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Net Neutrality and Freedom of Choice Prevail

 

 

FCC Makes Landmark Ruling for Americans

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

The Internet came close to being taken over by private for-profit companies who want to control what consumers see and how much they’ll pay for it.  In a battle between everyday citizens and the Big Telecoms, the citizens won by a 3-2 vote.

The Federal Communications Commission voted yesterday to approve strong net neutrality rules in a stunning decision, defying vocal, months-long opposition by telecom and cable companies and Republicans on Capitol Hill.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler approved a rule that reclassifies consumer broadband as a utility under Title II of the Communications Act.  These rules also apply to mobile access.

The FCC intends to use this new authority to ban “paid prioritization,” a practice whereby Internet service providers can charge content producers a premium for giving users more reliable access to that content, as well as to ban blocking and throttling of lawful content and services– such as you seeing the Humboldt Sentinel here or GeekSpot’s video, above. 

Another example would be for you searching online for, say, clothing, hardware at the Mom ‘n Pop place in town, or the nearest coffee drive-thru while on the road– and having only Walmart, Home Depot, and Starbucks show up as the only choices available because they paid the ISP the franchising fee to do so.

According to a fact sheet released by the FCC, the agency plans to enforce its new open Internet rules through “investigation and processing of formal and informal complaints.”  For the first time, the FCC can also address complaints at interconnection points, the gateway between ISPs and the rest of the Internet, on a case-by-case basis.  In other words, making sure the speed and content of what you want to view is there, open and accessible, and fair.

“No one, whether government or corporate, should control access to the open Internet.  The Internet is simply too important to allow broadband providers to be the ones making the rules,” Wheeler said prior to the vote.

At the vote, Democratic Commissioner Mignon Clyburn pointed out that “absent the rules we adopt today,” ISPs would have been “free to block, throttle, favor or discriminate… for any user, for any reason, or for no reason at all.”

The FCC’s two Republican commissioners steadfastly attacked the vote.  Commissioner Ajit Pai called the decision an “about-face” and stoked conservative fears by claiming, “We are flip-flopping for one reason and one reason only:  President Obama told us to do so.”

Those gathered in one FCC viewing room gasped and burst into laughter upon hearing Pai’s remark.

Last fall, Wheeler was considering a “hybrid” approach to net neutrality that would have made major concessions to telecom and cable companies, who contend that strong regulations hinder investment, innovation, and their profits.

But President Barack Obama came out in support of Title II and tough net neutrality rules in November, and Wheeler had to contend with that position as well as 4 million comments coming in from the general public in support of net neutrality.  Tech start-ups like Tumblr, as well as Silicon Valley giants like Google, also advocated for strong net neutrality rules.

The FCC decision is a major loss for Verizon, the company that initially sued the FCC in 2011 over rules that were considerably weaker than the new regulations present.  The new rules are also likely to be challenged in court.

Verizon denounced the decision in a press release issued shortly after the vote.  Calling it “a radical step that creates uncertainty for consumers, innovators and investors,” Michael E. Glover, Verizon senior vice president, said the FCC “chose to use this order as an excuse to adopt 300-plus pages of broad and open-ended regulatory arcana that will have unintended negative consequences for consumers and various parts of the Internet ecosystem for years to come.”

Barbara van Schewick, a law professor at Stanford University and net neutrality expert, was optimistic that the rules would prevail in court, should they be challenged.  ”The agency’s decision to reclassify Internet service as a common carrier under Title II… puts the rules on a solid legal foundation,” she said.

“The FCC has taken us in a distressing direction.  We must now look to other branches of government for a more balanced resolution,” threatened Michael Powell, president and CEO of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, a lobbyist and trade group.  To note, Powell is a former FCC chairman who served under President George W. Bush, taking the highly-paid perk-and-profit job after leaving the FCC.

Republicans have launched investigations into whether the White House unfairly influenced the FCC’s decision, and are expected to pursue legislation that would gut the FCC’s new authority.  Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) has said he plans to hold off-the-record meetings with stakeholders in early March in an attempt to drum up support for his bill putting the Internet solely in the hands of private interests.

From the other side, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) called the decision “a landmark day in the history of the Internet” and “a tremendous victory for freedom of ideas, of information, and of expression” in a statement.

“Popular victories like today’s are so unusual that three Congressional committees are investigating how this happened,” said David Segal, executive director of Demand Progress, a group that supports net neutrality.  ”If the net neutrality effort had followed the usual playbook, if Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T had defeated the American people, nobody would be wondering why.”

Wheeler denounced as “nonsense” the claims that the FCC has a secret plan to regulate the Internet.  He added, “This is no more a plan to regulate the Internet than the First Amendment is a plan to regulate free speech.  They both stand for the same concept.”

~Via NYT, NPR, Huffington Post, and MatthewsMayhem/GeekSpot

 

 

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Youth Take Climate Change Fight to the Courts

 

 

Teens Sue Government for Failing to Protect Environment

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

Many young people feel they have too much at stake to wait for our leaders to get their act together and take meaningful action on climate change.   It’s being termed the Children’s Climate Crusade.

High-school student Alec Loorz is one of them.  He’s suing the federal government for breach of the public trust.  In all 50 states.

The Public Trust Doctrine had never been used to protect something as intangible as the air we breathe and the atmosphere we live in– and never by a plaintiff who was too young to vote.  With his activism seeded when he saw An Inconvenient Truth, Loorz started speaking out about climate change at the tender age of 13, writing a Declaration of Independence from Fossil Fuel.

As a founder of the iMatter March and Kids vs. Global Warming, Loorz has spoken to nearly 200,000 people in over 200 presentations, keynotes and panels.  He believes that the revolution to protect the planet and work toward a sustainable and just world needs to be led by youth:  “It’s our future we are fighting for,” Loorz advocates.

A young climate activist, Loorz says we need to demand our political leaders “govern as if our future matters.”   With their future at stake, many youth have taken their case to the courts in the hopes that the judiciary will require the legislature to take action.

“We are all in imminent danger,” Loorz told Outside Magazine.  “Scientists have said we have 10 years to make changes if we want to stabilize the climate by 2100—and that was back in 2005.  We care more about money and power than we do about future generations.  The judicial system is the only branch of government left not bought out by corporate interests.”

What exactly are these young people asking for?

“Every suit and every administrative petition filed in every state in the country and against the federal government asks for the same relief,” Mary Christina Wood, law professor at the University of Oregon and author of Nature’s Trust: Environmental Law for a New Ecological Age, says.  “And that is for the government… to bring down carbon emissions in compliance with what scientists say is necessary to avoid catastrophic climate change.”

The young plaintiffs simply want the courts to require “the legislatures and the agencies to do their job in figuring out how to lower carbon emissions,” says Wood.

Do these litigants have any legal grounds to stand on, though?

Turns out that yes, they do.  “You find it in case law going back to the beginning years of this country,” says Wood.  “The U.S. Supreme Court has announced the Public Trust Doctrine in multiple cases over the years and it’s in every state jurisprudence as well.”

The Public Trust Doctrine says “the government is a trustee of the resources that support our public welfare and survival,” according to Woods.  The doctrine “requires our government to protect and maintain survival resources for future generations.”  Relying on this long-standing legal principle, young plaintiffs have filed cases at the state and federal level.

At the federal level, five teenagers, and two non-profit organizations—Kids vs. Global Warming and WildEarth Guardians—partnered with Our Children’s Trust to file a federal lawsuit.  Their petition for their case to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court was denied in December, but the plaintiffs vow “to advance their climate claims in lower federal courts until the federal government is ordered to take immediate action on human-made climate change.”

Youth plaintiffs supported by Our Children’s Trust have filed administrative rule-making petitions in every state in the country.

At the state level, there are cases pending in Oregon, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Washington and Colorado.  Courts in Alaska, Texas, Arizona, Kansas, Montana and Pennsylvania have issued “developmental decisions on which the pending cases are in part based.”

 

(An excerpt, you can read the full article in EcoWatch, here)

 

TRUST 350 from Our Children’s Trust on Vimeo.

~Via Undernews, EcoWatch, iMatter Youth,
Our Children’s Trust, YouTube and Vimeo

 

 

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5-Foot-3 and Full of Rage

 

Las Vegas Teen: “I’m Gonna Come Back
 for You and Your Daughter”

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

His mug shot tells it all:  an angry young man arrested on charges of murder and showing no sadness, remorse, regret or shame in his face.

The suspect in what has been described as a Las Vegas road-rage slaying boasted about the shooting and told friends that he emptied several clips from his semi-automatic handgun in the gun battle that killed a Las Vegas mother of four, a police report released Friday says.

Tammy Meyers, 44, was struck by a single bullet to the head on the night of Feb. 12 while in her green Buick Park Avenue outside her home.  She died two days later after being taken off life support.

The suspect was arrested several days later after SWAT teams surrounded his house a block from the Meyers home, in a nice middle-class suburban neighborhood of modest stucco homes with tile roofs about 5 miles west of downtown Las Vegas.

Las Vegas Metropolitan Police found two shooting scenes: one near a junior high school and the other in front of the Meyers’ home less than a half mile away.  Six .45 caliber cartridge casings were picked up at the first scene.  There were seven more .45 casings at the site of the killing, one .45 bullet with human blood on it, and three 9mm cartridge casings.

The police report sheds new light on the violent encounter between 19-year-old suspect Erich Milton Nowsch Jr. and victim Tammy Meyers and her 22-year-old son Brandon Meyers last week.  

Police say Nowsch fired many shots at them on two occasions that night — once a few blocks away from their house and again in the cul-de-sac outside the home.

According to the report, Nowsch told the two friends he fired 22 times at a green car after a cat-and-mouse car chase through his neighborhood just a few miles from the famed Las Vegas strip, and knew that he had shot someone when it was over.

The two friends told police that Erich Milton Nowsch had texted one of them after the incident and asked if he could come over.  He said he had important news, one of the witnesses told police.

Nowsch bragged about the shootings to the friends and told them people in a green car were out to get him, saying the altercation began after he saw someone in a green car in a nearby school parking lot waving a gun out the window.  One of the witnesses told investigators that the 19-year-old suspect said he “got those kids.  They were after me, and I got them.”

Nowsch showed the two friends his .45 caliber handgun, some extra magazines and a box with more rounds, the witnesses told police.

The police report does not clarify some nagging questions about the investigation: how it all began, what role road rage played in the altercation, and how the two parties exactly knew one another.

Family members said the altercation began when Tammy Meyers and her teenage daughter exchanged words with another driver on Feb 12.  The mother was apparently giving her daughter a driving lesson in the family’s green Buick Park Avenue.

Daughter Kristal Meyers said she was driving a green 1993 Buick sedan around the adjacent parking lot at the junior high school, getting a driving lesson from her mother, she told police.  Kristal Meyers also took a few loops around the block be-
fore switching seats with her mother.

Tammy Meyers took an indirect route home and as she was on a six-lane road, a silver car pulled up next to them.  Kristal Meyers told police she reached over and honked the horn. The driver of the other car then followed them as the Meyers turned away twice.  The other car roared past them in a bicycle lane and angrily spun around, stopping sideways in front of them.

During the incident, a man got out of the sedan and threatened them by saying:  ”I’m gonna come back for you and your daughter.”   The man was 6-feet tall, the daughter told police.  Nowsch is much shorter.

Police say that after that threat Tammy Meyers drove home.  Fearful of her life, she then dropped the daughter off at home and picked up her son, who brought his 9mm handgun.

When he got to the car, Brandon Meyers told his mother “to come in the house and call the police,” he recounted to investigators. She insisted he come with her– or she was going out alone, the police report says.

The two drove around for a short time before encountering the silver Audi car, the son said.  They followed it and at some point the car stopped and the passenger shot at them.  Brandon Meyers told police he ducked and didn’t return fire at that time.

Tammy Meyers sped home and when she parked in front of the house, which is at the end of a cul-de-sac, Brandon Meyers got out and raced over to his mother. But before he could help her out, the silver car came down the street and the passenger shot at them again.

Brandon Meyers said he fired three times at the driver but didn’t know if he hit anything.  Tammy Meyers, however, was struck in the head by the gunman in the Audi.  Brandon called 911.

Nowsch denied involvement in the shooting when questioned by police, according to the documents.  During questioning he told investigators he was with a friend at a recording studio and wasn’t involved in shooting Meyers.  But the same friend told police that he dropped Nowsch off at a park about 9:30 p.m. and they never went to a studio.

The disclosure that Tammy Meyers had taken a motherly interest in Nowsch following the suicide of his father five years ago provided yet another twist to a case that’s posed more questions than answers.  Meyers, a mother of four who lived a block from Nowsch, had frequently consoled and counseled the young teen and given him food and money, her family said.  Her two sons had gone to high school with Nowsch.

The shooting occurred just days after the fifth anniversary of the suicide of Nowsch’s father.

With the 19-year-old suspect gunman in jail, police focused Friday on finding an accomplice who was with Nowsch.

District Attorney Steve Wolfson said that despite “a lot of twists and turns in the case,” he is confident police have the right man.  He said he expects at least one more arrest in the coming days.

Police remained tight-lipped about their efforts, a day after homicide Capt. Chris Tomaino told reporters that pieces of the puzzle would fit together once the case is turned over to prosecutors.

Tomaino said a sketch that had been circulated early in the investigation was no longer relevant.  Neighbors noticed when the 5-foot-3 Nowsch was taken into custody Thursday that he looked nothing like the 6-foot blond man police and the victim’s family had described earlier.  He was a small kid barely weighing 100 pounds.  It also begs another question:  If the family knew Nowsch– which they denied at the time– why was the sketch taken in the first place?

In addition to his charges, Las Vegas police said Nowsch had also been detained Tuesday for an unrelated warrant that was issued while he was a juvenile.

Nowsch’s Facebook page shows him with his tongue wagging, his hand and arms heavily tattooed, with a ballcap on his head and thick chain around his neck.  He’s holding what appears to be a wad of cash, including at least one $100 bill.  His Instagram profile has the majority of pictures showing him smoking marijuana in its various forms.  His moniker? Mob Life 18.

Nowsch will be arraigned Monday morning at the Clark County Courthouse and faces a growing number of charges, including one count of murder.  

The other charges include one count of attempted murder, three counts of assault with a deadly weapon, and two counts of firing a gun from a car. 

Kathleen Nowsch, the teen’s mother, was disraught and turned away from reporters, refusing to comment on her son’s alleged actions.

Tammy Meyers’ husband, Robert, said that he and others knew about Nowsch before this happened.  He described Nowsch as an “animal.”

“We knew how bad he was,” Robert Meyers told reporters.  

“But we didn’t know it was this bad.  We know this boy.  He knew where I lived.  He was an animal.  He’d gotten to this point, he and his friends.  She (Tammy Meyers) fed him, she gave him money, she he told him to pull his pants up and be a man.”

 

~Via Google News, MSN, Reuters, CNN, USA Today,
  Fox13, Heavy-com, and Every Joe

 

 

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Organic Farming Flourishing Worldwide

 

Rising Recognition and Profits

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

“2 million of the world’s 1.5 billion farmers are now producing organically, with nearly 80 percent based in developing countries.  India boasts the most certified organic producers, followed surprisingly enough by Uganda and Mexico.”

 

There’s a growing trend happening in agriculture:  the rise and recognition of organic farming worldwide.

According to the International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements (IFOAM), 2 million of the world’s 1.5 billion farmers are now producing organically, with nearly 80 percent based in developing countries.  India boasts the most certified organic producers, followed surprisingly enough by Uganda and Mexico.

Currently 164 nations have certified organic farms, powering an industry worth $63.9 billion. (In contrast, 86 countries with certified farms produced $15.2 billion woth in 2000.)  

With this growth comes opportunity for farmers to add value to their products and access expanding markets.

While the 94 million acres of certified organic agricultural land constitutes less than 1 percent of total global agricultural land, industry analysts call the growth of organics significant, also noting that the certified numbers fail to account for the vast numbers of small-scale farmers who use organic methods by default.

“There are probably 500 million small family farms worldwide; most of those are traditional farmers who farm primarily through organic principles,” says Andre Leu, president of IFOAM.

He adds that 200,000 organic farmers become newly certified each year.  “In most places there is still a dramatic loss in the numbers of farmers.  Where we see growth is in the organic sector.”

Farmers today, battling climate swings and plummeting farm incomes, are essentially faced with four options: leave farming completely, obtain off-farm income, expand and play the commodity game more efficiently, or find ways to add value per unit of production, says Joel Gruver, a soil science professor at Western Illinois University in Macomb.

“Basically, organic farming anywhere in the world – if you are certified – is the one profitable label that is most clearly defined,” says Professor Gruver, the university’s director of organic research.  “Each nation has its own rules in how they define organic, but the general set of rules is very much the same,” he says.  Organic methods eschew chemical additives and rely on such practices as crop rotation to harness ecological processes that promote healthy soils and fight disease, weeds, and pests.

For consumers, organic farming addresses a range of issues where many feel conventional farming falls short: namely, environmental impact, pesticide residues, and nutritional quality.  It addresses concerns about energy consumption and climate change, and even restores a social connection to the land that many feel commodity farming has long eroded.

In fact, it’s consumer demand that is the driving force behind the growth.  The United States and Europe, having markets with a healthy appetite for organic goods, saw a 10-13 percent year-on-year rise in sales in 2012.

“Organic farming is the fastest growing multi-product sector in the world,” says Mr. Leu.  “If you go into any store now, organic products are in every section.  Anything from dairy to prepared foods to body care products to organic clothing.  There is no other sector like that.”

Organic farming does have its critics.

Some question the consistency of its accreditation and labeling system.  There is debate over whether organics deliver higher nutritional value, and concern that the certification process is too costly to allow for financial success.  And there is doubt over whether organic methods can yield enough to feed an ever-growing population.

Yet organic consumer preference continues to grow.

“There is more demand than supply,” says Anna Lappé, author of Diet for a Hot Planet.  Ms. Lappé also lamentedly points out that less than 1 percent of agricultural research funding currently goes toward refining proven chemical-free farming methods.

Still, there have been considerable efforts to support organic farmers.  A growing number of nonprofits provide microloans. IFOAM publishes the principles of organic farming on its website for those who want to practice it but can’t yet afford certification.  Countries such as Denmark and Sweden have set goals for organic agriculture.  The US offers small grants and loans.

Commercial investment may gain momentum, too.  Earthbound Farm, the largest organic brand in the US, has 47,000 acres in production and is seeking to expand its operations even further.  Nature’s Path, an organic cereal manufacturer, recently bought 5,640 additional acres of farmland in Canada and northern Montana to support organic family farmers there.  And larger conglomerates, such WhiteWave, are increasing their market share and profitablity in the organic food arena.

  

~Via Christian Science Monitor, Green Ideal,
IFOAM, Earthbound Farms, and YouTube

 

 

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‘Florida Man’: Washed up in the Sunshine State

 

Florida’s Flotsam and Jetsam

 

**Award-Winning Documentary**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

Florida is a state with a strange propensity.   It has the unique and peculiar property of attracting people who are at the end of their rope.

In Florida Man, a surprisingly poignant documentary by director Sean Dunne about the worn-out and inebriated layabouts in the Sunshine State, the viewer meets a wide variety of beercan philosophers in the course of 50 minutes. 

Many of them have tales to tell:  the government’s economic dependence on the incarcerated; the heady thrills of a lifetime of brawling; the murderous tendencies of pill addicts; the undeniable pleasures of an impromptu three-way underneath a beach pier.

It’s not exactly “Fight Club” as much as it is the “Old Drunk Guys’ Parking Lot.”  It’s a love letter of sorts about one of our weirdest and best states and some of the characters in it.

A majority of the footage was filmed outside various bars, motels, Laundromats and tattoo parlors, and certainly a majority of the interviewees, if not nearly all of them, have booze sloshing around their system. However, it’s hard to state anything equivocal beyond the two facts laid down in the title of Florida Man itself:  it’s in Florida, and it’s about males.

Not all of the guys are old, and not all of them are drunk.  Taken altogether, however, there’s an unmistakable commonality among these worn-out old loser dudes who are willing to interact with Dunne and his crew.  As one guy says, “When I moved here I was a damn Yankee.  I got upgraded to redneck.”

To his credit, Dunne had not much in the way of an agenda when he started the movie, letting serendipity dictate the content.  As he says, 
 

“Basically we just drove around aimlessly, stopping any time we saw something or someone that interested us.  One thing would lead to another and the universe would pull us in one direction or the other.

Most of what you’re seeing in the final film is the entirety of our interaction with these guys.  It was quick and to the point and I didn’t even interview people besides the occasional “Any words of wisdom?”

So what we got was a whole bunch of people telling stories and talking about whatever was on their mind.  It was a strange and exciting journey that took us to a lot of places we didn’t expect.”

 

Disney World it isn’t.  The succession of mostly unemployed, retired, or near-retired drifters is a resonantly sad depiction of Florida.

Florida Man,” the Orlando Weekly said, is “about those guys you see pretty much everywhere in the state, riding his bicycle along unsafe highways, drinking beers in his front yard with his shirt off, tripping out in a hotel room with his bros.  It’s … well, it’s about as depressing as you could probably imagine it would be, because it seems to be just as aimless and sad as the guys featured in it.” 

A fellow whose footage opens the movie just lives to tussle.  “I love to make people bleed, I swear to God I do,” he says with punch-drunk conviction.

“Once you get to Florida, you don’t ever want to go back north,” is the questionable premise of another inebriated barfly, wearing a U.S. Navy trucker hat.

Moments after declaring, “I’m not a drunk,” an elderly African-American fellow jokes that the “Ace Liquor Store over there is my second home.”

