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Jim Hightower - Right moving to gag ag biz journalists & whistleblowers

In most state legislatures today, "off the wall" has become the political center, and bizarre bills are no longer unusual.
Still, it seems strange that legislators in so many states — including Arkansas, California, Florida, Indiana, Missouri, Ohio and Vermont — have simultaneously been pushing "ag-gag" bills that are not merely outrageous, but downright un-American. Each is intended to quash free speech by banning journalists, whistleblowers, workers and other citizens from exposing illegal, abusive or unethical treatment of animals that are incarcerated in the factory feeding operations of huge corporations.
Our nation's founders mounted a revolution to establish our free-press and free-speech rights, enshrining them in the First Amendment to ensure the free exchange of ideas — even when the Powers That Be didn't like the message that such freedoms produce. In fact, the Founders knew from hard experience that the protection of those freedoms was especially essential when the Powers That Be have something they're eager to hide from the citizenry.
Yet here comes a mess of so-called "conservatives" attempting to use state government to outlaw messengers who shine a light on corporate wrongdoing — turning those who expose crimes into criminals. Even kookier, these repressive laws declare that truth-tellers who so much as annoy or embarrass the corporate owner of the animal factory are guilty of "an act of terrorism."
Oddly, each of these state proposals is practically identical, even including much of the same wording. That's because, unbeknownst to the public and other legislators, the bills don't originate from the state lawmakers who introduce them. Instead, they come from a Washington-based corporate front group named ALEC — the American Legislative Exchange Council.
This infamous "bill mill" periodically convenes its corporate funders to write model bills that serve their special interests. Then ALEC farms out bills to its trusted cadre of state lawmakers across the country, who introduce them as their own, not mentioning the corporate powers behind them.
The secretive ALEC network produced the model ag-gag bill in 2002 and began shipping it from state to state under the ominous tile, "Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act."
The freedom-busting terrorists in this fight are not those who reveal the abuse, but the soulless factory-farm profiteers in the corporate suites and the cynical lawmakers who serve them.
Actually, factory farms are not farms at all. They are corporate-run concentration camps for pigs, cows, chickens, turkeys and other food animals.
Held in corporate confinement, these creatures of nature are denied any contact with their natural world, instead being crammed by the thousands into concrete-and-metal buildings, where they are locked in torturously tiny cages for the duration of their so-called "life" — which is nasty, brutish and short. All this merely so food giants like Tyson Foods, Smithfield and Borden can grab fatter and quicker profits. Their abusive industrial system is so disgusting that America's consumers would gag at the sight of it.
That's why they're desperate to keep you from knowing what goes on inside. Nonetheless, word has been getting out, as animal rights advocates, consumer groups, reporters, unions and others have exposed some of the realities of animal confinement to the public, including showing wretch-inducing photos and videos. Rather than cleaning up their act, however, the industrial food powers have simply doubled down on disgusting by getting industry-funded state legislators to go after anyone who reveals their ugly secrets.
Their attack on whistleblowers will gag you almost as badly as viewing the gross animal abuse. But, really, who do they think they're fooling? If they have to pass a law that says, "Don't look here," people will naturally wonder what they're hiding — and will demand to see it and change it. Six states have passed ag-gag laws, and six more are presently moving toward passage. To see what your legislature is doing — and to join the fight to stop factory farming everywhere — go to humanesociety.org.
(Jim Hightower has been called American's most popular populist. The radio commentator and former Texas Commissioner of Agriculture is author of seven books, including "There's Nothing In the Middle of Road but Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos" and his new work, "Swim Against the Current: Even Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow".)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00

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Roy Sanborn — The sky isn't falling (SEE CHART CALLED March Solds 2013)

