A Bakery That Hires Addicts, Felons and Immigrants Continues to be a Success

by Walter Einenkel – Nathanael Johnson has a great piece on Greyston’s Bakery in Yonkers, New York. Greyston’s motto is “We don’t hire people to bake brownies, we bake brownies to hire people.” It’s a nice sentiment, but is it real? Yes it is and they do and they’re successful. For the last 30 years, Greyston Bakery, in Yonkers, N.Y., has made it a policy to hire anyone who comes in the door, without asking questions or even looking at a resume. As a result, Greyston has a staff of former addicts, felons, and immigrants — people normally considered unemployable.This staff of workers makes food that you’ve probably eaten: They provide all the brownies for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. It’s a successful for-profit business, powered by the unemployable. The entire profile is worth a read. Here’s an explanation of their business model, from Greyston’s CEO Mike Brady: “Low-wage workers tend...

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Lensless Space Telescope Could be 1,000 Times Stronger than Hubble

By David Szondy, Gizmag – The Hubble space telescope has given us decades of incredible images, but it’s reaching the end of its service life and the question is, what will come after? One possibility is the Aragoscope from the University of Colorado Boulder, which uses a gigantic orbital disk instead of a mirror to produce images 1,000 times sharper than the Hubble’s best efforts. The Aragoscope is named after French scientist Francois Arago who first noticed how a disk diffracted light waves. The principle is based on using a large disk as a diffraction lens, which bends light from distant objects around the edge of the disk and focuses it like a conventional refraction lens. The phenomenon isn’t very pronounced on the small scale, but if the telescope is extremely large, it not only becomes practical, but also extremely powerful. When deployed the Aragoscope will consist of an...

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Working Mom On Food Stamps Hits Back At Scott Walker’s Plan To Drug Test Her

by ALICE OLLSTEIN – Wisconsin’s low-income workers and some members of Congress are speaking out against Governor Scott Walker’s call for making people on public assistance undergo a drug test. Governor Walker confirmed in a Q and A at the conservative American Action Forum in DC on Friday that the 2015 budget he will unveil Tuesday will include measures that cover those who need food stamps, Medicaid and unemployment benefits, among other programs for those in poverty. Walker claimed his motivation for the controversial move was feedback he’d received from Wisconsin companies. “As I traveled my state, I hear employers, small business owners say, overwhelming: ‘We have jobs. We just need workers. And we need two things: people who know how to show up every day for work, five days a week, and gimme someone who can pass a drug test,’” he said. But Jennifer Epps-Addison with Wisconsin Jobs Now questions...

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The Next Anti-Abortion Strategy Lurking Around The Corner

by TARA CULP-RESSLER – In what could represent their next major effort to dismantle the protections under Roe v. Wade, abortion opponents are laying the groundwork for a new attack on reproductive rights that borrows a page out of their old playbook. Several pieces of similar legislation emerging on a state level could be the beginning of a national trend. The measures are cloaked in emotional language about “fetal dismemberment” that’s reminiscent of the pro-life community’s successful push to enact the country’s first national abortion ban. The first bill to use “dismemberment” language was introduced in South Dakota last year. Seeking to “prohibit the dismemberment or decapitation of certain living unborn children,” the measure was just a few paragraphs long and didn’t make it out of committee. But that didn’t deter anti-abortion activists. This year, at the beginning of the 2015 session, identical bills entitled the “Unborn Child Protection From...

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A Long Filament Eruption

 

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Report Shows How Fracking Industry’s Failure to Follow Regulations Impacts Health

By Stefanie Spear, EcoWatch – A new report released Tuesday from Environment America Research & Policy Center shows that all types of fracking companies, from small to large, are prone to violating rules intended to protect human health and the environment. The report, Fracking Failures: Oil and Gas Industry Environmental Violations in Pennsylvania and What They Mean for the U.S., analyses Pennsylvania’s oil and gas industry over a four-year period and found that the top offenders of regulations — averaging more than one environmental violation every day — represented a wide range of companies from Fortune 500 companies like Cabot Oil, to mom-and-pop operators, to firms like Chevron. “Fracking is an inherently risky, dirty, dangerous practice, and regulations can’t change that,” said John Rumpler, senior attorney with Environment America. “But this report shows that a range of oil and gas companies struggle to meet even modest protections for our environment and public health.” The report tracks lapses such as allowing toxic...

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Sanders’ Focus Not Clinton, But Whether 2016 Run Could Mobilize the Masses

As he ponders presidential run, Bernie Sanders doubts Hillary Clinton “bold enough.” But the bigger questions, he says: “Can you bring people out on the streets? Can you mobilize people? Can you tap the anger that’s out there?” by Jon Queally – Ahead of upcoming trips to both New Hampshire and Iowa, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt) istalking again this week about his possible plans to run for president in 2016 and made it clear that although his platform would center around propping up the nation’s working class while undoing the damage being wrought by the nation’s oligarchy, he will not shy away from putting pressure on Hillary Clinton, currently and widely seen as the presumptive Democratic nominee. “Based on history, do I think she is going to be as bold as needs to be in addressing the major crises that we face?” Sanders said in an interview with theWashington Post...

