Monday, December 31, 2012

Indian Women March: ‘That Girl Could Have Been Any One of Us’

From The New York Times:

By and Published: December 30, 2012

NEW DELHI — Neha Kaul Mehra says she was only 7 years old the first time she was sexually harassed. She was walking to a dance class in an affluent neighborhood of New Delhi when a man confronted her and began openly masturbating.

The police patrolled a New Delhi rally on Sunday after the cremation of a woman whose rape prompted widespread protests.

That episode was far from the last. Years of verbal and physical sexual affronts left Ms. Mehra, now 29, filled with what she described as “impotent rage.”

Last week, she and thousands of Indian women like her poured that anger into public demonstrations, reacting to news of the gang rape of another young woman who had moved to the city from a small village, with a new life in front of her.

That woman, a 23-year-old physiotherapy student, died Saturday from internal injuries inflicted with a metal rod during the rape, which took place on a bus two weeks ago.

In her story and its brutal ending, many women in the world’s largest democracy say they see themselves.

“That girl could have been any one of us,” said Sangeetha Saini, 44, who took her two teenage daughters to a candle-filled demonstration on Sunday in Delhi. Women in India “face harassment in public spaces, streets, on buses,” she said. “We can only tackle this by becoming Durga,” she added, referring to the female Hindu god who slays a demon.

Indian women have made impressive gains in recent years: maternal mortality rates have dropped, literacy rates and education levels have risen, and millions of women have joined the professional classes. But the women at the heart of the protest movement say it was born of their outraged realization that no matter how accomplished they become, or how hard they work, women here will never fully take part in the promise of a new and more prosperous India unless something fundamental about the culture changes.

Indeed, many women in India say they are still subject to regular harassment and assault during the day and are fearful of leaving their homes alone after dark. Now they are demanding that the government, and a police force that they say offers women little or no protection, do something about it.

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Italian women protest misogynist priest: Violence against women ‘an emergency’

From Raw Story:

By Eric W. Dolan
Sunday, December 30, 2012

Women in Carrara, Italy protested at Sunday mass against a misogynistic priest who suggested women incited domestic and sexual violence against themselves.

“We decided to stage this protest because we think that this ideology is basically shared by most of the Catholic Church and society. This ideology has become one of the causes of violence against women, which is actually an emergency in Italy,” said Alessandra Verdini, an anthropologist and women’s rights activist who organized the protest.

Father Piero Corsi of Liguria said in a Christmas bulletin that the rise in domestic violence in Italy was caused by women serving cold food, not looking after their children, not cleaning their home, acting arrogant, and dressing provocatively.

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Belgium To Prosecute Scientology As Criminal Organization; Church Faces Charges Of Extortion, Fraud

From Huffington Post:

Posted: 12/28/2012

Federal public prosecutors in Belgium will institute legal proceedings against the church of Scientology in that country and seek to recognize it as a criminal organization.

The church of Scientology -- which is not recognized as a faith in Belgium -- and several of its top-ranking members face charges including extortion, fraud, illegal practice of medicine and violation of privacy laws, according to Flanders News.

The complaint stems from an investigation of fraudulent labor contracts issued by the church of Scientology in an effort to recruit new volunteers and members. A judge ordered raids on Scientology offices in 2008 that allegedly uncovered a "wealth of evidence" that the organization had spied on and extorted money from its members, according to De Standaard.

An estimated 500 people belong to the church of Scientology in Belgium. The organization's European headquarters are located in Brussels.

Belgium is not the only European country in which Scientology has faced criticism and legal action.
Scientology came under fire in France in 2009 when it was convicted of fraud for "[pressuring] members into paying large sum for questionable remedies," according to the Associated Press. That conviction was upheld in a French appeals court in February 2012.

Germany does not recognize Scientology as a faith, and a 1997 state-level interior ministry report described the organization's agenda and activities as "marked by objectives that are fundamentally and permanently directed at abolishing the free democratic basic order," Time reported in 2007.

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The Only Freedom that Matters is the Freedom to Nervously Guard Against Your Constant Fear of Emasculation

From Pandagon @ Raw Story:

By Amanda Marcotte
Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Those freedom-loving arsenal-builders love liberty soooooo much, y’all. The want to hump it, lick it, and most importantly, take it to the shooting range to share in the glory of the One and Only Real Liberty: the liberty to believe the gun industry when they tell you their products will deceive everyone else into thinking you’re a tough manly man. They’re so into “freedom” they’re willing not just to tolerate periodic pre-Christmas massacres of little kids and firefighters to preserve the steady profits for gun manufacturers. They love the liberty of gun companies to make a mint off the corpses of 1st graders and firemen so much, in fact, that they’re willing to destroy every other right in order to preserve the One and Only Real Liberty.