The owner of the same store memorably says, “Here in the liquor store, we see probably 50% of the people arrive by either foot or by bicycle because they all have DUIs,” adding that most of his problem customers drink increasingly more until they “eventually pass away.”  He concludes rather matter-of-factly, “If you have a drinking problem, handle it.”

There’s much more to Florida Man, and it’s best experienced by watching this intriguingly fast-moving slice of the human condition firsthand.  If you have a few moments to spare, spend it with this hardy bunch of exercise and nutritionally-challenged leather-tanned sauced-up dipsomaniacal survivors– thanking your lucky stars that you, too, didn’t wash up as a piece of flotsam and jetsam tossed away on Florida’s shores.

~Via Sean Dunne, Dangerous Minds, Vimeo

 

 

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The World Is As Big or As Small As You Make It

 

Exchanging Culture in North Philly

 

Award-Winning **VIDEO**

 

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

The World Is As Big or As Small As You Make It is a short documentary chronicling American kids using technology to connect with other kids in different countries.

It began as a 140-character essay entry and was created with money from a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Sundance Institute.  It follows youth living in North Philadelphia who are involved in a local program called Do Remember Me.

Teacher Sannii Crespina-Flores, who runs Do Remember Me, takes resources a lot of the kids already have– iPhones, iPads and the like– and helps use them for her students to explore the outside world.

The kids video chat with others in Paris, Kazakhstan, Tanzania, and other countries, learning about their cultures and exploring their similarities.

One student in Paris shows some boys in North Philly his beat-boxing skills.  In return, a group of Philadelphia dancers show the Parisian kids a routine.  At one point, a boy from Philadelphia whispers, “Do y’all have any girlfriends?” to a group of Parisian students.  During that same exchange, the cross-country communicators connect on Instagram. 

The film, based in Philly but also traveling to some of the countries where the students are video chatting, brings up some important issues in the veil of childhood innocence.

Questions like, “Have you ever experienced racism?”  “Is your school safe?” and the simple question, “Where are you from?” yield some poignant responses from the kids here and around the world.

Cultural exchanges have proven to be of the most important and effective forms of education.  Technology, too, has increasingly played a role in how we travel and engage on an international level.  The young students from Philadelphia are putting their curiosity, interest, and technology to the test– with good results. 

As the video comes to a close, one Philly student summed it up in its entirety:  “I feel that everybody should be able to go all over the world,” he said. 

He then added, “The world is as big or as small as you make it.”

So true.

 

 

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Drug Pushers and Their Doctors

 

 

Getting Paid to Play and Prescribe

 

**VIRAL VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

Pharmaceutical companies spend billions of dollars marketing their drugs to physicians.

Last Week Tonight host John Oliver took a closer look at these troubling truths and assorted ethical Doc Dollar dilemmas, skewering the cozy relationship between doctors and pharmaceutical companies.

There’s a prescription drug for every ailment, and the advertisements for these drugs never seem to stop.

Can’t sleep through the night?  Not to worry; there’s a pill for that. Constantly suffering from headaches?  There’s an injection for that.  Can’t get it up?  We can help you!

Oliver cuts to a series of sobering news pieces reporting that 70% of Americans regularly took at least one prescription drug in 2011 – and that $329.2 billion (or roughly $1,000 per person) was spent on those medications in 2013.  ”Breaking Bad’s Walter White could have made more money cooking up rheumatoid arthritis medication,” Oliver cracks. 

But, as the host wittily observes, the drug companies themselves wield a surprising amount of influence by pumping out pills, spending an estimated $24 billion marketing directly to doctors.

He riffs about how pharmaceutical sales reps use sex appeal and free food to peddle drugs, but the real problem comes when reps don’t understand the effects of the drugs they’re pushing.

Some companies take the “off-label” approach, pushing doctors to push pills for non-FDA uses.  Other times, doctors are paid to be “thought leaders”– pitching drugs to other doctors over dinner. 

It’s a messy, overwhelming issue for a lot of the American public.  Oliver notes one intriguing development: the recently established federal website OpenPaymentsData.CMS.gov enables average citizens a chance to search for perks given to doctors by pharmaceutical companies.

The segment ends with a lighthearted pre-filmed bit, with ”Pharmaceutical Money” pushed as a prescription drug.  The side effects, naturally, include ”chronic overprescription,” “unusually heavy cash flow” and “death.”

When we get a prescription from a trusted physician, we tend to assume it’s for the most effective or innovative drug available.  After all, if anyone has our best interest in mind, it’s our doctor.

Right?

Not necessarily.  As an analysis by ProPublica reveals, many doctors get thousands of dollars– often in the form of “promotional payments”– to offer their patients unremarkable drugs that frequently exist in cheaper, more effective forms.

In America today, the number of people hooked on legal drugs dwarfs the number of people hooked on illegal drugs.  And sadly, the number of people killed by legal drugs absolutely dwarfs the number of people killed by illegal drugs. 

Many believe in prescription drugs.  We like feeling better.  And we like being chronically happy, too.

 

 

 

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VJ Day: Honolulu, Hawaii, 1945

 

 

A Brighter Horizon Beckons

 

**VIDEO**

 

Richard Sullivan
Discovering Hawaii

 

 

It was the day the war ended.

On August 14, 1945, it was announced that Japan had surrendered unconditionally to the Allies, effectively ending World War II.  It was known as Victory over Japan Day, or simply VJ Day.

Japan’s formal surrender took place aboard the U.S.S. Missouri, anchored in Tokyo Bay.  Coming several months after the surrender of Nazi Germany, Japan’s capitulation in the Pacific brought six years of hostilities to a final and highly anticipated close.

When the first news of the surrender came over the radio, Waikiki erupted in joyful celebration and relief.  It had been one hard slog across two long theaters of war following the rise of the Axis powers and Pearl Harbor’s  horrific bombing four years previous. 

65 years ago my Dad, Richard Sullivan, shot this film along Kalakaua Ave. in Waikiki, capturing the spontaneous celebrations that broke out upon first hearing news of the Japanese surrender.

The Greatest Generation had ended the war.  The day had finally come, and it came at great cost and sacrifice.  They would all be heading home soon; and under now peaceful skies, great hope beckoned for the future.

Dad remembered it all, filming it for posterity on his Kodachrome 16mm film.  Celebrants zooming past Lippy’s Service Station on Kalakaua.  Cheering Navy men flying past the House of Coral store on Kalakaua.  A marching band parading through the streets.  Navy men posing; the man in blue is wearing a non-regulation uniform due to the uniform shortage.  Officers smiling on Waikiki Beach in front of the Halekulani Hotel.  A nurse pointing to the new horizon ahead.

It was a happy day indeed.

 

 

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Elgin Park

 

Creating a Miniature Utopia
of How the World Should Be

 

**VIRAL VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

Welcome to Michael Paul Smith’s Elgin Park:  A 1/24th-scale recreation of everyday scenes from mid-20th century America, ranging from the 1920s to the mid-1960s.

Elgin Park is a lot of things: a 1950’s utopia, a fantastical world, and an optical illusion.

Artist Michael Paul Smith’s imaginative town– composed entirely of miniatures– delighted audiences worldwide when
his photo series became wildly popular.

The series posted on Flickr went viral, attracting 76 million visitors from around the world.  Michael’s work has since been featured by media around the world.

For the first time, the documentary Elgin Park dives into the life of this charming, reclusive artist to reveal the dark inspiration behind his work.  What started as an exercise in model-making and photography became a dreamlike reconstruction of the town Michael grew up in.  It’s not an exact recreation, but it does capture the mood and feel of his memories.

Michael serves up a comforting slice of mid-20th-century Americana:  the local banker’s slinky ’56 Lincoln Premiere reflects the summer sun outside the hardware store on Main Street.  A spit-shined Divco truck delivers fresh milk from the Borden dairy.  On the town’s outskirts, where rents are low and hot-rodders use the county road as a dragstrip, a custom ’55 Ford gets a set of loud pipes at a one-bay speed shop.  

Driving Michael’s creation of Elgin Park were his memories of Sewickley, Pa., a real steel-mill town a few miles north of Pittsburgh.  He spent his first 17 years there, and it still holds his heart.  

“Elgin Park is not an exact re-creation of Sewickley,” he explained, “but it does capture the mood of my memories.”

The buildings are constructed of resin-coated paper, styrene plastic, and wood, plus numerous found objects.  Photographing
the scenes with real life trees and woods in the background, Elgin
Park takes on a very real appearance.

The vehicles are from Michael’s collection of 300+ commercially produced, diecast models.  Although drawn to American cars of the ’30s to the ’60s, Michael does not call himself a car buff.  “As a teenager, I was a car enthusiast for the design, not so much the horsepower,” he said.

Describing himself as a recluse, Michael has created his own little world he’d like to live in.  Like photographs pulled from shoeboxes in dusty attics, the images he makes form a parade of memories that, one by one, reveal the focal points and quiet corners of an imagination and a small town called Elgin Park.

* * * * * * * * * *

The Elgin Park book is available for preorders at animalmediagroup.com/shop/elgin-park/.  All preorders will be shipped to arrive by June 21st and each will be signed by the creator of Elgin Park, Michael Paul Smith.

 

 

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Lying in the National Interest

 

 

Well-Known German Journalist Admits Planting Stories for the CIA

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

Becoming the first credentialed, well-known media insider to step forward and state publicly that he was secretly a “propagandist,” an editor of a major German daily has said that he personally planted stories for the CIA.

Saying he believes a medical condition gives him only a few years to live and that he is filled with remorse, Dr. Udo Ulfkotte, the editor of Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, one of Germany’s largest newspapers, said in an interview that he accepted news stories written and given to him by the CIA and published them under his own name.

Ulfkotte said the aim of much of the deception was to drive nations toward war.

Dr. Ulfkotte says the corruption of journalists and major news outlets by the CIA is routine, accepted, and widespread in the western media, and that journalists who do not comply either cannot get jobs at any news organization, or find their careers cut short.

Dr. Ulfkotte, 55, is the author of a book currently available only in German, Bought Journalists (Kopp 2014.)  He was also an advisor to the government of German Chancellor Helmet Kohl. 

The book has become a bestseller in Germany but, in a bizarre twist which Ulfkotte says characterizes the disconnect caused by CIA control of the western media, the book cannot be reported on. 

Ulfkotte says:

“No German mainstream journalist is allowed to report about my book.  Otherwise he or she will be sacked.  So we have a bestseller now that no German journalist is allowed to write or talk about.”

Among the stories Ulfkotte says he was ordered to plant in his newspaper over the years was a story that Libyan President Moammar Gaddafi was building poison gas factories in 2011.  Ulfkotte also says he was an eyewitness to Saddam Hussein’s use of (German manufactured) poison gas against Iranians in the war between Iran and Iraq, but that the editors he worked for at the time were not interested, because Iraq was a US ally at the time. 

Ulfkotte says he is better positioned to come forward than many journalists because he does not have children who could be threatened.  Ulfkotte told the Russian newspaper Russian Insider:

“When I told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (Ulfkotte’s newspaper) that I would publish the book, their lawyers sent me a letter threatening with all legal consequences if I would publish any names or secrets– but I don’t mind.  You see, I don’t have children to take care of.

And you must know I was severely injured during the gas attack I witnessed in Iran in 1988.  I’m the sole German survivor from a German poison gas attack.  I’m still suffering from this.  I’ve had three heart attacks.  I don’t expect to live for more than a few years.”

Ulfkotte says that remorse of having “lied” to mass audiences over the years drove him to come forward.  He told RI news agency that he was “taught to lie, to betray and not to tell the truth to the public… I’m ashamed I was part of it.  Unfortunately I cannot reverse this.”

Ulfkotte said he put his own name to articles completely written by intelligence agencies.  He said he “ended up publishing articles under my own name written by agents of the CIA and other intelligence services, especially the German secret service.”

Ulfkotte detailed the pattern of cajolery and outright bribery used by the CIA and other US-allied intelligence agencies, for the purpose of advancing political agendas.  Ulfkotte said:

“Once you’re connected, you make friends with selected Americans.  You think they are your friends and you start cooperating.  They work on your ego;  they make you feel like you’re important.  And one day one of them will ask you, ‘Will you do me this favor’…”

Ulfkotte noted that journalists on international press trips paid for by organizations close to the government are unlikely to submit a storyline not favorable to the sponsor.

Of the gassing of Iranians he had witnessed in the Eighties, Ulfkoppe said:

“They asked me to hand over the photos that I had made to the German association of chemical companies in Frankfurt, Verband der Chemischen Industrie.  This poison gas that had killed so many Iranians was made in Germany.”

Ulfkotte said that it was “not right” what he had done, and that his fear was that politicians were actively driving the world toward war:

“It is not right what I have done in the past, to manipulate people, to make propaganda against Russia, and it is not right what my colleagues do, and have done in the past, because they are bribed to betray the people not only in Germany, but all over Europe.

I am very fearful of a new war in Europe, and I don’t like to have this situation again, because war is never coming from itself, there is always people who push for war, and this is not only politicians, it is journalists too.

We have betrayed our readers, just to push for war. …I don’t want this anymore, I’m fed up with this propaganda.  We live in a banana republic, and not in a democratic country where we have press freedom…”

In his book The CIA and the Media,” Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein quotes William B. Bader, former CIA intelligence officer, in his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee.  Baeder said:

“There is quite an incredible spread of relationships.  You don’t need to manipulate Time magazine, for example, because there are (Central Intelligence) Agency people at the management level.”

Bernstein writes:

“The Agency’s relationship with the Times was by far its most valuable among newspapers, according to CIA officials.  From 1950 to 1966, about ten CIA employees were provided Times cover under arrangements approved by the newspaper’s late publisher, Arthur Hays Sulzberger.  The cover arrangements were part of a general Times policy– set by Sulzberger– to provide assistance to the CIA whenever possible.”

 

Ulfkotte was on the staff of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation from 1999 to 2003, according to his Wikipedia entry.  He won the civic prize from the Annette Barthelt Foundation in 2003.

 ~Via Undernews, RT, Reader Supported News

* * * * * * * * * *

 

We would like to let our readers know how difficult it was for the Humboldt Sentinel to bring you this article.  Someone doesn’t want you to see it.

It had a set of unusual firsts that has never occured before in the thousands of posts we’ve previously done.  The above piece was consistently thwarted by warning notices of “Attempting to Contact the Server for Permission” until we found a work-around counteracting the obstruction.  YouTube posted an unusual warning we’ve never seen before either, reading:  “This video is unlisted.  Be considerate and think twice before sharing.” 

Lastly, our site came near to crashing several times for mysterious reasons.  Fortunately, we backed up our files every minute.  Then our browser did crash– but we were fortunate enough again to have opened the post in two browsers simultaneously.  The second browser was unscathed.  The article was retrieved.

Lastly, we removed four items of Trojan malware that occurred during the writing of this post.

Hopefully you will find this post in its original condition and accessible.  For now.

 

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The Little Drive-In With A Big Heart

 

The Choice:  Go Digital or Fade to Black

 

**Award-Winning Short Film**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

Longtime projectionist Roger Babcock has been threading
film through the Hi-Way Drive-In’s projectors for more than
40 years.

However, with Hollywood studios no longer offering film prints of their releases, Roger faces an ultimatum:  upgrade all four of the Hi-Way’s 35mm film projectors to expensive digital systems, or close the gates which have warmly welcomed moviegoers since 1960 forever.

The drive-in has relied on historic RCA Brenkert projectors for more than 60 years, two of which have been there since it opened in 1951, Babcock said.  Babcock, 67, and his wife, Sharon, 65, bought the Hi-Way in 1996.

The Hi-Way Drive-In on U.S. Route 9 in Coxsackie, New York, opened in 1951, joining a growing trend when television was just starting to catch on, and the Thruway was under construction.  “We are one of just 400 remaining drive-in theaters in the U.S., down from a peak of over 4,000 in the late 1950s,” Sharon Babcock said.

But now, “Studios are preparing to stop making 35 millimeter prints of their feature films,” Roger said, “shifting to digital projectors that rely on computers with special encrypted hard drives, allowing them to save up to one billion dollars each year.”

Changing to digital would come at an enormous cost.  “It would cost $300,000 to convert all four of our screens to digital projection,” he said.

Roger remains steadfast and defiant in the face of closing down.   “We have no plans on shutting the drive-in down, none whatsoever,” he said.

But finding the money for digital projectors won’t come easy.  Babcock tried donation boxes and a fundraising campaign to the raise money, but these efforts netted just $4,160– which doesn’t even begin to cover the $26,000 to $40,000 deposit required just to get the digital projectors delivered, he said.

Babcock has turned to Social Security to help allow him to offset the cost of digital and keep the movies running for the community.  “Social Security at my age is going to help pay for this,” he said.

“The Hi-Way is going to an absolute extreme to show movies to customers that want to see movies in an outdoor setting,” he said.  “With Social Security, the monthly payments are reasonable enough for us to convert two or three screens, but not four.”

Babcock said the future of the fourth screen is still up in the air.  He said he’s considering buying a used digital projector for about $39,000 to show older movies that aren’t subject to the complex rules and regulations that first-run movies are.  Showing 35-milimeter films on the fourth screen is not an option, he said, because the movie studios prohibit theaters from showing digital movies and film at the same time. “With digital it’s all in, or nothing,” he added.

Digital projection will bring brighter, clearer and crisper pictures to the drive-in, but with many strings attached, he said.  Cost is the biggest factor.  Babcock won’t see anything on his bottom line for seven to 10 years if he switches to digital.

“Right now, our movies are affordable.  A double feature is $9 for adults and $4 for kids for new movies,” Sharon said.  “We don’t want to have to raise our prices to exorbitant levels to pay for digital,” she said.

Over the years, since Roger Babcock started at the drive-in as a box office attendant in 1971, he has learned how to fix just about anything on the 60-plus-year-old projectors in his projection room.  He keeps a warehouse of parts, a place he said he hardly ever has to visit. 

“These projectors are real workhorses,” he said.  “All I replace is bulbs and a gear here and there.”

He takes pride in maintaining the old projectors, and setting up films, which can stretch to 1.5 miles for a feature length film.  He said he loves it when guests assume a movie is digital because the picture quality is so clear.

The manufacturers expect the digital projectors to last just 10-15 years, Roger noted.  “Bulbs that cost $2,000 would only last for 75% of our outdoor movie season,” he said.

Roger also said he needs an internet connection for studio monitoring, something he never had to worry about with the old film projectors.  The projection room must also be a ‘clean room’, too– with heating, air-conditioning, and filtered air year round.  As for doing his own maintenance, that’s off the table, also.  “My contract would not allow me to do that,” he said.  “I would have to bring someone in for $1,400 a day.”

One thing that’s not an issue for the Babcock’s is attracting guests.  There’s a line of cars outside the gate every night before every double feature begins.  He said it’s thriving because they’ve focused on making the Hi-Way a great experience.  It’s popular with nostalgic baby-boomers, young people, and families who can be sure that one screen is devoted to kids movies each week.

“Many regulars come every week to see a new film,” he said.  “We even get people from the city.”

In the face of digital adversity and an uncertain future, Roger is refusing to quit.  He just won’t let the community and his movie-going public down.  And he doesn’t want to retire. 

Simply put, he and Sharon love what they do.  They understand they will have to go digital– or end up fading to black.

“We’re looking forward to seeing everyone during the 2015 season,” he said, with pride.

~Via Tansy Michaud, Adam Carboni, the Hi-Way Drive-In,
   Daily Freeman, Vimeo

* * * * * * * * * * *

Our appreciation goes out to Roger and Sharon Babcock, Joyce Lehnert, and John Waters for being the underdogs and saving a little piece of Americana community.

 

 

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The Year in Review– in Two and a Half Minutes

 

2014:  Looking Back, Month by Month

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

For a year riddled with milestones, tragedies and epic world events, the important and not-so-important moments get muddled over time.  Slowly fading from our memory, they become part of a distant past we largely forget.

Thankfully, Brooklyn-based artist and “stuff-maker” Mac Premo co-wrote, directed, shot and edited a clever year in review video, tackling most things major and minor, one month at a time.

Thoughtful, spot on, and at times humorously amusing, it’s two and a half well-spent minutes—visualized in a way Premo can muster out.

From a chalkboard depiction of Ebola spreading to continents– to the notion that Brazil lost their World Cup game so severely as to avert eyes away from their corruption scandals– it’s a real retrospective.

While some issues may be distressing, that’s how life goes on this crazy planet. 

2014 Year in Review still remains an enjoyable and upbeat montage helping us remember what all went down and to savor our small corner of the Humboldt world where nothing really happens.

 

 

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Pioneering Philanthropists Launch Clean Energy Initiative

 

 

Limiting Carbon Pollution from Power Plants–
While Spurring Clean Energy Investments

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

Move over, climate change deniers.  More change is coming your way.

Just days after Time’s Editor-in-Chief declared climate change deniers were having a bad day following study after study pointing out that it’s a very real and happening problem, the smart money is now moving to the other side of the aisle— finding solutions to fix the problem.

Two charitable groups will spend $48 million over the next three years to help states figure out how to reduce emissions from electricity production, an effort to seize the possibilities that are opening up as the cost of clean power falls.

It’s a relatively small amount of money for an enormous problem at hand.  But it has the potential of leveraging large-scale planning towards cleaner energy, stabilizing power delivery, and reducing greenhouse emissions.  The goal is for planning a regional energy infrastructure that is clean, affordable, and reliable.

The Clean Energy Initiative plan was announced this morning in New York.  Half the money will come from Bloomberg Philanthropies, the charitable organization set up by Michael R. Bloomberg, former mayor of New York City. 

