Feed aggregator

This Washington Post Headline Is the Funniest Thing You'll Read All Weekend

Mother Jones - January 24, 2015 - 1:31pm

Got the winter blues? Well, turn that frown upside down! Here's a thing to make you smile.

Sarah Palin says she’s "seriously interested" in a 2016 campaign http://t.co/cmJVcq52J9

— Washington Post (@washingtonpost) January 24, 2015

In other pretend candidate news:

Guys he's totally serious this time RT @costareports: Trump ends his speech: "I am seriously thinking of running for president"

— Josh Barro (@jbarro) January 24, 2015

What a time to be alive.

Carlos Maza: The Jindal-Hate Group Relationship You Won't Hear About This Weekend

Media Matters - January 24, 2015 - 9:17am

Louisiana Governor and GOP presidential hopeful Bobby Jindal is the keynote speaker for a rally funded and organized by an anti-LGBT group that has blamed gay people for causing the Holocaust and advocated imprisoning homosexuals.  So why isn't his appearance garnering national media attention?

On January 24, Jindal will keynote a six-hour prayer event at Louisiana State University called "The Response: A Call To Prayer For a Nation In Crisis." The event is sponsored and funded by the American Family Association (AFA), one of the most extreme anti-gay hate groups in the country. It's also being staffed by a number of notorious anti-LGBT activists.

The event has drawn protests from members of the LSU community. On January 22, the Faculty Senate passed a resolution expressing displeasure with the event, and a university spokesperson has clarified that the rental of an LSU facility "does not imply any endorsement."

Jindal has thus far dismissed criticism of the event, according to The Clarion-Ledger:

Asked if he agreed with the American Family Association's agenda, Jindal sidestepped that question and said, "The left likes to try to divide and attack Christians."

Jindal said the protesters themselves should consider joining the prayer rally. He said they "might benefit from prayer."

AFA's status as a hate group is largely thanks to the work of its spokesman, Bryan Fischer, whose anti-LGBT remarks go well beyond mainstream social conservatism. Fischer's inflammatory comments about gay people include:

As the Southern Poverty Law Center wrote in a 2011 report:

The AFA has been extremely vocal over the years in its opposition to LGBT rights, marriage equality and allowing gay men and lesbians to serve in the military. The group's arguments are filled with claims that equate homosexuality with pedophilia and argue that there's a "homosexual agenda" afoot that is set to bring about the downfall of American (and ultimately, Western) civilization.

The event is likely to attract widespread media attention - largely seen as a precursor to Jindal's eventual presidential run. Texas Gov. Rick Perry launched his 2012 presidential bid with a similar AFA-backed "Response" prayer event in order to reach out to social conservatives. But Perry's association with the extreme hate group wasn't scandalous enough for major media outlets that covered the event.

And aside from a few outlets noting AFA's "controversial" stances, national coverage of Jindal's association with the hate group has similarly been glossed over by the media. It's a stark contrast to the tremendous media attention surrounding GOP House Majority Whip Steve Scalise's infamous 2002 speech to a white nationalist group. When it comes to GOP politics, media outlets have a hard time seeing what's newsworthy about a hate group like AFA being used to cement the campaign of a potential presidential candidate. 

Emily Arrowood & Brian Powell: CNN's Newt Gingrich Parrots Debunked Right-Wing Smear About Hillary Clinton And Boko Haram

Media Matters - January 24, 2015 - 4:34am

CNN contributor Newt Gingrich revived a debunked claim about Boko Haram's designation as a terror group in order to attack former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Speaking to attendees at the Iowa Freedom Summit in Des Moines, Gingrich claimed that the Obama administration, currently and during Clinton's tenure at the State Department, is not doing enough to confront terrorism threats. As evidence, Gingrich pointed to Boko Haram, a militant Islamist group based in Nigeria, saying, "Boko Haram has ten thousand fighters, and last year Boko Haram killed more people than Ebola. But the State Department for years, under Secretary Clinton, wouldn't even list them as a terrorist group."

