MIT professor Jonathan Gruber has produced a firestorm of controversy over remarks made in various settings about the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) and how drafters like himself relied on the “stupidity” of voters in passing the legislation. It appears that the Gruber hits keep coming, even as he prepares for another round of questioning in Congress. The latest comments from 2009 reveal Gruber saying that Obamacare would not produce affordable health care for many citizens since its focus is coverage not costs. This statement made five months before the passage of the Act from a key architect is in stark contrast to President Obama’s repeated assertions that premiums would go down dramatically. The latest statement will fuel questioning before Congress on whether the White House knew that premiums were unlikely to do down and that people would not be able to keep their current policies as promised by President Obama in selling the program.
An Idaho nuclear research scientist, Veronica Rutledge, was killed Tuesday in a horrific accident where her 2-year-old son pulled a loaded handgun from her purse and shot her at a Wal-Mart. The gun was in the Christmas gift that Rutledge had received from her husband: a purse with a special pocket for a concealed weapon.
A Delta Airlines flight from New York’s JFK Airport to Israel was delayed by half an hour after a group of ultra-Orthodox Jewish men refused to sit next to female passengers. We discussed the same type of disruption on a flight in September by ultra-Orthodox travelers refusing to sit down until people moved around to accommodate their extreme religious views. What is astonishing is that the disruptive travelers faced no reported repercussions for delaying a flight or refusing to comply with the instruction of flight attendants.
An Egyptian court has permanently banned the three-day festival celebrating the birth of Rabbi Jacob Abu Hasira in Egypt’s Nile Delta region of Buheira. The judge cited unspecified “moral offenses” as the reason for the ban. It is the latest example of Egypt’s devolution from a secular to a sectarian legal system. While the Muslim Brotherhood and President Mohammed Morsi were ousted in 2013 after pushing the country toward an Islamic, sharia-based system, the country still has seen the steady erosion of secular values and the separation of religion and state.
Now this would make for a great movie (certainly better than “The Interview”). Here’s the plot. A reportedly awful movie is produced by Sony with little expected success. Then the company is hacked with threats not to release the movie. All fingers are pointed at North Korea, including statements from the White House and the FBI. There are widespread reports of the U.S. shutting down the North Korean Internet in retaliation. However, the real culprits are actually laid-off Sony staff. In the meantime, the suppressed movie racks in millions as viewers (including my kids last night) rush to see the forbidden movie. Now that’s a movie plot. It is not clear however if it should be fiction or non-fiction. Media is reporting that experts believe that North Korea was in fact innocent of the hacking and that the culprits were former employees of that other hermit kingdom, Sony.
The rapid decline of civil liberties in Turkey continue this month under the expanding control of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his coalition of Islamic parties. The latest sign came with the arrest of Mehmet Emin Altunses, 16, who allegedly committed the crime of “insulting” Erdogan. That is what free speech has become in Turkey. It is a crime to write or say things insulting about Erdogan who is viewed around the world as a menacing clown destroying secularism and civil liberties in Turkey. Despite such moments as Erdogan’s calling people who use birth control “traitors” and saying Muslims discovered America, you are not allowed to be disrespectful or insulting in discussing Erdogan.
The second highest Episcopal minister in Maryland, Bishop Suffragan Heather Cook, is under fire for an alleged fatal hit-and-run. Cook hit bicyclist Tom Palermo, 41, on a sunny Saturday afternoon, and left the father of two young children dying of a head wound on the side of the road. She returned 20 minutes later.
During the coverage of the Ferguson protests, activist Joshua Williams, 19, became something of a celebrity as an advocate for peaceful protests. He was profiled by MSNBC and shown walking hand-in-hand with Cornel West. Williams was the counter image of the violent protesters who burned and looted Ferguson. However, this week, Williams was charged for setting fire to a convenience store during those very protests — a crime that police say he confessed to in a videotaped interview. It is sad development for a young man who garnered national attention for his work as a protest leader.
