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Isis fighters ‘crucify’ 17-year-old boy in Syria

Isis fighters have reportedly executed a 17-year-old boy and left his body on display on a cross in Syria.

Pictures being shared online show a banner attached to the teenager’s chest saying the boy has been crucified for taking photos of Isis military bases, as well as receiving “500 Turkish lira” for any footage taken.  

The message describes the ruling for the alleged crime as “apostasy” and states the teenager has been “killed and crucified for a period of three days” as the punishment.

The alleged execution comes after it emerged Isis militants had beheaded their own fighters for spying and espionage.

It is not known who took the picture, which was circulated across social media by some Isis supporters on Friday.

Charlie Winter, Programs Officer at counter-extremism think tank the Quilliam Foundation, said crucifixion is a prescribed punishment meted out by Isis for specific crimes.

He told The Independent: “Crucifixion has been used many times before – it’s an age-old punishment dealt out to people who have committed treason.”

He said this punishment arises from Isis’s fundamentalist interpretation of Verse 33 of the fifth book of the Koran, which reads: “Indeed, the penalty for those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger and strive upon earth [to cause] corruption is none but that they be killed or crucified or that their hands and feet be cut off from opposite sides or that they be exiled from the land.

“That is for them a disgrace in this world; and for them in the Hereafter is a great punishment.”

However, he said the next very next verse emphasises forgiveness and removes the imperative to use such a punishment, saying: “Except for those who return [repenting] before you apprehend them. And know that Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.”

Mr Winter said the apostasy ruling suggested a fusion of theological and statutory terms.

The recent killing follows a series of executions in Raqqa in May believed to have been committed by Isis militants, where bodies were left suspended on wooden crosses for two days.

In March, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Isis crucified a man for “purposefully killing a Muslim to take his money”.

 

From The Independent

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First Gay Couples In Arizona Get Married, Gov. Jan Brewer Losing Her Shit by Dan Avery

Karen Bailey and Nelda Majors, who have been together for 58 years, became the first same-sex couple to get married in Arizona after a federal judge declared the state’s ban on marriage equality unconstitutional.

They met in college, where they lived in the same dorm, and started out as friends. But things blossomed a few months later: “I came back from spring break and told Nelda I loved her,” Bailey revealed to Why Marriage Matters Arizona, “It was all so new and amazing for me.”

Outside the Maricopa County Superior Court today, Majors, 76, said, “I have no words to express how I feel. It’s wonderful!”

Another couple—David Larance, 36, and Kevin Patterson, 31—married outside the county clerk’s office in downtown Phoenix. Patterson rushed straight from the gym when the verdict was announced and was so excited he forgot to bring a ring.

“I feel a lot of gratitude that this day finally came,” he told The Republic.

One Arizonan who’s not feeling gracious, however, is Governor Jan Brewer. (You know, the lady shook a pointed finger at President Obama on an airport tarmac with armed Secret Service only a few feet away.)

She’s furious that gay and lesbian couples have been allowed to marry in her state, now that Attorney General Tom Horne revealed he wouldn’t appeal today’s ruling.

arizona jan brwer

In a press release Brewer ranted that “the federal courts have again thwarted the will of the people” and eroded individual states’ rights.

It is not only disappointing, but also deeply troubling, that unelected federal judges can dictate the laws of individual states, create rights based on their personal policy preferences and supplant the will of the people in an area traditionally left to the states for more than 200 years.

As Justice Scalia opined, such action is tantamount to ‘an assertion of judicial supremacy over the people’ and is an image of the judiciary ‘that would have been unrecognizable to those who wrote and ratified our national charter.’

Brewer insisted that determining who can get married “is not the role of the judiciary.”

Perhaps she’s forgotten landmark cases like Loving v. Virginia? Or maybe it’s just more convenient to ignore them.

Regardless, congratulations to all the lucky couples today!

 

 

by Dan Avery, Logo TV

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‘Republican Lite’ Ro Khanna Severs Loyalties with Democrats in Campaign Mailer

Democratic Congressional challenger Ro Khanna seems determined to isolate the last of his Democratic supporters – and give new meaning to his moniker, ‘Republican lite.’

According to the San Jose Mercury News, Democrats nationwide are questioning Khanna’s loyalties after he released campaign mail criticizing his opponent, Congressman Mike Honda, for … consistently voting with fellow democrats on issues including the budget. Huh?

Even Howard Dean, a Honda supporter and founder of Democracy for America, voiced his confusion in a mass email on Wednesday: “As the former Chair of the Democratic National Committee, it’s obvious to me that Ro Khanna is campaigning like a Republican,” Dean wrote. “Real Democrats don’t use ‘liberal’ as an epithet or attack fellow Democrats for standing up for progressive values like making sure the wealthy pay their fair share in taxes.”

It’s no wonder every major Democrat here and across the U.S. – from President Barack Obama, Khanna’s former boss, to Gov. Jerry Brown and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi –endorsed Honda.

The only high-profile Democrat missing from Honda’s extensive endorsement list is Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who became Khanna’s highest-profile elected endorser back in April. Newsome is probably regretting it.

Not only is Khanna the choice of Republicans, including the homophobic former Congressman Ernie Konnyu and the Tea Party, but his latest mail piece proves he’s on the warpath against liberal values.

Sticking by Khanna is a no-win situation for Newsom, who has his sights set on higher statewide or national office. Now that Khanna has made his right-wing politics crystal clear, the Lieutenant Governor would be wise to withdraw his support.

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Krugman: Obama One of the Most Successful Presidents in American History

President Barack Obama may be facing some of his lowest approval ratings to date, but that isn’t stopping Paul Krugman from defending the president’s overall track record. In fact, the Nobel Prize-winning economist is arguing Obama is one of the most “successful presidents in American history.”

Krugman, who was once among the president’s more notable skeptics, made his case in a new feature for Rolling Stone aptly titled “In Defense of Obama,” in which he dismissed persistent attacks from Republicans and mounting disappointment expressed by Democrats with an outline of the Obama administration’s key achievements in several areas including healthcare, the environment, national security, and the economy.

It’s a tough time to be making that case. Americans are increasingly frustrated byObama’s handling of ISIS and continued unrest in Iraq. As for the economy, even Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) recently blamed Obama’s economic advisers for repeatedly failing ordinary Americans in favor of Wall Street.

But in a follow-up interview with ABC News, Krugman told Jonathan Karl the recent onslaught of criticism is unwarranted, noting Americans have experienced more “consequential” changes under Obama’s presidency than ever before.

“People who had this idea that Obama was going to bring a transformation of America, I thought were being naïve,” Krugman said in the interview. “But, by God, we got health reform, and we got a significant financial reform. We are getting the environmental action … it’s not everything you would have wanted, but it’s more than anyone else has done for decades.”

By Inae Oh, Mother Jones

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Ann Coulter: ‘Give Ebola to Migrant Children’

Ann Coulter suggested today that America should infect migrant children with ebola in order to discourage illegal immigration.

In an interview this morning on Fox News, the controversial conservative commentator was asked how she would handle the growing humanitarian crisis caused by the arrival of thousands of unaccompanied children from Central America.

“First thing I would do is infect every one of those kids with the ebola virus,” she told host Sean Hannity. “The reason why people come to this country is because the government gives illegal immigrants free goodies like welfare.

