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North Korea Warns US of ‘Disastrous Final Doom’

North Korea’s National Defense Commission took to the airwaves today to threaten the United States with the “most disastrous final doom on its mainland,” warning that “the time of the nightmare” is near.

The United States has “gone mad,” a North Korean State Television newsreader said, boasting of North Korea’s superior cyber and nuclear warfare and adding that North Korea “has neither the need nor the willingness to sit at the negotiating table with the U.S. any longer.”

The broadcast continued: “It is our firm resolution to counteract through our own nuclear strikes [if the United States] provokes a nuclear war [against North Korea), and bring the U.S. to an early demise with our own pre-eminent cyberwarfare if the U.S. tries to bring us down through a cyberattack.

"The U.S. had better know clearly that our means in ground, naval, underwater, air and cyberwarfare, including nuclear strike capability, which are miniaturized, precise and diversified, will be used by our people and army who display the strongest mental power and indomitable ideology and Juche-oriented [self-reliance] strategy and tactics and unique war methods are unprecedented in the human history of wars, which the gangster-like U.S. imperialists can never think of or imitate.”

Molly HunTer, ABC

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Oro Loma Sanitary District Board Member Laython Landis Competency Questioned

Oro Loma Sanitary District Seek California Attorney General Kamala Harris Permission to File Quo Warranto Action

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 San Lorenzo, Calif.–The Board of Directors of Oro Loma Sanitary District  decided Tuesday to seek permission from the Attorney General of the State of California to sue to remove District Board Member Laython Landis from the Board on questions of mental competency.

“We are compelled to take this action to remove Director Landis because of concerns related to his mental capacity to hold office, ” said Board President Timothy P. Becker.

There have been numerous instances and complaints about the mental stability of Landis.  On a recent talk show appearance on KGO Radio, host Brian Copeland reported that Landis was unaware of his location or why he had been invited to attend – all after detailed invitations had been provided to him and he had travelled to the radio station’s studio.  At the Board Meeting of February 2, 2015, while members of the public described how hurtful his comments about African Americans had been, Director Landis stated “Who are they talking about?”

The District said it will seek permission from California Attorney General Kamala Harris to file a Quo Warranto action against Landis.  Quo Warranto is a special form of legal action used to resolve a dispute over whether a specific person has the legal right to hold the public office that he or she occupies.

Details about how a Quo Warranto works in California.

The District believes this action against Landis is warranted because his diminishing capacity is hurting the community and hindering the District’s ability to conduct normal business.

In a separate action, on Dec. 23, 2014, the District voted unanimously to publicly censure District Board Member Landis for a racially derogatory comment about African Americans made during a public committee meeting, as well as for other personal misconduct.

“As public servants to the citizens of the Oro Loma Sanitary District, we hold ourselves, our staff, and our elected officials to the highest standards.  That is why we were compelled to respond swiftly and responsibly to the unacceptable racial slur against African Americans made by District Board Member Laython “Judge” Landis at a Committee meeting held on December 10, 2014,” said Board President Becker.

Becker added that the District has previously warned and reprimanded Director Landis, but he seemed unwilling or unable to change his behavior.  The Board took the action to publically censure Director Landis for his behavior because it wants the public and the District staff to know that offensive, repugnant and wrongful behavior will not be tolerated.

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Sweet Cakes By Melissa Violated Oregon Law By Turning Away Lesbian Couple, Officials Rule

The owners of an Oregon bakery who turned away a lesbian couple who sought a wedding cake violated the state’s anti-discrimination laws, state officials announced Feb. 2.

The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries ruled that Aaron and Melissa Klein, who own Sweet Cakes by Melissa in Gresham, will have to pay the lesbian couple up to $150,000, USA Today is reporting. The final amount is set to be determined at a March 10 hearing, according to the report.

Bureau spokesman Charlie Burr said in a statement cited by Reuters that although Oregon law provides an exemption for religious institutions, it “does not allow private businesses to discriminate based on sexual orientation, just as they cannot legally deny service based on race, sex, age, disability or religion.”

He added, “The bakery is not a religious institution under the law.”

Attorney Paul Thompson, who is advising the lesbian couple, told OregonLive that he was happy with the ruling, noting, “The entire time, I felt the law was very much on our side because the law is black and white.”

Meanwhile, Anna Harmon, the Kleins’ lawyer, called the ruling “wrong and dangerous,” and added, “Americans should not have to choose between adhering to their faith or closing their business, but that is what this decision means.”

In October, the Kleins told The Daily Signal that a large fine from the state would “definitely” be enough to bankrupt the couple and their five children. Meanwhile,footage of Melissa Klein’s emotional speech about the case at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C. went viral in the blogosphere around the same time.

At the time of the 2013 incident, Aaron Klein argued that he and Melissa were simply living in accordance with their religious beliefs by rejecting the lesbian couple’s request.

“I believe that marriage is a religious institution ordained by God,” Klein is quoted as saying at the time. “I’d rather have my kids see their dad stand up for what he believes in than to see him bow down because one person complained.”

With more U.S. states implementing same-sex marriage legislation, bakeries have become an unlikely battleground for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights in recent months.

In January, the owner of a Colorado-based bakery was slapped with a religious discrimination complaint after she refused to bake a cake decorated with anti-gay images and phrases.

CurtiS Wong, Huffington Post

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ZERO WASTE Grocery Store: This is what every market on Earth should look like

Berlin grocery store, Original Unverpackt, is an experiment in grocering.  They sell upwards of 350 products dispensed from refillable containers, while some of the liquids come in bottles with deposits on them.  The store creates zero waste and the customer is able to purchase exactly as much as he or she needs, which contributes to less waste at home.

Sara Wolf and Milena Glimbovski crowdfunded the store and, driven by the idea to do “something impossible,” have established a way to economically sell food without contributing to the huge amounts of municipal waste caused by food packaging.

Click here:

Zero Waste Grocery Store

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On Scene with Bill Wilson: MCC Moves

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Procession of objects to be carried from 150 Eureka to the new space at 1300 Polk Street.

 This is another sign of the times story regarding the gentrification of the Castro with a twist. Metropolitan Community Church of San Francisco (MCCSF) held it’s last Sunday services at 150 Eureka Street on February 1, 2015. The cost of rebuilding the structurally unsound church proved to beyond the congregation‘s ability. So a decision was made in December to put both the church building and the apartment building next door, which the church also owned, on the market.

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Leaving 150 Eureka Street

As MCCSF was trying to figure out options for the future, the First Congregational Church of San Francisco (FCCSF) was looking for a church group to share their building space. It would be too corny to say it was a match made in heaven, but I believe it was more than a coincidence.

Photo111910 MCCSF procession leaving the Castro

 So for the month of January the physical move began with decisions being made about what would go the new location and what would be sold or donated to other groups. Then on Saturday January 31, about a dozen congregants helped out on what was designated as packing day.  Shelves in spaces people didn’t know existed were found and emptied.  Long lost treasures and new found objects were carefully packed or trashed at the condition warranted.

Photo111942MCC procession pauses at the freeway entrance near the LGBT Center.

Amidst hallways full of boxes, the final 11 am service was held on February 1. With tears, laughter and faith typical of MCCSF, people said farewell to a space that had been so many different things to those who needed it to be. At the close of the service objects that symbolized MCCSF were taken from the altar and blessed before being processed outside. Those objects were then carried in pilgrimage to the new space at First Congregational Church of San Francisco located at 1300 Bush Street (at Polk). Yes, it was a three mile trek through parts of San Francisco. Along the way buildings or locations with historical significance were pointed out and memories were recounted.

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MCCSF procession heads up Van Ness Avenue

People that didn’t make the long walk greeted the walkers as they walked across Polk Street and into the reception area of the new space.  The sanctuary is located on the second floor and since the closing ritual recited at Eureka Street involved he closing of door. At the new space there was another litany upon the opening of the doors to the new space MCCSF will use.

