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Bills Presented to the President

Posted on Wednesday December 31, 1969

Posted on Wednesday December 31, 1969

Posted on Wednesday December 31, 1969

Posted on Wednesday December 31, 1969

Posted on Wednesday December 31, 1969

US House Floor Today

Posted on Wednesday December 31, 1969

A concurrent resolution providing for a conditional adjournment or recess of the Senate and an adjournment of the House of Representatives. (09/19/2014 legislative day)

Posted on Wednesday December 31, 1969

Continuing Appropriations Resolution, 2015 (09/19/2014 legislative day)

Posted on Wednesday December 31, 1969

Posted on Wednesday December 31, 1969

Posted on Wednesday December 31, 1969

Posted on Wednesday December 31, 1969

Posted on Wednesday December 31, 1969

Posted on Wednesday December 31, 1969

Posted on Wednesday December 31, 1969

Posted on Wednesday December 31, 1969

US Senate Floor Today

Posted on Wednesday December 31, 1969

Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act (09/18/2014 legislative day)

Posted on Wednesday December 31, 1969

Continuing Appropriations Resolution, 2015 (09/18/2014 legislative day)

Posted on Wednesday December 31, 1969

Debbie Smith Reauthorization Act of 2014 (09/18/2014 legislative day)

Posted on Wednesday December 31, 1969

Thomas Frieden, of New York, to be Representative of the United States on the Executive Board of the World Health Organization, vice Nils Maarten Parin Daulaire, resigned. (09/18/2014 legislative day)

Posted on Wednesday December 31, 1969

Bathsheba Nell Crocker, of the District of Columbia, to be an Assistant Secretary of State (International Organization Affairs), vice Esther Brimmer, resigned. (09/18/2014 legislative day)

Posted on Wednesday December 31, 1969

Alfonso E. Lenhardt, of New York, to be Deputy Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, vice Donald Kenneth Steinberg. (09/18/2014 legislative day)

Posted on Wednesday December 31, 1969

Adam M. Scheinman, of Virginia, a Career Member of the Senior Executive Service, to be Special Representative of the President for Nuclear Nonproliferation, with the rank of Ambassador. (09/18/2014 legislative day)

Posted on Wednesday December 31, 1969

Eric Rosenbach, of Pennsylvania, to be an Assistant Secretary of Defense, vice Paul N. Stockton, resigned. (09/18/2014 legislative day)

Posted on Wednesday December 31, 1969

Kevin F. O'Malley, of Missouri, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Ireland. (09/18/2014 legislative day)

Posted on Wednesday December 31, 1969

Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, of California, to be Deputy Secretary of Energy, vice Daniel B. Poneman. (09/18/2014 legislative day)

Nasa News

NASA Seeks Ultra-lightweight Materials to Help Enable Journey to Mars
Posted on Friday October 24, 2014

NASA is seeking proposals to develop and manufacture ultra-lightweight materials for aerospace vehicles and structures of the future. Proposals will demonstrate lower-mass alternatives to honeycomb or foam cores currently used in composite sandwich structures.

NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly Shares Bullying Prevention Message Ahead of His One-Year Mission
Posted on Friday October 24, 2014

NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, who is scheduled to fly on a one-year spaceflight mission in 2015, is lending his voice to help reduce childhood bullying. As part of Bullying Prevention Awareness Month, Kelly recorded a special message encouraging bystanders to take action.

Close Encounters: Comet Siding Spring Seen Next to Mars
Posted on Thursday October 23, 2014

This composite NASA Hubble Space Telescope Image captures the positions of comet Siding Spring and Mars in a never-before-seen close passage of a comet by the Red Planet.

NASA Television Coverage Set for Orbital Resupply Mission to Space Station
Posted on Wednesday October 22, 2014

Orbital Sciences Corp. will launch its next mission to resupply the International Space Station Monday, Oct. 27, and NASA Television will broadcast live coverage of the event, including pre- and post-launch briefings and arrival at the station.

NASA Awards Advanced Technology Microwave Sounder for the Joint Polar Satellite System-2 Mission
Posted on Wednesday October 22, 2014

NASA has awarded a sole source contract modification to Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems, of Azusa, California, for the Advanced Technology Microwave Sounder (ATMS) Instrument for flight on the Joint Polar Satellite System-2 (JPSS-2) mission.

NASA TV Broadcasts Space Station Cargo Ship Activities
Posted on Wednesday October 22, 2014

NASA Television will broadcast live the departure of an unpiloted Russian cargo spacecraft from the International Space Station (ISS) Monday, Oct. 27, as well as the launch and docking of its replacement Wednesday, Oct. 29.

Media Invited to Participate in Interactive Space Station Technology Forum
Posted on Monday October 20, 2014

Media are invited to interact with NASA experts who will answer questions about technologies being demonstrated on the International Space Station (ISS) during "Destination Station: ISS Technology Forum" from 10 to 11 a.m. EDT (9 to 10 a.m. CDT) Monday, Oct. 27, at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

NASA Partners with Leading Technology Innovators to Enable Future Exploration
Posted on Friday October 17, 2014

Recognizing that technology drives exploration, NASA has selected four teams of agency technologists for participation in the Early Career Initiative (ECI) pilot program. The program encourages creativity and innovation among early career NASA technologists by engaging them in hands-on technology development opportunities needed for future missions.

New Commercial Rocket Descent Data May Help NASA with Future Mars Landings
Posted on Friday October 17, 2014

NASA successfully captured thermal images of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on its descent after it launched in September from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The data from these thermal images may provide critical engineering information for future missions to the surface of Mars.

Boeing Concludes Commercial Crew Space Act Agreement for CST-100/Atlas V
Posted on Friday October 17, 2014

Boeing has successfully completed the final milestone of its Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) Space Act Agreement with NASA. The work and testing completed under the agreement resulted in significant maturation of Boeing’s crew transportation system, including the CST-100 spacecraft and Atlas V rocket.

VOA News

FARC Rebel Gets 27 Years in US Prison for Hostage-Taking
Posted on Friday October 24, 2014

A U.S. judge has sentenced a member of Colombia's FARC rebel group to 27 years in prison for his role in the 2003 kidnapping of three Americans whose plane crash-landed in Colombia. In a statement Friday, the U.S. Justice Department said Alexander Beltran Herrera was responsible for moving the three hostages and keeping them imprisoned for part of their five years in captivity. He had pleaded guilty to three counts of hostage-taking in March. U.S. Attorney for Washington, D.C.,...

US Probes Reports of IS Chlorine Gas Attacks
Posted on Friday October 24, 2014

U.S. officials are investigating reports that Islamic State militants are using chlorine gas bombs against Iraqi security forces in their fight to grab more territory. According to various accounts in U.S. and Iraqi media, the militants detonated the gas with homemade bombs, unleashing streams of yellow smoke in an assault on Iraqi police last month near Balad, just north of Baghdad. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Friday the allegations have not yet been confirmed, but they...

US Nurse ‘Cured of Ebola,’ NIH Says
Posted on Friday October 24, 2014

A U.S. nurse diagnosed with Ebola after caring for a Liberian patient has been found virus-free and has been discharged from the National Institutes of Health in suburban Washington. Nina Pham, a nurse at a Dallas, Texas, hospital that treated the first patient diagnosed with Ebola in the United States, told reporters and supporters Friday she is grateful for her recovery. She was flown in last week for treatment at NIH in Bethesda, Maryland. She added that she is mindful of others who...

New York Doctor Tests Positive for Ebola
Posted on Friday October 24, 2014

US Scales Back 'Cobra Gold' War Games in Thailand
Posted on Friday October 24, 2014

The United States has confirmed it is scaling back a major annual defense exercise in Thailand, where Washington has criticized a coup by the country's military. A spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok told VOA on Friday the so-called Cobra Gold 2015 exercise set for February will be "refocused and scaled down." The statement said "in light of the current political situation, the U.S. government has increased its focus on non-lethal activities, such as...

New York Policeman Critical After Hatchet Attack
Posted on Friday October 24, 2014

A man was fatally shot in New York Thursday after attacking a group of police officers with a hatchet, critically wounding one. The recent police academy graduates were posing for a photo when a man wearing a hooded jacket lunged at them, swinging the weapon. Police commissioner William Bratton told a news conference there was no known motive for the attack.  

US Forms Rapid Response Teams for Ebola
Posted on Friday October 24, 2014

The United States is forming medical teams that will rush to any part of the country where a new Ebola case is suspected. The Centers for Disease Control Ebola Response Teams, or CERTs for short, are made up of experts who are specially trained to diagnose and treat Ebola. Preparatory teams called Facility Assessment and Support Teams, or FASTs, will check hospitals that have volunteered to treat Ebola patients to make sure they can handle an Ebola case. Zlatica Hoke reports.

US, S. Korea Delay Transfer of Wartime Forces Control
Posted on Thursday October 23, 2014

The United States has agreed to an indefinite delay in handing over wartime control of troops on the Korean peninsula to South Korea. The U.S. has held wartime authority over South Korean troops since the Korean War in the early 1950s. A transfer of authority had been scheduled for next year. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel on Thursday welcomed South Korean Defense Minister Han Min Koo to the Pentagon, where the two signed an agreement outlining a conditions-based process for...

US, S Korea Delay Transfer of Wartime Forces Control
Posted on Thursday October 23, 2014

The United States has agreed to an indefinite delay in handing over wartime control of troops on the Korean peninsula to South Korea. The US has held wartime authority over South Korean troops since the Korean War in the early 1950s. A transfer of authority had been scheduled for next year. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb has details.

US Indicts 2 South African Brothers for Selling Illegal Rhino Hunts
Posted on Thursday October 23, 2014

A U.S. federal court has indicted two South African brothers for defrauding American hunters by taking them on illegal rhinoceros hunts in South Africa. The head of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service calls their alleged crimes "appalling," but not as bad as what he says were the brutal tactics used to kill 11 endangered rhinos. The indictment charges two brothers - Dawie and Janneman Groenewald - on 18 counts. They include charging hunters as much as $15,000 to take them to...

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Infowars Nighly News

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Infowars Nightly News: Friday October 17, 2014

RT Breaking News


Alex Jones Show: Friday (10-17-14) Full Show

On this Friday, October 17 edition of the Alex Jones Show, Alex continues to break down the eroding Ebola situation as the federal government's response to every new potential case becomes increasingly absurd. Alex will examine how yet another potential victim, a Texas nurse now stuck on a cruise ship in Belizean waters, was able to leave the country without being quarantined, as well as the decision of multiple students at the University of Texas, paralyzed by political correctness, to sign a petition allowing the government to ship in countless Ebola patients. On today's transmission, Alex will likewise discuss how several African countries stopped the virus in its tracks by closing their borders, a decision unlikely to occur domestically as President Obama furthers his dangerous open-border agenda. Alex will also take your calls on today's worldwide broadcast.

