Progressive News Digest

News


| Commentary | Events |

Ireland braces for vote on ending marriage apartheid

USA Today USA Today

"A day before this staunchly Catholic country votes Friday on a national referendum on same-sex marriage, 'Yes' campaign signs are prevalent throughout this city. ... Polls have been projecting an easy win for the referendum that would allow same-sex marriage, though it has gotten closer in recent weeks. ... If Ireland votes to alter its constitution, it will be the first country to adopt same-sex marriage as a result of a public vote." (05/21/15)

http://tinyurl.com/m4emv4d

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MD: Baltimore grand jury indicts six in Freddie Gray’s death

KFDX 3 News

"A grand jury in Baltimore has indicted six officers in the death of Freddie Gray, the city's top prosecutor said Thursday. In a hasty news conference, State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby reeled off the charges handed down by the grand jury against the officers, Garrett Miller, Alicia White, Edward Nero, Caesar Goodson Jr., Brian Rice and William Porter." (05/21/15)

http://tinyurl.com/kftwd2v

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Report: NSA hijacked app stores to hack phones

The Hill The Hill

"The National Security Agency planned to infiltrate the Google and Samsung app stores to plant spying software on smartphones, according to new documents published from files leaked by Edward Snowden. The Intercept and CBC News jointly published the documents Thursday, which outline the snooping efforts designed by the U.S. and its 'Five Eyes' alliance -- Canada, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia. ... agents sussed out smartphone Internet traffic by browsing through its Web traffic database created under the XKeyscore program. They would then track down those phones' connections to an app marketplace. Once identified, agents could hijack that connection to the app store and use it as a delivery system to plant spyware on the device." (05/21/15)

http://tinyurl.com/ks9zo65

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US Senate limits debate on “fast track” for Obama’s secret trade deal

Centre Daily Times

"The Senate voted Thursday morning to limit debate on a controversial bill that would grant fast-track trade authority to President Barack Obama, paving the way for final approval. After the bill passes, either later today or on Friday, it's expected to face a tougher vote in the House next month. ... The bill is aimed at making it easier for Obama to win passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a proposed 12-nation trade pact that's still being negotiated." (05/21/15)

http://tinyurl.com/ms4ujjk

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CA: Cleanup effort under way after oil spill stains Santa Barbara beach

Raw Story Raw Story

"Cleanup teams labored on Thursday for a third day to remove patches of crude petroleum that stained a California beach and fouled offshore waters from a pipeline rupture that may rank as the biggest oil spill to hit the Santa Barbara coastline in more than four decades. Working around the clock, about 300 people on the beach were scooping up globs of oil from the sand and raking tar balls. Crews will also scrub soiled rocks and hose down contaminated areas, Coast Guard Captain Jennifer Williams said." (05/21/15)

http://tinyurl.com/lard49q

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Russia: Censor warns Google, Twitter and Facebook

Reuters Reuters

"Russia's media watchdog has written to Google, Twitter and Facebook warning them against violating Russian Internet laws and a spokesman said on Thursday they risk being blocked if they do not comply with the rules. Roskomnadzor said it had sent letters this week to the three U.S.-based Internet firms asking them to comply with Internet laws which critics of President Vladimir Putin have decried as censorship. 'In our letters we regularly remind (companies) of the consequences of violating the legislation,' said Roskomnadzor spokesman Vadim Ampelonsky. He added that, because of the encryption technology used by the three firms, Russia had no way of blocking specific websites and so could only bring down particular content it deemed in violation of law by blocking access to their whole services." (05/21/15)

http://tinyurl.com/lnly9q9

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Judge: Gay couples across Alabama have right to marry

San Francisco Chronicle San Francisco Chronicle

"A federal judge has ruled that gays and lesbians have the right to marry in all Alabama counties, but placed her decision on hold until the U.S. Supreme Court issues a ruling on same-sex marriage. U.S District Judge Callie Granade said Thursday that Alabama's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional and enjoined probate judges from enforcing it. However, she stayed enforcement of her order citing the expected decision this summer. Granade in January ruled that Alabama's gay marriage ban was illegal. Gay couples married for three weeks until the state Supreme Court ordered probate judges to stop. The latest ruling came in a class-action lawsuit by gay couples across the state." (05/21/15)

http://tinyurl.com/lsvwosa

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Macedonia: “Bombs,” protests, terrorist threats?

