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In Case You Missed It: Joni Ernst Caught On Tape Saying Poor People Aren’t Entitled to Food, Clothing, or Health Care

Last year, around the time after the elections, an unearthed recording of now Senator Joni Ernst was revealed to the public, truly showing the lack of compassion and monstrosity that has engulfed the GOP. The video captures Ernst’s monologue in which she says Americans are insufficiently “self sufficient,” and therefore feel entitled to government programs:

“What we have to do a better job of is educating not only Iowans, but the American people that they can be self-sufficient. They don’t have to rely on the government to be the do-all, end-all for everything they need and desire, and that’s what we have fostered, is really a generation of people that rely on the government to provide absolutely everything for them. It’s going to take a lot of education to get people out of that. It’s going to be very painful and we know that. So do we have the intestinal fortitude to do that?…

We’re looking at Obamacare right now. Once we start with those benefits in January, how are we going to get people off of those? It’s exponentially harder to remove people once they’ve already been on those programs…we rely on government for absolutely everything. And in the years since I was a small girl up until now into my adulthood with children of my own, we have lost a reliance on not only our own families, but so much of what our churches and private organizations used to do. They used to have wonderful food pantries. They used to provide clothing for those that really needed it. But we have gotten away from that. Now we’re at a point where the government will just give away anything.”

Yeah, the government will give you a six-figure salary, free healthcare, a lifetime pension, travel expenses, your own paid staff, allowances for food and office renovations…oh wait…that’s you, Senator Ernst.

“It’s going to be very painful and we know that. So do we have the intestinal fortitude to do that.”

Well if this doesn’t sound like a sadistic elitist I don’t what is. Exactly why is this going to be painful? Why would one want to inflict such pain on people who are clearly in need after having the rug pulled out from underneath them in the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression? And if you even have to question whether or not you “have the intestinal fortitude to do that,” here’s really big hint: you don’t do it. You don’t hurt people so you can be this semi-important unsung hero of the right. You’re never going to be Reagan, so stop trying.

“And in the years since I was a small girl up until now into my adulthood with children of my own, we have lost a reliance on not only our own families, but so much of what our churches and private organizations used to do.”

I got a few words for you, Senator Bread-Bags: your family’s “reliance” came from the federal government at a cost to the tax-payers of $460,000. I rest my case on that point.

Congratulations, Iowa (where over 900,000 residents- or one-third of the state- receives some form of government assistance) on electing this woman who thinks you’re all just a bunch of lazy, entitled moochers, and who wants to inflict a “painful” ideology on you.

, Addicting Info


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What does science say about the difference between religious and non-religious people?

Normally, I’m the quiet passenger in a taxi cab. I’ll ask the driver how he’s doing and follow through with a bit of small talk, but after a few minutes I retreat into my own bubble, watching New York City’s lights pass me by. But around 4 a.m. on a cold Wednesday morning last December, I was on my way home from a concert, sitting in an Uber cab, and the conversation didn’t stop.

Not long after I hopped in, my driver started talking about his faith — he was a devout Christian and pastor — and the hope and peace it has brought to his family.  These types of conversations, in which God is mentioned more than a few times, would normally make some people uncomfortable, especially those who either question his existence or deny it outright. For me, however, it was an opportunity to see the world through a different lens (I’m agnostic), and about five blocks before we reached my apartment building, his wife was talking to him through his phone’s speaker, reciting prayers before going to bed.

This conversation might have gone in a different direction if we’d been in a different city — NYC is one of the most tolerant in the country. Sometimes atheists feel the need to compare their beliefs to those of someone who is religious, and they form opinions on why atheism is better. In truth, it’s simply not right to compare like that; each person is entitled to their own faith. But, because we live in a society that’s constantly clashing, it should come as no surprise that scientists have already found some interesting trends when it comes to the health, personality, and intelligence of both groups.

Here’s what they’ve found.

Religious People Are Happier

One thing my driver showed me during our ride to Queens together was how content he was with his way of life. Believing in God, and his plan, put him at ease, and it brought his family and friends together. Surprisingly, it’s the latter, having a community, which confers these higher levels of happiness, according to a study published in 2010.

Researchers from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and Harvard surveyed 3,108 adults in 2006, asking them about their religious activities, beliefs, and social networks. A year later, they called back just under 2,000 of them to ask the same questions. They found that, overall, religious people were more satisfied with their lives than non-religious — 28 percent reported being “extremely satisfied” compared to 19.6 percent of non-religious folk. “We show that [life satisfaction] is almost entirely about the social aspect of religion, rather than the theological or spiritual aspect of religion,” sociologist Chaeyoon Lim told Live Science.

“We found that people are more satisfied with their lives when they go to church, because they build a social network within their congregation.”

Non-Religious People Are More Tolerant

It’s probably important to note now that there are a variety of ways people can be non-religious. Some are atheist, meaning they lack a belief in God, while others are agnostic, who neither believe nor disbelieve in God. Secular groups tend to include people who’ve strayed from religion — the growing populationof Americans who’ve become unaffiliated.

Secular groups, a 2010 study from Duke University found, are far more likely to be tolerant of other races. Looking at the links between religiosity and racism since the Civil Rights Act, researchers found that “religious in-group identity was associated with derogation of racial out-groups,” because being part of the in-groups “promotes general ethnocentrism.” While some of these groups’ racism tended to recede as societal acceptance of racism decreased, it was only “religious agnostics,” or secular groups, that were racially tolerant. Moreover, the researchers found racial tolerance wasn’t evinced from humanitarian values, or treating others as you would like to be treated (the Golden Rule), which was “consistent with the idea that religious humanitarianism is largely expressed to in-group members.”

