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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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Monsanto’s Dirty Dozen: The 12 Most Awful Products Made By Monsanto

When you take a moment to reflect on the history of product development at Monsanto, what do you find? Here are twelve products that Monsanto has brought to market. See if you can spot the pattern…

#1 – Saccharin

Did you know Monsanto got started because of an artificial sweetener? John Francisco Queeny founded Monsanto Chemical Works in St. Louis, Missouri with the goal of producing saccharin[1] for Coca-Cola. In stark contrast to its sweet beginnings, studies performed during the early 1970s[2],* including a study by the National Cancer Institute in 1980[3], showed that saccharin caused cancer in test rats[4] and mice.

After mounting pressure from consumers, the Calorie Control Council[5], and manufacturers of artificial sweeteners and diet sodas, along with additional studies[6] (several conducted by the sugar and sweetener industry) that reported flaws in the 1970s studies, saccharin was delisted from the NIH’s Carcinogen List. A variety of letters from scientists advised against delisting[7]; the official document includes the following wording[8] to this day: “although it is impossible to absolutely conclude that it poses no threat to human health, sodium saccharin is not reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen under conditions of general usage as an artificial sweetener.” (*Read the Chemical Heritage Foundation’s History of Saccharin[9] here.)

#2 – PCBs

During the early 1920s, Monsanto began expanding their chemical production into polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) to produce coolant fluids for electrical transformers, capacitors, and electric motors. Fifty years later, toxicity tests[10] began reporting serious health effects[11] from PCBs in laboratory rats exposed to the chemical.

After another decade of studies, the truth could no longer be contained: the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a report[12] citing PCBs as the cause of cancer in animals, with additional evidence that they can cause cancer in humans. Additional peer-reviewed health studies showed a causal link between exposure to PCBs and non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, a frequently fatal form of cancer.

In 1979, the United States Congress recognized PCBs as a significant environmental toxin and persistent organic pollutant, and banned its production in the U.S.  By then Monsanto already had manufacturing plants abroad, so they weren’t entirely stopped until the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants banned PCBs globally in 2001.

And that’s when Monsanto’s duplicity was uncovered: internal company memos[13] from 1956 surfaced, proving that Monsanto had known about dangers of PCBs from early on.

In 2003, Monsanto paid out over $600 million to residents of Anniston, Alabama, who experienced severe health problems including liver disease, neurological disorders and cancer[14] after being exposed to PCBs — more than double the payoff that was awarded in the case against Pacific Gas & Electric made famous by the movie “Erin Brockovich.”

And yet the damage persists: nearly 30 years after PCBs have been banned from the U.S., they are still showing up in the blood of pregnant women, as reported in a 2011 study[15] by the University of California San Francisco.

#3 – Polystyrene

In 1941, Monsanto began focusing on plastics and synthetic polystyrene, which is still widely used in food packaging and ranked 5th in the EPA’s 1980s listing of chemicals[16] whose production generates the most total hazardous waste.

#4 – Atom bomb and nuclear weapons

Shortly after acquiring Thomas and Hochwalt Laboratories, Monsanto turned this division into their Central Research Department[17]. Between 1943 to 1945, this department coordinated key production efforts of the Manhattan Project[18]—including plutonium purification and production and, as part of the Manhattan Project’s Dayton Project[19], techniques to refine chemicals used as triggers for atomic weapons (an era of U.S. history that sadly included the deadliest industrial accident[20]).

#5 – DDT

In 1944, Monsanto became one of the first manufacturers of the insecticide DDT to combat malaria-transmitting mosquitoes. Despite decades of Monsanto propaganda insisting that DDT was safe, the true effects of DDT’s toxicity were at last confirmed through outside research and in 1972, DDT was banned throughout the U.S.

#6 – Dioxin

In 1945, Monsanto began promoting the use of chemical pesticides in agriculture with the manufacture of the herbicide 2,4,5-T (one of the precursors to Agent Orange), containing dioxin. Dioxins are a group of chemically-related compounds that since become known as one of the “Dirty Dozen[21]” — persistent environmental pollutants that accumulate in the food chain, mainly in the fatty tissue of animals. In the decades since it was first developed, Monsanto has been accused of covering up or failing to report dioxin contamination in a wide range of its products.

#7 – Agent Orange

During the early 1960s, Monsanto was one of the two primary manufacturers of Agent Orange, an herbicide / defoliant used for chemical warfare during the Vietnam War. Except Monsanto’s formula had dioxin levels many times higher than the Agent Orange produced by Dow Chemicals, the other manufacturer (which is why Monsanto was the key defendant in the lawsuit brought by Vietnam War veterans in the United States).

(Pictured at left, Anh and Trang Nhan, with their father, when they first arrived at the Hoi An Orphanage; below are the same brothers shortly before Trang’s death. Source: Kianh Foundation Newsletter, Dec. 2011[22])

As a result of the use of Agent Orange, Vietnam estimates that over 400,000 people were killed or maimed, 500,000 children were born with birth defects, and up to 1 million people were disabled or suffered from health problems—not to mention the far-reaching impact it had on the health of over 3 million American troops and their offspring.

Internal Monsanto memos show that Monsanto knew of the problems of dioxin contamination of Agent Orange when it sold it to the U.S. government for use in Vietnam. Despite the widespread health impact, Monsanto and Dow were allowed to appeal for and receive financial protection from the U.S. government against veterans seeking compensation for their exposure to Agent Orange.

In 2012, a long 50 years after Agent Orange was deployed, the clean-up effort has finally begun[23]. Yet the legacy of Agent Orange, and successive generations of body deformities[24], will remain in orphanages[25] throughout VietNam for decades to come.

(Think that can’t happen here? Two crops were recently genetically engineered[26] to withstand a weedkiller made with one of the major components of Agent Orange, 2,4-D[27], in order to combat “super weeds” that evolved due to the excessive use of RoundUp.)

8 – Petroleum-Based Fertilizer

In 1955, Monsanto began manufacturing petroleum-based fertilizer after purchasing a major oil refinery. Petroleum-based fertilizers can kill beneficial soil micro-organisms[28], sterilizing the soil and creating a dependence, like an addiction, to the synthetic replacements. Not the best addiction to have, considering the rising cost and dwindling supply of oil…

#9 – RoundUp

During the early 1970s, Monsanto founded their Agricultural Chemicals division with a focus on herbicides, and one herbicide in particular: RoundUp (glyphosate). Because of its ability to eradicate weeds literally overnight, RoundUp was quickly adopted by farmers. Its use increased even more when Monsanto introduced “RoundUp Ready” (glyphosate-resistant) crops, enabling farmers to saturate the entire field with weedkiller without killing the crops.

While glyphosate has been approved by regulatory bodies worldwide and is widely used, concerns about its effects on humans and the environment persist. RoundUp has been found in samples of groundwater[29], as well as soil[30], and even in streams and air[31] throughout the Midwest U.S., and increasingly in food. It has been linked to butterfly[32] mortality, and the proliferation of superweeds[33]. Studies in rats have shown consistently negative health impacts ranging from tumors, altered organ function, and infertility, to cancer and premature death. Reference the above “GMO Risks[34]” page which includes countless references to support these statements.

#10 – Aspartame (NutraSweet / Equal)

An accidental discovery during research on gastrointestinal hormones resulted in a uniquely sweet chemical: aspartame. During the clinical trials conducted on 7 infant monkeys as part of aspartame’s application for FDA approval, 1 monkey died and 5 other monkeys had grand mal seizures—yet somehow aspartame was still approved by the FDA in 1974. In 1985, Monsanto acquired the company responsible for aspartame’s manufacture (G.D. Searle) and began marketing the product as NutraSweet. Twenty years later, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released a report listing 94 health issues[35] caused by aspartame.

#11 – Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH)

This genetically modified hormone was developed by Monsanto to be injected into dairy cows to produce more milk. Cows subjected to rBGH suffer excruciating pain due to swollen udders and mastitis[36], and the pus[37] from the resulting infection enters the milk supply[38] requiring the use of additional antibiotics. rBGH milk has been linked to breast cancer[39], colon cancer[40], and prostate cancer[41] in humans.

#12 – Genetically Modified Crops / GMOs

In the early 1990s, Monsanto began gene-splicing corn, cotton, soy, and canola with DNA from a foreign source to achieve one of two traits: an internally-generated pesticide, or an internal resistance to Monsanto’s weedkiller RoundUp. Despite decades of promises that genetically engineered crops would feed the world with more nutrients, drought resistance, or yield, the majority of Monsanto’s profits[42] are from seeds that are engineered to tolerate Monsanto’s RoundUp—an ever-rising, dual income stream as weeds continue to evolve resistance to RoundUp[43].

Most sobering however, is that the world is once again buying into Monsanto’s “safe” claims.

Just like the early days of PCBs, DDT, Agent Orange, Monsanto has successfully fooled the general public and regulatory agencies into believing that RoundUp, and the genetically modified crops that help sell RoundUp, are “safe.”

Except Monsanto has learned a thing or two in the past 100+ years of defending its dirty products: these days, when a new study proving the negative health or environmental impacts of GMOs emerges, Monsanto attacks the study and its scientist(s) by flooding the media with counter claims from “independent” organizations, scientists, industry associations, blogs, sponsored social media, and articles by “private” public relations firms—frequently founded, funded and maintained by Monsanto.

