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MLS Power Rankings (07/22/14)

Venezuela News - Wed, 07/23/2014 - 06:20

Scot here.  Here are our power rankings for Week 19:

  1. Seattle Sounders FC: Even with a bye week, no one has looked convincing enough to dethrone them at the top.  This is a team stacked with talent poised to win the MLS Cup.
  2. D.C. United: A good win against a Chivas side that had increasingly been looking like a menacing attacking presence.  Congrats to Bill Hamid for being the youngest goalkeeper and first homegrown player to reach 100 appearances.
  3. Sporting Kansas City: Two good wins, especially against a resurgent LA Galaxy team.  This team right now is cruising to the MLS playoffs.
  4. Toronto FC: Two good draws against an exciting Vancouver team and at the offensively resurgent Dynamo has this team continuing to be poised for a playoff spot.  The return of Michael Bradley should only bolster this good lineup.  Look for Michael Bradley to remain for at least the rest of the season too, with no foreign teams willing to make the kind of offers MLS would be willing to listen to.
  5. LA Galaxy: Robbie Keane looks to be back, scoring 3 goals this past week.  A 5-1 win against New England is a sweet result.  They might have wanted more out of the SKC match, but points at Sporting Park are hard to get. Gyasi Zardes is starting to show some of goal scoring abilities that made him so highly rated by european scouts in college.
  6. FC Dallas: Dallas have managed to grind out results and are once again looking like their early-season selves.  They have been known to epically collapse, but for now I’m convinced.
  7. Vancouver Whitecaps: Two gutsy draws at Real Salt Lake and at Toronto certainly aren’t bad results.  For this team to truly be a top 5 contender though, they’ll have to work at holding possession and not just being deadly on the counter.
  8. Colorado Rapids: This team needs to get a win against Chivas.  Their recent results haven’t been bad, but not really great either.
  9. Real Salt Lake: They drew a good Vancouver team, though they would probably have liked to have gotten more at home, especially with their starters returning.
  10. Portland Timbers: This is a team that’s liable to turn things around at any point in time.  They have a potent offense are are working to restructure their defense.  Was this win against Colorado this week the turn-around game?
  11. New York Red Bulls: 2 big hiccups this week have seen New York take a considerable fall.  No excuse for this team to drop points to San Jose or concede 3 goals to Philly.
  12. Chivas USA: Cubo Torres can’t be relied upon to carry the team, but it looks like that’s what will have to happen.  4 straight wins came to a screeching halt in a really flat game against DC.
  13. Philadelphia Union: A really nice weekday win against New York is the kind of statement win this team needs to rebound their season, however a draw against Chicago is not.  The defense still looked a bit shaky, but they managed to hang on.  They have the pieces, can Jim Curtin put together a few more wins.
  14. Chicago Fire: This team continues their historic season.  Unfortunately for Chicago fans, the record they could break is for number of draws in a season.
  15. Columbus Crew: They got their first win since May 24th this week.  However, aside from Higuain, this is an exceedingly mediocre team. Venezuelan attacker Bernardo Anor has been on fire lately with some amazing goals.MLS Impact Crew Soccer
  16. San Jose Earthquakes: They finally broke their losing streak, however they move up more because of the poor performances of other teams rather than their own merit
  17. New England Revolution: Absolute panic in New England.  6 straight losses is deplorable.
  18. Houston Dynamo: This team has at least managed to revive the offense.  The defense is still something to mourn however. Giles Barnes continues his fine form with another goal.
  19. Montreal Impact: Just as quickly as you thought they might be coming back, 3 straight losses have sent them back to the bottom.
Categories: International News

Oh, Those Russians!

World politics news from blogosphere - Wed, 07/23/2014 - 06:18

U.S. Admits Its MH17 ‘Evidence’ is Based on YouTube Clips & Social Media Posts
InfoWars, by Paul Joseph Watson | July 22, 2014

AP journalist challenges State Department spokesperson on official narrative

In a testy exchange between AP reporter Matt Lee and U.S. State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf, Lee virtually corners Harf into admitting that the “evidence” presented by the U.S. to blame Russian-backed rebels for the shoot down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 amounts to nothing more than YouTube videos and social media posts.

Lee begins by asking Harf how the U.S. plans to produce “forensic evidence” proving Russian-backed rebels were behind the attack, to which Hard responds by reeling off talking points before stating, “we know, we saw in social media afterwards….of the pro-Russian separatists bragging about shooting down an aircraft.”

“How is it exactly that you know it was fired from separatist held territory?” asks Lee, to which Harf responds that the evidence is based on “communications posted on YouTube by the Ukrainian government.”