Which is why those liberty-loving patriots have come together to demand that there be legal repercussions for people who publicly disagree with them. The First Amendment be damned; it it interferes with gun company profits, free speech must end.
A petition calling to deport pro-gun control CNN host Piers Morgan back to England has easily surpassed the 25,000 that requires a response from the White House. Started on Friday in Texas a few days after Morgan called gun advocate Larry Pratt “an unbelievably stupid man”, the petition accuses Morgan of engaging “in a hostile attack against the U.S. Constitution” and wants to deport him “immediately for his effort to undermine the Bill of Rights and for exploiting his position as a national network television host to stage attacks against the rights of American citizens.”
The Constitution, of course, doesn’t have any anti-American blather in it about due process or the rule of law, and certainly nothing   in it as subversive as saying that people have things like “freedom of speech, or of the press”, nor to peaceably assemble without the threat of a guy with a semiautomatic weapon with an extended clip that can wipe them all out in less time than it takes Glenn Reynolds to complete his obligatory quarterly wife-humping. The Constitution is a surprisingly simple document, consisting of a single sentence:
The right of gun companies to make obscene profits convincing morons that their testicles will fall off if they don’t dump thousands of dollars building up arsenals to guard against the imaginary impending apocalypse shall not be abridged.
No other language in it. Hey, they drank a lot back in the 18th century.

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National Rifle Association moves to block UN treaty on gun control

From The Guardian UK:

Not content with blocking gun safety laws to prevent US shooting massacres, the NRA is working to thwart international action, Friday 28 December 2012

While the final funerals for the victims of the Newtown, Connecticut school massacre have been held, gun violence continues apace, most notably with the Christmas Eve murder of two volunteer firefighters in rural Webster, New York, at the hands of an ex-convict who was armed, as was the Newtown shooter Adam Lanza, with a Bushmaster .223 caliber AR-15 semiautomatic rifle. James Holmes, the alleged perpetrator of the massacre last July in Aurora, Colorado, stands accused of using, among other weapons, a Smith & Wesson AR-15 with a 100-round drum in place of a standard magazine clip.

Standing stalwartly against any regulation of these weapons and high-capacity magazines, the National Rifle Association continues to block any gun control laws whatsoever, and even trumpets its efforts to block the global arms trade treaty, slated for negotiations at the United Nations this March.

On Christmas Eve, the same day as the attack in Webster, the UN general assembly voted to move ahead with 10 days of negotiations on the arms trade treaty, to commence 18 March. Recall it was last July that the Obama administration said it "needed more time" to review the proposed treaty, effectively killing any hope of getting a treaty passed and sent back to member nations for ratification. This was just one week after the Aurora massacre, and in the heat of a close presidential election campaign.

The NRA succeeded in helping to scuttle the global arms trade treaty, delivering to President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton a letter opposing the treaty signed by 50 US senators, including eight Democrats, and 130 members of the House of Representatives.

The global treaty shouldn't be controversial. By signing on, governments agree not to export weapons to countries that are under an arms embargo, or to export weapons that would facilitate "the commission of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes" or other violations of international humanitarian law. Exports of arms are banned if they will facilitate "gender-based violence or violence against children" or be used for "transnational organized crime".

The treaty deals with international exports of weapons and ammunition, not any nation's internal, domestic laws that govern the sale or use of guns.

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Bernie Sanders "Everybody Knows The House Is Dominated By Right-Wing Extremists!"

Lindsay Graham: I Will Destroy America’s Solvency Unless The Social Security Retirement Age Is Raised

From Think Progress:

By Ian Millhiser
on Dec 30, 2012

Although official Washington is currently fixated on the so-called “Fiscal Cliff,” the biggest threat to American prosperity is the debt ceiling, which must be raised in February to prevent economic catastrophe. If Republicans refuse to reach a deal on the so-called cliff, the Congressional Budget Office predicts that they will spark a new recession in 2013. But if Republicans block action on the debt ceiling, they will make that potential recession look quaint. Without raising the debt ceiling, the United States will be forced to embrace austerity so severe it will lead to “a bigger GDP drop than that experienced during the Great Recession of 2008.”

But in an interview on Fox News Sunday this morning, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) threatened to oppose this must-pass bill unless Social Security benefits are taken away from millions of future retirees:
I’m not going to raise the debt ceiling unless we get serious about keeping the country from becoming Greece, saving Social Security and Medicare [sic]. So here’s what i would like: meaningful entitlement reform — not to turn Social Security into private accounts, not to take a voucher approach to Medicare — but, adjust the age for Social Security, CPI changes and means testing and look beyond the ten-year window. I cannot in good conscience raise the debt ceiling without addressing the long term debt problems of this country and I will not.
Watch it:

Complete article at:

Fiscal cliff discussions break down after Republicans demand Social Security cuts

From Daily Kos:

Laura Clawson
Sun Dec 30, 2012

Fiscal cliff curb talks predictably broke down again when Republicans made a late demand for cuts to Social Security in the form of chained CPI:
Talks foundered after Republicans dug in in an effort to get the largest deficit reduction deal in the time remaining, according to numerous Republican and Democratic officials familiar with the negotiations. Republicans told Democrats that they were willing to put off scheduled cuts in payments to health care providers who treat Medicare patients but that they wanted spending cuts elsewhere.

