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Monday, 19 January 2015

Secularism: France's biggest illusion

muslim attacks france

With controversial headline “This brazen Islam” a French magazine in 2012 claimed Muslims were infiltrating hospitals, cafeterias, swimming pools, schools

Commentators in France and elsewhere have taken the recent terrorist attacks in Paris as an occasion to reflect more broadly about Muslims in France. Many read the attacks as a sign of French Muslims' refusal to integrate. They've asked whether Muslims can be fully secular and expressed doubt as whether one can be both Muslim and French.

Even as we try to make sense of what happened, however, we should be wary of myths about French secularism (laïcité) and French citizenship being spun in the aftermath of the attacks.

France understands itself and is often accepted as a preeminent secular nation that fully separates church and state and restricts religion to the private sphere.

The reality is more complicated, as more than 10 years of research on this issue have taught me.

In 1905, a major law officially separated church and state in France, though it did not go into effect in the northeastern region of Alsace-Moselle, which was under Prussian rule at the time. Even when Alsace-Moselle was reintegrated into France, however, it remained exempt from the 1905 law, and Catholicism, Calvinism, Lutheranism, and Judaism are still officially recognized religions in the region. As a result, religious education in one of those religions is obligatory for public-school students and the regional government pays the salaries of clergy of the four recognized religions.

Other exceptions to the separation of church and state

The 1905 law itself contains a number of exceptions. For instance, though it forbids government financing of new religious buildings, it allows the government to pay maintenance costs for religious edifices built before 1905 - most of them Catholic churches. Thanks to later laws, the state also subsidizes private religious schools, most of them Catholic, some of them Jewish. And there exist other traces of Catholicism within the education system, like a public school calendar organized around Catholic holy days and public school cafeterias that serve fish on Fridays.

However, when Muslim French request the kind of accommodations offered to other religious communities in France, for example, state-funded Muslim schools, a school calendar that incorporates Muslim holy days, and the official recognition of Islam in Alsace-Moselle, they are reminded that France is a secular country where proper citizenship requires separating religion from public life.

Muslim appeals for religious accommodation are claims to civic equality within the existing parameters of laïcité. Yet those appeals paradoxically become the basis for questioning Muslims' fitness as proper French citizens, by both right-leaning French Catholics and left-leaning French secularists.

Discrimination against Muslims

French Muslims are also caught in the contradictions of the French model of citizenship. The French state ostensibly recognizes individuals as individuals rather than as members of a community, but it also consistently discriminates against minorities.Because France refuses to recognize communal identities, however, it is difficult to voice claims of discrimination based on communal belonging. For example, because citizens are supposed to forgo particular racial, cultural, and religious attachments in lieu of a French national identity, the state refuses to collect census data about racial or religious belonging. This makes it hard to gauge racial and other disparities in government, higher education, and the workplace.

Yet social science research shows that nonwhite immigrants and their descendants as a group suffer systematic discrimination on the basis of their race, culture, and religion.

Indeed, race and religion come together in the term "Muslim," used to identify a population of North and West African descent whose members a few decades earlier were referred to as immigrants and foreigners, or with terms that marked their ethnicity (e.g. Arabs). Muslim citizens and residents suffer disproportionately high levels of unemployment and face discrimination in the hiring process. CVs with Muslim-sounding names are often rejected on that basis alone, and Muslims are disproportionately imprisoned, due in part to racial profiling and differential treatment in the criminal justice system. Muslim children attend overcrowded, underfunded public schools.

Moreover, in recent years, the public practice of Islam has become increasingly difficult: a 2004 law bans the wearing of headscarves in public school and a 2010 law bans the face veils in all public spaces. Veiled women have been refused entry to university classes, banks, and doctors' offices.

Neutral laws that are not neutral

muslim attacks france


We too are the nation campaign poster CC

However, because the republican model of citizenship refuses to recognize communal claims, anyone claiming to be the target of anti-Muslim discrimination only reinforces their communal difference from self- described "native" French. Moreover, much discriminatory legislation, including the two veil laws, is couched in neutral terms even as it clearly targets certain Islamic practices. The 2004 law against headscarves, for instance, bans "conspicuous religious signs" and the 2010 law against face-veils bans "the dissimulation of the face." When Muslim French call attention to this problem, they are met with charges of , of thinking and talking too much as Muslims rather than as French citizens. Not surprisingly, the Collective Against Islamophobia in France (CCIF) is often accused of "communalism."

Even when Muslims make explicit claims to being French - and the vast majority does - those claims are rejected. In a telling incident, the Paris transit authority in 2012 refused to display an advertisement by the CCIF because of its "religious character" and "political demands." The ad, part of the CCIF's "We too are the nation" () campaign, reimagined the painter David's French Revolution-era "Tennis Court Oath" in the present, with veiled women, Arab men in hoodies, and visibly orthodox Jews, among other citizens, holding aloft French flags and copies of the oath pledging revolutionary ideals. The CCIF thereby affirmed their commitment to France, symbolically inscribing themselves into the French nation as original .

Rather than stemming from Muslims' rejection of Frenchness, then, the supposed impossibility of being a Muslim and being a French citizen is largely generated by the contradictions of French secularism and French citizenship and by the majority's inability to conceive of Muslims as French.

We should not deny the horror of January 6. But, in its aftermath, rather than uncritically reaffirm French national identity and wring our hands about Muslims' refusal to integrate, we should use this moment of reflection to understand the various ways in which Muslims are consistently excluded from the nation, and to reassess the narrow bases of what it means to be French.

The Republic Unsettled: Muslim French and the Contradictions of Secularism

Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.

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Brazil power company orders rolling blackouts due to increased demand in record breaking heat

© Eletronuclear.gov.br

Admiral Álvaro Alberto Nuclear Power Station

Rolling blackouts swept across parts of Brazil on Monday as the grid operator ordered select power cuts to avoid a larger crisis, drawing attention to a fragile electric system that is buckling under the strains of record-breaking heat and dryness.

Grid operator ONS said it orchestrated 2,200 megawatts of controlled outages in eight states as the hottest day of the year in Sao Paulo, where the temperature hit 36.5 Celsius (97.7 Fahrenheit), and other southeastern cities led to surging demand from air conditioners and other power-hungry appliances.

Eletronuclear, a unit of state-run power company Eletrobras , said nuclear reactor Angra I powered down automatically at 2:49 p.m. local time (1649 GMT) due to a drop in frequency on the national grid. The company said there were no risks to workers or the environment due to the stoppage.

Brazilian officials have repeatedly denied the need for energy rationing, even as the driest spell in more than 80 years drains hydropower reserves and forces the use of more costly thermal plants. The drought has also raised the specter of water rationing in Sao Paulo, Brazil's business hub and South America's largest metropolitan area.

Shares of electric companies tumbled on the Sao Paulo stock exchange, dragging an industry index nearly 5 percent lower as news of the power cuts spread. CPFL Energia SA fell more than 7 percent, while AES Eletropaulo, Light SA and Copel each lost around 6 percent.

A privately run subway concession in Sao Paulo, ViaQuatro, said it suffered an electric failure at 2:35 p.m. After 90 minutes ViaQuatro said it had restored service to part of the subway line, but two downtown stations remained closed.

ONS said the national grid was back to normal by 3:45 p.m. after controlled outages affecting less than 5 percent of the system's total demand.

Power companies have already been struggling under President Dilma Rousseff, who rattled investors by unexpectedly forcing down electric rates in an effort to fight inflation.

Rousseff's new economic team, which took office at the start of her second term this month, has said utilities will be able to raise power rates this year. A government source told Reuters on Friday that rates could rise as much as 60 percent this year.

Separately on Monday, Finance Minister Joaquim Levy laid out a series of tax increases on fuel, imports and consumer loans, but he held off major announcements for the electric sector.

Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.

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Plunging oil prices could hurt sales of electric and hyrbid cars

© AFP Photo / ANP / Lex Van Lieshout

Gas-guzzling cars are gaining favor once again, as low oil prices are cheapening petrol, driving consumers away from more economic and expensive eco-friendly models.

Both Brent and West Texas Intermediate crude have fallen below $50 per barrel, greatly cheapening the cost of refined products such as gasoline and petroleum.

In the US, gasoline for cars is selling for about $2 per gallon according to the Automobile Association of America (AAA). In Dallas, Texas, a nationwide record was set on Saturday of $1.30 per gallon.

Last week oil prices fell to six year lows, with Brent and WTI both dropping below $45 a barrel for the first time since 2009.

Consumers in the two biggest markets - China and the US - are reacting to this trend, skipping fuel-efficient vehicles in favor of luxury cars, SUVs, and big trucks.

In America there are over 250,000 full electric and plug-in cars, and if sales continue their strong upward trend, that number is set to keep growing. However, the figure is still short of President Barack Obama's goals of 1 million electric vehicles on the road. The Obama administration also will require automakers to increase fuel efficiency from 35.5 miles per gallon (mpg) in 2016, to 54.5 mpg by 2025.

© Ycharts.com

According to the Electric Drive Transportation Association, electric and plug-in cars, combined with hybrids, make up 3.6 percent of the car market. The sales boost was helped by crude oil prices being at a historical high since 2008.

In Europe, it's another story. Unlike other countries, the US doesn't impose federal taxes on gasoline. In Norway, a gallon of gasoline costs more than $9 dollars, and in Turkey, more than $8. For many European drivers, the investment in buying electric still pays off.

In the US at the current level of $2 gallon gas, someone shopping for an electric car can only expect to make back money the saved in fuel in 14 years, according to Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas.

The stock price of Tesla Motors, which exclusively sells plug-in vehicles, have been hit hard by falling oil prices, with shares losing 15 percent in the last six months, currently trading at $193 per share, down from its year high of $224.

Solar, wind, and other renewables will likely not face the same fate as electric cars, since petroleum is not used to generate electricity, Adnan Amin, the Director-General of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), told the FT.

"We don't see a direct impact of oil prices on power generation," Amin said.

However, he warned that low oil prices could spur low natural gas prices and eventually pose a threat to wind and solar power generators.

Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.

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French terror attacks contribute to Israeli's isolation

David Ward

David Ward

There are two big opposing political memes touching on Zionism in the wake of the Paris terror attacks. One is that Europe is unsafe for Jews. This idea is the very basis of Zionism. Our site will be chronicling the upsurge in this belief because it is an important news story: more and more Zionists are expressing it. (Abe Foxman: "if France doesn't heal itself, ultimately, the Jews will leave." Commentary: Muslims pose the threat of another Holocaust: "Jews in France - and, given certain trends, elsewhere in Europe, from Great Britain to Scandinavia - have to consider their literal survival.")

The other meme is a bit quieter, but it's out there: Israel is losing legitimacy in the eyes of the world because it discriminates on a religious basis and occupies Palestine and is causing problems for the west. The country's claim to be a Jewish democracy is an anachronism in our age, and one that sticks out like a sore thumb in the wake of Gaza. The people who express fears about the Jewish place in Europe tend to deny that Israel's actions have anything to do with European or Muslim attitudes about Jews. But even these advocates are painfully aware of Israel's delegitimization.

Here are a few reports reflecting that trend. First, "Israel faces worsening isolation," the Israeli Foreign Ministry says in a new classified report, published by :

Israel's worsening position on the world stage is expected to decline further in 2015, claims a Foreign Ministry report, which warns that more sanctions could be on the way.

The classified document, sent by the Foreign Ministry to Israeli missions worldwide, warns of possible diplomatic damage to Israel due to "moves to mark settlement products, stop the supply of replacement parts; debates on sanctions against Israel; demands for compensation for damage caused by Israel to European projects in the Palestinian territories; European activity in Area C, under Israeli rule; and more."

French independence of Israel is an important part of the trend, says, as BDS gains traction in Europe:

The document lists a series of economic sanctions and boycotts imposed as a result of the freeze in peace talks with the Palestinians, which are expected to seriously hurt Israel.

"The Europeans are creating a clear connection between diplomatic relations and economic ones (and) in this context, it is important to note that Europe is Israel's main trading partner," the document states.

This deterioration is reflected, among other things, "in independent French activity, including at the UN Security Council, and in the heightening of negative signals sent to Israel."

And even the relationship with the U.S. is at stake!

The academic boycott against Israel could also escalate. Universities in Europe and the United States are expected to push for a halt in cooperation with Israeli academic institutes.

The classified document further warns that "American influence is successful, at present, in delaying practical decisions until after the elections in Israel. But in the wake of the systematic Palestinian policy to move the conflict to the UN arena, there's no guarantee the US will continue using its veto rights after elections."

These changes represent a legitimization crisis for Israel. When Netanyahu marched in Paris for political freedom last week, a Liberal Democrat British politician tweeted that the sight made him sick and, "Je Suis Palestinian." Just tweets, you'd think. But Daniel Taub, Israel's ambassador to Britain, sent a defensive letter to the head of the politician's party condemning the comments:

"At a time when leaders were united in condemnation of extremist atrocities, Mr [David] Ward's statement is a disgraceful attempt to politicise suffering, delegitimise Israel, and justify acts of terror."

Ward and other liberal European politicians are concerned that Israel is hurting European security. As the reports, one French mosque leader says that young Muslims are drawn to extremist groups because Israel is killing Palestinian babies.

Andrew Levine at says that Gaza changed everything, and people are quietly running for the exits. In "The Delegitimization of Israel." Levine says that the U.S. will abandon Israel ultimately, as liberal Zionists are forced to admit that the project was always about ethnic supremacy:

There is little doubt that, despite the best efforts of the entire corporate media system, Gaza had an impact on American public opinion. All indications are that it has had a far greater impact on public opinion in Europe. It has certainly affected the attitudes of European governments.

Something like this was bound to happen eventually. Israel has been exhausting moral capital from the moment of its inception, and there is a limit to how long a country can get by on empty.

Congress will be the last to bolt, with the White House close behind. But bolt they will - someday...

liberal Zionists are coming to the realization that the only way Israel can survive as a Jewish state in the long run is by suppressing the political and national rights of the majority of people living within the borders it craves. It can be, as they say, Jewish or democratic, but not both.

It could hardly ever have been otherwise. Zionism was a colonial project aimed at establishing the supremacy of ethnic Jews over the land's indigenous population.

Therefore, from the outset, Israel was an ethnocratic settler state. Liberal Zionists could deny this reality for a while; they could live with the contradiction. But those days are over.

Lastly, Orly Noy at states that Israel is becoming a "pariah" state. In a piece titled, "The real reason why Netanyahu wants French Jews to move to Israel" she makes the connection between the two memes. Israeli persecution of Palestinians exploits and fosters Jewish insecurity in Europe:

On the face of it, Netanyahu's call [for French Jews to move to Israel] is so baseless that it forces us to look for the incentive being offered to France's Jews. ...Why move to a country that is being torn apart by internal conflict - one that is seen as a pariah in the eyes of a growing number of countries around the world? Why move to country whose belligerent actions are partially responsible for the growing lack of security among Jewish communities in Europe and other places?

I can think of one incentive alone: the privilege of formally being placed above the Muslim . To have the right to live in a country that prefers you simply because you are Jewish. And even if you have never set foot here, this state will grant you privileges over its non-Jewish residents who have lived here for generations. Netanyahu is actually saying: in France you are a weak Jew - vulnerable and under attack. The Israeli experience will provide you with a uniform and a flag, in whose name you can rule as masters.

Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.

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CyberBerkut hacktivists leak docs suggesting Volnovakha bus attack was a false flag

The bus shelling incident in Volnovakha could have been organized by the Security Service of Ukraine, hackers from CyberBerkut group claim, publishing compromised SBU documents on the official website of the network.

Hackers released letters and cryptograms of the Anti-Terrorist Center of the SBU, confirming that the attack could have been planned and carried out by SBU Office in Donetsk region. The documents also contained information about how Ukrainian security forces used the incident for political purposes.

In a 'confidential' letter from January 13, SBU first deputy head Basil Gritsak instructed Gennady Kuznetsov, head of the center "A" of SBU Anti-Terrorist Center, to carry out a provocative campaign, aimed at laying the blame for civilian deaths on independence supporters in Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republic. Gritsak ordered "to plan and submit proposals for provocative actions, which would help to charge DNR and LNR militias with civilian deaths".

CyberBerkut also published a cryptogram, where employees of the SBU Office in Donetsk reported they had implemented "propaganda campaign to make the required informational impact on Ukraine's population". The cryptogram was sent from SBU Office in Donetsk region to Kiev and Kramatorsk. The network also released a list of media publications, accusing independence supporters of shelling the bus.

The passenger bus was shelled near Volnovakha south of the city of Donetsk on January 13. The incident left 10 people dead and 17 injured. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko accused independence supporters from the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) of the attack. The DPR denied its involvement and called Poroshenko's statement a provocation, explaining that DPR artillery was based too far away to reach the town or its neighborhoods.

Comment: Here is a partial translation of the leaked document (translation by Sott.net):

From: Mariupol, Department of the security service of Ukraine in Donetsk

To: Kiev, Head of Department of the security service of Ukraine colonel Dublik A.J.

About carrying out of the information campaign to blame DNR and LNR in death of civilians.

To reach the goal of the information campaign the Department takes proper propaganda and counter-propaganda measures to form a necessary information impact on the population of Ukraine.

As part of the planned measures to discredit terror organisation DNR there has been published information material under the title ,A shell by Volnovaha exploded next to passengers bus. 10 people killed" on the popular regional internet resources ,News of Donbass" (_http://novosti.dn.ua/details/242457) and ,In the city" (_http://dn.vgorode.ua/news/sobytyia/248106). Additionally an article under the title ,DNR shelled an Ukrainian checkpoint by Volnovaha: 10 civilians killed".

As part of the propaganda campaign we organized an interview with soldiers of the battalion ,Kiev-2" who were in the immediate vicinity to the checkpoint by Volnovaha. The mentioned interview will be published shortly on the popular internet channel ,Hromadske.tv" (_https://www.youtube.com/user/HromadskeZP) under the title ,Shelling of a checkpoint by Volnovaha. Witnesses' report." The purpose of this interview is to blame DNR and LNR in killing passengers of the bus at Volnovaha at 13.01.2015.

Moreover, on our initiative on the pages of high-ranking internet resource ,0629" were published articles ,On the route Donetsk-Mariupol militants struck artillery attack on a bus. 10 people died" (_http://www.0629.com.ua/news/710328) and ,The cause of death of people near Volnovaha - certainly not mine, - expert opinion" (_http://www.0629.com.ua/article/712305), the contents of which explains to readers who really has been fighting in eastern Ukraine, breaking Minsk cease-fire agreement on a bilateral basis, and the consequences for the civilian population of Ukraine they lead to.

In order to create the necessary information impact on the population of Europe and the United States on the pages of a popular internet resource "Ukraine@war"an article "Bus with civilians hit at Ukrainian checkpost near Volnovakha" has been published (_http://ukraineatwar.blogspot.com/2015/01/volnovakha.html) , where by bringing graphic materials, in the tragedy at Volnovaha the so-called "Donetsk People's Republic" (DNR) was blamed.

Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.

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How ironic: US calls ICC decision to investigate Gaza onslaught 'tragic irony'

Fatou Bensouda

Fatou Bensouda

The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court yesterday opened a "preliminary examination into the situation in Palestine," with the possibility of a full-blown investigation of Israeli war crimes during last summer's Gaza onslaught; and the US is standing steadfastly behind Israel.

The says Israelis have responded in fury to the announcement by prosecutor Fatou Bensouda.

Israel's foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman... said Israel would seek to disband the court, which he described as an anti-Israel institution that "embodies hypocrisy and grants a tailwind to terrorism."

... the investigation, infused with internationally recognized legality and credibility, was one that the Israelis had sought to prevent. "It's like she turned the key in the ignition of the judicial vehicle," Richard Dicker, director of the international justice program at Human Rights Watch, said of Ms. Bensouda.

The U.S. government deplored the decision as a "tragic irony" in a statement last night. Palestine is not a state and Israel should not be investigated because it has a right to defend itself from thousands of rockets, the State Department's Jeff Rathke said:

We strongly disagree with the ICC Prosecutor's action today. As we have said repeatedly, we do not believe that Palestine is a state and therefore we do not believe that it is eligible to join the ICC. It is a tragic irony that Israel, which has withstood thousands of terrorist rockets fired at its civilians and its neighborhoods, is now being scrutinized by the ICC. The place to resolve the differences between the parties is through direct negotiations, not unilateral actions by either side. We will continue to oppose actions against Israel at the ICC as counterproductive to the cause of peace.

Writes Jamil Dakwar:

How in the world seeking int'l justice & accountability for war crimes is "counterproductive to the cause of peace."

The ICC says that Palestine has standing at the ICC since its accession to the Rome Statute at the beginning of the year:

The Office considers that, since Palestine was granted observer State status in the UN by the UNGA, it must be considered a "State" for the purposes of accession to the Rome Statute (in accordance with the "all States" formula).

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu released a statement on the Sabbath, linking Palestinian attacks on Israel with the Paris massacre of Jews last week. He also mentioned the thousands of rockets and suggested that Israel will seek to delegitimize the ICC itself.

"It is an outrage that, mere days after terrorists massacred Jews in France, the general prosecutor launches an inquiry into the Jewish State - because we are defending our people from Hamas, a terror organization that is allied with the Palestinian Authority and whose war criminals fired thousands of missiles on Israeli citizens...

Israel categorically rejects the statement by the ICC prosecutor. The Palestinian Authority is not a state and therefore there is no place, also according to the ICC's own regulations, for such a probe. The absurdity of the decision is even greater since the PA is cooperating with Hamas, a terrorist organization that commits war crimes. Israel is fighting terrorism while upholding international law and has an independent judiciary.

The decision by the ICC is a complete reversal of the original objectives that were at the basis of the founding of the ICC, which was founded following the mass killing of six million Jews by the Nazis.

Now, there are those who wish to use this court against the Jewish state, which is defending itself from murderous terror that attacks Israel as well as the entire world."

The says that the investigation could take months or years. Writes Donald Johnson:

I don't know if the Palestinians can trust the court. I don't know enough about the sorts of pressures that could be put on them and if they decide not to prosecute or worse, only prosecute Palestinians it would be a total disaster. The only good part about this is that Israel is worried, but it could backfire. We almost always know beyond a reasonable doubt when countries are guilty of war crimes - it's not like the trial of an individual when one knows a murder has occurred but the guilt of a particular individual has to be established. Here, of course, the claim is that the murders were self defense or accidental, but that question only comes up in this case because Western countries have this elaborate charade in place where they can bomb when and where they want and pretend that civilian deaths were accidental and the fault of the "terrorist" enemy. The State Department hack who raised the thousands of rockets issue and sided with Israel was what you'd expect, and it shows once again that the US government is hypocritical as always when it comes to terrorism.

Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.