“Is there anything other….than social media?” asks Lee. Harf alludes to an “assessment,” before again reeling off talking points (based on social media and YouTube videos) that blame separatist rebels
Credit must be given to Matt Lee for doing his job and challenging Harf given that any questioning of the official narrative behind the MH17 shoot down, backed up as it is by the flimsiest of “evidence,” has been demonized as “Russian propaganda,” just as skepticism towards last year’s chemical weapons attack in Syria, which an MIT study later concluded was likely not launched by government forces, was derided as “Assad propaganda.”

Despite the State Department’s insistence that YouTube clips and social media posts can be considered as hard evidence, even the veracity of that material has attracted intense skepticism.
While Russia has presented actual radar and satellite evidence to back up its contention that Ukrainian fighter jets were following the doomed airliner shortly before the incident, the sum of Kiev and Washington’s proof that separatists were to blame for the shoot down amounts to little more than highly questionable YouTube videos and social media posts.

Kiev has also failed to release air traffic control recordings, which were seized immediately by Ukrainian security forces, which could offer a crucial insight into what was happening in the skies immediately prior to the aircraft being shot down.

Categories: International News

Prince in The City w/ Jonathan Burns, Longtime Friend and Admitted Student at Cal State Fullerton

World politics news from blogosphere - Wed, 07/23/2014 - 06:17

In this talk I get to catch up with my oldest friend, Jonathan Burns.

Jonathan and I first met back in first grade at Coronado Village Elementary. Not only did we share the same classroom together, but the same karate class; and we’ve always been in contact ever since.

Not only did we talk about his “glory days” in High School at Coronado High School but his college experience at San Diego City College. His advice to everyone out there is to come in with a plan, ask a lot of questions, and make a lot friends. There are a lot of resources out there for you, that colleges don’t tell you about, so be sure to do your own investigation work–but always be sure to get a 2nd or 3rd opinion. And don’t forget to do your FAFSA!

Today, Jonathan successfully graduated from San Diego City College and will be attending Cal State Fullerton in the Fall to pursue his bachelor’s in Political Science and Business Administration.

To reach him you can go to LinkedIn or Facebook and search his name.

And check out my radio talks at www.urbusinessnetwork.com

Categories: International News

U.S. to intervene in Wisconsin, Ohio voter restriction cases

World politics news from blogosphere - Wed, 07/23/2014 - 06:16

The DOJ plans to intervene in court challenges to laws that restrict voting in Wisconsin and Ohio, Attorney General Eric Holder said in remarks released on Tuesday. Holder told ABC news during an unaired portion of an interview last week that the Justice Department intends to file in both cases, but did not elaborate on how or when it would do so, according to a transcript of the remarks provided by the department.
Wisconsin and Ohio are among several states that have been forced to defend changes to voting protocol. Judges in recent months have overturned photo identification laws in Pennsylvania and Arkansas, and the Justice Department has intervened in similar cases challenging voting laws in Texas and North Carolina.

Republicans argue that these tighter rules are needed to stop voter fraud.

Holder had already voiced his displeasure with a 2012 Wisconsin law that requires voters to have identification to cast a ballot, saying last month that it “erected significant barriers to equal access without serving any legitimate government interest.”

A federal judge ruled Wisconsin’s law unconstitutional in April and Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen is appealing the ruling and objected on Tuesday to federal intervention.

“At a time when an immigration crisis is rattling the nation, the Attorney General is choosing to spend taxpayer money to meddle in a state law that does nothing more than ask a voter to show a photo ID,” Van Hollen said in a statement.


In February, Ohio Republican lawmakers passed a law eliminating the first week of the state’s five-week early voting period when people could register and vote the same day. The American Civil Liberties Union in May filed a federal lawsuit challenging its constitutionality.



Categories: International News

Senators propose compromise on rifle permit discretion for police chiefs

World politics news from blogosphere - Wed, 07/23/2014 - 06:15

BOSTON (STATE HOUSE) – In an attempt to help broker a compromise on anti-gun violence legislation, six senators who voted to strip a controversial provision from the Senate’s bill regarding discretion for police chiefs to grant rifle and shotgun licenses have proposed an alternative that would restore “limited flexibility” for law enforcement in the bill.

“We are trying to find middle ground. We’re not wed to it, but we think it’s a good starting point,” said Sen. Michael Barrett, a Lexington Democrat. “We aren’t opposed on the Senate side to giving chiefs this flexibility but we want to see the legitimate rights of gun owners respected.”

Barrett wrote a letter to the six House and Senate legislators appointed Tuesday to negotiate a compromise gun bill before the formal session ends in nine days, suggesting a new section to replace the “unacceptably vague” standards for denying a rifle license that were included in the House bill.

More than a dozen law enforcement officers, including Boston Police Commission William Evans and former Boston Commissioner Ed Davis, rallied at the State House on Tuesday to restore the House provision that they described as critical to keeping guns out of the hands of individuals who pose a threat to society.

