Thursday, January 29, 2015

Quote of the day

Guilty until proven innocent

When Long Island businessman Jeff Hirsch stepped up to the bank window to make a deposit one morning in May, 2012, the teller shot him a worried look. "You know, your account has been frozen," she told Hirsch. "I’m not sure you want to put any money in there this morning."

In fact, the disbelieving Hirsch soon learned, the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York had, without warning, seized the entire working capital $447,000 of Bi-County Distributors in Ronkonkoma, N.Y., the business Hirsch co-owns with his two brothers.

For Hirsch, it was one of those petrifying moments that could only elicit an incredulous, "This can’t be true!"

But it was true. Hirsch and his brothers, like thousands of other Americans in the past 10 years, had been targeted by law enforcement authorities on suspicion of a crime he had never heard of. His money had been seized as part of a federally sanctioned wave of "civil asset forfeitures," with citizens losing homes and automobiles and life savings merely because they were suspected of some crime.

The subject is likely to come up at U.S. Senate hearings this week to review President Obama’s nomination of Loretta Lynch to replace Eric Holder as U.S. Attorney General, staff of the Senate Judiciary Committee say. It was Lynch’s office that inflicted the nightmare of disappearing funds on the Hirsches and refused to release the money even after overwhelming evidence that the brothers were innocent of wrongdoing.

Since 2008, police agencies have seized cash and property worth $3 billion, making more than 55,000 seizures, according to the Washington Post. Lynch’s office hauled in $113 million in civil forfeiture actions from 123 cases between 2011 and 2013, and a Wall Street Journal editorial described her office as "a major forfeiture operation."

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Kinship is the organizing principle of small human societies, such as bands of hunter-gatherers or small farming villages. This is seen in their notions of right and wrongthe same behavior may be wrong toward kin but right toward non-kin, or at least not punishable. Morality is enforced by social pressure from fellow kinfolk, which in extreme cases can lead to ostracism and banishment.

This kin-based morality breaks down as societies grow larger and as the circle of regular interaction spreads beyond close kin. Wrongdoers are less easily brought into line because they and their victims no longer share the same kinfolk. Wrongs have to be avenged through vendettas: my clan against yours. Since vendettas can go on indefinitely, causing much more harm than the initial wrongdoing, a society cannot be both large and orderly unless it can resolve disputes between unrelated individuals. Hence, the development of codified law and justice systems. Hence the prohibition of violence as a means to resolve personal disputes.

In much of the world, this is as far as cultural evolution has gone. The circle of trusting relationships extends no farther than one’s kinship ties; beyond, morality is enforced only by the force of law, and court justice is expensive, time-consuming, and not always impartial. So dealings with non-kin are kept to the minimum necessary. This low level of trust restricts trade, keeping it bottled up spatially and temporally in marketplaces and family businesses. A true market economy cannot self-generate.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

War on the family

The idea that the American left is engaged in a war against the family has always struck me as an exaggeration.

The claim might be good for direct-mail fundraising and talk-radio ratings. But I have enough friends with left-wing politics and lovely families to find the accusation of a war on family to be, frankly, at least a touch paranoid.

Alas, the events of the past week have caused me to reconsider.

First came President Obama’s State of the Union address. Four times, at the start of the speech and at its conclusion, Obama repeated the phrase, "We are a strong, tight-knit family who has made it through some very, very hard times." He said, "My fellow Americans, we, too, are a strong, tight-knit family. We, too, have made it through some hard times."

Second came Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State address, in which the governor, a Democrat, quoted his father, Mario Cuomo, who recently died. Governor Mario Cuomo had said, "those who made our history taught us, above all things, the idea of family; the idea of mutuality. The sharing, the benefits and burden, fairly for the good of all, it is an idea essential to our success and no state or nation that chooses to ignore its troubled regions and people while watching others thrive can call itself justified. We must be the family of New York feeling one another’s pain, sharing one another’s blessings, reasonably, equitably, honestly, fairly, without regard to geography or race or political affiliation."

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Pay up, sucker

Carnell Alexander is a wanted man. The reason? He refuses to pay child support for a child that is proven to not be his. As a result, a warrant has been issued for his arrest.

7 Action News told you about Carnell Alexander in October. He said he was looking for help clearing up a terrible mistake.

Alexander says he learned about the paternity case against him during a traffic stop in Detroit in the early 90s. The officer told him he is a deadbeat dad, there was a warrant out for his arrest.

