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Friday, January 2, 2015

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Today in History

1492   Forces under King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella take the town of Granada, the last Moorish kingdom in Spain.  
1758   The French begin bombardment of Madras, India.  
1839   Photography pioneer Louis Daguerre takes the first photograph of the moon.  
1861   The USS Brooklyn is readied at Norfolk to aid Fort Sumter.  
1863   In the second day of hard fighting at Stone's River, near Murfreesboro, Tenn., Union troops defeat the Confederates.  
1903   President Theodore Roosevelt closes a post office in Indianola, Mississippi, for refusing to hire a Black postmistress.  
1904   U.S. Marines are sent to Santo Domingo to aid the government against rebel forces.
1905   After a six-month siege, Russians surrender Port Arthur to the Japanese.  
1918   Russian Bolsheviks threaten to re-enter the war unless Germany returns occupied territory.
1932   Japanese forces in Manchuria set up a puppet government known as Manchukuo.  
1936   In Berlin, Nazi officials claim that their treatment of Jews is not the business of the League of Nations.   
1942   In the Philippines, the city of Manila and the U.S. Naval base at Cavite fall to Japanese forces.  
1943   The Allies capture Buna in New Guinea.  
1963   In Vietnam, the Viet Cong down five U.S. helicopters in the Mekong Delta. 30 Americans are reported dead.  
1966   American G.I.s move into the Mekong Delta for the first time.  
1973   The United States admits the accidental bombing of a Hanoi hospital.
1980   President Jimmy Carter asks the U.S. Senate to delay the arms treaty ratification in response to Soviet action in Afghanistan.  
1981   British police arrest the "Yorkshire Ripper" serial killer, Peter Sutcliffe.  
1999   A severe winter storm hits the Midwestern US; in Chicago temperatures plunge to -13 ºF and19 inches of snow fell; 68 deaths are blamed on the storm.  
2006   A coal mine explosion in Sago, West Virginia, kills 12 miners and critically injures another. This accident and another within weeks lead to the first changes in federal mining laws in decades.

The Year of Intolerant Liberalism?