Gun owner activists have criticized the provision as an unnecessary obstacle to lawful gun ownership that has the potential to be abused by police chiefs.

The Barrett letter was signed by Sens. Kenneth Donnelly (D-Arlington), Benjamin Downing (D-Pittsfield), Barry Finegold (D-Andover), Jason Lewis (D-Winchester) and Kathleen O’Connor Ives (D-Newburyport). All six voted in favor of the Sen. Michael Moore amendment last week that removed discretion from the Senate bill.

“We favor legislating reasonable grounds for denying a hunting rifle in appropriate cases, but we want these grounds to give narrower and clearer guidance to both law enforcement and citizens. We have a substantial number of constituents who object to formulations on hunting guns that seem too careless or too rushed,” the letter states.

The House gun bill proposed to give discretion to police chiefs to deny a Firearm Identification Card to someone who might not fall under the list of “prohibited persons,” but has demonstrated or engaged in behavior that suggests they could be a threat to public safety. Chiefs already have such discretion in issuing handgun licenses.

The six senators, who were among the 28 that voted to strip the provision from the bill, argued the language was too broad and open to interpretation. They proposed a new section that would allow a chief to deem an applicant unsuitable if they have demonstrated that they pose a “concrete and articulable risk of harm in the reasonably near term to himself or to others.”

“In an ideal world if it hadn’t been so rushed we would have suggested compromise language right then and there and I think it would have passed if it had been crafted well,” Barrett said of the vote to strip the discretion from the bill. “I don’t think we’re there yet, but we’re closer.”

The House and Senate on Tuesday named six members to a committee that will have a brief window to develop consensus gun legislation based on bills (H 4285/S 2284) that recently cleared the two branches. Majority Leader Ronald Mariano of Quincy and Sen. James Timilty, a Democrat from Walpole who co-chairs the Public Safety Committee, will co-chair the conference committee.

They will be joined by House division leader Rep. Garrett Bradley (D-Hingham) and Rep. George Peterson (R-Grafton) and Sens. Anthony Petruccelli (D-East Boston) and Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester).

“It’s clear that the Chiefs of Police would like more authority in issuing Firearms Identification Cards, but what isn’t clear right now is how that can be done without violating the rights guaranteed to our citizens under the 2nd Amendment,” Timilty said in a statement after the police rally.

In appointing Petruccelli to the conference committee, Senate leaders chose one of the 10 votes against the Moore amendment. The East Boston Democrat said last week that he supports retaining discretion for police chiefs after discussing the issue with Evans.

Asked Tuesday whether he would insist on restoring discretion to the bill in conference, Petruccelli said, “I’m not going to comment on the conference committee at this time.”

Senate Ways and Means Chairman Stephen Brewer, a Barre Democrat, said during the Senate’s debate on the bill that the Moore amendment was critical to convincing him to support the overall legislation, which he said would help protect children from gun violence, but should do so without threatening the rights of legal, recreational gun owners.

Asked if anything should be read into Petruccelli’s appointment to the conference committee, Brewer said, “I suspect you probably could,” before adding, “I don’t predict conference committees.”

Senate Majority Leader Stanley Rosenberg, of Amherst, defended his vote in favor of the Moore amendment stripping discretion for police chiefs, but would not speculate on the outcome of negotiations with the House.

“Let’s see what the conference committee has to say. That’s what the process is all about.” Rosenberg said. “A lot of members felt that since the focus of that was on long guns, which is basically what people use for recreation and sport, that there were sufficient controls through the federal criteria and therefore it was not necessary but again the conference committee will take it up and make their decision.”

Earlier in the day, Rosenberg’s Amherst colleague in the House – Rep. Ellen Story – said she was stunned by the Senate vote.

“I don’t understand quite what happened in the Senate process but I am hopeful and I am confident we will be able to come to some kind of compromise so that the bill can pass in its stronger form and be effective in preventing gun violence,” she said.

Categories: International News

The Myth of Masculinity

World politics news from blogosphere - Wed, 07/23/2014 - 06:13

how to be a blokeI went for dinner once with some friends of mine. After rigorously analysing and re-analysing the menu I eventually reached a definitive yet delicately poised consensus in my mind over what I wished to order. In contrast to my peers, I opted against ordering an on offer large meat platter in favour of a humble bacon and cheese burger. On hearing news of my decision, my ‘manliness’ was – in complete jest of course – called into question.

Now it is important to stress that all the above was nothing more than a dinner table quip with some very good friends and good people. Nevertheless it got me thinking about this construct we call masculinity. Why was I less of a man for eating a smaller quantity of meat? What even is masculinity and what does current popular discourse dictate are it’s defining features? Why do phrases like ‘man up’ permeate our vocabulary and get uttered so frequently?