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Even Major Doctors’ Group Thinks Marijuana Research Ban Is Outdated

by TARA CULP-RESSLER – The U.S. government should reclassify marijuana as a less dangerous drug so that scientists can conduct more research into its potential health effects, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends in a new policy statement. It’s the first time that the leading doctors’ group has updated its official stance on medical marijuana in more than a decade. The pediatricians’ group does not support the full legalization of marijuana, maintaining that the drug is not healthy for kids and worrying that legalizing pot for adults will make it easier for children to get their hands on it. The new policy statement does, however, support decriminalization — a policy change that the lead authors believe “takes this whole issue out of the criminal justice system and puts it into the health system, where it really should be.” The AAP says that the criminal penalties for being caught with...

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Israeli Military Opened Fire On Civilians Waving White Flags: Report

by JOHN PRAGER – While many turn a blind eye, Israel has slowly become that which it hates. Last year Moshe Feiglin, deputy speaker of the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) openly called for what any sensible person would recognize is genocide. Feiglin said that the Army must: “…designate certain open areas on the Sinai border, adjacent to the sea, in which the civilian population will be concentrated, far from the built-up areas that are used for launches and tunneling. In these areas, tent encampments will be established, until relevant emigration destinations are determined.” After Palestinians are “concentrated” into these “encampments,” Feiglin says, “The supply of electricity and water to the formerly populated areas will be disconnected,” and the areas would be  “shelled with maximum fire power.” The army would “exterminate” all who resisted. Feiglin’s plan would force those who wished to stay in the country to “publicly sign a declaration of...

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Keystone Senate Yea Votes: Seven Times More Oil & Gas Money

by Center for Responsive Politics – Senators who voted to push through development of the Keystone XL pipeline today have received, on average, $570,034 in contributions to their campaigns and leadership PACs from the oil and gas industry over the course of their careers. The 35 senators who voted against bill have received, on average, just $78,641 from the industry. The Obama administration is still considering whether or not to approve the pipeline, but the Republican-led 114th Congress seized the reins almost as soon as it took office earlier this month. The House passed H.R. 3, the Keystone XL Pipeline Act, on Jan. 9 by a vote of 266-153. The Senate followed suit with its version of the Keystone bill, S.1, today, with nine Democrats joining every single Republican to pass the measure 62-36. President Obama has threatened to veto the bill, and unless its supporters can drum up five more Senate votes,...

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Targeting of Homes an ‘Appalling Hallmark’ of Israel’s Summer Attack on Gaza

New report from Israeli human rights group finds the deadly attacks had official backing by Andrea Germanos – Attacks in which the Israeli military deliberately targeted Palestinian homes were an “appalling hallmark” of the military offensive this summer and had the backing of top Israeli officials, an Israeli human rights organization charges in a report released Wednesday. For its report, Black Flag: The legal and moral implications of the policy of attacking residential buildings in the Gaza Strip, summer 2014 (pdf), B’Tselem investigated 70 incidents in which at least three people were killed while inside their home during what Israel called Operation Protective Edge. In these incidents, B’Tselem said, over 600 Palestinians were killed, 70% of whom likely too no part in fighting. They included the deaths of 93 infants and children under the age of 5, as well as 129 5- to 14-year old children, and 37 people over 60....

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After Listening To Women, Longtime Anti-Abortion Congressman Becomes Pro-Choice

by STEPHEN D FOSTER JR – A six term congressman and lifelong opponent of abortion rights has finally changed his mind, and all it took was for him to start talking with and listening to women. Tim Ryan is a bluedog Democrat and lifetime Catholic who represents Ohio in the U.S. House of Representatives. Since first stepping into the Capitol Building, he has supported many pieces of anti-abortion legislation written by Republicans. But unlike his Republican colleagues who are slaves to their conservative base, Ryan actually not only talked with women, he listened to them. In the process, he experienced a change of heart and officially announced on Tuesday that he now supports a woman’s right to choose. In an op-ed published by the Akron Beacon Journal, Ryan explained how he reached his decision. I’ve heard firsthand from women of all ages, races and socioeconomic backgrounds about the circumstances and...

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Hamburg to Build Public Green Spaces Atop Noisy Highway and Become Car Free in 20 Years

By Mihai Andrei, ZMEScience – Three public parks will cover an Autobahn (highway) that passes through the city of Hamburg, in Germany. The 8,000-mile road network runs through Hamburg’s city center, dividing the city into an eastern and western half and creating a lot of disturbing noise. The problem will be solved through the addition of the green spaces. The highway causes two main problems – first of all, it breaks the city’s continuity for pedestrians, and second of all, it creates a lot of pollution (dust, dirt, air pollution and noise pollution). As part of an effort to green the city, Hamburg will build covers on three separate sections of the Autobahn. This will allow pedestrians not only to cross the street and be rid of most of the noise and air pollution, but also enjoy some new parks. Hamburg is currently working on a plan that would eliminate...

