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You Must Make At Least $137,129 A Year To Afford A Home In San Francisco

You’d better get a promotion (or six) if you ever want to afford even a moderately-priced home in San Francisco.

You need make at least $137,129 a year (before taxes) to afford a home in the Fog City, which according to a new report is the most expensive city in the country for home buyers.

Coming in a distant second place is San Diego, where you need to bring home $98,534 a year to afford the principal, interest, taxes and insurance of a median-priced home, the measure used to make the calculations by HSH Associates, the mortgage-tracker that published the report.

New York City scored third place — perhaps surprisingly, because of its notoriously high rents. You “only” (hahaha!) have to make a salary of $89,788 a year to afford a mid-level apartment.

HSH Associates, which is based in New Jersey, says it used its own mortgage information along with home price data from the National Association of Realtors to come up with the figures.

The widening gap between rich and poor in San Francisco just keeps getting worse. A recent report ranked income inequality in the city on par with developing countries including Rwanda.

The changes are fomenting outrage in some circles — with a lot of anger directed toward workers from the big tech companies. There have been several protests targeting the private corporate shuttle busses that ferry young tech workers to their offices in Silicon Valley.

Protesters blame the shuttles, operated by large companies like Google and Facebook, for rising rents in the city. A study by Berkeley researchers recently found that 40 percent of San Francisco tech workers would move closer to their Silicon Valley jobs if the commuter buses didn’t exist.\

 

From Huffington Post

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New GOP Bill: Jail Time If You Reveal What Frackers Are Poisoning Your Drinking Water With

Republican lawmakers in North Carolina have introduced a bill that would make it a felony to disclose the chemicals used in fracking operations outside of emergency situations, Energywire reported. The “Energy Modernization Act,” (PDF) as the bill is called, would punish revealing fracking mix information with prison terms of “a few months,” in addition to civil penalties. While it would allow officials with the state emergency management office to gather that information for planning purposes and provide it for medical and firefighting personnel as necessary, first responders might also be forced to sign confidentiality agreements to protect that information.

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Pat Sajak: ‘Global warming alarmists are unpatriotic racists knowingly misleading’

It’s hardly news that “Wheel of Fortune” host Pat Sajak is an ardent conservative. He wrote, for instance, several articles with headlines like “Opposed to Obamacare? Then You Must Be a Racist” for the website Human Events between 2007 and 2013. But his latest rhetorical flourish is the most bizarre yet.

Sajak’s unhinged denialism — throwing wild allegations of racism against the overwhelming majority of scientists, for instance — exists only within the context of his own Twitter feed and writing online, where he’s perpetually making purposefully incendiary remarks wildly at odds with his sunny on-air personality.

But Sajak’s hardly alone as a prominent conservative who saves his vitriol for the off-air hours. Alex Trebek, of “Jeopardy!.” made allusions, in a recent New Republic profile, to beliefs including, of the Tea Party, that “There are a lot of people out there who are not happy with the way things are going, and they’ve banded together,” though he described himself as apolitical even despite having hosted a 2010 Republican fundraiser.

Drew Carey, of “The Price is Right,” has been an outspoken libertarian since his sitcom-actor days, telling Reason magazine: “As far as your personal goals are and what you actually want to do with your life, it should never have to do with the government. You should never depend on the government for your retirement, your financial security, for anything.” Bob Barker is better-known for his animal advocacy than for his endorsement of conservative lobbyist David Jolly in last year’s House special election in Florida. Chuck Woolery, the original host of “Wheel of Fortune,” is as active as his successor on Twitter and has written for the Washington Times.

 

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The U.S. is being overrun by a wave of anti-science, anti-intellectual thinking. Has the most powerful nation on Earth lost its mind?

South Carolina’s state beverage is milk. Its insect is the praying mantis. There’s a designated dance—the shag—as well a sanctioned tartan, game bird, dog, flower, gem and snack food (boiled peanuts). But what Olivia McConnell noticed was missing from among her home’s 50 official symbols was a fossil. So last year, the eight-year-old science enthusiast wrote to the governor and her representatives to nominate the Columbian mammoth. Teeth from the woolly proboscidean, dug up by slaves on a local plantation in 1725, were among the first remains of an ancient species ever discovered in North America. Forty-three other states had already laid claim to various dinosaurs, trilobites, primitive whales and even petrified wood. It seemed like a no-brainer. “Fossils tell us about our past,” the Grade 2 student wrote.

And, as it turns out, the present, too. The bill that Olivia inspired has become the subject of considerable angst at the legislature in the state capital of Columbia. First, an objecting state senator attached three verses from Genesis to the act, outlining God’s creation of all living creatures. Then, after other lawmakers spiked the amendment as out of order for its introduction of the divinity, he took another crack, specifying that the Columbian mammoth “was created on the sixth day with the other beasts of the field.” That version passed in the senate in early April. But now the bill is back in committee as the lower house squabbles over the new language, and it’s seemingly destined for the same fate as its honouree—extinction.

What has doomed Olivia’s dream is a raging battle in South Carolina over the teaching of evolution in schools. Last week, the state’s education oversight committee approved a new set of science standards that, if adopted, would see students learn both the case for, and against, natural selection.

Charles Darwin’s signature discovery—first published 155 years ago and validated a million different ways since—long ago ceased to be a matter for serious debate in most of the world. But in the United States, reconciling science and religious belief remains oddly difficult. A national poll, conducted in March for the Associated Press, found that 42 per cent of Americans are “not too” or “not at all” confident that all life on Earth is the product of evolution. Similarly, 51 per cent of people expressed skepticism that the universe started with a “big bang” 13.8 billion years ago, and 36 per cent doubted the Earth has been around for 4.5 billion years.

The American public’s bias against established science doesn’t stop where the Bible leaves off, however. The same poll found that just 53 per cent of respondents were “extremely” or “very confident” that childhood vaccines are safe and effective. (Worldwide, the measles killed 120,000 people in 2012. In the United States, where a vaccine has been available since 1963, the last recorded measles death was in 2003.) When it comes to global warming, only 33 per cent expressed a high degree of confidence that it is “man made,” something the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has declared is all but certain. (The good news, such as it was in the AP poll, was that 69 per cent actually believe in DNA, and 82 per cent now agree that smoking causes cancer.)

If the rise in uninformed opinion was limited to impenetrable subjects that would be one thing, but the scourge seems to be spreading. Everywhere you look these days, America is in a rush to embrace the stupid. Hell-bent on a path that’s not just irrational, but often self-destructive. Common-sense solutions to pressing problems are eschewed in favour of bumper-sticker simplicities and blind faith.

In a country bedevilled by mass shootings—Aurora, Colo.; Fort Hood, Texas; Virginia Tech—efforts at gun control have given way to ever-laxer standards. Georgia recently passed a law allowing people to pack weapons in state and local buildings, airports, churches and bars. Florida is debating legislation that will waive all firearm restrictions during state emergencies like riots or hurricanes. (One opponent has moved to rename it “an Act Relating to the Zombie Apocalypse.”) And since the December 2012 massacre of 20 children and six staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newtown, Conn., 12 states have passed laws allowing guns to be carried in schools, and 20 more are considering such measures.

The cost of a simple appendectomy in the United States averages $33,000 and it’s not uncommon for such bills to top six figures. More than 15 per cent of the population has no health insurance whatsoever. Yet efforts to fill that gaping hole via the Affordable Health Care Act—a.k.a. Obamacare—remain distinctly unpopular. Nonsensical myths about the government’s “real” intentions have found so much traction that 30 per cent still believe that there will be official “death panels” to make decisions on end-of-life care.

Since 2001, the U.S. government has been engaged in an ever-widening program of spying on its own—and foreign—citizens, tapping phones, intercepting emails and texts, and monitoring social media to track the movements, activities and connections of millions. Still, many Americans seem less concerned with the massive violations of their privacy in the name of the War on Terror, than imposing Taliban-like standards on the lives of others. Last month, the school board in Meridian, Idaho voted to remove The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie from its Grade 10 supplemental reading list following parental complaints about its uncouth language and depictions of sex and drug use. When 17-year-old student Brady Kissel teamed up with staff from a local store to give away copies at a park as a protest, a concerned citizen called police. It was the evening of April 23, which was also World Book Night, an event dedicated to “spreading the love of reading.”

If ignorance is contagious, it’s high time to put the United States in quarantine.

Americans have long worried that their education system is leaving their children behind. With good reason: national exams consistently reveal how little the kids actually know. In the last set, administered in 2010 (more are scheduled for this spring), most fourth graders were unable to explain why Abraham Lincoln was an important figure, and only half were able to order North America, the U.S., California and Los Angeles by size. Results in civics were similarly dismal. While math and reading scores have improved over the years, economics remains the “best” subject, with 42 per cent of high school seniors deemed “proficient.”

They don’t appear to be getting much smarter as they age. A 2013 survey of 166,000 adults across 20 countries that tested math, reading and technological problem-solving found Americans to be below the international average in every category. (Japan, Finland, Canada, South Korea and Slovakia were among the 11 nations that scored significantly higher.)