The implicit argument of Gingrich's attack is dishonest -- experts, including a former U.S. ambassador to Nigeria appointed by President Bush, opposed designating Boko Haram a terror group out of concern it would empower the extremist group. Instead, in 2012 the State Department under Clinton designated the individual leaders of Boko Haram as "foreign terrorists." Reuters reported that the move was historic, noting it was the "first time [State] has blacklisted members of the Islamist group." Boko Harm went on to receive designation as a terrorist group in 2013.

Gingrich's smear was right out of the conservative media playbook. Fox News and other right-wing outlets spent considerable time suggesting Clinton and the Obama administration tried to appease Boko Haram, even suggesting the administration was partially responsible for the failure to save 300 young girls kidnapped by Boko Haram in 2014. 

This Is Why Under-Inflated Footballs Could Have Given Tom Brady An Advantage

Mother Jones - January 23, 2015 - 5:20pm

To those of us for whom the nuances of professional football tactics are a bit of a mystery, there was one question looming over New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady's surreal Ballghazi press conference yesterday that went unanswered: What's so great, in theory, about a deflated football? Seems like, if anything, an under-inflated ball would be less aerodynamic?

Turns out, the potential benefit is all about grippiness. From Fox Sports:

John Eric Goff, professor of physics at Lynchburg College in Virginia and author of “Gold Medal Physics: The Science of Sports,” told FoxNews.com that the league-mandated PSI range is ideal for playing football. “If, however, there’s rain or snow or something else happening, that would make the ball a bit slicker, so having a bit less pressure in the ball makes it easier to squeeze and the grip improves,” he added.


The end of Modern Farmer?

Columbia Journalism Review - January 23, 2015 - 4:26pm
Modern Farmer, the stylish quarterly that tried to mix cosmopolitan glamour with a back-to-the-land ethos, is ceasing publication one month after its founding editor quit and months after it won a National Magazine Award. As of Friday, the magazine has no editorial staff or leader. But there has also been no formal statement about it closing permanently, leaving some glimmer...

Black Man Lawfully Carrying Gun Gets Pummeled by White Vigilante at Walmart

Mother Jones - January 23, 2015 - 3:40pm

There is no shortage of debate about whether allowing citizens to carry concealed guns makes society safer. You may be shocked to learn that the answer could depend in part on the color of a citizen's skin.

Exhibit A this week, from Florida: A surveillance video from a Walmart located near Tampa shows 62-year-old Clarence Daniels trying to enter the store to purchase some coffee creamer for his wife this past Tuesday. He barely steps through the automatic doors before he is pummeled by shopper Michael Foster, a 43-year-old white man.

"He's got a gun!" Foster shouts, to which Daniels replies, "I have a permit!"

According to local news reports, Foster originally spotted Daniels in the store's parking lot placing his legally owned handgun underneath his coat. In keeping with Florida's well-known vigilante spirit, Foster decided to take matters into his own hands by following Daniels into the Walmart. Without warning, he tackled Daniels and placed him in a chokehold

Police soon arrived and confirmed Daniels indeed had a permit for the handgun. 

"Unfortunately, he tackled a guy that was a law-abiding citizen," said Larry McKinnon, a police spokesperson. "We understand it's alarming for people to see other people with guns, but Florida has a large population of concealed weapons permit holders."

Foster is now facing battery charges. 

Melinda Gates Shames Anti-Vaxxers "Who Have Forgotten What Measles Death Looks Like"

Mother Jones - January 23, 2015 - 3:20pm

On the heels of an increasingly widening measles outbreak at Disneyland in California, where at least 28 of the people infected were reportedly unvaccinated, Melinda Gates is urging parents to take advantage of healthcare resources in the United States and get their children vaccinated.

"We take vaccines so for granted in the United States," Gates explained during an appearance on HuffPost Live Thursday. "Women in the developing world know the power of [vaccines]. They will walk 10 kilometers in the heat with their child and line up to get a vaccine because they have seen death.

In detailing the struggle parents in the developing world endure to have their children vaccinated, Gates said Americans have simply "forgotten what measles death looks like." 

Through her philanthropy work with husband Bill Gates, Melinda has long worked to help people in developing countries obtain basic healthcare treatment, including vaccine deliveries. 

"I'd say to the people of the United States: We're incredibly lucky to have that technology and we ought to take advantage of it," she added. 