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Canada Unveils New Anti-Terrorism Bill That Moves for ‘Unprecedented Expansion of Powers’

“This radical expansion of national security powers is not sound security policy and presents a real danger to Canadians,” says civil liberties advocate by Andrea Germanos – Canada introduced on Friday new anti-terrorism legislation critics say gives spy agencies sweeping powers that threaten the public’s civil liberties. The legislation is the Anti-terrorism Act 2015, which Ottawa Citizen reporter Ian MacLeod described as “the most dramatic package of new laws since the Anti-terrorism Act of 2001.” Among the provisions of the legislation are that it would expand the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS)’s powers to “disrupt terrorism offenses and terrorist activity;” make it easier for law enforcement agencies to carry out preventive detentions, and allow them for longer time, make it easier to federal agencies to share information, and give law enforcement agencies power “to disrupt terrorism offenses and terrorist activity, according to a government fact sheet. Defending the measures in Richmond Hill,...

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New Poll Shows Overwhelming Majority of Americans Want Lawmakers to Take Action on Climate

by Sarah Lazare – Ahead of the 2016 elections, the verdict is in: Most people in the United States—including a large number of Republicans—think global warming poses a serious threat to the world and want the government to take action to stave off climate crisis. A new nation-wide poll conducted by Stanford University, The New York Times, and environmental research organization Resources for the Future found that two-thirds of people in the U.S.—including almost half of Republicans—say they are more likely to back politicians who vow in their campaigns to fight global warming. Likewise, the majority of respondents said they are less likely to vote for a candidate who denies the reality of human-caused global warming. Jon A. Krosnick, Stanford University professor and an author of the poll, told The New York Times that the numbers on Republicans constitute “the most powerful finding” in the survey. While most Republic candidates steer...

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Oddly Beautiful

 

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In Torture Report Face-Off, ACLU Fights GOP Repo Man

If the White House gives in to Sen. Richard Burr’s demands, civil rights group says it ‘faces the real threat of never securing the release of a document to which it is entitled by law’ by Deirdre Fulton – The ACLU filed an emergency motion with a federal judge to stop the new GOP chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee from repossessing the full-length version of a revealing inquiry into CIA torture. Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) has requested the White House and various executive agencies “immediately” return copies of the 6,700-page report, which Burr says was inappropriately transmitted by his predecessor, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). Feinstein disputes that characterization. The ACLU and other human rights groups charge that Burr’s request is an attempt to keep the findings of the report under wraps permanently. As Politico points out: “Who maintains legal control of the report could be critical to whether and when...

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A Tale Of Two Senators Who Grew Up Poor And Went Opposite Directions

by RYAN DENSON – I Got Mine, Screw You! The GOP attempted to relate to the poor and working class when Joni Ernst, during her State of the Union rebuttal, painted herself as a poor Iowan girl who had to stuff bread bags over her shoes to keep them from being ruined by the rain. She wasn’t ruined, because apparently many of her Iowan school friends were just as poor and had to do the same thing. It was certainly a tender moment for the GOP. Ernst really showed people how one can overcome poverty to be something great. Except she forgot to mention one tiny thing: her family received over $460,000 in federal subsidies (the very ones Ernst’s party wants to get rid of). According to The District Sentinel: Ernst’s father, Richard Culver, was given $14,705 in conservation payments and $23,690 in commodity subsidies by the federal government –...

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Anaheim Debut for Blackbird’s El Capitan Ekoa Acoustic Guitar

By Paul Ridden, Gizmag – An acoustic guitar needs old tonewood soundboard, body and neck to really make the unplugged party pop, right? Well no, not really. Guitar makers have experimented with a host of other materials over the years, including aluminum and carbon fiber. Blackbird Guitars has now followed the 2013 launch of its Clara concert-level ukulele, which is made from something called Ekoa, with a NAMM debut for an acoustic guitar called El Capitan that’s constructed from the same sustainable material. El Capitan is the first guitar to be made from Ekoa, a high performance composite made mostly of low-density linen and developed by Lingrove. Blackbird premiered the concept prototype at last year’s NAMM Show and has since been tweaking and refining the instrument to ready it for production. Like the Clara before it, the small jumbo acoustic is claimed to offer players the same tone and...

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Texas Rep to Office Staff: Ask Muslim Visitors to Pledge Allegiance

By Reeve Hamilton and Alexa Ura, Texas Tribune – Freshman state Rep. Molly White, R-Belton, is not in Austin today to celebrate the Texas Muslim Capitol Day. But she left instructions for the staff in her Capitol office on how to handle visitors who are, including asking them to declare allegiance to the United States. “I did leave an Israeli flag on the reception desk in my office with instructions to staff to ask representatives from the Muslim community to renounce Islamic terrorist groups and publicly announce allegiance to America and our laws,” she posted on Facebook. “We will see how long they stay in my office.” Texas Muslim Capitol Day, which began in 2003, is organized by the Texas chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations and brings members of Muslim communities in Houston, Dallas and other areas of the state to the Capitol to learn about the political process and meet state...