It seems to me that humans have constructed this concept of masculinity and we as men are expected to dance to its music. This construct is by no means a contemporary phenomena. Virtually all cultures and peoples throughout history have constructed their own vision of manhood. From the walkabout initiations of the Australian aborigines to age old labels of men as chief breadwinner and leader of the family. However I believe the post-modern age has provided us with a renewed, more potent and ultimately more harmful form of masculinity. The current discourse on masculinity in my opinion goes something like this:

To be a man, one must be most if not all of the following:

  • Domineering and aggressive- the quintessential alpha male
  • Physically and emotionally formidable
  • Sexually prolific
  • Courageous and headstrong
  • View women as subsidiary beings
  • Wealthy
  • Into cars and football and stuff

This is by no means an exhaustive or accurate list and it is important you don’t read me wrong. I am not condemning such characteristics in and of themselves. Clearly there is nothing wrong about wrong in liking cars and football. I bloody love football. I also (sometimes) go to the gym and courage is certainly a virtue not a vice. However when these things become intertwined and coalesced with ones identity as a man, I believe we have a problem. For three reasons.

Firstly, masculinity is ultimately a construct. A myth. A completely baseless conception as arbitrary and meaningless as baby boys receiving blue socks and baby girls pink. One could attempt to argue that in evolutionary and biological terms, visions of men as breadwinners, as tough, aggressive and sexually prolific are written into our genes and hormonal make up from our days as hunter gatherers and survivalists. However I simply don’t buy this. Despite our origins in tribal patriarchy, humankind should be intellectually evolved enough now to no longer be governed by its hunter-gatherer roots. One would think that after the teachings of Christ, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment and one hundred years of feminist thought humans would be able to discern and eschew such outdated conceptions of masculinity in favour of a more just and progressive society. Evidently, we have thus far proved incapable of doing so.

Secondly, the discourse of masculinity as outlined above is nigh-impossible to realistically actualise and sustain. As men we are expected to conform to a hybrid model consisting of the shoulders of Arnold Schwarzenegger, the temperament of the Rock and/or Vin Diesel, the sex life of Brad Pitt and the…well, all of Bear Grylls. It is simply a ridiculous and unattainable image to have to reflect and the pressure to do so is immense. Again, there is of course absolutely nothing wrong in itself with having large shoulders or a taste for adventure and hunting fish with sharp sticks, nothing at all. However popular discourse – from the playground at Infant school to the mainstream media – has infused such traits into this ultimate male prototype and held it aloft so that all men can observe and imitate accordingly. And when this utopian exemplar of masculinity is thrust upon men and boys alike, the consequences can be highly destructive. This is the third reason why we have reason to be concerned about the myth of masculinity.

It is this authors contention that notions of masculinity do more harm than good. In fact, masculinity kills, or in the case of 11 year old Michael Morones from North Carolina, nearly did. Michael attempted to kill himself earlier this year after being subjected to bullying brought about by his love of the TV show ‘My little Pony’. The bullies in question “apparently thought Michael’s affinity for the brand was girly and gay. They teased him.” [1] In an exchange with his mother, Michael once exclaimed:

“I am so tired of people at school calling me gay because I like My Little Pony.” [2]

Michael did not die, however his suicide attempt has damaged his brain and left him in a vegetative state. The children who bulled him are not to blame here. They are, after all, only children and as we all know children can be innocently cruel. The blame lies with the construct of masculinity that one can clearly discern here. This masculinity has provided a behavioural framework that permeates even groups of 11 year olds. My Little Pony was considered girly and gay and therefore deviated from the masculine norms that all males must be subservient to. Michaels breach of these norms and the subsequent abuse made life unbearable for this 11 year old. I repeat, an 11 year old.

Doubtless, numerous cases like this could be found. A structured masculinity in society shatters the self-esteem of young boys and men and fuels an already entrenched homophobia in society. It dismantles the dreams of young men and stifles their potential. It objectifies women. It results in the persistent use of phrases like ‘man up’ and ‘just be a man’ or ‘grow a pair’. I have been guilty of using such phrases in the past. We all have. However after closer inspection I have attempted to refrain from using such phrases in future. Not only to they help sustain and reinforce these unhealthy notions of masculinity, but they are also deeply degrading to women. When faced with a certain dilemma, be it relatively trivial or more serious, for instance proposing to ones partner or settling a dispute, men often retort ‘I just need to…be a man about it/man up/grow a pair’. However this implies is that virtues such as courage, fortitude, righteousness and temperance reside exclusively in the moral arsenal of men and are not possessed or ever displayed by women. This of course is empirically false. Women possess such traits in abundance and have demonstrated so throughout history. To use such phrases suggests otherwise.

