Friday, February 27, 2015

Thursday, February 26, 2015

ISIS Show Video destroy artefacts with sledgehammers at Mosul museum

We must offend religion more: Islam, Christianity and our tolerance for ancient myths, harmful ideas

From Salon:

Our enduring deference to religion, despite its toxicity and phony explanations for the cosmos, lets it survive

Sunday, Feb 22, 2015

“Yes, it is freedom of speech, but,” said Inna Shevchenko, the 24-year-old leader of the topless, fiercely atheist activist group Femen in France.  On Feb. 14 she was addressing the conference on art, blasphemy and freedom of expression held at the Krudttønden, a café and cultural center in Copenhagen.  She continued.  “Why do we still say ‘but’ when we…”

A sustained barrage of automatic gunfire interrupted her.  She, the Swedish cartoonist with her onstage, Lars Vilks (famous for his 2007 drawings of the Prophet Muhammad that sparked deadly riots in the Islamic world), and much of the audience hurled themselves to the floor before escaping through the building’s rear exit.  The hooded terrorist assailant, a 22-year-old Danish citizen of Arab descent, ended up killing a Danish filmmaker, Finn Noergaard, and wounding five others.  Police later felled the assassin after he had opened fire on a synagogue, murdering one.

The attacker’s primary target was probably Vilks, but he would have rejoiced at the chance to get Shevchenko, too.  After all, Femen has pronounced religion – in particular, Islam — a bane on women’s rights and has carried out a number of widely publicized, bare-breasted protests against it, burning the Salafist flag in front of the Great Mosque in Paris and chanting, “Fuck Your Morals!” and “Women’s Spring is Coming!” to a furious crowd outside Tunisia’s Ministry of Justice, disrupting a Catholic march against same-sex marriage (also in Paris) and disturbing the pope’s weekly address at the Vatican, and ambushing the Russian Orthodox patriarch as he stepped out of his plane in Kiev, greeting the potentate with cries (in Russian) of “Out, out, Devil!”  (By no means is this list complete.)  Shevchenko herself was forced into exile in 2012 after chainsawing, in support of Pussy Riot activists imprisoned in Russia, a giant wooden cross on Kiev’s central Independence Square.

The morning after the Copenhagen assault I spoke with Shevchenko by Skype.  Still in the Danish capital, she had spent much of the night at the police station, and had slept poorly after returning to her hotel.  Yet she was calm and lucid, determined to continue with Femen’s fight against religion.  This fight had turned extremely personal for her even before Copenhagen: She lost 12 friends in the Charlie Hebdo massacre last month in Paris, where she lives as a political refugee.  (Femen had figured prominently on the satirical magazine’s pages and had even guest-edited an issue.)  Had the Krudttønden organizers held the conference in the café’s front room (with its large windows), and not in the walled-off rear auditorium, she told me, she might not be alive today.

“What were you going to say just before the shooting began?”

“I was going to say that we can’t begin self-censoring, or we end up with just the illusion of free speech.  If we have free speech only up to where we might hurt someone’s feelings, then it isn’t free.  ‘You have freedom of speech, just don’t offend,’ people tell me.  Those who say this are only trying to shut down our freedoms.  If we cede to this, we play their game.  Now that offends me.”

Continue reading at:

If Our Sons Were Treated Like Our Daughters

A perfect illustration of how gender is constructed and indoctrinated. Maybe it is time to stop with all the gender and gender identity nonsense and start referring to that sense of self that tells us we are male or female, women or men as core sex identity instead of gender identity.

Gender roles differ with time and cultures.  The sense of self as male or female transcends cultures and eras.

From Huffington Post:


Come with me. Let's open the door to a parallel universe. You unlock this door with a key of imagination, just like on The Twilight Zone. Here in this parallel world, the rules are different because gender roles are flipped. Loving parents and teachers accept this strange culture as if it's not so bad, or perhaps even good. As if the reverse of this culture could exist only in the minds of fiction writers or lunatics.

As we travel together, let's observe the childhood of one baby boy, born into this alternate reality, as seen through the eyes of his mother:

In the womb: It is your baby shower, and everyone has known for several months that you are having a boy. It's so wonderful after having had a girl first to finally be having a precious little boy. You receive carefully chosen baby gifts that celebrate your son's gender. Everyone's favorite item is a tiny white onesie with powder blue lettering that says Future Trophy Husband. You think for a fleeting moment that this is a bit odd, even inappropriate, but all of your friends think it's super cute. You guess that it is.

Birth: He has finally arrived and you name him Logan! He is healthy and rosy-cheeked and weighs almost 9 pounds. When it is time to take him home, you say goodbye to the skilled and compassionate nurses who took such good care of you both, and one of them tells you, "He is so gorgeous. I bet he'll be a model one day."

Age 1: Happy first birthday to Logan! You keep the party small and inexpensive -- mostly family and a couple of friends. Grandma brings a cake from the supermarket. It is covered in blue icing, has a crown on top, and says, "For the Birthday Prince."

