On his show Thursday night, The Daily Show host Jon Stewart mocked members of the Senate Banking Committee for going soft on JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon after his firm lost at least $2 billion gambling on derivatives.
During the hearing, Republican senators complimented Dimon and praised his financial empire.
“What is going on with this panel of senators,” Stewart wondered. “They’re sucking up to Dimon like they’re on JP Morgan’s payroll.”
It turns out, the biggest campaign donor to many of the senators was JP Morgan. Throughout the hearing, the senators asked for Dimon’s advise and berated their own legislative body.
Stewart ripped into Sen. Bob Corker in particular. The Senator had questioned the effectiveness of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform bill, even though he fought against key provisions of the law.
“Must be nice to be a Republican senator sometimes,” he joked. “Cus you get the fun of breaking shit and the joy of complaining the shit you just broke doesn’t work.”
Watch video, via Mediaite, below:
WASHINGTON — The self-proclaimed mastermind of the September 11 attacks wanted to wear military-style camouflage clothes to court but prison officials denied the request as inappropriate, documents show.
A series of documents and photographs released by the Pentagon this week show that the lawyers for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other men accused of plotting the worst attacks on US soil traded barbs with military officials over the co-defendants’ attire.
The lawyers are urging the chief military commissions judge to stop Guantanamo commander Rear Admiral David Woods from interfering with the court wardrobe of their clients, who face the death penalty if convicted.
Mohammed had sought to wear the camouflage items for his May 5 arraignment. But after examining the men’s planned attire, prison authorities rejected everything but the white robes and camp uniforms they eventually wore.
In the end, the only person whose wardrobe stood out in court was that of Pentagon-paid defense lawyer Cheryl Bormann, who wore a traditional black abaya — typically worn by some conservative Muslim women — along with a headscarf that only left her face exposed.
She showed up the next day wearing a low-cut dress for a press conference to protest what she deemed provocative attire worn by other women in the courtroom, making an appeal for the women to wear more “appropriate” clothing.
The defense’s motion condemned Woods’s “arbitrary and capricious” denial of the detainees’ rights to wear clothing of their choosing, saying it “furthered the CIA’s goal to psychologically dislocate detainees from their individual and social personalities.”
Mohammed had sought to wear a woodland-patterned jacket, hunting vest and fabric for a proposed turban, Woods said in an affidavit, explaining he denied the request because of “security and good order and discipline concerns, and because they were inappropriate courtroom attire.”
Two of his co-defendants, including Mohammed’s nephew Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali — also known as Ammar al-Baluchi — wanted to wear traditional Afghan caps and vests.
Woods also forbade those choices because “such vests are traditionally only worn during the winter or in colder climates,” the affidavit said.
Another one of the accused men, Mustapha al-Hawsawi of Saudi Arabia, wanted to wear one of Guantanamo’s infamous orange jumpsuits to court, but Woods rejected the request due to “institutional and security concerns.”
The uniform is usually reserved for disobedient detainees at the US naval base in southern Cuba and Hawsawi’s attorney, Commander Walter Ruiz, told AFP that his client wanted to wear it “as a silent reminder of Guantanamo’s legacy of torture and in peaceful defiance of a system that is built to kill.”
Woods also barred the men from wearing any vests or clothing with pockets, noting they were “a potential means of removing unauthorized items from the courtroom.”
But “in recognition of their cultural and religious significance,” the men were allowed to wear white robes and skullcaps to court, and bring prayer rugs to perform their daily rituals.
“The detainee’s attire should not transform this commission into a vehicle for propaganda and undermine the atmosphere that is conducive to calm and detached deliberation and determination of the issues presented,” prosecutors wrote in a motion.
The five men are due back in court on August 8-12 for a preliminary hearing on defense appeals.
Berkeley professor and former labor secretary Robert Reich suggested Thursday that Mitt Romney’s economic plan favored the wealthy at the expense of the poor.
