superior Court today, Majors, 76, said, “I have no words to express how I feel. It’s wonderful!”

Another couple—David Larance, 36, and Kevin Patterson, 31—married outside the county clerk’s office in downtown Phoenix. Patterson rushed straight from the gym when the verdict was announced and was so excited he forgot to bring a ring.

“I feel a lot of gratitude that this day finally came,” he told The Republic.

One Arizonan who’s not feeling gracious, however, is Governor Jan Brewer. (You know, the lady shook a pointed finger at President Obama on an airport tarmac with armed Secret Service only a few feet away.)

She’s furious that gay and lesbian couples have been allowed to marry in her state, now that Attorney General Tom Horne revealed he wouldn’t appeal today’s ruling.

arizona jan brwer

In a press release Brewer ranted that “the federal courts have again thwarted the will of the people” and eroded individual states’ rights.

It is not only disappointing, but also deeply troubling, that unelected federal judges can dictate the laws of individual states, create rights based on their personal policy preferences and supplant the will of the people in an area traditionally left to the states for more than 200 years.

As Justice Scalia opined, such action is tantamount to ‘an assertion of judicial supremacy over the people’ and is an image of the judiciary ‘that would have been unrecognizable to those who wrote and ratified our national charter.’

Brewer insisted that determining who can get married “is not the role of the judiciary.”

Perhaps she’s forgotten landmark cases like Loving v. Virginia? Or maybe it’s just more convenient to ignore them.

Regardless, congratulations to all the lucky couples today!

 

 

by Dan Avery, Logo TV

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Ann Coulter: ‘Give Ebola to Migrant Children’

Ann Coulter suggested today that America should infect migrant children with ebola in order to discourage illegal immigration.

In an interview this morning on Fox News, the controversial conservative commentator was asked how she would handle the growing humanitarian crisis caused by the arrival of thousands of unaccompanied children from Central America.

“First thing I would do is infect every one of those kids with the ebola virus,” she told host Sean Hannity. “The reason why people come to this country is because the government gives illegal immigrants free goodies like welfare.

“I say we give them a free case of hemorrhagic fever instead. If we pump every illegal child in this country full of ebola, parents would think twice before sending their kids to U.S. shores.

“This is just a classic case of making lemonade out of lemons. Whether we like it or not, this disease has arrived in America. So let’s put it to good use.”

An estimated 70,000 unaccompanied children from Central America will arrive at the United States’ southern border this year. Most are fleeing violent gangs in their home countries who fund their operations by smuggling drugs to the U.S.

Their sheer numbers are overtaxing America’s ability to provide for their basic needs while they await immigration hearings. Efforts to expedite the process have been bogged down in Congress amid a border debate about immigration levels and border security.

The crisis coincides with the worst outbreak of the Ebola virus in history. Over 900 people have died in West Africa this year from the disease, which carries a mortality rate between 50-90 percent.

Infecting the migrants with such a deadly virus may seem like an extreme solution. However, Coulter explained that her plan goes far beyond simply killing a few thousand innocent children.

“The best part is that once the children are infected, we can deport them back to Central America where they can infect the rest of the population,” she explained. “Once all the taco jockeys in Central America are dead we’ll colonize the territory with Americans.

“We could put up a few McDonalds, Wal-Marts and Home Depots. Maybe build a Disneyland. It would be a paradise.”

Ann Coulter the author of Mugged: Racial Demagoguery from the Seventies to Obama. She is well-known for hyperbolic statements designed to increase her book sales.

