AMERICAblog News http://americablog.com A great nation deserves the truth // One of America's top progressive sites for news and opinion Sat, 19 Apr 2014 14:20:02 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.3 SC mayor fires lesbian police chief, says rather have drunks than gays protecting children http://americablog.com/2014/04/sc-mayor-fires-lesbian-police-chief-says-rather-drunks-gays-protecting-children.html http://americablog.com/2014/04/sc-mayor-fires-lesbian-police-chief-says-rather-drunks-gays-protecting-children.html#comments Sat, 19 Apr 2014 14:20:02 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=117589 Earl Bullard, the mayor of Latta, South Carolina, is in some hot water after firing the town’s openly-lesbian police chief, Crystal Moore, apparently because she’s gay.

Latta was caught on tape disparaging gays, and suggesting that he’d rather have a drunk in charge of the safety of his children than someone who is gay.

Here’s the transcript of what Bullard was caught saying. The actual audio is below.

“I would much rather have.. and I will say this to anybody’s face… somebody who drank and drank too much taking care of my child than I had somebody whose lifestyle is questionable around children.

Because that ain’t the damn way it’s supposed to be. You know.. you got people out there — I’m telling you buddy — I don’t agree with some of the lifestyles that I see portrayed and I don’t say anything because that is the way they want to live, but I am not going to let my child be around. ”

Latta. South Carolina mayor Earl Bullard.

Latta. South Carolina mayor Earl Bullard.

I’m not going to let 2 women stand up there and hold hands and let my child be aware of it. And I’m not going to see them do it with 2 men neither.”

I’m not going to do it. Because that ain’t the way the world works.”

Now, all these people showering down and saying ‘Oh it’s a different lifestyle they can have it.’ Ok, fine and dandy, but I don’t have to look at it and I don’t want my child around it.”

Mayor Latta served Chief Moore with seven reprimands right before firing her. These were the first reprimands she’d earned in 20 years on the job.  Some say that in addition to Bullard’s anti-gay animus he also had a vendetta against the chief because she investigated one of his hires:

Some residents believe the mayor firing Crystal Moore was payback. Moore investigated Mayor Bullard’s most recent hire, Parks And Rec Director Vontray Sellers.

NEWS 13 first broke the story of sellers driving a Latta town vehicle while his license was suspended back in February…Chief Moore found the mayor neglected to conduct a background check on Sellers.

It is legal under federal law to fire someone for being gay. Under state and local law, it depends on each state and municipality whether gay people are protected in employment.

Most people don’t realize that the only people covered under anti-discrimination laws are the groups of people actually covered by name.  Meaning, only those groups listed specifically under the law – race, religion, national origin, gender, etc. – are protected from discrimination.  If you’re not listed, as gays (aka sexual orientation) are not under federal law, and under many state and local laws, then you’re not protected.

And there is no such thing as the generally-held, but mistaken, concept that “the Constitution bans discrimination.”

There’s been a proposal before the Obama administration for several years now to issue an executive order to require that federal government grant recipients have employment protects in place for their gay and trans employees.  The effort hasn’t gone anywhere in part because it isn’t run very well (when’s the last time you heard any rabble-rousing on this issue?), but also in part because the administration, for whatever reason, simply doesn’t want to do it.

The administration’s public explanation for not doing an executive order is that they’d rather a pass ENDA, a federal law fixing the problem. The problem is that with a GOP-controlled House of Representatives, only the most hopefully think that there’s any chance of passing that law.

It would be interesting to see if the police department of Latta, SC has received any federal grants.


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The honey badger that could escape from any enclosure (video) http://americablog.com/2014/04/knew-honey-badgers-scary-smart-video.html http://americablog.com/2014/04/knew-honey-badgers-scary-smart-video.html#comments Sat, 19 Apr 2014 00:16:23 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=117584 This video about honey badgers from the BBC is fascinating. The animal worked with a mate to figure out how to unlock its cage door and get out. It kept getting out, she they built an outdoor enclosure for it with cement sides. No way in, no way out.

The honey badger climbed a tree in the enclosure, got to the top, bent the branch over and jumped out.

So they cut back the trees on the edges near the wall. What did it do next? The animal dug up rather large rocks, piled them in a corner, and then climbed on the rocks to get out. So they got rid of the rocks.

A few nights later, the guy’s wife wakes him, says there’s someone in the house, I heard the window break. At the same time, someone is jiggling the door to their bedroom. You guessed it. The honey badger had taken mud, rolled it into balls, placed the balls in the corner of the enclosure, as it had done with the rocks before, and finally climbed on the balls and got out.

Next, he grabbed a broken branch, pushed it into the corner of the enclosure, leaned it again the wall, and climbed up the branch and out.

Oh, but there’s more. He figured out how to grab a rake, roll it off his back against the wall, and climb the rake out of the enclosure.

And of course, I couldn’t post about the honey badger without posting the classic honey badger video. Enjoy.


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What happens when a woman asks random women for dates on the street (video) http://americablog.com/2014/04/happens-woman-asks-random-women-dates-street-video.html http://americablog.com/2014/04/happens-woman-asks-random-women-dates-street-video.html#comments Fri, 18 Apr 2014 18:30:02 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=117574 I’d posted a video yesterday of a guy asking random men on the street for dates, while a friend filmed it, just to see how they’d react.

Today, you get the female version, in which a cute young woman stops women at random and asks for their phone number.

woman-asks-women-on-date

The guy version didn’t go badly, for the most part, but the woman version clearly went better. (Not that this is necessarily a representative sample of society at large.) I’m told this is in Santa Barbara, CA, but am not sure.

I’m also not sure if there are any large lessons to be learned from this, but it is interesting to watch. As one guy noted on Facebook, if you had tried this (as a guy) 20 years ago, you’d have likely been beaten up, a lot.


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Power’s bitch: Snowden responds to criticism of TV appearance with Putin http://americablog.com/2014/04/snowden-responds-criticism-tv-appearance-putin.html http://americablog.com/2014/04/snowden-responds-criticism-tv-appearance-putin.html#comments Fri, 18 Apr 2014 16:35:17 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=117557 Facing criticism over his appearance at a propaganda event organized by Russian President Vladimir Putin, NSA leaker/whistleblower Edward Snowden penned an op ed today in the British newspaper, the Guardian, defending his actions, and claiming that they were part of a larger strategy to begin a public discussion in Russia of the country’s domestic eavesdropping

First, Snowden claimed that he hit Putin hard in his questioning:

On Thursday, I questioned Russia’s involvement in mass surveillance on live television. I asked Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, a question that cannot credibly be answered in the negative by any leader who runs a modern, intrusive surveillance program: “Does [your country] intercept, analyse or store millions of individuals’ communications?”

I went on to challenge whether, even if such a mass surveillance program were effective and technically legal, it could ever be morally justified.

Not quite.  Snowden didn’t “question Russia’s involvement” and he didn’t “challenge” anyone.  Both of those sentence constructions suggest that you put your interlocutor on the spot – Snowden simply did not do that.  He asked Putin a softball question, Putin lied in response, and Snowden had zero follow-up, which was to be expected all around.

Here is Snowden’s question:

“Does Russia intercept, store or analyze in any way the communications of millions of individuals?

