Tuesday, September 09, 2014

it's perfectly legal to film cops at work in all 50 states

HuffPo |  Snapping photos of police in Ferguson, Missouri, may have gotten Huffington Post reporter Ryan J. Reilly arrested Wednesday night while he was covering protests prompted by the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager who was shot to death by a police officer.

Reilly and Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowrey were detained and assaulted after attempting to film a swarm of police officers inside a McDonald’s. An officer slammed Reilly's head into a glass window, and Lowery was shoved into a soda fountain while wearing press credentials around his neck. Both were later released without being charged with breaking any laws.

“They essentially acted as a military force,” said Reilly, who was in the restaurant to charge his phone and computer. “It was incredible.”

In recent years, there have been countless cases of police officers ordering people to turn off their cameras, confiscating phones, and, like Reilly, arresting those who attempt to capture footage of them. Despite a common misconception, it’s actually perfectly legal to film police officers on the job.
“There are First Amendment protections for people photographing and recording in public,” Mickey Osterreicher, an attorney with the National Press Photographers Association, told The Huffington Post. According to Osterreicher, as long as you don’t get in their way, it’s perfectly legal to take photos and videos of police officers everywhere in the United States.

This misconception is pervasive enough that the New York City Police Department circulated a memo last week reminding officers.
“Members of the public are legally allowed to record police interactions,” the memo states, according to the Daily News. “Intentional interference such as blocking or obstructing cameras or ordering the person to cease constitutes censorship and also violates the First Amendment.”
The NYPD’s reminder comes as police activity is in the national spotlight. Just two days after Michael Brown’s death, cops in Los Angeles shot to death an unarmed black man who allegedly struggled with mental illness. And three weeks ago, a New York City police officer put Eric Garner in an illegal chokehold that left him dead after gasping “I can’t breathe!” A bystander caught the entire thing on video.
Those deaths, along with the arrests of Reilly and Lowrey, have raised questions about what, if anything, individuals can do to hold the police accountable for their actions. But one unquestionable right people have is to capture officers on film.
“There’s no law anywhere in the United States that prohibits people from recording the police on the street, in a park, or any other place where the public is generally allowed,” Osterreicher said.

overseers and bullies barely capable of functioning at a 5th grade level don't know the law...,

raisedonhoecakes |  Being a police officer doesn’t give one the right to act like an ignorant bully on steroids.

On August 1, 2008, Maryland State Troopers, members of the Harford County Sheriff’s office as well as other law enforcement agencies arrested a group of anti-abortion protestors from a pro-life, pro-family, Roman Catholic organization called Defend Life for…. well, what they were arrested for is part of the story.

According to the police, the protestors and a judge’s decision in the case, the protestors had set up on a
…grassy shoulder along Route 24, near the intersection of Routes 24 and 924 in Harford County. (Id. ¶ 22.) The demonstrators stood approximately 20 to 40 feet apart from each other and they held signs of varying sizes, between 4 and 5 feet in height and 2 and 3 feet in width that contained pictures and words that conveyed an anti-abortion message.
After receiving calls from motorists complaining that the signs and images the protestors were displaying were “offensive” and “upsetting,” Maryland State Troopers arrived and told the protestors they needed a permit. 

After talking with the State Trooper, the protestors moved 4 miles “up the road,” to a place where they believed they were legally allowed to protest. 

A few minutes later, the State Police, Harford County Police, and police from the City of Bel Air showed up and started to make arrests. Despite asking many and multiple times as to the reason they were being arrested, the law enforcement officers never told them, but kept the protestors along side of the road for 30 minutes. 

During this time, the protestors alleged they were “body searched,” including having female officers look down the shirts of the female protestors, and reaching in the protestors pants to search below the waistline. All of these searches allegedly happened along the side of the road.

The protestors were then taken to a holding cell where they were held without charges for at least 6 hours. The protestors were then moved to a detention center where the females were strip searched by a female officer in a bathroom. The plaintiffs contend the bathroom door was kept open. Still, at this time, no charges had been filed.

Between the hours of 2:30 AM and 9:00 AM, the protestors were interviewed by the Harford County Commissioner, who told them of the charges. All of the protestors were released by 11:00 AM. 

The short story of this is that a group of 18 people were arrested and held by the police without charges for over 7 hours. Even worse, they were arrested for a legal activity. 

How legal?

Monday, September 08, 2014

ode to a f*cked generation

medium |  Hi!! Smile!!

This generation is fucked.

Not just minor-league mini-fucked. Not a little bit cutesy aww Pikachu feels sad levels of fucked. This generation is full on holy bazoly did that really just happen ZOMG WTF kthxbye degrees of fucked.

Here’s what you already know. If you’re under the age of 35ish, you, many of your friends, and most of your acquaintances are probably living at home (or supported by the parentals); underemployed; overeducated; working for peanuts; obeying the orders of sociopathic, high-fiving Neanderthals in handmade suits (who, in case you thought it couldn’t get any worse, by next year will be…robots); at “jobs” that resemble modern-day servitude more than gainful employment, if by “gainful employment” you mean work by which you actually gain something lasting and which makes the most of you.

Like many, they probably wonder: “What the fuck! When will my life…actually begin?”

They feel stuck. Waiting for their first “real” job, home, break, gig, deal, family, career, chance. As if they’ve been marooned. By their elders. By “opportunity” (whatever the fuck that word means, anyways. The chance to clean the toilets of a super-rich asshole with the soul of a serial killer? Wow, thanks for knocking, “opportunity”!!). By the lives they were supposed to have.

They are stuck. They’re probably going to keep waiting. Forever. For most, their lives will neverbegin”; in the sense of meeting one’s expectations. This is their life.

Hey you!!! Smile!! Stay positive!!!!!

This is the first generation in the rich world that’s going to be worse off than its parents.

Not just temporarily. Permanently. Barring some kind of minor miracle, like free clean energy; or secret downloads of bitcash from Mars.

By worse off, I simply mean poorer. And by poorer, I simply mean: it will earn less.

are humans wired for bad news, angry faces, and sad memories?

aeon |  I have good news and bad news. Which would you like first? If it’s bad news, you’re in good company – that’s what most people pick. But why?