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The last block

Once in the sanctuary there was a brief service where the objects that had been carried from 150 Eureka were placed on the altar. A little bit of humor was evident when it was discovered that someone from FCCSF had left a pair of socks on the altar – perhaps meant as a symbol of welcome for weary feet?

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Sanctuary on the second level of the First Congregational Church of San Francisco.

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Christie Says Parents Should Have ‘Choice’ on Vaccinations

Amid an outbreak of measles that has spread across 14 states, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey on Monday said that parents “need to have some measure of choice” about vaccinating their children against the virus, breaking with President Obama and much of the medical profession.

In remarks here, Mr. Christie at first stopped short of recommending that parents immunize their children against measles, or any other illness, calling for “balance” and “choice.” But his remarks quickly sparked an outcry, prompting the governor to modify his position about an hour later and declare, through a spokesman, that “there is no question kids should be vaccinated.”

Mr. Christie, when asked about the connection between the new measles cases and parents who object to the long-recommended vaccine against it, said that he and his wife had vaccinated their four children. He called that “the best expression I can give you of my opinion.”

But he added: “It’s more important what you think as a parent than what you think as a public official. I also understand that parents need to have some measure of choice in things as well. So that’s the balance that the government has to decide.”

Mr. Christie said that “not every vaccine is created equal, and not every disease type is as great a public health threat as others.”

Mr. Obama on Sunday night issued an unambiguous call for parents to have their children vaccinated. He called the scientific rationale for using the vaccines “pretty indisputable.”

Mr. Christie did not offer any such urgency or firmness in his original remarks. That prompted a scolding response from the White House. Mr. Obama’s senior adviser, Dan Pfeiffer, took to Twitter to request that Mr. Christie “clarify” his statement. “It’s important that responsible leaders speak with one voice,” Mr. Pfeiffer wrote.

Doctors warn that up to 1,000 people may have been exposed to measles in recent weeks, a risk linked to parents who, against the advice of the medical profession, refuse to vaccinate their children for a variety of reasons.

Mr. Christie spoke during an impromptu news conference in front of a facility for MedImmune, an American company that makes a nasal flu vaccine, called FluMist. Inside, Mr. Christie donned a lab coat and protective plastic goggles.

He is traveling in the London area on a three-day trade mission.

NYTimes

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Nine young gay men, attacked by mob, arrested and tortured by Uganda police

Nine young gay men, who were attacked by a homophobic mob, were arrested by Uganda police and tortured while in jail.

They could face charges of sodomy, and could be punished with life imprisonment.

On 15 January, the Rainbow Health Foundation helped the nine men go to an STI screening and treatment visit to a rural area in western Uganda.

After being tested, some of the young men went to go visit a friend, but an anti-gay mob soon gathered with the intention of beating or killing them.

Police initially detained the men to protect them, and began the consideration of filing sodomy charges against them.

But as they were doing this, the mob was not deterred.

‘The mob kept increasing. They followed the boys to the police station, chanting and saying, “Show them no mercy,”‘ Dismus Aine Kevin, director of the RGF, told 76 Crimes.

He said the ‘angry mob made it clear they wanted to break down the police doors’ to get at the young men.

Police took the boys from the local station to district police headquarters, with the mob increasing ‘by the minute’.

Reinforcements were called in, and armed police officers arrived with a vehicle. When the young men were taken to a much more secure district police station, they were put in cells.

During that time, they were subject to an ‘anal examination’. These procedures, which ‘doctors’ claim the larger the width of the whole the more ‘likely’ the person is gay, have been deemed scientifically nonsensical and human rights organizations have condemned these tests as being inconclusive, degrading and a form of torture’.

Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum and the Defenders Protection Initiative spent five days trying to free the young men, but were eventually successful on 20 January.

The local council chairman, who confirmed what had occurred has been quoted as saying he wished at least two of them had been killed, so the others ‘would learn a lesson’.

Due to the lack of finances, the men had no option but to return home and to possibly face being attacked again.

76Crimes.com’s Denis LeBlanc said: ‘The young men are living in fear for their lives. Some are house hopping, others are hiding in fields; these young men are in real danger should they be found.’

There are now efforts to raise funds for the victims in order to place them in a safe house or relocate them to a more secure area. Donations can be made to RHF’s PayPal account using their e-mail address donate2rhfm@gmail.com.

From GayStarNews
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FORMER SAN FRANCSICO SENTINEL OWNER PAT MURPHY DIES AFTER LONG ILLNESS

Pat Murphy, a San Francisco political reporter and rabble-rouser, died this week after a series of health complications including emphysema and cirrhosis.

 Murphy was the founder and previous owner of the San Francisco Sentinel, an online information source for local and national politics and culture. He took over the publication in May of 1997 (then called the “District 9 Sentinel”) out of his “concern over the republican control of Congress.”  Knowing that all politics is local, he covered San Francisco city hall and local politics to make sure that views from the left and libertarians were heard and celebrated.

Murphy worked as publisher, editor, and reporter at the paper for 10 years until he went into semi-retirement due to health problems in 2009.

Murphy began his career as a General Assignment reporter for the Richmond Independent, the Berkeley Daily Gazette, and the San Francisco Chronicle. He served as Managing Editor of the St. Albans (Vermont) Daily Messenger at age 21.

He also launched ValPak couponing in San Francisco, as the company’s first San Francisco franchise owner. He walked the bricks, developing ad strategy for a broad range of restaurants and merchants.

As Terence Alan, former board member of the North of Market Neighborhood Improvement Corporation once said, “Murphy is an excellent example of hands-on journalism in a changing delivery news market.”

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Desperate Republicans Are Trying To Recruit Elizabeth Warren To Run Against Hillary Clinton

Republicans are so worried about Hillary Clinton that they are trying to recruit Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) to run against the former Secretary of State.

The New York Times reported:

On cable television and in private strategy sessions, conservatives are steadily stoking the flames of a movement to recruit Ms. Warren, who has said she will not run but whose anti-Wall Street economic message resonates with the liberal base of the Democratic Party.

The tactic says much about the 2016 landscape for Republicans. A crowded field of people who say they are considering running for president — including Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and the 2012 presidential nominee, Mitt Romney — has emerged. That means the party is expecting a bruising ideological battle for the nomination.

An easy path to the nomination could allow Mrs. Clinton to enter a general election with more funding than the Republican nominee, who would have had to spend heavily to beat a wide field of competitors. Ms. Warren represents Republicans’ best hope for an expensive, prolonged battle for the Democratic nomination, weakening Mrs. Clinton along the way, political operatives on both sides say.

Republicans see the same dynamic that played out in 2012 happening again in 2016. The difference being that Hillary Clinton has the potential to take back the White House and have long enough coattails to help Democrats take back the Senate and pick up House seats. Republicans have been terrified for years of Clinton’s candidacy. The RNC was so worried about the impact of a long and bruising primary that they tried to front load and rig the process so that a nominee could be chosen quickly.

Things are quickly spiraling out of control for the Republicans as they head into 2016. Currently, there are no less than eighteen Republicans who could be presidential candidates. The establishment was ready to rally around Chris Christie until Bridgegate happened. Jeb Bush is a candidate who isn’t generating much enthusiasm outside of the donor class, and the resurfacing of Mitt Romney has added chaos to the entire process. It is looking more like the Republicans will go through a bloody fight to pick their nominee.

Sen. Warren can see the writing on the wall. There is no way that she will do the GOP’s dirty work for them. The so-called Warren wing of the Democratic Party is tiny and heavily outnumbered compared to the Obama/Clinton coalition that is lining up behind the former Sec. of State. Republicans can see what is coming down the road, which is why their last best hope may be to try to cause a fracture in Democratic unity. Elizabeth Warren isn’t going to take the bait.

Republicans know that they probably won’t be able to stop Hillary Clinton, so they are hoping that Elizabeth Warren will do their dirty work for them. Democrats will likely stand together and watch the Republican Party tear itself apart.

 

From Politicus USA

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“Has America gone crazy?”

