Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Breitbartian Obama-Hating Moderate: Mitt Unveils Ridiculous New Campaign Persona

The latest meme making the Beltway rounds at the urging of Mitt Romney’s staff is that their candidate has really pulled a fast one on the “conservative base” of his party: he’s a “moderate” (you know, like Bill Clinton) who’s figured out he can keep the wingnuts happy just by being a Breitbartian badass towards Obama. Give’ em Solyndra photo ops, the meme suggests, and they won’t make Romney endorse the Gold Standard or a Personhood Amendment. McKay Coppins wrote up the meme today for Buzzfeed:   READ MORE

JC Penney Responds to Homophobic Boycott With Same-Sex Fathers' Day Ad

Here’s JCPenney’s response to the boycotting, caterwauling and whining about their use of Ellen DeGeneres as a spokesperson.
According to the company, the two men who appear in the ad are “real-life dads Todd Koch and Cooper Smith,” and the jubilant children are their kids, Claire and Mason.
In other news about gay parents, Eagle Scout Zach Wahls delivered a petition with 250,000 signatures to the leadership of the Boy Scouts of America, asking them to stop discriminating against gay parents. The petition was a response to the Scouts prohibiting the lesbian mother of a 7 year-old from being a Cub Scout den leader. Wahls is the author of My Two Moms, which explains how his mothers taught him the virtues of the Boy Scout Code. One of his mothers was his troop leader, because the Scouts leave enforcement of their anti-homosexuality clause to the discretion of local Scout organizations.

Pity the Poor Billionaires

David H. Koch in 1996. He and his brother Charles are
lifelong libertarians and have quietly given more than
a hundred million dollars to right-wing causes.
(photo: Richard Schulman/Corbis)
By Bill Moyers and Michael Winship, Moyers and Co.
01 June 12

e had the perfect headline all picked out for this piece but our colleague Paul Waldman at The American Prospect magazine beat us to the punch:
"It's Hard Out There for a Billionaire."
You see, according to, the so-called "mega-donors," unleashed by Citizens United and pouring boundless big bucks into this year's political campaigns, are upset that their massive contributions are being exposed to public view, ignoring the right of every one of us to know who is giving money to candidates -- and the opportunity to try to figure out why.
"Quit picking on us" is part of Politico's headline. Their article says that the mega-donors' "six- and seven-figure contributions have... bought them nothing but grief."
This is definitely not what they had in mind. In their view, cutting a million-dollar check to try to sway the presidential race should be just another way to do their part for democracy, not a fast-track to the front page.
Uh-huh. The sound you hear is the world's smallest violin, say, a teeny-tiny Stradivarius insured for millions. "Is there a group of people you can think of who have thinner skin than America's multimillionaires and billionaires?' Paul Waldman asks.
Wall Street titans have been whining for a couple of years now about the horror of people in politics criticizing ineffective banking regulations and the favorable tax treatment so many wealthy people receive... America's barons feel assaulted, victimized, wounded in ways that not even a bracing ride to your Hamptons estate in your new Porsche 911 can salve. And now that the presidential campaign is in full swing, their tender feelings are being hurt left and right.  READ MORE

Meet the Corporate Front Groups Fighting to Make Sure You Can't Know What's in Your Food Here's a partial lineup of hired guns and organizations behind the anti-labeling advertising blitz soon to hit the California airwaves. May 31, 2012

What do a former mouthpiece for tobacco and big oil, a corporate-interest PR flack, and the regional director of a Monsanto-funded tort reform group have in common?

They’re all part of the anti-labeling PR team that will soon unleash a massive advertising and PR campaign in California, designed to scare voters into rejecting the California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act.

In November, California voters will vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on a law to require mandatory labeling of all GMO ingredients in processed foods, and ban the routine industry practice of mislabeling foods containing GMO ingredients as ‘natural.’

Polls show that nearly 90% of the state’s voters plan to vote ‘yes.’  But when November rolls around, will voter support still be strong? Not if the biotech, agribusiness, and food manufacturers industries can help it.

It’s estimated that the opposition will spend $60 million - $100 million to convince voters that GMOs are perfectly safe. They’ll try to scare voters into believing that labeling will make food more expensive, that it will spark hundreds of lawsuits against small farmers and small businesses, and that it will contribute to world hunger.  None of this is true. On the contrary, studies suggest just the opposite.

