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

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

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

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

Gallup Trending Chart:

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

Easley adds:

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

Ba-ROCKIN Obama is the House!

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


by Leslie Salzillo. DailyKos

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‘No Gays Allowed’ Law Set To Pass In Virginia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s hope she’s right.


From , Addicting Info

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mona Chalabi, FiveThirtyEight

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Why Drugs Cost So Much

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue reading the main story

Arthur Taylor 18 hours ago
For years I have been on a lonely campaign to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics; My theory being – in absolute opposition to 99% of…
Richard 18 hours ago
There is no reason why patent law cannot be amended so that once a drug comes off patent no one can thereafter buy exclusive rights to…
Me 19 hours ago
One problem is that drug companies have realized that their drugs don’t actually need to work in order for them to charge tens of thousands…
Either way, the lesson is that Express Scripts, once it showed it could say no, got AbbVie to discount its product. It isn’t saying how much, but Steve Miller, a senior executive, said it had “significantly narrowed the gap between prices charged in the United States and Western Europe.” Sounds like the kind of progress we need.

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

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

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

New York Times

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Dan Hodges, The Telegraph

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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Leslie Hatamiya To be Appointed First Executive Director of San Bruno Community Foundation

The Board of Directors of the San Bruno Community Foundation will consider final action to appoint Leslie Hatamiya as the Foundation’s first Executive Director effective Feb. 1. Ms. Hatamiya, a San Bruno resident, led the California Bar Foundation as its Executive Director from 2004 to 2012.

“The San Bruno Community Foundation presents a unique opportunity to benefit San Bruno’s dynamic, diverse, and resilient community over the long term,” said Ms. Hatamiya. “I would be honored to help build the Foundation into a valuable community resource that supports all of San Bruno.”

A graduate of Stanford University and Stanford Law School, Ms. Hatamiya has more than two decades of experience in building organizations and programs. Over seven years, Ms. Hatamiya transformed the California Bar Foundation into a vibrant center of philanthropy for California’s legal community.  She rebuilt the Board of Directors, developed a growing fundraising program, launched a highly successful scholarship program to increase diversity in the legal profession, sharpened its grant-making strategy, spearheaded a remake of its brand and public image, and strengthened its relationship with the State Bar of California. While at the California Bar Foundation, Ms. Hatamiya earned recognition as one of the “Best Lawyers Under 40” from the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association.

Prior to joining the California Bar Foundation, Ms. Hatamiya served as chief of staff and director of corporate communications and special projects at wireless broadband startup SOMA Networks; ran the Coro Fellows Program in Public Affairs in San Francisco; and helped build former U.S. Senator Bill Bradley’s 2000 presidential campaign as a deputy campaign manager. Recently, she staffed the John Paul Stevens Fellowship Foundation and launched the “Vote with Your Mission” campaign for the California Association of Nonprofits. She has also held positions at Stanford University, Yale University, with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, and in Senator Bradley’s Capitol Hill office.

Ms. Hatamiya has been a longtime Stanford University volunteer, including service on the University’s Board of Trustees, the Alumni Association’s Board of Directors, and the National Advisory Board of the Haas Center for Public Service, which she chaired. She is also the author of Righting a Wrong: Japanese Americans and the Passage of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, a publication of Stanford University Press.

Since moving to San Bruno in 2003, Ms. Hatamiya has been an active member of the community as a PTA leader, a volunteer for San Bruno Pee Wee Baseball, and a past AYSO soccer coach. Her ties to San Bruno reach back to World War II, when her mother and grandparents were among the Japanese Americans interned at the assembly center on the site of what are now the Shops at Tanforan.

“Ms. Hatamiya has wide-ranging experience in the public, nonprofit, political, and private sectors,” commented Nancy Kraus, Board President. “She has the perfect combination of experience, energy, vision, and sense of the community to lead the Foundation forward in its important work.”

The San Bruno Community Foundation was established by the San Bruno City Council to administer, for the long-term benefit of the San Bruno community, $70 million the City received in restitution from PG&E after the 2010 gas pipeline explosion in the City.

The Board-appointed Search Committee to fill the Executive Director position included Directors Dr. Regina Stanback-Stroud, Frank Hedley, and Board President Nancy Kraus. The recruitment process spanned several months led by the nationally recognized firm, The 360 Group.