Christian Science Monitor Christian Science Monitor

"The tiny Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia tends not to be a newsmaker. But the Vermont-sized country, tucked away in the southern Balkans, is currently the site of Europe's biggest political scandal, involving secret tapes of government wrongdoing, mass protests in the capital, and threats of ethnic-Albanian terrorists plotting to attack civilian and state targets. Here's what you need to know. Since February, the Macedonian opposition, led by Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) leader Zoran Zaev, has been accusing the country’s prime minister, Nikola Gruevski, of orchestrating a wiretapping program to spy on more than 20,000 people across the country. And Mr. Zaev has offered proof in the form of 'the bombs,' the nickname of a series of leaked conversations allegedly recorded by the program that reveal government involvement in a variety of misdeeds." (05/21/15)

http://tinyurl.com/l6pt7f7

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States move to pre-approve what food stamps can buy

Fox News Fox News

"In the long-running campaign by Republican-led states to rein in food stamp abuses and curb the now-$74 billion program, lawmakers are trying a new approach: Restricting what foods can and can't be on a family's grocery list. The move is controversial, with critics accusing GOP lawmakers of playing food police to further burden people already struggling. But proponents say the idea is not to punish people -- but promote healthy lifestyles by curbing the junk food they're buying with the government's help. 'It’s not meant to shame anyone or be punitive,' Wisconsin state Rep. Robert Brooks said. Brooks is pushing a bill -- which last week cleared the state Assembly -- limiting what foods could be purchased under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program." (05/21/15)

http://tinyurl.com/mfxleas

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Boy Scouts’ chief: Ban on gay adults “unsustainable”

BBC News BBC News [UK state media]

"The head of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) has said that the organisation's long-standing ban on participation by openly gay adults is unsustainable. Robert Gates said no changes would be made at the meeting, but opened the door to a future policy review. The former US Defence Secretary cited defiant chapters, possible legal challenges and other developments related to gay rights in the US. Gay rights groups have welcomed Mr Gates' comments. 'The status quo in our movement's membership standards cannot be sustained,' Robert Gates said at the group's annual meeting in Atlanta." (05/21/15)

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-32833797

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Boy Scouts president: Lift ban on gay adults

CNN CNN

"Robert Gates, the president of the Boy Scouts of America, called for the organization to end its ban on gay adults in remarks (PDF) at the organization's national business meeting Thursday. Citing 'the social, political and judicial changes taking place in our country' regarding laws and sexual orientation, Gates said that 'the status quo in our movement's membership standards cannot be sustained.'" (05/21/15)

http://tinyurl.com/lwzzhlf

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Airbus A400M plane crash linked to software fault

BBC News BBC News [UK state media]

"Investigators have found evidence a military plane crash in Spain may have been caused by software problems. The Airbus A400M crashed near Seville, on 9 May, after a failed emergency landing during its first flight. The four crew members on board were killed in the accident. A spokesman for the European planemaker told the BBC that its engineers had since discovered anomalies in the aircraft's data logs that could be relevant to the accident. It has sent out an alert to other air forces that have taken deliveries of the propeller aircraft, saying that they should carry out checks of the Electronic Control Units (ECU) on board." (05/20/15)

http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-32810273

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Study: Freshman year key to preventing college rape

Christian Science Monitor Christian Science Monitor

"A study released Wednesday details the prevalence of rape experienced by first-year college women. It also shows the degree to which sexual victimization before college increases the likelihood of being raped in college. The findings can add new layers of understanding to sexual assault policies and prevention work under way on college campuses, public health experts say. They may also bolster a growing chorus of advocates who say students at much younger ages need to start learning about forging healthy relationships and standing up to cultural norms that perpetuate rape." (05/20/15)

http://tinyurl.com/ltswt9q

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US drug thugs assault clinics, pharmacies in “pill mill” crackdown

San Francisco Chronicle San Francisco Chronicle

"Authorities raided medical clinics, pharmacies and other locations across the South on Wednesday as part of a Drug Enforcement Administration attempt to thwart illegal prescription drug sales. The raids in Arkansas, Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi were the latest stage of an operation launched last summer by the Drug Enforcement Administration's drug diversion unit, which has now netted 280 arrests over more than a year, including 22 doctors and pharmacists. 'We have people who have taken an oath to do no harm who are throwing that oath out the window,' DEA Special Agent in Charge Keith Brown said after the early morning raids.' [editor's note: If there is a legit purpose for this gestapo agency (not saying there is), this might be one of them - SAT] (05/20/15)

http://tinyurl.com/kcbds5l

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CA: CMA drops opposition to doctor-assisted suicide

Raw Story Raw Story

"The California Medical Association on Wednesday dropped its three-decade opposition to physician-assisted suicide, possibly paving the way for already-introduced legislation that would make the practice legal for terminally ill patients in the state. The CMA said its change to neutral on the issue marked the first by a state medical association. It comes amid renewed debate over doctor-assisted suicide following the death of brain cancer patient Brittany Maynard (pictured above) last fall. The American Medical Association remains opposed to doctors participating in assisted suicide, saying in a policy statement on its website that doing so was fundamentally incompatible with a doctor’s role as a healer, would be difficult to control and posed “serious societal risks.”" (05/20/15)

http://tinyurl.com/kgf4n6q

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Cuba: US embassy likely to operate in “restrictive” environment

Reuters Reuters

"A new U.S. embassy in Havana is likely to operate with controls on staff travel and other restrictions similar to those on American diplomats in other countries with authoritarian governments, Washington's chief Cuba negotiator said on Wednesday. But Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson, speaking on the eve of the latest round of talks with Cuba on restoring diplomatic ties, said Washington was determined to minimize restrictions. Thursday's talks in Washington will explore terms for reopening embassies in Havana and Washington as part of a deal to re-establish diplomatic ties announced in December by U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro. " (05/20/15)

http://tinyurl.com/n4tmm46

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NY: Coors billboard brews angst after glaring error

