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 on: Jul 22, 2014, 12:14 PM 
Started by ari moshe - Last post by ari moshe
Hi Emily, thank you for your work.
What an interesting chart you chose! I'm excited to learn more about this soul. Before I respond, will you post the birth data and source where you got the data from?

 on: Jul 22, 2014, 10:16 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Russian NGOs Decry 'Foreign Agent' Label

by Naharnet Newsdesk
22 July 2014, 17:24

Russian NGOs on Tuesday vowed to appeal against being labelled as "foreign agents" under a law Western rights groups condemned as a "stranglehold" on freedom of expression.

The Russian justice ministry on Monday added five prominent non-governmental organizations to its register of "foreign agents," which requires them to mark all their paperwork accordingly and undergo stricter audits.

Russia in 2012 introduced a law requiring all organizations engaged in political activity with even a trickle of foreign funding to register as "foreign agents," a term with connotations of Cold War espionage.

Rights groups have battled ever since to avoid using the label.

The newly registered groups are Memorial, a Moscow-based human rights organization that works extensively with Soviet archives to chronicle repressions in the era; Ecodefense, an environmental group whose focus is nuclear power plants; and three legal advocacy groups: Agora, Public Verdict, and Lawyers for Constitutional Rights and Freedoms.

The groups told Agence France Presse that they will not comply with the ministry's orders despite risking heavy penalties.

"We will appeal against (the ministry's) decision, but will continue to operate as before," said Yan Rachinsky, one of the founders of Memorial.

"There may be fines and difficulties arising from that."

Amnesty International called the justice ministry's decision a "further sign of the authorities’ growing stranglehold on freedom of expression".

Thirteen organizations have already filed complaints to the European Court of Human Rights over the law, which is seen as deliberately vague and designed to target specific groups the Kremlin considers oppositional.

In particular, the law defines any form of public campaigning as political activity, even when it is in non-political spheres like health and education.

The law had already pushed some groups to close and reformat their activities.

Golos, an organization that monitors elections and was instrumental during the 2011 parliamentary polls and 2012 presidential polls that led to Vladimir Putin's ascent to a third historic term, now defines itself as a "movement".

"We don't recognize the term 'foreign agent'," said Natalia Taubina of Public Verdict. "We are not agents."

 on: Jul 22, 2014, 10:11 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
EU Foreign Ministers Tackle Tougher Russia Sanctions

by Naharnet Newsdesk
22 July 2014, 18:19

EU foreign ministers tackled tougher Ukraine crisis sanctions against Russia Tuesday, divided as to how far to go and with British-led calls for an arms embargo putting France on the spot.

The downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 last week, allegedly by pro-Moscow rebels using Russian equipment, has changed the situation completely requiring a much tougher response, said Britain's Philip Hammond.

The tragedy "happened in the first place because of Russian support for the rebels ... and (now) we have to go further," Hammond said as he arrived for a regular EU foreign ministers meeting which opened with a minute's silence for the nearly 300 victims on MH17.

An arms embargo "is one of the things that we will have to look at," he said, adding that the EU had to send "a very clear message" to Moscow.

"It is time for an arms embargo, time to wake up a bit," said Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius said, adding: "We are talking about a terrorist act."

Paris is acutely sensitive about the issue because it has a deal worth 1.2 billion euros ($1.6 billion) to supply Russia with two Mistral warships.

French President Francois Hollande on Monday said the agreement was still in place but added that delivery of the second Mistral ship would "depend on Russia's attitude".

Paris is also resentful that the British government is willing to tell it what to do but has taken no steps itself to prevent Russian companies, for example, from raising finance in London.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius made no comment when he arrived for Tuesday's talks, instead calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, another major issue for the foreign ministers.

"Time to stop the 'Mistralisation' of European politics. Europe must dare to stand up united against terrorism," Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said in a typically blunt tweeted message as the foreign ministers sat down.

"To deliver arms to Russia is a position difficult to defend," Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt commented.

While ministers may call for Phase 3 sanctions, which would include an arms embargo, the decision rests with the 28 EU leaders who would have to organize another summit.

A summit of the leaders last Wednesday had recommended that the 28-member bloc only extend its "Phase 2" sanctions, which freeze assets and issue visa bans, to include companies in addition to Russian and Ukrainian figures, with a new list of targets to be ready by the end of the month.

Russia, they said, had failed to meet their demands to reverse course in Ukraine and cut off the flow of fighters and supplies, including of sophisticated heavy weapons, to the rebels.

But Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron, who has been pushing for much tougher action, said Monday that after MH17 it was time for "Phase 3" measures, which target economic sectors and cause much more pain for all sides.

"We cannot go on doing business as usual with a country when it's behaving in this way," Cameron said in a statement to parliament.

"I think it is time to start to go into the tier three sanctions, so for instance future military sales I don't think should be going ahead from any country in Europe," he said, citing specifically the French Mistral contract.

Irish Foreign Minister Charlie Flanagan said he thought it unlikely they would recommend a move to Phase 3 but would discuss other steps.

Germany, often criticized for being slow to act because of its massive economic ties with Russia, conceded that something more had to be done in light of the MH17 downing.

"We remain ready to help with political and diplomatic means to help to de-escalate the situation," Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said.

But at the same time "it will be necessary to complement that with more pressure, that means to take sharper actions," Steinmeier added.

 on: Jul 22, 2014, 08:40 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad

Russians fed conspiracy theories on Ukraine crash

Associated Press


An assassination attempt against Russian President Pig V. Putin. A desperate ploy to draw the West into the battle for Ukraine's east. A botched mission to commit mass murder against Russian citizens.

Russian news consumers are getting plenty of explanations for the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which killed 298 people. While they vary wildly in content, all point the finger at Ukraine. None admits the possibility that Russia may bear responsibility.

The story of the airline tragedy that is unfolding for Russians differs starkly from the one that people are following in the West. As U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told American TV viewers that rebels shot down the plane with Russian weaponry, Russians were being fed a diet of scenarios about forces in Ukraine conspiring to commit an atrocity in the skies.

Yekaterina Andreyeva, one of Russia's most famous TV anchors, delved into one theory hours after news of the crash broke: Our Pig, traveling home from Brazil, passed along the same flight path as the Malaysian passenger jet less than one hour before it was hit -- suggesting an assassination attempt.

By Friday morning, the assassination theory was replaced by other scenarios.

One focused on the Buk missile launcher that Ukraine says brought down the plane. State-owned Rossiya TV pinned blame on Kiev by saying the rebels did not own one, while Ukraine recently deployed a Buk launcher to the area. An Associated Press journalist saw a Buk launcher -- which rebels have bragged about owning in social media -- in rebel-held territory near the crash site hours before the plane was brought down.