The trends are not encouraging. In 1978, 42 per cent of Americans reported that they had read 11 or more books in the past year. In 2014, just 28 per cent can say the same, while 23 per cent proudly admit to not having read even one, up from eight per cent in 1978. Newspaper and magazine circulation continues to decline sharply, as does viewership for cable news. The three big network supper-hour shows drew a combined average audience of 22.6 million in 2013, down from 52 million in 1980. While 82 per cent of Americans now say they seek out news digitally, the quality of the information they’re getting is suspect. Among current affairs websites, Buzzfeed logs almost as many monthly hits as the Washington Post.

The advance of ignorance and irrationalism in the U.S. has hardly gone unnoticed. The late Columbia University historian Richard Hofstadter won the Pulitzer prize back in 1964 for his book Anti-Intellectualism in American Life, which cast the nation’s tendency to embrace stupidity as a periodic by-product of its founding urge to democratize everything. By 2008, journalist Susan Jacoby was warning that the denseness—“a virulent mixture of anti-rationalism and low expectations”—was more of a permanent state. In her book, The Age of American Unreason, she posited that it trickled down from the top, fuelled by faux-populist politicians striving to make themselves sound approachable rather than smart. Their creeping tendency to refer to everyone—voters, experts, government officials—as “folks” is “symptomatic of a debasement of public speech inseparable from a more general erosion of American cultural standards,” she wrote. “Casual, colloquial language also conveys an implicit denial of the seriousness of whatever issue is being debated: talking about folks going off to war is the equivalent of describing rape victims as girls.”

That inarticulate legacy didn’t end with George W. Bush and Sarah Palin. Barack Obama, the most cerebral and eloquent American leader in a generation, regularly plays the same card, droppin’ his Gs and dialling down his vocabulary to Hee Haw standards. His ability to convincingly play a hayseed was instrumental in his 2012 campaign against the patrician Mitt Romney; in one of their televised debates the President referenced “folks” 17 times.

An aversion to complexity—at least when communicating with the public—can also be seen in the types of answers politicians now provide the media. The average length of a sound bite by a presidential candidate in 1968 was 42.3 seconds. Two decades later, it was 9.8 seconds. Today, it’s just a touch over seven seconds and well on its way to being supplanted by 140-character Twitter bursts.

Little wonder then that distrust—of leaders, institutions, experts, and those who report on them—is rampant. A YouGov poll conducted last December found that three-quarters of Americans agreed that science is a force for good in the world. Yet when asked if they truly believe what scientists tell them, only 36 per cent of respondents said yes. Just 12 per cent expressed strong confidence in the press to accurately report scientific findings. (Although according to a 2012 paper by Gordon Gauchat, a University of North Carolina sociologist, the erosion of trust in science over the past 40 years has been almost exclusively confined to two groups: conservatives and regular churchgoers. Counterintuitively, it is the most highly educated among them—with post-secondary education—who harbour the strongest doubts.)

The term “elitist” has become one of the most used, and feared, insults in American life. Even in the country’s halls of higher learning, there is now an ingrained bias that favours the accessible over the exacting.

“There’s a pervasive suspicion of rights, privileges, knowledge and specialization,” says Catherine Liu, the author of American Idyll: Academic Antielitism as Cultural Critique and a film and media studies professor at University of California at Irvine. Both ends of the political spectrum have come to reject the conspicuously clever, she says, if for very different reasons; the left because of worries about inclusiveness, the right because they equate objections with obstruction. As a result, the very mission of universities has changed, argues Liu. “We don’t educate people anymore. We train them to get jobs.” (Boomers, she says, deserve most of the blame. “They were so triumphalist in promoting pop culture and demoting the canon.”)

The digital revolution, which has brought boundless access to information and entertainment choices, has somehow only enhanced the lowest common denominators—LOL cat videos and the Kardashians. Instead of educating themselves via the Internet, most people simply use it to validate what they already suspect, wish or believe to be true. It creates an online environment where Jenny McCarthy, a former Playboy model with a high school education, can become a worldwide leader of the anti-vaccination movement, naysaying the advice of medical professionals.

Most perplexing, however, is where the stupid is flowing from. As conservative pundit David Frum recently noted, where it was once the least informed who were most vulnerable to inaccuracies, it now seems to be the exact opposite. “More sophisticated news consumers turn out to use this sophistication to do a better job of filtering out what they don’t want to hear,” he blogged.

But are things actually getting worse? There’s a long and not-so-proud history of American electors lashing out irrationally, or voting against their own interests. Political scientists have been tracking, since the early 1950s, just how poorly those who cast ballots seem to comprehend the policies of the parties and people they are endorsing. A wealth of research now suggests that at the most optimistic, only 70 per cent actually select the party that accurately represents their views—and there are only two choices.

Larry Bartels, the co-director of the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions at Vanderbilt University, says he doubts that the spreading ignorance is a uniquely American phenomenon. Facing complex choices, uncertain about the consequences of the alternatives, and tasked with balancing the demands of jobs, family and the things that truly interest them with boring policy debates, people either cast their ballots reflexively, or not at all. The larger question might be whether engagement really matters. “If your vision of democracy is one in which elections provide solemn opportunities for voters to set the course of public policy and hold leaders accountable, yes,” Bartels wrote in an email to Maclean’s. “If you take the less ambitious view that elections provide a convenient, non-violent way for a society to agree on who is in charge at any given time, perhaps not.”

A study by two Princeton University researchers, Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page, released last month, tracked 1,800 U.S. policy changes between 1981 and 2002, and compared the outcome with the expressed preferences of median-income Americans, the affluent, business interests and powerful lobbies. They concluded that average citizens “have little or no independent influence” on policy in the U.S., while the rich and their hired mouthpieces routinely get their way. “The majority does not rule,” they wrote.

Smart money versus dumb voters is hardly a fair fight. But it does offer compelling evidence that the survival of the fittest remains an unshakable truth even in American life. A sad sort of proof of evolution.

From Macleans

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San Francisco Symphony Release Live Recording Of The First Ever Complete Concert Performances Of West Side Story

Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT) and the San Francisco Symphony (SFS) will release a new live recording of the first-ever concert performances of Leonard Bernstein’s complete score for the musical West Side Story featuring a stellar Broadway cast including Cheyenne Jackson and Alexandra Silber, and the San Francisco Symphony Chorus, on June 10, 2014. This collector’s edition two-disc set available from the SFS Media label includes a 100-page booklet featuring a new interview with MTT, notes from Rita Moreno and Jamie Bernstein, as well as a West Side Story historical timeline, archival photographs, complete lyrics, and rehearsal and performance photos. Beginning May 20, West Side Story will be available for an exclusive early download from iTunes.com/SFSymphony where it is now available for pre-order. The iTunes release is Mastered for iTunes and offered as an interactive iTunes LP with bonus visuals and content provided when viewed in iTunes. The recording can also be pre-ordered on disc from the San Francisco Symphony’s online store for delivery by the release date of June 10. This audiophile SACD recording, playable on both standard CD and SACD devices.

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The performances were recorded live at Davies Symphony Hall in late June and early July 2013 after Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony became the first orchestra to receive permission from all four West Side Story rights-holders to perform and record the musical score in its entirety in a concert setting. Of the new recording, Michael Tilson Thomas said, “This is a new and rare opportunity to hear Bernstein’s complete score sung by a sensational young cast and a knock-your-socks-off orchestra.  The San Francisco Symphony totally understands and feels this music.  We show the Broadway roots of the piece and how its universal qualities translate into the way we think about it today.”

Making his San Francisco Symphony debut in West Side Story is Cheyenne Jackson (TV’s Glee, 30 Rock) singing the role of Tony. Of performing the role with MTT and the SFS Jackson says, “I think this is the best musical of all time. Period. I’m a Broadway Baby, and I’ve done many, many shows. And there are a couple that come close, but when it comes to book, music, lyrics, West Side Story is absolutely timeless. Everybody knows every word. This isn’t a polarizing musical or something people have lukewarm feelings about, you just love West Side Story. Even after knowing the score all these years, I’m still uncovering things about the score I never heard before. So, to have the opportunity to perform it, under the great Michael Tilson Thomas, and also with this Symphony, how could I not?! ” The cast includes a host of exciting Broadway voices all making their San Francisco Symphony debuts including Alexandra Silber in the role of Maria, Jessica Vosk as Anita, Kevin Vortmann as Riff and Julia Bullock as A Girl. The recording also features members of the San Francisco Symphony Chorus as Jets and Sharks.

Of the performances, Jamie Bernstein said, “Michael really understands my father’s music – how to conduct it and how to bring it to life. It was such a treat to hear the entire score of West Side Story performed by the San Francisco Symphony on a stage. It is the greatest way to hear this music.”

Tilson Thomas first met Leonard Bernstein several years after the West Side Story premiere in 1957 and has championed the iconic composer/conductor’s music throughout his career. Highlights with the SFS include semi-staged performances of On the Town in 1996 and, in 2008, Carnegie Hall’s opening night all-Bernstein gala concert which was recorded and is available on DVD from SFS Media.