AOL News

"For the third time in five years, Coors beer is the brewing angst in New York. This time, though, the problem does not directly involve alcohol or ethnicity. Instead, it involves geography. Specifically, the name of one geographical location in New York that virtually everybody knows -- except, apparently, Coors. ... . Emblazoned across a billboard along the Major Deegan Expressway, near Yankee Stadium is the slogan, 'Born in the Rockies, Lives in Bronx.' Clearly, Coors had no problem with "the" when describing its manufacturing location, in the Rocky Mountains. But when it came to the location where it's attempting to sell its brew, it's another case entirely." (05/20/15)

http://tinyurl.com/kz26cwk

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LA: Jindal fails to get “religious freedom” bill through legislature, issues executive order instead

Politico

"Only two hours after Louisiana's state legislature squashed a law that would have allowed [sic] businesses to discriminate against same-sex couples, Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal issued an executive order to accomplish its intent. ... His executive order came the day after the Louisiana Republican announced he is forming an exploratory committee for a potential White House bid in 2016. ... Jindal is a strong proponent of a constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage across the country." (05/19/15)

http://tinyurl.com/mb82jtj

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House Dems seek to ban gay “conversion therapy” nationwide

Raw Story Raw Story

"House Democrats on Tuesday introduced legislation that would ban the discredited practice of conversion therapy, where a mental health professional attempts to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. States including California and New Jersey have enacted legislation that limits the practice, as has Washington DC, but the Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act seeks to put a federal ban on conversion therapy by blocking people from offering or marketing it as a commercial enterprise. Ted Lieu, a Democrat from California, and Suzan DelBene, a Democrat from Washington, introduced the legislation. It seeks to amend the Federal Trade Commission Act to state that the service is unfair or deceptive." (05/19/15)

http://tinyurl.com/kgg4vz5

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Harmful bacteria may be lurking in your single-serve coffee machine

Fox News Fox News

"There's some bad news for coffee lovers brewing their morning joe with a single serve coffee maker. According to a swab test conducted by KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh, over 4 million colonies of harmful bacteria and mold was founding lurking in the water tank, coffee pod compartment, spout and tray on more than half of the 28 machines tested. The station says it tested eight machines in Pittsburgh and another 20 in Chicago and Dallas and found strains of bacteria like E.coli, staphylococcus, streptococcus and pseudomonas aeruginosa. 'I thought you would find something, but not something that could make us sick,' coffee machine owner Stephanie Brink told KDKA." (05/19/15)

http://tinyurl.com/l7cgv5z

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Cuba: US willing to change pro-democracy programs

Reuters Reuters

"The United States on Tuesday indicated its willingness to change pro-democracy programs which it organizes in Cuba and which are condemned by Havana, removing one of the biggest impediments to restoring diplomatic ties. A senior State Department official, speaking to reporters before talks with Cuban representatives on Thursday, said the sides had narrowed differences over reopening embassies since an agreement was reached in December to renew diplomatic relations. The official said another obstacle had been removed after Cuba found a U.S. bank that would handle the accounts of a restored Cuban embassy in Washington. The official declined to name the bank." (05/19/15)

http://tinyurl.com/lk8mwv8

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Feds: Cancer charities defrauded donors of $187 million

Christian Science Monitor Christian Science Monitor

"Ideally, the act of giving to charity would never be marred with doubt or cynicism. But as a lawsuit filed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) against a major network of charities demonstrates, parting with your money for any reason (even a noble one) is worth a second look. The FTC teamed with regulators from all 50 states and the District of Columbia to charge four notorious charities with defrauding donors out of a combined $187 million between 2008 and 2012. The organizations, which include Cancer Fund of America, Cancer Support Services, Children’s Cancer Fund of America, and The Breast Cancer Society, were part of a group of so-called 'sham' charities operated by founder James Reynolds Sr. and his friends and family members claiming to help cancer patients pay for things like medical equipment, pain medications, and transportation to and from chemotherapy treatments, among others." (05/19/15)

http://tinyurl.com/me6a2yn

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TX: State stops cities and towns from banning fracking

BBC News BBC News [UK state media]

"A law signed this week in Texas now prohibits cities and towns from banning fracking and other activities that harvest oil and natural gas. The law was drafted after voters in Denton, a city outside Dallas, banned 'hydraulic fracturing' locally in 2014. Fracking opponents warn that potential carcinogens used in the extraction process may contaminate groundwater. Similar bills are being considered in US states including Colorado, Ohio, Oklahoma and New Mexico. Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott called the anti-fracking measures heavy handed regulations." (05/19/15)

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-32805973

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Los Angeles biggest US city to favor $15 minimum wage

