Boss’s prayer meetings + his warnings Gay folks are Hellbound = $1.6 Million award to chef

Mirella-SalemiX390

A New York appeals court has affirmed a lower court’s 2012 ruling that a lesbian chef is owed $1.6 million for being forced to attend weekly prayer meetings where her boss would regularly warn that “gay people” were “going to go to hell.”

Mirella Salemi sued Gloria’s Tribeca Inc., Gloria’s Tribecamex and principal owner Edward Globokar for violations of the New York City Human Rights Law after a string of incidents that occurred between 2004 and 2007. Gloria’s Tribeca is a Mexican restaurant.

Salemi was awarded $400,000 in compensatory damages and $1.2 million in punitive damages in what her lawyer, Derek Smith, called “the largest employment verdict in 2012 in New York.” A three-judge panel of the Appellate Division’s Manhattan-based First Department affirmed the verdict for Salemi.

He not only threatened her soul, but he also threatened her livelihood,” Smith told the New York Post in 2012. “He thought praying might cure her of her sexuality, but she is someone who didn’t need to be saved.”

There is no civil reason in the Land of the Free for an employee to put up with harassment over their sexuality. That is – if you live and work in one of the states that protects your civil rights. There is no federal law, yet, protecting LGBT workers from being fired for their sexual orientation and many states provide no protection at all.

What we witness in this case is an example of American homophobia cloaked once again in the freedom-of-religion trick bag adopted nowadays by rightwing hypocrites.

Has China left behind traditional fixed growth targets?

three
Lou Jiwei, Xi Jinping and Zhou Xiaochuan

“Isn’t it now time for China to abandon the concept of a growth target?”

That was the question I asked Chinese Finance Minister Lou Jiwei this week at the 15th annual China Development Forum, which brings together top Chinese officials and an international delegation of academics, leaders of multilateral organizations, and business executives. Having attended the CDF since former Premier Zhu Rongji initiated it in 2000, I can attest to its role as one of China’s most important platforms for debate. Zhu welcomed the exchange of views at the Forum as a true intellectual test for China’s reformers.

It was in that spirit that I posed my question to Lou, whom I have known since the late 1990’s…I have always found him to be direct, intellectually curious, a first-rate analytical thinker, and a forward-looking advocate of market-based reforms. He is cut from the same cloth as his mentor, Zhu…

While it may seem like splitting hairs, continuing to frame the economic goal as a target sends a message of determined and explicit guidance that now seems at odds with the government’s market-oriented intentions. Wouldn’t dropping the concept send a far more powerful message? Isn’t it time for China to let go of the last vestiges of its centrally planned past?

Lou’s response: “Good question.”

China, he went on, is in fact moving away from its once single-minded emphasis on growth targeting. The government now stresses three macroeconomic goals – job creation, price stability, and GDP growth. And, as evidenced by the annual “work report” that the premier recently submitted to China’s National People’s Congress, the current emphasis is in that order, with GDP growth at the bottom of the list…

This is particularly relevant in light of the important threshold that has now been reached by the structural transformation of the Chinese economy – the long-awaited shift to a services-led growth dynamic. Services, which now account for the largest share of the economy, require close to 30% more jobs per unit of output than the manufacturing and construction sectors combined. In an increasingly services-led, labor-intensive economy, China’s economic managers can afford to be more relaxed about a GDP slowdown…

RTFA. Few economists have the experience, personal knowledge of Stephen Roach on China. I mentioned in a recent post about the fight against corruption that economics and commerce fit more into my personal interests. You may find the topics dull as a hoe handle; but, if you haven’t curiosity about what’s going on in the whole world and how events will affect your own life – you may as well settle back and let some priest or pundit run your life.

Here’s where Doctor Roach ends up on this particular occasion. For more, read his latest book, Unbalanced: The Codependency of America and China.

