Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Gay Marriage Plank Will Be In Democratic Party Platform At Convention

Sam Stein and Luke Johnson

WASHINGTON -- A Democratic Party source confirmed to The Huffington Post that the party will include a plank supporting marriage equality in its official platform at the upcoming convention.

The news, first reported by the Washington Blade, represents a historic and phenomenal win for LGBT rights groups, which could hardly have envisioned progress being made so quickly on this front.

The Democratic source relayed that officials unanimously agreed at a recent platform drafting committee meeting in Minneapolis to adopt language endorsing same-sex marriage. Several steps must be taken before the language is codified. A full platform committee will consider the draft in a meeting in Detroit in two weeks. It will then go to the convention delegates in Charlotte for final approval. But the deal is more or less final.

Retiring Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass), a member of the drafting committee who recently married his longtime partner, told the Advocate that the decision was reached without dissent.

"The fact is, by every action that should be taken, the Democrats in Washington have repudiated DOMA," he said, referring to the 1996 law signed by President Bill Clinton that barred the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage.

According to the Blade, the "language in the platform approved on Sunday not only backs marriage equality, but also rejects DOMA and has positive language with regard to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. The exact wording of the language wasn’t immediately available."

Continue reading at:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/30/gay-marriage-democratic-convention_n_1720030.html

"Women's Choices" - Obama for America

Republicans vs. Women

July 29, 2012

Even with a persistent gender gap in a presidential election year, House Republicans have not given up on their campaign to narrow access to birth control, abortion care and lifesaving cancer screenings. Far from it.
A new Republican spending proposal revives some of the more extreme attacks on women’s health and freedom that were blocked by the Senate earlier in this Congress. The resurrection is part of an alarming national crusade that goes beyond abortion rights and strikes broadly at women’s health in general.

These setbacks are recycled from the Congressional trash bin in the fiscal 2013 spending bill for federal health, labor and education programs approved by a House appropriations subcommittee on July 18 over loud objections from Democratic members to these and other provisions.

The measure would bar Planned Parenthood’s network of clinics, which serve millions of women across the country, from receiving any federal money unless the health group agreed to no longer offer abortion services for which it uses no federal dollars — a patently unconstitutional provision. It would also eliminate financing for Title X, the effective federal family-planning program for low-income women that provides birth control, breast and cervical cancer screenings, and testing for sexually-transmitted diseases. Without this program, some women would die, and unintended pregnancies would rise, resulting in some 400,000 more abortions a year and increases in Medicaid-related costs, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a leading authority on reproductive health.

On top of that, the bill would prevent implementation of most of the Affordable Care Act, wiping out its numerous advances for women’s health. It would seriously weaken the requirement that employee insurance plans cover birth control and other preventive health services by allowing any employer to opt out based on personal religious beliefs or moral objections.

Continue reading at:  http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/30/opinion/republicans-vs-women.html

Another $200 mln misspent in Iraq. Anybody surprised?

White House wants Romney to explain Israel remarks

By Agence France-Presse
Monday, July 30, 2012

WASHINGTON — The White House called Monday on Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney to explain recent remarks including his apparent endorsement of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, a position that counters US policy.

Romney, in the midst of a three-nation tour, gave a speech Sunday in Jerusalem where he hailed the city as “the capital of Israel,” in apparent support of a position held by the Jewish state but never accepted by the global community.

The comment was swiftly rejected by Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat as “unacceptable” and “harmful to American interests in our region.”

But after Romney made fresh controversial statements Monday to donors in Jerusalem including suggesting Israeli “culture” helped explain the country’s economic success — a position Erakat denounced as “racist” — President Barack Obama’s office urged Romney to clarify his comments.

“One of the challenges of being an actor on the international stage, particularly when you’re traveling to such a sensitive part of the world, is that your comments are very closely scrutinized for meaning, for nuance, for motivation,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said about the Monday remarks.

Continue reading at:  http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/07/30/white-house-wants-romney-to-explain-israel-remarks/

Mitt's Gaffs Just Keep on Coming. Gawd He's even Dumber than Sarah Palin!

Mitt Romney Comments At Fundraiser Outrage Palestinians

JERUSALEM -- Mitt Romney told Jewish donors Monday that their culture is part of what has allowed them to be more economically successful than the Palestinians, outraging Palestinian leaders who suggested his comments were racist and out of touch with the realities of the Middle East. Romney's campaign later said his remarks were mischaracterized.
"As you come here and you see the GDP per capita, for instance, in Israel which is about $21,000, and compare that with the GDP per capita just across the areas managed by the Palestinian Authority, which is more like $10,000 per capita, you notice such a dramatically stark difference in economic vitality," the Republican presidential candidate told about 40 wealthy donors who ate breakfast at the luxurious King David Hotel.
Romney said some economic histories have theorized that "culture makes all the difference."
"And as I come here and I look out over this city and consider the accomplishments of the people of this nation, I recognize the power of at least culture and a few other things," Romney said, citing an innovative business climate, the Jewish history of thriving in difficult circumstances and the "hand of providence." He said similar disparity exists between neighboring countries, like Mexico and the United States.

