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GOP’s “Republicans Are People” Video Can’t Find Any – Uses Stock Photos

GOP media manipulator, Vinny Minchillo, is the mastermind of this crusade to remake the Republican image into one that embraces a human component. He tried to do the same thing a couple of years when for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign. Now Minchillo has created a website called “Republicans Are People Too.” and posted a video there to make a case for that dubious proposition (video also posted below). But the text accompanying the video conveys only a determination to whine about the plight of the poor, mistreated Republican. He moans that…

“It isn’t easy being a Republican these days. [...] We love political discourse. We encourage political discourse. But when did “Republican” become a dirty word?”

Perhaps the answer to that question is: When Republicans started calling Democrats fascists, communists, moochers, whores, traitors, and devils.

Minchillo’s video is a simple production that seeks to enumerate a series of “regular” folks that he labels with a the hashtag “IAmARepublican.” It is a fairly comprehensive list of average Americans who are not generally associated with the exclusivity, racism, and intolerance of the Republican Party. It is no wonder that the GOP is yearning to attract more of the type of people in the video, because it is a cross-section of the nation that represents its diversity, a word that makes the right tremble. The video consists of a parade of alleged party members and asks “Did you know Republicans…”

Drive Priuses, recycle, listen to Spotify, put together IKEA furniture, are white, black, Hispanic, Asian, read the New York Times, use Macs, are grandmas, daughters, moms, are left-handed, are doctors, welders, teachers, donate to charity, enjoy gourmet cooking, shop at Trader Joe’s, like dogs, and cats, have tattoos, have tattoos and beardshave feelings, are people who care.

The problem with the argument that Minchillo is making is that the people claiming to be Republicans in his video are not actually Republicans. And by that I don’t simply mean that those types of persons are not Republican, which on the whole they are not. I mean that those specific people in the video are not. In fact, they were photos taken from stock image suppliers. A search for a random selection of the photos in the video found many of them in the iStockPhotowebsite’s library of images. The persons in the paragraph above that are links will lead you to the stock image page for each one.

So the video produced in order to convince everyone that Republicans are real people is populated by fakes. They are models pretending to be the characters that the video claims represent actual members of the Republican Party. And that’s about as real as it gets for the GOP.

This would be a hilarious aside to the pathetic PR that is constantly pushed by right-wing propagandists. But it is actually just another rung in their ladder of deception. It is reminiscent of the effort by Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign to persuade voters that “We’re Not Stupid.”When you have to mount an advertising blitz to sell the public on the notion that you’re not stupid, you have already lost the battle. And the same thing goes for a campaign to assert your people-ness. If the public doesn’t already know that you’re people, good luck trying to convince them.

 

Daily Kos

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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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Secret Recordings Inside The Federal Reserve Prompt Elizabeth Warren To Call For Investigation

Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) want to investigate the Federal Reserve’s relationships with the banks it oversees after the release of taped conversations between managers and a former bank examiner at the Fed.

The recordings were made surreptitiously by a former Fed employee named Carmen Segarra, who is trying to prove in court that she was fired in retaliation for her attempts to bring a cultural shift to the supervisory work of the powerful central bank. They include a reprimand from her boss that she is “arrogant,” that she should “have a sense of humility” about her work, and should be guided more by the consensus within her working group than by her own instincts as a 10-year veteran of regulatory compliance work in the banking industry.

Segarra says she began making the tapes after her own colleagues tried on multiple occasions to cajole her into changing her notes from meetings with Goldman Sachs executives because they didn’t want an official record of some of the executives’ comments about the bank’s willingness to bend the rules.

The tapes document the former examiner’s experience pushing for a tougher approach to Goldman Sachs and being rebuffed by members of the team who had been there much longer. The audio recordings, published last week by This American Life and Pro Publica, appear to indicate that the Federal Reserve Bank of New York continues to have too cozy a relationship with the private bankers it is supposed to supervise despite an internal 2009 report that documented serious problems with how the Fed ran its oversight division in the run-up to the financial crisis.

While the Fed “categorically rejects” that depiction of its work to protect the economy from the most dangerous forms of risk-taking that the financial sector engages in, it declined to participate in the radio story beyond a written statement.

On Friday, Warren said the recordings require action from Capitol Hill. “Congress must hold oversight hearings on the disturbing issues raised by today’s whistleblower report when it returns in November, because it’s our job to make sure our financial regulators are doing their jobs,” she said in a statement. “When regulators care more about protecting big banks from accountability than they do about protecting the American people from risky and illegal behavior on Wall Street, it threatens our whole economy.”

Brown, who serves on the Senate Banking Committee with Warren, backed her request in a statement of his own. “These allegations deserve a full and thorough investigation, and American taxpayers deserve regulators who will fight each day on their behalf,” the Ohio senator and frequent financial industry critic said.

Segarra’s allegations and the 2009 internal report cited by This American Life and Pro Publica paint a picture of what’s called “regulatory capture” at the Fed. That means that an independent oversight body has stopped acting on its intended motivations of protecting the public from misdeeds by the entities it regulates and started acting on behalf of those entities’ own interests. Regulatory capture is a subtle thing defined less by concrete facts and figures and more by the tone of meetings and the way friendships between regulators and businesses color the regulators’ actions and views. If capture takes hold and goes unchecked, the regulatory cops on the beat turn into enablers. In the radio segment based on Segarra’s tapes, host Ira Glass compares captured regulators to “a watchdog who licks the face of an intruder, and plays catch with the intruder, instead of barking at him.”

Regulatory capture is just one example of the many abstract cultural forces on Wall Street that create an environment where financial misdeeds can flourish, imperiling the real economy that employs everyone else in the business of making and selling goods and services. Surveys of industry insiders have repeatedly found worrying evidence of ethical lapses among people in the financial business, including outright disregard for the law. A quarter of those surveyed in 2013 said that they would knowingly break the law for financial gain. That number jumped to 38 percent for respondents who have worked in finance for less than a decade. The same survey also found that women are twice as likely to fear retaliation for whistleblowing as men.

Wall Street culture holds immense power over the world’s economic fortunes. The products that firms were creating and trading and gambling on in the run-up to the financial crisis were widely understood to be unrealistic, according to white collar crime expert William Black, but there was a cultural understanding that everybody was going to get rich if they kept up the charade. Black and other experts use the acronym “IBGYBG” — I’ll Be Gone, You’ll Be Gone — to describe the dominant mentality among the highly skilled and technically savvy financial professionals who got rich trading pieces of paper that later proved to be valueless. These critics argue that Wall Street professionals knew they’d be able to cash out big bonuses and walk away before the crisis hit.

For outsiders, the consequences of that culture of greed are both massive and ongoing. More than five years after the Great Recession officially ended, earnings have rebounded for the wealthiest people in the country, business is booming for banks, and working Americans continue to face a bad job market and flat earnings despite increased productivity.

