Saturday, June 30, 2012

Help Support Roots Music and Independent Radio

James Poe, one of my friends on Facebook operates a small independent radio station in Greenwood Mississippi.

WABG am 960

“The Awesome A-M” is the newest radio station in the Mississippi Delta.  The station’s format is Mississippi Delta Blues, Classic Rock and “Stuff” (anything the listeners want to hear and anything the DJs want to play). This type format has never been attempted before. Its originator, James Poe, bases the format on the Mississippi Delta’s diverse population mix.  His belief is that with the rich culture of the delta and their history of southern rock & roll and blues and their proximity to Memphis, makes this format a daring likely success.  Appropriately, the station’s physical location is set in the midst of the cotton fields of Greenwood, Mississippi on Money Road where the Emmett Till case unraveled in the 1950s, sparking the Civil Rights Movement in the United States.  The station’s Money Road location is also the setting for the burial ground of legendary blues man Robert Johnson (one of many).  The station is located less than a mile from the Little Zion M. B. Church and cemetery.
The Awesome A-M’s programming focuses on tourism and the historical nature of the region.  Which is to say, the station is community driven!  Its target audience includes tourists and the local community alike.  When visitors from around the world frequent the area they are interviewed and the recordings are rebroadcast on the station, prompting partner, Bill Luckett to coin the station as “News, Blues, and Interviews.”
The target audience demographics are designated to attract Black and White males and females 25 years of age and older with special programming for other demos.
Special features like TAKE 5, The Steve Ladd Memorial Show, The Morning Show with Poe, and The Southern Soul Network’s R&B Blues Review make the station one of the most attractive formats in the world.
The station also features special Sunday Inspirational programming, jazz, and special features throughout the week.  Very few nationally syndicated shows are used according to Poe, who is also the General Manager.  “We’re building the station for the people of the Mississippi Delta and around the world who love the music of this region,”  He said.  The station focuses on locally produced shows done professionally dedicating time for local artists regardless of the genre of their music.  “We support local blues, classic rock, and other artists from around the world who support and are perpetuating the music of this region,”  he said.
Non-stop promotions accent the station’s unique format.  Hype and excitement throughout the year are its calling cards.  Plenty of “live remote” broadcasts and “the man on the streets” features are also included.  “The Awesome A-M is the station of the future — bringing People from around the world together.”  Poe concluded.
Now like many independent radio station playing roots and local music this station is struggling to stay alive.
Therefore I promised  James I would reach out to my readers and ask them read his pitch, follow the link and cast a vote to help him get in the running for this grant: 
Thanks again for your support.  The station is my passion.  I gave up a wife, kids, dog, and remortgaged my home.  It has been a 40 year obsession with radio that has consumed me.  Now I’m in Heaven on earth.  I own my very own station — my life’s dream.  But there are sacrifices.  And believe you me I’ve made them all.  Here is an excerpt from my narrative when they ask what would you do with $250,000:

Our company has been operating at a deficit since its beginning.  Our facilities are still substandard meeting only minimum requirements.  We had no indoor toilets for the first two years.  We have no heat, say for portable heaters, and our water supply is tainted.  Our only worker, one of our owners, worked for the company from the beginning and has not been paid in three and a half years.  He secured interns and volunteers to keep the station operational over the past four years.  

We have managed to pay the rent and the FCC, but have had little luck securing revenue from advertisers to pay other expenses, because of the competitiveness of the market.  Yet we managed to do trade to run our contests and give-a-ways and personally absorbed the financial loss from our Robert Johnson Festival.  Our roof leaks and the facility is still in need of repairs.  We have none of the updated computer programs to run the station effectively.  We have no fax and can afford only one phone line.  

The station sits on 16 acres of property we lease, but we are unable to pay the $300 monthly for the grass cutting upkeep so it is often overgrown.  Although we have invested heavily in the station over the past four years (over $200,000), we have yet to make a profit.  

A $250,000 grant will enable us to repair the roof and take care of the necessary plumbing and water purification concerns, as well as pay some of our delinquent accounts, not the least of which is our managing partner who has invested over $30,000 out of pocket to the company over the past four years and continues to work without a salary, despite the company agreeing to pay him $4,000 a month.  He has been working around the clock and has orchestrated every major event. He is directly responsible for us not having to hire engineers or FCC Attorneys.  He repairs minor problems and prepared our license renewal package which was recently approved alleviating the cost of an attorney.  

We have been unable to secure full-time employees because we are unable to pay them.  Our most recent hire works for commission only.  In four months as General Sales Manager she is still without a paycheck and is threatening to leave us.  Some form of payment with the commission would secure at least one additional solid employee.  The grant would allow us to secure two other full-time employees and possibly a third part-time, which would create a smooth running and more effective operation.  Long-term this will ensure someone is “Live and Local” at the station 24 hours a day which is what was done with one person over the past four years.  