Age 2: Christmas this year involves lots of presents and Logan loves the wrapping paper and ribbons more than the toys inside, like most toddlers. He receives so many wonderful gifts. There is a set of musical instruments, all pale blue. There is a special box of boy Lincoln Logs made of blue plastic. There is a little blue T-shirt that says, "I'm too handsome to read books, so my sister reads them for me." He can't read yet and doesn't understand that slogan, but the adults all laugh, so he laughs, too.

Continue reading at:

Paul Krugman on Why Republicans Worship 'Quacks and Charlatans'

From Alternet:

Getting things epically wrong and denying reality gains you points in today's GOP.

By Janet Allon
February 20, 2015

Today's GOP is a kind of bizarro world where ambitious politicians are forced to pledge allegiance to experts who have gotten just about everything wrong. So writes Paul Krugman in his column Friday, who laments the fact that "charlatans and cranks" have gained increasing favor in the party, despite, or maybe even because of, the fact that they get things wrong, and then, by golly, stick to their guns.

This being Krugman, the topic is economics, specifically "supply-siders," a group which even N. Gregory Mankiw, a professor at Harvard who served for a time as George W. Bush’s chief economic adviser, made fun of when their belief that tax cuts would provide a magical elixir to the economy and miraculously fix deficits proved so very wrong.  But the fact that even a Republican adviser said this approach is bunk has had absolutely no effect on the party's thinking. Proof: Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, a contender for the Republican presidential nomination, spoke at a dinner at Manhattan’s “21” Club this week. It was "hosted by the three most prominent supply-siders: Art Laffer (he of the curve); Larry Kudlow of CNBC; and Stephen Moore, chief economist of the Heritage Foundation. Politico pointed out that Rick Perry, the former governor of Texas, attended a similar event last month. Clearly, to be a Republican contender you have to court the powerful charlatan caucus," Krugman writes.

Not to put too fine a point on it, Krugman adds: "A doctrine that even Republican economists consider dangerous nonsense has become party orthodoxy. And what makes this political triumph especially remarkable is that it comes just as the doctrine’s high priests have been setting new standards for utter, epic predictive failure."

It is not merely that the supply-siders did not see the economic crisis coming, although they didn't. Then again, lots of economists failed to see it, so Krugman gives them a mild pass on that. It's the "post-crisis" developments that have been even more telling. "The people Mr. Walker was courting have spent years warning about the wrong things," Krugman writes.  "'Get ready for inflation and higher interest rates' was the title of a June 2009 op-ed article in The Wall Street Journal by Mr. Laffer; what followed were the lowest inflation in two generations and the lowest interest rates in history. Mr. Kudlow and Mr. Moore both predicted 1970s-style stagflation."

Continue reading at:

Bill Clinton pounds Republicans for ‘sitting around just begging for America to fail’

From Raw Story:

22 Feb 2015

Appearing on ABC’s This Week with his former communications director, George Stephanopoulos, former President Bill Clinton expressed dismay with the Republican Party’s attempts to destroy the Affordable Care Act, claiming that the the GOP is “sitting around just begging for America to fail.”
Addressing a clip of  Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) claiming he intends to change his references to “Obamacare” as “Hillarycare” if the national healthcare program collapses because he wants presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton “to own it,” the former president marveled at the GOP’s obsession with wanting the program to fail.

“This bill [Obamacare] has already produced a lot of good results,” Clinton explained. “Look, they are desperate for this bill to fail. Because, if it’s not a failure, everything they’ve been telling us since 1980, ‘big government’s bad,’ is wrong.”

He continued, “They so badly want it to fail. Can you remember a time in your lifetime when a major political party was sitting around just begging for America to fail? I don’t know what’s going to happen. I would be shocked if it fails. I just think when all these dire predictions don’t come out, if they don’t, I believe that pretty soon, within the next several years, it will be like Medicare and Medicaid. It will be a normal part of our lives and people will be glad it’s there.”

Complete article at:

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Uber: Wal-Mart on Wheels? Actually it is more like Whole Foods

Parents Trying to Reverse Kids’ Autism By ‘Flushing Out’ Vaccines With Bogus ‘Miracle’ Bleach Enemas

Homeopath equals Quack aka Fraud aka Fake Physician

From Alternet:

FDA calls the Miracle Mineral Solution product “dangerous” and “potentially life threatening."

By Tom Boggioni February 20, 2015

Parents seeking help with children with autism are turning to a “miracle” cure that involves giving the children enemas, using a dangerous industrial solution used for bleaching wood pulp.

According to If You Only News, parents have turned to Miracle Mineral Solution (MMS), containing sodium chlorite which is mixed with citric acid (i.e. orange juice) to make chlorine dioxide. 

According to the promoters, the solution, which can be taken orally or administered via an enema, can cure HIV, malaria, hepatitis, autism, acne, and cancer.