Rossiya further said that the red, white, and blue of the Malaysia Airlines logo "resembles the Russian tricolor" -- hinting at a Ukrainian attempt to blow up a Russian passenger jet.

Komsomolskaya Pravda, Russia's most-read tabloid, took another tack. It claimed that Ukrainian air traffic controllers redirected the Malaysia Airlines plane to fly directly over the conflict zone, publishing pictures from flight-tracking websites that appeared to show fluctuations in the plane's route.

Russia media have suggested that Ukrainian authorities orchestrated the downing to make it look like a rebel attack, in hopes it would be the catalyst for luring Western powers into military intervention.

Russian state-controlled television, which is where a majority of Russians get their news, tends to toe the official line and abrupt changes in language on the air can reflect changes in Kremlin strategy. In June, Putin began soft-pedaling his rhetoric on Ukraine after recognizing May 25 presidential elections, in an apparent attempt to stave off Western sanctions.

After the airline tragedy, rat faced Pig Putin led the shift to a more aggressive tone.

"This tragedy would not have happened if there were peace on this land, if the military actions had not been renewed in southeast Ukraine," the filth called Pig Putin said. "And, certainly, the state over whose territory this occurred bears responsibility for this awful tragedy."

Outrage has grown in the West over what appears to be a bungled start to the investigation. Rebels allowed a group of monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe only a superficial inspection of the crash site on Saturday before firing warning shots when two Ukrainian members of the group attempted to study wreckage.

In Russia, meanwhile, news reports repeat that the rebels have been cooperating with the observers -- and blame Kiev for stalling the arrival of international investigators.

"Yesterday the OSCE group worked in the field all day at the scene of the plane crash," First Channel's Sunday broadcast began. "So far the Ukrainian authorities do not want to send a group of international specialists to Donetsk."

 on: Jul 22, 2014, 08:01 AM 
Started by Rose Marcus - Last post by Rad
Is the Pope being Catholic or communist when he attacks capitalism for ignoring the poor?

By The Conversation
Tuesday, July 22, 2014 8:29 EDT
By Bruce Duncan, University of Divinity

A blog in The Economist recently accused Pope Francis of following the founder of the Soviet Union, Vladimir Lenin, in adopting an “ultra-radical line” on capitalism. The blog, “Francis, capitalism and war: the Pope’s divisions”, was reacting to the Pope’s interview on June 9 in Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia, in which he linked an earlier form of capitalism with imperialism as the main causes of World War One.

In response, in an interview with the Italian daily Il Messaggero, the Pope said:

    The communists have stolen the flag. The flag of the poor is Christian … The poor are at the centre of the Gospel.

Francis pointed to the Beatitudes, and Matthew’s Last Judgment scene when God will judge us on how we treated the hungry, naked, the prisoners.

“The communists say that all this is communist,“ Francis said, yet Christians said this 20 centuries earlier. Pope Francis said one could reply to the communists: “you are Christians” in your concern for the poor.
Reasserting Catholic social thinking

Pope Francis’s views are arousing controversy, since many people seem unaware how strongly Catholic social thinking is opposed to the neoliberal policies of the free-marketeers. In the La Vanguardia interview, Francis was distressed that in some countries unemployment levels exceed 50% of workers. He had been told that 75 million young Europeans under 25 years of age were unemployed.

“That is an atrocity, discarding an entire generation to maintain an economic system” that was collapsing, and that depends on the armaments industry to survive. Francis supported the possibilities of globalisation, but deplored the discarding of the young and the elderly.

It was “incomprehensible” that so many people in the world are still hungry. Francis said “the world economic system is not good”, and “we have put money at the centre, the god of money”.

Others disputed the Pope’s critique of inequality. In the UK Telegraph, Allister Heath contested the views of Francis for his attack on economic inequalities and the “new tyranny” of the “absolute autonomy of markets”:

    Francis’ wholesale condemnation of inequality is thus tantamount to a complete rejection of contemporary economic systems. It is not a call for reform … but a radical denunciation.

Heath rejected Francis’s criticism of “trickle-down economics” as a caricature of free-market arguments. Instead, Heath regarded capitalism as “the greatest alleviator of poverty and liberator of people ever discovered”.

Paul B. Farrell’s suggestion in the Wall Street Journal is for Francis to support Bill Gates’ “Giving Pledge” for the super rich to give away half their fortunes in their lifetimes. So far 122 of the super rich have agreed to do so. Alas, this would do nothing to challenge the causes of the perverse distribution of wealth in most capitalist economies.

As Archbishop of Buenos Aires before he became Pope, Bergoglio experienced the trauma of Argentina going into the biggest financial default in history in 2002, owing nearly US$100 billion, much of it lost by mismanagement and war under earlier military regimes.

The percentage of Argentina’s population plunged into poverty rose to 50%, compared with 7% in the 1970s. Millions lost their savings, a quarter of workers lost their jobs and a quarter of the population was left destitute and hungry.

While most of the debt was restructured, so-called “vulture funds” bought up some of the debt for a pittance and demanded that Argentina pay US$1.33 billion, making a return of 1000% to these 1.6% of original bondholders. Despite a German court striking out similar “vulture fund” claims in 2013, astonishingly the US Supreme Court in June 2014 ordered the full debt be paid.

Francis is speaking against the background of such predatory forms of capitalism.
Francis condemns gross inequality

On April 28, the Pope tweeted:

    Inequality is the root of social evil.

    — Pope Francis (@Pontifex) April 28, 2014

Francis was quoting from his exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel, #202.

The message quickly drew thousands of retweets, some critical. Joe Carter, the director of the Acton Institute, an American free market think-tank that is underpinned by religious thought, tweeted:

    Seriously, though, what was up with that tweet by @Pontifex? Has he traded the writings of Peter and Paul for Piketty?

    — Joe Carter (@joecarter) April 28, 2014

Thomas Piketty’s massive tome Capital in the Twenty-first Century had recently been published in English, arguing that the capitalist economy was inherently geared to greatly increasing inequality. Francis considers extreme “unbridled consumerism combined with inequality” outrageous. He fears that resentment by impoverished populations will fuel revolutions, as it has in the past.

Francis is not arguing for absolute equality, as some of his critics have claimed. The Catholic Church has never called for absolute equality. It has argued for a just distribution of goods and services that ensures everyone the possibility of a reasonable life and standard of living. Perhaps “social equity” is a better translation for what the Pope has in mind, but this implies more than the notion of equality of opportunity, since outcomes matter as well.