The other half will come from Mark Heising and Elizabeth Simons, a California couple who have taken a strong interest in reducing the risks of climate change.  The couple advances sustainable solutions in the environment, education of children, and supports groundbreaking research in science and mathematics.

“Advances in new energy technologies make it possible to achieve all three goals at once.  A stronger, cleaner energy system will also pave the way for improved air quality and help fight the damaging health and economic impacts of climate change,” Michael Bloomberg said.

 

The Energy Plan

The Clean Energy Initiative will include analysis to determine grid optimization for different power types, potential for enhanced efficiency, and methods to make the grid more robust.  

It will identify the biggest opportunities for new technologies and support regulatory strategies for reliable and affordable energy, focusing on collaborative, state-based approaches and encouraging utilities to adopt new technologies.  

A key feature of the plan is it will allow states to choose the best combination of energy efficiency, renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power, and improvements in current power plants.

Since 2010, solar energy prices have plummeted by 80 percent, wind energy prices have been cut in half, and the cost of LED lighting has fallen by 80 percent.  American consumers stand to benefit from these developments if state policymakers can work with utilities to accelerate their adoption, and the Clean Energy Initiative hopes to provide the technical assistance for the impending transition. 

More than half of the grant funding will go to support more than two dozen state and local partners, including the Institute for Energy Innovation and the Respiratory Health Association.  Additional funds will provide support to national organizations such as the Center for the New Energy Economy, the Environmental Defense Fund, and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The Obama administration is expected this summer to make final its emissions-cutting targets for the power industry.  If that plan survives expected political and legal challenges, it may require extensive revamping of electricity markets that are largely regulated by the states. 

The low cost of natural gas, the falling cost of renewable energy and the rise of technologies that can shave electrical demand are all putting pressure on electric utilities, especially those dependent on coal.  Even without the impetus of President Obama’s plan, those factors would require adjustments in the electricity markets, energy analysts have concluded.

That’s where the smart money comes in for planning and tapping into alternative energy solutions.

 

Heising’s Goal:  Cleaning Up the Grid and Stabilizing Power

In an interview, Mr. Heising said that state governments need to seize the moment and take full advantage of the coming possibilities for “cleaning up the grid”– and, at the same time, avoid undermining the economics of the utilities that Americans depend on for a reliable supply of electricity.

“The utility businesses are being heavily disrupted,” Mark Heising said. “That’s creating some real stress for the utilities and their revenue model.  It needs to be addressed in a fair and comprehensive way.”

Heising feels climate change is the most important issue facing the world today– an impact that, if not corrected, will have devastating results for both the environment and the economy.  He intends to help fix the problem.  He also expects exponential results.

“This initiative is designed to accelerate solutions,” Heising said.  “The science on climate change makes it abundantly clear that carbon pollution poses a deep threat to society, to agriculture, and to nature—and that early action is required to avoid these threats.  New technologies ensure that the solutions to climate change can be cost-effective.”

The disruption is most evident in Europe, where utilities were slow to embrace renewable power.  Ordinary citizens, responding to government incentives and falling costs, did so in droves.  The stock market valuation of Germany’s big utilities fell drastically, and they’re scrambling to catch up to the changes on the grid.

American states are generally behind Europe in the rollout of renewable power.  Experts say that gives them time — a few years, at most — to get ahead of the coming changes.  In several states, utility companies have begun to sense the oncoming ‘green’ threat and are trying to roll back state rules favoring solar and wind power.  Environmentalists are fighting back, and in the process, the utilities have had their share of disruptions, turmoil, and failed investments.

 

Dovetailing with the President’s Idea

President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which is being developed by the Environmental Protection Agency, will most likely require most states to discourage coal-burning while encouraging the greater use of natural gas, renewable power, and efficient buildings and appliances.  

States will have some leeway to design their own strategies, but any state government that fails to do so will run the risk of having a strategy imposed on it by the federal government.

Thus, even some of the states that intend to challenge Obama’s plan in court are expected to hedge their bets by coming up with a backup strategy.  Currently, power plants are the largest source of carbon pollution in the U.S., accounting for about 38 percent of all domestic greenhouse gas emissions.  Carbon pollution is already causing long-term impacts on the economy, including increasing global temperatures, rising sea levels and more frequent extreme weather patterns.  Climate change also exacerbates health risks due to worsening smog, causing a range of respiratory illnesses.

The $48 million from Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Heising-Simons family will not go directly to state governments:  instead, the money will fund groups that can help the states with their planning.  Their aim is to cut carbon pollution from the power sector by 30 percent below 2005 levels.  This approach will also have public health benefits, including reducing smog pollution by an estimated 25 percent and avoiding up to 150,000 asthma attacks each year.

The pioneering philanthropists know there is a potential to increase renewable energy production three- to four-fold by 2025, an amount of growth that could power 28 to 41 million homes a year.  

Depending on state policy choices, existing efficiency programs and wise investments also have the potential to grow dramatically, with energy savings equivalent to the annual output of 35 to 60 coal-fired plants.

 

Heavyweights on Board and the Same Page

Two national environmental groups with technical expertise in the electricity markets, the Environmental Defense Fund and the Natural Resources Defense Council, are expected to be among the grantees.  

But the bulk of the money will go to groups with a state or regional focus.

Among the likely grantees, for example, is the Center for the New Energy Economy at Colorado State University, run by a former Democratic governor of Colorado, Bill Ritter, who signed dozens of clean-energy laws during his term.

In an interview, Ritter said his group was working with both Republican- and Democratic-led states to scrutinize the Obama administration’s plans, as well as to weigh the broader issues.  A crucial priority for the states will be keeping electricity costs reasonable, Ritter said.

“I think it’s fair to argue that there’s economic benefit to states that make the transition to a clean-energy economy,” Ritter said.  “How do you do it so it’s not on the back of middle- and lower-income ratepayers?”

Others have also weighed in on the beneficial direction the plan takes.

“The Clean Energy Initiative taps into the spirit of entrepreneurialism unleashed by new opportunities such as distributed generation, demand response and energy efficiency programs,” said Dan Scripps, President of the Institute for Energy Innovation in Michigan.  ”As states implement the EPA’s Clean Power Plan over the coming years, they will be able to tap into tremendous opportunities to save consumers money while cutting carbon.”

Rhea Suh, President of the Natural Resources Defense Council, had her take.  

“Climate change is here and now,” she said pointedly.  “Tackling this central environmental threat of our time is an enormous task, but it’s also a tremendous opportunity.  The Clean Energy Initiative will help America reinvigorate our economy and protect future generations from the dangers of climate change.”

“I’m grateful to Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Heising-Simons Foundation for their show of support,” said Environmental Defense Fund President Fred Krupp.  ”The Clean Energy Initiative will propel smart, cost-effective reduction of carbon pollution from the biggest source:  power plant smokestacks.  We know how to make affordable clean energy.  This initiative will speed the day when turning on a light doesn’t mean dirtier air or a legacy of dangerous climate change for our children.”

Joel Africk, President and CEO of the Respiratory Health Association in Chicago, offered an additional perspective.  “The Clean Energy Initiative is a big step forward for public health,” said.  ”Not only will the initiative help cut carbon and curb climate change, it will also result in fewer asthma exacerbations, heart attacks and strokes throughout the US.”

More surprising was Jim Rogers, Former Chairman and CEO of Duke Energy, also came on board.  “The power sector is in an exciting period of transformation as we build out the 21st century energy grid– a time of opportunity as states and utilities write the roadmap for a smarter power system that cuts carbon pollution while providing affordable and reliable energy,” said Rogers.  “The Clean Energy Initiative will help power companies get this right– and ultimately that’s good for the consumer.”

“With the price of clean power falling, and the potential costs of inaction on climate change steadily rising, the work of modernizing America’s power grid is both more feasible and urgent than ever,” Michael Bloomberg insisted. 

“Pollution from power plants takes a terrible toll on public health, and it’s the biggest contributor to our carbon footprint.  But smart investments can reduce it while also strengthening local economies,” said Bloomberg.  “These grants will help states meet new federal clean power requirements in ways that save money and lives.”

Climate change deniers, please move towards the exits. 
Your day has come and gone.

~Via Bloomberg, NYT, National Sierra Club, YouTube

 

 

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Study: Ocean Life Faces Extinction

 

Multiple Pressures on a Fragile Environment

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

A team of scientists, in a groundbreaking analysis of data from hundreds of sources, has concluded that humans are on the verge of causing unprecedented damage to the oceans and the animals living in them.

“We may be sitting on a precipice of a major extinction event,” said Douglas J. McCauley, an ecologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and an author of the new research, which was published on Thursday in the journal Science.

But there is still time to avert catastrophe, Dr. McCauley and his colleagues also found.  Compared with the continents, the oceans are mostly intact, still wild enough to bounce back to ecological health.

“We’re lucky in many ways,” said Malin L. Pinsky, a marine biologist at Rutgers University and another author of the new report.  “The impacts are accelerating, but they’re not so bad we can’t reverse them.”

Scientific assessments of the oceans’ health are dogged by uncertainty:  It’s much harder for researchers to judge the well-being of a species living underwater, over thousands of miles, than to track the health of a species on land.  And changes that scientists observe in specific ocean ecosystems may not reflect trends across the planet.

Dr. Pinsky, Dr. McCauley and their colleagues sought a clearer picture of the oceans’ health by pulling together data from an enormous range of sources, from discoveries in the fossil record to statistics on modern container shipping, fish catches and seabed mining.  While many of the findings already existed, they had never been juxtaposed in such a way.

A number of experts said the result was a remarkable synthesis, along with a nuanced and encouraging prognosis.

“I see this as a call for action to close the gap between conservation on land and in the sea,” said Loren McClenachan of Colby College, who was not involved in the study.

There are clear signs already that humans are harming the oceans to a remarkable degree, the scientists found.  Some ocean species are certainly overharvested, but even greater damage results from large-scale habitat loss, which is likely to accelerate as technology advances the human footprint, the scientists reported.

Coral reefs, for example, have declined by 40 percent worldwide, partly as a result of climate-change-driven warming.

Some fish are migrating to cooler waters already.  Black sea bass, once most common off the coast of Virginia, have moved up to New Jersey.  Less fortunate species may not be able to find new ranges.  At the same time, carbon emissions are altering the chemistry of seawater, making it more acidic.

“If you cranked up the aquarium heater and dumped some acid in the water, your fish would not be very happy,” Dr. Pinsky said.  “In effect, that’s what we’re doing to the oceans.”

Fragile ecosystems like mangroves are being replaced by fish farms, which are projected to provide most of the fish we consume within 20 years.  Bottom trawlers scraping large nets across the sea floor have already affected 20 million square miles of ocean, turning parts of the continental shelf to rubble.  Whales may no longer be widely hunted, the analysis noted, but they are now colliding more often as the number of container ships rises.

Mining operations, too, are poised to transform the ocean.  Contracts for seabed mining now cover 460,000 square miles underwater, the researchers found, up from zero in 2000.  Seabed mining has the potential to tear up unique ecosystems and introduce pollution into the deep sea.

The oceans are so vast that their ecosystems may seem impervious to change.  But Dr. McClenachan warned that the fossil record shows that global disasters have wrecked the seas before.  “Marine species are not immune to extinction on a large scale,” she said.

Until now, the seas largely have been spared the carnage visited on terrestrial species, the new analysis also found.

Humans began to alter the habitat that wildlife depended on, wiping out forests for timber, plowing under prairie for farmland, and laying down roads and railroads across continents.

Species began going extinct at a much faster pace.  Over the past five centuries, researchers have recorded 514 animal extinctions on land.  But the authors of the new study found that documented extinctions are far rarer in the ocean.

Before 1500, a few species of seabirds are known to have vanished.  Since then, scientists have documented only 15 ocean extinctions, including animals such as the Caribbean monk seal and the Steller’s sea cow.

While these figures are likely underestimates, Dr. McCauley said that the difference was nonetheless revealing.

“Fundamentally, we’re a terrestrial predator,” he said.  “It’s hard for an ape to drive something in the ocean extinct.”

Many marine species that have become extinct or are endangered depend on land — seabirds that nest on cliffs, for example, or sea turtles that lay eggs on beaches.

Still, there is time for humans to halt the damage, Dr. McCauley said, with effective programs limiting the exploitation of the oceans.  The tiger may not be salvageable in the wild — but the tiger shark may well be, he said.

“There are a lot of tools we can use,” he said.  “We better pick them up and use them seriously.”

Dr. McCauley and his colleagues argue that limiting the industrialization of the oceans to some regions could allow threatened species to recover in other ones.  “I fervently believe that our best partner in saving the ocean is the ocean itself,” said Stephen R. Palumbi of Stanford University, an author of the new study.

The scientists also argued that these reserves had to be designed with climate change in mind, so that species escaping high temperatures or low pH would be able to find refuge.

 “It’s creating a hopscotch pattern up and down the coasts to help these species adapt,” Dr. Pinsky said.

Ultimately, Dr. Palumbi warned, slowing extinctions in the oceans will mean cutting back on carbon emissions, not just adapting to them.

“If by the end of the century we’re not off the business-as-usual curve we are now, I honestly feel there’s not much hope for normal ecosystems in the ocean,” he said.

“But in the meantime, we do have a chance to do what we can.  We have a couple decades more than we thought we had, so let’s please not waste it.”

~Via MSN News, NYT, Rafa Massieu, Vimeo

* * * * * * * * * *

The climate change deniers are having a bad day.

 

 

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Free Climbing to the Top of Yosemite

 

 

Climbers Make Historic Attempt Straight Up
El Capitan Using Only Hands and Feet

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

It’s almost over.

The two climbers vying to become the first in the world to use only their hands and feet to scale a sheer granite face in California’s Yosemite National Park are almost to the top.

A spokeswoman said Tuesday that 30-year-old Kevin Jorgeson of California and 36-year-old Tommy Caldwell of Colorado will likely finish the historic half-mile climb up El Capitan’s Dawn Wall this evening.

Kevin Jorgeson, 30, of Santa Rosa, California, had been behind Tommy Caldwell, 36, of Colorado, for about a week as they try to scale El Capitan’s Dawn Wall without climbing aids other than safety ropes.

Jorgeson caught up with Caldwell at a rare ledge after his third attempt, Patagonia spokeswoman Jess Clayton said.

It’s been one long haul towards the top.

For 17 days, the two have been attempting what many thought was impossible: “free-climbing” to the 3,000-foot summit– meaning they are only using their hands and feet with safety ropes to prevent deadly falls.

Each trained for more than five years, and they have battled bloodied fingers and unseasonably warm weather making the arduous climb.  

On Friday, Jorgeson got past one of the most difficult stretches after days of failed attempts and waiting. He fell 11 times in a seven-day battle with the tough section, which required him to grab onto razor-blade-thin holds that tore up his fingers.  On another difficult section he had to make an 8-foot leap from one small slippery crevasse to another.

“Momentum is a powerful force. When it’s on your side, everything feels a bit easier.  When it’s not on your side, it feels like wading through mud,” Jorgeson wrote on Facebook of his week-long attempt to get past the particularly difficult section.

“It took everything in my power to stay positive and resolved that I would succeed.  Now that momentum has returned to my side, I’m staying just as focused and resolved because a lot of hard climbing remains.”

The climbers are more than two weeks into what is billed as the first free climb of Dawn Wall.  If the two succeed, they will be the first in the world to complete this type of climb of Dawn Wall.

They climb in the dark, using headlamps to light the way.  Climbing during the daytime would be too risky, since the sun would heat the rock, causing their tired hands to sweat and slip from the coin-thick nooks and crannies.

About a third of the way up each day, they set up camp — a hanging platform tent tethered to the wall.  They rappell down with ropes to sleep after each night’s grueling climb.  They make coffee and sandwiches.  Then they set out again.

Their beards have grown full.  Their hair, greased with sweat and brushed only with mountain air, stands on end.  Their fingers, raw and ragged from grasping at sharp crevasses in the stone, are bandaged and bleeding.

El Capitan, the largest granite monolith in the world has about 100 routes to the top. The first climber reached its summit in 1958.  In 1970, Warren Harding and Dean Caldwell (no relation to Tommy Caldwell) climbed Dawn Wall using ropes and countless rivets over 27 days.  The duo turned down a rescue attempt by park rangers in a storm.

All previous attempts used traditional mountain climbing gear for the ascent.  Caldwell and Jorgeson are making the first attempt of free climbing the 3,000 foot sheer granite monolith. 

In the meadow thousands of feet below, Jorgeson said he could see people, cold and shivering, cheering them on to the finish.

They are exhausted.  But their spirits are good, and they intend to reach the summit together without fail, they said.  When they do make it to the peak, they will enter into the annals of rock climbing by standing atop the colossal granite giant known as El Capitan.

 

 

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The E-Joint Has Arrived

 

 

New Marijuana Device Has its Advocates and Critics

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

It’s discreet, disposable, and mild—and they’re changing the way people consume marijuana.

At a recent Seahawks football game in Seattle, Shady Sadis, 41, took a drag on a slim vapor pen that looked like a jet black Marlboro.  The tip glowed red as he inhaled.

But the pen contained no nicotine.  Instead, it held 250 milligrams of cannabis oil loaded with THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

“Nobody noticed,” said Sadis, who owns several marijuana dispensaries in Washington State.  “You pull it out of your pocket, take a hit like a cigarette, put it back, and you’re done.  It’s so discreet.”

“This day and age, everybody has a vapor pen,” he said.  “You don’t know if they’re smoking marijuana or nicotine.”

“It’s the iPod of vaporizers,” said one enthusiast.  It’s “very Apple,” his friend agreed.

The device, called a JuJu Joint, heralds a union that seems all but inevitable: marijuana and the e-cigarette, together at last in an e-joint.  For years, people have been stuffing marijuana in various forms into portable vaporizers and into the cartridges of e-cigarettes.  But the JuJu Joint is disposable, requires no charging of batteries or loading of cartridges, and comes filled with 150 hits.  

You take it out of the package and put it to your lips — that’s it.  There is no smoke and no smell.

Since their introduction in April, 75,000 JuJu Joints have been sold in Washington State, where marijuana is recreationally and medically legal.  The maker says that 500,000 will be sold this year and that there are plans to expand to Colorado and Oregon, where recreational use is legal, and to Nevada, where it is decriminalized.

“I wanted to eliminate every hassle that has to do with smoking marijuana,” said Rick Stevens, 62, the inventor and co-founder of JuJu Joints with Marcus Charles, a Seattle entrepreneur.  “I wanted it to be discreet and easy for people to handle.  There’s no odor, matches or mess.”

Not everyone is so enthusiastic.  Many addiction researchers fear that e-cigarettes will pave the way to reliance on actual cigarettes, especially in teenagers.  And THC adversely affects the developing brain, some studies have found, impairing attention and memory in adolescents and exacerbating psychiatric problems.

“In some ways, e-joints are a perfect storm of a problematic delivery system, the e-cigarette, and in addition a problematic substance, cannabis oil,” said Dr. Petros Levounis, the chairman of the psychiatry department at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School.

Each JuJu Joint contains 100 milligrams of THC, twice as much as a traditional joint, as well as propylene glycol, a chemical normally used to absorb water in foods and cosmetics, said Suchitra Krishnan-Sarin, an associate professor of psychiatry at Yale University School of Medicine.

“We do not know the effects of inhaling constant doses of this agent,” she said.  “We know very little about these products and what they contain.”

Stevens, a former marketing executive who spent 30 years in the tobacco industry, defended the device’s THC content, pointing out that each inhalation is metered by the device.  “Our goal is not to get people stoned so they sit in corner and vegetate,” he said.

Local retailers report that JuJu Joints are catching on, especially with women and consumers in their 40s to 60s.

“You wouldn’t believe the demographic this has opened up,” said Ed Vallejo, 60, a manager at New Vansterdam, a recreational store in Vancouver, Wash.  “This is the older, retired set.  The younger set can’t afford it.”

“I love the convenience of it,” drag queen Jinkx Monsoon said, taking a drag for the first time, pointing out it’s perfect for singers since “you don’t have to burn something and inhale the smoke.”

JuJu Joints for recreational use cost $65 to $100 each, 25 percent of which goes to the state’s Liquor Control Board.  It costs a suggested donation of $25 at medical dispensaries.  Purchasers must be at least 21.

“The underlying reason people buy it is because of its design and because you can smoke it in public,” said Lindsay Middleton, 21, a bud-tender at Green Lady Marijuana, a recreational store in Olympia.  Though smoking marijuana in public is illegal, customers report using JuJu Joints while skiing, hiking and going to concerts.

One may not immediately feel anything after using the JuJu Joint— the company website says to “enjoy three or four hits and give it five minutes.”  Even when it does hit its user, it’s a softer high than most are used to.  After you’ve taken a few drags, one can slip the device into their pocket without worrying about spilling ashes or weed into their pants.

Law enforcement agencies are concerned that discreet vapor pens filled with cannabis oil are already being abused by teenagers, and that many are sure to lay hands on JuJu Joints.

“If you go on Instagram, you will find hundreds of thousands of postings by kids on how they are using variants of e-cigarettes, or e-cigarettes themselves, to smoke pot in the presence of their parents and at school, and getting by,” said Barbara Carreno, a spokeswoman for the Drug Enforcement Agency.

According to the latest Monitoring the Future Survey, an annual study of 40,000 teenagers conducted by the University of Michigan and funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2014 marked the first year that more teenagers used e-cigarettes than traditional ones.

The study also found that in the past year, 35.1 percent of 12th graders consumed marijuana, making it the most common illicit drug among high school seniors.

