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Rubio struggles with condemnations of Obama’s Cuba policy

The politics of President Obama’s new U.S. policy towards Cuba does not fall neatly along partisan lines. Plenty of Republicans and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are celebrating the White House’s announcement, while a handful of Democrats, most notably Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), aren’t at all pleased.

But among all critics, few have been as vocal and visible today as Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who’s been apoplectic about the administration’s breakthrough. That’s not unexpected, though the far-right senator’s complaints seem deeply flawed and poorly thought out.

In an official written statement, for example, the Florida Republican called the White House’s shift “inexplicable.”

“While business interests seeking to line their pockets, aided by the editorial page of The New York Times, have begun a significant campaign to paper over the facts about the regime in Havana, the reality is clear.”
It almost sounds as if Rubio thinks “business interests” – in this case, farmers and Rubio’s allies at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce – should accept limits on free enterprise, even as other countries trade with an American neighbor. Doesn’t the senator usually see “business interests” as “job creators”?
“But most importantly, the regime’s brutal treatment of the Cuban people has continued unabated. Dissidents are harassed, imprisoned and even killed. Access to information is restricted and controlled by the regime.”

Right, and that’s after 54 years of the exact same U.S. policy. How more decades of a failed policy would Rubio recommend to improve the conditions of the Cuban people? Isn’t it at least possible that Cubans will benefit better relations and expanded opportunities with the United States?

Rubio later said Obama’s moves “will tighten” the Castro regime’s grip on power “for decades.” I suppose that’s possible, but my follow-up question for the senator is simple: hasn’t the Castro regime already had a tight grip on power for decades? Has the old, ineffective U.S. policy weakened that grip in any way whatsoever?

Rubio then raised concerns that normalized relations won’t address Cuba’s human rights record, which is an odd argument coming from a senator who was defending torture just last week.

The senator saved some of his most striking material for Fox News.

“At minimum, Barack Obama is the worst negotiator that we’ve had as president since at least Jimmy Carter, and maybe in the modern history of the country.”

Didn’t Jimmy Carter negotiate the Camp David Accords, one of the most sensitive and successful diplomatic endeavors of this generation? Couldn’t Rubio think of a less ridiculous comparison?

As if all of this wasn’t quite enough, the Floridian decided it’d also be a good idea to lecture the Pope.

“My understanding is that the influence that His Holiness had was on the release of Mr. [Alan] Gross, which I’ve not criticized. As I said, I’m happy that he’s with the Cuban people [sic]. I would also ask His Holiness to take up the cause of freedom and democracy, which is critical for a free people — for a people to truly be free,”

Rubio, a Catholic whose parents immigrated from Cuba to flee the Castro regime, told reporters.

Look, I realize that foreign policy obviously isn’t Marco Rubio’s strong suit. In September, when he called for a “permanent” U.S. troop presence in the Middle East, his entire argument seemed quite foolish. A month later, Rubio urged President Obama’s to follow a specific course against Islamic State militants, and then he complained bitterly when Obama did exactly what the senator suggested.

If Rubio is going to make this the centerpiece of a national campaign, he’s going to need a more persuasive pitch.

Steve Benen, MSNBC
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Vivek Murthy 1, NRA 0

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

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

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

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

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

So what changed? A couple of things, actually.

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

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

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

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

Steve Benin, MSNBC

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Cheney Throws Bush Under The Bus On Torture Program

Dick Cheney discussed the newly released Senate torture report Wednesday on Fox News, and in particular challenged a finding that former President George W. Bush hadn’t been briefed on the CIA’s harsh interrogation methods until years after they’d already been in use.

Fox News anchor Bret Baier asked the former vice president whether the agency deliberately kept Bush in the dark about its so-called enhanced interrogation techniques.

“Not true. Didn’t happen,” Cheney responded. “Read his book, he talks about it extensively in his memoirs. He was in fact an integral part of the program, he had to approve it before we went forward with it.”

Asked if there was ever a point where he knew more about the CIA’s activity than the President, Cheney said “I think he knew everything he needed to know and wanted to know about the program.”

Baier then asked if the former President knew about the “details” of the program. The report — which Cheney called “full of crap” – described brutal interrogation methods including waterboarding, extensive sleep deprivation, threats to harm detainees’ families and “rectal feeding.”

“I think he knew certainly the techniques, we did discuss the techniques,” Cheney said. “There was no effort on our part to keep him from that.”

“The notion that the committee’s trying to peddle, that somehow the agency was operating on a rogue basis, and we weren’t being told or the President wasn’t being told, is just a flat out lie,” he later added.

From TPM, Catherine Thompson
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Private company issuing “parking tickets” at Market St. Safeway

Retailers at the shopping center parking lot at 2020 Market Street that is home to Safeway, Starbucks, and Jamba Juice have hired a private company to issue what appear to be unlawful parking “tickets” on cars parked in the shopping center.

Notices delivered by plainclothes workers monitoring the parking lot come in bright orange envelopes and look very much like SFMTA parking citations. Inside the orange envelope, a “Notice of Unauthorized Parking Charge” in the amount of $63 can be issued to any car whose owner walks off the lot, including customers who have patronized the shopping center’s businesses.
It’s not uncommon for customers to purchase groceries over at Safeway and then continue to shop in the area. In fact, that is exactly what had happened in the case of one person who reported receiving the charge notice.
After purchasing groceries at Safeway and loading them into a car parked in the lot, the individual headed over to Golden Produce to pick up some fresh fruits and vegetables, then came back to find the following ticket on the car. In the “reason for charge” section, it is evidenced that the violator was watched as they walked across Church street.
As stated on the ticket:
The vehicle identified below is parked on private property in breach of posted and established rules and use limitations of this property. As a result of said breach, Parking Control Services hereby demands the follow charge.
The property owners have posted signs around the parking lot, some obscured by trees, that let parkers know that any walk-off will be met with the $63 charge.
The private company that is issuing the notices, Parking Control Services, Inc., settled a lawsuit with the Marin County District Attorney in 2007 when consumers complained that the company was placing parking tickets that looked like government-issued citations on cars parked at free public and private parking lots. Parking Control Services did not respond to our inquiries.

According to an opinion filed by California Attorney General Kamala Harris in 2011, it is unlawful for “private property owners to issue parking citations imposing monetary sanctions to the owners of vehicles parked on their property.”
Absent express statutory authority, a private property owner may not issue a citation to a vehicle owner, and this remains the law even when the owner issues a preprinted ticket claiming otherwise. Moreover, absent legislative authorization and regulation of the practice, allowing private property owners to issue their own parking citations would circumvent many of the consumer-protection purposes embodied in the Vehicle Code statutes governing towing and parking citations.
In the opinion, the Attorney General acknowledges sensitivity to the losses private property owners might face with “improper parking,” but says the state has “chosen to alleviate that harm by authorizing towing as an alternative to suing the vehicle owners for trespass, and has limited the issuance of citations to government employees and agents.”
We contacted San Francisco City Attorney’s office to find out if the practice is lawful in San Francisco and if the City was aware of what was going on or had granted the parking lot owners the “statutory authority” mentioned in the opinion, but have so far not received a response. Supervisor Scott Wiener did not have anything to add, telling us that this wasn’t an issue he was familiar with.
We reached out to Safeway, the largest merchant in the shopping center, to find out if it was aware of what was going on and knew of the 2007 lawsuit against Parking Control Services. Safeway store manager Dave Papalias referred us to Safeway Media Relations. We heard back from Safeway Director of Public and Government Affairs, Keith Turner, who told Hoodline that Safeway reserves the right to tow people in the parking lot, but did not respond to questions about issuing charges to Safeway customers who walk off the lot. Turner did mention that visitors to the Delancey Christmas Tree lot at the southeast corner of the parking lot “may park in the lot to load their tree for free.”
While the owners of the parking lot are within their rights to tow people who improperly park on their lot without being a customer, it seems that they have gone a step further in their parking enforcement in what might be a violation of California law. However, it’s unclear at this time what sort of recourse might be available to recipients of the parking lot citations.
Barring any action from the City Attorney or a private party against the parking lot’s owners, next time you head to park in the shopping center, whether you are a customer or not, you’d better not step off the lot lest you risk that $63 dollar fine.
From Hoodline
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Ark Encounter park won’t get Ky tax incentives

A proposed Noah’s ark theme park in Northern Kentucky has been turned down for around $18 million in state tax incentives amid concerns that it will promote religion and violate the separation of church and state.