Kirk Cameron Presents: MONUMEMTAL

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RT US News

Anti-Facebook social site Ello gets millions in funding, promises to stay ad-free forever
Posted on Friday October 24, 2014

Ello, the new social-media site that exploded last month, has raised $5.5 million through investors and says a charter that was recently signed by the company’s executives will see to it that users will continue to be offered an ad-free experience.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Michelle Obama hits campaign trail, confuses Democratic candidate for his Republican opponent (VIDEO)
Posted on Friday October 24, 2014

First Lady Michelle Obama has once again confused the identity of a Democratic candidate while on the campaign trail ahead of the November 4 elections.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Reagan nation: Former presidential aide urges southern states to secede over gay rights
Posted on Friday October 24, 2014

​A former Reagan administration aide has called on southern US states to secede and establish an ultraconservative nation based on opposition to same-sex marriage and other advances in gay rights.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Two dead from high school shooting in Washington state
Posted on Friday October 24, 2014

Two students at a Washington state high school are reportedly dead after one of them opened fire early Friday.
Read Full Article at RT.com

US opposes post-Fukushima nuclear safety proposal
Posted on Friday October 24, 2014

The United States is reportedly trying to fend off an attempt out of Switzerland to change a multi-national nuclear safety agreement in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Dallas nurse Nina Pham declared free of Ebola, discharged from hospital
Posted on Friday October 24, 2014

Nina Pham, the Dallas, Texas nurse who recently became the first person to contract the deadly Ebola virus in the United States, has overcome the disease and will be released from the hospital.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Wrong head: NYPD cop kicks fellow officer, mistaking him for suspect (VIDEO)
Posted on Friday October 24, 2014

A New York cop is being investigated after kicking a fellow officer in the head, US media discovered. Police were arresting a fare-dodger on the subway when one officer got confused, striking his colleague instead of the suspect.
Read Full Article at RT.com

‘US should live up to its own laws’ – Noam Chomsky
Posted on Friday October 24, 2014

The US should live up to its own laws in regards to arming other countries, specifically considering its own policy on Israel, which has, according to the world-renowned academic Noam Chomsky, itself been violating both US and international law.
Read Full Article at RT.com

NYPD caught dumping gloves, masks from Ebola site into street garbage can (VIDEO)
Posted on Friday October 24, 2014

New York City police officers working around the Harlem apartment of Craig Spencer, the doctor who tested positive for the Ebola virus on Thursday, were caught discarding their protective gloves and masks in a street-corner trash bin.
Read Full Article at RT.com

St. Louis teen shot 6 times from behind – independent autopsy
Posted on Friday October 24, 2014

A black teenager, killed by an off-duty police officer in St. Louis, was shot eight times, six of the bullets striking him from behind, an independent autopsy by a famed forensic expert revealed.
Read Full Article at RT.com



Oath Keepers

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Oath Keepers CPT Journal – Eureka, Montana, October 21, 2014
Posted on Tuesday October 21, 2014

By Brandon Smith, Associate Editor The Ebola issue has certainly brought the concerns of the average prepper/survivalist to the forefront of American social discussion, and has reminded many of us that time is the most precious of commodities. When I think about how many people I have met in my years as an activist who [...]

Posted on Monday October 20, 2014

"We the people of Pennsylvania, Oath Keepers in support of the Constitution of the United States, standing ready to support our local and state police in times of trouble or calamity and to protect the Constitution, insist that our officers stand down in Barrett Township. No citizen of the great Commonwealth Of Pennsylvania should be subjected to the suspension of inalienable rights under the constitution in the common exercise of police discretion. No citizen accused of a crime should have their constitutional protections infringed, as we are assumed innocent until proven guilty. No police presence should take the role of a domestic army positioned to face the citizens rather than our outward enemies. The safety of our family and friends cannot be so threatened by police in the fulfillment of their duties, nor should our citizens be moved to accept such a threat as common to our lives."

The Pentagon Will Use 30 Person “Quick-Strike Team” To Deal With Domestic Ebola Patients
Posted on Monday October 20, 2014

This article was originally published at Zero Hedge President Obama may have been busy golfing this weekend, and his brand new Ebola Czar may have had more pressing matters to attend than the White House’s Saturday evening meeting on the US “response to domestic Ebola cases” (because clearly the Ebola Czar is superfluous at such [...]

Police Chief Accuses Secret Service Of Misconduct
Posted on Sunday October 19, 2014

The Nashville Police Department has made accusations that the Secret Service requested Nashville Police Officers to "fake" a search warrant. The Nashville Officers refused. This is one case of Police Officers respecting the Rights of the residents of Nashville, and it shows they understand their Oath is to the Constitution of the USA and the State of Tennessee.

Obama Administration’s Late And Inadequate Response To The Ebola Outbreak
Posted on Friday October 17, 2014

The Obama Administration has simultaneously endeavored to minimize the significance of the threat posed by the ebola virus and avoid taking responsible steps to reduce the spread of the deadly virus. That obfuscation and inaction has placed the American people at greater risk of the lethal contagion.

Special Exclusive Offer For Oath Keeper Members Only
Posted on Friday October 17, 2014

Kevin Gleason our Nebraska State CPT coordinator had this to say: “I am a retired Army Drill Sergeant, tank commander, and M1A1 Master Gunner. I am also an Oath Keeper and the Nebraska State Community Preparedness Team (CPT) Coordinator. I joined the Pulse O2DA Armory several months ago as an Oath Keeper, allowing me not only the opportunity to access the very impressive Pulse O2DA content and training methodology, but to help fund the Oath Keeper organization and missions.

CFR Globalists Outline Strategy For “North American Community”
Posted on Wednesday October 15, 2014

The global government-promoting Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) published a new report this month demanding further integration of North America, calling for deeper “cooperation” on everything from energy, law enforcement, and healthcare to labor regulations, trade, and education.

Second Ebola-Infected Nurse Identified, Was Symptomatic With 99.5 Degree Fever While Flying
Posted on Wednesday October 15, 2014

Just about an hour ago, the CDC's Tom Frieden held a press conference in which he tried to diffuse the CDC's incompetence for a allowing healthcare workers who cared for the now deceased "Index Patient" Thomas Eric Duncan, to board a plane.

The Mainstream Media: Preppers Aren’t So Crazy Anymore
Posted on Wednesday October 15, 2014

This article was written by Kimberly Paxton and originally published at The Daily Sheeple Usually, when the mainstream media mentions preppers and survivalists, the angle is not flattering.  Maybe someone who considers himself a survivalist has committed a heinous crime and is on the loose.  Perhaps a prepared family is beaming from the [...]

An Ebola Outbreak Would Be Advantageous For Globalists
Posted on Wednesday October 15, 2014

This article was written by Brandon Smith and originally published at Alt-Market.com It’s sad to say with such finality, but a universal fact of existence is that most of the people you meet in this life are fundamentally and functionally ignorant. Not necessarily stupid, but certainly ignorant. Ignorance comes not from [...]

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



Right on Cue: Five Craziest Right-Wing Reactions to New York's First Ebola Case
Posted on Friday October 24, 2014

Wait, so how is this related to Obamacare?

New York had its first Ebola patient when a doctor returning from Guinea tested positive for the virus Thursday night. The case immediately provoked legitimate concerns from some about screening procedures and the public health response, and some people even expressed concern about doctor's well-being. But, of course others reacted in a completely over-the-top manner, many of them right-wingers looking to score cheap political points on it. Here are five of the craziest reactions:

Ummm, what's the connection?

“Before Obamacare, there had never been a confirmed case of Ebola in the U.S.,” tweeted Nick Muzin, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX)'s deputy chief of staff.

What's next, O-bowla?

“Bowling with ebola is a disastrous public health policy. Obama Administration slowness and inadequacy is endangering Americans,” tweeted former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.

Trump, of course.

Donald Trump was quick to jump on the bandwagon, tweeting, “Ebola has been confirmed in N.Y.C., with officials frantically trying to find all of the people and things he had contact with.Obama's fault.”

Paranoid much?

Perennial presidential candidate Alan Keyes warned that President Obama had “plans for exploiting the Ebola crisis” by importing “Ebola-infected persons into the United States.”

Blame the courageous doctor.

Fox News's Megyn Kelly took out her ire on the patient himself, saying, “You’re well aware of the contagiousness of this disease. He comes back into New York City. He knows he’s been handling Ebola patients, and he’s here for a week? He doesn’t tell anybody and if he starts to feel symptomatic before his 103 fever, he’s still out there bowling and taxing taxis and not quarantining, not just self-quarantining?”

For it's part, Doctors Without Border, the main NGO coordinating medical relief in Ebola outbreak countries, issued the following statement in response to the hysteria. It reads in part: “As soon as he developed a fever, the...staff member was immediately isolated and referred to Bellevue Hospital. As long as a patient hasn’t developed symptoms, the risk of contagion is close to zero. Ebola is not an airborne virus like the flu. It is only transmitted through direct contact with bodily fluids, such as blood or vomit.”

Health officials in New York have also assured a jittery public that Dr. Craig Spencer poses little public health threat, since his subway travel and bowling outing both occurred before he developed symptoms.

Not that facts will get in the way of the haters.



Related Stories

7 Facts That Show the American Dream Is Dead
Posted on Wednesday October 22, 2014

The key elements of the American dream are unreachable for all but the wealthiest.

A recent poll showed that more than half of all people in this country don’t believe that the American dream is real. Fifty-nine percent of those polled in June agreed that “the American dream has become impossible for most people to achieve." More and more Americans believe there is “not much opportunity” to get ahead.

The public has reached this conclusion for a very simple reason: It’s true. The key elements of the American dream—a living wage, retirement security, the opportunity for one's children to get ahead in life—are now unreachable for all but the wealthiest among us. And it’s getting worse. As inequality increases, the fundamental elements of the American dream are becoming increasingly unaffordable for the majority.

Here are seven ways the American dream is dying.

1. Most people can’t get ahead financially.

If the American dream means a reasonable rate of income growth for working people, most people can’t expect to achieve it.

As Ben Casselman observes at fivethirtyeight.com, the middle class hasn’t seen its wage rise in 15 years. In fact, the percentage of middle-class households in this nation is actually falling. Median household income has fallen since the financial crisis of 2008, while income for the wealthiest of Americans has actually risen.

Thomas Edsall wrote in the New York Timesthat “Not only has the wealth of the very rich doubled since 2000, but corporate revenues are at record levels.” Edsall also observed that, “In 2013, according to Goldman Sachs, corporate profits rose five times faster than wages.”

2. The stay-at-home parent is a thing of the past.

There was a time when middle-class families could lead a comfortable lifestyle on one person’s earnings. One parent could work while the other stayed home with the kids.

Those days are gone. As Elizabeth Warren and co-author Amelia Warren Tyagi documented in their 2003 book, The Two-Income Trap, the increasing number of two-earner families was matched by rising costs in a number of areas such as education, home costs and transportation.