The station has lost one of its original owners who sold out to the managing partner who now owns 67% of the company.  This grant would secure the future of a small business that provides a vital service to the people of an under-serviced area.     
I need your help in getting a grant through for $250,000 for my radio station. I only found out about it Tuesday and have been working on it since. The narrative is the critical part and it is done and very strong, but I need 250 votes to get them to read it. Please click on this link and type in WABG for the Business Name and vote for me. I sure would appreciate it!

A New Standard for Oxymoronic Newspeak

By David Sirota
Posted on Jun 28, 2012

If there was an ongoing contest in the art of self-contradicting newspeak, a quote from a U.S. military official during the Vietnam War would be the reigning victor for most of the modern era. In describing the decision to ignore the prospect of civilian casualties and vaporize a Vietnamese village, that unnamed official famously told Peter Arnett of the Associated Press that “it became necessary to destroy the town to save it.”

Epitomizing the futility, immorality and nihilism of that era-defining war, the line has achieved true aphorism status—employed to describe any political endeavor that is, well…futile, immoral and nihilistic.

But now, ever so suddenly, the Vietnam quote has been dethroned by an even more oxymoronic line—one that perfectly summarizes the zeitgeist of the post-9/11 era. As Wired’s Spencer Ackerman reports, “Surveillance experts at the National Security Agency won’t tell two powerful United States Senators how many Americans have had their communications picked up by the agency [because] it would violate your privacy to say so.”

In a letter to senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Mark Udall, the agency wrote: “[A] review of the sort suggested would itself violate the privacy of U.S. persons.”

While the line’s bureaucratic lingo doesn’t roll of the tongue like its Vietnam-era predecessor, it does equal it for sheer audacity. Yes, those actively violating Americans’ privacy claim they can’t tell Congress about their activities because doing so might violate Americans’ privacy.

Of course, what sets this particular oxymoron apart from others—what makes it the new champion of oxymoronic newspeak—is its special mix of incoherence and non-sequitur. This isn’t merely a self-contradictory statement—it’s one that ignores the question at hand. As Wyden told Wired: “All that Senator Udall and I are asking for is a ballpark estimate of how many Americans have been monitored under this law”—not any specific names of those being spied on.

Continue reading at:

Conservative Southern Values Revived: How a Brutal Strain of American Aristocrats Have Come to Rule America

America didn't used to be run like an old Southern slave plantation, but we're headed that way now. How did that happen?

By Sara Robinson
June 28, 2012

It's been said that the rich are different than you and me. What most Americans don't know is that they're also quite different from each other, and that which faction is currently running the show ultimately makes a vast difference in the kind of country we are.

Right now, a lot of our problems stem directly from the fact that the wrong sort has finally gotten the upper hand; a particularly brutal and anti-democratic strain of American aristocrat that the other elites have mostly managed to keep away from the levers of power since the Revolution. Worse: this bunch has set a very ugly tone that's corrupted how people with power and money behave in every corner of our culture. Here's what happened, and how it happened, and what it means for America now.

North versus South: Two Definitions of Liberty

Michael Lind first called out the existence of this conflict in his 2006 book, Made In Texas: George W. Bush and the Southern Takeover of American Politics. He argued that much of American history has been characterized by a struggle between two historical factions among the American elite -- and that the election of George W. Bush was a definitive sign that the wrong side was winning.

For most of our history, American economics, culture and politics have been dominated by a New England-based Yankee aristocracy that was rooted in Puritan communitarian values, educated at the Ivies and marinated in an ethic of noblesse oblige (the conviction that those who possess wealth and power are morally bound to use it for the betterment of society). While they've done their share of damage to the notion of democracy in the name of profit (as all financial elites inevitably do), this group has, for the most part, tempered its predatory instincts with a code that valued mass education and human rights; held up public service as both a duty and an honor; and imbued them with the belief that once you made your nut, you had a moral duty to do something positive with it for the betterment of mankind. Your own legacy depended on this.

Continue reading at:

9 Unelected Kings & Queens is our Biggest Challenge

You Can’t Say That

‘The Harm in Hate Speech,’ by Jeremy Waldron

Published: June 22, 2012

By Jeremy Waldron
292 pp. Harvard University Press. $26.95.

In his engaging new book, “The Harm in Hate Speech,” the legal philosopher Jeremy Waldron urges Americans to reconsider that tradition. Although he regards it as “unlikely” that hate speech legislation “will ever pass constitutional muster in America,” he hopes to persuade Americans to take more seriously the damage such speech does, and to overcome the “knee-jerk, impulsive and thoughtless” arguments that, he says, “often” characterize American debates on the issue.

