Friday Night Fun and Culture: Carole King

We Do Campaign: Hattiesburg, Mississippi

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Why Chuck Hagel’s Gay Problem Is Getting Worse

From Huffington Post:


Former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) has a problem if his and the White House’s goal is to quell criticism for his anti-gay past. And that problem is only getting worse.

Openly gay outgoing Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) slammed Hagel on New Year’s Eve, saying he “strongly opposes” a Hagel nomination for secretary of defense. Other progressive LGBT critics have been speaking out in recent days, as well. Already under relentless attacks for weeks from neocons opposed to Hagel’s views on Israel and Iran and determined to stop President Obama from nominating him to the Defense Department post, Hagel will have only himself to blame if the gay issue helps sink him.

Hagel offered a pathetically weak apology two weeks ago for having opposed the nomination of openly gay James Hormel as ambassador to Luxembourg when President Clinton nominated him in 1998. At the time he’d called Hormel “openly aggressively gay” and therefore unfit to represent the country abroad, because being gay is “an inhibiting factor.” But all Hagel will say about it now, releasing a statement only after the Human Rights Campaign expressed concern over a possible nomination, is that those remarks were “insensitive.”

Insensitive? Come on, Senator. Surely you can do better than that. And if you can’t, you don’t deserve the job.

Hagel scored a zero on the Human Rights Campaign’s Senate scorecard between 2001 and 2006 (which is not that long ago), voting against pro-gay initiatives and for anti-gay ones, and was on record as opposing allowing gays to serve openly in the military (calling it a “social experiment”), let alone representing this country as ambassadors. And yet in his recent apology for the Hormel remarks, he seems surprised that LGBT Americans would question his “commitment to their civil rights,” says he supports open service and claims that the remarks about Hormel don’t represent “the totality of my record.”

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Django – Tarantino Tells the South “F You”

The Riddle of the Gun

I’m a gun owner and I go to the range to shoot on a fairly regular basis.  I would go more often but it is expensive to do so.

I opted to not get a concealed hand gun permit.  I’m not as fearsome as most of the men who seem to make up the majority of CHL folks.  I’m old and I avoid dangerous places.

The mass shootings have shown the worst sides of both the NRA and those who will only be happy when there is no private gun ownership.

Sam Harris is an out spoken atheist.  This is a group that has been subjected to the same sorts of threats of viloence and murder that out spoken LGBT people have.  Some of us consider having a gun for self protection to be a matter of prudence.

From Sam Harris:

By Sam Harris
 January 2, 2013

Fantasists and zealots can be found on both sides of the debate over guns in America. On the one hand, many gun-rights advocates reject even the most sensible restrictions on the sale of weapons to the public. On the other, proponents of stricter gun laws often seem unable to understand why a good person would ever want ready access to a loaded firearm. Between these two extremes we must find grounds for a rational discussion about the problem of gun violence.

Unlike most Americans, I stand on both sides of this debate. I understand the apprehension that many people feel toward “gun culture,” and I share their outrage over the political influence of the National Rifle Association. How is it that we live in a society in which one of the most compelling interests is gun ownership? Where is the science lobby? The safe food lobby? Where is the get-the-Chinese-lead-paint-out-of-our-kids’-toys lobby? When viewed from any other civilized society on earth, the primacy of guns in American life seems to be a symptom of collective psychosis.

Most of my friends do not own guns and never will. When asked to consider the possibility of keeping firearms for protection, they worry that the mere presence of them in their homes would put themselves and their families in danger. Can’t a gun go off by accident? Wouldn’t it be more likely to be used against them in an altercation with a criminal? I am surrounded by otherwise intelligent people who imagine that the ability to dial 911 is all the protection against violence a sane person ever needs.

But, unlike my friends, I own several guns and train with them regularly. Every month or two, I spend a full day shooting with a highly qualified instructor. This is an expensive and time-consuming habit, but I view it as part of my responsibility as a gun owner. It is true that my work as a writer has added to my security concerns somewhat, but my involvement with guns goes back decades. I have always wanted to be able to protect myself and my family, and I have never had any illusions about how quickly the police can respond when called. I have expressed my views on self-defense elsewhere. Suffice it to say, if a person enters your home for the purpose of harming you, you cannot reasonably expect the police to arrive in time to stop him. This is not the fault of the police—it is a problem of physics.