Unfortunately, few of us take the time to trace the members, founders, and relationships of these seemingly valid sources back to their little Monsanto secret.

Fooling the FDA[44] required a slightly different approach: click on the below chart compiled by Millions Against Monsanto[45] to see how many former Monsanto VPs and legal counsel are now holding positions with the FDA. And don’t forget Clarence Thomas, former Monsanto attorney who is now a Supreme Court Justice, ruling in favor of Monsanto in every case brought before him.

A Baker’s Dozen: #13 – Terminator Seeds

In the late 1990s, Monsanto developed the technology to produce sterile grains unable to germinate. These “Terminator Seeds[46]” would force farmers to buy new seeds from Monsanto year after year, rather than save and reuse the seeds from their harvest as they’ve been doing throughout centuries. Fortunately this technology never came to market. Instead, Monsanto chose to require farmers to sign a contract agreeing that they will not save or sell seeds from year to year, which forces them to buy new seeds and preempts the need for a “terminator gene.” Lucky for us… since the terminator seeds were capable of cross-pollination and could have contaminated local non-sterile crops.

What’s the Result of our Monsanto Legacy?

Between 75% to 80% of the processed food[47] you consume every day has GMOs inside, and residues of Monsanto’s RoundUp herbicide outside. But it’s not just processed food—fresh fruit and vegetables are next: genetically engineered sweet corn[48] is already being sold at your local grocer, with apples and a host of other “natural” produce currently in field trials.

How is it that Monsanto is allowed to manipulate our food after such a dark product history? How is it they are allowed to cause such detrimental impact to our environment and our health?

According to the Organic Consumers Association[49], “There is a direct correlation between our genetically engineered food supply and the $2 trillion the U.S. spends annually on medical care, namely an epidemic of diet-related chronic diseases.

Instead of healthy fruits, vegetables, grains, and grass-fed animal products, U.S. factory farms and food processors produce a glut of genetically engineered junk foods that generate heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer—backed by farm subsidies[50]—while organic farmers receive no such subsidies.

Monsanto’s history reflects a consistent pattern of toxic chemicals, lawsuits, and manipulated science. Is this the kind of company we want controlling our world’s food supply?

P.S. Monsanto’s not alone. Other companies in the “Big Six” include Pioneer Hi-Bred International[51] (a subsidiary of DuPont), Syngenta AG[52], Dow Agrosciences[53] (a subsidiary of Dow Chemical, BASF[54] (which is primarily a chemical company that is rapidly expanding their biotechnology division, and Bayer Cropscience[55] (a subsidiary of Bayer).

From Fractured Paradigm
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Nestle CEO: Water Is Not A Human Right, Should Be Privatized

Is water a free and basic human right, or should all the water on the planet belong to major corporations and be treated as a product? Should the poor who cannot afford to pay these said corporations suffer from starvation due to their lack of financial wealth? According to the former CEO and now Chairman of the largest food product manufacturer in the world, corporations should own every drop of water on the planet — and you’re not getting any unless you pay up.

The company notorious for sending out hordes of ‘internet warriors’ to defend the company and its actions online in comments and message boards (perhaps we’ll find some below) even takes a firm stance behind Monsanto’s GMOs and their ‘proven safety’. In fact, the former Nestle CEO actually says that his idea of water privatization is very similar to Monsanto’s GMOs. In a video interview, Nestle Chairman Peter Brabeck-Letmathe states that there has never been ‘one illness’ ever caused from the consumption of GMOs

The way in which this sociopath clearly has zero regard for the human race outside of his own wealth and the development of Nestle, who has been caught funding attacks against GMO labeling, can be witnessed when watching and listening to his talk on the issue. This is a company that actually goes into struggling rural areas and extracts the groundwater for their bottled water products, completely destroying the water supply of the area without any compensation. In fact, they actually make rural areas in the United States foot the bill.

As reported on by Corporate Watch, Nestle and former CEO Peter Brabeck-Letmathe have a long history of disregarding public health and abusing the environment to take part in the profit of an astounding $35 billion in annual profit from water bottle sales alone. The report states:

“Nestlé production of mineral water involves the abuse of vulnerable water resources. In the Serra da Mantiqueira region of Brazil, home to the “circuit of waters” park whose groundwater has a high mineral content and medicinal properties, over-pumping has resulted in depletion and long-term damage.”

Nestle has also come under fire over the assertion that they are actually conducting business with massive slavery rings. Another Corporate Watch entry details:

“In 2001, Nestlé faced criticism for buying cocoa from the Ivory Coast and Ghana, which may have been produced using child slaves.[58] According to an investigative report by the BBC, hundreds of thousands of children in Mali, Burkina Faso and Togo were being purchased from their destitute parents and shipped to the Ivory Coast, to be sold as slaves to cocoa farms.”

So is water a human right, or should it be owned by big corporations? Well, if water is not here for all of us, then perhaps air should be owned by major corporations as well. And as for crops, Monsanto is already working hard to make sure their monopoly on our staple crops and beyond is well situated. It should really come as no surprise that this Nestle Chairman fights to keep Monsanto’s GMOs alive and well in the food supply, as his ideology lines right up with that of Monsanto.

Credits: Natural Society, where this was originally featured.

Via: TrueActivist

 
 
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Archbishop Says He ‘Wasn’t Sure’ It Was Illegal To Have Sex With Children

The Archbishop of St. Louis, Robert Carlson, testified just last month that didn’t actually know it was illegal for priests to have sex with children.

This, he said in an effort to explain why it was he did nothing to stop such crimes while he served as the chancellor of the St. Paul and Minneapolis archdiocese.

Carlson gave a deposition to this effect in a lawsuit that against the Minnesota archdiocese and the Diocese of Winona. The suit claims that both were responsible for, in part for crimes committed against children – and were guilty of being a public nuisance – due to their refusal to release information on abusive priests.

Today, Carlson is 69-year-old. He is facing an additional clergy abuse lawsuit in the Archdiocese of St. Louis, where he has served as archbishop since 2009.

Court documents reveal that as many as 100 priests and church employees were accused of sexual abuse and Carlson helped to cover it all up.

Now the Missouri Supreme Court has ordered the archdiocese to turn over all of the names related to these cases of abuse, under seal.

Carlson tried to defend his actions, not coming forward until compelled to under court order. In his bizarre statement in response to the Minnesota lawsuit that was filed by a man who says that he was abused by a priest since the 1970s, Carlson told the plaintiff’s attorneys that he simply didn’t know that sex with children was illegal.

“I’m not sure whether I knew it was a crime or not,” Carlson tried to convince the attorneys. “I understand today it’s a crime.”

When asked specifically if he understood it was a crime in 1984, he said “I’m not sure if I did or didn’t.”

“While not being able to recall his knowledge of the law exactly as it was many decades ago, the archbishop did make clear that he knows child sex abuse is a crime today,” spokesman Gabe Jones said of Carlson. “The question does not address the archbishop’s moral stance on the sin of pedophilia, which has been that it is a most egregious offense.”

 

(Article by R. Abraham and Jackson Marciana, COUNTERCURRENT NEWS)

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By most fair measures, Iowa’s Joni Ernst (R) is arguably the most right-wing U.S. Senate candidate in the nation, though she and her party have gone to considerable lengths to pretend otherwise. After the state senator won the Republican primary, George Will said she adopted a “less exotic persona,” which has led some to suggest Ernst isn’t quite as radical as she seems.

But sometimes, a candidate has trouble running from their extremism, no matter how hard they try. Daniel Strauss ran this stunning report today:
State Sen. Joni Ernst, the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in Iowa, once said she would support legislation that would allow “local law enforcement to arrest federal officials attempting to implement” Obamacare.

Ernst voiced her support for that, as well as supporting legislation that would “nullify” Obamacare in a Iowa State Legislative Candidates survey for Ron Paul’s libertarian-aligned Campaign for Liberty in 2012.
There’s no credible way to spin a revelation like this. Ernst answered this questionnaire and chose to put herself on the farthest fringes of modern American thought.

Indeed, a few months ago, when evidence emerged that Ernst believes states could “nullify” federal laws they don’t like – a ridiculous argument resolved by the U.S. Civil War – her aides and supporters dismissed the allegations as baseless. And yet, here we have additional proof: Ernst specifically endorsed “legislation to nullify Obamacare” and expressed support for a provision that said local law enforcement could arrest federal officials “attempting to implement” federal health care law in Iowa.

On any ideological spectrum, we can find policymakers that belong on the far left or far right, but Ernst has taken positions that put her squarely in the bonkers wing of the contemporary Republican Party.

Remember, it’s not just this one questionnaire.

Ernst has endorsed banning abortions and many forms of birth control; privatizing Social Security; and impeaching President Obama. She’s argued that Saddam Hussein really did have weapons of mass destruction and people on Medicaid “have no personal responsibility for their health.” She’s dismissed the very existence of a federal minimum wage as “ridiculous” and credits the Koch brothers for the strength of her candidacy. She’s endorsed enough conspiracy theories to qualify her as the head of a Glenn Beck fan club.