There were 71 residential home sales in March in the 12 communities covered by this Lakes Region Real Estate Market Report. The average price came in at $227,182 with a median price point of $166,000. This compares to 64 sales last March at an average price of $314,161 with a median price point of $199,200.
For the first quarter of 2013 there were 172 residential transactions in these same towns compared to 171 in the first quarter of 2012. That's pretty consistent, if nothing else! The average sales price for the first quarter of 2013 was $226,492 compared to $272,526 in 2012. The median price point also dropped from $176,200 in 2012 to $169,000 in 2013. Sales are steady, but once again prices are down.
You could say this is all doom and gloom! Should you bend over and kiss your real estate patootie goodbye?! I really don't think so! Market data is all about numbers and what is selling. Sometimes numbers by themselves can be misleading. It just so happens that a lot more inexpensive homes are selling right now compared to higher end homes. That's just the way it is. There are a lot of bank owned and lower priced homes on the market that are being scooped up. It has been that way for the past few years.
So before you think that the real estate sky is falling and your home value is continuing to slide down the cliff that is not necessarily the case. It is pretty easy to see why our numbers are down so far this year. In the first quarter of both 2012 and 2013 we had about the same number of sales below $200,000. But, in 2012 there were 24 homes that sold over the $500,000 mark for a total sales volume of $21.5 million. There were seven sales over the $1 million mark. This year there were half the number of sales over $500,000 for a total of only $10.9 million in sales and there were just two sales over a million! This definitely has had an impact on the average and median prices so far this year!
There's no doubt that your home's value has been affected over the past few years, but quality homes have retained their value better than those that are poorly maintained, ill kept, and poorly presented in the market place. It also seems that there is a definite shortage of really nice, mid-price homes on the market right now. If you are contemplating selling your home, think about what it has to offer in this market compared to some of the other homes that are available. Talk with several real estate agents to get their opinion of your home, where they feel the market is, and see how they can position you to get the maximum return on your investment. With fewer really nice properties on the market there is less competition which makes this a good time to sell.
The fact is, is seems like the mood in the housing market is a much more positive than it has been for a long time. The news from all over the country touts that the housing markets are on the mend and prices are beginning to rise! According to a recent AP article, new home construction is picking up with a 46 percent increase in new home starts nationwide in March compared to March of 2012. But remember that real estate is very local and we were one of the last markets to feel the pinch when things went bad. The AP article stated that "Housing construction fell 5.8 percent in the Northeast but showed gains in the rest of the country led by a 10.9 percent rise in the South. Housing construction was up 9.6 percent in the Midwest and 2.7 percent in the West."
So, we may a little behind in terms of a new construction rebound but we have been blessed with a very strong second home, vacation, and waterfront home market so I don't believe we will be far behind in a market upturn. I'm banking on that along with some nice new properties coming on the market at realistic prices to lead the way...
Please feel free to visit www.lakesregionhome.com to learn more about the Lakes Region real estate market and comment on this article and others. Data was compiled using the Northern New England Real Estate MLS System as of 4/15/13. Roy Sanborn is a REALTOR® at Four Seasons Sotheby's International Realty and can be reached at 603-455-0335.

Last Updated on Friday, 26 April 2013 08:12

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Susan Estrich - No baby-faced innocent, but not enemy combatant either

