Scientology and the cloak of religion

From CBC Canada:  http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/story/2013/01/29/f-rfa-macdonald-scientology.html

By Neil Macdonald
Jan 30, 2013

Scientology is a religion. Of that there is no doubt.

The U.S. Internal Revenue Service says so, and in this country, that’s pretty much the final word.

The designation means a lot legally, but as a matter of objective fact it is neither a laurel nor a pejorative.

It merely lumps Scientology in with all the other belief systems, from the Big Three of monotheism, with their billions of followers and hundreds of sub-sects, right down to self-proclaimed prophets seeking to found new faiths.

To each his own gods and rituals. For those of us who live wholly in the secular world, no religious doctrine is more or less credible, or worthy of ridicule, than any other.

The law must look upon all religious belief with indifference, and does, at least in most Western nations.

But, after reading Lawrence Wright’s searing new investigative book, Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief, my usual indifference has given way to concern.

On second thought, make that fright. And not just about L. Ron Hubbard’s secretive army of adherents.

Because Wright’s book demonstrates in granular detail what an organization with enough money and zealous acolytes can do once it has wrapped itself in a religious cloak: assault, conspire, burgle, forge, perjure, spy, bully and intimidate anyone who gets in its way.

Continue reading at:  http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/story/2013/01/29/f-rfa-macdonald-scientology.html

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Churches threaten to pull funding if Boy Scouts drop anti-gay ban

From Salon:  http://www.salon.com/2013/01/30/churches_threaten_to_pull_funding_if_boy_scouts_drop_anti_gay_ban/

About 70 percent of Scout troops are sponsored by faith-based organizations. Many are threatening to break ties

By
Wednesday, Jan 30, 2013

The Boy Scouts of America announced earlier this week that they are considering an end to their decades-long ban on gay members, leaving it to regional and local councils to dictate membership guidelines on sexuality.

The news was met with cheers from scouts across the country who have been banned from the organization after coming out, but many conservative and religious leaders are angry about what they see as the organization abandoning its long-standing commitment to biblical principles.

“If that is what the leadership is doing, then I think it will be a sad day in the life of the Boy Scouts of America,” Fred Luter, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, told the Baptist Press. “This is a tradition that so many of us across the country grew up in. We were in Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts in elementary school, and this organization has always stood for biblical principles — all the things that grounded our lives as a young kid growing up. To now see this organization that I thought stood on biblical principles about to give in to the politically correct thing is very disappointing.”

About 70 percent of all Boy Scout troops are sponsored by faith-based organizations, with the Southern Baptists, Catholic Church, Lutheran Church, United Methodist Church and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints representing the most troops, according to Fox News.

And many are suggesting they will break financial and membership ties with the organization if the policy goes through.

“Churches of all faiths and denominations, including Southern Baptist churches, will be forced to reevaluate whether they can, in good conscience, continue to host Scout troops given that the Scouts appear poised to turn their backs on this clear biblical and moral issue,” Roger Oldham, spokesman for the Southern Baptist Convention, said.

Continue reading at:  http://www.salon.com/2013/01/30/churches_threaten_to_pull_funding_if_boy_scouts_drop_anti_gay_ban/

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The Rise of the Permanent Temp Economy

From The New York Times:  http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/26/the-rise-of-the-permanent-temp-economy/

By ERIN HATTON
January 26, 2013

Politicians across the political spectrum herald “job creation,” but frightfully few of them talk about what kinds of jobs are being created. Yet this clearly matters: According to the Census Bureau, one-third of adults who live in poverty are working but do not earn enough to support themselves and their families.

A quarter of jobs in America pay below the federal poverty line for a family of four ($23,050). Not only are many jobs low-wage, they are also temporary and insecure. Over the last three years, the temp industry added more jobs in the United States than any other, according to the American Staffing Association, the trade group representing temp recruitment agencies, outsourcing specialists and the like.

Low-wage, temporary jobs have become so widespread that they threaten to become the norm. But for some reason this isn’t causing a scandal. At least in the business press, we are more likely to hear plaudits for “lean and mean” companies than angst about the changing nature of work for ordinary Americans.

How did we arrive at this state of affairs? Many argue that it was the inevitable result of macroeconomic forces — globalization, deindustrialization and technological change — beyond our political control. Yet employers had (and have) choices. Rather than squeezing workers, they could have invested in workers and boosted product quality, taking what economists call the high road toward more advanced manufacturing and skilled service work. But this hasn’t happened. Instead, American employers have generally taken the low road: lowering wages and cutting benefits, converting permanent employees into part-time and contingent workers, busting unions and subcontracting and outsourcing jobs. They have done so, in part, because of the extraordinary evangelizing of the temp industry, which rose from humble origins to become a global behemoth.

Continue reading at:  http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/26/the-rise-of-the-permanent-temp-economy/

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Report: Nearly Half of Americans Have No Safety Net to Keep Them Out of Poverty

From Alternet:  http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/report-nearly-half-americans-have-no-safety-net-keep-them-out-poverty

Nearly a third of Americans live with no savings account at all.