I just saw the new Hobbit movie with the kids in Chicago (which I liked) and was immediately intrigued by this story: a YouTube video on how to make your own ultimate nerdy “Sting.” Rather than detecting Orcs, this Sting detects unsecured WiFi. For the Hobbit nerd, it promises an elevation to nerdom that few single, middle-aged Hobbit wannabes still living with their parents in the basement could hope to achieve. I cannot say that the new sword will make you an Elf “chick-magnet” at the next Hobbit convention but it will get those other Hobbits pulling pens out of their pocket protectors to write down your every Bilboesque instruction.
Continue reading “Nerdvana: Video Shows You How To Make Your Own “Sting” To Glow When There Is An Unsecured WiFi Signal Near”
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan remains one of the most controversial leaders in Turkey’s history. A devout Muslim, Erdogan has steadily dismantled the secular traditions of country — a rare alternative to the Sharia systems or Islamic republics common in Muslim nations. As in those other countries, the insertion of Islamic rules have been accompanied with crackdowns on civil liberties, press freedom, women’s rights, and religious minorities. Recently, that included heavy fines for a television program for showing the immorality of a man dancing with a Western woman. Erdogan also attempted to rewrite history (with human rights) by recently declaring that Muslims discovered America . As criticism has mounted, he has inflamed his religious followers over a vast media conspiracy against his righteous policies. Now, Erdogan has attacked the use of birth control as a form of “treason” and said that women must commit themselves to having three or more children in the interests of the nation: “One or two is not enough.”
When I was in Chicago this week for Christmas, Brian Barker, 41, was all over the news. The Edwardsville police officer is accused of being a serial burglar, including break ins while on duty. He seems wanting as a police officer but as a crook he is even worse. They found stolen items in his home and there is a security tape reportedly of him burglarizing one of the locations. The end came fittingly at the Reality Salon and Spa for Barker.
Cara L. Gallagher, Weekend Contributor
I’ve spent the holiday break in the sun-drenched state of Arizona every year for the last ten years. It’s warmer than home, I have family and old friends down here, I got married here, and I know where to find an awesome bagel. Yes, lots of reasons to be psyched about spending a week here every December. But there’s another not-so-secret reason I always look forward to returning to the Grand Canyon state – it’s for the a slim chance that I might run into the elusive Supreme Court Justice who calls this state home, Sandra Day O’Connor. Continue reading “What’s a girl gotta do to run into a Supreme Court Justice?”
Like most of humanity, I have been stunned by the sheer savagery and cruelty of the Islamic State. Yet, thousands have flocked to the ISIS forces from the West. For me, it has been a particularly shocking phenomenon. The images that repel us, attract them. Religion is clearly a release for these people. A release from the obligations of decency and humanity. Images show Islamic State fighters laughing and enjoying the torture and murder of captives. Muslim clerics with ISIS assure them that they can treat non-Muslims as lower than animals and commit rape as an Islamically pure act. It has been an incredibly depressing time for those of us who believe that humans can aspire to true greatest of spirit and caring. This Christmas, however, my daughter showed me the YouTube clip below of a man named Matt Harding who goes around the world getting people to dance with him. After watching him, my faith in humanity was restored.
Cara L. Gallagher, Weekend Contributor
When SCOTUS orders a case back to a lower court it’s rare that the case garners the same attention it received when it was in the Supreme Court. But Fisher v. The University of Texas at Austin, a critical case that still has the potential to uproot affirmative action programs in public universities – one that beckoned Justice Sandra Day O’Connor to the SCOTUS pews on decision day in June of 2013 – is one you follow post-SCOTUS. Perhaps Justice O’Connor traveled all that way to throw shade to those justices likely to upend her landmark 2003 affirmative action decision, Grutter v. Bollinger. Although the spirit of Grutter remained intact, the majority’s 7-1 decision to remand the case back to a lower court was done so with explicit instruction that the University prove they’d satisfied the necessary strict scrutiny test. The same attorneys who argued the case before the SCOTUS in 2013 stayed on the case arguing before a 3-judge panel in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit. Continue reading “Affirmative action in college admissions survives. For now.”
There is an interesting twist on the usual nativity litigation that comes with the season (for a prior column, click here and here). In Ohio, Jasen Dixon has been told to take down his Nativity scene. Dixon, who manages a nearby haunted house, took a unique approach to the standard Christmas display: it shows the holy family as zombies.