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Bills Presented to the President

Posted on Wednesday December 31, 1969

To amend certain definitions contained in the Provo River Project Transfer Act for purposes of clarifying certain property descriptions, and for other purposes.

Posted on Wednesday December 31, 1969

To designate the Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense joint outpatient clinic to be constructed in Marina, California, as the "Major General William H. Gourley VA-DOD Outpatient Clinic".

Posted on Wednesday December 31, 1969

Black Hills Cemetery Act

Posted on Wednesday December 31, 1969

Distinguished Flying Cross National Memorial Act

Posted on Wednesday December 31, 1969

Hill Creek Cultural Preservation and Energy Development Act

US House Floor Today

Posted on Wednesday December 31, 1969

Veterans' Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act of 2014 (07/25/2014 legislative day)

Posted on Wednesday December 31, 1969

Authorizing the use of the Capitol Grounds for the District of Columbia Special Olympics Law Enforcement Torch Run. (07/25/2014 legislative day)

Posted on Wednesday December 31, 1969

Authorizing the use of Emancipation Hall in the Capitol Visitor Center for a ceremony to award Congressional Gold Medals in honor of the men and women who perished as a result of the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001. (07/25/2014 legislative day)

Posted on Wednesday December 31, 1969

Sean and David Goldman International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act of 2013 (07/25/2014 legislative day)

Posted on Wednesday December 31, 1969

Assessing Progress in Haiti Act (07/25/2014 legislative day)

Posted on Wednesday December 31, 1969

Near East and South Central Asia Religious Freedom Act of 2014 (07/25/2014 legislative day)

Posted on Wednesday December 31, 1969

Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives with respect to enhanced relations with the Republic of Moldova and support for Moldova's territorial integrity. (07/25/2014 legislative day)

Posted on Wednesday December 31, 1969

Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act (07/25/2014 legislative day)

Posted on Wednesday December 31, 1969

Child Tax Credit Improvement Act of 2014 (07/25/2014 legislative day)

Posted on Wednesday December 31, 1969

Strengthening Child Welfare Response to Trafficking Act of 2014 (07/25/2014 legislative day)

US Senate Floor Today

Posted on Wednesday December 31, 1969

Bring Jobs Home Act (07/24/2014 legislative day)

Posted on Wednesday December 31, 1969

Bruce H. Andrews, of New York, to be Deputy Secretary of Commerce, vice Rebecca M. Blank, resigned. (07/24/2014 legislative day)

Posted on Wednesday December 31, 1969

Lisa S. Disbrow, of Virginia, to be an Assistant Secretary of the Air Force, vice Jamie Michael Morin. (07/24/2014 legislative day)

Posted on Wednesday December 31, 1969

Peter M. Rogoff, of Virginia, to be Under Secretary of Transportation for Policy, vice Polly Ellen Trottenberg, resigned. (07/24/2014 legislative day)

Posted on Wednesday December 31, 1969

Victor M. Mendez, of Arizona, to be Deputy Secretary of Transportation, vice John D. Porcari, resigned. (07/24/2014 legislative day)

Posted on Wednesday December 31, 1969

A resolution recognizing the Khmer and Lao/Hmong Freedom Fighters of Cambodia and Laos for supporting and defending the United States Armed Forces during the conflict in Southeast Asia. (07/24/2014 legislative day)

Posted on Wednesday December 31, 1969

A resolution designating August 16, 2014, as "National Airborne Day". (07/24/2014 legislative day)

Posted on Wednesday December 31, 1969

Posted on Wednesday December 31, 1969

Posted on Wednesday December 31, 1969

Nasa News

NASA’s Mars Spacecraft Maneuvers to Prepare for Close Comet Flyby
Posted on Friday July 25, 2014

NASA Selects Contract for Mission Support Services at Ames
Posted on Thursday July 24, 2014

NASA has selected Wyle Laboratories, Inc., Houston, to support NASA's flight programs and mission projects, providing support for multiple sustained project management, research and technology development capabilities that encompass all phases of mission and project lifecycles at the agency's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California.

Satellite Study Reveals Parched U.S. West Using Up Underground Water
Posted on Thursday July 24, 2014

A new study by NASA and University of California, Irvine, scientists finds more than 75 percent of the water loss in the drought-stricken Colorado River Basin since late 2004 came from underground resources. The extent of groundwater loss may pose a greater threat to the water supply of the western United States than previously thought.

Hubble Finds Three Surprisingly Dry Exoplanets
Posted on Thursday July 24, 2014

Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have gone looking for water vapor in the atmospheres of three planets orbiting stars similar to the sun -- and have come up nearly dry.

NASA Seeks Proposals for Commercial Mars Data Relay Satellites
Posted on Wednesday July 23, 2014

NASA has issued a Request for Information (RFI) to investigate the possibility of using commercial Mars-orbiting satellites to provide telecommunications capabilities for future robotic missions to the Red Planet.

NASA TV Coverage Set For European Cargo Ship Launch to Space Station
Posted on Wednesday July 23, 2014

NASA Television will broadcast live the launch and docking of the European Space Agency’s (ESA’s) fifth and final Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-5) cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station.

NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory Celebrates 15th Anniversary
Posted on Tuesday July 22, 2014

Fifteen years ago, NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory was launched into space aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia. Since its deployment on July 23, 1999, Chandra has helped revolutionize our understanding of the universe through its unrivaled X-ray vision.

NASA Partners Punctuate Summer with Spacecraft Development Advances
Posted on Tuesday July 22, 2014

Spacecraft and rocket development is on pace this summer for NASA's aerospace industry partners for the agency's Commercial Crew Program as they progress through systems testing, review boards and quarterly sessions under their Space Act Agreements with the agency.

NASA Updates Apollo Anniversary, Next Giant Leap Events
Posted on Friday July 18, 2014

NASA has updated events that are marking the 45th anniversary of the first moon landing and the steps being taken for America's next giant leap to send astronauts to Mars.

NASA Begins Engine Test Project for Space Launch System Rocket
Posted on Thursday July 17, 2014

Engineers have taken a crucial step in preparing to test parts of NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) rocket that will send humans to new destinations in the solar system. They installed on Thursday an RS-25 engine on the A-1 Test Stand at the agency's Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.

VOA News

Israel, Hamas Begin 12-Hour Cease-fire in Gaza Saturday
Posted on Saturday July 26, 2014

Israel and Hamas have both agreed to a 12-hour cease-fire in Gaza that began Saturday morning (at 8:00 a.m. local time, 0500 UTC). The Israeli army says it still will look for and destroy tunnels militants use to smuggle weapons into Gaza. A Hamas official says the militant group will also stop fighting for the 12-hour period. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says Israeli media reports saying the Cabinet has rejected plans for a seven-day cease-fire are wrong. Kerry says no...

Detention of Ukrainian Woman in Texas Is Questioned
Posted on Friday July 25, 2014

The weeklong prison detention of a Ukrainian woman who is married to a U.S. citizen in El Paso, Texas, has shed light on the difficulties of enforcing U.S. immigration law at a time when border agents are overwhelmed by a surge of migrants from Central America. While some immigrants are released to await a hearing, many others languish in detention. Former U.S. Marine Brian Price and Oleksandra Bronova, a native of Ukraine, were married quite literally on the U.S.-Mexico border, standing...

US Considers Screening Youth in Honduras for Refugee Status
Posted on Friday July 25, 2014

Top Obama administration officials say the United States is considering a pilot program which would involve screening some youths in Honduras to see if they qualify for refugee status in the United States. Officials say the youngsters could be interviewed before they make the dangerous journey to the U.S. border, as tens of thousands of children from Central America have done already this year.   White House spokesman Josh Earnest said President Barack Obama was considering possible...

President Asks Central American Leaders to Help Stop Migrants
Posted on Friday July 25, 2014

President Barack Obama met with leaders of three Central American nations Friday to ask for their help in stemming the flow of thousands of unaccompanied minors to the southern U.S. border. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Fasting 5K Events for Children Take Off in US Cities
Posted on Friday July 25, 2014

A group of around 30 people gathered on the National Mall, getting ready for a unique event which combines America’s favorite form of exercise with the teachings of Islam. Fasting 5K is an annual event held simultaneously in five American cities during Islam's holy month of Ramadan. The event, which takes place in Washington, Boston, New York, Houston and Huntington Beach, California, premiered last year, not long after the Boston Marathon bombing. Ariadne Budianto has more for VOA.

US Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab
Posted on Friday July 25, 2014

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, located 19 meters beneath the surface, some five kilometers off Key Largo, four U.S. astronauts prepare to visit an asteroid. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean waters, the four astronauts simulate the daily routine of a crew that would someday travel to collect samples from rocks orbiting the earth. Part of NASA's Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) program, which is designed to test...

President Asks Central American Leaders to Help Stop Migrants
Posted on Friday July 25, 2014

President Barack Obama met with leaders of three Central American nations Friday to ask for their help in stemming the flow of thousands of unaccompanied minors to the southern U.S. border. Obama told the presidents of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras at a White House meeting it is not a lack of compassion, but an obligation to obey immigration laws that is prompting the U.S. to turn back many of those coming to this country's borders. The U.S. president asked the leaders to do...

White House Aide: Republicans Might Try to Impeach Obama
Posted on Friday July 25, 2014

A top White House adviser said on Friday Republicans might try to impeach President Barack Obama over his go-it-alone immigration strategy, as Obama prepared to talk about the U.S. border crisis with Central American presidents. Dan Pfeiffer, one of Obama's longest-serving advisers, told reporters that the executive actions Obama will approve at the end of the summer aimed at tackling illegal immigration will likely generate ire from Republicans who have blocked comprehensive...

Business of American-style Football
Posted on Friday July 25, 2014

Baseball had long been considered America’s national sport, but in recent years it has become overshadowed by America’s other favorite sport - American-style football. Part of the reason is money. Andrew Saba talks to VOA reporter and football historian Mike Richman about how football has become as much a symbol of American business as it is American sports.

White House Bemoans Lawmakers' Delay on Border Crisis Funds
Posted on Thursday July 24, 2014

White House officials expressed growing alarm on Thursday that Congress may not soon approve President Barack Obama's emergency request for $3.7 billion to tackle the child migration crisis on the southern border of the United States. The stalemate over the request comes as Obama prepares on Friday to host the presidents of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, the countries that have been the source of much of the migrant surge that has strained border resources. Congress is locked...