But it was the inflation calculation that forced Democrats from the negotiating table. President Obama has said that in a “grand bargain” on deficit reduction, he would go along with the change, which would slow the growth of programs whose outlays rise with consumer prices, and would raise more revenue by pushing people into higher tax brackets.

Democrats said that Mr. Obama and Congressional Democrats would accept that change, called “chained C.P.I.,” only as part of a larger deal that included locking in well more than $1 trillion in revenue over 10 years, along with other Republican concessions. Democrats fear that any such concessions now would only increase demands for addition concessions in the coming weeks, when talks resume on a “grand bargain” to reduce the deficit.
Speaking from the floor of the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid rejected chained CPI:

Continue reading at:

See Also: Huffington Post:  Fiscal Cliff: GOP Gives In On Social Security Cuts In Stalled Talks

Why the Protestant Work Ethic Is a Menace to Society

Why should Americans have to work like slaves with so little paid vacation or sick time?  People in Europe who are every bit as free as Americans get nearly a month of paid vacation time each year.  Why do we have to work like fucking slaves to enrich the pigs of the 1%?

From Alternet:

Good riddance to a religious approach that preached salvation through constant hard labor.

By Robert S. Becker
October 24, 2012

Two weeks ago Pew Research pinpointed an historic threshold: for the first time only 48% of Americans deemed themselves Protestant. Yes, the dominant majority since Puritan days has shrunk to minority status, alongside (one trusts) its perennial double: the White, Anglo-Saxon Protestant ruling class. 

With the Protestant hegemony fading, let us project a similar demise for the simplistic, planet-threatening credo known as the "Protestant Ethic." That triumphant code consecrates hard work, prosperity and control over nature, complacently measuring progress by net profit and GNP numbers. Here's a conviction that unifies our two parties in love with the status quo, along with reactionaries and fundamentalists everywhere. For all proclaim the Divinity of Hard Work, that Hard Work Conquers All, even that Work is Salvation, as both sign and vehicle of "exceptionalism" and personal deliverance. 

For the hard right, does not the magic of hard work resolve crime, poverty, racial inequality, family shortcomings, economic stagnation and phantom enemies far and wide? The solution to all hard knocks, these hard people say, is hard work, the anvil for human destiny -- and beyond.  Gee, what happened to one-time, theoretical promises of greater leisure time?

Certainly Yanks celebrate that savvy American, Benjamin Franklin, who elevated thrift, industry, and tenacity; or as he put it, "Energy and persistence alter all things." But today's ideological folly distorts the context of birthright, namely background, gender, education, and family assets. Thus schoolchildren still endure injunctions to "keep your nose to the grindstone" (ouch), "there is no substitute for hard work" (Thomas Edison), and my favorite, "hard work never killed anyone" ("but why take the chance," quipped witty Edgar Bergen). 

Or check out Bishop Mitt's website: "Help Romney Get America Back to Work," while refusing to affirm public education, retraining, or support for needy families. So much for the famed "bootstraps" by which the poor will pull themselves up.   

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Meet the woman battling Japan's whaling fleet in Antarctic ocean

From The Guardian UK:

Japanese hunters won't kill a single whale this winter, Sea Shepherd activists vow

Joanne Brookfield The Observer, Saturday 29 December 2012

One of Natalie Fox's most cherished memories is of kayaking just off the coast of America accompanied by inquisitive blue whales. They came to "hang out with us for two hours", said Fox, a 30-year-old environmental activist, originally from Cornwall. "The more time you spend with them in the ocean, the more you realise how special they are."

Now Fox, a co-founder of the campaigning group Women for Whales, is to be a key player in the Sea Shepherd conservation society's Operation Zero Tolerance. In its biggest venture to date, the society will soon be sending four ships to take on the Japanese whaling fleet in the Southern Ocean with the aim of preventing the death of even a single whale.

Almost three months ago, Fox, a surfing and yoga instructor, was summoned to Hobart, Australia. She was responding to an email that read: "There's a spot for you, but you've got to come, now! To Australia. Right away. And you're undercover, so you can't tell anyone."

Fox is aware that the operation will be a challenging one, especially since she is prone to seasickness. The icy conditions of the Southern Ocean whale sanctuary – ideal for minke and fin whales but inhospitable for humans – will be a test, although the chance to see icebergs at close quarters, she said, will be priceless. However, she will be spending most of her time cooking, in the galley of the Sam Simon, Sea Shepherd's newest vessel.

She is putting potential confrontations out of her mind. "I can't think about it until I'm in the moment or it's happening at that time, and hope that whatever happens, it's all good," she said.