Are Christian Fundamentalists Teaching Genocide in Our Schools?

Photo Credit: f11 photo via
Thanks to Good News Clubs, evangelism in schools is already subverting the separation of church and state. Now they're justifying the murder of nonbelievers.
May 31, 2012

The Bible has thousands of passages that may serve as the basis for instruction and inspiration. Not all of them are appropriate in all circumstances.
The story of Saul and the Amalekites is a case in point. It's not a pretty story, and it is often used by people who don't intend to do pretty things. In the book of 1 Samuel (15:3), God said to Saul:
"Now go, attack the Amalekites, and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys."
Saul dutifully exterminated the women, the children, the babies and all of the men – but then he spared the king. He also saved some of the tastier looking calves and lambs. God was furious with him for his failure to finish the job.
The story of the Amalekites has been used to justify genocide throughout the ages. According to Pennsylvania State University Professor Philip Jenkins, a contributing editor for the American Conservative, the Puritans used this passage when they wanted to get rid of the Native American tribes. Catholics used it against Protestants, Protestants against Catholics. "In Rwanda in 1994, Hutu preachers invoked King Saul's memory to justify the total slaughter of their Tutsi neighbors," writes Jenkins in his 2011 book, Laying Down the Sword: Why We Can't Ignore the Bible's Violent Verses (HarperCollins).  READ MORE

8 Surprising Things That May Be Making Americans Fat

Photo Credit: Jenn Huls/
Eating too much and exercising too little, considered the root of obesity, are not the only probable culprits.
May 31, 2012

A third of the U.S. population is now overweight, making it just a matter of time before normal-size people are actually in the minority. Americans have so ballooned in size, government safety regulators worry that airline seats and belts won't restrain today's men who average 194 pounds and women who average 165 pounds, in a crash. 

Not everyone agrees that obesity is always a health problem. You can be overweight and still have normal blood pressure, blood sugar, HDL cholesterol and other metabolic markers if you exercise, say some, pointing to U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, who hiked the Grand Canyon in 2010 despite her extra poundage.

But others say fitness and exercise will not reverse the health effects of obesity. The British medical journal The Lancet recently reported that rising obesity in the U.K. will cause an extra half a million cases of heart disease, 700,000 cases of diabetes and 130,000 of cancer by 2030. And the overweight and obese are 80 percent more likely to develop dementia writes Kerry Trueman on AlterNet.
And there are other obesity "negatives." The obese are less likely to be employed, earn less than people of normal weight and "have more days of absence from work, a lower productivity on the job and a greater access to disability benefits," reports the Paris-based policy group Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.  TRUST ME, YOU REALLY NEED TO READ MORE

Poll: Public sides with Obama on deficit

In this July 14, 2011, file photo, President Barack Obama
sits with House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, House
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, House
Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, as he meets with
Republican and Democratic leaders regarding the debt
ceiling in the Cabinet Room of the White House in
Washington, Thursday, July 14, 2011. Obama's decision
to haul lawmakers in day by day to negotiate a debt deal
comes down to reality: He has no other choice. The
president has essentially cleared his agenda to deal with
one enormous crisis.
(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)(Credit: AP)

The potentially catastrophic effects of a default are finally sinking in with Americans

Most Americans want to see a compromise on the debt ceiling, according to a new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll.

62 percent of self-identified Democrats said they would want Democratic leaders in the House and Senate to make compromises to gain consensus on the current budget debate, while only 43 percent of Republicans want to see their party leaders concede some of their positions. However, around 70 percent of independent respondents said they wanted to see both parties compromise.

Mike McConnell, the WashPost & the dangers of sleazy corporatism

A former Bush director uses the Washington Post to advocate dangerous policies he would personally profit from

In a political culture drowning in hidden conflicts of interests, exploitation of political office for profit, and a rapidly eroding wall separating the public and private spheres, Michael McConnell stands out as the perfect embodiment of all those afflictions.  Few people have blurred the line between public office and private profit more egregiously and shamelessly than he.  McConnell’s behavior is the classic never-ending “revolving door” syndrome:  public officials serve private interests while in office and are then lavishly rewarded by those same interests once they leave.  He went from being head of the National Security Agency under Bush 41 and Clinton directly to Booz Allen, one of the nation’s largest private intelligence contractors, then became Bush’s Director of National Intelligence (DNI), then went back to Booz Allen, where he is now Executive Vice President.

