Pages

March 02, 2015

This is the best explanation of gerrymandering you will ever see - "How to steal an election: a visual guide"

Gerrymandering -- drawing political boundaries to give your party a numeric advantage over an opposing party -- is a difficult process to explain.  
Suppose we have a very tiny state of fifty people. Thirty of them belong to the Blue Party, and 20 belong to the Red Party. And just our luck, they all live in a nice even grid with the Blues on one side of the state and the Reds on the other.
Now, let's say we need to divide this state into five districts. Each district will send one representative to the House to represent the people. Ideally, we want the representation to be proportional: if 60 percent of our residents are Blue and 40 percent are Red, those five seats should be divvied up the same way.
Fortunately, because our citizens live in a neatly ordered grid, it's easy to draw five lengthy districts  -- two for the Reds , and three for the Blues. Voila! Perfectly proportional representation, just as the Founders intended. That's grid 1 above, "perfect representation."
Now, let's say instead that the Blue Party controls the state government, and they get to decide how the lines are drawn. Rather than draw districts vertically they draw them horizontally, so that in each district there are six Blues and four Reds. You can see that in grid 2 above, "compact but unfair."
With a comfortable Blue majority in this state, each district elects a blue candidate to the House. The Blues win 5 seats and the Reds don't get a single one. Oh well! All's fair in love and politics.
In the real world, the results of this latter scenario are similar to what we see in New York, though there are no good examples of where a majority party gives itself a clean-sweep. In 2012, Democrats received 66 percent of the popular House vote. But they won 21 out of 27 House seats, or three more than you'd expect from the popular vote alone. And from a purely geometric standpoint, New York's congressional districts aren't terribly irregular -- at least not compared to other states.
Finally, what if the Red Party controls the state government? The Reds know they're at a numeric disadvantage. But with some creative boundary drawing --  the type you see in grid 3, "neither compact nor fair" -- they can slice the Blue population up such that they only get a majority in two districts. So despite making up 40 percent of the population, the Reds win 60 percent of the seats. Not bad!
In the real world, this is similar to what we see in Pennsylvania. In 2012, Democrats won 51 percent of the popular House vote. But the only won 5 out of 18 House seats -- fewer than one third. This was because when Pennsylvania Republicans redrew the state's Congressional districts, they made highly irregular districts that look like the one below, PA-7, one of the most geographically irregular districts in the nation.

