Archive for the ‘Society’ Category

220px-A-ZubovIt is not unknown for medical researchers in history to make themselves a test subject to avoid endangering others in their experimental treatments or medicines. Russian history professor Andrei Zubov took the same approach recently with his own field. As with many intellectuals in Russia, Zubov was convinced that Vladimir Putin has long worked to reestablish a dictatorship in Russia. He decided to put this theory to the test by writing an article comparing Putin to Hitler. The experiment was successful in a curious way. Zubov was immediately fired for the “immoral act” to criticizing the supreme leader.

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Screenshot Youtube

Screenshot Youtube

The viewers of The Voice (Italy) were wowed last week with the appearance of Sister Cristina Scuccia who sang “No One” by Alicia Keys. Her amazing performance was met by chants of “So-rella! So-rella!” (Sister, Sister) by the audience which gave her a standing ovation. The video is below.

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200px-Costco_Wholesale.svg250px-PeanutButterPoverty and hunger continue to be a major problem across the country. However, in a decision that baffles and outrages many, Costco has decided that it will not allow millions of dollars worth of peanut butter to be given away. Instead, the company has ordered that the food be dumped in a New Mexico landfill.

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Submitted by Elaine Magliaro, Weekend Contributor

On the YouTube page that includes the following video, political cartoonist Mark Fiore said that it has been “amusing (and maddening) to watch various religious right characters scurry for cover.” He said that when no one was watching what they were doing, “the holier-than-thou set have been visiting Uganda preaching their extreme anti-gay views.” He added that since many people have become aware of and are “appalled” by Uganda’s new anti-gay law—which could mean life imprisonment for homosexuals—“the ‘evangelical’ right-wing preachers are laying low or rewriting history.”

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Submitted by Elaine Magliaro, Weekend Contributor

Scott Lively, the head of Abiding Truth Ministries, is a resident of Springfield, Massachusetts. Lively is a controversial evangelical pastor known for having a homophobic agenda. He “specializes in stirring up anti-gay feeling around the globe.” When he was a young man, Lively said he had a “live and let live” attitude toward gays. Once a liberal, he admits that he was an alcoholic and a drug addict until he “got saved” in 1986. He says that since then his “focus has been to restore a biblical focus with regards to marriage and sexuality.”

Jack Rodolico (Latitude News) says that after coming to Christ, Lively began to view social issues “from God’s perspective”—and his “faith began to fuel the fire of his activism.” According to a report in the National Journal, “Lively became a lawyer, author, and advocate in pursuit of the cause.” In 1992, Lively got involved in Oregon’s Ballot Measure 9. That measure “would have amended the Oregon Constitution to summarily recognize ‘homosexuality, pedophilia, sadism and masochism as abnormal, wrong, unnatural and perverse.’” Rodico reported that Oregon voters denied Lively and his anti-gay colleagues a victory—but only after “an ugly political battle ensued.” Rodico said that the defeat left a lasting impression on Lively.

BALLOT MEASURE 9

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By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

Flag of TurkeyTwitter LogoWe recently reported of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdoğan’s effort to silence the social media service Twitter to repress dissent within Turkey. HERE. Now, the courts in Turkey are beginning to reverse some of these efforts. Turkish Twitter users are expected to regain access to the microblogging platform after a local court issued a stay of execution on last week’s decision by a local telecommunications authority to ban the website.

According to some local media reports, the ban will be lifted as soon as the administrative court in Ankara informs Turkey’s Telecommunications Authority of the ruling.

In a first official remark, Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arinç said the Turkish government would implement the court ruling. “We will implement the court’s decision. We might not like the court decision, but we will carry it out,” he told reporters.

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By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

national-health-service-logoThere is a disturbing and somewhat macabre report out of Great Britain where the bodies of thousands of aborted and miscarried fetuses were incinerated as clinical waste, with some even used to heat hospitals, an investigation has found.

Ten National Health Service (NHS) trusts have admitted burning fetal remains alongside other rubbish while two others used the bodies in ‘waste-to-energy’ plants which generate power for heat. Department of Health issued an instant ban on the practice which health minister Dr Dan Poulter branded ‘totally unacceptable.’

At least 15,500 fetal remains were incinerated by 27 NHS trusts over the last two years alone, according to British news agencies.