The myth of masculinity has clouded this one crucial truth: that we are all human beings, albeit with different body parts. Every human being is fearfully and wonderfully made. We are created equal, each with our own unique set of virtues, talents and potential yet also our individual vices, flaws and demons. The one thing we all have in common is our uniqueness. Our identity is not found in our gender. To quote the philosopher-cum-football genius Brian Clough OBE: “I don’t know what the population of the earth is, but if you’re one of it, then you’re a bit special.” The sooner we do away with gender constructions and debunk myths such as masculinity, the sooner we’ll realise just how special we are.

[1] Emily le Coz, ’11-year-old boy’s suicide attempt part of epidemic’ (2014)  http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/04/14/boy-suicide-attempt-my-little-pony-bullying/7712843/ (accessed July 2014)

[2] Ibid.

Categories: International News

Famine Or Feast?

World politics news from blogosphere - Wed, 07/23/2014 - 06:12

We’re all up in the spot like a Malaysia Airline Flight 17 in the Ukraine where it can go either way;  it can be famine or feast.

What’s up y’all? I was just trying to maintain but  the ongoing schemes  or plots will reveal the beauty or the beast.

Gaza Strip aka belly of the beast residents search for benevolence but none was forthcoming.

…To say the least!!!  plus ATL  Gwen Guthrie  type wannabe divas told these ATL wannabe macks there’s no romance without finance!!  so none was forthcoming.

…Plus the preacher said no blessings / benevolence without  finance!!  no more tithing?  you’ll get what’s coming to you.

Countrified fakes turn into sanctified or pulpit pimps;  meanwhile O-Dizzle is funky drumming for you.

Country fried steaks sizzle!! but karma is coming for you!! famine or feast?  good or bad?  promotions or hustle knocking?

Storms blow through from the Great Lakes to the Gulf Coast;  down here in the ATL players brag and boast!!  but whose victimized by either cock blocking or block rocking?

Jokers on Boulevard in the ATL or International out in Oakland on the West Coast were flexing in v-neck t-shirts or wife-beater  t-shirts!!  plus they’re rocking doo rags or stocking caps;  will they bring justice or peace?

What it do? coping strategies fail so act like you knew!!  it can be famine or feast.

What it do? wishing and hoping for peace in the Middle East?  please “it ain’t happening”

Act like you knew…it’s mostly famine instead of feast in District 9 scenarios; that’s what’s happening..



Categories: International News


World politics news from blogosphere - Wed, 07/23/2014 - 06:10

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, said William Shakespeare.  This line is from the play Romeo and Juliet, as Juliet pleads with Romeo that the names of things don’t matter, only what “is” matters.  Only What “is” matters… Hundreds of years later another master of the English language became president of the United States of America.  Bill Clinton, when caught lying under oath, defended himself with, “It depends on what your definition of “is” is”.

Do words matter?  If you have a contract with some one and the words it is written in are left up to any and everyone’s interpretation then what is that contract worth?

There has been a shift in the language over the last couple hundred years and I would say it has changed more rapidly over the last 20 years than ever before.  In the name of political correctness we are changing the meaning of words that use to stand for something else.  Take the word “choice”.  Who would have thought the word choice could take the place of the word abortion.  Over the last 40 years we have heard “pro-life” and “pro-choice” because saying pro-abortion sounded too negative.  I am not trying to get in to the abortion topic I only bring it up to make the point about what we call things to make them more tolerable, until we get conditioned that it’s normal.

The NRA raises money and lobbies law makers to protect the second amendment.  The NRA is not asking for special rights or reckless use of weapons.  They are one of the best places to go if you want to learn about gun safety.  The NRA has been sending questionnaires to members of congress and candidates for congress about where they stand on gun rights.  Although the NRA has been demonized in our pop-culture today I think they are pretty straight up about what they stand for.  That’s why I found it interesting when the former Mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, started a group and is sending out questionnaires to members of congress and candidates about where they stand on gun control.  They call their group “every town for gun safety”.  This name is a deception in two ways!

First, it implies that the group they are apposing is not for gun safety.  Just like the name pro-choice implies the apposing group is for no choice, because abstinence, birth control and adoption are not the choice the pro-abortion groups want.  People that support and fight to protect the second amendment are the first people to condemn the person that breaks the gun laws and like I said earlier, they are the best place to go if you want to learn about real gun safety.

Second, they are substituting the word control for safety as though they mean the same thing!  Unfortunately in our country this is slowly becoming an acceptable substitute.

Next I am hearing Illegal immigrants being called refugees.  Illegal immigrants cross our borders without obtaining a green card, visa or citizenship, refugees escaped a tyrannical government or human trafficking and we grant them asylum.  I don’t think this misuse of language is on accident.  If they can change the label, they can change the legality. Now we are learning that any city that accepted HUD money from the federal government had buried in the fine print that those cities would accept refugees from other countries.  We are seeing illegal immigrants being put on buses and planes and being shipped to these cites now.  Do words mean things?