San Francisco Chronicle San Francisco Chronicle

"The Los Angeles City Council gave initial approval Tuesday to raising minimum pay in the nation's second-largest city to $15 an hour by 2020, a key step as wages in America have stagnated. If enacted, Los Angeles would join Seattle and San Francisco as some of the largest cities in the nation with phased-in minimum wage laws that eventually require annual pay of about $31,200. 'Today, help is on the way for the 1 million Angelenos who live in poverty,' Mayor Eric Garcetti said. The council voted 14-1 after residents made impassioned statements for and against the plan that would progressively bump up the wage from the current $9 an hour, which also is the minimum for California." (05/19/15)

http://tinyurl.com/kaxke3b

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CA: LA city council passes $15 minimum wage proposal

CBS News CBS Los Angeles

"The City Council passed a proposal Tuesday to increase Los Angeles's minimum wage to $15 an hour over the next five years. ... Beginning in 2016, the minimum wage will go from $9 per hour to $10.50 an hour. The rate will then jump to $12.00 in 2017; $13.25 in 2018; $14.25 in 2019; and $15.00 by 2020." (05/19/15)

http://tinyurl.com/kkwdjqc

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Commentary


| News | Events |

Inside the happiness racket

In These Times In These Times
by Joanna Scutts

"'Are you happy?' It's a question that stops us in our tracks. Happy how? Other emotions leave us in no doubt: Anger, embarrassment, excitement and disappointment consume us. But happiness is elusive -- even in the Declaration of Independence we're granted not the thing itself, but the pursuit of it) and if we capture it, that's supposed to be the end of the story: happily ever after. We're also told, just as firmly, that it is not for sale. And yet, as evinced in William Davies's astute and far-reaching study of modern happiness, The Happiness Industry: How the Government and Big Business Sold Us Well-Being, this elusive state is now a major preoccupation of the powerful." (05/20/15)

http://tinyurl.com/ma3cqar

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The uses and abuses of GDP

Reuters Reuters
by Edward Hadas

"Gross Domestic Product can be a good tool to help central bankers, corporate leaders and investors. But it should be kept in its proper place. The basic idea behind this measure is stupidly simple. Add up all purchases of goods and services that are not going to be resold in a national economy over a fixed period. That sum provides a straightforward and intuitive measure of the size of an economy. Changes in the sum are good indicators of where the economy is going. The simple, stupid idea is useless without some complicated intelligence. The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis needs more than 400 pages to outline the necessary heroic assumptions and dubious approximations which go into the calculation." (05/20/15)

http://tinyurl.com/m5xrw6z

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The left matters — now, more than ever

Richard Eskow Our Future Blog
by Richard Eskow

"Some leading Democrats seem to have a love-hate relationship with the left. Sure, progressives seem to have more influence than ever in the party this year, at least rhetorically. But it doesn’t look like the friction will be going away any time soon. President Obama has been escalating his war of words with Sen. Elizabeth Warren [D-MA] and her allies, reigniting a burning resentment he last let slip in 2010. Hillary Clinton has adopted more progressive rhetoric, but her unwillingness to fight for specific policies has left activists frustrated. Clearly, the left matters. Why, then, is it so difficult for progressives to get a seat at the table?" (05/20/15)

http://tinyurl.com/mxmcqvt

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The agony of medical bills

The Atlantic The Atlantic
by Olga Khazan

"It shouldn't take a Harvard expert in health policy to understand a doctor's bill. But sometimes, it does." (05/21/15)

http://tinyurl.com/m9p5656

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Is NSA’s dragnet surveillance program in its final hours?

The Nation The Nation
by Zoe Carpenter

"Congress is up against a tight deadline to extend or reform Section 215 of the Patriot Act, the provision that the government claims authorizes the National Security Agency’s phone data program, before it sunsets on June 1. Naturally, the legislature is in a state of disarray. The House has already passed the USA Freedom Act, which would put modest limits on the intelligence agency for the first time in decades. Now the Senate is under pressure to act before lawmakers leave for recess Thursday afternoon. If they do nothing, Section 215 will expire hours before they return to Washington, imperiling not only the phone records program but whatever other still-secret intelligence gathering activities the government conducts under the statute." (05/20/15)

http://tinyurl.com/lhwfn5t

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If Obama really wants to close Guantanamo …

Reuters Reuters
by Daphne Eviatar

"When President Barack Obama announced his intention to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center on his second day in office, he sounded serious. He was flanked by more than a dozen retired military leaders, who’d all urged him to close the facility because it had become a virtual recruitment tool for terrorists and a stain on the United States’ reputation for upholding human rights and the rule of law. Obama also had the support of national-security experts across the political spectrum when he signed his historic executive order. More than six years later, the U.S. facility in Cuba is still open. The primary reason is that ever since the president made it a priority to close Guantanamo, congressional Republicans made it a priority to keep it open. They’ve even stepped up their efforts while writing the annual defense authorization bill this year." (05/20/15)

http://tinyurl.com/k96qkwt

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NSA reform bill has gaping holes

USA Today USA Today
by Anthony D. Romero & Matt Kibbe

"Earlier this month, a federal appeals court took a close look at the National Security Agency's collection and data-mining of Americans' phone records and concluded that the program was unlawful. Rather than stop it, however, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit noted that Section 215 of the Patriot Act, the provision the NSA relies on for the program, would sunset on June 1. So the court decided to let Congress determine whether Section 215 should die, be revised, or extended without alteration." (05/20/15)

http://tinyurl.com/letzu9l

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Iraq debate

The Cagle Post
by Mike Luckovich

Cartoon. (05/19/15)

http://www.cagle.com/2015/05/iraq-debate/

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Sowing the GM seeds of depopulation?