 

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Mayor Lee Unveils New Initiative To Improve Behavioral Health Services For Vulnerable Populations

New Contact, Assess, Recover & Ensure Success (CARES) Initiative Provides Comprehensive, Citywide Approach to Strengthen Current Behavioral Health System with Community Independence Placement Project Expansion, New Psychiatric Respite Center, New Peer and Family Support & Additional Case Managers to Care for Residents with Mental Health & Substance Abuse Issues

 Mayor Edwin M. Lee today unveiled the CARES (Contact, Assess, Recover & Ensure Success) initiative that provides a new comprehensive, citywide approach to helping residents suffering from severe mental health and substance abuse issues.

The CARES initiative will expand the Community Independence Placement Project, add a new psychiatric respite center at San Francisco General Hospital that includes peer counselors; provide new support for family members and Transitional Aged Youth; and additional case managers to care for residents with severe mental health and substance use issues. This initiative will also support a longer-term effort to advance Citywide data-sharing and coordination practices.

“We have the strongest social safety net in the nation, spending $2.7 billion every year, yet we still have far too many people unable to make the choices they need to save their own lives because of severe mental health and substance abuse issues,” said Mayor Lee. “These hard-to-reach individuals oftentimes do not access the vital treatment they need and the new CARES initiative will help by strengthening our current behavioral health system of care for those that need it most.”

“The collaborative and engaging meetings of the CARES task force helped to refocus the City’s much needed attention on those suffering from mental health issues in our community who are currently falling through the cracks in the City’s mental health services system,” stated Supervisor Mark Farrell. “I fully support the policy and programmatic recommendations that came out of the CARES task force and look forward to working with the Mayor, my colleagues, and the community to better provide care for those who are most vulnerable.”

In an effort to ensure recovery and success for this population of residents, Mayor Lee directed Health Director Barbara Garcia to form the CARES Task Force, a 21-member advisory body charged with developing a range of policy and programmatic recommendations designed to serve those residents with the most challenging symptoms—those with a severe mental health diagnosis and/or a history of substance use, a chronic medical condition, unstable housing, underemployment, and limited family connections. Oftentimes the same person is simultaneously engaged with police, service providers, probation officers and clinicians, without getting the real consistency in services that they need. The prevailing conclusion from the CARES Task Force is that San Francisco has a robust service mix that can prevent increased engagement with the criminal justice system, but current coordination efforts do not embrace the full reach of the system. The CARES Task Force recommendations developed the CARES initiative.

In the past year alone, San Francisco jails have served almost 800 inmates diagnosed with a psychotic, bipolar or major depressive order. This number excludes individuals on probation or Post Release Community Supervision (PRCS), or the roughly 2,300 individuals served at any given time through our Behavioral Health Court, Drug Court, or the Community Justice Center combined. San Francisco also has regularly 750 people conserved because their disease has progressed to that of a grave disability—which means that a person is unable to utilize the means available to provide for basic necessities, such as food, clothing or shelter.

To address this, Mayor Lee is making permanent and expanding the Community Independence Placement Project, which relies on the court system to compel treatment but takes the additional step of requiring medication compliance. Expansion may include incorporating patients from other hospitals (program is currently limited to San Francisco General Hospital) and those participating in probation-related and re-entry programs. Health experts estimate that there are hundreds of people who could immediately benefit from a stronger public conservatorship program encompassing mental health and substance abuse like this one.

To engage individuals before they reach an acute crisis point, Mayor Lee is creating a new psychiatric respite center at San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center, which will provide a secure and safe environment within the community for those that need support in staving off a crisis. DPH will employ a scaled launch starting in Fall 2014, and will staff the facility primarily with peer counselors 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. At its eventual maximum capacity the program will accommodate up to 12 individuals for over-night stays and up to 25 individuals during the day.

“We are world renowned for our trauma and crisis care response and the CARES advisory council has provided recommendations to improve the use of these services by recommending new program ideas that can improve our care to those  impacted by addiction and mental illness earlier and more  effectively,” said Barbara Garcia, Public Health Director.”

Not all of these individuals show-up in the City’s data systems, and therefore pose a unique challenge to outreach workers trying to make meaningful initial and ongoing contact. To address this, Mayor Lee has asked the health department to explore advanced data-sharing and coordination practices. The Mayor will also adopt a peer-based approach at the psychiatric respite center, as well as fund a family specialist to support families impacted by a loved one’s disease and a new caseworker to engage Transitional Aged Youth specifically. DPH will also add two Intensive Case Managers to absorb this increased and coordinated service reach.

 

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What ‘unstoppable’ Antarctic ice melt means for Western cities

Krista Langlois

Save for a freak May snowstorm, the other day started off normally. I woke up, made a giant mug of coffee and walked to work. But May 12 was no ordinary Monday.  “Today,” said Eric Rignot, a glaciologist at the University of California, Irvine, “we present observational evidence that a large sector of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet has gone into irreversible retreat. It has passed the point of no return.”

Language that strong isn’t often tossed about at NASA news conferences, and the world took notice. Climate change advocate Protect Our Winters called it “the day that all climate scientists feared.” Mother Jones coined it a “holy shit moment for global warming.” The well-known Canadian environmental writer Chris Turner tweeted that it’s “the most important news story you’ll see this week, by a wide margin.”

So what’s all the fuss about – and why should you care? In the most basic terms, two separate scientific studies, using two different models and released by two reputable scientific journals, both came to the same conclusion: Glaciers on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet are melting more rapidly than expected and have begun a domino effect that’s virtually unstoppable, even if we cut off greenhouse gas emissions today. Over the course of hundreds of years, the melting glaciers will boost ocean levels by 4 to 16 feet, changing the geography of the world as we know it.

Previous models, of course, have also predicted sea level rise, and West Coast cities have begun preparing by relocating threatened structures, moving drinking water supplies and modifying construction permits. But no previous study has been this conclusive or concrete in its modeling, nor taken into account the degree of Antarctic melt now considered inevitable. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned earlier this year that global sea level could rise between four inches and three feet by 2100, but the new findings make such predictions seem almost quaint. Penn State University geoscientist Sridhar Anandakrishnan told NBC News that future IPCC estimates “will almost certainly be revised” upwards as a result of the new studies.

What could rising seas actually look like for the West Coast? Andrew David Thaler, a deep-sea ecologist, posed that question to his Twitter followers last fall, and the response was tremendous: Requests poured in from around the world asking Thaler to virtually inundate their hometowns under the hashtag #DrownYourTown. #DrownYourTown has now been tweeted millions of times, and Thaler has perfected a real-time, interactive GIS modeling technique that allows him – or anyone with basic technology skills – to visualize what coastal cities might look like with varying amounts of sea level rise.

Thaler warns that the images aren’t exact and shouldn’t be used to make real estate decisions. But with once-theoretical sea level rises now a looming reality, these images make the future of the West Coast graspable. Here are a few we found particularly unsettling. (Click images to enlarge.)

If the West Antarctic Ice Sheet completely melted into the Amundsen Sea – as the new studies from NASA, UC Irvine and the University of Washington predict will eventually happen – the resulting 16 feet of sea level rise would look like this:

Marin City
Marin City, California 

 

Here’s downtown San Francisco with 22 feet, the rise that would occur if the entire Greenland Ice Sheet melted (a scenario not part of the new studies):

San Francisco 1

 

San Francisco 2

And, just for kicks, a couple of cities with 32 feet sea rise

Vancouver, British Columbia
Vancouver, British Columbia
San Diego
San Diego, California 

 

Yeah, yeah, you’re saying. My great-grandkids won’t even be alive for that. How about something more immediate?

The new studies don’t make predictions for specific years, so the best we can do for the end of this century – the year 2100 – is the IPCC’s latest estimate of about 4 feet sea level rise. Keep in mind that figure may be conservative, as scientists now say the IPCC estimates will likely increase in light of to this new information. Either way, here are a couple non-Western spots with about 3 feet sea level rise:

Key West, Florida
Key West, Florida

 

 

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REALLY? Boycott launched against openly gay St Louis Rams player Michael Sam, by Christian lobbyist Jack Burkman

In a move which he said will teach companies a lesson for “trampling on Christian values”, Jack Burkman has also aimed his protest against financial giant Visa, who gave Mr Sam his first advertising contract.

A coalition of evangelical Christian leaders from across the US, as well as influential grassroots organisations in 27 of the 50 states, have now been mobilised against the firms, according to Mr Burkman

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As part of the protest, Rams fans will be told to stop buying the team’s merchandise and not to attend games, while members of the public will be asked stop using their Visa cards, and to sell any of the company’s stocks they may own.

“Visa and the Rams will learn that when you trample the Christian community and Christian values, there will be a terrible financial price to pay,” said Burkman, head of the Washington DC lobbying firm JM Burkman & Assoc.

“Openly gay football players send a terrible message to our youth about morality. Somebody needs to step up because the moral fiber of the nation is eroding.”

As well as the boycott, Mr Burkman’s firm is attempting to push a draft bill through Washington, which will ban all openly gay players from the NFL and other professional sports in the country.

