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The Unusual Journey of Robina Asti

 

‘Flying Solo’

 

A Staff Pick
Award-Winning Film

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

Everyone has an interesting story to tell.

Flying Solo: A Transgender Widow Fights Discrimination, is a short documentary by the Lambda Legal organization relating the unusual and touching struggle of 92-year-old transgender widow and war veteran Robina Asti.

Robina Asti was denied the survivor benefits she should have received after her husband’s death for two long years.  In a 2004 ceremony in an airplane hangar in Orange County, NY, Robina, a World War II veteran and pilot, married her longtime sweetheart, Norwood Patton.

In June 2012, Norwood passed away at 97 years old.  On July 27, 2012, Robina applied in person for survivor benefits through the SSA.

Though Robina already received Social Security benefits, being able to claim survivor benefits would increase her monthly check by about $500.  On April 24, 2013, the SSA notified Robina that her survivor benefits under Norwood’s Social Security record were denied because “her marriage does not meet the requirements under Federal law for payment of Social Security widow’s benefits,” stating that her marriage was not valid because she was “legally male” at the time of their wedding.

In June 2013, Lambda Legal filed a request for reconsideration on Robina’s behalf. 

This past Valentine’s Day, after months of legal advocacy, the Social Security Administration (SSA) paid Robina, and in April of this year, the SSA updated its policies and procedures regarding the ability of transgender individuals to receive benefits through their spouses.

Robina’s struggle had taken over two years.

After Social Security changed both its mind and its policies, Robina was elated to find out that her long fight to be fully recognized as a spouse was finally over. 

She recounted afterwards:

“I was so happy.

I felt like it was my husband Norwood’s Valentine’s Day gift to me.  I’m glad that Social Security finally came to its senses. 

I hope this means that other people won’t have to experience this.”

 

Robina chose to share her story of struggle, hope, and love with others– so that they, too, may persevere and find their way.

~Via Lambda Legal, Robina Asti, Vimeo

* * * * * * * * *

Flying Solo is previewing at NewFest: The New York LGBT Film Festival, July 27th at 1:30pm.

More information about Lambda Legal’s resources for trans people and advocates can be found here

If you liked this story and video, you might also enjoy Eri’s unusual story, too.

 

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Prisons and Muppets

 

John Oliver’s Detailed Take

 

**VIRAL VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

How bad is the mass incarceration problem in the US?

So bad that Sesame Street featured a muppet with a father in prison to help the 2.7 million American children with an incarcerated parent understand what just happened.

Incarcerated people, parents or not, face a system that subjects them to often horrific conditions.

The touchy issue of racism is also brought up by John Oliver in the above HBO clip.

“It reminds me of a joke,” John Oliver quipped yesterday on Last Week Tonight.  ”‘Black people who commit drug offenses, they go to jail like this, whereas white people …don’t go to jail at all.”

Watch him walk through, in considerable detail, every problem of our corrections system from the epidemic of prison rape to the perverse incentives created by prison privatization to the alleged use of sugar to treat wounds in prison clinics.  He covers more ground quickly than we can possibly touch on here.

Whether you agree with his reasoning or not, and whether you care, is another matter altogether.  Prisons have more than their fair share of psychopaths, sociopaths, murderers, rapists, the habitually violent and criminally-minded peeps, and just plain badass dudes.

But make no mistake:  the American prison system is one screwed-up hell pit carved out by institutionalized racism, despicable politics, corporate greed and other reprehensible factors that– culturally– we’ve mostly agreed to ignore.  For the most part it’s out of sight and out of mind.

The issues facing our nation’s rapidly growing incarcerated population isn’t attractive to focus on.  It’s a brutal and sad dilemma and one that’s easy to dismiss because a lot of people can’t find it in their hearts to care about criminals.

There’s nothing cute about prison advocacy.  Which is why John Oliver cares enough to use humor, song, and adorable muppets to get Americans to actually give a whit.

 

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Overturning Citizens United

 

Corporations Aren’t People

–And Elections Shouldn’t be for Sale

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

80% of Americans are fed up.

Polls indicate the majority of Americans believe corporations have too much power, money, and undue influence in America’s democratic process, so a constitutional amendment is afoot to reverse two important Supreme Court rulings:  Citizens United and the McCutcheon ruling.

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday advanced legislation to amend the Constitution so Congress can regulate campaign spending, a change many Republicans say would alter the First Amendment right to freedom of speech by limiting the amount of money companies can give for influencing elections.

The committee approved a resolution from Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) that would change the Constitution allowing Congress to pass laws that limit campaign spending by companies and other entities.  Committee passage could mean the Senate considers it on the floor in the coming weeks.

Udall’s proposal is a reaction to two recent Supreme Court decisions that Democrats say allow companies to spend freely on campaigns and drown out the speech of average citizens.

One of these cases is Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission, which prohibits limiting how companies and other groups spend money on campaigns.

The other is McCutcheon v. FEC, which ends aggregate limits for what people can contribute overall during a campaign cycle.

The protest is spreading16 states have already petitioned Congress so far to let their citizens vote on a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s edicts.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) said amending the Constitution is needed to fix the Supreme Court’s “flawed” decisions.

“This amendment addresses a series of flawed Supreme Court decisions that have eviscerated our campaign finance laws, allowing the money of wealthy individuals and special interests to drown out the voices of average Americans,” Leahy said.

“The Court has twisted the meaning of the First Amendment to protect money as if it were speech,” he added.  “The Supreme Court has opened the floodgates to billionaires who are now pouring vast amounts of unfettered and undisclosed dollars into political campaigns across the country.”

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has been one of the more vocal opponents of Udall’s resolution.  He has unbelievably argued that the change could allow Congress to regulate books and TV shows if they contain political content.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) criticized the proposed constitutional amendment to eliminate corporate personhood rights, calling the idea “absurd.”

Back in May, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) promised that the Senate would vote on Udall’s proposal, and cited the Koch brothers as a reason why Congress needs to limit campaign contributions of the wealthy.

“If this unprecedented spending is free speech, where does that leave our middle class constituents, the poor?  It leaves them out in the cold,” Reid said.  “There should be no million-dollar entry fee to participation in our democracy.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) believes restrictions on political spending would guarantee more women, minorities and young people get elected, and she is willing to amend the Constitution to get those limits.

“We have the legislation to do it that dares to disclose who is this money coming from and amend the Constitution to overturn Citizens United,” Pelosi said.  “This special interest money is suffocating the airwaves, causing confusion. All the other things they are doing are horrible; from obstacle to participation and suffocating the airwaves to confuse the issues.”

“In order to take back our politics, we must reduce the role of money in politics and increase the level of civility,” Pelosi said.  “I guarantee you, if we increase the level of civility and reduce the role of money, we will allow more women, more minorities, and more young people to elective office.”

 

Money does not equal  free speech and fair elections.

For more about how you can overturn the disasterous
Citizens United and McCutcheon rulings, we recommend
going to Move To Amend and the Public Citizen.

 

 

 

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It’s a Plastic World

 

In its Varied Forms

Award-Winning **VIDEO**

 

Andreas Tanner
Andix Productions

 

It’s everywhere.

We need and we want it.  We find it in places we wouldn’t expect.

A world without plastic is inconceivable.  But do we know the consequences of our self-indulgent plastic consumption?

With two excellent speakers and nice music by Alexander Rösch, I’m very proud to present It’s a Plastic World, my film showing the various problems associated with plastic and the possible solutions.

In my holidays I saw a secluded beach that was littered with plastic waste.  I asked myself how this could be possible.  Back home, I began to fathom the causes.

The problem is that the ocean is completely polluted with plastic.  A lot of plastic is washed up on beaches worldwide.  This and many other bad facts led me to make my movie about plastic material and its far-reaching consequences.

It took weeks of collecting facts, writing a story, and drawing the storyboard for the movie.  After four more months of computer and production time, it was finally finished.

Many NGO’s like Greenpeace, WWF and PlasticOceans helped endorse and spread the movie.  I’d be very glad if everyone  shared and spread it.

If you would like to know more about making this movie, please watch the short Making-Of trailer, seen below.

Thank you,
Andreas Tanner

 

 

 

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Too Big to Jail?

 

Sweetheart DOJ Deals with Corrupt Corporations and Banks Soar

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

Are Big Banks involved in crimes too big to jail? 
Seems to be that way.

A dramatic spike in Justice Department cases ending in settlements instead of criminal charges against corporate bad actors in the financial sector raises questions about whether the agency maintains “too big to jail” policies, a new study concludes.

The Public Citizen report chronicles a gradual uptick in the use of deferred prosecution agreements and non-prosecution agreements in cases brought by the Justice Department during the George W. Bush and Obama administrations.

In the early 2000s, the practice was used only two or three times a year.

Currently however, the Justice Department has increasingly utilized the agreements to resolve cases in the years leading up to, and following, the 2008 economic crisis.

Over the last four years, the DOJ entered into between 27 and 39 DPAs and NPAs annually, according to the report, entitled “Justice Deferred.”

“Not prosecuting big banks that have engaged in criminal activity has given rise to the perception these financial institutions are ‘too big to jail,’ ” said Lisa Gilbert, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division.

“These softball prosecutions further highlight the real need to increase transparency on DOJ processes and decision-making when it comes to large financial institutions,” Gilbert said.

The group describes murky enforcement policies at the Justice Department, where it is unclear whether prosecutors consider the size of a financial institution before deciding whether to file criminal charges. 

Record fines in the billions of dollars have been levied against some institutions in plea agreements by the DOJ for a litany of criminal behavior, fraud, drug money laundering, and risky loan practices while at the same time no individuals have been held accountable to date.  Some argue the fines punish innocent shareholders and employees of the companies, but not those making the decisions at the executive level.

“If such a policy exists, Congress should take steps to require the DOJ to publicly disclose if and when it is providing favorable treatment under the law to financial institutions,” the group concluded.

Several large financial institutions have entered into civil settlements to address charges of bad behavior stemming from the financial crisis, but no major institutions or individuals have faced criminal charges for their action.

For his part, Attorney General Eric Holder has repeatedly maintained that there is no such policy at his Justice Department.

 

~Via The Hill, July 8, Undernews, Congressman Ted Deutch, YouTube

 

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The Billionaire Mathematician

 

Seeker, Doer, Giver, Ponderer

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

James Simons has led a life of ferocious curiosity. 

Making his fortune, he is now making his own major contributions for the future of America. 

The following excerpt from the New York Times profiles Simons, the multi-billionaire scientist and hedge fund star who has won praise for his financial gifts to scientific research and his efforts to get children interested in math.

Simons, who has led a life full of twists and turns, successes and failures, has held up his life as example to young people of what perseverance and curiosity can accomplish.

 

 

James H. Simons likes to play against type.

He is a billionaire star of mathematics and private quantitative investment who often wins praise for his financial gifts to scientific research and programs to get children hooked on math.

But in his Manhattan office, high atop a Fifth Avenue building in the Flatiron district, he’s quick to tell of his career failings.

He was forgetful.  He was demoted.  He found out the hard way that he was terrible at programming computers.

“I’d keep forgetting the notation,” Dr. Simons said. “I couldn’t write programs to save my life.”

After that, he was fired.

His message is clearly aimed at young people:  If I can do it, so can you.

Down one floor from his office complex is Math for America, a foundation he set up to promote math teaching in public schools.  Nearby, on Madison Square Park, is the National Museum of Mathematics, or MoMath, an educational center he helped finance.  It opened in 2012 and has had a quarter million visitors.

Dr. Simons, 76, laughs a lot.  He talks of “the fun” of his many careers, as well as his failings and setbacks.  In a recent interview, he recounted a life full of remarkable twists, including the deaths of two adult children, all of which seem to have left him eager to explore what he calls the mysteries of the universe.

“I can’t help it,” he said of the science he finances. “It’s very exciting.”

Jeff Cheeger, a mathematician at New York University who studied with him a half century ago at Princeton, described Dr. Simons’s career as “mind-boggling.”

Dr. Simons received his doctorate at 23;  advanced code breaking for the National Security Agency at 26;  led a university math department at 30;  won geometry’s top prize at 37;  founded Renaissance Technologies, one of the world’s most successful hedge funds, at 44;  and began setting up charitable foundations at 56.

This year, he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences, an elite body that Congress founded during Lincoln’s presidency to advise the federal government.

With a fortune estimated at $12.5 billion, Dr. Simons now runs a tidy universe of science endeavors, financing not only math teachers but hundreds of the world’s best investigators, even as Washington has reduced its support for scientific research.  His favorite topics include gene puzzles, the origins of life, the roots of autism, math and computer frontiers, basic physics and the structure of the early cosmos.

“He’s very ambitious,” said Edward Witten, a physicist at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.  “He can have a big impact.”

Working closely with his wife, Marilyn, the president of the Simons Foundation and an economist credited with philanthropic savvy, Dr. Simons has pumped more than $1 billion into esoteric projects as well as retail offerings like the World Science Festival and a scientific lecture series at his Fifth Avenue building.  Characteristically, it is open to the public.

His casual manner — he’s known as Jim — belies a wide-ranging intellect that seems to resonate with top scientists…

During the interview, Dr. Simons reached into the pocket of his blue shirt and pulled out a pack of cigarettes, at times letting one dangle from his mouth unlit.  He was relaxed and chatty, wearing tan pants and loafers, his accent betraying his Boston birth and upbringing.

Dr. Simons said he knew as a boy that he loved math and logic.  He would lie in bed thinking about how to give the instruction “pass it on” in a clearly defined way.

“One night, I figured it out,” he recalled.  By morning, he added, he could no longer remember the insight.

At 14, during a Christmas break, he was hired by a garden supply store for a stockroom job. But he was quickly demoted to floor sweeper after repeatedly forgetting where things went.  His bosses were incredulous when, at vacation’s end, he told them he wanted to study mathematics at the nearby Massachusetts Institute of Technology…

Forbes magazine ranks him as the world’s 93rd richest person — ahead of Eric Schmidt of Google and Elon Musk of Tesla Motors, among others — and in 2010, he and his wife were among the first billionaires to sign the Giving Pledge, promising to devote “the great majority” of their wealth to philanthropy.

Of late, Dr. Simons said, his giving had accelerated, adding that he was particularly proud of Math for America. It awards stipends and scholarships of up to $100,000 to train high school math and science teachers and to supplement their regular salaries. The corps is expanding to 1,100 teachers, mainly in New York City, but also in Boston, Los Angeles and elsewhere.

His passion, however, is basic research — the risky, freewheeling type. He recently financed new telescopes in the Chilean Andes that will look for faint ripples of light from the Big Bang, the theorized birth of the universe.

The afternoon of the interview, he planned to speak to Stanford physicists eager to detect the axion, a ghostly particle thought to permeate the cosmos but long stuck in theoretical limbo. Their endeavor “could be very exciting,” he said, his mood palpable, like that of a kid in a candy store.

For all his self-deprecations, Dr. Simons does credit himself with a contemplative quality that seems to lie behind many of his accomplishments.

“I wasn’t the fastest guy in the world,” Dr. Simons said of his youthful math enthusiasms. “I wouldn’t have done well in an Olympiad or a math contest. But I like to ponder. And pondering things, just sort of thinking about it and thinking about it, turns out to be a pretty good approach.”

An excerpt, you can read the full NYT article here.

 

~Via Google News, NYT, and YouTube

* * * * * * * * *

 

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Looking Into Your Junk

 

Prosecutors Want Graphic Photos

Of Teen Taken as Evidence

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

Talk about an invasion of privacy. 

A Virginia teenager is fighting efforts by police who want to take photos of him in a sexually aroused state to try to prove a sexting case against him.

Prosecutors in Prince William County, Virginia, told a judge they need photos of the 17-year-old’s erect penis to compare against photos he is accused of sending to his 15-year-old girlfriend at the time.  

The teen has been charged in juvenile court with possessing and manufacturing child pornography related to the images of himself he’s accused of creating.

The teen’s lawyers say the search warrant allowing the photographs has been authorized by a magistrate but not yet executed.  They are fighting the warrant in court; a hearing is scheduled for next week.

Defense lawyer Jessica Foster said she is unaware of any cases where police have pursued similar photographs, particularly of a minor.

“This is crazy,” she said.  ”Nobody’s even heard of something like this. … The charges are excessive, and the means by which they are seeking evidence are outrageous.”

The teen’s appointed guardian ad litem, Carlos Flores Laboy, said his understanding is that police plan to do some sort of computer analysis of the photos to try and prove a similarity to the explicit photo found on the girl’s phone.  He said the search warrant vividly demonstrates the importance of defending individuals’ constitutional rights against invasions of privacy.

“Doing this to an adult would be traumatic.  We’re talking about a 17-year-old child.  Doing it to a 17-year-old would be even worse,” he said.

A guardian ad litem is an attorney appointed to serve as an advocate in certain juvenile cases.

The lawyers said police have told them they plan to obtain the photo by taking the teen to a hospital and injecting him with a chemical that would cause an erection.

The teen’s aunt and legal guardian has sent the teen out of state for now so the warrant can’t be executed.

“He’s overwhelmed.  He’s scared.  He doesn’t want to be in Virginia” because police could theoretically show up at any time to try to execute the warrant and take the photographs, she said.

