Raw Story summarizes a New York Times report that Colleges across the country this spring have been wrestling with student requests for what are known as "trigger warnings," explicit alerts that the material they are about to read or see in a classroom might upset them or, as some students assert, cause symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder in victims of rape or in war veterans.
The debate has left many academics fuming, saying that professors should be trusted to use common sense and that being provocative is part of their mandate. Trigger warnings, they say, suggest a certain fragility of mind that higher learning is meant to challenge, not embrace. "Any kind of blanket trigger policy is inimical to academic freedom," said Lisa Hajjar, a sociology professor, who often uses graphic depictions of torture in her courses about war. "Any student can request some sort of individual accommodation, but to say we need some kind of one-size-fits-all approach is totally wrong. The presumption there is that students should not be forced to deal with something that makes them uncomfortable is absurd or even dangerous."
Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, said, "It is only going to get harder to teach people that there is a real important and serious value to being offended. Part of that is talking about deadly serious and uncomfortable subjects."
A summary of the College Literature, along with the appropriate trigger warnings, assumed or suggested in the article is as follows: Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice" (anti-Semitism), Virginia Woolf's "Mrs. Dalloway" (suicide), "The Great Gatsby" (misogynistic violence), and "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" (racism).
Note: The Raw Story link was provided to provide an alternative to the article source, the New York Times, due to user complaints about the NYT website paywalling their articles.
Imagine a world where fast food workers can pay their rent and utility bills plus buy their children food and clothes. Well, you don't have to imagine it because such a place exists. It's called Denmark.
A New York Times article on Tuesday (paywalled) chronicled the life of a Danish fast food worker named Hampus Elofsson, who works 40 hours a week at a Burger King in Copenhagen, and makes enough not only to pay his bills, but to save some money and enjoy a night out with friends. His wage: $20 per hour. Yep, you read that right. The base wage in Denmark is close to two and a half times what American fast food workers make.
Elofsson's pay is the kind of wage that Anthony Moore, a shift manager in Tampa, Florida can only dream about. [Moore] earns $9 an hour for his low-level management job, or about $300 per week, and like half of America's fast food workers, he relies on some form of public assistance to make up the difference between that wage and barely eking out a living.
[...] What Danish fast food workers have that their American counterparts do not is a powerful union and fast food franchise owners who are willing to make a little less of a profit...though they still do make a profit.
I also found his discussion of the "recovery" of the USA economy (between the segment on the GM bailout and the one on "US" megacorps evading taxes) to be especially worthwhile. His weekly webcasts are also available for about half the bandwidth and storage space from KPFA's archive.
Common Dreams reports:
The death toll from this week's fiery explosions at the Chinese port of Tianjin climbed above 100 on Saturday, while confusion spread over whether authorities had ordered the evacuation of everyone within two miles amid fears of chemical contamination.
[...] Anti-chemical warfare troops have entered the site, according to the BBC.
[...] Two Chinese news outlets, including the state-run The Paper, reported that the warehouse was storing 700 tons of sodium cyanide--70 times more than it should have been holding at one time--and that authorities were rushing to clean it up.
Sodium cyanide is a toxic chemical that can form a flammable gas upon contact with water.
[...] "The company that owned the warehouse where the blasts originated, Rui Hai International Logistics, appears to have violated Chinese law by operating close to apartment buildings and worker dormitories", journalist Andrew Jacobs reports for [NYTimes] (paywall). "Residents say they were unaware that the company was handling dangerous materials."
About 6,300 people have been displaced by the blasts, with around 721 injured and 33 in serious condition, Xinhua news agency said. At least 21 firefighters are reported dead.
For the adulterated baby formula abuses of 2008 (4 infants dead; 12,892 hospitalized), 2 people were executed. One wonders what will come of this case.
The Intercept reports
A Federal judge in New York issued a nationwide temporary injunction , halting the implementation of President Donald Trump's executive order on immigration on Saturday night, blocking the deportation of travelers with valid visas detained at airports in the past 24 hours.
Judge Ann Donnelly, a United States District Court Judge in Brooklyn, issued the ruling at an emergency hearing on a lawsuit  filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups on Saturday, as Trump's executive order temporarily banning citizens of seven nations with Muslim majorities from entering the U.S. took immediate effect.
The judge ruled that the government must immediately stop deporting travelers from those nations, including refugees who already went through a rigorous vetting process, and provide a complete list of all those detained, immigrants rights lawyer Lee Gelernt told reporters in Brooklyn.
 Direct link to a PDF of the Emergency Motion for Stay of Removal (Case 1:17-cv-00480 Document 8 Filed 01/28/17).