Americans who live abroad — more than six million of us worldwide (not counting those who work for the U.S. government) — often face hard questions about our country from people we live among. Europeans, Asians, and Africans ask us to explain everything that baffles them about the increasingly odd and troubling conduct of the United States.  Polite people, normally reluctant to risk offending a guest, complain that America’s trigger-happiness, cutthroat free-marketeering, and “exceptionality” have gone on for too long to be considered just an adolescent phase. Which means that we Americans abroad are regularly asked to account for the behavior of our rebranded “homeland,” now conspicuously in decline and increasingly out of step with the rest of the world.

In my long nomadic life, I’ve had the good fortune to live, work, or travel in all but a handful of countries on this planet.  I’ve been to both poles and a great many places in between, and nosy as I am, I’ve talked with people all along the way. I still remember a time when to be an American was to be envied. The country where I grew up after World War II seemed to be respected and admired around the world for way too many reasons to go into here.

That’s changed, of course. Even after the invasion of Iraq in 2003, I still met people — in the Middle East, no less — willing to withhold judgment on the U.S.  Many thought that the Supreme Court’s installation of George W. Bush as president was a blunder American voters would correct in the election of 2004. His return to office truly spelled the end of America as the world had known it.  Bush had started a war, opposed by the entire world, because he wanted to and he could. A majority of Americans supported him.  And that was when all the uncomfortable questions really began.

In the early fall of 2014, I traveled from my home in Oslo, Norway, through much of Eastern and Central Europe. Everywhere I went in those two months, moments after locals realized I was an American the questions started and, polite as they usually were, most of them had a single underlying theme: Have Americans gone over the edge? Are you crazy? Please explain.

Then recently, I traveled back to the “homeland.”  It struck me there that most Americans have no idea just how strange we now seem to much of the world. In my experience, foreign observers are far better informed about us than the average American is about them. This is partly because the “news” in the American media is so parochial and so limited in its views both of how we act and how other countries think — even countries with which we were recently, are currently, or threaten soon to be at war. America’s belligerence alone, not to mention its financial acrobatics, compels the rest of the world to keep close track of us.  Who knows, after all, what conflict the Americans may drag you into next, as target or reluctant ally?

So wherever we expatriates settle on the planet, we find someone who wants to talk about the latest American events, large and small: another country bombed in the name of our “national security,” another peaceful protest march attacked by our increasingly militarized police, another diatribe against “big government” by yet another wannabe candidate who hopes to head that very government in Washington.  Such news leaves foreign audiences puzzled and full of trepidation.

Question Time

Take the questions stumping Europeans in the Obama years (which 1.6 million Americans residing in Europe regularly find thrown our way).  At the absolute top of the list: “Why would anyone oppose national health care?” European and other industrialized countries have had some form of national health care since the 1930s or 1940s, Germany since 1880.  Some versions, as in France and Great Britain, have devolved into two-tier public and private systems.  Yet even the privileged who pay for a faster track would not begrudge their fellow citizens government-funded comprehensive health care. That so many Americans do strikes Europeans as baffling, if not frankly brutal.

In the Scandinavian countries, long considered to be the most socially advanced in the world, a national (physical and mental) health program, funded by the state, is a big part — but only a part — of a more general social welfare system.  In Norway, where I live, all citizens also have an equal right to education (state subsidized preschool from age one, and free schools from age six through specialty training or university education and beyond), unemployment benefits, job-placement and paid retraining services, paid parental leave, old age pensions, and more.  These benefits are not merely an emergency “safety net”; that is, charitable payments grudgingly bestowed upon the needy.  They are universal: equally available to all citizens as human rights encouraging social harmony — or as our own U.S. constitution would put it, “domestic tranquility.”  It’s no wonder that, for many years, international evaluators have ranked Norway as the best place to grow old, to be a woman, and to raise a child. The title of “best” or “happiest” place to live on Earth comes down to a neighborly contest among Norway and the other Nordic social democracies, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Iceland.

In Norway, all benefits are paid for mainly by high taxation. Compared to the mind-numbing enigma of the U.S. tax code, Norway’s is remarkably straightforward, taxing income from labor and pensions progressively, so that those with higher incomes pay more. The tax department does the calculations, sends an annual bill, and taxpayers, though free to dispute the sum, willingly pay up, knowing what they and their children get in return. And because government policies effectively redistribute wealth and tend to narrow the country’s slim income gap, most Norwegians sail pretty comfortably in the same boat. (Think about that!)

Life and Liberty

This system didn’t just happen. It was planned. Sweden led the way in the 1930s, and all five Nordic countries pitched in during the postwar period to develop their own variations of what came to be called the Nordic Model: a balance of regulated capitalism, universal social welfare, political democracy, and the highest levels of gender and economic equality on the planet. It’s their system. They invented it. They like it. Despite the efforts of an occasional conservative government to muck it up, they maintain it. Why?

In all the Nordic countries, there is broad general agreement across the political spectrum that only when people’s basic needs are met — when they can cease to worry about their jobs, their incomes, their housing, their transportation, their health care, their kids’ education, and their aging parents — only then can they be free to do as they like. While the U.S. settles for the fantasy that, from birth, every kid has an equal shot at the American dream, Nordic social welfare systems lay the foundations for a more authentic equality and individualism.

These ideas are not novel. They are implied in the preamble to our own Constitution. You know, the part about “we the People” forming  “a more perfect Union” to “promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”  Even as he prepared the nation for war, President Franklin D. Roosevelt memorably specified components of what that general welfare should be in his State of the Union address in 1941. Among the “simple basic things that must never be lost sight of,” he listed“equality of opportunity for youth and others, jobs for those who can work, security for those who need it, the ending of special privileges for the few, the preservation of civil liberties for all,” and oh yes, higher taxes to pay for those things and for the cost of defensive armaments.

Knowing that Americans used to support such ideas, a Norwegian today is appalled to learn that a CEO of a major American corporation makes between 300 and 400 times as much as its average employee. Or that governors Sam Brownback of Kansas and Chris Christie of New Jersey, having run up their state’s debts by cutting taxes for the rich, now plan to cover the loss with money snatched from the pension funds of workers in the public sector. To a Norwegian, the job of government is to distribute the country’s good fortune reasonably equally, not send it zooming upward, as in America today, to a sticky-fingered one percent.

In their planning, Norwegians tend to do things slowly, always thinking of the long term, envisioning what a better life might be for their children, their posterity.  That’s why a Norwegian, or any northern European, is aghast to learn that two-thirds of American college students finish their education in the red, some owing $100,000 or more. Or that in the U.S., still the world’s richest country, one in three children lives in poverty, along with one in fiveyoung people between the ages of 18 and 34. Or that America’s recent multi-trillion-dollar wars were fought on a credit card to be paid off by our kids. Which brings us back to that word: brutal.

Implications of brutality, or of a kind of uncivilized inhumanity, seem to lurk in so many other questions foreign observers ask about America like: How could you set up that concentration camp in Cuba, and why can’t you shut it down?  Or: How can you pretend to be a Christian country and still carry out the death penalty? The follow-up to which often is: How could you pick as president a man proud of executing his fellow citizens at the fastest raterecorded in Texas history?  (Europeans will not soon forget George W. Bush.)

Other things I’ve had to answer for include:

* Why can’t you Americans stop interfering with women’s health care?

* Why can’t you understand science?

* How can you still be so blind to the reality of climate change?

* How can you speak of the rule of law when your presidents break international laws to make war whenever they want?

* How can you hand over the power to blow up the planet to one lone, ordinary man?

* How can you throw away the Geneva Conventions and your principles to advocate torture?

* Why do you Americans like guns so much?  Why do you kill each other at such a rate?

To many, the most baffling and important question of all is: Why do you send your military all over the world to stir up more and more trouble for all of us?

That last question is particularly pressing because countries historically friendly to the United States, from Australia to Finland, are struggling to keep up with an influx of refugees from America’s wars and interventions. Throughout Western Europe and Scandinavia, right-wing parties that have scarcely or never played a role in government are now rising rapidly on a wave of opposition to long-established immigration policies. Only last month, such a party almost toppled the sitting social democratic government of Sweden, a generous country that has absorbed more than its fair share of asylum seekers fleeing the shock waves of “the finest fighting force that the world has ever known.”

