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Archive for November 10th, 2014

Frank: How Republicans Hijacked the Midterms

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on November 10th, 2014 12:08 am by HL

Frank: How Republicans Hijacked the Midterms
Thomas Frank, Salon: Once again, Republicans used their patented brand of fake populism to make Democrats look like chumps Last week, with the Republican campaign robo-calls coming one after another over the phone in suburban Kansas City — at least a dozen of them every day, the right-wing super PACs’ version of a World War I artillery barrage — I picked out one phrase from the hailstorm of words: “Washington’s liberal class.” That phrase, delivered with sneering emphasis on the second word, may have been a key to the whole confusing affair. Consider the many ironies of the 2014 elections. Georgia, the state with the highest unemployment in the nation, just elected as its United States senator a businessman who is “proud” of his career of outsourcing.

Game Violence Not Linked to Youth Violence
Gory computer games and video nasties do not make teenagers more aggressive — and may even turn them off violence. Films such as Clockwork Orange, games including Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto, and even rock music have been blamed for fueling youth violence. But a new study has found no link between being exposed to such violent media and real-world violent acts. Researcher Christopher Ferguson of Stetson University said, “Society has a limited amount of resources and attention to devote to the problem of reducing crime. There is a risk that identifying the wrong problem, such as media violence, may distract society from more pressing concerns such as poverty, education and vocational disparities and mental health.”


Gruff former general right man for Korean mission

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on November 10th, 2014 12:08 am by HL

Gruff former general right man for Korean mission
WASHINGTON (AP) — The North Koreans passed word they wanted a high-ranking U.S. government official for the job, so President Barack Obama sent a gruff former general to spirit home two Americans held captive by the hard-line communists. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper is no diplomat by training, and that’s perhaps just why he earned the clandestine call.


?Bush 43 on Bush 41

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on November 10th, 2014 12:08 am by HL

?Bush 43 on Bush 41
In the first of a two-part interview with Bob Schieffer, former President George W. Bush discusses his new book about his father, and of following in his footsteps


Sharyl Attkisson Doubles Down On Hacking Claims After Repeatedly Changing Her Story

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on November 10th, 2014 12:08 am by HL

Sharyl Attkisson Doubles Down On Hacking Claims After Repeatedly Changing Her Story

From the November 9 edition of Fox News’ Media Buzz:

Previously:

Attkisson Dodges Hacking Story Inconsistencies And Lashes Out At Media Matters

Sharyl Attkisson Changes Hacking Story Again: Now She Doesn’t Know Who Did It

Computer Security Experts: Attkisson Video Of Purported “Hacking” Likely Just A Stuck Backspace Key


Obama, Udall and What 2014 Was Really About

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on November 10th, 2014 12:08 am by HL

Obama, Udall and What 2014 Was Really About
Carl M. Cannon, RealClearPolitics
WASHINGTON – To understand what went wrong for Democrats in the midterm elections, we can look to the Senate race in Colorado, where Barack Obama was first nominated for president. The state went for Obama in 2008 and again in 2012—and until Tuesday it had a Democratic governor and two Democratic senators. Now it will have one Democratic senator, as well as a chastened and only narrowly re-elected governor in a state where the president’s job approval has slipped below 40 percent. Similar results occurred from Georgia to Alaska. This was inevitable because the…

In Need of a Rebuilding Plan
Eugene Robinson, RealClearPolitics
WASHINGTON — All right, all right, I didn’t see the wave coming. All those margin-of-error polls seemed to suggest that Democrats would likely hold their own — probably not keep the Senate but make a respectable showing overall. Wrong. All the caveats are true. It was a midterm, when the incumbent president’s party usually gets a comeuppance. The Senate losses were within historical norms. In other races, some of the high-profile Republican victories involved incumbents who managed to survive after the scare of their political lives, such as Govs. Rick Scott of Florida, Scott Walker of…