"I knew I didn’t have a child, so I was kind of blown back," said Alexander during an interview in October.

He would later learn this happened because his ex needed help caring for her kids.

"I put him down as father to get assistance," she told 7 Action News.

She didn’t realize that would start a paternity case. The state would want to get reimbursement for welfare benefits from the child’s dad.

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Our ally supports terrorism

President Obama should think before bowing to Saudi Arabia's new king in his Tuesday visit. King Salman has a history of funding al-Qaida, and his son has been accused of knowing in advance about the 9/11 attacks.

When it comes to jihadism, Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud is more of a hardliner than his older brother, King Abdullah, who died last week of a lung infection. As such, any commitment he makes to helping the U.S. destroy al-Qaida and Islamic State terrorists should be viewed with great suspicion.

The 79-year-old Salman once ran a Saudi charity tied to al-Qaida and has been named a defendant in two lawsuits accusing the Saudi royal family of helping the 9/11 terrorists, one of which the U.S. Supreme Court recently let move forward after years of being blocked by the State Department and the well-funded Saudi lobby.

Plaintiffs have provided an enormous amount of material to source their accusations against Salman. Here's why his ascension to the throne is not good news, especially as the terrorism threat grows....

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Quote of the day

We have no religion; we have an ideology - secular democracy. But the Muslim world rejects secularism and will use democracy to free itself of us and establish regimes that please Allah. In the struggle between democracy and Allah, we are children of a lesser God. "The term 'democracy,'" wrote Eliot, "does not contain enough positive content to stand alone against the forces that you dislike - it can easily be transformed by them. If you will not have God ... you should pay your respects to Hitler or Stalin." --Pat Buchanan

Russian mischief in the oil field

A shadowy Bermudan company that has funneled tens of millions of dollars to anti-fracking environmentalist groups in the United States is run by executives with deep ties to Russian oil interests and offshore money laundering schemes involving members of President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle.

One of those executives, Nicholas Hoskins, is a director at a hedge fund management firm that has invested heavily in Russian oil and gas. He is also senior counsel at the Bermudan law firm Wakefield Quin and the vice president of a London-based investment firm whose president until recently chaired the board of the state-owned Russian oil company Rosneft.

In addition to those roles, Hoskins is a director at a company called Klein Ltd. No one knows where that firm’s money comes from. Its only publicly documented activities have been transfers of $23 million to U.S. environmentalist groups that push policies that would hamstring surging American oil and gas production, which has hurt Russia’s energy-reliant economy.

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Temporary marriage, Islamic style

The Islamic State (IS) militants have executed seven women in Mosul for refusing temporary marriage, or ‘nikah’.

Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) official from Mosul Saed Mamuzini told BasNews that IS are demanding women accept nikah with insurgents. Nikah is a temporary marriage which permits the participants to have sex.

"Many women refuse to have sex with IS militants, in which cases they are arrested. The militants often kill them," said Mamuzini.

"Today [Saturday] seven women from Mosul were killed at the IS base of Ghazlan," he added.

More here


All those for the New England Patriots raise your hands!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Anti-Islamic demonstrations in Germany

Wednesday night saw a flare of violence and an accompanying police operation on a scale without precedent in recent German history. A group opposing militant Islam in Europe has called a demonstration, the city is deafened by political slogans played over loudspeakers, property is vandalised, and explosives are thrown at police in colossal running battles that involve thousands of people.

If you got your news from the mainstream media, what is increasingly known in Germany as the ‘liar press’ (Luegenpresse), the story might very well end there. Then again, the report might also throw in salacious details about the former leader of this movement and his colourful past, or the tragic death of an immigrant man who was killed shortly after a demonstration in Dresden last week.

There is no doubt about what these reports are meant to leave you thinking. Germans actually taking pride in their country, and very soon after in the neighbourhood a young Eritrean is murdered with no apparent motive? Must be a racist attack. This has been a large part of the German establishment’s haughty dismissal of the Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West (PEGIDA) group: that they are cold, angry racists with hatred in their hearts.

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We don't need an army, the Americans will protect us

The number of senior figures in the army is to be cut as part of the latest reforms, according to reports.

The Ministry of Defence confirmed an army command review will take place as part of the Army 2020 reform plans.

Up to a third of the force’s 500 colonels and 200 brigadiers and generals could be axed, according to the Times newspaper, which said plans by the army’s leader General Sir Nick Carter will be implemented from April.