But the group behind the project — Answers in Genesis — says it is considering legal action in federal court.

The state Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet said in a letter Wednesday that the Ark Encounter theme park has changed its position on hiring policies since it originally filed for incentives in 2010 and now intends to discriminate in hiring based on religion.

It also said the park has evolved from a tourist attraction into an extension of the ministry activities undertaken by Answers in Genesis, which promotes a literal interpretation of the Bible’s old testament and argues that the Earth is only 6,000 years old.

“State tourism tax incentives cannot be used to fund religious indoctrination or otherwise be used to advance religion,” Tourism Secretary Bob Stewart wrote in the letter. “The use of state incentives in this way violates the separation of church and state provisions of the Constitution and is therefore impermissible.”

Officials will “take no further action” on the application, he said.

COURIER-JOURNAL

Answers in Genesis said it will run billboards to counter “myths” about it’s proposed Ark theme park.

Answers in Genesis was seeking approval to participate in a state tax-incentive program that would have let the park keep 25 percent of the sales tax it collects for 10 years, amounting to more than $18 million.

The $73 million first phase of the Ark Encounter involves building a full-scale, 510-foot wooden replica of the ark in Grant County to present the biblical account of Noah surviving a worldwide flood.

The Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority gave preliminary approval in July but thereafter sought written assurances that project leaders would not discriminate on the basis of religion.

COURIER-JOURNAL

Kentucky Ark Park possible discriminatory hiring jeopardizes tax incentives

Without Stewart’s recommendation, the application will not go back to the authority for final approval.

Answers in Genesis, which launched a billboard campaign in Kentucky and New York City this week to counter criticism from “anti-Christian activists,” said in a statement that its attorneys are exploring legal options.

And one of the group’s attorneys, James Parsons, sent a letter to the cabinet on Monday arguing that the state’s demands on hiring policies violate state and federal law.

“If you insist on the newly imposed condition… it will amount to unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination and my client will have no choice but to seek redress in federal court,” Parsons wrote.

The letter describes Ark Encounter as an “overtly religious entity” that is “clearly allowed” under state and federal law to use religious criteria in hiring. It also argues that the state’s conditions will impose a burden on the freedom of religion without a compelling government interest.

Parsons argued that simply allowing Ark Encounter to participate in the incentive program does not amount to endorsing a religious viewpoint or spending state money to further a religious cause.

But, Alex Luchenitser, associate legal director for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said it’s unlikely a lawsuit could succeed in federal court.

He said the U.S. Supreme Court has made clear that states can deny taxpayer subsidies to religious groups if officials are concerned that funds will support religious activities.

“Kentucky is doing the right thing and is respecting the rights of taxpayers to not be forced to subsidize religious indoctrination and discrimination,” Luchenitser said. “The state is also respecting the fact that jobs that are going to be supported by state subsidies must be open to all.”

Meanwhile, Gov. Steve Beshear issued a statement Wednesday reiterating concerns that project leaders plan to use religious beliefs as a “litmus test” for hiring. But he said Wednesday’s decision does not prevent the park from being built.

“On the contrary, Ark Encounter has said publicly that the project will be built regardless of availability of state incentives,” he said. “I have no doubt that the Ark Encounter will be a successful attraction, drawing visitors and creating jobs, much like the Creation Museum.”

Answers in Genesis had received a green light from the finance authority in 2011 for its entire $172.5 million project. But, it withdrew the application amid financing troubles and returned this year seeking approval for only the first phase.

Excavation on the construction site has already begun.

Answers in Genesis also runs the Creation Museum in Boone County, a 70,000-square-foot operation that asserts that Earth was created in six days and that ancient humans lived alongside dinosaurs.

 

Mike Wynn, Courier-Journal

 

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Elizabeth Warren Drafted for Presidential Bid?

A petition to draft Elizabeth Warren to run for president collected 25,000 signatures in three hours.

MoveOn.org reported that in the first three hours of their campaign to draft Sen. Warren to be a 2016 presidential candidate, their petition collected 25,000 signatures, “In just over three hours, more than 25,000 people have signed MoveOn’s petition in support of the “Run Warren Run” campaign. The voting to ratify the plan (which is different than the petition) is still ongoing and will close at 9am tomorrow morning.”

MoveOn’s members are going to overwhelmingly support the draft campaign to try to get Warren into the race, but they are unlikely to be successful. Sen. Warren’s office repeated again today that she is not running for president. Sen. Warren has no campaign organization, and the progressive groups that are urging her to run lack the financial resources to compete with Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Democratic primary.

The petition effort is impressive and should send a message to former Sec. of State Clinton that she will not be able to win the Democratic primary by drifting to the center. The climate is ripe for challenger from the left to take on Mrs. Clinton, but that senator is likely to be Bernie Sanders, not Elizabeth Warren.

Warren was just promoted to a leadership position in the Democratic Senate caucus. She is a figure on the rise within the Democratic Party, who has a bright future either in Senate leadership or an administrative position in the next Democratic administration.

If Hillary Clinton does not run, Warren will probably jump at the chance to be the Democratic nominee. The point is that if Clinton is in the race, Warren most likely won’t be.

Liberals have been empowered within the Democratic Party after their midterm defeat. The left is growing, and they are aching for a candidate that speaks for them. If Hillary Clinton wants to coast to the Democratic nomination, she will be wise to put an ear to the ground and pay close attention to the rumblings beneath her feet.

 

From Politics USA

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

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

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

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

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

michigan religious bill

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

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

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

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

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

Dan  Avery. Logo TV news

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

From Addicting Info, Jameson Parker

 

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CASTING FOR THE 5TH ANNUAL SAN FRANCISCO ONE-MINUTE PLAY FESTIVAL

December 15 & 16, 2014
BRAVA THEATER
2781 24th Street, San Francisco

Playwrights Foundation (PF) and the New York-based company The One-Minute Play Festival are thrilled to announce the final casting for the 5th Annual SF One-Minute Play Festival (#1MPF), December 15th and 16th, 2014 – an evening of 86 brand- new one-minute plays by a highly vaunted group of 50 Bay Area playwrights, all written within the past month specially for the event.