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

from Addicting Info

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This Week in God

First up from the God Machine this week is the disappointing reaction to the terrorist violence in Paris from some notable religious activists in the United States.

Looking back, it’s unfortunate that immediate reactions to terrorism from some high-profile social conservatives is too often disheartening. In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, for example, TV preachers Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell were quick to blame Americans for the attack.

Fourteen years later, as much of the world was coming to grips with developments in France, the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer suggested Charlie Hebdo bore some responsibility for what transpired this week. Right Wing Watch noted that Fischer “raised the possibility that this attack was punishment for the magazine’s repeated violation of the commandment that ‘you shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.’” The AFA host added, in an apparent attempt at blame, “They made a career out of taking the name of God, the God of the Bible, the father of the Lord Jesus.”

Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, was just as provocative, issuing a statement titled “Muslims are right to be angry.” The Washington Post’s Ishaan Tharoor reported:

…Donohue criticized the publication’s history of offending the world’s religiously devout, including non-Muslims. The murdered Charlie Hebdo editor Stephane Charbonnier “didn’t understand the role he played in his [own] tragic death,” the statement reads.

“Had [Charbonnier] not been so narcissistic, he may still be alive,” Donohue says, in what must be one of the more offensive and insensitive comments made on this tragic day.

“Killing in response to insult, no matter how gross, must be unequivocally condemned. That is why what happened in Paris cannot be tolerated,” says Donohue. “But neither should we tolerate the kind of intolerance that provoked this violent reaction.”

Even some conservatives were unimpressed with the argument. National Review, making the case against Donohue’s statement, highlighted what it saw as a flaw in the activist’s reasoning: “It risks sending a message of dangerous moral equivalence — one side is wrong in killing and making death threats; the other side is wrong to offend religious believers. We must keep clear in our minds the moral distinction here: All people have a right not to be murdered; nobody has a right not to be offended.”

Also from the God Machine this week:

In France: “The Grand Synagogue of Paris did not host Shabbat services and closed Friday for security reasons, the first time that’s happened since World War II. The Synagogue, the largest place of worship for those of the Jewish faith in Paris, was closed Friday amid the ongoing efforts by French authorities to hunt down the suspects involved in terrorist attacks around the city.”

* In Miami: “As Florida became the latest state to legalize same-sex marriage this week, Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski sent a memo to all church employees reiterating that any expressions of support for gay marriage – even if it’s only a tweet or Facebook post – could cost them their jobs.”

* In Turkey: “Turkey is getting a brand new church for the first time in nearly a century. The $1.5 million Virgin Mary Syriac church will be built in the Istanbul suburb of Yesilkoy, Daily Sabah reports. A government source told the AFP that this is the first church that the government has allowed Christians to build from the ground up since the republic formed in 1923, though other churches have been restored and reopened.”

* And in D.C.: “When it comes to religion, Congress appears to be much more devout than the rest of the country…. According to [the Pew Research Center], more than 92 percent of the 535 members of Congress are Christian, including at least seven pastors. “

Steve Benin, MSNBC

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2nd Amendment For Whites Only? Conservatives Freak Out Over New Black Panthers Carrying Guns

Well, this should surprise exactly no one. Not even a little. Ever since the NRA created the “grassroots” movement to shove “open carry” laws down America’s throat, white men have been parading their penis extensions to shopping malls and restaurants to bully and terrorize people. Oh wait, I meant “show their patriotism.” No, hold on, I actually did mean “bully and terrorize.”

Meanwhile, gun control advocates have been pointing out that the second black men started to do the same, white conservatives would go into full panic mode. And just as predicted, when the New Black Panther Party did just that, the right wing started to hyperventilate:

“Horrifying”? And what, exactly was horrifying about American citizens exercising their right to bear arms? The article never really says.

The Conservative Tribune (one of the most read websites in the country) goes on to say that the group carrying guns is “alarming” while complaining that President Obama is trying to steal our guns while “these guys don’t even get the slightest bit of attention.” Again, why this is alarming or why they need attention is never actually explained.

