Firefighter Brilliantly Shuts Down Cop Who Attempts To Violate His Rights

By Cassandra Fairbanks, The Free Thought Project – Philadelphia, PA– Tony Soto, Pennsylvania fire fighter was pulled over for his tinted windows, and stood his ground brilliantly in a series of videos uploaded on March 25 which quickly went viral. “Look, I pay my taxes. You work for me.” In the first video which was captured via personal dash cam, the officer claims that he pulled Soto over for a couple of reasons.  The first reason being his tinted windows- which Soto quickly invalidates by showing him his tint permit.  The officer next claims that the man’s headlight is out, which Soto asserts it was not and he’s right. Upon receiving the information proving Soto broke no laws, the officer attempts to illegally open the marshall’s door. Soto requests a supervisor as the officer is attempting to violate his constitutional rights, and pulls out his identification as well as his fire...

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FBI at Texas Health Commission Asking About 21CT Deal

By Terri Langford and Aman Batheja, Texas Tribune – FBI agents have interviewed employees at the Texas Health and Human Services Commission about its problematic contract with Austin firm 21CT, Executive Commissioner Kyle Janek told The Texas Tribune, marking the first time an official with direct knowledge of the federal probe has confirmed it. “I can tell you what I know. I’ve heard they were here talking to people. They have not talked to me,” Janek said late Thursday. How little-known 21CT landed a $20 million Medicaid fraud tracking software deal with HHSC, a whale of a state agency that spends billions each year on contracts, has become the center of three very public investigations launched since December. The probes began after news reports detailed how the commission failed to seek competitive bids before awarding the contract to 21CT, and how the commission’s then-deputy inspector general, Jack Stick, was once a business partner of the company’s lobbyist, James Frinzi. HHSC had selected 21CT...

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Scientists Developing Healthier, Better-Tasting Chocolate

By Richard Moss, Gizmag – Good news if you’re hooked on chocolate. Researchers from Ghent University in Belgium and the University of Ghana have developed a new technique for making chocolate that results in it being both healthier and more flavorful. The technique differs from conventional chocolate production in that cacao beans are roasted at a lower temperature and bean pods are left unopened for five days rather than split open right away. It is expected to be particularly useful in countries where cacao beans have less natural flavor and antioxidant activity. Cacao beans/seeds are normally removed from their pods shortly after these get cut from cocoa trees. The beans then go through a fermentation process that basically involves them sweating in baskets for a number of days, which causes a series of chemical changes that break down the sugar and plant embryo and prepare them for the next...

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World’s Largest Contiguous Marine Reserve Created to Stop Illegal Fishing

By Cole Mellino, EcoWatch – British Prime Minister David Cameron’s government announced the creation of the world’s largest contiguous ocean reserve on Wednesday, protecting 322,000 square miles around the remote Pitcairn Islands in the South Pacific. To put that in perspective, that’s three and a half times the size of the United Kingdom and bigger than the state of California, according to National Geographic. Pitcairn’s residents implored the UK government to protect the area, which is threatened by illegal fishing. “No fishing or seafloor mining will be allowed in the reserve, except for traditional fishing around the island of Pitcairn by the local population,” according to Enric Sala, a National Geographic explorer-in-residence who led an expedition to the area in 2012 that helped make the scientific case for the area’s protection. The UK leads the world with the highest percentage of its territorial waters (30 percent) under protection (it, of course, helps to be...

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Governor Christie Told This Man To ‘Sit Down And Shut Up’ But He’s Running For Office Instead

by KIRA LERNER – During a Belmar, New Jersey press conference last October, Gov. Chris Christie famously told Jim Keady to “sit down and shut up” when Keady and others protested the governor’s failed Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts. Keady is not listening to the governor. Instead, he announced last week that he’s running to represent New Jersey’s 30th District in the state Assembly. While reexamining the state’s hurricane recovery efforts would be a priority, the restaurant owner and activist with the New Jersey Organizing Project told ThinkProgress he would use the position to advocate for fixing the state’s failing pension plan, reforming the education system and advocating for the environment of his hometown — all with input from constituents. “The devastation of the storm was visceral to me — I saw it, I smelled it, I crawled through it — which is why I took particular umbrage with the governor yelling...