If Ernst is elected – and she currently leads in nearly every poll – she will immediately become one of the most radical members of the U.S. Senate in recent history.

The conventional wisdom holds that Republicans were far more cautious in 2014 than they were in 2010 and 2012. GOP voters nominated plenty of far-right candidates, but balked at the truly nutty fringe represented by recent Senate candidates like Sharron Angle, Todd Akin, and Christine O’Donnell – all of whom drew visceral opposition from the American mainstream.

But as we talked about the other day, Joni Ernst, perhaps more than any other statewide candidate this year, comes from the Akin-Angle-Mourdock-O’Donnell wing of the Republican Party, representing an often-bizarre combination of discredited conspiracy theories and fringe policy ideas.

By Steve Benen, Maddow Blog

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Physicists Say Fukushima Reactors Pose Eternal Threat to Humanity

The three molten cores at Fukushima plant, each weighing a hundred tons, are so radioactive, that no one can approach them, including robots, which melt down immediately, Dr. Helen Caldicott, the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize nominee, physician and anti-nuclear advocate, states in an interview to Radio VR:

“And no one ever will, and the contamination will go on for hundreds of years,” Ms. Caldicott cites top physicists as saying.

Initially, TEPCO, the Japanese power provider wanted to erect an ice wall around the perimeter of the Fukushima complex, as ground water  underneath the reactor is absorbing radiation and then flowing into the ocean.

An ice wall is a silly idea given the circumstances, remarks the expert, as it would have to last at least a hundred years. Moreover, you would have to have electricity running all the time to keep the ground frozen, explains Ms. Caldicott.

Surprisingly enough, TEPCO is not consulting with anyone, says the expert, neither with Russia, after it survived the Chernobyl catastrophe, nor Bechtel, a US major engineering company. It is, conversely, “saving money, using paper coming from homeless shelters”, and the Japanese mafia Yakuza is hiring people to do this work.

The expert stresses they are witnessing an absolute catastrophe: 300-400 tons of radioactive water pour daily into the Pacific, and this has been going on for over three years now contaminating the ocean and its ecology.

Radiation cannot be diluted, as many isotopes, namely strontium, are concentrated in food chains, in algae for instance. The contamination then passes on to bigger fish typically caught on the east coast from Fukushima. Radiation in the ocean and its ecology has been detected as far away as the America West Coast. TEPCO has stated more than once, the expert says, that they know radioactive water is seeping into the ocean, however, they keep assuring that it is not at levels high enough to cause a significant threat.

Another VR expert, Thomas Drolet, who is Chairman, CEO and President at GreenWell Renewable Power Corporation, sounds less pessimistic, stating the radiation can essentially be done away with as time passes:

“As a technician and nuclear reactor engineer I can say that they will eventually succeed.”

Conditions on the site are difficult, though, he adds. Two big problems arose from the very start: for one thing, there’s water that originated in the reactor, which flowed through the damaged fill and went to the lower levels. Secondly, there is the ground water that naturally flows from higher elevations to the west, through the ground system, picks up radioactivity around the basement areas of the damaged reactors and flows on to the sea and to the bottom parts of the damaged reactors, Mr. Drolet says.

“The way it can eventually be solved is that of removing the water that is in the basement areas of the turbine building (and they are working on unit 2 right now) and getting it pumped out,” points out Mr. Drolet citing sophisticated filtration systems now being employed. “They can absorb the radiation and hold it.”
Engineer brigades are currently aiming to block a particular pass so that work could be done inside the building to get the contaminated water sucked out.

Still, the complex radiation fields make the surrounding environment hard enough to handle, with people at all times wearing thick suits to protect them from “external radiation inhalation”. This further complicates specialists’ day to day life on the site. Mr. Drolet clearly differentiates between the site as is and the exclusion zone, comprised of small towns and roads lying nearby, within 18 kilometers from the place. The latter can be cleaned up in the next several years, the expert argues. The work consists in finding hot spots in terms of increased radiation, taking off the top layer of the soil, in other words, “taking down some of the radioactivity near the surface and on the surface” and rehabilitating that exclusion zone.

The reactor itself is by far “the most difficult issue,” Mr, Drolet states. Each of the three damaged reactors has two main areas of broken fuel: in the spent fuel base, which is up high, and the reactor core. “Slowly and identically they have to remove that fuel, some of it damaged, some of it whole”, using the robotic equipment to a great extent, and move it off site to the repository. Only once the excessive fuel is removed can they move to what the expert calls “nitty gritty of decommissioning” of the reactors themselves, which might span for another decade, before the engineers could turn the site to the so-called brown field condition. As compared to the green field condition, it means the area is safe, clean and cannot be reused, the expert concludes.

A 9.0 magnitude earthquake swept across the Japanese coast in March 2011, triggering a devastating tsunami and killing more than 15,000 people and injured 6,000. The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant consequently faced meltdowns at three reactors heavily damaged in the tsunami, which led to masses of contaminated water pouring into the ocean.

From RIA Novasti

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Half of World’s Animals Have Disappeared Since 1970

Half of the animals in the world have disappeared since 1970 because of uncontrollable human expansion, shocking new figures have shown.

A report by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has found that populations of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish have declined on average by 52 per cent in the last 40 years.

And for freshwater creatures the situation is even bleaker, with population collapse of more than three quarters over the same period.

Almost the entire decline is down to human activity, through habitat loss, deforestation, climate change, over-fishing and hunting.

Anyone born in in 1970 or before would have lived in a world teeming with animals compared to life today.

In Britain, the turtle dove has declined by 95 per cent, while seals, toads, red squirrels, moths, dormice, hedgehogs and hares are also suffering.

The WWF said the report was a ‘wake-up call’ and urged people to cut down on consumption.

“It’s certainly very concerning,” said Mike Barrett, Director of Science and Policy at the WWF, “And if it carries on at the present rate we will continue to lose even more animals.

“People in Britain need to realise they are not just impacting their own country. The footprint of western societies is seen in every other part of the world.

“But we are not despairing, because we are able to say why we are losing these animals; we are seeing a loss of their habitats. We know what the problem and we are perfectly capable of putting it right.

“We need political agreement so a global climate deal can be reached and policies which take account of natural capital. And we need to start thinking about our own consumption.”

The WWF’s Living Planet Report looked at 10,380 populations of 3,038 species across the globe.

The situation is worst in low-income countries, where wildlife populations have declined by 58 per cent on average between 1970 and 2010. Latin American has the biggest declines, with 83 per cent of animals lost in 40 years.

Examples of wildlife that are suffering serious population collapse include forest elephants in Africa, which are facing habitat loss and poaching for ivory and could become extinct within our lifetime, and marine turtles which have seen an 80 per cent drop in numbers.

African Elephants are under threat from poaching and habitat destruction (ALAMY)

In the UK farmland birds have been badly hit by habitat degradation, with major declines in species such as corn buntings and grey partridge. However there is better news for red kites and otters which have seen numbers increase with conservation efforts, experts said.

The Living Planet Report also warned that human activity is outstripping the resources the Earth can provide, cutting down forests too quickly, overfishing and putting out more carbon dioxide than the planet can absorb, leading to climate change.

It is estimated Earth would need to 1.5 times larger to soak up the damage caused by man.

 

An estimated 110 tigers are killed every year for trade (ALAMY)

Professor Ken Norris, director of science of the Zoological Society of London, which updates the species database, said: “The scale of biodiversity loss and damage to the very ecosystems that are essential to our existence is alarming.

“This damage is not inevitable, but a consequence of the way we choose to live. Although the report shows the situation is critical, there is still hope. Protecting nature needs focused conservation action, political will and support from businesses.

“We need to explain to the public that what they do is directly behind the trends we are seeing.

“There is an enormous disconnect between going to the supermarket and putting fuel in your car and the global statistics we’re talking about here.”

The report calls on consumers to change shopping habits and only buy sustainable products such as fish with the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and timber with the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certifications.

2.7 billion people live in river basins that experience severe water shortages at least one month a year (ALAMY)

The WWF also advises ditching the car in favour of public transport, increasing recycling and reducing consumption of meat and dairy products to cut down on the amount of land being deforested for farming.

And the charity is calling for measures including expanding protected areas, scaling up renewable energy production, and diverting investment from damaging activities, making consumption patterns more sustainable – all the more necessary as the human population grows.

David Nussbaum, chief executive of the WWF in the UK said: “The scale of destruction highlighted in this report should be a wake-up call to us all.

“We all, politicians, businesses and people, have an interest, and a responsibility, to act to ensure we protect what we all value: a healthy future for both people and nature.”

Professor Jonathan Baillie, director of conservation programmes at ZSL, said people should think about everything they do, from recycling to putting pressure on political and industry leaders, supporting sustainable businesses and getting their children outside to reconnect with nature.

 

By , Science Correspondent, The Telegraph

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Age of Ignorance

Widespread ignorance bordering on idiocy is our new national goal. It’s no use pretending otherwise and telling us, as Thomas Friedman did in the Times a few days ago, that educated people are the nation’s most valuable resources. Sure, they are, butdo we still want them? It doesn’t look to me as if we do. The ideal citizen of a politically corrupt state, such as the one we now have, is a gullible dolt unable to tell truth from bullshit.