CounterPunch CounterPunch
by Colin Todhunter

"There is a growing fear that eugenics is being used to get rid of sections of the world population that are 'surplus to requirements.' And it is a legitimate fear, not least because there is a sordid history of forced/covert sterilizations carried out on those deemed 'undesirable' or 'surplus to requirements,' which reflects the concerns of eugenicists who have operated at the highest levels of policy making. From early 20th century 'philanthropists' and the Nazis to the nascent genetics movement and rich elites, by one means or another ridding the planet of the great unwanted masses has always been fairly high on the 'to do' list ..." (05/21/15)

http://tinyurl.com/mqdaznu

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How austerity killed the humanities

In These Times In These Times
by Andrew Hartman

"In the 1980s and 1990s, debates over the humanities were a major component of American political discourse. On the one side were conservative traditionalists who believed that all American college students should read the Western Canon (the greatest books of the Western mind since Aristotle) as a foundation for democratic living. On the other side were academic multiculturalists who believed that a humanities education should be more comprehensive and should thus include texts authored by minority, female, and non-western writers." [editor's note: Interesting debate, but kind of pranged by the fact that at no time in the period under discussion has anything even remotely resembling "austerity" been on the government spending table, let alone actually implemented - TLK] (05/19/15)

http://tinyurl.com/ljhjtfm

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Grand theft automated

The American Prospect The American Prospect
by Robert Kuttner

"The day after the New York Times published its stunning two-part expose of labor conditions in New York City's nail salons, New York governor Andrew Cuomo, nobody's idea of a radical, discovered that he was sitting on power that he didn't know he had. Cuomo ordered a crackdown against a broad pattern of thefts of wages that were hidden in plain view, had he bothered to look. Cuomo's new efforts will collaborate with an enforcement initiative by New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, two officials who don't like each other and seldom work together." (05/18/15)

http://prospect.org/article/grand-theft-automated

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McDonald’s workers protest share buyback scheme

Dave Johnson Our Future Blog
by Dave Johnson

"In April we saw the largest-ever strike against the fast-food industry. There were walkouts in 236 cities, including strikes and protests in 40 countries. Now on Wednesday we will see the largest-ever workers’ protests at the McDonald’s shareholder meeting in Oak Brook, Illinois. Workers will be protesting the stock manipulation scheme that McDonald’s’ executives are using to loot the company at the expense of its employees. It used to be illegal for a company to manipulate its stock price. Now it’s common. Instead of using profits to invest in the future, companies are paying ridiculously low wages, downsizing, outsourcing, offshoring, cutting R&D, deferring maintenance and improvements, and borrowing money and using the proceeds to purchase their own stock. Guess who gets rich when their stock goes up." (05/19/15)

http://tinyurl.com/l7adlas

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Bad intelligence

The Cagle Post
by Pat Bagley

Cartoon. (05/19/15)

http://www.cagle.com/2015/05/bad-intelligence/

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Singling out Stephanopoulos misses the point

USA Today USA Today
by Kirsten Powers

"ABC News' chief anchor George Stephanopoulos has been embroiled in a scandal after he failed to disclose $75,000 in donations to the Clinton Foundation before grilling Peter Schweizer, the author of a book critical of the foundation. The former Clinton aide accused the author of having a 'partisan interest' in writing the book due in part to his four month stint as a George W. Bush speech writer. This is an open-and-shut case: Stephanopoulos should never have conducted this interview without revealing his connection to the foundation. But does anyone actually believe that had he not made the donations, the interview would have gone differently?" (05/19/15)

http://tinyurl.com/m3rpwp8

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That’s billion, with a bee: Measuring the massive cost of hive collapse

Reuters Reuters
by Amy Tennery

"In farming, technology will only take you so far. GPS can help drive automated harvesters around the fields, satellites help to ensure the right crops get planted at the right time. But if you want your crops to grow, you’ll have to rely on something a little more old-fashioned: honey bees. And they’re dying in enormous numbers. The makers of insecticides containing neonics, Bayer and Syngenta chief among them, have a lot to lose if regulatory bodies end up siding with the environmentalists. More than 90 percent of the corn in the U.S. is treated with neonics." (05/19/15)

http://tinyurl.com/muheeve

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Banking left: How the center moved after the financial crisis

The New Republic The New Republic
by Danny Vinik

"In July 1998, Larry Summers appeared before a Senate committee to argue that a financial product, called an over-the-counter (OTC) derivative, did not need to be regulated. He said that there were only two potential reasons for financial regulation -- 'to protect retail investors from unscrupulous traders' and 'to guard against manipulation in markets' -- neither of which, Summers concluded, were applicable to OTC derivatives. Summers, who served as Treasury secretary from 1999 to 2001, eventually won the battle over derivatives regulation. Those derivatives, of course, were at the heart of the 2007/2008 financial crisis." (05/19/15)

http://tinyurl.com/ll4lj8g

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Liberty or authority? A useful political spectrum