 

From The Daily Current

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Koret Foundation Sued by Widow Who Claims Board Members Uses Charity as “Personal Piggy Bank”

Jewish  Family and Children's Services

Anita Friedman Jewish Family and Children’s Services

President of Koret Foundation

Tad Taube, President of Koret Foundation

Partner of the San Francisco law firm Greene, Radovsky, Maloney, Share & Hennigh

Richard L. Greene, Partner of the San Francisco law firm Greene, Radovsky, Maloney, Share & Hennigh

Board Member and Silicon Valley Real Estate Investor Tad Taube, San Francisco Attorney Richard L. Greene, JFCS Director Anita Friedman, Other Board Members Shun the Poor, Bay Area, Jewish Causes—in Favor of Spending Foundation Resources on Conservative and Pet Projects at Half-Billion Dollar Charity

 

San Francisco—The Jewish community from San Francisco to Poland was rocked this week when the widow of Koret Foundation founder Joseph Koret filed a lawsuit against the Koret Foundation and its Board of Directors for conflicts of interest and self-dealing.  The lawsuit says the Koret Board is illegally funding pet projects that include right-wing conservative causes in the United States to wrongly spending $10 million to the Museum of the History of Polish Jews.

The lawsuit said the wrongdoing is being orchestrated by Koret Foundation President Tad Taube, a native of Poland and well-known right wing conservative Republican.  The suit also lays blame on Taube’s personal attorney and Board member Richard L. Greene of Greene Radovsky Maloney Share & Hennigh LLP and Anita Friedman, the executive director of director of Jewish Family and Children’s Services in San Francisco as well as board member Richard Atkinson, former president of the University of California; board member Michael J. Boskin, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution; and board member Abraham D. Sofaer, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution.

The suit filed October 7, 2014 in San Francisco Superior Court by Mrs. Koret alleges that under Taube’s direction the board has ignored the priorities established by her late husband to help the poor and assist Jewish causes in the Bay Area and Israel.

Instead, her suit claims, the Koret board is using foundation funds to promote programs closely affiliated with individual board members and is purposely confusing the public by putting signage that prominently features Taube’s name alongside the Koret Foundation name on buildings and grants for which the Koret Foundation is the principal funder.

“Defendants’ duty of loyalty to the Foundation has been corrupted by these directors’ close affiliations with many of the Foundation’s recent grants, resulting in tens of millions of dollars distributed due to self-interest,” according to the lawsuit.

The suit demands the removal of the Koret board members and calls for their replacement with the appointment of an independent board with a majority of Jewish directors.

“Taube says publicly that giving to the poor is “a bottomless pit.” Instead he has led the Koret Foundation by focusing its giving to organizations identified with him, creating a corporate culture of directors who rubber stamp his decisions as long as their favored organizations are also supported.  “In elevating their own and affiliated interests while ostensibly making decisions for the Koret Foundation, defendants are breaching duties of loyalty that require them to serve faithfully the interests of the Koret Foundation” the lawsuit claims.

“Alleviating suffering and misfortune were my husband’s top priorities,” said Mrs. Koret. “Joe and Stephanie’s money shouldn’t be used for Tad Taube’s pet projects in Poland or to help conservative economic and policy think tanks–not when so many in the Bay Area go to bed hungry every night and Jewish causes need support.”

Supporting her lawsuit is Joe and Stephanie Koret’s closest surviving family member, nephew Merv Brown of Walnut Creek, who worked with the Korets for decades.  He said about the suit:

“With all respect to Mr. Taube, if he wants to spend money on Poland, he should use his own money–not my uncle’s and my aunt’s–to assist his homeland. I am proud to stand with Susan Koret to support and endorse the directions and wishes of my family that their fortune be spent as Uncle Joe wished: to help the poor and Jews in Israel and the Bay Area.”

The San Jose Mercury News reported that: “Mrs. Koret is doing a favor for the entire Bay Area community with her lawsuit,” said longtime friend Julie Goodman. “She has a lot of courage. No one else has had the guts to take on Mr. Taube, who has used his power, plus his and the Koret Foundation’s money, to bully a lot of people and organizations into subservience.”

Mrs. Koret’s lawsuit alleges that others, including “philanthropic civic leaders and former and current staff members will support Mrs. Koret in her efforts to restore the Koret Foundation’s purpose and dignity free of the control of Mr. Taube.”

The lawsuit claims that, at Taube’s direction, the Koret Foundation has donated approximately $9 million to the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw, a pet project of Taube, who was born in Poland.  “

While the Polish Museum commemorates significant Jewish history, the diversion of Koret funds to Poland is not in keeping with my husband’s charitable mission…and in effect drains funds that could benefit the needy in communities in the Bay Area and Israel,” the lawsuit states.