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Idle No More: Hints of a Global Super-Movement

From Huffington Post:


What started as a murmur in early October from First Nations People in Canada in response to Bill C45 has become a movement that echoes the sentiments of people all over the world, a battle cry of love for the planet, “Idle No More.” At first glance it might appear that this movement is isolated and doesn’t effect you if you are not native or if you don’t live in Canada, yet it does. It may appear that this resistance is not related to The Occupy Movement, The Arab Spring, The Unify Movement, Anonymous, or any of the other popular uprisings sparked by social unrest, but it is.

At its very core, all of these movements have very common threads and are born from common issues facing people everywhere. Those who represent financial interests that value money over life itself, that are devoid of basic respect for human decency, and for nature have dictated the future for too long and people everywhere are standing up to say, “No more.” This non-violent social uprising is viral in the minds and hearts of everyone across the planet determined to bring healing to our troubled communities, our planet, and the corruption that is eroding the highest places of governments around the world.

Flashmobs with dancing and drumming at a malls in Olympia, Wash. Tempe, Ariz., Denver, Colo., a giant circle dance blocking a large intersection in Winnipeg, rail blockades in Quebec, this movement is using cultural expression combined with modern activism to get attention, and it is working. From their website, “Idle No More calls on all people to join in a revolution which honors and fulfills Indigenous sovereignty which protects the land and water. Colonization continues through attacks to Indigenous rights and damage to the land and water.”

Idle No More was started in October by four ladies; Nina Wilson, Sylvia McAdam, Jessica Gordon & Sheelah McLean who felt it was “urgent to act on current and upcoming legislation that not only affects First Nations people but the rest of Canada’s citizens, lands and waters.” On December 11 Attawapiskat Chief, Theresa Spence, launched a hunger strike requesting a face-to-face meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to discuss broken treaties and protection of natural resources. Spence is staying in a tipi on the frozen Ottawa River facing Parliament Hill and has gained the support from many natives and non-natives who are in solidarity with this movement.

Chief Arvol Lookinghorse from South Dakota recently expressed his support in a letter posted on Facebook that states, “As Keeper of our Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe, I would like to send out support for the efforts of Chief Theresa Spence of the Attawapiskat First Nation, for giving of herself through fasting with prayers for the protection of Mother Earth.” He goes on to say:

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Cantwell, Democratic Senate Women Urge Passage of Violence Against Women Act

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Blocking VAWA, The GOP Keeps Up the War on Women

From The Nation:

Erika Eichelberger
January 2, 2013 
Interstate 5 runs down the middle of California’s San Joaquin Valley for hundreds of miles. On either side are dusty rows of almond, peach and orange trees. In the summer, the ground is tan and dry. Telephone poles measure out the time for passing cars, their sagging power lines scalloping out to a vanishing point on the horizon. Somewhere almost halfway from San Francisco to Los Angeles is a town called Huron.This is where Carla (not her real name) used to work, shaking almonds from the trees at harvest time for $8 an hour. This is also where she was raped by her foreman. But as a Mexican immigrant with no papers, she was afraid to tell anyone.It’s a common tale. Some 630,000 of the 3 million migrant farm laborers in the United States are women, and at least 60 percent are undocumented. Most are subject to sexual abuse but fear deportation if they speak up. The reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which expired almost a year and a half ago, would have helped change that. But after being held hostage by House Republicans who wanted fewer protections for women, it died in the 112th Congress. The next class of legislators will have to start from scratch on a new bill. Meanwhile, women are waiting.

A 2010 survey by Irma Morales Waugh of the University of California, Santa Cruz, reported that 80 percent of female farmworkers interviewed had been subject to sexual assault or harassment. A recent Human Rights Watch report found that sexual abuse of female farmworkers is so common that many see it as “an unavoidable condition of agricultural work.” And a mid-1990s study by the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission concluded that among California crop workers, “hundreds, if not thousands, of women had to have sex with supervisors to get or keep jobs and/or put up with a constant barrage of grabbing and touching and propositions for sex.” The female laborers, or campesinas, called one company’s crops the “field of panties,” since so many women had been raped there by their overseers.

The women are stuck, because even though the same labor laws that forbid workplace harassment for legal residents also technically cover undocumented workers, enforcement is spotty and laborers seldom know their rights. Female crop workers make an average of $11,250 a year. “They don’t want to lose their job,” said Amparo Yebra, a senior caseworker at Westside Family Preservation Services Network, a community group in Huron that provides social services to migrant laborers.

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House Republicans Derail Bill Targeting Rapists

From Mother Jones:

Congressional GOPers had a last-minute chance to help cops catch more rapists. Instead, they shut the whole thing down.