Mr Burkman’s attack comes after the 24-year-old football player was praised for celebrating his acceptance call from Rams coach Jeff Fisher on Sunday evening by kissing his boyfriend live on sports channel ESPN.

Chat show host Ellen Degeneres tweeted: “So proud of the @STLouisRams for showing there’s nothing to be afraid of. Congratulations, @MikeSamFootball”.

Speaking at a news conference held by the Rams after being drafted, Sam said: “I’ve been getting in shape and preparing for this moment for a very long time. I’m so determined to be great.”

When asked about potential detractors, Sam said: “It’s about football. Can I play football? Yes I can.”

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May Madness Car Show in San Rafael

May Madness, the longest running car show and parade in Northern California will showcase hundreds of cool vehicles at the 27th annual event May 31!  Spectators will get to view up close the finest Rods, Customs, Classics, Utility Vehicles & more. This year, the Ford Mustang will ride shotgun as the iconic car celebrates the 50th anniversary.  Mustangs will be showcased on “A” Street north side of 4th.

Enjoy rocking bands and a street dance starting at noon with the winning band of the “Heads Up” Battle of the Bands followed by Fenix House Band and headlined by Reckless In Vegas a power trio comprised of Michael Shapiro on vocals & guitar, Mario Cipollina (formerly of Huey Lewis And The News), on bass & vocals, and Ryan “Dr Fu” Low on drums & vocals. Reckless In Vegas has blended the imagery, banter and classic music from the 1960’s Glory Days of Vegas with a contemporary rock band aesthetic. They’ve created an exciting show with modern versions of songs by artists such as Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Elvis, Sonny & Cher, Frankie Valli, Neil Diamond and more. Think The Rat Pack meets Green Day.

The car parade starts at 5pm.  San Rafael’s Davidson Middle School Cougar Marching Band returns this year to cover the parade route and keep all the cars in time.

Attendees will enjoy great food and beverages and children’s activities. In conjunction with May Madness, the West End of 4th Street will host huge sidewalk sale sponsored by the San Rafael BID.

May Madness is presented by the San Rafael Business Improvement District and produced by Team Pro Event.  Pre-registration deadline is May 16th.

May Madness 2014 C Thompson

 

Music Line up schedule:

Noon: Winner of the “Heads Up” Battle of the Bands

1:45 Fenix House Band– Blues, Rock n Funk from the Fenix Night Club

3:30 Reckless In Vegas “Modern Rock meets classic ‘60’s Lounge Music”

 

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NEMA Tried To Erase The Castro And Chinatown From Their Map Of S.F.

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Luxe apartment complex NEMA, whose ridiculous and vaguely offensive marketing efforts have already inspired plenty of blog ire as well as a satirical Twitter account, published a map of San Francisco on their website that seems to want to pretend that gays and Chinese Americans don’t exist here anymore.

The map, which you can see above as it was three days ago, turns the Castro into “Eureka Valley/Dolores Heights” and washes over Chinatown altogether. It appears to be a co-opting of the neighborhood designations made by the San Francisco Association of Realtors and MLS a few years ago on this map, because realtors also like to pretend there’s no such thing as The Castro, for all the man-sex and dildo shops that that name connotes. But it’s another fine example of how NEMA’s marketing team is clueless.

After Twitterer EC and Vanishing SF called out the map, and after the satirical Rent Enemamocked it, the NEMA folks quickly published a new map which you can see below. Now there is no Eureka Valley, only The Castro in big letters, and they managed to squeeze Chinatown in there after all.

Nice work, everyone. Can’t wait for the next gaff.

 

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Football Player Flaunts Sexual Orientation On Live Television

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AJ McCarren didn’t seem to care that television cameras were on him when he decided to flaunt his heterosexual relationship with Katherine Webb.

“All of a sudden they were making out,” said ESPN viewer Roger Jellyton. “I couldn’t believe my eyes, and my children were in the room. How was I supposed to explain what they were seeing? What, that it’s OK for two people who love each other to kiss in a moment of joy and celebration? Ugh. What is this nation coming to? Enough is enough.”

When Free Wood Post interviewed McCarren on his decision to kiss his female partner on television he said, “I didn’t really even think about it. I love her and wanted to share the moment with her. That’s about it.”

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LGBT Youth Advocate Wins 2014 SF Peacemaker Award

Anayvette Martinez of LYRIC to be honored at Community Boards Luncheon on June 6

Anayvette Martinez, Founder of the School-Based Initiative for Lavender Youth Recreation and Information Center (LYRIC), has been named as the 2014 winner of the Raymond Shonholtz Visionary Peacemaker Award, given to an outstanding individual who has made or is making significant contributions to peacemaking, community building and/or anti-violence work in her or his respective San Francisco neighborhood and community. She will be recognized by Community Boards, San Francisco’s non-profit conflict resolution center, during the fourth annual San Francisco Peacemaker Awards luncheon on Friday, June 6.

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“Martinez exemplifies the Raymond Shonholtz Visionary Peacemaker Award by turning a problem for LGBT students into an opportunity for all students to make peace and build community in San Francisco schools,” says Community Boards Executive Director Darlene Weide. “We are thrilled to recognize her contribution to making San Francisco a more peaceful and better place to live.”

Martinez will be honored alongside two other winners of the 2014 SF Peacemaker Awards. Lincoln High School Senior Sasha Rodriguez, peer mediator and peer counselor, will receive the Gail Sadalla Rising Peacemaker Award, which is awarded to a youth peacemaker (ages 12-24) who is making a difference in his or her school or community, setting an example for other youth in anti-violence and peacemaking activities. Bayview Hunters Point Foundation for Community Improvement will be presented with the Community Boards Leadership Peacemaker Award, presented each year to an organization that is making a meaningful track record in contributing to community building and peacemaking in San Francisco. Bios of all the winners are included below.

The 2014 Peacemaker Awards luncheon is slated for Friday, June 6, from 11 am to 1 pm, at the City Club of San Francisco, located at 155 Sansome Street. Tickets are available online for $175 for individuals, with discounts available for additional guests and for Community Boards members. Table sponsorships are also available, starting at $1000 and including 10 tickets to both the awards luncheon and the morning workshop with continental breakfast.

The Honorable Judge Cruz Reynoso, first Chicano Justice of the California Supreme Court, will present the keynote address, focusing on Restorative Justice. Claudia Viera, Esq., will teach the morning workshop at 9 am, focusing on implicit bias in the mediation process and in court.

About Community Boards

The mission of Community Boards is to empower the communities and individuals of San Francisco with the strength, skills and resources needed to express and resolve conflicts peacefully and appropriately for their culture and environment. Mediation, training and facilitation services are offered in English, Spanish, Mandarin and Cantonese to all San Francisco residents. Community Boards serves over 2,000 residents, nonprofits and businesses a year with its pool of 300+ volunteer mediators. Since 1976, Community Boards has assisted 46,000 San Francisco residents and trained more than 16,000 community members to be skilled mediators. More information is available at www.CommunityBoards.org.

About the Peacemakers  Anayvette Martinez: The Raymond Shonholtz Visionary Peacemaker Award

Anayvette Martinez believes every student deserves a safe learning environment, including the 3,000+ lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning (LGBTQQ) youth in the San Francisco United School District. That’s why she joined Lavender Youth Recreation and Information Center (LYRIC), and it’s why she founded the organization’s innovative School-Based Initiative.

According to Martinez, “To create LGBTQ and gender-inclusive schools, we need a holistic strategy. School community transformation doesn’t happen with once a year workshops; we need to envelop these conversations in school norms, curriculum, monthly activities, and bring everyone to the table.”

So, three years ago, she launched and took the helm of LYRIC’s School-Based Initiative. Based on a Restorative Justice approach, the program promotes allyship over tolerance, while giving participants practical tools to address harassment, bullying, and other violence against LGBTQQ youth. Under her leadership, the initiative is making public schools in San Francisco safer for LGBTQQ students by providing a year-long gender/sexuality-emphasized social justice course for students, a professional development training track for teachers and school staff, and discussion circles and support groups for families. Not only has her work made a substantial and immediate impact at Everett Middle School, Balboa High School, Buena Vista Horace Mann K-8, and Mission High School, it serves as a model for schools throughout California and across the nation.

Sasha Rodriguez: The Gail Sadalla Rising Peacemaker Award

“I like feeling like I am actually helping; it brings me satisfaction. I am helping make a difference by helping people make a difference in themselves. When I help other people it actually helps me figure out ways to solve problems in my own life,” she explains.

As a Peer Mediator and Peer Counselor, the Lincoln High School senior helps her fellow students by offering a safe venue and expert mediation skills to resolve conflict between students and with teachers. As one of only two student members of the Restorative Practices Leadership Team, she is working with teachers and staff to introduce and promote Restorative Practices at her school. As a Peer Mentor, she has taken a Freshman under her wing, working one-on-one with her in a support role. And as a Peer Educator, she teaches other young people – at Lincoln High and city-wide – to know their rights with law enforcement.