“Romney has said repeatedly, he wants to cut taxes on the very wealthy,” he said on MSNBC’s The Last Word. “The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center here in Washington has done a computation of what Romney’s taxes would do, and they’ve concluded that the typical millionaire or someone earning over $1 million gets $950,000 over a ten year period… I mean, this is absurd. At a time when we have a budget deficit and so many people in need in America, this is reverse Robin Hood.”
Reich described so-called trickle down economics as “bunk.” The economic theory is closely associated with former President Ronald Reagan and the Republican Party. According to the theory, if the wealthy are taxed less, then they will invest more into businesses, creating jobs for middle-class Americans.
“Almost all the gains of productivity over the last five year, six years have gone to the very top. What that means is the vast middle-class doesn’t have purchasing power to keep the economy going. The President has proposed over and over again a variety of ways of dealing with this widening gap, this increasing inequality, and the Republicans on the Hill have simply said no.”
Watch video, courtesy of MSNBC, below:
Of course he is also admired as an outspoken atheist. His bestseller, The God Delusion, has outsold all of his other books and it is for his secularism that Dawkins has received his most recent award. At the weekend the British Humanist Association presented him with its Award for Distinguished Services to Humanism. Previous recipients have included Julian Huxley, Philip Pullman and Polly Toynbee.
Dawkins opened his acceptance speech by quoting from memory some of Bertrand Russell’s essay “Why I am not a Christian”.
“I believe that when I die I shall rot, and nothing of my ego will survive. I am not young and I love life. But I should scorn to shiver with terror at the thought of annihilation.”
He went on to speak about man’s position in the tree of life – “God knows my subject of evolution is no stranger to controversy. We are closer cousins to amoebas than amoebas are to bacteria, we are very close cousins to amoebas and this puts us in our place” – and ended his speech by reciting Julian Huxley’s poem The Crystal Cabinet.
But sandwiched in between was his pitch, that “evolution will become the new classics”.
Dawkins will lecture on evolutionary biology and science literacy at the New College of the Humanities which he helped to found. He explained that whereas classicists have traditionally been assumed to be the scholars most able to branch into any area of research, today – with advances in evolutionary study – it will be those with scholarship in evolutionary science who will supersede classicists in depth, breadth and usefulness.
He predicted that those who took his new degree course would achieve a “polymathic status”. He said the course “places evolution at the centre but brings in lots and lots of other subjects such as economics, social science, philosophy, engineering, medicine, agriculture, linguistics, physics, cosmology and history of science.”
Dawkins went into some detail to justify this statement, explaining the relevance of the various disciplines, starting with behavioural economics: “Everything has to be paid for, there is no such thing as a free lunch. You have to pay for whatever you do now in the form of lost opportunities to do other things in the future.”
He claimed that in the areas of sexual selection, parent–offspring relationships and sex ratio theory, economic thinking was “rife” within evolutionary research.
“What are the evolutionary origins for empathy, for sympathy, for our tendency to feel sorrow when we feel distress? Our tendency to want to help other people – other sentient beings indeed.”
Dawkins argued that the same design-optimising principles that are “central to evolutionary theory”, are used by engineers and economists. He also explained that modern molecular genetics had become a branch of IT, “really it is digital information technology, something Darwin would gave rejoiced at as it helps to solve some of the major riddles Darwin was faced with.”
Reminding the audience that for centuries humans have artificially selected for highly productive animals and plants, he said this process will now be supplemented by genetic engineering, which he referred to as, “the manipulation of the mutation side of the Darwinian equation”.
Dawkins wants all doctors of medicine to be Darwinists, referring to the “wonderful book” Why We Get Sick by Randolph Nesse and George Williams, and recommending we all buy a copy for our GPs.
“If doctors had been wise to natural selection we wouldn’t have the problem we now have with antibiotic resistance evolving by natural selection by bacteria.”
He gave doctors some other evolutionary tips: “Is a temperature a Darwinian adaptation by the body to make life difficult for the pathogen? If so, giving someone a drug to bring the temperature down is the very last thing a doctor should be doing. Lower back pain is likely because we are ancestrally quadrapedal animals turned into bipeds and this is giving us problems.”
