Category Archives: Other

Pope Francis has announced that Christmas this year will be a “charade” –

Posted by truther on November 27, 2015,

In a solemn sermon at the Vatican, Pope Francis has announced that Christmas this year will be a “charade” due to the fact that the globe is currently engaging in World War 3. 

Via| Speaking at Mass at the Casa Santa Maria, the Pope said: We are close to Christmas. There will be lights, there will be parties, bright trees, even Nativity scenes – all decked out – while the world continues to wage war.

It’s all a charade. The world has not understood the way of peace. The whole world is at war, he said grimly.

“A war can be justified, so to speak, with many, many reasons, but when all the world as it is today, at war, piecemeal though that war may be – a little here, a little there – there is no justification.”

The sermon cast a serious note on the beginning of the festive season at the Vatican where a giant Christmas tree was unveiled – set to be decorated by December 8 – the start of the the Vatican’s Holy Year.

Pope Francis also spoke of the “innocent victims” of war and also condemned arms dealers for their role in world conflicts.

“What shall remain in the wake of this war, in the midst of which we are living now?” he asked. What shall remain? Ruins, thousands of children without education, so many innocent victims, and lots of money in the pockets of arms dealers.

“We should ask for the grace to weep for this world, which does not recognize the path to peace,” he said. To weep for those who live for war and have the cynicism to deny it,” he added. “God weeps, Jesus weeps”.

CONTINUE READING…

Widow sues attorney after husband commits suicide

 

By Adam Beam | AP June 10

PRESTONSBURG, Ky. — The Social Security Administration told Leroy Burchett and some 900 others like him in Kentucky and West Virginia last month that their disability benefits were being cut off because they were tied to an attorney suspected of fraud.

His wife said he then stopped taking his antidepressants and shot and killed himself less than two weeks later, on June 1. Now she’s suing that attorney who represented him, Eric Conn, blaming Conn for her husband’s death.

“If he hadn’t got that letter and hadn’t been losing his medical insurance this never would have happened,” Burchett’s widow, Emma, told The Associated Press, weeping as she recounted her husband’s final days. “He just wasn’t that kind of person. I mean, heck yeah we had problems, everybody has problems. But not like that.”

The wrongful death lawsuit filed Wednesday targets Conn, who represented all 900 of those people whose benefits were temporarily cut off. The agency restored those benefits June 4, at least until the recipients had a chance to plead their case in court. He has been investigated on accusations of fraud before, though he has never been charged with a crime and has denied any wrongdoing.

Conn bills himself as “Mr. Social Security” and estimates he handles roughly 60 percent of disability claims in this part of Appalachia where many depend on government benefits because of the coal industry’s decline and little else in the way of job opportunities. The parking lot of Conn’s office displays small-scale replicas of the Lincoln Memorial and the Statue of Liberty, and billboards urge potential clients to call 232-HURT.

He is the target of a whistle-blower lawsuit in federal court brought by two former Social Security Administration employees. The federal government declined to prosecute Conn in that case, according to his attorney, Kent Wicker. But the letters sent by the Social Security Administration told Burchett and others their benefits were suspended because “there is reason to believe fraud or similar fault” was involved with evidence submitted by Conn and his office.

Conn’s attorneys instead blamed the Social Security Administration for suspending the benefits without a hearing. And they blamed the publicity surrounding the suspension for creating a panic.

“Let me emphasize once again how sorry Mr. Conn is … for the people who have been victimized. But they were victimized by the Social Security Administration and not by Eric Conn,” said Joseph Lambert, one of Conn’s attorneys and a former chief justice of the Kentucky Supreme Court. “One wonders if the publicity and the somewhat overwrought rhetoric may have had something to do with Mr. Burchett’s decision.”

Mark Hinkle, a spokesman for the Social Security Administration, declined to comment about the lawsuit but said “the agency is saddened by Mr. Burchett’s death and his family remains in our thoughts.”