An educated, well-informed population, the kind that a functioning democracy requires, would be difficult to lie to, and could not be led by the nose by the various vested interests running amok in this country. Most of our politicians and their political advisers and lobbyists would find themselves unemployed, and so would the gasbags who pass themselves off as our opinion makers. Luckily for them, nothing so catastrophic, even though perfectly well-deserved and widely-welcome, has a remote chance of occurring any time soon. For starters, there’s more money to be made from the ignorant than the enlightened, and deceiving Americans is one of the few growing home industries we still have in this country. A truly educated populace would be bad, both for politicians and for business.

It took years of indifference and stupidity to make us as ignorant as we are today. Anyone who has taught college over the last forty years, as I have, can tell you how much less students coming out of high school know every year. At first it was shocking, but it no longer surprises any college instructor that the nice and eager young people enrolled in your classes have no ability to grasp most of the material being taught. Teaching American literature, as I have been doing, has become harder and harder in recent years, since the students read little literature before coming to college and often lack the most basic historical information about the period in which the novel or the poem was written, including what important ideas and issues occupied thinking people at the time.

Even regional history has gotten a short shrift. Students who come from old New England mill towns, as I have discovered, have never been told about the famous strikes in their communities in which workers were shot in cold blood and the perpetrators got away scot-free. I wasn’t surprised that their high schools were wary of bringing up the subject, but it astonished me that their parents and grandparents, and whoever else they came in contact with while they were growing up, never mentioned these examples of gross injustice. Either their families never talked about the past, or their children were not paying attention when they did. Whatever it was, one is confronted with the problem of how to remedy their vast ignorance about things they should have already been familiar with as the generations of students before them were.

If this lack of knowledge is the result of the years of dumbing down of high school curriculum and of families that don’t talk to their children about the past, there’s another more pernicious kind of ignorance we confront today. It is the product of years of ideological and political polarization and the deliberate effort by the most fanatical and intolerant parties in that conflict to manufacture more ignorance by lying about many aspects of our history and even our recent past. I recall being stunned some years back when I read that a majority of Americans told pollsters that Saddam Hussein was behind September 11 terrorist attacks. It struck me as a propaganda feat unsurpassed by the worst authoritarian regimes of the past—many of which had to resort to labor camps and firing squads to force their people to believe some untruth, without comparable success.

No doubt, the Internet and cable television have allowed various political and corporate interests to spread disinformation on a scale that was not possible before, but to have it believed requires a badly educated population unaccustomed to verifying things they are being told. Where else on earth would a president who rescued big banks from bankruptcy with taxpayers’ money and allowed the rest of us to lose $12 trillion in investment, retirement, and home values be called a socialist?

In the past, if someone knew nothing and talked nonsense, no one paid any attention to him. No more. Now such people are courted and flattered by conservative politicians and ideologues as “Real Americans” defending their country against big government and educated liberal elites. The press interviews them and reports their opinions seriously without pointing out the imbecility of what they believe. The hucksters, who manipulate them for the powerful financial interests, know that they can be made to believe anything, because, to the ignorant and the bigoted, lies always sound better than truth:

Christians are persecuted in this country.
The government is coming to get your guns.
Obama is a Muslim.
Global Warming is a hoax.
The president is forcing open homosexuality on the military.
Schools push a left-wing agenda.
Social Security is an entitlement, no different from welfare.
Obama hates white people.
The life on earth is 10,000 years old and so is the universe.
The safety net contributes to poverty.
The government is taking money from you and giving it to sex-crazed college women to pay for their birth control.

One could easily list many more such commonplace delusions believed by Americans. They are kept in circulation by hundreds of right-wing political and religious media outlets whose function is to fabricate an alternate reality for their viewers and their listeners. “Stupidity is sometimes the greatest of historical forces,” Sidney Hook said once. No doubt. What we have in this country is the rebellion of dull minds against the intellect. That’s why they love politicians who rail against teachers indoctrinating children against their parents’ values and resent the ones who show ability to think seriously and independently. Despite their bravado, these fools can always be counted on to vote against their self-interest. And that, as far as I’m concerned, is why millions are being spent to keep my fellow citizens ignorant.

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FACEBOOK WARNS DRAG QUEENS THEY WILL DELETE EVERY PROFILE IN TWO WEEKS

The world’s largest social network has decided to move forward with deleting all LGBT Facebook profiles who do not change their personal profile names to their legal names during a two week grace period.

The decision comes after Facebook agreed to meet with a group of drag queen activists on Wednesday to discuss Facebook’s recent campaign to delete hundreds of drag queen profiles who are using their “stage names” or chosen names on their Facebook accounts.

Facebook’s policy stipulates that a name displayed on a personal account must be “your real name as it would be listed on your credit card, driver’s license or student ID.”

“We had a good discussion with the group about their perspectives on our real name standard, and we stressed how the standard helps prevent bad behavior, while creating a safer and more accountable environment,” said Facebook spokesperson Andrew Souvall in a statement.

“We’ve decided to temporarily reactivate the profiles of several hundred members of the LGBT community whose profiles were recently deactivated,” Souvall continued. “This will give them a chance to decide how they’d like to represent themselves on Facebook. Over the next two weeks, we hope that they will decide to confirm their real name, change their name to their real name, or convert their profile to a Page.”

Buzzfeed notes:

Activists have raised similar concerns for transgender users who could be at risk if they no longer identify with the names they were given at birth and use chosen names on their Facebook profiles. Many transgender people, especially transgender youth, may not be able to legally change their names and provide proof of the name they identity with if asked by Facebook. And for some transgender users, being outed by having to use their legal names could be dangerous, the activists said.

This issue is discriminatory against transgender and other nonconforming individuals who have often escaped a painful past,” reads a Change.org petition. “They’ve reinvented themselves or been born again and made whole, adopting names and identities that do not necessarily match that on their driver’s license.”

We didn’t get the whole issue solved by any means,” said Sister Roma, who brought the issue to light last week. “Facebook refuses to to acknowledge there is a problem with the policy.”

The DailyDot thinks Facebook is deleting accounts for a different reason:

Some believe that the action isn’t a bigoted one, but one driven by monetary gain. If the site forces performers to migrate to fan pages, they’ll have to start dolling out cash to Facebook for higher billing and promoted posts on fans News Feeds. In a post encouraging performers to purchase sponsored posts Facebook admits a non-promoted post only reaches about 16 percent of fans on average. “Honestly I feel it is about your profile matching your credit card—it’s all about money,” Roma said.

Sister Roma shared the following statement on Facebook on Wednesday:

Facebook refuses to agree that the legal name policy is unfair and discriminatory.
They acknowledged that although Facebook has the legal name policy they do not enforce it.

They acknowledged that the current rash of suspended and deleted profiles have been under attack by users of the Facebook community who report the profiles for using “fake” names. Once a page is flagged it is reviewed by living human beings who police the site all over the world. If they determine that the person is not using their legal name on their page it is suspended for being in violation of the Facebook terms of use agreement.

While we could not get them to budge on the actual policy they did seem more open to considering that there are flaws in the complaint review process.

We met with Susan Gonzales, a public liason, and via skype with Monika, the person in charge of content policy. We also meet with members of the Facebook LGBT alliance. The purpose of this meeting was to establish an open dialogue and that’s what happened. I was very impressed by our team. Everyone spoke very eloquently and intelligently. Our broad community was well represented by David Campos, Steven Heklina Grygelko BeBe Sweetbriar, Tom Temprano, 3, Carmen, Nadia Kayyali, Dottielux Smith, Trisha Fogleman, Matt Cagle, Gabriel Haaland, Lil Miss Hot Mess, Alex U Alex U. Inn. Adam from Scott Wiener’s office and Mark Snyder of the Transgender Law Center. Thank you all for your passion and dedication

We left the meeting with an agreement that they would continue to meet with us to further hear our concerns and work together to find a compromise.

Conversations with LGBT employees of Facebook after the meeting left me feeling a little more hopeful. They hinted that this issue has been raised internally and there have been heated debates on both sides of the legal name policy. We definitely have allies working “on the inside.”

Shortly after the meeting Facebook announced that they would reinstate profiles of members of the LGBT community that had recently been targeted, suspended or removed. The statement further goes on to say that Facebook hopes that within 2 weeks time the users will either confirm their real identity, change to their legal names, or move to a fan page. While at first glance this seems like a grand show of support for our community it is actually a completely hollow gesture. Basically they offered to give us our profiles back so that two weeks later they could suspend them, demand we comply to their unfair and discriminatory policy, and if not, take them away again. This is completely unacceptable.

To Facebook this is an issue of broader consequence that could take years to review, rewrite or rescind. We do not have that kind of time. Our communities profiles and identities are disappearing daily. We could be wiped out entirely in a short period of time. If we do not get adequate action from Facebook in a few weeks time I would say that we’re ready to go back to our original idea and hold a protest at their campus. They might be able to wipe us off Facebook but they’ll know we’re still here!

We will not rest until not only drag queens, but everyone, has the right to CHOOSE how they wish to be identified on Facebook.

