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Best of the Web: America's greatest shame: Child poverty rises and food stamps cut while billionaires boom

Why do we put up with such injustices?

There are 16.4 million American children living in poverty. That's nearly one quarter (22.6%) of all of our children. More alarming is that the percentage of poor children has climbed by 4.5 percent since the start of the Great Recession in 2007. And poor means poor. For a family of three with one child under 18, the poverty line is $18,400.

Meanwhile, the stock market is booming. Banks, hedge funds and private equity firms are making tens of billions of dollars again, while the luxury housing and goods markets are skyrocketing.

Most amazing of all is the fact that 95 percent of the so-called "recovery" has gone to the top 1 percent who have seen their incomes rise by 34%. For the 99 percent there's been an undeclared wage freeze: the average wage has climbed by only 0.4 percent.

To add to the misery, Washington has decided that the best way to tackle childhood poverty is to have poor kids eat less. Both parties already have agreed to cut billions from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Food Stamps). Starting this November 1, payments are scheduled to drop from $668 a month to $632 for more than 47 million lower-income people -- 1 in 7 Americans, most of them children. (Three incredible graphs that visualize the issues in this story are at the bottom of this article.)

And more cuts are coming. The Tea Party House passed a bill to cut food stamps by $4 billion a year, while the Senate calls for $400 million in cuts. How humane! And since it will be part of the omnibus Farm Bill, President Obama will sign it. (I wonder how our former community organizer will explain this to the poor children he once tried to help in Chicago.)

But that's just the start. More austerity is coming in the form of cuts to Social Security as well as a host of other social programs. When times get tough, you've got to suck it up and take more from the poor.

Evil Rays

British sailors blast Britney Spears' 'Oops! I Did It Again' to deter Somali pirates

© Miguel Riopa/AFP/Getty ImagesSuper Britney … able to repel a pirate with a single note.
Britney Spears is being used by British security companies off the horn of Africa as a secret weapon against Western-hating Somali pirates.

The singer's top hits, like "Oops! I Did It Again" and "Baby One More Time," when blasted at approaching Somali raiders, have proved to be the most effective at deterring kidnap attacks, merchant navy officer Rachel Owens revealed, according to the U.K.'s Metro.

"Her songs were chosen by the security team because they thought the pirates would hate them most," said Second Officer Owens. "These guys can't stand Western culture or music, making Britney's hits perfect ... It's so effective the ship's security rarely needs to resort to firing guns."

"As soon as the pirates get a blast of Britney, they move on as quickly as they can," she added, the U.K.'s Mirror reported.

Bad Guys

How the 1% always gets its way: Both political parties are up for sale


Here's why plutocrats control our politics: Corporate America knows both parties are up for sale.
"What is most striking about the present is not the virtues of moderation but of the potential power of conviction. One detects, behind all the anxiety about 'extremists,' 'radicals,' and 'militant minorities,' a degree of envy. On the Right there is a group with enough commitment to a shared project that is willing and able to disrupt the ordinary functioning of government. If only the Left had such wherewithal. We might, at the very least, get something more than than the economically stagnant, politically
oppressive Mugwumpery of the Democratic Party." Jacobin's Alex Gourevitch
This trenchant passage about liberals' reaction to the Tea Party summarizes a hugely significant yet little discussed truism: American politics has been inexorably lurching to the right not only because of the extremism of the Tea Party, but also because of a lack of Tea Party-like cohesion, organization and energy on the left. There are, of course, many factors that contribute to that sad reality including a successful war on the labor movement; a campaign finance system that makes conservative oligarchs even more powerful than they already are; and a mediasphere that ignores principles and tells liberals everything must be seen exclusively in partisan red-versus-blue terms. One factor, though, stands out for how it so destructively shapes the assumptions that define our political discourse. That factor can be called "liberal washing."

Similar to green washing or so-called "gay washing"/"rainbow washing," liberal washing is all about wrapping corporate America's agenda in the veneer of fight-for-the-little-guy progressivism, thus portraying plutocrats' radical rip-off schemes as ideologically moderate efforts to rescue the proles.

Liberal washing has always been around, of course. But it has really risen to prominence - and dominance - in modern times. Indeed, one of the most reliable political axioms of the last 30 years is this: If corporate America cooks up a scheme to rip off the middle class, Republicans will provide the bulk of the congressional votes for the scheme - but enough establishment-credentialed liberals inevitably will endorse the scheme to make it at least appear to be mainstream and bipartisan. Yes, it seems no matter how venal, underhanded or outright corrupt a heist may be, there always ends up being a group of icons with liberal billing ready to drive the getaway car.


Economic growth obsession opposes life, justice and human dignity

© Raminder Pal Singh/EPA'Economic growth begins when seeds are genetically modified and patented, leading to farmers having to buy seeds every season'
An obsession with growth has eclipsed our concern for sustainability, justice and human dignity. But people are not disposable - the value of life lies outside economic development

Limitless growth is the fantasy of economists, businesses and politicians. It is seen as a measure of progress. As a result, gross domestic product (GDP), which is supposed to measure the wealth of nations, has emerged as both the most powerful number and dominant concept in our times. However, economic growth hides the poverty it creates through the destruction of nature, which in turn leads to communities lacking the capacity to provide for themselves.

The concept of growth was put forward as a measure to mobilise resources during the second world war. GDP is based on creating an artificial and fictitious boundary, assuming that if you produce what you consume, you do not produce. In effect , "growth" measures the conversion of nature into cash, and commons into commodities.

Thus nature's amazing cycles of renewal of water and nutrients are defined into nonproduction. The peasants of the world,who provide 72% of the food, do not produce; women who farm or do most of the housework do not fit this paradigm of growth either. A living forest does not contribute to growth, but when trees are cut down and sold as timber, we have growth. Healthy societies and communities do not contribute to growth, but disease creates growth through, for example, the sale of patented medicine.