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3434786_GI recently wrote about the declining free speech rights of students in the United States. There is another such case out of New Jersey this week where Gregory Vied, 17, has been suspended for refusing to remove a Confederate flag on his truck. In my view, it is a clear violation of free speech and an abuse of the rights of this student to express his views and associations by the administrators of Steinert High School in Hamilton Township.

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President_Barack_Obama150px-OHCHR_logoThe United Nation’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has issued a report slamming the United States on torture and surveillance — the last international condemnation of the United States that is now viewed by many as a threat to civil liberties and international law. This follows international reports condemning the Obama Administration for its attacks on the free press and Internet freedoms. The demand for action on torture revives one of the greatest failures of the Obama Administration when the President, shown after taking office, assured CIA employees that no one would be investigated or prosecuted for torture despite the existence of international treaties obligating us to carry out such prosecutions. The President has admitted (as is clear from domestic and international rulings) that water boarding is torture. What is fascinating is that those who continue to defend this Administration dismiss the criticisms of respected international public interest groups, award-winning journalists, and even United Nations organizations in such condemnations. It is part of what has become a blind loyalty for an iconic president over long-standing principles. As noted by a widening array of organizations and experts, Obama has proven a perfect nightmare for civil liberties — once a core and defining area for Democrats and liberals alike.

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Edith-Jones-Judge-Edith-H-Jones-Edith-Hollan-JonesWhile predicting that a case will be accepted by the Supreme Court is a dubious form of fortune-telling (I just had a case denied review this week), the decision yesterday in the Fifth Circuit upholding the Texas law imposing restrictions on abortion clinics has the highest possible chances for such a review. It could also represent a major opportunity for those seeking to limit the pro-choice cases extending back to Roe v. Wade. The decision (written by Judge Edith Jones) is Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas v. Abbott, 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 5696.

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I have previously discussed my views about Nancy Grace and her genre of legal commentary. (here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here). This week Grace is being mocked for another controversial appearance on Good Morning America where she shouts “porn” repeatedly in an interview on the the Oscar Pistorius murder trial. She was appearing with ABC legal analyst Dan Abrams and appears upset that neither the anchor nor Abrams want to talk about porn as opposed to the developments in the case.

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cowenGeorge Mason University Professor Tyler Cowen‘s lecture on vigilantes got a bit too real this week when a man ran into his Law and Literature class and pepper sprayed him. Cowen reportedly ran into the hall with the intruder in pursuit but an off-duty officer (who happened to be in a class) caught the culprit.

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carmenlynnfischergarciaCarmen Lynn Fischer Garcia, a Phoenix defense attorney, has pleaded guilty and received a three year prison sentence for crimes that seem to come right out of an episode of “Sons of Anarchy” or “Breaking Bad.” Fischer admitted to helping a gang move money and served as a conduit for passing information between jailed and street members. She admitted to be a “ruca” or female associate to the gang and assisting Angel Garcia from December 2007 to July 2013 in moving money and transmitting messages from prison. She marry Garcia in July 2011, though the FBI insisted that Garcia was feigning affection.

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220px-Factory_in_China250px-Surveillance_quevaalA new report from the World Health Organization details how 7 million people are dying from air pollution every year and 40 percent of those are dying from China’s pollution. Too often, politicians treat pollution as just some trade off for jobs, but it has a more lethal cost that most people do not appreciate. China is the nightmare scenario of that environmental meltdown as we have previously discussed. At the same time, China is exported its surveillance technology to help nations like Ethiopia suppressed dissent and free speech.

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logoIn what has become the new normal for teachers and administrators, we have yet another case of a suspension based on a thoughtless and heartless application of a school rule. The latest outrage comes from Caprock Academy in Grand Junction where Kamryn Campbell was suspended when she showed up at school with a shaved head. The teachers and administrator said that a shaved head violated the hair code of the school but she explained that she shaved off her hair to support a friend battling cancer. The school basically said “that’s nice” and suspended her.

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article-2587307-1C83AE0C00000578-610_634x380We have yet another example of how we have criminalized our schools and society with the arrest of a mother at the Walnut Groves Elementary School in Missouri. Niakea Williams was responding to an emergency call that her boy with Asperger’s syndrome was having a panic attack. She ran straight to his room to comfort and calm him . . . she was then promptly arrested for failing to check in at the front office.