Sam Singer of Singer Associates, Inc., who is acting as a spokesman for Mrs. Koret in the lawsuit, said the lawsuit will attempt to claw back the $9 million in money from Taube that was given to the Museum of the History of Polish Jews and return it to the Koret Foundation. The Museum of the History of Polish Jews is scheduled to open Oct. 28 in Warsaw. The Museum is reported facing financial difficulties, according to Polish media reports.

Mrs. Koret noted her husband was a native of Odessa, Russia, who immigrated to America, struggled growing up poor in the U.S., and then struck it rich later in life in clothing and real estate. He was deeply committed to humanitarian causes such as alleviating hunger,  and would “be deeply angered and offended by Tad Taube and the board’s strong support of conservative  causes and grants that divert money needed for the local community and Jewish causes.”

The lawsuit asks the court to prevent the spending down of the Foundation’s assets by Taube and the board members with whom he has surrounded himself and allow the appointment of a new, independent board to carry out its mission and save the Foundation.

Mrs. Koret was named a lifetime director and chairwoman of the Foundation prior to her husband’s death in 1982. She was entrusted by her late husband to carry out the family legacy of caring for the poor and supporting Jewish and community causes through the Koret Foundation, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit also recites that the board has rejected a series of Asian and African-American candidates for board membership, including their rejection last month of former Mayor Willie Brown as president of the Foundation.

Mrs. Koret said she has been marginalized as Taube, a Silicon Valley real estate investor, and his hand-picked supporters on the board steer donations toward causes in which they have affiliations.

Mrs. Koret said she filed the suit as a last resort after her efforts to diversify the board, get independent legal advice, confirm the perpetual nature of the Foundation and redirect funds back to her late husband’s mission were rebuffed.  She fears the Koret Foundation is facing destruction of its mission and eventual collapse unless changes are made.

She said in the last 12 months, Taube has undertaken three major real estate transactions:  the sale of the Foundation’s largest real estate asset; marketing of another Foundation property; and refinancing a significant loan on a third Foundation property. The collective value of the real estate involved in these transactions is several hundred million dollars, according to the lawsuit.

“Over Mrs. Koret’s objections, defendants approved engaging a broker associated with defendant Taube’s real estate businesses to sell, market and refinance the Foundation’s properties and split its commission with Taube Investments, without disclosing the percentage commission split.  This conduct violates state and federal law and is breach of fiduciary duty,” the lawsuit states.

The Foundation’s general counsel and Taube attorney Richard L. Greene, over Mrs. Koret’s objection, failed to advise that an independent appraisal or broker was needed to market the Foundation property and refinance the loan, even though the same broker associated with Taube’s businesses was engaged for both these real estate transactions, according to the suit.

“Greene’s conduct … may expose the Foundation to claims of self-dealing, is contrary to California professional rules for attorneys in avoiding conflicts of interest, and causes economic injury to the Foundation,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit alleges that Taube is a shameless self-promoter who has personally selected board members to rubber stamp his decisions in exchange for support of their own pet projects. Additionally, the suit says Taube established his own foundation, called Taube Philanthropies, but uses money and staff from the Koret Foundation to pay for and enhance joint projects of Taube Philanthropies and the Koret Foundation.   A review of the Koret Foundation’s public filings shows reported annual salaries and compensation of officers exceeded $1.9 million in 2011, while Taube Philanthropies showed no such expenses for the same period, according to the lawsuit.

Mrs. Koret’s lawsuit charges that out of the $64 million gifted by the Koret Foundation between 2010 and 2012, nearly 60 percent was spent on causes outside the stated mission of her husband, the late Joseph Koret.

The lawsuit claims conflicts of interest, self-dealing, and breaches of duty abound on the board:

  • The Koret Foundation’s Executive Director Jeffrey Farber provides no independent management, reaps a large salary and perks at the Foundation, has little involvement in grant-making and does only what Taube asks him to do.  Farber is also a member of the Taube Philanthropies board, creating a serious conflict of loyalty and duty.   His wife works for Koret Board member Anita Friedman at Jewish Family and Children’s Services, yet another conflict.

