Monday, September 14, 2009

Advice for schoolchildren

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My take on the teabaggers: Very white, older and very, very angry

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Today, as we all know, was Teabagger day in D.C. This morning, my running partner, Courtney and I did our long run along the Mall so we could check out the scene. We were among them.

Early on, the organizers had predicted millions would attend. Not even close. I was at the inauguration and saw what millions looked like. This was very far from it. Very far. The Washington Post reported there were "tens of thousands." Teabaggers have been tweeting a fake picture (of a sunny day and today wasn't sunny) apparently to claim they had a bigger crowd. Mike Stark has a video showing the size of the crowd, which really didn't extend too far down the Mall. In fact, the National Black Family Reunion took up most of the mall today. Yes, that event was taking place at the same time the teabaggers were protesting. (At 14 seconds into Mike Stark's video, you can see the white tents for the family reunion on the other side of a big patch of empty lawn.) Quite a juxtaposition.

I've been rooting around to find photo galleries of the protesters. Josh Nelson captured the essence of the event here. And, I did see that "Obamacare" hearse. Huffington Posthas an array of photos, as does Think Progress. My overall take: The teabaggers were a very white, very angry and older crowd. There were a smattering of confederate flags around. The only thing missing was the white robes and hoods. Let's just say, if one of them had a concession stand selling white robes and hoods, they'd have made a bundle.

I'd like to make a friendly suggestion to the teabaggers: Get a hobby, do some volunteer work, or better yet work out and get some exercise.

http://www.americablog.com/2009/09/my-take-on-teabaggers-very-white-older.html

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DC Tea Party Photos: Racism and Ignorance

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Warning:  If you are allergic to extreme ignorance, do not scroll down.

As an atheist, I can only assume that if there were a God she would not bless a racist thug like Glenn Beck.

I don't know about you, but I always try to get as much of my political advice as possible from people who can't spell 'politicians' or 'diapers'.  Brilliant!

I'm still trying to figure out how making insurance more affordable to tens of millions of Americans is supposed to kill people.  I must have missed that part.  $100 says most of these people like the death penalty and supported the Iraq war until the day Obama was elected.

This lady is on double duty!  By "cap" Congress I assume she is using the popular slang for "cap" which urban dictionary defines as "to shoot someone with a handgun turned to the side."  So gangster!  By trading Obama back to Kenya, the implication is that he lived he lived there at one point.  This is, of course, false.  Threatening Congress and showing your ignorance... way to go, lady!

Speaking of Kenya, some folks in the crowd thought President Obama would be better off running for President there, since um, you know, he was born there or something.  I got into a bit of a back and forth with a younger gentleman who was standing with this guy.  After about 30 seconds he asked:  "Why do you love to suck Obama's cock so much?"  I don't think my answer pleased him very much.  His eyes flashed with anger as he shouted "Get the fuck out of here."  I took his advice.

http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2009/9/12/781096/-DC-Tea-Party-Photos:Racism-and-Ignorance-

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Palin Pastor's Re-education Scheme "May Seem Like Totalitarianism"

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Pol Pot With a Fish Emblem on His Car?
 

While Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has recently raised the specter of totalitarian government by warning about "death panels" she claims are part of the Obama Administration's health care plan, Palin herself has ties to a prominent Christian pastor who publicly advocates the establishment of a government regime that, in his own words, "may seem like totalitarianism" and would re-educate citizens in 'correct' decision making - an approach reminiscent of re-education campaigns during the violence-wracked Chinese communist Cultural Revolution or in Cambodia under Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge.

Last March, Sarah Palin enjoyed an extended telephone consultation and pep talk with Morningstar Ministries Founder and head Rick Joyner, who has contacts among Republicans in Congress and whose ministry is closely tied to Palin's most important Alaska church, the Wasilla Assembly of God.


Even some of Sarah Palin's most dedicated fans might be taken aback by Joyner's enthusiastic advocacy for an authoritarian religious state. In a "prophecy" published June 19, 2007, Rick Joyner wrote, "The kingdom of God will not be socialism, but a freedom even greater than anyone on earth knows at this time. At first it may seem like totalitarianism.... Instead of taking away liberties and becoming more domineering, the kingdom will move from a point of necessary control while people are learning truth, integrity, honor, and how to make decisions, to increasing liberty so that they can."