These cost increases, combined with wage stagnation, mean that families are struggling to make ends meet—and that neither parent has the luxury of staying home any longer. In fact, parenthood has become a financial risk. Warren and Tyagi write that “Having a child is now the single best predictor that a woman will end up in financial collapse.” This book was written over a decade ago; things are even worse today.

3. The rich are more debt-free. Others have no choice.

Most Americans are falling behind anyway, as their salary fails to keep up with their expenses. No wonder debt is on the rise. As Joshua Freedman and Sherle R. Schwenninger observe in a paper for the New America Foundation, “American households… have become dependent on debt to maintain their standard of living in the face of stagnant wages.”

This “debt-dependent economy,” as Freedman and Schwenninger call it, has negative implications for the nation as a whole. But individual families are suffering too.

Rani Molla of the Wall Street Journal notes that “Over the past 20 years the average increase in spending on some items has exceeded the growth of incomes. The gap is especially poignant for those under 25 years old.”

There are increasingly two classes of Americans: Those who are taking on additional debt, and the rich.

4. Student debt is crushing a generation of non-wealthy Americans.

Education for every American who wants to get ahead? Forget about it. Nowadays you have to be rich to get a college education; that is, unless you want to begin your career with a mountain of debt. Once you get out of college, you’ll quickly discover that the gap between spending and income is greatest for people under 25 years of age.

Education, as Forbescolumnist Steve Odland put it in 2012, is “the great equalizer… the facilitator of the American dream.” But at that point college costs had risen 500 percent since 1985, while the overall consumer price index rose by 115 percent. As of 2013, tuition at a private university was projected to cost nearly $130,000 on average over four years, and that’s not counting food, lodging, books, or other expenses.

Public colleges and universities have long been viewed as the get-ahead option for all Americans, including the poorest among us. Not anymore. The University of California was once considered a national model for free, high-quality public education, but today tuition at UC Berkeley is $12,972 per year. (It was tuition-free until Ronald Reagan became governor.) Room and board is $14,414. The total cost of on-campus attendance at Berkeley, including books and other items, is estimated to be $32,168.

The California story has been repeated across the country, as state cutbacks in the wake of the financial crisis caused the cost of public higher education to soar by 15 percent in a two-year period. With a median national household income of $51,000, even public colleges are quickly becoming unaffordable

Sure, there are still some scholarships and grants available. But even as college costs rise, the availability of those programs is falling, leaving middle-class and lower-income students further in debt as out-of-pocket costs rise.

5. Vacations aren’t for the likes of you anymore.

Think you’d like to have a nice vacation? Think again. According to a 2012 American Express survey, Americans who were planning vacations expected to spend an average of $1,180 per person. That’s $4,720 for a family of four. But then, why worry about paying for that vacation? If you’re unemployed, you can’t afford it. And even if you have a job, there’s a good chance you won’t get the time off anyway.

As the Center for Economic and Policy Research found in 2013, the United States is the only advanced economy in the world that does not require employers to offer paid vacations to their workers. The number of paid holidays and vacation days received by the average worker in this country (16) would not meet the statutory minimum requirements in 19 other developed countries, according to the CEPR. Thirty-one percent of workers in smaller businesses had no paid vacation days at all.

The CEPR also found that 14 percent of employees at larger corporations also received no paid vacation days. Overall, roughly one in four working Americans gets no vacation time at all.

Rep. Alan Grayson, who has introduced the Paid Vacation Act, correctly notes that the average working American now spends 176 hours more per year on the job than was the case in 1976.

Between the pressure to work more hours and the cost of vacation, even people who do get vacation time—at least on paper—are hard-pressed to take any time off. That’s why 175 million vacation days go unclaimed each year.

6. Even with health insurance, medical care is increasingly unaffordable for most people.

Medical care when you need it? That’s for the wealthy.

The Affordable Care Act was designed to increase the number of Americans who are covered by health insurance. But health coverage in this country is the worst of any highly developed nation—and that’s for people who have health insurance.

Every year the Milliman actuarial firm analyzes the average costs of medical care, including the household’s share of insurance premiums and out-of-pocket costs, for a family of four with the kind of insurance that is considered higher quality coverage in this country: a PPO plan which allows them to use a wider range of healthcare providers.

Even as overall wealth in this country has shifted upward, away from middle-class families, the cost of medical care is increasingly being borne by the families themselves. As the Milliman study shows, the employer-funded portion of healthcare costs has risen 52 percent since 2007, the first year of the recession. But household costs have risen by a staggering 73 percent, or 8 percent per year, and now average $9,144. In the same time period, Census Bureau figures show that median household income has fallen 8 percent.

That means that household healthcare costs are skyrocketing even as income falls dramatically.

The recent claims of “lowered healthcare costs” are misleading. While the rate of increase is slowing down, healthcare costs are continuing to increase. And the actual cost to working Americans is increasing even faster, as corporations continue to maximize their record profits by shifting healthcare costs onto consumers. This shift is expected to accelerate as the result of a misguided provision in the Affordable Care Act which will tax higher-cost plans.

According to an OECD survey, the number of Americans who report going without needed healthcare in the past year because of cost was higher than in 10 comparable countries. This was true for both lower-income and higher-income Americans, suggesting that insured Americans are also feeling the pinch when it comes to getting medical treatment.

As inequality worsens, wages continue to stagnate, and more healthcare costs are placed on the backs of working families, more and more Americans will find medical care unaffordable.

7. Americans can no longer look forward to a secure retirement.

Want to retire when you get older, as earlier generations did, and enjoy a secure life after a lifetime of hard work? You’ll get to… if you’re rich.

There was a time when most middle-class Americans could work until they were 65 and then look forward to a financially secure retirement. Corporate pensions guaranteed a minimum income for the remainder of their life. Those pensions, coupled with Social Security income and a lifetime’s savings, assured that these ordinary Americans could spend their senior years in modest comfort.

No longer. As we have already seen, rising expenses means most Americans are buried in debt rather than able to accumulate modest savings. That’s the main reason why 20 percent of Americans who are nearing retirement age haven’t saved for their post-working years.

Meanwhile, corporations are gutting these pension plans in favor of far less general programs. The financial crisis of 2008, driven by the greed of Wall Street one percenters, robbed most American household of their primary assets. And right-wing “centrists” of both parties, not satisfied with the rising retirement age which has already cut the program’s benefits, continue to press for even deeper cuts to the program.

One group, Natixis Global Asset Management, ranks the United States 19th among developed countries when it comes to retirement security. The principal reasons the US ranks so poorly are 1) the weakness of our pension programs; and 2) the stinginess of our healthcare system, which even with Medicare for the elderly, is far weaker than that of nations such as Austria.

Economists used to speak of retirement security as a three-legged stool. Pensions were one leg of the stool, savings were another and Social Security was the third. Today two legs of the stool have been shattered, and anti-Social Security advocates are sawing away at the third.


Vacations; an education; staying home to raise your kids; a life without crushing debt; seeing the doctor when you don’t feel well; a chance to retire: one by one, these mainstays of middle-class life are disappearing for most Americans. Until we demand political leadership that will do something about it, they’re not coming back.

Can the American dream be restored? Yes, but it will take concerted effort to address two underlying problems. First, we must end the domination of our electoral process by wealthy and powerful elites. At the same time, we must begin to address the problem of growing economic inequality. Without a national movement to call for change, change simply isn’t going to happen.


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Popular Asthma Drug's Deadly Side-Effects Revealed (Once Merck Stopped Making Money from It)
Posted on Wednesday October 15, 2014