Thu Jan. 3, 2013

In the past year, Republicans have gone wild when it comes to rape. They blocked the renewal of the Violence Against Women Act because it would have given tribal courts broader jurisdiction over rape on Native American lands. They told women they can’t get pregnant from rape and that babies that result from rape are God’s will. Though the GOP did pay a political price for some of this (see: Rep. Todd Akin), as the 112th Congress was hurriedly finishing up its business in the past few days, House Republicans yet again played politics with rape and sabotaged a bipartisan bill that would have made it easier to track down rapists.

The Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Registry Act, also known as the SAFER Act of 2012, was introduced by Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) in the Senate in May, and by Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) in the House in December. It would have reallocated $117 million to help make a dent in the nationwide backlog of untested “rape kits,” which contain forensic evidence collected after sexual assaults that can help identify perpetrators. There are some 400,000 untested kits sitting in labs around the country. As long as this DNA evidence goes unanalyzed, it’s easier for rapists to avoid arrest and prosecution.

The legislation would have required at least 75 percent of federal grants already allocated for rape kit testing to actually be used for that purpose, or to increase law enforcement agencies’ capacity to process the kits. (Some of that money was being spent on conferences and processing DNA for other crimes.) It would also set up a reporting system to track localities’ progress in reducing their backlog, and would require yearly audits of the number of untested kits.

“Right now when we give out federal grants, we don’t know if they’re going to the right places, we don’t know if it’s going to a place where there’s really [a] backlog,” Scott Berkowitz, president of the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, told the Houston Chronicle in December. The SAFER Act, he said, “puts money into actually putting rapists in jail.”

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Judge: Law Won’t Protect Unmarried Victims in Rape

From The New York Times:

Published: January 3, 2013

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A California appeals court overturned the rape conviction of a man who pretended to be a sleeping woman’s boyfriend, ruling, in part, Wednesday that an arcane law from 1872 doesn’t protect unmarried women in such cases.

A panel of judges reversed the trial court’s conviction of Julio Morales and remanded it for retrial, in a decision posted Wednesday from the Los Angeles-based court.

Morales had been sentenced to three years in state prison. He was accused of entering a woman’s bedroom late one night after her boyfriend had gone home and initiating sexual intercourse while she was asleep, after a night of drinking.

The victim said her boyfriend was in the room when she fell asleep, and they’d decided against having sex that night because he didn’t have a condom and he had to be somewhere early the next day.

Morales pretended to be her boyfriend in the darkened room, and it wasn’t until a ray of light from outside the room flashed across his face that she realized he wasn’t her boyfriend, according to prosecutors.

“Has the man committed rape? Because of historical anomalies in the law and the statutory definition of rape, the answer is no, even though, if the woman had been married and the man had impersonated her husband, the answer would be yes,” Judge Thomas L. Willhite Jr. wrote in the court’s decision.

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House GOP: No Time For Sandy Relief Or Women’s Violence Bill, But Time To Fund DOMA Defense

From The New Civil Rights Movement:

by David Badash
on January 3, 2013

The House of Representatives leadership is growing extremely comfortable thumbing their nose at optics, and ramming their anti-gay and anti-women agenda down the throats of the American people, while not performing their primary function as lawmakers entrusted with the nation’s purse strings: protecting and supporting those devastated by crisis or disaster.

The House GOP, as the world — thanks to NJ Governor Chris Christie yesterday — refused to put up for a vote the Hurricane Sandy bill to fund relief for the superstorm’s victims. The House GOP, especially including Eric Cantor and John Boehner, also just stalled their way out of time to vote on the bipartisan Violence Against Women Act, allowing the 18-year old law to expire, and exposing women across the nation to greater risk of violence.

But the House Republican leadership did have time — for the first time ever in history — to write funding to continue their anti-gay war, defending DOMA, into the official House Rules last night. DOMA is the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996 that bans the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages.

 This is truly a shocking turn of events.

The House is going to extraordinary lengths and spending millions of your tax dollars to defend a law multiple federal courts, the Attorney General, the President, and literally dozens of federal judges have declared unconstitutional.

“A GOP source told The Huffington Post that, during a closed-door meeting of the House Republican Conference, lawmakers gave a green light to including language in the 113th Congress rules package that authorizes the House legal team, known as the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG), to keep paying outside counsel to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court. The proposed House rules package also states that BLAG continues to “speak for” the House in its defense of DOMA,” Jennifer Bendery at the Huffington Post reports:

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Fixing Our Food Problem

From The New York Times:

By Mark Bittman
January 1, 2013

Nothing affects public health in the United States more than food. Gun violence kills tens of thousands of Americans a year. Heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes kill more than a million people a year — nearly half of all deaths — and diet is a root cause of many of those diseases.