Early Forecast: More Gridlock
Ruth Marcus, RealClearPolitics
WASHINGTON — Is the government’s gridlock about to be dislodged? Imagine the capital as a giant set of pulleys and levers, operating at cross purposes. In the end, the forces tugging President Obama and Republican leaders apart may be more powerful than the ones pushing them together. Obama and the incoming Senate leader, Kentucky Republican Mitch McConnell, said nice things about cooperating in the election’s aftermath. You could call this predictable posturing, with the goal not necessarily to accomplish results but to ensure that voters blame the other side when gridlock as usual…

Rick Perry’s N.H. Trip to Kick Off ’16 Campaign Season
Scott Conroy, RealClearPolitics
Just when you thought we were finally out of campaign mode, Rick Perry is coming to New Hampshire. The outgoing Texas governor and likely 2016 Republican presidential contender will travel across the state on Sunday and Monday with a jam-packed schedule that includes a half-dozen public events. After his political action committee contributed $61,500 to the New Hampshire Republican Party and various GOP groups and candidates there this fall, Perry is eager to emphasize his commitment to competing vigorously in the first-in-the-nation primary state, should he launch a second White House…


VIDEO: Andrew Marr Sunday paper review

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on November 10th, 2014 12:08 am by HL

VIDEO: Andrew Marr Sunday paper review
Sunday newspapers are reviewed by actor Sheila Hancock, Tim Montgomerie of The Times and Labour peer Helena Kennedy.

VIDEO: New EU demand figure is ‘good news’
The revised bill from the EU to the UK is good news and a “significant step forward” says Matthew Hancock.

Firefighter assault total ‘shocking’
Official figures indicate there have been 124 assaults on firefighters in Scotland in the past two years.


The Latest Frivolous Attack On Obamacare

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on November 10th, 2014 12:08 am by HL

The Latest Frivolous Attack On Obamacare
Last week the court shocked many observers by saying that it was willing to hear a case claiming that the wording of one clause in the Affordable Care Act sets drastic limits on subsidies to Americans who buy health insurance. It’s a ridiculous claim; not only is it clear from everything else in the act that there was no intention to set such limits, you can ask the people who drafted the law what they intended, and it wasn’t what the plaintiffs claim. But the fact that the suit is ridiculous is no guarantee that it won’t succeed — not in an environment in which all too many Republican judges have made it clear that partisan loyalty trumps respect for the rule of law.


Obstacles Limit Targets and Pace of Strikes on ISIS

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on November 10th, 2014 12:08 am by HL

Obstacles Limit Targets and Pace of Strikes on ISIS
Commanders of the American-led air campaign in Iraq and Syria are challenged by spotty intelligence, poor weather and an Iraqi Army that has only begun an offensive against the Islamic State.



International Education: Homegrown Help for Deserving Students in Nepal
A Nepalese group is trying to fill a gap in scholarships for poor rural students who have the ability to excel in high school but lack the money to do so.



Catalonia Overwhelmingly Votes for Independence From Spain in Straw Poll
Defying objections from the Spanish government in Madrid, about two million people took part in a symbolic vote presented as a prelude to secession.



Tensions Mount as Israeli Arabs Protest Police Shooting
An Arab man wielding a knife was killed by the police after he attacked a police vehicle, but a video appeared to show him retreating when he was shot.



On a Memory-Filled Date, the Fall of the Berlin Wall Stands Front and Center
Chancellor Angela Merkel led Germany in celebrations flavored with a mix of triumph and tragedy to commemorate the fall of the wall on Nov. 9, 1989.




Uganda Could Pass Another Draconian Anti-Gay Law

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on November 10th, 2014 12:08 am by HL

Uganda Could Pass Another Draconian Anti-Gay Law

This measure is even worse than the infamous Anti-Homosexuality Act.

The post Uganda Could Pass Another Draconian Anti-Gay Law appeared first on ThinkProgress.

A Ugandan man is seen during the 3rd Annual Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Pride celebrations in Entebbe, Uganda,

A Ugandan man is seen during the 3rd Annual Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Pride celebrations in Entebbe, Uganda,

CREDIT: AP Photo/Rebecca Vassie

Lawmakers in Uganda are considering a new anti-gay bill that appears to be far more repressive than the infamous Anti-Homosexuality Act, which imposed life sentences on people convicted of homosexuality.

