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Member since: Thu Apr 29, 2010, 03:31 PM
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Muslim, Christian, Jewish Leaders Unite At Saudi Conference To Condemn Islamic State


VIENNA, Nov 19 (Reuters) - Senior Muslim, Christian and Jewish leaders condemned violence by jihadi militants such as Islamic State (IS) at a Saudi-backed conference on Wednesday in a rare display of inter-faith unity aimed at promoting tolerance and diversity.

Islamic State has caused international alarm by capturing large expanses of Iraq and Syria, declaring a Sunni "caliphate" straddling their borders and massacring those they deem apostates and infidel, like Shi'ite Muslims and Christians.

"Some organizations that are affiliated with Islam are perpetrating some actions in the name of jihad. This is not Islam at all," said Abdullah bin Abdulmuhsen Al Turki, secretary-general of the Muslim World League.

"This is why we wish to deplore and strongly condemn this behavior, which we see as against Islam," he told an audience including the Muslim grand muftis of Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan; top representatives of several churches, Rabbi David Rosen of the American Jewish Committee, and diplomats.

Seems the Saudi's are playing on both sides of the fence ....



The Program Big Oil's PR Firm Uses to 'Convert Average Citizens'


Astroturfing is the increasingly popular tactic wherein corporations sponsor front groups or manufacture the appearance of grassroots support to simulate a genuine social movement that is rallying for goals in line with their profit motive. In the past, astroturf efforts have used paid actors, company employees, and media-heavy websites. But the program Edelman pitches in its own reports goes even deeper.

The new papers detail an in-depth proposal—part sales pitch, part action plan—put together by Edelman's Calgary office, suggesting that TransCanada combat environmental groups by mounting one such manufactured “grassroots advocacy” campaign. Those environmentalists are ​currently organizing to oppose the Energy East pipeline, which TransCanada hopes will be an alternative to the long-delayed Keystone XL, on the grounds that it will disastrously boost carbon emissions and increase the likelihood of a major oil spill.

Edelman's plan is specifically designed to “dd layers of difficulty for our opponents, distracting them from their mission and causing them to redirect their resources," according to the documents. It stresses developing “supportive third parties, who can in turn put the pressure on, especially when TransCanada can't.” In other words, the goal would be to attack environmentalists head on with supporters recruited by, but not necessarily directly affiliated with, Edelman and TransCanada.

In one document titled "Digital Grassroots Advocacy Implementation Plan" and dated May 20th, 2014, Edelman explain that its "Grassroots Mobilization Program”—an astroturfing campaign by any other name—should begin with an “action center website." The document also suggests using a “technologically distinct subdomain” like action.energyeastpipeline.com. Come November, that very site is live, and it is run by TransCanada.

My favorite Episcopalian Minister just sent me this.

Top ten signs you're a fundamental Christian.

10 - You vigorously deny the existence of thousands of gods claimed by other religions, but feel outraged when someone denies the existence of yours.

9 - You feel insulted and "dehumanized" when scientists say that people evolved from other life forms, but you have no problem with the Biblical claim that we were created from dirt.

8 - You laugh at polytheists, but you have no problem believing in a Triune God.

7 - Your face turns purple when you hear of the "atrocities" attributed to Allah, but you don't even flinch when hearing about how God/Jehovah slaughtered all the babies of Egypt in "Exodus" and ordered the elimination of entire ethnic groups in "Joshua" including women, children, and trees!

6 - You laugh at Hindu beliefs that deify humans, and Greek claims about gods sleeping with women, but you have no problem believing that the Holy Spirit impregnated Mary, who then gave birth to a man-god who got killed, came back to life and then ascended into the sky.

5 - You are willing to spend your life looking for little loopholes in the scientifically established age of Earth (few billion years), but you find nothing wrong with believing dates recorded by Bronze Age tribesmen sitting in their tents and guessing that Earth is a few generations old.

4 - You believe that the entire population of this planet with the exception of those who share your beliefs -- though excluding those in all rival sects - will spend Eternity in an infinite Hell of Suffering. And yet consider your religion the most "tolerant" and "loving."

3 - While modern science, history, geology, biology, and physics have failed to convince you otherwise, some idiot rolling around on the floor speaking in "tongues" may be all the evidence you need to "prove" Christianity.

2 - You define 0.01% as a "high success rate" when it comes to answered prayers. You consider that to be evidence that prayer works. And you think that the remaining 99.99% FAILURE was simply the will of God.