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Transforming trauma into recovery

With unusual honesty, Barry Lessin highlights the indefatigable work and refusal to submit to multiple frustrations and setbacks that is often required in psychotherapy with challenging clients. He describes how his long-term work with a woman whose history of severe sexual, physical and emotional abuse leads to hope and healing in a larger family context. This piece lays bare the complexity of mental health and addiction work, allowing old wounds to heal in a atmosphere of trust and safety. -Richard Juman

Each person's path to recovery is unique. Because the possible combinations of life history, pre-morbid personality and substance misuse are practically infinite, my work as an addiction psychologist is always intriguing. I look forward to each opportunity to share in my clients' journeys.

By the time people see me for consultations about their substance-using family member, they're generally feeling pretty battered and bruised. Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness often aren't far behind, but the very fact that they present for treatment indicates that they still believe that change can happen. That part of the family psyche is my ally in treatment, the aspect that I rely on to help me move the family forward to a new way of responding to problems and, ultimately, a new paradigm for operating as a system. Here, things get even more complicated when a woman's history of trauma and substance misuse have multiple ramifications on the work that we do as a family around her son's substance misuse.

Transforming trauma

"Nancy" (details of her treatment and experience are modified to protect privacy) initially entered treatment because her increased drinking was beginning to affect both her own self-esteem and her family relationships. As we explored the reasons for her drinking, it became apparent that symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), stemming from a childhood of severe abuse, were becoming more debilitating. She also was worried about the fact that her pattern of compulsive sexual behavior was becoming increasingly more dangerous.

A feeling of dread settled over me when she shared about her sexual compulsivity. For me, the easy part about being an addictions therapist is treating the substance use, itself. And although working with a co-occurring mental health issue like PTSD will require me to pull my sleeves up and get my hands dirty, I relish these moments because this is where the greatest opportunity for change occurs and guiding this process is exciting. Sexual compulsivity and sex addiction add another layer of complexity, often requiring group and marital therapy in addition to individual therapy.

Nancy's basic sense of safety and trust in the world was shattered when as a young girl she was the victim of ongoing physical, sexual and emotional abuse. Although the details of the abuse were important for her healing from trauma in her own individual treatment, which has lasted for many years, what's essential here is to convey an understanding of how the trauma affected her, how she responded to it, and how the insights and coping skills she gained from her treatment contributed to managing present stressors more effectively.

Initially, Nancy saw her drinking problem as revolving around her social life and self confidence, saying "I can't have any fun going out unless I drink." She worked diligently to resolve her alcohol misuse problem, starting by reducing her drinking, and then eventually choosing abstinence. As she made progress cutting back on her drinking, though, her PTSD symptoms became more prominent and disruptive, frequently leaving her feeling "like I'm going crazy and need to numb myself out."

She eventually learned that she also used alcohol to manage her PTSD symptoms. Her treatment then focused on developing other strategies for managing her PTSD symptoms and she now drinks only on rare social occasions. Bolstered by her success in managing her drinking, she agreed to attend a specialized outpatient therapy group for sex addiction while continuing to work with me individually. The group provided important peer support, furthered her insight into the reasons for her self-destructive behaviors and facilitated healing from her childhood of trauma. Combined with our individual work, she learned to manage the triggers and urges that were associated with her harmful behaviors, and eventually was able to eliminate them.

Resilience and multigenerational family recovery

While continuing in individual psychotherapy with me, her youngest child's ("Rick") ongoing substance use problem became an ongoing major stressor for Nancy, her husband and their family. Now a young adult, Rick was born with a life-threatening medical condition that required 24/7 vigilance for the first 15 months of his life to monitor and prevent breathing stoppage. Later, Rick also had challenging mental health and learning issues as a young boy and a significant substance use disorder starting in adolescence. His heroin addiction has been a prominent issue for the past six years, so even as Nancy came to be able to appreciate the freedom of her own recovery, Rick's worsening addiction bogged her down. Although the entire family was impacted by Rick's addiction, for Nancy in particular, her son's addiction re-energized many of the issues that she struggled with in her own mental health and addiction recovery:

The fact that she had been the primary caregiver responsible for literally keeping Rick alive during the early years of his life created a unique bond and attachment that exists today. This attachment has, at times, made it very difficult to establish the emotional boundaries that she needed in order to be better able to provide support for her son's needs while maintaining her own mental health.

  • Her experience of tremendous guilt about her drinking as she parented Rick and his two older siblings, without receiving much in the way of emotional support from her husband.

  • Her own parenting, which occurred in the shadow of the abuse that she received from her own parents, always colored her experience of herself as a parent, contributing to uncertainty and low self-esteem. She saw herself, largely as a result of distorted beliefs, as we will see below, continuing the pattern of the abusive parenting from the previous generation.

  • Rick's frequent flirting with death, through his addiction and his own suicidal wishes, often triggered the feelings of depression, helplessness, hopelessness and suicidal ideation that are chronic issues for Nancy.

An essential component in my work with families is incorporating the CRAFT (Community Reinforcement and Family Training) approach. CRAFT is an evidence-based approach that uses non-confrontational methods to encourage loved ones to enter into treatment. A significant feature of this approach is that it helps family members embrace their existing strengths and resources, empowering them to improve their lives independently of the substance user.

In Nancy's situation, I had the luxury, so to speak, of already being highly aware of her emotional log-jams as well as her profound resources because of the work we were doing, and the progress she was making in her individual psychotherapy. As a barometer of her progress in managing her PTSD symptoms, while we initially had phone calls between sessions when she was overwhelmed by symptoms, she later was able to calm herself by listening to my voice-mail greeting, and eventually was able to settle herself down without additional assistance from me.

I was witness to her fierce determination to heal, and saw the results in our family sessions, in which her husband and children confirmed her nurturing presence in their lives and the strong, healthy relationships she maintains with them and her grandchildren. This shift was huge for Nancy because initially the guilt from her drinking while her children were young was debilitating, leading her to say things like, "I'm a horrible parent, I'm damaging my kids just like my parents damaged me." Her perceptual distortions and feelings of powerlessness from her PTSD, led her to often comment, "I live in fear that I'm going to abuse my kids in the same way." These fears eventually dissipated when her grandchildren were born, allowing her to authentically connect with her nurturing instincts and say, "I see how much my kids love me and I'm proud of that."

I must admit my patience can get sorely tested when I work with clients with severe trauma. Their skills, strength and resilience are laid out to me like a gift to work with, but their trauma defenses prevent them from acknowledging or accessing it until the healing process moves forward. I frequently found myself yelling in my head to Nancy: "Why can't you see you're an amazing parent? It's right in front of you!" I often have to remind myself to slow down, that emotional trauma is like a wound and the process of healing requires an atmosphere of safety and time to repair.

All of this gave me a perspective that allowed me to trust that she's always had the instincts to do what's best for her family. These sessions, and the insights that came out of them, fostered the development of healthier boundaries for herself and improved communications within the family context.

Nancy struggled mightily with parental boundaries because she was convinced that she was an "enabler," feeling enormous responsibility for Rick's struggles. When my clients talk about being enablers I want to scream. My job helping families create healthier boundaries is made much harder by the myth of the enabler, which shifts natural parental love and nurturing into a badge of shame and failure. The enabling myth is a remnant from the one-size-fits-all "tough love" approach, which prevents struggling family members from maintaining a connection to the only people who truly care about them.

The trauma of the ongoing abuse that Nancy experienced as a child contributed to a psychological default position in which the world is an unsafe, frightening place- a world view experienced by many victims of this type of abuse. She struggled for many years with severe anxiety, hypervigilance, depression with suicidal ideation, dissociation and intrusive memories that were highly disruptive to her everyday functioning.

