February 8th, 2010

  • iweep4u

Lawyer jumps from sinking ship

Lawyer for Americans held in Haiti quits

Port-au-Prince, Haiti (CNN) -- A Haitian attorney representing 10 Americans charged with kidnapping for trying to take 33 children out of Haiti told CNN Sunday he has resigned.

Edwin Coq said he had quit as a lawyer for the Americans. It wasn't immediately clear who would replace him.

"I know that they have been looking at other lawyers," said Phyllis Allison, mother of one of those detained, Jim Allen. "They don't know what to do."

The 10 missionaries, including group leader Laura Silsby, were charged Thursday with kidnapping children and criminal association. Coq had said that court hearings would be held Monday and Tuesday for his clients, who have been split up at two prisons.

He has tried to get the Americans released, though he has also blamed Silsby for the missionaries' legal troubles.

Conviction on the kidnapping charge would carry a maximum penalty of life in prison; the criminal association charge would carry a penalty of three to nine years, according to a former justice minister.

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I just thought this was interesting because it was the first I'd heard of what the sentences might be.

"...she had no intention to do any harm." Oh, well that makes it alright then.

Tebow's Focus on the Family ad could change future Super Bowls

At about 6:43 p.m. ET, one simple ad changed the Super Bowl forever.

It's now an accepted truism that the Super Bowl is as much about the advertising as the on-field action; of the estimated 100 million people who will view this year's game, a significant number can't identify anyone outside of Peyton Manning(notes). But almost everyone will remember the commercials –- in particular, one entitled "Celebrate Family, Celebrate Life."

It appears simple enough: Pam Tebow telling a heartwarming story about her rather famous son, former University of Florida star quarterback Tim Tebow, punctuated with a little CGI'd violence. Indeed, given all the hype that had built up about the commercial -- the rumor that it would be a strident anti-abortion screed, for instance -- many viewers were left with an "is that it?" feeling afterward. (A slightly different version of the ad aired before the game.) But it's what's implied, what the ad represents, that could fundamentally alter the Super Bowl commercial landscape.

Over the past 43 Super Bowls, commercials have grown from simple product pitches into pop-art touchstones as companies spend millions for 30 seconds of the nation's undivided attention. They've run the gamut from provocative to subversive, ridiculous to sentimental. They've employed celebrities and ordinary people; they've praised and mocked their subjects. But until Sunday, they all had one thing in common: They stayed away from the charged worlds of politics, religion and morality.

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Mr. T the Patriot

At least his fellow soldiers know he's not a homo

US soldier gives four-year-old daughter 'waterboarding' over alphabet

Joshua Tabor allegedly told police he had used the technique because he was angry and knew his daughter was scared of water.

The 27-year-old, who had recently gained custody of the young girl, said she "squirmed" as he pushed her under the water three or four times, it was claimed.

Waterboarding is a controversial torture technique used by the CIA to interrogate al Qaeda suspects at Guantanamo Bay, where water is poured over detainees so they think they are drowning.

Mr Tabor, from the Lewis-McChord base in Tacoma, Washington, was arrested after he was seen wearing a Kevlar military helmet and threatening to smash windows.Collapse )

Obama's 'stupid' jab at Vegas By Penn Jillette

Penn Jillette -- the larger, louder half of Penn & Teller -- is a magician, comedian, actor, author and producer. At a February 2 town hall in Nashua, New Hampshire, President Obama said, "You don't blow a bunch of cash on Vegas when you're trying to save for college."

Las Vegas, Nevada (CNN) -- President Obama made a couple of stupid little jokes about Vegas. He uses our Las Vegas as a symbol. Everyone knows what Vegas means. Doc Pomus wrote "Viva Las Vegas" for Elvis years before Doc ever visited Sin City and got everything right.

Vegas means ... wild, irresponsible, what-happens-here-stays-here. Smoke cigars, have sex with strangers, get wasted and see stupid shows with stupid Elvis impersonators doing stupid impressions of that stupid hillbilly.

That's an image we know and love in Vegas. It's the image we spend our stupidly low tax money to promote. "What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas" was an official slogan.

