Saturday, May 31, 2014

Mediterranean Societies Have Lowest Suicide Rates In Developed World

Figure 1.6.1  Suicide mortality rates, 2011 (or nearest year)
Suicide mortality rates, 2011 (or nearest year)
Alan: It is widely known that a Mediterranean Diet is especially healthy.

The above chart suggests that Mediterrean societies are metaphysically healthy as well.


The accompanying article did not comment on this "coincidence."

Corporatist Fascism: $100 Billion Bailout Consolidated The Too-Big-To-Fail Banks


The Job Creators and The Takers
Taking the hit.
Taking the fall.

Excerpt: A kid gets caught with a few ounces of pot and goes to jail, but a big bank breaks the law ... and no one even gets arrested."
Senator Elizabeth Warren

"Fascism should rightly be called Corporatism ("Corporativismo"), 
as it is the merger of corporate and government power" 
Benito Mussolini

Fascism, by any other name, would smell as sour.



Stark Infographic of Too-Big-to-Fail Banks 
Represents 1% Consolidation in America

The four banks listed in the infographic below – CitiGroup, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, and Wells Fargo – have received nearly $93 billion in taxpayer funds ($92,849,517,353 to be exact) since the bailouts began in 2008.
While they make up a small percentage of the 940 bailout recipients which have, to date, received $611 billion dollars from American taxpayers, they represent a significant chunk of those funds. More importantly, their acquisition trajectories represent the consolidation of major banking institutions in America which have made them "too-big-to-fail," or so we've been told.
Click on the infographic above to enlarge.
The graphic above is not a statistical representation, as it does not display the relative sizes of those banks acquired, nor does it indicate which banks disappeared as a result of forced acquisitions. However, it does visually represent how banking institutions in this country are capable of not just dictating regulatory practices with their undeniable influence and size, but are able to get away with holding the country hostage after those criminal and unethical activities which brought our nation's economy to its knees and is serving to widen growing inequalities in America.
Regarding that latter point, income inequality is higher than its been since 1928, which is partly responsible for a crushing wealth gap in which the bottom 60 percent of Americans own only 3.5 percent of the country's wealth. We have as hrinking middle class with disappearing disposable incomesand an increasing number of Americans with no disposable incomes to speak of. Over 46 million Americans are below the poverty line, many of whom are employed but finding that "hard work is just not enough" anymore.
This is at a time in which behemoth financial institutions are getting larger, consolidating more and more wealth, and being not just financially protected by that consolidation – vacuuming up taxpayer funds from a drowning citizenry – but being legally protected as well.
In 2013, Eric Holder admitted that global financial institutions in the U.S. and abroad have become so large as to be above the law. This truth came into stark focus when the British bank HSBC, which does significant business in America, was neither shut down in the U.S. nor pursued with criminal charges after it admitted to laundering billions of dollars for Mexican drug cartels.
This and other criminal activities by those in the banking industry and on Wall Street prompted Elizabeth Warren to say two days ago:
A kid gets caught with a few ounces of pot and goes to jail, but a big bank breaks the law ... and no one even gets arrested.
Yes, they are shielded from the law. However, they have also been responsible for writing (or underwriting) our regulatory and financial laws which have propped up banks such as BoA, which has illegally defrauded its customers, and whose subprime lender, Countrywide, engaged in widespread mortgage fraud with BoA's knowledge.
Which brings us back to the beginning. The richest in our country continue to consolidate and grow their wealth as an increasing number of Americans slide into poverty or out of the middle class. And the consolidation of financial institutions into behemoth entities don't just symbolize what is happening, they are organically at the root of the problem.
If America has truly become an oligarchy, then the infographic above could be considered one of its banners. It is a banner which will continue to wave, I fear, until we hit a breaking point.
Where that point is, I do not know, nor do I know what the popular response will be when it is reached. However, one thing is certain: our current course will not be able to sustain itself without this country falling apart.
Perhaps that's what it will take.
What Do You Buy For the Children
David Harris-Gershon is author of the memoir What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?, just out from Oneworld Publications.

"American Plutocracy: Who's Punished, Who's Not"

Climate Change In Your Coffee Cup

Between too much moisture in Central America and too little in Brazil, coffee can't catch a break.