Teachers and peers describe Rodriguez as a bridge-builder, bridging the often-wide gulf between adults and youth. She actively and consistently amplifies the youth voice at Lincoln High, where she is seen as a role model for collaborative problem solving, effective communication and peacemaking in a diverse environment.

After graduation, she plans to attend Skyline College and work part-time, eventually transferring to a University to study and pursue a career in Marine Biology.

 

Bayview Hunters Point Foundation for Community Improvement:  Community Boards Leadership Peacemaker Award

Residents of Bayview Hunters Point are far too familiar with violence and crime in the neighborhood. And one organization has been working for more than 40 years to ensure they’re just as familiar with resources and opportunities to create an empowered, clean, safe and healthy community. Established by Bayview citizens in 1971 to serve the needs of residents of the community, Bayview Hunters Point Foundation for Community Improvement tackles youth gang violence and other crime head-on by connecting community members with – and fostering collaboration between – existing neighborhood services. Their Community Response Network (CRN) provides counseling at crime scenes as well as continuing support at the hospital, in the home, and in the neighborhood, connecting crime victims, their families, and witnesses with trauma recovery and mental health services, job training and placement, alternative education, health services, and recreation opportunities.

Their Youth Services program provides a safe space for 11-18 year olds to congregate and connects them with counseling and treatment, community beautification projects, and positive educational and recreational opportunities. The ROSIE Project provides hands-on, ongoing support to help 14-25 year old women meet court obligations and follow up with positive life choices in school and the community. The programs are all modeled on a vision of youth advocacy which honors the individual needs of participants, and supports and enhances individual, peer, and family life.

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Jurors Beg Judge Not To Send Occupy Wall Street Protester To Prison

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Nine members of the jury that convicted an Occupy Wall Street protester of felony assault of an officer have signed a letter asking that the judge not sentence her to any prison time. “We the jury petition the court for leniency in the sentencing of Cecily McMillan,” the letter reads. “We feel that the felony mark on Cecily’s record is punishment enough for this case and that it serves no purpose to Cecily or to society to incarcerate her for any amount of time.”

One member of the jury told the Guardian a day after the verdict that they weren’t aware that McMillan was facing up to seven years in prison for their verdict: “Most just wanted her to do probation, maybe some community service. But now what I’m hearing is seven years in jail? That’s ludicrous. Even a year in jail is ridiculous.”

In the trial that lasted nearly four weeks, McMillan claimed that her arresting officer, Grantley Bovell, violently grabbed her breast, which caused her to rear back and strike him with her elbow. Officer Bovell testified that it was intentional. Photographs show a deep bruise on McMillan’s right breast, but the jury told the Guardian they were swayed by a grainy video.

Judge Ronald Zweibel has not shown sympathy for McMillan; he sent her to Rikers without bail after the verdict (and denied her appeal), denied a request to unseal evidence that may have cast more doubts on Officer Bovell’s credibility, imposed a gag order on McMillan’s attorneys, and on more than one occasion acted angrily towards her supporters in the courtroom.

McMillan’s sentencing is on May 19th

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‘Anti-gay’ Republican candidate outed as having worked as a DRAG QUEEN under the name ‘Miss Mona Sinclair’

A North Carolina Republican candidate campaigning against same-sex marriage has been outed as a former drag queen performer known as ‘Miss Mona Sinclair’.

Steve Wiles, a conservative state Senate candidate, donned a wig and fake lashes for eight years at the now defunct gay-friendly lounge Club Odyssey, where he directed and emceed a weekly drag show. 

The club’s former owner Randy Duggins told Winston-Salem Journal he broke his silence because he wants voters to know that Wiles is, he believes, a ‘hypocrite’ and ‘liar’.

Wiles, 34, initially denied the bombshell allegations, but came out yesterday admitting his past.

‘For me, from a religious standpoint, just for my life, for me, it just was not something that I wanted to continue,’ the fledgling politician told Business Insider about being a drag queen.

‘Of course it was an embarrassment, but you know, you move on. You live life, and you change, and you make yourself what you want yourself to be. And that’s where I am now.’

Revelation: Outspoken gay marriage opponent Steve Wiles, 34 (pictured) has been outed as having worked as a drag queen performer known as 'Miss Mona Sinclair'

Revelation: Outspoken gay marriage opponent Steve Wiles, 34 (pictured) has been outed as having worked as a drag queen performer known as ‘Miss Mona Sinclair’

Wiles, who doesn’t consider himself ‘anti-gay’, supports a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage in North Carolina. He considers marriage a religious institution, which he argues makes gay marriage un-Christian.

The real estate agent is competing against two other GOP candidates in a competitive primary scheduled for Tuesday, with observers noting he is up against well-connected politicos.

Wiles has not indicated whether he believes news of his past will hurt his chances, but said he has no intention of quitting.

Today, he responded to his critics in a long post on Facebook (see below) in which he claimed he ‘is for’ all Americans, regardless of their sexuality, and believes ‘state control of the institution of marriage is unconstitutional’.

Wiles, who refuses to comment on his own sexuality, said that he doesn’t believe being against same-sex marriage is the same thing as being anti-gay.

‘I don’t really understand how you can separate the fact that marriage is a religious institution,’ Wiles told Business Insider.

However to his former boss Randy Duggins, Wiles’ refusal to acknowledge his former days as a female impersonator while opposing marriage equality is a sign of hypocrisy.

HIs Reaction:
Reaction: Steve Wiles today posted a response to his critics on his Facebook page, saying that he makes mistakes but tries to live a life that reflects his beliefs

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HGTV Network Greenlights Show Starring Anti-Gay Campaigners

Last month, HGTV announced a new reality show, Flip It Forward, following two twin brother realtors as they “leverage their good-natured sibling rivalry to help families find a fixer-upper and transform it into the dream home they never thought they could afford.”

What’s not readily apparent is that the brothers are David and Jason Benham, sons of Flip Benham, an evangelical preacher who has campaigned against abortion, LGBT rights, Islam and more. Oh, and at least one of the two brothers – the stars of this new show, lest we forget – is a right wing activist much like his father, who has campaigned and protested on similar issues.

Right Wing Watch reports that David Benham held a prayer rally in Charlotte, North Carolina in 2012 which he said was necessary to stop “homosexuality and its agenda”:

“We don’t realize that, okay, if 87 percent of Americans are Christians and yet we have abortion on demand; we have no-fault divorce; we have pornography and perversion; we have a homosexuality and its agenda that is attacking the nation; we have adultery; we have all of the things; we even have allowed demonic ideologies to take our universities and our public school systems while the church sits silent and just builds big churches.”

In that same interview he said that his brother Jason, the other star of Flip It Forward, joined him in organizing the prayer rally. David also discussed his work campaigning for North Carolina’s Amendment One, which banned same-sex marriage and civil unions at a constitutional level:

“In North Carolina, you know, we just fought for Amendment One, which was a constitutional amendment that simply said, this is exactly what the amendment said is the only legal marriage in North Carolina was between a man and a woman. We received—it was such a battle in North Carolina, it blew me away.”

The Benhams’ father, Flip, heads up the abortion clinic protest group Operation Save America, and is responsible for gems such as condemning the interfaith Sandy Hook memorialprotesting in front of mosquesprotesting LGBT pride eventsstalking an abortion doctor and blaming 9/11 on abortion.

 

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Supreme Court Unanimously Slaps Conservative Appeals Court For Botching Police Shooting Case

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Last year, an unusually conservative panel of the conservative United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit issued an opinion dismissing a black shooting victim’s lawsuit against a white police officer. On Monday, the Supreme Court unanimously reversed this decision in a rare order handed down without oral argument or full briefing from the parties. The order is even more rare because the conservative Roberts Court unanimously reversed a lower court from the left.

This case arose out of an incident on New Years Eve in 2008, when a Texas police sergeant named Jeffrey Cotton shot Robbie Tolan. Tolan is professional baseball player and the son of longtime Major Leaguer Bobby Tolan.

Around 2 in the morning on the day of the shooting, another officer ran the license plate of a black SUV that he saw take a turn a little too quickly and then park in front of a house, but the officer miskeyed the plate number — leading his computer to incorrectly tell him that the vehicle was stolen. The cop then exited his car, drew his gun, and ordered the two men who had just exited the SUV to the ground. Soon, Tolan’s parents, who lived in the home where the car was parked, emerged from the house in their pajamas and tried to explain that the car belonged to their family and that no one had committed a crime. Nevertheless, the cop radioed for backup.

Things escalated quickly after Sergeant Jeffrey Cotton arrived at the scene. Tolan and his family claim that Cotton grabbed Tolan’s mother’s arm and slammed her against the garage door with sufficient force that she fell to the ground. They also claim that, while Tolan rose to his knees after this incident, he never stood up or approached the officers. Cotton claims that he used less force on Tolan’s mother and that Tolan rose to his feet. No one disputes what happened next, however. Tolan told Cotton to “get your fucking hands off my mom” — and then Cotton drew his pistol and fired three shots at Tolan. Though Tolan survived, the bullets collapsed his right lung and pierced his liver.