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Today's Featured Storys

VIDEO: Did Ukraine Fabricate Evidence to Frame Russia For MH17 Shoot Down?

Alleged conversation between rebel leader & Russian commander attracts suspicion


‘There’s going to be hell to pay and there should be!’: John McCain warns on Ukraine


Ukraine Releases YouTube Clip “Proving” Rebels Shot Down Malaysian Flight MH-17


Jury Acquits Man Charged After Cops Went to Wrong Home


Who Shot Down the Malaysian Airliner?


Pervert Gets His Kicks By Dressing Up As TSA Screener And Groping Women At SF Airport


U.S. Army Training to Fight Black Americans


Israeli Military “Denies Targeting Children” Slammed For “Not Having The Courage To Talk To Hamas”


Controlling the Narrative: Woman Calls Cheney War Criminal, C-Span Cuts Feed


Armed Homeland Security Agents in ‘Community Outreach’ to “Let People Know They’re in the Area”

Greenville, NC | News | Weather | Sports - WNCT.com

Infowars Nighly News

Infowars Nightly News for Monday, July 7, 2014

Infowars Nighly News Tuesday July 8, 2014

Infowars Nightly News: Wednesday July 9, 2014

Infowars Nightly News Thursday July 10, 2014

Infowars Nightly News: Friday July 11, 2014

RT Breaking News


Alex Jones Show: Friday (7-11-14) Ron Paul & Max Keiser

On the jam-packed Friday, July 11 edition of the Alex Jones Show, Jones continues to break down how Obama's orchestrated border implosion, following the script written by his mentors Cloward and Piven, will lead to America's ultimate demise. On today's show, Jones speaks with pro-life advocate and executive director of Created Equal, Mark Harrington, about their wild encounter with a crazed and violent abortion supporter. Jones also gets updates from Infowars field reporter Joe Biggs out in Murietta, Cali., where protesters from both sides of the heated immigration debate are gathered. Alex also invites economist and television broadcaster Max Keiser to discuss the dollar's slow-motion collapse and other signs the economy is sinking. Alex also speaks with former Texas Congressman and three-time presidential candidate Ron Paul about the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby ruling, the boiling conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza, and ways people can help realign America's moral compass. We'll also be taking your calls on today's worldwide broadcast.

Kirk Cameron Presents: MONUMEMTAL

Join the People's Campaign for the Constitution!

RT US News

Downtown New York flooded with thousands protesting Gaza op (PHOTOS)
Posted on Saturday July 26, 2014

New York was awash with protesters on Friday, as thousands came out in support of more than 880 Palestinians killed in Israel’s Gaza offensive. There are increasingly deep fault lines between pro-Palestinian and pro-Israel supporters worldwide.
Read Full Article at RT.com

‘I love your country’: FL congressman mistakes govt employees for India delegates
Posted on Saturday July 26, 2014

Freshman Congressman Curt Clawson suffered an embarrassing and awkward exchange during his first subcommittee meeting on Friday, mistaking two government officials for visitors from India.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Mississippi governor threatens to block transport of undocumented children
Posted on Friday July 25, 2014

In a letter to President Obama, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant said he would not allow the government to send immigrant children to sponsors within his state without consultation.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Congress alarmed by possible CIA access to confidential whistleblower emails
Posted on Friday July 25, 2014

The CIA obtained a legally protected, confidential email between whistleblower officials and Congress this spring, raising questions over whether the agency illegally has access to other communications regarding whistleblowers, McClatchy reported.
Read Full Article at RT.com

NSA partnering with Saudi regime ‒ Snowden leak
Posted on Friday July 25, 2014

The National Security Agency has increasingly been working hand-in-glove with the repressive Saudi Arabian government since 2013, sharing intelligence and assisting with surveillance, according to the latest Snowden leak.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Legislation allowing US consumers to unlock their cell phones clears Congress
Posted on Friday July 25, 2014

The US House of Representatives unanimously passed legislation on Friday that would allow consumers to “unlock” their cell phones in order to switch wireless networks. It now heads to President Obama for his signature.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Brit accused of hacking the Fed hit with new charges by the FBI
Posted on Friday July 25, 2014

Federal authorities in the United States have unsealed their fourth set of charges in nine months against Lauri Love, a 29-year-old British man accused of hacking US government and private sector websites.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Legal pot use vs. homeowners’ associations: Sowing the weeds of discontent
Posted on Friday July 25, 2014

Just because pot is legal in your state, doesn’t mean you won’t get in trouble for smoking that doobie outside, even if you have a prescription for it. At least that’s what some homeowners’ associations (HOAs) are saying.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Amputation instead of circumcision? Man sues hospital after surgery
Posted on Friday July 25, 2014

​An Alabama man says doctors mistakenly removed his penis during what was supposed to be a routine circumcision procedure, and now he has filed suit against the physicians and hospitals involved.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Google’s next data collection project: Human body
Posted on Friday July 25, 2014

Google’s research arm is planning an initial study of 175 people to collect anonymous health data from biological samples like blood and saliva in the process of creating individual genome databases that could eventually help fend off illness or disease.
Read Full Article at RT.com



Oath Keepers

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Lawmaker Says BLM Was ‘Completely Insane’ On Bundy Standoff
Posted on Friday July 25, 2014

This article was written by Steve Tetreault and originally published at Review Journal Republican lawmakers on Thursday criticized the Bureau of Land Management’s handling of the April standoff with Clark County rancher Cliven Bundy, saying tensions could have been eased by local authorities rather than the BLM’s use of heavily armed agents. “Whether Bundy [...]

Beretta USA Announces Decision To Move Its Entire Maryland Manufacturing Capabilities To Tennessee
Posted on Thursday July 24, 2014

Beretta U.S.A. Corp., located in Accokeek, Maryland, announced today that it has decided to move its manufacturing capabilities from its existing location to a new production facility that it is building in Gallatin, Tennessee.

Yats Resigns!
Posted on Thursday July 24, 2014

US Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland's personal pick to be Prime Minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk (whom she referred to as Yats) resigned his post, as his ruling coalition fell apart when the Svoboda and UDAR parties left the coalition.

Obama Sends Team To Texas To Assess Need For National Guard Deployment
Posted on Thursday July 24, 2014

An article by Reuters states: "President Barack Obama has sent a team to Texas to assess whether a National Guard deployment would help to handle an immigration crisis at the Mexican border, White House officials told Reuters, having so far resisted Republican calls for such a move.

Protestors Line I-5 Overpass On Center Street
Posted on Wednesday July 23, 2014

This article comes from StatesmanJournal.com by Joyce DeWitt Around 18 people held up signs in protest of illegal immigration on the Center Street overpass of Interstate 5 on Saturday. The protest was organized by Oregonians for Immigration Reform, which held protests across the state this weekend. Cynthia Kendoll, president of the group, said that protests were occurring nationwide [...]

Border Patrol Agent Draws Gun On Boy Scout—Over A Photograph
Posted on Tuesday July 22, 2014

A group of Boy Scouts from Central Iowa received a lesson they won't forget in federal manners at a border crossing from Canada into Alaska.

A Military Approach To Survival Security
Posted on Tuesday July 22, 2014

This article was written by Thomas Miller and originally published at Personal Liberty Digest It may seem antiquated, but the primary function of a U.S. Army soldier has not changed since the inception of the Continental Army. A soldier always has, and likely always will be, tasked with performing guard duty in one [...]

Banker Deaths Climb To 15, As Goldman Sachs Managing Director Found Dead
Posted on Tuesday July 22, 2014

This article was written by Melissa Melton and originally published at The Daily Sheeple Another high level banker has been found dead. Nicholas Valtz, a 39-year old managing director at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. in New York, was found dead Sunday afternoon in Napeague Harbor where he had reportedly gone earlier that day [...]

Prepping As A Form Of Personal Activism
Posted on Tuesday July 22, 2014

This article was written by Gaye Levy and originally published at Backdoor Survival There are some days when I feel as though I am out there in the world alone, fighting a battle that can not be seen or heard.  The battle is one of preparedness and is one I [...]

Posted on Tuesday July 22, 2014

Instead of Providing Evidence for Russian Guilt in Plane Shootdown, U.S. Says: Just TRUST Us … Because Those Iraq War Lies Are Ancient History.

Ron Paul News

Ron Paul: Can Karzai’s Antics Help Us Save Face in Afghanistan?
Posted on Monday November 25, 2013

by Ron Paul After a year of talks over the post-2014 US military presence in Afghanistan, the US administration announced last week that a new agreement had finally been reached. Under the deal worked out with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the US would keep thousands of troops on nine military bases for at least the […]

Ron Paul: Harry Reid’s ‘Radical’ Rule Changes Guarantees Yellen Confirmation
Posted on Thursday November 21, 2013

Ron Paul: Federal Reserve Steals From the Poor and Gives to the Rich
Posted on Monday November 18, 2013

by Ron Paul Last Thursday the Senate Banking Committee held hearings on Janet Yellen’s nomination as Federal Reserve Board Chairman. As expected, Ms. Yellen indicated that she would continue the Fed’s “quantitative easing” (QE) polices, despite QE’s failure to improve the economy. Coincidentally, two days before the Yellen hearings, Andrew Huszar, an ex-Fed official, publicly […]

Ron Paul: The Hidden Truth about Inflation
Posted on Monday November 11, 2013

by Ron Paul One of the least discussed, but potentially most significant, provisions in President Obama’s budget is the use of the “chained consumer price index” (chained CPI), to measure the effect of inflation on people’s standard of living. Chained CPI is an effort to alter the perceived impact of inflation via the gimmick of […]

Ron Paul: The Interventionists Haven’t Learned their Lesson from the Iraq Debacle
Posted on Monday November 04, 2013

by Ron Paul October was Iraq’s deadliest month since April, 2008. In those five and a half years, not only has there been no improvement in Iraq’s security situation, but things have gotten much worse. More than 1,000 people were killed in Iraq last month, the vast majority of them civilians. Another 1,600 were wounded, […]

Ron Paul: Debt Ceiling Deal a Victory for the Political Class and Special Interests
Posted on Monday October 21, 2013

by Ron Paul Washington, DC, Wall Street, and central bankers around the world rejoiced this week as Congress came to an agreement to end the government shutdown and lift the debt ceiling. The latest spending-and-debt deal was negotiated by Congressional leaders behind closed doors, and was rushed through Congress before most members had time to […]

Ron Paul: New Fed Boss, Same as the Old Boss
Posted on Sunday October 13, 2013

by Ron Paul The news that Janet Yellen was nominated to become the next Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System was greeted with joy by financial markets and the financial press. Wall Street saw Yellen’s nomination as a harbinger of continued easy money. Contrast this with the hand-wringing that took […]

Ron Paul Warns of Martial Law and Economic Collapse
Posted on Saturday October 12, 2013

Ron Paul: Neocons Infuriated by Iran Peace Talks
Posted on Monday October 07, 2013

Last week, for the first time since the 1979 Iranian revolution, the US president spoke with his Iranian counterpart. Their 15 minute telephone call was reported to open the door to further high-level discussions. This is a very important event. I have been saying for years that we should just talk to the Iranians. After […]

Ron Paul: The U.S. Government Won’t Default
Posted on Wednesday October 02, 2013


10 of the Biggest Threats to Human Existence
Posted on Monday July 21, 2014

Just in case you don't have enough to worry about.