In Guatemala and throughout Central America, coffee infected with a fungus known as rust has reduced yields. Along the Equator where coffee grows best, the problem of yield is widely attributed to more extreme rainfall.
For nearly six years, a fungus that's commonly known as rust has killed so many coffee trees in Central America that scientists have speculated the region could lose up to 40 percent of its coffee crop.
Now, as researchers scurry to maintain the global coffee supply, there are signs that climate change and wild weather could make the problem even worse.
"We just keep getting report after report at our partner institutions in those countries—these are growers, buyers, importers, and roasters," says Tim Schilling, director of World Coffee Research at Texas A&M University, describing the problem in places like Panama and El Salvador.
Known as roya in Spanish, the rust fungus has also engulfed parts of Guatemala, Nicaragua, Mexico, Costa Rica, and Honduras.
The ultimate culprit: a phenomenon that scientists call climate variation, which sees weather patterns changing dramatically from year to year. More rain in recent years has meant more rust, which blankets the leaves of coffee trees, cuts off sunlight, and restricts photosynthesis until a coffee tree keels over and dies. (Related: "Coffee: Beyond the Buzz.")
Guatemalan coffee picker Rosa Diaz works her way around coffee leaves infected with a plague called roy.
The majority of South and Central America’s coffee is grown by small-scale farmers. Rust has created widespread concern about the future of coffee prices and the economic impact of thousands of farmers becoming unemployed.
Last year, a United Nations panel of climate scientists found that downpours related to El Niño and La Niña weather events—periodic changes in the Pacific Ocean's temperature that influence rainfall near the Equator—will intensify this century, leading to even more precipitation.
The problem has attracted attention from Central American governments, which see depressed coffee futures as a threat to their economies. Some coffee producers, meanwhile, have accepted help from development organizations, which fear that too many unemployed farmers could lead to widespread poverty and fuel other problems, like the drug trade.
The United States—which consumes more coffee than any other country but produces close to zero—recently announced a five-million-dollar grant to Texas A&M's coffee research program to help combat rust.
Photo of Luis Manuel Antonio (left) preparing to head home with his father, Luis Antonio (middle), and his mother, Teresa Antonio, in Loma Linda, a small coffee producing community in western Guatemala.
Guatemalan coffee grower Luis Manuel Antonio (far left) has seen coffee rust ravage his small farm. The diminishing yields have caused stress and anxiety for him and his wife. Other areas have seen rises in child malnutrition as a result of declining income.
Coffee Climate
Because coffee is so weather dependent, it's an especially volatile crop. Too much water fuels a debilitating fungus. Too little sucks the tree dry.
Add in the variations of harsher winters, more rainfall in some areas, and none at all in others, and the world's third most popular drink (behind water and tea) is becoming much harder to produce.
"We used to think that seasons were not that important; now we see that they're incredibly important," says Alvaro Gaitan, head of plant pathology at Colombia's National Coffee Research Center.
The problem of rust is not new in Central America. The fungus has appeared in multiple waves since the 1970s but mutates each time, complicating researchers' efforts to combat it.
When rust struck Colombia in 2008, it spread from farm to farm, cutting the country's coffee output from 12 million bags to 7 million in a single year. The country's economy sputtered. Some farmers—many with less than a single hectare of land—had no crop at all.
Earlier this year, Brazil faced the opposite problem of Central America's: an unprecedented drought caused farmers to lose nearly one-fifth of the country's usual 55 million bags of coffee.
Coffee prices rose worldwide from $1.20 per pound to nearly $2.20. Most large coffee chains, including Starbucks, absorbed the higher cost rather than pass it on to customers.
But rain arrived in March, and Brazil's coffee industry is expected to bounce back, with around 50 million bags anticipated next year. Even that may not be large enough to keep prices stable.
Coffee pickers wind through the vast Zaragoza coffee estate in Nicaragua, transporting their daily harvest to a central measuring station.
Nicaraguan coffee pickers, who generally travel from farm to farm during the harvest season, have seen their work dry up as rust affects more plants. By some estimates, the fungus has led to drops of as much as 40 percent of annual yields in parts of Central America.
Genetically Modified Coffee?
Combating rust has proven more elusive than Brazilian rain.
The fungus continues to mutate, appearing in Guatemala and Nicaragua in different strains than the one detected in Colombia. Most farmers douse plants in expensive fungicides, but there's little research on whether chemical treatments work on new strains of rust.
"We don't have the products or the tools to fight this disease," Carlos Torrebiarte, a Guatemalan coffee farmer, told an interviewer in 2012. His yield was expected to fall by 30 percent.
The solution, agriculture experts say, is to engineer new plants designed to withstand the attack of the fungus.
"The main strategy is to use genetics," says coffee researcher Schilling, who is overseeing some of the science funded by the multimillion dollar grant, to be administered by the U.S. Agency for International Development.
Members of Guatemala's Manos Campesinos coffee producers' cooperative bag every bean they can find on their drying patio in Loma Linda, a small coffee growing village in Western Guatemala where small scale producers have seen their farms ravaged by coffee leaf rust in recent years, pushing some farmers into financial ruin.
In light of the rust epidemic, coffee farmers in western Guatemala keep track of every bean they produce to make sure that none are lost in the process of harvesting, drying, and bagging the coffee.
Schilling's team is working to create rust-resistant seeds with hopes of replacing as many plants as possible in Central America that are susceptible to the fungus.
The biggest question may be whether farmers can be persuaded to let foreign scientists with genetically modified seeds swoop in to replant coffee fields.
Governments will likely need to subsidize the seeds. And nonprofits will have to ensure that those seeds are planted correctly. Many experts wonder if the process, unfolding over many seasons—some years without any yield at all—will drive farmers to try to find other work.
Luis Fernando Samper, a coffee marketer with the National Federation of Coffee Growers in Colombia, is confident that rust can be defeated over the next decade by replacing sick trees. For a fickle crop in a fickle climate, however, the challenges are likely to keep coming.