Of course, the writer brings up the long, long debunked myth of voter intimidation in Philadelphia because why let a good lie go to waste when you’re whipping up racial fear? I’m surprised he didn’t work ACORN in there somehow.

But what are the NBPs doing that’s so scary? Other than being black, of course.

Talk to your average right wing gun nut and they’ll tell you they need their guns to protect them from a tyrannical government and its jack-booted thugs in law enforcement. But wait a second! The New Black Panthers say exactly the same thing!

“We accept all oppressed people of color with weapons,” Darren X told Vice. “The complete agenda involves going into our communities and educating our people on federal, state and local gun laws. We want to stop fratricide, genocide — all the ‘cides.”

I’m trying to find where the philosophical difference lies between black militants and white militants. Curiously, the only thing I can think of is that the white militants are angry about imaginary oppression while the black ones are angry about very real oppression. Clearly, that means the black ones are “thugs” and the white ones are “patriots.”


But this is nothing new. Conservatives love love LOVE the Second Amendment right up until the point where black people start exercising it. Hell, the NRA and even Saint Ronnie were so terrified of black men with guns that they crafted and passed laws in the 60’s that explicitly prohibited the kind of open carry that ammosexuals are currently using to terrorize their neighbors.

Personally, I don’t like the NBPP. I think they’re extremists and not helping the discourse. But in this instance, I’m dying of laughter. By taking a page from the right wing’s playbook, they’ve unintentionally exposed the monumental hypocrisy and racism of conservatives. Frankly, I hope the movement spreads. I want black people all over the country to start legally carrying assault rifles in public and run patrols to police the police. Watching the right wing media twist itself into pretzels to condemn such a challenge to the status quo while maintaining the fiction that white people carrying guns is no big deal will be absolutely amazing.

Just as a side note, the article in the Tribune is new but the patrols started in August of 2014. The Tribune article never mentions this. It’s almost like the entire point was to trick easily manipulated white people into being afraid of something that hasn’t caused an incident in over 5 months. But a conservative publication would never stoop to such race baiting, would they?

From Addicting Info

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Elizabeth Warren rip apart Keystone

Every time Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) opens her mouth, I want to stand up and slow clap. She didn’t let me down at the first Energy Committee hearing of the year, at which Warren cranked open a can of her secret-recipe whoop-ass on the new Republican Congress. This time, it was to announce a snarky yet eloquent “HELL NO” on the subject of the Keystone XL pipeline. Here are a few highlights from her spiel.

Warren starts with some real talk on why Republicans want to pass the bill:

It’s not about jobs, it’s not about energy. Why is this bill so urgent? The answer is money. Money and power. The pipeline might not do much for the American people, but it is worth a whole lot to the Canadian oil industry.

And adds, with gusto:

Who does this new Republican Congress work for: foreign oil companies or the American people? Today, their first priority is to advance a pipeline that means a whole lot to an army of well-paid lobbyists, and a whole lot to a giant, foreign oil company.

Now that is a whole lot of legitimate points. But here’s where she sinks the jump shot at the final buzzer:

… we know that this pipeline runs terrible environmental risks, and it just won’t do much to help the American people. I didn’t come here to do favors for TransCanada. Republican leaders may disagree, but I’ll be voting no on this.

SEE? You’re slow-clapping, too.

Even though Warren and most other Democrats will be voting against the Senate bill to approve Keystone, it has enough support to pass. And the House version will pass, too. Fortunately, Obama announced his intent to veto the bill earlier this week — and there aren’t enough supporters to overcome that veto.

Meanwhile, if Warren’s speech is a sneak peek into what Democrats are becoming in their new, underdog position, C-SPAN might just become the new ESPN. GO FIGHT WIN, WARREN.