Waldron begins with the premise that in a “well-ordered society” not only must all people be protected by the law; they are entitled to live in confidence of this protection. “Each person . . . should be able to go about his or her business, with the assurance that there will be no need to face hostility, violence, discrimination or exclusion by others.” Hate speech undermines this essential public good. “When a society is defaced with anti-Semitic signage, burning crosses and defamatory racial leaflets,” Waldron says, this assurance of security “evaporates. A vigilant police force and a Justice Department may still keep people from being attacked or excluded,” but the objects of hate speech are deprived of the assurance that the society regards them as people of equal dignity.

Even when the hate speech comes from isolated fringe elements, themselves despised by a majority of the public, Waldron tells us, we should not regard the harm as insignificant. “Precisely because the public good that is under attack is provided in a general, diffuse and implicit way,” he explains, “the flare-up of a few particular incidents can have a disproportionate ­effect.”

Continue reading at:

Republican mega-donor’s firm accused of ‘directing’ prostitution at its casinos

From Raw Story:

By Muriel Kane
Friday, June 29, 2012

A former executive at the Las Vegas Sands Corp. Steve Jacobs, has filed a wrongful termination suit in which he accuse the company of “controlling and directing” prostitution at its Macau casinos.

The charges are politically significant because the company’s chairman, billionaire Sheldon Adelson, has been perhaps the most generous GOP donor of the current campaign cycle. He has promised to supply “limitless” funds to defeat President Barack Obama, much of which would be channeled through 501(c)(4) non-profits that do not divulge the names of their donors.

Adelson’s donations appear to be inspired in large part by his close personal friendship with Israel’s conservative Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as his opposition to any kind of two-state solution for the Palestinian territories.

Continue reading at:

The Julian Assange Show: Noam Chomsky & Tariq Ali

Air Force Rocked by Increasingly Major Sex Scandal

A sex scandal is right now spreading through the Air Force that is threatening to become one of the biggest in military history. There are allegations that a dozen male boot-camp instructors at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas assaulted, harassed, or had sex with female recruits under their command. All told there have been 31 victims identified so far, and there are signs that this is but a hint of a much more widespread problem in the Air Force's training program.

The investigation centers on a particular unit of boot-camp instructors at Lackland where each year 36,000 recruits undergo basic training. It began back in June of last year, when a female recruit said she'd been sexually harassed. Four months later, three instructors came forward to report that the misconduct among their colleagues was far more widespread. All of the 31 victims identified thus far are still in the Air Force.

Charges have so far been filed against six instructors, and the allegations range from rape to having "improper sexual relations" with trainees. One trainer who admitted to having inappropriate relationships with 10 of his trainees has taken a plea deal and was sentenced to 90 days in prison, 30 days hard labor, and a demotion. He has agreed to testify against two other trainers who've been chaged. There are six additional instructors being investigated who have not yet been charged. The commander of the 331st Training Squadron, Lt. Col. Michael Paquette, was also relieved of duty by the Air Force because of "an unacceptable level of misconduct" in his unit. Officials say that most of the misconduct happened while recruits were in basic training—under the care of instructors who abused them—but in some cases the contact happened after recruits had moved on to other programs.

'Heat... Fire... Disaster': What Climate Change Looks Like

Western US fires are being driven by extreme temperatures, which are consistent with IPCC projections

- Common Dreams staff
Published on Friday, June 29, 2012 by Common Dreams

“What we’re seeing is a window into what global warming really looks like,” said Princeton University climate scientist Michael Oppenheimer, referring to raging wildfires in the US west, in a press briefingon Thursday. "It looks like heat, it looks like fires, it looks like this kind of environmental disaster... This provides vivid images of what we can expect to see more of in the future."

Oppenheimer, speaking alongside other scientists, argued that shorters winters with less snow, coupled with earlier Springs, and extreme summer heat -- all contributors for the fires burning in Colorado, Wyoming, and New Mexico -- were also conditions that he and his colleagues at the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicted would result from carbon-induced climate change.

According to “Heat Waves and Climate Change,” a new report from Climate Communication, a nonprofit science outreach group which, along with Climate Nexus, coordinated the conference call with Oppenheimer and others, the "remarkable run of record-shattering heat waves in recent years, from the Russian heat wave of 2010 that set forests ablaze to the historic heat wave in Texas in 2011 and the “Summer in March” in the U.S. Midwest in 2012" all typify the ongoing trend driven by climate change.

The stage was set for these fires when winter snowpack was lighter than usual, said Dr. Steven Running, a forest ecologist at the University of Montana, reports Reuters. Mountain snows melted an average of two weeks earlier than normal this year, Running said. "That just sets us up for a longer, dryer summer. Then all you need is an ignition source and wind."

"Now we have a lot of dead trees to burn ... it's not even July yet," he said. Trying to stop such blazes driven by high winds is a bit like to trying to stop a hurricane, Running said: "There is nothing to stop that kind of holocaust."