The Way We Are

Europeans understand, as it seems Americans do not, the intimate connection between a country’s domestic and foreign policies. They often trace America’s reckless conduct abroad to its refusal to put its own house in order.  They’ve watched the United States unravel its flimsy safety net, fail to replace its decaying infrastructure, disempower most of its organized labor, diminish its schools, bring its national legislature to a standstill, and create the greatest degree of economic and social inequality in almost a century. They understand why Americans, who have ever less personal security and next to no social welfare system, are becoming more anxious and fearful. They understand as well why so many Americans have lost trust in a government that has done so little new for them over the past three decades or more, except for Obama’s endlessly embattled health care effort, which seems to most Europeans a pathetically modest proposal.

What baffles so many of them, though, is how ordinary Americans in startling numbers have been persuaded to dislike “big government” and yet support its new representatives, bought and paid for by the rich. How to explain that? In Norway’s capital, where a statue of a contemplative President Roosevelt overlooks the harbor, many America-watchers think he may have been the last U.S. president who understood and could explain to the citizenry what government might do for all of them. Struggling Americans, having forgotten all that, take aim at unknown enemies far away — or on the far side of their own towns.

It’s hard to know why we are the way we are, and — believe me — even harder to explain it to others. Crazy may be too strong a word, too broad and vague to pin down the problem. Some people who question me say that the U.S. is “paranoid,” “backward,” “behind the times,” “vain,” “greedy,” “self-absorbed,” or simply “dumb.”  Others, more charitably, imply that Americans are merely “ill-informed,” “misguided,” “misled,” or “asleep,” and could still recover sanity.  But wherever I travel, the questions follow, suggesting that the United States, if not exactly crazy, is decidedly a danger to itself and others. It’s past time to wake up, America, and look around.  There’s another world out here, an old and friendly one across the ocean, and it’s full of good ideas, tried and true.

Ann Jones, tomdispatch.com

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INHERITANCE BABY BILLIONAIRE SAYS LAZY WORKERS NEED TO HAVE LESSTHINGS IN LIFE

Billionaire Jeff Greene, founder of Florida Sunshine Investments, attended this week’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. During an interview at the forum, Greene was discussing what he predicts to be an upcoming “jobs crisis that will cause social unrest and radical politics,” Bloomberg reported.

“America’s lifestyle expectations are far too high and need to be adjusted so we have less things and a smaller, better existence,” said Greene. “We need to reinvent our whole system of life.”

Greene, who has a net worth of $3 billion according to Forbes, flew to Switzerland for the week, along with his wife, children, and the couple’s two nannies on Greene’s private jet.

The advice to live with “less” might be a lot easier to swallow if it were coming from someone who didn’t have multiple mansions, cars, boats, and the aforementioned private jet.

Here are some examples from Addicting Info of a few things Greene could get rid of so that he could “have less things” like the rest of us.

 

Jeff-Greene-Palazzo-di-Amore-01Jeff-Greene-Palazzo-di-Amore-02Jeff-Greene-Palazzo-di-Amore-04Jeff-Greene-Palazzo-di-Amore-05Jeff-Greene-Palazzo-di-Amore-03Jeff-Greene-Yacht

 

 From Ring of Fire
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Michele Bachmann May Go From Congress to Prison as DOJ Launches Investigation

Marcus and Michele Bachmann could be heading to prison as the Department of Justice is investigating the couple for possibly breaking at least 11 election laws in 2012.

The New York Times reported:

The latest is a federal inquiry into whether an outside “super PAC” improperly coordinated strategy with Mrs. Bachmann’s campaign staff, including her husband, in violation of election laws.

The Department of Justice demanded records from the super PAC last week of its finances and its communications with Mrs. Bachmann; Marcus Bachmann, her husband; and former staff members, according to a grand jury subpoena reviewed by The New York Times.

The investigation appears to stem from a complaint a former campaign staff member made to the Federal Election Commission and to the F.B.I. The staff member told of overhearing the president of the super PAC asking a Bachmann senior adviser about buying advertising on radio and TV stations in Des Moines ahead of the Iowa caucus on Jan. 3, 2012.

Although Bachmann may have technically retired from Congress, in reality she quit because the criminal investigations were closing in on her. This is the first time that Marcus Bachmann has been named in reports as part of an investigation. The same troubled presidential campaign that the Department of Justice is looking at is also the subject of an investigation in Iowa, an FBI investigation, and a House Ethics Committee investigation.

The Iowa and FBI investigations are centered on secret payments that her campaign made to state Sen. Kent Sorenson in exchange for his support and help in the 2012 Iowa caucuses. The House Ethics Committee is investigating Bachmann’s potential misuse of staff and campaign finances to promote her poorly selling biography Core of Conviction.

The DOJ investigation stems from information obtained in the FBI investigation that appears to show the Bachmann’s violating at least 11 election laws by coordinating their campaign with a super PAC. (If Bachmann violated 11 laws with her activities, Mitt Romney easily committed thousands of violations throughout the 2012 election cycle. Romney’s super PAC and campaign were so coordinated that they even shared a building.)

It is ironic that Bachmann’s people used conviction in their title because the Bachmanns are going to be lucky to avoid conviction and jail time. Michele Bachmann is in a huge amount of trouble, as it it appears that she was running one of the most ineptly corrupt presidential campaigns in recent memory.

Even if Bachmann is convicted of a felony, none of this will stop Fox News or the right wing media from giving her a job. After all, these are the same people who have kept Ollie North and G. Gordon Liddy employed for decades.

Michele Bachmann is close to trading the easy life of a member of Congress for a rap sheet and criminal convictions.

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CNN Legal Team: Fox ‘News’ Is Screwed If They Don’t Settle Lawsuit Slapped Against Them By Paris

Fox “News” could be totally screwed if they don’t seek to settle a lawsuit filed against them by the city government of Paris, because French law is tough on slander. Says who? CNN’s legal team.

On Tuesday, a pair of CNN legal analysts advised Fox “News” to deal with the lawsuit against them as swiftly as possible or risk a serious loss in court.

Analyst Paul Callan pointed out that France doesn’t mess around when it comes to slander, citing a law passed in 1881 that could very well bring the hammer down on the conservative network.

Callan said:

“Under U.S. law, I would say there is no chance of bringing a defamation case against the Fox network. Under French law, however, if they can get jurisdiction over Fox, there’s a law from 1881 — believe it or not — that says if you insult the honor of a French body or person, you can sue for defamation. So under the 1881 French law, they might have a case against the Fox network in France.”

Danny Cevallos concurred, noting that French law literally criminalizes defamation and not reaching a quick settlement with Paris could result in Fox “News” losing a ton a money in what may end up being a long and drawn out legal battle.

Cevallos explained:

“If you want to defend a defamation lawsuit, it’s pricey, it’s costly, a lot of times you want those things to go away. People may be surprised to learn that the French, in fact, do not take such a liberal view of the First Amendment as do we. Of course, they don’t have a First Amendment, but they have laws criminalizing defamation. Whereas here in the United States, defamation is merely a civil action.”

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo announced the intention to sue Fox “News” during an interview with CNN host Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday morning. Hidalgo rightfully accused Fox of insulting the city of Paris and making false claims that have harmed the city’s image around the world.

Fox “News,” of course, responded to the lawsuit by calling it “misplaced” and expressed more false empathy for the French in the aftermath of the terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo magazine.

Fox vice president of news Michael Clemente said in a statement:

“We empathize with the citizens of France as they go through a healing process and return to everyday life. However, we find the Mayor’s comments regarding a lawsuit misplaced.”

Fox “News” could be faced with a huge legal price tag, as well as a huge loss in court, if they don’t seek a quiet settlement as soon as possible. The fact that Fox may get their asses handed to them by a country they have consistently mocked and characterized as weak is obviously entertaining to think about. After all, there’s a lot of video evidence proving that Fox constantly made false claims that some Paris neighborhoods are “no-go zones” with a 100 percent Muslim population that police are afraid to patrol. And as evidence that they knew their claims were all lies, Fox profusely apologized to France throughout the day on Sunday.