Negative events affect us more than positive ones. We remember them more vividly and they play a larger role in shaping our lives. Farewells, accidents, bad parenting, financial losses and even a random snide comment take up most of our psychic space, leaving little room for compliments or pleasant experiences to help us along life’s challenging path. The staggering human ability to adapt ensures that joy over a salary hike will abate within months, leaving only a benchmark for future raises. We feel pain, but not the absence of it.

Hundreds of scientific studies from around the world confirm our negativity bias: while a good day has no lasting effect on the following day, a bad day carries over. We process negative data faster and more thoroughly than positive data, and they affect us longer. Socially, we invest more in avoiding a bad reputation than in building a good one. Emotionally, we go to greater lengths to avoid a bad mood than to experience a good one. Pessimists tend to assess their health more accurately than optimists. In our era of political correctness, negative remarks stand out and seem more authentic. People – even babies as young as six months old – are quick to spot an angry face in a crowd, but slower to pick out a happy one; in fact, no matter how many smiles we see in that crowd, we will always spot the angry face first.

The machinery by which we recognise facial emotion, located in a brain region called the amygdala, reflects our nature as a whole: two-thirds of neurons in the amygdala are geared toward bad news, immediately responding and storing it in our long-term memory, points out neuropsychologist Rick Hanson, Senior Fellow of the Greater Good Science Center at University of California, Berkeley. This is what causes the ‘fight or flight’ reflex – a survival instinct based on our ability to use memory to quickly assess threats. Good news, by comparison, takes 12 whole seconds to travel from temporary to long-term memory. Our ancient ancestors were better off jumping away from every stick that looked like a snake than carefully examining it before deciding what to do.

urban shield police militarization expo...,

commondreams |  Urban Shield comes amid the ongoing militarization of U.S. police, showcased in Ferguson and enabled by a patchwork of programs facilitating collaboration between police and law enforcement.

The Pentagon's 1033 program, which was established in the 1990s, authorizes the Department of Defense to donate what it considers surplus military equipment to police and sheriff departments in the United States. Meanwhile, the 1122 program allows police to purchase military weapons deemed non-surplus at a reduced price for purposes of "counter-drug, homeland security and emergency response activities." Since September 11, 2001, the federal government spent billions of dollars on grants to assist in the arming of local police departments with military-grade weaponry recycled from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the 2011 findings of the Center for Investigative Reporting.  As a result, combat equipment ranging from Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles to grenade launchers to automatic weapons are being used to patrol U.S. streets, enter homes, and crack down on protests — from Boston to Ferguson.

The influx of weapons has led to the heavy arming of paramilitary SWAT teams, which were used increasingly throughout the 1970s and exploded during the onset of the War on Drugs. They are now used for policing activities ranging from drug raids to delivery of warrants. A recent ACLU report found that, between 2011 and 2012, SWAT raids conducted by local, state, and federal police disproportionately target people of color.

A coalition press statement slammed the vast impacts of these programs, which include: "SWAT raids that disproportionately impact the Black community happening 100 times per day in the U.S. often under the banner of the War on Drugs; ICE raids that force immigrants into dehumanizing detention and deportation proceedings; and surveillance and infiltration of mosques and Leftist political organizations."

Tara Tabassi of War Resisters League told Common Dreams via email, "We aim to dismantle all police militarization programs: Urban Shield, UASI, 1033, 1122 and Fusion Centers. Achieving that though, we would still be faced with the mentality of police militarization, domestically and globally. Occupation is not just about weapons, whether in Ferguson or Palestine. It exists because the present social order requires it, and that's why we are seeing a movement growing — from Boston to the Bay — that gets to the roots of the problem by demanding community self-determination."

mass-produced Jesus in throwaway petroleum vessels...,

celebratecommunion |  New Technology Improves Taste & Quality of Prefilled Communion Cups

Celebrate Communion prefilled cups have a delicious, improved taste. Advances in technology and manufacturing process make this unique cup even better than before with nearly twice the shelf-life. As always, this exceptional quality product does not require refrigeration, but now lasts over 10 months when stored in a cool, dry location. This can be a great savings because it allows you to order larger quantities at one time, significantly reducing shipping costs.

Innovative prefilled Communion cups with wafers are an appreciated solution to serving Communion in a convenient, healthy way. The rich 100% grape juice is fresh tasting, naturally sweet and fragrant, without any added sugars or high fructose corn syrup. The wafer stays crisper because this refined packaging process forms a tight vacuum seal. Every batch is inspected with comprehensive procedures for quality control, ensuring a consistent seal and easy-open feature.

Prefilled Communion cups with wafers have gained wide adoption in churches around the world because they are very easy to set up and are more economical since unused portions can be saved and used later.

Need help choosing the right Communion cups for your congregation? Check out our Communion cup comparison chart!

Sunday, September 07, 2014

ferguson is not gaza yet?

aljazeera |  the roots of the police violence seen in Ferguson go well beyond the Israel-Palestinian conflict. They lie in Vietnam, inner-cities and the farmlands of California's Central Valley. The militarization of police and the concomitant view that treats minority communities as enemies needing to be pacified rather than citizens to be served professionally began in the 1960s with the confluence of four factors.

First, the assertiveness of the civil rights movement, particularly the shift toward black militancy after urban riots in several black neighborhoods such as Watts, led major urban police departments to search for more powerful tools to control and pacify potentially insurgent populations. Second, the U.S. military’s counterinsurgency tactics employed in Vietnam were brought to bear on the “urban jungles” and the growing anti-war movement, which was considered a major threat to the ongoing prosecution of the war. Third, the government felt the need to police the growing movement for labor rights, as epitomized by the response to the United Farm Workers Union (UFW) strikes in Delano, California, in 1965.

In fact, a special weapons and tactics (SWAT) team was used for the very first time against the Cesar Chavez–led UFW strike of 1965. The deployment inspired Darryl Gates, then an inspector at the Los Angeles Police Department, to push for making SWAT a major part of his unit. It laid a solid foundation for the rise of militarized policing in the United States.