Other studies have shown that because morality among secular groups is based on the Golden Rule, secular groups tend to be less vengeful, less militaristic, less authoritarian, less sexist, and less homophobic than religious groups, Phil Zuckerman, a professor of sociology and secular studies at Pitzer College, wrote in an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times.

Religious People Can Handle Stress, Anxiety Better

It’s a common response in our brains to immediately become anxious or stressed when we make mistakes, or get things wrong in general. People who believe in God, however, seem to be protected against that response, at least to a certain extent.

study from the University of Toronto, Scarborough, found that a higher belief in God resulted in lower activity in the area of the brain responsible for the bodily states of arousal associated with a stress response — the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). They discovered this by asking participants to write about religion or complete a scrambled word task that included religion and God-related words. Then, they had participants complete a Stroop task, in which they were told to name the color of a word printed in a different color while hooked up to electrodes that scanned their brains — the test is meant to elicit a high rate of errors.

They found believers were less likely to experience activity in the ACC when compared to non-believers, and suggested the reason could be because belief in God provides a way to order the world and explain seemingly random events.

Non-Religious People Are More Intelligent

Atheists can call this one, as they probably wanted to. A review of 63 scientific studies spanning the ages — OK, maybe just since 1928 — found “a reliable negative relation between intelligence and religiosity” in 53 of them, and a positive correlation in 10. However, only two of those showed a significant link. The researchers defined intelligence as the “ability to reason, plan, solve problems, think abstractly, comprehend complex ideas, learn quickly, and learn from experience.”

How is this true? According to the University of Rochester researchers, “First, intelligent people are less likely to conform and thus, are more likely to resist religious dogma. Second, intelligent people tend to adopt an analytic (as opposed to intuitive) thinking style, which has been shown to undermine religious beliefs. Third, several functions of religiosity, including compensatory control, self-regulation, self-enhancement, and secure attachment, are also conferred by intelligence. Intelligent people may therefore have less need for religious beliefs and practices.”

In other words, intelligent people already have many of the qualities religion seeks to bestow on a person because, well, they’re intelligent. “Intelligent people typically spend more time in school — a form of self-regulation that may yield long-term benefits,” Miron Zuckerman wrote. “More intelligent people get higher level jobs, and better employment may lead to higher self-esteem and encourage personal control beliefs.”

Religious People Have Better Physical Health

Maybe it’s because they’re so happy and stress-free, but several studies have found religious people’s physical health benefits from believing, too. One such study, from researchers at the University of Missouri, Columbia, found people coping with chronic health conditions and disability, such as spinal cord injuries, stroke, and cancer, fared better when they had religious and spiritual support.

“Both genders benefit from social support provided by fellow congregants and involvement in religious organizations,” said co-author Brick Johnstone, a health psychology professor, in apress release. “Encouragement to seek out religious and spiritual supports can assist individuals in coping with stress and physical symptoms related to health issues.”

In that same vein, another study from Yeshiva University’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine found that out of 92,395 postmenopausal women, those who frequently attended religious services cut their risk of death by 20 percent.

Non-Religious People Are More Generous

It’s common in almost any church to pass around a collection plate, in which congregants can donate. And donate they do, according to a 2012 study that found states with more religious residents were also the most charitable. These states included Utah, where residents gave about 10.6 percent of their discretionary spending to charity, as well as Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, and South Carolina. In comparison, states along in the Northeast, like Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Maine were the least charitable — only 2.5 percent of Maine residents gave to charity.

But giving more to charity doesn’t make a person more generous. It’s common in religious communities to give up to 10 percent of annual income to charity, a practice called tithe. While the donation amount varies with each faith, it’s typically encouraged as a way to thank God, care for others, and show faith in God’s giving. It’s worth reminding that religious in-groups tend to show humanitarian values most to those in their congregation.

By contrast, atheists who give to charity tend to do so on the basis of empathy and compassion, according to another 2012study. Researchers arrived at their conclusion after conducting three experiments, one of which involved 101 adults who were asked to watch two videos — one neutral and the other about children living in poverty — and then given 10 “lab dollars” to donate however much they wished to a stranger. Those who were least religious were more motivated by the emotionally charged video, and thus gave more money to a stranger.

Although science has all this to say about one group prevailing over the other, it really shouldn’t matter whether you’re religious or not. Religious people can also seek education and become successful, and today there are more tolerant views of people of different races, sexual orientations, and religions all over the country. At the same time, atheists and other non-religious groups can still build communities that support each other, as well as develop systems of meaning that help instill an understanding of the world.  

Anthony Rivas, The Raw Story

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Fort Lauderdale, Florida Is The U.S. City With The Highest Concentration Of Gay Couples

Did San Francisco just get out-gayed?

Recently released data from the 2012 U.S. Census revealed which cities have the highest concentration of same-sex couple households (among cities with a population of 65,000 or above). The surprising frontrunner? Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where same-sex couples make up a whopping 2.8 percent of total households.

The Florida beach town has long been a destination for the vacationing LGBT community and is home to 19 gay resorts.

