Julia Sweeney – Letting Go of God parts 1-4 of 13

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Appeals Court unanimously affirms right to videotape police

From ACLU: http://www.aclum.org/news_release_8.29.11

ACLU News Release:

Simon Glik broke no law when he used his cell phone to record police officers’ use of force against another man on Boston Common.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, August 29, 2011

CONTACT:
Christopher Ott, Communications Director, 617-482-3170 x322, cott@aclum.org

BOSTON — The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit ruled unanimously late Friday that Simon Glik had a right to videotape police in action on Boston Common. Mr. Glik sued three police officers and the City of Boston for violating his civil rights after police arrested him and charged him with illegal wiretapping, aiding the escape of a prisoner, and disturbing the peace–all for merely holding up his cell phone and openly recording Boston police officers who were punching another man on Boston Common in October 2007. As a defense, the police argued the law was not clear, but the Court decisively rejected their claim of immunity from being sued.

“This is a resounding victory for the First Amendment right to openly record police officers carrying out their duties in a public place,” said Sarah Wunsch, ACLU of Massachusetts staff attorney. “It will be influential around the country in other cases where people have been arrested for videotaping the conduct of the police,” said Wunsch.

“Police officers must be trained to respect the right of people to openly record their actions in public,” said David Milton, a Boston attorney representing Mr. Glik for the ACLU in the civil rights suit. “Simon did what we hope any engaged citizen would do, which was documenting what he thought looked like an improper use of force, and his action in no way interfered with the police.”

“This case is significant not only for members of the public who use cell phone cameras to document police conduct. It is equally important for members of the media, since reporters and the public have the same right of access to information,” said attorney Milton. The court noted that changes in technology have made it hard to draw a line between a private citizen and a journalist. This ruling applies to recording of all public officials. The Court noted the particular importance of recording police officers because they have “substantial discretion that may be misused to deprive individuals of their liberties.”

Massachusetts wiretap statute (Ch. 272, Sec. 99) prohibits willful interception–in secret–of any oral communication, without having obtained the prior authorization of those taking part. However, the statute does not require “consent,” it only requires that the recording not be secret. Since Mr. Glik was openly recording the police by holding up his cell phone, there was no reason to believe he was violating the statute. The police therefore also violated Glik’s Fourth Amendment right to not be arrested without probable cause, as well as his First Amendment right to observe and gather information about what the police were doing in a public place.

At the time of his arrest, Simon Glik was a lawyer who had finished a clerkship with the Probate Court. He was looking for a permanent job as an attorney. Instead, for four months, he became a criminal defendant facing a felony charge.

During the incident, Mr. Glik stood about ten feet away from the officers while they were making an arrest. He did not interfere. Mr. Glik did not speak to the police officers nor did they speak to him until the suspect was in handcuffs. The police officers were identified later as John Cunniffe, Peter J. Savalis, and Jerome Hall-Brewster. They are defendants in the civil rights case along with the City of Boston, which the suit argues is responsible for inadequately training, supervising, and disciplining officers who arrest people under the wiretap statute for openly recording the police carrying out their duties in public.

Shortly after Mr. Glik’s arrest, the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office dropped the “aiding the escape of a prisoner” charge but pursued the wiretap charge (a felony) and disturbing the peace. After a judge of the Boston Municipal Court threw out those charges, the ACLU of Massachusetts brought a civil rights suit on Mr. Glik’s behalf, charging that the police officers and the City had violated his rights.

All of the police officers asked the U.S. District Court to throw out the case against them on the grounds of “qualified immunity”, which protects government officials from the burdens of a lawsuit only if the allegations of the complaint do not show a constitutional violation, or, if they do constitute a violation of a constitutional right, the right was not clearly established, and a reasonable police officer would not have known about it.

In June 2010, U.S. District Court Judge William Young denied the police officers’ request to have the case against them dismissed, stating that the law is clearly established that the First Amendment protects Simon Glik’s conduct, and refused to grant them qualified immunity from suit.

The police officers appealed that ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals, which heard oral arguments on June 8, 2011. The claims against the City of Boston for failing to train and supervise police officers about the right of Americans to observe and openly record the conduct of the police in public is not subject to qualified immunity and have continued in U.S. District Court.

David Milton of the Boston firm Law Offices of Howard Friedman is the cooperating attorney for the ACLU of Massachusetts and argued for Simon Glik, asking the First Circuit to affirm Judge Young’s ruling. He, his colleague Howard Friedman, and ACLU of Massachusetts staff attorney Sarah Wunsch have been representing Mr. Glik on the civil rights lawsuit.

