Why American Politics Is Broken – In One Sentence

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Why American Politics Is Broken In One Sentence By Kevin Drum| Thu Jul. 31, 2014 12:06 PM EDT

Dave Weigel explains modern politics in a single sentence:

Voters are aware of a border crisis, they are aware that Barack Obama is president—they blame him for nothing getting done.

Yep. Republicans can basically do anything they want and never get blamed for it. Most voters don’t even know who’s in control of Congress anyway. When something goes wrong, all they know is (a) something went wrong, and (b) Barack Obama is the president and he should have done something about it.

That being the case, what incentive do Republicans have for making things go right? Pretty much none. This is, roughly speaking, a fairly new insight, and it explains most of what you need to know about American politics in the Obama era.

Original Article

Blogger allegedly fired from language school for teaching students about “homophonia”

download (4)Blogger allegedly fired from language school for teaching students about “homophonia”- He was apparently creating “the perception that the school promoted a gay agenda,” reports the Salt Lake Tribune PRACHI GUPTA THURSDAY, JUL 31, 2014 06:30 PM +0100

The Nomen Global Language Center, a Utah language school that teaches English to non-native speakers, has reportedly fired a blogger for teaching students about homophones.

As you may remember from grade school, homophones are words that are pronounced the same way but ultimately have different meanings, and often, different spellings, like “be” and “bee” or “none” and “nun.” They are now, apparently, also indicators of the “gay agenda.” The Salt Lake Tribune reports that Tim Torkildson was let go “for creating the perception that the school promoted a gay agenda.”

From the Tribune:

Tim Torkildson says after he wrote the blog on the website of his employer, Nomen Global Language Center, his boss and Nomen owner Clarke Woodger, called him into his office and told him he was fired.

As Torkildson tells it, Woodger said he could not trust him and that the blog about homophones was the last straw.

“Now our school is going to be associated with homosexuality,” Woodger complained, according to Torkildson, who posted the exchange on his Facebook page

Here’s Woodger’s side, according to the Tribune:

Nomen has removed that blog from its website, but a similar explanation of homophones was posted there in 2011 with apparently no controversy.

Woodger says his reaction to Torkildson’s blog has nothing to do with homosexuality but that Torkildson had caused him concern because he would “go off on tangents” in his blogs that would be confusing and sometimes could be considered offensive.

Woodger also feels that, because the students often have a minimal grasp of the English language, they ” … may see the ‘homo’ side and think it has something to do with gay sex.”

According to Torkildson’s personal blog, Woodger didn’t know the word but found it “extremely inappropriate”:

“I had to look up the word” he continued, “because I didn’t know what the hell you were talking about. We don’t teach this kind of advanced stuff to our students, and it’s extremely inappropriate. Can you have your desk cleaned out by eleven this morning? I’ll have your check ready.”

I’m not even going to try to be clever about this, because Dale Carpenter already wrote the most smartest response to this report in the Washington Post:

Some say the ancient texts condemn homophones. But cutting through the haze, these texts are correctly understood to prohibit acts not, say, an ax. “Love the sinner, louver the sin,” writes the Right Reverend Wright, who urges that homophonic tendencies be resisted. Many religious business owners say they would employ a homophone for a menial task, but not hire one for a higher one.

Homophones were once prohibited in the military, but never in the millinery. Soldiers feared them less than a gay’s gaze.

The causes of homophones are unknown. Perhaps it’s in the genes or a mother’s smothers. Too simple to say there’s only two. Maybe the homophones choose, as a dog chews shoes.

Mr. Carpenter’s slight was performed with much sleight. Well. Dun

7 foods that were supposed to be incredibly unhealthy — but are actually anything but

We were warned by experts to avoid these edibles at all costs. Turns out the experts were wrong EVELYN NIEVES, ALTERNET FRIDAY, FEB 21, 2014 02:09 PM +0000

In the future, when we’re zipping around the biosphere on our jetpacks and eating our nutritionally complete food pellets, we won’t have to worry about what foods will kill us or which will make us live forever.

Until then, we’re left to figure out which of the food headlines we should take to heart, and which should be taken with a grain of unrefined, mineral-rich sea salt. Low-fat or high-fat? High-protein or vegan? If you don’t trust what your body tells you, remember that food science is ever evolving. Case in point: The seven foods below are ancient. But they’ve gone from being considered healthy (long ago) to unhealthy (within the last generation or two) to healthy again, even essential.

1) Coconut Oil

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Old wisdom: Coconut oil is a saturated-fat body bomb that should be avoided.

New wisdom: Coconut oil can cure what ails you.