1 - You actually know a lot less than many atheists and agnostics do about the Bible, Christianity, and church history - but still call yourself a Christian

Fat on Restaurant Cash, Democratic Lawmakers Float Minimum Wage Preemption in IL


Democratic state legislators in Illinois are mulling an effort to thwart Chicago's effort to raise its minimum wage, even as they raise the state wage above the national average. And the state National Restaurant Association affiliate is eating it up. Efforts to "preempt" local governments from enacting a higher minimum wage is most closely associated with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which counts the National Restaurant Association among its members and has long pushed bills like the “Living Wage Preemption Act." At ALEC's meeting next month in Washington D.C., "Minimum Wage Preemption Policies" will be at the top of the agenda.

The Illinois preemption measure comes amidst an effort by legislative Democrats to raise the wage in the lame duck session. On election day, Illinois voters overwhelmingly supported an advisory referendum calling for the legislature to raise the state's minimum wage to $10.65 per hour -- even as voters also elected a new governor, Republican Bruce Rauner, who has called for lowering or eliminating the minimum wage altogether. The GOP governor-elect said he would only sign a minimum wage bill if the legislature agreed to corporate-friendly measures like tort reform and overhauling the workers compensation program.

House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton, both Democrats, signaled they would push for passage of the minimum wage increase that voters demanded before Rauner took office in January -- yet also said they are gauging support for a preemption measure that would block cities from enacting their own higher wage. This would shut down an effort in Chicago to raise the minimum wage to between $13 and $15 per hour. Chicago has been the site of some of the biggest "Fight for $15" fast food protests in the country, with over 50 people arrested during the most recent protests in September.


One group that is likely celebrating the preemption proposal is the Illinois Restaurant Association, the state chapter of the powerful National Restaurant Association (sometimes referred to as "the Other NRA"). NRA affiliates around the country have been key in thwarting minimum wage and paid sick day efforts through preemption measures, as the Center for Media and Democracy has documented.

An Embattled ALEC, Buoyed by Election Results, Lays Blueprint for 2015


ALEC has long pushed bills like the “Living Wage Preemption Act" to block city, county, or local governments from enacting progressive economic initiatives like a higher minimum wage. In light of the renewed grassroots push for fair wage laws, this bill to crush a local government's ability to increase wages in their community will likely be a top ALEC priority in 2015. (ALEC legislators have also been active in banning local paid sick day efforts, passing 10 laws after Wisconsin's paid sick days preemption bill was shared at ALEC's August 2011 meeting).


The ACCE meeting will also feature a presentation titled "Local Right to Work: Protect my Paycheck." ALEC has long pushed anti-union "Right to Work" laws, which allow non-union members to free-ride on union representation, reaping the benefits of union negotiations for wages and benefits but without paying the costs. Michigan's right to work law, for example, was a word-for-word copy of ALEC's model legislation and sponsored by ALEC members. With ACCE, ALEC is now trying to promote this anti-union legislation at the local level.


The ALEC Health and Human Service Task Force will discuss the "Medicaid Anti-Crowd-Out Act," which would prohibit people from enrolling in Medicaid if their employer offers some form of insurance, regardless of how poor the person might be or how much the plan costs.


ALEC's "Public Charter School Act" is a revamp of a 2007 ALEC bill, and it goes far beyond the predecessor in its attempts to greatly expand school privatization in a state, preempt democratic oversight, and sneak in a parent trigger mechanism. Although ALEC's agenda does not list the bill's sponsor, the proposed model closely tracks one promoted by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. The bill would eliminate caps on the growth of charter schools in the state, exempt those charters from many state laws, and exempt the charters from existing collective bargaining agreements between a district and its employees. The bill explicitly provides for these schools to be managed by “for-profit” education management organizations -- and since there are no other sources of revenue than what the school district pays, the profit must be “carved out” from the money intended for students. Notably, the bill also sneaks in a "parent trigger" mechanism, which allows for paid petition drives and a snapshot of parent opinion to shut down public schools and reinstate them as charters. Additionally, the bill puts charter authorizing authority in the hands of unaccountable state-wide authorizers, and expands the list of authorizers, taking authorizing authority away from elected local school boards. As one ALEC member told an ALEC education subcommittee earlier this year, "we need to stamp out local control."

More on these and other draconian ALEC policies at the link.

When Corporate Foxes Mind Internet Coops

Walker Appointees on PSC Wait Until After Election to Nearly Double Electric & Natural Gas Fees


In an election where Governor Walker's central theme was that a vote for Mary Burke would be a vote for higher fees and taxes, literally the first action taken by his appointees following the election was to approve a plan that allows Wisconsin's electric utilities to nearly double the service fees they charge their customers.

By a 2-1 vote, only two days after the election, the Wisconsin Public Service Commission began a series of approvals that are letting every one of Wisconsin's electric and natural gas companies nearly double the service fees they charge their customers. Humorously, it was the two Walker appointees that supported the massive fee hikes and the only vote in opposition has been a commissioner appointed by former Democratic Governor, Jim Doyle.