Friday, June 1, 2012

George Zimmerman's bond revoked by judge, 48 hours to surrender in Trayvon Martin killing

(CBS/AP) SANFORD, Fla. - A judge Friday revoked bond for George Zimmerman, and gave the neighborhood watch volunteer who killed Florida teen Trayvon Martin 48 hours to surrender.

Pictures: Trayvon Martin shooting

Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester Jr. said that Zimmerman engaged in "material falsehood" about money in issuing his ruling.

About an hour before the ruling came, prosecutors in the second-degree murder case again Zimmerman had filed a new motion requesting the bond revocation.They contended Zimmerman's wife knew about the donations he had collected through a PayPal account, but didn't mention the money at his bond hearing.

Zimmerman's PayPal account collected more than $200,000, his attorney later revealed.

"Defendant has intentionally deceived the court with the assistance of his wife, Shelley Zimmerman.

During the jail phone calls both of them spoke in code to hide what they were doing," the motion read.

The judge said Zimmerman had misled the court at his bond hearing.

The defense says the finances are an innocent misunderstanding.   READ MORE

News investigation Coca Cola challenged over orange harvest linked to 'exploitation and squalor'

Andrew Wasley
24th February, 2012

The manufacturer of Fanta is being urged to help address the poor conditions and low wages endured by some African migrant workers harvesting oranges in southern Italy. Andrew Wasley reports from Rosarno

It is perhaps the worst address in Western Europe. A ramshackle slum with a noisy road on one side, a railway on another, and a stagnant-looking river flowing close-by. The camp itself consists of little more than a collection of shoddily-erected canvas tents and some abandoned buildings and sheds.

Behind the wire fence, fires burn amid piles of rubbish – discarded wholesale-sized tins of olive oil, plastic bottles, newspapers, food scraps and other unidentifiable filth. Woodsmoke stings your eyes. As the winter sun falls, the scene is almost apocalyptic; dozens of migrants swarm around us – cooking, chopping firewood, calling out, trying to keep warm – their figures silhouetted against the flames.

They are from Africa – Ghana, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast – and this squalid camp, where doctors say conditions are as bad, or worse, than in refugee camps in war zones, is currently home to at least two hundred itinerants.

The migrants are here in Rosarno, in Calabria, southern Italy, to harvest the region's extensive orange crop. Each winter, as many as 2000 migrants travel to this small agricultural town to scratch a living picking oranges that will end up on sale in markets and supermarkets, or as juices or concentrates used in the manufacture of soft drinks.  READ MORE


Perhaps not,  but guess who is?
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967),[1] was a landmark civil rights case in which the United States Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, declared Virginia's anti-miscegenation statute, the "Racial Integrity Act of 1924", unconstitutional, thereby overturning Pace v. Alabama (1883) and ending all race-based legal restrictions on marriage in the United States.


The plaintiffs, Mildred Loving (née Mildred Delores Jeter, a woman of African and Rappahannock Native American descent, July 22, 1939 – May 2, 2008)[2][3][4] and Richard Perry Loving (a white man, October 29, 1933 – June 1975),[5] were residents of the Commonwealth of Virginia who had been married in June 1958 in the District of Columbia, having left Virginia to evade the Racial Integrity Act, a state law banning marriages between any white person and any non-white person. Upon their return to Caroline County, Virginia, they were charged with violation of the ban. They were found sleeping in their bed by a group of police officers who had invaded their home in the hopes of finding them in the act of sex (another crime). In their defense, Mrs. Loving had pointed to a marriage certificate on the wall in their bedroom; rather than defending them, it became the evidence the police needed for a criminal charge, because it proved they had been married in another state. Specifically, they were charged under Section 20-58 of the Virginia Code, which prohibited interracial couples from being married out of state and then returning to Virginia, and Section 20-59, which classified miscegenation as a felony, punishable by a prison sentence of between one and five years. On January 6, 1959, the Lovings pled guilty and were sentenced to one year in prison, with the sentence suspended for 25 years on condition that the couple leave the state of Virginia. The trial judge in the case, Leon M. Bazile, echoing Johann Friedrich Blumenbach's 18th-century interpretation of race, proclaimed that
Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.
The Lovings moved to the District of Columbia, and on November 6, 1963, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a motion on their behalf in the state trial court to vacate the judgment and set aside the sentence on the grounds that the violated statutes ran counter to the Fourteenth Amendment. This set in motion a series of lawsuits which ultimately reached the Supreme Court. On October 28, 1964, after their motion still had not been decided, the Lovings began a class action suit in the U.S District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. On January 22, 1965, the three-judge district court decided to allow the Lovings to present their constitutional claims to the Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals. Virginia Supreme Court Justice Harry L. Carrico (later Chief Justice of the Court) wrote an opinion for the court upholding the constitutionality of the anti-miscegenation statutes and, after modifying the sentence, affirmed the criminal convictions.