Fourth, the war on drugs, which was launched in 1971 by president Richard Nixon and focused on communities that were already targeted by SWAT teams; the law and order ethos of the Reagan era, which led to the (increasingly privatized) prison industrial complex; and the militarization of the U.S. southern border with the rise of anti-immigrant hysteria exacerbated militarized policing, with truly damaging results for American society. The concept gained even more momentum after 9/11. In 1985 only one quarter of cities with more than 25,000 inhabitants had SWAT teams. By 2005 this number had grown to more than 80 percent, conducting more than 50,000 annual raids, in part because the federal government requires the military equipment given to municipal police departments be used within one year or returned. 

don't talk, just record..,

freethoughtproject |  In a video uploaded to Facebook on September 4, Chicago Police officers are seen violently tossing a woman around,  attacking a man, and inciting general chaos- in typical police fashion.

The video begins with officers standing around with their chests puffed out, while a witness brilliantly reminds everyone not to talk, just to film.

Next thing we know a woman is having her face slammed into the hood of a cop car.

Moments later, after announcing “get out of the street or you’re going to jail”, while pacing around like a bulldog holding his asp, he gets insulted and unexpectedly bashes a man in the face so hard his hat goes flying.

The Chicago PD are no strangers to brutality.  The department has paid out millions to its victims, but up until May of this year they kept all complaints secret.
A study by University of Chicago professor Craig Futterman found that just 19 of 10,149 complaints accusing CPD officers of excessive force, illegal searches, racial abuse, sexual abuse, and false arrests led to a police suspension of a week or more. In more than 85 percent of internal investigations of complaints, the accused officer was never even interviewed, Think Progress reports.
Kudos to all the people we see filming in this video.  With filming of the police on the rise, many abuses that would have otherwise went unseen are being forced into public discussion.  This is the only way we will see true change.

When filming the police, always make sure you are prepared. Check out our guide to make sure you know your rights.

Film the police, because sunlight is the best disinfectant.

is gaza-style israelification the model for large-scale collapse crime?

washingtonsblog |  since police brutality against protesters has been so blatant in recent months, while no top bank executives have been prosecuted – many Americans believe that the police are protecting the bankers whose fraud brought down the economy instead of the American people ….

Some are comparing police brutality towards the Occupy protesters to that used by Israeli forces against Palestinian protesters. Indeed, numerous heads of U.S. police departments have traveled to Israel for “anti-terrorism training”, and received training from Israeli anti-terrorism experts visiting the U.S. See this, this, this, this, this.

Indeed, the Ferguson police chief received training in crowd control in Israel in 2011.
Even the mainstream media is picking up on the militarized police.  USA Today headlines, “Pentagon fueled Ferguson confrontation“.  And Newsweek runs with, “How America’s Police Became an Army.”

But they’re still blaming 9/11 as the reason for the militarization of the police.  As we explained in 2011, that’s not accurate:

Most assume that the militarization of police started after 9/11. Certainly, Dick Cheney initiated Continuity of Government Plans on September 11th that ended America’s constitutional form of government (at least for some undetermined period of time.) On that same day, a national state of emergency was declared … and that state of emergency has continuously been in effect up to today.

But the militarization of police actually started long before 9/11 … in the 1980s.
Radley Balko testified before the House Subcommittee on Crime in 2007:
Militarization [of police forces is] a troubling trend that’s been on the rise in America’s police departments over the last 25 years.
Since the late 1980s, Mr. Chairman, thanks to acts passed by the U.S. Congress, millions of pieces of surplus military equipment have been given to local police departments across the country.
We’re not talking just about computers and office equipment. Military-grade semi-automatic weapons, armored personnel vehicles, tanks, helicopters, airplanes, and all manner of other equipment designed for use on the battlefield is now being used on American streets, against American citizens.
Academic criminologists credit these transfers with the dramatic rise in paramilitary SWAT teams over the last quarter century.
SWAT teams were originally designed to be used in violent, emergency situations like hostage takings, acts of terrorism, or bank robberies. From the late 1960s to the early 1980s, that’s primarily how they were used, and they performed marvelously.
But beginning in the early 1980s, they’ve been increasingly used for routine warrant service in drug cases and other nonviolent crimes. And thanks to the Pentagon transfer programs, there are now a lot more of them.

how municipalities(plantations) profit off of poverty in st. louis county missouri...,

WaPo |  Stories like Bolden’s abound across the St. Louis area. And despite the efforts of the ArchCity Defenders and legal aid clinics like those at Saint Louis University and Washington University, the vast majority of the people swept up into the St. Louis County municipal court system don’t have attorneys to inform them of their rights or to negotiate with judges and prosecutors.
There are 90 municipalities in St. Louis County, and more in the surrounding counties. All but a few have their own police force, mayor, city manager and town council, and 81 have their own municipal court. To put that into perspective, consider Jackson County, Mo., which surrounds Kansas City. It is geographically larger than St. Louis County and has about two-thirds the population. Yet Jackson County has just 19 municipalities, and just 15 municipal courts — less than a quarter of municipalities and courts in St. Louis County.

Some of the towns in St. Louis County can derive 40 percent or more of their annual revenue from the petty fines and fees collected by their municipal courts. A majority of these fines are for traffic offenses, but they can also include fines for fare-hopping on MetroLink (St. Louis’s light rail system), loud music and other noise ordinance violations, zoning violations for uncut grass or unkempt property, violations of occupancy permit restrictions, trespassing, wearing “saggy pants,” business license violations and vague infractions such as “disturbing the peace” or “affray” that give police officers a great deal of discretion to look for other violations. In a white paper released last month (PDF), the ArchCity Defenders found a large group of people outside the courthouse in Bel-Ridge who had been fined for not subscribing to the town’s only approved garbage collection service. They hadn’t been fined for having trash on their property, only for not paying for the only legal method the town had designated for disposing of trash.

“These aren’t violent criminals,” says Thomas Harvey, another of the three co-founders of ArchCity Defenders. “These are people who make the same mistakes you or I do — speeding, not wearing a seatbelt, forgetting to get your car inspected on time. The difference is that they don’t have the money to pay the fines. Or they have kids, or jobs that don’t allow them to take time off for two or three court appearances. When you can’t pay the fines, you get fined for that, too. And when you can’t get to court, you get an arrest warrant.”

Arrest warrants are also public information. They can be accessed by potential landlords or employers. So they can prevent someone from getting a job, housing, job training, loans or financial aid. “So they just get sucked into this vortex of debt and despair,” Harvey says.
The death of Michael Brown at the hands of Ferguson, Mo., police officer Darren Wilson in August and the ensuing protests, crackdowns and violence have drawn lots of attention to St. Louis County, and spawned lots of discussions about issues like race and racism, police brutality, poverty, police shootings, police militarization and the relationship between police departments and the communities they serve.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

a church for the poor?