But users of medical marijuana may prove to be the largest market for e-joints.  The Food and Drug Administration recognizes no legitimate medical use, and there is little high-quality research backing marijuana as a remedy for the scores of conditions for which it is being used.

A few studies, however, suggest ingredients in marijuana may help relieve pain and improve appetite in patients with cancer, AIDS and multiple sclerosis.  Some researchers argue that marijuana — especially in the form of nebulized vapor — could be found beneficial to even more patients, if the federal government loosened research restrictions.

“There may be and probably is a legitimate medical use for vaping cannabis, but we need to do the research to figure out if it’s true and to find out the dosing,” said Otis Brawley, the chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society.  “But with marijuana being a Schedule 1 drug, it’s so onerous to get the licensure that many people actually skilled to do the research just choose not to.”

Ocean Greens cannabis shop owner Oltion Hyseni says there are a lot of reasons the e-joint is so popular.  ”A lot of people that are new to recreational marijuana or are coming back after years of nonsmoking, they prefer vapes over smoke.  Juju Joints are good for people who don’t want to get so baked they can’t talk, don’t want to set something on fire, and don’t want to inhale carcinogens.  Health-wise, it doesn’t have the agents that smoke has—that’s the number-one benefit,” Hyseni says.

Even though the oil in Juju Joints contains about 40 percent THC—twice the amount of THC as what you’d find in the plant material of a traditional joint— it’s a different experience.

“The first few times I tried one, I didn’t think it was making me high.  It smelled lovely and solved all the problems I associated with other vaporizers, but still, where was the high?” Chris Frizelle said.  “Only 10 or 15 minutes later did I start to feel something, and when I did, it wasn’t the same high I was used to.  It didn’t scramble my brain.  I could read a book without getting lost in the shapes of the letters, like I do if I smoke a regular joint.”

“It was fine, but I missed the sensation of smoking a joint,” said one friend after trying it.  “I felt sort of stoned but in a different way.  It was less intense, but it was kind of weirder.”

The old school way had folks making their own hash oil; grinding up the weed and flushing it with a solvent: alcohol, naphtha, hexane, butane, propane—just about any solvent will do, and stuffing it into a vaporizer by hand.

 ”People left and right are blowing up their houses doing this,” Stevens said, holding up a bottle of cannabis oil someone had made with butane as the solvent. “It’s dangerous.  The other thing about using petrochemicals is that they end up in the final product, so Juju Joints don’t use petrochemicals in the first place.”

After simple trial and error, Stevens devised a system that uses liquid CO2, which is safe to ingest and also acts as a sterilizer—taking care of any bugs, mold, or mildew that might be in the weed.

Stevens is now developing a JuJu Joint that contains only cannabidiol, or CBD, a nonpsychoactive extract of marijuana that advocates say can prevent seizures.  This version contains less than 0.3 percent THC, so it would be legal nationwide.

The world belongs to those who build a better mousetrap, and the sky appears to be the limit for cannabis connoisseurs and entrepreneurs alike in this day and age.

 

~Via MSN News, NYT, The Stranger, YouTube, JuJu Joint

* * * * * * * * *

Want to know more?   Here’s the unofficial stoner’s review.

 

 

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A Transgender Teen’s Final Words

 

 

Leelah Alcorn’s Suicide Note in Full:

 
‘My Death Needs to Mean Something’

 

**VIDEO**

 

By Leelah Alcorn

 

 

After committing suicide and sparking a nationwide debate, 17-year-old Ohio transgender teen Leelah (Josh) Alcorn’s suicide note was taken down from her Tumblr account.  Others copies of her final words were scrubbed from social media as well. 

“My death needs to mean something,” Leelah wrote as she pled for change. 

We agree.  We are re-posting her final words for the sake of posterity—and for others to have an understanding of the issue.

 

“If you are reading this, it means that I have committed suicide and obviously failed to delete this post from my queue.

Please don’t be sad, it’s for the better.  The life I would’ve lived isn’t worth living in… because I’m transgender.  

I could go into detail explaining why I feel that way, but this note is probably going to be lengthy enough as it is.

To put it simply, I feel like a girl trapped in a boy’s body, and I’ve felt that way ever since I was 4.  I never knew there was a word for that feeling, nor was it possible for a boy to become a girl, so I never told anyone and I just continued to do traditionally “boyish” things to try to fit in.

When I was 14, I learned what transgender meant and cried of happiness.  After 10 years of confusion I finally understood who I was.  I immediately told my mom, and she reacted extremely negatively, telling me that it was a phase, that I would never truly be a girl, that God doesn’t make mistakes, that I am wrong.  If you are reading this, parents, please don’t tell this to your kids.  Even if you are Christian or are against transgender people don’t ever say that to someone, especially your kid.  That won’t do anything but make them hate them self.  That’s exactly what it did to me.

My mom started taking me to a therapist, but would only take me to christian therapists, (who were all very biased) so I never actually got the therapy I needed to cure me of my depression.  I only got more christians telling me that I was selfish and wrong and that I should look to God for help.

When I was 16 I realized that my parents would never come around, and that I would have to wait until I was 18 to start any sort of transitioning treatment, which absolutely broke my heart.  

The longer you wait, the harder it is to transition.  I felt hopeless, that I was just going to look like a man in drag for the rest of my life.  On my 16th birthday, when I didn’t receive consent from my parents to start transitioning, I cried myself to sleep.

I formed a sort of a “f*** you” attitude towards my parents and came out as gay at school, thinking that maybe if I eased into coming out as trans it would be less of a shock.  

Although the reaction from my friends was positive, my parents were pissed.  They felt like I was attacking their image, and that I was an embarrassment to them.  They wanted me to be their perfect little straight christian boy, and that’s obviously not what I wanted.

So they took me out of public school, took away my laptop and phone, and forbid me of getting on any sort of social media, completely isolating me from my friends.  This was probably the part of my life when I was the most depressed, and I’m surprised I didn’t kill myself.  I was completely alone for 5 months.  No friends, no support, no love.  Just my parent’s disappointment and the cruelty of loneliness.

At the end of the school year, my parents finally came around and gave me my phone and let me back on social media.  I was excited, I finally had my friends back.  They were extremely excited to see me and talk to me, but only at first.  Eventually they realized they didn’t actually give a s**t about me, and I felt even lonelier than I did before.  The only friends I thought I had only liked me because they saw me five times a week.

After a summer of having almost no friends plus the weight of having to think about college, save money for moving out, keep my grades up, go to church each week and feel like s**t because everyone there is against everything I live for, I have decided I’ve had enough.

I’m never going to transition successfully, even when I move out.  I’m never going to be happy with the way I look or sound.  I’m never going to have enough friends to satisfy me. I’m never going to have enough love to satisfy me.   I’m never going to find a
man who loves me. I’m never going to be happy.

Either I live the rest of my life as a lonely man who wishes he were a woman or I live my life as a lonelier woman who hates herself.  There’s no winning.  There’s no way out.  I’m sad enough already, I don’t need my life to get any worse.  People say “it gets better” but that isn’t true in my case.  It gets worse.  Each day I get worse.

That’s the gist of it, that’s why I feel like killing myself.

Sorry if that’s not a good enough reason for you, it’s good enough for me.  As for my will, I want 100% of the things that I legally own to be sold and the money (plus my money in the bank) to be given to trans civil rights movements and support groups, I don’t give a s**t which one.

The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren’t treated the way I was, they’re treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights.  Gender needs to be taught about in schools, the earlier the better.  My death needs to mean something.  

My death needs to be counted in the number of transgender people who commit suicide this year.  I want someone to look at that number and say “that’s f***ed up” and fix it.  Fix society.  Please.”

Goodbye,

(Leelah) Josh Alcorn

 

* * * * * * * * * *

The back story:

When transgender teen Leelah Alcorn committed suicide by walking into traffic on Sunday, her death – and suicide note – sparked a nationwide debate about how families should react when a child comes out as transgender.

“I immediately told my mom,” Leelah wrote about coming out in an emotional suicide note posted on her Tumblr account.  ”She reacted extremely negatively, telling me that it was a phase, that I would never truly be a girl, that God doesn’t make mistakes, that I am wrong.”

When the note and Leelah’s other comments went public, the reaction was swift – and heated.  Leelah’s name began trending on Twitter, with some activists scorning the Alcorns.

But Alcorn’s mother, Carla, insists that she only wanted what was best for her child. 

During an interview with CNN on Wednesday, she explained her point of view.  “We don’t support that, religiously,” Carla Alcorn said.  ”But we told him that we loved him unconditionally.  We loved him no matter what.  He was an amazing musician and artist,” she said. “He was an amazing boy.  I loved my son.  People need to know that I loved him.  He was a good kid, a good boy.”

She said her child was depressed and on medication and that, “he just quit talking about [being transgender.]”

The next day, the teen’s father, Doug, wrote an email to local news station WCPO. “We love our son, Joshua, very much and are devastated by his death.”

Many have criticized the Alcorns for referring to Leelah by her given name, Joshua, and for using male pronouns when discussing their child.

“It’s so damaging to do that,” says Johanna Olson, Medical Director for the Center of Trans Youth Health and Development at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.  ”It’s so tragic.  Just the process of listening and being open to your child will save your life.  I ask parents if they’d rather have an alive daughter or a dead son.  It’s tragic to hear of such a lack of parental support.”

“Did Leelah’s parents love her?  Yes, I’m sure they did,” says Olson.  ”Did they support her?  No, they didn’t.  And that’s a tragedy.”

Beyond the debate, the Alcorns, who have other children, say that they are still reeling over their child’s suicide – but don’t wish to become part of a national controversy.

“We have no desire to enter a political storm or debate with people who did not know him,” Doug Alcorn wrote in his note to WCPO.  ”We wish to grieve in private.”

To note, a 2011 study by the National Center for Transgender Equality found that 41% of 6,450 responding transgender and gender nonconforming people have attempted suicide.

~Via Yahoo News, CatholicTrans, ABC-9, and YouTube

 

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The Vanishing Monarch Butterfly

 

90% of the Population has Disappeared

 

Award-Winning **VIDEO**

 

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

They are the butterflies we remember fondly from our childhood. 
And they are disappearing in large numbers.

Monarch butterflies may warrant U.S. Endangered Species Act protection because of farm-related habitat loss blamed for sharp declines in cross-country migrations of the orange-and-black insects, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said on Monday.

An estimated 1 billion monarchs migrated to Mexico in 1996 compared with just 35 million last year, according to Marcus Kronforst, a University of Chicago ecologist who has studied monarchs.

Monarch populations are estimated to have fallen by as much as 90 percent during the past two decades because of destruction of milkweed plants they depend on to lay their eggs and nourish hatching larvae, according to the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.

The loss of the plant is tied to factors such as increased cultivation of crops genetically engineered to withstand herbicides that kill native vegetation, including milkweed, the conservation group says.  Some believe poisonous GMO corn pollen has significantly contributed to the loss of monarchs.

Monarchs, unique among butterflies for the regularity and breadth of their annual migration, are also threatened by widespread pesticide use and logging of mountain forests in central Mexico and coastal California where some of them winter, said biologist Karen Oberhauser at the University of Minnesota.

The Fish and Wildlife Service said on Monday a petition requesting federal protections for monarchs – filed by the Xerces Society and others – “presents substantial information indicating that listing may be warranted.”

The agency’s initial review will take about a year to complete.

The butterflies, revered for their delicate beauty after emerging from a jade green chrysalis ornamented by gold stitching, are roughly divided into two populations in the United States according to their fall migration patterns.

Monarchs from east of the Continental Divide wing across 3,000 miles to Mexico, while those from west of the Divide in Rocky Mountain states like Idaho make a relatively shorter journey to California.

Monarch populations are tracked by an extensive network of professional and citizen scientists who make up part of the butterfly’s vast and loyal following.

“Almost every person I’ve talked to about monarchs has expressed a deep love and admiration for them that was often formed in childhood,” said Beth Waterbury, regional wildlife biologist for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

The monarchs’ navigation remains mysterious.  While they are known to orient themselves by the sun’s position and by the Earth’s magnetic field on cloudy days, it is unclear how new generations find their way to wintering sites they have never seen, Oberhauser said.

~Via Yahoo News, Reuters, DisneyNature, and Vimeo

* * * * * * * * * *

People should make a point of planting some milkweed on their property, even in flower gardens. 
It’s a pleasant looking plant, easy to grow, and it’s good having the monarchs around.

 

 

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MIT Scientist: Increased Autism in Children Due to GMOs

 

 

‘Half of All Kids Will Be Autistic in Ten Years’

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

For over three decades, Stephanie Seneff, PhD, has been an MIT researcher in the fields of biology and technology.  She has published over 170 scholarly peer-reviewed articles over the years.

In recent years Dr. Seneff has concentrated on the relationship between nutrition and health, tackling such topics as Alzheimer’s, autism, and cardiovascular diseases, as well as the impact of nutritional deficiencies and environmental toxins on human health.

At a conference last week, in a special panel discussion about GMOs, the MIT Senior Research Scientist took the audience by surprise when she declared:

 

At today’s rate, by 2025, one in two children will be autistic.”

 

Seneff noted that the side effects of autism closely mimic those of glyphosate toxicity, and presented data showing a remarkably consistent correlation between the use of Roundup on crops– and the creation of Roundup-ready GMO crop seeds– with rising rates of autism.  

Children with autism have biomarkers indicative of excessive glyphosate, including zinc and iron deficiency, low serum sulfate, seizures, and mitochondrial disorder.

Dr. Seneff noted the ubiquity of glyphosate’s use. Because it is used on corn and soy, all soft drinks and candies sweetened with corn syrup and all chips and cereals that contain soy fillers have small amounts of glyphosate in them, as do our beef and poultry since cattle and cp are fed GMO corn or soy.

Wheat is often sprayed with Roundup just prior to being harvested, which means that all non-organic bread and wheat products would also be sources of glyphosate toxicity.  The amount of glyphosate in each product may not be large, but the cumulative effect– especially with as much processed food as Americans eat– could be devastating.

A recent study shows that pregnant women living near farms where pesticides are applied have a 60% increased risk of children having an autism spectrum disorder.

…A brief excerpt here, you can read the full article at the Alliance for Natural Health.

 

* * * * * * * * *

Dr. Seneff’s report caught us by surprise. 

She knows her stuff; she’s earned her credentials.  She has researched compelling and detailed evidence of the correlation between glyphosate and a number of health conditions, including autism, that’s she’s brought to the table. 

But if you remember your lessons learned from basic science class, correlation does not equal causation— at least not quite yet.  It’s just the first step towards a possible conclusion.

Yet this is another reason why consumers should have the benefit of GMO food labeling so we can make the most informed choices concerning our health, what we eat, and the agricultural practices we support.

On the 1st day of the California 2015 Legislature, Monday, January 5, there will be a rally from 9:30 until noon in support of GMO food labeling at the California State Capitol South steps located at 11th and N Streets in Sacramento. 

Supported by the California State Grange which has taken a policy stance against GMO production, you can contact Jessica at (916) 715-2731 or LabelGMOs.org for more information about the GMO labeling rally.

The more we learn about GMOs and its related herbicide and pesticide use from reliable and unquestionable sources, the more we abhor it. 

 

 

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The Christmas Miracle of Charlie Brown

 

 

And the WW II German Pilot Who Saved Him

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

The 21-year old American B-17 pilot glanced outside his cockpit. 
He froze in terror.

He blinked hard and looked again in disbelief.  His co-pilot stared at the same horrible sight.  ”My God, this is a nightmare,” the co-pilot said.  ”He’s going to destroy us.”

The young pilot, Charlie Brown, agreed.

The men were looking up at a gray German Messerschmitt 109 fighter hovering just three feet off their wingtip.  It was five days before Christmas, 1943, and the fighter had closed in on their crippled American B-17 bomber, Ye Olde Pub, honing in for the kill.

The B-17 pilot, Charles Brown, was a 21-year-old West Virginia farm boy on his first combat mission.  His bomber had already been shot to pieces by swarming fighters following a successful bombing run over Bremen.  Severely damaged, it fell behind the rest of the bombing squadron as they quickly headed for home.  His plane was now alone, limping along and struggling to stay afloat in the skies above Germany.

Charlie and most of his crew were wounded and the tail gunner was dead, his blood frozen over in icicles on the machine guns.

But when Brown and his co-pilot, Spencer “Pinky” Luke, looked at the fighter pilot again, something very odd happened.  The German didn’t pull the trigger.  He simply stared back at the bomber in amazement and respect.  What happened next was one of the most remarkable acts of chivalry ever recorded during World War II.

Instead of pressing the attack, the German nodded at Charlie Brown and saluted.  It was a Christmas miracle.

 

Two Pilots, Two Foes

Charles Brown was on his first combat mission during World War II when he met an enemy unlike any other: An ace German pilot named Franz Stigler.

Stigler wasn’t just any fighter pilot. He was veteran Luftwaffe fighter pilot with over 480 missions, 25 kills, and a successful North Africa campaign to his credit.  Stigler had already shot down two B-17s that day.  One more kill and he would earn the Knight’s Cross, Germany’s highest award for valor.

Yet Stigler was driven by something deeper than glory.  Stigler’s older brother, August, was a fellow Luftwaffe pilot who had been killed earlier in the war.  American pilots had killed Stigler’s comrades and were now bombing his country’s cities.

Stigler was initially refueling and rearming his fighter on the ground of a German airbase when he had heard a bomber’s engine.  Looking up, he saw a B-17 flying so low he thought it was going to land.  As the bomber disappeared behind some trees, Stigler tossed his cigarette aside, saluted a ground crewman, and took off in his BF-109 in pursuit.  Revenge, not honor, is what drove 2nd Lt. Franz Stigler to jump into his fighter that chilly December day in 1943.  

As Stigler’s fighter rose to meet the bomber, he decided to attack it from behind.  He climbed behind the sputtering bomber, squinted into his gun sight and placed his hand on the trigger.  

He was about to fire– then he hesitated.  Stigler was baffled.  No one in the bomber fired at him.

He came closer to look at the tail gunner.  He was still, his white fleece collar soaked with blood.  Stigler craned his neck to examine the rest of the bomber.  The Plexiglas nose was shattered by flak, its skin had been peeled away by shells, its guns were knocked out.  One propeller wasn’t turning.  Smoke trailed from the other engine.  Half the tail was gone.  He could see injured men huddled inside the shattered plane tending to the wounds of the other incapacitated crewmen.

Then he nudged his plane alongside the bomber’s wings and locked eyes with the pilot whose eyes were wide open in shock and terror, his hands fumbling at the controls to keep the plane aloft.

Stigler pressed his hand over the rosary he kept in his flight jacket.  He eased his index finger off the trigger.  He couldn’t shoot.  It would be murder.

 

A Higher Call of Duty

“I didn’t have the heart to finish those brave men,” Stigler recalled.  “I flew beside them for a long time.  They were desperately trying to get home, and I was going to let them do that.  I could not have shot at them.”

Stigler wasn’t just motivated by vengeance that day.  He also lived by a moral code of honor.  He could trace his family’s ancestry to knights in 16th century Europe; he had once studied to be a priest. 

Stigler considered his options.  He knew a German pilot sparing the life of the enemy would risk certain death by execution in wartime Nazi Germany.

Yet Stigler could also hear the voice of his commanding officer, who once told him:  ”You are fighter pilots first, last, and always.  You follow the rules of war for you– not your enemy.  You fight by rules to keep your humanity.  If I ever hear of any of you shooting at someone in a parachute, I’ll shoot you myself.”  

Stigler later said, “To me, it was just like they were in a parachute.  I saw them and I couldn’t shoot them down.”

Alone with the crippled bomber, Stigler changed his mind and his mission.  He nodded at the American pilot and began flying in formation so German anti-aircraft gunners on the ground wouldn’t shoot down the slow-moving bomber.

Stigler escorted the bomber out of harm’s way over the North Sea and took one last look at the American pilot.

Then he saluted him, peeled his fighter away, and returned to Germany.  “Good luck,” Stigler said to himself.  ”You’re in God’s hands now…”

He also said goodbye to the German Iron Cross that he richly deserved.  Franz Stigler didn’t think the big B-17 could make it back to England.  He wondered for years what had happened to the American pilot and crew he encountered in combat.

As for Charlie Brown and Ye Olde Pub, it was a truly bewildering moment.  As he watched the German fighter pilot escort him to the coast, salute in farewell, and then fly away that December day, 2nd Lt. Charles Brown wasn’t waxing philosophical about enemies.  He was thinking of survival. 

Before the bizarre encounter with Stigler had occurred, Brown, lacking oxygen, had lost consciousness and awakened to find Ye Olde Pub in a dive at 5,000 ft.  He struggled to regain the controls and pulled the bomber out of the dive at 1,000 ft, beginning the long flight home in the shattered bomber when Stigler happened to show up.

Charlie flew his crippled plane, filled with the wounded, back to his base in England.  Not knowing if they would make it back home or not given the poor conditon Ye Olde Pub was in, Charlie gave his young crew the choice of bailing out.   They all chose to stay.

The 21-year-old captain nursed the warship along as best as he could.  The B-17 landed with one of four engines knocked out, one failing, and with barely any fuel left.  The bomber’s internal oxygen, hydraulic and electrical systems were sorely damaged; only half of its rudder and port side elevator were left remaining. 

After Brown’s bomber came to a stop in England, he slumped back in his chair and put a hand over the pocket Bible he kept in his flight jacket.  Then he sat in silence, exhausted, flak wounds to his shoulder.