According to LGBT rights activists in the country, the new measure would outlaw “funding for purposes of promoting unnatural sexual practices” and “exhibiting unnatural sexual practices.” Anyone convicted of the crime could serve up to seven years in prison.

“People don’t realize that the ‘promotion’ part of it will affect everybody,” gay rights activist Frank Mugisha told the Agence France-Presse.

“If newspapers report about homosexuality it could be seen as promotion. My Twitter account could be seen as promotion. All human rights groups that include LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) rights defense in their activities could be accused of promotion,” he said.

Earlier this year, Uganda’s Constitutional Court overturned the Anti-Homosexuality Act on the technicality that it was improperly passed through Parliament, following an international backlash and threats to slash aide to the country. President Yoweri Museveni appeared to back away from the measure and acknowledged that people can be gay without criminal intent.

Homosexuality is a crime in Uganda under a provision of the penal code and Ugandans have experienced “almost twentyfold increase in anti-LGBT incidents” since December.

The post Uganda Could Pass Another Draconian Anti-Gay Law appeared first on ThinkProgress.

The World’s Obsession With Schoolgirls As Victims, And Why It’s Putting Them In Danger

while Boko Haram, ISIS, and the Taliban have all waged a bloody reign of terror in seeking to achieve these goals, it’s the crimes they commit against schoolgirls – archetypes of innocence and vulnerability – that earn them the most disdain.

The post The World’s Obsession With Schoolgirls As Victims, And Why It’s Putting Them In Danger appeared first on ThinkProgress.

When Boko Haram gunmen stormed a school in northeastern Nigeria, they seemed to be closely following a premeditated plan of attack. They lined up students against a wall and killed them with single bullets to the head. They then doused nearby dormitories with gasoline, locked the doors, and set them alight. Those who tried to make an escape were stabbed to death.

Forty-six boys were killed in that July 2013 attack. All of the girls were spared.

Does the victims’ gender factor into why the international media paid no heed to the carnage Boko Haram wrought a year before the Islamist militant group kidnapped 276 girls from their school in Chibok? Why didn’t big-name celebrities and political officials rally behind the slaughtered schoolboys as they did the abducted schoolgirls? Why was no hashtag created to demand justice for the boys?



Maybe crimes committed against girls – and particularly schoolgirls – bear a heavier impact on the consciousness of outside observers. Taken together with the full-throttle focus Pakistani education activist Malala Yousafzai after she was shot by Taliban gunmen in October of 2012, and the outsized role that ISIS’ sexual assaults and enslavement of Yazidi women has played in framing U.S. intervention in Iraq, it seems that schoolgirls draw not just more attention, but also action than similar attacks on others. While Boko Haram, ISIS, and the Taliban have all waged a bloody reign of terror, it’s the crimes they commit against schoolgirls – archetypes of innocence and vulnerability – that have earned them the most disdain.

Society’s Most Defenseless

Lauren Wolfe, the director of Women Under Siege, a project that investigates how sexualized violence is used as a weapon of war, says that our concern for these girls may actually make them only more unsafe. She writes in an email to ThinkProgress, “The problem with putting girls and women into some kind of ‘precious’ category is that it makes them high-value targets.”

She considers this issue further in an op-ed for Foreign Policy:

Boko Haram has chosen a group — girls — that is historically vulnerable, yet whose members carry precious undertones about the purity of most societies. And with that designation as the bearers of purity, girls become a group that is little more than a symbol. In reality, these girls are human beings who are marginalized, exploited, and ignored globally. Girls are the low-hanging fruit of the biblically proportioned anger at Eve.

In attacking girls, Wolfe writes, Boko Haram “is targeting society’s most defenseless and fetishized.”

That’s part of a relatively new strategy for Boko Haram, says Elizabeth Pearson, who researches Islamist militancy, especially as it relates to women and gender. In 2012, after the Nigerian government began to detain the families of Boko Haram — including the wives of Shekau — the militant group for the first time began to make targets of women and children.