Talk about an about-face. Anyone who grew up eating such nutritious fare as SpaghettiOs, Nestle Quik and Bisquick—actually, anyone old enough to vote in the United States—probably doesn’t remember a jar of coconut oil in the cupboard, or anywhere in the family diet.

Why? Coconut oil was stigmatized after flawed studies decades ago tested partially hydrogenated coconut oil for its ill effects. Now, of course, we know that the chemical process of hydrogenation is what does a body ill. That’s true whether the oil consumed is coconut, corn, canola, soy or any other.

It turns out that unrefined coconut oil offers terrific health benefits. Yes, it is a saturated fat. But the scientific consensus on whether saturated fats are bad for us is changing. Now researchers are stressing that saturated fats like coconut oil actually lower bad cholesterol in our bodies. Studies of people in countries that consume high amounts of coconut oil have found fewer instances of heart disease than in nations, such as the United States, where coconut oil has not been a staple. Coconut oil is rich in lauric acid, which is known for its antiviral, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial properties. Coconut oil, the new wisdom says, is good for our bodies inside and out. Studies and anecdotal evidence across the blogosphere tout coconut oil as a wondrous beauty aid, which can and should be used as a moisturizer to reduce lines and wrinkles, a moisturizer for dry hair, a soap and mouthwash.

2) Coffee

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Old Wisdom: Coffee equals caffeine equals bad for you.

New Wisdom: Coffee is loaded with antioxidants and other nutrients that improve your health. Plus, a little caffeine makes the world go round.

Why? Actually, most of the world never bought into the whole caffeine/coffee scare that made so many Americans start to swear off coffee, or heaven help us, switch to decaf. But these days, the U.S., chock full of Starbucks, has come around. Several prominent studies conducted over the last few years unearthed a bounty of benefits in the average cup of joe. As everyone knows, caffeine boosts energy. Based on controlled human trials, it has also been proven to fire up the neurons and make you sharper, with improved memory, reaction time, mood, vigilance and general cognitive function. It can also boost your metabolism, lower your risk of Type II diabetes, protect you from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, and lower the risk of Parkinson’s. Whew.

3) Whole Milk

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Old wisdom: High-fat milk lead to obesity. Exposing children to lower-fat options keeps them leaner and healthier and instills the low-fat habit.

New Wisdom: Ha!

A study at Harvard University found that despite recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics that children drink skim or low-fat milk after age two, doing so did not make for leaner or healthier children. In fact, the study found the opposite. Kids who consumed skim milk were likely to be fatter than those who drank it whole. Turns out that skim drinkers were more likely to indulge in junk food, which spiked their blood sugar levels, leading to more cravings for junk. And so on and so on.

4) Salt

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Old Wisdom: Salt kills. It raises blood pressures, causes hypertension and increases the risk of premature death.

New Wisdom: Salt is essential to health. Too little salt can actually lead to premature death.

The new wisdom is actually older than the old wisdom. Long before it became the number-one evildoer in the Department of Agriculture’s hit list, worse than fats, sugar and booze, salt was considered so valuable to body and soul that it was literally used as currency. Homer called it a “divine substance.” Plato described is as dear to the Gods. The Romans considered it the spice of life; a man in love was salax—in a salted state. Only fairly recently, in that oh-so-wise 20th century, did salt become the bad guy at the dinner table.

It turns out that high-sodium processed “food” is the real villain in our diets. Unrefined salt, such as Himalayan salt or raw sea salts, contain 60 or more valuable trace minerals. It supports thyroid function and a faster metabolism and speeds the elimination of cortisol, the stress hormone that causes weight gain. Did you know salt is also a natural antihistamine (a pinch on the tongue may stem an allergic reaction). Finally, unrefined salt is needed for good digestion.

5) Chocolate

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Old Wisdom: Chocolate gives you pimples, makes you fat and creates heartburn.

New Wisdom: Dark chocolate is loaded with antioxidants.

Chocoholics of the world rejoiced when the food scientists started doing an about-face on chocolate. After a few decades on the vilified list, in 2001, scientists began doing a double take, with the New York Times reporting that the science on chocolate was up in the air. Ten years later, chocolate had moved squarely into the good-for-you column. A 2011 Cambridge University study concluded that chocolate “probably” lowers stroke rates, coronary heart disease and high blood pressure. A more recent study has found that regular chocolate consumers are often thinner than non-chocolate eaters.

No one is advising you to grab a Snickers bar for lunch, though. Eating chemically laden, sugar-bombed milk chocolate is still a no-no…for now, anyway.

6) Popcorn

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Old Wisdom: Popcorn is junk food.

New Wisdom: Popcorn is a whole grain, loaded with nutrients.