Police have been pursuing the case since January, the aunt said, when the girlfriend’s mom discovered the explicit content.

She said prosecutors insisted on getting the photographs after her nephew turned down a plea deal that would have required a year of probation in which he would be forbidden from using a cell phone or the Internet.  She was concerned that a slipup on probation– even a single use of a social media account like Facebook or Twitter– would leave him exposed to a felony record and a requirement to register as a sex offender.

She said her nephew has received a lot of support since the case was first reported last week on WRC-TV, the NBC affiliate in Washington.

Police and prosecutors did not return calls Wednesday afternoon seeking
comment.

The Manassas City Police later posted a statement on its website saying that it is not their policy “to authorize invasive search procedures of suspects in cases of this nature and no such procedures have been conducted in this case.”

The statement added that police were contacted by the mother of the 15-year-old girl “who was sent pornographic videos” by the 17-year-old “after repeatedly being told to stop.”

 

~Via Google News, The Washington Post, Fox 43,
Tomo News and YouTube

 

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The NSA Does Spy on Everyday People— Like You

 

Ordinary Internet Users Were
the Bulk of NSA Intercepts

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

Edward Snowden was right. 

That’s funny because we seem to remember National Intelligence Director James R. Clapper Jr. telling us this wasn’t the case in March of last year. 

Clapper lied.  We all knew it then and we know it now.

A massive report from The Washington Post this weekend delves into tens of thousands of communications and documents collected by the NSA’s wide-reaching surveillance programs.  

The first-of-its-kind report reveals that as many as 90% of web users caught in the NSA’s surveillance efforts of intercepted conversations were not persons targeted by the agency, but landed in the agency’s net anyway.

Private and personal emails, instant messages, photos, and documents from these digital bystanders– many of whom appear to be spuriously connected to the target– remain in the agency’s servers long after they’ve been deemed irrelevant.

According to the Post, a large portion are US citizens or residents, with almost half of all communications containing information that the NSA connected to Americans.

The Post revealed the stunningly high percentage of innocent web crawlers were snared in the National Security Administration’s web after a four-month examination of documents turned over by ex-agency contractor Edward Snowden.

In its story, the newspaper said it had reviewed 160,000 emails and IM conversations, along with 7,900 documents lifted from 11,000 online accounts.

All the documents were provided to the paper by Snowden, and they illustrated how the NSA ensnared unwitting targets and non-targets during the course of daily business.

According to the Post, many other files — considered useless but never deleted — exposed the secrets of 10,000 account holders who were never declared NSA targets.

The files contained damning evidence of extramarital affairs, details of relationships, worries about cash and other intensely personal matters, The Post reported.

How did it happen? According to the newspaper, every time a targeted individual entered an online chat room the NSA snapped up the identities and conversations of everyone who posted or lurked on the site.

One analyst described a day’s work: “1 target, 38 others on there.”

For the NSA’s part, analysts did obscure — or “minimize” — information like email addresses that could be linked to US residents, as required by law.  The Post, however, found that from over 65,000 “minimized” identifiers, nearly 900 pieces of information connected to Americans made it through.

More concerning is information on how security analysts deemed whether a person was a foreigner or an American.  

Often times, emails simply written in a foreign language were reason enough to believe that a person was not an American, opening them up to a degree of warrantless surveillance under US law.  In other examples, anyone on the IM “buddy list” of a foreigner or anyone using an international IP address was deemed not to be an American.

In its lengthy Sunday piece, the Post said it was withholding some details to protect ongoing government operations.

But the newspaper did detail how NSA investigators wading through an ocean of information — including 50 alias accounts — nabbed a pair of terrorists. 

Pakistan-based bomb-maker Muhammad Tahir Shahzad was arrested in 2011, and Indonesian terrorist bombing suspect Umar Patek was arrested a year later.

Ok, we get that.  But here’s the part we don’t understand and have a hard time wrapping our head around: 

It is a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment for the Federal Government to indiscrimately spy on its American citizens.

Period.

~Via Google News, The Verge, YouTube & Vimeo

 

Munk Debates State Surveillance: Edward Snowden from Munk Debates on Vimeo.

 

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In Cold Blood

 

A Random Stop Leads to a
Brutal and Violent Encounter

 

Award-Winning **VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

Be forewarned.  The above video isn’t pleasant. 
You may not want to see it. 

It’s an accurate and true portrayal of tragic and violent events as they happened.  Shocked and dumbstruck by its harsh reality and brutal ferocity, it’s not only what you see but also what you hear.  It’s ugly.

We were taken aback.  It was that brutal and senseless.  And it escalated as quickly on film as it did in real life.

We don’t like intolerable abuses by law enforcement and we often report about them.  This, however, is the flip side of that story.  It’s the other side of the coin, a very dark and tragic one underscoring the life and death consequences that law enforcement may meet at any given time.  Especially when hesitating making split-second decisions.

On Monday, January 12, 1998, near the end of his shift, Laurens County Deputy Kyle Dinkheller made his last and final stop before going home, pulling a motorist over for speeding.

Dinkheller encountered the speeding Toyota pickup truck near Dudley, Georgia, which he clocked at nearly 100 miles per hour.  The deputy pulled the truck over on a rural dirt road adjacent to Interstate 16.

The traffic stop at first appeared to be a routine one.  Both the deputy and Brannan exited their vehicles and exchanged greetings.  Brannan, however, placed both hands
into his pockets.  Dinkheller instructed him to remove his hands and keep them in plain
view.

Brannan then became agitated and belligerent.  He yelled at the deputy to shoot him.  He then began to dance and wave his arms around in the middle of the road.

Dinkheller radioed dispatch for assistance and issued commands for Brannan to cease his behavior and approach the cruiser.  When Brannan saw that the deputy was calling for other units, he ran toward the deputy in an aggressive manner.

Dinkheller retreated while issuing commands, using his baton to keep Brannan at bay.  On Dinkheller’s dashcam video, Brannan was heard shouting that he was a “Vietnam combat veteran.”  Both Dinkheller and Brannan were heard saying, “I’m in fear for my life.”

Despite Dinkheller’s commands, Brannan walked back to his pickup truck and withdrew an M1 carbine from underneath the driver’s seat, taking cover near the driver side door.

Dinkheller positioned himself near the passenger door of his cruiser and gave Brannan commands for approximately forty seconds.  Brannan stepped away from his pickup truck and pointed his M1 carbine at Dinkheller.

Dinkheller fired a shot at Brannan.  After the first shot, Brannan returned fire and a barrage of gunfire was heard.  Dinkheller did not strike the suspect and was forced to reload.

At this point, Brannan ran from his pickup truck toward the deputy and began to fire, hitting Dinkheller in the exposed areas of the arms and legs.

Brannan then began to reload his weapon.  Dinkheller, injured, tried to position himself near the driver side door of his cruiser.  Another shot from Dinkheller was heard.  Brannan began advancing and firing at the deputy, hitting him numerous times.  Before being disabled from gunfire, Dinkheller was able to inflict a gunshot wound to the stomach of Brannan.

After being struck and clutching his stomach, Brannan then raised his M1 carbine and fired two more shots with one striking Dinkheller in the head, killing him.

Brannan retreated into his pickup and fled the scene.  He was discovered the next morning by police hiding in a sleeping bag beneath a camouflage tarp in Laurens County, Georgia, and arrested for the murder.

Brannan pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, but the jury found that the murder of Dinkheller was carried out in a torturous and cruel manner. 

Brannan was found guilty of the murder nearly two years later and is awaiting the death penalty.  
Currently 66-years-old, he is still incarcerated in Georgia, has not been executed, and is appealing
his conviction.

When asked why he killed the deputy, Brannan responded, “Because he let me.”

The original dashcam video of Dinkheller’s cold blooded murder is used throughout United States police academies as a training aid.  Some students have had to leave the room after viewing it.

Dinkheller was only 22-years-old at the time of his death.  Survived by his wife, daughter, and son, he was named Deputy Sheriff of the Year by the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association.

 

Appreciation goes out to Gun Safety Blog, Vimeo, and Castel.

* * * * * * * * *

This Independence Day, remember those that have gone before you; those who are not with us and unable to celebrate the life and liberties, protections and rights, that we have today.

 

 

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Send Your Selfies to Mars for Only 99 Cents!

 

 

Students Aiming Time Capsule to Mars

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

Move over Dollar Stores.  There’s a bigger bang for the
buck happening in the solar system.

Most people will bury a time capsule, but a group of brilliant young minds will surely find something more exciting to do with it– like sending it off to Mars.

A team of students at MIT, Duke University, Stanford University and the University of Connecticut are working on creating a time capsule which will be sent to Mars and will contain millions of messages, pictures, audio and video files from people all over the world.

The Time Capsule for Mars is the first student interplanetary mission that likely to become a pioneering achievement in the field of space exploration, as it is expected to be the first private Mars mission and possibly the greatest crowd-funded project in history.

Of course, the project has broader goals than just sending messages to Mars.

The initial idea was to celebrate the idea of humanity for space exploration at a moment when the prospect of colonizing new planets becomes more and more real. The main goal is to inspire young people from all over the world by giving them the opportunity to send their selfies (or other files and messages) to outer space.

The messages will be transmitted in the form of text, images, audio and video, and the “time capsule” is going to remain on the Red Planet to be found by colonists in the future.

The capsule will be transported to the Red Planet with three small satellites called Cubesats.  Students will work with NASA, Boeing and Lockheed Martin to build the capsule and satellites, aimed to develop newly advanced ion propulsion systems and simultaneously low-cost technologies for the field of space exploration.

It is expected the mission to Mars will take about four months.  The spacecraft would burn up in the Martian atmosphere except for a section carrying the media that is designed to survive to the Martian surface.

“We’ve got a lot of firsts, and it’s very exciting,” said Emily Briere, a senior at Duke University who is project director for Time Capsule to Mars, in announcing the mission on June 23.

Besides being the first student-built interplanetary mission, she said, the project hopes to fly the first cubesat mission beyond Earth’s orbit, as well as be the first interplanetary mission to use a new type of electric propulsion, called called ion electrospray thrusters and built by micro-machining techniques, under development at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Student groups from the participating universities are supported by a global network of space exploration fans, including former astronauts, aerospace companies and volunteers.

The mission, which is estimated to cost about $25 million, will be funded through crowd-funding and by charging each participant $ 0.99 for uploading a file (sized up to 10MB).

The satellites that will deliver the time capsules are expected to be launched in 2017. 

Those wishing to send to Mars their messages, pictures, selfies, works of art, the entire works of Shakespeare, or whatever else floats your boat for saving and preserving humanity can actually do it today. 

Check out the details, fill out the form, send in your 99 cents and support the first student-led space mission at the official website of the Time Capsule to Mars project.

Wait ’til the Men in Black and little green men find out about this one. 
They’ll be beating a path to your doorstep in no time.

 

Via Anna LeMind, MindUnleashed.com, Engadget, Space.com and YouTube

 

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Ashley Fiolek’s Unusual Ride to the Top

 

 

A Very Challenging Champion

Award-Winning **VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

Don’t tell her she can’t do something.  She won’t take no
for an answer.  And she believes nothing is impossible.

Women’s motocross is a fast emerging sport.  Motocross has been a predominantly male pastime, particularly in the pro and international arenas. However, things are changing as the popular sport keeps on evolving.

Leading the charge is a young pioneering woman in the field: Ashley Fiolek, an AMA Motocross Champion and consistent top three finisher hailing from the sunshine state of Florida.

Ashley’s route into the sport wasn’t an orthodox one in the least.  Ashley herself has been profoundly deaf since birth.

Her family moved to Augustine, Florida, because it was home to the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind, the largest specialized school of its kind.  She studied ballet, ran track, and played baseball, which was about as wild and reckless as it got.  When she finished eighth grade, her parents decided to begin homeschooling her.

Some years before, as a child, Ashley’s parents noticed her passion for riding bikes.  She used to ride on the front of her mother’s 4-wheeler or her father’s bike, and they often went to her grandfather’s house in Northern Michigan where she rode through the woods for hours.  Around the age of three, her parents gave her a Yamaha PW50.  Despite not liking the training wheels, the youngster’s career path was irreversibly set from this point and no amount of ballet and athletics was going to change that.

She was originally misdiagnosed as “mildly retarded” by doctors and was shy and introverted as a young child, until her family encouraged her to join the amateur motocross circuit.

Ashley started racing in 1990 at the tender age of seven.  She soon shone as an emerging talent.

In 2008, Ashley won her first WMX Pro National Championship title, the youngest female ever to do so.  In 2009, she won her first X-Games gold medal, cementing her position as a top rider and taking herself and the sport to a bright new future at the same time.  In 2010, she won her second consecutive gold medal.

It didn’t come easy, though.  In 2009, she finished Pennsylvania’s Steel City Railway race in great pain due to a collarbone fracture due to a spill.  In 2011, at X-Games 17, Fiolek crashed during practice and knocked herself unconscious.  In 2012 she again crashed again, this time suffering a concussion and a fractured tailbone during the WMX Moto 2 race in Lakewood, Colorado.  Despite her injuries, however, Fiolek still continued to race; with determination, daring, an ongoing disability, and a whole lotta grit.

She became the first female rider featured in action on the cover of Transworld Motocross Magazine to advance women’s racing in the US.  In 2009, she made headlines again when she became the first female to be signed to the American Honda Racing factory team.

In 2010, Ashley met Noora Moghaddas, a top motocross competitor in the Middle East, and the two women became friends while riding.  They soon found out they shared similar goals for improving conditions for women and girls in their respective countries.

“Noora continues to help Iranian women learn how to ride, race and become stronger,” Fiolek said.  “I hope to be a part of that important mission with her so we can share our love of motocross with people in other countries.” 

“It is great to know our world is really not that big.  Even with different languages and cultures, we can all come together and share something we feel passionate about,” she said.

Today, the 23-year-old has to her credit  two X-Games gold medals, four AMA Women’s National Motocross Championship titles, garnered a shelf of racing trophies, has been featured in Vogue magazine, made a few appearances in film and on television, and published her first book, Kicking up Dirt.

We’re proud of Ashley and what she has accomplished, and we’re especially proud of her parents. 

Despite her obstacles and challenges, Ashley Fiolek just won’t say no.  She is determined to succeed, hitting life at full throttle and riding to the top of her game.

 

~Via Red Bull, AshleyFiolek.com, Vimeo,
Dirt Rider, Honda, and Chris Bloxom

 

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The Man Who Turned Paper Into Pixels

 

Claude Shannon:  Founding Father
of the Digital Age

 

Award-Winning **VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

He’s the man you never heard of, but should have. 

He was more important to our digital age than the familiar names of  Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. 

He was responsible for what we know today as the digital revolution.  If you’re reading this, you have him to thank.  He’s the guy who started it all.

Claude Elwood Shannon saw the change that no one saw coming:  the idea that we could take a book, a painting or a song, and send it through cables and wires or even thin air to the other end of the world– and it would be identical on the other side.  And that was back in 1948.

How did we make such a mind bending transition into the digital world?  And how does it work?  It turns out it was all based on Shannon’s concept that is surprisingly beautiful in its simplicity.  

The short video above tells us what that idea is in a nutshell,
and about the man who figured it all out.

Considered the founding father of electronic communications age, Claude Shannon was a mathematical engineer whose work on technical and engineering problems in the communications industry laid the groundwork for both the computer industry and telecommunications.

After he noticed the similarity between Boolean algebra and the telephone switching circuits, Shannon applied the principles to electrical systems at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1940.

While working at Bell Laboratories in 1942, he formulated a theory explaining the communication of information and worked on the problem of efficiently transmitting information. Shannon’s profound mathematical theory of communication— binary code– was the climax of his mathematical and engineering investigations.

The concept of entropy– a degree of uncertainty– was an important feature of Shannon’s theory, which he demonstrated to be equivalent to a shortage of the information contained in a message.

The entire science of information theory grew out of one electrifying paper that Shannon published in 1948, when he was a 32-years-old.

Shannon showed how the once-vague notion of information could be defined and quantified with absolute precision.  He demonstrated the essential unity of all information media, pointing out that text, telephone signals,
radio waves, pictures, film and every other mode of communication could be encoded in the universal language of binary digits, or bits– a term that his groundbreaking article was the first to use in print. 

In short, Shannon saw the move from analog information to
a digital one, and with great vision and clarity.

Shannon laid forth the idea that once information became digital, it could be transmitted without error. This was a breathtaking conceptual leap that led directly to such familiar and robust objects as computers, modems, CDs, MP3s, and even HDTV.  Without Shannon, computers and computer science could have been very different.

Shannon made many more discoveries and received a slew of prestigious awards, citations, honorary degrees and plaques, including the Nobel Prize, that filled an entire room of his house. 

He didn’t care to publish much, had a great sense of humor, and invented a mathematical model for juggling, a juggling unicycle, a device for solving Rubik’s Cubes, a chess playing machine that spit out wry comments along with its moves, a 600 foot stair lift to take his kids down to the lake, and a mechanical mouse capable of using stored information and artificial intelligence for navigating mazes and considered to be the first artificial learning device ever
created.  And that’s the short list.