For more details, including video of the arrest witnessed by Mr. Glik, see: the case page.

-end-

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Attack of the Monsanto Superinsects and Superweeds

From Mother Jones: http://motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2011/08/monsanto-gm-super-insects

By Tom Philpott
Tue Aug. 30, 2011

Over the past decade and a half, as Monsanto built up its globe-spanning, multi-billion-dollar genetically modified seed empire, it made two major pitches to farmers.

The first involved weeds. Leave the weed management to us, Monsanto insisted. We’ve engineered plants that can survive our very own herbicide. Just pay up for our patented, premium-priced seeds, spray your fields with our Roundup herbicide whenever the fancy strikes, and—voilà!—no more weeds.

The second involved crop-eating insects. We’ve isolated the toxic gene of a commonly used bacterial pesticide called Bt, Monsanto announced, and spliced it directly into crops. Along with corn and soy, you will literally be growing the pesticide that protects them. Plant our seeds, and watch your crops thrive while their pests shrivel and die.

Monsanto focused its technology on three widely planted, highly subsidized crops: corn, soy, and cotton. Large-scale farmers of these commodities, always operating on razor-thin profit margins, lunged at the chance to streamline their operations by essentially outsourcing their pest management to Monsanto. And so Monsanto’s high-tech crops essentially took over the corn/soy- and cotton-growing regions of the country.

But now the pitches are wearing thin. Dumping a single herbicide onto millions of acres of farmland has, predictably enough, given rise to weeds resistant to that herbicide. Such “superweeds” are now galloping through cotton and corn country, forcing farmers to resort to highly toxic herbicide cocktails and even hand-weeding. More than 11 million acres are infested with Roundup-resistant weeds, up from 2.4 million acres in 2007, reckons Penn State University weed expert David Mortensen.

And now insects are developing resistance to Monsanto’s insecticide-infused crops, reports the Wall Street Journal. Fields planted in Monsanto’s Bt corn in some areas of the Midwest are showing damage from the corn rootworm—the very species targeted by Monsanto’s engineered trait. An Iowa State University scientist has conclusively identified Bt-resistant root worms in four Iowa fields, the Journal reports.

Continue reading at:  http://motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2011/08/monsanto-gm-super-insects

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‘Workampers': What It’s Like to Wander Around the Country in an RV Desperately Looking for Work

This sort of reminds me of  Steinbeck’s  Grapes of Wrath

From Alternet: http://www.alternet.org/economy/152220/%27workampers%27%3A_what_it%27s_like_to_wander_around_the_country_in_an_rv_desperately_looking_for_work/

Finding a new job today often requires thinking outside the box, and you can’t think much further outside the job search box than workamping.

By Michael Thornton
August 30, 2011

Where are the jobs? That question is on the minds of millions of Americans who have lost jobs during the Great Recession. During this historically lean jobs creation period, finding a new job often requires thinking outside the box. And you can’t think much further outside the job search box than “workamping” — also known as work-camping.

“The RV’s kitchen slide broke in Eutaw, Alabama, which is in the middle of the middle of nowhere. We managed. We were stuck in the mud in Clarksdale, Mississipi during a launch party for the anthology, Delta Blues. The tow truck driver who pulled our rig out of the mud jackknifed it and broke out the pickup’s rear window. Guess I can add my broken wrist to the list of oopsies.”

That’s how Suzann Ellingsworth described a couple of days in the workamping life she shares with her husband, Dave, as they drive their RV through the southern and plains states looking for work.

According to Workamper.com, a workamper is “an adventurous individual who has chosen a wonderful lifestyle that combines ANY kind of part-time or full-time work with RV camping. If you work as an employee, operate a business, or donate your time as a volunteer, AND you sleep in an RV (or on-site housing), you are a Workamper. Workampers generally receive compensation in the form of a free campsite, usually with free utilities (electricity, water, and sewer hookups) and additional wages.”

Calling it a “wonderful lifestyle” seems a bit over the top for some workampers. After communicating with Suzann for more than six months and observing the Ellingsworth’s ups and frequent downs, it’s obvious that workamping is not all fun and games, at least for those who hit the road in need of a job to survive.

Most workamper jobs are of the minimum-wage variety. Workampers generally don’t receive unemployment insurance benefits, severance pay or any warning that a job is about to end. Workampers face many of the same job insecurity issues as the millions of Americans who have been downsized due to job outsourcing, financial mismanagement and slow consumer demand for products and services, except workampers are purposely more nimble and have been conditioned to pack up and move to where the jobs are. “We have to be mobile to land a job,” said Suzann. Those who become jobless and live in traditional stationary homes aren’t usually able to move to another city on a moment’s notice.