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‘Unconstitutional… Unconscionable’: Texas Executes Intellectually Disabled Man

Despite Eighth Amendment protections and US Supreme Court rulings, state puts Robert Ladd to death by Nadia Prupis – Texas executed an intellectually disabled man on Thursday, violating the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits putting mentally impaired prisoners to death as cruel and unusual punishment. Robert Ladd, 57, was killed by lethal injection Thursday evening for the 1996 murder of Vicki Ann Garner. The procedure lasted 27 minutes. In any other state, Ladd would have been considered ineligible for the death penalty due to his IQ of 67, according to the ACLU. Ladd’s death highlights Texas’s continued thwarting of two U.S. Supreme Court rulings, which not only protect the mentally challenged from execution, but also require that death penalty states use medically scientific definitions of those disabilities, rather than imposing their own standards. One of those rulings, Hall v. Florida, came in 2014. Despite those rulings, Texas is still using its own...

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The American Sniper Was No Hero

Despite what some people think, hero is not a synonym for competent government-hired killer by Sheldon Richman – If Clint Eastwood’s record-breaking movie, American Sniper, launches a frank public conversation about war and heroism, the great director will have performed a badly needed service for the country and the world. This is neither a movie review nor a review of the late Chris Kyle’s autobiographical book on which the movie is based. My interest is in the popular evaluation of Kyle, America’s most prolific sniper, a title he earned through four tours in Iraq. Let’s recall some facts, which perhaps Eastwood thought were too obvious to need mention: Kyle was part of an invasion force: Americans went to Iraq. Iraq did not invade America or attack Americans. Dictator Saddam Hussein never even threatened to attack Americans. Contrary to what the George W. Bush administration suggested, Iraq had nothing to do with the attacks on Sept....

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MIGHTY MOUSE!

The Mouse-Box fits a whole PC inside a mouse By David Nield, Gizmag – We’ve seen plenty of compact PCs in the past, but few as tiny as the Mouse-Box. This new invention from a team of Polish engineers packs a fully-functioning computer into a mouse that you can hold in your hand. All you need to add is a screen and a keyboard and you’re ready to start work, get online or launch a presentation. The Mouse-Box is currently at the prototype stage and its makers are looking for funding to bring it to production. Its level of portability is a huge selling point, because if you’re going somewhere with a monitor or projector available, then all you need is a pocket rather than a laptop bag. Inside the mouse you get a 1.4GHz dual-core ARM CPU, 128GB of flash storage, two USB 3.0 ports, a micro-HDMI output...

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“The GOP’s Long Love Affair With Schmucks”

From Sarah Palin to Donald Trump to Ben Carson, Republicans Just Can’t Get Enough of obviously unqualified presidential contenders by Nick Gillespie – As the silly season of Election 2016 starts cranking up, nothing is sillier and more pathetic than the quadrennial dance of Republicans with manifestly unqualified candidates vying for the party’s presidential nomination. In the past, folks such as Herman Cain, whose resume boasts management stints at two of the rottenest fast-food chains world history, and Alan Keyes, a junior varsity ambassador to the very United Nations that conservative Republicans love to hate, have soaked up the spotlight in ways that boggle the mind. Does anyone else remember the brief 2004 boomlet around Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose year in office as California’s governor hadn’t yet revealed what an awful, awful leader he was? At the time, his only qualification for president was threatening to shove Arianna Huffington’s head in a...

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State Officials Trying To Gut Obamacare Get Caught Making False Claims To The Supreme Court

by IAN MILLHISER – The Republican attorneys general of six states, Oklahoma, Alabama, Georgia, Nebraska, South Carolina and West Virginia, all signed a brief asking the Supreme Court to gut the Affordable Care Act. Yet one of the central claims in this brief — a claim that cuts to the heart of whether the Supreme Court should shred much of Obamacare or leave it intact — is at odds with a pile of evidence to the contrary. This evidence includes explicitly contradictory statements from the Republican governors of several states, including three of the states represented by these six attorneys general. And the six attorneys general were unable to muster any contrary evidence that supports their central claim. This weakness in their case is unlikely to be unnoticed by the justices, however, as a brief filed Wednesday by a much larger group of state officials rounds up much of the...

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Syriza’s Victory in Greece: Hold the Champagne

by Michael Nevradakis, Truthout | News Analysis –   It was October 1981 when “hope” and “change” first filled the air in Greece. The brash young socialist leader of the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (Pasok), Andreas Papandreou, was about to earn a historic electoral victory. His rhetoric was radical, calling for a Greek departure from the European Union and NATO. This rhetoric elevated Papandreou to achieve an electoral rout of the conservatives. His victory was marked as “left,” with Time featuring Papandreou on its cover accompanied by the headline “Greece Swings Left.” However, in the years that followed, most of the radical promises were broken, and Greece remained in the EU and NATO. Flash forward to January 25, 2015, the day that young Alexis Tsipras and the Coalition of the Radical Left (Syriza) emerged victorious in the Greek parliamentary elections. Across Greece, Europe, and the world, celebrations erupted. Global media...