The Declaration of Independence was written over 200 years ago and now there is a movement to remove a period in the transcript that would radically change the meaning of the role of government.  This claim is largely dismissed…for now.  So what happens if we successfully blur the lines of the meanings of crucial words in our constitution?

As a child I was taught in church that making good choices would lead to happiness in my life.  Along with that I was taught that the devils greatest trick was to tell you everything was okay as you were heading down a bad path and once you realize what you are really headed the devil says, it’s too late, you’ve gone too far to go back now.  I see this same trick being used in our language today.  We are told at first that it’s no big deal.  What’s the difference, change a word here and there SO WHAT!?  Once we realize what’s happening they tell us, oh well, it’s too late now.

Of course those in power want to change the constitution!  It limits their power and gives it back to the people.  Our founders believed that we had certain unalienable rights and the constitution was to protect us from a government that sought to infringe on those rights.  Do you realize how much different that is from anything ever before?  Rights were a privilege awarded by the government for towing the line.  Words do mean things.  When you see words being changed in your community and you know it’s not right.  Have the courage to stand up and say so.  YOU can make a difference and it is NEVER too late.

Categories: International News

Two Interesting Links 7/22/2014

World politics news from blogosphere - Wed, 07/23/2014 - 06:08

The first is Amanda Marcotte, in her usual sarcastic way, examining the psychology of women who feel the need to shame other women for using birth control, despite the fact that they almost certainly do themselves:

Ladies who don’t use contraception have had it with you 99% that do, you dirty girls.

Now, that’s useful and important, but the next one is more immediately urgent:

They’re Keeping Kids In Kennels

Because sleeping in a bed was too good for the kids of the refugee crisis, they’re now sleeping in kennels.

This makes me sick.  The America I was raised to believe in welcomed the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free.  God damn it, how I wish that America existed.  This was one of my greatest disappointments about growing up.

But then, this isn’t about me.  That post at Daily Kos includes a link to an Amazon wish list set up by the Texas Young Democrats so we can all help buy some necessities for the refugees.  Let’s go there and do some good.



Categories: International News

My article in today's Guardian: Abbott achieves the impossible: unity among economists

World politics news from blogosphere - Wed, 07/23/2014 - 05:54

My piece in the guardian today. Please go here to read the original.

Tony Abbott achieves the impossible: unity among economists

Economists are refuting the three big picture claims made by the government: 1) We have a budget emergency 2) We have a debt crisis and 3) The carbon tax was ruining the economy

Prime minister Tony Abbott during a press conference. Prime minister Tony Abbott during a press conference. Photograph: Alan Porritt/AAP

There’s a joke about economists: if you ask five economists the same question you’ll get six different answers. Granted, it’s not a very good joke, but it’s a fair call. Ours is a complex field, and a growing number of economists are acknowledging that the theory sitting behind mainstream economics is mostly rubbish. As a result, it’s very difficult to find consensus on real world events.

But that’s where Abbott and Hockey have achieved what many thought impossible: a true consensus. Unfortunately for the coalition government, the consensus is entirely against them. The Abbott government’s agenda has been driven by three major claims, all of them economic in nature. Let’s see how economists view these three themes:

1) There is a budget emergency

Number of economists who agree: zero

2) The federal government has a debt crisis

Number of economists who agree: zero

3) Carbon pricing is an economic wrecking ball

Number of economists who agree: zero

The above represents a very slight exaggeration. You can find people with some economics qualifications who agree with the government but, without exception, they either work for the Coalition or for some entity with ideological motives (like the IPA or News Corp).

While most would agree that there are serious structural problems with the budget, none would call it an emergency. Chris Richardson, economist and partner at Deloitte Access Economics, said:

We don’t need a surplus tomorrow, we don’t even necessarily need it in five years’ time. I’m more than happy with us getting back to sustainable fiscal finances over the long term. The politics would tend to suggest moving earlier rather than later but on the economics there’s no rush.

Saul Eslake, chief economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, said that to call the Australian debt situation a crisis was “to abuse the English language.”

Similarly, Nobel prize winning US economist Joseph Stiglitz used terms such as “absurd”, “crazy” and “a crime” to describe some of Hockey’s budget measures, and dismissed the perceived debt and deficit problems, noting that any Australian who worries about debt “must be out of their mind.” Richard Holden, professor of economics at the Australian School of Business, put it this way: “First, Australia does not have a debt crisis. Or, to put it another way, Australia does not have a debt crisis.”

It doesn’t stop here. The Age recently conducted its annual economics survey of 25 prominent economists. They select economists from a broad range of backgrounds across the spectrum of economics and their views vary widely on almost all issues. None of them agreed with the government on any of the above three topics.