More than 8 percent of residents in Kentucky and West Virginia draw disability checks, among the highest rates in the nation. More than a quarter — 56,000 — of the nearly 194,000 people in Kentucky’s 5th Congressional District are considered disabled workers, according to the Social Security Administration. In Floyd County alone, more than 11 percent of the population receives disability benefits.

Leroy Burchett, was a furniture delivery truck driver when he met Emma, a part-time clerk at a Double Quick convenience store. He wooed her without saying a word, simply stopping in the store frequently and putting a pack of gum on the counter.

They were married for 14 years and had two children together. Emma Burchett, 45, said her 41-year-old husband had worked manual labor since he was old enough to push a lawn mower. He was plagued by chronic pain, culminating in several surgeries to have metal plates installed in his neck and back. He was granted disability about six years ago with Conn’s help.

“It was our main source of income,” Emma Burchett said.

Emma Burchett said she stopped working after she was diagnosed with breast cancer and black lung disease, an ailment caused by exposure to coal dust that mostly affects coal miners. She has never worked in a coal mine but has lived near one for years.

When the letter from the Social Security Administration arrived, Emma Burchett said she panicked, but her husband was even worse off. Afraid that he was losing access to his medication, including two antidepressants, he quit taking them.

“If he was even late taking it, he would get confused in his head,” she said.

She urged him to keep taking them, telling him she would lower his dosage to help his supply last longer until they could get everything straightened out.

But on June 1, Emma Burchett said her husband told her he “couldn’t take it anymore” before shooting himself. The next day, she discovered he hadn’t been taking his medication. The pill bottles were still full.

___

Correspondent Claire Galofaro contributed to this report from Richmond, Ky.

CONTINUE READING…

Facebook Manipulated 689,003 Users’ Emotions For Science

June 29: Updated with statement from Facebook.

Facebook is the best human research lab ever. There’s no need to get experiment participants to sign pesky consent forms as they’ve already agreed to the site’s data use policy. A team of Facebook data scientists are constantly coming up with new ways to study human behavior through the social network. When the team releases papers about what it’s learned from us, we often learn surprising things about Facebook — such as the fact that it can keep track of the status updates we never actually post. Facebook has played around with manipulating people before — getting 60,000 to rock the vote in 2012 that theoretically wouldn’t have otherwise — but a recent study shows Facebook playing a whole new level of mind gamery with its guinea pigs users. As first noted by Animal New York, Facebook’s data scientists manipulated the News Feeds of 689,003 users, removing either all of the positive posts or all of the negative posts to see how it affected their moods. If there was a week in January 2012 where you were only seeing photos of dead dogs or incredibly cute babies, you may have been part of the study. Now that the experiment is public, people’s mood about the study itself would best be described as “disturbed.”

The researchers, led by data scientist Adam Kramer, found that emotions were contagious. “When positive expressions were reduced, people produced fewer positive posts and more negative posts; when negative expressions were reduced, the opposite pattern occurred,” according to the paper published by the Facebook research team in the PNAS. “These results indicate that emotions expressed by others on Facebook influence our own emotions, constituting experimental evidence for massive-scale contagion via social networks.”

The experiment ran for a week — January 11–18, 2012 — during which the hundreds of thousands of Facebook users unknowingly participating may have felt either happier or more depressed than usual, as they saw either more of their friends posting ’15 Photos That Restore Our Faith In Humanity’ articles or despondent status updates about losing jobs, getting screwed over by X airline, and already failing to live up to New Year’s resolutions. “*Probably* nobody was driven to suicide,” tweeted one professor linking to the study, adding a “#jokingnotjoking” hashtag.

The researchers — who may not have been thinking about the optics of a “Facebook emotionally manipulates users” study — jauntily note that the study undermines people who claim that looking at our friends’ good lives on Facebook makes us feel depressed. “The fact that people were more emotionally positive in response to positive emotion updates from their friends stands in contrast to theories that suggest viewing positive posts by friends on Facebook may somehow affect us negatively,” they write.