Joyner's dream is reminiscent of the visions of 20th Century communist revolutionary leaders who expected that centralized authoritarian government would initially be necessary but anticipated a period of greater freedom after capitalism was successfully vanquished.

In a video segment released March 25, 2009, Rick Joyner described an extended phone chat with Palin during which he discussed meeting with members of Congress such as Michelle Bachmann, complained that media overage of the 2008 GOP vice presidential candidate Palin had been unfair, and declared "I believe there is a spiritual authority and a calling on Governor Palin that is extraordinary.... I believe she has a national calling on her life. I felt that when I first saw her on the television.... I felt, right away, 'I am listening to the President of the United States."

http://www.talk2action.org/story/2009/9/9/15652/45618

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Bill Maher Challenges Obama: "Stand Up For The 70 Percent Of Americans Who Aren't Crazy"

Maher

Maher called the White House "cowards" for allowing Van Jones to resign following a series of right-wing attacks and for capitulating to those who complained about the nature of Obama's back-to-school speech.

"The Democrats just never learn. Americans don't really care which side of an issue you're on as long as you don't act like pussies," Maher said.

Maher then criticized Obama for trying to win over those who vehemently disagree with him, insisting that the president should instead "stand up for the 70 percent of Americans who aren't crazy."

"When are we going to actually show up in all this," Maher said.

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5 Facts About Woodstock The Hippies Don't Want You to Know

 
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Forty years ago, half a million people gathered for three days of peace, love and letting their private parts flap all over the hashish-covered mud at a place called Woodstock.

This event exists as mythology for most of our readers, who only know it from a series of photographs and wistful documentaries. So let's take a moment to set a few things straight...

#5.
Woodstock Was Conceived as a Hippie-Exploiting Cash Grab

If there's one thing hippies hate, it's war. If there are two things hippies hate, they are war and doing things for profit. If we move the discussion up to three things, they would be war, money and 1980s Latin sensations Menudo, but we don't have time to get into that.


If only there was time.

Knowing that money and the pursuit of it is flower child kryptonite, you may be shocked to learn that the concert that defined the 60s owed its origins to some squares looking to make a buck. And not a buck for Tibet, either. In March of 1968, drugstore heir, John Roberts, and Yale Law grad, Joel Rosenman, placed the following ad in the non-hippiest publications of all time: the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times:

Young men with unlimited capital looking for interesting, legitimate investment opportunities and business propositions.

Since this was before the internet was invented, nobody read the ad with a heavy emphasis on the words "men," "interesting" and "propositions" saving the men from the sort of gay escort service spam that will likely flood the comment section of this article. Instead, Roberts and Rosenman were contacted by Capitol Records exec, Artie Kornfeld, and hippie concert promoter, Michael Lang, with the idea of a starting a music studio in Woodstock, New York. When that idea didn't pan out, the suits struck gold with the notion of a three day art and music festival. Pre-sold tickets would go for $18 (that's $105 in today's money, folks) and latecomers would have to shell out $24 at the gate.


Actual photo of the first planning session.

Despite how that plan eventually worked out (hint: it didn't) the original goal was to make a gigantic buttload of cash off of young, middle-class music lovers. Forming the company Woodstock Ventures, the four got to work at putting together a line-up that would draw enough human cattle to make the men a tidy profit.

They thought they could get 250,000 hippies to show up. At the equivalent of a hundred bucks a ticket, it made for an interesting business opportunity that even a non-man-pimp had to waggle his eyebrows at.

#4.
The Promoters Lied to Make it Happen

Once the three squares and a little hippie agreed that a three day music fest was the way to get paid, the hunt was on to find a suitable locale. But there was a problem: No one wanted thousands of unwashed, doped up counter-culture ruffians on their property.


Gross.

So the fat cats started making promises. Wacky promises, like that "there would only be 50,000 concert goers" and "they totally knew what they were doing."

In the spring of 1969, Woodstock Ventures leased Mills Industrial Park in Wallkill, New York as the proposed site for the festival. Upon realizing that a place named "Wallkill" was better suited for a three day death metal concert, the people of the town up and passed a "no hippie concerts here" law exactly one month before the festival was supposed to take place.