This unique consensus among economists makes it clear that the entire government agenda is based on false premises. How has this exposure affected the Coalition’s agenda or their messaging? Not at all. Not one bit. Not one iota. Let’s be clear about this. We know they’re not being honest about their real motives for policy. They know we know, too. They don’t care.

As I’ve explained previously, the Abbott and Hockey budget, if fully implemented, would have taken us a long way towards the free market social and economic model of the US, and away from the social democracy model of much of Europe. But the question remains as to why they would do this. Who benefits from a US style free market system where government minimises its involvement?

The answer of course is the wealthy and those who already wield power. The greatest beneficiaries of Abbott and Hockey’s policies are their largest financial backers, including the financial industry, the mining and energy industries, gambling interests and real estate companies.

For all the talk about this being the most ideologically driven government in living memory, the reality is something much simpler and more familiar. This government is simply delivering to big money what big money wants.

One of the clearest examples of this is the winding back of the Labor government’s Future of Financial Advice (FoFA) reforms. We know that many financial advisors have been preying on their clients. They make use of clients’ lack of understanding of complex investing and other financial options to direct them to financial products that are not in their interest, but rather in the interests of the advisor. This has been costing consumers huge sums of money, which primarily flow into the hands of the banks.

Labor’s reforms were aimed at making such conflicts of interest for advisors illegal in order to address this complex problem. The Coalition have wound back Labor’s changes and have provided not one defensible reason for doing so. Compliance costs and red tape have actually increased, so that cannot be used as the excuse. Meanwhile, we allow the banks to continue to profit from ripping off their customers.

The same is at play when you examine climate policy. You can’t find an independent economist who thinks the government’s “direct action” plan for tackling climate change is more efficient or effective than a carbon tax or trading scheme. Who likes direct action? The polluters of course. Instead of paying to pollute, they get payed not to pollute. Here’s the real con: one argument we are given is that the carbon tax was too big a burden on consumers. Who’s going to pay the polluters to reduce pollution? The government. Where do they get the money? From all of us. Consumers pay anyway.

The clarity of these examples reveals the sad reality of this government. They are not ideologues, they are just puppets dancing to the tune of those pulling their strings.

Categories: International News

China to launch satellite for Venezuela

Venezuela News - Wed, 07/23/2014 - 05:07

The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) has signed an agreement with Venezuela for in-orbit delivery of a second remote sensing satellite for the country, the company said on Tuesday.


CASC subsidiary Great Wall Industry Corporation will be the major contractor of the project, the corporation said.


But the corporation did not give a specific timeframe for the project.


Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is on a four-nation Latin America tour, told his Venezuelan counterpart Nicolas Maduro Sunday in Caracas that China is ready to expand satellite technology transfer to Venezuela.


China sent a remote sensing satellite, the “VRSS-1,” into space from northwest China’s Gobi desert for Venezuela in 2012.


VRSS-1 is Venezuela’s first remote sensing satellite and is mainly used for the country’s land resource inspections, environmental protection, disaster detection and management, crop yield estimation and city planning.



Categories: International News

Riot police begin evicting thousands of squatters from half-finished Venezuelan skyscraper that became the world's tallest slum

Venezuela News - Wed, 07/23/2014 - 04:30

CARACAS, Venezuela — The beginning of the end came for the world’s tallest slum Tuesday as officials began evicting thousands of squatters from a haphazard community inside the half-built Caracas skyscraper known as the Tower of David.

Police in riot gear and soldiers with Kalashnikov assault rifles stood on side streets as dozens of residents boarded buses for their new government-provided apartments in the town of Cua, 37 kilometers south of Caracas.

Ernesto Villegas, the government minister overseeing Caracas’ redevelopment, told reporters the residents could not be allowed to stay indefinitely because the 45-story building in the heart of the capital is unsafe.

AP Photo/Fernando Llano

AP Photo/Fernando Llano

He said children have fallen to their deaths from the tower, which in some places is missing walls or windows. The damp, foul-smelling concrete lobby attested to the lack of working plumbing.

Meant to be the crown jewel of a glittering downtown, the building was abandoned amid a 1990s banking crisis. It later was nicknamed the Tower of David, after its financier David Brillembourg.

AP Photo/Fernando Llano

AP Photo/Fernando Llano

Villegas said the tower started its life as a symbol of failed capitalism, and later came to represent the power of community. The squatters’ invasion was part of a larger appropriation of vacant buildings encouraged by the late President Hugo Chavez.

By 2007, the “invaders,” as they’re called in Caracas, had claimed everything from the parking garages to the rooftop helipad. They rigged up electricity, opened stores and barbershops, and created a sophisticated internal management system.