AMC’s “The Walking Dead” is at the top of the cultural zeitgeist these days, one of the most popular television series on the air. In the show, a virus has ravaged the Earth, killing most of humanity, with the dead corpses rising to terrorize the few remaining living souls.  While enormously entertaining, it is not a likely scenario for the end of the human race. Dick Cheney notwithstanding, zombies aren’t real. The end of humanity, however, could be. While it is difficult to envision a world without “us,” there are multiple scenarios staring at us, right here, right now, not far-fetched, that could wipe out all or most of humanity, leaving a wasteland for Mother Nature to reclaim. Here are some of the possible ways the reign of man- and womankind might end, no zombies needed.

1. Global Climate Change

Climate change is the Big Kahuna of all scenarios in which our presence on Earth is ended. Despite what the climate change deniers would have you believe, climate change is real. It is being caused by human beings, with a little help from lots of farting cows emitting methane, plus that giant well of methane lurking under the Arctic ice. As we burn carbon and increase our meat-eating ways, more and more greenhouse gases are building up in the atmosphere. It is pretty easy to see the end game of this scenario. Grab a telescope and look at Venus, a planet with a thick, heat-trapping atmosphere and a surface temperature high enough to, well, melt lead. A few decades ago, climate scientist James Hanson studied Venus, and saw some parallels with what was happening with the earth. What he saw alarmed him, and he testified in Congress in 1988, warning our government that unless we changed our carbon-burning ways, we were on a course for disaster. Hanson got through to a single senator: Al Gore.

Meanwhile, the carbon keeps burning, the CO2 keeps rising, resulting in a slowly rising average Earth temperature despite the occasional freezing cold winter. On average, Earth’s temperature has been rising steadily since the Industrial Revolution unleashed our carbon-burning frenzy, resulting in a slow-moving train wreck. The hottest years in recorded history have occurred in the last decade. Author and environmental activist Bill McKibben outlines the situation:

“The Arctic ice cap is melting [releasing more greenhouse gases], the great glacier above Greenland is thinning, both with disconcerting and unexpected speed. The oceans are distinctly more acid and their level is rising…The greatest storms on our planet, hurricanes and cyclones, have become more powerful… The great rain forest of the Amazon is drying on its margins… The great boreal forest of North America is dying in a matter of years… [This] new planet looks more or less like our own but clearly isn’t."

Many environmentalists think we have already passed the point of no return. Once we pass a certain threshold, Earth will continue warming even if we do manage to cut our CO2 emissions. What we do know is that, if we don’t begin reducing the amount of CO2 we are releasing into the air, and at least minimize the damage, a planet-wide disaster is assured. 

2. Loss of Biodiversity

If we don’t melt ourselves into extinction, another possible route to end times is partly a byproduct of climate change: loss of biodiversity. Human activity is responsible for massive extinctions of countless species on Planet Earth. Environment News Service reported as far back as 1999 that, “the current extinction rate is now approaching 1,000 times the background rate [what would be considered the normal rate of extinction] and may climb to 10,000 times the background rate during the next century, if present trends continue [resulting in] a loss that would easily equal those of past extinctions.” 

The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, a major environmental report released in 2005, reported 10-30% of mammals, birds and amphibians on the planet are in danger of extinction due to human activity, which includes deforestation (resulting in habitat destruction), CO2 emissions (resulting in acid rain), over-exploitation (such as overfishing the oceans), and invasive species introduction (like boa constrictors in the Florida Everglades). “This rapid extinction is therefore likely to precipitate collapses of ecosystems at a global scale,” said Jann Suurkula, chairman of Physicians and Scientists for Responsible Application of Science and Technology. “This is predicted to create large-scale agricultural problems, threatening food supplies to hundreds of millions of people. This ecological prediction does not take into consideration the effects of global warming which will further aggravate the situation.” 

Amphibians, such as frogs and salamanders, are considered “marker species," meaning they provide important clues to the health of the ecosystem. Right now, the frog population, as well as other amphibians, has been declining rapidly. In any ecosystem, when one species dies, it affects other species, which depended on the now-extinct species for food and perhaps other necessities. When there is a sudden mass extinction of many species, a chain reaction can cause catastrophic results. There have been five mass extinctions in the history of the Earth, and many scientists are saying we are in the midst of the sixth. "We are entering an unknown territory of marine ecosystem change, and exposing organisms to intolerable evolutionary pressure,” states the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO), in the biannual State of the Oceans Report. The next mass extinction may have already begun." What would that be like?  Well, in the worst one, 250 million years ago, 96 percent of ocean life and 70 percent of land life perished. What can we expect from mass extinction number six? We probably would prefer not to find out.

3. Bee Decline

Bees are dying—a lot of them, due to CCD, Colony Collapse Disorder. “One of every three bites of food eaten worldwide depends on pollinators, especially bees, for a successful harvest,”  says Elizabeth Grossman, author of Chasing Molecules: Poisonous Products, Human Health. Plants depend on spreading their pollen to produce food. Bees are pollinators. No bees, no food (or at least much less). As many as 50% of the hives in the United States and Europe have collapsed in the past 10 years. The suspect in bee deaths is a class of chemicals called neonicotinoids, pesticides used on a massive scale in commercial farming. It is believed the chemicals impair the bees’ sense of direction, preventing them from returning to the hive.

With reduced pollen in the hive, fewer queen bees are produced, and eventually the colonies collapse. The European Commission has imposed a ban on these pesticides after the European Food Safety Agency concluded that they posed a “high acute risk” to honeybees. The United States, however, has declined to join Europe in banning neonicotinoids, citing other possible causes of CCD, including parasites. Meanwhile, as Nero fiddles, Rome is burning and bees are quickly disappearing. It is not hard to imagine a scenario where resulting acute food shortages bring on mass starvation, war and human extinction. 

4. Bat Decline

Bees aren’t the only pollinators dying off. Bats, too, are dropping like flies. As a result of deforestation, habitat destruction and hunting, combined with a fatal fungal disease spreading among the bat population called White Nose Syndrome, bats are disappearing at an alarming rate. Besides contributing to the pollination crisis, the dwindling bat population brings about another possible human extinction scenario. As their habitats are destroyed, bats are increasingly crossing paths with the human population, in search of food and shelter. With bats come bat viruses. "It's very easy to see how pathogens can jump from animals to humans," says Jon Epstein, at the EcoHealth Alliance, a non-profit agency dedicated to conservation and biodiversity. Every year, on average, five new infectious diseases pop up, and about 75% of these new diseases come from animals. It is already suspected that human killers like Ebola emerged from the bat population. Might some new human-killing pathogen mutate from bats to humans and decimate mankind?

5. Pandemic

Which leads us to a related extinction scenario: a worldwide pandemic. New diseases emerge every year.  Some have the potential to devastate the population. In 1918, a strain of influenza spread worldwide and killed between 20 and 50 million people—more than were killed in all of World War I. In the past several years, diseases like SARS have come close to igniting into worldwide pandemics, and it is not at all inconceivable that, in our airplane-riding, interconnected world, some other virus could arrive on the scene with the virulence and transmissibility to decimate, if not destroy, the human population. “It is not in the interests of a virus to kill all of its hosts, so a virus is unlikely to wipe out the human race,” says Maria Zambon, a virologist with the Health Protection Agency Influenza Laboratory. “But it could cause a serious setback for a number of years. We can never be completely prepared for what nature will do: nature is the ultimate bioterrorist."

6. Biological /Nuclear Terrorism

In the interim, there are plenty of down-and-dirty, run-of-the-mill terrorists and the grand prize they all hope to get their hands on is a weapon of mass destruction like a nuclear bomb or a vial of smallpox virus. “Today's society is more vulnerable to terrorism because it is easier for a malevolent group to get hold of the necessary materials, technology and expertise to make weapons of mass destruction,” says Paul Wilkinson, chairman of the advisory board for the Center for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at the University of St. Andrew. “The most likely cause of large scale, mass-casualty terrorism right now is from a chemical or biological weapon.The large-scale release of something like anthrax, the smallpox virus, or the plague, would have a huge effect, and modern communications would quickly make it become a trans-national problem. There is a very high probability that a major attack will occur somewhere in the world, within our lifetimes.” 

As for the nuclear threat, with increasing numbers of unstable countries like Pakistan and North Korea in possession of atomic weapons, the availability to terrorists seems only a matter of when and not if.

7. Super-Volcanoes

There are volcanoes, and then there are super-volcanoes. "Approximately every 50,000 years the Earth experiences a super-volcano. More than 1,000 square kilometers of land can be obliterated by pyroclastic ash flows, the surrounding continent is coated in ash and sulphur gases are injected into the atmosphere, making a thin veil of sulphuric acid all around the globe and reflecting back sunlight for years to come. Daytime becomes no brighter than a moonlit night.”