 

Alan Pyke, Think Progress

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This Week in God, 9.27.14

First up from the God Machine this week is evidence of a striking shift in public attitudes, especially as it relates to the separation of church and state.
During the Cold War, the United States took deliberate steps towards blurring the church-state line – the point was to rebuke the “godless” USSR – with symbolic measures like adding “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance and “In God We Trust” to all U.S. currency. Now that the nation’s principal enemy believes in merging religion, politics, and government, might the American pendulum shift once more in the opposite direction?
Apparently not. Christopher Ingraham reported this week on the growing number of Americans who also want to help merge religion, politics, and government.
The Pew Forum on Religion and Public life just released its semiannual survey of American attitudes on the role of religion in politics. The survey finds a growing appetite for belief in the ballot box, and politics in the pulpit.
These shifts are largely happening on the Republican side of the aisle. And among Republicans, the changes are driven by white evangelical concern that the country is becoming less favorable to religion and, inexplicably, more hostile toward white evangelicals.
The results of the Pew Forum’s study, which can be found in their entirety here, show sudden reversals in key areas. As recently as 2010, for example, a majority of Americans believed houses of worship should steer clear of day-to-day political disputes, but in 2014, a plurality believes the opposite. The reversal can be attributed almost entirely to self-identified Republicans, who’ve moved sharply to the right on this issue in recent years.
Indeed, the same report found that GOP voters, unlike the American population at large, increasingly want churches to endorse candidates for elected office, and believe there’s “too little” talk about religion from U.S. politicians.
The broader question is why this is happening. Don’t rule out the role of reflexive tribalism – as we discussed in February, Republicans in the Obama era have quickly turned against evolutionary biology, too, not necessarily because GOP voters are more anti-science than they were six years ago, but because of tribal instincts. As Paul Krugman put it a while back, “The point … is that Republicans are being driven to identify in all ways with their tribe – and the tribal belief system is dominated by anti-science fundamentalists.”
It’s quite possible we’re seeing a similar dynamic in the new Pew Forum data – Republicans are suddenly eager to merge religion and politics because they’ve come to see constitutional principles like church-state separation as “liberal.”
If this is driving the shifts, GOP voters may yet move closer to the mainstream at some point in the future.
Also from the God Machine this week:
* The Values Voter Summit is the year’s biggest gathering of social-conservative activists and Republican politicians, and the event kicked off in Washington, D.C. yesterday. I’m always grateful for Right Wing Watch’s timely updated and on-the-spot video uploads from the event.
* President Obama this week recorded, as he does every year, a video address in honor of Rosh Hashanah.
* The Vatican has been busy, Part I: “Pope Francis on Thursday forcibly removed a conservative bishop from a Paraguayan diocese who had clashed with his fellow bishops and promoted a priest accused of inappropriate sexual behavior.”
* The Vatican has been busy, Part II: “In his first major appointment in the United States, Pope Francis named Bishop Blase J. Cupich of Spokane, Wash., on Saturday to be the next archbishop of Chicago, replacing a combative conservative with a prelate whose pastoral approach to upholding church doctrine is more in keeping with the pope’s inclusive new tone.”
* I suspect this won’t be the last time we’ll see an SBC schism over gay rights: “A California congregation that decided to ‘agree to disagree’ about the moral acceptability of homosexuality has been kicked out of the Southern Baptist Convention, the country’s largest protestant denomination. The SBC executive committee announced on Tuesday that it had decided to oust the New Heart Community Church because the congregation’s relatively tolerant take on LGBT issues does not meet the convention’s standards of a ‘cooperating church.’”

Steve Benin, Maddow Blog

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American Wonder: Folk Art at BAM/PFA

Portrait of a Boy in GreenThe University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA) presents American Wonder: Folk Art from the Collection, on view October 1 through December 21, 2014. Featuring approximately fifty portraits, landscapes, weather vanes, decorative sculptures, and other works dating from the wake of the Declaration of Independence War to the end of the Civil War, this exhibition captures glimpses of young America during a period of boundless optimism, massive growth, and eventual upheaval. This distinguished collection at BAM/PFA—one of the most impressive American folk art collections from this period anywhere—results from the generosity of two collectors and patrons, Bliss Carnochan and Nancy Edebo. American Wonder is the last major art exhibition to open in BAM/PFA’s current museum building at 2626 Bancroft Way before the institution moves to a new location, currently under construction, in downtown Berkeley in early 2016.

American Wonder starts in late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century New England, where the country’s newly independent citizens were beginning to help define and assume a national identity—one aligned with the goals of liberty, self-improvement, and advancement. Itinerant artists and skilled craftsman created art that captures this formative moment in American history. In the immediate years following independence, painted portraits were in high demand, to identify individuals, establish family legacy, and to boast personal and/or civic achievement. Artists from this period often traveled from one town to another, following signals of new prosperity and growth. Enterprising artists placed ads in local newspapers, emphasizing their skills in creating true likenesses of their sitters.

One such artist was the deaf painter John Brewster, Jr. who travelled and worked in coastal centers and rural towns from Maine to New York. Brewster is known to have painted a number of portraits in and around Salem, Massachusetts, an important shipping, commercial, and artistic center. Brewster’s Boy in Green (c. 1805–1810) is thought to be a portrait of Samuel Field McIntire, who grew up to become a furniture maker and architectural carver in Salem. His father, Samuel McIntire, referred to as “the architect of Salem,” designed some of the most important Federal style buildings in the region. In Boy in Green young McIntire is dressed in a smartly styled green suit. With book in hand, he stands stiffly on a rose-and-gold, geometrically patterned floor (the vibrant floor covering attesting to the fashionable taste and means of the McIntires). Brewster’s greatest attention is to the boy’s facial features, characteristics that would identify him to his contemporaries as Samuel Field McIntire, poised to move into adulthood and professional life.

American Wonder also includes a number of landscapes, ranging from pastoral scenes to views of industrial progress. Like McIntire’s Salem, Providence, Rhode Island, grew out of early maritime trade. View of Providence, Rhode Island, created in the 1820s by an unidentified artist, functions as a portrait of the harbor city, on the brink of transition from a fishing village to a bustling center of commerce. Narrated by means of architecture rather than people and activities, this compact panorama of structures along South Water Street unfolds from old to new as Providence shifted from sea trade to manufacturing industries.

With remarkable beauty and formal simplicity, the works of art in American Wonder vividly captures a burgeoning nation during a time of enormous change.

A handful of public programs will provide useful context to American Wonder. Richard W. Lyman Professor of Humanities, Emeritus at Stanford University, Bliss Carnochan, who collected all of the works on view in this exhibition, will discuss specific works and his interest in collecting folk art on October 5. On November 23 art historian Margaretta Lovell and social historian David Henkin will provide insights about pre-Civil War American society and culture. Guided tours will be offered on Thursdays and Sunday afternoons (excluding November 16 and December 21). Patricia Lessard will lead an American Sign Language tour of the exhibition on November 15. Cell phone audio tours are also available.

Public Programs:
Gallery Talk: Bliss Carnochan
October 5, 2014; 3 p.m.
Bliss Carnochan, who collected the works on view in American Wonder with Nancy Edebo between 1966 and 1975, shares his passion for and knowledge of American folk art in this informal gallery talk. Carnochan, Richard W. Lyman Professor of Humanities, Emeritus at Stanford University, will discuss selected portraits, landscapes, sculptures, and commemorative mourning pictures, and address the complex status of folk art per se and as a field for collecting.
Included with gallery admission.

American Sign Language Guided Tour
Saturday, November 15, 2014; 1:30 p.m.
Join the engaging and expert American Sign Language interpreter Patricia Lessard for a student-led guided tour of American Wonder.
Included with gallery admission.

Imagining Everyday Life in the Young US: Margaretta Lovell and David Henkin in Conversation
Sunday, November 23, 2014; 3 p.m.
Art historian Margaretta Lovell and social historian David Henkin, both professors at UC Berkeley, offer a rich context for the artwork on view in American Wonder. They will discuss pre-Civil War American society and culture, touching on such issues as individual and community identity, rituals of mourning, schoolgirl skills, professional penmanship, and the role of domestic animals.
Included with gallery admission.

