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marmar's Journal
marmar's Journal
May 28, 2015

Racist trolling casts pall over US spelling bee

Racist trolling on social media is casting an ugly pall over, of all things, the world's foremost spelling bee.

For seven years in a row, and for 11 of the past 15 years, the $30,000 Scripps National Spelling Bee championship has been won by American youngsters of Indian heritage.

Chances are as good as ever that another one will follow suit at this year's finals Thursday at the Gaylord National convention resort by the Potomac River outside Washington.

They make up one in five of the 285 spellers, aged nine through 15, from all 50 states and seven foreign countries, who ran a gauntlet of local and regional contests to qualify for the big event. ..............(more)


May 27, 2015

Movement 2015: Detroit's techno showcase captures the city's proud resiliency

Guardian UK:

Movement 2015: Detroit's techno showcase captures the city's proud resiliency
Movement, which has taken place every Memorial Day weekend since 2000, champions the do-it-yourself attitude spurring Detroit’s recent revitalization

In its 16th year running and 10th under its current name, Movement Electronic Music Festival celebrates its biggest year yet, with 141 artists across six stages at Hart Plaza. Located on the downtown Detroit Riverfront and bordering Windsor, Canada, Hart Plaza hosts a stunning view of both skylines. What started as an idea between friends has evolved into an annual celebration of the Motor City’s storied electronic music legacy, steadily defining itself as America’s key techno showcase and drawing fans from across the globe.

Movement, which takes place Memorial Day weekend, is more than just a music festival: it’s a celebration of love, pride and hope that captures the resilient spirit of Detroit by championing the do-it-yourself attitude of turning a grassroots idea into a reality. As the world watches, Detroit has seen a recent revitalization of the greater downtown area and a growing increase in small businesses, and Movement shines brighter and brighter as one of its fundamental cultural gems and top tourist attractions by growing alongside the city.

The six stages include the Movement main stage, which hosts most of the bigger acts as well as an array of local talent in an amphitheater-like bowl. It is the largest area at Hart Plaza, and is backed by an expansive view of the Detroit cityscape –the skyscrapers glow from stage light shows once nighttime rolls around. On one end of the plaza’s waterfront is the Red Bull Music Academy stage, the most diverse stage with an eclectic roster including hip-hop, techno, house and drum’n’bass. On the other end is the Beatport stage, curating mostly tech house and deep house. Near the plaza entrance is the Thump: Made in Detroit stage – it focuses on local talent, both classic and new. Directly below is the Underground Stage, located in the abyss of Hart Plaza. The sonorous and dark setting is ideal for harder, hypnotic techno. The Sixth stage, another home for local acts, dedicates two out of three festival days to showcases. ...................(more)


May 27, 2015

We’re Breeding Dogs to Death

from In These Times:

We’re Breeding Dogs to Death
The legacy of eugenics is mutilating our best friends.


Bred for looks, not health, many purebred dogs are drawn from a genetic wading pool that might have been designed by a cabal of Ralph Lauren, Dr. Frankenstein, Walt Disney and David Koch.

Even socially aware consumers who sneer at $5,000 designer purses, and animal defenders who deplore the cruelties of commercial livestock production, buy into trendy canines. Purebreds are commodities like any other luxury good, and breeding them is big business. Registered golden retrievers go for up to $3,000, English bulldogs for $9,000, and a Cavalier King Charles spaniel can cost $14,000, almost as much as a Honda Fit.

But neither price, pedigree nor being loved like a member of the family can shield a dog from the pain, breathing difficulties, cancer, panoply of debilitating genetic disorders, mental illness, crippling physiognomy and shortened life span that disproportionately plague purebreds.

The main U.S. arbiter of canine purity is the American Kennel Club. The first goal of its mission is “upholding the integrity of its Registry.” Pedigree, the AKC asserts, “creates a level of breed predictability” of “temperament and physical characteristics.” But the AKC is also a lead profiteer in an industry that Michael Brandow, author of A Matter of Breeding, decried as “a kind of long-term, institutionalized cruelty that makes vivisection look humane.” ...................(more)


May 27, 2015

Squeeze another one into the clown car: SpreadingSantorum.com enters the field

Rick Santorum, the former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania who was the runner-up for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, will announce Wednesday that he plans to make a second try for the White House, ABC News reported.

Santorum, 57, is working to broaden his appeal beyond his hardline stance on social issues. He positioned himself in 2012 as the champion of voters opposed to abortion rights and gay marriage. This year, he's emphasized his eight years on the Senate Armed Services Committee and foreign policy with the rise of the Islamic State. He's also touting a message of inclusion. He confirmed his plans to ABC's George Stephanopoulos, the anchor said on Twitter.