This lovely scenario is brought to us by Bill McGuire, director of the Benfield Hazard Research Center at University College London. About 74,000 years ago, the most powerful super-volcano eruption in human history occurred in Indonesia. It was close to the equator, and thus gases quickly passed into both hemispheres. Sunlight was blocked, and temperatures on Earth dropped worldwide for the next five to six years, below freezing even in the tropical regions. A super-volcano eruption is 12 times more likely than an asteroid hitting the Earth. Known super-volcanoes exist in Yellowstone National Park in the U.S. and Toba in Sumatra, Indonesia. And then there are the unknown ones….

8. Asteroid Impact

Recent films like Deep Impact and Armageddon have dramatized this human extinction scenario, an asteroid hitting the Earth. Hollywood is Hollywood, but in 2013, a real-life asteroid appeared without warning in Chelyabinsk, Russia. About 20 meters wide, it hurled into the Earth’s atmosphere at over 40,000 miles per hour. Only the angle it come in at and its relatively small size prevented damage and destruction on a massive scale. But what would happen if a not-at-all uncommon mile-wide asteroid hit the Earth at this speed? Quite probably it would wipe out the human race. The tremendous explosion it would cause upon impact would fling so much dust into the atmosphere that the sun would be completely blocked off, plant life and crops would die, severe acid rain would kill ocean life, and fiery debris would cause firestorms worldwide. 

This has already happened at least once. The likely reason you don’t see any dinosaurs around the neighborhood is that they were wiped out by just such an incident. Donald Yeomans of NASA: “We expect an event of this type every million years on average.”

9. Rise of the Machine

We look to Hollywood again to dramatize our next scenario. The Terminator movies entertained us with killer androids from a future where war was being waged on man by super-intelligent machines. OK, we are not there yet, but as we program more and more intelligence into our computers, exponentially increasing their capabilities every year, it is only a matter of time before they are smarter than we are.  Already we entrust computers to run our stock markets, land our planes, correct our spelling, Google our trivia, and calculate our restaurant tips. In development are robots that look like us, talk like us and recognize our facial movements. How long before they are us, as we download our thoughts and memories into our hard drives, the so-called “singularity”? How long before these machines are self-aware?

Futurist and author Ray Kurzwell believes computers will be as smart as us by 2029, and by 2045 will be billions of times smarter than us. What then? Will they decide we are superfluous? Or maybe we ourselves will decide. Sounds far-fetched, I know, but some very smart people buy into this scenario; people like genius physicist Stephen Hawking: “The danger is real that they [super-computers] could develop intelligence and take over the world.”

10. Zombie Apocalypse

I know. I said zombies aren’t real. But there is a parasite called toxoplasmosa gondii. This terrifying little bug infects rats, but it can only reproduce inside the intestines of a cat, so it evolved a nifty little trick wherein it actually takes over the rat’s brain and compels it to hang out around cats. Naturally, the cat eats the rat. The cat is happy. The parasite is happy because it gets to reproduce in the cat’s intestines.  The rat? Not so happy, one would suppose. Why should we care about unhappy rats? Because rats and humans are actually very similar, which is why we conduct so many medical experiments on rats. And humans are infected with the toxoplasmosa gondii parasite. About half the population of the Earth, in fact. Now it so happens that toxoplasmosa gondiidoes not affect humans the way it does rats. But what if it did? Viruses mutate. Viruses are manipulated in bio-weapons laboratories. Suddenly half the population would have no instinct for self-preservation. Half the population unable to think in a rational manner. Half the population suddenly very much resembling zombies. Nah. Couldn’t happen. Could it?


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A New Wave of Wacko Evangelicals Swept GOP Primaries—and Could Win Several Seats in Washington
Posted on Friday July 25, 2014

Mega churches fuel a dangerous new wave of political activism.

A Southern Baptist Pastor claiming dangerous and crazy things like the notion that there is a homosexual plot to sodomize children, and that the First Amendment doesn’t apply to Muslims is so common that it barely registers as newsworthy these days. What should be catching the attention of even the most jaded news editors, however, is that a Southern Baptist Pastor who actually said exactly these aforementioned things has just won his GOP primary race, has just won his GOP primary race, for a seat in the U.S. Congress. Say hello to Tea Party Republican Jody Hice.

In the coming 2014 election, Hice will be the official Republican nominee to replace outgoing Georgia Congressman Paul Broun. Hice believes gay people have a secret plot to seduce and sodomize America’s sons, thinks same-sex marriage is akin to bestiality and incest, and compares abortion to the genocide waged by Hitler. Broun (R-GA) has endorsed Hice, which is unsurprising given it was Broun who once claimed, “Evolution and embryology and the big Bang theory are all likes straight from the pit of Hell.”

Pastor Hice has a long history of delivering hateful and homophobic laden sermons from the pulpit. He has struck out at those who oppose harmful “gay conversion therapy,” and by banning it “we are enslaving and entrapping potentially hundreds of thousands of individuals in a lifestyle that in reality they are not.”

If Pastor Hice were an anomaly, this would be the start and end of this story. Unfortunately for those who cherish America’s secular traditions, he’s not. Alarmingly, he is one face in a sea of evangelical Christian faces swept to primary electoral victories this year on the back of religious conservative activism, and by that I mean political activism drummed up by the success and growth of America’s mega-churches.

While polls show a decline in America’s religiosity, and with millennials shunning the religious enthusiasm of their parents, the mega-church movement is neither dying nor slowing. A 2013 report shows that churches with weekly attendances of 2,000 or more grew in 46 states.

"With each passing year, mega-churches are more in both number and size and the ones at the top of the list are larger than the ones at the top of the list in previous years," Warren Bird, director of research and intellectual capital development for Leadership Network, told The Christian Post.

According to Bird, there are currently 1,650 established mega-churches in the country, many of which draw a sizeable percentage of young adults. And now these asylums for the easily led are being led to the altar of radical theocratic, political ideals – and its sponsor – the Republican Party.

In a number of GOP primary races, candidates with close ties to a mega-church have upset their more fancied establishment opponents. Including Pastor Hice, four candidates with mega-church backing have won decisive primaries.

“People generally like their pastor, and in politics it’s always good to be liked by voters,” said National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Greg Walden of Oregon.

Another mega-church supported candidate to triumph is Oklahoma Representative James Lankford, who recently won a primary in the special election to succeed retiring U.S. Senator Tom Coburn.

Lankford is a graduate of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, who believes life begins at the moment of fertilization. From 1996 to 2009, Lankford was the student ministries and evangelism specialist for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, and was the program director for the largest Christian camp in the U.S. Indeed, Jesus camp comes to Washington.

The Republican National Committee said it was Lankford’s visibility among evangelicals that helped him defeat his much-favored opponent. Notably, should Lankford win in November, he will become the only full-time religious leader in the U.S. Senate.

In North Carolina’s 6th District, Baptist Mark Walker defeated the highly regarded son of one that state’s most powerful politicians by more than 6,000 votes in a GOP runoff. The RNC said it was Walker’s leadership role at Lawndale Baptist Church, which has a membership of several thousand that proved decisive.

Walker is considered such a religious extremist that even his Tea Party colleague and primary opponent called him an extremist, which is like al-Qaeda calling ISIS radical. Walker’s Democrat Party rival warns, “Walker’s extremism has blinded him from the issues that matter…Mark Walker will be a voice only for the most extreme segment of our society.”

In Alabama, the 4,000-member congregation of Briarwood Presbyterian Church propelled Gary Palmer to victory in a GOP runoff in Alabama’s 6th District, to replace retiring Rep. Spencer Bachus. After securing the nomination, Palmer thanked those who helped his campaign become a success.

"This entire campaign was built on prayer, sustained by prayer and tonight was delivered by prayer," he said.

All of the above is more of what we have seen in this country for the past three decades: Christian dogmatism used to hail and marshal the mystical inerrancy of the free market and the benevolence of unregulated capitalism. The evangelicals of these mega-churches have been used as reliable ballot box lever pullers for our corporate overlords since the election of Ronald Reagan.

If these hapless radicals in prayer have tuned in at any stage since 1980, they’ll realize they’re unlikely to receive what they hope for in return for their vote.

In his political tome What’s the Matter With Kansas, Thomas Frank writes that the trick by the rich to dupe the predominantly working and middle class Christian right into voting for their political party never wears off.

“Vote to stop abortion; receive a rollback in capital gains taxes. Vote to make our country strong again; receive deindustrialization. Vote to screw those politically correct college professors; receive electricity deregulation. Vote to get government off our backs; receive conglomeration and monopoly everywhere from media to meatpacking. Vote stand tall against terrorism; receive Social Security privatization. Vote to strike a blow against elitism; receive a social order in which wealth is more concentrated than ever before in our lifetimes, in which workers have been stripped of power and CEOs are rewarded in a manner beyond imagining.”

For the Republican Party, the growth of the nation’s mega-churches, allows them an opportunity to perform the same trick to a new audience.


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5 Signs of Madness in the Media This Week—Tom Friedman Compares Gaza Disaster to Broadway Edition
Posted on Friday July 25, 2014

Disturbing coverage, with a hat tip to NYT's skewed Israel coverage.

The mainstream and right-wing media continues to be a bubbling pot of overblown hysteria and wild propaganda against the public interest. Here were some of the more disturbing episodes from this week, from the War on Clintons to The New York Times unbending PR-blitz for Israel. 


War, war, war, planes shot from skies, gore in the Middle East, nothing deters our faithful scribes from serving up reheated delicacies off the putrefying banquet that is Clintoniana.  Is it too much to hope that if we get the salacious stuff out of the way now, we wont have to put up with four – or god forbid,  eight – years of it under a President HRC? Delving deep into the “Who Cares” Files, Lloyd Grove over at the Daily Beastly scans the L section of the index in Daniel Halper’s "Clinton, Inc." book . Turns out Monica blew off an opportunity to do a commercial wearing a blue gap dress on which she spills International Delight Coffee Creamer, with the comment, “Oh no , not again.” Grove plucked seamy lines from that squirm-inducing, Barbara Walters pitch letter to Monica, and shared it in all its “simpering sycophancy and self-celebration, garnished by veiled threat."  From Grove’s long gloss: “It is no crime to sell your story,” Walters wrote to Lewinsky in November 1998, “but I don’t have to tell you what public opinion will then be: You will be viewed as an opportunist. ‘We have known it all along,’ the critics will say. ‘This is the kind of person Monica Lewinsky is.’…But beyond the payment, I fully believe that no one else could possibly do the kind of interview that I could do. It isn’t only my own reputation for fairness and integrity. It is also that you and I have a trust and respect for each other that will permeate the screen.”       