After Tolan sued Cotton, his case wound up in front of a very conservative panel of the Fifth Circuit. Judges Edith Jones and Rhesa Barksdale once voted to allowa man to be executed despite the fact that his lawyer slept through much of his trial. Judge Leslie Southwick once joined a court decision upholding the reinstatement of a white state worker who was fired for calling a black colleague a “good ole n*igger.” These three judges ruled in favor of Cotton.

As the Supreme Court explained on Monday, however, Jones, Barksdale and Southwick bungled this decision. In federal courts, a party which believes that there are no real factual disputes in a case can seek something called “summary judgment” The court considering a request for summary judgement, however, must view all evidence “in the light most favorable” to the party that isn’t seeking such a judgment. Essentially, in order to win a summary judgment, a party must show that they would win their case even if every factual issue in the case were decided against them.

Yet, as the justices explain in an unsigned order, that’s not what happened in Tolan’s case. Cotton claimed that the Tolans’ porch was “dimly-lit,” that Tolan’s mother did not remain calm, that Tolan stood up and that he was ‘verbally threatening” — and that these facts justified a spur of the moment decision to shoot. Even if all of these facts are true, however, it is not the job of the Fifth Circuit to assume that they are true before the case is even tried. In the words of the Supreme Court, “[t]he witnesses on both sides come to this case with their own perceptions, recollections, and even potential biases. It is in part for that reason that genuine disputes are generally resolved by juries in our adversarial system.”

The upshot of this the Supreme Court’s opinion is that the Fifth Circuit will have to try again. Tolan could still lose, but he is entitled to have his case considered under the proper legal standard first.

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DIvided Court Backs Prayer at Town Meetings

The Supreme Court ruling doesn’t come as too big a surprise, but for proponents of church-state separation, this morning’s decision is nevertheless disappointing.
The Supreme Court on Monday ruled that a town in upstate New York may begin its public meetings with a prayer from a “chaplain of the month.”
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for the majority in the 5-to-4 decision, said “ceremonial prayer is but a recognition that, since this nation was founded and until the present day, many Americans deem that their own existence must be understood by precepts far beyond that authority of government to alter or define.”
In dissent, Justice Elena Kagan said the town’s practices could not be reconciled “with the First Amendment’s promise that every citizen, irrespective of her religion, owns an equal share of her government.”
Let’s back up and revisit what this case was all about. At issue are town board meetings in Greece, N.Y., a Rochester suburb, which hosts a “chaplain of the month” before board members begin their official business. Nearly all of the invited chaplains are Christian, and “more often than not,” the Christian clergy “called on Jesus Christ or the Holy Spirit to guide the council’s deliberations.”
This would appear to be out of step with the First Amendment. Americans are, of course, welcome to pray or not as they wish, but for the local government to incorporate Christian prayers as part of the official community meeting was problematic.
Some local taxpayers, Susan Galloway and Linda Stephens, reached out to my friends at Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which filed suit to keep board meetings secular. The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously in their favor.
The usual suspects on the high court – Republican appointees Roberts, Alito, Kennedy, Scalia, and Thomas – disagreed.
The underlying legal dispute has been litigated before, though the cases weren’t identical. Thirty years ago, in a case called Marsh v. Chambers, the Supreme Court cleared the way for legislative prayers, which remain quite common nationwide. But in legislative prayers, members of the public are simply spectators, whereas the public actually participates in town board meetings.
In other words, in Greece, N.Y., government-sponsored Christian prayers are more likely to make Americans feel like second-class citizens in their own community. Under the guise of “ceremonial” religious endorsements, the court majority was unmoved.
The entirety of the ruling is online here (pdf). A statement from the group that filed the case is online here.
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White House Ducks Questions On Biden’s Openness To Executive Action On LGBT Discrimination

White House press secretary Jay Carney on Thursday dodged questions about Vice President Joe Biden’s apparent support for an executive order banning job discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees of federal contractors.

The White House has long avoided explaining why President Barack Obama won’t take executive action on the matter, even though he made a 2008 campaign promise to do so. But on Tuesday, Biden seemed to offer an opening, telling The Huffington Post in an interview, “I don’t see any downside” to doing it — a small win for LGBT rights groups perplexed by the president’s reluctance to act.

Carney demurred when asked if the president agrees with Biden. Instead, he shifted the focus back to Congress and said the most effective way to stem LGBT job discrimination is to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act — something Biden also emphasized in his remarks. That bill is stalled in the House.

“I just don’t engage in discussion about speculative executive orders,” Carney said. “There is legislation on Capitol Hill that we strongly support and we’d like to see passed by the House.”

When it was noted that Biden was willing to weigh in on a speculative executive order, Carney said, “No, I think he answered a question about it, as I have repeatedly. And I’m happy to … I try not to engage in speculation about any executive action the president may or may not take.”

To be sure, ENDA would go much further than an executive order. If passed by Congress, the bill would make it illegal nationwide to fire or harass someone at work for being LGBT. In contrast, an executive order would only apply to employees of federal contractors. But such an order would still protect as many as 16 millionworkers, and LGBT rights groups say both executive action and legislation are needed, given their different penalties and remedies.

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Dick Cheney denies war criminal allegations at KPU event

Former Vice President Dick Cheney refuted accusations that he is a war criminal during his speech to students and members of the AU community in Bender Arena on March 28. The Kennedy Political Union hosted Cheney as part of a stream of speakers coming to campus.

“The accusations are not true,” Cheney said.

20140327_kpucheney_anasantos_c_0088Former VP Dick Cheney Talks Politics, Responds to Controversy at KPU Event

 

During his vice presidency, three people were waterboarded, Cheney said. Waterboarding refers to either pumping a stomach with water or inducing choking by filling a throat with a stream of water, according to a report by NPR.

“Some people called it torture. It wasn’t torture,” Cheney said in an interview with ATV.

Students protested the event due to the accusations of war criminality against Cheney, The Eagle previously reported.

According to Cheney, the enhanced interrogation tactics used do not fall under the scope of the 1949 United Nations Geneva Convention, which outlaws cruel, inhuman or any degrading treatment or punishment because the Geneva Convention does not apply to unlawful combatants.

The Bush administration considered terrorists as unlawful combatants and considered those undergoing enhanced interrogation tactics as terrorists.

“If I would have to do it all over again, I would,” Cheney said. “The results speak for themselves.”

Cheney: ‘Weak’ response on Syria, Crimea
Cheney told The Eagle that Obama’s response regarding Syria and Crimea has been weak dating back to the Syrian conflict.

“The president indicated that if the Syrians used chemical weapons there would be consequence,” he said. “They used chemical weapons and there were no consequences. That conveyed a sense of weakness; that you don’t have to pay attention to what he [the president] says because he won’t follow through.”

A lack of U.S. leadership created a vacuum for extremist Islamist groups to sweep through Syria, Cheney said.

Obama is again showing weak leadership in Crimea, according to Cheney.

“Putin has gotten away with Crimea,” Cheney said regarding the recent annexation of Crimea to Russia.

Cheney said he advises Ukrainian officer training and military exercises with Poland in order to combat Russian influence in the Ukraine.

Snowden’s whistleblowing is ‘devastating’

Cheney said he fully supports National Security Agency surveillance and phone tapping.

“I don’t have any problems with our people doing that,” Cheney said about NSA surveillance.

The U.S. needs to take advantage of technology in the face of constant threat of cyberwarfare because the country needs to protect itself, according to Cheney.

Cheney also discussed his opinions on NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, calling him a traitor. However, he considered the possibility that there are undiscovered NSA internal leaks.

“I’ve always wondered, although I haven’t been able to prove one way or another, if he [Snowden] had more help from the inside,” Cheney told the audience at the KPU event. “What he’s done to the U.S., it is devastating.”

 

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Rick Scott gets an earful in Florida