Eh, Not so Much
A religio-wingnut list of 33 Examples of Intolerant Liberalism in 2014 turns out (surprise!) to be examples of wingnut intolerance…
phil-robertson-closeup-ae
Is anyone here familiar with the idea that “2014 may be remembered as the year of intolerant liberalism, also dubbed the new intolerance, dogmatic liberalism and illiberal liberalism”?
No, I didn’t think so. I wasn’t either.
But that’s what Napp Nazworth at The rag 'christian post' tells us in his 33 Examples of Intolerant Liberalism in 2014, which I like to call the “We have Rights and You Don’t” list, for reasons I shall demonstrate below.
Nazworth lists them for us “in no particular order” he says, so I will just follow down and make a few comments as I go.
1. Duck Dynasty. I love this one. Who knew that Duck Dynasty, a prime example of religio-wingnut intolerance casting everybody who is NOT a certain type of christian as the Other, was a victim of intolerance? Yes, Nazworth is right: Phil Robertson got suspended from Duck Dynasty, but this is only because he was spewing anti-gay intolerance (Nazworth characterizes these as “controversial remarks”).
As events proved, A&E was right to suspend him and wrong to let him go back to work, because though this was framed by the religiowingnuts as an attack on free speech, what it really ended up being was Phil Robertson using his 15 minutes of imfamy to attack gays, and in the process saying the bible says a bunch of stuff it doesn’t say.
And then Phil Robertson told the repugican leadership coven that,
“You lose your religion, you lose your morality, you lose your freedom. You cannot be right for America if you are not right with dog.”
That’s right: if you’re not a christian like him, you’re not really an American. How is that not intolerance? And if that is not, how about when he said that muslims must convert or die? On top of it all, he wants to marry underage girls.
Such noted agents of intolerance as Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, and Faux News supported Phil Robertson, but millions of people – half of his audience – voted with their remote controls and stopped watching. If Phil Robertson was, as is pointed out, exercising his First Amendment rights to free speech, so too were these people.
What you have to wonder – you know, from a sane perspective – is why is it intolerance for people to condemn Phil Robertson’s hate speech, but not intolerance to condemn those people who condemned it? Why is it not intolerance to condemn the Dixie Chicks but not intolerance to condemn Phil Robertson? Hypocrisy much?
The Phil Robertson imbroglio is certainly the most obvious example of the moral relativism of the religio-wingnuts in recent memory.
2-9 are all examples of how righteous people are being persecuted for hating gays like the bible says, you know, that whole “religious freedom” shtick bigots use where they have the freedom and you don’t?
I’ll just list them here for you:
2. HHS Continues to Force Americans to Support Products for Which They Have Ethical Objections
3. New Mexico Photographer Forced Out of Business for Declining to Photograph Same-Sex Wedding
4. Colorado Baker Forced to Make Gay Wedding Cake
5. NY Family Fined for Refusing to Host Same-Sex Wedding on Their Farm, Ordered to Undergo “Re-Education Classes”
6. Washington Florist Required to Serve Same-Sex Wedding
7. T-Shirt Printer Ordered to Take “Diversity Training” for Refusing to Make Gay Pride Shirts
8. Gay Couple Sued Pennsylvania Wedding Venue for Refusing to Marry Them
9. Idaho Wedding Chapel Faces Fines for Refusing Gay Weddings
Number 10 is truly laughable, as Nazworth claims the Religious Freedom Restoration Act is not itself an example of religious-based intolerance:
10. State Laws to Protect Religious Freedom Under Attack. The RFRA was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1997 because, basically, it gave special rights to christians. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote,
RFRA’s most serious shortcoming, however, lies in the fact that it is so out of proportion to a supposed remedial or preventive object that it cannot be understood as responsive to, or designed to prevent, unconstitutional behavior. It appears, instead, to attempt a substantive change in constitutional protections, proscribing state conduct that the Fourteenth Amendment itself does not prohibit.
And this last part makes a mockery of Nazwroth’s heading:
All told, RFRA is a considerable congressional intrusion into the States’ traditional prerogatives and general authority to regulate for the health and welfare of their citizens, and is not designed to identify and counteract state laws likely to be unconstitutional because of their treatment of religion.”
Yes, the RFRA itself attacked state laws protecting religious freedom.
But if Nazworth did not completely ignore the facts, he wouldn’t have a list, as his next gem demonstrates:
hobby-lobby-story
11. Gay Activist Groups Withdraw Support for ENDA Because It Protects Religious Freedom. According to Nazworth, gay groups withdrew support for ENDA (The Employment Non-Discrimination Act) when “U.S. Supreme Court supported religious freedom protections for Hobby Lobby.” But Hobby Lobby is not a person. Hobby Lobby HAS NO “religious freedom protections.” What the Supreme Court did, in violation of the Constitution’s First Amendment, is to declare corporate theocracy. So-called christian wingnuts love the Hobby Lobby Ruling because now they can be openly intolerant not only of women, but of gays, violating the Constitution all in the name of religion. The argument here seems to be that “gay groups” have an obligation to go along with persecution so that corporations can have a right to persecute them without feeling like victims of intolerance. I have no words, sorry.
12. Gordon College Under Attack After Its President Signs Letter Asking for Religious Freedom Protections in Obama’s Executive Order. Apparently, saying your religion trumps other people’s religion, or even their healthcare, is not a form of intolerance, according to Nazworth.
13. Brendan Eich Forced Out at Mozilla for Supporting Traditional Marriage. Apparently saying you can get married but other people can’t because you disapprove, is not a form of intolerance according to Nazworth.
14. Harvard Student Called for End to Tenure to Expel wingnut Professors. With the long list of examples of conservatives condemning universities as the devil’s playgrounds, I am surprised Nazworth would even bring this up. But my real question is, why is this Harvard Student guilty of intolerance if Phil Robertson is not? Is it not still simply an exercise of First Amendments rights of free speech? Or does that only protect Religious Right bigots?
You have to love Number 15:
Benham_ISIS
15. HGTV Cancels Benham Brothers Show. Yes, because the Benham Brothers aren’t two of the most intolerant people you would ever not want to meet (they are not only anti-gay but they are anti-choice and if you disagree with them, you are of Satan.)
Yes, the Benham Brothers have the right to say what they said, but other people, including networks, you know, because the Hobby Lobby Ruling makes corporations, including networks, people too, have the right to different opinions. And HGTV didn’t like what the Benham Brothers were saying. The inclusion of the brothers here is not only another prime example of Religious Right hypocrisy but also of moral relativism.
In fact, the Benham Brothers are so intolerant that they even invade other peoples’ cults (it’s apparently not intolerant to call somebody else’s cult a “synagogue of Satan”) and disrupt their services to spread their hate. I don’t see how that kind of behavior could ever be interpreted as tolerant. Really, Mr. Nazworth, I can’t believe you went there.
16. SunTrust Bank Cancels Benham Brothers Bank Account. What! Corporations suddenly DON’T have religious freedom? Why does the religious freedom of the Benham Brothers trump corporate personhood but the right of women to contraception does not? Hypocrisy again, and yes, moral relativism.
17. NYT Reporter Says Traditional Marriage Supporters “Unworthy of Respect,” Deserve Incivility. We just saw how the Benham Brothers say if you disagree with them on contraception and marriage equality that you are “of Satan,” which, I think, is pretty much the same thing as saying “unworthy of respect.” But this NYT reporter is intolerant, but the Benham Brothers are not? Yes, hypocrisy and moral relativism AGAIN.
18. Houston Mayor Subpeonas Pastor’s Sermons, Private Communication About Homosexuality. The irony here is that the entire controversy centers on the mayor’s anti-discrimination stance (she herself is a lesbian). Apparently, for Nazworth, all the hate and vitriol heaped on Mayor Annise Parker is not an example of intolerance. I have no choice: I call hypocrisy and moral relativism.
19. Wikipedia Editors Attempt to Remove Entry for the Federalist After Neil deGrasse Tyson Flap. This is really quite funny. Do you remember when Michele Bachmann listed John Quincy Adams as a Founding Father – only he was not – and her fans tried to change Wikipedia as though that would make John Quincy Adams a Founding Father? Do you remember when Sarah Palin said that Paul Revere’s ride was to “warn the British,” and her fans tried to change Wikipedia to say that yes, Paul Revere was riding to warn the British? Yes, hypocrisy and moral relativism.
20. Kickstarter Censors Fundraiser for Abortionist Gosnell Documentary. Another case of some corporations having religious freedom and some not. It is interesting how quickly corporations suddenly lose their person-hood when they disagree with the Religious Right’s culture war agenda.
Ten Commandments21. Philosophy Professor Says Global Warming Skeptics Should Be Imprisoned. Nazworth complains, “Lawrence Torcello, assistant professor of philosophy at Rochester Institute of Technology, wrote an op-ed arguing for criminal penalties for those who criticize scientific claims about global warming. In one of the examples he used, the penalty was imprisonment.”
Wait a second, we shouldn’t punish people for lying, even though dog says in the Ten Commandments that we must punish people for lying, but it is okay for Steven L. Anderson of faithful word baptist cult in Tempe, AZ to say dog commands us to kill gays, and that we must kill gays to end AIDS, and it is okay for Oklahoma teabagger Scott Esk to say we should execute gays simply because they are gay:
“I think we would be totally in the right to do it. That goes against some parts of libertarianism, I realize, and I’m largely libertarian, but ignoring as a nation things that are worthy of death is very remiss.”
Judicial murder is fine, but putting somebody in prison is wrong? Verdict: Hypocrisy and moral relativism.
22. Ezra Klein Criticized for Hiring Gay Man With Different Opinions Than Most Gays. Again, so people have the right of free speech unless it is somebody you don’t approve of? Hypocrisy and moral relativism.
23. Marquette University Trains Employees to Report Opposition to Same-Sex Marriage as Harassment. So if you’re harassed over same-sex marriage, you have to turn the other cheek, but christians who are told by jesus christ to turn the other cheek, don’t have to turn the other cheek? Oh boy do I call hypocrisy and moral relativism!
24. Marquette Professor Suspended for Criticizing Teacher Who Will Not Allow Students to Voice Opposition to Same-Sex Marriage. Never mind that Professor John McAdams was not actually suspended. McAdams was relieved of his duties with pay while the university reviewed his potential violation of “clearly outlined rules of conduct, specifically as they relate to the faculty-student relationship” because of comments made by him in his blog about a teaching assistant.
In fact, Colleen Flaherty at Inside Higher Ed tells us that, “Justin Weinberg, an associate professor of political philosophy and ethics at the University of South Carolina, wrote a blog post on his popular philosophy blog, the Daily Nous, calling the backlash against the graduate student a political ‘smear campaign,’ and that “he suspected that sexism was at play in her being a target of such intense criticism.” Yes, there is much more to this than Nazworth would wish you to know.
What this amounts to, in essence, is that Nazworth is saying the graduate student is intolerant to tell a student he can’t make homophobic remarks in her class, but it is not intolerant to attack the graduate student for being a woman. Hypocrisy and moral relativism.
By the way, if you want to see genuine intolerance, and evidence of that sexism, look at the comments at the bottom of the Daily Nouse piece:
Sexist_Comments1
Sexist_Comments2
25. Radical Feminist Conference Forced to Change Venues After Transgender Opposition. Nazworth is finally upset that somebody is threatening violence over something they don’t agree with. Yes, hypocrisy and moral relativism.
26. christian covens Booted From California College Campuses. Oh no: “California state universities, the largest state university system in the country, will no longer recognize intervarsity christian fellowship as a student group because the organization requires its leaders to hold beliefs consistent with the organization’s beliefs.”
Wait a second: Hobby Lobby is a person, but California State Universities are not? Another way of looking at this would be to say that intervarsity christian fellowship wanted to have the right to discriminate, which is in violation of CSU’s non-discrimination policy.
The irony here is that rather than turn the other cheek, intervarsity supporters want to ‘Derecognize’ Colleges That Discriminate Against christians who want to discriminate against people they don’t like. Okay, you lost me here…again, your rights trump everybody else’s rights? Even if CSU is discriminating against you, you have the right to discriminate but nobody else does? Sorry, you made me do it: hypocrisy and moral relativism.
27. “It’s OK to Hate repugicans,” University of Michigan Professor Wrote. Nazworth says Susan Douglas, professor of communications at the University of Michigan “vilified” repugicans in an op-ed. You did not just go there, Mr. Nazworth. One repugican, New Hampshire repugican cabal Chair Jennifer Horn, recently said liberals should be drowned: “push their heads under over and over again until they cannot breathe anymore, until the elections are over on Tuesday night and we’ve won it all!”
So murdering your political opponents is not intolerant, but hating them is? And since when does the Religio-wingnuts get to complain about hate? According to Nazworth’s own logic, he’s being intolerant of Susan Douglas, who, after all, has done no more than some of the people he has defended here. She’s a hater but the Benham Brothers are not? Hypocrisy and moral relativism.
28. Brandeis University Rescinded and Honorary Degree and Disinvited Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Here is the problem: Brandeis University has a right to disagree with Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s contention that islam is a “destructive, nihilistic cult of death.” Brandeis University said, “We cannot overlook that certain of her past statements are inconsistent with Brandeis University’s core values.” So Hobby Lobby can have core values, but Brandeis University cannot? It’s not intolerant of Ali to condemn islam, but it is intolerant of Brandeis University to object to her intolerance? Bam! Hypocrisy and moral relativism.
The rest are more of the same, further examples of just exactly how hypocritical and morally relativistic Nazworth’s list is:
29. Brown University Disinvited Ray Kelly
30. Berkeley Students Attempted to Get Bill Maher Banned From Delivering a Commencement Address
31. Stanford Students Tried to Ban Ryan Anderson’s Appearance
32. Smith College Disinvited Christine Lagarde as Commencement Speaker
33. Azusa Pacific Disinvited Charles Murray
In its entirety, this list is an example not of liberal intolerance, but cwingnut intolerance, living proof of the religio-wingnuts' definition of religious freedom: that it is okay to hate, it is okay to be intolerant, but it is intolerant to object, it is intolerant to wish not to be associated with that hate. The haters have First Amendment rights. Those who object do not. The religio-wingnuts have religious freedom. The rest of us do not.
That’s a hard sell, because the First Amendment says they are wrong, that freedom of religion and freedom of speech do not belong to one group only, but are the common property of all Americans alike.