Private police carry guns and make arrests, and their ranks are swelling

Michael Youlen stopped a driver in a Manassas apartment complex on a recent night and wrote the man a ticket for driving on a suspended license. With a badge on his chest and a gun on his hip, Youlen gave the driver a stern warning to stay off the road.
The stop was routine police work, except for one fact: Youlen is not a Manassas officer. The citation came courtesy of the private force he created that, until recently, he called the “Manassas Junction Police Department.”
He is its chief and sole officer.
He is a force of one.
And he is not alone. Like more and more Virginians, Youlen gained his police powers using a little-known provision of state law that allows private citizens to petition the courts for the authority to carry a gun, display a badge and make arrests. The number of “special conservators of the peace” — or SCOPs, as they are known — has doubled in Virginia over the past decade to roughly 750, according to state records. 
The growth is mirrored nationally in the ranks of private police, who increasingly patrol corporate campuses, neighborhoods and museums as the demand for private security has increased and police services have been cut in some places.
The trend has raised concerns in Virginia and elsewhere, because these armed officers often receive a small fraction of the training and oversight of their municipal counterparts. Arrests of private police officers and incidents involving SCOPs overstepping their authority have also raised concerns.
The Virginia legislature approved a bill Friday increasing the training and regulation of SCOPs. The private officers would now be required to train for 130 hours, up from 40 hours — less than the state requires for nail technicians, auctioneers and security guards.
In neighboring D.C., a similar designation called “special police” requires 40 hours of training. Maryland officials leave instruction to the discretion of employers but have no requirements. Other states have similar systems.
“There are a number of groups we regulate far more stringently than SCOPs carrying a gun,” said Virginia Secretary of Public Safety Brian Moran, speaking prior to the passage of the bill.
Problems bring scrutiny
A handful of incidents involving SCOPs in Virginia and nationally have focused attention on the training and oversight of private police.
In 2009, a SCOP who owned a private security firm got into a heated argument with a woman over parking at a Newport News-area shopping center, according to court records.
Kevin Bukowski hemmed in the woman’s vehicle, and then he and a partner pointed their guns directly at the woman and a friend as they sat in their car with two children, court records show. Bukowski was convicted of abduction, and the state revoked his SCOP registration in 2012.
“I was unjustly punished, but there are a lot of problems with the system,” Bukowski said of SCOPs. “You got these guys running out there as security officers who couldn’t make it as police officers.”
In another incident in 2012, a SCOP on a motorcycle with flashing lights and various law enforcement-style stickers pulled over a Virginia State Police special agent driving on I-64 near the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel, according to court records.
The SCOP asked the officer why he was going so fast. The officer replied, “Who are you?” and flashed his badge, according to court records. The SCOP then rode off.
The officer said the man on the motorcycle was likely a SCOP named Michael Tynan, who runs a security officer training academy in Virginia Beach.
Portsmouth police questioned Tynan after he was seen conducting another traffic stop in 2013, according to the court documents. He told officers his SCOP status allowed him to perform traffic stops. He also said he was a retired state trooper but later admitted he failed out of the academy.
The Virginia Attorney General’s Office moved to strip Tynan of his SCOP commission in Portsmouth in 2013, and Tynan agreed to surrender it.
In an interview, Tynan said he was unaware of the allegations and would have challenged them if he had known about them. “I categorically deny these things,” Tynan said.
The government’s motion to vacate Tynan’s SCOP commission in Portsmouth said he was “unfit for an appointment,” but state records show Tynan is still registered as a SCOP in Virginia Beach.

12 Year Old Boy Makes “Obama Doesn’t Love America” Video, Then THIS Happens To Him

12-year-old C.J. Pearson recorded a YouTube video and released it to answer the question: “President Obama: Do You Really Love America?” The video has gone mega-viral amassing more than 1.2 million views in 9 days.
Sadly this boy, who is more of a man than Obama will ever be, is learning first hand how the media silences conservatives.

The Examiner reports:

On Friday, C.J. Pearson, a 12-year-old conservative from Georgia who posted a viral video supporting Rudy Giuliani, discovered that his personal Facebook page was locked. In an exclusive interview with Examiner.com on Saturday, Pearson said he received a message from someone about 6 a.m. Friday. That’s when he learned his account and page had been locked for “suspicious activity.”
He jumped through all of Facebook’s hoops, but wasn’t able to recover his account. So he created a new profile to take its place. His public page was not affected, he said, however, he can no longer administer the page. Fortunately, he said, a friend is helping post links to that page.
As is so often the case in these situations, Facebook did not respond to his requests for help. Nor would they tell him what the alleged suspicious activity was. We reached out to Facebook, but the social media giant has so far refused to respond to our request for comments.
Pearson said he is working on legislation to lower the age of those serving in the state House and Senate. The legislation, which is set to be the subject of a hearing on Monday, would lower the age of House members from 21 to 18, and lower the age of state Senators from 25 to 21. Pearson said he was using Facebook to line up witnesses for the hearing, but Facebook’s actions have made that more difficult. He can’t read any messages sent to his old profile and the old page doesn’t show up.
On Monday, we reported that Pearson posted a video supporting former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. He also minced no words when he said that President Obama doesn’t love America.
“I don’t want to be politically correct. I don’t care about being politically correct at this point,” he said. “President Obama, you don’t love America.”