Mitt Romney to rekindle cold war spirit with speech in Poland attacking Russia

After gaffe-strewn UK visit and controversial remarks in Israel, US presidential hopeful turns to symbol of anti-Soviet triumph

, Europe editor
guardian.co.uk, Monday 30 July 2012
Mitt Romney is to round off his campaign to boost his presidential foreign policy credentials by returning to a cold war symbol of anti-Soviet triumph and western-backed liberty in Poland.
Following a gaffe-strewn visit to Britain, where he queried the Olympic host's fitness to stage the Games, and after stirring controversy in Israel by calling Jerusalem the Israeli capital and seeming to back unilateral Israeli strikes against Iran, the Republican White House contender arrived on Monday in Poland, where he is to deliver a setpiece speech on democracy and freedom.
The speech on the "values of liberty" at Warsaw University on Tuesday is expected to seek to rekindle the flames of US cold war righteousness by featuring a strong attack on Russia and President Vladimir Putin's rollback of democratic gains, while also criticising the US president, Barack Obama, for allegedly sacrificing the interests and security of central European democracy in favour of realpolitik with the Kremlin.
Romney has previously described Russia as America's "No 1 geopolitical foe", in contrast with Obama, who has sought to press "the reset button" in relations with Moscow.
Continue reading at:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jul/30/mitt-romney-speech-poland-russia

BBC Report: Bishop Romney Told Pregnant Mother “Give Your Child to The Church”

From I Acknowledge Class Warfare Exists:  http://www.classwarfareexists.com/bbc-report-bishop-romney-told-pregnant-mother-give-your-child-to-the-church/#axzz229aecjNM

by icarus
30 Jul 2012

Mitt Romney was a Mormon bishop for five years in the 1980′s in addition to being president of the Boston chapter.  The BBC interviews a former parishioner of the Boston Mormon church that Mitt Romney was bishop of; her name is Peggy Hayes.  She tells the BBC her story that she has never shared in an interview before.

Peggy got pregnant out of wedlock and Mitt Romney came to visit her; she says he told her to give her child up to the church for adoption.  She also says that if she didn’t give up her child to the church – Romney threatened to have her excommunicated from the church.
“I said well are you suggesting that I give up my child to the church.  And he pretty much said – yeah, that’s exactly what we we’re asking you to do … is to give up your child to the church.  And he said somewhat casually – well … you know you’re facing some serious consequences pretty much.  And if you don’t give up your child then you would considered to be in violation of the doctrines of the church.  And in effect what that would mean is that you would be excommunicated.”
~Peggy Hayes, former Romney parishioner
The Boston Globe did an entire article on this on 8/26/94 – a blog captured it (it’s currently behind a firewall) and you can read the entire story HERE:

Continue reading at:  http://www.classwarfareexists.com/bbc-report-bishop-romney-told-pregnant-mother-give-your-child-to-the-church/#axzz229aecjNM

Spain angers feminists with plan to tighten abortion law

By Agence France-Presse
Sunday, July 29, 2012

MADRID — Spain’s conservative government has provoked a storm among women’s groups with plans to tighten the country’s abortion laws to make the procedure illegal in cases where the foetus is deformed.

The government announced Friday it would alter an abortion law introduced by its Socialist predecessors in 2010 which gave women the legal right to abortion on demand for up to 14 weeks of pregnancy.

The 2010 law also allowed women the legal right to abort up to the 22nd week of pregnancy in cases where the mother’s health is at risk or the foetus shows serious deformities.

In cases of an extremely severe serious malformation of a foetus, an abortion could be carried out at any time if approved by an ethics committee.

But last week Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon came out strongly against allowing abortion in cases of a deformed foetus.

“I don’t understand why we should deprive a foetus of life by allowing abortion for the simple reason that it suffers a handicap or a deformity,” he said in an interview published in conservative daily La Razon on July 22.

Continue reading at:  http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/07/29/spain-angers-feminists-with-plan-to-tighten-abortion-law/

Budget cuts: million jobs to be slashed?