2nd Court Slams Brownback For Underfunding Education To Expedite Kochs’ Tax Cuts

Brownback2
Now that repugicans control both houses of Congress, Americans should brace themselves for a serious Koch-style assault on revenue and government agencies. Last year, Mitch McConnell told Kansas Governor Sam Brownback that repugicans were panting to enact a Koch-Kansas economic assault on America that Brownback imposed by giving the rich monumental tax breaks at the expense of the state government and residents. At the time, McConnell swooned over Brownback’s trickle-down massacre and told him “It’s exactly what we want to do here in Washington, but we can’t do it yet only controlling the House.” With control of the House and Senate, repugicans can proceed with the same reckless abandon for the government and it is probable that like Kansas, public education is in for some seriously major funding cuts.
For the second time in six months, a Kansas court panel ruled that the state is still not spending enough money on education to “provide a suitable education for children.” In June, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the state must increase funding for public K-12 schools to comply with Kansas law mandating that public schools are funded at constitutionally required levels. However, as is their habit, Brownback’s repugicans disregarded the Kansas Constitution and Supreme Court ruling and slashed funding for the state’s public schools to both provide tax cuts for the wealthy and keep their population ignorant. Keeping the population dirt-stupid worked nicely for Brownback’s re-election; particularly after his Koch brother trickle-down tax cutting scheme demolished the state’s economy.
According to the latest ruling against trickle-down Brownback, Kansas is failing miserably to spend enough money on public schools to provide a suitable education for every child. The three-judge panel’s ruling said, “We found the Kansas K-12 school financing formula constitutionally inadequate in its present failure to implement the necessary funding to sustain a constitutionally adequate education as a matter of current fact as well as the precedent facts that supported the Montoy decisions. That is still our opinion.”
The Montoy decision refers to a 2006 school funding lawsuit, and several others including the earlier Supreme Court ruling, that the judges said informed them beyond a shadow of a doubt that “yes, money spent on education makes a difference.” According to evidence, the state needs to increase its education spending at least $548 million a year to comply with Kansas’ Constitutional requirement. Brownback is going to appeal the District Court panel’s decision to the Kansas Supreme Court.
The governor’s spokesperson, Eileen Hawley, released a statement on the decision saying “We will review today’s decision carefully. The Governor will work with legislative leaders to determine the best path forward.” However, Brownback and the repugican cabal-dominated Legislature will hardly even attempt to comply with this latest ruling any more than the last because it will jeopardize Brownback’s aggressive trickle down tax cuts for the rich and elimination of corporate taxation enacted according to the Koch brothers and trickle down guru Arthur Laffer’s directives. Laffer, like the Kochs and Brownback, claim that it is important to cut the state’s revenue stream in order to increase state revenue and create a jobs bonanza. Since the Koch-Brownback tax cuts for the rich and corporations, Kansas is hemorrhaging revenue, lagging the rest of the nation in job creation, has suffered several credit downgrades, and according to many repugicans is facing bankruptcy in less than two years. Credit rating agencies concur and have enacted several concurrent downgrades.
Public school officials also released their own statements on the decision. Wichita Public Schools superintendent John Allison said, “An educated workforce is key to Kansas’ economic success. I am pleased to see the court’s affirmation that an adequately-funded education is of vital importance to Kansas. While we won’t immediately know the impact of the ruling, we do believe today’s court decision is a great one for today’s students and the future of our state.” Dodge City Superintendent Alan Cunningham said, “In order to accomplish the goal of making every child college or career ready, we need appropriate resources to do our jobs. We continue to have faith that the Kansas legislature will work to ensure that every Kansas child has access to an adequate and fully funded formula for education.”
Kansas public school educators have other problems on their plates as a result of Brownback’s $1.1 billion unfunded tax cuts for the rich besides the inadequate, and unconstitutional, cuts to education. On Tuesday, Kansas education officials reported that the number of homeless students in the state’s schools continues to increase at alarming levels due to low wages and pathetic jobs situation. According to the Kansas State Department of Education, there were nearly 10,400 homeless children attending public schools last year; a thousand more than a year earlier. In fact, Wichita and Kansas City public schools reported there were increases in homeless students of 45% and 20% respectively over the course of just one year.
The coordinator of the education department’s child homelessness program, Tate Toedman, said that Kansas families are taking longer to recover from homelessness than in the past due to the state’s poor economic situation, poverty wages, and lack of jobs. All schools are required by the federal government to keep track of homeless students to receive support and service programs designed specifically to keep children in school. Kansas is so broke, though, that after Brownback’s $1.1 billion unfunded gift to the wealthy there are insufficient funds to keep homeless shelters open.
As an example, one homeless shelter specifically for families with school-aged children in southeastern Kansas had to close its doors in July, and it is all down to the increasing state budget shortfall directly resulting from Brownback’s tax cuts for the rich. The CHOICES Family Emergency Shelter had provided a place to live for 350 homeless people every year, most of whom are children. The closure is another victim of the state budget shortfall that is so severe that even after cutting homeless shelter funding by half for all of 2014, Kansas could not afford to spend $100,000 to keep the shelter open for the rest of the year; but Brownback and  repugicans will not do anything to “jeopardize” the epic tax cuts for the rich and corporations, including Koch Industries and its libertarian owners.
It is important to note that repugicans, including Brownback, held up Kansas and its unfunded tax cuts for the wealthy-elite and corporations as the idealized repugican economic plan for all America to follow. One Kansas repugican even admitted that one of the primary goals of the Koch-Brownback economic plan was cutting government down to size and they have been successful in slashing the state public education system to unconstitutional levels as well as cutting public retirement accounts to pay for the tax cuts.
Despite the abject failure in Kansas, Mitch McConnell told Brownback “It’s exactly what we want to do in Washington,” and now that they control both chambers of Congress, it is certainly what they will attempt. The only thing standing between the entire nation, the federal government, and public education going the way of Kansas is President Obama’s veto pen. Because without him as a firewall, the entire nation will become the Koch brothers’ vision of America and will look exactly like Kansas.