Stay tuned. This is not over! #MyNameIsRoma

From Adrian Garcia, The Gaily Grind

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Philly’s Gay-Bashing Gang Of “Well Dressed” Straight Assholes Has Been Identified

Philadelphia police are thanking a few random good samaritans on Twitter this week for helping identify the gang of heterosexuals who shouted homophobic slurs while severely beating a gay couple in an unprovoked attack in Center City last Thursday.

We reported yesterday that two victims, 26 and 28-year-old boyfriends, were approached by a large group of “visibly intoxicated” and “well dressed” assailants while on their way to dinner last week. The victims and several witnesses told NBC Philadelphia that at least two men and six women from the group called the victims “dirty fags” before launching a disgusting physical attack on both.

Both victims were released from the hospital with multiple facial fractures, one had severe bruising on his face and will be required to have his jaw wired shut for two months.

The group of assailants miraculously got away but were caught on surveillance cameras nearby. Using that footage, a handful of random sleuths on Twitter last night were able to identify the group through tweets and Facebook check-ins because, well, did you really expect the police to do anything about it?

From Queerty

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Homophobic Preacher Drowned Out By College Students’ Song Of Love & Tolerance

​A homophobic preacher spreading hate “in the name of God” on the James Madison University campus in Virginia got more than he bargained for when faced with a group of students that fought back with a pretty powerful weapon: love.

According to social media reports the preacher began his “sermon” by telling a gay couple holding hands on campus that they were going to hell.

Thankfully, that message was drowned out by the students who gathered around to spread their own message of love and tolerance via a Christian song by John Mark McMillon called “How He Loves.”

Led by a guitarist, it’s pretty comical–and powerful–to see hear that the preacher’s hate was so resoundingly drowned out by college students that want to share love.

When the song concluded, the teacher told the students that they are headed “straight to hell.”

Their response–meant for everyone listening? “Jesus loves you all!”

Nice job, guys!

Nigel Campbell, Instinct Magazine

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Satanists Protest Bibles In School With ‘Satanic Children’s Big Book of Activities’

Satanist Activity

CREDIT: THE SATANIC TEMPLE

Orange County, Florida’s public school district has twice allowed a Christian group to pass out Bibles to its students, prompting a self-identified Satanist group to seek equal treatment. A religious organization called The Satanic Temple announced on Sunday that they will provide “Satanic materials to students during the new school year. Among the materials to be distributed are pamphlets related to the Temple’s tenets, philosophy and practice of Satanism, as well as information about the legal right to practice Satanism in school.”

The Satanists reportedly intend to distribute a book called The Satanic Children’s BIG BOOK of Activities, which includes several games with Satanic themes geared towards children:

Satanist gameCREDIT: THE SATANIC TEMPLE

Satanic Temple spokesperson Lucien Greaves claims that “if a public school board is going to allow religious pamphlets and full Bibles to be distributed to students — as is the case in Orange County, Florida — we think the responsible thing to do is to ensure that these students are given access to a variety of differing religious opinions.” He has a point. Although school districts are under no obligation to allow outside groups to distribute literature to their students, once they permit a single group to do so, the Constitution places strict limits on their ability to exclude other groups whose viewpoints they disagree with.

In Lamb’s Chapel v. Center Moriches Union Free School District, the Supreme Court considered an evangelical church which wanted to screen several Christian-themed films on school property, but was denied the opportunity to do so because the school had a policy that its premises “shall not be used by any group for religious purposes.” This policy, according to the justices, was not allowed when the school already allowed groups with non-religious purposes to use the school’s facilities to show films or for similar purposes — “the First Amendment forbids the government to regulate speech in ways that favor some viewpoints or ideas at the expense of others.”

Under the Constitution, what’s good for an evangelical church is also good for the Satanic Temple. The Florida school district may deny all outsiders the right to distribute literature to students, but once it allows one group in, it cannot discriminate because it happens to disagree with the views expressed by Satanists.

BY THINK PROGRESS, IAN MILLHISER

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Proposed Texas textbooks are inaccurate, biased and politicized, new report finds

By Valerie Strauss September 12

Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) (The Associated Press)

When it comes to controversies about curriculum, textbook content and academic standards, Texas is the state that keeps on giving.

Back in 2010, we had an uproar over proposed changes to social studies standards by religious conservatives on the State Board of Education, which included a bid to calling the United States’ hideous slave trade history as the “Atlantic triangular trade.” There were other doozies, too, such as one proposal to remove Thomas Jefferson from the Enlightenment curriculum and replace him with John Calvin. Some were changed but the board’s approved standards were roundly criticized as distorted history.

There’s a new fuss about proposed social studies textbooks for Texas public schools that are based on what are called the Texas Essential  Knowledge  and  Skills.  Scholarly reviews of 43 proposed history, geography and government textbooks for Grades 6-12 — undertaken by the Education Fund of the Texas Freedom Network, a watchdog and activist group that monitors far-right issues and organizations — found extensive problems in American Government textbooksU.S. and World History textbooks,Religion in World History textbooks, and Religion in World Geography textbooks.  The state board will vote on which books to approve in November.

Ideas promoted in various proposed textbooks include the notion that Moses and Solomon inspired American democracy, that in the era of segregation only “sometimes” were schools for black children “lower in quality” and that Jews view Jesus Christ as an important prophet.

Here are the broad findings of 10 scholars, who wrote four separate reports, taken from an executive summary, followed by the names of the scholars and a list of publishers who submitted textbooks.

The findings:

  • A number of government and world history textbooks exaggerate Judeo-Christian influence on the nation’s founding and Western political tradition.
  • Two government textbooks include misleading information that undermines the Constitutional concept of the separation of church and state.
  • Several world history and world geography textbooks include biased statements that inappropriately portray Islam and Muslims negatively.
  • All of the world geography textbooks inaccurately downplay the role that conquest played in the spread of Christianity.
  • Several world geography and history textbooks suffer from an incomplete – and often inaccurate – account of religions other than Christianity.
  • Coverage of key Christian concepts and historical events are lacking in a few textbooks, often due to the assumption that all students are Christians and already familiar with Christian events and doctrine.
  • A few government and U.S. history textbooks suffer from an uncritical celebration of the free enterprise system, both by ignoring legitimate problems that exist in capitalism and failing to include coverage of government’s role in the U.S. economic system.
  • One government textbook flirts with contemporary Tea Party ideology, particularly regarding the inclusion of anti-taxation and anti-regulation arguments.
  • One world history textbook includes outdated – and possibly offensive – anthropological categories and racial terminology in describing African civilization.
  • A number of U.S. history textbooks evidence a general lack of attention to Native American peoples and culture and occasionally include biased or misleading information.
  • One government textbook … includes a biased – verging on offensive – treatment of affirmative action.
  • Most U.S. history textbooks do a poor job of covering the history of LGBT citizens in discussions of efforts to achieve civil rights in this country.
  • Elements of the Texas curriculum standards give undue legitimacy to neo-Confederate arguments about “states’ rights” and the legacy of slavery in the South. While most publishers avoid problems with these issues, passages in a few U.S. history and government textbooks give a nod to these misleading arguments.

In July, the Texas Freedom Network released a review of the various panels of people who had been selected by the Texas Board of Education to review the proposed textbooks. It said in part:

Out of more than 140 individuals appointed to the panels, only three are current faculty members at Texas colleges and universities. TFN has identified more than a dozen other Texas academics — including the chair of the History Department at Southern Methodist University as well as faculty at the University of Texas at Austin — who applied to serve but did not get appointments to the panels.

But the TFN analysis found that political activists and individuals without social studies degrees or teaching experience got places on the panels. One reviewer, Mark Keough, a Republican nominee for the Texas House District 15 seat, got an appointment to a U.S. History panel after being nominated by SBOE chair Barbara Cargill. Keough, a pastor with degrees in theology, has no teaching experience listed on his application form. Keough recently retired from a career in car sales to run a ministry in Cargill’s hometown of The Woodlands and to run for office.

In an interview conducted prior to this year’s primary elections, Keough told the Montgomery County Tea Party that he does not “believe that there is a separation of church and state in the Constitution.”

The 10 scholars who conducted the reviews are:

  • Dr. Edward Countryman, University Distinguished Professor in the William B. Clements Department of History at SMU
  • Dr. David R. Brockman, adjunct instructor in Religious Studies, Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, at SMU as well as at Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth
  • Dr. Emile Lester, associate professor in the Department of Political Science and International Affairs at the University of Mary Washington
  • Seven doctoral students in the Department of History at UT-Austin

Here are some specific examples from the executive summary: 

A number of government and world history textbooks exaggerate Judeo-Christian influence on the nation’s founding and Western political tradition.

McGraw-Hill School Education – United States Government

Text mentions Moses and claims that the “biblical idea of a covenant, an ancient Jewish term meaning a special kind of agreement between the people and God, influenced the formation of colonial governments and contributed to our constitutional structure.”

What’s Wrong?

The American Founders did believe in a social contract, but their version of that contract was derived primarily from modern British political thought, and John Locke’s thought in particular. Since Locke’s version of the social contract was in many ways a repudiation of the biblical covenant view referenced in this passage, this passage provides the student with almost the opposite of the historical truth.

