Category: Culture

Apartheid Israel closes TV station on Palestinian identity

Israel has ordered a six-month closure of Palestine 48, a new Palestinian television channel funded by the Palestinian Authority and catering to Palestinian citizens of Israel.

“I will not allow for Israel’s sovereignty to be harmed or for the Palestinian Authority to gain a foothold in Israeli territory,” said Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, who on Thursday signed an order claiming that the channel did not have the authorisation to operate in Israel.

So much for freedom of thought in Israel.

Mirroring the outrage expressed by a number of Palestinian lawmakers in Israel, Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation President Riad al-Hassan said the move against the channel – which is broadcast through the Palestinian company PalSat – was “illegal” and that it would be contested in the supreme court…

Creators say the channel has been no stranger to controversy, even in the choice of its name. Palestine 48 – or P48 – refers to the some 700,000 people who fled or were forcibly evicted from their homes in the context of the 1948 war with Israel, and whose descendants in recent years have balanced their identities as Israeli citizens and Palestinian nationals.

Their stories have begun to shed light on long-suppressed national narratives. P48 director Firas Abdelrahman said he was especially proud of programmes that would have examined the ways families were, and continue to be, shaped by the protracted conflict.

“We have stories which we are just thirsting to tell, and Palestinians are also eager to discover and learn about themselves,” Abdelrahman said…

The director’s own family tree traces back to al-Shajara village. After years wandering the world, Abdelrahman ended up in Ramallah, where he envisioned the P48 channel as a way of strengthening Palestinians’ connections with their homeland. The Palestinian Authority funds the channel, though producers say it maintains political independence…

Israel is home to more than 1.5 million Palestinians, most of whom speak Hebrew and have citizenship, but who also say they are treated as second-class citizens and given inferior access to education, healthcare and job opportunities compared to their Jewish neighbours.

RTFA. Lots more information about all the processes involved.

The battle against apartheid, the fight against an imperial nation with allies that historically ranged from Boer South Africa to the United States, has more similarities than contextual differences with the American civil rights movement. Throw in a little taste of Jim Crow days in failed Confederate states and you’re getting close to culture as it is experienced by Israelis of Palestinian origins.

Stupid pic of the day

I hope this photo isn’t representative of more than an isolated little turd on the Oklahoma landscape. A racist greeting for President Obama visiting Oklahoma to review policies that give us one of the most imprisoned societies on Earth. We have 5% of the planet’s population and 25% of the imprisoned.

Most of the international news services picked this up – so, the whole world will see this pic and presume they’re witnessing another example of racist America as widespread as it was back in official Jim Crow days – instead of a small clot of bigots celebrating their backwardness.

For that’s been my experience with OK. I spent a small piece of time representing a software company headquartered in Oklahoma. Small, though they had at the time a 40% market share in their niche. Nice BBQ at sales meetings.

Good folks in my extended family grew up in OK farm country. And I have a Norteño buddy who retired and left Santa Fe to a farm he bought in OK. Tells me he has great neighbors with no hangups over his Hispanic life and style.

Nope, my hope is these nutballs are just a small blob of bigotry, folks with a rats nest instead of brains.

Will taxing the quantity of calories in sugary drinks help reduce obesity?

Worldwide, an estimated 1.9 billion adults are overweight, and of these 600 million are obese. Obesity increases the risk of diseases like type 2 diabetes; in the US alone, obesity-related healthcare costs around $200 billion a year. Due to their high sugar content and low nutritional value, there is growing concern that sugary drinks are a significant contributor to obesity. Consumption has increased drastically in recent decades, leading policy makers to look for ways of reducing the amount of sugary drinks in our diets.

In January 2014 Mexico became the first country to do a nationwide sugar-sweetened drink tax when it introduced a tax of one peso…per liter — around 10% of the price. The tax includes all drinks that have been sweetened using sugar, not just carbonated drinks. Mexico consumes more sugar-sweetened drinks than any other country: looking at Coca-Cola products alone, Mexico consumes 745 servings per person per year, compared to the worldwide average of 94.