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US-CourtOfAppeals-7thCircuit-SealposnerDespite my great respect for Seventh Circuit Judge Richard Posner (whose brilliant writings on legal theory have shaped much of modern jurisprudence), I have recently had occasion to criticize his conduct on the bench (here and here). I am afraid that an opinion this week raises yet another troubling example of poor judgment by Posner. In an opinion in Mitchell v. JCG Industries and Koch Foods, Posner included an account of an experiment by court staff that tested a core factual issue presented by the Plaintiffs — the time needed to change into work clothes. The reliance — to any degree — on such an experiment violates core rules of appellate review and is correctly identified by fellow Seventh Circuit judge Diane Wood as a highly disturbing element to the decision supporting the company. What is odd is that this experiment with “donning” and “doffing” only undermined an otherwise well-considered opinion (even though many would still disagree with its conclusion).

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President_Barack_Obama220px-Nytimes_hqI recently wrote a column on the wholesale attack on press freedoms under President Obama that parallel his attack on other civil liberties and privacy principles (here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here). I testified on the erosion of press freedom under President George W. Bush but the assault on the free press has worsened under President Obama while Democratic members and supporters remain conspicuously silent. Reporters have not been so silent or reticent and have repeatedly tried to educate citizens of the danger to press freedoms under this President. Now one of the most respected journalists in the country, New York Times reporter and Pulitzer Prize winner Jim Risen, has declared that the Obama Administration is the greatest threat to a free press in a generation.

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200px-Mariacorinamachado2500px-Seal_of_the_Organization_of_American_States.svgVenezuela has continued to assault on civil liberties started by the late Hugo Chavez under his “mini-me” President Nicolas Maduro. That legacy took a particularly menacing turn when opposition congresswomen Maria Corina Machado was stripped of her office after speaking to the Organisation of American States (OAS) about the violence in her country. The Venezuelan government insists that she “acted as a Panamanian official” by accepting the invitation and that her speech constituted a crime of “inciting violence”.

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President_Barack_Obama1-foam-fingerWe previously discussed the rapid drop of the United States in the protection of the free press. Now, the respected Reporters Without Borders has produced a separate report on Internet freedoms. In yet another dubious distinction for President Obama, the United States is now listed with such “Enemies of the Internet” as Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran. This is our first time on the infamous list — a true accomplishment for an Administration that has been denounced for its wholesale attacks on privacy and other core civil liberties.

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CO_-_Denver_Police_Badge220px-Beretta90TWOThe Denver Police Chief is promising extra training and a review on the use of new flashlight equipped guns after a series of cases where officers fired a round while trying to find the switch for the light. This accident-waiting-to-happen technology could spawn a series of lawsuits for both negligence in the officers the Department as well as product liability claims.

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609px-Coat_of_arms_of_Kenya.svgKenya’s parliament has passed a law intended to codify the existing customary law allowing for multiple spouses. However, the legislators went further and removed a provision that would give the existing spouse or spouses the right to veto a marriage. After female legislators stormed out of the session in protest, MP Junet Mohammed explained “When you marry an African woman, she must know the second one is on the way, and a third wife… this is Africa.”

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Submitted by Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

Turkish Prime Minister

Recep Erdoğan

The continuing cat and mouse game between the government of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Turkish users of the social networking site Twitter shows the desire for control of information and the historical drive to circumvent it.

 After pledging to “wipe out Twitter,” Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan ordered Turkish ISPs to block the social networking site, redirecting requests to a government webpage. But that move, which used a change in the Domain Name Service hosted by network providers in Turkey, was quickly circumvented by Twitter users through the use of alternative DNS servers. DNS servers basically match domain names such as example.com with their core Internet Protocol Addresses for which websites are addressed under the surface to most users. By controlling the DNS servers in Turkey by forced banning of the twitter.com name, Turkish DNS servers redirect traffic to an IP address of a government website rather than the official twitter.com website.The social media campaign against Erdoğan has continued to grow despite the government’s best effort, and even more Turks are flocking to Twitter as a result of the federal censorship. Immediately following the ban, Twitter usage in Turkey rose 138 percent.
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Submitted by Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

Walling Off Warsaw GhettoThere is an interesting article in Deutsche Welle describing the plight of forced laborers interned in Nazi ghettos such as that in Warsaw and other cities. Many of those persons are making pension claims before the German government due to their assertion they were de facto employees of the German government at the time. Eventually the German government, made provisions to facilitate receipts of pension, the bureaucratic process unfortunately led to years delays and denials, with as a consequence either intentionally or unintentionally led to the government having less of a pension liability due to the aging population passing away.
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Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw) Weekend Contributor

If the title of this piece shocks you, I apologize.  On second thought, I won’t apologize for asking a legitimate question about a prominent politician who has made his proposals to harm the poor and middle class and give tax cuts to the wealthy his calling card in the conservative movement. Recently, Rep. Ryan made a statement about the people who inhabit the inner city claiming that those residents are less than motivated to work for a living.