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I was big but now I am small

If you heard a child give detailed information about a dead man’s life that he could not seemingly have known through normal means, would you believe he is that man’s reincarnation?

Psychologist Dr. Erlendur Haraldsson, professor emeritus at the University of Iceland in Reykjavik, has long studied reincarnation. He has highlighted a case he began investigating in 2000 in which a boy named Nazih Al-Danaf gave many correct details about his purported past-life incarnation.

Dr. Haraldsson worked with a local researcher, Majd Abu-Izzeddin, in Lebanon to interview the boy’s family members and the family of the deceased man Nazih may have been. All witnesses were interviewed multiple times several months apart, and the story remained by and large the same. The most striking testimony came from the dead man’s wife, who tested the boy’s knowledge of her life with her husband.

At the age of about one and a half, Nazih told his mother, "I am not small, I am big. I carry two pistols. I carry four hand-grenades. I am ‘qabadai’ (a fearless strong person). Don’t be scared by the hand-grenades. I know how to handle them. I have a lot of weapons. My children are young and I want to go and see them."

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From China with Love

China obtained more than 50 terabytes of data from U.S. defense and government networks, notably the Joint Strike Fighter’s stealth radar and engine secrets, through cyber espionage, according to newly disclosed National Security Agency documents.

A NSA briefing slide labeled "Top Secret" and headlined "Chinese Exfiltrate Sensitive Military Data," states that the Chinese have stolen a massive amount of data from U.S. government and private contractors.

The document was made public by the German magazine Der Spiegel in a two articles detailing how NSA in the mid-2000s was capable of conducting global cyber intelligence-gathering by tapping into the networks of foreign intelligence services and stealing the data they were collecting from others.

The unique capability of spying on the spies was described in a series of documents that were stolen in 2013 by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, currently a fugitive in Russia.

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Insanity masquerading as a university

I am compelled to write this letter about the Rolling Stone article (fall 2014) concerning a women raped at a fraternity party at University of Virginia by a number of men identified by one name and fact. It now appears that this is a false story perpetuated by people who have a bias against fraternities.

The university leaders at UVA acted precipitously against all fraternities without learning that the fraternity did not have a party at the time stated, that it did not have a member with the name used and that no member of the fraternity held a position at the natatorium at the time of the alleged rape.

Universities are led, in general, by liberal-minded, politically correct progressives who have little or no business, leadership or management skills or training. This leads to acting irrationally on preconceived notions and biases, as opposed to asking tough questions and evaluating information, data and the specific conditions. Along with the faculty and students, the university administration failed to evaluate this matter of the likely false misleading article.

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Double standards?

When cartoonists at a French publication that had poked fun at the Prophet Muhammad were shot dead, millions around the world felt it as an attack on freedom of speech.

Since the rampage that left four dead at a kosher supermarket and 12 at the Charlie Hebdo offices, French authorities have arrested dozens of people including a comedian for appearing to praise the terrorists or encourage more attacks.

That has unleashed accusations of a double standard, in which free speech applies to those who mock Islam while Muslims are penalized for expressing their own provocative views. Many Muslims complain that France aggressively prosecutes anti-Semitic slurs, but that they are not protected from similar racist speech.

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Monday, January 26, 2015

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, panderess

Apart from Claire McCaskill, no senator has more aggressively advocated weakening due process protections for students accused of sexual assault than New York senator Kirsten Gillibrand. She continued her anti-due process crusade in two high-profile moves this week.

First, Gillibrand invited Columbia student Emma Sulkowicz as her special guest for the State of the Union address. Sulkowicz has attracted international media attention for her "performance art" project of carrying a mattress around campus to protest what she considers Columbia’s insufficient response to a student she claims sexually assaulted her. No evidence exists that the student did, in fact, sexually assault her: even under Columbia’s extraordinarily imbalanced sexual assault policy, which tilts nearly all procedures in the advantage of the accusing student, the disciplinary panel didn’t find Sulkowicz’s allegation credible. Why Gillibrand came to believe Sulkowicz remains unclear.