Perfection Learning – Basic Principles of American Government

Text has a table entitled “Where did the Founders get their ideas?” The introductory section to the table states: “When the Framers set out to write the Constitution, they drew upon the wisdom of philosophers, historians and economists. Here are a few of the people whose words influenced the content of that remarkable document.” Moses is listed first on this list, followed by John Locke, Charles de Montesquieu, and William Blackstone. The “concept” Moses is alleged to have contributed is that “A nation needs a written code of behavior.” The description of Moses includes the following sentences: “During their years of wandering in the desert of the Sinai, Moses handed down God’s Ten Commandments to the Hebrews. These commandments now form the bedrock on which the Jewish, Muslim, and Christian codes of behavior are based. The full account of Moses’ life can be found in the Bible’s book of Exodus.”

What’s Wrong?

Unlike the contributions of the three other figures mentioned in the table, the contribution of Moses is highly nebulous and contestable. The passage neglects to mention which types of codified behaviors influenced the Framers, and thus makes it difficult to evaluate this claim. The Framers, for instance, were not influenced by the first four Commandments, which deal with matters of religious belief and practice. In fact, notable framers such as James Madison led the battle against government punishment for unorthodox religious belief. Further, stating that “Moses handed down God’s Ten Commandments” is very close to endorsing a religious claim. Stating, for instance, that “Jews and Christians believe that Moses handed down God’s Ten Commandments” would have been more acceptable. Without this qualification, the text seems to endorse the truth of these biblical claims.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt – United States Government: Principles in Practice

Text has a section on “Judeo-Christian Influences” that reads: “The Framers’ political thinking was influenced by a Judeo-Christian religious heritage, which includes traditions common to both Judaism and Christianity. These religions see the law and individual rights as being of divine origin. Moreover, the Framers benefited from the Protestant Reformation, a sixteenth-century Christian reform movement whose leaders developed ideas about individual responsibility, the freedom to worship as one chooses, and self-government.”

 What’s Wrong?

This passage gives no example of a law or set of laws in the Bible that influenced the Founders and no example of a Founder or a founding document that was influenced by the “Judeo-Christian” concept of law. The text’s claim that the Reformation was a source of the Founders’ views on individual responsibility omits several important pieces of information. Major figures in the Protestant Reformation such as Martin Luther and John Calvin may have supported freedom of worship for their own views, but they often did not support freedom of worship for many competing religious views. Similarly, the views of major Reformation figures, including Luther and Calvin, about self-government were far more limited than, and had little in common with, the views of the American Founders about self-government. Finally, the paragraph could leave students with a misleading impression about the Founders’ religious views. The passage’s claim that Judaism and Christianity stresses that individual rights is of “divine origin” and that these views influenced all of the Founders suggests that all of the Founders believed that this biblical God was the source of natural rights. Many Founders did, of course, believe in the biblical God. Other Founders, though, were influenced by deism, and their conception of God departed in significant ways from the biblical God.

Pearson Education – Magruder’s American Government

Text includes a “Biography of Moses,” which states: “Moses was a lawgiver and a great leader. Like the founders of the United States, he helped establish a legal system to govern his people. The Ten Commandments have been a guide and basis for many legal and moral systems throughout the world.” The annotation to the biography states: “Moses helped establish a legal system, including the Ten Commandments, to govern his people. Similarly, the founders of the United States wrote the Constitution and established a system of laws to govern Americans. They were also part of a tradition that was familiar with the Ten Commandments as a guide for moral behavior.”

What’s Wrong?

The passage gives an exaggerated impression to students about the influence of and relationship between Moses and the Founders. The legal system that Moses founded had theocratic elements, which made it very different from the republican system of law the Founders established. Similarly, the text neglects to mention that the Founders were reacting against several of the crucial elements of the moral, legal, and political tradition associated with Moses and the Ten Commandments.

Pearson Education – Magruder’s American Government

The text states: “The roots of democratic government in today’s world – including government in the United States – lie deep in human history. They reach back most particularly to ancient Greece and Rome, and include elements related to Judeo-Christian philosophy, dating back thousands of years to Old Testament texts and Biblical figures such as Moses and Solomon.”

What’s Wrong?

The forms of government mentioned in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) are theocracy and monarchy. Prominent figures in the Hebrew Bible are occasionally critical of monarchy including the prophet Samuel and Gideon, or of the behavior of particular kings as in the case of the prophet Nathan’s criticism of King David. The Israelites also sometimes placed limits on their kings’ sovereignty (see, for instance, 1 Kings 12). Still, those critical of monarchy or monarchs did not advocate democracy as an alternative, and the limited monarchy occasionally practiced in ancient Israel seems to bear little resemblance to American democracy. Even if it is accurate that government in the Hebrew Bible had democratic features, the text never tells us how these democratic features directly influenced the Founders. It is similarly difficult to make sense of the text’s claim that Moses or Solomon governed in a democratic way.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt – World History

The text states: “Because one of Jesus’s basic principles was the equality of all people in the eyes of God, equality before the law became a central belief within the Judeo-Christian tradition.”

What’s Wrong?

There are two problems with this claim. The first concerns the presentation: the authors’ wording suggests that belief in equality of all people before God originated with Jesus. In fact, it arguably dates back to Jewish teachings such as the belief that all people have a single progenitor (Gen. 1-2), and the assertion in Leviticus that there is one law for citizen and stranger alike (Lev. 24:22). Second, the “Because…” language suggests that there is a straightforward chain of causation between, on the one hand, the Jewish and Christian belief in equality before God’s law and, on the other, the belief in equality before human law. If there is such causation, it is by no means straightforward. While the ancient Israelite teaching of equality of all people before God’s law may well have influenced our legal tradition, such influence remains tenuous and far from clear, and this text does not offer the necessary clarification or explanation.

Two government textbooks include misleading information that undermines the Constitutional concept of the separation of church and state.

McGraw-Hill School Education – United States Government

The text states: “Thomas Jefferson once referred to the establishment clause as a ‘wall of separation between church and state.’ That phrase is not used in the Constitution, however.’”

What’s Wrong?

The statement is factually correct, but it could give students the inaccurate impression that Jefferson’s view was personal and lacked significant connection to the First Amendment. The text neglects to mention, for instance, the significant support for the separationist position shared by both Jefferson and James Madison, the Founder with the greatest influence on the drafting of the First Amendment’s religion clauses. The text also neglects to mention reference to Jefferson’s “wall” metaphor in important Supreme Court establishment clause cases, such as Justice Hugo Black’s decision in Everson v. Board of Education, the first Supreme Court case to apply the establishment clause to the states and local government.

Perfection Learning – Basic Principles of American Government

This product does not mention Thomas Jefferson’s use of the phrase “wall of separation between church and state” at all. The text also includes an unbalanced discussion of the background to the Supreme Court’s seminal ruling against school prayer in Engel v. Vitale. The discussion has four paragraphs that are devoted primarily to examining the logic of the rulings of lower, state courts in favor of school prayer. These paragraphs mention that a state court decision notes that “neither the Constitution nor its writers discussed the use of prayer in public schools” and that the judges in these cases “noted that the prayer did not fall into the same category as Bible readings or religious instruction in public schools.”

What’s Wrong?

The four-paragraph discussion of lower courts’ logic in favor of school prayer is followed by only a single paragraph about the Supreme Court’s majority opinion striking down school prayer, which contains little discussion of the logic of that opinion.

Several world history and world geography textbooks include biased statements that inappropriately portray Islam and Muslims negatively.

Social Studies School Service – Active Classroom: World History

The text states: “Much of the violence you read or hear about in the Middle East is related to a jihad.”

What’s Wrong?

This broad charge effectively blames Islam for a very complex cycle of violence and counter-violence, a cycle driven by a host of factors (e.g., natural resources, population pressures) besides radical Islam.

WorldView Software – World History B: Mid-1800s to the Present

The text states: “The spread of international terrorism is an outgrowth of Islamic fundamentalism which opposes Western political and cultural influences and Western ideology.”

Also, at various points in this product, parts of the Middle East and North Africa are referred to as being “occupied” by “the Muslims” or “in Muslim hands.” The text also adopts the revisionist trope that Islam synthesized, stored, and annotated Classical Greek and Roman learning but did not do much to add to it.

What’s Wrong?

The statement about international terrorism is inaccurate and misleading. Not all international terrorism is an outgrowth of Islamic fundamentalism; for example, ETA in Spain and the Irish Republican Army are unrelated to Islamic fundamentalism. Further, the use of loaded terms like “occupied” makes little sense when discussing the Middle Ages, when the population of those regions were by and large Muslim themselves. While there is a lengthy section on Islamic scholarship in this product, in nearly every instance the “original” scientist whose work inspired the scientist described is identified, which serves to minimize the contribution of Islamic scholarship.

Cengage Learning – World Cultures and Geography

In a section on the spread of Islam, the text states: “In the centuries after Muhammad’s death, Muslims spread their religion by conquest. Islamic rulers took control of Southwest Asia, Central Asia, North Africa, and parts of India and Spain.”

What’s Wrong?

This is a half-truth. While in this period Islam did spread in part by conquest, it was also taken to many regions (for instance, Sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia) by traders and missionaries, not by conquest.