Nigeria Kidnapped Girls

CREDIT: AP

“Since you are now holding our women,” Shekau says with a laugh in a video released at the end of that year, “Just wait and see what will happen to your own women…to your own wives according to Sharia law.”

Pearson says the kiddnapping of the girls from their school in Chibok may be a part of Boko Haram’s retaliation for the Nigerian government’s detention of the families of its members.

“It’s a humiliation to be unable to protect your family,” she says in a phone interview with ThinkProgress. “And [the Chibok kidnapping] is a way to maintain esteem — they say ‘So we can do it bigger and bolder and better.’”

The kidnappings were one way to hijack others’ family members and reroute them into their way of life. Shekau said from the onset that the girls should be married and that they should quit school. Some of the girls were sold into marriage early on for as little as $12 according to reports from Chibok officials. (Wolfe notes onthe sale of girls as wives, “As if their being sold for a higher price would somehow improve the situation.”) By marrying them off, they extracted the girls from their lives as students in royal blue jumpers and forced them into confined, cloaked domestic lives. This is a part of their aim to create a society organized by their maligned interpretation of Islam in which strict gender roles and segregation are the norm. It’s also the ends by which Boko Haram and other Islamist militant groups justify their unendingly violent means, although there are also very real personal and political grievances that serve to motivate them in their mission.

In the case of Boko Haram — and in the incidents of the Yazidi women and Malala — Islamist organizations may knowingly pick on those who are seen to be some of the weakest in a society to signal their “no mercy” approach to waging war. Although signalling such ruthlessness to a state or even individuals may help to defang their opposition, the shock that follows isn’t always something they expect.

Pearson says that Boko Haram is an incredibly media savvy organization, and though the group was taken aback by the incredible global media response for the Chibok kidnappings, it took advantage of the situation. The video it released of the girls draped in gray and black burqas saying that they had converted to Islam and were not being harmed by their captors is one clear example of how they drew attention to the girls — and to themselves.

Nigeria Violence

CREDIT: AP

Part of why the kidnapping dew so much attention from the media as well as activists is because the girls hold a dual significance.

“They’re symbols, but they have a practical function as well,” Pearson says. “They’re bargaining chips.”

Boko Haram’s leader Shekau denied negotiating a ceasefire deal with the Nigerian government to discuss the fate of the kidnapped girls,. It’s possible that he was in fact negotiating, and only denied it as a way to delegitimize the government. But many Nigerians believe the government may have talking to a different Boko Haram faction, or the wrong lot entirely — especially since Shekau has said repeatedly that he isn’t interested in negotiating. For its part, the Nigerian government has reason not to release false statements, having already stomached a great deal of embarrassment for falsely claiming the girls had been released to its army.

“Schoolgirl Feminism”

Even if the girls were not being used as bargaining chips by Boko Haram, they, along with others such Malala Yousafzai, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in October, have been given a place on the world stage, for better or worse. It’s just that their role is often that of a victim – even before they come under any sort of real threat. Seeing girls inhabit that role, especially girls in the developing world, is an appealing retelling of a familiar story. And, columnist Rafia Zakaria says, that’s what draws so many of us in.

“The media and academic culture as well as well as feminist impulses for solidarity have been so concentrated in distilling black and brown women into single stories. The single stories that get elevated are generally ones that substantiate some idea of a brown girl or a brown woman or a black girl or a black woman as being persecuted by their own culture and then somehow being saved by global culture or western culture or white culture,” Zakaria says in phone interview from Bloomington, Ind. where she’s working on a PhD in political theory.

We’re drawn to their stories, she says, because they represent familiar colonial tropes of victimized women in what were once called “uncivilized” lands.