You see, Wisconsin utitility companies-- AKA legalized monopolies-- need the increased fees to augment their already sky-high profit margins. Wisconsin Energy, for example, raked in 752 million in profits this past year-- up from 685 million the previous year. Walker's PSC thought a 67 million profit increase just wasn't quite enough.
And keep in mind that of the 12 states in the U.S. Energy Information Administration's North Central region, Wisconsin already has the second highest electricity rates. For example, while Wisconsin customers pays an average of 14.26¢/KWH, while neighbor Minnesota pays 12.85¢ and Illinois pays a mere 11.95¢.

Should we really be all that surprised? After all, this is the same Governor Walker who promised, prior to the 2010 election, that he would keep state aid to public schools "intact" and that he would negotiate with unions representing public workers. After that election, the first thing he did was to kill public sector unions and make the biggest cut to education in state history.

The Elephant in Our Living Room: Wisconsin’s Racial Disparities and Challenges for the Church


The Elephant in Our Living Room:
Wisconsin’s Racial Disparities and
Challenges for the Church

December 8, 2014
8:30 am – 3:00 pm

Dells Delton United Methodist Church and Holy Cross Episcopal Church
322 Unity Drive, Wisconsin Dells

Morning Plenary
“What We Now Know about Wisconsin’s Racial Disparities”

“A Faithful Call to Action”

Afternoon Plenary Workshop

”Creating Entry Points to Faith-Filled Conversations about Race”

More at the link, including online registration.

What it really means to be a public school educator today


There was a big furor among educators around the country recently when Time magazine ran a cover that said, “Rotten Apples: It is nearly impossible to fire a bad teacher.” The cover, accompanied by a story that was somewhat more nuanced, sparked a mountain of response, including a post by Nancy F. Chewning, assistant principal of William Byrd High School in Roanoke, Va. on her blog, Leading by Example. You can read her entire letter to Time magazine here. Following (which I am publishing with her permission) is the part of Chewning’s letter to Time that talks about what life as a public school educator is like today in the era of high-stakes testing and “no-excuse” reformers who ignore or give short shrift to how much a student’s life outside school affects their academic achievement and puts all of the blame/credit on teachers:

…. First, let me clarify what it means to be a public school educator in the United States today. Unfortunately, at college campuses around this country, are berated by their peers for their career choice. I was told on many occasions at the University of Virginia that I was wasting my time and talent on teaching. After graduating, the Rotten Apples are then afforded what the Economic Policy Institute calls “the teaching penalty.” The EPI’s studies and those of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development show that teachers earn 12 percent to 14 percent “less than other similarly educated workers” and “60 percent of what their peers earn.”

These Rotten Apples then spend their summers attending conferences and classes, which most pay for out of their own pockets, to learn skills and knowledge to enhance the instruction their students receive when they report in the fall. They return to their classrooms in late July or early August using their own money to pay for essential supplies for themselves, for their classrooms, and for their students. Is anyone in Silicon Valley paying for their own office supplies? I can assure you they are not.

The Rotten Apples come into work between 6:30-7:30 a.m. because most are helping students in some way before the school day ever begins. They often feed their students breakfast. They teach all day even during their planning periods. They get less than 30 minutes for lunch, and many have students with them during their lunch breaks. The Rotten Apples then work with students after school either in the classroom or out on the playing fields coaching. After a full day they go home and grade papers, prepare lesson plans for the following day, maintain an online classroom and gradebook, and answer emails. Most don’t stop until at least 10:00 p.m. The Rotten Apples do this day in and day out throughout the school year. The OECD report indicates that “American teachers work far longer hours than their counterparts abroad.”

Does Our Military Know Something We Don't About Global Warming?


Every branch of the United States Military is worried about climate change. They have been since well before it became controversial. In the wake of an historic climate change agreement between President Obama and President Xi Jinping in China this week (Brookings), the military’s perspective is significant in how it views climate effects on emerging military conflicts.


At a time when Presidents Ronald Reagan and Bush 41, and even British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, called for binding international protocols to control greenhouse gas emissions, the U.S. Military was seriously studying global warming in order to determine what actions they could take to prepare for the change in threats that our military will face in the future.

The Center for Naval Analysis has had its Military Advisory Board examining the national security implications of climate change for many years. Lead by Army General Paul Kern, the Military Advisory Board is a group of 16 retired flag-level officers from all branches of the Service. This is not a group normally considered to be liberal activists and fear-mongers. This year, the Military Advisory Board came out with a new report, called National Security and the Accelerating Risks of Climate Change, that is a serious discussion about what the military sees as the threats and the actions to be taken to mitigate them.

“The potential security ramifications of global climate change should be serving as catalysts for cooperation and change. Instead, climate change impacts are already accelerating instability in vulnerable areas of the world and are serving as catalysts for conflict.”
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