The real jaw-dropper, however, comes with a switch-up between two much larger cities. With 2.5 percent same-sex households, San Francisco came in a close third (third!) to Seattle, where gay households are suddenly booming. The city leaped from an estimated 1.7 percent of households in 2011 to 2.6 percent, according to recent data, nudging San Francisco from its cherished gay pedestal.

Seattle has long been hailed as a gay-friendly city, but its recent hold on same-sex households may be attributed to its overall family-friendliness.

“Most same-sex couples, in choosing a place to live, want what other families want — affordable housing, more space, good schools,” the Seattle Times noted in 2011, when the city’s surge in gay couples was first noted.


Huffington Post

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On the whiteboard above the bar at Doc’s Clock in the Mission, “Google” was scribbled in red marker. But the tech giant’s name wasn’t highlighted for the sake of criticism or mockery as one might have expected a year ago. Instead, the message described Google’s offer to match all donations in a fundraiser hosted last weekend to raise money for victims of a devastating fire on 22nd street.

At the Doc’s Clock fundraiser, people from all walks of life gathered in support of the community and a shared goal. The experience of the event itself, plus the collaboration between Google and the “real” Mission institution seem to support new research from Mayor Ed Lee’s office that suggest the anti-tech movement has run its course.

As we reported last week, a new survey conducted by Mayor Lee’s office in December polled 501 probable SF voters and reported that 65% had a positive view of the tech industry and 68% thought the mayor should support its growth. Of course, 501 isn’t the hugest sample size, and since this is the first survey of its kind, we don’t have a baseline against which we can measure. But on top of that news came a story in SF Gate Friday asking if the antitech movement is now obsolete. Reporter Kristen V. Brown answers that question with purely qualitative assessments seem to indicate that energy around protests has notably died down. Despite the occasional screed stereotyping workers as “tech invaders,” it seems safe to assume that the anti-tech movement has drawn to a close, with people focusing more now on criticizing individual companies and leaders for specific misdeeds instead of slamming the industry as a whole. But why?

As an anonymous member of the protest group Counterforce told the SFGate, they were unable to recruit the necessary support for their group because most people in SF “are either captured by the capitalist economy and working full time to pay rent, have been priced out, or are a transplant working for the tech industry.” But even here in the Flaky Capital of America, it’s hard to believe the movement dissipated simply due to lack of human resources.

Instead it seems a few big things have changed in the past year. For starters, tech companies seem to be trying harder to do good; tech dollars comprised almost 50% of the $9.8 billion donated in 2014 by the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s Philanthropy 50 list. They’re not only engaging in generic philanthropic efforts, but also choosing projects that actually serve the SF community, such as the Doc Clock’s fundraiser or Google’s donation of $6.8 million towards free Muni passes for lower income students. Those types of activities, combined with the taxes that companies now pay to use Muni stops, indicates that the Google bus protests actually resulted in positive action from tech companies.

As tech companies have made an effort to support the city, it’s been easier for people to focus on the real issues rather than scapegoating the city’s newer residents. For example, most people now understand that while the tech boom caused the spike in population, the housing crisis is much more tied to city regulations around building. It’s also become clearer that the average tech worker isn’t all that wealthy and is having trouble finding and affording housing here, as well. That issue is reflected in Lee’s survey, in which the cost of housing was voted a top concern for respondents. It’s also reflected in the news, where we hear about tech collectives for those who can’t find housing (or friends) and of course that programmer on Reddit who wants to live in a tent. There’s still the urge to condemn or mock the occasionalentitled Dropbox employee, but there’s also a more realistic view of the problems we face as a city.

There’s also the fact that San Franciscans seem to be tired of getting swept up into a toxic, internal battle based on generalizations about an entire industry. In the past year, I’ve spoken to many people who were negatively impacted by tech wealth and gentrification for various articles. So many of them, particularly influential people who had the opportunity to get their supporters riled up, opted instead to take the high road. When the Urban Flow yoga studio closed, its owner Rusty Wells decided not to speak poorly about the landlord who was evicting them because it was against the values of the studio. When I spoke to Randy Shaw from the Tenderloin Housing Clinic, he didn’t exaggerate tech’s negative impact on the SRO community  — even though if he had, it would have made an incendiary story. I was and am impressed by these community leaders who have chosen not to feed the dragon.

Even in the artist community, I see people who are mourning the economic changes but are still continuing to create. When Jason Kick was priced out of the city and had to move to Oakland, he developed the concept album and band “Rent Control.” People are still mourning and undoubtedly experiencing difficulty as a result of this latest boom. But it seems like hostility and blame are slowly giving way to behavior that better exemplifies the hippie city we knew and love: working together, solving problems, and making stuff

Rachel Balik, Bold Italic

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Giving housing to the homeless is three times cheaper than leaving them on the streets

The final week of January saw an annual ritual in government statistical gathering that few people know about — the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Point-in-Time survey of the homeless population, in which HUD recruits volunteers around the country to go out and try to count up all the homeless people living in America. This year, White House Chief of Staff Dennis McDonough even joined up, volunteering as part of the San Francisco PIT crew.

Counting the homeless is, of course, a critical element to making appropriate homelessness policy. But good policy also requires greater awareness of a discovery that research continuously confirms — it’s cheaper to fix homelessness by giving homeless people homes to live in than to let the homeless live on the streets and try to deal with the subsequent problems.