And do you believe that simply increasing the effectiveness of intelligence or law enforcement investigations can justify placing societies, rather than their subjects, under surveillance?”

Snowden didn’t “question Russia’s involvement,” he asked a question about Russia’s involvement. There’s a difference. And he didn’t “challenge” whether it’s ever morally justified to spy on your own population en masse, he simply asked nicely.  This was not speaking truth to power.  This was being power’s bitch.

Snowden goes on to suggest that his real intent in appearing with Putin at the staged propaganda event was to start a national dialogue about domestic spying in Russia. More from Snowden’s Guardian piece:

The investigative journalist Andrei Soldatov, perhaps the single most prominent critic of Russia’s surveillance apparatus (and someone who has repeatedly criticised me in the past year), described my question as “extremely important for Russia”. According to the Daily Beast, Soldatov said it could lift a de facto ban on public conversations about state eavesdropping.

spock-11th-dimensional-chessOthers have pointed out that Putin’s response appears to be the strongest denial of involvement in mass surveillance ever given by a Russian leader – a denial that is, generously speaking, likely to be revisited by journalists.

In fact, Putin’s response was remarkably similar to Barack Obama’s initial, sweeping denials of the scope of the NSA’s domestic surveillance programs, before that position was later shown to be both untrue and indefensible….

But to me, the rare opportunity to lift a taboo on discussion of state surveillance before an audience that primarily views state media outweighed that risk. Moreover, I hoped that Putin’s answer – whatever it was – would provide opportunities for serious journalists and civil society to push the discussion further.

What “serious Russian journalists” and what “Russian civil society” is Snowden expecting to pick up the ball in a dictatorship where the media is controlled by the man he claims he now intended to put on the spot?

If Snowden is suggesting that the American media will now cover Russian spying, they already do.  There is no “taboo” in the west about covering Russia’s misdeeds. Snowden is clearly referring to the taboo in Russia against criticizing the state, or as Kremlinologists like to call it, committing suicide.  Vladimir Putin owns, funds, and controls the major media in Russia.  How exactly is this national conversation supposed to ignite in autocratic Russia the same way it ignited in democratic America?

Fortunately, I was able to find raw video of Snowden “challenging” Putin, in the original Russian. The “questioning” starts about 18:50 into the video. Below is a rough translation:

PUTIN: I agree with you and if I’m elected governor, I will lower taxes whether those bureaucrats in the state capital like it or not! Ahem, Edward do you have a question you would like to ask your uncle Vlad?

SNOWDEN: Yes, sir, a very inane one. Mr. Putin, your campaign seems to have the momentum of a runaway freight train. Why are you so popular?

lisa mr burns runaway train

“Mr. Putin, your campaign seems to have the momentum of a runaway freight train. Why are you so popular?”

PUTIN: Ooh, a tough question but a fair one. Edward, there’s no single answer. Some voters respond to my integrity, others are more impressed with my incorruptibility. (Edward leaves the table) Still others buy my determination to lower taxes. And the bureaucrats in the state capital can put that in their pipes and smoke it!

[Edward is in the kitchen.]

SNOWDEN: Oh Mom, that felt awful.

THE GUARDIAN: Mmm… I’m sorry dear. It will all be over soon.

SNOWDEN: But Mom, we’ve become the tools of evil.

Yes, the cartoon-American ended up realizing she had become a tool of evil. The real American, not so much.


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Edward Snowden’s “George Zimmerman moment” on Russian TV http://americablog.com/2014/04/edward-snowden-pr-opp-putin.html http://americablog.com/2014/04/edward-snowden-pr-opp-putin.html#comments Fri, 18 Apr 2014 12:30:03 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=117527 NSA leaker/whistleblower Edward Snowden appeared on Russian television yesterday with President Vladimir Putin.

Putin was hosting an annual “question and answer” TV program, where he purportedly “takes questions from the public.”  One of the questions was from Edward Snowden.

Snowden asked whether Russia spies on its citizens.  Putin, incredibly, answered “no.” (The video is below.)

There is so much wrong with this.

Snowden, you’ll recall, sought exile in Russia after being sought by the US for espionage.  And while one can appreciate that, if you’re on the run and Russia is one of the few countries on the planet that will take you, then Russia it is, Snowden crossed the line yesterday, as he has done before.

Wrong time to be giving Putin a bear hug

Snowden appears on Russian television to ask President Putin a softball question in the middle of the Ukrainian crisis.

Snowden appears on Russian television to ask President Putin a softball question in the middle of the Ukrainian crisis.

It’s one thing to be a whistleblower, wrapped in the flag. It’s another to aid our country’s adversaries.  And at the moment, Putin is the bad guy, and Snowden gave him a big bear hug on national TV in the middle of a growing international crisis.

The United States – and much of the world – is in the middle of a huge effort to isolate Putin in the hopes of saving what is left of the Ukrainian nation.  Putin has already invaded and annexed Ukrainian Crimea, and Russian agents are now sowing civil discord in eastern Ukraine, in the hopes, the thinking goes, of fomenting a civil war that would “necessitate” Russian intervention to “save the day,” and conveniently annex Ukraine’s industry-rich eastern province.

The last thing anyone who claims to care about human rights and civil liberties should be doing at this moment is giving aid and comfort to Vladimir Putin.  But that’s exactly what Snowden did.  He didn’t just “ask a question.”  He knew the stakes for Putin, for the US, for Europe, and most importantly, for Ukraine, and chose to buttress the Russian president while diminishing the American one.  It was incredibly poor timing by someone who, if “perhaps” politically tone-deaf himself, has ample advisers in America who know a thing or two about politics and PR.

Snowden must have known Putin would lie, and was lying

Not to mention, how could Snowden ask Putin such a ludicrous question that he knew Putin would lie about?  As Eli Lake at the Daily Beast documents, Russian domestic spying puts America’s to shame.  (And you’ll note in the article that even Snowden’s usual defenders are somewhat tepid in their support of his appearance on Putin-TV.)

“I think it was ridiculous,” says Mark Galeotti, an expert on Russia’s security services who is also a professor at New York University. Andrei Soldatov, a Russian journalist who has broken major stories on the Russian intelligence service, the FSB, and is a Daily Beast contributor, was only slightly more charitable. “Putin never directly lies, he just tells half truths and his answer was a half truth,” he said. “In terms of what is going on inside the country, he was not correct. We have all signs of mass surveillance. My view is Russian surveillance is much more intrusive than what you have in the United States.”

But the FSB has far more power to eavesdrop on Russian and foreign citizens than the FBI or the NSA. In practice, according to Soldatov, the FSB has a back door into every server belonging to Russia’s telecom companies and Internet service provider. Snowden himself exposed a program known as PRISM that provided these so-called back doors to the NSA in the United States. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence last year published court records that showed in some cases the collection of Internet traffic targeted at foreign nationals inadvertently collected the Internet traffic of U.S. citizens for whom the agency had no warrant.

But in Russia, there is no special court or even a parliamentary committee to check the FSB’s work in the first place. “The interception is conducted by the ISP internet provider and not the law enforcement agency in the United States,” Soldatov said. “In Russia interception is conducted by the FSB directly. They have remote access to all Internet service providers and all telecom companies and they don’t have to even ask permission to view any of this data. While the NSA has collected all call records to search themselves, the FSB can actually listen to the content of phone calls without a warrant. Nobody would ask for this warrant because the ISP has no security clearance to see the warrant.”