Here’s the video which caused Pearson’s facebook page to be shut down:


Video Exonerates Man Set Up By Louisiana Cops And Prosecutors

If not for cell phone video, 47-year-old disabled veteran Douglas Dendinger could be going to prison — because of an apparent coordinated effort by Washington Parish, La. cops and prosecutors who falsely accused him of battery and witness intimidation.
As New Orleans’ WWL reports, Dendinger’s two-year nightmare began on Aug. 20, 2012, when he was paid $50 to serve a court summons on behalf of his nephew against Bogalusa police officer Chad Cassard in a police brutality lawsuit.
Dendinger handed Cassard a white envelope containing the documents and says he went on his way. But 20 minutes later, police showed up to Dendinger’s house and arrested him. He was put in jail on charges of simple battery, obstruction of justice and intimidating a witness.
Two of those charges are felonies, and a prior cocaine conviction on Dendinger’s record threatened to land him in jail for a long time as a repeat offender.
But Dendinger was confident that a mistake had been made and that he would be released without cause since two prosecutors and several police officers had seen him hand over the summons peacefully.
But that’s not what happened.
A year after the incident, then-District Attorney Walter Reed brought charges against Dendinger. His case was backed by two prosecutors who asserted that Dendinger had assaulted Cassard. Seven witness statements also supported the case.
Cassard made the same claim, writing in a voluntary statement that Dendinger “slapped him in the chest” when he served the summons.
Pamela Legendre, a staff attorney who witnessed the hand-off, said she thought Dendinger had punched Cassard.
Bogalusa police chief Joe Culpepper said that Dendinger had used “violence” and “force.”
And another witness said in a deposition that Dendinger used such force when he served the summons that Cassard flew back several feet.
“It wasn’t fun and games, they had a plan, the plan was really to go after him and put him away. That is scary,” Philip Kaplan, the attorney representing Dendinger in his civil rights case, told WWL.
“I realized even more at that moment these people are trying to hurt me,” Dendinger told the news station.
Luckily for Dendinger, his wife and nephew had filmed him that day in order to prove that the court papers had been served.
Grainy video of the exchange shows Dendinger handing Cassard the summons and the former police officer walking away in the opposite direction. Though the video aired by WWL does not show the entire encounter, what it does not show is Dendinger slapping anyone or acting aggressively during the crucial moment when he served the summons.
The video also shows that the witness who claimed that Denginger’s force pushed Cassard back several feet had his back turned as the scene unfolded.

March 01, 2015

10 Snack Foods Originally Sold as Medicines

1. Coca-Cola. The original intent of Coca-Cola, as you probably know, was a health drink. Created by John Pemberton, it was sold for five cents at soda fountains (a dollar or so in today's money) because people thought carbonated beverages would increase their wellness. Pemberton's company also sold Pemberton's Indian Queen Hair Dye and Pemberton's Globe Flower Cough Syrup.
2. Graham Crackers were invented in 1829 by Reverend Sylvester Graham, who felt the bland food was a perfect prescription for those prone to excessive amounts of "self-abuse." Apparently dry crackers would bore the sexual appetite right out of you.
3. Corn Flakes. OK, it might be a stretch to call corn flakes a snack food, but I'm sure I'm not alone in downing a bowl of cereal when I want a little something. Will Keith Kellogg was looking for something to improve the diet of hospital patients and decided that corn flakes were a great bread substitute that helped digestion.
4. Goo-Goo Clusters, during the Great Depression, were marketed to consumers as a "nourishing lunch for a nickel." Sure, I employ that theory on candy all of the time: peanuts are protein, chocolate has calcium, marshmallow has ... marshmallow.
5. Fig Newtons. Although Fig Newtons are marketed as "fruit and cake" these days, back in 1892 they were considered digestive aids. A lot of doctors thought that digestion problems were the root of all kinds of other illnesses, so you see a lot of digestive aids from that era. They were originally fig rolls instead of the square pastry we're familiar with now.
6. Moxie was one of the first mass-produced soft drinks commercially available, and I now consider myself a pop culture failure because I had never heard of it until now. In fact, it's where we get the word "moxie" from. But back to its "medicinal" roots. It was created sometime around 1876 by a doctor whose friend, Lieutenant Moxie, was using the extract of a South American plant to prevent paralysis, "softening of the brain," nervousness and insomnia. The good doctor took Moxie's plant extract and stuck it in soda water, calling it "Beverage Moxie Nerve Food."
7. Heath Bar could have just as well been called the Health Bar -- the use of the best milk chocolate, almonds, butter and pure sugar cane was thought to pep a person up. "Heath for better health!" was the motto for many years.
8. 7-Up is probably not a big shocker for you, since many of us still use the miracle tonic to soothe an upset stomach. Originally called "Bib-Label Lithiated Lemon-Lime Soda," it contained lithium citrate, so it really was a mood-stabilizing drink. It was marketed as a hangover cure, which a lot of people probably needed since it was launched just two weeks before the Wall Street Crash of 1929. Never fear (or maybe I should be apologizing), the lithium was removed from the product in 1950.
9. Dr Pepper has a similar story. Like Coke and 7-Up, it was sold as a brain tonic and pick-me-up and was available at drugstores to cure what ails ya.
10. McVitie's Digestive Biscuits. The first time I went overseas, I remember being charmed by the fact that some cookies were referred to as "digestives." What a great idea -- a guilt-free cookie covered in chocolate! The idea started with McVitie's back in 1892. Because the biscuit contained a high amount of sodium bicarbonate, the inventor theorized that eating the biscuits after a large meal would be beneficial to one's health. They're still called digestives, but McVitie's now prints a disclaimed on them that says "The ingredients in this biscuit do not contain any substances that assist digestion."