Now that the patent has run out on Singulair, its dangers are being acknowledged.
"Cody was never mentally ill nor did he have ongoing problems," Kate Miller of Queensbury, N.Y., says. "I would not have given my son a drug that causes depression for a simple allergy. Who would? But my choice was taken away by a company that buried the risks."
Cody Miller killed himself 17 days after being prescribed the asthma and allergy drug Singulair, says Miller.
The first week Cody, who played high school football, took Singulair he experienced cramps in his legs. The second week he "was sweating profusely and couldn't calm down. He was very agitated, anxious, really having a hard time." On the last day of his life, Cody's eyes appeared sleep-deprived, Miller recounts, and he said, "Sometimes you feel like you can't take it." After taking a nap on the porch while the family ordered pizza for dinner, Cody went upstairs to shower, but instead took his own life. Cody, 15, was the Millers' only child. 
Almost 9 million people, many under 16, used Singulair in less than two years according to recent FDA data and four deaths have been linked to it. World sales of Merck’s blockbuster drug were about $5 billion a year until 2012 when its patent expired and it was the U.S.'s seventh best-selling drug. But last month, data from an FDA committee were presented that acknowledge "safety concerns" about "neuropsychiatric adverse events, including suicide and suicide attempts" with the drug. Like Vioxx, Fosamax, Paxil and Ambien, now that the patent has run out on Singulair, its dangers are being acknowledged.
Singulair is one of several “asthma controller” drugs that debuted in the last few years that are supposed to be added on to rescue inhalers and inhaled corticosteroids instead of replacing them. In addition to the cost of adding a third drug to two drugs that are already used, Singulair cost almost $200 a month until it went off patent.
Last month's concerns by an FDA committee are not the first time medical questions about Singulair have surfaced. Soon after its approval, FDA reviewers cautioned in the New England Journal of Medicine that adult studies of montelukast, Singulair's generic name "may not be predictive of the response," in children. In new drug approval documents from the 1990s hosted on the FDA website, reviewers note that Singulair levels in adolescents are different from "healthy adults," and that an infant monkey, four weeks old, had to be euthanized because "infants may be more sensitive to the toxicity," of Singulair. What? Three out of five guinea pigs also died from "severe anaphylactic responses."
In clinical trials before Singulair's safety was determined, scores of human subjects are reported to have withdrawn from trials because of "worsening" asthma and breathing problems. An asthma drug that "worsens" asthma? Reviewers write that one study "demonstrates that it is better to leave patients on beclomethasone than to switch them to montelukast." Beclomethasone, sold as Qvar, is a steroid to treat asthma. Approval documents include 10 blanked-out pages, marked, "This section was determined NOT to be releasable," and the frequent phrase, "Portions of this review were excerpted directly from the sponsor's submission."
William Busse, who chairs government expert panels on asthma despite listing 21 financial arrangements with drug companies, was involved in early Singulair testing. Busse was issued an FDA warning letter after an inspection of his facility revealed incorrect consent forms, incorrect patient enrollments and drug inventory and labeling errors according to FDA approval documents. 
Nor was Singulair marketing to children without controversy. Many considered Merck's sales partnerships with Scholastic, a leading educational publishing group, and the American Academy of Pediatrics conflicts of interest. Sales materials urged parents to give their children Singulair for allergies and sports figures were used to market the drug to children.
Parents Become Activists
What if your child suddenly developed extreme behavior and emotional problems and even acted suicidal? What if your doctor misdiagnosed and mistreated the symptoms because neither you or your doctor knew they were from the Singulair your child was taking? For more than five years, drug safety activists and hundreds of parents whose children suffered frightening side-effects from Singulair have asked the FDA to acknowledge the problem. Finally, the FDA and medical community are validating the concerns.
Last month, the FDA's Pediatric Advisory Committee called for clearer warnings of neuropsychiatric side effects on Singulair's labels and for a "dear doctor" letter to be sent to healthcare professionals.
Leading the awareness campaign in the United States about Singulair dangers to children is Parents United for Pharmaceutical Safety and Accountability, founded by Jenna Markle, whose own son suffered from Singulair’s side-effects. The group's goals include raising awareness, better information and distribution channels about risks to consumers and professionals and opposing Merck's attempt to sell the drug over the counter.
Reports of the harmful pediatric side-effects of Singulair, which were first covered nationally by Fox News in 2009, have a chilling sameness. Toddlers who were put on the drug for sniffles or wheezing, develop unprecedented tantrums, fear and self-harm. Many parents report bed-wetting and repetitive motions/tics in their children from the drug. A parent posting a report this week on the Parents United website notes how "helpless" her tantrum-prone son is while he is "in the midst of a meltdown." He has been on Singulair for three years, she says.
"I asked our new pediatrician (we moved) and she said for sure take him off Singulair, she hasn't prescribed it in years because of that effect. I felt sick to my stomach and took him off immediately. It's been four days of great behavior until tonight, tantrum came and that look in his eye was back. I'm hopeful he's made improvements and that it'll take sometime for it to get back to the norm as well as learned behavior, but how long," she writes.
This month a parent on askapatient reports her daughter "developed horrendously grotesque mouth contortions and hard eye blinking," on Singulair. "It was disturbing and alarming to watch. We thought she had Tourette syndrome. We did not make the connection until we ran out of meds and didn't refill the script for almost 2 months over the summer. Her tics went away. Most recently, our daughter's allergies flared up again and so on Monday we began giving her the montelukast again. Today, she started with the nodding and blinking tics once again. It has to be this medication."
Hundreds of similar reports of Singulair's effects on children have appeared on askapatient.com, the Parent United website and elsewhere online.
Luckily, the Parents United website offers a little reassurance about the symptoms. "With the exception of the children that we lost, our children experienced a remission of symptoms when they stopped taking Singulair," says the site.
Many parents ask why the risk information for Singulair is not more prominent. Cody Miller's mother, Kate Miller, who is a member of Parents United, told me she knew nothing about Singulair’s suicidal side effects until her sister found them on the Web and suspects the pediatrician didn't either. Even as the Millers' Queensbury, New York community tried to process the death, ads ran on TV telling future Singulair users that “side effects are mild and vary by age.” Then New York representative, now senator, Kirsten Gillibrand assembled FDA representatives in her Washington, DC. office to hear the testimony of Kate and her husband Dave Miller.
Last month, I interviewed Jenna Markle, founder of Parents United, whose members have testified on Capitol Hill, before the FDA and the NIH and appeared on Good Morning America, The Early Show and Fox News. "There are parents working all over the world to raise awareness, uniting via the International Singulair Side Effects Action Group, founded by Australian activist Vanessa Sellick," she told me. "Disturbingly, side effect information is not consistent on Singulair’s label from country to country. For example, in Canada and the Middle East, consumers are warned that asthma was reported in clinical trials as a drug related adverse experience in children. Why aren’t consumers in the United States entitled to receive this information?"
In addition to likely better warnings and "dear doctor" letters, there is another apparent victory in limiting harmful and only partially disclosed risks of Singulair. In May, the FDA Nonprescription Drugs Advisory Committee recommended the FDA not allow Merck's request to sell Singulair over the counter. Parents United's Jenna Markle and Jan Gilpin testified before the committee before its recommendation.
“We don’t know how Singulair causes such serious side-effects. We don’t know if it can cause long-term problems in children. But we do know that children have been harmed by this medication. Until more research is conducted, Singulair should not be given to children unless absolutely necessary,” says Markle.

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Meet the Kansans Who Bravely Fought for Gay Rights Against a Formidable Conservative Movement
Posted on Saturday October 18, 2014

Their years long struggle affected families, church, work, law and politics.

Michael Nelson stared at the room packed with students from the University of Kansas’ various LGBT groups. The 2014 school year had barely begun and the white-haired pastor, poet and gay rights advocate had come to talk about his lawsuit challenging Kansas’ same-sex marriage ban and other discriminatory laws in state court. Nelson could not help but see his younger self in the students’ eager, contempletive and occasionally vulnerable faces. So as he started to speak, he took a personal turn, because in Kansas, as he and the students already knew, anti-LGBT discrimination runs deeper than what is written into law—or deliberately kept out of it.

“People do ask us, ‘Why are you continuing with the lawsuit when it looks like the U.S. Supreme Court is going to rule in favor of gay marriage equality?’” he began, glancing at Charles Dedmon, his husband of 30 years who stood steps away. “Well, let me tell you, there’s a lot more to this effort than seeing marriage equality happen in Kansas, which in time it will. It’s about every human rights effort in this state that needs attention. Every part of what we’re doing overlaps with every need of a person that has been denied their right to live a full and good life.”

Nelson and Dedmon’s story started at that same campus in Lawrence four decades ago. They fell in love but hid that reality for years, from themselves, their friends and others, causing personal, family and professional turmoil that took years to unwind. Some of what they said, such as police raiding gay bars when they were at KU, was unfathomable to the students. But other prejudices still endured, which led them to add their names to one of the legal fights for equality, they said, as they kept returning to their experiences as youths trying to make their way.

“Forty years ago, I would not have guessed we would be here today, because I did not even know what the word gay meant,” Nelson said. “But when you find out at the age of 20 that your best friend is someone more than that; that your girlfriend is not the person that you feel the strongest attraction to; and there is no organization on campus that is public enough for you to find a home in that will allow you to begin to articulate and identify who you are, you do it all in the dark—literally.”

There is no one storyline that traces the journey of an estimated 80,000 LGBT Kansans. There are gay farmers in the state’s western plains just as there are gay librarians and theologians in university towns. Some are out and some are closeted. Some are still in traditional marriages. But there seem to be common threads in their lives, where the personal almost always collides with outside pressures—as a child at home, growing up in schools and church, in family and career choices, or on the receiving end of politics in a state where social conservatives, including many top Republican elected officials in the state, still demonize LGBT people and don’t want to treat them equally under law.

These currents are still alive in Kansas today, even as it is increasingly likely that the federal court overseeing Kansas may rule any day now that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, or short of that, decree that the state must issue marriage licenses to LGBT couples who want them. But even if the U.S. District Court takes that step, the state’s political culture continues to be dominated by those like GOP Gov. Sam Brownback, a longtime opponent of LGBT and abortion rights, and a Republican-dominated legislature that is not likely to start repealing state laws that treat LGBT Kansans as second-class citizens—which is why Nelson and Dedmon, a lawyer, sued in state court: to start the repeal process.

As that history-making confrontation unfolds, it’s important to note that anti-LGBT attitudes are not merely in state law. They are in families that until recently could not accept interfaith marriages. They are in right-wing churches where the clergy preach that LGBT people are sinners who cannot have a relationship with God. They are in jobs where bosses do not want LGBT employees to speak up or fight for the same rights as others in the workplace. They are in state politics where Democrats are often reluctant to defend LGBT rights, and where right-wing Republicans keep pushing bills to stop same-sex couples from raising children and to allow businesses to discriminate against gay customers. Beyond the fight for marriage equality, there is a stubborn status quo that preserves many state laws that do not protect LGBT people, or grant benefits given to heterosexual couples. These laws range from putting a spouse’s name on a driver’s license to more dire matters such as one’s rights in family medical emergencies.

“People react against it—people react in a range of ways,” said Tami Albin, a librarian at the University of Kansas in Lawrence who has been compiling an oral history archive of LGBT Kansans. “People in Kansas do not want to be represented or seen as tragic, lonely, sad queers in the Midwest who can’t figure out how to get to a large urban city on a coast where life is supposed to be better, safer and more welcoming,” she said. “Kansas isn’t any better or worse than any other location.” 

The U.S. Census reports that there are several thousand same-sex couples in the state, a figure Albin said was ridiculously inaccurate. She points to a study a decade ago by the Williams Institute at UCLA Law School, which tracks LGBT statistics and estimated there were almost 80,000 LGBT Kansans, or 3.5 percent of its population. “We know it’s more than that,” she said, “if you start to include trans people or people who identify as queer or gender non-conforming.”

Following are the stories of several LGBT Kansans. Their lives reflect the difficulties of growing up different in rural communities that were often hostile to the mere notion of homosexuality—and the sense that although official anti-LGBT bias remains ingrained, change may be on the horizon.

Sandra Stenzel

Sandra Stenzel turned her aging pickup truck onto another dirt road south of Wakeeny, a northwestern Kansas town founded in 1879 along the old Union Pacific rail tracks that sit in the shadow of Interstate 70. In every direction, manicured mile-square fields of straw-colored grass or brown milo, a feed grain that looks like corn, color the landscape. Stenzel’s family were Russian homesteaders and she lives in the small house built a century ago by her grandfather, who also helped build the austere white Zion Lutheran Church whose spire rises above the rolling horizon.

She passed the two-room schoolhouse she attended in the early 1960s and slowed down, pointing to nearby sheds. “Right here is a chicken house. First time I kissed a girl. We said we were practicing for boys,” she said, proud of her deep links to a community built by immigrants. Stenzel drove into Zion Lutheran’s parking lot, where she and the pastor reminisced about Mark Deines, a musician who grew up with her, played the church organ and sang, but left the state as a young gay man and returned more than 20 years ago as he was dying from AIDS.

Stenzel is still moved by Deines' granite tombstone in the cemetery, complete with its engraved rainbow flag, next to the graves of Zion’s other founding families. “Mark’s death brought some awareness in this county, in this church,” she said. “These guys came home to be buried. They ended up not being ignored….Was it too high a price to pay? Yes, it was. But Mark’s been dead for 20 years and people are still talking about him.”    

Stenzel came back to Trego County a dozen years ago and tried to revive its economic life. Its largest towns were filled with empty storefronts as its population dropped when children like Deines left. She was adopted, an only child, and knew early that she was “very different” from her family. “They didn’t know what to do with me. I always had a sense that there was something wrong with me. I didn’t know what was wrong, but it was pretty fucking horrible,” Stenzel said. “I was queer like a three-dollar bill. There’s tomboy and then there’s—I don’t know what it was. I had no context for it. I didn’t know any other people like that. I just didn’t know what was wrong with me. When I got to junior high or so, I’d be sitting next to girls and I think...this is how I would phrase it, ‘If I were a boy, I’d really like to kiss her.’”