‘ “Paul Ryan triggered a firestorm of recrimination this week. Speaking recently on Bill Bennett’s Morning in America radio program, the Wisconsin Republican and self-styled budget wonk linked poverty to “this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work.” ‘ Bill Moyers

It seems obvious to me who Paul Ryan is talking about here. What do you think he is saying here?    Of course, Mr. Ryan tried to walk back from the statements, but how can you unring this bell? (more…)

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by Charlton “Chuck” Stanley, weekend contributor

TED2014 Edward SnowdenFor those not familiar with the TED Talks, they were the brainchild of Richard Saul Wurman, an architect and graphic designer. TED was intended as a single presentation in Silicon Valley back in 1984. TED is an acronym for Technology, Entertainment, Design. The talks have grown from a handful of views and participants into millions of views. Presenters have come from every walk of life and culture, including entertainers, scientists, entrepreneurs, and educators.

TED has recently redesigned their website, hosting their own original content videos. What does that mean? They are immune from copyright takedown demands. Many people livestream and record the videos. That means it is virtually impossible for anyone to censor or take down a TED Talk. Copies are out there in the wild. At least, they are out there until the Internet is destroyed, but even then, they will be circulated on film and digital media much like the pamphleteers of long ago. I am sure everyone recalls those troublemakers Thomas Paine and Benjamin Franklin. I posted a story on February 1, entitled Edward Snowden Speaks. In that story, we discussed the mysterious takedowns of the German TV interview with Mr. Snowden on YouTube almost as fast as they appeared.

A few days ago, Edward Snowden was a guest speaker at the TED2014 annual conference in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The 2014 conference celebrated the 30th anniversary of TED.

 

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Betty Bootlegger

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

With many states grappling with the need for tax revenue and the otherwise laudable effort to curtail cigarette smoking among their citizens, laws of supply and demand are beginning to having unexpected consequences to some. Rises in taxation of cigarettes with prices in one location as high as $15.00 per pack, the majority of cigarettes consumed by smokers there are now bootleg. According to the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, nearly $5 billion in revenue in 2010 was lost because of smuggling. But this figure is very likely to rise dramatically since many states since enacted even higher levels of taxation.

The situation has formed a fertile ground for illegal cigarette trafficking and there have been inroads into organized crime. Sources of illegal cigarettes have been neighboring states where tax rates are lower, Native American reservations, and even foreign sources of the same brand names, often from Vietnam, Thailand, and Eastern Europe. Wholesale illegal supply chains are becoming increasingly significant. While cigarettes are otherwise available, albeit at a higher price, these states are beginning to see a softer form of prohibition. But there is also a very dark side to smoking bootleg cigarettes. Illegal cigarette trafficking has been used as a vehicle to channel money to foreign terrorist organizations. Are the benefits worth the costs inherited from high taxations?
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By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

Honolulu Police Department ShieldIn what is proffered to be helpful in the combat of prostitution and the underlying organized crime that often promotes this, members of the Honolulu, Hawaii police department have requested legislative authority to engage in sexual relations with prostitutes in order to further infiltrate the illegal profession.

This was an amendment to a bill that would expand the enforcement and prosecution of sex industry players that has passed the state House and is coming before a Senate committee.

Authorities say they need the legal protection to catch lawbreakers in the act, and strict internal controls prohibit misconduct. But is this a novel idea to break up the sex traffic industry or one that may lead to exploitation of its vulnerable members?
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by Charlton “Chuck” Stanley, Weekend Contributor

115px-CA_-_Oakland_PoliceThe city of Oakland has entered into an agreed order to pay former Marine and two-tour Iraq war veteran Scott Olsen $4.5 million. This is, as lawyers say, “to make him whole.” Unfortunately, Scott will never be whole again. The night of October 25, 2011 he was shot in the head by a police officer using a shotgun loaded with a “non-lethal” beanbag. Upon being hit, the former Marine went down like a sack of potatoes. His skull was fractured, he was bleeding heavily and his neck was broken.
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Uncwsealadams_000Yesterday a North Carolina jury handed down a major victory for free speech and academic freedom. It found that the University of North Carolina–Wilmington retaliated against criminology professor Dr. Mike Adams for his writing of conservative columns for the website Townhall.com and other forums. The decision culminates years of litigation, including a prior decision before the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. The treatment of Adams reaffirms for many conservatives that academia is hostile to their views and that conservative academics face a bias on promotion. The implications of the decision however could go beyond the issue of bias and raise countervailing issues of academic judgment and decision making.