They also note that when they took all of the emotional posts out of a person’s News Feed, that person became “less expressive,” i.e. wrote less status updates. So prepare to have Facebook curate your feed with the most emotional of your friends’ posts if they feel you’re not posting often enough.

So is it okay for Facebook to play mind games with us for science? It’s a cool finding but manipulating unknowing users’ emotional states to get there puts Facebook’s big toe on that creepy line. Facebook’s data use policy — that I’m sure you’ve all read — says  Facebookers’ information will be used “for internal operations, including troubleshooting, data analysis, testing, research and service improvement,” making all users potential experiment subjects. And users know that Facebook’s mysterious algorithms control what they see in their News Feed. But it may come as a surprise to users to see those two things combined like this. When universities conduct studies on people, they have to run them by an ethics board first to get approval — ethics boards that were created because scientists were getting too creepy in their experiments, getting subjects to think they were shocking someone to death in order to study obedience and letting men live with syphilis for study purposes. A 2012 profile of the Facebook data team noted, “ Unlike academic social scientists, Facebook’s employees have a short path from an idea to an experiment on hundreds of millions of people.” This study was partially funded by a government body — the Army Research Office — and via @ZLeeily, the PNAS editor on the article says this study did pass muster with an Institutional Review Board, but we’ll see if it passes muster with users.

In it’s initial response to the controversy around the study — a statement sent to me late Saturday night — Facebook doesn’t seem to really get what people are upset about, focusing on privacy and data use rather than the ethics of emotional manipulation and whether Facebook’s TOS lives up to the definition of “informed consent” usually required for academic studies like this. “This research was conducted for a single week in 2012 and none of the data used was associated with a specific person’s Facebook account,” says a Facebook spokesperson. “We do research to improve our services and to make the content people see on Facebook as relevant and engaging as possible. A big part of this is understanding how people respond to different types of content, whether it’s positive or negative in tone, news from friends, or information from pages they follow. We carefully consider what research we do and have a strong internal review process. There is no unnecessary collection of people’s data in connection with these research initiatives and all data is stored securely.”

Ideally, Facebook would have a consent process for willing study participants: a box to check somewhere saying you’re okay with being subjected to the occasional random psychological experiment that Facebook’s data team cooks up in the name of science. As opposed to the commonplace psychological manipulation cooked up advertisers trying to sell you stuff.

CONTINUE READING….

Expendable People: Economics, a “Murderous Science”

By John Kozy

Global Research, October 29, 2013

The English who settled America brought English culture with them. The colonies were nothing but little Englands. When the colonists revolted, they were merely trying to get free of the tyrannical English monarchy, not trying to change the culture. They were perfectly happy with the English way of life. They carried on its practices and adopted the English system of common law.

That sixteenth century culture is alive and well in America today and is why America is in many respects a backward nation. Americans are living 500 years behind the times.

One would like to believe that human institutions exist to enhance the lives of people, but there is very little evidence to support that view. If enhancing the lives of people is not the purpose of human institutions, what is? The American Constitution lists six goals the founders expected the nation to accomplish:

We the People of the United States, in Order to (1) form a more perfect Union, (2) establish Justice, (3) insure domestic Tranquility, (4) provide for the common defence, (5) promote the general Welfare, and (6) secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Unfortunately, no American government has ever tried to govern in a way that seeks to attain these goals. So the American government is either an unconstitutional, failed state or else the framers of the Constitution must be thought of as having engaged in unrealistic political propaganda. At any rate, the American government is not what the Constitution makes it out to be. The question is why? The answer is the stupid political economy!

The English who settled America brought English culture with them. The colonies were nothing but little Englands. When the colonists revolted, they were merely trying to get free of the tyrannical English monarchy, not trying to change the culture. They were perfectly happy with the English way of strife. They carried on its practices and adopted the English system of common law.

That sixteenth century culture is alive and well in America today and is why America is in many respects a backward nation. Americans are living 500 years behind the times.