Headlining the festival are popular, local artists such as Marilet Martinez, Tina D’Elia, Andre Abrahamians, Anne Hallinan, Ariel Leasure,Scott Ragle, Monica Ho, Aejay Mitchell, as well as featured playwright Ignacio Zulueta – double-dipping as an actor. They are paired with talented Bay Area directors to perform 86 different 60-second works by such Bay Area luminaries as Peter Nachtrieb, Chris Chen, and Aaron Loeb, with distinguished emerging artists including Erin Bregman, Megan Cohen, Nathan Yungerberg, and Elizabeth Spreen. To celebrate its 5th anniversary, the festival is being upgraded to the beautiful Brava Theater Center, 2781 24th Street, San Francisco, in the heart of the Mission District. This venue, dedicated to the spirited Bay Area cultural scene with an emphasis on diverse voiced, is located along the city’s most vibrant arts and cultural corridor and provides the perfect ambiance for the celebratory nature of the #1MPF.
The SF #1MPF is a partnership with the New York-based company The One-Minute Play Festival, which now is a national movement. Through this annual event, each community where the festival takes place celebrates the singular voices of local playwrights who have their fingers firmly planted on the pulse of the region’s cultural zeitgeist.
Mr. D’Andrea, founder of the #1MPF, attests to the strength of the Bay Area’s theater community: “Having had the opportunity to work with the Bay Area artistic community over the past six years, I’ve observed a strong and present sense of community and a dedication to the craft and practice of theatre-making that’s truly unique and wonderful.” PF’s artistic director Amy Mueller reflects that, “These 50+ playwrights represent a new and undeniable force of creativity that is changing the landscape of our community life, and taps the rich diversity of voices and history that exists in our city.”

Now in its fifth consecutive year in San Francisco, the #1MPF brings the Bay Area ‘s new play community together to create a whirlwind of theater, a celebratory and inspirational evening during the holidays for the community to stamp the season with the Bay Area’s unique cultural thumbprint. With over 100 local artists participating, audiences will get a full meal of delicious little bites.

The 5th Annual San Francisco One-Minute Play Festival will take place for two performances only, on Monday, December 15th & Tuesday, December 16th at 8pm at
Brava Theater Center, 2781- 24th Street in San Francisco. Parking available in a paid lot on 24th Street/Potrero, behind the SF General Hospital, and metered on the street.
General Admission is $18 online, or in advance at the Brava Theater Box Office, 12p- 6p M-F; and $25 at the Door. VIP Tickets for $36 include reserved, best seats and drinks of your choice. Tickets are currently on sale at www.brava.org. For more information please visit www.playwrightsfoundation.org
About Playwrights Foundation
Founded in 1976 by Robert Woodruff, the Playwrights Foundation is now recognized as one of the top new play developmental centers in the country and the only one of its size and scope on the West Coast. Playwrights Foundation supports and champions contemporary playwrights in the creation of new works to sustain theater as a vital, dynamic art form. PF actively fosters the creative process of playmaking and the dissemination of new works to national theater producers, while sustaining a commitment to the playwright, whom we regard as the creative wellspring of the theater. Since its inception in 1976, PF has served more than 475 writers at all levels of their careers, providing indispensable resources and support for the development of their work, and connecting them to theaters interested in producing new plays. Our program alumni, first discovered early in their careers, include some of the most prominent names in contemporary theater, including include Sam Shepard, Anna Deavere Smith, Paul Vogel, David Henry Hwang, and others.
Our mandate is to offer a full range of programs that provide multiple points of entry for a diverse range of playwrights—at a low cost or free of charge—so they can readily access our services, take advantage of our expertise, recourses, and connections across the nation, while learning from their artistic peers.
About The One–Minute Play Festival (#1MPF)
#1MPF is America’s largest and longest continually running theatre festival, founded by Producing Artistic Director, Dominic D’Andrea. #1MPF is barometer project, which investigates the zeitgeist of different communities through dialogue and consensus building sessions and a performance of many moments. #1MPF works in partnership with theatres sharing playwright or community-specific missions across the country, creating locally sourced playwright-focused community events, with the goal of promoting the spirit of radical inclusion by representing local cultures of playwrights of different age, gender, race, cultures, and points of career. The work attempts to reflect the theatrical landscape of local artistic communities by creating a dialogue between the collective conscious and the individual voice.
In each city, #1MPF works with partnering organizations to identify programs or initiatives in each community to support with the proceeds from the work. The goal is to find ways give directly back to the artists in each community. Supported programs have ranged from educational programming, youth poetry projects, teaching artists working in prisons, playwright residencies and memberships, and community arts workshops.
Annual partnerships have been created with theaters in over 20 cities including: New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Trenton, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, Baltimore, Boston, Miami, Minneapolis, New York, Seattle, Dallas, Austin, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Anchorage, and more, with partnering institutions like Primary Stages, Victory Gardens Theatre, Cornerstone Theatre Company, The Playwrights Foundation, Boston Playwrights Theatre, Actor’s Express, InterAct Theatre, Mixed Blood, Passage Theatre, Phoenix Theatre, Kitchen Dog, Salvage Vanguard, ScriptWorks, ACT Seattle, Perseverance Theatre, and others.

To learn more about the SF One-Minute Play Festival and the Playwrights Foundation, visit the Playwrights Foundation website atwww.playwrightsfoundation.org

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New Century Chamber Orchestra pair with San Francisco Girls Chorus

New Century and San Francisco Girls Chorus make debut at Green Music Center

at Sonoma State University December 12 

Music Director Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg and the New Century Chamber Orchestra welcome the holiday season with a program of beloved classical favorites and traditional Christmas carols December 12 and December 18-21, featuring Salerno-Sonnenberg as soloist in Vivaldi’s Winter from The Four Seasons and the ensemble’s first collaboration with the San Francisco Girls Chorus. December 12 marks New Century’s debut at Weill Hall in Green Music Center at Sonoma State University.

The December concert program, which New Century will also perform in San Francisco, Berkeley, Palo Alto, and San Rafael, features the orchestra with the San Francisco Girls Chorus in Mozart’s Engel Gottes Künden, John Rutter’s Nativity Carol, Handel’s Hallelujah and For unto us a child is born from Messiah, and a medley of Christmas carols, arranged by former Featured Composer Clarice Assad. The chorus, under the artistic direction of Lisa Bielawa, will perform Vaughan Williams’ “Winter” from Folksongs of the Four Seasons and Cesar Antonovich Cui’s Radiant Stars. The program will also feature the orchestra in Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 3, Handel’s Arrival of the Queen of Sheba from Solomon, and Corelli’s Concerto Grosso in G minor, Christmas Concerto.

Concerts take place Friday, December 12 at 7:30 pm at Weill Hall at Green Music Center in Rohnert Park; Thursday, December 18 at 8 pm at First Congregational Church in Berkeley; Friday, December 19 at 8 pm at First United Methodist Church in Palo Alto; Saturday, December 20 at 8 pm at Nourse Auditorium in San Francisco, and Sunday, December 21 at 5 pm at the Osher Marin Jewish Community Center in San Rafael.

New Century’s collaboration with San Francisco Girls Chorus is the latest in its expanding circle of diverse and distinguished musical guests. This season, Featured Composer Derek Bermel performed four concerts with the orchestra in September and is writing a newly commissioned work to be performed in May 2015. Former longtime New York Philharmonic Concertmaster Glenn Dicterow leads the orchestra in four concerts in March 2015. During the 2013-14 season, the orchestra performed two highly-successful first time collaborations: Atlantic Crossing with Chanticleer, and Donizetti’s one-act opera Rita with San Francisco Opera Adler Fellows Efrain Solis, Maria Valdes, and Thomas Glenn.

Tickets for the December 18-21 concerts are $29 to $61 and can be purchased on the New Century website at www.ncco.org, through City Box Office at www.cityboxoffice.com, or by calling (415) 392-4400. Discounted $15 single tickets are available for patrons under 35. Open Rehearsal tickets are $8 general admission and can be purchased through City Box Office.

Tickets for the December 12 Green Music Center concert are $35 to $85 and are available at http://gmc.sonoma.edu/.

