December 27th, 2010

Necessity Pushes Pakistani Women Into Jobs and Peril

KARACHI, Pakistan — Dinner at Rabia Sultana’s house is now served over a cold silence. Her family has not spoken to her since May, when Ms. Sultana, 21, swapped her home life for a cashier’s job at McDonald’s.

Her conservative brother berated Ms. Sultana for damaging the family’s honor by taking a job in which she interacts with men — and especially one that requires her to shed her burqa in favor of a short-sleeved McDonald’s uniform.

Then he confiscated her uniform, slapped her across the face and threatened to break her legs if he saw her outside the home.

Her family may be outraged, but they are also in need. Ms. Sultana donates her $100 monthly salary to supplement the household budget for expenses that the men in her family can no longer pay for, including school fees for her younger sisters.

Ms. Sultana is part of a small but growing generation of lower-class young women here who are entering service-sector jobs to support their families, and by extension, pitting their religious and cultural traditions against economic desperation.

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From bagels to belt buckles: 2010’s craziest taxes

What are the oddest, quirkiest and downright weirdest tax laws of 2010?

According to the Onesource Tax & Accounting unit of Thomson Reuters, some of the year’s most unusual taxes include:

Bagel tax in New York.
Florida has oranges. Wisconsin has cheese. And New York has bagels. New York residents paid approximately eight to nine cents more per bagel in 2010 because the state cracked down on tax-evading food preparers. If you buy a whole bagel and take it home with you, it is exempt from tax. However, if you purchase that same bagel and eat it at the bagel shop, you pay a sales tax on the purchase price. Happily, there’s still no eating-at-your-desk tax. The state of Washington enacted legislation in June that made candy without flour taxable. As a result, “Rainbow Whirly Pops” and “Lemon Drops” were taxable, but “Twizzlers” and “Peppermint Bark Shortbread” remained exempt. Sweeter teeth prevailed, however. The law was repealed on December 2.

Belt buckles and rubber boots in Texas.
It’s taxing to be a rancher in Texas these days. Belts are exempt from tax, but belt buckles are not. Cowboy boots and hiking boots are exempt, but rubber boots and climbing boots are taxable. Instead of “all hat, no cattle,” watch for the “all belt, no buckle” look for those at home on the range.

Cup lids in Colorado.
Colorado eliminated an exemption for non-essential food items and packaging provided with purchased food and beverage items on March 1. Cups are considered essential, but lids are not. The message? Protect the environment. But walk very carefully.

Haunted houses in New York.
Admission to haunted houses is subject to the New York sales tax, according to this tax ruling. Hopefully, all of the state’s ghosts and goblins won’t relocate to New Jersey.

Hot air balloons in Kansas.
This one is a bit lofty: Kansas typically taxes admission to amusement, entertainment or recreation services. The question was not whether or not balloon rides are entertaining, but whether or not federal law preempts the imposition of state sales tax on sales of those rides. That’s because states and local jurisdictions are prohibited from imposing fees and charges on airlines and other airport users. State sales tax can be imposed on tethered balloon rides. But the state decided that un-tethered balloon rides (where the balloon is actually piloted by someone to land ”some distance downwind from the launching point”) would be considered carrying passengers in air commerce — and not taxable. That’s not a bad deal. Rumor has it, the seats are more comfortable and the security precautions less onerous than at the local airport, too.

Knives for a pro.

(no subject)

Your average person knows how to eat an artichoke: Using your teeth, you scrape the meat from the bottom of each leaf.

But Miamian Arturo Carvajal, a doctor with a family practice in Hollywood and litigant in one of the stranger lawsuits we've ever seen, was mystified by the vegetable.

"It takes a sophisticated diner to be familiar with the artichoke," says Carvajal's lawyer, Marc R. Ginsberg. "People might think that as a doctor, he'd know how to eat one. But he was thinking it was like a food he might have eaten in his native Cuba, where you eat everything on the plate."

In May 2009, Carvajal dined at Houston's in North Miami Beach. He order the grilled artichokes special. It was a vegetable he had "never seen nor heard of previously", Carvajal has claimed in court filings.

The server "fail[ed] to explain the proper method of consuming an artichoke", namely that the "outside portion of the leaf should not be eaten; rather, only the inside portion of the leaf was safely digestible."

Anybody who's ever eaten an artichoke knows the outside leaves are very tough, brittle, and nearly dagger-sharp. But apparently Carvajal courageously gnawed his way through every leaf on his plate.