Stenzel got married when she was age 20, to prove there was nothing wrong. She was the first of 17 cousins to graduate from college, and studied economics in graduate school. She returned with her husband to the family farm and also found work at a bank. After eight years, they divorced and she left for Austin, Texas, where at age 32, Stenzel came out and found work at a national consulting firm. But after 16 years, she returned to an aging parent and her farm. “There’s a saying: You can take the girl off the farm but you can’t take the farm out of the girl,” she said.

When a county economic development job opened, she applied and got it. Then, working with a board that didn’t care about her sexuality, Stenzel did something remarkable. She didn’t organize parades or class reunions, but instead raised several million in grants to spruce up Wakeeny’s neglected downtown and build a 30-unit senior living center. She became the Trego County Democratic Party chair – all before 2004, when the religious right launched its major campaign to amend Kansas’ Constitution to ban same-sex marriage.

The beginning of the end of her career came when Stenzel crossed a line she did not know existed. She got permission to take a day off and go to Topeka, the state capital, to testify against the amendment. “I got up the next morning and I was on the front page of every newspaper in Kansas,” she said, after saying that a marriage ban would be bad for business­—which, today, is commonly heard in the hallways of corporate America. “I don’t know why, but for some reason, apparently this 'bad for business, bad for depopulation' argument, really hadn’t been made and it just splashed all over. My phone started ringing, e-mails started pouring in, and I thought, oh shit."

Stenzel didn’t want to be the face of LGBT issues statewide. And neither did local clergy. “Some of the ministers in Wakeeney got together and went to the city council and said, you know, this is not good for our community to have an openly gay woman being our economic development director and representing us with this kind of visibility,” she said. “They said, ‘We need to get rid of this woman.’ And my board of directors said, ‘Screw you. We like her. She’s doing a great job.'"

But a course was set. The Trego County economic development agency didn’t get funded the next year, which prompted an unprecedented fight in which county taxpayers raised the sales tax to support Stenzel’s eforts, yielding hundreds of thousands of dollars. But in February 2005, newly elected officials found a way to shut down the agency and seize that money, using it to build a pool. That April, Amendment 1 passed with a 70 percent majority, banning same-sex marriage.

“I had people in the community who were willing to give me money to wage a legal fight,” Stenzel said, but there was no fight to be waged because under Kansas law there was—and still is—no penalty for firing a person based on sexual orientation. “The other interesting thing that happened was people would sort of sidle up to me on the street and say, ‘My son who lives in Chicago is gay,’ or ‘My daughter who lives in Dallas is gay.’ There’s no family in Trego County that isn’t touched by this.”

Yet even as her neighbors confided in her, Stenzel’s life fell apart. “I was devastated,” she said. “I would sit on my farm and I wouldn’t come to town for six weeks, and then I’d slink into town to buy groceries and slink back out. Or I would just go to a grocery store 40 miles away so I didn’t have to talk to anyone in Trego County. I quit the Democratic Party. I quit political activism. I quit everything.”

A decade later, Stenzel is still struggling. She gets spotty freelance work. She is the last of her cousins left on a farm, which she might be forced to sell. She is in a new relationship but will still drive three-plus hours to Wichita for Pride weekend, to feel less alone. She says she loves the land and her ties to it, but that western Kansans are not her people anymore.

“Talk to me about gay marriage and religious dogma,” Stenzel said, as she leaned against her doorstep. “It was a generation ago that Lutherans and Catholics didn’t intermarry. And it was a very big deal what religion their kids would be if they did. You’ve got all this religious dogma here and the descendants of that culture have heard the world would end if they intermarried. I wonder in a generation if people will say, ‘Really, gays weren’t allowed to marry?’”

Stephanie Mott

More than 200 miles east of Wakeeny sits Topeka, the sprawling state capital where skyscrapers tower over the commercial and government center. As one drives into the city, passing malls filled with chain stores and franchise restaurants, it is easy to forget that much of the state’s political identity comes from an earlier era, when farming, family and faith were the anchors.

Social conservatives from both political parties still invoke nostalgia for a Kansas where people farmed, raised families and lived by the Bible. The view that LGBT relationships are sinful comes from clergy and believers who are drawn more to the Old Testament’s fire and brimstone than to the New Testament’s spiritual renewal. The state’s best-known example of an anti-LGBT ministry is the Topeka-based Westboro Baptist Church. Pastors and parishioners from the church protested at gay-themed events long before it became known nationally for interrupting the funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Kansas politics is filled with conservatives who only are slightly less extreme than the Westboro clan, such as top legislators promoting bills in 2014 to criminalize surrogate parenting, because it is seen as bringing children to LGBT couples; or proposing that women who miscarry must register with the state, under the guise of stopping abortion. After the same-sex marriage ban passed in 2005, the LGBT community began organizing and lobbying. For the past half-dozen years, Kansas politics on LGBT issues have been deadlocked. Right-wingers cannot pass their bills, and the LGBT community cannot pass its bills protecting gay rights or ending unequal treatment under state law.

But this stalemate hasn’t stopped LGBT activists from being visible in other ways. In September, Topeka held its first Pride weekend, drawing 2,000 people when organizers expected 300. Like many of the state’s cities and university towns, there are ministries that welcome LGBT Kansans and gay-straight student alliances in the public high schools. It was here, not in the Statehouse’s ornate chambers where Stephanie Mott, a transgender women in her mid-50s and the Kansas Equality Coalition’s past president, decided to confront the religious roots of discrimination.

“I found a church where I could be who I was and it opened up doors for me that had always been closed,” said Mott, whose soft voice belies a steeliness. “It was the Metropolitan Community Church here in Topeka. One of the ladies there asked me to go speak at a local gay-straight alliance. I said okay and I did. I was really nervous….but afterwards, this 17-year-old transgender girl came up and gave me a hug and said, ‘Oh, my God, you changed my life.’ And I’m thinking, ‘Oh my God, no, you just changed my life, because I didn’t realize that everything I had gone through had been preparing me to be able to do something like this.”

As a leader for Kansas Equality, Mott had spoken to educators, school nurses and police about LGBT youths and their struggles. But she had not taken that talk, with her life story as a starting point, into conservative churches. “My journey is a faith journey because I was seperated from God for a very long time,” Mott said. “As I’ve discovered that I could be who I am and have a relationship with God, my faith has grown tremendously. I have this relationship with God that I never knew I could have, which is a source of energy for me being able to accomplish stuff that I might not otherwise be able to do.”

This phase of Mott’s advocacy began after a Baptist preacher in Seneca, a town 75 miles north of Topeka, gave a sermon saying that government should execute gays. “He said they wouldn’t, but they should,” she said. “I went to Seneca and I did a public library presentation. The Seneca newspaper asked me, ‘Why are you coming?’ I said I wanted them to hear a different message. I wanted them to hear a message of hope because that’s a very dark message that you are unacceptable to the Creator.”

Mott said that she has been “compared to the most horrible things on the planet” in public hearings. “I guess it comes down to, do I want to respond to that or do I want to be effective at creating change?” Her conclusion is “the Transgender Faith Tour…where I am going to different religious institutions, faith institutions, and sharing my journey of faith.” She has spoken to Unitarian Universalists, Baptists, Catholics and Methodists in Kansas, and this month held events in Norman and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Mott says she starts by telling her story before turning to the Old and New Testaments. “The very first thing I remember knowing about myself is that, on the inside, I was like my sisters. On the outside, I was like my brothers,” she said. “The second thing I remember knowing about myself was therefore, that meant that I couldn’t talk to anybody about it; that there was something dreadfully wrong with me that I couldn’t be who I was. This is [when I was] a six- or seven-year-old.”

“I just go through and start telling what it was like to grow up with this chain I carried around for a long time,” she continued. “I got involved with alcoholism and spent a long time, 30 years of my life, abusively using alcohol to hide from my reality. I share that. Then I talk about finding a church where I could be me. Finding a way to have a relationship with God. Then seeing my life come back into focus, and being able to do what I hope is God’s will in the community; which is to feed the hungry, and give drink to the thirsty, and take care of the oppressed and the marginalized.”

Mott said it is hard to underestimate the psychological damage and undermining of a person’s potential that comes when they are on the receiving end of negative stereotypes and constant reminders of second-class status. In a deeply religious state like Kansas, where there are so many ministries with differing interpretations of scripture, Mott said it was crucial to challenge the religiously observant to open their hearts.

“Three years ago, the idea of me talking to a Sunday school class in the Baptist Church, I wouldn’t have even dreamed of it,” she said. “Today, I walk out of that church thinking I’m going to give a sermon here one day.”

Ryon Carey

Today, the faultline that separates western Kansas’ cradle-to-grave Republicans from easterners who will vote for Democrats literally runs through Ryon Carey’s 40-acre farm at the end of Main Street in Lindsborg, a town founded by Swedish immigrants after the Civil War. Carey is a muscle-bound man who grew up on a farm 25 miles away. He went to Bethany College, a private Lutheran school in town, and returned home, only to become frustrated as his community withered. He ended up buying 40 acres and literally moving his woodframe house there (there were no buyers) after putting in a new foundation. Carey wears many hats: he is a chicken breeder; he chairs the Kansas Democratic Party’s LGBT Caucus; and he works as a campaign consultant to elect Democrats who will embrace LGBT issues, when many will not.

Carey knew he was gay as a teenager, but, “I was busy enough on the farm and had enough things going on that I just didn’t worry about it.” By age 30, he said he didn’t care what anybody thought about him. “I just do my thing and I really don’t care what people think….There’s a lot more [gay] farmers than you would ever think, too.”

One of Carey’s political consulting partners is Tom Witt, the brash Kansas Equality Coalition director, who, among other things, has been working to get cities that are near tipping points on supporting LGBT issues to add sexuality and gender protections into local anti-discrimination laws. The coalition has waged four tough campaigns and only one anti-discrimination ordinance—in Roeland Park, a Kansas City suburb—remains on the books. Social conservatives repealed or blocked the others. Lawrence, home to the University of Kansas, has the state’s only other local LGBT anti-discrimination ordinance, adopted years ago.

“The biggest obstacle to passing non-discrimination ordinances is frankly that there isn’t a lot of overt discrimination,” Carey said, sitting at a table under a peeling antique ceiling and surrounded by oil paintings by local artists. “There are so few people who will tell someone you’re fired because you’re gay. There are so few landlords who won’t rent to people because they are gay. They are never going to tell you that.”

Deliberate silence is a predictable part of rural and small state politics, where everybody quickly knows everybody else and their stances. That silence can be a wall, or even a cancer, Carey said, that resists change. “Small towns in Kansas are dying because of their intolerance and it’s not just about gay rights. I like to describe small towns as a pot of water that’s been left on the stove on low boil. Eventually the water is gone.”

That resistence can also be found in Democratic Party circles, Carey said, where, for example, House Democratic leaders did not wage a fight earlier this year when right-wing Republicans brought and passed a “religious liberty” bill. That bill, which died in the Senate but is expected to be revived in 2015, would allow any government or private employee to refuse service to a person, such as an LGBT individual. “They were corralled by leadership not to” oppose it, Carey said.