The English were engaged in economic activities for hundreds of years before Adam Smith published his An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nation; all he did was provide English merchants with a rationalization for what they had always done and wanted to do more of. Laissez-faire (let [them] do), to them, meant the ability to engage in economic practices without being subjected to governmental restrictions and tariffs. Then, like today, merchants wanted the freedom to profiteer by buying cheap and selling dear. Merchants, then or now, have had little interest in abstruse economic theory unless its models promise greater profit.

But buying cheap and selling dear applies to labor as well as materials, and the classical economists provide a rationalization for that maxim too. The subsistence theory of wages, advanced by classical economists, holds that the market price of labour always tends toward the minimum required for subsistence (that is, for basic needs such as food and shelter). Even Alfred Marshall, America’s first modern economist, was of the opinion that wages in the long run would tend to equal maintenance and reproduction costs. So when the Republican party seeks to eliminate regulations and keep the minimum wage low, they are acting just like sixteenth century English merchants and their boot-licking economists. Merchants become sheep dogs that herd human sheep, and our economists think nothing of it. They have adopted the British way of strife totally.

Although this impoverishment of labor is bad enough, in a globalized economy it is devastating. The classical economists held that a subsistence wage had to be high enough to enable the workforce to reproduce itself in order to maintain a labor supply; in a globalized economy, the workforce needed exists in underdeveloped countries. A domestic workforce is entirely unnecessary, so there is no need to even grant it subsistence wages or any other humane benefit. From a merchants’/economists’ point of view, domestic labor becomes expendable. Why pay it anything at all?

What a lovely world our economists advocate! Economics is not merely a dismal science, it is a murderous one.

Merchants and economists constitute a class of totally inhumane human beings. (Isn’t inhumane human a contradiction?) It seems as though two entirely different races have intermingled—the human race and an inhumane one. In the words of Pope Francis,

“A savage capitalism has taught the logic of profit at any cost . . . of exploitation without thinking of people.”

What kind of person would support this economy? Although they may revel in their fortunes and often act and speak like the rest of us, they are not like us. They are evil to the marrow of their bones. Logically, the inhumane are either not human or deranged.

One such person is Arnaud Costinot, an MIT economist, who uses the doctrine of comparative advantage to justify globalization. He is said to hold this:

“Ricardo thought that instead of trying to produce a wide range of goods, countries could grow by specializing in the goods they could produce most cheaply, and then trading those goods with other countries. This made sense, Ricardo claimed, even when a country could make multiple products more cheaply, in absolute terms, than other countries.

How? Suppose, Ricardo posited, that England produces cloth more cheaply than wine, while Portugal produces wine more cheaply than cloth. And suppose Portugal produces both products more cheaply than England does. Both countries could still benefit from trading in equal terms: England could specialize in making cloth, and trade that for wine. But Portugal could specialize in making wine, and trade that for England’s cloth — which would be the cheapest way to acquire cloth, even if Portugal’s own cloth was cheaper to make than England’s.”

Only thing is, Ricardo never wrote any such thing, and to describe what he wrote in this way is intellectual dishonesty at its worst. Ricardo never uses the word “cheaply.” He uses “the number of man hours needed to produce one unit of cloth or wine,” ‘Man hours worked’ is not a wage or a value of currency. The production may not be cheap. By deliberately misstating what Ricardo writes, economists advocate the exploitation and impoverishment of workers and ultimately their destruction—a truly evil and inhumane goal.

This is the only explanation for the right wing’s war on the poor. Beasts of burden are disposed of when they have lost their usefulness, so destroying the middle class is not to be lamented. When the labor of underdeveloped countries became available to manufacturers, the American middle class became expendable. That is the American Republican party’s goal. It seeks to shrink the size of government by eliminating the people who need to be taken care of.

Economists want us to believe that free trade makes everyone richer, but experience teaches us otherwise.