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

From Media Matters

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The American Justice System Is Not Broken

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Albert Bueneko,  The Concourse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Dave Ferguson, Raw Story

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Christian-based Tampa homeless program forces destitute to work for free

A  Christian-based Florida homeless program catering to recovering alcoholics and drug addicts has been accused of providing work crews to businesses and local events, then keeping their pay without them ever seeing it in exchange for room and board.

In an investigation conducted by the Tampa Bay Times, New Beginnings CEO Tom Atchison is accused of exploiting residents staying in his residences by farming them out as unpaid labor, including working concessions at Tampa Bay Rays, Lightning, and Bucs games, the Daytona 500 and the Florida State Fair.

Workers who put in a day of work are unaware of how much they are being paid for their labor since their paychecks go straight to Atchison and the shelter.

Atchison, who claims to have a doctorate in theology he earned from a now defunct online school, is currently applying to run Hillsborough County’s new homeless shelter with a contract worth millions of public dollars.

For residents who are able to pay, New Beginnings charges $150 a week, or $600 a month, which covers rent and three meals per day.

The program’s CEO calls the labor “work therapy,” but advocates for the homeless and labor lawyers say it is exploitative, calling it “indentured servitude.”

Atchison defended sending residents out in work crews, saying, “Because of what we do at those games, we can afford to take guys off the street who have nothing and give them the opportunity to work and get their lives back together. We take the guys no one else does.”

Former employees and residents of New Beginnings dispute that, saying Atchison is more concerned with the financial future of his program than with providing genuine help.

“It needs to stop,” said Lee Hoffman, a former New Beginnings resident and minister. “There are a bunch of homeless people who are being exploited.”

Labor lawyers say companies may compensate employees with shelter and food but need to document hours worked and the value of the housing and meals provided in order to ensure workers earn at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.

According to Atchison, New Beginnings does not keep track of hours worked.

“This is outrageous,” said Catherine Ruckelshaus, general counsel for the National Employment Law Project. “These workers are doing a job. They need to be treated with dignity.”

According to a former residents and staff, Atkinson also takes residents’ Social Security checks and food stamps, even if they amount to more than residents owe in program costs.

“He would say, ‘They’re drug addicts, they’re alcoholics, they’re just going to spend it on cigarettes and booze,’ ” said Hoffman. “The only way they get any of it is if they complain hard enough.”

Former employee Victoria Denton said, “If a check comes in, it doesn’t matter if it’s your name, my name, or Timbuktu’s name, it’s going in his (Atchison’s) name.”

“People who are homeless are desperate,” said Nan Roman, president and CEO of the National Alliance to End Homelessness. “It’s not an equal, typical relationship between a landlord and a tenant. … It should err on the side of protecting the homeless people who are more vulnerable in the relationship, and making sure their rights are preserved.”

Tom Boggioni, Raw Story

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If The Supreme Court Reads This Study, It Could End Partisan Gerrymandering Forever

For the last decade, the Supreme Court of the United States has openly refused to police partisan gerrymandering even in egregious cases where the state legislature or its congressional delegation bears little resemblance to the will of the people. A new study out of Duke University, however, casts serious doubts on the reasoning of the justices who have thus-far refused to strike down unconstitutional gerrymanders.

In 2012, Democratic U.S. House candidates in North Carolina received 81,190 more votes that Republicans. Republicans received just under half of the votes earned by the two parties. And yet, the GOP walked away with 9 of the state’s 13 congressional districts. So, despite the fact that they earned just over 49 percent of the two-party vote, Republicans won nearly 70 percent of the state’s congressional seats.

Common sense dictates that the legislative maps that could produce such a result must be deeply flawed — and that they must be biased towards Republicans, the same party that controlled both houses of the state legislature when these maps were drawn (although the state had a Democratic governor at the time of the redistricting, the governor has no veto power over congressional maps). A new study by Duke Mathematics Professor Jonathan Mattingly and undergraduate Christy Vaughn seems to confirm this insight. Their study confirms that it is highly unlikely that a fair redistricting process would have produced a map as skewed towards one political party as North Carolina’s congressional map is.

Mattingly and Vaughn’s study redrew numerous random congressional maps, all of which complied with three rules: the districts must be “connected,” they must “come as close as possible to having [an] equal number of people,” and “they should be as compact as possible.” They then ran eight different simulations, some of which gave greater preferences to compact districts over equal population, while others placed greater emphasis on maintaining exact population. Seven of the eight simulations did not produce a single map where Democrats won less than five congressional seats, assuming that every voter who cast a vote for a Democrat or a Republican in 2012 would have cast the same vote under the simulated maps. The one simulation that did produce a handful of outlier maps where Democrats won only four seats did so “in less than 5% of the samples.”

Thus, the actual result of the 2012 elections — four Democratic congressional seats in North Carolina — did not even show up in all but one of Mattingly and Vaughn’s simulations. In the simulation where it did arise, it did so only in a few unusual cases. It is exceedingly unlikely that North Carolina’s GOP-friendly maps could have arisen organically. Rather, as Mattingly and Vaughn demonstrate, they are almost certainly the product of a legislature that carefully designed the maps to produce a desired result. The study’s authors argue that this result cries out for an independent check on redistricting — “The fact that the election outcomes are so dependent on the choice of redistrictings demonstrates the need for checks and balances to ensure that democracy is served when redistrictings are drawn and the election outcome is representative of the votes casted.”

Which brings us back to the Supreme Court. In the 2004 case Vieth v. Jubelirer, a total of four conservative justices joined an opinion by Justice Antonin Scalia arguing that federal courts should not get involved in partisan gerrymandering cases. The essence of Scalia’s argument in Vieth is that courts are simply unable to come up with a legally manageable standard for determining which gerrymanders cross the line when they become impermissible. According to Scalia, “no judicially discernible and manageable standards for adjudicating political gerrymandering claims have emerged.”

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote a separate opinion in which he also lamented the fact that such a standard has not yet emerged — although he seemed more open than Scalia to the possibility that it could emerge in the future. “When presented with a claim of injury from partisan gerrymandering,” Kennedy wrote, “courts confront two obstacles.” The first is a “lack of comprehensive and neutral principles for drawing electoral boundaries,” and the second is “the absence of rules to limit and confine judicial intervention.” While judges might have an intuition that a particular gerrymander crosses the line where it unconstitutionally favors the members of one party over another, Kennedy was not aware of any “comprehensive and neutral principles” that could be used to judge each congressional map to determine whether it crossed the line.

That is the genius of Mattingly and Vaughn’s study. It creates an objective methodology for assessing whether a map is impermissibly gerrymandered. Admittedly, judges would still have to apply some discretion to determine how skewed a map must be before it must be struck down. What if 10 percent of the maps produced using Mattingly and Vaughn’s methodology were in line with actual election results? What the number were 20 percent? But in truly egregious cases like North Carolina, any reasonable judge can recognize that the map could not have resulted from a fair and neutral process.

That doesn’t mean, of course, that the Court’s present majority — all five members of the Court’s current conservative bloc have expressed at least some reluctance to decide partisan gerrymandering cases — will allow judges to reach this question. Should the Court’s majority change in the coming years, however, Mattingly and Vaughn may have provided that new majority with the tools they need to eliminate North Carolina-style gerrymandering in the future.

 

From Think Progress

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DEVIL IN THE DEEP BLUE SEA

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

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

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

HOW MANY OTHER DEAD ZONES ARE OUT THERE?

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

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

WHAT CAUSES THESE THINGS?

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

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

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

DO I LIVE NEAR A DEAD ZONE?

