A REPORT released earlier this month by the Census Bureau found that in 2012, for the first time, voting rates of black Americans exceeded that of whites: 66.2% of eligible black voters cast ballots in the last presidential election, compared with 64.1% of whites (in 2008, the numbers were 64.7% of blacks and 66.1% of whites). Beneath those top-line numbers, however, lie significant gender-based disparities in voting. More than 70% of black women voted, while just 61.4% of black men did. Black women voted at higher rates than white men and women; black men’s voting rates appear to be lower. I say "appear" because the Census Bureau’s numbers do not take felony disenfranchisement into account. When you do that—when you subtract from each of the four race/gender-based categories those members who cannot vote because they have been convicted of a felony, leaving you with a pool of truly eligible voters—the share of black male voters rises to 68%. That is still lower, but only just, than black women, and higher than the share of white voters of either gender.
Around one in every 40 American adults is ineligible to vote due to a felony conviction. While most states forbid felons in prison from voting (Maine and Vermont are the only exceptions), 19 others also forbid those on parole or probation from voting and 11 states disenfranchise felons even after they have served their time, accounting for nearly half of the 5.85m disenfranchised. That number is five times higher than it was in 1976. It includes one in every 13 black adults, and in three states (Florida, Virginia and Kentucky), more than one in every five.
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration on Friday condemned Russia’s delivery of advanced antiship missiles to Syria and its buildup of warships in the eastern Mediterranean, arguing that the Kremlin’s escalating support for its longtime ally in Damascus could prolong the civil war.
Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Russia’s military moves would “embolden” Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces and extend the suffering in the widening conflict. “So it’s ill-timed and very unfortunate,” he said.
The public rebuke marked a shift for the administration, which has sought to enlist Moscow in a joint effort to bring the warring parties to Geneva to negotiate an end to the fighting. Russia, which keeps its only overseas naval base in the Syrian port of Tartus, instead seems to have signaled its intention to back Assad’s government.
Syria’s acquisition of mobile batteries of Yakhont cruise missiles with advanced radar could make it more difficult if Washington and its allies decided to intervene in Syria and needed ships to impose a no-fly zone, to launch airstrikes or rescue missions, or to supply rebel forces by sea. Pentagon officials say U.S. forces could handle the threats, however.
Jennifer Psaki, a State Department spokeswoman, said Russia had disclosed the sale of the Yakhont missiles in 2011, and she added that U.S. and Russian diplomats were still planning the Geneva conference next month.
The White House also called on Russia to halt the planned delivery of sophisticated S-300 surface-to-air long-range missiles. Officials worry that Lebanon’s Hezbollah militants or extremist groups in the civil war could gain access to the antiaircraft missiles.
“We have consistently called on Russia to cut off the Assad regime’s supply of weapons, and in particular we point to air defense systems that are particularly destabilizing to the region,” said Bernadette Meehan, spokeswoman for the National Security Council at the White House.
The prospects for a peaceful, negotiated political transition coming out of a U.S.-Russia-backed international summit on Syria are pretty dim, says Frederic C. Hof, former special adviser for transition in Syria at the U.S. Department of State. But he says, "It’s worth the effort, because even if there’s only a 10 to 15 percent chance of success, the alternative is just really terrible." Hof notes that a particular problem for the Syrian opposition coalition is a lack of coherence, and recommends the creation of a rebel government on Syrian soil. As for the other side, he notes that Hezbollah and Iran have been "extraordinarily effective" as tactical forces, and says that "Assad has basically put his fate in their hands."
The UN-sponsored Geneva conference last June produced a document (PDF) calling for a resolution to the Syrian problem, which never accomplished anything. And now, Secretary of State John Kerry has worked out another arrangement with the Russians to have another international conference to try and end the bloodshed in Syria. What are the chances for success?