Much of our work focused on developing strategies for managing her disruptive PTSD symptoms, a process that included helping her understand how PTSD symptoms can be functional. For example, Nancy's hypervigilance, and her ability to compartmentalize feelings via dissociation, were actually advantageous in the sense that they helped her take good care of Rick during his childhood illness. They also made her an expert at crisis management, a skill necessary to deal with her son's lifelong mental health and substance use issues. Obviously, the downside of these adaptive characteristics is that over time they can take a severe physical and emotional toll. It can feel like a switch that's turned on to high volume, and at times, can't be easily turned off. Sometimes these symptoms of Nancy's were triggered by events associated with the original abuse, but at other times they would appear seemingly without connection to any trigger.

For example, there were times during therapy sessions when Nancy's face would glaze over and although she'd be participating in the conversation, it was clear that she was not emotionally present and able to benefit from our interaction. This is a sign of dissociating and it gave me an opportunity to witness this process with her, help her make a connection with what triggered the episode and give her in-vivo tools to help ground herself and feel safer while processing the unsettling material.

Psychotherapy enabled her to understand the aspects of her PTSD symptoms that served as positive coping skills, empower her to creatively embrace their benefits, while also learning the mindfulness skills she needed to regain the balance needed to manage the emotional disruption they can cause.

Enhancing empowerment and hope

Families struggling with addiction benefit from measures of hope to help them move forward. The stage of change model demonstrates that change is not a single threshold that we step over, but a dynamic, ongoing process. As described here, we don't change all at once, but rather, in stages (Precontemplation, Contemplation, Preparation, Action and Maintenance). Interestingly, and unfortunately, with substance use we often ignore this natural process and expect people to just stop using and change their lifestyle all at once.

It's important to understand that the stages aren't mutually exclusive and people generally don't move through them in a linear way. With most significant changes, adjustment is a stepwise process in which the individual takes small positive steps forward but may often move backwards until the confidence to move forward returns again.

For Nancy, the stages of change model has been particularly useful in helping her gain understanding of her own journey through multiple addictions as well as in pursuit of an understanding of her son's problems. For most of Nancy's adult life, she was firmly in the precontemplation stage of recovery with respect to alcohol, followed by a few years of contemplation once she began treatment; and preparation, action and maintenance followed relatively quickly. When Nancy made enough progress to see that drinking alcohol made her dissociation worse, she more clearly saw the downside of drinking and it helped move her from the contemplation stage to the preparation stage. In contrast, her path to recovery for sex addiction was marked by a short period of precontemplation, a very long time in contemplation, a longer time in preparation and action before arriving in maintenance. Mountains of guilt and shame from her sex addiction bogged her down in the contemplation stage but her participation in the support group helped to chip away at these emotions and eventually made her more willing to tackle the difficult work in preparation and action stages. (Of course, Nancy's struggles for recovery were not as linear as this I'm simplifying here for the sake of example.)

A turning point for Nancy occurred when she saw the processes of change in her own addiction recovery being mirrored by the process that she, and her family, were going through in understanding and accepting Rick's addiction. Nancy was agonizing in a session that she didn't know how much more she could take of her rollercoaster life with Rick. He had just returned to jail for the third time; this time a two-year-sentence awaited him for a probation violation after doing really well for about nine months at a sober living home. "I'm sick. I'm done. Maybe tough love is the best way to go, because I can't take this anymore," she exclaimed.

Together, we took a step back and looked at Rick's recovery path, which, despite this setback, more recently included increasing levels of motivation and greater periods of sustained sobriety. I asked her to compare it to her own recovery paths, which by now she had understood. I was proud of her and felt relieved when she said, "Wow, yes, I can see his progress despite how horrible it feels now!"

The understanding was liberating for her because the exercise validated her progress in all three areas of her struggle. When we reviewed Rick's stages of change, it was an epiphany for her, giving her insight into their shared struggle and allowing her to finally let go of much of the hurt, anger, helplessness and hopelessness she felt with Rick. She felt empowered as a parent, letting go much of the guilt, certain now that she had, as she put it, "broken the chain of abuse in my family."

My work with Nancy, and her family, has allowed Nancy to tap into her strengths and resources and use them to effectively support Rick, who after many attempts and failures, is firmly in the action stage and engaged in treatment as never before. She also gained insight into her own recovery and healing process, and is much better able to take care of herself as she moves forward in her life. Most importantly, she has what I think may be the most important element that families need to cope with a substance using family member - she has hope. Hope gives us some respite from the feelings of hopelessness and despair commonly felt in substance using families. Hope is healing and gives Nancy the strength to move forward.

Barry Lessin is a Licensed Psychologist with a private practice in Philadelphia and almost 40 years of work as a clinician, administrator, educator, researcher and drug policy reformer.

[Professional Voices is designed to provide a forum for clinicians to exchange ideas about good treatment and highlight concepts, techniques and interventions that have proved important in their work with clients. What do you think are the essential elements of effective treatment in addiction treatment?]

Recommended article: Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.

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Intensive fighting along entire line of contact in Novorossiya

donetsk airport

Things look very bad today and very intensive combat operations, in particular artillery strikes, are reported everywhere in Novorussia. At the very least, in the following locations:

1) Donetsk Airport: the Ukrainians attacked with a fairly large concentration of armor and under heavy artillery fire. As for tonight (local time) all of these attacks have been successfully repelled but intelligences sources are reporting a sharp rise in the number of tanks and armored vehicles all around the Donestk airport. The Novorussians are expecting attacks from Peski and Avdeevka.

2) The Ukrainian artillery has opened for almost everywhere along the front. The Ukrainian airforce has also dropped several 500kg bombs from high altitude on the city of Gorlovka.

3) Novorussian units are returning fire and the outskirts of Mariupol have come under Novorussian artillery attacks.

4) The Chairman of the Novorussian Parliament, Oleg Tsarev, has declared that his sources indicate that the Ukrainian plan submitted to Poroshenko looked at a spectrum of options: the best one was to totally free Novorussian from all Novorussians, the minimal one was to cut-off Donetsk from Lugansk and both of these cities from the Russian border.

5) Plenty of US made weapons have been recovered in the New Terminal of the Donetsk airport.

6) There are reports that the Ukrainian forces are attempting to encircle Debaltsevo.

7) Putin's spokesman Dmitrii Peskov has declared that the Ukrainian side had rejected all Russian offers and presented no counter-proposals. He concluded that the Ukrainians have chosen the option of going to war.

8) Please click here for an high res updated map of combats.

9) The Ukrainians are now accusing the Novorussians of using "super-weapons" in Peski. No, no nuclear devices (as the Ukie defense minister claimed were used south of Lugansk), but heavy-flame throwers of the Buratino TOS-1 type. The Ukies speak of a "bloodbath in Peski" which, as J.Hawk, the translator for ForRuss noticed, is a sure sign of panic.

10) Initial reports seem to indicate the the Novorussian military has entered the town of Peski.

11) The head of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the NAF, General Petrov, has declared that the Ukrainians have resumed ballistic missile strikes and that several Tochka missiles were fired today.

12) Zakharchenko has declared that "we are now engaged in a heavy counter-attack operation from Mariupol to Gorlovka".


It appears certain is that Nazi junta as decided to resume combat operations. Whether this is "an" attack or "the" attack remains to be seen, but the fact that ballistic missiles and bombers have been used seem to indicate that this one is qualitatively different. I'm therefore leaning more towards the "the" attack option.