Mining the same rich vein, scribes at the New York Daily News trolled advance pages of a memoir by journalist Lucinda Franks to find a 1999 interview in which Hillary blamed Bill’s philandering ways on Virginia Kelly’s child abuse – details of which are never shared. The story ran on the front page of Gotham’s left-leaning tabloid


Last week, New York Times' Tom Friedman road-tested themes that he will either use in his next book or his next Davos speech, maybe both. In a column called "Order Versus Disorder, Part 2", he put Gaza in global context. Clearly, Israel is on the side of order according to Friedman. But he also claimed that Israel’s action is original and a sign of things to come.

“I’ve argued for a while now that it is always useful to study the Israeli-Arab conflict because it is to the wider war of civilizations what Off Broadway is to Broadway. A lot of stuff starts there and then goes to Broadway. So what’s playing Off Broadway these days? The Israeli-Arab conflict has become a miniature of the most relevant divide in the world today: the divide between the “world of order” and the “world of disorder.”

Putting aside the appropriateness of using a Broadway show metaphor for the unfolding carnage, his theme is just plain wrong.  The Israeli show isn’t based on an original screenplay at all. In excusing a massive Palestinian civilian death toll as acceptable collateral damage, and aiming for total civil society breakdown, the Israelis are merely producing a lower-budget version of that 2003 American blockbuster called Shock and Awe.


Traditionally, its coverage of Israel has been sympathetic, to say the least, and when the Times is even slightly off message on that nation, staunchly pro-Israel New Yorkers beat up on it. As the body count approached 32 dead Israelis and 718 dead Palestinians (do the math, 1 Israeli = 22.4 Palestinians), the paper of record decided to go in-depth on Page One on how Israeli society might react to a single missing Israeli soldier.

 In "A Blast, A Fire and an Israeli Soldier Goes Missing," Jerusalem embeds Kershner and Rudoren,  cinematically recount the disappearance of IDF Sgt. Oron Shaul, in Gaza. 

“It was around 1 a.m. when the decades-old Israeli armored personnel carrier rumbled into the Gaza Strip on Sunday and headed for Shejaiya, a Hamas stronghold on the eastern edge of Gaza City. Seven soldiers were crammed inside, including Sgt. Oron Shaul, 21, from the Golani infantry brigade … .”  

A few paragraphs in, the story explains why this particular incident – tragic, yes – deserved this level of attention, at this time: “Capturing an Israeli soldier — or even withholding a soldier’s remains — can have a powerful impact on Israeli society, more in some ways than death.”  

Putting this unfortunate editorial decision in context:  It’s hard to imagine a Times story going in depth with such dramatic relish from inside the other side, and with a topic sentence like this: “Killing a Palestinian can have a powerful impact on Palestinian society.”


Down in Fortress Texas, Prince Ricky, camo-clad on a speedboat on the Rio Grande, pulled a demonstrably untrue “fact” about murderous illegal aliens out of his hat a few weeks ago.  He said of 203,000 “illegal aliens” who had crossed the border in the last five years, they committed 3,000 homicides and 8,000 sexual assaults.

To combat the incoming criminals (who might be using the undocumented children as a ruse), Prince Ricky mobilized a thousand Texas National Guard troops as a “force multiplier” to a “surge” in state Department of Public Safety officers patrolling the borders of the Lone Star State.

The Austin Statesman subjected those figures to “politifact” check and found them, umm, wanting in veracity. 

The site consulted a criminologist at John Jay College in NYC, who examined FBI Uniform Crime Statistics for Texas and calculated that from 2008 through 2012, 3,903 persons were arrested on homicide charges in the state. If Perry is right, that would mean that almost every homicide committed in the state of Texas was committed by an undocumented immigrant.

Not one to attend to fact-checks pumped out of liberal institutions like colleges, Rush Limbaugh this week recycled the number for his minions, in a report on how the White House was sending a team down to the border.

“Now, if Obama's team of experts -- if they get back alive, 'cause, I mean, that news that Governor Perry had last night? I mean, 203,000 people in the last five years were booked into jail.  That's not the total number that came across. That's just the number came across ended up in jail -- and of those 203,000, 3,000 homicides, 8,000 sexual assaults.”

RIGHT-WING SCHOOL PROPOGANDA Republican Florida state senator Alan Hayes plans to introduce a bill that would make Dinesh D'Souza's soon to be released  "docudrama", America: Imagine a World Without Her, required viewing for students in the state’s 1,700 Florida public high schools and middle schools.  The Hollywood Reporter broke that story here. Among the stunts in the film, which proposes that Americans are under attack by their own government, the former conservative whiz kid turned dingbat interviews the President’s Kenyan half-brother George Obama, but insists he’s not a wink-wink, Birther.

We look forward to the sequel, “Florida: Imagine a  State Where School children are Force-fed Rightwing Claptrap.”



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Union Stands Up for Principle Against Koch's Attempt to Buy off Criticism on Race and Voter Suppression
Posted on Friday July 25, 2014

AFSCME ends a partnership over a controversial donation.

Rush Limbaugh attacked them as “lunatics” running a “plantation” for black “slaves.” Another right-winger claimed a “white” union president was out to hurt “disadvantaged black youth,” even though the union president in question is black.

It’s no surprise AFSCME’s decision to end its partnership with the United Negro Colllege Fund, in the wake of UNCF accepting a $25 million contribution from the Koch brothers to establish a “Koch Scholars” program, as well as participating in their annual right-wing strategy summit, has conservatives trashing the influential public sector union. It fits their favorite story line: Liberals are the real racists.

But even some non-wingnuts have piled on. The Root’s Keli Goff blasted the decision as “progressive intolerance,” insisting that the Kochs’ support of public sector union busting “has nothing to do with educating African-American students.” That’s led to renewed interest in AFSCME’s move, which president Lee Saunders announced two weeks ago.

In a letter to UNCF president Michael Lomax, AFSCME’s Saunders called the Kochs “the single most prominent funders of efforts to prevent African-Americans from voting.” Lomax’s appearance at the Koch brothers’ annual summit, where they plot conservative strategy – this year’s focus was taking back the Senate in 2014 — was “a betrayal of everything the UNCF stands for.” Members of AFSCME, a union that supports Democrats with money and people power, voted unanimously to back Saunders’ decision at their annual convention in Chicago last week.

“This is not a Democrat or Republican issue,” Saunders told Salon, in his first interview since the fracas. “It’s an issue of right and wrong.”

Still, the critics keep coming. Just this week, in the right-wing Daily Caller, Raynard Jackson called it “a stunning move that should anger every Black in America.” In the  backyard of Koch-critic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the Las Vegas Review Journal called the decision “ridiculous,” complaining that “Democrats and their supporters are quick to and fond of accusing conservatives and Republicans of being racists, but when Republican supporters such as the Kochs aim to demonstrate otherwise, a government employee union responds by causing direct harm to blacks.” The Review Journal is a conservative paper, but the African-American newspaper South Florida Times, which is not, likewise insisted “AFSCME must restore UNCF funding,” though it called Lomax’s decision to join the Koch summit “a mistake.”

It should be noted that AFSCME has always said it would continue the scholarship program for students of color it began with UNCF, but will find different partners.

Clearly the controversy, which involves two venerable organizations, has African-Americans on both sides of the issue. Founded by Mary McLeod Bethune and others in 1944, the UNCF offers scholarships to black students and funds important but embattled historically black colleges and universities. AFSCME, the union Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was supporting when he was assassinated in Memphis in 1968, now has its first black president, Saunders, and African-Americans make up 15 percent of its membership.

“It was a very difficult decision for me to make as an African-American,” says Saunders, the AFSCME leader who first approached former UNCF president Bill Gray with the notion of partnering on a scholarship program for students of color interested in labor movement careers, more than 10 years ago. Saunders says he personally raised money for UNCF for years.

He adds that if the Kochs had donated $25 million to UNCF “and said ‘here it is, do what you want to do with it,’ maybe we would have taken a different tack. Maybe I would have swallowed it.” But Lomax’s participation in the Kochs’ annual summit made the union draw “a line in the sand,” he said.

Michael Lomax did not respond to requests for comment. In an earlier statement about the controversy he said: “While I am saddened by AFSCME’s decision, it will not distract us from our mission of helping thousands of African-American students achieve their dream of a college degree and the economic benefits that come with it.” In an interview with Education Week about some UNCF supporters’ opposition to taking the Koch money, he argued “I think that Washington’s partisanship has really poisoned the thinking of some people all across the country.” Koch spokesperson Melissa Cohlmia told AP the Kochs “have devoted their lives to advancing tolerance and a free society — where every individual is judged on his or her individual merits and they are free to make decisions about their lives.”

According to reporting in the Nation by Lauren Windsor, who obtained a “confidential” draft meeting agenda and spoke to participants, the summit Lomax attended drew Republican luminaries including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate candidates Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Cory Gardner of Colorado — three close races that are crucial to GOP hopes of taking back the Senate – along with 2016 presidential hopeful Sen. Marco Rubio. No Democratic officeholders or candidates were included in the annual confab, which took place this year at the St. Regis Monarch Bay Resort in Dana Point, California.

Titled “American Courage: Our Commitment to a Free Society,” an early panel featured David Koch and longtime political partner Richard Fink, with whom he set up the right-wing Mercatus Center, holding forth on “Saving America: Our Fight to Advance Freedom and Reverse the Country’s Decline.” A dinner and then a morning panel showcased the notorious Charles Murray, who has long posited the “intractable” and probably genetic intellectual inferiority of African-Americans (and, more recently, low-income white people) and preached that government programs worsen poverty by destroying the work ethic and marriage habits of the poor.

In a four-session panel titled “The Foundation for Progress,” Lomax was featured in “Part One: Drive the National Conversation,” alongside Richard Fink and two Koch Industries executives. A session on how to “Advance in the States” featured Americans for Prosperity’s Teresa Oelke; Mitch McConnell headlined the final session, “Free Speech: Defending First Amendment Rights.”

UNCF’s decision to accept Koch funding was controversial even before AFSCME’s move, and some African-Americans have raised questions similar to Saunders. On NewsOneNow, Roland Martin hosted a discussion on the Kochs’ donation last month that turned into a polite but sharp debate between Lomax and progressive economist Julianne Malveaux, the former president of Bennett College for Women, the oldest historically black women’s college.