You can guess the rest of the story. Carvajal suffered "severe abdominal pain and discomfort". He went to the hospital, where an "exploratory laparotomy" revealed artichoke leaves lodged within his bowel, he claims.

Among the alleged consequences of Carvajal eating an entire damn artichoke: "disability, disfigurement, mental anguish," and "loss of capacity for the enjoyment of life".

This October 27, he filed a lawsuit alleging negligence seeking unspecified damages. We've embedded the complaint below.

Riptide called the Hillstone Restaurant Group, which owns the Houston's chain, for comment, but have not heard back yet. A spokesperson for the group has called Carvajal's claim a "silly notion", telling Business Insurance: "What's next? Are we going to have to post warnings on our menu they shouldn't eat the bones in our barbeque ribs?"

Miami New Times
[stock] so kiss me

Health Bill for 9/11 Workers Pass Is Passed By Congress

WASHINGTON — After years of fierce lobbying and debate, Congress approved a bill on Wednesday to cover the cost of medical care for rescue workers and others who became sick from toxic fumes, dust and smoke after the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center.

The $4.3 billion bill cleared its biggest hurdle early in the afternoon when the Senate unexpectedly approved it just 12 days after Republican senators had blocked a more expensive House version from coming to the floor of the Senate for a vote.

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fucking finally.
comics, hug

Parents of Rutgers student Tyler Clementi may sue university over son’s suicide

The parents of Rutgers University freshman who committed suicide after his roommate and another student allegedly broadcast online an intimate encounter with another man, have notified the school they may sue the university.

On Sept. 22, just days after the video was broadcast, Tyler Clementi committed suicide Sept. 22 by jumping off the George Washington Bridge. He was 18 years old.

Tyler’s parents, Joseph and Jane Clementi of Ridgewood, N.J., filed a legal notice on Friday, an action that puts Rutgers on notice that the Clementi family may seek damages for Tyler’s suicide.

“Subject to further investigation, it appears that Rutgers University failed to act, failed to put in place and/or failed to implement, and enforce policies and practices that would have prevented or deterred such acts, and that Rutgers failed to act timely and appropriately,” the notice said.

Rutgers spokesman E.J. Miranda said the university sympathizes with the family but is not responsible for the freshman’s death.

“We at the university share the family’s sense of loss of their son, who was a member of our community,” Rutgers said in a statement acknowledging receipt of the notice.

“We also recognize that a grieving family may question whether someone or some institution could somehow have responsibility for their son’s death. While the university understands this reaction, (Rutgers) is not responsible for Tyler Clementi’s suicide.”

Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei have been charged with invasion of privacy, and have since dropped out of Rutgers University.

WW // Soldier On

Teen fears revenge in Mexico

A Toronto high school student facing deportation back to Mexico says he fears the homophobic outlaws who shot his sister’s partner to death in front of him are now waiting to kill him too.

Daniel Garcia, a Grade 11 student at Parkdale Collegiate Institute, fled from Mexico to Toronto three years ago along with his sister Brenda, who is gay. But their refugee claim failed, and on Thursday evening Garcia, 18, was arrested and taken to a Canada Border Services Agency detention centre, where his sister was already being held.

His supporters say he deserves more time because of the danger he faces in Mexico and legal mishaps that befell his case.

Garcia was living with his sister in Mexico City when threats started to mount against them. On his 12th birthday, he says a group of teenagers hurled homophobic insults against him before attacking and assaulting him.

Two years later, he was sleeping over at a friend’s house with his sister and her partner after a party when somebody fired shots into the room where they were staying.

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There is a petition that you can sign to try and keep Daniel in Canada. God, sometimes I hate the immigration/refugee system in the country so much.
WTF 3, oh god my head, duck, Kaidan

How Hollywood Is Fucking Up 'The Dirty Girls Social Club'

Over a year ago, author Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez optioned the TV rights to her bestselling novel, The Dirty Girls Social Club. Christmas eve, Valdes-Rodriguez called the TV project racist on her blog. For Christmas she got a cease and desist letter.

Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez sold the rights to her book to Ann Lopez, the soon-to-be-ex-wife of comedian George Lopez. She was not asked to work on the TV show version of the story; Lopez put a writer named Luisa Leschin in charge of the story. When Valdes-Rodriguez got her hands on a script, she was incensed. A character with a good job had become unemployed. The same character, who previously had a fiancé, was now screwing strangers in airport bathrooms. A Mexican-American character whose family has been in New Mexico for centuries is suddenly a Central American immigrant. A black character is no longer a lesbian and possibly no longer black; a lightskinned black character whose mom is Puerto Rican and dad is Dominican is changed into an "African-American" who is described as "a big girl wearing a flowing muumuu…" In an opening scene, she is "enjoying a heavy make out session. She rolls over revealing her pint-size boyfriend, Juan, inside her muumuu." Valdes-Rodriguez found all of this sickening, and became incensed, writing:

I want any DIRTY GIRLS show that ever gets made to SUCCEED and NOT PERPETUATE HARMFUL STEREOTYPES… I'd rather no show get made than to have my name attached to Luisa's bastardizations… She killed off all the black folks in my story.

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No Enbridge
  • romp

Dr. Gabor Maté on the Stress-Disease Connection, Addiction, Attention Deficit Disorder

AMY GOODMAN: Today, a Democracy Now! special with the Canadian physician and bestselling author Gabor Maté. From disease to addiction, parenting to attention deficit disorder, Dr. Maté’s work focuses on the centrality of early childhood experiences to the development of the brain, and how those experiences can impact everything from behavioral patterns to physical and mental illness. While the relationship between emotional stress and disease, and mental and physical health more broadly, is often considered controversial within medical orthodoxy, Dr. Maté argues too many doctors seem to have forgotten what was once a commonplace assumption, that emotions are deeply implicated in both the development of illness, addictions and disorders, and in their healing.

Dr. Maté is the bestselling author of four books: When the Body Says No: Understanding the Stress-Disease Connection; Scattered: How Attention Deficit Disorder Originates and What You Can Do about It; and, with Dr. Gordon Neufeld, Hold on to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More than Peers; his latest is called In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction.

Today we bring you all three of our interviews with Dr. Maté in 2010. In our first conversation, Dr. Maté talked about his work as the staff physician at the Portland Hotel in Vancouver, Canada, a residence and harm reduction facility in Downtown Eastside, a neighborhood with one the densest concentrations of drug addicts in North America. The Portland hosts the only legal injection site in North America, a center that’s come under fire from Canada’s Conservative government. I asked Dr. Maté to talk about his patients.

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I just posted the 1st of the 3 interviews here. The other two are great too tho'.
Murasaki Shikibu
  • homasse

SKorea vows retaliation if North attacks again

SKorea vows retaliation if North attacks again

South Korea's president vowed relentless retaliation against North Korea if provoked again, saying Monday he is not afraid of war with the communist North.

The two Koreas have ramped up their rhetoric since North Korea shelled front-line Yeonpyeong Island near the tense western sea border last month, killing four South Koreans. Both sides accuse the other of triggering the Nov. 23 exchange of artillery.

On Monday, President Lee Myung-bak used his regular radio address to vow to get tougher with any new provocation by North Korea.

"We have now been awakened to the realization that war can be prevented and peace assured only when such provocations are met with a strong response," Lee said. "Fear of war is never helpful in preventing war."

He said South Korea's military "must respond relentlessly when they come under attack."

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Swell. Just swell.

I don't think a full-out war is going to break out any time soon--it's all just national dick waving, especially with Kim Jong-un being groomed to take over and him needing military cred--but the way Lee is trying to cut of dissent and the whole "it aids the enemy!" crap is kind of worrisome. Things could go badly if North Korea does decide to try and invade some of the smaller islands in their quest to give Jong-un legitimacy. If that happens, and Lee is still banging the war drum...yeah. We'll see what happens. (...and I am sitting on my hands in order to not continue the dick jokes about all this, I really am. XD )
No Enbridge
  • romp

Harm Reduction Moving Mainstream

Now that the US allows federal funds for needle exchanges, Vancouver's drug user health approach sets a bold example.

Hundreds of doctors, politicians, researchers and frontline workers gathered with drug users and ex-users in Austin, Texas, last month to openly talk about drug use. But instead of reaffirming their commitment to the decades-long war on drugs, the eighth National Harm Reduction Conference featured discussions on opening needle exchanges, legalizing and regulating the drug trade, and overdose prevention methods.