Guided Tours
Thursdays at 12:15 & Sundays at 2
Meet in the Bancroft lobby for guided tours of American Wonder led by UC Berkeley graduate students in art history and history. No reservations required. No tours November 16 or December 21: see the online calendar for the schedule at bampfa.berkeley.edu/events/education. Included with gallery admission.

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Vatican Arrests Archbishop As Catholic Church Cracks Down On Pedophiles

When allegations of child molestation and the solicitation of child prostitutes arose against Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, head of the church in the Dominican Republic, the church responded as it has in the past, recalling the accused to Rome and away from local authorities. This caused some to accuse the church of shielding pedophiles from prosecution over their crimes. The news that the Vatican itself has now arrested the former Archbishop has stunned the world as a result.

Stripped of his title back in June, Wesolowski has been confined to the Vatican while the tribunal assessed the evidence against him over fears that he would flee the country. With his arrest, the 66-year-old Wesolowski will remain confined to his apartment until trial. Due to his former position as the ambassador to the Dominican Republic, the former Archbishop had diplomatic immunity during the performance of his crimes making it legally difficult to hand him over to local authorities for prosecution, forcing the Holy See to hold its first ever criminal trial for child molestation. Once convicted, it would then be far easier to extradite him to another country for prosecution there.

The Vatican, speaking through its spokesman, the Reverend Federico Lombardi, explained the situation this way:

“The authorities of the Holy See, from the very first moments that this case was made known to them, moved without delay and correctly in light of the fact that former nuncio Wesolowski held the position of a diplomatic representative of the Holy See.

Far from any intention of a cover-up, this action demonstrates the full and direct undertaking of the Holy See’s responsibility even in such a serious and delicate case, about which Pope Francis is duly and carefully informed and one which the pope wishes to address justly and rigorously.”

This is but the latest move by the Holy See demonstrating that Pope Francis is cleaning house of what some have viewed as a corrupt entity. Pope Francis already shocked the world when he admitted back in July that approximately two percent of the clergy were pedophiles. And while some in the Vatican media tried to explain away the words of the Holy Father, he dismissed them out of hand, and begged forgiveness from the families which the Vatican had failed to protect.

“I ask for the grace to weep, the grace for the Church to weep and make reparation for her sons and daughters who betrayed their mission, who abused innocent persons. I beg your forgiveness, too, for the sins of omission on the part of Church leaders who did not respond adequately to reports of abuse.”

With the step of arresting a prominent Archbishop for his crimes against children, the Catholic Church has taken a bold step forward in reparations to those victimized.

This wave of reform, of cleaning house, has already garnered results as well. The Pope enacted new oversight over the Vatican bank after the arrest of top officials for embezzlement. Instead of criticizing the idea of gay marriage, the pope has instead demonstrated a softer, more accepting attitude, even promoting an LGBT sympathetic Bishop to lead the Chicago Archdiocese, one of the largest within the United States. He even went so far as to criticize the focus on abortion, contraception and LGBT rights as a distraction from the important issues.

Change is not quick to come to any large organization. With nearly a half-million clergy, the Catholic Church is a gigantic structure. Fixing a problem which is decades, if not centuries, in the creation cannot be done overnight. It will take a generation or more to know if Pope Francis’ crusade to save the soul of the Catholic Church is successful. We can only hope, and pray, for his success.

From Addicting Info, NATHANIEL DOWNES

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Meet the Young, Evangelical, Pro-Gay Movement

A gay 24-year-old evangelical Christian is leading the charge toward tolerance among conservative Bible Belt Christians.

Something extraordinary is happening at the intersection of religion and LGBT people.  You may not have noticed it, because you thought it was impossible, and so you weren’t watching for it. But make no mistake, there is something wonderful happening to/for conservative Christians who have traditionally condemned same-sex relationships: a youth-led movement that could change evangelical perceptions of LGBT people forever.

For many years, the LGBT movement has been picking the “low fruit” of religious people who have felt that the historical and religious treatment of gay people was wrong. Most often, these religious people, who had been taught by their religion to condemn LGBT people, came to know someone gay, and realized that all the bad things said about them simply were not true. And so they came to believe that their religion—and the Bible on which it is based—is simply wrong on this issue, outdated, and locked in the past. They felt uncomfortable with those few passages of scripture that seemed to condemn same sex behavior, and dismissed them as a product of their times, and inappropriately applied to what we know today about sexual orientation.

LGBT people have reaped enormous rewards because of this widespread change of opinion.  Recent years have seen the fall of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, and the spreading of marriage equality to 19 states and the District of Columbia. Much of the east and west coasts offer a safe bubble in which LGBT people can live their lives in relative safety and recognition of their relationships.

But there is much of the rest of the country in which this new reality of acceptance has not taken hold, and religion is at the center of why. Many in the LGBT community have largely written off conservative religious people as simply bigoted. But the fact remains that many religious people have very real religious and Biblical beliefs that hold them back from acceptance of gay people and gay relationships. Merely calling these religious conservatives “bigots” seems to me not to be very loving, because it fails to acknowledge and honor the beliefs these people hold dear.  And the serious work of meeting these conservative evangelicals on their own terms, with the accompanying difficult task of explaining those offending passages of scripture, has not been done. Until now.

A new breed of young and smart evangelicals is doing that work. And it is probably work that only those who are conservative evangelicals can do. It’s not merely a case of people using language and approaches popular among evangelicals. Rather, this work is being done by those who hold the scriptures in as high a regard as those whose minds they are trying to change on this issue. It means treating these conservative Christians as people whose beliefs about scripture are honorable and worthy, even if ill-informed on this subject. It means meeting these “Bible-believing” Christians on their own terms.

One of this new breed of evangelicals is Matthew Vines, an intense 24-year-old from Kansas who became an internet sensation with his hour-long video on why Bible-believing Christians can and should become affirming of LGBT people.  Despite its length and occasional tediousness, that video has been watched (and re-watched) by nearly 800,000 viewers.

Matthew, who is himself gay and a Bible-believing Christian from a conservative Christian family, took two years off from his studies at Harvard to research the Biblical injunctions against same sex behavior. The result was not only this video, but also a new book, God and the Gay Christian, which describes his journey with his parents and conservative Christian fellow church people in discovering what the Bible really says about same sex behavior. It answers the question which seems the most relevant to those conservative Christians, the question which is at the center of changing one’s mind on the subject: Is the Bible talking about the same thing as we are talking about today when we discuss homosexuality? (Spoiler alert: the answer is “no.”)

In addition to having a fine, meticulous mind, Matthew also has an entrepreneurial gift, and he has launched The Reformation Project, which may very well change evangelical Christianity’s understanding of this issue. The Reformation Project seems to have two goals: to engage conservative Christians in rigorous study of the scripture that has been used to condemn homosexuality and its expression, and to equip those whose minds have been changed with the tools to engage other conservative religious people in this endeavor.

It is not easy work, but it calls the bluff of those who would say “we have to take scripture seriously.” It counters with “okay, let’s really take the scriptures seriously—seriously enough to study them and see what they are really saying in their own context, and let’s be bold enough to entertain the notion that we may have gotten it wrong.” As Matthew Vines himself says, “LGBT people and their allies have to be able to discuss Scripture in a way that is both highly respectful and carefully reasoned from an evangelical theological framework.”