The secrecy surrounding her "call-up" was necessary, as Sea Shepherd was in the process of acquiring the Sam Simon, which Fox has been living on in port with the other 23 crew members. The 56-metre ship began life as the Seifu Maru, an ocean research vessel used by the Japanese whaling fleet. Sea Shepherd said Japanese government officials failed to realise who was buying it.

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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Does Gender Identification Have a Place In Our Political System?

From Huffington Post:


The 2012 elections are over and it was a landmark one for women. Female voters made up 54 percent of the electorate, and according to exit polls, 55 percent of those women voted for Obama, coming out in support of equal pay for equal work, funding for preventative health care, and the right to decide what they do with their bodies. Thanks to a few key victories, women now make up 20 percent of the Senate, which boasts its first gay member in Wisconsin's newly elected Tammy Baldwin. Meanwhile, wins in the state of New Hampshire have created the country's first all-female delegation: a female governor, two senators, and two Congresswomen. This time around, gender, it would seem, trumped politics.

The question is: does that kind of gender identification have a place in our political system? Simple answer: yes.

Given the stubborn issues still facing women today, gender matters. In this past presidential election there was new life in the move to de-fund Planned Parenthood altogether and a resurrection of the demand that any health care plan offering abortion coverage be barred from participating in insurance exchanges under the health care plan. Not that the new arrivals could turn the tide on those issues alone. Both arms of Congress are still firmly in the hands of men. Women in, women out -- what's the big deal? Yet, in this past election gender's judicial flashpoint -- reproductive choice -- was in jeopardy of limiting or denying that choice. Women saw that threat as no man possibly could.

Here's a quick glimpse of why gender is every bit as important to the Supreme Court. In a case brought by four women against AT&T in 2008 and settled in 2009, the Court ruled that decades-old pregnancy leaves taken under old pension rules do not have to be counted in calculating pension payouts. It was a small case, with limited immediate impact. Business won and women lost -- one of those dissenting was the then-lone woman on the Court, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Justice Ginsburg, who says her tireless support of workplace equality was shaped by her own professional struggles, wrote: "Certain attitudes about pregnancy and childbirth throughout human history have sustained pervasive, often law-sanctioned, restrictions on a woman's place among paid workers and active citizens."

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President Obama urges Illinois to pass marriage equality legislation

From Daily Kos:

Scott Wooledge
Sat Dec 29, 2012

Here's some cheery news to take your mind off the fiscal cliff curb. Posted two 6:00 pm Saturday on the Chicago Sun-Times, which they are calling an exclusive.
WASHINGTON--President Barack Obama is urging the Illinois General Assembly to legalize gay marriage in his home state as lawmakers are poised to take up the measure as early as this week in Springfield.

"While the president does not weigh in on every measure being considered by state legislatures, he believes in treating everyone fairly and equally, with dignity and respect," White House spokesman Shin Inouye told the Chicago Sun-Times on Saturday.

"As he has said, his personal view is that it's wrong to prevent couples who are in loving, committed relationships, and want to marry, from doing so. Were the President still in the Illinois State Legislature, he would support this measure that would treat all Illinois couples equally." Inouye said.
The bill is underway (more here), and enjoys good popular support, and Gov. Quinn will sign it, if it can get out of the legislature.

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See also Huffington Post: Illinois Gay Marriage: Prairie State Could Be Next U.S. State To Approve Marriage Equality

Woman Accused of Hate-Crime Murder in Subway Push

Hate crimes such as this should lead to sentences of life without possibility of parole.

From The New York Times:

By Published: December 29, 2012

A 31-year-old woman was arrested on Saturday and charged with second-degree murder as a hate crime in connection with the death of a man who was pushed onto the tracks of an elevated subway station in Queens and crushed by an oncoming train.

The woman, Erika Menendez, selected her victim because she believed him to be a Muslim or a Hindu, Richard A. Brown, the Queens district attorney, said.

“The defendant is accused of committing what is every subway commuter’s nightmare: Being suddenly and senselessly pushed into the path of an oncoming train,” Mr. Brown said in an interview.

In a statement, Mr. Brown quoted Ms. Menendez, “in sum and substance,” as having told the police: “I pushed a Muslim off the train tracks because I hate Hindus and Muslims ever since 2001 when they put down the twin towers I’ve been beating them up.” Ms. Menendez conflated the Muslim and Hindu faiths in her comments to the police and in her target for attack, officials said.

The victim, Sunando Sen, was born in India and, according to a roommate, was raised Hindu.

Mr. Sen “was allegedly shoved from behind and had no chance to defend himself,” Mr. Brown said. 

“Beyond that, the hateful remarks allegedly made by the defendant and which precipitated the defendant’s actions should never be tolerated by a civilized society.”

Mr. Brown said he had no information on the defendant’s criminal or mental history.

“It will be up to the court to determine if she is fit to stand trial,” he said.