David S. D'Amato Center for a Stateless Society
by David S D'Amato

"Conservatism and libertarianism don't belong together. Even in cases where conservatives are using the same rhetoric as libertarians, they too often don't mean anything like what we mean; their 'free market' is an apologetic for the economic status quo and global corporatism, their 'equality before the law' is reserved only for traditionally privileged in-groups (think of the debate on same-sex marriage), their 'limited government' would still retain a massive military-industrial complex and national security apparatus, their 'individual rights' extend only up until you want to smoke a joint or end a pregnancy. Romantically turned backward to some imagined time of American freedom, conservatives may at times seem libertarian, but their position is essentially traditionalist." (05/19/15)

http://c4ss.org/content/37795

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The lesser of two evils is still evil

CounterPunch CounterPunch
by John Halle

"For a decade and half, the spoiler factor has been a third rail of progressive politics. Some of those who have raised the issue are genuinely concerned with the prospect of a third party candidate enabling a far right victory. But others are Democratic Party hacks who, in Matt Taibbi's phrase 'would triangulate their own mothers' to maintain their lock on power. Spoiling for them is a bad faith exercise in maintaining electoral politics as a bipartisan gated community from which left, populist candidates are excluded. Fortunately, there are signs that its effects are beginning to wear off." (05/20/15)

http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/05/20/notes-on-spoiling/

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There’s still time to prosecute the torturers

Antiwar.com Antiwar.com
by John Kiriakou

"After I blew the whistle on the CIA's torture program in 2007, the fallout for me was brutal. To make a long story short, I served nearly two years in federal prison and then endured a few more months of house arrest. What happened to the torture program? Nothing." (05/20/15)

http://tinyurl.com/luha7xp

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Beyond rehabilitation

Unqualified Offerings
by Thoreau

"Ever since GOP candidates started getting the 'Knowing what we know now ...' question about Iraq, I've started seeing little rumblings of a narrative where Bush The Lesser was a victim of bad intelligence from the CIA. Fortunately, TAC, among others, is doing yeoman's work in responding to that absurd narrative. Nonetheless, I fear that the story will not end here. I am not comfortable making any predictions about who will win either party's nomination next year, but at least one party (and maybe both) will likely have ample reason to push a narrative of 'The problem is that we didn't know ...'" (05/19/15)

http://highclearing.com/index.php/archives/2015/05/19/18670

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Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and the end of innocence

The Nation The Nation
by Debbie Nathan

"In the days when Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s jury was deliberating about whether to sentence him to life in prison or death, I thought often about members of his legal team who'd worked behind the scenes: the 'mitigation specialists.' I'm a colleague of these people -- I belong to a small group of journalists who supplement our income with freelance 'mitigation' work. That means we do a special type of investigation for death-penalty cases. Our clients are accused and often, like Tsarnaev, already convicted. The prosecution paints them to the courtroom and press as monsters." (05/18/15)

http://tinyurl.com/me6vv6w

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A short tale of two central banks & (roughly) one inflation rate

Reuters Reuters
by Ross Finley

"Euro zone inflation rose to zero in April from -0.1 percent and in Britain it fell to -0.1 percent from zero, the first negative reading since the 1960s. No matter what differences may exist between these two economies, and no matter how clear that inflation will soon rise because of oil prices and a lower base from which to compare any future change, nobody can dispute that is pretty much the same inflation rate. Both the European Central Bank and the Bank of England are struggling to get inflation back up to 2 percent, which they target over a longer horizon." (05/19/15)

http://tinyurl.com/mvenqj7

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Politicians love ribbon-cutting

USA Today USA Today
by Randal O'Toole

"While we hear a lot about crumbling infrastructure, some of our infrastructure is actually in great shape. A close look reveals that the infrastructure that is in best condition is funded by user fees, while infrastructure that is crumbling is funded by tax dollars. This is because politicians prefer ribbons, not brooms. Ribbon-cutting projects provide more photo opportunities than do ongoing maintenance projects. And politicians make matters worse by favoring big, glitzy new projects over low-key ones that can do more at a far lower cost." (05/19/15)

http://tinyurl.com/l7fvxaq

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A Robin Hood tax [sic] to pay for college for all

Our Future Blog
by Emily Foster

"In Norway, students go to college tuition-free. In Denmark, students are even paid to go to higher education. In the U.S., college students currently face more than $1.2 trillion of education debt. If the United States wants to boost its middle class and rebuild its economy, this is something that needs to change. Sen. Bernie Sanders [I-VT] understands this dilemma. Sanders met with supporters at a press conference on Capitol Hill today and introduced two bills to address it: his College for All Act and a Robin Hood Tax." [editor's note: If that label were aimed at anyone else, I might object to the comparison, but since it targets a societal segment that should mostly be doing time at this stage ... not so much - SAT] (05/19/15)

http://tinyurl.com/mmkjteg

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How the bank[st]ers destroyed the dream