Snowden’s “whistleblower” defense no longer holds up

I had concerns about Snowden from the beginning.  The fact that he went in to the spy business and was shocked to find that actual spying takes place, struck me as more bizarre than naive.  It just didn’t sound credible that anyone qualified enough to work at the NSA didn’t realize that the NSA was involved in some pretty hairy stuff.

In response to Edward Snowden's question as to whether Russia spies on its citizens, Putin lies.

In response to Edward Snowden’s question as to whether Russia spies on its citizens, Putin lies.

But let’s take him at his word, maybe Snowden was shocked by all the spying he suddenly found at America’s #1 spy agency.  Then another shoe dropped, that blew Snowden’s “shock and awe” defense out of the water: Snowden leaked the details of US spying on Russia.  That disclosure had nothing to do with the civil liberties of Americans, which supposedly is the issue motivating Snowden, and it’s supposedly the reason Snowden isn’t releasing any documents about Russia’s spy program, or any other antagonist of the US – because his goal is protecting American citizens, not ratting on the Russians.  So how exactly did Edward Snowden protect American citizens when he divulged the details of how the US spied on Russia’s leaders?  And while it’s fine for some to allege that Snowden’s revelations were no surprise to the Russians, so no harm no foul, the why did he do it at all?  We’re to believe that Snowden stole highly-classified documents in order to expose  US spying on Russia that everyone already knew we were doing?  That’s not whistleblowing.  That doesn’t even make sense.

Then, Snowden did it again.  This time leaking the details of US spying on China. Ditto to the fact that this disclosure did zero to help the civil liberties of Americans, and thus doesn’t explain why Snowden refused to leak the “crimes” of any country but America and its ally, the UK.  If Snowden truly cared about civil liberties – and his revelations about US spying on Russia and China suggest otherwise - he’d care about those liberties in Russia and China too.  And he doesn’t.

It’s also odd that Snowden thought it wise to leak the details of US spying on these two countries in particular.  China, and now Russia again, are two of America’s top competitors in the world, if not the top competitors – economically in the case of China, and strategically in the case of both. Though Russia is severely weakened as compared to its Soviet heyday, the Ukraine debacle proves that Russia can still cause serious damage when it wants to.  And if the Ukrainian crisis escalates, and Russia cuts off energy supplies to Europe, get ready for some rather fragile economies to plummet, and possibly take the rest of us along with them.  Shoring up the national security of Russia and China vis-a-vis the United States is not in the national interest of the United States, or of this country’s citizens.  So why did Snowden steal those documents from the NSA at all, if part of his overall intent wasn’t to simply harm the United States?

But some make the argument that Snowden didn’t just stumble upon the offending documents.  Rather, they say, Snowden took the job at the NSA with the explicit intent of finding noxious classified material to leak. And if that’s the case, then he might not be a whistleblower at all.

How can you be a whistleblower if you take a job with the intent of leaking classified documents that you don’t yet know exist, about a program you’ve not yet even heard of?

Per se Snowden didn’t know about the to-be-leaked programs before he got to the NSA, otherwise he wouldn’t have needed to join the NSA to get the documents about the programs in the first place. If Snowden already knew about the noxious programs while working at Booz-Allen, he could have gone public then and there. It sounds like Snowden joined the NSA, went in blind, had already chosen to become a whistleblower before finding any wrongdoing, and simply hadn’t yet found the appropriate whistle.

And that doesn’t make you a whistleblower, or a hero.  It simply makes you a guy looking for a fight.

UPDATE: Snowden has responded, via an op ed in the Guardian, to the criticism he’s been getting for the Putin appearance.


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Statins may help with dementia, Parkinson’s, cancer, stroke and more http://americablog.com/2014/04/statins-may-help-dementia-parkinsons-cancer-stroke.html http://americablog.com/2014/04/statins-may-help-dementia-parkinsons-cancer-stroke.html#comments Fri, 18 Apr 2014 11:00:35 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=117551 Statin drugs are known to reduce levels of cholesterol. Their primary use is aimed at helping to prevent cardiovascular disease. But there is evidence that statins may be useful in a number of other disease states, from dementia, to Parkinson’s, to various cancers.

There are a number of statin drugs available. They function by inhibiting an enzyme that is necessary for cholesterol synthesis. Blocking this enzyme, which is named 3-hydroxy-3-methyl-glutaryl-CoEnzymeA (HMGCoA) reductase (HMG-CoA reductase), also decreases production of a number of other intermediate compounds that are precursors of cholesterol. Among these is mevalonate (more on the importance of this later.)

Statins also have some other effects, in addition to lowering cholesterol.

Statins are anti-inflammatory

Simvastatin

Simvastatin

Inflammation occurs when the tissues in the body respond to some type of irritant, infection or to cellular injury.

The inflammatory response is an effort to limit damage and initiate repair. Sometimes the inflammatory response needs to be controlled when it is too robust and may be causing associated damage to the tissues where it occurs. Statins and other anti-inflammatory medications, like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), can help control this response and decrease the pain and swelling that are happen.

Statins also stabilize the plaque that builds up in arteries, and treating other diseases

Statins also stabilize the plaque that builds up in arteries. Theoretically, the more stable the plaque is, the less likely it is to serve as a site where a blood clot can occur in an artery, leading to a heart attack or possibly a stroke. Statins also seem to act to inhibit the formation of clots in these arteries as well.

Information has been accumulating that statins may be effective in treating other diseases. Some of these are: dementia, Parkinson’s disease, some forms of cancer, high blood pressure and, possibly, some others.

One study shows that a particular statin, simvastatin, seems to reduce the risk of both dementia and Parkinson’s disease in an older patient population (65 years and over.) The study used data from a large number of patients. The authors concluded that simvastatin can reduce the incidence of both dementia and Parkinson’s in a significant number of treated patients. Also, regarding statins decreasing the risk of dementia, see European Society of Cardiology (ESC) Congress 2013. Abstracts #1609, P4077.

Some research has shown that statins might not only be able to prevent some cancers, but they might also be able to act in conjunction with some chemotherapy drugs to improve the outcome of cancer treatments. As mentioned previously, the effects here might be related to the statins’ ability to decrease the production of mevalonate.

[S]everal preclinical studies indicate that statins may have cancer chemopreventive properties. The mechanistic data suggest that statins’ chemopreventive potential against cancer through their inhibition of the mevalonate pathway [54]. The mevalonate pathway is an important metabolic pathway that provide cell with bioactive molecules which play a key role in multiple cellular processes such as membrane integrity, cell signaling, protein synthesis, and cell cycle progression [55]. Statins’ inhibition of HMG-CoA reductase prevents the conversion of HMG-CoA to mevalonate, and thereby reduce levels of mevalonate and its downstream products, probably resulting in control of tumor initiation, growth, and metastasis [56], [57].
Increasing evidence also suggests that statins might enhance the antitumor activity of various cytokines and chemotherapeutic agents. In a phase 2 study of irinotecan, cisplatin, and simvastatin for untreated extensive-disease small cell lung cancer (ED-SCLC), the results indicated that the addition of simvastatin to irinotecan and cisplatin might improve the outcome of heavy smokers with ED-SCLC [58]. And another phase 2 study of gefitinib plus simvastatin versus gefitinib alone showed that simvastatin might improve the efficacy of gefitinib in that subgroup of gefitinib-resistant non-SCLC patients [59]. Because this field is new, only a few clinical trials have been reported so far. Therefore, the combined treatment of tumors with statins and anticancer drugs is an area of research that warrants future study.  (For additional information, see #53-60 from the linked research.)