The situation around the airport has resulted in many poorly informed comments. The following needs to be clarified.

a) The Donetsk airport has zero military value other then being a heavily fortified location near the city of Donetsk. The main importance of the airport is symbolic as it was the place where by far the toughest and best Ukrainian units were sent into combat.

b) I am pretty sure that when the new terminal was taken over by the Novorussians (this indisputable as there is *a lot* of footage of this even) the junta generals grabbed their phone and began screaming into it demanding an immediate and massive counter attack. This is what happened today. According to Novorussian sources a total of 6 attack waves were repelled and 15 Ukrainian MBTs used in the attempt to retake the new terminal.

c) It is not surprising that this attack failed. Heavily fortified objectives like the new terminal cannot be taken by tank and artillery fire, though they can be damaged by them. Such objective can only be taken by very well trained and heavily armed infantry assault groups capable and willing to fight in very dangerous and difficult conditions. Such groups, often called "assault/storming groups" are composed of experienced fighters which include machine-gunners, demolition-sapper combat engineers, snipers, anti-tank weapons, mortars, grenade-launchers, etc. These are not the kind of units which the Ukrainians have a lot of, nor are these the kind of units which can be trained in a few weeks or even a few months. This is why the Ukrainian assault have failed and most likely will continue to fail.

If this is indeed "the" much expected Ukrainian attack, then it fully confirms what everybody has been predicting: the Ukrainians are betting on large numbers of tanks, armored vehicles, artillery pieces and infantrymen to overwhelm the Novorussian defenders. This is a losing strategy because not only will the by now highly experienced and combat hardened Novorussians perform infinitely better than the terrified and/or brainwashed Ukrainians with just a month or so of bootcamp under their belts, but because the inevitable bloodbath resulting from this kind of attack will rapidly break the willpower and morale of the Ukrainian side.

The single most important factor here is not whether the Ukrainians will lose, but whether the Novorussians will be capable of winning without an overt Russian intervention to support them. My personal feeling is that yes, the Novorussians will succeed in beating back the Ukrainian assault and that Russia will not have to intervene openly (from what I hear the is already working at full capacity, hence the TOS-1 in Peski).

I have to confess that I am nervous when I see Zakharchenko, Givi and Motorola at the very front lines quite literally within reach of the Ukrainian assault rifles. I do fully understand why they feel that they have to do that, but I also get a knot in my stomach when I see them, especially all together a standing a few feet from each other. If you are religious, please pray for these courageous men.

Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.

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Donetsk: Kiev loses over 200 soldiers in just 24 hours


© REUTERS/ Alexander Ermochenko

At least 200 Ukrainian soldiers and eight eastern Ukrainian independence supporters, as well as numerous civilians, have been killed in the last 24 hours of heavy fighting, the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic's (DPR) militia headquarters reported Monday.

"Approximately 200 people were killed and injured. Losses among the militia are eight killed and 37 injured," Donetsk headquarters commander Eduard Basurin said.

At least nine civilians were killed and another 44 were injured in battles between Kiev forces and the independence supporters, Basurin added. One 4-year-old girl is dead and four other children injured in the fighting.

"Victims among civilians: 44 injured, including four children. One child is currently in intensive care in serious condition. Nine people have died, among them a girl who is four years old," he added.

Fighting in eastern Ukraine intensified this weekend, as Kiev forces shelled populated areas in Donetsk and Luhansk in violation of the ceasefire.

On Sunday, the Russian Foreign Ministry expressed deep concern over resumed military actions in Donbas stating that Kiev has used the truce that has been in place since September 2014 to regroup their forces and continue fighting.

The internal conflict in eastern Ukraine first erupted in April, when Kiev launched a military operation against independence supporters in the country's eastern regions, who refused to recognize the legitimacy of a new government that had come to power following a February coup.

On September 5, 2014, the opposing sides reached a ceasefire agreement at a Contact Group meeting in Minsk. The provisions for the ceasefire implementation were agreed on during the next round of Minsk talks that took place on September 19, 2014. However, during the past months, both opposing sides have repeatedly accused the other of violating the truce.

Comment: See also:

  • SOTT Exclusive: Kiev breaks ceasefire, launches major offensive in E. Ukraine - Donetsk retakes airport

It looks like Poroshenko really IS that stupid. That, or he's simply doing whatever he's ordered to do by the CIA station chief. Did he really think this latest offensive would be a success? Ukrainian forces are losing... hard. They're fleeing Peski. Their attempt to retake the airport failed. And while the defenders of Donetsk and Lugansk fight their invaders, the Ukrainians bomb civilians. Basurin also reported: destruction of 81 buildings, 56 shellings of civilian areas.

Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.

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Fears for unique Siberian wildlife as heavy snowfall reaches depths of one metre

© Roman Kozhechev, WWF Russia

Fears for unique wildlife as heavy snowfall reaches depths of one metre.

Abnormally heavy snowfall is threatening to decimate much of Siberia's unique wildlife including the rare Amur tiger, experts have warned. Parts of the Russian Far East are covered in snow up to one metre deep, burying many animals and leaving others struggling to move or find food.

Conservationists have already noted cases of young animals dying, with fears the situation could be as bad as the 1980s when up to 90 per cent of species died, including 30 tigers. WWF Russia is demanding urgent measures to prevent a similar catastrophe, with the Amur and Moscow branches of the charity in touch with regional hunting estates to ask them to help feed animals in their areas and prevent poaching.

Pavel Fomenko, the Amur branch coordinator at WWF Russia, said: 'I remember a similar winter at the end of the 1980s, when the snow was so deep that we lost 80 per cent to 90 per cent of all ungulates. I was a part of the inspection team and it was horrifying. The whole valley of the Amba and Bikin rivers turned into a gigantic graveyard. Nearly all the roes, wild boars and Siberian stags died'.

'What happened next was even scarier as during the next winter the tigers were left without pray, and so naturally besieged villages and small towns, hunting dogs, cows and other animals. The official data for that winter shows that more than 30 tigers were killed'.

© Roman Kozhechev, WWF Russia

'Nearly all the roes, wild boars and Siberian stags died'.

Two months-worth of snow fell during the month of December alone in the Russian Far East, leaving depths of up to one metre in places.

There is a 'critical depth' for animals in this region: 30cm for deer and roe, 40cm to 50 cm for Siberian stags and wild boars and 70cm for elks. It means the snow is already three times deeper than is safe for deer to survive.

Crucially, it is only the middle of winter with at least two more months of snowfall to come.

The Amur tiger, more commonly known as the Siberian tiger, is listed as an endangered species, with less than 400 of them left in the region.

Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.

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Elephant charges vehicle and punches holes in it, South Africa

With thousands of people watching a live streaming safari in the Sabi Sands in the Greater Kruger, two game rangers had a frightening encounter with a raging elephant cow on Thursday.

Charging at their open safari vehicle, the elephant effortlessly stabs her tusks into the Land Rover and pushes the vehicle at least 30cm.

The shaken guide, who later tells the camera he's "only ever" encountered an elephant charge once before, gets up close and personal with the enraged cow, as her tusk slips in a mere few centimeters from his hip.

[embedded content]

Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.

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Wall Street banks cut 50,000 jobs and reduce bonuses and expenses as profits continue to dry up

Cuts: In a move that has shocked many pundits, a number of banks on Wall Street including Bank of America, Citigroup and JP Morgan have cut thousands of jobs, as well as bonuses and expenses money

It is home to the world's largest stock exchange.

But now, Wall Street in New York has seen nearly 50,000 jobs slashed by its biggest banks.

In a move that has shocked many pundits, a number of banks including Bank of America, Citigroup and JPMorgan have cut thousands of jobs, as well as bonuses and expenses money.

The changes, announced last week, come as as profits opportunities are increasingly drying up.

Although some analysts were left stunned by the financial and job cuts, others believe there were a number of warning signs in advance, the New York Post reported.

These include lower trading and commodities revenues, currency risks and the lower trending of long-term interest rates, In the fourth quarter, thousands of bank employees were fired.

During 2014, a total of 20,000 workers lost their jobs at Brian Moynihan's Bank of America, while a further 10,000 were cut at Michael Corbat's Citigroup, formed from two companies in 1998.