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Revulsion and Revolt: Backlash Against Indiana’s Pro-Discrimination Law Grows

‘To see folks actively speaking out and taking a stand, people you never thought would say something about it, it says a lot.’ by Jon Queally – If you want to see the band Wilco play this Spring, you won’t be doing it in Indiana. Joining other artists, businesses, sports fans, municipal and state governments, and untold numbers of individuals, the popular rock band’s decision to cancel an upcoming concert in the state was an explicit move to support the #BoycottIndiana movement which has sprung up in response to a new pro-discrimination law passed by the Republican-controlled legislature and signed into law by Gov. Mike Pence last week. Wilco’s decision comes as equality and civil liberties advocates continue to mobilize against Indiana’s recently passed ‘Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA),’  and is now part of a wider revolt against the controversial law, and others like it, across the country. “We’re canceling our...

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The Big Lie The Media Tells About Indiana’s New ‘Religious Freedom’ Law

by JUDD LEGUM – On Friday, the Washington Post published an article titled “19 states that have ‘religious freedom’ laws like Indiana’s that no one is boycotting.” The article snarks about organizations like the NCAA that have protested Indiana’s law, noting “the NCAA didn’t say it was concerned over how athletes and employees would be affected by Kentucky’s RFRA when games were played there last week.” The piece concludes “Indiana might be treated as if it’s the only state with a bill like this, but it’s not.” The piece has been shared over 75,000 times on Facebook. The Washington Post article largely mirrors the argument advanced by Indiana Governor Mike Pence. Appearing on ABC’s This Week, Pence claimed “Then state-Sen. Barack Obama voted for . The very same language.” The same argument is parroted on Fox News and elsewhere. It’s not true. The Indiana law differs...

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Global Warming Is Slowing Ocean Currents Causing Dire Consequences, Expert Warns

By Cole Mellino , EcoWatch – Climate scientists Michael Mann and Stefan Rahmstorf announced the findings of their new study yesterday, which shows that the rapid melting of the polar ice has slowed down currents in the Atlantic Ocean, particularly since 1970. The scientists say “the slowdown in ocean currents will result in sea level rise in cities like New York and Boston, and temperature changes on both sides of the Atlantic,” reports NPR’s Jeremy Hobson. Mann, who is a professor and the director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University, joined Hobson yesterday on Here and Now to discuss the study and the implications of its findings. Mann explains the consequences of the Gulf Stream shutting down and how it would drastically alter the climate in Europe and North America. The last time this happened, about 12,000 years ago, at the end of the last ice age, North America and Europe went back...

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‘No Worse Than Bombing An Abortion Clinic’: Anti-Vaxxers Celebrate Murders Of Four Polio Vaccinators

by VALERIE BEAUMONT – The anti-vaccine crowd may be dangerously and irreparably stupid, but it is surprising that even this particular mob of willful scientific illiterates and conspiracy theorists would stoop to actually celebrating the deaths of other humans. Unfortunately, this is the point the anti-vaccine movement has reached. Last week, gunmen opened fire on a team of polio vaccinators in southwestern Pakistan. Four of the workers died, and police were forced to halt a much-needed immunization drive. Pakistan is one of the few countries left where polio is a regular threat and, while vaccination teams have helped the situation some, violent extremists have seized upon the opportunity to lash out against what they view as a  “conspiracy of Jews and Christians to make Muslims impotent and stunt the growth of Muslims.” Anti-vaxxers have long touted supposed “sterilization agents” in vaccines — false claims that could only be believed by the...

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State Attorneys Tell Supreme Court That Gay People Are Too Powerful To Have Equal Rights

by IAN MILLHISER – Gay Americans simply have too much political power to be afforded equal rights under the Constitution, according to a brief filed by the state of Ohio asking the Supreme Court to permit that state to continue to practice marriage discrimination. Ohio’s claim comes as part of a greater effort to convince the justices that laws which discriminate again gay men, lesbians and bisexuals should not be treated with skepticism by courts applying the Constitution’s guarantee that everyone shall be afforded “the equal protection of the laws.” Under this provision of the Constitution, most forms of discrimination are entirely permissible. It is acceptable, for example, for the government to discriminate against unqualified job applicants when making hiring decisions, or to discriminate against people who commit serious crimes in deciding who to incarcerate. When the government discriminates against groups that have historically been subject to unequal treatment that...