Ms. Menendez is expected to be arraigned by Sunday morning. If convicted, she faces a maximum penalty of life in prison. By charging her with murder as a hate crime, the possible minimum sentence she faced would be extended to 20 years from 15 years, according to prosecutors.

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Italy starts taxing Catholic Church — when will the US?

From Class Warfare Exists:

by Eideard
on 28 Dec 2012

Overdue. Not only in Italy. Not only regarding the Catholic Church.

Living in a nation with a constitution requiring separation of church and state, it is truly absurd that we still don’t collect property taxes, business taxes on the money-making, profit-generating properties owned by religious institutions.
Italy’s Catholic Church will be forced to pay taxes starting in 2013 after the EU pressured the country’s government to pass a controversial law stripping the Church of its historic property tax exemption.

The Catholic Church in Italy is excluded from paying taxes on its land if at least a part of a Church property is used non-commercially – for instance, a chapel in a bed-and-breakfast. “The regulatory framework will be definite by January 1, 2013 – the start of the fiscal year – and will fully respect the [European] Community law,” Italian premier Mario Monti’s government said in a statement…
The move could net Italy revenues of 500 million to 2 billion euros annually across the country, municipal government associations said. The extra income from previously exempt properties in Rome alone – including hotels, restaurants and sports centres – could reach 25.5 million euros a year…
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Catholic Church: Children will be damaged by gay couples marrying in Britain

From Pink News UK:

by 29 December 2012

A letter to be read to worshipers in Roman Catholic Churches across Birmingham will say that the Government has not considered the damage to be done to children by allowing gay couples to marry in England and Wales as well as Scotland.

The letter focuses on the consequences of two fathers bringing up a child.

The letter to be read in church tomorrow to mark the Feast of the Holy Family has been written by the Archbishop of Birmingham, the Most Reverend Bernard Longley will say: “Government policy cannot foresee the full consequences, for the children involved or for wider society, of being brought up by two mothers without a father’s influence or by two fathers without a mother’s influence.

“We first learn about diversity and acquire a respect for difference through the complementarity of our parents.”

The letter continues: “The complementary love of father and mother is a precious gift that we should wish for every child.

“We know that many single parents courageously and generously look after their children and often struggle to give them a fine upbringing.

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Eight Are Charged With Chilean Singer’s 1973 Murder After US Supported Fascist Military Coup

On September 11,1973, Pinochet led a Nixon/Kissinger backed Fascist Military coup in Chile where they over threw the democratically elected Alliende, a socialist.  Subsequently Pinochet's fascists rounded up and murdered hundreds if not thousands of suspected leftists.

In the years since the US has provided shelter for numerous fascist murderers from Pinochet's government and other deposed fascist dictatorships.

From The New York Times:

Published: December 28, 2012

SANTIAGO, Chile — Eight retired army officers were charged on Friday with the murder of a popular songwriter and theater director, Víctor Jara, who was tortured and killed days after the 1973 military coup in a stadium that had been turned into a detention center.

Judge Miguel Vásquez charged two of the former officers, Pedro Barrientos and Hugo Sánchez, with committing the murder and six others as accomplices. Mr. Sánchez, a lieutenant colonel, was second in command at the stadium. Mr. Barrientos, a lieutenant from a Tejas Verdes army unit, currently lives in Deltona, a city southwest of Daytona Beach, Fla., and was interrogated by the F.B.I. earlier this year at the request of a Chilean court. Attempts to reach Mr. Barrientos for comment were unsuccessful; his two listed telephone numbers had been disconnected.

Judge Vásquez issued an international arrest warrant against Mr. Barrientos through Interpol Santiago and ordered the arrest of the other seven, who were in Chile. Those charged as accomplices are Roberto Souper, Raúl Jofré, Edwin Dimter, Nelson Hasse, Luis Bethke and Jorge Smith.

Víctor Jara, then 40, was a member of the Communist Party and a leading folk singer in the late 1960s and early ’70s. A day after the American-supported Sept. 11 coup that ousted the socialist president, Salvador Allende, Mr. Jara was arrested by the military at the Santiago Technical University, where he was a professor and researcher, along with hundreds of students, teachers and staff members.

The detainees were bused to Chile Stadium, since then renamed Víctor Jara Stadium, and held in the bleachers for days with thousands of other prisoners, in the custody of army units brought in from various parts of the country.

Judge Vásquez established that Mr. Jara was recognized by military officers, separated from the rest of the detainees and taken to the basement dressing rooms, which were being used to question prisoners. There, he was interrogated, beaten and tortured by several officers, according to the court.

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The NRA And Its Six Billion Dollar Corporate Partners: Big Money, Big Lies

From Addicting Info:

By December 29, 2012

SIX BILLION… According to the Center for Disease Control, that’s the number of reasons we had 11,493 firearm homicides in the United States in 2009, and the number of reasons why we can’t pass adequate legislation to control guns. The bottom line: that’s the number of dollars that the three hundred gun and ammunition manufacturers in this country make yearly. $6,000,000,000!!