“I say we give them a free case of hemorrhagic fever instead. If we pump every illegal child in this country full of ebola, parents would think twice before sending their kids to U.S. shores.

“This is just a classic case of making lemonade out of lemons. Whether we like it or not, this disease has arrived in America. So let’s put it to good use.”

An estimated 70,000 unaccompanied children from Central America will arrive at the United States’ southern border this year. Most are fleeing violent gangs in their home countries who fund their operations by smuggling drugs to the U.S.

Their sheer numbers are overtaxing America’s ability to provide for their basic needs while they await immigration hearings. Efforts to expedite the process have been bogged down in Congress amid a border debate about immigration levels and border security.

The crisis coincides with the worst outbreak of the Ebola virus in history. Over 900 people have died in West Africa this year from the disease, which carries a mortality rate between 50-90 percent.

Infecting the migrants with such a deadly virus may seem like an extreme solution. However, Coulter explained that her plan goes far beyond simply killing a few thousand innocent children.

“The best part is that once the children are infected, we can deport them back to Central America where they can infect the rest of the population,” she explained. “Once all the taco jockeys in Central America are dead we’ll colonize the territory with Americans.

“We could put up a few McDonalds, Wal-Marts and Home Depots. Maybe build a Disneyland. It would be a paradise.”

Ann Coulter the author of Mugged: Racial Demagoguery from the Seventies to Obama. She is well-known for hyperbolic statements designed to increase her book sales.

 

From The Daily Current

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San Francisco Bay Guardian Closed by San Francisco Media Company

Employees of San Francisco Print Media Company, the parent company of the Examiner, SF Weekly, and San Francisco Bay Guardian were this morning informed that the latter paper will be shuttered after 48 years.

The paper was founded by husband and wife Jean Dibble and Bruce Brugmann — whose visage, urging locals to “Read my paper, dammit” — grew ubiquitous over the years. Its founding mission was to “print the news and raise hell,” and, as an independent paper, it ostensibly did just that for 46 years. In 2012 Brugmann and Dibble sold the Guardian to the  San Francisco Media Company, which subsequently acquired theWeekly last year. After decades of lawsuits and acrimony, the dueling San Francisco weeklies were situated next door to one another, within the same office suite.

That situation changed today, however.

“Unfortunately, the economic reality is such that the Bay Guardian is not a viable business and has not been for many years,” wrote SFMC publisher Glenn Zuehls in the interoffice communique “When SFMC took over the publication, the company believed the publication’s finances could rise out of the red and benefit from joining forces with the Examiner and the Weekly. We have tried hard to make that happen over the past few years. … Since then, I have come to realize that this isn’t possible and that the obstacles for a profitable Bay Guardian are too great to overcome. The amount of money that the Bay Guardian loses each week is causing damage to the heart of the company and cannot justify its continued publication. The success of this company, providing the highest quality journalism for our readers along with superior results for our advertisers, is my sole priority.”

Zuehls characterized the decision as the most difficult of his career.

Guardian editor Steven T. Jones describes himself and the staff as “in shock. We’re still trying to stay cool. We’re still trying to absorb this.”

The paper’s curtailment is effective immediately. The edition hitting the streets tomorrow figures to be its last.

“We are in discussions of the possibility of buying the paper,” Jones says. “We’ll turn to our community and try to see if this is possible.”

Zuehls tells SF Weekly that a sale is possible: “Anybody can come and ask.” Exactly what one obtains in buying the Guardian is a matter to still be negotiated.

“I hope the passion of the Guardian lives on. Everyone in San Francisco can learn from that passion,” Zuehls continues. But “it has lost revenue since day one and the trend is losing more.”

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How To Fix The Supreme Court: Lessons From A Disenchanted Legal Scholar

Erwin Chemerinsky, the founding Dean of UC-Irvine School of Law and a renowned legal scholar, has some scathing words for the Supreme Court: It “has frequently failed, throughout American history, at its most important tasks, at its most important moments.”

This critique is contained in the progressive legal luminary’s new book, provocatively titled “The Case Against The Supreme Court.”

Chemerinsky tells TPM he wrote the book after realizing he had been “making excuses” for the Court over three decades of teaching it, and decided to make the case that it has often failed its duty to protect individual and minority rights against the passions of the majority.

His disenchantment is shared: The Court’s popularity with Americans is near an all-time low of 44 percent, down from 60 percent in the early 2000s. Forty-eight percent now disapprove of it, according to a Gallup poll last week.

Chemerinsky spoke to TPM about why the Supreme Court is broken and how to fix it. A lightly edited transcript follows.

Your book is called “The Case Against The Supreme Court.” That could be read as meaning you want to abolish the Supreme Court, but that’s not what you’re saying. What should be done with it?

I don’t believe we should eliminate the Supreme Court. I believe that the Supreme Court is essential to enforce the Constitution. But I do propose many reforms, ranging from a clear definition of the role of the Court, to merit selection of Supreme Court justices, to changing the confirmation process, to term limits for justices, to changing the way the Court communicates — like cameras in the Court, to applying the ethics rules that apply to lower court judges for Supreme Court justices, and also changing recusal policies in the Supreme Court.

You also argue that Supreme Court nominees should clearly express their views on constitutional issues like the right to an abortion, which they don’t do today.

All presidents through history have considered ideology in choosing who to appoint for the Court. It’s fully appropriate for the Senate to consider ideology. I think the Senate should insist as a condition for confirmation that all candidates answer certain questions about their views.

There are only two reasons I could think of to not ask somebody their views. One is that the views of the nominee don’t matter to what he or she is going to do on the bench. And that seems clearly wrong. If you put somebody on the Court who strongly opposes or strongly supports abortion rights, the odds are overwhelming that’s how he or she is going to vote. The other is the idea that it’s inappropriate to know somebody’s views before they deal with cases because that means they’re not longer impartial. But that seems wrong. We know how Antonin Scalia is going to vote on abortion, we know how Ruth Bader Ginsburg is going to vote on abortion, based on what they said in prior cases. The fact that we know somebody’s views is not disqualifying.

Of the changes you discuss in the book — merit selection of judges, making nominees express their views, 18-year term limits, broadcasting oral arguments — if you had to pick one change that’d best fix the Court, what would it be and why?

I would choose term limits for the justices. It’s also the hardest to bring about because I think it would take a constitutional amendment.

There are a couple of reasons why. Life expectancy has thankfully increased tremendously since 1787. Clarence Thomas was 43 when he went on the Court in 1991. If he remains until he’s 90 years old, the age which Justice [John Paul] Stevens stepped down, he’ll be a justice for 47 years. John Roberts and Elena Kagan were each 50 when they went on the Court. If they stay until they’re 90, they’ll be there 40 years. That’s too much power for any one person to hold for too long a period of time.

Also, too much now depends on the fortuity of timing with vacancies. Richard Nixon got four vacancies in four years; Jimmy Carter got no vacancies in four years. Eighteen-year term limits would mean a vacancy every two years — every president with the same ability to shape the composition of the Court.

You write that the Court has “sanctioned terrible injustices” throughout its history in ruling like Dred Scott to uphold slavery, Plessy v. Ferguson to validate racial segregation and when it upheld Japanese internment camps. Have you in your years as a legal scholar always felt this way about the Court?