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I’m Running for Senate (VIDEO)

by TammyDuckworth – Ten years ago, I nearly lost my life when an RPG tore through the cockpit of my Black Hawk helicopter in Iraq. The only reason I made it home was because of the heroism of my courageous buddies who risked their lives to save mine. I have an obligation to honor their sacrifice by making the most of this second chance in my life – this bonus time – and continuing to serve our nation, in any way I can. That’s why I’m announcing today that I’m running to represent Illinois in the United States Senate. Watch the announcement video below to learn more about why I’m running, then sign up to join the campaign from Day 1. We deserve elected officials who will do for our fellow Americans what my crew did for me in Iraq: look out for our hardest hit and most vulnerable, work together...

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Willie Nelson Plans To Sell You Weed In 2016

By DEBORAH MONTESANO, Addicting Info – Willie Nelson has an act to top anything he’s done yet. He’s going to open his own chain of marijuana stores in 2016. Who else to trust with delivering a primo product than the man who, at 81 years of age, is America’s best-known pot smoker and legalization advocate? The man who sang “Roll Me Up And Smoke Me When I Die.” The man who famously smoked a doobie on the roof of the White House. Nelson’s stores are going to include his own brand, Willie’s Reserve, as well as other carefully selected varieties — brands of weed that meet his high standards. He’s hired pot lobbyist Michael Bowman to be the spokesperson for Willie’s Reserve. In an interview with The Daily Beast, Bowman said: This is a culmination of Willie’s vision, and his whole life. I’m not sure any of us could have predicted how fast the dominoes...

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‘This Must End Now’: Web Companies, Rights Groups Call for Immediate Halt to Bulk Data Collection

In letter sent to President Obama and other officials, coalition demands urgent reform to US Patriot Act by Lauren McCauley – More than 50 technology companies, privacy and human rights advocates on Wednesday sent a letter (pdf) to U.S. President Barack Obama, members of Congress, and other executive  and intelligence officials demanding immediate curbs to government surveillance and an end to the bulk collection of citizens’ communications under the U.S. Patriot Act. “It has been nearly two years since the first news stories revealed the scope of the United States’ surveillance and bulk collection activities. Now is the time to take on meaningful legislative reforms to the nation’s surveillance programs that maintain national security while preserving privacy, transparency, and accountability,” reads the letter. The diverse coalition—which includes groups such as the Brennan Center for Justice, Mozilla, Center for Media and Technology, Wikimedia Foundation, the American Civil Liberties Union and the American-Arab...

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Opposition Grows as Shell Drilling Fleet Heads to Arctic Waters

Bureau of Ocean Energy Management says “there is a 75% chance of one or more large spills” occurring By Lauren McCauley, Common Dreams – Marking 26 years since the Exxon Valdez ran aground spilling as much as 38 million gallons of oil into the Port William Sound in Alaska, activists last week protested the Obama administration’s continued support for Arctic oil exploration. Despite the known threat to the fragile Arctic ecosystem and high risk of a devastating oil spill, the Department of the Interior is expected as early as Wednesday to sign off on the revised environmental impact statement (EIS) for Shell’s Chuckchi Sea lease, which would clear a major hurdle for the company to restart its Arctic drilling program this summer. Interior Secretary Sally Jewel’s formal announcement will follow last month’s approval by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), which was given despite the agency’s own EIS finding that “there...

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Georgia Legislature Drops Plans For ‘Religious Freedom’ Bill After Watching Indiana Implode

by JAMESON PARKER – Let nobody tell you that your voice doesn’t matter. Nowhere is that more clear than in Georgia this week where the state’s Republican-majority legislature quietly killed their very own “religious freedom” bill after watching their fellow conservatives in Indiana go down in spectacular fashion for passing a similar law. According to WXIA in Atlanta, the Georgia House Judiciary Committee cancelled a scheduled meeting meant to discuss the pending legislation. The bill is effectively tabled, with support dissolving at an almost hourly rate. Sensing shifting sands, the bill’s author, Republican Sen. Joshua McKoon frantically called on his fellow lawmakers to vote on the bill “as-is” as soon as possible before it was too late. So far, no one – left or right – has seemed eager to take him up on his offer. If you want to understand what happened in Georgia, we need look no further...