This study presented some additional evidence that statins can act to lower blood pressure, even if given to patients who have normal cholesterol levels. Some of the evidence supports previous claims that statins could lower blood pressure. Though the author doesn’t recommend the routine use of statins as antihypertensive agents, he suggests that further research in this area might prove useful.

Statins may also have a role in reducing future strokes in some patients who have already suffered a stroke.

They may be useful in the treatment of chronic kidney disease in some patients.

Statins seem to decrease the recurrence of prostate cancer after initial treatment either via surgery or after internal radiotherapy treatment.

Current research is also looking at other diseases where statins might prove useful. Several of these diseases have an inflammatory component and statins may prove beneficial here.

Statins are not without risk

While the statins may be beneficial in a number of conditions, not just in cardiovascular disease, they are by no means totally benign drugs. They can have potentially serious, sometimes fatal, consequences. Most people have heard that statins can cause muscle pain. They can also, rarely, produce a reaction (rhabdomyolysis – destruction of muscle tissue) that can be fatal. And given with some other drugs (e.g., niacin, gemfibrozil and others) or foods (grapefruit juice), the risk of side effects from taking statins increases. There may also be a slight increase in the risk that a patient taking a statin could develop diabetes.

However, all drugs have side effects — we’ve all seen the commercials on TV, with the announcer in the most soothing voice possible informing us that the drug could kill us — and not every drug will work well for every patient. Before starting any prescription medication, consult with your doctor and discuss the risks and benefits of the medication.


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What happens when a guy asks random guys for a date (video) http://americablog.com/2014/04/guy-asks-random-men-street-date-see-video.html http://americablog.com/2014/04/guy-asks-random-men-street-date-see-video.html#comments Fri, 18 Apr 2014 01:00:05 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=117520 Gutsy. This guy decided to shoot a video of what happens when he asks random guys on the street for a date.

guy-asks-guys-out-for-date

He really went diverse – young, old, black, white, foreigners, you name it.

It was sometimes painful to watch, for me at least. I was brought up in a generation where you just assumed everybody was straight, and that if you got it wrong… well, it wasn’t always safe to get it wrong.  There’s a reason a lot of us developed gaydar.  For our survival.

The responses were really interesting. Most guys reacted well, it was California after all. One African guy went all Bible-thumpy on him. A few “not gay” guys decided it would be fun to experiment. That was kind of fun too.

And the last guy was a jerk. But the pick-up guy’s reaction was priceless.

guy-asks-guys-on-street-for-date


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Cat photobombs yoga video http://americablog.com/2014/04/cat-photobombs-yoga-video.html http://americablog.com/2014/04/cat-photobombs-yoga-video.html#comments Thu, 17 Apr 2014 22:56:03 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=117514 A woman apparently set up her camera to take a video of her yoga session.

Her cat had other ideas.

cat-photobomb-yoga


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Chelsea Clinton is pregnant http://americablog.com/2014/04/chelsea-clinton-pregnant.html http://americablog.com/2014/04/chelsea-clinton-pregnant.html#comments Thu, 17 Apr 2014 20:36:12 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=117506 Chelsea Clinton just announced that she’s pregnant.

“Marc and I are very excited that we have our first child arriving later this year,” she said, according to Amy Chozick of the New York Times (via Twitter).

“I just hope that I will be a good mom to my child and hopefully children as my mom was to me,” she added, according to Phil Rucker, also via Twitter.

Chelsea married investment banker  Marc Mezvinsky in 2010.

Chelsea Clinton via Juli Hansen / Shutterstock.com">Shutterstock

Chelsea Clinton via Juli Hansen / Shutterstock.com

Just the other day, Chelsea was reported as saying she wouldn’t rule out a political run in the future:

“I live in a city and a state and a country where I support my elected representatives. If at some point that weren’t the case, and I didn’t support my mayor or my city councilwoman or my congresswoman or either of my senators — and I’m lucky to live in a state where I have lots of women representing me, you know — maybe then I’d have to ask and answer the question for myself, and come to a different answer.”

Hillary Clinton, Chelsea Clinton and Bill Clinton attend the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting at The Shertaon New York Hotel on September 24, 2013 in New York City. JStone / Shutterstock.com

Hillary Clinton, Chelsea Clinton and Bill Clinton attend the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting at The Sheraton New York Hotel on September 24, 2013 in New York City. JStone / Shutterstock.com


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Jews in eastern Ukraine told to register with pro-Russian forces, or else http://americablog.com/2014/04/jews-eastern-ukraine-told-register-pro-russian-forces.html http://americablog.com/2014/04/jews-eastern-ukraine-told-register-pro-russian-forces.html#comments Thu, 17 Apr 2014 18:42:29 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=117497 In the last few days, leaflets have been distributed around eastern Ukraine, by pro-Russian separatists carrying Russian flags, demanding that Jews register with pro-Russian forces, or face deportation.

The leaflets read as follows (translated from Russian):

“Dear citizens of Jewish nationality! Due to the fact that the leaders of the Jewish community in Ukraine supported Bendery junta in Kiev, and is hostile to Orthodox Donetsk republic and its citizens, Main Headquarters Donetsk republic ruled as follows: All citizens of Jewish nationality over 16 years, residing in the territory of a sovereign republic Donetsk need to before May 3, 2014 come to the Commissioner for Nationalities in the building of Donetsk Regional Administration, Office 514 for registration. The registration fee is U.S. $ 50. If you should have cash in the amount of U.S. $ 50 registration fee for passports to mark the religion, documents of family members, as well as documents of title to all real property owned by you and vehicles. In case of evasion from registering, perpetrators will be stripped of their citizenship and deported forcibly outside the country with confiscation of property. “

A copy of the leaflet was published by the Novosti Donbassa news service:

ukraine-anti-jewish-leaflet

US Secretary of State John Kerry weighed in today: “Just in the last couple of days, notices were sent to Jews, indicating that they have to identify themselves as Jews. And obviously, the accompanying threat implied is [garbled] or suffer the consequences… In the year 2014, after all of the miles traveled in all the journey of history, this is not just intolerable, it’s grotesque. It is beyond unacceptable.”

Interestingly, the Russians have been trying to justify their invasion and annexation of Ukrainian Crimea, and their, some think, imminent invasion of the eastern Ukraine, in part by the claim that the Ukrainian government, and Maidan protesters, are controlled by Nazis.

In fact, the government, and protesters, do include members of the far-right, but this is a sadly common occurence in a number of European countries, including France, Greece and Sweden, among others.  Ukraine is no different.

vk-nazi-masks

Neo-Nazis regularly organize on Russian social media site VK.com.

Now, a government that does condone the actions of neo-Nazis, and which refuses to arrest them for serial abductions of over 1,000 people, is the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin, as I’ve documented repeatedly.