Sounds like Fox “News” was just trying to avoid this very kind of backlash. Hopefully, France will have the spine to pursue this lawsuit no matter how much Fox tries to bully their way out of it. Because after all the bullshit they have spewed on the air over the last two decades, it’s about time someone made them pay the price for it.

 

From Addicting Info

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California woman suing FedEx because she has been denied survivor benefits, despite legal marriage

What a difference six days can make:

A California woman sued FedEx, where her late wife worked for 26 years, on Wednesday for refusing to pay $400,000 in spousal benefits because it would not recognize their marriage.Lesly Taboada-Hall, who was a driver for the company, died of uterine cancer on June 20, 2013. Six days later, the Supreme Court struck down a key part of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which barred federal recognition of gay marriage.

Because the ruling came six days after the death of Lesly Taboada-Hall, FedEx is refusing to pay the main pension benefits to Stacey Schuett, Taboada-Hall’s legal spouse:

The couple, who had earlier registered as domestic partners, wed in Taboada-Hall’s hospital room on the day before she died. Gay marriage became legal in California because of a separate ruling on the day of the DOMA decision. A state judge later ruled that their marriage was valid.

After 26 years of service, FedEx should do the right thing and take care Stacey Schuett and her children in the same way they would any other married person who devoted so many years to the company. Schuett’s lawyer said:

“It’s not like DOMA became unconstitutional on June 26, 2013,” said Nina Wasow, one of Schuett’s lawyers. “The law was unconstitutional all along.”

Maybe attention to the case will be cause enough for executives at FedEx to change their mind without a lengthy court battle.

From DailyKos

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SF Tribal and Textile Arts Show Opens Feb. 5

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Excitement by collectors and fans of tribal, ethnographic and textile arts is building as two major tribal and textile arts shows are coming to San Francisco.

The annual San Francisco Tribal and Textile Arts Show at Fort Mason opens Feb. 4 and runs to Feb. 8.  The exhibition is the leading art fair devoted to the arts of tribal cultures in the U.S. and presents a comprehensive selection of international galleries representing the arts of Asian, Oceanic, African, Native American and Latin American indigenous peoples.

The 80 participating galleries will open from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 5 for a sneak preview benefiting the DeYoung Museum Oceanic, African and Americas Department.  Opening night tickets cost $150.  This event features live music by Pacific Chamber Jazz, cuisine by McCalls Catering, and early access to the show.

The show opens to the public at 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday Feb. 6 and runs through Sunday, Feb.8.  Tickets are $15.

Some of the world’s leading galleries and dealers of tribal arts will be exhibiting at the show: Wayne Heathcote, Jack Sadovnic Indonesian Art , Michael Hamson Oceanic Art, Bruce Frank Primitive Art, Robert Brundage Himalayan Art, Cathryn Cootner, Marc Assayag African & Oceanic Art, Jim Willis Tribal Art, Thomas Murray Ethnographic Art, Mark A. Johnson Tribal Art, Steve Berger Art Textile, Mehmet Çetinkaya Gallery, Joel Cooner Gallery,  Patrick & Ondine Mestdagh,  Pascassio Manfredi Gallery, John Ruddy, James Stephenson,  Ernie Wolfe Gallery, Jewels, Robert Morris Fine Art, Jacaranda Tribal, Farrow Fine Art Gallery, Miranda Crimp, Gary Spratt, Taylor Dale Tribal Art, Gebhart Blazek, Peter Boyd, Chris Boylan Oceanic Art, Galen Lowe Art & Antiques,  Anavian Gallery, Galerie Arabesque,  Bryan Reeves, and others.   

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A special tour of the show by Cathryn Cootner, emerita curator of textiles at the DeYoung, and a respected collector, author, lecturer, and tribal art dealer, is back by popular demand, as a tour guide leading “The Delight of Looking Closer.”  Cootner’s tours will be at 9 a.m. on both Friday Feb. 6 and Feb. 7 and cost $40 per person.

For more information or tickets, call 310.305.4543 or visit: http://caskeylees.com/SF_Tribal/SF_Tribal.html

The second event that is generating excitement in the tribal world is the opening of the DeYoung Museum’s exhibition of Masterworks of African Figurative Sculpture from the collection of Richard H. Scheller. The exhibition runs Jan. 31 to July 5.

A number of the works from the extraordinary collection assembled over the past 30 years by Scheller, a biochemist and executive at Genentech, are being gifted to the Museums in 2013 and 2014, and the Museums will receive additional gifts from the collection in the future.  These will enhance one of the world’s most important collections of Oceanic Art, the John and Marcia Friede collection, which is already exhibited at the DeYoung. This new addition of African art, combined with the Friede Oceanic collection, makes San Francisco one of the world’s premier museums of tribal art and keeps it at the forefront of presenting art that showcases the diversity of the world.

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Obama Calls Out Republicans for Their “I’m Not a Scientist” Line

At some point in the past few years, it dawned on leading Republicans that dismissing the science behind climate change was not doing them any favors with the public. Recent polls show that a clear majority of Americans believe the climate is in fact changing, and nearly half view that as a major threat to the country’s future.

But to embrace the science, for a GOP leader, would be to alienate a powerful conservative base that continues to plug its ears and shout “Climategate” when confronted with the evidence. And so, one by one, top Republicans—including presidential hopefuls Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio—have fallen back on what is becoming the new party line: “I’m not a scientist.”

It is not a particularly compelling line, as many analysts have pointed out. “It’s got to be the dumbest answer I’ve ever heard,” one Republican energy lobbyist told theNew York Times. “Using that logic would disqualify politicians from voting on anything.”

To some extent, GOP leaders are banking on polls that show Americans don’t consider climate change a top national priority. More than that, they’re banking on Democrats being too timid to push back very hard on environmental issues, for fear of being painted as liberal tree-huggers.

Obama used to be timid on the environment. He isn’t anymore.

In his State of the Union address Tuesday, the president had this to say about the “I’m not a scientist” cop-out:

No challenge — no challenge — poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change. 2014 was the planet’s warmest year on record. Now, one year doesn’t make a trend, but this does — 14 of the 15 warmest years on record have all fallen in the first 15 years of this century.

I’ve heard some folks try to dodge the evidence by saying they’re not scientists; that we don’t have enough information to act. Well, I’m not a scientist, either. But you know what — I know a lot of really good scientists at NASA, and NOAA, and at our major universities. The best scientists in the world are all telling us that our activities are changing the climate, and if we do not act forcefully, we’ll continue to see rising oceans, longer, hotter heat waves, dangerous droughts and floods, and massive disruptions that can trigger greater migration, conflict, and hunger around the globe. The Pentagon says that climate change poses immediate risks to our national security. We should act like it.

He’s taken on that line before on smaller stages, including in a June speech in drought-choked California. By hammering on it again Tuesday, he signaled that he now views climate as a winning issue for Democrats on the national level. If he’s right, that could spell trouble for Bush and other Republican contenders.

If other Democrats follow Obama’s lead in turning “I’m not a scientist” into a laugh line, Bush and other Republican leaders are eventually going to have to run to higher ground.

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New Oxfam report says half of global wealth held by the 1%

Billionaires and politicians gathering in Switzerland this week will come under pressure to tackle rising inequality after a study found that – on current trends – by next year, 1% of the world’s population will own more wealth than the other 99%.

Ahead of this week’s annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in the ski resort of Davos, the anti-poverty charity Oxfam said it would use its high-profile role at the gathering to demand urgent action to narrow the gap between rich and poor.

The charity’s research, published on Monday, shows that the share of the world’s wealth owned by the best-off 1% has increased from 44% in 2009 to 48% in 2014, while the least well-off 80% currently own just 5.5%.

Oxfam added that on current trends the richest 1% would own more than 50% of the world’s wealth by 2016.

Winnie Byanyima, executive director of Oxfam International and one of the six co-chairs at this year’s WEF, said the increased concentration of wealth seen since the deep recession of 2008-09 was dangerous and needed to be reversed.