Like other LGBT activists, Carey has found a way to speak out that fits his personality, which, in his case, is trying to remake the state Democratic Party from the inside out. The party “basically doesn’t exist west of Highway 81, which is Lindborg’s Main Street,” he said, and is “scared to death of social issues.” His response, working with Witt and Chris Reeves—who is straight but was nearly killed in a knife attack in 1995 at Kansas State University in Manhattan, where his assailants later told a judge they thought he was gay—is to try to elect Democrats who will show some backbone, including on LGBT issues.

“There are districts in Kansas where you can be pro-gay rights and pro-choice and still win,” Carey said. “We have candidates who are pretty good but don’t know how to run a campaign.”

Carey's team is now working with four Democrats running for the Kansas House of Representatives and one Democrat running for Congress. In the U.S. House race, their candidate,  Jim Sherow,a history professor and the former mayor of Manhattan, has already had an outsized impact. Sherow, who was Reeves’ professor when he was nearly killed in that hate crime, later helped to pass that city’s LGBT anti-discrimination ordinance—which right-wingers overturned. This August, at their urging, Sherow surprised the state Democratic Party establishment by not endorsing its U.S. Senate candidate, Chad Taylor. LGBT and women’s groups said they could not back Taylor, who, as prosecutor for the county containing Topeka, refused to pursue domestic violence cases because of a budget spat with the city. That helped to push Taylor out of the race, boosting independent Greg Orman, whose upstart candidacy is considered key to which party will control the U.S. Senate.

But Ryon Carey’s crew is hoping to do more than remind Democrats that there are consequences for willful inaction. Even if Paul Davis, the House Democratic leader running for governor who is tied in polls with Brownback, wins this fall, Democrats need five more seats to stop Republicans from overriding gubernatorial vetos. Carey said his candidates, such as Democrat Von Peterson, running in the Kansas House district in nearby McPherson County, are running competitive races.

“We have a chance,” he said. “And if we don’t win, we’ll get into the 40s [percent-wise], which is something that has never happened before….That’s the reason why Tom and I and Chris are working on campaigns, because these candidates are pro-choice and pro-LGBT. If they win, we’ve changed minds.”

Michael Nelson and Charles Dedmon

Back at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Michael Nelson turned to the room packed with more than 50 students from various campus LGBT groups. The Unitarian Universalist minister described how he had met his husband, Charles, almost 40 years ago, when both were KU students. That was followed by a decade of turbulence, he said. The two didn’t know what to do about their attraction to each other after they graduated.

“Charles, being the analytical one, decided that he could not be gay,” Nelson said, saying that Dedmon went to law school and he left Kansas for San Francisco. “I did my very, very best to forget him, to absolutely try to eradicate him from my heart, and I found that was impossible to do,” Nelson said. “No matter how many people I thought I might be in love with, it never touched the depths of experience and that profound place where everything comes together, and you know yourself as a real and vital human being, in a way that you haven’t known before….You don’t walk away from that.”


Nelson said both of them lived through “a decade of torture.” Dedmon got married to a woman and Nelson was his best man. He graduated from law school and passed Kansas’ bar exam, which he could not have done if it was known that he was gay. Lawyers must pass a moral fitness review to get their license, and Kansas had, and still has, criminal sodomy laws, which meant Dedmon could not swear he was not engaging in illegal activity.

By the mid-'80s, Dedmon gave up on his marriage. He and Nelson reunited and moved to Oklahoma City, where Nelson had gone after graduating from seminary. There, supposedly progressive church leaders and social workers told him to hide their relationship or give it up. The pair came back to Lawrence, where Nelson opened the city’s only LGBT bookstore. Dedmon, meanwhile, became a top public defender in the federal court system, until a freak accident in which he was disabled in a lightning strike. Both of their families came around to accepting them, after some skipped their wedding or others wouldn’t display photos of them in their homes.

Nelson and Dedmon told the students their intensely personal story because they wanted them to know that they too are deserving of equal and dignified treatment. Nelson asked how many students had come out to their parents and half raised their hands —which would have been inconceivable when he was at KU. Then he turned the podium over to the quieter Dedmon, who began by describing how deeply interwoven their lives are: buying cars and a home, combining finances, taking turns being the breadwinner.

“If you think about it, what is a household?” Dedmon asked. “All of the decisions get so inextricably entwined that you are in a marital relationship. That’s what it is. It doesn’t make any difference what someone else really calls it—unless they make sure it makes a difference. And so, that’s what all this [fight for equality] is all about.”


Dedmon said there was one story that propelled him to put his name on the lawsuit in Kansas courts to challenge the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and other state laws that treat LGBT people unequally. Several years ago, a gay couple who were married in New York moved back to Alabama, when one of the men had a very bad car accident.

“The other man went to the hospital and tried to find out how he was doing—and they wouldn’t let him,” Dedmon said. “He said, ‘Look, we have the documents right here. We have medical power of attorney. I need to know.’ And they said, ‘Sorry, this is Alabama, and we don’t recognize gay marriages in Alabama.’ He tried. He tried. He tried. And finally when the rest of the family came, which did not like the relationship, they said, ‘Okay, you can see him.’ So he’s walking down a corridor and he asks a nurse, ‘How’s he doing?’ and she says, ‘He’s dead.’”

Dedmon paused and looked at the students. “These are the kinds of things that can happen if a relationship isn’t recognized,” he said. He then referred to the legacy of similarly discriminatory policies and laws that remain on the books in Kansas.

“There’s no way to come back from that. No way. There’s no way for that ever to be made right,” he said. “To be made right requires us, who aren’t in that situation, to file a lawsuit before there is harm. Not after there’s harm. Before. Because there’s so many areas which federal law does not reach.”

This is Part II of a two-part series. In Part I, AlterNet investigated Kansas' ultra-conservative political leadership and how the state has become home to more anti-LGBT bills, laws and state policies than anywhere in the country—and how members of the LGBT community there are reacting. 

The series was supported by the American Independent Institute.


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Noam Chomsky: The One Big Thing America Needs to Do to Turn Itself Around
Posted on Thursday October 23, 2014

We could start by actually living up to our own laws.

The following is the transcript of part 2 of a Democracy Now! interview with Noam Chomsky. 

After world-renowned scholar Noam Chomsky gave a major address on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the hall of the United Nations General Assembly last week, Amy Goodman interviewed the world-renowned linguist and dissident before an audience of 800 people. Chomsky spoke at an event sponsored by the United Nations Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People. “One important action that the United States could take is to live up to its own laws. Of course it would be nice if it lived up to international law, but maybe that’s too much to ask,” Chomsky said.

Below is footage of Chomsky from the United Nations, followed by a transcript:

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, as we return to MIT professor Noam Chomsky, world-renowned political dissident, linguist and author. Last week, he spoke before over 800 people in the hall of the United Nations General Assembly, before ambassadors and the public alike, on the issue of Israel and Palestine. After his speech, I conducted a public interview with Professor Chomsky.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you think is the most—the single most important action the United States can take? And what about its role over the years? What is its interest here?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, one important action that the United States could take is to live up to its own laws. Of course, it would be nice if it lived up to international law, but maybe that’s too much to ask, but live up to its own laws. And there are several. And here, incidentally, I have in mind advice to activists also, who I think ought to be organizing and educating in this direction. There are two crucial cases.

One of them is what’s called the Leahy Law. Patrick Leahy, Senator Leahy, introduced legislation called the Leahy Law, which bars sending weapons to any military units which are involved in consistent human rights violations. There isn’t the slightest doubt that the Israeli army is involved in massive human rights violations, which means that all dispatch of U.S. arms to Israel is in violation of U.S. law. I think that’s significant. The U.S. should be called upon by its own citizens to—and by others, to adhere to U.S. law, which also happens to conform to international law in this case, as Amnesty International, for example, for years has been calling for an arms embargo against Israel for this reason. These are all steps that can be taken.

The second is the tax-exempt status that is given to organizations in the United States which are directly involved in the occupation and in significant attacks on human and civil rights within Israel itself, like the Jewish National Fund. Take a look at its charter with the state of Israel, which commits it to acting for the benefit of people of Jewish race, religion and origin within Israel. One of the consequences of that is that by a complex array of laws and administrative practices, the fund pretty much administers about 90 percent of the land of the country, with real consequences for who can live places. They get tax-exempt status also for their activities in the West Bank, which are strictly criminal. I think that’s also straight in violation of U.S. law. Now, those are important things.

And I think the U.S. should be pressured, internationally and domestically, to abandon its virtually unique role—unilateral role in blocking a political settlement for the past 40 years, ever since the first veto in January 1976. That should be a major issue in the media, in convocations like this, in the United Nations, in domestic politics, in government politics and so on.

AMY GOODMAN: The role of the media, can you talk about that, and particularly in the United States? And do you think that the opinion in the United States, public opinion, is shifting on this issue?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, the role of the—the media are somewhat shifting from uniform support for virtually everything that Israel does to—and, of course, silence about the U.S. role—that’s not just in the case of Israel, that’s innumerable other cases, as well—but is slowly shifting. But nevertheless, about, say, Operation Protective Edge, one can read in news reporting, news reporting in The New York Times, major journal, a criticism of Hamas’s assault on Israel during Protective Edge. Hamas’s assault on Israel—not exactly what happened, but that’s what people are reading, and that’s the way it’s depicted. Israel is—over and over it’s pointed out, "Look, poor Israel is under attack. It has the right of self-defense." Everyone agrees to that. Actually, I agree, too. Everyone has a right of self-defense. But that’s not the question. The question is: Do you have a right of self-defense by force, by violence? The answer is no for anyone, whether it’s an individual or state, unless you have exhausted peaceful means. If you won’t even permit peaceful means, which is the case here, then you have no right of self-defense by violence. But try to find a word about that in the media. All you find is "self-defense." When President Obama rarely says anything about what’s happening, it’s usually, "If my daughters were being attacked by rockets, I would do anything to stop it." He’s referring not to the hundreds of Palestinian children who are being killed and slaughtered, but to the children in the Israeli town of Sderot, which is under attack by Qassam missiles. And remember that Israel knows exactly how to stop those missiles: namely, live up to a ceasefire for the first time, and then they would stop, as in the past, even when Israel didn’t live up to a ceasefire.

That framework—and, of course, the rest of the framework is the United States as an honest broker trying hard to bring the two recalcitrant sides together, doing its best in this noble endeavor—has nothing to do with the case. The U.S. is, as some of the U.S. negotiators have occasionally acknowledged, Israel’s lawyer. If there were serious negotiations going on, they would be led by some neutral party, maybe Brazil, which has some international respect, and they would bring together the two sides—on the one side, Israel and the United States; on the other side, the Palestinians. Now, those would be possible realistic negotiations. But the chances of anyone in the media either—I won’t even say pointing it out, even thinking about it, is minuscule. The indoctrination is so deep that really elementary facts like these—and they are elementary—are almost incomprehensible.