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article-0-1C73297A00000578-721_634x351It sometimes seems like school administrators are competing to show the most unhinged and ridiculous applications of a “zero tolerance” rule. The school officials at Bayside Middle School may have finally won this dubious competition with the charges against sixth grader Adrionna Harris. Harris did what most people would consider a commendable if not heroic act. She stopped a fellow student who was cutting himself with a razor and then threw the razor away. She told administrators what happened and those administrators proceeded to suspend her and recommend expulsion.

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KS_-_Highway_Patrol_BadgeWichita_PoliceThe Kansas House Standing Committee on Corrections and Juvenile Justice has introduced an extraordinary bill that would allow citizens to be criminally charged if they bring abuse or misconduct charges against police officers are that later dismissed by the police department. They would be subject to a felony charge for perjury in such cases — a clear threat that will chill anyone considering such a charge in the future.

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220px-gesture_thumb_up_then_down_forefinger_out_like_gun1We previously discussed the bizarre case of Nathan Entingh, 10, who was suspended for merely pointing his finger at another student and saying “pow.” It was discussed nationally as an insane example of abuses under the zero tolerance policies of teachers and administrators. Just to show that neither logic nor judgment will be allowed to influence their use of authority, the school district has upheld that punishment and affirmed this type of institutionalized lunacy.

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200px-US-OSHA-Logo.svg200px-Dish_Network_logo_2012.svgIf you are debating between the Dish and cable, this might help you make up your mind. Dish has been hit with a $250,000 for retaliating against an employee who actually disclosed that a vendor was ripping off the company. OSHA found that Dish had blacklisted the whistleblower for revealing fraudulent invoices and testifying at a deposition. Notably, there is no indication that, even after OSHA found such outrageous conduct by company officials, anyone has been fired for the blacklisting of the employee. Dish was also found recently to be the worst and “meanest” company to work for. CEO Charlie Ergen appears not to be bother in the slightest by this record as a bad corporate actor. Ergen’s company seems to follow the Italian view that “revenge is a dish best served cold.”

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600px-Doha_Qatar_skyline_at_night_Sept_2012It appears that the 2022 World Cup will come with its own stadium . . . and attached cemetery. Qatar was delighted to be selected for the games and has been pulling out all of the stops on construction. Part of that effort appears to be tossing aside workplace safety concerns. Over 900 workers have died in the various construction projects. To give a point of reference, only six workers died during the construction for the 2014 World Cup preparation in Brazil (and 25 died before the Sochi Olympic games this summer). Advocates fear that, unless something is done, thousands more will die before the first ball is kicked in the first game.

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bildeWe recently discussed a controversy involving the censorship of an article on rape by a high school student in Wisconsin. The article, entitled “The Rape Joke: Surviving Rape In A Culture That Won’t Let You” was written by Fond du Lac High School senior Tanvi Kumar described a “rape culture” at the school. The school officials immediately moved to censor and block the publication. Fond du Lac High School Principal Jon Wiltzius objected to both the text and a picture in the article. In criticizing the actions of the school, I offered this blog as a forum for publishing the uncensored article. I was contacted by Kumar who said that she would like to avail herself of that opportunity. Photographer Gabi Padovano also agreed to have her remarkable photographs shown on the blog. I am also particularly proud to announce that Kumar will be attending George Washington University in the fall as one of our undergraduate. I wish I could take credit for that last fact but Kumar did that all on her own. So, without further ado, here is the uncensored “The Rape Joke.”

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hammond_cs267209_240501739303289_2480949_nThere is a disturbing lawsuit filed this month in Tennessee against CCA Silverdale and Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond (left). Charity Flerl was incarcerated when she went into labor last summer. The police proceeded to force her to give birth while shackled because, as explained by one individual in this article, because “They’re criminals, so you never know what they might do.” Now here is the kicker: Flerl was not in for some violent offense. She was in for failure to pay child support. It is not clear what “they might do” in such a case: failure to pay child support on the new baby?

