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Member since: Tue Feb 10, 2004, 01:08 PM
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Environmental Scientist

Journal Archives

Noam Chomsky's Take on the film American Sniper

During a public conversation prompted by the beginning of the Tsarnaev trial in Boston, Noam Chomsky discussed the larger issue of society's growing tolerance for violence and willingness to overlook questionable acts carried out by government agencies. He refers to a review of the 2014 film, American Sniper as a way into the conversation about what we define as terror, when we feel justified in protecting ourselves and what the fallout is for taking violent action.

Hosted at The Lilypad in Cambridge, MA by The Baffler Magazine, featuring the ACLU's Kade Crockford and linguist Noam Chomsky.

Watch a US Senator Cite the Bible to 'Prove' That Humans Aren't Causing Global Warming

To understand the craziness that just went down on the floor of the US Senate, you first have to understand the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change. It's pretty simple, actually: The planet is getting warmer, largely because humans are releasing heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide. Or, as the world's leading climate scientists put it in a recent report from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, "Warming of the climate system is unequivocal," and it's "extremely likely"—that is, at least 95 percent certain—"that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century."

These are well established scientific facts, but congressional Republicans have had a hard time accepting them. So on Wednesday, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), sought to put his colleagues on record by having them vote on a simple measure declaring it the sense of the Senate that "climate change is real and not a hoax."

When Whitehouse first introduced this amendment a couple days ago, he made clear that by "climate change," he was referring to "what our carbon pollution…is doing to our atmosphere and what it is doing to our oceans." But the amendment didn't literally say that, and the Senate's most outspoken climate science denier saw this as an opportunity. James Inhofe—an Oklahoma Republican who has previously pointed to the Bible as evidence that human-caused global warming is a hoax—urged his fellow senators to support the amendment.

Addressing his Senate colleagues before the vote, Inhofe once again cited the Bible to argue that the climate does indeed change but that humans aren't the cause. "Climate is changing, and climate has always changed," said Inhofe, who chairs the Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee. "There's archeological evidence of that. There's biblical evidence of that. There's historic evidence of that." He continued: "The hoax is that there are some people who are so arrogant to think that they are so powerful, they can change climate. Man can't change climate." You can watch the back-and-forth above.

more, with video

American Sniper: anti-Muslim threats skyrocket in wake of film's release

American Sniper continues to draw record-breaking audiences as it barrels into its second weekend in wide release, but a group representing Arab-Americans says the rate of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim threats resulting from the Oscar-nominated war film has already tripled.

Citing what an executive for the group told the Guardian was a “drastic increase” in hate speech on social media, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee wrote letters this week to actor Bradley Cooper and director Clint Eastwood to ask them to speak out “in an effort to help reduce the hateful rhetoric”.

The film, which was nominated for six Academy Awards including best picture, depicts the story of Chris Kyle, the famed US navy Seal notorious for the highest known single kill count in US military history. But its all-American depiction on screen has drawn heavy criticism from combat veterans and viewers alike – and especially about viewers themselves, many of whom have emerged from theatres desperate to communicate a kind of murderous desire.

A quick search on Twitter leads down a rabbit hole of anger.

“Great fucking movie and now I really want to kill some fucking ragheads,” read one tweet, in a set of screenshots that quickly went viral after being collated by journalist Rania Khalek for the online publication Electronic Intifada. “American sniper makes me wanna go shoot some fuckin Arabs,” read another.



Weekend Toon Roundup 2- The rest






Weekend Toon roundup 1- Repubs

House Republicans Propose Bill Mandating Ultrasounds Before Abortions

Source: Huffington Post

Shortly after House Republicans had to cancel a vote on an anti-abortion bill that some members found to be too extreme, GOP congressmen on Thursday introduced three new abortion restrictions, including one that would require women to receive an ultrasound procedure before an abortion.

The mandatory ultrasound bill, introduced by Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) and co-sponsored by 10 Republican men, compels women to "receive an ultrasound and the opportunity to review the ultrasound before giving informed consent to receive an abortion."

One of the other bills prohibits federal education funds from going to schools with access to an abortion provider on campus, and the other requires states to report information on Medicaid payments to abortion providers.

The ultrasound measure is likely to be the most controversial. Nearly half of U.S. states have passed some kind of mandatory ultrasound bill, but the political backlash in some of those states has been significant.

Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/23/mandatory-ultrasound-_n_6535076.html

Senate Republicans Remove 'Civil Rights And Human Rights' From Subcommittee Name

Source: Huffington Post

WASHINGTON -- Senate Republicans revealed this week that they have eliminated the phrase “civil rights and human rights” from the title of a Senate Judiciary subcommittee charged with overseeing those issues.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) became chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee this month and announced the members of the six subcommittees this week. With Grassley’s announcement, the subcommittee formerly known as the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights suddenly became the Subcommittee on the Constitution.

The new chairman of the newly named subcommittee is Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas). His office confirmed that it made the switch.

“We changed the name because the Constitution covers our most basic rights, including civil and human rights,” said Cornyn spokeswoman Megan Mitchell. “We will focus on these rights, along with other issues that fall under the broader umbrella of the Constitution.”

Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/23/civil-rights_n_6534922.html

2014 was a real rhino-slaughtering bonanza

Poachers in South Africa killed 1,215 rhinos last year—an increase of more than 20% from 2013. What’s driving the country’s poaching crisis is the value of its horn, which is prized in Asia—particularly in Vietnam and China—for its supposed medicinal and narcotic purposes. Rhino horns can sell for more than $66,000 a kilogram (about $30,000 per pound) on the Chinese black market, according to Chatham House, a think tank.

Last year’s slaughter may have already pushed South Africa’s population into decline, says Traffic, a non-governmental wildlife crime monitoring group. On average, poachers killed more than three rhinos each day of 2014.

That’s a staggering rate considering only 18,000 South African white rhinos remain in the wild, according to a 2013 study (paywall)—so few that if poaching continues at current rates, Africa’s rhinos may be extinct in the wild within 20 years.



Legalized marijuana might be the best thing to ever happen to heroin addicts

In the 1930s, Harry J. Anslinger, the first head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, embarked on a fierce anti-marijuana campaign. Highlighted by the 1936 anti-marijuana film Reefer Madness—where marijuana is depicted as a dangerous narcotic that makes good kids become sex-crazed killers—his propaganda efforts also maliciously linked marijuana use to African Americans and ethnic minorities.

By 1970, legislation codified cannabis as one of the nation’s most dangerous drugs: the Controlled Substance Act classified marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug, meaning it possessed high potential for abuse and had no acceptable medical use. Over 40 years later, the classification remains.

But research has shown that marijuana, while still criminalized at the federal level, can be effective as a substitute for treating opioid addicts and preventing overdoses. Massachusetts, which recently legalized medical marijuana—and where heroin overdoses have soared—could be a fertile testing ground for this potentially controversial treatment.

The medical case for marijuana

Before being criminalized, marijuana was used in the US to cure depression and a variety of other mental health ailments. Many studies have supported the therapeutic benefits of cannabinoids, along with the ability of marijuana’s psychoactive ingredients to treat nausea, help with weight loss, alleviate chronic pain, and mitigate symptoms of neurological diseases.



Study finds that Fast Food Restaurants can raise their hourly wages to $15 without hardship

Researchers from the University of Massachusetts Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) have released a working paper verifying the ability of American fast food restaurants to more than double the minimum wage of their lowest paid workers to $15 an hour over a four-year period without causing the widespread employment losses and decline in profits often cited by critics of such increases.

Using data gathered from previous studies and U.S. Economic Census reports, economists Robert Pollin and Jeannette Wicks-Lim have found that at the standard rate of industry sales growth the savings from a decrease in workforce turnover added to revenue generated from moderate annual 3 percent price increases could support a two-stage increase in the minimum wage from its current level of $7.25, first to $10.50 and then to $15 three years later.

Published on the PERI website, the working paper, "A $15 U.S. Minimum Wage: How the Fast-Food Industry Could Adjust Without Shedding Jobs," describes how this increase in wages can be accomplished without generating employment losses within the industry and without these businesses facing a decline in profitability.

"We conclude that the fast-food industry could indeed absorb the increase in its overall wage bill without resorting to cuts in their employment levels at any point over the four-year adjustment period," explain Pollin, Distinguished Professor of Economics at UMass Amherst and Co-director of PERI, and Wicks-Lim, a PERI research assistant professor. "The fast-food industry could fully absorb these wage bill increases through a combination of turnover reductions, trend increases in sales growth and modest annual price increases over the four-year period. We also show that fast-food firms would not need to lower their average profit rate during this adjustment period. Nor would the fast food firms need to reallocate funds generated by revenues away from any other area of their overall operations, such as marketing."

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