To this end, The Reformation Project is launching a series of conferences to lay out the serious discussion of these Biblical passages and to equip participants with the tools to have those discussions in their conservative churches and communities. The next conference will be held in Washington, DC—not exactly a place known for its adherence to the Bible—on November 6-8, 2014.

It would be easy to overlook the importance of this shift in thinking and approach, inaugurated by young gay evangelicals and other evangelicals who themselves have LGBT friends and family. Long after marriage equality is the law of the land, there will still be hearts and minds to be won to the notion of not merely tolerating, but affirming LGBT people and their relationships.  For evangelicals, the way forward is not around scripture, but directly through it. The Reformation Project offers the way. And that’s good news for LGBT people everywhere.

Gene Robinson, The Daily Beast

The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, Washington, DC, and the IX Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire.  Follow him on Twitter @BishopGRobinson

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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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Elizabeth Warren: From 2003-2012 Big Companies Dedicated 91% of Profits to Shareholders not Workers

On Monday’s Late Show with David Letterman, Main Street warrior Senator Elizabeth Warren pre-gamed this week’s Senate Hearing by talking about ways in which the big banks cheated people out of insane amounts of money to make a profit.

“Yeah, I’m talking about actual law breaking,” Warren told Letterman. “And I’m talking about using every trick in the book.”

Warren discusses the ways in which big banks were not only loading up on profits, but also how they were loading up on risks:

“Now the big financial institutions that had both brought on this crisis and then had been bailed out by the American taxpayer… you might think that they would turn around and say ‘God, we’re really sorry about this what can we do to be helpful here.’ Instead, they started lobbying against any real change in financial reform. They spent more than a million dollars a day for more than a year lobbying against any real changes. you know what their number one target was? The idea of a new little consumer financial protection program. To have an agency in Washington that, unlike all those banking regulators that were looking out for the banks, an agency that would just begin to look out for people who get cheated on credit cards and mortgages.”

Wednesday in a Senate Banking Committee hearing on the increase in income inequality, Senator Warren read an excerpt of, “An Economy Doing Half Its Job,” a Harvard Business School survey released this month. The survey excerpt Warren reads outlines a “recent divergence of outcomes, with firms (especially larger firms) thriving and workers struggling.” It goes on to remark that this is not the norm for the US economy. “Historically, American companies and citizens have tended either to thrive together, as in the boom after World War II, or to suffer together, as during the Great Depression.”

Warren says there’s a simple explanation: Corporations no longer share their profits with workers. “Back in the 1980’s,” Warren quotes from research from Econ professor William Lazonick at UMass Lowell, “large corporations dedicated less than half of their corporate earnings to shareholders. The rest went to invest in their equipment and their employees. But from 2003 to 2012 those big companies dedicated 91 percent of their earnings to their shareholders.”

That’s not a shift in balance, that is a radical right turn towards greed.

Sarah Burris, Blue Nation Review

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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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CAL PERFORMANCES PRESENTS MARIACHI VARGAS DE TECALITLÁN ON SATURDAY, SEPTMEBER 20 IN ZELLERBACH HALL

Long considered one of the world’s great mariachi bands, Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán returns to Cal Performances on Saturday, September 20 at 8:00 p.m. in Zellerbach Hall. The ensemble’s spirited and infectious music, the specialty of this 14-piece band, has been featured in more than 50 recordings and 200 movies since the group’s founding in 1898. The band includes sixth generation musicians and first received popular acclaim in the United States when it appeared on Linda Ronstadt’s 1987 Grammy-winning album, Canciones de mi Padre. The concert will include traditional and popular mariachi music, such as pasodobles, valses, bailables, polkas, and danzones. The program will be announced from the stage. Tickets are on sale now.

SINGLE TICKETS FOR THE 2014–2015 SEASON

Single tickets for the entirety of Cal Performances’ 2014–2015 Season go on sale to the general public on Wednesday, August 13 at noon. Prior to that, single tickets to Email Club members go on sale Wednesday, August 5, and single tickets for Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán (September 20) are on sale now. Tickets are available through the Cal Performances Ticket Office at Zellerbach Hall, at (510) 642-9988, calperformances.org, and at the door. Half-price tickets are available for purchase by UC Berkeley students. UC faculty and staff, senior citizens, other students, and UC Alumni Association members receive a $5.00 discount (Special Events excluded). For select performances, Cal Performances offers UCB students, faculty and staff, senior, and community rush tickets. For a complete listing of discounts go to: http://calperformances.org/buy/discounts.php.   CAL PERFORMANCES ADDED EVENT   Saturday, September 20 at 8:00 p.m. Zellerbach  Hall, UC Berkeley campus Bancroft Way at Dana Street, Berkeley

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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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Djanjo Unchained Actress Detained for Kissing her Husband in Public: Police Suspect her as a Prostitute

Young African-American actress Danièle Watts, known for her role in Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained” and the television show “Partners” was detained by police near Hollywood, after they saw her kissing her husband on the sidewalk and assumed she was a prostitute.

According to Watts’ Facebook page, where she recounted her terrible experience, police approached the couple when they saw her hugging and kissing her husband in public. They accused her of soliciting sex, presuming her husband was a “John” who had hired her. Watts, who was wearing a t-shirt, shorts, and athletic shoes (as pictured above), was taken aback by the allegations and refused to give the police her ID when they demanded it. So they slapped handcuffs on her and threw her into the back of a squad car.

Watts writes:

Today I was handcuffed and detained by 2 police officers from the Studio City Police Department after refusing to agree that I had done something wrong by showing affection, fully clothed, in a public place.

When the officer arrived, I was standing on the sidewalk by a tree. I was talking to my father on my cell phone. I knew that I had done nothing wrong, that I wasn’t harming anyone, so I walked away.

A few minutes later, I was still talking to my dad when 2 different police officers accosted me and forced me into handcuffs.

As I was sitting in the back of the police car, I remembered the countless times my father came home frustrated or humiliated by the cops when he had done nothing wrong. I felt his shame, his anger, and my own feelings of frustration for existing in a world where I have allowed myself to believe that “authority figures” could control my BEING… my ability to BE!!!!!!!

Later, she chooses to view the negative experience as an ultimately positive one with more grace than many would probably have after being handcuffed and thrown into the back of a police car for doing nothing wrong.

I will continue to look any “authority figure” in the eye without fear. NO POLICE OFFICER OR GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL IS MORE POWERFUL THAN ME. WE ARE EQUALS. I KNOW THAT I WILL ALWAYS BE FREE BECAUSE THAT IS THE NATURE OF MY SPIRIT.

And moreover, I deeply enjoyed connecting with the cops who detained me. I allowed myself to be honest about my anger, frustration, and rage as tears flowed from my eyes. The tears I cry for a country that calls itself “the land of the free and the home of the brave” and yet detains people for claiming that very right.

Today I exist with courage, knowing that I am blessed to have experienced what I did today. All of those feelings, no matter how uncomfortable. These feelings are what builds my internal strength, my ability to grow through WHATEVER may happen to me.

It’s inspiring that Watts could keep that positive outlook, but it leaves others furious. Many people on her Facebook post suggested she file a formal complain with the Studio City Police Department for wrongful detention. So far, she has yet to do so.