5 Common Chemicals That Are Making You Fat & Depressed

We've all heard that if we eat too many calories, we'll get fat. But there's more to it: it's not just the calories, but the chemicals, in our food that contribute to obesity.
Some of these chemicals — called "obesogens" — trigger our bodies to store fat even though we might be restricting calories. The effects are complex: some of these chemicals increase the number of fat cells, others expand the size of fat cells and still others influence appetite, cravings, fullness and how well the body burns calories. In addition to obesogens, other synthetic food ingredients have been shown to help us pack on the pounds and leave us feeling depressed, even when when we think we're eating healthy.
To stop feeling that way, here are the top five chemicals to avoid in food.
1. Growth Hormones & Antibiotics 
Several drugs, growth hormones, steroids and antibiotics are routinely given to conventionally raised animals to fatten them up on less food. Residues from some of these drugs have been found in meat samples, so you very well could be eating these growth-promoting drugs every time you eat a steak. These drugs are believed to contribute to the obesity epidemic and are poorly regulated in the U.S.
How to avoid: Choose only certified organic grass-fed meat and dairy products (preferably local). Treatment with growth hormones and growth-promoting antibiotics isn't permitted in organically grown animals. As an added benefit, organic grass-fed beef has been shown to contain more conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which may actually help you lose weight.
2. Artificial & Natural Flavors
All of the chemicals that make processed food taste good — monosodium glutamate (MSG), artificial flavors and natural flavors — are just cheap replacements for the real thing and can cause you to eat more than you would otherwise.
With the innocuous-sounding term "natural flavors," companies can put whatever they want in your food that's generally recognized as safe, including naturally occurring glutamate bi-products like MSG, known excitotoxins. These excitotoxins cause your taste buds to experience irresistibility when it comes to food. 
How to avoid: Steer clear of processed foods, particularly those that have artificial flavors, natural flavors, monosodium glutamate or other "processed free glutamic acid" additives like autolyzed yeast extract and hydrolyzed proteins.
3. Artificial Sweeteners
Think you're going to lose weight by switching from regular soda to diet? Think again. Researchers have discovered that artificial sweeteners like those in Diet Coke, can affect gut bacteria, leading to more weight gain. If that isn't bad enough, the artificial sweetener Aspartame has been linked to mood swings and depression. 
How to avoid: Don't eat anything with artificial sweeteners (sucralose, aspartame, acesulfame potassium, saccharin) in the ingredient list. Limit your sugar intake overall, but choose unrefined sweeteners such as coconut palm sugar, maple syrup, raw honey and dried fruits such as dates.
4. Pesticides
Out of all the common pesticides Americans are regularly exposed to, the majority of them are "endocrine disruptors", making them obesogens. Even in tiny amounts, endocrine disruptors have the ability to disrupt major weight controlling hormones (catecholamines), interfere with the natural hormone systems that regulate metabolism and lead to weight gain.
How to avoid: Minimize your exposure to pesticides by choosing certified organic produce and products. (Synthetic pesticides are prohibited in organic farming.) If organic isn't available, choose fresh produce that's on the Environmental Working Group's "Clean 15" list of produce with the least pesticide residue.
5. Plastics
Whether it's a bottle of salad dressing or container of leftovers, most of us are exposed to plastics on a daily basis. Many of these plastics contain substances such as phthalates or bisphenol A (BPA), known endocrine disruptors that have beendirectly linked to increased fat storage. These chemicals have the ability to leach into food and have infiltrated our society so much that they've been found 93% of urine samples tested in America.
How to avoid: Choose your water bottles, storage containers, straws and eating utensils wisely, and stock up on those made from glass or stainless steel instead of plastic. Glass jars make an affordable option for storing food.