Since Deng Xiaoping’s reforms of the early 1980’s, less and less attention has been paid to the numerical targets of central planning…China’s most senior fiscal and monetary policymakers – Lou Jiwei and Zhou Xiaochuan – are close to taking the final step in the long journey to a market-based economy. Their shared interpretation of flexible growth targeting puts them basically in the same camp as policymakers in most of the developed world. The plan is now a goal-setting exercise. From now on, fluctuations in the Chinese economy, and the policy responses that those fluctuations imply, need to be considered in that vein.

No correlation between medical marijuana legalization and crime

The legalization of medical marijuana has sparked debate across the nation for decades…Some have argued that medical marijuana’s legalization will lead to higher crime rates. But according to a new study at UT Dallas, legalization of medical cannabis is not an indicator of increased crime.

It actually may be related to reductions in certain types of crime, said Dr. Robert Morris, associate professor of criminology and lead author of the study…

The UT Dallas team began its work in summer 2012 after repeatedly hearing claims that medical marijuana legalization posed a danger to public health in terms of exposure to violent crime and property crime.

The study tracked crime rates across all 50 states between 1990 and 2006, when 11 states legalized marijuana for medical use…Since the time period the study covered, 20 states and Washington, D.C., have legalized marijuana for medical use.

Using crime data from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, the researchers studied rates for homicide, rape, robbery, assault, burglary, larceny and auto theft, teasing out an effect for the passing of medical marijuana laws…

None of the seven crime types increased with the legalization of medical marijuana…

While it’s too soon to say if there are definitive drawbacks to legalizing marijuana for medical purposes, Morris said, the study shows that legalization does not pose a serious crime problem, at least at the state level.

Anyone with a studied view of crime and criminology isn’t in the least bit surprised by the finding. If you pay attention to what makes crime a growth industry – we usually witness the quest for scarce goods dramatically and artificially shaped by restrictions that have nothing to do with reality.

Cannabis is no more deleterious to human beings than alcohol. As thoroughly as I advise moderation in food and drink, especially booze, I would encourage the same about cannabis consumption. In fact, in my own life I don’t even drink beer anymore though I appreciate it as a natural product of fermentation just like the bread I bake every week.

If and when cannabis becomes legal for recreational use here in New Mexico, I’ll hunt down a recipe for Alice Toklas brownies. Probably make one batch for family consumption. And never bother again.

That has nothing to do with the need to support an end to the stupidity that infects our legal system.

The IMF is interesting to US policymakers for the wrong reason

The International Monetary Fund is an immensely useful organization, able to deliver substantial amounts of financial and technical assistance at short notice to almost any place in the world. It also has the great advantage of almost always being perceived as incredibly boring…

In the realm of international economics, being perceived as boring confers power to the extent that it allows major decisions to be made without a great deal of external scrutiny. From 1918 to 1939, international economic cooperation was hard to come by – in large part because all of the attempted deals were put together at high-profile international conferences. Following the creation of the IMF in 1944, many of the same decisions became routine, a lot less interesting, and much easier to implement…

The US does not dictate what happens at the IMF, but it does have a disproportionate influence. Given the Fund’s origins in helping to rebuild Europe after World War II, European countries are also very well represented on its executive board and in terms of ownership shares (and thus voting weight on important decisions).

One major goal in recent decades has been to shift representation at the IMF somewhat away from Europe and toward the world’s emerging markets. These countries’ global economic and financial significance has grown rapidly, yet they have relatively little representation at the Fund.

A package of reforms has been agreed. Like most products of international negotiations, the agreement is not perfect; but it does move the ball forward…These reforms need to be agreed, in legislative form, by the US Congress before they can take effect. For whatever reason, President Barack Obama’s administration did not push this item hard in 2013 and early 2014 – and the agenda of encouraging further IMF reform has therefore languished.

The Obama administration proposed to tie IMF reform to the presumably imminent approval by Congress of funding for Ukraine. This is sensible legislative tactics but not appealing as an economic strategy. In effect, the administration tried to make the IMF more interesting, particularly to encourage Republicans in the House of Representatives to support the reforms.

The latest indications are that the Republicans will not be so enticed. But the bigger problem is that Ukraine does not really need a massive loan from the IMF. What Ukraine needs is a sharp reduction in corruption, as well as real legitimacy (through the ballot box) for people who want to rein in the influence of oligarchs – a group that has sapped the economy through plunder and incompetence over the past two decades.