By Liz Core, Grist

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Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT) leads the San Francisco Symphony (SFS) in the West Coast premiere of Cynthia Lee Wong’s Carnival Fever—a co-commission that is part of the SF Symphony’s New Voices project with the New World Symphony and Boosey & Hawkes—January 21-23 in Davies Symphony Hall. The program also features pianist Yefim Bronfman in Brahms’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat major, as well as Berg’s Three Pieces for Orchestra.
New Voices is a creative partnership between MTT, the San Francisco Symphony, the New World Symphony, and music publisher Boosey & Hawkes that annually commissions works from an emerging composer. Each New Voices composer writes one chamber work and one orchestral work that are further developed and premiered with MTT and the New World Symphony, followed by the West Coast premieres performed by the San Francisco Symphony. Publisher Boosey & Hawkes also provides New Voices composers with professional development and guidance that are essential to a young composer’s career. Cynthia Lee Wong is the second New Voices composer, following Zosha di Castri as the inaugural recipient in May 2012. In April 2014, Ted Hearne was announced as the third New Voices composer.
Cynthia Lee Wong’s orchestral work Carnival Fever received its world premiere with Michael Tilson Thomas and the New World Symphony in April 2014. Later this season, her chamber work Snapshots—which premiered with NWS players in November 2013—will receive its West Coast premiere on March 6 and 7 at SoundBox, the SF Symphony’s new late-night, experimental music series.
Cynthia Lee Wong says that Carnival Fever was influenced by “’The Carnival at Rome’ from Alexander Dumas’s The Count of Monte Cristo. Young Albert (the unknowing target of Monte Cristo’s machinations) and his friend Franz experience a carnival, which commences only moments after a grisly public execution in the same piazza. Although the Count, who had invited the young men to witness the scene, responds to the execution by “burst[ing] into a laugh,” he remains unmoved throughout the festivities. In contrast, Albert and Franz are “seiz[ed]” by the “general vertigo” and are “like men who, to drive away a violent sorrow, have recourse to wine, and who, as they drink and become intoxicated, feel a thick veil drawn between the past and the present.’”
Born in New York, Cynthia Lee Wong has attracted international acclaim for her “impressive energy and drive” (The Boston Globe), “extravagant variety of sound” (Süddeutsche Zeitung), and “unsettling…dark, eerie…highly individual sound universe” (The San Diego Union-Tribune). Her creative output encompasses a range of genres, including works for orchestra, chamber ensemble, dance, voice, narrator, musical theatre, and piano improvisation. Past commissions include Memoriam (2011) for Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, Three Portraits (2005) and On Baldness and Other Songs (2007) for the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, Piano Quartet (2010) for the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival and La Jolla Music Society, and String Quartet No. 1 (2009) for Tanglewood Music Center. She has also worked with the Tokyo String Quartet, the Orchestra del Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza, Italy, New Juilliard Ensemble, the Juilliard Orchestra, and the Cincinnati College-Conservatory Orchestra.
Wong is a graduate of the accelerated 5-year Bachelor-Master program at the Juilliard School. She studied composition with Samuel Adler, Milton Babbitt, David Del Tredici, David Olan, and Larry Thomas Bell, as well as piano with Tatyana Dudochkin, Frank Levy, and Martin Canin. From 2006-2008, she taught music theory and composition at the New England Conservatory Preparatory School. She has been a faculty member at CUNY’s Baruch College since 2008. In 2012, she participated in the BMI musical theatre workshop, and in 2013, Wong joined the board of the League of Composers, the nation’s oldest organization dedicated toward new music. Wong is a Ph.D. Enhanced Chancellor’s Fellow at the Graduate Center at the City University of New York.
Pianist Yefim Bronfman has been a regular guest artist at the San Francisco Symphony since his debut in 1981. He last performed with the SFS in September 2013 in Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1, with Michael Tilson Thomas conducting. Bronfman began the 2014-15 season with appearances at summer festivals including Aspen Tanglewood, Vail, and La Jolla and a residency at the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival. Other appearances this season include performances with the symphonies of Chicago (with whom he also appears in Carnegie Hall), Saint Louis, Dallas, Seattle, Atlanta, and Pittsburgh, the New World Symphony, Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, and the Berlin, New York, and Los Angeles Philharmonics. He performs Magnus Lindberg’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with the Gothenburg Symphony and the London Philharmonic. With the Cleveland Orchestra and Franz Welser-Möst, he will play and record both Brahms Piano Concertos; he also performs Brahms at La Scala with Valery Gergiev. Bronfman was nominated for a Grammy award in 2014 for his recording of Lindberg’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with the New York Philharmonic on the Da Capo label. His 2009 Deutsche Grammophon recording of Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Piano Concerto with Salonen conducting was also nominated for a Grammy. His other recordings include DVDs with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and the Berlin Philharmonic, and CDs of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with the Bavarian Radio Symphony, the recital disc Perspectives, and recordings of Beethoven’s Piano Concertos and the Triple Concerto with Gil Shaham, Truls Mørk, and the Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra for the Arte Nova/BMG label.