The likelihood of an ultimate success–meaning a negotiated, peaceful, managed, and complete transition–is pretty low. First of all, it’s going to be very difficult to get both parties to engage in a good faith negotiation. And second, given the extent to which Syria has already plunged in the direction of state failure and widespread sectarian violence, it would be equally hard to sustain any agreement that might be reached. But it’s worth the effort, because even if there’s only a 10 to 15 percent chance of success, the alternative is just really terrible.
May 17, 2013
Assad forces are currently imposing a siege and communications blackout on the towns of Halfaya and Aqrab, near the Hama countryside. Civilians in those areas are now cut off from contact with the outside world, and lives are in extreme danger.
The Syrian Coalition calls on nations from around the world and international organizations to mobilize rapidly in order to rescue women, children and civilians from the military forces that have been bombarding Halfaya and Aqrab for nine days in preparation for the coming assault on the inhabitants.
The Syrian Coalition is afraid that Assad forces will take advantage of the global community’s continued silence and the Arab world’s inaction in order to commit another grisly massacre in Halfaya and the surrounding villages.
Women and children from Halfaya are currently attempting to flee Assad’s Shabiha militias using fishing boats via the Orontes River. They have no choice but to attempt this dangerous escape, as their hopes of being rescued and protected by international organizations and human rights agencies wither.
The Syrian Coalition renews its call for the international community to mobilize quickly by means of a Security Council resolution condemning the regime’s crimes. This would pave the way for effective steps to help rescue civilians under siege throughout Syria.
BEIRUT – The most feared and effective rebel group battling President Bashar Assad, the Islamist Nusra Front, is being eclipsed by a more radical jihadi force whose aims go far beyond overthrowing the Syrian leader.
Al-Qaida’s Iraq-based wing, which nurtured Nusra in the early stages of the rebellion against Assad, has moved in and sidelined the organization, Nusra sources and other rebels say.
Al-Qaida in Iraq includes thousands of foreign fighters whose ultimate goal is not toppling Assad but the anti-Western jihad of al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri – a shift which could extend Syria’s conflict well beyond any political accord between Assad and his foes. The fighting has already cost 90,000 lives.
The break-up of an important part of Syria’s opposition, already splintered into hundreds of armed groups, worsens the dilemma faced by the West as it debates whether intervention to support the rebels will result in arms being placed in the hands of hostile Islamist militants. And if the West were to intervene, it may now be under pressure to attack al-Qaida opposition forces rather than Assad.
“Nusra is now two Nusras. One that is pursuing al-Qaida’s agenda of a greater Islamic nation, and another that is Syrian with a national agenda to help us fight Assad,” said a senior rebel commander in Syria who has close ties to the Nusra Front.
“It is disintegrating from within.”
Others said that Nusra’s Syrian contingent has already effectively collapsed, with its leader Abu Mohammad al-Golani keeping a low profile and his fighters drifting off to join other rebel groups.
At least 10 people have been killed in an explosion that rocked a village in the Turkish province of Hatay, near the country’s border with Syria.
The incident occurred on Friday in Tunisma village when suspected smugglers set ablaze an illegal fuel depot located in the basement of a three-story building.
The blaze reportedly triggered a strong explosion that also wounded three people.
According to Hatay governor’s office, the suspects were trying to elude a crackdown by security forces that raided their shelter after a tip-off.
The Friday blast comes days after twin car bombs that killed 51 people in Hatay’s border town of Reyhanli on Saturday.
Currently, more than 95 percent of Japan’s racehorses are born and raised in the southeast of Hokkaido, an island in northern Japan. The region was known for its war horses until the early 1900s. The intensity of competition at the horse races increased to the point that the new motto is "Losers must disappear." Because of this competitive climate, about 90 percent of horses born with any kinds of defects are transformed into cat food, dog food and food for human consumption.