In the United States, the highly contagious disease has reemerged in recent years thanks to the anti-vaccination movement and personal belief exemptions. Use of the controversial waivers is particularly prominent in California.

The recent outbreak at Disneyland has heightened the debate. According to the Associated Press, those infected range from just seven months to 70-years-old, including five park employees. 

Dr. James Cherry, a specialist in pediatric infectious diseases at the University of California-Los Angeles, told the New York Times the current outbreak is "100 percent connected" to the anti-immunization movement.

"It wouldn't have happened otherwise—it wouldn't have gone anywhere. There are some pretty dumb people out there."



3 Minutes Until We All Die

The Nation - January 23, 2015 - 3:19pm
Mark Hertsgaard

The scientists at the Doomsday Clock say that failed political leadership on climate change and nuclear weapons endangers ‘every person on earth.’

Must-reads of the week

Columbia Journalism Review - January 23, 2015 - 2:36pm
Culled from CJR’s own stories, plus the frequently updated “Must-reads from around the Web,” our staff recommendations for the best pieces of journalism (and other miscellany) on the internet, here are your can’t-miss must-reads of the past week: Journalists, satirists, and other media workers say their employers enforce constantly-shifting “red lines” barring criticism of the military, police, and the new...

We Haven't Been This Close to the Apocalypse Since 1984

Mother Jones - January 23, 2015 - 2:27pm

This story originally appeared in Slate and is republished here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

In 1947, the specter of nuclear holocaust prompted the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists to come up with a "Doomsday Clock." The clock was meant to highlight just how close humans had come to wiping ourselves off the map. Midnight on the clock represented global catastrophe—the end of civilization as we know it.

Back then, the Bulletin set the clock to 11:53 p.m. The group has revisited the setting each year since, occasionally adjusting it forward or backward to reflect changes in world events.

On Thursday, it moved the clock forward two minutes, to 11:57 p.m.

That's the closest it has been to midnight since 1984, at the Cold War's peak. The only time humanity has been closer to self-destruction, according to the clock, was from 1953 to 1960, when it read 11:58 p.m. thanks to the nuclear brinksmanship between the United States and the Soviet Union. The Cold War's end turned the clock all the way back to 11:43 p.m. in 1991. So how did we end up right back at 11:57 p.m., just 24 years later?

The answer is that nuclear war is no longer the only plausible, existential threat we face, according to the Bulletin's science and security board. The other: climate change. And, more specifically, the world's lackluster response to climate change. As Lawrence Krauss explained in Slate two years ago, climate change was added to the clock-setting calculations in 2007, along with the dangers presented by biotechnology and bioterrorism. Despite ever-growing public awareness of the problem, global inaction on climate change has only darkened the picture since then. In a statement Thursday, the Bulletin warned:

Current efforts are entirely insufficient to prevent a catastrophic warming of Earth. Absent a dramatic course correction, the countries of the world will have emitted enough carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases by the end of this century to profoundly transform Earth's climate, harming millions upon millions of people and threatening many key ecological systems on which civilization relies.

This is not a new sentiment. Earlier this week, in his State of the Union Address, President Obama called climate change the world's greatest threat to future generations. He wasn't trying to be hyperbolic. And he might be right.

What's interesting about the Doomsday Clock, though, is that it represents an attempt—albeit an inherently subjective one, by a group of scientists with their own interests and biases—to put the threat of climate change in context. How bad is it? Really, really bad. And yet, in the Bulletin's view, the threat of a warming planet is not quite as bad as the nuclear threat in 1953. Nor is it quite on par with the threat of nuclear war in 1984.

Remember, it isn't only climate change that has us poised precipitously at 11:57 p.m. today. It's the combination of climate change and some discouraging recent developments on the nuclear-proliferation front. At a press conference Thursday, Bulletin executive director Kennette Benedict emphasized both. About the nuclear threat, she said:

The arms-reduction process has ground to a halt, with the United States and Russia embarking on massive programs to modernize their nuclear forces—thereby undermining existing nuclear weapons treaties. At the same time, other nuclear-weapons states are joining this expensive and extremely dangerous modernization craze.