Koret Board Member Anita Friedman, director of Jewish Family and Children’s Services, JFCS, sits on the Taube Philanthropies board as a director. Friedman makes up to $380,000 per year as executive director of JFCS, which is a major recipient of Koret funds. During September’s Koret Foundation meeting, she oversaw and participated in a vote granting $1.2 million to the Shalom Hartman Institute, where she also sits on the board.

While JFCS and Shalom Hartman are worthwhile causes, Friedman has failed to recuse herself in any discussions of massive grants to entities where she is on the board or employed. Friedman sees no conflict in directing millions in additional funds to entities where she has other interests and has no inclination to resign her JFCS position. Friedman has voted against every initiative by Mrs. Koret over the past two years seeking to bring independence, balance and transparency to the Koret board.

  • Michael J. Boskin is a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, which has received millions from the Koret Foundation over the years. Earlier this month, the board approved another $280,000 grant to the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research where Boskin is also a Senior Fellow and former director. Since 1992, Koret has approved grants totaling $4.5 million to support SIEPR, and millions to Hoover through Stanford.

 

  • Abraham Sofaer is another interlocking director on the board of Taube Philanthropies, and is also a Senior Fellow Emeritus at the Hoover Institution, based at Stanford University.  From 2010-2012, the Koret Foundation’s funding to Hoover and Stanford of nearly $4 million was about equal to its total support of all social welfare causes in the Bay Area combined.

 

In the lawsuit, Taube, a member of the Board of Overseers and the Executive Committee of the Hoover Institution, is alleged to have misused Foundation money to pay consultants to write editorials opposing Obama administration policies and to attend trips in support of Hoover.

The lawsuit also alleges that Taube:

  • Reduced funds targeted for Koret Foundation grantees and increased funds to organizations that are his personal favorites.

 

  • Used Koret funds to pay millions of dollars to entities affiliated with him or his close associates to manage the Foundation’s real estate holdings.

 

  • Without board approval, commissioned and installed a life-size mural depicting himself and now hung inside the Koret Foundation’s new headquarters in San Francisco at a cost to the Foundation of $80,000.

 

  • Paid more than $75,000 in Foundation money for promotional materials about himself, including booklets and newspaper advertisements.

 

  • Subsidized the operating costs of Taube Philanthropies by using Koret staff and resources for joint grant projects, and used Koret Foundation resources for travel, marketing and personal expenses.

 

  • Terminated a $35,000 contract of an independent publisher of a book about the life of Joseph and Stephanie Koret, the founder’s first wife. Taube was reportedly angry that the book was not about him or his contributions.

 

  • Along with counsel and board member Richard L. Greene, discriminated against and ridiculed Mrs. Koret and prevented her from speaking with Foundation staff.

Mrs. Koret in her lawsuit pledges to maintain the priorities of her husband by broadening the Koret board to include community leaders while maintaining a majority of Jewish directors.  She is committed to maintaining support for the anchor institutions in the Bay Area that Koret has supported over many years and to prevent any continued diversion of funds to out of mission organization and countries.

 

Jewish  Family and Children's Services

SUED: Anita Friedman, Jewish Family and Children’s Services

Partner of the San Francisco law firm Greene, Radovsky, Maloney, Share & Hennigh

SUED: Richard L. Greene, Partner of the San Francisco law firm Greene, Radovsky, Maloney, Share & Hennigh

President of Koret Foundation

SUED: Tad Taube, President of Koret Foundation

 

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These six diseases should worry you more than Ebola

13-year-old Will Cornejo was admitted to Rocky Mountain  Hospital for Children at Presbyterian/St. Luke's Medical Center in Denver on September 5 for enterovirus 68. The outbreak has shown up in 628 cases in the U.S. to date, some of which show disconcerting similarities to polio. Photo courtesy Getty/Denver Post/Cyrus McCrimmon.