Continue reading at:

Friday, June 29, 2012

Friday Night Fun and Culture: Marshall Chapman

Do People Get Less Religious When Societies Grow More Egalitarian?

When countries embrace progressive social policy, that tends to create a decline in religious belief. Why?

By Amanda Marcotte
June 25, 2012

Slowly but surely, religion’s historical monopoly on the human mind is breaking apart. On its surface, the reason seems straightforward: the rise of secular democracy and especially of scientific understanding should encourage more people to give up on religion.

In fact, recent research from the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago shows that the picture worldwide is much more complex than that. While atheism is on the rise in many places in the world, others are seeing a rise in religiosity, creating a situation where the levels of belief and non-belief vary wildly depending on culture. A lot of it has to do with history and culture, but one intriguing thread can be pulled from the picture, which is that there seems to be a strong correlation between high rates of atheism and countries that prioritize economic equality and make higher investments in a strong social safety net, such as France and the Netherlands.

Could liberal policies help create non-believers? Previous research indicates that when countries embrace progressive social policy, that tends to create a decline in religious belief. The theory, often called the “secularization thesis” is that the combination of good education of its citizens and the fact that citizens can rely on the government instead of the church for poverty relief means that more people will turn away from religion. But could the reasons go deeper than that? Few people base their choice of whether to believe in God or not on something as simple as whether they can go to the church or the state in times of need. Perhaps it’s more that economic insecurity itself increases the desire to believe in God. And if atheists want to minimize the power religion plays in society, should they start by demanding a more secure and egalitarian society?

There’s a heavy body of research showing that the more stress and uncertainty people face, the more likely they are to engage in what psychologists call “magical thinking”: superstition, prayer, belief in the supernatural. In 2008, Jennifer Whitson and Adam Galinsky published a paper in Science demonstrating that when you remove the amount of control people have over their situation, they tend to engage more in “illusory pattern perception,” which is the psychological process that creates belief in the supernatural. Other research has shown the real-world effects of this psychological tendency, showing, for instance, that people living in war zones tend to engage in more magical thinking, such as carrying lucky charms or believing in the power of prayer, than those who don’t.

Continue reading at:

Time for Congress to Impeach Justice Antonin Scalia

Bernie Sanders: The American People are Angry

By Bernie Sanders
June 28, 2012

Madam President, the American people are angry.  

They are angry because they are living through the worst recession since the great depression. 
Unemployment is not 8.2%, real unemployment is closer to 15%. 

Young people who are graduating high school and graduating college, they're going out into the world, they want to become independent, they want to work, and there are no jobs. 

There are workers out there 50, 55 years old who intended to work the remainder of their working lives, suddenly they got a pink slip, their self-esteem is destroyed, they're never going to have another job again and now they're worried about their retirement security. 

What the American people are angry about is they understand that they did not cause this recession. Teachers did not cause this recession. Firefighters and police officers who are being attacked daily by governors all over this country did not cause this recession. Construction workers did not cause this recession. This recession was caused by the greed, the recklessness and illegal behavior of the people on Wall Street. 

These people on Wall Street spent billions of dollars, billions of dollars, trying to deregulate Wall Street and they got their way. $5 billion in ten years is what was spent, and then they were able to merge investment banks with commercial banks, with insurance companies. They got everything they wanted. They said get the government off the backs of Wall Street. They got it. And the end result was that they plunged this country into the worst recession since the great depression. 

Continue reading at:

How Medicaid Expansion Affects Gay and Transgender Communities

Andrew Cray and Kellan Baker
Jun 28, 2012

The Supreme Court’s decision on health reformconcludes a tense chapter in the life of the Affordable Care Act. The lawsuit decided today challenged the constitutionality of several important provisions of the law, including the expansion of the Medicaid program to cover lower-income people without insurance.

On the issue of Medicaid, the court’s decision was mixed. Overall the court held that while states can receive federal funds to expand Medicaid coverage to all Americans under the age of 65 who make less than $15,000 per year, they cannot lose all Medicaid funding as a penalty for refusing to do so. States that expand eligibility will receive increased federal funding to cover the vast majority of the costs of covering new beneficiaries — a 2010 report projected that the expansion of Medicaid in all fifty states would cost the states $21 billion between 2014 and 2019, while the federal government would spend $443 billion. States that don’t expand eligibility will forfeit this funding and could potentially leave millions of people still without coverage.

By upholding the Medicaid expansion as constitutional, the Court’s decision leaves the door open for states to extend lifesaving access to care for an additional 16 million currently uninsured people, including many gay and transgender people and their families. Despite common stereotypes, poverty and unemployment are higher among LGBT communities, particularly LGBT communities of color, than for the general U.S. population. For example, lesbians and bisexual women are 20 percent more likely to be poor than straight women, and a recent survey indicates that transgender people are twice as likely as the general population to make less than $10,000 a year.