The New York Times Skewers Childish NYPD For Turning Backs On Mayor Bill de Blasio

by Stephen D Foster Jr
In an article written by the New York Times' Editorial Board, the paper blasted the NYPD for being disrespectful of Mayor Bill de Blasio and for embarrassing themselves through childish acts that trash the department's reputation.
In an opinion piece published on Monday, The New York Times roundly criticized the childish actions of NYPD officers who shamefully turned their backs on the mayor during the funeral of one of their fallen colleagues, Rafael Ramos. The disrespect continued only days later when de Blasio was booed and heckled as he spoke at a police graduation ceremony. The Times declared that these acts only make things worse and cause people to lose even more respect for the boys in blue.
    Mr. de Blasio isn't going to say it, but somebody has to: With these acts of passive-aggressive contempt and self-pity, many New York police officers, led by their union, are squandering the department's credibility, defacing its reputation, shredding its hard-earned respect. They have taken the most grave and solemn of civic moments - a funeral of a fallen colleague - and hijacked it for their own petty look-at-us gesture. In doing so, they also turned their backs on Mr. Ramos's widow and her two young sons, and others in that grief-struck family.
    These are disgraceful acts, which will be compounded if anyone repeats the stunt at Officer Liu's funeral on Sunday.
The Times then notes that police officers have a stressful job and that they continually have to put up with bureaucracy and criticism as they put their lives at risk to serve a public that is increasingly hostile towards them. None of that, however, justifies the way many NYPD officers are acting.
    But none of those grievances can justify the snarling sense of victimhood that seems to be motivating the anti-de Blasio campaign - the belief that the department is never wrong, that it never needs redirection or reform, only reverence. This is the view peddled by union officials like Patrick Lynch, the president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association - that cops are an ethically impeccable force with their own priorities and codes of behavior, accountable only to themselves, and whose reflexive defiance in the face of valid criticism is somehow normal.
The New York Times continued by calling for the NYPD to act like the professionals they claim to be and re-build the respect they have lost before the city becomes a more dangerous place.
    It's not normal. Not for a professional class of highly trained civil servants, which New York's Finest profess to be. The police can rightly expect, even insist upon, the respect of the public. But respect is a finite resource. It cannot be wasted. Sometimes it has to be renewed.
    The failures of some cops, the misguided policing tactics that feed a sense of oppression in parts of the city, the offensive provocations of some in the police-reform protest movement, and the horrific killings of two officers, have led the city to a dangerous point.
In conclusion, the Times pointed out that Mayor de Blasio "has been doing and saying the right things" in an effort to unite everyone, including "meeting Tuesday with leaders of the five police unions to lower the temperature and to move the city forward."
    Surely many officers understand and accept his conciliatory words and realize that the things Mr. de Blasio has done - like hiring Mr. Bratton, increasing financing for the department and modernizing its equipment - are motivated by an honest desire to do right by the Police Department.
    The grieving rank-and-file need to recognize this and also see the damage that many of their colleagues, and their union representatives, are doing to trash their department's reputation.
All in all, the Editorial Board did a fantastic job. But there is one point they make that most will reject.
The New York Times claimed that police officers are "held responsible for their mistakes in ways that the public is not," which is complete bullshit. In fact, the very reason why people are protesting against the police in the streets and tensions are so high is precisely because police officers are NOT held responsible for their mistakes in the same way average citizens are.
Shooting and killing an unarmed teenager, combined with all the witness accounts, should have resulted in an indictment by the Ferguson Grand Jury. But because the killer was a cop, the prosecuting attorney didn't do his job the way he would have if the killer had been just an average Joe. The same can be said of the Eric Garner case, which sparked the protests against the NYPD.
The Staten Island Grand Jury declined to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who placed the unarmed Garner in an illegal choke hold. Unable to breathe, Garner died because of Pantaleo's reckless actions and the whole thing was caught on camera. The only person who the Grand Jury did indict was the person who filmed the encounter. Pantaleo killed a man and didn't even receive a slap on the wrist.
So while The New York Times should be applauded for standing up to the NYPD and calling them out for their childishness, they deserve criticism for claiming that police are actually "held responsible for their mistakes in ways that the public is not." Because unless they have been hiding under a rock, it's pretty damn clear to the public that police are not treated like the rest of us. Whereas a normal citizen would have been indicted for murder and likely sent to prison, the officer who killed Eric Garner, and many other officers across the country, have been allowed to walk free as they have hidden behind their badges to escape punishment for their crimes. No average citizen gets that kind of treatment, and neither should police officers.