"What we do in [the United States] is make drugs as unsafe as they possibly can be, and we do that through laws, which means that, if you get busted with drugs, you go to prison for a long time. And that's designed as a deterrent to make people stop using drugs, which obviously it isn't," said Allan Clear, executive director of the Harm Reduction Coalition, which runs the national conference.

"We do things like take syringes out of circulation, which has caused epidemics of hepatitis and HIV. So harm reduction is a way of trying to make drug use safer for people who use drugs, without demanding that they stop using drugs," Clear added.

Harm reduction can include a range of services from needle exchanges and condom distribution to safe consumption sites and access to addiction services such as methadone and buprenorphine treatments and detox facilities.

Supported by the United Nations and over 93 countries worldwide
, harm reduction remains controversial. While over half of the 158 countries where drug use has been reported say they support harm reduction, only 82 countries have needle exchanges, just 73 provide opiate substitution therapies like methadone, and a measly eight countries have safe drug consumption facilities. There are only two safe consumption facilities in North America, both in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
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I'm a bit of a fangirl for harm reduction. Can we get a "harm reduction" tag?
lost // jack

Baby boomers near 65 with retirements in jeopardy.

CHICAGO — Through a combination of procrastination and bad timing, many baby boomers are facing a personal finance disaster just as they're hoping to retire. Starting in January, more than 10,000 baby boomers a day will turn 65, a pattern that will continue for the next 19 years.

The boomers, who in their youth revolutionized everything from music to race relations, are set to redefine retirement. But a generation that made its mark in the tumultuous 1960s now faces a crisis as it hits its own mid-60s.

"The situation is extremely serious because baby boomers have not saved very effectively for retirement and are still retiring too early," says Olivia Mitchell, director of the Boettner Center for Pensions and Retirement Research at the University of Pennsylvania.

There are several reasons to be concerned:

- The traditional pension plan is disappearing. In 1980, some 39 percent of private-sector workers had a pension that guaranteed a steady payout during retirement. Today that number stands closer to 15 percent, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute in Washington, D.C.

- Reliance on stocks in retirement plans is greater than ever; 42 percent of those workers now have 401(k)s. But the past decade has been a lost one for stocks, with the Standard & Poor's 500 index posting total returns of just 4 percent since the beginning of 2000.

- Many retirees banked on their homes as their retirement fund. But the crash in housing prices has slashed almost a third of a typical home's value. Now 22 percent of homeowners, or nearly 11 million people, owe more on their mortgage than their home is worth. Many are boomers.

Michael Vanatta, 61, of Vero Beach, Fla., is paying the price for being a boomer who enjoyed life without saving for the future. He put a daughter through college, but he also spent plenty of money on indulgences like dining out and the latest electronic gadgets.

Vanatta was laid off last January from his $100,000-a-year job as a sales executive for a turf company. And with savings of just $5,000, he's on a budget for the first time. In April, he will start taking Social Security at age 62.

"If I'd been smarter and planned and had the bucks, I'd wait until 70," says Vanatta, who is divorced and rents an apartment. "It's my fault. For years I was making plenty of money and spending plenty of money."

Vanatta is in the majority. Some 51 percent of early boomer households, headed by those ages 55 to 64, face a retirement with lower living standards, according to a 2009 study by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.

Too many boomers have ignored or underestimated the worsening outlook for their finances, says Jean Setzfand, director of financial security for AARP, the group that represents Americans over age 50. By far the greatest shortcoming has been a failure to save. The personal savings rate — the amount of disposable income unspent — averaged close to 10 percent in the 1970s and `80s. By late 2007, the rate had sunk to negative 1 percent.

The recession has helped improve the savings rate — it's now back above 5 percent. Yet typical boomers are still woefully short on retirement savings. Even those in their 50s and 60s with a 401(k) for at least six years had an average balance of less than $150,000 at the end of 2009, according to the EBRI.

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SG-1: Vala

Miller won't block Murkowski's certification

JUNEAU, Alaska — Republican Joe Miller said he won't stand in the way of incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski being certified the winner of Alaska's U.S. Senate race, but he vowed to continue his legal fight over the state's handling of the vote count.

Miller's announcement late Sunday paves the way for Murkowski — a write-in candidate after losing the Republican nomination to Miller — to eventually be declared winner of the race.

Election officials determined Murkowski had the most votes in the November election but were barred from certifying a victory by a federal judge, who issued a stay to give the courts time to rule on Miller's claims the vote count was mishandled.