Continue reading at:

President Obama Speaks on Health Reform

Do the Koch Brothers Determine Our Energy Dependence?

By H Patricia Hynes
Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Everyone knows by now that if Iraq's primary resource were pine nuts or rutabagas, we would not have plunged into an eight-year, $3 trillion dollar, failed war, which left that country broken. Ever since President Roosevelt signed an oil agreement with Saudi Arabia in 1945, our fraught relationships in the Middle East have been driven by our militarized dependency on their oil.

Thus, the swing in national energy politics toward energy independence. 

The Obama administration has taken the position that our independent energy future is a mix of "cleaner" and "safer" fossil fuel and nuclear energy, biofuels, efficiency and renewable energy technologies such as solar and wind. Mitt Romney's position is a similar potpourri, sans "cleaner" and "safer."

What precisely is meant by cleaner and safer is the crux of the energy independence issue.

Fiction: Natural gas, whose blue flame is branded "the new green," has emerged as the poster child of cleaner because it generates fewer carbon dioxide emissions than coal and oil. Meanwhile, a blind eye is turned toward the hydraulic fracturing (or fracking) boom that is injecting pressurized sand, "trade secret" chemicals and vast amounts of water into shale formations to release pockets of gas and oil. Thirty percent (and growing) of the natural gas supply is derived from fracking - a boon for energy independence, but a boondoggle for safer and cleaner.

Continue reading at:
Dear god... Won't someone do an intervention and keep these people away from the Wall Street Crap tables before someone sends the knee breakers around to collect on their gambling losses.

Losses on JPMorgan Chase’s bungled trade could total as much as $9 billion, far exceeding earlier public estimates, according to people who have been briefed on the situation.

When Jamie Dimon, the bank’s chief executive, announced in May that the bank had lost $2 billion in a bet on credit derivatives, he estimated that losses could double within the next few quarters. But the red ink has been mounting in recent weeks, as the bank has been unwinding its positions, according to interviews with current and former traders and executives at the bank who asked not to be named because of investigations into the bank.

The bank’s exit from its money-losing trade is happening faster than many expected. JPMorgan previously said it hoped to clear its position by early next year; now it is already out of more than half of the trade and may be completely free this year.

As JPMorgan has moved rapidly to unwind the position — its most volatile assets in particular — internal models at the bank have recently projected losses of as much as $9 billion. In April, the bank generated an internal report that showed that the losses, assuming worst-case conditions, could reach $8 billion to $9 billion, according to a person who reviewed the report.

Continue reading at:

Stiglitz: The American Dream can be saved - Fast Forward

Justice Ginsburg Cited Romneycare As A Reason For Upholding Obamacare

Brett LoGiurato
Jun. 28, 2012

In her opinion of the Supreme Court's decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act on Thursday, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg made note of Mitt Romney's Massachusetts health care law as a reason why the individual mandate was constitutional.

While Ginsburg was a part of the majority opinion, she had differing reasons as to why the mandate was constitutional. The rest of the justices found that under the Commerce Clause, the mandate requiring all U.S. citizens to buy health insurance was not valid. They upheld it as a tax.

Ginsburg, however, said it should have been upheld under the Commerce Clause, and explained how Congress followed Massachusetts' lead in preventing only sick people from signing up for health insurance:

Continue reading at:

'Monopoly': Calling the Global Financial Sector What It Is

by Sasha Breger Bush
Published on Thursday, June 28, 2012 by Common Dreams

New York Times columnists Protess and Scott report that Barclays Bank is paying some US$450 million to regulators in the US and UK to “resolve accusations” surrounding its manipulation of a key interest rate, the London Inter-Bank Offer Rate (Libor), during the first years of the ongoing global financial crisis.  According to the article, the Libor rate is used as a benchmark rate to price some US$350 trillion in financial products worldwide each year, from credit cards to derivatives and student loans. 

The Financial Times reports that the investigation now spans 12 regulators—from the US to Europe and Japan—and 20 banks, including the multinational giants JP Morgan, Citigroup, Bank of America, UBS and Deutsche Bank. The general idea is that the big banks—so far only Barclays has admitted wrongdoing—misreported the rates at which they borrowed from other banks, influencing the LIBOR rate so as to profit the banks. Barclays has also admitted to allowing consultations between various bank departments, and between itself and other banks, before reporting its rates to Libor, an illicit practice.

In most accounts, blame for such unsavory practices are spread around from bank managers and employees seeking higher profits and lower losses, to regulators who were asleep at the wheel, to the secretive and opaque process by which the Libor rate is set.  Yet, behind the regulators and the greedy bankers, lies the ‘m’ word that no one dares utter in the business presses—monopoly. The global financial system is increasingly run by a few big firms operating in a highly uncompetitive market place and wielding enormous power, often behind a veil of secrecy, (intentional) regulatory blindness, and technical complexity. 