NYPD Police Leader “We Are Now A Wartime Police Department and Will Act Accordingly”

It's time to weed out the idiots in the NYPD - 
It would be hard ... they are making themselves known to all
CUNY Students Hold March And Rally To Protest Proposed Tuition Hikes
It must be difficult for members of an organization with unquestioned authority and free rein to use force to hear that a higher power is going to review and reform their tactics. That is precisely why, even before two New York police officers were brutally murdered, the NYPD was angry with New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. The NYPD’s ire was nearly out-of-control when de Blasio reacted like any respectable human being at the decision to praise the officers responsible for strangling unarmed Eric Garner for the high-crime of selling loose cigarettes instead of holding them responsible for Garner’s untimely death. Now, after turning their backs on the Mayor when he eulogized one of the slain officers and booing him at a graduation ceremony, they are staging a serious work slowdown the New York Post is equating to a work stoppage.
Since the shootings of Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (PBA) and the police unions called for the slowdown to protest the Mayor’s alleged assault on the NYPD. Apparently, the unions are upset over what they perceive to be anti-police rhetoric by New York Mayor Bill de Blasio because he failed to praise their racial profiling tactics or the killing of Eric Garner. According to the PBA and unions, the work slowdown is a protest against de Blasio and frightened protestors asking the police to act like public servants; not German Brownshirts. In an attempt to assuage the NYPD’s petulant anger, the mayor and NYPD Police Commissioner Bratton are holding an emergency summit with the leaders of New York’s five police unions to try to mend a rift between the city administration and police rank-and file.
Although the PBA and the unions have told their members not to do their jobs out of safety concerns, many cops claim the work slowdown is to protest de Blasio’s response to the grand jury’s decision not to indict the police involved in the strangulation death of Eric Garner. Because of the police job slowdown there has been a dramatic drop in arrests in New York City after union leaders and the PBA called for a work “slowdown.” According to the New York Post, arrests are down 66% overall, drug arrests are down by 84%, and summons and tickets for minor offenses are down by 94% since last year.
PBA president Patrick Lynch is an echo chamber for Faux News and wingnut racists who have politicized the two slain officers and pointed blame in the direction of Mayor de Blasio, Ferguson and New York protestors, President Obama, and Attorney General Eric Holder. Police were furious with de Blasio before he was mayor because he campaigned, and won, on reforming the NYPD’s racist tendencies to relieve tension between law enforcement and the community after years of the purely racially-motivated practice of “stop and frisk.” Add to that Mayor de Blasio’s failure to give medals for bravery and heroism to the cops responsible for choking unarmed Eric Garner to death for selling loose cigarettes, and it is obvious why racist police officers went ballistic.
According to Lynch, “There’s blood on many hands tonight: those that incited violence on the street under the guise of protests, that tried to tear down what New York City police officers did every day. That blood on the hands starts on the steps of City Hall in the office of the mayor.” Now, according to Lynch, the NYPD is a “wartime police department” that will “act accordingly.” He has called on the rank-and-file to sign an emotionally manipulative letter that would ban their ultimate boss, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, from attending the officers’ funerals; it is not the first edict demanding the Mayor stay away from police.
Since Lynch’s tirade against De Blasio, the Mayor has faced open hostility from some NYPD police officers and their unions. On Saturday, disrespectful police officers outside Christ Tabernacle Church for officer Ramos’ funeral turned their backs to the church as de Blasio spoke. The NYPD Police Commissioner rightly denounced the protest of rank-and-file officers saying the officers’ actions were completely inappropriate and highly politicized the slain officer’s funeral. “This is a mayor who cares very deeply about New York police officers, cares very deeply about the divide in the city and is working hard to heal that divide;” but that is exactly why a preponderance of the NYPD is so angry at de Blasio. The police want the divide firmly in place with them in a position of unquestioned power, and that includes over the Mayor, Police Commissioner, and anyone they even think may get in their way. They are after all, according to their own power and stated objective a “wartime police department” and they “will act accordingly.”
To be fair, not all NYPD officers hold the majority opinion that African  Americans exist as targets for law enforcement. It was reported a few days ago that many African American officers fear other (white) cops, and one spoke at length about an issue that served to enrage white NY police officers. Officer Adhyl Polanco reiterated what Mayor de Blasio shared with New Yorkers about having a conversation with his son in how best to deal, or fear and avoid, interaction with police officers devoted to racial profiling.
Officer Polanco said, “How can a parent who has a black child, how can a parent that has seen millions of kids being stopped by stop-and-frisk, how can the parents of kids see black kids get killed by police over and over, how can parents that see kids being summonsed illegally, being arrested in their own building for trespassing, and getting treatment that they don’t deserve that they get from the police department, how can you not responsibly have that conversation with your son? You have to. I’m a police officer. And I’ve been thrown against the wall off-duty, because they have the same mentality that Patrick Lynch has, and as an officer I’ve been shown no respect.”
Polanco ended his emotional tirade disabusing many police officers, repugicans, Faux News shrieking heads, and racists of the idea that protestors, President Obama, Eric Holder, or Mayor de Blasio are anti-police. He said, “People are not protesting against police. People are not protesting people who go out there and do their job every day. They’re not saying these officers shouldn’t be in the street. People are protesting against bad policies that have been in this country for many, many, many years.” Clearly, it is those bad policies that many, many, many police officers are fighting desperately to keep in place which is why PBA President Patrick Lynch issued the warning that the “New York Police Department is now a ‘wartime police department’ that will ‘act accordingly.'”
As many Americans have already witnessed over the past six months, it appears that the preponderance of local law enforcement believe they are “now wartime police departments” and they have already “acted accordingly” as Americans were unfortunate to see in Ferguson Missouri. Mayor de Blasio should do the right thing for New York residents and summarily terminate, with extreme prejudice, any officer clinging to the notion that they are engaged in a war against their superiors or law-abiding citizens, and not public servants paid to protect and serve; not assault and dominate.

Threatening toilet paper note imprint linked would-be robber to pizza shop theft attempt

A threatening note written on toilet paper helped unravel a robbery attempt at a pizza shop in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, according to police. Eric W. Frey, 29, of Uniontown is charged with walking into Michael Maria's Pizza shortly before 8pm on Saturday and handing an employee a note handwritten in black ink on a scrap of toilet paper, police said. The note read, “I have a gun. Give me $300,” according to court documents. Frey told the employee that another man had “a gun on me right now, and if I don't come out of here with the money, I'm going to get shot,” police said.
When the employee hit a panic button, police responded to find Frey still in the shop. He told officers that a large, bearded man put a gun to his back in a nearby alley and forced him to take the note to the pizza shop, warning that he would shoot him if he left the business without cash, court documents indicate. When police Lt. Tom Kolencik told Frey that he didn't believe his story, Kolencik asked to visit his apartment “to see if his toilet paper matched that of the one used in the robbery attempt,” documents show. Frey said, “Let's go. I don't have anything to hide,” according to those documents.

In Frey's bathroom, police found a recently opened package of toilet paper on a table. One of the rolls had “writing engraved in it that matched the exact wording on the piece of toilet paper that Frey handed” to the pizza shop employee, Kolencik said. Police found a black pen next to the roll matching the color of ink used to write the threatening note, Kolencik said. At one point, Frey told officers that the man who had put the gun to his back was in the apartment, but “then noticed three males walking down the street, and stated, ‘That's them.' ”
Police said they spoke to the three men and determined they were not involved. While in the apartment, officers saw a can on a kitchen counter they said had been altered to be used in smoking marijuana. Once they obtained a search warrant for the apartment, police said they found 91 grams of marijuana, syringes and spoons containing burned drug residue. Frey, who has four unrelated drug cases pending, was arraigned before District Judge Wendy Dennis of North Union and placed in the Fayette County Prison on $25,000 bail. He faces a preliminary hearing on Jan. 7 on attempted robbery, theft and drug charges.