 Direct link to a PDF of the Original ACLU Complaint (Case 1:17-cv-00480 Document 1 Filed 01/28/17).
We had submissions from three Soylentils with different takes on the NRA (National Rifle Association) and the public response in the wake of an attack at a Parkland, Florida high school.
Public Outcry Convinces National Companies to Cut Ties with NRA
Common Dreams reports:
In the latest sign that the aftermath of the Parkland, Florida tragedy may be playing out differently than the fallout from other mass shootings, several national companies have cut ties with the National Rifle Association (NRA).
[Car rental companies] Alamo, Enterprise, and National--all owned by Enterprise Holdings--announced late on [February 22] that they would end discounts for the NRA's five million members. Symantec, the security software giant that owns Lifelock and Norton, ended its discount program on Friday as well.
The First National Bank of Omaha also said it would stop issuing its NRA-branded Visa credit cards, emblazoned with the group's logo and called "the Official Credit Card of the NRA". The institution is the largest privately-held bank in the U.S., with locations in Nebraska, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, and South Dakota.
As lawyer Cathy Gellis points out, at least in the US, it's likely against copyright law for many radio stations [to play nothing but Bowie's stuff for 24 hours straight as comedian Eddie Izzard suggested.]
[...] It's written directly into US Copyright law (at the bottom of the page). At some point, years ago, Congress (or, more likely, a recording industry lobbyist), wrote up rules that said online radio couldn't play too many songs in a row by a single [artist], because of the ridiculous fear that if they could, no one would buy music any more.
[...] Once again, it seems that copyright law is getting in the way of what sounds like a perfectly lovely idea: creating a day-long tribute to David Bowie. No wonder he was so keen on having copyright go away entirely.
 Page does not degrade gracefully; content is invisible (without stylesheets, apparently).
Two Soylentils wrote in with an update on Hulk Hogan's lawsuit against Gawker. After these stories were submitted, it appears to have been confirmed by The New York Times that Thiel paid $10 million to fund the lawsuit.
Peter Thiel Funded Hulk Hogan's Lawsuit Against Gawker
Peter Thiel, the billionaire Silicon Valley venture capitalist and libertarian who we have reported on several times, reportedly bankrolled former wrestler Hulk Hogan's (real name: Terry Bollea) lawsuit against Gawker. After Gawker published a sex tape featuring Bollea, Bollea sued and was eventually awarded $140 million by a jury. That decision is being appealed.
Thiel has had several run-ins with Gawker's reporting on his political and financial decisions, but the most prominent incident was in 2007, when the website's then-running gossip vertical Valleywag outed Thiel's sexual orientation in a post titled, "Peter Thiel is totally gay, people."
Thiel, who is now open about being gay, later called Valleywag "the Silicon Valley equivalent of Al Qaeda."
Although the exact details of the arrangement between Thiel and Bollea are unknown, if Thiel negotiated for a share of the lawsuit's proceeds, he may get to stick it to Gawker while earning millions of dollars.
This week it was announced that Oregon will be expunging the old records of marijuana offenders, along with their new legalization plan. This measure is the farthest that a state has gone to date in regards to applying the new laws to old cases. However, for people who remain in jail for having a plant, the legalization plan does not go far enough.
While the transition in Oregon is nowhere near what is needed for the hundreds of thousands who are still incarcerated, the aspect that allows for old cases to be expunged is at least a step in the right direction, and is helping people clear their records so they can avoid discrimination.
"Oregon is one of the first states to really grapple with the issue of what do you do with a record of something that used to be a crime and no longer is", law professor Jenny M. Roberts told the New York Times.
The Center for American Progress reports:
Change.org, a website that allows users to create petitions, announced on Monday that it will be changing its family leave policy, increasing the paid time an employee can take for the arrival of a new child from six weeks to 18. Parents of both genders, as well as those who have a child through childbirth or adoption, will be eligible for the leave.
The company claims that it is the most generous paid family leave policy in the tech world, and that may be true. While as of last year Google offered 22 weeks [ NYT Paywall ] paid leave for biological mothers, fathers and parents who adopt only get seven. Facebook, Instagram, and Reddit offer both parents 17 paid weeks. Yahoo! offers mothers who give birth, adopt, use a surrogate, or foster 16 paid weeks, while fathers get eight.
Drones have previously been used by extremists in southwest Asia to gather information, but this is the first time a weaponized drone was successful for them.
The independent news outlet Morning Ledger reports
The drone was seen and intercepted October 2 by Kurdish fighters in Northern Iraq. Kurdish fighters shot down the drone to prevent further spying from their enemies. They were also instructed by American commanders to shoot any small aircraft since there has been evidence of the ISIS trying to weaponize their drones.