As any introductory economic textbook shows, imperfectly competitive marketplaces (e.g. monopoly, monopsony, oligopoly and oligopsony) are defined by the ability of a few firms, or only one firm, to manipulate prices and other exchange terms.  As markets concentrate, and free competition is replaced by collusion and superprofits, firms gain the market power to influence market rules and prices in their own interest.  Indeed, any college freshman in an traditional economics department could foresee that growing concentration in global credit markets would result in price distortions, to the detriment of consumers and other less powerful actors.  And, some might also be able to cite a few examples of the manner in which market power confers political power, another dangerous dimension of monopolistic market structures frequently noted in the Marxist tradition, among others (think, say, of Goldman Sach’s ability to staff the US Treasury and Federal Reserve).

Continue reading at:

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Sadly Not From The Onion - Texas GOP Against Thinking & Voting Rights

Unafraid of Aging

Published: June 25, 2012

The signal public health achievement of the 20th century was the increase of the average human life span. Now, as that achievement helps raise the proportion of the aged around the world, what once seemed an unalloyed blessing is too often regarded as a burden — a financial burden, a health care burden, even a social burden.

“It’s nuts,” said Dr. Linda P. Fried, an epidemiologist and geriatrician who is dean of the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University. “To assume defeat from what every one of us as individuals wants suggests we’re not asking the right questions.”

Findings from the science of aging, Dr. Fried said, should “reframe our understanding of the benefits and costs of aging.”

From her perch at Mailman, a position she has held for four years, Dr. Fried is pushing students, professors and a wider audience to ask the right questions and ponder the right policies for coping with an aging world population.

Dr. Fried’s mandate is to lead a school that will give a new generation the tools to deal with global challenges to public health, including environmental degradation, climbing health care costs and the pressure of rapid urbanization. But she believes that research on aging and health changes “across the life course” are central to designing solutions to public health problems in the 21st century.

The Mailman School is newly energized, with enrollment in the master’s and doctoral programs up 26 percent over the last four years, and grants from the National Institutes of Health up 12 percent in 2011 — a year in which the overall N.I.H. budget declined slightly. Mailman’s curriculum has undergone a major redesign to reflect a new emphasis on health preservation and prevention for every stage of life. 

Interdisciplinary study will be required of all students. The curriculum, Dr. Fried boasts, is “absolutely unique” among schools of public health, and has generated a great deal of interest. Applications for 2012 admission to the master’s program were up more than 20 percent from the year before.

Continue reading at:

Obamacare...are we "all" in this together or not?

The Deadly Addiction to Cheap Meat

BY Terry J. Allen
June 27, 2012

America’s cheap meat habit is costing more than we bargained for. The factory farming of cows, pigs, poultry and fish sucks up 29 million pounds—80 percent—of antibiotics sold in the United States.
Many illness-causing bacteria are now resistant to most or all of the antibiotics that once killed them. While the overuse of antibiotics on humans has contributed to this public health crisis, the most egregious factor in creating antibiotic resistance is the routine, widespread, greed-driven dosing of livestock. About a quarter of U.S. meat and poultry samples contain antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

The FDA, after more than three decades of dithering, has finally acknowledged a “mounting public health problem of global significance.” But, when even industry acknowledges a serious problem, an April FDA report containing “non-binding recommendations” politely asks the food industry to use antibiotics “judiciously”—and gives industry three years to figure out how to circumvent the reforms.

In 1946, producers discovered that adding antibiotics to feed increased animal growth—and industry profits. This subtherapeutic dosing also allowed livestock to survive filthy, overcrowded conditions that would otherwise generate high and unprofitable rates of disease and death.

Antibiotics work by targeting specific bacteria, but they can leave the field open for resistant strains. CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) are nearly ideal for generating resistant bacteria, and then spreading them through workers, flies, soil, air, water and, of course, food. Strains of strep; MRSA; tuberculosis; malaria; pneumonia; gonorrhea; various food poisons, including salmonella; along with other dangerous pathogens are increasingly impervious to common, inexpensive antibiotics.

Continue reading at:

America criminalizing HIV?

Climate Change to Make Los Angeles 4-5°F Hotter Over Next 30 Years

Mat McDermott
June 27, 2012

Mother Jones points out a new study trying to determine how much the greater Los Angeles area will warm because of climate change. The results are pretty dramatic.

Under business-as-usual climate scenarios the region warms on average 4.6°F by 2041. There are some notable differences however, based on geography.

Along the ocean temperatures will increase 3.5-4°F, mountains and deserts warm 4.5-5.5°F, and dense urban areas warm 4-4.5°F. More warming is expected to occur in summer and fall than in spring and winter.
What that means for days above 95°F also varies by locality.