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

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

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

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

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

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

ARE HUMANS SOLELY RESPONSIBLE FOR DEAD ZONES?

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

CAN DEAD ZONES BE BROUGHT BACK TO LIFE?

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

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

 

BY BRIAN PALMER, On Earth Magazine

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

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

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

1. Columbus NEVER landed in the Upper 48—Ever

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

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

2. Basically Everything About Pocahontas

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

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

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

3. The First Thanksgiving

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

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

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

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

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

4. What is a Redskin?

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

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

5. Lincoln Ordered a Mass Execution

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

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

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

6. Hitler Studied Reservations

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

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

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

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

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

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

NOT ONCE.

8. Unwritten History of African Americans and Natives

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vincent Schilling
Originally published on Indian Country Today Media Network.

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Michigan Citizen.com

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

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

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

Source: League of Women Voters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Crowded Fire Theater 2014 Matchbox Readings Series Features New Plays by Geetha Reddy, Andrew Saito, MJ Kaufman, and Eugenie Chan

December 1-9
Thick House Theater
1695 18th Street, SF
Crowded Fire Theater  (CFT) announces the four featured playwrights and plays for the 2014 Matchbox Readings Series, public staged readings of plays in development. New plays by playwrights Geetha Reddy,  Andrew Saito, MJ Kaufman, and Eugenie Chan in readings from December 1-9,  2014 at the Thick House Theater.Crowded Fire champions playwrights whose work offers a vital contribution to the American theater landscape with a commitment to diversifying the canon of contemporary plays. “We believe art is always political,” says Crowded Fire Artistic Director Marissa Wolf, “and that in order to move toward a more just society, theaters must offer a wider range of aesthetics and voices on our stages.”  The Matchbox: Commissioning and Developing New Plays grew out of CFT’s need to bolster playwrights’ revision processes in order to strengthen the scripts before rehearsals for the professional productions began.
The plays featured in CFT’s 2014 Matchbox Readings Series are: (TBD) by Geetha Reddy (Dec. 1, 7pm); La Lechera by Andrew Saito (Dec. 2, 7pm); Murmur Rock by MJ Kaufman (Dec. 8, 7pm) and 19 Wentworth Alley by Eugenie Chan (Dec. 9, 7pm).
Award-winning playwright Christopher Chen, whose upcoming The Late Wedding and 2012 hit The Hundred Flowers Project were both commissioned and developed through The Matchbox remarks, ”By giving a still-emerging playwright a pathway to a full production, Crowded Fire facilitated a major turning point in my career. They steadfastly believed in my project and me as a writer through the entire process, making sure I had all the resources necessary to bring the play into fruition. To my mind, The Matchbox Commission’s emphasis on specifically working towards a full production clearly sets it apart from similar, less ambitious programs in comparably-sized theater companies.” The Hundred Flowers Project  was a co-commission with Playwrights Foundation as is A Wonderverse  by Geetha Reddy which will kick off this year’s Matchbox Reading Series. A Wonderverse is slated for the Crowded Fire mainstage in 2015.

New Plays by Geetha Reddy,  Andrew Saito, MJ Kaufman, and Eugenie Chan

Reading Dates: December 1-9  A Wonderverse by Geetha Reddy (Dec. 1, 7pm); La Lechera by Andrew Saito (Dec. 2, 7pm); Murmur Rock by MJ Kaufman (Dec. 8, 7pm) and 19 Wentworth Alley by Eugenie Chan (Dec. 9, 7pm).
At: Thick House, 1695 18th St., SF  (between Carolina St.& Arkansas St. in Potrero Hill )
Readings: 7 PM
Tickets: Free to the public RSVP at http://www.crowdedfire.org
Box Office by phone (415) 746-9238   Photos: http://www.crowdedfire.org

“We strive for a balance of styles, stories, and voices in our Matchbox series, this year the pieces are thrillingly original.They are quite different from one another, even down to the process/circumstances of their creation and their current stages of development. It’s a wild batch…”  Laura Bruckener, CFT’s Director of New Works.

 

MATCHBOX READING SERIES 2014
December 1, 7pm
TBD  By Geetha Reddy
Working alone at night, a scientist makes an incredible discovery that challenges her beliefs and raises profound questions of right, ownership, responsibility, and power. A Wonderverse is a Crowded Fire Matchbox and Playwrights Foundation commissioned piece.
December 2, 7pm
La Lechera  By Andrew Saito
Directed by Marissa Wolf
This grotesque, aggressive satire by up-and-coming, stylistically daring writer Andrew Saito plunges us headlong into the horrifying greed, need, and exploitation that grease the crushing wheels of commerce.
December 8, 7pm
Murmur Rock  By MJ Kaufman
Directed by M. Graham Smith
A haunting play with the exposed bones of a dark fairy tale, Murmur Rock follows a Jewish American man and his mixed-race family traveling in Germany to find his father’s village. However, long-buried secrets, the shifting terrain of memory, and bargains unwittingly made lead them to places they never expected.
December 9, 7pm
19 Wentworth Alley  By Eugenie Chan
Directed by Marilee Talkington
Drawing on the true history of her grandfather, a leader in a Chinese crime syndicate in early 1900s San Francisco, Eugenie Chan layers original material with fragments of actual family documents to explore the world he knew – and made – one of lost hopes and grim choices.
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Harvard Students Take 1964 Literacy Test Black Voters Had To Pass Before Voting — They All Failed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

via DailyMail

via DailyMailvia DailyMail

via DailyMail

 

Valerie Beaumont, Addicting Info

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Everything’s Dumber in Texas: State Approves Textbooks That Teach Moses is Founding Father

Just like with the elections, conservatives on the Texas Board of Education have won — and America (or, in this case, Texas) has lost. While the Board ultimately accepted books that no longer contain passages that were designed to lead students to believe, wrongly, that there is not scientific consensus on climate change thanks to a combination of board members’ admitted failure to actually read the alterations made by publishers and possible illiteracy, period, the Christian extremists on the Board did win the battle regarding their wish to spread Jesus all across American history.

The Texas Freedom Network says it was successful in getting other alterations made that promote negative stereotypes of Muslims. However, the Board accepted numerous late changes without giving the public time to review them — including the promotion of Moses as a Founding Father.

“What we saw today shows very clearly that the process the State Board of Education uses to adopt textbooks is a sham,” Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller said in a statement. “This board adopted textbooks with numerous late changes that the public had little opportunity to review and comment on and that even board members themselves admitted they had not read. They can’t honestly say they know what’s in these textbooks, which could be in classrooms for a decade.”

The 89 new textbooks were approved by a party-line 10 to 5 vote. In essence, the terrorists won.

Progressive Secular Humanist notes that:

The textbooks were written to align with instructional standards that the Board of Education approved back in 2010 with the explicit intention of forcing social studies teaching to adhere to a conservative Christian agenda. The standards require teachers to emphasize America’s so called “Christian heritage.”

In essence, Christian conservatives in Texas have successfully forced a false historical narrative into public school textbooks that portray Moses as an influence on the Constitution and the Old Testament as the root of democracy.

Critics called the whole process into question after publishers posted a number of last-minute changes to the textbooks yesterday, leaving board members and observers without time to figure out exactly what was in the approved texts.

According to reports, scholars did not have an opportunity to review and comment on the numerous changes publishers have submitted since the last public hearing. Some of those changes appeared to have been negotiated with state board members behind closed doors.

Miller says that the textbooks — the one that scholars were not given time to review — “include passages that suggest Moses influenced the writing of the Constitution and that the roots of democracy can be found in the Old Testament. Scholars from across the country have said such claims are inaccurate and mislead students about the historical record.”