Expressing gratitude for UNCF’s support, Malveaux nonetheless questioned the “strings” attached to the Kochs’ gift: $18.5 million of $25 million is to create a “Koch Scholars” program, for “exemplary students” who want to study “how entrepreneurship, economics, and innovation contribute to well-being for individuals, communities, and society.” Koch organizations get two of five seats on that scholarship selection committee.

Lomax noted that $4 million of the grant is unrestricted support to HBCUs, and he invited Malveaux to come speak to the Koch Scholars. She replied: “I’d rather be on the selection committee,” and went on: “They’re using it to say ‘we support black people’ when the truth is that they don’t, they fund voter suppression.”

Beyond the details of the “Koch Scholars” program, or Lomax’s role in the Kochs’ right-wing summit, is the question of the role of Koch-demonized labor unions in the black community. African-American workers are more likely to be represented by a union than other workers, and labor leaders were among the earliest supporters of the modern civil rights movement (the famous 1963 March on Washington was also a “march for jobs and justice,” initially catalyzed by African-American labor luminary A. Philip Randolph). Black men have the highest rate of union membership of any group, at 14.8 percent compared with 11.9 percent of white men. In the 10 biggest metro areas, black workers are 42 percent more likely to be union members than workers of other races, according to Stephen Pitts of the University of California-Berkeley Labor Center.

Pitts’ study found black workers are 30 percent more likely than other groups to be employed in the public sector, which AFSCME represents. Those black public sector workers also make roughly 25 percent more than black workers in overall workforce – in part because public workers are more likely to be represented by unions, 35 percent vs. 7 percent in the private sector.

“The Koch brothers want a government-free society,” Saunders says. “Public service has enabled African-Americans to move into the middle class, but the Kochs are trying to dismantle that.”

The backlash against AFSCME’s decision on the right has led progressives to come out in support of the union in the last few days. “We believe that AFSCME is doing what is right for its members who the Koch brothers have targeted and is working in the interests of students of color who attend not only UNCF Institutions, but all institutions of higher learning,” Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network said in a statement. (Saunders is on its board.) Color of Change’s Rashad Robinson agreed, insisting that the Kochs, who “spend their lives advancing an agenda that puts our communities in harm’s way, will never give us enough money in the name of charity to overturn their agenda.”

Saunders says, once again, that critics are wrong when they insist AFSCME is taking scholarships away from black students. He promises the union will continue its scholarship program for students of color.

“We’re going to find another partner, or do it ourselves,” he promised.  “We’re committed to that.” He went on: “We agree with the mission of UNCF 100 percent. But the question is, are we going to be sold off to the highest bidder? I just think that’s wrong. We can’t be bought.”



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Oprah Winfrey: Cultural Icon of Mainstream (White) America
Posted on Thursday June 26, 2014

Winfrey has embraced this notion of essential sameness as she worked to project a racially non-threatening image.

The following is an excerpt from The Colorblind Screen: Television in Post-Racial America, edited by Sarah Nilsen and Sarah E. Turner (NYU Press, 2014).

On May 4, 1992, as the rioting that swept through South Central Los Angeles after the Rodney King trial was winding down, Oprah Winfrey took her show to LA, where she taped a session with a diverse audience discussing the verdict, the riots, the judicial system, and race relations. Aired in two installments, “The Rodney King Verdict: The Aftermath and the Anger” was intended to “confront the controversial issues” and “give people who rarely get heard a chance to speak.” At one point in the sometimes heated conversation, a young white woman stated, “I don’t really see color. . . . I try not to because everybody’s an individual. People are so different. Some of them are terrible and then some of them are really nice, of all colors” (“Rodney King Verdict”). This remark— hailed by Winfrey and many in the audience as a move toward racial “healing” and reconciliation—is a testament to the rise and naturalization of colorblind ideology in late twentieth-century America.

Perhaps  no  other  celebrity is more  emblematic of the  power of that ideology than Oprah Winfrey, who shortly after her show’s 1986 national premiere confidently asserted in a Spy magazine profile, “I transcend  race” (Zehme 32). By 1991,  when she had become undisputed queen of daytime talk, Ebony declared that Winfrey, along with Bill Cosby and Arsenio Hall, brought “an authoritative presence and an ability to transcend race to television” (“Television”). Two decades later, worth billions and sitting atop a multimedia empire, she was credited with aiding the election of the nation’s first black president—himself deemed a “post-racial” candidate who defies “racial stereotypes” and “transcends the racial divide” (e.g., Klein; Will; Schorr). Reflecting on Winfrey’s decision to end her talk show in 2011 after a quarter-century run, New York Times media columnist David Carr wrote, “It could be argued—well, I’ll just say it—without Oprah Winfrey, there would be no Barack Obama. Not because she endorsed him, but with her message of bootstrap accountability, she not only empowered black people, she empowered white people.”

To understand Winfrey’s metamorphosis since the 1980s, when she was casually described by Time magazine as “a black female of ample bulk” whose show exposed the “often bizarre nooks and crannies of human misfortune” (Zoglin), to the late 1990s, when Time included her on its list of the 100 most influential Americans of the twentieth century, it is necessary to place her journey in a broader historical context. In particular, Winfrey’s ascent from mere TV talk show host to “cultural icon of mainstream America” (Brown 242) must be situated in relation to the neoliberal political-economic project, which got its start with Ronald Reagan, became fully bipartisan with the rightward shift of the Democratic Party and the election of Bill Clinton, and has indelibly shaped the contemporary U.S. political economy.

It is no coincidence that this political-economic sea change over the final quarter of the twentieth century witnessed a major reconfiguration of the problem of race founded on the conviction that since the 1960s civil rights movement, racism has receded and lingers mainly as isolated individual attitudes, rather than in institutionalized practices. In that reformulation, political scientist Claire Kim argues, “The American race problem no longer consists of White racism, which is steadily declining, but rather of racialism, defined as the misguided tendency of minorities (especially Blacks) to cry racism and/or emphasize their racial identity as a strategy for getting ahead” (“Managing the Racial Breach” 62). It thus followed that the source of America’s “race problem” was no longer the white majority, which was being penalized for long-past transgressions, but racial minorities who clung to a “‘cult of victimization’” to “leverage white guilt” (62). The ideology of “colorblindness” found a receptive political environment alongside this new definition of racism. If in the early twentieth century, the notion of colorblindness expressed desires for racial emancipation and an end to white supremacy, those aspirations were never fully actualized in law or policy (Haney Lopez). Instead, Eduardo Bonilla-Silva argues, in the wake of the civil rights movement a revised conception of colorblindness “emerged as part of the great racial transformation  that occurred in the late sixties and early seventies,” eventually becoming “the central racial ideology of the post–civil rights era” (42). In the process, the “overt bigotry,” “strict segregation,” “governmentally enforced discrimination” (Bobo and Smith 185; also Bobo and Charles), and assumptions about black intellectual inferiority that had characterized the Jim Crow era were replaced by a more subtle ideology based on “the assertion of essential sameness between racial and ethnic groups despite unequal social locations and distinctive histories” (Rodriquez 645).

From the beginning of her TV career, Winfrey has embraced this notion of essential sameness as she worked to project a racially non-threatening image. In January 1987, six months after the national premiere of The Oprah Winfrey Show, she received her first magazine cover story in People Weekly. Recounting her time at historically black Tenessee State University, Winfrey stressed her differences with classmates who were “into black power and anger.” As she asserted, “Race is not an issue. It has never been an issue with me. . . . Truth is, I’ve never felt prevented from doing anything because I was either black or a woman” (Richman 58). In making clear that she was free of racial resentment and had not been personally harmed  by racism—while distinguishing herself from black Americans who felt otherwise—Winfrey proved early on to be a model of racial reassurance for the white audience she hoped to attract. Claire Kim argues that the “black-white divide on racial matters is one of the most profound and enduring in American society.” In particular, black and white Americans “differ fundamentally as to what constitutes the race problem, how severe it is, and what to do about it” (“Managing the Racial Breach” 57). Given this divide, it is not surprising that a black entertainer hoping to attract a mass audience might adopt a public persona that Newsday described as “a comfortable and unthreatening bridge between the white and black cultures” (Firstman 4). In this way, the queen of talk set out to forge a relationship with her predominantly white, female, middle-class followers whose legendary devotion to her would come to stand as proof that racism was being eclipsed (Mediamark; “Oprah.com”).

The ability to evoke a “para-social relationship” and its “intimacy at a distance” (Horton and Wohl) with a majority white audience reflects Winfrey’s skill at simultaneously embracing her black heritage and staying at arm’s length from aspects of the black historical experience that might alienate white fans. As a Newsday article stated early in her career, “Though she makes race an undercurrent  of her message, and it is part of her bearing, it does not define her following. She has what the business calls broad appeal” (Firstman 4). Winfrey’s appeal rests on a careful balancing act whereby her proclaimed mission of “empowerment” emphasizes individual aspirations rather than collective political goals. As Quentin Fottrell has observed, “While embracing the philosophies of Eleanor Roosevelt and Martin Luther King,” Winfrey “subtly distances herself from feminist politics and the radicalism of the Civil Rights movement” (Fottrell). Such strategies reflect an important change in the meaning of colorblindness that occurred in the aftermath of the civil rights movement when political progressives began rejecting the idea, calling instead for explicitly race-conscious political remedies such as affirmative action, while conservatives took up the cause of colorblind racial policy. As Ian Haney Lopez notes, “In that new context, colorblindness appealed to those opposing racial integration” and “provided cover for opposition to racial reform” (see also Kim “Racial Triangulation”; Bracey).

The new iteration  of colorblind ideology found fertile ground  in the 1980s as Ronald Reagan and the New Right backlash politics that buoyed him sought to “realign the electorate along racial, rather than class, lines” (Reeves and Campbell 157; also Macek). It played a central role in the Democratic Party’s  rightward reconfiguration in the late 1980s, which involved exorcising its historical identification with black voters and black issues. It figured in the emergence of the theory of the “underclass” that  achieved bipartisan  hegemony by the early 1990s. And it is deeply implicated in Oprah Winfrey’s purported  “transcendence of race” and appeal to a majority white audience, which rest on the seductions of “virtual integration” made possible by TV (Steinhorn and Diggs-Brown) and her own rejection of black political stances that might put off white followers. This chapter will consider these interlocking developments with the goal of demonstrating the complex political-economic and cultural foundations—and limits—of the ideology of colorblindness and of Winfrey’s cross-racial appeal.