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Bibi Speech May Cost Him Election – Opposition Building Against ‘Republican Senator From Israel’

by NATHANIEL DOWNES – Benjamin Netanyahu’s planned speech before the US Congress may cost him his position as Prime Minister, it turns out. For the opposition Labor-Hatnuah alliance, called the “Zionist Camp,” the speech could not have been better timed. The coalition, running in opposition to Netanyahu’s Likud Party, has jumped on the plan as another example of the embattled Israeli leader being, as some now call him, “the Republican Senator from the great State of Israel.” In the latest polls, we find Netanyahu’s Lukid party coming in solidly behind Zionist Camp, with the other parties all gathering small pieces of the seats left over for Israel’s parliament, the Knesset. Of note, the Yisrael Beiteinu party, Lukid’s current partner in the ruling coalition, has lost so many seats in polling that it only barely qualified to even run a ticket, meaning that even if Lukid holds on to each seat...

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Congress Reintroduces Bipartisan Asset Forfeiture Reform Legislation

By Johnny Green, The Weed Blog – Tuesday, both houses of Congress reintroduced S 255, the Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration (FAIR) Act, a bipartisan bill that would end the Justice Department’s Equitable Sharing Program, which incentivizes state and local law enforcement to seize private property without charging anyone with a crime in a process called civil asset forfeiture. Reintroduction of the FAIR Act comes only days after Attorney General Eric Holder announced an end to some kinds of forfeiture. Unfortunately, while Holder’s announcement is a step in the right direction, it only addresses about 14% of the total amount of seizures in question. An exception to the reforms announced on January 16th allows state and local officers to exercise civil asset forfeiture practices if they’re involved in a multijurisdictional task force that includes federal enforcement, such as the Drug Enforcement Agency. Because federal agencies are so frequently involved in...

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Bill Would Allow Texas Teachers To Kill Students

By CARIMAH TOWNES, ThinkProgress – People who are concerned about the use of excessive force by law enforcement may have to deal with another fatal can of worms. If Texas state Rep. Dan Flynn (R) gets his way, teachers will have the right to use deadly force against students in Texas classrooms, in the near future. The Lone Star State already permits teachers to have firearms in the classroom, but H.B. 868, also known as the Teacher’s Protection Act, would authorize instructors to use “force or deadly force on school property, on a school bus, or at a school-sponsored event in defense of the educator’s person or in defense of students of the school that employs the educator.” Instructors would also have the right to use deadly force “in defense of property of the school that employs the educator.” Moreover, civil immunity would be granted to those who use deadly force,...

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How King v. Burwell Threatens The Lives Of Millions Of Children

by IAN MILLHISER – King v. Burwell, the latest Supreme Court case attacking the Affordable Care Act, is largely perceived as a threat to people who purchased insurance through the law’s health exchanges. Should the plaintiffs succeed, at least 8 million people with plans purchased through such an exchange are projected to become uninsured — many of whom have life-threatening conditions. In reality, however, King presents an even bigger threat to American lives. Should the Supreme Court embrace the plaintiffs’ theory in King, up to 5 million children who had insurance long before Obamacare became law would also lose their insurance. That’s 13 million newly uninsured people, many of them children. The problem arises from the specific words that the King plaintiffs point to in the text of the Affordable Care Act to claim that much of the law should be defunded. These five words — “Exchange established by the State”...

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‘Turning Back on American People,’ US Senate Votes to Approve Keystone XL Pipeline

‘Thankfully, this vote is a farce—because Keystone XL is a decision for President Obama, not the Climate Denial Congress.’ by Deirdre Fulton – Marking a major—and likely symbolic—victory for Republicans on Capitol Hill, the U.S. Senate voted on Thursday to approve the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline in a 62-36 vote that will not be sufficient to override President Barack Obama’s expected veto. The nine Democrats who voted to approve Keystone were Sens. Michael Bennet (Colo.), Tom Carper (Del.), Bob Casey (Pa.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Jon Tester (Mo.), and Mark Warner (Va.). Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who is traveling, missed the vote, as did Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who is recovering from eye surgery. All other Republicans voted in favor of the $8 billion project that Obama has vowed to strike down. “The senators who voted in favor of the...

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Trans Man Rejected By His Catholic Church, So Pope Francis Invites Him To The Vatican For A Hug (VIDEO)

by  KERRY-ANNE – When transgender man Diego Neria Lejárraga was called the “devil’s daughter” by his local Catholic priest and isolated from the community, he decided to write to Pope Francis on the matter.  He did not expect what came next. The 48-year-old explained the remarkable story to Spanish magazine Hoy, describing how he was born a woman but felt that “my jail was my own body… because it absolutely didn’t correspond with how I felt in my soul.” Although raised a Catholic, he found the Church was unwilling to accept him – so when he heard reports of Pope Francis’s efforts to reach out to those marginalized by some of the Church’s traditional views, he decided to write the Pontiff a letter. Neria didn’t get ignored or receive some automated response from the Vatican.  He got through to the Pope direct. First, the Pope responded first with a personal...

