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Finding Freedom in Handcuffs

Image
© AP/Bebeto Matthews
Police arrest Occupy Wall Street protesters as they staged a sit-down at Goldman Sachs headquarters on Thursday in New York.
Truthdig columnist Chris Hedges, an activist, an author and a member of a reporting team that won a 2002 Pulitzer Prize, wrote this article after he was released from custody following his arrest last Thursday. He and about 15 other participants in the Occupy Wall Street movement were detained as they protested outside the global headquarters of Goldman Sachs in lower Manhattan.

Faces appeared to me moments before the New York City police arrested us Thursday in front of Goldman Sachs. They were not the faces of the smug Goldman Sachs employees, who peered at us through the revolving glass doors and lobby windows, a pathetic collection of middle-aged fraternity and sorority members. They were not the faces of the blue-uniformed police with their dangling cords of white and black plastic handcuffs, or the thuggish Goldman Sachs security personnel, whose buzz cuts and dead eyes reminded me of the East German secret police, the Stasi. They were not the faces of the demonstrators around me, the ones with massive student debts and no jobs, the ones whose broken dreams weigh them down like a cross, the ones whose anger and betrayal triggered the street demonstrations and occupations for justice. They were not the faces of the onlookers - the construction workers, who seemed cheered by the march on Goldman Sachs, or the suited businessmen who did not. They were faraway faces. They were the faces of children dying. They were tiny, confused, bewildered faces I had seen in the southern Sudan, Gaza and the slums of Brazzaville, Nairobi, Cairo and Delhi and the wars I covered. They were faces with large, glassy eyes, above bloated bellies. They were the small faces of children convulsed by the ravages of starvation and disease.

Evil Rays

US: Judge blocks graphic images on cigarette packages

cigarette labels
© AP Photo/U.S. Food and Drug Administration, File
In this combo made from file images provided by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration shows two of nine new warning labels cigarette makers will have to use by the fall of 2012. A judge on Monday blocked a federal requirement that would have begun forcing tobacco companies next year to put graphic images on their cigarette packages to show the dangers of smoking.
A judge on Monday blocked a federal requirement that would have begun forcing tobacco companies next year to put graphic images including dead and diseased smokers on their cigarette packages.

U.S. District Judge Richard Leon ruled that it's likely the cigarette makers will succeed in a lawsuit to block the new standard. He stopped the requirement until after the lawsuit is resolved, which could take years.

A similar case brought by the tobacco companies against the labels is pending before the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. U.S. District Judge Joseph McKinley upheld most of the marketing restrictions in the law in January 2010. The appeals court heard arguments in the case in July but is not expected to rule for several months.

Leon found the nine graphic images approved by the Food and Drug Administration in June go beyond conveying the facts about the health risks of smoking or go beyond that into advocacy - a critical distinction in a case over free speech.

Comment: Propaganda antidote:

Let's All Light Up!

Pestilence, the Great Plague and the Tobacco Cure


Handcuffs

US: Michael Jackson's doctor found guilty of involuntary manslaughter

Dr. Conrad Murray
© Kevork Djansezian/AFP/Getty Images
Dr. Conrad Murray stands with defense attorney J. Michael Flanagan, left and defense attorney Ed Chernoff, right, prior to the start of morning court proceedings during the final stage of Murray's defense in his involuntary manslaughter trial in the death of singer Michael Jackson at the Los Angeles Superior Court on Nov. 3, 2011.

Los Angeles - A jury reached a guilty verdict today in the involuntary manslaughter case against Michael Jackson's doctor, deliberating for less than nine hours after the six-week trial that included the pop star's own recorded voice but no testimony from the physician accused of causing his death.

"I'm shaking uncontrollably!" Michael Jackson's sister LaToya commented via Twitter on the pending verdict.

Jackson family members arrived at the courthouse after court officials said a verdict had been reached.

Attention

US Survey: Sexual harassment pervasive in grades 7-12

bullying
© Jupiter Images
It can be a malicious rumor whispered in the hallway, a lewd photo arriving by cell phone, hands groping where they shouldn't. Added up, it's an epidemic - student-on-student sexual harassment that is pervasive in America's middle schools and high schools.

During the 2010-11 school year, 48 percent of students in grades 7-12 experienced some form of sexual harassment in person or electronically via texting, email and social media, according to a major national survey being released Monday by the American Association of University Women.

The harassers often thought they were being funny, but the consequences for their targets can be wrenching, according to the survey. Nearly a third of the victims said the harassment made them feel sick to their stomach, affected their study habits or fueled reluctance to go to school at all.

"It's reached a level where it's almost a normal part of the school day," said one of the report's co-authors, AAUW director of research Catherine Hill. "It's somewhat of a vicious cycle. The kids who are harassers often have been harassed themselves."

Bad Guys

UK: Rupert Murdoch gave Rebekah Brooks a 'remarkably curious' severance package

murdoch brooks
© AP
Murdoch and Brooks leave his residence in central London on July 10, 2011.
When a special committee of the British Parliament questioned Rupert Murdoch, James Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks about phone hacking at the News International tabloid News of the World, the executives for the global parent company News Corp. refused to disclose any specifics about the severance package they extended to Brooks, the former News International chief, after she stepped down.

Now we know at least some of the details.

According to records obtained by the UK Guardian, Brooks received £1.7m (or roughly $2.72 million) in cash, use of an office in central London and "a chauffeur-driven limousine" for two years as part of her severance from the newspaper group.

Cult

US: Pastor's sickening corporal punishment advice scrutinized after child deaths

corporal punishment
© AP Photo/Don Brinn
In recent years, several children have died after enduring extreme forms of corporal punishment from parents who had absorbed the controversial child-rearing advice of Tennessee pastor Michael Pearl. Now, the New York Times reports, Pearl himself is under fire.