I’ve always felt that those decisions have been tragically wrong. I think what I was doing implicitly in my teaching was making excuses in the Court. I tried to portray the Court’s Dred Scotts and Plessys as exceptions and that the Court overall has really succeeded. And it’s only in the last few years that I had this realization that the Court has often failed at its most important tasks at the most important times.

To what extent have the Roberts Court decisions, which you and many others have criticized, on issues like race and minority rights, factored into your dissatisfaction with the Supreme Court?

I think my criticism of the Court is much broader than the Roberts Court. I didn’t want to write the liberal case against the Supreme Court. In the first few chapters I criticize the Supreme Court on race, and at times of crisis, and the Lochner Era [an early 20th century period when it struck down minimum wage and federal child labor laws]. I think liberals and conservatives would agree that those decisions were wrong.

You have high praise for the Warren Court and its decisions for equality likeBrown v. Board of Education which overturned the doctrine of separate but equal. Was that the Supreme Court at its best, in your view? Has any other iteration of the Court matched it?

I think the Marshall Court was the best iteration of the Supreme Court. I think decisions likeMarbury v. Madison [which established judicial review] laid the foundations for all constitutional law. I applaud the Warren Court but as I argue, it didn’t do nearly enough in key areas like school desegregation and like in making sure that everyone tried for a crime has competent counsel.

What are the best three or four decisions the Court has made in its history?

That’s a great question. I’d certainly put Brown v. Board of Education there. I’d put Marbury v. Madison and McCulloch v. Maryland there. I’d put Gideon v. Wainwright. I’d put Baker v. Carrand Reynolds v. Sims.

And the worst?

Well, Dred Scott, Plessy v. Ferguson, Korematsu [which said Japanese internment camps were constitutional]. That’s a good hall of shame to start with.

What are the worst misconceptions about the Supreme Court in popular society? What does the general public most get wrong about it?

The belief that the justices are objective. The belief that the justices are just applying the law and not making law. The belief that the justices are just umpires. Supreme Court justices have tremendous discretion in the kind of cases that come before them. And I think people don’t recognize that.

Are all Supreme Court justices politically motivated?

I don’t think it’s political in the sense of Democrats versus Republicans. I think it is political in the sense of ideological. The ideology of justices matters enormously. Justices Ginsburg and Scalia so often disagree. It’s not that one is smarter. It’s not that one knows the Constitution better. It’s that their ideology is different.

 

SAHIL KAPUR, Talking Points Memo

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Z Space presents two plays by renowned scientist and playwright Carl Djerassi

Ego, October 15 – November 9, 2014

Insufficiency, October 16 – November 7, 2014

Z Space is proud to present two plays by renowned chemist and playwright Carl Djerassi, October 15 – November 9, 2014 at Z Below. Dr. Djerassi is best known for the development of the birth control pill but in recent years he has turned to fiction and the theatre, with a series of novels and ten other plays, which have since been translated into 20 languages. His plays at Z Below coincide with his 90th birthday year and the publication of his latest autobiography, In Retrospect: From the Pill to the Pen.

Ego runs October 15 – November 7 and is directed by British director and producer Andy Jordan. Ego tells the story of a writer obsessed with his reputation to the point of faking his own death in order to find out what people really think of him. Featuring a psychiatrist sworn to silence, and a wife who’s on the trail of her husband’s alleged death, comedy and outrage converge in classic form. Bob Ernst, Lisa Anne Morrison and Jackson Davis star in this production.

Insufficiency, also directed by Jordan runs October 16 – November 7 and tells the story of a polish chemist named Jerzy Krzyz with an unusual specialty: Bubbleology. As a new arrival at a university’s chemistry department, he is determined to secure a senior post and is willing to do almost anything to get it, including producing some experimental and very lethal champagne, which he is only too willing to share with those standing in the way of his career ambitions. Insufficiency features actors Patrick Edwards, Rachel Harker, Lizzie Calogero, Dennis McIntyre and Timothy Redmond.

Dr. Djerassi, who celebrates his 90th birthday this year, is scheduled to attend all performances between October 17 and 25.

 

About Carl Djerassi

Carl Djerassi, emeritus professor of chemistry at Stanford University, is one of two American chemists to have been awarded both the National Medal of Science (for the first synthesis of a steroid oral contraceptive–”the Pill”) and the National Medal of Technology. A member of the US National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Royal Society (London) as well as the Leopoldina and many other foreign academies, Djerassi has received 34 honorary doctorates together with numerous other honors, such as the first Wolf Prize in Chemistry, the first Award for the Industrial Application of Science from the National Academy of Sciences, the Erasmus Medal of the Academia Europeae, the Perkin Medal of the Society for Chemical Industry, the American Chemical Society’s highest award, the Priestley Medal, the Austrian Cross of Honor for Science and Art,  the Great Merit Cross of Germany, and in 2011 the Edinburgh Medal. An Austrian postage stamp with his image was issued in 2005.

For the past quarter century, he has turned to fiction writing, mostly in the genre of “science-in-fiction,” whereby he illustrates, in the guise of realistic fiction, the human side of scientists and the personal conflicts faced by scientists in their quest for scientific knowledge, personal recognition, and financial rewards. In addition to a poetry collection (A Diary of Pique), a short story collection (“How I beat Coca-Cola and other Tales of One-upmanship”),  5 novels (“Cantor’s Dilemma;” “The Bourbaki Gambit;” “Marx, deceased;” “Menachem’s Seed;” and “NO”),  autobiography (“The Pill, Pygmy Chimps, and Degas’ Horse”  and in 2014 “In Retrospect: From the Pill to the Pen”) and memoir (“This Man’s Pill”), he has written 11 plays which have cumulatively been translated into 21 languages. His prose docudrama, “FOUR JEWS ON PARNASSUS-a Conversation” (dealing with Benjamin, Adorno, Scholem, and Schönberg), published in 2008 was followed in 2011 by the play, FOREPLAY, dealing with Hannah Arendt, Walter Benjamin, and Theodor and Gretel Adorno.

He is the founder of the Djerassi Resident Artists Program near Woodside, California, which provides residencies and studio space for artists in the visual arts, literature, choreography and performing arts, and music. Over 2300 artists have passed through that program since its inception in 1982.

Djerassi lives in San Francisco, Vienna, and London.