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10 Spectacular Hikes to Consider for Your Next Outdoor Adventure

The benefits of hiking are numerous. It’s an inexpensive activity with a relatively low impact that provides exercise and enjoyment. Research shows that spending time in nature improves mental health and there many reasons why you feel so good in nature. Whether you’re an avid hiker always looking for the next great trail to hike or an occasional trekker seeking tips on where to go, this list of the top 10 national park hikes is sure to help you plan your next great adventure. 10. Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah Photo credit: Shutterstock Hikers on the Queens Garden Trail experience the beauty of southwestern Utah’s multi-colored rock formations known as hoodoos. You can take in these stunning hoodoos — the product of erosion — as you descend into the canyon. The trail is a moderate day hike and it’s three miles round trip. 9. Acadia National Park, Maine Photo credit: Shutterstock The Sargent Mountain Loop will...

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The Strange Firing Of One Of The Country’s Most Inflammatory Anti-LGBT Spokespeople

by ZACK FORD – One of the most vocal opponents of LGBT equality, Bryan Fischer, is apparently no longer a spokesman, nor the “Director of Issues Analysis,” for the American Family Association (AFA), an anti-LGBT hate group. Despite being related to comments Fischer has been making on his radio show for years, the firing seems to serve the purpose of providing political cover to some 60 members of the Republican National Committee who will enjoy an all-expenses-paid trip to Israel on AFA’s bill, as first reported by Rachel Maddow Wednesday night. AFA President Tim Wildmon confirmed the sudden firing to MSNBC, describing Fischer now as “just a talk show host” who is no longer associated with the organization. He was apparently fired specifically over comments he has made over the years suggesting the Nazi Party was started by gay people, that Adolf Hitler recruited gays into his Army for their...

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Count Me Among the ‘Low-life Scum,’ Senator McCain

by Meteor Blades – Eric Bradner of CNN reports: Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain had harsh words for protesters who shouted criticism at 91-year-old Henry Kissinger at a hearing Thursday.”Get out of here, you low-life scum,” the Arizona Republican told the protesters. “I’ve been a member of this committee for many years and I have never seen anything as disgraceful and outrageous and despicable as the last demonstration that just took place,” McCain said. Riiiiiiiight, Senator. You know what’s disgraceful, outrageous and despicable? The fact that this unpunished and unrepentant war criminal gets to appear before the Senate Armed Services Committee as an elder statesman (not to mention serve as emeritus adviser to John Kerry and Hillary Clinton). Sickening. Infuriating. Maddening. Here’s Christopher Hitchens in 2010: Henry Kissinger should have the door shut in his face by every decent person and should be shamed, ostracized, and excluded. No...

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Fox Host Megyn Kelly Horrifies Mike Huckabee By Telling Him About Other Things Women Do Besides Swearing (VIDEO)

by STEPHEN D FOSTER JR – Former Fox host and Republican presidential wannabe Mike Huckabee got more than he bargained for during an interview with Megyn Kelly on Wednesday. The former Arkansas governor appeared on the program to discuss recent comments he made on right-wing radio. Huckabee openly whined about women who cuss and called them “trashy.” “This would be considered totally inappropriate to say these things in front of a woman. And for a woman to say them in a professional setting — we would only assume that this is a very — as we would say in the South, that’s just trashy!” Many thought Huckabee was referring to his female colleagues on Fox. That includes Megyn Kelly, who believed Huckabee was directly referring to her because she accidentally called him “Fuckabee” on the air during a previous interview with him. “Megyn, you’re the only one who’s used that...

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Two Gay ‘Tech Bears’ Bought JebBushForPresident.Com

by WENDY GITTLESON – Remember when LGBT columnist and activist Dan Savage redefined Rick Santorum’s name to mean, let’s just say, something that might compel a person to change the sheets?  Well, that Google campaign is over, but that hasn’t stopped other activists from turning the Internet on its head in protest of other less than web savvy candidates. Two men who call themselves a “bear couple” have taken a polite page from Savage’s playbook. They bought the domain JebBushForPresident.com, just in case he decides to run. CJ Phillips and Charlie Rainwater of Oregon bought the domain in 2008. Their goal was to help bring about same-sex marriage. “Early tentative plans were to essentially blog about how we felt about various legislation happening nationally and worldwide,” Phillips explained. “For example, at the time Texas legislature was either planning to pass or had already passed a bill that made the legal documents...

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Cops Shutdown High School Kids Trying to Earn Money by Shoveling Snow

By Matt Agorist, The Free Thought Project– Bridgewater, NJ — In America, “Land of Opportunity,” you are free to pursue your dreams of financial freedom, provided you have filled out the proper form and been extorted by the proper bureaucrat. Two teenage boys from Bridgewater, New Jersey are getting a hard does of this statism after their pursuance of financial freedom landed them in hot water with the fuzz. Earlier this week, Matt Molinari and his friend Eric Schnepf, both seniors in high school, were going door-to-door advertising their snow shoveling services in advance of the storm. School was out, and instead of sitting inside and playing X-Box, these two young entrepreneurs felt the fire of enterprise and decided to turn their down time into an actual dime. However, Molinari and Schnepf apparently didn’t realize that in order to make a dime you have to pay a quarter — to the state. When...