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Russian thugs storm LGBTI club, four gay men injured

A group of Russian thugs stormed a gay club on 3 January, injuring several people there on a night out.

The unknown number of men bypassed the security at Fantom in Togliatti, a city in southwestern Russia.

At least one of the customers was hospitalized with serious injuries, local media reports, with at least three recieving medical care after being attacked.

Police say they currently have no suspects.

Konstantin Golava, a local gay activist, demanded a full investigation into the crime and to finally bring homophobic thugs to justice.

‘It is known that several of the attackers had previously seen near the places, maybe they were planning an attack on the club,’ he said.

‘It is not surprising that this happened because the representatives of LGBTQ community and their friends in Russia are trying to expel as “defective” from all walks of life.’

Writing on LGBT Russia, he listed the many teachers who have been fired for being gay among the examples of how the authorities have little interest in protecting the community.

Golava also says it is also a reason that LGBTI people, apathetic to the country’s issues, should care about what’s happening.

‘Gay men can create their own cozy ghetto in a club that seems to be safe. But they are wrong.

‘There is nothing wrong with having fun and relaxing, but they must protect themselvs, protect their rights and not to grumble that activists “provoke” and “our rights are not violated”.

‘When gay Russians think their rights are not being violated, even after attacks like this, then only more of this darkness will continue.’

Joe Morgan, Gay Star News

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Rise of the ‘Daddies’: A New (and Sexy) Gay Niche

I remember the first time I was called Daddy. I was 38, dating a 26-year-old, and gray was appearing in my beard. We stood there in my apartment, kissing. “You’re my daddy,” he said. My dentures fell out. Daddy? Me? It seems as if just yesterday I had my hair in Björk buns and was called a club kid. I wasn’t sure how to react, yet stood there trying to suddenly fit the role. 

Daddy was an older guy who had a strong personality, wouldn’t take no for an answer, and got on top of you. Daddy never showed doubt or vacillation. For instance, a Daddy would never say, “Does this contain wheat? I have a gluten allergy.” Above all, a daddy always paid for things (even when he was a ranch hand), which, I thought, ruled me out. But this young man I was dating didn’t need me to fulfill all these stereotypes. I was a Daddy, like it or not.

The daddy — or more specifically, the leather daddy — has been around for a while in gay eroticism (where, let’s face it, all sexual fetishes and flexibilities are begat). It’s had a long sadomasochistic fantasy history. For a schooling, check out Joe Gage’s classic “working man trilogy” porn movies from the late seventies, or, also from that decade, Larry Townsend’s novels and Drummer magazine stories that explore leather subculture. If you’re wondering, the old gay hanky code color is hunter green.

And then, of course, there have always been sugar daddies, regardless of sexual orientation or single-gender couplings. There’s even a for women seeking rich men. “Where the classy, attractive and affluent meet,” it explains. “The first and original Sugar Daddie site. We started it all!”

But like everything else in our culture, where even grumpy cats become memes and multiply, it seems the gay daddies are moving beyond leather land, especially for a new generation of twentysomething gays. An informal poll of men reveals that there seems to be an uptick of younger men who are interested in guys of my “seasoned” age bracket. “Guys my age could care less about me. At all,” says one friend in his forties. “Which is fine. We all seem to be occupied with the interests of much younger guys lately.”

To meet the demand, a daddy industry is developing. There are now tons of non-leather daddy porn sites, a hookup app, Daddyhunt, for “Gay Daddies, Silver Daddies, Muscle Daddies, Bears, Leather Daddies, Big Daddies, and Daddy-Lovers.” There is an increasing number of gay porn actors and escorts, who, despite the decimation of the gay adult film industry thanks to Internet, have extended their careers into middle age with equal, if not greater, popularity (Chase Hunter, Allen Silver, and Cole Maverick, to name a few); according to one male escort friend, getting good “reviews” from satisfied customers on the website Daddy’s Reviewshas become crucial for business.