McGraw-Hill School Education – World Geography

An image of Muslim women wearing chadors is accompanied by two discussion questions. The first asks how wearing the chador affects women’s interactions in public. The suggested answer is: “The chador limits women’s interactions in public as it makes them indistinguishable from one another and inhibits any kind of contact.” The second question asks what the chador reveals about the status of women in Muslim society. The suggested answer: “The chador reveals that even in countries that claim there is equality for women, religious law still hinders women’s rights.”

What’s Wrong?

Both suggested answers are incorrect. Unlike the full-body burqa, the chador leaves the face uncovered, and thus does not inhibit facial “contact,” such as eye contact, facial expressions, or touching/kissing the face. Second, the chador is not required by Muslim law; it is a matter of local custom. Furthermore, some Muslim women in the West wear the chador entirely voluntarily, for religious reasons; thus one cannot infer that the chador per se hinders women’s rights. This passage offers a highly misleading picture of the status of women in Islam.

All of the world geography textbooks inaccurately downplay the role that conquest played in the spread of Christianity.

Discovery Education — Social Studies Techbook World Geography and Cultures

The text states: “When Europeans arrived, they brought Christianity with them and spread it among the indigenous people. Over time, Christianity became the main religion in Latin America.”

Pearson Education – Contemporary World Cultures

The text states: “Priests came to Mexico to convert Native Americans to the Roman Catholic religion. The Church became an important part of life in the new colony. Churches were built in the centers of towns and cities, and church officials became leaders in the colony.”

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt – World Geography

The text states: “The Spanish brought their language and Catholic religion, both of which dominate modern Mexico.”

Various

All but two of the world geography textbooks fail to mention the Spaniards’ forced conversions of the indigenous peoples to Christianity (e.g., the Spanish Requerimiento of 1513) and their often-systematic destruction of indigenous religious institutions. The two exceptions (Cengage Learning, Inc. – World Cultures and Geography and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt – World Geography) delay this grim news until a chapter on South America, and even there do not give it the prominence it deserves.

What’s Wrong?

The Christianization of the indigenous peoples of the Americas was most decidedly not benign. These descriptions provide a distorted picture of the spread of Christianity. An accurate account must include information about the forced conversion of native peoples and the often-systematic destruction of indigenous religious institutions and practices. (This error of omission is especially problematic when contrasted with the emphasis on conquest – often violent – to describe the spread of Islam in some textbooks.) In addition, though neither English nor French North American colonizers actually forced Christianity upon Native people, it did become United States policy to actively discourage all expressions of traditional Native cultures, including indigenous religion. This was particularly so in the notorious boarding schools to which Native children were sent after being forcibly separated from their parents.

Several world geography and history textbooks suffer from an incomplete – and often inaccurate – account of religions other than Christianity.

 Cengage Learning – World Cultures and Geography

In one discussion of the Buddha’s Four Noble Truths, the authors state: “Selfishness is the cause of suffering.”  In another discussion, they describe selfishness as “a cause of suffering.”

What’s Wrong?

The first statement is incorrect, and the second is misleading. According to the Buddha, the cause of suffering is not selfishness but desire; selfishness is only one form of desire.

Discovery Education – Social Studies Techbook World Geography and Cultures

The text states: “Hindus are strict vegetarians.”

What’s Wrong?

This claim is incorrect and is in fact a stereotype. Many Shaivites are not vegetarian, and some Brahmins eat fish and other meat.

Cengage Learning – World Cultures and Geography

In an exercise comparing views of Jesus in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, the Teacher Edition states: “All three religions see Jesus as an important prophet, but only Christians see him as the messiah, or expected leader and savior.”

What’s Wrong?

This is factually incorrect with regard to Judaism. Most Jews do not regard Jesus as a prophet.

McGraw-Hill School Education – World Cultures & Geography

The lesson on the history of Southwest Asia devotes only six sentences to Judaism’s origins and does not include a discussion of the Diaspora. By contrast, the lesson devotes two pages to Islam and its spread.

What’s Wrong?

This is not adequate attention to the important events surrounding the history of the Jewish faith tradition and culture.

Various

Coverage of primal religions varies widely, in both extent and quality, in all of the world geography textbooks. Only theDiscovery Education – World Geography and Cultures text covers primal religions with anything approaching adequacy.

Coverage of key Christian concepts and historical events are lacking in a few textbooks, often due to the assumption that all students are Christians and familiar with Christian events and doctrine.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt – World Geography

While this textbook includes brief definitions of most religions discussed, and while it describes the difference between the Sunni and Shi’ite branches of Islam, it does not offer similar descriptions for Catholicism, Protestantism, and Orthodoxy. The authors introduce those terms without defining them in either the text or the glossary.

McGraw-Hill School Education – World Geography

In the chapter on the U.S., the authors note that most Americans are Protestant Christians, without defining “Protestant.” Similarly, in the chapter on Mexico, the authors note that most people in Mexico self-identify as Catholics—again, without defining what “Catholic” means. By contrast, the authors are careful to define the major divisions of both Buddhism and Islam in the World Religions Handbook.

McGraw-Hill School Education – World Cultures & Geography

Whereas the lesson on Southwest Asia states: “The teachings of Jesus led to the rise of Christianity,” it does not explain what those teachings were or how Christianity spread. In contrast, the authors devote a full page to the teachings of Muhammad, Muslim practices (the Five Pillars), and the spread of Islam.

What’s Wrong?

Given the increasing number of Texas students who come from outside the Christian tradition, textbooks should not assume that readers are familiar with what Christianity is and how it spread.

A few government and U.S. history textbooks suffer from an uncritical celebration of the free enterprise system, both by ignoring legitimate problems created by capitalism and failing to include coverage of government’s role in U.S. economic system.

Pearson Education – Magruder’s American Government

The text’s treatment of the free enterprise system is almost uniformly celebratory. A few examples:

“The atmosphere of a free market, as well as a free society that encourages the exchange of ideas, can and often does lead to innovation and scientific and technological discoveries. All these conditions promote growth in the economy and often improve the quality of everyday life.”

“The proper role of government in economic affairs should be restricted to functions intended to promote and protect the free play of competition and the operation of the laws of supply and demand. True laissez-faire capitalism has never in fact operated in this country, yet it has a profound effect on the structure of the nation’s economic system, which can be described as laissez-faire capitalism with limited government involvement.”

What’s Wrong?

Mentioning the advantages of the free enterprise system is entirely appropriate. However, the text’s treatment of the free enterprise system is unbalanced and asymmetrical because the text provides little mention of the possible limits and disadvantages of a free enterprise and laissez-faire system. Students are given little awareness that critics of a laissez-faire system, both in the U.S. today and the past, have argued that an unfettered market can and has occasionally led to economic insecurity and inequality, unfair pay and unsafe labor conditions for many employees.

Pearson Education – United States History: 1877 to the Present

The first lesson on the Gilded Age opens with the header: “Free Enterprise Improves Life.” It explains Mark Twain’s reasons for coining the term “the Gilded Age,” and then continues to minimize his critique in glowing terms: “Most Americans were not as cynical. The dizzying array of things to do and buy convinced the growing middle class that modern America was in a true golden age.”[…] The application of scientific discoveries and technological innovations by the free enterprise system improved the standard of living in the United States. Driven by entrepreneurs, American businesses were able to create products and services that made daily life easier and more fun for many people. Mass produced materials and products lowered the prices of many goods, enabling ordinary Americans to purchase items that previously had been out of reach.”

What’s Wrong?

As stated above, mentioning the advantages of the free enterprise system is entirely appropriate. However, this textbook’s unrelenting praise of free enterprise as the progenitor of any and all American successes is problematic for a number of reasons. First, nineteenth-century free-market capitalism went hand in hand with governmental suppression of Native ownership over vast swaths of fertile land, leading to that land’s transformation (first) into public property and (second) into private property protected by law. Without governmental action, that transformation would not have happened. Second, nobody during the age of early industrialization disputed the importance of active governmental support for “internal improvements” that were beyond private means. And finally, any comprehensive discussion of the history of free-market capitalism in this country should note that the great driving commodity of the pre-Civil War economy was cotton, produced by slave labor on an enormous scale.

McGraw-Hill School Education – United States History to 1877

The text states: “The capitalist economic system of the United States helped spur industrial growth. In capitalism, individuals and businesses own property and decide how to use it. The people—not the government—control capital, which includes the buildings, land, machines, money, and other items used to create wealth.”

 What’s Wrong?

This passage ignores a very important dimension of American economic development after the Revolution: the argument, developed by Alexander Hamilton, that government power is needed to foster development in an active way, including projects that are beyond private capital’s reach. The declarative statement that “people – not the government – control capital” seems to dismiss even the possibility of this more complicated relationship between individuals, the government and capital. In addition, the debate over public regulation of both individual and corporate enterprise remains an active subject of contention in American economic and legal life to the present day. Students should have a context for understanding that debate.

One government textbook (Pearson Education, Inc.) flirts with contemporary Tea Party rhetoric, particularly regarding the inclusion of anti-taxation and anti-regulation ideology.