The most recent report along these lines was a May Central Florida Commission on Homelessness study indicating that the region spends $31,000 a year per homeless person on “the salaries of law-enforcement officers to arrest and transport homeless individuals — largely for nonviolent offenses such as trespassing, public intoxication or sleeping in parks — as well as the cost of jail stays, emergency-room visits and hospitalization for medical and psychiatric issues.”

By contrast, getting each homeless person a house and a caseworker to supervise their needs would cost about $10,000 per person.

This particular study looked at the situations in Orange, Seminole, and Osceola Counties in Florida and of course conditions vary from place to place. But as Scott Keyes points out, there are similar studies showing large financial savings in Charlotte and Southeastern Coloradofrom focusing on simply housing the homeless.

The general line of thinking behind these programs is one of the happier legacies of the George W Bush administration. His homelessness czar Philip Mangano was a major proponent of a “housing first” approach to homelessness. And by and large it’s worked. Between 2005 and 2012, the rate of homelessness in America declined 17 percent. Figures released this month from the National Alliance to End Homeless showed another 3.7 percent decline. That’s a remarkable amount of progress to make during a period when the overall economic situation has been generally dire.


Source: National Alliance to End Homelessness

But the statistical success of anti-homelessness efforts even in the face of a bad economy underscores the point of the Florida study.

When it comes to the chronically homeless, you don’t need to fix everything to improve their lives. You don’t even really need new public money. What you need to do is target those resources at the core of the problem — a lack of housing — and deliver the housing, rather than spending twice as much on sporadic legal and medical interventions. And the striking thing is that despite the success of housing first initiatives, there are still lots of jurisdictions that haven’t yet switched to this approach. If Central Florida and other lagging regions get on board, we could take a big bite out of the remaining homelessness problem and free up lots of resources for other public services.




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Wow! David Brooks passionately defends President Obama’s National Prayer Breakfast statements

David Brooks must be giving kudos for getting it right. He went against the Right Wing grain as well as against rather elitist comments from journalists Andrea Mitchell and Jon Meacham.

Jon Meacham claimed that within Christianity, the Crusades was an exception to the rule. This illustrates how one can change a narrative when the context is kept limited in scope for a self-serving purpose. As noted in my previous post “This Obama speech put fear into Right Wing Evangelical Leaders,”

The President was rather kind by not articulating the fact that similar heinous behavior in our country is less than just a few centuries and decades past. Isolated heinous acts are less than a few months in our past.

Andrea Mitchell’s comment was simply ludicrous. She does not believe the prayer breakfast is a place to speak truth. “You don’t use the word Crusade in any context right now. It’s too fraught,” Andrea Mitchell said. “And the week after a pilot is burned alive and a video shown, you don’t lean over backward to be philosophical about the sins of the fathers. You have to deal with issues that are in front of you or don’t deal with it at all.” In other words ignore the sins that indirectly impact or have impacted all that is occurring in the world.

Jon Meachem does seem to believe that atrocities in the name of Christ ended with the Crusades. He forgot the savagery Christianity inflicted on Native Americans from the tip of South America, the Caribbean, Central America, to North America. He forgot that African slaves throughout the America’s were murdered, lynched, burned, and beheaded, many of these acts justified by religion. He forgot that while some did these bad deeds in the name of Christ, most Christians remained quiet.

Yet, many Americans now want to condemn Islam because many of its members seem to be just as quiet as Christians still are for many still occurring injustices in America and abroad.

When Chuck Todd asked if politicians can have the debate, David Brooks got it perfectly right.

I am pro Obama. I am totally pro Obama on this. I think he said the right thing. It was a gospel of humility. What sorts of people need a little gospel of humility? People in Washington, pundits, religious believers, — I happen to be all three of those things — and so we are told to walk humbly in the path, that the Lord’s paths are mysterious. And so he was saying we are prone to zealotry. As Jon said we are fallen. So to underline that, that’s useful in Washington today. That’s useful always.

When Chuck Todd asked if it was necessary for a President to leave office before he could speak that candidly, David Brooks response was again on point.

No I think he was right. He gave the race speech. It was a beautiful speech. He has given a whole series of great speeches, Trayvon Martin. I think this was utterly fine. This is exactly the moment you want to say this. We are most in moral danger to ourselves when we are caught up in a righteous fervor against an evil foe. Which is what we have. So while we exercise hard power, we have to take morally hazardous action, we are prone to get caught up in our own self-righteousness. This is exactly the moment you want this.

The President’s speech was about humility. It was about ALL humans being fallible. As such we should all get of the high horses and work together to bring us all together for a better nation, for a better world.


by Egberto Willies, Daily Kos

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Wall Street Pays Bankers to Work in Government and It Doesn’t Want Anyone to Know

Citigroup is one of three Wall Street banks attempting to keep hidden their practice of paying executives multimillion-dollar awards for entering government service. In letters delivered to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) over the last month, CitiGoldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley seek exemption from a shareholder proposal, filed by the AFL-CIO labor coalition, which would force them to identify all executives eligible for these financial rewards, and the specific dollar amounts at stake. Critics argue these “golden parachutes” ensure more financial insiders in policy positions and favorable treatment toward Wall Street.

“As shareholders of these banks, we want to know how much money we have promised to give away to senior executives if they take government jobs,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka in a statement. “It’s a simple question, but the banks don’t want to answer it. What are they trying to hide?”