In an op-ed for Al Jazeera America, Zakaria outlines some of the issues with what ensues when those girls are allowed to stand in for all women in their region. “Schoolgirl feminism” is the name she gives to this phenomenon which is perhaps best characterized by Malala Yousafzai:

In the days following the attack, Yousafzai was anointed and elevated as the voice of Pakistani women, her cause — education — touted as the solution to Pakistan’s myriad problems. Questioning Yousafzai’s age or the narrative that reduced an entire country’s feminist struggles to a schoolgirl’s resilient but still childish ebullience could make one a suspect, a bearer of pouty misgivings or, worse still, sympathies for the Taliban.

Then it was packaged into a kind of Malala mixture — schoolgirls from an underdeveloped land, a barbaric Islamist group and an ineffective government cast against a setting of conflict, haplessness and misogyny. Yousafzai’s successors, the schoolgirls of Chibok, have been anointed in their absence. Hashtags demanding their return are shared, tweeted and reshared. Vigils and petitions are organized on their behalf. This virtual furor epitomized a Western caring for the girls against the implied callousness of Nigerians.

The global attention and Western feminists’ efforts to empathize with the suffering and despicable persecution of young women in Pakistan and Nigeria are welcome. But the positioning of a grownup, liberated Western feminism against the simple, naive schoolgirl feminism of brown and black lands, where the girls are imagined as just beginning to scramble for an education and awaiting Western liberation, is a cause for concern. This opportunistic centering of the world’s feminist attention on the schoolgirl, whether Pakistani or Nigerian, defangs black and brown feminism. A trademark of schoolgirl feminism is its refusal to question narratives of global inequality or Western complicity.

The problem with latching on to young girls as emblematic of the strife in a certain country or culture, Zakaria explains, is that they cannot fully represent all sides of a story. They’re likely too young and too tied to their own basic struggles to see how their concerns are a part of a bigger picture. The Chibok girls are in no position to represent, for example, the resource depletion of northern Nigeria at the hands of Western companies which have, in some way, allowed Boko Haram to draw support and gain force. Similarly, she says, Yousafzai has not discussed how the sort of education she advocates for has long been a part of American strategic policy in Pakistan.

“And so,” Zakaria says, “Female education has directly implicated the western powers and become tainted as something that’s part of a strategic war agenda rather than a universal value.”

That’s an issue that she says more “grown up articulations of feminism, race, and anti-colonialism,” from “strong feminist women figures who have earned their stripes in very, very hostile environments” would be unlikely to overlook.

The Education Agenda

For Yousafzai’s attackers, her education was very much tied in with a pro-Western, pro-American agenda. Perhaps it’s because of the use of education to promote certain ideals by the U.S., including, for a time, an anti-Soviet agenda, that there has been a notable backlash there to use school curriculum to forward extremist ideology. The same might be said of Boko Haram’s kidnapping of the girls at the Chibok school.

And so it might be because they were attacked while attending the sort of schools advanced by western designs in post-colonial countries that western audiences are more drawn into their stories – perhaps even unwittingly. There’s an understanding that many around the world have of education as a basic right – and even if gunmen have been known to attack schools in America – we retain a sense of outrage against those whose mission it is to keep girls out of school. But Islamist militants often have a more hostile view of secular education because it’s very often tied up with colonial-era politics and, what they see as the imperialist efforts of the West that replaced colonialism.

For Boko Haram too, targeting the schoolgirls seems to be tied up in a bigger mission to thwart the sort of education they’re getting.

While the phrase “Boko Haram” is often translated as “Western education is a sin,” isn’t how the militant group refers to itself. Its leaders call the outfit Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’Awati Wal-Jihad, a more formal Arabic phrase which means “People Committed to the Prophet’s Teachings for Propagation and Jihad.” Some have argued that the phrase Boko Haram in itself is more complicated than the English translation implies.

The word “Boko” is refers to something that’s fraudulent or a sham, and came to refer to the British colonialist project in Nigeria which brought “Western education” to young people there, but the sort that was infused with colonialist  and neo-imperialist principles.

“Boko” is not unlike what many see English-language education to be in some parts of Pakistan, which explains, in part why she has come to be seen as a Western stooge by so many there.