Following Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, Kraft Drops ALEC

Pulled out of ALEC
A stampede seems to be on the way as more and more groups break ties and dump ALEC. Intuit, Inc. (maker of Quicken and QuickBooks accounting software) told the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) that Intuit also decided not to renew its membership after it expired in 2011. That comment came from Bernie McKay, Vice President of Government Affairs. He gave this response when CMD identified that Intuit was no longer listed on the board and contacted the company. CMD began its effort to spotlight Intuit and other corporate funders and tie these corporations to the ALEC agenda when it launched in July 2011.

Kraft Foods also announced that it won’t renew its membership in ALEC when it expires this spring, according to an email from Kraft Corporate Affairs Director Susan Davison. These announcements follow on the news thatCoca-Cola and Pepsi are out.

Other Corporations Refuse to Stand Down


America Lost 129,000 Millionaires in 2011

GSO Images | Photographer's Choice | Getty Images
Published: Thursday, 31 May 2012 | 11:59 AM ET 
By: Robert Frank
CNBC Reporter & Editor
 America’s millionaire population declined last year for the first time since the financial crisis, according to a new report.

The population of U.S. millionaire households (households with investible assets of $1 million or more) fell to 5,134,000 from 5,263,000 in 2011, according to The Boston Consulting Group’s Global Wealth study. 

Total private wealth in North America fell by 0.9 percent, to $38 trillion.
The ultra-rich were the largest losers in dollar terms. Households in North America with investible assets of more than $100 million saw their wealth decline 2.4 percent. Their population declined slightly to 2,928 from 2,989. 

The main reason for all this wealth loss? Stocks.  READ MORE

Thursday, May 31, 2012

SEC: Prefers Whaling on Little Guys

Matt Taibbi at Skylight Studio in New York, 10/27/10
 (photo: Neilson Barnard/Getty Images)
By Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone
31 May 12

f you want to see a perfect example of how completely broken our regulatory system is, look no further than a speech that Daniel Gallagher, one of the S.E.C.’s commissioners, recently gave in Denver, Colorado.
It’s a speech whose full lunacy is hard to grasp without some background.
It’s by now been well-established that the S.E.C.’s performance in policing Wall Street before, after, and during the crash has been comically inept. It would be putting it generously to say that the top cop on the financial services beat has demonstrated particular incompetence with regard to investigations of high-profile targets at powerhouse banks and financial companies. A less generous interpretation would be that the agency is simply too afraid, too unwilling, or too corrupt to take on the really dangerous animals in this particular jungle.

The S.E.C.’s failure to make even one case against a high-ranking executive involved in the mass frauds leading to the 2008 crash – compare this to the comparatively much smaller and less serious S&L crisis twenty years earlier, when the government made 1,100 criminal cases and sent 800 bank officials to jail – became so conspicuous that by the end of last year, the “No prosecutions of top figures” idea became an accepted meme in mainstream news media coverage of the economic crisis.

The S.E.C. in recent years has failed in almost every possible way a regulator can fail to police powerful criminals. Failure #1 was that it repeatedly fell down on the job even when alerted to problems at big companies well ahead of time by insiders. Six months before Lehman Brothers collapsed, setting off a chain reaction of losses that crippled the world economy, one of Lehman’s attorneys, Oliver Budde, contacted the S.E.C. to warn them that the firm had understated CEO Dick Fuld's income by more than $200 million; the agency blew him off. There were similar brush-offs of insiders with compelling information in cases involving Moody’s, Chase, and both of the major Ponzi scheme scandals, i.e. the Bernie Madoff and Allen Stanford cases.