 

Tickets: $20-35, www.zpace.org or by calling 866.811.4111

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The Obama Hope and Change Index: 6 Years of Progress, By the Numbers

As Paul Krugman argues in his piece In Defense of Obama, this has not been a feel-good presidency. But it has been a consequential one. The policy victories Obama has delivered have been hard-fought, messy and politically fraught. The achievements may not be all that the president’s 2008 boosters hoped for, but change has come. Here, six years of progress, by the numbers:

Peak unemployment, October 2009: 10 percent
Unemployment rate now: 5.9 percent
Consecutive private sector job growth: 55 months
Private sector jobs created: 10.3 million
Federal deficit, 2009: 9.8 percent of GDP
Deficit in 2014: 2.8 percent of GDP
Average under Ronald Reagan: 4.2 percent of GDP
Average tax rate for highest earners 2008: 28.1 percent
Average tax rate for highest earners 2013: 33.6 percent
Banks regulated as too big to fail, 2009: 0
Banks regulated as “systemically important financial institutions” — a.k.a. too big to fail — 2014: 29
Billions returned to consumers by Consumer Financial Protection Bureau enforcement: $4.6 billion
Americans compensated for being swindled by banks, lenders and credit card companies: 15 million
Dow Jones close, inauguration day 2009: 7,949
Dow Jones yesterday: 16,719
Required MPG (miles per gallon) for cars when Obama took office: 27.5
Required MPG for light trucks/SUVs when Obama took office: 23
MPG requirement by 2016 for cars, light trucks/SUVs: 35.5
MPG required by 2025: 54.5
Gigawatts of wind power installed when Obama took office: 25
Gigawatts of wind power installed through end of 2013: 61
Peak summertime solar power generation June 2008: 128 gigawatt hours
Peak summertime solar power generation June 2014: 2,061 gigawatt hours
Coal burned in electrical generation 2008: 1 billion short tons
Coal burned in electrical generation 2013: 858 million short tons
Reduction: 14.2 percent
EPA-proposed CO2 reductions for power sector by 2030: 30 percent
Pell grant funding 2008-2009: $18 billion
Pell grant funding 2013-2014: $33 billion
Adults gaining insurance under first year of Obamacare: 10.3 million
As a percentage of the uninsured: 26
Annual cost for birth control prior to Obamacare: Up to $600
Annual cost for birth control under Obamacare-compliant policies: $0
Prescriptions now required to obtain emergency contraception: 0
2009 projection for Medicare going broke: 2017
2014 projection for Medicare going broke: 2030
Troops in Iraq, inauguration day 2009: 144,000
Troops in Iraq today: 1,600
Osama bin Ladens alive 2009: 1
Osama bin Ladens alive 2014: 0
Troops in Afghanistan, day, 2009: 34,400
Troops pledged in Afghanistan by end of 2014: 9,800
Guantánamo detainees inauguration day 2009: 242
Gitmo detainees today: 149
Crack vs. Powder cocaine-crime sentencing disparity when Obama took office: 100:1
Crack vs. Powder disparity today: 18:1
Drug offenders eligible to seek early release under new sentencing guidelines: 46,000
States with medical marijuana, 2009: 13
Jurisdictions with medical marijuana today: 23 states, plus Washington, D.C.
States with legal recreational pot 2009: 0
States with legal recreational pot today: 2
Jurisdictions with marijuana legalization on the ballot in 2014: Alaska, Oregon, Washington D.C.
States where gay marriage was legal inauguration day 2009: Massachusetts, Connecticut
States where gay marriage is legal: 24, plus Washington, D.C. (soon to be 30 plus D.C., following Supreme Court refusal to intervene)
Immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children now shielded from deportation: 800,000

By 

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Koret Foundation Sued by Widow Who Claims Board Members Uses Charity as “Personal Piggy Bank”

Jewish  Family and Children's Services

Anita Friedman Jewish Family and Children’s Services

President of Koret Foundation

Tad Taube, President of Koret Foundation

Partner of the San Francisco law firm Greene, Radovsky, Maloney, Share & Hennigh

Richard L. Greene, Partner of the San Francisco law firm Greene, Radovsky, Maloney, Share & Hennigh

Board Member and Silicon Valley Real Estate Investor Tad Taube, San Francisco Attorney Richard L. Greene, JFCS Director Anita Friedman, Other Board Members Shun the Poor, Bay Area, Jewish Causes—in Favor of Spending Foundation Resources on Conservative and Pet Projects at Half-Billion Dollar Charity

 

San Francisco—The Jewish community from San Francisco to Poland was rocked this week when the widow of Koret Foundation founder Joseph Koret filed a lawsuit against the Koret Foundation and its Board of Directors for conflicts of interest and self-dealing.  The lawsuit says the Koret Board is illegally funding pet projects that include right-wing conservative causes in the United States to wrongly spending $10 million to the Museum of the History of Polish Jews.

The lawsuit said the wrongdoing is being orchestrated by Koret Foundation President Tad Taube, a native of Poland and well-known right wing conservative Republican.  The suit also lays blame on Taube’s personal attorney and Board member Richard L. Greene of Greene Radovsky Maloney Share & Hennigh LLP and Anita Friedman, the executive director of director of Jewish Family and Children’s Services in San Francisco as well as board member Richard Atkinson, former president of the University of California; board member Michael J. Boskin, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution; and board member Abraham D. Sofaer, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution.

The suit filed October 7, 2014 in San Francisco Superior Court by Mrs. Koret alleges that under Taube’s direction the board has ignored the priorities established by her late husband to help the poor and assist Jewish causes in the Bay Area and Israel.

Instead, her suit claims, the Koret board is using foundation funds to promote programs closely affiliated with individual board members and is purposely confusing the public by putting signage that prominently features Taube’s name alongside the Koret Foundation name on buildings and grants for which the Koret Foundation is the principal funder.

“Defendants’ duty of loyalty to the Foundation has been corrupted by these directors’ close affiliations with many of the Foundation’s recent grants, resulting in tens of millions of dollars distributed due to self-interest,” according to the lawsuit.

The suit demands the removal of the Koret board members and calls for their replacement with the appointment of an independent board with a majority of Jewish directors.

“Taube says publicly that giving to the poor is “a bottomless pit.” Instead he has led the Koret Foundation by focusing its giving to organizations identified with him, creating a corporate culture of directors who rubber stamp his decisions as long as their favored organizations are also supported.  “In elevating their own and affiliated interests while ostensibly making decisions for the Koret Foundation, defendants are breaching duties of loyalty that require them to serve faithfully the interests of the Koret Foundation” the lawsuit claims.

“Alleviating suffering and misfortune were my husband’s top priorities,” said Mrs. Koret. “Joe and Stephanie’s money shouldn’t be used for Tad Taube’s pet projects in Poland or to help conservative economic and policy think tanks–not when so many in the Bay Area go to bed hungry every night and Jewish causes need support.”

Supporting her lawsuit is Joe and Stephanie Koret’s closest surviving family member, nephew Merv Brown of Walnut Creek, who worked with the Korets for decades.  He said about the suit:

“With all respect to Mr. Taube, if he wants to spend money on Poland, he should use his own money–not my uncle’s and my aunt’s–to assist his homeland. I am proud to stand with Susan Koret to support and endorse the directions and wishes of my family that their fortune be spent as Uncle Joe wished: to help the poor and Jews in Israel and the Bay Area.”

The San Jose Mercury News reported that: “Mrs. Koret is doing a favor for the entire Bay Area community with her lawsuit,” said longtime friend Julie Goodman. “She has a lot of courage. No one else has had the guts to take on Mr. Taube, who has used his power, plus his and the Koret Foundation’s money, to bully a lot of people and organizations into subservience.”

Mrs. Koret’s lawsuit alleges that others, including “philanthropic civic leaders and former and current staff members will support Mrs. Koret in her efforts to restore the Koret Foundation’s purpose and dignity free of the control of Mr. Taube.”

The lawsuit claims that, at Taube’s direction, the Koret Foundation has donated approximately $9 million to the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw, a pet project of Taube, who was born in Poland.  “

While the Polish Museum commemorates significant Jewish history, the diversion of Koret funds to Poland is not in keeping with my husband’s charitable mission…and in effect drains funds that could benefit the needy in communities in the Bay Area and Israel,” the lawsuit states.