Many of our most famous gays right now — Andy Cohen, Anderson Cooper, Alan Cumming, Tom Ford, and so on — are all also daddies. Even if they don’t get naked or call each other that on Twitter.

In turn, daddy has gone from being a porn thing to defining a broader range of men. “If you’re hearing daddy more and more, I think that it’s because more gay men are allowing themselves to be attracted to different types of people,” says Conner Habib, a writer, lecturer, and adult-film star.  “Rather than a uniform experience of beauty, people want a personalized experience of it. What could be more personalized than a daddy? It expresses character, relationship, experience.”

Though it’s meant to suggest a difference — aesthetic and age wise — the opposite of daddy isn’t necessarily young. (On mainstream hookup sites like Grindr or Tinder, you will see someone describe themselves as a “young daddy.” Usually he has facial hair and meat on his bones.) In the ongoing effort of gay taxonomy, daddy has broadened rather than become more specific, unlike bear and its sub-phylums of otter, seal, wolf, and so on. “There’s not a ‘daddy community’ in the same way that there’s a bear community,” observes Habib. Maybe the best way to describe what a daddy is is by saying what it isn’t: One Direction. “Honestly, it’s not about age,” says one 22-year-old when asked why older men appeal to him. “It’s a simple question of whether I find them attractive, really. Age is a thing of the past, right?”

“The term ‘daddy’ alone seems very loose to me, but it usually is used as a sexually charged compliment,” says Sean Van Sant, director of the male escort website “People hire other people to act out stereotypes, but also [you can] invert the stereotypes. That’s the great thing about being gay, is daddy can flip at any time. Daddy is definitely not always a top in the [escorting] world.”

To that end, there is such a thing as a femme daddy. Look at Elton John. Nathan Lane in The Nance. Or watch Michael Douglas as Liberace (somewhere in gay heaven, that glorious gay icon is giddy that he got to have sex with Matt Damon). These are men who own their queeny side but are, somehow, unquestionably daddy. Sure, they are all rich, but they are also confident and powerful. Daddy Warbucks in a caftan.

Of course, now more and more, there are actual gay dads who are daddies. “Sometimes we even use it between us as playful banter or even with other gay fathers,” says one friend who, with his partner, has a young kid. He often gets looks from younger guys. “It is funny to get cruised on the street when I’m out walking with my son.”

Perhaps the mainstreaming of the daddy trend could be because of statistics: Guys my age — men in our forties — are the largest demographic of gay-identified males to grow old. (The few out and older men I know, now in their late fifties and sixties, are definitely daddy types, because they’re tough, wise, brave guys who survived the harrowing early days of the AIDS crisis.)

“Everyone has a dad, so everyone has daddy issues or relationships; same as straights have mommy issues,” observes Van Sant. “I guess it’s all relative and not so kinky.” Indeed, in our porn-at-your-fingertips era, when every guy has a photo of their boner saved on their smartphone, you are sexually viable at nearly every age, whether you like it or not. Even the words mom and dad are sexual now. The other day, a friend of mine was trying to describe a woman he works with. “She’s blonde, late forties, sort of MILF-y,” he said, in an offhand way, as if he forgot the “ILF” part of the acronym and just meant she was attractive.

So, as we celebrate another Father’s Day, let’s embrace daddy in all its ramifications. Daddy has become a root word that can be enhanced with an adjective, sort of like queen. (Sweater queen, circuit queen, size queen). So now is the time to create them: sport daddy, nerd daddy, recycling daddy. Let’s start the list! I don’t know what I would be: Malbec daddy? Yoga daddy? Accidental daddy? I better figure it out soon, because I’m sure in a couple of years I will already be considered a granddaddy. Or GILF, if I’m lucky.

Mike Albo, The Cut

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Astrophysicist Writes Brutal Response To WSJ Article Claiming Science Has Proven God Exists

Recently – Christmas Day, in fact – the Wall Street Journal published an article by a Christian apologist who boldly declared that science was “increasingly” making the case for God, year-after-year.