In an interview with the Guardian, Byanyima said: “We want to bring a message from the people in the poorest countries in the world to the forum of the most powerful business and political leaders.

“The message is that rising inequality is dangerous. It’s bad for growth and it’s bad for governance. We see a concentration of wealth capturing power and leaving ordinary people voiceless and their interests uncared for.”

Oxfam made headlines at Davos last year with a study showing that the 85 richest people on the planet have the same wealth as the poorest 50% (3.5 billion people). The charity said this year that the comparison was now even more stark, with just 80 people owning the same amount of wealth as more than 3.5 billion people, down from 388 in 2010.

Byanyima said: “Do we really want to live in a world where the 1% own more than the rest of us combined? The scale of global inequality is quite simply staggering and despite the issues shooting up the global agenda, the gap between the richest and the rest is widening fast.”

Separate research by the Equality Trust, which campaigns to reduce inequality in the UK, found that the richest 100 families in Britain in 2008 had seen their combined wealth increase by at least £15bn, a period during which average income increased by £1,233. Britain’s current richest 100 had the same wealth as 30% of UK households, it added.

Inequality has moved up the political agenda over the past half-decade amid concerns that the economic recovery since the global downturn of 2008-09 has been accompanied by a squeeze on living standards and an increase in the value of assets owned by the rich, such as property and shares.

Pope Francis and the IMF managing director Christine Lagarde have been among those warning that rising inequality will damage the world economy if left unchecked, while the theme of Thomas Piketty’s best-selling book Capital was the drift back towards late 19th century levels of wealth concentration.

Barack Obama’s penultimate State of the Union address on Tuesday is also expected to be dominated by the issue of income inequality.

He will propose a redistributive tax plan to extract more than $300bn (£200bn) in extra taxes from the 1% of rich earners in order to fund benefits specifically targeted at working families.

However, the odds of the White House having any success persuading Congress to adopt the plan, given the Republicans’ new grip on both chambers, are extremely long. But Obama’s embrace of what he calls “middle-class economics” – as opposed to the trickle-down economics of the Republicans – is likely to ensure that inequality remains a pivotal theme of the 2016 presidential campaign.

Oxfam said the wealth of the richest 80 doubled in cash terms between 2009 and 2014, and that there was an increasing tendency for wealth to be inherited and to be used as a lobbying tool by the rich to further their own interests. It noted that more than a third of the 1,645 billionaires listed by Forbes inherited some or all of their riches, while 20% have interests in the financial and insurance sectors, a group which saw their cash wealth increase by 11% in the 12 months to March 2014.

These sectors spent $550m lobbying policymakers in Washington and Brussels during 2013. During the 2012 US election cycle alone, the financial sector provided $571m in campaign contributions.

Byanyima said: “I was surprised to be invited to be a co-chair at Davos because we are a critical voice. We go there to challenge these powerful elites. It is an act of courage to invite me.”

Oxfam said it was calling on governments to adopt a seven point plan:

• Clamp down on tax dodging by corporations and rich individuals.

• Invest in universal, free public services such as health and education.

• Share the tax burden fairly, shifting taxation from labour and consumption towards capital and wealth.

• Introduce minimum wages and move towards a living wage for all workers.

• Introduce equal pay legislation and promote economic policies to give women a fair deal.

• Ensure adequate safety-nets for the poorest, including a minimum-income guarantee.

• Agree a global goal to tackle inequality.

Speaking to the Guardian, Byanyima added: “Extreme inequality is not just an accident or a natural rule of economics. It is the result of policies and with different policies it can be reduced. I am optimistic that there will be change.

“A few years ago the idea that extreme poverty was harmful was on the fringes of the economic and political debate. But having made the case we are now seeing an emerging consensus among business leaders, economic leaders, political leaders and even faith leaders.”

From the Guardian

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POTUS Is Kicking Some GOP Ass With This New Gallup Approval Rating

Most folks have noticed a different kind of Barack Obama these days – and we like it. He’s got sort of a, ‘I don’t give a shit about the non-compromising GOP – fuck ‘em. I’ve got the veto power, and I will use it. I’ve got nothin’ to lose, and this country has everything to gain. So, get out of my way, McConnell, you freakin’ fruitcake. I’ve got real work to do.’

No, no, the President didn’t/wouldn’t say it like that, but it was fun going there in my head for a few seconds. It is apparent that Obama has a different swagger, and from the information Jason Easley at Politicus.com reports, the president is becoming more and more popular these days, much to the chagrin of Republicans in Congress:

According to the Gallup Daily Tracking poll, President Obama’s job approval rating is a net (+1) as 48% of Americans approve of the job that the president is doing while 47% disapprove. The most recent result is the first time since September 2013 that the president’s Gallup job approval rating has been higher than his disapproval rating. The president’s approval rating has been on a steady rise over the past month. It is clear that the perception of the president’s job performance is changing.

Gallup Trending Chart:

Yes, it would have been nice if this good news could have come out three months ago, right before midterms. But that’s how the world turns. The GOP wishes the the country’s good economic news would have come out three months after they came into session. That way, when they tried to take credit for the economy, they would have looked a little less like the fools they continuously show themselves to be. Again, that’s how the world turns. (But McConnell was hilarious that day, yes?)

Easley adds:

Republicans, who were hoping for Obama fatigue before the 2016 election are getting the exact opposite, as the President has acted on his own to remind millions of people why they voted twice for him. Republicans may have taken the majority in Congress, but it is President Obama who is on the rise.

Ba-ROCKIN Obama is the House!

Yes, yes, I know. I’ll tone it down. There is so much bad news, I’m all over the good news, when it comes to visit. Congratulations, President Obama, and thank you.

 

by Leslie Salzillo. DailyKos

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‘No Gays Allowed’ Law Set To Pass In Virginia

The state of Virginia is set to pass a law which would allow anti-LGBT business owners to bar gay people, purely on the basis of their sexuality.

The Virginia Bill states that anyone seeking or holding a business license from the state of Virginia in the state can refuse service or entry to gay people, on the grounds it “would violate the religious or moral convictions of such person with respect to same-sex “marriage” or homosexual behavior.

This would make it lawful for LGBT people to be barred from hotels, restaurants, schools, hospitals, and any other premise where a good or service is exchanged by someone who dislikes their sexual orientation:

Want to buy a bed? Prove you’re not sharing it with a member of the same sex. 

Want to buy diapers but show up with your same-sex partner? No diapers for you, and don’t darken the door of this store again.

We aren’t going to enroll your kid in our school district because she has two moms.

All these scenarios would be entirely legal under the new law.

The toxic bill has been spearheaded by Virginia’s virulently anti-gay lawmaker Bob Marshall. You might remember him for his fruitless effort to exclude gay people from the state’s National Guard, or his 2012 attempt to block the appointment of  a judge on the grounds that the nominee was gay, saying that “sodomy is not a civil right.”

Virginia is not alone. Conservative lawmakers in more than a dozen states are attempting to cancel out increased rights for gay people with laws claiming to protect the religious freedom of antigay business owners and institutions. The good news is, they have a hell of time getting such laws to stick. In fact, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vetoed a similar proposal in her state last year after outcry from the gay community, saying she believed businesses were “overwhelmingly opposed” to the law. Opponents of the bill hope another veto will save Virginia from this regressive law. A similar bill passed by the Kansas state House of Representatives in 2014, got killed off in the state Senate.

Elsewhere, states like Michigan and Mississippi have passed and maintained their own ‘Religious Freedom Restoration Acts’ by being less explicit about targeting LGBT people. This has allowed them to argue the case from an anti-big government perspective, rather than an anti-gay one. But under the flowery words, they amount to the same thing.

Civil rights activists and LGBT Virginians are not fazed by attempts to disguise prejudice with arguments of religious liberty:

“It’s licensing [discrimination], authorizing it, and saying it’s okay,” Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, executive director of the ACLU, told LGBTQ Nation.