The cops – perhaps realizing almost immediately that they had arrested a ordinary citizen and not, in fact, a prostitute – released her after some time and didn’t press charges. An LAPD spokesperson told Variety that since no charges were filed, they had no record of the incident.

After several high profile incidents of police brutality, including the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, there has been a national conversation wrestling with the uncomfortable nature of racism and over-zealous cops on the force. Watts’ experience highlights another facet to that story: For many black Americans, money, fame, or being a celebrity don’t necessarily mean you won’t be targeted, investigated, and harassed.

From Addicting Info, Jameson Parker

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New BAM/PFA Exhibit Opens Today: John Zurier / MATRIX 255

September 12—December 21, 2014

press_Zurier_Finnbogi

The University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA) presents MATRIX 255, featuring a new selection of paintings and watercolors by John Zurier. The Bay Area artist paints abstract, seemingly monochrome canvases with colors that range from muted earth tones to vibrant hues. Interested in capturing the various effects of his environment and translating that into paint, Zurier utilizes a range of materials, brushwork, and surface treatments to create a subtle balance between color modulation and spatial depth. In this presentation, his first solo exhibition in a museum, Zurier premieres a new series of paintings made during or after his sojourns to Iceland, where he has been traveling, teaching, and making work in recent years.

Zurier’s minimalist, contemplative compositions are as complex as they are spare. From the differences between cotton and linen surfaces, the thickness of the stretcher, and the hardware that binds the work together to the individual properties of tempera and oil paint, every aspect and detail of his compositions is considered. In his varied practice, color stands out as one of his primary concerns and his reflection on a given color often propels his approach. Some pieces develop within days, while others evolve over extended periods of time. Informed by such diverse influences as Abstract Expressionism, Italian Renaissance painting, Minimalism, Japanese painting, and poetry, each of Zurier’s works strike “a unique, sensitive chord,” according to the exhibition’s curator, Apsara DiQuinzio.

In recent years, Iceland—a place he has been visiting regularly since 2011—has been a primary source of inspiration for the artist. Zurier is fascinated with its vast, ever-changing landscape and, in particular, the effects of time, weather, and light.This past summer, Zurier produced a series of paintings in various sizes on an Icelandic horse farm in the northern region of Skagafjörður. These luminous abstractions evoke the ice, fog, skies, ground, water, and atmosphere of the landscape while also tapping into more timeless, poetic states. MATRIX 255 featuresmany of these works, as well as others Zurier painted during or after previous trips to Iceland.

On November 7, Zurier will join DiQuinzio in the galleries for a conversation about the his practice and influences. The talk will be immediately followed by a special L@TE: Friday Nights @ BAM/PFA event programmed by Zurier that will include new electro-acoustic compositions by Icelandic composers Úlfur Hansson and Georg Hilmarsson and Bay Area composer Amadeus Regucera. Commissioned by Zurier to accompany his paintings and watercolors, the new works will be performed by the all-cello chamber ensemble Celli@Berkeley.

 

 

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Lesbian dance instructor found murdered in St. Petersburg, Russia

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia — A lesbian dance instructor was found murdered in her car in the Russian city of St. Petersburg on Sunday, reported QueerRussia.

Ekaterina Khomenko

Ekaterina Khomenko, 29, who was known in the local LGBT community as an instructor of tango for same-sex couples, was found with a 9 cm slit in her throat. Police are now treating her death as murder, after an initial investigation suggested she had committed suicide.

Khomenko’s body was found on the morning of September 7 by a passing street cleaner; her car had its engine and headlights still on.

Her father claimed police initially quizzed him about money, drugs and suicidal tendencies, considering those as possible causes of her death.

The Russian group Coming Out LGBT said it was shocked by Khomenko’s murder: “Ekaterina was a wonderful person, a great professional, daughter and friend. We will remember her and what she had done – bestowed joy and wings to many of us.”

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South Bay Congressman stands up for Martins Beach

There is news today that Congressman Mike Honda has added his voice to the incredibly important issue of protecting access to Martins Beach in San Mateo County.(http://www.bizjournals.com/sanjose/news/2014/09/11/silicon-valley-congressman-rejects-vc-vinod.html )

The long time Congressman has not only urged the Governor to support SB 968, sponsored by Senator Jerry Hill and Senator Mark Stone, but he has also taken the dramatic step of filling out the California Coastal Commission’s survey (http://www.coastal.ca.gov/) to establish and document its history of public use.

A recent profile on the Congressman (http://www.sfgate.com/politics/article/Election-upset-seen-as-unlikely-against-veteran-5711840.php) has shown his love of fishing and the coast. But his release points out the long history of advocacy for open space

Congressman Honda has been a supporter of open spaces throughout his political career. He was instrumental in the planning and funding of the Mt. Umunhum reclamation project, including securing appropriations funding for the program. For over a decade, he worked to get the Army Corps of Engineers to fulfill its obligation to clean up Mt. Umunhum. After much time and effort, he secured $3.2 Million for the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District’s Almaden Air Force Station Environmental Assessment and Remediation project, which expedited the cleanup of the site to alleviate health and environmental impacts.

Congressman Honda also worked hard in the appropriations committee to secure $18.315 Million for the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration project. This project has begun to restore the health of the San Francisco Bay by creating the largest restored wetlands on the West Coast, providing extensive habitat for federally endangered species and migratory birds.

The Congressman states “protecting our open spaces and California’s sacred wilderness is more than sound policy—it’s our obligation…equal access to our state’s treasured assets is a core value—and one that should be afforded to all regardless of income.”

This record of service is impressive on its own, but when put against his opponents Mike Honda looks like John Muir:

Open space advocates say Honda’s stellar record stands in stark contrast to Khanna’s lack of record when it comes to working on behalf of regional open spaces. While serving on the San Mateo County Parks and Recreation Commission, one of his only stints in public service, Khanna missed 10 out of 23 meetings.

Lennie Roberts, a long time champion of open space and legislative advocate for Committee for Green Foothills, praised Honda’s work on behalf of area open space and added that she wished his opponent exhibited the same commitment to service, referring to Khanna’s poor attendance and lackluster effort on behalf of Measure A, a 2006 funding measure to benefit City and County parks in San Mateo County. 

In fact longtime San Mateo County environmental advocate Lennie Roberts said, “Congressman Honda is well known for his longstanding support of parks and open space preservation and access, and his record of unwavering service speaks for itself,” Roberts said. “If Ro Khanna had demonstrated even a small commitment to parks while serving on the San Mateo County Parks and Recreation Commission, perhaps we would have more funding for our needy parks.  Mr. Khanna missed nearly as many meetings of the Commission as he attended, missed the crucial vote to recommend placing the revenue measure on the ballot, and failed to step up and support our campaign to secure funding for City and County parks in San Mateo County. Frankly, it was disappointing.”

This does not surprise considering his continued embrace of republicans in general and the homophobic, tea party embracing Ernie Konnyu. http://www.sanfranciscosentinel.com/?p=173174 and http://www.sanfranciscosentinel.com/?p=173155, it seems this challenger is not who he pretends to be at all.

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WTF? 372-Sq-Ft Micro-Pad with No Kitchen Wants $2,900/Month

If you weren’t already sure that the San Francisco rental market had gone completely bonkers, this rental listing may convince you. It’s a Western Addition apartment that is being called a junior one bedroom. In reality, everything is compressed into one miniature 372-square-foot space, and there’s no actual kitchen, just a mini-fridge, microwave, and countertop within spitting distance of the bed alcove. It looks more appropriate as an Airbnb rental than a full-time living space and has, in fact, been rented out over Airbnb for the past few months. As of this morning, the flat was listed for a whopping$3,175/month, but the owner seems to have undergone at least a mild realty check since then. Now the place could be yours for $2,900/month furnished—or $2,700/month if you’re bringing your own tiny couch, TV, and bed.