Rest of the article here

I presume this is as close to a concession as we're going to get from Joe Miller?

Update: The judge has lifted the stay on certifying the election results
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Me - I hate Christmas

On the Boardwalk in a War Zone

“It was kind of unreal,” the Steamboat Springs, Colorado native said, describing his recent 34th birthday fete at Kandahar Airfield, better known as KAF. “At least for a few minutes, you could pretend you were somewhere else. It was like going back home” (source).

“I was expecting to arrive in a warzone but instead here I am wearing sunglasses in the sun and eating a baguette,” said Dimitra Kokkali, a NATO contractor newly arrived from Brussels. “On my first night I surprised my family by calling them from an outdoor rock concert” (source).

A Time magazine slideshow, titled “R&R at Kandahar Airfield,” uses images to describe how the busiest airport in the world “tries to re-create the comforts of home for the coalition forces in Afgahnistan.” Kandahar Airfield is the busiest airport in the world because all supplies and troops pass through on their way to or from war in Iraq or Afghanistan. At any given time there are about 25,000 service members and civilian contractors at the airfield.

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Sociological Images

fuq yeahhhh

 Former Argentine Dictator Jorge Videla Jailed For Life

Former Argentine military ruler Jorge Videla has been sentenced to life in prison for crimes against humanity.

A court in the central Argentine city of Cordoba found Gen Videla, 85, guilty of murdering dissidents during the country's period of military rule between 1976 and 1983.

The general has been accused of being the main architect of what became known as Argentina's "Dirty War".

Up to 30,000 people were tortured and murdered under military rule.
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Looked under the tags for both Argentina and Latin America and didn't see this posted, so I'm posting it now. Also YAY for this motherfucker being in jail where he belongs for the rest of his miserable (and hopefully not long now) life. I would have posted it sooner but I didn't have internet access (save for my phone) for a week

Hollywood star Richard Chamberlain urges leading men not to come out

 Richard Chamberlain, who shot to fame as ‘Dr Kildare’ and later starred in several US TV hits including ‘The Thorn Birds’ and ‘Shogun’ and currently playing an HIV-positive gay man in the drama ‘Brother & Sisters’ had warned fellow gay actors not to come out unless they want it to harm their careers.

There had been rumours of 76-year-old Chamberlain’s homosexuality for years in Hollywood, but the actor said he chose not to speak out about his sexuality out of fear of losing leading man roles. He came out at the age of 69.

The actor told The Advocate: “There’s still a tremendous amount of homophobia in our culture. It’s regrettable, it’s stupid, it’s heartless, and it’s immoral, but there it is.

“For an actor to be working is a kind of miracle, because most actors aren’t, so it’s just silly for a working actor to say, ‘Oh, I don’t care if anybody knows I’m gay’ — especially if you’re a leading man. Personally, I wouldn’t advise a gay leading man–type actor to come out.”

Asked when an actor could come out, Chamberlain said: “I have no idea. Despite all the wonderful advances that have been made, it’s still dangerous for an actor to talk about that in our extremely misguided culture. Look at what happened in California with Proposition 8. Please, don’t pretend that we’re suddenly all wonderfully, blissfully accepted.”

Gay actor Rupert Everett has hit out against discrimination in Hollywood before. In 2006, he said: “Without doubt gays are discriminated against in show business. The straight one gets to walk down a red carpet with a beautiful girl and everything works out and the gay one has to back-pedal and do independent movies. Yet everything Hugh Grant does, I could be in.”

British star and Stonewall co-founder Ian McKellen also spoke out against discrimination in Hollywood. In 2006, he told an audience at the Berlin Film Festival: “The film industry is very old fashioned in California. It is very, very, very difficult for an American actor who wants a film career to be open about his sexuality. And even more difficult for a woman if she’s lesbian. It’s very distressing to me that that should be the case.”

Last year, ‘The Office’ star Martin Freeman said :”The funny thing about the acting business is that there are more poofs in it than you can have hot dinners thrown at you. But no one is out. It’s not so bad here [the UK], but in Hollywood …Why don’t they just admit it? In this so-called liberal industry, no one has the guts to come out because of the box office, but someone has to be first in the firing line.”

Source: Pink News

While what he's saying is true, I can't help but think it's the coward's way out - if no-one challenges the status quo for fear of ruining their career, nothing will ever change. Also, side-eyeing Martin Freeman... that is not your word, Dentarthurdent. You do not get to use it.