Almost as important, as an MIT professor, Shannon taught scores of the nation’s brightest students his theories and applications of communication, electric relays, circuits and switches, and applied engineering and electrical mathematics.  His students revered him, and in turn, futhered his ideas by creating and  developing scores of the digital inventions and devices we use and enjoy today.

By1985, however, he and his wife began to notice certain lapses and eccentricities in his behavior.

He would go for a drive and forget how to get home.  In 1992, when the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers was preparing to publish his collected papers, Shannon was disturbed to realize that he couldn’t remember writing many of them.  

By mid-1993, with his condition becoming apparent to everyone, the family confirmed what many had begun to suspect.  The once-brilliant genius, inventor, and renowned professor Claude Shannon had Alzheimer’s disease.  Later that year, his family reluctantly placed him in a nursing home.

Claude Shannon, the founding father of the information age and the digital revolution, died in 2001.

 

A fascinating man, his bio can be found at the New York University site here.

Curious?  You can read more about him here or in the Wikipedia entry here.

Even more interested?  Spend a few minutes on this lively piece in Technology Review.

Super interested?  Find out more in this very personal account.

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The Vanishing Island

 

Bayou Life and Memories
Slowly Sinking Into the Abyss

 

Award-Winning **VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

They’re sinking– their way of bayou life literally
collapsing under the water.

Vanishing Island is a short documentary profiling the residents of the Isle de Jean Charles, as they confront a future threatened by sinking shorelines and rising seas.

Known locally in Louisiana French as Isle à Jean Charles, the place is a narrow ridge of land between Bayou Terrebonne and Bayou Pointe-au-Chien in Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana.

It was once home to many members of the Biloxi-Chitimacha tribe and the community of Houma people. Currently, however, the island’s population has dwindled— shrinking from about 250 families to about 25 households due to the constant flooding, hurricanes, and rising sea levels taking its wearisome toll on the
land and people.

The isle has been affected by the induced and natural subsiding of the land in South Louisiana.  Some blame natural conditions, others the oil pipeline. 

Whatever the case, they all agree Isle de Jean Charles is gradually disappearing into the mud-choked channels of Terrebonne Bay.  

The island unfortunately lies past the 72-mile authorized levee alignment
holding back the rest of the rising water.  No hope lingers in sight for those
families who choose to remain– or those having nowhere to go. 

They and their land will soon be lost forever; vanished and vanquished.

The trees that used to be abundant in the area are long since gone, succumbing to the rising waters drowning their roots and a distant memory for the children who used to play in them years ago.

Film director Benh Zeitlin has said in interviews that Isle de Jean Charles was the geographical inspiration for the strikingly stark setting of his Oscar-nominated move ”The Bathtub”, the fictional mysterious bayou island depicted in Beasts of the Southern Wild.

 

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Officer, Got a Tank?

 

Para-Militarizing the Local Police

 

**VIDEO**

 

Jim Hightower
JimHightower.com

 

Let’s check our weaponry.

We’ve got 93,000 machine guns, 533 planes and helicopters, 180,000 magazine cartridges, and 432 mine-resistant ambush protected vehicles.  Okay, let’s roll!

Only this is not the US military.  It’s your and my local police departments patrolling our cities.

Remember “Officer Friendly,” the beat cops who were known as “peace officers”?  The friendlies have largely been transformed into militarized forces, literally armed with and garbed in war gear and indoctrinated in military psychology, rather than the ethic of community policing.

Twenty years ago, Congress created the military transfer program, providing federal grants so chiefs of police and sheriffs could buy surplus firepower from the Pentagon.

In a stunningly short time, our local police forces have become macho-military units, possessing an armory of Pentagon freebies ranging from 30-ton tanks to rifle silencers.  They’ve gone from peacekeeping beats to over-the-top SWAT team aggression, unleashed on the citizenry tens of thousands of times a year, mainly for ordinary police work.

For example, a gung-ho Florida SWAT team raided area barbershops in 2010 to stop the horror of “barbering without a
license.”  

And masked police in Louisiana launched a military raid on a nightclub in order to perform a liquor law inspection.

There are many, many more examples.  Militarization is a dangerous and ultimately deadly perversion of the honorable purpose of policing– and it is literally out of control.

The New York Times notes that 38 states have received silencers to use in surreptitious raids.  A sheriff in a North Dakota rural county with only 11,000 people told a Times reporter
that he saw no need for silencers.

When it was pointed out that his department had received 40 of them from the Pentagon, he was baffled.  He said, “I don’t recall approving them.”

 

Officer Friendly, in a Tank? War Gear Flows to Local Police,” The New York Times, June 9, 2014.

* * * * * * * * * *

Jim Hightower is a Texan, columnist, and populist who believes that to move America from greed to greatness, we must fuel the power and the passion of our nation’s workaday majority.

You can listen to more of Jim Hightower’s commentaries here.

 

 

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Terrorist-Captured US Arms, Tanks, Going to Al Qaeda

 

ISIS Arming Iraq and Syria’s Rebels
with US Military Hardware

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

It seems the spoils of war are easily disposed of. 
By the enemy.

Syrian and Iraqi terrorist forces obtained significant numbers of tanks, trucks, and US-origin Humvees in recent military operations in Iraq and those arms are being shipped to al Qaeda rebels in Syria, according to US officials.

US intelligence agencies reported this week that photos of the equipment transfers were posted online by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), also known as ISIS, the ultra-violent terror group that broke away from al Qaeda but shares its goals and philosophy.

Pentagon spokesman Cmdr. Bill Speaks confirmed the weapons transfers and expressed concerns about the captured arms.

“We’re aware of reports of some equipment—namely Humvees—and the pictures that have been posted online,” Speaks said in an email.  “We are certainly concerned about these reports and are consulting with the Iraqi government to obtain solid confirmation on what assets may have fallen into ISIS’s hands.”

Speaks added that the loss of the equipment to the terrorist group is “really a matter for the Iraqi government to speak to publicly” because “it is their equipment.”

Exact numbers of the captured arms and equipment are not known. 

The insurgents raided all the arms depots and vehicles belonging to Iraq’s Second Division, based in Mosul, which included a motorized brigade and several infantry brigades.

US officials with access to the latest US intelligence on Iraq said it “appears likely/probable” that US-made Stinger missiles have also fallen into the hands of Sunni insurgents.   The Stinger missile is a shoulder-fired surface-to-air weapon that is used against aircraft.

Iraqi intelligence officials said ISIS fighters managed to take control of two big weapons depots late last week holding some 400,000 items, including AK-47 rifles, rockets and rocket-propelled grenades, artillery shells and mortars.  

A quarter of the stockpiles were quickly sent to Syria in order to help the group’s comrades there, they said.

As ISIS forces have advanced through Iraq, concerns have increased that more US-made weaponry could fall into the hands of the radical group.

But a defense official said the ISIS claims that they have captured advanced weaponry and military equipment, such as Blackhawk helicopters, are suspect.

“We do know that they made false claims last week, particularly with Blackhawk helicopters, which have never been sold to Iraq,” the official said.

The captured arms were the result of the Iraqi army laying down their arms and fleeing by the hundreds of thousands in the face of only several thousand ISIS fighters in recent weeks. 

Euripedes was right over two thousand years ago:  Ten soldiers wisely led will beat a hundred without a head.

 

 

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Oops! Sorry About that Deadly Anthrax Leak…

 

CDC Mistakenly Ships Lethal Sample;

84 Scientists Exposed to Bioterror Weapon

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

It could have been a deadly mistake.

As many as 84 scientists and staff may have been exposed to live anthrax bacteria after researchers failed to follow safety procedures, the U.S. government said Friday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced Thursday that at least 75 people had been affected, prompting an investigation by federal authorities.

CDC spokesman Benjamin Haynes said on Friday that the number has increased to 84 potential exposures.

Anthrax is the Abrams tank of germ warfare:  tough, resilient, adaptable and deadly.

And that’s not speaking hypothetically.  Unlike many proposed bioterrorism agents, anthrax spores have already been used in the world of terrorism, to murder civilians and cause panic among a targeted population.

As of early Friday, 32 staff members were taking the powerful antibiotic ciprofloxacin, or Cipro, and 20 were taking another antibiotic called doxycycline after their accidental exposure, Haynes said in a statement.

In addition, as many as 27 people were getting the anthrax vaccine to prevent infection.  No illnesses have been reported, but the agency expects the number of possible exposures to rise as more people step forward now that news of the anthrax scare has been made public.

The safety breach, which originated in the CDC’s bioterror lab, raised new concerns about the way laboratories around the world conduct research into the deadliest known pathogens, from anthrax to Ebola and avian flu.  The CDC has already faced repeated scrutiny over security lapses and mechanical malfunctions at some of its labs dating back to at least 2007.

 

Lapse of Safety Procedures Followed

The CDC said it will cede control of the investigation to the U.S. Department of Agriculture “to avoid potential conflicts of interest.”

U.S. President Barack Obama was briefed on the matter on Friday by his homeland security and counterterrorism adviser, Lisa Monaco, the White House said.

The incident also is drawing scrutiny from Congress about whether the CDC has the appropriate safety procedures in place to protect federal employees from contamination.

A week ago, on Friday the 13th, bioterrorism researchers at the CDC discovered they had mistakenly sent live anthrax bacteria out to fellow scientists in two lower-security clearance labs at the agency, instead of what they thought were harmless samples of the deadly pathogen.

The CDC’s bioterror rapid response and advanced technology laboratory is a high security lab that was trying out a new protocol for inactivating anthrax, using chemicals instead of radiation.

In an interview, the CDC’s Dr. Paul Meechan described some of the events that led to the discovery that as many as 75 agency staff had been exposed to live anthrax.

The scientists in the bioterror rapid response units had been preparing an especially dangerous strain of the bacteria for use in two lower-security CDC labs, the biotechnology core facility and the special bacteriology reference laboratory, Meechan said.

Those teams were experimenting with methods to more quickly identify anthrax in substances and powders sent to the United States.

“If there was a bioterrorism incident, we could more quickly identify yes or no, this sample has anthrax,” said Meechan, director of the CDC’s environmental health and safety compliance office.

 

Mistakes of a Deadly Nature

Meechan said the team in the bioterror lab used a new process to purify anthrax samples that they had not had a lot of experience with.  To check their work, they took a sample of what they thought was dead bacteria and put it on a nutrient-rich lab dish called an agar plate to see if the bacteria would grow.

“They waited 24 hours. They took a look at the plate and they didn’t see any new growth,” Meechan said.  ”At that point they assumed the material was safe.”

Researchers took the slides to the two lower-security CDC labs which were trying to develop the new tests.  Their experiments did not work and a week later, one of the labs asked for additional inactivated samples.

At the time, researchers in the bioterror lab discovered that they had left the agar plates in an incubator for an additional week, Meechan said.

As they were about to dispose of them, they noticed growth on one of the agar plates.  ”The growth turned out to be anthrax,” he said.

That is when the scientists realized the samples they sent to the two lower-security labs may have contained live anthrax bacteria.  People working in those labs take fewer safety precautions and were not likely to be wearing masks, putting them at higher risk for infection, Meechan said.

Meechan said the team immediately pulled back the samples and contacted the staff members who had handled them.

That was on the evening of Friday, June 13th.

Meechan said they reached some of the lab workers that same night. Since then, they have been interviewing managers and using electronic surveillance and key card data to identify anyone who might have been inside one of the two labs testing the samples.

The CDC has reached out to all identified individuals, who have been offered antibiotics and a vaccine.

The normal incubation period of anthrax can take up to five to seven days, though there are documented cases of the illness occurring some 60 days after exposure.   Infection can occur through the skin, breathing in anthrax spores, or eating tainted food.

In inhalation anthrax, bacterial spores enter the lungs where they germinate before actually causing disease, a process that can take one to six days.  Once they germinate, they release toxins that can cause internal bleeding, swelling and tissue death.

Inhalation anthrax occurs in two stages.  In the first stage, symptoms resemble a cold or the flu.  In the second stage, anthrax causes fever, severe shortness of breath and shock.  About 90 percent of people with second stage inhalation anthrax die, even after antibiotic treatment.

No instances of illness or death by the CDC’s mistake  have been reported so far, though in many situations occupational exposure to employees is rarely reported to the public. 

All is still fair in love and germ warfare.

 

~Via Google News, CBS News, CDC, Bob Coen, YouTube and Vimeo

 

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The Revisionist History of the Iraq War

 

Down the Memory Hole:

A History of the War Told Entirely in Official Lies

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

How quickly we forget.

The following is from Harper’s Magazine in 2003, six months after the Iraq invasion.  Although it would take much of the ‘embedded’ media and American public much longer to discover that they had been deceived, the neocon warhawks and Republicans insisted it was a just cause for all the right reasons– yet refused to fund the war and allow Halliburton, KBR, Blackwater and others to help themselves to the public coffers.

All text is verbatim from senior Bush Administration officials and advisers from 2003.  In places, tenses have been changed for clarity.

 

Once again, we were defending both ourselves and the safety and survival of civilization itself.

September 11 signaled the arrival of an entirely different era.  We faced perils we had never thought about, perils we had never seen before.  For decades, terrorists had waged war against this country.

Now, under the leadership of President Bush, America would wage war against them.  It was a struggle between good and it was a struggle between evil.

It was absolutely clear that the number-one threat facing America was from Saddam Hussein.  We know that Iraq and Al Qaeda had high-level contacts that went back a decade.  We learned that Iraq had trained Al Qaeda members in bomb making and deadly gases.

The regime had long-standing and continuing ties to terrorist organizations.  Iraq and Al Qaeda had discussed safe-haven opportunities in Iraq. Iraqi officials denied accusations of ties with Al Qaeda.  These denials simply were not credible.  You couldn’t distinguish between Al Qaeda and Saddam when you talked about the war on terror.

The fundamental question was, did Saddam Hussein have a weapons program? And the answer was, absolutely.

His regime had large, unaccounted-for stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons– including VX, sarin, cyclosarin, and mustard gas, anthrax, botulism, and possibly smallpox.  Our conservative estimate was that Iraq then had a stockpile of between 100 and 500 tons of chemical-weapons agents.  That was enough agents to fill 16,000 battlefield rockets.

We had sources that told us that Saddam Hussein recently authorized Iraqi field commanders to use chemical weapons– the very weapons the dictator told the world he did not have.

And according to the British government, the Iraqi regime could launch a biological or chemical attack in as little as forty-five minutes after the orders were given.  There could be no doubt that Saddam Hussein had biological weapons and the capability to rapidly produce more, many more.

Iraq possessed ballistic missiles with a likely range of hundreds of miles– far enough to strike Saudi Arabia, Israel, Turkey, and other nations.  We also discovered through intelligence that Iraq had a growing fleet of manned and unmanned aerial vehicles that could be used to disperse chemical or biological weapons across broad areas.  We were concerned that Iraq was exploring ways of using UAVs for missions targeting the United States.

Saddam Hussein was determined to get his hands on a nuclear bomb.  We knew he’d been absolutely devoted to trying to acquire nuclear weapons, and we believed he had, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons.

The British government learned that Saddam Hussein had recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.  Our intelligence sources told us that he had attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear-weapons production.

When the inspectors first went into Iraq and were denied-finally denied access, a report came out of the International Atomic Energy Agency that they were six months away from developing a weapon.  I didn’t know what more evidence we needed.

Facing clear evidence of peril, we could not wait for the final proof that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.

The Iraqi dictator could not be permitted to threaten America and the world with horrible poisons and diseases and gases and atomic weapons.  

Inspections would not work.  We gave him a chance to allow the inspectors in, and he wouldn’t let them in.  The burden was on those people who thought he didn’t have weapons of mass destruction to tell the world where they were.

We waged a war to save civilization itself.  We did not seek it, but we fought it, and we prevailed.  We fought them and imposed our will on them and we captured or, if necessary, killed them until we had imposed law and order.

The Iraqi people were well on their way to freedom.  The scenes of free Iraqis celebrating in the streets, riding American tanks, tearing down the statues of Saddam Hussein in the center of Baghdad were breathtaking.  Watching them, one could not help but think of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Iron Curtain.

It was entirely possible that in Iraq you had the most pro-American population that could be found anywhere in the Arab world.  If you were looking for a historical analogy, it was probably closer to post-liberation France.  We had the overwhelming support of the Iraqi people.  Once we won, we got great support from everywhere.

The people of Iraq knew that every effort was made to spare innocent life, and to help Iraq recover from three decades of totalitarian rule.  

And plans were in place to provide Iraqis with massive amounts of food, as well as medicine and other essential supplies.  The U.S. devoted unprecedented attention to humanitarian relief and the prevention of excessive damage to infrastructure and to unnecessary casualties.

The United States approached its postwar work with a two-part resolve: a commitment to stay and a commitment to leave.  The United States had no intention of determining the precise form of Iraq’s new government.  That choice belonged to the Iraqi people.  We have never been a colonial power. We do not leave behind occupying armies.  We leave behind constitutions and parliaments.

We don’t take our force and go around the world and try to take other people’s real estate or other people’s resources, their oil.  We never have and we never will.