Malala Yousafzai, Ban Ki-moon

CREDIT: AP

Even the Taliban walked back on their initial reason for attacking Yousafzai because of her support of education, writing in a statement, “We did not attack her for raising voice for education. We targeted her for opposing mujahideen [freedom fighters] and their war.” It went on to say, “We targeted her because she would speak against the Taliban while sitting with shameless strangers and idealized the biggest enemy of Islam, Barack Obama.”

Following from those views, in the minds of Islamist militants, schoolchildren may be seen as more fair targets than those of us who were thoroughly appalled by these attacks could even imagine. It’s may be that this stark divide — and our intellectual effort to understand the perpetrators’ rationale paired with our emotional unwillingness to accept such brutal crimes against innocent children helps to make these stories so compelling.

The Flipside Of Vulnerability

For those sympathetic to their attackers, the Chibok girls and Yousafzai are likely seen not only as of victims of violence but also as the pawns in geopolitical designs and historical paradigms. They signify something very different to those concerned about the rights of girls.

“I think the girls were not targeted because they’re vulnerable but because they represent something incredibly powerful,” Diane Duarte of MADRE, an international women’s rights organization says in a phone interview. “They can grow up to become advocates and leaders. There’s a power behind them that…strikes fear into the hearts of those whose minds are rooted in misogyny and gender discrimination.”

It’s the fear of the potential of schoolgirls that might make them targets for those who believe the role of women in society is limited to the home, she says.

Indeed, the potential of schoolgirls to not only change their own fates but that of their communities is well substantiated.

If a woman has had even a single year of primary school, she’s able to earn 10 to 20 percent than a woman who hasn’t been to school at all. A secondary school education will earn her 15 to 25 percent more. Each additional year of schooling will prevent two maternal deaths per 1000 women. And, a study in Uganda found that each year of education reduces a girls’ chances of contracting HIV by nearly seven percent.

“I think we have to be able to hold both ideas in our mind about vulnerability and power. I think the girls are targeted not just because they’re easy targets,” Duarte says, though there is a sense that such attacks don’t constitute a fair fight.

That could be another part of why we feel so moved to read on when young girls are attacked by militant men.

Or maybe it’s far simpler than that. Maybe we were drawn to the Chibok girls because they offered us room for something that’s rarely present in the days’ news: the ability to hope.

Though gruesome, the murders of the 46 boys killed after the kidnappings at Chibok leave little cause for baited breath – or for following up with their story day after day, news cycle after news cycle. New information about their killings might emerge, but that would lead to their safe return.

The extended period of wonder and worry is there too with the Yazidi women, many of whom are still trapped on Mount Sinjar despite Obama’s overt reference to their plight as a rationale for beginning airstrikes against ISIS. And hope was there too with Yousafzai before she seemingly miraculously surviving close-range gunshots to the head. While many desperately called for Boko Haram to #BringBackOurGirls, after more than six months, it doesn’t seem we can hold out much more hope for the 219 girls who remain in the hands of their militants. And as hope dwindled, it’s possible that our interest in their plight did too.

“We have have married them off [to Boko Haram fighters] and they are all in their husbands’ houses,” a man who claimed to be Abubakar Shekau, the head of the Islamist militant organization said in a video released last week.

“All we are doing is slaughtering people with machetes and shooting people with guns,” a man who Shekau continued. “War is what we want.”

If the video is legitimate, it confirms the worst: the girls who were kidnapped from their school in northern Nigeria in April will not return to their hometowns, their families, their studies, their lives.

And all of our pleas for their release may only put more girls like them at risk in Nigeria and elsewhere in the world, too.

The post The World’s Obsession With Schoolgirls As Victims, And Why It’s Putting Them In Danger appeared first on ThinkProgress.


Hillary Is the Democrats’ Only Hope

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on November 10th, 2014 12:08 am by HL

Hillary Is the Democrats’ Only Hope
James Warren, New York Daily News

Obama’s Response: Blah, Blah, Blah
Fred Barnes, Weekly Standard

The NYT Is Now a Haven for the Uninformed
John Hinderaker, PowerLine