00606_2yBYd9LkMN2_600x450

There are some perks with that rent: Laundry is free and utilities are included. Parking might be an option, although extra costs aren’t discussed in the listing. And apparently the biggest perk of all is thatthe apartment has its own front door to the street, so you don’t have to deal with shared hallways. We didn’t even know that was considered a bonus until now.

Our only evidence of the original price survives in this screenshot:

screen-shot-jr-1br

 

Tracy Elsen, Curbed

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LatinSF Initiative Launched

San Francisco Expands International Efforts to Create Greater Economic Ties with New Initiative to Strengthen Relationship between Latin America & United States; First Partnership Started with Mexico-Based Technology Acceleration Program

 Mayor Edwin M. Lee today officially launched the LatinSF economic development initiative at Silicon Valley Day in Mexico City as part of his official trade mission to Latin America. Modeled after the groundbreaking China-San Francisco economic development initiative ChinaSF, LatinSF is a new economic development initiative to promote business and trade between San Francisco and Latin America by attracting Latin American companies to San Francisco and helping San Francisco firms expand in the Latin American markets. The new initiative will support and boost San Francisco’s economy by creating a comprehensive international business recruitment, expansion and retention strategy.

“We can never take our economic recovery and expansion for granted and LatinSF is another way in which we are diversifying our economy, attracting new companies and jobs to our City and creating opportunities for San Francisco-based businesses around the world,” said Mayor Lee. “San Francisco has much to offer companies from Latin America, including a highly educated workforce, access to the largest venture capital community in the United States, and international connectivity to China, Asia and beyond. With the launch of LatinSF and the continued success of ChinaSF, San Francisco has secured its reputation as a global gateway.”

LatinSF will promote San Francisco as the center for Latin American entrepreneurs who wish to tackle the U.S. and global markets. Similarly, there are many opportunities in the technology, life sciences, cleantech and professional services sectors for San Francisco companies seeking to expand in the dynamic Latin American market.

“Following the success of ChinaSF, the San Francisco Center for Economic Development is proud to once again partner with the City of San Francisco to run the new LatinSF initiative,” said San Francisco Center for Economic Development (SFCED) Executive Director Dennis Conaghan. “The demand for assistance for Latin American companies has been steadily growing, and we believe that the timing is perfect to reach out to the region. San Francisco has a global brand as a city that welcomes innovative entrepreneurs and we look forward to extending that welcome to Latin American companies.”

Mayor Lee’s two-day visit to Mexico City is his first official trade mission to Latin America. The visit underscores the importance of the relationship between San Francisco, Mexico and the rest of Latin America. While in Mexico, the Mayor is meeting with government and business leaders to promote San Francisco as a center for innovation and entrepreneurship. The visit focuses on attracting Mexican companies to San Francisco, expanding bilateral economic cooperation and developing key partnerships to strengthen the business relationship between San Francisco and Mexico.

During the visit, Mayor Lee solidified the first LatinSF partnership with Startup Mexico, a government-backed entrepreneurial campus and incubation/acceleration program for Latin American technology firms, to ensure a steady flow of companies from the region to San Francisco.

“LatinSF is an excellent partner for Startup Mexico and we are looking forward to working with them to assist Latin American technology companies to access the amazing opportunities that San Francisco has to offer innovative entrepreneurs,” said Startup Mexico Director Marcus Dantus.

As well as a business attraction and retention efforts, LatinSF will support the growing Latin American technology eco-system in San Francisco by partnering with organizations such as the Latino Startup Alliance, the Chile-California Council and BayBrazil, a networking organization with more than 4,000 local members.

“We are very excited about partnering with LatinSF on events and incoming trade missions,” said Bay Brazil Director Margarise Correa. “Brazilians have a great interest in the San Francisco market, and LatinSF is well placed to capitalize on that.”

Many Latin American technology companies have already established offices in San Francisco, including Globant, an Argentinian company that recently became the first Latin American software company to launch a public offering on the NYSE. The company employs more than 100 people in San Francisco. Over the past three years, government trade offices from Mexico, Brazil and Colombia have all opened in San Francisco.

LatinSF has already garnered support for its efforts and counts the Mita Institute and Tech Accelerator (MITA), a business accelerator, venture fund and tech forum dedicated to building the innovation economy in Mexico, and AeroMexico among its early sponsors.

“We are excited to partner with LatinSF to build deeper synergies between the innovation economies of San Francisco and Mexico,” said MITA General Partner and Fund Manager Robin Reyes. “We believe San Francisco offers a singular ecosystem of needed mentorship, capital and business development opportunities to Mexico’s growing number of tech companies. As a dominant connector in linking these two regions, we are proud to be a supporter of LatinSF.”

About LatinSF

LatinSF is a dynamic new economic development initiative that will promote business and trade between San Francisco and the Latin American region. Created as a public-private partnership between the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD) and the San Francisco Center for Economic Development (SFCED), the goal of LatinSF is to create a welcome environment for established Latin American companies to expand and startups to locate in San Francisco.  LatinSF will also support San Francisco-based companies that are seeking to expand their businesses in the Latin American region. For more information, go to: sfced.org/latinsf.

About Silicon Valley Day

Silicon Valley Day is an event organized by San Francisco technology companies to promote innovation, entrepreneurship and the Silicon Valley culture in Latin America. The event has been held twice in Sao Paolo, Brazil with attendances of almost 800 people. The event includes panels featuring San Francisco and Mexico based founders and executives who will share their business experiences. The Silicon Valley Day 2014 event is made ​​possible by Zendesk, Prezi, possible and 99designs. For more information, go to: siliconvalleyday.com.mx.

 

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It’s Official: President Obama Is The Best Economic President In Modern Times

In a new economic report, published by Forbes.com on September 6, 2014, clearly shows that President Obama is the best economic president in modern times. It’s not an opinion, it’s a fact, based on all of typical the economic indicators, including jobs, investments, growth and expansion, even the rate of inflation. In all of these areas President Obama’s record outperforms that of every other modern president, including conservative idol, Ronald Reagan.

Under President Obama’s leadership, the unemployment rate has now decreased to 6.1 percent, the lowest it’s been since 2007, when the economy began gushing jobs under the failed leadership of then president George W. Bush.

Typically, republicans have tried to detract from the president’s accomplishments. When it comes to the falling unemployment rate, they claim that it is somehow related to large numbers of people just dropping out of the workforce. This would almost be believable if the economy wasn’t creating new jobs at a rate that coincides perfectly with the falling employment rate, but it is. There have been six consecutive months with more than 200,000 new jobs created, with only a slight dip in that number in August. Additionally, there have been 63 straight months of economic expansion and more than two solid years of manufacturing expansion.

In order to satisfy Obama’s conservative critics, Forbes compared the economy under President Obama to that of Ronald Reagan, who the GOP often touts as the best economic president of our times. It’s no surprise to discover that even with many additional obstacles in his path, Forbes concluded that:

“President Obama’s administration has outperformed President Reagan’s in all commonly watched categories.”