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Republicans Call Obama A Greater Threat To America Than Putin And Assad (VIDEO)

by KERRY-ANNE – President Barack Obama poses an imminent threat to the United States greater than Russian President Vladimir Putin and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, say a third of Republicans responding to a Reuters/Ipsos poll this month. 2,809 Americans were asked to rate the threat level posed to the U.S. by several countries, organizations and individuals on a scale of 1 to 5 (one being no threat and 5 being an imminent threat). There were some bizarre results. 34% of Republicans ranked Obama as an imminent threat to America (equal to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un) – scoring him higher than Putin (25%), Assad (23%) and Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini (27%). While Putin’s Russia has been accused of annexing the Ukraine, and Assad stands accused of using chlorine gas against his own people, GOP voters see a greater threat coming from the Obama White House. The only things Republicans found...

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Syria’s President Assad: US Airstrikes a Recruiting Bonanza for ISIS

The Americans would like to ‘sugar coat’ the situation, says Bashar al-Assad, but the situation in his country is only being made worse by airstrikes and the funding of extremist groups by outside forces by Jon Queally – In an interview with Charlie Rose that aired on CBS News’ 60 Minutes Sunday night, Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad said American airstrikes that began last year against Islamic State (or ISIS) inside his country are doing little to benefit his own fight against the militant force but are having the undesirable side effect of increasing the number of fighters from across the region (and the world) who are flocking to join the group. “How much of a benefit are you getting from American airstrikes in Syria reducing the power of ISIS?” Rose asked in the interview that took place just days ago in Damascus. Al-Assad responded by pointing out that the U.S. government...

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Hillary’s Challengers – and the Anti-Wall Street Wave

by Richard Eskow – Former governor Martin O’Malley and former senator Jim Webb spoke at a firefighters’ union event earlier this month. Both are the subject of renewed press interest as they contemplate entering the presidential race. Sen. Bernie Sanders has been publicly weighing a run. Sen. Elizabeth Warren is being encouraged to enter the race. All four have criticized Wall Street’s unethical practices and undue political influence. Leading contender Hillary Clinton, by contrast, has not. Should that worry Democrats? O’Malley Moves In On a swing through Iowa last week, former Maryland governor and presumed presidential candidate Martin O’Malley said that “we must not allow another Wall Street meltdown to bring down hard-working families.” He once again called for reinstating Glass-Steagall, the bill that prevented big banks from investing (some would say gambling with) customers’ savings, adding “that too many Democrats have been complicit in the backslide toward less regulation.” “Seven years after the Wall Street meltdown,” added O’Malley, “Americans are still experiencing the fallout.” O’Malley has been circumspect about challenging Hillary Clinton, the presumptive frontrunner for the 2016 Democratic nomination. But the implications of his words weren’t lost on insiders. The bill, which effectively repealed Glass-Steagall, was signed into law by President Bill Clinton. Citigroup, the megabank...

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HBO’s Scientology Documentary Uses The Church’s Own Tricks On Viewers

by ALAN PYKE – It has been mocked repeatedly and accused of a variety of abusive practices toward its members over the years, but Scientology’s ability to attract devoted, decades-long followers has never quite made sense in previous depictions of the organization. Now, the source of that mysterious power to attract sensible people and retain them for a lifetime is laid plain — and for a lot less than the suggested donation at an entry-level Scientologists’ meeting. Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief debuts March 29 on HBO. It is no small thing to take on the Church of Scientology, as Anderson Cooper, the Internal Revenue Service, the creators of South Park, and many others have learned over the years. So when HBO decided to engage the esoteric, cult-like group in a documentary, the network didn’t skimp. Going Clear is the product of a collaboration between lauded, veteran...

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New Bill Would Have Teachers Diagnose Psychological Issues in Children and Report them to Police

By Jay Syrmopoulos, The Free Thought Project – Dallas, Texas – Texas State Representative Jason Villalba (R-Dallas) is once again in the spotlight after submitting yet another Orwellian proposal, H.B. 985. Villalba first raised the ire of civil libertarians by proposing a bill, H.B. 2006, which would have eliminated the religious exemption for vaccination, essentially creating a forced government vaccination program without exception. More recently, Villalba was thrust into the national spotlight when he proposed H.B. 2918, which would usurp citizens of the ability to hold law enforcement accountable for their actions. The bill would negate the people’s ability to create an accurate and impartial record of police interactions by restricting citizens from filming within 25 feet of an officer. Now with H.B. 985, Villalba intends to give school officials the authority to force psychological screenings of students that teachers and staff diagnose as having mental health issues. Once...

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