Miracle Mineral Solution is the brainchild of Jim Humble, who quit the Church of Scientology to form the Genesis II Church of Health & Healing in order to promote his “miracle” cure in Africa and Mexico.

The Food and Drug Administration disagrees with Humble’s claims and has posted a warning on their website calling the product “dangerous” and “potentially life threatening,” advising “drinking the amount recommended on product labels can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and symptoms of severe dehydration.”

Additionally, the Environmental Protection Agency warns that chronic exposure to small doses of chlorine dioxide could result in reproductive and neurodevelopmental damage, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued guidance in the use of chlorine dioxide in the workplace.
Kerri Rivera, founder of the website CD Autism (“Autism: Avoidable. Treatable. Curable.”) which promotes MMS, claims that autism is caused by yeast, parasites, viruses, and vaccines that can be flushed from the body.

On her Facebook page, Rivera — who identifies herself as a biomedical consultant and certified homeopath – keeps a running total of parents who have contacted her, saying MMS has “cured” their children of autism.

Continue reading at:

Anti-Vaxxers: Enjoying the Privilege of Putting Everyone at Risk

From Rolling Stone:

If you're doing well enough, your bad decisions will probably only hurt someone else

By February 19, 2015

I like to think that I am not prone to irrational fear. Flying worries me, but mostly because I'm stuck inside a metal cigar tube hurtling five miles above ground at 300-plus mph. Tall bridges unnerve me, on a similar "radically denaturing into a crushed pizza" basis. I was in a 6.9 earthquake and a Category 4 hurricane and am fond of neither for what would appear to be perfectly adequate reasons.

On the other hand, I've been sort of shot at — and once had a drunk good ol' boy reach behind his back for what he most certainly wanted me to think was a gun — and apart from those two instances have never thought, "I need to orient my life around gun anxiety." On matters of terror attacks, car theft, burglary, giant snakes, killer bees or numerically obsessed serial killers, I am imperturbable. I live across the street from alligators, and I only wish they were larger so that the neighborhood cats might be fewer. SARS, necrotizing fasciitis, Mekong whiskey and Hong Kong Flu do not exercise me.

That said, the United States' recent entirely optional measles outbreak, even at this early stage of fraught potential, is seriously fucking with my life, fucking with my son's life, and making everything fucking anxious. I don't think I'm out of line in saying privileged assholes are to blame.

* * *

If there is one thing the anti-vaccination movement has taught us, it's that correlation does not equal causation. That being said, let us stipulate a few points. One, that a virus declared essentially eliminated in 2000 does not make a roaring comeback in 15 years without intervening acts. Two, that huge chunks of licensed medical professionals did not all forget how to properly administer injections, the correctly administered remainder of which did not all spontaneously fail. Three, that there's a relationship between all the people who skipped giving their kids the Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine and their kids getting measles, especially since those are the kids who keep getting it.

Whence the anti-vaxxers? Their current movement goes back to a 1998 Lancet article and personal comments by (former) doctor Andrew Wakefield, linking autism and the MMR vaccine. Many people rightly felt disinclined to give their kids autism via a shot, but that paper has since been withdrawn and Wakefield stripped of his medical license, which seems like it could be important! Wakefield's study featured, at best, a fatuously small sample size, and its conclusions could not be replicated. Worse, some of Wakefield's patients were recruited by attorneys looking to sue MMR vaccine manufacturers.

Continue reading at:

Monday, February 23, 2015

Bernie Sanders’ dire warning: Billionaire Kochs will have more power than both Dems and GOP

Add in Bloomberg and Soros plus the Waltons and you have way too much power in the hands of way too few people.  When that happens Fascism rises.  Interestingly the urge to rebel is seen on both the left and the right.  Often  the two seem separated by what are mainly issues of distraction such as same sex marriage or gun ownership, not to mention race and now matters of "identity".

Cui bono? Who Benefits?

From Raw Story:

22 Feb 2015

Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is warning Americans that two ultra-conservative billionaire brothers will soon hold more political power than both the Democratic and Republican Parties.

While speaking to a group of supporters in Iowa last week, Sanders explained why he was considering a run for the president of the United States in 2016.

“It is likely in a very short period of time that the Koch brothers themselves will have a stronger political presence than either the Democratic or the Republican Party,” the lawmaker noted. “I am prepared to take on the billionaire class.”

Sanders said that a lot of his supporters have pleaded with him to “stay out of the damn Democratic Party” if he decides to run for president.

 “I don’t want to tilt at windmills,” he told ABC News in an interview that aired on Sunday. “But I just think that out there, there are so many people who are hurting, so many people who are disillusioned, so many people are really viscerally upset that they’re working longer hours for low wages and the billionaires are getting richer, and they need a voice.”

Why We’re All Becoming Independent Contractors

From Robert Reich:

Robert Reich
Sunday, February 22, 2015

GM is worth around $60 billion, and has over 200,000 employees. Its front-line workers earn from $19 to $28.50 an hour, with benefits.  