LONDON—A tiny tip of the vast subterranean network of governmental and intelligence agencies from around the world dedicated to destroying WikiLeaks and arresting its founder, Julian Assange, appears outside the red-brick building on Hans Crescent Street that houses the Ecuadorean Embassy. Assange, the world’s best-known political refugee, has been in the embassy since he was offered sanctuary there last June. British police in black Kevlar vests are perched night and day on the steps leading up to the building, and others wait in the lobby directly in front of the embassy door. An officer stands on the corner of a side street facing the iconic department store Harrods, half a block away on Brompton Road. Another officer peers out the window of a neighboring building a few feet from Assange’s bedroom at the back of the embassy. Police sit round-the-clock in a communications van topped with an array of antennas that presumably captures all electronic forms of communication from Assange’s ground-floor suite.
The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), or Scotland Yard, said the estimated cost of surrounding the Ecuadorean Embassy from June 19, 2012, when Assange entered the building, until Jan. 31, 2013, is the equivalent of $4.5 million.
Britain has rejected an Ecuadorean request that Assange be granted safe passage to an airport. He is in limbo. It is, he said, like living in a “space station.”
“The status quo, for them, is a loss,” Assange said of the U.S.-led campaign against him as we sat in his small workroom, cluttered with cables and computer equipment. He had a full head of gray hair and gray stubble on his face and was wearing a traditional white embroidered Ecuadorean shirt. “The Pentagon threatened WikiLeaks and me personally, threatened us before the whole world, demanded that we destroy everything we had published, demanded we cease ‘soliciting’ new information from U.S. government whistle-blowers, demanded, in other words, the total annihilation of a publisher. It stated that if we did not self-destruct in this way that we would be ‘compelled’ to do so.”
“But they have failed,” he went on. “They set the rules about what a win was. They lost in every battle they defined. Their loss is total. We’ve won the big stuff. The loss of face is hard to overstate. The Pentagon reissued its threats on Sept. 28 last year. This time we laughed. Threats inflate quickly. Now the Pentagon, the White House and the State Department intend to show the world what vindictive losers they are through the persecution of Bradley Manning, myself and the organization more generally.”
AT THE beginning of April, Research Councils UK, a conduit through which the government transmits taxpayers’ money to academic researchers, changed the rules on how the results of studies it pays for are made public. From now on they will have to be published in journals that make them available free—preferably immediately, but certainly within a year.
In February the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy told federal agencies to make similar plans. A week before that, a bill which would require free access to government-financed research after six months had begun to wend its way through Congress. The European Union is moving in the same direction. So are charities. And SCOAP3, a consortium of particle-physics laboratories, libraries and funding agencies, is pressing all 12 of the field’s leading journals to make the 7,000 articles they publish each year free to read. For scientific publishers, it seems, the party may soon be over.
By now almost everyone knows of the famous Excel spreadsheet error by Harvard professors Carmen Reinhart and Ken Rogoff. It turns out that the main conclusions from their paper warning of the risks of high public sector debt were driven by miscalculations.
When the data are entered correctly, this hugely influential paper can no longer be used to argue that the United States or other wealthy countries need fear a large growth penalty by running deficits now. There is no obvious reason that governments cannot increase spending on infrastructure, research, education and other services that will both directly improve people’s lives and foster future growth.
With the advocates of austerity on the run this is a great time to pursue the attack. The public should understand that the often expressed concerns about long-term growth, the future and the well-being of our children are simple fig-leafs for inhumane policies that deny people (aka the parents of our children) work and redistribute income upward.
We can only harm our children by reducing the deficit in the current economy, we are not helping them. The wealthy people who benefit from the policies of austerity may have the power to keep them in place, but the public should realise that the politicians and public figures who promote these policies are not doing it out of a concern for the future.
A very welcome condemnation of Pamela Geller by prominent Toronto area Rabbis.
One small issue I have is with describing Geller’s activities as “criticism.” Criticism is not the right word but understandably the more accurate “batsh** crazy rants” to describe Geller’s activities wouldn’t fit the professional language required of an official press release.:
Toronto Board of Rabbis
President Rabbi Baruch Frydman-Kohl Vice-President Rabbi Debra Landsberg Secretary Rabbi Martin Lockshin Treasurer Rabbi David Seed Executive Director Rabbi Michal Shekel
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 13, 2012
The Toronto Board of Rabbis (TBR) expresses its profound disappointment that a local Jewish organization has extended an invitation to Pamela Geller, a blogger who is known for her extreme criticism of Muslims in language that is intended to shock and ridicule.