Putin has tolerated for going on two years now a neo-Nazi ring with branches in at least 30 Russian cities, and which claims to have abducted and tortured nearly 1,500 young people, mostly gay – some as young as 13 years of age.  The neo-Nazis are virulently anti-Semitic, and admirers of Adolf Hitler, a man who cost the Russian 20 million lives during World War II.  Apparently, the Putin regime has gotten over the traditional Russian disgust at all things Nazi.

Because the neo-Nazis share Putin’s agenda of attacking minorities, including gays, blacks and jews, the Kremlin is fine with letting them continue their criminal enterprise, mostly on the social media site VKontakte (VK.com), controlled by Putin ally Alister Usmanov.  Usmanov’s other properties benefit from investments from the NYC and New York State pension funds, and the pension fund of the state of California, CalPERS.

NY state and NYC, in addition to the state of California, apparently have no problem investing in Putin-allied Russian oligarchs who run ventures used by neo-Nazis to plan the abductions of 13 year old gay children.


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Daughter of lawyer who defended anti-gay Prop 8 comes out, getting married http://americablog.com/2014/04/kid-lawyer-defended-anti-gay-prop-8-comes-getting-married.html http://americablog.com/2014/04/kid-lawyer-defended-anti-gay-prop-8-comes-getting-married.html#comments Thu, 17 Apr 2014 17:03:48 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=117479 Gay rights advocates have always said that “coming out” was the most important thing a gay person could do to advance our civil rights.  It’s why “National Coming Out Day,” October 11, was established years ago.

With the amazing advances we’ve made on the civil rights front in the past several years (and decades really), I think people sometimes forget that not everyone is “out,” and not everyone has a close relative who (they know) is gay.

That’s why the story of Charles Cooper, the lawyer who argued just last year before the US Supreme Court in favor of the constitutionality of California’s gay marriage ban, Proposition 8, is so compelling.

Cooper’s daughter came out to him, is getting married to another woman, and Cooper is helping her plan the wedding.

Prop 8 plaintiffs outside the Supreme Court.

Prop 8 plaintiffs outside the Supreme Court.

Cooper now says his views on gay marriage are “evolving,” invoking the phrase that President Obama used several years ago in response to a question on gay marriage from then- AMERICAblog deputy editor Joe Sudbay.

Oh what a difference a year makes.

Cooper said the following about his new views: ”My views evolve on issues of this kind the same way as other people’s do, and how I view this down the road may not be the way I view it now, or how I viewed it ten years ago.”

Dad is still a little cagey on whether he thinks his daughter is about to bring about the ruin of mankind.

Cooper’s quote was in a new book about the gay marriage battle by Jo Becker, ”Forcing the Spring: Inside the Fight for Marriage Equality.”  The book reportedly credits AFER, an organization set up by now-head of HRC Chad Griffin, with the success that is today’s movement for marriage equality.

And I’m not so sure.

AFER was the tsunami leading the battle on gay marriage, until Edie Windsor stepped in and crossed the finish line first.

You’ll recall two things.  First, while AFER defeated Proposition 8 in lower courts, the Supreme Court threw the case out for lack of standing.  That left a lower court decision in place, one that struck down Prop 8 and let gay marriages start up again in California.  But it had no impact outside of California.

edie-windsor

Edie Windsor

Second, Edie Windsor, on the other hand, took her case all the way to the Supreme Court, and it was Windsor’s case last summer that the Supreme Court used to strike down a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).  That decision has now led to 14 consecutive victories in court for same-sex marriage advocates in less than a year.

Proposition 8 was a uniquely evil referendum.  It didn’t just ban gay marriage.  It repealed an already-existing civil right in California of gay couples to marry.  It also was intended to dissolve the already-existing legal marriages of 18,000 gay couples.  So don’t let anyone tell you Prop 8 was simply “opposition to gay marriage.”  It was a brutal, ugly play by the Mormons, the Catholics and the religious right to actually take civil rights away from American citizens, and to dissolve their marriages.  Something unheard of in the gay rights, or civil rights, battle.

Obama-phone-Edie-Windsor


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Vintage 1960s IRS video introduces anxious Americans to wonder of “computers” http://americablog.com/2014/04/1953-irs-video-introduces-anxious-americans-computers.html http://americablog.com/2014/04/1953-irs-video-introduces-anxious-americans-computers.html#comments Thu, 17 Apr 2014 15:22:04 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=117458 A simply wonderful vintage video from the Internal Revenue Service in the early ’60s, showing the magic of new “computers” the IRS is using to process tax returns.

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irs-computer-video-women-typingx

Apparently, when the IRS began using computers in 1961, people were pretty freaked about it.  More from NetworkWorld:

From today’s National Archives blog on the topic: “When the IRS began using computers in 1961, many people were horrified. An article in Harper’s Magazine titled, “The Martinsburg Monster: A True Horror Story for Taxpayers,” described how computers limited the possibilities for refunds. A tax expert then envisioned a scenario in which erroneous notices forced people to overpay, or $100 million dollars in unwarranted refund checks were issued.

The shift towards computer technology also made Internal Revenue Commissioner, Mortimer Caplin, a well-known and controversial figure. One reporter accused Caplin of “bringing Big Brother into everyone’s life in the form of the Martinsburg Monster.” In February 1963, Caplin was the cover story of Time magazine, in which he supported the changes made under his administration. Controversy surrounding the IRS computers was not limited to water cooler conversations, it was reflected in the mass media.”

The video is a riot. The people, the clothing, the hairdos.

Look at this data entry device.

irs-typewriter

And this lady. The glasses!

irs-4-woman-

And this guy’s suit on the left is far cooler in the video – it’s that cool skinny 1950s look.

irs-computers

 And the hair – it’s Annette!

irs-anette

Naturally, the women are busy typing…

irs-5

…While the men are the “executives.”irs-men

I did find it interesting, however, that there was a black woman among the white women doing data entry – for 1953, at least that job was integrated, and the IRS had no problem showing that it was.

It’s a fun video.

irs-computersx

“This is the real heart of the Martinsburg monster.”

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In-your-face video from Bloomberg’s new gun-violence group Everytown http://americablog.com/2014/04/face-video-bloombergs-new-gun-group-everytown.html http://americablog.com/2014/04/face-video-bloombergs-new-gun-group-everytown.html#comments Thu, 17 Apr 2014 12:30:39 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=117449 Former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg is an avid gun control advocate who puts his money where his mouth is. And he’s doing it again.

Bloomberg just announced the formation of a new group called Everytown for Gun Safety. The group will spend $50 million on in-your-face advocacy against gun violence between now and the 2014 midterm elections.

A number of the new stories about Everytown are noting that the NRA spends about $20 million per year on political activities. And they’re rather vicious. Bloomberg’s intent is to be just as hard-nosed in response.  They’re particularly looking at going after moms. Which is clear from their first video, below.

bloomberg-everytown-gun-control

I’ve always said that I have two models, mentor-movements really, for my advocacy work: The NRA, and AIPAC.

When I worked on the Hill, both groups knew how to sow fear in the halls of Congress.  It’s what other should aspire to.  It’s what gay rights advocacy, the ones on the ground, aspire to.  And it’s what the anti-gun-violence movement should do as well.

This video is a good first step.