11 Patron Saints of Food, Drink, and Those Who Make Them


1. BACON: SAINT ANTHONY THE ABBOTT

Saint Anthony the Abbott is technically a patron saint of butchers, but since there are so many patron saints of butchers—including the apostles John, Bartholomew, Andrew, and Peter—Anthony can afford to specialize in bacon. He was a 4th century ascetic who lived for 20 years in an abandoned fort, only occasionally performing miracles and healing people who broke in on his solitude. He is frequently depicted with pigs, possibly owing to his use of pig fat in his healing concoctions, so he was adopted by pig butchers as their patron saint—meaning that if you’re craving the crispy, smoky flavor of good bacon, Anthony is the man you want to talk to.

2. COFFEE: SAINT DROGO

Saint Drogo, born the son of a Flemish nobleman in 1105 in Flanders, was the original multi-tasker—he could reportedly “bilocate” and was seen simultaneously working in the fields and going to Mass on Sundays. This undoubtedly took a lot of energy, which is probably one of the reasons why he is the patron saint of coffee and coffeehouses (as well as ugly people and cattle).

3. BAKING: SAINTS ELIZABETH OF HUNGARY AND NICHOLAS

Having bread troubles? You’ve got two saints to call on: Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, a princess born in 1205 who rejected courtly life in order to distribute bread to the poor, and Saint Nicholas—yep, that Saint Nick, the jolly fat man with the belly like a bowl full of jelly. Nicholas was a 4th century bishop who rescued three poor women from a life of prostitution by tossing bags of gold through their window at night; he’s also the patron saint of children, pawnbrokers, and Greece. 

4. BEER: SAINTS NICHOLAS, LUKE, AND AUGUSTINE

If you’re having trouble with your beer—whether you're suffering a homebrew disaster or the waitress is taking too long to bring your pint—then you’ve got three different saints to whom you could appeal. There’s Saint Nicholas, mentioned above; Saint Luke, author of the third Gospel and considered the first Christian physician; and Saint Augustine of Hippo (top). Augustine, who lived in the early 5th century, had a boozy, wantonly licentious lifestyle;  he earned saint status after giving up his wanton ways, and became the patron saint of beer sometime after.

5. WINE: SAINTS VINCENT AND URBAN

Saint Vincent of Saragossa died so that we could have good wine. Well, not exactly: The 3rd century Spanish martyr died for his faith, after some serious torture involving iron hooks and being roasted on a red-hot gridiron. But since his death, he’s become the patron saint of wine and wine-makers. So thank you, Saint Vincent. And thank you, Saint Urban, another patron saint of wine. He was the bishop of Langres in France during the 4th century, but found himself on the receiving end of some persecution after the political situation got murky. He hid in a vineyard, and took the opportunity to convert the vineyard workers who concealed him; he went from vineyard to vineyard thereafter, spreading the Gospel.

6. HANGOVERS AND ALCOHOLICS: SAINTS BIBIANA AND MONICA

If, unlike Augustine, you’re not quite ready to give up your inebriate ways, then you may want to keep a prayer to Saint Bibiana, patron saint of hangovers, on your lips. Little is known about the 4th century virgin and martyr, except that she was reportedly both a virgin and a martyr—she was, according to legend, tied to a pillar on the orders of the Governor of Rome and beaten to death after she refused to convert or be seduced. Why she’s the patron saint of hangovers, as well as headaches, the mentally ill, and single women, is totally unclear. Tired of having hangovers all the time? The first step might be to admit you have a problem (beer for breakfast might be an indication). The second step might be to reach out to Saint Monica. She was the mother of wild, drunken St. Augustine and she earned her saintly status by spending 17 years praying for him. She’s the patron saint of alcoholics. 