It’s also unclear what message Gillibrand intended to send in selecting Sulkowicz, whose approach to criminal justice issues appears to be precisely what members of Congress should not encourage. Sulkowicz found the time to speak about her experiences with MTV, the Guardian, a local TV station, and several other media sourcesbut she wasn’t able to spare the time to follow through with the police about her complaint. (Or at least so she impliedthe student she accused has suggested that actually the police looked into the matter and elected not to continue with the investigation, something that Sulkowicz never had previously admitted). It would seem that a senator would want to encourage actual crime victims to speak with police instead of the media, rather than the reverse. A cynic might suggest that the New York senator, like Sulkowicz, is more interested in public relations than in securing justice.

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Democrat Panic in New York

Albany is terrified and in disarray after Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver's arrest, with lawmakers and insiders fearing he’ll turn on them to save himself.

"People are scratching their heads and saying, ‘What did I say the last time I spoke to Shelly?’ " one veteran Albany lobbyist told The Post on Friday.

After Silver’s arrest Thursday, US Attorney Preet Bharara hinted at more to come, telling the public to "stay tuned."

Now legislators are questioning why Silver’s closest Democratic colleagues, including Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle, have pledged support for him instead of calling for his resignation.

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Getting real, Islamic style

SVT reporter Petter Ljunggren reported on Malmo antisemitism for the "Uppdrag granskning" show. There are 1,500 Jews in Malmo, and some told him that they're afraid to live there and afraid to go out the door.

They are regularly taunted, have eggs thrown at them, and otherwise attacked. Ljunggren wanted to know what it feels like as a Jew in Malmo, so he put on a kippah and Star of David, and went out to walk the streets.

He was followed by an undercover reporter who filmed everything.

Along the town's main road, Ljunggren was immediately confronted. One man told him he should leave if he was wearing that 'Jewish shit'.

Another shouted at him that he's a Jew-devil. People shouted at 'dirty Jewish pig' and "Jewish pigs, we'll kill you'. In the neighborhoods of Lindängen and Rosengård, he was harassed so much, he considered just leaving.

In Lindängen a guy warned him to just get out of there. In Rosengård they were attacked by a mob, and when they fled, people threw eggs at them from the windows.

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Quote of the day

"Here's the main problem with feminism. Bat shit crazy broads: They hate men but they want to appear mannish. So men set their standards. They hate the feminine and motherhood so they mutilate themselves and murder their children. They aren't natural to any life form in existence. They have to create feminists since no woman would truly want to be one. Being feminist means being perpetually angry and sexually disoriented. Outside of the realm of the modern university there is no place for them."


Keep 'em stashed away

Mothers invited to a Scottish Government-backed breastfeeding conference were left angry and bemused after being told that they would not be allowed to breastfeed their babies.

Organisers for the event, titled "Shifting the Curve - Sharing the Challenge Breastfeeding Summit", said it was "open to everyone who works with children and families" and aimed to "remove some of the barriers" about breastfeeding.

Yet when mothers asked if they could breastfeed their babies at next month’s conference at Edinburgh’s Murrayfield Stadium, they were told by officials that this would not be "appropriate".

Elise Stirling, who runs parenting consultancy Bond, Baby!, said she was "dumbfounded" when she was told by officials that the event was for "professionals" rather than breastfeeding mothers.

"Obviously it had not occurred to them that you can be both," said Ms Stirling, 31, from Falkirk.

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Saturday, January 24, 2015

Columba Bush

An illegal immigrant, warring parents, and a bitter rift with the father she did not see for 40 years the extraordinary story of Columba Bush as her husband bids to make her the first Hispanic first lady

Columba Bush was born and raised in Leon, 250 miles outside Mexico City, where she met Jeb Bush and married him when she was 20

Jeb is a Republicans presidential front-runner for 2016; if he wins she would be first Hispanic first lady and only the second born outside the US

Daily Mail Online can reveal her father was born to a peasant family and entered America illegally to work

He had a stormy marriage to her mother and the couple divorced but Columba's account differs from his and his relatives' in Mexico today

Columba was estranged from her father after her marriage and he twice reached out to the Bush family, including her brother-in-law, for contact

He went to his grave without meeting his three grandchildren and 'followed his daughter's life through newspaper clippings'

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Deflated balls

Sarah Palin has called out Beltway Republicans for "deflated balls."

Pointing to the New England Patriots as a cautionary tale, the conservative starlet warned her party to stand up to President Obama’s agenda.

"That GOP leadership, that establishment, they’ve got to get their stuff together. I love what they believe in, I believe in it too. But they’ve got to get tough, man. You know what? It’s not just the New England Patriots who are dealing with deflated balls right now," the former Alaska Governor told The Blaze on Thursday.