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5 Examples of How the Government Pressures Poor and Mentally Ill People into Becoming Faux Terrorists
Posted on Thursday July 24, 2014

The government entraps people into talking about terrorism in order to arrest them.

The U.S. government is creating terrorist plots out of thin air.

That’s a central takeaway from a new, comprehensive report published by Human Rights Watch on how the Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation pursue and prosecute terrorism suspects.

“Americans have been told that their government is keeping them safe by preventing and prosecuting terrorism inside the US,” said Andrew Prasow, Human Rights Watch’s deputy Washington director, in a statement. “But take a closer look and you realize that many of these people would never have committed a crime if not for law enforcement encouraging, pressuring, and sometimes paying them to commit terrorist acts.”

Since the September 11, 2001 attacks, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies have poured millions of dollars into stopping the menace of terrorism. Not a year has gone by without law enforcement authorities trumpeting the capture of a would-be terrorist and then staging self-congratulatory press conferences designed to let the public know the FBI is doing a good job at securing the homeland.

What most people don’t realize is that many of the over 500 people prosecuted for terrorism-related crimes expressed no interest in terrorism before an FBI informant approached them. And when these people are arrested and convicted, they endure harsh treatment at the hands of the courts and police. The overwhelming majority of those targeted by the FBI for terrorism are Muslim, and often end up on law enforcement radar for expressing beliefs about politics or religion-—constitutionally protected activities.

Human Rights Watch’s report report is a broad look at the justice system’s treatment of alleged terrorism suspects. The group concludes that widespread reform is needed at the federal level to correct many of the abuses they outline. Here are five of the most shocking facts from the report.

1. Informants are the bread and butter of law enforcement efforts on terrorism. The FBI employs at least 15,000 informants nationwide in its fight against terrorism, a number that rivals the informant operation J. Edgar Hoover put in place at the height of the Cold War and hysteria over communism. But rather than keeping the U.S. safe from terrorism, many of the informants end up egging on plots that never would have arisen without the FBI’s prodding. The informants do the work to curry favor with law enforcement over their own legal troubles.

According to Human Rights Watch, “nearly 50 percent of the more than 500 federal counter-terrorism convictions resulted from informant based cases; almost 30 percent of those cases were sting operations in which the informant played an active role in the underlying plot.” Informants typically infiltrate mosques and other places where American Muslims congregate and try to find people who are amenable to talking about jihad. They also target the most vulnerable of society.

2. The FBI targets the mentally ill and poor. The people most susceptible to pressure are the most alienated, disenfranchised members of society. People with mental illness, or those who need money to make ends meet, are tantalizing targets for an FBI endlessly looking for people who might want to talk about jihad, even if they have no plans to carry out violence.

Take the case of the Newburgh Four, in which both mental illness and money were at play. In 2009, four Muslim men from upstate New York (Newburgh) were arrested on charges of trying to bomb two Jewish synagogues and shoot down planes. An FBI informant recruited James Cromitie, an African-American Muslim, to take part in the plot the FBI informant concocted. Cromitie was a former drug addict, and another defendant in the case, Laguerre Payan, had schizophrenia and had such severe mental illness he kept bottles of urine in his apartment. Another defendant, David Williams, had a brother who needed a liver transplant and he wanted cash for it.

Even the judge in the Newburgh Four case admitted that the government “came up with the crime, provided the means, and removed all relevant obstacles.”

3. The government uses the broad charge of “material support” to ensnare Muslims. When Americans think of terrorism, their mind turns to images of blown-up buildings and maimed bodies. But the U.S. government has labeled people terrorists for violating the “material support” statutes.

After the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, Congress passed a law to prohibit giving terrorist groups weapons, money, goods and training. After 9/11 the Patriot Act broadened the definition of such support to include “expert advice or assistance.”

The law has been used to prosecute people for innocuous things like the case of Fahad Hashmi, who was arrested in 2006 for storing ponchos and socks that came from alleged militants and charged with providing “material support” for terrorists.

4. Trials for terrorism suspects are deeply unfair. Suspects accused of terrorist activity have the deck stacked against them. When Americans hear the word terrorism, they’re predisposed to want to lock the accused away. And that’s just the beginning of the ways trials are unfair.

Human Rights Watch documented how prejudicial evidence is often introduced into trials, like “references to terrorism unrelated to the charges.” For instance, Tarek Mehanna was accused of providing “material support” to terrorists. During the trial, prosecutors showed the jury pictures of the World Trade Center in flames and of Osama bin Laden, even though there was no link between Mehanna and 9/11 or bin Laden.

Anonymous witnesses are sometimes used, depriving the accused of the right to confront the witness. Perhaps most troublingly is evidence obtained under coercion. Ahmed Abu Ali was arrested in Saudi Arabia in 2003. He was caught up in a wave of mass arrests the Saudi authorities engaged in after the bombing of compounds in Riyadh used by Westerners. Abu Ali was beaten, denied food and threatened with amputation. He made statements and signed a document under duress that the Saudi authorities wrote for him.

When Abu Ali returned to the U.S., he was arrested and charged with “material support” for terrorism, and eventually, conspiring to assassinate George W. Bush. The judge in the case allowed the “evidence” Saudi authorities obtained to be used during the trial. Abu Ali is serving a life sentence.

5. Those convicted of terrorism are treated harshly in prison. The nightmare for those accused of terrorism, even on the flimsiest charges, doesn’t end with conviction.

The use of solitary confinement for prolonged periods of time is common. UN Special Rapporteur on torture Juan E. Méndez has saidthat its use could amount to torture in some cases. Many prisoners are also placed in Communication Management Units, where their communications with the outside world are heavily monitored. And some of those convicted of terrorism are placed under Special Administrative Measures, which “often require the imposition of extreme physical and social isolation.” These measures bar the inmate from communicating with other inmates, and in some cases from exercising outdoors.


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The Interventionist Starved Neo-Con Hawks Are Trying to Drag Us Back Into More War
Posted on Friday July 25, 2014

Amid the crises in Iraq, Gaza and Ukraine, hawks are calling for U.S. military intervention.

The War Party in American politics is beating its drum and once again, mobilizing hawkish politicians and policy experts of both parties to wage a high-minded war of words. Hawks are salivating because they see the world’s current turmoil as a chance to rehabilitate themselves and the virtues of US military intervention. Three hot wars are underway and the United States has a client state in each of them. Civil wars in the Ukraine and Iraq plus Israel’s invasion of Gaza give Washington’s armchair generals fresh opportunity to scold President Obama for his reluctance to fight harder. They are not exactly demanding US invasions—not yet anyway—but they want the dovish president and Congress to recognize war as a worthy road to peace.

“In my view, the willingness of the United States to use force and to threaten to use force to defend its interests and the liberal world order has been an essential and unavoidable part of sustaining the world order since the end of World War II,” historian Robert Kagan wrote in The Washington Post.“Perhaps we can move away from the current faux Manichaean struggle between straw men and return to a reasoned discussion of when force is the right tool.”

“Reasoned discussion,” that’s the ticket. By all means, we should have more of it. But please don’t count on it from Professor Kagan. What he neglected to mention in his stately defense of American war-making is that he himself was a leading champion fifteen years ago in stirring up the political hysteria for the US invasion of Iraq. Why isn’t this mentioned by The Washington Post when it publishes Kagan’s monthly column on its op-ed page? Or by The New York Times in its adoring profile of the professor? Why doesn’t the Brookings Institution, the Washington think tank that employs Kagan as a senior thinker?

Kagan was the co-founder of the Committee to Liberate Iraq, the neocon front group that heavily promoted pre-emptive aggression and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. You might assume Kagan was reacting to 9/11, but his role as propagandist for war actually preceded the terror attack by three years. Back then, Kagan and William Kristol also co-founded the Committee for a New American Century that was meant to restore American greatness through military power. They attacked the United Nations and warned that “American policy cannot continue to be crippled by misguided insistence on unanimity at the UN Security Council.” To Iraq’s lasting sorrow, George W. Bush took their advice.

Words matter in the doctrinal wars of Washington, not so much as facts but as a way to frame the argument and limit choices for the governing politicians. Both parties do this but Republicans are better at it, perhaps because they are closer to business, marketing and advertising. Academic figures lend authority and an illusion of disinterested expertise. But in Washington circles it is considered bad taste to go back and dredge up old errors to show that Professor X was full of crap or manipulated politicians with blatant falsehoods.

I suspect that is why the neocons are eager to stage a comeback now when they can dump the blame on President Obama. Academic authorities are undermined if people realize these thinkers were personally implicated in the bloody disaster of Iraq. Major media like the Post and Times are aiding their rehabilitation. Kagan was an adviser to Senator McCain when he ran for president in 2008. Kagan also advised Hillary Clinton when she was secretary of state. Recent gossip assumes he is sure to be at State or the National Security Council if she becomes president. Someone should ask her.

Kagan slyly promotes the possibility of a Clinton presidency. “If she pursues a policy which we think she will pursue, it’s something that might have been called neocon, but clearly her supporters are not going to call it that; they are going to call it something else,’ he told the Times.

Brookings has other Iraq experts who also get generous media exposure but have the same handicap as Kagan—a past they do not like to mention. Maybe the think tank could create a war registry—something like the registries for child molesters. It would alert the public on which Brookings experts were right about Iraq, which ones were wrong.

A few days after Kagan’s column, Michael O’Hanlon of Brookings also appeared in The Washington Posturging President Obama to send American troops back into Iraq. Maybe 5,000 US soldiers and no more than 10,000, O’Hanlon promised. This would be “a bitter pill” for Obama, he conceded, but “it is what may be needed to keep America safe.” A decade ago, O’Hanlon was a media favorite (though, as I recall, he was against the war before he was for the war).