Uber is estimated to be worth some $40 billion, and has 850 employees. Uber also has over 163,000 drivers (as of December – the number is expected to double by June), who average $17 an hour in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., and $23 an hour in San Francisco and New York. 

But Uber doesn’t count these drivers as employees. Uber says they’re “independent contractors.”
What difference does it make?

For one thing, GM workers don’t have to pay for the machines they use. But Uber drivers pay for their cars – not just buying them but also their maintenance, insurance, gas, oil changes, tires, and cleaning. Subtract these costs and Uber drivers’ hourly pay drops considerably.

For another, GM’s employees get all the nation’s labor protections.

These include Social Security, a 40-hour workweek with time-and-a-half for overtime, worker health and safety, worker’s compensation if  injured on the job, family and medical leave, minimum wage, pension protection, unemployment insurance, protection against racial or gender discrimination, and the right to bargain collectively.

Not to forget Obamacare’s mandate of employer-provided healthcare.

Uber workers don’t get any of these things. They’re outside the labor laws.

Uber workers aren’t alone. There are millions like just them, also outside the labor laws — and their ranks are growing. Most aren’t even part of the new Uberized “sharing” economy.

They’re franchisees, consultants, and free lancers.

Continue reading at:

Guess Which "Liberal" State Has 500 Laws Aimed at Oppressing the Homeless?

Rhetoric aside if one is poor there isn't that much difference between Red States and Blue States.  NYC, LA and SF are some of the worst places to be poor and struggling.

From Alternet:

On the heels of a damning new report, the Right to Rest campaign pushes for statewide legislation to stop discrimination against homeless people.

By Alyssa Figueroa February 18, 2015

Cities in the United States have a long history of criminalizing the public presence of people they consider undesirable. In the late 1800s, Southern cities established “sundown towns,” laws that restricted black people from being outside after sunset. Throughout the 19th century, cities ratified “ugly laws,” banning people who were diseased or deformed from being outside. During the Great Depression, California cities passed an “anti-Okie” law, making it illegal to assist poor people entering the state. 

Today, society’s target is homeless people. Beginning in the 1980s when the federal government slashed the affordable housing budget, cities have enacted thousands of laws to criminalize basic human needs such as resting, sleeping, standing, and sitting, as well as acts like panhandling and food sharing.

That’s why the Western Regional Advocacy Project, a network of homeless advocacy groups on the West Coast, is pushing to pass the Right to Rest Act in Oregon, Colorado and California this year. The act, the first of its kind, would protect all residents’ right to rest, allowing people to occupy and use public spaces without fear of discrimination. The legislation was written based off interviews with more than 1,400 homeless people. It would also serve as a model legislation that could be enacted in every state across the nation.

While representatives in Oregon and Colorado are sponsoring the bill, no one has yet been willing to sponsor the bill in California. February 27 is the last day for the bill to be introduced into the legislature for this session—meaning if no one puts their name on it, the act is out for this year. The final push to get the Right to Rest Act introduced in California comes on the heels of a new research report revealing the extent of the criminalization of homelessness.

Paul Boden, executive director of WRAP, said, “The fact that we have the most in-depth research by far in California and we’re having the hardest time by far getting a sponsor for the bill is a really sad statement about the politics of business and gentrification in the state.”

Continue reading at:

Are America's High Rates of Mental Illness Actually Based on Sham Science?

By the way it isn't just the Pharmaceutical Industry that creates "mental illness categories" as a money making scam it is the entire Psychiatric Industrial Complex. The PIC operates more as a religion than as a science, with politically driven decisions as to whether or not things like homosexuality are mental illnesses or not.  In the Brave New World Order people who rebel or refuse to conform to the rigid dictates of social conformity are mentally ill.  In the Brave New World Order gender role conformity determines whether one is a man or a woman and actual physical sex is treated as a historical artifact.

When it comes to the worship of the Psychiatric Industrial Complex I am a skeptic if not a full-fledged atheist.  You see I don't believe being a book worm or nerd or socially inept means you have Asperger's syndrome and are sort of autistic. I actually believe some people are evil and do monstrous things.  I don't believe they are mentally ill and deserve compassionate treatment which will redeem them.

From Alternet:

The real purpose behind many of these statistics is to change our attitudes and political positions.

By Rob Wipond February 18, 2015

About one in five American adults (18.6%) has a mental illness in any given year, according to recent statistics from the National Institute of Mental Health. This statistic has been widely reported with alarm and concern. It's been used to back up demands for more mental health screening in schools, more legislation to forcibly treat the unwilling, more workplace psychiatric interventions, and more funding for the mental health system. And of course, personally, whenever we or someone we know is having an emotional or psychological problem, we now wonder, is it a mental illness requiring treatment? If one in five of us have one....