The Internet is replete with articles both pro and con, but the attitudes of people to offshoring is quite consistent. The peoples in underdeveloped nations involved in making products for the West chafe at the extent of the exploitation. Whether in Latin America, Bangladesh, Malaysia, the Philippines, the Czech Republic, or Poland exploited labor is never described as prosperous. Neither has prosperity blessed America’s laborers. Exploitation and prosperity are alien concepts. The exploited are never prosperous and the prosperous are never exploited. No nation can boast of its prosperity gotten by offshoring. The empirical evidence gotten anecdotally is better than the dubious statistical evidence cited by economists (see The Real Cost of Offshoring.) India’s laborers are not getting rich working for American companies. NAFTA has not brought prosperity to Mexican or American workers. A low-wage job is not a gainful (prosperous) one. Marx asked workers of the world to unite; Western corporate leaders tell them to be damned. Any economist who does not see what is happening is intellectually blind. Or perhaps, just plain evil.

In The Story so Far, the Economist put it this way:

ONCE UPON A time the rich world’s manufacturing firms largely produced in the rich world for the rich world, and most services were produced close to where they were consumed. Then Western firms started sending manufacturing work abroad on a large scale. By the 1980s this was well established. The movement was overwhelmingly in one direction: away from rich countries to places where workers with adequate skills were much cheaper.

Whether openly stated or not, lower labour costs were almost always the chief rationale.

To corporations, workers are likened to beasts of burden and the economic elite who advocate this economic practice are then likened to vicious dogs. What a wonderful world! It will not change until the welfare of mankind, rather than profit, becomes the goal of political-economy. If the human race is to survive, the welfare of human beings must be the goal of human institutions.

John Kozy is a retired professor of philosophy and logic who writes on social, political, and economic issues. After serving in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, he spent 20 years as a university professor and another 20 years working as a writer. He has published a textbook in formal logic commercially, in academic journals and a small number of commercial magazines, and has written a number of guest editorials for newspapers. His on-line pieces can be found on http://www.jkozy.com/ and he can be emailed from that site’s homepage.

Ferry shuttles commuters, and a few Asian carp, from Illinois to Kentucky

captain

 

October 19, 2013 8:00 pm  •  By JOE GISONDI – For the Herald & Review

(0) Comments

EDITOR’S NOTE: Joe Gisondi and Brian Poulter, journalism professors at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, traveled Illinois 1 this summer and recorded their journey. For our purposes, their journey started in Danville, but the six-part series will cover the length of the road from its origin near Cave in Rock and its end at the south side of Chicago. On the Illinois 1 project, under a grant from Verizon, Poulter used an iPhone 5 and a Nokia Lumia 928 cellphone.

CAVE-IN-ROCK — Chris Berton was more concerned about the blood stains than anything.

Blood, Berton said, is difficult to clean off a deck on this ferry, now churning the three-quarter mile expanse across the Ohio River back toward Illinois.

So Berton tossed the body into the green, sediment-rich waters, where the carcass would either decompose, or, more likely, float along the river until it wedged against an embankment or among some weeds, a possible dinner for a raccoon or turtle.

Fortunately, Berton did not get hurt this morning by the 15-pound Asian silver carp that leaped more than 10 feet over the Loni Jo, the 350-horsepower diesel tug that powers this ferry across the river between Cave-In-Rock, where Illinois 1 ends (or begins, depending on your perspective) and Kentucky State Road 91. Like most silver carp, the fish bounced and tap danced across the deck in rapid-fire gyrations before leaving several red splotches on the crimson deck.

Berton, the boat’s deckhand, has been hit several times by these fish, which can grow to 70 pounds, although state biologists say they encounter very few heavier than 30. But even at that weight, Berton says, they pack a lot of power, making him feel as though he’d been smacked with a Louisville Slugger.

Berton looks like he can take a hit, though. He has wide shoulders and strong forearms, probably strengthened from hooking ropes around the metal cleats to connect the ferry to the tug each time it docks on either side as well as from scrubbing elements such as fish blood and scales from the deck. He walks among the cars he navigated onto the ferry’s three lanes in white New Balance sneakers, saying that arranging cars on board is sort of like playing Tetris, the tile-matching puzzle video game. Chris wears an untucked tan shirt that falls over a slightly growing waist and brown pants, a camouflage-green ball cap, and reflective sunglasses, certainly a necessity when riding over the river for at least eight hours a day.