While sharply critical of the neoliberal views that exacerbated the global financial crisis, Francis strongly supports economic policies that promote material and social uplift more equitably. Speaking in Rome last month, Francis said:

    It is increasingly intolerable that financial markets are shaping the destiny of peoples rather than serving their needs, or that the few derive immense wealth from financial speculation while the many are deeply burdened by the consequences.

These issues are likely to figure prominently in the forthcoming document on the environment that Francis’s team of advisers have been preparing.

The Conversation

Bruce Duncan is a Catholic priest of the Redemptorist Congregation and a member of the social advocacy organisation Social Policy Connections.

 on: Jul 22, 2014, 07:55 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Russia Toughens Penalties on Political Protests

by Naharnet Newsdesk
22 July 2014, 16:34

Russia on Tuesday toughened the penalties for unsanctioned political protests, introducing criminal penalties of up to five years in jail for multiple violations.

The rat face President Pig Putin signed into law changes which place unsanctioned protests and rallies alongside instigating mass unrest in the criminal code.

"The repeated violation of the established procedures for the organization or holding of rallies, gatherings, demonstrations, marches or picketing" is now considered an offence under the criminal code, the Kremlin said on its website.

Russian authorities often deny permission for public gatherings of opposition and human rights groups, and those who go ahead and hold meetings are often broken up by police.

The amendments "were adopted in order to establish criminal responsibility in case of repeated violations of public order or during mass demonstrations," it added.

Those who organize or actively participate in more than two unsanctioned public meetings and protests within six months can now be prosecuted and will face punishments of up to five years in jail or a fine of up to 1 million rubles ($29,000, 21,000 euros).

The law also doubled the amount of time protesters can be held under administrative law, from 15 to 30 days, for violations that include hampering public transport and exceeding the declared number of participants at a protest.

Shit stain Pig Putin, following his election to a third presidential term in 2012 that was marred by mass demonstrations, has signed a number of laws restricting the right to protest.

In April a law introduced a minimum term of four years in jail for causing large disruptions to public order, a charge several activists now face.

Russia has also tightened restrictions on non-governmental organizations, with those that receive international funding now obligated to register as "foreign agents".

Five prominent human rights and environmental defense groups were added to the foreign agents list this week, placing them under stricter financial audits and requiring them to mark all their materials as being produced by foreign agents.

 on: Jul 22, 2014, 07:44 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
In the USA...United Surveillance America

Hedge funds used 'dubious' means to bypass tax rules, senators say

Senate report says hedge funds had 'unfair tax advantage over ordinary citizens' with so-called 'basket options' and calls for IRS audit

Dominic Rushe in New York, Monday 21 July 2014 22.00 BST    

Barclays Exterior From 1998 to 2013, Deutsche and Barclays sold 199 basket options to more than a dozen hedge funds which used them to conduct more than $100bn in trades. Photograph: Oliver Morris/Getty Images

More than a dozen hedge funds, with assistance of Barclays and Deutsche Bank, used “dubious” financial products to claim billions in unjustified tax savings and circumvent rules meant to limit risky bets, a Senate subcommittee investigation has found.

The Senate permanent subcommittee on investigations (PSI) released a report on its investigations on Monday, before a hearing on Tuesday. The PSI has been investigating a series of tax avoidance schemes by companies including Apple and Caterpillar.

The PSI called on the Treasury Department to clamp down on the practices its investigation uncovered and for the Internal Revenue Service to audit Barclays and Deutsche Bank.

The 93-page report released by senators Carl Levin and John McCain centers on the use of financial products known as basket options that were sold to hedge funds and used to help reduce taxes on short-term capital gains.

“Over the years, this subcommittee has focused significant time and attention on two important issues: tax avoidance by profitable companies and wealthy individuals, and reckless behavior that threatens the stability of the financial system,” said Levin.

“This investigation brings those two themes together. These banks and hedge funds used dubious structured financial products in a giant game of ‘let’s pretend', costing the Treasury billions and bypassing safeguards that protect the economy from excessive bank lending for stock speculation."

McCain said: “Americans are tired of large financial institutions playing by a different set of rules when it comes to paying taxes. The banks and hedge funds involved in this case used the basket options structure to change the tax treatment of their short-term stock trades, something the average American investor cannot do. Hedge funds cannot be allowed to have an unfair tax advantage over ordinary citizens.”

From 1998 to 2013, Deutsche and Barclays sold 199 basket options to more than a dozen hedge funds which used them to conduct more than $100bn in trades, according to the report. The subcommittee focused on options involving two of the largest basket option users, Renaissance Technology Corp and George Weiss Associates.

Barclays managing director Marty Malloy, Satish Ramakrishna, the managing director at Deutsche Bank Securities, and Peter Brown, the co-chief executive of Renaissance Technologies, are among the witnesses scheduled to testify on Tuesday before the Senate panel.

According to the report, the banks and hedge funds used the option structure to open proprietary trading accounts in the names of the banks and “create the fiction that the banks owned the account assets, when in fact the hedge funds exercised total control over the assets, executed all the trades, and reaped all the trading profits.”

The hedge funds often exercised the options shortly after the one-year mark and claimed the trading profits were eligible for the lower income tax rate that applies to long-term capital gains on assets held for at least a year. The report claims RenTec treated trading profits as long term gains, even though it executed an average of 26 to 39m trades per year and held many positions for mere seconds.

In 2010, the IRS issued an opinion questioning the use of basket options to claim long-term capital gains but it did not change the tax rules. The banks are not commenting ahead of the hearing but are likely to argue that they operated within the law and the current tax code.

The PSI report also accuses the financial institutions of using basket options to evade federal limits introduced after stock market crash of 1929 to protect against the risk of trading securities with borrowed money. That crash, which left banks unable to collect money they had leant, led to the Great Depression.

A normal brokerage account would allow a two-to-one leverage limit – that is, for every $2 in total holdings in the account, $1 could be borrowed from the broker. The basket option gave the appearance that the bank was transferring its own money into its own proprietary trading accounts instead of lending to its hedge-fund clients. The scheme allowed hedge funds to take on “exponentially more debt than leverage limits allow, in one case permitting a leverage ratio of 20-to-1,” according to the report.

“These basket option deals were enormously profitable for the banks and hedge funds that used them,” Levin said. “But ordinary Americans have shouldered the tax burden these hedge funds shrugged off."


After 13 years, Americans are tired of the ‘war on terror’: 9/11 Commission

By Reuters
Tuesday, July 22, 2014 4:50 EDT

After 13 years of struggle, Americans are showing a growing public fatigue and waning sense of urgency over terrorism, an attitude that threatens U.S. security, members of the panel that investigated the Sept. 11 attacks said in a report on Tuesday.