But what NIMH quietly made disappear from its website is the fact that this number actually represented a dramatic drop. “An estimated 26.2 percent of Americans ages 18 and older — about one in four adults — suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year,” the NIMH website can still be found to say in’s Wayback Machine. Way back, that is, in 2013.
A reduction in the prevalence of an illness by eight percent of America’s population—25 million fewer victims in one year—is extremely significant. So isn’t that the real story? And isn’t it also important that India recently reported that mental illnesses affect 6.5% of its population, a mere one-third the US rate?

And that would be the real story, if any of these statistics were even remotely scientifically accurate or valid. But they aren't. They're nothing more than manipulative political propaganda.  
Pharmaceutical companies fund the tests

First, that 18.6% is comprised of a smaller group who have “serious” mental illness and are functionally impaired (4.1%), and a much larger group who are “mildly to moderately” mentally ill and not functionally impaired by it­. Already, we have to wonder how significant a lot of these “mental illnesses” are, if they don’t at all impair someone's functioning.

NIMH also doesn’t say how long these illnesses last. We only know that, sometime in the year, 18.6% of us met criteria for a mental illness of some duration. But if some depressions or anxieties ­last only a week or month, then it’s possible that at any time as few as 1-2% of the population are mentally ill. That’s a much less eye-popping number that, critics like Australian psychiatrist Jon Jureidini argue, is more accurate.

Continue reading at:

Friday, February 20, 2015

Friday Night Fun and Culture: Alabama Shakes

Guess Which "Liberal" State Has 500 Laws Aimed at Oppressing the Homeless?

From Alternet:

On the heels of a damning new report, the Right to Rest campaign pushes for statewide legislation to stop discrimination against homeless people.

By Alyssa Figueroa February 18, 2015

Cities in the United States have a long history of criminalizing the public presence of people they consider undesirable. In the late 1800s, Southern cities established “sundown towns,” laws that restricted black people from being outside after sunset. Throughout the 19th century, cities ratified “ugly laws,” banning people who were diseased or deformed from being outside. During the Great Depression, California cities passed an “anti-Okie” law, making it illegal to assist poor people entering the state. 

Today, society’s target is homeless people. Beginning in the 1980s when the federal government slashed the affordable housing budget, cities have enacted thousands of laws to criminalize basic human needs such as resting, sleeping, standing, and sitting, as well as acts like panhandling and food sharing.

That’s why the Western Regional Advocacy Project, a network of homeless advocacy groups on the West Coast, is pushing to pass the Right to Rest Act in Oregon, Colorado and California this year. The act, the first of its kind, would protect all residents’ right to rest, allowing people to occupy and use public spaces without fear of discrimination. The legislation was written based off interviews with more than 1,400 homeless people. It would also serve as a model legislation that could be enacted in every state across the nation.

While representatives in Oregon and Colorado are sponsoring the bill, no one has yet been willing to sponsor the bill in California. February 27 is the last day for the bill to be introduced into the legislature for this session—meaning if no one puts their name on it, the act is out for this year. The final push to get the Right to Rest Act introduced in California comes on the heels of a new research report revealing the extent of the criminalization of homelessness.

Paul Boden, executive director of WRAP, said, “The fact that we have the most in-depth research by far in California and we’re having the hardest time by far getting a sponsor for the bill is a really sad statement about the politics of business and gentrification in the state.”

Continue reading at:

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Saudi cleric rejects that Earth revolves around the Sun

America’s hair-removal insanity

From Salon:

The United States' obsession with hair-free bodies is nearly unprecedented in history. So what gives?