Like most of the foods on this list, this one has caveats. If you consider popcorn something to douse with “butter-flavored topping” and shovel in your mouth at the multiplex, then keep it on the “bad” list. A study by the Center for Science in the Public Interest has concluded that movie theater popcorn—a medium tub, mind you—has 1,200 calories and 60 grams of the worst kind of saturated fat. And that’s before you add whatever it is that is supposed to taste like butter. That calorie count is the equivalent of three McDonald’s Quarter Pounders.

Microwave popcorn, laden with chemicals, is also bad. But homemade, air-popped (let’s add organic, for good measure) or made with good oil popcorn, well, that’s a snack of a different color. Last year, researchers at the University of Scranton revealed that homemade popcorn has more antioxidants—known as polyphenols—than fruits and vegetables. Polyphenols have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and cancers.

If that isn’t enough to make popcorn addicts rejoice, popcorn is a great source of fiber (it’s a whole grain) and is low in calories. Air-popped popcorn is the healthiest of all, with only 30 calories per cup.

7) Eggs

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Old Wisdom: Eggs clog your arteries and increase your risk of heart attack, stroke, diabetes and early death.

New Wisdom: Nonsense! Eggs are very nearly the perfect food.

How did this one happen? A century ago, when our grandparents gathered their eggs from the backyard hens, there was no controversy. Then cholesterol became the big bugaboo, and all of a sudden, we were being lectured to limit our consumption of eggs to four a week, if any.

Last year, scientists decided to settle the matter once and for all. A meta-analysis of 17 studies on egg consumption and health discovered that eggs did not contribute—at all—to heart disease or stroke in healthy individuals. On the contrary, eggs raise our good (HDL) cholesterol numbers and change the bad (LDL) cholesterol from small and dense to large and benign. Eggs are also high in iron and protein and two antioxidants, lutein and zeaxanthine, which protect against age-related eye disorders like macular degeneration and cataracts.

The key is to eat eggs from free-range, happy and healthy chickens, just like in the old days, and avoid eggs that come from sickly, antibiotic-soaked, factory farm hens.

Original Article

Today’s One Liners

My girlfriend said she wants a fairy-tale life. So I’ve trapped her in her gran’s bedroom with a wolf.

This Escher’s Stairlift seems to be taking forever.

The thing about Déjà vu jokes is that you have a strange feeling you’ve seen them before.

Apparently, porn sites will now show you which films people are watching all over the globe. What is the world coming to?

Gaza – Collective punishment or human shields?

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Collective punishment or human shields? Israel’s military has no “moral superiority,” time for media to cover Gaza fairly. The civilian death toll in Gaza is immoral and unacceptable — and it’s time to talk honestly about all of it by OMAR BADDAR FRIDAY, JUL 18, 2014 12:45 PM +0100

How commonly is the alleged moral superiority of the Israeli military invoked? So commonly that if you type “the most moral army in the world” into Google, you’ll immediately get a bunch of articles discussing the Israeli “Defense” Forces. Just last week, Slate’s William Saletan argued that while Hamas fires rockets at civilians, Israel takes “pains” in its “exemplary” efforts to avoid harming Palestinian civilians. The New York Times’ Steven Erlanger didn’t “argue” that Israel takes major precautions to avoid harming civilians, he seemed to be taking it as a given when he wrote Gazans were anxious about airstrikes “no matter how carefully Israel tries to target them.”

Despite the fact that the Palestinians are an occupied, besieged and oppressed population that lacks the capability to defend itself against systemic and daily Israeli violence, Hamas’s insistence that Israeli civilians are legitimate targets is morally indefensible, and should be condemned by all people of conscience. But according to what evidence is Israel’s conduct better? And how can it possibly be better when Israel has advanced surveillance capability and laser-guided weaponry, but has still managed to kill more than 150 Palestinian civilians (including 40+ children) in Gaza, compared to just one Israeli death in this latest round of violence? Instead of taking Israel at its word, let’s look at the take of credible observers.

Human Rights Watch, on Israel’s Conduct

After conducting an investigation, Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a report on Wednesday accusing Israel of carrying out “unlawful” strikes in Gaza, ones that “either did not attack a legitimate military target or attacked despite the likelihood of civilian casualties being disproportionate to the military gain.” It noted that “Such attacks committed deliberately or recklessly constitute war crimes.” HRW Middle East Director Sarah Leah Whitson also added that Israel’s actions raise “serious questions as to whether these attacks are intended to target civilians or wantonly destroy civilian property.”

The report also said that “Human Rights Watch has documented numerous serious violations of the laws of war by Israeli forces in the past decade, particularly indiscriminate attacks on civilians,” and criticized Israel’s preposterously inadequate efforts at “warning” civilians of impending strikes. Now, which part of all that fits with “exemplary” efforts at avoiding killing civilians? Still, some may buy into Israel’s allegation that Hamas’s use of human shields is what’s responsible for the high civilian death toll. Let’s look at the evidence.