Brown reported the incident to his superiors but was ordered to keep the matter secret.  His commanding officers did not want any word of a chivalrous German pilot sparing the life of an American soldier to get out.  Brown kept it to himself and never spoke of it, even at postwar reunions.

Stigler, likewise, never reported the incident for risk of a court martial.  He told his superiors that he had escorted the bomber over the North Sea where he shot it down.

 

‘We’ll Meet Again Some Sunny Day’

Brown flew more missions before the war ended.  Life moved on; he got married, had two daughters, supervised foreign aid for the U.S. State Department during the Vietnam War, and eventually retired to Florida earning the rank of Colonel.

Later in life, though, the encounter with the German pilot gnawed at him.  He started having nightmares.  But in his dreams there would be no act of mercy.  He would awaken just before his bomber crashed.

Brown took on a new mission in his remaining life.  He wanted to find that German pilot who spared him and the lives of his crew.  Who was he?  Why did he save my life?  He scoured military archives in the U.S. and England.  He attended a pilots’ reunion and shared his story.  He finally placed an ad in a German newsletter for former Luftwaffe pilots, retelling the story and asking if anyone knew the pilot.

In January of 1990, Brown received a letter.  Opening it, he read:

“Dear Charles,

All these years I wondered what happened to that B-17, did she make it home?  Did her crew survive their wounds?  To hear of your survival has filled me with indescribable joy.  I was the one.”

 

It was Franz Stigler.

Treated poorly after the war and working as a lowly brick mill laborer, Stigler left Germany in 1953 and moved to Vancouver, British Columbia, where he became a prosperous businessman.  Now retired, Stigler told Brown that he would be in Florida come summer and that ”it sure would be nice to talk about our encounter.”

Brown was so excited, though, that he couldn’t wait to see Stigler.  He called directory assistance for Vancouver and asked whether there was a number for a Franz Stigler.  He dialed the number, and Stigler picked it up.

They spoke on the phone for hours.  Stigler described his plane, the escort, the salute, and confirming everything Brown needed to hear to know that he was indeed the German fighter pilot involved in the incident.

“My God, it’s you!” Brown shouted as tears ran down his cheeks.  

Brown had to do more.  He wrote a letter to Stigler in which he said:  ”To say THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU on behalf of my surviving crewmembers and their families appears totally inadequate.”

Charlie Brown and Franz Stigler met and had a summer reunion together.  Both men looked like retired businessmen; they were now plump, sporting neat ties and formal shirts. They fell into each others’ arms and wept and laughed.  They talked about their encounter in a light, jovial tone.

Then the mood changed.  Someone asked Stigler what he thought about Brown.  Stigler sighed and his square jaw tightened.  He began to fight back tears before he haltingly said in heavily accented English:  ”I love you, Charlie.”

Stigler had lost his brother, his friends and his country.  He was virtually forgotten by his countrymen after the war.  While there were 28,000 pilots who fought for the German air force, only 1,200 of them survived.  Losses were also heavy on the other side:  30,000 Americans roughly the age of 22 lost their lives in B-17s during the war. 

The war had cost Stigler everything.  “Charlie Brown was the only good thing that came out of World War II,” Stigler said.  “It was the one thing I could be proud of.”

 

Brothers, Heroes, Foes

Brown and Stigler became best pals.  They would take fishing trips together.  They would fly cross-country to each other homes and take road trips together to share their story at schools and veterans’ reunions.  Their wives, Jackie Brown and Hiya Stigler, became friends.

Brown’s daughter, Dawn Warner, says her father would worry about Stigler’s health and constantly check in on him.

“It wasn’t just for show,” she says.  ”They really did feel for each other.  They talked about once a week.” 

As his friendship with Stigler deepened, something else happened to her father, Warner says:  “The nightmares went away.”

Brown had written a letter of thanks to Stigler, but one day, he wanted to show the extent of his gratitude.  He organized a reunion of his surviving crew members, along with their extended families.  He invited Stigler as a guest of honor.

During the reunion, a video was played showing all the faces of the people that now lived – numerous children, grandchildren, relatives, crew members – because of Stigler’s act of chivalry.  The former German pilot, watching the film from his seat of honor, cried.

 ”Everybody was crying, not just him,” Warner says.

Stigler and Brown died within months of each other in 2008; Stigler was 92, and Brown was 87.  They had started off as enemies, became friends, and then became something more.

After he died, Warner was searching through Brown’s library when she came across a book on German fighter jets.  Stigler had given the book to Brown.  Both were country boys who loved to read about planes.

Warner opened the book and saw an inscription Stigler had written to Charlie Brown:

“In 1940, I lost my only brother as a night fighter.  On the 20th of December, 4 days before Christmas, I had the chance to save a B-17 from her destruction, a plane so badly damaged it was a wonder that she was still flying.

The pilot, Charlie Brown, is for me as precious as my brother was.”

Thanks Charlie.

Your Brother,
   Franz

 

 

~Via Hub911, Aerial Chivalry, Wayne Freedman, Sabaton, and Youtube
  A sincere appreciation goes out to Valor Art Studios and John D. Shaw

  And don’t miss this head-banging piece of the incident and the 
  young, brave B-17 crews that we especially liked, here.

 

 

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Sony Cyberattack: Hackers Win

 

 

But We’ll Show You the Film Trailers Anyway !

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

U.S. officials are treating a cyberattack on Sony Pictures as a “serious national security matter,” with the National Security Council considering a proportionate response, the White House said.

Evidence shows the attack against Sony was carried out by a “sophisticated actor,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.  But he declined to blame North Korea, saying the investigation is still progressing.

That country is suspected of orchestrating the hack in retaliation for the Sony film The Interview, about a fictional plot to assassinate Pyongyang’s leader, Kim Jong Un.

The film portrays Seth Rogen and James Franco as frustrated television journalists who are recruited by the CIA to assassinate the North Korean leader. 

Wanna go kill Kim Jong-un?” Franco’s character asks in the movie.

“Totally.  I’d love to assassinate Kim Jong-un – it’s a date,” Rogen’s character replies.

In the film’s climactic scene, Kim Jong Un’s head is seen exploding when his helicopter is hit by a missile.

The company on Wednesday cancelled the film’s scheduled December 25 release after the four largest U.S. theater chains said they would not show it.  A spokesman said Sony “has no further release plans” for the $44 million comedy, The New York Times reported.

According to media reports, U.S. officials speaking on the condition of anonymity said investigators have connected North Korea to the cyberattack.  North Korea denies involvement and wants to join the US probe into the matter, saying they can prove they’re not behind the security breach.

The massive breach resulted in the leak of tens of thousands of documents of confidential Sony data, including the private details of thousands of company employees, former employees and freelancers, as well as several Hollywood stars and their squabbles.  The leaks also include financial data and high-quality copies of films yet to be released.

The leak has also escalated to threats of terrorist attacks over the film.  A hacker group calling itself Guardians of Peace promised a “bitter fate” to those who attend The Interview showings.  

The group– invoking the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States– warned people to stay away from theaters where the film is playing.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security says “there is no credible intelligence to indicate an active plot against movie theaters.” 

President Barack Obama also downplayed the threat, calling Sony’s quick cancellation “a mistake” and saying his “recommendation would be that people go to the movies.”

Nonetheless, Sony raised the white flag and surrendered, even though, surprisingly enough, its economy is larger than that of North Korea’s. 

Yes, that’s true.

 

Sony’s Response

Sony was preparing for a Christmas Day release of the comedy about two journalists recruited by the Central Intelligence Agency to assassinate North Korea’s leader.

But not anymore.  They’re backing down altogether.

In a statement about its cancellation, Sony said it was “deeply saddened at this brazen effort to suppress the distribution of a movie and, in the process, do damage to our company, our employees and the American public.  We stand by our filmmakers and their right to free expression and are extremely disappointed by this outcome.”

In an interview late Wednesday with ABC News, Obama called the cyberattack on Sony Pictures “very serious.”

 ”We’re investigating it.  We’re taking it seriously.  We’ll be vigilant,” Obama said.  ”If we see something that we think is serious and credible, we’ll alert the public.  But, for now, my recommendation would be that people go to the movies.”

 

Pyongyang Condemns Movie

While Americans might be used to such irreverent humor, Pyongyang isn’t laughing.

In fact, they’re pissed.  Crazy-pissed.

Pyongyang has strongly denounced the comedy as an act of terrorism and had called for Sony to cancel the film.  It has praised the hacking as a “righteous deed,” while insisting it is not involved in the intrusion.

“The act of making and screening such a movie that portrays the attack on our top leadership… is a most wanton act of terror and act of war, and is absolutely intolerable,” a Foreign Ministry statement carried by North Korea’s official KCNA news agency on Wednesday read.

The ministry called on Washington to ban the film from being screened, warning that failure to do so would trigger a “resolute and merciless counter-measure response.”

It is not clear whether the Guardians of Peace group is linked to Pyongyang, which is known to have a capable group of Internet hackers at its disposal.  Some suspect the hackers may have been aided by an insider at Sony.

Pyongyang was angered by the film and in June promised “merciless retaliation.”  But it has denied involvement in the attack.  A North Korean diplomat said earlier this month the accusation was a “fabrication.”

Eriq Gardner, senior editor of The Hollywood Reporter, said the scale of the Sony hacking is unprecedented.

“There have been things that have made Hollywood studios change distribution of movies, but nothing like an attack from a nation-state forcing its hands on a movie that is really just a comedy,” Gardner said.

“… There have been some people who have speculated, maybe jokingly, that this was all just a publicity stunt,” he added.  

“But really, no matter how much money the film makes from here on out, it will not have been worth it to Sony.  This is absolutely terrible for them.”

 

Financial Loss

Doug Stone of the film industry newsletter Box Office Analyst believes Sony is set to lose up to $55 million and could opt to release the film at a later date or offer it as a video on demand.

Bruce Bennett, a North Korea analyst for the think tank RAND Corp., said Sony’s decision to cancel the film’s release sets a bad precedent.

“Foreigners who want to stop the release of a film can now follow the example of these hackers.  That’s dangerous for the United States,” said Bennett.

And, he added, it is good news for North Korea’s leaders.

“They don’t want this film to get out.  They particularly don’t want it to get on DVD and get circulated into North Korea, which a lot of outside DVDs do because it depicts Kim Jong Un accurately as being ruthless and deceptive, and in ways that don’t coincide with the regime’s propaganda,” Bennett said.

 

Hollywood Reacts

Many in Hollywood spoke out against Sony’s decision to scrap the movie’s release.

Comedian Jimmy Kimmel called the move “an un-American act of cowardice that validates terrorist’s actions and sets a terrifying precedent.”

George Clooney said “Hollywood hung Sony out to dry.”

Actor Rob Lowe declared it an “utter victory” for the hackers.  “Wow.  Everyone caved.  The hackers won.  An utter and complete victory for them.  Wow,” Lowe tweeted.

Steve Carell, whose own film set in North Korea has been canceled, said it was a “sad day for creative expression.”

This isn’t the first time North Korea’s leadership has been on the receiving end of Hollywood’s particular brand of parody.

In 2004, the South Park creators portrayed Kim’s late-father Kim Jong-il as a speech-impaired, mass-murdering alien despot in Team America: World Police

While Kim Jong-il, a noted film buff, never publicly commented on the film, North Korea’s embassy in Prague demanded that the film be banned in the Czech Republic.

“It harms the image of our country,” a North Korean diplomat said at the time.  A Czech Foreign Ministry spokesman rebuffed Pyongyang, saying “it’s absurd to demand that in a democratic country.”

Kim Myong-chol, executive director of The Centre for North Korea-US Peace and an unofficial spokesman for the Pyongyang regime, strangely enough said North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un, in fact, plans to see The Interview.

~Via BBC, VOA, Google News, RT, Sony Pictures, YouTube

 

 

* * * * * * * *

Regardless of the threats and hacks and attacks, we’ll show you the film trailers anyway– while they’re still up and running.

If North Korea and Kim Jong Un don’t like it, oh well, that’s too bad.   Cry us a river.  What would America think if Charlie Chaplin’s 1940 ‘The Great Dictator’ was cancelled because Der Führer didn’t like it?

The movie may be in poor taste but that’s how politcal satire goes.  The Sony story is downright bizarre — and we don’t just mean the hacking.  We mean the decision to make the stupid movie in the first place.

Nevertheless, we believe in free and independent media and we’ll stand up for it– even if Sony won’t. 

We may be small, but we’re still Humboldt.  So come and get us.  We’re waiting.  And we’ll leave the light on for you.

 

 

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Stephen Colbert Bids The Nation Adieu

 

The Colbert Report Calling It Quits:

‘We’ll Meet Again Some Sunny Day’

 

**Viral VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

Colbert Nation.  It’s all over except for the applause.

After nine years on the air as host of the The Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert is calling it quits and throwing in the sarcastic towel.  Feared by many, hated by some, watched by all, Colbert is heading to CBS to take David Letterman’s Late Show spot in September.

He leaves an uncertain legacy for the media he revolutionized and the culture he altered.  Without him on TV four nights a week, there is a truthiness-shaped hole in our national political discourse.

He promised his audience a revolution, and, said Colbert, “One revolution is 360 degrees right back to where we were.”

“Anyone can read the news to you,” he announced when The Colbert Report debuted in 2005. “I promise to feel the news for you.”

He kept that promise, which is how he came to define our era.  For so many of us, Colbert sums up the absurdity of the Bush years, along with his hero and mentor Bill O’Reilly, whom he called Papa Bear.  ”I emulate you,” he once told O’Reilly in a poignant appearance on Fox News.  ”I want to bring your message of love and peace to a younger audience.  People in their sixties, people in their fifties – people who don’t watch your show.”

His rise in the media world was swift and ruthless. Soon after joining The Daily Show in 1997, Colbert attracted national attention for his uncompromising passion for the witty truth. 

He was able to remarkably reduce complex issues to common-sense tidbits of comedy and satire, uninhibited by facts.  He introduced America to the twin principles of “Truthiness” and “Wikiality,” where anything is true if it feels true, or if someone claims it is, correctly predicting, “The revolution will not be verified.”

And on his last night he signed off in his typical bombastic, authentic fashion.

“I know this is an emotional night for a lot of you,” he said during his opening.  “If this is your first time tuning in to ‘The Colbert Report,’ I have some terrible news.  This in fact is your last time tuning in to ‘The Colbert Report.”

The show went on as normal and ended with the sweet, emotional finale.

Colbert performed the 1939 tune We’ll Meet Again with a slew of famous friends he’s had on the show over the years: singers, actors, authors, politicians, rock stars, filmmakers, and news anchors alike.  They included Jon Stewart, Willie Nelson, Tom Brokaw, Cyndi Lauper, Bryan Cranston, Big Bird, Jeff Daniels, Katie Couric, Ken Burns, Charlie Rose, Arianna Huffington, James Franco, Michael Stipe, Barry Manilow, Christiane Amanpour, Andy Cohen, and George Lucas, among others.

“All those incredible things that people say I did– none of that was really me,” Colbert said during his goodbye.  ”You, the Nation, did all of that.  I just got paid for it.”

And then, Colbert rode away as quickly as he came into the pop culture media world.  In a sleigh with Santa and Abraham Lincoln and Alex Trebek, adorned by his Captain America shield.

Colbert will be remembered for truth.  Nobody summed up the current state of the American mind as brilliantly, as honestly, as terrifyingly as Stephen Colbert.

It’s somehow fitting that he left us so prematurely and under such mysterious circumstances.  He will be missed – even if someone very much like him returns to the airwaves in the coming
months.

Night, night, nation.

 

 

 

 

 

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US To Restore Relations With Cuba

 

After 50 Years, Obama and Castro Talk;

Republicans Furious

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

Merry Christmas, Cuba.  Our Cold War relationship is thawing.

President Obama yesterday ordered the restoration of full diplomatic relations with Cuba and the opening of an embassy in Havana for the first time in more than a half-century as he vowed to “cut loose the shackles of the past” and sweep aside one of the last vestiges of the Cold War.

The surprise announcement came at the end of 18 months of secret talks that produced a prisoner swap negotiated with the help of Pope Francis and concluded by a telephone call between Obama and President Raúl Castro.

The historic deal broke an enduring stalemate between two countries divided by just 90 miles of water but oceans of mistrust and hostility dating from the days of Theodore Roosevelt’s charge up San Juan Hill, the nuclear brinkmanship of the Cuban missile crisis, and a 50-year trade embargo.

“We will end an outdated approach that for decades has failed to advance our interests, and instead we will begin to normalize relations between our two countries,” President Obama said in a nationally televised statement from the White House.  The deal, he added, will “begin a new chapter among the nations of the Americas” and move beyond a “rigid policy that is rooted in events that took place before most of us were born.”

 

The GOP Response

In doing so, Mr. Obama ventured into diplomatic territory where the last 10 presidents refused to go, and Republicans, along with a senior Democrat, quickly characterized the rapprochement with the Castro family as appeasement of the hemisphere’s leading dictatorship.

Republican lawmakers who will take control of the Senate as well as the House next month made clear they would resist lifting the 54-year-old trade embargo.

“This entire policy shift announced today is based on an illusion, on a lie, the lie and the illusion that more commerce and access to money and goods will translate to political freedom for the Cuban people,” said Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida and son of Cuban immigrants.  “All this is going to do is give the Castro regime, which controls every aspect of Cuban life, the opportunity to manipulate these changes to perpetuate itself in power.”

For good or ill, the move represented a dramatic turning point in relations with an island that for generations has captivated and vexed its giant northern neighbor.  From the 18th century, when successive presidents coveted it, Cuba loomed large in the American imagination long before Fidel Castro stormed from the mountains and seized power in 1959.

 

The Telephone Call

President Obama has long expressed hope of transforming relations with Cuba and relaxed some travel restrictions in 2011.  But further moves remained untenable as long as Cuba held Alan P. Gross, an American government contractor arrested in 2009 and sentenced to 15 years in a Cuban prison for trying to deliver satellite telephone equipment capable of cloaking connections to the Internet.

After winning re-election, Mr. Obama resolved to make Cuba a priority.

Pope Francis encouraged the talks with letters to President Obama and Mr. Castro and had the Vatican host a meeting in October to finalize the terms of the deal.  Obama spoke with Castro by telephone on Tuesday to seal the agreement in a call that lasted more than 45 minutes, the first direct substantive contact between the leaders of the two countries in more than 50 years.

On Wednesday morning, Mr. Gross walked out of a Cuban prison and boarded an American military plane that flew him to Washington, accompanied by his wife, Judy.  While eating a corned beef sandwich on rye bread with mustard during the flight, Mr. Gross received a call from Mr. Obama.  “He’s back where he belongs, in America with his family, home for Hanukkah,” the President said later.

For its part, the United States sent back three imprisoned Cuban spies who were caught in 1998.

 

Easing Restrictions, Yes; –But Embargo Still in Place

The United States will ease restrictions on remittances, travel and banking, while Cuba will allow more Internet access and release 53 Cubans identified as political prisoners by the United States.  Although the embargo will remain in place, the president called for an “honest and serious debate about lifting” it, which would require an act of Congress.

Mr. Castro spoke simultaneously on Cuban television, taking to the airwaves with no introduction and announcing that he had spoken by telephone with Mr. Obama on Tuesday.

“We have been able to make headway in the solution of some topics of mutual interest for both nations,” he declared, emphasizing the release of the three Cubans.  “President Obama’s decision deserves the respect and acknowledgment of our people.”

Only afterward did Mr. Castro mention the reopening of diplomatic relations.  “This in no way means that the heart of the matter has been resolved,” he said.  “The economic, commercial and financial blockade, which causes enormous human and economic damages to our country, must cease.”  But, he added, “the progress made in our exchanges proves that it is possible to find solutions to many problems.”

 

The New Generation

Obama is gambling that restoring ties with Cuba may no longer be politically unthinkable with the generational shift among Cuban-Americans, where many younger children of exiles are open to change.  Nearly six in 10 Americans support re-establishing relations with Cuba, according to a New York Times poll conducted in October.  Obama’s move had the support of the Catholic Church, the US Chamber of Commerce, Human Rights Watch and major agricultural interests.

“Five and a half decades of history show us that such belligerence inhibits better judgment,” he said.  “Two wrongs never make a right.  This is a game-changer, which I fully support.”

But leading Republicans, including Speaker John A. Boehner and the incoming Senate majority leader, Senator Mitch McConnell, did not.  In addition to Mr. Rubio, two other Republican potential candidates for president joined in the criticism.  Senator Ted Cruz of Texas called it a “very, very bad deal,” while former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida said it “undermines the quest for a free and democratic Cuba.”

Obama has instructed Secretary of State John Kerry to begin the process of removing Cuba from the list of states that sponsor terrorism, and the president announced that he would attend a regional Summit of the Americas next spring that Mr. Castro will also attend.

President Obama’s decision will ease travel restrictions for family visits, public performances, and professional, educational and religious activities, among other things, but ordinary tourism will still be banned under the law.  It will also allow greater banking ties, making it possible to use credit and debit cards in Cuba, and American travelers will be allowed to import up to $400 worth of goods from Cuba, including up to $100 in tobacco and alcohol products.

“These 50 years have shown that isolation has not worked,” President Obama said.  “It’s time for a new approach.”

He added that he shared the commitment to freedom for Cuba.  “The question is how we uphold that commitment,” he said. “I do not believe we can keep doing the same thing for over five decades and expect a different result.”

 

~Via Google News, NYT, 5mars and Vimeo

 

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Happy Xmas

 

(War is Over)

 

John Lennon’s VIDEO

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

In the 1960s The Beatles delighted their fan club members by sending them
a specially recorded 45rpm single every Christmas filled with comedy, music
and festive fun.