Christy Mallory, senior counsel at the Williams Institute, who has been tracking nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people across the country, pointed out that Virginia’s Governor Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, has a “track record of expanding protections for LGBT people.”

Let’s hope she’s right.

 

From , Addicting Info

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Meet The 80 People Who Are As Rich As Half The World

Eighty people hold the same amount of wealth as the world’s 3.6 billion poorest people, according to an analysis just released from Oxfam. The report from the global anti-poverty organization finds that since 2009, the wealth of those 80 richest has doubled in nominal terms — while the wealth of the poorest 50 percent of the world’s population has fallen.

To see how much wealth the richest 1 percent and the poorest 50 percent hold, Oxfam used research from Credit Suisse, a Swiss financial services company, and Forbes’s annual billionaires list. Oxfam then looked at how many of the world’s richest people would need to pool their resources to have as much wealth as the poorest 50 percent — and as of March 2014, it was just 80 people.

Four years earlier, 388 billionaires together held as much wealth as the poorest 50 percent of the world.

Thirty-five of the 80 richest people in the world are U.S. citizens, with combined wealth of $941 billion in 2014. Together in second place are Germany and Russia, with seven mega-rich individuals apiece. The entire list is dominated by one gender, though — 70 of the 80 richest people are men. And 68 of the people on the list are 50 or older.

f those 80 individuals were to bump into each on Svenborgia, what might they talk about? Retail could be a good conversation starter — 14 of the 80 got their wealth that way. Or they could discuss “extractives” (industries like oil, gas and mining, to which 11 of them owe their fortunes), finance (also 11 of them) or tech (10 of them).

There might be some quiet voices in the room, though, because 11 of the wealthiest people on the planet were simply born into their money (19 others inherited their wealth and then made it grow). The remaining 50 names on the list, according to Forbes, are self-made billionaires.

Oxfam notes that global wealth inequality is increasing while the rich get richer. If trends continue, the organization projects that the richest 1 percent of people will have more wealth than the remaining 99 percent by 2016.

Mona Chalabi, FiveThirtyEight

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Colorado pastor halts lesbian’s funeral when family refuses to hide all signs that she was gay

Lakewood, Colorado church halted the funeral for a 33-year-old lesbian and turned away her grieving family and friends on Saturday over the funeral party’s refusal to remove photos of the deceased kissing and holding her beloved wife from a remembrance video.

The Denver Post reported that hundreds of mourners had gathered to pay their last respects to Vanessa Collier when New Hope Ministries Pastor Ray Chavez brought the proceedings to an abrupt halt.

The funeral could only go forward in his church, Chavez said, if mourners removed any visible evidence that Collier was a lesbian, including photos taken with her partner, Christina, which he insisted must be edited out of the video.

The funeral-goers refused Chavez’s terms and the pastor canceled the ceremony altogether 15 minutes after it was scheduled to start. Fortunately the family and friends gathered were able to move the funeral — flowers, programs guests, casket and all — to another location nearby.

Many of the mourners felt that Chavez’ refusal to allow the ceremony was unduly cruel, a final insult to a woman from a marginalized community.

“It was humiliating,” said Collier’s longtime friend Victoria Quintana to the Post. “It was devastating.”

“A church turning away a funeral. Who has ever heard of anything like that happening?” said another friend, Jeanette Arguello.

Collier died alone on Dec. 30 of a gunshot wound. Police told the Post that it is currently unclear whether the incident was an accident or suicide.

Protesters gathered outside New Hope Church on Tuesday, shouting “Give us an apology!” and “Shame on Pastor Ray!”

The Post said that a representative of the ministry hung up on their reporter after refusing to comment.

 

From RAWSTORY

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Why Drugs Cost So Much

ELI LILLY charges more than $13,000 a month for Cyramza, the newest drug to treat stomach cancer. The latest medicine for lung cancer, Novartis’s Zykadia, costs almost $14,000 a month. Amgen’s Blincyto, for leukemia, will cost $64,000 a month.

Why? Drug manufacturers blame high prices on the complexity of biology, government regulations and shareholder expectations for high profit margins. In other words, they say, they are hamstrung. But there’s a simpler explanation.

Companies are taking advantage of a mix of laws that force insurers to include essentially all expensive drugs in their policies, and a philosophy that demands that every new health care product be available to everyone, no matter how little it helps or how much it costs. Anything else and we’re talking death panels.

Examples of companies exploiting these fault lines abound. An article in The New England Journal of Medicine last fall focused on how companies buy up the rights to old, inexpensive generic drugs, lock out competitors and raise prices. For instance, albendazole, a drug for certain kinds of parasitic infection, was approved back in 1996. As recently as 2010, its average wholesale cost was $5.92 per day. By 2013, it had risen to $119.58.

Novartis, the company that makes the leukemia drug Gleevec, keeps raising the drug’s price, even though the drug has already delivered billions in profit to the company. In 2001 Novartis charged $4,540, in 2014 dollars, for a month of treatment; now it charges $8,488. In its pricing, Novartis is just keeping up with other companies as they charge more and more for their drugs. They know we can’t say no.

But what if we didn’t require insurance companies to cover all drugs? We can see the answer in Europe. Many European countries say no to a handful of drugs each year, usually those that are both pretty ineffective and highly costly. Because they can say no, yes is not a guarantee. So companies have to offer their drugs at prices that make them attractive to these health care systems. A recent survey of cancer drug policies revealed you don’t have to say no very often to get discounts for saying yes. Of the 29 major cancer drugs included in the study that are available in the United States, an estimated 97 percent and 86 percent are also available in Germany and France, respectively.

As a consequence of the stand taken by those countries, prices in Europe for prescription drugs are 50 percent below what we pay, according to a McKinsey study from 2008. Gleevec costs $4,500 per month in Germany today, and $3,300 per month in France, less than what Americans paid in 2001.

Saying no, or even the threat, works to lower prices in the United States, too. But it’s rare. In 2012, my hospital said we wouldn’t give the colon cancer drug Zaltrap to our patients because it cost twice as much as another drug (Genentech’s Avastin) that was just as good. When we refused to use it, the company realized that other cancer hospitals and doctors might follow, and halved its price nationwide.

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More recently, Express Scripts, a company that manages pharmacy benefits, showed that approval was no guarantee. It was therefore able to play two makers of treatments for hepatitis C off against each other. Express Scripts said yes to AbbVie’s Viekira Pak (for the most common subtype, genotype 1 disease), and said no to Gilead’s Sovaldi and Harvoni. Another pharmacy benefit program, CVS Caremark, played it the other way, closing out AbbVie and choosing Gilead.

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Either way, the lesson is that Express Scripts, once it showed it could say no, got AbbVie to discount its product. It isn’t saying how much, but Steve Miller, a senior executive, said it had “significantly narrowed the gap between prices charged in the United States and Western Europe.” Sounds like the kind of progress we need.

You might worry about patients being harmed through these moves. But we rejected Zaltrap knowing it was no better than the alternative. Express Scripts and CVS Caremark played the two drug manufacturers off against each other because both manufacture effective treatments.

The industry might argue that drug spending is only 10 percent of all health care spending, but that 10 percent equals around $300 billion per year. More important, the costs of high-priced drugs are being passed on to patients. Lilly’s drug Cyramza will cost the average Medicare patient $2,600 per month without supplemental insurance. That’s more than most Medicare-age people earn each month, before taxes. Actually, high prices get passed on to us all, either through individual costs or insurance.

That leaves us with two options. We can free insurers and government programs from the requirement to include all expensive drugs in their plans as we explain to the public that some drugs are not effective enough to justify their price. If we do this, we can be confident that manufacturers will lower their prices to ensure their ability to sell their products. Or we can piggyback on the gumption of bolder countries, and demand that policy makers set drug prices in the United States equal to those of Western Europe. Either approach would be vastly superior to the situation we have today.