A decade after issuing the official account of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington, the former members of the bipartisan 9/11 Commission issued a new report warning that, while the world has changed dramatically, the threat from terrorism remains and has “entered a new and dangerous phase.”

“Many Americans think that the terrorist threat is waning – that, as a country, we can begin turning back to other concerns. They are wrong,” the report said. “The threat remains grave and the trend lines in many parts of the world are pointing in the wrong direction.”

“Al Qaeda-affiliated groups are gaining strength throughout the greater Middle East,” it added. “While the various al Qaeda spinoffs are primarily focused on regional conflicts, they hate the United States and will not forego opportunities to strike at the U.S. homeland.”

The panel, headed by former Republican New Jersey Governor Thomas Kean and former Democratic Representative Lee Hamilton, said foreign fighters returning to Europe from Syria and Iraq pose a “grave threat” to the United States and Western Europe.

Of the 10,000 foreign fighters that have traveled to Syria, more than 1,000 hold European passports, which in most cases would enable them to enter the United States without a visa, the panel said. More than 100 U.S. citizens also fought in Syria.

“When these battle-hardened, radicalized fighters return to their home countries, they will pose a serious terrorist threat to both the United States and Europe,” it said.

The group also noted that “The 9/11 Commission Report” issued a decade ago called for reducing the fragmented oversight that resulted in the Department of Homeland Security reporting to 88 committees and subcommittees of Congress.

“Incredibly, it has increased to 92,” the report said, noting that “Congress has proved resistant to needed reforms.”

The report said U.S. counterterrorism capabilities have improved significantly since the Sept. 11 attacks and people in government are tracking the evolving threat, “thinking one step ahead in order to prevent the next attack.”

“Our serious concern now is that public fatigue and waning urgency will undermine these accomplishments. We cannot afford that,” the report said.

It issued a series of recommendations, including calling on U.S. leaders to give the public detailed information about evolving threats, and asking Congress to update its 2001 authorization for the use of military force to improve the administration’s response to threats from Islamist militants.

(Reporting by David Alexander. Editing by Andre Grenon)


Bad News For Republicans: Poll Finds Voters Agree With Obama On Ukraine/Russia Crisis

By: Jason Easley
Monday, July, 21st, 2014, 9:44 am   

A new Politico Poll has some bad news for Republicans bashing President Obama on the Ukraine/Russia crisis. Voters in 2014 battleground states agree with the president by a nearly 2 to 1 margin.

Here are some of the highlights from the Politico Poll:

· 17% called for the U.S. to do more to counter Russian aggression in Ukraine. 31% said the current policy is correct and 34% said the U.S. should be less involved.

o Note: The poll was completed before the downing last week of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, the civilian airliner that was apparently attacked by rocket fire over Eastern Ukraine.

· 67% believe that U.S. military actions should be “limited to direct threats to our national security.” Only 22% believe that as a “moral leader,” the U.S. “has a responsibility to use its military to protect democracy around the globe.”

· 77% support plans to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2016. Only 23% oppose the plan.

· 44% favor less involvement in Iraq’s civil war, versus 19% who favor more involvement and 23% who say the current level of involvement is appropriate.

· A 51% majority said the situation in Iraq affects U.S. national security “a little” or “not at all.” 42% said it affects U.S. national security “a lot.”

· Likely voters prefer less involvement in Syria’s civil war over more involvement, 42% to 15%. 26% support the current, limited level of involvement.

The voters in battleground states agree with the president’s positions, but they disapprove of his foreign policy by a 39%-32% margin. This dynamic is similar to the polling on the ACA. People like what the ACA does, but they claim to dislike Obamacare. This behavior by voters is representative of the fact that Republicans have been successful in criticizing this president and creating a disconnect between support for the president and his policies.

The problem for Republicans is that their calls for more action against Russia are not sitting well with a war-weary electorate. Voters are expressing a loud disagreement with anything that hints at increased military involvement. It would be interesting to see how voters feel about Ukraine/Russia situation after the Malaysian Airliner was downed, but judging from their overall attitude on all military action abroad, it probably doesn’t do much to change their anti-interventionist attitude.

These numbers are awful for Republicans are hoping to make political hay out of what they call Obama’s failure in dealing with Russia. The reality is that the vast majority of voters agree with Obama on Iraq, Iran, Syria, Afghanistan, and Russia. Voters still remember the Iraq war, and Republicans are still damaged by lying the country into invading Iraq. These numbers do suggest that the electorate may be quite sympathetic to Rand Paul’s foreign policy views, but those same views are likely to keep Sen. Paul from obtaining the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.

Voters in were only polled in states that featured competitive House and Senate races. The Senate states that were polled include Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Oregon, South Dakota, Virginia and West Virginia. House districts were polled from around the country.

If Republicans thought they were going to score political points based on Obama’s handling of Russia, they were wrong. Their position of more war and conflict will hurt them with voters in November if they continue down this path. Whether these voters realize it or not, they strongly agree with President Obama and the Democrats on foreign policy.


The Republicans Lie – About Everything

By: Hrafnkell Haraldsson
Tuesday, July, 22nd, 2014, 7:43 am   

Republican dishonesty, not only about what they do and what they would like to do, but about the world we live in, are endemic. And the situation is getting steadily worse as Republicans daily seem more unhinged, leaving liberals and progressives shaking their heads in dismay.

Do you remember last year when Public Policy Polling revealed that more Louisiana Republicans blame President Obama for the mishandling of Katrina relief efforts than blame President Bush? It is a matter of public record that Barack Obama was only a freshman senator then, while Bush had been president for half a decade. Almost half of Louisiana Republicans didn’t know who to blame.

Of course, Republicans have also blamed Obama for the Iraq War and routinely pretend that there were no terrorist attacks on U.S. soil while Bush was president (9/11 anyone?). Not only that, but Fox News has excised any subsequent Bush-era terrorist attacks from public memory. Republicans have also conveniently forgotten that Bush presided over the economic collapse of 2008. Obama wasn’t elected until November 4 of that year and did not take office until the following January.

Of course, President Obama is currently being blamed for the immigration crisis at the border that Republicans are responsible for. Bush signed the law; Obama gets blamed.

Republicans attack President Obama for taking too many vacation days. In reality, as Al Sharpton pointed out on August 9, 2013,

    [Obama] has taken 92 days of vacation since he was sworn in. How many did President (George W.) Bush take by the same point in his presidency? Three hundred and sixty seven. Yes, more than a full year of vacation.

PolitiFact has rated this statement “mostly true” in that Bush spent some working vacation days at his Texas ranch. I remember Bush being on vacation all the time; Republicans don’t even remember Bush.