The following decade the Christmas single as we know it– a one-time seasonally themed hit—had arrived.

Fittingly though, it was ex-Beatle John Lennon who changed the whole Christmas game.

Lennon was born October 9, 1940, at a time when World War II was raging across Europe.  Liverpool was under attack, bombed by Nazi Germany when John was born.  The rest, as you know, is history.

Sung by John and Yoko Ono and accompanied by the Harlem Community Choir, Happy Xmas (War Is Over) was released in the States on December 6 of 1971.  It was released in Britain the following year, and again following Lennon’s death after being violently gunned down outside of his New York City apartment on December 8, 1980.

The Vietnam-inspired sing-along was the culmination of more than two years of peace activism undertaken by the couple that began with the bed-ins they convened in 1969, the first of which took place during their honeymoon. 

President Nixon had said at the time that the Vietnam War would soon be ending “as a result of the plan that we have instituted.”  In April 1970, however, he had expanded the war by ordering US and South Vietnamese troops to attack communist sanctuaries in Cambodia and Northern Vietnam.  The resulting outcry across the United States led to a number of antiwar demonstrations– and during one of these demonstrations the National Guard shot four protesters at Kent State.

The couple had launched an international multimedia campaign preceding the song in December of 1969 – at the height of the counterculture movement and the massive protests against America’s involvement in the war– by renting billboard spaces in 12 major cities around the world for the display of black-and-white posters declaring, “WAR IS OVER!  –If You Want It– Happy Christmas from John & Yoko.”

Lennon said he conceived the antiwar campaign to promote social unity, peaceful change, personal accountability and empowerment, and writing the happy holiday tune to convey a sense of optimism but without the glowing sentimentality typically associated with the holiday music season.

“I was sick of White Christmas,” he said, and “I wanted to pen the peaceful anthem using the lyrical lesson I learned while recording Imagine.  I understood what you have to do:  Put your political message across with a little honey.’”

By the time Happy Xmas (War Is Over) was released, Lennon’s antiwar activism had brought him under the scrutiny and ire of the Nixon administration and the FBI.  Lennon had already returned his “Member British Empire” medal back to Queen Elizabeth, citing Britain’s support of US troops in Vietnam and its own involvement in Biafra.  He was involved in so much radical activity in the US that the FBI had 216 pounds worth of files about him. 

In 1972 he received his ignoble payback– a deportation order to leave the United States.  It was later stayed due to his broad popular support and the issuance of a green card for US residency. 

By 1973, the Vietnam War was grossly unpopular.  After extensive negotiations and the bombing of North Vietnam in December 1972, the Paris Peace Accords were signed in January of 1973.  The war was finally over– after nearly 20 years of US involvement.

Yoko Ono later wrote:

“Never in a million years, did we think that promoting world peace could be dangerous.  Were we naive?  Yes, on that account, we were.  

John said:  ‘Nobody told me there’d be days like these.’  That was his true confession.  These songs have become relevant all over again.  It’s almost as if John wrote these songs for what we are going through now.”

Among the many items Yoko donated for an exhibit at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame following his death were the bloodstained glasses he was wearing when he was shot.   Lennon was legally blind without them.

Yoko refused to hold a funeral for Lennon.  By not doing so, she said, ”his spirit would live forever.”

 

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Helping Rich Lenders Rip-Off the Poor

 

 

State Legislatures Lift Interest Rate Caps

 

**John Oliver VIDEO**

 

 

Jim Hightower
Jim Hightower.org

 

 

Loan sharks, banks, and their lobbyists really know how to put the “ick” in eth-icks.

Though they’ve tried to buff-up their public image by calling themselves “consumer lenders,” their game remains the same ethical mess it’s always been.

They target poor and financially struggling people, entice them to borrow with come-ons touting “quick & easy” money, and then hook them to installment loans with interest rates up to 36 percent.  At such rates, it’s hard for these hard-hit people to repay the bank on time, so most are forced to keep borrowing more money just to pay down the previous loans.

To make this even ickier, the sharks are especially fond of setting up their loan offices around Army bases so they can prey on America’s low-paid, financially-stressed soldiers.

The good news is that several state legislatures are taking action to provide relief.  The bad news is that their relief is not for the borrowers, but the banks!

With an army of lobbyists and a multimillion-dollar arsenal of campaign cash, the industry has already induced legislators to lift interest rate caps in eight states – most of which have a large number of military bases.

The cynical claim of the loan sharks (believe it or not) is that they are suffering financial hardships.

These poormouthing bankers say that to make “an acceptable profit,” they must be allowed to charge borrowers more than 36 percent interest.

Acceptable to whom? One of the largest purveyors of these loans, a subsidiary of Wall Street megabank Citigroup, reported a hefty 31-percent profit increase last year – under the old rate structure.

What we have here is a brazen purchase of legislative favoritism by some of the richest financial interests in America – allowing them to increase their exploitation of some of America’s poorest people.

What’s “acceptable” about that? The whole scheme is a shameful hustle.

 

States Ease Laws That Protected Poor Borrowers,” The New York Times, October 22, 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.

A national radio commentator, writer, public speaker, and author, he frequently appears on television and radio programs bringing a hard-hitting populist viewpoint that rarely gets into the mass media.

He broadcasts daily radio commentaries that are carried on more than 150 commercial and public stations, on the web, and on Radio for Peace International. A popular public speaker who is fiery and funny, he is a populist road warrior who delivers more than 100 speeches a year to all kinds of groups.

He has written seven books and is a New York Times bestselling author.

As political columnist Molly Ivins said, “If Will Rogers and Mother Jones had a baby, Jim Hightower would be that rambunctious child — mad as hell and with a sense of humor.”

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

 

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America’s Explosive Oil Problem

 

The Disaster of Shipping Crude by Rail

 

**Award-Winning VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

On July 6, 2013, a train hauling two million gallons of crude oil from North Dakota exploded in the Canadian town of Lac-Megantic, killing 47 people.

It took two days to put out the fire and the disaster devastated the small community.

Regulators in the United States knew they had to act fast.  They had to assure Americans a similar disaster wouldn’t happen south of the border, where the U.S. oil boom is sending highly volatile crude oil every day over aging and defective rails in vulnerable
railcars.

That catastrophe had its origin in America.  For five years, a boom in oil production has been taking place in the Bakkan Shale region of North Dakota.  Oil from the Bakkan is transported across the U.S. and Canada by rail to refineries on the coasts and it was one of these trains that derailed in Lac-Megantic.

The sharp increase in domestic oil production has created jobs, decreased economic vulnerability to turmoil in the Middle East, and lowered prices of gasoline and home heating oil.

But there’s another side to this story:  Boom is a joint investigation film by The Weather Channel and InsideClimate News exploring how the boom in oil has resulted in highly volatile crude oil being sent over aging rails in vulnerable railcars and the resulting disasters that follow in their wake.

Rail accidents involving oil trains have been widely on the rise– yet industry and regulators have been slow react.

Will it take another Lac-Megantic to make America’s towns and cities safer?

You can read the full story accompanying the above video here: stories.weather.com/boom

 

 

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The CIA Psychologist Who Made $81 Million Teaching Torture

 

 

Cashing in on Conscience and Country

 

**VICE VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

Working for the CIA has its perks.

The Senate Intelligence Committee released a blistering, 500-page report on the CIA’s controversial detention and interrogation program, a document that committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein said represents the most significant oversight effort in the history of the US Senate.

The $40 million, five-year study concluded that CIA officials exaggerated the value of the intelligence they gleaned from dozens of “high-value detainees” held at secret ‘black site’ prisons, where they were subjected to so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques.”

Two U.S. psychologists were paid about $81-million each to consult with the CIA on its ineffective brutal interrogation program – criticized as amounting to torture — the U.S. Senate’s damning report said.

The two psychologists, whom the report said had no prior experience with Al Qaida, counterterrorism or interrogation techniques, were working with the Air Force on its “Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape” (SERE) program before the 9/11 attacks.  That program was reported to have evolved into the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation techniques” — which included sleep deprivation and waterboarding.

The committee reviewed more than 6 million pages of top-secret CIA documents and found that the architect of the interrogation program was a retired Air Force psychologist named James Mitchell, an agency contractor who — according to news reports — personally waterboarded alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.  

The Senate report confirms that two psychologists’ firm was outsourced the contract for most of the CIA’s detention and interrogation program from 2005 to 2008.

The firm and each psychologist were paid $81-million of the $181-million consulting contract before it was terminated in 2009.

One of the psychologists, now retired to a life of leisure in Florida, sat down for a lengthy interview with Vice News on his role in the program. 

Mitchell has a signed a non-disclosure agreement with the CIA and was unable to discuss his alleged role in the agency’s enhanced interrogation program, but VICE News met up with him in suburban Florida to discuss the Senate’s report and one of the darkest chapters of the war on terror.

This is the first time Mitchell has ever appeared on camera.

 

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Torture Perfectly Acceptable for America

 

 

Torture Defenders Double Down and Dig In

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

The defenders of torture are doubling down and defending it. 

And in some instances, they also cashed in:  two U.S. psychologists with no experience were paid about $81-million to consult with the CIA on the brutal interrogation program.

Key figures in the George W. Bush administration and an architect of the CIA’s post-9/11 torture program are defending the so-called ‘enhanced interrogation’ tactics in the wake of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s bombshell report.

The 500-page report summary released Tuesday sheds light on gruesome tactics used by CIA interrogators on terror suspects who were captured and brought to secret locations outside U.S. jurisdiction.

Some detainees were subject to a practice known as “rectal feeding,” in which food is pumped into an individual through the anus.  Others were waterboarded until they were close to drowning.  Interrogators deprived detainees sleep, forced them to maintain “stress positions” and in one instance, reportedly played Russian roulette with a detainee, according to the summary.

The report also deflates the argument that torture helped find Osama bin Laden and led to the capture of other terror suspects.  At times, the report found, interrogation prompted detainees to give fabricated or inaccurate information.

Shortly before the report’s release, The New York Times’ Peter Baker reported that former Bush officials had decided to “link arms” against the report and its findings.  They appear to have maintained that strategy since the report’s release, in spite of its grisly findings.

“The report’s full of crap, excuse me,” former Vice President Dick Cheney told Fox News’ Brett Baier in a Wednesday interview.

“What happened here was that we asked the agency to go take steps and put in place programs that were designed to catch the bastards that killed 3,000 of us on 9/11 and make sure that didn’t happen again.  And that’s exactly what they did and they deserve a lot of credit, not the condemnation that they’re receiving from the Senate Democrats,” Cheney said.

Cheney specifically disputed the claim that Bush was kept in the dark about interrogation practices.

“I think he knew certainly the techniques, we did discuss the techniques, there was no effort on our part to keep him from that,” Cheney said.  ”That the president wasn’t being told is just a flat-out lie.”

Former CIA Director Michael Hayden, who helmed the agency at the end of Bush’s second term, maintained that he “didn’t mislead Congress” about the brutal tactics used by interrogators.

“I don’t know that the report that was released yesterday is that historically accurate,” Hayden said in an interview with NBC.  ”It reads like a prosecutorial screed rather than a historical document.”

Later, appearing on CNN, Hayden sought to explain the practice
of rectal rehydration.

“It’s a medical procedure is what it is,” Hayden told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.  “I’m learning about this somewhat too, because as you know, almost all of this took place before I became director.  But I have learned that in some instances, one way that you can get nourishment into a person is through this procedure as opposed to intravenous feeding, which of course involves needles and a whole bunch of other dangerous things.”

Hayden compared the practice to force-feeding detainees at Guantanamo — which he acknowledged is not performed rectally.

In a Wednesday Wall Street Journal op-ed, Hayden joined fellow former CIA directors George Tenet and Porter Goss (in addition to other former agency officials) in defense of the program, crediting the “aggressive” policies with saving American lives.

“The al Qaeda leadership has not managed another attack on the homeland in the 13 years since, despite a strong desire to do so,” they wrote.  ”The CIA’s aggressive counterterrorism policies and programs are responsible for that success.”

John Yoo, who served as a senior Justice Department attorney after 9/11 and gave legal justification for the interrogation program, also stepped up to defend the efficacy of torture in obtaining information — a talking point disputed in the Senate torture report and elsewhere.

“A President charged with this responsibility cannot wait weeks, months, or never; he must obtain intelligence as soon as possible to stop the next attack.  Under these emergency conditions, a chief executive would reasonably give the green light to limited, but aggressive interrogation methods that did not cause any long-term or permanent injury,” Yoo wrote in Time.

The Senate report directly contradicts that statement, noting that one detainee died of hypothermia after being chained to a concrete floor.

“The Feinstein report cannot deny that most Americans agree President Bush acted reasonably under these emergency conditions,” Yoo continued. “And the Senate report cannot deny the record of success.”

Also coming to the CIA’s defense is James E. Mitchell, one of two psychologists with no experience who were paid $81 million by the agency to advise and help implement the interrogation practices.  Now retired and living a life of leisure in Florida, Mitchell accused the Senate committee of cherry-picking evidence to make its case against torture.

“It’s flat wrong,” he told The Associated Press of the report’s claim that he had no special knowledge of al Qaeda and no experience in interrogation.

“I completely understand why the human rights organizations in the United States are upset by the Senate report,” Mitchell said.  “I would be upset by it too, if it were true.”

Others took a different view. 

The Senate Committee report “couldn’t be any worse for the CIA,” international lawyer Barry Grossman told Press TV on Saturday.  “What this report says is that the CIA lied, broke the law, and interfered with investigations.”

“The conclusions that are already public now are really mind boggling,” Grossman said.  “The program itself was deeply flawed and the program damaged the United States global reputation and will come with heavy losses, both monetary and
non-monetary.”

~Via The New York Times, UK Guardian, Huffington Post,
   YouTube/Fox News, and the Washington Post

 

 

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Senate Panel Releases Scathing Report on CIA Interrogations

 

 

Torture Tantamount To CIA’s Operations

  –And They Lied To Justify Using It

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

Torture, brutality, lying and deceit reigned supreme.

The result of a five-year Senate investigation into the CIA’s secret interrogations of terrorism suspects following the 9/11 attacks has revealed a staggering level of brutality and violence carried out by members of the US intelligence community.

The scathing summary reveals details of the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation program” instituted during the George W. Bush administration, which involved shipping terrorism suspects to secret overseas prisons where they were subjected to torture, including waterboarding which re-
sulted in “a series of near drownings.”

Detainees were also subjected to threats of sexual violence using a broomstick and the use of “rectal hydration,” with interrogations lasting days– or even weeks.

The interrogation program was far more brutal than the CIA represented to policymakers and the American public.  One detainee died from apparent hypothermia after being chained naked on a cold cement floor.  Another nearly drowned during waterboarding. 

At other times, naked prisoners were hooded and dragged up and down corridors while being slapped and punched.

Multiple CIA detainees subjected to the techniques suffered from hallucinations, paranoia, insomnia and tried to mutilate themselves, the report says.

Contrary to previous CIA disclosures, the study reveals that waterboarding was likely used on more than three detainees, with materials used for the torture technique found at secret ‘black sites’ the agency had previously said were not used for waterboarding.

Detainees were also subjected to mock executions, prolonged sleep deprivation, stress positions and other forms of torture, and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment.

“In many cases, the most aggressive techniques were used immediately, in combination and nonstop,” the report says.  “Sleep deprivation involved keeping detainees awake for up to 180 hours, usually standing or in painful stress positions, at times with their hands shackled above their heads.”

The report also alleges that CIA officials deceived the White House and members of Congress into the details of the interrogation program, disclosing that of 119 prisoners held by the CIA as terror suspects, 26 were wrongfully held due to bad intelligence or a mistaken identity.

The investigation concludes that the torture program did not yield results, and that “enhanced interrogation techniques” produced no breakthroughs in intelligence.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, the chair of the intelligence panel, said in a statement on Tuesday:  ”The committee reviewed 20 of the most frequent and prominent examples of purported counterterrorism ‘successes’ that the CIA has attributed to the use of its enhanced interrogation techniques.  Each of those examples was found to be wrong in fundamental respects.”

The study adds that as the techniques were ineffective, the CIA routinely lied to Congress and the White House in presentations that claimed the use of torture had contributed to intelligence victories.  

The study also refutes the CIA assertion that torture provided the key information for bringing about the killing of Osama bin Laden.

Following publication of the summary, the CIA moved to refute Feinstein’s conclusions, publishing a 100-page rebuttal that argued for the effectiveness of ‘enhanced interrogation’.

“The sum total of information provided from detainees in CIA custody substantially advanced the Agency’s strategic and tactical understanding of the enemy in ways that continue to inform counterterrorism efforts to this day,” said the agency.

“It is impossible to imagine how the CIA could have achieved the same results in terms of disrupting plots, capturing other terrorists, and degrading al Qaida without any information from detainees, but it is unknowable whether, without enhanced interrogation techniques, the CIA or non-CIA interrogators could have acquired the same information from those detainees.”

The report also revealed how the CIA falsely claimed it had thwarted a terror plot in Britain.  The summary said the capture of al Qaida’s UK operational manager Dhiren Barot is one of the CIA’s eight most frequently cited examples of how using interrogation methods can “save lives.”

However, a review of CIA operational cables and other documents found that the Agency’s interrogation techniques did not lead to the intelligence that it claimed led to the arrest of Barot or the thwarting of his plotting.  Instead, the report said, the disruption of the plot and the identification and arrest of Barot was “attributable to the efforts of UK law enforcement.”

Barot was sentenced in England to life for planning to plant radioactive, chemical or toxic gas bombs and pack limousines with nails and explosives in Britain and America.

The summary was released on Tuesday, despite appeals from within the Obama administration and from members of the Republican Party to delay the publication over fears it would incite violence around the world.

The spokesman said that US embassies around the globe had been put on high alert in anticipation of the report’s publication, with “some indications” that there would be a blowback, particularly in countries where CIA torture was carried out.

The committee voted in April to make details of the report public, sparking an eight-month political battle between the CIA, the White House and members of the Senate panel as to how much information should be declassified.  An agreement was finally reached last week.

The CIA said that it had made preparations for the report’s publication by issuing warnings to personnel overseas, as well as aiding current and former staff should they be identified in the report.

~Via Google News, New York Times, the Huffington Post,
   CNN, ABC News and YouTube

 

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Bodies in the Street

 

 

Protesting the Nation’s Killings by Cops

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

The fallout is tremendous.

For the third night in a row, demonstrators spilled into the streets in cities across the country to protest police officers killing black men.

In New York, where a grand jury declined to bring charges against New York police officer Daniel Pantaleo in the death of Eric Garner on Wednesday, several hundred protesters staged a “die in” Friday night in an Apple store on Fifth Avenue and in Macy’s at Herald Square, according to the Associated Press.  

Several hours later, protesters blocked FDR Drive, a heavily-trafficked thoroughfare that traces the eastern edge of Manhattan, according to Reuters.

At each location, protesters carried signs and filled the streets with chants of “Black lives matter” and “I can’t breathe.”

Though the protests were largely peaceful, authorities said, there were 20 arrests between 9 p.m. and midnight, according to Newsday.  That number was a sharp decrease from a night earlier, when more than 200 protesters were arrested after they brought traffic on the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges to a standstill, according to the New York Daily News.

“This is the largest store in America, and it’s the perfect place to drive home the message:  Black lives matter,” Harris Agbor, a 25-year-old Harlem resident protesting in the Apple store, told the paper.  “Everyone is energized.  It’s electric.”

Similar protests took place in cities around the country, including Denver, Miami, Chicago, New Orleans and Washington.

Among the most vigorous demonstrations were those that unfolded in Oakland on Friday night, where a crowd of protesters blocked Interstate 880.  Demonstrators also shut down a BART  station, staged a “die-in” that shut down surface transit and “roughed up a store owner,” according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

“I was just trying to protect my business and they tried to beat the shit out of me,” Edwin Cabrillo, a downtown worker who tried to stop protesters from smashing several storefront windows, told the paper.  “We put all our money, all our lives into these businesses.  I understand what you are protesting — what happened to those people was wrong — but what’s happening to us, that’s fucked up. … And you wonder why Oakland doesn’t prosper.”

Protests have escalated in the days following a Staten Island grand jury’s decision on Wednesday not to indict New York police officer Daniel Pantaleo for the death of Eric Garner.  

That decision came after a grand jury declined to indict Ferguson, Mo., police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager.  Both decisions sparked calls of injustice and stirred emotions over other officer-involved deaths around the country.

In Florida, demonstrators blocked a bridge connecting Miami to Miami Beach, and in the Denver suburb of Aurora, middle school students staged a walk-out, according to the AP.

“It makes us kids feel unsafe, that we’re outsiders, enemies of society,” Bennie Mahonda, an eighth-grader who is black, told the AP.

“They are completely glossing over the fact that these people are criminals,” Ed Queens said in disbelief. 

“If they had complied with the law, they wouldn’t be dead.  They never, ever talk about all the white cops that are shooting white kids,” Queens said.  Have you even heard of Christopher Roupe?”

Roupe, 17, was fatally shot by a female officer after she mistook the Wii remote in his hand for a firearm.  A grand jury later determined that the officer did not use authorized force when she shot the teen.

“Nobody’s willing to say it yet.  But after Ferguson, and especially after the Eric Garner case that exploded in New York after yet another non-indictment following a minority death-in-custody, the police suddenly have a legitimacy problem in this country,” Rolling Stone declared after reporting eleven racially-oriented killings by law enforcement.