There’s a reason so many politicians embrace carefully managed, pre-scripted events: they never know what actual people are going to say. The spontaneity may be refreshing for the rest of us, but for politicians and their aides, it’s frustrating when the public goes “off-message.”
Almost exactly two years ago, this happened to Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign in Pennsylvania, when aides arranged for the candidate to chat with a group of regular folks about the economy. One voter said, “None of us like to pay more taxes, but sometimes that’s necessary.” Another added, “It’s a necessary evil.” “Right, right,” a third person said as the group nodded.
The Republican presidential hopeful didn’t do too many unscripted events after that.
This week, Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) ran into similar trouble. The Republican governor, facing a tough re-election fight, is heavily invested in condemning the Affordable Care Act, so he visited a South Florida senior center for a roundtable chat with retirees he assumed would agree with him.
The 20 seniors assembled for a roundtable with Scott at the Volen Center were largely content with their Medicare coverage and didn’t have negative stories to recount. And some praised Obamacare – a program that Scott frequently criticizes.
“I’m completely satisfied,” Harvey Eisen, 92, a West Boca resident, told Scott.
Eisen told the governor he wasn’t sure “if, as you say,” there are Obamacare-inspired cuts to Medicare. But even if there are, that would be OK. “I can’t expect that me as a senior citizen are going to get preferential treatment when other programs are also being cut.”
Ruthlyn Rubin, 66, of Boca Raton, told the governor that people who are too young for Medicare need the health coverage they get from Obamacare. If young people don’t have insurance, she said, everyone else ends up paying for their care when they get sick or injured and end up in the hospital.
Twisting the knife, Rubin added, “People were appalled at Social Security.  They were appalled at Medicare when it came out. I think these major changes take some people aback. But I think we have to be careful not to just rely on the fact that we’re seniors and have an entitlement to certain things…. We’re all just sitting here taking it for granted that because we have Medicare we don’t want to lose one part of it. That’s wrong to me. I think we have to spread it around. This is the United States of America. It’s not the United States of senior citizens.”
The underlying point of Scott’s visit was to try to complain about Medicare Advantage reforms and how awful recent “cuts” must be for seniors. But when the governor asked one elderly woman if she’d seen any changes, she said, “Not really.” Another member of the roundtable said he’s “very happy” with the current coverage. A third person said he’s had “no problems.” A fourth said she and her husband are “very pleased.”
When Scott asked if they’ve found doctors opting out of Medicare, most said, “No.”
It was at this point that the governor probably decided he no longer wants to talk to regular people who don’t have a script to follow.
For the record, as Scott probably knows, these so-called “cuts” to Medicare Advantage aren’t really cuts to beneficiaries. At issue are Medicare cost-savings embraced by the Obama administration through the Affordable Care Act. The so-called “cuts” are changes to the way in which the government reimburses insurance companies, which have been overpaid in the Medicare Advantage program.
What’s more, congressional Republicans – not exactly a moderate bunch – have already endorsed and voted for these “cuts.”
It’s likely the governor understands this, but hopes to fool voters. If yesterday was any indication, his efforts aren’t going well.
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Justice Scalia makes embarrassing error in latest dissent

Justice Scalia makes embarrassing error in latest dissentAntonin Scalia (Credit: Jeff Malet, maletphoto.com)

Justice Antonin Scalia is famous for his acerbic, caustic and highly readable dissents. So when his latest was released on Tuesday, in which Scalia rails against the court’s 6-2 decision to uphold the Environmental Protection Agency’s right to regulate coal pollution that crosses state lines, observers of the court were ready to dive into another delicious Scalia attack.

But there’s a problem — it turns out that Scalia’s dissent makes a rare, clear and somewhat embarrassing factual error.

“This is not the first time EPA has sought to convert the Clean Air Act into a mandate for cost-effective regulation. Whitman v. American Trucking Assns., Inc., 531 U. S. 457 (2001), confronted EPA’s contention that it could consider costs in setting [National Ambient Air Quality Standards],” Scalia writes in his dissent. But as Talking Points Memo’s Sahil Kapur notes, Scalia’s gotten the earlier case almost completely backward.

“The EPA’s position in 2001,” writes Kapur, “was exactly the opposite.” In that case, the EPA was defending its right to not use cost concerns as a counter to health effects when writing certain air quality standards. The EPA won that case unanimously, with all nine justices taking its side. And the author of the opinion for the court on that case was none other than Scalia himself.

“Scalia’s dissent … contains a hugely embarrassing mistake,” wrote University of California-Berkeley law professor Dan Farber. “He refers to the Court’s earlier decision in American Trucking as involving an effort by EPA to smuggle cost considerations into the statute. But that’s exactly backwards: it was industry that argued for cost considerations and EPA that resisted.”

Farber continued, writing, “Either some law clerk made the mistake and Scalia failed to read his own dissent carefully enough, or he simply forgot the basics of the earlier case and his clerks failed to correct him. Either way, it’s a cringeworthy blunder.”

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DES VOIX… FOUND IN TRANSLATION Biennial 2014 A Festival of New French Plays and Cinema

Playwrights Foundation (PF) Cutting Ball Theater and Tides Theatre announced the Des Voix…Found In Translation Biennial 2014, a Festival of New French Plays and Cinema in San Francisco May 1-25, 2014.  Des Voix…Found In Translation is an international exchange project that initiates the translation of vanguard French and American playwrights, supporting  the presentation of their work to audiences on both sides of the Atlantic. Des Voix…Found In Translation features new play readings-May 8-11 at Tides Theatre and also includes: A Festival of New French Cinema May 4, 11, 18 & 25 featuring some of the most dynamic French screenwriters in this generation, concurrently at Tides Theatre; A rare “Bal Littéraire” A New Play Nightclub  on Friday May 9 at 7 PM , Hosted with Nathalie Fillion of La Coopérative d’Ecriture (Cooperative Writing) at The French American International School. Go to www.desvioxfestival.com for the full schedule.

This San Francisco festival features new translations of provocative plays by four of the most innovative playwrights working in France today – Christophe Honoré, Leonore Confino and Riad Gahmi will be showcased with new play readings-May 8-11 at Tides Theatre. Samuel Gallet’s play COMMUNIQUÉ10 translated by Rob Melrose in the 2012 Des Voix Festival is receiving its American Premiere (May 1-25) as part of Cutting Ball Theater’s 15th Anniversary season for this Des Voix… festival. Three plays will be performed in English during the month-long Festival at Tides Theatre with COMMUNIQUÉ10 at Cutting Ball  in San Francisco.

The fabled “auteur” Christophe Honoré, (an heir apparent of the French New Wave)  Christophe Honoré‘s first play, ‘Les Débutantes,’ was performed at Avignon in 1998. Christophe, a filmmaker and screenwriter, has had many outings at Cannes, closing the fest in 2011 with ‘The Beloved,’ featuring  both Catherine Deneuve and daughter Chiara Mastroianni. He returned to Avignon with his play ‘Dionysos Impuissant’ (in 2005), with Joana Preiss and Louis Garrel playing the leads. .

Leonore Confino is known for her recently completed trilogy of plays about lifes obsessions, Her play ‘Building,’ was one of the highlights of the last Festival Off d’Avign. The second play ‘Ring’ is 17 rounds of boxing between couples, in which the actors play ten characters dealing with life as a couple. This past January, the third part of Léonore’s trilogy ‘Les Uns sur Les Autres,’ a play about a French suburban family, played at the Théâtre de la Madeleine in Paris, starring Agnès Jaoui as the exhausted mother.

Riad Gahmi is a passionate raconteur, who in a long-term collaboration with Philippe Vincent, co-writer of the spectacle/play ‘Un arabe dans mon miroir’ (An Arab in My Mirror), which is a spectacle of scenes combining theater, film, and music. The play was workshopped in Cairo and performed at various theaters in Germany, France, and New York In each country a local  actor and cast speaks in her native language, rebuilding  every time, becoming a simple witness of the war in Algeria in the Egyptian revolution through the September 11 attacks.

Samuel Gallet is an emerging writer who has made his mark as one of the most prominent young playwrights of his generation, with plays staged by top Parisian directors. His play ‘Encore Un Jour Sans’ was a finalist for the Grand Prix de Littérature Dramatique. Inspired by the 2005 Paris riots, his play ‘Communique N°10,’ was translated by Rob Melrose for the inaugural 2012 Des Voix Festival.

Playwrights Foundation’s Artistic Director Amy Mueller comments on the collaboration: “It takes a village to build a bridge across cultures, and we are thrilled to be working with two of San Francisco’s most globally minded Artistic Directors – Rob Melrose of Cutting Ball Theater and Jenifer Welch of Tides Theatre – and one of the foremost translators in the world, Laurent Muhleisen, to build this project that connects the Left Bank with the Left Coast.”  Collaborator Rob Melrose, an acclaimed translator and director observes that “These four works are simply extraordinary plays, theatrically brilliant and singular in the ways each story tackles the culture-quake of the 21st century – using a quintessentially French lens to express the universality of the current cultural zeitgeist in the West.”

The Plays

The Festival will feature Cutting Ball Theater’s American Premiere of Samuel Gallet’s ‘Communique No. 10.’ Exploring the tensions of the underclass in a city that is bursting at the seams, ‘Communique N°10′ was inspired by the 2005 Paris riots led by North African youth. Performances begin April 25 (Press Opening May 1), and the production will run through May 25. At the heart of the Festival in mid-May will be the Des Voix Festival itself, a non-stop weekend showcasing three brand new translations: Leonore Confino’s newest work ‘Les Uns Sur Les Autres,’ a fast talking, fast sleeping, fast eating, non-sensical family satire driven by an over abundance of electronic devices – the world of a proper family connected to everything but itself; Christophe Honoré’s ‘Un Jeune Se Tue,’ a disturbing and tragic nocturnal ghost story about love, death, and unearthly beings. Riad Gahmi’s darkly comedic work ‘Où Et Quand Nous Sommes Morts,’ which satirically confronts European xenophobia, anti-Arab racism and media’s sensationalist conjuring of empathy, which results in social division rather than social unity.