Republicans want to sue and impeach President Obama for signing executive orders, even though he has issued far fewer executive orders than President Bush, whose executive orders were not the object of Republican complaint.

For example, on September 25, 2012, pointed out that “Obama has issued 139 executive orders as of Sept. 25 [2012]…Bush issued 160 executive orders through Sept. 20, 2004, a comparable amount of time.”

As of June 20, 2014, Obama had signed 182 executive orders. Bush signed 173 in his first term alone, and 291 during his entire presidency.

Again, if you want to count executive orders you can do so; it’s a matter of public record and the University of California Santa Barbara helpfully tracks them by year and president. Republicans prefer just making stuff up because the facts do not agree with the fantasies they want to push.

Republicans have claimed Obama is adding to the deficit (while they add to it themselves via tax breaks for their rich owners) when in fact he has been steadily reducing the deficit. In fact, last year, Obama shrank the deficit to a 5-year low. And as Paul Krugman points out, there was never a crisis in the first place. As with all their other scandals, it was manufactured by conservatives to advance their anti-Social Security and Medicare agenda.

Democrats like to believe that when they engage the Right in debate that they do so on more or less equal terms. Both sides are, after all, comprised of sentient human beings. But Republicans have given substance to the old childhood taunt, “I am rubber, you are glue, words bounce off me and stick to you.”
They are literally impervious to facts.

And not only is President Obama magically to blame for all Bush’s manifest misdeeds, he is somehow also to blame for every misdeed committed anywhere in the world.

Everything that happens is somehow Obama’s fault and John McCain has turned himself into Chuck Norris, able to strangle the butterfly that flapped its wings in Siberia to prevent a typhoon hitting the West Coast. Only John McCain, who voted for the Iraq War, could have stopped the Iraq War.

This must make sense only to Republicans, who nod their heads sagely.

If only they could do so in strait jackets, which is arguably where they belong.

Republicans live in a world where women’s bodies magically repel unwanted sperm and where some equally mysterious alchemy turns sperm in the anus into the AIDS virus, where such a thing as “legitimate rape” exists and global warming and evolution do not. This is a world where slavery really wasn’t so bad and anyway, whites were the real victims, apparently moping about and wishing they could be slaves too.

And what do you say to egregious and sustained Republican insistence that racism is a distant memory, or that women have attained equality of pay with men? Of all people, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has no right to call a Democrat delusional, not when the platform and ideology of his party is completely founded on delusion.

Tough to tell if any of those things are crazier than creationist Ken Ham calling for an end to the space program because any aliens we find are going to hell anyway, as though the Space Program was ever a proselytizing effort. In the end, how does one compare and rate samples of excrement? Ham’s real problem is that if the space program continues, we are almost certain to find life on another world – and sooner rather than later – thus bringing his creationist fantasy down around his ears.

This is a world where Kirk Cameron knows more than Stephen Hawking, where he and others can throw stones even while complaining they are being stoned. I could go on, but this article would never end, because, by myself, I can’t keep up with the fast and furious flow of Republican mendacity.

Far from creating a straw man, Republicans have created a straw country, one where nothing is as it seems, one that has no relationship – not even a passing resemblance – to the actual fact-based world in which we live. In short, Republicans lie. They lie about everything. They even lie about lying.

The world laughs. The Democrats – and the American people – are left holding the bag.


A Bad Sign For Boehner as Judge Throws Out Senator’s Obamacare Lawsuit

By: Jason Easley
Tuesday, July, 22nd, 2014, 9:12 am

Here is the reason why Speaker John Boehner’s lawsuit is likely to go nowhere. A federal judge in Wisconsin threw out an Obamacare lawsuit by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) because the senator lacked standing.

The judge wrote:

    First, there is nothing in the Constitution stipulating that all wrongs must have remedies, much less that the remedy must lie in federal court. In fact, given the Constitution’s parsimonious grant of judicial authority, just the opposite is true. As the Supreme Court has observed, “our system of government leaves many crucial decisions to the political processes. The assumption that if respondents have no standing to sue, no one would have standing, is not a reason to find standing.”

    In sum, the fact that the allegations advanced in this action might be difficult or even impossible to pursue in federal court for any other plaintiffs does not mean that these Plaintiffs have suffered the kind of injury that could give rise to standing.

Sen. Johnson was challenging an Obama administration rule that allowed congressional staffers to get subsidies while signing up for Obamacare. The judge in the case, William Griesbach, a 2002 Bush appointee warned Johnson that standing can’t be based on his own subjective views.

The judge’s refusal to hear the merits of the case is a case sign for Boehner and his lawsuit against the president. Like Boehner, Sen. Johnson tried to sue over the president “changing the law,” and his suit was thrown out of court. It is likely that Boehner will face the same fate once he files his suit.

The hurdle remains the same. Speaker Boehner needs to be able to prove that the House has been injured by the president’s actions. Since a partisan dispute is not the same as a legal injury, Boehner’s lawsuit looks like it is doomed to fail.


Obama Is Being Forced To Clean Up The Immigration Mess Caused By Republicans

By: Rmuse
Monday, July, 21st, 2014, 11:40 am   

It is safe to say that many, if not most, African Americans can attest to the fact that if there is trouble and there are ten white people and one African American in the vicinity, the African American will be blamed for the problem. It is what happens in a society steeped in racism and Aryan sensibilities, and it certainly applies to the way Republicans treat President Barack Obama. The party of white supremacy, Republicans, have spent the past five years blaming the African American President for myriad policies and legislation enacted during white president George W. Bush’s administration. The President has spent an inordinate amount of time cleaning up Bush-Republican messes whether it was a devastating economic recession, two wars of aggression against Muslims, or most recently the immigration “crisis” involving child refugees from Central America.

Americans who have been of legal voting age over the past ten years, at least, are aware that every two years a cause célèbre for Republicans is blaming most of the nation’s woes on immigrants that are not white; primarily Latinos. This year is no different and Republicans are using the number of Central American children emigrating to America as a reason to reject comprehensive immigration reform, fill their campaign coffers, marshal armed militias to the border with Mexico, demand thousands of national guard troops to turn the children away, and blame the African American in the Oval Office for a Bush Administration policy.

Despite the chorus of Republicans placing the blame for the increase in unaccompanied child immigrants on President Obama, he has little to no options in dealing with the so-called “crisis.” Under the 2002 Homeland Security Act, and 2008′s Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, both during the Bush administration, Congress set up a particular process for dealing with unaccompanied immigrant children that leaves President Obama with no flexibility to deal with the issue. Republicans demand the President, and plead with armed vigilantes, to deport the children back to their home countries, but under Bush-Republicans’ two laws, the Border Patrol is required to take the child immigrants, who are not from Mexico, into custody, transfer them to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, and either find a suitable relative to place them with or put them in long-term foster care; not send them back home.