The American Prospect The American Prospect
by Peter Dreier

"Between 2006 and 2012, housing prices nationwide fell by a third. Americans lost about $7 trillion in household wealth as a result of the real estate crash. Six million families lost their homes to foreclosure and short sales. ... In Other People’s Houses: How Decades of Bailouts, Captive Regulators, and Toxic Bankers Made Home Mortgages a Thrilling Business, Jennifer Taub explains how they got away with it and how this house of cards came crashing down. She names names—of greedy bankers, sleazy mortgage lenders, compliant politicians, indifferent government regulators, and occasional heroes who fought for stronger government oversight of banks and tougher consumer protections." (05/15/15)

http://prospect.org/article/how-bankers-destroyed-dream

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No questions

The Cagle Post
by Kevin Siers

Cartoon. (05/18/15)

http://www.cagle.com/2015/05/no-questions/

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A (privatized) river runs through it

In These Times In These Times
by Kate Whittle

"Missoula, MT, the scenic mountain town that inspired A River Runs Through It, is fighting for control of the aquifer beneath it. Citing eminent domain, Missoula sued last year to take over the local water utility, Mountain Water Company, from its corporate owner, the Carlyle Group, a global investment firm with $194 billion in assets. Standing against this multi-billion-dollar firm is the town of Missoula, with a population of 70,000 and an annual budget of about $116 million. If a district judge does not agree with Missoula's argument that it is the best manager of its own drinking water, then Carlyle can go ahead with a planned sale of Mountain Water to another multinational, the Canadian-based Algonquin Power and Utilities Corp. Arguments in the case have concluded, and a decision is expected any day." (05/19/15)

http://tinyurl.com/lfwx6fl

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The last defenders of the NSA

The Atlantic The Atlantic
by Conor Friedersdorf

"The NSA program that logs the phone records of innocent Americans has reached a turning point. A federal appeals court has ruled that it was never authorized by Congress. The Patriot Act provision wrongly said to authorize it is also about to expire. And the House of Representatives passed a bill that would shutter the program. Its defenders are therefore pressed, as never before, to make their case." (05/19/15)

http://tinyurl.com/mc76a3z

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The CIA and the myths of the bin Laden raid

The Intercept The Intercept
by Peter Maass

"If you read the sketchy New York Times article on the Delta Force raid into Syria a few days ago -- how an ISIS leader was killed when he 'tried to engage' American commandos while his fighters used women and children as shields, and an 18-year-old slave was freed with no civilian casualties thanks to 'very precise fire' -- you can be forgiven for thinking, 'Haven't I seen this movie before?' You probably have, and it was called 'Zero Dark Thirty,' the film directed by Kathryn Bigelow, written by Mark Boal and backed with gusto by the Central Intelligence Agency." (05/19/15)

http://tinyurl.com/k2tzwnz

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Are Monsanto’s worst fears coming true?

CounterPunch CounterPunch
by Jonathan Latham

"The decision of the Chipotle restaurant chain to make its product lines GMO-free is not most people's idea of a world-historic event. Especially since Chipotle, by US standards, is not a huge operation. A clear sign that the move is significant, however, is that Chipotle's decision was met with a tidal-wave of establishment media abuse. ... A business deciding to give consumers what they want was surely never so contentious. The media lynching of Chipotle has an explanation that is important to the future of GMOs. The cause of it is that there has long been an incipient crack in the solid public front that the food industry has presented on the GMO issue." (05/19/15)

http://tinyurl.com/le4qoz3

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Why everyone wants military budget to be bigger

Paul Waldman The American Prospect
by Paul Waldman

"Now that we've finally (almost) clarified who would have invaded Iraq and who wouldn't have, it's time for a little perspective. Yes, it's a good thing that elite Republicans are moving toward agreeing with the rest of us that invading Iraq was a mistake, even if they base their argument on the myth of 'faulty intelligence.' But there's another consensus in Washington, one that says that our military should never be anything short of gargantuan, ready to start more wars whenever a future George W. Bush wants to." [editor's note: Or Ted Cruz, or Hillary Clinton, or JEB Bush ... or pretty much anyone running? - SAT] (05/18/15)

http://tinyurl.com/n5tlyxv

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How to reclaim Iraq’s Ramadi from Islamic State

Reuters Reuters
by Hayder Al-Khoei

"The fall of Ramadi, the capital of Iraq’s largest province, is a major defeat for the Iraqi security forces. It follows a period in which a number of strategic advances have been made by Iraqi forces elsewhere in the north and east of the war-torn country. Dreams of an offensive to defeat Islamic State in Mosul this year will now be crushed. Iraq will instead focus its resources and attention on liberating Ramadi, which lies just 60 miles to the east of Baghdad. The complex realities on the ground will also lead to difficult choices being made on all sides of the conflict." (05/18/15)

http://tinyurl.com/lql836p

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Why US spent billions on army that conscripted children