It's the Vegas image Katy Perry has in her video, "Waking Up in Vegas," and Penn & Teller do a cameo in that video. We all promote that image. In Vegas, our service industry services that nutty image. We make money off people thinking Vegas is a place to get stupid and waste money.

I know a joke when it bites me in the ass. And I've done plenty of jokes biting other people's asses. It's my job.


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Russian Soft Drinks with Stalin's Portrait Anger Veterans

A beverage plant in the Russian city of Volgograd is releasing a series of soft drinks picturing Josef Stalin and other World War II commanders, Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper reported on Wednesday.

The drinks are being released in honor of the 67th anniversary of the pivotal Battle of Stalingrad, the Soviet-era name for Volgograd, and will appear in Volgograd stores in early February. A second release of the drinks is set to coincide with the May 9 Victory Day celebrations, with this year marking the 65th anniversary of the end of World War II.

The three soft drinks in the series feature portraits of Stalin, Marshal Gregory Zhukov, and Marshal Konstantin Rokossovksy, and are flanked with the phrase “Our cause is right – We have triumphed.”

An estimated 30 million people died as a result of Stalinist repressions and widespread famine in the 1930s and 40s.

Boris Izgarshev, director of the Pivovar plant producing the beverages, saw nothing wrong with putting Stalin’s picture on a lemon-flavored soft drink. “There’s nothing bad here: all three military commanders are significant historical figures…the name of each one is connected with the Volgograd soil.”

more at source


Feeling depressed? Have some sugar pills! They're cheaper than real drugs!

Mods:  I hope this post is acceptable--I'm submitting this story because it relates (at least tangentially) to healthcare reform.  Please tag as you see fit.

"The Wrong Story About Depression"

“STARTLING results,” promised the CNN teasers, building anticipation for a segment on this week’s big mental health news: a study led by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania indicating that the antidepressants Paxil and imipramine work no better than placebos (“than sugar pills,” said CNN) for people with mild to moderate depression.


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I like that this article states very clearly that there is a difference between feeling depressed and actually having clinical depression.  Waaay too many people are unable to differentiate.

Teenage Spanish matador kills six bulls in one afternoon

Umm, I guess this is suppose to be an admirable achievement. (as long as you aren't the bull stuck in that arena).

A 16-year-old Spanish matador killed six bulls in one afternoon on Saturday, pulling off a feat normally attempted only by seasoned veterans and winning trophies for his skill - ears from animals he had just slain.

Jairo Miguel Sanchez Alonso, who nearly died from a horrific goring in Mexico in 2007, smiled broadly and waved to a friendly hometown crowd after a pageant that took about two and a half hours.

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Magneto puppet
  • drbat

Don't kill U.S. gays, lock them up: Family groups

Focus on the Family, sponsor of the Tim Tebow ad at the Super Bowl, isn't the only conservative evangelical group riling its critics right now.

Some folks are worried about President Obama munching toast at last week's National Prayer Breakfast with friends of Ugandan homophobe David Bahati. But while the prayer event held the headlines, leaders of the Family Research Council and the American Family Association, made news, too.

They wouldn't go as far as Uganda's kill-the-gays bill pushed by Bahati. They would just outlaw homosexuality, like shooting up illegal drugs, here in the USA, according to Tobin Grant's weekly roundup of the latest from Christian activist groups, for Christianity Today.

One says the U.S. Supreme Court erred in 2003 when it overturned laws criminalizing homosexuals' "private sexual conduct" and the other says gay behavior is a "public health menace."

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Me in Hawaii.

Ohio strip club hosts Lap dances for Haiti

TOLEDO, Ohio – A strip club in Ohio has raised $1,000 for Haitian earthquake relief during what was billed as "Lap dances for Haiti."

Marilyn's on Monroe in Toledo donated the $10 cover charges collected Saturday to ISOH (I-S-O-H)/IMPACT, an organization based in suburban Perrysburg that provides food and clothing for Haiti.