Mostly, what looks like happening is typical of Congress and Congressional Republicans. Money for war is always available – so, the White House and the Pentagon will make Ukraine aid sound like war is imminent.

The need to reform the IMF and why – will probably be swept under the rug.

The need to reform Ukraine will simply be ignored. Most of Congress has no interest in anything concerned with real reform vs. the phoney sort they talk about all the time. The kind that means screwing working people even more.

Looks like China’s assault on corruption ain’t limited to second tier bureaucrats

Chinese authorities have seized assets worth at least $14.5 billion from family members and associates of retired domestic security chief Zhou Yongkang, who is at the centre of China’s biggest corruption scandal in more than six decades…

More than 300 of Zhou’s relatives, political allies, proteges and staff have also been taken into custody or questioned in the past four months…

Prosecutors and the party’s anti-corruption watchdog had frozen bank accounts with deposits totalling 37bn yuan and seized domestic and overseas bonds with a combined value of 51bn yuan after raiding homes in Beijing, Shanghai and five provinces.

Investigators had also confiscated about 300 apartments and villas, antiques and contemporary paintings and more than 60 vehicles, the sources added. Other items seized included expensive liquor, gold, silver and cash in local and foreign currencies.

According to the sources, the seized assets had a combined value of at least 90bn yuan = $14.5 billion.

The sheer size of the asset seizures and the scale of the investigations into the people around Zhou – both unreported until now – make the corruption probe unprecedented in modern China and would appear to show that President Xi Jinping is tackling graft at the highest levels

The government has yet to make any official statement about Zhou or the case against him and it has not been possible to contact Zhou, his family, associates or staff for comment…

Nice to see the fight against corruption making progress. Frankly, my interests in China proper are more concerned with economics and commerce. But, both of those qualities are affected by corruption. Just as corruption is affected by whether or not crooks are actually prosecuted.

Good thing we don’t have to worry about that here in the GOUSA.

Oh.

A policy of self-serving hypocrisy towards Russia

The United States has once again twisted itself into a rhetorical pretzel. As when it threatened military action against Syria if a “red line” was crossed, the Obama administration’s rhetoric about Russia and Ukraine goes far beyond what it will be willing and able to enforce.

Earlier this month, President Obama warned that America would “isolate Russia” if it grabbed more land, and yesterday, he suggested that more sanctions were possible. Likewise, Secretary of State John Kerry said the Group of 7 nations were “prepared to go to the hilt” in order to isolate Russia.

But Washington’s rhetoric is dangerously excessive, for three main reasons: Ukraine is far more important to Vladimir V. Putin than it is to America; it will be hard for the United States and Europe to make good on their threats of crippling sanctions; and other countries could ultimately defang them…

The fundamental problem is that the Obama administration doesn’t want to bear the costs associated with an active foreign policy. That’s understandable. A December Pew poll revealed the lowest level of public support for an active American foreign policy since 1964.

This domestic pressure was on display in Syria. Mr. Obama’s error was not that he backed away from military action and accepted Russia’s proposal to rid Syria of chemical weapons. The mistake was that he drew a red line that would have been more costly to back up than the United States was willing to tolerate. America lost credibility internationally for failing to make good on its threat.

Unfortunately, the Obama administration is repeating this mistake in Ukraine…

“Isolating Russia” as if it were Iran or North Korea isn’t a threat America can feasibly make good on. Just because Mr. Putin is acting like the leader of a rogue state, his country cannot be considered as such. Russia boasts the world’s eighth-largest economy. Given the exposure of American corporations to Russia, there would be serious pushback from the private sector if Mr. Obama tried to relegate Russia to rogue-state status. The Obama administration needs to preach what it will ultimately practice. Otherwise Washington’s credibility will erode further as it walks back its words.