Emile Lester, a professor of history at the University of Mary Washington, says the textbooks contain “inventions and exaggerations” regarding the influence of Christianity on the Founding Fathers, and historians warn that these bastardizations of American history could lead students to believe that “Moses was the first American.”

Recently, Texas Tech students, more than 80 percent of whom are from the state, were found to be unable to answer basic U.S. history questions. Many, thanks to the stellar education provided by the state, were unable to say who won the Civil War, and from whom America won its independence. They were, however, able to answer questions about Jersey Shore.

Think about that.

 

From Americans Against the Tea Party

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Escape from Duggarville: How playing the good Christian housewife almost killed me

Vyckie Garrison

Whenever I talk about my escape from the Quiverfull movement, Christians immediately dismiss my experience by saying, “Your problem was not with Jesus or Christianity. Your problem was that you were following an extreme, legalistic cult. Let me tell you about my personal relationship with Jesus.” It can be extremely frustrating. I was in a close, personal relationship with Jesus for over 25 years. But rather than telling you about the beginning of my relationship with this man, I am going to spare you the long story and skip straight to the break up.

The end of my life as a “Bride of Christ” came after a visit to Bright Horizons, which is the local domestic violence shelter in my hometown of Norfolk, Nebraska. I went there for help in filing a restraining order against my husband, whose emotional and mental abuse against me and my children had escalated to the point that I was in the midst of a complete mental and physical breakdown. He had taken 6 of our 7 children to a town three hours from our home and was preventing me from having any contact with them unless I agreed to his terms for our “reconciliation.”

At the women’s shelter, I was given a form to complete … I wrote three pages describing the situation in our home, and after reading what I had written, the crisis volunteer said to me, “The judge will not grant you a protection order unless you actually accuse your husband of abuse.”

I told her that I didn’t really think my husband was “technically” abusive, and in fact, I had no doubt that he truly loved me and the kids. He always put us first … he basically centered his entire life around us! We were a good Christian family. The Bible commands husbands to “love your wives as Christ loved the church.” That’s the sort of godly man I was married to: a true patriarch who ruled his home according to God’s principles for marriage and family.

We had studied the Bible carefully, and knew so much about “Biblical Family Values,” that we felt qualified to teach others via our “Pro-life, Pro-family” Christian newspaper, The Nebraska Family Times. In 2003, we were named “Nebraska Family of the Year” by the Nebraska Family Council … and this was in recognition of our work to help get DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act) passed in Nebraska. That’s not something that I’m at all proud of these days, but at the time, being named “Family of the Year” was enough to convince me that we were on the right track so far as marriage and family goes. I had become somewhat of a leader in what is now called “the Quiverfull movement” – Christian fundamentalist families who are dedicated to actually living out the biblical model for marriage and family in their daily lives.

Probably the most recognizable and influential Quiverfull family in America is reality TV’s Duggar Family of “Way Too Many and Counting” fame. But unlike fundamentalist Mormons who tend to congregate in just a few places in Utah, Arizona, Texas, etc., you will find Quiverfull families in nearly all types of churches in every community. This is because Quiverfull is not a denomination, with a creed to sign and a church to join. And it’s not technically a cult in the strict sense of having one central leader … instead, Quiverfull is a mindset (a very powerful head trip) in which each family becomes a cult unto itself with Daddy enshrined as the supreme Patriarch.

Based on a literalist interpretation of Psalm 127, Quiverfull families eschew all forms of birth control. They have a high regard for the patriarchal family structure found in the Old Testament which emphasizes hierarchy, authority, and strict gender roles for men, women, boys, and girls.

The reason you can find Quiverfull families in nearly every type of Christian congregation is because Quiverfull beliefs are not actually a radical departure from traditional Christian teachings regarding marriage and family. It is my contention that Quiverfull IS regular Christianity writ large … lived out to its logical conclusion.

As Quiverull believers, my husband and I proudly embraced the ideal of biblical headship and submission. We believed, as the Bible teaches, that it is the man who is ultimately responsible for the spiritual well-being of his wife and children, and who must one day stand before his Maker and give an account. My husband understood this, and he took it very seriously … which is why he tried SO hard to be a loving, godly patriarch.

“So,” the woman at the domestic violence shelter asked me, “if he’s such a great, loving husband and father, what are you doing here? Why do you need a protection order?”

I tried to explain that, for some reason, despite how hard we were both trying to live according to Christian principles, our home had become an oppressive, miserable place in which none of us were happy, and it felt like we were all losing our minds. The problem was, everything I knew about relationships had been so completely redefined by Christian teachings that I did not have the language to name the abuse.

So I went to therapy. One of the first things Deb, my counselor, showed me was a“Power and Control Wheel” which is a tool for helping abuse victims identify ways in which they are being manipulated, exploited, mistreated and enslaved.

As Deb went over each aspect of the Power & Control wheel, I began to realize that, yes, of course, all of these elements were present in my marriage … it’s just that we had different names for these things … we had chapter and verse to teach us that power and control is actually good and godly. We called it “Agape Love” – it’s the kind of love which God has for His creation …this was the relationship we were supposed to use as our model between husband and wife.

For instance: the signs of emotional abuse include put downs, shaming, and guilt-tripping. Well, this is something my husband would never do … there really was no need since I was already fully aware of my inherently sinful nature, my “desperately wicked heart,” … He didn’t need to remind me that even my very best efforts were like filthy rags in comparison to God’s holiness.

Plus, I knew that as a woman, I was particularly susceptible to deception by Satan. How many times, when we were discussing an important decision, had my husband said to me, “What you are suggesting SOUNDS reasonable, but how do I know that Satan isn’t using you to deceive me?”

Well, according to the Bible, it was very likely that Satan WAS using me “And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through child-bearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety. (1 Timothy 2:14-15… As a good Christian woman, the last thing I wanted was to be accused of having a “Jezebel Spirit”!! Jezebel is the bossy, bold and dominating woman, who ‘wears the pants’ in the family, and in the Bible account, things ended badly for her: “’Throw her down’Jehu said. So they threw her down and some of her blood spattered the wall and the horses as they trampled her underfoot.” (2 Kings9:33)

Intimidation creates fear … but how can fear be a bad thing when, “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom?” Was I afraid of my husband? Not in a physical sense, but I was always hesitant to contradict or “disrespect” him because God had placed him in authority over me, and God-given authorities can be considered “umbrellas of protection.”

Patriarchy is God’s umbrella of protection. By honoring and submitting to their husbands, wives receive the privileges of their spiritual protection. If a wife resists her husband’s instructions, she forfeits her place under his protection – not just for herself, but for also for her children.

My husband didn’t intentionally isolate me and the children … it just kind of happened as a logical progression of our decision to live radically for Jesus. First, I dropped out of college and quit my job in order to be a “keeper at home” as the Bible commands. Then we cut out all meaningful associations with unbelievers, and most of our extended family who didn’t share our dedication to righteous living.

We taught our kids at home to protect them from the evil influence of godless humanism which we believed was the religion taught in the “government schools.” We eventually got to the point where we were so “biblical” that we felt the local Independent Fundamental Baptist church in our town was too liberal, too compromising … so we began homechurching with a couple of “like-minded” families who also were leaving their family planning up to God and homeschooling their many children.

Minimizing, denying, and blaming … this one was obvious to me, because IN LIGHT OF ETERNITY, whatever suffering or adversity I might encounter as a result of our commitment to live according to biblical principles were merely “light and momentary afflictions.” Sure there were times when submitting to my husband’s decisions was a hassle, and yes, the pregnancies nearly killed me every time, BUT … who was I to complain, considering everything that Jesus had done for me? If I thought “almost” dying was bad, just imagine how horrible it was for Jesus, who actually died!! Motherhood was my mission field. Missionaries often risk their lives in order to spread the Gospel. And just like the missionaries, if I died in childbirth, in Heaven, I would wear a Martyr’s Crown.