In These Times In These Times
by Nick Turse

"I didn’t really think he was going to shoot me. There was no anger in his eyes. His finger may not have been anywhere near the trigger. He didn’t draw a bead on me. Still, he was a boy and he was holding an AK-47 and it was pointed in my direction. It was unnerving. I don’t know how old he was. I’d say 16, though maybe he was 18 or 19. But there were a few soldiers nearby who looked even younger -- no more than 15. When I was their age, I wasn’t trusted to drive, vote, drink, get married, gamble in a casino, serve on a jury, rent a car, or buy a ticket to an R-rated movie. It was mandatory for me to be in school. The law decreed just how many hours I could work and prohibited my employment in jobs deemed too dangerous for kids (like operating mixing machines in bakeries, or repairing elevators). No one, I can say with some certainty, would have thought it a good idea to put an automatic weapon in my hands." (05/18/15)

http://tinyurl.com/k6dc27z

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Bosses turning poverty-wage workers into “managers” … with no overtime

Michelle Chen The Nation
by Michelle Chen

"If you’re one of the millions working in retail, some days you might work late at the register or do the store opening in hopes of clocking a little overtime pay. And you might hope to eventually rise to a higher-ranked managerial position. But did you know that promotion might just mean a smaller paycheck for the same job? Welcome to the promotion from hell: Federal law says time-and-a-half is for ordinary laborers, and management is exempt from overtime provisions. So congratulations, as a shop 'manager,' you no longer qualify for overtime -- but still end up doing basically the same work for less." (05/18/15)

http://tinyurl.com/laf6fsf

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Tubman belongs on $20 bill

USA Today USA Today
by DeWayne Wickham

"Let's do this. Put Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill. It's time for the face of this nation's currency to catch up with the great changes this country has undergone since the end of the Jim Crow era. Putting the no-nonsense image of Tubman, a black woman who served her people as a conductor of the Underground Railroad -- and served her country as a Union Army spy during the Civil War -- would be a powerful reflection of that change. With the exception of Abraham Lincoln, the white men on the face of every denomination of our nation's paper currency, from the $1 to $100 bills, had a hand in slavery." (05/18/15)

http://tinyurl.com/m4p6y9b

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Events


| News | Commentary |

Standard Model goes pear-shaped in CERN experiment

The Register [UK]

"It's only a small thing, but it could be big news: researchers at CERN have turned up the first evidence of exotic (and short-lived) atoms with pear-shaped nuclei. The reasons the boffins are excited is they believe the eccentric nuclei can help them probe one of physics' official Big Questions: how come there's something instead of nothing?" (05/09/13)

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/05/09/pear_shaped_exotic_nuclei/

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FDA issues warning for over-the-counter diarrhea drug

Fox News

"The Food and Drug Administration is warning consumers not to use an over-the-counter drug called Intestinomicina because the anti-diarrhea treatment contains a drug linked to life-threatening injuries. The El Salvador-manufactured drug comes in pills and liquid forms and is sold as a treatment for infectious diarrhea at international grocery stores and specialty stores in the U.S. Regulators say Intestinomicina contains the drug chloramphenicol, which can interfere with the production of red and white blood cells. People with anemia and other low blood cell counts are at greater risk of injury or death from using the drug." (09/19/12)

http://tinyurl.com/8t3oo49

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Egypt: Push strengthens for blasphemy clause in constitution

Christian Science Monitor

"Last week's protests in reaction to an anti-Islam YouTube clip have led to Egyptian demands that the US prosecute the filmmakers and may give a decisive push to an effort to enshrine in the Egyptian constitution the criminalization of blasphemy, or insulting religious figures. While the US-based filmmakers are protected under the First Amendment in the US, in some parts of the Middle East they could be prosecuted under laws that criminalize disparaging religion. In Egypt, the backlash could bolster a preexisting effort to insert a clause banning religious insults into Egypt’s new constitution." [editor's note: Yes, that's surely why constitutions were created ... NOT! - SAT] (09/16/12)

http://tinyurl.com/9zodrvb

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In unusual “snub,” Obama wont be meeting Netanyahu

Reuters

"In a highly unusual rebuff to a close ally as tensions escalated over how to deal with Iran's nuclear program, the White House said on Tuesday President Barack Obama would not meet Benjamin Netanyahu during the Israeli prime minister's U.S. visit later this month. The apparent snub, coupled with Netanyahu's sharpened demands for a tougher U.S. line against Iran, threatened to plunge U.S.-Israeli relations into crisis and add pressure on Obama in the final stretch of a tight presidential election campaign." [editor's note: I changed their headline to indicate the reality; two world leaders both happen to be speaking at the U.N. ... on different days - SAT] (09/12/12)

http://tinyurl.com/96g2uqw

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Report: In Nigeria, a concrete get-rich scheme

Reuters

"Aliko Dangote has always liked making things to sell. As a child he boiled up sugar to make sweets he sold around town; these days he cooks up limestone in factories that produce millions of tonnes of cement. Dangote's entrepreneurial skills have helped make him Africa's richest person, with cement plants opened or under construction everywhere from Senegal to Ethiopia to South Africa. He dreams of owning the largest cement firm on the planet. By 2015, he hopes, his industrial conglomerate will be worth four times its current estimated $15 billion." (09/11/12)

http://tinyurl.com/8scc49g

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