The official reason for the ban was that town officials had a stinking suspicion that Lang and company hadn't planned their porta-potties properly for the prospective 50,000 people. Undaunted, the fab four kept looking. They were approached by Elliott Tiber from Bethel, New York with the offer of using his 15 acres for the concert. "Too small," they said. So Mr.Tiber put them in touch with one Max Yasgur, a dairy farmer with 600 acres in Bethel. Yasgur agreed to meet with the promoters with the understanding he would be leasing his land for $75,000, once more, for an audience of about 50,000.

That 50,000 number is important. For one, over 150,000 tickets had sold by this point. For two, the promoters had run radio and newspaper ads across the country inviting people to their little hootenanny. They actually expected 250,000 to show up. For three, 250,000 times two came.

#3.
Woodstock's Performers Were ALL About the Benjamins

But just because it was a bunch of money-grubbing promoters behind the scenes, doesn't change the fact that it was all about changing the world with music, man! After all, guys like the Grateful Dead and Hendrix weren't up there to get paid! Well, now that you mention it...

Several acts, THE WHOse names we won't mention (until a few paragraphs down) refused to take the stage without seeing a flatbed full of cash first.

Woodstock promoters had scrambled to sign big acts through the spring of 1969. Without big names in the line-up, other big names wouldn't bother signing on. They were in a musical pickle, which could also be called a melodious catch-22. Or maybe a harmonic bind. We could do this all day.


This is also a musical pickle.

Their first big break came when Creedence Clearwater Revival signed on for a whopping $10,000 or $11,500, depending on who you ask, in April of 1969. With a total talent budget of $180,000, Michael Lang set a cap of $15,000 for each performer, big or small. This was fine for the likes of Richie Havens, Joan Baez and Janis Freakin' Joplin. Not for Jimi Hendrix, though.

Hendrix wasn't going for that lowball malarkey after scoring $150,000 for a single concert earlier in the summer. Lang ultimately signed Jimi with the promise of a $26,000 payday, twice what any other act was getting. But when the other money-grubbers (Jefferson Airplane) complained, Lang explained that Jimi was actually doing two sets during the festival (SPOILER ALERT: He wasn't. Hendrix's contract stipulated that he closed every show he performed at. Ever.).

And all those lyrics about peace, love and free nachos for all? BALDERDASH. The three biggest acts of the second night (Janis Joplin, The Grateful Dead and The Who) informed Lang and co. at the 11th hour that performing wasn't in the cards until bitches got paid. The Grateful Dead. Seriously. These Pigpen looking, peace spouting, commune dwelling, anti-capitalists wouldn't touch their instruments until cash was in hand:


Mo' Money, mo' problems.

And remember, there were 500,000 hungry, sweaty, dehydrated, mud-caked would-be rioters in the audience. Not keeping the music going could have induced a Lord of the Flies breakdown in civilization out there. So Woodstock Ventures emptied their pockets and discovered their pooled resources amounted to $1.25, three LSD tabs, an orange rind and Grace Slick's fake phone number.

The panicky promoters begged a local banker to put up the money, based on the fact that Richie Rich Roberts had a $1,000,000 trust fund he could use as collateral. Mr. Banker said, "Cool," and proceeded to get in his car and drive to the bank, which would have been hella easy since this is what the roads looked like up to 10 miles away from the concert:

Yet somehow, he did. Mr. Banker made it to the bank, counted cash on hand, kindly accepted Robert's personal check for "50 or 100 thousand dollars." Only that kept the "three days of peace, love and music" from grinding to a silent halt as the bands went on strike, mid-concert.

 
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Crowds camp overnight in Brighton for free dental care

By Lynn Bartels
Rows of patients undergoing dental treatment thanks to the Colorado Mission of Mercy free dental clinic at the Adams County Fairgrounds on Sept. 11, 2009. (THE DENVER POST | JOHN SUNDERLAND)
BRIGHTON — The doors to a free dental clinic in Brighton opened at 5:00 this morning to a throng of anxious people.

The first person in line was Robin Kelley, 59, of Westminster, who got in line at 5 p.m.