Marilyn's general manager Kenny Soprano says his establishment had been looking for a reason to hold a charity fundraiser even before the quake, as a way to improve its image. He says you don't hear much about strip clubs giving back to the community.

ISOH/IMPACT CEO Linda Greene doesn't have a problem with where the money came from. She says her group appreciates any donations to help Haiti.
Information from: The Blade, http://www.toledoblade.com/


"Don't Kill Your Baby:" The Real Tim Tebow Story

Last night's broadcast of the Tim Tebow/Focus on the Family "Choose Life" commercial surprised quite a few people, myself included. The ad was cute, direct, and noncontroversial. Too bad I followed the link to the website of its sponsor.

From the beginning of the extended video spot with Focus on the Family president Jim Daly, Pam Tebow stops mincing words, calling Tim's story "a God story" and saying all things are possible through God.

Bob Tebow, Tim's dad, explains how he came up with the idea of having another child (at the point Tim was born, the couple had four healthy children):

"I was weeping over the loss of millions of babies in America who were never given a chance. And I prayed and said, 'God, if you want another preacher in this world, you give me a son.' [...] So the next day I went home and shared with my family my prayer that I'd begun and everybody joined in. We started praying, by name, for God to give us Timmy."

Pam Tebow also delves into the realities of a high risk pregnancy. She was 37 at the time she conceived Tim, and the initial diagnosis from doctors was that the child she carried looked like a block of fetal tissue, not a baby. Tebow explains she was willing to ignore the doctor's advice and live by God's plan - even if it resulted in her death. Pam Tebow relates how her physicians gave her medicine to help with the symptoms of the pregnancy, but felt "compelled" while reading the Book of Timothy to go and double check its side-effects. Since the medicine was known to cause birth defects in children, she threw away the rest of the medication and soldiered on through the rest of the term. When Timmy was born, both Tebows explain, there was a "great big clump of blood", due to the excessive pregnancy complications.

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Brennan: GOP-ers Knew Xmas Bomber Was Mirandized, Raised No Objections (VIDEO)

White House counter-terrorism chief John Brennan yesterday struck back at Congressional Republicans who have been attacking the administration for giving the attempted Christmas Day bomber his Miranda rights. Brennan said on Meet the Press that top GOP-ers raised no objections to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab being held in FBI custody.

Brennan said he called Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Minority Leader John Boehner, ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee Pete Hoekstra and vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee Kit Bond on Christmas night to tell them Abdulmutallab was in FBI custody.

"I explained to them that he was in FBI custody, that Mr. Abdulmutallab was, in fact, talking, that he was cooperating at that point," Brennan said. "They knew that 'in FBI custody' means that there's a process then you follow as far as Mirandizing and presenting him in front of a magistrate," Brennan said.

"None of those individuals raised any concerns with me at that point. They didn't say, 'Is he going into military custody? Is he going to be Mirandized?'" he said.

"There has been quite a bit of an outcry after the fact where, again, I'm just very concerned on behalf of the counter-terrorism professionals throughout our government, that politicians continue to make this a political football and are using it for whatever political or partisan purposes," he said.


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Um, I can kind of understand why the briefing Brennan gave didn't include an entire lecture on law enforcement custody procedures, and unless Hoekstra actually lives under a rock (not that I'm ruling this out, mind you) I have a tough time believing he wouldn't be marginally aware of what happens when you are "taken in to custody" by the FBI or any local police force.

In other words, don't be dumb, Sparky.



Costa Rica elects first woman president

Costa Rica elected its first female president, as the ruling National Liberation Party claimed a historic victory.

"I want to thank the pioneering women who years ago opened the doors of politics in Costa Rica," Laura Chinchilla said Sunday to flag-waving supporters in the capital, San Jose. "My government will be open to all Costa Ricans of good faith."

Second-place candidate Otton Solis of the Citizen's Action Party had conceded defeat earlier in the evening, as the PLN -- the Spanish acronym for the National Liberation Party party -- forged its way to a nearly 2-to-1 lead.