The TBR is a strong supporter of freedom of speech for all, including Ms. Geller. Ms. Geller’s voice and message are already well known here in Canada and beyond. There was no sense in inviting her here to Toronto to speak before a Jewish audience. Sadly the only sure result of this event will be increasing tensions within the Jewish community and between Jews and Muslims in Toronto.
The TBR, which represents rabbis from all denominations of Judaism, wishes to make clear to all that it finds the invitation distasteful, just as it finds Ms. Geller’s views distasteful. We dissociate ourselves from the actions of the radical fringe Jewish group that extended the invitation. We call for more events here in Toronto that will build up friendship and understanding between local Jews and Muslims.
Media Contact: Rabbi Baruch Frydman-Kohl, TBR president 416.781.3511
4600 Bathurst Street Toronto, Ontario M2R 3V3
Please note that our members will be unavailable from sundown Tuesday through sundown Thursday due to the observance of Shavuot (Festival of Weeks).
Tel: 416.849.1004 Fax: 416.631.6373 e-mail: email@example.com
BELIZE CITY (AP) — A construction company has essentially destroyed one of Belize’s largest Mayan pyramids with backhoes and bulldozers to extract crushed rock for a road-building project, authorities announced on Monday.
The head of the Belize Institute of Archaeology, Jaime Awe, said the destruction at the Nohmul complex in northern Belize was detected late last week. The ceremonial center dates back at least 2,300 years and is the most important site in northern Belize, near the border with Mexico.
“It’s a feeling of Incredible disbelief because of the ignorance and the insensitivity … they were using this for road fill,” Awe said. “It’s like being punched in the stomach, it’s just so horrendous.”
Nohmul sat in the middle of a privately owned sugar cane field, and lacked the even stone sides frequently seen in reconstructed or better-preserved pyramids. But Awe said the builders could not possibly have mistaken the pyramid mound, which is about 100 feet tall, for a natural hill because the ruins were well-known and the landscape there is naturally flat.
“These guys knew that this was an ancient structure. It’s just bloody laziness”, Awe said.
Photos from the scene showed backhoes clawing away at the pyramid’s sloping sides, leaving an isolated core of limestone cobbles at the center, with what appears to be a narrow Mayan chamber dangling above one clawed-out section.
“Just to realize that the ancient Maya acquired all this building material to erect these buildings, using nothing more than stone tools and quarried the stone, and carried this material on their heads, using tump lines,” said Awe. “To think that today we have modern equipment, that you can go and excavate in a quarry anywhere, but that this company would completely disregard that and completely destroyed this building. Why can’t these people just go and quarry somewhere that has no cultural significance? It’s mind-boggling.”
So, I’ve just received an email telling me that I’ve been accepted to exhibit at the Florence Bienniale from 30 November to 8 December. I can probably handle the trip and hotel, but the participation fee is roughly equal to the annual budget of a small country.
Anyone out there secretly rich, recently rob a bank, or looking for a tax shelter?
International Space Station Expedition 35 Commander Chris Hadfield returns to Earth, and eventually Canada, on Monday. So, what better way to end the mission than doing a personalized rendition of David Bowie’s classic "A Space Oddity," in the first music video from space.
Hadfield, from the Canadian Space Agency, has been one chatty dude up there in the International Space Station, tweeting constantly during the Expedition 35 mission, which included a precedent-setting emergency spacewalk this weekend to repair an ammonia coolant leak.
Hadfield has a huge following on Twitter: Some 773,118 Earthlings were following him as of Sunday afternoon. Among the gems today were "Canada rocks," with a picture of the Canadian Rockies. He even expressed hope that the Boston Bruins would play "a memorable game against the Leafs," a Canadian team.