Happy birthday to Medicare

By Margaret A. Nosek
Friday, July 27, 2012

With all the commotion surrounding the Supreme Court and the Affordable Care Act (ACA), it would be easy to overlook an important birthday: Today is the 47th anniversary of Medicare, the public health insurance program that covers our nation's seniors and people with severe disabilities.

It's a birthday that deserves to be celebrated, including here in the Lone Star State. Medicare provides 48 million Americans - about 3 million of them in Texas - with reasonably good access to health care, thereby easing their suffering, prolonging their lives, and reducing financial pressures on them and their families. Before Medicare was enacted in 1965, most retired older people were at risk of financial ruin when they got sick. Medicare changed that picture, and our state and nation are much better for it.

The Medicare program is not perfect, of course. It has burdensome co-pays and deductibles, and its benefits could be better. But it remains immensely popular, and it's not hard to figure out why. A new study in the journal Health Affairs found that "Medicare beneficiaries age 65 and older are more satisfied with their health insurance, have better access to care, and are less likely to have problems paying medical bills than working-age adults who get insurance through employers or purchase coverage on their own."

Keep that in mind the next time you hear a politician or pundit argue that the Medicare program should be converted to a private voucher program, where seniors would get a flat amount to buy a health policy from a commercial insurance company. Such schemes are lucrative for the big private insurers but would be bad for most seniors, leaving them with inferior and progressively deteriorating coverage.

Complete article at:  http://www.chron.com/opinion/outlook/article/Happy-birthday-to-Medicare-3741814.php

The CEO Plan to Steal Your Social Security and Medicare

by Dean Baker
Published on Monday, July 30, 2012 by Common Dreams

Many people are following the presidential election closely with the idea that the outcome will have a major impact on national policy. However, according to Steven Pearlstein, a veteran Washington Post columnist and reporter, it may not matter who wins the election. In a column last week, Pearlstein told readers that the top executives of some of the country's largest companies are getting together to craft a budget package that they will try to push through Congress and get the president to sign.

While Pearlstein clearly sees these backroom meetings of corporate chieftains in positive terms (he refers to them as "grown-ups" who have been noticeably absent from the conversation about the budget), the rest of us might view this plotting a bit differently. As Pearlstein openly acknowledges, this corporate coup is an end-run around the electorate. As corrupt as the political process may have become, at least we will get a vote in the election. Pearlstein's plotters are not inviting the rest of us into the conversation.

Many of the same folks who brought the economy to ruin just a few years ago are now going to come up with a plan that is supposed to set the budget and the economy on a forward path. At the center of their proposal are big cuts in Social Security and Medicare.

The most popular Social Security cut among this gang is a reduction in the annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) by 0.3 percentage points. They are betting that ordinary people are too dumb to notice this cut since it is a relatively small amount each year.

However, the effect of this cut accumulates into a much bigger deal over time. After 10 years it is roughly 3 percent, after 20 years it would be close to 6 percent, and after 30 years it would be close to 9 percent.

Continue reading at:   http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/07/30-11

Monday, July 30, 2012

Amazon Founder Pledges $2.5 Million to Marriage Battle in Washington State

By Karen Ocamb

In response to an email plea from one of his first employees, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and his wife MacKenzie pledged to contribute $2.5 million in the fight to retain same sex marriage rights in Washington State.

Last February, Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire signed the marriage equality bill in an emotional ceremony. Two rival groups of marriage opponents immediately tried to collect enough signatures to put an initiative on the ballot to repeal the law—one failed.  However, in June religious activists collected enough signatures to force the question onto the November ballot. Referendum 74 asks voters to approve or reject the marriage equality law. If approved, Washington officially becomes the sixth state, plus the District of Columbia, to recognize gay marriages.

“To get this [pledge] from a straight, married couple sends a powerful message that marriage is seen as a fundamental question of fairness,” Zach Silk, the campaign manager for Washington United for Marriage, told the New York Times Thursday.

Microsoft’s Bill Gates and Steven A. Ballmer have already donated $100,000 to the referendum campaign, the Times reports. But the historic pledge from Bezos, who runs a $48 billion-a-year retail empire, is considered a game-changer.

And the money is much needed, especially considering the cost of TV air time during this election year.  Washington United for Marriage needs to explain why it is important to keep marriage equality in the state—they have not yet noted, for instance, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s announcement on Monday, July 24, the one year anniversary of the Marriage Equality Act, that same sex marriages have equality generated an estimated $259 million in economic impact and $16 million in city revenues. AND they need to explain HOW to vote to retain marriage—that is a vote to APPROVE or yes on Referendum 74.