"We only have one car," she explained, "and my husband works at night, so he dropped me off."

Like others in line, she had a blanket and camped out on the sidewalk. "The company was warm and great," she said.

At 6:15 organizers ended the line at 808 people, because they felt that was the number of patients that could be seen today. Those who arrived later were turned away, and told that the clinic would also be open Saturday.

John Smits, 47, of Adams County, showed up after the tickets had already been handed out but just as someone standing in line discovered he had two tickets stuck together.

When a volunteer handed Smits the extra ticket, he broke down and sobbed.

"You don't know what I've been through to get here," he said, explaining he got a speeding ticket on the way to the clinic.

"I'm not working and I haven't had dental care for a long time so I'm really excited about this," he said.

Dentist Bob Morrow of Walsh, who helped evaluate patients, said he saw "lots of decay and pain."

http://www.denverpost.com/ci_13315353

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Meet the parasites

Parasite

Ron Williams - Aetna

Total Compensation: $24,300,112

Details: Williams earned $24,300,112 in total compensation for 2008, with more than half of that ($13,537,365) coming from option awards. He also received an additional $6,456,630 in stock awards to go along with his base salary of $1,091,764.

Personal use of a corporate aircraft and vehicle, as well as financial planning and 401(k) company matches added up to $101,487 for Williams.

Parasite

H. Edward Hanway - CIGNA

Total Compensation: $12,236,740

Details: Hanway took a significant pay cut from 2007 to 2008, due mainly to a drop off of more than $11 million in his non-equity incentive plan compensation. Still, his base salary of $1,142,885 surpasses that of Aetna's Williams, and is supplemented by just over $3.6 million in option awards, and just over $820,000 in non-qualified deferred compensation earnings.

Also, nearly $21,800 in "other compensation" included the use of a company car with a driver, in-office meals, and emergency assistance services relating to medical exams.

Parasite

Angela Braly - WellPoint

Total Compensation: $9,844,212

Details: Braly, like Williams, earned more money in 2008 ($9,844,212) than in 2007 (9,094,271), increasing her option rewards by nearly $1.5 million, and also receiving a $200,000-plus bump in base salary, from $922,269 to $1,135,538. Braly's stock awards dropped from $2,160,159 to $1,750,015 because, according to the SEC, "performance-based restricted stock units awarded in 2008 were cancelled because our ROE target for 2008 was not met."

Braly's "other compensation" comprised use of a private jet for her and her family on business trips, just under $10,000 for legal services relating to her employment agreement and cash credits.

Parasite

Dale Wolf - Coventry Health Care

Total Compensation: $9,047,469

Details: Wolf is the only CEO on this list who is no longer employed with his associated health plan; he retired from his position on Jan. 30 of this year after serving in that role since Jan. 1, 2005, and was replaced by former CEO Allen Wise.

Wolf, whose total compensation dipped quite a bit from 2007 ($14,869,823) to 2008 ($9,047,469), was pleased with the direction the company was headed in at the time of his departure.

"I am proud of what a talented group of people have accomplished over the past 13 years of my association with the company," Wolf said, "and I am confident that the fundamentals which are in place today will carry the company forward to continued success."

Wolf carried a base salary of $965,000 in 2008, and earned just over $1.9 million in stock awards. His "other compensation," which amounted to $486,447, included transportation on the company's airplane, a company match retirement savings plan and a company match 401(k) plan.

Parasite

Michael Neidorff - Centene

Total Compensation: $8,774,483

Details: Neidorff, who's base salary remained at $1 million, received increases in both his bonus ($1.25 million, up from $1 million) and his stock awards ($4.7 million, from $3.98 million) in 2008. According to the SEC, "Neidorff's agreement was amended twice in the past twelve months; (1) to eliminate the non-compete and non-solicitation requirements if there was a 'hostile change in control' as defined in his agreement and (2) to add language to the agreement to make it compliant with Internal Revenue Section 409A."

Neidorff's "other compensation" of just over $418,000 comprised of use of the company airplane "for all travel," life insurance benefits, security services, and tax preparation services, among other things.