Americans are under the impression that the National Rifle Association, an organization with just 4.3 million members, effectively blocks gun control legislation around the entire country. But how can such a relatively small organization have so much clout? After all, the American Association of Retired Persons has nearly nine times that membership—about 36,000,000—and it gets the pants beaten off of it when they try to negotiate a deal on prescription drugs. Why is the National Rifle Association so powerful?

The group’s dirty little secret is that, in spite of what it says in its promotional material, it DOES NOT represent the voice of the American gun owner. It’s not even particularly interested in Second Amendment rights. The NRA is all about its corporate ‘partners’—a portion of those three hundred gun and ammunition manufacturers who make $6 billion a year—and how to best protect the companies’ profits. To emphasize this goal, Pete Brownell, a board member of the NRA, is also the head of Brownells, the “world’s largest supplier of firearms accessories.”
Since 2005, corporations have contributed between $20 million and $52 million to the NRA; according to a study by the Violence Policy Center, 74% of those contributions are from the gun industry. Back in 1967, the NRA publicized itself as “not affiliated with any firearm or ammunition manufacturers or with any businesses that deal in guns and ammunition.” Today, one part of the NRA website—the part about the kids’ program ‘Eddie Eagle’—still makes that statement. At the same time, they promote their “Ring of Freedom Corporate Partners Program” where different levels of contributions result in different perks to the companies involved. Executive vice president Wayne LaPierre promised in a promotional brochure that the Corporate Partners Program “is geared toward your company’s corporate interests.”

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GOP Governors Deny The Poor Health Care In Opposing Obamacare's Medicaid Expansion

From Huffington Post:


RUSTON, La. -- With no health insurance and not enough money for a doctor, Laura Johnson is long accustomed to treating her ailments with a self-written prescription: home remedies, prayer and denial.
Over decades, she made her living assisting elderly people in nursing homes in jobs that paid just above minimum wage and included no health benefits. So even as her feet swelled to such an extent that she could no longer stuff them into her shoes, and even as nausea, headaches and dizziness plagued her, she reached for the aspirin bottle or made do with a teaspoon of vinegar. She propped her feet up on pillows and hoped for relief.

"Before I got sick," she said, "I hadn't been to the doctor in 20 years."

After she collapsed last year and landed in in a local emergency room, doctors diagnosed her with congestive heart failure, high blood pressure and hypothyroid. They ordered her not to work. She arranged a Social Security disability benefit, and she enrolled in Medicaid, the government-furnished insurance program for the poor. She used her Medicaid card to secure needed prescription medications. Her ailments stabilized.
But this year, the state determined that the $819 a month she draws in disability payments exceed the allowable limit. By the federal government's reckoning, her $9,800 annual income made her officially poor. But under the standards set by Louisiana, she was too well off to receive Medicaid.

This is how Johnson, 57, finds herself back amid the roughly 49 million Americans who lack health insurance. This is why she must again reach into her pocket to secure her prescription drugs, a supply that runs about $200 a month. That sum is beyond her, so she has gone more than four months without taking her pills on a regular basis. Once again, her feet are swelling and her chest is filling with fluid. Once again, she is confronted with the realization that a lifetime of labor does not entitle her to see a doctor any more than it enables her to gain crucial medications.

"It just doesn't seem right to me," she said. "It just doesn't seem fair."

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Revealed: how the FBI coordinated the crackdown on Occupy

From The Guardian UK:

New documents prove what was once dismissed as paranoid fantasy: totally integrated corporate-state repression of dissent, Saturday 29 December 2012 

It was more sophisticated than we had imagined: new documents show that the violent crackdown on Occupy last fall – so mystifying at the time – was not just coordinated at the level of the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and local police. The crackdown, which involved, as you may recall, violent arrests, group disruption, canister missiles to the skulls of protesters, people held in handcuffs so tight they were injured, people held in bondage till they were forced to wet or soil themselves –was coordinated with the big banks themselves.

The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, in a groundbreaking scoop that should once more shame major US media outlets (why are nonprofits now some of the only entities in America left breaking major civil liberties news?), filed this request. The document – reproduced here in an easily searchable format – shows a terrifying network of coordinated DHS, FBI, police, regional fusion center, and private-sector activity so completely merged into one another that the monstrous whole is, in fact, one entity: in some cases, bearing a single name, the Domestic Security Alliance Council. And it reveals this merged entity to have one centrally planned, locally executed mission. The documents, in short, show the cops and DHS working for and with banks to target, arrest, and politically disable peaceful American citizens.