Early results indicate that the tax is having an impact and reducing consumption of sugary drinks. However, the new study suggests that basing the tax on the dose of calories or sugar in a product, rather than applying a flat tax across the board, could make it even more effective…

In his new study, Dr. Evan Blecher at the American Cancer Society drew comparisons between taxing tobacco, alcohol and sugary drinks, using South Africa as a case study. While a flat tax is a good approach to tobacco, it may not be the best way to encourage different habits when it comes to the consumption of alcohol and sugary drinks..

So far, the results of tobacco tax suggest that taxing by the number of cigarettes is the best approach. Translated to alcohol and sugary drinks, this would mean taxing by volume. However, taxing the dose of a particular ingredient — the alcohol in alcoholic beverages or the sugar or calories in sugar-sweetened drinks — could be a more effective way to reduce consumption. This may also incentivize drinks companies to offer healthier alternatives.

This dose approach to taxation has been effective at reducing the consumption of alcohol in South Africa, reducing the amount of alcohol consumed in beer by 12% since 1998. As well as being a possible approach for sugar-sweetened drinks, it could also be effective at controlling unhealthy food consumption, and even fuel consumption.

Not a bad idea. I’d be willing to support almost anything that works for reducing smoking and alcohol consumption. If the same approach works on sugar consumption – uniformly understood as contributing nothing but illness to modern society – it would be another positive for public health.

There is no Republican ideology – only dogma

Americans work longer hours than their counterparts in just about every other wealthy country; we are known, among those who study such things, as the “no-vacation nation.” According to a 2009 study, full-time U.S. workers put in almost 30 percent more hours over the course of a year than their German counterparts, largely because they had only half as many weeks of paid leave. Not surprisingly, work-life balance is a big problem for many people.

But Jeb Bush — who is still attempting to justify his ludicrous claim that he can double our rate of economic growth — says that Americans “need to work longer hours and through their productivity gain more income for their families.”

…The real source of his remark was the “nation of takers” dogma that has taken over conservative circles in recent years — the insistence that a large number of Americans, white as well as black, are choosing not to work, because they can live lives of leisure thanks to government programs.

You see this laziness dogma everywhere on the right. It was the hidden background to Mitt Romney’s infamous 47 percent remark. It underlay the furious attacks on unemployment benefits at a time of mass unemployment and on food stamps when they provided a vital lifeline for tens of millions of Americans. It drives claims that many, if not most, workers receiving disability payments are malingerers — “Over half of the people on disability are either anxious or their back hurts,” says Senator Rand Paul.

It all adds up to a vision of the world in which the biggest problem facing America is that we’re too nice to fellow citizens facing hardship. And the appeal of this vision to conservatives is obvious: it gives them another reason to do what they want to do anyway, namely slash aid to the less fortunate while cutting taxes on the rich.

Given how attractive the right finds the image of laziness run wild, you wouldn’t expect contrary evidence to make much, if any, dent in the dogma. Federal spending on “income security” — food stamps, unemployment benefits, and pretty much everything else you might call “welfare” except Medicaid — has shown no upward trend as a share of GDP; it surged during the Great Recession and aftermath but quickly dropped back to historical levels…

Continue reading

Confederate flag taken down


Click for videoJohn Moore/Getty Images

Citizens of South Carolina celebrate removal of a symbol of racism and slavery

Some Americans still vacillate between ignorance and bigotry. Certainly Black folks in South Carolina know the history of slavery and racism in the Confederacy. It’s been shoved in their faces all their lives. But, the idjits who prattle about Southern Heritage being represented by that stars and bars rag are too ignorant to breathe on their own.

It was a dead issue in the South until it was adopted by racist politicians trying to preserve segregation as part and parcel of Southern life. There were NO southern statehouses flying the Confederate flag the first time I was arrested in a sit-in. That ploy hadn’t yet been thought of by corrupt officials in Southern states.

There’s nothing to preserve. Only one more tactic, part of a range of mediocrities adopted by fools and bigots to prop up their failed belief in racial superiority.