For-Profit Kaplan University Pays Executives a Quarter Billion Dollars, Courtesy of Students and Taxpayers

Northeastern University. (Photo:
Kaplan International Colleges)
Thursday, 19 January 2012 04:14 
By Danny Weil, Truthout | News Analysis 

The for-profit college and university business is a $30-billion-dollar industry in the United States. According to investigative journalist Daniel Golden, in the last decade, the for-profit colleges and universities have tripled enrollment and recorded profits of $26 billion.(1)

For-profit colleges have been paying lavish and grotesquely huge compensation to executives, both former and current, using money from student loans and government grants for decades. For-profit college executive compensation is currently under scrutiny by Congress because nearly all revenues that constitute the exorbitant and scurrilous executive pay packages come from federal grants, such as Pell Grants and loans, and such as Stafford Loans under the Title IV program. These grants and loans are tax monies collected by the government; they are then turned into subsidies for the for-profit educational industry. Double-digit annual growth in revenues and excessive executive compensation coupled with deceptive marketing, high tuition, low graduation rates and high loan default rates have driven a climate and culture of student exploitation, misappropriation of public monies and political corruption.

The average three-year default rate has been estimated at 22.4 percent for for-profit colleges, 6.7 percent at private nonprofit colleges and 9.7 percent at public colleges.(2) ProPublica, an online journalistic source, reported that the Department of Education (DOE) indicated that over 40 percent of the money lent to students at for-profit institutions would be in default at some point over the life of the loans.  READ MORE

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Radioactive Tissue Holders Reveal Hypocrisy of Failed National Security

The Dual Ridge Metal Boutique tissue holder.
(photo: ABC News)
By Mike Adams, Natural News
19 January 12

he Dual Ridge Metal Boutique tissue boxes sold at Bed, Bath & Beyond stores have been discovered to be radioactive. Made with the extremely dangerous material used to blast cancer tumors with radiation - cobalt-60 - they emit gamma rays that are known to cause both cancer and infertility. They were manufactured in India, shipped on a commercial container to New Jersey, and then distributed to Bed, Bath & Beyond stores in 20 states.

How much radiation do these tissue holders emit, exactly? Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman David McIntyre said, on the record, that standing near one of these tissue holders for 30 minutes a day would expose you to the equivalent of "a couple of chest X-Rays" each year. The Illinois Emergency Management Agency went even further, issuing a release stating that every 10 hours spent near the product would expose you to the equivalent of one chest X-Ray (

In case you were wondering, a chest X-Ray is not a small dose of radiation.

Michigan Democrats Unveil Plan To Finance Free College Tuition By Eliminating Corporate Tax Credits

By Tanya Somanader on Jan 17, 2012 at 6:05 pm

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) spent his first year in office trading in the welfare of thousands of vulnerable Michiganders in order to cut taxes for corporations and the wealthy. Hoping to refocus priorities in 2012, the state’s Senate Democrats have released a new plan that puts Michigan students ahead of wealthy corporations.

Under the Michigan 2020 Plan, Michigan’s high school graduates will be eligible for free tuition at one of Michigan’s community colleges or universities, where the median tuition level is currently around $9,575 per year. The program will be funded entirely by eliminating $3.5 billion in tax credits and loopholes and putting that money towards students:

“Study after study after study has emphasized the importance of a highly educated workforce in the economic vitality of any state in the 21st century,” said Senate Democratic leader Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing.   READ MORE

Edible Microchips That Are 'Good for Your Health'

Ingestible chips, like these made by Proteus Biomedical,
enter the body and send data to smartphones, 01/17/12.
(photo: Michael Sugrue/Proteus)
By Steve Connor, The Independent UK
17 January 12

Pharmacy to sell edible microchips that will alert doctors if patients are not taking right medicines.

n American biomedical company has signed up with a British healthcare firm to sell digestible sensors, each smaller than a grain of sand, that can trigger the transmission of medical information from a patient's body to the mobile phone of a relative or carer.

The aim is to develop a suite of "intelligent medicines" that can help patients and their carers keep track of which pills are taken at what time of day, in order to ensure that complex regimes of drugs are given the best possible chance of working effectively.

Ultimately, the plan is for every one of the many pills taken each day by some of the most chronically-ill patients, especially those with mental health problems, to be digitally time-stamped as they are digested within the body.