NYTimes |  Pope Francis grabbed headlines recently when he announced that Rome had lifted the block on sainthood for Archbishop Óscar Romero of San Salvador, who was shot dead while saying Mass in 1980. But much less attention was given to another of the pope’s actions, one that underscores a significant shift inside the Vatican under the first Latin American pope in the history of the Roman Catholic Church.

Archbishop Romero was assassinated after speaking out in favor of the poor during an era when right-wing death squads stalked El Salvador under an American-backed, military-led government in the 1970s and ’80s. For three decades Rome blocked his path to sainthood for fear that it would give succor to the proponents of liberation theology, the revolutionary movement that insists that the Catholic Church should work to bring economic and social — as well as spiritual — liberation to the poor.

Under Pope Francis that obstacle has been removed. The pope now says it is important that Archbishop Romero’s beatification — the precursor to becoming a saint — “be done quickly.” Conservative Catholics have tried to minimize the political significance of the pope’s stance by asserting that the archbishop, though a champion of the poor, never fully embraced liberation theology.

But another move by Pope Francis undermines such revisionism. This month he also lifted a ban from saying Mass imposed nearly 30 years ago upon Rev. Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, who had been suspended as a priest for serving as foreign minister in Nicaragua’s revolutionary Sandinista government in the same era. There is no ambiguity about the position on liberation theology of Father d’Escoto, who once called President Ronald Reagan a “butcher” and an “international outlaw.” Later, as president of the United Nations General Assembly, Father d’Escoto condemned American “acts of aggression” in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But there is more to the pope’s action than kindness to an 81-year-old man. In a remarkable turnaround, liberation theology is being brought in from the cold. During the Cold War, the idea that the Catholic Church should give “a preferential option for the poor” was seen by many in Rome as thinly disguised Marxism. Pope John Paul II, who had been brought up under Soviet bloc totalitarianism, was determined to crack down on it. On a visit to Nicaragua, he famously wagged a finger at Father d’Escoto’s fellow priest and cabinet minister, Ernesto Cardinal. The Vatican also silenced key exponents of liberation theology, and its founding father, the Peruvian priest Gustavo Gutiérrez, was placed under investigation by the Vatican’s guardian of doctrinal orthodoxy, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, or C.D.F.

what makes people poor?

NYTimes | Let’s imagine for a moment that there are no political pressures distorting our discussion of poverty and that we can look at it as a technical problem, not a moral one.
Maybe we would find that most explanations – left, right and center – are not mutually exclusive but mutually reinforcing.

Before we take this thought experiment further, we should consider the ramifications of new research that provides insight into urban social disorder, worklessness, the rising salience of education and the shortcomings of government policy.

David Autor, an economist at M.I.T. best known for exploring the costs to American workers of automation and trade with China, has recently expanded the scope of his research on unemployment to look at the consequences for men who grow up in a fatherless household.

In a paper published last year, Autor, working in collaboration with a fellow M.I.T. economist, Melanie Wasserman, found that “the labor market trajectory of males in the U.S. has turned downward along four dimensions: skills acquisition; employment rates; occupational stature; and real wage levels.” The trends have been much worse for men than women because “the absence of stable fathers from children’s lives has particularly significant adverse consequences for boys’ psychosocial development and educational achievement.”

Autor and Wasserman cite data showing that “after controlling for a host of individual and family characteristics, growing up in a single-parent home appears to significantly decrease the probability of college attendance for boys, yet has no similar effect for girls.” The authors add that when raised with a nonresidential father, “boys perform less well academically than girls.”

Friday, September 05, 2014

the extended phenotype: indirect genetic effects on ecosystems

thescientist |  The relationship between an individual’s phenotype and genotype has been fundamental to the genetic analysis of traits and to models of evolutionary change for decades. Of course, scientists have long recognized that phenotype responds to nongenetic factors, such as environmental variation in nutrient availability or the presence of other, competing species. But by assuming that the genetic component of a particular trait is confined to your genes and only yours, scientists overlooked another important input: the genes of your neighbors.
Take field crickets as an example. To identify potential mates, female crickets listen with ears on their forelegs to the males’ songs, produced by the rubbing together of their forewings. Some males emit series of long, trill-like chirps, an advertisement of their fitness that females find very attractive. Songs dominated by short chirps have less pull. But female crickets don’t evaluate songs on their absolute merits; instead, their preferences are influenced by the songs they’ve heard in the past. Female crickets previously exposed only to songs with long chirps are less likely to respond to short-chirp songs than females that have been exposed to the songs of less-fit males already. The insects appear to be retaining information about available males and then using that information to assess the attractiveness of suitors.1
Choosing mates amidst competition is ubiquitous among animals, but the logistics of how such choice evolved is less straightforward: because male song type is largely determined by genetics, female mating behavior is under the influence of male genes. In other words, the females’ decision-making behaviors evolved based on the genetic composition of the entire social group. Such indirect genetic effects (IGEs), also called associative effects or extended phenotypes, are common and have profound implications for evolution. Beyond learning and behavior in social species, IGEs affect how organisms develop, how productive plants are, and whether individuals are attacked by predators, herbivores, and disease.
In some sense, examples of IGEs are intuitively obvious. No individual exists in a vacuum, isolated from the influences of others it encounters. Yet for decades, many prominent evolutionary theories assumed that all of the genetic influences on an individual’s phenotype came from genes within itself. What the field needs now is a clear framework that recognizes IGEs as additional factors in a population’s evolution, allowing for more-accurate predictions about how biological systems will change in the future. The genetic makeup of an individual not only influences phenotypes of individuals in its own species, but can have far-reaching effects on organisms at different trophic levels within its food web, impacting the dynamics of entire ecosystems. The role of commensal microbes in human health is a prime example of how IGEs can transcend species boundaries.
How IGEs affect evolutionary dynamics remains very much an open question. Recent theoretical strides in this area show how IGEs can greatly accelerate evolutionary change and hint at their hitherto unsuspected roles in such varied phenomena as animal mating rituals, the development of human agricultural systems, species range shifts in response to climate change, and even altruism. The influences of IGEs on diverse evolutionary processes are undoubtedly more complicated than most models can capture, and biologists must think creatively about new phenomena that IGEs may drive.