Police unit gets public health responsibility for mentally ill


Lieutenant Lionel Garcia – lead officer of Mental Evaluation UnitMaya Sugarman/KPCC

The Los Angeles Police Department’s mental evaluation unit is the largest mental health policing program of its kind in the nation, with 61 sworn officers and 28 mental health workers from the county…

Officer Ted Simola and his colleagues in the unit work with county mental health employees to provide crisis intervention when people with mental illnesses come into contact with police…

Triage duty involves helping cops on the scene evaluate and deal with people who may be experiencing a mental health crisis.

The triage officers are first and foremost a resource for street cops. Part of their job entails deciding which calls warrant an in-person visit from the unit’s 18 cop-clinician teams. These teams, which operate as second responders to the scene, assisted patrol officers in more than 4,700 calls last year.

Sometimes their work involves high-profile interventions, such as helping S.W.A.T. teams with dangerous standoffs or talking a jumper off a ledge. But on most days it involves relieving patrol officers of time-consuming mental health calls…

That’s the right approach, says Peter Eliasberg, legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California. “The goal is to make sure that people who are mentally ill, who are not a danger to the community, are moved towards getting treatment and services as opposed to getting booked and taken into the jail.”

Detective Charles Dempsey is in charge of training for LAPD’s mental evaluation unit. He says pairing a cop or detective with a county mental health worker means the two can discuss both the criminal justice records that the health worker isn’t privy to and the medical records that a cop can’t access because of privacy laws.

About two-thirds of the calls are resolved successfully, he says…

But there are complicated cases, too. And these, Dempsey says, are assigned to the unit’s detective-clinician teams. Dempsey says most of the 700 cases they handled last year involved both people whose mental illness leads them to heavily use or abuse emergency services, or who are at the greatest risk for violent encounters with police and others.

“Jails were not set up to be treatment facilities,” says Mark Gale, who serves as criminal justice chairman for the LA County Council of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. “People get worse in jail.”

Gale and other mental health advocates praise the LAPD unit’s approach and call it a good first step. But for diversion to work well, they say, the city and county need to provide treatment programs at each point a mentally ill person comes into contact with the criminal justice system — from interactions with cops all the way through the courts.

Of course, there used to be a system that provided much of this treatment – The US Public Health Service and a chain of national PHS hospitals across the country. Ronald Reagan did his level best to close them all down. He didn’t get all of them – but, he did succeed in evicting tens of thousands of mentally ill patients and putting them out on the streets.

RTFA for anecdotal examples of the work being done by the LAPD.

British Columbia’s policy of killing cubs not based on scientific reality

The fate of two orphaned bear cubs remains uncertain as a B.C. conservation official says they show signs of habituation to humans. A conservation officer was suspended after reportedly refusing to destroy the cubs last weekend.

B.C.’s most experienced rehabilitation specialist for black bears said Wednesday it is crazy for the Ministry of Environment to assert that two eight-week-old cubs on Vancouver Island needed to be killed because they’d become habituated to human food.

“It’s just ridiculous,” said Angelika Langen, co-founder of Northern Lights Wildlife Society in Smithers. “There is absolutely no scientific proof that cubs that follow their mothers for (human) food at this age have learned anything…

Langen said of the more than 300 black bears her facility has released in the past 25 years, not one has run into trouble by rummaging for human garbage. Bears receive ear tags and microchips to identify them after release…

There’s been an outpouring of support for conservation officer Bryce Casavant, who was suspended without pay after sparing the lives of two black bear cubs near Port Hardy on Sunday.

The B.C. government has since revised those conditions to a suspension with pay pending an investigation into the incident.

As of Wednesday afternoon, more than 55,000 people had signed an online petition asking for the officer’s reinstatement.

Ricky Gervais, the British actor, comedian and animal rights advocate with nine million Twitter followers, has urged the government to “reinstate this honourable man.”…

Conservation officers killed a total of 1,872 black bears during the past four years across the province — an average of almost 500 per year, according to statistics provided by the Ministry of Environment. The ministry does not keep statistics on how many were cubs…A total of 137 cubs were taken to rehabilitation centres.

I tire of bureaucrats stuck into policies promoted centuries ago to keep cattle herds happy – municipalities continuing in happy ignorance. We move into nature’s habitat and expect guns to control conflicts.