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Indiana’s Governor Is Introducing A State-Run News Service To Compete With Regular Media

by RIKA CHRISTENSEN – Indiana Governor Mike Pence is starting up his own state-run news service. Called Just IN, this news service will offer pre-written stories to various news outlets across Indiana, according to Talking Points Memo. It will also offer breaking news about the administration. Pence plans to launch Just IN next month. The Indianapolis Star obtained documents on the state-run news service, which say that state press secretaries will write up the stories, and Bill McCleery, a former Star reporter, will oversee the whole thing. The Star posted some information from one of the question-and-answer sheets circulated by Pence’s office, which said: “At times, Just IN will break news — publishing information ahead of any other news outlet. Strategies for determining how and when to give priority to such ‘exclusive’ coverage remain under discussion.” This state-run news service will receive funding from taxpayers, but the Star hasn’t found out...

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Ben Carson Says Congress Should Remove Pro-Equality Judges, Which Is Unconstitutional

by SCOTT KEYES – Federal judges had better make sure that their future rulings don’t conflict with the policy preferences of a President Ben Carson. Otherwise, despite a lifetime appointment, they might quickly find themselves out of a job. During an interview last week with conservative Iowa radio host Steve Deace, Carson, who is considering running for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016, discussed the wave of recent rulings by federal courts striking down same-sex marriage bans. He argued that statewide ballot initiative results should be the final word, saying it was “unconstitutional” that judges have ruled in favor of equality despite these votes. Carson continued that, when federal judges make rulings like this, “our Congress actually has the right to reprimand or remove them.” DEACE: Do our rights really come from God? Or do they come from the mob, do they come from the state? CARSON: I think you’re...

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Seven States That Are Next In Line To Legalize Marijuana

by Phillip Smith – During a series of YouTube interviews last Thursday, President Obama demonstrated a remarkably laissez-faire attitude toward marijuana legalization experiments in the states. And he signaled strongly that the Obama administration wouldn’t be taking to the hustings to try to beat back legalization efforts, as previous administrations had been wont to do. “What you’re seeing now is Colorado, Washington through state referenda, they’re experimenting with legal marijuana,” the president said in response to a question from YouTube host Hank Green. “The position of my administration has been that we still have federal laws that classify marijuana as an illegal substance, but we’re not going to spend a lot of resources trying to turn back decisions that have been made at the state level on this issue. My suspicion is that you’re gonna see other states start looking at this.” Indeed. Legalization bills are already popping up in...

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How Fire Burns in Zero Gravity

By Tibi Puiu, ZMEScience – In space, of course, you can’t have any fires because there isn’t any oxidizer (i.e. oxygen) to sustain the combustion process. Inside a spacecraft or in the International Space Station, however, things are a bit different. Inside you have the same air mixture as on Earth, but because gravity is millions of times smaller an open flame behaves significantly different. Let’s see first how combustion works here on Earth. Imagine a wood bonfire beautifully blazing away in the mountainside with you and your best friends roasting some marshmallows. Tired of scary stories, you spiral away a bit and become engulfed in those mesmerizing flames. How does it all work? As carbon and oxygen molecules revolve around you head, you begin to understand. As the fuel (wood) burns, it heats the air around it making it less dense. Because gravity pulls down anything with a higher...

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Poll Confirms That The Republican Party’s Obamacare Strategy Is Extraordinarily Unpopular

by IAN MILLHISER – According to a new poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation, only 27 percent of the public agrees with the Republican leaders’ strategy to take health care away from millions of Americans if they get an assist from the Supreme Court. Last month, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) admitted that he would not succeed in repealing the Affordable Care Act so long as President Obama remains in the White House — “ bears the President’s name, the chances of his signing a full repeal are pretty limited.” Nevertheless, McConnell believes that he has an ace in the hole. “Who may ultimately take down, he told a conference sponsored by the Wall Street Journal, “is the Supreme Court of the United States.” If the Court, which is dominated by Republicans, were to decide a case called King v. Burwell the way McConnell hopes they will, that...

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Louie Gohmert In Hot Water After Spending Money Donated To His Political Campaign On Foreign Travel

by RANDA MORRIS – A complaint filed with the Office of Congressional Ethics shows that Louie Gohmert (R- Texas) used money donated to his Congressional campaign fund to pay for expenses he accrued during a lavish trip outside of the United States last fall. The complaint, filed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), includes copies of the campaign’s official ‘receipts and disclosure’ form, filed with the Federal Election Commission, by the ‘Louie Gohmert for Congress Committee’. The itemized expense list includes such items as lodging in a 5-star hotel in London, England, the Andaz, Liverpool Street. Also charged to his campaign, a $234 taxi ride in Cambridgeshire, England, luxury accommodations at the Old Bank Hotel, in Oxford, England, and a train trip on the First Great Western, in Plymoth, England. Here are screen shots of some of the itemized charges to Gohmert’s Congressional campaign. Two additional items...