They decided to take the drone apart back at their outpost and as soon as they did, it exploded[paywall]. The explosion killed two Kurdish fighters, severely wounded two French soldiers, and lightly wounded the other French men on the scene.
[...] Prior to the drone attack that killed Kurdish fighters, ISIS had two unsuccessful tests in weaponizing their drones. The first two were witnessed by the Kurds and Americans, which led to the Americans' fire-at-will command for small aircraft.
"The explosive device inside was disguised as a battery--there was a very small amount of explosives in it, but it was enough to go off and kill them", said an American senior official.
 Reports conflict on this point.
The drone blew up when Peshmerga fighters tried to lift it after it crashed to the ground, Jabbar al-Yawar, secretary general of the autonomous Kurdish region's defense ministry, told Reuters. "It seems it was booby-trapped."
The French newspaper Le Monde reported on [October 11] that the drone had been intercepted in flight on Oct. 2 and exploded near the Kurdish and French soldiers when it hit the ground. It was unclear, Le Monde said, whether the drone was remotely detonated or carried a timed bomb.
[...] French government spokesman Stephane Le Foll confirmed the injuries.
"Yes. They were injured by a drone that landed and then exploded", he told reporters after a weekly cabinet meeting.
Autism Support Network reports
As a baby's brain develops, there is an explosion of synapses, the connections that allow neurons to send and receive signals. But during childhood and adolescence, the brain needs to start pruning those synapses, limiting their number so different brain areas can develop specific functions and are not overloaded with stimuli.
Now a new study suggests that in children with autism, something in the process goes awry, leaving an oversupply of synapses in at least some parts of the brain.
The study, published [August 21] in the journal Neuron, involved tissue from the brains of children and adolescents who had died from ages 2 to 20. About half had autism; the others did not.
The researchers, from Columbia University Medical Center, looked closely at an area of the brain's temporal lobe involved in social behavior and communication. Analyzing tissue from 20 of the brains, they counted spines -- the tiny neuron protrusions that receive signals via synapses -- and found more spines in children with autism.
The scientists found that at younger ages, the number of spines did not differ tremendously between the two groups of children, but adolescents with autism had significantly more than those without autism. Typical 19-year-olds had 41 percent fewer synapses than toddlers, but those in their late teenage years with autism had only 16 percent fewer than young children with autism.
If you're tired of the Imperialist cheerleading of the USA corporate press, you will find this item interesting. If "Heartbreak Ridge" is the version of events you have, this is required reading. There's quite a different perspective when you're on the receiving end of aggression rather than the aggressor who gets to write the "history".
Matt Peppe has written under a Creative Commons License
Twenty five years ago, before dawn on December 20, 1989, U.S. forces descended on Panama City and unleashed one of the most violent, destructive terror attacks of the century. U.S. soldiers killed more people than were killed on 9/11. They systematically burned apartment buildings and shot people indiscriminately in the streets. Dead bodies were piled on top of each other; many were burned before identification. The aggression was condemned internationally, but the message was clear: the United States military was free to do whatever it wanted, whenever it wanted, and they would not be bound by ethics or laws.
[...]U.S. government officials needed to put the world on notice. At the same time, President George H.W. Bush's needed to shed his image as a "wimp"(PDF). So they did what any schoolyard bully would: pick out the smallest, weakest target you can find and beat him to a bloody pulp. The victim is irrelevant; the point is the impression you make on the people around you.
Panama was an easy target because the U.S. already had a large military force in 18 bases around the country. Until 1979, the occupied Panama Canal Zone had been sovereign territory of the United States. The Panama Canal was scheduled to be turned over to Panama partially in 1990 and fully in 2000. The U.S. military would be able to crush a hapless opponent and ensure control over a vital strategic asset.
[...]Washington began disseminating propaganda about "human rights abuses" (NYT paywall) and drug trafficking by President Manuel Noriega. Most of the allegations were true, and they had all been willingly supported by the U.S. government while Noriega was a CIA asset receiving more than $100,000 per year. But when Noriega was less than enthusiastic about helping the CIA and their terrorist Contra army wage war against the civilian population in Nicaragua, things changed.
"It's all quite predictable, as study after study shows," Noam Chomsky writes. "A brutal tyrant crosses the line from admirable friend to 'villain' and 'scum' when he commits the crime of independence."
[...]The documentary The Panama Deception demonstrates how the media uncritically adopted U.S. government propaganda, echoing accusations of human rights violations and drug trafficking while ignoring international law and the prohibition against the use of force in the UN Charter. The Academy Award-winning film exposed what the corporate media refused to: the lies and distortions, the hypocrisy, the dead bodies, the survivors' harrowing tales, and the complete impunity of the U.S. military to suppress the truth.