The Second Amendment. Feel Safer Now?

New Yorker Cartoon: Public Health For Gunslingers

Why The Republican Party Attracts Provocateurs, Faux Martyrs, And Grifters

The GOP’s Grifter Problem

Why the Republican Party attracts provocateurs, faux martyrs, and grifters in droves.

The Republican Party has a lot of problems, and if there’s one that doesn’t get enough attention, it’s the party’s broad appeal to provocateurs, faux martyrs, and grifters. Just look at the speakers list for the Republican Leadership Conference, which began on Thursday. There’s Donald Trump, the man who made “birtherism” a national cause; Herman Cain, whose presidential run was a glorified book tour; Dinesh D’Souza, who just pleaded guilty to a felony campaign finance violation, and Phil Robertson, the Duck Dynasty star who—like Cliven Bundy—believes black Americans were better off under racist oppression.

Jamelle Bouie is a Slate staff writer covering politics, policy, and race.

In fairness, I’m sure Robertson despises slavery. (Bundy, by contrast, wondered if blacks weren’t “better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things.”) He just thinks it wasn’t so bad under Jim Crow. “I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person,” said Robertson, discussing his childhood in Louisiana. “The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field. … They’re singing and happy.”
But whereas Bundy was condemned by every Republican under the sun— “Bundy’s comments are completely beyond the pale,” said Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee—Robertson became a conservative hero. Of course, the main difference is that Robertson got in trouble for his views on gays. “Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men,” he said.
On the right, this language isn’t beyond the pale. Or at least, it’s seen as a matter of religious expression, not bigotry. As such, conservatives defended Robertson as a victim of political correctness and religious intolerance. At National Review, Mark Steyncompared anti-Robertson activists to Soviet totalitarians: “Everything must be gayed. There must be Five-Year Gay Plans for American bakeries, and the Christian church, and reality TV.” Louisiana Rep. Vance McAllister brought one of Robertson’s sons to the State of the Union. At this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference, Robertson was celebrated and Sarah Palin canonized him for conservative America. “His fight was our fight and we pushed back and we won. And now everyone is happy, happy, happy,” she said.

If all of this sat in equal proportion to serious policymaking, it wouldn’t be a big deal. Annoying for liberals, but not a cause for concern. Unfortunately, in our world, the energy of the conservative movement—and thus the Republican Party—is geared toward these people. If you want money and attention, you could do worse than become a conservative provocateur. Right-wing resentment—stoked by impossible promises and harnessed through donations—built a fortune for Glenn Beck, a political career for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, and a burgeoning media empire for the late Andrew Breitbart.
Even if you think these lawmakers and activists are sincere—and I do—it’s hard not to see the whole operation as a perpetual swindle. Take the Affordable Care Act. With the re-election of President Obama, odds of repeal were slim-to-none. But rather than abandon the call for Obamacare repeal, conservative groups—and their allies in Congress—pushed further. Not because they thought it could happen, but because it was lucrative. As Robert Costa described for National Review at the time, “Business has boomed since the push to defund Obamacare caught on. Conservative activists are lighting up social media, donations are pouring in, and e-mail lists are growing.”
The message from groups such as the Senate Conservatives Fund was simple: You can repeal Obamacare! All it takes is a few friendly donations. Indeed, on its donation page, Heritage Action for America—the political arm of the Heritage Foundation, a right-wing think tank—asked supporters to “Please donate now to ensure we have the resources to fight and win.”
Every political movement has its opportunists, and there’s no doubt the Democratic Party has its share of grifters. But MSNBC doesn’t devote its commercial programming to selling gold, and failed Democrats aren’t running for president to drive their book sales. Simply put, there’s a huge market for grift on the right, and—aside from the ethics of it all—it’s a huge problem for the GOP.