13-year-old Will Cornejo was admitted to Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children at Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center in Denver on September 5 for enterovirus 68. The outbreak has shown up in 628 cases in the U.S. to date, some of which show disconcerting similarities to polio. Photo courtesy Getty/Denver Post/Cyrus McCrimmon.

Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian citizen visiting the U.S., died this morning. He was the first and so far only patient to be diagnosed with Ebola in the United States. It’s important not to trivialize his death, but it’s also important to put it in perspective. In Africa, the virus has claimed the lives of at least 6,871 people and sickened more than 8,100 others, according to the World Health Organization.

But that one case has captured the news, inspiring headlines like “The ISIS of Biological Agents” and “U.S. has left itself open to Ebola outbreak.”

Meanwhile, in our country, the enterovirus 68 has infected at least 628 people since August, most of them small children.

“When people are anxious about a threat like Ebola, it doesn’t necessarily matter if they look at numbers, facts and probabilities,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. “Because of the way our brains work, something rare and exotic is much scarier than something that’s familiar.”

As anxiety about Ebola mounts, we asked the experts which U.S. diseases we shouldbe worried about, or at least more worried about than Ebola. Here are six, in no particular order.

ENTEROVIRUS D-68

Last month a 4-year-old boy in New Jersey went to sleep and never woke up. This week, the CDC confirmed that the boy was infected with the airborne enterovirus 68, or EV-D68. That same week a 10-year-old girl who also tested positive for the virus died 24 hours after being admitted to a hospital in Rhode Island.

Enterovirus 68 fits into a class of viruses that includes hand-foot-and-mouth disease and polio. Every year, 10 to 15 million people pick up an enterovirus, Schuchat said, but enterovirus 68 is an entirely new outbreak.

While enterovirus 68 was first discovered in 1962, this is its first outbreak. Dr. Mary Anne Jackson is director of infectious diseases at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri. The first cases of enterovirus 68 — children with asthma-like symptoms — were admitted to her hospital early August. By month’s end, the hospital was admitting to 30 to 35 cases a day.

Just as doctors are learning how to diagnose the virus, it is evolving. In Colorado, 10 patients developed polio-like symptoms, with limb paralysis and difficulty breathing. Four of those patients tested positive for enterovirus 68. Similar cases have been reported across the country, from Boston to San Diego. It’s still unclear whether limb paralysis is linked to enterovirus 68, but researchers are studying the possibility of a connection.

“It spreads just like the common cold, but we don’t know how many will get a cold and how many will need hospitalization and how many will end up with polio-like illness,” Jackson said. “In terms of what’s at our feet right now, EV-D68 has become the most important virus.”

How to protect yourself: Wash hands often with soap and water for more than 20 seconds before touching eyes, nose or mouth. Avoid close contact with people who are sick. Cover your coughs and sneezes with something that’s not your hands. Disinfect surfaces, like toys and doorknobs. Stay home if you’re sick.

MEASLES

This child displays a typical measles rash, four days into the illness. Before widespread vaccination, 90% of children and babies contracted the measles. The number dropped to fewer than 1,000 cases a year, and was nearly eradicated in the U.S., until parents stopped vaccinating their children. Photo courtesy CDC/NIP/Barbara Rice

This child displays a typical measles rash, four days into the illness. Before widespread vaccination, 90% of children and babies contracted the measles. The number dropped to fewer than 1,000 cases a year, and was nearly eradicated in the U.S., until parents stopped vaccinating their children. Photo courtesy CDC/NIP/Barbara Rice

Measles, a virus that causes an infection of the respiratory system, was nearly eradicated in the United States after a vaccine became widespread in the early 1960s. In the years since, the virus became so rare here that its symptoms — irritability, high fever and a rash — were mostly forgotten, as was the rate of infection. Before routine vaccinations, each case of measles created 17 new secondary cases, the New York Times recently reported.

But in 2008, due to a combination of international travel and unvaccinated populations — most from parents opting out of the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine for their children — the virus resurfaced in the U.S.