Parasite

James Carlson - AMERIGROUP

Total Compensation: $5,292,546

Details: Despite a lawsuit regarding Medicaid fraud that cost the Illinois plan $225 million, Carlson himself earned roughly $2 million more than he did in 2007. All aspects of his compensation increased in 2008, from his base salary (up from $608,000 to just over $761,000) to his non-equity incentive plan compensation (up to about $2.8 million from $1.98 million a year ago). Carlson's bonus also grew quite a bit, going from $225,000 in 2007 to $520,312 in 2008; much of that amount was based on long term incentive program goals being met.

Carlson's "other compensation," which nearly tripled (going from about $7,000 to just over $20,000), included his employer 401(k) contribution, life insurance premiums, an executive health screening, flight services and a medical insurance stipend.

Parasite

Michael McCallister - Humana

Total Compensation: $4,764,309

Details: Despite its pick ups of two smaller health plans (OSF Health Plans of Peoria, IL and Cos/Cariten Healthcare of Knoxville, TN), Humana's McCallister earned roughly $5.5 million less in 2008 than in 2007. While his base salary ($1,017,308), option awards ($3,078,897) and "other compensation" ($668,104) all increased, his non-equity incentive plan compensation and his nonqualified deferred compensation earnings totaled zero dollars. The latter represents a discontinuation of the Officers' Target Retirement Plan, according to the SEC.

McCallister's "other compensation" included personal use of the company aircraft for him, and sometimes his family; company contributions to the Supplemental Executive Retirement & Savings Plan and the Humana Retirement & Savings Plan; a once-a-year physical, financial planning assistance, and more.

Parasite

Jay Gellert - Health Net

Total Compensation: $4,425,355

Details: Gellert, whose company is considering selling off divisions in at least four states, earned nearly $740,000 in additional compensation for 2008. His overall base salary increased to a little more than $1.2 million from about $1.18 million in 2007, and his stock awards also rose (from about $1.4 million to more than $1.8 million).

Gellert's "other compensation," which totaled $131,526, included, but were not limited to, a $53,000 housing allowance, a corporate car and tax reimbursements of nearly $41,000.

Parasite

Richard Barasch - Universal American

Total Compensation: $3,503,702

Details: After taking a pay cut from 2006 to 2007, Barasch more than doubled his total compensation for 2008, jumping up from $1,564,293 in 2007. Barasch's base salary jumped up to $857,851 from $798,340 in 2007; his stock and option awards also increased, as did his "other compensation," which reflected a car allowance, relocation benefits and a matching contribution to his 401(k).

Also of note for Barasch was the fact that his non-equity incentive plan compensation earnings totaled $1,195,147; in 2007, he did not receive any money in 2007 for such compensation, but took home $1.1 million in 2006.

Many more at http://www.dailykos.com/story/2009/5/26/735411/-Health-insurance-industry-CEO-salary-survey,-stay-calm-for-this

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Little Jeffy before and after

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Closing The Book On The Bush Legacy

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Politics with Marc Ambinder

Thursday's annual Census Bureau report on income, poverty and access to health care-the Bureau's principal report card on the well-being of average Americans-closes the books on the economic record of George W. Bush. 

It's not a record many Republicans are likely to point to with pride.

On every major measurement, the Census Bureau report shows that the country lost ground during Bush's two terms. While Bush was in office, the median household income declined, poverty increased, childhood poverty increased even more, and the number of Americans without health insurance spiked. By contrast, the country's condition improved on each of those measures during Bill Clinton's two terms, often substantially.

The Census' final report card on Bush's record presents an intriguing backdrop to today's economic debate. Bush built his economic strategy around tax cuts, passing large reductions both in 2001 and 2003. Congressional Republicans are insisting that a similar agenda focused on tax cuts offers better prospects of reviving the economy than President Obama's combination of some tax cuts with heavy government spending. But the bleak economic results from Bush's two terms, tarnish, to put it mildly, the idea that tax cuts represent an economic silver bullet.

Economists would cite many reasons why presidential terms are an imperfect frame for tracking economic trends. The business cycle doesn't always follow the electoral cycle. A president's economic record is heavily influenced by factors out of his control. Timing matters and so does good fortune.