Like with Bill Clinton in 1992, the election of Barack Obama in 2008 turned a lot of conservatives into easy marks for the worst provocateurs, who made millions with wild rumors and apocalyptic predictions. In turn, there’s a generation of Republican politicians who aren’t as interested in policy as they are in building clips for a gig on Fox News. As we saw with the GOP presidential primaries, it’s impossible to keep this from the general public. Eventually, mainstream Republicans will have to affirm extreme ideas (i.e., “self-deportation”) to pass muster with the conservative base, and in the process, hurt themselves with ordinary voters.
If Republicans want to avoid this for the next election cycle, they should ignore the Cains and D’Souzas of American politics. After all, the only thing worse than listening to grifters is encouraging them.

New Yorker Cartoon: Torture As God Intended It

New Yorker Cartoon: Theology Of Transmigration In The Absence Of Ego

New Yorker Cartoon: Semblance Of Community. Wherefore Art Thou Social Capital?

Video: Synchronized Leatherback Turtle Hatching. Hundreds Born In Six Minutes

Weird Enuf Fer Ya? News From Barbaria #91

New York mayor takes on Teamsters and Liam Neeson as he tries to ban horse carriages

Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s ‘great fear’: Aliens have been to Earth — and thought we were dumb

The age of climate warfare is here. The military-industrial complex is ready. Are you?

World War II plane crash remains discovered in western Canada after 71 years

Tenn. Democrat slams ex-federal prosecutor for denying racial profiling in ‘war on drugs’

Savage capitalism is back – and it won’t tame itself

U.S. Soldier Held Five Years By Taliban Released In Apparent Gitmo Prisoner Swap

Taliban Prisoner Swap Offer Sparks Emotions at Idaho POW Rally for U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl

Bob Bergdahl, father of captive U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, speaks at the “Bring Bowe Back” celebration held to honor Sgt. Bergdahl in Hailey, Idaho, Saturday, June 22, 2013. (Credit: AP)

Bowe Bergdahl, U.S. soldier held in Afghanistan, freed in apparent swap

By Ray Sanchez and Barbara Starr, CNN
updated 1:57 PM EDT, Sat May 31, 2014
(CNN) -- Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the American soldier held captive for nearly five years by militants during the Afghanistan war, has been released in exchange for five Guantanamo detainees, authorities said Saturday.
"Today the American people are pleased that we will be able to welcome home Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl," the White House said in a statement.
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said in a separate statement that he had informed Congress of the decision to transfer five detainees from Guantánamo Bay to Qatar.
"A few hours ago, the family of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was informed by President Obama that their long wait for his return will soon be over," Hagel said.
Photos: Americans detained abroadPhotos: Americans detained abroad
U.S. Army Sergeant released by Taliban
"Sgt. Bergdahl is now under the care of the U.S. military after being handed over by his captors in Afghanistan. We will give him all the support he needs to help him recover from this ordeal, and we are grateful that he will soon be reunited with his family."
A statement from Bergdahl's parents, Bob and Jani, said: "We were so joyful and relieved when President Obama called us today to give us the news that Bowe is finally coming home! We cannot wait to wrap our arms around our only son. We want to thank Bowe's many supporters in Idaho, around the nation and around the world. We thank the Amir of Qatar for his efforts. And of course, we want to take this opportunity to thank all those in the many U.S. Government agencies who never gave up. Today, we are ecstatic!"
A senior Defense official told CNN that the U.S. military recovered Bergdahl from his captors around 10:30 a.m. ET in a peaceful handover in eastern Afghanistan. U.S. special operations forces conducted the mission. There were 18 Taliban members present.
The official said that once on the U.S. helicopter, Bergdahl, 28, wrote on a paper plate, "SF?" meaning, "Special Forces?" He wrote because of the noise. The operators sitting with Bergdahl responded loudly, saying, "Yes, we've been looking for you for a long time."
Bergdahl broke down crying, the official recounted.
In exchange for Bergdahl's release, five detainees at Guantanamo Bay will be released to Qatar. The US has "appropriate assurances" that Qatar will be able to secure the detainees there. They are under a travel ban for a year.
The United States believes Bergdahl had been held for the bulk of his captivity in Pakistan, the official said. It was unclear when he was moved to Afghanistan.
The transfer was brokered through the local Qatari government, the official said. Talks for the transfer began about a week ago.
Bergdahl's parents happened to still be in Washington, having come for Memorial Day.
Bergdahl was being held at a forward operating base in Afghanistan.
Hagel said the United States "coordinated closely with Qatar to ensure that security measures are in place and the national security of the United States will not be compromised."
The White House said, "On behalf of the American people, I was honored to call his parents to express our joy that they can expect his safe return, mindful of their courage and sacrifice throughout this ordeal."
Bergdahl was deployed to Afghanistan in May 2009 and captured by the Taliban on June 30, 2009, in Paktika province.