A more hard-line response is not the answer. Mr. Obama was right to rule out the military option; diplomacy is America’s only viable path forward…

The Obama administration should focus on supporting Kiev rather than punishing Moscow. That means using its leverage with Europe to ensure that this support sticks, and that Ukraine’s new government does nothing to provoke an extreme response. This will require an acknowledgment of Russia’s core interests and America’s limitations — and an end to empty threats.

There are about three historic levels to the context of this antagonistic complexity. Most of which is viewed with greater clarity outside the United States than within. Not unusual.

On the longest historic stage, Americans forget we acquired foreign territory much in the same way Albanians did Kosovo, Russians did Crimea. We moved in and colonized economic expansion and then used our [foreign] military might to guarantee the freedom of our colonists to secede. In case you never read a history book, that’s how we got Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Utah and a chunk of Wyoming and Colorado.

Nearer in time, lacking an adjacent border, the US invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq – especially the latter – didn’t have a damned thing to do with protecting our nation. Not on that scale, nothing to do with what we set out to accomplish and failed.

Pretending there is nothing comparable between the secession of Kosovo and the Crimea is patent leather revisionism. The voting population of Kosovo was skewed by incomers as much or more than Crimea – over a shorter period of time. The politics of each differs; but, international codes are cobbled together in an attempt to function independent of local politics. Whether they succeed at it or not.

Fred Phelps’ death celebrated by Oklahoma liquor store

moore-liquor

A liquor store in Moore, Okla., advertised a sale on champagne to coincide with the death of Fred Phelps, the founder of the controversial Westboro Baptist Church.

The owner of Moore Liquor, Bryan Kerr, posted a sign outside his store Tuesday reading “Fred Phelps 1929-2014, Champagne 10 percent off! Not a coincidence…”

Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church are known for their virulent anti-gay sentiment and protesting soldiers’ funerals. Phelps died Thursday after having been excommunicated from the church.

[He was excommunicated in a power struggle – won by a dude who campaigned that Phelps wasn’t loud enough supporting an inferior role for women in marriage and society]

Kerr said he’s gotten positive feedback about his sign, which suggests celebrating Phelps’ death.

“People have really responded positively to it,” he said.

“Champagne is a celebratory drink and so that’s why we gave 10 percent off,” Kerr added. “If they choose to celebrate the passing of a little hate from this world, they can do so and we’re happy to oblige here at Moore Liquor.”

“That kind of hatred and that kind of twisting of biblical principles needs to be exposed and talked about people need to know that’s not how real Christians act,” he said.

As my old acquaintance Willard Uphaus said during his years as a defrocked Methodist preacher – “Ain’t nothing wrong with old-time religion if it’s old-time enough!” He forgave his church’s cowardice, blindness. Eventually they reacquired sufficient courage to reinstate him after decades as a peace activist.

The idjits any progressive activist encounters, fools who think they are the only True Christians in the world are an embarrassment to normal folks who trust their religion to lead them to a life of peace and understanding. Trouble is, gang, it’s time for you to speak up and differentiate yourself from fundamentalist bigots.

Champagne optional.

Public smoking bans linked with rapid public health benefits

The analysis of 11 studies done in North America and Europe, involving more than 2.5 million births, and nearly 250,000 asthma exacerbations, showed that rates of both preterm births and hospital attendance for asthma were reduced by 10% within a year of smoke-free laws coming into effect.

Currently only 16% of the world’s population is covered by comprehensive smoke-free laws, and 40% of children worldwide are regularly exposed to second-hand smoke. To date, most studies have looked at the impact of smoking bans on adult outcomes, but children account for more than a quarter of all deaths and over half of all healthy years of life lost due to exposure to second-hand smoke…

Dr Jasper Been, lead author, says…”Together with the known health benefits in adults, our study provides clear evidence that smoking bans have considerable public health benefits for perinatal and child health, and provides strong support for WHO recommendations to create smoke-free public environments on a national level.”*

“This research has demonstrated the very considerable potential that smoke-free legislation offers to reduce preterm births and childhood asthma attacks,” says study co-author Professor Aziz Sheikh, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, USA, and the University of Edinburgh, UK. “The many countries that are yet to enforce smoke-free legislation should in the light of these findings reconsider their positions on this important health policy question.”