But he criticised cosmologists who talk about the “evolution” of the universe, stating that the universe’s development is analogous to embryology not evolution. However, “there is a connection, also a theological connection, in that cosmology and evolution are in the business of explaining origins, explaining where we come from, in the case of biology, where life comes from, in cosmology, where the universe comes from. I would think my course in evolution would include cosmological theories on the origins of everything.”
Dawkins reminded his audience that Patrick Matthew was theorising about natural selection more than quarter of a century before Darwin, in an attempt to address age-old questions. “Questions that children always ask – “Where do I come from?”, “What is the meaning of life?” – these questions have been given wrong answers by theology for centuries. The right answers to these questions now come from evolutionary science. That is my pitch, my educationist pitch, for evolution as the new classics.”
Dawkins received a standing ovation. It seemed everyone wanted their photo taken with him and I certainly wasn’t the only person with a bag full of copies of his various books for him to sign. It was with the publication of The Selfish Gene in 1976 that he was pushed into the spotlight and over the subsequent decades he has had to adapt to the environmental pressure of fame. So he paced himself, graciously negotiating the endless requests with the seasoned experience of celebrity.
But in behavioural economic terms there is a trade-off between time spent publicising existing work against time spent getting new work done. I suspect Dawkins would far rather have the memes arising from his work do the publicity for him while he makes the best use of his time, alone in his study, writing his next book.
A public relations officer linked to Walmart posed as a journalist at a press conference held by a labor group highlighting tough working conditions in the warehouses that supply big retailers.
Stephanie Harnett, a publicist working for Mercury Communications, which has been retained by Walmart to assist in its effort to open a new store in the Chinatown area of Los Angeles, claimed to be a student journalist called “Zoe Mitchell” when she turned up at the event on 6 June.
She then spoke to and recorded an interview with an activist from Warehouse Workers United, a group campaigning for worker improvements in the notoriously low wage industry where casual labor and poor health conditions are all too common.
The subterfuge only became apparent on Wednesday, when Harnett turned up at a different event and this time used her real name. She was spotted by members of WWU who recognised her and were stunned to see her handing out Mercury business cards with a completely different identity.
Walmart moved to distance itself from her actions on Thursday, and Mercury said neither it nor the retail giant had “approved, authorized or directed” her actions. It said she was no longer working for the firm.
WWU officials, who are backed by the Change to Win coalition of unions, are outraged at the stunt. They say Walmart – with its gigantic spending power – has a chance to improve things.
“Last week when Walmart had the chance to talk about real issues affecting Latino workers in Southern California it instead sent ‘Zoe’, a fake reporter. A spy. Our door is open. Walmart can change this industry and create thousands of good jobs and improve the quality of life in Southern California, but first it has to come out of hiding,” the WWU said in a statement.
The press conference was to highlight a report by the National Employment Law Project which accused big box retailers, like Walmart, of driving down wages and work place safety standards in a supply chain of sub-contracted warehouse operators. The report, called Chain of Greed, singled out Walmart as a major offender. “Walmart sets the parameters for the working conditions in (warehouses)… but when things go wrong, it’s the contractors that are blamed, while Walmart skirts responsibility for its actions and accountability for its influence over those engaged in its massive supply chain,” the report stated.
For its part Mercury said that neither it nor Walmart had known about Harnett’s plans to infiltrate the press conference as “Zoe” and gather information on participants. It also said that such an act would not happen again. “The action taken by Ms Harnett was in no way approved, authorized, or directed by Walmart or Mercury. Stephanie is a junior member of our team who made an immature decision. She showed very poor judgment and Mercury takes full responsibility. We are taking the necessary disciplinary actions. This is an isolated incident that has never happened before and will not happen again,” Mercury said in a statement.