The United States was not interested in the oil in that region.

We were intent on ensuring that Iraq’s oil resources remained under national Iraqi control, with the proceeds made available to support Iraqis in all parts of the country.  The oil fields belonged to the people of Iraq, the government of Iraq, all of Iraq.

We estimated that the potential income to the Iraqi people as a result of their oil could be somewhere in the $20 billion to $30 billion a year, and obviously, that would be money that would be used for their well-being.  In other words, all of Iraq’s oil belonged to all the people of Iraq.

We found the weapons of mass destruction.  We found biological laboratories.  And we found more weapons as time went on.  I never believed that we’d just tumble over weapons of mass destruction in that country.  

But for those who said we hadn’t found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons, they were wrong, we found them.  We knew where they were.

We changed the regime of Iraq for the good of the Iraqi people.  We didn’t want to occupy Iraq.  War is a terrible thing.  We’ve tried every other means to achieve objectives without a war because we understood what the price of a war can be and what it is.

We sought peace.  We strove for peace.  Nobody, but nobody, was more reluctant to go to war than President Bush.

It is not right to assume that any current problems in Iraq can be attributed to poor planning.  The number of U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf region dropped as a result of Operation Iraqi Freedom.  

This nation acted to a threat from the dictator of Iraq.  There is a lot of revisionist history now going on, but one thing is certain– he is no longer a threat to the free world, and the people of Iraq are free.  There’s no doubt in my mind when it’s all said and done, the facts will show the world the truth.

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind.

 

~Via Harper’s Magazine, Undernews, Bryan Chan/Los Angeles Times, Vimeo

 

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Wasting Billions of Tax Dollars on Nothing

 

Corporate Contractors’ Heavy Burdens on Taxpayers

 

**VIDEO**

 

Ralph Nader
RalphNader.org

 

Next time you hear federal officials say that there is no money to repair or build necessary public facilities in your community, ask them why there always seems to be money to greatly overpay for government projects routinely outsourced to corporate contractors.

It is important to understand why incomplete projects such as the proposed campus-like Department of Homeland Security in Washington DC, the “cleanup” of the biggest repository of radioactive waste in the US at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Southeastern Washington State, the ballistic missile defense program, and the pie-in-the-sky fusion reactors have gone way over budget.  They are either behind schedule, or without any clue for completion or cessation.

First the dismal scenes: According to the Washington Post,

“The construction of a massive new headquarters for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) … is running more than $1.5 billion over budget, is 11 years behind schedule and may never be completed, according to planning documents and federal officials.  The entire complex was to be finished as early as this year, at a cost of less than $3 billion.”

 

Only one of the buildings for the Coast Guard has opened at DHS.

Second, at Hanford, more than $30 billion has already been spent for the “cleanup,” under a Tri-Party Agreement between the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. EPA and the Washington State Department of Ecology.

Started in 1989, the effort had a proposed 30 year timetable.  Instead, Hanford officials say they are decades and tens of billions of dollars from completion of this admittedly sprawling brew of atomic weapons waste in 177 giant underground storage tanks and nine nuclear reactors.

Third, the much ballyhooed Department of Energy’s Fusion Energy Science program has been receiving federal funding since 1951 and has not yet had a replicable successful discovery from which to generate affordable energy.

It is a boondoggle annuity for contracting university physicists and companies who once in awhile issue a news release announcing a presumed partial step forward as to keep hope alive for awe-struck science writers.

As the late physicist, Norman Milleron, a critic who worked at the Lawrence Livermore Lab was wont to say: “why not focus on the best fusion reactor we’ll ever have– the Sun?

Fourth, for thirty-years the ballistic missile defense pork barrel has fed the likes of Raytheon and the insatiable corporate lobby that has grown up to feed off the tens of billions of dollars already spent– over $9 billion this year, almost as much as the EPA’s budget.

Unfortunately the test results show ballistic missile defense systems don’t work.  Nor will it likely ever have substantial success.

So dubious is this endless program, that years ago the American Physical Society delivered the ultimate denunciation:  they declared the mission unworkable.  The leading opponent, Prof. Theodore Postol of MIT continues to dissect its stumbling, deceptive history and how Congress continues its annual deceptions as it writes gigantic taxpayer checks.

The examples cannot compare to the tens of billions of dollars in ‘cost-overuns’ on the F-35 and F-22 fighter planes whose Pentagon orders from Lockheed-Martin keep being reduced because of the sky-rocketing cost of each plane. 

The F-35 is now at $115 million each.  The F-22’s last plane in 2009 cost $137 million, the equivalent to $151 million in 2014 dollars.  The F-35 is still in early production after decades of trouble.

What gives here?  How could the remarkable P-38 of World War II come in at $1.3 million a plane, inflation-adjusted, and be produced so quickly in 1944?

Corporations knowingly submitted unrealistic budgets– “lowballing”– to win federal contracts and funding of these projects instead of opting for adequate, more feasible and frugal alternatives.  Congress enacts perpetuating pork barreling by default.

Least noticed are the detailed terms of the contracts themselves.  

Tighter contracts could have held the government and contractors’ feet to the fire in a variety of ways that could be culled from the history of past successful projects that came in on time and budget.

Contract terms could include: putting named compliance officers on the hot seat;  automatic disclosure to the public of the full texts of the contracts, including their observance over time;  more breaking points to penalize and/or jettison contractors;  and better oversight of the early planning process by Congressional Committees are roads to good performances.

Powerful special interest lobby push for sweetheart deals.  These aforementioned projects will continue to waste taxpayers’ dollars.  This crony capitalism is disgraceful.

In all this miasma, there are vastly over-budget delays, screw-ups and incompletions.  Nassim Talib elaborated on this topic in his under-appreciated recent book– Antifragile (2012).  He writes about the importance of having “skin in the game,” noting that Roman engineers had “to spend some time under the bridge they built– something that should be required of financial engineers today.”

From all pertinent directions regarding a project, the supposedly responsible people need to have skin in the game.  It does wonders for focusing attention.

It starts with the people who conceive, plan, and fund projects.

And it doesn’t leave out the lawyers who draft those porous contracts filled with escape clauses.

~Courtesy Ralph Nader and Nader.org

 

Ralph Nader is one of America’s most effective social critics. 

Named by The Atlantic as one of the 100 most influential figures in American history and by Time and Life magazines as one of the hundred most influential Americans of the twentieth century, his documented criticism of government and industry has had widespread effect on public awareness and bureaucratic power.

A prolific author, his inspiration and example have galvanized a whole population of consumer advocates, citizen activists, and public interest lawyers who in turn have established their own organizations throughout the country.

* * * * * * * * * *

Our government waste and overspending needs to stop.

In 2009, the United States government spent some $650 billion on its military, more than the next 46 highest-spending countries combined.  Much of this ended up in the hands of profit-driven weapons manufacturers.

Congress needs to reign back the wasteful spending, budget overruns, and what President Eisenhower famously called the “military industrial complex.”

With the U.S. having waged two wars overseas at the same time millions of people were out of work at home, those pushing to reel in government spending and balance the budget would be wise to look carefully at bloated and unchecked military spending that has continued ever since.

 

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America’s Flagging Economy Pales to Others

 

Vast Majority of Canadians and Europeans Live Longer, Happier Lives

 

**VIDEO**
‘Money is Material’

by Avant/Garde Diaries

 

Robert Reich
RobertReich.org

 

For years Americans have assumed that our hard-charging capitalism
is better than the soft-hearted version found in Canada and Europe.

American capitalism might be a bit crueler but it generates faster growth and higher living standards overall. Canada’s and Europe’s “welfare-state socialism” is doomed, we’re led to believe.  

It was a questionable assumption to begin with, relying to some extent on our collective amnesia about the first three decades after World War II, when tax rates on top incomes in the U.S. never fell below 70 percent, a larger portion of our economy was invested in education, and over a third of our private-sector workers were unionized. 

We came up with Medicare for the elderly and Medicaid for the poor, and built the biggest infrastructure project in history known as the interstate highway system.

But then came America’s big U-turn, when we deregulated, de-unionized, lowered taxes on the top, ended welfare, and stopped investing as much of the economy in education and infrastructure.

Meanwhile, Canada and Europe continued on as before.  Soviet communism went bust, and many of us assumed European and Canadian “socialism” would as well.

That’s why recent data from the Luxembourg Income Study Database  is so shocking.

The fact is, we’re falling behind.  While median per capita income in the United States has stagnated since 2000, it’s up significantly in Canada and Northern Europe.  Their typical worker’s income is now higher than ours, and their disposable income– after taxes– higher still.

It’s difficult to make exact comparisons of income across national borders because real purchasing power is hard to measure.  

But even if we assume Canadians and the citizens of several European nations have simply drawn even with the American middle class, they’re doing better in many other ways.

Most of them get free health care and subsidized child care.  And if they lose their jobs, they get far more generous unemployment benefits than we do.  In fact, right now 75 percent of jobless Americans lack any unemployment benefits.

If you think we make up for it by working less and getting paid more on an hourly basis, think again.  There, at least three weeks paid vacation is the norm, along with paid sick leave, and paid parental leave.

We’re working an average of 4.6 percent more hours more than the typical Canadian worker, 21 percent more than the typical French worker, and a whopping 28 percent more than your typical German worker, according to data compiled by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof.

But at least Americans are more satisfied, aren’t we?  Not really. According to opinion surveys and interviews, it’s the Canadians and Northern Europeans who are.

They also live longer, their rate of infant mortality is lower, and women
in these countries are far less likely to die as result of complications in
pregnancy or childbirth.

But at least we’re the land of more equal opportunity, right?

Wrong.  Their poor kids have a better chance of getting ahead.  While 42 percent of American kids born into poor families remain poor through their adult lives, only 30 percent of Britain’s poor kids remain impoverished– and even smaller percentages in other rich countries.

Yes, the American economy continues to grow faster than the economies of Canada and Europe.  But faster growth hasn’t translated into higher living standards for most Americans.

Almost all our economic gains have been going to the top– into corporate profits and the stock market– more than a third of whose value is owned by the richest 1 percent.  And into executive pay:  European CEOs take home far less than their American counterparts.

America’s rich also pay much lower taxes than do the rich in Canada and Europe.

But surely Europe can’t go on like this.  You hear it all the time:  They can no longer afford their welfare state.

That depends on what’s meant by “welfare state.”

If high-quality education is included, we’d do well to emulate them.  Americans between the ages of 16 and 24 rank near the bottom among rich countries in literacy and numeracy.  That spells trouble for the U.S. economy in the future.

They’re also doing more workforce training, and doing it better, than we are.  The result is more skilled workers.  

Universal health care is another part of their “welfare state” that saves them money because healthier workers are more productive.

So let’s put ideology aside.  The practical choice isn’t between capitalism and “welfare-state socialism.” 

It’s between a system that’s working for a few at the top, or one that’s working for just about everyone.

Which would you prefer?

* * * * * * * *

An economist, Dr. Robert B. Reich has served in three national administrations, most recently as Secretary of Labor under President Bill Clinton.

He also served on President Obama’s transition advisory board.  His latest book is Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future. His new film Inequality for All is now available on iTunes, DVD, and On Demand.

His homepage is www.robertreich.org.

 

 

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CAT: An Anti-American American Company

 

Caterpillar Heavy Equipment Hides Massive Profits Overseas

VIDEO

 

Jim Hightower
JimHightower.com

 

Talk about creepy-crawly slimy.

The dictionary defines a caterpillar as a “wormlike larva” and a “crawler.”

The “pillar” part of that caterpillar word is derived from a French verb that means to “pillage, abuse, and mistreat.”

Now, meet Caterpillar Inc., the world’s largest maker of construction and mining machines.  A recent report by the Senate subcommittee on investigations found that this wormlike behemoth has crawled through a tax loophole to abuse our public trust.

Caterpillar has quietly shifted some $8 billion in profits gained from selling parts on the global market into a Swiss subsidiary in order to avoid paying more than two billion dollars in taxes owed to our country.

Even though this subsidiary has only 65 employees and neither makes nor sells spare parts, Caterpillar made a slick accounting maneuver that channeled 85 percent of its international parts profits into what amounts to a tax shelter.

Corporate officials tried to bluster their way through a subcommittee hearing, insisting that their offshoring of profits was merely meant to streamline the corporate flow chart.

It was “prudent,” said Caterpillar’s top financial officer, “to eliminate the unnecessary middleman” between the profits made on global sales and the paying of taxes on those profits.

That’s “absolutely absurd,” said Senator Carl Levin, the subcommittee chairman.  He pointed out that the “middleman” she was referring to is Caterpillar itself!  It designed, made, and sold the products– and the only reason it wormed its profits into a Swiss subsidiary was to cheat on the tax bill it legitimately owes in its home country.

When you hear right-wingers say that America doesn’t have the money for infrastructure repairs, poverty programs, etc.– remember that US corporate giants like Caterpillar have hidden some $2 trillion of their profits into these slimy offshore wormholes.

 

Caterpillar Questioned about Tax Maneuvers,” Austin American Statesman, April 2, 2014.

At Hearing, Caterpillar Defends Tax Practices,” The New York Times, April 2, 2014.

Senate Report Claims Caterpillar Avoided $2.4 Billion in US Taxes,” www.theguardian.com, March 31, 2014.

* * * * * * * * *

…And we also wonder how much Caterpillar Inc. is being subsidized in the US Foreign Aid programs to other countries, paid for by you and me.  Yet the CAT company says it’s all about having jobs in America.

Caterpillar is hardly alone.  Apple, Hewlitt Packard, Microsoft, and a host of others have all done the same. 

Curiously enough, the Republican GOP– and surprisingly Rand Paul himself– believe tax sheltering overseas is perfectly fine and ethical.  The Democratic response?  They’re deafeningly silent on the issue. 

Both parties are readily willing to sell out America.  Why?  They get campaign contributions by corporate lobbyists paid for by the very same companies who write and legislate for the tax evasion laws in the first place.  The end result is the companies themselves get billions of dollars in return for beating the system and enriching their own silver-lined pockets.

It’s a pretty crooked system.

The very concept of paying poor wages, outsourcing jobs, and evading corporate taxes in the richest nation in the history of the planet is an abomination– a mark of societal failure.

While millions of our people have been shoved into the abyss of the working poor, our soulless Congress, plutocrats, and the corporate and political elites tell us to get over it and simply get used to it.

The Walmartization of work is our nation’s future– and greed is good.  For the 1%.

 

Jim Hightower is a Texan, columnist, and populist who believes that to move America from greed to greatness, we must fuel the power and the passion of our nation’s workaday majority.

You can listen to more of Jim Hightower’s commentaries here.

 

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The Last Wind Talker

 

Chester Nez, Last WWII Navajo Code Talker, Passes

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

With saltwater filling our boots and dragging against each step, we forced ourselves forward.

We try to avoid the bodies and parts of bodies that float everywhere.  But that’s impossible.  Blood stains the tide washing onto the beach. 

We tote the TBX radio and a microphone.  With headsets clamped over our ears, we can’t hear the hiss of hot bullets hitting the Pacific waters.  We’ve heard that sound too many times before.  Rifles remain slung over our shoulders, unused.

Our job is to talk, not to shoot.

~Chester Nez, “Code Talker”

 

Chester Nez, the last original Navajo Code Talker, has passed away in his Albuquerque home.

For more than two decades, Chester Nez kept silent about his role as one of the original Navajo code talkers responsible for developing an unbreakable code during World War II.

His death Wednesday at his home in Albuquerque, New Mexico, at age 93 was lamented by the Marine Corps as the end of an era — for both the country and its armed forces.

“We mourn his passing but honor and celebrate the indomitable spirit and dedication of those Marines who became known as the Navajo code talkers,” the Marines said in a statement.

Nez was the last remaining of the original 29 Navajos recruited by the Marine Corps to develop the legendary code that was used for vital communications during battle. 

He was a teenager when he was recruited in 1942 and assigned with the other code talkers to the Marine Corps’ 382nd Platoon at Camp Pendleton.

Together, they created a code, including developing a dictionary.

Military authorities chose Navajo as a code language because its syntax and tonal qualities were almost impossible for a non-Navajo to learn, and it had no written form.  The ranks of the Navajo code talkers swelled to more than 300 by the end of the war in 1945.

The code talkers were forbidden from telling anyone about it– not their fellow Marines, not their families– until their work was declassified in 1968.  Their work was so  important they became national heroes and the original 29 were presented with the Congressional Gold Medal in 2001.

“In developing our code, we were careful to use everyday Navajo words, so that we could memorize and retain the words easily,” Nez said in 2011 while promoting his book Code Talker.

“I think that made our job easier, and I think it helped us to be successful in the heat of battle.”

Still, Nez said he worried every day that an error might cost the life of an American military service member.

Nez was among the code talkers who were shipped out to Guadalcanal in 1942, where the code talkers worked in teams of two, with one relaying and receiving messages while the other cranked the portable radio and listened for errors in transmission.

“That was my first combat experience, and there was a lot of suffering and a lot of the condition was real bad out there,” he told Larry King in 2002.

Nez also fought in Guam and Peleliu.