AP Photo/Fernando Llano

AP Photo/Fernando Llano

On Tuesday, Maria Sevilla, manager of the 28th floor, looked wistfully at the sooty concrete skeleton, with its steep ledges and incomplete stories stippled with satellite dishes.

“What I’ll miss the most is the community we built here,” she said.

A former street vendor, Sevilla said the 50 neighbours on her floor had become like family to her and her teenage children.

AP Photo/Fernando Llano

AP Photo/Fernando Llano

For outsiders, the tower symbolized the height of anarchic dysfunction. The surreal-looking high-rise was widely believed to harbor criminals as well as working families, and it was sometimes raided by police looking for kidnapping victims. The U.S. television show “Homeland” depicted the building as a lawless place where thugs participate in international conspiracies and kill with impunity.

The building’s neighbors celebrated the eviction Tuesday. Retiree Antonio Farias looked on with glee, saying the slum had brought the constant threat of kidnapping, rape and robbery.

AP Photo/Fernando Llano

AP Photo/Fernando Llano

“It was so beautiful at first,” he said.

Inside the tower, the mood was subdued even as dozens of children ran about. Young men talked about families they heard were going to refuse to leave.

AP Photo/Fernando Llano

AP Photo/Fernando Llano

Residents complained that they did not want to move so far away. They worry about losing the million-dollar views, and their easy access to supermarkets, public transportation and, possibly, employment.

“I don’t know how I’ll be able to find a job out there,” said Yaritza Casares, 28, leading her 4-year-old daughter through a soaring courtyard. “We were lucky to live here.”

[related_links /]

AP Photo/Fernando Llano

AP Photo/Fernando Llano

Categories: International News

18th-Century Royal Palace at Caserta with the Park, the Aqueduct of Vanvitelli, and the San Leucio Complex

World Heritage List Geo RSS - Wed, 07/23/2014 - 03:30

The monumental complex at Caserta, created by the Bourbon king Charles III in the mid-18th century to rival Versailles and the Royal Palace in Madrid, is exceptional for the way in which it brings together a magnificent palace with its park and gardens, as well as natural woodland, hunting lodges and a silk factory. It is an eloquent expression of the Enlightenment in material form, integrated into, rather than imposed on, its natural setting.

Aflaj Irrigation Systems of Oman

World Heritage List Geo RSS - Wed, 07/23/2014 - 03:30

The property includes five aflaj irrigation systems and is representative of some 3,000 such systems still in use in Oman. The origins of this system of irrigation may date back to AD 500, but archaeological evidence suggests that irrigation systems existed in this extremely arid area as early as 2500 BC. Using gravity, water is channelled from underground sources or springs to support agriculture and domestic use. The fair and effective management and sharing of water in villages and towns is still underpinned by mutual dependence and communal values and guided by astronomical observations. Numerous watchtowers built to defend the water systems form part of the site reflecting the historic dependence of communities on the aflaj system. Threatened by falling level of the underground water table, the aflaj represent an exceptionally well-preserved form of land use.

Sacri Monti of Piedmont and Lombardy

World Heritage List Geo RSS - Wed, 07/23/2014 - 03:30

The nine Sacri Monti (Sacred Mountains) of northern Italy are groups of chapels and other architectural features created in the late 16th and 17th centuries and dedicated to different aspects of the Christian faith. In addition to their symbolic spiritual meaning, they are of great beauty by virtue of the skill with which they have been integrated into the surrounding natural landscape of hills, forests and lakes. They also house much important artistic material in the form of wall paintings and statuary.

Aachen Cathedral

World Heritage List Geo RSS - Wed, 07/23/2014 - 03:30

Construction of this palatine chapel, with its octagonal basilica and cupola, began c. 790–800 under the Emperor Charlemagne. Originally inspired by the churches of the Eastern part of the Holy Roman Empire, it was splendidly enlarged in the Middle Ages.

Aapravasi Ghat

World Heritage List Geo RSS - Wed, 07/23/2014 - 03:30

In the district of Port Louis, lies the 1,640 m2 site where the modern indentured labour diaspora began. In 1834, the British Government selected the island of Mauritius to be the first site for what it called ‘the great experiment’ in the use of ‘free’ labour to replace slaves. Between 1834 and 1920, almost half a million indentured labourers arrived from India at Aapravasi Ghat to work in the sugar plantations of Mauritius, or to be transferred to Reunion Island, Australia, southern and eastern Africa or the Caribbean. The buildings of Aapravasi Ghat are among the earliest explicit manifestations of what was to become a global economic system and one of the greatest migrations in history.

Abbey and Altenmünster of Lorsch

World Heritage List Geo RSS - Wed, 07/23/2014 - 03:30

The abbey, together with its monumental entrance, the famous 'Torhall', are rare architectural vestiges of the Carolingian era. The sculptures and paintings from this period are still in remarkably good condition.

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