Palin was referring to the controversy over whether the NFL team purposefully defeated footballs at their game last Sunday to gain an advantage over the Indianapolis Colts.

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Criminal of the day, 37 minutes

A Canadian court heard that Solomon Zemichael Teklie carried out a carjacking and two bank robberies before police pulled him over and arrested him all in the space of 37 minutes.

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Fact of the day

Of the 67,500 people currently behind bars in France, it is estimated that 70 per cent are Muslimwhen they comprise only eight per cent of the French public. It is illegal under France’s strict laicity laws to count the number of Muslim prisoners, but experts agree that the figure is an accurate averagewith some prisons, like those near Paris and Marseille, seeing an even higher percentage.

Hidden in plain sight

What caused the financial crisis? How can we prevent another one from happening again? The answers you most often hear to those questions are (1) greed and deregulation and (2) the Dodd-Frank law.

But they're patently inadequate. Greed -- or the desire for monetary gain -- has always been with us and always will be. And no one has convincingly linked financial deregulation to the crisis. Dodd-Frank, enacted to increase regulation, confers too-big-to-fail status on very large financial institutions, which incentivizes unduly risky behavior and penalizes smaller competitors.

The real problem was housing finance, argues my American Enterprise Institute colleague Peter Wallison in his new book "Hidden in Plain Sight: What Really Caused the World's Worst Financial Crisis and Why It Could Happen Again." Without changes in housing finance policy, he says, there would have been no financial crisis in 2008.

Government policies encouraged the granting of mortgages to non-creditworthy homebuyers, and government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac funneled securities laced with high-risk mortgages into major financial institutions. When house prices suddenly and unexpectedly dropped in 2007, these mortgage-backed securities became unsellable and the financial crisis quickly followed.

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Women in combat

Even among those who disagree about the issue of opening ground combat arms jobs to women in the military, I have found that there is a general consensus on one key point: That physical standards should not be lowered in pursuit of gender integration. Weakening standards in the pursuit of social justice would endanger troops and render meaningless the accomplishment of those women who would potentially serve in ground combat units. In a way, this consensus is very American: Equality of opportunity and a fair shot for all. Keep the standards high, as they’ve always been, and let the chips fall where they may.

The Department of Defense disagrees.

This may seem shocking, but consider the following Defense News interview with Juliet Beyler, director of officer and enlisted personnel management for the DOD and a retired Marine officer. Beyler is described as the "point person" of the Pentagon’s effort to open jobs to women and, in the middle of the interview, without any apparent shame or concern about what she is describing, details a systematic and elaborate effort to weaken standards in order to ensure that more women will be able to serve in ground combat arms jobs.

Of course, this is not the language that she uses. Her dialectheartbreakingly, considering that she was a Marine for 23 yearsis a dense bureaucratese that could not be improved upon by the villains of George Orwell’s Animal Farm. It is a mix of euphemism and circumlocution, with grace notes of outright dishonesty. According to Beyler, standards are not being lowered. Not at all! Instead, the services have been directed by the secretary of defense to "make sure that [standards] are correct and relevant." The services were told to "validate" their standards in order to "make sure that they’re current" and "reflective of what we do today" and "operationally relevant."

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Zimbabwe to white farmers, get out

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe today told white farmers, defying orders to hand over their land, that he stands by an August deadline for them to clear out and pave the way for his black resettlement land reforms.

"We set ourselves an August deadline for the redistribution of land and that deadline stands,"

Mugabe said in a televised address during a funeral for a former finance minister.

Mugabe's government had ordered 2,900 of the remaining 4,500 white commercial farmers to surrender their lands without compensation to black settlers by midnight (2200 GMT) last Thursday, August 8.

"We, the principled people of Zimbabwe, we, the true owners of this land, shall not budge. We shall not be deterred on this one vital issue, the land. The land is ours," Mugabe told more than 15,000 supporters.

Farming sources have estimated that about 40 percent of the farmers had obeyed the instruction but others were holding on in the hope of a reprieve from the country's courts or from Mugabe.

Mugabe said the deadline would allow new owners of the land enough time to prepare and plant for the new crop season, which should start in October.

White farmers defying the order to leave their land face up to two years in jail.

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Friday, January 23, 2015

Republicans like government handouts too

Joni Ernst, the new Republican senator from Iowa who delivered the GOP response to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech Tuesday night, called in her address for cuts in government spending and described how her views grew out of her own "simple" upbringing, one in which her family diligently watched ever scarce penny, to the point where she owned only one pair of shoes.