But to get back to your—the last point you mentioned, it’s very important. Opinion in the United States is shifting, not as fast as in most of the world, not as fast as in Europe. It’s not reaching the point where you could get a vote in Congress anything like the British Parliament a couple days ago, but it is changing, mostly among younger people, and changing substantially. I’ll just illustrate with personal experience; Amy has the same experience. Until pretty recently, when I gave talks on these topics, as I’ve been doing for 40 years, I literally had to have police protection, even at my own university, MIT. Police would insist on walking me back to my car because of threats they had picked up. Meetings were broken up, and so on. That’s all gone. Just a couple of days ago I had a talk on these topics at MIT. Meeting wasn’t broken up. No police protection. Maybe 500 or 600 students were there, all enthusiastic, engaged, committed, concerned, wanting to do something about it. That’s happening all over the country. All over the country, Palestinian solidarity is one of the biggest issues on campus—enormous change in the last few years.

That’s the way things tend to change. It often starts with younger people. Gradually it gets to the rest of the population. Efforts of the kind I mentioned, say, trying to get the United States government to live up to its own laws, those could be undertaken on a substantial scale, domestically and with support from international institutions. And that could lead to further changes. I think that the—for example, the two things that I mentioned would have a considerable appeal to much of the American public. Why should they be funding military units that are carrying out massive human rights violations? Why should they be permitting tax exemption? Meaning we pay for it—that’s what a tax exemption means. Why should we be paying, compelled to pay, for violations of fundamental human rights in another country, and even in occupied territories, where it’s criminal? I think that can appeal to the American population and can lead to the kinds of changes we’ve seen in other cases.

AMY GOODMAN: Final question, before we open it up to each of you: Your thoughts on the BDS movement, the boycott, divest, sanctions movement?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, BDS is a set of tactics, right? These are tactics that you employ when you think they’re going to be effective and in ways that you think will be effective. Tactics are not principles. They’re not actions that you undertake no matter what because you think they’re right. Tactics are undertaken, if you’re serious, because you think they’re going to help the victims. That’s how you adjust your tactics, not because I think they’re right in principle, but because I think they will be beneficial. That ought to be second nature to activists.

Also second nature should be a crucial distinction between proposing and advocating. I can propose now that we should all live in peace and love each other. I just proposed it. That’s not a serious proposal. It becomes a serious proposal when it becomes advocacy. It is given—I sketch out a path for getting from here to there. Then it becomes serious. Otherwise, it’s empty words. That’s crucial and related to this.

Well, when you take a look at the BDS movement, which is separate, incidentally, from BDS tactics—let me make that clear. So, when the European Union issued its directive or when the—that I mentioned, or when, say, the Gates Foundation withdraws investment in security operations that are being carried out, not only in the Occupied Territories, but elsewhere, that’s very important. But that’s not the BDS movement. That’s BDS tactics, actually, BD tactics, boycott, divestment tactics. That’s important. The BDS movement itself has been an impetus to these developments, and in many ways a positive one, but I think it has failed and should reflect on its, so far, unwillingness to face what are crucial questions for activists: What’s going to help the victims, and what’s going to harm them? What is a proposal, and what is real advocacy? You have to think that through, and it hasn’t been sufficiently done.

So, if you take a look at the principles of the BDS movement, there are three. They vary slightly in wording, but basically three. One is, actions should be directed against the occupation. That has been extremely successful, in many ways, and it makes sense. It also helps educate the Western populations who are being appealed to to participate, enables—it’s an opening to discuss, investigate and organize about the participation in the occupation. That’s very successful.

A second principle is that BDS actions should be continued until Israel allows the refugees to return. That has had no success, and to the extent that it’s been tried, it’s been negative. It just leads to a backlash. No basis has been laid for it among the population. It is simply interpreted as saying, "Oh, you want to destroy the state of Israel. We’re not going to destroy a state." You cannot undertake actions which you think are principled when in the real world they are going to have a harmful effect on the victims.

There’s a third category having to do with civil rights within Israel, and there are things that could be done here. One of the ones I mentioned, in fact—the tax-free status for U.S. organizations that are engaged in civil rights and human rights violations. And remember, a tax exemption means I pay for it. That’s what a tax exemption is. Well, that’s an action that could be undertaken. Others that have been undertaken have had backlashes which are harmful. And I won’t run through the record, but these are the kinds of questions that always have to be asked when you’re involved in serious activisms, if you care about the victims, not just feeling good, but caring about the victims. That’s critically important.

AMY GOODMAN: MIT professor, world-renowned linguist, dissident, Noam Chomsky, speaking last Tuesday in the hall of the United Nations General Assembly before 800 people in an event hosted by the U.N. Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People. If you’d like a copy of today’s show, you can go to our website at democracynow.org.


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Bullied 14-Year-Old Fights Back and Gets Severely Injured—Now HE Faces Assault Charges
Posted on Friday October 24, 2014

Eric Martin's ordeal continues at the hands of law enforcement.

14 year-old Eric Martin of Henrico, Virginia had reportedly been bullied for years at school, hounded with homophobic slurs and constant harassment. One day in September he stood up to his bullies, and physically confronted them. Although his family says that he did indeed start the fight, his bullies walked away with no real injuries, but Martin was so badly hurt that he ended up hospitalized.

Martin's injuries are severe enough that even seven weeks after his beating he is still receiving care from medical professionals, as he has a traumatic brain injury and broken bones.

But school officials and local police delivered another blow to Martin by charging him with two counts of assault and refusing to allow him back into the school until he signs a written statement saying that he threatened the school (which is something he denies). Local news station NBC-12 did a short report on the case. Watch it:

Martin is currently attending a different high school, and went to court for the first time last week to hear the charges against him. A judge has set a trial date for November 21st. His family's advocate, Tammy Matola, reflects on the fact that the school failed to provide a safe environment for him, which is what led to the confrontation in the first place:

The ugly truth of it all is that kids are just not speaking up anymore. After all, given the current tolerance for such otherwise intolerable behavior, why should they? When they do, too often nothing happens to the perpetrators, and they are only ostracized even more. I’m truly confused as to a school’s definition of zero tolerance. I’m over their anti-bullying policies. What’s the point in any policy if it’s not mandated and enforced? I know, with absolute certainty, that every kid deserves to walk into a school and receive an education without prejudice or persecution. For Eric Martin that day is long overdue.

The family has set up a legal fund for Martin. You can go here to donate to it.



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Krugman Dismantles the Right's Hysterical Fear of Actual Democracy
Posted on Friday October 24, 2014

What's really behind the fight against non-existent voter fraud.

Plutocrats, they all think alike.

Take the leader of Hong Kong, Paul Krugman writes in his column Friday, who accidentally blurted out the truth when he expressed his opposition to the pro-democracy demonstrators' demand for open voting. “You would be talking to half of the people in Hong Kong who earn less than $1,800 a month. Then you would end up with that kind of politics and policies,” he said.

Oh no, not those kinds of policies—the ones that help people with lower incomes!

The fear that people who make less money will vote for "bad" policies is an oft-expressed one among America's plutocrats and their lackeys as well. It was there in Mitt Romney's "47 percent" remark, and even more radically in the 60 percent that "Representative Paul Ryan argued pose a danger because they are 'takers,' getting more from the government than they pay in," Krugman writes. "For the political right has always been uncomfortable with democracy. No matter how well conservatives do in elections, no matter how thoroughly free-market ideology dominates discourse, there is always an undercurrent of fear that the great unwashed will vote in left-wingers who will tax the rich, hand out largess to the poor, and destroy the economy."

It's not just Rush Limbaugh and his listeners. The political elite is filling their minds with propaganda that the real problem in America is "runaway redistribution."

Krugman cracks that nut open and examines it a little more closely.

Is there anything to fears that economic populism will lead to economic disaster? Not really. Lower-income voters are much more supportive than the wealthy toward policies that benefit people like them, and they generally support higher taxes at the top. But if you worry that low-income voters will run wild, that they’ll greedily grab everything and tax job creators into oblivion, history says that you’re wrong. All advanced nations have had substantial welfare states since the 1940s — welfare states that, inevitably, have stronger support among their poorer citizens. But you don’t, in fact, see countries descending into tax-and-spend death spirals — and no, that’s not what ails Europe.

So, the main problem with the welfare state isn't the destruction of the economy at all, it is, as suspected, that the wealthiest of the wealthy have to pay higher taxes, which puts a crimp in their style... barely. That is, of course, unacceptable to them. Their solution is to launch an all-out propaganda war, which includes the ongoing fiction that tax cuts will help job creation. (Not working. Look at Kansas, for a case in point.) Next piece of propaganda, per Krugman:

Another answer, with a long tradition in the United States, is to make the most of racial and ethnic divisions — government aid just goes to Those People, don’t you know. And besides, liberals are snooty elitists who hate America.

A third answer is to make sure government programs fail, or never come into existence, so that voters never learn that things could be different.

And finally, because these strategies don't work 100 percent, suppress the vote!

That's what Hong Kong's leader is trying to do, and that is precisely the motivation behind the right's effort to get Voter ID laws passed here. Krugman concludes: "The truth is that a lot of what’s going on in American politics is, at root, a fight between democracy and plutocracy. And it’s by no means clear which side will win."



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The Right's Fruitless Search for a Democrat as Terrible as Todd 'Legitimate Rape' Akin
Posted on Wednesday October 22, 2014

The GOP has sought revenge over Akin's failed Senate bid following his "legitimate rape" comment.

It wasn’t long after the release of Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis’ controversial wheelchair ad — in which she used the image of an empty wheelchair to criticize paraplegic opponent Greg Abbott for hypocrisy over his fight against legal settlements — that a certain name began popping up next to hers.

“Todd Akin turns left,” read one headline. The ad “made Todd Akin look like a political genius,” said one Republican strategist. “Every Democratic candidate should be asked, a la Todd Akin, if they support this tactic,” the blogs demanded. Another tweeted, “every media outlet that demanded that GOP candidates answer for Akin had better do the same with Democrats and Davis.”

Akin was the GOP’s Missouri senatorial candidate in 2012, when he was on course to unseat Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill. That was until he told a local TV station about his opposition to abortion, comments in which he distinguished “legitimate rape” from some other kind, and said the female body had a way of “shutting that whole thing down.” The comments exploded, the GOP abandoned his race, other Republicans begged him to drop out. Akin refused and lost to McCaskill in one of the most remarkable political implosions of contemporary politics.

The GOP has sought revenge ever since. For conservatives, linking Davis to Akin is less about the electoral fortunes of the Texas Democrats’ nominee — who trails opponent Greg Abbott by 10 points and has always been a long shot in the solidly red state — and more about the sense of injustice that has lingered in the party since Akin’s loss, a conviction he got a bum deal from opportunistic Democrats and a compliant political media.

