“The U.S. Supreme Court will decide later this year whether a corporation can have religious beliefs. Later this year, the US Supreme Court will issue a ruling in the case of Sebelius vs. Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. — answering whether a corporation can have religious beliefs that enable it to opt out of the mandate requiring company-purchased insurance to cover all forms of birth control. That’s the legal question. But the case also orbits around a separate question that has roots in both science and religious belief. Hobby Lobby doesn’t want to provide health insurance that covers the costs of birth control because that includes IUDs, or intrauterine devices.”—Hobby Lobby, IUDs, and the facts - Boing Boing
Your DNA is not a blueprint. Day by day, week by week, your genes are in a conversation with your surroundings. Your neighbors, your family, your feelings of loneliness: They don’t just get under your skin, they get into the control rooms of your cells.
A new study by researchers from Princeton and Northwestern Universities finds that America’s government policies reflect the wishes of the rich and of powerful interest groups, rather than the wishes of the majority of citizens.
The researchers examined close to 1,800 U.S. policy changes in the years between 1981 and 2002; then, they compared those policy changes with the expressed preferences of the median American, at the 50th percentile of income; with affluent Americans, at the 90th percentile of income; and with the position of powerful interest and lobbying groups.
The study notes that the position of the median American and the position of the affluent American are often the same; therefore, regular people tend to think that their political interests are being represented when they see the triumph of some political position that they agree with.In fact, the researchers say, this is a mere coincidence. Yes, the average American will see their interests represented—as long as their interests align with the interests of the wealthy.
“Thanks to a generation of massive amounts of standardized testing, our students conceive education primarily as a tool for determining a ranking. The Obama administration’s policy is even called Race to the Top. We have the most read columnist in the country telling us how important it is to raise “standards” so our students don’t fall behind.
For our students’ entire lives we have communicated that the reason to learn things is not to fulfill curiosities, but to see where you stack up relative to others. Grades are no longer a proxy for learning, but a lap time determining how well they’re doing at achieving a secure financial future. Under this system, a “B” is genuine cause for distress. A “C” is a disaster that points towards a ruined life.
At the same time, we have made it increasingly difficult to pay for a genuine education. The burden of loans threatens to strangle adult lives before they really begin. It is now impossible to work your way through college. Concerns over even paying for college are also at an all-time high. We communicate that a college degree is more important than ever and then make it more difficult to achieve.
Students look at the larger culture and see not a ladder of opportunity, but a treadmill of obligation. No wonder they’re distressed.”—The Anxiety Crisis | Inside Higher Ed (via notational)
“From a buyer’s point of view, the economic history of the last decade reads a lot like this: First Wall Street tried to sell me loans I couldn’t afford. Then it refused to lend me money for what I could afford. Now it is bidding against me.”—
From coast to coast, private equity firms, hedge funds and other institutional investors are snapping up houses — the kind that people actually live in, as opposed to swaps of bundles of slivers of mortgages. A broker in Brooklyn estimated not long ago that 70 percent of local home purchases were by such investors. In a research note last week, Bank of America Merrill Lynch warned that while “home prices have surged,” a “historically low” share of sales were to first-time buyers.
“The decline in first-time buying has been offset by an increase in demand by investors, including large private equity firms,” the bank said. “The concern is that demand from investors will fade this year but first-time home buyers won’t be prepared to take back market share as a result of tight credit and years of sluggish income growth.”
In a 2011 report, Morgan Stanley analysts proclaimed that America was experiencing a transition from an ownership society to a “rentership society.” “The combination of falling home prices, limited mortgage credit, continued liquidations and better rental options is fundamentally changing the way Americans live,” says the report, concluding, “We believe this change is only beginning.” For Wall Street firms, the Morgan Stanley report appears to have become a self-fulfilling prophecy: Seeing a profitable opening in the wake of the foreclosure crisis, investment groups have worked diligently to bring a “rentership society” into being. During the past two years, investors have bought approximately 200,000 single-family homes, mostly foreclosures, in urban areas nationwide, with plans to convert them into rental properties. In Atlanta, one such investment group purchased 1,400 homes on a single day in April of last year.
This investor-led feeding frenzy has sent home sales and prices rising again, leading some commentators to hail a “robust housing recovery.” But it’s one that’s happening largely without homeowners. In the final months of 2013, the rate of homeownership dipped to an 18-year low of 65.2 percent, down from a 69.4 percent peak prior to the 2007 financial crisis, according to U.S. Census data.
And something else curious was happening too: A reactionary view of human sexuality was taking over. Websites which dealt with breast feeding or fine art were being blocked. The male eye was winning: impressing the sense that the only function for the naked female body was sexual.
It was a staggering failure. But Downing Street was pleased with itself, it had won. The ISPs had surrendered. The Washington Post described it as “some of the strictest curbs on pornography in the Western world” - music to Cameron’s ears. Suddenly the terms of the debate started shifting. Dido Harding, the chief executive of TalkTalk, was saying the internet needed a “social and moral framework”.
Portland administrators will flush 38 million gallons of water from Mt. Tabor Reservoir 5 after a 19-year-old man urinated in the city’s drinking supply.
“Even though there is very minimal public health risk, the bottom line is that our commitment is to serve water that’s clean, cold and constant,” said Water Bureau administrator David Shaff. “That doesn’t include pee. Not from people, at least.”
Raise your hand if you want to watch a Portlandia episode featuring this incident.