But few would argue that national economic policy is irrelevant to economic outcomes. And rightly or wrongly, voters still judge presidents and their parties largely by the economy's performance during their watch. In that assessment, few measures do more than the Census data to answer the threshold question of whether a president left the day to day economic conditions of average Americans better than he found it.
 
If that's the test, today's report shows that Bush flunked on every relevant dimension-and not just because of the severe downturn that began last year.
 
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Socialist is the New Black

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WHAT do you get when you combine the worst economic downturn since the Depression with the first black president? A surge of white racial resentment, loosely disguised as a populist revolt. 
An article on the Fox News Web site has put forth the theory that health reform is a stealth version of reparations for slavery: whites will foot the bill and, by some undisclosed mechanism, blacks will get all the care. President Obama, in such fantasies, is a dictator and, in one image circulated among the anti-tax, anti-health reform "tea parties," he is depicted as a befeathered African witch doctor with little tusks coming out of his nostrils. 
When you're going down, as the white middle class has been doing for several years now, it's all too easy to imagine that it's because someone else is climbing up over your back.

via Barbara Ehrenreich's editorial at  www.nytimes.com

I'm sure you know that I would read Barbara Ehrenreich's grocery lists, I'm such a devotee of hers. But this is a particularly trenchant piece, that would never have been printed in the New York Times except that they are impressed with her celebrity.

But BE's fame isn't the point... it's what she has to say. I feel like we're living in some kind of Civil War reenactment. This country is determined to cling to its violent slave/master mentality no matter if it rockets us right back to the Stone Age.

What's so odd about Obama is the "window dressing." The VOTE that put him in office was progressive, truly thrilling. That's the grass roots spirit that's missing now. 

"His party" turned their back on the dispossessed— the people who MAKE things instead of BREAK things— they embraced Wall Street and adopted the spirit of noblesse oblige. That's the "health reform" we're getting... "I wonder how the poor people are doing today? Would they like a stick of gum?" 

It's a slap in the face to everything his street supporters fought for. I didn't want a king, I wanted a democracy.

I will always defend Obama against the racists, as I did for Hillary against the misogynists, and so on. But it's a distraction, and a painful one at that. 

These leaders are not my allies, economically, intellectually, or morally— they're gilded spokesmodels for a corporate elite that dangles them like a cat toy over the public square. The little aristocrats. I just don't know how much more sucker bait I can stomach.

http://susiebright.blogs.com/susie_brights_journal_/2009/09/socialist-is-the-new-black.html

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Elimination of food waste could lift 1bn out of hunger, say campaigners

Excessive consumption in rich countries 'takes food out of mouths of poor' by inflating food prices on global market

by Adam Vaughan

Food waste: Surplus tomatoes are dumped on farmland in Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain
Surplus tomatoes are dumped on farmland in Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain.

Eliminating the millions of tonnes of food thrown away annually in the US and UK could lift more than a billion people out of hunger worldwide, experts claim.

Government officials, food experts and representatives of the retail trade brought together by the Food Ethics Council argue that excessive consumption of food in rich countries inflates food prices in the developing world. Buying food, which is then often wasted, reduces overall supply and pushes up the price of food, making grain less affordable for poor and undernourished people in other parts of the world. Food waste also costs UK consumers £10.2bn a year and when production, transportation and storage are factored in, it is responsible for 5% of the UK's greenhouse gas emissions.

Tristram Stuart, author of a new book on food waste and a contributor to a special food waste issue of the Food Ethics Council's magazine, said: "There are nearly a billion malnourished people in the world, but all of them could be lifted out of hunger with less than a quarter of the food wasted in Europe and North America. In a globalised food system, where we are all buying food in the same international market place, that means we're taking food out of the mouths of the poor."

Stuart calculated that the hunger of 1.5bn people could be alleviated by eradicating the food wasted by British consumers and American retailers, food services and householders, including the arable crops such as wheat, maize and soy to produce the wasted meat and dairy products. He added that the production of wasted food also squanders resources, and said that the irrigation water used by farmers to grow wasted food would be enough for the equivalent domestic water needs of 9bn people.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/sep/08/food-waste

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Dismissed marijuana charge raises judge’s ire

US attorney gave blogger a reprieve

A self-described libertarian conservative, Andrew Sullivan has denounced restrictions on medical marijuana.
 