In the contemporary United States, few practices are as taken for granted as the deliberate removal of body hair. Recent studies indicate that more than 99 percent of American women voluntarily remove hair, and more than 85 percent do so regularly, even daily. The usual targets, for the moment, are legs, underarms, eyebrows, upper lips, and bikini lines. Those habits, furthermore, appear to transcend ethnic, racial, and regional boundaries. Over the course of a lifetime, one 2008 survey indicated, American women who shave (a relatively inexpensive way to remove hair) will spend, on average, more than ten thousand dollars and nearly two entire months of their lives simply managing unwanted hair. The woman who waxes once or twice a month will spend more than twenty-three thousand dollars over the course of her lifetime. Most American men, too, now routinely remove facial hair, and increasing numbers modify hair elsewhere on their bodies. Research indicates that as of 2005, more than 60 percent of American men were regularly reducing or removing hair from areas of the body below the neck. Although generally ignored by social scientists surveying hair removal trends, transsexual, transgender, and genderqueer people also express concern with hair management, and employ varying techniques of hair removal.
The ubiquity of personal hair removal in the United States is particularly striking given its relative novelty. To be clear: forcible hair removal is not new. The use of hair removal to control or degrade, as with the beard removals at Guantánamo, has been imposed on inmates, soldiers, students, and other captives for centuries. Despite the recent treatment of U.S. detainees, American courts have tended to frown on the forced removal of hair by agents of the state. In an influential 1879 decision, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen J. Field held that the San Francisco officials who cut off the long queues of Chinese men confined in county jails were in violation of both the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection and its prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. Nonstate actors also have removed hair as a way to maintain and reproduce specific relations of domination. Particularly telling in this regard were the slave traders who shaved and oiled the faces of enslaved men being prepared for sale. Because vigorous men drew higher prices, traders sometimes shaved away signs of grey beards or the first stages of pubertal growth in order to make the men appear younger. An eighteenth-century engraving of a slave market depicts an Englishman licking the face of an enslaved man to check for telltale traces of stubble before purchase.
Although overtly coercive hair removal has a long history in the United States, the more widespread practices of voluntary hair removal evident today are remarkably recent. So, too, is the dominant culture’s general aversion to visible hair. From the first decades of contact and colonization through the first half of the nineteenth century, disdain for body hair struck most European and Euro-American observers as decidedly peculiar: one of the enigmatic characteristics of the continent’s indigenous peoples. In sharp contrast with the discourse surrounding bearded detainees at Guantánamo, the beardless “Indians” were described as exceptionally, even bizarrely, eager to pluck and shave. Only in the late nineteenth century did non-Native Americans, primarily white women, begin to express persistent concern about their own body hair, and not until the 1920s did large numbers begin routinely removing hair below the neck. By the mid-twentieth century, however, the revolution was nearly complete: where eighteenth-century naturalists and explorers considered hair-free skin to be the strange obsession of indigenous peoples, Cold War–era commentators blithely described visible body hair on women as evidence of a filthy, “foreign” lack of hygiene. The normalization of smooth skin in dominant U.S. culture is not even a century old.
What accounts for this increasing antipathy toward body hair? Previous historical investigation sheds little light on the matter. Even the voluminous scholarship devoted to various beauty practices in the United States—cosmetics, breast enlargements, plastic surgery, hairstyling—largely overlooks hair removal. How, then, might we understand the prevalence of practices that are repetitive and expensive, at best, and not infrequently messy, painful, disfiguring, and even deadly?

Continue reading at:

As gay marriage bans fall, LGBT rights come under fire from state legislatures

From The Guardian UK:

From bill protecting clergy refusing to conduct gay marriages to law defining gender as binary, several states attempt to beat back rising tide of acceptance

in New York Friday 13 February 2015

As the US supreme court’s deliberation of same-sex marriage draws closer, lawmakers in several states are attempting to reign in other civil rights recently granted to the LGBT community.
Conservative lawmakers from Kansas to Florida are working to repeal anti-discrimination laws, stop new ones from being enacted and expand laws on religious freedom.

On Thursday in Oklahoma, the state House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly for a bill which would protect members of the clergy who refuse to perform same-sex marriages. The bill now passes to the state Senate.

In Arkansas, the state’s 35-member Senate has passed a bill barring municipalities from creating protected classes. The law is reportedly part of a backlash against city council members in Fayetteville, Arkansas, where a law barring discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation passed before being repealed by referendum.

State lawmakers are touting the bill as an Intrastate Commerce Improvement Act, which would create legal uniformity. It is unclear whether Arkansas’ governor, Asa Hutchinson, will sign the bill into law.

“People are very upset,” said Holly Dickson, legal director at the Arkansas American Civil Liberties Union, told BuzzFeed News. “As soon as LGBT people get some protections against being evicted or fired just because of who they love, the state is going to absolutely prohibit them from obtaining that sort of protection.”

In Florida, Republican House member Frank Artiles introduced a bill that would bar transgender people from choosing a bathroom. Instead, the law defines gender as binary and declared “at birth” as either “male or female”. Violators could be charged with a misdemeanor and be sued. Artiles says the legislation is a meant to protect people in bathrooms, places of “increased vulnerability”.

That bill is also in response to local legislators protecting the LGBT community. The Miami-Dade board of county commissioners passed an ordinance that bars discrimination on the basis of gender expression.

Continue reading at:

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Happy Mardi Gras

UN calls for FGM zero tolerance after a year in which the world woke up

From The Guardian UK:

Following 12 months of historic change and growing FGM awareness, UN calls for concrete action against cutting girls and women

Friday 6 February 2015

The United Nations has designated Friday a worldwide day of zero tolerance on FGM, and called for concrete action to be taken against the cutting of girls and women. This follows 12 months of historic change and growing awareness of the practice.

The Guardian launched its campaign to end FGM a year ago, joining with activists, media organisations and committed politicians to shape laws, influence policy and transform social attitudes.

In the UK it worked with Bristol student Fahma Mohamed and her colleagues at Integrate Bristol to get information about FGM into schools, gathering the support of more than 230,000 people on her petition.

Inspired by Mohamed’s petition, Atlanta resident Jaha Dukureh took up the baton in the US, lobbying the government to carry out the first prevalence study into FGM for 17 years and set up a working group to tackle the practice on American soil.

In her home country of the Gambia, Dukureh held the first youth summit to fight FGM, while also confronting her father about the practice, and meeting the woman who cut her.

In Kenya, UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon gave his backing to a joint Guardian-UNFPA project that will give reporting grants to African journalists to increase the coverage of FGM and its dangers across the continent.