“Law-enforcement resources are now distributed so unevenly, and justice is being administered with such brazen inconsistency, that people everywhere are going to start questioning the basic political authority of law enforcement. And when they do, it’s going to create problems that will make the post-Ferguson unrest seem minor.”

~Via Google News, PBS, Washington Post, Associated Press, San Francisco Chronicle, and Rolling Stone

 

 

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Americans Should Care About Sierra Pacific’s Fire Case

 

 

A Prosecutorial Abuse of Justice

 

**VIDEO**

 

Sidney Powell
Former Federal Prosecutor

 

 

Question:  What happens when lawyers uncover what could be explosive evidence of misconduct in a $122 million case by attorneys in the Department of Justice? 

Answer:  the Department of Justice tries to have all defense lawyers who have even read about the alleged government misconduct removed from the case and gagged from discussing what they know.

What’s at stake here?  In a word, justice, including the ability of many lawyers to continue to represent their clients.   

And it is ultimately about our justice system– about the very rule of law.

This is not a hypothetical issue.  It happened last month in a California federal court, where a local timber company is trying to pursue charges of fraud against federal prosecutors and investigators as well as win back millions in imposed penalties.  The company has already won a major victory in California’s state court– which may be why the Department of Justice is trying so hard to make this case of allegedly profound prosecutorial abuse vanish.

The story starts on Labor Day weekend 2007, near Westwood, California, where a wildfire destroyed 65,000 acres of countryside.  Some 45,000 of those acres were national forest, and it cost millions for state and federal governments to extinguish the blaze.  State and federal investigators and prosecutors set about to identify the cause and find someone to blame.

They quickly focused on a “deep pocket”– Sierra Pacific, a family-owned company that is the country’s second largest timber supplier and a huge local land-owner

The government agencies decided that a bulldozer used by Sierra Pacific created a spark that started the blaze, and a massive litigation assault forced Sierra Pacific to sign a settlement of cash and land valued at $122 million to end the federal litigation alone against it. 

Sierra Pacific already paid millions toward the settlement and transferred 1,500 acres of its valuable land to the feds but has always maintained the fire started elsewhere and that the state and federal investigators and Department attorneys lied.

But when push came to shove on a parallel state court case brought against Sierra Pacific by Cal Fire, the California investigative authority, it was the civil prosecution that went up in smoke.   A state audit lead to the discovery of piles of evidence that Cal Fire had hidden concerning the case– including an unauthorized, off-the-books “slush fund” that Cal Fire maintained for the profits of such actions.

California Judge Leslie C. Nichols found that Cal Fire “had engaged in the pervasive and systematic abuse of the California discovery rules” and “egregious” conduct affecting the integrity of the court itself.

He assessed $32 million in fees and court expenses against the state.  Although the U.S. government was not a party to the state case, the U.S. Forest Service, Cal Fire and their attorneys had all worked together on the investigation and litigation under a joint prosecution agreement.

More was soon to come.  Former Assistant U.S, Attorney E. Robert Wright read the widely publicized orders of Judge Nichols, and on June 12, 2014 gave Sierra Pacific’s defense a 15-page sworn statement for use in the federal case against the timber firm.  In it, he raised serious questions about the possible suppression of evidence that would clear the company…

Shockingly, the Department of Justice moved to disqualify all of the defense attorneys who had even read Robert Wright’s sworn declaration.  The government asked the court to remove the entire defense team because Wright’s declaration contained confidential and privileged information belonging to the government.

The Department also claims that former Assistant United States Attorney Wright breached his duties of loyalty and confidentiality to his former client, the United States, by disclosing that the government may have been hiding evidence that undermined its case.   Calling Wright’s duty of loyalty to his client “absolute,” and his breach “inexcusable,” they claim that he should have brought any concern to the attention of his superiors.

Unfortunately for the government counsel, Assistant U.S. Attorney David Shelledy, Sierra Pacific’s motion to set aside the judgment states that it did bring the entire problem to the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility– only to have the evidence of misconduct smothered as effectively as the evidence that someone less wealthy than Sierra Pacific had caused the original fire.

Sierra Pacific has now asked a federal court to set aside its $122 million settlement agreement because of fraud on the court– by the federal prosecutors and agents. 

A federal judge has the case, and held his first hearing on its status on November 24.  California Senior Federal District Judge William Shubb, himself a former U.S. Attorney, is reputedly a no-nonsense jurist who expects the government to follow the law– a novel and welcome application of Article III of our Constitution.

…Fraud on the court infects our entire judicial system and renders public confidence impossible.  What happens in Judge Shubb’s Sacramento federal courtroom will matter to all Americans.

 

An excerpt, you can read Sidney Powell’s full article here: Why Every American Should Care about the Moonlight Fire.

Sidney Powell is a former federal prosecutor who served in three districts under nine United States Attorneys from both political parties. 

She is the author ofLicensed to Lie: Exposing Corruption in the Department of Justice.”

 * * * * * * * * *

 

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The Dumbing Down of Democrats

 

 

Zombie Capitulation and Party Cowardice

 

**VIDEO**

 

Joseph A. Palermo
Huffington Post

 

 

The internal sniping and bickering has already begun among Democratic ranks but it’s their own damn fault.

The internal debates following the 2014 midterm elections highlight the ideological schizophrenia that continues to plague the Democratic Party.

Is the Democratic Party the party of labor unions or the party of trade deals that outsource American jobs?  Is it the party of the environment or a water carrier for fossil fuel corporations?  Is it the party of public education or the party of busting teachers’ unions and privatizing schools?  

Does it favor a single-payer health care system or the predations of the for-profit model?  Is it the party of peace or for endless wars?  Is it the party of civil liberties or for government surveillance?  Is it the party for economic justice or for catering to the rich?

Over the course of the next 18 months, these types of questions are going to have to be answered (and answered acceptably for the grassroots stakeholders involved) or the 2016 elections are going to look a lot like the midterms of 2014.

Even in the best of times the Democratic establishment in Washington treats its base like a pariah.  With the historic losses of 2014, the Democratic leadership appears to be slipping back to its familiar “scared of its own shadow” stance.  Right now we are facing one of the worst configurations of unchecked corporate power, militarism, market fundamentalism, and environmental crisis than at any time in our history, and the messaging coming from congressional Democrats right now appears to be that becoming ‘Republican-Lite’ is the smart path forward.

Facing Republican control of both chambers of Congress, Washington Democrats (even in the lame duck session) are already vying for the coveted spot as the corporate oligarchy’s second choice.  Senate Democrats like Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, and Joe Manchin of West Virginia couldn’t wait until the new Congress is sworn in this January to begin capitulating.  The lame duck vote on the Keystone XL pipeline witnessed the spectacle of a bloc of Democratic Senators tripping over themselves to renounce environmentalism.

It might be a preview of coming attractions.

Come January, you can bet that every single “bipartisan” bill that makes it to the president’s desk will be in servitude of the interests of the giant corporations, big banks, and the wealthiest 1 percent.  President Obama’s recent executive orders on immigration promise to make life a little more bearable for nearly five million people was a smart move politically — except for the fact that he didn’t do it in October when it might have had an impact on the midterms.

The Republican-controlled 114th Congress will attempt to privatize everything from the U.S. Postal Service to Social Security.  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his associates will try to gut every social program that benefits working people from Food Stamps to Medicaid.  

They’ll snuff out sustainable energy investments and plow ahead with expanding fossil fuels.  They’ll figure out new ways to sell old wars.  They’ll push austerity for anyone who can’t afford to attend a $30,000-a-plate fundraiser.  They’ll push “free trade” deals that outsource jobs while leaving American workers holding the bag.  They’ll slash unemployment insurance and other “entitlements.”  

And they’ll ensure that our economy continues to work for the benefit of the richest 1 percent.

The mainstream corporate media — from MSNBC to Fox News, CNN to NPR — will serve as enablers for the whole shitty process pretending to be journalists but asking all the wrong questions and offering all of the wrong political advice.

And don’t forget this fact:  Everything — and I mean EVERYTHING — the Republicans do in Congress over the next two years will be done in the service of positioning the party to take the White House in 2016.

Unlike the Republicans, Democratic politicians seem to always neglect the care and feeding of their own base.  They’re quick to turn against any organized movement from the Left — be it Occupy Wall Street, the World Climate Movement, teachers’ unions, students’ organizations, environmentalists, or the protesters acting in solidarity with the African-American community in Ferguson, Missouri — yet all the while they expect to win their votes.

In the 2000s, the Democrats in Congress rolled over for George W. Bush giving him everything he wanted, voting for his disastrous war in Iraq, and going along with his domestic agenda all the way up to the brink of agreeing to partially privatizing Social Security, (which was on the table at the time Hurricane Katrina tanked Bush’s
approval rating).

The Obama years saw many capitulations like cutting deals with Big Pharma in shaping the Affordable Care Act (while excluding single-payer advocates), bashing public school teachers and their unions, escalating the drone wars, jailing whistleblowers, institutionalizing the Bush-era NSA abuses, pushing for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and so on.

And today, if the lame duck vote on the Keystone XL Pipeline is any indicator, Washington Democrats are poised to interpret the meaning of the 2014 midterms as a “mandate” that the American people want them to renounce everything for which their party supposedly stands.

The Republicans’ cynical structural advantages they’ve institutionalized in recent years — infinite access to dark money, gerrymandered districts, voter suppression of minorities and young people– will stand rewarded and putting the brakes on the incessant move toward corporate oligarchy in this country will be even harder to fight back against.

Every time the Democratic leadership in Washington screws its base it has moved one step closer to irrelevancy. 

Now is not the time for the Democratic Party to “move to the center” but to fight for its heart and soul.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Before earning a Master’s degree and Doctorate in History from Cornell University, Professor Joseph Palermo completed Bachelor’s degrees in Sociology and Anthropology from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a Master’s degree in History from San Jose State University.

His expertise includes the 1980s; political history; presidential politics and war powers; social movements of the 20th century; the 1960s; and the history of American foreign policy. Dr. Palermo has also written articles for anthologies on the life of Father Daniel Berrigan, S.J. in The Human Tradition in America Since 1945 and on the Watergate scandal in Watergate and the Resignation of Richard Nixon.

Professor of History at California State University, Sacramento, Professor Palermo’s most recent book is The Eighties. He has also written two other books: In His Own Right: The Political Odyssey of Senator Robert F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy and the Death of American Ideals.

Part of the Iona Brotherhood, we thank Dr. Palermo for sharing his work with our readers here.

 

 

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Musical Chairs

 

 

Musicians Who Died Too Young

 

Viral **VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

“It is a curious thing, the death of a loved one.

We all know that our time in this world is limited, and that eventually all of us will end up underneath some sheet, never to wake up.  And yet it is always a surprise when it happens to someone we know.

It is like walking up the stairs to your bedroom in the dark, and thinking there is one more stair than there is. Your foot falls down, through the air, and there is a sickly moment of dark surprise as you try and readjust the way you thought of things.”

~Lemony Snicket

 

Some of the most promising people throughout music history checked out long before their time.

A depressing number of them were brilliant, troubled musicians who defined an era.  Too many bright lights died too young, leaving behind legacies having an extraordinary influence in the music world.

Stars who were taken too soon include rock’n'roll front men, pop icons and some of the best soul singers. Some encountered huge commercial success in their lifetime; others only achieved it after their death.

An astounding majority in the above video were young and incredibly talented artists who experienced difficulties coping with the fame and lifestyle that came with their musical success.

They experienced careers sometimes leading to self destructive habits, addiction, and notoriety, all of which inevitably culminated in tragic deaths– cutting short the success of their musical prime.

Young, famous, and dead.  For them, perhaps passing over was the next great adventure left to experience.

“I’m the one that’s got to die when it’s time for me to die, so let me live my life the way I want to.”

~Jimi Hendrix

 

 

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Grand Jury Returns ‘No Indictment’ Decision in Ferguson

 

 

Thousands Rally and Protest;
  No Violence Reported at Onset

 

UPDATED:  Looting, Arson Erupts
  Overnight in Ferguson

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

After weeks of rising tension in Ferguson and the broader St. Louis region, the St. Louis County grand jury reviewing the death of Michael Brown has decided not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, who shot and killed Brown on August 9.

As the world discussed the implications of Michael Brown’s death, his mother sat alone in a plush hotel room full of people, silent, stoic and staring at her phone as she awaited word from the grand jury.

When the word came, attorney Benjamin Crump fielded the phone call.  “The jury was not inclined to indict on any charges,” he said.  Brown’s mother screamed and sobbed loudly in disbelief and grief.

Thousands of people rallied late Monday in U.S. cities including Los Angeles and New York to passionately protest the grand jury’s decision not to indict.

They led marches, waved signs and shouted chants of “Hands Up! Don’t Shoot,” the slogan that has become a rallying cry in protests over police killings across the country.

The racially charged case in Ferguson has inflamed tensions and reignited debates over police-community relations even in cities hundreds of miles from the predominantly black St. Louis suburb.  For many staging protests Monday, the shooting was personal, calling to mind other galvanizing encounters with local law enforcement.

Police departments in several major cities said they were bracing for large demonstrations with the potential for the kind of violence that marred nightly protests in Ferguson after Brown’s killing.  Demonstrators there vandalized police cars, hugged barricades and taunted officers with expletives Monday night while police fired smoke canisters and pepper spray.  Gunshots were heard on the streets.

But police elsewhere reported that gatherings were mostly peaceful immediately following Monday night’s announcement.

President Barack Obama appealed for calm and understanding, pleading with both residents and police to show restraint.

About 100 people holding signs that read “The People Say Guilty!” blocked an intersection in downtown Oakland, California, after a line of police officers blocked them from getting on a highway on-ramp.  Minutes earlier, some of the protesters lay on the ground while others outlined their bodies in chalk.

In San Francisco, a few dozen people gathered in the Mission District chanting “No justice, no peace!”

Several hundred protesters marched through downtown Philadelphia, yelling “No justice, no peace, no racist police!”  A similar protest of about 50 people in Pittsburgh was short-lived, with activists saying they plan to regroup Tuesday at the federal courthouse.

At Cleveland’s Public Square, at least a dozen protesters held signs Monday afternoon and chanted “Hands up, don’t shoot,” which has become a rallying cry since the Ferguson shooting.  Their signs references police shootings that have shaken the community there, including Saturday’s fatal shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who had a fake gun at a Cleveland playground when officers confronted him.

Several hundred people who had gathered in Manhattan’s Union Square to watch the announcement marched peacefully to Times Square after the family of Eric Garner, a Staten Island man killed by a police chokehold earlier this year, joined the Rev. Al Sharpton at a speech lamenting the grand jury’s decision.

In Los Angeles, which was rocked by riots in 1992 after the acquittal of police officers in the videotaped beating of Rodney King, police officers were told to remain on duty until released by their supervisors.  About 100 people gathered in Leimert Park while others held a small news conference demanding changes in police policies.

Dozens of people marched from Chicago police headquarters after hearing the Ferguson decision, using profanity but causing no damage to any of the businesses along their route.

Few police officers who shoot and kill citizens in St. Louis have been investigated by a grand jury, let alone charged by one, according to data from city and county prosecutors.

Between 2004 and 2014, there have been 14 fatal officer-involved shootings committed by St. Louis County PD officers alone, according to police data collected by David Klinger, a criminologist at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.  That does not include fatal shootings by Ferguson police or by officers from various other law enforcement agencies within the county.

Since 2000, only four cases in all of St. Louis County, including Wilson’s, have been investigated by a grand jury.

 

UPDATE:

The peaceful protests in Ferguson were short-lived.

Violence erupted in the St. Louis area overnight, leading to more than 80 arrests, as protesters fired more than 100 gunshots and burned and looted as many as 25 buildings and vandalized police cars in Ferguson, Mo., after a grand jury did not indict the white police officer who shot and killed an 18-year-old black man.

St. Louis County police released records early Tuesday showing 61 people were arrested in Ferguson on charges including burglary and trespassing.  And St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay said 21 people were arrested in the city.

Heavily armed police fired pepper spray and smoke canisters to disperse the crowds of protesters.  Police seized a .45-mm. automatic handgun as well.  Firefighters are battling blazes throughout Ferguson as broken glass from looted buildings lay scattered everywhere on the asphalt. 

No one is under the belief that the tensions, or the threats of more unrest, is gone from Ferguson.

 

~Via Reuters/ABC News/Mother Jones/USA Today/CNN

 

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Thank You For Vaping

 

The E-Cigarette Debate

 

New Yorker **VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

In 1963, a patent was filed for a “smokeless non-tobacco cigarette,” but the invention never took off.

Forty years later, in 2003, Hon Lik, a Chinese pharmacist whose father had died of smoking-induced lung cancer, patented a similar device—this time, reimagined with nicotine.

Fast-forward ten more years, to 2013, and electronic cigarettes—or e-cigs, as they’re often called— had mushroomed into a billion-dollar industry.  Last year also marked the moment when a leading manufacturer of the device, NJOY, aired an ad during the Super Bowl, to the tune of Avicii’s popular Hey Brother.  The ad reaches a crescendo with this line:  “Friends don’t let friends smoke.  Give them the only electronic cigarette worth switching to.”

E-cigarettes are not cigarettes.  As the name suggests, they simulate smoking and, via an inner heating element, deliver nicotine through the vapor of liquid nicotine instead of the combustion of tobacco leaves.  That’s why e-cigarettes are often promoted as a safer alternative to smoking.

But the public-health debate is in full bloom.  Trace amounts of toxic substances have been detected in e-cigarettes, and their usage among youth doubled in 2012.  Yet many cite the devices as remedies that can stop their decades-long tobacco-smoking habits.

In New York City, in the evenings, “vapers,” as they’re called, gather around a long table in the back of the Henley Vaporium, on the border of Nolita and SoHo, to discuss liquid-nicotine flavors (“Have you tried the new custard?”) and to “rebuild” their e-cigs.

The first time I passed the Vaporium’s cloudy windows, I peered inside to see beyond the smoke.

“Welcome,” a young, bearded man offered, as I sat down next to him at the table in the back.

The video above is a glimpse into that world.

 

~Via The New Yorker/Sky Dylan-Robbins and The Lost Ogle

* * * * * * * * *

Vape devices come in a variety of shapes, sizes and materials.  The main tube that holds the battery and odorless e-liquid, or “juice,” is ususually called a mod or pen.  The battery heats the juice to create an inhalable mist.  The process is more akin to ‘steaming’ than smoking.  That’s why it’s called vaporizing.

It’s quite the fad as of late and while it’s not likely to stop your nicotine addiction, it is a suitable and relatively inexpensive alternative to smoking tobacco. 

Is it safer?  The jury is still out.  It is, after all, nicotine, a substance that’s as hard to quit as heroin.

If you’re interested in the idea of vaping, check in with John’s Myrtlewood Liquors at 1648 Myrtle Ave. in Eureka.  They have the biggest assortment of everything vape you can imagine in Humboldt County and knowledgeable friendly staff to get you easily on your way.

 

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President Offers Temporary Legal Status to Millions of Illegal Immigrants

 

 

GOP Determined to Look Foolish

 

**VIDEO**

 

Kimberly Akins
Boston Herald

 

 

President Barack Obama delivered a historic nationally televised address from the White House in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 20, 2014.  

Spurning furious Republicans, President Barack Obama unveiled expansive executive actions on immigration Thursday night to spare nearly 5 million people in the U.S. illegally from deportation and refocus enforcement efforts on “felons, not families.”

 

Sure Republicans are angry at President Obama over immigration.  

That’s because the president has left GOP lawmakers only two options:  do something, or look ridiculous.  All indications so far suggest they are choosing the latter.

Republican leaders already have resorted to name calling, dubbing the president “Emperor Obama” and vowing to do all they can to block his actions while scaring the public.  

One lawmaker, Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn, suggested that Obama’s action would result in “violence” and “anarchy.”  Another, Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama, hinted that Obama could be prosecuted and sent to prison for aiding and abetting illegal entry into the country.  

The partisan rhetoric would be funny if it weren’t so sad.

And while all this political theater takes place, the system remains so badly broken that it discourages those coming into the country from following the rules, and encourages the millions already in the country to hide in the shadows rather than work, pay taxes and boost the economy.

The president’s plan, which is limited in scope in comparison to the massive size of the problem, will give five million of those immigrants, mostly parents of citizens or legal residents who have lived in the country more than five years, the ability to apply for a three-year deportation deferral and work permits starting in the spring.

It also will grant protective status to undocumented immigrants who were brought into the country as children; boost the number of available work-related visas for those in highly skilled technical fields, and ease the process for foreign entrepreneurs to gain legal status.  It also ramps up security along the southern border.

It represents neither amnesty nor a permanent solution, but at least it’s a start.

Because deporting every one of the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country is neither logistically nor economically feasible, the president’s plan allows immigration officials to focus on those who commit violent crimes and other dangerous offenses to get them out of the country faster.

If GOP lawmakers don’t like the president’s approach, there is an easy solution:  pass a bill that does something different.  They don’t even have to reinvent the wheel — they can start with the Senate-passed measure that has been collecting dust and start making changes until it’s something they can live with.

Instead, they are talking about shutdowns, defunding agencies and even filing another lawsuit against the president (and in the process racking up even more taxpayer-funded legal bills on top of the millions already wasted on defending the federal same-sex marriage ban that was struck down by the Supreme Court.)

That’s an immigration reform strategy that makes Mitt Romney’s self-deportation plan look like a winner.

 

 

~Via Boston Herald

 

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The All-American Dad’s Deafening Silence

 

 

‘Shaming Bill Cosby is the Best We Can Do’

 

**VIDEO**

 

Hanna Rosin
Slate

 

 

What should happen to Bill Cosby now that more than a dozen women have accused him of sexual assault?