Coastal areas like Santa Monica, Venice and San Pedro, which now rarely top 95°F because of the cooling influence of the ocean may see one day a year topping that. In Downtown LA, perhaps 4.6 days above 95°F, an increase of about four days each year. In Pasadena, hot days go from 3 days to 9.5 days. The greatest increase (and this goes beyond Los Angeles really) is in Lancaster, where days topping 95°F increase from 20 days today to about 55 days. Palm Springs (even further afield), which now sees 75 days above 95°F, increases to 119 days each year—a third of the year with days topping 95°F.

Continue reading at:

As Labor Struggles, Have the Big Rights and Liberties Groups Like the ACLU Deserted Unions?

While labor is under powerful battering from conservatives, a strong case can be made that they aren't being supported by some of our most prominent human rights groups.

By Mark Ames
June 25, 2012

Progressive intellectuals have been acting very bipolar towards labor lately, characterized by wild mood swings ranging from the “We’re sorry we abandoned labor, how could we!” sentiment during last year’s Wisconsin uprising against Koch waterboy Scott Walker, to the recent “labor is dead/it’s all labor’s fault” snarling after the recall vote against Gov. Walker failed.

It must be confusing and a bit daunting for those deep inside the labor movement, all these progressive mood swings. At the beginning of this month, New York Times’ columnist Joe Nocera wrote a column about having a “V-8 Moment” over the abandonment of labor unions, an abandonment that was so thorough and so complete that establishment liberals like Nocera forgot they’d ever abandoned labor in the first place!
The intellectual-left’s wild mood swings between unrequited love towards labor unions, and unrequited contempt, got me wondering how this abandonment of labor has manifested itself. While progressives and labor are arguing, sometimes viciously, over labor’s current sorry state, one thing progressives haven’t done is serious self-examination on how and where this abandonment of labor manifests itself, how it affects the very genetic makeup of liberal assumptions and major premises.

So I did a simple check: I went to the websites of three of the biggest names in liberal activist politics: Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the ACLU. Checking their websites, I was surprised to find that not one of those three organizations lists labor as a major topic or issue that it covers.

Go to Amnesty International’s home page at On the right side, under “Human Rights Information” you’ll see a pull-down menu: “by topic.” Does labor count as a “Human Rights topic” in Amnesty’s world? I counted 27 “topics” listed by Amnesty International, including “Abolish the death penalty”, “Indigenous Peoples”, “ “Children and Human Rights” and so on. Nowhere do they have “labor unions” despite the brutal, violent experience of labor unions both here and around the world. It’s not that Amnesty’s range isn’t broad: For example, among the 27 topics there are “Women’s rights”, “Stop Violence Against Women” and “Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity”. There’s even a topic for “Business and Human Rights”—but nothing for labor.

Continue reading at:

Monsanto's seedy legacy

Monsanto Trumps Food Safety and Democracy (Again)

By Charlotte Silver
Monday, 25 June 2012

San Francisco - As the 2012 Farm Bill continues to take shape in the halls of the United States Congress, the immense influence of corporate interests is on display.

On June 21 the United States Senate voted overwhelmingly against the Sanders Amendment that would have allowed states to pass legislation that required food and beverage products to label whether or not they contain genetically engineered ingredients.

The amendment, proposed by Independent Senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders, is particularly relevant as many states prepare to vote on a ballot initiatives that would require such labelling of genetically modified (GM) foods.

Lobbyists from the biotech industry have ardently opposed GMO labelling. These opponents argue that because food labelling has historically been handled by the Food and Drug Association (FDA), it is a federal issue and, therefore, individual states do not have the right to implement such legislation. Indeed, in the case of Vermont, Sanders' home state, Monsanto successfully intimidated the state legislature from voting on a bill that would have required GMO labelling.

Patty Lovera, the assistant director of Food and Water Watch, explained that states planning to vote on GM labelling in November could face a legal fight to defend their right to enact such laws.

Continue reading at:

Class War at the Supreme Court

Harold Meyerson
June 26, 2012

On the eve of the Supreme Court’s much anticipated ruling on Obamacare, here is a simple test for detecting the politics behind a decision: When reading the rulings, look for the double standards and answers to questions not posed by the cases themselves. By those measures, the Supreme Court’s record in the past week fairly reeks of the justices’ politics.

Exhibit A is Justice Samuel Alito’s majority opinion in Knox v. Service Employees International Union, Local 1000, in which nonunion California state employees whose wages and benefits were nonetheless set through the collective bargaining process of SEIU — the state’s largest union — sued the local to get back a special dues assessment it levied in 2005 to fight two ballot measures. The union’s normal practice was to allow nonmembers to opt out of paying the roughly 44 percent of dues that went to matters not directly related to collective bargaining, such as election campaigns. In this instance, however, no such opt-out was allowed.