Water available as a commons shared freely and protected by all provides for all. However, it does not create growth. But when Coca-Cola sets up a plant, mines the water and fills plastic bottles with it, the economy grows. But this growth is based on creating poverty - both for nature and local communities. Water extracted beyond nature's capacity to renew and recharge creates a water famine. Women are forced to walk longer distances looking for drinking water. In the village of Plachimada in Kerala, when the walk for water became 10 kms, local tribal woman Mayilamma said enough is enough. We cannot walk further; the Coca-Cola plant must shut down. The movement that the women started eventually led to the closure of the plant.


Vandals spray paint over lenses of three speed cameras

Montgomery County police say they are looking for whoever spray painted over the lenses of three speed cameras.

The cameras are all located on Quince Orchard Road between Route 28 and Great Seneca Highway.

Eye 1

Chicago Transit Authority accused of placing cameras in worker changing rooms

The CTA admits it is using hidden cameras to crack down on employees who should be working, but some employees say they are placing the cameras in places they shouldn't be.

The CTA claims that the cameras are part of an effort to crack down on waste, in this case employees sleeping on the job, and worse.

The video CBS 2 obtained comes from a room inside a CTA facility on the Orange Line near Midway Airport.

In the video, a man in front of the camera appears to be making an adjustment before walking away. The next time he appears, he's in front of another camera facing the other way, changing the camera angle slightly to show more of the room.

The CTA says it installed cameras both on the Orange Line and at the Lake/Harlem maintenance area on the West Side, in what it calls "maintenance storage rooms."

Black Cat 2

Beijing park investigates deaths of stray cats

Stray Cats Deaths
© AP Photo/Ng Han GuanA protester holds up pictures showing cats killed at the Temple of Heaven park in Beijing, China, Sunday, Nov. 3, 2013. A dozen resident gathered outside the park to protest against animal cruelty after discovering dozens of stray cats mysteriously killed since Friday in the park. Chinese character on paper reads "Stop the killing, recall conscience".
Beijing - Officials at a famous Beijing park said Sunday that they were investigating the mysterious deaths of stray cats in recent weeks, as protesters accused park authorities of killing the animals.

The Temple of Heaven park has stepped up patrols in an effort to prevent more deaths and cat carcasses from being dumped inside, said a park spokesman.

The spokesman, who gave only his surname, Xing, said he didn't know how many dead cats had been found, and that it was unclear whether they had died inside or outside the park. He said dead stray cats had also been found in other areas close to the large park, a UNESCO heritage site where emperors in the Ming and Qing dynasties offered sacrifices.

Protesters gathered Sunday morning outside the park's east gate.


Canadian man eats dog who saved him from bear attack

German Shepherd
© Eduard Kyslynskyy/Shutterstock

A Canadian man survived a bear attack and months in the wilderness thanks to his faithful companion, a dog. But at the end of the ordeal, the dog didn't make it out alive.

In July, a 44-year-old man, Marco Lavoie, set off on a two-month canoeing trip in Northwestern Quebec along the Nottaway River. But a bear attacked his campsite, eating all his food and destroying the canoe he needed to travel back home. His beloved German shepherd chased off the bear before the man could be harmed.

Without any food, Lavoie faced certain starvation. So a few days later, he hit his dog with a rock and ate him. When he was late returning from his trip in October, his family alerted police.

When Lavoie was finally rescued late last month, he couldn't speak or eat, had lost about 90 pounds, and was dehydrated and suffering from hypothermia.

"He survived because he made good decisions. Eating his dog was one of them," Andre Francois Bourbeau, author of a survival guide, told the Toronto Sun.


How the 'thigh gap' became the latest pressure point on a woman's self-image

model Robyn Lawley in chair
© Jon Gorrigan for the ObserverModel Robyn Lawley, who has appeared on the cover of Vogue, was condemned on social media for not having a 'thigh gap'

Once, only models were determined to make sure that their legs didn't touch. Now it has become a widespread, harmful - and often unachievable - obsession.

She may have modelled for Ralph Lauren and appeared on the cover of Vogue Italia, but when a photo of Robyn Lawley wearing a corset appeared on Facebook the responses were far from complimentary. "Pig", "hefty" and "too fat" were some of the ways in which commenters described the 24-year-old. Her crime? Her thighs were touching. Lawley had failed to achieve a "thigh gap".

The model, who has her own swimwear line and has won numerous awards for her work, responded vehemently below the line: "You sit behind a computer screen objectifying my body, judging it and insulting it, without even knowing it."

She also went on to pen a thoughtful rallying cry for the Daily Beast last week against those who attacked her, saying their words were "just another tool of manipulation that other people are trying to use to keep me from loving my body".

Dollar Gold

Ben Swann: Is Bitcoin real capitalism?

Media doesn't talk about Bitcoin very often. When they do, it tends to be negative. Love it or hate it, is Bitcoin one of the few remaining examples of true capitalism?

If you haven't been paying attention to Bitcoin lately, you should be. If you don't know what Bitcoin is, the simplest way of explaining it: Bitcoin is a digital, decentralized currency, which is traded an an open source, peer to peer network. Kinda confusing , right?

Bitcoin can be bought with dollars or euros or just about any currency and then it's traded and can be sold in any currency. What makes Bitcoin so unique, though, is that it is virtually an anonymous currency. Now to be clear, nothing is entirely anonymous, and there are ways to connect a Bitcoin user with their Bitcoin wallet; but certainly it's more difficult than dollars.

Comment: Be sure to check out the in-depth discussion of Bitcoin in the SOTT Talk Radio show from earlier this year.