Ken Pollack was another Brookings cheerleader for war whose comments were frequently used by media. Now he is a lot less bullish but Pollack alo wants to see the US to clean up the mess America left behind. He says he has a plan. He told a recent Brookings forum the plan “would involve both the United States being willing to assist in a wide variety of different ways, military and nonmilitary, but only if there is a political component to it. We’ve got to recognize that military force without that critical political component will at best be useless and at worst could be counterproductive.” At this late stage, his insight sounds like a non sequitur.

Indeed, the facile commentaries of the Brookings thinkers made me think of small boys playing toy soldiers on the living-room rug. They enjoy the game of issuing sweeping strategies to cure the world of problems. They pretend their ideas would succeed if only events and other nations cooperated. Of course, they know this won’t happen. But it’s not their fault.

This is governing is by empty platitudes. No one goes to jail or loses their foundation grant or gets shot at. They continue to think hard and deep without personal consequences. Professor Kagan, likewise, reduces the bloody reality of what he helped to cause in Iraq to a harmless discussion of bland abstractions. Did America err by doing too much or by doing too little? Yes, yes, tell us the answer. He doesn’t have any answer.

“The question today is finding the right balance between when to use force and when not to,” Kagan solemnly concluded. “We can safely assume the answer lies somewhere between always and never.” This lame double-talk is not harmless. People died, people are still dying. The best news for the nation is that the people at large don’t believe any of Washington’s cheap talk and want nothing more of its war-making adventures. The public consensus is bipartisan and overwhelming—a firewall against more interventions anywhere.

In these circumstances, maybe the Brookings Institution should organize a truth and reconciliation commission where the architects of the US disaster could come forward to tell the truth, confess their errors and ask to be forgiven. I believe the US government’s poisonous stalemate is likely to continue until something as dramatic occurs. That is, face the truth of our damaged position in the world and change ourselves.

The War Party would object and resist; it seeks the opposite kind of cleansing—wipe away bad memories and pretend nothing happened. Yes, they would say, the US messed up here and there, but America is still the world’s all-powerful good guy. “I feel that we Americans have beaten ourselves up enough,” Michael O’Hanlon insisted. “By the end of 2011, the Iraqis did have a pretty good basis for moving forward. We struggled very hard, put in a lot of money, a lot of American lives, a lot of high-level attention. I believe that the Iraqi political system writ large squandered the opportunity.”

Despite all we did for them.


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How the Public Is Using the Internet to Score Major Victories Against Corporate Food Giants
Posted on Wednesday July 23, 2014

Customers use online petition tools and win.

It used to be if you had a problem with your food, you’d grab a pen and pencil. Today customers have turned to online petitioning tools to drive complaints especially when it comes to their food.

“Three of the top seven most popular petitions of all time on Change.org are about animal welfare in meat production, and more than two dozen food-related petitions have each earned tens of thousands of signatures, many of them hundreds of thousands,” reports Helena Bottermiller Evich in Politco.

Bettina Siegel, a former corporate lawyer and blogger on The Lunch Tray, asked the USDA to stop serving “pink slime” to children. Her campaign gathered nearly a quarter million signatures, a frenzy of media coverage, and more than 250,000 signatures later, the USDA announced schools had a choice and could stop serving beef with the LFTB filler better known in the industry as “lean finely textured beef.”

Chipotle, with its slogan of “food with integrity,” has been petitioned to treat their workers with integrity to stop using bacon in their pinto beans, none of which were entirely successful. But they gave in to complaints from Vani Hari, the popular "Food Babe" blogger, when she petitioned the company to list their ingredients containing GMOs.

Hari recently won over Anheuser-Busch and Miller Coors when she petitioned them to list their ingredients in their beers, something the Center for Science in the Public Interest had lobbied to do for three decades.

Sarah Kavanagh created an online campaign to take out the “crazy chemical BVO” out of Coca-Cola’s Powerade. Kavanagh cited a Scientific American article that reported nearly 10 percent of sodas in the United States contain this “little-known ingredient” that has been used as a stabilizer for flavoring oils and has also been used in flame-retardants. The FDA already “limits the use of BVO to 15 parted per million in fruit-flavored beverages” after studies of its use found no health risks in very low doses.

Earlier, Kavanagh campaigned PepsiCo. to remove BVO from their Gatorade and after 200,000 signatures, they complied. It took Kavanaugh a little over 59,000 signatures before Powerade agreed to drop the ingredient.

With so many campaigns circulating it’s no shock that companies have been watching. According to Evich, companies have created sophisticated “listening” tools that can monitor their brand closely and make sure they don’t end up as the next pink slime.


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More Than 1,000 New York City Residents Claim to be Victims of Banned NYPD Chokeholds
Posted on Thursday July 24, 2014

The NYPD's use of chokeholds, like the one that recently killed Eric Garner, is increasing.

According to the New YorkDaily News, numbers from the Civilian Complaint Review Board reveal that more than 1,000 New York City residents claimed to be victims of NYPD chokeholds in the past five years. The numbers were unveiled as the Board prepares to conduct a study of the allegations.

The Daily Newswrote:

As of July 1, the CCRB had received 58 chokehold complaints against the NYPD this year, but had only substantiated one of them.

Out of the 1,022 chokehold allegations reported between 2009 and 2013, only 462 of the complaints were investigated. Out of that number, just nine were substantiated, according to the CCRB.

There wasn’t enough evidence to prove a chokehold was used in 206 of the cases investigated, officials said.

TheNew York Timesreported that chokehold allegations in the city have increased from a decade ago, despite the fact that NYPD banned the use of the chokehold 20 years ago.

The city’s police commissioner, William J. Bratton, admitted that it appeared a chokehold had been used on Eric Garner, a 43-year-old father of six who died last Thursday. A video captured of the scene shows NYPD officers alleging that Garner was illegally selling cigarettes. Garner says he’s done nothing wrong, that he’s sick of police harassment and that such harassment “ends today.” Officers proceed to arrest him, while one throws his arm around Garner’s neck from behind. Garner says repeatedly that he can’t breathe before his body goes limp.

“It ends today” became the rallying cry for anti-police brutality protesters. Last weekend, Reverend Al Sharpton rallied more than 300 people to call for justice for Eric Garner. And on Wednesday, protestors held a candlelight vigil for Garner on the eve of his funeral and then marched to the precinct stationhouse where the involved officers were stationed.

Following Garner's death, Bratton announced that all 35,000 officers will undergo retraining while the department reviews its tactics. But a senior police official told theNew York Timesthat one of those tactics they are thinking of increasing is the use of tasers—a practice that has been fatal in the past and is dangerous for people with heart problems.

Perhaps even more egregious is the attitude some cops have taken toward the case. As PolicyMic reported, a look at police officer forums reveals some officers’ defending the NYPD’s handling of Garner. “Harsh words from public figures are good on paper, but they will become meaningless if the attitudes of these police officers don't change,” the author of the piece wrote.

This culture of violence is the outcome of the “broken windows” policing Bratton helped introduce and popularize, says Nick Malinowski, member of New Yorkers Against Bratton, an ad hoc group of parents who have lost children to police violence, activists, social workers, etc., formed after NYC Mayor DeBlasio announced he would bring back Bratton as NYPD Commissioner.

New Yorkers Against Bratton held a press conference outside city hall Monday, demanding that Bratton resign after Garner’s death, and to “move away from this idea that the police officers involved — this was just a bad cop sort of a thing” and understand it as a systemic issue, Malinowski told AlterNet.

Malinowski said the group also demands a federal investigation into NYPD’s culture of brutality, especially as the city’s promises of investigations, reviews and retraining often amount to empty rhetoric.

“Bratton, when he first came in, said that they were doing a unit by unit review of every aspect of the NYPD and they had this new guy they brought in to do the training,” Malinowski said. “Somehow they didn’t uncover all these issues and have to do another review of the department. So I don’t quite understand.… You would think that use of force, which has been an issue with the NYPD forever, would have been something they identified as a problem in a training initiative in the first review of the department.”

Meanwhile, Daniel Pantaleo, the officer who put his arm around Garner’s neck, has been stripped of his gun and badge while the investigation is underway. A medical examiner is still investigating Garner’s official cause of death.

Sharpton said he intends to meet with Garner’s family to discuss filing a lawsuit against the department. He also plans to meet with the U.S. Department of Justice to talk about the case.

At Garner’s funeral on Wednesday, Sharpton called on New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio and Bratton to seek justice for Garner.

He said, “Y'all said: 'Give me a chance' … And some of us, even under attack, gave you a chance. You're in city hall now. Now we want you to give justice a chance. We want to see what you're going to do about this.”


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Why Classical Music in Colorado Owes Marijuana a Big 'Thank You'
Posted on Thursday July 03, 2014

The orchestra isn’t ashamed to partner publicly with the pot industry.

After watching their audiences shrink in recent years (and donations along with them) the Colorado Symphony Orchestra (CSO) decided to capitalize on the state’s burgeoning industry that’s been raking in cash by the bundles in the last six months: recreational marijuana.

“Here was a newly legalized industry that’s growing very rapidly that came to us and said, ‘We’d like to support you,’” CSO’s CEO, Jeremy Kern told theNonProfit Times in a recent article. He added that the orchestra isn’t ashamed to partner publicly with the pot industry.

“We’re not endorsing marijuana use, we’re accepting support from the cannabis industry, which is absolutely legit, the same as alcohol," he said. "[T]wo states legalized recreational marijuana, and I don’t think any performing arts organization can turn away any legitimate supporters.”

Vendors from across the cannabis industry teamed up to help support the orchestra by sponsoring their new endeavor: “Classically Cannabis: The High Note Series.”

The series, focused on fundraising, launched its first invitation-only event in May. Two more are scheduled for this and next month, and in September, the concert venue Red Rocks will host a fundraising concert to conclude the series. According to the NonProfit Times, officials expect the concert to raise roughly $200,000, which will help CSO make up for significant budgetary issues.

Jesse Rosen, president and CEO of the New York-based League of American Orchestras told the NonProfit Times that symphonies and orchestras nationwide have seen dwindling audiences. A survey by the National Endowment for the Arts shows that the number of American adults who watched a classical music performance of any kind dropped from approximately 9.3 percent in 2008 to just 8.8 percent in 2013.

Kern told the NonProfit Times the future of classical music will depend on partnerships within local community organizations and corporations.

“If you’re not creative in today’s environment, you’re going to die,” Kern said. “No doubt about it.”


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