Meanwhile, 10,000 jobs were lost at Jaime Dimon's JPMorgan, Morgan Stanley reported last week.

And even Goldman Sachs did not escape the cuts - suffering a double-digit decline in revenues.

'Look, I think head count in the banking industry is likely to decline," said CLSA bank analyst Mike Mayo. 'And if this environment remains, headcount would get significantly reduced.'

Mr Mayo went so far as to say bank revenues appear to be the weakest in eight decades - and are only likely to worsen given the current economic climate.

'I think there have been heavy potential and paper losses at this point,' agreed Tim Quast, president of market analytics company, ModernIR, blaming the losses on plunging oil prices.

He added: 'Clearly, nobody bet properly on oil. Nobody thought it was going to be below 50 a barrel.'

Bank of America, Citigroup and JPMorgan have also seen declines in bond activity.

Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.

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Middle class has been decimated under Obama, yet now he plans to help?

During his State of the Union speech on Tuesday evening, Barack Obama is going to promise to make life better for middle class families. Of course he has also promised to do this during all of his other State of the Union addresses, but apparently he still believes that there are people out there that are buying what he is selling. Each January, he gets up there and tells us how the economy is "turning around" and to believe that much brighter days are right around the corner. And yet things just continue to get even worse for the middle class. The numbers that you are about to see will not be included in Obama's State of the Union speech. They don't fit the "narrative" that Obama is trying to sell to the American people. But all of these statistics are accurate. They paint a picture of a middle class that is dying. Yes, the decline of the U.S. middle class is a phenomenon that has been playing out for decades. But without a doubt, our troubles have accelerated during the Obama years. When it comes to economics, he is completely and utterly clueless, and the policies that he has implemented are eating away at the foundations of our economy like a cancer. The following are 27 facts that show how the middle class has fared under 6 years of Barack Obama...

#1 American families in the middle 20 percent of the income scale now earn less money than they did on the day when Barack Obama first entered the White House.

#2 American families in the middle 20 percent of the income scale have a lower net worth than they did on the day when Barack Obama first entered the White House.

#3 According to a Washington Post article published just a few days ago, more than 50 percent of the children in U.S. public schools now come from low income homes. This is the first time that this has happened in at least 50 years.

#4 According to a Census Bureau report that was recently released, 65 percent of all children in the United States are living in a home that receives some form of aid from the federal government.

#5 In 2008, the total number of business closures exceeded the total number of businesses being created for the first time ever, and that has continued to happen every single year since then.

#6 In 2008, 53 percent of all Americans considered themselves to be "middle class". But by 2014, only 44 percent of all Americans still considered themselves to be "middle class".

#7 In 2008, 25 percent of all Americans in the 18 to 29-year-old age bracket considered themselves to be "lower class". But in 2014, an astounding 49 percent of all Americans in that age range considered themselves to be "lower class".

#8 Traditionally, owning a home has been one of the key indicators that you belong to the middle class. So what does the fact that the rate of homeownership in America has been falling for seven years in a row say about the Obama years?

#9 According to a survey that was conducted last year, 52 percent of all Americans cannot even afford the house that they are living in right now.

#10 After accounting for inflation, median household income in the United States is 8 percent lower than it was when the last recession started in 2007.

#11 According to one recent survey, 62 percent of all Americans are currently living paycheck to paycheck.

#12 At this point, one out of every three adults in the United States has an unpaid debt that is "in collections".

#13 When Barack Obama first set foot in the Oval Office, 60.6 percent of all working age Americans had a job. Today, that number is sitting at only 59.2 percent...

#14 While Barack Obama has been in the White House, the average duration of unemployment in the United States has risen from 19.8 weeks to 32.8 weeks.

#15 It is hard to believe, but an astounding 53 percent of all American workers make less than $30,000 a year.

#16 At the end of Barack Obama's first year in office, our yearly trade deficit with China was 226 billion dollars. Last year, it was more than 314 billion dollars.

#17 When Barack Obama was first elected, the U.S. debt to GDP ratio was under 70 percent. Today, it is over 101 percent.

#18 The U.S. national debt is on pace to approximately double during the eight years of the Obama administration. In other words, under Barack Obama the U.S. government will accumulate about as much debt as it did under all of the other presidents in U.S. history combined.

#19 According to the New York Times, the "typical American household" is now worth 36 percent less than it was worth a decade ago.

#20 The poverty rate in the United States has been at 15 percent or above for 3 consecutive years. This is the first time that has happened since 1965.

© Mark Seliger

#21 From 2009 through 2013, the U.S. government spent a whopping 3.7 trillion dollars on welfare programs.

#22 While Barack Obama has been in the White House, the number of Americans on food stamps has gone from 32 million to 46 million.

#23 Ten years ago, the number of women in the U.S. that had full-time jobs outnumbered the number of women in the U.S. on food stamps by more than a 2 to 1 margin. But now the number of women in the U.S. on food stamps actually exceeds the number of women that have full-time jobs.

#24 One recent survey discovered that about 22 percent of all Americans have had to turn to a church food panty for assistance.

#25 An astounding 45 percent of all African-American children in the United States live in areas of "concentrated poverty".

#26 40.9 percent of all children in the United States that are living with only one parent are living in poverty.

#27 According to a report that was released late last year by the National Center on Family Homelessness, the number of homeless children in the United States has reached a new all-time record high of 2.5 million.

Unfortunately, this is just the beginning.

The incredibly foolish decisions that have been made by Obama, Congress and the Federal Reserve have brought us right to the precipice of another major financial crisis and another crippling economic downturn.

So as bad as the numbers that I just shared with you above are, the truth is that they are nothing compared to what is coming.

We are heading into the greatest economic crisis that any of us have ever seen, and it is going to shock the world.

I hope that you are getting ready.

Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.

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Economists: Pay workers a living wage to increase productivity


Economists have long argued that increases in worker pay can lead to improvements in productivity - indeed, that it can actually be profitable to pay workers higher wages. As Alfred Marshall, the father of modern economics, argued almost 125 years ago, "any change in the distribution of wealth which gives more to the wage receivers and less to the capitalists is likely, other things being equal, to hasten the increase of material production." Since then, economists have compiled rich data validating Marshall's hypothesis that paying higher wages generates savings:

Higher wages motivate employees to work harder. Janet Yellen (1984) [pdf] suggested that higher wages create the conditions for workers to be more productive, pointing to "reduced shirking by employees due to a higher cost of job loss; lower turnover; an improvement in the average quality of job applicants and improved morale." Among the studies documenting this point are Levine (1992), [pdf] which analyzed a sample of large (mostly Fortune 500) manufacturing companies, and Holzer (1990), [pdf] which used data from a national sample of firms finding that "high-wage firms can sometimes offset more than half of their higher wage costs through improved productivity and lower hiring and turnover cost." Reich et al. (2003) [pdf] surveyed employers at the San Francisco airport after a broad-based increase in wages and found that the employers of the majority of affected workers reported that their overall performance had improved. Mas (2006) [pdf] analyzed the case of New Jersey police officers who were granted a wage increase of 17 percent, and who were 12 percent more productive in clearing cases than those who were refused the increase.

Higher wages attract more capable and productive workers. The evidence that higher wages attract more high quality applicants for new jobs is voluminous. Dal Bó et al. (2013) show that offering higher salaries yielded an applicant pool with a higher IQ and with personality scores and motivation that made them a better fit for the advertised jobs. Moreover, the first firm to offer higher wages is more likely to attract and retain more productive workers.