Sam Singer of Singer Associates, Inc., who is acting as a spokesman for Mrs. Koret in the lawsuit, said the lawsuit will attempt to claw back the $9 million in money from Taube that was given to the Museum of the History of Polish Jews and return it to the Koret Foundation. The Museum of the History of Polish Jews is scheduled to open Oct. 28 in Warsaw. The Museum is reported facing financial difficulties, according to Polish media reports.

Mrs. Koret noted her husband was a native of Odessa, Russia, who immigrated to America, struggled growing up poor in the U.S., and then struck it rich later in life in clothing and real estate. He was deeply committed to humanitarian causes such as alleviating hunger,  and would “be deeply angered and offended by Tad Taube and the board’s strong support of conservative  causes and grants that divert money needed for the local community and Jewish causes.”

The lawsuit asks the court to prevent the spending down of the Foundation’s assets by Taube and the board members with whom he has surrounded himself and allow the appointment of a new, independent board to carry out its mission and save the Foundation.

Mrs. Koret was named a lifetime director and chairwoman of the Foundation prior to her husband’s death in 1982. She was entrusted by her late husband to carry out the family legacy of caring for the poor and supporting Jewish and community causes through the Koret Foundation, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit also recites that the board has rejected a series of Asian and African-American candidates for board membership, including their rejection last month of former Mayor Willie Brown as president of the Foundation.

Mrs. Koret said she has been marginalized as Taube, a Silicon Valley real estate investor, and his hand-picked supporters on the board steer donations toward causes in which they have affiliations.

Mrs. Koret said she filed the suit as a last resort after her efforts to diversify the board, get independent legal advice, confirm the perpetual nature of the Foundation and redirect funds back to her late husband’s mission were rebuffed.  She fears the Koret Foundation is facing destruction of its mission and eventual collapse unless changes are made.

She said in the last 12 months, Taube has undertaken three major real estate transactions:  the sale of the Foundation’s largest real estate asset; marketing of another Foundation property; and refinancing a significant loan on a third Foundation property. The collective value of the real estate involved in these transactions is several hundred million dollars, according to the lawsuit.

“Over Mrs. Koret’s objections, defendants approved engaging a broker associated with defendant Taube’s real estate businesses to sell, market and refinance the Foundation’s properties and split its commission with Taube Investments, without disclosing the percentage commission split.  This conduct violates state and federal law and is breach of fiduciary duty,” the lawsuit states.

The Foundation’s general counsel and Taube attorney Richard L. Greene, over Mrs. Koret’s objection, failed to advise that an independent appraisal or broker was needed to market the Foundation property and refinance the loan, even though the same broker associated with Taube’s businesses was engaged for both these real estate transactions, according to the suit.

“Greene’s conduct … may expose the Foundation to claims of self-dealing, is contrary to California professional rules for attorneys in avoiding conflicts of interest, and causes economic injury to the Foundation,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit alleges that Taube is a shameless self-promoter who has personally selected board members to rubber stamp his decisions in exchange for support of their own pet projects. Additionally, the suit says Taube established his own foundation, called Taube Philanthropies, but uses money and staff from the Koret Foundation to pay for and enhance joint projects of Taube Philanthropies and the Koret Foundation.   A review of the Koret Foundation’s public filings shows reported annual salaries and compensation of officers exceeded $1.9 million in 2011, while Taube Philanthropies showed no such expenses for the same period, according to the lawsuit.

Mrs. Koret’s lawsuit charges that out of the $64 million gifted by the Koret Foundation between 2010 and 2012, nearly 60 percent was spent on causes outside the stated mission of her husband, the late Joseph Koret.

The lawsuit claims conflicts of interest, self-dealing, and breaches of duty abound on the board:

  • The Koret Foundation’s Executive Director Jeffrey Farber provides no independent management, reaps a large salary and perks at the Foundation, has little involvement in grant-making and does only what Taube asks him to do.  Farber is also a member of the Taube Philanthropies board, creating a serious conflict of loyalty and duty.   His wife works for Koret Board member Anita Friedman at Jewish Family and Children’s Services, yet another conflict.

Koret Board Member Anita Friedman, director of Jewish Family and Children’s Services, JFCS, sits on the Taube Philanthropies board as a director. Friedman makes up to $380,000 per year as executive director of JFCS, which is a major recipient of Koret funds. During September’s Koret Foundation meeting, she oversaw and participated in a vote granting $1.2 million to the Shalom Hartman Institute, where she also sits on the board.

While JFCS and Shalom Hartman are worthwhile causes, Friedman has failed to recuse herself in any discussions of massive grants to entities where she is on the board or employed. Friedman sees no conflict in directing millions in additional funds to entities where she has other interests and has no inclination to resign her JFCS position. Friedman has voted against every initiative by Mrs. Koret over the past two years seeking to bring independence, balance and transparency to the Koret board.

  • Michael J. Boskin is a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, which has received millions from the Koret Foundation over the years. Earlier this month, the board approved another $280,000 grant to the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research where Boskin is also a Senior Fellow and former director. Since 1992, Koret has approved grants totaling $4.5 million to support SIEPR, and millions to Hoover through Stanford.

 

  • Abraham Sofaer is another interlocking director on the board of Taube Philanthropies, and is also a Senior Fellow Emeritus at the Hoover Institution, based at Stanford University.  From 2010-2012, the Koret Foundation’s funding to Hoover and Stanford of nearly $4 million was about equal to its total support of all social welfare causes in the Bay Area combined.

 

In the lawsuit, Taube, a member of the Board of Overseers and the Executive Committee of the Hoover Institution, is alleged to have misused Foundation money to pay consultants to write editorials opposing Obama administration policies and to attend trips in support of Hoover.

The lawsuit also alleges that Taube:

  • Reduced funds targeted for Koret Foundation grantees and increased funds to organizations that are his personal favorites.

 

  • Used Koret funds to pay millions of dollars to entities affiliated with him or his close associates to manage the Foundation’s real estate holdings.

 

  • Without board approval, commissioned and installed a life-size mural depicting himself and now hung inside the Koret Foundation’s new headquarters in San Francisco at a cost to the Foundation of $80,000.

 

  • Paid more than $75,000 in Foundation money for promotional materials about himself, including booklets and newspaper advertisements.

 

  • Subsidized the operating costs of Taube Philanthropies by using Koret staff and resources for joint grant projects, and used Koret Foundation resources for travel, marketing and personal expenses.

 

  • Terminated a $35,000 contract of an independent publisher of a book about the life of Joseph and Stephanie Koret, the founder’s first wife. Taube was reportedly angry that the book was not about him or his contributions.

 

  • Along with counsel and board member Richard L. Greene, discriminated against and ridiculed Mrs. Koret and prevented her from speaking with Foundation staff.

Mrs. Koret in her lawsuit pledges to maintain the priorities of her husband by broadening the Koret board to include community leaders while maintaining a majority of Jewish directors.  She is committed to maintaining support for the anchor institutions in the Bay Area that Koret has supported over many years and to prevent any continued diversion of funds to out of mission organization and countries.