Polls showed Chinchilla garnering 46.8 percent of the vote, with 84 percent of election sites reporting. Solis had 25.1 percent, while Otto Guevara of the Libertarian Movement had 20.9 percent.

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Cantor Welcomes Bipartisanship So He Can Kill It. Declares GOP's The Only Plan, Now Thats Maverick!

Cantor Opens The Door To GOP Rejecting Obama’s Bipartisan Health Care Meeting

In an interview with CBS News’ Katie Couric that aired before the Super Bowl yesterday, President Obama announced “that he would convene a half-day bipartisan health care session at the White House to be televised live this month.” “I want to come back and have a large meeting, Republicans and Democrats, to go through systematically all the best ideas that are out there and move it forward,” said Obama.

The top Republicans in both the House and Senate responded by saying that while they “look forward” to the discussion and”appreciate the opportunity to share ideas with the President,” they believe that the “best way to start on real, bipartisan reform would be to scrap” the health care reform bills that have passed both the House and Senate. The office of another GOP leader, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA), suggested that Republicans would not attend the White House meeting unless the Democrats abandoned their proposals:

After going it alone on health care reform for nearly a year, President Obama has decided he wants to bring Republicans into the conversation. Here’s the problem: unless the President and Speaker Pelosi are willing to scrap their government take over and hit the reset button, there’s not much to talk about.

Republicans believe the status quo is unacceptable, but so is any health reform package that spends money we don’t have or raises taxes on small businesses and working families in a recession. To that point, House Republicans have offered the only plan, that will lower health care costs, which is what the President said was the goal at the start of this debate.
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Wall Streets Declares War on Democrats, Republicans Welcomes Rich Overlords.

In a Message to Democrats, Wall St. Sends Cash to G.O.P.

If the Democratic Party has a stronghold on Wall Street, it is JPMorgan Chase.

Its chief executive, Jamie Dimon, is a friend of President Obama’s from Chicago, a frequent White House guest and a big Democratic donor. Its vice chairman, William M. Daley, a former Clinton administration cabinet official and Obama transition adviser, comes from Chicago’s Democratic dynasty.

But this year Chase’s political action committee is sending the Democrats a pointed message. While it has contributed to some individual Democrats and state organizations, it has rebuffed solicitations from the national Democratic House and Senate campaign committees. Instead, it gave $30,000 to their Republican counterparts.

The shift reflects the hard political edge to the industry’s campaign to thwart Mr. Obama’s proposals for tighter financial regulations.
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Teacher ties little boy's long hair in pigtails and has class mock him

Mom sues; says teacher a bully

Amanda Anoai was upset when her 11-year-old son told her in September that he'd been teased and bullied at school about his long hair.

But she says she was shocked when he told her who the bullies were: His teachers.

The Milford woman claimed in a federal lawsuit Monday that a teacher and a teacher's aide embarrassed and humiliated her son by tying his hair into pig-tails, forcing him to stand in front of at least two classrooms and encouraging students to mock him with feminized versions of his name.

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Wow.  How are people like this working in schools? 

Rep. John Murtha dies at 77

Update:Rep. John Murtha died as a result of recent gallbladder surgery complications that arose from doctors accidentally nicking Murtha's intestines, a source told CNN

Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania, a longtime fixture on the House subcommittee that oversees Pentagon spending, died after complications from gallbladder surgery, according to his office. He was 77.

The Democratic congressman recently underwent scheduled laparoscopic surgery at National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, to remove his gallbladder. The procedure was "routine minimally invasive surgery," but doctors "hit his intestines," a source close to the late congressman told CNN.

Murtha was initially hospitalized in December and had to postpone a hearing with Defense Secretary Robert Gates on the administration's strategy in Afghanistan. The congressman returned to work after a few days in the hospital and helped oversee final passage of the 2010 defense appropriations bill.

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Me in Hawaii.

Topless women in Ukraine poll protest

KIEV (AFP) – Four young women naked from the waist up barged into a Ukrainian polling station on Sunday and held a rowdy protest just before a candidate in the country's presidential election cast his ballot there.

The women, members of a small feminist group called Femen known for staging eye-catching protests, were hustled out of the Kiev polling station by security guards before Viktor Yanukovich showed up to vote, AFP journalists saw.

"Enough raping our democracy!" shouted the protesters, who held signs with slogans such as "Help! Rape!" and wore nothing except for jeans and strips of green electrical tape over their nipples.

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Christian Bale

Christian teacher sues over 'racist' pupils aged eight

'9/11 bombers are heroes': What Muslim children told Christian teacher 'forced from his job for not tolerating racism'

Race claim: Nicholas Kafouris arriving at the tribunal hearing

A Christian teacher yesterday claimed he was forced out of his job after complaining that Muslim pupils as young as eight hailed the September 11 hijackers as heroes.

Nicholas Kafouris, 52, is suing his former school for racial discrimination.

He told a tribunal that he had to leave his £30,000-a-year post because he would not tolerate the 'racist' and 'anti-Semitic' behaviour of Year 4 pupils.

The predominantly Muslim youngsters openly praised Islamic extremists in class and described the September 11 terrorists as 'heroes and martyrs'.

One pupil said: 'Don't touch me, you're a Christian' when he brushed against him.

Others said: 'We want to be Islamic bombers when we grow up', and 'The Christians and Jews are our enemies - you too because you're a Christian'.

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blood / the narrator

Sucking the Quileute Dry

ALL the world, it seems, has been bitten by “Twilight.” Conservative estimates place revenue generated from Stephenie Meyer’s vampire chronicles — the books, movies and merchandise — in the billion-dollar range. Scarcely mentioned, however, is the effect that “Twilight” has had on the tiny Quileute Nation, situated on a postage stamp of a reservation, just one square mile, in remote La Push, Wash.

To millions of “Twilight” fans, the Quileute are Indians whose (fictional) ancient treaty transforms young males of the tribe into vampire-fighting wolves. To the nearly 700 remaining Quileute Indians, “Twilight” is the reason they are suddenly drawing extraordinary attention from the outside — while they themselves remain largely excluded from the vampire series’ vast commercial empire.

Just last month, MSN.com issued an apology to the Quileute for intruding on its territory while videotaping a “Twilight” virtual tour in September. MSN.com sought permission from the Chamber of Commerce in nearby Forks, Wash., but didn’t pay the same courtesy to the Quileute. The video team trespassed onto a reservation cemetery and taped Quileute graves, including those of esteemed tribal leaders. These images were then set to macabre music and, in November, posted on MSN.com. The tribe quickly persuaded MSN.com to remove the Quileute images.

But this was only one episode in the story of the tribe’s phenomenal, and apparently increasing, new fame. “Twilight” has made all things Quileute wildly popular: Nordstrom.com sells items from Quileute hoodies to charms bearing a supposed Quileute werewolf tattoo. And a tour company hauls busloads of fans onto the Quileute reservation daily. Yet the tribe has received no payment for this commercial activity. Meanwhile, half of Quileute families still live in poverty.

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historic photos of the Quileute tribe
&#39; jules
  • schmiss

Govs keep swingin'

David Paterson Has Not Resigned Today

New York Gov. David Paterson consulted with "key Democratic leaders" over the weekend to discuss either a) his imminent resignation pending a New York Times report that he is a corrupt snuggling swinger or b) just talk about stuff.

Paterson has been battling maddeningly vague rumors that the Times is on the verge of publishing a career-ending story detailing either previously undisclosed marital infidelities or some sort of official corruption that will cause him to immediately resign. Today the Associated Press reports that Paterson spent the weekend in meetings and on phone calls with Democratic leaders, apparently prepping them for the fallout:
A Democrat close to the situation, though, said the meetings included discussions about whether Paterson would resign or announce he will not run because of the unsubstantiated claims in the whisper campaign surrounding the governor's behavior. The Democrat spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
Paterson's spokeswoman told the AP that the calls were routine fundraising and strategy sessions. She also told Gawker yesterday that the mythical Times story does in fact exist, and that it's a perfectly normal boring profile for Metro.

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& the story isn't coming out til Wednesday.

the best guesses:

"He's not really blind."

"He first became Lieutenant Governor when Eliot Spitzer hired him for sex?"

"I'm guessing that he's a masturbator."

"He's a hardcore Warcraft player who got a little too into erotic role playing as a female blood elf mage. Expect some pretty disgusting screenshots from Goldshire."

"He's a third-party in the John Edwards/Rielle Hunter sex tape."

"Running a baby panda fighting ring out of the governor's mansion."

"He is the illegitimate adopted love child of Ed Koch and Thelonious Monk."

"He's decided to endorse Harold Ford for Senate."

"He's really Fred Armisen."

Real Tea Party Declares War on Fake Tea Party... Which One is The Fake One Again?...

More Infighting Among Tea Partiers

The Tea Party war — the internal one — continues.

Following the weekend convention sponsored by Tea Party Nation, a social networking site for tea partiers, a rival site, Tea Party Patriots, sent out an email message to its members complaining about the “media frenzy” around the convention and advising them to be wary of anyone trying to hijack the movement.

The “Real Tea Party Conventions,” the message said, would be the Tax Day Tea Party rallies on April 15, which are being sponsored by Tea Party Patriots, with help from Washington advocacy organizations like FreedomWorks.

“We the people are smart and will not buy any tactics by politicians to use or co-opt us or the movement,” the message said. “The Tea Party Movement started because of these tactics and we will not be used like this.”

Leaders of the Patriots group said they had been upset by Sarah Palin’s comment, in questions following her keynote speech to the convention, that the Republican Party should “absorb as much of the Tea Party movement as possible.”

That, they said, is antithetical to the movement — tea partiers tend to be as irritated with Republicans as with Democrats for the expansion of what they call Big Government, and argue their movement should not show fealty to any one leader or party.

Ms. Palin and Tea Party Nation were already under fire after bloggers noted from pictures of the event that she had scribbled what appeared to be answers to questions on the palm of her hand, strongly suggesting that convention organizers had given her the questions in advance. In sessions at the convention, Tea Party activists frequently complained that they want “real” answers, not scripted ones, from politicians, so “the Palm affair” threatened Ms. Palin’s authentic image.
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Goldman Tells NYT To Stop Bullying Them. Rich Bastards Suffering From Emotional Distress.

Goldman's Response to the New York Times

On Sunday, the New York Times wrote another story about certain aspects of the relationship between Goldman Sachs and AIG titled "Testy Conflict With Goldman Helped Push A.I.G. to Edge." This is the third theory the paper has put forward since September 2008. The theories are contradictory and many of the supporting "facts" don't stand up to serious scrutiny. ‪‪
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Equality is measurably better

Collapse )If we look across the Western democracies, there are dramatic and puzzling disparities between countries in overall health outcomes, such as average life expectancy, and in other measures of human development, such as rates of literacy, teenage pregnancy or incarceration.

For example, life expectancy is five years longer in Japan than in Portugal. Obesity rates are six times higher in the United States than in Switzerland. Mental illness is three times more likely in Britain than in Germany.

One reason these differences are puzzling is that they are unrelated to gross national product, or to spending on health care. Some affluent countries that invest heavily in health care do very well (Norway). But other wealthy countries with expensive health-care systems do much worse (the United States or Switzerland).

Conversely, while some less affluent Western countries with minimal health-care spending have poor health outcomes (Portugal), other comparable countries do relatively well (Greece or Spain). Once a country reaches a per capita income of around $25,000, there is simply no correlation between levels of national wealth or health spending and levels of health and human development. Collapse )


 So what explains why some countries do better than others? A growing consensus points to the quality of people's social relationships, whether in the home, the neighbourhood or at work. In some societies, these relationships are toxic, putting health-damaging stresses on individuals. In other societies, these relationships are supportive, helping individuals deal with life's challenges.

For 30 years, researchers around the world have been studying these “social determinants of health.” In this book, Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett – long-standing British experts in the field – survey the research to date.

A number of factors have been identified as influencing whether social relationships are supportive or toxic. Some researchers highlight the importance of neighbourhoods where people trust, rather than fear, one another. Others focus on the importance of a workplace that fosters a sense of autonomy rather than powerlessness. Yet others emphasize being part of diffuse social networks. Each of these factors has been shown to have important effects on health.

However, Wilkinson and Pickett argue that these different factors are all symptoms of a deeper issue – namely, inequality. Among wealthy countries, Norway and Japan do better than the United States or Switzerland because the gap between rich and poor is smaller. Among less affluent countries, Spain and Greece do better than Portugal because they have less inequality. Indeed, across all the Western democracies, and across a wide range of indicators, there is a consistent pattern in which outcomes get worse as levels of inequality increase. (Much worse – often three to six times worse.)

This is true of rates of infant mortality, illiteracy, obesity, mental illness, incarceration, homicide, drug use and teenage pregnancy (although not, interestingly, of suicide). Similarly, as inequality rises, social trust and social mobility decline while violence increases. This is true not only between Western countries, but also within them. For example, if we compare the 50 states of the United States, these indicators are worse in states with greater inequality.

This is the authors' “big idea”: People's health depends on the quality of their social relationships, and the most important determinant of the quality of social relationships is the level of inequality. This is not a new idea – for instance, the link between levels of inequality and violence has been known for a long time. But this book brings together the data in a more systematic way, across a wider range of countries and indicators.

The result is an impressive body of evidence, presented in an easily digestible form, which is highly relevant for debates here in Canada. Polls show that most people believe that inequalities have grown too large in recent years, and this book will surely reinforce that sentiment. Many of us feel that the growing level of inequality is unfair, and harmful to a sense of shared citizenship and community cohesion. But as Wilkinson and Pickett show, it is also harmful to our health. And the striking recent increases in inequality in Canada – more dramatic than in most Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development countries – are already showing up in health outcomes.

While the book's central argument is persuasive, it raises some big questions. First, why is inequality so bad for our health? How does it “get under the skin” to affect the biological processes that determine our physical and mental health? Wilkinson and Pratt argue that inequality is not only a matter of unequal income, but more importantly a matter of unequal social status. Human beings are intensely sensitive to their place in a status hierarchy, and the steeper the status hierarchy, the more anxious people feel. Chronic anxiety in turn exacerbates the wear and tear of daily life, putting stress on our mental and physical health. This explains why inequality harms everyone in society, not just the poor. Middle-class people also feel greater anxiety in a more steeply hierarchical society, so they, too, fare worse than in more equal societies.

This link from income inequality to status anxiety seems plausible, but it's not really explored in the book, and I suspect that it varies from context to context. In some times and places, the working class has formed stable communities with a vibrant social life and effective union organizations that give workers some say in the workplace. In such a context, there may be relatively high-quality social relationships (in terms of trust, autonomy and contacts) despite great income inequality.

In other contexts, there may be better-paying jobs available, hence less income inequality, but if those jobs are only temporary, and require people constantly to move, the result may be destructive of social relationships. So it's not just income inequality that matters, but also the nature of the labour market, the stability of people's jobs and housing, the strength of community organizations and so on.

Moreover, there are many sources of status anxieties in modern societies – such as racism or homophobia (or attitudes toward beauty) – that are only indirectly related to income inequalities. So, income inequality seems a very crude measure for the almost infinitely complex array of status hierarchies in our society, and the link between the two is something of a black box in the book.

The authors would probably respond that, whatever these complexities, the data show a clear tendency for income inequality to generate worse health outcomes. So for practical policy purposes, we should just focus on inequality. We may not be able to specify precisely how income inequality relates to status hierarchies, or how it “gets under the skin,” but we don't need to know: The evidence shows clearly that reducing inequality is the best way, or the “first thing,” for improving outcomes.

This raises the question whether there is any political will to pursue equality. The authors insist that egalitarian policies are politically feasible because they are now clearly in the interests of all citizens, not just the less advantaged. In the past, the middle class and professional elites may have assumed that their interests would be best served by orienting the economy toward rapid growth with only a minimal social safety net. But the evidence shows that they themselves (and their children) do worse under this model than they would in a society that pursues greater equality. Moreover, the realities of global warming require that we find ways to improve society's health without economic growth. In short, there is no alternative to equality.