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220px-Barberini_Faun_front_Glyptothek_Munich_218_n2We previously discussed cases of tourists demanding art in efforts to get memorable photographs, including a recent incident involving an American tourist. We now have an even more egregious incident where a tourist actually climbed on the leg of an early 19th Century statue entitled “The Drunken Satyr” to take a selfie and caused the entire leg to snap off.

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170px-Mia20061200px-Super_Bowl_29_Vince_Lombardi_trophy_at_49ers_Family_Day_2009You may recall that we discussed the scene in the 2012 Super Bowl when pop star Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam (AKA M.I.A.) flipped the bird and sang “I don’t give a shit” while performing the song “Give Me All Your Luvin’” with Madonna. Personally, I did not like it, though I am often in the minority in objecting to inappropriate conduct at such events by players or performers. I thought it was immature and vulgar and inappropriate for the millions of kids watching the show. It was a lapse that occurred in a flash and was probably not noticed by many viewers. My kids however say it as did I. It was a stupid and thoughtless addition by M.I.A. to the show. It now appears that the National Football League (NFL) felt the same way and has not forgotten the violation. They are demanding compensation from M.I.A. and estimate the cost at $15.1 million in restitution.

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220px-Northwestern_University_Seal.svgLudlowThere is an interesting controversy at Northwestern concerning an allegation of sexual assault brought against philosophy Prof. Peter Ludlow. While the school investigated the allegation and disciplined Ludlow, it did not find sufficient evidence to terminate him. That decision is the basis of a Title IX lawsuit which prohibits sex discrimination by higher education institutions receiving federal funding. The case will raise the question of how far a court will go in countering the conclusions of a university investigation. In this case, the university responded but the student disagrees with its conclusions. The question is whether such a disagreement amounts to a form of discrimination.

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Defy Expectations

EY69YtISome trees, like some people, refuse to be boxed in. If you are one of those independent seekers, this picture spotted on Reddit shows that you are not alone.

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468px-Egri_no_220px-Taron_vl_18_1_gdWe have been following police in this country and abroad arresting people for taking public photographs, including police in England. Now Hungary has passed a law that make photographing people in public a violation of the civil code. When taking a picture for example at a landmark, you must get the consent of anyone who happens to be in the shot even if you have no intention to publish the picture. It is a good thing that this picture of the Siege of Eger was painted in 1552 — a photograph would have resulted in a slew of lawsuits.

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HAPPY ST. PATRICK’S DAY!!!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all of the leprechauns of the blog from the Turley Clan. It is a snowy St. Patty’s Day in McLean Virginia but that did not dampen the fun (particularly with the kids home on snow day).
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President_Barack_ObamaUnknownRemember that politician around 8 years ago who promised the most transparent Administration ever? Well, long ago, President Obama distinguished himself by withholding documents, pictures, and documents from the public and Congress. This includes the withholding of photos for the simple reason that they will embarrass the government or be used by critics like the pictures of Osama Bin Laden. (In the case of Bin Laden, it appears that the account glamorized in movies like Zero Dark Thirty may not be true and that U.S. forces allegedly riddled the body of Bin Laden with countless bullets, according to a new report). However, the Administration has gone well beyond the simply embarrassing. It has defied Congress in refusing to turn over documents to oversight committees, prompting a vote to demand that Attorney General Eric Holder be prosecuted for obstruction. (The Administration then prevented prosecutors from acting on the charge). A new analysis by the Associated Press shows what is already well known in Washington, President Obama has created the least transparent presidency in decades. The AP found that the Obama administration more often than ever censored government files or outright denied access to them last year under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, according to a new analysis of federal data by The Associated Press.
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IMG_0442Father Winter gave Washington a parting gift just days before the first day of Spring. I told this picture with my iPhone in my backyard this morning. Under the snow is my Chicago Bears tree face outside the window in the kitchen.