 

Jewish  Family and Children's Services

SUED: Anita Friedman, Jewish Family and Children’s Services

Partner of the San Francisco law firm Greene, Radovsky, Maloney, Share & Hennigh

SUED: Richard L. Greene, Partner of the San Francisco law firm Greene, Radovsky, Maloney, Share & Hennigh

President of Koret Foundation

SUED: Tad Taube, President of Koret Foundation

 

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These six diseases should worry you more than Ebola

13-year-old Will Cornejo was admitted to Rocky Mountain  Hospital for Children at Presbyterian/St. Luke's Medical Center in Denver on September 5 for enterovirus 68. The outbreak has shown up in 628 cases in the U.S. to date, some of which show disconcerting similarities to polio. Photo courtesy Getty/Denver Post/Cyrus McCrimmon.

13-year-old Will Cornejo was admitted to Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children at Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center in Denver on September 5 for enterovirus 68. The outbreak has shown up in 628 cases in the U.S. to date, some of which show disconcerting similarities to polio. Photo courtesy Getty/Denver Post/Cyrus McCrimmon.

Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian citizen visiting the U.S., died this morning. He was the first and so far only patient to be diagnosed with Ebola in the United States. It’s important not to trivialize his death, but it’s also important to put it in perspective. In Africa, the virus has claimed the lives of at least 6,871 people and sickened more than 8,100 others, according to the World Health Organization.

But that one case has captured the news, inspiring headlines like “The ISIS of Biological Agents” and “U.S. has left itself open to Ebola outbreak.”

Meanwhile, in our country, the enterovirus 68 has infected at least 628 people since August, most of them small children.

“When people are anxious about a threat like Ebola, it doesn’t necessarily matter if they look at numbers, facts and probabilities,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. “Because of the way our brains work, something rare and exotic is much scarier than something that’s familiar.”

As anxiety about Ebola mounts, we asked the experts which U.S. diseases we shouldbe worried about, or at least more worried about than Ebola. Here are six, in no particular order.

ENTEROVIRUS D-68

Last month a 4-year-old boy in New Jersey went to sleep and never woke up. This week, the CDC confirmed that the boy was infected with the airborne enterovirus 68, or EV-D68. That same week a 10-year-old girl who also tested positive for the virus died 24 hours after being admitted to a hospital in Rhode Island.

Enterovirus 68 fits into a class of viruses that includes hand-foot-and-mouth disease and polio. Every year, 10 to 15 million people pick up an enterovirus, Schuchat said, but enterovirus 68 is an entirely new outbreak.

While enterovirus 68 was first discovered in 1962, this is its first outbreak. Dr. Mary Anne Jackson is director of infectious diseases at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri. The first cases of enterovirus 68 — children with asthma-like symptoms — were admitted to her hospital early August. By month’s end, the hospital was admitting to 30 to 35 cases a day.

Just as doctors are learning how to diagnose the virus, it is evolving. In Colorado, 10 patients developed polio-like symptoms, with limb paralysis and difficulty breathing. Four of those patients tested positive for enterovirus 68. Similar cases have been reported across the country, from Boston to San Diego. It’s still unclear whether limb paralysis is linked to enterovirus 68, but researchers are studying the possibility of a connection.

“It spreads just like the common cold, but we don’t know how many will get a cold and how many will need hospitalization and how many will end up with polio-like illness,” Jackson said. “In terms of what’s at our feet right now, EV-D68 has become the most important virus.”

How to protect yourself: Wash hands often with soap and water for more than 20 seconds before touching eyes, nose or mouth. Avoid close contact with people who are sick. Cover your coughs and sneezes with something that’s not your hands. Disinfect surfaces, like toys and doorknobs. Stay home if you’re sick.

MEASLES

This child displays a typical measles rash, four days into the illness. Before widespread vaccination, 90% of children and babies contracted the measles. The number dropped to fewer than 1,000 cases a year, and was nearly eradicated in the U.S., until parents stopped vaccinating their children. Photo courtesy CDC/NIP/Barbara Rice

This child displays a typical measles rash, four days into the illness. Before widespread vaccination, 90% of children and babies contracted the measles. The number dropped to fewer than 1,000 cases a year, and was nearly eradicated in the U.S., until parents stopped vaccinating their children. Photo courtesy CDC/NIP/Barbara Rice

Measles, a virus that causes an infection of the respiratory system, was nearly eradicated in the United States after a vaccine became widespread in the early 1960s. In the years since, the virus became so rare here that its symptoms — irritability, high fever and a rash — were mostly forgotten, as was the rate of infection. Before routine vaccinations, each case of measles created 17 new secondary cases, the New York Times recently reported.

But in 2008, due to a combination of international travel and unvaccinated populations — most from parents opting out of the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine for their children — the virus resurfaced in the U.S.

Babies of unvaccinated mothers are at the greatest risk. They are too young for the vaccine and lack immunity from their mothers. So far in 2014, there have been more than 600 measles cases, nearly all of them children.

“That’s astounding for 2014 to think that there are that many cases for a disease that should have gone away in the U.S.,” Jackson said.

Measles is rarely fatal — one person in every 1,000 cases dies from it — but it requires a great deal of hospital resources to treat. Many children with the measles will need oxygen or ventilators, and are at a greater risk of developing pneumonia and other bacterial infections. Measles can also cause deafness and permanent brain damage.

In rare cases, children with the measles go on to develop subacute sclerosing panencephalitis. SSPE is a rare neurological disease that develops years after a measles infection. It starts as sleeplessness and forgetfulness, but it devolves into hallucinations and seizures. Most SSPE patients die within one to three years of diagnosis.

How to protect yourself: For best protection, the CDC recommends vaccinating your children twice: once when they are 12-15 months old, and again when they are 4-6 years old.

WHOOPING COUGH

This is the bacteria that causes pertussis, or whooping cough. The current vaccine for disease loses efficacy after 5 years. Missed booster shots means the disease is showing up more often in the U.S. Photo courtesy Sanofi Pasteur/Alain Grillet via Flickr

Cases of pertussis, or whooping cough, have risen sharply since 2004. In 2012, 48,277 cases were reported in the U.S. That’s the largest number since 1955. Pertussis is caused by a bacteria, and starts with cold-like symptoms. The dry, hacking cough can last for up to 10 weeks. Some patients turn blue gasping for air.

“In my 30 years of practice, hardly a week has gone by that I haven’t diagnosed a case [of pertussis],” Jackson said.

Children between 7 and 10 years old are hardest hit, she said, and it’s especially dangerous for infants. But deaths in the U.S. from pertussis are rare. There were 20 deaths among the 48,277 cases in 2012, for example.

“Deaths are low — 20 to 30 a year,” Jackson said. “Those are 20 to 30 deaths that we shouldn’t have.”

There is a vaccine for pertussis, but it’s not as effective as it once was, Jackson said. In the 1950s, the U.S. relied on a whole-cell pertussis vaccine, one that used full strains of the bacteria. But the whole-cell vaccines had side effects, from swelling at the injection site to fever. In the 1990s, industrialized nations shifted to using an acellular vaccine containing only parts of the bacteria. But after five years, immunity from the acellular vaccine wanes. Then around 2004, the bacteria mutated, and cases took off in the U.S.