“When bombs dropped, generally we code talkers couldn’t just curl up in a shelter,” Nez wrote in his book.  ”We were almost always needed to transmit information, to ask for supplies and ammunition, and to communicate strategies.  And after each transmission, to avoid Japanese fire, we had to move.”

The code talkers faced initial resistance from fellow Marines who did not understand who they were and what they were doing.

That changed once they understood the importance of the code, Nez said.

The Navajo code baffled the Japanese, who had successfully deciphered codes used by the U.S. Army.  After the war, the Japanese chief of intelligence, Lt. General Seizo Arisue, admitted they were never able to crack the Navajo code used by the Marines and Navy, according to the Navy.

Nez was discharged in 1945, but later volunteered to fight in the Korean War.

After the code talkers’ exploits were declassified by the military, the group gained legendary status with books and, ultimately, a movie that was inspired by their stories.

“The recognition of the code talkers came late, but it has been good for my Navajo people.  I hope that this type of recognition continues across cultures,” Nez said.

It was a far cry from his childhood, when he was forced to attend a boarding school and punished by the teachers for speaking Navajo, according to his book.

It’s a language, though, that appears lost, even to members of his family.

“My own children do not speak Navajo, although my daughter-in-law speaks it well,” he said.

Nez said he decided to tell his story because he wanted to share the contributions and sacrifices of the Navajo during World War II.

“Our Navajo code was one of the most important military secrets of World War II.  The fact that the Marines did not tell us Navajo men how to develop that code indicated their trust in us and in our abilities,” he said.

“The feeling that I could make it in both the white world and the Navajo world began there, and it has stayed with me all of my life.  For that I am grateful.”

 

“I reminded myself that my Navajo people had always been warriors, protectors.  In that, there was honor.

I would concentrate on being a warrior, on protecting my homeland.  Within hours, whether in harmony or not, I knew I would join my fellow Marines in the fight.

The white man’s military had accepted us as tough Marines.

Hardened by the rigors of life on the reservation, we often out-performed our white peers.”

 

 

 

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Maya Angelou

 

Beloved Poet Passes

Award-Winning VIDEO

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

We admire grace and beauty in all its forms.

This is one of them.  Take three minutes out of your day
and spend them here.

In this small director’s cut video created by Ben Hughes, Maya Angelou talks about the beauty of language, poetry, and humanity. 

And she may even have a performance in her.

Many have read and reread I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings.  And like that caged bird, Maya sought an inner freedom.  We only have to look at her life to see that she took every ounce of joy life had to offer.

We remember her as a courageous woman and inaugural poet who always wanted to love, and wish her a rightful place in literature.  Her ability to speak to everyone in the same voice– and touch the heart– was what made her the force she was.

 

“My life has been one great big joke,
a dance that’s walked, a song that’s spoke.
I laugh so hard I almost choke
when I think about myself.”

 

Maya Angelou, April 4, 1928 – May 28, 2014

 

* * * * * * * *

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Memorial Day

 

The Greatest Generation

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

There is a generation of real heroes leaving this world faster than we know.

We call them the Greatest Generation of military veterans. 

Freeing the world from totalitarianism by defeating Germany
and Japan, the fortunate ones who survived returned home to
their families and built the United States into a superpower
after World War II. 

They didn’t complain about the sacrifice and hardships endured.  They didn’t dwell on the trauma and ugliness of war.  They just did their job.  It was one long hard slog of duty.

This spare and simple video consists of old Kodachrome slides and personal film footage honoring the WWII-era servicemen and servicewomen and the loved ones they left behind.  They are men and women who served in the most difficult and complex of times, yet prevailed as the world was thrown into chaos.

The bare-bones recording of We’ll Meet Again was made by Vera Lynn as German bombs fell upon the civilian populace of Britain in 1940; the genuine sadness in her voice reflected the uncertain mood of a nation preparing itself for war.

If you know of a World War II veteran, a Korean War Veteran, a Vietnam Veteran, or any Veteran for that matter– embrace them.

Ask them to speak so you can listen to their stories.  Having a world of knowledge and experience to offer, these brave American patriots have a lifetime of lessons and wisdom but only if we take the time to listen and learn.

Listen and learn.  And say I love you to those you care about.  Life is much shorter than anyone realizes.

 

 

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Burning Man Be-In

 

Sparks of Peeps and Art

**Award-Winning VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

Each year, 60,000 people from around the globe gather in a dusty windswept Nevada desert.

They build a temporary city, collaborate on large-scale projects of art, and party for a week. 

It’s a celebration of people, the freedom of expression, human connections and sense of tribal identity.

It’s an oasis and a phenomenon.  It’s about belonging and community, high and low art, both a bizarre spectacle and a carnival bazaar all at the same time. 

It’s a creative, compelling, fascinating, colorful, and gorgeous thing.  Words can’t fully describe it.  It’s like a burrito wrapped up in a mystery; or, saving souls while simultaneously burning them.

Rooted in principles of self-expression and self-reliance, Burning Man has grown famous for stirring ordinary people to shed their nine-to-five existence in communal fashion.  Liberating hopes and dreams, they ecstatically burn an effigy in 
ritual for one last and final shot at freedom. 

Then, it’s time to pack it up and go home, back to the ordinary
humdrum lives of somewhere else far, far away as if it had all
been a dream and never happened at all.

 

Art On Fire – Stunningly Beautiful Burning Man 2013 Time Lapse from Spark Pictures on Vimeo.

 

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California Chrome

 

The Triple Crown Underdog Hopeful

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

California Chrome is the star of the show.

He’s the handsome California-bred chestnut colt of humble origins, winner of the first two legs of the Triple Crown, the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, and the dual character of underdog and hero.

California Chrome’s quest to become the first horse to win racing’s Triple Crown since 1978 has captured the imagination of sports fans around the world because the three-year-old stallion’s story is both heartwarming and improbable.

According to media reports, co-owner Steve Coburn got into horse racing because he was looking for a tax write-off.  He acquired an $8,000 mare named Love the Chase and bred her with the stallion Lucky Pulpit, whose stud fee was reduced to $2,000.  Top-flight mares can fetch six or seven figures, and some stallion owners charge six-figure stud fees.

Adding to Chrome’s charming story is the 77-year-old irascible straight-talking trainer, Art Sherman.

Before Chrome, the closest Sherman got to a Derby horse was as a teenage exercise rider for Swaps, the last California-bred Derby winner to garner this sort of celebrity.  

That was in 1955.  Now, Sherman says, he finally feels vindicated in his old age.  “I always call him a rock star, because he is a rock star right now,” said Sherman.  “He’s the little horse against all the big horses. Reminds me of David against Goliath.”

Not surprisingly, California Chrome’s owners have turned down a $15 million purchase offer, thanks to his victories in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes.

“You get attached to a horse,” Sherman says with some indignation.  “It’s like one of your kids.  You know, you take a lot of pride.  Would you sell one of your kids if all of a sudden he becomes a superstar and they said, ‘I’ll give you a million dollars for your kid?’  Would you sell him?”

Owners who run a horse in the Derby can invest millions of dollars to get there. Chrome’s people haven’t.  He’s a cheaply bred horse, born in California’s Central Valley, wears the color purple of the Sacramento Kings and the logo of a mule, and the owners are regular everyday workaday people like the
most of us.  

Yet he’s miraculously turned out to be a very fast racehorse.  He easily beat the best of the best on the West Coast, Kentucky, and if all goes well, Baltimore, Maryland.

 

Dumb Ass Partners

Perry Martin, who co-owns California Chrome with Steve Coburn, has “the highest degree of confidence” in his horse.

Chrome’s mom was the first racehorse Martin and Coburn ever purchased together.  A groom told them, “Anyone who buys that horse is a dumb ass.”  Martin says he looked at Coburn and asked, “Dumb ass partners?”

“We shook hands, and we were off and running,” Martin says.  Really.  The business is called Dumb Ass Partners.

Now there’s no separating the owners from their horse, even though Chrome has four white feet, long considered bad luck among horsemen.

“California Chrome shouldn’t be in contention based on his pedigree.  But he is– and that is the magic,” said Daily Racing Form CEO John Hartig. 

“Owners with billions of dollars have not been able to breed a horse capable of winning the Triple Crown, and yet this thoroughbred looks like he can.  Certainly, everyone loves a great underdog story, and a possible Triple Crown winner reignites the passion for racing in old fans while also growing a new younger fan base for the sport,” Hartig said.

“It just goes to demonstrate that a good horse can come from anywhere,” said Andy Schweigart, director for the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association. “What’s captivating the attention of fans is the back-story.  Similarity breeds liking.  People identify with the owners and their story.”

Even Chrome’s jockey is of humble beginnings.  Victor Espinoza, a 20-year immigrant from Mexico, now finds himself at the top of his game after a long and hard won battle, along with groom Raul Rodriguez.

“There’s too much pressure on me,” said Espinoza with a laugh.  “I’m just trying to take this one step at a time.  I’m really shocked.  There’s something more I see in him that gives me a little more confidence, too.” 

“I lost a couple of nights’ sleep when I heard he was the Derby favorite,” Espinoza said.  

“Think about it,” he added. “The whole Derby was in my hands. It was not easy. Everybody was rooting for me. Not just California, but fans all over the place. People love this horse. They want him to win. You don’t want to let anybody down.”

 

Chromies

California Chrome is expected to be the odds-on favorite to win the Belmont Stakes on June 7.  And he’s developed his own following of fans, too.  They’re called Chromies.

“He’s just such an interesting horse,” said Chromie Melissa Leos, who fell in love with the colt at Santa Anita Park this spring.  “Art Sherman is so cool and so are the owners.”

Chrome mania has stretched nationwide.  Motivated by the “people’s horse,” Chromies– mostly new and unabashed racing fans– are out in force from coast to coast.  What makes Chromies stand out from everyday horse players?  A zealot-like devotion, a flair for fun and an undying belief in their underdog.

“California Chrome is a horse that everybody identifies with,” said Mike Willman, Santa Anita’s longtime director of publicity.  “Throw in the irascible owners and trainer and we’ve got a movie script that might make Seabiscuit move to the side.”

 

One Cool Dude

Chrome also has maintained his California cool.

On Friday, he ignored a large opossum that ran across his path while he jogged around the Belmont oval.  That laid-back swagger is part of Chrome’s allure.

“This guy has shattered my reality,” said Christian Hellmers, a professional gambler.  “He’s so precocious and so classy.  It’s a true testament to his greatness.  I don’t throw the word ‘Jedi’ around often, but he’s definitely a Jedi.”

I just love the fact that a horse this great still gets doubted,” Hellmers said. “It takes such a combination of grit, class and energy – chemistry, too – to do what he’s done. If not him, then nobody can win the Triple Crown.”

The four-legged Rocky already is in some illustrious company.  

In the history of horse racing, 38 horses have won both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes.  Only 11 have won the Triple Crown.

Famous Triple Crown winners, you may remember, included such notables as Secretariat (’73), Seattle Slew (’77) and Affirmed (’78).

Encountering more pedigreed and blueblood horses at the upcoming Belmont, Chromies may soon see their beautiful chestnut colt ushered into the sacred hallowed halls of racing fame and the Triple Crown come June 7.

 

 

 

~Google/Ocala News, SunStar, Horse Racing Nation/The Blood-Horse/YouTube

For Mickey Dillon

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Tennessee Brings Back ‘Old Sparky’

 

Governor Signs Electric Chair Bill into Law

 

**Almost a Viral VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

“There are states that allow inmates to choose, but it is a very different matter for a state to impose a method like electrocution. No other state has gone so far.”

~Richard Dieter, Death Penalty Information Center

 

 

Old Sparky is back.

Tennessee has decided how it will respond to a nationwide scarcity of lethal injection drugs for death-row inmates:  with the electric chair.

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam signed a bill into law Thursday allowing the state to electrocute death row inmates in the event prisons are unable to obtain the drugs, which have become more and more scarce following a European-led boycott of drug sales for executions.

Tennessee lawmakers overwhelmingly passed the electric chair legislation in April, with the Senate voting 23-3 and the House 68-13 in favor of the bill.

Tennessee is the first state to enact a law to reintroduce the electric chair without giving prisoners an option, said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization that opposes executions and tracks the issue.

Dieter said he expects legal challenges to arise if the state decides to go through with an electrocution, both on the grounds of whether the state could prove that lethal injection drugs were not obtainable and on the grounds of constitutional protections against cruel and unusual punishment.

Republican state Sen. Ken Yager, a main sponsor of the electric chair measure, said in a recent interview that he introduced the bill because of “a real concern that we could find ourselves in a position that if the chemicals were unavailable to us, we would not be able to carry out the sentence.”

The decision comes as lethal injection is receiving more scrutiny as an execution method, especially after last month’s botched execution in Oklahoma.

In that case, convicted killer Clayton Lockett, 38, began writhing, clenching his teeth and straining to lift his head off the pillow after he had supposedly been rendered unconscious by the first of three drugs in the state’s new lethal injection combination.

The execution was halted, and Lockett died of an apparent heart attack 10 minutes later, authorities said.  They later blamed a collapsed vein, not the drugs themselves.

Concerns about lethal injection also have risen at a time when Tennessee and many states — including Oklahoma, Missouri and Texas — obtain execution drugs in secret from unidentified compounding pharmacies.  Death penalty opponents say the secrecy raises the risk of something going wrong.

A Vanderbilt University poll released this week found that 56 percent of registered voters in Tennessee support use of the electric chair, while 37 percent are against it.

Tennessee has 74 prisoners on death row.  Sidney Porterfield, who at 71 was the oldest inmate on Tennessee’s death row, died of natural causes this week.  Nine others have died of natural causes since 2000, while one committed suicide. Six inmates have been executed during that time frame, the most recent in 2010.

Thirty-two states have the death penalty, and all of them rely at least in part on lethal injection.  The federal government also uses lethal injection but rarely carries out executions.

The Supreme Court has never declared a method of execution unconstitutional on the grounds that it is cruel and unusual.  It upheld the firing squad in 1879, the electric chair in 1890 and lethal injection in 2008.

The court made it clear over the years that the Eighth Amendment prohibits inflicting pain merely to torture or punish an inmate, drawing a distinction between a method like electrocution and old European practices such as drawing and quartering.  The Constitution prohibits “unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain,” the court said in 1976.

First used by New York State in 1890, the electric chair was employed throughout the 20th century to execute hundreds and is still an option in eight states.  Since 1976, 158 inmates have been executed by electrocution.  It was considered humane when it was first introduced but has resulted in many horrific executions over the years. 

In 2000, Florida switched from the electric chair to injection after bungled electrocutions raised concerns that the state’s death penalty would be declared unconstitutional.

For Tennessee however, if you can’t beat ‘em, you might as well join ‘em. Old Sparky’s  made  a comeback for the modern age.

 

~Google News/Eric Goodchild/Web Urbanist

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Americas’ ‘Missing Link’ Discovered in Underwater Cave

 

12,000-Year-Old ‘Naia’ Sheds New Light on Land Migration

VIDEO

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

ABOVE VIDEO:  In a submerged cave in Yucatan, divers found
the near-intact skeleton of a delicately built teenage girl, who
died more than 12,000 years ago after she fell into a sinkhole
from which there was no way out.

 

She was found in the depths of planet Earth.

And she’s the oldest human skeleton ever found in North America, discovered by a team of international scientists in an underwater Yucatán Peninsula cave.

DNA from the skeleton shows similarities to modern Native Americans, while her skull structure matches those of Paleoamericans that came across the Bering land bridge. 

In short, she may be the ‘missing link’ to the origins of the first Americans on the continent.

Named “Naia”, the teenager fell to her untimely and tragic death in a large pit called Hoyo Negro, meaning “black hole” in Spanish.

The divers found her on a ledge, her skull at rest on an arm bone.  Ribs and a broken pelvis lay nearby.  She was only a young teen when she wandered into the cave on the Yucatan Peninsula, and in the darkness she must not have seen the enormous pit looming in front of her.

More than 12,000 years later, in 2007, after the seas had risen and the cave system had filled with water, her skull — upside down, teeth remarkably intact — caught the eye of a man in scuba gear.

Patricia Beddows, a cave-diving researcher from Northwestern University, said the find is remarkable: “The preservation of all the bones in this deep water-filled cave is amazing– the bones are beautifully laid out.”

“The girl’s skeleton is exceptionally complete because of the environment in which she died — she ended up in the right water and in a quiet place without any soil.  Her pristine preservation enabled our team to extract enough DNA to determine her shared genetic code with modern Native Americans,” she added.

The skeleton, which is now covered in water, is estimated to be between 12,000 and 13,000 years old, suggesting Naia lived in the late Pleistocene or last ice age.

She measured 4’ 10” tall and was delicately built.  Slender and bucktoothed, her estimated age of death was 15 or 16 years old, based on the development of her teeth.

She lies in a collapsed chamber together with the remains of 26 other large mammals, including a saber-toothed tiger, 600 yards from the nearest sinkhole.  Most of these ancient
mammals became extinct around 13,000 years ago.

“Naia, and the other animals, would have slipped through a hidden sink hole and fallen 100 feet into a shallow pool and trapped,” said paleontologist James Chatters of Applied Paleoscience in Bothell, Washington, who led the study, published May 15 in Science.  