Film

A series of new French cinema will run concurrently every Sunday evening (May 4, 11, 18. 25) at Tides Theatre .  Featured films are ; (Partial List)  Antonin Pertjallo, La Fille du 14 Juillet (The girl of the 14 July);and  Mila Hanson , la Pere des Mes Enfants, Love (father of my children)*. Jennifer Welch of Tides, who curates the films remarks, “Expanding the scope of the Des Voix Festival, and deepening the cultural exchange.  We are curating a series of contemporary French films that speak to American audiences, bring these voices to a community eager for new and provocative foreign cinema.” At Tides Theatre, (*programing subject to change)

Bal Littéraire

The festival features a rare Bal Littéraire  (A New Play Nightclub) on Friday, May 9th at 7 PM. This tradition is wildly popular throughout France, typically created in 48 hours by multiple writers, and performed for one evening only, is a unique hybrid of flash performance, club dancing and play reading – and includes audience participation. The Bal will will tap the talents of six writers – three French and three American – in collaboration. Hosted with Nathalie Fillion member of La Coopérative d’Ecriture, the originators of “Bal Littéraire” in France.

Festival events are scheduled throughout the month of May at three venues between Union Square and the vibrant Market Street corridor, the hub of the city’s artistic and cultural action.

Go to www.desvioxfestival.com for the full schedule.

The goal of the  translation project is to exchange ideas and perspectives of today’s world, and to increase and deepen cultural exchanges between France and the U.S. that began began with Des Voix…Found In Translation 2012. This project is a collaboration between Playwrights Foundation, a legendary (for over 3 decades) new play development center in San Francisco, Cutting Ball Theater, named  SF’s “Best Experimental Theater Company” , and The Tides Theatre, an innovative new theater making its mark in SF Culture, and the Maison Antoine Vitez], an International Centre for Drama Translation in Paris.

The French playwrights will be in residence in San Francisco for the duration of the festival in May, and will participate in the rehearsal and performance process of their newly translated plays. Translators include Kimberley Jannarone and Erik Butler (Un Jeune Se Tue), Michelle Haner (Les Uns Sure Les Autres), and Rob Melrose (‘Communique N10′ & Où Et Quand Nous Sommes Morts), who also directs his translations. Each of the three new plays will be performed as staged readings during the festival by many of the Bay Area’s finest actors and directors. For the erudite scholarly theater-goer, the festival will also include a colloquium entitled “The Left Bank Meets The Left Coast: Transmigration of Theater and Culture”

The Paris festival is being produced by the Maison Antoine Vitez, and will be presented May 25, 2014 at the Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord, founded by Peter Brook, and known worldwide as the place to see groundbreaking work. The Paris festival will feature translations of exceptionally gifted, early career American playwrights Rajiv Joseph, ‘Bengal Tiger At The Baghdad Zoo,’ Marcus Gardley, ‘Every Tongue Confess’ (as a radio play) and Liz Duffy Adams, ‘The Reckless Ruthless Brutal Charge Of It or The Train Play’ all performed in French. Commissioned to translate these three works are Dominique Hollier (Gardley), Laurent Muhleisen (Joseph) and Isabelle Famchon (Adams).

The producers are working closely with the Cultural Services of the French Consul General in San Francisco on the presentation of the American festival.

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New Technologies to Stop Texting and Driving

Despite the dangers, we just can’t seem to keep ourselves from texting and driving. For those having a difficult time putting down their phones to pay attention to the road, new technologies may provide an answer.

There are already applications to keep us from texting or answering calls while driving. Apps like Textecution, tXtBlocker, and AT&T DriveMode all block calls and messaging features while the phone is in motion. Some apps include additional features for parents (or employers) to be notified of particular activities.

It’s interesting to note that many of the hands-free applications do not actually reduce the amount of distraction, and in some cases end up being equally, if not more, distracting to the driver. This has increased the call for mobile devices to be put down completely while driving.

There are some shortcomings, however. Applications that automatically turn on when detecting speeds higher than 10 mph can be limiting usage for passengers in the car. Similarly, drivers can easily bypass the application by simply clicking the passenger option.

For the most part, keeping people from texting and driving is an awareness issue. Campaigns like It Can Wait and the Safe Texting Campaign are aimed at educating drivers, in particular young drivers, about the dangers of being distracted.

We’re likely to continue to see an increase in these as we become more and more intertwined with our mobile devices.

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Reflecting on $1 Trillion in Student Debt, and Why We’re Headed for $2 Trillion

This week marks the two-year anniversary that student debt hit $1 trillion, and like any milestone anniversary, it’s worth taking some time to reflect on how we got here—and where we’re headed.

Roughly, outstanding student debt sits at $1.2 trillion. For some perspective (and depending on which source you prefer), this figure was around $250 billion in 2003. This, suffice it to say, represents a staggering rate of growth in student loans in a very short period of time. The growth rate of outstanding student loans exceeded 12% in the middle of 2011-12 alone, before slowing down a bit to 8.5% in 2013.

Even at the current (slower) rate of 8.5%, the $1.2 trillion in outstanding student loan debt will become $2 trillion in just 8 years, sometime around 2022.

There are million (trillion?) reasons for why total student loan debt has shot so high over the past decade—increased college enrollment (until recently), huge increases in the cost of graduate education, the high cost of for-profit education, income stagnation among middle class and low-income households and the loss of wealth sources that previously were used to fund college (home equity, for example). One enormous and consistent driver, however, is the systematic disinvestment in institutions where 75% of college students attend: public colleges and universities.

New data this week from the State Higher Education Executive Officers bears this out. The good news is that 2013 was the first in many years in which states actually increased appropriations for higher education. Unfortunately, the increase was only 1.4% per full-time student. But in a year in which total state funding increased slightly, 20 states still cut per-student funding. Arkansas alone cut funding by 17.5%.

And even factoring in the increase, state funding per student is down 23% since 2008 and down nearly 29% over the last 25 years. States spend $2,685 less per full-time student than they did in 2001, the height of state funding. In this context, a 1.4% increase amounts to very little. (Note: these numbers are consistent with Demos’ recent post-recession update to the Great Cost Shiftwhich used data through 2012)

And indeed, students are shouldering more of the costs at—and this bears repeating—public institutions. The percentage of total educational revenue (that is, what funds college) covered by tuition reached a high of 47.4% in 2013. In other words, nearly half of college costs at public schools are being funded by students. Again, for perspective, tuition covered only about a third (35.6%) of educational spending just five years ago, and less than a fourth (23.8%) 25 years ago.

The shift from public higher education to something resembling a private system has been swift, indeed. And this shift has a lot to do with why we’re on our way to celebrating the $2 trillion anniversary sooner than many of us would have hoped.

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FINALLY: Boehner concedes ACA repeal ‘isn’t the answer’

Three weeks ago, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) responded with a simple message to the news that Affordable Care Act enrollment had exceeded expectations: “House Republicans will continue to work to repeal this law.”
Three weeks later, it appears even Boehner doesn’t believe Boehner’s bluster.
Speaker John A. Boehner said Thursday that changes brought about by the Affordable Care Act make it impossible to just repeal the health care law unless Congress has a replacement ready as well.
Speaking at a Rotary Club meeting in his Ohio district … Boehner said simply repealing the Affordable Care Act “isn’t the answer” and it would take time to transition to a new system.
According to the account from the local paper, Boehner specifically told his audience, “(To) repeal Obamacare … isn’t the answer. The answer is repeal and replace. The challenge is that Obamacare is the law of the land. It is there and it has driven all types of changes in our health care delivery system. You can’t recreate an insurance market overnight.”
Hmm. Let’s take a brief stroll down memory lane.
In 2011, Boehner tried several times to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
In 2012, shortly after the national elections, Boehner suggested he was done trying to repeal the law. “It’s pretty clear that the president was re-elected,” he said. “Obamacare is the law of the land.”
In 2013, Boehner returned to trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act and even shut down the federal government in part over ill-defined opposition to the law.
In 2014, just a few weeks after saying his caucus will keep up its repeal crusade, Boehner has returned to the realization that the ACA is “the law of the land” and full repeal “isn’t the answer.”
And to think some House Republicans aren’t satisfied with the quality of the Speaker’s leadership.
I suppose the obvious next question for Boehner is this: when, exactly, did he come to the realization that trying to “repeal Obamacare … isn’t the answer”?
On the one hand, if this just recently dawned on the House Speaker, why did it take him so long?
On the other hand, if Boehner has been aware of this for some time, then why has he allowed House Republicans to waste so much time with several dozen votes to repeal some or all of the federal reform law?
The clarification from his office didn’t help much.
Spokesman Brendan Buck downplayed Boehner’s comments. “For four years now the House Republican position has been repeal-and-replace,” he said.
The GOP, however, has taken a number of votes to repeal the law, including bills that would have completely repealed the law without replacing it. The party hasn’t unified behind a replacement, let alone voted on one, since Boehner took the speaker’s gavel.
The Speaker’s occasional incoherence notwithstanding, Boehner’s underlying sentiment reinforces the fact that the health care debate has shifted considerably just over the last several weeks. Between all of the positive news surrounding implementation of the law, the remarkable enrollment data, Democrats starting to look at the law as a political benefit, Republicans hedging on ACA issues like Medicaid expansion, and the nation’s top GOP lawmaker abandoning full repeal as “the answer,” Obamacare proponents finally have the wind at the their backs.
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