But an investigation of public records by the Washington D.C.-based District Sentinel online news site showed that between 1995 and 2009, Ernst's family received nearly a half-million dollars in government handouts, payments targeted toward subsidizing farms with taxpayer funds.

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Oregon, Whites Only

When Oregon was granted statehood in 1859, it was the only state in the Union admitted with a constitution that forbade black people from living, working, or owning property there. It was illegal for black people even to move to the state until 1926. Oregon’s founding is part of the forgotten history of racism in the American west.

Waddles Coffee Shop in Portland, Oregon was a popular restaurant in the 1950s for both locals and travelers alike. The drive-in catered to America’s postwar obsession with car culture, allowing people to get coffee and a slice of pie without even leaving their vehicle. But if you happened to be black, the owners of Waddles implored you to keep on driving. The restaurant had a sign outside with a very clear message: "White Trade Only -- Please."

It’s the kind of scene from the 1950s that’s so hard for many Americans to imagine happening outside of the Jim Crow South. How could a progressive, northern city like Portland have allowed a restaurant to exclude non-white patrons? This had to be an anomaly, right? In reality it was far too common in Oregon, a state that was explicitly founded as a kind of white utopia.

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Does sunshine cause cancer?

An individual’s view of health determinants is directly correlated to their sources and how they process information. Regardless of its accuracy, when something is repeated a sufficient number of times, people will start to believe it.

The cancer and sunscreen industries have made it their mission to convince the world that sunlight is a primary cause of skin cancer, when it fact it has been shown to prevent it. In fact, considerable evidence shows that blocking the sun’s rays from reaching our skin with, for example sunscreen, significantly decreases our uptake of vitamin D levels, leading to higher mortality, critical illness, mental health disorders and cancer itself.

The southern hemisphere is currently experiencing record temperatures raising the mercury to levels many regions have never experienced. Some climatologists have stated that the trend will continue in the northern hemisphere come July. With these hot temperature come extreme warnings from public health officials to slather on the sunscreen to prevent skin cancer and specifically protect us from melanoma.

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Pity Party

Kindness covers all my political principles, says President Obama. A prominent liberal writer asserts that the quality that really sets progressives apart is that they care about other people, not just themselves.

Conservatives shake their heads. Can liberals really be so fatuous as to believe that the profound challenges of politics, which have confronted and usually gotten the better of statesmen and philosophers for millennia, are in fact so simple that gentle admonitions to play nice are all we need to secure peace and justice? And are liberals really so self-righteous as to insist that opposition to, or even skepticism about, their project can be explained entirely in terms of their opponents’ greed, cruelty, and pathological mean-spiritedness?

The short answers are yes, and yes. A longer answer is that certain key features of modern liberalism, and of compassion, turn out to be made for each otherwhich is not to say that they’re necessarily good for each other, or America.

Consider three. First, liberals are in favor of the "modern bargain," which holds that the most basic political problem, getting people to live together peaceably, can be solved by a "social contract," a mutual non-aggression pact, where we agree to disagree about big, contentious questions, religion chief among them. Liberals are not alone in favoring the modern bargain. So do conservatives, and so do the large portion of the American population that doesn’t think about politics in left-right terms, or doesn’t think about politics much at all.

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Over the past two years, I’ve been commuting from my home to my university. It’s about an hour drive each way (unless it’s snowing, and then it could be two hours each way), and honestly- it has gotten to be quite boring. Over the last semester, I’ve changed from listening to books on tape, or rather books on iPhone, to listening to podcasts. One of my favorites is Sawbones, a marital tour of misguided medicine. My own research into the dead often overlaps with the history of medicine, so it’s been interesting to hear the historical and folkloric side of medical past. One of the most interesting medical procedures throughout history, and that continues today, is trepanation. Trepanation is primarily known as the technique whereby a hole is drilled, cut or sawed into the head of a human being for medical purposes. But new evidence shows that this might not be limited to just skulls, in fact, the technique may have been used for other purposes when there was a buildup of pressure in the bone.