The healthcare company Lloyds- pharmacy said it intends to sell the edible microchips of Proteus Biomedical of California by the end of the year, as part of a trial to test whether NHS patients would be prepared to pay privately to ensure that they or their relatives take the right medicines at the right time.    READ MORE

The Mathematics of Racism

Inmates in a US prison being transferred, 06/15/09.
 (photo: public domain)
Russell Simmons and Dylan Ratigan, Reader Supported News
17 January 12

s we celebrate the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr, it appears we are a far less prejudiced country than we once were. Individual expressions of racism are less tolerated than ever, we have an African-American President, and African-Americans are increasingly being accepted into executive suites. Yet when we look closer, we find that Greedy Bastards have rebranded racism and made it acceptable again, by calling it "the war on drugs."

These statistics compiled by New York Times columnist Charles Blow and author Michelle Alexander (author of The New Jim Crow) are mind-blowing.

Since 1971, there have been more than 40 million arrests for drug-related offenses. Even though blacks and whites have similar levels of drug use, blacks are ten times as likely to be incarcerated for drug crimes.

"There are more blacks under correctional control today -- in prison or jail, on probation or parole -- than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War began."  


Turning America Into Pottersville

In the movie 'It's a Wonderful Life,' George Bailey is
taken by his guardian angel, Clarence, into the
alternate reality of poor choices called Pottersville.
(photo: Paramount/IMDB)
By Robert Parry, Consortium News
17 January 12

The Republican presidential race has taken a detour into the "class warfare" that the party supposedly despises, with Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry tagging Mitt Romney as an elitist who got rich by laying off workers. But this spat misses the larger point of what the Right is doing to America, writes Robert Parry.

or many years, it appeared that the Right wanted to take the United States back to the 1950s - when blacks "knew their place," women were "in the kitchen" and gays stayed "in the closet" - but it turns out that the intended back-in-time-travel was to the 1920s, to an era of a few haves and many have-nots, not only before the Civil Rights Movement but before the Great American Middle-Class.
The Right's goal has been less to recreate the world of "Father Knows Best" than to establish a national "Pottersville," like in the movie, "It's a Wonderful Life," where the existence of the average man and woman was brutish and unfulfilling, while the 1 percent of that age lived in gilded comfort and held sweeping power.   READ MORE

A Monetary Policy for the 99%: Twelve-Year-Old Reformer Goes Viral

Ellen Brown, Truthout: "The YouTube video of 12-year-old Victoria Grant speaking at the Public Banking in America conference last month has gone viral, topping a million views on various web sites. Monetary reform - the contention that governments, not banks, should create and lend a nation's money - has rarely even made the news, so this is a first. Either the times they are a-changin', or Victoria managed to frame the message in a way that was so simple and clear that even a child could understand it."   READ MORE

Homeowners Association Could Be Liable in Trayvon Martin’s Death

Posted April 16, 2012 in Current Events by Aaron Kas

One big question at stake in the trial of George Zimmerman for the killing of Trayvon Martin is whether Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” self-defense laws will shield Zimmerman from conviction, as well as subsequent civil action by Martin’s family. However, regardless of Zimmerman’s fate, the homeowners association in the gated community where Martin was killed could be liable for the teenager’s death.
  • Zimmerman was the official watch captain for the neighborhood
  • Questions abound about training and guidelines put forth by association
  • Homeowners associations liable for incidents in their communities

Captain of the Guard

When George Zimmerman prowled through the neighborhood looking for suspicious people in The Retreat at Twin Lakes in central Florida, he wasn’t acting totally out of the blue. Zimmerman was officially identified as the captain of the neighborhood watch in a newsletter distributed by the community’s homeowners association. Homeowners with concerns were encouraged to contact Zimmerman “so he can be aware and help address the issue with other residents.”

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Shooting Focuses Attention on a Program That Seeks to Avoid Guns

SANFORD, Fla. — Last August, Wendy Dorival got a call about setting up a local neighborhood watch. As the volunteer coordinator for the Police Department here, she gets such calls regularly, and the city already had at least 10 active watch groups. So she thought nothing of this call, from George Zimmerman.

She set up a visit for the next month at the Retreat at Twin Lakes, a gated community that had been dealing with a string of burglaries. When 25 residents showed up, a decent turnout, she had the residents introduce themselves; after all, people join the groups to look out for each other. She then gave a PowerPoint presentation and distributed a handbook. As she always does, she emphasized what a neighborhood watch is — and what it is not.