7. FISH: SAINT NEOT

But back to cheerier topics, like tiny saints and fish. St. Neot, a Glastonbury, England monk who died in 877, is the patron saint of fish. He was also reportedly only 15 inches tall and spent his days in a well, water up to his neck, practicing his devotions.

8. COOKING: SAINT LAWRENCE

Making a fancy dinner? Saint Lawrence of Rome is your go-to man, the patron saint of cooking. A 3rd century Roman deacon, he and his brethren ran afoul of the Prefect of Rome, an occupational hazard of being a Christian back then. He was sentenced to death by slow roasting over an open fire, but he was reportedly so filled with God’s strength and joy that he didn’t even feel the flames. At one point, he even joked with his torturers, “Turn me over, I’m done on this side!”

9. GROCERS, FARMERS, DAIRY WORKERS, AND BEEKEEPERS: SAINT MICHAEL THE ARCHANGEL, SAINT ISIDORE THE FARMER, SAINT BRIGID OF KILDARE, AND SAINT AMBROSE

Before you get down to cooking, you probably want make sure that your local grocery store has all the ingredients you need. For that, you can appeal to Michael the Archangel, one of the stars of the Old Testament. Some claim that grocers adopted Michael as their patron saint because he was also the patron saint of law enforcement officials, who protected the grocers’ business. But how about the people who grow the food that turned up at market? For that, you’ll want Saint Isidore the Farmer who was, well, a farmer and whose plowing was often accomplished with the help of three angels. If you’re on the look out for some really good cheese to pair with a fine wine (thank you, Saint Vincent), have a quick chat with 5th century Saint Brigid of Kildare, one of Ireland’s big three: Before giving her life over to virginity and Christian piety, she’d made a success of the dairy owned by the Druid landowner who’d bought her from her mother. And finally, offer a prayer of thanks to Saint Ambrose, patron saint of bee-keepers, for keeping the natural world buzzing, because without bees, life would lack sweetness (and economic, agricultural stability). Ambrose, who lived in Rome and Milan in the 4th century, earned his patronage from his nickname, the Honey Tongued Doctor, owing to his eloquent speaking and preaching. 

10. WAIT-STAFF: SAINT MARTHA

Or maybe, you’ll just go out to eat. At which point, your waiter or waitress may just offer a quick prayer to Saint Martha. Martha, the patron saint of wait staff and housewives (who sometimes feel like wait staff, without the tips), frequently hosted Jesus and his Apostles at dinner. But one day, she became irritated that her sister, Mary, wasn’t helping serve and was instead sitting and listening to Jesus. Jesus admonished Martha by noting that all her serving was distracting her from hearing his message. Martha learned her lesson and next time he came around, she stopped what she was doing to be with him. She became the patron saint of those who serve, especially food.

11. STOMACH PAIN AND CHOKING: SAINT CHARLES BORROMEO, SAINT TIMOTHY, SAINT BRICE, AND SAINT BLAISE

You’ve come down with food poisoning, it happens. Who are you going to call? Saint Charles Borromeo was a 16th century cardinal who dedicated his life to helping the poor and sick; exactly why he’s associated with stomach ailments is unclear, but he is. Saint Timothy, a 1st century early Christian who was stoned to death, is also the patron saint against intestinal disorders, although again for reasons occluded by time. And then there’s wild Saint Brice, a 5th century priest who was at first better known for his wicked ways, but whose genuine conversion earned him a place in the canon; he’s another patron saint of tummy troubles, also for unknown reasons. Saint Blaise once rescued a child from choking to death on a fishbone, so he’s the patron saint of throat ailments (choking would be one); he also once convinced a wolf to return a pig he’d stolen from a poor woman. Handy guy to have around.
There are more saints than there are days of the year to celebrate them, sure, but a surprising number of things don’t have a patron saint—like chocolate, for example, or tea. What would you like to see a patron saint of?