Sometimes a picture speaks volumes. Sometimes it's outright deceptive. The picture of "Bomber No. 2" didn't look a bit like a mass murderer. A sweet-faced college kid, the former lifeguard, the nice young man described by classmates and friends. It couldn't be. There must be some outside organization calling the shots. An international conspiracy, perhaps. Brainwashing.
Or maybe it was just a deceptive picture of a cold-blooded murderer.
He and his brother put bombs next to children. One of those children was murdered.
In a court of law, innocence is presumed. That is a rule of law, not a finding of fact. For those of us who watched, watched over and over, the proof appears to be nothing less than overwhelming. Others may have been involved. Further investigation is absolutely required.
But I for one have no doubt that the defendant is not a baby-faced college student, that he is no one's victim, that he is responsible for heinous crimes. Responsibility is not an exacting standard in criminal law. Did he know what he was doing? Did he understand that there was a bomb in that backpack, and that bombs kill people and terrorize cities? Whatever other pressures may have been at work, however influenced he was by religion or his brother or anyone else, if he knew what he was doing, if he understood the nature of his conduct, that is enough to make him responsible.
But that does not make him an enemy combatant.
The calls by politicians to treat him as one, led by Sen. Lindsey Graham, a lawyer who should know better, demonstrate the triumph of politics over law. According to Graham, speaking on the Senate floor, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's "ties to radical Islamic thought" and his Chechen heritage should justify holding him as an "enemy combatant" subject to trial by a military tribunal.
Ties to "radical Islamic thought" do not make a person an enemy combatant.
Ties to thought are, in fact, at the core of the protection afforded by the First Amendment. Actions are another matter. But there is absolutely no evidence that this man was a member of al-Qaida or the Taliban, or that his acts were directed by foreign enemies. He is an American citizen who (allegedly) killed innocent people and would have (absent the brilliance of the Boston hospital trauma system) killed many more — on American soil using devices made in America.
Indeed, even Graham acknowledges this. He just wants him to be treated as an enemy combatant until proved otherwise. Nothing in the law or the Constitution supports this. It is totally unnecessary.
The evidence against Tsarnaev is overwhelming. He wouldn't need to say a word to government authorities to be convicted in an American court. The only consequence of not giving him Miranda rights is that his statements might not be admissible in a criminal trial, which, frankly, won't matter. Anyone who thinks a Boston jury will be unduly sympathetic (unlike military officers) is just plain wrong. Indeed, for my money, military officers — who are more accustomed to seeing death on the fields of battle than the rest of us are to seeing destruction and devastation in Copley Square — might have an easier time focusing solely on the evidence admitted at trial.
In our ridiculously polarized media and political culture, we have a tendency to see everything in extremes, which means that more often than not we're wrong.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is not a baby-faced innocent, even if that is how he looks in the pictures that flashed on the screen every minute. He placed a bomb in the middle of hundreds of innocent people, children included.
He is also not an enemy combatant by any definition, nor do we need to treat him as one in order to ensure that justice is done.
(Susan Estrich is a professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Southern California Law Center. A best-selling author, lawyer and politician, as well as a teacher, she first gained national prominence as national campaign manager for Dukakis for President in 1988.)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00

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Rev. Dave Balzell - Good Sheperd Sunday after Boston

After a terrible week, we went to church, this past Sunday, and it was Good Shepherd Sunday. But when we walked into our churches, our hearts and minds probably weren't there. Instead, they were probably still down in Boston, where they had been, for all of last week.
Even though we live up here, in New Hampshire, Boston isn't all that far from us. Many of us might have personal ties to the metro-Boston area. Some of us might've lived there, before we moved up here. Some of us might still have family or friends there. Some of us might've had family and friends who were locked into their houses on Friday. Some of us might've had family and friends who ran or were at the Boston Marathon on Monday.
I've been to Boston more times than I can count, and to the Boston Marathon many times. I grew up in Maine, where Patriot's Day was a holiday, and my dad would take my sister and I into Boston. We'd go to Hopkinton for the start of the marathon, and we'd watch an endless wave of runners. Then we'd drive into the city, and go to the finish line. We'd always get there in time to watch Rick and Dick Hoyt cross the finish line. We'd stay in the city past dark, and go up into the Prudential Center, and see the city all lit up. It was always such a great day.
This past Monday morning started out as a great day for all those runners, and for the city of Boston. But then... This past week has been a rough week, a sad week, a terrible week, and maybe we're angry, or sad, or fearful, or maybe it feels like there isn't much we can do to prevent the next time that something awful like this happens.
However, there were some incredibly inspiring moments, this past week: the people who ran toward the bomb blast to help others, the first responders who saved so many lives, the skill of the staff at some of the finest hospitals in the world, the marathoners who ran a couple more miles to donate blood, the New York Yankees singing "Sweet Caroline", thoughtful and inspiring words from Mr. Rogers, the Lutheran comfort dogs, the dedication and hard work of law enforcement, and the lack of bigotry and hatred. Most people reacted with love, and compassion, and concern for neighbors, and we put on our race shirts on Tuesday, and our Boston shirts on Friday, and we lifted our neighbors in prayer, and from up here, in New Hampshire, and all across the country, our hearts and minds were in Boston, all week, this past week.
And then we showed up at church this past Sunday, and it was Good Shepherd Sunday, when we are reminded that our Lord Jesus will shepherd us through in times of need. And given the week we'd all just had, we were there, in need of some shepherding. And this past Sunday, we heard the familiar words of Psalm 23: "The Lord is my shepherd... though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil, for you are with me." And we heard these words, from the Book of Revelation: "The Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."
And this past Sunday, we needed to hear that we have a God who loves us, and that we have a God who shepherds us. And this past Sunday, in the face of the tragedy and sorrow of the past week, we were reminded that we have a God who raises us up from everything and anything, and we were reminded that we have a God who brings resurrection, even out of terrible events like those we have witnessed in this past week.
(Rev. Dave Dalzell is the Pastor of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Laconia, a congregation of the ELCA, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. www.goodshepherdnh.org