And the root of that dangerous diet is our system of hyper-industrial agriculture, the kind that uses 10 times as much energy as it produces.

We must figure out a way to un-invent this food system. It’s been a major contributor to climate change, spawned the obesity crisis, poisoned countless volumes of land and water, wasted energy, tortured billions of animals… I could go on. The point is that “sustainability” is not only possible but essential: only by saving the earth can we save ourselves, and vice versa.

How do we do that?

This seems like a good day to step back a bit and suggest something that’s sometimes difficult to accept.


We can only dismantle this system little by little, and slowly. Change takes time. Often — usually — that time exceeds the life span of its pioneers. And when it comes to sustainable food for billions, we’re the pioneers of a food movement that’s just beginning to take shape. The abolition movement began at least a century before the Civil War, 200 years before the civil rights movement. The struggle to gain the right to vote for women in the United States was active for 75 years before an amendment was passed. The gay rights struggle has made tremendous strides over the last 40 years, but equal treatment under the law is hardly established.

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Can Antibiotics Make You Fat?

From Mother Jones:

Factory animals are pumped full of antibiotics to make them gain weight. What does that mean for our waistlines?

Wed Jan. 2, 2013

Like hospital patients, US farm animals tend to be confined to tight spaces and dosed with antibiotics. But that’s where the similarities end. Hospitals dole out antibiotics to save lives. On America’s factory-scale meat farms, the goal is to fatten animals for their date at the slaughterhouse.

And it turns out that antibiotics help with the fattening process. Back in the 1940s, scientists discovered that regular low doses of antibiotics increased “feed efficiency”—that is, they caused animals to put on more weight per pound of feed. No one understood why, but farmers seized on this unexpected benefit. By the 1980s, feed laced with small amounts of the drugs became de rigueur as US meat production shifted increasingly to factory farms. In 2009, an estimated 80 percent of the antibiotics sold in the United States went to livestock.

This year, scientists may have finally figured out why small doses of antibiotics “promote growth,” as the industry puts it: They make subtle changes to what’s known as the “gut microbiome,” the teeming universe populated by billions of microbes that live within the digestive tracts of animals. In recent research, the microbiome has been emerging as a key regulator of health, from immune-related disorders like allergies and asthma to the ability to fight off pathogens.

In an August study published in Nature, a team of New York University researchers subjected mice to regular low doses of antibiotics—just like cows, pigs, and chickens get on factory farms. The result: After seven weeks, the drugged mice had a different composition of microbiota in their guts than the control group—and they had gained 10 to 15 percent more fat mass.

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How Corn Syrup Might Be Making Us Hungry-and Fat

From Yahoo News:

By Katherine Harmon | Scientific American
Wed, Jan 2, 2013

Grocery store aisles are awash in foods and beverages that contain high-fructose corn syrup. It is common in sodas and crops up in everything from ketchup to snack bars. This cheap sweetener has been an increasingly popular additive in recent decades and has often been fingered as a driver of the obesity epidemic.

These fears may be well founded. Fructose, a new study finds, has a marked affect on the brain region that regulates appetite, suggesting that corn syrup and other forms of fructose might encourage over-eating to a greater degree than glucose. Table sugar has both fructose and glucose, but high-fructose corn syrup, as the name suggests, contains a higher proportion of fructose.

To test how fructose affects the brain, researchers studied 20 healthy adult volunteers. While the test subjects consumed sweetened beverages, the researchers used fMRIs (functional magnetic resonance imaging) to measure the response of the hypothalamus, which helps regulate many hunger-related signals, as well as reward and motivation processing.

Volunteers received a 300-milliliter cherry-flavored drink sweetened with 75 grams (equivalent to about 300 calories) of fructose as well as the same drink sweetened with the same amount of glucose. These different drinks were given, in random order, at sessions one to eight months apart. The researchers also took blood samples at various time points and asked volunteers to rate their feelings of hunger and fullness.

Subjects showed substantial differences in their hypothalamic activity after consuming the fructose-sweetened beverage versus the one sweetened by glucose within 15 minutes. Glucose lowered the activity of the hypothalamus but fructose actually prompted a small spike to this area. As might be expected from these results, the glucose drink alone increased the feelings of fullness reported by volunteers, which indicates that they would be less likely to consume more calories after having something sweetened with glucose than something sweetened with more fructose.

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