Man who stole over $7,500 worth of booze and then passed out jailed for one month

A man found passed out on the footpath after stealing thousands of dollars worth of beer and spirits from a restaurant in Darwin in Australia's Northern Territory has been sentenced to one month in prison. On Monday night Warren Argall, 44, and another man broke into the Char restaurant cool room, got drunk and then filled a wheelie bin with bottles and cans of stolen alcohol.
When police woke Argall on the adjacent footpath the next morning, surrounded by bottles and empty cans, he said he could not remember anything that had happened that night. The wheelie bin was nearby. The two men stole 151 bottles of spirits and 216 stubbies of beer valued at AU$7,507 (£3,950, US$6,150), the court heard. He appeared before the Darwin Magistrates Court on Wednesday and pleaded guilty to all charges.
CCTV footage showed Argall and another man entered the property at about 11:00pm on December 29 through an unlocked rear gate and forced the door on the cool room. CCTV then showed them drinking stolen beer on the restaurant's step, the court heard. After the pair left the property with their wheelie bin haul of booze several other men then took advantage of the open premises and helped themselves, the court heard. Argall and the other man also returned several times to pick up more beer.
The group of men, including Argall, entered the property at least eight times in eight hours, from 11:00pm to 7:05am, when police found Argall sleeping outside. The upmarket waterfront restaurant had been closed for renovations and its stock of beer and spirits had been stored in the locked cool room. A bag containing the ID of the other man who allegedly broke into the cool room was also found on the restaurant's grounds. He was arrested a short time later.

Mystery over water heating element found wedged in man's throat

Baffled doctors discovered a water heating element inside a man's throat after he turned up complaining of a pain in the neck. After noting that the man's throat seemed to be swollen, with what appeared to be a hard and regular ridge, they decided to carry out an x-ray at the hospital in the city of Krasnoyarsk in Central Russia’s Krasnoyarsk Krai region. And they were amazed to find the water heating element possibly from a boiler wedged in the man's throat.
Doctor Oles Kalinin said: "The man was brought in by ambulance suffering from a difficulty in breathing. We were absolutely amazed when we did the X-ray and saw what was blocking his throat. Given that the diameter of the esophagus in a relaxed state is about 2 to 3 centimeters, it had been stretched to 4 or five times its usual size by the water heating element." He said that as a doctor it was not part of their remit to demand to know how the water heating element had got inside the man's throat, and he said the man had not volunteered the information.
He said: "It was a critical situation, there was a risk at any stage that he might suffocate and die. His esophagus was completely blocked by the foreign object." Doctors said that they had tried several methods to remove the water heating element which was almost impossible to remove they had been forced to extract it using full forceps, running the risk that they might breach the esophagus but deciding there was no other possibility. Doctor Kalinin added: "It took about 20 minutes to slowly ease it out, and it's not an operation I've ever had to do before or am I ever likely to do it again.
"I have no idea how on earth they managed to be forced in there, but it must have been difficult given that the natural urge of the human throat is to gag if something foreign is placed inside it." But he added that the young man who recovered quickly once the object removed had simply dressed himself after the operation, politely thanked the doctors, and then left. Doctor Kalinin added: "He told one of the nurses it was an accident, and had noticed it while tucking into his lunch. An unlikely story, but one that will have to remain a mystery it seems."

Too much salt and not enough wall blamed for cars being buried under tons of sodium chloride

Tons of salt buried cars parked outside the McGrath Acura dealership in Chicago on Tuesday when portions of the wall of the adjacent Morton Salt storage facility collapsed. No one was hurt and no extrications were necessary because of the spill.
The Chicago Fire Department, Chicago Dept. of Buildings and Morton Salt all said it appears that salt was merely piled too high in the storage building, causing the wall to give way. “It appears to be a case of too much salt and too little wall,” said Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford said. First responders quickly determined that all employees of the Morton facility and of the adjacent McGrath Acura dealership were accounted for and unhurt, and that no one else was buried in the salt.
A manager for McGrath said the salt damaged 11 cars. General Manager Noble Jones. said: “New Year’s is a busy time for us as you can see and we’re worried about selling cars and not saving cars and it seems like right now we’ve got to dig some cars out from the salt and make sure that the customers are happy with our service work and they find out that they might have to replace their cars they currently have.”

Building inspectors blocked off the immediate area where the wall gave way to guard against injury if additional salt or bricks fall. The department said, in a statement, that Morton employees are working with a structural engineer to see that the remaining structure is safe and supported.

Random Celebrity Photos

fabforgottennobility:

Eva Mendes
Eva Mendes

The long, slow death of our watering holes

Our gathering spots, neither home nor work, were absorbed into another world. 
But we knew they were dying long before they disappeared...
by Deane Barker 
The great accomplishment of Ray Oldenburg's book about essential gathering spots, The Great Good Place, is that he never mentions Cheers, the 80s sitcom about the bar "where everybody knows your name."
This is significant because Oldenburg essentially wrote an entire book praising the existence of "a third place" -- not home, not work, but somewhere where we can go to relax and exchange in dialog with other people. He was essentially describing Cheers, at the height of its popularity.
The third place is a generic designation for a great variety of public places that host the regular, voluntary, informal, and happily anticipated gatherings of individuals beyond the realms of work and home.
Oldenburg was a sociologist (now Professor Emeritus) at the University of Western Florida. He defines a third place as a location possessing the following characteristics:
1. It's neutral ground, meaning it doesn't belong to any of the people who congregate there.
2. It's a "leveler," meaning it's inclusive and doesn't differentiate based on social status.
3. It exists for conversation.
4. It's accessible and accommodating.
5. It has a group of "regulars" that meet there.
6. It keeps a relatively low profile.
7. It has a playful mood.
8. It serves as a home away from home.
What's remarkable is that we can all instantly relate to these places. Admit it—at least one jumped into your head. Is it because we all have one? No, Oldenburg pointed out, in 1987, that these places were already in decline across America.
We can relate to this largely because of television, specifically sitcoms. Think back to the trope of the neighborhood watering hole: The Regal Beagle in Three's Company. Central Perk in Friends. MacLaren's Pub in How I Met Your Mother. Arnold's from Happy Days. Mel's Diner in Alice. Of course, sitcoms needed a reason for people to sit around and talk, so having one of these was de riguer.
But do we have these anymore? With the Starbucks revolution of the last couple decades, why aren't we all sitting around coffee shops? I realize some of us do. But do we do it in a way that matches Oldenburg's criteria, listed above? I go to the same coffee shop in my town a couple times a week, but I don't know anyone there. I couldn't pick out a "regular" if you paid me. God forbid I start up a conversation with one of them.
Think about this criterion in particular: "it exists for conversation." This is where we've broken down, I think. Common places don't exist for conversation anymore, they largely exist for working.
The average coffee shop is a quiet place, a library-like environment where people are heads down in their laptops. They're a far cry from the classic London coffee house of the 17th century, where political debate raged, opinions flew wildly, and people bonded over a new-fangled beverage. We don't interact, we co-work.
(I'm tempted to launch a Kickstarter for a chain of coffeeshops with no wifi and bouncers that confiscate smartphones at the door.)
Speaking of those London coffee houses, Oldenburg profiles them as a perfect example of the third place, along with others: German beer gardens, main street America, English pubs, French cafes, and American taverns. Along the way Oldenburg dives into the demographics of the third place, specifically how they tend to segregate by age groups and sexes.
So where is the new third place? As American slips into never-ending suburbia, do we have such a thing anymore?
Dear God...is it Facebook? Oldenburg wrote his book nearly thirty years ago, and it's doubtful he would have even known about early Internet interaction models like IRC, Usenet, and BBS, let alone imagined today's social networking platforms.
Nonetheless, some of the criteria are met: an apaprently neutral, inclusive, accommodating, leveling environment full of regulars ("friends") that exists for conversation. Hell, could the next great sitcom be nothing but a news feed?
What do we lose from this? When the third place moves from physical to virtual, what happens? Do we need and long for physical interaction in ways we don't yet understand? Will we all end up with pheromone deficiency, somehow?
I'd love Oldenburg to write a follow-up, but he's well into his 80s now and long-retired, so the chances are slim. He did pen, in 2000, Third Place: Inspiring Stories about the 'Great Good Places' at the Heart of Our Communities—but even that time is history, now, predating the dawn of Facebook and Twitter by half a decade.
I've been intrigued by co-working spaces for the last couple years. But even the ideal co-working model in my head is oriented for conversation only secondarily. We're so starved for face-to-face communication that we can justify it only as a byproduct of professional accommodation. Think about it: co-working spaces exist so people can some fit conversation in amongst their work.
I fear the third place will continue to die off, as a new generation needs them even less than this one. Kids these days sit around tables with their heads down into their phones, absorbed in a third place that exists everywhere, yet nowhere at all.