Last Updated on Tuesday, 23 April 2013 12:35

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Froma Harrop - Americans cope with ordinanry setbacks, the Tsarnsev brothers didn't

The uncle of the accused Boston Marathon bombers got the boys right. They were unable to settle into American life, Ruslan Tsarni told reporters from his home in Maryland, "and thereby just hating everyone who did." He called the two brothers "losers." I prefer the term "weaklings."
As the story thickens with detail, it would seem that the older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, now dead, was the ringleader. So let's concentrate on him.
Tamerlan would seem the model of the mentally unfit immigrant. Here was an accomplished boxer who couldn't roll with the punches of American existence.
Fragile personalities often adopt grandiosity as a shield. Making peace with the kind of setbacks that ordinary Americans confront on a regular basis would have made Tamerlan ordinary. Hence, he took the well-trod path of latching onto a radical cause, in his case religious, to inflate his importance.
It takes a whole lot of crossed wires to see blowing up a bunch of innocents as a remedy for what ails. And that's why Tamerlan's actual disappointments are so beside the point.
"Life in America Unraveled for Two Young Men," reads a Wall Street Journal headline. But by the measuring stick of human suffering — even at the higher American scale — Tamerlan was doing OK.
What were his unravelings? The boys' father had a hard time in America making a living as an auto mechanic. The family lived for a while in subsidized housing. These were not unique circumstances given the sorry state of the economy over the last few years.
Tamerlan reportedly dropped out of college for money reasons. Well, so did Steve Jobs.
Then there was his boxing. "He couldn't get into the Olympics," the family's landlord told a Russian newspaper, "and that was the last thing he really worked hard at." Many more boxers try to get onto the U.S. Olympic team than succeed. By virtue of having become a Golden Gloves contender, Tamerlan would have been the envy of high-school boxers everywhere.
An assimilated American in his situation would have gone to the Small Business Administration for a loan, set up a boxing school in the neighborhood and continued from there. We can well believe Tamerlan's statement about Americans, "I don't understand them." A courageous man would have simply returned to a culture he felt at home in. Many immigrants do.
This story bears strong resemblance to that of Faisal Shahzad, the Pakistani in jail for trying to set off a bomb in Times Square. Like Tamerlan, he had obtained a green card. He had a wife, children and good jobs. But his real estate investments didn't pan out, and he lost his house to foreclosure.
Had Shahzad made good money in real estate, we probably would have never heard of him. But he didn't, and rather than try, try again, he turned to radical Islam. Radical Islam provides fragile male egos a class of inferiors to feel superior to. That would be women. One of Shahzad's solutions included pressuring his soon-to-be-ex-wife into wearing a hijab, a modest Muslim head covering.
At his sentencing, Shahzad puffed himself up, invoking the name of a Muslim warrior from the Crusades. The federal district court judge dryly urged him to spend the time behind bars pondering "whether the Quran wants you to kill lots of people."
It is not America's duty to give such troubled individuals therapy and a pile of Lexapro. It is to keep them out of a country they can't fit into.
The FBI had already talked to Tamerlan about his jihadist interests. We assume the bureau will not shrug at such cases in the future.
(A member of the Providence Journal editorial board, Froma Harrop writes a nationally syndicated column from that city. She has written for such diverse publications as The New York Times, Harper's Bazaar and Institutional Investor.)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00

Hits: 411

 
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