“There would have been no way out.”  The broken pelvis of Naia’s otherwise near-perfect skeleton is likely a result of the accidental fall, he says.

Analysis of the remains in situ, most of which are still lying in the submerged cave where they were found, suggests that modern Native Americans are the descendants of the earliest Paleoamericans, who migrated from Siberia towards the end of the last glacial period.  An alternative theory held instead that a mysterious, more recent influx had brought in new populations from Eastern Asia.

The near-complete human skeleton, which has an intact cranium and some of the oldest preserved DNA to date, was found lying 130 feet below sea level near a variety of extinct animals, including an elephant-like creature and relatives of the mastodon.  Those remains helped scientists establish the age of the skeleton.

In order to assess the age of the skeleton, the team analyzed tooth enamel and seeds dropped by bats using radiocarbon dating and calcite deposits found on the bones using the uranium-thorium method.

They used similar methodology to date the remains of a variety of mastodon relatives found near the skeleton, which were found to be around 40,000 years old.  The more than 26 large mammals found at the site included saber-toothed cats and giant ground sloths, which were largely extinct in North America 13,000 years ago.

Naia’s age was further supported by evidence of rising sea levels, which were as much as 360 feet lower during the last ice age than they are today.

Naia’s mitochondrial DNA reveals genetic signatures in common with modern Native Americans, despite her very different skull shape.

“You can never exclude that Native Americans have more than one group of ancestors,” says Chatters.  But his team’s data, he points out, are consistent with the idea that Native Americans evolved from Siberian ancestors.

“It helps support the consensus view, from archaeological, genetic and linguistic evidence, that the Americas were initially peopled 15,000–20,000 years ago from Siberia,” says human geneticist Chris Tyler-Smith.

According to this widely held theory, the Americas were populated by Siberian ancestors who crossed the Bering land bridge that back then linked Eurasia and Alaska.  The migration is thought to have started during the Pleistocene ice age– which ended around 14,000 years ago– and continued over the next several thousand years as these populations moved south.

Yet researchers have puzzled over why the more-than-10,000-year-old Paleoamerican skulls unearthed so far have such different morphology from those in more recent finds and from modern Native Americans.

Scientists wondered whether other Native American ancestors had arrived in a later migration.  The new DNA results indicate that the very different skulls of modern Native Americans have evolved on North American soil.

Paleoamerican remains are few and far between, because the nomadic tribes did not always build tombs for their dead.  The oldest and first full skeleton to be found, it’s the first major set of remains unearthed so far south.

 ~Via Science, Nature, IBT,
and Nature Newstream

 

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What ‘Buy Fresh, Buy Local’ Got Wrong

 

Why Farm-to-Table Food is Missing the Boat

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

Above videoMeet Kelly Geary, founder of Sweet Deliverance.

A Blue Hill trained chef with a soft spot for small organic farms,
she’s on a mission helping New Yorkers take advantage of the
farm-fresh produce in their area, but just don’t have the time
to cook.

 

Excerpt: ‘What Farm to Table Got Wrong’
By Dan Barber

Pocantico Hills, N.Y. — It’s spring again.

Hip deep in asparagus — and, soon enough, tomatoes and zucchini — farm-to-table advocates finally have something from the farm to put on the table.

The crowds clamoring for just-dug produce at the farmers’ market and the local food co-op suggest that this movement is no longer just a foodie fad.  Today, almost 80 percent of Americans say sustainability is a priority when purchasing food.  The promise of this kind of majority is that eating local can reshape landscapes and drive lasting change.

Except it hasn’t.

More than a decade into the movement, the promise has fallen short.  For all its successes, farm-to-table has not, in any fundamental way, reworked the economic and political forces that dictate how our food is grown and raised.

Big Food is getting bigger, not smaller.  In the last five years, we’ve lost nearly 100,000 farms (mostly midsize ones).  Today, 1.1 percent of farms in the United States account for nearly 45 percent of farm revenues.  Despite being farm-to-table’s favorite targets, corn and soy account for more than 50 percent of our harvested acres for the first time ever.

Between 2006 and 2011, over a million acres of native prairie were plowed up in the so-called Western Corn Belt to make way for these two crops, the most rapid loss of grasslands since we started using tractors to bust sod on the Great Plains in the 1920s.

How do we make sense of this odd duality: a food revolution on one hand, an entrenched status quo on the other?

I got a hint of the answer a few years ago, while standing in a field
in upstate New York.

 

Visiting the Klaas Farm

I was there because, many years before, I’d decided I wanted local flour for my restaurants.  I chose Lakeview Organic, a grain farm operated by Klaas and Mary-Howell Martens.

Klaas was growing a rare variety of emmer wheat (also known as farro), nearly extinct but for the efforts of a few farmers.

Milled and baked into whole wheat bread, the emmer was a revelation — intensely sweet and nutty.  I spoke routinely about the importance of local grain and the resurrection of lost flavors.  I was waving the farm-to-table flag and feeling pretty good about it, too.

Visiting Klaas those years later, hoping to learn what made the emmer so delicious, I realized I was missing the point entirely.  The secret to great-tasting wheat, Klaas told me, is that it’s not about the wheat.  It’s about the soil.

In fact, on a tour of his farm, there was surprisingly little wheat to see.  Instead, Klaas showed me fields of less-coveted grains and legumes like millet, barley and kidney beans, as well as cover crops like mustard and clover, all of which he plants in meticulously planned rotations.  

The rotations dictate the quality of the soil, which means they dictate the flavor of the harvests as well.  They are the recipe for his delicious emmer.

Each planting in the sequence has a specific function.  Klaas likes his field rotations to begin with a cover crop like the mustard plant.  Cover crops are often grown to restore nutrients depleted from a previous harvest. Plowed into the soil after maturity, mustard offers the added benefit of reducing pest and disease problems for subsequent crops.

Next Klaas will plant a legume, which does the neat trick of fixing nitrogen: grabbing it from the atmosphere and storing it in the plant’s roots.  Soybeans are a good choice; or kidney beans, if the local processor is paying enough to make it worth his while; or cowpeas, which he harvests for animal feed.

If there’s a dry spell, he’ll forgo beans altogether and pop in some hardy millet.  Oats or rye is next; rye builds soil structure and suppresses weeds.  Only then is Klaas’s soil locked and loaded with the requisite fertility needed for his wheat.

As much as I cling to tried and true recipes, Klaas doesn’t.  

Depending on what the soil is telling him, he may roll out an entirely different rotation.  If there’s a buildup of fungal disease in the field, the next season he’ll plant a brassica like cabbage or broccoli, followed by buckwheat, and then barley.  Barley is among Klaas’s favorite crops.  In addition to cleansing the soil of pathogens, it can be planted along with a nitrogen fixer like clover, further benefiting the soil.  Once again, the soil is ready for wheat.

 

Cherry-Picking Consumers

Standing in Klaas’s fields, I saw how single-minded I had been. Yes, I was creating a market for local emmer wheat, but I wasn’t doing anything to support the recipe behind it.  Championing Klaas’s wheat and only his wheat was tantamount to treating his farm like a grocery store.  I was cherry-picking what I most wanted for my menu without supporting the whole farm.

I am not the only one. In celebrating the All-Stars of the farmers’ market — asparagus, heirloom tomatoes, emmer wheat — farm-to-table advocates are often guilty of ignoring a whole class of humbler crops that are required to produce the most delicious food.

With limited American demand for local millet, rye and barley, 70 percent of Klaas’s harvest was going into livestock feed for chickens, pigs and dairy cattle.  In general, Klaas earned pennies on the dollar compared with what he’d make selling his crops for human consumption.

And we were missing out as well, on nutritious foods that are staples of the best cuisines in the world.

Investing in the right infrastructure means the difference between a farmers’s growing crops for cows or for cafeterias. It will take the shape of more local mills (for grains), canneries (for beans) and processors (for greens).

As heretical as this may sound, farm-to-table needs to embrace a few more middlemen…

 

Only an excerpt, you can read Mr. Barber’s full article here.

* * * * * * * * * *

We are still firm believers in the Humboldt farm-to-table movement.

As a trip to the local farmers market shows, our Humboldt community of local farms does an outstanding job of providing for us.

We’re believers for innumerable reasons:  the quality of our food, buying and having our money stay local, supporting local farms and families, the low environmental impact, and the responsibility of knowing how our food is grown and taking care of the land on a more sustainable basis.

Nonetheless, reading Mr. Barber’s full article was intriguing; providing insightful food for thought of what’s happening– or should be happening– to local agriculture  and farms everywhere.

 

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Search for Missing Nigerian Girls Heats Up

 

80 US Military Personnel Deployed
Amid Country’s Whacked Violence

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

The United States deployed 80 members of its armed forces
to Chad to help in the search for the kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls
amidst an alarming rise of violence in the country, the White House
said today.

Yesterday in Nigeria’s Alagarno village, relatives and friends buried 17 of their loved ones after yet another night-time raid by suspected Boko Haram fighters.

The insurgents swooped down on motorcycles and spent four hours killing, looting and torching every building before stealing vehicles and driving away without facing any military response whatsoever.

The night before, people in Mawa village went through hell when the insurgents struck.  There were 10 more burials and the insurgents promised to come back to kill all the men and take the women away.

In attacks becoming more frequent, twin blasts killed at least 118 people Tuesday at a market in the central city of Jos.

The explosions went off 20 to 30 minutes apart, sparking an inferno that sent crowds running and screaming, covered in blood.

These villages are not far from Chibok, where more than 238 schoolgirls were kidnapped last month.  They are still missing. 

The Boko Haram leader has threatened on video to sell most of the remaining 276 schoolgirls into slavery if the government does not release its detained militants.

The Chibok abductions led to intense international interest.  While politicians around the world did not want to be accused of doing nothing to help rescue them, there is reluctance by many countries to become deeply embroiled in this complex conflict beyond sending advisers to Abuja and flying surveillance aircraft many thousands of feet above the war zone.

This is partly because the Nigerian military has frequently been accused of committing gross human rights abuses.

The second side of the violence is the bombing campaign.  More than 200 people have been killed since last month in a series of blasts over a wide area.

Boko Haram has in the past said it wanted to create an Islamic state but these blasts appear intended to kill as many people as possible– and they are indiscriminate, killing Christians and Muslims, children and adults.

The increased ferocity, frequency and geographical spread of the attacks are alarming.  Religious leaders have been calling on people to show restraint and not allow the bombings to spark further violence.

In response, the United States has deployed 80 military personnel to Chad to help locate the nearly 300 girls kidnapped in Nigeria last month, President Obama said today.

Obama, in a letter to House Speaker John Boehner and the Senate, notified lawmakers about the latest steps underway to assist in the return of the abducted girls.

Obama said the service members will help with intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft for missions over northern Nigeria.  He says the force will stay in Chad, on the western border with Nigeria, until its support is no longer necessary.

 Via Google News, BBC, KDOR,
Alfathmedia/Vimeo

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For GOP, “Conservative” Means Serving Corporate Power

 

Koch-Heads Tax Oklahoma’s Homegrown Energy Producers

VIDEO

 

Jim Hightower
JimHightower.com

 

Oklahomans have been socked with a surprise from their
own, supposedly “conservative” state officials.

It seems that thousands of Sooners have been putting solar panels on their homes to save on energy costs and reduce fossil-fuel pollution. Switching to solar even allows them to generate excess electricity, which they can transmit back to the grid and earn a credit on their monthly bills.

To reward such common sense and socially-beneficial energy innovation, the state’s Republican-controlled government slapped a new “fee” – actually, a tax – on the bills of those who convert from grid takers to grid producers in the future.

This crude slap in the face came with no advance notice, no public hearings, and no legislative debate.

“It just appeared out of nowhere,” said one local solar business owner.

But this was not from “nowhere.” It came from a secretive corporate front group called ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council.

In exchange for getting millions of dollars from the Koch brothers, utilities, and other dirty-energy interests, ALEC is peddling a cookie-cutter bill from state-to-state that stops homeowners from switching to solar by taxing the energy they produce.  ALEC even adds insult to the injury its Koch-headed backers are doing by calling such homeowners “freeriders on the system.”

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, who was in on this despicable sneak attack from the start, had her ego stroked by the Koch-financed front group last year.  ALEC presented its “Thomas Jefferson Freedom Award” to Fallin for her “record of advancing … free markets… and individual liberty.”

Now we know what the Koch-ALEC complex means by “free markets” and “liberty.”  They mean that corporate energy interests should be free to stifle our individual liberty.  

Thomas Jefferson would be ashamed to have his name attached to anything that this cabal of corporate and governmental Kleptocrats come up with.

Oklahoma Will Charge Customers Who Install Their Own Solar Panels,”
www.thinkprogress.org, April 16, 2014.

* * * * * * * * * *

Jim Hightower is a Texan, columnist, and populist who believes that to move America from greed to greatness, we must fuel the power and the passion of our nation’s workaday majority.

You can listen to more of Jim Hightower’s commentaries here.

 

 

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The Koch Brothers’ Other Brother

 

Birds of a Feather Don’t Always Flock Together

 

Daniel Schulman

Excerpt: Sons of Wichita
 

While Charles, David, and William Koch have made headlines for their political and litigious activities over the
past decades, eldest brother Frederick has led a notoriously
private and opulent life as an art collector and philanthropist.

For the first time ever, as detailed in Sons of Wichita: How the Koch Brothers
Became America’s Most Powerful and Private Dynasty
, Freddie Koch allows
a reporter inside his private realm.

 

Frederick lowers himself into an armchair in a second-floor sitting room.
 
He has not spoken to the press in more than 25 years, since the British media descended on him like a pack of wolves.  Even before that, he refused interviews and stayed conspicuously quiet as his feuding younger brothers savaged one another on the pages of national newspapers and magazines.
 
“Shall we delve into Koch world?” he asks.
 
He shows me out into the January chill…
 

Frederick, 80, is so private about his affairs that during the 1980s, after underwriting the $2.8 million construction of England’s Swan Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, he kept quiet about his gift for several years as the British press tried to dig up the name of the angel donor.  

When Frederick’s role was finally revealed, he told the BBC in a rare interview, “Never ask from where I came, nor what is my rank or name.”

Despite the scale of his wealth and the opulence of his surroundings, Frederick also has a reputation for frugality, sometimes growing testy at his staff, if they add extra postage to letters and packages.  He spent lavishly on refurbishing his homes, but he prefers taking the public bus in New York and typically flies commercial.

One associate recalls strolling down East 80th Street with Frederick on a sweltering summer afternoon in the mid-1990s.  Crossing Fifth Avenue, Frederick noticed a nickel in the middle of the crosswalk; it had been run over so many times that it was embedded in the asphalt.

His companion looked on in shock as Frederick took out his keys, stooped down and began trying to pry the coin loose.  The multi-millionaire continued to work as the traffic light changed.  Traffic bore down and horns blared, but Frederick kept digging, finally dislodging the nickel.

“I got it,” he said, holding the coin up with a beatific expression on his face. “I just was dumbfounded,” his companion recalled…

It’s no surprise that Frederick isn’t eager to talk about Charles and David.  He and younger brother Bill spent nearly 15 years locked in a series of bare-knuckle legal brawls with their brothers, who they accused of cheating them on the 1983 sale of their Koch Industries stock, which together netted them $800 million.

Frederick was the outlier among his rough-and-tumble, ultra-competitive brothers.  While the three younger brothers took after their father, a John Wayne–like figure who made his first million building oil refineries in Stalin’s Soviet Union, he gravitated toward his mother’s artistic interests.

Family patriarch Fred Koch strove to teach his sons the value of hard work, by subjecting them to grueling manual labor around the family’s compound in Wichita, Kansas, and on a handful of ranches he owned.  Charles told Fortune magazine in 1997 that during a summer of forced labor on one of the family’s ranches as a teenager, Frederick had had a nervous breakdown (“I have never had a ‘nervous breakdown,’” Frederick says).

“Father wanted to make all his boys into men and Freddie couldn’t relate to that regime,” Charles told The New York Times’ Leslie Wayne.  “Dad didn’t understand and so he was hard on Freddie.  He didn’t understand that Freddie wasn’t a lazy kid—he was just different.”

When Frederick was in his 20s, it was an open secret among the family’s circle of friends in Wichita that he was gay.

“We all knew Freddie was gay,” said someone who spent time with the family and their friends in the 1950s and 1960s.  “You know, those things– especially in an environment like Wichita– were almost whispered.  It was common knowledge.”

During the Koch brothers’ childhood, discussion of Frederick caused noticeable discomfort among his brothers.  “They just didn’t want Freddie’s name brought up,” said one family friend.  “They knew there was something different about him.  You didn’t hear much about Freddie at all . . . It was almost like he wasn’t part of the family.”

In the 1960s, mention of Frederick even vanished from one of his father’s bios: “He and Mrs. Koch have three sons,” it read, “Charles, William, and David.”

Frederick could do little to relate to his father or win his approval.  When Fred Koch died in 1967, he left his eldest son out of his will…

 …An excerpt, you can the full pieceThe “Other” Koch Brother, here.