The documents, released after long delay in the week between Christmas and New Year, show a nationwide meta-plot unfolding in city after city in an Orwellian world: six American universities are sites where campus police funneled information about students involved with OWS to the FBI, with the administrations' knowledge (p51); banks sat down with FBI officials to pool information about OWS protesters harvested by private security; plans to crush Occupy events, planned for a month down the road, were made by the FBI – and offered to the representatives of the same organizations that the protests would target; and even threats of the assassination of OWS leaders by sniper fire – by whom? Where? – now remain redacted and undisclosed to those American citizens in danger, contrary to standard FBI practice to inform the person concerned when there is a threat against a political leader (p61).

As Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, executive director of the PCJF, put it, the documents show that from the start, the FBI – though it acknowledges Occupy movement as being, in fact, a peaceful organization – nonetheless designated OWS repeatedly as a "terrorist threat":

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Congress Disgracefully Approves the FISA Warrantless Spying Bill for Five More Years, Rejects All Privacy Amendments

From The Electronic Frontier Foundation:

By Trevor Timm
December 28, 2012

Today, after just one day of rushed debate, the Senate shamefully voted on a five-year extension to the FISA Amendments Act, an unconstitutional law that openly allows for warrantless surveillance of Americans' overseas communications.

Incredibly, the Senate rejected all the proposed amendments that would have brought a modicum of transparency and oversight to the government's activities, despite previous refusals by the Executive branch to even estimate how many Americans are surveilled by this program or reveal critical secret court rulings interpreting it.

The common-sense amendments the Senate hastily rejected were modest in scope and written with the utmost deference to national security concerns. The Senate had months to consider them, but waited until four days before the law was to expire to bring them to the floor, and then used the contrived time crunch to stifle any chances of them passing.

Sen. Ron Wyden's amendment would not have taken away any of the NSA's powers, it just would have forced intelligence agencies to send Congress a report every year detailing how their surveillance was affecting ordinary Americans. Yet Congress voted to be purposely kept in the dark about a general estimate of how many Americans have been spied on.

You can watch Sen. Ron Wyden's entire, riveting floor speech on the privacy dangers and lack of oversight in the FISA Amendments Act here.

Sen. Jeff Merkley's amendment would have encouraged (not even forced!) the Attorney General to declassify portions of secret FISA court opinions—or just release summaries of them if they were too sensitive. This is something the administration itself promised to do three years ago. We know—because the government has admitted—that at least one of those opinions concluded the government had violated the Constitution. Yet Congress also voted to keep this potentially critical interpretation of a public law a secret.

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See also Ritzholtz: The Big Picture:  Americans Are The Most Spied On People In World History

The Ruling Party of Billionaire-istan

Nuclear Roulette: The Truth About the Most Dangerous Energy Source on Earth

From Truth Out:

By Mark Karlin
Saturday, 29 December 2012

According to Chelsea Green, the publisher of the new book Nuclear Roulette:
Each new disaster demonstrates that the nuclear industry and governments lie to "avoid panic," to preserve the myth of "safe, clean" nuclear power, and to sustain government subsidies. Tokyo and Washington both covered up Fukushima's radiation risks and - when confronted with damning evidence - simply raised the levels of "acceptable" risk to match the greater levels of exposure.

Nuclear Roulette dismantles the core arguments behind the nuclear-industrial complex's "Nuclear Renaissance." While some critiques are familiar - nuclear power is too costly, too dangerous, and too unstable - others are surprising: Nuclear Roulette exposes historic links to nuclear weapons, impacts on Indigenous lands and lives, and the ways in which the Nuclear Regulatory Commission too often takes its lead from industry, rewriting rules to keep failing plants in compliance. Nuclear Roulette cites NRC records showing how corporations routinely defer maintenance and lists resulting "near-misses" in the US, which average more than one per month.
 Truthout interviewed the book's author, Gar Smith:

Mark Karlin: The first part of your book covers 14 arguments against nuclear power. Let's talk about a couple, starting with one that is a bit inclusive of most of the others. What are the catastrophic dangers of nuke plants that you detail in Chapter 4?

Gar Smith: Atomic energy is impractical on many levels. Nuclear power has proven too costly to survive without massive government support and taxpayer bailouts. Nuclear power is inherently unreliable because reactors must be regularly shut down to replace used fuel assemblies. Reactors also experience "unplanned shutdowns," which means they can be offline more than 10 percent of the time. In 2011, the NRC's own records revealed at least 75 percent of US reactors were routinely leaking radioactive tritium.

Nuclear reactors are not energy efficient. They produce far more heat than they can possibly use. It takes as much as 500,000 gallons of water per minute to keep these plants cool. Even then, around two-thirds of the heat is wasted and needs to be spilled into nearby waterways or into the atmosphere. A reactor is like a sports car built to travel 600 miles per hour in a world where the speed limit is 60 mph. To operate it safely, you need to have your foot on the brakes - at all times. And good luck if the brakes fail.

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Stunned Community Mourns Loss of Renowned Environmental Leader Rebecca Tarbotton of Rainforest Action Network

From Alternet:

The death of RAN's executive director at 39 has devastated friends, family and colleagues.