the body's ecosystem

thescientist |  The human body is teeming with microbes—trillions of them. The commensal bacteria and fungi that live on and inside us outnumber our own cells 10-to-1, and the viruses that teem inside those cells and ours may add another order of magnitude. Genetic analyses of samples from different body regions have revealed the diverse and dynamic communities of microbes that inhabit not just the gut and areas directly exposed to the outside world, but also parts of the body that were long assumed to be microbe-free, such as the placenta, which turns out to harbor bacteria most closely akin to those in the mouth. The mouth microbiome is also suspected of influencing bacterial communities in the lungs. Researchers are also examining the basic biology of the microbiomes of the penis, the vagina, and the skin.
“No tissue in the human body is sterile, including reproductive tissues and, for that matter, the unborn child,” Seth Bordenstein, a biologist at Vanderbilt University, says in an e-mail to The Scientist.
Altogether, the members of the human body’s microbial ecosystem make up anywhere from two to six pounds of a 200-pound adult’s total body weight, according to estimates from the Human Microbiome Project, launched in 2007 by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The gastrointestinal tract is home to an overwhelming majority of these microbes, and, correspondingly, has attracted the most interest from the research community. But scientists are learning ever more about the microbiomes that inhabit parts of the body outside the gut, and they’re finding that these communities are likely just as important. Strong patterns, along with high diversity and variation across and within individuals, are recurring themes in microbiome research. While surveys of the body’s microbial communities continue, the field is also entering a second stage of inquiry: a quest to understand how the human microbiome promotes health or permits disease.
“None of us in the field—and this is true for the gut, this is true for the skin—none of us can actually tell how our experimental observations really relate to human disease, but we’re getting closer to mechanistic insights,” says immunologist Yasmine Belkaid, chief of mucosal immunology at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

rule of law: harvard and mit both hip deep in payday loan sharking...,

bloomberg |   Alex Slusky was under pressure to put the money in his private-equity fund to work. 

The San Francisco technology financier had raised $1.2 billion in 2007 to buy and turn around struggling software companies. By 2012, investors including Harvard University were upset that about half the money hadn’t been used, according to three people with direct knowledge of the situation. 

Three Americans on the Caribbean island of St. Croix presented a solution. They had built a network of payday-lending websites, using corporations set up in Belize and the Virgin Islands that obscured their involvement and circumvented U.S. usury laws, according to four former employees of their company, Cane Bay Partners VI LLLP. The sites Cane Bay runs make millions of dollars a month in small loans to desperate people, charging more than 600 percent interest a year, said the ex-employees, who asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation. 

Slusky’s fund, Vector Capital IV LP, bought into Cane Bay a year and a half ago, according to three people who used to work at Vector and the former Cane Bay employees. One ex-Vector employee said the private-equity firm didn’t tell investors the company is in the payday-lending business, where borrowers repay loans out of their next paychecks.

rule of law: why is the thin blue overseer line always so overwhelmingly white?

NYTimes |  In hundreds of police departments across the country, the percentage of whites on the force is more than 30 percentage points higher than in the communities they serve, according to an analysis of a government survey of police departments. Minorities make up a quarter of police forces, according to the 2007 survey, the most recent comprehensive data available. Experts say that diversity in the police force increases a department’s credibility with its community. “Even if police officers of whatever race enforce the law in relatively the same way, there is a huge image problem with a department that is so out of sync with the racial composition of the local population,” said Ronald Weitzer, a sociologist at George Washington University. Listed below are local police departments from 15 metropolitan areas, sorted so that departments with the largest percentage-point differences of white officers to white residents are at the top.

rule of law: spending more on guns than nuns is recipe for being done...,

mic |  Tear gas. Armored transports. Military-grade weaponry. These are the images burned into our minds in the wake of the chaos in Ferguson earlier this month. 

Just one of the many disturbing revelations coming out of Ferguson is the militarization of local police departments across the U.S.

This statistic captures the trend: Despite a global recession that crippled city finances, the total spending on police per American increased by 28% between 2001 and 2010, according to figures from the Bureau of Justice Statistics. And that's the increase after taking inflation into account. 

The story gets more interesting when examining police spending at the city level. The map below shows how much it costs, per person, to support police departments in various cities.
Are people in cities that spend more on police safer? No. This is clear from the interactive chart below, which ranks cities by their violent crime and property crime rates. Violent crimes are defined as murder, non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, or aggravated assault. Property crimes are burglary, larceny, or motor vehicle theft.

Detroit and St. Louis top the violent crime ranking, and both spend more on policing per person than most major cities.  Fist tap Dale.

how corporate power converted wealth into philanthropy for social control

alternet |  Given that the World Bank has more or less directed the economic policies of the Third World, coercing and cracking open the market of country after country for global finance, you could say that corporate philanthropy has turned out to be the most visionary business of all time.

Corporate-endowed foundations administer, trade, and channel their power and place their chessmen on the chessboard through a system of elite clubs and think tanks, whose members overlap and move in and out through the revolving doors. Contrary to the various conspiracy theories in circulation, particularly among left-wing groups, there is nothing secret, satanic, or Freemason-like about this arrangement. It is not very different from the way corporations use shell companies and offshore accounts to transfer and administer their money—except that the currency is power, not money.

The transnational equivalent of the CFR is the Trilateral Commission, set up in 1973 by David Rockefeller, the former US national security adviser Zbignew Brzezinski (founder-member of the Afghan mujahidin, forefathers of the Taliban), the Chase Manhattan Bank, and some other private eminences. Its purpose was to create an enduring bond of friendship and cooperation between the elites of North America, Europe, and Japan. It has now become a pentalateral commission, because it includes members from China and India (Tarun Das of the CII; N. R. Narayana Murthy, ex-CEO of Infosys; Jamsheyd N. Godrej, managing director of Godrej; Jamshed J. Irani, director of Tata Sons; and Gautam Thapar, CEO of Avantha Group).