Continue reading at:  http://www.frontiersla.com/Blog/FrontierBlog/blogentry.aspx?BlogEntryID=10408454

The Future of Masculinity: Do We Need Real Men - Or Real Human Beings?

Feminism has re-defined what it means to be female. But there's still no consensus on what the ideal 21st-century man looks like.

By Abigail Collazo
July 26, 2012

To stay on top of important articles like these, visit Role/Reboot

This weekend's New York Times  "Room for Debate"  asks whether today's men are "manly enough": "A-list actors are getting facials in  Mansome, Morgan Spurlock’s newest documentary, and pumping their waxed chests in Steven Soderbergh’s  Magic Mike,  one of the summer’s most popular movies. But is all this exfoliated, chiseled perfection what women really want ? And should men really be making it a priority?"

In Charles Mee’s 2001 play  Big Love , one of the title characters delivers a soliloquy in which he bemoans the difficulty for men in living up to gender stereotypes. On one hand, men are expected to be civilized—calm, gracious, and sophisticated. But when violence is called for, and people—especially women—need defending, they expect men to be the rescuers, “going at the target like a bullet...with rage in his heart...with no breaks to hold it.”

The even bigger challenge is presented when the need for such violence has passed. After the conflict, men are expected to automatically revert back to calm, civilized members of society. Women, he argues, have the luxury of deploring the violence of men (because they can depend on that violence when they need its protection) without having to give in to such impulses themselves.

While the play is fictional, the idea that gender stereotypes adversely affect both men and women is very much a reality. I've witnessed this countless times from even my most feminist of girlfriends. They want men who are sensitive, who are considerate, who are emotional. But in only in very specific instances. Because at other times, they want the Alpha Male. The one who will fix the drain in the sink and protect them from rapists on the walk home. They want Don Draper.

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/visions/future-masculinity-do-we-need-real-men-or-real-human-beings

Scalia suggests women have no right to contraception

Impeach Scalia!

By David Edwards
Sunday, July 29, 2012

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia says that the pivotal decision which reversed a law that prohibited women from using contraception is not supported under his interpretation of the Constitution.
During an interview on Sunday, Fox News host Chris Wallace asked Scalia why he believed that it is a “lie” that women have a Constitutional right to abortion.

“Nobody ever thought that the America people voted to prohibit limitations on abortions,” the 76-year-old conservative justice explained. “There’s nothing in the Constitution that says that.”

“What about the right to privacy that the court found in 1965?” Wallace pressed.

“There’s no right to privacy in the Constitution — no generalized right to privacy,” Scalia insisted.

“Well, in the Griswold case, the court said there was,” Wallace pointed out.

“Yeah, it did,” Scalia agreed. “And that was wrong.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/07/29/scalia-suggests-women-have-no-right-to-contraception/

Tricks, Traps, and Accountability

Elizabeth Warren

As we mark the one year anniversary of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), I've been thinking about how for years leading up to the 2008 financial crisis, I asked students in my contract law class to read a credit card agreement -- either an offer that they'd received in the mail or the actual agreement they'd signed onto -- and answer some basic questions. Some were easy: When is your bill is due? Do you get points? The students always answered those.

The next questions went to the heart of the deal: Does your credit card have an arbitration clause, preventing you from suing in court if the company cheats you? No one knew. How long it would take you to pay off a $1000 purchase with interest if you paid the minimum monthly payment? They didn't know. And when I assigned that basic question as homework, almost all of them spent hours knee deep in fine print without finding an answer.

Markets work when people can evaluate the prices and risks of different products, then pick the ones that work best for them. But when the terms of the deal are hidden, competition doesn't work. And customers aren't the only ones who are hurt. If a small bank with a limited advertising budget offered a better card, no one could figure that out and switch. That had been the state of the consumer credit market for years.

Following deregulation in the 1980s, a number of big banks figured out that they could build a very profitable business based on deception -- tricks and traps buried in fine print, teaser rates that hid the true costs of mortgages, and obscure terms (like double-cycle billing) than no one understood. They sold a lot of mortgages, credit cards and other loans, sometimes deliberately targeting people they knew wouldn't be able to pay in order to rake big fees off the top before they sold the loans to someone else.

Eventually the lousy mortgages crashed the economy. Families that already had been squeezed for a generation got hit from every direction. Their pensions and savings were wiped out, their friends and family members lost their jobs, and the values of their homes plummeted.

Continue reading at:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/elizabeth-warren/cfpb-anniversary-consumer-protection_b_1695547.html

How the New York Times Tries to Cover Its Ass on Glass-Steagall

By Matthew Rothschild
July 27, 2012

So Sandy Weill, former head of Citigroup, woke up one morning this week to the epiphany that the banks are too big to fail and should be chopped up. Well, that’s not exactly cause for bestowing an honor on the guy.