The issue before the court was whether mandating the collection of the special assessment from nonmembers violated their constitutional rights to free speech. Alito and the four other conservative justices ruled that it did, and liberal Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg agreed in a concurring opinion. But Alito’s opinion didn’t stop there. It also changed the long-standing practice of allowing nonmembers to opt out of paying dues toward union functions outside collective bargaining, mandating instead that the unions “may not exact any funds from nonmembers without their affirmative consent.” In other words, unions would have to ask for nonmembers’ permission to collect political assessments and, possibly, any dues at all. “Individuals should not be compelled to subsidize private groups or private speech,” Alito wrote.

Alito’s ruling struck at the heart of American unionism. By laying the groundwork for creating a right for nonmembers to avoid dues payments, he came close to nationalizing the right-to-work laws that 23 states have adopted (though 27 have not). As Sotomayor noted in a somewhat astonished dissent (Ginsburg and Justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan dissented on this point as well), this wasn’t the question before the court. Neither side had argued that issue in their briefs or oral presentations. “The majority announces its novel rule,” Sotomayor wrote, “without any analysis of potential countervailing arguments.” And it did so in defiance of the court’s own Rule 14, which states that “only the questions set out in the petition or fairly included therein will be considered by the Court.”

Continue reading at:

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Florida "Uterus Controversy" Song Parody

Cyndi Lauper launches organisation for homeless LGBT youth in the US

26 June 2012

Cyndi Lauper has launched a new project in the US aimed at empowering and advocating on behalf of homeless gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender youth, and raising awareness of the problems they face.

The Forty to None Project was launched as a result of the disproportionately high number of LGBT youth in the estimated 500,000 to 1.6 million young people in the US who are homeless or runaways.

The project said up to four in ten of those are gay, bisexual or transgender. As its name suggests, it aims to reduce the percentage of homeless youths who are LGBT from forty to zero.

Lauper said: “For far too long gay and transgender youth who are experiencing homelessness have not received the attention, resources and support that they desperately require.

“As the first national organization that works solely to address the needs of homeless gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth, the Forty to None Project will help fill that void and address the challenges experienced by this long-ignored, but important part of our society. All of us must join together to stand with America’s next generation so that they can stand on their own.”

Continue reading at:

Foie gras is torture in a tin. It's time for a ban

California is about to become the first state in the US to ban foie gras. Britain should follow its lead, Monday 25 June 2012

On 1 July, California is poised to become the first state in the US to ban foie gras. The ban was actually passed in 2004, with more than a seven-year grace period to give California's sole foie gras producer time to implement reforms and figure out a way to produce the dreadful "delicacy" without force-feeding ducks and geese. The producer didn't achieve either goal, and now it has procrastinated itself out of business. Good riddance to bad rubbish, I say.

I may have been typecast in Hollywood as a bad guy, but there is something inherently sinister about force-feeding birds to the extent that their livers balloon up to 10 times their normal size. California was right to ban this barbarity, and in the UK, where force-feeding is prohibited, a ban on the sale of products from this suffering is long overdue.

Birds raised for foie gras are force-fed up to 2kg grain and fat a day through a tube that is shoved down their throats – a process that one California politician describes as "the equivalent of waterboarding". Force-feeding birds such an enormous amount of food results in a painful disease known as hepatic steatosis, or fatty liver disease. The birds also often suffer from internal haemorrhaging, as well as fungal and bacterial infections.

A New York Times reporter who visited California's foie gras farm found that force-fed ducks "moved little and panted", and an employee admitted to a journalist reporting for another publication: "Some [birds] die from heart failure as a result of the feeding or from choking when they regurgitate." An undercover investigation at the farm revealed filthy, bedraggled birds that struggled to breathe – some of which were too ill to stand – and even the bodies of dead birds among the living.

Continue reading at:

A Cruel and Unusual Record

Published: June 24, 2012


THE United States is abandoning its role as the global champion of human rights.

Revelations that top officials are targeting people to be assassinated abroad, including American citizens, are only the most recent, disturbing proof of how far our nation’s violation of human rights has extended. This development began after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and has been sanctioned and escalated by bipartisan executive and legislative actions, without dissent from the general public. As a result, our country can no longer speak with moral authority on these critical issues.

While the country has made mistakes in the past, the widespread abuse of human rights over the last decade has been a dramatic change from the past. With leadership from the United States, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in 1948 as “the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.” This was a bold and clear commitment that power would no longer serve as a cover to oppress or injure people, and it established equal rights of all people to life, liberty, security of person, equal protection of the law and freedom from torture, arbitrary detention or forced exile.

The declaration has been invoked by human rights activists and the international community to replace most of the world’s dictatorships with democracies and to promote the rule of law in domestic and global affairs. It is disturbing that, instead of strengthening these principles, our government’s counterterrorism policies are now clearly violating at least 10 of the declaration’s 30 articles, including the prohibition against “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

Continue reading at: