August 28th, 2010

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U.S. Birthrate hits record low

Red Orbit: US Birth Rates Affected By Economic Downturn
Posted on: Friday, 27 August 2010, 14:05 CDT

Health officials said Friday that the economy may be causing some women to think twice about having children as the birth rate in 2009 declined for the second year in a row.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 4,136,000 children were born in 2009, which was down 2.6 percent from the 2008 estimate.

That followed a similar decline in 2008, which was the beginning of the economic downturn. The CDC said the 2009 numbers are preliminary and could change.

There have not been any details disclosed on the characteristics of women who gave birth in 2009.

The National Center for Health Statistics said that births fell 2.7 percent last year even as the population grew.

"It's a good-sized decline for one year. Every month is showing a decline from the year before," Stephanie Ventura, the demographer who oversaw the report, told The Associated Press (AP).

More babies were born in 2007 than any other year in U.S. history. The recession began that fall, bringing down stocks, the job market and birth rates.

"When the economy is bad and people are uncomfortable about their financial future, they tend to postpone having children. We saw that in the Great Depression the 1930s and we're seeing that in the Great Recession today," Andrew Cherlin, a sociology professor at Johns Hopkins University, told AP.

"It could take a few years to turn this around," he added, noting that the birth rate stayed low throughout the 1930s.

A preliminary analysis of births in 2008 found that birth rates dropped for women under 40, but rose for women over 40.

The CDC said in a statement, "That may turn out to be the case in 2009 as well, but we won't know until more data are available."

The CDC said the declines might be related to the economic downturn in the last couple years.

"The recession appears to have started in late 2007, and declines in births in 2008 and 2009 would be consistent with that," the CDC said.

Health officials still need more details on the demographics of mothers who gave birth in 2009 in order to confirm the connection.

This is yet another way the Great Recession is imitating the Great Depression. I doubt many people are surprised by this news.

There aren't any comments at the source, even though one can leave them, but if you want to read some hilariously failtastic ones, check out the comments section of the New York Magazine blog entry. They really hate babies over there.
cabaret voltaire

Texas Vows To Reclaim Title Of Most Regressive State From Arizona

Texas Vows To Reclaim Title Of Most Regressive State From Arizona

AUSTIN, TX — Following a series of embarrassingly backward laws recently enacted in Arizona, Texas governor Rick Perry pledged Wednesday to do everything in his power to reestablish his state as the most regressive in the nation. "I commend Arizona for its commitment to exceedingly draconian social policies, but [Arizona Governor] Jan Brewer should know that we still have some real doozies up our sleeve," said Perry, referring to Arizona's passage of the strictest immigration law in recent U.S. history, as well as its measures allowing concealed weapons to be carried without a permit and banning ethnic studies programs in public schools. "Don't forget, we just put an ultraconservative stamp on our educational curriculum that's going to affect the textbooks the whole country uses, and I'm still the only governor nutso enough to float secession. Mark my words, we'll be back and more fucked up than ever!" Sources close to Perry said that Texas may soon start storing undocumented migrant workers in dog cages while courts decide their immigration status, though Arizona plans to counter with a giant cannon that will be used to shoot anyone with a skin tone darker than ochre who crosses the border from Mexico.


Does Your Language Shape How You Think?


Published: August 26, 2010
New York Times

Seventy years ago, in 1940, a popular science magazine published a short article that set in motion one of the trendiest intellectual fads of the 20th century. At first glance, there seemed little about the article to augur its subsequent celebrity. Neither the title, “Science and Linguistics,” nor the magazine, M.I.T.’s Technology Review, was most people’s idea of glamour. And the author, a chemical engineer who worked for an insurance company and moonlighted as an anthropology lecturer at Yale University, was an unlikely candidate for international superstardom. And yet Benjamin Lee Whorf let loose an alluring idea about language’s power over the mind, and his stirring prose seduced a whole generation into believing that our mother tongue restricts what we are able to think.

In particular, Whorf announced, Native American languages impose on their speakers a picture of reality that is totally different from ours, so their speakers would simply not be able to understand some of our most basic concepts, like the flow of time or the distinction between objects (like “stone”) and actions (like “fall”). For decades, Whorf’s theory dazzled both academics and the general public alike. In his shadow, others made a whole range of imaginative claims about the supposed power of language, from the assertion that Native American languages instill in their speakers an intuitive understanding of Einstein’s concept of time as a fourth dimension to the theory that the nature of the Jewish religion was determined by the tense system of ancient Hebrew.

Eventually, Whorf’s theory crash-landed on hard facts and solid common sense, when it transpired that there had never actually been any evidence to support his fantastic claims. The reaction was so severe that for decades, any attempts to explore the influence of the mother tongue on our thoughts were relegated to the loony fringes of disrepute. But 70 years on, it is surely time to put the trauma of Whorf behind us. And in the last few years, new research has revealed that when we learn our mother tongue, we do after all acquire certain habits of thought that shape our experience in significant and often surprising ways.

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Toronto Evangelicals Try to ’Pray’ Gay Couples Out of Their Homes?

Members of a Toronto church preached outside the home of a gay couple on a quiet street in Leslieville, a neighborhood in that city, until they were asked by the neighborhood’s residents to leave. It’s alleged that members of this same church drove a lesbian couple out of their home with similar street preaching actions in the past.

In video posted at on Aug. 23, the group--nine church members nicely dressed and carrying Bibles--were confronted by residents of the street who asked them firmly to stop yelling and leave the neighborhood.

"You’re hateful people, that’s what you are," one woman can be heard telling the group.

"Do you live here?" demands one man. "This is not your street. You want me to go and yell outside your [home]?"

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Murasaki Shikibu
  • homasse

Japan reveals long-secretive execution process

Execution chamber at Tokyo prison revealed to media for first time

The Tokyo Detention Center in the capital's Katsushika Ward, where death sentence hangings are carried out and which had heretofore been visited only by some lawmakers, was shown to the media for the first time on Aug. 27.

Just a month earlier, after witnessing two executions that she had ordered, Justice Minister Keiko Chiba told a press conference that she wanted to encourage national debate on capital punishment, including whether or not the death penalty should continue to exist. To that end, she said that she would be setting up a special task force within the ministry and opening the execution chambers for viewing.

The media was shown the execution chamber, a room where the button that opens the platform trapdoor is, a room where the chief warden and prosecutors stand by to confirm that the execution has been carried out, a room where religious inmates can receive their last rites, and a front chamber where inmates are informed of their pending execution and can also receive their last rites immediately before they are executed.

The Justice Ministry did not allow members of the media to see the room below the execution chamber into which the inmate's body drops, out of "consideration for the inmates' family and wardens." A ministry official continued, "It is an extremely solemn place where lives come to an end."

No noose hung from the ceiling, and the room was said to be in the exact state that it is usually maintained.

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Officials describe executions in Tokyo as death chamber is unveiled to media

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A picture of the execution chambers can be found at the source links, and this CNN article has a picture of the room where the inmates are told they are about to be executed and can meet with a chaplain.
Murasaki Shikibu
  • homasse

NASA called in to support 33 trapped Chilean miners

NASA called in to support 33 trapped Chilean miners

The 33 miners trapped inside a Chilean mine since August 5 have been told for the first time that they could be stuck underground for as long as four months, the head of the rescue operation said Friday.

But Andre Sougarret, the mines manager for the state mining company, and Chilean government representative Jimena Matos also said they are working on a "Plan B," which could help speed up the rescue process.

"Last night, a third probe reached where the miners are and that probe, or the bore hole made by that probe, could form the basis of our plan B," said Sougarret, declining to offer specifics.

Officials expect drilling on a rescue shaft, a process that workers have said could take four months to complete, to begin this weekend.

Still, even under the best-case scenario, the trapped miners will be underground for quite some time -- posing a host of practical and psychological problems. To help solve them, Chilean officials are looking in unlikely places.

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There are clips of the video at the source, and it was good to see they were still able to crack jokes about it, even though watching one of them getting emotional was just heart-wrenching.
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Rabbi Starts Tzedakah for Mosque Prayer Rugs

A rabbi has started a tzedakah/collection plate to help pay for the prayer rugs that someone urinated on in a NYC mosque. Her post:

"Passing the virtual hat for prayer rug cleaning

My twitter stream lately has featured a lot of tweets about Park 51 (while we're on the subject, allow me to recommend Park 51 Should Not Be Complicated for Jews by my friend Rabbi Nancy Fuchs-Kreimer) and about the recent rise in hate crimes against Muslims in America. Like the incident a few days ago where a drunk man barged into the Al-Iman masjid in Queens, yelled anti-Muslim slurs, and urinated on the prayer rugs.

When I tweeted about this, appalled, @stumark replied, "Let's get organized and buy them new prayer rugs."I don't know whether they need new rugs; I'm sure they've already had their existing rugs cleaned. But I'd like to be able to reimburse them for that expense as a gesture of interfaith goodwill. So I'm here to pass the virtual hat.

If you'd like to donate, send money via PayPal to me -- my email address is rbarenblat (at) gmail (dot) com -- and put "prayer rugs" in the subject line. Next week I'll send a check to the mosque. Your donation won't be tax-deductible (because I'm an individual, not a nonprofit) but let me know whether you want your name to be included on the list of donors or whether you'd prefer to give anonymously and I will honor your wishes either way.

Giving tzedakah on Fridays is a great way to open our hearts in preparation for Shabbat. On the Jewish calendar we're in the middle of the month of Elul, a time for taking an accounting of our souls and repairing our broken relationships in the world. I'd love it if we could make a gift to the Al-Iman mosque to show that the guy who desecrated their sanctuary doesn't represent the rest of us.

(For a personal story about a visit to that mosque last year during Ramadan, check out Day 7: Al-Iman Mosque.)