There was much to celebrate, thanks to tireless campaigning by local and international activists. In London, global dignitaries gathered at the Girl Summit, hosted by prime minister David Cameron, and countries pledged to tackle the issue head on. There have been setbacks too: questions were raised when a doctor was found not guilty of performing FGM in a London hospital in the first UK prosecution, and the movement lost a lifelong campaigner with the death of Efua Dorkenoo. With 130m women and girls thought to be living with FGM across the world, and prevalence rates still high in many of the 29 countries in Africa and the middle east where FGM is still carried out, campaigners still have much work to do.

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When letting your kids out of your sight becomes a crime

From The Washington Post:

February 13, 2015

Danielle Meitiv lives in Silver Spring. 
We all want what is best for our children. We want them to be happy and successful, and we want to protect them from harm. But what if we are protecting them from extremely remote threats while ignoring the things that most endanger their well-being? What if police and child welfare officials, the experts whom we empower to protect our children, are pursuing phantom problems while neglecting those who are truly at risk?

One recent Saturday afternoon, six police officers and five patrol cars came to my home in Silver Spring. They demanded identification from my husband and entered our home despite not having a warrant to do so. The reason for this show of force? We had allowed our children to walk home from a neighborhood park by themselves.

A few hours later, a Montgomery County Child Protective Services (CPS) social worker coerced my husband into signing a “temporary safety plan” for our children by threatening to take the children “right now” — a threat she backed up with a call to the police. In the weeks that followed, another worker from the agency appeared at our door with the police and insisted that he did not need a warrant to enter our home. He also interviewed our children at school without our knowledge or permission.

When did Americans decide that allowing our kids to be out of sight was a crime?

Not everyone is comfortable with the idea of young children being outside without adult supervision. We’re not always comfortable with it, either. We think, however, that giving them an opportunity to learn to make their way in the world independently is the best way to prepare them for adulthood — and that it is safe for them to do so.

Although our fears may tell us one thing about the world, the facts say something quite different. Crime rates across the United States are as low as they’ve been in my lifetime. Stranger abduction, the bogeyman of most parental fears, has always been exceedingly rare. Far more hazardous are the obesity risks and idleness we subject children to if we do not allow them to run outside and play.

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What ISIS Really Wants

From The Atlantic:  

The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse. Here’s what that means for its strategy—and for how to stop it.

Graeme Wood March 2015

What is the Islamic State?

Where did it come from, and what are its intentions? The simplicity of these questions can be deceiving, and few Western leaders seem to know the answers. In December, The New York Times published confidential comments by Major General Michael K. Nagata, the Special Operations commander for the United States in the Middle East, admitting that he had hardly begun figuring out the Islamic State’s appeal. “We have not defeated the idea,” he said. “We do not even understand the idea.” In the past year, President Obama has referred to the Islamic State, variously, as “not Islamic” and as al-Qaeda’s “jayvee team,” statements that reflected confusion about the group, and may have contributed to significant strategic errors.

The group seized Mosul, Iraq, last June, and already rules an area larger than the United Kingdom. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been its leader since May 2010, but until last summer, his most recent known appearance on film was a grainy mug shot from a stay in U.S. captivity at Camp Bucca during the occupation of Iraq. Then, on July 5 of last year, he stepped into the pulpit of the Great Mosque of al-Nuri in Mosul, to deliver a Ramadan sermon as the first caliph in generations—upgrading his resolution from grainy to high-definition, and his position from hunted guerrilla to commander of all Muslims. The inflow of jihadists that followed, from around the world, was unprecedented in its pace and volume, and is continuing.

Our ignorance of the Islamic State is in some ways understandable: It is a hermit kingdom; few have gone there and returned. Baghdadi has spoken on camera only once. But his address, and the Islamic State’s countless other propaganda videos and encyclicals, are online, and the caliphate’s supporters have toiled mightily to make their project knowable. We can gather that their state rejects peace as a matter of principle; that it hungers for genocide; that its religious views make it constitutionally incapable of certain types of change, even if that change might ensure its survival; and that it considers itself a harbinger of—and headline player in—the imminent end of the world.

The Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), follows a distinctive variety of Islam whose beliefs about the path to the Day of Judgment matter to its strategy, and can help the West know its enemy and predict its behavior. Its rise to power is less like the triumph of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt (a group whose leaders the Islamic State considers apostates) than like the realization of a dystopian alternate reality in which David Koresh or Jim Jones survived to wield absolute power over not just a few hundred people, but some 8 million.

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Monday, February 16, 2015

Islamic State calls for terror attacks in France, Belgium

From The Times of Israel:

New video released by jihadist group encourages Muslims to wreak havoc, kill infidels in Europe

By Justin Jalil February 14, 2015

The Islamic State terror group on Saturday released a new video threatening new attacks against France and Belgium, a month after deadly attacks in the French capital by radical Islamists left 17 dead.