After all, he was the chief architect of too big to fail.

He was the prime mover behind destroying Glass-Steagall, the New Deal law that built a wall between commercial banking and investment banking.

Now he wants that wall rebuilt?

Well, thanks a lot, Sandy, but you already destroyed the economy with your greedy power play when you ran Wall Street and bullied the Clinton crowd into foolish deregulation.

And you were paid handsomely by Citigroup for your dirty work.

Now you say you’re sorry.

Continue reading at:  http://www.progressive.org/nyt_pathetic_apology_banking_dereg.html

Poverty in America: Why Can’t We End It?

By Peter Edelman
Published: July 28, 2012

RONALD REAGAN famously said, “We fought a war on poverty and poverty won.” With 46 million Americans — 15 percent of the population — now counted as poor, it’s tempting to think he may have been right.

Look a little deeper and the temptation grows. The lowest percentage in poverty since we started counting was 11.1 percent in 1973. The rate climbed as high as 15.2 percent in 1983. In 2000, after a spurt of prosperity, it went back down to 11.3 percent, and yet 15 million more people are poor today.

At the same time, we have done a lot that works. From Social Security to food stamps to the earned-income tax credit and on and on, we have enacted programs that now keep 40 million people out of poverty. Poverty would be nearly double what it is now without these measures, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. To say that “poverty won” is like saying the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts failed because there is still pollution.

With all of that, why have we not achieved more? Four reasons: An astonishing number of people work at low-wage jobs. Plus, many more households are headed now by a single parent, making it difficult for them to earn a living income from the jobs that are typically available. The near disappearance of cash assistance for low-income mothers and children — i.e., welfare — in much of the country plays a contributing role, too. And persistent issues of race and gender mean higher poverty among minorities and families headed by single mothers.

The first thing needed if we’re to get people out of poverty is more jobs that pay decent wages. There aren’t enough of these in our current economy. The need for good jobs extends far beyond the current crisis; we’ll need a full-employment policy and a bigger investment in 21st-century education and skill development strategies if we’re to have any hope of breaking out of the current economic malaise.

This isn’t a problem specific to the current moment. We’ve been drowning in a flood of low-wage jobs for the last 40 years. Most of the income of people in poverty comes from work. According to the most recent data available from the Census Bureau, 104 million people — a third of the population — have annual incomes below twice the poverty line, less than $38,000 for a family of three. They struggle to make ends meet every month.

Continue reading at:  http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/29/opinion/sunday/why-cant-we-end-poverty-in-america.html

Social Security is not headed for disaster

Barbara R. Bergmann
Sun, Jul. 29, 2012

The gloomy annual report of the trustees of Social Security has provoked the usual ominous predictions of big trouble ahead. Media accounts spoke of significant deterioration in the financial outlook of the system, and declared it unsustainable unless structural changes were made. The scare words might seem to justify the often-heard prediction that Social Security may last long enough to sustain our current oldsters, but that it is headed for bankruptcy and "won't be there" for our younger citizens.

 Nothing could be further from the truth.

Into the future, Social Security can and will provide wage replacement at about the same level it does now. It does not depend for its resources on an entity that might run out of money, that has no way to raise more, and could go into bankruptcy. The U.S. government has the ability to raise enough revenue to pay out whatever level of Social Security benefits the public wants. In that, Social Security resembles all the other things the government pays for, including the national parks, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Department of Defense.

At what level does the public want retirees supported?

All indications are that the public is satisfied with benefits that replace wages at about the present level. Can the richest country in the world afford to continue to do that? Of course. Our taxes are very low compared with those of most other developed countries. Our ability to spend more than we now do on government is very high. If necessary, the public would support higher taxes to maintain Social Security benefits.

The doom and gloom about Social Security, and the claims that it needs radical restructuring, derive from the way Franklin D. Roosevelt's administration explained the system to the public. To avoid accusations of "socialism," citizens were made to understand that the pensions they would get would consist of their own money that they had put into a trust fund.

The trust-fund story made it politically easier to start the system and maintain support for it. But that story has made it vulnerable to the prediction that it is going bankrupt and will have to be radically changed. After all, if the pensions come out of the trust fund, and the fund will shrink to zero in about 2033, as predicted, then isn't the system unsustainable?