The handouts recently received attention when Antonio Weiss, the former investment banker at Lazard now serving as counselor to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, acknowledged in financial disclosures that he would be paid $21 million in unvested income and deferred compensation upon exiting the company for a job in government. Weisswithdrew from consideration to become the undersecretary for domestic finance under pressure from financial reformers, but the counselor position—which does not require congressional confirmation—probably still entitles him to the $21 million. The terms of the award are part of a Lazard employee agreement that nobody has seen.

These payments are routine at major banks, several of which have explicit policies, found in filings with the SEC, outlining automatic awards for executives who rotate into government. Goldman Sachs offers “a lump sum cash payment” for government service, for example.

Other banks’ policies are subtler. Banks often defer certain types of compensation in order to retain talent. When an executive terminates employment, unvested stock options and other forms of deferred compensation are usually forfeited. But several companies let executives’ equity options continue to vest if they leave for a government position, or allow them to keep retention bonuses that would otherwise be returned to the firm. A 2004 tax law banned accelerated payments but made an exemption for employees who leave for government service. Critics wonder whether the gifts are intended to fill the government with friendly faces who will act in their former employer’s interests.

“It fuels the revolving door between banks and the government,” said Michael Smallberg, an investigator for the Project On Government Oversight (POGO), whose 2013 reportdetailed these types of compensation agreements. The average executive branch salary is substantially less than these millions in awards, so the bonuses effectively supplement the lower pay, raising questions about who the government officials actually work for.

Citigroup is a serial user of these practices, if only because so many of its alumni serve in government. Jack Lew, Weiss’ boss at Treasury, had $250,000 to $500,000 in restricted stock vested after he left an executive position at the bank, part of a $1.1 million golden parachute revealed during the confirmation process. Stanley Fischer, currently the vice chair of the Federal Reserve, had a similar clause in his Citigroup employment contract. U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman received over $4 million in multiple exit payments from Citigroup when he left for the Obama Administration.

A template of Citi’s compensation policy, filed with the SEC, states that executive stock options continue to vest in the event of a “Voluntary Resignation to Pursue Alternative Career,” including a government job. But Citi’s agreement does not specify which executives are eligible.

Last November, Trumka wrote letters to seven mega-banks—Citi, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Lazard—asking their compensation committees to explain why giving incentives to executives for government service benefits shareholders or the company. The labor federation holds shares in many public companies through its pension funds. “We oppose compensation plans that provide windfalls to their executives unrelated to performance,” the letter states.

“We did not get much of a response,” said Heather Slavkin Corzo, Director of the AFL-CIO’s Office of Investment. So the federation decided to use their shareholder rights to file proposals, to be voted on at the companies’ annual meetings, seeking full disclosure of the golden parachutes, with the names of each executive eligible for the awards, and the amounts. “We wanted to get a sense of how prevalent the practice was before proposing an outright ban,” Slavkin Corzo said.

Of the four banks with explicit golden parachute policies (the others have discretionary policies on a case-by-case basis), only JPMorgan Chase has not asked the SEC to exclude the AFL-CIO’s proposal. According to Slavkin Corzo, Citigroup never so much as reached out for a conversation before filing the SEC request. The letter is dated December 19, 2014, just a week after a provision written by Citigroup lobbyists repealing derivatives rules in the Dodd-Frank Act passed Congress.

The SEC oversees the shareholder proposal process, but in a strange, passive-aggressive fashion. A rule dating back to the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934, Rule 14a-8, defines how a proposal can be placed on the ballot. Corporations use all sorts of well-honed arguments to disqualify proposals from a vote under Rule 14a-8. Then they send a “no-action” letter to the SEC to get clearance to exclude the proposal. “The company requests that the SEC will not take any enforcement action against the company if they don’t put the proposal on the ballot,” said Slavkin Corzo. “It’s a bizarre intermediary world that has built up around the entire process.”

Citigroup’s no-action letter essentially argues that they “substantially implemented” the proposal already, a key provision in Rule 14a-8. They claim that disclosure of their equity award agreement with the SEC does the job, and since its named executive officers have their unvested awards disclosed elsewhere, there’s no need to duplicate the request with an additional report. They also deny the existence of golden parachutes, arguing that these officers would receive the same treatment no matter how they left the company, as long as it wasn’t for a competitor.

But, as the AFL-CIO’s response states, though the shareholder proposal requests the names of all “senior executives,” Citigroup wants to narrow the playing field to merely “named executive officers,” which for them would only be five people. Citigroup wrote in a footnote in their no-action letter that they “interpreted the phrase ‘senior executives’ to refer to its named executive officers,” which the federation believes varies from the SEC’s definition of senior executives. Jack Lew and Michael Froman, who received golden parachutes for government service, would not fall under this named executive officer standard.

Later in the no-action letter, Citigroup actually cites an article by New York Timescolumnist Andrew Ross Sorkin, celebrating the golden parachute payments as a way to “encourage public service,” as part of their argument. “The piece is nothing more than an opinion,” the AFL-CIO responds, and “irrelevant to the standard set by Rule 14a-8.”

No-action letters from Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley argue mostly the same thing, that they have substantially implemented the proposal already and that the golden parachutes don’t exist. Corporations frequently build on each other’s no-action letter arguments. “If it works, they do it more and more, and broaden the scope of what the commission will kick out,” said Slavkin Corzo.