In order to complete the analysis, Forbes interviewed Bob Deitrick, CEO of Polaris Financial Partners. The company’s newsletter is reported to be one of the most reliable authorities on economic performance in the country. Here’s what Deitrick had to say about President Obama’s job creation record, when compared to that of President Reagan.

“President Reagan has long been considered the best modern economic President. So we compared his performance dealing with the oil-induced recession of the 1980s with that of President Obama and his performance during this ‘Great Recession.’

As this unemployment chart shows, President Obama’s job creation kept unemployment from peaking at as high a level as President Reagan, and promoted people into the workforce faster than President Reagan.

President Obama has achieved a 6.1% unemployment rate in his 6th year, fully one year faster than President Reagan did. At this point in his presidency, President Reagan was still struggling with 7.1% unemployment, and he did not reach into the mid-low 6% range for another full year. So, despite today’s number, the Obama administration has still done considerably better at job creating and reducing unemployment than did the Reagan administration.

We forecast unemployment will fall to around 5.4% by summer, 2015. A rate President Reagan was unable to achieve during his two terms.”

According to Forbes, this is not only the best private sector job growth in modern history:

“This is the best private sector jobs creation performance in American History.”

Deitrick also made it clear that President Obama has not achieved this reduction in unemployment because of a shrinking workforce, but in spite of it.

“What’s now clear is that the Obama administration policies have outperformed the Reagan administration policies for job creation and unemployment reduction. Even though Reagan had the benefit of a growing Boomer class to ignite economic growth, while Obama has been forced to deal with a retiring workforce developing special needs. During the 8 years preceding Obama there was a net reduction in jobs in America. We now are rapidly moving toward higher, sustainable jobs growth.”

As a final note, President Obama has managed to outperform Ronald Reagan in all of these areas, while at the same time, reducing the national debt. On the other hand, Reagan greatly expanded the debt, and still failed to achieve in eight years, what President Obama has achieved in only six.

 

Author: Randa Morris, Addicting Info

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The San Francisco Symphony Performs Mason Bates’s Alternative Energy

The San Francisco Symphony (SFS) and Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT) perform the SFS premiere of Bay Area classical-electronica composer Mason Bates’s Alternative Energy September 10-13 in Davies Symphony Hall. The concerts also include Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes, as well as Rossini’s Overture to La gazza ladra. These Alternative Energy concerts conclude the “Beethoven and Bates” performances that began last season with Bates’s The B-Sides and Liquid Interface. All three works are being recorded for future release on SFS Media, the Orchestra’s in-house label. Mason Bates’s appearances on this program not only represent MTT’s commitment to showcasing an American composer on almost all the concerts during his 20th anniversary season with the SFS, but also his and the SF Symphony’s commitment to nurturing the next generation of symphonic composers.
 
According to the Mason Bates, Alternative Energy is “an ‘energy symphony’ spanning four movements and hundreds of years. Beginning in a rustic Midwestern junkyard in the late 19th Century, the piece travels through ever greater and more powerful forces of energy—such as a present-day particle collider and a futuristic Chinese nuclear plant—until it reaches a future Icelandic rainforest, where humanity’s last inhabitants seek a return to a simpler way of life.” Sounds outside the regular symphonic palette that Mason Bates uses in this piece include ‘junkyard percussion’ to simulate the cranking of a car motor in the first movement; recordings from FermiLab’s particle accelerator in the second movement, which takes place in present-day Chicago; and techno beats in the work’s third movement to illustrate a futuristic, bustling energy industry in Xinjiang Province, China, in 2112.
 
Pianist Leif Ove Andsnes’s performances of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1 are part of a larger examination he has undertaken of the composer’s piano concertos. The 2014-15 season is the final year of Andsnes’s “The Beethoven Journey,” a four-year exploration of Beethoven’s complete piano concertos with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra. “The Beethoven Journey” has featured Andsnes leading complete Beethoven concerto cycles from the keyboard in residencies at New York’s Carnegie Hall, and in London, Paris, Lucerne, Hamburg, Bonn, Shanghai, and Tokyo. In addition to the San Francisco Symphony, Leif Ove Andsnes performs Beethoven piano concertos this season with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Gustavo Dudamel, the London Philharmonic and Osmo Vänskä, the Munich Philharmonic and Thomas Dausgaard, and at Boston’s Celebrity Series with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra. Andsnes last performed with the San Francisco Symphony in 2008 in Brahms’s Piano Concerto No. 2, also led by Michael Tilson Thomas.
 
Wednesday, September 10, 2014 at 8 pm

Thursday, September 11, 2014 at 2 pm

Friday, September 12, 2014 at 8 pm

Saturday, September 13, 2014 at 8 pm



Davies Symphony Hall

201 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco, CA

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This May Be The Strongest Voting Rights Decision Since The Justices Hobbled The Voting Rights Act

Ohio’s attempt to reduce the number of days voters may cast an early ballot is unconstitutional and violates the Constitution and the Voting Rights Act (VRA), according to a decision handed down Thursday by a federal court in that state. Though the decision has a difficult road to travel before Ohio voters can be certain that it will stand — it will appeal to the Sixth Circuit, which has a conservative majority, and ultimately to the same Supreme Court that struck down a key provision of the VRA — Judge Peter Economus’ decision may be the strongest voting rights decision handed down since the justices’ attack on the VRA. Or, at least, it may be the strongest decision in the sense that it calls for a very strong shield to be erected around the right to vote. If his reasoning is ultimately upheld by a higher court, that would be a serious blow to efforts by many state lawmakers to enact laws restricting the franchise.

Much of Judge Economus’ opinion is devoted to explaining how limits on early voting disproportionately impact African-American voters. Many black churches, for example, conduct “Souls to the Polls” events that encourage churchgoers to vote after attending Sunday services — as an Ohio NAACP leader explained, “Sunday was a focal point also because many churches already provide transportation to take people to church, and carpools are also arranged so that everyone is together” — yet the new restrictions on early voting limit these churchgoers’ opportunities to vote on Sunday. Additionally, the new early voting schedule eliminates “Golden Week,” a period when voters can register and vote on the same day. The same NAACP leader testified that African-Americans are especially likely to take advantage of this period because “people in the African-American community in [his community] move frequently, especially since the 2008 recession.”

Empirical data also demonstrates that black voters are more likely to take advantage of early voting. Indeed, according to University of Florida Research Professor Daniel Smith, an expert witness who testified in this case, the rate of early voting in areas that are entirely African-American is more than twice the rate in areas that are entirely white. Additionally, Smith explained that “there is strong empirical evidence in Ohio that a greater proportion of blacks not only cast [early] ballots than whites but do so on early voting days that have been eliminated by” the new voting schedule.
This data matters because, under one of the provisions of the Voting Rights Act that was not struck down by the Roberts Court, “[n]o voting qualification or prerequisite to voting or standard, practice, or procedure shall be imposed or applied by any State or political subdivision in a manner which results in a denial or abridgement of the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color.” Moreover, as a precedent cited by Judge Economus explains, this provision of the VRA “does not require proof of discriminatory intent. Instead, a plaintiff need show only that the challenged action or requirement has a discriminatory effect on members of a protected group[.]”
The VRA prohibits laws that abridges black people’s right to vote. Restricting early voting abridges black people’s right to vote. Therefore it violates the VRA. Q.E.D.