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/economy/152220/%27workampers%27%3A_what_it%27s_like_to_wander_around_the_country_in_an_rv_desperately_looking_for_work/

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KY Products to Air Lesbian Ad: K-Y® Brand INTENSE®: Alex & Emma

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Mich. Republicans cut welfare and twist Bible

From People’s World: http://peoplesworld.org/mich-republicans-cut-welfare-and-twist-bible/

by: John Rummel
August 30 2011

With joblessness at extreme levels and child poverty reaching new highs (twenty three percent of Michigan’s children now live in poverty), Michigan’s Republican dominated state Legislature did the opposite of what reason and sanity call for.

Last Wednesday, they passed a 48-month lifetime limit on welfare benefits expected to cast more than 11,000 families off the welfare rolls on Oct. 1 – including more than 29,700 children.

Added to their previous votes granting tax breaks for corporations and votes to raise taxes on both the working poor and the pensions of seniors, Republicans continued the drive to balance the economic crisis on those already suffering the most.

That wrongheaded, mean-spirited and life threatening action was bad enough. What is outrageous is the post debate explanation given by Republican Rep. Dave Agema on his Facebook page.

Agema writes “During the debate, One of the DTW (Detroit) reps just stated God would ‘get us’ if we reduce welfare. I seem to recall a Biblical verse that states ‘let them that will not work, not eat’ (if they are able). Welfare reform is long overdue.”

Agema’s Facebook comments are off base on several accounts. First “able-bodied” people are lining up by the thousands whenever and wherever job interviews or job fairs take place. Even employers offering low wage jobs are deluged. Aldi, a discount grocery chain, had almost 1000 people apply for twelve openings in Holland, Michigan (a town very close to Agema’s district) two days before the legislatures vote. A few days earlier in Detroit, 5,000 desperately searching for work came to a jobs fair, sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus, held at Wayne County Community College.

Continue reading at:  http://peoplesworld.org/mich-republicans-cut-welfare-and-twist-bible/

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Saving Species From Extinction Is No Mere ‘Distraction’

From Common Dreams: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/08/31-4

by Amy Harwood
Published on Wednesday, August 31, 2011 by CommonDreams.org

In Besty Hartmann’s post The Great Distraction: ‘Overpopulation’ Is Back (8/30/11), she boldly charges the Center for Biological Diversity of undermining reproductive rights, letting the military and Monsanto off the hook, ignoring global warming, selling out to big advertising companies and distracting people while we subjugate women. Oh, and disrespecting victims of violence, worldwide.

In fact, the Center for Biological Diversity is probably the only environmental group in the country taking on Monsanto, the Pentagon, global warming while also working for environmental justice and reducing the human population to a sustainable level through public education and the promotion of women’s reproductive rights and empowerment. You could hardly ask for clearer proof that overpopulation is not a distraction from other issues.

The Center works on all these issues and believes that most people are equally capable of focusing on several problems at once. In this increasingly conservative time, liberals can’t afford Hartmann’s either/or thinking. We need to work on all fronts and build alliances with other progressive groups, not create false conflicts driving allies away.

We are witnessing one of the most rapid plant and animal extinction waves ever known on the planet. Every basic human need depends on the diversity that exists in the natural world. Our work is to stop the catastrophe sweeping over the planet, making life better for all species, humans included.

We cannot ignore the reality that explosive human population growth has led to loss of habitat, overhunting, overfishing, and pollution of air, land and water. It is critical that we speak out and speak up about this reality. For too long, overpopulation has been ignored by environmental groups and others, largely for political reasons.

Two hundred million women who want access to family planning resources don’t have it. The Center has and will continue to stand together with groups working to ensure women everywhere are empowered to make informed decisions and have access to the healthcare they need.

Every campaign we take on is focused on stopping the threats that imperiled species face. That is why we have fought the Pentagon’s bombing of critical wildlife habitat, killing of dolphins through undersea sonic booms, dewatering of rivers, and building of a massive military base in Okinawa, Japan against the wishes of local people. That is why we launched a massive nation-wide campaign to hold Monsanto and other pesticide manufacturers accountable for polluting our rivers with dangerous chemicals. And that’s why we are educating people about the connection between overpopulation and the species extinction crisis through innovative and creative media.