A new study by Toyne (2015) examines possible evidence for the use of the trepanation technique applied to lower leg bones. The sample was found in the Chachapoyas region of Peru, at the Kuelap site, which dates from 8001535 CE. The city was a powerful political and social center in this region, and was occupied by a large population. As Europeans began exploring this area of South America, they wrote about some of the surgical techniques practiced by these people. Numerous texts speak of the skills of the indigenous healers and note the presence of specialists who could deal with significant injuries, diseases and complicated medical treatments. Other bioarchaeological examples of surgery from this region and period show that they were able to do quite complex surgical interventions with success- the human remains show signs of amputations with clear healing of the bone. Trepanation of the skull was more common in this area, and many of the injuries show that the individual lived beyond their treatment, and in some cases lived for a long time.

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Shifting the blame

The sense of perceived persecution in the Middle East is real analogous to Germany’s lamentations after the Versailles Treaty. The retreat into Islamic-inspired terror reflects a larger, complex stew of anger at the reach of Western globalization into traditional and conservative Islamic societies and of envy of the wealth and influence of the Western world, combined with an inability to offer self-critical analyses about the role of tribalism, statism, gender apartheid, religious fundamentalism, intolerance, autocracy, and anti-Semitism in institutionalizing poverty and instability.

For a sizable minority of Muslim immigrants to the West, a sense of inferiority is sometimes enhanced rather than diminished by contact with Western liberal society. The longer and further immigrants are away from the mess of the Middle East that caused them to flee or at least stay away, the more they are able under the aegis of Western freedom, prosperity, and security to romanticize what provides them with the sense of self that they have not earned in their adopted countries.

In the Middle East, when modern societies reach such a point, they prefer to blame "Jews" or "the decadent West" rather than their own pathologies for a perceived descent from the glories of a past and religiously pure age. Liberal internal reform would be the only lasting cure of their maladies, but, tragically, such an impetus is usually thrust upon them by forces from the outside, even if only a small but influential and activist minority is responsible for acting out such self-destructive agendas.



Thursday, January 22, 2015

A black female professor pisses off Muslims, good for her

A black Vanderbilt University professor’s op-ed critical of Islamic terrorism has touched off a wave of protest by Muslim students and other critics.

The op-ed author is Carol Swain, a longtime professor of law and political science at Vanderbilt and a self-proclaimed political conservative. Her op-ed, entitled "Charlie Hebdo attacks prove critics were right about Islam," appeared in The Tennessean (Nashville’s main newspaper) on Jan. 15.

Swain, who opposes burqas and advocates stronger efforts at assimilation for American Muslims, argued that radical Islam "poses an absolute danger to us and our children unless it is monitored better than it has been under the Obama administration."

In response, Muslim students, led by Vanderbilt undergraduate Farishtay Yamin, took great offense.

Yamin told the Vanderbilt Hustler, the campus newspaper, that she "could not believe her eyes" when she read Swain’s column. The student also quickly labeled Swain’s opinion as "hate speech."

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As the worm turns

Has the worm turned, to apply gambling slang for luck changing from bad to good?

In less than two days, Duke University reversed its decision to broadcast the Muslim call to prayer once a week from the venerable (and Methodist) Duke Chapel bell tower. Ten miles away, the University of North Carolina Board of Governors terminated president Tom Ross, ordering him to vacate as soon as a replacement is found. In the Duke fiasco, Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham, and agitation from women’s groups who object to all-male worship as practiced in Islam, are given credit for the volte face. In the UNC case, a new Board was impaneled, comprised of Republicans who acted swiftly and decisively to end Democrat rule. No matter the underlying reasons, it’s a new day in university politics.

Ross has presided over faulty decisions that bring to mind the sinking of the Titanic. Like the officers, crew and passengers of the so-called "unsinkable" luxury liner, UNC officials are oblivious, even in the face of a scandal that has torn a hole in its foundations. Everything they’ve done to save the sinking university is wrong-footed, ineffective and only adds to the inevitable disaster.

What began with disclosures from the NCAA that football players were enrolled in fake courses has twisted and turned to involve a department chair pleading guilty to profiting financially from the phantom classes. A chief fundraiser and former UNC football star was caught padding expense accounts and carrying on an affair with the mother of a highly regarded basketball player who worked for him. And data prove academic fraud has been going on for 22 years.

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Muslims in decline?

Twenty-five nations from around the world have come together to build the space station. They include old enemies who fought each other for centuries over God and gold, Cold War rivals, small countries and large. But none are Islamic nations.