In every presentation, “I go through what the rules and responsibilities are,” she said Thursday. The volunteers’ role, she said, is “being the eyes and ears” for the police, “not the vigilante.” Members of a neighborhood watch “are not supposed to confront anyone,” she said. “We get paid to get into harm’s way. You don’t do that. You just call them from the safety of your home or your vehicle.”
Using a gun in the neighborhood watch role would be out of the question, she said in an interview.


A wide range of neighborhood watch organizations exist across the country. Some have patrols, while others like Sanford’s do not. But the National Sheriffs’ Association, which sponsors the program nationwide, is absolutely clear on one point: guns have no place in a watch group. A manual distributed by the association repeatedly underscores the point: “Patrol members do not carry weapons.”
The manual warns that watch members should “not attempt to apprehend a person committing a crime or to investigate a suspicious activity.” It should be emphasized to members of patrols, the materials state, that “they do not possess police power and they shall not carry weapons.” The consequences of not following the guidelines are severe, the manual states: “Each member is liable as an individual for civil and criminal charges should he exceed his authority.”

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Gov. Scott Orders Purging of Florida’s Voter Rolls - Just in Time For Prez Election

You remember, Florida, right? Land of the hanging chad? A state in which a margin of several hundred votes could determine the outcome of a presidential election — that is, of course, if the U.S. Supreme Court allows the votes to be counted.

ThinkProgress’ Judd Legum today has a disturbing report from the Sunshine State:
According to the Broward County Supervisor of Elections, eligible voters will be removed from the voting rolls as a result of the massive voter purge ordered by Governor Rick Scott. “It will happen,” Mary Cooney, a spokeswoman for the Broward County Supervisor of Elections, told ThinkProgress.

That process produced a massive list of 182,000 names, which [then Secretary of State Kurt] Browning considered unreliable. The Fair Elections Legal Network, which is challenging the purge, noted that database matching is “notoriously unreliable” and “data entry errors, similar-sounding names, and changing information can all produce false matches.” Further, some voters may have naturalized since their driver’s license information was collected.  READ MORE

Does Eating Organic Food Make You Selfish?

Do you want to be a better person? First, get stressed out. And whatever you do, don’t go near organic food.
May 22, 2012

Those are the counterintuitive implications of two newly published studies. One finds that exposure to organic foods reduces willingness to help others, while the other reports high levels of stress can increase trustworthiness and sharing.

Kendall Eskine, a psychologist at Loyola University New Orleans, examined the psychological impact of organics in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science. His work builds on the concept of “moral licensing”—the notion that the doing of some kind of virtuous deed gives us license to engage in less than ethical behavior.

Eskine’s experiment featured 62 undergraduates, who were told they were participating in two unrelated studies—a consumer research survey and a moral judgment test. They were first presented with photos of four common food items, which they rated in terms of desirability. Some saw pictures of healthy foods that were labeled organic (including an apple and a tomato); others saw “comfort food” items such as ice cream and cookies; and still others saw neutral foods, including oatmeal and beans.  READ MORE

Why Mobility in America Is in the Dumpster

We have the ability -- the freedom -- to roam more now than ever before. And yet our upward mobility is standing still.
May 20, 2012

We’re a species that has gotten around; we’ve wandered, pioneered and migrated to every corner of the world. The spear tip of technology is how we can get somewhere else: the wheel, the sailboat, the rocket. In short: we’re movers.

We are now as mobile as we’ve ever been as a culture. Our phones are not tethered to any particular location. Our keepsakes, like photos and letters, are all saved on devices smaller than your average drugstore paperback. The bitter visual of a breakup – the splitting up of a couple’s CD collection – no longer exists since you both have copies of the same MP3s. Your computer fits comfortably in your lap – everything else is in your pocket. We now have the ability to go anywhere and bring with us more things utilizing less space than at any other time in human history.  READ MORE


Working With Your Rapist as Your Supervisor? The Widespread Sexual Abuse of Women in Farm Work

It should be no surprise that on America’s farms, many women are treated as less than human, since not even the government sees them as worthy of respect under the law.
May 27, 2012

There aren’t many jobs in the U.S. that are tougher than farmwork--spending the day picking crops under a sweltering sun, earning just enough to survive, jumping from one unstable seasonal job to another. But the job is especially unbearable if all you have to work yourself to exhaustion all day under the watch of the man who raped you.