Contrary to Republican claims President Obama is offering the children amnesty in exchange for their votes, spreading African continent diseases to the population, or polluting America’s “whiteness,” he is attempting to work with Congress to change the law. However, one would never know it to hear Republicans using the issue to raise campaign dollars from xenophobic Americans, incite opposition to comprehensive immigration reform, blame the President for the humanitarian crisis, or refuse to uphold immigration laws.

For example, three weeks ago House Republicans held a Judiciary Committee hearing titled “An Administration Made Disaster: The South Texas Border Surge of Unaccompanied Alien Minors.” Within days of the hearing, Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn wrote in an op-ed that President Obama’s “broader refusal to uphold our immigration laws has created a powerful incentive for children to cross into the United States illegally.” Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) agreed with Cornyn and asserted the President was “personally responsible for ‘incentivizing’ unaccompanied children with the promise of citizenship for anyone in the world who arrives illegally in the country by a certain age. President Obama is responsible for this calamity.”

More Republicans lies, and it got worse when the President announced a “cross-governmental agency plan to deal with the situation” that inspired House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) to state categorically that the immigration surge was “an administration-made crisis due to Obama’s lax border enforcement policies.” He also said “the Obama Administration’s policies have led to a surge of minors arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border.” House Speaker John Boehner joined the Republicans’ concerted lie-fest and propaganda campaign against the President in a letter to Obama claiming the President was giving a “free pass to immigrants coming to America” and demanded, like many Republicans, that the President send the National Guard to the Texas border because “once unaccompanied children reach U.S. soil, they will be able to stay here indefinitely.” That is not close to being true, but it does reveal that Boehner, as a member of Bush’s Republican Congress, was involved in passing both the 2002 and 2008 humanitarian legislation for Central American victims Republicans now claim that President Obama is “personally responsible” for.

Republicans are well-aware President Obama is not responsible for the humanitarian crisis at the border, but they are blaming him anyway to garner electoral support to reject any attempt at immigration reform. Thus far, they claim immigration reform can never happen because the President broke the law to secure the release of POW Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, the ACA rollout experienced technical glitches, the Boston Marathon bomber was an immigrant, and that the President refused to “negotiate” during the government shutdown making it “unrealistic” to pass immigration reform. In fact, the latest outrageous claim to halt any chance at reform was piece of filth Ted Cruz claiming the President and Harry Reid were holding the immigrant children for ransom and something about “amnesty.” It is noteworthy that the only “amnesty” for immigrants was granted by Republican man-god Ronald Reagan; not Barack Obama.

Ted Cruz complaining about immigration is typically hypocritical because Cruz’s evangelical father illegally bribed immigration officials in Cuba to come to America, then emigrated to Canada where he became a citizen before returning to America. The elder Cruz did not seek American citizenship until 2005; 48 years after admittedly illegally emigrating to America. Apparently for Cruz, and all Republican descendants of immigrants, coupled with their intense xenophobia is their change of heart on aiding refugee children that began when an African American man was elected President.

Republicans know the influx of child refugees from Central America is both the result of America’s drug policies and their own actions during the Bush administration. It is likely there are a few Republicans that support immigration reform, but this is an election year and nothing incites opposition to Democrats among xenophobes and white supremacists more than threats “their” white nation is being overrun by brown people; particularly at the urging of a Black President. That is the real, and only, issue at play in the humanitarian crisis that Republicans and George W. Bush saw fit to address long before Barack Obama was sworn in as President.

The border “crisis” is a humanitarian crisis and the immigrants are unaccompanied children fleeing untenable conditions in their home countries. In fact, a recent report from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees says the majority of children emigrating from Central America are eligible for humanitarian protection, according to international standards. However, this is America and Republicans cannot comport anything resembling humanitarian protection; particularly for brown children and especially with an African American in the White House.

Most Americans get it. Republicans do not like brown people whether they were born in America or emigrated here as children. What is curious is why they are blaming Barack Obama for their actions when they should be jumping at the chance to take credit for offering humanitarian aid to Latino children that might pay electoral dividends with the Hispanic community. Instead they have demonized innocent refugee children with the same animus they reserve for the President because expressing hatred for immigrants, like blaming the President for Bush-Republican actions is red meat for their inhumane and xenophobic base.


Democratic Rep Strongly Criticizes Rick Perry’s Decision To Militarize Texas’ Border

By: Justin Baragona
Monday, July, 21st, 2014, 4:08 pm   

On Monday, Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) criticized Texas Governor Rick Perry’s announcement that he will send 1,000 National Guard troops to Texas’ border with Mexico. Perry is calling this move Operation Strong Safety and said it is necessary to help further secure the border. The governor has also called on President Obama to hire 3,000 more border patrol agents to patrol along the Rio Grande River. This is all in the wake of the ongoing humanitarian crisis involving migrant children from Central America, who are making their way to the U.S. border.

Politico reported that Castro sent out an email after he was informed of Perry’s decision to send troops to the border. In the email, the Congressman had the following to say:

    “We should be sending the Red Cross to the border not the National Guard to deal with this humanitarian crisis. The children fleeing violence in Central America are seeking out border patrol agents. They are not trying to evade them. Why send soldiers to confront these kids? Militarizing our border is the wrong response to the arrival of children.I remain hopeful that our state can provide a more helpful response than to send armed soldiers to greet children seeking refuge from violence.”

Castro was actually made aware of Perry’s plans on Sunday and posted the following to his Facebook page Sunday night.

Post by Congressman Joaquin Castro.

Over the past weeks, Perry has strongly hinted that he was going to send troops to the border. When he met with President Obama earlier this month, he requested that the federal government deploy National Guard troops to the border. He reiterated that statement in interviews after the meeting. The reason Perry wanted the White House to deploy the troops was he didn’t want Texas to be responsible for the cost. Keeping a thousand armed troops at the border will cost Texas roughly $5 million a week.

Besides the cost, there really isn’t a reason to send the National Guard to the border. The children who are fleeing Central America are willingly going to agents and turning themselves in once they reach the border. Border security isn’t an issue so much as there is a logjam in the system when it comes to dealing with the high number of individuals who need to be processed after being detained. Also, there is a basic need for supplies and housing to deal with the increased amount of detained refugees.

Instead, Perry is merely interested in creating a certain visual to appeal to right-wing voters as he prepares himself for another sure-to-be ill-fated run for the White House. He gets to send National Guardsmen to the border in order to stop the invasion that is coming through. He gets to tout himself as a man of action and even gives this operation a cool-sounding name. However, this won’t do anything to actually address the crisis. The National Guard can’t enforce immigration law and can’t even stop immigrants from crossing the border. They are merely there for window dressing, all in an effort to make Perry look ‘strong.’