Continue reading at:  http://www.philly.com/philly/opinion/inquirer/20120729_Social_Security_is_not_headed_for_disaster.html

Occupy the Dam: Brazil’s Indigenous Uprising

In the Amazonian backcountry, tribes are challenging construction of the world’s third-largest dam—by dismantling it. Here’s what they can teach us about standing up to power.

posted Jul 23, 2012
Last month, hundreds of indigenous demonstrators began dismantling a dam in the heart of Brazil’s rainforest to protest the destruction it will bring to lands they have loved and honored for centuries. The Brazilian government is determined to promote construction of the massive, $14 billion Belo Monte Dam, which will be the world’s third largest when it is completed in 2019. It is being developed by Norte Energia, a consortium of ten of the world’s largest construction, engineering, and mining firms set up specifically for the project.

The Belo Monte Dam is the most controversial of dozens of dams planned in the Amazon region and threatens the lives and livelihoods of thousands of Amazonian people, plants, and animals. Situated on the Xingu River, the dam is set to flood roughly 150 square miles of already-stressed rainforest and deprive an estimated 20,000 people of their homes, their incomes, and—for those who succumb to malaria, bilharzia, and other diseases carried by insects and snails that are predicted to breed in the new reservoir—their lives. Moreover, the influx of immigrants will bring massive disruption to the socioeconomic balance of the region. People whose livelihoods have primarily depended on hunting and gathering or farming may suddenly find themselves forced to take jobs as manual laborers, servants, and prostitutes.

History has shown again and again that dams in general wreak havoc in areas where they are built, despite promises to the contrary by developers and governments. Hydroelectric energy is anything but “clean” when measured in terms of the excruciating pain it causes individuals, social institutions, and local ecology. The costs—often hidden—include those associated with the privatization of water; the extinction of plants that might provide cures for cancer, HIV, and other diseases; the silting up of rivers and lakes; and the disruption of migratory patterns for many species of birds.

The indigenous cultures threatened by the Belo Monte Dam, including those of the Xikrin, Juruna, Arara, Parakan√£, Kuruaya and Kayap√≥ tribes, are tied to the land: generations have hunted and gathered and cultivated the same areas for centuries. They—as well as local flora and fauna—have suffered disproportionately from the effects of other hydroelectric dams, while rarely gaining any of the potential benefits. Now they are fighting back.

Continue reading at:  http://www.yesmagazine.org/peace-justice/occupy-the-dam-brazils-indigenous-uprising

Come Together, to Save the Arctic

Paul McCartney

1968. That was a hell of a year. The people were on the streets, revolution was in the air, we released the White Album, and perhaps the most influential photograph of all time was taken by an astronaut called William Anders.

It was Christmas Eve. Anders and his mission commander Frank Borman had just become the only living beings since the dawn of time to orbit the moon. Then, through the tiny window of their Apollo 8 spacecraft their eyes fell upon something nobody had seen before, something so familiar and yet so alien, something breathtaking in its beauty and fragility. "Oh my God!" Borman cried. "Look at that picture over there! Here's the Earth coming up. Wow, is that pretty!"

"You got a color film, Jim?" Anders snapped back. "Hand me that roll of color quick, will you..." For a minute or so, two human beings in a tin can nearly 400,000 kilometers from home scrambled furiously to fix a roll of Kodak into their camera. Then Anders lifted it to the window and clicked the shutter and captured our delicate home planet rising slowly over the horizon of the moon. Earthrise. That single image made such an impact on the human psyche that it's credited with sparking the birth of the global environment movement -- with changing the very way we think about ourselves.

That was more than 40 years ago, the blink of an eye in the grand sweep of time, but something quite remarkable has happened since then. For at least 800,000 years the Arctic Ocean has been capped by a sheet of sea ice the size of a continent. But in the decades since that photo was taken, satellites have been measuring a steady melting of that white sheet. Much of it has now gone, and it seems likely that there'll be open water at the North Pole in the lifetimes of my kids. I might even see that moment for myself.

Think about it. Since Earthrise was taken we've been so busy warming our world that it now looks radically different from space. By digging up fossil fuels and burning our ancient forests we've put so much carbon into the atmosphere that today's astronauts are looking at a different planet. And here's something that just baffles me. As the ice retreats, the oil giants are moving in. Instead of seeing the melting as a grave warning to humanity, they're eyeing the previously inaccessible oil beneath the seabed at the top of the world. They're exploiting the disappearance of the ice to drill for the very same fuel that caused the melting in the first place. Fossil fuels have colonized every corner of our Earth, but at some time and in some place we need to say, "No more." I believe that time is now and that place is the Arctic.

That's why I've joined Greenpeace's campaign to create a legally protected sanctuary around the North Pole and a ban on oil drilling and industrial fishing in Arctic waters. My name will be among at least 2 million that Greenpeace is taking to the pole and planting on the seabed 4 kilometers beneath the ice. We're coming together to secure the Arctic for all life on Earth.