 

~Via Google News

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From Bean to Bar: The Quest for Chocolate

 

Adventure of Artisanal America

Award-Winning VIDEO

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

The Mast Brothers are pioneers of the bean-to-bar craft chocolate movement.

Founders Michael Mast and his older brother Rick– two bearded Iowa boys– came to New York to pursue careers in film and cooking, respectively.  They share a fiercely independent spirit, a driven curiosity, and the same love for adventure.

Their artisanal chocolate factory creates handmade goodness in small batches and sophisticated flavors. 

The Brooklyn shop has an unfussy, rustic vibe, modeling exposed brick and overhead beams, an old freight elevator, and a hand-me-down wood bar from an old-time ice-cream parlor in Pennsylvania.  The soundtrack of bluegrass, classical, and glam rock plays overhead.

They pair began their voyage in their apartment, using a homemade machine to process cacao beans.  They discovered a flair for chocolate-making at Brooklyn dinner parties and later found success at local farmers’ markets and boutiques where chocolate lovers beat a path to the tent and flocked to buying their product. 

Over time they cultivated their creation further, sourcing speciifc beans from fair-trade family farms in Madagascar, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, and Ecuador. 

Each bar is handmade with incredible reverence for the process and history of chocolate.  The brothers produce around ten flavors, from a blend of almond and sea salt, roasted chilies, maple syrup, to the popular salt-and-pepper bar.  Each is wrapped in gold foil and thick Italian paper like a rare book, in vintage-inspired floral, paisley, and patterned prints.  

Every bar offers its own story of flavors, and no two are exactly alike.  Some of the flavors are sweet and simple; others, amazingly complex. 

Visitors congregate around the long kitchen table to taste their spoils and watch the unhusked chocolate nibs be ground with a stone granite roller.  They’ve gained a popular following of customers wanting to see and learn more about the process.  They’re loyal to their cause. 

If you didn’t know, “Artisinal” is the big word in food these days.

It attaches to it a staggering range of producers, from cheesemakers to chocolate crafters, bakers, condiment producers, sausage curers, picklers, microdistillers– you name it.

Humboldt is certainly no stranger to the concept with its own small-scale, handcrafted Buy Fresh, Buy Local approach. 

In terms of chocolate, we have our own special sweet spot for cocoa lovers.  For a large rural area with a relatively small population, Humboldt County is more than blessed to enjoy its many fine choices: Dick Taylor Craft Chocolate, Drakes Glen Creations, Sweetness and Light Old Fashioned Chocolate, and Venlo Gourmet Chocolates, to name just a few.

The essence of the ethic– more of an ideal than idea– is independent ownership, hand-crafted food, small-scale production, and a nod to real or imagined culinary heritage.  More often than not, savvy packaging, canny marketing, social-media outreach and, sometimes some wacky experimentation with flavors plays its personalized part.  

Genuine handmade artisanal food production is a tiny part of the $60 billion dollar “specialty” food industry but the movement thrills those who dream of beating back the impersonal urban industrialization of food for something more comforting.   At its heart is the conviction that a young country and its young people can both recover and invent the sort of real-food heritage that the Old World built its cuisines upon. 

A tall order, but one the indie-food generation is excited to tackle.  Like our own Humboldt County chocolatiers and the NYC’s Mast Brothers.

The lives of the two brothers are one given over to wanderlust.  It is still a quest for adventure for them; crossing unseen horizons to secure precious goods and bringing them back to their home port. 

Now planning to navigate the mighty Atlantic and sail to the Dominican Republic for the next phase of business procuring beans directly, the Mast Brothers continue the quest searching for the best cacao and a deeper connection with the folks who grow them.

Sail on.

 

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Aging, Swimming, and Marijuana

 

Meet the Aquadettes

Award-Winning VIDEO

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

These California Girls have character.

75-year-old Margo Bouer reflects on growing old, using marijuana, and her synchronized swim team, the Aquadettes.

California is a Place, from photographers turned filmmakers Drea Cooper and Zackary Canepari, profiles unique, interesting people who happen to be citizens of the Golden State.

In this film they travel  south to Leisure World, where their lens finds a lovely group of ladies who, in retirement, find fitness and friendship through synchronized swimming.

The regular aquabatics practice helps maintain their health and strength, with members suffering arthritis, joint replacements, and other health challenges.  They stay active with the Aquadettes; for Margo, marijuana has been another blessing on the side.

Emotional without being condescending, the ladies are upfront about the reality of aging and enthusiastic about what they do.  Watching this is a splendid use of ten minutes, and we highly recommend you do so. 

The biggest users of our medical system are senior citizens, and it should come as no surprise that when medical marijuana first became available in California, seniors were some of the first to try it out.  Seniors found that medical marijuana works on a large variety of illnesses that modern medicine has yet to effectively treat.

Aging can be a graceful, sociable, and active thing.  And marijuana, appropriately used, can be a healthy addition for older citizens.  It’s not something unique and special and secret for the young anymore.

* * * * * * * *

To see more videos from California Is a Place, visit  http://californiaisaplace.com/.

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A Mother’s Day Perspective

 

Life Isn’t A Bed of Roses

 

Viral VIDEO

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

Who can find a noble wife?
She is worth far more than rubies..
Her children stand up and call her blessed.
Her husband also rises up, and he praises her.
Give her the reward she has earned.

Proverbs 31

 

Being a parent isn’t easy.  There’s no handbook telling us what to do.

It certainly isn’t a bed of roses like everyone claims it to be, unless you include the thorns. 

We want to raise our children up right.  We try to do the best we can.  We’re bound to make mistakes and stumble along the way as we encounter difficult situations. 

We go through the trials and tribulations, the pains and the joys, the ups and downs like anyone else.  And for many of us, we’re our own biggest critic.

Then of course there’s that minefield of terror teenager-dom.  It’s as if they, or we, were aliens from another planet.  We can’t do anything right and went from hero to zero in record time.  It happens to us all.  We suddenly become uncool.

No matter how great our relationship is with our teens, there comes a moment when they scream they hate us at the top of their lungs.  These declarations of hormone-driven animosity leave us hurt, angry and even feeling a little bit of a failure as a parent.  This, too, will pass.  Eventually.  Although it seems like it’s freakin’ forever. 

Remember when we were 14?  The folks were so ignorant we could hardly stand to have them around.  But by the time we got to be 21 we were astonished at how much they had learned in seven years.

So what do the people who really matter to us think?  How do our children see us?

For Mother’s Day, moms were asked to describe themselves in the saccharine-sweet video above.  Then they were compared with what their own young kids said about them. 

The moms came out like angels.

It’s a striking contrast.  It’s amazing what we can see when we look at being a mother from a different perspective.

 

 

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US Military Advisors Sent to Nigeria

 

Terrorist Group Targeted in Search

for Hundreds of Kidnapped Schoolgirls

 

VIDEO

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

It is a parent’s worst nightmare: Your child goes to school, never to return home.

Scores of Nigerians are living that horrific reality after nearly 238 schoolgirls were abducted, allegedly by Boko Haram, under the cover of darkness on April 14.  Of the hundreds of girls herded into vehicles, only 43 have escaped.

And as their parents wait and hope, the government is grappling with an Islamist terror group that has gotten more brazen.

Today, six U.S. military advisers arrived in Nigeria to help in the search for the kidnapped girls, U.S. military officials said. 

The advisers will join a team of U.S. and British officials already in Nigeria, helping find the girls, planning rescue efforts and devising strategies to subdue the terror group Boko Haram.

About 60 U.S. officials have been on the ground since before the kidnappings as part of counterterrorism efforts with Nigeria, a senior U.S. administration official said.  They have been holding meetings, getting resources into the country and making assessments with local authorities.

There are no plans to send American combat troops, according to U.S. Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby, who serves as Pentagon press secretary.  The task of recovering the girls appeared to grow more complicated with news that U.S. intelligence shows the 276 girls have been split up.

Kirby said they believe the girls “have been broken up into smaller groups” but declined to detail how officials came to the conclusion.  His sentiment has been echoed by others.

 

Boko Haram’s Wake of Violence

Boko Haram’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, took credit for the mass kidnappings in a video that surfaced this week.  His group’s repulsive violence did not end there.

Suspected Boko Haram militants attacked Gamboru Ngala, a remote state capital near Nigeria’s border with Cameroon.  The attack Monday targeted an area soldiers use as a staging ground in the search for the girls.  Some of the at least 310 victims there were burned alive.

The Islamist militants’ name Boko Haram translates to “Western education is a sin” in the local language.

The group especially opposes the education of women.  Under its version of Sharia law, women should be at home raising children and looking after their husbands, not at school learning to read and write.  It has repeatedly targeted places of learning in deadly attacks that have highlighted its fundamental philosophy against education.

The spate of kidnappings began in May 2013 when Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau announced in a video that this was part of its latest bloody campaign.  The kidnappings, he said, were retaliation for Nigerian security forces nabbing the wives and children of group members.  Those kidnapped, he said, would begin a new life as a “servant.”

Not all cases involve kidnappings, however.  Gun and bombing attacks on schools have killed hundreds of children in recent years.

 

Human Rights Abuses and Killings

In November, the militant group abducted dozens of Christian women, most of whom were later rescued by the military deep in a forest in Maiduguri.  At the time of their rescue, some were pregnant or had children, and others had been forcibly converted to Islam and married off to their kidnappers.

Rights groups have said Boko Haram has kidnapped girls as young as 12.  And the abductions are only getting worse.  In the first two months of this year alone, it kidnapped at least 25 girls and women, according to Human Rights Watch. 

Some girls and women are kidnapped to take the place of wives, and perform chores and sexual services.

The group is always on the move to escape an intensified crackdown by the government, and members leave their wives behind when they scamper into hideouts deep into the forests.

Those in the recent abduction were both Christian and Muslim students enrolled in secular schools.  Where exactly they were taken to isn’t entirely known.  The large area where they are believed to be is remote and heavily forested.  It’s also close to Cameroon, which means that the captives and captors could slip through the porous borders into nearby countries, including Chad or Niger.

In February, the Nigerian military blamed Boko Haram for killing at least 29 students in an attack on a federal college in Buni Yadi in Yobe state.   Another bloody example came last July, when 20 students and a teacher were fatally gunned down in the same state.

Mohammed Yusuf, a charismatic young cleric, founded the group 12 years ago as part of his push for a pure Islamic state in Nigeria.  He was killed in 2009, but his group lived on.  Boko Haram became more violent after his death as his supporters vowed to strike back.

 

Links to Al Qaeda

Human Rights Watch estimates that in the past five years, more than 3,000 people have been killed in the violence. 

Boko Haram targets include government buildings, police barracks, newspaper offices, village markets, churches and mosques.  The U.S. says the militant group has links to the al Qaeda affiliate in West Africa and to extremist groups in Mali.  It says its aim is to impose a stricter enforcement of Sharia law across Africa’s most populous nation, which is split between a majority Muslim north and a mostly Christian south.

The northeast, where Boko Haram has been most active, is economically depressed and among the least educated regions in Nigeria.

Islamists view the most powerful people there as corrupt, and accuses them siphoning off Nigeria’s considerable natural resources and assets.  Despite its vast supply of oil and natural gas, the World Bank says that about 54% of Nigeria’s population can be considered “extremely poor.”

The United States’ team sent to Nigeria to hunt for the kidnapped girls includes law enforcement experts and military advisers.  British satellites and advanced tracking capabilities also will be used, and China has promised to provide any intelligence gathered by its satellite network, Nigeria said.

“Clearly, there is danger whenever we send troops almost any place in the world,” U.S. House Speaker John Boehner said.

“But I do think the President is taking the right step here to work with our allies to try to do everything we can to get these girls back to their families in a safe way,” Boehner added in a rare show of solidarity with President Barack Obama.

 

~Via Google News, Vimeo, Park Hill Multimedia, #BringBackOurGirls

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Bridging the Gap

 

Out of the Bars and Into the Night

Award-Winning VIDEO

 

Joey Elgersma/Stephan Wever
Filmmakers, Runners

 

Some only come out at night.

Some never stepped foot on a track.  
Some never defined themselves as athletes.

Yet we are all inspired by a common philosophy and by the idea of using the pavements of our urban wildlife as our playground.  From New York City to Moscow, from London to Zurich– we’re all inspired by each other.

We’re divided into five different race groups.  So we have the tortoises, hares, greyhounds, cheetahs and the elites.  So the idea is basically that no matter what level you are, there’s someone who’s always gonna be able to run with you.  Our thing is about encouraging people to run.

Running is the least important part of the running crew story.  It’s a way for friends to physically meet each other at least once a week.  The creativity and the idea of family that we’re trying to build, and community, is far more important.   

We find a lot of people who get into running suddenly find some crazy level of creativeness, because the wider-the-mind thing starts to change.  Running and creativity basically go hand in hand.

We made a short film.  We’re in the studio making music for our next big race; we’re gonna make our own Finish Line music and a mixtape for it, so we’re starting a record label as well.  We got an art exhibition planned for next year based on running.  

So we’re basically trying to make people understand that just because you’re being healthy and running and taking care of yourself doesn’t mean that the rest of your life stops.  You know, it’s all part of a lifestyle.

We are unified by a responsibility to make each other improve, in the pursuit of accomplishing the unthinkable.

These are the times when you share joy as much as you share pain, and you grow into a team together, inseparable.

 

Never stay stationary.  Get out and move; for yourself and for others.

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Call of Duty: Barbarians at the Gate

 

What Have Your Kids Been Up To?

Playing Shoot ‘Em Up Brainwashing

 

VIRAL VIDEO TRAILER

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

It’s only a game.  What’s the harm?

Take a look at the above trailer and decide for yourself.

Activision’s Call of Duty, the most popular and highest grossing series of games ever made for kids, seems to make it fun and glorious to run around shooting numerous amounts of people and reaping the rewards in terms of points.

Now we have Kevin Spacey in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare extolling the new idea of why democracy is so lame and passé in these necessary times of war.   We don’t need it, they can’t handle it, and the only thing the people of these backward countries do need are boundaries and rules and the military intervention that only we can provide, Spacey continually invokes for us all.

There’s an uncomfortable irony in the Call of Duty series’ twin fascinations with the destruction of the United States and its inherent brainwashing. 

As wave after wave of faceless, under-equipped, foreign aggressors charge obligingly into range of your American-made machine gun, Predator drone or circling gunship, the action of war is broken up with the regular story points of brainwashing people as the ultimate goal– decent, rational, and otherwise normal folks being reprogrammed to fight and kill for someone else’s ideology.  Including you, the shooter.

Then the loading screen resolves and it’s straight back into your foxhole, ready to mow down another wave of America-hating foreigners on the next level.  Booh-rah!

The end goal of these invasions isn’t ever discussed.  There’s no time:  one minute America is innocently minding its own business, and the next, there are Russian fighter jets over I-95 and a tank column rolling over Times Square.  Who cares what they want– the White House is on fire!  The Golden Gate Bridge is being overrun!

The players of Call of Duty see nothing wrong with pointing weapons at other countries, so long as the other countries in question don’t have any of their own to point back.  In keeping with that mindset, the goal of these games isn’t peace– it’s the restoration of the status quo:  reasserting America’s military dominance and having its enemies utterly vanquished.

That’s a disturbing message to propagate – the digital equivalent of the World War propaganda posters of caricatured, malevolent foreigners that can only be stopped by the other caricatures of our brave,
devoted men and women in uniform.

Today’s society— and kids in particular–  have been desensitized to violence and conditioned with the advent of all the military missions, gangsta rap nonsense, grand theft auto and shoot-em-up video games.  The producers of these games are getting a ton of money for what they are doing.  They’ve already exhausted shooting North Koreans, Mexican Rebels, Chinese Nationalists, and the Russians in different versions– and all in great fun and glory.

Call of Duty is the biggest entertainment property in the world with a story and a message that reaches tens of millions of people at home and abroad.  That carries with it a large responsibility.  

Let’s face it, the game is great fun taken in isolation.  But taken in sum, Call of Duty is painting a steadily flatter, scarier and more propagandizing picture for our kids than we should be comfortable with.

To note, the above video trailer went viral with over 4 million views in three days.  Now that’s scary.

 

 

 

For my nephew who played the games, went to Iraq, and had
his feet blown off and his young squad of fellow Americans killed.

 

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Shaken Down by the Humboldt County Sheriffs

 

In the State of Nevada, That Is

VIDEO

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

What’s in your wallet?

A lawsuit has been filed against the Humboldt County Sheriff’s
Department alleging deputies there are unlawfully seizing cash
from motorists traveling on I-80 toward California. 

That’s Humboldt County in Nevada.

You gotta love having a good shakedown extorting cash from innocent victims by police.  It harkens back to the yesteryear days of good old-fashioned highway robbery.

In video obtained by KLAS-TV this week, Nevada’s Humboldt County Sheriff’s Deputy Lee Dove, who just pulled over a driver for going 3 miles over the speed limit, can be seen searching a vehicle without probable cause.

“Well, I’m gonna search that vehicle first, OK?” Dove says to the driver, Tan Nguyen.