By Jonathan Saltzman
 
A self-described libertarian conservative, Andrew Sullivan has denounced restrictions on medical marijuana.Andrew M. Sullivan, the British author, editor, and political commentator, is one of the best-known figures in the new-media elite, and his blog, The Daily Dish, is among the most popular on the Web. But a federal judge says Sullivan did not deserve preferential treatment from prosecutors who dropped a marijuana possession charge after the journalist was recently caught smoking a joint on a federally owned beach on Cape Cod.

In a strongly worded memorandum issued Thursday, US Magistrate Judge Robert B. Collings said the decision by Acting US Attorney Michael K. Loucks to dismiss a federal misdemeanor possession charge against Sullivan flouted a "cardinal principle of our legal system'' - that all persons stand equal before the law.

Three other defendants charged with the same offense had to appear before Collings the same day as Sullivan, the judge noted. But Sullivan's case was the only one prosecutors did not pursue, out of concern that the $125 fine carried by the relatively minor offense could derail his US immigration application.

"It is quite apparent that Mr. Sullivan is being treated differently from others who have been charged with the same crime in similar circumstances,'' Collings wrote in the 11-page memorandum, adding that prosecutors' rationale for the dismissal was inadequate.

Collings added with obvious irritation that he had no power to order prosecutors to pursue the case, and granted their motion to dismiss it. The fact that he did, however, "does not require the Court to believe that the end result is a just one,'' he wrote.

The memorandum was first reported Thursday on a Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly news blog.

Brandy Donini-Melanson, a spokeswoman for the US attorney's office, said yesterday that Loucks had no comment on the matter.

Sullivan, 46, declined to comment in an e-mail. A self-described libertarian conservative, Sullivan is well known for his idiosyncratic views. Catholic and openly gay, he is a strong proponent of same-sex marriage and has denounced restrictions on medical marijuana in his Daily Dish blog on The Atlantic Online.

His lawyer, Robert M. Delahunt Jr. of Boston, also would not comment.

Collings's ruling stems from an otherwise unremarkable event on the Cape Cod National Seashore on July 13.

Sullivan, who lives in Washington but owns a home in Provincetown, was stopped by a park ranger for smoking marijuana on the beach shortly before 3:45 p.m. When the ranger asked Sullivan if he had any other joints, the writer fished one out of his wallet and said, "I thought small amounts of marijuana were legal to have in Massachusetts,'' according to court records.

Massachusetts voters approved a referendum in November that decriminalized small amounts of marijuana, but the change does not apply to federal property.

http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2009/09/12/dismissed_marijuana_charge_raises_judges_ire/

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Charles Darwin film 'too controversial for religious America'

A British film about Charles Darwin has failed to find a US distributor because his theory of evolution is too controversial for American audiences, according to its producer.

Creation: Charles Darwin film too controversial for US
Paul Bettany plays Charles Darwin in Creation Photo: ALLSTAR

Creation, starring Paul Bettany, details Darwin's "struggle between faith and reason" as he wrote On The Origin of Species. It depicts him as a man who loses faith in God following the death of his beloved 10-year-old daughter, Annie.

The film was chosen to open the Toronto Film Festival and has its British premiere on Sunday. It has been sold in almost every territory around the world, from Australia to Scandinavia.

Movieguide.org, an influential site which reviews films from a Christian perspective, described Darwin as the father of eugenics and denounced him as "a racist, a bigot and an 1800s naturalist whose legacy is mass murder". His "half-baked theory" directly influenced Adolf Hitler and led to "atrocities, crimes against humanity, cloning and genetic engineering", the site stated.

The film has sparked fierce debate on US Christian websites, with a typical comment dismissing evolution as "a silly theory with a serious lack of evidence to support it despite over a century of trying".

Jeremy Thomas, the Oscar-winning producer of Creation, said he was astonished that such attitudes exist 150 years after On The Origin of Species was published.

"That's what we're up against. In 2009. It's amazing," he said.

"The film has no distributor in America. It has got a deal everywhere else in the world but in the US, and it's because of what the film is about. People have been saying this is the best film they've seen all year, yet nobody in the US has picked it up.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/6173399/Charles-Darwin-film-too-controversial-for-religious-America.html

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