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by Charlton “Chuck” Stanley, Weekend Contributor

“…to say John Joe Kelly plays the bodhrán, is like saying Mount Everest is a bit of a climb” – Sidmouth Music Festival, Paul Saunders, March ’99

ShamrockSt. Paddy’s day is upon us, and in the spirit of the Emerald Isle, some authentic Irish music is in order. Ireland has a long history of treasuring its poets and musicians. The tambourine was the percussion instrument of choice going back into the dim mists of Irish music history. Sometime about the late 19th or early 20th century, the bodhrán as we know it now came into existence. The first recordings of the bodhrán date to the 1920s. The great Irish composer, Seán Ó Riada (John Reidy) declared the bodhrán to be the native drum of the Celts. He described them as having a musical history predating Christianity, and was a native instrument of southwest Ireland.

John Joe Kelly’s interest in percussion began early. When he was seven, borrowed his older sister’s tin whistles. Unfortunately for the whistles, he used them as drumsticks. He managed to dent them in the process. A friend of the family observed John Joe’s interest in drums and bought him a 10-inch bodhrán. A percussion legend was born.

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By Mark Esposito, Weekend Contributor

AP090422054982.jpgWell, Captain Phillips hit the small screen at the end of January and the DVD supposedly captures everything good in America. Courageous sea-captain battles ruthless Somali pirates to save crew and cargo bound for parts unknown. Navy sharpshooters end hostage stand-off with might and right. Danish shipping line, Maersk, vindicated for its caution in protecting its freight. All hunky dory!  Hunky, that is , until you start asking why are all those Maersk container ships floating oh so near the coast of East Africa and into harm’s way. Well, a significant number of them are carrying food aid from the U.S. to the nutrition-deprived people on the African continent and getting a hefty above-market price in return.  Still, you must ask, what’s wrong with that — corporate citizen conducting a business that helps people and makes a profit for its shareholders. All’s right with the world, everyone must agree. Not every one.

A new article in Foreign Policy Magazine details the intense fight Maersk Lines is waging in the halls of Congress to scuttle a key feature of this year’s farm bill. That provision would likely feed a conservatively estimated 2-4 million more souls and perhaps up to 10 million. Yet, Maersk and its flotilla of lobbyists is fighting it tooth and nail. To understand why, you have to understand the basis and process of America’s food aid program and acquaint yourself with the history.

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The Taxfather

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

In another victory by gridlock the families in the state legislature were not able to get enough muscle behind two bills that would have taxed the fledging electronic cigarette industry into vapor. The sixty day legislative session came to an end and debate on these bills did also.

The bills have been controversial from the beginning. At first a 95% tax was the target and when that effort failed there were proposals to tax the “juice” by the milliliter. One thing is stilllargely accepted, the families still want in on the tax lute and will take up the issue probably next session.
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Carl_Sagan_Planetary_Society - CopySubmitted by Elaine Magliaro, Weekend Contributor

I thought this Carl Sagan interview would be a good follow-up to “Cosmos” Host Neil deGrasse Tyson Speaks Out about the News Media, Flat Earthers, Science Deniers, Climate Change Skeptics, Religion, and Dogma–which I posted earlier today.

Charlie Rose talked with Carl Sagan on the Charlie Rose Show back in May of 1996. At that time, Sagan warned about the dangers of people being ignorant about science while living in a society that is based on science and technology. Sagan talked about the “combustible mix” of ignorance and power in our society that would—at some point—blow up in our faces. He questioned who’d run science and technology in a democracy if the people didn’t know anything about it. Sagan also noted that science is more than a body of knowledge. He said it was a way of thinking.

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By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

No Quartering Association LogoA controversy is developing in Cornwallis, Washington where residents of a neighborhood bordering the army’s Joint Base Lewis McChord (JBLM) say the city council’s latest ordinance is yet another example of an overreaching government.

During the Christmas recess the mayor called a midnight city council meeting, with no public notice, and reportedly of all places in a Seattle pub. After seven exhausting hours the council voted 5 to 4 to enact a law that was purportedly intended to ease the severe traffic jams along Interstate 5 which runs through JBLM. But these intentions some believe were not so benevolent.

The law allocated nine tracts of park land to build high density housing for military personnel and their families. The land is just west of the Berkeley Bridge and soldiers going to and from the base would not need to use I-5. However the land is platted within the realm of the Lafayette neighborhood and its homeowner’s association. Residents angrily objected to their former park being taken over by the city, and in response turned to a relatively unknown civil rights advocacy group, the No Quartering Association, (NQA) to seek redress for the city violating the Third Amendment’s prohibition of quartering soldiers in citizens’ homes. Unfortunately for them, the worst was yet to come.
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