There have over the years been numerous reports of widespread sexual abuse of women farmworkers--everything from being called demeaning names by supervisors to brutal sexual assault. Many of the victims suffer in silence, cut off from law enforcement and social services and fearful of losing their jobs if they come forward to authorities, according to a report on sexual violence in agricultural work by Human Rights Watch.  READ MORE

Roseanne Barr on Presidential Run: Two Major Parties Are a 'Bunch of Prostitutes Who Work for Big Money'

The irrepressible comic is trying to bring attention to electoral issues that are too often ignored.
May 27, 2012

Roseanne Barr leveraged her comedic skills to become a household name. But while she's known for her biting humor, and some critically acclaimed acting in the film adaptation of Fay Weldon's novel, The Life and Loves of a She-Devil, Barr's life experiences also left her with an appreciation of just how hard it is to climb the ladder today. It was reflected in her writing; in her standup routine and on her hit TV show, Roseanne was always most comfortable breathing life into the struggles of working-class families. An outspoken small “d” democrat, Roseanne is now running to head the Green Party's presidential ticket on a platform that stresses empowering the “little guy.”
A few weeks back, AlterNet interviewed Jill Stein, Barr's primary opponent in the race (you can read that interview here). This week, Barr appeared on the AlterNet Radio Hour for some equal time. Below is a lightly edited transcript of the discussion (you can listen to the whole show here).

One Homeowner's Uphill Battle with Wells Fargo and Goldman Sachs Shows How Badly The Courts are Stacked Against Ordinary People

Photo by bloomsberries, Flickr Creative Commons
Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons
Mary Glover is taking on Goldman Sachs and Wells Fargo--but a court decision could leave her and thousands of other homeowners without a hope of justice.
May 27, 2012

Mary Glover, a Pittsburgh-area homeowner living on Social Security disability income, is taking on Goldman Sachs and Wells Fargo, charging that they've violated federal and state consumer protection laws and breached contracts.

Yet, because of a decision by one judge, she and thousands of homeowners like her could be priced out of their ability to fight back in court against shady dealings by the nation's biggest banks. And while the decision in this case may seem exceptional, as Dahlia Lithwick and others have pointed out, it's part of a disturbing pattern of the courts shutting their doors to everyday litigants and class-action suits—and in some cases, literally handing corporations a playbook on how to get away with screwing over the little guy.

The Best and the Greediest? Ivy League Students Are Still Heading to Wall Street

The first post-Occupy Ivy League classes are graduating. Will they be any less likely than their predecessors to flock into finance?
May 27, 2012

The Ivy League classes of 2012 arrived on campuses in fall of 2008, just as the world economy was plunging into a Wall Street-driven freefall. Many were glad they weren’t out facing a nasty job market. But they worried about the future. They networked earlier. They fretted over internships.

Their senior year started with the launch of the Occupy movement, which raised a collective fist at the financiers whose casino games wrecked the economy. A few students from elite colleges even joined the protest. Back in November, some Harvard students interrupted a Goldman Sachs recruiting event hosted by the Office of Career Services.

But now the show is over, and it’s time to don the caps and gowns. Will students be any less likely to flock to Wall Street this year?   READ MORE

Emanuela Orlandi kidnapped for Vatican sex parties, priest says

Father Gabriele Amorth, the Vatican's former chief
exorcist, poses on Oct. 10, 2005, in Rome.
(AFP/AFP/Getty Images)
Vatican security acted on behalf of foreign diplomats, Father Amorth tells newspaper.

Emanuela Orlandi was kidnapped for sex parties, with Vatican security acting on behalf of foreign diplomats, a controversial priest inside the Holy See told an Italian newspaper.

Orlandi, a 15-year-old schoolgirl, disappeared from Rome’s streets 29 years ago after a flute lesson.
Italy has long fixated on her disappearance, and now Father Gabriele Amorth has added to the mystery by saying Vatican security abducted her for sex parties with foreign diplomats, The Telegraph reported.

“Parties were organized, with a Vatican gendarme acting as the ‘recruiter’ of the girls,” Amorth told La Stampa, as translated by The Telegraph. “The network involved diplomatic personnel from a foreign embassy to the Holy See. I believe Emanuela ended up a victim of this circle.”

Amorth, who said Orlandi was later murdered, is no stranger to controversy.

Pope John Paul II appointed him the Vatican’s chief exorcist, and he generated international headlines late last year when he claimed yoga and Harry Potter were both evil.