Continue reading at:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/paul-mccartney/come-together-to-save-the_b_1694616.html

Climate change study forces sceptical scientists to change minds

Earth's land shown to have warmed by 1.5C over past 250 years, with humans being almost entirely responsible

guardian.co.uk, Sunday 29 July 2012

The Earth's land has warmed by 1.5C over the past 250 years and "humans are almost entirely the cause", according to a scientific study set up to address climate change sceptics' concerns about whether human-induced global warming is occurring.

Prof Richard Muller, a physicist and climate change sceptic who founded the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (Best) project, said he was surprised by the findings. "We were not expecting this, but as scientists, it is our duty to let the evidence change our minds." He added that he now considers himself a "converted sceptic" and his views had undergone a "total turnaround" in a short space of time.

"Our results show that the average temperature of the Earth's land has risen by 2.5F over the past 250 years, including an increase of 1.5 degrees over the most recent 50 years. Moreover, it appears likely that essentially all of this increase results from the human emission of greenhouse gases," Muller wrote in an opinion piece for the New York Times.

The team of scientists based at the University of California, Berkeley, gathered and merged a collection of 14.4m land temperature observations from 44,455 sites across the world dating back to 1753. Previous data sets created by Nasa, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Met Office and the University of East Anglia's climate research unit only went back to the mid-1800s and used a fifth as many weather station records.

The funding for the project included $150,000 from the Charles G Koch Charitable Foundation, set up by the billionaire US coal magnate and key backer of the climate-sceptic Heartland Institute thinktank. The research also received $100,000 from the Fund for Innovative Climate and Energy Research, which was created by Bill Gates.

Continue reading at:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2012/jul/29/climate-change-sceptics-change-mind

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Pat Buchanan: GOP Imperiled by Decline of White Population

By Matt Taibbi
July 27, 2012

So the Mad Hatter of the American conservatism, Pat Buchanan, wrote a piece today called "In the Long Run, is the GOP Dead?" It’s basically a fatalistic prediction that the GOP is doomed because it can’t promise enough free lunches for the inexorably rising percentage of nonwhite voters. And there's a line in there that I hope he clarifies, because it seemed crazy even for him.

The piece starts off by looking at California as a test case:
In the Golden Land, a state Nixon carried all five times he was on a national ticket and Reagan carried by landslides all four times he ran, the GOP does not hold a single statewide office. It gained not a single House seat in the 2010 landslide. Party registration has fallen to 30 percent of the California electorate and is steadily sinking.
Buchanan first posits that perhaps this problem is specific to California, a place where conservative positions on abortion and gay rights make statewide wins a challenge. But then he switches to demographics, quoting generally-astute Karl Rove acolyte Steve Schmidt, the hero of Game Change. 

Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/taibblog/pat-buchanan-gop-imperiled-by-decline-of-white-population-20120727

Who’s on America’s Side?

Published: July 17, 2012

Usually, at this stage of a presidential campaign, Republicans are doing a much better job of sullying the Democratic candidate as un-American.

Michael Dukakis was accused of having a funny last name and failing to say the Pledge of Allegiance 10 times a day. John Kerry was faulted for acting French and eating Philly cheese steaks with Swiss cheese. Al Gore was into the earth and earth tones — need we say more?

And the G.O.P. has had so much practice over the last four years at skewering Barack Obama as an existentialist socialist apologist for America with a secret foreign birth certificate that it should be like shooting mahi-mahi in a barrel.

The dude used to wear a sarong to do The Sunday Times crossword puzzle, for Pete’s sake — a look more exotic than Ralph Lauren’s Chinese French berets. Yet this week’s Republican attacks have been so shriekingly shrill, they make Poppy Bush campaigning at a New Jersey flag factory back in 1988 look like a masterpiece of subtlety.

“I wish this president would learn how to be an American,” said John Sununu, the former New Hampshire governor, on Tuesday during a Romney campaign media conference call. (He later apologized.)

He also went on Fox News to assert that the president “has no idea how the American system functions, and we shouldn’t be surprised about that, because he spent his early years in Hawaii smoking something, spent the next set of years in Indonesia, another set of years in Indonesia, and frankly, when he came to the U.S., he worked as a community organizer, which is a socialized structure.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/18/opinion/dowd-whos-on-americas-side.html


Spanish unemployment reaches record high of 24.6%

Second quarter figures show 5.7 million Spaniards now out of work, including 53% of under-25s, as austerity measures bite

in Madrid
guardian.co.uk, Friday 27 July 2012

Spain's unemployment rate hit record levels in the second quarter of this year, leaving one in four of the working population jobless as austerity continued to bite and fears of a national bailout grew.