NewsHour’s Betty Ann Bowser reported on the outbreaks in 2012:

 

How to protect yourself: Regular booster shots help, Schuchat said, especially for pregnant women who want to protect their newborns. Mothers can pass immunity on to their babies, which helps them through their first months. In fact, a whooping cough booster shot in the third trimester protects 90 percent of babies in their first year of life, according to the CDC.

DRUG-RESISTANT BACTERIA

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) has spread beyond hospitals. The deadly, antibiotic-resistant bacteria is found on every two out of 100 people in the U.S. Photo courtesy CDC/James Gathany

More than 2 million people in the U.S. each year develop an infection from antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The CDC estimates at least 23,000 people die from those infections each year.

With an overuse of antibiotics, several types of bacteria have become immune to the drugs that once eliminated them. Infections and diseases that were once cured by a single medication now require stronger antibiotics to treat. Doctors have seen rises inantibiotic resistant tuberculosis, staph infections, gonorrhea and pneumonia, to name a few. It means long, painful and expensive hospitalizations while doctors find a way to kill the superbugs. When second- and third-tier antibiotics can’t cure the infection, the last resort is removing infected tissue.

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, is one of the most virulent. The CDC estimates that there are 80,000 MRSA cases every year, and 11,000 people die from the infection each year. MRSA can be spread through skin-to-skin contact and contact with infected materials, like surgical tools or breathing tubes. It’s a scourge in hospitals, and it is spreading beyond clinics.

But there has been a decline in MRSA deaths. In 2011, there were 9,000 fewer MRSA deaths than in 2005, the CDC estimates, thanks to better hospital practices to prevent the spread of the bacteria. But two in every 100 people carry MRSA.

How to protect yourself: Protect yourself with handwashing, proper sanitation and appropriate use of antibiotics, Schuchat said.

RESPIRATORY SYNCYTIAL VIRUS

Chest x-ray of a 16-day old infant with a lung injury due to respiratory syncytial virus. Almost every child contracts the disease by age 2. Photo courtesy Wikimedia.

 

By age 2, almost every child in the U.S. has had respiratory syncytial virus or RSV, Jackson said. It’s a lung infection, causing babies to cough, wheeze and have a fever. RSV is transmitted like a common cold via droplets from sneezes and coughs. Like the flu, it appears every winter like clockwork, Jackson said.

For most babies, RSV isn’t serious, but 125,000 babies every year are hospitalized for the virus. Premature babies or children with heart or respiratory problems can develop more severe symptoms and require ventilators or oxygen to breathe. Overall, the death rate from RSV is low considering how high the infection rate is — approximately 250 deaths a year, Jackson said.

So why is RSV a big problem? Unlike influenza, there’s no vaccine or antiviral to treat it. The virus stays on surfaces for as long as eight hours, spreading quickly through daycares and households. For the elderly and older smokers, RSV can cause pneumonia, which can be deadly.

“The vast majority of babies do fine, but it has a very high burden of disease,” Jackson said.

How to protect yourself: Wash your hands frequently. Disinfect surfaces. High-risk children should not interact with people with cold-like symptoms.

From the CDC: A drug called palivizumab (say “pah-lih-VIH-zu-mahb”) is available to prevent severe RSV illness in certain infants and children who are at high risk. The drug can help prevent development of serious RSV disease, but it cannot help cure or treat children already suffering from serious RSV disease and it cannot prevent infection with RSV.

INFLUENZA AND PNEUMONIA

In January 2013, New York City declared a public health emergency as influenza swept the state, with nearly 20,000 people infected.  Photo by Getty Images/Mario Tama

Influenza and pneumonia go hand-in-hand, and are more likely to kill you than any infectious disease. Flu ranks number seven on the CDC’s list of 10 top killersMore than 53,000 people died from influenza and pneumonia in 2010 according to the CDC — and that’s just in the United States.

“The common cold is miserable, but this is beyond miserable. It’s a high fever, severe muscle aches…people remember the minute it hits them,” Jackson said. “It runs its course over seven days, and an antiviral can ratchet it down, but (the flu) is still a very severe illness with whole list of complications” — ranging from ear infections to pneumonia.

And while the flu virus itself can be deadly, more lethal is the pneumonia that sometimes follows, she said. Most healthy people, about one-third of the population, carry the bacteria that causes pneumonia in their noses. But when an infection like the flu takes over the body, the bacteria migrates into the bloodstream and ends up in the lungs.

Millions are hospitalized for the illness, Schuchat says, but babies, young children and the elderly are at the greatest risk. That’s why the CDC recommends that everyone over 6 months old gets the annual flu vaccine.

“Last year, more than 100 kids died from flu in the U.S. And that’s something that we do have vaccines for,” Schuchat said. “It may seem familiar, but even healthy children get influenza and can die from it.”

Ebola requires contact with bodily fluids like vomit, blood, saliva or urine to transfer from person to person. But influenza is easily airborne on droplets projected from coughs and sneezes that fly through schools, offices and households. The tragedy is that many of these influenza deaths could have been prevented with the annual flu vaccine, Jackson said.

“We have a vaccine and an antiviral medication for influenza, and it still causes deaths,” she said. “We have Americans afraid of ebola, but fewer than 50 percent of Americans take advantage of the flu vaccine, and it’s something that’s going to be here. It’s coming.”

How to protect yourself: The CDC recommends that caregivers and infants six months and older get a flu vaccine. Also, cover your coughs and sneezes and wash hands frequently. If you’re sick, stay home from work or school.

 

BY REBECCA JACOBSON, PBS

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

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

#1 – Saccharin

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

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

#2 – PCBs

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

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

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

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

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

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

#3 – Polystyrene

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

#4 – Atom bomb and nuclear weapons

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

#5 – DDT

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

#6 – Dioxin

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

#7 – Agent Orange

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

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

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

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

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

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

8 – Petroleum-Based Fertilizer

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

#9 – RoundUp

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

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

#10 – Aspartame (NutraSweet / Equal)

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

#11 – Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH)

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

#12 – Genetically Modified Crops / GMOs

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Baker’s Dozen: #13 – Terminator Seeds

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

What’s the Result of our Monsanto Legacy?

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Fractured Paradigm
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42ND STREET MOON PRESENTS BROADWAY STAR EMILY SKINNER IN “DO I HEAR A WALTZ?”

42nd Street Moon kicks off its 22nd season with the rarely seen Richard Rodgers-Stephen Sondheim-Arthur Laurents collaboration DO I HEAR A WALTZ?, starring Broadway’s Tony nominee Emily Skinner (Side Show, The Full Monty, Billy Elliot). Based on Arthur Laurents’ 1952 play The Time of the Cuckoo, which inspired the Katharine Hepburn movie Summertime, the wistful story follows a lonely American tourist as she finds romance under the enchantment of mid-1960s Venice. DO I HEAR A WALTZ? plays October 1 – October 19 (press opening October 4) at The Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson St., San Francisco.  For tickets ($25-$75) and information the public may call (415) 255-8207 or visit42ndStMoon.org.

DO I HEAR A WALTZ? opened on Broadway on March 18, 1965 at the 46th Street Theatre with a cast featuring Sergio Franchi and Elizabeth Allen in the lead roles, and received three Tony Award nominations including Best Original Score. The luminous Rodgers-Sondheim score includes Do I Hear a Waltz?Someone Like YouTake the MomentMoon in My Window and What Do We Do? We Fly! It has never received a major Broadway revival. 