Yet, while this is the strongest argument presented by Economus’ opinion, that doesn’t mean that it will be upheld on appeal. For one thing, as Sean Trende, a political analyst for the news site Real Clear Politics explained in expert testimony on behalf of the state, “’Ohio maintains one of the most expansive systems of early voting in the country,’ with an early-voting period twice the national median.” Though reducing the number of early voting days in Ohio reduces the opportunities for African-Americans to vote from its previous baseline, it is far from guaranteed that a Supreme Court which has been hostile to the Voting Rights Act in the recent past will hold that Ohio is required to maintain its prior baseline.

Indeed, just last month a George W. Bush-appointed judge in North Carolina refused to suspend cuts to early voting in that state, arguing that it was “speculative” to assume that black voters will not shift their voting patterns to other days when voting is allowed. This argument could resonate with a conservative Supreme Court.

Nevertheless, it this decision stands it will be a very important victory for voting rights. Among other things, as Attorney General Eric Holder noted in a press conference Thursday afternoon, Economus’ decision uses some of the “same legal reasoning that underlies the Department’s pending challenges to voting measures” to states like Texas and North Carolina, where lawmakers and state officials are aggressively taking advantage of the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down much of the VRA.

From Think Progress

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PrEP: Behind the Numbers

A new campaign from the AIDS Healthcare Foundation has kicked off another round of controversy about HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and how to interpret data from prevention studies.

truvada pill and bottle.white5 copy The AHF ad features a chart showing overall efficacy in eight major studies of PrEP using Truvada (tenofovir plus emtricitabine) or tenofovir alone in pill or gel formulations. Figures range from a high of 75% in the Partners PrEP trial of heterosexual couples in Africa to less than 10% in the Fem-PrEP study of African women.

“Overall efficacy was low in all studies due to low adherence,” the ad states. “[AHF] has taken the position that the scientific data do not support the large-scale use of Truvada as a community-wide public health intervention.” In fact, AHF president Michael Weinstein suggested, “the government-sanctioned widespread scale-up of PrEP appears to be a public health disaster in the making.”

In contrast, proponents say PrEP is highly effective—in the 90% to 100% range—when used consistently. Once-daily Truvada was tested in clinical trials and this is the regimen approved by the FDA in July 2012 and recently recommended by the CDC. But study data show that Truvada can still provide a high level of protection even if people miss some doses.

Dueling Data
The battle of the numbers arises from the different ways researchers can report medical study results.
In randomized controlled clinical trials, the gold standard is “intent-to-treat” results, or how well a drug works among everyone assigned to take it. This includes people who may not have used it regularly or who stopped early due to side effects or for other reasons. This is usually the primary type of data reported in medical journals and at scientific conferences.

Another method, known as “as-treated” or “per-protocol” results, considers only the subset of study participants who actually took the drug as directed—that is, those with good adherence.
In general, as-treated results will make a treatment look more effective than intent-to-treat results. A drug may have strong antiviral potency, for example, but if many people find it too inconvenient or too toxic to use regularly, its actual effectiveness in practice may be low.

iPrEx by the numbers
The PrEP debate mainly revolves around the various reported figures from the iPrEx study, which enrolled about 2,500 HIV-negative gay and bisexual men and a small number of transgender women at 11 sites in six countries. Participants were randomly assigned to take either Truvada or an inactive placebo once daily. The study was double-blind, meaning neither the participants nor the researchers knew who was taking what. Everyone also received regular HIV testing and prevention services including risk-reduction counseling and free condoms.

As SFAF medical director Robert Grant and colleagues reported in the December 30, 2010, New England Journal of Medicine, after an average follow-up period of about one year, the risk of HIV infection was 44% lower overall in the Truvada group compared with the placebo group in an intent-to-treat analysis of the main iPrEx study—the figure shown in the AHF ad. For participants that self-reported taking Truvada as directed most of the time, the risk of infection dropped by 73%. Among people with blood drug level measurements indicating good adherence, risk reduction was 92%. A mathematical model later estimated that risk reduction would reach 90% if participants took Truvada at least four days per week, and could hit 99% with daily use—the figure often cited by PrEP advocates.

After the main study ended, all participants (even those assigned to take placebo during the main study) had the option of receiving Truvada in the iPrEx open-label extension (OLE). About 1,600 participants took part in iPrEx OLE with three-quarters choosing to take Truvada and the rest serving as an untreated control group. Unlike the original randomized part of the trial, OLE participants knew they were getting the active drug and were informed about findings showing that it reduced HIV risk.
As Grant reported at the recent International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, the overall risk reduction in the OLE was 49% in the Truvada group compared with the untreated group.

“Under more or less ideal conditions, the best they could get to was 50 percent [risk reduction],” said Weinstein. “That’s not a big success—that’s a big danger.”

Yet among people who had blood drug levels indicating that they took Truvada at least four times per week, there were no new infections—100% efficacy. However, only one-third managed to reach this level of adherence. People who took Truvada two or three times per week still had a risk reduction of 84%, while those who took fewer than two doses saw no significant protective effect.

What Does It Mean?
With so many numbers being tossed around, many people are understandably unsure about which ones to focus on. Yet the issue is not really which risk reduction estimates are “true,” but rather what these percentages mean in real life.

Taken together, studies of gay men, heterosexual couples, and people who inject drugs have shown that Truvada (or even tenofovir alone) is highly effective with consistent daily use.

“We know that people who did take the drug had very high levels of protection,” said Jim Pickett, director of Prevention Advocacy and Gay Men’s Health at the AIDS Foundation of Chicago. “This drug works extraordinarily well to prevent HIV if you use it.”

However, randomized studies and open-label demonstration projects have found that many participants don’t maintain good adherence. A U.S. PrEP demonstration project found that while 92% of San Francisco participants had blood drug levels indicating that they took Truvada at least four times per week, this fell to 57% in Miami. At the other extreme, adherence levels in two PrEP studies of women in Africa—VOICE and Fem-PrEP—were so low that they could not demonstrate a protective effect.
While Weinstein argues that condoms are the best way to prevent HIV infection, PrEP advocates stress that most gay men do not use condoms all the time — as demonstrated at an SFAF Real Talk discussion where an audience poll showed that 100% had ever had sex without a condom.

As with PrEP, the level of protection in condom studies also varies widely. While effectiveness in preventing pregnancy approaches 100% with perfect use, a study by Dawn Smith from the CDC and colleagues found that gay men who reported using condoms all the time were about 70% less likely to become infected than those who said they use them sometimes or not at all.

“Does that mean we tell guys [condoms] are only 70% effective? No, partly because some guys probably didn’t use them religiously or correctly,” explained David Evans, director of research advocacy at Project Inform. “So what we say is that they are highly effective if used correctly and used every time. That’s what most of us are saying about PrEP.”

Importantly, iPrEx and other studies have found that using PrEP does not make people less likely to use condoms, but in fact is associated with a reduction in sexual risk behavior. And compared with condoms, PrEP is more forgiving of less-than-optimal adherence.

“Having used a condom yesterday provides no protection if you don’t use a condom today,” said Grant. But the iPrEx OLE results “demonstrate that PrEP remains highly effective, even in real-world circumstances in which adherence may not be perfect.”

“It’s important to note that PrEP is not simply a pill, it’s a program,” Pickett told BETA. “It’s a program that includes quarterly testing for HIV, regular STD screens (and STD treatment as necessary), medical monitoring, adherence support, and sexual health counseling.”

Liz Highleyman is a freelance medical writer and editor-in-chief of HIVandHepatitis.com. This article appeared in BETA.

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