“We are not going be successful unless we have a message that talks to the people who are struggling to rise,” Santorum said May 21 at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in Oklahoma. ..................(more)


May 27, 2015

Henry Giroux: The Fire This Time: Black Youth and the Spectacle of Postracial Violence

The Fire This Time: Black Youth and the Spectacle of Postracial Violence

Tuesday, 26 May 2015 00:00
By Henry A. Giroux, Truthout | News Analysis

"Let's hope it isn't too late to listen, listen intently, carefully, minds open, hearts full. Let's hope." - James Baldwin

In 1963, James Baldwin published an essay entitled "The Negro Child - His Self-Image," in The Saturday Review. Later celebrated as "A Talk to Teachers," his prescient opening paragraph unfolds with the following observation:

Let's begin by saying that we are living through a very dangerous time. Everyone in this room is in one way or another aware of that. We are in a revolutionary situation, no matter how unpopular that word has become in this country. The society in which we live is desperately menaced ... from within. To any citizen of this country who figures himself as responsible - and particularly those of you who deal with the minds and hearts of young people - must be prepared to "go for broke." (1)

Signaling the existential crisis engendered by a profound political crisis, the first title resonates more powerfully with the current historical moment, especially as Black youth are increasingly assaulted, even killed, by White police officers in alarming numbers. Baldwin's essay also points to both the need for resistance and the hazardous price one might have to pay by engaging in open defiance. Baldwin was right then and his words are more powerful today as we are truly living in "dangerous times."

The killing of young Black men such as 16-year-old Kimani Gray, 12-year-old Tamir Rice, 18-year-old Michael Brown, 22-year-old John Crawford III and 25-year-old Freddie Gray, among others, are part of a historical pattern of racial terror in which Black populations have been contained and controlled by so-called legitimate mechanisms of state violence. (2) Not only is a Black person killed by the police "every three or four days," but "the rate of police killings of Black Americans is nearly the same as the rate of lynchings in the early decades of the 20th century."

Rather than seen as victims, Black youth are vilified, and viewed as suspicious, delinquent or dangerous by mass media. They are the most recent populations once again regarded as the "wretched of the earth," considered excess and treated as human refuse, and preyed upon by the criminal legal system, private probationary companies and the financial elite who have brought back the debtors' prison. (4) While violence waged against Black people in the United States is nothing new, we have witnessed the appearance of new death-dealing military weapons and the militarizing of entire police forces. In addition, there is the more recent neoliberal economic destruction of entire cities, and the collapse of the welfare state, the war on terror and the rise of the punishing state, all of which add a new and more capacious register to a long history of such racist violence. .............(more)


May 27, 2015

Richard Wolff: Critics of Capitalism Must Include Its Definition

from truthout:

by Richard Wolff

Most business leaders, mass media, politicians and academics keep defining capitalism, the main economic system in today's world, as markets plus private ("free&quot enterprises. That definition is wrong. Definitions matter more now than ever as people increasingly question, challenge and want to move beyond capitalism.

Consider the 20th century revolutions that overthrew a capitalism they defined as markets plus free enterprises. In Russia and China, they replaced private, free enterprises with socialized (state-owned-and-operated) enterprises and replaced market mechanisms of distribution with central state-planned distribution. They called that "socialism," thinking they had abolished and gone beyond capitalism. However, their socialism proved unable to sustain itself and mostly reverted back to capitalism.

One reason those revolutions failed to go beyond capitalism was those revolutionaries' definition of capitalism and socialism. That definition crucially shaped their strategies for and very conceptions of revolutionary social change. Since that definition still shapes debates over and strategies for social change today, it urgently needs to be criticized and set aside.

Because capitalism is so regularly defined as "a market system," we may consider first the actual nonequivalence of capitalism and markets. Capitalism became the dominant economic system in England in revolt against feudalism there in the 17th century. Capitalism spread from England to the western European mainland and thereafter to the rest of the world. However, capitalism was neither the first nor the only system to utilize markets as its means of distributing resources and products. In the slave economic systems that prevailed in various times and places across human history, markets were often the means of distributing resources (including slaves themselves) and the products of slaves' labor. In the pre-Civil War United States, for example, masters sold slaves and cotton produced by slaves in markets. Thus, the presence of a "market system" does not distinguish capitalism from a slave system. ......................(more)


May 26, 2015

Iraq About to Flood Oil Market in New Front of OPEC Price War

(Bloomberg) (Bloomberg) -- Iraq is taking OPEC's strategy to defend its share of the global oil market to a new level.