Human Shields

While human rights organizations haven’t yet addressed “human shields” allegations in the ongoing round of Israel-Gaza violence, they did after the 2009 round when Israel killed at least 773 Palestinian civilians, compared to three Israeli civilian casualties (a ratio of 257:1), and used the same “human shields” argument to deflect responsibility for those deaths. When the dust settled, Amnesty International investigated the matter and concluded that there was “no evidence that [Palestinian] rockets were launched from residential houses or buildings while civilians were in these buildings.” More attention-worthy was the report’s note that,

in the cases of [Israeli] precision missiles or tank shells which killed [Palestinian] civilians in their homes, no fighters were present in the houses that were struck and Amnesty International delegates found no indication that there had been any armed confrontations or other military activity in the immediate vicinity at the time of the attack.

Israel’s Use of Human Shields

By contrast, the same report found that “in several cases Israeli soldiers also used [Palestinian] civilians, including children, as ‘human shields’.” Going back in time just a little further to put this into context is important: when the Israeli Supreme Court ruled in 2005 that the Israeli military had to stop using Palestinian civilians as human shields, the Israeli “defense” establishment objected to the ruling. The appeal against the ruling failed, and the practice remains technically illegal, but Israel implicitly encourages it to continue by offering an “inadequate … slap on the wrist,” as Human Rights Watch put it, to Israeli soldiers caught using this reprehensible tactic.

This reveals two important things: the first is the moral hypocrisy and chutzpah on display when Israel ignores its own use of human shields as it accuses its enemies of using them. The second is Israel’s self-contradicting logic: If Palestinian militants had such disregard for Palestinian civilian lives, why was the Israeli military so invested in maintaining the ability to use Palestinians as shields? The fact that the Israeli army wants to use Palestinian human shields actually proves that they believe Palestinian militants prefer not to endanger their own civilians.

When Intentions Are Clearer

There may be more discipline among Israeli leaders in how they talk about the war on Gaza this time, but that wasn’t the case in previous conflagrations. In the 2012 assault, Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai said the “goal of the operation is to send Gaza back to the Middle Ages.” Gilad Sharon, son of former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, said “we need to flatten entire neighborhoods in Gaza. Flatten all of Gaza.” And if you think that’s just rhetoric, consider that Amnesty International previously documented Israel had “flattened … busy neighborhoods” into “moonscapes.”

And it wasn’t just human rights organizations that were exposing Israeli war crimes in Gaza, but Israeli soldiers whose conscience could not bear to remain silent about the atrocities they had committed were also coming forward. And in the 2006 assault on Lebanon, one Israeli commander referred to the dropping of more than a million cluster bomblets over Lebanon like this: “What we did was insane and monstrous, we covered entire towns in cluster bombs.” Is this the most moral army?

Imbalance of Power Shapes the Conflict

While the 2009 Amnesty International report found no evidence that Hamas used human shields, it did acknowledge the obvious reality that Hamas does operate in (and fire rockets from) residential areas, adding “although this would be difficult to avoid in the small and overcrowded Gaza Strip.” Beyond the size and overcrowding of Gaza, Hamas also has no real army which could confront Israel on a traditional battlefield. As Yousef Munayyer recently argued on MSNBC, “Palestinians would certainly prefer to have precision-guided missiles and F-16s, and the kind of defense establishment that an independent, sovereign state would have to defend itself.” But in the absence of such capabilities, any fighting militia would be forced to use guerilla tactics that involve operating in inhabited areas.

As Andrew Sullivan put it,

Yes, they conceal armaments and rockets and weapons in civilian areas — and that undoubtedly increases civilian deaths. But what alternative do they have exactly, if they wish to have any military capacity at all? Should they build clearly demarcated camps and barracks and munitions stores, where the IDF could just destroy them at will?

Violence against civilians does not suddenly become more legitimate just because it is carried out by a state actor, and one that doesn’t fit our biases and preconceptions of who commits terrorism. And leading human rights organizations get that, which is why they call for ending military support not just for Hamas and other militant groups, but also for Israel.

Israel’s ground incursion in Gaza is now underway, and while it will almost certainly cause more casualties and destruction, it won’t contribute to resolving the conflict in the long term. Ultimately, this conflict will only be solved when the side holding virtually all the power, the one imposing displacement, occupation, and apartheid on the other side, is pressured in a meaningful way to allow Palestinians to exercise self-determination. Heeding the calls for a suspension of military aid to Israel would be the beginning of such meaningful pressure, and through it we could hopefully see a process that puts us closer to the ending the needless killing of innocent Israelis and Palestinians.

Original Article