Society's ChildS


Attention

'You cannot serve two masters!' House stenographer goes crazy during House vote, escorted out


Towards the tail end of the House vote on ending the government shutdown, a stenographer started yelling on the House floor and had to be escorted out of the room. Very little is known about her thus far, but there is audio of her rant, and needless to say it is quite something. She grabbed the House microphone and proceeded to shout, "He will not be mocked!" She repeated that a number of times and then said, "The greatest deception here is this is not one nation under God! It never was!"

She also, for some bizarre reason, went on about Freemasons writing the Constitution, and cried, "You cannot serve two masters!" as she was escorted away.

One member of Congress told The Washington Post that this stenographer is "well-known and liked," and so they have a lot of "sympathy" for her, while another said this was very "disturbing" to witness. Needless to say, she became an instant Twitter sensation.

Wreath

49 people killed in southern Laos plane crash

A Lao Airlines plane
© UnknownA Lao Airlines plane (file photo)
A Lao Airlines plane has crashed into the Southeast Asian country's Mekong River, killing all 44 passengers, about half of them foreigners, and five crewmembers on board, the Laotian government says.

The turboprop ATR-72, carrying passengers from 11 countries, was on a domestic flight from the capital Vientiane to the south of the country when it went down around eight kilometers from Pakse Airport in Champasak province because of bad weather on Wednesday.
"Upon preparing to land at Pakse Airport the aircraft ran into extreme bad weather conditions and was reportedly crashed into the Mekong River," the Ministry of Public Works and Transport said in a statement, adding that 44 passengers and five crew members were aboard flight QV301.
Seven French citizens, six Australians and five Thais were reportedly among the dead.

Bizarro Earth

Afghan in uniform shoots at U.S. soldiers in country's east Patika province

An Afghan man wearing an Afghan army uniform shot at U.S. soldiers in eastern Afghanistan, killing at least one serviceman on Sunday, local officials and the NATO-led coalition said.

The so-called "insider attack" in Paktika province is the fourth in less than a month and is likely to strain already tense ties between coalition troops and their allies, with most foreign troops scheduled to withdraw by the end of next year.

A Reuters tally shows Sunday's incident was the tenth this year, and took the death toll of foreign personnel to 15.

"A man wearing an Afghan army uniform shot at Americans in Sharana city (the provincial capital) near the governor's office," said an Afghan official, adding that two soldiers had been hit by the gunfire.

The NATO-led coalition confirmed one soldier had been shot by a man in security forces uniform, but did not comment on his nationality or whether the Afghan was wearing a army uniform.

Insider attacks threaten to further undermine waning support for the war among Western nations sending troops to Afghanistan.

Bullseye

Gender Inequality: The myth of merit and unconscious bias

merit bias gender equality
© shutterstock.comDespite representing a greater proportion of the tertiary education sector, qualified women are still drastically underrepresented in managerial roles
The presence of only one woman, albeit a high profile one, in Tony Abbott's cabinet has prompted renewed calls for the introduction of quotas to ensure greater numbers of senior women in government. And with the 2013 AGM season well underway, resolving issues surrounding gender inequality in leadership roles is a hot topic.

However, calls for quotas are usually instantly met with the claims that they are anti-meritocratic. Particularly in Australia, merit has become synonymous with fairness, equality, or objectivity. In fact, merit-based processes operate much differently.

Discrimination is actually integral to a meritocratic system. A merit-based system "discriminates" on the basis of how much "merit" a person has - assuming the pre-condition that everyone has equal opportunity to acquire it - and favours those who have more of it. Or more precisely, are perceived to have more of it. And this is where the trouble starts. How are perceptions of merit shaped and influenced?

There are two immediate problems with the merit argument. Firstly, everyone must have equal access to acquiring whatever quality is defined as "merit" - the so-called level playing field. Secondly, people must be assessed only on criteria that predict performance. Can we say that either of these conditions is ever truly met, particularly in organisational decision-making processes?

In terms of the first condition, while women are overrepresented in tertiary education, they still remain under-represented in senior roles in virtually every professional sphere. So while this playing field may start off level, it doesn't stay that way for long. Equally qualified women are being denied the managerial exposure of their male counterparts.

Stormtrooper

Chris Christie slams Congress for not doing their job

Chris Christie
© Mel Evans/Associated PressNew Jersey Gov. Chris Christie addresses a gathering in Camden, N.J.
The compromise-friendly New Jersey governor tells Lloyd Grove he thinks Washington - including his own party - has failed at its only job: keep the government running.

"It's ridiculous," Chris Christie said.

New Jersey's blunt-spoken, bipartisanly-inclined Republican governor was discussing the ongoing federal shutdown and debt ceiling crisis plaguing the nation's capital. "You get hired to do a job. Do your job!" he said. "There are too many people down here who spend all their time pontificating rather than working. And that applies to both parties. I don't have patience for that."