In their self-published book, To Train Up a Child, Pearl, 66, and his wife Debi, 60, recommend the systematic use of "the rod" to teach young children to submit to authority. They offer instructions on how to use a switch for hitting children as young as six months, and describe how to use other implements, including a quarter-inch flexible plumbing line. Older children, the Pearls say, should be hit with a belt, wooden spoon or willow switch, hard enough to sting. Michael Pearl has said the methods are based on "the same principles the Amish use to train their stubborn mules."

There are 670,000 copies of the book in circulation, and it's especially popular among Christian home-schoolers such as Larry and Carri Williams of Sedro-Woolley, Wash. In September, local prosecutors charged them with homicide by abuse after their adopted daughter Hana, 11, was found naked and emaciated in the backyard, having died of hypothermia and malnutrition. She had been deprived of food for days at a time, and made to sleep in an unheated barn.

Stormtrooper

Watch: 'Occupy Oakland' protester shot by rubber bullet while filming cops

In a video published to YouTube, an unidentified protester holding a video camera, filming a police line during the early hours of Thursday, Nov. 3, is apparently shot with a rubber bullet even after repeatedly asking officers, "Is this okay?"


Rubber bullets, though considered non-lethal, have killed people before. They can also cause serious internal injuries and even break bones. Despite their name, rubber bullets are small metal cylinders merely coated with a layer of rubber, and can be launched from traditional firearms. (Update: There's been some speculation that this person may have been shot by a beanbag round instead, but it remains unclear.)

The incident took place following Thursday's call to general strike, which saw tens of thousands of protesters shut down one of the city's major highway overpasses. Though the event was largely peaceful, police said they made 103 arrests, mostly for protesters who failed to disperse after being told to leave public spaces. There were also reports of some vandalism and broken windows, although it was not widespread.

Chalkboard

Number of Americans in poverty at record high

Image
© Chappatte/Int'l Herald Tribune
Washington - A record number of Americans - 49.1 million - are poor, based on a new census measure that for the first time takes into account rising medical costs and other expenses.

The numbers released Monday are part of a first-ever supplemental poverty measure aimed at providing a fuller picture of poverty. Although considered experimental, they promise to stir fresh debate over Social Security, Medicare and programs to help the poor as a congressional supercommittee nears a Nov. 23 deadline to make more than $1 trillion in cuts to the federal budget.

Based on the revised formula, the number of poor people exceeds the record 46.2 million, or 15.1 percent, that was officially reported in September.

Broken down by group, Americans 65 or older sustained the largest increases in poverty under the revised formula - nearly doubling to 15.9 percent, or 1 in 6 - because of medical expenses that are not accounted for in the official rate. Those include rising Medicare premiums, deductibles and expenses for prescription drugs.

"As seniors choose between food and medicine, some lawmakers are threatening lifeline programs that provide a boost to those in poverty or a safety net to those grasping at the middle class," said Jo Ann Jenkins, president of AARP Foundation, which represents the needs of older Americans. "With nearly 16 percent of seniors already living in poverty, our country cannot afford to slide further backward."

Working-age adults ages 18-64 saw increases in poverty - from 13.7 percent to 15.2 percent - due mostly to commuting and child care costs.

Comment:
Image
© Solution Revolution



Attention

US: Little-Known Federal Database Helping Crooks Profit From Deceased

Scam Alert
© TechMaish.com
Washington - A little-known but widely used federal database meant to protect Americans from fraud has itself become a major source of mischief and misery.

Crooks are pocketing fraudulent tax refunds after filing returns with personal information about recently deceased people found in the Social Security Administration's Death Master File, which is widely available on the Internet, federal authorities and consumer experts say.

The Internal Revenue Service - citing data it is making public for the first time at the request of Scripps Howard News Service - estimates that tax filers improperly submitted 350,000 returns on dead Americans this tax season, improperly seeking $1.25 billion in refunds.

Parents who recently lost a child are increasingly targeted by these thieves, experts say. Armed with the deceased child's Social Security number and other personal information, the crooks falsely claim them as dependents and have the refunds routed to them.

Among the victims is Matt Pilcher of Potomac, Md., who still grieves over the 2010 death of his daughter, Ava, from lung disease following her premature birth. Pilcher's 2010 income tax filing was rejected by the IRS because someone else claimed Ava as a dependent.

"All we really have is her memory and her name," Pilcher said. "For someone to try to take that, to steal that, to appropriate that for themselves - it's beyond reprehensible."

Question

What's So Special About the Date 11/11/11?

November 11 2011
© Life's Little Mysteries

In medieval times, numerologists - those who searched for the mystical significance of numbers - believed all numbers had both positive and negative aspects ... except for 11. In the words of the 16th century scholar Petrus Bungus, 11 "has no connection with divine things, no ladder reaching up to things above, nor any merit." Stuck between the divine numbers 10 and 12, 11 was pure evil, and represented sinners.

That doesn't bode well for Nov. 11, 2011, the date when three 11s will align for the first time in a century. A new horror film, 11/11/11, has even been made for the occasion, and it plays on (or perhaps plays up) people's fear of coincidences surrounding the number. Film characters experience the so-called "11:11 phenomenon," a tendency to look at the clock more often at 11:11 than at other times of the day. In the film, this is a warning of what's to come: "On the eleventh day of the eleventh month of the eleventh year, a gateway will open ... and on this day, innocent blood will spill," says a voiceover in the trailer.

Indeed, the 11:11 phenomenon is widely reported in real life, with entire online discussion forums dedicated to figuring out what the number means. People say they feel haunted by 11s, which appear to them eerily often. To them, the impending date is bound to seem ominous.