Continue reading at:  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/08/31-4

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Approaching the Collapse: Don’t Panic, Go Organic

From Organic Consumers: http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_23829.cfm

By Ronnie Cummins
Organic Consumers Association, August 24, 2011

So-called “business as usual” is neither sustainable, nor even possible, for much longer. Out-of-control energy corporations, Wall Street, the Pentagon, agribusiness/biotech corporations, and indentured politicians have driven us to the brink. They tell us: don’t worry; trust the experts, things will soon return to “normal.” But reality and common sense tell a different story.

Extreme weather, crop failures, commodities speculation, land grabs, escalating prices, soil degradation, depleted aquifers, routine contamination, food-related disease, and mass hunger represent the “new norm” for food and farming. The global agricultural system, with the exception of the rapidly growing organic sector, rests upon a shaky foundation. Patented seeds, genetically engineered crops, expensive and destructive chemical and energy-intensive inputs, factory farms, monoculture production, eroding soils, unsustainable water use, taxpayer subsidies, and long-distance hauling and distribution, including massive imports that amount to 15% of the U.S. food supply amount to a recipe for disaster.

A “perfect storm” or “ultimate recession” as described by Lester Brown in his new book, World on the Edge, could develop at any time, precipitated by extreme weather and crop failures on a massive scale. A growing number of nations, including the oil giants and China, are now scrambling to secure overseas farmland to feed their domestic populations. World grocers and supermarkets, including the U.S., have, on the average, only a four-day supply of food on hand. An oil shock, global disease pandemic, prolonged drought in the American heartland, or nuclear meltdown could set off a global food panic. Supermarket shelves and grain silos would be stripped bare within a short period of time. Have you thought about this? Are you and those in your local community ready for this?

Peak Food, Peak Oil, Peak Water, Peak Soil

World grain reserves amount to less than 75 days of supply. Harvests of strategic food grains and cereals have basically leveled off or even decreased, with enormous amounts of acreage now providing fuel for cars instead of food for people. At the same time, affordable fossil fuel energy supplies have peaked (Peak Oil), with the world increasingly dependent on “extreme” oil and natural gas extraction (deep sea and Arctic drilling, tar sands, and fracking), accelerating the prices of petroleum-based farm inputs, as well as food distribution and processing costs. Billions of people in the Global South are now spending 50-70% of their household income on food (although in the U.S. it is only 11%). Hydrologists and agronomists warn that Peak Water is fast approaching, when the already limited availability of water from underground aquifers for crop irrigation exponentially decreases. Peak Soil is also fast approaching, with soil erosion and desertification already degrading 25% of the earth’s land. Peak Soil is directly related to unsustainable farming and forestry practices, including heavy pesticide use, chemical fertilizers, genetically engineered mono-crops, and non-sustainable grazing and clear-cutting.  Meanwhile global population numbers (in direct relation to poverty and lack of education for women) and demand for food (especially meat and animal products) are accelerating.

Of course, we could go on and on, citing the ever more disturbing information we read every day in the mainstream media and on the Internet. But the life or death question is: what are we going to do about it?

Continue reading at:  http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_23829.cfm

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Profits Before Environment

From The New York Times: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/08/30/profits-before-environment/?ref=opinion

By Mark Bittman
August 30, 2011

I wasn’t surprised when the administration of George W. Bush sacrificed the environment for corporate profits. But when the same thing happens under a Democratic administration, it’s depressing. With little or no public input, policies that benefit corporations regardless of the consequences continue to be enacted.

No wonder an April 2010 poll from the Pew Research Center found that about only 20 percent of Americans have faith in the government (it’s one thing upon which the left and right and maybe even the center agree). But maybe this is nothing new: as Glenda Farrell, as Genevieve “Gen” Larkin, put it in “Gold Diggers of 1937,” “It’s so hard to be good under the capitalistic system.”

But is anyone in power even trying? Last winter, the Department of Agriculture deregulated Monsanto’s genetically modified alfalfa, despite concerns about cross-pollination of non-genetically modified crops. It then defied a court order banning the planting of genetically modified sugar beets pending completion of an environmental impact study.

Monsanto engineers these plants and makes Roundup, the herbicide they resist. But Roundup-ready crops don’t increase long-term yields, a host of farmers are now dealing with “superweeds” and there is worry about superbugs, nearly all courtesy of Monsanto. In fact, this system doesn’t contribute to much of anything except Monsanto’s bottom line. Yet Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack gave Monsanto the nod, perhaps yielding to pressure from the White House.

The United States exerts that same kind of pressure abroad. WikiLeaks cables show that U.S. “biotechnology outreach programs” have promoted genetically modified crops in Africa, Asia and South America; they’ve also revealed that diplomats schemed to retaliate against any European Union countries that oppose those crops.

Continue reading at:  http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/08/30/profits-before-environment/?ref=opinion

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