The Aspen Institute is an international club of local elites, businessmen, bureaucrats, and politicians, with franchises in several countries. Tarun Das is the president of the Aspen Institute, India. Gautam Thapar is chairman. Several senior officers of the McKinsey Global Institute (proposer of the Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor) are members of the CFR, the Trilateral Commission, and the Aspen Institute.

The Ford Foundation (liberal foil to the more conservative Rockefeller Foundation, though the two work together constantly) was set up in 1936. Though it is often underplayed, the Ford Foundation has a very clear, well-defined ideology and works extremely closely with the US State Department. Its project of deepening democracy and “good governance” is very much part of the Bretton Woods scheme of standardizing business practice and promoting efficiency in the free market. After the Second World War, when communists replaced fascists as the US Government’s Enemy Number One, new kinds of institutions were needed to deal with the Cold War. Ford funded RAND (Research and Development Corporation), a military think tank that began with weapons research for the US defense services. In 1952, to thwart “the persistent Communist effort to penetrate and disrupt free nations,” it established the Fund for the Republic, which then morphed into the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions, whose brief was to wage the Cold War intelligently, without McCarthyite excesses. It is through this lens that we need to view the work that the Ford Foundation is doing with the millions of dollars it has invested in India—its funding of artists, filmmakers, and activists, its generous endowment of university courses and scholarships.

The Ford Foundation’s declared “goals for the future of mankind” include interventions in grassroots political movements locally and internationally. In the United States it provided millions in grants and loans to support the credit union movement that was pioneered by the department store owner Edward Filene in 1919. Filene believed in creating a mass consumption society of consumer goods by giving workers affordable access to credit—a radical idea at the time. Actually, only half of a radical idea, because the other half of what Filene believed in was a more equitable distribution of national income. Capitalists seized on the first half of Filene’s suggestion and, by disbursing “affordable” loans of tens of millions of dollars to working people, turned the US working class into people who are permanently in debt, running to catch up with their lifestyles.

Many years later, this idea has trickled down to the impoverished countryside of Bangladesh when Mohammed Yunus and the Grameen Bank brought microcredit to starving peasants with disastrous consequences. The poor of the subcontinent have always lived in debt, in the merciless grip of the local village usurer—the Baniya. But microfinance has corporatized that too. Microfinance companies in India are responsible for hundreds of suicides—two hundred people in Andhra Pradesh in 2010 alone. A national daily recently published a suicide note by an eighteen-year-old girl who was forced to hand over her last 150 rupees, her school fees, to bullying employees of the microfinance company. The note read, “Work hard and earn money. Do not take loans.”

There’s a lot of money in poverty, and a few Nobel Prizes too.

doctors without borders condemns global response to ebola

abc.net.au |  MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: The medical charity Medicins Sans Frontiers has issued a damning criticism of world leaders, saying the global response to the Ebola outbreak has been "lethally inadequate".

The agency, as well as the World Health Organisation and the US Centers for Disease Control, is warning the situation gets harder to control by the day.

North America Correspondent Jane Cowan reports.

JANE COWAN: Six months into the worst Ebola epidemic in the nearly 40 year history of the disease, it's a grim picture. Doctors Without Borders president Joanne Liu told a UN forum her agency is completely overwhelmed and the world is "losing the battle" against the virus. She says a global intervention involving both military and civilian personnel is needed to curb the outbreak.

JOANNE LIU: Leaders are failing to come to grips with this transnational threat. In West Africa, cases and death continue to surge. Riots are breaking out. Isolation centres are overwhelmed. Health workers on the front lines are becoming infected and are dying in shocking numbers. Others have fled in fear, leaving people without care for even the most common illnesses.

Entire health systems have crumbled.

Ebola treatment centres are reduced to places where people go to die alone, where little more than palliative care is offered. It is impossible to keep up with the sheer number of infected people pouring in our facilities.

JANE COWAN: The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Tom Frieden says the medical community knows what to do to stop the spread of Ebola, but the challenge is to put those measures in place on the massive scale that's required.

TOM FRIEDEN: There is a window of opportunity to tamp this down, but that window is closing. We need action now to scale up the response.

JANE COWAN: Latest figures show more than 1500 people have died from the virus, with more than 3,000 confirmed cases, mostly in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

To make things worse, the areas are about to be hit by food shortages as neighbouring countries close land borders, restricting the flow of grain from abroad.

The World Health Organisation chief Margaret Chan says the borders need to be reopened.

MARGARET CHAN: The three hardest hit countries are literally isolated and marginalised. And this is hampering very fast response when we cannot fly in our experts to help.

JANE COWAN: The CDC says there's a small chance the virus could become more infectious through a process of genetic mutation but so far it appears to be spreading the same way it always has.

cdc director: window is closing on containing ebola

thedailybeast |  At a press conference Tuesday, CDC Director Tom Frieden warned that time is running out to contain West Africa’s Ebola outbreak.

Days after returning from West Africa, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Thomas Frieden opened a press conference with a sobering admonition about the effort to contain the Ebola epidemic to West Africa: “The window is closing.”

In an impassioned call to action, he urged American doctors, nurses, and health care professionals to join Africa in its fight. “This isn’t just the countries’ problem,” he said. “It’s a global problem.” With vivid detail, Frieden painted a gruesome picture of overcrowded isolation centers in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea, where health care workers are struggling to keep up with “basic care.” He mentioned deficiencies not only in the number of doctors, nurses, and health managers available, but the protective gear needed to keep them safe. Without an immediate change in the current landscape, he said, the worst is yet to come. “The level of outbreak is beyond anything we’ve seen—or even imagined,” Frieden said.

At one particular 35-bed facility, Frieden described the chilling sight of more than three-dozen Ebola patients without beds, left with no other place to fight their infections but the floor. The health care workers, too, face “distressing” conditions. “Roasting hot” personal protective gear including robes, masks, boots, and goggles, make simply drawing an IV a near impossible task. “It is very difficult to move…sweats pours into goggles, [the health workers] see the enormous need but the great risk, too,” he said.

But even more alarming than the disturbing images, was the lack of outside support. “The most upsetting thing I saw was what I didn’t see,” he said. “No data from countries where it’s spreading, no rapid response teams, no trucks, a lack of efficient management,” he said. “I could not possibly overstate the need for an urgent response.”