It has become a cliché to point out that science and reason once flourished in the Islamic world. Nonetheless, it is true. While Europe stumbled through the Dark Ages, Islamic scholars made dramatic advances in every field of science including mathematics, optics and experimental physics. Our modern world was built on the scientific breakthroughs of Islam. From the eighth century, mathematicians such as Muhammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī, who helped develop algebra, there is a direct line of progress that ends with the space station itself. But we no longer associate Islam with progress. In fact, a Muslim astronaut would surprise us as much as a non-Muslim terrorist (although there are many examples of each).

When the Parisian police siege ended on the blood-smeared floor of a kosher supermarket, the Prophet had not been avenged. He was diminished. This terrorist attack, and the others before it, merely isolated the Islamic world further from the global mainstream. In its aftermath, we and our leaders repeat, again and again, "Not all Muslims"and yet we collectively treat Muslim nations as a threat that must be contained. Equal members of the global community? No. Partners in the space program? Impossible.

The Islamic world is in relative decline. Or, more precisely, a large number of countries with a Muslim majority are not developing as rapidly as the rest of the world, and in some cases, like Syria, they are even regressing.

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GOP getting squishy already

Spending authorization for the Department of Homeland Security expires at the end of February. The House has already passed a bill to extend that authorization, but with important stipulations. It blocks implementation of the president’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (the "Dream Act by fiat"), which was begun in 2012; a series of enforcement directives called the Morton memos dating from 2011 and 2012; and the November 2014 executive amnesty for large swaths of adult illegal immigrants.

All of those presidential actions are distortions of laws passed by Congress. They all please liberal activists at the expense of legal immigrants and the American worker. But Congress cannot fight them effectively all at once, and shouldn’t try to.

The November amnesty is by far the president’s most dramatic arrogation of power and has attracted some wariness and opposition from Democrats. The DHS fight is a political effort on behalf of the Constitution, not a strictly legal one. It needn’t treat all the president’s trespasses equally. It can and should start on the most favorable ground politically.

Republicans will get a chance to rethink their strategy when the DHS funding bill is blocked in the Senate or vetoed by the president. Some Republicans are afraid that this fight might make them look irresponsiblethat they will be blamed for holding up DHS funding at a time of heightened concern about terrorism. Their squeamishness is to some degree understandable. Letting the Department of Homeland Security "shut down" is almost meaningless as a practical matter but politically risky. Still, that fear does not justify abandoning the fight.

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38 percent

The Nasa climate scientists who claimed 2014 set a new record for global warmth last night admitted they were only 38 per cent sure this was true.

In a press release on Friday, Nasa’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) claimed its analysis of world temperatures showed ‘2014 was the warmest year on record’.

The claim made headlines around the world, but yesterday it emerged that GISS’s analysis based on readings from more than 3,000 measuring stations worldwide is subject to a margin of error. Nasa admits this means it is far from certain that 2014 set a record at all.

Yet the Nasa press release failed to mention this, as well as the fact that the alleged ‘record’ amounted to an increase over 2010, the previous ‘warmest year’, of just two-hundredths of a degree or 0.02C. The margin of error is said by scientists to be approximately 0.1C several times as much.

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Contrary to persistent claims by environmentalists, Methane is not an important greenhouse gas (GHG); it has a totally negligible impact on climate. Attempts to control methane emissions make little sense; the just-announced [Jan 14] White House plan to reduce emissions by 40 to 45% by 2025 ignores well-established ‘text-book’ science.

Methane (chemical formula CH4) is the main component of natural gas. It may technically be defined as a greenhouse gas since it absorbs strongly in some portions of the infrared spectrum; but its impact on climate is insignificant. Its atmospheric level has been increasing because about half of the methane is produced by processes related to human activities, such as cattle raising, rice agriculture, landfills, and the production of oil and natural gas; it is also released in coal mining and from leaky natural gas pipelines. The major non-human sources include swamps and bogs.

Some decades ago I predicted [Nature 1971] anthropogenic methane production and estimated values that are roughly in accord with modern ones. At that time, I was primarily interested in what happens to methane once is diffuses into the stratosphere. We found that the current human-associated production of methane was equivalent to a fleet of 500 SSTs (supersonic transport aircraft) depositing water vapor into the dry stratosphere; these estimates have since been confirmed by balloon-borne radiosondes. Many will recall that in the early 1970s, fear of ozone depletion and increase in skin cancers led to the demise of the US-SST projectalthough economic arguments already showed that at that time SSTs made little sense.

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