Though the SEC values corporate disclosure, according to Slavkin Corzo, it has leaned more in favor of corporations over shareholders on these requests. A 2013 Project on Government Oversight report found that SEC alumni often represent companies trying to kick shareholder proposals off the ballot. For example, Martin Dunn, a 20-year SEC veteran who worked for the division that decides on no-action letters, became a corporate lawyer for O’Melveny and Myers, and repeatedly obtained favorable rulings from his former employer on behalf of Alaska Airlines, Yahoo, UnitedHealth Group and JPMorgan Chase.

The SEC will make a ruling on the no-action letters sometime in the next couple months. “It would be really unfortunate if shareholders are not allowed to get basic information about what’s being done with their money,” said Slavkin Corzo.

If stymied on disclosure, action could move to Congress, with legislative action to ban these windfall payments that make the revolving door more attractive. “At a time when people are worried about the over-representation of Wall Street in policymaking positions, we see that the revolving door is baked into the compensation structure,” said Michael Smallberg of POGO, “It’s worth considering whether these provisions should be banned altogether.”


David Dayen, New Republic
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“Fascism is rising in America”: The Koch brothers and the depressing demise of democracy

As the American Heritage Dictionary noted, fascism is: “A system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism.”

Well, it it may well on our doorstep.  And the oligarchs are plotting their final takeover by using their economic dominance to capture governmental power – specifically, the governmental power which sets the rules for the very marketplace that provides the oligarchs with such massive wealth.

Once the American corporate barons own the institutions that are meant to regulate them, it’s game-over for both rational capitalism (including competition) and for democracy.

Last week, at David and Charles Koch’s annual winter meeting near Palm Springs, California, it was announced that the Koch Brothers’ political organization would spend close to $900 million on the 2016 election.  If this goal is met, the group of corporate leaders will spend far more than the Republican Party and its congressional campaign committees spent, combined, in the 2012 campaign.

Once upon a time, it would have been illegal for the Koch Brothers and their fellow oligarchs to buy an election.  Of course, that time was before the Citizens United Supreme Court decision.

In 2010, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, presented the best opportunity for the Roberts Court to use its five vote majority to totally re-write the face of politics in America, rolling us back to the pre-1907 era of the Robber Barons.

As Jeffrey Toobin wrote in The New Yorker (“No More Mr. Nice Guy”): “In every major case since he became the nation’s seventeenth Chief Justice, Roberts has sided with the prosecution over the defendant, the state over the condemned, the executive branch over the legislative, and the corporate defendant over the individual plaintiff.

Even more than Scalia, who has embodied judicial conservatism during a generation of service on the Supreme Court, Roberts has served the interests, and reflected the values, of the contemporary Republican Party.”


Back then, the modern Republican Party and the oligarchs that dominated it, knew that the only way to recover power was to immediately clear away all impediments to unrestrained corporate participation in electoral politics.  If a corporate board likes a politician, they can make sure he or she is elected every time; if the CEO oligarchs become upset with a politician, they can carpet-bomb her district with a few million dollars worth of ads and politically destroy her.

And it looks like that’s exactly what the Roberts Court accomplished.  The oligarchs succeeded. In the Citizens United case, forces within the Republican Party asked the Supreme Court to go all the way back to the 1980s and re-examine the rationales for Congress to have any power to regulate corporate “free speech.”

As Robert Barnes wrote in The Washington Post on June 30, 2009, “Citizens United’s attorney, former solicitor general Theodore B. Olson, had told the court that it should use the case to overturn the corporate spending ban the court recognized in Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce, as well as its decision in 2003 to uphold McCain-Feingold as constitutional.”

The setup for this came in June of 2007, in the case of the Federal Election Commission v. Wisconsin Right To Life, in which the Roberts Court ruled that the FEC couldn’t prevent WRTL from running ads just because they were a corporation.

“A Moroccan cartoonist,” Justice Scalia opened his opinion with his usual dramatic flair,  “once defended his criticism of the Moroccan monarch (lèse majesté being a serious crime in Morocco) as follows: ‘I’m not a revolutionary, I’m just defending freedom of speech. I never said we had to change the king-no, no, no, no! But I said that some things the king is doing, I do not like. Is that a crime?’”

“Well,” Scalia wrote, “in the United States (making due allowance for the fact that we have elected representatives instead of a king) it is a crime, at least if the speaker is a union or a corporation (including not-for-profit public-interest corporations)… That is the import of §203 of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA).”

The idea of Congress passing laws that limited corporate “free speech” was clearly horrifying to Scalia.  He went after the 1990 Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce case, in which the MCC was limited in their “free speech” in a political campaign because they were a corporation.

“This (Austin) was the only pre-McConnell case in which this Court had ever permitted the Government to restrict political speech based on the corporate identity of the speaker,” he complained.  “Austin upheld state restrictions on corporate independent expenditures,” and, God forbid, “The statute had been modeled after the federal statute that BCRA §203 amended…”

The Austin case, Scalia concluded his opinion with four others nodding, “was a significant departure from ancient First Amendment principles. In my view, it was wrongly decided.”