The Panic Over Mammoth, Arizona

Earlier last month, the 911 operator in the small town of Mammoth, Arizona, was inundated with calls wanting to know what’s going on. An internet cry for help had been posted on reddit that told of mysterious deaths that were spreading through the community. People were reported dead of illness, others were beaten to death, and strangers were answering phones at her friends’ homes and businesses. She said state and federal officials were in town, including representatives from the CDC.Commenters chimed in with their own stories of being unable to contact relatives in Mammoth. The post got enough upvotes to promote it to the front page. Local officials and citizens of Mammoth, the one place where no one was worried, took calls from across the country. Police Chief Steve Nash said,
"We received calls from Texas, Florida, Maine, Wisconsin...It's really gone wide-spread."
Chief Nash says the calls tied up the town's 911 dispatcher and made it more difficult to answer actual emergencies.
If people weren't calling police, they were calling the locals.
"Me and my son were here in the store, and we got a call from somebody back in New York," Michael Salazar, owner of the convenience store Corkers told us.
"My dad handed me the phone," his son Adolfo said. "It had to be one of the craziest phone calls i've ever had in my life. {The person on the other line asked} have you seen anybody with bruises all over their faces, or bleeding for their ears or eyes?"
It wasn’t a deliberate hoax, but it had the same effect. What many readers didn’t catch was that the story was posted on the subreddit NoSleep, which is a forum for fictional scary stories. The subreddit rules state that authors must stay in character, commenters must play along with the stories, and in fact comments debunking them are deleted. Local TV station KGUN talked with the author, C.K. Walker, about how her work of fiction blew up and escaped the internet. 

A Look At Banned Books Through History

Throughout history, countless publications have faced censorship and banning in many countries for a variety of reasons, be they religious, political or in many cases, just plain ridiculous.
This infographic by PrinterInks.com shows the history of books that have been banned in different countries through history.

People in History

secretsocietyofnone:

Annie Oakley: First American female superstar.  Beat her future husband in a sharp shooting match when she was 15 years old (and won $100 from him, a tidy sum in those days).  Had a rivalry with another female sharpshooter (who billed herself as younger and more attractive than Annie) who was also part of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show (but no one remembers that other woman’s name, so guess who won?).  She taught over 15,000 women how to shoot in her lifetime and once said “I would like to see every woman know how to handle [firearms] as naturally as they know how to handle babies.” and was a total bad ass.
Annie Oakley: First American female superstar.  Beat her future husband in a sharp shooting match when she was 15 years old (and won $100 from him, a tidy sum in those days).  Had a rivalry with another female sharpshooter (who billed herself as younger and more attractive than Annie) who was also part of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show (but no one remembers that other woman’s name, so guess who won?).  She taught over 15,000 women how to shoot in her lifetime and once said “I would like to see every woman know how to handle [firearms] as naturally as they know how to handle babies.” and was a total bad ass.

Ten Astronaut Health Risks During Deep Space Missions

A 2014 study on 12 astronauts found that the human heart becomes 9.4 percent more spherical after long exposure to weightlessness in space. This could cause heart problems. Dr. James Thomas of NASA explained,
“The heart doesn’t work as hard in space, which can cause a loss of muscle mass. That can have serious consequences after the return to Earth, so we’re looking into whether there are measures that can be taken to prevent or counteract that loss."
Although the damaging changes to the heart are reversed once the astronaut lands on Earth, the long-term effects on the heart are unknown. Researchers are involved in long-term studies as to the effects of space flight on the heart, the results of which may also benefit heart patients on Earth. One study currently being conducted is based on the possible formation of atherosclerosis in astronauts.
Read about nine other health risks to astronauts on deep space missions here.

The Pintupi Nine

A family of Australian Aboriginal people lived all alone in the desert for decades, until 1984. The group, called the Pintupi Nine, were nomads roaming the Western Desert of Australia, cut off from not only white civilization, but also from other Aborigines. In the 1950s, Australia conducted missile tests in the desert, and rounded up the Pintupi people who lived there for resettlement. One family was overlooked, and lived off the land, wandering from water hole to water hole. Gradually, the Aborigines were allowed to return to their homelands, but the Pintupi settlement Kiwirrkurra wasn’t built until 1984. The isolated family by then consisted of two women and their seven teenage children, who had never seen an automobile or a person wearing clothing before. The oldest brother, Warlimpirrnga, remembers the day he and his brother Thomas approached a couple of men who were camping.
"We had just speared a kangaroo. We could smell the faeces of other humans in the air" - they were probably a couple of kilometres away - "and we saw smoke in the distance.
"We moved closer and stood on a rock and could see people camping down below. So I began to move closer to their camp. I ran towards where they were standing. Then I snuck over closer. I coughed. The people heard me. It looked like they were scared. They became frantic, running back and forth," he says.
"This is my grandfather's land," Warlimpirrnga said. One of the men started filling a billycan with water for them. "When he did, we thought, we won't spear him," says Warlimpirrnga. "They were so scared. They were really scared of us, scared out of their wits."
The campers were a Pintupi man, Pinta Pinta, and his son, Matthew, who had decided to set up an outstation at a place named Winbargo, 45km from Kiwirrkurra. The young man panicked and fired a shotgun in the air - all parties scattered, and the two men drove off at speed, despite a flat tire.
Read the story of how the Pintupi Nine were integrated into the community and into the modern world at BBC News Magazine.