By Lauren Kelley
January 30, 2013

A new report reveals a fact that too many Americans are familiar with first-hand: nearly half of the nation’s residents have no safety net to protect them from falling into poverty in the event of a layoff or other financial misfortune.

The recently published Assets & Opportunities Scorecard from the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED) shows that “[n]early 44 percent of Americans don’t have enough savings or other liquid assets to stay out of poverty for more than three months if they lose their income,” as NPR summarized. At the same time, nearly a third of Americans live with no savings account at all.

The nonprofit [CFED] tries to help low- and moderate-income families achieve the American dream. The group’s president, Andrea Levere, says that’s not easy when all your energy goes into paying the rent and buying food.

“It’s only when you have those basic needs satisfied that you then can think, ‘How do I make sure I have the best education for my children? How do I make sure I have the skills I need to be more competitive in the workplace?’ ” says Levere.

Complete article at:  http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/report-nearly-half-americans-have-no-safety-net-keep-them-out-poverty

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FBI’s Stuxnet investigation to target journalists?

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Can a Small Community Throw a Monkey Wrench into the Global Fracking Machine?

From Who What Why:  http://whowhatwhy.com/2013/01/29/can-a-small-community-throw-a-monkey-wrench-into-the-global-fracking-machine/

By
on Jan 29, 2013

While New Yorkers anxiously await Governor Andrew Cuomo’s decision on whether to lift the state’s de facto moratorium on high-volume slick-water horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” Woodstock, the iconic counter-culture capital of the world, has become the first municipality to call for legislation to make fracking a Class C felony.

Woodstock’s action is just one small town’s response to a rapidly escalating global war over fracking. To both sides in this war—environmentalists and citizens who oppose fracking on the one side and the gas industry and its supporters on the other—the upcoming ruling to allow or ban fracking in New York is being viewed as (you should pardon the expression) a watershed event.

Decisions made in Albany and in towns like Woodstock will likely determine whether fracking goes full steam ahead everywhere, or whether its momentum can be slowed or even stopped. New York, after all, has a rich history of environmental activism and democratic movements, and anti-fracking activism has spread like wildfire over the last couple of years. New York is also home to abundant supplies of clean freshwater, an essential resource that is in crisis globally and that could be endangered by the practice.

Fracking? Please Explain

On January 15, the Woodstock Town Board unanimously passed a resolution to petition New York State to introduce New York Public Law #1—which would impose stiff penalties for fracking and related activities. Before taking this step, the Woodstock Town Board took two others: banning fracking within its borders and outlawing the use of frackwaste fluid, some of which is known as “brine” (because of its heavy salt content), on its roads. This material is used as a de-icing agent in the winter and for dust control on dirt roads in the summer. Despite the fact that brine from oil and gas wells (whether fracked or not) is laden with heavy metals, toxic chemicals, and radioactivity, since 2008 the Department of Environmental Conservation has granted approval for it to be spread on roads in the western part of the state.

New York Public Law #1 was conceived and drafted in May 2011 by the Sovereign People’s Action Network (SPAN) and FrackBusters NY—two citizen anti-fracking groups spearheaded by the late Richard Grossman, a legal historian, democracy activist, and founder of a movement to ban corporate personhood and strip corporations of their special legal privileges.

Continue reading at:  http://whowhatwhy.com/2013/01/29/can-a-small-community-throw-a-monkey-wrench-into-the-global-fracking-machine/

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The Surprising Connection Between Food and Fracking

From Mother Jones:  http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2013/01/foodfracking-connection-youve-never-thought-about

By Wed Jan. 30, 2013

In a recent Nation piece, the wonderful Elizabeth Royte teased out the direct links between hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and the food supply. In short, extracting natural gas from rock formations by bombarding them with chemical-spiked fluid leaves behind fouled water—and that fouled water can make it into the crops and animals we eat.

But there’s another, emerging food/fracking connection that few are aware of. US agriculture is highly reliant on synthetic nitrogen fertilizer, and nitrogen fertilizer is synthesized in a process fueled by natural gas. As more and more of the US natural gas supply comes from fracking, more and more of the nitrogen fertilizer farmers use will come from fracked natural gas. If Big Ag becomes hooked on cheap fracked gas to meet its fertilizer needs, then the fossil fuel industry will have gained a powerful ally in its effort to steamroll regulation and fight back opposition to fracking projects.

The potential for the growth of fracked nitrogen (known as “N”) fertilizer is immense. During the 2000s, when conventional US natural gas sources were drying up and prices were spiking, the US fertilizer industry largely went offshore, moving operations to places like Trinidad and Tobago, where conventional natural gas was still relatively plentiful. (I told that story in a 2010 Grist piece.) This chart from a 2009 USDA doc illustrates how rapidly the US shifted away from domestically produced nitrogen in the 2000s.

Today, Trinidad and Tobago, an island nation off the coast of Venezuela and our leading source of imported N, is in the same position the US found itself in the early 2000s: Its supply of conventional, easy-to-harvest natural gas is wearing thin. In 2012, the International Monetary Fund estimated (PDF) that at current rates of extraction, the nation had sufficient natural gas reserves to last until just 2019.

Continue reading at:  http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2013/01/foodfracking-connection-youve-never-thought-about

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