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

the evolutionary roots of human altruism...,

sciencedaily |  A group of researchers from Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Italy and Great Britain, headed by anthropologist Judith Burkart from the University of Zurich, therefore developed a novel approach they systematically applied to a great number of primate species. The results of the study have now been published in Nature Communications

For their study, Burkart and her colleagues developed the new paradigm of group service, which examines spontaneous helping behavior in a standardized way. With the aid of a simple test apparatus, the researchers studied whether individuals from a particular primate species were prepared to provide other group members with a treat, even if this meant missing out themselves (see box). The scientists applied this standardized test to 24 social groups of 15 different primate species. They also examined whether and how kindergarten children aged between four and seven acted altruistically.  

The researchers found that the willingness to provision others varies greatly from one primate species to the next. But there was a clear pattern, as summarized by Burkart: “Humans and callitrichid monkeys acted highly altruistically and almost always produced the treats for the other group members. Chimpanzees, one of our closest relatives, however, only did so sporadically.” Similarly, most other primate species, including capuchins and macaques, only rarely pulled the lever to give another group member food, if at all – even though they have considerable cognitive skills.     

Until now, many researchers assumed that spontaneous altruistic behavior in primates could be attributed to factors they would share with humans: advanced cognitive skills, large brains, high social tolerance, collective foraging or the presence of pair bonds or other strong social bonds. As Burkart’s new data now reveal, however, none of these factors reliably predicts whether a primate species will be spontaneously altruistic or not. Instead, another factor that sets us humans apart from the great apes appears to be responsible. Says Burkart: “Spontaneous, altruistic behavior is exclusively found among species where the young are not only cared for by the mother, but also other group members such as siblings, fathers, grandmothers, aunts and uncles.” This behavior is referred to technically as the “cooperative breeding” or “allomaternal care.”  

The significance of this study goes beyond identifying the roots of our altruism. Cooperative behavior also favored the evolution of our exceptional cognitive abilities. During development, human children gradually construct their cognitive skills based on extensive selfless social inputs from caring parents and other helpers, and the researchers believe that it is this new mode of caring that also put our ancestors on the road to our cognitive excellence. This study may, therefore, have just identified the foundation for the process that made us human. As Burkart suggests: “When our hominin ancestors began to raise their offspring cooperatively, they laid the foundation for both our altruism and our exceptional cognition.”

if nuns ruled the world

religiondispatches |  What inspired you to write If Nuns Ruled the World?
Around 2009 I started spending a lot of time around nuns. I was finishing a thesis for my masters over at NYU and the topic was how Catholic nuns used social media. I started traveling around the country to meet with nuns who blogged and tweeted.

Despite having gone to an all-girls Catholic high school I had just as many stereotypes of Catholic sisters as anyone does. But the nuns I met on the road began to shatter those stereotypes. They weren’t these stuffy, ruler-wielding automatons. They were independent bad-asses. And each of these bad-ass nuns led to another bad-ass nun. I would come back home from some of these trips and share their stories at dinner parties and people were just so surprised. They’d never heard of nuns doing so many amazing things. In fact, they hadn’t heard that much about nuns at all. That’s when I knew there were stories here that needed to be told.

What’s the most important take-home message for readers?
Nuns are the true embodiment of the way that Christians believe Jesus Christ wanted us to live. They are right there fighting on the frontlines of social justice for the people who live at the margins of our society. They rarely get banner headlines or magazine covers or even recognition from their male peers, but they do it anyway.

In my book I talk about Sister Jeannine Gramick’s fighting for the rights of gay Catholics for the past four decades, Sister Joan Dawber running a safe house for victims of human trafficking, Sister Donna Quinn fighting for a woman’s right to have an abortion and Sister Simone Campbell leading the Nuns on the Bus to lobby for political justice for the poorest of the poor in America. These are women whose praises we should be singing from the rooftops.

For a good portion of my career I covered the entertainment industry and celebrities. One of my goals here was to elevate the incredible work of the nuns so that we will consume their stories as hungrily as we consume content about celebrities.

the great nunquisition: why the vatican is cracking down on sisters

Time |  Today's generation of nuns are progressive women, two things the Church isn't used to

Nuns are an endangered species. They are dying and not being replaced.

If you think the news is bad now, a world without nuns would be a far worse place. The nuns that I know are much too humble to tout their achievements and all of the good they contribute to society, but make no mistake, they are an integral part of the fabric that holds our civilization together.

In 2014 there were just 49,883 religious Catholic sisters in the United States, down 13% percent from 2010 according to figures from the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate. To put it in greater perspective, that is a 72% decline since 1965.

Because nuns don’t brag about all of the good that they do or hashtag how awesome they are on Facebook, many people have no idea about the things they accomplish on a daily basis.

You probably haven’t heard about Sister Joan Dawber. Sister Joan, a Sister of Charity of Halifax, runs a safe house in Queens for victims of human trafficking—former sex and labor slaves. She takes these women in when they have no one else to protect them and risks her life to help them rebuild theirs.

About 20 minutes away by car from Sister Joan’s safe house, Sister Tesa Fitzgerald works tirelessly to raise the children of mothers who are incarcerated. When those women get out of prison Sister Tesa helps them get clothes, jobs and an apartment. Those women credit Tesa with nothing less than saving their lives.

Most people don’t know about Sister Nora Nash, a Franciscan Sister who lives just outside of Philadelphia. As her order’s Director of Corporate Social Responsibility, Sister Nora wakes up every single morning determined to make corporations more responsible to the human race. Sister Nora and her assistant director, Tom McCaney have taken to task the grocery store chain Kroger over the rights of farm workers, Hershey’s chocolate company over child labor, McDonald’s over childhood obesity, Walmart on raising their minimum wage and Wells Fargo over predatory lending practices. Nash wakes up every single morning determined to make corporations more responsible to the human race. Then she follows through on it.

For more than four decades Sister Jeannine Gramick has been tireless in her fight for gay rights through her organization New Ways, despite coming under intense scrutiny from the Vatican.

Sister Dianna Ortiz made headlines in 1989 when she was abducted, tortured and raped while working as a teacher in Guatemala. After living through that horror, instead of allowing herself to sink into a terrible depression, she headed up an organization to help thousands of torture survivors around the globe find the will to keep living.