Higher wages lead to lower turnover, reducing the costs of hiring and training new workers. Reich et al (2003) [pdf] calculated that typical turnover costs exceed $4,000 for each worker and that an increase in wages at the San Francisco airport led to a decline in turnover of 34 percent, yielding turnover-related savings of $6.6 million per year. Dube et al. (2007) [pdf] found that when a San Francisco living wage ordinance raised wages among low-paid workers, those workers were more likely to stay with their employers. Reich and his coauthors also documented a stunning turnover rate of nearly 95 percent per year among security screeners in mid-2000, which fell to 18.7 percent when pay improved. Fairris et al. (2005) [pdf] examined evidence from Los Angeles, finding that when employers were directed to offer higher wages, the decline in worker turnover yielded savings equal to around one-sixth of the cost incurred.

Higher wages enhance quality and customer service. The Reich et al. (2003) [pdf] study also found that almost half of employers reported improvements in customer service following a wage rise for low-wage workers, and indeed, higher wages at the San Francisco airport led to shorter airport lines. Cowherd and Levine (1992) found that an increase in the pay of lower-level employees relative to management increased the quality of production. Using data from more than 500 retail stores, Fisher et al. (2006) [pdf] found a positive relationship between customer satisfaction and the payroll level of associates and managers in the store. Higher wages were also associated with employers having more knowledge about the inventory.

Higher wages reduce disciplinary problems and absenteeism. Cappelli and Chauvin (1991) [pdf] documented that in plants where pay was higher relative to the local labor market, fewer disciplinary actions were required. Likewise, nearly half of those employers surveyed by Reich et al. (2003) [pdf] reported a decrease in disciplinary issues following a wage rise. Zhang et al. [pdf] (2013) showed in a survey of Canadian firms that absenteeism was less likely when wages were higher. Pfeifer (2010) found a similar result in a large German survey.

Firms with higher wages need to devote fewer resources to monitoring. High-paying firms have been found to create a culture of hard work in which employees monitor their coworkers, reducing the need to hire supervisors. Rebitzer (1995) found that low-wage maintenance workers needed more supervision in the petrochemical industry. Groshen and Krueger (1990) showed that more highly paid nurses were also supervised less. Georgiadis (2008) found that in residential care homes in the United Kingdom "higher wage costs were more than offset by lower monitoring costs."

Workers excessively concerned about income security perform less well at work. A variety of recent experiments have demonstrated this proposition. Mani et al. (2013) recruited buyers in a shopping mall and asked them to think about their finances. Researchers observed that the performance of poor subjects on a cognitive test deteriorated if they were asked to imagine a large emergency expenditure (a $1,500 car repair), but no such deterioration was observed for well-off subjects. Mullainathan and Shafir (2013) assessed a range of related experiments, finding that mental tasks that simulate the constant stress of poverty led people to act in compulsive and improper ways. Indeed, the World Bank Development Report (2015), [pdf] citing numerous field studies, recognizes that poverty taxes people's mental capacities and self-control.

Other mechanisms by which higher wages can yield offsetting benefits include:

  • Higher wages are associated with better health - less illness and more stamina, which enhance worker productivity.

  • Greater job satisfaction can result in less conflict between employers and labor groups.

  • Enhanced reputation with consumers (compare the reputations of Costco and Walmart).

All of these positive effects may interact to yield even larger aggregate effects, as the productivity of one worker often raises the productivity of their coworkers. Mas and Moretti (2009) [pdf] offer persuasive data on this point, showing that productive cashiers motivate their coworkers to work faster.

Bó, Ernesto Dal, Frederico Finan, and Martín A. Rossi. 2013. Strengthening State Capabilities: The Role of Financial Incentives in the Call to Public Service. 128, no. 3: 1169 - 218.

Cappelli, Peter, and Keith Chauvin. 1991. An Interplant Test of the Efficiency Wage Hypothesis. Quarterly Journal of Economics 106, no. 3: 769-87.

Cowherd, Douglas M., and David I. Levine. 1992. Product Quality and Pay Equity between Lower-Level Employees and Top Management: An Investigation of Distributive Justice Theory. Administrative Science Quarterly 37, no. 2: 302 - 320.

Dube, Arindrajit, Suresh Naidu, and Michael Reich. 2007. The Economic Effects of a Citywide Minimum Wage. 60, no. 4: 522 - 43.

Fairris, David, David Runsten, Carolina Briones, and Jessica Goodheart. 2005. UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment. University of California, Los Angeles.

Fisher, Marshall L., Jayanth Krishnan, and Serguei Netessine. 2006. Operations and Information Management Department, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.

Georgiadis, Andreas. 2008. CEP Discussion Paper No. 857. London: Centre for Economic Performance, London School of Economics and Political Science.

Groshen, Erica L., and Alan B. Krueger. 1990. The Structure of Supervision and Pay in Hospitals. , no. 3: 134-S - 46-S.

Holzer, Harry J. 1990. Wages, Employer Costs, and Employee Performance in the Firm. 43, no. 3: 147 - 64.

Levine, David I. 1992. Can Wage Increases Pay for Themselves? Test with a Production Function. 102: 1102 - 115.

Mani, Anandi, Sendhil Mullainathan, Eldar Shafir, and Jiaying Zhao. 2013. Poverty Impedes Cognitive Function. 341, no. 6149: 976 - 80.

Mas, Alexandre. 2006. Pay, Reference Points, and Police Performance. 121, no. 3: 783 - 821.

Mas, Alexandre, and Enrico Moretti. 2009. Peers at Work. 99, no. 1: 112 - 45.

Mullainathan, Sendhil, and Eldar Shafir. 2013. New York: Picador.

Pfeifer, Christian. 2010. Impact of Wages and Job Levels on Worker Absenteeism. 31, no. 1: 59 - 72.

Rebitzer, James B. 1995. Is There a Trade-Off between Supervision and Wages? An Empirical Test of Efficiency Wage Theory. 28, no. 1: 107 - 129.

Reich, Michael, Peter Hall, and Ken Jacobs. 2003. Institute of Industrial Relations, University of California, Berkeley.

World Bank. 2015. Poverty. In . Washington: World Bank.

Yellen, Janet L. 1984. Efficiency Wage Models of Unemployment. 74, no. 2: 200 - 205.

Zhang, Wei, Huiying Sun, Simon Woodcock, and Aslam Anis. 2013. Valuing Productivity Loss Due to Absenteeism: Firm-level Evidence from a Canadian Linked Employer-Employee Data. Paper presented at the 12th annual meeting of the Canadian Health Economists' Study Group, Manitoba, Canada.

Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.

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Mysterious radio burst seen in real time

Cosmic Radiowave

© The Independent, UK

The mysterious ‘blitzar’ has been heard since 2007, but scientists have caught it live for the first time.

As live performances go, a mysterious pulse of radio waves emanating from deep in the universe has to be up with the greats. And scientists have finally caught it.

The blitzars last only about a millisecond - during which time they give out as much energy as the sun does in a million years, according to the - and have only ever been heard on historical data.

The source must be "huge, cataclysmic and up to 5.5 billion light years away," one scientist told the

But a team of scientists from Swinburne University in Melbourne, Australia has identified one of them live, as it happened.

Cosmic Radiowave_1

© Swinburne Astronomy Productions

A mysterious "fast radio burst" was seen for the first time in real time by astronomers, a strange phenomenon whose origins have yet to be discovered, new research finds. [Pictured: An illustration of CSIRO's Parkes radio telescope receiving the polarized signal from the new 'fast radio burst'.]

Nobody really knows where the blitzars come from - a top contender is a huge neutron star that should have given way to a black hole, but didn't - but the new findings are likely to help scientists find out.

When the blitzar was spotted by a team led by Emily Petroff, other telescopes were turned towards the source, helping to study the aftereffects. They didn't see any afterglow - ruling out some of the possible sources such as a supernova.

Scientists hope that they will soon discover another blitzar in a different frequency range. That will allow them to conclusively associate it with something and will help pin it down to a specific source.

Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.

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