The nine-minute video in Arabic and French entitled “A Message to France” claims that Islamic State operatives are deployed throughout both European countries and await orders to commit additional attacks, specifically in Paris and Brussels, Israel Radio reported.

"Islamic State fighters are deployed everywhere and your nightmare begins now, along with the real war,” the Walla news site quoted the Arabic-language video saying.

The clip opens with recorded statements by French President Francois Hollande and former president Nicolas Sarkozy, followed by a segment from a home video of Amedy Coulibaly, the terrorist responsible for attacking a kosher supermarket in Paris last month, killing four and injuring nine.

A flag of the Islamic State is prominently displayed on the wall behind Coulibaly as he declares his allegiance to the group. Coulibaly was also suspected of killing a policewoman a day before the attack.

Following Coulibaly’s segment, two French-speaking Islamic State fighters wearing military fatigues implored Muslims throughout France to kill non-believers.

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Leslie Gore (May 2, 1946 – February 16, 2015)

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Tobacco

Couples Ask Appeals Court to Allow Same-Sex Marriages to Begin Immediately In Texas

From The Texas Observer:


Attorneys for two gay couples are asking a federal appeals court to allow same-sex marriages to begin in Texas immediately.

In a motion filed Thursday, attorneys for the couples asked the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to lift a district judge’s stay of his 2014 decision striking down Texas’ marriage ban.

If the 5th Circuit agrees to lift the stay, it would clear the way for same-sex marriages to begin in Texas. If the 5th Circuit doesn’t lift the stay for all same-sex couples, the motion asks that it be lifted for the limited purpose of establishing the parental rights of plaintiff Cleopatra DeLeon, whose wife, Nicole Dimetman, is expecting a child in March.

The motion cites the U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal to halt same-sex marriages in both Alabama and Florida, after federal district judges struck down bans in those states. The high court will hear appeals in April from four states where same-sex marriage bans were upheld.

“The Supreme Court’s actions indicate that the stay of the District Court’s decision is no longer necessary,” the motion states. “The District Court expressly found that the denial of the fundamental right to marry causes irreparable harm. Despite this, Plaintiffs continue to suffer irreparable harm—only now the potential consequences are graver. As discussed further below, Plaintiffs De Leon and Dimetman are expecting a child any day, and the State’s refusal to recognize their marriage risks grave harm both to the Plaintiffs and the child.”

Neel Lane, an attorney for the couples, said in a statement he remains confident the 5th Circuit will rule in favor of marriage equality.

“But same-sex marriages are proceeding across the South and Southwest, while Texas remains the most populous state where gays and lesbians are deprived of that right,” Lane said. “Today we urge the Fifth Circuit to remedy that omission immediately.”

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We’re clean eating our way to new eating disorders

From Salon:

Is orthorexia about to join the DSM?

Friday, Jan 30, 2015

Because overdoing it is the American way, we’ve now managed to warp even healthy habits into a new form of eating disorders. Welcome to the era of orthorexia.

 As Heather Hansman notes this week in Fast Company, orthorexia differs from other forms of disorders in that the obsessive focus is not on how much or how little one consumes, but the perceived virtue of the food itself. As she reports, “Nutritionists and psychologists say that they’re seeing it more often, especially in the face of restrictive food trends, like gluten-free, and growing information about where food comes from, and how it’s grown and processed.” Though the term has been in use since Dr. Steven Bratman coined it in 1997, the uptick in cases is leading to a new push to formally include it in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – aka the DSM 5.
Along with “gluten-free,” “juice fast” and other phrases, you may have been hearing “orthorexia” a lot more lately. Last summer, popular health and food blogger Jordan Younger made headlines – and faced intense criticism – when she announced that she was “transitioning away from veganism” as she realized that she had “started fearing a LOT of things when it came to food,” and had been struggling with orthorexia. Her blog now is called “The Balanced Blonde,” where she talks honestly about her journey to wellness. In a recent post, she observed, “It. Breaks. My. Heart. It breaks my heart to see and hear beautiful, motivated, capable young women being sucked in to an extreme diet and way of life because it has been branded to them as ‘THE HEALTHIEST WAY TO LIVE’ above all else.”

It’s true, this kind of disordered mentality does seem to disproportionately target “beautiful, motivated, capable young women.” Because I like to cook and eat, and because I’ve had life threatening cancer, in recent years I’ve grown more conscious and curious about how I feed myself and my family. To that end, I read a fair number of cookbooks and food blogs, in particular those with a bent toward healthy eating. And it has not escaped my attention that there have been several wildly successful books in the past few years – often featuring pretty, thin, blond women – that I have had to put down and think, “Oh my God, these people should not be giving advice.” But the creeping fear of food isn’t just for women who look like pilates instructors. Just last week, my spouse attempted to make dinner plans with an old friend, who quickly rejected multiple suggestions of places to eat after citing a litany of foods he would no longer touch. This is not a thigh gap aspiring, crunchy young woman we’re talking about here. This is a man in his 50s.

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