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Study successfully uses electrode implants to help paraplegics move their legs http://americablog.com/2014/04/study-successfully-uses-electrode-implants-help-paraplegics-move-legs.html http://americablog.com/2014/04/study-successfully-uses-electrode-implants-help-paraplegics-move-legs.html#comments Thu, 17 Apr 2014 11:00:38 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=117428 A happy, and amazing, study to start the day with. Using implanted electrodes, researchers are helping paraplegics move their legs again.

Patients who have severe spinal cord injuries can often become paralyzed. Depending on the type of injury and the area of the cord injured, the patient may have both lower limbs paralyzed, or may have all four limbs paralyzed, among other possible outcomes.

Having the lower limbs paralyzed is referred to as paraplegia. A new technique was used successfully on four young male paraplegics to help restore motor function to their lower limbs. All four of these men had sustained injuries to their spinal cords that caused them to lose motor control of their legs. In essence, they couldn’t move any muscles in their legs or feet, much less walk or stand.

Currently, patients who are paraplegic would always need assistive devices to move. For example, they might need to use a wheelchair or some other device. The patients selected had all been paraplegics for some time and had been receiving physical therapy to their leg muscles to prevent wasting and malformation.

This patient was able to move his leg for the first time using implanted electrodes.

This patient was able to move his leg for the first time using implanted electrodes.

In a normally functioning spinal cord, sensory messages travel from the feet and legs to the brain. When the patient needs to move his lower limbs, the brain sends impulses through motor nerves to the muscles causing them to move. The nerve cells that perform these functions travel from one place to another via the spinal cord. Think of the spinal cord as an ethernet cable connecting the computer to the router. It transmits information from the brain (computer) to the router (muscles) and vice versa (as the router receives external input to transmit to the computer.)

These men all had injuries that damaged their “ethernet cables.” To fix that, using the computer analogy, you “just” replace the cable. But the spinal cord is much more complex and can’t be replaced as easily as a cable. Attempts to somehow fix the damaged area of the spinal cord (e.g., by using stem cells) have had somewhat limited results.

This technique acts to bypass the injured area completely.

Neurosurgeons implanted electrodes below the level of the injury to the cord. These electrodes emit current in specific patterns in response to either sensory input from the patient or other signals. These generated electrical patterns, stimulate motor nerves that run to the muscles. When stimulated, they cause the muscles to react. In these cases, the men can use sound cues. The patients use a hand-held device that can activate the spinal electrode array, turning it on of off. Then, using voice commands that are picked up by sensors and translated into electrical impulses, they can order their legs, feet and toes to move. The video below shows one of the patients telling his leg to move and it responds almost instantly.

Rob Summers lost the movement in his legs after a hit-and-run accident.

Rob Summers lost the movement in his legs after a hit-and-run accident.

The movements are clumsy, but considering that prior to this the patients had no ability to move these limbs at all, the results are amazing. Also the video shows how another patient, former Oregon State pitcher Rob Summers, who was paralyzed in a hit-and-run accident, can now get himself into a sitting position, from laying back, using his legs.  You’ll see Summers laying back, then lifting his legs to help him sit back up. This is something that he could only do in the past by using his arms to pull himself upright (or by having someone assist him), since he could lift his legs.

It still remains to be seen how these patients will progress in the future. They’ll continue to have physical and occupational therapy. Perhaps they’ll be eventually be able to walk with limited or no assistance.

The researchers who did the study are actively continuing to work. They are going to do implants in additional patients to gather more data. They are also working to improve the hand-held stimulator as their patients continue with ongoing therapy.

This is a follow-up study done at the University of Louisville by Dr. C. Angeli, et al. Part of the funding for this research came from the National Institutes of Health. Continued funding of this, and many other projects, is contingent on the government providing research funds. With the current state of affairs in Washington, funding for research always seems near the top of the list to feel the budget-cutting axe. I did a story on the horrific research cuts that occurred thanks to the sequester. I fear that funding for medical research – for diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer disease, mental health, HIV, stroke, cancer research and hundreds of other ailments, will continue to decrease.


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Hilarious Southwest Flight attendant does the safety talk like you’ve never heard it (video) http://americablog.com/2014/04/classic-southwest-flight-attendant.html http://americablog.com/2014/04/classic-southwest-flight-attendant.html#comments Thu, 17 Apr 2014 00:40:46 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=117445 I had no idea, until I took a recent Southwest Airlines flight, that the flight attendants have their own unique way of going through the safety speech before the flight.

southwest-flight-attendant-safety-speech

“And if you’re traveling with small children, we’re sorry.”

It’s generally hilarious. This one is the best I’ve heard yet.

It’s not too long, and I think you’ll enjoy it.


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Only 8% of Republicans say contraceptive use is “morally unacceptable” http://americablog.com/2014/04/8-percent-republicans-say-contraceptive-use-morally-unacceptable.html http://americablog.com/2014/04/8-percent-republicans-say-contraceptive-use-morally-unacceptable.html#comments Wed, 16 Apr 2014 21:04:40 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=117432 A new PEW poll found that only 8% of Republicans find contraception “morally unacceptable.”

The findings are somewhat at odds with the Republican party’s focus on stopping Obamacare from covering women’s use of contraceptives, epitomized in the Hobby Lobby case.

It’s also at odds with the Catholic church, which is leading the effort to block the Affordable Care Act in this area.

 

FT_republicans-morality

PEW found that only 6% of Democrats, 7% of Independents, and 8% of Republicans believed contraception to be “morally unacceptable.”

PEW also found that while Republicans tend to be anti-abortion to the tune of 68% finding it morally unacceptable, only 54%, slightly more than a majority, found homosexuality the same.

Interestingly, both Democrats and Republicans, in sizable numbers, found extramarital affairs (adultery) to be morally unacceptable.

PEW found, looking internationally, that the only country in which fewer than half of the respondents found extramarital affairs morally unacceptable was France.

hollande


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Study: HIV incidence 4x higher in people with mental health diagnoses http://americablog.com/2014/04/hiv-incidence-almost-4-times-higher-people-mental-health-diagnoses.html http://americablog.com/2014/04/hiv-incidence-almost-4-times-higher-people-mental-health-diagnoses.html#comments Wed, 16 Apr 2014 18:25:38 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=117419 A recent study took a look at the incidence of HIV in people who had mental health diagnoses, and found that they were four times more likely to be HIV positive than the general population.

There were people who were being treated either as inpatients on a psychiatric unit, who were outpatients at a psychiatric hospital, or were receiving mental health services in community mental health centers. The research was done at sites in Philadelphia, PA and Baltimore, MD. Over 1,000 patients were included in the study and were tested for HIV. All HIV screening tests were later confirmed with a Western blot analysis.

The incidence of HIV infections in the general populations of Philadelphia and Baltimore are both about 1.3%. Testing on the patients in this study showed that, overall, 4.9% of patients currently being treated for psychiatric illnesses were HIV positive. Patients in the inpatient psychiatric units averaged 5.9% positive. In the group of patients who were outpatients at the psychiatric hospitals, the rate of HIV infection was 5.1%. In the community mental health centers is was around 4%. Also, more than 12 patients who didn’t think that they were HIV positive when they agreed to participate in the trial, were found to be HIV positive after testing.

Mental health via Shutterstock

Mental health via Shutterstock

The researchers were surprised that so many patients were found to be HIV positive. These patients had all been in previous psychiatric treatment. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) suggests that these patients get tested for HIV. Apparently some clinical sites were failing to do this.