[...]the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution condemning the invasion. But the United States--joined by allies Great Britain and France--vetoed it. American and European officials argued the invasion was justified and should be praised for removing Noriega from power. Other countries saw a dangerous precedent.
[...]The stage was set for the even more horrific invasion of Iraq the following summer. Operation Gothic Serpent in Somalia, the NATO bombing of Serbia, Iraq (again), and the Bush and Obama interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq (a third time), Pakistan, Libya, Somalia (again), Yemen, Iraq (a fourth time) and Syria would follow.
The Center for American Progress reports
A forthcoming report in the Journal of Law and Economics concluded what immigration advocates have charged for the past six years: the federal immigration enforcement program known as Secure Communities, which seeks to flush out criminal immigrants, does not lower the crime rate. In fact, the study authors found that the program targeted Latino communities and that the program "did not cause a meaningful reduction" in the overall crime rate or in rates of violent crimes. Given that the program has "long been publicly justified primarily on grounds that they keep communities safer from violent crime," the finding counters the program as an effective crime control strategy.
Since Secure Communities' inception in 2008, about 97 percent of all the counties in the United States have mobilized local immigration enforcement to share all arrested immigrants' fingerprints with the Department of Homeland Security, regardless of the nature of the offense or whether that immigrant was ultimately convicted. DHS can then issue a detainer asking local enforcement officials to hold the immigrant until federal officials can take them into custody. Those immigrants could then be placed in deportation proceedings. The intention of the program is to prioritize individuals charged with serious crimes, but in practice, immigrants who have committed minor offenses are swept up in the deportation pipeline.
Analyzing data culled from more than 3,000 U.S. counties, study authors Professors Adam Cox and Thomas Miles found that there was no empirical evidence (paywalled) that Secure Communities reduced the rate of serious crimes. The authors found that that the only area in which there might be "suggestive evidence of a small reduction... were the less serious property crimes burglary and perhaps motor vehicle theft." Between 2008 and mid-2013, 29 percent of the immigrants deported had committed serious Level 1 offenses.
Common Dreams reports:
The U.S. government's so-called "pinpoint"(NYT paywall) drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen are, in fact, leaving wide perimeters of death, as people on the Kill List are targeted--and even reported dead--again and again, according to a report published Monday by the UK-based charity Reprieve.
While drone attacks and their victims are kept secret by the U.S. military and government, Reprieve compiled public information available, most of it from media reports and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, to determine who actually died when the U.S. went after individuals in Yemen and Pakistan between November 2002 and November 2014.
The study examines the cases of 41 people included on a Kill List--a classified U.S. assassination program personally approved by President Obama with no judicial or public oversight. According to the report's findings, up to 1,147 unnamed people were killed in pursuit of these 41 known individuals.
Furthermore, each of these 41 men was reported killed multiple times.
"This raises a stark question," states the study. "With each failed attempt to assassinate a man on the Kill List, who filled the body bag in his place?
The Center for American Progress reports:
On Tuesday evening, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously passed the Retail Workers Bill of Rights, the country's first-ever legislation aimed at improving life for retail employees.
The new rules will require retail chains that have 11 or more locations across the country and employ 20 or more people in San Francisco to provide advance notice of schedules, improve the treatment of part-time employees, and give current workers the opportunity to take on more hours before hiring new people. Employers will have to give their workers at least two weeks' advance notice of their schedules, and if they fail to do so they will have to give those workers additional "predictability pay." Workers also get paid if they're required to be on call but their shifts are canceled. Employers will have to give part-time employees the same starting wage as those working full time in the same position and access to the same benefits.
The bill's passage comes at a time when erratic schedules are increasingly wrecking havoc on people's lives, particularly in retail. Nearly half of part-time workers and just under 40 percent of full-time ones only find out their schedules a week or less in advance.(NYT paywall) In a survey of more than 200 retail employees in New York City, nearly 40 percent said they don't get a set minimum of hours they'll work each week and a quarter are required to be on call for shifts, often finding out just hours ahead of time that they'll have to go to work. Many say schedules are posted on Saturdays for workweeks that start on Sunday.
Workers also show up just to be told to go home thanks to computer software that uses algorithms to determine if there are too many employees compared to sales volume. McDonald's employees have sued the company over its use of exactly this technology.
At the same time, workers often struggle to get enough hours to survive. [...] getting more hours or full-time status is treated like a reward and docking hours is used as a punishment.
[...]Bills similar to its Retail Workers Bill of Rights are being pushed in Milwaukee, New York, and Santa Clara, California. Federal lawmakers have taken notice as well. In July, Reps. George Miller (D-CA) and Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) introduced the Schedules that Work Act(PDF).