Warehouse worker Santos Castaneda, 25, one of two members of WWU who were speaking at the first press conference, is upset that he was duped by someone working indirectly for the company that he is campaigning against. “I never thought she was going to be a spy. I feel mad and disappointed,” he said.
The “journalist” approached Castenada, 25, asked him to tell his story about low wages and tough conditions in his job.
The woman reporter introduced herself to Castaneda as a University of Southern California journalism student called Zoe Mitchell. “She said she was a story teller from the heart. She was very interested in warehouse workers and the working conditions,” Castaneda said.
The pair spoke for up to half an hour and Mitchell recorded the whole interview, taking down details of Castaneda’s biography and working history. “I explained how we are fighting for our rights,” Castaneda said.
Walmart spokesman Steven Restivo told Gawker: “These actions were unacceptable, misleading and wrong. Our culture of integrity is a constant at Walmart and by not properly identifying herself, this individual’s behavior was contrary to our values and the way we do business. We insist that all our vendors conduct themselves in a way that is transparent and honest and we will reinforce that expectation to help ensure this type of activity is not repeated.”
Less than nine months after the repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell”, the US military has announced that it will participate in this month’s celebration of gay pride.
The Pentagon is to organise the first official event to recognise gay and lesbian troops. The move, first reported by Associated Press, was heralded by lesbian and gay groups as a sign of how quickly the military has acted to open up the services in the wake of the repeal.
“This is a tremendous accomplishment to be happening not one year since the repeal of don’t ask, don’t tell,” said Josh Seefried, an air force lieutenant with the Joint Base Maguire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey.
Seefried made a comparison with the British military services, where despite the lifting of a ban on gays in the military ten years ago, it took some time for gay service personnel to be open about their sexuality. “Here, on day one we had more than 100 come out in all branches of the military,” he said.
The Pentagon has declined to give details of the event that it will organise as part of pride month. But it is certain to involve the saluting of gay and lesbian troops, in an echo of how African American and other ethnic groups are celebrated at different times in the annual calendar.
The event will be the latest in the rolling out of the new tolerance within the military. Don’t ask, don’t tell, which was introduced under President Clinton in 1993, forced the discharge of more than 13,000 men and women sacked for revealing their sexual orientation.
The impressively rapid shift in culture has been evident in other ways. OutServe, the association of actively serving LGBT military personnel in which Seefried is a co-director, has grown rapidly since the repeal last September.
Under DADT, OutServe had about 1,700 members all of whom were taking a risk by attaching their names to the group. Now membership has grown to 5,700.
Last October more than 200 openly gay personnel gathered in Las Vegas for a conference to discuss the new policy, in the presence of active duty officers from several other countries. In December America rejoiced at the “first kiss” ashore – in this case between a female naval officer and her girlfriend http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/dec/23/sailors-us-navy-gay-kiss .
WASHINGTON — The United States on Thursday acknowledged providing communications equipment and other forms of assistance to members of the “peaceful opposition” in Syria.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the aid is part of “non-lethal” assistance to Syrians living under President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, and part of a global effort to support Internet freedom.
Nuland declined to elaborate on the aid, but a source familiar with the effort said it includes things such as anonymizing software, and satellite phones with GPS capabilities “to document the location of atrocities.”
Nuland said the Internet freedom initiatives are part of “programs that we do around the world that we’ve been doing with Syrians and many, many other countries for quite a long time.”
These are programs “that help citizens in countries where the Internet is restricted or unavailable to find ways to have access to the Internet so that they can know their fundamental freedom to expression and access to information is respected,” she told a press briefing.
The United States has spent $76 million since 2008 for these programs around the world and has another $25 million that will be allocated this year.
Nuland said that additional aid for Syria “is largely in the communications area” and is “designed to help those who are subjected to government intrusion, government interruption of their ability to communicate with each other, to do so to help support unity among the peaceful opposition.”
Time magazine reported this week that the State Department has been providing media-technology training and support to Syrian dissidents by way of small nonprofits.
Asked about the report, Nuland said it was “greatly over-revved.”