The 51-year-old Christie - who many hope will launch a presidential campaign once he gets past what is widely expected to be an easy reelection on Nov. 5 - was making a rare visit to Washington, D.C. Technically, however, he was in the sovereign nation of Italy, having been selected to receive a Points of Light voluntarism award during a black-tie dinner Friday at the Italian Embassy. "My mother" - the late Sondra Grasso, a descendant of Sicilians and a Democrat to boot - "would always be happy to have me spend any time in Italy," he quipped.

Earlier in the day, during a meeting with the editorial board of The Philadelphia Inquirer, Christie had suggested that the dysfunction in Washington drives him to thoughts of suicide: "If I was in the Senate right now, I'd kill myself."

Comment: Nice talking points. But Chris Christie's association with the Bush clan does not bode well for the U.S.


Arrow Down

Poll: 60 percent say fire every member of Congress


Throw the bums out.

That's the message 60 percent of Americans are sending to Washington in a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, saying if they had the chance to vote to defeat and replace every single member of Congress, including their own representative, they would. Just 35 percent say they would not.

According to the latest NBC/WSJ poll, the shutdown has been a political disaster. One in three say the shutdown has directly impacted their lives, and 65 percent say the shutdown is doing quite a bit of harm to the economy. NBC's Chuck Todd reports.

The 60 percent figure is the highest-ever in that question recorded in the poll, registered in the wake of the government shutdown and threat of the U.S. defaulting on its debt for the first time in history. If the nation's debt limit is not increased one week from now, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew warns that the entire global economy could be in peril.

"We continue to use this number as a way to sort of understand how much revulsion there is," said Democratic pollster Peter D. Hart, who conducted the poll with Republican Bill McInturff. "We now have a new high-water mark."

Read the full poll here (.pdf)

The numbers reflect a broader trend over the last few years. Americans have traditionally said that while they might not like Congress, they usually like their own representatives. But that sentiment appears to have shifted

Rose

Oregon father's memorial trek across country ends in a family's second tragedy

Joe Bell
© Chris Baxter/The La Grande ObserverJoe Bell, in La Grande, Ore., in March, was walking across the country to tell the story of his gay son, Jadin, 15, who killed himself after being bullied.
As he made his way across the country, Joe Bell walked through rain squalls, slept in ditches and talked to anyone who would listen about how his gay son had killed himself after being taunted and bullied at school.

Mr. Bell's artificial knees ached and his feet were mapped with blisters, but he told friends and strangers that he was determined to make it on foot from his home in eastern Oregon to New York City, where his son, Jadin, 15, had dreamed of one day working in fashion or photography. "I miss my son Jadin with all my heart and soul," he wrote on Facebook in late May. "I know you're with me on this walk."

But last Wednesday, Mr. Bell's American journey - one that drew attention from local newspapers and attracted thousands of followers on social media - ended in an instant on a two-lane road in rural eastern Colorado. He was struck and killed by a tractor-trailer whose driver had apparently fallen asleep, the state police said.

For nearly six months, Mr. Bell, 48, had been on the road, sharing his son's story and trying to salve his own grief. He spoke at motorcycle rallies and college bars, schools, diners and gay-outreach centers, telling people about his sensitive, artistic son who hanged himself from a piece of playground equipment on Jan. 19.

Airplane

44 killed in Laos plane crash

laos map
At least 44 dead after internal flight from capital Vientiane crashes into Mekong river, local media reported.

A Lao Airlines plane carrying 44 people from the capital Vientiane to the southern town of Pakse crashed on Wednesday, killing all on board, among them nationals of 10 countries, a Thai foreign ministry spokesman said.

Laos officials informed Thailand that the plane carrying 39 passengers and five crew went down around 8km from the airport in Champasak province in southern Laos, Sek Wannamethee said.

Light Saber

Colombian farmers risk death to reclaim lost land

colombian farmer
© Jeremy Horner/CorbisA Colombian rice farmer. Millions of hectares of land have been abandoned or stolen since 1991
The government wants to correct decades of 'land reform in reverse'. But powerful criminal, armed and business interests are ranged against the country's displaced peasants

The threats against Sifredy Culma's life come in many forms: suspicious men on motorcycles circling his neighbourhood; a flyer slipped under the door declaring him a "military target"; a menacing phone call warning that he will be killed if he tries to reclaim the plot of land he abandoned when rightwing paramilitary militiamen stormed into his town in Colombia.

The intimidation started in 2010, when Culma began collecting signatures from other farmers who had fled the village of Santafe and been forced to sell their land under threat from the paramilitaries. Culma is reclaiming that property as part of an ambitious government programme to return abandoned or stolen land to millions displaced by the country's half-century-old conflict.

Chess

60% of Americans dissatisfied with both GOP and Democrats, think a third major party needed

Image

Twenty-six percent believe Democratic and Republican parties do adequate job


Amid the government shutdown, 60% of Americans say the Democratic and Republicans parties do such a poor job of representing the American people that a third major party is needed. That is the highest Gallup has measured in the 10-year history of this question. A new low of 26% believe the two major parties adequately represent Americans.