Scalia also quoted at length from opinions in the Grosjean v. American Press Co case, “holding that corporations are guaranteed the ‘freedom of speech and of the press, safeguarded by the due process of law clause of the Fourteenth Amendment,’” and from the 1986 Pacific Gas & Elec. Co. v. Public Util. Comm’n of Cal. case: “The identity of the speaker is not decisive in determining whether speech is protected”; “[c]orporations and other associations, like individuals, contribute to the ‘discussion, debate, and the dissemination of information and ideas’ that the First Amendment seeks to foster.”

The bottom line, for Scalia, was that, “The principle that such advocacy is ‘at the heart of the First Amendment’s protection’ and is ‘indispensable to decision making in a democracy’ is ‘no less true because the speech comes from a corporation rather than an individual.”

Continuing to quote from a plurality opinion in Pacific Gas, Scalia “rejected the arguments that corporate participation ‘would exert an undue influence on the outcome of a referendum vote’; that corporations would ‘drown out other points of view’ and ‘destroy the confidence of the people in the democratic process…”

He even quoted an opinion in the Grossjean case, writing that “corporations are guaranteed the ‘freedom of speech and of the press…safeguarded by the due process of law clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.’”

The Fourteenth Amendment, which says that no “person” shall be denied “equal protection of the laws,” was promulgated after the Civil War to free the slaves.  But corporations have long asserted that because it says “person” rather than “natural person” it included giving, in 1868 when the Amendment was ratified into law, full Constitutional rights under the Bill of Rights to corporations.  (Corporations are, at law, known as “artificial persons” and humans are “natural persons” – both have to have some sort of “personhood” in order to pay taxes, sue and be sued, etc.)

As Scalia wrote in his opinion in FEC v. Wisconsin Right To Life:  “…FECA was directed to expenditures not just by ‘individuals,’ but by ‘persons,’ with ‘persons’ specifically defined to include ‘corporation[s].’”

Chief Justice Roberts weighed in, too, in the main decision.  It’s a fascinating decision to read – and search for occurrences of the word “corporation” – and here’s one of Roberts’ more convoluted observations in defense of corporate free speech rights:

Accepting the notion that a ban on campaign speech could also embrace issue advocacy would call into question our holding in Bellotti that the corporate identity of a speaker does not strip corporations of all free speech rights. It would be a constitutional ‘bait and switch’ to conclude that corporate campaign speech may be banned in part because corporate issue advocacy is not, and then assert that corporate issue advocacy may be banned as well, pursuant to the same asserted compelling interest, through a broad conception of what constitutes the functional equivalent of campaign speech, or by relying on the inability to distinguish campaign speech from issue advocacy.

Bottom line – corporate free speech rights are Real Rights that Must Be Respected.

Justice Souter wrote a rather frightening dissent (this was a 5-4 decision, with the usual right-wing suspects on the “5″ side): “Finally, it goes without saying that nothing has changed about the facts. In Justice Frankfurter’s words, they demonstrate a threat to ‘the integrity of our electoral process, which for a century now Congress has repeatedly found to be imperiled by corporate, and later union, money: witness the Tillman Act, Taft-Hartley, FECA, and BCRA.

“McConnell was our latest decision vindicating clear and reasonable boundaries that Congress has drawn to limit ‘the corrosive and distorting effects of immense aggregations of wealth,’ and the decision could claim the justification of ongoing fact as well as decisional history in recognizing Congress’s authority to protect the integrity of elections from the distortion of corporate and union funds.

“After today, the ban on contributions by corporations and unions and the limitation on their corrosive spending when they enter the political arena are open to easy circumvention, and the possibilities for regulating corporate and union campaign money are unclear.

“The ban on contributions will mean nothing much, now that companies and unions can save candidates the expense of advertising directly, simply by running ‘issue ads’ without express advocacy, or by funneling the money through an independent corporation like Wisconsin Right To Life.”

Sounding almost depressed, Souter closed his dissent with these words: “I cannot tell what the future will force upon us, but I respectfully dissent from this judgment today.”

The attempt of corporations (and their lawyers, like Roberts was before ascending to a federal court) to usurp American democracy is nothing new, as David Souter well knew. Fascism has always been a threat to democracy.  Oligarchs have sought to buy the power of government to suit themselves, since the beginning.

In early 1944 the New York Times asked Vice President Wallace to, as Wallace noted, “write a piece answering the following questions: What is a fascist? How many fascists have we? How dangerous are they?”

Vice President Wallace’s answers to those questions were published in The New York Times on April 9, 1944, at the height of the war against the Axis powers of Germany and Japan:

“The really dangerous American fascists,” Wallace wrote, “are not those who are hooked up directly or indirectly with the Axis. The FBI has its finger on those… With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power.”

“American fascism will not be really dangerous,” he added in the next paragraph, “until there is a purposeful coalition among the cartelists, the deliberate poisoners of public information…”

Noting that, “Fascism is a worldwide disease,” Wallace further suggested that fascism’s “greatest threat to the United States will come after the war” and will manifest “within the United States itself.”

In his strongest indictment of the tide of fascism the Vice President of the United States saw rising in America, he added:

“They claim to be super-patriots, but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution. They demand free enterprise, but are the spokesmen for monopoly and vested interest. Their final objective toward which all their deceit is directed is to capture political power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they may keep the common man in eternal subjection.”

Finally, Wallace said, “The myth of fascist efficiency has deluded many people. … Democracy, to crush fascism internally, must…develop the ability to keep people fully employed and at the same time balance the budget. It must put human beings first and dollars second. It must appeal to reason and decency and not to violence and deceit. We must not tolerate oppressive government or industrial oligarchy in the form of monopolies and cartels.”