Several silver carp jump aboard each day, usually when the tug turns around before heading across the river with a new load of cars, trucks and semitrucks. On departure, the tug floats away from shore for a few seconds before Captain Jim Littrell turns on the engine and redirects the boat, pivoting in sort of a three-point turn. The rumbling engine often startles the carp, which begin their wild, airborne dance.

Berton has seen several impressive acrobatics from these fish. He grabs a yellow bucket of water and a brush broom to scrub away the blood before it bakes into the paint. These silver carp, he says, have leaped high enough to fly through open car windows, landing on drivers’ laps. They’ve also jumped out of the water so explosively that they have dented car doors and hoods, and one carp even reached a car on top of a semi’s flat bed. It’s the ones that clandestinely flop inside the engine room that worry Berton the most. “If they sit there long enough,” he said, “they can really stink up the place.”

It’s not clear why silver carp react in this manner, unlike their cousin, the bighead carp, although state biologists like Kevin Irons believe this is a survival instinct. “By doing this, they confuse predators,” says Irons, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ aquatic nuisance species program manager, “and, hopefully, they won’t get eaten.”

Conversely, the larger bighead carp, which frequently grow to 70-plus pounds, say fisheries ex-perts, dive down when threatened.

“It’s just a flight mechanism,” says Paul Rister, a biologist for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife.

These carp were originally brought over to the United States from China to help control algae in catfish ponds, primarily in Arkansas. Over the years, the fish escaped, spawned and moved out across the region’s main waterways. Now, they far outnumber native species in the Illinois, Mis-souri and parts of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers — as much as 70 percent in some areas, says Irons.

These carp can eat 20 percent of the body weight each day, produce 700,000 eggs a year, and within a few months are too large for predator fish. As a result, they are eating so much plankton that other species, like shad and cuttlefish, are getting starved out, Irons said.

“We haven’t lost a species yet,” Irons says, “but the native species are not doing as well. The in-vasive process is not over. I’m sure they’re (bighead and silver carp) still reaching out to other watersheds.”

Rister recently watched 100 to 150 silver carp leap in the air almost instantaneously while he drove his boat through a large school on Lake Barkley, a 58,000-mile reservoir located about 60 miles south of Cave-In-Rock in the Land Between The Lakes National Recreation Area. Like Berton, Rister has been hit a few times, which he says is something that “definitely gets your attention.” He says he’s also heard of leaping silver carp breaking one woman’s jaw and bruising the ribs of oth-ers.

Clearly, Brian Poulter and I should carefully scan the water for emerging, flying objects each time we depart these docks on this early August morning, although at six-feet-five, Brian remains both a larger target and a shield. So, I have little to fear, unlike the thousands of people who regu-larly drive boats, fish, and water ski among these large, skittish missiles.

JOSH FANN digs through the rubble of a demolished bank building on a ridge that overlooks the ferry crossing, his blue-and-white Ford Motor Co. ballcap pulled down far over a face that belies his youth. He’s no more than 18, wearing a cut-off gray T-shirt, jeans with a large, torn hole in his right knee, and brown boots. At noon, Josh is worn from bending, picking and stacking unbroken bricks worth reusing by his employer, a local construction company. The back-breaking work and sun are clearly sapping his youthful energy. He’s one of four people on this crew, whose mission is to collect and recycle 6,000 bricks. So far today, they’ve stacked several palettes four to five layers high. But piles of bricks still cover this lot.

Little else is going on at Cave-In-Rock on a Friday afternoon, besides folks filtering into Rose’s Kountry Kitchen around the corner, walking into the newly constructed Area Bank next door, or driving another 200 yards down a declining Illinois 1 to the ferry ramp. The city hall building across the street is empty, as are most of the structures in a town that is tiny both in size at 0.43 square miles and in population with about 318 residents.

CONTINUE READING….