…Sara Kalkhoran and Stanton Glantz from the University of California San Francisco…point out that, “Medical expenses for asthma exceeded US$50 billion in the USA in 2007, and US$20 billion in Europe in 2006. If asthma emergency department visits and admissions to hospital decreased by even 10%, the savings in the USA and Europe together would be US$7 billion annually.”

They conclude, “The cigarette companies, their allies, and the groups they sponsor have long used claims of economic harm, particularly to restaurants, bars, and casinos, to oppose smoke-free laws despite consistent evidence to the contrary. By contrast, the rapid economic benefits that smoke-free laws and other tobacco control policies bring in terms of reduced medical costs are real. Rarely can such a simple intervention improve health and reduce medical costs so swiftly and substantially.”

Folks who understand the realities of scientific study have no difficulty comprehending works like this one. Frankly, I doubt if even our Congress-critters would have a problem getting it. The problem there – as is the case with most political bodies – is the dollars tossed into the winds of election campaigns by tobacco companies, growers and the rest of the sleazy denizens of the smoking industry.

Perish the thought our politicians actually work at serving the citizens of their various electorates. Not when the core values determining political priority and primacy have to include dollar signs.

First same-sex couples legally wed in England and Wales


Teresa Millward and Helen Brearley married in Halifax

The first same-sex weddings have taken place after gay marriage became legal in England and Wales at midnight…Politicians from the main parties have hailed the change in the law.

David Cameron said the move sent a message that people were now equal “whether gay or straight”, but some religious groups remain opposed.

Scotland passed a similar law in February; the first same-sex marriages are expected there in October. Northern Ireland has no plans to follow suit…

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said “Britain will be a different place” as a result…

Labour leader Ed Miliband congratulated those planning to tie the knot…”This is an incredibly happy time for so many gay couples and lesbian couples who will be getting married, but it’s an incredibly proud time for our country as well, recognising equal marriage in law,” he said…


Peter Tatchell (L) chief witness at Peter McGraith and David Cabreza’s wedding in Islington

Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell acted as chief witness at a packed ceremony at Islington Town Hall in London just after midnight as Peter McGraith and David Cabreza were wed after 17 years together.

Mr Tatchell said the couple and all the others getting married had “made history” and “made Britain a more tolerant, equal place”.

With a crowd of photographers, journalists and well-wishers waiting, the couple took the opportunity to highlight the international struggle for gay rights.

Mr McGraith said: “Very few countries afford their gay and lesbian citizens equal marriage rights and we believe that this change in law will bring hope and strength to gay men and lesbians in Nigeria, Uganda, Russia, India and elsewhere, who lack basic equality and are being criminalised for their sexual orientation.”

RTFA. It’s the sort of journalistic record of an historic event some corners of the British Press still do very well.

Bon voyage to the happy couples. It’s always a boon to humankind to witness another nation move forward towards equal rights, equal opportunities. Pity, we haven’t reached that point in the GOUSA – though here in New Mexico our citizens of LGBT gender have acquired the right of marriage – moving past one more barrier, one more step beyond second-class citizenship.

Bat soup ban – part of fightback against deadly Ebola virus

Guinea has forbidden the sale and consumption of bats and warned against eating rats and monkeys as the country combats a spread of Ebola, a hemorrhagic fever with a mortality rate of as much as 90 percent.

We discovered the vector agent of the Ebola virus is the bat,” said Remy Lamah, the country’s health minister, in an interview from the town of N’zerekore today. “We sent messages everywhere to announce the ban. People must even avoid consumption of rats and monkeys. They are very dangerous animals.”

In the west African nation, the Toma, Kissi and Guerze ethnic groups eat bats…So far at least 63 people are suspected to have died in Guinea’s first recorded outbreak of the disease.

“The Kissi community eats bats and the epidemic is making a lot of devastation,” Moriba Traore, an inhabitant of Gueckedou, said by telephone. “Families in villages lost eight or ten members and people are dying. We are afraid.”

Eeoough!

Thanks, Mike