The nation plans to boost crude exports by about 26 percent to a record 3.75 million barrels a day next month, according to shipping programs, signaling an escalation of OPEC strategy to undercut U.S. shale drillers in the current market rout. The additional Iraqi oil is equal to about 800,000 barrels a day, or more than comes from OPEC member Qatar. The rest of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries is expected to rubber stamp its policy to maintain output levels at a meeting on June 5.

While shipping schedules aren't a promise of future production, they are indicative of what may come. The following chart graphs planned tanker loadings (in red) against exports.

As in previous months, Iraq might not hit its June target - export capacity is currently capped at 3.1 million barrels a day, Deputy Oil Minister Fayyad al-Nimaa said on May 18. Still, any extra Iraqi supplies inevitably mean OPEC strays even further above its collective output target of 30 million barrels a day, Morgan Stanley says. .................(more)


May 26, 2015

Houston: At least 3 dead as heavy rains flood freeways, close schools

(Houston Chronicle) At least three people were found dead early Tuesday morning as floodwaters swamped the Houston area following heavy storms overnight.

One of the victims was found about 5 a.m. at 5757 Ranchester near Harwin. The victim was found inside the cab of a flooded pickup.

Police said another body was discovered about three hours later floating in a bayou at 5400 Ardmore.

According to the Houston Fire Department, the victims appeared to have drowned.

HPD Homicide investigators said a third person was found dead in flood waters in the 1400 block of West Loop South. The person had possibly drowned. .................(more)


May 26, 2015

NYC: STEP ASIDE: The MTA Wants to Speed Up Three Subway Lines

As 6 million riders a day becomes the MTA's new normal, so too have subway delays. (Want to know why? The quick version is growing ridership, ongoing maintenance needs, and unplanned events. Watch the video at the end of this story, and turn the volume up.)

The agency's long-term solution is to increase capacity and improve its signaling capabilities. But that is years — not to mention billions of as-of-yet-unfound dollars — away.

"Until those investments are in place," said New York City Transit President Carmen Bianco at an MTA board committee meeting Monday, "we have to address the issue that confronts us today."

In the meantime, the MTA is targeting three subway lines — the 6, 7, and the F — that have experienced the worst deterioration in service over the past two years (page 20), when measured by how regularly trains arrive. ................(more)


May 26, 2015

When even the big banks start to worry about inequality, you know something is seriously wrong.

from Dissent magazine:

JPMorgan Sounds the Alarm on Inequality
Colin Gordon ▪ May 22, 2015

The first study from the newly established JPMorgan Chase Institute, released yesterday, offers an intriguing “big data” glimpse at economic insecurity in today’s U.S. economy. “Weathering Volatility: Big Data on the Financial Ups and Downs of U.S. Individuals” uses a stratified sample from the account and transaction data of almost 30 million JPMorgan Chase customers. Alongside credit information (monthly payments, outstanding balances, delinquencies) for the same individuals, the JPMorgan data measures variation in income and consumption, over a short and recent time span, with rare precision—and a notable tone of angst.

At a sample size of 100,000, the JPMorgan data set boasts nearly twice the sample size of the Current Population Survey (60,000 household respondents) and far exceeds the reach of the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumers Expenditure Survey (7,000 households) or the various panel surveys (which have between 5,000 and 15,000 respondents). The resulting sample, broken into income quintiles (equal fifths of the underlying population), follows the structure of the Census numbers: the upper limit for its first quintile is $23,000, just over the Census/CPS threshold of $21,433 for 2013, and so on up to $104,500, the upper limit for the fourth (compared to the Census/CPS’s $106,101). But most importantly, the JPMorgan data consists of actual transactions—a much more precise and reliable measure of earning and spending than we can expect from survey respondents.

The findings, unsurprisingly, point to large swings in both incomes and consumption, both from year to year and from month to month. Seventy percent of those sampled see a swing in income of more than 5 percent from one year to the next; 84 percent see that volatility from month to month. Some of this is an artifact of the data collection (those paid weekly, for example, see their incomes bounce around just because some months have five Friday paydays and some don’t), but much of it signals the economic damage and insecurity that comes with stagnant wages, a tattered safety net, persistently high unemployment and underemployment, and raggedly unreliable work schedules.

Of interest to JPMorgan, of course, are the behavioral responses to income volatility, and the financial products (“innovative insurance or credit products“) that might be offered in response. The report devotes much of its energy to parsing the difference between “responders” (those whose changes in consumption tend to track changes in their income), “sticky optimists” (mostly higher earners) for whom consumption increases more than income by more than 10 percent, and “sticky pessimists,” for whom consumption lags behind increases in income by more than 10 percent. .............(more)


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