As Wallace’s President, Franklin D. Roosevelt, said when he accepted his party’s renomination in 1936 in Philadelphia:

“…Out of this modern civilization, economic royalists [have] carved new dynasties…. It was natural and perhaps human that the privileged princes of these new economic dynasties, thirsting for power, reached out for control over government itself. They created a new despotism and wrapped it in the robes of legal sanction…. And as a result the average man once more confronts the problem that faced the Minute Man….”

Speaking indirectly of the fascists that Wallace would directly name almost a decade later, Roosevelt brought the issue to its core:

“These economic royalists complain that we seek to overthrow the institutions of America. What they really complain of is that we seek to take away their power.”

But, he thundered in that speech:

“Our allegiance to American institutions requires the overthrow of this kind of power!”

We now stand at the same crossroad Roosevelt and Wallace confronted during the Great Depression and World War II. Fascism is rising in America.  Oligarchs like the Koch Brothers are poised to capture more political power.  The point of their spear is “corporate personhood” and “corporate free speech rights.”

The Roberts’ Court’s decisions and the election plans of the Koch Brothers and their fellow oligarchs now eerily parallels the day in 1936 when Roosevelt said: “In vain they seek to hide behind the flag and the Constitution. In their blindness they forget what the flag and the Constitution stand for.”


 Thom Hartmann, AlterNet
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With a program of three acclaimed works new to Bay Area audiences, Joffrey Ballet returns to Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall onSaturday, March 14 at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday, March 15 at 3:00 p.m. Two West Coast premieres include local luminary Val Caniparoli’s Incantations (2012), set to music by minimalist composer Alexandre Rabinovitch-Barakovsky and rising star choreographer Alexander Ekman’s multimedia work, Episode 31 (2011). The Bay Area premiere of Stanton Welch’s Son of Chamber Symphony (2012) is set to composer John Adams’s weighty score of the same name. Both Welch and Caniparoli’s dances were created specifically for Joffrey Ballet, and Ekman has adapted the video component of his production to showcase company dancers.

Joffrey Ballet members will participate in residency activities on campus and in the community, including a pre-performance talk on Saturday, March 14 at 7:00 p.m. in Zellerbach Hall; this talk is free to event ticketholders.

The arc of Val Caniparoli’s most recent work for the Joffrey, Incantations, is a long, meditative spiral, inspired by the slowly percolating minimalism of its musical score and Caniparoli’s interest in contemplation and prayer. Stanton Welch’s Son of Chamber Symphony meets John Adams’s rhythmically restless score with a mix of classicism, virtuosity and exuberant theatricality. Episode 31, by Swedish choreographer Alexander Ekman, first premiered in New York and is an imaginative work of dance-theater that channels urban dance into the context of contemporary ballet, beginning with frenetic energy before simmering into an intimate duet.

For more than half a century, Chicago’s Joffrey Ballet has been celebrated for its definitive and influential brand of American ballet, bringing impeccable technique and a youthful, daring spirit to contemporary works and restaged classics.  Founded by Robert Joffrey in 1956, and guided by choreographer Gerald Arpino from 1988 until 2007, Joffrey Ballet continues to thrive under its current Artistic Director Ashley Wheater. The company expresses its longstanding commitment to accessibility through a rigorous touring schedule, a robust education program including Joffrey Academy of Dance, and collaborations with myriad visual and performing arts organizations. Noted for its many “firsts,” Joffrey Ballet was the first American ballet company to appear on television, as well as the first and only dance company to appear on the cover of Timemagazine. The troupe was also the subject of Robert Altman’s 2003 film, The Company.


Tickets for Joffrey Ballet on Saturday, March 14 at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday, March 15 at 3:00 pm. in Zellerbach Hall range from $40.00 to $96.00 and are subject to change. Half-price tickets are available for UC Berkeley students. Tickets are available through the Ticket Office at Zellerbach Hall, at (510) 642-9988,, and at the door. For more information about discounts, go to


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North Korea Warns US of ‘Disastrous Final Doom’

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

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

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

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

Molly HunTer, ABC

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Oro Loma Sanitary District Board Member Laython Landis Competency Questioned

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

1 landis 

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

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

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

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

Details about how a Quo Warranto works in California.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CurtiS Wong, Huffington Post

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

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

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

Click here:

Zero Waste Grocery Store

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Christie Says Parents Should Have ‘Choice’ on Vaccinations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Due to the lack of finances, the men had no option but to return home and to possibly face being attacked again.’s Denis LeBlanc said: ‘The young men are living in fear for their lives. Some are house hopping, others are hiding in fields; these young men are in real danger should they be found.’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The New York Times reported:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


From Politicus USA

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“Has America gone crazy?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Question Time

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

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

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

Life and Liberty

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other things I’ve had to answer for include:

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

* Why can’t you understand science?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Way We Are

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

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

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

Ann Jones,

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

The New York Times reported:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Callan said:

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

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

Cevallos explained:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


From Addicting Info

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

What a difference six days can make:

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

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

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

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

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

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

From DailyKos

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SF Tribal and Textile Arts Show Opens Feb. 5


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

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

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

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

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


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

For more information or tickets, call 310.305.4543 or visit:

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

• Agree a global goal to tackle inequality.

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

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

From the Guardian

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