Figures released by the national statistics institute revealed that the second quarter, traditionally a time when employment picks up for the tourist season, recorded a rise in unemployment to 24.6% as a further 53,000 people joined dole queues. That broke a previous record set during Spain's last major recession 18 years ago.

Some 5.7 million Spaniards are now unemployed. The under-25s are suffering most, with 53% unable to find work.

One in three people are now jobless in the Canary Islands and across a swath of western and southern Spain covering the regions of Extremadura and Andalucia.

Almost half of the unemployed have now been out of work for more than a year as the devastating decline in construction jobs that began four years ago shows no sign of improvement.

Cuts in government, regional and municipal spending have prompted the number of public sector workers to fall by 5% over the past year. Town halls have cut their workforces by 11% over the same period.

The government has admitted that Spain's double-dip recession will continue for at least another full year, with the economy set to contract in both 2012 and 2013. Job creation is unlikely to be boosted in the near future.

Continue reading at:   http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jul/27/spanish-unemployment-record-high

Katie Slowe, Massachusetts Student, Has To Choose Between Health Care And College


Because of a gap in the U.S. health care system, one college student is being forced to choose between her education and saving her own life.

Katie Slowe, 19, was dropped from her state's health insurance program, MassHealth, on her 19th birthday because she is a full-time student at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, CBS Boston reports.
Slowe, who is diabetic, needs an insulin pump to stay alive. But she cannot afford one without health insurance: It costs nearly $1,000 per month, according to CBS Boston.

Now, Slowe has to choose between college and life-saving health care. Massachusetts could provide her insulin but not the insulin pump, which her mom says is necessary for controlling her diabetes and preventing complications such as blindness and kidney failure, CBS Boston reports. Slowe cannot afford her college's health insurance program because it is not covered by financial aid. If Slowe were no longer a student, she could be covered by MassHealth.

Slowe's dilemma results from a major gap in the Affordable Care Act, which President Obama signed into law in 2010 and the Supreme Court upheld last month. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, young people now can remain on their parents' private health insurance plans until age 26, but the provision does not apply to state health insurance programs, such as MassHealth, which covers Slowe's mother and other people in need.

If Slowe drops out of college, she may have to contend with lower earnings for the rest of her life.

Continue reading at:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/27/katie-slowe-massachusetts-student_n_1709400.html

Saturday, July 28, 2012

New Catholic Archbishop of Glasgow claims Labour MP David Cairns died because he was gay/Chick-fil-A chief spokesman Don Perry dies unexpectedly

Why is that when ever a disaster wrecks a Bible Belt city it is always because people weren't harsh enough on the people of the queer alphabet?

Especially when something similar but in reverse could be said when a homophobic bigot croaks.

When it comes to making homophobic statements, the Catholic Church in Scotland has often led the way in Britain in recent years. Cardinal Keith O'Brien, the Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, and Britain's most senior Catholic, has a track record of extreme pronouncements on gay-rights-related-issues, and earlier prompted outrage by comparing the legalisation of gay marriage with the legalisation of slavery.
 Considering O'Brien's record, it should perhaps come as little surprise that Philip Tartaglia, the newly-appointed Catholic Archbishop of Glasgow, has stepped into a row over homophobia before he has even officially taken up his new post.
A report in the Scotsman reveals that, in a speech delivered at a conference in Oxford in April, Tartaglia suggested that the tragic death of a 44-year-old Labour MP may have been linked to the fact that he was gay. David Cairns died last year from Pancreatitis but, in remarks reminiscent of the Daily Mail columnist Jan Moir's controversial take on the death of Boyzone singer Stephen Gately, Tartaglia asked his audience to consider whether there is a connection between early deaths and sexual orientation:

By Tiffany Hsu
July 27, 2012
Don Perry, head spokesman for Chick-fil-A, has died.
The Atlanta-based company said Perry died "suddenly" Friday morning. Perry, who most recently was vice president of public relations, had worked with the chain for nearly 29 years, according to Chick-fil-A.
“He was a well-respected and well-liked media executive in the Atlanta and University of Georgia communities, and we will all miss him,” the company said in a statement. "Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”
Local news outlets reported that Perry suffered a heart attack.
A spokesman with a third-party public relations company working with Chick-fil-A said he could not confirm the heart attack reports.
Last week, Perry helmed the company’s official response to the controversy that erupted after Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy spoke out against gay marriage.

I wonder if the totally insane Phelps Klan will picket his funeral?