In the video, Hadfield is seen floating through the station, playing acoustic guitar, and peering out into space through one of the station’s ports.
The first Canadian commander of the station, Hadfield handed over command to Russian cosmonaut Pavel Vinogradov.
Hadfield was raised on a corn farm in southern Ontario, according to his NASA biography. At age 15, he won a glider pilot scholarship, and a year later he won a powered pilot scholarship. He also taught skiing and ski racing part- and full-time for 10 years, according to NASA. The rest of the bio is the usual astronaut overachievement: testing ridiculously fast aircraft, doing major research and building his resume as the coolest Canadian ever.
The Soyuz TMA-07M spacecraft will un-dock from the station at 7:08 p.m. Eastern time Monday, officially ending Expedition 35 and carrying Hadfield, Tom Marshburn and Flight Engineer Roman Romanenko back to Earth. They are scheduled for a 10:31 p.m. landing in southern Kazakhstan, wrapping up 146 days in space, according to NASA.
Among the highlights of the mission were tests of the Canadian Dextre robot as part of NASA’s robotic refueling mission, which the agency hopes will one day enable astronauts to retrieve, refuel and repair satellites in orbit around Earth.
This is a book review of a recent English translation of a much earlier work focused on the road to Algerian independence.
Albert Camus was that rare writer who enjoyed a celebrity usually reserved for rock stars, even while being taken very seriously as an artist and a public intellectual. His first novel, “The Stranger,” published in 1942 when he was 29, made him famous; after that came more novels, plays, lyrical essays, short stories, two major philosophical works (“The Myth of Sisyphus” and “The Rebel”), and countless newspaper articles, editorials and political commentaries. In 1957, at age 44, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, the second-youngest writer ever to receive the prize (after Rudyard Kipling). Less than three years later, in January 1960, he was killed in a car crash; people the world over mourned.
When the Algerian war for independence broke out in 1954, Camus was devastated. For years he had voiced strong criticism of French colonial policy in Algeria, and was forced to leave the country in 1940 after the authorities shut down the newspaper where he had published his most critical articles. He considered himself Algerian. In 1954, one million French citizens lived in Algeria, three-quarters of them born there. Even the poorest of them enjoyed privileges not extended to the nine million Arabs and Berbers who also lived there, often in horrifying poverty, as Camus had shown in his 1939 series of articles on “The Misery of Kabylia.” With other left-leaning intellectuals, Camus argued for economic and political reforms; in the 1940s he supported the Arab leader Ferhat Abbas, who called for political representation for Algeria’s Muslims in a federation with France. When even such modest proposals were scuttled by hard-line French settlers and the French government, power among Arabs shifted to the independence movement, which had concluded that only violence could make the French budge. The bloody war that ensued lasted eight years; terrorism and brutal repression — including the torture of militants by the French Army — reinforced each other in a deadly cycle. Even a regime change in France, with Charles de Gaulle returning as president of the Fifth Republic in 1958, could not stop the bleeding for another four years.
Which all sounds very much in in the past, but the review ends up with:
Some of the most memorable pages here restate an argument Camus had already developed at length in “The Rebel”: not all means are acceptable, even when employed for noble ends; terrorism and torture destroy the very goals they are supposed to serve. This position was criticized as “idealist” (it was the reason for the famous break with Sartre), but Camus sticks to it — admirably, in my opinion: “Although it is historically true that values such as the nation and humanity cannot survive unless one fights for them, fighting alone cannot justify them (nor can force). The fight must itself be justified, and explained, in terms of values.”
Even more eloquent, perhaps, are his remarks on the responsibility of intellectuals in times of hatred: “It is to explain the meaning of words in such a way as to sober minds and calm fanaticisms.” Great writer that he was, Camus placed hope in the calming power of language carefully used, and of reason; in the preface, he asks his readers to “set their ideological reflexes aside for a moment and just think.”