Perry, like other Republicans, isn’t interested in finding any real solutions. Instead, he just wants to use this humanitarian crisis as a way to rile up the ‘Old Angry White Guy’ base ahead of 2016.


Things Go From Bad To Worse for Mitch As Kentucky GOP Leader Resigns To Protest McConnell

By: Jason Easley
Monday, July, 21st, 2014, 2:12 pm

A local Republican Party leader in Kentucky has resigned her position in act of protest against Sen. Mitch McConnell.

According to WFPL:

    After serving on the Daviess County Republican Party’s leadership team for almost three years, Owensboro native Barbara Knott had enough.

    She resigned on July 10 and the reason was simple; Knott cannot support Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell this fall.

    “I have resigned from the executive committee of the Republican Party because I will not support Mitch McConnell,” Knott, chair of the Owensboro Tea Party, said in a telephone interview. “I have a big 4×8 sign in my front yard that says ‘Retire Mitch.’ It’s going to stay there through the election. I will not vote for that man.”

    Knott does plan to come out to support other Republican candidates. But in terms of McConnell she is “just fed up” despite voting for him in the past.

When local party leaders are resigning because they can no longer support him, things are getting dire for Mitch McConnell. The only thing that McConnell has going for him is a big pile of money that will be spent by outside groups on his behalf this fall. Sen. McConnell’s campaign has been worst run spectacles of the year. The candidate himself has alternated between gaffes and offensive statements.

Sen. McConnell is using the same playbook that he has been following for decades, but this time it isn’t working. McConnell is not having success trying to tie his Democratic opponent Alison Grimes to President Obama. His Obamacare attacks have gone nowhere, and mostly the senator has looked out of touch with the needs of his constituents on the campaign trail.

Tea party activists are outraged at McConnell because he funded an ad in support of Sen. Thad Cochran during the Republican Mississippi Senate runoff. McConnell has always been on thin ice with the state’s tea partiers, and his decision to play such an active role in the Mississippi contest is coming back to haunt him.

If Sen. McConnell loses the tea party crowd, he is going to have a nearly impossible time winning the election in November, and if the Senate Minority Leader loses his seat, Republican chances of taking back the Senate go down the tubes. By abandoning McConnell, tea partiers are doing what they do best. The tea party may once again end up helping Democrats keep their majority in the US Senate.

 on: Jul 22, 2014, 07:26 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad

South Africa considers plan to move rhinos to protect them from poachers

Kruger national park says goal is to 'spread the risk' because it has been heavily targeted, but no guarantee other parks safer

Associated Press in Johannesburg
The Guardian, Monday 21 July 2014 19.02 BST   
South Africa's Kruger national park is considering a plan to move some rhinos out of the wildlife reserve in an attempt to protect them from poachers.

The goal is to "spread the risk" by evacuating rhinos to other game reserves because Kruger park is heavily targeted by poachers, park spokesman William Mabasa said on Monday. No decision has been made on the proposal and there is no guarantee that other parks are safe, as "poachers are going everywhere", he said. Many poachers cross into Kruger from neighbouring Mozambique, and they are often able to elude ranger teams that operate with limited aerial surveillance across the vast park of 19,485 sq km (7,500 sq miles).

About 560 rhinos have been poached in South Africa so far this year, and well over half were killed in Kruger, in the north-east of the country, the national parks service said earlier this month. About 160 suspected poachers have been arrested in 2014.

South Africa, which has 70% of the world's rhinos, lost a record 1,004 of the animals to poachers in 2013, according to government figures. Conservationists warn that a "tipping point" could come as soon as next year, when rhino deaths exceed births and the population goes into decline.

International criminal syndicates are said to be involved in poaching rhinos, whose horn is worth a fortune on the illegal market in parts of Asia. Some Vietnamese and Chinese view it as a status symbol and a healing agent.

Kruger park, a popular destination for international tourists, has borne the brunt of rhino poaching for years despite international efforts to help conservation efforts there. In March, US philanthropist Howard Buffett, a son of investor Warren Buffett, pledged nearly $24m (£14m) for protecting rhinos, earmarking the money for ranger teams, sniffer dogs and other security measures in one-third of the Kruger park.

Mabasa, the Kruger spokesman, did not say how many rhinos might be moved. The evacuation proposal is being discussed at board level.

 on: Jul 22, 2014, 07:24 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
New Age leader sues ex-students over leaked video of her drunken racist anti-gay rant

By Tom Boggioni
Monday, July 21, 2014 14:58 EDT

The leader of a New Age consciousness and enlightenment school, who channels the voice of a 35,000-year-old Lemurian warrior when speaking to her followers, is suing two former students after they posted a drunken rant by her saying Jews have enough money to “have paid their way out of the goddamned gas chambers by now,” and Mexicans breed “like rabbits,” among other slurs.

The 'spiritual clown' called JZ Knight, a 65-year-old former rodeo queen and cable TV saleswoman who heads the Ramtha School of Enlightenment (RSE) in Yelm, Washington, is suing ex-students Virginia Coverdale and David McCarthy for uploading live-streamed video from a 2011 Ramtha ’channeling’ that turned into a drunken bigoted diatribe, according to Susy Buchanan of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

“Fuck God’s chosen people! I think they have earned enough cash to have paid their way out of the goddamned gas chambers by now,” Knight told her students in the released video. Knight explained “I’m telling you this, every goddamn Mexican family is a Catholic—they’re breeding like fucking rabbits,”  before adding that “all gay men were once Catholic women.”

Knight delivered her speech while students followed her in a drinking game, taking a drink of wine every time she did. Wine ceremonies have been a ritual at RSE since 1996, where students are taught to believe that wine grapes were brought to Earth by extraterrestrials 450,000 years ago.

JZ Knight, born Judith Darlene Hampton in 1946 in Roswell, New Mexico., encountered Ramtha the warrior in 1977 while experimenting with construction paper pyramids. According to her biography, she placed a pyramid on her head and Ramtha, a 7-foot-tall apparition of golden glitter clad in a purple robe, appeared in her kitchen.

“I am Ramtha the Enlightened One. I have come to help you over the ditch,” he told her.

Beginning in 1979, JZ (short for Judith Zebra, no periods needed) began channeling Ramtha at workshops and retreats called “Ramtha Dialogues.”

Early students included Shirley MacLaine (who broke off contact with Knight 30 years ago, according to a spokesperson for the actress), and actors Richard Chamberlain and Mike Farrell. According to RSE officials, actresses Salma Hayek and former “Dynasty” star Linda Evans are current students.