Additionally, the researchers found that the more severe the psychiatric symptoms were, the higher the risk for infection with HIV.

Often, the patients with the most severe mental illnesses (e.g., psychosis) are hospitalized. In this study, those patients who were hospitalized had the highest rate of HIV infection (>5%). Those with less severe symptoms, treated in the community setting, had a lower (4%) rate of HIV infection. But even that rate was significantly higher than the rate in the general population (1.3%.)

This research also showed that there was a higher incidence of HIV infections in the psychiatric population for people who were African-American, gay or bisexual, and/or who were infected with Hepatitis C.

This study points out that those patients with mental illness may not be getting screened for HIV appropriately, and some may be inadequately treated or even not treated at all. The authors state: “These findings reinforce recommendations for routine HIV testing in all clinical settings to ensure that HIV-infected persons receiving mental health services are identified and referred to timely infectious disease care.”

There are a number of other groups that also seem to be falling through the cracks and not getting screened for HIV. Teens, African-American men, those who have limited access to health care, and the aging population, among others, have all been identified as groups where access to HIV testing is limited or underutilized. This study indicates that patients with mental illness need to be included with those groups, as well.


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Louisiana House retains ban on oral sex, straight and gay, even married http://americablog.com/2014/04/louisiana-house-votes-overwhelmingly-retain-unconstitutional-ban-oral-sex-straight-gay.html http://americablog.com/2014/04/louisiana-house-votes-overwhelmingly-retain-unconstitutional-ban-oral-sex-straight-gay.html#comments Wed, 16 Apr 2014 15:55:04 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=117408 Oh Louisiana. You had to go there.

The Louisiana House of Representatives voted 67-27 in favor of retaining the state’s illegal, unconstitutional, and already-struck-down-by-the-Supreme-Court-11-years-ago ban on “crimes again nature,” aka “sodomy,” aka oral and anal sex, between both gay and straight couples, married and single.

Oh yes, Louisiana just voted to make oral sex between heterosexual married people illegal.

You can see Louisiana’s current law, and the proposed amendment, here.

As we’ve written before, politicians who vote to make oral sex illegal, including oral sex between married people, are on a slipper slope as most, I dare say, have in their lives, and probably in their marriages (one hopes) done the deed.

As I’d already mentioned, the Supreme Court struck down these sodomy bans over ten years ago, in 2003.  But a number of states, especially in the south, refuse to repeal their statutes that are on the books, lest people think they like the gay (sounds a lot like the Anglicans). What’s resulted is that some local law enforcement keep arrested people based on these laws that no longer exist. It happened in Louisiana just last year. (A sheriff in Idaho also, erroneously, claimed last year that sodomy was “illegal” in that state – it isn’t.)

A number of years ago, in an effort to get to the bottom of all of this, we at AMERICAblog launched “Happy Sodomy Day!” to celebrate Congress’ staunch opposition to sodomy, and firm support for the sanctity of marriage.  We had you, our loyal readers, phone your member of Congress and ask them if they’d ever sodomized their spouse.  And you did.  And it was great fun.

Our specific message for folks to ask their members of Congress was:

Specifically, we’d like you to ask them to vow that in the past, now, and in the future they will abstain from sodomy (including same-sex and/or male-female analingus, cunnilingus, and fellatio), masturbation, adultery, prostitution, out-of-wedlock sex, and marriages that cannot procreate. We will also ask them about divorce, as there is no greater threat to marriage today than divorce (in addition, the Bible makes clear that divorce is a no-no).

daily beast on scalia: Do you sodomize your wife?We’d gotten the idea from the NYU (I believe) law student who confronted Antonin Scalia in 2004 and asked him if he sodomizes his wife. Scalia refused to answer. We’d asked the same of Virginia GOP gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli last year.  Cuccinelli also refused to answer.

Republicans are big fans of opposing sodomy (which includes heterosexual oral sex between married couples) at the legislature, when it comes to putting the clamps on your bedroom, but they’re far more tight-lipped about it when it comes to their own bedroom.

No more.

It’s time to ring up the Louisiana legislature and ask them our message above – have they ever performed or received analingus, cunnilingus, or fellatio, and will they vow in the future to never perform, or receive, such acts.

We want to hear their answers.  So does Dan Savage.

Here’s the list of Louisiana legislators who voted against getting rid of the law criminalizes sodomy:

Bryan Adams, R-Gretna; John “Andy” Anders, D-Vidalia; James Armes, D-Leeville; Taylor Barras R-New Iberia; John Berthelot, R-Gonzales; Robert Billiot, R-Westwego; Stuart Bishop, R-Lafayette; Chris Broadwater, R-Hammond; Terry Brown R-Colfax; Terry Burns, R-Haughton; Timothy Burns, R-Mandeville;Thomas Carmody, R-Shreveport; Steve Carter, R-Baton Rouge; Simone Champagne, R-Erath; Charles Chaney, R-Rayville; Patrick Connick, R-Marrero; Gregory Cromer, R-Slidell; Michael Danahay, D-Sulphur; Gordon Dove, R-Houma; Jim Fannin, R-Jonesboro; Ray Garofalo, R-Chalmette; Brett Geymann, R-Lake Charles; Jerry Gisclair, D-Larose; Hunter Greene, R-Baton Rouge; Mickey Guillory, D-Eunice; John Guinn, R-Jennings; Lance Harris, R-Alexandria; Joe Harrison, R-Gray; Kenneth Havard, R-Jackson; Cameron Henry, R-Metairie; Bob Hensgens, R-Abbeville; Dorothy Sue Hill, D-Dry Creek; Valarie Hodges, R-Denham Springs; Frank Hoffman, R-West Monroe; Paul Hollis, R-Covington; Frank Howard, R-Many; Mike Huval, R-Breaux Bridge; Barry Ivey, R-Baton Rouge; Robert Johnson, D-Marksville; Sam Jones, D-Franklin; Eddie Lambert, R-Gonzales; Bernard LeBas, D-Ville Platte; Christopher Leopold, R-Belle Chase; Joe Lopinto, R-Metairie; Nick Lorusso, R-New Orleans; Sherman Mack, R-Livingston; Gregory Miller, R-Norco; Jay Morris, R-Monroe; Jim Morris, R-Oil City; Kevin Pearson, R-Slidell; Erich Ponti, R-Baton Rouge; Rogers Pope, R-Denham Springs; Stephen Pugh, R-Ponchatoula; Steve Pylant, R-Winnsboro; Eugene Reynolds, D-Minden; Jerome Richard, I-Thibodaux; Harold Ritchie, D-Bogalusa; Clay Schexnayder, R-Gonzales; John Schroder, R-Covington; Alan Seabaugh, R-Shreveport; Robert Shadoin, R-Ruston; Scott Simon, R-Abita Springs; Julia Stokes, R-Kenner; Kirk Talbot, R-River Ridge; Jeff Thompson, R-Bossier City; Lenar Whitney, R-Houma; Thomas Willmott, R-Kenner

And here are a few contact points – I’d suggest blasting them all via Twitter and Facebook for starters, if they have such accounts, then ring em up and take notes.

Louisiana House main Twitter feed: @LouisianaHouse
Louisiana House Facebook page.

You can also find at least the members’ email addresses and phone numbers here.