By Tara Lohan
December 28, 2012

Rainforest Action Network released news today of the unexpected death of executive director Rebecca Tarbotton, one of the country’s most renowned environmental leaders and the first woman executive director in the organization’s 25-year history. A statement from RAN described Tarbotton, 39, as a “self-proclaimed ‘pragmatic idealist,’” and said she “was admired by environmentalists and climate change activists for her visionary work protecting forests, pushing the nation to transition to a clean energy economy and defending human rights.”

Sierra Club’s executive director Michael Brune said, “Becky reshaped Rainforest Action Network, and was a force against deforestation and corporate greed. She was a rising star. We need more women to be leading environmental organizations, and losing a leader and friend like Becky is especially painful."

Just after being her selection as RAN's executive director, AlterNet's Don Hazen interviewed her in 2010. He described Tarbotton as, “Charismatic, articulate and straightforward, and seemingly possessing the infamous RAN chutzpah gene.” She “seems the perfect person to grapple with the conflicting needs and aspirations of environmentalists who may be feeling on the edge of despair,” Hazen wrote. “She has the intellectual chops to take on major policymakers and corporate leaders, while she is hip and crunchy enough to be a role model for the idealistic young RAN campaigners.” (Read the whole interview here.)

While RAN was already a successful organization, Tarbotton helped lead it to even greater heights in the last few years. "Becky was a leader's leader. She could walk into the White House and cause a corporate titan to reevaluate his perspective, and then moments later sit down with leaders from other movements and convince them to follow her lead,” said Ben Jealous, executive director of the NAACP and a close friend. “If we had more heroes like her, America and the world would be a much better place."

“Our hearts are broken. We lost a powerful, transformative leader this week. The Rainforest Action Network was her home, but the world was her stage, and her future was so incredibly bright. We can do nothing more right now than love her, her family, her husband, and her friends and colleagues. We know how much she meant to so many,” said Andre Carothers, chair of the board of directors at Rainforest Action Network.

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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Woman Whose Gang Rape Galvanized India Dies

From The New York Times:

By and NIHARIKA MANDHANA Published: December 28, 2012

NEW DELHI — A young woman who had been in critical condition since she was raped two weeks ago by a group of men who lured her onto a bus here died early Saturday, an official at the hospital in Singapore that was caring for her said.

The woman, a 23-year-old physiotherapy student whose rape on Dec. 16 had served as a reminder of the dangerous conditions women face in India, died “peacefully,” according to a statement by Dr. Kelvin Loh, the chief executive of Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore.

The woman, whose intestines were removed because of injuries caused by a metal rod used during the rape, has not been identified. She was flown to Singapore on Wednesday night after undergoing three abdominal operations at a local hospital. She had also suffered a major brain injury, cardiac arrest and infections of the lungs and abdomen. “She was courageous in fighting for her life for so long against the odds, but the trauma to her body was too severe for her to overcome,” Dr. Loh’s statement said.

The police have arrested six people in connection with the attack, Indian officials said.

Revulsion and anger over the rape have galvanized India, where women regularly face sexual harassment and assault, and where neither the police nor the judicial system is seen as adequately protecting them.

As government officials and the police appealed for calm, protesters gathered in New Delhi at Jantar Mantar, a popular site for demonstrations, just after dawn. The roads leading to India Gate, the site of earlier protests that had turned violent, had been barricaded by the police, and nearby subway stations were closed. More than 40 police units have been deployed in the area, including 28 units of the Central Reserve Police Force, which are national anti-insurgency troops.

Top officials now say that further change is needed, and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressed his “deepest condolences.”

“We have already seen the emotions and energies this incident has generated,” he said in a statement. “It would be a true homage to her memory if we are able to channelize these emotions and energies into a constructive course of action.” The government, he said, is examining “the penal provisions that exist for such crimes and measures to enhance the safety and security of women.”

The six men arrested in the case will be charged with murder, the Delhi police said Saturday morning, as they, too, asked citizens to remain calm.

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Italian priest’s Christmas flyer: Women incite domestic violence with cold dinners

From Raw Story:

By Eric W. Dolan
Thursday, December 27, 2012

A Catholic priest in Italy has created a firestorm by claiming that women bring violence on themselves by serving cold food and dressing provocatively.

Father Piero Corsi of Liguria sparked outrage after members of his congregation posted his Christmas bulletin onto Facebook. The flyer, entitled “Women and femicide – healthy self-criticism. How often do they provoke?” said victims of domestic and sexual violence should question if they were themselves to blame for the incident.

The flyer said women “provoke the worst instincts” and “should search their consciences and ask: did we bring this on ourselves?”

“The fact is that women are increasingly provocative, they become arrogant, they believe themselves to be self-sufficient and end up exacerbating the situation,” Corsi added. “Children are abandoned to their own devices, homes are dirty, meals are cold or fast food, clothes are filthy.”

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