Eric Metaxas is best known as a biographical writer, but he is also lauded (in conservative circles) for his work promoting the pro-life movement and making sweeping, outrageous conclusions about the existence of God based on whatever tenuous evidence seems handy at the time. If sweeping, outrageous conclusions be Metaxas bread-and-butter, than his Wall Street Journal article is perhaps his magnum opus. It’s a doozy.

After subtitling his work “The odds of life existing on another planet grow ever longer. Intelligent design, anyone?”, what followed was a meandering journey into the mind of a creationist playing at scientific literacy – but only when it suited his predetermined conclusions.

The arguments aren’t new. If you’ve ever walked into a Christian bookshop and picked up a book “debunking” evolution, you’d find similar jabs. Paragraphs like these abound:

Today there are more than 200 known parameters necessary for a planet to support life—every single one of which must be perfectly met, or the whole thing falls apart. Without a massive planet like Jupiter nearby, whose gravity will draw away asteroids, a thousand times as many would hit Earth’s surface. The odds against life in the universe are simply astonishing.

Yet here we are, not only existing, but talking about existing. What can account for it? Can every one of those many parameters have been perfect by accident? At what point is it fair to admit that science suggests that we cannot be the result of random forces? Doesn’t assuming that an intelligence created these perfect conditions require far less faith than believing that a life-sustaining Earth just happened to beat the inconceivable odds to come into being?

One person who is clearly fed up with this kind of pseudoscientific contrived nonsense is Lawrence Krauss, a world-renown theoretical physicist and cosmologist. His actual job, unlike Metaxas’, is to study the Universe – and he doesn’t share Metaxas’ optimism about his discoveries justifying intelligent design.

In a letter to the editor, Krauss systematically dismantles Metaxas’ shallow science and demonstrates that, not only has science not proven God’s existence (or disproven!), but most of the assumptions Metaxas makes are flat-out wrong.

To the editor:

I was rather surprised to read the unfortunate oped piece “Science Increasingly makes the case for God”, written not by a scientist but a religious writer with an agenda. The piece was rife with inappropriate scientific misrepresentations. For example:

  1. We currently DO NOT know the factors that allow the evolution of life in the Universe. We know the many factors that were important here on Earth, but we do not know what set of other factors might allow a different evolutionary history elsewhere. The mistake made by the author is akin to saying that if one looks at all the factors in my life that led directly to my sitting at my computer to write this, one would obtain a probability so small as to conclude that it is impossible that anyone else could ever sit down to compose a letter to the WSJ.
  2. We have discovered many more planets around stars in our galaxy than we previously imagined, and many more forms of life existing in extreme environments in our planet than were known when early estimates of the frequency of life in the universe were first made. If anything, the odds have increased, not decreased.
  3. The Universe would certainly continue to exist even if the strength of the four known forces was different. It is true that if the forces had vastly different strengths (nowhere near as tiny as the fine-scale variation asserted by the writer) then life as we know it would probably not evolved. This is more likely an example of life being fine-tuned for the universe in which it evolved, rather than the other way around.
  4. My ASU colleague Paul Davies may have said that “the appearance of design is overwhelming”, but his statement should not be misinterpreted. The appearance of design of life on Earth is also overwhelming, but we now understand, thanks to Charles Darwin that the appearance of design is not the same as design, it is in fact a remnant of the remarkable efficiency of natural selection.

Religious arguments for the existence of God thinly veiled as scientific arguments do a disservice to both science and religion, and by allowing a Christian apologist to masquerade as a scientist WSJ did a disservice to its readers.

And anticipating Metaxas’ response of “bias” from a secular scientist, Krauss isn’t the only one – on either side of the debate – that has found the Metaxas’ premises to be absurd. Writing for the Huffington Post, Geoffrey A. Mitelman, a rabbi, found the article equally troubling.

So, as tempting as it might be for someone like Metaxas to believe it, science doesn’t prove God exists any more than it has for the last several hundred years.

Ironically, contrary to the Wall Street Journal’s opinion, with more and more data coming in from various NASA experiments (including the historic comet landing in 2014), scientists are now growing increasingly convinced that life – or at least the ingredients to make it – are incredibly abundant throughout the Universe. If we haven’t heard from any little green men yet, it may be as simple as this: the Universe is a very, very large place and we’ve only just started looking.


From Jameson Parker, Addicting Info

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