In fact, in the conservative blogosphere Akin never really said or did anything wrong. Rather his slow-motion disqualification signified what they’ve suspected all along: the media has always had it in for GOP candidates, whose every misstatement is blown into national proportions while their Democratic counterparts get away with murder. Like the war on women, a talking point which the right simultaneously denies and tries to invert, the Todd Akin frame is one conservatives believe was a fabricated critique that nonetheless applies even more so to Democrats.

Ever since, the right has been on the lookout for the beast they swear hides behind every Democrat candidate: the left’s Todd Akin.

To this quest Wendy Davis has been both a culmination and a catalyst. The search for the Democratic Todd Akin began in earnest with Ashley Judd, who was talked about in early 2013 as a high-profile challenge to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Judd was brash; her comments about the patriarchy were more gender theory than polished narrative; she spoke unapologetically about rape. If your conception of Todd Akin was limited to a reductive understanding of his subject matter and a general aura of political ham-handedness, Judd could seem like she checked all the right boxes.

Thanks to Judd’s celebrity status, the comparison became a handle on the right, a way to neutralize an apparent threat. And when Judd decided not to run, the comparison lingered in Kentucky like a stink; more than 18 months later, it would reemerge against her successor.

Since then, conservative bloggers have tagged Democratic candidates with the Akin label, largely to no avail. Townhall trotted out the comparison against the last-minute Democratic nominee in Montana based on a comedy YouTube video. Other conservatives raised hackles over the absurd tweets of a man in North Carolina claiming to be a congressional contender but in fact not a candidate at all. (Those don’t even constitute the most random; one conservative writer named Claire Underwood, the fictional wife in House of Cards, as a Democratic Akin.)

The most high-profile candidate the GOP eyed was Iowa Senatorial candidate Bruce Braley, who was heard in a recording making a crack about farmers. It was a mild gaffe compared to Akin’s “legitimate rape” comments, but GOP strategists tried the “2014 Todd Akin” label anyway. It didn’t stick. Meanwhile, National Review tried to justify outlandish claims about Mark Pryor by claiming the Todd Akin playbook made overreaching attacks fair game. Again, it didn’t stick. With Akin’s brief, unwelcome return to the spotlight this past summer, the GOP’s spot-the-Akin game seemed to be sputtering.

Then came Davis. The filibustering state senator got the Todd Akin treatment from almost after moment her filibuster ended. The Daily Caller, one of the same websites that made the Judd-Akin connection, immediately labeled Davis the “pro-choice Todd Akin,” arguing her filibuster against a vicious collection of abortion regulations was the ideological equivalent of Akin’s opposition to abortion in all cases, including rape and incest.

The culprit was telling: it wasn’t Davis, the Democrats, or even the pro-choice movement, that the Caller was mad at, but the media. “The media asks pro-life candidates like Akin about hard cases like rape more often than it asks pro-choice pols like Davis about the abortion of fetuses nearing viability — even when the latter is actually the issue under debate and the former is not,” the website wrote. (Actually, the former was reflective of the national GOP’s 2012 platform.)

The connection reemerged again in January after the Dallas Morning News’ article questioning details in Davis’ biography. Breitbart compared the coverage of the Dallas scoop with the coverage of Akin’s rape statements and judged them outrageously unequal. (That one occurred in a majorly contested Senate race weeks before the election with the Senate hanging in the balance was apparently not germane.)

But once again the media was the recipient of the venom. “The flood of stories Politico unleashed last year about Todd Akin literally pecked Akin himself to death, the Republican Party brand as a whole, and most specifically Mitt Romney,” Brietbart wrote. “It is always important to note that while Politico is a left-wing news outlet designed to protect Democrats and destroy Republicans, it does disguise itself as objective.”

The groundwork was set. When Davis released her ad against Greg Abbot this month, the Akin comparison was the nearest critical template, and everybody grabbed it.

And with Akin’s name in circulation it was easy to attach it to other candidates. Fox News gave Alison Lundergan Grimes, Judd’s successor as McConnell’s opponent, the “Akin award” for refusing to state whether she voted for President Barack Obama. The link only makes sense if you define Akin’s statements as a “gaffe” in the most general sense, and even then it’s a stretch.

But the newfound flexibility of the comparison was shown in the next victim. Fox allowed Grimes to share the award with none other than Barack Obama, a point made even more explicitly by Rich Lowry in Politico Magazine (the very same Breitbart thought so liberal). “Because the Democrats and the press were determined to make it so, Akin’s gaffe became an albatross around the necks of all Republicans,” Lowry wrote. “Although it probably effectively ends her own campaign, Grimes’ flub won’t have that impact. The albatross is President Obama.”

Thus was the 2012 revenge complete: the statement that helped cost the GOP the Senate as Obama cruised to reelection had wormed its way around to Obama himself. It wasn’t the GOP that had its much-lambasted “Akin problem”; rather, it was the Democrats who were revealed to be lousy with Akins, up to the inhabitant of the White House. And lest anybody forget who was really behind it all: “Urged on by the press, the Left often mistakes its fringe for the mainstream,” the Washington Examiner wrote. “But Akins, as we found out Friday, tend to appear on all sides.”

Only if you have the special Akin goggles on. As the frontrunner in a pivotal race during a presidential election in which the GOP had a serious shot at picking up the Senate, Akin’s “gaffe” was a perfect political storm. Akin didn’t flub an unimportant state race, and his loss couldn’t be dismissed as part of a GOP losing streak. He squandered a major race with national implications.

And that’s if you’re generous and concede that his comments actually constituted a “gaffe.” Akin’s statements on rape were a prime example of what’s known as a Kinsley gaffe, when a politician accidentally says what he means. They were not misstatements, given that they actually expressed what Akin believed, and what an increasing swath of the Republican Party believes. Conservatives were convinced the media “nationalized” his comments, but the comments were nationalized already in the GOP’s radicalizing stance toward abortion and medieval understanding of consent.

So Richard Mourdock, who had unseated longtime incumbent Dick Lugar in Indiana’s GOP primary, was ahead in the polls when he was asked about Akin’s “legitimate rape” comments and essentially repeated them. Weeks later he lost, another of the GOP’s wasted 2012 opportunities. Akin’s problem didn’t get nationalized; Akin and Mourdock tripped over the GOP’s nationwide problem. Their statements, their connection to the party’s actual policies, and their role in pivotal races were all part of what made Akin an “Akin,” a portable political disaster.

But Davis’ filibuster in no way constituted a “gaffe,” Kinsley or otherwise. Davis didn’t accidentally disclose her hidden pro-choice beliefs; rather she vocalized a position that was grossly underrepresented by the GOP-controlled Texas legislature that had called a special session solely to force a base-pleasing anti-abortion bill. As was the case with Judd, only a superficial sense of the subject matter linked the two.

Ditto the ad against Abbott. Davis’ ad had terrible visuals in the empty wheelchair, but its underlying critique — that Abbott was a hypocrite for curbing legal settlements as a justice despite receiving a multimillion-dollar settlement himself — was valid. The ad earned its ribbing in the national press, but the awful optics were unrelated to its policy critique, something that more and more voices on both sides of the aisle are admitting. Akin couldn’t shake his comments because they revealed his actual policy positions; by contrast, Davis has not backed down from the ad, using the controversy to press her case against Abbott.

In short Davis fails all three requirements for an “Akin.” She’s not squandering a Democrat win, and her controversies have either not been gaffes (her filibuster) or not indicative of policy (the wheelchair ad). The same goes for Grimes; she committed a legitimate, bona fide gaffe, but it pales compared to McConnell’s dissembling over Kentucky’s health care website, an instance with very real policy ramifications. Same for Braley, whose gaffe is nothing compared to the actual policy positions of Joni Ernst, which include impeachment and nullification.

In fact, the GOP’s search for the Democratic Todd Akin shows exactly why they’ve been unable to find him. Todd Akin was never the problem; the GOP is.

VIDEO: Louis CK Crashes Brad Pitt's Hilariously Awkward 'Between Two Ferns' Interview
Posted on Friday October 24, 2014

Comedian saves the day with awful ISIS and Ebola jokes.

In a hilarious turn, Brad Pitt appeared on Zach Galifianakis's send-up interview show 'Between Two Ferns,' and true to form, the host hurled one insulting question after another at Pitt (or Bradley Pitts, as Galifiniakis introduced him.)

In the middle of this excruciatingly squirmy chat, Louis CK barged in to "liven things up," and provide some comic relief.

"I saw a rat on the subway, and I didn't know if it was Ebola or ISIS," the comedian said.

Galifiniakis turned to Pitt, and asked: "Do you think your looks get in the way of people realizing that you're just a shitty actor."

Funny. Watch:

Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis: Brad Pitt from Zach Galifianakis

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Science Busts One of the Most Common Myths About Smoking Pot
Posted on Wednesday October 22, 2014

A recent study proves what most real-life pot smokers already know.

Moderate cannabis consumption by young people is not positively associated with changes in intelligence quotient (IQ), according to data presented this week at the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology annual congress in Berlin, Germany.

Investigators at the University College of London analyzed data from 2,612 subjects who had their IQ tested at the age of eight and again at age 15. They reported no relationship between cannabis use and lower IQ at age 15 when confounding factors such as subjects’ history of alcohol use and cigarette use were taken into account.

“In particular alcohol use was found to be strongly associated with IQ decline,” the authors wrote in a press release cited by The Washington Post. “No other factors were found to be predictive of IQ change.”

Quoted in the Independent Business Times, the study’s lead author said: “Our findings suggest cannabis may not have a detrimental effect on cognition, once we account for other related factors particularly cigarette and alcohol use. This may suggest that previous research findings showing poorer cognitive performance in cannabis users may have resulted from the lifestyle, behavior and personal history typically associated with cannabis use, rather than cannabis use itself.”

The investigators acknowledged that more chronic marijuana use, defined in the study as a subject’s admission of having consumed cannabis 50 times or more by age 15, was correlated with slightly poorer exam results at the age of 16 — even after controlling for other variables. However, investigators admitted: “It’s hard to know what causes what. Do kids do badly at school because they are smoking weed, or do they smoke weed because they’re doing badly?”

Commenting on the newly presented data, the meeting’s Chair, Guy Goodwin, from the University of Oxford, told BBC News: “This is a potentially important study because it suggests that the current focus on the alleged harms of cannabis may be obscuring the fact that its use is often correlated with that of other even more freely available drugs and possibly lifestyle factors.”

In a recent review published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the NIDA Director Nora Volkow alleged that cannabis use, particularly by adolescents, is associated with brain alterations and lower IQ. However, the IQ study cited by Ms. Volkow as the basis of her claim was later questioned in a separate analysis published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. That paper suggested that socioeconomics, not subjects’ cannabis use, was responsible for differences in IQ and that the plant’s “true effect [on intelligence quotient] could be zero.”

previous assessment of cannabis use and its potential impact on intelligence quotient in a cohort of young people tracked since birth reported, “[M]arijuana does not have a long-term negative impact on global intelligence.”


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