And that, of course, is the best reason for reading these articles today. Algeria never did become the peaceful federation Camus dreamed of, where pieds noirs and Arabs, Berbers and Jews lived together. As Kaplan points out, we cannot know how he would have reacted to the final years of the war, or to the independence that followed. We do know that his ethical positions are still meaningful, worldwide.
I think the comments are more important than the article, which you can read if you click the link at the bottom of this post.http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/12/mccain-obama-benghazi_n_3262489.html
highercalling Commented 10 minutes ago
"What’s particularly irritating about Republicans’ recent
rage parade is not that the Obama administration is necessarily
without fault in both the Benghazi affair and the recent
revelations about IRS investigations of “tea party” and
“patriot” groups. It’s that Republicans are comporting
themselves as if a cursory knowledge of recent history and
elementary googling couldn’t prove that their sense of
integrity is highly selective. McCain didn’t deem Iraq War
intelligence cover-ups to be something that the American people
cared about. He denied they even happened, refusing to show
much curiosity in investigating the issue by erroneously
claiming (read: lying) in 2009 that “every intelligence
agency in the world and every assessment” showed that Saddam
Hussein had WMDs. Nor did he seem to think that the
Iran-Contra affair was “just unacceptable.” He styled
himself as a defender of Reagan during Iran-Contra hearings in
his 2000 presidential campaign, and according to a 2006 Current
Biography profile, empathized with every Nicaraguan death
squad’s favorite American, and every Reaganshevik’s
favorite fall guy, Oliver North. Oh well, I am sure this will
be delved into, with more "detail" next Sunday, and the Sunday
after that, and after that…."
colonelsun68 Commented 35 minutes ago
"For the major portion of the Bush administration, we were in
two wars for which there was little or no justification. There
were several embassy attacks then as well, and people lost
their lives. No one seriously considered impeachment,
certainly not on the right. Now, with the tragic deaths in
Benghazi, the tea party crowd feigns horror and outrage–but
it’s more because they lost the election than any patriotic
Florha Jones Commented 5 hours ago
Clan … Rajo Verma with Jay and, l-r, Sant Ram, Bajju, Gopal, Guddu and Dinesh
A YOUNG mum told last night how she has five husbands — who are all BROTHERS. Rajo Verma, 21, lives in a one-room shack with all five, sleeping with a different one each night on a rota. The housewife has no idea which one is the father of her toddler son. She said: “Initially it felt a bit awkward. But I don’t favour one over the other.”Husband Guddu, 21 — the first to make her his bride — insisted: “We all have sex with her but I’m not jealous. We’re one big happy family.”The couple got hitched in an arranged Hindu marriage four years ago and he remains her only official spouse.
But the custom in their village is she had to take as husbands his brothers Bajju, 32, Sant Ram, 28, Gopal, 26, and Dinesh — who married her last year when he turned 18.
Eldest brother Bajju said: “I consider her my wife and sleep with her like my brothers.” Rajo cooks, cleans and looks after 18-month-old Jay while her hubbies go out to work in Dehradun, northern India.
She said of the ancient tradition, called polyandry: “My mother was also married to three brothers so when I got wed I knew I had to accept all of them as my husbands.
“I sleep with them in turn. We don’t have beds, just lots of blankets on the floor.
“I get a lot more attention and love than most wives.”
Lovenest … the single-room shack where the five brothers have sex rotaHousewife … Rajo Verma cooks, cleans and brings up Jay while husbands work
Politically one of the reddest of the “red states” in America, Oklahoma was once the focal point of American socialism and the Progressive movement. Though one of the most socially conservative Republican states in the Union, during the early days of statehood its politics were dominated by a Christian Socialist movement. In the early 20th century, Oklahoma socialists were among the first in the nation advocating equal rights for women and African Americans. Indeed, one of the first acts of the Oklahoma legislature was the creation of a public university for the education of women. This was at a time when American women had not yet achieved the right to vote.