Emily Skinner, who will star as the lonely American tourist “Leona,” last appeared on Broadway starring in the acclaimed musical Billy Elliot. Handpicked by Oscar-winning director Stephen Daldry, she had the honor of being the very first American selected to play the role of Billy’s dance teacher, Mrs. Wilkinson. Ms. Skinner was nominated for a Tony Award (with Alice Ripley) and received a Drama League Award for her performance as Daisy Hilton in the brilliant but short-lived Side Show.  Her other original Broadway cast credits include Jekyll & HydeJames Joyce’s The Dead, The Full MontyDinner at Eight, as well as The Actors Fund productions of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas and Dreamgirls. Off-Broadway, Ms. Skinner performed in the acclaimed City Center Encores revivals of No StringsPardon My EnglishA Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and Fiorello! She has also performed in various productions and workshops at Manhattan Theatre Club, WPA Theatre, Paramount Theater at Madison Square Gardens, York Theatre, Playwrights Horizons, and the Roundabout Theatre.

Co-starring as the Italian who sweeps Leona off her feet is Tyler McKenna, who returns to 42nd Street Moon where he was seen in The Best of Times:The Jerry Herman Salon, and Oh, Kay! He will be back later this fall as Rocky Fulton in Moon’s upcoming production of Something for the Boys. Recent credits include Annie Get Your Gun with Napa Valley Conservatory Theater and A Little Princess at Berkeley Playhouse. Other work includes productions with Symmetry Theatre Company, The Mountain Play, Marin Shakespeare Company, and American Conservatory Theater. Mr. McKenna is a graduate of the American Conservatory Theater’s MFA program.

The cast of DO I HEAR A WALTZ? will also feature Taylor BartolucciJonah BroscowNikita BurshteynLucinda Hitchcock ConeDavid Naughton,Stephanie Rhoads, Michael Rhone, and Abby Sammons. Musical direction is by Dave Dobrusky, set design by Hector Zavala, costume design by Felicia Lilienthal, and lighting design by Danny Maher.

This production of DO I HEAR A WALTZ? will be helmed by 42nd Street Moon Artistic Director Greg MacKellan. Mr. MacKellan’s career in musical theatre extends back more than 30 years. His producing cre­dits in New York and Los Angeles include The Baker’s Wife, a musical on which he worked ex­tensively with Stephen Schwartz and Joseph Stein. In addition to his work on dozens of 42nd Street Moon productions, Mr. MacKellan has served as director and writer in more than 15 revues for various Bay Area groups.

For 21 years, 42nd Street Moon has celebrated and preserved the art and spirit of the American Musical Theatre.  To contribute to the evolution and continuing vitality of the art form, 42nd Street Moon presents intimately produced performances of classic and rarely performed musical works. Through its productions, educational programs, and community outreach, 42nd Street Moon is committed to increasing the awareness and appreciation of the rich heritage and cultural perspective of the musical theatre and its vast influence on the world stage.

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Republican Candidate Gets Purged From Voter Rolls In Arkansas Because Of GOP Voter Suppression Laws

The Republican Party is throwing a temper tantrum after one of their own candidates was purged from the Arkansas voter rolls, and they only have themselves to blame.

Leslie Rutledge is the GOP candidate in the race to become Arkansas’ next Attorney General. Well, she used to be anyway. As it turns out, the state constitution requires candidates for public office to be registered voters, but because of voter suppression laws passed by the GOP, Rutledge has not only been disqualified as a voter, she could be disqualified as a candidate because of it.

Republican candidate Leslie Rutledge via ThinkProgress

Republican candidate Leslie Rutledge via ThinkProgress

Pulaski County Clerk Larry Crane booted Rutledge’s name off the voter rolls because she failed to follow proper procedure. She failed to cancel previous registrations in Washington DC and Virginia before she moved to Pulaski County, where she failed to re-register to vote.

Of course, this caused Republicans to accuse Crane, a Democrat, of engaging in “dirty tricks,” but Crane says he was legally bound to remove Rutledge’s name from the rolls after receiving a letter about the issue of her registration.

Rutledge isn’t the only person in Arkansas to be tossed from the voter pool. Thousands of Arkansas voters have faced the same treatment. They’ve been thrown off the voter rolls, interrogated about their personal information, and had their legal vote discarded entirely due to restrictive anti-voting measures passed by Republicans. But because their own laws are affecting one of their own, only now are they upset. In fact, Republicans are so pissed that karma came back to bite them in the ass that they’re complaining about a tactic that they themselves have defended ruthlessly for months across the country. In short, they’re being hypocrites.

The chairman of the Republican National Lawyers Association decided to defend Rutledge by whining about her being “systematically removed from voter rolls within 90 days of a federal election.” He also claimed that Democrats were responsible for this voter suppression.

The fact is that it is a clear and unmistakable attempt at the most harmful kind of voter suppression in violation of federal law – removing a qualified female voter from the rolls notwithstanding her valid registration and actual votes in the last 4 elections in violation of her civil rights. Democrats should be embarrassed.

Democrats, however, are not the ones who have pushed voter suppression laws in states around the nation. The Republicans did that. Where were they when citizens who have been voting for decades were denied their right to vote because of the laws they themselves passed? Oh, that’s right, they didn’t give a damn because the laws they passed are supposed to target Democratic voters, not Republican voters.

But in this case, the voter suppression laws enacted by the GOP not only affected a Republican voter, it took down a Republican candidacy. And now they’re throwing a fit and accusing Democrats of voter suppression. Unfortunately for the GOP, Democrats are not to blame for their own misfortune. They already know who the true culprit is, all they have to do is look in a mirror.

 

Stephen Foster, Addicting Info

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Credits: Natural Society, where this was originally featured.

Via: TrueActivist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Remember, it’s not just this one questionnaire.

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

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

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

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

By Steve Benen, Maddow Blog

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Physicists Say Fukushima Reactors Pose Eternal Threat to Humanity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From RIA Novasti

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Castro’s Slurp Soft Opening Tonight

 
 
 

After announcing a change in formats back in September, Slurp Noodle Bar (469 Castro St.) will have a soft opening tonight. Formerly Fork Cafe, the new concept will serve pan-Asian noodles. General Manager Keith Hak told us that they “wanted to do something completely different from what used to be served at Fork Cafe.” They want to open a restaurant where you could get noodles from a variety of different regions. Slurp will serve Ramen, Pho and Laksa (Malaysian), just to name a few. Aside from noodles Slurp will also serve crispy vegetarian egg rolls, pork belly steamed  buns, salads and items from the wok.

Keith took some photos of the food today and posted them on Facebook. It all looks really fresh and delicious. So let’s hope this new concept works out. Stop by tonight if  you’re looking for something different to eat.

 
 
Slurp Noodle Bar
469 Castro St.
Sun-Thurs 11am-10pm
Fri-Sat 11am-11pm
 
From the Castro Bubble

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Daily Kos

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Half of World’s Animals Have Disappeared Since 1970

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

By , Science Correspondent, The Telegraph

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Alan Pyke, Think Progress

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This Week in God, 9.27.14

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

Steve Benin, Maddow Blog

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American Wonder: Folk Art at BAM/PFA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Meet the Young, Evangelical, Pro-Gay Movement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gene Robinson, The Daily Beast

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

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