In July of that year, a U.S. military official said the soldier was being held by the clan of warlord Siraj Haqqani.

New Yorker Cartoon: The Gender Divide

La Vida es Sueño: "Life A Dream At Best, And Even Dreams Themselves Are Dreams"

Segismundo's Soliloquy
La Vida es SueñoLife Is A Dream
Pedro Calderón de la Barca, 1635
(close of Act II)
The king dreams he is a king,
And in this delusive way
Lives and rules with sovereign sway;
All the cheers that round him ring,
Born of air, on air take wing.
And in ashes (mournful fate!)
Death dissolves his pride and state:
Who would wish a crown to take,
Seeing that he must awake
In the dream beyond death's gate?


'Tis a dream that I in sadness
Here am bound, the scorn of fate;
'Twas a dream that once a state
I enjoyed of light and gladness.
What is life? 'Tis but a madness.
What is life? A thing that seems,
A mirage that falsely gleams,
Phantom joy, delusive rest,
Since is life a dream at best,
And even dreams themselves are dreams.

Life Is A Dream

Pedro Calderón de la Barca y Barreda González de Henao Ruiz de Blasco y Riaño - a name usually shortened to Pedro Calderón de la Barca
It is seldom noted that Calderón spent the last 30 years of his life as a Catholic priest.

Excerpt:  Calderón's themes tended to be complex and philosophical, and express complicated states of mind in a manner that few playwrights have been able to manage. Like Baltasar Gracián, Calderón favoured only the deepest human feelings and dilemmas.

Ammosexuals Blame Anything But Guns For Latest Mass Shooting

Think this picture is an exaggeration? Try listening to an ammosexual slobber over how much they need their guns someday.
Alan: This article is not "up my rhetorical alley" but I love the term "ammosexual." 


"Gun Cartoons and Gun Violence Bibliography"

Remember when “politicizing a tragedy” was frowned upon by conservatives? Yeah, those days are gone. Now it’s Autism! Video Games! Homosexuality! Women! Seth Rogan? Right now, the ammosexual right is furiously trying to distract from the latest gun massacre and use it to advance their socially regressive agenda. They’re throwing every excuse at the wall like monkeys flinging poop to see which one sticks. Here’s Erick Erickson of’s handful of crap:
In a “war on women” culture, some vocal voices have seized on this as what happens to men questing for a fully masculine culture. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.
Best we can tell, Elliot Rodger lived the very lifestyle the cultural left thinks men should live and that is regularly glorified on the silver screen. For all the talk of a “War on Women,” there has actually been a war on masculinity for a few decades. And more and more twenty-something young men are getting lost and acting out while society tries to find something new to replace the tried and true.
See? Elliot Rodger was the victim! If only liberals would have let him behave like a knuckle-dragging Neanderthal, he wouldn’t have gone out and behaved like a knuckle-dragging Neanderthal. Or something. Look, buddy! Don’t think about it, OK?! Just accept that liberals are to blame and not guns!
But even if nothing sticks, Erickson and his monstrous cohort will make so much noise that the real culprit: the ease with which a person with known mental illness was able to buy a gun, will be lost. And that’s the point: Don’t discuss guns! NEVER discuss guns! Discussing guns as the source of gun violence might lead to common sense restrictions on who can buy them. And as
ranting lunaticsammosexualsimbeciles “everyone” knows, keeping the mentally ill, violent criminals and potential terrorists from buying gun inevitably leads to
less profits for the gun industry a ban on all guns, tyranny and/or the Holocaust.
Erickson’s nonsense is straight out of the NRA’s playbook of smoke and mirrors and I hope he enjoys cashing his blood soaked check from Wayne LaPierre. If success is measured by the inanity of the “don’t blame guns!” excuse, Erickson is due for a bonus.