In a better world—or a world where justice was more satisfying– these women’s stories would be investigated by the police and prosecuted in court.  In that world, the allegations, if true, would lead to convictions, and Cosby would be headed to prison on sexual assault charges.

“Actually, he’s a serial rapist,” Joan Tarshis, one of the latest victims to tell her story, said on CNN.

Tarshis’ story begins like most of the others:  “He made me a drink and very shortly afterward I passed out.  I woke up very groggily with him removing my underwear.”  

It was 1969, and she was an aspiring comedian.  Cosby told her he wanted to work on a sketch with her and invited her to his bungalow.  Then came the drink, the groggy moment, and, according to Tarshis, forced oral sex.

Tarshis, like the others, is defensive about not having spoken out for so many years.  She worried no one would believe her, because he’s the great Bill Cosby, “the all-American dad.”

But it’s hard not to believe her now, because her story sounds so similar to all the others.

Here is Barbara Bowman, another alleged victim telling almost the exact same story.  She was a 19-year-old aspiring actress when she met Cosby.  He “talked incessantly about trust issues,” she said, and made her believe she had to open up to him.  Then in an Atlantic City hotel room came the drugs, the wooziness, the “screaming, yelling, scratching.”

So why isn’t Cosby in handcuffs?  Andrea Constand was a young Temple University employee when she went to Cosby for career advice in 2004.  She tells the same story of pills and grogginess.  Unlike the others, though, she took her case to Bruce Castor, then a Pennsylvania district attorney who declined to press charges and today explained why.

“I didn’t say that he didn’t commit the crime,” Castor said.  “What I said was there was insufficient admissible and reliable evidence upon which to base a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt.  That’s ‘prosecutors speak’ for ‘I think he did it but there’s just not enough here to prosecute.’”

Castor said he had every incentive to go forward–
it would have been a career-making, front-page news story for him, after all.  But after a year, “you lose the ability to test for blood or intoxicating agents.”  He says he thought Cosby probably did “something inappropriate,” but “thinking that and being able to prove it are two different things.”

These decades-old cases are virtually impossible to prosecute.  Not only does the physical evidence no longer exist, but most states have statutes of limitation on sexual assault cases.  We can debate about whether there should be statutes of limitation on sexual assault, given that women often feel too ashamed to come forward right away.  

But for the moment, that’s the law.  So where does that leave us?

In the house of public shame.

Yes, the court of public opinion is thoroughly sloppy, as Dahlia Lithwick wrote after Dylan Farrow’s New York Times essay exploded the Internet.  “There are no rules of evidence, no burdens of proof, no cross-examinations, and no standards of admissibility.” 

But in this case, unlike either the Woody Allen case or the R. Kelly case, there are now five women who have spoken to major media outlets, under their real names, telling a very similar story.

Constand filed a civil suit against Cosby, which was settled for an undisclosed amount in 2006.  In that case, her lawyer had lined up 13 supporting witnesses, all apparently with their own pills-and-grogginess stories.  At the time, Constand’s case did not make a dent in Cosby’s reputation.

But now that we know what we know, or perhaps now that we know it at a time of heightened awareness about sexual assault, a quiet settlement and a financial hit seem insufficient punishment given the scale of the crime.

So Netflix, don’t air that Cosby post-Thanksgiving special, even though you have
already paid for and shot it;  NBC, cancel that Cosby sitcom.  

And if that doesn’t happen, then shame on anyone who watches them.

~Hanna Rosin is the founder of DoubleX and a writer for the Atlantic.  
She is also the author of
The End of Men.

* * * * * * * * * *

Mr. Cosby has refused to respond

His attorney provided a statement posted on the actor’s website that said, in part:

“decade-old, discredited allegations against Mr. Cosby have resurfaced.  The fact that they are being repeated does not make them true.  Mr. Cosby doesn’t not intend to dignify these allegations with any comment.”

Another accuser came forward yesterday with new allegations: on November 18, 2014, model Janice Dickinson spoke with Entertainment Tonight and accused Cosby of sexually assaulting her in 1982, after giving her a glass of wine and a pill.

Mr. Cosby’s silence on the twelve women who have accused him of sexual assault thus far is deafening.

 

 

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The Costs of Being McBoss

 

 

What it Takes to Own a McDonald’s

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

What’s better than having a McJob? 

Being the McBoss. Owning a McDonald’s franchise is a lucrative business. 

The McDonald’s Corporation 35,000 global outlets had combined annual revenues of $28.1 billion, and profits of $5.5 billion in 2013.  The revenues come from the rent, royalties, and fees paid by the franchisees, as well as gross sales in company restaurants.  Altogether, the company packs a total of $36.6 billion in assets.

It requires a lot of startup cash to own, operate, and generate those kinds of numbers.  And it’s well worth it.  According to QSR magazine, the average McDonald’s restaurant generates $2.5 million in sales annually, making it the second highest-grossing chain in the US by sales per unit, behind upstart Chick-fil-A.    

But in order to open a single restaurant, the company requires that potential franchisees have liquid assets of at least $750,000.  And there are many more cash requirements.

Franchise startup costs, which include construction and equipment expenses, average between $955,708 and $2.3 million, according to McDonald’s.  The total amount is determined by the geography and size of the restaurant, as well as the selection of kitchen equipment, signage, style of decor and landscaping, the company says.

Franchisees must pay 40% of those startup costs with cash and other non-borrowed resources.  The rest can be financed.

In 2006, the company required redesigning and upgrading their restaurants with improved décor, newly branded signs, flat roofs and double drive-thrus, more wood fixtures, warmer lighting, and flat screen TVs and Wi-Fi, at great expense to its franchise owners.

In addition to these costs, McDonald’s charges a $45,000 franchisee fee and an ongoing monthly service fee equal to 4% of gross sales. Franchisees must also pay rent to the company, which is a percentage
of monthly sales.

Franchisees have historically paid about 8.5% of sales in rent costs, though some pay as much as 12%, according to a 2013 Bloomberg report.  In return, you get the proven research, development, and marketing of McDonald’s to stay on top of the fast food heap.

And don’t forget that new managers and owners must graduate from McDonald’s Hamburger University, a serious course of study taught by 19 full-time instructors in 28 different languages at their 80-acre campus in Oak Brook, Illinois.

McDonald’s prefers that it’s franchise owners know everything about the business.  That can mean working the broom to the fryer to the cash register for well over a year before you are even approved to purchase or build a restaurant.  Sorry, but oodles of cash won’t get you in the door at first glance.  But once you’re in, expect the average take home net profit per year for a franchise owner to be 10% of the sales, or approximately $200,000 or more.

McDonald’s, to note, is the single largest purchaser of beef, pork, potatoes, and apples, and curiously enough, the largest private operator of playgrounds in the US.  As a matter of policy, McDonald’s does not make direct sales of food or materials to its franchisees; instead, it requires the supply of food and materials to restaurants be bought from its approved third party operators.

McDonald’s franchisee startup costs are similar to those of KFC, Wendy’s, and Taco Bell.  However, in the UK and Ireland, fewer than 30% of the McDonald’s restaurants are franchised; the rest are under majority ownership of the parent company.

Subway startup costs, by comparison, are far less expensive, costing between $116,000 and $262,850, according to the company.   Subway also requires minimum liquid assets of only $30,000 to $90,000. 

In-N-Out restaurants are a different deal altogether.  After 65 years of business, the popular and ever-growing private chain with 290 locations and 18,000 employees is owned by the sole grandchild of the original founding couple and has resisted franchising its operations or going public.  Employee-centered in its policies and with a loyal diehard fan base, In-N-Out Burger is one of the few fast food chains in the United States that pays its employees more than the state and federal minimum wage.

It is expensive.  It takes commitment.  It also takes your time, money, hard work, and a certain degree of risk. 

But make no mistake.  They don’t call them the Golden Arches for nothing.  Being the successful Mickey D McBoss– with all the McStrings attached– is a lucrative and McHappy cash cow business.  

 

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The Columbus Example of Doing Things Right

 

A Model for Eureka and Humboldt County

 

Award-Winning **VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

Fix the Middle East?  We can’t even fix Detroit.

Fix Eureka?  You would think we’d be able to do so.  It’s our own backyard and a much smaller place.

But not with our current money-hungry do-nothing City Council and Humboldt County leaders in charge, taxing yet again an already-taxed citizenry with little results to show for it. 

Amazingly enough, out of 492 municipalities, Eureka ranks in at an astounding #20 on the list for its risk of default.  Even the Humboldt Taxpayers League took issue with the alarming tax measures taking place on all sides, urging voters to finally say ‘No’ rather than deplete the local economy of $12 million of purchasing power.

But let’s take an example from Columbus’ playbook.  They put taxation towards some hard work and planning.   Citizens and city government performed a grassroots effort by taking things into their own hands, resuscitating and revitalizing their economy and outlook.

They were in bad shape.  Nearly a quarter of the homes in the Franklinton neighborhood of Columbus, Ohio are vacant; it is the city’s oldest and poorest neighborhood. 

In 2011, an arts group moved into an abandoned factory in the area to create 400 West Rich Street, a community that now leases space to woodworkers, performance artists, a coffee shop, painters, sculptors, and others.  The short documentary above considers the artists who work in 400 West Rich Street, why the space attracted them, and what it means for revitalization of the neighborhood.

The revitalization is gaining successful momentum because of the coordinated efforts of the city government, private-sector organizations, and a group of citizens who, through the sustained work of the Franklinton Development Association (FDA), have been working for more than 20 years to figure out how to do it right.

The strategy that has gained real traction is an effort to “rebrand” the eastern part of the area as the “Franklinton Arts District.

The plan to make East Franklinton into a Creative Community District has been awarded the 2014 National Planning Excellence Award for Innovation in Economic Development & Planning by the American Planning Association, which created the overview video, below, explaining their efforts.

Eureka and Humboldt County could gain from following Columbus’ example.  That is, if they cared enough to do so by weaning themselves off of the never-ending public trough and actually getting something accomplished, rather than feeding the beast of personal salaries, burgeoning pension obligations, cronyism and lawsuits.

For more detailed information of how Columbus did it, you can catch John Tierney’s excellent Atlantic Monthly article here and here.

 

 

 

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Alive

 

Blackfeet Tribe Thought Rez Drug Abuse Story ‘Needed to Be Told’

 

Staff Pick **VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

Welsh filmmaker Josh Cole’s Alive is about drug use, crime and ceremony on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation.

It inspired a tremendous reaction from Indian country:  some viewers praised the clip for its tale of drug abuse on the Rez and spiritual redemption; others felt it was exploitative and disrespectful of the ceremonies it depicts.

Cole filmed the video on the Blackfeet Reservation in Browning, Montana, and worked with Blackfeet tribal members during the course of its creation.

A reformed drug addict himself, Cole has followed stories around the world where the worst drug abuse is common.  He feels it’s his mission through his films to try to steer people into recovery– as a thanks to those that helped him with his own addiction.

Shocked to hear stories about the reservations, he started researching and putting together a story based on the stuff he was told about.  “All my work is about the beauty that comes from hardship, and I wanted to tell the story of the spiritual awakening of a drug addict in a Native American community,” Cole says.

Several members of The Crazy Dogs Society in Browning are reformed alcoholics and they connected with Cole’s concept.   It was basically their own story, too, they said, and they regularly help those with addictions through ceremony on
the Rez.

Cole met with several community leaders of the Tribal Council and the Cultural Attaché of the Blackfeet Nation.  They gave him their blessing; he was allowed to shoot anywhere in Blackfeet territory.

The community basically backed the project, Cole says.

 “We were repeatedly told by various people how much they thought this story needed to be told.  I feel I could return there any time with my head held high,” he said.

“I’m also told the film has been very well received by people living not only on the Blackfeet Reservation but also on other reservations.   It still moves me when I think how much the people of Browning came together to help.”

Still, some scenes were controversial at first and taken into consideration.  Cole says:

“I was extremely sensitive when talking to the Crazy Dogs about the ceremonies and always said that we could shoot an alternative scene.

They spent a day or so discussing it with all members and they decided collectively they wanted the scene to be in the film.  They felt like they wanted it to be shown and I gave them many opportunities to make sure they were happy.  It meant a lot to me that they wanted to show this to the world.

They told me that they wanted to use the video to help to heal the youth of the Blackfeet Nation.  I should also say we didn’t film an actual ceremony — both the sweat lodge scene and the Sundance scene were mock ceremonies set up by the Crazy Dogs themselves to their exact specifications.

I had no control whatsoever over the look or sequence of the scene, nor did I want it.  I also had no interest in filming an actual ceremony — at every step of the process I was led by the
advice of the Crazy Dogs. 

I am ever grateful for that as I was led by a much greater knowledge than my own, as I am with most of my work.”

How does Cole respond to those critics sensitive to his portrayal?

He had this to say:

“I believe my portrayal of Browning is not negative.  It is ultimately a story of redemption and shows the elders of the community coming around the boy to heal him.

If you don’t show the darkness in a realistic way the young people I’m trying to reach will not take it seriously.  However, there is an element of drama as I want all my work to reach the masses, but it is always subverted as I believe I have done here.

You have to remember that in the States the concept of Native Americans living in severe poverty is old news, but in Europe people have no idea.  None!

I think this is something people here should know about.  So this video serves a dual purpose – to show Europeans some of the conditions on reservations and also to give a Native community an opportunity to show both its darkness and its beauty.

I want to thank again the Blackfeet Nation and the Crazy Dogs Society for all the love we were shown.”

 ~Via Josh Cole, Indian Country Today,
Vimeo, Evan Zimmer/Calvert Hall

 

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The Story of Reckless

 

 

The War Hero You Never Knew Of–

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

You’ve heard of the famous racing ones: Seabiscuit, Secretariat, War Admiral.
But there’s one horse– a decorated military hero– you haven’t heard of.
It’s the story of Sgt. Reckless, the little chestnut Mongolian mare.

 

Reckless was a pack horse during the Korean War and she carried recoilless rifles, ammunition and supplies to Marines.  This by itself wasn’t too unusual; lots of animals were pressed into service doing pack chores in many wars before Korea.

But Reckless did something more.

During the battle for a location called Outpost Vegas in 1953, this mare made 51 trips up and down the hill.  On the way up, she carried ammunition.  On the way down, she carried wounded soldiers.

What was so amazing about that?

She made every one of those trips without anyone leading her.  Relentless artillery rounds fell around at her at the rate of 500 per minute.  The fighting was so intense that only two men made it out alive without wounds.

We can imagine a horse carrying a wounded soldier, being smacked on the rump at the top of the hill, and heading back to the “safety” of the rear.

It’s harder, though, to imagine the same horse loaded down with ammunition trudging back to the chaotic battlefield under
enemy fire and exploding heavy artillery.

Making 51 of those trips in the blazing battle is unheard of.  How many horses would even make it back once, let alone return to the soldiers in the field?  Reckless did it without fail, every single time, on her own.

Reckless walked 35 miles and carried 9,000 pounds of equipment that day, and while exhausted and wounded twice, she kept her duty transporting the wounded faithfully throughout.  Many men survived because of her fearless actions.

Marine Sgt. Harold Wadley remembered seeing the small horse stagger up a hill loaded with heavy 75mm recoilless rifle ammunition.  It was an amazing sight.  The air was thick with smoke, tracer rounds were streaking in both directions and the dead and injured were piling up.  “I didn’t think she’d live five seconds,” Wadley said.

When the Chinese had first attacked, lighting up the sky with tons of incoming fire, Reckless was frightened.  She ran to a bunker, where the Marines found her covered with sweat.  But the Marines calmed her and sent her on her mission.  She performed faithfully and fearelssly after that.

“Her gun crew kept firing,” Wadley said.  “Reckless was the only Marine with four legs.”

Outpost Vegas was retaken after a five-day battle.

She became a national hero and was covered by Life magazine and the Saturday Evening Post.  She was promoted by the Marines to the rank of Sergeant, and later Staff Sergeant in her career.

Reckless bonded quickly with the Marines, Wadley recalled.  “She’d stick her nose in the tent where Marines were living and she’d just lumber in.  She’d eat almost anything,” Wadley
said. “She loved Tootsie Rolls.”

The Marines also gave her some of their monthly beer allotment.

Wadley said she would lurk around the Marines when they played poker, allegedly eating some of the poker chips.  At night she would nestle with the Marines by a smoky oil stove to ward off the bitter cold.

After the Korean War, Reckless was brought back to the United States in 1954.  She retired at the Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base in 1960 where her commanding General issued the following order: “She was never to carry any more weight on her back except her own blankets.”

Reckless died in 1968 at the age of 20 as a full-fledged Marine with full military honors.

Reckless’ decorations included two Purple Hearts, Good Conduct Medal, Presidential Unit Citation with star, National Defense Service Medal, Korean Service Medal, United Nations Service Medal, and a Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation, all of which she proudly wore on her scarlet and
gold blanket.

She was quite a courageous and hardworking gal, fondly looked after and loved by her unit.
Lieutenant General Randolph M. Pate reminisced later:

“I first saw this little lady when the First Marine Division was in reserve for a brief period.

I was surprised at her beauty and intelligence, and believe it or not, her esprit de corps.  Like any other Marine, she was enjoying a bottle of beer with her comrades.

She was constantly the center of attraction and was fully aware of her importance.  If she failed to receive the attention she felt her due, she would deliberately walk into a group of Marines and, in effect, enter the conversation.  It was obvious the Marines loved her.”

 

There’s a great deal more to the story of Reckless.  If you’d like to read more of her amazing and forgotten story here’s the best and detailed article that we could find, located in the Marines Leatherneck magazine archives of 1992.

It’s a very good read.

Please feel free to pass this story onto others– fellow Vets, friends, and equestrians.

 

* * * * * * * * * *

Thank you for your service, Veterans.

 

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Struggling to Get By In a Cold, Cold World

 

Empathy Deficit Disorder

 

**VIDEO**

 

Robert Reich
Robert Reich.org

 

 

Commenting on a recent student suicide at an Alaska high school, Alaska’s Republican Congressman Don Young said suicide didn’t exist in Alaska before “government largesse” gave residents an entitlement mentality.

“When people had to work and had to provide and had to keep warm by putting participation in cutting wood and catching the fish and killing the animals, we didn’t have the suicide problem,” he said.  Government handouts tell people “you are not worth anything but you are going to get something for nothing.”

Alaska has the highest rate of suicide per capita in America – almost twice the national average, and a leading cause of death in Alaska for young people ages 15 to 24 — but I doubt it’s because Alaskans lead excessively easy lives.

Every time I visit Alaska I’m struck by how hard people there have to work to make ends meet.  The state is the last American frontier, where people seem more self-reliant than anywhere in the lower forty eight.  

It’s true that every Alaskan receives an annual dividend from a portion of state oil revenues– this year it will be almost $2,000 per person– but research shows no correlation between the amount of the dividend from year to year and the suicide rate.

Suicide is a terrible tragedy for those driven to it and for their loved ones.  What possessed Congressman Young to turn it into a political football?

Young has since apologized for his remark.  Or, more accurately, his office has apologized.  “Congressman Young did not mean to upset anyone with his well-intentioned message,” says a news release from his congressional office, “and in light of the tragic events affecting the Wasilla High School community, he should have taken a much more sensitive approach.”

Well-intentioned?  More sensitive approach?

Young’s comment would be offensive regardless of who uttered it.  That he’s a member of the United States Congress– Alaska’s sole representative in the House– makes it downright alarming.

You might expect someone who’s in the business of representing others to have a bit more empathy.  In fact, you’d think empathy would be the minimum qualification to hold public office in a democracy.

Sadly, Young is hardly alone.  A remarkable number of people who are supposed to be devoting their lives to representing others seem clueless about how their constituents actually live and what they need.

Last week New Jersey Governor Chris Christie groused to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, “I’m tired of hearing about the minimum wage.”  No doubt some in the audience shared Christie’s view.  It was the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, after all.

But many of the Governor’s constituents are not tired of hearing about the minimum wage.  They depend on it.  New Jersey has among the largest number of working poor in America.  Some 50,000 people work for the state’s minimum wage of $8.25 an hour.

This isn’t nearly enough to lift them out of poverty.  The state’s cost of living is one of the five highest of all states.  

In any event, doesn’t hearing from constituents about what they need go with the job of representing them?

Christie went on to tell his audience “I don’t think there’s a mother or a father sitting around the kitchen table tonight in America saying, ‘You know, honey, if our son or daughter could just make a higher minimum wage, my God, all of our dreams would be realized.’  Is that what parents aspire to?”

A minimum-wage job is no one’s version of the American dream.  But Christie is wrong to suppose most minimum-wage workers are teenagers.  Most are adults who are major breadwinners for their families.

Christie seems to suffer the same ailment that afflicts Alaska’s Don Young.

Call it Empathy Deficit Disorder.  Some Democrats have it, but the disorder seems especially widespread among Republicans.  These politicians have no idea what people who are hard up in America are going through.

Most Americans aren’t suicidal, and most don’t work at the minimum wage.  But many are deeply anxious about their jobs and panicked about how they’re going to pay next month’s bills.

Almost two-thirds of working Americans are living paycheck to paycheck.  And they’re worried sick about whether their kids will ever make it.  They need leaders who understand their plight instead of denying it.  

They deserve politicians who want to fix it rather than blame it on those who have to depend on public assistance, or who need a higher minimum wage, in order to get by.

At the very least, they need leaders who empathize with what they’re going through, not those with Empathy Deficit Disorder.

By Robert Reich, October 27, 2014.
Images and Videos by the Humboldt Sentinel
Posted by Skippy Massey

 

 

 

 

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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