In this way, the authors end with an ambitious call for political action. At one level, the book seeks to popularize recent research on the social determinants of health. At another level, it calls for a radical realignment of contemporary politics, one which reinstates equality as a foundational ideal, and not just as the banner of the left or the working class, but as the best option for the middle class (and indeed for all except a tiny number of the super-rich).

Canadians are not prone to this sort of radical rethinking, as our head-in-the-sand approach to global warming shows. But if the current economic crisis continues, perhaps this wake-up call will find the audience it deserves.

Will Kymlicka teaches at Queen's University, and is a member of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research's program on Successful Societies, which explores the social determinants of individual and collective capacities.




I apologise if this is old news but this book just came out in Sweden and I thought it sounded interesting. Mods feel free to delete if you want!



op || well shit
  • brecho

get out your drinking cups, ontd_p

My generation has betrayed feminism

In my first term of university, a group of girls set up a cheerleading squad. They sold this as “supporting our college sports teams”, but as far as I could tell, it was about selling themselves: prancing around in short skirts to stake a claim for the coveted top spot on the boys' fit lists.

A few years later, a bright, spunky graduate told me she had taken up pole-dancing classes. She worked in the City, so you might have thought she would have had her fill of misogyny, and for that matter, of trying to mount greasy poles. But no: one evening a week was spent gyrating in Perspex heels. She agreed that when Kaija, 19, from Estonia did this at the demand of some sweaty, salivating sixtysomething, it was demeaning. But this was her choice, stupid.
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'The View' gets political -- viewers love it (and so does D.C.)
Once, the topic would have been off-limits on daytime TV, but not anymore. And the Beltway's paying attention.

Reporting from New York - It was the morning after President Obama's first State of the Union, which typically wouldn't mean much for daytime television shows and their menu of celebrity interviews, cooking tips and fashion segments.

But the hosts of the ABC gabfest "The View" had a different agenda: dissecting the president’s highly anticipated address.

"His health bill, he ain't walking away from this," said Barbara Walters.

"No, he's not walking away from it," replied Whoopi Goldberg. "You know why? Because he knows I want what they have. Mr. President, I want the healthcare that you have!"

It's a point she had been hammering for weeks. "Yeah, yeah!" shouted several women in the audience as the crowd applauded.

"This is the most awesome thing ever," said Lisa Leonard, 48, an art consultant from San Diego sitting in the front row. "It's one of the reasons I watch it. When they do the fashion stuff, I tune out. The movie stars, eh. But this is so topical."

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Radical Militant Demands Destruction of Middle-eastern Country... Oh, Wait. Is Just Him.

Bolton: Either Iran Gets Nukes Or ‘Israel Or Sombody Else Uses Military Force To Stop It’

Last week, Iran’s President Mahmoud Amadinejad said Tehran would have “no problem” agreeing on a deal to send its enriched uranium abroad for further enrichment. But today, Iran told the IAEA that it would back out of the deal and begin enriching its uranium stockpile in Iran.

On Fox News today, John Bolton declared that “Iran simply has no intention of being talked out of its nuclear weapons program” and that “very severe sanctions” will not work. Later, when host Gregg Jarrett asked if military action is “the only answer,” Bolton agreed:

JARRETT: Is military force probably in the end the only answer?

BOLTON: There are two outcomes, one is Iran getting its nuclear weapons, the other is Israel or somebody uses military force to stop it. That’s where we are.

Watch it:

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stock | road hazard

ontd_political PotD: Feb 8, 2010.

A couple looks on shortly after waking up after sleeping in the back of their truck in front of the collapsed National Palace in Port-au-Prince, Saturday, Feb. 6, 2010. A 7.0-magnitude earthquake hit Haiti on Jan. 12, killing and injuring thousands, but also leaving more than a half million people living in outdoor makeshift camps.
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Rodrigo Abd | AP Photo