Babies of unvaccinated mothers are at the greatest risk. They are too young for the vaccine and lack immunity from their mothers. So far in 2014, there have been more than 600 measles cases, nearly all of them children.

“That’s astounding for 2014 to think that there are that many cases for a disease that should have gone away in the U.S.,” Jackson said.

Measles is rarely fatal — one person in every 1,000 cases dies from it — but it requires a great deal of hospital resources to treat. Many children with the measles will need oxygen or ventilators, and are at a greater risk of developing pneumonia and other bacterial infections. Measles can also cause deafness and permanent brain damage.

In rare cases, children with the measles go on to develop subacute sclerosing panencephalitis. SSPE is a rare neurological disease that develops years after a measles infection. It starts as sleeplessness and forgetfulness, but it devolves into hallucinations and seizures. Most SSPE patients die within one to three years of diagnosis.

How to protect yourself: For best protection, the CDC recommends vaccinating your children twice: once when they are 12-15 months old, and again when they are 4-6 years old.

WHOOPING COUGH

This is the bacteria that causes pertussis, or whooping cough. The current vaccine for disease loses efficacy after 5 years. Missed booster shots means the disease is showing up more often in the U.S. Photo courtesy Sanofi Pasteur/Alain Grillet via Flickr

Cases of pertussis, or whooping cough, have risen sharply since 2004. In 2012, 48,277 cases were reported in the U.S. That’s the largest number since 1955. Pertussis is caused by a bacteria, and starts with cold-like symptoms. The dry, hacking cough can last for up to 10 weeks. Some patients turn blue gasping for air.

“In my 30 years of practice, hardly a week has gone by that I haven’t diagnosed a case [of pertussis],” Jackson said.

Children between 7 and 10 years old are hardest hit, she said, and it’s especially dangerous for infants. But deaths in the U.S. from pertussis are rare. There were 20 deaths among the 48,277 cases in 2012, for example.

“Deaths are low — 20 to 30 a year,” Jackson said. “Those are 20 to 30 deaths that we shouldn’t have.”

There is a vaccine for pertussis, but it’s not as effective as it once was, Jackson said. In the 1950s, the U.S. relied on a whole-cell pertussis vaccine, one that used full strains of the bacteria. But the whole-cell vaccines had side effects, from swelling at the injection site to fever. In the 1990s, industrialized nations shifted to using an acellular vaccine containing only parts of the bacteria. But after five years, immunity from the acellular vaccine wanes. Then around 2004, the bacteria mutated, and cases took off in the U.S.

NewsHour’s Betty Ann Bowser reported on the outbreaks in 2012:

 

How to protect yourself: Regular booster shots help, Schuchat said, especially for pregnant women who want to protect their newborns. Mothers can pass immunity on to their babies, which helps them through their first months. In fact, a whooping cough booster shot in the third trimester protects 90 percent of babies in their first year of life, according to the CDC.

DRUG-RESISTANT BACTERIA

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) has spread beyond hospitals. The deadly, antibiotic-resistant bacteria is found on every two out of 100 people in the U.S. Photo courtesy CDC/James Gathany

More than 2 million people in the U.S. each year develop an infection from antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The CDC estimates at least 23,000 people die from those infections each year.

With an overuse of antibiotics, several types of bacteria have become immune to the drugs that once eliminated them. Infections and diseases that were once cured by a single medication now require stronger antibiotics to treat. Doctors have seen rises inantibiotic resistant tuberculosis, staph infections, gonorrhea and pneumonia, to name a few. It means long, painful and expensive hospitalizations while doctors find a way to kill the superbugs. When second- and third-tier antibiotics can’t cure the infection, the last resort is removing infected tissue.

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, is one of the most virulent. The CDC estimates that there are 80,000 MRSA cases every year, and 11,000 people die from the infection each year. MRSA can be spread through skin-to-skin contact and contact with infected materials, like surgical tools or breathing tubes. It’s a scourge in hospitals, and it is spreading beyond clinics.