It’s a problem that you haven’t heard about these women. You would think that, during a time when the Church has suffered from great criticism and weathered very public scandals, it would be celebrating these incredible achievements. Think again.

detroit's thirsty negroe experiment continues....,

usatoday |  U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes was due to decide Tuesday on a request to issue a restraining order against additional shutoffs of customers with unpaid water bills.

People need water "to live, to survive, to thrive," lawyer Alice Jennings told Rhodes in a hearing Tuesday morning. "The inability to flush a toilet quite frankly, your honor, creates a health problem."

Jennings represents a number of groups opposed to the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department's aggressive program of going after unpaid water bills. The department has cut off water to 19,000 homes in recent months, with about 5,000 remaining without water, Jennings said. The groups fighting the shutoffs include the National Action Network, Moratorium Now, the People's Water Board and the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization.

Jennings said the shutoffs endanger low-income families and particularly children and vulnerable seniors. The groups are seeking the restraining order until the city has a more comprehensive plan for helping the poorest city residents with financial help to pay for a critical service, much the way there are resources to help against electricity and heat shutoffs.

But a lawyer for the water department, Tomothy Fusco, said the department opposes the move because it would be an unprecedented effort to prevent it from following through on its duty to properly run the department, including going after customers illegally hooked into water service.
Fusco also said that under the federal bankruptcy code, judges aren't authorized to instruct local governments on how to operate.

"This is not the forum or the way to deal with this issue," Fusco said.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

who owns the nukes if wall st. owns the government?

countercurrents |  So if "we" gave away our jobs, gave away our major corporations, gave away our trade secrets, gave away access to the natural resources assumed to be the spoils of war, donated our military men to protect Chinese industry in Afghanistan and Iraq, and charged our taxpayers over a trillion dollars for accomplishment of these tasks, then who will determine the use of our nukes? A fair question, isn’t it? A nuclear war between the United States and Russia would likely leave China and our emigrated industry, the corrupters of Congress, untouched, at least physically, and would make it overnight the unquestioned dominant economic power in the world. So perhaps we cannot assume that our government is giving full consideration to the dangers to the US itself of nuclear war with Russia. 

American politics of both parties at this time portray a nation bent on self-destruction. For instance, the Republican Party, which as a practical matter is the controlling party today, "is divided between the ‘hope America fails’ Republicans, who appear to actively want joblessness to rise to seek political gain, and the radical Republicans who adore Ayn Rand, like Paul and Ryan, who favor extremist economic policies that would make America fail ." Budowsky, " July 4 Infamy: Republicans Try to Destroy America’s Economy," http://www.laprogressive.com/republicans-destroy-economy/ And the Democrats, with as much or more support from Wall Street than the Republicans, elected a candidate for two terms whose political strategies (e.g. assertion of the existence of a Senate "super majority") have assured Republican control, whose name alone uniquely qualifies him to be controversial and misunderstood, and whose very first day in office was spent openly and deliberately rejecting central campaign promises that he could as easily have kept, "What Fools We Are," 

Has it not come to anyone’s mind that Wall Street may have intentionally engineered a politics of failure for the United States, and that the Republicans’ willingness to destroy the American economy is Wall Street’s as well ?
And how better quickly to engineer a lasting failure of America, than to steer it into a nuclear first strike after resettling the great corporations thousands of miles away, leaving them free to pick up the spoils in two or three newly-vacated subcontinents? Doesn’t that make this nuclear confrontation uniquely dangerous? 

These are insane questions, and one who poses them must question his own sanity, but they are no more nor less insane than the question, to which we now casually assume the answer: "Aren’t Wall Street and the world’s political and corporate leaders steering us into ultimately catastrophic climate change?"

I don’t know what’s going on here, but I know the people had better regain control of the nuclear weapons, and fast.

Monday, September 01, 2014

not just EM drives, China's working on thorium reactors as well...,

peakprosperity |  Two years ago, we interviewed Kirk Sorenson about the potential for thorium to offer humanity a safe, cheap and abundant source of energy.

He is an active advocate for developing liquid fluoride thorium reactor (LFTR) technology, the details of which were covered in our earlier podcast: A Detailed Exploration of Thorium's Potential As An Energy Source. That interview concluded with Kirk's observation that the West could have a fully-operational LFTR reactor up and running at commercial scale within a decade, but it won't, because it is simply choosing not to prioritize exploring its potential.

But that doesn't mean other countries are ignoring thorium's promise.

Kirk returns this week to relay what has happened in the thorium space since our last conversation. The East, most notably China, is now fully-mobilized around getting its first reactor operational by as soon as 2020. If indeed thorium reactors are as successful as hoped, the US will find itself playing catch up against countries who suddenly hold a tremendous technology advantage: Fist tap Dale.

DOE posts a complete history of the Manhattan Project

osti |  General Leslie Groves, head of the Manhattan Engineer District, in late 1944 commissioned a multi-volume history of the Manhattan Project called the Manhattan District History. Prepared by multiple authors under the general editorship of Gavin Hadden, a longtime civil employee of the Army Corps of Engineers, the classified history was "intended to describe, in simple terms, easily understood by the average reader, just what the Manhattan District did, and how, when, and where." 

The volumes record the Manhattan Project's activities and achievements in research, design, construction, operation, and administration, assembling a vast amount of information in a systematic, readily available form. The Manhattan District History contains extensive annotations, statistical tables, charts, engineering drawings, maps, photographs, and detailed indices. Only a handful of copies of the history were prepared. The Department of Energy's Office of History and Heritage Resources is custodian of one of these copies.

The history is arranged in thirty-six volumes grouped in eight books. Some of the volumes were further divided into stand-alone chapters. Several of the volumes and stand-alone chapters were never security classified. Many of the volumes and chapters were declassified at various times and were available to the public on microfilm. Parts of approximately a third of the volumes remain classified.

The Office of Classification and the Office of History and Heritage Resources, in collaboration with the Department's Office of Science and Technical Information, have made the full-text of the entire thirty-six volume Manhattan District History available on this OpenNet website. Unclassified and declassified volumes have been scanned and posted. Classified volumes were declassified in full or with redactions, i.e., still classified terms, phrases, sentences, and paragraphs were removed and the remaining unclassified parts made available to the public. All volumes have been posted.

Following is a listing of the books, volumes, and stand-alone chapters of the Manhattan District History with links to pdf copies.