“Using children” didn’t really ring true to me. Everyone knows “Jesus love the little children” and the whole reason we were knocking ourselves out to follow the biblical model for marriage and family was in order to create a safe, loving home for our children, so no … I told Deb, “Using children? I don’t think that one really applies.”

… oh, except the part where using any form of birth control was tantamount to playing God, so I was kept perpetually pregnant or nursing, or both for more than 11 years. That verse in Psalm 127 says, “Blessed is the MAN who has his quiver full of them” … and it goes on to say,”he shall not be ashamed, but will speak with the enemies in the gates.” We were taught that in Bible times, the city gate was the place where male leaders made decisions regarding local government.

So this was about political domination. The whole point of having a quiver full of babies is to … out-populate the “enemy,” … that would be all of you; and to shoot those many arrows “straight into the heart of the enemy.” And by that, we meant that our children would grow up to be leaders in all the major institutions of our society. This was our plan for taking back America for God. So the children were like arrows (which is the ammunition) in God’s holy war. So, yeah … “using children” … definitely put a great big checkmark by that one.

Oh … and for those who are curious, but too polite to ask what it is like for these Quiverfull wives who are breeding like rabbits, I have a little story for you. A guy bunny meets a lady bunny in the field, and he says to her, “This won’t take long, did it?” (My kids hate it when I tell that joke. They say that it’s TMI.)

I wouldn’t say that my husband used male privilege to control and dominate me and the kids. Male privilege was his rightful position. As Paul says in the book of 1 Corinthians, “For man did not come from woman, but woman from man. And man was not created for woman, but woman for man.

Biblical marriage is supposed to be a living portrait of the relationship between Jesus and the church, the “Bride of Christ.” Jesus has all power, all authority which is given to him by HIS Father (the same way power and authority are given by God to earthly fathers).

… So even though I’d heard that “absolute power corrupts absolutely,” I couldn’t believe that God-ordained authority could be abused because “Greater love has no man than this: that he lay down his life for a friend.” Jesus had that perfect love … He was a “servant-leader” …. and husbands are commanded to love their wives as Christ loves the Church, right?

We believed that while men were “privileged” with greater authority, they also were burdened with ultimate responsibility … so a woman’s absolute dependence was really more of a hardship for the man than for the ones over whom he held God-ordained dominion.

Economic abuse? Well sure, money was always tight, but hey, finances were no picnic for my husband either, and besides, we had these promises …

My God will supply all my needs,” and “I have never seen a righteous man forsaken or his children begging for bread” … It was really just a matter of trust, plus careful money management.

God always provided for us financially … like the time He led me to deliver my 5th baby at home with just a midwife …. never mind that homebirth was insanely risky considering the health issues which led to my first four babies being delivered by c-section … the baby and I both survived … and we saved a ton of money.

What could possibly make more sense than God’s financial plan?

Coercion and threats … “No,” I told Deb, “he never threatened me.” I *willinging* went along with all the harsh demands of the Quiverfull lifestyle, and in many instances, I was the one who pushed patriarchy and headship ON HIM. Why would I do that?

Because I believed our family had an ENEMY who was determined to steal, kill, and destroy our souls, and the souls of our children, for all eternity! Our only protection from spiritual disaster, was within that one little secret spot of safety which Corrie ten Boom called, “The Hiding Place.” “The Hiding Place” isn’t any physical location … instead, it is a very specific, very narrow position … directly in the center of God’s will. There, and only there, we could safely trust in God’s protection.

He never had to raise his voice to keep me and the children in our place. And when he did raise his voice, well that was “speaking the truth in love.” When he constantly criticized and complained about all the ways in which the children and I failed to live up to God’s perfect standards, he was “hating the sin, but loving the sinner.” He didn’t have to brandish a weapon in order to control our every action, indeed even our thoughts and feelings. All he had to do was fulfill his God-appointed role of Patriarch; to love us as Christ loves the church.

After going through all the points on the Power and Control wheel, I was ready to admit that, yes, I was in an abusive relationship. I told my counselor, “I want out!”

Deb said me, “You have to protect yourself and your children! You need to divorce this man!”

She was talking about my husband, and I was thinking, “Well, yeah … him, too.”

I did file for divorce and rescue myself and my kids from the tyranny of patriarchy. But for me, the primary break up was with Jesus. You see, being in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is a set up for dysfunctional game-playing and crazy-making head trips. According to Christianity, Jesus subjected himself to torture and death, so that we could have the “free gift” of eternal life … and by “free,” he means, it’s only going to cost you everything you have and everything you are.

When the very definition of perfect love is sacrificing your children and martyring yourself, there is no place for emotionally healthy concepts like boundaries, consent, equality, and mutuality. I could not say that my husband’s patriarchal behavior was abusive so long as I was committed to a relationship with “The Big Guy” who exemplifies the abusive bully, and who commands his followers to imitate His very warped and twisted idea of “love.”

I started a blog, No Longer Quivering, as a way to process my Quiverfull life and try to understand how I’d come to embrace such a fanatical lifestyle. The response was surprisingly phenomenal and over time, NLQ has grown to into something like a movement of women escaping and healing from spiritual abuse. There are now dozens of former fundamentalist women (and a few men) who are sharing their stories, and many of the kids who were raised in these homes have started their own blogs, including Libby Anne, who runs the amazing, Love, Joy, Feminism site on Patheos. Getting out is extremely hard. Leaving an abusive relationship is challenge enough, and when you have half a dozen or more kids, no marketable job skills … BUT, Quiverfull women are already used to doing the impossible, so when it comes to rescuing themselves and their children, “extremely hard” feels like a relief!

[Editor’s note: Vyckie doesn’t say so, but in contrast to publishing resources for Quiverfull families, publishing for women in recovery doesn’t pay. Some of the women at No Longer Quivering recently launched a fundraiser to keep Vyckie from losing her house.]

Some Quiverfull kids are making the break, too. Growing up in a Quiverfull home means being raised by a narcissistic father and having a mother with a huge martyr complex. The kids are treated as property to be hoarded. They are isolated, coerced and manipulated, abused and deprived socially and educationally. As surrogate moms, the older daughters bear the brunt of the work: cleaning, cooking … even homeschooling and disciplining their younger siblings when the Quiverfull mothers become too worn down and burned out from perpetual pregnancy and trying to keep up with this unsustainable lifestyle.

When they finally encounter the “real world,” these kids are pissed. They feel ripped off … and rightfully so. The backlash is awesome to witness as they’ve channeled their anger into activism and begun to fight back with their own websites such asHomeschoolers Anonymous and Homeschooling’s Invisible Children. All of these sites are linked at No Longer Quivering and I encourage you to check them out.

 

Vyckie Garrison was once a minor celebrity in the Quiverfull Movement, made famous by TV’s Duggar family. As a devout, Bible-believing Christian and the mother of seven homeschooled children, Garrison spent 16 years, with her husband, publishing a newspaper for families on a similar path. Today, via a website called No Longer Quivering, she publishes resources for women leaving the movement. Recently she  addressed American Atheists about her experience. This article is an abridged version of her remarks.

THIS STORY FIRST APPEARED AT ALTERNET.