But there has been a decline in MRSA deaths. In 2011, there were 9,000 fewer MRSA deaths than in 2005, the CDC estimates, thanks to better hospital practices to prevent the spread of the bacteria. But two in every 100 people carry MRSA.

How to protect yourself: Protect yourself with handwashing, proper sanitation and appropriate use of antibiotics, Schuchat said.

RESPIRATORY SYNCYTIAL VIRUS

Chest x-ray of a 16-day old infant with a lung injury due to respiratory syncytial virus. Almost every child contracts the disease by age 2. Photo courtesy Wikimedia.

 

By age 2, almost every child in the U.S. has had respiratory syncytial virus or RSV, Jackson said. It’s a lung infection, causing babies to cough, wheeze and have a fever. RSV is transmitted like a common cold via droplets from sneezes and coughs. Like the flu, it appears every winter like clockwork, Jackson said.

For most babies, RSV isn’t serious, but 125,000 babies every year are hospitalized for the virus. Premature babies or children with heart or respiratory problems can develop more severe symptoms and require ventilators or oxygen to breathe. Overall, the death rate from RSV is low considering how high the infection rate is — approximately 250 deaths a year, Jackson said.

So why is RSV a big problem? Unlike influenza, there’s no vaccine or antiviral to treat it. The virus stays on surfaces for as long as eight hours, spreading quickly through daycares and households. For the elderly and older smokers, RSV can cause pneumonia, which can be deadly.

“The vast majority of babies do fine, but it has a very high burden of disease,” Jackson said.

How to protect yourself: Wash your hands frequently. Disinfect surfaces. High-risk children should not interact with people with cold-like symptoms.

From the CDC: A drug called palivizumab (say “pah-lih-VIH-zu-mahb”) is available to prevent severe RSV illness in certain infants and children who are at high risk. The drug can help prevent development of serious RSV disease, but it cannot help cure or treat children already suffering from serious RSV disease and it cannot prevent infection with RSV.

INFLUENZA AND PNEUMONIA

In January 2013, New York City declared a public health emergency as influenza swept the state, with nearly 20,000 people infected.  Photo by Getty Images/Mario Tama

Influenza and pneumonia go hand-in-hand, and are more likely to kill you than any infectious disease. Flu ranks number seven on the CDC’s list of 10 top killersMore than 53,000 people died from influenza and pneumonia in 2010 according to the CDC — and that’s just in the United States.

“The common cold is miserable, but this is beyond miserable. It’s a high fever, severe muscle aches…people remember the minute it hits them,” Jackson said. “It runs its course over seven days, and an antiviral can ratchet it down, but (the flu) is still a very severe illness with whole list of complications” — ranging from ear infections to pneumonia.

And while the flu virus itself can be deadly, more lethal is the pneumonia that sometimes follows, she said. Most healthy people, about one-third of the population, carry the bacteria that causes pneumonia in their noses. But when an infection like the flu takes over the body, the bacteria migrates into the bloodstream and ends up in the lungs.

Millions are hospitalized for the illness, Schuchat says, but babies, young children and the elderly are at the greatest risk. That’s why the CDC recommends that everyone over 6 months old gets the annual flu vaccine.

“Last year, more than 100 kids died from flu in the U.S. And that’s something that we do have vaccines for,” Schuchat said. “It may seem familiar, but even healthy children get influenza and can die from it.”

Ebola requires contact with bodily fluids like vomit, blood, saliva or urine to transfer from person to person. But influenza is easily airborne on droplets projected from coughs and sneezes that fly through schools, offices and households. The tragedy is that many of these influenza deaths could have been prevented with the annual flu vaccine, Jackson said.

“We have a vaccine and an antiviral medication for influenza, and it still causes deaths,” she said. “We have Americans afraid of ebola, but fewer than 50 percent of Americans take advantage of the flu vaccine, and it’s something that’s going to be here. It’s coming.”

How to protect yourself: The CDC recommends that caregivers and infants six months and older get a flu vaccine. Also, cover your coughs and sneezes and wash hands frequently. If you’re sick, stay home from work or school.

 

BY REBECCA JACOBSON, PBS

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