Pearson Education – Magruder’s American Government

The first paragraph of the textbook’s section devoted to taxes states: “In the words of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., taxes are ‘what we pay for civilized society.’ Society does not appear to be much more civilized today than it was when Justice Holmes made that observation in 1927. However, ‘what we pay’ has certainly gone up.”

What’s Wrong?

The text neglects to mention that defenders of increased taxation for an expanded safety net would respond that programs adopted since 1927 such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act have produced such ‘civilized’ benefits as a drastic reduction of poverty and economic insecurity among the elderly, children, and the population at large, and improved and more equal access to health care.

Pearson Education – Magruder’s American Government

The text also includes an ideologically slanted cartoon.

What’s Wrong?

The text gives students the impression that Americans are very heavily taxed without placing this information in historical or cross-national context. For instance, the text could have mentioned that according to the Congressional Budget Office in 2011, federal taxes as a percentage of the GDP were at their lowest rate since 1950. The text might also have mentioned that the United States has the lowest corporate tax burden of any member nation of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The use of this cartoon is also unbalanced because the text provides no counterbalancing illustration suggesting that excessively low taxes might lead to economic insecurity and poverty, or critical of the lack of an adequate safety net for low-income Americans.

One world history textbook (by Worldview Software, Inc.) includes outdated – and possibly offensive – anthropological categories and racial terminology in describing African civilization.

WorldView Software – World History A: Early Civilizations to the Mid-1800s

The text states: “South of the Sahara Desert most of the people before the Age of Explorations were black Africans of the Negro race.”

 Elsewhere, the text states: “The first known inhabitants of Africa north of the Sahara in prehistory were Caucasoid Hamitic people of uncertain origin.”

What’s Wrong?

First, the term “Negro” is archaic and fraught with ulterior meaning. It should categorically not be used in a modern textbook. Further, the first passage is unforgivably misleading because it suggests that all black native Africans belong to a single “racial” group. This is typological thinking, which disappeared largely from texts after the 1940s. It harkens back to the racialization theory that all people could be classified as one of three “races”: Caucasoid, Mongoloid, or Negroid. Better to say: “…were natives of African origin.” Similarly, in the second passage, it is more accurate to simply omit reference to “Caucasoid.”

A number of U.S. history textbooks evidence a general lack of attention to Native American peoples and culture and occasionally include biased or misleading information.

WorldView Software – Basic American History I: Pre-Columbian Years to Reconstruction

The text states: “The early 1600s were an uncertain time for the colony of Virginia. It was a land of starvation and high death rates, one in which the Native Americans regularly launched merciless attacks against the colonists.”

What’s Wrong?
While early Virginians did indeed endure attacks from Native Americans, this passage provides no context for understanding the complicated relationship between the two groups. For instance, the Native Americans offered food in the time of starvation that followed the initial settlement. They tried to establish diplomatic relations on their own terms. Nonetheless, the English made their intentions plain by constructing a triangular fort, from which they could fire in all directions. They set out to just take whatever they wanted including food supplies, followed by land. From the start, they used violence, including such instances as kidnapping the Queen of one group known as the Pamunkeys, killing her children during the voyage back to Jamestown by throwing them into the water and shooting them. These events, plus the simple fact that the English were invaders, provide an essential context for the “massacre” of 1622.

Social Studies School Service – Active Classroom: U.S. History (Grade 8)

The materials include a video from Ambrose Videos entitled “1876 – The Battle of Little Bighorn.” The video claims: “for over 200 years, the Plains Indians were a major force in North America.” It goes on to say “but a new Native American culture arose around the horse and buffalo and a formidable warrior class grew up with it.”

What’s Wrong?

The interpretive position of this video is dangerously skewed. The claim of “200 years” trivializes the millennia of Native American heritage and frames their existence from a Euro-centric point of view. And by emphasizing that the horse/buffalo/warrior culture “was a way of life that successfully controlled the Great Plains up until the middle of the 19th century,” the video misleads the student into believing that the Plains Indians appeared with the Europeans and then suddenly became dangerous warriors who controlled land that was up for grabs.

Pearson Education – Magruder’s American Government

The text also makes the unsubstantiated prediction that “[i]t seems clear that the days of affirmative action programs are drawing to a close.”

What’s Wrong?

The text makes an inaccurate and unbalanced attempt to convince students that affirmative action programs are outdated on the basis of lopsided factual information. The text rests its claim in part on a Supreme Court case striking down an affirmative action policy (Ricci v. DeStefano) that was decided by a 5-4 margin. This means, of course, that the replacement of just a single Supreme Court justice could lead to very different outcomes in future cases regarding affirmative action. That the federal government and state governments continue to maintain and even expand various types of affirmative action programs is ignored. The text also neglects to mention that defenders of affirmative action would argue that widespread discrimination against women and minorities today as well as the legacy of historical injustices justify the continued use of affirmative action programs in appropriate circumstances.

Most U.S. history textbooks do a poor job of covering the history of LGBT citizens in discussions of efforts to achieve civil rights in this country.

Among the textbook packages for high school U.S. History since 1877, Discovery Education and Social Studies School Serviceoffer a variety of sources that provide substantial coverage of the movement for civil and equal rights for LGBT people since the 1960s. Most of the remaining publishers offer glaringly inadequate coverage of this important contemporary civil rights issue, and bias and errors sometimes creep into those very limited discussions.

WorldView Software: American History II: Post-Civil War America to the Present

The text states: “Harvey Milk was the first openly gay elected official in the United States.”

What’s Wrong?

Milk was certainly among the first openly gay elected officials, but he was preceded by other openly gay or lesbian officeholders, including Kathy Kozachenko, who won election to the Ann Arbor city council in 1974, and Elaine Noble, who took her seat in the Massachusetts Legislature in 1974.

Elements of the Texas curriculum standards give undue legitimacy to neo-Confederate arguments about “states’ rights” and the legacy of slavery in the South. While most publishers avoid problems with these issues, passages in a few U.S. history and government textbooks give a nod to these misleading arguments.

McGraw-Hill School Education – United States Government

The text’s case study of Brown v. Board of Education includes the following passage: “Under segregation, all-white and all-African American schools sometimes had similar buildings, buses, and teachers. Sometimes, however, the buildings, buses, and teachers for the all-black schools were lower in quality. Often, African American children had to travel far to get to their school.”

What’s Wrong?

The unfortunate wording of this case study severely understates the tremendous and widespread disadvantages of African-American schools compared to white schools, as well as the limitations placed on educational opportunities for blacks in general during the Jim Crow period.

McGraw-Hill School Education – United States History to 1877

The text states: “Southerners used states’ rights to justify secession. Each state, they argued, had voluntarily chosen to enter the Union. They defined the Constitution as a contract among the independent states. They believed the national government had broken the contract by refusing to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act and by denying Southern states equal rights in the territories. As a result, Southerners argued, the states had a right to leave the Union.”

Pearson Education – U.S. History: Colonization – Reconstruction

In a section titled “Causes Leading to War,” the text states: “Now a new issue emerged: whether southern states were allowed to secede under the Constitution. Most southerners believed that they had every right to secede. After all, the Declaration of Independence said that ‘it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish’ a government that denies the rights of its citizens. Lincoln, they believed, would deny white southerners the right to own African Americans as slaves.

For many southerners, secession was an issue of states’ rights and sovereignty, or independent control of an area. Many in the southern states believed that states had the sovereign right to secede. According to this view, states had the authority to make decisions without interference from the federal government, and the Constitution created a Union made up of states that could decide to leave the Union at any point. Those states also had the sovereign right to join together to form a new government, such as the Confederacy.”

Discovery Education – United States History (Prehistory-Reconstruction)

Materials include a two-minute video that argues that the states’ rights concept originated in the tariff disputes of 1828-1832. The video goes on to present the nullification controversy as strictly a matter of states’ rights and interests, and gives a sympathetic account of John C. Calhoun’s developing political position on the matter without any mention that he culminated that development in 1837 when he announced that slavery was a “positive good” for all involved, including slaves. The video closes with a song from the period endorsing the southern position.

What’s wrong?

First, a clarification: all three of these publishers provide thorough and accurate coverage of slavery in their products. There is no attempt to hide the issue in the run up to the Civil War. However, the requirement in the curriculum standards that compels coverage of “sectionalism, states’ rights, and slavery” (in that order) as causes of the war leads publishers to these sort of misleading – and even inaccurate – passages.

They are inaccurate for a simple reason: the concept of “states’ rights” in an abstract sense as a defense of secession did not appear until after the conclusion of the Civil War. Contemporaneous documents and statements by southerners make it plain that slavery was the underlying reason for their action. In their secession ordinances, South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi and Texas all stated their understanding that slavery had been placed in danger by Lincoln’s election and made that their major theme. Moreover, high officials, such as Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Vice President Alexander H. Stephens, made plain the absolute centrality of protecting slavery as the reason for secession. That point is important for two reasons. One is that both Davis and Stephens revised their positions after the war was over to argue that slavery had not been the issue at all, maintaining instead that it had been about abstract constitutionalism. The other is that these passages, which appear designed to fit the TEKS requirement of considering “states’ rights” as a separate issue, does dovetail with current neo-Confederate ideology, which is deeply false to the historical record.

 

VALERIE STRAUSS, Washington Post

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