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

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

According to the petition:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From ADDICTING INFO

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Canadian Mother Gives Birth While On Vacation In The U.S., Faces $1 Million Hospital Bill

Jennifer Huculak, who lives in the Canadian province Saskatchewan, was six months pregnant when she flew to Hawaii to go on a vacation with her husband. But two days into her 2013 trip, her water unexpectedly broke; she spent the next six weeks on bed rest, and her daughter was delivered prematurely via an emergency C-section.

A year later, the Huculaks and their daughter are healthy and back at home. But they’re now facing medical bills that total $950,000 for the hospital care they received in the United States last fall. “It makes you sick to your stomach,” Huculak told CTV News. “Who can pay a million-dollar medical bill? Who can afford that?”

Although the couple purchased travel insurance from Blue Cross before their vacation, the insurance company says that Huculak’s previous pregnancy complications — she had a bladder infection when she was four months pregnant — amounted to a pre-existing condition, so her medical expenses won’t be covered. Blue Cross also maintains that the Huculaks’ plan expired while they were still in Hawaii.

Jennifer Huculak told CBC News that she’s frustrated with Blue Cross because she thought she did everything right. She had approval from her doctor to travel, and after her water broke, she tried to figure out how to return to Canada. But she couldn’t find a medical evacuation company that was willing to transport her home in her condition.

It’s not entirely uncommon for visitors to the U.S. to accrue big medical bills if they suffer from a health condition while they’re here. Travel insurance isn’t currently subject to all of the regulations under the Affordable Care Act — and the health reform law doesn’t apply to people who aren’t U.S. residents — so there can be confusion about how exactly these plans will work in practice. Other Canadian travelers have been stuck with hefty bills after unexpectedly suffering from kidney failure and struggling with high blood pressure while in the United States.

But bills for childbirth are particularly exorbitant. Giving birth in the United States costs more than anywhere else in the world, even when the procedure doesn’t involve the serious complications that Jennifer Huculak experienced. The price tag for this type of care varies widely — by up to tens of thousands of dollars — depending on which hospital you decide to go to. But the cost fluctuations are seemingly random, since high prices for childbirth services don’t correlate with a higher quality of care for American mothers.

Ironically, the Huculaks hail from the Canadian province that was the first region of their country to implement universal, publicly-funded health care. They say they’renow trying to decide if they should fight Blue Cross over their bill or declare bankruptcy.

 

From:  TARA CULP-RESSLER, Think Progress

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Why Germans Work Fewer Hours But Produce More: A Study In Culture

When many Americans think of Germany, images of WWII soldiers and Hitler often come to mind. But what many people don’t realize is that Germany is the industrial powerhouse of Europe, and is a leading manufacturer of goods for export to developing Asian nations. We don’t hear about the superiority of German engineering in Volkswagen commercials for nothing!

The economic engine of the EU, Germany single-handedly saved the Eurozone from collapse in 2012. At the same time, German workers enjoy unparalleled worker protections and shorter working hours than most of their global counterparts. How can a country that works an average of 35 hours per week (with an average 24 paid vacation days to boot) maintain such a high level of productivity?

Working Hours Mean Working Hours

In German business culture, when an employee is at work, they should not be doing anything other than their work. Facebook, office gossip with co-workers, trolling Reddit for hours, and pulling up a fake spreadsheet when your boss walks by are socially unacceptable behaviors. Obviously, in the United States these behaviors are frowned up on by management. But in Germany, there is zero tolerance among peers for such frivolous activities.

In the BBC documentary “Make Me A German“,  a young German woman explained her culture shock while on a working exchange to the UK.

“I was in England for an exchange… I was in the office and the people are talking all the time about their private things… ‘What’s the plan for tonight?’, and all the time drinking coffee…”

She was quite surprised by the casual nature of British workers. Upon further discussion, the Germans reveal that Facebook is not allowed in the office whatsoever, and no private email is permitted.

Goal-Oriented, Direct Communication Is Valued

German business culture is one of intense focus and direct communication. While Americans tend to value small talk and maintaining an upbeat atmosphere, Germans rarely beat around the bush. German workers will directly speak to a manager about performance reviews, launch into a business meeting without any ‘icebreakers’, and use commanding language without softening the directives with polite phrases.Whereas an American would say, “It would be great if you could get this to me by 3pm,” a German would say, “I need this by 3pm”.

When a German is at work, they are focused and diligent, which in turn leads to higher productivity in a shorter period of time.

Germans Have a Life Outside Work

Germans work hard and play hard. Since the working day is focused on delivering efficient productivity, the off hours are truly off hours. Because of the focused atmosphere and formal environment of German businesses, employees don’t necessarily hang out together after work. Germans generally value a separation between private life and working life.

The German government is currently considering a ban on work-related emails after 6pm, to counter the accessibility that smartphones and constant connectivity give employers to their employees. Can you imagine President Obama enacting such a policy in the United States?

To occupy their plentiful Freizeit, most Germans are involved in Verein (clubs); regularly meeting others with shared interests in their community. Common interests in Germany include Sportvereine (sports clubs), Gesangvereine (choirs or singing clubs), Musikvereine(music clubs), Wandervereine (hiking clubs), Tierzuchtvereine (animal breeding clubs – generally rabbits/pigeons) and collectors’ clubs of all stripes. Even the smallest village in Germany will have several active Vereinen to accommodate residents’ interests. Rather than settling in for a night of TV after work, most Germans socialize with others in their community and cultivate themselves as people.

Germans also enjoy a high number of paid vacation days, with many salaried employees receiving 25-30 paid days (the law requires 20). Extended holidays mean families can enjoy up to a month together, renting an apartment by the seaside or taking a long trip to a new, exciting city.

Business Respects Parenthood

Germany’s system of Elternzeit (“parent time” or parental leave) is the stuff of fantasy for most working Americans. The United States does not currently have laws requiring maternity leave, while Germany has some of the most extensive parental protection policies in the developed world. The downside of these maternity leave benefits is that employers may avoid hiring women (with the fear that they will take advantage of the extensive benefits), and German boardrooms are consistently male-dominated at a higher rate than other developed nations, although the government is working to eradicatethis trend. The financial benefits of staying home (from both Elternzeit and Elterngeldor parents’ money programs) are often too good to pass up for German mothers, and can lead to stagnant or non-existent careers.

Since “at will” employment does not exist in Germany, all employees have contracts with their employer. Parents who have been gainfully employed for the previous 12 months are eligible for Elternzeit benefits, which include up to three years of unpaid leave with a “sleeping” contract. The employee is eligible to work part-time up to 30 hours while on leave, and must be offered full-time employment at the conclusion of the parental leave. Parents may also choose to postpone up to one year of their leave until the child’s 8th birthday. Either parent is eligible for parental leave, and many couples make the choice based on financial considerations.

In addition to the preservation of the employee’s contract, the state will pay up 67% of the employee’s salary (with a cap of 1800 Euros per month) for 14 months. Parents may split the 14 months however they choose. These benefits apply equally to same-sex couples.

Have you picked your jaw up off the floor yet?

Put Some German In Your Office

The German work culture is very different from the average American office, but there are certainly lessons to be learned from our German counterparts. The diligent focus Germans bring to their working life is to be admired. Separating work from play can help us lead a more balanced life; putting the phone down after hours gives us a mental break from stressing about work, and we can return to the office refreshed in the morning. When it’s time to get something done, closing Facebook and turning off push notifications helps keep our minds quiet and the flow steady. Direct conversation can lead to increased efficiency, and more clarity of communication among team members.

Americans often equate longer hours with increased production and superior work ethic, but examining the German model makes one wonder: When it comes to time at work, maybe less really is more!

 

 

From Knote

 

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