The two threats may seem unrelated, but it's worthwhile to think about them in the same breath, because there are some interesting parallels between them. The greatest danger posed by nuclear bombs is not their explosive power. It's the prospect of a nuclear winter—that is, a form of very sudden, human-caused, climate change.

The chart above shows the settings of the Doomsday Clock between 1947 and 2012. The lower the graph, the higher the probability of catastrophe. Wikimedia Commons

When we talk about the effects of anthropogenic global warming, we talk a lot about uncertainty. Actually though, the threats posed by climate change are not nearly as uncertain as those posed by nuclear proliferation. We may not know the precise effects of a warming planet, but we do know that it's happening, and we have a pretty good idea of what will ensue if we don't change course soon: crop failures, extinctions, famines, water shortages, regional conflicts, coastal floods, and more extreme weather events.

In contrast, we really have no idea what will happen if we fail to rein in the world's nuclear arsenals. In the worst case, it could lead to all-out nuclear world war, which would change the climate far more rapidly than our current pace of greenhouse gas emissions. In the best case, countries will continue to maintain nuclear arsenals, but no one will ever use them again. And of course there are a lot of plausible scenarios in between.

We could spend years arguing about which is more dangerous, climate change or nuclear proliferation. But that would be like standing around in a burning building, arguing about whether it would be worse to die from smoke inhalation or get crushed by a falling beam.

Likewise, we could have a lively debate about whether the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists is right that we're slightly closer to the brink of disaster today than we were a few years ago, or in 1984, or in 1947. But the real point of the Doomsday Clock is to remind us that we have the power to wind it back. We just haven't been doing much of that lately.

That Time Badass Feminist Queen Elizabeth II Gave Saudi Arabia's King a Lesson in Power

Mother Jones - January 23, 2015 - 1:22pm

Great Britain's Queen Elizabeth II is known to have a wicked sense of humor, and some mean driving skills. One day back in 1998, she deployed both spectacularly to punk Saudi Arabia's late King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz. Back then, Abdullah was a Saudi crown prince visiting Balmoral, the vast royal estate in Scotland. The Queen had offered him a tour of the grounds—here's what happened next, according to former British ambassador to Saudi Arabia Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles:

The royal Land Rovers were drawn up in front of the castle. As instructed, the Crown Prince climbed into the front seat of the Land Rover, with his interpreter in the seat behind. To his surprise, the Queen climbed into the driving seat, turned the ignition and drove off. Women are not—yet—allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia, and Abdullah was not used to being driven by a woman, let alone a queen. His nervousness only increased as the queen, an Army driver in wartime, accelerated the Land Rover along the narrow Scottish estate roads, talking all the time. Through his interpreter, the Crown Prince implored the Queen to slow down and concentrate on the road ahead.

Royal custom discourages repeating what the Queen says in private, Cowper-Coles explained, but the anecdote was corroborated by Abdullah, and became, in the diplomat's words, "too funny not to repeat."

Abdullah went on to cultivate the image of a reformer as king. One thing he didn't change, despite the Queen's badass stunt: women still can't drive in Saudi Arabia.


Friday Cat Blogging - 23 January 2015

Mother Jones - January 23, 2015 - 1:17pm

I wrote this morning's short post and then spent the rest of the morning napping. This is ridiculous, and I don't know what's going on. I'm a thousand percent better than I was Tuesday and Wednesday, but still dog tired. One possibility is that this is due to a change in my chemo schedule. Instead of getting all three meds on Friday, I got two of them on Friday and then the third as a standalone on Monday. The next day I was wiped out. Anyway, I hope that's the reason, since this was a one-time thing. I'll ask about it today, though I have little hope of getting any satisfactory answers.

In any case, it's finally Friday, so how about some catblogging? This week features a brand new addition to the extended family of Drum cats. My friend Professor Marc sends along this photo of Ivan Davidoff, his new Siberian. His report: "Seems to like being around people, but is not a cuddle-kitty. He likes being petted, will frequently come see if I’m still in the home office if I’m working there, sometimes jumps onto the desk to be next to me, but is not a lap cat. Maybe that will come as he gets more comfortable. Has woken us up in the middle of the night to get affection, but is not pushy about it." He is certainly a handsome critter, no?


Subscribe to PR Watch aggregator