As Dove opens the vehicle’s doors and hatchback, Nguyen, who has not given the deputy permission, demands to know why his vehicle is being searched.  Without a legitimate explanation, Officer Dove refuses to answer.

“Because I’m talking to you… well, no, I don’t have to explain that to you,” Dove says as he discovers $50,000 in cash and $10,000 in cashiers checks.

“I’m not going to explain that to you, but I am gonna put my drug dog on that.  If my dog alerts, I’m seizing the money.  You can try to get it back but you’re not,” Sheriff Dove says.

Despite Nguyen explaining he won the cash in Las Vegas, Dove continues the confiscation with no proof that the money was obtained illegally.

Deputy Dove doesn’t arrest or cite the driver, but offers him a deal:  if the driver signs a release abandoning the cash, he can keep his cashiers checks and car and go on his merry way.

“Good luck proving it.  Good luck proving it.  You’ll burn it up in attorney fees before we give it back to you,” Dove threatens.

Although police departments are allowed in some states to seize and spend cash linked to criminal activity under heavily abused forfeiture laws, Dove instead decides to
outright extort Nguyen by telling him that his vehicle will be
towed if he doesn’t give up the $50,000.

“It’s your call.  If you want to walk away right now, you can take the cashiers checks, the car and everything.  You can bolt and you’re on your way,” Dove says.  

“But,” Dove leaningly advises, ”you’re gonna be walking away from this money and abandoning it.”

Unsurprisingly, according to local Winnemucca blogger Dee Holzel, the sheriff’s department and District Attorney have claimed that no illegal activity has ever taken place in regards to officers seizing cash.

“What they said initially was, ‘well, these are civil forfeiture programs.  These kinds of things happen everywhere.  There’s nothing unusual about Humboldt County.’  But that turned out to not be true,” Holzel explained.

“When you have people by the side of the road and you’re having them abandon their money so they’ll be allowed to get in their car and drive away, they don’t do that everywhere,” Holzel said.

Holzel said innocent tourists and drivers are shaken down constantly by Humboldt County Sheriff’s Officers on Nevada’s I-80 route.  Cash is taken from drivers in amounts as little as a few hundred dollars without any real suspicion  a crime or illegal activity has occurred.   It’s the actual cash which falls under ‘suspicion’ and is given up, technically ‘abandoned’ by owners after a Sheriff advises them to do so.

It’s also coined ‘policing for profit’ and it comes without any probable cause or due process attached.

Nguyen’s lawyer, John Ohlson, also blasted the actions of the officer, calling the scenario a blatant highway robbery.

“An armed person stops a traveler and demands the traveler’s money and tells the traveler that unless he gets in his car and moves on down the road and forgets all about it, he’s going to take his car too,” Ohlson said.  “I would say that’s pretty close to describing highway robbery.”

Luckily, Nguyen was not only given his cash back later after investigation, but granted an extra $10,000 for attorney fees from the department as well as an apology.

Other victims such as Matt Lee, who had $2,400 taken by Dove, was forced to sign a confidentiality agreement with Humboldt County in order to get his cash back.

“I don’t think many people know what the asset forfeiture laws dictate.  What’s allowed to be done?  And I think if people knew, it would be overturned in a heartbeat,” Lee said.

“They’re buying their silence with their own money,” said Ohlson, who also represented Lee.

Following a massive uproar from local residents, Humboldt County Sheriff Ed Kilgore now claims his officers will no longer ask for people’s money during traffic stops unless a crime is suspected, even though Dove has seized cash before by claiming to smell non-existent marijuana.  The full camera footage in which Kilgore admitted ‘errors were made by Officer Dove’ can be seen here.

“We want to do the right thing. I am a strong proponent of fighting the war on drugs, and I want to make sure everything we do here is on the up-and-up,” Kilgore said.

Welcome to Humboldt County, Nevada, where civil liberties are just a little bit odd and strange under the hot desert sun.  Papers, please

Unfortunately, Nevada is only one of many states experiencing similar corruption.  Earlier this year, a Tennessee cop struggled to answer questions from a local news group after seizing $22,000 from an innocent driver.  Despite telling the officer he was using the cash to buy a new car, the officer was found to have left the driver’s explanation out of the police report.

In 2012, a Wisconsin family attempting to bail their son out of jail had $7,500 seized after police claimed a drug dog alerted to narcotics on the cash.  It was soon learned that the officers had forced the family to bring cash instead of a check, likely knowing that 90 percent of cash is tainted with cocaine residue.

If this is an irritating abuse under the color of authority, get a load of what’s been going on in Nevada’s nearby Clark County.

* * * * * * * * * * *

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Senate Republicans Deny Boost to Hike Minimum Wage

 

Sticking It to the Poor Again

(All Work and No Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy)

 

VIDEO

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

They did it again.  They stuck it to the poor.

U.S. Senate Republicans today blocked one of President Barack Obama’s top legislative priorities, a bill to raise the federal minimum wage for the first time in five years.

On a nearly party-line vote of 54-42, supporters fell short of the 60 votes that would have been needed to end a procedural roadblock against the legislation in the Democratic-led Senate.

Just one lone Republican, Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, joined Democrats in voting to advance the bill, which would increase the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour during the next three years and then adjust it for inflation in the future.  The federal minimum wage is now $7.25 an hour.

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid switched his vote from yes to no to reserve his right to bring up the bill again.

President Barack Obama planned to attack Republicans over their opposition at an event at the White House later in the day where he was expected to again argue that 16 million minimum-wage workers deserve a raise.

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that the bill would raise the wages of about 16.5 million Americans and lift 900,000 out of poverty.

But it also estimated the bill could cost up to 1 million Americans their jobs because businesses may simply be unable to afford to pay them.

Polls show that most Americans, upward of 60%, say they would support a minimum-wage increase.  But Republicans on Monday cited a Bloomberg Poll in which 57% of respondents said it was an “unacceptable” trade-off if the bill raised the incomes of 16.5 million Americans while eliminating 500,000 jobs.

Democrats argue an increase in the minimum wage would boost the economy overall, and plan to use the issue to rally their liberal base ahead of the November congressional elections.

“Millions of American workers will be watching how United States senators vote today,” Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid said before the vote.  ”They’ll be observing to see if we ensure all full-time workers in this country receive livable wages.”

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell mocked Democrats, saying: “They don’t even pretend to be serious about jobs anymore.”

The Democrats’ “true focus” was on “making the far left happy – not helping the middle class,” McConnell said.

 

~Google News

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Of course we can’t afford an increase in minimum wage

After collapsing the economy in 2008 following Wall Street’s casino gambit of credit derivative swaps gone bad, a stagnant economy and inflation are enough for us to contend with.  The banking system might’ve gotten bailed out– but that doesn’t mean you will.

Whatever the case, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.  Wall Street gets a pass walking away with exorbitant salaries and a bonus.  You?  You lost your job. 

Why float all boats when you can simply have your own yacht?  If you got it, flaunt it.  It’s a sink or swim world, buddy.

Just be glad you have a job.  Or three.  Heck, let’s just ship the rest of the jobs and tax shelters overseas while we’re at it. 

Remember all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. 

Back to work.  If you can’t swim, try dog paddling.

 

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Subsidizing Walmart on the Taxpayer’s Dime

 

Taxpayers Support Walmart & Family to the Tune of $7.8 Billion a Year

GOOD HUMOR VIDEO

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

AFL-CIO Everyone needs a place to shop. 
But not everyone need pay their fair share of taxes like you.

A new report from Americans for Tax Fairness shows that taxpayers in the United States subsidize Walmart and the Walton family, who owns the majority of Walmart stock and is the richest family in the country, by at least $7.8 billion annually.

The report, Walmart on Tax Day: How Taxpayers Subsidize America’s Biggest Employer and Richest Family, was released in conjunction with tax day, when millions of Americans and small businesses do their civic duty and pay their fair share to support the economy and services critical to many Americans.  At the same time, the report shows, taxpayers help pad Walmart and the Walton family’s profits.

The report makes it very clear that not only do Walmart and the Waltons not need these subsidies, but that the company could more than afford to raise salaries and improve benefits for their workers, more than half of whom made less than $25,000 last year:

Walmart is the largest private employer in the United States, with 1.4 million employees.

The company, which is number one on the Fortune 500 in 2013 and number two on the Global 500, had $16 billion in profits last year on revenues of $473 billion.

The tax breaks and taxpayer subsidies that Walmart gets, more than $7.8 billion every year, are enough to hire 105,000 new public school teachers, notes Americans for Tax Fairness.  An estimated $6.2 billion of that money comes from food stamps, health care and other taxpayer-funded programs that Walmart employees are eligible for because their salaries are so low. 

Another $1 billion is derived from tax breaks and loopholes Walmart uses to avoid paying its full tax burden. 

The Walton family avoided paying an estimated $607 million in taxes because much of their compensation is derived from dividends, which are taxed at a lower rate than salaries.

Other tax avoidance methods Walmart engages in comes from economic development subsidies from state and local governments.

Furthermore, the report estimates that the Walton family avoids paying another $3 billion in taxes by dodging estate taxes. Taxpayer funds further benefit the company from customers who don’t work for the corporation but spend food stamp money there, with an estimate of $13.5 billion in sales last year.

The Walton family, who owns more than 50 percent of Walmart shares, reaps billions in annual dividends from the company.  The six Walton heirs are the wealthiest family in America, with a net worth of $148.8 billion.  Collectively, these six Waltons have more wealth than 49 million American families combined.

Read the full report.

 

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Caine’s Arcade

 

A Cardboard Box of Dreams

VIRAL VIDEO

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

What is a perfect moment?  Do they exist? 
Can we create them?

Caine’s Arcade soon became a destination spot after this film was made about the young boy’s handmade cardboard games by award-winning filmmaker Nirvan Mullick.

The perfect moment went perfectly viral; Mullick’s video scored more than 8 million online views since onlining in April of 2012. 

Caine Monroy’s father said they constantly receive visitors in his East LA auto parts shop and the college scholarship fund created for his son now stands at more than $236,000.

Caine’s vision and sense of entrepreneurship has led to meetings with celebrities — his favorite is Los Angeles Clippers star Chris Paul.

He became the youngest speaker at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business and Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.  Caine recently spoke at a TED teen talk hosted by Chelsea Clinton and had a little fun during a trip to Washington, D.C. to meet with the US Secretary of Education.

And as you see here, it was more than just pieces of cardboard.  It was a determined young man, his dreams, a supportive Dad and community, and a little help from his friends.

Yes, perfect moments and Fun Passes do come true.

 

Caine’s Arcade 2: From a Movie to a Movement from Nirvan Mullick on Vimeo.

 

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Becoming the Best Capitalists on the Planet

 

Weaving A Fortune:

Alibaba Serves China’s “Treasure Hunters”

VIDEO

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

WANTOU VILLAGE, China– With strong stitches and well-worn
hands, Wei Haiying added yet another finished cushion to the
ceiling-high piles already crowding her east China home.

For centuries, the women of Wantou village have woven its abundant willow straw into useful products, but for little profit.

Then Jack Ma and Alibaba came along, to spread some money-making magic.  Resting from her labors, Wei, 39, checked a computer Wednesday for the latest online orders.  ”Now we run our own business, we have more freedom, more income, and it’s better than working for others,” said Wei, whose monthly income has doubled in the past year to $1,600, far above the local average.

Blending traditional skills with modern marketing, Wei’s little success story forms a tiny part of the super-sized Alibaba e-commerce narrative that Ma offers to U.S. investors.  Already an A-list business billionaire in China, where he has dressed as Lady Gaga to entertain employees, Ma, 49, will score more fame and fortune when his firm gets a U.S. listing, in what is likely to prove one of history’s biggest ever IPOs.

In 1999, English teacher and kung fu novel fan Ma founded Alibaba in an apartment in the city of Hangzhou, with backing from 17 friends.  

He faced stiff odds, such as setting up an online payment system in a nation where hardly anyone had credit cards.  Now Alipay, like a Chinese Paypal, has over 800 million registered users, and its mother ship Alibaba is an Internet monster, grabbing more online trade than eBay and Amazon combined.

Alibaba resembles both.  Its eBay-like marketplace Taobao, which means “treasure hunt,” allows budding entrepreneurs like weaver Wei to set up and run an online store, for free.  The site has 7 million sellers offering hundreds of millions of items.  On Alibaba’s business-to-consumer site T-mall, called “heavenly cat” in Chinese, over 70,000 brands, including Gap and Apple, operate storefronts, for a fee.

In Wantou village, in coastal Shandong province, e-commerce even overshadows Communist Party propaganda.  Wall slogans exhorting the one-child policy fade fast, but no one can miss fresher phrases such as “Rushing about away from home, from east to west, doesn’t beat doing Taobao at home.”

So many of its 4,700 residents engage in e-commerce, almost exclusively on Taobao, that Alibaba ranks Wantou among at least 20 “Taobao villages” in China.  The firm’s definition requires over 10 percent of households to be operating online stores, and village e-commerce annual revenue must exceed $1.6 million.

“We really thank Taobao, it’s brought us wealth,” Wei Haiying said.  Two years ago, Wei stopped weaving for wholesalers.  Her husband quit his job as a driver.  Teaching themselves how to use computers, they set up a Taobao store.  Now they regularly go online to shop too, for clothes and shoes for their daughter.  ”It’s cheap and convenient,” said Wei.

The ease of Taobao shopping, and expectation of bargains, helped her neighbor become a local star.  An early convert, Jia Peixiao, 34, sold $1.3 million of willow straw and rattan products in 2013 and expects to double that volume this year.  Inside the family’s courtyard home, Jia sits beside a poster of Jack Ma.

“Many people in the village and elsewhere consider Ma a god,” said Jia, who ranks him highly, after reading some of the popular Ma biographies that fill China’s airport bookshops. “He’s a man who dares to do things, he has created a new era, an era of e-commerce,” Jia said.

Earlier in his career, Ma was labeled a cheat and a madman, but his success, fortune and maverick streak have since endeared him to most Chinese.  In recent years, Ma has been called the Godfather of business start-ups, the Napoleon of the IT world, “Crazy Jack,” and even a grass-roots hero.  Unusual for a Chinese boss, he also makes fun of himself, such as dressing as Snow White, or Lady Gaga, for Alibaba’s annual party.

Jia, a computer science graduate, appears a model disciple, having moved on from Taobao to create his own brand, Munuan, that now operates a T-mall store for a $10,000 annual fee.  Most customers are urban, female white-collar workers
between 18 and 35, he noted.

Beijing housewife Zhang Jingwen, 28, loves Taobao for cheap prices and the online guidance of previous buyers but prefers traditional shopping centers for higher-quality purchases, she said.  Using a Taobao app on her iPhone, she enjoys discounts buying daily toiletries, but, like many online shoppers worldwide, can’t resist the gimmicks either.

“If I met Jack Ma, I would thank him and say ‘you not only changed our lives, but also our whole village,’ ” said Meng Lili, 32, Jia’s wife, who is eight months pregnant with their second child and still works the computers as one of nine employees fielding orders.

Jia’s illiterate mother appears stunned by the sharp change in family fortunes.  An Shouhua, 61, learned weaving at age 9, and never went to school.  ”No woman in the village could find a husband without skill in weaving,” she said.  Government officials used to collect her woven goods – and pay just 5 cents day, she added.

Her son now plans a holiday to the USA or Europe, the first time Jia and his family will have left China. 

“We’re middle class now, and we can afford it,” he said.

His dad, Jia Chunwen, 62, still grows wheat and corn on the family’s typically small plot, but is prouder of his computer skills, and ability to chat with former navy comrades over QQ, a messaging service run by major Alibaba rival Tencent.

More than 600 million Chinese now use the Internet, just under half the entire population.

In Wantou’s Communist Party-run village committee, Deputy Secretary Jia Chuncui, 58, has no computer in his office or home but supports the e-commerce trend.  ”You don’t need a large space, or much funding, and you can still farm your land,” Jia said.  The government has offered land cheaply for a large Taobao Mall now under construction.

Rural China generally loses its children, to toil as migrant workers in distant cities.  Wantou sees them return to join its e-commerce boom. Inside a former dentist’s clinic, Jiao Chuanlei, 24, runs one of 20 courier companies in the village.  “It’s all because of Taobao there are so many couriers here,” he says.

Critics of the Chinese Internet complain that copycat businesses pre-dominate, Communist Party censorship inhibits innovation, and counterfeit goods still flow freely. Jia Peixiao says Taobao sellers are under pressure from the public to provide higher quality, legitimate goods.

“We all want our platform to be ever bigger and better, so the cake will be bigger for all of us to eat,” said Jia, already enjoying the taste of a better life.  On Tuesday, a Taobao delivery man arrived with his latest order– highly expensive, edible bird’s nests, from one of many Taobao sites specializing in tasty Chinese delicacies.

 

Via Google News/NewsLeader/Taluswood Films/Vimeo

* * * * * * * * *

China has rapidly moved from Maoist communism to becoming the best capitalists on the planet in less than three generations.  Seen as an economic savior of sorts, Jack Ma is floating all boats for China’s lower and middle classes, with the approving nod from its government paving the way forward.

If you haven’t heard of Jack Ma, you soon will. 

America, we need to step up quicklyand wisely.

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