Edited to add: As of 5pm this afternoon in my time zone, $432 has been donated by 27 people. I'll wait until next week to send the donation, and am doing my best to update on twitter about our progress. Thanks so much, y'all."


I realize this isn't your traditional ONTD_P post, but in light of the zeitgeist here in NY, I really hope the mods post it.
  • koken23

(no subject)

This is not the standard ONTD_P post.

In 1984, a National Commission on the Disappearance of Persons (CONADEP, in Spanish) was set up to investigate allegations of torture, rape, murder and 'disappearances' by the Argentine military and police in the period 1976 to 1983. Following the Commission, a report was released to deliver their findings. It was called Nunca Más - Never Again.

I've read it. My parents don't know that I've read it, and I've always suspected it would break their hearts to find out - they remember this, they lived this, they spent many years trying to be sure my brothers, my sister and I, being too young to remember any of it, never knew the full extent of what was done. Nevertheless, I have a copy of the published report.

I've found a good English translation online. The first time I read it I had to run off and be sick, but it makes fascinating reading

‘Abortion’ Googled more in conservative areas

A study by two Children’s Hospital doctors has found that Google searches on “abortion” rise in areas with more conservative abortion policies or where the procedure is less available.

Dr. Ben Reis and Dr. John Brownstein of Children’s Hospital Boston Infomatics Program reviewed the abortion rates and policies in 50 states and 37 countries and compared the information against the number of Internet searches for the word “abortion.”

They found more searches in states and countries with more restrictive policies or less access to abortion and lower abortion rates.

“In places where abortion access is readily available, people can go to their mainstream health care providers,” Reis suggested. In areas with more abortion searches, he said, “people may be going on the Internet to find alternate routes.”

He said the pattern was found in every state and country studied.

“We were actually very surprised. There is a very consistant, strong relationship,” Reis said.

The study was published today in the medical journal BMC Public Health.


Venezuelan politician offers breast implants as raffle prize to raise election funds

"There are critics but also some people think it's a nice idea," said Gustavo Rojas, an opposition candidate for a National Assembly position.

Cosmetic surgery, especially breast enlargement, is widespread in image-conscious Venezuela, whose beauty queens have won numerous international pageant titles.

Even a recession has not diminished Venezuelans' appetite for cosmetic surgery with many people taking out loans for the surgery.

Mr Rojas, of the opposition First Justice party, told El Universal newspaper that he was not too worried about the medical details of his offer.

"The raffle is a financing mechanism, nothing else," he told the newspaper. "It's the doctor who will do the operation, not me."

Venezuelans vote on Sept 26 for a new parliament.

The country's president, Hugo Chavez, on Friday denied rumours that he was suffering from cancer.

Local media reports had claimed that the 56-year-old was suffering from cancer in the nasal cavity.

His failure to appear on Wednesday's first day of campaigning for the parliamentary elections fuelled the speculation, although it later transpired that Mr Chavez had been holding a lengthy meeting with his mentor, Fidel Castro, in Cuba.

Mr Chavez, who has inherited Castro's mantle as Latin America's leading critic of the United States, took power in 1999 and plans to run again for the presidency in 2012.


England Doesn't Need Defending, Especially Not By These Pricks

English Defence League: Bricks and bottles fly during the EDL's anti-Islam protest in Bradford

More than 1,600 officers on horseback and in riot gear pen in 700 activists, including BNP members and soccer thugs

Far-right activists threw smoke bombs and missiles and fought with the police as trouble flared during a protest organised by the English Defence League.

Bricks, bottles and smoke bombs were thrown at anti-racism supporters and police as around 700 EDL activists – including known football hooligans and BNP members – held a "static protest" in Bradford city centre. Mounted officers and others in riot gear were attacked as they pushed the EDL into a penned area. Skirmishes continued as EDL speakers addressed the crowd and there was more violence as its supporters were put back on coaches.

More than 1,600 officers from 13 forces were involved in the police operation amid fears that the demonstration would descend into violence. Police said there had been five arrests.

The EDL, which has held demonstrations in towns and cities across the country over the past 12 months, had predicted that thousands of its supporters would turn out in Bradford for what was dubbed "the big one", but police said there were around 700 people.

Earlier in the afternoon coachloads of EDL activists had chanted "Allah, Allah, who the fuck is Allah?" and "Muslim bombers off our streets".

The EDL claims to be a peaceful, non-racist organisation opposed only to "militant Islam".

One of the coach drivers said: "I didn't expect a job like this when I came to work this morning. We're a five-star firm. We don't usually take scumbags like these."

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On the wikipedia page for this group it references a past statement from one of their leading members:
"The protest was organised by people from all walks of life, all religions and faiths – even the local Sikhs and Hindus were concerned. It wasn't a far-right protest. Although they might have been utilising the situation they were nothing to do with us. We are opposed to extremism on both sides of the political agenda."
And if you'll believe that, you'll believe anything....