Knight has grown wealthy over the years, purchasing the ranch in Yelm where the school is located. According to RSE, the land was once part of ancient Lemuria during Ramtha’s lifetime, before he migrated to Atlantis and freed his people from tyranny at the age of 14. Ramtha then went on to conquer two-thirds of the world at the head of an army of 2.5 million, before spending seven years meditating and then ascending like Jesus.

According to Knight’s Manhattan Beach, Calif.-based PR firm, “Since the school was founded in 1989, more than 86,000 people worldwide have attended RSE events including about 7,500 in Washington State.” Approximately 2,000 students live near Yelm, a town with a population of close to 7,000.

At the school, students are taught the four tenets of Ramtha’s philosophy: the statement, ‘You are god’; the mandate to make known the unknown; the concept that consciousness and energy create the nature of reality; and the challenge to conquer yourself.

Knight also teaches students to hoard gold and prepare food and supplies to survive for two years following one of the natural disasters that she often predicts will hit the earth. Knight, as Ramtha, is also a believer in the “New World Order” making her a favorite of white nationalist website Stormfront, which lists her writings under headings such as “Jews were responsible for causing WW1 & 2.”

Recently followers have become disenchanted with Knight’s drunken rambling, feeling this is not the enlightenment they are seeking.

In the 16-hour video released by the ex-students, a drunken Knight proclaims, “Fuck Jehovah,” in Ramtha’s voice, before claiming Jesus as a fellow alien who came to Earth to teach the same basic philosophy.

From the same stage, an acolyte of Knight’s, former priest Míceál Ledwith, calls the biblical God “fickle, capricious, psychotic, neurotic, and insecure, and we are supposed to believe that he is the creator God.”

Knight adds that God is a “psychotic, insecure son of a bitch,” before dancing onstage with Ledwith.

Former student Coverdale, currently appealing a $600,000 judgement against her from Knight and RSE, said “Although admittedly, as a rule, the cult does not have as one of its ideologies hating Mexicans or Jewish people or gay people or Catholics, JZ Knight herself is proving she does as her [drinking] increases and she is unable to keep up the love act she had going in the ’80s. It is beyond hate speech.”

“In America, there are many First Amendment rights I agree with, even if I disagree with what is being said. Where I get concerned is when you have a large group of people that believe they are hearing from a powerful enlightened entity, creating an ‘us versus them’ situation,” she added.

For her part, Knight maintains the videos were heavily edited, saying ““Those tapes were illegal from the get-go, and that they were distributed, edited and chopped to make us look like bigots and hateful people when nothing could be further from the truth, nothing! I will not let other people rewrite our history!”

The video continues to keep popping up on the Internet, despite efforts by  Knight’s attorneys to have it removed on copyright grounds.

 on: Jul 22, 2014, 07:18 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
700 million women were married as children, with one-in-three before their 15th birthday

By Alexandra Topping, The Guardian
Monday, July 21, 2014 22:49 EDT

Girl Summit tackles female genital mutilation and child marriage, as UNICEF warns 280 million girls could be brides before 18

More than 700 million women worldwide were married as children, with one in three of them married before their 15th birthday, according to a global prevalence study.

As activists, politicians and campaigners gather for the first Girl Summit on child marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM), a report by Unicef, the UN’s children’s agency, reveal the devastating situation of millions of women.

The study, the first of its kind, also reveals that more than 130 million girls and women have experienced some form of FGM, and states that urgent efforts are needed to tackle gender inequality or the number will not reduce. If the current decline in FGM continues at the same rate, more than 63 million more girls could be cut by 2050.

About a third of child brides live in India, according to Unicef. If nothing more is done to end the practice, the number of married girls could increase to more than 1 billion by 2050. Population estimates suggest the number could leap from 700 million to 950 million by 2030 and 1.2 billion by 2050. At least 280 million girls are at risk of becoming brides by the time they turn 18.

The Girl Summit, hosted by the UK government and Unicef, will attempt to mobilise international efforts to end FGM and child marriage within a generation. David Cameron, the prime minister, will warn parents that they will be prosecuted if they fail to prevent their daughter being cut, and that all victims of female genital mutilation will be given lifelong anonymity.

“All girls have the right to live free from violence and coercion, without being forced into marriage or the lifelong physical and psychological effects of female genital mutilation,” Cameron will say. “Abhorrent practices like these, no matter how deeply rooted in societies, violate the rights of girls and women across the world, including here in the UK.”

The prevalence of child marriage has fallen slightly over the past 30 years, but a global population boom in countries where the practices are common means just as many girls are being pushed into harmful situations.

World leaders and campaigners must step up efforts to break the cycle of oppression, said Unicef’s executive director, Anthony Lake. “Let’s not forget that these numbers represent real lives. While these are problems of a global scale, the solutions must be local, driven by communities, families and girls themselves to change mindsets and break the cycles that perpetuate FGM/C and child marriage,” he said. “We can’t let the staggering numbers numb us – they must compel us to act.”

Jaha Dukureh, a 24-year-old mother of three who leads the Guardian’s campaign against FGM in the US, was subjected to the most severe form of FGM as a child in the Gambia before being forced into an arranged marriage at 15.

“When I met my husband I wasn’t ready to get married; it wasn’t something that I wanted. I was very, very scared, I was angry, I was sad,” she said. After flying alone to the US the teenager had to have surgery so that her husband could have sex with her. She was told she had to have sexual intercourse that same day.

“When I had to be reopened, and this happened in America, it was like I went through FGM all over again,” she said. “When I talk about FGM, it’s not about me, it’s about the little girls out there. I have a daughter. And I know what this has done to me, and I don’t want it to happen to her.”

Despite fears that millions more women will have FGM for cultural reasons, there has been significant progress around the issue, with a shift in attitudes beginning to take hold, according to the report.

Overall, the chance that a girl will be cut today is about a third lower than it was over the past 30 or so years. Rates in Kenya and Tanzania have dropped to a third of their levels three decades ago, mainly because of a combination of community activism and legislation. In the Central African Republic, Iraq, Liberia and Nigeria, prevalence has dropped by up to half.

FGM, which is carried out on girls in 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East, involves the removal of external genitalia. Some victims have the clitoris and labia removed before they are sewn up, leaving only a small hole for menstruation and urine. The cultural practice, designed to ensure girls’ virginity, can lead to excessive bleeding, infection, infertility and death.

Girls who marry under 18 are less likely to remain in school, and more likely to suffer domestic violence and die from complications during pregnancy and childbirth. © Guardian News and Media 2014

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