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Anti-Gay Officials In Alabama Just Lost Their Best Argument Against Marriage Equality

by ZACK FORD – Last week, Federal District Judge Callie V. S. Granade ruled that Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. On Tuesday, she issued essentially the same opinion in the case of a different same-sex couple, staying it for two weeks so that it takes effect at the same time as the first decision. Nevertheless, there’s a significant difference between the two that could well impact marriage equality’s arrival in The Yellowhammer State. The first ruling addressed the recognition of a same-sex marriage performed in another state, while this new ruling addressed a couple who attempted to marry in Alabama. Though in both cases, Granade ruled that the ban was unconstitutional, the fact that this case addressed the issuing of licenses in Alabama changed the scope of her injunction. Over the weekend, the Alabama Probate Judges Association was adamant that judges would not have to issue marriage licenses...

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Google Draws Wikileaks’ Ire for Secretly Providing Private Email Data to DOJ

By Jon Queally, Common Dreams – In what non-profit media organization Wikileaks is calling a “horrifying precedent for press freedoms,” internet giant Google has confirmed it complied with a request by the U.S. government to hand over the complete content and data attached to email accounts belonging to three Wikileaks staffers under a secret search warrant issued by a federal judge in 2012. On Sunday, attorneys representing Wikileaks sent a letter (web) to executives at Google  demanding answers related to what they termed the “serious violation of the privacy and journalistic rights” of their three employees – Investigations Editor Sarah Harrison, Section Editor Joseph Farrell and senior journalist and spokesperson Kristinn Hrafnsson. “The broadly tailored search warrants are evidence of the fact that the government refuses to recognize that WikiLeaks is staffed by journalists and editors. It refuses to recognize that the organization’s act of publishing US government documents is an...

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US Engaged in Massive Car Spying Program

Documents obtained by ACLU reveal vast expansion of DEA’s license plate reader database  by Andrea Germanos – The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) operates a massive secret government database that tracks the movement of motorists across the country, documents reveal. The documents, obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union through the Freedom of Information Act, cast further light on the scope of government surveillance and raise significant privacy concerns, the organization says. At issue is the DEA’s national license plate reader program, which began aimed at vehicles in states along the Mexico border, ostensibly to fight drug trafficking. The Wall Street Journal reported Monday: The DEA program collects data about vehicle movements, including time, direction and location, from high-tech cameras placed strategically on major highways. Many devices also record visual images of drivers and passengers, which are sometimes clear enough for investigators to confirm identities, according to DEA documents and people familiar...

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Court Tosses Out Prostitution Conviction For Transgender Woman Just Walking Down Street

By ZACK FORD, ThinkProgress – An Arizona appeals court has vacated a conviction against a transgender woman who was profiled for sex work, creating new hope that she might receive justice. Monica Jones, a transgender woman of color, has been a vocal critic of Phoenix’s sex work diversion program, Project ROSE, because of the way it sweeps many vulnerable young women into the criminal justice system. The women are picked up off the street — without actually being arrested — and they are forced to either complete a Catholic Charities-run diversion program or they are then put under arrest. One of the reasons for its poor success rate is because any individual who has previously been arrested for sex work is ineligible for the program, thus many more women are arrested than actually “saved” from sex work. Because Phoenix’s law loosely interprets many behaviors as “intent to commit or solicit...

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Corporate Tax Break Scheme Is Gaining A Momentum We Must Stop

by Isaiah Poole – There is no real argument over whether the nation needs to do more to improve its infrastructure – its transportation, water, power and information networks. But there is an argument over how best to pay for it all – and that argument is increasingly turning in a dangerous direction. Financially stressed working-class households who are at best treading water, if not actually sinking, in today’s economy aren’t eager to dig deeper into their own pockets to foot the bill. That’s even more true of the plutocrat class, which has an army of lobbyists at the ready to shut down any suggestion that those who arguably would benefit the most from such things as better roads and public transportation should shoulder the larger share of the load. Politicians of both parties in Washington are therefore increasingly relying on one of the schemes in the voodoo economics toolbox: give...

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Revolutionary Family Shows True Meaning of Self-Reliance

By Cole Mellino, EcoWatch – They grow almost all of the food they need. Ninety percent of their all-organic, vegetarian diet comes from their garden. The operation involves 400 varieties of vegetables, fruits and edible flowers, which is 6,000 pounds of food a year. They raise eight chickens, four ducks and two goats, which provide them with eggs and milk. Chefs from high-end restaurants come directly to their house to buy their excess. When asked if he had any doubts in the beginning, Jules admits he did. “I kept thinking this place was too small. There’s no way that we are going to be able to feed ourselves, plus I never thought we’d be able to grow the vegetables for the market,” he said. Dervaes decided to embark on this endeavor because he was concerned about what was in his and his children’s food. He wanted them to eat organic, GMO-free food, and he knew...

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