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(Updated) Why is Public Television against public schools? http://americablog.com/2014/04/why-is-pbs-public-television-against-public-schools.html http://americablog.com/2014/04/why-is-pbs-public-television-against-public-schools.html#comments Wed, 16 Apr 2014 13:00:27 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=117270 I’ve written off and on about PBS, NPR and the fact that these self-styled “public” media outlets appear to have been captured by the billionaires (like James Tisch and David Koch) who control the major content-producing stations — WNET in New York, WGBH in Boston and WETA in Washington.

But wait, there’s more. Thanks to the Stars Hollow Gazette, we find this, from Peter Dreier at Huffington Post (my emphasis and paragraphing):

Why Is Public Television Against Public Schools?

You’d think that that public television would support public education, but you’d be wrong. The Public Broadcasting System (PBS) has gotten in bed with the billionaires and conservatives who want to privatize our public schools.

Money doesn't talk; it buys everything in sight.

Money doesn’t talk; it buys everything in sight, like PBS.

PBS has nary a word to say about the big money — from folks like the Walton family (Walmart), Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Eli Broad, business titan and former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, media mogul Rupert Murdoch, Joel Klein (former NYC schools chancellor and now a Murdoch employee), and their ilk — that has been funding the attack on public schools and teachers unions. They’ve donated big bucks to advocacy groups, think tanks, and candidates for school boards who echo the their party line.

[But] PBS and its local stations have fallen all over themselves to promote “Waiting for Superman,” a documentary film that could easily been mistaken for a commercial on behalf of charter schools. In contrast, missing from the lineups on most PBS affiliates is a remarkable new documentary film, “Go Public,” about the day in the life of a public school system in California. The film celebrates public schools without ignoring their troubles. Americans who care about public schools should contact their local PBS affiliates and urge them to broadcast “Go Public.”

And a list of PBS’s “crimes” against truth in education advocacy:

On PBS, there’s a virtual broadcast blackout of major critics of this assault on public education. One of them is historian Diane Ravitch, author of ten books about education …

PBS has failed to report on, much less investigate, one of the most well-funded political campaigns in the last few decades — the propaganda crusade to disparage public schools and public school teachers. …

The billionaires supply the money but others do most of the talking. The chief cheerleaders include Michelle Rhee (former Washington, D.C. school chief who now runs Schools First, a corporate-funded lobby group), Wendy Kopp (founder of Teach for America), Geoffrey Canada (founder of Harlem Children’s Zone), [Obama's hand-picked] Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and Klein. They routinely get to spew their propaganda on PBS. …

One horrid, telling example of the intersection of big money, charter schools and anti-public school propaganda:

Should you be financing the "new PBS"? Let the billionaires do that.

Should you be financing the “new PBS”?
Let the billionaires do that.

Last month, for example, Families for Excellent Schools — a pro-charter school group funded by the Walton family (Walmart heirs) and Wall Street financiers — spent $3.6 million on TV ads over a three-week period to attack New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio for his opposition to giving charter schools free space in the city’s public schools. The ringleader of this business-funded lobby is Eva Moskowitz, a former NYC councilwoman who operates 22 city charter schools with millions of dollars in assets and earns a $475,000 salary.

And there’s more; read the article for all that PBS does to promote the billionaire anti-public education agenda. What’s really going on? Last quote; Dreier nails it here:

The corporate big-wigs are part of an effort that they and the media misleadingly call “school reform.” What they’re really after is not “reform” (improving our schools for the sake of students) but “privatization” (business control of public education).

All you need to know.

Did PBS sleep next to a pod?

I think PBS went to sleep in the Reagan 80s, and woke up next to a pod. We’re watching — and financing — the result, as if the “old PBS” were still alive.

It isn’t. And about that financing … don’t. Let the billionaires spend their own money to keep their “public” propaganda machine oiled. Don’t you do it. I’m serious — stop financing PBS today.

If you’re interested in the documentary mentioned above, “Go Public”, the trailer is here. Enjoy.

Update: For a note about terminology, see this good comment. The key idea is that the major “public television” stations, like WNET, WGBH and WETA, as noted above, create content (programs) that are made available by PBS, the distributor, to all “public television” stations, who decide what to run. Frontline, for example, is produced at WGBH. That horrible anti-pension propaganda series Pension Peril was produced by WNET and run on News Hour. If you think WGBH is “clean,” think again. David Koch sits on their Board of Directors.

So what is “public television”? It’s the whole thing. In other words, they’re all in bed with each other. My point stands — don’t give money to any public television entity involved in the promotion of billionaire propaganda, like that described here. Don’t give to WGBH until David Koch resigns.

If you want to keep Bill Moyers in business, or Terry Gross, give to them directly.

GP

Twitter: @Gaius_Publius
Facebook: Gaius Publi

(Facebook note: To get the most from a Facebook recommendation, be sure to Share what you also Like. Thanks.)

 

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GOP publication: Blood Moon is God’s warning to Obama http://americablog.com/2014/04/leading-gop-publication-blood-moon-gods-warning-obama.html http://americablog.com/2014/04/leading-gop-publication-blood-moon-gods-warning-obama.html#comments Wed, 16 Apr 2014 11:00:31 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=117394 WorldNetDaily (WND), one of the lead conservative propaganda publications, somehow managed to blame Monday night’s “Blood Moon” lunar eclipse on President Obama.

And you might not be surprised to hear that the linkage wasn’t good.

As RightWingWatch explains, the religious right has claimed for a while now that the Obama administration is planning to “divide” Israel, by forcing the country to give away land as part of a Middle East peace deal.  The right-wingers claim that this will make God very very angry.

blood-moon-nasa

Blood Moon of April 15, 2014, courtesy of NASA.

Here’s Pat Robertson’s warning of just a few days ago:

For the United States to get into a deal where they’re trying to split Jerusalem and take it away from the Israelis and split up their capital, huge mistake. You are asking for the wrath of Almighty God to fall on this nation and when it falls it won’t be fun, it won’t be fun. We should do everything we can to restrain our leaders from this course of folly and it is and it is a course of folly and it will result in terrible suffering for people in the United States.

And here’s GOP Congressman Louis Gohmert two weeks ago:

Since I do believe the Bible, those nations that divide Israel are going to be judged and it isn’t going to be pretty.

Now, the religious right never mentions the reason they care so much about “saving Israel.”  They need Israel to survive in order to usher in the Second Coming of Jesus, during which Israel will go up in flames and 2/3 of the world’s Jews will die a horrible death.  If there’s no Israel left to go up in flames, there’s no Second Coming – it’s that easy.  Ironically, WorldNetDaily has confirmed the linkage

So back to the Blood Moon, WND quotes Blood Moon “expert” Pastor Mark Blitz, who has a new book explaining how blood moons are portents of big historical happenings:

I believe that the blood moons have great historic and prophetic significance just as they did following 1948 and 1967. In the book of Joel it mentions three times about the sun and the moon going dark and in context it also mentions Divine wrath against all countries that want to divide or part the land of Israel.

Did you catch that? “Countries that want to divide or part the land of Israel.”  That’s a veiled warning to Obama.

Say what you will about Democrats, but our crazies truly are fringe, with no actual power.  On the right, the fringe are the party’s top pundits, run the most influential publications, and hold election certificates.


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