New York Times

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The Best Evidence You Have Ever Seen That Puppet Masters Script Mainstream News Reports

This video is so ridiculous that it actually makes you want to punch through the screen.  There are multiple clear cases of this ‘talking point distribution’ happening where it’s obvious that some puppet masters literally surgically insert their neural implants into the minds of the masses as if we are all numb to the fact that a handful of corporations control all the mainstream media.  Linked below is another fascinating clip of the CIA admitting that they use the news to manipulate the USA.  This is why the rise of independent media is critical for a positive transformation of the planet.

There are some who would say that this phenomenon is a result of stuff like the AP wire and is nothing more than laziness of news anchors and affiliates.  This is partially true, but definitely not completely.  And even if it is largely a true statement, what does that mean?  It means that unconscious and lazy drones are feeding us talking points from the largest agencies?  Is that healthy?  No!

It needs to be said that in no way is this article intended to say that ALL mainstream news is 100% corrupt.  Much good reporting is done from unexpected places, but, there is a trend.  And it is a dangerous one.  Of course, in the opinion of this writer, there are also deliberate thought implants surgically inserted into society to boost ideas, kill others, and so on.

From Minds.com

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This isn’t about free speech – it’s about the freedom to live in a secular society

t isn’t actually about free speech. It’s about free faith. Or, if we choose, no faith.

Ever since the attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a debate has been raging. A passionate and compelling debate, to be sure. But the wrong debate. Do we have the right to free speech? Or do we not?

This morning, in a powerful piece in the Times, David Aaronovitch says we do. He attacks “the weasels” who he claims have started insinuating that Charlie Hebdo’s editorial staff brought the attack upon themselves. “We British do quite a line in victim-blaming: she must have said something, he must have provoked her and so on. My thought is that such a form of apologism makes the apologists feel safer, because they would never be so provocative, so underdressed, so drunk. Therefore no one would kill or rape them.”

One of these “weasels” is the HuffPo commentator Mehdi Hasan. Yesterday, Mehdi wrote a piece headlined “I’m Fed Up With the Hypocrisy of the Free Speech Fundamentalists”. “None of us believes in an untrammelled right to free speech”, he said. “We all agree there are always going to be lines that, for the purposes of law and order, cannot be crossed; or for the purposes of taste and decency, should not be crossed. We differ only on where those lines should be drawn”.

David was duly scathing in his response. “An absence of freedom of speech distorts and terrorises. It creates ignorant, cowed people and vile, unaccountable government”.

And of course he’s right. The problem is, so is Mehdi Hasan.

It is wrong to claim we have the right to say whatever we like, when we like. We have libel laws. We have defamation laws. We have anti-racism laws. In France, where the killings were committed, they have laws against denying the existence of crimes against humanity. It’s inconvenient for those of us who support Charlie Hebdo’s decision to publish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, but Mehdi Hassan is perfectly correct. We do not have a right to untrammeled free speech.

In his own article, David Aaronovitch weaves skillfully around this by inserting his own “test”. “The test for limiting speech or expression would have to be a stringent one. Only if you could show that people would suffer significant damage as a direct and intentional result of this expression do I think bans can be justified”.

Fine. So let’s take the “Aaronovitch Test” and apply it to the decision to put the Prophet on the cover of this week’s memorial edition of Charlie Hebdo. Will it cause significant damage? Yes. There has already been a reaction within the Muslim community. As we’ve seen, violence is a very real possibility. Even without it, it will have created serious tensions between Muslims and the rest of French society. And the publishers knew this would be the result. Their decision to place Muhammad on this week’s cover was a deliberate one. As with their previous cartoons, they consciously sought to create a reaction.

So tested on the basis of free speech, the Charlie Hebdo cartoons fail. Which is why we need a new test. And in my view, it should be this.

Does what you are arguing for impinge upon my right to live in a secular society? Is the basis for your offence rational thought, or religious doctrine? If it’s the former, we have to find some form of compromise. But if it’s the latter, then I’m sorry, but that’s tough.

If you don’t like images of the Prophet Muhammad, fine. Don’t draw them. But don’t tell me I can’t draw them. If you don’t want to marry someone of the same sex, don’t. But don’t try and tell me who I can and can’t marry. If you don’t think shops should open on a Sunday, don’t go to the shops. But don’t tell me I have to sit at home and make peace with your god.

This is the line that needs to be drawn. Not around free speech, but around our right to have our own set of beliefs, rather than have them imposed as part of a de-facto theocracy.

This is the deal. Jews, Christians, Hindus, Muslims. Welcome. You are free to practice your faith amongst us. But never forget this. It is your faith, not mine. And if you can’t accept that, then in the immortal words of the mayor of Rotterdam, you can “f––– off”.

There are, of course, implications to building a cultural settlement like this. It would mean formally breaking the anachronistic link between church and state. We may have to re-examine our sentimental attachment to school nativity plays. But that’s a relatively small price to pay for preventing religious bloodshed on our streets.

Some may no doubt argue, “What you’re looking for is a French style settlement. And that doesn’t seem to have done France much good”. But surely the attack on Charlie Hebdo proves what a powerful weapon secularism is? The terrorists themselves certainly recognised that, which is why they chose that particular target.

The debate about free speech will only end up in cul-de-sac. Unless you are prepared to literally say, “no boundaries, for any reason” it will never be possible to reach agreement on where the boundaries should be drawn. But one thing we can do is ensure is that wherever they are drawn, they are drawn by men, not gods.

 

Dan Hodges, The Telegraph

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Scientists ‘delete’ HIV virus from human DNA for the first time

Once HIV conquers a human cell, it will stay there forever.

It inserts its deadly genome permanently into its victims’ DNA, forcing them to require medical treatment for the rest of their life.

But now, for the first time, researchers in Philadelphia have found a way to completely delete HIV from human cells by ‘snipping’ them out.

The team of Temple University School of Medicine said the breakthrough marks the first successful attempt to eliminate latent HIV-1 virus from human cells – and could be a cure for other latent infections.

‘This is one important step on the path toward a permanent cure for AIDS,’ said Kamel Khalili, PhD, Professor and Chair of the Department of Neuroscience at Temple.

‘It’s an exciting discovery, but it’s not yet ready to go into the clinic. It’s a proof of concept that we’re moving in the right direction,’ he added.

In a study published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Dr Khalili and colleagues detail how they created molecular tools to delete the HIV-1 proviral DNA.

When deployed, a combination of a DNA-snipping enzyme called a nuclease and a targeting strand of RNA called a guide RNA (gRNA) hunt down the viral genome and remove the HIV-1 DNA.

From there, the cell’s gene repair machinery takes over, soldering the loose ends of the genome back together – resulting in virus-free cells.

‘Since HIV-1 is never cleared by the immune system, removal of the virus is required in order to cure the disease,’ explained Dr Khalili.

These molecular tools also hold promise as a therapeutic vaccine; cells armed with the nuclease-RNA combination proved impervious to HIV infection.

Worldwide, more than 33 million people have HIV, including more than 1 million in the United States.

Every year, another 50,000 Americans contract the virus, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In the UK, around 100,000 people were living with HIV in the UK in 2013. That’s around one person in 665.

Although highly active antiretroviral therapy (Haart) has controlled HIV-1 for infected people in the developed world over the last 15 years, the virus can rage again with any interruption in treatment.

‘The low level replication of HIV-1 makes patients more likely to suffer from diseases usually associated with ageing,’ Dr Khalili said.

These include cardiomyopathy – a weakening of the heart muscle – bone disease, kidney disease, and neurocognitive disorders.

‘These problems are often exacerbated by the toxic drugs that must be taken to control the virus,’ Dr Khalili added.

Researchers based the two-part HIV-1 editor on a system that evolved as a bacterial defence mechanism to protect against infection.

Dr Khalili’s lab engineered a 20-nucleotide strand of gRNA to target the HIV-1 DNA and paired it with a DNA-sniping enzyme called Cas9 and used to edit the human genome.

‘We are working on a number of strategies so we can take the construct into preclinical studies,’ Dr Khalili said.

‘We want to eradicate every single copy of HIV-1 from the patient. That will cure AIDS. I think this technology is the way we can do it.’

 

 ELLIE ZOLFAGHARIFARD, Daily Mail

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