Random Photos

Neutral Bridges Are Now Dutch

In 2002, new European banknotes were introduced, in different denominations of the Euro. The currency was designed so that no nation was favored over others. They contain architectural images, including seven different bridges representing different historical eras in Europe. The illustrations are all fictional, in order to remain geographically neutral. Or, they were. Dutch designer Robin Stam admired the currency illustrations and mentioned that it would be funny if someone built those bridges, all in one country.
The local council responsible for constructing a new housing development in Spijkenisse, a suburb of Rotterdam, heard about the idea and approached Stam about using his designs.

"My bridges were slightly more expensive but [the council] saw it as a good promotional opportunity so they allocated some extra budget to produce them," says Stam.

The bridges are exact copies of those shown on the banknotes, down to the shape, crop and color.
Dezeen talked to Stam about his project and posted pictures of the bridges, which are now in use by pedestrians and cyclists.

Fantastic Bridges That Look Like They Lead To Another World

Crossing over a bridge doesn’t always make you feel like you're crossing over into a magical kingdom, but it must feel like that no matter where you’re headed when you cross over one of these 20 Mystical Bridges That Will Take You To Another World.
These amazing bridges aren’t just the way to get where you’re going-  they’re what people travel from far away to see because they’re so beautiful, and every one of them would make a great set piece for a movie.
Some have been standing for over a thousand years, like the Ponte Gobbo in Italy, which was built by monks around the 7th century AD:
Others are relatively new, like the Puente Nuevo bridge in Spain, which was built in the 18th century:
They kinda make our modern steel bridges look dull and boring, now don't they?

The Tipping Point For Climate Change Action

peoples-climate-march
2015 may quite possibly be the year that the world finally wakes up and responds to the challenge of climate change.
2014 provided a glimpse of what the new year may hold.
It seems the rhythm may have changed. Where before the challenge was to get people to understand and believe the reality of climate change, now the challenge is to get the people to act and to call on those in positions of power and influence to act.
In 2015, the focus will be on Paris where world leaders will meet in November in an attempt to work out a major global warming deal. The populist activism that began this year can be expected to gain even more momentum as the climate talks approach.
Also in 2015 Pope Francis is expected to issue a major Encyclical calling on the world’s 1.5 billion catholics, including the  world’s 5,000 bishops and 400,000 priests, to take action on climate change.
The leading religious and political leaders of the world are poised to have a major impact on the environment – the political as well as the natural environment – in the new year. If they do, it will because the year now ending has set the stage.
2014 was a big year for climate action.
In June, President Obama took his biggest step yet in the fight against global warming by introducing regulations to limit greenhouse gases from existing coal-fired power plants. In one of the strongest actions ever taken by the United States government to fight climate change, the President proposed new Environmental Protection Agency regulations to cut carbon pollution from the nation’s power plants 30 percent from 2005 levels by the year 2030.
Climate denial also took a hit in 2015, with four former EPA administrators who served under repugican presidents told a Senate Environment and Public Works subcommittee June 18 that they support immediate action on climate change and urged repugican opponents of action to stop efforts to derail actions. Other repugican members of Congress have also publicly called to the science to be taken seriously and for the nation to act on climate change.
In September, hundreds of thousands of protesters around the world marched to demand climate action. The People’s Climate March was a large-scale activist event to advocate global action against climate change, which took place on Sunday, September 21, 2014, in New York City. With an estimated 311,000 participants, it was the largest climate change march in history.
This November an historic deal between the US and China to curb greenhouse emissions may have breathed new life into international climate negotiations. The world’s two biggest economies and greenhouse gas emitters, United States and China, said they will partner closely on a broad-ranging package of plans to fight climate change, including new targets to reduce carbon pollution
2014 will also be remembered as the year that public outcry began to shut down fracking. New York took the lead by banning fracking entirely.
And finally, after a series of last-minute compromises, leaders from nearly 200 countries produced the Lima Accord, which, for the first time, calls on all nations to develop plans to limit their emissions. It was less than many had hoped for, but more than many others had expected. An agreement – even a tepid one – was a major first step on the road to something more substantial in Paris in 2015.
Lima also produced agreements in principle to work toward eliminating the world’s dependence on fossil fuels entirely. The world’s oil-producing countries took this seriously, and the global oil market took a major hit. Gasoline prices dropped as the prospect for reduced demand loomed.
All of this activity in 2014 has been a prelude to an even more action-oriented 2015. Expect to see more and larger climate action protest marches and increased lobbying efforts on the part of environmental organizations and people’s coalitions as the Paris climate talks approach.
The political, environmental, even spiritual climate in the world is changing. And perhaps finally for the better
As we turn the page on 2014 and stand at the threshold of 2015 perhaps we are balanced on a tipping point. Perhaps we are entering a new era of popular political action and new hope for our planetary home. The challenge of climate change is now a call to action.
Will climate historians one day point to the year 2015 as the year in which climate action reached a tipping point? Or will they argue that the tipping point was reached earlier, in 2014?
Change is happening now. We can speculate on change in the future, we can reflect on changes in the past, but change always happens in the now.
this new year as we turned the page from 2014 to 2015, perhaps the change is becoming a little more positive and the now is looking just a little more hopeful.

The giant ash trees of Tasmania

A nice story at the BBC reminds readers that the Tasmanian ash trees are among the world's tallest trees.
The trees in question are mountain ash, the tallest flowering trees in the world. They are not quite the tallest trees of any kind: that record belongs to the coast redwoods of the western US. But that might be because things have been skewed against the mountain ash...

On the face of it, the mountain ash should be able to beat the redwoods, which top out at 115m. They grow five times faster than the redwoods, "sprinting" toward the skies. "They're the fastest-growing tree by far," says Sillett...

Historical records do indicate that mountain ash have reached greater heights than today's giants in the past. In 1881, surveyor George Cornthwaite measured a felled tree in Victoria at 114.3 meters. That is about 1m shorter than the world's tallest living tree, a coast redwood measuring 115.5m.
This was new to me:
...the tallest trees can suffer from "xylem cavitation", in which gas bubbles form in the cells carrying water up the trunk. These tiny gas embolisms [sic] can prevent water from moving up the tiny conduit cells, much like a pulmonary embolism can stop blood flow to the lungs in humans. To avoid this, the tree regulates how much water is lost through its leaves by closing down the tiny pores all over their surfaces. But these pores are also the pathways for carbon dioxide to come in, so by closing them the trees limit how much sugar they can make.